Eskimo Blue Day ~ Part 2

Our Jungle House Shapes Up / Blair's Bun in the Oven / My Vampire Artist Friends / A Dog Named Meat Hook / Arguing With Blair / A Plague of Flies / A Plague of Rats / My War With Blair / Big Dick Billy / Stopping Diablo Canyon / A Cake Named Frac-nis / More Warring With Blair / A Mishap With Fireworks / The Last Battle (with Blair) / The Louisville Slugger Reality Test / Sad Conclusion...

by Roger Di Prima
~Erbekrank  (1930's GERMAN "DOCUMENTARY") 
3/08/1981 --- In the time since he got his ass kicked by John Henry Ike has
gradually revised his memories of the attack, until he was not only entirely
blameless for what happened but also more or less triumphant in battle
"I was just trying to be friendly to him and that goddamn nut-case
sucker punched me! He couldn't choose me off fair + square
like a MAN. He's lucky I didn't WASTE his ass!" –etc.
Maybe I should remind Ike that it was JH who was pulled off him,
but no attempt to apprise him of the truth about one of his
fights or verbal encounters has worked yet...
One nite just after moving in here I passed out with them on + woke
with them down at the foot of my sleeping bag. Not just snapped in 1/2
again, but now with a piece of the frame under the right lens busted out.
Couldn't find the lense until I found it stuck to my back like a suction cup.
Shit. Mending them gets more + more complicated. THEN LAST WEEK
while I was jumping up + down w/ the Hare Krishnas up in Laguna Beach
the newly glued section gave way without warning, the glass dropping out//
Which wouldnt be a problem at home but it happened out on the
sidewalk where the lense shattered like a TOOTSIE-POP. Part of the
cover from the paperback I was  reading went over the blank space ////
Abraham Lincoln wrestling a tentacled space alien on a giant chess board
with a spiral galaxy angling across the sky behind Roman columns + skinny
jagged green peaks like stalagmites. Cool picture, but leaves me w/ only
one functioning eyeball + no depth perception for crossing highway & c....
3/12---STUDIO FALLING TOGETHER NICELY. Has a nice big semicircular plywood desktop, & two sides made of polyethelene tarp like the one over my bed. The roof, which slants down from the grey metal canned-food rack of the larder, is slowly getting built- a crazy quilt of corregated fiberglass scraps that Ray & Whitey over at CB lumber are saving for me. It may not be as cute as Ike's palm fronds, but someday he may find out how insanely flammable those things are //
WHAT I REALLY WANT is some sort of flooring, so when I finally get that 4th wheel for my chair I can go zooming around grabbing whatever I need from under these river stone paperweights.....
IT'S JUST WEIRD how the stuff we need seems to end up in our hands with a strange matter-of-factness. It seems like we only have to think about something to find it within a day or so! Like specific grocery items, which I'll concede might just be us unconsciously keeping track of the expiration dates for different products. But all these other lucky finds are far harder to explain away. The EXACT tool we'd been needing just laying on the highway, run over a few times but basically functional ....... It seems like we only have to say the word and Providence ("You gotta do it Lord, cuz we're too lazy & stupid to take care of ourselves. Amen") takes care of it.
MARCH 13: Synchronicity, or Rog sinking into idiocy???
But---rereading the above---I'm sure all this good stuff has far less to do with
WHO Ike and I are, any qualities of ours spiritual or otherwise, than WHERE we are ///
Tramping around the streets of one of the richest counties in the richest nation on Earth. The stuff that gets thrown away!
Like this warehouse for a big name moving company, just a mile up the creek from us, where anything that isn't claimed within a certain number of months gets dragged into the high-walled yellow bins out back. Just tossed out. About half of it really is junk, but even some of this can be utilized. That rataan chair with a hole punched in the bottom we trimmed into a seat for the shitter...
Ike found this huge leather recliner chair, its surface a grid of grey and drab brown and goose-shit green rectangles. Ugly as sin but new and expensive looking, and he loves it.
And in the same haul I copped one of those "postur-matic" chairs like Art Linkletter used to hawk in those 2 a.m. advertisements on Channel 13. It's this wonderful garish turquoise color + looks like an acceleration couch from some 1950's rocket-to-Mars flic. You yank the lever on the side + the whole semicircle goes flying back until your feet are nearly level with your head. But after this brief unnerving ride it's amazingly comfortable.
We carried them on our backs, hunched over like a couple of weird turtles. Some guy in a Karman Ghia offered me $20 for mine but I'd already carried it so far by then...
Probably could have got even more for the big sturdy steamer trunk with heavy brass latches that we made an ice chest out of. I almost hated to do it, punching drain holes in the bottom, but we needed this. A pair of boards keep it an inch off of the wobbly folding table it sits on, so the water will drain, and a window screen in the bottom of it keep the flies from getting in. The coffee can full of water that each of the table's legs sits in act as "ant moats". These work perfectly unless a bamboo leaf falls across one of them. A reed shade awning we made hangs over it on lines coming down from the pantry's shelving and the surrounding reeds. The piece de resistance is the silver plastic angel from a trophy that I stuck up on the awning, our kitchen diety. Why she's holding up a bowling ball is anyone's guess...
3/15/---MY BIRTHDAY TODAY. Somewhere out there relatives & all my old friends must be wondering what the hell ever happened to me. Could find my folks in the Reno  phone book at library and give them a call but I would just end up making a lot of the same old promises I never kept before \\\ I could even just say real fast "HI IT'S ME I'M OK" & hang up but even this impossible somehow /// All day long citizens voodoo their scorn at me, letting me know they dont appreciate me being in their line of sight. But the only ones who can make me FEEL like a bum are a pair of retirees in a prefab home in Nevada  // // // // // // Ike tells me how he goes to bars, mentions it's his birthday + gets bought drinx, but I'm not Ike. I'd have to be drunk to do that in a bar full of strangers.
3/16 ///// BLAIR IS PREGNANT!!!
Heading home after a visit with Olie. On the tracks right alongside his place a commuter train sits idling, pointed south. Obscure forms inside read newspapers. We circle around behind it, and are stepping out onto the second set of tracks when a headlamp comes bearing down on us. We jump back!
Four lumbering gray Union Pacific engines, straining to pick up speed after the turn, then the vertiginous rushing wall of boxcars, automobile carriers and swaying hopper cars. 
We stand watching it a while. Ike yells, "It's exciting!"
"Yeah, sort of. All that power."
He leans in close to my ear, "No. I said a siding..."
"I noticed that," I nod. The rails diverging into two sets for a mile and a half, then joining back up before they cross the creek up in San Juan. I had seen both passenger and freight trains stopped here, waiting for some other train to pass. 
Then it dawns on me what he is about to suggest and I hollar, "Oh no! Not me, Booker!"
"But you'd love it. You can't buy a trip like that. Some day, when we're good and prepared for it, we'll deck one of these suckers and just go. It'll make a genuine hobo out of you!"
"I don't know. Those bindle-stiff days are long gone."
"Bullshit! I've done it plenty of times. And you always see illegals riding by. Don't you ever get the urge to just take off on an adventure?"
"Look, I'll admit it has its appeal. The freedom, exploring like that, the whole mystique of it! But the part about jumping off a rushing train onto this shit-" I kick the jagged bottom of a bottle across the gravel, "I just can't convince myself that I won't wind up impaled on a tree branch or something!"
