I am just now returned from a walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct featuring a newly dead garter snake and a possibly, but not very likely, missing girl. As I came down my usual shortcut, I noticed the girl leave her backpack in the foliage just in front of the quarry gate, and then go off on a run. Later, past Pinecrest drive, I saw a couple standing to the side of the path, looking at the ground in the oddest way – for a moment I thought the man was retarded and the woman was taking him for an outing and humoring him. But no, they were looking at the garter snake. The man said that a bicyclist had just run over the garter snake – and indeed I could see the tire tracks right across his middle – but the couple weren’t sure if the snake was dead or not. Noting the ruby-like beads of blood around its mouth and head, I said I was pretty sure it was very dead. The man said they hadn’t seen the blood. The woman stood back with her hands over her mouth, looking as if she was either afraid of snakes or distressed by the death of a snake. Or perhaps both. As garter snakes go, it was a good size.
Half a mile later, just before I was about to go back up the hill and take my shortcut home, I saw a police car parked on the aqueduct. There are no vehicles allowed on the aqueduct and I always take it amiss when public officials consider themselves above this rule. Then I saw on top of the police car’s hood were a jacket and a backpack. They looked like the backpack the girl had earlier left in the foliage. Why was it on the police car’s hood? Apparently another aqueduct walker had noticed the backpack and called the police, and now he was looking for the girl. I told him I had seen her go running and she looked just fine.
I did not mention to the officer that I am just now reading 2666 and am smack in the middle of the fourth part which is all about the murders of young women in the Mexican border town Bolaño calls Santa Teresa, and which are based on a real string of murders, because it would have been very morbid and not at all helpful.
(I loved the first section of the book about Archimboldi and the literary critics, and at first I wasn’t sure about this section about the murders, but now – have I mentioned it is a very long book? 900 pages long? – I am completely sucked in.)
My intention in going for a walk, other than enjoying the weather and checking to see if the bees were bringing in pollen (they are), was to clear my head of the Beatles’ song, Paperback Writer, which was been my constant earworm since a couple of days ago when I played the answering machine and heard this from CSB’s ex-wife: “I know you’re really busy with the pornographic writer and the bees – O God, wouldn’t your father be horrified – but you call me back or you will see me in 40 minutes.”
At first I had no clue why Paperback Writer showed up in my brain. It wasn’t even one of my favorite Beatles songs. Then I realized that the song playing in my head had become Pornographic Writer, and - finally - I made the connection with the message on the machine.
What I had forgotten was this lyric:
It's the dirty story of a dirty man
And his clinging wife doesn't understand.
The whole point of clearing my brain of the Pornographic Writer earworm was to move forward and be able to describe in all its autumnal glory our walk last week around the former ammunition depot as I tried to explain to Dad that the Trojan War really was started because Paris stole the oh-so-beautiful Helen from Menelaus. But now it’s time to beg a poor bee to sting my little finger and give up her life in the process.