My rental car stalls on a country backroad. I turn the key, and it chugs away helplessly. I get out and start walking down the gravel pathway. The sun is shining pleasantly. I soon see a small farmhouse in the distance. The grass along the road is tall, and amber colored, it whips along with the wind. Behind me, I can hear what sounds like rainfall, or popping corn, only faint, as if at a distance. I turn around and see the undulating blackness of a locust swarm. It was coming my way, like a filthy blanket…rolling.
I begin to run toward the farmhouse. The locusts were screaming, and chattering their teeth. It grew darker, as the cloud blocked out the sunlight.
I was on the porch, banging on the door, feet stuttering on the porch planks. There were no lights shining inside, so I was going to break a window. The locusts were hitting the ground like wooden raindrops…clothespins.
…Shrieking, chattering, and hissing.
The door opened suddenly, and I plowed inside, running by my host, without asking. The door closed behind me, and I turned around to apologize, but she told me that it was “okay”, before I even spoke. I didn’t know if she meant that it was okay that I crashed her house, or okay in the sense that she was trying to calm a hysterical person. I didn’t ask her.
Her name was Wendy, and she was the kind of innocent-looking woman you’d expect to be living in a little farmhouse. She was also the kind of innocent-looking woman that looked like she’d be comfortable showing off her shaved pubes from the ass-end in a Barely Legal porno. Kind of a Gidget’s Biggest Cumshots.
And what a beautiful, sedate little hostess she was. She prepared dinner for us, and wouldn’t let me lift a finger to help her. She set me up in a big comfy chair in the living room, and talked to me from the kitchen. She told me about her husband (Rodney) who was a winemaker.
“This is the wine that Rodney makes.” She said.
“Where is Rodney now?” I asked.
She eased my mind by telling me that he was going to be away for a while, making wine. I wondered what “awhile” meant, but it didn’t bother me too much. It was strange though. Me being in this American Gothic painting, alone with the gentleman farmer’s young wife. The man on the radio was describing the devouring swarm of locusts. One of the largest swarms ever.
Over the meal she’d prepared for us, I asked her,
“So, I don’t mean too but in…but, why would your husband just leave you alone like this? I’d think he’d be worried about you. Out here in the middle of nothingness.”
“Not really.” She said, “Actually, we had a big fight. That’s why he took off, I guess. He never really wanted to pay much attention to me. He never wanted to just stay home, and be close.”
The night came without the herald of a sunset. Angry insects were outside, throwing themselves at the windows, against the doors, like hailstones. You could peep out the window and see them; their red little eyes…the big gnashing yellow-stained white teeth. It was as if the entire house had been tucked into bed. It was all covered.
The air was warm and smelled like old newsprint and fresh flowers, like a senior citizens house. She sat there next to me, and I felt the warmth. Maybe it was just me, maybe it was the wine, but it was peaceful enough there to set up for a while. A good long while… if she wasn’t married that was. That was the tragedy. Never the right balance, never a normal life, it seemed, for me.
She was looking at me, and I was feeling like an adolescent on his first date. Her eyes were so clear…and she kissed me. Nothing spectacular, just a soft peck, right where cheek meets the corner of the mouth. Enough to surprise me, but that was all, because she didn’t give me time to say anything. Smiling, she got up, and said,” Goodnight.” Then the pitter pattering of her bare footsteps, up the hardwood stairs, and into whatever was up there. As I regained my senses, I realized that if I were a brave man, I would have followed her.
Earlier that day, I was loafing around, in no hurry to call the rental Car Company. Now, however, with all of this temptation, I began to think it would be a good idea. If I didn’t I’d get myself into trouble, or embarrassed…or both. I thought that perhaps they could send another car, or a taxi. Maybe not in the middle of this storm, but pretty damn soon. I began to look for something that could tell me the address of the house. I searched for a light bill, a letter, anything. I looked on the tables, the drawers, the kitchen counter, even on the refrigerator, but there was nothing. I opened the pantry door. Canned food lined the shelves; bags of rice and flour on the floor, and a huge, tapped barrel was on the floor. I walked back into the living room, and got my glass. Luckily, before I poured myself another glassful, I noticed the top of the wooden barrel had a Plexiglas cover. I peeped in.
Submerged in the bluish-red wine, was a hairless man. He was all scrunched up, and wrinkled like a fetus. His skin was purple and bruised. He looked like a beef jerky man. I took it for granted that this was her husband Rodney. He was busy making wine.
I closed the pantry door and looked around the room. There was an old-fashioned dial phone, sitting on the counter. I picked up the receiver…the sounds of locusts screeching. I replaced the receiver and walked back to the. So much temptation, and guilt. All for nothing.
That was the way that women moved into and out of my life. It was like being in a real-time 3-d horror movie. A bad horror movie. Chipped fingernail polish, bullet bras, spider web nylons, valentine-pouting mouths, Christmas light eyes. They all seem to move in and out of my life as easily as a needle going through lace. Changing their passions and minds as easily as I would change my socks. Maybe, somehow, they are all parts of a single entity. Something that wants to torment me, and sends its tendrils crashing into my life, again and again.
You can never truly appreciate a sane woman, until you’ve had one, and lost her.
The next morning, after a bleary-eyed sleepless night, I managed to get in touch with the rental Car Company. Wendy was up early, skittering around in a pastel sundress. She started to make breakfast. I told her I wasn’t hungry. The smell of bacon was too much for me. Like looking at Corn flakes, and thinking of eczema.
The cab finally arrived. I thanked her for her hospitality, shook her hand and left. I told the cab driver to take me to the Pancake House. I was hungry enough to eat someone else’s boogers. The car pulled away, past the naked trees and wasted fields…tires crackling over the dead locusts.
It was 1987, and I was in an island Nation. My name is Earl Norman, but because of my hair, all the people called me “Dread”. I liked that name, even though I was being named after my hair. It was better than being called “Big Toe”, or “Bug-Eye”.
This island Nation was, and is called Bengazi. Now, unless you’re a smuggler, drug lord, or high roller, chances are, you’ve never heard of it. The reason I was there was to drive a car in their annual road race. The Mantillo, it’s called. I don’t know what it means.
Bengazi was (and is) an invisible place. You won’t find it on your globe, or any Internet map. I’ll explain it to you, like it was explained to me.
It seems that during the early 1500’s, (when jolly Europeans were busy ‘discovering’ people, and places) there was a famous British Captain who discovered Bengazi. His name was Edward Pomeroy. He was rich, strong, handsome, well respected. He was almost a noble. Everyone had a hard-on for him. In other words, an asshole.
Having spotted the island on an earlier voyage, and not finding it mapped, he decided to ‘discover’ it. Pomeroy noted the approximate longitude and latitude, and returned with a full crew, six months later.
Along with 30 stout men, on longboats, the Captain set out on what promised to be a profitable venture.
From the ocean, Captain Pomeroy could see a beautiful charcoal colored beach, and beyond that, the thickest jungle he’d ever laid his greedy eyes on. The jungle was such a sudden transition from the sand, that it was strange. It was like God himself laid a straight edge down, and threw sand on one side.
Upon arrival, the Captain planted the King’s flag into the sandy shore, proclaiming that land, property of the British Empire. He surveyed the scene, and began to lead the men, slowly across the beach.
Suddenly, tragedy struck. A sharpened tree trunk, (roughly the girth of a good-sized man) descended upon the first mate, effectively breaking him in two at the waist. The now slack-jawed sailors began a quiet monkey-like chatter, and began to inch their way back down the beach, towards the shore.
Pomeroy berated them, calling them foppish cowards, ordering them to stand their ground. It was as if he hadn’t seen a giant tree trunk just fly out of the woods and kill a friend of his.
Pomeroy was able to keep his men from retreating, but he was unable to urge the “mutinous bastards” forward. Being of hearty British stock, (and again this is how it was told to me. Personally I consider the British to be thin-blooded ugly homosexuals with bad teeth. In fact, the only way they manage to reproduce is by an osmosis/pollination process. After a good buggering, your average Brit male empties his cum-filled bowels into the nearest public toilet. If a female Brit happens by, within a few minutes, the flies will then deliver the Greek addled spermatozoa to her dank, flounder-smelling crotch.) Captain Pomeroy advanced upon the jungle, by himself, armed only with his cutlass.
He was visible to the men, as he crossed the beach, all the way to the line of trees. Once there, he appeared to be swallowed up by the darkness. Three minutes of silence ensued. The men looked on. Breaking the silence came the high-pitched screams of their beloved Captain, loud and shrill, like a little girl that was being fucked by a steer. A mighty whirling mist of blood erupted from the foreboding line of foliage, which was now void of screams.
Like a playful ferret caught in the blades of a fan, the blood spewed constant, then stopped. Well before the blood stopped, however, the crew was halfway back to the ship.
This incident was the last contact that any outsiders had with Bengazi, for almost 450 years. Bengazi would probably be just another National Geographic discovery, or remained hidden, had it not been for an unnamed smuggler. This shipwrecked criminal’s lifeboat washed up on the Bengi shores, and he probably would’ve been killed, like Pomeroy, had he not been unconscious, butt naked, and carrying things like a transistor radio and comic books.
The cabdriver dropped me off at the Pancake House. The classic blue-roofed restaurant was set into the side of a hill, which was thick with foliage. It had a tinted glass roof, and a person could look up and see the sky, the trees above, and the spatters of birdshit. I stepped inside and saw a cigarette machine. I dialed in some quarters, and snatched a pack of a local brand, that didn’t taste quite so much like dogshit.
The Hostess looked like a mix between an island Princess, and a Puerto Rican sorority girl. Expensive leather shoes offset her simple blue dress. Her face was aesthetically pretty, but the gaudy costume jewelry and fan of Aqua net bangs, took something away from it. She seated me with a smile though, which was nice. As I looked out the window of my booth, I could see a thousand years worth of dead insects between the pane and the screen. The little carcasses puffed up and grey with fly mold, yet when I looked at the floor, I was so clean that the red tiles gleamed like freshly spilled blood.
