A Season Brighter Than Before

by Guy Walker

I guess it wouldn’t have been long before he’d be found eventually. You can’t just wander off into the designated frontier, and never be seen again. I imagine this guy Rocco hoped to only be found by the right people, the people who would pity him and give him food…and somehow always elude the authorities who came out here every week on horseback looking for him. We just don’t live in that kind of frontier anymore. There’s no more wilderness that will sustain a man, at least not one that will nourish him the ways we now need to be nourished. There’s no more wilderness, no more mutated strata of stars and spectacle, no more cathedrals of ferns and bright tendrils. There is, at best, a pathway, winding its way through the long shadowy peaks, and you can ooo and aww at the highlighted things, the way runny-nosed children do while bobbing along a slow ride at an amusement park.

But this guy, you’d almost think, wanted to be caught. Sympathetic hikers left him whatever trail mix and instant-cook chili they had remaining on their return to the parking lot, and he just piled the enormous heap of the plastic packaging into a small mountain by the river. Rumor had it, he would join couples having a romantic night alone in the natural hot springs, and would always be naked, and made everyone uncomfortable. Anyways, he was probably going to be found eventually, but he sure didn’t make it any easier for himself.

……

Eloise finished packing the tent as the sun finally rose over the ridge of the mountain. Everything was in order. Breakfast was eaten, and the last of the coffee was poured, and Ernest was washing the dishes in the clear miniature waterfall that flowed from the edge of the hot springs. Pastures of moss melted like dessert over large stones, the whole coruscating arena of lichens and songbirds and wildflowers hummed under the weight of another morning. Four mountain goats walked delicately along the steep slope of the mountain, sending discarded shards of rock in small cascades down towards the stream.

They’d been out here three nights, and another two hiking out, but would hike back the entire thing in one day. It was their first camping trip together, and they both felt as good as they had in a long time. They must’ve had sex three times a day…in the tent, and on the beds of moss, and on the large flat stones circling the hot tub. And for both of them, it felt like what people mean when they say they made love instead. The man thought about this, and thought about how cheap words become, especially the older we get. What a shame, he thought. Even the most brilliant things go all lukewarm whenever we try to tell them to others. Even when we tell them to ourselves. He washed the last of the silverware, and piled them all together. She watched him stand up from the edge of the pool, his face entering the sunlight from its lower bed of shade, and she knew confidently for the first time that she could love him.

When they started hiking, they hiked briskly, wanting to get back before nightfall. They must have covered ten or eleven miles in a few short hours, chatting aimlessly and excitedly along the way. They had seen many people on their way out, but hadn’t seen anyone else during their days at the hot springs, and hadn’t seen anyone all morning while hiking back. “I guess that Rocco guy must’ve moved on. Gone to the city, or another lake or river…or maybe he died,” he said. “Don’t say that,” Eloise said. “That’s not nice.”

Just then he saw through the trees ahead of them a group of horses crowded together. He thought they were just riders enjoying themselves, but as the leaves cleared saw that they were all sheriffs, waiting near the pile of trash that Rocco had made. They were standing around the river’s edge, the horses’ necks depressed, drinking from the slow current passing through the long green reeds. Little tadpoles with legs sprouting miraculously swam haphazardly amongst the tangles of algae and rotting debris. The sheriffs all had bulletproof vests, and their full globular necks swelled like hams from out the tops of the vests. A few of the men had perfectly shaved heads, and although they all wore cowboy hats, the bald sides of their heads gleamed like a glossy porno against the sun. Two of the sheriffs were women, real thick and masculine like, overcompensating for some deserted manliness they lost forever ago. They’d seen Magnificent Seven too many times, convinced a cowboy hat and some long ruffled leather gloves that puffed out like bellbottoms out passed their forearms made them Teddy Roosevelt. As if they were purposefully reenacting this cinematic nostalgia in their own company, like those flamboyant cads who do those Civil War reenactments for children and their goading parents. They spoke amongst themselves, not yet seeing Ernest and Eloise.

“Yeah so we got these kumquat trees in the backyard that I planted six or seven years ago,” one of the sheriffs said to another.

“A what tree?” another asked.

“A kumquat tree.”

“That’s gross. What’s a kumquat tree?”

