In 1991, I took a rather uneventful beach trip, but kept a journal along the way. Upon returning home, I turned the journal into a story, without adding anything but a soundtrack (one song per entry) and a few lines from a book toward the end. I still have the book, The Last Man on Earth (1982, ISBN 0-449-20990-3). It is an anthology of short stories by various writers–all using last-person-on-Earth scenarios. And it is edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh. I love every story in the book, though I used the last lines of just two for my story, The Most Sentimental Man, by Evelyn E. Smith, and Knock, by Frederic Brown. And I employed the book’s title in my story title. As for the soundtrack, these were all favorite songs of mine that seemed to accompany the entries best–I was probably thinking of them when I wrote the entries, in the first place. You could say this was an early model for my music-impression poetry. Without further explanation, let me present the journal-turned-story, for your enjoyment and/or curiosity (I took myself even more seriously back then, so I don’t mind if you’re amused at some of the drama–after all, I am)!
Last Man on Earth Story
April 17, Wednesday
4:25 pm, Mobile, Alabama
Led Zeppelin, Rock and Roll
Downtown, Government Street, fixing to head toward the coast. Worried about having no companions, no shelter. Must learn to live alone. It’s hot as sweat in this car. The world is open to me, not man’s but God’s. Hasten to enter it.
Called Chip, not home. I’m completely alone. I will maybe meet some friends, but prepare for that not occurring. Some say if you can’t live alone, you can’t live with others. I say how can you live at all–I’m the only reliable person in my life. Have $19 cash.
U2, A Sort of Homecoming
Looking for a place, Catholic Social Services is closed. Don’t want to spend all my beach time finding shelter.
6:25, Gulf Shores
Juice Newton, Break It to Me Gently
Finally at the seaside.
B.J. Thomas, Don’t Worry Baby
Beach isn’t as exhilarating as I thought. But water’s not cold and the sunset looks steamy, glaring off the shoreline like spirits rising to Heaven. Might need to go back if things get too monotonous, yet don’t want to leave. Hope I can stay all night.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rebels
Laundry is $1, soap 50 cents. Prices are one thing that keeps this from being a paradise. Still searching for a bed.
The Eagles, Hotel California
Clothes washed, planning to shower on the beach. Took a nap, woke to find a salesguy trying out some all-purpose cleaner on my tire. Didn’t hurt the tire, thank God!
Zeppelin, What Is and What Should Never Be
Showered in the pavilion at the Hangout. Now there’s a $2 parking fee! Things sure change, usually not for the better. Just switched shorts in Circle K. Town’s loaded with nubile girls, wish I knew how to pick up one. And the activity level is about three times as high as on February 23, so many wayward sounds in the condos. Can’t relate to any of these people–all kids, prunes, and Yankees! Summer’s coming, and I cannot hear the surf for the cars.
10:28, Perdido Key, Florida
Zeppelin, Achilles’ Last Stand
Just called Grandma’s, in Pensacola. Dad answered. I asked if I could sleep there. He said no, as if it were his house in the first place. Still no shelter but my car. Heading to the Florala Lounge.
Crosby Stills & Nash, Love the One You’re With
Imagine this–you walk through a crowd that could occupy all the houses on a city block, and the only thing anyone says is, “S’cuse me”! The Florala’s nice, but a bar’s a bar. Of course any place is a bar , really–church, college, supermarket–“S’cuse me.” One irony of contemporary America is that loneliness increases with population growth. I’ll give this lounge one more try, after finding a clean restroom down the road. Probably wasting time, but I’ve got plenty of time to waste. This is beginning to sound like a Jimmy Buffet song, call it, “Got the Blues in Paradise”!
The Grassroots, Temptation Eyes
Purchased sausage biscuits and breath mints at a convenience store, now down to $15. Returning to the Florala.
April 18, Thursday
Ronnie Milsap, It Was Almost Like a Song
Now leaving the bar. Met pretty girls too drunk and snooty to give me phone numbers. Hope to find one different from the rest, someday. Well, the music was good.
Journey, Wheel in the Sky
There’s a boardwalk here, I just went to the Gulf’s edge. Water’s creepy at night, but the sky is beautiful. Away from lights, the stars are glitter spilt upside-down on the ceiling.
3:54, Orange Beach, Alabama
Zeppelin, Thank You
Went to a bar called the Keg. Good conversation, but I’ll never see those people again.