I packed the cigarettes on the table. Ashtrays were on every table. The Bengi smoked like American Indians. To my left, a man in a beaver skin top hat, with pointed beard and striped slacks, was sharing a table with a classical witch doctor. They spoke of the good old days, at the University. The guy in the top hat had filed down teeth. He was really tearing into the flapjacks and link sausages. Like a hyena. In another time, he would’ve been a great warrior, now he was a professor, of a public official.
The walls of the Pancake House were wood panel and stucco. There were rather bland, inoffensive paintings of landscapes, mountains, seashores, snowy plains, etc. Right next to them were dry point etchings of cruel-faced nudes, and panthers on black velvet. Mush mouthed Aunt Jemima salt and pepper shakers, Bozo the clown cutlery… real leather booth seats.
The waitress took my order: hash browns, pancakes, scrambled eggs, coffee, and orange juice. Before she walked away, she complimented me on my Halloween colored, (orange with black piping) jumpsuit.
A Mexican busboy walked by. His lean arm muscles pulled taught, under the strain of a tub filled with dirty eat-ware. He was clearly retarded. The stupid smile on his face spoke volumes. He seemed happy to be alive, working at the Pancake House. I started to feel sorry for myself. Why wasn’t I ever happy? Why did the whole world look like a grainy black and white movie? Fucking, eating, playing, just a way to pass the time. Maybe Prozac or something was needed. This couldn’t be normal. I remember this big thug, with tattoos and braids, smoking a blunt. I slapped him in the face, pretty hard, and stared at him. He didn’t do anything about it. That was the last time I remember anything close to happy.
The meal came just in time. I was really hungry, hungry enough to eat the boogers out of a dead man’s nose, as my father would say. I drew the neon red raspberry syrup across the flapjacks, and took a bite. The buttermilk cakes were as smooth as cream.
A group of prosperous looking American tourists came in, still drunk from the night before, totally unaware of their disturbing loudness. I could just see myself, holding the men at bay with broken water glasses, as I sodomized their corn fed southern womenfolk, amidst the swirling pools of crimson and boysenberry. They managed to ruin my morning, just by being themselves. Fucking booger-eating morons. No courtesy. Silver spoons, loud mouths, and greasy pink pig faces. I ate the food anyway… it cost me five bucks.
I paid, tipped the waitress, and made off with a mint toothpick tucked into the corner of my mouth. A cigarette tucked in the other corner. As I walked into the parking lot, I pulled the hair out of my face, so I could get a good look at the cars in the lot. Among the old Buicks, and hot rods, was a new rental Lexus. There were shopping bags in the back seat. A ridiculous looking Texas air freshener hung from the rear view mirror. I popped the gas tank cover with the screwdriver on my multi-tool. I then unscrewed the cap, whipped out my dick, and took a long nasty morning piss in the tank. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
I took another cab back to the warehouse we were using to keep the car. I had to ring the bell repeatedly before Hockney would open the door. He wasn’t expecting me to be so early, I guess. The garage door ran up the tracks with the cry of a wounded Japanese monster…. EEEEAAAAAAAGGGGHHH!!
A word about Hockney. He was my Mechanic, and the closest thing I had to a friend. He was a mechanical genius from Amarillo Texas. He wore an eye patch because a six year-old girl had dug his right eye out of the socket. It’s a long, complicated story. The short version goes like this: during our last trip to Bengazi, when we were in the city of Bantesh for the 12th annual Mantillo run, Hockney gets into a poker game with a group of street urchins. He must have pissed them off with his cheating, because a little Teshi girl, (they have eyes with green where the white should be, and brown slit pupils) managed to hypnotize him, and dug out his eye with a sharpened spoon. Right there on the street. I was making it with this nice Tracy Lords type, in the hotel suite, when the dickhead came stumbling in drunk, with a wad of crimson toilet paper sticking out of the hole.
He handed me a can of Hamms, to begin the night. He grinned his shark tooth grin. One for all…world without end
I got to thinking that afternoon, as we swilled Hamms, and listened to Zydeco against the walls. I wasn’t always a shadow of a man, an outcast. In fact, when I was a teenager back in Chicago, I can remember being alive, and living for the moment. When Medusas would let the under 18 crowd in at midnight, I would be standing in a sea of 500 punk rockers, and 500 people is enough to make you feel like you’re a part of something, especially if you’re all standing on one block. Fleets, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Alley, Clark Street Dog. I was amongst the lost civilization. My family I think about it, and I visualize huge wads of grey chewing gum, crackling and bubbling, like bacon on the sidewalk, as the sun crouches down behind a whorehouse hotel.
The wind blows hot in my ears, like a horny woman on speed. Her breath coming in uneven patterns. The El tracks are a giant centipede skeleton, silhouetted against the darkening Windex sky. Drunken old quitters have plopped down on the crushed glass grey dirt. Green pus oozes from every orifice on their disgusting bum faces.
Skinheads stand in groups of five or seven, (always an odd number) insulting punks, putting people in sleeper holds, or just walking, looking for a place to piss off the beer. Such dignity in their uniformity, you’re always in awe. You never get used to them.
Mohawks run screaming, in hilarious alcoholic frenzy. Everyone is wearing multiple layers of leather. Engineer boots, clock, clock, and clock.
Teenaged girls with partially shaven heads, flash the fishnet covered gams and corset boosted cleavage, ’till you want to suck their toes.
Panhandling saxophone players pack it up for the night, returning to cheap hotel rooms, to polish the brass to the cascading neon.
A poor black couple tries to sell me a block of surplus cheese for “bus Fare”.
The never-ending tide of rich white Beemers, poor Mexican Monte Carlos’, and assorted teen mobiles vie for parking. Vespas scoot by. There’s never any traffic for scooter jocks.
Tall thin musicians strut by the Tattoo Company with blonde groupie whores.
Be-bop hip-hop rap beatniks argue with car powered decibels.
A mutt the color of Tabasco sauce is hit by a C.T.A. bus, yelps pitifully in agony for about ten seconds, until the driver loads the passengers and crushes it beneath the rear wheels. Before another second passes the flies begin to land.
Cops chase down two C.A.S.H. boys and frisk them in the haze of V-8 cop exhaust.
FEAR is playing on a portable cassette deck.
Two punks walk back from the convenience store, eating cheap donuts, and laughing nervously at a fresh tit-mag.
One obviously stood-up female adorns the corner at Sheffield, reeking of self-pity. The vultures begin to circle.
Past decade punks walk by, unnoticed, like quiet leather shadows. They just keep to themselves, not speaking, figures from another dimension.
Stoplights, headlights, metal cop flashlights,
mars lights, horns, curses, cries, laughter,
Spit, dogshit, cigarette butts,
Working meters, broken bottles.
The ringing of the wakeup call, in an unholy chorus with the panic bell of the Big Ben alarm clock seemed to trigger in me a vision of the rapture. The noise sounded to me, very much like a duet between Gabrielle’s trumpet, and mighty Catholic Church bells. Perhaps in my childlike state of dreaming, I was just flashing back to a time when I lived with my grandparents, and church radio, Pepsodent, pink bath mats, and Big Ben clocks just were. Whatever the reason, I was filled with an eternal peace, and a wave of energy. I waited for the fireball, the tornado, and the voice of God.
God seemed groggy that morning. His voice was scratchy. It came to me then, that it was just Hockney, answering the phone. Much to my disappointment, the world was not coming to an end, and every asshole therein had another day, to ruin my day. With this thought the feelings of peace and energy left me, replaced by chills, and the total disorientation of a 5 A.M. hangover.
My eyes seemed hopelessly crosses. All was fuzzy. Perhaps I’d finally managed to do some serious damage to myself. Partial blindness caused by alcohol poisoning.
I looked at my mechanic: mouth agape, spit dried to a gummy crust in the corners, one eye staring at the end of his nose.
I got up and allowed the inertia of my first step to carry me, shuffling, towards the bathroom. Once there, I was stopped by busting my mouth open on the splintery doorframe. It momentarily opened my eyes, an electric eel flashing in the muddy waters.
I lifted the filthy toilet seat, and lay my fevered face against the blessed cool of the germ-ridden porcelain. With this steadying comfort calming my anxious heart, I proceeded to vomit. Since my mouth was unable to open wide enough to accommodate the volume, the flow forked like a vile breath through my sinuses. The cocktail of bourbon, cheap beer, and bile gushed through my nose, in twin geysers of battery acid. My eyes watered with the burn. I raised my hand to pinch some of the liquid heat from my nose, and shot a jet of regret, into and across my cupped palm, which in turn meant down my arm and into my lap.
With the sudden loss of toxins from my system, my mind began to grasp the foulness of my situation. I wiped my fingers on my shorts, (for all the good it did) and jammed them down my throat, another gusher. I pulled the fingers out. Blood was on the knuckles from the butchering of the doorframe. The skin was shredded into hanging strips, like a zombies clothing. I gagged myself again, this time no geyser, just a bit in the throat. I hawked, snorted, and spat out the chunks. Then I got away from that filthy toilet, and the pissy green smell of my own vomit.
The skin strips on my lips were sticking together, ripping like long hangnails. I began to chew them off, and spit them out, as I walked to the washbasin. I filled the sink with lukewarm water, and dunked my head in, to the shoulders. I think I stayed like that for a long time.
Returning to the kitchen, I searched for some Alka-Seltzer, or baking soda. There was Hockney, standing upright, chin pointed toward the ceiling. The contents of an old jelly jar were pouring down his throat. His Adam’s-apple bobbed, shark fin break wave. The glass left his face. His head went down with a grimace, and then his good eye came open, with a sparkle, a rosy glow on his cheeks. He smiled.
