A Confederate General from Big Sur(13)By: Richard Brautigan
The Letters of Arrival
Dear Lee Mellon,
The most horrible thing in my life has just happened. I never thought that I would be saying this. Cynthia has left me.
What am I going to do? She’s gone for keeps this time. She flew back to Ketchikan this morning.
I’m totally crushed. It just goes to prove that it’s never too late to learn. I wonder what that means?
Cheer up, smarts! You’ve still got old Lee Mellon and a cabin waiting for you down here at Big Sur. A good cabin. It’s on a cliff high over the Pacific. It has a stove and three glass walls. You can lie in bed in the morning and watch the sea otters making it. Very educational. It’s the greatest place in the world. What did I tell you about Cynthia? She was probably from Battle Mountain by way of Ketchikan. Weigh well the words of an old campaigner. – A Cynthia in the library is better than two Cynthias in the sack.—As always, Lee Mellon
The Letters of Arrival
Dear Lee Mellon,
No word from Cynthia. All the bees in my stomach are dead and getting used to it.
This is the end. So be it.
How do we keep alive at Big Sur? I’ve got a few bucks, but is there any way to work down there, or what?
I’ve got a garden that grows all year round! A 30:30 Winchester for deer, a .22 for rabbits and quail. I’ve got some fishing tackle and The Journal of Albion Moonlight. We can make it OK. What do you want, a fur-lined box of Kleenex to absorb the sour of your true love Cynthia, the Ketchikan and/or Battle Mountain cookie? Come to the party and hurry down to Big Sur and don’t forget to bring some whiskey. I need whiskey!
‘Want to put another log on the fire?’ Lee Mellon said. ‘I think it could use another log. What do you think?’
I looked at the fire. I thought about it. Perhaps I thought about it a little too long. The days at Big Sur can do that to you. ‘Yeah, it looks like it could,’ I said, and went around to the other end of the cabin and walked through the hole in the kitchen wall and got a log from the pile.
The log was damp and buggy on the bottom. I came back through the hole in the kitchen wall and put the log in the fireplace.
Some bugs hurried to the top of the log and I banged my head hard on the ceiling. ‘It takes a little while to get used to that,’ Lee Mellon said, pointing at the 5′ 1″ ceiling. The bugs were standing there on the log and looking out at us through the fire.
Yes . . . yes, the ceiling. Lee Mellon had been responsible for the ceiling. I’d heard the story. Three bottles of gin and they built the cabin right off the side of the hill, so that one wall of the cabin was just dirt. The fireplace had been carved out of the hillside later and filled in with rocks brought up the cliff from the ocean.
It had been a hot day when they put the walls up and three bottles of gin and Lee Mellon kept putting it away and the other guy, a deeply disturbed religious sort of person, kept putting it away. It was of course his gin, his land, his building material, his mother, his inheritance, and Lee Mellon said, ‘We’ve dug the holes deep enough, but the posts are a little too long. I’ll saw them off.’
Then you begin to get the picture. Four words to be exact. I’ll saw them off. But the guy said all right because he was deeply disturbed. Sun, gin, the blue sky and the reflection of the Pacific Ocean were spinning in his addled brain: Sure, let old Lee Mellon saw them off. No use . . . anyway, it’s too hot . . . can’t fight it, and the cabin had a 5′ 1″ ceiling and no matter how small you were, BANG! you hit your head against the ceiling.
After a while it became amusing to watch people bang their heads against the ceiling. Even after you had been there for a long time, there was no way of getting used to the ceiling. It existed beyond human intelligence and coordination. The only victory came from moving around in there slowly so that when you did hit your head against the ceiling, the shock of the blow was reduced to minor significance. That must be some law of physics. It probably has a nice tongue-bottled name. The bugs were standing there on the log looking out at us through the fire.
Lee Mellon was sitting on a rather mangy-looking deer rug, leaning up against a board wall. It is important that one differentiate right now between the walls of the place, for the walls were of varied and dangerous materials.
There was the dirt wall of the hillside, and there was a wooden wall, and a glass wall and no wall, just a space of air that led out to a narrow catwalk that circled part of the frog pond and joined up with a deck that was cantilevered rather precariously, like a World War I airplane, out over a canyon.