THE MADNESS TRIP
A Surrealistic Pornobiographical Phantasmagoria
B. A. Oard
“Put this under your tongue,” says the girl with rainbows in her hair.
Pinched between her finger and thumb is a postage stamp of white paper bearing on its upside a crudely printed caricature of Nancy Reagan and in its fibrous interior several absorbed drops of lysergic acid diethylamide. I open wide my mouth as though delivering a doctor’s requested “Ahhhhh” and raise the tip of my tongue to its cathedral-high roof. The girl, mumbling Latinly, traces an invisible cross in the air above my face--my nose the upright, eyes the crucifying bar--and presses the paper wafer into my mouth’s pulpy bottom with all the ceremonious innocence of an unmolested altarboy. I seal my lips around her fingers and suck them softly as they withdraw.
“Freak out,” she smiles and dances back to the middle of the living room, the Roy G. Biv of her tie-dyed hair tossing in a painterly blur to K-TEL’s Groovy Sounds of the Sixties hissing and popping round and round the turntable. For this is the summer of 1989, the last days of vinyl, and we are a group of college students too young to remember the Sixties yet unaccountably nostalgic for them. We’re self-styled hippies, gathering together every few days to smoke weed, drop acid, listen to Janis, Jimi and Jim, and occasionally watch my liney, fading VHS copy of the Woodstock movie. We are having an exceptionally groovy time and digging it intensely.
I lean back into the vinyl sofa’s squeaky embrace and watch Zoe dance while I wait for the acid to kick in. The opening chords of “Purple Haze” tear through the speakers, vibrate across the floor and send a shivering, trembling motion up Zoe’s legs and through her body to the ends of her upraised arms. Tossing her head back and forth percussively to the rhythm, she moves within her own space on the threadbare blue carpet, between the old gray recliner where Danny sits nursing his bong and the green plastic patio lounge in which Annie and Abby, the lesbian two-fifths of our little group, lay curled into each other, blissfully oblivious to the rest of us. Zoe’s head goes down and her hair becomes a technicolor Niagara cascading to the floor; she shoots back up to the crash of drums and bass and her hair is an explosion of rainbows dazzling in the daylight that streams down from high windows behind her.
These windows, two tall rectangles of sunlight suspended on the living room wall, capture my attention when their color and intensity undergo a sudden transformation. Moving streams of blue and green flow curlingly like watery paint across the panes, as though the swirling hues of Zoe’s hair are bleeding upward into the glass. The colored sunlight starts to pulsate, becoming brighter and dimmer in time to the music, and when the song ends, the windows settle into two bright yellow suns blazing from the wall. I stare directly into them without squinting and without pain. After several seconds broken only by the repeated pops of a diamond needle cruising over dusty pressed vinyl, another song starts and the sunlight begins to burst like a series of paparazzi flashbulbs, one after another, again and again, quickening and brightening until, with the unbearable brilliance of an exploding star, the windows give birth to a rainbow. It arcs across the room and flows into me, penetrates my chest and caresses my heart with hands of light. I’m tripping, I think I call out.
Tongueing the spent tab to the front of my mouth, I spit it into a green ashtray glowing phosphorescently atop the Daliesque melting surface of the coffee table. No sooner does the tab strike the mound of ash and roaches than it rises again as a white-winged moth flutter-flying away into a burbling wall of gray-white television static that now stands like a partition separating me from the rest of the room. Where’d everybody go? I reach out to the wall, but it retreats before my hand. Faintly through the static looms the outline of Zoe’s face, pale and featureless like the sun behind clouds. She steps through the screen and dances in front of it to a song I can no longer hear, her moving body breaking up into the flat, overlapping planes of a Cubist portrait: the plane of her mouth flows into a rising, jagged shoulder; one denim-clad leg folds itself backwards until its foot collides with the curve of a downturned hip. Beside her, the static coagulates into a small tumorous bump that gradually grows out of the wall like a time-lapse flower emerging from its soily bed. It grows to resemble an erect penis, a living phallus of static roiling with its own energy. Monstrously, it continues to grow, static spiraling along its shaft and throwing off white sparks like a welder’s torch. The penis’s tip becomes increasingly bulbous until several cracks appear and it opens slowly like a morning rose, its petals separating into the fingers of a human hand. The whole obscene appendage becomes an arm protruding from the wall, disembodied like a baking soda logo, reaching out to shake my hand. I grasp it, feel its tingling electrical grip travel through my body like the wind on a January day. I turn my head to look for Zoe–gone now–and hear Danny’s voice saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” A burble of laughter from somewhere behind the static. “I am Daniel Dorfmann, former internationally recognized piano prodigy. What is your name and why are you recognized?” I reply robotically: “Dy over Dx. I am a differential equation. I’m a complex hydrocarbon with an amide group attached to the eighth carbon atom. I’m a computer-generated image of a Mandelbrot set, a fractal curve repeating itself within itself on progressively smaller scales until the infinitesimal, unimaginable Nought.” My eyes close and open repeatedly until the static vanishes and I see myself as if from a distance, as if through the eyes of Zoe still dancing to silent music across the room. I see myself leaning forward on the sofa, one arm extended over the coffee table, vigorously shaking the hand of an invisible man.
“Gotta get out!” I scream in a voice prepubescent with panic. “Hit the streets!”
The screendoor yawns open, sighs shut, and clicks closed behind me. My bare feet creak across the porch and punch down the steps into sunlight. I pass through the summer-narrowed opening in our hideously overgrown front hedge, its tendrils scratching like fingernails at my cheeks, and emerge onto what was once the sidewalk, now a series of chalkwhite concrete rectangles that shift and float up and down in a gentle, oceanic rhythm. The sidewalk undulates up the street like a giant seasnake, and I balance myself upon its back, rising and falling far out to sea, riding the waves and wishing for rescue.
Zoe. She’s behind me, right there, as are Danny and Abby, all standing steadily on rafts of their own. Where’s Annie? Over there, of course, in the second-floor window of the Sri Lankans’ house across the street, standing and staring while a corona of fire encircles her head...No, not that...What’s this? Music? Music on this trackless Ancient Mariner sea?...A music box boat...No, no, it’s the ice cream man. A real TFA, total fucking asshole of the old school. Bad-humored motherfucker in his toy truck grinding his gears up Ravine Street and turning onto Warner. Here he comes. Little white musical truck playing “Happy Days Are Here Again” as recorded from some seriously cheap-ass carillon, the whole song on three or four tinny bells. Happy days...yeah, that’s right. Hap-peedays. “Stop your truck, motherfuck!” I yell, “This little boy wants some piss-stash-shee-oh!” Still moving, driving past. See him through his little window: Ernest Borgnine lookalike hunched over the wheel. Quite a comedown from The Wild Bunch. He shows me the back of his head. No kids on this block, he’s thinking, just a bunch of long-haired hippie freaks. Hit the gas and get the speed up to ten or fifteen. Shit yeah man, take that bitch to Indy. The ice cream truck slows to a stop.
