Thursday, May 29, 2008
Easter is just a week away--apropos this fact I am posting my fictional series Detective Neptune in "Christ, the Screaming Avenger" in honor of this tragic and pain-filled holiday. This series originally appeared at Mortaljive in late spring and early summer of 2005.
Spoiler Warning: Charles Nelson Reilly does not--I repeat, does not appear in this amazing story.
FACE DOWN UPON THE SANDY SHORE
I awoke face down at water’s edge, the way I always do. The air was stale beer and sour onions. Actually that was my air, the air I was exhaling, my gift to the world. Here, have my air, I have flavored it for you.
I rolled onto my side as ocean water crept up my legs. Legs. I had legs. Good, I thought. I may need them.
The water got to my waist and retreated, leaving foam and bits of trash at my midline, my mean-high-tide. I reached down and felt around: ah, I was wearing pants. They were wet pants, but they were mine. No shoes, but some colorful socks, now soggy and itch-inducing. But oh so colorful.
A larger surge of water forced its way up to my neck, so now I was picking out bits of Styrofoam and kelp from the kinky hair on my face. I used to be young, with hair like a god. Actually, I am a god. I'm on a mission, a job so secret, so discreet, that even I don't know what it is.
I am chosen by the Sun or the Stars or the Atoms: I am chosen and I wake up on a beach or in a harbor (or that one time in an aquarium) and go find a crime or a mystery or panic in a child's eyes, and I go to work. Only when the job is done am I released: I go out with the tide and drift far away, or I jump from a plane into the deepest part of the sea, and there I wait for a time. Then blackness, sleep and dreams of sparkling bays and beautiful women and dolphins teaching the children to swim. I dream of white sand and men blowing conchs and girls giggling as they glide along with me in buoyant waters. The air is warm, the breeze is sweet, the days are long, the nights like heaven. I ride the hippocampus, and fountains pour wine, and love is impossible to deny. And then it all ends: I awake face down at water's edge with a job to do before I can leave. Yes, I am a god. And yes, I am a Private Detective. Here's my card...oh, it's wet. I'll tell you what it says: "Detective Neptune, the Only Detective Who is Also a God."
I looked up and saw the pier to the north. It looked familiar. The Santa Monica Pier. Good, I thought. I like Santa Monica. I looked one last time at the sky above me, the canopy of space, and saw a young boy's head peering at me. He had a small plastic shovel, and was wearing a bathing suit with a picture of an animated sponge smiling on it, and he had a goofy grin, and long eyelashes, and he yelled at me, "Sleep time is over!" Some modern cherub, some Cupid variant, prodding me on towards my task. His mother yelled from higher up on the sand, "Daroj! Don't speak to stranger!" I rolled away and stood up, towering over the boy. He pointed to the strand, and bade me go there. "Goodbye, Daroj." I made my legs move, and they protested mightily. I was marble, an old marble statue, and I was going to Venice. It hurt to walk.
"Jesus is Lord, and will sing to us and make the laughter into music, and the light will shine forth, and you will be there, and you--but some will not. Some will never see light again, but only the blackened heat of endless sin, the hard and burning embers of the dead..."
He had ended up here, alongside the vendors and the tourists, smiling in the sunshine, making friends, preaching the gospel, saving souls. The days blended into each other, and the charms were chipped away as the years thinned the thickness of time. His clothes were dirty, his hair stringy, his teeth cracking and abandoning ship like maddened sailors. The once long and gentle hands were hard, black with the oils of fried food and digging in trash bins. He had begun to shake, his nerves seared from the heat of life, exposed on the rocks to be picked at by the vultures.
He saw the winter sun move into spring, and the sunsets of the south now disappeared behind the coastal mountains. The sun set in private, and he could no longer remember why it mattered. He coughed and struggled to find a trash barrel with some decent food in it. His left arm was becoming claw-like: he reached into a reeking barrel with his right arm, only to fail as it shook violently in the can, rattling the sides, scraping his knuckles, making bloody his flesh. He cried and ran, and dodged the couples strolling and he dodged the addicts and ran around the skateboarders: he found a hollow in an alley, and shook and gagged and fell in a heap. His right hand struggled with a greasy piece of discarded fried fish. He pulled it with effort to his mouth, but dropped it. He began his death rattle, the Preacher of the Word, one of God's own missionaries, here by the water at the end of the world.
"For the Lord will preserve us all, and unto Him we will return..."
A great pain shot through his skull, his eyes betrayed the lightning and thunder of his life, and stiff he was no more, but empty, and dead in the silence of the alley.
The next morning there was no sign of the preacher's corpse, only a bit of tagger-like scrawling on a trash bin. It read "But I will find my Vengeance, and None shall escape my Wrath"
He had come.
I walked up to the parking lot, then crossed it to the boardwalk, and stopped to sing to the pigeons. A few homeless types were out, and the air was wet and salty. I sat on a bench and waited. The job would come to me. It always does.
TOMORROW NIGHT: CHAPTER TWO
CRAZY JESUS WREAKIN' HAVOC ON MY TIME
CHAPTER TWO: CRAZY JESUS WREAKIN’ HAVOC ON MY TIME
Dost thou wander about at night, calling upon demons to help thee?
I have grown to enjoy sitting on benches. Park benches, piano benches, garden benches, doesn’t matter what kind of bench, I enjoy sitting on it. As I sat on the bench in Venice, I sang to the pigeons. These are the lyrics:
I’m a Private Detective who sings to pigeons
A Private Dick with an accent thick
All the doo-dah day
The pigeons move their heads in rhythm to my song. Next time you see a pigeon, sing “doo-dah, doo-dah” and you’ll see what I mean.
Being a God and a Private Detective at the same time causes the occasional head to turn, but let the occasional head turn, says I. Let the head turn. Pigeons don’t turn their heads. They just bob them back and forth like real estate agents.
Hours had passed and I still had no clue what I was doing in Venice. What was the job going to be? Who would be quarry, my task? My first wife, Amphitrite ("the third one who encircles the sea") used to say to me, when I got around to making use of a conch and would finally call her, she’d say “Are you still fucking that girl in Marina del Rey?” She had a mouth like a sailor, and an ass like a sailor too. I used to like sailing with her, now that I think of it. I wonder what happened to her. Her lips tasted like tuna, but without the mayonnaise.
