But I have always been word crazy...
Taking on the enviable disposition of a bridge troll has its advantages. I got to sleep out under the stars for the first time since before I was a teenager. The privacy of a railroad trestle arching over a fish ladder is calm and peaceful for the most part. And my skin began to turn a hazy shade of green as a byproduct of setting up my bed between a hillside of cats tails.
Truth be told, I did not sleep under-under the bridge. I chose the driest and softest piece of land off to the side. A matted patch of grass peppered with rocks that had been blown or knocked of the railroad tracks above. I tossed these away and placed my trash bags and extra clothes underneath my sleeping bag for as much extra padding as I could get. I climbed into the sack and munched a supper of mixed nuts and warm water as I waited for the sky to fade to black.
It was during this time, laying in bed, waiting for darkness to fall, that I started to notice little black specks moving across the top of the sleeping bag.
Ants! Ants! For Crissake ants! How is this possible?
I flicked some off, smashed others, and began to itch inside my bed.
I scanned the ground and there they were, little black bastards. Although to be honest they seemed to be minding their own business. Every once in a while one or two would find their way up onto my sleeping bag and I would dispose of them. I thought about moving down next to the river but the ground was clearly moist down there and besides I was to tired to do anything about it. Plus I had already picked what I considered the best spot. So...
After checking inside my sleeping bag to make sure the itching I felt was purely psychosomatic, I decided to tough it out right there in the middle of a horde of scurrying unsuspecting ants.
I laid on my back under the covers and tried to put the ants out of my mind. I watched the sky darken and listened to the sound of the fish ladder and the wind twisting between the branches and leaves above. The combination of the two teased my mind; contorting into sounds not dissimilar to that of sneaking human voices.
I sat up, looked around to see if my auditory hallucinations were real life people looking to torment a wandering roust-a-bout, when I noticed a large black weighty bulge on top of my sleeping bag.
Apparently, someone thought it would be amusing to invite the fucking black slugs to the party.
Jeez! I would not be not competent enough to purge slugs from a garden with a wheelbarrow full of rock salt and a bucket full of sea water. How the heck am I going to keep these things off of me and my belongings during the night? I middle-finger-paper-football-flicked the squishy invader into the bushes. Then, like before with the ants, I begin to scan the ground for more.
I see another one oozing it's way toward my back pack. Taking a nearby stick I scooped him up and set his sails fluttering down toward the river. I don't see anymore but it is becoming difficult to see anything in the approaching dark. I lay down flat and look up at the sky, searching for answers.
And I happen to catch, just in the nick of time, the Universe being born before my eyes.
First one star, then three, then twenty, then uncountable. In the increasing black the shapes of the constellations began to form. I saw one of the dippers. I saw Orion and his very fine belt. I saw Ursa something and the big W which I think either stands for Wayno or Cassiopeia. Then I saw a new Constellation, The Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future. And I swore I could feel myself travel back in time. To a place where is was not a hair under 40 degrees and I was not sitting outside in a sleeping bag, worried about being covered in black slugs and ants.
Somehow, for an undefinable about of time, in the serenity and darkness of the evening I managed to doze off for a few moments of much sought after sleep.
That is, until the train arrived.
For thirty seconds the Universe is smashed in a flash of light, the Heavens are torn in twain by the tormentuous rumblings of the Sante Fe Rail Co. The air and steel and rust hiss and growl at me like the worlds largest, angriest, most metallic mother raccoon. Afraid that the train is going to knock half fist sized rocks off of the railroad bridge and embed them into my skull, I duck my head into my sleeping bag and cover up with my arms.
Eventually the light fades. The wheels grind away on the rails. The winds of the passing steel die down. Then, as if nothing had happened, the murmur of the fish ladder returns. I pop my head out from under the covers, unscathed by imaginary flying stones. The Universe reappears and reconnects above me. The constellations having slightly repositioned themselves overhead from the reattachment.
I am about to go back to sleep, when I stick a hand out my sleeping bag and feel a dampness all around me. Dampness does not accurately describe what I felt. All over the top of my sleeping bag it felt like someone had snuck up and taken a leak all over my bed.
It did not make sense. I had seen the weather report on the T.V. during breakfast in Rainier. Sunny days till the weekend. I was thrilled because I thought it would be cool to sleep outside without having to set up the tent. Even hoping that maybe I would get a chance to jettison one of the heaviest and most cumbersome pieces of equipment in my backpack.
So what was this dampness I felt in, on, all around me?
You, genius reader, probably guessed already... Dew! Dew! Freakin' Dew. I was soaked. I had not accounted for dew. Dew. Goddamn Dew. Saturating anything that wasn't in contact with the ground. It was a real Charlie Brown moment. Good Grief! AARRRRRRGH! Rats! All rolled into one. Again I lay there and looked up the sky above as a form of inspiration and hope. For something, anything, to lift my spirits.
And in the stillness of the night, I realized that it had been about twenty years since I last slept under the stars. I forgot about the peace and quiet. The thoughts that drift by-and-by as you look for shapes and patterns. Spotting airplanes whose light patterns are shaped like the Defiant from Deep Space Nine. Commie Satellites zooming around, spying on Americans. The flash of a shooting star at the edge of your field of vision. The constant unnoticeable motion of the whole thing spinning and churning forever. The fun of creating your own constellations.
I searched the now distorted sky for my flux capacitor. It was no longer a symmetrical perfectly triangulated Mercedes medallion. Instead it was now off kilter. One end shorter than the other. An uneven lowercase 'Y' shape. If it were a stick it would be in the perfect shape of a water witch, business end pointed right at me and my soaking wet sleeping bag.
I fell asleep off and on for the rest of the night. The water and wind continued to fling hallucinations at me. Another train came and made me feel like the world had ended. But like all worlds that end, this world of ours glued itself back together again. The stars kept readjusting themselves whenever I woke up. My Flux Capacitor kept spinning in its new water witch form, dousing unsuspecting bridge dwellers with a moist, boggy, dose of real life, until a sliver of light appeared in the East, and the smile of morning began to glow on us all.