Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UfOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not iSSUE ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what 9/30/98 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in FORTY-NiNE ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
I've been a naughty boy. Somebody needs to spank me.
Okay, so it's not really that bad to warrant the need for some corporal punishment. But I must tell you the reason why we missed the August issue because I think that you, our lovely and loyal readers, deserve an explanation.
Yes, that's right. After missing it for so long, it only seemed natural to continue the trend. Add to that my lazy nature during the summer and the hopeful optimism offered in issue 48's editorial turns into "nobody really believes that it'll come out in August, do they?" And, contrary to some rumors, no, I didn't die again.
I think we've still got creative juice to not have to use that again.
Anyway, so I'll let you dig into the issue since it's been a while and you'll want to get reacquainted with all of your old friends and some new folks, too. Oh yeah, next month, October, will be issue 50, so I figured we'd probably have to have a little gathering somewhere in the central Texas area at the end of the month. If you'd be interested in meeting a bunch of SoB writers and finding out just how socially challenged we really are, drop me an email and we'll keep you informed.
Dear Kilgore and Company: I've been talking with ansat recently about the goings on on #unbeing, and he tells me that there was a certain mediaevalist who, reading my article on the weeping icon at Christ of the Hills Monastery, was interested in the votive body parts mentioned in the article. I've learned since writing this article that the plaques hung by the Orthodox on such miracle icons are called tamatas. These were also hung about the weeping icon of St. Irene at St. Irene Chrysovalantou Greek Orthodox Church in Queens, New York. This can be read about in Fred R. Bleakley's article "Questions of Belief Arise Once Again Over 'Weeping Icon,'" in the 15 July 1994 edition of The Wall Street Journal. As far as the cross to which votive body parts are nailed which is placed above the icon, I have learned that this may indeed be an Orthodox version of the Mexican miracle crosses. As it turns out, a large number of the monks at Christ of the Hills were once Benedictines who converted during the years following Vatican II, and one of the monks instrumental in this was Fr. Benedict, who was himself converted while visiting an Orthodox archbishop in Mexico. (The monks' conversion is discussed in Bette Stockbauer's "'Make Straight the Way of the Lord': The Weeping Icon at Christ of the Hills," which can be read at: http://220.127.116.11/1/Miracles/weepingicon.html. I believe that this was published in the magazine Share International, in which Ms. Stockbauer's articles usually appear and from which a number of articles are taken which appear on Ms. Stockbauer's webpage.) I do not know, however, whether this custom is prevalent among the Orthodox or is only at this particular Monastery. I'd also like to take this opportunity to try to rectify any misconceptions which may arise from my fictions. In my writings, both verse and prose, I've often portrayed the lives of various sinners, from black magicians (insert a "k" if you will) to adulterers and murderers, none of whose actions I condone. Unfortunately, often not much happens in the lives of the best of us from which the author can work fiction, and it is often the most evil among us to whom we turn for our fictions. I wanted to point out that these lives were not ones I thought should be imitated, but I especially wanted to point out that the evil of suicide, which is a sin I've often portrayed and which our readers would be most likely to commit. Sadly it is true that in the past I've seen suicide as, like Hamlet's soliloquy, somewhat tragic and, in a sense glamourous, although never good, but any view of suicide as glamourous becomes impossible once one has known others who have committed suicide. Self-destruction is really an attempt by the suicide to make the world see that he or she is the centre of the universe, but in reality after a person's suicide, the world continues to turn, and that person is slowly forgotten. Suicide is an ugly thing, for it wipes out futures and kills any chance a person has of making anything with his or her life and, more importantly, afterlife, for suicide is no end to pain. Perhaps the most important thing a person must learn in life is that the world will continue to exist without him or her, but that because of that person's existence he or she can make the world a better place. It is really the stronger person and, perhaps, the better person, who does not succumb to evil or flinch in its face, but stands firm despite their own personal difficulties. It is certainly this latter person who does what is right and what is needed, and it is this latter person who is remembered with anything but pain. Dark Crystal Sphere Floating Between Two Universes
From: Chris Hartley Subject: Hey, whats up with SoB? To: firstname.lastname@example.org Whats the deal here folks? I don't mean to be a prick, and I hate to bone ya so much but isn't it about time for another issue? God damn it, you owe it to me! I'm a god damn american citizen and I want my SoB! Also, could you please add me to your mailing list too? Thanks bunches! -- Chris Hartley Following Narcissus
[well, you know, we were busy trying to get an amendment passed that would make reading sob mandatory for every man, woman and child in the US, but unfortunately, our political analysts were not too competent (they worked for hot dogs and old getaway maps from playgrounds during the 50's) so we ended up attaching it as a rider on a bill to make the world happy once again. naturally, it was voted down. and as for the boneing, well, if you keep doing that, the price is gonna have to go up. and yer added.]
From: mcphive To: email@example.com cc: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: SOB Site Hey there. My old mail account got cancelled so this is my new address, so it would be great if you could hook me up with da SOB subscription. Also, if you would like some graphics and/or design for your site, I would be more than glad to help you redesign or design a new SOB site with updated graphics, etc. also, if the zine is being discontinued or something :( then please let me know as well. thanks! mcphive
[yer added. and, as you can see by looking at our web page, somewhere along the lines we apparently didn't transfer all of our graphics. so if anybody would like to do some graphic work for us, we'd really dig you and maybe even not make you eat that old time chunky butter. um um um, gods, i love that chunky better. it's an old apocalypse culture production ritual which will probably get us jailed if the nsa ever reads our archives. but damn, it's tasty.]
From: Bixenta Moonchild To: email@example.com Subject: loyal SoB reader not very happy with you Dear Mr. Trout, Are you temporarily dead again, or is your last issue just really late? Or have you become permanantly dead as far as the 'zine is concerned? Well, let me tell you a little story: I was looking for something in my bookmarks the other day and I realized I had forgotten about SoB for a long time. I thought to myself, "oooh, yummy, yummy, a brand new issue or two must be awaiting me at good old eden.com!!! I better hurry before it goes stale." So my modem connected to the site at the speed of Superman and then you can imagine my devestation when I found nothing new at all. You're lucky I didn't throw myself off of the closest skyscraper. But I thought to myself, "I have faith in Mr. Trout and his merry staff of writers. They will not be so cruel as to totally bum out hundreds of devoted readers." So, Mr. T., where is it? I want a full refund if you've shut down for good. Oh, nevermind, it's free. Well, it would be not-so-nice if you quit making the 'zine because I was going to start writing again soon and it would be nice to have somewhere to put my writing. I'll be standing on a ledge of my local skyscraper until you write back. But probably a first-floor ledge so that I don't hurt myself if I lose my balance. Achingly awaiting your reply, Bixenta Moonchild
[sorry to keep you waiting on the ledge for so long. i'm notoriously bad about not getting back to people in august. it's tradition, i think. but just think, you won't have to worry about a sketchy publication schedule until next august, and then we can play this lovely game all over again. and remember, if you're own a first-floor ledge, watch out for those manholes. it's almost as embarrassing as drowning in a bucket.]
From: firstname.lastname@example.org X-Sender: email@example.com X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Light Version 1.5.4 (32) Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998 12:32:29 -0400 To: Kilgore Trout <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: remove At 05:44 AM 7/31/98 -0500, you wrote: >here it is. > >eat it after you read it to protect the guilty. > >kt > >----- >Kilgore Trout | >kilgore trout <email@example.com> | "Quoi? -- L'Eternite." >Editor of State of unBeing e-zine | --Arthur Rimbaud >http://www.eden.com/~kilgore/sob.html| >
[removed.] [i toyed with the idea of making this a longer editoral reply, but i figured that a one word response was all that that deserved. after all, the least he could have done is tell me why. i'm a human being, i need love and affection, and this outright rejection is going to stain my soul for weeks on end. where is a shoulder i can cry on? but no, i won't stoop that low. i will not allow myself to be demeaned in that fashion. instead, i will just use one word in reply and that is all.]
From: comedy Subject: Re: SoB #48 -- i don't believe in time travel, just tour packages. To: Kilgore Trout <firstname.lastname@example.org> kilgore, I have a question... It seems that most of y'all are from around the same place. So where is it in this grand and good country of ours that y'all are from??? easy, comedy
[the original writers since day one are all from the central texas area. but, of course, we've got readers and writers all the way from california to bulgaria. but our home base, the physical location of the apocalypse culture production offices, is austin, texas. remember to wave to moonlight in his cardboard box while driving underneath i-35 on 183.]
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Marie A. Kazalia
Sometimes I'll hear Tinkerbell buzz chatter connecting dots above my head. Sprinkling disposable packets of dust from her brethren, and home again she'll go, teensy grins before the moment wears off, snapshot pastel tracers left in the air, captured with infrared stop-stop cameras and turned for four-dollar sandwiches and wine. Enough of that and my genes will be altered, fused with sparkly sprinkles of Round Table times, I'll glow in the dark and fly away with leaves of willowy waves about me.
Those North American homelands are almost artificial compared to sighing green hills in Europe, stone upon stone, Brazilian junglian land where mist thickens into vines and the ground oozes unfostered life. Lore and honor are bred in these places, and will be, kept from churning cement and monotone cars -- horses and carts and two-legged walks, sweat embroidered steel and blades before gunpowder grave digging, acts of war between persons and clans and countries no longer personal, no longer revealing, no skillful cross-chested folk. Knights of Templar squeemed into NATO and the United Nations, always with a higher purpose. Faith and religion once held true, science held in fringe embalmed tombs, so much left to explain, left up for each to explain for themselves. And now -- I don't wish to speak of now, pole position role reversals, science is God and God is a myth.
Where has the fairy tale morals gone? Replaced with lust for fictitious paper currency and personified aerodynamics -- SURGE! Contracts and promises no longer sealed with handclasps and words, wax seals and eye to eye honor. Trust has been tossed from the table of elements. Can I say with embodied truth that it once was? If I was once there, whatever age ago, I do not recall, but my heart believes it to be. My heart will choose leather bound legends of lost grails and honor-bred long-haired men dashing through treed hills to protect the common good, over glossy tacked volumes chronicling the capitalist dreams of creamy executives come true. Simpler times, no, but nobler times, perhaps.
Ah, but one must not forget life extension through science and technology breeding medical prowess and star-spangled rocket ships, football field sewer systems and radiating communication dimensions, the further elimination of classes and communism and Islamic extremists, equal rights for mom, dad, Timmy, and the dog on the porch. Let it be! Peace on earth, good will to men, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, hallelujah, praise Thomas Edison. How effective can these advancements be if baskets of ethics and barrels of morals and locked chests of faith are traded for them? And the beloved people of the land all this is done in the name of, left in windowless buildings, detached and detached again, pushing no essence of their life into tasks they do, crafts they mold. Detached thricefold -- millions doing paperwork, scrawling forms in poor meaningless English, no value outside the Dow Jones colonies in silk studded sheets.
Weep, I tell you. I shall weep for everyone, the people's hope stomped under camouflaged lead-laden holes and cigar smoke, $600 ties, white neon Cadillacs. I'll climb atop limestone walls and throw mudscathed hands at the heavens, watching generations seep into the ground after putting their lives into this new breed of mankind -- glittery fast cut 401k man, give it all to the Mindless Gray Company #476, and forty years later you may retire to the hills and meadows, just as you have your second stroke and can only walk twenty-two feet before stopping to rest, then, you faithful old American dream man, you can enjoy your life.
Bring me cathedrals built with bleeding fingers, and duels in mid-afternoon streets, sacrifice of life for love of another, the ability to live and labor off one's own land, looms and blacksmiths, the butcher, the baker, and candlestick maker, and all their torrid lovers and treasure maps, marriage vows, the wondrous magic of a music box, and the full moon with all its secrets.
Reagan-Bush is gone from public office. Thatcher is gone. The Japanese ruling bloc has shifted and, this week, Helmut Kohl, perhaps the last of the prominent Cold Warrior government leaders, has been replaced.
Politics is not the only thing that is shifting. Each of these nations -- and the rest of the world -- is on the brink of a fundamental shift in economic policy. Each of the above-listed Cold Warriors was conservative, free-trade, and monatarist.
Personally, the only formal education I have in economics was a semester in high school when Coach taught me "There is no such thing as a free lunch" and "Anarchism is a form of totalitarianism." So words like "monatarism" often cause me problems. I knew who Milton Friedman was, and I had some idea of his influence, but some of his ideas sounded banal, and the others sounded moronic. Under the unreasoned assumption that one does not get a Nobel Prize in a field in which one is a moron, I set out to do some research. Following are some of my conclusions.
Monatarism is essentially parochial. It is very good at what it does, but does not go beyond that. For what it does, a brief history lesson is called for.
Capitalism, for Marxists, is shorthand for a particular relationship between the ownerships of the means of production. It is, however, of fluid form, and the mercantilism of Adam Smith, while no less capitalist, has differences many and vast from the monatarism of Milton Friedman. From time to time, the ruling class -- in Marxist terms; call it the Establishment in contemporary ones -- has had to revise the theory of capitalism, to make sense of what has happened in the past and is happening in the present.
Previous to the Great Depression, the great question in capitalist theory was: What causes the business cycle, the fact that capitalist economies seem to have periodic booms and busts. Marx had an answer, but no one else did. From what I gather, the answer of the non-Marxists was that the boom and bust cycles were temporary growing pains of the new society, and that these booms and busts would go away over time. They had begun to think the cycles had been tamed when the Great Depression hit. (Incidentally, as we approach another Great Bust -- which is inevitable following such a long period of artificially forced boom -- some people are again imagining the business cycle has been tamed.)
Picking up the pieces after World War II, a man named Keynes came to the fore. I do not recall whether he could explain the business cycle, but he could more or less put a stop to it. Unlike Marx, though, who was writing a critique of capitalism from a philosophical perspective, Keynes appears to have been writing a correction of capitalism from an economic perspective. Under Keynes, a number of things were believed by reputable economists that are not believed now -- for example, that it is a good idea for all people to be employed. Keynes's economics did appear to prevent booms and busts, but Keynes was brought down by another problem: the constant inflation of the seventies.
Keynes's followers could not explain this inflation, and so, while economics still accepts much of what Keynes accepted, he is now said to have been proven "wrong." In retrospect -- not having much background in these fields -- I suspect there may have been causes for Keynesians' inability to take this inflation into account that are not economic. This inflation was setting in during the time of the escalation of the war in Vietnam, with its secretive budgets under Nixon, for example. It would be interesting for someone with the benefit of both the Keynesian perspective and the wider range of historical data now available to attempt a Keynesian reformism. That, however, is not something I am either capable of nor interested in attempting at this point.
Political economy, I suppose, can be said to abhor a vacuum. As Keynes fell from an inability to explain inflation, in stepped Milton Friedman's monatarism. Because he could explain inflation, he became the golden child of the rising international Reaganite bloc. (To be fair, Milton Friedman's economics is about a lot more than inflation, and even though he won his Nobel about this time, if I understand it properly he won it for other work. The rise of monatarism, however, at this point in history, seems to me to have been a result of the inflation of the seventies.) These positions cannot accurately be called "conservative" or "Republican" -- though they have been called both. Kevin Phillips, Patrick Buchanan, and every Republican president between Lincoln and Ford had economic policies I suspect Friedman and Reagan would find fault with. But these positions that did such damage to the middle and working classes of the world though the eighties -- the true impact of which we are only coming to understand now -- were founded on these principles, which seem to have gained credibility through their association with an explanation for inflation.
Here I should note that I suspect I am parting from Friedman, though I can't be sure. I suspect the misuse of monatarism is the fault of poorly-understanding popularizers. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the monatarists found a cure that worked for something -- the manipulation of the money supply on inflation -- and figured it would work for everything. On paper, and in the ideal world of Plato's forms, the manipulation of the money supply seems to manipulate inflation rates, as well as -- if enough assumptions are factored in -- supply and demand curves. The claim that since monatarism was right on inflation it must be right on everything in the real world, though, is superstition -- or at least inductive reasoning.
