I wrote two novels in the late '80s/early '90s, both of which are presently languishing in Unpublished limbo. First and foremost there's HELLO, UGLY (excerpts of which have appeared in this blog before), secondly there was THE EASTER EGG HUNT. Given the opportunity to publish HELLO, UGLY today I think I'd want to overhaul it and rewrite the living shit out of it---I could probably cut 2 or 3 hundred pages out of the damned thing and have it not suffer much as a result. I'd be happy to do so, though----in fact, in recent years I rewrote it as a screenplay and still want to go back and overhaul THAT.
I dunno about THE EASTER EGG HUNT, though. Not to disparage it that much----my first published story, CLAW MACHINE BLUES, was published in 1991 in a little newsletter out of Grafton, MA called THE BLOATED TICK....it was several paragraphs from THE EASTER EGG HUNT with a little extra text tacked on to make it a stand-alone story. TEEH definitely had its problems, though, chief among them being that it was derivative as hell. Any way you choose to slice it TEEH was a complete Kerouac ripoff. I wrote the damn thing, usually loaded to the gills on coffee, bouncing off the walls and listening to Jazz, over a few short months (HELLO UGLY took me a couple of years between drafts)----a friend wanted, at one point, to start an argument with me by suggesting that Kerouac and his ilk basically destroyed literature...I don't think he was ready for my response when I told him that Kerouac simultaneously created and destroyed the idea of “Spontaneous Prose”, because it's impossible to write it, per his directions, without writing like Kerouac. THE EASTER EGG HUNT was a total Kerouac ripoff, from the run-on, rambling sentences to the butt-hurt romanticism to the alcoholism to the Catholic Mysticism. But I got a few publications (including my first) out of it and so maybe it's worth noting for something. You be the judge.
Big Chuck's is busy-but-dying---Bradley Sykes and I have assumed our side-by-side slot on the dead end of the bar, shunning the casuals, the shopping mallers, the regulars----everyone, we the taciturn pocket in the hallowed Saturday Night well of gaiety and seesaw social girl and boy drinkjoy; I'm trashed, like post-work trashed (tho more to the effect of post-Jane trashed, a prevalent state these days which I can't for the life of me escape), barely out of the cook's whites and checked ice cream man pants---my hair is matted, post-hustle sweat like some follicle mutant banana peel---it's sticking to my forehead, my face and I can't envision it ever having been any other way.
Sykes, here with me in the great drain spin spiral down, is seated on this stoolthrone to my left (he is seated at the left hand of Cal and he shall come again in judgment of the living and the---but blasphemy is strictly Sykes's department, not mine) and he's firing down highball-things-----mixed drinks are enigmatic to me----simple, bread-alone beer-and-wine man that I am---what's it he keeps ordering?--a Radiator or a Ventilator or a Dehumidifier---something, anyway, something with Vodka, a sure sign of trouble, especially where Sykes is concerned; our meeting here tonight is blameless coincidence---Sykes, my old long-gone friend, co-artist-writer-madman-mentor-antagonist-partner-in-crime-brother-in-booze---he and I live on different ends of town, work different jobs, different shifts and so have drifted apart somewhat....it's always good to have a run-in with him, though tonight, as is frequent these days, there's little need in my wash (not my life, but my wash, my deluge, my storm, my dribble) for his static or anyone else's---my head's packed, stacked and like a burgeoning box of fuzz----no room, ye sluggards, yurches the mad hatter, roiling and catching his seat cushions in haphazard hindsight, no room at the Inn, no room!
The bar is a teeming, swaying terrarium, kaleidoscopic with mahogany and glass, all stout and narrow, that glass, laced with varying tints---the room is filled with happy, sappy, yammering smiley-face dressups, the lighting is semi-dim, fake-dim, fake-intimate and fake-electric candle-lit, a fake home, home two familiar face atmosphere I have no gizzard to object to excepting the environmentally controlled safety rock audio wallow---Air Supply to Eric Carmen to Kenny G to Melissa Manchester to Whosis Whatsis brain sedation control backseat hold-hands-sing-along-faking-the-funk sterility...control is here and as usual nobody's objecting to it, but it's not a part of control, it's not stability, it's part of the wash, the contained, turbulent sea in my cranium, slogging and sloshing sluggish and even hurtful in a now-vague way, dancing, like the sting, like general sensation ( touch, feel, see, smell, taste, hear, perceive, depth, width) back and forth on the periphery, the big tightrope, the perimeter of my consciousness (cursed thing)----in and out like your perceptions of highway commotion, driver's seat stuck on a rainy day—my awareness is dampening, gallivanting in and out of fog patches....I reach for the fork, miss, laugh to give it inconspicuous credence, reach again and I pull it off this time and I stab away at the sorry, cold fajita remnants----a slice of bell pepper, soiled and dull, once marinated and crackling; I decide I don't want it—once more beer on draught and Sykes is squawking again---he's TV Land, white noise, wall paper semi-existent and I've already missed half of what he's said. My brain is muffled, mercifully, saintfully, anesthetically—something---Sykes in a mocking, alleygutter prince lout fatman slob ten o'clock shadow slur, a garbage gruff dialect---something about slouching.
