Chapter 5 - The Guys
Now I’m not sure whether either one of them is a certifiable Colonel, nor do I even know what one would have to do to become one. I think it has something to do with the Military, but like I said, it is probably a throwback to the antebellum South that took root in the respective families such that their offspring would one day grow up and want to have this moniker attached to their own name. I just don’t know. Don’t much care, actually. Just so long as people call me, “The Emperor”.
When I first met the Colonel, I didn’t realize I was talking to the offspring of one of the great philanthropic families of North Carolina. He could have been the offspring of a watch, for all I knew, even though most watches no longer have offsprings. In fact archaeoethnobotanists, who often stumble upon prehistoric watches, now claim that watches never did have offsprings, and so now we don’t know what to believe. So we grab our gun. A loaded AK-47 with a special attachment for squirrel hunting. And lasers for burning out the eyes of those who brag about having better eyesight.
Well 20/20 this, you bastard!
Such is life in trigger-happy BushWorld!
But I never stood to using my gun for such crude and impolite behaviors. In fact I have gutted the interior of it, and now use it as a terrarium. Little use for ploughshares. Not even sure what they are.
I suppose I should go ahead and detach the squirrel remover, and probably the laser, but Lord knows…when am I gonna find the time?
Jay Zeus was standing at the bar at the Carleton Hotel in Washington, DC. talking to Bourbon and Ginger L., who were about to get married, on the patio, tomorrow afternoon. He was wearing a nice set of sink threads in the Evening style…and was as barefoot as a dog.
“Do you know Nonny” Ra Bourbon, ever the cosmopolite, bade the Colonel and I shake hands. Scenes from Camp David pop into mind.
“Nonny? What kind of faggot name is that?” Only later did I realize that the Colonel was always pulling this shit. He loved to shock people with his words and intonation, of which he was the master.
“It’s what friends call me. You can call me Anonymoses.” I sneezed and then squirted him with a Windex bottle I had been carrying around, since I only just got through wiping and cleaning dog poop from the bottom and sides of my Johnston-Murphy’s.
“Get the fuck…” The Colonel was taken aback. He thought I was a White Belt, when in fact, I was a Yellow Belt. Metaphorically speaking, mind.
“What are you drinking?” Trying to change the subject, I extended a hand of generosity.
“I’m a-gonna be drinking yo ice, if you don’t remove your metal breath from my breathing space.”
I was trying to read the Colonel. Was he being a jerk? Was he truly upset? What?
He pushed me, and since I was doing the Crane with my legs, lost balance and fell, clumsily, to the ground.
He walked over and spit on me, and stomped out of the bar.
“Bravo!” I rose to my feet and applauded enthusiastically.
Ra Bourbon walks over and says: “What are you on?” And then “Got any more?”
Sensing that Bourbon was getting anxious about his soon-to-be-transpiring-right-before-his-very-friends-eyes wedding, I said sure, come on up to my room.
The Colonel bursts through the doors of the Hotel, doubled over with laughter, which soon became contagious. And before long the whole bar was captive to belly laughter which went on for a preternaturally long time.
The Colonel walks over and says:
To which Bourbon and I look at each other and quizzically scratch our heads, and in his case, underarm.
“He spiked the punch!” A light went on in Bourbon’s head. Flashing neon. “He’s done this before!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“The Colonel spiked the punch. Probably with acid or cactus or something. Hell, look at everyone. Are these normal people?”
“Well, at one time I thought so. Right now I am beginning to wonder.”
“Exactly.” He called across the room where Ginger K. and Ginger L. were discussing Ginger L.’s nephew’s Bar Mizvah. He signaled sexually with two fingers. His wife-to-be said her “be right backs” and walked over.
“I need to tie this bowtie. Can you tell Nonny my thoughts?”
Suddenly Ginger L. began to talk. Ra Bourbon, his tongue between his teeth, struggled with the silken conundrum.
“The Colonel, bless his heart…”
Hearing his name, the Colonel, who was ording another round, looked over and waved.
“Hi Jason!” Ginger called out.
