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 4/30/2000 tahw ro who gniwonk to think. You are in SiXTY-TWO ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
As I'm typing this editorial, I cannot get a decent internet connection. I've already restarted this thing twice. It's hard to keep a train of thought going when you are constantly disconnecting a connection that is sending and receiving nothing and having to redial.
So now I'm just going to ramble and bitch. That's what these things are for, anyway. My non-fiction voice sucks. I cringed everytime I read a paper for Lit Theory or Romantic Poetry. But this is an editorial. It's just me and you. We're talking. Well, I am. This isn't academic. This is bullshit at its finest, and it is okay to admit it.
The other day at work I had a great idea for an editorial, and I even mentioned something about it to Nathan in a diner at 2:30 in the morning, trying to converse over the hordes of drunken students who were trying to be louder than the Hendrix playing at an undinerlike decible volume. Now, I have no clue what it was. It was probably a bad joke. In fact, I'm sure it was a bad joke. I believe that the punchline went something like, "It's a figurehead position. You know, kinda like the Queen of England or the governor of Texas." Perhaps I was referring to myself?
Disconnect. Redial. Disconnect. Redial. I was kinda hoping that I would have time to read rec.games.roguelike.angband after I got the issue out. Yes, I have an English degree, and I am a geek. I name my mutated Beastmen Monks after Will Shortz, the editor of the NYTimes crossword puzzle. I have, as someone at my office constantly points out, "issues."
Now I can tell her I have sixty-two of em. I enjoy being about to keep an accurate count of my issues. No grey DSM-IV readings here. Do I have to retake the MMPI? No. It's all statistically balanced out. Sixty-two. 62. Plus some other stuff from when I was dead. But it's more or less accurate.
And let's face it. Sixty-two is a nice number.
Still redialing. Dammit.
But why talk about myself? Is that what you really want? Have you been reading the zine for years now, still unsure of who I really am? Aren't zines supposed to be personal things, where you "get to know" people through their writings? Do you want to know what I do in my spare time? What I think about as I walk down the street? Do you ever wonder what I do after I hit the send button and mail out the zine?
Of course not. And frankly, it's not that exciting. I'm probably way too much like you. And I'm not sure if that's a good thing, since I tend to be extremely neurotic and obsessive about things. I imagine that my own personal hell would be a room full of people just not worrying about anything at all.
Oops. Let out some personal stuff. Note to self: torture editor for not catching that.
Redial. Redial. Redial.
So I'm actually writing this on the 1st of May, even though this issue was supposed to come out on the 30th of April. Power went off, and I wasn't autosaving like I thought. Bad combo, and I said, "Screw it... I'll do it tomorrow." See, I do care about you. I could have just waited until next month.
Alrighty. I am annoyed. Time for plan B.
What is plan B?
The abrupt ending.
From: Marcel Wistaff To: email@example.com Subject: SoB Mailing List I cannot stanback...
[your guess is as good as mine, folks. but, hey, we'll add him just the same.]
From: BMC Subject: Hey Bilgore I just read your most recent editorial and it brought a tear to my eye. Solid gold, my friend, solid gold is all I can say about it. I can assure you that I will be carrying a copy of this article in my pocket the next time I am trying to find a date. Anyway, since you're a Vonnegut fan and probably right into that experimental stuff, you should check out my site. The Neo-Comintern http://members.home.net/comintern I'm sure you will enjoy it. Good night
[Bilgore? A certain old Monty Python skit seems appropriate here. As for getting a date with my editorial, well... good luck. Of course, keeping a copy on flash paper is a great way to get rid of the evidence fast in case things go awry (yes, it's more impressive if you MEMORiZE it), and it makes for a nifty parlor trick as well. Ole Don Herbert would be proud.]
None of the Above
Thanks to all the new B.C.E.s (bachelor's of condom engineering) graduating from junior colleges and technical schools, condom research is being stretched to the limits and is, consequently, at an all-time high. As soon as these educated people get their diplomas, they are being gobbled up by condom producers around the country. Salaries paid to such engineers, already the pride of their firms, are astronomical. Quickly, too, these people have become the educated elite of today, a position formerly held by computer engineers.
Better able to relate to condoms because of earlier exposure, the specifically trained are at the very tip of the device's capability, applications, and process iceberg. Not surprisingly, new condom materials, shapes, sizes, accouterments, and colors are being added daily to drugstore racks and displays.
A lot of seminal thought, and a few more things, have gone directly into the modern-day condom. In testing laboratories everywhere today, the sturdy device is being stomped on, stressed, and stuffed to its gills. Further, condoms are being burned, frozen, swollen, and who knows what else in ever more grueling tests thought up by engineers.
The results include new and improved, very attractive, and definitely more durable condoms for you and me. And most important of all, we're now years ahead of the Japanese and the economically successful European nations in the field of condom science and industry. Quality condoms are one of the few American products today not being threatened by similar products from other countries. Listed below are a few prime examples of the new, specifically designed condoms recently developed for various markets:
I hadn't realized how often and how much people moved, until one of those moments occurred. Those moments when you are off a bit, not quite fully conscious of yourself, because you're fully fixated on observing everything else outside of you -- people, traffic, buildings, moving substances. There must be a term for one of those moments -- where everything is synchronized in front of you -- or, rather, when you fully recognize the synchronization of everything around you. Walking through crowds of people, and each snippet of conversation you overhear follow perfectly one after another, people emerge from buildings, birds swoop down, cars roll by -- all with a nondescript timing. Too perfect a timing it seems, as though there is a script being played out in front of you.
Two people in front of me, both sitting -- the first shaking their left foot with legs crossed, the second tapping their left foot updown. It seems as though each is unaware of the other's similar movements. A dwindling, twisted strand of fuzz floated down from an unseen point in midair, illuminated by the fluorescent light above -- dipping, floating, sauntering on an invisible pendulum, it sailed down to the second person's shoulder. This person immediately sat up, contorting their back -- it could not have been possible for them to have felt this single, minute strand land upon them. Nonetheless, some kind of reaction occurred. The first person also sat up, and I watched as they both took turns scratching ears, adjusting hair, moving legs, arms, hands, picking, stretching without pause. Both showing no indication of any awareness of their movements -- nothing out of the ordinary. In the midst of this, a human show began. I felt myself off-centered and still, the gentleman at the base of the lecture hall we occupied suddenly ceased speaking, began stammering with uh's, staring blankly at his notes in front of him. My head moved slowly to the rest of the audience, and I watched each of them begin to move in similar ways -- itching an ear, adjusting hands, sitting up, sitting back, writing, chewing, flexing -- the pattern wasn't linear. It was as though I was watching raindrops hitting a pool of water. One could easily mistake such things to be random, but there exists a natural pattern, rhythm. This show was brief, 30-40 seconds, and I unwillingly came back to myself as the patterns ceased.
The Paducah Falls Post-Nuclear Players opened their new season last night with a favorite from long-ago days, Rodgers and Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA! As the only theatre company left in Paducah Falls -- and possibly the only one left in the world, unless President Rodham-Reagan and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have room to stage THE MIKADO or A CHORUS LINE in that underground bunker of theirs -- the expectations for Players productions are high indeed.