He imitates me. “Huuh?” The long, lurching slug vowel—Sykes's abrasive brand of jest, jest kidding, folks, jest kidding....
“What'd you say?” I don't have the virtue in me tonight to be made punchline by Sykes and his sarcastic, superior awareness.
“Nothing,” nonchalantly, Sykes isn't cooperating and I return the favor by paying him no mind. The Big Chuck's weekend circus dusk death retirement continues, couples familiar and new roll on home to their beds, friends embrace, joke, wise out, seeya Monday, take care, stragglers turn up, gaggles of comrades congeal heartily at tables and it all meshes and masses together in a yelping, slopping, bailing gang's-all-here auld lang syne this week anyway pile, everything and everyone overlapping---lives in bubble existence, removed, shielded, mystic, shallow, foreign...”don't say hi,” a girl squeals, ebullient, snide, joyous, friendly, loud, admonishing, home to some part of the parade. I stare bitter holes into dark mahogany, wishing it away, wishing me away, away to the sky or the stars or the ground---wishing electric wooden buzz pisswater glad oblivion soft, waving roar nirvana upon my head, the vibrating, laughing delirium, test pattern, the void.
Sykes is going on again and I catch it this time, corner of my brain, back end of hearing, caring range: “Buncha slouches,” in his city sidewalk scrape shitgod dialects, not Noo Yawk, not Bahstin, just some generic junkheap chewing tobacco rangy, cancerous cityspeak. “Justa buncha slouches. Yahearme? I tolya, don' go bodderin' wid dem, they's justa buncha slouches.”
Fine, as it all sails over these woefully melted peripherals, any entertainment value is mildly appreciated but slightly lost, so sorry, so sorry----Sykes is not for me tonight, nor I for him---we're both clean and without blame in our own drive-into-a-wall ways; it's all a wash, dissipating, like a weepy, short-lived raincloud, here and gone, away, a wash, yes, a blur, a wipeout—the corporeal form doesn't remain cohesive—it crumbles, the insubstantial veneer breaks down to its abstract, building block, atomic elements....
Brown-on-white, fake-formal, standard-issue and sad, brown puppydog eyes whose doe-sincerity can't be questioned—Denise, sweet gal, isn't serving them up; she's on the yapping, clapping business side of the barn and Sykes and I are in the boonies—she's just helloing. “Hi, Cal!” My eyes turn up. “You Okay?”
My pokerface kisses her heroic sweetness blank. “Uh-huh.”
“You work tonight?” In answer I scoff up my cook's jacket and brandish it, demonstrative, deadpan, deadfaced, heavy lidded, matter-of-factly. Oh. She asks me if I had a bad night and I shrug my bar arm shoulder, careless, offhand, familiar, distant---no reason to add Denise to the wash or drag her into my emotional cobra pit.
Paul, in his screaming, jumping, scatting star worker house jester personality parade wall of enthusiasm barback regalia roars by my backside, circus-balancing a few orders—good, prosperous night for him, it would seem---”ahh, leave him alone. He's in the shitter over some hussy he works with”--gone---
Scenario Reaction # 359: Denise waxes sympathetic. “Oh, Cal, that's a drag, but buck up! You know there'll be other...”the strategy handpicked situation—I'm sure, in her disassociated way, she means every word but I've got no cheer for the obligatory rote selection paint by numbers response—I don't stop her from saying it—she can waste her breath if it makes her happy. She shoots the noise and I stare at nothing and fuzz her out. 'Bye. 'Bye.
Denise rounds out her condolences, the well-meaning readyspiel, and she hustles off to other things—the tug and the pull of the paying customers, the tab, the rage and the lure of the tippage—I'm Alice's boy tonight and Alice, big and gregarious and rough-edged, clonks past, grabbing those empties.....
Sykes is squuinting, now, and doing his best Popeye. “I hates wimmens,” he grumbles. Aaahr, Brutusk, yer moleskin me goil....
“Hey, pal,” budges Alice, on her way by again....good naturedly, but she knows Sykes, and like most, she finds that he pushes a few too many bad buttons.
Sykes steps out of Popeye and into his own sickwitty, conversational, snide thought provoker brainshoes. “Ever notice something about men who hate women, Alice? They're called misogynists! What do you think they call women who hate men?”