“Now hold on here a second.” I said, trying to speak from a cave in the back of my head. “What are you smiling about? You had more to drink than me last night. Every time we get plastered, you wake up with a fucking smile on your face. What’s up with that?”
He laughed and handed me a glass, saying, “Ancient Chinese secret.” In his left hand was a pitcher, in which swirled a snotty-looking pinkish concoction. “Go on,” he said, “Take a snort. It won’t hurt you. Trust me.”
That stupid smile of his was making me ill. I took the pitcher and told him that I wouldn’t trust him to sit the right way on a toilet seat. I couldn’t look at his face any more. I took a deep breath, tilted the pitcher, and downed the pinkish goo. What impressed me first was a lack of desire to gag while I was drinking it. It was almost like my suffering body knew I needed it. What really got my attention though, was the heat. It wasn’t like the irritating heat of booze. This was a heat that stopped my chills, and vaporized the crusty vomit remnants that were hiding in my nostrils. Any nausea or trembling was gone. I felt as though I had been tanned, from the inside out. I was buckskin, new leather heels on well-worn boots.
Hockney dismissed my queries with, “It’s a secret formula.” I looked through the kitchen area for possible ingredients. The only food we had was bread and beans; the only other things were household cleansers, nothing even slightly non-toxic, much less edible. What’s the old saying? What you don’t know won’t hurt you?
With our health once again more or less intact, we faced up to the day ahead. The sun had not yet risen, and the exhaust from the truck echoed loud and hollow off the concrete walls. The sound of transience. The sound of loss.
As we checked the place for stray belongings, I began to develop a strange homesickness. I had no idea exactly where I was homesick for. It was like a bit of dandelion fluff, blowing out to sea, or something hatching, only to discover through blind gropings, that there are no parents. I suppose you can call it a dread epiphany. You realize that you’ve chased any hopes of tenderness or connection out of your life. You’ve grown into someone, who for sanity’s sake couldn’t take the lies and disappointment of everyday life. You can’t even take pleasure in monetary gain, cause you figure that money can’t buy basic human decency. The mortal coil is a whore. Time is the pimp. All the talk of being yourself, and biding your time, won’t help at all if you feel trapped in the world. All the goodwill that was once your hallmark, is burning away, leaving you like a rock, or rusted iron.
I wanted to run away. To run away into the deep jungle and build a hut in the damp green. To stay there until I become part of the floor.
I could hear the roaches, scrabbling along above the ceiling tiles, and I was jealous of their dark little world. For as much as they disgusted me, they worked together, they mated. They were greater than me.
In my memories, I recall that my longing for a woman was accompanied by an inability to accept her imperfections. Somewhere along the line I’d forgotten that I had my own flaws. Now that memory is intangible I find that as much as I am unable to care for others, that’s how much I needed someone to care for me, to balance it all out.
It starts out with, “Why me?”
Then It becomes, “Why not me?”
But after just so long the question becomes, “What the fuck?”
Which is the razors edge of,
“I don’t care.”
“You ready to roll?” Hockney shouted down from the cab of the truck. I grabbed my alligator satchel, and climbed into the truck.
“Let’s go,” I said. “It’s such a beautiful life, y’know?” Hockney gave me a sideways glance. He didn’t know what I was talking about. Neither did I. He just eased the truck into the last gasps of nighttime.
The sun never broke through the mist that day. The fog rolled in from the jungle like seaweed hair and mushroom people. The sticky dampness, the land itself sweats. We pass by the wood frame houses that were nestled together. Two story family incubators on a 20-foot high ridge. Slabs of stone set into the earth…stairs like a stepladder. Old dark faces watching from rocking chair porches. Eyes milky, but full of wisdom and glee.
Electric Chinese lanterns strung from wooden lamppost to wooden lamppost, in a loose web. Colored pennants flying from the rooftops. The cobblestone streets like exposed strips of a tremendous serpent.
A melodramatic sea of accents and languages ebb and flow in a chorus of chaotic harmony. Understanding in a facial expression. Babylon reversed.
The sky began to grow worrisome, throwing gusts of wind. A shout of air, then a whisper. Empty cans roll, hop and jingle toward a nowhere end. The darkness increases. The daytime reneges on its promise. The heavens full of intestines, all swollen and purple.
The ozone in the air, the adrenaline in the blood, things come to balance. The road winds from the city to barren patches of nether land of in-between places that people don’t consider livable.
The tall yellow grass stretches toward a milky horizon. A landscape interrupted by the surreal. Arthritic hands of twisted black mesquite trees. A 1968 Plymouth Fury crouching next to a dead bush, hiding, red with dust. A mile of nothing, then a church with no doors or windows. The wind waltzes around the darkness of that sacred womb. A young couple standing in front, looking toward the brutal sky. The wind wrapping their clothes around their thin, catlike bodies.
A burst of color, muddled by the onset of early morning dusk, signaling the entrance to the starting line.
The rain began to fall in a sudden rage. A warm sheet flowing over and darkening the cracked dirt. Attacking the sun-etched veins, overflowing and continuing across the invisible decline.
The sounds of powerful engines, revving during the final check. A moaning a crackling as the voices from the exhaust ricochet off the bullets of falling rain. The crowd of faces, standing in ankle deep mud. Watching Too many to count. As we tweaked the last snatches of power from those aluminum workhorses. The announcers voice pealed over the p.a. system, listing the participants of the race.
“Car number 17, ‘Psyclone’ driven by Hector Lorenzo.
Car number 5, ‘Suspicion’ driven by Terry ‘Too Tall’ Taylor. (Now there was a character for you. Big guy with a giant rock chin, but when he talked you knew what a queer he was)
Car number 22, ‘Maverick’, Driven by Jose Yakima Marquez Malodors. (There was a timed crack of thunder that accented the announcement of the hometown boy)
The list went on and on like a phone book.
Car number 7, ‘Black Mariah’ driven by Earl ‘Dread’ Norman. (A burst of applause, very far away)
Car Number 6,…
His voice fuses with the sounds of the powerful engines, revving, Tommy gunning, growling like crocodiles, howling like banshees… and screaming.
There was no mistaking the sound. I’d heard about the car before, now I was finally seeing it up close. The noise cut through the rain, like a wailing pterodactyl. It sat there, malignant, but as shiny and seamless as a fresh drop of blood. Hockney just stared at it, in a mechanics trance. I myself couldn’t afford to go into a trance. I had to concentrate, keep my mind together. I had no money, no real skills. I was three years past, yet far too close to being a common crook. I wasn’t about to let some asshole in a souped up red car send me back to the fucking cold ass streets of Chicago.
That’s when the driver of the red car stood up. A painful light went off in my head, a desert sun reflecting off the mirrored sand. Her long wet hair hung in thick strings.
Her Eyes were large and almond shaped. They leapt from her marble skin. I stared at her. Her eyes met me.
“…Driven by Memora.”
I was like a deer, a stupid deer frozen in her smile. The last time a woman smiled at me like that she was arresting me for assault. I don’t know if there was any applause for her (I might have missed it) all I could hear was the pendulum of a pulse beat in my ears. Let’s put it this way, her ass would have made any other woman a Sunday face. Was I having a stroke? I wanted to look away, to sit down, but she held me there, transfixed until she looked away. When she did, the invisible hands that held me up were gone. My legs vaporized and I fell to my knees.
“Hey,” Hockney said. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s okay,” I said. “Just slipped in the water.” Actually I felt more like I’d challenged Popeye to an ass-kicking contest.
He waved a hand in front of his face. “Fuckin flies. What makes some of them just stick around and pick on you?”
“You’re either a sweetheart or you smell like dogshit.” I said.
Sloshing through the deepening, corkscrew worm infested water we walked to the Mariah. I had a seat and gave him the ‘ok’ sign. He closed the door and gave me a thumbs up. I almost told him that garlic kept mosquitoes away, and might work for flies, but was cut off by the announcers voice over the p.a.
“Drivers take your positions!”
Looking at me grinning he said, “99 percent of people aren’t worth the spit it would take to get them wet. The only good guys are those that worry that they may be part of the 99 percent.”
I slapped him some final skin. “See ya at the end.” He said, which sounded pretty fuckin ominous. I let up on the clutch and went to my position. I’m glad I didn’t ask him about love at first sight. Too many people already thought I was an idiot. The reason why sex and death are the only two great themes in art are because they are actually the same thing.
Aren’t you supposed to feel better after you’ve performed a selfless act? I used to be a lot nicer. I really did, but things happen, you know? Like I remember this time I saw an old lady standing at a bus stop with a load of groceries. It was colder’n fuck, and the ground was all frozen over. I looked at her, and asked myself why nobody was helping her. I pulled over, blocking traffic on purpose, and got her into my car. Her name was Mrs. Wilson. She’d been widowed for 20 years. Fuck. Anyway, it turns out that she lives in the projects. I walk behind her, carrying her bags Through the wire-reinforced glass doors… gang symbols carved in the paint on the frame… darkened halls with multiple layers of grafitti… stuffy… everything smelling of piss. It was like a funhouse, created by winos. I was looking every whicha way for trouble.. Of course the fucking elevator didn’t work, so we took the stairwell. I stairway felt like murder, like a gang rape. I couldn’t wait to get out, but being an old woman Mrs. Wilson had to stop repeatedly to catch her breath, as we ascended the five flights. We finally got to her apartment, and as the key clicked in the lock there was a thunderous barking, like Cerberus behind the door.
“Hey baby.” She said as the door opened. She said it to the biggest, fattest fucking Rottweiler I’d ever seen. The dog danced around her, until it saw me, then it went still, ears flat back. I hoped to God that he wouldn’t try to sniff my nuts.