I'm happy to report that, one or two performances aside, the Players more than meet those expectations this time. Here is a production which is well worth leaving your home for, even if the lead lining in your containment suit is wearing thin in a few places. (Let's face it, how many more evenings can you spend watching a blank TV screen, trying to remember whether MSNBC-AOL-MONSANTO was channel 22 or if that was DISNEY-LODEON?)
Johnny Halliwell is just marvelous as Curly -- and not just because he's the only man left with half a head of hair, a full upper plate of teeth and eyelids. No, you can't get away with looks alone in this role, you have to sing, act AND be charming. Halliwell does all three, especially in "A Puzzlement," the King of Siam's big number.
You might wonder what a song from THE KING AND I is doing in OKLAHOMA! Unfortunately, the Paducah Falls Library's score of OKLAHOMA! did not survive intact, nor did the script. As a result, a few numbers have been interpolated -- "Climb Every Mountain" for "Kansas City," "Soliloquy from CAROUSEL" for "Many a New Day" (beautifully sung by the ladies of the chorus), and the aforementioned "A Puzzlement" for "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning." They also had to substitute part of "You Are Sixteen Going on Seventeen" for the last 16 bars of "Poor Jud is Dead," but it was done so skillfully I almost didn't catch it.
The script interpolations -- substituting "Out, out, damn spot" for the scene leading up to "People Will Say We're in Love" and the "kindness of strangers" speech from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE for the climactic trial segment -- are not as successful, but they don't really interfere with one's enjoyment of the play.
Regrettably, the same cannot be said of Annabelle Miller's Laurey, which is a total disaster, and not merely because her left ear fell off during the shivaree. I suppose one can sometimes get away with casting a non-singer as the female lead in a musical, but there is a world of difference between an actress without a voice and an actress without a mouth. A far more sensible choice would have been my wife, who is not orally challenged and who could have sung the bejeezus out of the part. Granted, the fact that her neck is now over three feet long means she would have been somewhat taller than Curly, but outfitting Mr. Halliwell with a pair of stilts would have easily solved that problem.
Happily, Janis Payton-Burroughs' Ado Annie is a dream, and in "I Cain't Say No" she shows how one can turn a supposed disability like that new third eye into an asset. And Martin Kanton's Jud was so menacing and disturbing I hardly noticed the "C" volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica that's permanently fused to his left hand.
And what about the music? As pianist, Kurt Billingham was a little sloppy in Act One but positively brilliant in Act Two. Upon questioning, he explained that the webbing that has grown on his left hand made it difficult for him to play the bass parts. Fortunately during intermission the arm that started growing from his chest last month finally sprouted a hand -- and one that was totally web-free, thus the much improved second act.
Special kudos to Lou Golden's ingenious lighting design. Using a special filter he made himself, Lou is able to reflect the glow from especially radioactive audience members onto the stage, which makes for some real pretty effects.
Again, I heartily recommend this production. And I look forward to their next production, ANNIE. After all, one unexpected benefit of last year's unpleasantness is that Sandy the Dog can now be a speaking part (and, if they use Marva Brown's saucy little terrier, a singing one as well!)
"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."
"Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong."
Words float off orations like dust specks
seen in the light,
they rise off print in books and editors' opinions
and light in featherweight minds,
invisible and weightless from over-use.
Repeated from spin doctored webs
to well-spun tales, till neighbors' fences
hear every platitude and proverb recycled.
Lifted from meaning, repeating banishes thought
till meaning is lost in layers of innuendo, gesture,
winking or posturing atop podiums.
Phrases familiar become undefined.
and words, being many, are meaningless.
But today I visited my friend Clarence in his office
and waited for the phone to finish its important dictation.
He caught my eye with sparkle, shook my hand with vigor,
and smiled as warm as the family dog.
He was in a hurry (business flurry), and late for
a meeting (apologetic greeting), so we walked to his
truck together. He said,
"Next time, please come see me again."
I half-smiled and nodded. He said,
"No, really, next time, come see me again."
(he knew... we both knew... what weightless meaning
those words often carry)
and we parted, knowing today a man spoke
I was unpacking boxes at work when someone asked if anyone had a knife. No one had a knife, but I had a razor blade in a nifty case in my pocket, so I gave him that. He stared at me for a few minutes with a shocked look on his face before finally taking it. He asked me why I was carrying a razor blade, like only masochists and druggies carry razor blades with them. No one else thought I was weird until later when we were cleaning dried glue from tables. Three of us were cleaning so I pulled out a razor blade from my wallet and another from my backpack and passed them out.
Razor blades have many advantages over pocketknives. They are cheaper, sharper, and easier to replace. It is easier to cut paper with a razor blade. Cleaning glass and table tops is much harder to do with a knife. But aside from practical reasons, there is a beauty in the simplistic, utilitarian design of a razorblade. Also, they hold a sentimental value to me. I used to cut myself with them.
The first time I cut myself was after a fight with my girlfriend. That was the first time Dionne told me when I upset her. Before then, she would keep quiet until she forgot why she was sad or angry. I kept telling her she should tell me what I was doing so I could stop. So, she finally wrote me a note. She told me how I was being mean and annoying and stupid. I hadn't meant to hurt her, but after reading the note I realized how much of an asshole I was. I cried for maybe ten minutes, berating myself for being so cruel and insensitive. The tears stopped flowing, and my guilt began to subside. That's when I got really mad at myself. I thought I wasn't feeling bad enough and wanted to punish myself. If I didn't feel bad on the inside, I would make myself feel bad on the outside. After a while I wrote "I'm sorry" backwards on my leg and used it as a printing press. Whenever the blood started to thicken, I would wipe it with a sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol.
After she saw that telling me resulted in admitting I was wrong rather than denial of guilt, she had little compulsion against informing me of my mistakes. Sometimes I would just feel sad and guilty, but usually I cut myself too. Mostly I just scratched my legs or arms or chest enough to hurt and make the blood flow. I wanted to punish myself like you would a puppy if it made a mess under your table. I thought this would eventually indoctrinate me against bad behavior.
This plan only partially worked. I became more sensitive, but as our relationship deteriorated, she found more faults with me. The last time I visited her at her college, she screamed at me for trying to help her with her laundry. Also, my scheme had a side effect: like Pavlov's dog, I had become conditioned. Since I cut myself and felt guilty when I was sad, I began to feel guilty and cut myself whenever I felt sad. I had become accustomed to it, and it was just another part of my life. Some people go shopping when they get sad; I cut myself.
Really it was more than that. I focused on my negative feelings and drew them out past reasonable proportions. I started to believe every bad thing that happened to anyone I knew was my fault. The cafeteria lady was rude to someone -ô if I had been friendlier to her the day before she might be in a better mood. Someone was sad because her dad didn't call for her birthday ô- if I had steered the conversation in a different direction they wouldn't be thinking about it. >From this festering pile of guilt grew low self-esteem, paranoia, and a drive for perfection. Of course, perfection is impossible, worrying about the minute consequences of my every action is pointless, and I was trying my best to be a good person. But I didn't see any of this. I only saw that the world wasn't perfect, and it was somehow my fault.
