So Dig This Big Crux

Pictures in a Book

bacon3

This woman’s got a screaming kid, strapped in a stroller, rolling through the Francis Bacon exhibit at MoMA. They’re getting a lot of fuck you and your rotten kid looks. She’s taking her time with the paintings though, which is admirable, considering the crying, and the insane amount of people at the show. Mom doesn’t seem like your typical art tourist — selfies in front of The Starry Night, gunning for the gift shop and poster — but you think her pace would speed up a bit. Gauging by the freak out level, you think she’d hightail it over to the Water Lilies. Maybe she’s a Bacon fan, though she looks more like a Jeff Koons person to me. Fucking balloon dogs. Either way, she’s giving Bacon’s work the time it deserves, even if the kid is a rage of bloody murder. Makes you wonder what kind of mom brings a kid to a deal like this. 

But I think she knows exactly what she’s doing. Get that kid in front of a Francis Bacon painting as soon as possible, make him realize life’s just one big scary shit show.

The earlier the better.

Memory Hotel

americana

She said she had a Bowie story.

It was ’76. Her friends were going to the show at the War Memorial, did she wanna go? Of course she wanted to go, Bowie was everything. Mom wasn’t cool with it, thought she’d be kidnapped or drugged, or both. So she runs away, just for the night.

Show’s great, best ever she says. Bowie’s a white-light blur and he’s beautiful. After the show, she tries getting backstage, but it’s no go. Out in the parking lot some guy comes up, says he’s part of Bowie’s road crew, maybe she wants to party with the band back at the hotel?

They drive to the Americana, a place she knows cause her dad used to live there. She’d visit, they’d go swimming, eat chips, drink Coke. Sometimes they’d just sit there in the room together.

So the lobby’s filled with cops, everybody’s yelling. Crew guy tells her she’s gotta split, there’s no party, not tonight. She tries telling him she’s got no car, but he’s already gone.

It’s 3 in the morning, everybody’s gone, she’s alone in the parking lot. Then there’s Bowie, standing right there, right next to the vending machine, eating a bag of chips.

True fucking story.

There’s Home, and There’s Everywhere Else

home

We’re buying beer. I want the Rainier sixer cause it’s cheap, she says don’t worry, she’s been copying twenties at work. So I buy the twelver.

I’m supposed to show up at midnight, says she can run off a few then. Why twenties? The old ones, they’re the easiest, she says. I get there at midnight, says she can’t do it, come back later.

I’m over at Dots. Bartender looks rough, says he didn’t see the inside of his bed sheets last night.

Back at the copy place, says she’s running the thing we talked about, tells me to go back to Dots.

Bartender looks worse than before. I ask about his bed. I say something like Wouldn’t it be I haven’t seen the inside of my bed, or something like that?

He doesn’t look too sure.

Leeway

leeway

Sometimes he’d drive the hearse around town, even when it was empty, just go for a drive. Onetime, somebody left a hat on the passenger side, so he figured he’d ride the hearse over, return the hat and that’d be it. But something happened on the drive; at red lights people would look over, give him a nod – “It’s ok, I understand you’re haulin’ round a dead body, that’s pretty fucked up, so go ahead friend, this one’s on me.” He felt he was given license to move, move around freely.

So he drove that hearse all over town, any chance he got.

Dancing With The Devil

dancing

Sixty minutes in a holding cell
She asks, “Are we in Hell?”
I guess it could be wore than that
To be in the cold flat on your back
Well it takes time to realize
That we live outside the flow of time
And when the dark comes over me
I’ll already be there waiting in line

Dancing with the devil
On a moonlit night

As he walks through my dreams
Crazy as that might seem
Have you ever felt caught in life
In the middle of a frozen stream
In hotel bars with washed up stars
He talks trash with a Spanish guitar
She can’t get going in the morning
He can’t stop his past from catching up

Dancing with the devil
On a moonlit night

So of the few things I think I know
What’s clear is the pain of fear
So I’m going where life don’t mean so much
Down below the conscious flow
And like an old train on the wrong side
Look at the canyon, the world is on it’s side

Dancing with the devil
On a moonlit night

Denver on Sunday

denver

They walked through Denver; one carrying a beer, the other wearing blue sunglasses. The city was absent, dry.

“Why aren’t laundromats open in St. Louis on Sundays?”

“This ain’t St. Louis.”

They went down a street, found a couch, and sat.

“So what I’m saying is, there’s nothing out there, beyond us, I mean.”

“What about the laundromats?”

“The what?”

“The laundromats, in St. Louis?”

“Shit, you haven’t heard a word…”

A crowd passed the alley, unknowing and free. Red signs, cowboy boots. The air was sweet and thin, the light was flat.

“It’s just a weird mountain town.”

“With mass shootings.”

In Extremis

thing

The cousins watched The Thing together, almost obsessively. Some days, they’d watch the film more than once, their record for continuous viewing being nine.