(An example of an assumption I find very questionable is that people assume the amount of wealth they want to have on hand to be a percentage of their income. While I may not have enough background in Friedman's thought, he seems to be saying, for example, Person A wants to hold ten percent of his income on hand, and will consume if he has more, and save if he has less. This static measure sounded reasonable, for a while. But I don't think it is realistic. I consider it possible, at least, for people to measure the amount they want to hold to be dynamic or comparative: "more," "twice as much as last year," "everything," "more than Person B," etc. It would only take a couple of people operating on such mindsets to disrupt Friedman's idealistic community, but these "exceptions" have not been factored in, perhaps because psychology is an externality.)
As I mentioned, monatarism seems to be parochial. When imported into the real world, even monatarism itself admits it cannot factor everything into account. My calculus teacher once told me the power of calculus is, if you can't figure something out, you can always rename it, and it will go away. In monatarism, things that cannot be solved are called "externalities." With the prejudices of someone influenced by Marx -- a philosopher who brings into his economics everything a true humanism should -- I feel cramped in an economics that covers so little data.
Let us take a classic example of an externality: advertising. Bookstores -- not having consulted with Friedman -- often have advertising books very close to economics books. In monatarism, however, advertising is an "externality." Milton Friedman's opinion is that advertising should not exist, or rather only purely intellectual, informative advertising should exist. I tend to agree. In Plato's ideal world, where we are all cradled in the caring embrace of the invisible hand and equality of opportunity ensures equality of outcome, perhaps this does happen. From a Marxist perspective, though, I don't see that happening. Marxists suspect people are not likely to give away their power and wealth, and tend to suspect that advertisers are a valid part of the economic battlefield -- arrayed on the side of the bourgeoisie against the consumers. Monatarists appear to think everyone wants nothing more than to ensure the liquidity of the markets, and that while people may appear to compete individually to determine prices and exchange rates, everyone in the big picture wants to make sure the market works in as unimpeded a manner as possible -- or perhaps would if they could see the big picture.
Compare this idea of monatarism's -- advertising should be only informative -- with the view of advertising derived from Marxism. Marxism presumes that people will work not to maximize fluidity in the market, but rather to maximize their wealth. (At least, in a capitalistic society, the only society for which we can gather direct observations.) Marx presumes the classes battle against each other, not through any sense of ill will, but as a result of each individual's attempts to maximize his wealth. Why will one person give their wealth to another? Because this second can provide him with something the first person needs. And in this context, one can take a break from analysis and recall the claim Marxism would only supply what a person needs, and none of his wants. This, like most misunderstandings of Marx, comes no doubt from either an unwillingness to read or an inability to understand Marx, for the very first page of the very first chapter of the very first volume of Marx's principal work, Das Kapital, includes the passage: "The nature of these needs [human needs of whatever kind], whether they arise, for example, from the stomach, or the imagination, makes no difference." This is to say, when one speaks of a "need," one may speak of a biological need or a psychologically perceived need; in any case, we each live in a subjective world.
Assuming that each person wants to maximize their wealth, and one increases one's wealth through supplying a second person's needs, if one can create a need, one can increase wealth. This is -- in a Marxist sense -- the purpose of advertising: not to maximize the information available to the consumer so as to encourage purchase of the superior product, but rather to artificially create a need in the mind of the consumer so as to encourage purchase of the advertiser's product. It is important to remember this is not an aberration of capitalism -- at least not if one is a Marxist. Rather, it is the logical result of that series of assumptions.
Monatarism, on the other hand, is less a science than a theology. Monatarism tells how one should act, prescriptively, advising one how to make the free market operate more smoothly. In monatarism, making the free market work smoothly is a moral good -- and, as with many moral systems, is ignored by those with the power to do so, and encouraged in the minds of those who could only benefit by tearing the system down. Marxism, on the other hand, observes how people do act, descriptively, and so can imply how people will act, predictively.
Here it would be wise to note a place a couple of paragraphs back when I defined money in a sloppy manner. Monatarism sees money as a means of exchange, and nothing else. I referred to money as wealth. Money is more than that; in our society, money is a measure of power. (I would suspect this is the root of the insanities arising around money -- the ones mentioned as psychological externalities in the hypothetical community above. Money being viewed as power taps into people's fears of powerlessness, a very prominent fear in our society. The apparent money addictions in our society can possibly be reduced to this view of money as power. And, if this theory is true, it shows another way how it is in the interests of the ruling class to encourage feelings of powerlessness in the minds of the people.) Creating an artificial need increases the suffering a person experiences -- recalling that suffering, like need, has nothing of the objective in it. This increased suffering decreases the power in the hands of the masses, and increases both money and power in the hands of those who pretend they have the solutions to the suffering. The worst caricature of the Medieval priest claiming an eventual end to the suffering of the peasant in the next world barely holds a candle to the current day bourgeoisie's self-serving claims that, if one gives them enough tribute and obeisance, they will make one beautiful, happy, and sexually fulfilled. Always at the cost of your neighbor's happiness.
Advertising is not the only externality, though it is one I have heard Milton Friedman explicitly discuss. Some others that can be briefly mentioned, but should be more thoroughly explored in an exploration of the failings of the Populist position, include the State and guns. Populists, and other non-Marxists, tend to consider fascism and totalitarianism to be, like emotionally tagged advertising, aberrations of the free market. They are aberrations in the grand, idealistic, Platonic free market, but are the logical and -- barring counterforce -- inevitable results of the "free market" system in this particular world. Guns and State force are transformed, just as money, just as sex, just as humanity, into commodities, and those with the wealth and the interest purchase from the State the service of suppression of the people. Slavery pays.
While, as mentioned, monatarism is very good at explaining how the money supply relates to inflation -- at least insofar as I understand it -- the excess of externalities and what I consider an inaccurate faith in the sanctity and incorruptibility of the free market cause it to fall in my esteem. As a Marxist, I suppose I have been spoiled. I am impatient with any "economic system" which fails to comprehend anything beyond the liquidity of dollars. Politics is not economics by other means; politics is economics.
Coming back to where we began: We are seeing the monatarist heads of the world passing from the field of battle, as we see the economic "New World Order" pass. People are not simply economic animals, and a worldview that believes everyone wants to work together for the benefit of the market is naive, at best; it is remarkable it fooled so many people for so long. But now we enter in to a more realistic world, perhaps still impacted by economics, but only in the wider sense of Marx, not with the externalities relegated to footnotes to make the equations balance.
I'm getting lonely again. This dismal pet I've fought to keep away from for years is dancing with my head and grasping my naked feet. Lonely may not be the word to use, as I am surrounded by kinful friendfolk with minds drawn from the nectars of above and souls that follow such natural causeways -- them I appreciate, and cast respect towards, scarcely finding equals inbetween crowds and comers. This kind of lonesomeness stems from the lack of, and desire for, a beaming personal affection from some romantistically inclined source, the lost feelings of you and your other leaning into each other, spending hours upon hours and days upon days no more than a few feet apart. That sphere of warmth that blips and bloops around you, the giving and receiving of understanding and knowledge, caring knowledge, slipped to and back on nanowire ether paths unseen in light, microscopes, or from satellites above.
It is not as if I feel worthless and incomplete without it -- I am sure I will survive and thrive and save humanity if such encounters refuse to occur again. I simply miss those feelings, for they are highly enjoyable toxic waves. And as the elders would have it, these desires were only enforced upon my realization by the physical presence of others. In a chandeliered room amongst toddler chairs and aching bones, Kilgore and I sat, awaiting for lectures on the followers of Horus and tombs of Osiris, asteroid devastated Mars, ancient artificial structures, cataclysm and mystery. Hours before, jokes were shared about encountering vixens from Austin with massive intellect and money for dinner. In the few minutes to spare, a girl arrived, with father at her side, and sat directly in front of us. To this, I had to chuckle, loving synchronistic events in space and time, and knowing Kilgore noticed her presence as well. Ah, so what? Another count of another lost chance, missed encounter, or grandiose fantasy, only sharpened by the thoughts of loneliness. She was young, fifteen to seventeen, several years before me, challenging any moral age boundaries I've drawn and redrawn. The few times I heard her speak, it was done in clear, precise, intelligent ways, with warmth and hope -- a good vibe girl at such a young age. GVG, not a thing to be thrown around haphazardly, sparingly used, reserved for the pure. Of course, her voice was accompanied with deep brown eyes, and some interest in the topic present, although she may have been dragged about by her father. Such is fine, enough to pull though patterns ahead, to divide and wonder, disguise hope and wishes. I can escape such circular traps, dead-ends of desires.
Another twisting iron mass was tossed down, though, as we scurried to smokeland at intermission. Outside the sliding doors, I sifted through the information slapped into my head for the past hour and a half, only to glance up and see the same youthful girl placing herself at a piano in the lobby, and pour out uninhibited notes to unravel my mind.
This can not go unnoticed, as I have a divine obsession with pianos and the array of sounds that float from their strings. The playing of the instrument fills the gaps in my being and more, providing entirety, lifting the gaze through towers of life. It is saddening to think I do not own a piano, and have all but forgotten how to play. But she had not, and upon entering the building again, I caught some words between her and an onlooker, her stating she wrote the piece she had just played, and him being amazed, as was I.
And that was all -- left with tumbling space and merchant booksellers to drift home to electronics and dogs and phantom text entities. I am certain the loneliness will pass, and most likely return with extra Bolivian force, sinking me to a temporary core of grasping, and I shall grasp for a bit and tumble back out of the hole, heading onward through my forest, to dance with elves and lilies and swooping magpies, tainted with jazz and poppy seeds, on paths of stone and dirt and grass to find whatever I am meant to find.
"In the East poets are sometimes thrown in prison--a sort of compliment, since it suggests the author has done something at least as real as theft or rape or revolution. Here poets are allowed to publish anything at all -- a sort of punishment in effect, prison without walls, without echoes, without palpable existence -- shadow-realm of print, or of abstract thought -- world without risk or eros."
pressing against my schizo-natural door
pushing to check my sink
filling it with water
to see where leaking from
into the health-food-store below
He stood in my room talking
about Patel who owns this shabby hotel
Never truly anything fixed/repaired
That plumber let me know
PATEL lost 300 thousand dollars
in a court settlement recently
I said: cool
with definite rancor in my tone
they took me out
screaming and kicking
my youth dangling by a thread
She stoops near the end of the dock
her hair wet, heavy, curled behind her in a half-thought twist.
I grab the rods from the back of the truck.
Already the line is tangled, and the tackle box is overturned
probably from where we missed that dog on the highway.
He was lost, I think. And crazy.
I bring an old blanket from the cab to where she is sitting.
Her legs dangle in the black water
white swallowed by black
with only ripples from the movements of her toes.
Do you think they will nibble on my feet?
and decide not to tell her that it is too late to fish,
but I don't mind.
She really wanted a piece of pie,
and the slice of cheese
gooey and salty and oily on top
was a good idea.
I throw out my line, relaxing as it snakes through the water.
Dark silence rolls in from the sea two miles due east of us
from the sea into our harbor.
playing with my stomach.
You're getting fat.
Maybe we shouldn't have stopped for pie.
I kiss her gently on the ear and wait
as the sinker on the line falls further and further,
past seaweed, sleeping fish, rocks.
I think of the cricket on the end of the line
and feel sorry for him -- drowning and not in the feeder with the others.
I sing him a song
in a low hum
and she sighs and winds herself closer around me.
He will be dead soon
and she asleep.
And the sun will be rising in a few hours
in the rearview mirror.
haven't had a pair on since 1991
coyote shadow howling
Who Who who who
Every pore in her body
with a sharp little stone
Ask her a favor
Please take a shower
she staggers into bathroom
stands in pink tub
bashes out of the vinyl curtain
five minutes later
Lotus position in bed
Thought I'd wanted my first experience
kissing her stiff little mouth
hard little ears
Closing herself down
like Bukowski said
doesn't mater what
you put down
one word as
crosswalks. it's funny. i think it's crowd that really does it. occasionally you get the really good crowds. you walk through the clouds of perfume and after-shave, no person thinking about another, save the random couple who are involved in discussion about the movie they just saw, a dinner just minutes before or idle, first date conversation, whatever. you manage to pick out one woman's perfume. with her chemistry, she smells, quite simply, like sex. perhaps not actually like sex. more like a girl whom you slept with years ago, who's smell you could pick out of a crowd... a crowd just like this one. a smell so reminiscent of some one that you could never forget. no matter how hard you try. even the smell of the group... the smell of the one not forgotten, the smell of your father, a thousand smells, each with a memory. all of them rush through your mind in a matter of seconds. for a moment, you are frozen in time. you continue, casually, in anticipation of the next crosswalk.
In China and Hong Kong
there is no keeping after death
like we do --
One man's story in English newspaper
about the plane crash
They simply sweep up the mess
Get on with everything---
Keep going, eating, working, moving forward
Day set aside for appeasing ghosts
Paper wealth to burn
Packed China Airlines flight forced into
a dive after fuel shortage in both engines
Mr. Slogan an American passenger said
the flight like "hell"
that the Chinese captain
repeatedly tilted the wings of the jet
in an attempt to force fuel in wing tanks
to engines--then lowered the nose by 25 degrees
the pilot rolled the wings 30 to 40 times
these drastic measures got both engines
working normally and the Shanghai-built
aircraft leveled out--
When we asked what happened
we were met with stone faces
like nothing ever happened
We continued climbing up the overpass. If I reckon correctly, at our current speed of 40 miles per hour, we had been on the overpass for about three minutes and were not halfway over yet. Tom's car couldn't go any faster because the person in front of us was going very slowly. Also the road was steep. I agree with the naysayers who denounced the construction of the overpass. It wasn't planned or executed properly. The overpass was made about two years ago, but that was two years in geological time, and during the construction the continental plates pushed up and created a volcano which then solidified into a precipitous mountain. The contractors had been using the standard technique of supporting the ever-rising road with beams of eight-foot thick solid concrete, but as altitudes approached an eighth of a mile, they had to resort to building an arch over the road, as in the Golden Gate Bridge. As altitudes increased to half a mile, though, they had to abruptly end the arch and replace them with groups of helicopters manned twenty-four hours a day by contract laborers whose job was to keep them steady. When the shift changed, the overpass trembled a bit as one helicopter at a time would unhitch its titanium rope and let a new one take its place. Also, drivers were occasionally run off the bridge into the downward slope of the mountain by collisions with frozen blocks of toilet ice dumped from the helicopters.
"This guy is gonna run right into us," Tom kept on muttering and crying out, gesturing wildly at the car in front of us. "And I can't stop. My brakes can't handle it."
"Stop worrying. Keep going forward," I reassured him.
"He's gonna back up, the crazy bastard. Look! His backup lights are on."
"No, Tom, the red plastic just fell off."
"Those are white lights. They're backup lights. God, I am going to look like such a fool when he hits us. He's had his lights on for five minutes now. He's given me ample warning. All this time, his engine has been steadily slowing down and preparing to drive backward. It's going to happen sooner or later. Oh fuck."
This is the time when the lady in the car would have snapped, "I've had enough of this. Let me out right here." Tom gave me a surprised expression. Did I actually say that?
"Oh sure, Maura, I'll let you out at the water slide," he muttered.
An amusement park was actually located right off the highway, at about ten feet's distance, enough to park small cars single-file. The only ride at the amusement park, contrary to Tom's opinion, was not a water slide, but a slide about fifty feet in length that curved down into an upward-shooting arc like a ski jump. The passenger would get on at the top, slide down, fly off, soar into a crevice and get smashed to bits.
Tom bitched and moaned about the backing-up car in front of us until we finally got to the crest of the overpass. By this time wearing oxygen masks was mandatory and I didn't have to hear Tom's voice anymore, only that strange rubber musical echo escaping from the mask.
So many people, when they reach the crest of the mountain, prepare for a fantastic ride downhill at speeds in excess of one hundred and fifty miles an hour with brakes fully applied, but the state ran out of money to finish the overpass at this distance, so all drivers must get out of their cars at the top, take an elevator down to the ground, and wait for their cars to arrive through parcel post at a nearby post office. The cost of postage offsets the salaries of the two hundred helicopter operators.