“Pistachio!” I yell at the cracking top of my voice, and I’m leaning into the long open window in the side of his truck, inspecting the flavors. Shiny metal canisters of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mint, and my greeny nutty desire are arranged inside the cool truck like the rings on the Olympic logo. “I used to work there,” I say, pointing to the can of strawberry. The Borgnine-alike doesn’t understand. “You wanna strawberry cone?” he asks gruffly, “How many dips you want?” Dips? I thought ‘scoops’ was the generally accepted term. But this guy says ‘dips.’ Obviously an imposter. Look at his arms: running down the right forearm are three large black letters tattooed in an ornate Germanic font: K A G; the left arm is covered with a tat so dark and densely crosshatched it looks like a black sleeve. Upon closer inspection, the sleeve clarifies into an aerial view of a jungle landscape. Helicopters coming from several directions sweep above the green canopy and converge hovering over a village of thatched huts. Door gunners spray the village with a steady hail of machine gun fire. Leaning farther into the truck window, my eyes now inches from his skin, I see tiny women and children running from the huts. An old man hobbling toward the dark safety of the jungle is thrown to the ground by a stream of lead that transforms his body to a writhing pile of raw hamburger. One woman, a baby sprawling lifeless in her arms, howls at the sky and is answered with a bullet in the face. When movement on the ground ceases, the helicopters swoop down as gracefully as honeybees returning to the hive. Countless soldiers pour out of their bellies, running and firing into the huts. Others wander the village with knives and Nikons, taking souvenirs and snapshots. “Dear Lorna, Heres a pic of me and D.F. Gook, lately deceased. Ear enclosed. Give my love to the kids. Bob” A mother and daughter are dragged from a hut by their hair and stripped naked before a dozen G.I.s. The daughter is gangraped in front of the mother and vice versa until only the soldiers’ guns can fire and both women are murdered as they lie crying in the blood-reddened mud. A sergeant with the ice cream man’s face kneels down to sodomize the daughter’s corpse. “Ain’t nothin’ beats a hot piece a gook ass!” he shouts to uproarious laughter. “How could you do that shit?” I mumble, backing away from the truck. K A G: Kill All Gooks. Below the G is a tattoo I didn’t notice before: a small ear carefully shaded and drawn in intricate trompe l’oeil so it seems to rise from the surface of his wrist. I stare at the ear until it begins to scream. An ugly, grating, cacophonous chorus of screams, like the howls of people burning alive, like the wails the sonderkommando heard. The wrist flicks up and two fingers point pistol-like at my chest. “Watch it, kid. You weren’t there.” “I’m watching it.” I step back to the middle of the street.
The truck pulls slowly and tunefully away, its white bulk passing to reveal a stunningly colored bluejay perched atop the closely trimmed hedge across the street. The bird cocks its head inquisitively at me, says something in a language I know to be ancient Minoan, and flies off like a missile into the invisibility of the air. I stand there watching it soar and shrink to a colorless distant dot until a car honks, a driver yells “Git outta the street asshole!” and Danny puts his arm around my shoulders and says, “Let’s go inside, dude.”
“No. We need to experience. Experience the freedom of the outdoors.”
“Let’s experience the freedom of the living room first,” says Zoe, taking my arm and leading me back through the hairy hedge.
Inside, “The Wind Cries Mary” mellows on the stereo and the sofa molds itself to my form. I sink down into the womb that Jimi built, calm and warm and welcoming, like a gentle summer breeze tousling my hair. Or Zoe’s hair. Her multicolored mane tumbles over the back of the sofa as she sits beside me, head thrown back, cheeks drawn sharply inward like Marlene Dietrich, dragging hard on a flattened roach. My fingertips caress her chin, feel soft smooth flesh become the hard bone of her underjaw. She lowers the joint and gently I turn her face to mine and close my eyes for a kiss. Our lips touch and open and the warm sweet acrid column of potsmoke passes from lungs throat mouth to mouth throat lungs. I breathe Zoe in, hold her deep inside me, feel a rush like running at full speed up a steep hill and leaping to the summit as she wraps her arms around me and pulls me close, my chest flattening her soft breasts. And I exhale, smoke like woodfire rising to my nostrils and scratching my throat, passing our lips and returning to Zoe’s mouth. Her arms tighten, her lips round to an O as she sucks the air from my lungs, and I sit there crushed in her embrace, feeling weightless, deflated and free. Our lips close and part with a wet breathy sound like a wine cork’s hollow pop, and I open my eyes on hers, always open, to see myself reflected, tiny and doubled, in the twin black mirrors of her pupils. Fascinated, I stare at these other I’s, these selves transformed by her eyes’ convexity into a macrocephalic caricature: head inhumanly enormous, body dwindling beyond babyish to dissolution in a confusion of torso, sofa and wall. When I turn my head, the enormous foreheads on the glassy surface of her eyes rotate in unison. “What is it?” Zoe whispers. A pale smoky cloud rises from her slightly parted lips to veil and tear my sight. Through the smoke my grotesque reflections rise from the sofa, take synchronized vaudevillian’s bows, turn their backs and walk away, disappearing into a wall as blank and yellow as an unused legal pad. Breaking out of Zoe’s arms, I stand dizzyingly fast and turn unsteadily to the wall. Nothing there but the Picasso poster I bought a year earlier, Girl Before A Mirror, its deep pools of red and green now flashing like stained glass under a strobe light. The sharp, black, horizontal lines on the girl’s body become piano keys, then harp strings, then the exposed ribs of a side of beef eviscerated and hung up for inspection.
Zoe: “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Danny D.: “I believe the gentleman is experiencing what is commonly referred to among the downwardly mobile classes as a ‘bad trip.’”
I go back to the sofa, back to Zoe, back to her eyes, empty now, and she puts her hands on my arms to steady me, saying, “What do you see?” And I see a large, brown turd, a warm, odorous tube of human shit, balanced atop Zoe’s head and melting like ice cream on an August afternoon, dark brown rivulets running down the colored stripes of her hair, liquid shit pouring over her forehead and dripping from her eyes to trail down her cheeks like tears. “What do you see? Tell me?” Brown stains ruining your $15.99 head shop T-shirt emblazoned with Bob Marley’s Rastafarian head. Shit running down your shorts and thighs and spreading over the sofa to the floor. I pull away, but the warm sticky liquid coats my fingers and hands and works it way up my arms like the world’s most sickening pair of opera gloves. The stereo emits a constant bass drone, an underwater sound, and the living room walls darken and buckle and bubble into slimy life. Walls, floor and ceiling bow outward, and the room becomes circular, the interior of an organic tube, the overheated inside of a giant intestine. Everywhere in this new rancid heat is the overpowering odor of fresh shit. The floor is a muddy lake of shit stretching from wall to wall and flowing into darkness. The chairs and sofa and coffee table are great clotted clumps of sculpted shit. Abby and Annie and Danny and Zoe are smeared with it over the lengths of their bodies. But they seem strangely unconcerned by this, their eyes and attention focused instead on me. They stare at the sofa where I sit miraculously pristine, not a drop on me, as unbeshat as the day I was horrendously born.
