Hank Kirton

Kelp

The summer I collected kelp was the longest summer of my life (unless you consulted a calendar). I was living in a flop house and working at a clam shack by the vast, vast, vast (salty) Atlantic in South Kingstown, Rhode Island and on my day off I would walk along the shore, collecting kelp in a Hefty bag. The beaches were a goldmine, as long as you coveted kelp. I had lines of jump-rope hanging across my room and I draped the strips of kelp over the ropes. I heard somewhere you could make kelp lasagna but I never tried that. I did not eat the kelp. I just needed it around. I was a seeker.

I left the windows open and along with the kelp, I began to collect flies. You should’ve seen them— hundreds of little black bacteria bugs sucking on all those drying, stinking strands of kelp. The smell reminded me of my Aunt Edie without the minty snap of Wrigley’s spearmint. It was like having a tide pool right there beside my bed. It informed my dreams like sea shanties from doomed sailors. I got the message. Soft and clear. The flies never got annoying, I honestly loved the little buggers, but eventually my neighbors began to complain about them and the rotten sea-smell wafting into the hall. They worried about corpses, like I was a serial killer or somesuch thing. My tenuous tenancy at the house grew controversial. I kept to my kelp. The buzzing of the flies spoke to me in the middle of the night like radio waves tripping off my fillings (tooth decay is the bane of my existence). The language of the flies was transmitted in a long staccato drone. Zzzzt…zzzzt…zzzzt… The buzzes amounted to endless Zen questions, “………….?”

“……………?”

“……….?”

The answers came in abrupt, declarative buzzes:

“……..!”

The flies led to cryptically silent maggots, of course, and they squirmed even more fundamental questions. There they were, scattered on the floor like wriggling rice, uttering the unutterable, ineffable truths that rightly belonged to the cosmic dance of the planets.

The orbits of the flies were spiral galaxies and I watched them like moving maps of the vast, vast, vast universe.

I was also smoking a fair amount of dope at the time.

I continued to collect and drape seaweed until September when I abruptly stopped.

I had my answers. I moved on.

I left the kelp for the next guy.

*

From: Everything Dissolves

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