Cop sirens disturbed Alan’s reading, a page, three sentences and, the door ope. He dropped the book, Goodis, climbed off the bed, three weeks unmade, and went to the window, cracked. The street was full of cop cars, three doors down. The cops had their guns out, they looked busy, eager to shoot somebody, they always looked busy and eager to shoot some somebody when they were in the street. Alan did his best not to cry, ever since Marianne had left, she had found God and God and Alan did not mix, as a drunk and a junkie, as country music and jazz, but he failed. He had presented her with a white rabbit, for their anniversary, he thought a white rabbit would make her smile, help her forget, she threw the white rabbit through the back door and followed it, and he never saw them again. And so, he cried as he watched the cops flitter back and forth from the house, two up two down, rented not purchased, and their parked cars, doors still open, lights flashing, sirens turned off,
thank god, his head was in bits, MD 20/20, the offender. Alan walked away from the window, removed the tears from his face, and went into the kitchen. Today he would write, something he had not achieved in years, SF, so instead of wine or beer, coffee. Alan fixed himself a cup of coffee, black no sugar. He used Marianne’s cup, it was smaller, white, I Heart Jesus, his favorite cup was full of dead cigarettes, dead nails, a few cockroaches. He went into the front room and sat down on his chair, facing the television, close to the electric fire, and who said Alan was selfish. He put Marianne’s cup between his legs, Jesus pressed against his crotch. It was hot, but so what, she burnt him, so why not her cup. He turned on the television and found the local news. Marianne hated the television. She hated the gold spikes it stood on. Alan saw his street on the television. The street looked worse on the television than from his window. Marianne had said the street was bad, but A
lan had defended the street, but there was no defending the street, he was defending himself, he knew, she knew it, they knew it, but he pretended to defend the street, but you can’t defend child molesters, thieves, killers, junkies, dealers, whores, and pimps. Behind the newsreporter, blond, early twenties, attractive, a connoisseur of life, two drunks, one retching, were leaning against a burntout Cadillac. Alan knew the drunks, Raymond and Chandler. The blond, sexy as hell, with the mike took great delight in telling the audience that a murder had taken place, and that the murder had taken place on the worst street in Nicotineville. She, poetically, sweet sounding, delivered a litany of crimes, all perpetrated on the street, Nicotineville would be crime free if only they could eradicate the street. Alan couldn’t drink the coffee. It was too hot, and the blond had left him desiccated. Raymond and Chandler held up bottles hidden away in brown paper bags and invited Alan
to join them. A drunk will drink with anybody, no matter his or her crime.
The television would turn itself off; the gas had turned itself off. Alan went into the bedroom and atop of scattered clothing, Marianne’s mostly, he had been searching for her scent and a few dollars, he found a pair of brown trousers, they could have been Marianne’s. His shoes were in Marianne’s space on the bed. In the fridge were two cans of Icehouse. A plastic bag would have to cover for a brown paper bag. Cops are fastidious about the law on such a street as the one Alan lived on. Alan picked up the house keys and the last forty dollars. He locked the door and stuffed the money deep down, as far down as he could, into his right trouser pocket. Into the left pocket, he tried to stuff a can of Icehouse, he was putting on weight. He opened the can and smothered it in the plastic bag. The last time he had used the plastic bag, he used it to carry old socks and underwear to the laundromat. The plastic bag contained a peculiar smell. The cops were too busy to notice Ala
n. He sauntered, sipping. Raymond and Chandler saw him and gestured, not to go away, although they could have been gesturing him to scram. Alan joined the two drunks. Drunks will drink with any drunk no matter how boring he is. They leaned on the burntout Cadillac, the Cadillac could have once belonged to Alan, or Raymond, or Chandler, they lived in the Land of Blackouts, nobody knew anything, the cops didn’t even bother quizzing them about the murder, in the Land of Blackouts, the blind man is King, and watched the cops hurrying in and out of the house.
“Cut her up into little piece with a machete,” said Raymond.
“Shouldn’t it be down,” said Alan, “they cut her down into little pieces.”
“They found the machete on the lawn,” said Chandler.
“Have you finished that Erich von Däniken book yet?” asked Raymond.
