Momma sent me into the Wild of Swinging Holler the Spring of the Year Cicada, the year of whirring sounds and cacophony, the year of sleepless nights; my time had come. Dressed in buckskin jerkin, I carried little with me save the small hide pouch which held several pieces of toast smothered liberally in Grandpappy’s jam. I thought of Grandpappy as I walked. The way he used to climb up and down trees. Squirrel, he told me, his mouth of full of nuts. He’d walked into these hills as a boy too. He’d carried his own Grandpappy’s jammy toast. He told me how many a night he’d still awake suddenly, in the grip of vision, lips numb, eyes akimbo. Hot damn, he’d often say. Hot damn.
My feet carried the legs and the legs my torso and the torso my outlandish body cavity and the body cavity my pea-brained skull cup. How this operation remains in balance is one of Swinging Holler’s great mysteries, but we are not to dwell on such things. That sort of mystery ought to remain cloudy and unclear. Days on end I propelled forward, through the brush, the thicket, the creeper vine, the poison ivy and chiggers and mosquito nights, the land of oak which turned to pine and then to strange white narrow trees and glades. The thrum in the air was everpresent. Slinky cicada song. My heart flutters now at the thought of it. My forehead turns shiny with sweat. I must not wipe this sweat from my brow. The details here are important, and if I miss a thing I fail. I must not fail.
I had long ceased to recognize geographical features, the flora and fauna was ridiculous. I will admit I became hungry, bored, sick of walking, and at this time I sat myself down in a clearing. Made myself a night-cap of narrow grass, fitted it snug on my skull cup, did a series of stretches, throat exercises, squat thrusts. All to loosen the dream avalanche. And what do you know but I did come to hear then all noise had stopped. The cicada were silent, listening maybe, but offering no response. Their noise had been such everpresence that now my brain-ears registered a pitch of such high and mighty endeavor from the inside that I had to lay down, pinch my temples. On my back in the clearing, I saw through half closed eyes the Full Orange Moon and its twin, Yellow Second-Cousin Moon. Just as momma had said it would rise! I carefully removed the sticky toast from my coon hide pouch and partook. Big mouthfuls I ate. As there had been nothing on the stomach for days the food seemed to expand, filling my insides to stuffed. I ate too much, too fast. I will not describe the gastral revolt, but. Yes. Hem and haw. Reflection there in the stuff. My world turned from jerkin to homespun to golden flax and then to thick cotton and then I wore nothing. The nerve cells electric. My skin molted, and then regenerated, and molted, and another skin dropped out of the glade’s atmosphere and onto my bones. Something else entirely. My short hairs turned to feelers turned to antennae, and it was just before dawn that I came to again, a sense of vibrato in me. And there above me, about ten feet off the clearing floor, wings beating so fast and soundless as to appear nonexistent, Hummingbird floated, hovered, bobbed, hung in the air, considering me with no small amusement.
What follows is something of a transcription of our early dialogues:
Hummingbird: Hello, BoyBoy Man.
BoyBoy Man: Hummingbird!? What are you?
BBM: You’re it, huh?
HB: I’m it.
BBM: Nothing. I need to take a crap.
HB: It can wait.
BBM: It can wait.
HB: Here’s a rag; clean yourself up.
HB: Let me start off by saying that I was not exactly thrilled to find you here this morning either.
BBM: Who’d you expect?
HB: I don’t know. Maybe the Putnam kid. He’s fast. Strong. Graced with bicep. The Robinett kid is good with tools.
BBM: I can make turkey sounds with my mouth.
HB: Yes, I know you can.
BBM: Well. You ain’t exactly a Lynx.
HB: I am aware of that.
BBM: You’re big though.
HB: I’m not so big.
BBM: No, you are! Much bigger than the hummingbirds which gather at Carl Daddy Two’s feeder.
HB: For a hummingbird, I’m so-so big. I guess.
BBM: You’re big.
BBM: What do we do now?
HB: I’m glad you asked me that. Come. Stand. Walk with me through the Aspen here.
HB: Tell me, BoyBoy Man, what is it you hope to get out of life?