It was getting on towards noon. The beach crowd was in ascendance, and the vendors were setting up all their wares. Sunglasses, lotions, potions, lava lamps, beads, and on and on. The Temple of Merchandise in the Salty Air of Venice. I was now hungry.
I headed over to the Argentinians for empanadas and soda. “Give me two chicken and one veggie.” I was reaching for my money when I realized I hadn’t worked in fifteen years, and in my pocket was a mixture of sand and paper scraps, but no money. I looked up at the Sun, to Apollo, and held my hands aloft, the sand sifting through them onto the ground. The air spoke to the water, the memory spoke to my hope, and coins appeared in my palms, which I produced for the food. I paid the kindly counter-lady and left a seventy-five cent tip, modest but not pathetic. Apollo’s been tight with his coins these days, but detectives can’t be choosers. Or can we? I guess we can but choose not to, which means we are, in fact, choosers. I'll be damned.
It was exactly twelve o’clock when I returned to the bench and unwrapped the empanadas, cracked open my soda, put the warm dough to my mouth like my father Chronos used to do, and suddenly I had a symphony of pigeons assembled in front of me. I tore off a few pieces of my pie and threw them down.
As I ate my portion, I had a vision of a man running in an alley. He was surrounded by fire.
His eyes were new and frightened, dilated, like a fawn in a meadow. Everything came at Him like wild music. When a white hollow fills His eyes, He becomes the white hollow. If the sun seeks Him to harm, it burns only His shadow, and the rain of radiation spills along His margins. He runs in the narrow places, an inhabitor of form once spent, newly released. Three days of Darkness followed by the Blinding Light. Three days of Progress, then the Storm.
He runs down the alley, over fences, through the tiny backyards, up the lanes. He heads where promises were forgotten, where God had left His only Son to die. His eyes are become the white hollow.
Three days to go.
I finished my repast and rubbed my belly. It was then that I smelled an odor, an unpleasant mixture of sweat and rotting fish. It was me.
When a God bathes it is a beautiful thing. Cherubs and nymphs and all sorts of luminous beings fly about with soaps and salts and balms, and water flows through trumpet vines and laughter rises like bubbles. I love a good bath. Anyway, that’s what I told the arresting officer when I was standing buck naked at the outdoor shower. I guess the afternoon is not the best time for public hygiene, but if not me, who? If not then, when?
I was escorted into a squad car and driven, nay, chauffeured to better surroundings. I felt zesty and clean. And handcuffed.
At the Police Station I smiled to all the quaint workers who had never seen a God up close before: it’s quite a thrill for most people. Most of those who have not seen a God up close are under the impression that all Gods do is rape and eat all the leftovers, and there is a dollop of truth in that observation. But over time (hah!) we have tempered our wild ways, just like everyone else, except Russell Crowe. But I digress…
I sat in a cell next to a man whose skin was darker than the absence of light, darker than the moon in bleakest shadow, darker than coal in winter. He scowled at me, then laughed, then said, “Who is you?”
I love it when people ask who I am. “I am Neptune! I am a visitor to these lands! I can’t help you!” is my usual reply.
So I said to the ebony man: “I am Neptune! I am a visitor to these lands!” He just shook his head at me and said:
“Got enough crazy niggas without Roman shit. I saw some motherfucker, ah, I done…” He turned his head away.
“You have piqued my interest, stranger,” I offered. “Tell me more…”
“A man on fire, fool. Crazy Jesus wreakin’ havoc on my time. He on fire but he don’t burn, and that’s some shit, motherfucker.”
I thought of my vision. I thanked my new friend, and asked the guard if I could get a conch. I had a call to make. I assured the guard there would be a bucket of reasonably fresh perch in it for him if he could make the wheels turn a little faster and bring me a shell pronto. I don’t think he knew what a perch was. His loss, really.
TUNE IN FOR CHAPTER THREE OF DETECTIVE NEPTUNE IN ”CHRIST, THE SCREAMING AVENGER!”
Tomorrow night: BOWLING FOR JESUS!
CHAPTER THREE: BOWLING FOR JESUS
He ran out of the side alley onto a wider road: he was heading west by northwest on Pacific Avenue. Choking and crying, He fell to His knees and sobbed. A small pickup truck swerved and missed Him. He struggled toward the curb, climbed up, staggered across the sidewalk and grabbed a chain link fence. Pulling His body up the fence link by link, His metal Golgotha, He lifted His feet above the weed-choked cement walkway. Turning His back to the fence, He scaled upwards like a snake, His arms twisting behind Him as He rose skyward. No one looked at Him. No one saw Him. The cars buzzed along, pedestrians hustled past, but no one turned their head: just another freak doing something freaky. His face locked in a grimace, He continued his climb.
Up He rose, eight feet, ten, above the sidewalk, into Light that came from on High, the pure whiteness of Perfect Light! The Body, the God, the Sun Door! “No,” He screamed! “No! No! No!” His face smeared with sweat and dirt, His eyes aflame, He wrenched His hands out of the chain and fell to earth, the malign indifference of concrete shattering His left ankle. “No!” He screamed again as He hobbled up Neilson Way, running and stumbling and gasping…tears ran along His cheeks like the last sad river of broken love at the End of Time.
Marie, homeless, hapless & hopeless and even drunker than usual, all cracked and desolate in the afternoon sunshine, gained enough focus to look up see Him running toward her. ‘Isn’t that’…she thought. “Hey, Preacher, what’s your hurry? Save me, baby…” she warbled, dropping her pipe, wiping the spit off her chin. “Ha the fuckin’ ha!” He ran at her, stopped just in front of her and reared back on His heels, then lunged forward and grabbed her neck, flinging her against a low brick wall until she was bent backward, her feet kicking out, a human rag doll. “Hey, ow, what the fuck…” sputtered Marie. “Ow…stop it, asshole!”
He pulled her head up, held it in front of His and bellowed: “Wake up! End the Dream! End it! End it! Wake up! Wake up!”
“Wake up?” answered Marie. “You wake up, asshole--hey, what the...!”
He looked into her and hissed: He tossed her again, more violently this time, backwards she crashed, her body doubling like paper as it fell behind the wall. She landed on her neck with her face going north and her torso facing south. Marie was no more.
