15.2 – Street Cleaning Day

Ladies… gentlemen… you. Today is Street Cleaning Day. Please, remain calm. Street cleaners will be upon us quite soon. We have little time to prepare. Please, remain calm.

The City Council has issued a statement in twenty-point all caps type saying “RUN. RUN. FORGET YOUR CHILDREN AND LEAVE BEHIND THE WEAK. RUN.” We have contacted those experts who have not already gone underground or changed their identity, and have been told that street cleaners focus on heat and movement, and so the best strategy is to be dead already. Then, the experts all swallowed pills and fell, mouths frothing, at my feet. If you have doors, lock them. If you have windows, board them up. If you still have ears, cover them, and crouch wherever you are. It is Street Cleaning Day. Please, remain calm.

15.6 – Street Cleaning Day

More information now on Street Cleaning Day, which has come upon us just as we always feared it would. The information is that Street Cleaning Day is terrifying, and we should all perhaps fall to our knees, letting out moans and rubbing our forearms absently.

The City Council has issued a statement indicating that they forgot they had vacation plans this week, and so are currently on a plane to Miami, as they had been planning and looking forward to for some time. They said that their vacation, since it was definitely planned, has a pre-established end date, but that they cannot tell anyone what that end date is until the street cleaners are completely gone. In the meantime, they are leaving Paul Birmingham in charge. Paul, the vagrant who lives in a lean-to behind the library, could not be reached for comment, as he has faked his own death, in an elaborate scheme to escape Street Cleaning Day unscathed.

More, if there ever is more for any of us.

15.11 – Street Cleaning Day

Ladies and gentlemen, it is not possible for us to exactly do another news report on Street Cleaning Day, as no information can get through the barricades and seals that are keeping us safe within our broadcasting bunker.  Instead, we offer the following impressionistic list of what we believe is happening outside our secure perimeter.

  • Screaming
  • A slow movement downwards
  • The crunch of items made of wood and items not made of wood
  • A quick movement upwards
  • Char
  • A smell like rotting seaweed, or a poisoned ocean
  • The song “La Bamba”, only faster
  • You know that feeling when you realize you’re not alone?  Only more so
  • Screaming
  • Screaming
  • Screaming

Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, the street cleaners are upon us.  What can we do?  What is there to do, besides, perhaps, taking you in a haze of terror and heat to the weather?

[“A Little Irony” by Tom Milsom. Music can be found at tommilsom.bandcamp.com.]

15.12 – Street Cleaning Day

We return you now to a safe place. The street cleaners have passed. Street Cleaning Day, as so many other days, is behind us. We emerge from hiding spots, from secret locations, from places under other places. We step out into the street, and it is as though it is brand new to us. Certainly, it is cleaner now, but that is not all. We have survived all the way from birth to this very moment, and we look at each other, and some of us start laughing, and others start weeping, and one or two of us break out into a wordless humming song, and all of us mean the exact same thing.

Look at us. Look at us out in the honey light of the finished day. Look at us and rejoice in our sheer being. One of us turns to another, clears his throat, and puts a gentle hand upon the other’s gentle arm.

“I’ve never told you this,” that one says.

“What is it, Wilson?” says the other.

“Amber, you are all to me. Will you marry me?”

“Wilson! We’ve spoken maybe twice! Do you think we could start with dinner instead?”

“No. Yes. No, you’re right. I was confused,” says the one, although he was not confused.

“Think nothing of it. It’s forgotten,” says the other, although she thought many things of it, and had forgotten nothing.

And then a gradual movement towards Mission Grove Park, no orders or even suggestions given, and yet we all file to that central meeting place, put our arms around each other, grip tight, and then grip tighter. Some of us are not here. We leave space for them, space that has been emptied by time.

“I suppose I should say a few words to mark the occasion,” says one of us, tall, towards the front. He says nothing more. The City Council arrives, back from their long-planned Miami vacation, nudging those near them and talking about silver sand beaches and the food, oh, those Cubans know how to do it. Even they are accepted into the gathering, despite our usual fears, and we grip them too, as friends.

Night has arrived, ladies. Night is here, gentlemen. Night falls on our weary bodies. And night falls on you, too. You too have survived, survived everything up to this moment. Grip tight! Hum! Laugh! Cry! Forget nothing, and think many things of it. Good night. Good night. Good night.