He Kept Moving

by Mitch Zigler

Arrange the sections in any order seen fit


1. He kept moving. He wrote in hotels and motels along the way. When he hit a small town called Wishram he sold his guitar to some kid in a bar–kept going. The wheels kept rolling. The sun came up and down over and over, over and over, and the next fix of gasoline was all he thought about. He was going to take this piece of metal all the way. The wheels kept moving.


4. Adam and Eve were exiles. And because of this–because of what they symbolize to humanity–we all follow in their footsteps, wandering through our lives, in the cities and the open spaces–alone, but not always lonely.


3. He watched through the windshield as the land began to flatten out. The prairie was being born, slowly at first then conquering in all directions. Little towns. Yellow grass in the wind. He found a payphone outside a little truck-stop diner and made a call to a woman who didn’t pick up.


11. At first the novel was about a sailor from the 15th century, lost at sea and navigating by the stars, but then he decided to make it about nothing. He threw away the sailor and wrote only about the sea and the stars. They were the only characters, silent and cold. Days passed with no movement–well, the ocean moved a little–but there was no plot, no action. And then he threw them away too. Now the novel was an empty canvas, and yet, somehow, he still managed to write the story, to fill up page after page of beautifully arranged words, cascading along.


8. A snatch of conversation overheard beside the motel pool:
“…the iguana was from a dream though, not like the money.’
“There’s no shame in doing what needs to be done.’
“I know, I know. I just wish I knew, ya know?’
He had no idea what that was about. He began thinking that maybe he had synesthesia (the blurring of the senses: noticing that music has a certain color, colors have a certain taste, etc.), but he wasn’t sure. He hoped he had it. Their conversation was very sort of smoky-blue.


9. He wondered where they would bury him if he kept moving like this. The quiet rhythm of the highway churned out its own soft music as the wind brushed against the frame of the car. His arm was out the open window, tapping on the door. As the sun went down he pulled off to the side of some dusty road and watched from the hood of the car with a cigarette in hand and a feeling of something lost within him. He wondered who he really was–did he know himself? Could he escape himself? The evening crept up, cool and whispering with wind.


5. When the cards were flipped on the felt green table–a smile from the one who held the hand: hearts and clubs, a pair of aces and a pair of eights.


14. With the radio on, a song:

Send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won’t forget to put roses on you grave


20. A small pile of money spread out across the floor. He swirled the green bills around in a circle on the carpet, his eyes moving along with them. Not enough, he thought. It’s never enough.


15. He found a room and decided the empty novel needed something. He added in a bull. It was wild and young, and he let it invade the pale emptiness of the work. It charged around searching for something to do, trying to kick up sand from the floor of an arena, but found nothing there below its feet. There were no bullfighters to battle, no screaming crowds to fear. The animal moved through the empty world–a lost and lonely soul. It raised its eyes up to what should have been the sky and wondered about God. And then, without any answers, bowed its head back down and continued the empty walk. To keep it occupied he threw in a red rag, dangling it before its face, but the bull turned away uninterested. It trotted off and disappeared into the blank distance. The rag lingered for a time, swaying softly in the breeze–dark stains and tatters, unexplained–like a flag left behind from a battle a few hours before. And then it was gone and the novel was empty once again.


6. A dive bar. A cheap motel. A liquor store or a small diner or a quiet bowling alley.


12. Jesus Christ, when you get right down to it, was basically just a man with a broken heart.


7. He didn’t want to write anymore, or at least he didn’t want to use words anymore–they got in the way of what he was trying to get across. He wanted to write without them. The novel was empty and he liked it that way. He kept the wheels rolling.


16. The dust began to settle down around him. He bought a hard pack of cigarettes and watched from the gas station at a storm creeping up the horizon–dark clouds like wet wings spreading out against the sky.

“You ain’t too far from the border,’ said an old man who filled his tank. He wore clean overalls that were washed that morning and his face was cracked and bitten from years of dust and wind.

“That’s good,’ he replied. He wanted to hit the border–not sure why. Something called to him from that invisible line in the sand.

“Best get moving though,’ the old man said, leaning down against a rusty barrel and squinting into the distance. “That storm’s on your tail.’


A quiet moment there, both of them alone within themselves, reflecting upon the earth and the particulars of the morning and the way life moves you along.


18. A few words he still did enjoy: elegiac, mercurial, vagabond.


10. He slept alone in a nice hotel a few miles from where he thought he wanted to be. Lying there in the dark, eyes wide open, the ceiling up above–he felt restless and wide awake in between the sheets. He thought about a girl he’d known a long time ago–her dark skin, her brown eyes. She used to talk about changing her name. Once he’d bought her a single rose. He wondered what she called herself now. Where was she? A television in the next room brought a static hum through the wall. He stood and walked to the window in his underwear. Through the blinds he saw the empty parking lot, the coke machine glowing down at the other end. Where was she at this moment? (Actually it was a Pepsi machine.)


19. The clink of ice cubes rocking together in a glass of bourbon–or, a better sound might be: the worn pads of a thin coyote’s feet bounding lightly from one side of the highway to the other, like a smooth stone being skipped across the sea.


17. He found himself rolling the glass down and digging into the back seat for the novel. The wind from the road whipped at his hair as reams of pages began to float through the open window, becoming part of the air, drifting off into their own private directions as the car sped along as fast as he could push the peddle. He kept feeding and feeding it. In the rearview mirror he saw the flashes of white paper like a thousand ghosts waving goodbye.


2. Ethereal /əˈTHirÄ“É™l/ adj.
1. Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world.
2. As impalpable or intangible as air.
3. Resembling Heaven.


13.The wheels kept rolling.