Here's my crappy book no one's ever going to read. My life is not so much a life as a series of awkwardnesses.
"I'm The Pretty Pie Girl. I'm The Pretty Pie Girl," the TV blares her chipmunk voice as she waltzes with a chocolate cookie. Her adorable face sirens, "You're my Ookie Ookie Cookie," her computer generated smile happier than humanly possible. She's a pie missing the bottom slice, with tiny arms gloved to the elbows, and cute legs booted to the knees. She twirls, "You're my Ookie Ookie Cookie."
Her dark partner croons in lowest bass, "I'm your Ookie Ookie Cookie."
I select a box from the cupboard, The Hexachocolator, a six sided cake with six kinds of chocolate. In bright yellow letters it proclaims, "Zero Grams Trans Fat."
She's slides down a ladle, "Capsulsgrave Confections are Deeeeee-licious," and splashes into a bowl of milk. Look at all the subliminal sexual cues. This borders on child porn. Anything to sell as much poison as possible.
I crack two eggs. I measure the oil. I use olive oil not grease. The box says one cup, but I use half. One cup, that's crazy. I beat the mix with a wooden spoon.
The "real" children, one tenth as cartoonish, are banging their spoons to the musical on their breakfast table chanting, "Ookie Ookie Cookie." How many impressionable minds are watching this whorescrappening? I pour the batter into a pan and bake at 365.
I go upstairs and get the logic puzzle magazine I bought with my allowance. I make a chart in my bent spiral notebook with a blue pen low on ink. The system I invented makes it too easy.
I look down at my coat hanging at the bottom of the winding bannister, I see Burt in the pocket taking a cigarette. I go to the office and tell, perfect face and body, no chance she would ever want me, Diane. Besides staff can't date residents. But even if she could, she wouldn't. She tells me not to leave things out. That's what they say? That's the official West House policy? Anything left out is up for grabs.
I take from my coat the application for the Office of Disabled Services and sit on one of the couches in the TV room to fill it out, so I can get a good job and get out of this institution as soon as possible.
Pat sits on the other couch with her blonde French poodle hairdo and smokes. Every so often, she turns her head to the side, then back, like a chicken.
Oh boy, here we go, first question: ETHNIC GROUP. They don't even ask name first. Two boxes-one for white, one for black. I opt to fill in my own answer- 1/16 Light, 1/16 Dark, 1/16 Medium, 1/16 Medium Dark, 1/16 Medium Light, 1/16 Kiss, 1/16 My, 1/16 Sweet, 1/16 Fat, and 1/16 Ass.
Pat is snoring with the cigarette burning in her mouth.
I say, "PAT."
"Thank you." She taps off her ash, turns her head, and goes back to smoking.
Second question: Age. I write,"40," quickly and legibly.
Third question: Describe how your disability prevents you from working? I think about it. You're asking me? Ask the doctor. She has a file cabinet full of my records. Why are you asking me? It's hard to put into words. I think and think. I crumple the paper into a ball and throw it in the basket. Nice shot. JORDAN!
I step out for some air. Davey is squatting against the side of the house. Only a skinny person can sit like that. Both my legs would snap off. A rollie burning between his blackened fingers, he spits mucus on the blacktop between his legs. Doesn't that disgust him? Spit to the side. He doesn't care. Davey has a boyish face and manner. He doesn't care about shaving, but does it when Vivian kicks him in the butt. His voice is pleasant and rhythmic, "God bless you, Fox."
"How are you, Dave?"
"Oh, fine. Fine. Fine."
"What you up to?"
"Trimmed Miss Martha's bushes yesterday." His face brightens, "Oh, Miss Martha is a pretty girl." He giggles and mumbles unintelligible syllables as he brings his face into my face. I back up. Oh excuse me. Do you mind not spitting in my mouth?
"She gave me five dollars."
"I hope you invested it wisely."
"I got these and a pop."
"So, what are your plans for today?"
"Oh, Nuthin. Nuthin."
Why does everyone keeps saying that?
"What ya doin?"
He smokes more than anyone would possibly need to. I shouldn't criticize, but everything I'm not supposed to do comes naturally. The fingers closest to the cigarette are stained the darkest. Same pattern on his teeth. I've got to quit smoking. His father nagged him to quit for years, then died from lung cancer. You could say it matters, you could say it doesn't. Is one death better than another? Why live at all?
Loucarla, a hot girl, comes out and announces dinner. Pretty. Petite. Skinny legs. She's got the Snowchester farm girl look. Blue jeans. A curly mane with bangs. She's got the accent. Pronounces Snowchester in one syllable, "Snochstr." I have no chance with her either.
Us twenty eat at the long antique table. This house used to be a mansion in the twenties. You can tell by how big the rooms and how fancy the moldings on the walls. The ceiling has ornate ridges that make a beautiful circular pattern around the real crystal chandelier with four energy saver bulbs. This was all for one family. We have twenty people living here spaciously.
You see the same pattern in this neighborhood, a mansion every couple of blocks, with ten normal houses built later in between. What used to be one rich person's estate was split into twenty normal size yards.
I'm sitting next to Pretty Tony, who looks like a short Gregory Hines. He glances at Loucarla and whispers, "I tapped that in the phone room." He smiles big. "I went right up to her in the phone room and pulled her pants down." We chuckle. He's not serious.
I say, "Loucarla, this tuna is really good."
She answers, "Thank you. The trick is fresh garlic. . . These hot dogs have half the fat."
I am morally compelled to speak up, "And what about carcinogens? Do they have half the carcinogens?"
The table gets quiet. Bingo.
Burt has a long handlebar mustache and bushy black hair. He talks funny, "Car-in-o-gen," slowing down on the difficult sounds.
I hold up an imaginary pack and say loud and sarcastically, "Hello. Carcinogens. . . Sodium Nitrite, Sodium Nitrate. I rest my case."
"Hot dogs don't cause cancer," says Hippo slowly with his big round face.
Pat clucks, "I think I'm going to be sick."
Burt says, "Say goo'night."
Tall Rich says, "There's nothing wrong with the hotdogs. They're the best, Roscoe Mueller."
I say no more, not to make a scene, but I sneer knowingly. Oh no. They wouldn't put anything bad in something people eat.
Loucarla says, "Do you go through this every time you eat?"
