Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / Themes / Broke Writer /
I thought of my comet novel in 1982, was trying to write it by late ’82 through the mid-eighties when the idea fell behind, not ahead of the curve, of Comet Haley’s arrival. But by that time practical considerations, marketing considerations, had little to do with why I was doing what I was doing. At some point Jesus on the cross is beyond pain, beyond practicality. I wrote the way Sisyphus pushed. It was not to get the stone to the top: it was what Sisyphus did.
I was forever swearing that I’d soon return to businesslike practices, I’d make an income, reclaim some kind of a life. There were periods where briefly I could make it come true. In the mid-1980s, armed with nice Florida-type graphics, by Marcel, for example, my income could once again out pace my expenses: I was no longer spending sixty dollars to make forty dollars, I was spending forty to make sixty. I was selling more to galleries in Naples than I’d ever sold in any one town, Manhattan excepted.
I loved Naples for more than one reason. One was I had a friend there. Eck. Eck Hathaway. When I first saw Eck the kids were calling him the “Ant Man”. Tall, skinny, bearded: old. Eck looked like George Bernard Shaw: my hero!
Eck was walking around the trailer park, south of Naples, road to Marco Island, with a pot of water that had just been boiling. He’d locate a fire ant hill and boil the ants and their eggs, hopefully boiling the queen too. Can’t kill them all though, there millions more under the soil.
I had my alpine tent set up in the tent area, in the back of the park, right on its border with wilderness. Eck lived in his small ratty old travel trailer across the border, in the wilderness, like Robinson Cruso. Eck stayed to himself, until someone spot ten a fire ant hill. Then the kids would be launched to go and fetch the “Ant Man”.
Once I showed up, once I shoed a liking for the funny old man, I would be invited over. Eck would share his meals with me. Sometimes I’d cook, but we’d eat it in his trailer.
Eck was a retired NASA physicist, Ph.D. Lived around Fort Lauderdale through the Depression. Told me he could have bought Fort Lauderdale for $30 in those days.
Eck told me he was no great physicist, but that he had an invaluable role in NASA: he was their Mr. FixIt. Say they wanted a rocket, all they had though was a kettle: Eck would jury rig the kettle into a functioning rocket.
I’d go to Naples, I’d visit Eck. First I had the tent, then a travel trailer, old and waterlogged, then a Coleman pop up camper …
1989 I pulled off the highway in Sebring, 2014 I’m still here. It was in Sebring that I met my dear friend, Catherine. Catherine got me a car, gave me her house. Catherine was eighty-three when I met her. She was ninety-six when she died. I believe that one reason I got along well with Catherine was because I’d gotten along well with Eck. Eck was in his mid-eighties.
I took Catherine to see him: they were both in their eighties. God, did Catherine ever perk Eck up. He loved her!
Eck when I met him make no secret to me that he was waiting to die. He’d loved his wife, his wife had died first. He came from a long-lived family, they all lived way into their nineties. Eck did not want to live into his nineties. But you wouldn’t know it, once Catherine was there.
We walked on Naples Pier, beautiful winter day, crowded. Eck looked proud as a peacock with Catherine on his arm. Catherine looked so female, how did she do it? old, blind, crippled since age two (polio) … I crooked my finger at them with a wicked smile:
I haven’t seen Eck since. I know that he had his pension sent to his son in Virginia. His son paid Eck’s rent at the trailer park and saw to it that he had a couple of hundred here and there for food, fuel … I don’t know what happened: but I bet Eck lived on and on. I bet Eck’s son finally came and got him, stuck him under his wing in Virginia.
One Thanksgiving Eck and I walked along the canal. We saw every Florida wading bird, lined up, one of each! as though Peterson (or Audubon) had posed them.
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