“The colonel, bless his heart” Ginger L. continued channeling her husband-to-be’s thoughts, “showed up at one of dad’s ROMEO meetings…you know, Retired Old Men Eating Out, and slipped a decoction made from the extract of certain mushrooms into the Scorpion Bowl, and before the night was up, he had them playing Nude Twister…which he videotaped, and puuls from his jacket pocket any time any one of them jokes about his being forever discalced, bare-footed. OK. Got it. Who invented bowties in the first place. A sadist? A masochist? Who? Why?”
Turning to Ginger, Ra Bourbon said, “I can take over now. Thanks.”
Ginger gave him a kiss on the bowtie and walked back over to where Ginger K. was now holding vigil with Thomas Bleever and Lady Byron.
“You guys really ARE close, huh?” I said with a bit of astonishment.
“Yeah…” Ra feigned surfeit. “Learnt it from a Goddard film. Holiday, I think it was.”
“Ahh yes! I think I remember now. Wasn’t it a black guy reading the thoughts?”
“Why yes! Yes, I think it was! What are you drinking? I’m buying.”
“Ra, you have already done too much.”
“Not at all. What are old friends for?”
“Seven and Seven, I guess. Unless they have Armagnac or a good claret.”
“A good clarinet? What? Are you Benny Goodman now?”
“No, my friend. Richard Stoltzman. Remember that Tashi concert back in Greensboro?”
“Oh yeah!” To the barhop: “Four sevens please.”
“Four sevens?” I was showing my ignorance, if not my incalculia.
“Two Seven and Sevens. Four Sevens.”
“Ah you were always the Alfred North Whitehead of Imbibition.”
“I’ll drink to that!” Raising our drinks to a clink.
“To Alfred North Whitehead!”
Suddenly a loud KA-THWUMP is heard. Thomas Bleever had fallen to the floor and was now lying in a semi-fetal position, and Gingers K and L were fanning his sweat-soaked face.
As if Superman, or some other amazing superhero, the Colonel races out the door and disappears into the bright afternoon sun. What had he done? Had he poisoned Thomas Bleever with one of his decoctions?
But before we could answer, the Colonel bursts back into the room carrying a medical kit, and begins to command “Move away! MOVE. AWAY!!”
I’m not sure what he did, or where he learned how to do it, but within a minute or two, Thomas Bleever was back on his feet, and knocking back more beverage.
“Leave it to Bleever to impose upon my repose, but I suppose the Mose knows what flows and what flowers know in Springtime.” Jay Zeus was waxing poetic. He was always waxing something.
Garrick Ammonium gets to play the role of bad guy in this volume. The characters take turns. Next time it will be someone else. Maybe Surreal McCoy, Maybe Oliver Sutton, maybe me, your elusive narrator and guide. They each take turns being hero and heroine, which is also a wondrous album by Strawbs, should you ever leave the asylum. I don’t think you should.
I think you must. I also wish you bluebirds. Just to balance out the onus. Ono! That word again!
Homeoptote. Paragoge. Anacoluthon. Paralepsis. Kenning.
These were not Garrick’s words. I just wrote them because they popped into my mind. I can do that. The Supreme Court reversed the decision. It is now Quantity, not Quality. And it couldn’t have come down a minute sooner! Corn would have to grow out of your oxter before that would happen, due to yet another ruling. No matter that you do not understand. This is neo-post-postmodern. You’re not supposed to understand it. If you did it would only be entertainment, you see. Not the lofty Art that is to be sought with every fiber in your Metamucil. Entertainment. Edutainment. All the same. Commie propaganda mostly, heckshoot! What the hell you doin’ snoopin’ round here, nohow?
And so it was that the narrator’s mind began to decompose while trying, trying to complete his first 50,000 word novel. Back to you, Dan.
That was Adamant Steve reporting from somewhere down the dark backstreets of Medula. Elsewhere today, we are happy to report that the number 16,385 is the number of the moment for that eager young writer who we all know is really not that young anymore, and that his dream of being a prodigy is decades beyond nonsensical, but don’t tell him that. Noooo. He’s a testy little bitch, and I’d like to…
We’d like to interrupt this broadcast to show pictures of little kitties playing in a sandbox, while we cart Dan off to resume his important treatments…
Put me dowwwwn!
