[Today’s guest post is brought to us by
Adam Kuhlmann Cormac McCarthy]
On the eve of Winter Storm Juno, The Clam invited acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy to Gloucester to document the carnage. One might think that Clam-tributing would constitute a step down for a man with a Pulitzer, a National Book Award, and an inside track on the 2015 Nobel. But lately McCarthy has been experimenting with modern forms, such as the Yelp review. Plus, he’s always been a sucker for apocalyptic landscapes. So, to our delight, he accepted—and because the aging master was totally reliant on the MBTA to get around, he ended up staying for the next six weeks. What follows are excerpts from his eyewitness account.
January 26, 5:18 PM:
Naked and chapped the country awaits its first snowfall. By evening clouds mass and people scuttle through the ruins of grocery store aisles like insects fleeing a timber doused in spirits and set aflame. One stops and studies an empty shelf and raises a hand to her mouth in a gesture both gnomic and portentous. Nearby a reedy and stoop-shouldered clerk bends and turns and erects a tower of canned soup that quivers in the fevered air. The Lime Shrimp Ramen, he says.
Yes, she says.
Gone. He pivots and enlists the cold linoleum as his spittoon. And no damned good besides.
January 28, 6:32 AM:
The storm decamps and dawn breaks to snow totals beyond the reckoning of yardsticks and meteorologists. In the gathering light the powder manifests in queer shapes: paraboloids huddled in the lees of houses and huge white cowls shrouding the bald crowns of Buicks and Oldsmobiles and appliances a mendicant neighbor has abandoned to the ceaseless abrasion of the elements. An early shoveler wades into the trackless depths and reels like a drunkard in a stiff wind. Depleted he stalls and squints into the blowing snow and brandishes his middle finger as if to say this morning is the worst among mornings. As if to say fuck you.
February 3, 8:05 AM:
We wake and pull the shade and find that the world has vanished again beneath a cold white veil not lovely but remorseless and we hold our heads in our hands for a long time. A paralysis creeps in on us like a plague or a phantom or the pale shadow of a snowman steeped in crimson light and it is all we can do to lie down once more on still-warm sheets. Spent and slick with panic sweat we mouth prayers and maledictions in tandem and look skyward for mercy or the method of the universe but there is none. What there is is whisky and we drink it and it goes down with relish and dispatch.
February 10, 10:21 AM:
After three days the storm holsters itself and moves on with the poise of an assassin altogether indifferent to virtue or to the bloodspray stippling its cheek. In its wake blooms a peculiar madness occasioned by endless games of Clue and Parcheesi and by diapers stacked like the middens of some squalid and fiber-loving race. A woman who can no longer abide the stink and folly of her kinfolk howls and scurries to a window which she jerks but finds jammed by plow-spume and hoarfrost. Crazed and dervish-like she wheels and tries another and it gapes and exhales its reek as though it were the maw of a demon. In defiance of sense and a ruddy Irish mayor she leaps and falls and sinks to her neck in the massed ejecta of a snowblower. Her arms are pinned in an attitude of crucifixion but at last she knows deliverance.
February 14, 7:25 PM:
Shadows cohere in the corners of a restaurant where tables are untenanted save for candle flames dancing like bright djinns in the drafty gloom. A woman registers the desolation within and without. A phone rings and she lifts the receiver from its cradle. Good evening, she says. Pinol—I mean, Alchemy Café.
Buenas noches, senorita. The voice contains gravity and menace beneath its evocations of sage and creosote and good mezcal.
Can I help you?
Ruminative she twists the kerchief at her throat. Why are you speaking in Spanish?
The questions are for me to ask and for you to answer.
Why senorita does the winter endure?
She thinks. Well it’s only mid-February.
No senorita. Look around you. On this the day that Saint Valentine martyred himself do you not see only figments where there should be lovers? Winter endures and the snow persists in falling for one reason alone and that is to remind us that inherent in this universe is one notion only and it has no commerce or affinity with love.
She waits. Falters. Begins to tremble. What is the one notion? What is it? But she can discern only a snort. A faint click. And the swelling gale outside.
March 2, 12:37 AM:
They come at night. A forbidding and alien assemblage of front-loaders and backhoes emitting diesel smoke and the throaty purr of some ancient and nameless beast. Insensate they gut the drifts and lay the entrails in the beds of dump trucks like acolytes with burnt offerings to a gelid God. Piss-keen and frisky a dog marks a hydrant newly released from its snowy sepulcher. A man stands and watches and smokes thoughtfully and tenders a muffled hosanna. What or whom he addresses, the machines or the frozen waste or the escorts of springtime yet remote, is unclear.