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Welcome, boys and girls, to the first issue of State of unBeing. Now, I'm sure a bunch of you are wondering how the hell we got the initials SoB instead of SoU. Simple--just capitalize a different letter than the first. Some call it stupid; I call it poetic license. Besides, it's a cheap gimmick to get people to download a file called SOB thinking they're doing something naughty.
Sorry to disappoint.
This e-zine came into being (no pun intended) out of our need of a forum to display our thoughts to the public. A few of us had been involved in a paper 'zine before this, but due to some conflicts (such as money or lack thereof) it ceased to exist. We also just wanted to give the public an open forum where anything could be said without any form of censorship, no matter what viewpoint.
Arguably, one might say that this issue is just a bunch of poetry and fiction with a couple of political commentaries thrown in for good measure. If you feel that way, get off your lazy butt and send us something. It has been my experience that projects like these get talked about a lot and worked on very little, so it was necessary to put something out so we'd at least have an idea that it was worth it.
But it doesn't really matter. I've gotten great satisfaction from putting this e-zine together, and that's all I really wanted. If someone else likes it, so be it. Whatever.
Now, start reading. That's an order. Laugh, cry, sob, sit in a corner. Just enjoy 70k of text written by some high school seniors who actually think they can write intelligently. Even if they can't, how many high school seniors do you know that could put something out like this? I'll shut up now before I get overtly-cynical.
NOTE: I just ran out of cigarettes. Anybody wanna bum me one?
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
"Excuse me," he said to Billy. Then he did it again. "Oh God--" he said, "I knew it was going to be bad getting old." He shook his head. "I didn't know it was going to be this bad."
The U.S. Government sure is an interesting thing. It just simply amazes me how they casually do the things they do, then casually hide behind a building full of red tape, and then casually do them again. It is rather disgusting.
Recently, it was revealed to the public -- for some unknown reason -- that our government has been conducting tests of nuclear weapons, without informing the public, and violating the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Two just overly glorious things in one fatal swap.
In the past 30 years, our government conducted a total of 204 unannounced, secret nuclear tests. Thirty-four of them leaked radiation into the atmosphere. The first was in 1963, right after they agreed to the ban of atmosphere tests. The last was in September of 1992 -- right at the end of Bush's term. Just another reason why I hate the man.
And not only have they been testing nuclear weapons, but performing radiation tests on humans. Over 800. Some were not even informed of the risks. In fact, I am sure a lot of them weren't informed of the risks...
"Oh, those blisters? Don't worry about it! They will disappear in a few days!"
Now, what exactly happened during those radiation tests have not yet been released, but right now it is known that civilians were injected with plutonium to determine what doses of radiation workers could safely be exposed to. Isn't that just nifty? The other statistics are to be released sometime in the near future. It's about time. Of course, the information wasn't released until the government officials involved with it were long past.
Since we are on the subject of radiation, lets delve a little bit deeper into the cesspools. It was also revealed that several government warehouses in six states currently hold around 33.5 tons of plutonium. I bet that is REAL safe.
Apparently, our government is so very concerned about the safety of the average American citizen. Not only do they have tons of plutonium sitting around, but tons of radioactive reactor fuel, too. Oh, yeah! Sure, why not?
In fact, millions of pounds of this fuel are being kept by the Department of Energy in storage pools -- 29 clusters of pools spread all around the country. This fuel was supposed to have sat there for a maximum of 18 months, but they have been there since the 80's. Deterioration of the storage units is occurring, exposing many to dangerously high levels of radiation, and releasing material into the atmosphere that could spread for many years. And of course, the DOE has yet to explore solutions.
Let's skip back a little in time -- back to the early nuclear days.
After World War II, the United States decided they wished to do develop weapons that would kill by radioactive fallout. So, they did. That shouldn't be a surprise, the government usually gets what it wants. There were twelve tests done in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Utah from 1948 to 1952 where they exploded these weapons into the atmosphere. The radiation that was released is thousands of times higher than allowed today. And the funny thing is, they insisted it was all completely safe.
In Dugway, Utah they tested devices that would spread radiation across the fallout area. In Los Alamos, New Mexico they tested devices that would release radiation into the air. In Oak Ridge, Tennessee they tested devices that would release radiation at ground level. And to top it all off, during an experiment in 1949, radiation spread over 200 miles across a stretch of Oregon and Washington.
Now, who wants a glass of fresh, cold, sparkling Oregon water?
As you may have noticed, I am supremely anti-government. I sit here and rant and rave about all this corruption in the U.S. -- the land of the free, the home of the brave; the place where everybody is supposed to go to get a fair chance and a new start. Well, it dawned on me that the U.S. government doesn't only unjustly rule over this country, but over others also.
Let me tell you a nice little tale of the past. This story takes place in a place called El Salvador, a nice little country in Central America. Well, once upon a time, not too long ago, a group of U.S. trained Salvadorian soldiers massacred 926 unarmed people in a little village called El Mosote. They killed anyone who got in the way. Nice, huh? 131 of those killed were children under twelve years old. The youngest being those still in the womb. Three children, who were in their first few months of life were hung, shot, and thrown into the air, landing on the soldiers' bayonets. Witnesses said soldiers would stack up people and shot them, so as to not waste ammunition. Bullets would pass through childrens' heads and put dents into the ground. After all this, the soldiers dumped all the bodies into a shallow pit. After a while, the smell flooded all the houses of people still living there.
As usual, the U.S. Government and the U.S. military paid no attention to any of this. The Reagan administration told Congress and the U.S. people that there was no evidence of a massacre whatsoever.