I was in a bad mood by the time our car reached the end of the road and it didn't help one bit that to find out that the stamp booth was closed for the weekend. I started screaming and cursing at the person whose job it was to tell us that we couldn't buy stamps at least until Monday. And I marveled at the others who accepted this information without a fight, just because this person was a police officer and because the booth had just slid off into the precipice and killed the employees. That didn't change the facts!
I was reluctantly grateful that the oxygen-enhanced lobby was still functional and Tom and I wouldn't have to sleep alone here on the top of a mountain, like in those emotionally torturing Everest days, dodging the lightning and praying to God that neither of us would utter the wrong pronunciation of "potato" and trigger three hours of passionate embittered singing.
"You two should join the others against the nonpayers wall," the police officer told us. "And remember, we have bathrooms -- I don't want to clean up any of your messes, you hear?"
The nonpayers wall was the low water mark of a driver's life, a long delay in a misplanned trip. Poor drivers and their passengers would congregate here begging for stamp money so they could give their vehicles a ride in the dirigible down to safety. Because, as large signs warned clearly:
IT IS THE TOP OF A PRECIPITOUS PEAK
ONLY THREE VEHICLES MAY REMAIN AT ANY TIME
ALL OTHERS WILL BE LOST
The police officer understood this special situation, though, and was allowing our three vehicles to stay indefinitely in the loading/unloading dock, resentfully ignoring the discharging lever that "lost" excess vehicles. Everyone else on the overpass had to leave their cars on the road with their parking brakes on.
Tom and I sat on the nonpayers' bench and waited for Monday to arrive, when new stamp booth attendants would be trained to come up and do their tedious jobs. Tom suspiciously eyed the driver sitting next to us, who had supposedly been about to back into us.
"You know what, Kate?" he asked me, eye suddenly ablaze as if he had solved all the questions. He paused and genuflected. "We're damned lucky."
Nicky the Ghoul couldn't stand it. Ever since Lisa (also a ghoul) had made her debut in the adult film Lesbian Vampyres of Sodom, he couldn't go anywhere with her without every red-blooded male over twelve years of age obscenely ogling his girl. Not to the mall. Not to a burger joint. Not even to the gas station where the morons running the place fell all over themselves just to pump gas for the woman now known as Lisa Lust.
Take the ball game at Cashman Field in Las Vegas last June, for instance. Nicky thought a baseball game would be a perfect escape from the drooling masses. Thus, Nicky and Lisa had just sat down in their seats behind home plate when three pimply-faced adolescent boys came running over from their seats behind third base and stood not three feet from the ghoulish duo; the kids were panting like young animals in heat.
"Oh, Jesus, damn, wow!" yelled the breathless short overweight kid wearing thick dark-rimmed glasses and a black T-shirt that had "Ozzie Rules" stenciled in red across the front. "Are you Lisa Lust? Are ya? Huh? Damn! Damn!!"
"I sure am, Sugarboy," mewed Lisa, flattered that she would be recognized even in a minor league baseball park. A gorgeous woman with shaggy blonde hair, killer blue eyes, and a figure that would give even the Pope a hard-on, Lisa removed her sun glasses and batted her eye lashes to give the boy a better look.
"Lady," panted another of the punks, a middle-sized boy who wore a blue New York Mets shirt and whose dark hair had been shaved into a V, "you were great! Can we have a autograph or something?" The kid rubbed his crotch.
"Uh, whaddya mean by 'somethin',' stud?" Lisa coyly cooed. Breathing deeply to force himself to relax, Nicky closed his eyes and prayed that these boys would disappear.
Overwhelmed by her week-old popularity, Lisa smiled, popped her gum, and asked, "Whaddya want me to autograph, guys?" She gave the third boy, a tall red-head wearing a Chicago Bulls cap and a T-shirt that read "Nine-Inch Nails," a wink and glanced obviously at the bulge in his pants.
Nicky had had enough. He stood and removed his sunglasses. "Would you three little perverts just get the fuck outa here!" he shouted, his booming voice carrying across the playing field so that some of the players warming up on the infield grass paused and looked up. As the three kids bolted like badly frightened rabbits, Nicky puts his hands on his hips and looked down at Lisa. Lisa was on the verge of tears.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, thought Nicky to himself, here we go again. "Hey, look, Sweetheart," Nicky began, trying to turn the evening around, "lemme go get us some eats. Hot dogs and beer. You like a beer, honey?" Nicky put his face next to Lisa's, smelled her hair, and kissed his girl on the cheek.
But Lisa was not to be moved. "I don't want nothin'," she sourly mumbled, folding her arms and sticking out her lower lip, a porn queen pouting at the ball park.
What a fucked up night, thought the ghoul to himself. Wishing that they had stayed home to watch "Home Improvement" or even "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Nicky sighed, ran his fingers through his long, disheveled black hair, and said, "All right, but I gotta go take a piss." Nicky left.
When the ghoul returned with two beers, one for himself and one for Lisa, he found his seat occupied by a huge middle-aged man with shoulder-length dirty brown hair, a hairy pock-marked face, tattoos up and down his arms, and a red and black T-shirt that read "Boob Cruise '96" on the back. A huge smile on her face, Lisa was writing something on the back of this guy's T-shirt.
Nicky paused long enough to set the beer down on one of the concrete steps and decide his next move. He gazed out over the left field wall at the blood-red sandstone mountains. The sun was beginning to set. Then he walked up to Lisa and her new boyfriend and commanded in a firm voice, "Get lost, old man. This is my girl."
Nicky looked down at the big man, hoping this guy wouldn't be stupid enough to cause trouble.
"Not no more she ain't, you fuckin' runt," said the lummox, who stood, clenched his beefy fists, gritted his teeth, and scowled. Nicky wondered how many steroids this guy was on. "This girl's now public property," the huge man stated. "Or, better yet, 'pubic property.' An' she says I got real nice buns." The muscular man towered over Nicky and easily weighed three hundred pounds. A ghoul of medium build but with huge, muscular arms as well, Nicky ran his fingers through his hair again, looked out at the flag now blowing east on the wall above center field, and wished he were a baseball player instead of the lover of America's newest porn queen.
Then, suddenly, Nicky went into action. As she always did when Nicky fought, Lisa shrieked and laughed simultaneously. It was like a game to her.
It was just as he grabbed the big man by the throat and dragged him out into the aisle like a straw doll that Nicky realized he'd seen this guy on the wrestling channel. He was called Pile Driver, one of Nicky's all-time favorites. And Pile Driver was always one of the good guys. In fact, next week on pay-per-view Pile Driver was supposed to wrestle The Beast for the championship in a no-holds barred iron-cage match.
His rage dissipating, Nicky sat on the guy's chest (security guards madly rushing to the scene of the altercation) and decided against crushing his opponent's throat, an easy task for a ghoul who had the strength of ten men. Pile Driver was already starting to turn blue.
"Listen, Pile Driver," Nicky placed his face about an inch from that of his opponent and rasped in a bestial and guttural voice, "you big mound of flesh, you ever fuck with my girl again I'll rip out your tongue and eyes and shove 'em up your ass. Got it?"
Terrified, shaking, and sweating, Pile Driver meekly nodded his head. Nicky held the man by the throat for a few more minutes until Pile Driver began to cry.
When Nicky let him up, Pile Driver whimpered, dried his eyes, rubbed his throat, gave the ghoul one last frightened look and sprinted up the aisle. The security guards, all overweight retired men, stood ten rows up, afraid to approach the ghoul.
Nicky sat down just as the first pitch was thrown. Lisa looked over at him, put her hand between his knees, and squeezed the ghoul's manhood. Then, in a tone that said, "Oh, honey, I wish you could fuck me now," she purred, "You're so brave and tough, Nicky. I just love it when you scare the shit outta people like that."
"Lisa, honey," Nicky responded in the sweetest, most charming voice he could muster, "just shut the fuck up and drink your beer."
Things were not to get better as Lisa's fame spread like wild fire. Again, take the now famous Southern Utah incident, which occurred about three weeks after the ball game. Nicky, Lisa and their best friend Alex the Werewolf had decided to drive up to Southern Utah during the middle of the week, maybe even do some fishing. Alex would drive his Plymouth '76 convertible and play Big Band music all the way from Vegas.
It was late July, a full-moon night. The three arrived in Otter -- sixty miles north of Cedar City -- around 2:00 in the afternoon, checked into the old Stag Motel, and kicked back in their room, watching "Gilligan's Island" re-runs until about 9 PM when Alex suggested they get a bite to eat.
In a good mood, they walked down Main to a restaurant called La Bamba, the building worn and dilapidated on the outside and on the inside one of the dirtiest restaurants any of them had ever seen. The tables were sticky, the silverware dirty, and bits of food littered the faded red carpet. It was enough to make a ghoul sick.
Nicky sat next to Alex and across from Lisa in a cherry-red upholstered booth right next to the entrance. A thin bespectacled intellectual type with light brown hair, a beard and a mustache, Alex was getting buzzed drinking coffee and excitedly explaining to Lisa Michel Foucault's theories of prisons as they applied to the development of restrictive systems of Western thought. Fascinated, Lisa occasionally exclaimed things like "Wow, Alex!" and "I didn't know that!" and "Huh??" As Alex droned on, Nicky worked on his second Bambi's Double Deluxe Cheeseburger and selected a couple of favorite pieces from the small jukebox: Nazareth's "Love Hurts" and Boston's "Foreplay."
Ignoring most of what Alex said and listening to the music, Nicky was now silently blaming himself for Lisa's incredible rise in popularity among American males. It was like he was losing his girl. Certainly, the blonde ditz sitting across from him wasn't the same old Lisa he had met at the Fourteenth Annual Southern Nevada Blood Feast years ago. In fact, thinking back over the past year and a half as he put his fourth bottle of Wolf's Head beer to his lips, he wished he'd never, never encouraged Lisa to try her wings in the porn business. On the advice of Lisa's therapist, who claimed that Lisa had rock-bottom self-esteem, Nicky had contacted an old friend and gotten his girl involved in the adult film industry.
Drinking his beer, tuning out Alex, and studying his girlfriend's half-exposed and very large tits as she ate her lamb chops, Nicky recalled that five months after journeying to Tahiti to make Lesbian Vampyres of Sodom with Ricky Studd, Lisa's film had been released to theaters and book stores around the country. For the first few days after the film's release, Nicky was actually happy for Lisa: Lisa could go nowhere without twenty or thirty people recognizing her; her mood notably brightened.
But things got out of hand. There was the ball game, for instance, when Nicky had nearly taken the life of his favorite wrestler. Then there was an ugly incident at the college involving one of Lisa's male professors, who claimed that his interest in porn stars was entirely academic. There was a bloody altercation with a softball team in Denny's parking lot late one night when he, Alex and Lisa had gone out to get something to eat. And sure as shit, something was going to happen tonight. Nicky could feel it in his bones.
Indeed, La Bamba was the sort of place where trouble always occurred. Located in the middle of some of the richest farm land in the Southwest, the dark, dinghy little dive seemed to attract everything that crept and crawled through the desert night.
For example, in the next booth behind them Nicky noticed a young lady wearing a sexy black dress that reached to just below the crotch. With wild raven hair and a ton of mascara around her eyes, the lady had unbuttoned the dress down to her belly button. Nicky could even see her nipples. She wore black fish-net stockings and probably nothing else underneath. Nothing like advertising, Nicky thought to himself.
At a booth just across from theirs sat four young men, early twenties Nicky guessed, all dressed in black, hair dyed black, their faces pale as death, sitting upright, coked to the gills, and mumbling and laughing together. A group of Satanists, most likely, out for a good time in Southern Utah. They couldn't take their eyes off Lisa. They recognized Lisa Lust.
Finally, in a booth in the back of the room sat three men, all sporting scruffy beards and wearing baseball caps. For twenty minutes, these yokels had silently, unceasingly gawked at his girl. Obviously, they too had recognized Lisa. Dressed in dirty jeans, flannel shirts, and black work boots, these three clowns continued to drink their beer and stare and point at Lisa, occasionally letting out a wolf-whistle. When Lisa turned around, one of the men -- a balding fellow with fat cheeks and a huge golden toothpick hanging from his mouth -- stuck out and wriggled his tongue at her.
"Hey, Nicky," Lisa exclaimed, turning around and cutting Alex off in mid-sentence (Alex was explaining Stanley Fish's theories regarding reader-response criticism). "Hey, Nick, didya see what that one guy just done? Funny, huh? They gotta know who I am."
Of course the ghoul had seen it. No, it wasn't funny. And everyone knew who Lisa was; therein lay the problem. "Don't worry about it," Nicky said coldly, taking a huge bite out of his burger. "You ignore them, they ignore you. They're dumb fucks. That's the way it's gotta work." Nicky was getting sick of this shit.
Unable to resist, however, Lisa looked around again. This time, both the bald man and the small, thin man with a graying crew cut made the same obscene gesture towards Lisa with their tongues.
"Oooohhh, nasty, nasty boys," Lisa said in a loud whiny playful voice loud enough to be heard all the way to the back of the restaurant. Then, to Nicky's outrage, the giggling Lisa blew the three men a kiss.
"Oh, Christ," muttered Nicky, tossing his hamburger down on his plate as he watched the three men get up from their table, smile, and hitch their jeans. Hands shoved deep into their pockets, the men slowly sauntered over, bringing the unmistakable odor of pig shit with them.
The biggest of the three weighed close to three hundred pounds, had dark blonde curly hair and resembled John Goodman. He wore a blue hat that said "Earl" in bright yellow letters.
"Well, well, well, what we got here, Phil?" Earl asked to one of the men, moving closer to Lisa and putting his hand on her shoulder.
"Looks to me like we got ourselves some ass tonight, Earl," answered the small man, who eyed Nicky maliciously.
As Nicky waited for the event to unfold, Alex put his book down onto the table, removed his glasses, and said to the three men, "Pardon me for being so terribly rude, but we three were just passing through, really, minding our own business. You really have no right to so rudely interrupt us. Now please go away." Nicky picked up his hamburger and took a bite.
"Ain't no one goin' no where, little man. An' the lady here sure as hell ain't goin' anywhere without us," said the bald man with the golden toothpick. "Anyone goes anywhere, it's her. She is a-comin' with us. We just wanna have a little fun is all."
Nicky's response surprised everyone, even himself. "OK, fellas," he conceded, his head in his hands, "go ahead and take her. I don't give a fuck no more. But have her back here in, oh, say, three hours." Nicky then looked away from Lisa and the three men, studied his plate, picked up, and bit into his cheeseburger.
"Nicky!" Lisa shouted. "You serious? All these guys wanna do is fuck me. Which ain't bad. But you just gonna lemme go without sayin' shit?"
"Nicholas," Alex exclaimed, using the name that signified that he was quite upset over his ghoulish friend's decision, "just what do you think you are doing?"
"Gentlemen?" Nicky looked imploringly at the three red necks. Fed up with Lisa's antics, he hoped this would teach his girl a lesson she would never forget.
"Nicky the Ghoul!!" exclaimed Lisa, stunned by her boyfriend's behavior. "I am really, really, really kinda disappointed in you, I guess." Then, shrugging her shoulders and looking up at the three men, then glancing back at Nicky, she smiled hugely and, giving in to temptation, said, "Well, huh, let's go, boys."
"Now that's what I call a real good girl," said Earl, his voice soft and mellow. "You comin' on a ride in the back of my truck with the three of us. Your boyfriend and his girlish friend here," and here the man looked contemptuously at Alex, "they can sure as hell come along and watch." Staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, Nicky just nodded as Earl gently took Lisa by the right arm and helped her out of the booth. Then Lisa and the three country yokels walked out of the restaurant and into the night.
Incensed, always concerned with the ethics of any situation, Alex looked at Nicky. "Nick," he began, "what have you just done? Are you insane?"
"I let my girl go," came the subdued answer. Somewhat puzzled by his own behavior, Nicky stared into the dark space at the back of the restaurant. "She's a big porn star now. She dreams about everyone fuckin' her. It was like she wanted those guys. So Lisa gets her way is all."
"But, but, but -- but that's your girl, Nicholas. I mean, c'mon, man. She's fucking with you."
