Adjust by Nick Stokes

Drink coffee. Pack food, gear, shingles, propane, feed, a mattress, rebar, a box of cookies and whiskey, mail, nails. Drink coffee. Bullshit. Wrap. Eat a ham-and-cheese sandwich. Feed. Fix tack, build ropes, bullshit. Knock a rock from a shoe. Dunk in the river. Long. Drink beer. Eat. Read. Stop.

Coffee. Run them in and catch up and oat and brush and saddle the horse and saddle the mules. Load the trucks. Truck. Drop the visor and squint through sunglasses and creep around a blind corner with young sun horizontal in your eyes. Fall back to not eat dust. Beep reverse into the morning chill. Unload the trucks. Coffee. Load the mules. Be helped. Return help down the road. Bullshit. Adjust and cinch. Zip coat, buckle chaps. Ride. Stop. Adjust and cinch. Ride. Stop. Adjust. Sweat. Strip coat, chaps. Hang them on a saddle. Ride into wilderness, through burns old and new. Eat dust. Chew. Long. Think instead of rain, of green, of shade. Think nothing. Watch the river, trees, mountains. Watch for bears. Watch the packs. Nothing to adjust or nothing worth adjusting. Watch nothing. Long. Ride and ride and ride. Stop.

Coffee. Finish packing and loading the truck. Go to town and don’t stop. Drive and drive and drive. Eat, coffee, chew. Long. Begin to arrive. Get sick to your stomach at the swarm of vehicles, their contents, the exchange of mute landscape for the humming mass of humanity and its constructs. Through a medium-sized sprawl be uncertain of the border of arrival. What’s for sale. Consumers. Doubt yourself. Try to believe in people, your relationship with them, communication. Doubt your doubt. In your chest feel the sky shrink, space close. Arrive in a heart palpitation of anticipation. Hug. Listen. Long. Unsure of what to do, unpack. Have nothing to do. Hang the chaps, stow the boots. Adjust. Read to your longings, sing to them, put them to bed. Do the dishes and beer. Stop.

Coffee. Go nowhere. Say good morning. Cook oats and feed them and tie their shoes. Do the dishes. Cut the grass. Say welcome home. Eat and do the dishes and beer. Have nothing to do. Adjust. Do nothing. Stop.

Do something. Do not turn on the television, do not bullshit with the neighbors or the passersby or the mirrors, do not sign into the social networking site that makes a promotion of your longings and adjustments to watch what others do in their realtime. Don’t drink more beer. Drink beer. Stop.

Coffee. Stare out the window at the green grass under the blue sky or the gray sky or the red sky or the black sky underlit by the city’s incessant burn. Read, stop. Weed, stop. Write, stop. Don’t do the dishes. Refuse to go to the store, deny economy, defy the social obligation to consume. Glean. Go to the store. Search for something worthy of your defiance, of your deification. Purchase organic blue corn tortilla chips. Eat, stop. Be unemployed. Make you and your longings and mules rolling in the dust in the rearview mirror your job. Sex, stop. Avoid others. Run, stop.

Create for nothing. Think of a story. The horse lay on his side, dead. An ear twitched. Stop. It’s when in the mountains I hear an electronic buzz in my ear that I suspect I’m an artificial intelligence. Stop. She would not kiss open-mouthed. Stop. This larch is six hundred years old; imagine –. Stop. Divest yourself of stories. Torch structure and pervert money and rot sustenance and degenerate hygiene. Quit words.



Abdicate. Ask to be seduced, to be consumed, to be done. Long to be nothing. Long nothing. Beseech your breastbone to crack, your ribs to open on your larder of organs, your wet stinking heart to be palpitated, smoked, chewed. Hacksaw your skull to vendor your brain for entertainment. Stop. Let go in a day-to-day revolt of defiant indifference. Detach. Fail. Be disappointed. Disappoint. Don’t stop. Succumb to attachment, to longing, to the carnal. Create an internal wilderness from nothing. Spook a bear. Tree a bear. Chase a bear. Sleep on the ground. Coffee. Accept that one’s insides are one’s outsides and one’s outside is one’s inside. Anti-consume. Chew. Bullshit yourself. Despise your self-perceived solipsism. Turn inside out. Adjust without adjusting. Adopt the unintelligible mountain of subatomics and the uncertainty of place and the expanse of interstellar dust and the branching of time and the absence. Read don’t read read don’t read. Doubt your ripe reason, doubt matter, doubt your strong and weak emotion, doubt anti-matter. Want your longings. Remember a paint horse. Ride gravity. Stretch consciousness and flex forearms for darkness. Rub together your callused hands furiously unable to resist starting a fire that illuminates an irregular circle around and despite yourself of weeds and blueberries and hoofprints and small open hands and fallen oats and boxed emptinesses and broken pencils and dog-eared books and tossed shoes and a clear wanting river. Stop. Embrace heat. Welcome cold. Feel the sunset and a longing sitting on your shoulders. Go.


*Stokes has worked as a high school physics teacher, a wilderness ranger, an apple picker, a trail crew leader, a stable hand, a corn detassler, a tribology researcher, and is still a mule packer. For more information on his fictions, plays, and prose visit His novel AFFAIR, first serialized by The Seattle Star, is available at Amazon and elsewhere.