The worst cut I gave myself was in my brother's bathroom. I was staying with him over Thanksgiving break when I got an email from Dionne canceling some plans we made to go to New Orleans over the Christmas holidays. We had already broken up, but were still going to be "friends". It shouldn't have been such a shock, but we had been planning since summer, and I thought we were at least going to discuss it. I began to hyperventilate and cry and jerk spasmodically. My brother was asleep so I went in the bathroom so as not to wake him. Part of my mind began to worry that I might do something stupid. This part was semi-rational, so instead of telling me to cut myself, it told me to pull down my pants and cut my thigh. If I was going to cut myself, I was going to do it worse than I ever had before, and I didn't want anyone to know. A quick stroke informed me that I did, after all, have a layer of fat on my leg.
I have the talent of being clearheaded in emergency situations, but I am not able to think when I am emotionally upset. When a tangible crisis arises, my emotions and feelings are put on hold till it is dealt with. I immediately stopped hyperventilating and crying, and my movements became methodical. I couldn't find any gauze or medical tape in my brother's cabinet, so I tore off a handful of toilet paper and held that against my leg under my pants as I walked to my car and got electric tape. I grabbed my skateboard and went for a walk. I left around eleven and got back five hours later. I walked almost continuously, stopping once to try to sleep in a pasture and once by the side of a pond. As soon as I stopped moving I felt confined. I hadn't done much thinking while I was gone, but by the time I got back, my energy was burned away and I was able to fall asleep. My state of mind remained consistent while I slept, and when I awoke I broke several of my ties with Dionne. It was unhealthy for me to be so sensitive to her and I no longer had the motivation to be the perfect boyfriend.
My next self-inflicted scar came a few months later. By this time she, her roommate, and some boy they had known for six weeks had dropped out of college and moved to North Carolina. Travis was another friend of Dionne's, and he had a crush on me. He invited me to visit a mutual friend for the weekend. When we got there, Tim was talking to Dionne on the phone. The phone was passed around so everyone had a chance to talk, and I ended up with it. Dionne told me one of her roommates was bringing some cocaine home that night. It wasn't till later when she said all of them were going to take it that I began to worry. It was one thing for her to do pot and acid, but cocaine is a hard drug and does not fall into the "recreational drugs" category. I tried to tell her cocaine was a bad idea, but she began to grow hostile about me trying to dictate her life and push my standards on the world or something like that. I gave the phone to someone else and went into the bathroom. I cried and began to cut my arm. After a few random slashes, I inscribed, "Why."
Travis hates to drive because when he gets two more tickets, his license will be revoked, so I drove most of the way home. On a tight curve the sleeve of my jacket pulled up exposing some bloody skin. I pulled the sleeve back down and kept looking straight ahead as Travis grew hysterical. He was worried about me and didn't want me to hurt myself and wanted me to talk to him about it and have a bonding experience. He also wanted to fuck me. I didn't want to talk about it and I especially didn't want to encourage his ulterior motives.
While Travis was worrying about me, I worried about her -ô constantly. Then one day I cut my thigh again. I wasn't hysterical when I did it -ô I'm not sure why I did. It was, however, a symbolic act after which I stopped caring so much about Dionne's welfare. Nothing tangible had changed (except the addition of a scar), but something in my head died.
I kept talking to her and when she invited me to visit sometime I took her seriously. I made plans to visit during spring break. On the way to the airport, for my first flight in an airplane, at 4:40am, I hydroplaned and hit a policewoman. Three days later, when I finally arrived in North Carolina, I called Dionne from the airport and told her about it. I joked about it being a bad omen. While I was with her the next few days she locked her keys in her car and we had to wait three hours for one of her roommates to come with a spare set. She wrecked her car, and she got depressed and ignored me. I don't blame her -ô her life was in disarray before I arrived and my visit, along with recent events, was too much stress. By the end of the visit, we were both depressed and it was almost a relief to leave.
A few weeks later I was in my bathroom, contemplating a razor blade and my arm. Suddenly I had a vision of me as an adult. My kids are in the living room, playing video games while I am hiding in the bathroom, still cutting myself. After fifteen years I still hadn't learned to cope with emotional stress. What kind of father would I make? But this wasn't the disturbing part of my vision. What really scared me was seeing me leaning against the sink, opening my eyes, hearing my children from the other room, and realizing for the first time that cutting myself was bad. The razor blade didn't touch my arm that afternoon.
A few days later I cut myself for the last time. I was making a birthday present for Dionne and needed some blood for pigment. I tried using a hypodermic needle I had lying around, but I had no syringe so it didn't work. I decided one last cut on my thigh would provide the necessary fluid. It would also provide me with much needed closure. It gave me something tangible to symbolize the end of my focus on despair and the past. It's been a year and I haven't cut myself with razor blades or scalpels, haven't burned myself with matches or cigarettes.
I still carry razor blades with me. The temptation is still there from time to time, but I withstand it. The temptation would still be there if I didn't have them around; I would just have to wait until I found something sharp if I ever gave in. The practicality of razorblades easily compensates for this added risk. I can cut tape in neat lines for art projects, unsnarl tangled string in the fashion of Alexander, clean dried paint and glue from the floor, and trim my fingernails in a pinch. I suppose I could get a pocketknife, which wouldn't be nearly as tempting to cut myself with, but it just wouldn't feel right.
"Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.
Nine times the space the measure day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded, though immortal: but his door
Reserved him to more wrath, for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him: round he throws his baleful eyes...
He drove all day through the relentless desert sun and planned to use the night to get through Las Vegas. He was on his way to LA. It was mid-July, and the stretch from Dallas to Vegas was the hottest part of his trip. After that, everything would be easy. In LA, a new job as editor of a small religious magazine awaited him. To Ben Sludge, who had received his doctorate in religious studies years ago from Brown, a new career meant a new life.
Ben was a scarred man. Since the accident seven years ago, living in his home-town of Tulsa had been like dwelling in purgatory. For the past few years, he had been under treatment for moderate to severe depression. Two Decembers ago, severely depressed, convinced that he'd planned the accident, he had physically attacked a colleague in a coffee house; the story had quickly spread, and the university's Board of Regents had demanded Dr. Sludge's resignation. Devastated and angry with God, on Christmas day, an inebriated Sludge had driven his car head-on into one of the walls of the student chapel. The legal system and the court-appointed psychiatrist determined, six months later, that Ben was dangerously psychotic and recommended a long break away from Tulsa.
Things outside Tulsa won't be so bad, Ben's mother Ida Sludge had reassured her son. Los Angeles, his friends and brother Dick had said, is the place to go. Southern California would heal his soul, Pastor Ken had remarked after an intense session with Ben. "Lots of sunshine, friendly people, and beautiful Las Vegas only four hours away," his uncle Ray had told him over dinner last week. "You just need to get away, boy." Uncle Ray, regarded by the largely Baptist family as unrepentant, had been bringing his girl friends to Vegas for thirty years.