Alan shook his head.
“Let’s not start all that crap again,” said Chandler.
“It’s important,” said Raymond.
“God-damn-it,” said Chandler.
The cops noticed the three drunks.
“Stop now Chandler,” said Raymond.
Chandler was a bad drunk.
Alan watched the cops and sipped. The cops were busy. Maybe they were picking up all the pieces. Alan had worked in a slaughterhouse. He witnessed a man with a machete and a cow. There’s a real mess. Alan wanted to cry for the poor lady, for the cows he had seen reduced to mounds of meat, but he couldn’t allow Raymond, and mostly Chandler see him cry.
“Give us a smoke,” said Alan.
Raymond had Parliaments.
Alan no longer smoked, Marianne’s influence, she had long fingers and a poke was a poke, but he had to do something. Chandler lit the cigarette. The flame danced along the cigarette. Alan would only have to smoke half of the cigarette. The other half was now ash thanks to Chandler’s steady hand.
“The bastard or bastards cut the poor girl up into little pieces right there in front of her two year old girl,” said Chandler.
“One year old daughter,” said Raymond.
“God-damn-it,” managed Alan.
The empty can fell to the bottom of the plastic bag. In the heat, the smell intensified. Alan opened up the second can. The beer was warm and the mosquitoes were biting. The mosquitoes didn’t bother Raymond and Chandler.
“I’m sick of death and destruction,” said Alan.
“You should finish Erich von Däniken and return the book to me,” said Raymond, “and then move.”
“Let’s go to Tommy’s,” said Chandler. There was a police warrant out on him.
“I’ve only five dollars,” said Alan.
“We’ll make do, we have to get out of this sun,” said Raymond.
“There are good girls, bad girls, indifferent girls, passionate girls, girls that like to be tickled, girls that like to be dominated, subjugated, there are girls that like short kisses, there are girls that like long kisses, there are girls that like to have their nipples licked, there are girls that like to have their nipples bit, there are girls that like to have their bottoms slapped, there are girls that like to have their bottoms pinched, there are girls that shave, there are girls that smell, there are girls that love youknowwhat and that girl was dry,” said Raymond. For a man who still lived with his mother, Raymond sure knew a lot about women. He worked at a cat litter factory, is it amazing what money can buy you. Alan and Chandler tried to listen and not contradict Raymond. Chandler couldn’t hold down a job, he didn’t enjoying hurting people with his fists, he couldn’t help himself, Alan and Raymond suspected Chandler threw punches instead of cutting hims
Tommy’s pub is a private members’ club, it doesn’t serve food, but it does serve cans and bottles of beer, cash, no checks, no Visa. It is a small, dark, dank place that reeks of nicotine. But what do you expect, when your bar is in Nicotineville.
“Sir, three cans of Icehouse,” said Raymond.
“Don’t call me Sir, call me Paul or bartender,” said Paul.
“Paul three cans of Icehouse, please,” said Raymond.
Paul nodded his head. The bar was empty; most of the debris were sleeping off the night. Some were at the hospital complaining about the electric flies, some were under trucks, under cars, under the bridge that spanned I-855. Alan, Raymond, and Chandler sat at the bar. Paul placed the cans, warm, on the bar and went back to his cigarette. He smoked, yes, Paul broke the law. Alan, Raymond, and Chandler watched him smoke in awe; they drank while watching in awe.
“Did you hear what happened to Paula Nelson?” Paul stubbed out the cigarette. He lit another cigarette. “Some mean bastard beat her to death.”
“Beat not cut to pieces,” said Chandler. He was red in the face and blowing.
“Yes, beat to death, slow,” said Paul, “Punched and kicked her to death.”
Chandler ordered three more beers. He had to do something with his hands. He couldn’t punch Alan, Raymond, or Paul. He could, but punching Alan, Raymond, or Paul was something he didn’t want to do. Chandler preferred to punch strangers, the next door he didn’t have to be apologetic, and pay for a nightful of beer.
“The cops have no clue yet,” said Paul, placing three beers, warm, on the bar.
“A pimp, maybe,” said Alan.
“Drugs,” said Raymond.