Oliver Sutton was just like his name. He did nearly everything…all of a sudden. One of the things he did all of a sudden was to save my life. But I might also say that he was also responsible my having nearly lost my life…but in the balance, I would say that, since I am still alive, I am also grateful. Besides, the near-death experiences were not half bad. And, as it turns out, I would occasionally have to save not his life, but his ass. But let me back up to the time of our first meeting. Lordy! We have known each other since the 1960s. The early 1960s. I was in grade school. We both were. He was a year ahead of me. A big kid. An epileptic. And his epilepsy was a real source of delight for us younguns who had never seen anybody trip out. Like I said, it was the early sixties. Tripping out was still a thing to come. At least to Charlotte.
Oliver’s mother’s sister was our next door neighbor. He would, on occasion, come and visit. Being a kid, he would seek out other kids, and I happened to be the closest. So we hung out.
In the early days, all we would ever do is hang out in my back yard, play football, throw a baseball, throw a few horseshoes or practice archery. My personal preference was archery, but I always pretty much sucked at it, and would often get hurt in the attempt. My natural athletic skills were more aligned, in those early years, with football, baseball, and soccer. Though tall and lanky, I never much took a liking to basketball. Not because it is a low-class sport. Hell, we weren’t rich. I just thought it was too aggressive.
Strange really, considering football is really more harmful. But I didn’t mind getting tackled, or roughed up in football. Maybe it was being hit in the face that made me dislike basketball. Maybe it was the fact that I usually wound up playing with much older kids who would just run right over you.
At any rate, Oliver and I stuck to the small ball sports. Well, medium-sized. Golf was usually limited to games with Dad or Colin, my brother. Squash was to come much later.
Now it would not happen every time, but oftentimes, when Oliver was over, he would go into one of them spells. His eyes would roll back in his head, he would start mumbling incoherently, and he would just wander around the yard. And then, as quickly as it came, it went. And he would be back to normal. His audience, however, was enthralled. What on earth could cause such a thing? I wanna do it!
These spells would sadly come over him when he was riding a bike, a go-cart or a mini-bike. And when they occurred, he would typically not come to so nonchalantly, as he might be in a ditch, against a tree, or on the hood of a car.
One time, I saw him barreling down Donna Drive, which at the time was unpaved, and had huge ditches on each side of the road, when he tried to catch up with a car that also was barreling down the road…that is, until it came to a mailbox, where the driver was wanting to place a flyer or somethingoranother. But just as Oliver was catching up to said car, the driver was catching up to said mailbox. AND a seizure was catching up to said Oliver.
Not, I should think, the best of all combinations. The car stopped, the driver stuck out his arm and put it in the mailbox, Oliver did not slam into the back of the car, but rather came right beside the car. The driver’s side. And when he hit the driver’s arm, it snapped right in two at the elbow, causing it now to hinge in at least two directions now. And the driver let out the most barbaric of yawps across the antennae-topped roofs of Green Witch Village, such that the decibel bested that of lawn mowers, dogs, and everything else that Saturday. Oliver said that when he “came to” he was about a foot away from the feller’s arm and realized that there was nothing at all he could do at that point but plow on through, which he did with great speed and accuracy.
They had to amputate because the joint was destroyed beyond repair, and so this poor feller, whom I shant name, had to live with the named, Stumpy for a good many years, when the story slowly began to fade from currency.
I first met Bigus Diety when he was publisher of The Browser – a local newpaper covering the Internet and the companies, people and websites that support the Internet. His photographer, Salome Bologna, was the contact point. When Salome was not taking pictures, she was getting pictures taken of her. That and dancing. Exotic dancing. I guess that is what Salomes do.
The three of us met over California Smoothies on the far side of the bridge at University Place. It was a beautiful day. The paddle boaters were paddling, the sun was shining down, and toe world seemed infinitely bright. Quite unlike the way it does today, if you ask me, which is entirely your choice.
The three of us talked, while Salome snapped to occasional picture, and a few days later, My face was in the Browser, along with a nice article about my company, Charlotte Internet Society.
The Society, like much in the early days of the web (It was 1996 by this point), was heavy on vision, light on reality. Not to say that reality could not become vision, which is usually how you, at least want it to work. And it often does. For the Society, however, it always remained just a few core individuals, and I would more often than not dissuade people from joining. Basically, all I wanted to do was create, create, create…just as now, all I want to do is write. No big need to build the web at this point. Unbuilding much of it, however, might spell progress.