The trip to LA was uneventful through Dallas. Just before Gallup, New Mexico, Ben saw what remained of a head-on involving a green suburban and a fiery red semi: the suburban had broken in half, scattering wreckage everywhere, and when Ben drove by he counted at five sheets. He smelled blood in the air and felt a familiar dark stirring in his heart. One of the officers directing traffic through the wreckage said something about decapitation. Two of the sheets, Benny knew, covered children.
It didn't take long for memories to surface, and when he reached Flagstaff, he stopped for half an hour to push away the panic swirling within him. At seven in the evening, he had left Barnacle Bill's donut shop to resume the drive. To shorten the distance, he pushed his car up to ninety and listened to Air Supply CDs. Air Supply had been his wife's favorite group.
As he approached the eastern outskirts of Las Vegas late at night going eighty, a semi blew past him; startled, Ben jerked the steering wheel, nearly missed another car, and slowed to fifty in the far right lane. The incident triggered images related to his wife and daughter's deaths and presented themselves in such vivid detail that Benjamin, driving the I-95 that snaked east to west through the city, felt himself fragmenting and slowed to thirty.
The fragmenting of his personality, as one therapist had termed it, was always terrifying, and Ben had experienced it twice since the accident. Always, as his personality fragmented under incredible stress, he became delusional, imagining himself to be the evil thing or force that had taken the lives of his family. In the end, as he totally fragmented, his personality merged with the evil he feared.
Sensing himself spiraling downward, feeling the pieces break away from his soul Benjamin removed Air Supply and put another CD into the player. This CD contained old gospel songs by the Holy Ghost Choir of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of Memphis, Tennessee. Ben loved old gospel and figured that the sounds would lift his spirit and drive the haunting images out of his head. Jesus, he knew, was always his friend.
As he drove, listening to the singing and forcing thoughts away from the spectacle that seven years ago had taken his wife and daughter, Benjamin Sludge glanced at the digital clock-radio, set into the dash. The clock read 11:43. Seven years ago, authorities had set the time of the accident at midnight. Feeling dizzy, he looked out the cracked side window of his battered '82 primer gray Chevrolet. In the midnight heat, the city blazed brilliantly, like a lake of fire, yet the lights could not prevent the memory that shot like a bat into Benny's brain.
In his mind's eye, he saw the red semi sliding sidewise toward them down the freeway, sparks shooting everywhere; he, his wife, and daughter had been singing hymns and were returning from a church weekend at a lake, where they had all caught their limit. Benny remembered hearing his daughter screaming at him to make the rig stop.
And suddenly there it was, the picture of his car's tangled mass splattering the screen in his mind. Like one condemned to a perdition of memories, Benny remembered himself trapped in the wreckage, his body bent and encased in a metal coffin as he prayed for deliverance and waited for the emergency crew. He remembered that he had looked to his wife next to him, sure that he had heard her gasping, expecting her to make a motion and assure him that she was all right when he suddenly had the sense that his wife of twelve years was dead. Up to this point, he had depended upon his wife for everything. After the rescue crew had pried him out of the tangled metal coffin, Ben was told that both his wife and six-year old daughter had been crushed on impact and had died immediately. At that instant, standing next to the bodies of the ones he loved, he felt something fly out of his soul. It is God, he had told himself at the time; God has taken my soul.
Now, seven years later, driving through Las Vegas, Benny wondered why he had been allowed to escape the wreckage, why his wife and daughter had been taken from him. He hated himself for the deaths. He feared that God blamed him and wondered if he was an evil man. He was certain that he was.
Sweating, he turned off the CD and tried to remember some of his favorite hymns. If I force myself to sing, Benny thought, I'll be able to forget and to subdue my own diabolical nature. Beautiful Savior -- Benny made himself think of the opening words to an old favorite and tried to visualize Christ standing over him, looking down with compassion.
But Ben saw instead the corpses of his wife and daughter lying along the side of the road, blankets covering them. Realizing with a sudden chill that God could not look upon Satan with compassion, he felt himself quickly approaching the fiery lake of psychotic depression. If he reached that place, he knew he'd be capable of anything: he would then believe himself to be the consummately evil being that had taken innocent lives.
He'd been there before. Five months ago, he had spent a month in a psychiatric unit claiming he was Satan. He had beaten senseless one inmate who insisted upon reading the Bible at breakfast, lunch and dinner. His family and church had nearly disowned him during his confinement, claiming that Ben Sludge had a demon. Assuring Ben that he would never go through the ordeal again, the doctor had attributed the disorder to childhood trauma: since childhood, when he had heard his other uncle Ruben preach on the devil and demonic possession, Ben had feared the merging of his personality with that of the Prince of Darkness. As a child, Ben had been neurotic. "That's a fiction, Dr. Sludge. At the peak of your delusion, you believe yourself to be one with evil," his doctor had said, and Benny had believed him. "At that point," his doctor had added, "your mind is capable of anything. Keep in mind: evil does not exist."
Again, Ben Sludge turned to view the lights of Glitter Gulch. The City of Lights, Benny shouted silently to himself, like Augustine's City of God. This must be what Heaven looks like, Benny told himself, looking towards the city glowing splendidly this July night. The reds, golds, greens, and blues of the casino hotels reminded him of Disneyland. Studying the lights, he sought some assurance that a divine safety net would catch him. He sensed a snapping, a breaking apart, and felt something crawling inside of him, from his heart to his brain; the sensation was as familiar as an old coin; simultaneously, the city lights darkened.
What the hell is happening? he wondered, darkness crowding his mind. But he knew what was happening. It had happened five months ago: as the thing inside him grew, darkness would engulf him, and he would be sucked into the vortex of some hideous ritual that would verify what he had long suspected about himself, that he had an evil heart, that goodness was pretense, that he was beyond forgiveness. The dark mass growing inside him would become tangible as mud and, as the light from the overhead moon now faded along with the lights of Vegas, Benny felt himself falling. At that moment he recalled Milton's description of Satan and his legions cast out of heaven. He became, in that instant, the fallen angel.
Gripped by terror, his sense of self dissipating, Benny fought to maintain his sanity and weakly forced out the words to a song he and his wife used to sing with members from their church every Wednesday evening:
I've got a river o' life flowin' outta me;
Makes the lame t' walk and the blind to see;
Opens prison doors and sets the captives free;
I've got the river o' life flowin' outta me.
Benny waited for the soothing hand of his Creator, his heart pounding wildly against his rib cage, the words echoing through him. But as he waited, even staring into his own soul, he sensed the thing inside crawling and scratching itself to the surface of his brain. Crazily, he wondered if the thing had eyes. It was like a hideous cat trapped inside his head, clawing to get out.
"You got shit flowin' outa you, asshole," a voice said in a low growl. The words had come from some far region of Ben's mind and signaled his merging with darkness. Certain as he drove by Las Vegas that he had lost his soul, Benny pounded the steering wheel, whimpered, and struggled to think the words, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Help me, help me!!" He couldn't utter the sounds.
In minutes, with the rush of the dark wings that seemed to hover both within and just beyond his conscious mind, Ben knew that the transition was nearly complete, that he had become the thing inside him, the embodiment of every vicious impulse. He began thinking of killing: he thought about butchering dogs, cats, squirrels, little children, school teachers. He fought the familiarly terrifying craving to destroy another. He craved blood.