Zoe’s voice again: “What is it?”
A belated wave of nausea leaps up from my stomach, and I feel many hands grabbing and guiding me across the floor, shit splashing at our every step. We fight our way up the stairs against a steady downward flow of diarrhea–I grasp a bannister molded from hard, painful-looking turds–and eventually achieve the second-floor bathroom. As soon as I feel the toilet’s cool porcelain against my collarbones, I heave three meals worth of vomit into the faint face of my reflection on the toilet water’s transparent surface. It’s a cheesy, junk foody, pork by-products heavy vomit, yellowish brown with pink cubic chunks. Puke ugly enough to make me puke–which it promptly does. Kneeling on the hard tiles I vomit until my convulsions bring forth only a string of green bile drooling from the corner of my mouth. Exhausted, I close my eyes and tumble toward the toilet, falling face first into the puke. Zoe and Danny pull me out, wash my face and hair, and lay me gently in the bathtub to sleep it off.
When I awake hours or minutes later I’m lying naked and curled into fetal position on the bottom of the antique tub, a big four-legged, claw-footed Victorian monstrosity that resembles the lower and less interesting half of a large bisected animal. Above me, lying motionless upon the rim of the tub, is a large snake, Python reticulatus, a native of the tropics. It has stretched its body around the circumference of the rim, so that directly above my head its thin pink tongue flicks obscenely about the end of its tail. Raising myself on one elbow, I examine the animal more closely, my eyes drawn to the brown and yellow diamond pattern running the length of its skin. In the center of each diamond-shaped patch is a tiny, dark rectangle. As I stare into one of these dark spots, it enlarges to become a coherent image, a snapshot showing a naked young man sitting in a bathtub, his tongue extended and licking the body of a large snake curled around the tub’s rim. Closing my eyes, I stick out my tongue until it touches the snake. The skin’s texture is smooth and dry, with the slight bumpiness of cheap leather. I slowly run my tongue along the diamond pattern, licking the snake, and when I open my eyes the snake becomes Zoe’s thigh and I’m licking along the edge of her black garter strap, moving deliberately, enjoying the warm, soapy-salt taste of her skin. I lick and kiss along the strap until the brown tendrils of her bush tickle my cheek and I ease myself down between her parting thighs. Rubbing my face into smooth, brown, silksoft pubic hair, I feel my body lighten and float on the intoxicating aroma rising up from below. I press my thumbs into her labia and spread them wide, flatten my tongue against her pussy and lick it in slow, glistening, upward strokes from the base of her vagina to the tip of her clit. Zoe lets out a faint, preliminary pleasure moan, and while my head bobs up and down like a bouy between her thighs, she moves her legs caressingly across my back. The tingling texture of her stockings against my skin sends me tumbling down the tunnel of time until I’m once again a child of an age beneath memory, small and fragile as glass, lying on the shaggy carpet of my childhood home as my mother stands towering above me, her head lost in mountainous distance, her legs the trunks of two great trees that I’m nestling between, grabbing at her ankles, feeling her stockings against my skin and calling out in delight. And I’m flicking my tongue quickly against Zoe’s clitoris now and she’s calling out, her body convulsing, riding the rhythm, her legs tightening and releasing, drawing me inward, holding me close. My chin and lips rub wetly against her vagina, and I thrust my tongue deep inside, tasting her heavy, wet warmth. Her muscles tighten around my tongue while her pussy simultaneously expands to engulf me. Pink lips grow suddenly as large as my head, which slips smoothly inside. My shoulders come next, sliding in with a bit of effort. As I clutch at the oily, elastic walls, grasping for a handhold, the vagina molds itself around me, pressing blindingly, smotheringly against my face. I squirm and scramble onward, gasping for air in the crushing tunnel. My feet finally pass inside and the vaginal lips close behind them like a pair of iron gates, casting me into darkness. A wave of contraction moves along the walls, smashing the breath from my body as it pulls me inward. After another contraction, I squeeze my arms above my head, blindly find a foothold, and push myself off, my body shooting like a swimmer through the tight, suffocating flesh. These efforts combine with another contraction to slam my head into a small, round door made of heavy wood. I try the handle, and it opens stiffly with a rusty, goose-like squawk that echoes into the vast dark space beyond. A final contraction spews me through the doorway, and I’m falling into darkness, falling endlessly, wind whistling past my ears, falling as in a dream from which I can’t awake, spinning and rolling and turning in air, until I crash splashingly into a pool or ocean of warm, welcoming liquid. Under the surface, in silence and blankness, I hang suspended out of time. The liquid heat infuses my body, and I sense myself expanding to the limits of the pool, dissolving like a powdery reagent stirred into water, leaving only a chemical trace. But when my body bubbles to the surface and I taste the salt waves slapping at my face and feel chill air against my skin, I am roused back to consciousness and set out swimming sluggishly toward a spot of lightness in the murky distance. As I swim nearer, the spot becomes a rectangle and then a wall and then a ramp encrusted with layers of crystallized salt. I pull my body along its steep, scratchy surface and scramble over the top to find myself standing on a smooth concrete floor. I am near the center of an enormous empty building, an abandoned airplane hangar or disused soundstage. Dim light falls faintly down from unseen sources in the rafters. Scanning the four far walls, I find them all solid, unbroken, without a door. “Hello!” I call out as loudly as I can. Only an echo answers. Louder yet: “WHERE... AM ... I?” Each syllable returns depleted to my ears.
I’m startled by the sound of an engine coughing and growling to life in one of the building’s darkened corners. Squinting my eyes I see a white golf cart emerge from the blackness and drive towards me at high speed. “Hiya!” the driver shouts and waves when he comes within hailing distance. He’s an old man with bony arms and ratty white hair hanging down to his shoulders; his face and hands are covered with brown age spots. “How ya doin’?” he says after stopping the cart in front of me. “You look like ya been rode hard an’ put ta bed wet, if I do say so myself. Hop on in.” He pats the unoccupied seat beside him. “You don’ expect to walk all the way over there, do ya?”
I climb into the cart and we speed off across the empty floor, the old man talking above the engine’s angry, overpowered whine. “Sorry about all the damn mess in here. I don’t know where all this shit comes from. GET OUTTA MY WAY, PECKERWOOD!” He turns sharply to avoid an invisible obstacle, and the force almost throws me from my seat. “How ya like that? That sumbitch thinks he can tell me how ta drive. Well, fuck him, that’s what I say. Fuck...him...I been workin’ warehouse since before that bastard sucked his momma’s dick. Know these rows an’ aisles like the back a my hand. Damn straight... Now, you see that row a boxes over there?” He gestures at the empty air and turns the wheel again. “Know what’s in ‘em? God-damn junk, that’s what.” Another sharp turn. “Junk. They got all kindsa names for it, Latin an’ Greek an’ shit, but it’s just junk. An’ over here we got all this damn garbage pilin’ up by the wall.” Here his words finally refer to a visible object: a small mound of miscellaneous refuse that appears to have been swept up against the wall. “Damn shame,” he mutters to himself, shaking his head sadly as he brings the cart to a halt before the pile. “We got a coupla ladies, bull-dykers, useta come in once a month an’ clean all this shit out. But I ain’t seen ‘em around for a while. It just piles up.” He turns to me and says with more than a hint of accusation, “I s’pose you’ll wanna join the pile too now, huh?” His face and tone soften, and he gestures me out of the cart. “Go on, go on. Ain’t nuttin’ to be shamed about. Yer just like all the rest.” As soon as my feet hit the floor, the old man steps on the gas and speeds away, retracing his crazily zigzagging path across the empty building.