A noticeably attractive girl is talking to me and smiling. This has to be a set up. She cons me into thinking she likes me, and when we go back to her room, her boyfriend jumps me.
"Where do you think cancer comes from?" Why even get my hopes up? I'm sure she's not into fat guys. "Well not every time. Well pretty much, yea, every time. Well probably not EVERY time, but most times."
She is staring.
"There were probably a few times I didn't."
She says, "I'll take that as a yes."
"So pretty much everything causes cancer." She laughs.
"Hydrogenated oil is heart attacks, but pretty much. Hot dogs, cold cuts, fruits and vegetables with pesticides, anything that comes in a plastic packaging, and of course coffee stirrers."
"Well yeah, think about it, you're putting a thin little strip of plastic into piping hot coffee and you're swirling it around. Do you have any idea how many thousands of carcinogens leech into the coffee? A lot."
"They wouldn't make anything that touches food with harmful chemicals."
I get louder, "You would think that! Sounds like a good rule. Death, take me now! . . . Are you kidding me? Please tell me you're kidding. They don't care if they kill people. They only care about one thing"
She cuts me off, "Follow the money."
"That's right." I laugh. "They would sell rat poison and call it Ratty-O's."
Loucarla can't see Pretty Tony smiling at her, subtly grabbing and thrusting like Michael Jackson, suggesting sex. I look back skeptically. He laughs. Pretty crude table manners. No one else notices.
"The birds dropping. It's a pyramid scheme. The dollar bill, look, a pyramid. They're all in on it. Don't you see? Follow the money."
"Foxavier, do you want fries?" I shouldn't, but I take some. Why am I doing this evil thing? It tastes good. You'll feel sick after. I feel sick now. Try not to take too many.
Burt is pushing the mashed potatoes towards Ralph who has a David Niven mustache, "No you finish your ve-ta-ble."
Ralph is smiling. He's pushing it back, "Have some more potatoes. You're a growing boy."
Burt, "You-r a gro-ing bo-y. . . I don't want any more, Ralph. I had a whole bag of chi-ps." He's always got his big bag of barbecue tortilla chips with him. I look at Ralph. He could be a serial killer. It would be the perfect opportunity, a counselor in a group home. I have no evidence, just a feeling.
Sonny is in her seventies. Her medicine makes her shake all the time. She takes a bite of my cake and says, "Mondays at six." Talking about her painting class. She's painted hundreds of free portraits and given hundreds of free lessons. There is no expression on her face. She looks like she's going to sleep. Her body drops on the floor. Pat calls out, "Oh!" Everyone gathers around and Rich tells us to not touch her and calls 911. We're all staring at her laying there. Diane takes everyone in the backyard. The ambulance comes quick and takes her away unconscious. She's lucky we're so close to University Hospital. It's top notch.
Did Sonny have a stroke? It couldn't be the cake. The box specifically said, "Zero grams trans fat." I'm positive. I get the box out of the trash. See, "Zero grams trans fat per serving." Per serving? Why is 'per serving' in small letters? I read the ingredients: Water, bromated flour, hydrogenated rapeseed oil! Hydrogenated rapeseed oil? Those sneaky bastards. It was the cake. I read the word "hydrogenated" one more time on the side of the box.
After dinner a bunch of us sneak out the bedroom window and sit on the roof. Dennis looks like Hank Hill. He is the biggest with a deep voice. He smiles and giggles, "Kiss it."
Pretty Tony states with confidence,"Pimps up. Ho's down." How do you even respond to that? I just shake my head. He laughs, "You're problem is you need some pussy." He's right, although I don't agree with his terminology.
Chubby babyface Nate chuckles deeply and passes the KOOL to Burt.
Burt takes a long drag, then coughs it out making a sour face. "I got... my gir'friend...in Can-ton O-hio." He smiles with his long sloppy handlebar mustache..
Dennis says, "I was stationed in Germany. . . Intercourse," and chuckles.
I'm nervous about getting caught. "I'm going back in." I climb back in the window, and go brush my teeth to cover the smell.
Burt says, "Say goo'night."
I hear Ralph announce with his heavy Indian accent, "MED-I-CA-TION!" I descend the staircase. I'm first.
Then Hippo comes up. "I was here first." He's so big, by comparison I look like a troll. I say nothing.
"That's my place," he says with his big dumb face.
He yells at maximum volume turning his whole head red,"I WAS HERE FIRST!"
Everybody looks at him. I let him go, just to be the bigger man. This isn't the frikkin money line, it's a medication line. I guess he needs his medication real bad. Obviously. Can you blame him for being born and raised a pig?
I take two green and yellow capsules, Noeffenwayazil. It was just featured on the front page of The New York Times with the headline, "The New Miracle Drug!"
I read the ingredients on the empty cake box again, "Water, Bromated Flour," How can water be the first ingredient? It's a dry mix? Hydrogenated rapeseed oil. Just another name for trans fat.
It's my fault for not having a microscope on me when I was reading the ingredients.
Rich makes an announcement, "Guys, I have some sad news to report. Sonny passed away."
I'm a murderer. A person is dead because I didn't read a box.
Life is an ocean of sorrow and I don't have a paddle.
Next morning, I take a shower for twenty minutes. For some strange reason I can't ejaculate.
"Yippie," says Theresa," We're going to Schwegman's." Rich counts the people, twenty, plus three staff. He is driving. Theresa is sitting up front. Three people per seat in the back. A whole Partridge Family bus of special people set loose among the rich.
Schwegman's is like Disneyland. Imagine fifty stores put together, for movie stars, with nineteen restaurants, a fish market, rows of salad bars, a whole cheese shop, a pet store with animals being manicured in beauty salon chairs with hair dryers, a wall of live sushi chefs, too many kinds bakeries to name, a car dealership and repair station.
Remember: Stock up on fruits and vegetables, but not too much, because it goes bad and you'll have to throw out a whole cabbage. There is a whole isle just for cat food. Buy meat, just what you expect to eat. There are so many choices. Everything looks good. Don't buy extra thinking you'll freeze it. You'll just microwave it three in the morning.
Everywhere you look is gourmet demonstrations with free samples. I literally want to eat everything. I feel bad because I can't. I have to choose. Too many choices. Yogurt has good bacteria, but it's not worth buying just a single. I can mentally finish a single yogurt in my mind without even having to buy it.