He cocked His head to one side, raised His hands to the sky, screamed the primal scream of the damned, then turned and ran and ran and ran.
I waited for my conch for what seemed like two minutes and seventeen seconds, until a young officer with a nervous tic embedded in his scalp approached.
“They want you at the front desk,” he blubbered.
“What about my shellphone?” I asked.
“Front desk,” was his witty rejoinder. He smelled like a thirteen year-old boy at a summer camp for bad cheese. I followed his trail to the front. When I arrived I looked up at the desk officer and nearly shat out my spleen: it was Hades, God of the Underworld, my brother and one of the last, great petty bastards.
He spoke: “Will you excuse us?” I said “Sure.” He said, “Not you.” I said, “So then I won’t excuse you.” He wasn’t sure if I was joking with him, which was fine with me. I wasn’t sure either. Officer Cheese Ass left the room. I found myself alone with my brother. "Listen," I began, "I needed a shower for crying..."
“What the fuck, Neppy?” he interrupted.
“What the fuck indeed, Haddy,” I replied. “Why are you here?”
He pointed to a series of television monitors on a rear wall. There I could look into the various holding cells and observe all those who were detained inside. I must say, I kind of liked sneaking a peek at everyone. I imagined myself getting a little take-out, maybe an ice chest with a twelve pack, setting up a beach chair and settling in for a long viewing…people in jail. I mean, someone would start doing something awful soon enough. I had to stop thinking like that.
“What do you see here?” asked Haddy.
“I’ll ask the questions, here punk,” I responded.
“Isn’t it “here, punk” and not “here punk?”
“I’ll worry about the punctuation here, punk…wait, you’re right.” I have a way with my brother, a way that makes him instantly tired.
“Look at the monitors—who do you see?”
I peered at the rows and rows of screens. “I see men in jail, hard men, soft men, crinkly men, Mercury, various losers on the edge of nowhere, Vulcan, society’s disposables, Zeus…hey wait a minute. I know some of these people. Dionysus? He changed his name to Jim Bacchus, had a sweet career drinking Hollywood dry. What’s he doing here?”
Hades bade me look at a second row of monitors: the ladies. Hera, Athena, Megan from Whole Foods, Demeter, Diana, Serena from Peet's Coffee, Venus—they were all there. What in God’s name…
“Exactly,” said my brother. “Look again.”
Holy shit! Krishna, Kali, Ganesh, Coyote, Hanuman, Dick Clark, Garuda, Shiva—ooh, Maya…
Hades pointed to another row of monitors, and then another row of monitors until I turned to him and said, “Enough with the monitors! I see Osiris and Isis and Toth and Wotan and Eagle and Fox and Regis! What does all of this mean?”
My brother shook his head—well, he didn’t really shake it, he kind of swept it sideways and then looked at me with that Guardian of the Dead look and said, “You have to find out.”
Well, good! Now I knew what my job was! Every deity known to humanity was now locked up in a jail in Los Angeles, though it wasn’t really a jail and Los Angeles isn’t really Los Angeles. Clarification: many years ago some enterprising movie producers needed a stunt double for Los Angeles for a really nasty disaster sequence in a film. Turns out everyone loved the stunt double so much they didn’t ask Los Angeles to come back, and no one ever noticed the switch. L.A. is rumored to have moved to Morongo Valley.
It was time for me to take command here: I looked at all the monitors, I looked back at my brother, then I looked at the floor for a little bit, then I looked over at a set of car keys on his desk, then I looked back at my brother, but he was looking at the floor, so I looked back at the car keys, and he looked over at the monitors, so I stood in front of the monitors so he would look at me, but he was now looking down at his desk, so I crawled onto his desk and lay with my back on it and stared right up at him: bingo! I caught his eyes. “Can we get something to eat?” I asked.
And then I thought: All of the gods in the world had been summoned, but by whom? And why? We gods are a troublesome lot, and many of us took it personally when our stock began to fall lo those many years ago, and we became mere shadows and dog names. I vowed to get to the bottom of these gods, which was an unfortunate vow, but not unfortunate enough to make me skip dinner. Dinner, I thought, was a sure thing. Hades looked like he had cash. I was going to spend it like there was no tomorrow, which was true at the time because it was still what I technically refer to as "today." But that was then. I mean, then it was now, but not any more.
Man, I'm hungry.
The sky was purple and pink and sandy red, and seemed to touch the land with regret. He turned up Pico as the sun vanished behind the coastal foothills, a last exhale before the coming darkness.
Up ahead, on His right, stood Pico Lanes, a popular spot for bowlers, being that it's a bowling alley. I'll give bowlers' one thing--no, wait, I won't. Anyway, a Youth Christian Group had rented out half the alley, and laughter and providence exploded down the lanes, and pins rolled with righteous clamor, and crosses upon crosses were filled in with their spares, their strikes, their tawdry little gutter balls. He pressed His face against the glass entrance and His eyes grew large. Two young girls going outside to smoke swung the door suddenly, and in He fell into the mad sounds of pins crashing, pin ball games doinking, children yelling. It was loud. Bowling alley loud.
Lisa Kopinsky rolled her nine pound ball down the lane, crossing her fingers and praying to Jesus to make the pins fall down. Reverend Beesdan looked about the lanes and smiled: children of the Lord rejoicing in simple play! Aaron Toolin and Enrique Alvarez pumped quarters into the Claw Game, and squealed and yelled and protested.
Friday night at Pico Lanes, and soon the black lights would come on, and the balls would glow in luminescent colors, and rock music would fill their ears.
He heard the prayers, the callings. He spied the Children and the Good Reverend Beesdan. His eyes filled with tears; He stepped down to the lower level, and strode to the center lane, and walked as if on water to the center of the middle lane, some feet toward the pins, and then He slowly turned around. The black lights were born: the bowling balls became a mad carnival of colors, a vibrant jungle in a disco ball of light, and the music pulsed and the pins were the crashing of atoms and everywhere the Light and the Flashing and He walked unto the Lanes and strike upon strike and squeals of joy and He lifted His arms and The Sun Door began to open and only blackness poured forth. He paused, then found the world again: He spied a child in a t-shirt, and on the t-shirt was God on the Cross, and He screamed, “No! No!” and the pins were flying and the lights were lightning and storms in Hell and brimstone and poison and screams, screams, screams! “Wake up! Wake up!" He yelled above the din, above everything. "Wake up! This dream must end!”