Having nothing better to do, I sit down on a semen-stained pillow atop a broken bass drum, ease myself back into the junk pile, and fall exhaustedly toward a third-person sleep. While Daniel Douglas dozes, a third imaginary person inventorying the refuse mound might discover: a yellowed Wall Street Journal proclaiming “The Ford Edsel–A Sure Thing for ‘58”; an earlier issue of the same newspaper folded open to an editorial titled “Indochina: Why The French Will Win”; the detached front cover of TIME magazine for November 23, 1970 (by a less-than-credible coincidence, our narrator’s traumatic birthday), with George Wallace’s smirking face transformed by judicious folding into a passable replica of the Air France Concorde; the bent and twisted headpiece of a brass bed, with three bars missing; an AK-47, its barrel twisted at a 90-degree angle–presumably to shoot around corners; the featureless head of a dressmaker’s dummy, resting in the plastic crook of a mannequin’s detached arm; a white clerical collar stretched around the widest part of a burned-out 500-watt light bulb. But Daniel Douglas, dozing, notices none of this. Not until the broken filament inside the bulb begins to vibrate and the slight tremor now shaking the floor rises to a spine-fusing motorcycle-like rumble that sends clouds of red rust descending from the girders high above and the distant thunder outside rises to a deafening roar does our intrepid narrator rouse himself again into the first person and scream out “Holy fucking shit!” to no possibility of echo as an entire wall of the enormous room collapses inward under the force of an equally enormous tidal wave.
I am whirled away by the unimaginable force of flooding water. I bounce off of walls, bang my legs against girders, and scream when my wet hair tangles around the axle of a floating golf cart while from above I hear “Come on, peckerwood, git yer ass outta here!” I am swept involuntarily, like liquid sliding down a funnel, to the still open door of the vagina, and I fall feet-first into its deeper darkness.
“Puuuuuush!....Puuuuuuuuuuush!....PUUUUUUUUUUSH!” A man’s voice, commanding, with all the howitzer-barrel-chested authority of a Marine Corps drill instructor. “I said PUSH, you maggot!”
A woman’s voice, calmer, almost sane: “Doctor, I can see its feet.”
“Feeet!? FEEEEEEEEEEEEET!? Who told you you could see feet in my mother-humpin’ delivery room. Get down on your knees, nurse. Here. Choke yourself on my hand. DO IT! Harder! Do it, you maggoty, maggot-assed motherfucker!”
Halfway down the birth canal, pressed between walls of wet flesh, I am dying a cattle rustler’s death. The snaky umbilical coils nooselike around my neck and tightens chokingly with every movement, every contraction of birth. I lie helpless and suffocating in the canal’s faint pre-dawn glow, my motionless blue feet protruding into icy air from my mother’s inflamed vaginal lips. Faintly I hear her rabbity heartbeat, her breathless breathing, the sloshing of blood through her arteries and veins, and outside, muffled by curtains of flesh, the sound of a woman gasping for air while a man screams “Do it! Do it!” and a Muzak rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” plays in the distant background.
Another woman, her voice louder, closer: “Doctor, the baby is cyanotic.”
“I don’t remember ordering you to open your fucking piehole! Cyanotic! I don’t give a fuck if it’s Siamese! I don’t care if it’s a goddam buffalo-humpin’ horse-suckin’ Samoan mother-fuckin’ animal cracker! Jaysus H. horse-fuckin’ Key-Riced! Look at them goddam feet! Bluer than an artilleryman’s balls, ladies! Get outta my motherfuckin’ way!” Running footsteps, squeaking wheels, and a harsh metallic clatter of medical instruments striking walls and floor. “I’ll rescue this true blue American baby from that Commie Pinko pussy if it’s the last thing I do on God’s green earth, so help me Jesus Mary and Joseph R. McCarthy!” The doctor’s cold, gloveless hand squeezes my ankles and pulls me downward, further tightening the cord’s grip around my throat. I experience the final horror of the hanged man, when his friends rush the scaffold and pull at his feet to end the last agony while a single thought revolves in his dying mind: “No, you shitheads, cut the rope. Cut the fucking rope.”
“Come outta there, you motherfuckin’ pussy freak! I’ll teach your sorry ass!” Another vicious tug nearly tears me in two, dragging my legs downward while my head is pulled umbilically back to the womb. “Push, you goddam Russkie bitch! I said PUUUSH!” The cord obligingly slackens, slips like the collar of a turtleneck over my chin and face, and my body is pulled roughly, floppingly, into the light. I lie wet as a landed fish between my mother’s hill-like thighs, watching the red, monstrous labia flutter shut above me. And so I am born, feet-first and Krishna blue, in a delivery room as crazy as any in this year of Their Lord one thousand nine hundred and seventy. I suck in a first breath of icy needles and exhale with a hellish cry, wailing at my wildly distorted image in the surgical light’s concave mirror.
“Another motherfuckin’ crybaby!” the doctor’s blurry face bellows in disgust, spraying me with spittle. “Shut your cocksuckin’ mouth, you impudent little Commie bastard!” I inhale a second painful breath and let it loose with a howl that rises operatically to a screeching, glass-shattering crescendo. The doctor covers his ears and yells, “Take this little commie fuck to the grinder with the rest of them pieces of shit! Take him to the grinder!”
