We all want to be something someday, but we have get past today first.
Below is the first chapter of Another Thing You Should Know, a novella about an enigmatic community of drifters, Mormons, farmers, and one non-binary philosopher who tangle with the meaning of life in a story of magic realism, Dodgers baseball, pre-Socratic philosophy, and Holy shit.
The ebook novella is available Friday, April 3rd — 100% of proceeds are going to COVID charities in Utah until July. Get your copy here: https://gumroad.com/l/gwCXt
Nobody knows how a moment is made. The quiet ones. Those rare occasions when time and space seem to work together for the perfect view of tranquil passing. The sort of thing that only comes around once in a generation. They’re rare, the good ones. At least for some folks. Like those white homesteaders who found the plains overpopulated with bison, or the architects of the Colorado River compact.
It seems the good moments are constructed by some human desire to be important. To be some- thing more than just a tree that traded roots for legs in exchange for longevity. Then again, maybe sublimity is real–a truth caused by some immeasurable force of atoms moving just so in the light of day. Whatever the cause, luck or design or the mechanics of free will, LeRoy Johnson managed to arrive in the valley at the height of one such moment of peace.
It was his first day, and he’d been lulled to sleep by the murmurs of the river, the smell of the beasts, the light breeze coming off a summer storm–some force had pulled the levers behind the scenes and urged LeRoy’s body to rest. So he did, and it didn’t take long. The act of resting had never been a problem for LeRoy. He laid his head on the white sand of a hidden river beach–just south of the cliffs named after Tortilla Flat and The Old Man and the Sea–and slept for seventeen hours and thirty seven minutes. In another book he may have slept forever, but the roaring laughter and sounds of revelry startled him awake.
His body ached, sore and sweaty. He was still slow and still fat. In a less confused state, he may have put his trousers on before making his first public appearance in an unfamiliar place. But these were confusing times. He crawled, naked as his first breath, through a patch of tamarisk bushes along the bank to investigate the sounds of celestial joy. As he wandered downriver, somewhat aimlessly but not uncomfortably so, he cupped himself with one hand to avoid a getting caught on an overzealous russian olive.
When he found himself on the edge of the water, his eyes set on a pack of teenage bodies skinny dipping from the banks of an island, he was overcome. He watched in a comfortable lingering while the young bodies jumped from high rocks and sandy shores, wrestling in slow water. A small contingent kissed and cuddled on the sand while others seemed content to cover their bodies in mud. LeRoy giggled quietly and without movement, and convinced himself he was of the same tribe.
He smiled wide and handsome and watched until the little hamlet of hair, teenage skin, and
Hawaiian shirts grew tired of their play. They swam back to the banks and disappeared into the hills. …
That all seems well and good, but it’s possible none of it is true.
The truth that in the beginning there was the river. Long and green, it cut the valley in two– ushed life into a desert where the plow would otherwise fail. The valley, an oasis in a long forgotten loneliness of cottonwoods and stone, sloped southward, and pushed the river toward an unknown end. Together, the river and the valley were transcendent confederates. They created new life, a place untouched by time and space, but a place that moved alongside it just the same.
When LeRoy Johnson found himself in the valley after a lifetime in some other time and place, it was the good fortune he found that gave him pause. He took up residence on that same beach that had called him home to rest. He grew roots by the water, made acquaintances in the nearby town, consumed manna hand over fist–the bounty of a natural union. He drank wine among cowards and abandoned treasures in other lands, all for the sake of the valley and the river.
A new man, it seemed, LeRoy owed the rest of his life to this community. Eternity. This place had provided without condition or expectation, and for the first time he understood his life’s calling. Years of wandering, proselytizing, seeking a new vision–it had all brought him to this place. As the river and the valley provided unconditionally, so would LeRoy.
Whether through divine revelation or calculated risk, LeRoy took it upon himself to watch over the land and the river and the people who lived off it. He kept a detailed record of the weather in a storehouse behind empty conversation and uncomfortable glances. He became the de facto warden and quality control, testing produce, livestock, and sometimes even hay. He watched over everything and everyone in the valley, and offered gratitude to whoever would make their home there. They were his people, and they worked to provide his livelihood.
On that first day, LeRoy rested. On most other days he rested as well. Anyone who knew him described LeRoy Johnson as a professional rester. A vagabond, aloof and slothful, he was asleep more often than a tailor measures suits. He rested on the fifth days, and the sixth, and always on the seventh. The seventh days, LeRoy would argue, were created and born from the brilliance of intelligent design, given to the people of the valley for a single purpose, rest.
And sure, on occasion, Leroy might walk to town to fill his jugs or find a chicken. Or on days that he was especially full of thrift, he might walk seventeen and a half miles up the canyon to visit the Samuelson Hermit and drink from their still. But those occasions were rare, like something out of a dream.
If anyone had happened to find LeRoy Johnson in the throws of activity, they’d be inclined to pinch their own skin. It was outlandish. Anomalous. Something almost supernatural in itself. In fact, if LeRoy Johnson was ever seen doing anything other than resting his tired bones or seeking comfort in drink, the entire valley buzzed with rumors and fascination. Whispers and glancing eyes filled the streets. Dinner conversations were more alive than a wolves den. LeRoy’s work, a labor so rarely seen, was made of the same stuff that verses are made of–something worth telling, and retelling again.
And that is what you have happened upon. A moment in the life of an abbot where forces beyond his control ushered in an urge to rise up. A story of an occasion in which LeRoy Johnson was wont to labor. The final act of a long and idle drama.