When will we speak of Jesus?

Kevin McIlvoy

     So you're The New Silence.       You're going to like the job: the band kids, those kids are great, you're going to love them       and how they love you no matter what, and the fans, you're going to like them, and if all goes well they're going to laugh at you –       it's real cruel and real       connecting.           You're going to like all of the really, really good nothing that comes with this job.  As the retiring Silence I'm glad to offer some thoughts.  It used to be that I didn't manage transition, I was transition-averse, and at a time like this in which I'd lost the best job I ever had I would lose some reception, kind of like a TV set.       I'm just not that way anymore, I don't lose reception, I'm on day and night, I've got volume.       It's why I lost the job as The Silence – well, you know that.              The band director asked me to keep this email orientation short.  I said I would meet with you in person.  He said NOT.           I get that.      I get that.  I do.              This first email will be a start anyway.  It's the right day for this –  people would call it auspicious, which the dictionary says has its root in spicius, which means "giving spit."  In the papers today the print was smeary from rain, and it's the acid rain that almost takes all the print right off, or it makes it smeary and the headlines are all-of-a-sudden like mysteries: WOMAN WITH FIVE BREASTS GIVES BIRTH TO ONE        POPULAR FOOD CHAIN RELEASES     HOLDINGS              It's no wonder people read their news online these days. Take the band kids – the band kids hate newspapers. They'll tell you these things, you don't have to ask.  You fall in love with them because –       you fall in love with them plenty and for plenty of reasons, but that's one.              You've probably been told – I wonder have you been told? – the idea of The Silence for Dominion High's marching band was to do something good for laughs.  The band was known as the State Champion of Unfunny all those losing seasons.          The idea-less band director – that's not bitterness, me calling him that          – well, yes it is, it is, yes –       he stole the idea from a band in Corinthian, Texas that had the idea but took it too serious.              They needed the right job description, the man who would match it.  The band kids had to be in, had to be down on the concept, the interview, the outfit, the layout of the terms, the musical marriage.      The bandgirls wanted Poetic. The bandboys Pitiful.        You need to be awfully out of shape for this job, extremely laughably out of shape, body and mind, "ambulancable," the cymbalist said to me. Her lips are six-ring. Six in her brows. Six in her ears. You'd have a problem finding one bandface that's unpierced.         I'm sure somebody told you all this when you applied, that you'll be a better Silence if you're a White middle-age guy in worse and worsening shape.  I'm not being cute about this.  It's true.        Here's what I want to say: bad appearance is everything when you're out there on the field, when the failure needs to be the full-failure –       "cardiacular" is what one of the cornets call it. You seem to be the rubber knife when you break the band's marching.       You seem to be the toy drill when you're punctuating the band's dramatic pauses.         Everything just stops.        Full stop.      The full stop that's unimaginable.  The marching, the music, the directing, everybody's in mid knee-raise, half-pivot, pre-blat, pre-blow, pre-trill.  The marching rows don't collapse, but almost. You're air-drumming, tubaing the air, air-batoning. And if you're not         actually                 the         actually the         saddest thing on earth, you're not funny.        What I want to teach you is that you're the real knife.      You're the real drill.              In the Graying Nation section of the paper an article today says – I'm looking at it, I don't carry this stuff in my head because then I lose it –        an article says memory dissolves more rapidly in water-based entities than in soil-based entities.  The article explains it was all discovered in a study of ancient perma-frost pebbles – this is a crypto-science, it's a whole crypto-science called paramettafollogy, worldwide, growing, has an institute in the Aleutians.      The article says memory persists, they have found that it persists in the bowels of ornithoscrofa.  An ancient boar creature.  Memory  persists in boarpebbles scientists call "UE," "Unforgetful Excretions."         They're the shape and size of ocarinas or of        baby mittens.               UE is the proof you have.        It's what you have if you're a human scientist, which means you're a water-based entity, I guess.         If it was right between my sons and me, I would want to talk with them about this.       Or if it was right between my friend Abraham and me.        I would.          Talk with him. Them.           I talk now, plenty.              It's not like before.              