I handled cooking breakfast while Phebe went out to fuck with that water filter some more; apparently it had tipped over in the wind last night and we were low on drinking water. I was glad for the alone time because it gave me the opportunity to burn a doob in the bathroom; I had been getting antsy sitting around sober for so long though her presence mitigated the ache somewhat. My nerve endings were tingling nicely along with the bacon I was cooking over this little propane camp heater that she had busted out of her food kit, looking all clever and professional in a pair of shorts and my Black Sabbath t shirt.
The smell of bacon was making me salivate; it had been a long time since my last meal. When you are a lifestyle drug user (read: junkie) your food intake isn't nearly as important as your drug intake, and so you don't always notice when you miss a couple meals until you get those stabbing pains in your gut and realize that you're running on fumes and gristle. The low blood sugar can give you a head rush, especially if you happen to be smoking dope-it lowers your blood sugar, the source of those infamous "munchies." But it is easy to attribute the head rush to other sources, unless you are a gonzoid psuedo scientist with a hard dick and a GED like Jon Mackey, in which case the coke high, the weed buzz, the adderol body buzz and the hunger dizzy spell are as distinct as tattoos. So I didn't even have to be asked to cook breakfast; once I blazed that joint and stepped out into the dim grey light of my living room I knew I had to eat something; my stomach was talking satanic gibberish like a backwards Led Zeppelin record and the delicate spongy texture of my THC soaked brain, suitably dulled to prevent panic, was floating in a murky precambrian ocean of dizziness. I had taken the last item out of my freezer, sniffed it cautiously-a full package of bacon, just now defrosted and looking succulent and sinful curled up in that clear plastic wrap.
Once, what seems like a million years ago, I had held plastic wrap over my exes face while I fucked her. The image sprang to mind suddenly and I grimaced. Mostly it was the savage stirring of my heart that I remembered, and now in the light of the current situation I could see it was the pale echo of the primal rush, higher than PCP, that I had felt when I stabbed that zit faced kid in the back of his terrified, stupid fucking dome. It was similar to the strange (and erotic) fascination with death as a kid.
I had first discovered it when I was talking to a little buck toothed girl that was asking me to bury her in the sand. I must have been 7 years old at the outside, maybe 8, so a good five or six years from any real drug abuse. My dad had been in the back trailer, which had a reek I will always remember-the high acid brittle reek of charred brillo pads from an ersatz crack pipe. And I was outside in the sand on the edge of our little pond, helping this girl-I think she was my cousin, as if I needed to make the great state of Indiana look any worse-cover herself in sand and remarking offhandedly, but with a charge of sexual power that I still remember all these years and pills later "You know, when people die they bury them."
Maribeth? Rosalee? Annabelle?-I no longer remember, or even care-and I had an interesting summer that year, as we kissed behind sheets on the clothesline and giggled and blushed our way through showing each other our pubic areas, but I never got the crackling brown rush that I did when I was suggesting living interment to her. Some time later we caught a women-in-peril murder movie and acted that out, and that had a similar vein-but the goddamn stingy broad would never let me play murder, she always had her boyfriend show up to let her out of the fucking cage, and I had always allowed it because it seemed to be the dramatic convention.
At the time I didn't think anything was wrong with me, but of course now, in my socks and a fresh pair of jeans and a black hoodie to shut me against the cold, cooking bacon on my coffee table, I could see it. Because it was the same fucking urge, some kind of lizard brain kill-fuck-ravage thing that ensured that despite performing multiple felony murders yesterday I could still get a hardon blazing like the sun while I looked at the pretty girl, and it seemed worse.
"...Mackey, earth to John Mackey," a voice tuned in to my cosmic radio while I traipsed about memory lane. I jumped a bit, still transferring a somewhat soggy bit of bacon from the pan to a paper plate on the table.
I looked up and Phebe was smiling, rain droplets beaded in her hair like tiny jewels on a Hindu goddess. "Sorry," i said somewhat sheepishly and forked another piece over onto the plate. "I was wool gathering a bit."
She sniffed a bit, looked back towards the bathroom. My growling stomach dropped at least six inches; I swear to god I'm surprised it wasn't hanging out my asshole. "What's that smell?"