"You don't always have to jump." Ike says as the last car flits past. That was a short one. We cross the second set of tracks as the Amtrack blows his horn to depart.
"The thing is, you never know if you will or won't, until all of the sudden there's cop cars in the freight yard up ahead. So as much as I'd love to be able to say I'm carrying on in the great American tradition of Woodie Guthrie, Texas Blackie and Hobo Betsy-"
"I don't think Hobo Betsy was a real hobo."
"That's right. She was the one had that t.v. show for kids. I didn't mean her, I meant- What the hell's her name? Christ, that'll be driving me nuts now. Bessie something..."
"You used to watch Hobo Betsy?"
"Every day after school! I always got home in time for the secret message. You know, she's probably the reason so many of us are out here. She made it look like so much fun, living in that big old wooden crate with all her puppet friends, B. Bradshaw Badger and Kookoo Bird. What a subversive influence she was. And that silly victrola-looking thing she showed cartoons on..."
"Yeah! Her kartoon-o-scope!" he laughs.
We're entering the grassy part of our acreage. It's already starting to dry out for the year. I look around for red ants and then sit down. "You know what? Fuck those stuck-up hobos! With their exhibits at the Smithsonian and these country stars singing old songs about them, getting' all teary eyed; like they would really have anything to do with one if he was walking down their street .......... But we're part of a tradition too, one that's a lot more ancient than the hobos. We're bums! Like Diogenes and his crew who lived in old barrels. Or the poet Li Po..."
"Don't say that! I'm not a bum, I carry my own weight!"
Wow he seems upset ......... But how can he honestly tell me he isn't a bum?
"When was this, Ike? One day at the casual labor office three weeks ago? Have a seat, it's nice here."
He sits, his knees pulled up in front of him. Says, "I get out there when I can. And then we worked for Olie that time."
"But what about the rest of the time? What I mean is, what exactly is work? Doesn't it really just boil down to somebody exerting his-or-herself toward survival? Cave men didn't fill out W-2 forms! We put in a lot of miles foraging the dumpsters, gathering soda cans down at the beach and scrounging up firewood every day. Schlepping and digging and hammering- isn't that working? We're self employed, is all. And I know we work harder than the Laguna Niguel Hammersmiths, who inherited their whole fortune..."
"Lousy no-good loafers, we oughtta run 'em all out of town!" he laughs, "Okay, I guess it is work sometimes ........... But what about when we go out and lie to people for money? You can't say that's honest work."
"So what if we have to suppliment our scavanging with an occasional buck or two in alms? And yes we bend the truth, but that's why we only ask for chump change. We're not like these guys, trying to scam up huge sums, going- 'Oh no! I need seven bucks for gas or I'll lose my job, and me and all my kids will be out on the street... " and "Wow thanks, but could you make it ten? I really need to get my mom's iron lung out of hock!" No fucking class at all! But what you and I ask for, a quarter here, four bits there- it's like a recycler's subsidy. For all the good we do..."
Ike slides his foot forward and back, digging a groove in the dirt with his heel. I can't tell whether he's buying this malarky or not. Hell, I'm not sure if I even buy it, or if I'm just talking to find out what I'll say next.
"And unlike other forms of assistance, we petition the people directly. We don't just stroll down to the mailbox and get the check. Which is fine for those who really need it, but the way you and I do it a guy can say, 'Sure, here you go' or he can tell us to go get bent, no problem. The Powers that Be just gave another four hundred million of the taxpayer's money to the Chrysler Corporation, and nobody could say shit about that!"
"Just gave it to them?"
"They called it a loan. But the way the Japanese auto makers are kicking our companies' asses, Chrylser will just wind up going bankrupt again, and for good next time.
"Four hundred .......... million?" Ike whistles, "That's a lot of Mickey's Big Mouth!"
I stand up, dust off my rump, "Sure is ........ And they'll never get that money back! By the year 2000 Dodge and Chrysler will be as forgotten as the Packard or the Hupmobile. And speaking of Mickey's, are you thirsty?"
"Definitely," grins Ike, getting to his feet, "Those Sapporos we had at Olie's were just a tease."
"Then cool. Then let's go be bums and lie to people for money!"
Too bad Monika and Doug didn't stick around longer, I really liked them.
They stayed for three weeks in the part of the jungle we called the Wetback's Camp, where Mexicans coming up from Baja would stop off before heading north. So they occasionally had neighbors overnight. The illegals would mutter a concession---Oh well, you beat us to it!---and start to leave, but they would bid them to stay. Hang out and practice their fractured Spanish on them...
They had backed their tent trailer as far as they could into what years ago had been a dirt road leading into the oaks. Green and lusterless, it blended right in. But the snout of their old station wagon had stuck way out- all that manic chrome blazing in the morning sun. So they would park it at the Capistrano Beach Plaza and walk in.
Professional house sitters, they watched over these enormous Beverly Hills mansion while the owners were away. And I would love to tell you the one about how we all got invited up to a famous villa built by Tom Mix in 19-whatever, and had a wild party that ended in some hilarious disaster .......... But one of the reasons they were bonded and had references from famous people was that they knew better than to bring anyone over when they were on a job, not even for a quick look around. 
As far as their clients knew they were this well-bred preppy art student couple who could discuss Architectural Digest articles with the worst of them and who would properly care for your ricketty antique chairs and Erte table bronzes. But Doug and Monika were in fact undercover punk rockers...
And if you see this as a contradiction in terms---that a part-time punker is no punker at all but a vile pretender---I submit that their lifestyle was a hell of a lot more marginal and ballsy than that of some twenty-year-old mohawked whiner, laying on the couch in his poster shrouded Temple to Sid, out in the garage of his mom's house (who does his wash and brings him out his favorite childhood junk foods, hoping to see some glimmer of appreciation in this surly fuckhead her child has become...) in Costa Mesa.
When they had a job up there they would take advantage of their proximity to the happening parts of L.A., going to some dinky firetrap of a club to check out bands with names like Severe Tire Damage or The Quislings. Or maybe to a freaky all-night bash at some artist friend's garret in some ancient brick industrial district where you had to travel out to your cars in packs.
And in the weeks between assignments they would camp out on the cheap, saving up for a trip to Egypt, Israel, Greece and Rome, and doing their art- Monika writing her odd prose poems full of made-up words while Doug snapped photos of weathered walls and wrecked cars in fields under eerie cloud formations...
I enjoy shooting the shit with my usual derelict comrades most of the time. And I especially get off on those unintentionally surreal gab-fests, where everybody is soused and talking about something different, going off on some bizarre tangent to what they think is being discussed. Or sometimes the obscurity IS deliberate; like that old rummy tossing out whatever non-sequiters strike his pixilated fancy ("True, but you can't dismiss the exploding chicken nostril sandwich factor!"), and so then you jump into it with him, the conversation turning into a zany linguistic and cognitive bebop session...
But when the talk becomes grindingly prozaic, like an endless hard luck story from some slob who's been mooching in this way for so long he has forgotten how to turn it off; or the ugly racist harangue of some blame-shifting scumfuck jailbird ....... then I really miss the company of those flaky egomaniacal artist-types I used to hang out with.
