Tag Archives: short story

Tits on Rattlesnakes: Oedipus and the chase for checkered demonoids in Mexico

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by Guy Walker

As usual, it fell apart all too quickly. Stuck in Mexico, having spent the last of my money on a cowboy hat and a bottle of tequila wrapped in a cow’s hide and hoof, my best friend stabbed four times at the strip club, and now in the hospital. And here we are, off a dirt road somewhere, in an abandoned lot next to a birthday party, the waves crashing beyond the cliffs, the whole love-maddened spectacle not that far off anymore. This thin little veil, where the deranged landscape meets the ocean, is the best place on earth. It’s a marvelously somber and defiant strip of world, a place where we could all die laughing. Bring me here. Let the dogs take me. Let everything be a desert again. All that water smashing against the earth, the little pebbles rolling down again and again, and the tide swelling up once more, about to swallow everything.

I used to travel quite a bit when I was younger. But I got a serious case of staph infection on my penis when farming in Thailand, and almost had to have it cut off. And I nearly died sailing in a storm in Norway. So I’ve stayed put in Los Angeles for a couple years now, not getting staph, running along the auto-iterative treadmill of work and sleep and driving, drinking lattes, masturbating into socks, watching Youtube videos of bears attacking eagles, surfing at sunrise or sunset, and all the quotidian lethargy of making the time pass smoothly, that which we call ‘hobbies’. Hobbies are the vital and obvious condiments of our peasantry that make life tolerable. There are those who start families, which Adorno calls ‘the fatal germ-cell of society’; and although families still serve as a perfectly acceptable and effective way to help pass the many years we have left plodding around these parts, starting a family today, in the epoch of new-age fascism and fuckery, is no longer a physiological necessity, but more of a nostalgic pastime, like knitting and laughter. Baudrillard postured our postmodern condition as a fascination with neutral, indifferent forms. We are passionate about the luster of nihilism, the methodological realism of our day to day, everything slowly passing away into this beautiful ‘era of involuntary transparency.’ Everyone says humans are obsessed with fame, that our vainglorious motivations are trite and insecure, but the truth is we are all trying to vanish. Every minute of the day we’re yearning to disappear behind the high waves, lost in the fields, the journeywork of stars reaching from end to end, ablaze all around, lost in the bottle, in the smoke and glamour of toxicity, in Mexico, off a dirt road where only an old lady stares with her chickens.

The night before I left, the cops killed another kid, leaving him outside an after-hours Korean club, the stink of gun smoke and a late-night donut shop wafting down Hollywood Boulevard, and a Korean lady whimpering at her storefront. I rolled myself a cigarette and walked passed the neon karaoke bar, next to the burlesque bar, next to the store selling gold Byzantine costumes; two of the dancers from the burlesque place were hurrying along, wrapped in their furs, their long blonde legs fastened in eight inch heels, their cosmopolitan laughter echoing down the quiet side streets. A homeless man limped down the sidewalk, wrapped in a soiled baby blanket, texting on his iPhone. A dog with matted fur sniffed an escort magazine dispensary, then lifted one gaunt quivering leg and peed on it. I exhaled a huge cloud of smoke. It was going to rain tonight. You could already see it coming.

I got into my car and drove down to Monte Carlo’s. Only one other person there, Gregory, the old Hell’s Angel who’s always there, wearing his Santa Anita racehorse hat, hunched over his buffet of beer, whiskey, water, and a great pile of peanut shells. He slowly creaked his neck around to identify me, and barely nodded in his wasted saloon.

“The cowboy’s back!” he snarled at me. “Where the pretty lady?”

“I’ll have a whiskey on ice,” I asked to bartender, but she was cutting up some chicken on a blue china plate for her toddler, and didn’t hear me.

“I asked you a question cowboy!” Gregory was permanently hunched over the counter. He would die here, churlish and ugly. “There didn’t used to be so many goddamn white boys around here, especially you kids strolling in here in your cowboy boots. My family has a hundred years in these parts, did you know that? And they actually ranched, boy!”

“I don’t really care about your family’s ranching habits. You have a temper tantrum about what shoes somebody wears  .  .  .  A whiskey please,” I asked the bartender again, a little filipino lady who barely spoke any english. “Besides, I’ve worked on ranches, and my grandparents grew up here. And I don’t spend my last tragic days at the track, screaming at the horses, spit flying everywhere like a rabid animal. You’re drunk Greg. Don’t yell at me because your woman left you.”

