©2018, by p. elliott doherty
Lyle Takes a One-Armed Ride in His Blaze Orange C-10 Pickup
This dead day is like cotton rolled in dog shit. There’s this shroud of filth on the breeze, some days; it sticks around for hours and it rolls up over the hood and sticks to the glass. I’ve got a goddamned plant mister filled with apple cider vinegar—I get out every two miles and spray and rag that shit off the windshield. If it weren’t for my modified air filter I’d be lurching through the larches.
____Kent’s a wiggly fuck. I first took him for one of those kids who liked to drink microbrews and fuck in a tent, y’know, a kid who cried at sunrise, a naked and dewy windswept fuck. But he’s level. He’s been pushed around. I remember that time. It’s about the time when the promise of the unknown turns into the fear of the unknown. Here he comes. “What’s with the bandana and the wayfarers, son?” I say to the kid. “You shootin’ pics for a roadhouse rock rag today?” The kid smiles, chuckles, and nods, he’s not phased. I hand him the spray bottle and we’re off to the hills. It’s gonna be a bitch shifting and steering with one hand and one sling, but—at least—the fog falls off in the hills.
____It’s good to get above this hamlet. Since the permanent shit storm, the gaggle of fuss-nits has only grown. It’s like a bottomless steroid injection of Lutheranism down there. Folks I’ve known my whole life are now fully committed to spying, judging, and filling those around them with unnecessary dread. I mean, once you’re civilized you want to get the fuck away from civilization. These villagers never studied, never reflected, and now they run the show, well, inasmuch as they cow to the cops and the Center Guard. These same fuckfaces…these worms who ratted on me in grade school for stealing magic markers and winter sweaters—they’re down there calling the shots and edging their yellowing yards. Christ, you can’t grab a coffee to go without a speech from someone. Volunteer for this…sign up for that…break your back to ensure that the flock never loses grasp of their last comforts. Fuck all and rise above, I say. “Ain’t this a heart cleanser?” I say to Kent. “Ain’t the high ground the only way left?” The kid shakes his head and dicks around with his camera bag. I don’t know, I mean, he’s not surly or sullen. He keeps clean. He’s just not in the mood to dish out social opinions; I guess he’s living on a level independent from the hideous hive and the green lawn comparisons and such. I can’t tell whether he’ll snap or not. I think he’s read enough and seen enough and heard enough to just shut up about it and concentrate on what matters. Kids just don’t know shit about sparring and abuse these days…
____We hit the summit, this place called Leopold’s Leap. There are no cars along the lookout. “Nobody fucks anymore,” I say. “It’s the middle of the day,” Kent answers. He looks at me like I’m just another seething wreck. I think these kids are like carrion birds, y’know, just waiting for us to keel out so they can swoop down and throw a bitchin’ pool party before dying young. Either way, for them, for us, it’s a push.
____My left shoulder sings in pain. I have Kent grab my tool bag and he follows me into the woods. Or, what used to be the woods. Sure, it looks the same, but there’s hardly any richness to the air. What used to be a canopy, a pungent holt, is more like a greeting card image—all show, no sensory assurance. It’s still late summer but everything is crisp, nearly brittle. The ground is soft and yielding when it should be firm and pulsating. We crackle over fallen leaves that have fallen ten weeks early. It’s like you’re constantly reminded of a pain that you forgot about while you were sleeping the beautiful sleep; you get up, stretch, eat breakfast, shower, shave, shit, slap on the deodorant, get dressed and head out the door and WHAM, that sore shoulder, that pinched nerve, that aching tooth—there it is again to remind you how fucked out you’ve become.