And music. Sadly, almost all the bums I'd met who were my age seemed to think that rock had been born one day in 1963 and died about five years ago, leaving Stairway to Heaven as the greatest song that would ever be produced. Blues was Eric Clapton and a few other English white dudes. Jazz was that one thing by Jethro Tull. And punk rock was an anethma plain and simple, a no-talent gimmick ........ the mere mention of which could practically ruin their day!
So basically the street was no place to try and get the ball rolling about music and shit.
And befriending Monika and Doug was a wonderful chance to feed my arsty/ intellectual side. [I know it has become fashionable to distance yourself from the word intellectual these days. To see the realm of ideas as being somehow less than authentic, unconnected to real life. All these bad-boy literature professors who have this whole hoaky Rousseau-thing going with the underclass; where skid row barflies, underdog boxers and blue collar lugs down at the race track have become the new noble savages ......... But I'm on the street here and I say FUCK real life! Who the hell wants to talk about that? The wonderful thing about ideas is they don't cost anything. If you've turned your intellectual life into a prison for the soul, or are worried that it has emasculated you in some way, that's your problem Buddy!]
We would crank up their record player, drink and babble about the political implications of this trend toward snooty neoclassical architecture. Or if we thought some hard core noise band was selling out with their attempt to do stuff recognizeable as songs...
They were suprised that a hippie-looking throwback like me was into their kind of music. I told them what a lifesaver the new music scene had been during the last year I was working and had an apartment and such. How I'd tear off that stupid Big A Hardware vest, working on my collages while I laughed along with the psychotic-hillbilly antics of The Cramps, or got religiously stupid with The Dickies. And on Weekend nights I'd try to get up to the Strip to see one of these bands, "-in a lab coat with a spaghetti strainer on my head and spirals painted on my glasses like a mad hypnotist."
"Go to thee weendow!" drones Doug in a sinister Slavic accent. He finishes the joint he's twisting on the trailer's little square table and tosses it to me.
I light it, toke it, pass it. "I mean it was such an individualistic scene then! But then one night I went up there---and it did happen practically overnight---and every last person there had on a leather jacket with a dozen buttons on it they'd bought at Licorice Pizza, and they'd look at me and go, 'You're not a punker! What the hell are you supposed to be?' And then I knew it was over for me. Plus the violence, when it went from insult games and the occasional punch out to four-on-one baseball bat ambushes in the parking lot. That's just messed up!"
"It sure is," frowns Doug, "Why does everyone have to be such a fucking bad-ass these days?!"
"It's mostly this Orange County crew. Going to extremes in wanting to reject that whole peace-and-love hippie thing," says Monika.
"Hippies breathe. Maybe they should reject that!" grins Doug.
I say, "Well whatever their problem is, I just said screw it. Then when I found myself outdoors I started letting my hair grow. I actually prefer it long, and these are the sorts of people I find myself banding together with out on the streets. So maybe it is conformity, but you still have guys out here who will think you're a narc if you don't look like Greg Allman. Which- I know, it's damned naïve! Any cop that's interested in them is gonna look more like them than they do..."
"Is that even possible?!" ponders Monika in pot-stoned bafflement as she passes me the J.
I hate to admit it but I don't enjoy weed the way I used to, it can make me uncomfortable. My own motions don't feel natural to me. Then I start to wonder if they're not betraying something effeminate about me---(sometimes I just feel so soft inside, surely it has got to show)---a self-conscious feedback loop, until I'm jerking around like a spazzed out robot.
And so I'm glad that they aren't making a big deal about my only taking these token hits.
Although I'm more comfortable smoking it with them than with a lot of the people I meet these days. They know most of my story and love me anyway...
Monica stares at the darkness beyond the plastic mesh window, "Hey, what's Ike doing over there at your place all by himself? Didn't you remember to invite him over for us?"
"I asked him. He said he was busy. Some new song he's trying to write."
"That's cool," nods Doug. "He's serious about his music."
Ike was avoiding my new friends. 
He had become uneasy around them after thumbing through the magazine PIGSPURT REVIEW  (thirty-eight pages on crimson stock- of gleeful scatologies, self-indulgent nihilism, and reproductions of what was purported to be rare Scandanavian FETUS PORN, but was so dark + blurry it could have been anything...) during his first and only visit to their camp, when he sat there bored and uncomfortable as we spouted pretentious self-important nonsense until half past one. 
And he had convinced himself that they were somehow dangerous .......... It was his first real exposure to the subculture, beyond a hazy idea that it had something to do with
"that Blondie chick" and people spearing their own flesh with safety pins.
Ike was in heavy culture shock, and kept referring back to that little magazine...
"All I know is, there is something seriously wrong with anyone who would buy a piece of shit like that," he grimaces, "Like that one so-called poem I read, The Death of a Thousand Kisses. I just about puked my guts out!"
"But they didn't write any of that stuff in there, and they didn't buy it! A friend of theirs got copies for doing the cover."
"That cover! Fucking treason is what I call that, with the president getting shot!"
"Reagan hadn't been shot yet when the guy drew that. Jesus, get a grip! And the cover .......... Some people think they're being good citizens by trying to shock folks out of their complacency. You liked that Phillip Wylie book I gave you, didn't you? Well a lot of people thought that was treasonous back in '43, until President Truman himself read it, and said that every honest American should-"
"But that made sense! It argued. It didn't just go: FUCKA-FUCKA-FUCK-FUCK!
STOMP ON THE NUN'S EYEBALL!" He jerks his fists up and down as he yells.
"But this is art," I giggle, still high from my few hits of reefer, "Important culture!"
"Then he must be their damn guru!" he waves in the direction of John Henry, who has started to babble and wail in response to his shouted fucka-fucka-fuck.
"Actually, he didn't seem to care for them. I tried to introduced him to them when he passed us down in front of Vons market the other day. He sneered at them---'Just what the world needs!'---and just kept on walking. So I really don't think there's much mutual regard there."
"Look, I don't claim to be an expert on art or poetry or any of that stuff, but even before I saw that piece of crap I felt like there was something wrong with them! That creepy, know-it-all way they smile..."
So Ike not only missed out on some good partying but seemed really concerned whenever I went over there. Like they were going to recruit me into being a vampire or something.
###.17 =  SICK PUPPY...
But Ike did enjoy the presense of Meat Hook, their year old Dobie pup, who we got to baby sit whenever they went out. 
And Meat Hook just loved the feilds, and the scummy green pond, and chasing rabbits,
and most of all her big stinky Aunt Blair, who she would sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff until Blair would shriek "STOP IT!"; like she was afraid this was some underhanded insult on the dog's part...
Ike and I would throw the tennis ball for her off the edge of the creek, or walk her clear to Capistrano and back on the asphalt trail atop the opposite bank. The joggers and strollers---who used to avoid acknowledging us---were greeting us now, admiring this sweet, ingratiating floppy eared young Doberman.
Ike hated the name they had given her. "Meat Hook. That is just so typical of them! How everything has to be all weird and disgusting!"
"It's just a tool. Didn't you work at a packing house once?"
"Yeah, but you know that's not what they're getting at! It's all that Texas Chainsaw Massacre stuff, psychos running around cutting peoples heads off and shit!"
