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Atlanta Ramble Amble Ding-dong

by David Hill

The cabby has a name I can’t pronounce, a couple of d’s and not many
vowels, so I call him DD. The only thing he says that I understand is $35.
He drives like a madman and we deserve mechanized death. I leave my
thirty-year-old college copy of “The Old Man and the Sea,” along with a
foil bag of airline pretzels on the back seat of the cab. The book pictured
humble Cuban huts, wind blown palms, and blue sea.

For a while, I expect DD at the hotel. But then I suspect the sorry ass is
parked in the shade of an overpass, fighting the great marlin with Santiago.
DD isn’t conscientious. I must compose a scathing letter to the cabby
licensing board, when I find the time. I hate DD.

I am in town for this corporate training class taught by an attorney. He
wants us to tap dance for clients. This step will have everyone feeling fine.
Tap-a-tap-a tap-a. He banters between the lessons about things like "upscale,
sushi," and "Peugeot." He is stuffed full of feces, but redeems himself when
he short changes my company and dismisses us early.

I have time to kill. I consider the Egyptian thing at the Woodruff Arts
Center, but I have a calling. I must quest for a replacement copy of the
novella. I set off walking.

A pretty, braided, Afro-American woman smiles at me and I am happy.
I don’t mind survival lies. I pretend she likes my appearance, even though
I am forty-eight and fading, and maybe slightly faggy with my long,
fluttering fingers, but I am lean, graceful, and worthy.

I am alone here. I have such loose connections on this earth. I could
disappear, and no one would search very hard. Lonely, lonely boy, breathing
under water and moving in deep-sea motion, my cries echo in unexplored

I study the train map and memorize the stops through repetition: N4 to N11,
N11 to N4. I don’t want to disappear, yet. The train car has a mild cheese stink.
It is okay for cheese to smell like cheese, but nothing else should ever smell like
cheese. The interior has scratched butterscotch plastic seats, and wretched
orange rugs with black tar gum spots.

I am pale. I am the whitest of the white people. I am a blue-eyed ghost angel,
disguised as a man. Perhaps the other riders know this.

A slinky, winding, hump-backed redhead boards the car. Her limbs are long
and loping, but her torso is only a foot long, she has no neck, and she rolls and
flails with a Kurt Cobain waif boy hugging her. Her pretty pained face
somehow smiles through it all, and the boy holds her close. They are freaks.
They are angels and I love them.

The black man in a flat wool cap has a cracked lens in his glasses and holes in
his yellow socks. Red rings fringe his white eyeballs. His legs fold up toward
his chin in the tight seat. He is too big, and this is probably racist, but I think
he is an x-basketball player. He speaks softly on a cell phone, and because his
vocabulary is good, I like him. I want to touch the deep lines in the cheeks of
his gentle face. Those lines don’t come easy.

A Latino baby smiles, coos, and reaches toward me. I melt like black tar gum
into the horrid orange carpet. I love her, even though her brain is scrambled
eggs. If some passenger goes crazy and smashes her skull, will a soul fly out?
The mother has been hurt by something. I wonder if it has substance. I look
hard at her face, but she is young and unlined with character, so I can’t guess.

I am having a New Age moment. I want to give them things: energy, kindness,
hopes. I consider the probability that the New Age stuff is all a crock of feces,
but dismiss the thought. I have nothing else left to pretend.

At the bookstore, the clerk wants to help me; not realizing this is a quest, not
realizing I know my ABC’s. There are thirteen copies, so I destroy the evil
number by choosing one. The rest are for arm-twisted students. Now that we
have “Reality TV,” no one wants to read. We are tired and dying here.

I pay an offensive $10 for the thin paperback, but I like the leaping blue marlin
along side Santiago in his skiff. I decide it is priceless, and I won‘t take any
more cabs this trip.

The hotel is swanky, expensive, and the staff goes tap-a-tap-a-tap-a when I
request things, but still I find a big roach on the bathroom tile. When his shell
crunches in toilet paper, brown stuff seeps through. I shiver when I think
about it.

I think God will be in touch tomorrow, or perhaps the day after. Some say he is
vengeful, others say nonexistent, and still others say she is kind. I am anxious
but afraid.

It is ironic that I need a lonely story in order not to feel lonely. The air
conditioner coolly hums; I lay back in the big hotel bed, all soft and cozy in an
industrial strength cleanser fresh quilt.

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff…

and I dream of lions playing on a beach.


Author's Note: A bit less poem than prose, I suppose...

Posted on 01/10/2005
Copyright © 2023 David Hill

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 01/11/05 at 02:46 PM

Captivating prose from what I had time to ingest. I'll have to return to savor the rest. Story telling well done!

Posted by Kimberly Bare on 08/17/05 at 05:48 AM

i don't usually get into these prose-type pieces...but you have a way with your writing that feels so easy...like i am listening to a friend tell me a story...and it kept me intrigued throughout! Kudos :)

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 09/04/07 at 04:46 AM

Most enjoyable observations, both of yourself and those you touch on this "road trip". There are so many fun lines in this. Stanza 6 is brilliant. The book store scenario is terrific - particularly "destroying the evil number by choosing one" - ha!! I like the New Age moment and that you think God will be in touch tomorrow. Nice job.

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