“C’mon baby.” Mrs. Wilson said, and he obediently followed her to another room. I peeked inside. The floor was covered with newspaper, which in turn was covered with mounds of cockroach crawling dogshit. People weren’t allowed to have dogs in the projects, but some people cant do without them, so they raised them there from puppies. Like cats who live inside, these dogs thought the small apartment was the entire world.
I really wanted to leave, but the old woman offered me a cup of tea, and I didn’t want to be rude. Besides, I figured she needed the company. I asked her why she had such a large dog, when she had all the locks on the door. She told me that she was afraid that someone would come through the window and slit her throat.
It was hard for me to imagine someone dangling from the fifth storey ledge, trying to get to this old gal. As far as I could see all she had was a dog-eared bible, framed photographs of people she probably never saw, a small black and white television, a 130 pound dog and 25 pounds of dogshit.
It was hard to carry on a conversation with her. Her mind would wander and she’d speak in disconnected bits and pieces. Whoever said the elderly were fountains of wisdom, needed his ass whipped.
The heat and smell of the place was stifling, making me nauseous. She was afraid to open the windows. I wanted to go to the bathroom, but I sincerely felt that she probably had the mummifed corpse of some loved one propped up in a corner. That, and of course the fact that I was afraid of roaches. They gave me the living jim jams. I could hear them, in the walls, boldly crawling across the counters, across the floor, into the television. And this was in daylight. Imagine what you might find hiding behind the toilet in a dark bathroom. So I just sat there, until she let me go. I hauled ass out of there, and hopped in my car. I had a depression on me like nobody’s business. Like I just saw the elephant man or something. That afternoon was one of the first times that I drank until I blacked out. The good deed was overshadowed by the big picture.
We weren’t even five miles gone when there was a pile up. It blocked all the lanes. Some of us, who were still mobile, got out to help. Others just drove off into the grassy fields to bypass the whole mess. The first car I happened opon during my heroics was car 27. I looked through the drivers window, and daw him slumped over on the passengers side. I managed to get the door open, and when I touched the guys arm, he sat bolt upright, like he’d woken up from a bad dream. His eyes were bloody highbeams. He was convulsing, legs crushed below the knee by the engine block. I could smell meat burning. He grapped at me, but then his arms went limp. I think he was trying to say something. I couldn’t tell for sure, his lower jaw was ripped away. A long skin streamer flapped on the left side, and a mangled piece of jaw, with molars intact, worked on the right side. He made this clicking sound, back in the throat. I could see his windpipe. I fucking ran back to my car, gunned it, and went through the field. Leaving them for the paramedics.
The rain that had been pouring all morning, began to crawl in tendrils, toward the passenger side of the vehicle, despite the wipers. It was what water does when the dryers get going in an automatic carwash. I asked myself (in the non-suicidal context) “What the fuck?”.
A 3000 pound automobile flew over mine and landed to my right, on the side of the road. I saw it’s shadow as it flew over, like an airplane landing. I thought that it was strange that an automobile could fly like that… peculiar.
Looking in my side view mirror, I saw what was happening. The funnel cloud was dancing on the road behind me. Because of the condition of the road, I wasnt going very fast, and it was catching up with me. It was only me, and a couple of others (I could see them in my rearview), beyond that was blackness. I almost rolled the Black Mariah as I made a panicked right turn. I fishtailed into the muddy field, then brought her around to where I could see. I couldnt hear the windshield wipers, or the idling engine. All I could hear was the churning jet engine sound, the doom sound.
Whatever the reason, those last few drivers didn’t pull away. One was thrown like a paper airplane, landing upside down and ass first. The driver inside bashed violently against the dashboard like a ragdoll, or a bag of dry dogfood mixed with Jello. The other two drivers were rolled away like bearings. My heart wash bashing away like insanity. My mouth tasted like a bloody penny.
The whirling behemoth lumbered in a slow hula, down the road, stripping away the blacktop. I waited of course. I wanted to get on with it, but I wasn’t about to go chasing that particular miricle of nature. Besides, in a race where you have checkpoints to meet certain times, and rules of speed vs. time to adhere to, going fast wasn’t always the best course of action.
I could feel the hair standing on my neck and arms as the sound of the screaming engine came to me. I got out of the car and faced down the road, toward the road, the tornado to my back. My face was a slit-eyed grimmace as hard rain and hailstones pelted me on the head and shoulders. In any case, I could see the red teardrop, wailing toward me from the horizon, sailing quite smoothly over the desurfaced highway. Again, the hair was standing on my neck, my arms. I stood there windmilling my arms, trying to flag down the hot rod Venus. Even through the rain, flying leaves and dirt, I could see her face behind the windshield. She was intent, locked onto the cyclone. If she saw me then it was apparent that she wasn’t interesting in stopping to talk because if anything she picked up speed. She passed me, headed for the base of the tornado, and then hit it…
I said “hit it” because she didnt dissappear into the swirling darkness. It appeared to me, at the dime, that the car came to a sudden dead stop, levitated about two feet off the ground, then began to wrap itself around the base of the funnel, in a ribbon of scarlet… a clutch of red ivy. Scarlet razor ribbon funnel clutch, and then it was gone.
I returned to my car. The tornado meandered back and forth across the highway like a huge drunken plow blade. Finally it uprooted and pulled itself up into the agitated clouds. When the sun finally broke through I started the engine.
Rattling around in my mind, was a nugget of light which was a little too nebulous to be called a thought. It was more of a blank vision. I was pondering the hypnosis that she had controlled in her eyes. How long had it been since a woman had actually brought me to my knees? The answer was never. As a general rule, I hated women. I hated the games, the exhibitions of low self-esteem, the waekness, the attitudes, and I hated myself when I looked at them. But for some reason Memora was etched in my mind. If it had taken 30 years for me to actually see someone that could floor me, who would die within 7 hours of my seeing her utterly perfect haunting face, then how long would it be (if ever) before I saw another face, as haunting? A face that might stay alive long enough so I wouldn’t have to worry about it fading into memory?
As I shifted back onto the road, I remembered the last time I’d felt so dislocated and puppetlike. I was sixteen, and darkness had fallen
and were riding our bikes.
The boys I’m riding with
turn onto 95th street
and I follow
even though we’re headed towards
a the white neighborhood.
I figured we were going to turn around
as the first set of railroad tracks
pass under my wheels
I feel fear
creeping over me.
I tell them we should turn
They only laugh
and pedal faster.
I sure as hell
don’t want to go forward
but can’t go back
So I plunge into the night
behind the fools on wheels
as we rattle over the
second set of tracks
I know we’ve gone
way too far.
Cars swerve close
laughter in the voices
of my friends
(years before extreme sports)
as the highbeams light on
and I see my shadow
on the ground
in front of me.
They laugh as windows
are rolled down
curses are flung
along with pieces of garbage
My nerves jangle
as cars slow down
then pass with a shout of
I’m not ashamed to admit
that on that dark
my nitsack clenched up
like a peach pit
and shoved my testicles
up into my guts.
Along we rode
I’d given up on trying to say
their bicycles were bigger
and they were stronger.
They slowly began to pull
I followed as they
turned right on Pulaski
where blacks could get mobbed
in broad daylight.
I wished for a street
without so many lights.
I felt like a cockroach]on a wedding cake.
The cars hooted and honked
and swerved at us
like mad bulls.
The passengers cursed
and spat and screamed.
I couldn’t even sweat.
We turned right on 87th street
and headed back east
back towards our mixed neighborhood.
They really began to pump
leaving me further
My heart raced.
A wheeze rattled through my lungs
and I cursed them all.
As we reached Western Avenue
I broke away from them
and rode home
against my back.
Around the 12th hour I really began to feel myself getting weaker. The road swim. The whiteline bullets molding onto a black-grey snake. The silhuetted trees, standing in sparse clumps, standing along the edge of the highway, looked like sleeping giants. Blackened monsteres against the darkening night sky.
Farmhouses stood peaceful, with perhaps a single light shining inside, as Stephen King novels are read, or 5 year-old prayers are recited.
There were flashes of color and light dancing before my face. I began to think about pulling over, which I did. No need to wreck myself while misting over, and focusing on ironic paradoxes. There was a dirt road, almost invisible in the darkness. Turning onto the road, I saw wooden fencing. I’d found an apple orchard, hiding there in the dark.
I stopped the car by the fence, under a patch of overgrowth. When I turned off the engine, the silence, the darkness, the heat from the floorboard, put me in the mind of surfing a casket toward the crematorium, so I got out. Leaving the car was a welcome relief. My joints creaked and crackled as I stood up and stretched. Looking around I was witness to a beautiful moonlit night. It cast a dreamy blue glow over the grass, the dark trees, and large pond. The wind rushing through the treetops sounded like waves rushing onto the Lake Michigan shore.
The pond was Impressionistic from the elements. A darkened blue, black, and silver splotched canvas. I sat down by the water and stripped to my boxers. If a farmer happened opon me, I didn’t want to be naked. Because of the amount of revenue and fan worship the racers brought in we tended to get away with thing, like we had diplomatic immunity, but that’s only if people recognize you. The countrymen had a name for American blacks, which was, “Cubru”. Cubru meant “cursed and violent people”. I don’t know if a farmer would recognize me as cubru, but I’d rather not scare him into shooting me.
My body was lousy with grime, sweat and itchy ass-stink. My head felt like a used cotton swab, numb, under a thousand years of bathroom dust, toenail clippings, and dead flies. I dipped my feet in the water. It was sweet relief. I could feel it in my eyes, in my spine. I waded out until I was waist high, then I dunked under, like a cocktail onion. I stayed under, and raked my fingers across my itchy scalp. I stayed out for a good ten minutes, and no maniac farmers showed up. I felt hidden from the world. Somehow I’d stumbled opon the garden of Eden, and was enjoying a private commune. The night was so warm and breezy, that I just lay under a tree in my drawers. I closed my eyes and drifted off to another place.