"Well you're totally wrong! I happen to know what the story is ......... Meat Hook was this terrible, terrible heavy metal band; the opening act for a band they and some friends went to see on the night they found her. And on the way home they were making fun of them, going 'Ello Los Angeles! We're M-m-meat Hook!" And whenever someone did this she would jump up and lick their face. And Monika said, 'She thinks that's her name!' And their freind went, 'For all we know, it is her name!', Well what else could they do after that? You see? It was just one of those dumb, loaded, it-was-funny-at-the-time kind of things that could happen to anyone!"
"Whatever," he huffs, like I had fabricated this whole anecdote on the spot as an excuse for these wierdos.
Monika and Doug found a brief job at a big cliff house in Laguna Beach. They would leave their tent-house folded down and locked at Olie's place (Olie thinks they're a blast!) and the dog with us.
When their extended gig in Bel Air began they would be able to bring both with them to the estate, and then they would get Meat Hook her tags and shots, things that the speedfreak asshole they'd stolen her from that night---a self-styled warlock who was selling the Herald Examiner on Hollywood Boulevard, and was been deliberately mistreating her in an attempt to turn her as hateful and weird as he was---had neglected to provide her with. In the mean time she would be ours.
When Blair heard them mentioning shots she freaked out. "You shouldn't do that. That's not good for them!"
"What do you mean?" asked Monica, "These are just the standard innoculations. Like polio shots for kids. You wouldn't deny your child his polio shots, would you?"
"I most certainly would!"
Ike and Doug and I sensed a mighty argument brewing, so we excused ourselves to go dig through the Albertson's dumpsters.
Doug took pictures. He indulged our lame clowning around with several exposures but I could tell was really trying to catch us in our less guarded moments. He was too polite to say anything, but he watched the proceedings with distaste. While he and Monica admired the idea of bumdom, some of the actual practices made them blanch.
I explained to him that you don't just indiscriminately scarf down dumpster food, but have to follow a few simple forensic guidelines, the first of which is probably to never eat anything that seems to be generating its own heat, and the last one being "When in doubt, chuck it out..."
We found a canned turkey loaf with the pull-ring missing, a sealed box of Cheezits and some firm oranges for the humans, and a small trashbag full of stuff for the dog. We explained that these ends of salamis and roasts were tossed out because they had gotten too small for the clamp at the end of the deli's slicer to hold onto; and while they were too mixed in with actual garbage for us humans (because we do have some standards...), they were good enough to be washed off and chopped up for the dog's bowl.
He laughs, "So that's why when we get home try to feed her dry food she looks at us like we're crazy ........ You've been spoiling our dog with garbage!"
As we returned we could hear the women folk shouting from a long way off. Their causitry had not progressed past the point of:
"They do too make you sick!"
"No they don't!"
"Yes they do!"
Spotting us, Monika made her exit with a cry of, "She's crazy! She's completely insane! Keep that fucked-up cunt away from my dog!"
On the morning they left for their four days in Laguna we showed them Ike's "Pookie game". Where we would buy a stuffed animal at a thrift store for a quarter, give it the name Pookie, and then have jolly fun letting it "eat" out of the dog's bowl, pretending to lavish it with attention while the real dog seethed with jealousy. 
When she started to attack it we all rushed in to rescue and give comfort to the thing, demanding that the bad, bad doggie be NICE to poor little Pookie. Getting her all worked up. Then we would all turn our backs, as if our attention was elsewhere, and hear the gristly sounds of slaughter! Pookie was now disembowled, its stuffing everywhere...
Acting shocked and disappointed we picked it up and nursed it over to the food bowl, starting another round of the game. Finally only the head was left, a gory trophy that Meat Hook would not part with for a second.
Doug declared Ike to be a naïve genius of performance art.
Halfway through their absence the dog started acting funny. Cramped and whiny and listless, wanting to be near us but not wanting to play or eat or drink water. We had hoped that it was just a temporary visitation, from some dead thing she had gobbled up, but it was soon obvious that this was distemper.
The next day as her fever climbed she started wandering off, confused. I kept putting her back on my bed until she was finally too feeble to crawl away. We fed her water with the turkey baster we had been teasing her with just days before, blowing air in her face to make her bark and snap. Our young charge faded in and out of recognizing us, of responding to our attempts to comfort her.
I was in my recliner next to her, tearing Jehova's Witness magazines from the laundromat into strips of fire starter, when I heard what sounded like an enormous parrot cawing-AAAAAAWRGKK-K-K!!!   
I thought it was Ike making one of his goofy noises, and Ike (running scales on his guitar over there) thought it was me. But it was Meat Hook, giving up her frail hold on life.
We had six heavy trash bags and used them all on her, one inside the next and each taped shut, trying to reduce her exposure to agents of putrification. If Doug and Monika didn't show up soon we'd have to bury her ourselves...
But they pulled in the next morning, laughing and hooting and brandishing gifts, until they saw our miserable expressions. I felt sort of culpable---she had died while in our care---but they accepted all the blame. They'd had enough money, should never have put off getting her those immunizations.
The gifts, culled from boxes of stuff the owners of the cliff top estate had instructed them to leave out for the Goodwill, were astonishingly well matched to our tastes and needs, and even under these circumstances were a source of some happiness. I mean, my God...
An old high top Underwood typewriter, the innards blasted clean with a gas station air hose and then oiled, with a sweet-smelling new ribbon they had bought at Office World.
Ike was floored by the beautiful souvenier samurai sword, which---though it had been fashioned with nothing remotely like samurai craftsmanship---would come in quite handy as a machete.
Blair loved her old-timey gingham sun bonnet with white ruffles, though it sure looked strange above her food spattered olive drab t shirt and day-glo confetti pattern golf slacks.
Billy got a USC marching band jacket that made him look like a refugee from the cast of HAIR. He was still wearing it when I met him in Santa Barbara two years later.
And this giant expensive plush polar bear had been meant as a "pookie" for Meat Hook. Monika squeezed it with both arms and cried, looking about fourteen in her short hair, her thick mascara coming off in gobbets...
The funeral was held at dusk, held around a hole at the very back of the Wetback's Camp.
Monika read a eulogy that she had hastily written. And while it might have sounded like bad junior-college dadaism in some other setting, this Joycean farewell was actually quite moving. Even her howling at the end was effective. Ike and Billy joined in, but they just sounded like a couple of glib partiers---showing off how good they could do it---and they quieted down when she glared at them. Hers was pure canine grief!
Doug had fashioned a jazzy little assymetrical cross for the grave. Monika didn't want their little friend buried under this "morbid" Christer symbol, but Doug countered that the dog hadn't been Jewish either, and a cross was was easier to make.
They hitched the trailer to the station wagon and were gone.
I was on the bus, about half way to Long Beach, when Olie came by with a job for us. Thirty dollars each to help him sand, putty and paint the whole front of his shop. I wish I had known about it, I would have sold my plasma some other day. Olie was fun to work with, and the pay would have been much better than what I got for laying on a vinyl table with a needle jammed into the crook of my elbow...
And I could have gotten in on at least some of it if I hadn't hopped off the bus in Corona del Mar to go splash drunkenly around in the tide pools, terrorizing all the pretty little crabs and sea anenomes; then took the ferry back and forth across the bay at 10¢ a pop, singing bawdy sea chanties; then fooled around at the Fun Zone (I didn't like the guy at the ring toss's badgering me---I mean I was minding my own business---so I bought one toss and threw the 3 rings as far as I could down the alley!); and then at twilight decided I had to see Fellini's City of Women at the Lido Arts, which I don't remember much about.