The Los Angeles Times reported the tragic event as follows: apparently a gas line was the cause of a bizarre fire at the Pico Lanes, with most of the casualties occurring when the Friday night crowd panicked and bolted for the entrance doors as fire bellowed throught the lanes. An emergency triage had been established in the parking lot: bodies were covered with sheets, paramedics were working feverishly on tiny human forms, these broken marionettes, the children of laughter, the last hurrah of a dying world. The good Reverend stood in the lot and fell to his knees, his hands bleeding from the two fresh wounds above his wrists. His eyes were white fire, and then he was no more.
The night was the First Night: Two more to follow. Two more to go.
TUNE IN FOR CHAPTER FOUR OF DETECTIVE NEPTUNE IN “CHRIST, THE SCREAMING AVENGER”
Later tonight: LAZY SUSAN IS THE MACK!
Author's note: DSL troubles precluded me from posting last night and earlier today. Lo siento, lo siento...
CHAPTER FOUR: LAZY SUSAN IS THE MACK!
I waited for my brother, Lord of the Underworld, to take us to lunch. I have a soft spot in my stomach for lunch: sandwiches and soups and salads and iced tea…you know, the lunch munch bunch.
Lunch. Just say it and live it and love it. I wanted lunch so badly I could imagine going and eating some: yeah, my desire for lunch was really kicking in, big time. I was in the lunch zone and ready for grub. Not grubs, grub.
Hades appeared at the door and spoke:
“Someone took my wallet!”
“But what about lunch?” I asked pointedly, keeping on topic, keeping it real as strange, churlish children are fond of saying.
Haddy sighed. He can never tell if I am joking or not. That makes two or three of us.
“Come on, let’s go downstairs—I had it when I was talking to Demeter…” he said, and down into the detainee area we strode. I looked into the holding cells and asked why couldn’t we just let them go, why are all the gods—our contemporaries—still in lock-up?
“Because they’re suspects,” answered Haddy.
“What’s the crime?” I asked, just to pass the time until I would be eating lunch. Maybe a chicken salad sandwich, some iced tea…
“The crime of Spiritual Vagrancy, Loitering and De-mythification,” he muttered, then added, “Anyone here seen my wallet?”
Wotan shook his head really slow, like Lurch from the Addam’s Family. I liked the Addam’s family, almost as much as I liked lunch. Did Lurch like lunch? Yeah, my word, but I'm sure he did. Wotan looked at me and said, “Uhhhnghhh.” No wallet.
I got tired of the “who has my wallet game” and took it upon myself to YELL so everyone could hear me—remember, I can conjure waves and earthquakes (okay, I used to be able to) so I sure as heck can drum up my brother’s billfold. “WALLET: REVEAL THYSELF!” I screamed, and was promptly smothered with about twelve-thousand hands over my mouth. Twelve-thousand.
“Shh!!!” the hands exclaimed.
“Take your hands off…actually, some of you could put your hands…”
“Shh!!” the hands seemed to say a second time, confirming my suspicions about the first time. Talking hands. Ah-hah!
“What’s the big deal?” I said, though it was muffled by the multitudinous meat hooks on my face. I stopped struggling, and looked at the scene in front of me: A sea of gods parted, and there, in a fetal position in the last cell of the jail lay Vishnu, asleep, while his girlfriend, Lakshmi, slowly massaged his feet. She was beautiful, and I instantly wanted to offer her my feet as a gift, including as many of my toes as she could stand.
“What’s a nice avatar like you doing in a place like this,” I said, doing my best impression of a complete jackass.
She looked up with doleful eyes, put one finger to her lips, and said quietly, “Please to be shutting the fuck up.”
This was big stuff: I mean, I was quite the CEG (Chief Executive God) back in the day, but Vishnu? Vishnu dreams the world dream, baby--all of existence would vanish without him, and he performs this little trick while asleep and laying upon a coiled-up snake named Shesha. Sure enough, the little reptile lay underneath him on the floor of the cell—I could just make out his little tail, or head, or butt. But I didn’t get it yet: Vishnu dreams the world dream while floating in eternal waters. What was he doing here? We must be, gosh, five miles from the ocean!
Lakshmi continued to rub Vishnu’s feet. I leaned in to hear her speak: “Someone is trying to wake him up. Someone is trying to disturb him.”
I whispered back to her: “Would you like to go to lunch?” She rolled her eyes at me. She’s quite an eye-rolling gal, that one is.
“Why is someone trying to wake him up?” I asked, miming putting food into my mouth so others would get my hint about lunch. Did anyone get my hint? Did you?
“To end the manifested Universe and cancel the Cosmic Dance. He will awaken, the dream will end, we will all be gone, and what dreams He may conjure in his next round no one can say.”
“Keep rubbing his feet,” I said. “I have a plan” I didn’t really have a plan, but while she was speaking I was fumbling about in my pockets and I found Haddy’s wallet. Lunch was back on the table!
Saturday morning: gray clouds and cool air. The coastal fog envelops the western horizon, the great nothing of the sea. The streets of Santa Monica are quiet.
He walks east up Pico towards Lincoln. He walks but he does not see well: His eyes are failing. Each day is an hour on the cross. Each day is the torment. Each day is the sacrifice.
His wounds have begun to weep the sorrow of his blood, again as in an endless Passion Play. His head a halo of lacerations, He turns down Lincoln towards Rose Ave. The Rose is the flower, the beauty and the Thorn.
He must find the Romans. He staggered toward the new Golgotha.
I left the jail, and my brothers, to go and SURPRISE! get some lunch. I decided to tell Haddy about his wallet later on: good news ages like a fine, red wine. I think.
I walked down Culver to South Centinela, then north. I didn’t know where the heck I was, but I couldn’t go back and ask my brother: he might want his wallet, and that might affect my lunch, and then where would I be? Rose Avenue? I don't think so...