Darkness surrounding him like mustard gas.
"Fuck you, Benny!" he heard the low guttural voice whisper. Sure that he was going to get sick, he pulled his car over to the side of the freeway, slowed down, and stopped. Sludge wondered, for an instant, if he should jump out of his car and run for help when, inexplicably, a diabolical design suddenly took root in his mind.
His car stopped, Sludge pushed open the door, got out. This should be easy, he thought, feeling reborn, the fires in his soul blazing again. He looked down the freeway in the direction of Flagstaff.
It was past midnight, and Sludge could see no cars headed his way. He also knew, however, that only one car would drive this way, down this freeway, for another twenty minutes. Assured, somehow, that a family of three was coming, he walked to the middle of the three lanes, lay down on his back, and waited. As he lay on the highway, watching the full moon overhead, he could hear the swish of the lone automobile approaching him. It was a half-mile away, Ben figured, then a quarter, then three hundred yards.
Out of his mind, Sludge waited, heart ticking like a bomb. Then, nearly one hundred feet from him, capturing Sludge in the headlights, the vehicle came to a gradual halt. It was a large green suburban. Knowing that the occupants were watching him, waiting for him to move, Sludge lay still as stone, eyes closed, barely breathing. Think death, Sludge told himself; think death.
Finally, he heard two doors slam and footsteps slowly approaching him.
"Is he dead, daddy?" It was the tender voice of a teenage girl.
Daddy didn't answer, and Sludge felt the cool night wind blow over him. He had rarely felt so peaceful and content.
"Richard, answer your daughter!" This would be dear old Mom, Sludge knew. He loved the sound of her voice: low, husky, sexy.
"Daddy?" said the girl. "Is this man dead?"
Finally, Richard spoke, his voice weak, effeminate. "Oh, my God, my gosh, I think he must be." Sludge could imagine the man cowering as he spoke and hated him immediately.
"Well, Richard, let's find out," said the husky voice.
Waiting, Sludge heard the shuffling of shoes, indicating someone approaching. This is it, Sludge thought. He sensed someone bending over him, heard the person's loud and labored breathing, felt the breathing on his face, smelled onions, and banged his baleful eyes open and looked at the eyeballs of the other, inches from his own. Knowing he was insane, unable to control himself, Sludge sat up and howled.
"Jesus!!!" the man exclaimed in a high-pitched voice, holding his eye as if something had pricked it and trying to pull himself back. "What is this? Jesus, you're alive. You're alive. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!"
Sludge was cobra-quick, and as the man's daughter and wife screamed he grabbed the little bespectacled man by the throat, drew him toward him, and squeezed. "I ain't Jesus, little man," Sludge growled. He knew his strength would be too much for the man, who gasped, hacked, thrashed, and kicked, trying to escape Benjamin Sludge's powerful grip. This little man reminded Sludge of a frog on a stick.
As he tightened his grip, Sludge could feel bones popping and cartilage snapping. His air quickly cut off, the man stopped screaming and breathing and, as Sludge released him, dropped to the pavement like a bag of meal. The man's soul passed out of his body with a sigh. In a psychotic fog, Sludge examined the man's face, twisted in painful contortion, mouth open to form a perpetual "O." Without a word, Sludge stood, towered over the corpse, and then looked at the wife and daughter, temporarily paralyzed with fear.
Sludge briefly felt his heart go out to the girl, who reminded him of Beth. Feeling slight remorse, Ben wished that he could play the whole scene over and just give the father a bad scare, anything really just to keep the father together with his wife and daughter. But Sludge had known the rules of the game for some time, and quickly stepping forward, seized the girl, and, drawing her to him, wrapped his arm around her head and yanked violently, snapping the girl's neck. "Good night, baby," he whispered, sensing the girl's soul leave her body. It is admirable, Sludge thought to himself, that this little one does not scream. He gently lay the body next to the man and turned to the wife.
She had vanished. Enraged, Sludge looked around him, down the freeway, up the freeway, under the van, even under his own car. He resembled a mad-dog looking for something to attack. Sludge wasn't willing that any should escape and knew the woman had hopped over the concrete wall on the side of the highway. He ran to the wall, looked over and, at the bottom of an embankment, made out the woman's white wind breaker. She was wading a man-made canal separating the freeway rise from a neighborhood of low-rent houses. Smiling, crouching, Sludge leapt over the concrete and down the hill in five huge strides. In two strides, almost as if he had wings, he was through the canal.
Just as the screaming woman reached the street, which dead-ended at the freeway embankment, Sludge grabbed her long, flowing hair. It reminded him of catching a fish in a stream. As he yanked her toward him, she shrieked, flailed her arms, and kicked.
He admired the woman's spunk and held her at arm's length. Again and again, she tried to kick him. Faced with death, this one fights, thought Sludge. Taking the woman in both arms, he easily bore her to the ground. There, resigned to defeat, she stopped struggling.
In the light of the full moon, Sludge looked down at the woman; she was panting, fear and hatred in her eyes. Intrigued, aroused, Sludge brought his hand up to the woman's face, felt her skin, her full lips, her eyebrows; he ran his fingers through her raven hair, drenched in her own sweat. He reached beneath her jacket and felt her breasts. At that moment, she was the most beautiful woman Sludge had ever seen and he wondered if even the Prince of Darkness might spare this one.
The image of another woman, someone killed in an accident, began to surface; in his crazed state, Sludge could not identify the woman. This woman made him think of the other woman, and so he bent down and kissed her dry lips. In the next instant, unwilling to violate the rules, he put one hand around her throat -- she was silent, waiting for death -- and squeezed quickly. As the woman's neck cracked, death fell and Sludge wanted to howl.
Sludge rose, feeling that he was flying around the moon. The thrill from the three kills was overwhelming. He looked down at the lifeless body and then turned, glancing back at the freeway. Though he had not heard their sirens, the flashing lights coming from the top of the embankment meant the police had arrived. Certainly, they would find the bodies, the abandoned van, and his own parked car. Within minutes, using their computers, they would even know his identity. However, they would have no way to know that he had tracked down the man's wife and stood over her corpse, less than three hundred feet away.
Looking back at the neighborhood, he heard more sirens and looking up he noticed three police cars, still blocks away, speeding towards him. Suddenly, he realized what was happening: hearing screams, someone had called the police.
Sludge knew he must ask quickly and intelligently. The Prince of Darkness cannot be contained, he thought, and looking around discovered, five hundred feet down and in the embankment toward the center of the city a large round opening. It was a pipe used for flood control; this would be his avenue to safety.
It was just as the first police car came to a halt fifty feet from him that he turned in the direction of the pipe. Sludge knew that the Devil could move at light speed, and so he ran. He felt that he was flying. He felt the wind flowing through his long brown hair, sensed he was air-borne, wondered if he were invulnerable. Then, hearing a shot fired behind him, Sludge felt something slam into his spine, knocking him forward with incredible force. Not far from the pipe, he fell face down, immobilized, paralyzed, unable to breathe, and as he lay, life blood pouring from him, he began to return to himself. He felt the thing inside him, which had clawed its way from his heart to his brain, scurrying away down some dark tunnel in his mind.