“Well, exactly. My wife hates the sound of the word kumquat. Says it makes her all squeamish, like the sound of the word ‘dangle’ or ‘panties’ or ‘discharge’ or something. She makes me refer to it as the ‘pom-pom tree’. So I got a bunch of jars of pom-pom marmalade for you and the family if you want any.”

“God no. Thanks, but that stuff gives me the runs.”

“Hogan, how you know it gives you the runs if you didn’t even know what a kumquat was?” a third sheriff remarked.

“Hey you guys,” the man named Hogan said suddenly, seeing Eloise and the man on the other side of the river. “We got a coupla…coupla people.”

“Where ya’ll from!” the leader of the group asked. He had a thick dark mustache, gold-rimmed aviators that dug into his fat temples, and a mouth full of chewing tobacco. He spat into the clear water, and the loogie of tobacco spit swirled and spread out and disappeared.

“Ojai. Couple hours down south, if you know it,” she said.

“Yeah we know it…Not much out here is there?”

“What do you mean?”

“Not many people. Rocks mostly. You come all the way out here for rocks? Ya’ll have great rocks down in Ojai, seen ‘em when I was a kid.”

“Uh, no not many people I guess. You’re the first ones we seen all day. We saw your horse shit on our way out, but it was old shit.”

“Yeah, that was our horses’ shit.”

“No animals allowed on these trails, except ours. So it musta been our shit,” Hogan repeated.

 “Thought it was from recreational riding, people just enjoying themselves, you know, but I guess you come out here every week huh?” Eloise replied.

“Yeah, we the only horses that ever come on this trail…Hey boy, you speak?” the leader said, pointing at the Ernest. The other deputies looked up from their reins or from each other, and all stared at the man.

“Yeah I speak, what’s the matter?”

“You see a cat in a purple robe, maybe asking around for food?”

“A cat in a purple robe?” Eloise asked.

“I’m talkin’ to him,” he said, raising his voice to almost a yell.

“You say a cat in a purple robe?” the man named Ernest asked.

“Yeah.”

“No offense officer, but are you talking about?”

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s a guy who’s been roaming around here for some time, stirring up trouble, bothering hikers, pulling out his willy in the hot tubs, makin’ all sorts a folk uncomfortable.”

“Ohh, a guy. A man. Sorry, you had me confused there for a second.”

“Well, have you?

“No, we haven’t seen a cat in a purple robe,” Ernest said, annoyed now.

“We haven’t seen a cat in any colored robe,” Eloise added with a tinge of sarcasm.

“Ya’ll being cheeky with me now?” the leader asked.

“No mister, just trying to get along with you,” Eloise replied.

“Okay well, you better get a move on. We got ourselves a great shark hunt out here. Can’t be too careful. You two have a great day.”

They reached the other side, hiked up the hill just a little further, looking for a rock or something to lay their packs on, and rest, and drink the last of their water before the next big climb until it came down into the tall grass pastures a couple miles ahead, where the river slowed and swelled into these deep and magnificent turquoise pools. They had already planned on stopping there before, while passing it in the other direction, on their way out. They made a point of it, citing that it was a quarter mile or so off the path, and so they could get naked comfortably, and wash themselves and make lunch and have sex again under one of those huge willows that shaded the grassy embankment and hung broadly over the pool.

The man’s lower back ached even more than his shoulders, but he knew he couldn’t complain more than once, or else he would draw attention to it…or rather draw attention to his tendency to complain, especially because she had never made a mention of her own discomfort. She remained so positive and upbeat, he thought, even through the most strenuous climbs. She often made stops by herself, just to admire desert flowers, or to watch the way an insect crawled up the long slender stem of a plant. He wished he did things like that more, for himself, without any of the usual pretense with which he typically did things. Because at home, where he lived in this old cabin amongst the oak trees and the eucalyptus trees, he spent a lot of time in his garden, reading and writing and gardening, and sometimes feeding four adolescent foxes; but he wasn’t sure that these private courtesies made him happier in any meaningful way. He wished they did. Who knows, maybe they did somewhat. And he watched her carry out these moments that she made for herself, and knew they were full and resplendent in their delivery. He watched her long golden legs in front of him, climbing the hill with an ease he never noticed before. Goddamnit I’m hungry, he complained to himself. Food will be so good, because she’s making it. I feel so much better when I eat her food. I need to take better care of myself, he thought for the thousandth time. I’ll cook for myself more when I get home. I’ll cook vegetables and fish, and stop eating cookies and light beer every time I’m alone. I’ll tend to the garden more, stop smoking, take the time to make myself a cup of tea in the evening. I’ll take the time to just enjoy the tea in the garden as the evening rolls into night, and do nothing else but think, because I haven’t just sat there and thought about nothing in as long as I can remember.