OH! PARDON ME!! Then I guess that the whole field of bodies and many eyewitnesses are just hallucinations, aren't they Mr. Reagan?!? Sure, why not! And the funny thing is that after Reagan made his initial statement, he made another. He said that El Salvador was progressing in civil rights. Do you know why? So the U.S. could give more weapons and money to the Salvadorian armies. Reagan also said that what actually happened at El Mosote was a conflict between guerillas and government soldiers. This isn't true. The guerillas left the area four days before the soldiers got there.
Who knows. It's just a funny thing that a thousand unarmed, innocent people are killed one day by U.S. trained soldiers with U.S. weapons. And then the U.S. denies that anything ever happened. And then when evidence is shown, they change their statement a little so they won't be lying as much.
Sounds like what occurs everyday in the United States.
imprisoned in a world of confusion and uncertainty
footsteps echo loudly in the hollow of a heart
an endless passageway appears which i must follow
where it shall take me, i do not know
life leads the stray dog into a trap of death
time is both the catalyst and executioner
the same shall happen to me soon, i'm sure
when time judges, the verdict is live or die
i'm trapped in limbo at the perilous crossroads
wondering which way to go, which way to run
it's right behind me, the thing i most fear
my legs fail me as i try to escape
pull at the ground with tired fingers
inch my way forward towards an illusion of eden
the promised land lies over the next foothill
if only i possessed the strength
the breath of insanity flirts with my neck
its potent spell eradicating my senses
vision diminishes as terror awakens
i am not who i appear to be
a diseased hand delves deep into my soul
it grasps onto the root of my inner being
inject the cancer, let it roam free
and dispose of this mindless body
blackness soars throughout these veins
the life they carried evaporates and fades away
a swollen shell of what i once called myself
now floats languidly in a puddle of self-apathy
eyes that hate leer at me from tree tops
gargoyles ready to pounce on my decrepit corpse
their hunger wafts behind the leaves
subtle yet too dangerous not to notice
where is my salvation in this unholy place
only my thoughts can answer, and they betray
my heart dies beside me, cracked and blackened
like a fool wishing for his own immortality
the golden chalice awaits feeble lips
sip from its depths, and all is finished
the parched wasteland of my throat cries out
the hands that raise it are not my own
reaching, fumbling, grabbing, taking
swallow the wine that will make me whole
cool liquid drips into the cavity of my heart
i am not replenished, i am not saved
encased in a vice of malice and numbing hurt
feeling is no more, yet i still taste the pain
lust for the acquittal of sins i did not commit
lost hopes drift away in a chaotic breeze
i gaze upon my face from a distant point in time
jaded and despised, it holds only fading memories
my new existance begins in a state of unbeing
a prisoner of no one, but free from nothing
black lungs exhale a venomous poison
life slowly withers away with each drag
cold fingers buried in deep pockets for warmth
where is she
where does she hide
her slender, dark face feeds warmth to my mind
time passes quickly
the painful memories stay forever
people surround me, yet i am alone
i loved at one time
i gave myself completely to her
and now i have no one but myself
she knows all my secrets
she can destroy me
the street only runs east and west
my direction, however, is south
the day will come when i finally find her
and face the rejection in her eyes
instead of being walked out on
left to wondering what i did
Breathe the water you walk in,
and drink the air to fill your hunger.
The taste of pure nothing cleans,
washing the dirt and tar away
to leave you ready for another life.
Sinking down in woven warmth,
let the caged be free,
and watch their wings spread,
knowing they are welcome to return.
You know they will,
to grope at something new or old,
it makes no difference to them.
They exist to peck at you,
and that is what they do.
Can you still taste the wax stained on my chest?
It can not be cleansed with soap and water,
it must be scraped with your own hands.
Perhaps another coat from another candle
will leave me with more pleasure
than the first.
Soft spoken angels laugh at passers-by,
while perched atop the masked concrete block,
awaiting for the moon to fall.
"Watch the dozen apples ripen into gold,"
a voice from the people massed cried,
without knowledge of the seven stolen by feeble hands.
His blood stained the hands of many there,
but now he stood and made them laugh,
with unmatched illusion and harmonic discord.
Drawn to the worn, well-written face,
the angels pause before their laughter,
and choose to leave before the moon,
knowing they have been beaten.
It was a particular day, a Wednesday, when the terrible Act of Dromm occured. Toquem and I were in the field, taking a pleasant and much needed piss on Mother's petunias.
"This feels quite good," Toquem said.
"Quite. No, no, this feels extremely good. I haven't taken a piss like this since the time Griff and I got smashed and drank about four kegs of beer. That was a good piss. This is a good piss," I said.
"Once I pissed my pants," Toquem said. "That would have been a good piss, except for the fact that everyone laughed at me. Wij pissed his pants, too, on account of laughing at me so. Everyone gave him a good taunting about it."
"I remember this fat girl pissed her pants once. It took her a couple of hours to feel it; she was so fat. I remember kicking her in the fat stomach and yelling, 'Look here, you fat girl, you pissed in your pants. Geez, you're fat. It's a wonder a girl as fat as you could even take a piss, but yes, you did take a piss, all over yourself.' I then called a few of my friends together and we laughed out loud at the fat girl who had pissed herself."
"I never saw a fat girl piss herself, but once I saw a fat boy throw up on himself. I basted him about the skull with a metal pipe and called him 'Spewy.' That was fun."
"Yes, that sounds like fun. You done with your piss?"
"Yes. Let me shake my dong a couple of times. Okay, let's go."
We went inside and drank a couple of beers. Then the Earth blew up. That was the terrible Act of Dromm.
It was in December when I was seventeen that I had left for lunch fifth period, unaware of the situation I was about to enter. Truly, I only wanted a burger and some fries and to return to school to eat lunch with my friends. I pulled my car into Hardee's, as usual, and walked in to place my order. I had given the cashier my money when some girl started screaming. I spun around like everyone else and saw this guy, Brad Kenson, slouched back in a chair, holding a gun in his hand.