Alan acknowledged with a nod Eikhenbaum and Tomashevsky entering the bar. The looked up, stopped their chatter, acknowledged Alan, and went to their table in the corner.
Chandler slipped off his stool. He did not know either Eikhenbaum or Tomashevsky, this was a blessing, he didn’t know them, they talked too much and too loudly, and they had entered the bar just at the right time, the next day he would not have to supply them with beer and cigarettes to placate them. Chandler was mad as hell and he had to do something about it. Knowing what was about to happen, Alan and Raymond slipped off their stools and quickly made it to the door. They stopped and watched Chandler punch Eikhenbaum. The punch sent Eikhenbaum sprawling onto the floor. Chandler turned quickly, but before he could do the same to Tomashevsky, Tomashevsky knocked Chandler clean out with an uppercut. Alan had forgotten to warn Chandler, that you don’t mess with the Russians.
Alan and Raymond decided a straight walk to the Sports Bar was too much. They decided on a detour to the convenient store. They accumulated up the information they had gleaned about Paula Nelson. She had not been chopped up into little pieces, she had been beaten to death, kicked, and punched. They grimaced and shivered thinking about the brute that had kicked and punched her to her death. It wasn’t a group, say the Hell’s Angels, it had been a man. They talked about the child watching.
“I think I remember her, vaguely,” said Raymond.
Alan didn’t say anything. It could have happened to Marianne, if Marianne still lived in the street. This made him mad as hell. But he didn’t show that he was mad as hell. He could see the convenient store. They picked up the pace. They were sweating profusely.
“She was good looking in that poor kind of way,” said Raymond, “the weight of penury lay heavily upon her.”
Alan nodded his head. He was sure he had seen her, walking with her daughter. She hadn’t lived on the street for very long, maybe a month.
“The poor always get it in the neck,” said Raymond.
The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.
“I think I saw Marianne talking to her one morning, the morning she followed the white rabbit through the back door,” said Alan.
“Look,” said Raymond.
At the side of the road was road kill. It had been a deer. Raymond leaned over to get a closer look. He was obsessed with death. It was too hot to stop, so Alan kept on walking. A truck’s horn blew. Alan turned and saw Raymond, he was kneeing by the road kill, watching the maggots at work, the flies didn’t bother him, or the smell. The truck blew its horn a second time. Raymond didn’t have time to move. He was splattered with blood and guts.
“God-damn-it,” screamed Raymond.
Alan swallowed the laughter; he knew how sensitive Raymond could be. He watched Raymond remove blood-covered maggots from the last of his hair, careful not to remove any of the hair; Raymond’s hair ostensibly didn’t much like being on top of Raymond’s head.
“I can’t go to the Sports Bar like this,” said Raymond, “I’m off home.”
Alan shrugged his shoulders; there was nothing else he could do. He watched Raymond turn about and head back to the street.
Segen’s is your typical poor neighborhood convenient store. It sells beer, lots of beer, very cheap beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. A man sits at a machine and feeds the machine quarters, hoping the screen will show him something. You don’t go to Segen’s for milk and bread. Ali, the owner stands behind a wall of plastic.
Ali joined Alan in the shade. Ali lit a cigarette. Alan didn’t know if Ali came from India or Pakistan. Alan didn’t really care; he wanted to ask about the Aghori, he had seen the Aghori on the television, Alan didn’t care where Ali really came from; hell, he didn’t have an American name: Delon. He knew this, as a child he had been mocked for being a French fry.
“Did you hear about that poor girl, beaten to death in her own home?” said Ali.
Alan nodded his head and took a long swig.
“The police were here, asking about our customers,” said Ali. “They are looking for a white male, six foot, dark hair, brown eyes.”
