by H. Millard (c) 2000

by H. Millard (c) 2000

what's "ennui"?
he anthill outside his door was just becoming visible in the blue light of dawn. The anthill was unexceptional. It wasn't particularly large and it had no special features that he was aware of. It was just an anthill. The ants were a small black variety, and had probably been making this type of hill since before mammals were even on the planet. He sat there on the plastic chair, drinking his cup of coffee, and watching the ants. He did this every morning before leaving his house to go to work. The coffee was just the store variety of instant. Just ordinary working class stuff. He had once tried one of those fancy coffees at coffee placesome yuppie franchise coffee place that seemed to be on every corner as though they were human anthills. The coffee wasn't bad, but it was just friggin’ coffee and he almost gagged on the fou fou clientele with their braces, their wire rimmed glasses and their BMW’s outside. Phonies sucking up to other phonies, he thought. Empty shallow people finding their lives’ meaning in material things and in posturing.

     After a while, he got up ,went back into the bedroom and got dressed in his uniform, and then left his house to go to the little auto body and paint shop that he owned and operated. It wasn't much of a business, but it was his. As he industrial complexapproached the small industrial complex where the business was located, he once again wished that it had been out here on the street instead of being tucked in the back of this complex. He had been able to buy it for a song, because the last owner was dying of lung cancer from all the chemicals he had breathed in over the years. The shop made him a little money, but not much. Still, he was able to pay the bills. Of course he figured that, like the earlier owner, he was slowly dying from the paint fumes and dust that he breathed in all day long. Well it beat dying from no food, which would probably have been the situation if he didn't do this. So he got up, went to work, worked, went home, got up, went to work, went home. That was life. That was life for all people, wasn't it? What did those yuppies do in the fou fou coffee shop? he wondered. Lawyers? Bankers? Screw them. Bunch of pansies.

     He got kind of a Zen pleasure in just mindlessly sanding cars to prep them for body shoppainting. He actually preferred this to the paperwork aspects of the business, and besides the more work he did like this, the more he would save in paying help. Even so, he didn't pay his help much. Guys would come to the back door asking for work, and heed give them $25.00 to sand and mask a car for a complete paint job, that might cost the customer five or six hundred bucks. Figure about a hundred bucks for paint and materials and he would make a small profit. So that was life. That's all there was. Day in and day out. He was one with the ants, and he knew it.

     It was the 10th of October. He got up, watched the ants and drank his coffee as usual, but something was different. Something had changed. He felt different. The world somehow felt different. The sky looked about the same as always, just kind of a bland gray but it was somehow more...meaningful.. Somehow, he had been touched while sleeping. Touched, but he didn't know by what. It was as though he had previously been looking out at the world from behind a gauzy curtain, and now the curtain was drawn and he could really see...not just the world...but all of existence. Somehow everything made sense to him. The chaos and non-meaning of everything now had patterns. It wasn’t as though the world was now meaningful in human terms, but it had meaning for those who could see as he could see. The meaning in human terms was still chaos and absurdity, but in his human being, he fit in. He was now a conscious part of existence. “Maybe,” I'm the first post human, human,” he thought to himself.

     “Was this what Enlightenment was about?” he wondered. “Maybe this was a higher consciousness.” Hell, he had never been religious or spiritual. He had always been a human ant as were most people on the planet. He probably would have believed, if he had ever thought about it before, which he hadn't, that he had free will and that he had determined his own fate through his free will. He knew that he hadn't had free will before. Now he did. Now he felt the Universe had big things planned for him. He was going to be one with all that exists. He just felt it. Maybe he was to become the superman.

     He walked out and stepped on the ants. He ground his foot into their ant hill and he stepped on any that escaped. They would die in a short time anyway, so he just speeded up the process. He took no pleasure in this, in fact he was indifferent to it. What lives, dies.

     He got in his car and drove to his shop. He opened the door and walked in. There on the floor were his two illegal alien employees lying dead with bullet holes in their chests. He calmly looked at both of them as though he was looking at slabs of meat. “Ahh, shit. Now there's friggin’ blood on the floor,” he said to himself. Then he called 911. “Hello, this is James Webb at Webb's Auto Body. Yes, on Main. Right. I just opened my shop and my two employees are lying dead on the floor. No. I don't know what happened. They were like this when I police officergot here this morning. O.K. I'll wait until you get here. Thank you.” He then hung up the phone, and made a pot of coffee. He was sitting there next to the bodies enjoying the coffee and reading a newspaper when the cops arrived.

     “You the guy who called?” asked the Sgt, who looked like he was Mexican.
     “Who are these guys?”
     “They worked for me,” replied James. “They just started last week, so I don't know much about them. Just a couple of illegal aliens, I think."
     “What are their names?” asked the Sgt.
     “Hell if I know,” said James, “I never asked. They showed up at the back door looking for work, so I told them they could work.”
     The Sgt. eyed James suspiciously. “You don't seem to be too upset. Doesn’t this bother you?”
     “No, not particularly. None of us gets out of life alive,” replied James.
     "You don't like illegal aliens do you?" said the Mexican looking cop.
     "I never thought about it too much," said James.
     "Well, you didn't like them because they were Mexicans, right?

