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Friday, April 18, 2014

Ten

First drink...

It’s taking awhile. My body is screaming at me to stop. My brain becomes an angry fist, trying to beat some sense into me. My eyes are bloody and blurry. That nagging pain in my side teams up with the brain and deals me a few good blows. You’re a nurse, Mother; what the hell is that precise sting in my lower left region? I hit the vodka last night. I hit it like Babe Ruth peels the skin off of a baseball. I was thinking of you. Will you just leave already? It’s getting crowded in my skull. You've stayed too long! It’s getting late! Leave! I told you already that you are free to go! My every letter home has gone unanswered. Take a hike, dear woman!


I’ll get this tall boy in me though, and my liver will accept it and gear up for another long night. I can see no other option; reality is a realm for the sane to occupy. We’re strangers in such a land. Leave you out of this, you say? Fair enough. Sorry about that. Glug glug glug. Aaaahhh there we go...the old familiar fire. I know I swore off the stuff, but truth be told, I'd rather be dead by drink than dying everyday, dragging a sober corpse around the world. The body has accepted the poison again. The brain is getting sleepy. My delicate nerves embrace the soft blanket of Budweiser.


Second drink...

Right to the point now, before the body realizes it’s been tricked again. The speedy services of Stoli Vodka. My pain has been washed back down deep inside of me somewhere. I just put a cigarette out. I need another. I’ll be rolling butts by the morning. But they’re only my butts;  just recycled germs, no big deal. Sorry lungs, heart. It’s quiet in here. It’s quiet in my skull. The dog is passed out. The fish are staring at me. Shit...the fish. Haven’t fed them today. Here you go guys. I pour out their flake buffet. A little extra to make up for your forgotten breakfast. Leave some on the bottom of the tank for the morning, Mr Bubbles; you know how forgetful I can be. Don’t be like Super Cow Dog; save some of those goodies guys. No need to store up your body fat; there’s more. Oh wait...yes, yes, you’re right Mr Bubbles; there’s not always more. Is that why you throw water onto the floor, Mr. Bubbles? Are you flagging me down like I'm an incompetent waiter? Do you need to have a good shit to feel normal? Have you appointed yourself as my personal alarm clock? I guess I don't blame you. 


Breathe deep. Tastin’ fine, John Players! Ease back. Not a sound. No music. I want no music; I’m not in the mood for someone else’s take on reality. Silence is underrated. Retrace the hostile day. I shouldn’t have barked at my boss. I’m such a prick. It’s not his fault that I’m washing my socks in the sink, even though my pay sucks. Is there a place in this dying county where the pay doesn’t suck? The laundromat costs me a six pack of Carling in coin. What kind of scam is that?  Laundromats are overrated. So is spellcheck. Googling “spell laundromat” now. If I’m correct, I’m sending a complaint to Microsoft. Those wavy red lines are sapping my concentration. 


Third drink...


My mind is ablaze with random snapshots. Hulk Hogan? Where did you come from? Be quiet, brain. And Brett Hart was far better anyhow. Fine, brain, let's google the wrastlin' archives. 

Actually,  never mind; Shawn Michaels is sure to show up. Prancer. I hate that guy. I think that all guys hate that guy; at least they should. Did I offend someone? Good. That’s what wrestling should do. Wrestling is like life in many ways, Mother; we give the world our boldest and brashest. People 
don't always agree with us. We feel stung. We sting back. Fists fly, words become weapons. Wounds are inevitable. Someone always goes down, Mother, and justice, that rusty sword, is often tossed out of the ring in a squash match. The beauty of it all lies in the comeback. If you can dust yourself off and reinvent yourself, you can enjoy a long and prosperous career. As much as I lov...I mean as often as I think of you, I’m taking the title belt this time. Can we agree on a DQ? That way we both leave the ring with all of our marbles. Yes, let us face off in the squared circle, oh beautiful undertaker! If we dance, our calamities are made candid and we both see them more clearly. The pressure cooker spews out its boiling blood and it’s safe again to open the lid, for a time. We accept our injuries for the greater good. We carry the script into the next taping. Why 
haven't you answered my challenge? My Mean Gene is calling! If you’ve got something to hide, don’t keep it inside; that stuff will kill you dear woman! I've noticed that it's killing both of us 
lately. I've no razor hidden in my wrist band. This is a fair fight. Step into the ring. I'm trying to control the bloodshed, Mother, not create a needless mess! Does that make me a bad wrestler? 
Either way, we're both beautiful losers, dear opponent of mine.