I wake up to the sound of electric guitars, a drummer, Ike singing along...
It seems that while I was out squandering my blood bank earnings, he had bought a tiny radio/cassette player with "stereo" speakers about ten inches apart, and enough C batteries to make it work. This was something I'd been toying with since Doug and Monica were around, when I realized how much I missed having music in my life, but Ike has beaten me to it. OH JOY! WE HAVE TUNES NOW!
But we quickly discovered that Ike's favorite FM station came in with a maddening inconsistency. Always waiting until the middle of a good song to get all hashed and muzzy, forcing one or the other of us to jump up and go bozo around with the knob. So we went to Radio Shack for a fat packet of antenna wire, and attached it to a coat hanger that he had stretched into a crude oval. We carefully bent down the tallest of the reeds in the stand adjoining his hut, lashed the loop to it (roughly perpendicular to the Mt. Wilson transmitters) and let it fly. It worked beautifully!
Since it was his radio I didn't argue too much about what we listened to. But after I bought the second four-pack of batteries, I did insist that for a change of pace we should listen to just a little bit of jazz or classical around sundown...
One evening as we were listening to The Planets, I was telling Ike about an American composer (and one-time hobo) I like named Harry Partch, whose eerie songs about moonlight on the desert and wilted sunflowers along the train tracks followed a musical scale of his own invention. And how he had built an entire orchestra to play this music on---alien, primative sounding instruments---googletrons and zeppophones---that he made from stuff he had found.
Ike was blown away by the audacity of such an undertaking. "Wow! Do you think they'll play some?"
"On this station? Not in a million years..."
In an attempt to demonstrate what the man's music sounded like---and helped along by the insistent beat of Holst's Mars---I started tapping his skillet on a rock while running the beer bottle in my other hand along the wall of his hut and grunting like a caveman. Ike joined in, banging spoons across the jugs of creek water that we kept for fire control; and THE HOBO JUNGLE SONG was born:
"Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
"Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul...
Ho. Bo. Jun. Gul-"
Really stupid, and nothing at all like Partch's work; but later on we taught this song to Billy and Blair, and it became a vital part of our culture out here.
As the days grow warmer we start to notice a strange...  
No, not strange. An extremely familiar smell.
Squeezing into the dense block of reeds that seperates our neighbor's camp from ours Ike and I discover a network of poorly defined trails, and a veritable mine field of human waste and wadded newspaper!
Which suddenly explains where all those ill-tempered big black flies have been coming from. We make open-mouthed faces of disgust at each other and head over there. 
Ike tells them, "You guys are practically going in the middle our living room. We can smell it from over there! And I mean bad!"
"We're sorry," says Billy, "We didn't realize we were getting so close to you. It's just that every time you go, you have to do it a little farther away. You know how it is..."
"So you keep coming closer and closer to our place?" he points at their shovel, "Why is it that in all this time haven't you dug a latrine?"
"We don't want a latrine," says Blair. A statement, as if this is not negotiable.
I have been growing increasingly pissed off since our discovery, and I explode- "Pray tell Blair, why not? Is it too advanced a technology for you to have faith in?"
"There's no need to be rude! We said we were sorry! It's just that, you know ........... Latrines make flies."
"Make flies? Just how do they 'make flies'? Like the flies are just miraculously generated in there somehow? You mean you're going all the way back to Aristotle now to find ridiculous stuff to believe in?! No, please!"
"You KNOW what I mean! There's always flies buzzing around those things."
"And there are fewer flies out there?"
"Of course there are!"
I might have seen their reasoning as quaintly bizarre if it hadn't resulted in something so utterly grotesque for me and Ike. "You want flies? We'll give you flies .......... Come on, Ike!"
We tread out into the Poopy Zone, and then---running, stooping forward, waving our arms and yelling---we attempt to drive the insects into their camp. The flies don't herd very well, the majority of them just buzz indifferently up up around us to get back to their pungent smorgasborg. But still our neighbors can see a cloud of them ahead of us as we reach the edge of their camp.
"Jimminy Christmas!" laughs Billy.
"Oh yeah, hilarious!" snaps Ike, "And they all come visit us at our place! What the hell were you thinking? You say you didn't know, but you can see the roof of our pantry from in there!"
Blair is stunned. "We had no idea it was that bad."
"So will you please dig a latrine?"
"We can't, because of the flies. They crawl on your butt! It's disgusting!"
"And that's why you got to push some dirt in after every time you use it. Just like a cat does. You know, meow-meow natural kitty cat? It works wonders."
We almost have her convinced now, I can see it (all those FLIES!) in her face. And I am surprised to get even this tiny concession from her, having feared that shit and flies would be yet another facet of her grand embrace of nature. But luckily for us Blair was actually pretty phobic about excrement, or even someone farting. I'd seen her toss out a whole bowl of cereal because Billy had cut one and she plainly feared that some of those malefic fart molecules would waft over and settle on her Cap'n Crunch!
And if I had just shut my trap right then she might have agreed to the idea, to do something that smacks of the barest rudiments of hygeine...
But in trying to cinch our argument I go on to explain what will happen when it rains again. How all this stuff is going to mix in with the pools of rainwater, forming a rank bacterial stew; A breeding ground for diseases like typhus and cholera. I tell her about the footage I had seen last year on TV of the Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand, all those limp insensate bodies rolling and flopping in their cheerful ethnic garb as they were bulldozed into huge pits. An image that should scare the bejesus out of anyone!
But somehow with this last part I have nudged some enormous steel door inside her head, and it glides as if weightless until it thunders shut! Her eyes narrow suspiciously...
Nope. Uhn-uhn. Don't need no latrine. Latrines make flies! They crawl on your butt! Lack of sanitation didn't kill them people over there ........ Somebody used a can uh hair spray or somethin'- Yup de Dup de Dup! So we'll just go poop over there someplace. Yup. Over by ol' John Henry's place. Gonna go poop onna ground. Poop onna ground. Poop-
Which is something at least. That they have agreed to go do their business elsewhere.
But no sooner had we resolved that public health crisis than we discovered that we were being overrun by rats. We'd always known they were out here, but had told ourselves that they weren't growing in number, that they were just a part of the normal fauna out here ......... Like the packs of coyotes that yipped and keened down in the creek at one a.m., or that fat skunk who would saunter arrogantly through the middle of our camp, his tail raised, daring us to make his day.
Until one of them used my sleeping form for a trampoline six times in one night! And with John Henry now bellowing all night at the "FREAK-SUCKING RAT BITCH BASTARDS!" we could no longer deny that the pestilence was upon us.
Bags of spaghetti and dry beans went into big square tins that we found behind the Chinese restaurant, cookie sheets clamped over them by ten-pound rocks. Our trash can got a lid too. Then we snuck into John Henry's place during his rounds and hauled away his prodigious mound of garbage.
It was the first time we have ever been in his camp. He would have gone ballistic at this intrusion into his private space, and I'm very glad that we finished our cleanup---hauling away six big bags---before he returned. I kept waiting for him to say something to us about this, but he just started another pile without seeming to notice the first one's absence...