When I got the job as The Silence I had the talent. The uniform didn't fit, so it perfectly emphasized my bare gut, which had side-to-side and up-down flap, had a happy snout, gave off glare, produced glow. I was junkfooding a lot –       it was right after I left my wife       and I was pretty naturally comically repugnant.  I was.        I want to say this about the pants, that the pants are not everything like the director might tell you, but they matter, they should hurt, the fit should hurt, the pants have to be in The Sausage Style if you're The Silence.        It's the job, that's all I'm saying is it's the job and when you start to fit it differently do something else.        You get a clowny rayony skin-tight tubetop thing – all of it is in the Dominion band colors – and, well, you have your uniform by now – have they issued you that? –         gold and green, white piping –         the tubetop hurts and the marching boots hurt and, like I said, the pants, but the cap is too big and is painless, and fortunately, that doesn't compensate.              It doesn't.  My friend Abraham, blind, Ray-Bans, extra-long white cane, class act, fit, groomed, right in his mind, a formal fellow and religious since losing his sight, regular and pagan before that, a retired welder, says the arc was what did it.        He          was my friend, twenty-five years Abraham was my friend –         now there was a man of many questions.       For instance, when I told him the rain made everything smeary, that it worried me, and when I said, "I think this is funny, Abraham, listen to this headline, mysteriously funny, 'SWEETENING THOUGHT SAFE,'" he asked, "Has any single part of your heart survived?"  He asked, "When will we talk of this?"               After the divorce attorneys started guiding her and me through our own intestines, when I told Abraham I took the job as The Silence, told him, "Here's one, 'SENATE REJECTS PROTECTION FOR ENDANGERED KNOB DWELLERS,'" he asked, "Have you bought a bus ticket to hell?       What have you done?      Do you know what you've done?       When, when will we talk of this?"               A tree is       maybe      both.  A tree is probably both water- and soil-based.      A cat will get high up in it and forget something, like about climbing down or jumping.      It will make that sound which is, which I want to say is watery, but that's not it, it's not the sound of that.        It's the crying you make if you don't mean to but you're mocking the specialness of your own crying.  It's forgetful about itself:  I'm crying, I'm not going to stop because I think I was a cat – I'm making cat sounds aren't I?      I forget.        I forget.              What if two cats get treed in the same tree at the same time?      Same thing?               Half of it in the air, half of it in the dirt, a tree – I haven't exactly worked out this part –       is not as funny as the cat.          This is instruction I'm offering.     It's the kind of thing the band kids will help you better with.        My first day on the job one said to me, "Mr. S, your glasses have two lenses the same color. It just ain't funny."  She brought me duct tape she had already bought –        kid from a poor family –       her piccolo a rental, her swollen, angry piercings, her whole sweet face the amateur's paradise –      spent her money correcting me, taped one lens, broke and hypertaped my nose-rest.              If you do good at this – tromboning, oboe-ing air, saxing, horning uninstrumented, you know all that part, of course – the band kids will boost you after the game.      That boost, I don't know how you replace it        when it's      lost.         Don't blow them off, Mr. New-On-the-Job – listen to them. "Mr. S," one told me a week before the big Dominion vs. Adams game, "you wants you some pee stains."           Good advice.          I'm sharing it with you for free.           "Release more butt crack," they told me, "Bare more man boob."           Yours.          No charge.      Self-injury does best. A beast of a hernia bandage. Foot in a monster cast.              If their parents tell them The Silence kicked ass, the kids'll tell you.              I was a success because I got all of this: the nothingplaying, the nothingmaking: four full bars of sound-less.        And then there's the after-soundless full-band blast, of course, and you act terrified because you are, because that's it,       that instant of you being the source of the stadium vacuum.        And this is about the key point I want to make.        It's the hatchet-severed head, it's the heart or the foot or the carved-off face floating in the splashing bucket of blood that makes gore-horror so good.  And, afterwards –       the kids taught me this       –  so funny.               People applaud you       if you are a good Silence.  People of all generations.  They jump from their seats.      Calls come from the local radio personality, the sports reporter from the paper, the yearbook kids.          Pictures, yes.       Preferably terrified-looking.      Words, no.      Words,       never. You can tell I couldn't do that now.          