"Um, spicy bacon," I lied quickly and handed her a plate. "What were you saying before?" She was peering around me towards the shut door of my bathroom, which had a window open but probably still reeked of dope. It was a mistake; I assumed that because I couldn't smell it, she couldn't either-but I was just numb to the smell, and she was no fool.
"Oh, uh, I was asking if that was ready yet," she said, taking a seat on the chair next to the couch and crunching a single piece of the bacon. "I am starving. Anyway I got some bags of mulch propped up around the filter so that should keep them from falling over again tonight." She wiped grease from her chin, an unladylike move that captivated me anyway, and leaned back in the chair. "Not bad."
My gut had recovered a bit again, though I found myself as usual desperately craving a valium. Of all my swirling galaxy of pills, the blues were the rarest and I hated to part with one for no reason-especially when I had to be out and about all day-but god it sounded so good to not give a fuck for awhile. Still with the munchies rooted deep in my bones now I started to gorge on my half of the bacon, washing it down with tepid filtered rainwater. It was no king's feast, but it was a lot better than those stupid fucks out ravaging the city were doing. Phebe kept the shotgun strapped to her back now when she went out.
The lights flickered on again briefly around noon, as the two of us were emptying the full filtered bucket of water into the bathtub that we had recently scrubbed. (I think she found my roach, but if she didn, she didn't say anything-and a lot of people can't tell a roach from a rollie.) It was sweaty, irritating grunt work, hauling the buckets back from where they were filtering down and filling up, then reassembling the whole mess with the now soaked bags of mulch. The water was beginning to make the bags split up the side as the water was absorbed, and they wouldn't last much longer there. We had no idea what we would be doing after that.
"Hey," she said, looking up at the flourescent bathroom light that now buzzed above us. "The lights are on. I'll go set this back up outside, you go see if you can catch anything useful on the tv."
"Yeah, thats likely," I said, and we both shared that warm chuckle we had found ourselves sharing a lot over the past few days. The minute she stepped out I was bent over the back of the toilet cutting up a few bumps; the time limit was too short for any decent lines. I played connect the dots for three minutes, tops, letting the high spots flare up in my battered conciousness with relish. Now suffused with lemon-yellow purpose refined in some south american hellhole and cut fine with baking soda, I stepped into the living room and jammed the button on the TV, my face flushed and hot and my synapses crackling like the bacon and very much alive, unlike the bacon. I found myself wanting some more bacon and so I ignored the banal blue glow of the tv while I scarfed down another greasy mouthful.
Flipping channels soon got me to a working feed, although it wasn't very eventful. Just some guy with a shaky handicam pointed at the...wait, was that the strip club? Holy shit it was, Moxie's Gentleman's club, name after a stripper long ODed, where my bitch ex worked-or had worked. It looked like the parking lot was still full. Still, it was a remarkably dull feed for a news day this exciting and I wondered for a few moments why it was being shown at all-until I remembered that the TV studio WXMJ was right next door, and whoever was filming this shit was just standing on the roof looking over there and ranting in a foam mouthed voice "...and fornicators and sluts and gutter trash and junkies and pedos and queeeeeeeers..." Why do the nutjobs always emphasize queers so much? "They brought this on us! They have brought the pestilence of AIDS, the famine of endless rain, the war of cultural destruction!" The guy was shrieking and I don't understand some of what he next said, while I puffed on a cigarette and pretended like it didn't worry me.
"Fire and sword!" the guy was ranting. "Jehovah guide us to victory, to cleanse the charnel house of sodomite whores, twirling their....nipples..." I guffawed out loud at the way he struggled with 'nipples' the way a feminized eunuch male (remember, Americanus Eunochio) has to struggle with 'cunt' for years after that scarring Women's Studies class. "...Bringing locusts and herpes and lesbian dvds!" Actually that sounded like a great party, just add ecstasy.
The sudden shuck-shuck of a pump shotgun outside killed my scathing social commentary in a rush of frigid blood; suddenly I was on my feet grabbing my own new shotgun and stepping towards the window, face pressed against the bars. I could see Phebe there taking cover behind her own water filter, her stare strong and determined as she faced...three, four....no five figures in the misty rain. The first one stepped out of the rain and I could hear her cursing him. It was a fat guy, with flaccid bitch tits that showed through his cheap silk shirt, a scraggly beard, with a woman and three kids in tow.