I was walking along a juxtoposition of my parent’s back yard and a South American rainforest. Even though it was the middle of the summer, I was standing knee deep in snow. I could hear my parents’ voices in the distance. Something important was happening. The scene changes, and I find myself standing on a large circular pedistal. There are three other people on the pedistal. Looking down the stairs, all around is family. The structure we were in was like a giant marble hat box, or a bandshell. A room with a curved wall, and open face. The place was filthy with rich, dark-veined green marble, and fat brass railings. I realized that the people on the pedistal with me were my bride to be, best man and reverend.
I cannot express the feeling of total love I felt for my bride to be, and best man (who in my waking life were a couple from a soap opera), but the peace is only temporary,. There are loud raucous voices coming from the back of the room. The same kind of laughing voices that usually say things like, “Hey! What are you doing with that white woman?”.
That wasn’t said, but I turn around and see three old Jewish character actors who were wearing tuxedos. There having a loud and lively round of conversation, like they were at a roast. My eyes close in anger, and I scream, “Goddamnit you Jew bastards! Why are you ruining my wedding? Can’t I have a moments peace?!”
When I turn back around, the wedding party is gone. No family, no best man, no bride. I race down the marble steps, and out of the mouth of the giant mauseleum. The grass is wet from melted snow. I look down. I have no shoes on. I reach the building where the reception is taking place. I ran past people, up the steps. It looks like the South entrance of the Field Museum, only in brass and marble. I hear my 11 year old brothers voice. He say’s “I don’t know if I want another beer.”
I awoke to blur and fuzz. It was still night time. According to my dollar wristwatch it was 2:37 A.M. I lay back against the tree. Even just waking up, I was overcome by the peace of the orchard. My eyes wandered across Eden. The silhuettes written in giant braille heiroglyphics. There was a consistent pattern of tree trunks against the nothing, except for a section where a large clump of darkness connected them. The shape held close to the ground. I was curious. I got up, stretched and began to walk over. The cool air was opon me, but that wasn’t enough to give me the goosebumps and semi-hardon I had. Even before I got to the dark shape, I could identify it. A dark maroon swatch in the Impressionistic daydream. La Nina was in the orchard.
I never thought I’d have the chance to be that close to the car. Even in the relative dimness of the moonlight, the surface was like a brilliant funhouse mirror. I could see my face, very unappealing in distorted apprehension. I didn’t like the look of it. I reached out my hand, then withdrew it. There was something not quite right about that car. I mean, besides the obvious things that I had witnessed earlier. There was something off about it. It was like a giant waterbug. It felt wrong in my head. There were windows, lights, mirrors, wheels, doors…then I saw it. The car looked like any other car except for one thing: the car was seamless. There were no seams for the doors the trunk, the hood. There were no door handles. How does a person get into a car with no doors? They couldn’t. Again, my arm extended, and my fingers brushed lightly against the finish. The car was warm What I did next was pure instinct. My brain stem formulated a rudementary command, before my left brain had time to veto it. Once again, my hand went out, hair standing, goose bumps, and erection. My fingers went for the place where you’d associate a door handle, and they dug in. It felt like I’d grabbed someones love handle. I recoiled. Not so much from surprise, as much as from the fact that the car seemed to twitch, like I’d prodded it. I jumped back in quick inadvertant ballet steps. I lost balance when I heard a crystalline voice behind me say, “I dont know whether to laugh out loud, or hold it in and explode.”
I never heard her speak before, but the voice fit the face. It was light and tinkling with a slight Russian accent. In the span of three seconds, I fell backwards, pivoted on my ass like a lazy Susan crab thing, and then stood up, facing her. I was sorely aware of my erection. Jost like a cop, always around when you don’t need one. She wasn’t embarrassed by it though. She laughed and thwunked the head of it with her finger.
I went, “GAAH!”
Once I regained my composure, I folded my hands in front of my crotch and said hello. The asked if I had a problem with shaking hands. I took her hand and shook it, keeping my other hand in front of my crotch. I was uncomfortable. I felt like she was playing me like a puppet.
I dropped her hand and said, “It’s funny how a person can go up in a tornado one minute, then miraculously reappear to tease the shit out of you the next minute. I guess I’m losing my mind, huh?”
“You sound traumatized.” She said. Her eyes were pale blue, almost asian shaped. She hypnotized me with beauty. It was taking a great deal of effort to keep from making an even bigger fool of myself.
I said to her, “I was upset, it’s true. I thought I’d missed my opportunity to talk to you.” Well, as soon as I said that shit I gritted my teeth in embarrassment. She kept on grinning. She was watching me squirm on the hook. I wish I had a shot of Jack.
“You’re curious about my car?” She asked.
“Yes, but I’m more curious about your accent.” I said, changing the subject. “Is it Russian?”
“Yes, but I’haven’t been there since I was a little girl. I’ve been living between Italy and America since I was 10 years old.”
“SO i guess your car it Italian?”
“Some Italian inspiration, but It’s Russian too.”
“I didn’t know the Russians made cars, at least not race cars.”
“They don’t, but I do” She laughed. She was staring me in the eyes and said, “I know you. When I was a little girl I had dreams about a boy with sunken eyes, and ropes for hair. He had an angry little face. In those dreams we would be living together in a little shack. There were no adults, like we had to fend for ourselves.”
Memora told a story, that turned out to be a lesson in her personal history. Her father, it seems, was a powerful man, back when she was a child. He was like a Commisar or something. He was also a sadist. They lived in Prevetske, which the old man personally ruled like a dictator. He never had any problems with his superiors, because he never made himself out to be a threat. to anyone else’s power. He just acted like a good soldier and followed orders. He was content to sit, like a cancer, in Prevetske. When Memora told him about her dream, it turned out to be the last time she ever confided in him. When he heard the dream he had her placed in an institution. A clammy urine stinking asylum of indeterminate ancient years. Cold clammy granite, and rusty iron bars. This is where he placed his own daughter, among the insane, the incorrigables, the predators and rapists. Despite this, she recieved an almost orgasmic pleasure in the fact that her Father was no longer around. Just like how some of us get a grin and a chill up the spine, when we contemplate some crime, or cheap sex. She didn’t want to admit it at first. She carried this guilty pleasure with her for the next two years. That’s how long she was there.
When he finally did send for her, she walked into a sunshine she hadn’t seen for a quarter of her life. It seemed almost like she was falling into a pit.
She asked me if I would like to ride in La Nina, or if I was afraid. What was i supposed to say? Of course I was scared.
“Hold on. ” I said, putting on my boots.
“Ride with me,” she said. “and I’ll tell you about the car.”
She took my hand (Hers was so soft) and led me over. About this time I wished that I was wearing something more than boots and boxer shorts. A jacket, pants, anything would have helped. The nipples and nutsack need some kind of padding. Trust me, on cold days, just cover your nipples and you’ll feel a whole lot warmer.
The dread anticipation was like a freezing morning, it became a concrete thought, and what is reality, but thought? I wondered if having a hard example of the supernatural, something irrefutable, was actually worth it. If you actually had to experience it, your mind might blow out, and you’d either be tormented by horrible Dante-like visions, or else wind up about as functional as a potted fern. What good is such a vision then?
Memora pulled me along, as though she was reading my mind. For all I knew, she was. Nothing could surprise me at that point, I was on guard. So there I was again, alongside the fleshy hunk of car, with no door handles. She walked over to the driver’s side and said, “Close your eyes and picture the handle in your mind. Then open the door.”
I closed my eyes, pictured the handle, and reached out. I felt it there in my hand, solid as steel.
“Keep your eyes closed,” she said, “it’s important.”
I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the situation, so keeping my eyes closed at least offered me the opportunity to hide from my fears. I opened the door and got in. Sitting down, I waited for the sound of her door closing, before I closed mine too. I kept my eyes closed, and wondered where my self-control had gone. Why was I following her like a puppy? What ever happened to my manhood?
I felt the leather seats on my back and legs. New car smell; leather carpeting… I was beginning to feel a little silly about the whole thing. I was just a car after all, not Speedy Buggy, or Christine. I couldn’t even finish that thought properly. I was scared, and that was all there was to that. She began to speak.
“Like I said before, my father was an asshole, and that was that. Even before the asylum, he would take me to watch executions. Me, at three years old. And would say things like, “See what they make me do? If only they would follow the rules!’ I never questioned him about it, I just stood there and watched, as he had some poor bastard, shot or hanged or tortured for a trifle. And let me tell you,watching torture at four or five years old can really make you think twice about simple things like babydolls and teddybears. Even back then I believed that I’d better be as obedient to him as possible. He got tired or my mother pretty early on. During the length of their so called marriaged, she was always quiet, and grey faced. When I was sent to the asylum, she wasn’t allowed to contact me I guess my going away hurt her terribly. When I came back from there looking all thin and wild, she managed to get me away from there.
I remember her sending me off, with a man in a dark grey suit. There were no tears though. I don’t think either of us had any left. Within a few days, I was in America, New York city, living with a distant relative. All I could think about were the buildings, the big ugly giant buildings, and how they weren’t so bad. After living with shit for so long, the smell of farts doesn’t really bother you.
I didn’t see or hear anything from her again until I was about 15 years old. I was reading an underground death-metal magazine, and in an article about making your own crank I saw her pictures. The pictures had nothing to do with the text of course. I was intrigued by three of the pictures of my mother, which were in a series. The first photo showed her sitting in a padded chair. She was wearing the same clotes she wore the last time I saw her. Her throat was slashed open. The next two pictures showed her body in advancing stages of decay. I stared at those pictures for about half an hour. Underneath the pictures was a caption:
The secret compartment of my ring I fill
with an Underdog super energy pill…
I haven’t been able to listen to death metal since. I get nauseous. I feel insulted by it.