"Not no more, she's not my girl," sighed Nicky, finally picking up his burger and biting into it; "now she's a star and all that, everyone wants her -- and I guess she wants everyone." Though he spoke the words of rejection, Nicky felt as if he'd given away his right arm.
"Lord above! Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" Alex responded, incredulously, his staunchly Roman Catholic background emerging. Secretly, Alex was also in love with Lisa and didn't want to lose her companionship. "This thing with the adult film industry will pass. And when it does pass, you'll be out a girlfriend."
"Y'know, I don't give a shit," mumbled Nicky, taking another bite, trying to hide his hurt feelings. Ten or fifteen minutes passed as the two sat in somber silence. Nicky actually felt like crying. Maybe Lisa was just playing some kind of stupid game.
Suddenly, both Alex and Nicky heard a squeal and a scream followed by rude, course laughter and then more squeals and screams coming from the parking lot to the side of the restaurant. Instinctively, Nicky imagined the pig-men brutally having their way with Lisa out in the parking lot. It was like an electric jolt running through his befuddled brain. Nicky began to realize he had made an enormous mistake in judgment. What the hell have I done?, thought Nicky.
Depressed, Nicky looked at Alex and saw the malevolent, demonic blaze in his friend's now yellowish eyes. Alex's face looked like it was ready to explode, his brows furrowed angrily, his nose beginning to protrude, his ears stretching back. Reacting as if someone had just drenched him with a bucket of ice water, Nicky realized that he had allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point of no return. Not only was his girl likely getting raped but his best friend Alex was beginning the hideous and frightening werewolfish transformation -- always and only triggered by rage -- that would inevitably lead to the bloody death of at least one of the men with Lisa. An unusual werewolf, Alex had undergone his hideous yet beautiful metamorphosis more than once in order to protect Lisa.
"Get out," Alex the half-beast growled -- guttural, hollow, sepulchral -- at his friend, his facial features already subtly darkening and stretching. Alex now sounded like a beast that had just learned to speak. "Please, get out of my way." Alex' voice was more like a subterranean moan. Knowing he was no match for Alex, Nicky quickly edged out of his seat and let his friend pass. As Alex ran for the door, tearing his clothes from his body, Nicky followed, realizing that he had fucked up royally by giving his one true love over to the three men who probably shoveled pig shit for a living.
When he stepped outside, Nicky heard laughter, screams and squeals coming from the other end of the unpaved parking lot, about seventy-five yards away. Panic building, Nicky took off running towards the sounds. Alex was nowhere to be seen.
When he came to an old '68 primer gray Ford pickup at the far end of the parking lot, Nicky saw that the three men had put his now naked girl friend on a mattress on the flat bed of their pickup. While two of the men watched and held the porn star, the third one -- Earl -- climbed onto the truck bed, pulled down his pants and, erect manhood in hand, prepared to mount Lisa, her legs spread wide.
Not sure whether Lisa were laughing or crying, Nicky was building to a kill when a shrieking hollow demonic baying sound tore the darkened night air. The sound filled the area, penetrated to the core of Nicky's being, and seemed to come from some dark invisible hole in the sky just above them. Something was crawling into this dimension from a much darker place and time. Nicky was sure he could feel the freezing heat of hell's furious flames.
"What the fuck is that?" said the smallest of the men, frightened. He had been massaging one of Lisa's tits.
The three men stopped and looked around. The ear-piercing baying shriek from the pit of the damned came again, a supernatural horror ripping into the natural realm, this time much closer. It was as if something huge and dark had just flown overhead, filling the area with an over-powering death-stench that Nicky had learned to associate with the beast Alex became following the transformation. Positioned somewhere in the now thickening darkness that encircled the men and the truck like a wall, the beast-thing was almost upon them. All could feel its approach, and Nicky felt the darkly energized fury in the savage roar of the hellish thing.
There was dead weighted silence as everyone -- the three men, Lisa, and Nicky -- waited, as if suspended in vacuum for a brief eternity. Nicky saw the intensely black darkness swirling around them within the darkness -- proof that the small patch of earth outside El Bambi had suddenly become an outpost of Hell. All heard the low bestial rumbling, its sound vibrating through the hearts of the three men and two ghouls, the sound indicating that the beast in the darkness was insanely moving in circles. Nicky could hear the shifting, shifting, shifting as the thing crept around and around, faster and faster. The evil was tangible, even sickening.
Then Lisa started giggling uncontrollably.
"What's so f-f-f-fuckin' funny, bitch?" whispered the bald man, his voice trembling. The man was sobbing.
"You three guys are fucked is what's so funny, bitch," Lisa laughed, sitting up and looking around. "Totally, totally fucked is what you guys are."
There was a pause as everyone, ghouls included, stopped moving or speaking, waiting for the evil thing's immanent move. One of the men wretched violently. They had all reached the eye in the middle of an insanely furious storm.
Then, in a tiny girlish voice, Lisa spoke to the almost impenetrable whirling darkness surrounding them, "Oh, Alex. Aaaaleeeeex. Come out, come out where ever you are." The bestial rumbling could be felt by all even before it could be distinctly heard.
Having summoned the night-thing, as if awaiting a visit from the Prince of Darkness himself, Lisa paused, the surrounding darkness literally vibrating with evil.
Exploding from the terrible darkness, the huge beast-thing roared, shrieked and sprang, landing on and wrapping itself around the screaming Earl, who was brought crashing off the truck and to the earth in a cloud of dust. When the dust cleared, a huge savagely snarling black and gray wolf stood over Earl, saliva dripping from its gaping jaws, looking into the eyes of the visibly terrified, shaking man. As the big man squealed, turned over, pulled up his jeans, stood and tried to run, the beast struck swiftly and ferociously, leaping and grabbing the man's fat neck in its powerful jaws. For a time, the beast-thing held and shook the big screaming man wildly as if he were a rag doll, then bit powerfully with razor-sharp teeth, instantly severing head from trunk in a shower of bloody spray. The bloodied head bounced on the ground, rolled under the truck as Earl's corpse staggered and fell, a crimson fountain staining the earth.
Of the other two men, the bald one with the golden toothpick crawled whining beneath the truck while the other jumped into the cab and locked the door. Swiftly, with predatorial ease, the growling beast flattened itself and, snarling savagely, crawled under the truck, seized one of the man's legs in its powerful jaws, and pulled him out. The man was sobbing and screaming something about his wife and kids, knowing he was gong to die.
As the man wept, "Please, please, please," the beast-thing dragged its victim stomach-down on the hard ground in relentless crazy circles, around and around and around. Letting go of the man's leg, the beast lunged forward just as the man sat up and took the man's throat in its massive jaws. Nicky could hear the bones, muscle, and cartilage grinding and squishing together as the wolf-thing's teeth bit through the human's neck.
The wonderful, intoxicating odor of blood filled the air, stained the moon, and Nicky felt reborn. He raised his arms to the full moon now straight overhead. It was at that point that Lisa -- still unclothed -- jumped off the pick up, which suddenly took off in a flurry of dirt and dust. Enraged, determined not to let this third man escape, Nicky took off in a mad, howling sprint. A ghoul who could run three times as fast as any man, Nicky caught the vehicle easily and, shrieking, mounted the running board. He could hear screams coming from the man inside the cab. Holding onto the door handle with his right hand Nicky sent his left arm crashing through the driver's window. Seizing the man by the neck, Nicky jumped off the running board and rolled forward, pulling the body of the screaming driver savagely though the broken window and on top of him.
As the truck sped off of its own volition, Nicky stood slowly and held the small man at arm's length, his huge and powerful ghoul's hand wrapped around the man's chicken-neck. The man was light as a feather. Then, just when he saw terror rising in his adversary's eyes, Nicky squeezed and crushed, blood spurting between his long gray fingers and onto his face and clothes.
Having eaten more than their fill, Nicky, Lisa and Alex sat together in the front seat of Alex's Plymouth convertible, its roof down. Their evening ruined, they had decided to return to Vegas. Because he was driving, Alex had again chosen the music, this time a series of Lawrence Welk favorites. Nicky detested his friend's choice in music and on numerous occasions had tried to encourage Alex to play some contemporary rock. Even something like Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin would be better than this shit.
Lisa sat between the men, her top off, exposing her wonderful boobs to the night sky. It seemed like old times. In the passenger seat, his left arm draped around Lisa's shoulders so he could massage one of her nipples, Nicky sat sullenly, silently, wishing the evening had never occurred.
"Ooooooooh, guys," cooed Lisa, suddenly throwing one arm around Nicky's shoulders and the other around Alex, "that was so totally awesome. You guys are so fuckin' stud when you get goin'." To Lisa, it was as if nothing serious had happened. It was like some kind of stupid game in which Nicky and Alex would always be there to save her if she got into trouble.
"You mean you're not upset with Nicky the Prick?" mumbled Nicky, depressed almost beyond words, mortified by his failure.
"Yeah, maybe I am upset with ya a bit," whined Lisa in a nasally sing-song tone, her Eastern upbringing temporarily surfacing, "but I been fucked by other guys before. You even seen me on film. I mean, I might not of minded so much. Besides, Sweetcheeks, I'm a ghoul, same as you. If I'da wanted, I coulda snapped their bones, crushed their necks, and sucked out their flesh. So you're still cool with me, Nicky."
Nicky felt as if someone had just hit him over the head with an iron cable. Hoping Lisa were just teasing, the exasperated Nicky recalled that before he had met her, Lisa had performed for three years with a snake and a donkey as a stripper in Tijuana. Maybe he was the one who was missing something here. I'll never fuckin' figure out women, Nicky thought to himself.
As Lisa whined on, claiming that she liked being a sex object and wouldn't turn down a good gang-bang now and then if Nicky didn't mind, Alex turned up his stereo so even the coyotes and rattle snakes could get their fill of Lawrence Welk.
Nicky reached for the twelve-pack at this feet, pulled out two beers, popped the tabs, and handed one to Lisa.
"Lisa, honey," Nicky yelled into his girlfriend's ear, his headache beginning, "just drink the beer and shut the fuck up. For five fuckin' minutes. Just shut the fuck up and drink your fuckin' beer. Let's be like old times."
The Plymouth sped down the I-15 at ninety miles per hour. Few other cars were on the highway at this time of night, 2:30 am. In two hours, they'd all be back in Vegas. As Lisa sucked on her beer can and, between gulps, continued to brag about being a porn star, Nicky looked up at the full moon, saw a meteor blaze across the glorious night sky, and dreamed of bloodied corpses and different times.
Sadly, he realized that things between him and Lisa would never again be as they once were. Life with Lisa would be a lot tougher from now on.
another exerpt of life as
seen through the eyes of
the world's forgotten boy.
The sulfer from the match burned his nose and left that horrible taste on his tongue, but the cigarette itself was great, one of the few things that he could actually enjoy. He was miserable. He stayed miserable. Only when the weather was like this, did he feel comforted. Comforted by the fact that hundreds more people were now almost a miserable as himself.
He stands alone, under the shelter of the doorway of a little cafe. Countless and confused thoughts race through his conscious mind. Thoughts that he can't express. More like feelings... emotions. A hundred degrees of a hundred emotions, all at once. The dark skies remind him of himself. His mind wanders back to women he's known, some that he'd loved. Some that he might have loved, some that no longer had a name to go with the face. All the nights he spends alone in his bed. All the nights that he feels the memories of the time that he spent with these girls and women. He wishes he could have just one to lie with at night in the darkness. Someone that he could feel something for. Someone he could share his feelings with, and listen to, and hold when he hates. Someone that could maybe help him forget, to help straighten out his own head.
Once, a woman told him that there was no innocence in his eyes.
Could anything ever be pure again? Would he ever find the one? Will he only have memories that were the pieces of his life? Would he find women that would become only memories just like the rest?
And with that thought, he palms his cigarette and steps out into the rain. All the people he sees are running for their cars or into stores or cafes like one he just came from, to escape the cool autumn rain. The rain seemed out of place, and he decided that the rain was for him. He walked past stores where couples sifted through clothes and books, the men looking bored to be there with their wives or girl-friends. He only wished he had someone he could spend time with and hold hands with, even though the cliche is repulsive. He longed for it just the same.
He discovered that his cigarette had gone out from the rain running down his arm, and he realized how silly he looked. A grown man standing in the rain, staring into a store window with the butt of a wet cigarette in his hand. He turns and hails a cab.
[Editor's note: The following story is the 301st in the famous but now defunct "Alex the Werewolf" series, which culminated last March with its glorious 365th issue. In this unusual piece, a collector's item which my staff and I feared had been lost to the public, Alex tells it all. We now submit to you, dear reader, the story entitled "I Am Alex," confident that Alex, Nicky, and Lisa will live on in the hearts of their approximately 25,000,000 blood-thirsty readers for a few years more. --XY, Editor, Bones and Flesh Review]
Grim reader, I am Alex the Werewolf. Or Alex the Wolf-God. Take your pick.
Indeed, a psychiatrist's nightmare, I may be two different people -- a kind of red and black, opposites dancing madly in one small dark circle. My duality is a fact that author/creator L. has repeatedly failed to take into account. Always, in story after story, L. pictures me in the company of my friends Nicky and Lisa, both good-natured but more often then not incredibly dim-witted ghouls, whom I met years ago at the Southern Nevada Fourteenth Annual Blood Feast, held just north of Searchlight. The point is I am never seen alone by you, the reader.
I am defined and understood only in relation to these two other characters. L's creation of -- and (therefore) your perception of -- Alex the Werewolf is inextricably linked to L's characterization of two ghouls who, between them, likely do not have a triple-digit I.Q. and whose consuming passions consist of eating the flesh of the dead, watching Seinfeld reruns, and fucking each other to death like a couple of sex-crazed minks. I mean, let's face it: Lisa is one of America's new porn queens (we've all heard of Lisa Lust, right?), and her boyfriend Alex is so incredibly stupid that he can't pass a class at the local community college.
So please allow me tell you about myself. This narrative is to be the unfiltered, unexpurgated version of Alex the Werewolf as told to you, the rabid reader, by Alex the Werewolf.
Where do I begin? Probably with the fact that I am indeed a werewolf, a thing living under the blackest of curses, separated (eternally?) from The Great Whatever; I am a creature who, during the full moon, becomes a huge, savage, demonic predator capable of tearing out a man's throat or removing his head in one swipe of my razor-sharp teeth.
When I change from human to werewolf, the transformation is, to a certain extent, self-willed. That is, there is within me a device that is triggered by rage on my part and that therefore I likely could control if I so desired. I could apply the brakes, as my therapist is wont to tell me, and put aside, once and for all, this "attention-getting mechanism" of gleefully ripping someone's throat out. ("Thank you, Dr. Freud," I always respond at this point in the therapy. "Smithers," he always corrects me. "Whatever," I respond, knowing he'll miss the joke. Somewhat like the trinity, I then insist to my therapist, "I am two persons, one god: Alex the Wolf-God." It's about that time that he asks me if I need more medication.)
Anyway, when during a full moon, in the company of Lisa and Nicky, I become the ravaging, drooling blood-thirsty beast of cheap serialized fiction fame, it's as if another timid Alex is still locked deep inside, observing his "beast" self dismember and partially consume a human being. Speaking for this meek side of my twisted self, I do remember the timid Alex's euphorically watching the huge black and white werewolf Alex seize the world-famous wrestler known as Pile Driver by the neck and toss this over-sized WWF bozo around like he were a rag doll out behind Pablo's Bar and Grill in North Las Vegas one night to the rabid cheers of at least 500 spectators. I, Alex, locked inside myself (it's like being stuck in a glass tube), thrilled to the death-screams of the man, whose conflict with Alex goes back to the night at Cashman Field that Piledriver put the hustle on the unsuspecting but always flirtatious Lisa, who had just realized stardom in the adult film industry.
There is, thus, Alex One, who must be distinguished from Alex Two. Alex One is the seemingly nerdy, slightly effeminate intellectual who received his master's degree in English from Detroit University and who does indeed read Nabakov, Pynchon, Borges, Calvino, Shakespeare, Bahktin -- everything he can get his hands on that has something to do with the development of Western intellectual thought. Indeed, at times, Alex One convinces himself that he is the apotheosis of contemporary Western thought. Dressed in mismatched clothes, wearing wire rimmed glasses, sporting a brown beard and mustache, this somewhat pretentious individual is the Alex that Nicky and Lisa -- God bless their ghoulish natures -- have come to know and love.