“TITS ON RATTLESNAKES!! I’ll eat the porcupine faster than you, you goddamn kook!” his eyes popped out of his head, veins bulging from his short little determined neck. “Strolling in here in your hawaiian shirt like this, your hair like a jamboree faggot. I would snake you every fucking time in the water before you had time to stand up!”

His teeth were stained from years of grotesque occupation. His face was burned and tanned, layer upon layer, after so many endless years of cursing at his betted horse, sick with alcohol, like a longtime Vegas veteran who went to die in the sun. You always see the racehorse guys in bars alone, licking their edges of denial, icing their cursory failures again and again. The round little man just challenged me to a paltry surf contest, a hodad puffing for a duel, floundering in his glory days. “I’m leaving tomorrow. But I’ll gladly meet you in the water next week,” I responded.

“No I don’t think so pal! That’s not how this works. We don’t go meet there, we’ll just find each other there when we find each other there.”

I was done. I paid for my whiskey, pulled out a large bar of dark chocolate, and went over to the bar’s computer screen to play a brain game. You stare at two nearly identical pictures, side by side, of a naked porno man or woman, and try to find the five or six subtle differences before the timer runs out. It’s very fun. Maybe a strand of her hair curls differently. Maybe there’s a small palm tree in the background of the left one. Maybe his foreskin is uncut in the right one. I shoved some quarters into the jukebox and queued a bunch of Waylon Jennings just to stab Gregory a little deeper, and racked the billiard balls on the old mangled pool table, its faded light green cloth ripped at the ends, and a small marionette skeleton hanging on the wall. I chalked up and broke up the balls with a loud crack that shook Gregory’s head right up. It was beginning to rain outside, at first lightly, the utopian wash of headlights reflecting off the wet streets, the splash of tires driving through puddles, thousands of young single women rushing to their windowsills in their pajamas, holding a mug of steaming chai tea with both hands, pondering their existence, still hopeful that life can be like a Godard film. Maybe we all wish the same. The rain is our favorite spurious muse. I finished my whiskey and walked out of there, leaving the billiard balls all spread out, leaving Gregory crushing his peanut shells, and went for another walk. I popped my jacket collar, stuffed my hands in my pockets, and smoked a cigarette from the corner of my mouth, the way Clint Eastwood did in the spaghetti westerns.

The rain strengthened into a loud melanoid dramaturgy, momentarily ending our three years of drought, washing out the gutters and storm drains from all their built-up pigeon shit and oil and cigarette butts, torrents of filth headed for the oceans. A friend of a friend died a few years back surfing at Third Point, Malibu, with a cut in his foot after a big rain like this one. Los Angeles is a stink of perversity, a fetid vesicle with a $400 hat. I walked passed a storm drain and saw a live raccoon wash down the river, scrambling at the concrete walls, unable to cling on to anything. Women and men scurrying into their doorways like cockroaches. The perfumes of vice and revelry all washing away, the miasmic haze will blush blue-green in the morning. I came back to my car, and a leak was beginning through my sunroof, dripping on my blanket of rabbit furs that my dad sewed together as a boy scout. I headed home, roaring down the 101 in my old pearl-colored Mercedes-Benz at ninety miles an hour, the diesel chewing through the concrete night, the rain flooding the windshield faster than I could wipe it away, water now constantly streaming through my sunroof, Herbie Hancock as loud as he could go, barely making it over the engine. Another lone freeway vampire passed me, his bright red mustang rubbing his dick behind tinted windows. I kicked the gas as hard as I could, the whole car beginning to rattle, and realized I wasn’t going to die for the phantom racer, and so I cooled it off. I exited at De Soto, and someone’s blinding headlights came up behind me, and it’s a customary gesture to flip off the greasy offender behind you by raising your finger in front of your rearview mirror where they will certainly see. I stopped at the red light at the bottom of the offramp, and a rusty dented F-250 pulled up next to me, with his window down, another soiled degenerate who’s father left him as a child. “FUCK YOU CUNT!!” he screamed, wild-eyed, spitting on my car, his German Shepard barking and spitting violently halfway out the window. This city is so desperately mad. Locked and safely belted in our metal carriages, cursing at the world, hernias almost erupting, white saliva pooling in the corners of our mouths. I rolled down my passenger window. “EAT MY SHIT YOU FAGGOT!!!” I screamed back, certain that would get him. “Pull over, let’s work this out on the street!!” he yelled again. The whole despondent brutish noumena of our grunts and farts will break free one day. The Democritean flash of science will save us. Why are we so mad? Where are our tender women to ease the shattering despair? Let us just run in the canyons, drenched in the warm rain, drinking a gallon of wine, wrapped in a beautiful woman. I got out of my car right there, and walked around to the truck, but he skidded away, screaming a chorus of ‘fuck you’s’ behind him. I went home, drank a glass of water from the tap, watered my orchids, and went to sleep with my kitten curled under my neck, purring loudly against the rain.