____A half click later, we break into a clearing. At the foot of a communications tower stands a broad chain-link fence, boxing us out. I walk up to the latched gate and manipulate the keypad with a five-digit pass code I gleaned by video-recording the last technician who was here. Inside, we examine the base joints and moorings beneath the relay tower’s four guy wires. I nod and ask Kent to open my tool bag. I pull out my Magnum, square my line, and blow out the rings just above the postholes. Jesus fuck, my back shoulder cries out. Each snap of the cables carries up the tower, and the giant spine of information, the spire carrying privileged—illegal—digital data to The Club barges on Lake Tamarack, the piloting angel to the elite, begins to sway. “How long will it take before the signal fizzles?” Kent wonders at me. I don’t know, I think. “Hopefully before the next service call,” I say.
____Along the drive back down into the murk, Kent starts working his mouth; he asks me why I’m so bent on wrecking The Club’s day. What’s worse, he asks me if it’s because of Dana Jo. I tell him, “Of course it’s because of her!” We ride down the hills for a few more miles, bathing in screeching brake drums and a punchy driveshaft. Exhaust blows through the cab like a pixie. Kent takes to laughing and he doesn’t let up.
____I think the boy appreciates my straightforward answer. It’s because of her. It’s not the stagnation. It’s not the gripping waste. It’s not the dead, burning, unknowing souls. It’s not the closing ranks, the shuttered businesses, the filming windows, the pale, clammy faces, the fake fostering, the false posturing, the wishing out loud for grace to inherit them. It’s not the sneering, the hoarding, the shining dicks playing frisbee golf like there’s nothing wrong. It’s not the eclipsing expectations of our mothers and fathers. It’s not the false front of a feinting community. It’s not the one giant, frantic, heroic lunge toward restoration and peace.
It’s about the black hole still collecting all my light and pain.
It’s about a woman. My Witch. My Dana Jo.
I drop Kent off in front of his family estate, toss him a click and a wink, and I escape home a mile down the gravel road. I find an hour’s peace inside my studio. It’s fuckin’ drafty in here, and I think about the months to come. Wood’s like four hundred bucks for a half cord, now. And, yeah, they’re no longer bucks, but they’re the same paper. The Center just dyed the upper left corners purple with this arcane stencil—no purple no play. Other regions did the same for now; I know ‘Sota went pink…In the end the paper’s gonna wither and inflation’s gonna bring their value to three hundred to one, but, in the meantime, four hundred purple cornered Bills of the Republic buy you a half cord of fuel for the wood stove. I’m thinking for winter I’ll just break down the old schoolhouse between here and the village. I’ll do it before anyone catches the notion first. Fuckin’ nobody’s thinkin’ about dismantling, yet. But mark it, bud: this village is dismantling.
____The goddamn skylight’s obscured under sheets of aborted broadleaf, hence the dimness to the draft. I’m getting a copper light out of the window slats to the southwest. I have planks and racks of urns blocking the kiln. Everyone I know wants them, now. On the cheap, of course. They’re using them as planters and vases; I haven’t heard story one about them containing ashes. I mean, I spun li’l toppers for ‘em, but I rarely see them around. Fuckin’ paperweights, I guess. I’m workin’ on these taller ones. They look like tornadoes, y’know the kind you’d see on those ancient animation cells. The trick is finding their centers of gravity. The thrill is throwing them high on the wheel on a hunch, your throat ready to gag out if they buckle. It’s a true and damned thrill to see the ones that stay up. There. There’s two in the corner, there. They’re dancing together, practically making out. You see the one on the right, playing with the copper light? It’s the first one yet where I’ve tried out this deep emerald glaze all along the up an’ down. It’s the color of a male mallard. It’s deep, forgetful, and noble, just like the old bird. I want to make markers with this color. Grave markers. Life markers. But supplies are low, I’d have to knock off a truck at this point. Christ, there’s nothing like seeing the vision in perfect relief and not having the resources to realize the vision.
I could implode.