BBM: I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it...
HB: Well, think about it now.
[phhht, phhht, phttt. mouth sounds.]
BBM: It hurts.
HB: I know it does.
BBM: Well. I guess I’d like to have a TV show.
HB: A TV show? Really?
BBM: Well. I don’t know. Maybe not.
HB: What else?
BBM: Maybe just a movie of the week.
HB: Do tell.
BBM: I’ve got this story about a bunch of Acrobats.
HB: Acrobats? What happens to them?
BBM: They’re a Family. Not a Family-Family, but like a Group-of-Friends Family.
HB: What happens to this Family of Acrobats in your Dream Story?
BBM: They pretty much solve a crime.
BBM: And in so doing, they save the Multi-Verse.
HB: I like it.
BBM: One of the Acrobats is a Dog.
HB: I love it.
BBM: Maybe what we can do, we can spin off the movie of the week into a regular TV show. On cable. So the Acrobats can cuss and do other things.
HB: Keep going...
BBM: Every week one of the Acrobats dies. But every week too they make a new one.
HB: How do you mean?
BBM: I mean they maybe fashion a small clay figurine, or like an ether figurine, or brown matter, or quintessence, whatnot, and they grant it life and make it a new Acrobat, to replace the one that fell.
HB: You are a genius.
BBM: But the Dog Acrobat never dies. That Dog Acrobat is really something of a Demi-God. Or a Vampire. A pretty cool Vampire.
HB: One of the Immortals?
HB: Where do we set the show?
BBM: I think the Acrobat Home-Base is on the Jupiter moon Europa...
HB: Ah, yes. I’ve been there. Beautiful, long winters.
BBM: Yeah. And the Home-Base Headquarters, the Acrobat Manse, is housed deep in the ice-covered ocean, and a Giant Trapeze allows them to swing effortlessly, as if with the Greatest of Ease, between they slushy home and the Earth.
HB: BoyBoy Man. Please forget what I said about the Putnam and Robinett kids. Those kids are trash. Dumb. You and I were meant to be together.
BBM: You want to produce my show?
HB: Well. I think I know somebody who knows this other person that is definitely going to want to produce your show.
BBM: I’ve got a Treatment written out at home.
BBM: Well. Notes.
HB: That can wait. Tell me, why do you think I am your Spirit Animal?
BBM: You heard about my script?
HB: Fox mentioned your script. But that’s not why I am here, no.
BBM: ... ?
HB: Your heart beats so fast, BoyBoy Man. And what looks to an outside observer like an effortless stillness on your part, a hovering, is actually the result of so much expended energy. Yours is a nervous, non-stop movement, a ceaseless flitting, here and there and there and there and here. The result of such metabolism, such pace, is that your existence requires nonstop sustenance. At any given moment you are but hours away from starving. Might you grasp the meaning of this? You live out cycles over the course of moments that other creatures, like the Tse-Tse Fly, that silly thing, will spend a lifetime getting through once. More importantly, you have the ability to fly backwards. Your only rest comes in moments of sheer torpor, wherein you almost cease to exist. However, need calls again, and your nervous system responds, and you are gone. You might cross the Gulf of Mexico in a miraculous non-stop journey, and you might do this several times in the course of your life. But the risk is utter burn-out. A sudden ceasing.
BBM: But Neil Young said...
HB: I know what he said. Neil's a little funny sometimes. And we've talked about this. There are options better than either burning out or fading away.
BBM: I’m exhausted, Hummingbird.
HB: Sleep on it. I’ve got a little confab with Buck-Deer and Mongoose at Skinny Creek tomorrow noon about a tough case over in Bandy Woods.
BBM: I’ll lay my head on this rock here.
HB: No. Look. I made you a pillow.
HB: Drink this water.
[drinking. huge mouthfuls. wide eyes a'sparkle.]
BBM: Wow. The Acrobats and the Dog, and I think maybe they will have a friend that is a Space Blob, and another friend that is a Cop, they will all have to drink lots of water, I think...
HB: I want you to focus on your breathing