God love Perry.
It was Perry who sat us around the conference table and told us if any of the bureaucrats messed with us he'd squawk like a mad hen. Later, it was Perry who kept his word, who squawked on our behalf.
Then, it was Perry at the bonfire wondering how the conference table got atop it.
And it was Perry who extolled the good of shopping late at night. Perry who told us Walmart at night was his reason for keeping on.
And it was Perry giving the quarterback secret scattershot treatments—who knew?
And it was Perry who showed us the subversiveness of a periwinkle Cadillac, which was subversive on account of it being Perry's, and was not an example of Perry being dependent on contexts, but of contexts being dependent on Perry. In turn, it was Perry who helped us wrangle our own Cadillacs.
I'm talking about the glimpsable wisdom of Perry. Perry, whose ex-wives still loved him.
And it was Perry who told me I had a little bitty tiger in my heart and the only secret was never to let the others see.
"People in groups, man." That's something Perry said. "But that's just me going guru on you." That's something else Perry said.
And we loved it when Perry said that, when he acknowledged what we never told him—that he was our guru.
We'd all get together for a potluck and there would be Perry holding a bowl of chickpea salad.
Come to think of it: It was Perry who got us having our potlucks at Walmart. Perry who knew you could camp forever in the Walmart parking lot. Perry in his lean-to, sunburned as bacon. Perry who knew the rules so well.
And it was Perry who would find one of us somewhere besides Walmart and say, "What about the other cart, the invisible one, the one you're always pushing?"
"It's full of people," I replied the night he found me behind a shrub.
That was how I got to be riding around in Perry's periwinkle Cadillac.
That was how I learned so much animal husbandry.
That was how I started on the scattershot treatment and the rope swing shenanigans and the laughing sessions and the peanut-butter treatment and the seaweed costumes and the dog-whispering and the office-furniture shenanigans and the rain-dances and the dollar-bill origami.
To all the world I was just a moonlighting Walmart re-stocker when in fact I was an acolyte of Perry's. He was keeping me loaded on tuna salad and scattershot treatment.
Noontime we were dressing in seaweed. Evenings we were putting seaweed in gas tanks.
"Be the gation in negation." That was something Perry said. One night he turned to me in his winged seaweed costume and said, "What's the gation in you?"
"That teensy-weensy tiger in my heart," I said.
By then I'd been initiated into the group behind the group. The one where Perry made a zoo of folded-up dollars while we all laid on orange air mattresses and stared at the sky until we were cold enough to know the stars were just pinpricks of a larger calling.
Then it was time to push the cart with only a jar of peanut butter in it.
"Only the PB. Never the J." That's what Perry said.
Next, we were getting the conference tables atop the bonfires.
At dawn someone would fight the Cadillac.
And I was scared to fight the Cadillac until I realized my fear was just the purring of that puny little tiger in my heart, and also that fear was muscle.
"My life is a trail." That's what Perry would say while someone folded himself into origami.
"My life is a trail," while one of us hung off the side of a bridge to do graffiti.
The morning I fought the Cadillac I learned it wasn't periwinkle, but aquamarine. Talk about flipping the velvet. My head like a chickpea salad.
And when I had beaten it, Perry said, "But what about the humping animals?"
"They are but pinpricks of a higher calling," I said. But Perry had turned away.
"You have to be wrong," he said. Then he laughed. "But that's just me going guru on you."
And I loved it when he said that—the glimpsable wisdom.
"Now what about that tiger?" Perry said.
We were in the Walmart parking lot, sunburned as scrapple, and I had folded a dollar bill into a conference table. I turned to where Perry was gathering seaweed and told him my tiger was at the bottom of the reservoir and that my tiger had the sign of the cart on its flank and that my tiger stocked the shelves late at night—my tiger always with the peanut butter on its mouth, my tiger guided by graffiti.
"Put your tiger in the bonfire," Perry said.
By then we had left the parking lot and were riding in the Cadillac.
"That's just you going guru on me," I said, but Perry only drove slower.
"Your tiger," he said when we arrived.
"Make the sign of the cart," he said and leaned into his lean-to. "You cloak yourself in peanut butter," he said.
I got out my air mattress.
"Your life is a trail," he said and shook off his sunburn.
I saw it then: the bonfire was the same as the reservoir.
I lost hold of the seaweed.
"I'm cold," I said.
I could feel the pinpricks.