Getting out of Los Angeles always feels like a miracle. It’s a last minute escape, running away from the coming election, from cops in body armor, from bad ecstasy, from fedoras, from the encroaching white race and their eight-million-page flipbook of airbrushed headshots. Getting out of the U.S. is even that much more remarkable. From the troglodytic buffoonery of guns and muffin tops and light beer. Or as Sarah Palin described the smooth-bottomed penetralia of good Americans when she endorsed Donald Trump in Iowa: the “right-wingin’ bitter-clingin’ proud-clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion  .  .  .  and our Constitution.”

I didn’t know what a bitter-clingin’ proud-clinger was, but she was grinning puckishly when she said it, shaking her fist at the same time, so it must have been good. At the event, she spoke ravenously about her God, eventually throwing both hands up in the air, and rolling her eyes back so just the whites could be seen, and began speaking in tongues, shaking violently. The crowd cheered. “I like poodles!!” one lady in a woolen turtleneck with the sleeves cut off screamed. “I ate my entire breakfast!” another man hollered, lifting up his shirt to show Trump his pink porcine belly. After Palin finished shaking, she waved and thanked the crowd normally, and Trump returned to the podium. “THANK YOUUUU IOWAIANS!! Cat emoji, lmfao, We Can Make America Great Again! Poop with smiley face emoji, laughing crying emoj. Mexicans are dirty, and so can you!” The crowd went nuts, seizuring and foaming at the mouth, some of the women fainting and then being dragged away into cold isolated cells, the blue florescent lights flickering absurdly.

I knew I had to get out for a while. Mexico was the fastest and easiest from here. For one, I wanted to verify if everybody was a rapist and a criminal there, as Trump had asserted before. For another, there is good surf and not too many people  .  .  .  maybe a stray dog sniffing around the tide pools, maybe a boy selling cheap tequila  .  .  .  but not the smutty glazed pungency of our cities. There’s a wild innocence to Mexico  .  .  .  yes, it has the cartel, and yes, it’s police will take your money, but at least it’s corruption is honest. The United States has bankers and weapons manufacturers who rob trillions from the American people, who steal old ladies’ retirement funds and blow up foreign hospitals so they can snort cocaine from a stripper’s asshole. They are somewhat rotten and prudish about it all, like wearing silk-lined leather opera gloves when they throw a dog shit at your chest. The Mexican cartels and police are at least upfront and reliable about their larceny. They don’t hide behind a veneer of exceptionalism. They don’t wave a flag when protesting at a bird sanctuary, asking their supporters to send them free snacks. They just put a gun to your head and ask you for your money.

I left my house in the morning. The scaturient air was bright and delicate, and the clouds were pushing themselves out of the way. From my patio, up in the hills, overlooking the sodden corpses of our buildings and neighborhoods, a hawk dropped from a tree, plummeting to the ground, to some unsuspecting rodent, his whiskers twitching in the cool morning air, the hawk eventually disappearing behind the next hill. The vines and flowers weighed down in the garden, morning robins bathing in the two bird baths we have next to spreading rosemary and poppies and marijuana plants. My landlord, Sal, a stout Falstaffian man who looks more like Danny DeVito, was already on the roof, drinking a beer while cleaning out the gutters, his little legs hanging over the edge.

“I’m gonna FUCK YOU UP, man!! Ha! ha! ha!” Sal laughed. “I’ll see you later. Hey WYATT! Take me with you! I don’t have a passport though  .  .  .  maybe you can just wrap me in a blanket and tie me to the roof.”