As he watched her long legs walk in front of him, he thought about the time he lived in Norway, many years ago, on this remote archipelago way up north…and during the summer months when the sun never went down, he fished for cod with a friend or friends, from the rocks on the edge of the ocean. And they would cook it and eat it right there. Or at low tide, they collected blue shells from the base of one of the smaller nearby bridges. Or they would hike up to one of the small cabins that belonged next to one of their many mountain lakes, and catch trout, and gather boletes and chanterelles, and stay up all night telling each other stories of old love affairs. And he thought that it was sad that he never did those things anymore, that the days he would really remember were mostly behind him. He thought that maybe this trip would change things, that he would come out of it more restored, more in love with the terminable days that collapsed like rubble behind him. But the daily mania was so compelling, and the preserved tediums piled in front of him, convinced of their own worth.

They stopped on a knoll of crumbling rock…a shrub with bright yellow flowers shaped like little teacups sprouted from the wreckage, and a honeybee moved from one flower to the next, crawling around inside, covering himself in pollen, completely unarmed against the plant pheromones. They set their packs down, and she prepared a cup of tea from his heavy thermos.

He looked back to see again where the sheriffs had interrogated them by the river, where Rocco’s camp of trash and turds he had collected over the past few months were. Dried-up clumps of leaves and grasses hung like bird nests onto the branches of the trees six feet above the existing flow of the river. They were gray and old, from many years ago, but still proved that the river used to gush through there at least six feet higher than it was flowing now. And he imagined how much of the terrain that would have covered. He imagined how many more foxes and bobcats and songbirds would have come through, how much more florescent the greens would have been through those parts, how the soaked chimeras and cannibalisms that covered themselves in turquoise and gold would behave themselves, how the stelliferous nightmares swirled overhead in invisible hues. He remembered those last three nights the two of them spent, wrapped in each others arms as they watched the maple and willow leaves shiver against the light of the nearly full moon. Coyotes howled in their capsules of eternity…a skunk wobbled through the rocky shallows, his tail waving high like a surrenderer’s flag…the bur-sage and mallow and lupin yawning heavily amongst each other in their groups. Night after night, after every successive season and year, the flowers went on as before, glittering against the tan and otherwise banal sceneries with their thimbles full of dyed tinctures. Maybe it’ll be like that again someday, he thought, when the hills are replenished with greens and wild colors, and never ruined again. Damn. He wiped the sweat from under his hat and then sipped the tea from the tin cup that Eloise had poured for him.

Right then, Rocco popped his head up like a meerkat out of the overgrown thicket of chaparral.

“Oh fuck!” Eloise gasped, seeing him first.

His hair was a thickly matted dirty blonde, and his face was smeared with ash and already leathered by the sun, but his eyes were healthy and lucid, and he could have been good looking if he was good at looking after himself. He wore that purple robe without blame, buttoned neatly down beginning at his navel, like he was Hugh Hefner’s starving duplicate, clad in this absurd velvet gown in the high desert. He waved gently with one hand, as if he too had heard all the rumors about him—all the schizophrenic breaks and screaming, all the willy waving, all the spontaneous crying in the night, all the stealing of food and supplies and women’s underwear when they left for day-hikes. Because, he probably knew those stories were based on all the whispered gossip that traveled through countless ears of hikers over the course of those several months he’d been there. It was an uncoordinated game of telephone, one hiker to the next, expanding and elaborating an already ridiculous tabloid of conversation. It was as if he had heard those rumors too, and wanted to resolve all of them and calm everyone’s nerves with one complete smile.

“Hi guys. You don’t have any leftover food you don’t want to carry back with you, do you?”

