The old man who I never really knew and yet for years after his death I aided in cleaning the house he nearly suffocated with hoarding. Like sifting through sand for gold I dug through countless boxes of junk that he had held precious and priceless. Stacks of newspapers and empty cereal boxes reached near to the ceiling creating a chaotic city of rubbish. And did you know he had a sister? How appropriate to be named after her. This Katherine was a smart woman who lived to be 96 If I’m not mistaken. I recall visiting her in at the old folk’s home in Florida. A small room featuring one window open to a view of the tropical garden. Stacks of books in large print spines cracked and torn from the rough love of reading. Books full of crosswords and various paper puzzles lay in a wicker basket by her bed. And did I mention Katherine was always happy to see us? Did I mention that she spelled her name K-A-T-H-Y-R-N? Thus provoking the spelling of Katy to end with a Y. Why indeed because my mother put K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E on my birth certificate so according to the government that is my name.
In the front yard of my house is a tree whose branches I know as steps to a ladder. Looking straight up the sky becomes a mosaic where brown boarders frame various hues of green. It is a church of its own to the faithful. The patch of bark raw from my clumsy climbing feet is the welcome mat of an old friend.
Being outside, some distance away, the sounds of the storm from inside is muffled. Turbulent waters can calm suddenly sometimes. Think gently shaking water surface beneath the rolling dark grey clouds.
One tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air in a single day, think of a heavy morning fog wrapped around you, think of shelter from the sun, shelter from a storm.
There is a point at which the hill is its steepest. A point when your face gets red and your breath gets short and you really have to force your legs to peddle up up up even when your muscles are screaming. There is an old man’s house and it’s such a place I rarely stopped or thought about. He had a perfectly manicured yard and no trees. He had flowers and bushes. He was a retired old black man and nothing more to me.
Until one day I was riding my bike and I stopped at this place within the steep of the hill. It is a strange land where the trees grow out sideways, and the bushes are cut with more care than my hair had ever received. No trees to cover, bigger driveways but not the bigger everything like you’ll find from the houses at the very top. This was some strange in-between place and even stranger yet I found a rabbit there.
Brown creature with flecks of gold in its fur. Its big eyes are glossy black marbles. Its nose bounces up and down as it chews on some grass very casual like. Its ears twitch to the side as it hears all of Queensbury, all of it at once. Acutely aware of many things it was like an omnipresent being.
And there was Neil Gaiman the ineffably cool best selling author who I’d been reading since I was a teenager. Someone who’s work I really respect and admire.
He was going through the stack of books fairly quickly people were just sort of breezing past him and I thought to myself; you have to say something to him. Don’t just breeze by say something. And so he came to my books and I opened my mouth a out spilled words like I’d been choking on water. I spoke very quickly I told him I really love all his work and comic books and everything and I’d been reading his stuff for a really long time and I think he’s just great. I said it in one massive slur that he probably did not even understand.
Then something surprising happened. He stopped what he was doing and looked up at me. His hand stopped moving mid signature and he seemed to be genuinely noticing my existence.
I handed him my Melancholy Evil Poptart and I told him; “This is a stupid webcomic I did and at least I can say I gave it to you.” He looked at it and said “Now what is this?” He asked me a question and I had to explain. I told him it started as a comic book in middle school me and my friends passed around and now this is about us all grown up and him trying to find meaning in life. I warned him that it was really depressing. He looked at the cover and said “I’ll read this… Melancholy Evil Poptart” He seemed to find humor in the title. He shook my hand. He fucking shook my hand and I felt far more acknowledgement than I’d ever expected from going to this event.