Over the years, Bigus and I have developed a friendship, oftentimes based on challenge. Politically, we see eye to toe. This is not big deal, especially for him, since all he would have to do is rest his hand on my head and I would sink into the earth. Bigus is not called Bigus for nought. Standing seven and a half feet tall, and weighing nearly 400 pounds, Bigus lived up to his name. But since he was also a Diety, his largess extended to his heart, which is bigger than his mere physical frame.
Judicael Wren had olive eyes. Just like Mary Magdalene. Indeed, Judicael Wren claimed to be a descendant of Mary Magdalene. She and “Yeshi”, as she called Jesus ben Joseph.
Anyone who knew Judicael Wren would probably say that he was, indeed, a remarkable person. Erudite, caring, loving, a healer, a day saint, a prophet, seer, sage, and saint… he was not your average American. The average American today is frankly a schmachismotron. Look at whom the average American sees fit to rule. If that is not stupid, I don’t know stupid. And I do know stupid. I am, after all, a son of the South. Birthplace of American Stupid.
But Judicael Wren was also a son of the South, which presents the flip side of the proverbial nickle. It’s as if all the stupid and low creates its opposite. And if the South is anything, it is a place of extremes. Always has been. Ever since the dinosaurs. Brontosauri were profligate. Things, as my mother, and Judicael’s grandmother, was fond of saying, went “awry”. Only she made it rhyme with Maury. Maury went awry. Of course she knew better. She and my father were both most concerned about the transmission of language, and her saying that about “awry” was probably just in hopes that we would not make the same mistake, in higher circles.
They always dreamed big for their kids, or so I would suspect. And yet we were never made to sell the present for a future that indeed may never come. And so if it did come…great! And if it didn’t come…also great!
By the time Judicael made his glowing presence known, “the folks” as everyone calls my parental units, had mastered the parental arts, and was now helping bring Jude into the light. Or perhaps I should say, bring him up without his losing his original light. For as I may have said earlier, or later, (such being the new understanding of time), Judicael, literally, glowed and smiled. Glowing and smiling were his birthright and birthmark. A child of Love, he was born into a family of Love, who baptized him, at all times with their Love, such that his Light survived the pangs of childhood and adolescence, and now he stands poised to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, where he is being graduated, Magna Cum Laude. Avuncular pride? Perhaps.
You see, I am Jude’s furuncle. By that I mean to say that I am his uncle, and I bring him furs. Not real furs, mind. That would be cruel and unusual. I bring him skins. Books. And have always made sure he has always had access to the great minds of world history.
He was reading Freud and Jung at six and seven. Hamlet at eight. Then Dante, Doestoevski, Joyce, Paul Ricouer, Wittgenstein, Sartre, Chekov, and probably everyone anyone who graduates from a fine university should know, but only after having entered its hallowed halls. Jude had read all these in grade school.
But Jude was also given a library of great music and films to fill those cortical islands with quality, not quantity.
All these things he absorbed and became. His life was a walking “Song of Myself”. All things he lighted upon, he became. And he did light upon things. His life gives new meaning to the phrase, for his eyes emitted the light of love, and everyone and everything benefited from its touch, which was, in essence, a direct connection to God.
I first noticed this light the first time I saw him, just a few days after his birth. He smiled and glowed. I said he looked like a glowing Buddha. He still does. He is a seven. A seven of diamonds. Like John Edwards. And Surreal McCoy. The millionaire card.
Once, while riding in the back of the car with his grandpa, while only six, he leaned over the seat and said: “Do you know who my favorite composer is, Granda? Copland.” This brought chuckles of delight. He is the reason Charlotte is a blessed place.
Jude Wren claims no kinship to the great English architect, Christopher Wren, but says he is delighted that some people make that connection, “Wren is one of my favorites. But I’m also fond of Johnson, Pei, Fuller and Javed Sultan. Do you know Sultan?”
“You know Javed?” I was excited, since Javed was an old friend of mine from Cambridge, while working to hasten my undergraduation at Harvard. Javed was, at the time, still working on his Master’s over at MIT. A mile down Mass Ave. I was in charge of giving him a clean several copies.