“Ha! ha! ha! I wish. I’ll see you in a week or so. You’re good to take care of Huckleberry? I left food in the closet!”

“Sure ma-an! We’re gonna miss you.” There are two other men who live there, both divorced, both alcoholics. But Sal gardens all day during his days home, stumbling out of his forest of vines and succulents, high on Vicodins and cocaine, his hands and polo shirt covered in wet earth. He’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met.

I ran down to my car, strapped two boards on the roof, and soaked up as much water from the back seat with a towel, wringing it out on the street. There was a bottle and a half of whiskey left, half an ounce of mushrooms, and a vile of GHB Sal had given me earlier, and I was meeting Axel and Raul down in Baja, at a bungalow that Axel had rented for a week. He was a trust fund kid who was always smiling about something, who voted for Mitt Romney four years ago only because he liked the sound of his name, who could have been a world-class rock climber if he stuck with it. He had been down there for a couple days already.

I howled down the freeway, rolling down my passenger window as far as it would go, as it was the only window left that sort of worked, the cool coruscating air flooding the inside, a bath of religion and samphire pouring over everything. I stopped at San Onofre to surf alone once more. Surfers are like dogs who will chase a ball again and again, returning loyally to receive a few more seconds of their excitement. A squadron of pelicans flew by, edging just in front of a wave, the tips of their wings almost skimming the surface, completely poised. We can’t fly, so we surf. I pulled in, and everything was clean and handsome again.

……..

……..

I continued to Mexico, arriving late at night, meeting Axel and Raul at some strip club, the gross peeling linoleum wallpaper touching you as you walked by. I ate a handful of mushrooms in the bathroom, drank half the flask of whiskey, and went out and ordered a beer.

Cowboys, or old men with cowboy hats, crowded their corners against the walls, hunched over their glasses of tequila, occasionally looking up at the stripper on the stage as she humped the squalid air, or stuck her ass out, pointing it at all the drunken nodding men like her asshole was shooting an invisible laser. The good strippers do exactly that: the crease in their panties is some sort of hypnotic beam, some sort of vaguely nostalgic origin; like staring at the womb from which we came. We can’t turn away.

The other strippers strutted around the floor in their high heels, stopping at a man’s table every now and then, shoving the man’s knees between her legs, rubbing it against her pussy, trying to make a dollar for a feel. There wasn’t a bill on the stage, so I threw a dollar out of sympathy. The poor fat woman strutted awkwardly in her stilettos, her enormous tits weighing under all that gravity, those darkened nipples gnawed on by however many children she had waiting back at home. She couldn’t even lift herself onto the pole, couldn’t spin or twirl like the young scarlet dancers I occasionally visit on the Sunset strip—she just thrusted about, shoving her artless soporific pirouette around and around, all that neon light flashing against her sweat. Night after night she came here to fuck the air. Night after night she pressed her ass against the pole, rubbed her tits together in some sort of swollen massage of despair, hoping to feed her children, as men sat silently in their dark corners, their heads nodding softly as the night pushed on.

No one sat in front. Just one man, his head collapsed on the little round table, his hand still gripped to a bottle of tequila, completely gone. The somber Mexican melodies rolling softly on, the bartender filling another glass, the foam rolling over the rim, and she wiping off the nozzle with a sullied rag, rubbing it down more than necessary. The stripper laid on the ground, spread her legs, and began rolling around, from corner to corner like a human roller, the blot of period stain in the middle of her panties growing larger and larger. No one noticed it at first. The spot grew to the size of a quarter, then a pepperoni. She was on all fours, crawling around from one end to the other in the most degrading human frolic, the most starless display of adventure, the Freudian phenomenology of prurient jouissance and ecstasy and motherhood in one regaling lunge, like a wasted overgrown Eden, everything bright and poisonous. How did we get here? More than that, what are we still doing here? This depraved circus hoisted on a stage. And we are worse than the main act. We are the one’s who drove hundreds of miles to pay for this, as if there were some sort of exotic novelty to this. This is what it’s come to. “All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare. We are the momentary actors, entering and exiting at our fortuitous times, grasping for a bit of elegance, or even a moment of it, dancing in the spotlight. Here we are. Sitting on our stools, getting drunk and high and wasted, staring at strange women moving around in their grotesque fashion, waiting for the night to end. Getting drunker and madder the more we try to escape.