I walked briskly: no diners in sight, no fast food, nothing. Nervous about the possibility of missing out on lunch, I broke into a gallop until, quite unexpectedly, I glanced inside a storefront window as I ran by and saw it, the prize, the wonder, the greatest item ever called an item: She was everything and more. A Lazy Susan. Oh, Lazy Susan, you're not so lazy, you're just waiting for someone to come along and spin you, spin you, spin you…
I wrote a poem about a Lazy Susan more than fifty years ago:
The relish tray is in front of that guy
Across from me
But one spin of you, Sweet Sue
And the relish tray is in front of me!
I am Neptune!
Seriously, Lazy Susan is the Mack!
I walked into the store, my brother’s wallet in hand, and proceeded to buy the Lazy Susan. While handing the cashier the money I looked up and saw that it was my ex-wife staring back at me. My first thought was casually pornographic, but my second thought was flight. She spoke:
“Get a third thought yet?”
I tried to distract her by suffering a stroke, but she merely stood over my cringing form and grinned. Oh, she knew me. She knew me well.
“Hello, Mrs. Me. How have you been here thing going?” I asked, choking on a small chunk of chunk-style bile.
“Oh, you know, working in a thrift store, living the life. Are you still fucking that girl in Marina del Rey?”
There is no good answer to that last question. If I say ‘No’ that means that I was fucking that girl and if I say yes that means that I am fucking that girl. Women understand “Eternity” in a way a man never can: once put there by a Goddess’s anger you can never, ever get out. Ever.
Amphie (nickname, naturally) lifted up her foot and rested the heel of her shoe on my crotch. If I didn’t know better I was one non sequitur away from a penis lacerated by a stiletto-heeled Goddess. Just one away. Solamente uno.
I turned to look out the window, hoping that the world would end when I saw what appeared to be the Christ walking across the street, muttering to Himself, slamming his knuckles against a street sign.
“Hey, Amphie, look, its…uh, could you move your shoe? Thanks. Look, it’s Jesus of Nazareth.”
A sharp blow came down upon my head, and blackness followed, thick and dark and full of the helpless shadows of pure, uncut pain.
TUNE IN FOR CHAPTER FIVE OF DETECTIVE NEPTUNE IN CHRIST, THE SCREAMING AVENGER!
Tomorrow Night: HELL HATH NO FURY...NO, WAIT, YES IT DOES!
CHAPTER FIVE: HELL HATH NO FURY...NO, WAIT, YES IT DOES!
I was sitting quietly in a pew, listening to a man wearing a golden robe speak about eternity. There were maybe a dozen or so other parishioners in the church. Capuchin monkeys ran up to us, holding small metal cups that kachinkled with the sound of coins mating. On the back wall a grotesque Christ was frozen in suffering, at least until He began to struggle and writhe, at last breaking free and falling hard onto a marble floor. The priest did not look up, but signaled to an anteroom, where armed guards appeared: they ran up to Christ, threw Him back on the Cross, and pounded iron nails into His flesh. Christ lifted His head and began to open His mouth. The capuchin monkeys with the money cups giggled. I turned to a woman on my right—she put her fingers to her lips, urging me to look forward as she began to eat her own fingers. Looking back to the front I saw the Christ open His mouth with great effort, and heard Him let out a howl that welled up from the blackest hole of hell: He was screaming and screaming and screaming, “God! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” until the ceiling of the church collapsed, leaving us covered in ruins. A black sun spit ivory seeds like fireworks as a pollock sat on my shoulder and whispered into my ear: “Whatever happened to lunch?” I woke up. My head hurt, and I was still hungry. Very much so.
He walked again in the world, on His mission, on His quest. He scanned the local businesses: a nail salon, a T-shirt shop, a taco stand…He moved like the dead. The sun was cooking the day into carbon, the air balked, but He kept on walking. A small market, a guitar shop—wait--it had a recording studio in the back. He looked at a display guitar, and heard an amp tweaking radiant fuzz from the rear of the store. He walked into the building, His eyes on fire, His mouth forming a silent scream. A Man with Long Hair greeted Him.
“May I help you?”
And the screaming began.
She towered over me, Amphitrite in all her thrift store glory. My head felt like a ceramic bowl made out of broken noses. My eyesight was blurry, and my breath was not so bad, really, considering.
“Put that thing down,” she said over my bleeding head. “What are you, an asshole?”
“Don’t answer that,” I offered, sensing that someone was behind me. “She’ll only argue the point.”
Behind me, holding a Club wheel-locking device, stood Artemis, resplendent in her volleyball bathing suit, squinting at me like a badger. “Hey there, pigfucker!” she exclaimed.
It appears my ex-wife was shacking up with The Goddess of the Wood, who took my visit a little too personally.
“Just keep that thing away from my Lazy Susan,” I mumbled as I sat up. “Next time, instead of hitting a customer, consider jamming your head into a hydraulic press.”
Artemis smiled. Her smile gave me the willies, willies I would have gladly given back.
I smiled, and reached out for my ex-wife’s hand. She extended her reach, then struck me on the top of my head with a baseball bat. Hell hath no fury like a…no, wait, yes it does. Hell indeed hath a fury. It was sometimes a furry fury, but that's another story. For another time. Not now. Nope.
My head felt like porous gravel placed in a blender and set on chop-chop. I know these girls were having their fun, but enough was enough. I grabbed the wheel-locking-post-modern trident and struck the ground of the store, sending out a shock-wave and exciting the old Newport-Inglewood fault to the tune of a 5.7 earthquake. You have to show these women what’s what, these women with axes to grind and time to grind them.
I still hadn’t had lunch, and my sense of humor was now doing hard time. I really don’t care that my ex has taken up with a humorless virgin goddess. Good luck to her, says I. However, I do care that Amphitrite has probably bitched about me ceaselessly, and her girlfriend most decidedly had taken the bait. At least I told myself this just before another blow to my head sent me face down on the cement floor. I reached for the trident and struck once again, sending out a 6.3 jolt along a previously unknown, deeply submerged Santa Monica/Boyle Heights fault. The girls fell over a display. Fuck ‘em. Southern California could crack like a cheap bicycle seat, for all I cared.