Where else could you find a three ounce loaf of millet/hemp bread cooked by real monks in Uganda. It comes in a burlap sack so you know it's authentic. Twenty dollars? This is the great whore of stores. A sign of the end times. An abomination. Overload.
Read the labels on everything. Don't forget the budget. Remember everything I eat has to be exercised off. One cookie is an hour of walking. I'm not worthy of love unless I have six-pack abs. I feel bad knowing that whatever I buy is gonna be gone by tonight. If I can just stick to an impossible diet for a year, then I won't be disgusting. Once they remove the excess skin.
It must be nice being one of those people who already is okay. Why do I have to exert such effort while some people look good without having to do anything? Some people aren't meant to be happy. Why did You curse me? Where did I go wrong? Is this a test? How long will the test go on? Did I do something bad in a previous life?
There are so many hot successful women in here it's pathetic. Try not to get bitter when people avoid me. Don't take it personally when pretty women shoot those "Don't bother me" rays out their eyes. Don't take the parents pulling their children away from me personally.
And stop being so obsessed with food. Exercise three hours a day. Must try harder. Must be entertaining. Under no circumstances be yourself.
When I'm rich and famous people will want to be my friend. Then I will say, "Too late!" You had your chance. I tried to be your friend and you mocked me, and talked behind my back. You thought you were better than me. Who's better than who? If they like me just because I'm famous then there not my friends anyway.
If I only like myself just because I'm famous, then...?
I'm on to their little game. If there's less than .5 grams trans fat, they can legally call it zero. You think you're eating zero, but you're eating .49 grams. Bastards.
It's not murder if you can't prove this specific biscuit caused that specific heart attack, so flood the market with GreesBalz. It's hard to sue when you're not rich, and it's even harder when you can't move one side of your body, so poison away. If we're stupid enough to let them then we deserve it.
It's our own fault for letting the politicians be so corrupt.
Those companies feed off us, but then larger companies feed off of them...so you see: it all works out.
Look at this. I pick up a big heart shaped box of chocolates. I try to read the nutritional information, but I can't because the clear plastic wrap has a seam covering that exact spot. This is no accident. They don't want people to read the ingredients. This injustice shall not stand. I get the manager. "Excuse me. I can't read the ingredients." She can't read it either. She peels it off for me. As she's peeling I say to the cashier, "Gee, do you think they have something to hide?" She hands it to me.
I purposely raise my voice so all the customers can be educated, "Thank you. . . . Just as I expected, 'Fractionated Palm Seed Oil! That's just another name for TRANS FAT. That's what causes heart attacks. I guess they didn't want anyone to know THIS PRODUCT CAUSES HEART ATTACKS."
The cashier looks at the manager and says, "What are we going to do with this? I'll take it." She reaches in her pocket for change.
"I wouldn't eat that if I were you. There's trans fat in there."
The manager walks way. So, this is what it's like being a nut. But that's the cost of being a pioneer. How else are people going to learn. Revolutions start with the crazy people.
I better quit while I'm ahead. "Have a nice day." Why do I do these things?
I'm at the Pharmacy. The tall, silver hair, man behind the counter is standing at attention in a white lab coat.
"You guys have quite a racket here."
He says, "Excuse me?"
"You sell food with trans fat in the front, and when people have heart attacks, you sell them medicine."
He just looks at me.
I leave saying "Thank you."
I meet the group at check-out. Diane is wearing stockings with a pattern. She asks me, "Would you mind helping us carry these?"
I reply, "If I do, will you sleep with me?"
She says, "You can't say that." She gets Rich who says, "You're suspended for three days."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
It means you can't come to the house til Sunday."
"Where am I supposed to go for three days?" I walk away into the ice cream isle. Where the hell am I supposed to go for three days? I'm in the toilet paper isle. When I was a kid I used to build forts here. I hollow out a cubby hole and sit in there, and cover up the hole with more toilet paper packs.
I'm happy in my igloo. Free to think my thoughts and be alone with God. I was in there about half an hour before somebody lifts away my door. Two cops, the store manager, Rich, all the people from the group watching. Pretty Tony holds up his fist and says, "No justice. No peace," as they take me away. Good one.
Outside the city limits of the metastasizing neon sin of the Nevada desert, is a factory big as a fleet of Naval destroyers. Blocks of buildings connected by ducts, walkways, and cables. Forklifts and conveyor belts, trucks and hard hats, transporting crates, and palettes. Many drums are labeled, "WARNING BIOHAZARD."
Inside, the machines produce, package, and box thousands of cookies and candies per second: Biskit Buddies, Ga-Ga-Roos, Hexachocolators, Lezmends, Skuzzles, Yummer-Gummers, Mommy Munchers, GreesBalz, Gooey-Gummies. Thousands of packages being loaded onto trucks, trains, and ships, flowing together into an Amazon, then dispersing all over the world.
A thin, strong man with long stubble is wearing a Harley-Davidson T-Shirt and carrying a box with machine parts, "Hey Reynolds, I hear your old lady was out last night."
Reynolds laughs. His hair is Jheri curled. He wears the uniform sleeves rolled up, and the buttons undone down to his navel, showing his nice sweater and gold chain. He mans a desk with hundreds controls and numbers, but pays more attention to his paper with the headline, "BUSH FATHERS CHILD WITH QUEEN!" He chuckles, "Never mind my old lady. You better keep your eye on your old lady."
Neither notices the rat walking on the control panel. "If my lady looked as good as yours, I wouldn't take my eyes off her." The rodent runs across the top of a keyboard, changing one of the numbers on the screen from 155 to 279. The animal disappears into a space between the computers.
Wires run to the main computer building then out to the 'Oven,' a massive building where the home cookin' happens, into one of the mixing rooms and through a complicated tangle of pipes leading to the Mixelator, a giant machine controlling hundreds of nozzles which spray low frequency pulses into the giant churning bowl of purple batter. One of the numbers on the BCAD screen goes from 528 to 1937, increasing the pulse rate for a nozzle connected to a tank with no label.
White flour is constantly pouring in from one conveyor belt, and white sugar from another.