"Cesare?" I said, forgetting he couldn't hear me through the window. Just then I heard the thump of Phebe's shotgun butt against the door.
I opened it in a rush, bringing the smell of cool rain and terrified sweat. "Jon," Phebe said coldly, still staring with one hard blue eye at the now frozen Castigliono family, "this guy says he knows you."
"He does," I said, and looked him up and down. His cheeks were hollow and bruised and it was his wife, not his mistress that was at his side. He was missing a kid and even without the rain, he would have looked ready to off himself. They had no weapons. He gave me an eye like a kicked dog as I regarded his family.
"You want to let them in?" she said. That barrel still didn't waver.
"Jon, I need....hooked up...for awhile. They took Eliza." Eliza being the mistress he fucked around with while Lola was at home with the kids. "When we got back our house was burning. I...need, um, some pills man, I'm real sick..." Fucking typical. His kids were rail thin and shivering behind him and all that saggy titted motherfucker could think of was getting some addies in his diseased system.
I thought about it for a long time. But it was Phebe, and the kids, who decided me. "Jon," she said to me, "he has kids, man." She apparently didn't notice the part about the pills, or maybe chose to ignore it.
"Fine," I practically snarled, and tore open the door all the way. They shuffled inside like holocaust victims dripping all over my floor and my chances to get Phebe in the sack...although I wasn't thinking about that of course, despite my exhaustive list of things I would like to do to her that lurked in the back of my mind like graffiti on the bathroom wall.
They stood there stunned for a few seconds, like they hadn't expected help. Their trudge was the trudge of the desperately hopeless, and for a moment I thought that was why they were frozen in place once the stepped inside in the piss yellow light from my reading lamp. But that wasn't it. They were looking at the TV. I followed their gaze, and my cigarette crashed to the carpet in a spray of hot cherry.
Phebe was behind me and was looking over my shoulder. "What are we looking at?"
The camera was still focused squarely on the strip club. I tuned out the delusional lunatics ravings, and watched. And I saw feet-feet and feet and feet, slogging through the ankle deep water towards the entrance of the strip club. It was an army, a hundred motherfuckers at least, and I shuddered thinking of the fate that likely awaited whatever poor bitches were still stuck in there. I had seen it in Chicago, had seen it televised once before, and been fascinated-even aroused enough to feign an interest in Cristal's handbag collection. Now my stomach full of greasy bacon roiled and flopped like a catfish nailed to a tree, and I turned away.
Cesare noticed the look, his hands shaking. "Dude, you know Rachel's there right? I saw her just before I left; I guess the owner is trying to ride it out." Phebe looked up sharply when he said 'rachel'-a fact that gave me hope and make me cringe at the same time.
The feet of the mob marched through the parking lot. I saw axes, ballbats, guns, even one jackass trying to light a molotov in the driving rain. These weren't holy rollers inspired by that fuckup on tv either-one look at their distant gazes and hard set mouths told me what kind of booty they were after in the strip club. I set my jaw, got on my feet, and grabbed a box of shotgun shells from the pile on the kitchen table without asking.
"I've gotta go after her," I said, in a distant coked up fog, almost before I had realized what I was saying. But all I could think of was that mark I had left on the side of her face before she left, and how really, in the darkest part of my heart, I had been imposing her face over that poor dumb cunt in chicago the whole time. And I realized then that it is not enough to run from the ugliness inside ourselves-in order to transform it, it must be confronted. And then something amazing happened-I felt Phebe's hand on my arm, saw her stare up at me with...it couldn't be admiration. Not of Jon Mackey, the human rattlesnake in life's cosmic woodpile.
And yet, very clearly, she said "I'm with you Jon. Whoever she is."
It sounded less world alteringly profound when I sobered up later, with Cesare at my heels with a ballbat and Phebe at my side with her own shotgun, stalking through the alleys knee deep in rainwater while thunder cracked overhead, but by then it was too late to regret.
_________________From The Codex Kalachnikova: "He who would have you surrender your arms does so because he wishes to do something you could prevent by their usage."Last Call, Last Stand
- The Crystal Menage
- SF in Babylon
- REMC Guide