Salt and pepper hair in runny eggs and heartburn bacon. Warm coffee, curdled cream, alka seltzer bubbles bursting like dreams in mid-air. What diner is this? I say to the Syphilitic cook. What diner is this? I say to the Knock-kneed waitress. Over There... the baleful women with lupine eyes praying for (preying upon) men in shark skin suits and dyed pompadours. Why am I here? Catching up on life? Fleeing from a stuffy-aired cubicle of bleached hopes and dead souled co-workers in government issue unhappiness? Another breakfast, Madam, I request of the waitress. And make the eggs runny. Just like last time.
What did the ocean spume? It spumed a man wet in sorrow. His boat had sunk on a rocky shoal. The lonely beach he swam to--so far away in rough water he barely made it--was his refuge. With his weary knees he knelt on the grains of sand that blistered under the tropical sun. His lips were dried and burned from the salt. He didn't know where he was or what island he had found. Nor did he know whether it was habitable with human life or if he could be rescued.
Before his adventure the man had taken an old saying to heart: 'He who travels alone travels farthest.' The one person boat had taken him far from his government job. It took him far from his northern city to tropical islands where he was to find himself through an oceanic experiment in life. A Thoreau he wanted to be of the South Sea. But he never believed he'd be here: alone, empty-bellied, tired, sorrowful, scared, regretful for leaving the safety of where he was.
The man crawled to a rock under the shade of palm tree and sat on it. He looked up to the sun and then put his head into his hands and wept dry tears. Maybe I wasn't dying inside back home, he thought. Maybe being the nameless, faceless, heart dead bureaucrat was good because it was safe, He thought some more. Maybe life is bad no matter what you do, he concluded in existential dismay.
The castaway heard a rumbling sound and lifted his head.
"Sugar, Sugar," he exclaimed, for he could not swear. "Sugar, Sugar, Mother of God. I'm going to die!"
He looked into the face of a komodo dragon with its long slithering tongue standing a few yards from him. The dragon took measure of the man and moved closer in plodding steps until he stopped a foot a way. With his tongue he licked the castaway's face as if he were a happy puppy dog. He then nodded and moved sideways. The man rode the back of the komodo dragon and now believed some decisions are worth taking, the consequences be damned.
Boyce Boswell was as numb as Novocain. He could feel no hurt. Neither physical wounds nor emotional tumult pained his spirit or flesh. As with most government workers he subsisted spiritually in a state of automated somnambulism.
"Hit me. Hit me," he would beg of strangers, his giant white teeth frozen in an idiot smile.
A power punch, a right hook, a series of jabs rendered him bruised. Sometimes his bones broke and his ligaments tore, but he'd always say: "I feel no pain. Hit me, I feel no pain."
One day his idiot smile zeroed in on a club of circus performers in three ring regalia. "Hit me. Hit me," he demanded of them.
But they were like a crack medical team. No panic. Coldly efficient. Life saving in action and purpose.
The mustached strongman held him steady in a full nelson. The bearded lady rubbed her well cleavaged chest along his nose and gaping mouth. The dwarfish jugglers in jester suits bubbled his flesh with flaming torches.
For the first time he felt real pain. His nerve endings knew a hellish burn with his mind filled with anxiety and grief. But this was good. For out of this bloody womb a new Boyce Boswell was born.
He grew a full Ginsberg beard, combed his hair back like Kerouac, spoke in verse as did Corso and Lucien Carr. He freed himself,his idiot smile now gone.
The new bounce to his step was hurried. There were the strongmen and bearded ladies and elves in funny hats he had to catch up to.
"Hear ye...Hear ye...in tent three is the flying poet on trapeze, Boyce Boswell."
Zigman Zibanski claims proudly to be a student of the human condition. But when the Krakatoa immigrant by way of Krakow studies too deeply the dark pages of his life, he becomes self-blaming for his failings and will many times turns recklessly to drink. Like what happened last night. With his osmotic stomach drenched in cheap tequila, he shambled loosely up some stairs and staggered into an oak door.
He knocked the door furiously with his forehead. "Andrea" he cried out. "Andrea, open the door I have no where else to run."
He answered the long silence with a louder knock. "Andrea, it's Ziggy. Please come and speak to me. I know it's been years and I treated you so bad then. I know I never should have let you go, but you got to give me one more chance."
He turned his back to the door and sat cross-legged as well as he could. With his open hand he touched the bump on his head. He then pulled a flask of Tequila from his coat pocket and took a long drink.