He could have been describing Alan and this sent shivers along the knuckles of the spine. Alan eyed the road; the train of cars didn’t reveal a cop car. Alan handed Ali two dollars, went into the store, and got a third beer. Ali was still smoking the same cigarette, he nursed a cigarette as an over-indulgent mother nurses a child. He enjoyed smoking. Almond lips caressed the filter, softly. He allowed the smoke to permeate through his lungs and flavor the marrow. A car pulled up, a white Cadillac, fur interior, the bass was rocking the ground. Alan watched a man climb out of the car. It was definitely not police. Ali stood the cigarette up on the ground and followed the man into the store. Alan watched the smoke ascended and dissipate. It was a clever trick, if you didn’t mind sharing your cigarette with the earth. Alan finished the beer, quicker than the last one. He was getting drunk. With the approach of drunkenness, he picked up the pace. He dropped the can in the tr
ashcan and went into the store. The man was not holding a handgun to Ali’s head. Alan got a cold one. The man was buying beer; there was no other reason to be Segen’s. Alan got behind the man. The man paid and left. Alan handed over two dollars. Ali followed Alan out of the store. Ali picked up the cigarette. Alan would have tossed the cigarette into the trashcan.
“Your friend was in here last night,” said Ali, “that bloody Chandler is crazy. He punched a man just for looking at him. He said the man was a Queer and he, Chandler didn’t like Queers.”
Alan nodded his head. A black crow landed on the bus stop and eyed Alan.
“I hate that bird. Always sits on that post. The man got up and punched Chandler on the jaw. They had a right ding-dong. I had to call the cops. The man wasn’t a Queer, but I think Chandler is a bloody Queer.”
The Sports Bar has a name, but no one knows or cares what the real name is. It has too many big televisions, the music is too loud, the floor is littered with broken peanut shells, but the girls are sexy as hell, coquettish, and half-naked. You believe the beer is cheap, but only afterwards do you find out that the beer is weak and you have spent a lot of money filling up your bladder.
Alan knew he didn’t stand a chance; nevertheless, he still liked to chat with the young girl behind the bar. He pretended he knew her, and she pretended to know him, they had never met before, the girls always changed, but nobody really paid any attention, they showed a lot of cleavage and leg, and that’s all that matters, to a lonely guy drinking a cold beer.
“We suck this year,” said the girl.
“Yes,” said Alan. He didn’t know what she was talking about, but he enjoyed watching her lips move.
“Wherever I move to the team always sucks,” said the girl, her lips glistened. “I need to move to L.A or NYC.”
“Yes,” said Alan. He ordered another beer. He left a dollar on the bar for the girl. She picked it up and placed it in the jar. The jar was empty but soon it would be full, the lunch crowd was slowly dripping through the doors. Soon the televisions would be turned up and the music would be too loud. Alan watched the girl pour him a drink. She was wearing pink hot pants. Although, she looked no older than fifteen, he couldn’t help but look and long for. It’s shocking how much beer they waste. She placed the ice glass on the bar and smiled. She had perfect teeth for a perfect smile. Alan would put a bet on the smile being embossed on her mirror at home.
“The police say the girl knew the man,” said the girl.
“What?” said Alan. He took a swig. The cold glass hurt his teeth.
“The girl that was beaten to death,” said the girl, “the police say she knew the man. They could have been lovers.”
“That explains the brutality,” said Alan.
“If my man tried to do that to me I’d shoot him,” said the girl, “I always carry a twenty-two.”
Alan eyed the hot pants, they were tight, paint almost, he smiled and emptied the glass. He ordered another, he knew better, the hot pants, the white t-shirt, he couldn’t help himself, he was trapped. The beer made him thirsty. It gave him a slight headache. The aftertaste was bad. In the carpark, Alan planned to wash it all away with the bottle of MD 20/20 he had stuffed in his left trouser pocket, you’ve got to love Ali.
“What’s your name?” asked Alan. He didn’t really want to know her name; he wanted to take his mind of throwing up.
Spread God’s Messages of Faith and Achieve Your Own Personal Goals.