Alex Two is as much a part of the total package as the intellectual academic who discusses Heidegger with topless dancers working at a nude bar like Stinky Pete's. Alex Two is dark and bloody, the depraved beast lurking within me that has convinced Smithers or Smothers or whatever his name is that I may need an exorcism more than therapy. ("Call in the priest, Dr. Jung," I tell him. He generally bristles, glares at me, comments, "That's Smithers." "Whatever," I respond.) Alex Two, in fact, may be the real Alex, Alex One operating as a convenient shield.
There is only one person in this darkly created and conceived universe who fully appreciates my dilemma. The person I go to in times of gut-wrenching distress over my grotesquely dual nature goes by the stage name of Bangkok Annie. Surely, you've heard of her. She's gorgeous, a sexy little Oriental ("Asian-American," Smithers corrects me when I come to this part. "Whatever," I respond with a yawn) with pierced nipples and a rose tattooed just over her pubic area. You may know her as the stripper who has worked such Vegas nude bars of L's fiction as Pussy Willows and The Ninth Circle.
Annie claims to be an angel or spirit from above, sent to help me in times of crisis. When she first led me to believe this, I thought her insane. However, it is she that grants me priestly absolution when, in the middle of an unbearable hot and long day, I am wracked with guilt over having taken the life of (for instance) that poor undeserving homeless woman who just happened to be huddled on the street corner of Fourth and Fremont when, in a killing frenzy, I ripped three rabid Satanists limb from limb. (In my rage, I thought she might have been one of them).
To make the relationship between me and Annie a bit clearer I'd like to tell you a story.
It was a dark and stormy night, the heavy, the suffocating scent of vampires and werewolves sitting on Las Vegas like a dark Pynchonesque fog. Evacuations were proceeding around the country. Hunters -- slayers, if you will -- having taken over LA, New York, Detroit, and New Jersey, the night creatures had fled like mad rats by the thousands to southern Nevada, a sure refuge for anyone of a shady, demonic nature. I had come down from Detroit. It was in Detroit that I got my master's in English literature years and years ago, long before I was bitten. Life in Vegas was good for most of us. We went to the finest restaurants, walked the finest casinos, got comped to the big prize fights, got girls whenever we wanted.
With millions of tourists pouring in from all over the world, blood ran like water, and we never wanted for a pound of flesh. Hell, we ran the place, which became, in fact, a kind of Hell on earth. The surrounding desert became one enormous burial ground. Word had it that the hunters were staying away from Vegas, having conceded that environment to vampires, werewolves, ghouls, bail bondsmen, attorneys and the life. This was long before Nicky and Lisa.
A bad ass in those days, long after I had been savaged in a northern Michigan forest by a werewolf who still roams the alleys of large Midwestern cities, I kept the company of two dubious friends, also werewolves, Eddie and Louie Genovese. ("There is no such thing as a werewolf," my shrink counsels me, wondering, I know, if he should increase my medication. "Whatever," I say with a snicker.) Eddie and Louie were from Toronto via Detroit, and Louie was a vicious little prick any time of the day. He didn't need a full moon to fly into a frenzy and brutally beat someone senseless. Working by day in a Laundromat in Northtown, Louie would fly off the handle at the drop of a hat. One afternoon, I even watched Louie kick some daywalker -- one who is not a werewolf, vampire, or ghoul -- twice his size to death. In fact, Louie enjoyed it. The whole thing occurred because this poor schmuck didn't want to pay his laundry bill, which amounted to something like $2.47.
Eddie wasn't much better. Eddie worked part-time as an accounting professor at a local college at the time. Eddie loved the women. Eddie's thing was to take one of his sexy co-eds home with him, say, once a month, fuck her, strangle her to death, bite off her head, and then drink her blood. What a life, I remember thinking to myself at the time. Where he disposed of the bodies, I don't know. I suspect in the vacant lot that lay behind his house. It's not my business. I never cared. Anyway, this is what Eddie was like when there wasn't a full moon. Eddie and Louie were rotten as they come.
Of course, I wasn't any prince. I worked in an adult book store down on Charleston, where I had the opportunity to mix sex and savagery. I'd pick out a real good looking guy, watch him all day long pop quarters, half-dollars, and dollars into our smut films, get off watching him jack-off to some peek-a-boo slut film and just wait for the full moon night. Then I'd track my prey into the dark and unlit parking lot out back and savagely attack just when he was opening his car door, seizing him by the neck, crushing violently (blood squirting everywhere in a delicious, invigorating spray), dragging him off into the Las Vegas night for a feast of flesh. I think of the three of us -- Eddie, Louie, and me -- I had the highest kill rate, by far.
Anyway, everything was totally cool in Vegas back in those days. The hunters were leaving Vegas alone; southern Nevada was ours for the taking. I was sure that I had found my Hellish little Paradise when one night, feasting on a corpse out behind the infamous and now defunct Tarantula's Lil's, I encountered a hunter, whom I recognized by his overpowering death-scent. Feeling I was suffocating, I nearly gagged. At first, I thought I had become delusional, possibly because of my victim's very rich blood. After all, there were supposed to be no hunters in Vegas. But this one stood about 6'5", and while I mangled, played with, and finally devoured the corpse of one of the city council members under the dimly lit street lamp out behind Lil's, this lone hunter stood in the darkness about ten feet away, smoking cigarettes, and watched and waited, watched and waited. His name was Stalk.
When I had finished and looked up at him, I recognized my enemy immediately. I tried to will myself invisible, sure that I had reached the end of my rope. His black satin cloak, extending to his motorcycle boots, his short-cropped yellow hair, his big golden earrings, and his one enormous eye (the other having been lost in a fight with me, believe it or not) gave him away. I froze as only a werewolf can do when it realizes that Death and Sure Annihilation is standing before him, calling him to a moment of reckoning, pointing the way to the endless black Void that awaits us all. All the werewolves had heard of Stalk, the black hunter whose coming meant that more hunters and The Angel of Death were on their way. It would be the tenth plague of Exodus all over again.
I remember looking up from my meal -- I had lost my appetite -- into Stalk's granite eyes that night out behind Tarantula's Lil's, aware that this vengeful black man had a heart of black iron. Sick at heart, I slowly, mincingly approached him and circled and circled, snarled and moaned, hoping to get a reaction as he stood and smoked cigarette after cigarette, insanely confident, singularly unimpressed, certain he could take me out in a minute. When I got close enough, he even blew thick clouds of smoke on me.
"Long time no see, Alex," he quipped, in his girlish high-pitched Mike Tyson voice, blowing smoke rings into the night. He knew that I could understand him. A dark knife, his voice cut right through me, fear filled me like ice, and temporarily I felt estranged from myself, breaking into a thousand fragments, like I was disintegrating and being sucked into the Abyss. "Last time in Detroit, man, I believe, summer of '71? You took my fuckin' right eyeball." At gun-point, he had chased me out of Detroit to my abject humiliation, but that's another story.
To hide my terror, I growled, I howled, I snarled, but really felt like pissing on the spot; in a burst of frantic, panicked fury, I then sprang right at him. Swift as night, predictably even, he stepped aside as I lunged for his throat, and I landed, awkwardly, several feet beyond him, on all fours. But of course I didn't think I'd get Stalk. When I landed, my plan was to keep running from this crazy black son-of-a-bitch, to get the hell out of there with my life; but apparently (I didn't see him do it) he pulled out a small pistol, silver bullet inside, and squeezed the trigger in my direction.
It was like being hit with a million volts of electricity and run over from behind by a locomotive at the same time. Instantly, but only temporarily, the universe became pitch black as the moon overhead went out. He had shot me in the back, shattering my vertebrae. Hit in the process of fleeing, I bounced forward and (as he laughed) rolled over, end over end, sure that I had taken the silver bullet of death. The blinding pain from the shot, which hit my spine, was intense, numbing, and I felt that I was burning up, the fires of the Lake of Hell consuming me. Paralyzed, vomiting uncontrollably, I finally lay on my stomach, blood pouring from my wound and my mouth. (It's usually at this point that Smithers or Smothers or whoever he is asks to be temporarily excused. Looking pale and wan, he then steps through the sliding glass door at the back of his office, takes out his pack of cigarettes, and, both hands trembling, smokes furiously for the next fifteen minutes or so, never taking his eye off the smooth-as-a-plate-of-glass pool that sits in the middle of the office complex his office occupies. When he returns, calmed, I resume.)
Laughing like a hyena, Stalk just knelt over me, his gun pointed at my head, waiting to pull the trigger and lodge a silver bullet in my brain. He held the gun steadily and waited and waited and waited as I, my heart banging in my brain, lay on the ground, a huge bloody ball of predatorial flesh, slowly bleeding to death, my original form returning to me. "Lights out, Alex," I remember thinking to myself. I don't know why he didn't pull the trigger.
As I lay nude on my stomach, gasping for breath, the rocks from the ground grinding into my face and forehead, I recall wanting Stalk to shoot me. I couldn't speak; I couldn't beg for my own execution. Instead, Stalk spit on me and kicked dirt onto my face, commenting, "You're outa chances, Alex," and slowly walked away. I could hear the echoes from his hard black boots as he walked from the lot behind Tarantula Lil's to the street, where he had probably parked his car.
The silver from the bullet started to work its poisonous effect. It really only takes one to kill a werewolf. Sliding into unconsciousness and losing total feeling in my arms, legs, and chest, I realized for the first time in my life that I didn't want to die. Nothing was worse than this threatened negation of my entire being. If there was a Great Whatever, even Prime Mover (assuming Aquinas was right), I wanted help, even if it meant not hanging out with Louie and Eddy or working in an adult book store. I remember crying out, or at least thinking, "Great Whatever, Endless Thing that lives above the clouds, if it is possible, help me outa this shit. Send me an angel. A devil. A hurricane. Anything. And take me back to what I was before I became a werewolf. Of, God, oh, God, oh, God, I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die." I was silently sobbing with what little energy I had left, actually panicked and unbelieving that the end was drawing near. A total, immense darkness was descending around me like a huge blanket, when I suddenly felt a touch on my forehead and a blast of energy that reminded me of the nuclear bombs the test site used to set off in the desert north of Vegas.
The blast was a tremendous, almost blinding flash of light, in which I saw in one second the creation of the heavens and the earth, the great flood, the parting of the Red Sea, the giving of the ten commandments, the fall of Jerusalem, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and the end of time, which was now. I heard singing in the sun. Light surged through me, lifting me off the ground, it seemed, blinding me to all but the terrific explosion of ethereal blue light.
When the light faded, I was on my feet and saw standing before me a small Oriental woman, her eyes blue as I had once imagined heaven would be, singing a celestial song in the full-moon night. A werewolf whose life had been miraculously spared, I watched the girl until she stopped singing. Her words cast a spell over me. She wore a strip-tease outfit, like many of the girls that worked Tarantula Lil's: a thin g-string, high-heeled shoes, and no top, exposing small tits whose nipples were pierced by golden rings.
Instantly aroused, I realized I had not a stitch on. I looked around, saw the dismembered corpse behind me, felt frantically up and down my body, felt for a hole in my head. Surprisingly, I was unharmed. There were no bullet wounds. I was alive, free to prowl again, if I so desired.
"Who are you?" I asked this gorgeous Oriental chick. (Smithers sighs here, shakes his head, seems ready to give up.)
She said her name was Bangkok Annie for the present, a dancer at Tarantula's Lil's, and an angel to boot.
"You're shitting me, girl. Help me?" I said. "What does that mean?" I angrily insisted. I thought she might be an escapee from a mental institute.
She approached me, unafraid, and glanced at my manhood. "What it means, big boy," she began, coyly, "is that I am the answer to the little prayer you just said to yourself as Stalk stood over your body, wondering if he should blow you to kingdom come."
"My prayer," I muttered, embarrassed. Werewolves don't pray. ("There are no werewolves," my therapist always reiterates at this point.)
"'I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die,'" she reminded me, in a mocking but curtsey sing-song tone. "'Forgive me. Make me what I was before I was a werewolf.'" She was flirting with me, I think.
She smiled up at me, came closer, and I instantly saw how incredibly beautiful she was. Her hair was black as a raven, and her lips red as blood. Though petite, she had a perfect figure and killer legs. I suddenly wanted her.
I moved toward her in the darkness, my face inches from her face. I caressed her silken raven hair. Unable to resist, actually overcome by her presence, I leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, then on the neck, then gently on her warm mouth.
Putting both arms around my shoulders, she said, "Not now, Alex. Gotta get back inside the Tarantula. But when you call, I come crawling. And then we can play."
She let go of me and began to walk away, looking wistfully over her shoulder at me. "Wait a moment," I began. I didn't want this moment to be over, but I struggled to get the right words out. "How did you know my name?"
She stopped ten feet from the building and turned, facing me. "Alex," she responded, "I am an angel, silly wolf. You see me in your dreams. You call, I come. You can always find me." With that, Bangkok Annie turned and walked away, opened the door of the club, and went in. Stunned, I stood where she had left me.
I looked around the parking lot and saw the remains of the corpse that I had been consuming before Stalk made his appearance. Then I walked over to the body, stripped it of its bloody clothes and dressed myself. I had no choice.
I knew from that point on that my life as a werewolf would have to be different. As I walked down the deserted side street towards my apartment in the downtown area of Las Vegas, I silently vowed that I would never again take a life simply for the taking of a life. I forsook evil. While still a vicious and bloody act, killing would have to be done to serve some other purpose, like protecting somebody or feeding myself.
The next morning, around 11:00, I got a call from Louie, who wanted to meet me at a Denny's out in Henderson so we could set up a couple of cute UNLV co-eds for a kill that night. I hesitated, the image of Annie flashing like a warning light into my brain. I refused Louie's invitation, bringing confusion and anger upon him. Never, never in the fifteen years that I had known him and Eddie had I ever even considered passing up a kill. This was, after all, Las Vegas.
"What the fuck is wrong with you, Alex? You gone fuckin' soft, man," Louie hissed over the phone, sensing I think that I wasn't the same. "You quitting on me, kid, is that what the fuck you're doin', quittin' on me and Eddie is what you're doin', right? Right? I can smell a fuckin' quitter, and you're a fuckin' quitter, kid."
I gulped hugely, said nothing, just waited for Louie to finish.
"Listen, you worthless piece of wolf shit," he said, "you're not better'n me and Eddie. No better. You don't put me off. Don't you even fuckin' put me off. I ever see you again, you worthless fuck, I'll put a bullet into you myself. Shit, I might come and find you, dead mutt."
Louie hung up, and I sat on the edge of my bed, somehow relieved that I had a chance to begin anew, even if I was still cursed. I also knew that, from that moment on, life was going to be a whole lot tougher.
And I was right. Three nights later, I ran into Louie and Eddie outside one of Las Vegas' multiplex theaters. I had spent the evening watching classic movies about nuns and priests, trying to come to grips with the fact that I had vowed to abstain from killing for killing's sake. When I saw them walk out of the huge bushes behind the parking lot out back, I saw the red hateful glare in their eyes and knew they had come to destroy me. They approached with baseball bats, steel hooks, wooden stakes, and sledge hammers, beating me senseless and bloody. The ground out behind the darkened theater turned crimson from my blood. They struck me with the bat, nearly caved my head in, tore at me again and again with the hook.
Struggling to maintain consciousness, panting, dying, prostrate, my human form reappearing, I remember peering through the film of blood that filled my eyes as Louie knelt over me; he had a wooden stake in his hand, Eddie encouraging him to get it over with. "Come on, man," Eddie would say, "just drive the fuckin' stake through this loser's fuckin' heart. Then let's go get sumpin' to eat. I'm starved." For some reason, when he looked into my bleary eyes, Louie hesitated; in the dim light provided by one street lamp, I knew then and there that Louie had actually liked me at one time; and I also knew that Louie was pausing just long enough to get his breath, that Louie hated me now and was going to drive the stake home.
