We’re in a state of armed warfare. It’s oversimplifying to say its urban vs rural, college educated vs. working class, readers vs. non-readers. We’re at war, but is anybody certain who their enemy is? If you’re my friend, is your enemy necessarily my enemy? If someone’s your enemy at breakfast, will they necessarily still be your enemy by dinner time? What if we can’t come up with answers? What actions do we take?
I’ve escaped into the woods with two others in hopes that by hiding we’ll be less likely to be subjected to random targeting. We have guns, plenty of them, but they fire long rolls of densely packed paper instead of bullets. Paper packing messages meant for friend and foe, messages to distract as much as mend. Reloading can be complicated, especially if we want to tailor the messages.
Each time we’re attacked, we manage to fend off the attackers and escape deeper into the dark woods. We cross paths only with foes. We live off roots, plants, berries, and fish we catch in the river. The creeks are dry, and the river is so low we can walk across it and catch fish with bare hands. We bail river water, boil it, and carry it like camels. In safety, we pack and load the next rounds of densely packed paper rolls into our weapons.
We split. Solo, on the bus en route to the office, I see four people creating a vocabulary—consisting of spoken word, gestures, and other symbols—for use in street drama. I’m intrigued, say so, and one of them invites me to join.
Later, I climb to a 4th story walk-up, the steps dark and littered with balls of crinkled paper. I have to open at least one stair gate. Someone apparently owns a cat and lets it roam. I see it first on the steps. It proceeds to someone’s door, but that’s no guarantee the owner’s behind that door. I’m not thrilled with being around a stairway cat. Like spirits, if you let in one, seven will follow.
I go to work to clear out my papers and wipe clean my computer. I hear the song, “’til the end of time” playing outside the building. Projected onto an adjacent wall is a film, “Why paper endures.” I leave to meet up with my newfound friends. Our immediate task is planning a demonstration or, using the preferred French term, a manifestation. Our métier, street drama, seeks to make people see and draw them in. It helps connect cognition and emotion far more readily than mere exegesis. One of my comrades hands me a paper outline of the drama about to unfold. “Once you’ve read it,” he says, “eat it.”
Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after rewarding career in public health research. With graduate degree from Howard University, in seven years he’s published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, photography, hybrid, and plays in 175 journals on five continents. Photo publications include Barnstorm, Bombay Gin, Burningword, Camas, Feral, Memoryhouse, Saw Palm, Stoneboat, Stonecoast, Whitefish, and Wordpeace, with Glassworks, Peatsmoke and Phoebe forthcoming. Text-based photo-essays include Barren, DASH, Kestrel, Ilanot Review, Litro, NWW, Sweet, Typehouse, and Wordpeace. He recently wrote/acted in a one-act play and appeared in a documentary limited series broadcast internationally. Jim and family split time between city and mountains.