Ihear the boys around one A.M. but I fall to sleep again. The next thing I remember is petting a cat. It’s an amazing fuzzball of a cat and it has this raspy tongue it’s licking at my hand with. Each time that rasp seems to arouse me, lights flicker. It’s a stupid dream I can hear myself thinking. But there is motion and a sense that I’m standing still and stage sets are being moved around me. I go into the next room and there are several beautiful scantily clad women on a sofa all facing me, they are terrified, the six or seven of them, lovely little Asian ladies all of them in these white gowns that barely cover their cute, pale bums. They shriek and cower as I approach.
One of them cries out, “He’s going to eat us!”
This makes me chuckle, but, also, I desire that, almost painfully I wish to eat them, to eat them all, one after another like a handful of crisp grapes. I reach out a hand and realize it’s a claw, huge, scaled, birdlike. The beauties all cringe moving back in unison, beautiful black eyes wide, lovely red lips parted, gasping at my approach. It’s like a Kurosawa action sequence motion everywhere. Then, one of the ladies smirks and comes forward boldly.
“He can have me,” she says, dropping to her knees in my path and leaning forward with her arm outstretched, palm up, inviting me to have her.
The other women cringe behind her in overly dramatic style, they look like Elvgren paintings. They pose like acrobats in a Cirque Du Soleil performance. They are actresses never leaving the little sofa and carpet stage, never running off, just awaiting their fate. A fate that neither approaches, nor retreats. They are trapped in this production, it’s their job to cringe and swoon. They take it seriously. Assistants rush in wearing dark clothing, spritz them with atomizers, fluff their hair, apply touches of make-up when they think I’m not looking. When I look they competitively flutter their eyelashes and wiggle, doing their best distressed acting. “Please!” and “No!” and “This can’t be happening!” they cry.
There’s no patience for a sequence of events. There’s a channel-changing characteristic to it, an attention deficit shifting of day-glo waxy orbs rising and falling in a lava lamp. Tiny red sunrises and settings, over and over. I could be as powerful as a Japanese movie monster here, but I’m losing touch with the scene, and my luscious victims always manage to just evade my grasp.
There’s the slamming of doors, the revving of Kawasaki engines right by my windows. Those fuckin’ jerks! A grinding crawl of moving through the thickest sap with each annoying repetitive process, there are no more events for me to experience.
“Who says that?” I ask of no one.
I want to reach into the darkness, throttle something, not just have to endure. I want success. I want to feel the power of a beast, those girls could have helped me, they seemed poised to provide it.
You’re talking to yourself.
Realization like the twang and disappointing drop of a bolt from a Sleestak crossbow.
“So what, that’s what we do, that’s what we are, apes that endlessly talk to ourselves,” my voice is thin and tinny. Is that what I sound like?
Xerxes whipped the sea for it’s misbehavior, punished it with chains and bonds tossed into the depths for good measure. . . .
There will be no success, you’ve had all you’re going to have . . . you’re overstaying your welcome, pointlessly continuing to eat and defecate without regard to what you actually bring to the equation. You serve no purpose. The world doesn’t need you.
“But I really tried.”
And failed, what do you want me to say? That you should live on endlessly in this cycle of pointless menial behavior? . . .
“Maybe not endlessly,” I try to see into the darkness, why can’t I wake up?
. . . Looking over your girly photos, pushing your mower, applying to jobs no one will hire you for, shitting, eating, shitting, eating . . . getting shingles again, you’re a waste of resources.
And now a story . . . a lady sells her hair to buy a watch chain for a fellow who has a nice pocket watch, soon her hair grows back and the fellow, grateful for the excellent chain minding his watch, buys the lady fancy combs for her luxurious hair.
The Flying Nun dropping chipped ice from the sky to make it snow at Christmas for a sick child. Why stop there? Why not the flying pope, a flying William S. Burroughs, a flying super-sensitive correctican who simply loves to make sure everyone sees how often he or she managed to call the transgender boy “she” as “she” would have wanted it. Just waiting for you to screw it up so an extremely well rehearsed leaping down of your intolerant, hateful throat (you insensitive ass) can commence. . . .
Xerxes whipping the sea for its misbehavior.