Sick remorse washed over him like a wind and he remembered, in a flash, a sermon he had once heard on God's eagerness to forgive. His sanity returning, Sludge remembered that the preacher had stressed that God pardons in an instant. The thief on the cross was a great example; remembering now all his earthly transgressions, Ben identified with the thief to whom Jesus promised paradise. Inwardly, Benny wept and thought of his wife and daughter. He wept because he had killed three people that night in cold blood without batting an eye. He wondered what had happened to the dark thing that had seized his mind, felt thankful to be eternally free from it as he felt the pieces of his soul come together like pieces in a puzzle.
Regretting killing the innocent, vowing in his dying heart to turn from his insidious nature, asking that he be freed from his condition, he felt darkness gently fall like a black cape and heard footsteps rapidly approaching. His eyes closed, he knew he was floating, and released from earthly cares. No one, nothing could hurt him now. Surrounded by light, he inwardly began singing "It is well with my soul," an old hymn that he had known since childhood. In that instant, realizing that his wife and daughter held nothing against him, silently acknowledging that he was not responsible for the accident and certainly not an evil man, he asked God's forgiveness.
Though unspoken, the request required every ounce of strength. Then, he sensed himself gently cradled and born upwards, wondered if he had wings, and felt the undeniable presence of Christ. Looking down he saw in place of the freeway, Las Vegas and the neighborhood an endless lake of fire. I was there, he thought to himself.
Knowing that the pit was not for him, that the world could no longer corrupt him, that he had been graciously spared eternal torment, he felt the heat from the flames receding. Glancing upwards, he saw a marvelous city of gold, its spires and towers reminding him of glorious lost cities in childhood fantasies, the river running through it sparkling like diamonds. Glorious beyond words, the City went on forever.
Flying to the City of God, Benny heard angels singing, knew his wife and daughter were waiting for him, and allowed himself to be born upward and into the Kingdom of his redeemer.
During the day, they sleep in because they work nights. They had a kid too early, just divorced a controlling husband, had one setback or another at some point, and so they are inactive now and inactivity in late morning daylight hammers it home. This is now the routine, and it is a rut. You cannot put this job on a resume either. But
/I heard... so I checked it out... I've been doing this for 5 months... a year... 3 years/
After waking up, they get out of bed, feed themselves and their kids, pay some bills, worry about other bills, pick up last night's junk food wrappers from in front of the TV, go out shopping with their children for makeup, cough syrup, diapers, tampons, do the dishes, burp, fart, scratch themselves, urinate, paint their toenails, read magazines, play with their children and wipe their mouths and asses, stand in front of the full length mirror in their underwear and wonder, go out to get their legs, armpits, and crotches waxed, sit on the couches bought on layaway and worry about the future. The TV, the kids and errands soak up the day, but then the sun starts going down and it is time to think about getting ready. Babysitters or friends or parents are called. They go into the bathroom to crap, shower and brush their teeth. They put on a t-shirt, baggy jeans, sweats, sneakers. Makeup and a couple of outfits get thrown into a bag and it's into the car, taking the kids to wherever the kids will be spending the next 8 hours. They drive in tiny cars, the same cars that are not yet paid for and need gas and oil changes. The car takes a healthy cut out of the monthly gross. That payment cannot be missed.
They pull up at the club which advertises with a loud sign LADIES on there somewhere. It is both good and not good that it is such a large, loud sign. They duck under the sign with their bag of outfits and makeup and head in. After signing in, they say hello to a doorman, chat a bit with a friendly bouncer on the way to the dressing room. The day has built up to this point and it looks promising at first -- loud music that is thumping out a bass-heavy groove, blinking, multi-colored lights illuminating the darkness, the white-floored stage with the shiny gold-painted poles that extend to the ceiling. But a second squint tells the truth -- the place is dead. There are what? Maybe a dozen guys here? The bartender is watching ESPN. The waitresses are gathered near the bar, talking amongst themselves. At one point tonight, there will be 40 girls here, LADIES, yes, even though it is only Tuesday and no one goes out on Tuesdays. Everyone knows that. But the kids have to be fed and the bills need to be paid. Without the car she is screwed. That is, before toys and such. You can only prop up the same dolls so many times before the precious child becomes inexorably bored and cries. But the crying is not due to boredom. It is because of something else and its mother, the stripper, knows it. So she heads into the dressing room.
There she takes off her civilian clothes, down to the g-string underwear she pulled on before leaving the house. Over the g-string goes a tiny two-piece outfit or a skin-tight gown made out of some stretchy fabric. Either way, it must show butt cheeks and tits and midsection as much as possible. She must do this, regardless of belly fat, love handles, cellulite, or lack of cleavage. Makeup is applied heavily. Eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, rouge, lipstick, perfume, maybe hair extensions. High heels are mandatory, a rule set by the owner. After putting her things in a locker, she exits the dressing room, ready. She reports to the DJ to tell him what song she wants to have played when it is her turn to dance on stage. She will get chewed out by the manager if she misses her turn to go on stage, even though $30/night goes to the house for the privilege of working. The house knows who is working, too, because signing in is mandatory and monitored. Soon enough, the previous girl's song has ended and it is time to go up. She goes up the small staircase with her song playing super-loud. And you have to wonder if Garth Brooks or Metallica or Rage Against the Machine ever considered that their songs would be played in these places.
On stage, she grabs onto a gold pole and circles around. Then she walks around a bit, rubbing the cloth that covers her breasts and hips and ass and vagina. She steps out of the mini-dress or pulls up her top, pulls down her hot pants.
In a g-string and high heels she lies stomach-down on the white floor and raises her hips up and down, sticks her ass in the air and rubs a hand between her legs. She rolls over and raises her chin, arches her back and again rubs the thin strip of cloth covering her vagina and asshole. She stands up again and turns away from the audiences of empty chairs sprinkled with beer-drunk men, bends over and with hands on knees she rolls her g-stringed ass in circles and semi-figure eights. She climbs high up the gold colored pole, squeezes it between her legs, bends over backward, and slides down head first with the pole running up between her legs, one hand held to the side of her head and one hand held out for effect. She grabs the pole and whirls herself around it, feet in the air. She runs her hands over her body, vaguely masturbating. Her breasts are ballooned from augmentation ("enhancement"). Her nipples, the aereolas, have scars. The space between her navel and vagina is still loose-skinned with stretch marks from a recent full-term pregnancy. She twists and curls her body on stage and runs her fingers through her hair as if to clear off some heat. She dry humps the pole, dry humps the floor, dry humps the air, dry humps the song. She closes her eyes and pretends to be fantasizing.
