Here, I invite you to explore the enigmatic and thought-provoking piece known as “The Rise and Fall of Captain Kirk” by Mike Powers. Mike Powers is a gifted american writer and artist based in Berlin, Germany.
The Rise and Fall of Captain Kirk
When I first hired Kirk Matthew Pankz, aka Captain Kirk, he was homeless. He was spending his nights in the sawgrass behind Nat’s Den, a biker bar on the railroad tracks not far from my shop. Then I gave him a home in the back of a cube van that was parked on my property. It goes without saying this was a significant upgrade for him, especially after he outfitted the van with a sofa and a dresser and a little TV. He’d gotten the items during his late-night adventures through the neighborhood, getting high and sifting through people’s trash.
I don’t know when he slept.
I don’t even know if he did. He’d always be waiting for me when I got in in the morning, cheerful and anxious to chitchat about whatever gossip he gathered the previous night. I didn’t like talking first thing in the morning. I’d set him to work on the lawnmowers, the weedeaters, the stumpgrinders. He wasn’t a very good mechanic. He wasn’t even a mechanic. He was a hacker and a parts-changer according to most. But the business was barely scraping by in those days, and he was affordable, and always friendly to the customers, so I kept him on, helping him save enough money to upgrade from the cube van to a Winnebago which I secured for him through a friend. The Winnebago, though somewhat old, was in near perfect condition when he got it, but he smoked his cheap 305 brand cigarettes in it, burning little holes in the carpet and upholstery and curtains and eventually filling it up with piles of detritus he’d scrounged on his 2 a.m. wanderings. Pretty soon, it was stuffed beyond capacity – you couldn’t even walk in it – and the overflow spilled out into the yard where I kept all my machinery. That’s when I discovered that much of what he’d been hoarding had not come from trash cans around the neighborhood, but from my own trash cans
“Captain,” I’d say. “I threw this shit away for a reason. It’s trashed.”
“I don’t know ‘bout that,” he’d say. “I reckon I can jerryrig it.”
Of course, he didn’t. He didn’t even try. He just liked having it and kept collecting more of my garbage, the spillage spreading out all over the yard. He had everything out there. Track lighting, torn-up leaf blower engines, amputee mannequins, disemboweled car seats, gas masks, dry-rotted hydraulic hoses – anything that struck him as remotely salvageable or sellable or shiny, which was pretty much anything that was a ‘thing.’
In the end, I took a sledgehammer to everything I threw in the garbage, knowing that if I didn’t, it’d pop up in the yard like a whack-a-mole the next day, and either I, or a customer, would trip over it.
Then came the blowout:
the morning I began deposing his mess and he freaked out, chasing me around the building and out into traffic with a 7-foot bullfloat pole. This was the closest I’d ever come to getting killed in my life, dodging cars and trucks and that big waving aluminum pole. But he gave up midway through the chase and trudged back to his Winnebago, slamming the door and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger movies the rest of the day. Strangely, and to many people’s surprise, I didn’t fire him after that. We made an agreement. I said he could stay if he tidied up his little space and started selling things off. He began right away, but it must’ve crushed him. His possessions, no matter how absurd or junky, were like family – by losing them he lost his ambition to work. All he wanted to do was lounge in his Winnebago smoking crack and 305s and watching movies.
I finally shitcanned him.
He knew it was coming. He probably wanted it, either consciously or unconsciously. He sold his Winnebago and downgraded to a teal riceburner which he had no license to drive. He mainly used it as a storage facility and was homeless again.
Then one of my customers offered him a job painting a newly constructed house in Fort Pierce. He was also allowed to sleep in the house overnight, but the house had no electricity, so Captain Kirk brought a generator to the job. The generator, incidentally, was thrown out by me months earlier because it wasn’t worth fixing, but Captain Kirk resurrected it somehow.
It was the only thing
It was the only thing – the only piece of detritus, I should say – that I ever threw out that he resurrected. He set it up in the garage at his new job and closed the garage door and ran a cord from the generator to the bathroom down the hall and plugged the cord into his little TV and sprawled out on the newly tiled floor watching Arnold Schwarzenegger and drinking Colt Ice and smoking crack until those toxic generator fumes crept down the hallway and into the bathroom and onto him and into him and giving him the best night’s sleep he’d ever had.
I could hear sirens in the background when the police called me the next morning to tell me what had happened. They called me because both of Kirk’s parents had long been deceased, and he had no other family. The only relative he was in touch with was a cousin, a filmmaker from California who, incidentally, had come into the shop just two weeks before looking for Kirk. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to get ahold of Kirk at the time, so he left his business card and told me to give it to Kirk the next time I saw him.
Well, the next time I saw him it was morning and he was drunk and came stumbling into the shop wanting to borrow money. I said no. I had loaned him money several times in the four months since I’d fired him, but no more. I had to cut him off sometime and forgot to tell him that his cousin had stopped by.
It was 6:30
It was 6:30 in the morning in California when I called to give his cousin the news. I was rattled, sweating, my heart hammering in my chest. I had never made a call like that in my life and had no idea how he would take it. I used the phrase the police officer had used when she called me. “He passed,” I said. Then I told him how it happened. Fortunately, he took very well. It almost seemed like he was more worried about my emotional state than his own, and soon we were speculating on what exactly had happened.
“Do you think it was suicide?” I asked.
“No, Kirk wouldn’t do that,” he said. “Kirk would do a lot of dumb things, but he wouldn’t do that. He was probably just high and paranoid that someone would steal the generator, so he kept the garage door closed. Or he was just too lazy to open the doors and windows.”
We laughed. He knew Kirk even better than I did and we wrapped up the call soon after that.
All this happened on December 11, 2006, and I haven’t thought too much about Captain Kirk since. I don’t think anyone has. But sometimes, late at night, when I am battling insomnia, if I really listen, I can hear somewhere outside the faint sound of leaf blowers, weed eaters and all that other machinery Captain Kirk hoarded and never could fix, or never bothered fixing – I can hear it rumbling in unison, playing its dark and joyful song on the winds.
This is Mike
Writer & Artist
Mike Powers is an American writer and sketch artist based in Berlin, Germany. He is a versatile artist, known for his unique and imaginative style of writing and sketching. Want to read more? here you go!
One of Powers’ greatest strengths is his ability to blend different art forms, such as literature and drawing, to create a truly immersive experience for his audience.