“Hey WYATT!!” Raul waved at me from the back corner. I stood up and walked over to him and Oscar, some other Argentinian who was much smaller of a man, who smiled and talked a lot, but all of it was unintelligible, because his voice had been curdled and destroyed by cigarettes and coal mining.

“I couldn’t find you, I been over there with Monica,” Raul said. “Put your hand out.” And he dusted out a clump of coke onto the back of my hand. But the mushrooms were really starting to kicking in, and the clump of white powder was a bright odorous poison, a neon white dog shit that my body wanted very little to do with. Raul himself was beginning to degrade into a body of dark smoke, with snarling wolverine-like teeth. His long curly ponytail was now a bundle of leather whips, bouncing and sliding from side to side, slithering off his shoulders and clawing at me inches from my face. Every bead of sweat on his face was a heaving dam about to burst, running down his cheek, breaking free the others below it.

“I don’t want it,” I grinned, unable to keep a serious face, but terrified as hell.

“Hurry up with it, we don’t have all fucking night.”

“No I’m serious. I just need a glass of soda water.”

“What the fuck are you mumbling about cowboy? You want, you don’t want. You fucking gringos are the strangest things.” He stuck a house key into his baggie and pulled out a sizable bump of the glowing uranium, and lifted it into his huge flaring nostrils. It was now shining bright enough for anyone in the club to see, and was probably reflecting off our faces like we were staring into a suitcase of florescent lightbulbs. The only way to ensure we wouldn’t be caught was to get rid of the awful stuff. I snorted it way back, as far as I could, and felt it shatter into the back of my brain—a cold stinging wet surge, the bottom half of my brain now a soaked sponge, slowly dripping down my throat.

“Agghh!! Christ almighty” Raul snarled, smiling with crazy-eyes, dusting out another bump onto the back of Oscar’s hand. Oscar grunted something incoherent, it looked like he was trying to make a joke, the corners of his mouth twitching like an animals; he was just a fiend of the arenaceous homeless frontier, another destitute who wandered the desert for fifty years, finally ending up here. All of us are the same. “Come back on Wednesday and we all go down to Crazy Girls,” Raul said, “There’re rock bands on a stage there, and the girls are always much friendlier and more generous. Better than this fat shit.” He was pointing at the woman still rolling around on the stage. There was a second of hesitation in his voice. I knew he was double-checking that what he saw was real. I looked up and by this point, she had turned into a huge amorphous bleeding thing, the visible scent of a wounded animal following her around the stage. Her entire vaginal area was soaked, and the psychedelic exceptionality of it was more terrifying than being a wounded rabbit yourself, being chased down the desert plain.

“O JESUS CHRIST!! YOU’RE FUCKING BLEEDING LADY!” Está sangrando!! Está sangrando!! Ha! ha! ha! ha!” Raul began cackling like a preying hyena. He was the godforsaken thing attacking her, gnawing at her heels, and he wasn’t going to let go until she quit, until he had her by the throat and she lay limp for him to feast on her. She looked down at herself, and with a shock of realizing her misfortune she scurried off the stage, pointlessly covering her parts with both hands, Raul booming with laughter every step of the way.

The stage just laid there abandoned, the soft Mexican love song rolling on, “recordar de qu color son los cerezos,” the stage left only with a huge baby-blue bra and a single dollar bill crumpled up. The other men barely noticed, everyone still hunched over their glasses, more and more of them turning into wild boars, orange heat flaring from their nostrils. I knew we had to get out of here before they all jolted up, kicking over the tables, smashing every last bottle behind the counter, and some gross orgy of bristling death would ensue. I could see Axel across the room, drinking a bottle of rum with a gangbanger with tattoos all over his face.

“Take the bottle!” Raul shoved the bottle of tequila into my chest. Pure distilled poison. You can intellectually discuss that tequila and cocaine are bad for you, but you don’t know its reality until you’re swimming in the depths of psychedelics, seeing the twisted stinking venoms flooding your bloodstream, the ornery héautontimorouménos soaking into your flesh from the inside out.

