Planet Jerk

Roger, Jerk & Roseanna---street people---spend the rainy winter of 1979 hunkered down in a banged up little mildew infested Dodge Dart. Be it ever so humble, it's home...

by Roger Di Prima

     We had assembled an outdoor living room. Comfort, the security that being legal, legally situated brings. No fear of being awaken by boots and flashlights at O fucking early in the morning. Doheny Beach State Park, sitting halfway between L.A. and San Diego in the weedy nether end of Orange County- an area not quite filled in with identical tract houses back then. A refuge, with its $5 per night rent and its BBQ ambience, and our "living room" of discarded furniture centered around an immense old entertainment console with canted lunar lander legs was the conversation piece of the campground (the t.v. didn't work but with an extension cord into the crapper the hi-fi did; and this being late 1979, Jerk's thriftshop Sinatra and Dinah Shore albums seemed a puzzling anachronism to people our age passing by the art project of Space #33...). But it is blown right out of the story here by the 1st of the winter's rains.
     Couch and carpet reduced to sodden moldering lumps, the console, the coffee and end tables chopped up into firewood. One of those freak unrelenting winters; the lakes growing and joining across the dirt and gravel, wholesome young Canadian backpacker couples crowded down-bag-to-bedroll with derelicts under the eaves of the SHOWERS building, waiting for the let-up; The soupy ground coughing up your tent and the horrible cold wet fabric driven flapping across your face by the wind. Screams of rage in the night...
     Then Jerk got us kicked right out of the park with one two many of his screaming wildman gigs, freaking out at some imagined affront and terrorizing that nice old couple from Riverside; and we had to park ourselves outside of the Ranger's domain, settling just outside the fence to await the black & whites with their suggestion that we move on.
     So this car---Roseanna's congested sounding little dodge
dart---is my shelter for as long as these two will have me. For as long as this lasts, our exile to this patch of dirt right across the single lane of highway between the State Park and the wide ramp where the 405 freeway starts, 50 feet from the concrete banks of Capistrano Creek. I have the front seat to sleep on---not quite wide enough from door to door to really stretch out, which I have to share with the overhanging steering wheel and my own pack and stuff---and they have the back. A seat in the daytime, and at night they pull crates in through from the trunk and drop them into the legroom to unroll the rest of their bed on top of...
     The rain has been keeping the county sheriffs from investigating too thoroughly, but they must see us here as they drive past. Laundry draped over the door-post clips, bottles thrown in a boquet of trajectories toward the bushes on our left...
     Why does she even put up with him? It's true he's quite handsome, and with a tough but boyish charm, like he could be on some television show about some suave narc or something ..... but after a few hours with him it's enough obvious that Jerk really out gives a shit about Jerk, and hurting others amuses him. Their feelings I mean- physical abuse would take an uncool degree of passion. But it's weird to me that she tolerates it, indulges him in his bullying, his demands...
     Like this morning for example when he boomed "GOD DAMN IT I NEED A CIGARETTE!" over her sleeping form and she had to wake up and find them for him, in his pocket or some such clever place, as resigned and dutiful as the mother of a two year old. It's painful to watch.
     It's perplexing, this way he has of making you forget all about these times, the depths of assholishness he can sink to. He's a lot of fun, and he really does seem to be listening, and drinking with him can be a blast, all laughs and loud music, sometimes, when he isn't being an absolutely vile and out-of-it drunk.
     Roseanna pulls the multicolored jumble of blankets back over herself and turns her back to us. Jerk gestures imperiously---Faugh, away with you!---and he and I go back to our conversation, which had deteriorated into nattering long ago. And then he begins to sing: "There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights; there's a traffic jam in Harlem that's backed up to Jackson Heights-" Seeming to know the words to every bad t.v. show theme song ever written.
     Come to think of it, why do I put up with him? Jerk---a narcisist---seems to like the fact that I'm sexually attracted to him. Weird things, Like he'll be pissing and turn toward me and taunt, "You want that, don't you?"