For ten years after that, as I studied in school, my mind felt like it was blooming, like a black rose. I began to study the many facets of voodoo, Santeria, Montescarde,…anything dark and metaphysical. I wanted to know how to recognize evil, and control it, so that the next time I saw my father… open your eyes-”
I opened my eyes, and this is what I saw; the inside of the car was like a huge hollowed out chest cavity. The ribs were sticky, viscous. We were in a bony cage. The windows were gone. Mossy seaweed looking material was hanging down in strips. I was sitting on a giant lung, as was the grinning Memora. I could feel it inflate, then deflate against my backside. The dashboard was a giant larynx, that ran from the grille, to between the giant lungs. Light came through, frome the outside through the tube of translucent larynx, casting us in a rotting salmon color. My feet were covered with snotty juice. Memora was wrapped in a blanket of raw flesh, from the waist down. Her arms were wrapped in tendrils of the stuff. She looked like she was in a trance, eyes closed, head lolled back, yet impossibly, she was beautiful.
“My father was the devil.” She said. “This car is the product of the daughters hatred. The daughter births the unholy father.”
The car started, but from inside it sounded like a dry hack. Memora’s muscles tensed up, her eyes opened, and the thing that was once her father screamed. She was smiling. Then the car stopped. “Close your eyes, and open the door.” she said. I felt for the invisible door handle, and got out. I felt like I was diving out of a plane, it seemed so far to the gground. I rolled away. I looked up through the open door, and saw a perfectly normal console, shifter, seats etc. The door closed itself. Memora got out, and closed her door, still smiling at me. I was on my knees, teeth chattering…chattering… chattering. She came to me, and her arms were comforting, as I sat there shivering in the summer grass. She hugged me and eventually the shakes began to lessen.
I’ve heard that insanity sometimes comes on with an almost audible and instantaneous switch. Like the trigger of adrenaline that causes a fistfight, a spark. The rational mind turns off, hands start to fly, or in this case I could hear a whistle, like a flock of birds, getting louder and louder in my head. I was trying to make a conscious effort to deny the switch. I sat still, like I do when I’m trying not to puke. Just waiting for it to pass. Trying to work an annuerism, or an air bubble, or a sharp pain on through. Again, I came to the conclusion, that some things just can’t be rationalized, even some things which now make sense. That is what saved me. I let it go, like a steam whistle. A crazy man , accepts and rationalizes crazy things. Some people accept unfamiliar circumstances, without losing themselves in the process. If you walk out of your trailer one day, and see that the streets are full of six legged pink lions, do you spend time wondering where they came from, or do you hurry back in. Memora left me for a few minutes, then returned with my fire suit. The inner ice had melted, and with it went my shivers.
“Thank you.” I said, as she handed me my clothing. I was surprised at the steadiness of my voice.
“Are you alright?” She asked.
“People have been asking me that for years, and I never know how to answer. Depends on what you mean by ‘alright’”.
“ I really thought you’d understand why I did whay I did.”
“Hey, I can understand why you hate your father, and why you’d have murder in your heart, in fact, it seems only right. But this… this ain’t no crime of passion. You could have shot him, or burned him alive, but this way… hell, you’re still a part of him this way. You’ve been driving around in this fucking rolling meat locker for how long? Weeks, months?”
- 1. “Six months.”
- 2. “Christ, I was only in there for six minutes, and I almost lost my mind.
Memoras face screwed up into a mix of pity and amusement. She said, “Did you know that
the only two great themes in art, are sex and death? People love death. Aarcheologists, rockers, kids
at Halloween. Even you’ve got a real shrunken head hanging from your rearview mirror for God’s
sake! We all go around collecting momentos of death, we’re all basically primitives. I’m the same as everyone else, except that I accept and know what I am. Some people know every step and operation in manufacturing a semiconductor. I know how to turn flesh into metal. That is my reality. The reality of pain, it’s universal. I started out small, like a kid tormenting a bug. I turned a rat into a micro casette recorder. He didn’t feel any pain either. That is until his testicles gout wound up in the fast forward spool, then he made some noise, believe me. As far as my sanity goes, I really don’t care. To do what I do, you have to realize that reality is only what you percieve it to be. Then you realize that none of it really exists, if you can manipulate it Atoms make up a chair, a man, a glass of water. Nothing is so constant that it can’t be changed, not even on this plane. Nothing is real. It’s the first ste p in re-creating reality. Me, crazy? The insane dont see reality for what it is. I see reality for more than it is.When you get like that, you feel like the only sane person in an insane world.”I lit a cigarette. “You may be right.” I said. “I’m not sure though. My perception of you is too limited.” She laughed at that It was a good laugh. “I think,” I said, “that I have a dualistic perception of a singular reality. I was an only child too. That’s a lot of free time on your hands. Way too much time to spend by yourself, thinking. I used to stare at my face in the mirror, make faces, talk in funny voices, but if someone else was also at the mirror, I couldn’t stand to look at my own reflection. I couldn’t look at myself in front of them. Strange, huh? Look who I’m asking…anyway, when there was a high school dance or something, I would watch the other guys primping in the mirror. I was in awe of how at ease they were with themselves.
I blabbed on. I was afraid of Memora, or her almost certain insanity. A hallmark of my love life had been finding insane women. Bondage freaks, mean drunks, drug addicts, mind games… I’d been dragged blindfolded into the carnival funhouse on many an occassion. All of those horrid bitches seemed able to warp reality, but it was all smoke and mirrors and bullshit. The only way that they could ever fuck up my brain, was if I gave them silent permission, which I did, over and over. I’d like to think that I was tricked, but that would be only half true, at most. The barker might snooker you into the entrance, but it’s your own fault if you let the door close behind you.
I looked back at my life, and asked myself how I could’ve been entrapped by, and ultimately fall in love with some mouth-beathing bleached blonde slut, who had nothing on the ball other than an uncanny ability to permanately damage my faith in humanity. Why would I run into something like that? Lonliness. I was lonley sitting there on the grass, just as I’ve been lonley all of my life, but I was afraid to touch Memora. I felt like a kid. She was the most interesting woman I’d ever met. When God asked Adam what happened, Adam blamed the woman. If I got into it with Memora, and the inevitable tradgedy happened, who could I blame but myself? There’s a lot of bullshit talk going around, about what it really means to be a man. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not brains, or strength or money. It all comes down to taking your medicine, like a big boy, when you fuck up. There’s not many real men left. That’s why we have so many lawyers.
I felt for her hand, without breaking my stare at foggy, distant nothing. My words tapered off. I could smell a hint of close your eyes lavender, 1950’s cone lamp and kidney table leftover holdover. Decorative soap in a swan shaped flowered holder. Lavender. The smell of the pin-up queen, in blue ink on newsprint. Ice tinkling in highball glasses. Transparent cocktail party recollections, Petite ladies in long black gloves, slender red glass cigarette holders, form-fitting dresses that never showed a spot of vomit, from well heeled gentlemen drinkers in skinny penguin suits, smoking chesterfields, and making payments on shiny black Lincoln Contenentals, sitting in the driveway of of the sprawling Japanese lantern and tiki-torch, suburban white flight, night party haven. Away from the daytime world of bill collectors, flat tires, bosses, gossiping neighbors, beatnick children, and brand new split-level houses with attatched garages, which are sinking into the godforsaken marshy landfill, that they were built over…
I looked at her, searching her face. Not saying boo to a mule. She was the most beautiful, perfect woman I’d ever seen, much less spoken to. Aand here I sat, in Eden, with Eve, in my boxer shorts, contemplating Perry Mason. I was crazy, for what I had not done. A coward. Sometimes, I guess, there are no correct choices, no right or wrong, black or white. Thebalance so perfect, as to create the illusion of chaos. It all ends in death anyway.
She heard my thoughts. She got up, and began to laugh, and run. “Catch me if you want me!” she said.
Her starlit body all aglow… bathing in the blue colored twilight. Her eyes are lit, animalistic. Naked in foggy nocturne, the urge to hunt overtakes me. I spring and try to bite her ass. I skid across the dewey grass and my hands are full of nothing.
She becomes ghostly in the mist. I pick myself up and chase her, digging in with my sharp-toed boots, ever forward into darkness, running toward the pain and pleasure. Venemous words sting like snakebites,and if all works out, for the best
one day, you’ll bury that lover. Chasing her because I have dreams. I dream that some people like me,are happy when I show my face. I think I need to start somewhere.
I reached out my hand to touch her. The touch burned my hand like lava.It burned from lonley drunken nights, like laughter from mocking faces. I threw myself on top of her. Through the searing pain of burning flesh, I embraced her like a lost child, till we were nothing but embers.
So then we just did it. We made love underneath the indifferent apple trees, consumed by the hidden orchard. I really suppose I shouldnt call it “making love”, because thats is a gentle and polite description of what is only sometimes a gentle, and hardly ever a polite act. We lay back on the dewey grass. She was a cat, her back arched and rose, and I could see a trace of feline ribs as she moved about. Her nails flashed and ripped at my skin. The glow of her eyes, under the shadow of her hair. Shuddering breath. Like two drowning men that see salvation in each other, we held tight. Razor hair, corn pone, peaches and cream nuclear booty, marble skin, whipcrack dreadlock, 2 oily ballbearings rotating in the magicians hand. The flush of color in her cheeks, the nails in my back. The priest kicks out the stained-glass window. Lightning breath, superman. The V-8 cortex fires synaptic crosscurrents into the leg muscles, they tremble… shake… quake. Sweat running, stinging the eyes, the blind man feels the untamed beast in the forest.