It was just as Louie had the sharp tip of the huge wooden stake ready to plunge into my heart that deep inside me I thought of Annie. Where are you, my little angel?, I remember silently asking myself. Where are you, sweet Asian bliss?
At that moment, the darkness that surrounded us was torn by illumination and light. It sounded like a bomb going off, and the sky seemed to literally explode in a blaze of blinding glory, so suddenly that it frightened me. I thought that the stars in the sky had exploded, that eternal darkness was here, that we had somehow, without warning, reached the end of created time. I can only compare the sensation to witnessing a nuclear explosion for the first time: you're awed but terrified. The air around me flooded with intense light for several minutes, and I remember Louie looking up from me, terrified, and opening his mouth to scream. I saw his arms fly off his torso in a bloody spray, his body incinerated, exploding into a million drops of blood and ashes, as he sat on top of me. Louie had lit up like a Christmas tree light, and then, poof, he was gone. For good.
The air smelled heavily of burnt flesh. Dazed, but still perilously weak, I struggled to sit up and looked around. All that remained of Eddie was a bloody pile of gray ashes. Curiously, my wounds had healed almost completely. I felt no pain. But I had no strength, and I felt terribly, terribly cold, like I was freezing. Maybe I was dying, a structure that had reached its point of maximum entropy. The wind seemed to howl around me. My mind was going numb. Then, when I sensed my own immanent and frightening dissolution and turned around to look behind me, I saw Bangkok Annie, this time surrounded in a bluish, ethereal haze. She stood four feet from me.
"Close call, Alex," she said, stepping forth and kneeling, putting her small arms around me. Then she did something that I'll never forget: she kissed me on the mouth with lips red as blood. As she did, it was like a pleasant warm current were running through me, from head to toe. My darkly and coldly paralyzing panic subsided into warm sunlight as I rested in Annie's embrace, allowing her warmth to fill me. I think it was for the rest of the night, until sunrise, that she held me in the darkness, singing to me, somehow restoring my strength and giving me the desire to carry on. Around sunrise, my strength having returned, I was allowed to enter this angel.
And there you have it, grim reader ("Or Dr. Freud," I comment, grinning at my ashen-faced therapist, who has heard this story at least ten times.), straight from the wolf's mouth. This, at least, is what I was before I met Nicky and Lisa. It was years later that I met them at the Fourteenth Annual Blood Feast in Southern Nevada. Both ghouls were drunk from a combination of whiskey, flesh, and blood. Indeed, as I watched them that night, I was duly impressed by how much these two lovable simpletons could consume. They insisted that I join them; amused by these two, how could I refuse? That night, I glutted myself. I am, after all, still a werewolf. I need blood and flesh. ("You shoulda been there, doc," I always remind my shrink at this point. "I am vegetarian," he cleverly responds. He knows I am almost done and so can afford a better mood.)
Anyway, Nicky, Lisa and I hit it off right away and we have been together ever since. And certainly, giving L. some credit, I have to admit that my association with Nicky and Lisa has had an effect upon the development of Alex. Perhaps I no longer can be understood separate from the two ghouls. But I like to think, I must think, that beneath the veneer of this Alex lies a truly vicious, evil predator who would destroy the good and innocent simply because it is good and innocent. It's because of the hideous evil prowling the dark forests of my soul that I must cling to Annie. Yes, I am afraid of myself. Besides, I'd be history if it weren't for Annie. But what the hell: I may already be history. At least, she makes balancing Alex One and Alex Two a little easier. She knows and acknowledges my potential for evil. She realizes that one day, if my meanness ever returns, I shall turn on and kill my best friends. I might even turn on you. For now, Annie is my sustainer in a world that has gone completely bad, that soon will be entirely consumed by hunters tracking werewolves, vampires, and ghouls.
Lovers, a boy and a girl, sit in a playground in the dark early morning, he atop a slide, she in a swing, and they talk to each other, voices just above a murmur, not disturbing the darkness. What is just an early morning in the playground for others is for them a moment outside of time, untouched by the ravages of change and fortune. The linear march of time stopped for them, took a right angle and left them behind, reeling and confused in each other. It is a cold place outside, and all they can do is wait to be let back in.
We can hear him speaking to her. The words come hesitantly, carefully selected but unedited. He only looks at her, from his perch. She rocks her head gently, feet lightly scraping in the furrow under the swing, listening.
"I love you so much," he says in a pained way, "and you know what I mean" -- and she does, it is not a threat -- "but I just can't understand how. How does it work?"
She pulls the chains of the swing tightly together and moans in sympathy, the only immediate response not bumbled through words. She feels the same way and cannot understand either; this rehashing of events tears both of them and hardens their wills --
"We only love each other. Not ourselves! How?"
He feels it, the painful resonation of the taut line between them, and begins to weep at having hurt her again; he hates himself bitterly, actively, with complete mastery. Alas, we can hear from her a faint wail, growing louder and darker, feeding on her love. She gives and gives and gives; she wails for him.
Beginnings don't exist -- their love is. Before they met, they knew, and afterwards, still failed to understand. She wanted to be for him, and he for her, forever. Why do they hesitate?
"I can't see how you love me," he says, "I can only see you."
He can't see how, he only sees what, and she the same. Is it not straightforward? Does a flower need a reason? But their doubt sustains them, do you see? They cannot accept the facts; the facts would destroy them. The one insight they haven't voiced is --
"You don't love yourself -- so I am in love with hate. You love me, and all I do is push you away. If I let you in, ..." -- they would combust. A delicate balance sustained them, a repulsion-attraction of love and hate, continuing only because it exists at all. "But if I let you go, ..." -- even the most serene tone is a violent and mechanical alternation of current. They fall silent; the words have died. Like the dreams did, the gifts, and the flirts before that. The media were used up, one by one, as the current surged and tore them clean of their moorings. But what was left now? Will they see it? Can they?
"Whose world is this anyway?" she cries out. "I can't take this!" She is right, but they can -- she believes this at heart. Right?
He is startled, unstuck out of time. Where are they? What time is it? What is she doing? She jumps off the swing and thrashes the chains through the air. She looks at him and for the moment, unbound, can only see the reflection of her self-hatred. She abruptly shifts her gaze, seeing too much. She stopped too late --
"Come with me," she says, in a sort of beckoning growl.
"What -- what's going on?" he asks, worried.
"If we only love each other but hate ourselves, we don't really exist... it is terrible, it is a terrible thing, our love. It has entrapped us, stolen us. It is consuming us. We must stop it. We must! Our love -- and our hate -- die together."
She is holding out her hand. He is frozen on the slide, petrified. What is she saying? What has she seen?
"Come!" she cries. "What are you waiting for?"
He is off the boat, and gasping for air in the roaring current, seeking a handhold. She is farther and farther away and he only hears the sounds of her cries...
"It must end now!" she pleads, hands outstretched -- pointlessly. He doesn't understand.
She snaps. "I only loved you!" she screams, running off. He never sees her alive again, and is left only with the fact of his self-hatred. He does not love himself to end his own suffering. He must go on.
Texas. Travelling a cool 83 mph down the slick asphalt past cacti, sand, and a couple of cool-daddy lizards, baking. The sun was early rising, painting everything a faboo gold and blue, and it reminded me of a Miles Davis record I had at one time, but sold for a pair of authentic Kenny Lane bowling shoes, white and black patent leather. It would be a lie to say I didn't know where I was going. In fact, I knew exactly. My soul itched.
Suburban life can get old, even with the stereophonic sound and technicolor visuals, can get really passe with an itchy soul. I started walking around the cabana singing "King of the Road" (actually just the refrain) and watching "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" late at night. I had to scratch the itch. Susan, my New Orleans hip kitty, thought I just needed a haircut. I was going to find Pappy. Pappy left when I was 18, somehow reversing the relationship of the kid moving out and the father resigning himself to puttering around the lawn and pestering the Missus. He bought a silver Winnebago from Fred McCallister the golf club salesman with the most digging style of plaid pants in Mont Beagle, Connecticut, and took off after aliens. Every six months he sent a postcard with some leather-skinned woman with breasts the size of Texas and something tacky written on it like:
Went fishing. Caught me a titty shark. Ha ha ha. -Pappy
Susan eventually made a shrine for them in an old Converse shoe box and we set them on fire, floating it under the Fifth Street Bridge. Fortunately one last postcard arrived in the mail two weeks before I got bit. It didn't make much sense. It read:
I have found the aliens. Ha ha ha. -Pappy
Susan figured out the last part, "Pappy," but the rest of it, well, like I said, didn't make much sense. So that's what I figured I had to do to scratch the itch. Find Pappy and make him make sense. There comes a time in every man's life that you had to reconcile things. Some men beat drums in the wilderness and talked about Daddy's drinking problem. For me, it was abandonment for a higher cause of extra-terrestrial invasion. Or familial instability. Either way it meant fabulous cash and prizes and the open road. The postage was marked from Santa Cruz, New Mexico, and so I thought that might be the best place to look. Now, I have to admit to something else, too. I was beginning to find this alien hunting diggable. Maybe it's genetic. And this last postcard sent me into overdrive. Thinking of drinking Bloody Marys in the mothership left me with a feeling of buoyancy that the daily routine right now lacked.
I decided to take Susan's advice and stopped in at a beauty parlor in Beaumont, Texas. There was a lot of pink, the icy pink of lipstick on a girl at the sock-hop, and big bangs busting all over Beaumont in this one little shop. The bat behind the counter looked at me like I was a funny boy for walking into a beauty parlor, but I flashed her my best Astaire impression and soon we were gabbing it up -- well, she was gabbing it up and I had my head under a big bowl and a copy of Cosmo in my lap. It was an old issue, but since every periodical in a beauty parlor is about six years outdated, I didn't care. I was going to find Pappy, and the last contact he probably had with honest, hard-working, Protestant, missionary-position people was probably about six years ago, so I guess it all works out in the end. When the bat was done with my hair, I paid and left. It was time to hit a greasy spoon, my hair now constructed into an elaborate pompadour sculpture on my head. I looked in the mirror. Man oh man, I thought, I should have wine and cheese for the people who see me, I am a work of art! A truck stop thirty miles down the road promised country fried steaks, and normally I don't deviate from my al dente greens and baked fish, but I thought I could use a little adventure, and I remember once when Pappy made country fried steak and gravy and mashed potatoes. He liked chili powder, and the gravy was pink, as I recall, and I don't remember much about the meal but I do remember Mom having to go to the hospital because some of the gravy splattered into her eye. I turned up the smooth sounds of Bing Crosby and accelerated along, the flat Texas landscape offering no resistance against my quest. The road dipped and curved here and there, but for the most part it was a sure shot into the desert.
The name of the Truck Stop was "The Holler," and so when I cruised into the parking lot I dropped the top (which I had raised to keep my beautiful hair in place) and, well, hollered. A deep, full-bodied holler, enough to make some snot-nosed ankle biter reach his grubby hand for his mama and join me. Except his was more of a shriek than a holler. The family jewels rose into my body and vibrated, I hollered so well. And it felt good. Somebody told me to shut up, and I did, after I finished my hollering, and I walked inside.
The American Truckstop is by far one of the single greatest inventions on the face of the earth. A receptacle for the shit blowing along the side of the road, you never know what'll emerge. On aisle one, next to the leather koozies and porcelain frogs with a schlong twice his size, are your postcards. Now the big stuff, the frogs and koozies and Aint Jemimah salt and pepper shakers, are good, but they're overpriced. And while they make an attractive and entertaining icon at the next fondu party, they're usually not worth the money. You pick them up, play with them, and set them back while you're at the truckstop. But with the postcards, you get the feel of the place for five for a dollar. Everything from the local flora and fauna (nicely set off with a bronze beauty in a bikini and some boots) to some of the slogans that are, indeed, the cutting edge of American Poetry today. I grabbed a handful, and walked into the dining area. My appetite had increased upon finding this mecca of Americana, and the fresh experience excited me. Aliens and Americana, life's finest components.
The table was formica, a plus. There were coffee stains, a minus. Good, authentic formica is a rarity these days, and a nice kitchen table with matching chairs will set you back nearly five hundred dollars. The menus were sticky with pancake syrup and a fly had become permanently lodged on the side of the menu, content to die a death of sugar and germs. I scanned the menu and waited for my waitress. Believe it or not, her name was Flo, and she had the same hairstyle that my stylist was raving about, nice and big and set alive with some highlights and a ton of Aqua net. She slapped down some spotty silverware and a glass of water, the sides of which had been melted by various encounters with Pall Malls.
"What'll it be?" she asked, flipping through her note pad. She had a definite bounce in her step, and despite what they say about waitresses being overworked and underpaid, she sure looked like she was having fun.
"Well, maybe I ought to let you decide, otherwise I may have to kiss your grits," I grinned, flashing her my pearly whites and red gums. I had a great smile -- it came from perfect hygiene. I never left home without a toothbrush and some floss. It comes in handy, believe you me.
"Yeah, buddy, you're a regular Johnny Winters," she said.
"Well, if you don't mind, I sure would love a country fried steak."
"You want gravy with that?"
"Oh you know I do."
"White or brown?"
"That would be divine."
"Vegetable or salad?"
"Do you have low-fat Italian dressing?"
"No. We only have ranch."
"Well, Flo, I guess ranch will do."
"Thank you." With that Flo grabbed the menu out of my hand and turned on her sassy heel back toward the kitchen.
"Hey Flo," I said, sliding along the vinyl seat toward the aisle. She turned. "Could I get a diet coke with that?"
She walked right into the kitchen, the thick white door swinging back and forth after her.
"Dinner was divine," I crooned when Flo brought my check. I threw a few bills on the table and reached out to grab a hold of Flo and dance her to the register.
"Back off, buddy," she said, lifting the butter knife off my plate and holding it up to my chest. "You speed freak, wacko, dope heads always high when you come in here. Don't touch me, you slimeball, or I'll cut your heart out and throw it on the grill back there."
"Whoa, kitty cat," I said, backing up slowly. "I'm not on dope. I'm high on life. I'm freeing my soul and enjoying the rich technophonics of a road trip."
"Whatever you call it, I don't want it." Flo popped her gum at me and went behind the cash register, punching in the numbers fast and furious.
"Aren't you going to ask me if I enjoyed my meal?" I asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"Go to hell," she said, slamming $1.43 in my hand. I scooped my hand around and plopped the change onto the counter, adding another dollar to the stack and winked. Flo just stood there and watched me, popping her gum. The rest of the restaurant had now turned to stare at me, the crusty old truck drivers and their Bettys, and I gave a quick nod and began to ducked out.
"Don't mind her," a voice said behind me. I turned to catch my reflection in a pair of sunglasses that sat underneath a John Deere cap that sat precariously on a head.
"What's that?" I said, somewhat taken aback.
"She's an abductee. She was taken up nearly six months ago. Still a little jittery, if you know what I mean."
"An abductee?" I said. This was getting good, I liked this guy.
"Aliens. Six months ago?"
"Is that true, dear Flo?" I said, spinning on my toes.
"Maybe," Flo said. "You're not a reporter are you?"
"No," John Deere said. "He's just a kid a with bad hair. Tell him, Flo."
"Bad hair?" I said. "But I paid thirty dollars for this. Elvis didn't look this good."
"Well," Flo said, lighting a Virginia Slim, "I was closing over at my other job, Smokey Joe's. My credit cards didn't match the receipts so I was slow in getting out. Everybody else left and I stayed on, finally found my problem. It was a Fuelman card. I never have liked Fuelman cards. Anyway, when I got outside my car wouldn't start. And I thought about how I had just bought a new battery from Ray down at the Auto Zone just last week and how I was gonna give him the business end of my Smith and Wesson, when all of a sudden this bright blue light come shining down on me and the radio and windshield wipers start going haywire. I was frozen to my seat -- the UFOlogist said they hit me with a nerve ray that caused my muscles to go limp -- and then I saw these grey men come and get me out of the car and then I blacked out."
"Wow!" I said. "That's some groovy stuff!"