A stripper in a flashing red bra that was hoisting up her glossy silicone tits approached us. The scars above her bra line were white hot, with wrinkles visibly gripping her tighter as she walked closer. She smiled wide, and it was clear: this was the first definite vampire I’d ever seen, her fangs poking way out from the rest of her teeth. I carefully leaned my head down to hers, to check again, to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. “Are those real fangs?” I asked, reaching to touch them. But she stepped back and stared at me, obviously offended. She started yelling at me, something in Spanish. I didn’t mean to offend her, but they were definitely real, no doubt about it. You can re-check yourself, like when you think you might be in a dream, and so you look at certain details to confirm this is real. “I’m sorry,” I said, “You just have really nice teeth.” And I began laughing hysterically, unable to hold it in. I looked to Raul, but he didn’t seem to notice. He just looked at me with wide eyes, his prurient facial contortions getting worse, the Francis Bacon squirming advances too ugly to look at.

“I’m sorry mother, but I MUST confess my sins,” Raul said, shoving his face into her scarred ashen cleavage. She leaned her head back and began laughing, grabbing the back of his head and rubbing his face in deeper. This was obviously how she was planning to murder us, shoving our faces into her deep venus flytrap of tits, and then grab our neck and bite it.

“I’m gonna step out for a cigarette” I mumbled, and slowly backed away, then turning around and walking briskly for the door. And then all I heard was someone yell, and then a bottle smash. I turned around and Axel was on the floor, completely limp, blood all over his shirt.

[to be continued..]

The Swan

Of whoever has lost that which is never found
Again! Never! Of those who deeply drink of tears
And suckle Pain as they would suck the good she-wolf!
Of the puny orphans withering like flowers!

Charles Baudelaire

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Elisa opened her eyes to an overweight cleaning lady standing over her, nudging her, saying “Excuse me miss, very late now.” Elisa jolted immediately, as all people do when woken by a stranger, and then seeing that the middle-aged Guatemalan lady was of no obvious threat, Elisa leaned back with relief and glanced around the hotel room, still unsure of it all. The sixty-inch flatscreen was still on, an infomercial with a man screaming about a vacuum cleaner with ten free attachments. The windows were open, and the tops of perfectly manicured palm trees could be seen blowing gently just outside the window. A seagull flew by without flapping its wings, and the long white window curtains blew inward, in their stiff polyester sort of way. Elisa felt a pain in both feet, looked down and saw she was still wearing Louboutins, and then she grimaced, as if to confirm to herself that her feet actually did hurt, having worn them since the shoot the day before. It was a different pain than in her ballet years, when the pain was a distinct effort of height and poise, when it brought a modish pleasure to ache with one’s own athleticism. The overweight cleaning lady bent over to plug in the vacuum cleaner. Elisa grabbed her purse and sunglasses, thanked Juanita, and hurried out the door.

The throbbing dreamless heat of Los Angeles has not let up for over a month, and the drought is worse. In the hills, bobcats panted during the day, and they are not supposed to pant. Flowers died, or just never grew in the first place. Couples generally had less sex in the summer, not on purpose, but because people don’t like the sweating agglutinative automation of their humping, and so it just works out that way. But the singles slept around even more, almost in a confused frenzy, like trying to get one last fuck out before the end  .  .  .  strangers’ pudenda sticking together when they fell asleep, their dreams plodding along like ephemeral dehydrated farts, trying to pass the restless scenery of dreams.