Not afraid enough.        Not silent.               My last day ever on the job, I was in the men's room.        I        – I  was in the men's  room, wasn't I? –      It was after the big Dominion vs. Adams game, and I was feeling good because one of the band kids told me I was "so fuckupular."      The kind of kind thing the kids would say to me.         I had successfully tried a maneuver the kids had told me might be good for laughs during the terrifying blasts.        They said blast-break might be a good time for a dick-check.      They rehearsed me that: the left-hand high-thigh grip, thumb-out two-lift, little shank torque, little shake-yank.         The bandboys said higher. The bandgirls said harder.       I dialed that, did higher.  Expert.      Redialed, did harder.        I made it work.          I made it work.              I was so fuckupular.               I made something out of what it all was.              When you leave like that, when you leave a good person like I left my wife – a good person outside and in – and you've left for thirty years worth of reasons –thirty honeying years thirty stinging – but you've also left for love of another – and your two grown sons your life-blood your heart and your head – your two sons leave you totally – totally and finally – because of you carrying on with the other – because they forget everything but that – because they are just humans – they might lose their jobs their lovers their friends – might lose more all the time – and they loved you beyond measure they loved you like mad but they forget they forget – and because they're water-based you can't believe how they can hate how they can hate and how the bars of their hate are endless –         when you leave like that, the sound goes out       like something's gone wrong or terribly right with the set.          A show was on.        Of all the shows on your TV it was the funniest because it was the saddest.               First things pass first is what I want to say, unless, unless      what I mean is First things pass, then true things pass.      Then truer.  Then the truest.  What happened was that the band kids had changed into their street clothes, and they'd left me.       There.      The men's room.      The men's room, I think.        I was feeling I had triumphed.  The dick-check had worked.        It was scary.          Dick-check scary.  And I do not say that lightly.                I was lingering there.      Somewhere.      The men's room.          Not really wanting to change clothes, not wanting to get dressed      I don't know      why      I don't        unless I do        I guess I do –        I didn't want to get dressed because of my triumphant success, because before I was The Silence my divorce news had torn out the tongues of everyone around me.      That had been my solitary achievement.               And, then, on the day of the big game, I had gotten some help with that, had known how to make something out of the horror of it, of what that all was.               Touching and      not touching      my face, I looked into the men's-room full-length mirror, the stenciled black lettering on it demanding, DO NOT TOUCH.  DO NOT TOUCH.  DO NOT TOUCH.     I was      obeying.       I was untouching, untouched.      That's when Abraham caned himself in.      Tapped towards me, and       knocked and       tapped his metal canetip on the tile floor between my feet.      And why was he there, why, since he'd told me the day before that he didn't know me, didn't, thought he had, it made him ashamed to have ever known me or believe he did.  Why was he there?        Together, we looked blindly at the mirror. If your height was four-five, you'd call it "full-length."      He knew me when I had sons, family, friends,         one job I did,       one place I lived,         one way I saw me, the same way he saw me.              He tapped and knocked my uniform pants       at the cuffs,       at the knees.      He tapped my inseam.          Now here's something. Here's something in the paper that I believe is notable: CINDY MCCAIN RESPONDS TO       GATES.          I told him.        Abraham asked, "When?      When?        You and your demon: when will we speak of Jesus?"              That's how I became a Buddhamite. That's how I lost the job. That's how Abraham lost me my job as The Silence, how the opening came up – that you filled.           (You've got my email address.         I've got yours.      I like email.         You'll see: I can be helpful.  I've just begun.)               I haven't seen Abraham, not since he asked his question.         His question was what caused me to start talking and talking.  Wanting to say       something. Wanting      to say what I could have,      to hear,      to be heard when I say what I want,      which is nothing, I mean      –      but that job is done,     it's done.       And I'm talking,      talking, talking,        talking,     talking.               And talking.                I talk and I talk too much, way too much, I know.          

I'll shut up.      I'll shut up       eventually.          I will.