"I am not finished," Flo snapped impatiently, tapping the edge of her cigarette against a coffee mug. "Well, I had the vague sensation of being probed, just like them books always says happen to you, and I think they took some of my eggs, which actually made me feel better because the family doctor told me I was barren, and then they ravished my body. When I came to it was nearly six in the morning and Donna, the morning girl, was shaking me awake. Well, I had this bump on the back of my head and my womanly parts throbbed, but that's not really any of your business."
I waited a sec to see if Flo would continue. She didn't. John Deere stood up.
"Yep," he said, fishing a dollar out of his pocket. "Damn aliens are making a super race of humans to come take over and inundate us with socialist propaganda. They have a deal with the country of Sweden. Using it as their home base. They grow them there. Have you ever seen Swedish television?"
"Actually, no," I said. "But I'd love to."
"Bunch of clowns and blondes," John Deere said. "Damn weird stuff."
"Well," I said. "Good luck. I have to find someone near and dear to me. He's also hunting aliens. Say," I said, turning around once more to face Flo. "If they take his sperm and your egg, then your alien baby will be my half-brother. Or sister."
"Fuck off," Flo said. And so I did, straight to New Mexico.
New Mexico was a beautiful place. Wall to wall sea of earth colors, very fashionable now that it was fall. The sun hung low, low, low in the sky, and I felt like I was driving right into a scene out of Fantasia, all the colors swirling together. Me and Walt and our mystical visions. I stopped off the side of the road to buy some RC Cola and some beef jerky. I also bought a piece of violet quartz, for luck, and for a certain vibe of novelty.
New Mexico -- haven of the disillusioned. I remember reading somewhere about how a group of realtors got together with a group of anthropologists over some fondu and designed the look of the place. All that pastel blue and foxy boxy "pueblo" styles. All a big sham. But then, like a disco ball in the night, came Roswell, and New Mexico was saved. After all, kitsch is only kitsch so long as nobody calls it something less, and the pueblo was on the way out. Maybe the alien thing would pan out to nothing, but right now we had it, and it felt good. Besides, it makes more sense than a dead-end job and taxes and near-beer and urban slums and souse and all the other cold prickly things that make this little water droplet in space not so groovy.
I cruised into Santa Cruz close to 11 p.m. The town was a dusty pocket of nifty fifties-style hotels, shops, and the occasional home, which looked like it had been transplanted from mid-America with its vinyl siding and slapped down in the desert with some salmon sloshed on the sides to make it fit in. I was now at the end of my quest, two days on the road and that much closer to the adventure I was searching for. The only shop still open was on the edge of town. The bright red neon called out to us lonely marauders. Big Jimbo's Bait Emporium and Alien Tracking. I stopped the car, careful to wipe away the fine film of desert dust that had collected on my chrome, ran my fingers through my hair, and walked inside. On the right side of the wall a large trout had been mounted, and a cardboard sign was stuck beside him, a caption bubble emerging from his mouth. "Mm-mm I sure do LOVE those Wally Brand flies" it read. On the left side of the store were various objects pertaining to the alien culture. Posters of Roswell, video tapes of UFO sightings, and Alien Protection Packs were now all the rage. Pappy left before it had been so cool, making him less cool for leaving, because it wasn't time. Everything has a time and place, and to exist outside of it was Nerdsville. The shopkeep was a young man in his early twenties, with long brown hair and a red goatee. He was eating a burrito and watching the scrambled Playboy channel, leaning closer whenever the picture became recognizable, green titties and orange butts and the occasional moan instead of the constant whine and dancing picture.
"Whaddya say, Jimbo," I said, leaning heavy on the counter. He stopped eating his burrito and turned to me.
"My name's not Jimbo. Do I look like a Jimbo? Do I look like a Big Jimbo?"
"This is your store, isn't it?"
"No. It's Jimbo's store. I just work here. Can I help you?" Jimbo chomped down hard on his burrito, the bean and cheese squeezing out of the corners of his mouth.
"Oh I hope you can. I'm looking for someone. Drives a silver Winnebago with some satellite dishes on top." I wasn't exactly sure about the satellite dishes. "And a bumper sticker proclaiming the glories of Elvis's Church of Guns." I was sure about the bumper sticker. The young man just looked at me, chewing his burrito. He then began to watch television.
"Come on daddy-o. Throw me a bone, here," I said. My back began to hurt and my temples started to throb. I realized I was extremely tired.
"Look, buddy," he said, plopping his burrito down on the counter and using the back of his hand to clear away taco sauce and bits of cheese from his face. "Do you have any fucking idea how many silver Winnebago driving, alien-hunting, Elvis freaks come through here every single day? Of course not, you're just a retard with bad hair and bowling shoes. Well, I'll tell you. I've been working at this crappy store for five years now, and have gotten the dumbest questions from the dumbest pieces of withered meat pretending to call themselves human beings, but you are, without a doubt, the dumbest person I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. There's a map on the wall over there," he said, extending his arm out past me to the wall behind him. "It's five bucks, six in your case, and will show you the three trailer park camps in town. The 'Happy Hillbilly' is where most of the families on vacation stay, the 'Roswell Connection' is for the alien freaks, and the 'Cannery' is for people who have either been here a while or are into the Winnebago as a true lifestyle. I would suggest the Roswell Connection, or, as an equally good alternative, throwing yourself in front of a train. Now give me my six bucks and leave me to my nudie flick."
My head was really hurting at this little tirade, but I went ahead and paid. It's not everyday you have a chance to help out the criminally insane. I actually pitied him. He had no hope of treatment working for what was probably pennies a day here, his brain rotting from television and bad Mexican food. I walked outside and jumped into my car, turning up the Benny Goodman to fill the night sky. Jimbo looked out at me, scowling. I made a square with my fingers on the air and winked, and he mouthed the words "Your momma." I tore off into the night, needing a stiff drink and my Pappy.
I decided to hit the Cannery, despite the sage advice given to me at the bait shop. On the way there, however, I blew a tire. The old gal had finally gotten tired and decided we needed a break then and there. Fortunately I was near a diner. Risking another close encounter with the trailer-park kind, I ducked inside. The only person there was a young woman, obviously a peddler of fleshly wares if her cropped blue jean jacket with an air-brushed "menu" on the back was to be taken seriously. She was playing Patsy Cline on the jukebox and eating eggs and toast. She turned when I came in and flashed me her pearly whites.
"Hey sailor," she said. "That's some mighty fine hair you got there."
"Thank you," I said. "That's a might nice blue jean jacket you got there."
"It's from the Chicken Ranch in Nevada. Funny thing, it's the only jacket I packed." She shrugged and shoveled another forkful of eggs into her mouth.
"You know of an all-night wrecker service?" I asked. "I seemed to have acquired a flat tire."
"Well, I just stopped in town to grab a bite to eat, so I'd have to say no on the tow truck, but I can fix a tire. You got a spare?"
"And a jack?"
"Well alrighty. Fifty bucks and we're all set."
"Well alrighty, but no thanks," I said. "That's too rich for my blood."
"But I'm the best," she cooed, pulling herself away from her eggs and walking toward me. I had to admit, she wasn't my idea of a legal prostitute. She looked good.
"And I'm broke," I said. "I don't suppose you still believe in human kindness?"
"I don't suppose you believe in a vacation in Honolulu? It's always been my dream, you see, and I'm a couple hundred short. I'm doing odd jobs between here and Lexington, where my sister lives. I want to surprise her with the trip."
"But surely the money you're making--"
"I said odd jobs, sugar," she said, brushing a hot red fingernail across my mouth on her way out toward my car, "not blowjobs. Don't let the jacket fool you."
"How about fifteen?" I offered, winking.
"You got something in your eye?" she said, no trace of irony on her face, just a little piece of egg. "Fifty."
"Well," I said. "How much for keeping me company while I change the tire?"
"Company's free so long as you give me a lift to the city limit."
"I'm heading to an RV park," I said. "Will that do?"
"Sure," she said.
Changing tires is one of those rare events that humbles a man. It requires a delicate balance of strength and smarts, and the slightest mistake could send you hurtling over the landmark bridge into a protected spring without so much as a farewell scream. I tugged and twisted and sweated and cursed and Julia, the young lady with the most unusual jacket, smoked cigarettes and told me of her dream of Honolulu.
"I've been studying," she says. "And I know that the word for 'hello', 'aloha', also means 'goodbye.'"
"How very postmodern," I said.
"Multiplicity of meaning."
"Uh-huh. And something else," she said. "Although the luau is supposed to be a big island thing it really isn't traditional. The natives would only do it when something was wrong, like a drought or something. Now they do it because of the tourists."
"Sounds like bad mojo to me," I said. Actually it didn't sound like anything to me because I had just emerged victorious over my car and had but a pair of dirty palms to show for it. I felt bad for not listening, so I opened up the door for Julia, swung into the cockpit, and hit Mach 2 on the open road and began to shoot the kitsch.
"So," I said, leaning over and lighting her cigarette with my genuine mother-of-pearl car cigarette lighter. "Why Honolulu?"
"Haven't you just wanted to get away from it all?" she asked. "Well, more away from it than you already are?"
"I can dig it," I said. "Sometimes, what, you just gotta trip on up and trip on out."
"Yeah," she said. "Nothing about it particularly, just the experience of going away."
"Yeah, yeah," I said. I dug this chick. She gave me a peck on the cheek when I let her out.
"If your dad finds Mork, tell him to get something more than a blurry Polaroid, okay?"
"Will do, captain," I said, saluting and shooting into the driveway of the Cannery.
I must admit I felt a little embarrassed as I pulled into the parking lot next to the check-in booth and saw row after row of silver Winnebago, each with its own little satellite dish on top. But hey, I thought, I'm new at this sort of thing. I walked up to the man behind the desk. He was watching the Playboy channel as well, but his picture and sound was crisp and clean, like the night sky above us. He turned and began to slide a form toward me, but stopped short when he saw my means of transportation.
"This is an RV Park, kid," he said. "You got to have an RV to stay here."
"I'm not interested in staying. I'm looking for my father."
"We can't give out the reservation list unless it's a matter of police business or a crisis. You having a crisis, kid?"
"Well, not really. I mean, it's been ten years since I've seen my dad. Does that count?"
"You got twenty bucks?" the man asked.
"I think so."
"Twenty bucks is a crisis."
He slid the register over to me and I thumbed through the pages. I scanned the names, looking for his, Alex J. Gilbert, Sr. Disco! Lot 15, reserved for three weeks. I jumped in my car and tore past every Lot until finding his. Sure enough, the bumper sticker and antennae were both very real and a little mailbox had been set up with the name "Gilbert" stencilled in reflective orange paint on the side. I took a deep breath and combed my hair. It still looked pretty good, I must admit, but it wasn't perfect. Oh well, they say a parent's love is blind. I threw on a different shirt, this one red with black pinstripes, and polished up my shoes with a quick spit shine. My hands were sweating and my heart was beating a little faster than normal, but I thought it normal, considering. I began to walk up to the door. And stopped. It hadn't occurred to me how I might approach my father. I wondered if he had taken on the bad attitude of everyone else in the southwest and decided that perhaps it would not be so wise to breeze in as my charming self. Maybe I should try to be a little more low-key. I changed shirts again, this time into a white t-shirt with a pocket in the front and the sleeves slightly rolled up. I would ask for a beer and flop down on whatever he was using for a couch or recliner, and shoot the shit. No big parade, I thought. No flash, just a mano-y-mano. I started the car, killed the headlights, and began to put it into reverse when a voice came, like a thief in the night.
"Junior? What the hell did you do to your hair, boy?"
My heart hit my throat and I flipped on the high beams, flooding the driveway with light. There, in front of my car in a red pair of Jockey shorts, tennis shoes, and big snake skin cowboy hat, stood my father.
"Goddamit boy, kill your brights. Enough to blind an old man."
"Pappy!" I yelled, scrambling out of my car and rushing toward to him.
"Hold it, boy. Don't get too excited. I'm happy to see you too, but you'll spill my beer."
My father extended a hand. It was pure leather. He smelled like cheap beer and Aqua Velva, the two alcohols swirling together in my nose and tugging at my brain. I needed to sit down.
Pappy's pad was pretty swanky, if not altogether clean. Beer bottles and cans littered the floor, and cigarette butts were in every possible place, including the soil around a small cactus wearing a cowboy hat. There was a mattress toward the back and an ugly yellow leather sofa toward the front, with a stove and bathroom separating the two.
"She ain't pretty, but she's home," Pappy said, flopping down on the couch. "Can I get you a beer?"
"Sure, that'd be cool," I said. Pappy popped a beer open with his teeth and handed it to me, the foam running down the side of the neck.
"So my old son has come back home," he said. "Well, I guess it is hard staying away. After I left I got homesick. But I didn't come back, as you probably know, and I don't regret it."
"So how're things, Pops?"
"Can't complain. I paid off the Winny and now I just draw on the social security to buy gas and beer and turkey dogs. Ray owns this place and gave me a permanent lot, free of charge, on account of being his most loyal customer. I get free electricity, water, and Playboy. It's the simple pleasures of life, son. The simple pleasures. How about you?"
"I have a job. Live with a girl. In a cabana. In Connecticut."
"A girl, eh? That's good. For a second I thought you were a, you know, flittery-type what with that hair and all."
"No. I have sex with women. Yep." I felt a little too Brady Bunch talking to my old man about the birds and the other birds.
"Well, I guess you're tired. No sense in forcing a conversation on you. You can sleep on the couch. The one thing I don't have is air conditioning, so you might want to think about shedding some of that clothing. Kick whatever tries to bite or gets in your way. Goodnight, son."
"You really hunt aliens?" My father looked at me laughed.
"Hell, boy. I've been out here for ten years and haven't seen anything close to an alien except for once, but he turned out to be Korean. I told your mother that because she was into that weird kitschy shit like you. Besides, I figured it would hurt her less if she thought I was a lunatic, make her think I really was crazy for leaving."
"Why'd you go, then?"
"Dunno. Guess I wasn't cut out for home life in the Breadbasket of America. Didn't sit right. Itched me up inside. Well, goodnight. We'll go to this greasy spoon that has a great Southwestern Omelette. You'll like it, lots of plastic shit all over the place."
"Okay." My father turned off the light and shut the door to the back room.
I sat there a minute and then my Pappy came back.
"Actually," he said, belching and tugging at his turkey wiener through his threadbare shorts, "I do know why I split. You remember the extract factory where we used to live in New Braunsfels? The one that smelled like potpourri from hell?"
"Yeah," I said. "I think I do. Sort of."
"Well, there was this sign that I always passed that was right outside, before the shit burned down. It was put there by Mormons, I think, a great big sign with a fat guy smiling happily like he had nipped a little too much vanilla extract and the phrase 'How special do you feel?' under it. For the damnedest while I thought it was advertising valium, but it was just one of those religious slash self-help slash happy people everywhere type of things. I didn't pay too much thought to it until one day I spilled coffee on myself and drove past it, cursing under my breath and saw it and felt, well, not so special. Don't get me wrong, I loved your mother and you, but -- well, actually, no I didn't. I hated my life and I didn't want a family and somewhere between getting out of the Navy and at that moment with a crotch full of Sanka things had went all to hell."
"So you left."
"Yep. It was selfish, I know, but hell, that Albert Camus fellow was being revived and if someone'll shoot an Arab on the beach because the sun's too bright then it doesn't seem to be too off-kilter that a man would leave his responsibilities to try to find happiness. Besides, you wouldn't have wanted your mom all doped up on grass trying to forget that her husband, your daddy, was a drunk full of piss and vinegar about life. Wouldn't have been a good environment for you to grow up into."
"Dad, frankly I don't give a shit."
"That's my boy, gimme hell."
"No, really, this is all too much. Sensory overload. Blowing a transistor here. Let's talk about it in the morning."
"Good deal. Goodnight."
I stared out the window into the florescent-lit night. The dark blue of the sky had a purple tinge around the edges and wondered what it would be like to drive, away from the neon and florescent, in the middle of the night, surrounded by all that blue. I finished my beer and pulled a postcard out of my pocket. Outside I rolled the car out of the driveway and around to the next lot before turning on the engine. In the light of the headlights, I scrawled on the back and stuck it in his mailbox before heading out.
Needed to get back. I'll come visit again sometime, and tell Mom
you're doing well. Keep sending the postcards to the box, Susan and I
get a kick out of them. I'll talk to you soon.
