New Orleans. -- I bought a handful of squishy plastic worms from a bin at the Louisiana Sportsmen Show. I liked the colors and they felt just like real worms.
I wasn't going fishing any time soon and I wasn't in a total Baudelairean mood, but I was feeling pretty melancholy surrounded by boats, trucks with oversized wheels, hunting bows, fish-cleaning knives, plastic fish hatcheries, and pleasure crafts called "Aw Heck" and "Lucy in the Salt with Daddy." Somewhere there were blue skies and green water though exactly where I couldn't say, since it's been raining here since the beginning of time, and snowing elsewhere for as far as people's memories went.
I was on the phone with friends who couldn't even speak anymore, they just held the receiver to the window for me to near the hellbound winds, and I, likewise, held the receiver into the fury of the storm that was shaking the house like a psycho with a ragdoll. This winter, those of us who didn't drown were buried under. It was all relative, of course. In the killing fields of Bosnia people were digging their own graves in the frozen ground.
I watched a man train a dog to swim across a puddle in a plastic pool, catch a fake duck and freeze like a statue upon a whistle. Behind man and dog, there was a suggestion of idyllic pastures and verge-of-sleep summer. I lay in the fields of rye, lulled to dreams by the red poppies. As I wandered past plastic sharks, duck decoys, fearsome examples of taxidermy, men selling deer-jerky marinade, and a swamp family demonstrating home-made turkey whistles, I felt most keenly the narrow confines of my paper-bound life. Here were radically different ways to spend time. But who's got time? I used to have time but something happened to it.
I let a guy clean my glasses with a drop of something that, he said, would keep them from fogging. One drop on the mirror or on your rifle scope and you'll never be blurry or miss your target again. I liked that. I clutched my plastic worms and walked out into the rain. I couldn't see a thing.
Andrei Codrescu is editor of Exquisite Corpse.