The age of innocence is well past gone, as she lets me toss her around like a notro glycerine Kewpie doll. The dew has melted into steam, the grass under us turns yellow, then dry, finally catching ablaze, leaving flattened black ash silhuettes where we roll. My heart is beating withthe sound of a plunger unclogging a toilet. A stitch runs up my side and caves me in… a giant knive driving into my ribs, but I switch all of my weight to the other side, which is cramping, but stronger. She is clawing, great scratches. Rivers of blood flowing, covering me, covering her. She digs her fingers into the muscles, and rips my shoulders into raggedy belts and strips. My arms give out. I almost fall forward, but I lock my ankles with hers, lean back and balance on my knees. Gyroscopic gigolo. She’s never seen anything like it. I’m a machine, a steam engine, a cybernetic rhinocerous. I’ve tamed her, or thought I had. Squeals and grunts. E above high c cavewoman. The gypsy girl is ravashed by black forest wolves. I could feel my teeth growing, I bite her in the shoulder. I’m blind…crippled but I can’t stop, I won’t stop. She throws me over, to the grown, gets on top, and starts whipping around like a demon cobra. She’s powerful, breaking my back… killing me, bouncing up and down like that. The sleeping ravens burst forth from the trees with waterfall wingbeats, and cackling, crackling frantic castinet ice cubes that ricochet in the treetops. The great tidalwave lightning bolt rumbles down the tracks, and strikes us with teeth snapping, toe curling fury…screaming, screaming… growing darker… the world goes… black.
I awoke the next blinding day, with empty arms. At first I thought that Memora might be hiding somewhere, trying to surprise me, being kittenish, but she wasn’t. She was gone daddy… gone. Any sign that she had been there was erased in the daylight, as a dream quickly fades, within minutes of waking, even as you struggle to remember it..
I put my clothes on, feeling cheated, buckled snapped and zipped. Everything is fragile, especially fond memories. There’s no proof of those pleasant events in your life other than memories, and half of those are colored by imagination. Shit, other than the moment, none of it exists. Even as I walked back to the car, I struggled to remember something about her… her eyes… her scent. Nothing was left but 2-D. Less than newsprint.
The car was right where I left it. The overhang of brush and creeper vined had grown during the night. They made a popping pimply sound when I opened the door, and they broke.
The solenoid spun, the pistons fired, and I moved the beast back onto the highway. I was way behind. I had to make checkpoint 4 in 45 minutes, and I was about 200 miles away from it.
The thoughts passed through my mind, random thoughts, with alarming rapidity. The hot engine produces a smell which has a synthetic quality. It smells like the Duncan Hines cakes that my mother used to make.
The days would be short and cold in October, like romance. My mother would send me out into the biting dusk with a shopping list, written on a folded piece of paper, in her cursive script. Her golden face, and dark eyes playing against the fiery leaves, dropping to the ground…dead. And those sweet cakes she’d bake for no other reason than she’d wanted a cake.
The winters chill pushing those dead leaves, further and further into the crevices. The Christmas smell coming out of the heater vents on the first cold day of the year. The Peanuts specials, championing spirituality and cool jazz to a new generation. The crispy windblown autumn leaves, my halloween feet never trample. The city is ripe with perverts, who want to stick thier dicks in me. I watch the trick or treaters from an upstairs window. Plastic fangs in my mouth. “I vant to dlink your blood… Hello?”.
My mother, the spaghetti pie and salisbury steak Monarch. I can picture her, walking down the filthy downtown streets after work. Walking toward the 1974 Gremlin that she drove. Driving home with nothing to look forward to, except cooking dinner for her ungrateful family, a few hours of fitful sleep, and repeating it all a million future days coming.
In those early years my father would come home from work drunk. Or else he’d come home and get frunk, on cheap beer, or Ripple. Sitting at the kitchen table and reading a comic book, until the pain went away for a while.
My father is drinking beer,he stares at me with bloody eyes,he is a young policeman, today he touched a rotting corpse, it burst open in his hands. He must support his family. He looks at me with bloody eyes.
The house is full of werewolves, his two German Shepherds, hairy scary knife edged monsters, teeth like a prison rape. My grandfather comes by to walk them. He takes me into the darkness and hands me the leashes. I can hear his laughter as they drag me down the alley.
Being so young, he could be an affectionate father. Being a drunk, he could be a violently unpredictable man. I never learned to tell which one would be walking through the door. I never even realized that he was a drunk until years later, when he called me and admitted to his alcoholism. He apologized for his rotten behavior in general. I never knew. I thought he was just crazy.
As I went through my teenage years I made an effort (out of an instinct for self-preservation) to convince him that I was crazier than he was. Not that he was ever impressed, except for maybe one time.
In 1975 the family bought a Doberman to go along with the German Shepherds. The dog’s name was ‘Queenie”, and she was good for about 9 years. Around the tenth year, she started losing control of her bowels. I was designated clean-up man, and before long I had lost my patience. Scrubbing diahrheah out of carpeting can do that to you. I complainted about the situation, till my father got pissed off at me. He walked back into his bedroom, and returned with his .38 service revolver.
“If you hate the dog so fucking much, why don’t you just shoot it?” He yells at me, then walks away. This made me pretty angry. I guess he didn’t think I had balls enough to do it, but I had a problem and he was offering me a solution. He came back down to the basement as I was aiming for the head. I’d put a couple of paper bags over her pointy noggin, to avoid having to clean up brains. I was depressing the trigger when he yelled out, “Hey boy! Have you lost your mind?” This from the man that handed me the gun. He took the pistol away, and stalked back upstairs. I took the bags off Queenie’s head. She looked at me with a sick and stupid grin. I resumed cleaning up the shit.
I didn’t realize back then, as I was attempting to grow into the mind of an adult, that I was actually ggrowing away from everything important. Away from love, away from trust, away from the ability to have fun. By the ripe old age of 25, my soul had been tanned like saddle leather. As a result, people stopped noticing me, or ele would react to me instinctually, like cattle to a storm I was the invisible man. The most boring, useless monster of them all.
Make no mistake about it, no matter how much of a bullshit front I may put up, I can perceive the inevitable. There was no question in my mind, that Memora was going to win the race. Th only shock came in the way she won it.
My digital clock said that it was 9:07 A.M. as I crested the hill that was about three miles from the finish. As my front end rose to meet the dawning sunlight, I could see the tail end of La Nina, dissappearing over the next hill. I was second, she was first. The irony of me chasing her was actually painful. I didn’t even try to catch her, she was a full mile ahead of me. I could see the crowds standing up in their seats, tossing a hail of confetti, streamers, flowers, dried pig parts, and dead chickens. La Nina hurtled toward the finish line.
I thought I saw a stream of dust, or dirt coming off of her car, like how a jet’s wing slices through the air and streams out water vapor. It was no figment though. Her car was beginning to deteriorate. Larger and larger pieces were flying off (shedding off) her car, in a knife edged harrangue. A slab (scab) of bumper, a hunk of trunk, a front quarter pannel stripping and flipping, leaving an undercoat of raw veined flesh, bulleting toward the checkered flag.
One of those scabs ( I found out later) neatly took 4 inches off the top of Hockneys head, right at the eyebrow.
The cheers and ticker tape faded as the wheels came off La Nina, turning it into a tumbling hunk of meat, resembling a two ton cows heart, which skidded and dashed bloody rorscart down the track, finally breaking the tape. Having no wheels, friction finally did it’s job on what was left of La Nina, and I was able to catch up with it, along with the paramedic unit, and useless fire truck. It lay against the wall, covered with hay (having hit the retaining barrier). I pulled up. The ambulance boys were like ants. One had a stretcher halfway out the back, the other was trying to rotate a hunk of meat, which was the size of a horse, trying to identify some kind of human feature. I skidded with the breaks locked and got out of the car before it was finished moving. I had to pull the medic off of La Nina. I pulled my knife out, popped it open, and plunged it into the meat. I dug and dug, praying I wouldn’t stab into Memora. I pulled the seam further and further apart with my fingers.
The vacuum opened up with a wet turkey baster noise. I pulled La Nina’s hide away from Memora’s face. She sucked in a breath of air. The whites of her wide open eyes stained red with her father’s blood.
The town of Pelulia, lay between the Pacific, and a steaming rash of jungle. The air was thick unbreathable sauna rot. A malfunctioned meat locker, gassy green vomitous air. This is where people came to live their living death. Where the insane walked their mosaic fantasies in 10’x10’ padded cells.
The ferry Captain barked a complex string of guttteral moans and clicks, like a dull butchers knife bludgeoning a splintery chopping board. The gangplank went down, and the passengers began to disembark. The Captain sliced through the tangle of people, with a sweaty ape like arm, and caught another good sized man by the back of the neck. With a Hurculean jerk, he extracted the beefy sailor from the throng. The king yanks a pawn. The sailor cocked back a hairy, flesh covered set of brass knuckles, but misfired as the Captain, like a ballet dancer, sent a knee deep into the sailors ample belly. The crusty sailor folded and projectile vomited a fount of partially pulverized chicken bones, liquified potted meat, and yellow Italian bread paste onto the Captain’s shoes. The Captain, seemingly upset by this, snapped the man upright, and began slapping him , forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand… He was striking more and more ferociously as I turned away from the action, and walked down the plank and onto the shore. The sound became that of frantically snapping castinets, before my distance faded it into nothingness.
The rutted dirt roads were strangled with people that day. There was a funeral, someone important. The roads all fed a main artery, that cut through the Jungle and into the heart of Pelulia. The throng of mourners were all trying to perform some kind of impossible osmosis, and walk through each other to a splintery casket, that already appeared to be held aloft by a batallion of fingertips. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. I stifled a laugh, that would’ve been nothing short of suicidal in that stagnant pond of teary-eyed, machette weilding wailers.
I could smell the corpse, the greenish death smell. The casket looked like it had already been buried once, and dug up again. The smell of unwashed bodies mixed with it, along with the thick greasy air. I dropped my head and retched down the back of a thin old woman’s black dress. She didn’t notice, just continued her crying, while being held up by two guerilla-sized Maori men with tattooed faces. I kept my head down.