Once the batter is mixed it follows another pipe where it is squirted in dots on to a conveyor belt. The dots go through computerized machines moving faster than the eye, drying, pressing, dressing(adding nuts), molding into a ball with starburst points, adding red, white, and blue sprinkles, and hardening into the final product- a Ga-Ga-Roo. A soon as it is born, it is stacked with its brothers and sisters, packed, wrapped, boxed, and crated. A team of forklifts loads crates onto eighteen wheelers all day.
What makes this batch different from other batches? Levels of 3-glycyl, 4-ethyl delicioustase benzene seven times normal. An impressive network of trucks, ships, trains, and more trucks, like a giant circulatory system, distribute these Ga-Ga-Roos somewhere among all the millions of packs going to every corner of the world, to sit on shelves and wait for people to buy them.
I told them I was going to jump in front of the first bus I see. They didn't believe me. They weren't going to admit me at first. I ask the doctor, "So you don't think I have a serious illness?"
He says, "On the contrary, I think you're one of the most ill people I've ever seen."
He's playing mind games. They end up admitting me.
I sign in at the nurse's station. "Name?"
"The biggest pain in the ass in this hospital."
I continue, "When they try to give you a chip in your head or your hand, that's the mark of the beast. Don't take the mark of the beast. They will cut off your money supply. Money is the devil. Do not under any circumstances take the mark of the beast."
"Who knows? It could be in the Pig vaccine, a nano-chip. They've been working on it for years. They put a micro dot of chemical on a postage stamp-"
"Mr. Jostleplume." The nurse is holding a mini clear plastic cup with a half-green-half-yellow capsule. I swallow it.
"-and when you lick it, you go on a twenty-four hour killing spree and the next day you don't even remember." I drink some water. "Makes you think about licking a stamp doesn't it? Any hoo."
I secretly take a metal fork off the dinner cart.
"And what about high frequency light pulses in TV signals? The military has been doing it for years. It was first used to sell beer. That gives you an idea how well it works."
"Thank you." She throws the cup out and sprays her hands with sanitizer.
I go to the exit door and try using the fork to pick the lock.
I walk the hall. When you go in the hospital, it's a near death experience. Maybe a full death experience. Your past life is dead, but you're still alive. I sit in the TV room. When you're watching TV it doesn't matter who you are. I'm watching the same show a millionaire is, in his mansion.
Beverly Hillbillies is on.
A young trim guy is watching too. His thin hair hangs straight and is trimmed straight at the shoulder. Turns out we're both born February 5, but he's two years younger. We're both wearing gowns and booties.
He laughs, "Granny's wearing Army boots."
"When you're hiking, you've got to have good shoes. I was in the Snowchester Mountaineering Society."
"The mud in the trenches was so deep, it was over their boots."
I add, "The Russian winter."
"I know these things, that's why I'm Jumping Jack Flash. I was a ranch hand at the Wind River Ranch.
"Mr. Jostleplume." The doctor interrupts us. "I am Dr. Patel. Can we talk?" When he says that it reminds me of Joan Rivers, and I giggle. "I believe you've been having a reaction to the Franafranil. That's why we are taking you off it, okay? We're gonna try Querasil.
"You see, Fox, because I have good training I know about these things. They fired their machine guns so much the barrels melted." He shows a lot of teeth when he grins. "The Japanese had booby traps."
"If we ever got in a war with Japan all they would have to do is press one button, and all the electronic devices in the United States would explode." The results would be devastating. Or perhaps they just have tiny cameras in there. Unbelievable intelligence potential. Or perhaps its nanoweapons grade biospore with enough Pig's Disease to eradicate the world seven times over.
"Can you imagine what it must've been like?" He plays like he's spraying machine gun fire with a big smile on his face. "Their guns melted." It cracks him up every time.
The commercial comes on. There she is again, "Take it from me, kids! Take it from me, kids. I'm the Capsulsgrave Pie Girl! I'm the Capsulsgrave Pie Girl! Take it from me kids!" It doesn't matter which channel; they're all in on it. "THE BEST WAY TO SHOW SOMEONE YOU CARE IS TO GIVE THEM A Capsulsgrave PIE." "Take it from me, The Capsulsgrave Pie Girl." "I'm the Capsulsgrave Pie Girl!" "I'm the Capsulsgrave Pie Girl!" "REMEMBER KIDS- Love Equals Pie!" "LOVE EQUALS PIE!" "I'm the Capsulsgrave Pie Girl!" "Take it from me Kids!" "Love equals pie!"
I say to Jumping Jack Flash,"Did you notice they've been playing the same commercial over and over again?"
Each computer generated orange hair glistening as she bobs up and down in fast motion, slow motion in my mind, with the music. She is a singing dancing pie- what a freakin' concept. A singing dancing pie- singing, "Eat me. Eat me."
"You know they designed the music to brainwash you?"
They know exactly what beat will produce maximum buying behavior in test subjects. I don't remember signing up to be a test subject. You did when you bought that candy bar and didn't have your lawyer read the ingredients first. Then have your doctor read them. Then your psychiatrist. If you still want to eat it after all that . . . you're me.
JJF, "The winter saved them."
"Love equals pie! Love equals pie! I'm the Pretty Pie Girl! I'm the Pretty Pie Girl! I'm the Pretty Pie Girl!" Spinning and dancing and singing to the music with her pals, biscuits and tater tots, in complex choreographies, harmonies, and frequencies, as only a computer animated burst of ESB (Electronic Stimulation of the Brain) can. "I'm the Pretty Pie Girl." That voice. "Have a piece of pie!" Sure it's cute. It's so friggin cute and innocent and lovable that is took a team of engineers, lawyers, and marketers four years and seventy million dollars to develop. Just the voice. "I'm the Pretty Pie Girl" It's no accident that the song has that pounding beat at exactly 2.2 beats per second. You have no idea what kind of CIA/Water boarding went into finding that magic number. I didn't just pull 2.2 beats per second out of my quahahnya Let's call it the 'buy a maximum number of cookies' frequency. For us lay types, let's just say it's a catchy tune. Oh it's catchy, all right.
"The Lucitania, Fox, the coal bunkers exploded."
Then a different voice, a motherly, wise, honest voice interjects, "Mothers will be glad to know that all Capsulsgrave Confections contain zero grams of trans fat per serving."