To help defray the cost of school, I worked at CW Beane, a copy shop strategically positioned between Harvard and MIT. Javed was just one of the many excellent people who passed through, and over time, many of us got together and partyhardied. Our copy shop was staffed by future lawyers and writers, mostly, although there was one body-builder and one strange little man who, for some dumb freaking reason, always put salt in the coffee…apparently assuming that all the other folks at the shop would not mind.
“Javed is an old friend of mine. Sent him an email just the other day. Haven’t seen him in years though. A fine, fine gentleman!”
So no, Judicael was not related to Wren the architect, he was related to Rennes, a midaeval town in France, which, along with other things, is mentioned in “The DaVinci Code”, a very popular book these days, and one that made mention of the desposyni and their olive-colored eyes.
“I just can’t get over the fact that you know Sultan.” Jude was back on that subject.
“A finer gent can hardly be found.” I told him. “He used to come over to Tom Trainor’s house and prepare curries and biryanis. And I’m talking hours. No turkey jerky from Javed. Jerked meat was Trollium’s métier.”
“What was his Master’s thesis on?”
“You would ask me that, Jahudafisk, a name I called him. (I tried to give him a new nickname every time I saw him. Last time it was Judibund.) But actually I remember quite well what Javed was working on. Low-cost housing for the poor. He was working on ways to use mud and chickenwire to create strong and light-weight houses. And boats, now that I think about it.
He wanted to take the technology back East, where simple shelter was direly needed. The idea of making massive skyscrapers and pulling down a fortune in fees was foreign to his very nature. One reason, I suppose I was attracted to him.”
“Were you lovers?”
Laughing. “No no no…not that kind of attracted.” Although I had nothing against the homosexule agender, I still didn’t want to give the wrong impression. Not to a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene anyway. Surprised he couldn’t figure that out himself, being a grandson of the son of God and all.
“I knew you weren’t. Just goofing with ya.”
Sh*t! Maybe he did read my mind? [Twilight Zone theme]
“No, I didn’t read your mind or nothing. You were thinking out loud. And I’d say that if you really want the job of narrator, you better get it together. Have any other characters complained about your intrusions?”
“Well actually…Xandra Hoover overheard me the other day, but I zipped my lip and started thinking about math problems. They’re sure to bring silence.”
“How are the Hoovers? I hear Harriet is about to have an affair with John Dark.”
“How do you know this?”
“Oh, let’s just say a little bird told me. If you consider an Emu to be little, that is.”
“You been talking to Emus again there fellah?”
“You think I am kidding, don’t you?”
“What? Jude kid me? Are you kidding?”
“I see! You are still doubtful about my desposynic heritage…”
“My desposynic heritage. Jesus, Magdalene…”
“Jesus Magdalene?” He was hypnotized by the sudden tone shift in his voice.
“You know what I mean. Don’t make me go into it again.”
“You got any coffee around here? A narrator gets sleepy after talking with boring characters, you know.”
“Well, I’m narrating a book about you too, so yes, I know full well what you mean.”
“Foolwell? Did I ever show you my screenplay, Prick in the Balloon? The lead character’s name was Foolwell. He was a Bible-thumping evangelist who preached from a hot air balloon.”
“How appropriate! Hot air, huh! How did you come up with that?”
The strange tone had left his voice.
“Well, actually it all started back in Richmond, Virginia.” I continued. “I was watching Jerry Falwell on TV yapping about the homosexule agender, while milking people for money right and left.”
“What do you mean, right and left?”
“He would say stuff like: “If you are for the homosexule agender, call bla, bla, bla one. And give out some phone number. Then he would say: If you are against the homosexule agender, call…and he would Sh*t out another number. Bla bla bla two, for example.”
“Really?” Jude was fascinated. A true Christian, he couldn’t fathom that someone would turn Christianity into a business, and one that purveyed fear at that. “How can I meet this Foolwell?”
“You want to meet Jerry Falwell”?
“Can you arrange it? You did go to Harvard, didn’t you?”
“Well yes. But that closes as many doors as it opens. Especially in Falwell country.”
“See what you can do, okay?”