But now came the tricky part. After that last debacle, we saw that if we wanted to convince Blair of anything we would have to go over there with some kind of strategy. Good cop Ike would do most of the talking and bad cop Roger would just hang back. At the first sign of resistance we would withdraw, and try to talk to Billy later.
As we rounded the bend in the trail he whispered, "And for God's sake, don't mention the bubonic plague that those people caught out in Diamond Bar last year!"
Then we saw them. Tossing little chunks of cheese from the Albertson's deli's free sample tray to a greasy looking brute about the size of a dachsund. It stood erect, gnawing on a bright orange cube of cheddar and regarding them with shrewd malice.
Blair intoned breathlessly, "Look at him. This is so right on! He has little hands just like a person. God, they're so intelligent. This is soooooo right on!"
Ike slowly shook his head at me and we slunk back to our camp.
###.20 =  OOPS!
Walking home from the San Clemente pier one afternoon we run across a group of young Marines in a small beach-side park playing with some funny looking green firecrackers. Booby trap simulators, they let out a bang or a plume of smoke when you blunder into a tripwire.
The Marines are a bit drunk, and friendly enough- as Ike pesters them with questions and then starts to give them advice on combat, using words like "recon" and "hostiles"...
If Ike can get a bit obsequious with long-haul truckers and carpenters, around members of the armed services he becomes positively fawning. He had tried to enlist twice, but had run into some kind of snag both times (which he is very evasive about) and they wouldn't take him. I know he desperately wishes he could claim to be a Vietnam Vet, here the safety of retrospect. And yes, I've heard him claim to be a veteran a time or two. Which is a despicable thing to do, but he so desperately wants it to be true...
I can't imagine anyone wishing such a thing for himself. It would be easy for me to be  condescending about this, but I know there are plenty of males who share these anxieties, this wish for some great trial by fire. To have done something that would once and for all put all argument about their manliness to rest! I'm sure that there are a lot more guys in the world like this than there are unrepentant sissies like me; so who am I to say they're insane?
It's just sad that wherever guys like this are working out their issues a lot of women and kids and water buffalo and sissies get torn up by the crossfire. There might be reasons to go to war, but this seems like a lousy one...
It will be July here in another week, and Ike wants some of these government issue fireworks for the fourth. He has me fork over all my money, and combining it with his asks them how many they would be willing to sell him for $3.51.
"That's enough for a twelve pack!" suggests one of them. 
They give us all of them, and throw in the sturdy canvas sack with the snap closure that they came in, which I claim for myself...
We continue on up the beach, Ike telling me his plan to string them up all over the reeds as an early warning system. When we are only a few hundred yards down the tracks from home he can wait no longer, and has to try one...
Onami's Nursery is closed for the weekend and both trucks are gone. There is this group of banana trees in wooden boxes along the very edge of their property. Accustomed to the dank equatorial heat of their homeland, they don't seem to be doing well here. In fact they look just about dead---all wilted and colorless---and the haphazard way they've been positioned out here tells us that they have been given up on.
Ike selects the largest of the exploding type and---reading the instructions printed on its side---secures it loosely to the nearest tree with the two ribbons that trail from it. He draws the long detonator line out about halfway then yanks it ferociously, like he is trying to start a lawnmower-
The cardboard cylinder is pulled forward and then snaps back like it's on rubber bands, wedging itself in one of the V-shaped seams in the tree's trunk. And the gunpowder inside must have been loose, because instead of exploding it expels a tongue of flame like a highway flare. The tree catches fire.
Ike tries to bat it away from the tree but it only falls another eight inches on its tangled ribbons and sets another spot ablaze. 
He beats at the flames with his baseball cap and yells, "Don't stand there admiring it you goddamn pyromaniac! Go find a hose!"
Fire climbs up the tree's side as we frantically search for a source of water. The next tree over---leaning in close to it---starts to burn, the flames capering across the withered fronds!
A long way into the nursery we find a spigot angling out of the ground with a pile of hose attached to it. Ike untangles it as he trots toward the tracks, to find that it only reaches halfway there.
I crank the valve all the way open, but the stream falls just short of the burning trees. Ike squeezes his thumb over the opening and is sporadically hitting the ever widening blaze. All four trees have now caught fire! 
But then I spot what had been laying under the hose. 
"ARE YOU NUTS?!" he yowls as his water pressure dies away, apparently thinking I'm doing this as a prank, but he nods urgently when he sees the pistol-shaped chrome nozzle in my hand, and I hurl it to him. Almost to him.
When he gets it screwed on there I turn the water back on, and before the trees are completely fried he has the blaze extinguished. I stand next to him as he thoroughly soaks the blackened husks, then tosses the hose aside.  
A dense cone of grey smoke still churns skyward, and I'm sure that everybody up on the freeway is wondering what it is. Yes it's time to leave here! As Ike trots away to go turn off the tap I remove the firecracker from the headless stump of the tree it had been hung on. It's still hot to the touch.
The last of the four to catch fire had been a shade greener than the others, and might have been nursed back to health if not for us. Sad to think that it had journeyed all the way up from Central America to meet a fiery death at the hands of a couple of drunken fools.
I lay my palm on it. "Sorry Amigo, we had no idea this was going to happen..."
Ike is beside me, smirking. "Are you talking to that tree?"
"Sort of ......... I was just thinking out loud. Let's get out of here."
We split. I toss the evidence over the chain link fence into this eight-foot wide concrete drainage ditch that leads down to the creek. Ike is still smirking.
"Talking to a tree," he drawls. "Talking. To a dead tree..."
"So what if I was?"
"After that long speech about what an idiot Blair was for talking to the bamboos?"
"It's not the same thing! I never ruled out that plants may have some extremely marginal kind of awareness. I mean who's to say that a nervous system is the only sort of system capable of an organised response, or even simple decision making? I'm not saying they do, but there's a lot of theories about other kinds of homes for consciousness..."
He starts doing this wavering dance with his hands while singing a gluey sequence of shrill minor notes, like theramin music from a cheesy old horror flick, "Rrrrrrrrr-Wrreeeeeeeeeeee!" 
"I mean because they do send each other chemical messages. And they-"
He keens louder, "Of course they doooooo-EEEEEE-oooeeee-ooooo-OOH!!!"
"Wouldja wait a minute?! All I was saying, about Blair, was that it's PRESUMPTUOUS of her to think they understand her every word, and are all bobbing in agreement with her as she tells them about all of Billy's faults! That's all I meant about her! But just maybe, and I mean on some dim, marginal level- WOULD YOU KNOCK THAT OFF?!"
"Suuuure Roger. You just talk to your little green and yellow buddies from the vegetable kingdom, it'll be okay!"
"Goddamn it! Listen to me!!"
We're almost home now. He indicates the silent oaks of the Wetback's Camp and croons,
"I aaaaaam listening! We're allllll-l-l-l-l listening..."
We keep expecting to hear the sound of fire engines, but they are never dispatched. Wanting to avoid him until he is off of his mockery trip, I go write in my study. 
But when I chuckle over something I've written, he calls out, "Did ooh bamboo fweinds tell ooh funny joke?"     
"You stupid asshole! Go play your guitar or something."