I say loudly, "You've got to be kidding me."
She says the words 'per serving' just slightly at a lower volume. Could The Great Whore have something to hide? Then she lies again, flat out in your face: "Always have, always will." That dirty lying witch. How can they get away with this legally? Aren't there laws against murder and false advertising?
The spoons dosidoing with the butter pats, and the teapot playing tuba and the cookies playing trombone. First it goes to R&D which is code for Special Ops.
"I want my Mommy-Munchers!" Mommy-Munchers are some bastardtution of chocolate and cheese. "Take it from me. I'm the Pretty Pie Gir-"
"SHUT UP!" I strain my vocal cords. That's what I get for being mad. She got to me. The thought makes me even madder. I get so mad I scare myself. How can I express such vehement hatredtution in human language?
The attendant announces, "SMOKING." We line up, each get one cigarette. Did you ever see chimpanzees smoke? It doesn't take any brains. But don't judge. If people weren't so busy judging people.
The smoking room is the most crowded, with more ashtrays than chairs. One has a huge mound of cigarette butts. It would make a sizable fire.
Timmy is standing and talking with the cigarette in his mouth. "I shot seven consecutive three pointers. I was the leading scorer that year." He looks like Tom Hanks with a blonde afro.
Darlene says, "That's nice, Timmy."
I say, "They've got courts here."
Timmy, "Three to four, Tuesdays and Thursday. I'll shoot with you Fox."
I say, "Cool. I'm not that good, but I try."
Timmy, "A for effort." He smiles and laughs. Takes a drag off his cigarette. "You're an Officer and a gentleman."
Darlene takes a drag off hers.
A heavily grated window too high to reach lets the smoke out. Nobody could possibly escape out of it. I smoke a cigarette, trying to enjoy it fully, telling myself I must quit these dirty things.
Timmy says, "Do you smell weed?" Yes I do. Is Jumping Jack Flash smoking pot? It's a roll up. It's hard to tell. The nurse is coming.
"What are you smoking?"
"Leaves. I got some leaves off that tree over there." Turns out he didn't have any tobacco.
Timmy says, "Give him one of mine."
JJF says, "Thanks, Tim."
The orderly comes up to me, "What are you doing?"
"What's this?" He gestures to my hand which is plucking a hair from my eyebrow, (using a twirling vibratory technique I call a MacAllister.)
"You can't do that."
"I'm not allowed to touch myself?"
"You're not allowed to hurt yourself."
"I'm not hurting myself. I'm just touching my eyebrow."
"You can't do that."
"I always do this. I've been doing this for years."
"You are not allowed to harm yourself."
"It's a complex motor tick."
"No, it's not."
"Well I like doing it, and I'm going to keep doing it."
"If you don't stop, we will be forced to put the restraining jacket on you."
So they put me in a straight jacket.
I'm sorry I'm crazy. Not half as sorry as I brain is in a loop of damaging itself. Brain: stop damaging yourself. I guess there are different kinds of damage. Anger might damage it in one way, and sadness another. Still, damage is damage.
Nobody says, "when I grow up I want to be mentally ill." Nobody wants their daughter to marry a guy with mental illness. Don't listen to me, I'm depressed. Pay no attention to the ravings of a lunatic. I'm happy with the simple things. Clouds make me happy. I like helping the underdog. I try to make a positive influence on society. It's just that I hate people so much. They're so happy going about their lives, not caring about the poor, chugging beer and yelling at sports.
Part of me is jealous, and part is glad I'm not like them. They're so happy to pay extra just to be away from the lower class. They give their kids all the advantages over the poor kids. They live behind gates, just to keep the poor from getting stuff they don't need or appreciate. If you can't tell your family what you really did for the money, then it's blood money. Explain how everything was perfectly legal, and we have the best system in the world. Explain why everyone went along with it. Favors for your co-conspirators won't count for much.
I'm no better. I don't want to hate; I want to love.
After about five minutes the guy says, "If I let you out will you promise to stop."
After dinner I go to my room. A girl with curly hair, four inches taller than me, slides the curtain door open. She is wearing a gown and booties too. She is standing close to me smiling. We kiss. I touch her large breast. Someone is coming; she leaves. This has never happened before. If I knew being in a mental hospital was the magic secret to getting women, I would have lost my mind years ago.
The next morning I'm sitting in art group, getting into drawing a picture, when I have to stand up. Some feeling has come over me. I have to walk around. I have to keep walking. The Querasil is making me antsy. I can't take this feeling. I feel like I want to crawl out of my own skin. The nurse lets me take a warm bath to calm down, which helps. I pace the hall all day long reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-3, so I'm doing two things at the same time.
The nurse says, "You can't walk anymore today. It's time to go to bed."
"I need to walk."
"It's eleven pm and everyone has to be in bed."
"I'll go outside."
"After eleven pm everyone needs to be inside."
"I'm sorry, but I need to keep walking." So they call security. Now I'm on Normalcil.
They weigh all the patients on the floor. I'm the heaviest, 281. I'm going to eat one meal a day. That's all you need. Go to a nice restaurant. The rest of the day drink water. Or I could eat two medium sized meals. One at 9am and one at 5pm. Or three. One at 9. One at 12. One at 5. Or better, one at 9. One at 3, and one at 9. Four meals is one every four hours. I analyze this for an hour.
At night activity winds down. The lights are dimmed. We're playing cards. Two patients against two staff. My partner James tells me how to play.
The staff are bragging, "We got this."
I suggest, "If we win, we can have a soda."
James, "If we win, we can smoke a cigarette."
The staff aren't allowed to bet, but they can talk bull. "Amateur move. Amateur."
"Send ya back to Arkansas."
We just let them talk. We're winning. They are quieting.
James says, "We could get a Boston."
"What's a Boston?"
"If we run all the tricks in a row we win the whole thing."
"Come on Boston."
James, "Come on Boston."
We keep chanting, "Come on Boston." We keep winning. "Come on Boston." It's happening. Yes we did it. It's a Boston.
"Boston! . . Boston!. . .Boston!...Boston!" We're both yelling like maniacs.
Every day I read, jog around the building, and do pushups.