"Everyone get out," he said softly. Surely we all heard him in the silence after the girl stopped screaming, but no one moved. "Get out," he said louder, raising the gun like a flag, waving it around. People started to walk out the door but that sudden instinctive burst of panic made them run. I looked at Brad speculatively and frowned.
Brad was not one of the favorite people at my school; few people could disagree with me. I admit I didn't know much about him, but when I first saw him two years before, I immediately assumed he was a drug user or a troublemaker just because of his long hair and dirty, ripped-up clothes. And I had neither seen and heard much to the contrary. I disliked every time I saw him hanging around outside the school after hours, looking ready at any time to trip out in a pathetic, self-degrading durg-induced hallucinatory trip. You couldn't help but see that black hair and those dark, close-set eyes and know he was evil. I tried to ignore him at school, but here, endangering the lives of all these people and me, he made me angry.
"Hey, get out of here," he said listlessly to me, waving the gun in the direction of the door. I looked around and noticed I was the only one left.
"What's going on, anyway?" I asked, trying to appear stern. "Are you, like, robbing the restaurant?"
He grunted a laugh. "I've got better things to do," he said, smiling. He lifted the gun to his head.
At that moment, the human brain demonstrated both its human compassion and its astounding ability to think fast. Although I hated the guy, I dove to push the gun out of his hand. I realized as I was thrusting my arm forward that the gun could point towards me and go off. The next split second I heard the gun click, and I blinked my eyes fiercely at the sound. The next split second I saw the utterly crushing look of despair on Brad's face as the gun flew across the floor, and I fell back in a chair, confused and flustered.
I glared at Brad in anger for having to be the one to save the his life while putting mine in danger. I was not that kind of person.
"Not even loaded. Forgot," he said. "Click, no boom. I'll get it right soon."
He jumped over the area where the gun had flown and picked it up. I could have kicked myself that moment. I never even thought of getting the gun. He started loading the bullets calmly, and some force-field of selfishness prevented me from doing anything. I just watched, terrified. Soon the badly hidden despair in his stark face moved me to act.
"Wait!" I exclaimed, scaring him. His finger jerked and a bullet flew across the room. "Uh, sorry," I said stupidly. My mind finally started working. "What's wrong, Brad?" I asked him sincerely. I truly did not know and quickly dismissed any fleeting ideas I might have had--divorce, alcoholic parents, bad grades--crap like that. The mere thought of suicide astounded me. "Why do you want to die?"
"Why would I want to live?" was his answer. It's really the most depressing answer you can get from a person. He was staring towards the cash register so he wouldn't have to meet my glance or the glances of the people crowded around the windows.
I shrugged unconsciously and became angry at myself for not doing anything. I felt very insignificant next to a suicidal teenager with a loaded gun. I knew there were written in some health book the steps for talking someone out of a suicide, but I had been the only one to overlook them. I imagined the people outside pointing out some chart on the wall with clear, concise steps I was to follow. I looked outside and saw police arriving, but some people stopped the police from entering. They obviously thought I would take care of the problem. More weight on my small shoulders.
I tried to summon to memory the most effective and moving acts of psychology I had seen in movies and TV, but like in a dream, they all mixed together randomly, and I was alone with my wits.
"Come on, man, answer me," I said. "Why die?"
Brad was startled by my empathy but only showed it by looking at me.
"Why die? What a funny question. Think about what you just asked me."
I did and became confused.
"I'll tell you why. It's the world. Humanity. People."
I rolled my eyes. Nice cliche.
"Hey! I'm serious! What the hell kind of society lets a teenager get a gun, and--and go into any restaurant and terrorize it?"
I objected. "That's not because of society--"
"But it is. You don't know how screwed up society is... I mean, look at all those people outside. They're watching this like it's some kind of freak show. No one ever stays behind to fuckin' console the suicidal person. They all run out then let him kill himself inside. Then, people go on TV and tell their shocking stories of seeing the unfortunate person die. Then the news will delve into my life, point out the bad parts, and make the suicide seem like a warning sign that society is collapsing."
"But you just said it was yourself."
"No, LISTEN to me!" he yelled, slamming his hand on the table. "They are going to say I'm a cause of society's breakdown -- you know, rising suicides and shit -- all they ever do is blame the victim!"
I suddenly felt as if Brad were a different person. It shocked me-- someone so grungy-looking having intelligent insights. I yearned to know more, forgetting all the people outside.
"If you're the victim, who's the cause?" I asked.
"I'll tell you -- it's people who run the country. You always thought it was a democracy, right? And the President presides over his glorious nation and bids good health to all? Hah! Congress controls the country. But they're the people's servants, you interject. They're supposed to be. But you'll see about ten people in that House or Senate who really give a shit. Actually, you'll never SEE congressmen -- only lobbyists waving their dollars in their clenched fists eager to keep their boys in power.
"You see, it's all power. Who has power? The Rich, the White, and the Males. Yeah, yeah, civil rights and women's lib. Tell me about it. If all that equality really is working, why don't we see women and black people heading up the corporations who screw the American people over? Why isn't Congress filled with blacks and women who love money as much as they despise the First Amendment? Because civil rights hasn't yet fucked up society enough. Luckily.
"What is civil rights, anyway? It's laws passed to make people able to compete with the big rich white males who want to suppress them! The way I see it, there are already enough good people who see humans as humans, but they're not the ones in power."
I added, "Like you."
"Yeah. I'll tell you--if I were up there, heading GM right now, the only thing different about me would be my position. That's all I would have to change. Do you see what I'm getting at? If I looked like you now, people would say, 'There's someone who's going to make it in life.' Now, they just say, 'Look at that druggie over there. When's he going to throw his bombs at us?'"