4:51, Gulf Shores
Genesis, In the Glow of the Night
Just bought food and plastic bags. Cash is down to $12, and I’ve spent $4 food stamps. I’ve prepared a bottle, with a message I typed at home–going to throw it to sea after eating.
Juice, Angel of the Morning
Here at a dead end, I tossed the bottle into the water. The note inside read that I was wondering where it would arrive, and listed my address. Prayed it would reach an exotic woman, as I stood in the sand. One of the most surreal places I’ve ever been–miles of road, silent beach houses. Raining now, but the sunrise is a splash of pink paint like a teenage girl’s bedroom, a Leslie Gore dream. This moment, I could be the last man on Earth.
7:15, Orange Beach
Genesis, Home by the Sea
Found the wooded campgrounds of Gulf State Park, but was told I’d need money and a tent. Crossed the highway into a parking lot. Cash is down to $11, bought milk and chocolate at the Tom Thumb store. Still raining, can hardly roll down the windows. Too tired to drive home. Crows pick at garbage before flying away. A man jogs along the beach, the only other person around. Waves slam the shore, proving the inevitability of this constant universe. Too sleepy to write anymore.
ZZ Top, Thug
Dreamed of a beautiful shark. Had windows down as far as possible without letting in too much rain. Through smoky clouds, the Sun is a lighthouse. Picked up more biscuits at Tom Thumb, $10 left.
Aerosmith, Janie Got a Gun
Trying to get back to sleep, but don’t really want to. Heading toward Ono Island, where it’s rumored that Tom Selleck and Barbara Walters have beach houses.
Rush, Closer to the Heart
Weather’s like a bowl of soggy corn flakes. Crossed bridge to Ono, the guard wouldn’t let me in. He said he’d never seen Tom Selleck, and that Barbara Walters is not the Barbara Walters. He also suggested I not believe everything I hear–but what if what I hear is something he says?
2:29, Gulf Shores
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Little Red Riding Hood
Right on the beach, but couldn’t park at the Hangout because of $2 fee. Threw bread to seagulls in flight, scavenged shells and the largest sand dollar I’d ever seen. Then walked back to my car, as the water (not warm enough for swimming) smashed and swirled around my ankles. Sun is brighter now, and the seagulls cry out from rain pools on asphalt. I envy them–they’ve nothing to do but hunt and fish, fuck and fly.
Zeppelin, Ramble On
For a while I can feel like a god, at the price of bread. Seagulls followed me to the Hangout, and past the Pink Pony Pub. Laughed as they caught bread balls in mid-air. Grabbed crackers at the Pub, popcorn from a restaurant, and a postcard in a drugstore. Birds followed me back, diving for the crackers and popcorn. People smiled when I gave bread to a little girl, and asked her to help with the feeding. Others jeered, while most didn’t seem to care either way. To the gulls, however, I was the hub of the world–pausing to climb atop lifeguard stands. Even after running out of chow, sat above the people, resting my arms like a king. But the sea brought me down to earth again. It draws me to itself, perhaps because it could take me to Europe.
England Dan & John Ford Coley, I’d Really Love to See You Tonight
Learned local history at Souvenir City.
Zeppelin, Dancing Days
Got cheese and crackers at BP, $9 remaining. On a whim, I’m going to find the Adult Activities Center, where I missed a dance.
Tom Petty, A One Story Town
Found it. Going home now.
Tom Petty, Don’t Come Around Here No More
Cash down to $8, after a couple McDonald’s burgers. I’m tired of this whole trip. Even the most beautiful place can be the loneliest.
Zeppelin, Trampled Under Foot
$3 gas, $5 left. Going to look for a Cajun girl I met at the pumps.
Benjamin Orr, Stay the Night
Never found her–too many houses in such a small town. What if she’s destined for me? Then I guess I’ll see her again.
The Who, I Can See for Miles
Been gone only twenty-four hours, seems like months. Time passes slowly in this state.
Paul Simon, Born at the Right Time
Home. Trying to stay awake long enough to eat…
For, whoever before in history had had his dreams–and what was wrong with dreams, after all–so completely gratified? What child, envisioning a desert island all his own, could imagine that his island could be the whole world? —Evelyn E. Smith, The Most Sentimental Man
And after a while he heard her hesitant footsteps coming back. He smiled a little. See? It wasn’t horrible, really. The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door… –Frederic Brown, Knock
…to stay asleep long enough to dream.