A lady wearing a tag, "REC AIDE," tells me I can go to the work unit. It pays ten cents an hour. We take an elevator to the work floor. The space is big enough for a whole factory, but there's only two desks. She has me take a seat. I can see the clouds through the windows up by the ceiling. My table has stacks of paper- one white, one blue, one red, one green, and one of envelopes. There's a basket next to it.
"Please take one sheet from each pile fold them together and stuff in the envelope, then throw in the bin."
It gets to be repetitive real fast. One, two, three, four, fold, stuff, throw. One, two, three, four, fold, stuff, throw. I put one hundred percent enthusiasm into this brave new career. If I demonstrate superior ability who knows where it could lead? Jostleplume International Industries. Jostleplume Enterprises Unlimited. I maximize efficiency of motion and complete the task as fast as I possibly can.
I throw the hundredth envelope and announce, "Finished!"
The attendant takes my bin, and leaves me breathing hard at the table. I wait a few minutes. She must be calculating my results. I bet that was a record.
She comes back with the bin. "What we would like you to do is take these envelopes- in each one you will find sheets of paper. Take out the pages and separate them into four piles-one for white, one for blue, one for red, and one for green.
"You mean to tell me that the envelopes I just stuffed you want me to unstuff?"
"Do you think you can do that?"
They have me doing a pointless task. Oh the uselessness of life! I blame the lawyers, and of course the politicians. Most of all I blame myself for being such a Big Blamer. Oh, the unbearable sadness of being.
After ninety days, the nurse finally stamps my hand, "SANE." I walk past the guard nurse displaying my badge hand with the letters upside down. She unlocks the door.
I demonstrate my sanity by saying, "Have a nice day."
Just a guy walking around a hospital. Feels good. Getting through this maze to the exit is one final test. Walking past a group I zoom in on the one attractive woman. Hello Sunshine. Two security guards fifteen feet away. They're not hassling me. Just keep walking casually. I didn't do anything. Nobody knows I'm a mental patient. I'm not a mental patient. I'm a free citizen. I go through the automatic doors and I'm free. I'm outside. It's a beautiful day. Huzzah.
Life is good. I have my own room on a quiet clean street next to the expressway concrete sound barrier. The steps are newly constructed, unpainted. You can see the nails. Beggars are not choosers. This makaloo puts up sheets of drywall creating five-by-ten rooms and is charging everyone three-twenty-five a month. We all share the kitchen and bathroom. Not as clean as the hospital. My window faces the front porch.
I sit lotus position on the front step for hours, watching the cars and people go by, watching the birds and squirrels, looking at the intricate beauty of the clouds and trees. A passing car radio is playing a commercial for Lezmends, intense lemon flavored lady fingers in the shape of double X's.
A cop pulls up, "Do you live here?"
"Yes, sir. Is there a problem?"
"No. I just never saw anyone sitting there like that." He rides on.
I go for a walk and practice the ancient Chinese art form of scanning the ground for money. It's only good when you have absolutely nothing better to do. It can be a whole Zen thing if you try. I should write a book about the science of finding money, that would be awesome, but I would have to develop a system first. Best spot to look-sewer drains.
If you took all the used drug bags and collected all the traces it would probably add up to a sizable amount of brain damage.
The Tao of Garbage Picking, a real religion. It's recycling; it's saving that which was lost. It's a way of life. Sometimes kids make fun. Stupid parents.
I try to walk at least a couple of hours a day. It's good exercise. It is a beautiful day. Plenty to be grateful for. The lawns are well kept. The trees are varied and beautiful each in its own way. This sidewalk is slate. A tree branch is growing from a person's hedge right in the way of the sidewalk. I snap the twig, but leave it dangling as a sign to trim. I look over my shoulder in case someone says, "Hey don't touch my tree."
Walking can lift depression, but fast walking can create road rage. I choose Eastman Boulevard because it is the richest, nicest, lowest chance of encountering teenagers, most chance of seeing hot women, least traffic, fewest mental hassles.
A car pulls out of the driveway and stops right in front of me, purposely blocking me. He didn't time his whole day just to cut in front of me. Should I lose it? Should I pound on his hood with my full strength yelling, "You son of a bitch!" I pass in front. If he floors it, I'll be killed. Of course he'll lie and say his foot slipped, but we will know the truth.
A person is walking the sidewalk from the other direction. He's three blocks away, but I can see we are on a collision course. Is he going to pass on the right or on the left? If we were driving we would pass on the right, but there is no such rule for walking. I signal my intention by getting over to the right. He is tall, in his thirties, dressed like a preppie. I sense no hostility in this one. He will pass easy. I look him in the face, trying to connect souls. Is not one life as worthy as another?
The smell of exhaust is sickening. It represents fire, warfare, hell.
A young girl coming five blocks away. She is walking on the same side as I am. I'm not changing course. Neither is she. We're at collision in ten feet, collision in five feet, neither of us is turning. We're looking each other in the eye. Finally she goes around. I beat a girl at a game of chicken. What's wrong with me? What's wrong with kids these days? Doesn't she know you're supposed to pass on the right? I could have turned. The incident is over. She has already forgotten. No harm done. I almost wanted to say, "I'm sorry you were abused as a child," but thankfully I didn't. People roaming around like savages. The utter tragedy of the human condition. She's long gone, but what if she decided to sneak up behind me and punch me in the back of the head. I couldn't argue, but I would never condone violence.
I admit I'm an idiot, but what good does that do?
People told me not to put myself down, but I didn't listen. Why do I have these thoughts? It's like dissolving in a vat of acid. But there are so many hateful things going on. How can I not notice them? I look behind me, she is gone, but some other people see me turn around.
I pass a girl wearing a pirate tattoo. Then a bar called "Nasty's." People worship music video whores and gangsters. The church was right, rock n roll did bring the moral destruction of society.
I see a woman walking ahead of me. I change sides so she doesn't think I'm following her.
I need to be more fun.
I stop by the store on the way back. I am not shopping at Rick's Stupid Store. I could, but I hate that effen place. The meat is spoiled. I go to Wrong-Mart. It's the closest store that isn't Rick's. A national chain. At least they don't have dust on the tops of their cans. I hate shopping here too. Everything is such a rip-off. This is a big corporation in action. Everything is down to a science designed to sell you.