Songbirds wished they could groan, but in the mornings they open their tired eyes and know they must sing. Heat does not come to a place to be enjoyed  .  .  .  it comes to repulse, to make everyone sweat, it’s a mode of lethargy, a starless drunkenness that hangs from all your body parts. People have different ways of dealing with the heat in Los Angeles: many stay indoors drinking blended margaritas, watching new episodes of The Price is Right on mute as a rotating fan no longer rotates but points directly at a man or woman’s bare chest; others stalk the cafes where there is air-conditioning and other people to sit next to, thus evoking a sense of commonality through association (most people don’t actually talk to the others sitting around them, but they would not typically sit comfortably alone in a largely vacant café either  .  .  .  it’s a declared but unspoken trade: sitting near to one another gives each other an attestation of one’s life, but to speak out of context would be uncouth); others snort cocaine in bathrooms and sweat and talk about future business ventures for hours; others watch Netflix as they munch on summer-themed cookies and milk and wait for the sun to go down, when they can finally come out, like hyenas of rage tempted at the fall of dusk. Elisa was different  .  .  .  she thrived in the heat. She grew up on a ranch in New South Wales, Australia, herding cattle from a young age, One summer when she was thirteen, she castrated several bulls, and could ride a horse better than any of the boys in town, and though her hands were firm and confident they were still slim and gentle. Tough work does not certainly turn one’s hands tough  .  .  .  there are those who cannot callus-over elegance, who cannot make one’s tendencies hard. By fourteen, she moved to New York to dance at Juilliard, and by seventeen she was discovered by a young fashion company in Venice Beach, California, while on a family vacation, while she was playing basketball on the outdoor courts near Muscle Beach, her long red hair tossed in the bright jovial rage of competition; and her fame as one of the prominent models in the world has risen ever since for the last one-and-a-half decades. Women from all over the world sought to have her figure  .  .  .  they drank coconut water and did yoga and rubbed themselves in facial creams, even though Elisa herself did not do any of these things, because men and women alike draw out huge proportions of their leaders  .  .  .  a large-breasted Dziwozona alluring in the fog, Anna Karina smoking cigarettes in Technicolor, Hillary Clinton wide-eyed and cackling about a newborn  .  .  .   it is the brittle tautological nature of the idol that makes it so. The rose-cheeked inamorata convulsing in heat, then lunging at a star. The very static nature of a picture of a man or woman in a magazine is the ontological pseudo-world that we lust and crave. Because the whole physical thing, beyond the representation, beyond the quixotic undergarments and the saturated dawn, is too much. The entirety of a human is too much to remain sane and sober.

Elisa canceled her Uber, and waved down a taxi. “Apollo Studios,” she said to the driver, “It’s down on Main. I’ll tip you well if you can make it quick.” And the driver hit the gas faster than she was expecting. She fell back into her seat, pulled out her phone and texted the photographer: “Traffic is terrible. I’ll be there in 10. Frustrated face emoji.” She looked up and saw one of her billboards: a black and white advertisement for a perfume  .  .  .  in it, she’s shifted most of her weight onto one leg, is wearing only panties and a faded white spaghetti strap, and her thumb hangs candidly from her panties, and with her other hand she lightly bites her index finger, touching the tip with her tongue, staring at the camera, and therefore at everyone who looks at the advertisement, as if to say, “What might be under these panties of mine  .  .  .  and, I thought this finger was food.” The spectacle of the desired is a positively active phenomena, an intenerate dynamism that is held in place for eternity. The picture of Elisa is not a picture, not a pixelated representation to be jaded by in the thrusts of stardom—the picture, or simulacrum, is the active being frozen for eternity. Like a single point on a multidimensional plane. The Knossosian remains are carried in the dust. The Beatles play in outer space. And man trembles to a photograph of a woman in her panties.

She looked to the cars and people shoving amongst each other on the streets of Los Angeles. A lady in pink spandex rode by on one of those bicycles you stand up on and ride like it was an elliptical. Her ass retracted and bulged with each motion, like a physiognomic pulse of weight, you could tell everything from its countenance, enough ass for King Zhou of Shang, a neon envy, a celebrated lodestar in the fog. A girl was sitting on her father’s shoulders, holding an ice-cream cone, staring with her mouth open at the lady ride by, the strawberry swirl melting all over her miniature fingers, the first drips plummeting onto her dad’s balding head. Tourists from Minnesota and Idaho and Japan, wearing large sunglasses, extending their smartphones onto selfie-sticks, posting their photos on the internet with #relaxingwithmygirls and #winning, brief forays from the beige tedium of regular life. Couples drank cocktails under yellow umbrellas, laughing, and smoking long cigarettes. They do this over and over, for months, years, making the nihility of idleness—of life itself—intoxicated just enough to make it bearable.