He spoke in a higher voice than Ernest expected, purposefully meek, but genuine still. The sheriffs were no more than fifty meters away, walking in a single-file cavalry procession. Eight white cowboy hats bobbing along obediently; eight horsetails cinched tight above the asshole, plumb in their very noble and attentive posture, their huge vascular and sinewed legs heaving forward flawlessly. You could see them all in the same picture frame: eight sheriffs on horseback, walking along the riverbank, about to disappear behind the dense canopy; and then Rocco, a hungry fugitive, carelessly outsmarting the authorities for another time. He was mostly innocent of course, hunted out of boredom, the sheriffs’ despondent gallantry shoving along as before.

“No, we don’t have any. Sorry,” Ernest said.

“No worries, thank you guys,” he said sweetly.

Eloise rustled through the top of her backpack, and pulled out a canvas bag full of several foods and snacks. “You can have this. It’s got lots of goodies.”

“Thank you,” he smiled shy and excited.

Eloise tossed the bag over the many coastal sage scrub and poison oak and creosote, and he caught it with both hands, thanked them again and ducked out of sight again.

“Oh my god,” she said more to herself than to Ernest. “I had something in that bag I was going to give you.”

“What was it?”

“I need that bag. Wait!” she then yelled across the thick shrubbery.

He popped up again. The velveteen robe shimmered against the sunlight. The last sheriff in the line of horses turned around at her exclamation. He first looked at Eloise, who stood there with huge and horrified eyes, and then to Rocco, who saw Eloise staring terrified in the direction of the sheriffs. Rocco then glanced in the direction of the sheriff, his casual insouciance barely acknowledging him.

“Hey Meatball! Hogan! Lance! You guys!” the last sheriff yelled. “There he is!” He gleamed, pointing eagerly in Rocco’s direction. 

The other sheriffs’ necks bulged with blood like enormous cocks. They all turned around in unison, and tugged on their reins to the right, pulling their horses’ necks erratically. Rocco ducked behind and under the line of creosote, and disappeared into the thicket. The sheriffs all left the delicate order of the trail, and started galloping their miniature stampede through the grasses and into the shallow riverbed like they had always wanted to, like it was their cinematic fantasy to finally be able to do this, amongst some doughty dream that never existed in reality. This is what it was all about. This galloping climax is the ephemeral flurry of why they hoisted themselves up on horseback day after day in the first place. Ernest could see the top of Rocco’s head darting through the gaps in the shrubbery as the sheriffs closed in almost immediately. Eloise gasped, and screamed one desperate No! as the last sheriff (who was now the first sheriff) grabbed the collar of Rocco’s robe with one hand and yanked back the reins with the other. The horse skidded to a stop, and the sheriff rolled off the horse with all his weight, collapsing onto the poor transient, the two of them just a heap of bodies on the edge of the riverbank. The other sheriffs arrived in a second, surrounding the mass of wrestling tumble beneath them, like some profane order of fraternity. Rocco tried to escape, pushing the sheriff’s lips and nose up with the bottom of his palm. The sheriff punched him in the face, breaking his nose, sending it into a gurgling spring of blood. Rocco miraculously stayed conscious, and kicked the sheriff in the testicles, and tried to scramble away on all fours between two of the horses, frightening one, it frantically rearing on its hind legs, throwing off the fattest sheriff. The horse landed back down with one hoof on Rocco’s head, crushing it against a rock in the riverbed, killing him instantly.

Eloise screamed, the masticated gore of the man’s head and hair crushed into the pomaded uniform of the purple robe. Bits of bone speckled against the glossy colorful nebulae of the crimsons and violets that crowded together in their puddle. “Git outa here!” one of the sheriffs yelled to the man and woman; and then he heaved himself off the horse awkwardly, swinging a pudgy leg around in order to inspect the crushed head of the stranger they just killed. Ernest and Eloise didn’t move, speechless at what just took place in front of them. One of the female sheriffs started walking up the trail on her horse towards them. “Come on Eloise. Let’s go, or she’s going to stomp on our heads too.” “But they just killed him!” she cried. He grabbed her arm and pulled it up the trail. “That horse is on steroids. And she probably is too. Come on.” They turned away, walking up the rest of the hill to where it crested amongst the scraggly rubble of an already deteriorating mountain. They looked back as they walked up, and the lady had stopped but was watching them to make sure they fully left the scene. Eloise cried as the body of Rocco lay there completely limp, and the sheriffs stood around staring down at him, not yet sure what to do.