My body is snatched up and tossed carelessly into a baby cart, and after a dizzyingly fast montage of blinding lights, florescent corridors and leering faces reflected on surgical steel, I am wheeled into a large cafeteria kitchen. Half of the room is occupied by the expected steaming stewpots, sizzling skillets and fluffy-hatted chefs, while the other half is given over entirely to a pyramidal mountain of howling babies that reaches almost to the ceiling. Invisible hands lift me from the cart and lay me in a niche about halfway up the screaming pile. I look out beyond the legs and heads of the babies squirming around me and see two men in spotless white lab coats digging deeply with snow shovels into the base of the pyramid. Their shovelfuls of babies are dumped into a corrugated metal trashcan with a series of unpronounceable words stenciled in black around its circumference: WRQTI FPLZFFRTU XOFORPTL and so on. When the trashcan heaps full, a shirtless man built like a professional wrestler scoops it up in a one-armed embrace, climbs a set of rickety metal steps to the open top of a boxlike machine resembling a squat chimney, and empties the trashcan into the machine’s metal maw. After a minute of mechanical chugging and harsh low grumbling like a giant clearing his throat, the machine releases from a duct near its base a gooey mass of pink meat looking like raw ground beef. The meat extrudes slowly, like clay squeezed out of a closing fist, and falls into a metal catchbasin the size and shape of a bathtub. A relay of chefs scoop up handfuls of meat, shape them between gloved hands into identical patties, and fry them until black. The cooked patties are scooped onto hamburger buns and placed in the anonymous hands that gesture entreatingly from a series of hand-sized holes pierced at waist-height in an otherwise unbroken wall. Through these holes, over the kitchen clamor, I hear the ordinary sounds of a cafeteria dining room: hundreds of voices blending to an impenetrable fog of talk, chairlegs screeching and bumping across the floor, the clicking of trays against tabletops and the metronomic clack....clack of spoons against trays. I focus on these sounds, letting them carry me toward age 7 or 8 and my boisterous elementary school cafeteria, but this revery of the distant future is harshly interrupted when a dishwasher dumps a container of dirty silverware into his sink and the tumbling clatter of fork upon knife upon spoon transports me to earlier childhood and the silverware drawer that clatters above my head when I stand beside my mother’s legs at the kitchen counter while she jams a pink cylinder of processed meat into the flared top of an old-fashioned metal meat grinder. As she turns its squeaky arm, thin strands of meat emerge wormlike from its side and squirm down to the countertop. She bears down until the last of the meat descends into the grinder, and she continues cranking without pause or pain when her fingers and hand vanish inside. The grinding sound becomes crunchier, the strands of meat progressively redder as my mother’s wrist and arm are steadily and painlessly consumed. She pauses to inspect the already healed and rounded stump at her elbow, shakes her head with an annoyed frown, and pulls open the silverware drawer, metallically clattering the spoons forks and knives. From far in back she draws out a prosthetic forearm and expertly attaches it by a complex web of straps and buckles. In the process she catches sight of me and reaches down her stiff plastic hand to scratchily brush the hair from my forehead.
“Do you have to go potty?”
The kitchen rolls up and down as I nod my head affirmatively.
“Well, get in there. You know how.”
She turns me around and with a gentle push of her artificial hand sends me running across the kitchen’s smooth linoleum, through the living room’s toe-hiding brown shag, and down the dim hallway’s cool, bare floorboards to the sunlit bathroom at its far end. I push down my pants until the elastic waistband encircles my ankles, hop onto the toilet, and sit there with shackled legs kicking at the air and my ass hanging down over the edge of the rim. After a minute’s wait, the itching in my anus becomes a gasping, breath-holding pain as a series of hard turds squeeze out and plop into the water like rocks dropped down a deep well. Finished, I wipe myself and watch the soiled square of toilet paper flutter down into the bowl and turn instantly transparent upon striking the water’s surface. But something below the soaked tissue captures my attention now. In the bottom of the bowl, under my dark reflection on the water’s surface, I see not the expected mass of brown, bomb-shaped turds but a full-grown gray cat lying drowned and shit-smeared on its side and disgorging from its dead mouth a dozen tiny and equally dead kittens, only one of which managed to climb above the water line before expiring. I lean over the toilet rim and stare at the mass of miniature cats, as small and motionless as plastic toys, until a sudden wetness around my feet shifts my attention to the drops of yellow water dribbling unexpectedly from my penis. Straightening, I aim my piss into the bowl. A few of the golden drops accidentally strike the dry kitten and bring it immediately to life. It opens its green eyes, shakes its drowsy head, yawns its white-fanged mouth, and leaps with rocket-like force out of the toilet, flying for my face. I turn and run, pulling up my pants as I go, the kitten’s claws scratching at the backs of my feet. It chases me down the hallway, past a blur of high walls barnacled with framed family photographs, and into the living room where fat Senator Ervin gavels to order another session of the Watergate hearings. I run past the television, duck under an endtable, and crawl into my favorite hiding place, the magical triangular tentlike space between the sofa’s back and the wall, an impenetrable fortress where I can play safely and invisibly for hours. My back against the wall, knees drawn up to my chest, I catch my breath, close my eyes, and open them to see the kitten staring back at me from the corner of the sofa. It sits calmly upright like an Egyptian statue and surveys me with haughty feline contempt. I bolt around the other end of the sofa and make for the kitchen, deserted now. I repeatedly call out for Mother as the kitten chases me around the table, back into the living room, back down the hallway and into the bathroom. When my back is against the bathroom wall and I’ve nowhere left to run, the kitten jumps again at my face. I catch it like a baseball in one hand, and it immediately becomes gentle and sleepy and curls purring into a gray furry ball. Good kitty, nice kitty. I reach out, stroke its fur, and my fingers come away covered in smelly brown streaks. In my other hand, the kitten has become a soft, warm turd. I press my hands together, smashing the turd and smearing my fingers. Concerned lest I soil anything else, I flatten both hands against the wall’s shit-brown paneling and press down firmly to scrape them clean.
“Danny!” My father’s voice. But it’s more than a voice, a voicebomb going off in my ears, rattling in my head like the loose parts inside a broken toy. “Danny!” A cry that echoes through the house, angry and threatening.
I run away from the soiled wall, out the doorway, and into an identical bathroom, a mirror image of the one behind me except for my mother and father standing before the brown wall, disgust mixed with anger in their eyes. “Who put this shit on this wall?” If the tone of my father’s voice were an odor, it would be rancid diarrhea, a powerful, nauseating stench. “Did you smear shit all over this wall?” It’s a purely rhetorical question, of course, and he punctuates it by grabbing the back of my neck and forcing my face into the paneling. The tip of my nose flattens against a crusty smear of dried feces. Mother exclaims “Oh Donald” disapprovingly, but does nothing to stop him. Father’s voice continues, losing an octave and gaining menace, “If you like shit so much, you little shit, you can eat it. Lick it off. I said lick it off that goddam wall.” My mouth falls open. My tongue slowly emerges and presses against the rough, grainy crust. Father pulls my head away from the wall, but somehow I elude his grasp and rush back, press my face against the paneling and lick eagerly at the shit. See, Daddy? I’m a good boy. Father’s fist wraps around the back of my collar and pulls me away once again. His face has now passed from anger to fury, a colossal, godlike rage. His open hand rises up to the ceiling and sweeps down invisibly fast, hitting my face so forcefully that my head rips away from my body and sails across the room. It slams against the closed door and shatters like a ball of glass. Jagged shards and splinters tinkle musically as they fall to the floor.