If she did not go the route of breast enhancement and she has had children, then her breasts will have a slight droop, and if she feels that it hinders her changes of getting tips (a $1 or $2 bill inserted under the elastic at the hip), she knows that a breast enhancement procedure is now that much more accessible to her, thanks to the advent of the payment plan which some clinics now offer. But it is still a decision; not a woman's decision per se, but a career decision, and to do the procedure is sort of like saying, "I'll probably be doing this for another 5 or 8 years. But I don't want to, I have plans, I want to go back to school, I'm just trying to make enough money so I can move on and I don't need anymore bills, this is not my life." Maybe she'll do it, find the reasons and the money or maybe she won't and just try to get by on what she has. Maybe she has eyes or legs or an ass or enough tits that she can use just right to make some money. It makes me think of Tom Kromer, who, when describing the plight of still-nursing mothers in Depression-era soup lines asked, "How much milk is there in a stale loaf of bread?" So how much bill-paying money is there in a pair of eyes or legs or hips or good-enough tits? She will have her best opportunity to find out when propositioning for a table dance.
A "table dance." Only there is no table involved. The table has nothing to do with it, except for the guy who is sitting there and hopefully the bastard came with some money. What happens -- you go with the girl who is within a few years either way of 25 to some unoccupied corner of the club and she sits you down. She undresses and wiggles her ass in front of you, rubs your legs, rubs her breasts (enhanced or non-) against your face, fondles them as she lies across your lap, squats down and vigorously humps her g-string against your fly, brushers her lips over your neck, and lightly squeezes your cock over your pants. $10-20/song. A good deal for her and for some guys. And $10-20/hr is a good wage in America. But often the clubs are not full, and the dancer/guy ratio is too high and in the wrong way. And there is the $30 hit for the privilege, and there are mouths to feed and bills to pay. It can be hopeless going up to, going up against, some drunk as old as her father, with receding hairline, bad breath and prominent belly hanging over his belt, who has also turned down the previous three girls. No sale. No money for the smile.
She has to have a good night every night. She cannot afford to fall behind. This job is it. It is supposed to be convenient too, because she can take care of the kids during the day and take them to someone's house at night, when they are back from work. But even with the arrangements made, a bad night can still happen. A string of bad nights can happen. Plenty of single moms shaking their asses on the downward spiral. All dolled up, bored, poor, with hard lives, nursing a drink or playing video poker to pass the time while they are not on stage, not giving dances, not making money. For some it is time to go home, for whatever reason, and so they go back to the dressing room to count their small collection of singles, tens and twenties.
Once a girl asked me if I "would like a dance?" With bleach-blond hair vaguely glowing in the dark and hands on knees to brace herself, she leaned toward me to make the question heard over the music. I told her, "No thanks, I just don't feel like one right now," trying to be polite about it. She gave a small smile and walked off crying out, "I need money!" to no one in particular. To another girl I said no thanks, and she said OK and walked off. About one minute later, she returns and bumps my shoulder with the back of her wrist. I look up and she is standing there over me, tall in her green bikini and high heels. "Why are you afraid of getting a dance?" she says. She was not asking a question, you see. She was pushing. No sale. Fine. She left again.
These are not the whores from the Old West. Not the jolly bar wenches with enormous breasts and fat soft asses, the ones who wear long hoop skirts and corsets and peacock feathers, who have handheld fans at their neck and laugh and sing loud drunken songs at the piano and drink straight whiskey and screw every cowboy and prospector within 100 miles. The whole thing is too pared down -- no piano and the girls are already mostly naked. The atmosphere is too direct, too forceful. You are there for one purpose and one purpose only -- to pay. Don't let the one pool table fool you. You pay the cover charge, you pay for drinks whether there is booze in them or not ($4 Cokes), you pay the girls who will complain out loud and harass you if you do not ante up ("What are you, gay?"). Sometimes they do that out of exasperation, and sometimes it is to push you.
There is more promised at the door than delivered. She will tell you damn near anything you want to hear to get a dance out of you. And when she's got one going, she'll say even more outlandish shit to keep it going through the next song, another $20 ("You like to fuck?"). When it is over they are not nearly as friendly ("Thanks, honey. Bye."). It's like going to a prostitute who, when you are fucking her, looks up at you straight-faced and says, "Are you almost done?" and then resumes clicking her gum and examining her manicure. Another time I was sitting at a table near the dressing room door, having a beer. Eight of them came out within 10 minutes. Would you like a dance -- eight times, no thank you eight times. It can be nice, but it can also get expensive, you see. A song lasts about 3 minutes and that's not very long. So she gets you all worked up and then it's over. $20 gone and a hard-on pointing into thin air. You can blow $200/night, before drinks, no problem. Anyway, they were walking out of the dressing room, asking and then walking away. I spoted two other girls sitting nearby. They were laughing and pointing at me -- "We've been watching you!" I invited them to sit with me. They said OK and came over, sitting on either side of me. We talked about this and that, the club, where are you from, a few laughs. The girl on my left was a little overweight but was doing just fine in her fully gold-sequined mini-dress, brown shoulder-length hair and large wet red mouth. She would laugh out loud, grab and punch my arm, squeeze my knee. I bought her a 7+7 and a Coke for her friend. Then she asked me if I can "see these" -- the bruises on her arms. A fight with her boyfriend.
The girl on my right was Mexican, pretty, and four months pregnant. The manager apparently told her she could not dance on stage with a belly like hers, and her boyfriend died in an accident two weeks ago, and no one wanted a table dance from a girl with a belly like hers, did I want one, OK she understood, and here, feel here, lifting up her dress to expose her pregnant belly, right here, that's my baby's head. She said something about an alien, took my hand and put it on her belly. I told her that I couldn't tell it was her baby's head. We talked about which girls had boob jobs. Oh here, look, and the pregnant girl showed me hers -- large, nicely shaped breasts for some lucky little fetus.
And I looked around, and after looking I realized I'd been in there too long or had too little to drink. At first it's NAKED GIRLS. LADIES. Then you see them walking around with long faces, making their rounds table to table, taking off their clothes and putting them on again, slump shouldered, awkward in high heels, low-level panic in their bellies, half-drunk. At these times you don't get a sex-vibe and sometimes you don't see a woman. So few are put together just right. If you spend enough time there, sober, all the little shortcomings come to the surface, the novelty worn off. She has big tits... and big thighs, pretty girl/bad complexion, great body/ugly face, thin legs/flabby belly. Most of them are nothing but big tits, long hair, and heavy makeup. Everything else is just a collection of parts put together, taken from anywhere. A human form with tits hung on it, painted and strapped with certain fabrics. The clown face of the working class, working the nightshift.
It's a money thing, you see. To make money, you should look like this, fill the guy's head with a certain idea and receive money in exchange. Do whatever it takes. Sit on their laps, smile, let them buy you a drink, flirt and bullshit and sweettalk 'em. She will listen to variations of the same old drunk pickup lines, the difference being she has to listen. It means money. The bills, the kid. It does not come with frustration, exasperation:
/No one is tipping the girls tonight, one guy over there was talking a lot of shit to me so I told him to go fuck himself, I heard they're raising the rent here, my phone'll be shut off tomorrow unless I pay them, my kid is sick, I think I'm getting sick too, it's slow here tonight, this outfit is really uncomfortable, see that girl? I think she stole $70 from me but I can't prove it./
The masses will always wear you down and they are in a volume business. It reminds me of my tenure with the Electric Suction Vacuum Co. 100% commission job, going door to door with the vacuums, saying the lines, hoping for a sale. Each door was a chance and I needed the $$$. Some people bought. Most didn't. I spent time in the homes of insane families, old women with long dead husbands, middle-aged wives, out of work husbands, and I talked with them, to them, demonstrated and pushed. After trying and failing enough times during a given day, it was easy to take it personally. The No at the door was bad enough, but the No that followed a full demonstration was much worse. The No's meant I had gone for that much longer until the bills were due, still without the cash to pay them. But I could say it was a poor neighborhood, that they did only just buy a new one, etc. I could blame a number of things. It wasn't me being rejected, just the product. No one was saying, "I would buy, just not from you." The girls on the other hand, are selling themselves, renting at $20 per song. There is very little fallback when it comes to blame. Just like the vacuums, the promise is there and the cash can happen, but too much is thrown on the roulette wheel and the scythe/sweeper is always ready, like clockwork.