Can't buy apples, they have pesticides. Remember buy mostly grains. Too many choices. Everything that tastes good is forbidden. I can't buy anything; all the cookies, cakes, and candies have hydrogenated oil in it. Hersey bars are the one thing I can eat. I break down and buy a box of fried chicken. I know it has eighty grams of trans fat. That's how addictive it is. I can get 99% of the oil out with paper towels. It's already illegal in California, how can New Yorker be walking around like zombies. Why is nobody outraged?
Walking back home, reading the box I just bought 'Ancient Grains from the Bible' cereal.
"Ingredients: Flax seeds, whole grain oats, whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, hydrogenated Canola oil! SON OF A BITCH. They got me again. It's my own filthy fault for not reading every single words of the ingredients while I was still in the store. SCATOLOGY 101: Those dirty scunspunsules.
Then I notice the Pie Girl on the corner of the box, laughing at me. She got me. Righteous Farms is a subsidiary of Capsulsgrave Confections of North America. I stare her down. It's all her fault. All of my life's failures are her fault.I don't believe what I'm saying at this point, but I feel like saying it.
Of course I don't blame her. She's just a pawn. She's just the prostitute, a victim. The real villains are the pimps who get the big money. The ones who will burn in hell for a million years are those rich guys, smoking their cigars and laughing. Laughing at us poor schnooks gorging ourselves on slop.
I tell people about trans fat. Nobody cares. They say, "But it tastes good." You can't prove that this hamburger caused that heart attack, so stuff your brains out.
Walked for two hours. I sit on the front steps and observe the universe. All is serene. A car pulls up. A guy about eighty gets out, goes to his trunk, takes out a food container and comes up the porch. "Howard Games?"
I point upstairs.
He announces himself, "Meals On Wheels."
Howard instantly opens his door. He talks loud, "Coming. I'm coming." Howard is beautiful, seventy, short, fat, and bald. His cartoon voice is slow, but loud, "Chicken and rice. Good. Did you bring the extra milk?"
"I just deliver the bags."
"Yes. They're here."
"Have a nice day."
"Thank you." Howard goes in his room. Meals on Wheels. Pretty sweet.
I sit on the front steps and watch people go by for hours. I have a perfect view of the expressway billboard, a simple white background with the gigantic symbols,
I stare at it for hours.
Scufo comes down. He has long hair and is tall and thin like a scarecrow, with a deep voice.
"You've gotta come see this." We go upstairs to Howard's Room. Rod, who has an afro and looks very strong, is laughing. Howard is standing in the hall, which is unusual.
Scufo opens Howard's door and says, "Go in there." The room is just big enough to hold a bed. You have to squeeze to walk around the bed. The top of his one dresser is packed with bottles of various cleaners.
"Why? What's going on?"
"Just go in there." I stick my head in. Then it hits me, an overpowering smell, like chemical weapons. If you can stand smelling sewage for one second, this would be a quarter of a second.
Rod chuckles, "You can't do that. You can't mix bleach with ammonia."
Scufo is reading the label, "This has bleach."
Scufo plays guitar and sings and scores with the ladies.
Nighttime, I finish the cheese way too fast. It was a three pound bag. It would have lasted a normal family a month. Once I start eating cheese, I'm obligated to finish it. I say to myself, "You don't need anymore, YOU FAT PIG," but it doesn't work. I've been through this a million times. Every night since I was eight. People are working and saving money, having children, and here I am wasting my time on this. Why? Why don't I just stop eating? Do you realize how much money you could save? But I keep eating, and exercising, and planning new diets. Every hour a new diet. When I eat grapefruit I'm on the grapefruit diet. When I'm eating a whole cake, it's the whole cake diet. Why does life suck? Why do I need to change so much just to be okay? This stuff writes itself. So why does anyone need me?
Nagging yourself doesn't do any good. The only thing that matters is when your sitting there at night with that box of Gummy-Hearts. Don't eat the whole thing. Save some for tomorrow. But the thought of those cookies sitting there is burning a hole in my head. I choose to eat Gummy Hearts. I don't choose to be fat.
I will eat normal size portions. No seconds. You can eat anything just stick to one portion. Not two, not three. Not five. Why do I need five hotdogs to be happy? Normal people are happy with one. And then I'm still not happy.
Also, it's about the grains. Mostly grains, mostly rice and oatmeal, and corn and wheat, then vegetables, then fruits, then a little meat or cheese, and no sugar. And absolutely no hydrogenated oil.
Dodger has short curly blond hair. He's tripping. He's pacing around the kitchen clenching a hammer.
Later he carries a big TV out of the house and goes down the street.
He comes back with a blood covered face. Some guy hit him with a baseball bat. He's drunk, "Come with me Fox, I'm going to get those guys."
"I'm sorry man, that's way too violent for me."
I feel bad for these little kids playing in the street just like normal. This is all they know. The mother next door slaps the little girl's hand, "I told you no!" No wonder they're killing each other.
I occupy myself by making a bow and arrow out of wire hangers and rubber bands. I can open my door and shoot my couch from the hallway fifteen feet back.
Les' door is open. I can see ten people in there. There's a little guy on his hands and knees looking for something on the floor. His buddy, a big guy, tells him to stop and slaps him. His cheek is red. A few seconds later he's back to searching the floor. The big guy has to keep slapping him every so often.
Les comes in,"Call the police I got ripped off."
"What?" Jude pushes him right through his own glass window.
Howard is moving because his Meals on Wheels have been getting stolen. "You guys can have this stuff. I'm gonna throw it out." Mostly junk. Only things of any usefulness are three large butcher knives.
Rodney, "I'll take one."
Scufo, "I'll take one. You want one?"
I take one, "This is an okay quality knife."
Scufo, "Look at the three of us holding knives."
Dodger and I made up this game where I stand in front of the concrete barrier and he tries to nail me with the soccer ball from across the street. All I have to do is move out of the way like Kung Fu. He got me a couple of times.
Turns out everyone in this house is a crack head, except for a couple of pot heads, and the one glue head who sees demons. I have to write a letter to the hospital telling them not to place people trying to recover in this terrible environment.
Stuk walks quickly, sometimes dancing, sometimes stiffly, down the street holding his guitar in one hand, wearing a tie dye t-shirt. He keeps his Einstein-hair head down.
"Pete just ripped me off!"