“I will, Jude, I will.” The thought of actually meeting this man for whom I had held so little regard, suddenly struck me as an interesting challenge. I can hear it now: ‘Hello. Uh, Reverend Falwell…I’m a narrator for a book that has suddenly found you to be a minor character, and was wondering if you and I can talk so as to make you a little more round. Not that you aren’t round enough already. I don’t meet fat round. I mean round in the literary sense. I mean…’ Yes. I would certainly have to prepare myself for such a meeting. And I suspect it would be bad form to come as his narrator. People don’t much cotton to being narrated. Not in these parts. This is the heartland, not the headland. And bleeding-head conservatives do tend to become overreactionary when confronted by their devils…meaning non-fundamentalists, liberals, progressives, commies, new-agers, fagits.
“OK. Deal. I will go in search of the elusive Foolwell…if you share some of the mysteries.”
“You want me to share my mysteries with you?” Jude sounded haughty, taken aback, imposed upon.
“Sure!” I said. “And I might even share my mysteries with you. Narrators do get to see behind closed doors you know. And that Dark/Hoover affair is just around the next few chapters…at least from what I am told.”
Jude holds out his hand, which was soft yet firm. Almost caressing. Electricity seemed to pass from his hand to mine, and I, for my part, have felt healthier, strangely, ever since that moment. Maybe he really does have the Jesus gene.
“You’re doing it again!”
“But there were no quotation marks!”
“There were…but they were done in invisible ink.”
“About that coffee!” The silence of the moment made me default to baser urges like coffee drinking, which I do with relish. Not pickle relish, as that would be gross. Probably even grosser than salt.
“Let’s run down to the Caribou. On me. I think Garrick Ammonium might be there. He owes me a chess game.”
“You’ll lose, you know that.” I had played Garrick a hundred times, and had lost a humdred times. Ammonium does not lose. He is a Viking in that way. Even sort of resembles one. And seems to house a lot of pride in the notion that he might be descended from Odin and Wotan. “That’ll be a hoot. I mean, watching him mop the floor with the chess pieces of yours he as taken.”
“Don’t misunderestimate me, Nonny! I have been cracking the books.”
“Cracking the books is one thing…and besides, I gave you the books.”
“Must you contradict everything I say? Must you always have some sort of comeback? Can I not get the last word just once?”
“Fine! Let’s mozey.”
I kept my silence in order to allow him the last word, and didn’t say anything on the walk to Caribou Coffee, which was just a few blocks down East Boulevard in Dilworth.
A taste of Dilworth
Dilworth was the first rail suburb in North Carolina. And if not North Carolina, it was surely the first rail suburb in Charlotte. Or maybe that was Myers Park. Jeez I used to know this stuff. I’ll have to get back on that. Whatever it used to be, it is now a thriving, progressive neighborhood with all manner of delights for upscale, educated folks who tend more toward the Aquarian world view than the fundamentalist worldview as espoused by such crabcakes as Jesse Foolwell, or whatever his name is.
I usually go to Dilworth and pick up things at Talley’s Green Grocer, where you will find an in-house macrobiotic chef, vegetarian and vegan meals, exotic coffees and wines, as well as your better face and hair products, vitamins, and such. In other words, it is a health-food grocery store. And it is surrounded by other wondrous shops, like Rainbow Path, who has among the best incense collections in the city, as well as new age books, videos, tapes, CDs, toys, gems, Feng Shui accessories…and the place smells heavenly. It is worth it just to step inside and let the air seep into your stinking and filthy undershirt, which is called an undershirt for a reason, asshole! Go change!
But they would not like me talking like that in their shop. For they are holier than profane. In fact, if there are any sex tools in there, they are made of soap or flowers. Aromatherapy for cumsluts you’ll not find, but aromatherapy for angelic living, certainly. By the drumful.
My mother goes to the Acupuncturist who has a shop just on the other side of Talley’s. And beside that, only down a bit, is a coffee shop, although not Caribou, which is a block or so down the street. You’ll see when we get there.
Jude and Garrick square off
Garrick Ammonium was already there, hording the chess table, having fended off all challengers, when we arrived.