Fourth drink...


Well, fourth and fifth to be exact. This Stoli is as smooth as spring water now. Time to double up the dose. Super Cow Dog, wake up! Let’s wander the beach awhile, old fat friend! My paralysis has lifted! Let’s talk to the ghosts that old Erie holds fast under the azure sky. Most of the town is sleeping. There is noone now to cut us off on the road or litter our sacred path with emissions and empty coke cans. Yes, buddy, let’s go. I’ll give you that walk I promised last week. The shutters of the summer homes are opening one by one, like lazy eyelids. The people of the village are coming alive and pulling springtime into their realm. Campfires fill the air tonight, sending up their burnt offerings to Easter morn. Praise be to winter’s death! The last traces of that bastard lie crucified along Erie’s tattered shores. It’s time to celebrate again! Evil April has released her iron grip! Stoli has released the iron grip on me. 


Sixth drink...

Life isn’t as bad as I thought it was this morning, Mother. Forget the title challenge. We can dance any old time. We're both still ranked on the card. Let’s have a round of hugs. The pooch is pooched now; there were no furry friends for him to sniff and snort over, and he lost a few calories trying to find one among the delicious dead grass and skeletal hedgerows. It’s just you and I and Erie's ghosts now. They assume their timeless groans, preferring to wander in the silence of the night when their voices can be carried across the sturdy tide. I assume my cozy chair and smelly socks as I write you now.


Food. Hungry. But I cannot eat; food is a buzz killer and it brings a dreamless sleep. Food breaks my back as I pass out under the weight of greasy pizza on my shitty couch, depriving myself of my my orthopedic bed. Food can wait. Food leaves me with a half empty bottle of Stoli, which is no good to me in the morning. Half measures avail us nothing. Glug glug glug.


Seventh drink...


Life isn't bad as I thought as it was this morning, Mother. It's worse! It's far worse! Where are my children? It's Easter! Where is my wife? Where are you? Where is my chocolate bunny, god damn it? 20 years and you still sit like a stone, resolved unto your dying day to guard your fort against the 

very fruit of your womb! 11 months and my wife still sits like a stone, resolved unto her dying day to guard her fort against all that frightens her fragile mind! Am I really that scary? 7 drinks and I sit like a cat ready to pounce the first shadow I see, resolved unto my dying day to prey on every yesterday...drag out every corpse! The work tires me beyond belief, old ghost! 7 1/2 drinks, and I find one clue in this mystery as I rinse my face and realize just how ugly I’ve become. But do not now condemn me for my vodka. You gals have only sober fear. If I must walk with a crutch, so be it; as long as I walk in the right direction. Only a brave journey to yesterday, though stumble we may, can show us where we wandered off course. We must sift through the ashes, hands strong and steady, and find a trace of life amidst the decay! So I write. And I'm a fool. I write for nobody. 
Palabras Para Nadie, girls. Thanks for dropping by. Glug glug glug.

Eighth drink...


Cranking Leonard Cohen. I do want to hear someone else's take on reality after all, Mother...a certain someone's take on dreams and destitution, on hope and heartache, on peace and war and sex and drugs and words and wishes and wrestling. I'm loaded with questions. I'm out of answers. I am alone, but I'm not. Surely Mr. Cohen understands. Leonard, you must pull me through this shit, man. It's so very dark tonight. I've enough light left in me to find one more missing piece of my stupid soul hiding somewhere.Thank you all the same, Jesus, and happy Easter, but I need songs much sweeter than yours. Don't be upset. I need words much more profound. Don't get me wrong; you used your words well, and thank you. If this story doesn't end well, I'll crucify myself, I promise. 


Ninth drink...


Turn the music up...


Goodnight my darling, I hope you're satisfied.” Super Cow Dog, I love you. “Halleluah, Hallel”...Damn it, Super Cow Dog, you piddled on the...Mr. Bubbles...yes, yes, I am on my way over with a flake buffet. Here's your...shit...I slipped in the piss! There's that pain again...“If it be your will that I speak no more...” NO!, Super Cow Dog, that's not your food! Leave it! “...such a very hopeless voice”....“I practiced all my sainthood...” Stay calm. Virtue. “The man she wanted all her life was hangin' by a thread...” Hang on...couch. No, floor. Fridge. Thirsty. Crack. Thud. Sting. Red. Bleeding. Glass. Fuck!