     James could see the baiting that the cop was doing with him but he was indifferent to it, and he wasn't interested in playing. "Yeah. That's it. I didn't like them because they were Mexican and I don't like you because you look Mexican. I don't like Mexicans. They should be crushed like bugs." The cop just stared at James in silence.

      The cop then had James go outside where he was frisked by the cop with the policeSgt. He was then told to sit in the back of the police car. He complied. The cops were joined by other cops and some detectives. They then searched the shop. James was indifferent. A black detective came over and asked James if he owned a gun or had one in the shop. James replied that he didn’t. “You know,” said the detective, “I’ve never seen anyone as calm as you are after finding two dead bodies. How do you explain that.”

     “Got me. I’m just a calm person I guess,” said James.
     “Yeah, well I don’t get it. I mean just about anyone would be upset or grieving or panic stricken, but you’re as calm as though you just saw some squashed bugs.”
     “Hmmm,” said James, “squashed bugs. Good analogy. Look, I've got better things to do with my time. Will you just get those stiffs out of my shop and I'll go about my business.”
     "The Sgt. told me that you don't like Mexicans," said the black cop.
     "Nah. He got it wrong. I said I don't like blacks," said James.
The detective walked back to the white detective. “There's something wrong with that guy. I've never seen anyone act cooler.”
     “You think he did it?” “Nah. He's too cool. I think he's insane, but I don't think he did this. He probably could have, had it occurred to him, but maybe someone beat him to it. He told me he doesn't like blacks.”
     “I thought it was Mexicans he didn't like. Let me ask him a couple of questions."
     "Mr. Webb. You're not making things better for yourself. My partner said you don't like blacks. Is that right?"
     "Nah. I don't like whites."
     "Do you like anyone Mr. Webb?"
     "I never thought about it too much. I don't like, nor not like anyone. I just crime scenedon't care."
     After a little more questioning, the detectives figured they didn't have any evidence to hold James and they left.

     Once the the bodies were removed, James went back to sanding the cars, as he had been doing for years. “Ah, screw it," he suddenly said for no particular reason. He put on his coat and walked out the back door of the shop. He got in his car and drove the 40 or so miles to Skid Row where he parked his car, left the keys in the ignition, and just walked away from it.

     That day turned into night and then it was day again. Then it was night, and then day. The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months. Some days it rained. Some days it didn't. It didn't matter.

     As he wandered the streets, James became like all the others. His gait had automatically changed from a bounding walk to the standard shuffle of everyone else around him. These were people who had no place to go, but who were constantly going to that no place. He shuffled his way to a line of homeless free foodpeople waiting for free food. They were all wearing those soiled, muted, earthy–sort of brown, sort of something else--clothes that may have once been white. Even the dirt was indistinct. They were all dressed in the color that was so common among those who lived on the streets, and which was a reflection of one of the steps of decay which all things in nature go through on their way back to the soil. The streets gave to those living on them, the color of decay. It wasn't something that had to be maintained, because decay required no effort. These people were walking parts of the cosmic dung heap. Around them, during the daylight hours, there were thousands of people who didn't know they were part of the universal dung heap. You could see it in their scrubbed faces and their clean shirts and blouses. You could see in on their faces and in their attitudes. James smiled when he thought of the futile lives these people led. These were clean ants, but they were still ants. However, they didn't know they were ants. Many, no doubt, thought that what they were doing was important. James felt sorry for them. They were like the crazy obsessive compulsives he saw on homelessthe streets who constantly did repetitive things such as stroking their beards or tear up pieces of paper over and over because they apparently thought in their own minds that what they did was important for their continued existence, and if they stopped, they somehow would cease to be.

     James got in the free food line. There were a lot of vacant and hollow expressions in this line and everyone seemed to mind their own business. Everyone just mindlessly followed the person in front as the line moved ant like into the building where the food was, and then out the exit door back to the streets. James imagined a giant boot coming down from heaven and squashing some of those in the line and he was sure that those behind the ones squashed would just walk over their bodies as though nothing had happened. Individuals didn't matter, death didn't matter, life didn't matter. What mattered was the doing of whatever it was that was being done at the moment, because the doing was the purpose even if there were no other purpose but the doing. It was a mindless doing that was being done. He felt part of all of those around him. He was one with them and they were one with him, and none of them meant anything. They were just like the other people who were getting up and going to work each day in the high rise office buildings just a few blocks from Skid Row. The only difference was that these pieces of the cosmic dung heap didn't have the conceit to think that they were something else.

     James then smiled a little smile to himself, as he shuffled on, because he knew that he had found the meaning of life. He liked having the consciousness of the universal dung pile. He liked the fact that he existed without effort. He liked the fact that he was what was when no effort was expended to be anything else. His existence was natural. The existence of the clean ants was unnatural and they had to expend much energy to exist as they did. James felt like the original darkness before there was light. He was, when nothing else was. Let others try to be the light in human form. Let them burn themselves out as though it mattered.

     Just then, the sun came out and James moved to be in its warmth the way a flatworm in a petri dish might move to the light. As he moved, he knew that even dawnhe wanted more than nothing. And, even if life had no grand meaning, it did have meaning to the person who was living that life,
if for no other reason than the fact that some things were uncomfortable and some things were comfortable. Comfortable was better than uncomfortable. Right now, being in the warm sun was comfortable, even for a small piece of the cosmic dung heap.
James felt great that he was alive.

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