In the sunny afternoon, people strolled the dirt paths in the park eating popsicles. Others were laying in the grass. Over the hill someone played a saxophone, and nearby, a young guy practiced juggling bowling pins.
Beyond the clowns doing cartwheels at the end of the parade, the city had a dark side to it. The buildings were graffitied not with an aesthetic effect, but to that of territories marked. Peddlers of worthless junk were more abundant than buyers. I saw a convoy of five or six armored vans pass me on the walkway as the sun was setting.
I saw a guy in the distance light a firecracker. I had not been paying attention to him -- in the coming darkness, he was nothing but a shadow under the street lamp at the park gate about a hundred yards away. But the sudden explosion stung my ears and rattled my nerves. An M1000 or the like. A few minutes later, as I was crossing the humming intersection and had wholly forgotten about him, another explosion shivered my skin.
Hours later, I leaped out of sleep to the detonation of another one. It could not have been more than fifty yards from the pale morning glow of my bedroom window. I only knew it was not a real bomb because people were not running from a cloud. Had I dreamt it? What a horrible dream that would be, to be wakened by a shaking blast fabricated solely within the skull.
Upon my return to southern California, when I descended and walked the beach, I found thousands of shrimp-like crustaceans dead in the sand. Swarms of flies hovered low and knocked against my shins. Fat seagulls watched me with lazy eyes. As the waters had warmed, the so-called Tuna Crabs had arrived from the far south for the first time in over a decade, and their mass deaths seem to be a mystery. It reminded me of news from two years ago, when millions of krill washed ashore Oregon and Washington, their largest recorded die-off in the region.
I stood on the cliffs along the coast gazing over the precipice at the hazy horizon, wondering what would next appear from under the gray blanket.
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