[at-l] Engines

South Walker southwalker at windstream.net
Mon Jun 13 09:14:22 CDT 2011

Every now and then something I have read speaks to me. This is from the short story “Engines” by Bill Pronzini. A little background is necessary. Geena has moved out and filed for a divorce. Scott has quit the job he hated and put the house on the market. Then he takes the jeep and drives to Death Valley, a favorite place of his, shoulders his pack and walks. He is alone and sees no one for 3 days and then he says................

“I thought about Geena only once, on the morning of the third day as I stood atop one of the crags looking out toward Needles Eye. There was no wind and the stillness, the utter absence of sound, was so acute it created an almost painful pressure against the eardrums. Of all the things Geena hated about Death Valley, its silence –”“void of silence,”” an early explorer had termed it -topped the list. It terrified her. On our last trip together, when she had caught me listening, she’d said, ““What are you listening to? There’s nothing to hear in this godforsaken place. It’s as if everything has shut down. Not just here; everywhere. As if all the engines have quit working.”’

“She was right, exactly right: as if all the engines have quit working. And that perception, more than anything else, summed up the differences between us. To her, the good things in life, the essence of life itself, were people, cities, constant scurrying activity. She need to to hear the steady, throbbing engines of civilization in order to feel safe, secure, alive. And I needed none of those things, needed not to hear the engines.”

One of the best things about my 1999 sobo thru-hike was having the opportunity to choose not hear the engines.

South Walker
MEGA ‘99

”Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime; old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”
Tom T Hall
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