My face turned dark red. I bowed my head and mumbled in agreement.
Brad noticed and turned on me. "So, you're one of them, too!? Should have known. Hey, you're Walt, aren't you?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Remember me from third grade?" he asked.
I looked up and locked eyes with him. "You're Bradley Lanton?!" I whispered in awe.
"Exactly! My mom divorced and I got a new last name. But I'm the same person."
"Shit! You were so clean-cut -- even funny sometimes."
"You have to beat humor out of me now," he snarled. "Us antichrists don't like to get friends."
I remembered my previous faux pas and lowered my head again. I knew this Brad person would screw up my day, but never my perceptions of the world outside my own little mind.
"And why am I an antichrist? Oh, because I dress like one. Why, it's in the bible that all antichrists wear flannels and long hair. I get stopped so often in my car by police pigs. You know they want to find some drugs on me so I can go to jail. Get 'my type' off the streets."
"Why don't you dress differently?" I queried, knowing it would evoke a response.
"Are you stupid? I mean, why don't you dress differently? You've got your button-down shirt tucked into your pants, dammit! Look like a little choirboy. But it works, eh? You get plenty respect for looking respectable. It's all the powerful people who you dress like. They see you as an inspiration that their way of life will go on forever. You're just a little conformist ass-kisser."
"Come on, now, you don't know me," I defended myself.
"Oh, you've got a personality beyond YOUR clothes? Just like me? How novel."
"You're right--you've got me thinking about people simply judge you by your clothes. How stupid! It's..."
"Wait, wait--you know nudity is probably illegal because people wouldn't be able to tell each other's social classes apart," Brad said, smirking.
"Yeah! Really! You can't classify anyone unless they have a uniform--"
"Or a race."
"--that too. You just know someone serving burgers in this Hardee's is lowlier than you--eh, me--because they've got the uniform. They're all the same--uniform." I felt proud of myself.
"Sure. It's all the conformity thing. Act like everyone else and get along, and sacrifice yourself in the process. But why? Who needs 250 million clones wandering around the U.S.? Is it to prevent catastrophe? The collapse of our society? I thought that's what democracy was all about. People doing as they please." He held my glance for a few seconds to see if I was thinking it over.
"You sure are perceptive," I commented.
"Well, it's a fucking curse! Here I am, Mister Perceptive, having to use a gun to get someone to listen to me without branding me a stupid druggie!" he screamed. I felt then a loss of something--all that we'd gained together. My heart sank. He reached for a pack of cigarettes in his shirt, and I suddenly remembered he was sitting there with a gun. "Mind if I smoke?" he asked, ignoring any possible response by lighting up.
I wanted to tell him not to smoke but I knew he'd see anti-smoking laws as an oppression of freedom, and rightly so.
For a few minutes, we sat there silent. Brad dragged heavily and I thought about the whole society-sucks argument. I never really had much chance to think about any of it, having no reason to. I started to consider the effect of his type running the country. Soon, though, I wondered if any of them would have enough optimism to overpower their apathy and cynicism. Brad interrupted me before I could start to think of it.
"Frankly, I can't see anything ever changing around here," he spurted out. "Push your civil rights and social reform and gun control laws but people won't take to any of it unless they benefit from it. Screw it!... Hey, I bet you were thinking about cigarette control, eh? Well, OOPS! I'm high on nicotine now, and unresponsible for my actions!" He jumped up from his seat and grabbed the gun. "Gun control? Ha! Here's some social reform for ya, America!"
Brad aimed at the windows and shot twice at police officers poised by the door. I ducked, fearing them shooting back, and scurried on my hands and knees to the bathroom in a room echoing with the gunfire of a lone gunman. I didn't hear anyone fire back. Brad fired a few more times. The screaming outside had died down, strangely, and I peeked out of the bathroom and saw no one at the windows. They were gone. Brad paused and glanced at his gun; then fired it at his head and fell.
It was a few minutes before the people came back to assess the damage. Even the police had hidden. I looked in the restaurant and remembering the image of Brad standing there alone with a gun struck me. No one had tried to stop him. Anyone who tried would have had a direct, virtually unobstructed line to wrest the gun from him. But under the fear of the power of the gun, and what this druggie madman might do, no one took the initiative. Everyone had run away. Police, trained in situations like this, ran away. I remembered my talk with Brad and realized I had run away too. I wondered if Brad's prediction would turn out to be correct.
We were sitting in the corner of a fast food restaurant--me, Ray, and Tammy. Ray was eighteen, strong, and blond. Tammy was twenty-one, gorgeous, and a recovering drug addict. I was, well, just the same old me.
It happened to be Friday night, and we had nothing better to do with our lives then loiter around a small table, drinking free refills of Coke and root beer and smoking cigarettes.
"God, this is fucking boring," Ray said.
"You got a better idea?" I asked.
Ray shrugged. "Is this what our pathetic existence amounts to? We go to school during the day, listening to boring professors lecture on things we don't want to hear, and then, when we need to have some fun, we come here. To Burger King! Maybe we should actually go somewhere else for a change."
This conversation took place almost every Friday night, yet it always failed to accomplish anything. Actually, coming to Burger King did make up a good portion of our free time. It had become almost routine. Besides, I know that the first Friday night we didn't make a stop at Burger King, Ray would get pissed and complain about not going.
We sat in silence for a while, sipping on our drinks and taking drags. The air around our table was beginning to thicken with the smoke, and an old couple with trays of food promptly turned towards the non-smoking section when they saw us. Finally, Tammy broke the silence.
"You guys ever play dirty water?" she asked.
Ray and I looked at each other, and then shook our heads.
"Gimme your ashtrays," she said, motioning with her hands. As we slid the almost-full ashtrays over to Tammy, she dug her free hand into one of her pockets. After a moment of searching, she produced a penny.