"Hell," I said out loud to no one in particular. "Maybe someday I'll find me an alien in the backyard and all this running around will be a colossal waste of precious bingo time."
The open road didn't seem quite so open anymore. I wondered what Pappy was going to do when he woke up and I wasn't there. He might consider it to be the result of a bad wiener. Or maybe he'd lament his decision and come home. Maybe he realized that laying it on like stucco wasn't where it was at and might try to reintegrate into the world of normal people slowly, de-toxing that personal happiness from him slowly. Maybe he would find an alien and it would look like me and he would talk to it before it ate his brain. That's the problem with aliens. You never know whether they'll eat your brain or not. It's better to hang low on the homestead with an itchy soul than out there in the unknown. Your brain might get eaten and then what do you do?
"How troublesome is my chaos," she mused at him whilst lying on her couch. "It lacks the mystery of beginnings. You notice that we only hear of chaos shortly before it collapses into order? It loses its novelty." Erica paused and looked him square. "There's not much you can do with chaos. There's not much you can do with me -- now is there? Which is what you wanted to say." She laughed, too tired to be bitter but still young enough to consider it. "Well, chaos doesn't mold easily with hands. It takes the power of a god to organize chaos and I'm the god of this world, lover, and I don't have the energy for it. I'm using it to keep my business from sinking under, I'm using it to stay out of the red. You see, I don't have time for your problems with my chaos. Take a seat, stand in line, just let me rest because I'm tired of this mess I've gotten into. And I'm not moving. Don't you see? There's a creature of habit in my room and he won't leave and quite frankly I'm too exhausted to kick him out. Besides, I've had my Sublimation of Resent extended so it'll be a while before it overflows and causes a problem. In the meantime," she shooed him with her hand, "just stack it up neatly, turn out the lights, and close the door."
The vaguely described, aforementioned gentlemen (who was interrupting her day besides) once asked Erica why everything she said had to sound like poetry. She replied that she suffered from an age-old disease that many young woman suffered from: making everything they say sound like poetry. There wasn't a name for it yet -- they hadn't found one with the right tragic character.
The water was running and it reminded her that her bath should be ready. She threw off her clothes piece by piece as she walked into the bathroom and breathed in the aroma of scented candles. Preparing for a bath is always more enjoyable than the bath itself. The idea of a hot bath is soothing. Your body relaxes and everything around you takes on an air of luxury. You spend the whole day fantasizing about the bath, preparing it to perfection in your mind. The preparation itself is almost a holy ritual. But baths themselves are too hot and uncomfortable, too long and too boring. The music is never the right volume or the right selection, the phone always rings, or you get ravenously hungry. Your pores expand and you break out the next day, and you inevitably fall asleep with your hair wet and wake up with a scratchy throat. So she didn't take baths, she just prepared them. She stood naked in the bathroom, stretched, and wrapped herself in a clean towel. Then she drained the tub and blew out the candles.
"Well, that was refreshing." she said brightly to herself.
Erica was a pretty albeit generally nondescript woman, if pushed to describe her. But there was, at least, a Something about her, that je ne sais pas which demised a respectable number of men. She did all right. And she was always the one who left, which was what mattered.
She was raised, like most, with the idea of a redeeming meaningful love that would enter her life at least by the age of 27. She had quite a few years left, still she was a little concerned. Not overtly, but enough to lead her eyes skimming over Cathy in Sunday's comics. Erica had love a good half-dozen times, she was positive of it, but she hadn't experienced redemption and she certainly found no meaning. She looked everywhere for them, thinking that she had perhaps received them in the mail and accidentally thrown them out with the trash. But she hadn't overlooked them. All she had was pomp and circumstance and some good sex. She was beginning to conclude that one couldn't ask for much more than that besides a decent dental plan that covered some cosmetic work.
Love was supposed to rescue her, offer her an escape. But as the wise know (or can admit), love just takes you away into a different set of complicated yet mundane problems. No heaven, no hell. It just leaves you in a state of unremarkable lassitude. There's probably more fulfilling routes to go. But when one is raised so strongly, when one's whole being is inundated with a belief, it's difficult to let go without expensive therapy.
And Erica had already spent enough of her money on expensive therapy.
So she lived on the line between anticipation of and actual major disillusionment. She was perpetually balanced at that one moment before your hopes are finally crushed, before you are finally forced to acknowledge to yourself that the movie you're watching isn't really what you wanted at all and wasn't going to get better. It made her a little cranky, to be sure, but she thought she dealt with it well enough. Better than expected, all things considered.
What was troubling lately, though, was the Past. She was convinced that the Past still existed. This led her to believe that Time, in fact, probably did not. This, in turn, made her feel like she was in a science-fiction novel, and like most science-fiction novels, it left her ill and exasperated.
The whole problem began a few months earlier, when Erica had a dream. No one really likes to hear other people's dreams, unless they're in them. Dreams are only significant or quirky to the one who dreamed them. But people always want to tell you their dreams, as if you could possibly understand their meaning or humor. As if relaying them would have a comparable effect to experiencing them. But the funniest part of dreams is actually dreaming them with your mind, and it all boils down to a very sad "you had to be there." Quite sad, as you never will be there, and you never will get it. Nonetheless, Erica's dream was this: She sat in an old grammar school class and, at the same time, she knew everything that was going to happen to her classmates: what would happen the following year, what would happen in high school, what they would become afterwards. Her present mind, with all of its memory, was in her sixth grade body. She felt something, distinctly. It was an uneasy satisfaction, a frustrated sense of accomplishment. None of this expresses it very well, of course, and its importance is really only the fact that she was greatly affected by this dream when she woke up. Erica saw how the dream existed to some extent in her life and always had. Every moment of her past was inextricably linked to her present and she felt an odd sort of loyalty to her self in her past, as if they were pen pals living on different ends of the world. Sometimes Erica would be in the middle of an experience and then she would enter into a past experience; it was as if she was in two moments of her life at once, as if both were occurring at the same time, or as if no time had elapsed between the two. As if there was no time at all. It made her dizzy.
Guy de Maupassant wrote, "Never read old letters," and Erica sensed an ominous foretelling in that line. She kept all of the artifacts from her past, but she never looked through them. However, after her bath she was feeling particularly fearless (or nihilistic), and she pulled a box out from the closet and rummaged through old books and journals. She chuckled at some books she found on top: The Marx-Engels Reader, Stirner's The Ego and Its Own, and Marleau-Ponty's Adventures of the Dialectic. She left the pile with the last one and brought it to the kitchen with her. She skimmed through the underlined passages and ate strawberries. One passage in particular caught her eye, it was underlined twice: "The man of understanding either swears not to abandon the oppressed -- because the oppressed are always in the right -- and so perhaps finds himself a revolutionary; or he follows the oppressed only to the point where property and the State apparatus are put into question, and since, when one is uncommitted, one is continually reassuring the rights of property and the State, he soon finds himself more conservative than anyone."
"The oppressed are always in the right," she said outloud. "The oppressed are always in the right?" She threw the book down disgusted. "That simply isn't true," she paused, "is it?" But no one was there to answer.
She tried to remember if she had ever been oppressed. When she was younger and ugly and lumpy she felt oppressed. She felt like she spent her life in a game that no one would ever let her win. She felt weighted down, marginalized, scoffed, and disregarded. Erica began arguing outloud: "But can one really compare the oppression of the world's fat and ugly with..." Erica paused. She couldn't remember who was oppressed anymore. She bit her lip. She scrunched her nose. "Well, there's some group. Who's oppressed. Politically or something... The proletariat. They're always oppressed. Right?" She couldn't remember. She was fairly positive that the proletariat were always oppressed. But then she couldn't remember if there was an actual proletariat anymore. And if there was, was she one of them? But she wasn't oppressed. "Maybe I'm so oppressed that I don't even know it." She chuckled. "This is serious, now. Let's try a little harder... Ok. Forget about the proletariat." She chuckled and looked around in a mock paranoid manner. "I didn't mean that. Of course, we mustn't forget about the proletariat, especially if they do exist. How about women? Well, we can forget about women. Heh. No, No. Ok, women are still oppressed aren't they? Er, I mean, we? Isn't there some sort of database I can access to find this sort of thing out? Like, a list or something of the Top 25 Oppressed Peoples? You're not taking this seriously, Erica. Stop it. Ok. Women are still oppressed. Now, are women always in the right?" She paused to think carefully. "Wait, are they oppressed in the right way? I mean, do they qualify for the kind of oppression that makes them... er, Erica YOU are a woman... right... that makes us always in the right? The oppressed are always in the right. Hmm. That doesn't necessarily mean all groups who claim to be 'oppressed' are oppressed in his terms, though, does it? I mean, he might not consider them, us, oppressed. So first of all, is that oppression? Second of all, are they always in the right? Well, being in the right and being right are two different things. You can be in the right and still be wrong... Ugh, this is beginning to sound like a bad scene from Intro to Ethics..." she paused, "Chocolate. I really want some chocolate." And the argument was dropped while Erica proceeded to look, fail to find, and run out to buy some chocolate. She would have resumed in the car, but a radio station was playing Retro 80's hits.
She had a hard time at the grocery store. She couldn't decide in what form she wanted her chocolate. She was holding a box of lowfat chocolate chip cookies against lowfat chocolate frozen yogurt when she was approached by an ex-something. Whatever he was, he wasn't it anymore.
"Well, well," he seethed.
"David. Always a pleasure," she responded sarcastically and not without a hint of irony, since whenever they met it always ended in... pleasure.
"It certainly always has been, hasn't it? Why break the record?"
"Spare me. You've lost your charm. Too many bimbos. I couldn't even trick myself into pretending that you respected me."
"Well, they all can't be you, Erica."
"Well, that's too bad for you, David."
"How would you know? And who would you know? I haven't told you everything."
"For god's sake, David, don't even bother," she chuckled. "Oh god, remember that one, right before me..."
"The first. She only read romance novels. Remember? How could you even get it up with someone who was that empty-minded? That's disgusting. Remember her?"
"Yeah," he laughed but his eyes narrowed. "Oh, yeah, and then remember how you fucked me anyway? Whose standards are on trial here?"
But Erica didn't even blanch at what was, she had to admit, a very good quip. "If we intelligent women waited around for an intellectual Bukowski-reading boy who had a history of only good choices, none of us would get laid."
"Touche. Come on, let's go fuck."
"Classy. Classy and dignified, and wow how attractive. Forget it, David."
"You know I'm madly in love with you."
"Good. I hope it hurts." She decided to take both the cookies and the yogurt. "Kisses."
But she kept on walking away.
Erica lived what some would consider a lonely life. She talked to many people, but only went out with herself. She had tumultuous affairs that were scheduled in neatly and weren't too time-consuming. She wasn't quite sure what purpose perpetual friends served, and until she felt an overwhelming need, she was alone. She's that girl you see sitting by herself in the artsy theatre reading a book before the film starts. Of course, that's every girl sitting by herself in an artsy theatre. And like the others, she was only pretending to read.
So, as usual, Erica, sans company, went to her regular late-night hangout, half-regretting she had turned David down. It was your average coffeeshop, over-the-top obnoxious, full of ridiculous angry boys, post-angry boys, and their groupies. There were angry boys packaged separately or in the half-dozen, there were groupies playing solitare or heated games of strip-intellectual-banter. She ordered a double dry cap (heavy on the pretention), plopped down, and opened Jarry's Visits of Love. She soon noticed the exhibit sitting in front of her and off to the right. He was a classic edition, with early 90s long-hair and disgruntled clothes. But what made him priceless was the too-serious look on his face as he scribbled his postmodern prose.
"The only thing more annoying than a post-adolescent male who takes himself too seriously while writing prose in a coffeeshop," she thought, "is a post-adolescent male who takes himself too seriously while writing poetry in a coffeeshop." She laughed out loud. "Damn I'm funny. Can't imagine why no one enjoys me as I much as I do."
"Probably because no one else thinks that you're funny."
Erica looked up to see who had spoken. But there was no one there. She looked around suspiciously.
"But as long as you're enjoying yourself, well, I suppose that's okay," the voice mocked.
Erica slammed her book down. She picked up her drink and peered into it. But that wasn't it. The voice wasn't coming from the outside. It was inside. Someone else was inside her head. Everyone hears their thoughts in some sort of voice. It's difficult to explain when you think about it, but it's precisely when you do think about it that it seems as if the dialogue in your head is spoken with a voice. But this voice in her head wasn't the voice that had always been in her head. It was foreign, invasive.
"That guy over there certainly doesn't think that you're funny."
A little perturbed, and not a little put-off by the intrusion, Erica didn't feel like responding. But as the voice was in her head, she had no choice. Obviuosly, her response, although kept within her head, needn't travel any further to be heard. "Okay, A, I don't know him, and B, do I really care what some guy who is reading..." she peered at the book next to the scribbler's notebook, "The Anathema of Zos really thinks of me?"
"You don't know what that even is, so how do you know if you'd care or not?"
Erica rolled her eyes. "Because I know these things. I'm pretty special that way. How many people have foreign voices in their head, huh? I'm as extraordinary as they come. Besides, I've never heard of it. So obviously it can't be worth reading."
"He heard that. He thinks you're supremely vacuous."
"Oh yeah, then why doesn't he say so to my face?" she stuck out her chin defiantly.
"You're supremely vacuous."
He had turned in her direction to say it and regarded her cooly.
Erica looked at him, irritated. His face reminded her of a sentence she had just read in Jarry: "But the sombre wideness of his eyes is filled with disquieting things that attest to the race of which deserters or assassins are bred..."
"And which do you think I am?" he asked.
"A deserter," she replied.
He smirked and went back to writing.
"You're piqued by that smirk, aren't you, Erica? Absolutely amazing. Here you are, dealing with an intrusive voice in your head and strangers hearing your thoughts, and you're distracted by thoughts of flirtation? You really are supremely vacuous."
"Listen, I fully understand engaging in dialogue with myself. I do it regularly. But this is really insane. And trite. Very trite. What a dull mental disorder, to have an intrusive voice. It's like schizophrenia or something. How passe."
"You don't understand a word of that Jarry book. So can I have it?" He was now standing at her side and holding out his hand expectantly.
"I'm in the middle of a conversation, do you mind?"
"In the first place," he sat down across from her and grabbed the book, "his pieces are full of references to Celtic mythology, the Bible, the Koran, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and other things you don't know anything about. Second of all, underlying everything he wrote is his philosophy of pataphysics, which is completely over your head. As I'm sure you already have a number of pretty shelf books that make you look smart, I don't see why you can't just give me this one since I actually understand it."
"I do okay with the footnotes." It was one of the singularly most insipid remarks that had ever come out of Erica's mouth and she felt like rolling into the fetal position.
His expression softened. "That was the only honest statement you have made, probably all week."
She was horrified, "You've been in my head all week?"
"No. I was just guessing."
"Uhhh... Hey, Steve," three tall and equally disgruntled looking early-20s males stood at the table.
"Who's your... friend?" asked the reluctant spokesman.
Steve blushed, and Erica was under the impression it was a big deal when any of these guys talked to a member of the opposite sex. It was her turn to smirk.
"Um. We were just talking about Jarry... So, uh, yeah. See ya," he said to her and gathered his things to sit with his friends at a bigger table on the other side of the coffeeshop.
Erica cautiously searched her head for any sign of company. "Steve? Hello? Is anyone else here?" She waited for a response. "I knew he was a deserter. I can't believe he actually took my book..."
"But he was kinda cute, huh, Erica?"
"Cut it with the mockery, will you? And no, not really."
"Why are you even lying to me when I'm in your head? I heard everything that you thought. He's gone now, anyway. He can't hear you."
"Why was he in my head in the first place?"
"It made for a better story, don't you think? I mean, another voice in your head? That wouldn't make for a good anecdote. Please, how passe."
"Totally." Erica nodded. "So, do you know if he's got a girlfriend?"
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1998 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1998 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: World Wide Web http://www.eden.com/~kilgore/sob.html irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <email@example.com>. The SoB distribution list may also be joined by sending email to Kilgore Trout. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--