The male sex drive is just about the most dependable thing ever created, but to the dismay of the girls, it does not always mean that money will be spent. The effort, the clothes, makeup, perfume, hair doesn't always work out ("I don't know what else to do. I mean, I'm already just about naked!") It's a dirty trick but it goes both ways. There are women in there that are quite beautiful and with good bodies. Hotties. But they are often the least interesting to talk to. When they give dances they have bored looks on their faces, they rarely smile and they watch themselves in the mirror behind the chair the guy is sitting in. They are the real operators, getting dances while the other girls are not. They soak the guys with the least effort. There is disdain in their eyes. This makes sense. They will just laugh while straddling some drunk who is babbling about wanting to know her real name and not just her stage name, can he see her outside the club. They are used to the compliments and fawning breeds disgust. They do not have the desperation that the others do. 'No' does not invite panic. Their table dances are apathetic. They touch themselves more than the men. They make almost no effort at small talk. Their souls are nowhere to be found, nothing behind the eyes, like the personality is back in the dressing room counting the money. But who would want to invest more than the tiniest part of themselves in this operation? Exactly. And only stage names are given. They make their rounds just like everybody else and do a better job than anyone else at sending the drunks home with less money in their wallets. It's not sex. It's just a little bit of touching made to seem as more, thanks to the booze and the dark. Hardly a violation. The men are not permitted to grab their tits or ass no matter how many songs they pay for. Some girls do permit something that is borderline, a small victory for the chumps.
But even the regulars who prefer certain girls don't come in every night. The beautiful girls are a viable product and the less beautiful girls are a less viable product. Booze improves that ratio, however. It loosens up the wallets. And I see some girls have one going and they are on top of some guy, dry-humping him and his gut. He is leaned back in his chair with his legs spread, hand on her hip, head sinking into his neck. But in another sense they are all viable. I asked the bruised girl to give me the lowdown on this place. Most of the girls, she said, want to be fingered and fucked for money. And I look around and there are young men in groups, pointing, laughing, doing little sidebars under the music. Older men are sitting alone with a drink and slightly glazed look. Or they are staring seriously. And I think of the various cruelties that await the girls, the moms, desperate enough to risk it. And the lights are blinking and roving in the dark and the music is so loud you have to almost shout to be heard by the waitress who brings the $4 Cokes and $5 beers, before tip. My eyes have long since adjusted to the dark.
There I am.
I sense tragedy and I have disgusted myself at the same time. I have seen and heard more than I want to and I decide
Out of here.
Tom Waits, Rain Dogs is in the cd player. The fan, once again uneven, creaks every 3/4 of a turn, accompanying him with a soulful and heartfelt screech. Garlic salt is on the floor, the canister opened and spilling the yellow and white specks across the hard wood. My chair grinds them into powder, and I wonder why it's here but make no move to clean it up.
Hand leaves keyboard, fumbles with empty cans, finds full can, brings to mouth, lowers hand to floor, returns to keyboard. Cigarette burns into ash.
This is the guy I'm fucking, she says, nodding to me. We haven't slept together yet. She's a pro. Plays me. Later, I lie awake the rest of the night. The only thing that remains is the smell of her hair and her thighs in my sheets. I throw up in my dreams. I lie still and look at the wall otherwise.
The cd skips. I wonder if it, like my floor, has mysteriously grabbed some garlic salt and I sit up, more attentive, waiting for another skip to make me get up and clean it. No dice. Tom continues on, barely noticing the interruption. God, he's a professional.
Would you consider switching to AT&T, our rates are attractive...
No thank you. Your commercials piss me off.
Need more beer. Find only empty cans. And powder. Smells like garlic.
The Dead Kennedys begin to play. Jello Biafra screams in my ear. Too drunk to fuck, too drunk to fuck. The story of my life. Eight months dry and whiskey dick with the red head whose tattoo on her ass is hindi for 'girl'. Well, it'll get a laugh tommorow. Right now sleep for a couple of hours and then go to work. I decide I like small breasts over large ones because of the density.
Two parts developer, one part water. Get it in a cut from a metal plate, you feel as if your finger will burn off. Basic burns are worse than acidic burns, and it smells like shit. Gut reaction, put it in your mouth. Tastes like it smells. Tongue's on fire. Where's the goddamn beer? Tongue's numb. Amazing, us. The things we can produce. So completely unnatural.
The surge of animal lust and biological pleasure locks my back and legs and I can only see her face, eyes staring into mine, then staring away as I come. She withdraws me and pushes me next to her with her hips. I wonder if I'll be able to shower before I see my girlfriend. I resolve never to do it again. I break that resolution four times after that.
Her middle name is Meghan and her eyes are brown. There, twenty for twenty. Just a little slow is all. No sir, I didn't know about the open container law. Yes sir, it is made with the choicest hops. Thank you, sir, I would like to knock back a cold one in the prowler with you.
You buy me a soda, you buy me a soda, you buy me a soda and try to molest me in the parking lot. Hep hep hep....
Tropical flowers. The smell of her shirt, close to her body. The curve of her shoulder and the tiny mole, underneath her bra strap. She pushes her mouth forward, forcefully, and I recoil, snapping my head to the right and turning away from her teeth, bared in a grin. Her fingers dart out and in to my ribs and back. Hey Paul, hey Paul, hey Paul... she teases.
when I was 12 I wanted to play with one of those super bounce balls the neighbor across the street had. He bounced it really high and then caught it, bounced it again and caught it. I asked to see it and he told me to suck his dick. figuring what the hell, i did it. When he gave me the ball I kept it.
Tears run down her face. Was that okay? she sobs. Hell no, I think, that was fucking traumatic. Yeah, I say, that was fine. It was good. No, really, don't cry. Look, after three years, we finally did it. It'll be okay, everything will be okay.
It's getting late. I unclog some of the clogged pores on my arm. I check the machine. Still three messages. If I don't play them, it doesn't count.
Part of me wants to invite you over, she says. We've been on a day long binger. Part of me would like that, I say. Her cat watches from the chair. Too damn creepy. I get camera shy. I rub her back. I don't call her again.
Way to late. Time to make the donuts. Perry talks about his latest album, ritual de los habitual. If you only knew how much that would suck. That would be the last album Jane's Addiction cut. Well, after forty-six minutes and eleven seconds. Like perry.
--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) 2000 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) 2000 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.apoculpro.org irc the #unbeing channel on UnderNet Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. 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--