"Oh boy, this looks real fun," Ray commented. "What are we gonna do, dump the ashes into the water and drink it?"
Tammy laughed. "Yup."
Ray's face went blank. "You can't be serious."
"You're outta your goddamn mind if you think I'm gonna drink that."
"Well, all of us aren't going to drink the dirty water. Only the loser."
"And exactly how do we determine the loser?" I inquired.
"See, I'm gonna cover this cup with a napkin," she explained while dumping the ashes into the water. "The penny goes in the middle of the napkin, and then we take turns burning holes in the napkin with our cigarettes. The person who makes the penny fall in has to slurp up the sludge."
I hesitated for a moment. I didn't know if I could do that with all that crap in there. "Do we have to swallow the penny."
"No, of course not," Tammy assured. "You could choke on that or something."
"Oh, good," I said, somewhat confused. "Alright, I guess I'm ready."
Tammy proceeded to cover the cup with the napkin and placed the penny in the center. She glanced over at Ray, who still wasn't sure exactly what to make of the situation.
"Ray, you ready?"
"Shit," he cursed. "If I have to drink that stuff, I'm gonna puke."
"That's okay--it usually happens," Tammy said.
"By the way, where did you hear about this game?" I asked.
"Oh, it's just a game a bunch of us recovering druggies play to pass the time."
Quite amusing response, I thought. I guess if you wanna get sick and throw up, it's cheaper than buying beer, and the chance of an overdose is practically nil. But I did have to agree with Ray. If that mucky water passed through my mouth, it would be coming back up onto my two best friends.
"I'll go first," Tammy quickly said, and then burned a hole near the edge of the cup. "It's best if you make a sort of cross-pattern. I've found it's the safest way to live through the night.
I took my cigarette and made a hole on the opposite side of Tammy's. The paper disappeared instantly, a small hole and a line of smoke remaining in its place. Ray put a hole right next to the penny.
"What the hell, Ray?" I said. "You wanna lose?"
"Nope, just trying to make it more interesting," he replied.
Tammy just smiled and placed another hole on the outside rim of the cup. It started to flare up, but she cooled it down by blowing on it, calmly and professionally. She must have played this game a lot. And I thought we were bored.
My turn again. Following Tammy's example, I decided to play it safe and put a hole next to my previous one. I wasn't going to do anything stupid to "make the game more interesting." I like keeping my food down.
As Ray moved forward to make his hole, he caught his elbow on the edge of the table, and his cigarette plunged into the napkin, creating an enormous gap in the napkin. The penny promptly fell in.
"Oh, shit," Ray muttered.
"Looks like we have a winner," Tammy announced. "Time to drink up, Ray."
"Hey, guys, that wasn't my fault," Ray stuttered. "My elbow got caught. I never would have--"
"Oh, shut up, Ray," I said, laughing like a mad man. "You lost, now you get to taste the goodies."
Ray's eyes glared at me, but he knew he had lost. His face looked kind of queasy as he prepared to partake of the nectar of the gods. If this was the nectar of the gods, though, I sure as hell wouldn't want to be a part of the church that worshiped them. I think the night of the Lord's Supper would be one night to stay home and watch 60 Minutes or even scrub the toilets. I'd do anything rather than see a bunch of people drinking dirty water and then vomiting that which the church had so thoughtfully given them.
Tammy removed the napkin and fished the penny out with a spoon. She took my glass of water and poured it into her cup, stirring the blackish liquid. "Ok, Ray, I've diluted it somewhat, since this is your first time. Don't worry, I've only seen one person have to get their stomach pumped because of this."
I pushed the cup over to Ray, who took it into trembling hands. He raised the glass up to his lips and began to drink. Ray's eyes closed and his face was wrinkled in disgust, but he showed no signs of stopping. After a few seconds, the murky water started dribbling down his chin and onto his chest, creating quite a mess. Twenty seconds later, he slammed the cup down triumphantly onto the table.
"Uhhhhh," he said. "That was fucking horrible."
"Come on," Tammy motioned. "Let's go outside."
I understood why immediately and helped Ray up from his chair. We limped outside, much to the dismay of the employee's who were wondering exactly what was wrong with Ray.
"Is he okay?" one of the employees asked as we passed by.
"Next time, cook your damn burgers," I said. The employee looked embarrassed, as if she got that complaint often.
Once we made it outside, I let go of Ray. He stumbled out into the middle of the parking lot, keeled over, and violently threw up chunks of black slosh all over the pavement.
Tammy and I laughed for so long.
"Gimme an ashtray."
We sat in the Lounge drinking various liquids and sucking in thick, warm, nasty air. The rickity circle which we surrounded was crammed with lighters, smokes, and used glasses full of Camel butts. All around us, poetry was being written, women were wooed, and love was rising and crumbling in the sea of human emotions. We didn't care. For us, the entire world stagnated on our table and spilled over onto the floor and chairs. I felt content and deaf. The mouths about me movied rapidly, yet no sound escaped the lips. The overbearing music, the laughter, and crying drowned themselves out and left me with only a roaring to pass the time. I set my glass down on the floor and, oh huzzah. Sleep.
I awoke with my mouth glued shut by mucus. It always seems to leave an escape route. Mucus does. sometimes it wakes me upo with it yelling, "Yippee!" It seems to find joy in the witer slide of my face. However, it had now dried and was only moaning, "Mama told me not to come" (without a British accent).
I looked around, and except for Frank and Bishop, I was alone in the room.
"Hey," said I. "Where is everybody!?"
"They flipped off to Bengal's," replied Frank. "Somebody wanted the new Black Death album. Said they'd be back soon."
"They just left?"
"Yeah. 'Bout three hours ago."
"Oh." We sat for a bit in silence as I cleaned some of the crap out of my mouth with my tongue.