“I don't know,” half-caring, trying to busy herself with other chores.
“Nothing,” smiles Sykes, smug, smirking, triumphant, King Shit with his crown of turds, “they didn't even bother coming up with a name for 'em! What do you think of that?”Sykes is in steamroller form, snotmeister, intellectual with teeth, gloating his gloats.
To his left are two roughhouses---men to the bone, blue collar, mustached, tattooed swill water swillers, real Marboro Men, it doesn't get any better than this boys on a fishing trip at-'em-boys-kick-ass tank top types skeetching Sykes and his rap. One pipes in, “they godda name for him, guy,” super wiseacre, he wants to best Sykes, get one up, cash those two measly cents in---”they call 'em Dykes!” He and his friend, buddy-buddy, arm wrestle, so ditch shovel trench callous-handed sweat brow laugh, getting that one-up, that lowbrow one semi----no dice with Sykes, who reviles such pedestrian scoffing.
'Some of us are very wrong,” he rebukes with his King Shit grin. The boys leave it alone, having had their say. I turn my attention to the Grand Tuneout, the washout, the buzzing, seething wall of ambiguity----I don't require this camaraderie, this slap on the back/slap on the ass pile of chortling, mastubatory manhood affirmation bonding one'o'the club yuk it up theatre. My head, flesh-toned, sleepy-eyed, lopsided bobbin, is gaining its sea legs---the yapping and slapping and crazed armpit sexdrink bapping, this railroad crotchpower handshake bogosity, the comfort of the great, jowly tradition---the odor of the linked, burly, beefy arms in sea shanty unity and the gaggle of raving, fist-tossing jollies; get it away from me, the hell away....more space-filling mahogany wood vision in my hollow, sad pasty face---I try to utter (quietly self-contained, my insidevoice) the Novena to St. Jude Prayer again---halfway through I botch it, start again, forget what I'm saying and toss it all over for naught. Concentration fails me...in my blurred, scattershot folly I contemplate the idea that I might have an easier time of it would that Big Chuck's only looked more like a Church...the wheel of thought rolls over me and leaves me wooden-headed, dully perplexed, yes, but stoically so.....
“Cal, buddy.” Paul, still throttling in kick-ass motivational fly-boy mode, claps his hand on my shoulder for a private word. “Hittin' the sauce pretty hard, huh?” Drilling me on the obvious---I raise my eyebrows and apathetically shrug. “Nine beers in an hour, y'know, Alice is gonna have to shut you off soon, guy.” I nod---fair enough, I suppose---you can't blame her and I won't give Alice a hard time.
“Ah, leave 'im alone,” cracks old Sykes, being a pal, “he's just wanting for The Blackout.”
“I dunno,” Paul sneers, “I think it's kind of a waste to see a pair as brill as you two piss it all away for The Damn Blackout. Life's worth a little more than that. Anyway, cold day in Hell before I let some hussy put ME in the shitter like that...” and he's off....
“Fuck's brilliance worth, anyway?” Laughs Sykes. He goes back to his drink.
I've had it with this crackerjack fest for the night and so slap goes the cash and overtipping aplenty....I stumble and shamble and I make a diagonal stroll to the exit---Sykes hasn't got a clue---”cal. Hey, Cal! Where ya goin'? Cal! Cal!”
All the hubub the people the squash of faces recede---Paul's back and he's talking at some new foil, “those hussies. They can wreck your ass...” door closes, merry go round dead battery, repetition, I know---I've had it, though, with everything---the biz, the boys, the girls, the lies, the failsafe gear, cosmetic hell....all too much----
The sky vooms and whirls like the brooding underside of an apocalyptic top---empty can deposit hell, vacant, rattling, and all the stars are seive holes...it's like a mottled space shell---you can see your soul reflect in this decaying glass cosmic dementia sardine can.
Lustre gone, putrid, dead and it's all spinning dull, insane, lost and oh shit I dream of the minute soon I hit homeground, collapse on my bed and laugh and cry while the passionless, straightfaced ceiling damn it rotates. The shutout, the cowardice becomes a thing of pointed beauty—these scars made me a Shell Man. I totter over an expanse of hottop drawn, dissected and linear, but equal fools into composite compartmental subdivision sectors----the newest replay of the Easter Egg Hunt beats down most heavily in my floating, matted meathead----the claw machines----the Novena, the Prayer, my deepdown guthurt, the unstitchable rips in my heart and my mind----Jane Kochanski.....
Tripping up on my feet I laugh hacking, terminal barks into the faceless, defiant black.....
Published in THRUST Vol. 1 No. 1, Fall/Winter 1992