Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Then the wheels came off . . .

I've always been fascinated by the image of the wheels coming off. For me, at least, few metaphors are more vivid, more evocative, more perfectly descriptive of a certain state of affairs. The wheels break away and the carriage clatters to the road, scraping and groaning, its passengers tumbled together in the wrack or thrown free of the wreckage, bodies akimbo in the gutter or amid traffic, under the disintegrating debris that was, just a moment ago, a viable conveyance. Literally. Figuratively. No matter.

The romance, perhaps, is in the immediacy of the connotation. Mostly, one hears the figure of speech deployed in contexts that suggest suddenness, a lack of forewarning, an exigency unforeseeable and hence particular startling and traumatic. But therein the lie, a romantic notion belied time and again by experience.

Perhaps the warning appears in the guise of a new creak, nearly inaudible amid the road noise. Or maybe a subtle shimmy developed in the chassis, something only the most neurotic, attentive drover would discern amid the ordinary vibration of travel. That minor wash in the road down around the bend by Simpson's farm? You know the one -- you're always complaining about it. Well maybe it got wuder in those awful storms that tore through town in the small hours of the morning last Tuesday chased ahead of that cold front, and it grew just big enough to swallow the front axle whole and shatter it in its inflexible jaws, turning the carriage's momentum into an instrument of its own destruction.

But what to do what to do? For every shudder does not augur catastrophe, and, as though the contingencies outlined above weren't enough, the very act of sensing threat in every irregularity can so scatter one's attention that it effectively pries the wheels off itself, destroying the vehicle as surely as the supposed threats themselves.

And hence the dance. Do you hear that? No, not that, that's been there forever (a different anomaly once feared but slowly integrated into the understanding of the status quo), that other thing -- that ree ree ree? Shh! -- Hear it? -- Hear how its in sync with the wheels? -- It speeds up as we do -- Yeah, that, right, you hear it. Whaddaya think? I look and can't find anything -- But it's something.

It's a fool's errand, chasing down every noise, and it might be better, on balance, to ignore all of it, to welcome the suddenness that follows blithe disregard, to abandon any notion of prevention. But tonight, I really think I hear something. Something I'm pretty sure isn't nothing. It's there, I can just make it out, but I'll be damned if I can pin it down.



Anonymous Frank said...

Very the cracking about personal things, local news/politics, national news/politics, all of the above?

1:41 PM  
Blogger Kelly Gorski said...

I can just make it out, but I'll be damned if I can pin it down.

This just sums up life, don't you think?

4:05 PM  

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