"Hey," I added. "What day is it?"
"Saturday. Sort of." Frank refused to give straight-forward answers, but I was used to it.
"The first part."
"Yeah. About 126,000 minutes since it started."
"You been counting the minutes?"
"Not all of 'em."
"Where's he at?" I asked, indicating Bishop.
"Wonderland. I should never have taught him that." Frank was refering to an intense meditation method in which one slows down one's metabolism to less than that of a hibernating South American toad. I watched Bishop for a moment. His heart beat twice with a two second pause in between each set of chambers. Squish.
"What'd he have?"
"Hell, he's gone then."
"Yeah." Frank lit another cigarette.
"I'm headin' up."
I struggled to my feet and stumbled to the stairs. After what I believe was exactly two years, I got to my room, opened the door and fell face last onto my bed. Unfortunately, someone had left a spoon, a stereo, some CD's and several people in it. I took hold of the spoon and shoved it into the wall. The rest could get out by themselves for all I cared. Violins vibrated the wall as cellos shook the ceiling. Except for a little distortion caused by the vomit-soaked walls, the Chintos Quintet in the room next door sounded rather good.
Spinnlt's "Reverberating Chaos" pounded my brain. I opened my eyes and found that I was blind. I pushed a cat off my face and found myself, once more, visually oriented. The clock on the floor told me that it was two in the afternoon, but I had never known that particular clock to give the right time, so I searched around with my hands until I found a wrist. Five. Jenny's watch was usually right. Jenny wasn't but her watch was. I looked around for the rest of her but found no more than her elbow and possibly her knee. She wasn't an extremely pretty girl. Cute, but not sexy or anything. She was the kind that stands real close to you all the time and occasionly brushes up to see what kind of reaction she can get. That always makes me horny but I try not to let her know so she'll try harder.
I rolled out of bed and searched for a patch of carpet to step on. Finding one between some clothing and papers, I made my way slowly, stepping from one shadow-coated carpet patch to another until I reached the toilet. I then experienced one of the more tiring things that one can. That is, urinating for more than a minute and a half. It shows how little patience we have when it happens. I shuffled back out into the dark and sat down in my chair which dominated one corner of the room. As my eyes adjusted to the dark again, I picked out shapes that lay dead in the slits of light which were filtered through my venetian blinds. "Venetian blind," I thought to myself. Mel Brook's image loomed in front of my brain and answered with gusto. I watched a lamp fall ever so slowly off the large black blob that represented a low bookshelf. It reminded me of a great pine falling in a forest making a noise just to spite the philosophers. The lamp hit the piles of books which resided on the part of my floor just in front of the bookshelf.
"Damn," I said. It is amazing how little such a powerful word can mean when one puts no tone into it. The lamp bounced and landed to barricae the walkway between the wall and the foot of my over-filled bed. I looked carefully at the face that hung over the side of the bed, and was quite sure that it had not been there when I had lain to sleep. I had had a king sized bed stuffed in my room three months before and the day it arrived it became the only bed in the building that was used for sleeping. I think perhaps it was a crude joke started by Bishop. Imagine, talking a whole building into using one bed--my bed. It was quite an accomplishment. I had tried to fight it at first but after a week of sacking out on the floor I thought, "Dammit, that's my bed and I'm sleeping in it no matter who is in it. All the other beds became desks and elevated floors. A couple stayed open in case too many people wanted to snooze at the same time or whatever, but for the most part, there was a constant minimum of three people asleep in my bed at one time. I don't know who changed the sheets. It wasn't me. And I don't know when they did it because, as far as I know, the sheets were always in use. However, someone must have, because every week or fortnight I found the linens to be a different color and a fresher odor.
Very few of the things in the room belonged to me. Actually, a great deal of things belonged to me and most of those were in the room, but of all the things in the room, my property was a very small percentage. There was a collection in my room. It made up the largest percentage of the things in the confines of my room. I do not know what the collection was of. I asked Stone what it was of when he brought it over.
"Of? OF?? It's my collection. You said I could keep it here. Are you going back on your word?"
"No, of course not. Bring it in."
That was the only explanation I got. Sometimes Stone would come over and add things or people to his collection. Sometimes he would take them away, and on rare occasions he would take inventory. I'm not exactly sure how that happened. Bits of the collection were sitting, hanging, melting, mildewing and crawling all over the place. Sometimes pieces of it would just get tired and walk out, but Stone never missed a solitary bit of it. He would run down his list and if anything was missing, he would go hunt it down and secure it more tightly to the floor when he brought it back. The only thing you could nicely say about Stone's collection was that it was very varied. Over the two and a half years that it was in my room, I shot it, rearranged it, fed it, gassed it, electricuted it, shined it, kicked it, cleaned it, dated it, clipped my hair with it, and drank with different parts of it. For a while, Stone had guitar players in his collection.
As I thought of this, I realized that Spinnlt had stopped playing. Usually one notices when something as loud and irritating as Spinnlt does anything, but I had somehow missed them stopping. "Maybe one of 'em died," I hoped. then I thought about what I was thinking. Death wouldn't stop Spinnlt. Or perhaps Death hadn't stopped Spinnlt. They all four looked like corpses and smelled like rotting flesh. But at least they were loud. I think that Spinnlt's lead guitarist, Fish, could probably play an acoustic louder than Kurt Cobain could an electric. No. They weren't dead. They had probably gone out to do whatever it was they did when they weren't rocking their brains out. I wondered what I would do on this fine and lovely day. "Nothing." I was almost sure of that, because it was just the sort of thing that I often did and was likely to do again.
