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  • Writer's pictureJeff Monday

A Typical Urban Hike

I start walking. At first, the sky is clear. Deep blue with a bright yellow eye in the center. But then clouds sneak in when I’m not looking and the rain begins. It’s not cold rain. Nor is it warm. Nor wet, for that matter. It’s just tiny droplets of reality falling on me from somewhere else. Or maybe not falling. Maybe they are moving sideways and I’m the one that’s falling. It feels like that, doesn’t it, as each foot falls to the cement? We are continuously falling.

A squirrel laughs at me as I fall down the sidewalk. Silly human, it thinks. How do I know that? How could I guess at the thoughts of a squirrel? Because the swallow told me, obviously. More droplets of reality move through me and I look up. The sun is shining again only now it is blue and the sky is yellow. I can’t decide if I like it better that way or the other way so I keep both. The yellow/blue sun smiles at me and my bones warm with its touch. A flock of finches do the Lambada through the blue/yellow sky above me. They sing as they do the forbidden dance but their song sounds more like a polka to me. I shrug and fall on.

In my pocket a small coin from Japan yells at me and I grasp it with two fingers, spinning it around and around. Distracted, I stumble over a thought. Irritated, I spin the coin the other way and time flows back up river, as do I. Resuming my original spin, I avoid the thought and carry on. In the distance I can hear the wailing sirens of tragedy. I also hear a butterfly emerging from its cocoon high in the leaves of an elm across the street. And the buzzing of bees as they systematically cull the flowers of the neighborhood. They would have a good harvest today. The wind is gentle, the sun smiling and the squirrels happy. Although, come to think of it, I rarely see a grumpy squirrel. Usually only when a crow gets too close for comfort. I understand. I tend to keep my distance from the crows too. They’re always yelling at each other, like a teenager to her step-father. Then an image flashes in my head of a family of crows sitting down to eat crappy lasagna that the mom made between refereeing the daughter/3rd husband row and trying to follow the defendant’s argument on the courtroom television show on in the next room. Meanwhile, the young son crow is upstairs (in the nest? Do nests have upstairs?) with his headphones firmly over his ears so Axl and James and Brett drown out the commotion downstairs while he reads about the latest adventures of brightly-clad heroes who always solve the world’s problems in twenty-two pages and live in a satellite 22,300 miles above the earth.

Meanwhile, on the sidewalk in front of me is a small pile of dog poop that someone was too lazy to pick up. Or maybe they purposely left it so the flies had something to feast on. Either way, I swerve around, trying not to disturb the forgotten offering to the Lord of the Flies. I see a mandala glistening on the sidewalk ahead and approach in awe. Some artist had drawn an intricate design across the gray concrete that could only be seen when the light hits it just right. Then I see the artist in question. A snail.

I get down on my hands and knees and look closely at this miniature Picasso. His shell is a whirlwind of color. He retracts and extends his antennae as he sniffs the air, wondering why I bothered to stop and say hi. I say hi. As with many great artists, he ignores me and continues his work. I carefully step over his project, hoping he gets it done before he dies. Or at least gets across the sidewalk before someone more oblivious comes by and squishes him, turning that piece of concrete into more Pollack than Picasso.

The wind flicks my nose and I inhale the scent of lavender mixed with car exhaust and a hint of French fries. My stomach speaks up, reminding me that I haven’t eaten since last night. I shush it. My liver chimes in, reminding me that I haven’t drank since last night either and it’s getting bored. I nod in agreement. So the three of us take the next right and fall forward towards the local pub where good laughs, strong drink and fried food ground me once more in everyone else’s world.

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