Kneeling in the bathtub, rubbing my cheek against the snake’s smooth skin, I hear Janis Joplin downstairs instructing me to try just a little bit harder, and the feel of the snake’s body, soft to the touch yet constantly tensing and releasing like one giant muscle, takes me back to the sensation of Zoe’s stockinged legs against my skin and then farther back to that day in my fourteenth year when I sneak into my parent’s bedroom and raid my mother’s lingerie drawer. It slides open without a sound in the summer afternoon silence, and I hold my breath while my hand passes reverently over carefully ordered stacks of silk nighties, lacy bras, shiny panties, to pause above the crude cluster of balled-up stockings stuffed into a narrow space at one end of the drawer. I select a black pair, heft their weightlessness in my palm, peel them out of the ball and shake them loose until two flattened black legs dangle from my hands. When I press the stockings against my cheeks and slowly rub them back and forth, I’m overcome by a sense of longing and loss powerful enough to send me stumbling backwards to the bed. Limp stockings tangle around my face and arms as I roll with them across my parents’ bed, my heart pounding, blood pulsing audibly past my ears, penis straining achingly against taut denim. I toss my clothes into a clumsy heap on the floor, and then carefully, slowly, as in a film played at half-speed, I push my toes into a bunched-up stocking and draw it ticklingly over my foot and ankle, around my hard, bony shin, and across the kneecap’s dome to pull it taut and clinging along my thigh. I repeat these actions even more slowly on the other leg, and when both are sheathed in black nylon, I curl my body into a ball in the sunken center of the bed. My head held tight between stockinged thighs, I feel and lick and taste the fine black weave warmed to life now with my body’s heat. Running hands and head along my legs, I lose all sense of time until a soreness in my back forces me to stretch and stand and I catch in my peripheral vision an image of myself, black-legged, red-faced and tousle-haired, in the full-length mirror on the closet door. Looking and feeling ridiculously underdressed, I return to the drawer and select a bra, snapping and hooking it before pulling it on over my head like a tank top. Beneath the bra, in the bottom of the drawer, I glimpse a black bra with torn straps that on second glance becomes a garter belt. I wrap it around my hips, hook the straps to my stockings, and return to the mirror. Now, if I sufficiently defocus my eyes, I see an image resembling those in the semen-splattered lingerie catalog that rests secretly between my mattress and box springs: black stockings sculpting thin legs, long black garter straps pulled taut against pale thighs. Only the bra refuses to cooperate: its empty cups hang limply like two scooped-out grapefruit strapped to my flat chest. But no matter. My penis rises to point directly at its image in the mirror. I wrap my fingers around it and begin massaging the shaft. As it hardens further, I grab it tighter and pump it vigorously while my other hand fondles my balls. Steady waves of pleasure flow through my body, wash against my mind. The constant hum of consciousness fades away like a dying song, and I become pure gaze, thoughts folded into my eyes. Black stockings whiten over slightly bent knees as the skinny kid in the mirror pumps himself faster, throws his head back, squints his eyes, catches and releases his breath. Stockings caress him, garters kiss his skin, the bra embraces his chest; his cock hardens to an iron rod, knees buckle, and he feels himself leaping, leaping over the top and into the air to fall ecstatically. The first white spurt of semen strikes the mirror and flattens into itself; it slides viscously down the surface, leaving a slimy, snail-like trace. The next long jet shoots out of my urethra, passes easily through the surface of the mirror, and wraps around the reflected Danny’s stockinged thigh. A shorter burst strikes him in the chest, scattering a few small staining drops along the flimsy brassiere cups. Another long white string flies through the mirror and strikes Danny just above his navel. Breathless and swaying on unsteady legs, I reach out to the mirror and press my hand against his. The glass melts away and our fingers interlace. He pulls me toward him. I step inside the mirror frame and we embrace and kiss, our brassieres crumpling together, our bellies glued with semen. I kneel before him, brush my lips against the shrinking head of his cock, and stick my tongue out to lick the jism from his stockings. I lick around the curve of his thigh, soiled nylon tickling my tongue as I scoop the cooling ejaculate into my mouth and swallow it. Danny drops to his knees in front of me, puts his hands on my shoulders and playfully pushes me to the floor. He falls lightly on top of me, our lips meet, and his tongue explores the uncannily familiar ridges and valleys of my mouth.
I hear footsteps in the hall. The bedroom door flies open, banging against the wall, and my mother and father rush in. (No, I will not describe my parents, not give them hair color, eye color, income, etc., like some charlatan of Realism. Who can describe Zeus? Who Hera? Who could look upon them and not be burned to the optic nerve? No. I am an entirely different kind of charlatan.) Danny disappears and I run to the bed, but in the split second since my parents’ intrusion I have shrunk several feet and must struggle to pull my now five year-old body onto the high mattress. My father grabs my ankles as they ineffectually kick the air, swings my body up over his head like a woodsman’s ax, and slams me facedown onto that shaking, screeching trampoline of a bed. I gasp for air and cry out in a panicked voice “I won’t touch it! I’m not! I won’t!” But it’s too late. Father’s belt is already in his hand, and he brings it down in fast, whistling, stinging strokes that burn my buttocks, back and thighs, bring quick tears to my eyes and deposit a stony lump in my throat. “I’ll teach you to whack yer dick, boy,” he says grimly in a pause between strokes. I try to turn around and show him my empty hands, but his face is frozen into a blind-eyed mask of rage. His big hand gripping the back of my head like a baseball, pushing my face into the mattress, forces my mind to flash on the hallway outside the door. I’m trudging along the hall at doorknob level, my babysitter Ronnie Ferguson walking close behind, his gray shadow towering over mine on the carpet in front of me. I stop at the guest bedroom door and turn the knob, but it won’t open. Looking back, I find that Ronnie has disappeared. I’m alone in the hallway. I cross to the hall closet, now my favorite place to hide, and the door swings open as though blown by a gust of wind. Inside, Ronnie’s body hangs from the high metal bar, a length of my mother’s pink clothesline fashioned into a noose around his neck. Pinned to his Youth For Christ t-shirt is a page of notebook paper scrawled with unreadable words. A soup of shit and urine stains the inside of his left pantleg and drips from the cuff to a growing brown puddle on the floor.
“Now, Daniel, do you understand the reason for the punishment you are about to receive?” The assistant principal’s nasal upper-class voice, redolent of country clubs and halitosis, was the only sound in the empty elementary school corridor.
“Yes,” I whispered softly, breathily, staring at my grass-stained tennis shoes.
My puzzled eyes blinked, lashes batted. “Yes...I understand?”
The large wooden paddle in his left hand swung up toward my face. Ohmygod he’s gonna slap me with it! He inserted its blunt end under my chin and used the paddle as a lever to tilt my head upward until I looked him in the eyes. He was over six feet tall and had a longer head than most horses. Behind the magnifying lenses of his gold designer glasses, his buglike eyes were cold and demanding. “Yes, you understand, what? And speak up, young man.”
“Yes...you-I...” His person was upsetting enough, but the sight of that legendary paddle protruding hugely from below my chin was more than I could bear. I could count the airholes he had drilled through it to make it swing faster and more painfully. Three rows of four equals twelve. “I-I...”
“You understand, sir.” He pronounced the final word so loudly it echoed.
“I understand, sir.”
He grunted doubtfully and lowered the paddle, but I kept my head up. “Tell me in your own words why you are going to be punished.”
“‘Cause I was talkin’ in class, but it was only ‘cause Mike Hogan asked me ‘bout–”
“Because you were talking in class. Correct. Do not attempt to blame Michael Hogan for your wrongdoing. That is the coward’s way out. You have disrupted the discipline of your classroom. And now discipline must be restored. Your punishment will restore it. Do you understand?”