"I gave him sixty dollars. He goes into the house, and never comes out. We saw him looking through the blinds."
I knock on Scufo's door.
I crack open his door. He is under the covers with a beautiful young black hair girl. I take a good look at her. She giggles.
"Hey Scuf, got a smoke?"
"Sure bro. Remind me to play my new song for you later."
"Thanks dude." Scufo is cool. He's in a band. Whatever.
The billboard is on the other side of the expressway. I go over there and walk along the shoulder to an area of grass between highways. It's a cool little world where nobody goes. I can touch the board and put my face close to it. I can see little blue, red, and yellow dots. The heart is mostly red dots, but there are blue and yellow too. Even the white has all three color dots. The letters are as tall as me.
Evening, I'm in bed. "Venus! Venus!" Scufo is pounding on my cheaply constructed door, "Have you seen my cat?"
"Let me in, I want to see if Venus is in there."
"She's not here." I'm not getting out of bed.
"Let me in."
"I told you she's not here. Go away." She's not in here.
He punches a hole through the center of my door and sticks his face through just like Jack Nicholson.
"I can't believe you just did that. Are you insane?"
"I just wanted to see for myself."
"I told you she's not in here. What the hell is wrong with you?" I can smell the airplane glue. I walk to the corner payphone to call the cops. His parole is revoked and he goes to jail. I end up taking care of Venus. How ironic! That's how I got Kitty. Was I wrong to call the cops? Life is sad.
I love Kitty. Kitty is my baby. My little Whiskanippins. Kitty is my Lady McLickins, my Princess Catatina. Miss Pink Lips. Kitty is gray and white like Bugs Bunny, with pink lips and toes, just like a real girl. The prettiest cat in all the land. She's a little runt. I gave her the plain name Kitty, because I knew she would have an endless number of nicknames. Chicken Lickin'. Nipper mittens. Honey pie.
I see a poster on a light pole, "Make your mark on Snowchester. Money Walk." It's an art contest. This is cool, if you win they engrave your design on the sidewalk. I write down the information and go home and draw something and send it in.
I get the runs while crossing the street, so they take me off Lithium and put me on Normalcil.
You'll be attending Operation Food," says Nedwina, my case manager, "It's a club. You can eat lunch, do chores, go to movies, go on picnics. They have a pool table and bingo."
It's a big mansion house, even bigger than the one West House was in. You can tell someone really super rich used to live here.
There are about ten staff and a hundred members. There are work units. Mostly people smoke and eat. All ages. All types. Den rides a motorcycle and wears a black leather jacket. He has a hot girlfriend. Sherri is hot too. She has a boyfriend too. He also wears a leather jacket. I guess that's the big secret. Sandy is adorable. The hot ones never like me.
A miracle happens. For some reason I'm hitting it off with this girl Rosa. We were talking. She was laughing. Then we decide to go on the lawn and lay on a blanket. For the first time in my life I'm actually relaxing and having fun with a girl. Holly comes over and tells us, "You can't do that." Thanks a lot, Holly.
Over the years there were girls I had chances with, but I was too shy. I should have jumped their bones, but it's too late.
When I was young I went to a dance. I was too shy, but after a while I got the courage to go out on the floor. It was fun for a moment, but then the dance was over.
Julian announces, "We can't eat until someone takes mopping." He used to play semi-pro football. It takes ten minutes of nagging before Jerry finally breaks down. It's always the good people volunteering. Jerry looks like Bob Hope.
I can see Theresa getting ready to raise her hand. She has short black hair and wears a sweater. She is adjusting her body and making vocal sounds. She speaks in a loud, hesitating voice, "I...can...do ... the napkins."
"Thank you Theresa."
Theresa continues, "I like... to mop. I mop... all the time... at home."
"We need someone to sweep upstairs. We can't eat until someone volunteers for upstairs."
Leonard's voice is high-pitched and choppy. "I guess I'll have to do it."
"Thank you, Leonard."
Leonard giggles. He's young, maybe thirty, shaved bald.
Theresa chimes up again, "Are we going... to Albany... again ...this year.?"
Robert looks like a banker. He answers, "Luis has the sign up sheet."
Theresa, "Good. Good. Oh I love going to Albany."
Leonard, "Maybe we'll see Governor Pataki." He emphasizes the tak in Pataki.
Julian, "Oh Leonard, go do your chores."
Leonard giggles, "You go do your chores." He giggles more, "Julian and I are friends."
I'm handing out trays, calling people's names. "Boris Garrett."
"Thank you." Boris is in his seventies, "Anyone who smokes is a suicide case."
"Theresa Hand," I announce, correctly pronouncing and clearly enunciating using just the correct volume.
"Thank . . . you." She stretches out what she says. Her voice is clear and loud, maybe because she's visually impaired.
Would I want to be her? Would she want to be me? We can only be ourselves. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, the worst hell a man can know. I shouldn't say that because there are worse things. Thank God I don't have something worse. The principle of OCD is to suffer as much as possible without going to the point of suicide, which would end the suffering. OCD means you think too much. OCD means you're mind is rigid. You spending all your time planning and none of it doing. OCD means being forty seven years old and never having a girlfriend. OCD means always having to say you're sorry. It must be a test of God. Your own mind tortures itself. I'm not the only one with problems. Stop being selfish.
I work in the kitchen. I like staying productive and close to food. First thing every morning I compulsively fill the sinks. We have professional stainless steel double sinks and freezers.
We cook five trays of roast chicken. My job is washing the dishes. I scrape the trays and eat a whole bowl of drippings. Awesome.
I write a letter:
Dear Capsulsgrave Confections,
I am a regular customer of your 74-ounce Southern Bucket® chicken. I normally buy three or four boxes a week.
I am appalled to discover it contains hydrogenated oil.
Please remove hydrogenated oil from all your products, so I can resume buying them as soon as possible.
I walk to the corner thinking this letter could change the world. The mail box creeks twice as I check to make sure the letter went down.
When I get back home I receive a phone call. I won the MoneyWalk contest. The picture I drew of a face with feet is going to be engraved into the sidewalk. MoneyWalk is awesome. It's the nation's first Outdoor Museum of Economics and Politics. If I die today, at least I accomplished one good thing with my life. A drop of water to a man dying of thirst.
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