Blood trickled down my face. Actually, my head trickled down my face as well. I decided I needed to get out of this store. China and other ceramics were strewn everywhere, and Amphitrite was doubled over on a display case: she hates my earthquakes due to her motion sickness. Heh-heh. I kept one eye on Artemis, who was still Goddess of the Hunting over by the Hawaiian shirts rack. I started to black out once more after Artemis picked up an end table and bludgeoned my skull again and again. "What's your goddamn point?" I cried as lightning bolts shot out my eyes.
Blackness surrounded me, but I had just enough of the old Neptune mojo left to spike the floor one more time, sending shock waves to the edges of the Pacific Tectonic Plate. Their eyes wide, Amphitrite and Artemis fell in a heap as the store shook in a violent convulsion, the ground splitting, the floor rocking, the windows bulging and retracting. I had to get the hell out of here. I had to go get lunch. And somehow, I suspected, I had to go stop that Jesus look-alike who just drove by in a van with a huge speaker on the roof, a speaker that broadcast a searing scream of hopeless fury.
He drove the New Word Van as the road buckled, the rash of earthquakes opening vast fissures in the asphalt. Methane fires erupted on the sidewalks, and light standards vibrated like flames. He drove into the night of the Second Day, the Second Hour of the Cross, the Agony of the Old Way ripping apart the Hope of the New. Who wants a taste of Daddy? Who wants this kiss of Death?
Helicopters darted in the sky. Looters ran wild in the streets as earthquake upon earthquake broke the city into pieces. Fires burned without restraint, and grown men dropped to their knees in the street, asking God to take them into Heaven. The sun vanished like a felon in hell, and light denied all alibis. He shuddered in agony as he drove the van to kill the Sleep, and the Second Night was the Second Hour on the Cross. One more hour, and one more fool.
Wake up! Wake up! The End of the Dream is come!
Tune in for Chapter Six of CHRIST, THE SCREAMING AVENGER!
Come back tomorrow for the Good Friday Special: FOR IN THAT SLEEP OF DEATH WHAT DREAMS MAY COME!
CHAPTER SIX: FOR IN THAT SLEEP OF DEATH WHAT DREAMS MAY COME!
I want to sleep the way I imagine normal people might sleep—heavy and gone and assuaged and caressed with magical sleep when the night is moist with its certainty, its dominion. I want to lay my head on a pillow and vanish into a mist of myself, the weight of gravity bearing me to the floor of the Universe, the bed of everything, the sleep of reason, the land of dreams. They don’t even have to be sweet dreams, or lusty or hopeful: just dreams that construct a perfection of a vanishing release would be nice. I want…
I opened my eyes and was glad I did. Artemis had dragged her scrawny ass toward the front door, looking, I think, to smack me again. Los Angeles’ west side was on fire, it was flames and fissures and fire in the hole, in every hole as embers climbed into the darkening skies. I pulled myself along the floor toward the front entrance, with my Club Trident in my right hand and my left reaching back to fend off the Goddess of the Hunt. I did not know where my ex-wife was. It was a small shop, but she could be under any number of things: the collapsed roof, the clothing racks, whatever. I still wanted lunch: it had been close to two days since I last had eaten in Venice. It seemed like an eternity. This is all wrong on so many levels.
I made it to the door and stood up: outside in perfect silence was a little boy staring at me, the one who had urged me up from the sand at the beach some two days before. He pointed to the sky: holes were beginning to appear, small holes at first, like tiny rips in a cloth, then expanding, evolving, widening. Holes and whorling mists of broken clouds in a universe that was fast becoming one giant upside down toilet bowl. I turned back to ask the boy what he knew about the crazy sky, but the boy was gone.
Artemis made one more attempt at my head—she held up a replica of the Maltese Falcon, a black icon from a Burbank Studio promotion, and swung it hard, missing me and striking herself in her cheek, knocking herself backwards. What a great bird! Artemis looked up at me and passed out. I shoved the door against her prone body, wedging her against the wall as I slipped outside into the chaos of the City of Angels. That last earthquake must have been a big one--shit was jumbled up everywhere. This reminded me how hungry I was. I considered making myself a little something, maybe a sandwich or some cracker and cheese…whatever. Wouldn't you?
I figured my brother, Hades, would be pissed at me, which was his right. After all, I had taken his wallet and gone earthquake crazy in L.A., but forgive and forget, that’s what I say. I looked back down South Centinela and saw the back of a van making its way slowly past the rubble and methane fires on the street. It was the van I saw Jesus driving. Maybe he knew of a good, solid, earthquake-proof restaurant: we could have lunch, like His father and I used to do in the old days. I wiped the broken glass from my face and headed after the van. If He had cash maybe He would pop for lunch and I would be able to give Haddy his wallet back without any hard feelings. Brothers can be so petty.
I looked up at the blackened, pixilated sky as Los Angeles burned. Oh, well.
This time the music would be His. This time the notes would be like sulfur, the lyrics like balm, the Rapture made into a concert, the concert made for a God, the God asleep, dreaming the World Dream: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come must give us pause, but no pause comes.
The Third Hour on the Cross, the last awful hollows, the body in agony, the soul bereft, the Hour and Eternity and Life and Death and Here It Comes because It’s Always Here…
He steered the van, eyeing in the rear view mirror the impressive speaker system inside, a mobile concert waiting for an audience, a release from the gift of the Martyr, termination and release and nothing.
Shaking, He lifts the CD and puts it in the slot: the amplified cries of the One, shaking His fist, shaking His arms, wild and sweating and on His final quest. Take me off the cross. Take me off the cross. Take me off the cross.
The van moved up South Centinela and headed for the Pacific Area Jail, where on the floor, curled up, Vishnu held the key. Wake up, little dreamer. Wake up, Oh Uncreated One. Wake up and end the dream. Take me off the cross. Take me…
The van careened along, striking two cars at the intersection of West Washington. There were no police. Three people staggered out, saw Jesus, and staggered away. The city was on fire. Jesus screamed and screamed and screamed, and put the CD in the slot. Jesus had His voice caught in the binary grooves of a plastic disc, a disc that, played loud enough, would end the dream, and pain would be gone forever. Come off of the cross, dear Jesus. We put you there and keep you there and you will never be free, unless You End the Dream.
He switched the dial, and turned up the volume, just another guy in a van listening to loud music while the city lay in ruins and flames licked at the sky. The last hour on the Cross was going to be the Last Hour, period. Was there no mercy but the mothering of total annhilation?