They stood at the top of the hill, and watched two of the sheriffs lift the dead body of the man, flipping him over onto his back, as another sheriff gathered the reins of a few of the horses to tie them securely to a tree.

“What are we supposed to do,” Eloise asked. And the man didn’t say anything. He stood there, staring down on one side of the mountain at the turquoise pools a thousand feet below. A red tailed hawk soared by without a sound, without flapping its wings. All that sky beneath him, searching for an isolated tremble amongst the many exits and entrances of where gofers thatched in the vast expanse around him. And Ernest turned and looked on the other side, where the man lay dead. He didn’t say anything. The hawk landed in front of them, on a dead scrub bush that had once grown from a crack in a rock jutting out from the furthest edge of the cliff. It looked down at the scene that had just taken place. It waited there for a minute, and then looked down at the mountain beneath him, and then out across the enormous valley sprawled out. One of its eyes was a bright rusty brown, with a large pupil, staring attentively and without blinking. The other was blind, covered over as a milky pearl. He stared at the couple for a few moments with its good eye, and then spread its wings again and flew away. “Come on,” the man said, “There’s nothing we’re supposed to do.”

“What do you mean,” she said. “Our phones are dead, but at least we can make an official complaint or something.”

“Yeah, I suppose. May as well.”

But he knew it wouldn’t matter. He knew, just as I know, and just as you know, that man will do everything he can to leave us nothing. He was probably going to be found eventually, but it didn’t matter. They’ll take everything they can, and then disappear at last.

Trump’s Final Farewell

DUSTY: What does that mean, “in-famous”?

NED: Ohh Dusty. “In-famous” is when you’re more than famous. This man, El Guapo, is not just famous, he’s in-famous.

-Three Amigos!

What would it be like to be rich and famous, you wonder. Or rather, what does it mean? If in their final fleeting moments of life, what if the richest amongst us thought soberly and somberly for the first time about all the vacuous horrors they committed? If during those last short and punctured breaths through their dry gaping anus of a mouth, and that dormant tongue of perverse fortune, if they saw the light, as it were, even for the shortest of moments. When David Koch died in the summer of 2019, he had successfully corralled unnumbered billions of dollars for himself and his brother, and funded so much deliberate junk science and misinformation around environmental and climate science. He did his damndest to singularly kill the planet for the rest of us. And I wonder if he died confidently, convinced that his cause was righteous, or in quiet unacknowledged despair. Or when the casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson slowly rotted down that final stretch of his miserable life, was there any deeper reflection into what it was all actually for in the end? I would like to imagine some well-dressed ushers of the Utilitarian Theatre greet you moments before you die, and ask you bluntly how well you achieved the task of delivering the greatest good for the greatest quantity. They greet you politely, and reach out with one of their white cotton gloves, and you take each of their hands, and see the fortune of your meandering decisions that constituted your life. And then you step forward, and then you die.

There is Donald Trump. It’s the first days after his presidency, and he is laying down slouched on a kingsize bed, the ironed and neatly folded white sheets tucked under his ass and arms. He breathes heavily, and looks out the window of his residential suite at Mar-a-Lago, the long lace curtains blowing softly in the Palm Beach breeze. A storm front is coming. The neatly scattered palm trees gently sway like slender poems, and a seagull screams, shitting a little shit as it flies by. He stares indifferently at the few golf carts that roam the low hills of the course. There’s some shredded iceberg lettuce caught in his chest hair like seaweed, and a half-eaten BigMac discarded on the hardwood floor. His toes are long and pale, like two bundles of miniature penises sprouting from his flat rectangles of feet. He’s never had a drink in his life, but this hangover is excruciating. He can’t move. He can’t imagine speaking another word.