     Which is just weird, and and he's never less attractive than when doing stuff like that. I ignore it, turn away, assume he's just messing with my head, trying to make me uncomfortable. And what if he actually was interested. I have become really good friends with Roseanna. I wouldn't do that to her...
     So intelligent, clever and winning until he crosses that line, setting free the bellicose pig-faced Id. The tantrums alternating with these spells of mushmouthed tittering, this befogged and stupid grin. Jerk orbiting his own blind core like a cloud of brightly ribboned sledgehammers whooshing round a polished steel bearing of a planet a few meters in diameter, oblivious to anything outside.
     And wanting us to do the same. Demands and vague threats, and yet in general more irritating than intimidating, despite his size and muscular build, his self image as the unstable veteran-type, with its presumtions of violence-barely-held-in-check; his goddamn Superman chin.
     They've been together several years and it has taken its toll on Roseanna in the form of nerves, twitches, a tired look. I hate it! Roseanna---when she catches herself---is not without a level headed FUCK OFF or two; she isn't the total accessory to his will. But in the end the big guy always wins, thanks to his utter density. And the fact that she inevitably goes back to him...
     But there's nothing like chaos to let you know you're alive, and there were as many manic peaks for us as there were depths of weirdness that winter, the three of us doing a whole lot of laughing, that familial bonding known to little street times who pool their resources and efforts to survive, combined with the sense that since nobody else around here is gonna love us, has any use for us ................ And we having torched our bridges back to our families, our prior legitimacies for various reasons, it just made sense somehow. Plus being united by our common addictive need.
     A copy of The Shining in there, to give you some idea of how long we endured that musty cockpit, watching the rain fall. It's a long book, and each of us read it in turn. I had yet to read anything by Stephen King, and expected it to be windy, overblown schlock. But I knew Kubric was making a movie about it, so I was curious, and starved for input I found myself really enjoying it!
     And with the cabin fever theme and the alchoholic protagonist going slowly psycho, you could image that it led to some spirited clowning around. Jerk dragging his leg and weilding the tire iron that we kept up front for protection, bellowing- "I'M RIGHT BEHIND YOU, DANNY!! COME HERE AND TAKE YOUR MEDICINE, YOU LITTLE SHIT!!!"
     So Roseanna is reading it last, the sorry looking dog-eared paperback, her back propped up against Jerk as he sits dragging the comb through his tangled tresses. She takes a hit off her Pall Mall and looks up, "I thought there wasn't supposed to be any booze in the hotel..."
     "There wasn't," smiles Jerk meaningfully.
     "What's he supposed to be drinking then?"
     "Ghost liquor. The bartender was one of the ghosts."
     We ponder Ghost Liquor, deciding that it would provide one supernatural high, and resolve to get some at the earliest opportunity. Jerk starts calling on "Oh Prince of Darkness" for delivery, until Roseanna makes him stop.
     This wine from Von's Market in Capo Beach. $2.99 for a three liter bottle. Twelve percent alchohol, we having computed that 12% of three liters came to more sheer volume of of the miracle molecule itself than would a comparably priced bottle of that old wino's staple White Port at 1.5 liters and eighteen percent. Science. Or what passes for it in some quarters. Just a matter of drinking more down more quickly---and gagging back the acrid taste---for an equivalent buzz...
Roger:    We should do something about those bottles out there.
Roseanna: Why's that?
Roger:    It's getting to be a dump out there, and I won't                      
          live in a fucking dump! That's our yard out there.
          I may be 'street but I try and stay ..... I sneak
          across the highway every day and take a shower.
Jerk:     The hell you do. Phewwwww!
Roger:    Them's them fungus-encrusted boots of yours, Ghummo.
Roseanna: I wouldn't worry about the bottles. They'll be
          be running us out of here any hour now.
Jerk:     Pass that here. Bottles are just gonna sink
          out there anyway, way it's been pouring.
Roger:    You think so?
Roseanna: Speak of the devil. Don't look now...
Jerk:     'Zat the CHP? No, looks like county boys.