He reached His hand to the volume button and watched the numbers go up: 8, 9, 10…11, 15, 21, 29…35, 40, 44…when a messiah screams, people listen. He drove towards the jail, the speakers blaring His soul, His agony. He was come with the vengeance of the Lord, the retribution of the wronged.
Vishnu stirred on the cold, hard floor of the Pacific Area Jail. Jesus was indeed going to be dropping by, and things were going to get very loud.
I looked up after the van but it was too fast. I was not going to be able to catch up to it. Man I was hungry. I held aloft my trident and knew what I had to do: I would go back to the jail. Maybe they would be serving lunch. I was really hungry, and even though I think Jesus is up to something it doesn't mean I don't eat. Check the contract, look at the fine print. Neptune eats, damn you! Neptune eats!
Man I was hungry. I headed back for the jail: it has kitchens and it has food. Not great food, but food. Food for me.
I looked up as I walked, and wondered about the holes in the sky. They were big. And they were getting bigger. And the fires were burning, flames shooting up like dragons on meth. The whole city was in chaos.
Damn, but I was hungry.
Tune in tomorrow night for the final episode of CHRIST, THE SCREAMING AVENGER!
Chapter Seven: I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR. DEMILLE!
CHAPTER SEVEN: I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR. DEMILLE!
Clutching my Lazy Susan to my chest, I made my way across Centinela to the Pacific Area Jail. It was slow going as the sidewalks had buckled and vaulted, the road was bubbling and swallowing cars and people. I stopped to help a woman slumped in front of a shoe store. I picked her up and set her on her feet, but she just fell over again. She was dead. Blood trickled from both of her ears. It was as if she had been screamed at to death. Around her neck was a small, delicate necklace with a crucifix on it, and the face of the savior was contorted beyond belief. That must have hurt something fierce.
I covered the woman with some shoe boxes and continued on toward the jail. Behind me: no sign of Amphitrite or Artemis. Above me the sky was tearing like a wet paper towel, and behind it was a gathering void, so deep and oppressive and hollow my chest convulsed looking at it. Man I was hungry.
I could just hear the screaming ahead, coming from the jail. If that son of a bitch Jesus woke up Vishnu I was never going to get to eat, not lunch, not dinner, not breakfast, inbetween meals snacks, that fourth meal I've been hearing about. Never going to get to eat again. Not ever. That just sucks so hard I could punch a baby.
My legs were killing me but I began to run. I’m coming, Jesus, you son of a bitch. I’m coming!
THE THREE HEADED GOD CAME DOWN AND UP AND ACROSS. THE THREE HEADED GOD OF ANCIENT DAYS WAS THUS COME. THE THREE HEADED GOD: YAHWEH/GOD/ALLAH DESCENDED, ASCENDED, MANIFESTED, APPEARED, ARRIVED. THE THREE HEADED GOD IN THE VOID AND OUT, THE LOWING OF ATOMS, THE FLAMING BUSH, THE GOLDEN HEART, THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME. THE THREE HEADED GOD LIT THE SKY ABOVE BURBANK, AND BELLOWED AND MADE QUAKE ALL HOPE AND BANISHED ALL REASON, UNTIL A MRS. VELMA STUBBLEFIELD APPEARED BELOW THEM: SHE STOOD IN HER BACKYARD AND SHOOK HER FIST AT THE THREE HEADS OF MONOTHEISM AND SAID “THINGS ARE BAD ENOUGH AROUND HERE, ARE YOU IDIOTS SURE YOU WANT TO WASTE YOUR TIME IN BURBANK?” AND LO, THEY REALIZED THAT THEY DIDN’T NEED TO BE IN BURBANK, THEY NEEDED TO GO OVER TO THE VENICE AREA. IT WAS A MIRACLE. ALL PRAISE THE ONE THREE HEADED GOD.
The screaming, the screaming of the damned, not from hell but from the messiah, from the bringer of light, eternally suffering on the Cross, the center of flesh and spirit at war with the impenetrable mystery, the raw exposed nerve of God. Screaming, screaming to the Council of Bishops, the architects of the tortured Christ, the supplication of fallen man unto an image of destruction and violent hatred. For two thousand years the Followers of the Stories of Christ had kept the Messiah on the World Tree, hung there with nails forged in hatred and malice, the spite whose gift is hopeless agony. It was time to end this nightmare. It was time to vanish the dream.
The van pulled up in front of the jail. Christ gasped for air. The sky became black as the Three Headed God of the Middle East peered as One upon the land. Christ threw his head in fury and cranked the van’s stereo. Nothing came out. The CD was upside down.
Goddamnit, said the Christ. Goddamnit!
At the jail, the Various Gods were being sucked out of their cells and into The Nothingness by a wormhole. Tammuz: gone. Mithra: adieu. Queztacoatl: adios amigo. Athena, Persephone, Aphrodite: gone, gone, gone. The fabric of the universe was unraveling. I was close to the jail now and looked anxiously behind me, but did not see my ex-wife nor her girl-friend. That was good because I lost the receipt to the Lazy Susan and if they wanted to start some more shit I was at a disadvantage. They both knew full well I had purchased my little Suzy legitimately, but without a receipt they could really make trouble for me. Petty people. Petty gods.
Across the globe, world leaders and world citizens watched the sky, the land, the oceans being torn apart: all were powerless, speechless, in shock. Who do you call when the world is ending? My cell phone rang. Funny, I don’t have a cell phone. I answered anyway: it was my brother, Hades.
“Where are you?”
“Well,” he said, “come on inside.”
“The jail,” he said.
“I have your wallet,” I offered.
“Never mind the wallet. Get in here before the world ends!”
“Are you sure you’re not mad about the wallet?” I asked. “I mean, I know the world’s ending, but brothers can sometimes hold grudges and…oh, shit. Here comes my ex and her monkey bitch. I’m coming in, I’m coming in…”
I ran inside the jail. Everything was chaos. An enormous black hole was sucking the last of the gods into the void. Hades looked at me with exasperation as he hung on to an exposed joist, his legs flying up in the air in front of him. The ceilings had vanished and the sky was visible. The bare bones of the building lay naked like a naked corpse-style building laid bare. Yeah, it was that bare naked. Vishnu, unmoved by the ruckus, lay asleep in the last cell, but began every so slowly to turn over as Lakshmi cried and moaned. Women! What is it with all the crying? Sheesh.