An old man who used to come in to the lab I worked at, annoyed us with his amateur fire ant studies, his pockets filled with modified pepper grinders full of abamectin and spinosad, is describing battery types, explaining about the B type battery that never got popular and the A type of which we now only have the smaller AA and AAA, etc. These conventions adopted when he was a baby, the largest batteries are further into the alphabet the F type was a big one.
I can’t protest enough, “lemmee back to those girls!’
Who are you asking? You’re talking to yourself. You want those girls? you have them they’re already yours. . . .
But they don’t come back, I struggle to bring them back. One last try for the cuties on the sofa, instead I see steers with horns so large they have to walk backwards to feed on the lush green grasses, their huge bovine sex gear hanging out, clouds of flies attend them.
You catch more flies with honey . . .
What sort of flies?
In the class room, always a damned anxiety story about a course I’ve missed most of, we’re watching tapes of old television. Each story an episode of goddamned Scooby Doo, training us from childhood that a good story always has the twisty ending, pull off the mask for the reveal! Hemingway snoozing on the grass after catching some trout, having done something odd with ferns, having chased after a childish woman, having watched a horse die when mauled by a bull.
The professor wants us to remember that Pausanias took a higher ground, refused to mutilate the enemy corpses on the battle field. . . .
When I finally get my ass out of bed it’s after a long period of stretching and rubbing my temples due to a migraine. It makes my head feel like it’s twice the usual size. Just standing up requires a warm-up. The warm-up requires a warm-up. No worries, I’ve not transformed into a species of pestiferous Blattidae.
When I glance in the mirror rubbing my face on the towel I just dried my hands on, it seems puffier, huge, my old man’s angry glare steels me from my reflection.
A waste of resources.
It’s raining and I assume this unusual dreaming and headache were perhaps due to a low pressure zone . . . but these causal ideas only satisfy us somewhat, red wine, and seriously dark chocolate are common migraine triggers, but what triggers an anxiety dream about uselessness? Does the low pressure front moving across the region provide a physical stress that triggers an emotional one?
I don’t know. I only recently realized uncooked peppers upset my stomach so much I have remain close to a toilet for much of the following day. It took most of my life to work that combination out. I cannot comprehend why it was so difficult for me to realize that simple relationship.
The news on the internet is about a suicide bomber someplace I’ve never been, jihading a building full of Westerners. Part of the difficulty of being around human beings is that some of them are dangerously defective. Modern arms allow these damaged mammals to extend their poison exponentially. We’ve never figured out how to do anything about the violently ill, and we still, many of us human beings, seem to think that giving them religion is a good idea. Their passion is a lust for death, fanned by promises that make no sense, embedded in an ancient heap of holy scribbling that no one any longer can justifiably pretend to understand, and they don’t care. They just use it to justify their madness. There aren’t many of these defective people, but there are enough to make things kind of terrifying as it only takes one to really muck up the works, ruin your plans, and kill your loved ones—Asimov’s Mule.
The rain pounds the windows in sheets. It’s a real southern soaker. I can’t think of anything to do out there, there’s no point in it really, local flood warnings are being posted, traffic is tied up.
I lean back in my broken office chair, duct-taped, one armed, lifted one day from a collection of office materials in a storage unit Kurt had me go to to find his huge printer-copier. The old chair is still strong enough to carry me. A bit of yellowing paper on the back where the plastic fell off years ago says that it was built in September of 1981. They built rolling office chairs to last back then, lots of steel and bolts and serious casters.
I decide to go see Kurt.
In all the years I’ve visited Kurt, at both his care facilities, (the one that got shut down was the much nicer one, the current one is far logier, far more cynical), I’ve only met his wife once or twice, and seen just one of his two sons once. They were a famously dysfunctional family before the accident, and the accident didn’t change their interaction much.
“On my birthday, . . . we went out . . . for ice cream,” Kurt says slowly, relating a pre-accident tale, “the kids . . . in the backseat, . . . I took . . . everyone’s order . . . and got it . . . back to the . . . car—sat down . . . started eating, . . . and Laurie started . . . it’s not right, . . . it’s not what . . . she wanted. . . . I offer her mine, . . . she doesn’t . . . want that either, . . . she wants me . . . to go get her . . . another, . . . I tell her to . . . just relax, . . . you know, . . . it’s just ice cream, . . . and so she mashes it . . . into my face.”