There are six bulky box televisions stacked three across and two levels high on the mantle of other assorted accruements. One is tuned predictably to CNN—Don Lemon is anchoring, in the middle of his show, but something is wrong. He has unbuttoned his shirt, and is sticking his tummy out so it looks like he’s pregnant, then sucks it back in again. He repeats this over and over, and is laughing enthusiastically at the success of this trick. Another television is turned to Fox and Friends—Brian Kilmeade is drunk, staggering aimlessly on the sound stage with a Louisiana Slugger thrown over one shoulder. He starts swinging in every direction, and hits one of the cameras, smashing it to pieces, and screams more menacingly than when Howard Dean did in 2004. Another television is turned to a late night infomercial of hands wearing jewelry, the man and woman enthusiastically conversing about the diamonds. Another to an 80’s porno of a man with a dark mustache and a woman with frizzy bleach blonde hair and plastic tits fucking to disco. Another television is turned to the movie Top Gun, in the middle of a dog fight scene. And the last television is just the blizzard static. They are all turned up to full volume, a deafening chorus of incoherence. The CIA used to use that Meow Mix song from the commercials to break terrorists at black sites—this geometric aberration would have been far more effective, as the line between the real and the dismally chimeric is truly at a crossroads these days. But Trump watches them all at the same time, including the television static, taking it all in as one screen, one grand narrative of the current condition of the world beaming itself through invisible space. He could fall asleep at any moment and the sound wouldn’t bother him.

For a second, his hand moves impulsively to get his phone, but remembers he is forever locked out of his Twitter. And so his hand just hangs off the edge of the bed, its limp slumber without any further autonomous desire to move. There’s no point anyways, he thinks to himself, they’re all imbeciles on there anyways, dueling it out in the imaginary squalor of that online arena. Parlor is even worse—the only residents of its platform were shivering loners, seething at the worst of reactionary politics. Good riddance, he assures himself.

Twitter is, by definition, a massive middle-school chorus of mental illness. And Trump was the conductor, waving his arms frantically with no musical direction. There’s already an obvious void of the usually gleeful madness on Twitter, as everyone tries to carry on as before, but their central magnifying force has abandoned them; the most convenient and amusing villain has left the stage, and very soon his most outspoken opponents and critics will be lost at sea, illiterate destitutes unsure of what to say about anything. If your political identity is summarily being for or against the dementia gameshow host, and he suddenly disappears, where do you wander now? They are like scattered fans hanging around the sprawling parking lot after a concert, the tumbleweeds of red beer cups and other trash slowly blows by, as they’re all left standing there in speechless stupor, their brains so clogged with bong resin that they’re still laughing mutedly at their own farts.

So Trump just drops his head back into his pillow. Don Junior and Eric Trump come stumbling in. Eric looks somehow even more inbred and grotesque than usual. His gum-to-teeth ratio is further out of balance. In fact, his gums have almost entirely enveloped his teeth, so they are just mustard-stained pearls gleaming at the tips of his glossy baboon mouth. He tries to speak, but saliva drips down from the corners of his mouth like a newly tapped spring. He smiles nervously at his father for no apparent reason. Don Junior is wearing one of those Statue of Liberty crowns from a gift shop. He’s pissed himself again. His face is shaped like a melted globe—he has no jawline, but has carved himself one through his bearded stubble with a nine-inch hunting knife that he keeps tied under his trousers. “Daddy,” he blurts out, “daddy, what are we going to do?” “….Yahhh,” Eric somehow manages to say through his complication of lips and boney gums. Trump stares at them both with heavy eyelids, and tries to say something but it just emits as a wordless exhale. “Daddy?” Don Junior says again, “It’s okay, what are you trying to say?” Trump wets his lips with his tongue the way very old people do when about to eat pie, and closes his eyes for a moment to collect himself. “You’re disgusting,” he whispers, barely audibly, with eyes still closed. “You’re filth.”

A songbird smacks into the double-pane window, and drops dead like a fly. “Wh-Wh-Wha do you mean?” Don Junior splutters through quivering lips. Trump ignores his whimpers. “Have I ever had a pet?” he says now with eyes open. “Like a doggy.” “Do you have a doggy?” Don Junior repeats. “What do you mean? You’ve never had a dog.” Trump exhales, annoyed. He moves now, trying to shimmy his legs off the bed so they can fall to the floor—the first step of many as he gets up from bed. The movements of his body make the viscous glugging sound of warm jelly being stirred on the stovetop. His legs hang off the edge. “Get your daddy a doggy,” Trump says menacingly. “I’m going for a walk.” He puts on his robe, and slips on his slippers, and manages to stand up. Going out the back way, he wouldn’t have to interact with any of the guests or supporters who painfully stalked him.