Tenthe Dirnk...

$%^*&**(*^%$#@*# Supre Cow Dg...Mr. Buffles? Ayneone? Suprd Cw Dgg...Hlpe! Serup Cwo God, help me!


Epilogue

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mr. B

The class fell silent, the door closed softly on its hydraulic hinge. He looked over the sea of waiting faces and consulted his thoughts a moment, hands planted casually in the pockets of his loose wrinkled dress slacks. He paced, eyes lowered, back hunched, in perfect back and forth movement, his careless necktie swinging to the rhythm of his steps.

It was social studies hour. How to begin, how to begin?

And how should I begin this memory, Mother, in a way that you won’t close the book and toss it? Bear with me; all good stories are worth repeating. 

All eyes traced his every movement, studying this strange bird. He wore battered white runners that stole attention from his charcoal pants. The shoes were his statement to the machine that was the Catholic school board:

“Damn your dress shoes! You won’t own me!”


His hair was purchased from Korean causes; impoverished maidens hung from his head. He paid more for that obvious mop than he paid for his entire wardrobe. Would God approve, I wonder from time to time, of His creation being covered in such a fraudulent fashion? Surely He blesses baldness if He allows hair to fall away from a man’s skull, never to return. Perhaps bald men have bigger brains, a kind of compensation for losing the locks. It’s a comforting belief that I carry, Mother, as I count the hairs in the mirror each day that fall fast from my own skull . I’m not planning a trip to Korea. 

He convinced himself that nobody knew of his vanity secret, but
everybody knew. No one dared utter a word about it. Shame to the one who made even the smallest reference to the fake hair: You makin’ fun of Mr. B.?  When he’d sweat, blue streaks from the wig’s double sided fastening tape ran down his face. That in itself garnered him fame among his student followers; fame in a protected, respected hush-hush sort of fashion. Had his eyes been better eyes, he would have noticed the blue goo. His mandatory collared shirt, standard white, screamed: “Get me off of this man!” as it hung wrinkled and only half tucked in, yanking itself free from his bargain basement belt. 

Every man has to bend to the will of another if he wants to survive. God owns the heavens, man owns the earth.

He was a fashion nightmare. He was the biggest class clown...a collision of Einstein and Mr. Bean.

Mr. B. never planned too far ahead, preferring the magic of the moment. Inspiration cannot be found in a day planner, much to the bewilderment of many of his cronies.

He finally stopped and spun a vacant front row chair to face him and rested one leg upon it, folding his arms over bended knee, securing the students in his view. The scrape of the chair on the concrete floor offered a gentle echo off of the white-washed cinder block walls, as if to say:

“Good morning, Sir.”

A clock, industrial issue, hung in a far corner. It could have stopped altogether in this room; nobody gave it much attention. No grade six face dared move...a gesture not born of fear, like so many other rooms within this maze, but of awe. The magic man was here. Whatever tricks he’d brought, it was sure to be a treat.

I watched nervously, Mother, as the tape fought to keep contact with the lens of the VCR. Let it snap, you say?  Sorry; I eventually secured it to DVD before history was sacrificed altogether to the gods of bad technology. It was a mini movie made for new recruits within the board. When the boss wanted a solid This is how you do it video, he often went to Mr. B. The camera rarely caught the Nike shoes; their existence could be denied quite safely. Mr. B loved the camera, but he didn’t dull down his performance during the less rewarded, unrecorded day to day.

“Ok Ladies, Gents…Chris….”

A short burst of laughter, Chris smiling wide, eating up the attention. 

“I gave you guys a survey last week…”

He held the submitted papers high in one hand as though he’d made a pertinent discovery into the adolescent mystery. He’d forgotten the chair and began his journey on foot.

“Let’s see what the survey says...”

The answers rolled forth at a perfect pace, to everyone’s educated amusement.

This was a happy place. Laughter was allowed, but not at the expense of learning. Nike shoes were Nike shoes; a child’s future required a more solid footing.

“Everyone agreed that it’s not ok to steal…which is kind of encouraging!” A clown face lit up. Mild chuckles.

“Three people said that yes, it is alright to throw your candy wrapper in the street!…two people said that it’s better just to drop it.” Drum roll.

“33 of you said that if you accidentally throw a ball through someone’s window, you should tell him or her….8 said no…”  Crooked, goofy grin, scolding stare.

Glances intermingled in amused suspicion.

“3 of you said “I’m not sure!”