The cemetery, it seems, branched off the main road and down a steep mountain trail. I found myself alone in an unfamiliar jungle, with nothing more than a hunting knife, and a crude map drawn on a damp, and quickly deteriorating cocktail napkin.
Had I been in the desert, I would’ve thought the taxi was a mirage. A well worn LE CAR, decked out in multicolor spray paint swirls. Even the tires were painted. Standing next to it was a midget in a large straw hat. Being as it was, the jungle, I dismissed the mirage theory and approached the man.
“I need a ride to the hospital outside Pelulia.” I said.
The midget rolled a toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. Long sparse whiskers sprouted around his lips. He looked as if hed eaten a porcupine. He said, “There’s no hospital outside the city, just the crazy house.”
I gave him an unappreciative glance. He didn’t appear to give a shit, but like a French waiter (in that half condescending, half obsequious way) he smiled, and opened the door for me.
The brutal dirt path that passed for a main road became more obvious and more laughable in that car. On foot it would have been quite a hike, but in that tin can we were like a pair of dice rattling around in a rusty fist. The driver (Lupe) refused to buckle his seatbelt. He sat on a pair of phone books, and worked the pedals with a pair of overblown Frankenstein shoes.
The gates of the hospital were ornate spiked things, brown with rust like coratin steel. Three foot letters arched above the entrance. They would’ve spelled ‘SANITARIUM’, but the ‘R’ was missing.
I paid Lupe with a chunk of my rapidly diminishing funds. He tipped his hat, turned the rattletrap around, and bounced back down the road into the jungle. There was a poem in there somewhere, but I couldn’t think of it right then.
Beyond the rusty gates, the dirt road and jungle gave way to cobblestone lanes and immaculate lawns. Within the oceans of lawn were islands of beautiful flowers. Manicured order from chaos. The gate was open and seemingly unguarded. Patients wandererd around in thier hospital garb. Staff walked from building to building. The main building sat like a Victorian Buddha, about 300 yards in. My boots made a pleasant sound on the cobblestones, like thick bamboo tapping in the wind. I rang the buzzer. I could see nothing beyond the frosted glass in the doors. I had visions of spoiled idle rich, lounging behind that door, drinking mineral water next to an olympic sized pool, and yelling for thier doctors.
The doors opened to a monsoon of noise. Godawful loud voices., and a terrible smell of piss. It was enough to make me jump back with a start. A horse sized woman in a white uniform greeted me. The uniform was crisp and pristine, except for a blob of what looked like creamed corn, on the left shoulder. She introduced herself as nurse Pritchard, just like it said on her name badge, She led me down the main hall to the doctors offices. What appeared to be a beautiful Victorian mansion on the outside, appeared to be a hive of patient rooms. The only patients in the common room were either comatose from anti-psychotics, or shambling around like drooling zombies. Some had ugly lobotomy scars zig zagging across shaved heads. All had the vacant look of unreality. You can see the same look on the faces of sorority girls.
The nurse had me sit on a padded green leather sofa outside the doctors office while she announced me. There were teeth marks on the arms of the sofa. A warm breeze filtered down the hallway. Patient art lined the walls under panes of plexiglass. The one above my head had a vaguely Kandinsky feel to it. The title was, ‘Two angry guys yelling at the sky’. The floor was spotless, but the strong piss scent was thick. An orderly, as big as a pro wrestler, stood by an exit door smoking a cigarette. His eyes scanned the perimiter like a shark, back and forth. I wanted to ask him if I could smoke too, but not bad enough to actually go up and say anything to him. He was a real bruiser. Finally, after an eternity of horrid fascination, the doctor ushered me into his office.
Doctor Fillige stood about five feet even, planted into a pair of patent leather wingtips. Square framed bifocals sat on the end of a sharp beak, pulled from the wrinkled mess of his face. His receeding white hair stood out in cloudy wings, in contrast to the dark skin of his ears. I almost felt like I was talking to a bald eagle. On his desk lay various gadgets; padded manacles, cattle prods, restraints… general nutcracking tools.
The doctor attempted to prepare me, by treating me to a rambling sermon, in psycho-jargon, on stress, latent-psychosis, the nature of good and evil, life and death… blah, blah, blah. It might have been more insightful, had he given me a dictionary, and I had an attention span.
We walked dow the violent wing, flanked by the shark eyed orderly, and another one that looked like an orangutan in a tight human-skin suit. We passed a horrific funhouse zoetrope of distorted faces and actions, set behind inch thick plastic windows, which were set in padded doors. Have you ever seen someone screaming, and not making a sound? It’s pretty damn creepy. One fellow sat, in a straightjacket, attempting to wedge himself into a corner… into nothingness. Another stood, naked from the waist down, his face, hands and hair were slick with his own shit. He grinned at us as we passed, repeating, “I am the mudman! I am The mudman!”.
At the end of the long hall, the doctor stopped the procession, and produced a smallish eelskin wallet, which was bulging with brass skeleton keys. Before he opened the door, he turned to me and said, “Don’t be too dissapointed if you don’t get the reaction that you expect.” I honestly had no real expectations. He unlocked the door, opened it, and we walked in.
The cell was illuminated by the brilliant sun, bursting through the skylight. I thought it looked rather cheery. Memora stood facing the wall, her back to us. A giant sheet of paper covered the wall in front of her. On the paper was such an array of lines and tic marks, that it seemed that she was trying to interprit infinity itself. The doctor, sensing my amazement said, “It’s actually a rather common phenomenon. Sometimes the psychosis in creative persons, forces them into these involved renderings, like a manefestation of itself. Whether the renderings are voicing a perceived reality, or simply are a form of obsessive compulsive masturbation, is unknown.”
I preferred the thought of masturbation. The idea of Memora living in such a circuit board reality really put me off cold.
“What”s interesting in this case,” he continued, “is how the patient seems fixatex on a singular canvas. When she was brought in, as you well know, she was comatose. As a test, I had the paper put up, and gave her a box of charcoals. Almost immediately she began to draw a repeating set of icons. Within two days, the paper was filled, a big black tangle, and she lay on the floor, staring at the sky. I put up another paper, on the far wall, to see if she would repeat the pattern. But for the following three days she wouldn’t even move toward it. I couldn’t figure it out. Quite by accident, later on the third day, I was re-arrainging my library, when I came across a volume on chess. The pattern of the board gave me an idea. I returned to her room with a box of white chalk. For the last three weeks she’s been drawing black, to white, to black… it’s quite fascinating.”
“Can I speak to her?” I asked.
“Of course, but don’t be too disappointed if she doesn’t respond. She’s not the person you remember now.”
I nodded with a grimmace, and made my way over to her. I walked up to her side. She was drawing on the paper, her hands black with charcoal. “Hello Memora.” I said. She didn’t seem to notice me. Her eyes remained fixed on some point beyond what she was drawing. “I know that it’s been a while, but they wouldn’t let you have any visitors until now.” The charcoal kept on scratching. “Apple trees…” I said. No response. Her hair was wild, dark circles under her eyes. I realized that I was talking to myself. I was looking for some magical miracle words, that would bring her back, but I didn’t know what they were. I felt useless. I was pretty useless. “Okay doctor,” I said, “I’m ready to leave now.”
Whatever it was that was animating her frail shell was beyond me. I pictured a fat black spider, with a clear red gut, sitting where her brain should have been. We left the room, and behind me I could hear the spider; scritch, scritch, scritch.
The sky was growing dark as I stood outside of the sanitarium gates. Through the thinner foliage, I could see swatches of sunset, in red and violet. I took another look at the Dadaist collage of mansion in the jungle. A town of 400 maniacs that all lived in a king’s castle. All rich with horrid delusions, and 31 flafors of madness. Four hundred, plus one, counting myself. I was m.i.a. I hadn’t checked in with the bosses since the end of the race. I knew that if they found me, they’d probably kill me. They were nothing more than a legitamate mafia, and I had fucked with their money, In a fit of verve, insanity, whatever, I had a momentary lapse of cognative reasoning. I destroyed existance. Everything that I had access to, whether it belonged to me or not, I had sold. The Black Mariah went in parts, to the other car clubs. The flatbed, hockneys tools, everything. I stood under an awning, holding a makeshift garage sale, sweating in fear. Waiting for a company man in a black suit, to cut my throat. Looking for helicopters, waiting for the inevitable shower of oatmeal from my cranium. But it didn’t happen. Perhaps they didn’t have time, to locate me. Maybe I was one step ahead of them. All I had on me were the clothes I was wearing, a few useless dollars, and a sharp knife. I wired all the rest to the sanitarium, along with the money Memora had won in the race.
I stood watching the foliage shimmer in the wind, and setting sun. Where was I going? I tried to picture myself back in Chicago, snot running from my nose, banging away at a frozen radiator in an efficiency apartment, the greyness pushing through the windows, having to look for a job in the sub-zero weather. Numb feet, crystalized tears, watching the hauntted concentration camp faces on the El train. Huddling in doorways, waiting for the C.T.A. bus to come cutting through the slush. Religated to a neighborhood bar, or a local Dunkin’ Donuts. Making eyes at the cow-like drone of a countergirl. Making some attempt at a human connection, in a city whose primary emotion is fear. Watching the great body of concrete and steel, as it slowly rots. No, I couldn’t see myself doing that again. Or maybe I could, and the visuals were just a bit too vivid.
I lit my last cigarette. I began to walk down the trail, then I began to run. The ground passed under my feet in a blur of leaves and branches, and shadows. The animals chattered and beat out a stacatto jazz synphony. I could have fallen down and hurt myself. Laying on the forest floor, being eaten by insects, with no one to help me. But I didn’t. I stopped running, and started puking. I was out of shape. Smoking had ruined my stamina. My vision all burned around the edges.
I saw the pyramids in the distance, and thought I’d go there.