I wanted to talk with Nancy. I wanted to talk with lots of girls. Actually I wanted to do a great deal more than that but speech is better than nothing until it's over. When you finish talking, you both walk away without her knowing how you feel, and there's this empty feeling right in the pit of your soul. You want to bash your head into the closest thing to you and cry because she didn't know or she did and was merely putting up with you. Fridays are the worst days to feel horny cause you know you've got at least three days with nothing but yourself. I do hate Fridays. They promise so much lonesomeness.
I stood up, disgusted with myself and walked out of the darkness into dimness. Hallways, in my opinion, are either dim or antiseptic. I like the dim ones. what I like is a hallway without concrete walls. Concrete pisses me off. It's hard, cold and usually dirty--especially if someone has painted it white. I got out of my dim hallway and went down the emergency stairs at the far end. Nobody used the elevators. At least not on a regular basis, because the stairs were quicker. The most use that the elevator got was when Frank got really drunk. After a bottle of Jack, there was nothing he liked better than to ride up and down and up and down again until he puked all over the buttons. It also got some business after Bishop broke both his ankles and had to ride in a wheelchair for several weeks. He enver rode down it. Always up, but never down. He used the stairs to go down, just like everyone else. What a trooper. You gotta admire a guy like Bishop.
Rob stood under the tall bank building downtown.
"Do you think he'll jump?" he said, looking up at the ledge.
"Dunno," Gray, his best friend, said, throwing the remnants of one hell of a joint onto the sidewalk.
"Let's try to get him to. I hear they fuckin' bounce when they hit."
"Shit. I bet they just splatter all over the place. Why the hell would they bounce?"
"I don't know, man. My brother said he's seen one though, and that the crazy fucker bounced about two feet up after he hit."
"I'm gonna try to get this son of a bitch to jump." Rob cupped his hands over his mouth. "Hey! You stupid fuck on the ledge! Fuck you! I hope you jump and splatter all over the fucking street! You're a loser!"
"Dude!" yelled Gray. "I bet you're a fucking pussy and won't jump! You just want some damn attention so everyone will feel sorry for your dumb ass. Fuck you!"
"Hey," said Rob. "Look, here he comes."
"Fuck," said Gray. "He's comin' down fast. And close, too. I wonder where he's gonna..."
Rob closed his eyes and heard a thud. He opened them slowly. The jumper had landed on Gray, and the two lay there, broken and bleeding. People began to crowd around.
"Son of a bitch," Rob said. "I didn't see the fucker bounce."
It was eight o' clock and already dark as I left the house. Damned daylight savings, I thought. In a rush to get to the library and print out my latest hurried write-it-once-and-turn-it-in essay, I cranked the pedals and shot off into the quiet, calm, and leafy night.
As I was concentrating on my misaligned wheels, I almost missed the figure in the street ahead of me. It shocked me somewhat, as I assumed no one ever went outside anymore, knowing how unsafe the streets were.
The figure was a kid in a white jacket, carrying a long spearlike stick as a sort of cane. As I passed him, I peered into his face and he looked back with a self-protective bitterly indifferent scowl and swung the stick apathetically at me. It sent my empathetic responses going, as I had nothing better to do while biking to the library. I thought about the kid. As I had never seen him around anywhere before, it seemed to me like he could have been running away from home. And what if?
It's strange how sometimes things you make up can make you more responsive to some issues you never would have come across in real life. I mean, my neighborhood is really white-bread with a lot of old people in it. Seeing someone who might be momentarily homeless or at least disgruntled enough with his parents to leave home affected me. I've never come across anything like it before.
I started thinking about where the kid was going. He was heading down the dead end of the road where a forest was. Unless he lived down there, as I felt sure he didn't, he didn't know where he was going. I imagined him walking down, coming across the forest, and deciding to veer left, through an old field leading to the nearby farm road. That would be an interesting path to take. I had once gone up the road, seeing only a few scattered houses around -- a completely foreign place to me -- yet only half a mile away. Since it had been all uphill, I gave up, turned around, and coasted back home.
But that road I gave up on would be where the boy would be heading for miles and miles until he found another hick town to wander through. In between, though, where would he get food and water? Were there enough kind people still existing today?
I looked back, expecting to see the guy still walking towards the dead end, but he was gone. Shit! I thought -- he had turned off too early and would totally miss the farm road! He'd probably get disoriented later and end up walking back through town... but I felt it didn't really matter to me, so I continued forward.
After a little thought, however, I realized it would be a big mistake for him to miss the experience of seeing that road, as I harbored such fond memories of it. I turned around and raced down the street, looking up each side street and not seeing the boy on any of them. Pretty quick he is, I thought, making my way back. I took the road next to the field he should have gone through and looked some more. Little scamp, I thought, he was probably scared of me. I do look kind of mean sometimes. So, I circled the blocks a few times and saw him nowhere. About to continue reluctantly on my trek to the library, I saw him on the other end of the road. He apparently noticed me because he started going faster, you know, little wimpy "fast-walking," where they think they look all calm but they're moving faster than a cat with fireworks up his ass. Little bastard was hiding from me!
"Hey! You!" I yelled at him, but he was apparently too fast for the sound waves to reach him. I did some quick calculations in my head and figured where I could catch up with him a ways up the street. I pedaled mightily up the road, almost losing balance when I had to turn. I went by all the houses that I knew had boys in them to make sure no one else would try to run away, and almost lost in my concentration, turned again on the street ahead of the kid.
I stood still behind a mailbox and waited for the kid -- really stupid, he was still looking behind him -- to get halfway up the block to lessen his chances. When he got there, he was walking normally again, lucky for me because he wouldn't have any excess energy ready to use.
"HEY! YOU!" I screamed, racing out from my hiding place and approaching the kid. He literally jumped and dropped his spear-cane. He fumbled around momentarily to pick it up then started running in the opposite direction, soon finding he couldn't run too fast with a screwed-up center of gravity and leaves all over the streets. I went to work, shifting gears with my practiced accuracy timed to obtain the best acceleration.
