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Mack Williams: Drone Lost in “Different World”

The other day, my son Jeremy took his “Christmas drone” ( gift from wife, Rose) outside to give it a try. He had experimented with it inside the night before, reminding me of the time a probe wound up inside the Starship Enterprise, or when Luke Skywalker used a robotic, laser-shooting “orb” to learn how to use a light sabre.

I went out later to see how things were going and spied Jeremy across the street not far from a small pond. I crossed the street, then stepped over the little stream leading into the pond. Parts of that stream were dry, reminding me of dry “gullies” of the Old West.

Jeremy said the drone wasn’t in the pond, but somewhere further, taken past a stand of trees by a strong wind having seized control.

In summer, the pond was filled with duckweed, sickly- green in life, now dead-brown. In death, that covering mass had receded, freeing up the pond’s surface for reflection again.

Nearby, a rusty fence encircles a field of brambles (as if preventing a kudzu-like breakout). Though covered with rust, the wire is still taught with strength, but bent in places.

Goats once lived within that fence, but wild dogs killed them around 30 years ago. In a coincidence, we had watched the movie “Babe” (1995) just the night before, in which the same thing happened to a sheep at the hands (paws) of “rogue” dogs. I can still see the goats-blood spattered fence of three decades past. Looking at that brown fence now, it’s almost as if the iron in that red blood had aided the fence’s rusting.

Nearby lies a little Carolina-blue house once called “Pem’s Folly.” The late Clarence Pemberton sometimes stayed there enjoying his bourbon in a retreat from his late wife, but within sight of the main house (actually, everything there is “late” now: Mr. Pem, his wife Miss Anne, the goats, his abandoned “Folly,” and the main house is now rental property).

Since the western end of the “Folly” is practically on the little pond’s shore, “Mr. Pem” was always granted a “reflective” sunset view during stays there.

At one time, Mr. Pem let an alcoholic friend, a man named “Tom” live there (oh, I almost forgot,Tom is “late,”as well).

On the back deck lies a sink, and I thought I spied a washing machine through a window. I don’t know what might have been salvaged from the little house, but as far as I could tell, (in paraphrase): “They took everything but the washing machine and the kitchen sink.”

Rotting tree limbs and stumps are scattered all about, and old liquor bottles poke out here and there from the accumulated pine needle cover of many years. Some of the more exposed bottles still have their caps in place, with an ounce or so of remaining “fluid.” It’s almost as if it had been purposely left there for a later “emergency swig,” or perhaps as a “liquid message in a bottle” awaiting lips of those brave enough to drink it on some future day (despite the alcohol content, some of that liquid does look quite “germy”).

I caught catfish in that pond 30 years ago, but now there is such a look of dissolution about the place (and memory of Mr. Pem’s “dissolute friend”), I wonder if any catfish dwelling there now might be the product of evolution “gone to seed.”

As I write this, Jeremy continues to look for his drone in that “different world’ across the road past that pond and into that grove of trees and bramble patch aided by his machete. It is a world marinated in “Lovecraftian miasma” and “Poe-esque melancholy,” with a healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) sprinkling of decomposition, the combination of the whole perhaps having been too much for a little drone’s first infant sight.

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