The mind cannot compute. Somebody says it will take so long, you nod your head, but the numbers fade into the nebula of confusion. You look out of the window and marvel at the show that is unfolding. It is a show; you have to tell yourself it is a show. You joke about switching on and off the television. It is the only way you can deal with it all, everything. Everything is incongruous. Everything questioned. If you blink the show stops. If you want it to be ugly it is ugly, if you want it to be beautiful it is beautiful. You delineate the most spectacular sea creatures your imagination can draw. They live, they breathe, they swim. You can’t help but fill space with all kinds of concrete sharps, animated, inanimate. You just can’t help it. If you stand at the window for long enough you can hear the music. You signed up for the journey because you thought life was worthless. You were bored. Now you blame that boredom for playing tricks. Nobody is bored. They use boredom fo
r an excuse. There are those that experience moments of elation. Some have to be sedated. It is a fine balance. The tests we had to perform back home were supposedly to help us, but we are finding that they dealt more with the body than the mind. If anything, they thought it would be melancholy, it turns out to be the antithesis. One cannot describe the joy, the utter joy one feels. Yesterday, Crewmember Peters was seen skipping. When asked why he was skipping he could not answer. He said he had an urge. He compared it to masturbation. I talked with Crewmember Hardin. I told him my theory. I explained how the mind is convinced that the body is experiencing a slow, a very slow suicide. He was not persuaded. I said that the mind knowing that death is inevitable switches on a joy button. He said something like we die no matter where we are. I agreed with him. I had to leave. You signed up for the journey because you thought life was worthless. Now you know that life is very pre
cious. Every time you inhale, a joy overwhelms you. In the mirror, you see yourself crying. You cannot help it. They are tears of joy. Your dreams are just the same as when you were back at home. They have fancy names for the dreams. I experience the Rocha Dream the most. In this dream, you have the sensation of floating. You levitate. Sometimes you reach such a height that you pass over skyscrapers. Upon awakening, the feeling of elation leaves you dizzy. Your arms and legs give the impression they are paper-thin. There have been cases were a sleeper has awoken and violently attacked the distorted appendages. Crewmember Sayre told me that he was now levitating over planets. He told me he had passed over Xan 725252-27272. You eat and go off to work. You accomplish the task you have been assigned to. You bitch, you complain, you say that your boss has not a clue what is happening. You actually forget that you are traveling at a speed that is unconjecturable. Once you tried to
grasp the math. It resulted in you vomiting. You cannot get your head around the paradox, you look out of the window, and you see that you are barely moving, but you know, because somebody has pointed it out to you, that you are moving beyond recognizable speed. You sit down alone in the Relaxation Area and it hits you. You feel as though you want to vomit. The pain in your head is unforgiving. The pain spreads. You drink; you drink because that is all that you can do. You tell yourself not to dwell on it. You allow yourself to skim over the surface but you forbid any attempt to delve deeper. You stand at the window and look out. You try to recall the numbers. If you could remember them, it would be otiose. Somebody walks by. They look busy. You grab them by the arm. They are startled. You speak. You know you are sounding silly, but you cannot help yourself. Laughter – that is the answer. You already knew the answer. You release the arm. You go back to staring out of the wi
ndow at the unfolding show. Even though you know they will be laughing at you, you do not care you, you have given up, you keep asking the same question – Are we there yet? – Are we there yet? – Are we there yet?
“It’s not finished yet,” said A.C.L. Blur, taking back the paper.
Harry’s bar is the oldest bar in Nicotineville.
No matter the time, whenever Alan walked into Harry’s bar, Stairways to Heaven was the jukebox, Now that they had banned smoking in bars, the smell of urine was heavy in the air.
“What do you think?” asked A.C.L. Blur.
“ It gave me a sore jaw,” said Alan.
“You didn’t use your mouth,” said A.C.L. Blur.
A.C.L. Blur pointed to the television. It floated in the corner, over the bar, it was held in place with cobwebs and dead, sucked dry insects and flies.
“The killer lives on our street,” said A.C.L. Blur. “A hundred bucks. He beat her to death for a hundred bucks.”
“It’s the economy.”
“Stupid,” said A.C.L. Blur, “how damn stupid.”
The barmaid sauntered over, to the sound of creaking. She looked older than the interior.
“Same again, Tony?” she said.
A.C.L. Blur nodded his head and held up two fingers.
“I must say, dear chap,” said A.C.L. Blur, in his best English accent, “you are handling it superly.”
“What?” Now drunk, Alan couldn’t hide the perplexity.
“Marianne living with me.”