The porch light went on and the door opened and shut quickly, but Zigman had been occupied with the note he had begun to write:
It's Ziggy. You must remember me? Back in the mid-90s we were lovers, meant for each other. We were going to marry someday. Do you recall the times we spent together? Our big dreams to sail the Detroit River? Our dream to make love at the strip mines of Northern Manitoba? It should of happened. You were the good one. It is me who was all bad.
Lately I'm like Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler. I sit on the edge of my bed and ache from life. I eat cold beans out of a can and do my best to keep my trailer park unit clean. You'd be proud to see I scrub the uric stains on my bathroom floor and take out the bottles of booze as best I can. But I get sad sometimes, so I just watch bad movies on my old black and white TV. But when I sit with my back hurting on the edge of my bed I think mostly of us.
See without you it's like I got a vitamin deficiency in my life. It's like my soul and spirit need some nourishment and you're that last green vegetable that can save me.
I know I treated you bad. I know I shouldn't of hung around that guy Hickory McCracken from the Human Paradox Blog. I know it was wrong when he introduced me to that feather dance stripper from Boise, Idaho. Boom Boom was her name.
I'm just saying I recognize now what I had in you. This time I'll clean up my act and treat you better.
Love and Bear Hugs, Zigman Zibanski
He folded the note and put it into the mailbox. But when he turned around he fell into the strong arms of the law.
"OK, Zigman. We're taking you in," an officer said. "Like we told you a million times, Andrea moved to the coast ten years ago."
"Which one?" Zibanski asked.
"The one in the middle," was the reply.
They all laughed as the officers placed handcuffs on the wrists of the great student of the human condition.
Tomorrow, when Zigman becomes sober, he'll make a phone call. He'll call good ole Hickory and say they should get together once more, maybe team up with the feather dance stripper from Boise. Boom Boom was her name.
I drink a case of wine, and I'm still standing. I down bottles of vodka, a gallon of cheap vermouth and I am not moved. Nor do steins of thick German beer buckle my legs, or make me feel weak at the knees. I am stronger than any brew, resistant to the drunken forces of spirits. Yes, I am strong, still standing above a case of wine. But I must stop this minute and attend to a bladder full of alcohol and pi$$.
Steel and gold towers gird a Manhattan sunrise. Mahogany desks and patent leather chairs furnish high ceiling offices. Bejeweled men in bespoke suits and silk ties sip rare tea from cream ware porcelain with filigrees of gold.
"First, this is what we do." The CEO of Meanness says. "We round them up. We tie them to one another. Each corner of the world they are--the comics, the clowns, the punch line princes of humour and jest. We parade them through city and village. And then what?"
"Kill them!". One man yells."They are a threat to social order. Their mirth, their jokes are like parasitic viruses that infect the world with joy and nonconformity, not to forget the rebelliousness of the mind and spirit."
"No!" A man crys out, his handle bar mustache wagging like a squirrel's tail. "Think of Stalin. Think of his prisons. Think of this as a great source of forced labour. Yes, we can imprison these men in a Gulag of comics."
So it was decided. Funny persons were to be taken away in their clown uniforms and Hawaiian shirts. Sent to northern prisons where they stitched "Union Made" labels into counterfeit clothes.
What is the world like without humour? Like a government town. But wait. Some men, those brave men with darkened smiles, with their hopes nearly shuddered, speak to one another in whispers. They speak in one-liners, puns, riddles and put downs. In basement meetings, secreted away, they practice the ancient double take. The prat fall. The rim shot. The set-up. The riposte to the heckler's invective. Stand-up men, they are. A band of brothers they become. Soon exploding cigars will be sent to the those in high towers. Cream pies will stain the rich men of sour face, lemon filling rolling down their bespoke suits. In the stealth of night they will strike with buzzer handshakes and running clown's feet. The group of laughing rebels will fight power like the resistance cells of the last world war. There is hope they will come back. From the prisons of the north they will march freely with open mike in hand. Brothers in jest to once more bring the guffaw to the great and small.
Yesterday I saw an old man about to ride an old bicycle with bald tires, a rusted chain, and brake pads nearly worn down.
"So why do use this contraption?" I asked him.
He gave me a knowing shrug and said it was because they were like old dance partners. He mounted the bike and rode away. The wind blew back his silvery hair; his thin arms held steady the bicycle frame; his legs peddled slowly but steadily over rough gravel. Like old dance partners they were in rhythm, playing to the music of the moment, the music of life.