"Capital idea, Old Bean!" he cackles, and after a minute of strumming and tuning strolls up real close to my desk like some pushy restaurant musician, and treats me to an old song by the Jefferson Airplane:
"Water my roots, the natural thing,
 natural springs to the sea...
 Sulphur springs make my body float
 like a ship...
 made of logs ...
 from a tree....
 Redwoods talk to me.
 They say it plain
 the human name
 doesn't mean shit to a tree."
(ESKIMO BLUE DAY by Grace Slick and Paul Kantner
© 1969 ICEBAG CORP // All Rights Reserved...)
As summer progresses Blair's belly is swelling right up. 
She insists that they don't plan on changing any aspect of their lifestyle when the baby comes. They will raise it out here, free of the corrupting influences of society, school, and ultimately the workplace. An ideal human being will be the result.
Suddenly I'm thinking quite conservatively. It's one thing to choose this life for yourself, I know I did. But a child, a helpless infant, should not have to live out here with the rats!
When I suggest that they can go on welfare now, Blair is outraged, "Are you kidding?! They'd want us to live in an apartment or something!"
"Would that be so bad? Just for the first year or two."
"They're not even going to know about this baby! She'll be free. She won't even be in their system and their damned computer files!"
"All Power to the People," I mewl insipidly, feebly raising my clenched fist. "But what about when it's being born? You plan to just have it out here?"
"Why not?"
I can still see the dense swarm of flies and a reef of old lunch meat packages around the edge of their camp. "Look at this place. There's not a single thing out here that isn't dirty ........... I mean are you just going to wrap it up in some grimy blanket?"
"What? Do you expect me to go to a hospital? You may not know this, but us women were having babies for millennia before they had hospitals!" she smirks, "And in places like Africa-"
"You mean the Africa where there's like a twenty percent infant mortality rate? That Africa?! Oh that is just ducky!"
"Why do men always think they have to be the overseers of womens' business?" she sighs, disappointed in me. Lumping me in with a chauvinistic mindset I despise.
"Then by all means, GO TALK TO WOMEN! Tell them how you plan to take a newborn baby, with absolutely no natural resistance, and lay it down in the garbage!! And then listen to what they tell you. This isn't just fun and games anymore, you're responsible for somebody else now! And there are such things as diseases. Didn't you learn anything from what happened to the dog?"
"So that's my fault, is it?"
"Of course not. But it's a beautiful example of how wrong you are about a lot of extremely serious shit! Your logic- it's like something out of a fucking nightmare!"
Her jaw drops. "God damn you! You can't talk to me like that. Get out of here! Get out of my face!"
"Glad to."
But as I get to my feet I have a sudden inspiration: "Hey, how about this? When the think the kid is coming you go check into a Motel Six or something. You can have the baby in the tub. There will be clean water right there, and you can steal all the towels and bedsheets when you go. I'll even help pay for it!"
Blair shudders, "A motel? The maids use all that stuff in there! Who are you to give me advice about having a child?!"
"A friend."
"A friend?! HA! I think not ......... Everything we do you criticize! Eeeeww! They don't stack their wood right! They don't have a la-treeeen," she sneers, making ourhaving a hole to crap in sound intolerably middle class and precious, "You're such a phony, Roger! You're not a real street person! What are you even doing out here with John Henry and us? You should go back to Plastic Disneyland, you phony! You're no bum! You're no hobo! You're not a wino!"
"What?!? Now just a fucking minute. I've been on the street for over three years now-"
"Three years? That's a vacation! We were in Golden Gate Park for three years! Billy and I don't run to some hotel at the first sign of discomfort. We're committed to this life!"
"You ought to be."
She gasps hoarsely, "What did you say?"
"I said ought to be. Committed..."
"For God's sake! It was a joke, an innocent play on words."
"Oh I think not! 'Jokes' like you tell are never innocent ......... That came straight from your vicious heart, you booshwah pig!"
"I happen to have been raised by sensible working class people. I can't help it if I learned a little something about survival, about planning! I'm not the one whose parents are a couple of rich doctors up in Marin County. It was your pampered, benighted, booshwah upbringing that allowed you to become such a perfectly helpless idiot!"
In her moment to total speechlessness, I leave. This was the start of my real war with Blair.
If Doug and Monica had announced a plan to secretly bear and raise a kid out of their car I wouldn't have been this horrified. I would like to see what sort of adult would result from their freewheeling-but-pragmatic approach to life. But the idea of letting a person learn everything they know about the world from her would be like the project of some fiendishly unethical behavioral scientist!
At home I put on Ike's radio and find my station. Ferde Grofe's Niagra Falls Overture. Sentimental dreck, but it does have a certain corn-fed American charm, and I don't feel like searching for something else. But boy, speaking of bourgeois...
It sure is strange to be sitting out in the weeds on cast off furniture, or taking a bath in your cut-offs down in the creek; while listening to a station where all the advertisements are for investment newsletters or: "Now you too can lease a bee-yoo-tee-ful Rolls Royce ......... from Albion Imports!"
Assuming that anybody listening is going to be in the market for these things, because we all know that only the well-to-do can appreciate such refined music. Just once I would like them to have a commercial on there for LICE-B-GONE or Mad Dog 20/20...
And now comes an ad for a package excursion to Tahiti. It starts out with a brief skit about a pair of tourists---a nasal, braying idiot and his simpering wifey---trying to take a snapshot on the rim of a Hawaiian volcano. Then the spokesman gives his pitch, fairly open in saying: Sure, our outings might cost a bit more than a trip to Hawaii, but isn't it worth it to not have to put up with all those common slob vacationers from Sheboygen? As the spot ends the two offending yokels are tumbling comically into the volcano ...
That'll larn them lowly lumpen hoi-pallois!
Now that I am no longer welcome in their camp I thought I would be getting more work done on the novel ......... But my banishment from their place does not seem to prohibit her from storming over here, delivering messages, a response to some comment I made weeks ago and might not even remember; her face suddenly ballooning into my field of view as she starts in without any preamble:
"And so what if it's raconteur and not racoon turd?! You knew what he meant."
"As I seem to recall, you thought that was pretty funny too."
"I don't appreciate you talking down to my old man and correcting him like he's some kind of half wit. For all your book-learned bullshit you don't know a fraction of what he does about WHAT REALLY MATTERS, and you never will!"
I start to say that I actually have a lot of respect for Billy, but she is already stomping off home. I could play this same game, go over there and deliver some howling retort, but things would escalate until that's all we were doing, and I'm trying to write here...
Or at least I was. I'd had the next two paragraphs perfectly worded in my mind, and was typing them as fast as I could when she barged in. They're gone now, Blair's words rather than my own resounding in my head! I stare cluelessly at the last line I had written here. FUCK!
Ike can go visit Billy at their camp, she doesn't mind that. But if he and Ike go off somewhere to play music or try to score grass she's worse than ever when Billy gets back, shrilling at him long into the night: "No! Billy doesn't have any time for his dear wife! He has to spend it all with his 'friends'!! THE ONLY TIME HE HAS ANY TIME FOR BLAIR IS WHEN HE WANTS TO STICK HIS DICK IN HER!!!"
For some reason her last few late night rants have invariably gotten around to Billy, and Billy's penis.
In his hut Ike throws something and the wall reverberates loudly. "God damn it, it's one o'clock in the morning! People are trying to sleep over here!!"