"HEY! YOU!" I screamed coming upon him as my tire, spinning in the crack of his ass, dragged him down enough to make him lose his balance. He slipped and the spear impaled his leg, forcing me to run him over. I clutched my brakes when my rear tire went over his head so that I skidded and pulled his hair out in patches.
When I went back over him, the damned spear caught my tire and almost made me fall down. Luckily, I kept my balance. A car was coming, so I turned around, remembering my errand at the library.
After I had gone up a few blocks, I heard the horrible sound of a horn blowing and brakes screeching simultaneously. I looked back and in horror saw that the car had run the boy over. I realized sadly that my little fable of the boy traveling west into new frontiers would go unachieved. Like I said, it shocked me; the world isn't safe anymore. I headed for the library.
You've all seen him. The big purple blob that's Ronald McDonald's best friend. The original purple blob, not that fucked up singing dinosaur. The original. Grimace. I had my first encounter with Grimace when I was eight. My first McDonald's birthday party. He was there "on behalf of Ronald, who couldn't be here himself." He gave me a plastic hand puppet of Ronald. Stupid blob.
My brother followed. His eighth birthday was held at McDonald's. I was nineteen and probably getting laid at the time. I had forgotten all about Grimace. Until that night.
"Charlie?" My little brother came into my room.
"Did you have a party at McDonald's? You know, when you were eight?"
"Umm, yeah, I guess so. I don't really remember."
"Did you get one of these?" he asked, showing me a plastic hand puppet. But it wasn't of Ronald. It was of Grimace.
That wasn't all that wierd. I guess those guys in Demographics and Marketing thought the recent purple blob mania should be tapped upon. I should have been worried, though. Danny might still be alive if I'd have cared. I didn't.
I graduated from college three years later. I holed myself up in a small apartment and played Lennon while pounding out manuscripts on a 1946 Corola typewriter. I lived on cigarettes and cognac. It was April when my mom called.
"Charlie??" The voice was quivering. A knot swelled up in my throat.
"What is it, Mom?"
"Danny... Danny's... been... run over."
"A garbage man hit him. He's... barely recognizable. They had to... had to scrape his guts off of the street." She began to sob.
"How? Why? What happened?"
"Him and his friend's went to McDonald's. As they were coming home, Danny just walked in front of the truck."
I went home for a week. The funeral held and Danny was laid to rest. I stayed in his room that night. That's when I discovered the truth.
Danny was twelve, but he wasn't normal. Instead of having comic book posters, exploited chick posters, or pro-bong posters, he had Grimace. Grimace coloring books, Happy Meal toys, hand puppets, empty cookie boxes, pictures, everything. He even had bed sheets of Ronald and the gang, but everyone--the Hamburglar, Birdee, even Ronald himself--had been marked out with purple ink. My mother came in.
"At first, I thought he was going through a phase, but then..." She grabbed a picture of Grimace and wadded it up. "It's not like he was into drugs. This... this is harmless."
"Neurosis is never harmless," I said.
I got up to go to the kitchen. Someone was in there. It was Peter, Danny's best friend. He turned to look at me.
"Danny wanted to be buried in his Grimace pajamas. We wanted Danny to be buried in his Grimace pajamas."
"Why? What's Grimace? Peter, you're twelve. He's a fat, fucking blob of purple shit. What the hell is Grimace?"
"Grimace is holy." Peter's eyes grew wide. His skin tightened against his face, and his body began to shake.
"What's going on here?" It was my mom. She came up beside us. "Peter, why are you here?"
"Sacrilege!" Peter screamed. He pulled out a switchblade and slashed my mother's throat. Blood welled up in her mouth and spilled thickly down onto her blouse. She crumpled up in a pile on the floor.
"What the fuck!" I yelled. Peter laughed at me, but I jumped back. He cut my arm. I swung and hit the little bastard on the side of the head. He grabbed his face and began to cry. I kicked the shit out of him. The cops came and arrested him. I wanted to leave.
"You need to come down and answer a few questions for us, son," the officer told me.
"No, I have to leave."
"Where to, boy?"
It was one o'clock in the morning. The manager was wiping off tables. He was a thin man, probably worth little more than to wipe off tables.
"We're closed," he said as I walked in.
"Where is Grimace?"
"Grimace, the purple blob. Grimace. Grimace!"
"Uhh, he left." The manager began to turn pale. So was I. I was weak from the blood loss, and I guess cigarettes and whiskey don't help you to be able to run much.
I grabbed the manager by the throat. He screamed. I turned around and saw Grimace lumbering towards me.
"Why do you want Grimace?" it said.
"You killed my brother," I sneered. I ran and threw my fist into his purple blob gut. It sank in. Grimace began to laugh.
"Duh, you can't hurt Grimace." He grabbed me and began to smother me in his purple blob body. I blacked out.
When I came to, I saw Grimace, or a man dressed up as Grimace, lying on the ground, bullet holes riddling his body.
"Drink this," a voice said. I looked up. A man dressed in a black overcoat and sunglasses handed me the ORANGE drink served at McDonald's.
"Why?" I asked.
"Trust me," he said.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- --SoB- -SoB-- --SoB- That's all for this issue. Comments, criticisms, submissions? -SoB-- --SoB- Send mail to Kilgore Trout on The Sprawl at (512) 458-3409 or -SoB-- --SoB- any other board in the Austin (512) area. And if you actually -SoB-- --SoB- get in touch with ole Kilgore, we'll send you a free goat's -SoB-- --SoB- bladder. Okay, maybe not. It depends on our karma. Until the -SoB-- --SoB- next time... -SoB-- --SoB- -SoB-- --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- -= (c) Copyright 1994 by Apocalypse Culture Publications =-