“Yes--” I understand that tomorrow during recess I’ll jump Mike Hogan and knock him to the ground, fall on top of him and force a handful of stones into his mouth and the assistant principal and I will have this same discussion once more in tomorrow’s corridor. “–sir. I understand.”
“Very well.” Looking pleased, he took a step backward. “Bend over and place your hands on your knees.”
My father’s belt comes down again and again, biting at my flesh. I’m screaming now, howling like a baby, trying to squirm away while his hand on the back of my head holds me down. “Hold still, you little bastard!” In the corner of my eye, Mother leans against her dresser, smoking a cigarette and looking on with a bored expression, as though posing for an insipid portrait. The belt strikes my ass again, but beneath the pain I feel something new this time. My penis is growing, hardening, pressing against my parents’ bed. With every smack of leather it becomes longer and more painfully hard. It tears a hole in the comforter, rips through the mattress, tunnels down into the box springs, and as my father beats me I am fucking his bed–riding it, nailing it, ripping that bastard a new one–thrusting deeper with every stroke of the belt. And when his arm tires and his footsteps leave the room, I climax with the dry, spasmodic tingling of a prepubescent orgasm, a more intense version of the feeling in my balls when the car cruises over a hilly road, the same sensation I’m trying to recapture on the toilet a year later, fingers working my little boy’s dick up and down while I stare at the tiny black dead flies going in and out of focus inside the ceiling light’s glass globe. And just as the spasm begins, a small snake charmed into trembling life in my lower abdomen, my father’s fist pounds against the door and he yells, “Get your ass out of there, right now!”
I pull up my pants, open the bathroom door, and walk onto my elementary school playground, unfazed by the fact that it has replaced the dim hallway of my childhood home. Children call out to one another in soprano cacophony as they pendulum back and forth on the swings, clamber over the jungle gym, dangle from the monkey bars. But I ignore these childish things and walk stiffly across the sunlit playground toward the low brick wall at its far end. My attention is concentrated on the large turd that traitorously crept out of my asshole while I sat in the classroom after lunch, begging it to stay inside. I feel its smashed heaviness weighing down my waistband as I walk. Its dry, rough texture– like broken popcorn in the bottom of a bag–scratches my ass at every step. My face remains impassive, enduring. I climb carefully onto the chest-high wall and walk along its wide top. I walk here every day. No one has told me not to do this. I have probably become a fixture of the landscape by now. The kid who walks back and forth atop the wall during recess has become a phenomenon as natural as the grove of evergreen trees upon which my striding form is silhouetted, unchanging through fall, winter and spring. I’m as invisibly visible as any well-known eccentric, the Kleenexless Howard Hughes of Edwin Booth Elementary School.
Walking at adult height along the wall, I forget for a few minutes the riot of colorful jackets running and screaming below me and focus on the dark roughness pancaked against my ass. I imagine the smashed turd black and diseased (as Mother told me they are), infested with burrowing worms and shiny black maggots crawling up inside my asshole and nesting there, living inside me, inhabiting me like Body Snatchers until I grow eight legs, pincers and a heavy, unsmashable carapace, becoming one of them, a maggot like all the rest.
“Daniel Douglas!” my mother calls out in her angry voice as she hurries across the playground, surrounded by an entourage of smiling, adoring children. “Daniel Alexander Douglas! You will climb down from that wall this minute!” She grabs my ankle and pulls it roughly. I fall and lie there stunned atop the wall, chin pressed against hard brick, legs dangling over the side, ass in the air. Mother runs her hand over the back of my pants, feeling the lumpy turd. Her fingers travel down the seam to cup my cock and balls through the thin fabric. I feel a wetness circling around the edge of my ear followed my mother’s voice in a low, throaty whisper, “What have you done, you filthy boy?” She loosens my pants and tugs them to my knees. With one hand she expertly scoops out the turd and holds it up, displaying it to the assembled students. “This is my darling son,” she announces in the cheery lobotomized voice of a 1950s TV commercial housewife, “and this is a lump of shit.” She pauses a beat. “Can you tell the difference?” An uproarious burst of canned sitcom laughter erupts from the playground audience. Frozen by humiliation in my ludicrous position, exposed and bent over the wall, I press my forehead into the immovable brick, trying to break through and hide. “My son is a dirty, filthy little boy.” She smears her handful of shit over the back of my head, her fingers working it into my hair like an impossibly thick shampoo. The children’s laughter increases to a deafening artificial roar, but my mother’s voice is clearly audible above it: “A dirty, filthy little boy. But that’s all right. Mother will clean him out.”
Raising my head I glance back over my shoulder to see mother performing for the crowd. She unbuttons and removes her blouse, swaying as sinuously as a stripper while the children clap out a complex, jazzy rhythm. She tosses the thin blouse over my head, but through its gauzy white veil I can still see her. Dressed only in bra and slacks, she reaches down into my bunched trousers, scoops out more shit, and spreads it like suntan lotion over her right arm. “Mother will clean him out,” she proclaims again to thunderous applause. And as the clapping modulates into a steady 4/4 march, Mother’s shit-smeared fingers pry open the puckered folds of my anus, and her hand punches roughly inside. I clench my teeth at the pain when her bony knuckles pass into my rectum, close my eyes and gasp as I feel her wrist and arm follow the hand inside. Her sinewy forearm passes tightly through my asshole like a giant turd moving endlessly in reverse, its painful passage providing not relief but rather a heavier, more nauseating knotting of my insides. Mother’s elbow slips smoothly in, but her thick upper arm penetrates me more slowly and agonizingly, thrusting inside with a pistoning motion, half-inch by half-inch, until Mother is buried in me up to the shoulder. I feel a choking constriction in my throat, like a rising plug of phlegm, but when I cough to clear it, the blockage seems to expand and grow harder, strangling me from inside. Something forces itself from my throat, and my mouth fills with a strange hardness, as though I’m vomiting stones. Crossing my eyes to look down my nose, I see four long fingers smeared with blood and shit working their way slowly and with tortuous difficulty out of my mouth. My mother’s fingers move blurrily in elephantine close-up before my eyes, and my mouth stretches wide, like a minstrel’s painted smile, to accommodate the passage of her thumb and palm. When her whole hand protrudes from my mouth, I bite down hard, chomping through bones, cartilage and ligaments, stringy veins flossing between my teeth. Mother cries out in pain as her severed hand falls into the grass on the other side of the wall. It lies there twitching, alternately closing to a fist and opening as if in greeting. My mouth fills with dark blood that falls in drooly strings upon the grass while I stare down at the dead hand’s hypnotic motions. After a while I rouse myself, pull up my pants, and find that I’m now alone on the playground. The only sound is the steady creaking of rusty swings blown by a gentle breeze. I retrieve my mother’s hand, stuff it down the front of my trousers, curl its fingers protectively around my genitals, and continue my solitary walk along the top of the wall.
The assistant principal’s paddle swung down and struck my ass not with the expected resounding crack but with a muffled whump that clearly disappointed us both. After several seconds of anxious silence he asked suspiciously, “What have you placed in the seat of your trousers, young man? Is it some manner of cushion?”