Smile widening on Mr. B:

“Some of you said you should just send a telegram or a letter.”

Swing cane, tip hat off head. Take that, Letterman.

Time raced. Most of the kids wanted the clock to stop.

“Another question on the survey: Are we unique?” A field of hands. Me, me! Pick me! 

“Are we unique….is there only one Mike Davis? Yes, thank God!”

They’re on the floor.

“Moving along, survey asked: “Do you agree or disagree with this statement:

“I like to do my own thing.”?  Planted pause. “I like…to do…my own…thing.” He drew the words out long and slow, hanging like, do and own in deep loops in the air with a pointed finger, conducting his orchestra. He studied the faces. The faces studied him:

He knows something that we don’t, What is it? Did I answer correctly? What does the question really mean? Were “yes” or “no” the only options, like an answer extracted by a TV lawyer? Is the world black and white or is it a million hues of reds, greens, yellows and blues?  Is A minus closer to A or closer to B plus? Who decides? If exactly halfway, will my life always be caught between two places?

Their minds turned and churned. He could read their thoughts in this pinnacle moment of silence. The teacher had taught, the lesson now twisting all of their faces.

Long…drawn…silence. Halt.
   
“Chris, what are you doing back there? You've been fiddling all morning!”

All backs straight, eyes dead ahead. A tinge of fear. Teacher didn’t look pleased. Teacher was always pleased. The forgotten corner clock now had the floor as the seconds hand cut the silence with its dull mechanical march.

“What have you got? Get him on the camera, Frank. I’d like to see what he’s got!

Come up here Chris. What is that, a gym bag? Bring it up!”

Chris approached the bench and stood frozen to the floor. 

“Can I open this on camera?” The defendant nodded yes.

Mr. B allowed a faint smile from the corner of his mouth as he peered inside. The class relaxed in collective relief. Maybe he’d get off easy.

They’re all on the bag now, all but leaping out of their chairs. What is it? God forbid a nudey mag in the Jesuit house! Chris’s fame grew by the second.

1 bag of chips.

“Oooooh!” a subdued choir.

A second bag of chips.

“Ooooooooh!” Crescendo.

Long…drawn…silence. What to sing next?

“You’ve got everything in here but your Aunt Martha!”

Fortissimo chorus of hilarity. Mr. B lifted the gym bag to his face, peering inside.

“Aunt Martha?”

Keep the choir singing, conductor, but bring it back down; bring it down; hold the reins.

“Do we have a rule about eating in class?” Mr. B cut through the gaiety with the edge of a stone face.

“What’s the rule? Anybody?” He searched. The obvious answer came forth from a frail female voice hidden from the camera.

“Is Chris being fair to you guys?” No reply from the sea of silence. Do we sell out our own?

“Ok, what if I cut the class short to take Chris down to the office? Chris would be stealing your time, because he wanted to do his own thing. (loops in the air again) “He wanted…to do…his own…thing.”

Never steal our time with Mr. B.!

The conductor met each face formally with his eyes, in an eternal moment.

“Did we play well, Sir?”

“You tell me. Did you play well?”

He sewed up the lesson neatly, almost right on the hour:

Life is, in fact, a rainbow of hues. Black and white is no life at all. Do your own thing if you so choose, but know there’s a time and a place for it all. Damn right I wear my runners to school, but I strap on the noose necktie as I’m told. Don’t bring food to the classroom of life, the janitors are starting to bitch about mold!

The ride was over. Elation prevailed. There would be no reckless balls thrown through windows by this class.

Where would they go from here? Where are they now, those delicate flowers that left their innocent print on a frozen moment full of the colors of dreams, when tomorrow was really in a long line of tomorrows, all waiting with open arms and abundant gifts?

Like most men who dared breach the safe surface of things, Mr. B had enemies for miles. But his coworkers could not understand. They spelled their instruction in planners and calendars with black and white words. Education was no laughing matter.

The bell would ring in a moment. This was the only time the clock got any attention, most of the disciples hoping the hour wasn’t up.

“Ok, you guys know this was a setup, right?” Wide sly grin.

We did? All eyes intermingled again. Major plot twist. Confused, mild laughter.

Let him think we knew.

“Chris, this one’s yours…” Mr. B. tossed the star actor his payment: a bag of Lays chips. “These ones, I’m keeping” 

He kept the Cheese Doodles.

And like a true magic man, he disappeared when school was out. You knew that more than anyone, Mother.