Here he starts to chuckle, this immature wife of his, a spoiled beauty, makes me seethe.
“So, you know, . . . I push my cone . . . into her face, . . . and then she grabs . . . my glasses off . . . my face and de-stroys them . . . with her hands, . . . just mangles, . . . ruins them . . . the kids . . . are all crying,” his face is severe now.
I remember seeing his face after this incident the harpy-claw marks she left on his cheeks. Her childish tantrums indulged.
“I got out . . . of the car . . . and left them, . . . left her the keys.” He shakes his head, his bright blue eyes meet mine, “I walked home.”
Even though I’ve heard this story, remember it well, I still feel emotion rising. Seeing my friend in this situation, and knowing that his previous life was never good. I find myself wanting to kill this awful, spoiled brat of a woman, wishing I could get away with murder.
Today he has a tidbit I didn’t hear before, “On the way home . . . I jumped the fence . . . of a yard that had . . . a pool, . . . I jumped the . . . fence and. . . in that pool . . . just cooled off. There was no one . . . home, and I . . . just lay back and looked . . . up at the sky,” he rolls his eyes back, “it was so . . . be-yootiful, you know?”
This was his birthday celebration, the last before he fell. Walking home from a fight with his wife, and trespassing on a neighbor’s pool, and finding that a sort of transcendent beauty.
These days his birthdays are largely attended by some Baptist church buddies and me. Privately, to me, he says that he’s not on very good terms with any god these days and grins.
In the old days, he could be rougher on his well-meaning Protestant buddies, some of them sensing his soul slipping from the righteous path would come to his law office and sit and try to talk him into better church attendance, pointing out that the congregation is very important.
“I said to him: you see my friend Anondo here?” meaning a law apprentice he had hired on, a friendly Hindu fellow from Bengal.
“Yes,” said the bright-eyed bible-thumper.
“Where does he fit in your religion, where does he go when he dies?”
This usually left the friendly churcher tongue-tied to which Kurt would then loudly exclaim, “No sale!”
Today, Kurt has a visitor, a lady friend I’ve heard of but not yet met.
“Les! . . . this is . . . my friend . . . Alice!” Kurt looks very happy and I have the distinct impression I’ve just interrupted something good.
“Les is . . . a professor of . . . en-tomol-logy . . .” Kurt grins.
“Oh how nice!” Alice says brightly straightening herself up, I can see she’s had her top unbuttoned.
“Uh, well, there’s some exaggeration in there, I do have a PhD but I never got a—”
“Les knows . . . everything you need . . . to know, he’s . . . like an . . . en-cyclo-pedia !” Kurt interrupts me, wanting to cut off my academic litany.
Alice is maybe forty, shapely, a blue-eyed blonde, her blouse is now buttoned.
“I’m sorry, if I was interrupting—”
“No, Les . . . hey . . . you wanna . . . eat some . . . good beef jerky . . . Alice made?”
“That sounds great!” I pull a chair up for Alice to sit close to Kurt and I notice her taking his hand, it’s always taped up and while he can swing them around he has no sensation on the outer surface he does have sensation on the inner and this is where I see her fingers stroke him. I feel dirty watching.
Kurt directs me to the jerky and I pop open the plastic container, and start hand feeding it to him. He shakes his head and demands I eat, I look for a small piece to chew on, my teeth are sore again and don’t allow me to really grind anything.
“Eat . . . a big . . . chunk,” he laughs
“OK OK!” I stuff a bigger piece between my front teeth (the good ones) and tear at it, and it’s very tasty, my mouth waters, the salt and spice are excellent. “It’s really good.”
“See, . . . I tole ya,” Kurt smiles back to Alice whose delicate facial features I can now study a bit from the other visitor chair, she catches me and smiles.
Alice used to work at the facility Kurt was housed in, the one that folded down in Knightdale (which, back in the day, sported a sign at the town line that said: Knightdale Home of the Klu Klux Klan!). She became very fond of Kurt, and had herself transferred to another facility so that she could see Kurt socially. Kurt tells me that she’s very attentive, and I suspect was mashing her boobies in his face for him before I arrived.
“Eat . . . another . . . piece!” Kurt says with playful sternness, “we were gonna . . . watch a movie, . . . you wanna . . . watch a movie?”