“Nonsense. You shall receive a double punishment for prevarication. Stand up and lower your trousers.”
I did as ordered, and when the putrid odor of shit rose to his nostrils the assistant principal’s prep school voice shifted to a momentary tone of mild amusement. “Oh for pete’s sake!” he exclaimed. Then more sternly, covering himself, “You have soiled yourself, young man. Now I want you to stand right there and do not move.”
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”
He placed the paddle on the floor and knelt down behind me. “I will make a Booth boy out of you yet, young man.” His shockingly cold fingers curled around the elastic band of my undershorts and peeled them down. “Oh my...Oh my...” I heard heavy breaths between his soft exclamations. “Oh you...filthy, filthy...angel...lovely, lovely...” I felt his cold face pressed against my buttocks, his bony nose snuggling into my crack, and then I heard his tongue lapping loudly, like a dog at its water bowl, as he frenziedly licked the shit from my ass. His solemn incantation of “lovely, lovely” shifted to “lurrly, lurrly” and finally “rrrrry, rrrrry” as his mouth filled with feces.
Upon finishing his meal, he rose to his full height behind me, loudly cleared his throat, and announced, “The obstruction has been removed. Pull up your trousers, young man. You shall receive two additional swings for your acts of dishonesty and deception. Do you understand?”
“Bend over and place your hands on your knees.”
We re-assumed our respective positions: mine, two sides of an absurd rectangle with my ass at the upper corner; his, a steely vertical with the paddle held aloft at the end of one extended arm. “You shall receive a total of five swings. Count them off.”
The paddle descended with a rush of air and slammed into my ass with enough force to send me lurching forward in the hallway. Instant tears clouded my vision, the echoing crack returned from the end of the hall, and my ass felt as though it had been doused in lighter fluid and set ablaze. “One,” I said weakly.
Black and white floor tiles swam before my eyes, and by the time the paddle came down again I was already years away, following Sara Potter’s tight ass and long jean-sheathed legs down the identically checkerboarded 8th grade corridor of Junius Brutus Booth Junior High. It’s a winter morning and we’ve just come off the buses, the first two students in the building. Sara walks briskly, pulling off her gloves and unwinding her scarf, while I follow at an innocent distance, hypnotized by the steady swaying rhythm of her bulging back pockets. When she stuffs her rolled scarf and gloves into a coat pocket, one of the gloves catches on the winter-reddened knuckles of her withdrawing hand and slips silently to the floor. Sara sways on unknowingly and turns the corner to the lockers. I pause for a few seconds over the black glove lying like a severed right hand in the middle of the white floor tile. It lies palm upward in a peaceful, welcoming gesture, the forefinger curled as though beckoning me. I check the hallway in both directions. No one. Moving quickly I bend down, scoop up the glove, crumple it into my closed fist, and thrust the hand deep inside my coat pocket at the very second the outside doors slam open and the hallway fills with loudly chattering teenagers. I walk on with what I hope is an air of nonchalance, one student among many, while in my pocket’s secret darkness my fist unclenches and Sara’s glove slowly uncurls, grows, straightens, stiffens. The head of my prick kicks against its cotton confinement, forcing me into a stooped, Quasimodo-like posture as I lurch past the locker where Sara Potter searches the multitudinous pockets of her coat and asks irritatedly to no one in particular, “What happened to my other glove?”
O Sara, blond ringletted virginal goddess of my solitary junior high wankfests, do you really want to know?
That night in bed I lay Sara’s glove beside the lingerie catalog that arrived like manna in the mailbox one summer morning a year earlier, and I stroke my penis to hardness with one hand while turning semen-stiffened pages with the other. When my dick achieves its full, rigid length, I draw Sara’s glove onto my right hand–smooth black nylon slipping silkily over my skin–and lie back, knees bent, cock aimed at the BB-pocked ceiling of my bedroom. I wrap my gloved hand around my dong and move the soft fabric back and forth along its shaft. Closing my eyes I imagine Sara lying beside me, her blonde curls brushing my face, her hand around my Lawrencian manhood, pumping, pumping faster now. The bed shakes with every stroke, the headboard ticks against the wall. Sara’s wet lips against my cheek kiss me to a trembling climax, and with a groan that seems to come from outside myself, a glob of creamy white semen erupts from the top of my penis, flows over the side and runs in a streaming diagonal across the black back of Sara’s glove. Raising the glove to my mouth, I lick the semen from its sleek surface, tongue’s tip touching hand’s hardness under the thin sheath.
The warm saltwater taste sends me ahead three years to the ocean off Malibu during summer vacation. A riptide has pulled me far away from shore, and my attempts to swim back have only driven me farther out. So I’m treading water now, paddling with hands and feet to keep my head above waves that grow steadily larger and more powerful, lifting and dropping me like flotsam as they pass. The rocky promontory that loomed over me a while ago is gradually shrinking to an indistinct peninsula in the distance. The heads of other swimmers no longer punctuate the ocean surface like periods scattered randomly across a bluish page. I am alone and drifting powerlessly into the sea. A snakelike strand of seaweed, unseen below the surface, wraps around my ankle and reaches for the other leg. The white tops of waves slap against my face and bitter saltwater splashes into my open mouth. And still I tread, unthinking, arms and legs moving mechanically, keeping me afloat and alive. Alive. That word immediately boomerangs my mind to the other extreme, the opposite and end of all living. When my muscles cramp and tighten, when the circles of my arms contract to motionlessness, I will slip below the surface and drown, my last act a fatal return to the water-breathing womb. Is this the end, here, now, before I’ve even begun? Are the rumpled back of the blue Pacific and a vision of distant shadowy hills the last things I will see before falling like seaweed beneath the waves into that undistinguished, indistinguishable thing? Or will my end come more suddenly, more violently, courtesy of that dorsal fin cutting the surface a hundred yards away? Does it really matter? What use questioning when the element of choice is gone? No freedom, no thought. This flimsy body an atom tossed by the waves, its thoughts an impotent running down of the brain’s electricity. Unreal. The real, right thing is here, now: this gray triangular fin chopping the waves ten feet from my face; this huge, slick fish bumping experimentally against my pumping legs. This is it. The only It. As familiar as the end of a film seen before, and as inevitable. The fish’s back caresses my thighs. I throw my arms out to embrace surrender. My legs rise to the surface and I ride the peaks and troughs that bend my body like a scrap of soggy paper. I begin to understand Isolde at the end of Wagner’s opera, dying into a music that only she and we can hear, the melody of her darkest desires. I am drifting into blankness on this nameless sea.
I float unconscious for a time unknown, my mind a web unweaving. The burning sun, stinging salt, splashing water carry me away. But when the crashing chords of this California liebestod rise to hold and enfold me, a last strand of consciousness detects beneath its music the subtle beginning of a most unWagnerian sound: the slow, mechanical crescendo of an approaching boat. Dream-drugged eyes flicker open as the egg-white hull of a Coast Guard cutter rushes into view. And the rumble of its rescue sounds like being, the opposite of death.