They owned many copies of the film, each one slightly different: a second-hand VHS cassette, a collector’s LaserDisc, a cable-access taping dubbed in Japanese. Some versions had been edited, rearranged; an entirely silent version held new meaning, hypnotic without dialogue or soundtrack. One tape held traces of other films underneath its recorded layer.

Later, the cousins could only share thoughts on the film through letters, as they were both incarcerated in different parts of the world. Some letters explored the psychology of paranoia that imbued the film, others touched on the innovative special effects. A favorite topic was the film’s eerie, minimalist score.

At some point, the letters simplified to mere lines of dialogue. Their relationship had crystallized and an essential form of communication emerged.

“How will we make it?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t.”

It was all they would need.

A Cat Outside

cat

The cat’s following me; I’m upstairs in the kitchen, she’s out on the porch. I’m back downstairs, she’s out in the garden. It’s a game without end. Silent neighbors. She’s the gardener, I’m the caretaker. Cat can’t come in though. I’m supposed to be invisible, and a cat in the house is not good. She’ll tip me off. So we keep the glass between us for now.

Lullaby for a Mural Painter

lullaby

He lay listening to the chimes in the wind. A lullaby without words. A thought crossed his mind; what if he didn’t speak to anyone ever again? His days and nights could drift by, without incident, without syllables. He saw himself walking valleys alone, open sunlit spaces, long trails. Was there anything else that needed to be said? No, he thought, there was nothing left. In his mind, it was settled. He would listen to the wind at night without saying another word.

Babysitter

babysitter

At some point, a shouting match started, then the kicking of dirt, then fists, and finally, screams. Something wasn’t right. I saw Victor pull away from a guy after landing a punch, he lunged away and ran back towards me. I was fucking terrified. He slammed into the car, barreled in, and threw it into drive. Guys were racing towards us. We pulled away and Victor shouted out the window, Fuck you you fucking rednecks!

I thought they were your friends?

Shit, those guys are assholes.

Driving back north on I-95 the car was swerving badly. Victor was wasted and I was in the back trying to find a seat-belt. I’m gonna die, I thought, I’m really gonna fucking die. He leaned out his window and puked. It slammed right back into my face and all over the back seat. Shit, I had Victor’s fucking puke all over me.

Fuck me man, this guy is nuts. Goddamn Marines.

I think Victor was 24 or something. His t-shirts were always too tight, and he had that shit-eating grin that only brute force leathernecks had. Victor’s mouthful of braces, which gave him a twisted, grotesque smile, always spit saliva when he got excited, which was often, because he was always hopped up on speed. Sometimes he would babysit me. I don’t know why my parents let him watch me, but I was afraid of him just enough to stay in line, which was all you could ask for in a babysitter, I guess. Victor was into noisy, harsh music; The Dead Kennedy’s, Suicidal Tendencies—shit like that. Shit I didn’t know anything about. He said he heard it on the base and it got the guys revved up and pissed off, ready for anything. He blasted his car stereo while he worked on the transmission in his driveway on weekends. I remember him changing his oil out there, then dumping the refuse in the grass behind his house. My dad said you weren’t supposed to do that, but he was a Marine, and it’s better to let a Marine do what he’s gonna do.

Davie County was Victor’s stomping ground. He and his old buddies from high school used to look for people to start shit with. I guess that’s what all Marines did after they got out of wherever it was they went to get brainwashed and beat up. His nights were spent speeding through container parks and storage warehouses, finding dumbass long hairs to get wasted with and get into fights. These guys were just pot-boiling steam, aggressive pin rod assholes ready to blow, overloaded on cheap pills and booze, with too much testosterone and no where to put it.

Young, dumb and full of cum, Victor liked to say.

I started shouting, Pull the fuck over, pull the fucking car over.

Victor took the next exit. One of those pine-strewn playgrounds that close when the sun goes down. We weren’t supposed to be there, but we were. Victor wanted more beer, and I wanted the keys. I helped him to the back, he crashed into the seat. I was nowhere near old enough to drive, but I thought getting pulled over with a drunk Marine in the back of the car was better than flying off the interstate into somebody’s backyard.

Shit, I was deep into now. Did I even remember how to get home?

I wanted to give myself over to the impossibly black night, the bleeding fluorescent highway. Me, the super-fast conductor, riding the rails over the old train tracks that ran parallel to the highway. The tracks I passed hundreds of times with my father, sitting in the back of our tiny shit-house ’78 Corolla. The untamed Florida night, running through my head, my hair. This was my only chance, I thought, but Victor was not going to get me there. Fuck, he was passed out in the back, covered in his own puke. Victor scared me. For the first time, I was afraid of someone besides my father. Victor was a loose canon, a blown transmission, an overheated muffler that was seconds away from dislodging and scattering across the open highway. He was angry and always pissed off. What the fuck was I doing here?

We made it home. I left Victor passed out in the back-seat. What an asshole.

Then one day, Victor just left. I think he shipped out somewhere, or got arrested. Who knows, but I never saw him again.