He yells at his computer to “Wake up!”, which turns on the receiver, and voices some commands to move the mouse around to opening his movie folder. He’s got piles of movies all pirated off the internet. Kurt spends much of his day a kind of small time file sharing crook. He’s often offering me copies of classic rock records that I can’t imagine anyone needs anymore as they’re so overplayed on the cable airwaves and have been for generations now.
We settle on something with elves and dragons, a retooling of an older set of movies but with even more fantastical special effects, and wonderfully short skirts on the girl elves.
Alice never stops letting the tips of her fine fingers travel the inside of Kurt’s arm. He’s wearing a t-shirt he salvaged from the Christian run re-use-it center down the road from the Raleigh facility he now lives in. The only clothing he cares about is cheap clothing. If you paid full price you’re going to get an earful from him about it.
At one point in the movie, a series of lovely girl elves are pursued, their miniskirts flaring, by a car-sized dragon with huge scaly claws. They are momentarily cornered, one of the babes, her pointy ears cutely exposed, cries, “He’s going to eat us!” All the cuties squeal and pose dramatically. One of the ladies boldly steps forward, throws herself in the dragon’s path to save her friends. It all seems very familiar.
At that moment a burly Wookiee-looking thing enters from the left reminding me of King Kong and starts beating the crap out of the dragon which, if it looked a bit more like Godzilla, might make all of this pass for a beloved low-end Japanese monster film from my childhood.
Kurt and Alice watch the film like art students, not a drop of satire seems to inhabit them. I keep my mouth shut, try not to make too many comments about the endless dramatic running, jumping, shooting, wrestling and longing looks from boy to girl elves going on.
“You’re too young . . . to remember . . . the Baader-Meinhof bombings . . . that went on . . . when I was a kid . . . in Germany,” Kurt says after Alice says her goodbyes, apparently has to get back to her husband.
“True, how long you and Alice been a thing?” I try to tidy up the room after the movie, throw out a soda can he drained, and put away the remains of some snacks he generously shared.
“They were trying . . . to spark a . . . a revolution, . . . not religious . . . but you know, . . . we’ve had our own . . . religious bombings too,” Kurt nods, his eyes taking in some of the news that pops up on his big screen laptop.
“Was Alice giving you some good attention today?” I want to end this on an upbeat note, the bombing’s too much of a downer, too miserable to think about.
“Yeah maaan, . . . she put her titties . . . in my mouth,” he grins at me.
A nurse knocks at the door with Kurt’s meds, and everything stops for a few minutes while his bag is emptied and his drugs delivered. I know from experience that this load the six P.M. supply will soon knock him out. He goes from being this bright-eyed, memory-filled character to one who can only seem to handle the immediate and then only quite sleepily.
The nurse’s name is Nina and Kurt likes her, she’s one of the few that he cares about. She’s a shapely black lady, mid to late thirties, hair cropped interestingly short, exposing her soft neck and little ears. She smiles at me a lot, she used to just seem nervous. I think she’d be fun to wrestle.
When she finishes up Kurt says, “I can’t believe . . . I’m a quaddy.”
“Nina’s pretty hot, any chance of her boobs in your mouth?” I say with a grin.
“She’s somethin’ . . . ” Kurt goes off on a reverie a moment, “I . . . reread . . . that story.”
“Yeah, and . . . I think, . . . you know, . . . if you want it . . . to sell, . . . you gotta put some . . . thing excitin’ in there,” he nods at me, “you know . . . what I mean?”
“I was thinking maybe the lead character could turn out to be a vampire, actually, you know, a murderer who’s also a vampire, carries a garrote made from a guitar string, and goes around strangling people . . .” I laugh.
He makes a severely pained face at me, as though I’ve just slapped him, “You gotta put . . . something . . . some kind of . . . thing for people . . . to feel good about . . . reading, a . . . reward.”
“You know, I think that shit is cheap, it’s television show writing, you know, fucking Law and Order bullshit.”
“Yeah, well . . . that’s what people . . . like, . . . they . . . like . . . bullshit.”
“So, once again I’m going out of my way to avoid giving people what they want, . . . I’m not resolving to the tonic,” I chuckle.
“And, they . . . will go out . . . of their way . . . to not read . . . your story,” he gives me his lawyer look, take it or leave it.
I give him a hug and say goodnight to his drooping eyelids.