Jealousy, rage, paranoia, drunkenness impelled him. He didn’t give a damn. He thought about stepping off the pavement and ending it all, a truck putting the final touch to a sad life. He had lost his faith. Full of crap, that’s what he thought. If it weren’t for the medical bills, he would have done it. The thing is, if you survive, if you end up in hospital, say with a broken leg, you’d wish death had snatched you. Alan hated The Whiskey Bell. Before its new name and new interior The Whiskey Bell was named Benny Johnson’s. Now The Whiskey Bell is full of trendy kids and middle-aged suits. There is sawdust on the floor and antiques hanging over the bar. Alan hated The Whiskey Bell, but he needed a drink. He couldn’t go home, he wanted his bed, but he could not go home to that bed, to subterfuge, in that house. Alan was sure he was drunk, but sitting next to George W., he wasn’t sure. George W. was drunk, very drunk, eyes bloodshot, a patina of sweat, dirt, cigar
ette ash, foam hardening at the mouth. Alan might, could have, still maybe, had his legs. George W. was legless (English slang for drunkenness). George W. did his best to order two cold beers. a drunk will drink with any bastard, and George W. was the quintessential bastard. He reeked, if it hadn’t been for the prospect of a beer, Alan would have sat at the other side of the bar, far far away from George W., and his white vest, stained yellow, over the chest, under the arms, along the spine. The burlesque dancer on his neck had developed varicose veins. Twenty years ago, she had been a stunner.
“Marianne’s moved in with A.C.L. Blur,” said Alan.
“Have you any toothpaste?” asked George W., not looking at Alan.
Alan nodded, instead of shaking his head. He’d not brushed his teeth since Marianne had left. He had swilled his mouth and gargled with MD 20/20. It was grape and grape is a fruit and Marianne always said fruit was good for the body.
George W. threw a twenty on the bar.
“That’s the first beer you’ve ever bought me,” said Alan.
“Drink up,” said George W. lifting the bottle to his mouth, “there’s more where that came from.”
Alan picked up the beer and matched George W..
Below the burlesque dancer, Alan could see a long scratch mark. In places, the scratch mark was deep and they had bled. The white vest was dappled in brown spots. Alan thought nothing of it, he continued to match George W., he was in for a tough time, George W. was drinking like the devil. He ordered two more beers. Alan finished the beer and smiled. Now the problem was keeping George W. interested, Alan would have to think of something to say, he had to strike up a good, long conversation.
“What happened to the hands?” asked Alan. He couldn’t think of anything better to say and George W.’s hands were swelling and discolored.
“Chandler, last night,” said George W..
“Chandler’s a God-damn-liability,” said Alan.
“One day somebody’s going to kill him,” said George W..
Alan nodded his head at the man with the beard behind the bar. The man with the beard picked through the money and took what he needed. George W. started again on the beer; Alan did his best to keep up.
“I told him never to fight in Segen’s,” said Alan. “Ali’s a good one.”
“We fought outside Tommy’s pub,” said George W.. He put the bottle down, it wasn’t finished. Alan caught up. “If I’d been carrying, I’d have put holes into him.”
Alan nodded and drank at the same time.
“You’re hands look sore,” said Alan. He was turning into the drunken bore, but he couldn’t help himself.
“It’s nothing,” said George W., “you should see Chandler. Two Jack Daniels.”
Alan sat up straight. He couldn’t help himself. He finished the beer and downed the Jack Daniels. George W. pulled out two twenties and gestured for two more beers. He threw the twenties onto the bar. The man with the beard picked through the money and took what he needed.
They drank in silence. George W. was drunk. Alan picked a five dollar bill and stuffed it into his pocket. George W. ordered two more beers. They drank in silence.
George W. laughed. It was a crazy laughed. Loud and crazy. It drew many stares and puzzled looks. The man with the beard looked at Alan; the Whiskey Bell was a bar, but not a bar for drunks. Alan shrugged his shoulders and held up his empty bottle, if only he could have articulated something clever and witty. George W. was no longer drinking, eyes closed, jaw touching chest, the burlesque dancer touching her toes.
“Marianne’s a bitch, man,” said George W..
Alan nodded. He picked up a quarter off the bar and slipped off his stool. The telephone was the only thing left of Benny Johnson’s.