"Hey Billy! Why don't you put it in her mouth a while and let us get some sleep?"
This is by far her most severe episode yet. Just as I'm wondering why we haven't heard from Billy during all of this---and if he could actually be asleep somehow---I hear a crashing in the bushes on the far side of our camp. 
Billy squeezes through the reeds with a twelve pack, a finger pressed to his lips. He whispers, "So what all has she been yelling about?"
"Lots of things. When did you get away from her?"
"When she was talking about that rude old bitch at McDonalds."
"That long ago? Let's see. She went on about her for a real long time, and then she-"
"Who you talking to?" asks Ike, sticking his head out of his hut. Seeing Billy he does
an exaggerated double take and starts to call out a greeting when we both soosh him.
Ike grandly pantomimes for us to enter his home. We sit on his bed and open our beers.
I finish my recap: "And then it was about you wasting your money on a flashlight when it's supposed to be dark at night; and for a while now she's been at it about the size of your thing."
"Thing? Oh, my thing."
At who, I wonder. A Billy-size mound of pillows under the blankets?
Ike slurps noisily at his beer, "How can you put up with it Billy?"
Billy tries to laugh but it comes out as a miserable noise. "I love her, that's how ......... Blair isn't like this! Well she is now. But through all the shit we've been through, she's
always been there. And I did some really rotten stuff to her, back when- I'm sorry, you guys!"
Ike shrugs at Billy's tears, "It's okay. Roger was crying just the night before last!"
"Sure I was."
"No, you were! You kept going: 'Did I ever tell you whadda asshole I am? I'm stupid stupid stupid! I'm such an asshole, bleeaaaughh! Did I ever tell you that? I oughtta ........ oughtta be shot at sunrise! Pow, pow pow! Didja know that? Bleeaaugghh, my name is Bleeuugghhh. And I live in the bleeeaauuughh place with the bleeeeaauuuuggh people who go 'Bleeeaaaaauuuuggghhh!!!!'"
Which is news to me, but I'll wonder about it later. "Oh yeah? Well you were blubbering last week because the Spanish Nationalist Air Force dropped a bomb on your goat!"
"Bullshit, I never said it was my goat, it was the guy in the book. I read you some! His goat! And it put things in motion, one small thing fucking up the next, until it wrecked his whole life! And everyone kept threatening and harrassing him- even his own SON was one of them! And he was just a farmer, he couldn't even real! He didn't care about Franco or Marx or anarchy or any of that junk!"
"No Ike. You definitely said it was your goat. And man were you ever crying about it! 'My goat! My goat! Baaaahhh-aaah-aaah-aaaahh!!!'"
Billy giggles and sniffs back tears as we flip each other the finger.
I clear my throat, "She wasn't always like this, was she?"
"'Course not! You remember how much fun she was when you guys first moved in, always laughing and happy! I think it's because of our kid."
"You mean from the hormones?" asks Ike.
"No, not this kid. Hannah. It's because of Hannah."
Neither of us say a word.
"Hannah was three. They kicked us out of our place. Cops, social workers ......... We were really messy, even then," he chuckles wistfully, "And so they said the only way Blair could keep her was to .......... And she really hate to do it, but she needed a place right then. So they were heading back up to Marin to go live with her mom. Blair was, what? Twenty-two? And Hannah was such a sweet little kid! She still is, probably, but I guess ain't so little now. I still picture her in that ......... we dressed her up like a miniature hippie. And they got on the bus in their peasant dresses, that almost matched, and their hair. They both had the same red hair.
"And Blair would ......... Her problem was she wouldn't do anything when the kid started acting up, not until Hanna had gotten herself totally bonkers and Blair was so mad that- Shit! She didn't hit her, she never once did that! That lady was totally off-the-wall saying she did! But you know how she looks when she gets mad. Crazy! And so the lady calls the cops at one stop, in one of them little towns. When they got to the next one they were waiting there. And Blair went to the lock-up, and Hannah kept screaming, 'Mommy! I want Mommy!' She wouldn't have been yelling that if Blair had hit her, would she?! Blair never, ever smacked her! She just shook her!
Now she is yelling about the time she saved him from getting his ass beat in the Fillmore District...
"But you know people, they see what they want to see. Plus those Manson fuckheads had just got sent up, so all us hippies we were suspicious suddenly. So Blair got four months suspended, because Hannah really wasn't hurt, and Grandma got custody of her. But they said it'd be okay if Blair went to live with them, you know, supervised. If they decided she was all right after a two week's 'voluntary evaluation' in a loony hospital. But she never went....
He looks at his beer like it's the last thing he wants right now, then takes a gulp anyway, "She figured out how her mom had set the whole thing up, with her doctor pals, to put the family embarrassment away for good. It tore her heart out, but Blair just knew they were never EVER gonna let her have Hannah, no matter what! So she came and got me, right in the middle of this huge rush at that tire place I worked at, and we went to San Francisco. She rescued me from that crappy job!"
"So she's afraid of them taking this one as well?" I ask.
"Exactly. So it comes out in all this screaming. With you especially, Roggie. She really does like you, it's just some of the stuff you say reminds her of the sort of lectures her folks used to give her."
Ike holds his hand up, "Wait!"
He has noticed that Blair has stopped her yelling, and she's calling out in a tremulous voice, "Billy ......... Billy?"
"Shit," gulps Billy and zips out the door of the shack.
Ike calls softly, "Your beer!"
"Keep it."
Ike and I sit in silence. Blair is calling for Billy, coming up the trail to our place. He's heading right for her! How the hell is he going to-
At first I thought she had brained Billy with a rock, the way he dropped! But now I see that he is on the ground pretending to be asleep, and as she reaches him a moment later he gives a convincing impersonation of a man just waking up.
"Oh, Billy! Were you sleepwalking again?" she chides lovingly. She scoops him up and walks him back toward their camp, "You were, weren't you?"
"I was listening to what you were saying," he yawns, "And then ......... I guess it was a dream. This thing!It didn't have no head. Or arms or legs, floating, this horrible black thing! All crackly and shiny like it was cooked! It had this huge voice that came from everywhere, all hollow and echoey like the announcer at a baseball game. And I was running! 'Cuz it kept saying- YOUR SPIRIT IS NOTHING! And I knew if it touched me I would be nothing! I'd shrivel up into one of them and wouldn't even remember that I was ever me..."
Ike lights a candle, puts on his radio. They are playing Pink Floyd's new album The Wall
in its entirety. We split the rest of the beer.
I am still reflecting on Billy's wonderfully creepy made-up nightmare when Ike says,
"That was really fucking sad!"
"It was. I guess she really does have things to be bitter about."
"They both do. I don't think I could handle someone take my kid away like that!"
I laugh, "You don't think? I know you couldn't handle it. You lost all will to carry on, for about three days there, when the imaginary Spaniards killed your imaginary goat!"
>>> Since this is the longest of the four
parts of this book, I have broken it
into two sections..... PART TWO
continues in "Part 2.5" <<<


Pretty heavy stuff

I think you have done a great job of writing a really tough type of story.I agree with the last sentence that it all probably worked out for the best.Looking forward to part three.Amy

Tragedy and Comedy

Damn, Roger, this is masterful.

- Joyce

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system