Bo Knows Beer, Fire, Islands, and Life
Bo was welding the human ass at the end of the torpedo. The image of the blazing acetylene torch poking at this bulbous butt won’t leave me anytime soon.
He was silent for a long time as he worked, but that didn’t surprise me. Bo doesn’t believe in small talk. Trivial conversation, he insists, is an indication that you have abandoned deep and important thinking in favor of superficial, glittering cleverness and mundane, insignificant details. I’m sure he’s a blast at cocktail parties.
As he flicked the flame against the steel flesh in a kinky rendition of the world’s nastiest spanking, Bo made an effort at human communication.
“So,” he said, sparks igniting tiny flames in his jet-black beard. “You up for real talk?”
I’ve tried fake talk before, but it left me feeling strangely unsatisfied.
“Sure,” I said, peering through my mirrored foreign-correspondent sunglasses. Bo glared at me like I was only slightly less intelligent than the torpedo-guy he was welding. I’m not sure why.
“What happens when we die?” he asked, pressing the torch’s blue flame against the grey flesh of torpedo-guy’s butt.
“Don’t know,” I said. “Haven’t been there, done that.” I attempted a smarmy grin.
Bo shook his head slowly, like he was trying to explain calculus to an alpaca. His dark brown skin glistened with sweat and the exertion of creativity.
“Yes, you have,” he said carefully. He continued to weld.
I didn’t say anything. Silence seemed like my best bet.
“Reincarnation,” he declared. “What goes around comes around. You’ve spent quality time in this universe before.”
The ocean’s waves rolled and receded, again and again, while I considered his pronouncement. The whole reincarnation thing struck me as something that people debate when they’ve run out of rational things to argue about. Like whether Penobscot Beer is a spectacular bargain or just plain awful. Some people say it’s wonderful because it is incredibly inexpensive, giving a growing boy the chance to work up a good buzz without working through an entire allowance. Others seem to believe that any beverage not distilled from the farts of Olympians isn’t worth consuming, and so they look down their pince-nez at anything that mere mortals can afford.
“Are you listening to me?” Bo rumbled. He jabbed the blazing torch at my face, which was a remarkably effective means for re-acquiring my attention. There’s nothing for focusing the mind quite so powerful as the imminent prospect of being singed.
“Goes around, comes around,” I reported. “Got it.”
Bo sighed. He twisted off the welding flame, slid the round goggles off his head, and grabbed another Penobscot. He settled his massive, ebony bulk down onto some rocks, leaned back, sighed again, and opened the beer.
“No, you don’t get it,” he said. “You’ve been alive before. Many times before. Around and around, like planets around a sun, man. Don’t you see?”
I comprehend the general idea of reincarnation well enough, but I got the sense that Bo wanted me to understand it on some different level. I kept my mouth shut.
He continued. “It’s obvious. People keep saying that we can’t know that reincarnation is right. Sure we can! Just look around you.” He gestured up the beach, where some Villagers huddled around a small driftwood fire. It was hard to tell from that distance, through the salt air, but it looked like Summer, a girl I met once before, was one of them. She and some guy with scraggly orange hair smoked pot while two other guys sunned on the rocks. “See that? Proof! It’s proof for those who can see.”
“The people or the campfire?” I asked, knowing full well that every syllable I uttered lowered Bo’s estimation of me.
“I ain’t talking about the damn seagulls,” Bo spat. He scratched his belly through the ubiquitous Hawaiian shirt. “The fire! What do you know about it?”
This was just getting worse, but I had little to lose. “It’s hot, it gives off smoke, it turns wood into heat and light, it’s great for roasting marshmallows and weenies….”
“Precisely,” Bo said. His tone of voice said, “Precisely, idiot!”
I swallowed some warm beer. The Village would be a much nicer place if it had a fridge. “I am the reincarnation of a weenie roast?”
Bo threw his beer can at my head. Fortunately, several hours of welding and a half-dozen beers had blurred his aim somewhat. He barely grazed my ear.
“The fire! Think about it. Wood turns into heat and light and ash. But nothing is lost. Nothing is gained. If you gathered up all the heat and light and ash and smoke and steam, you’d have exactly as much stuff as you started with. Exactly.”
I nodded, checking my ear for blood. Only a slight scratch. “Conservation of matter and energy,” I said.
Bo looked at me without blinking. “That’s a good way of putting it,” he conceded, apparently confusing me with Sir Isaac Newton. I’ve heard we look a lot alike. “It’s the proof,” he continued.
“Yes, damn it! Wood turns into light. But nothing is lost. Things are converted, but nothing is lost. You have the same amount of stuff that you had before you burned the log. Only it’s different. Different forms. So think about it. Everything in the entire universe works like that — everything is capable of changing forms, but nothing can actually be obliterated — so why should we be any different? We are spiritual beings. Are those spirits the only things in the universe that can actually be destroyed? Pure arrogance. We’re no different from everything else. It persists — we persist. It’s as simple as that.”
“But,” I said, feeling spectacularly clever, “the log itself was destroyed. The stuff is all there, but the log is gone. Isn’t that probably what happens to our souls?”
“Works for me,” Bo said, leaning back against the rocks. He closed his eyes. “I don’t really give a damn, anyway.”
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — WomynFire982: i’m going to barf. give men a couple of beers, and they all turn into philosophers.
Comment — PeaceNick: You R wrong, babe. Bo is just THINKING on a deeper plane than most humans!!! I think he’s got it RIGHT!!
Comment — WomynFire982: If you EVER call me “babe” again, Nick will find himself in Pieces.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.