Garrick was not the most gregarious of men. In fact he took pride in his laconic approach to the spoken word, as well as his laconic approach to the physical world. He seemed to be always biding his time, as it some ship were going to come in, just in time, and lay out his treasures before him. I can’t really blame him though. I’m a bit that way myself. Creative loafing is a skill hard won in today’s Coney Island world of work and War, where leisure is unknown, and any leisure granted many, is spent racing to this resort or that.
“Seen Charlie?” I always asked him about Charlie whenever I saw him, and I suppose he sort of expects it by now.
“Nope.” He began to twist his moustache and stare at the chess board, as if working out some sort of chess problem. “You ready to lose?”
Jude stepped forward and pulled out the chair from under the metal table and sat down. “Black”, he said, confidently.
“Black?” Garrick was taken aback.
“Yes. Black. And I need to win this time.”
Garrick moved his first piece. Then Jude. Then Garrick again. Ah the Alakhine! Garrick loves to play the Alakhine opening.
Already bored, I walked back inside and ordered a large regular. I had grown cheap in that way over the years, largely as a way to remain dutifully wise. For as the saying goes: “A wise man won’t be busy, and a busy man can’t be wise.”
I relaxed on the sofa and leafed through a used copy of Creative Loafing.
“I need to write for those boys!” I thought to myself as I saw proof of intelligent life across every page. Every page but one. It had a picture of the fuhrer himself, George W. Whatshisname. What is his name…so sleepy…
Meanwhile, outside, soaking up the sun and chess, Judicael and Garrick played out their games, and talked of matters…
“So. What do you think Nonny is thinking about?” Garrick broke the protracted silence with a question.
“Hold on. Okay. Good. Good. Uh, Nonny is thinking something about a word count. Something about Brecht. Alienation devices. I’m getting mixed signals. Signals from the flames. Word count. I’m losing it.” Jude was losing the signal. The microwave was in use.
“You still reading minds? I thought you thought that was voyeurism?”
“You asked me…”
“Are you going to take a move, or shall I make it for you?”
“On the rag today, Gareth?” Jude loved to call him Gareth because Garrick thought it feminized the word, although, of course, it did no such thing, for Gareth was Garrick’s ancient ancestor. Gareth is he who animates Garrick’s king, if you will. This was not on the Hitler side. This was his saving gene.
“Check mate.” Using his pinky and ring finger, Jude moved the conquering piece into place, stood up and bid Monsieur adieu.
Garrick sat looking at the chess board and twirled his moustache. He then reached into his jacket and produced a revolver which he aimed squarely at the back of Judicael Wren, 50th great-grandson of Jesus and the Missus, and “pow”. Then “pow, pow, pow”.
Judicael Wren fell to his knees, his arms outstretched, rays of sunlight illuminating his anguished face.
“Pow!” Damn! Where did that come from? What the?
And before long Nonny realized he had fallen asleep on the sofa, had dreamt something about a chess game, and here Jude is popping his hands together trying to wake his, my, ass up. I really must beg your indulgence here, as it is not my habit to drift off like this but…
“Goddam. What time is it?” Nonny was disoriented. Disoccidented even. Had he not realized that he had been asleep for hours, and that Jude had completely forgotten that you were even there in the first place, and that he left and went over to see Hank Gurdjieff to talk about mimsy borogroves and the agenbite of inwit.
“Ten o’clock. Get a move on. Tired of your snoring’” The boy seemed annoyed. Do I care? No. Am I going to go out of my way to hasten my departure? No.
Suddenly the lights go out. It is totally black. “Can’t see a goddam…”
“Could you please quit cussin’?
“Mmmm. What is that you’re wearing?” The breathy voice sounded sultry, wanton, not unlike the wispy mews of the whilom corn hen in estrus. An apostrophe does what an apostrophe can do, and no one is the worse because of it. But the same cannot be said of this, this woman who is trying almost too hard to divert my attention from the task at hand, and that being the awful rowing toward God, the counting up of words, the finish line.
“So. Is that why you brought me here? Just to be some sleezy whore in your play or your novel or your picture book?”
“Take your polysyndeton outside, Character. At least I gave you a capital. And I’m letting you live.” Suddenly Jim Beckwourth, one hundred and fifty years earlier, takes off. And he runs and runs ninety-five miles across prairies, valleys and dales.