What was needed now was action. And action is what I am all about: I made for the cafeteria. I’m not that choosy when it comes to lunch, maybe a little sandwich, some fruit, a piece of pie for desert. I’m low-maintenance. If there’s espresso, that’s nice too.
THE THREE HEADED GOD OF THE MIDDLE EAST: YAHWEH, GOD, ALLAH, LOOKED DOWN INTO THE JAIL, OR WHAT WAS LEFT OF IT. IT LOOKED DOWN AND GIGGLED, WHICH ANGERED LAKSHMI. SHE WAVED AT THEM SEDUCTIVELY, AND THEY DESCENDED, UNTIL THEY WERE CLOSE ENOUGH TO TOUCH INAPPROPRIATELY. SHE SMILED AND REACHED OUT TO THEM AND THEN WITHDREW, AND DOWN THEY FELL INTO THE VORTEX OF THE WHORLING VOID. DOWN THEY FELL, AND WERE NO MORE. THAT DENOUEMENT WASN’T NEARLY AS HARD AS SOME FOLKS HAD EXPECTED IT WOULD BE, WHAT WITH THE THREE HEADED GOD BEING SUCH A PROFOUND CONSTRUCT, BUT THERE IT IS.
I rummaged in the cafeteria, but things were disappearing faster than I could make them into lunch. As soon as I put margarine on my bread the bread would vanish into one of the space/time lesions that were popping up everywhere, not to mention that really big vortex in the main hall. I managed to find some cottage cheese, but it smelled a bit off. Don’t you just hate that? All of the manifested world vanishing, and the last bit of cottage cheese has that skunky aftertaste that stays in your mouth and it's just, well, sad really. I looked into the parking lot, not with x-ray eyes but because all the walls were gone, and spied crazy Jesus staring at the jail. Uh-oh. He had that I'm going to drive my van into the jail and wake up Vishnu and end the Universe look on his face that I so very much dread.
The last minute of the third hour on the cross. No release, no Balm in Gilead--just frozen shock, just agony on acid, agony beyond what a man can endure, agony that filled the messiah with the last awful truth of humanity, the truth of suffering: I come to release you from agony, and instead it is pure agony that I become. The CD lay on the floor, shattered, done. The recorded voice of the screaming Christ was no more. Jesus looked up and stared at the jail: the last minute of the sacrifice, the last measure of the heart of God, the last of the last. He pressed down on the gas: time to wake up Vishnu. Time to end the suffering for all time, for all worlds, for all life. He opened wide his jaws and formed His Final Bellowing Howl: the tires spun and smoke poured out and the van raced into the jail as the Christ screamed and screamed and screamed…
Back in the cafeteria I was lucky to find some tuna fish and crackers. Now I had to find a can opener: there was a big opener attached to a cutting counter thingie, but it looked too big to be of use. I gave it a go though: lunch is lunch, as somebody used to say. I heard a terrible screaming as I rotated the can: for a second I thought the can was screaming. That would be horrible! Imagine living in a world where cans screamed when you opened them! It would probably mean the end of an entire industry. The upside is you could sit in your living room and watch a ball game and when you heard ghastly screaming coming from the kitchen you'd know lunch was on the way.
It is coming. I am the way. The nails are flying, the boards are shattering, time is gone, the great wall of death is built upon my bones, and the scream is the cry of perfect agony. I am come. I am come. I am come.
I could see that Jesus was driving through the jail, or what was left of it. He looked really intense, you know? Really intense. I was going to look for some mayonnaise when it occurred to me he was going to kill Vishnu if he wasn’t stopped. It also occurred to me that the mayonnaise I found wasn’t a brand name, which is very disappointing. I know that these jails have tight budgets, but come on. I grabbed the jar and made for Vishnu’s cell. Oh my god: I almost forgot the crackers!
The old gods knew something. They knew the mask was the key, for what sounded through was beyond all measure. The old gods were the stuff of dreams. I was the stuff of the dreamer. I was the Lord thy God made Flesh. Ahhh! Ahhhh!!!
One of the things about structures are the foundations and the way the walls are erected. Often one sees the “cross” theme as boards intersect at ninety degree angles. It is perfectly natural to have these cross beams and support positions. Having hustled down the remains of a hall, I set the crackers on an exposed beam as Jesus drove straight at Vishnu’s cell. I guess you could forgive Jesus for not thinking about putting his seat belt on. Or you could ask God to forgive Him for not putting on His seat belt. Address the Deity Seat Belt issue as best befits your own personal belief system.
The van rocketed flush into a concrete support, and Jesus flew out the front window spread eagle, screaming like a banshee. Again, this was a seat belt issue. Sigh. His body was flung onto an exposed cross section of beams, and He had done to Himself what He hated humanity for: He was back on the Cross and Looking Down On Eternity. I ran over to him: He lifted His bloodied head, looked at Vishnu stirring in his cell, raised an eyebrow and said these final words: ”I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” After all he had been through he still managed to make a little joke. That guy had some class, but I was so caught off guard I didn’t notice my ex-wife and Artemis standing over Vishnu, staring at me, their ire the wild fire at the end of desire.
I picked up the Lazy Susan and said I had lost the receipt, but they weren’t buying it. They said to hand it over or pay the price. I had already paid the damn price, even if it was with my brother’s cash! But I didn’t care anymore. I learned a long time ago that principles are something for losers with principles.
“You want the Lazy Susan? You got it!” I tossed it over, but my arm struck the lower beam of Christ’s new Cross, thus altering the flight and sending it toward…Vishnu’s head. I think it hit him on his temple. Gongggg! Oh, the irony. Whee. The last thing I remember is thinking, “Uh-oh” and “I never got any desert” which was two things, actually. Imagine that.
I awoke face down at water’s edge, the way I always do. I never know what the job is, but the job will come to me. It always does.
Special thanks to the Flying Spaghetti Monster for not spilling sauce all over this tale of madness, suffering and yet more madness and suffering.
Alright, I'm outta here...