____I take a slug of rye and march my hobbled frame into the head. I decide to stroke it to a boxed photo of Dana on the cedar paneled wall between the toilet and the bathtub. Hell, it’s been ten days and I’m hosting an insurrection down there. Just think of it as a contribution to the ol’ fur trade, I laugh. A hormonal slough for the founding industry…Her eyes, brown and deep, still invite the conquest, the salute by-proxy. I never thought a ribbed tank and capris would do the trick. Must be the shoulders, deep and bare. I’m going to be devastated once this is over…the formaldehyde butterflies inside the photo box wink at my effort…they’ve seen me at work, before.
A regular, one-armed Jack.
____She’s on the party barge with this cunt named Chris. The Club nabbed this guy and enveloped him into their fold. I’ve seen them together. Kent’s shown me pictures he took of them swooning on a recent clear evening. Up until then, my Dana just came and went, from here to there and back, acting the fool and the community pillar. But, on this other night, she fell for a visitor. Apparently, Chris is a big fuckin’ to-do in our Lake Region, I had no idea; I don’t follow the permanent records of dapper douchebags who angle for my woman. Perhaps I should…So, in the end, Dana had to make a play to keep the man on the barge and in The Club’s nest. She managed a note to me, a hand delivered letter to my lonely li’l mailbox, delivered by the Center flunky kids they hire out to do what used to be fed and state functions, and the note read that she fell for this man, this Chris, and that she had to commit to him for him to commit to The Club, and now they’re accidentally in love and all of that cleft-heart doublespeak witches engender to wriggle out of a pickle, no doubt. And here I am, left in the studio with my rye and my good jack-off hand.
____I have a dog. His name’s Pig Pig. He wants in, wait a sec. Okay, man, the ol’ boy’s covered in mud and slobber. He’s a fat black god-knows-what with a flat face and folded ears, probably a boxer-bull-pug of some type. I found him in a ravine last year. He was feasting on somebody’s thrown out baked chicken and he was choking on the bones. I took him to Sam, she straightened him out, and the rest is civilized cohabitation. The dog looks at me funny, now, however, now that Dana’s been gone for days. I think Pig Pig is wary about receiving a love from me that he used to receive from her. He doesn’t look too keen about sidling up next to me for nights of cherry cordials and British television romances. We’re still wondering where to go from here, together, as one family without the Witch Dana Jo.
____The bottom of the situation is cymbal-crashing over my head, however. I know I’ll need to stop aiming my dastardly deeds at her and focus my wrath at the betterment of the innocents around my home. Shooting towers to spite her gets me through one fucking afternoon. I need to drop the loss. I need to purge the facts from my heart. She loves bauble and douche cock, that’s now understood. Love yourself, Lyle. Pig Pig’s counting on it. There’ll be no more ‘criminations ‘bout that eye-batting sea cow who rolled you in dirt for years and left you wallowing with Pig Pig. She won’t be back, that’s a certainty. So, wish her wellness and wealth. IN FACT, let’s toast to her quasi-intellectual undulations in the fuck cabin of that Club barge at this rightest moment in our dimming history. All of life’s bounty to you, Dana Jo. By the time you’re done fucking, swimming and showering, you’ll fall into a communications blackout. Log in failed, try again? The only fucks left alive to enjoy a top speed internet around here, well, not today and probably not tomorrow or the next day, thanks. YEAH, BABY, sorry I couldn’t be Joan of Arc, Christ, and Marlon Brando all wrapped into one. I’m workin’ on it. What was the one thing I failed to say? What was it? Probably something like, “You deserve better,” and if that’s the case then I earned the screw off either way—a drive by screw off to the hips, heart, and skull.
____What could I send her via arrow, via Viking flame, to land on that deck? A scroll would roll out with a sketch of my ugly mug and the following line: “DJ, I love you. I am the seed plant to your cruelty. You are my Sex Mother, my Fuck Sister, my Death. Pack away your mink and come with me—let’s become what our angels intended.”
Fuck it. I’m through auditioning. I’m one of the runts, now. I’m stained with cowardice.
Pig Pig twists his head at me. His water isn’t fresh. He’s waiting.