Jim Beckwourth, The Running Man
Jim stops to catch his breath. Latin phrases are going through his mind. Phrases that his father, Sir Jennings Beckwith, had taught him as a child. CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM EST. DAMNANT QUOD NON INTELLIGUNT. DOCENDO DISCIMUS. DE GUSTIBUS NON EST DISPUTANDEM. CARPE DIEM. Language, many languages, would run through Jim’s head as he ranged the prairies with infinite time to think and recollect and practice. He would practice Latin, Spanish, French, English, and a variety of Native-American tongues. He became enamoured with the native-American tongue so much that he married a few of the native American women, whose tongues he found most satisfying.
His family came from Virginia, and were among those early Virginians, such as the Carters, the Tayloes, Fauntleroys, Brockenbroughs, Lees, Washingtons, Chinns, Masons and such as were most familiar with books, culture and language, and this at a time when conversation, among certain circles, was high art. And having left these circles as but a boy, all he had were memories, conversations, entertained and overheard, as well as books aplenty…as a good library was an essential aspect of one’s home, and to have actually read and learnt from such libraries was prized all the more. And finding himself suddenly out West, in the early decades of the 1800’s, Jim Beckwourth, reconteur and chronicler, found leaves in his memories that he spun into silk for listeners around campfires, and future readers burning halogen.
Tale is told of how Jim once ran 95 miles in one day, or claimed to have done so. And this, to some, is but proof that the man was a damn liar.
But on this point, I’d have to say, from having walked 26 miles in one day for a marathon, that it hardly seems impossible, and it certainly is possible to achieve even greater distance were one to have the stamina and stride. Food and water also help, but Jim lived like an Indian. And chances are, any number of the Indians could also run that distance, and may well have done so, whenever necessary. If I suddenly found myself in dire need to go to Greensboro, say, and have neither a mode of transportation or a great deal of time, I would probably settle into a gentle jogging stride, and take as many breaks as necessary…knowing that I would eventually get there, and faster this way than walking.
The spirit of Jim Beckwourth is being conjured, in hopes that he will appear and assist in the telling and outcome of the story you have in your hand. No appear, no buffalo meat. Capische?
I think Jim is seeing that his running and my writing are not all that different. Both take a great deal of time, and work. If it were just time, he seems to be thinking, that would be one thing. And perhaps, but not necessarily, an easier thing. After all one could sleep through the time, but making distance, or creating sentences, paragraphs, chapters…this takes work, stamina, wherewithal. Just as does running. So keep writing, my dear and dumbfounded geneagrapher. (You will allow a dead man license I trust.) And I will be looking over your shoulder, reveling at the typographic ease with which your generation may capture, in word, the stories of our lives. I wish you great good fortune.
And with a pop, Jim sucked back into the lamp, until rubbed again for advice and inspiration.
Suddenly the lights were back on, and I gathered my notes and left the Caribou.
Jude was nowhere in sight.
The night was as young as a cliché, even older, and I was determined to not be determined about anything. But not tonight. Tonight wanted to be undetermined about something determinate. So to ease the pent up aching rivers, and chill the fire of my loins, I thought nothing better than a cold Spoon’s Ice Cream, but realized that Spoons was way on the other side of town. Maybe baba ganough would suffice. Charlotteans do not eat nearly enough baba ganough, nor do they eat nearly enough tabouli, falafel, bulgar, non-ketchup red sauce, or scrapple. About the latter, I am fine, even exuberant. About the former, I am hungry, starving, reminescent. In Cambridge, as far back as the 80s, if not earlier, there were Falafel vendors, in vendor vans, wherefrom all manner of exotic delights were but a few dollars away.
Ketchup is not a big seller in Cambridge. There are more spices than salt and pepper. And I just realized that I’m roughly 60 words away from being halfway through my novel. It may not appear that way in the final edition, but for my current purposes, this certainly holds true, and I can hardly be happier. Well, actually, if I had not been writing all day, and if it were not 4:27 am, I suppose I could be happier. Or at least appear that way. I know I must look like Hell. And since I do feel like Hell, and since I have, alas, passed over the 50% mark, I am going to bid you good readers adieu, and see if we can’t pick up the matter in the morning. Jim gives his best as well.