Trump has always hated his supporters. At least the ones who always showed up to his rallies, maniacal and wild-eyed, dressed in burlaps of American flags and Trump-branded costumes, raving lunatics chanting “U-S-A-!!! I’m not gay!!” at pigeons sitting peacefully on telephone wires. A manatee was discovered swimming with TRUMP carved into its back. Henry Thoreau was sadly naive when he declared, “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” Because Trump would paint his name permanently across the sky if he could. He would smear all myriad constellations of stars with his turds if he could, and his most frenzied fans would carry each other on their shoulders, trying desperately to touch the Trump-turd stars. Where back in mainstream politics, ten thousand op-eds were written about how fashionable and chic Biden’s inauguration was. Everyone posted a meme about Bernie and his mittens. I guess we’re back to normal. Nothing changed.

Trump pulls open a sliding glass door that opens straight out to the golf course, a delirium of oblong deserts under a patchwork of heavy clouds. This weather system has smothered the entire country, and everyone has stepped out into their front or back yards to watch it. The brooding thunderclouds across the American plains, a faint lightning bolt off in the distance as the tall prairie grasses sway in unison to one side, and then stammer, sending them all into opposing directions. The red rock arches of Utah are cast in deep shadow, as a peregrine folds back its wings for the evening under the branches of a dead tree, and a ground squirrel stands watch on its back two legs. The first heavy snowflakes begin to fall in the high desert of California. The skies are full, like an unadulterated aura of calm and storm all at once. And back in Palm Beach, circling above Trump and his expensive sprawl of grass lawn like it was beard stubble, seagulls roam, looking down in search of a discarded bag of potato chips, or a French fry, some debris in this pristine and custodial wasteland. Trump is staggering across the seventeenth green now, in his underwear and a long untied robe. A gust billows under his gown like a parachute, and sends his long neon-tubed hair twirling like a wild predator’s frill in the wind, he could almost be mistaken for a monstrous Marilyn Monroe. The gusts turn to gales. He staggers forward now, leaning forward with all his might, headed straight for the white sand beach as umbrellas toss like tumbleweeds across the dimpled plateau, and clumps of sea foam burst along the edges of the sea. He’s been without social media for some weeks now, and while we proudly scoff at his dismay, we deny in wonder if we could do the same. The waves crash in every direction, breaking like the white manes of stampeding horses, the boundary between sea and sky is a blur with mist and storm.

Eric and Don Junior can be seen squinting through the sliding glass doors. Mexican maids and landscapers stand with feathered dusters and lawn clippers in hand, and mouths agape, watching the ex-President fight the storm with his entombed fantasy of replete squalor. A child stands in the hotel lobby, holding his mother’s hand with one hand, and a melting ice cream cone with another, with a frozen stare ahead. Donald Trump has unleashed his robe, and it flies like a tattered flag, soon indecipherable from all the white seagulls clamoring for a hold in the storm. Winds are only visible when there’s an object that shows their currents and direction and strength. Without an object—even a single leaf—they are unprojectable holograms. Trump’s cheeks and bovine tits were just that object, rippling under the commands from invisible gods. He leans full steam into the glaring fangs of the storm, scaling the last green dune of the golf course, and steps onto the soggy white sand like it were a doormat before entering the next frontier of vast ocean.

At this, the winds erupt with their angriest force yet, sending shock waves inland, shattering car windows. Dogs that were once barking madly at the sky are now huddled, whimpering under bedsheets. The frothing edges where sea meets lands sinks lower into the depths of the ocean, pulling everything into one violently colossal wave moving in slow motion at the helpless outcropping of marbled grandiosity cowering in its shadow. Whatever great empires man has built, they last like an erection in the cold and drunk winds of winter. Nature will devour us, is the motto of all our lives. The wave peaks at over a hundred stories high, making Trump and his castle of grass lawns nearly invisible. Trump throws his arms up one last time, screaming one last scream. Probably the most famous word in film history is Charles Kane whispering “Rosebud” on his deathbed. Not Trump. His face contorts to his usual menacing way as he speaks. “Vic-tory!!!” he screams, stabbing his pointing finger forward like he enjoys doing. And the ocean hurls over him. And just like that, he is gone.

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

GDK619776

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.