Elisa made it to the studio almost an hour late. “I’m so sorry,” she said, taking off her sunglasses, “Strange morning.” During the photo shoot, Guy (pronounced the French way of course) asks Elisa to stare into the camera, asks her to, as he puts it, “look sexy.” She shifts her weight, points her chin up in order to pull her jaw line back, and smiles flirtatiously. The camera shutter clicks rapidly. “Yeah. Oh. Yesss. More of that,” Guy says behind the camera. “Oh. Oh yeah. Uh-huh.” She turns around, sticking her ass out a little more than seemed natural, and looks back to Guy, her hair tossed from the large fan blowing in her direction, blowing her up and down. Her smiles straightens into a face of mysterious sophistication. Guy loves this: “Oh baby, you’re so good,” as he clicks away. André Breton ended his book with “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or it will not be at all.”

It was almost a year later. Elisa tied her bootstraps and pushed open the barn door, and could begin to make out the darker silhouettes of fences and trees against the dim horizon, like a little flame was barely lit behind all that sky. Her fingers were cold, and every movement she made she could feel her joints rub in the stiff winter morning, and her own body heat had not rubbed against the inside of the jacket long enough yet to make it warm. She walked past the stall where two-hundred chicks huddled together under a heat lamp, a couple more of them dead, because, as Jim says, the cold pushes out the weak. Jim has farmed and ranched this same land all his life, but his back is old now, and he cannot do the amount of work he did just a couple years prior, and so Elisa has taken over much of the work, and they have dinner together a few nights during the week. Fyodor, the Queensland Heeler, the most compassionate of all the dogs Jim has had on the farm, came trotting up beside Elisa, as he does every morning. His light fur contrasted against the dark air, his tag lightly jingled against his collar, so Elisa always knew it was old Fyodor coming up behind her. He accompanied Elisa through her morning routine, and seated himself politely as she fed the goats and the turkeys and the chickens. The two of them walked to the next pasture in a gorgeous silence together, side by side, the sky still perfectly at rest, and she looked up as she often did and felt satisfied by seeing all the stars again. She could see her breath now, and made a point of exhaling deeply in order to see how much of her breath she could see at once. The many piglets heard their footsteps and came running up to her, snorting in unison, lining up against the other side of the electric fence, one of them getting shocked on its nose, and squealing sharply. Elisa stepped over the wire and set out several large plastic pans in the grass, the little pigs rubbing their wet noses against her legs, drawing a mess of glistening snail-trails on her rubber boots. She poured them their food, and they all fought over each other, as they always have, since they fought for a drop from a nipple, stepping on each other and shoving each other for more room. From the beginning, all animals, including man, must shove away the others and grab hold of the huge leaking tit, and never let go. If he does not follow this rule, the others will, and he will die alone in the cold.

The sun was just now coming over the furthest ridge, the bright love-maddened ribbons shooting across the sky, bringing with it the slightest edge of warmth to Elisa’s face and fingers  .  .  .  the grasses hanging heavily with frozen dew, like limpid coruscating lanterns, the grasshoppers hushing off their frigid bulk. The lethargy of the world was waking up again  .  .  .  no amount of nihilism can stop the grasshoppers from rubbing their legs. “Good Morning Ferdinand!” Elisa said cheerily to the dark sinewed thoroughbred as she entered the stable. Ferdinand looked up and nodded with a gentle excitement. He liked the sound of her voice, and she liked talking to him, and she sometimes thought it looked like Ferdinand knew what she was talking about. “Have you been waiting for me? Look at you.” And he cocked his head and blew air from out of his nostrils playfully. She brushed him down until his hair was smooth and glistened under the lights hissing overhead, and he stood there patiently, his big dark wet eyes watching her. She scraped under his shoes, put on his blanket and then his saddle, and tightened the belt under his belly, his long veins permanently bulging. She hoisted herself onto the saddle, and didn’t say anything because she didn’t need to say anything, and they walked out of the barn and into the pneumatic plain. The flirtish Australian desert gnawing with a million tiny antagonists, long shadows of the dawn stretched beyond the edge of the grasses  .  .  .  the gentle madness stirring from its slumber. They walked beyond the ranch land, where the birds were singing and beginning their flights out from the tall grasses, and they walked up the mountain along the narrow trail. A snake crossed the trail directly in front of them, but neither Elisa nor the horse were afraid. Ferdinand simply held back, watched the snake slither by in the sand, her large pixelated diamonds across her back, her cool loneliness breathing again, as she disappeared into the sagebrush.

The line of sun was a little further up the mountain. They were still in the shadow, but would be there soon. Elisa looked back, and the barn looked so small, and the cows and pastures like little toys, and she smiled.