Roger:    Don't wave the bottle at them!
Jerk:     They can't see us. See? There they go ......
          Adios, motherfuckahs!
Roseanna: Why don't they ever stop and roust us?
Roger:    They want us here where they can keep an eye
          on us. They drive by here and count heads.  
          If there's three in here then they know one
          of us isn't creeping around up in Dana Point
          committing burglaries or something....
Jerk:     That, and they don't want to get wet.
Roseanna: You really think they think that about us?
Roger:    Sure they do! They can't understand the
          non-industrious mind. They know we're not
          working, so we must be stealing. They don't
          see how we could be satisfied to just eek by,
          going to the bloodbank, the Laguna Beach free
          food preacher and shit ...... The cops up in
          Newport Beach rousted me about a month ago:
          "All right, what's in the backpack? What you
          been stealing?" I said: "Officers, I haven't got
          the initiative to steal anything." ..... They   
          thought that was funny, let me go, but they hate
          tramps. It's like they've got more admiration for
          thieves and dope dealers ..... you know, the
          go-getters! You see themtalking to them in
          County- it's freindly like. "So they got you
          again, eh Johnson?" But when it comes to-
          Eh, fuck it.
Roseanna: Here's the last of it...
Jerk:     Go ahead Babe, kill it.
     They're in the back seat, like I've said, and I'm in the front. Roseanna tilts the huge bottle straight up--scrunching down to clear the headliner with it---and drains it. Then she hands it to me, "Do the honors..."
     I size up what I've said about our trash problem, weighing the wetness of the rain against the proximity of the nearest trash can, and shrug. Roll down the window and heave it toward where the field is getting green and bushy from all this rain.
     Jerk leans forward, "If you were a better aim Rog it wouldn't look like that out there..."
     Imagine a burly wild-haired Vietnam veteran who matter-of-factly goes around introducing himself as "Jerk" to everyone he meets. This pretty much sums up my friend's character.
     The first time I saw him he was just another random misfit getting on the bus- this drunken loudmouth announcing that he'd just been beaten up by the PIGS. That on their own turf, in a certain room on the first floor of the county jail they can do anything they want to a body, and that all our complacently held rights were a sham...
     Then he waddled stiffly back to the last seat (which in those days was a cushioned benchlike affair and not the series of butt-dents in tough vandal-proof nylon they have now...) and lay down with a loud "Ooooooff!"
     We all forgot about him, going back to our various diversions, until nearing Dana Point he tottered forward to check our progress.
     I motioned discretely with my vodka that he join me. He smiled and had a seat, deftly timing and concealing his swigs. A pro. He is way down inside himself with pain, but is curious about the writing on my clipboard. Was I in college or something?
     I told him it was a fantasy novel and he lurched to his feet, offended. Writing me off as a frivolous clown, "A fantasy, huh? Well wait 'til the real world catches up with you. Are you in for some surprises!"
     And he swayed forward, snorting.
     I've since been vindicated, as subsequent encounters in the State Park have cast us together, 'Road Brothers' now. He has read some chapters, and he laughed in all the right places. Also he has proven that he knows less about the REAL WORLD than I do; Repeatedly talking shit to the cops and getting his ass kicked.
     Roseanna worked some, babysitting, and really wanted to be responsible- Alice Kramden to our shiftless Ralph and Norton. Except that in her quiet way she was as big of a lush as we were.
     Because why else then---with Jerk having stumped off on some vague quest---did she voice the fear that he was about one big tumblerful of wine away from one of his "interludes", his flip outs; and then decide that we had to "help him come down", relieve him of the poison not by pouring some out (such a sinfully wasteful notion never occurred to us) but by launching our own attack on it, born of selflessness and concern mind you, as we gulped down as much as we could stand as quickly as we could; this shit which tasted just enough like real burgundy to horrify the palate; your guts---still wrecked from the day before---screaming "NOOOOOOOOO!!"; but a brain that wants to dive guzzling through the pretty purple, seeking out warm little undersea caverns.
     But it did the trick that time, prevented another of Jerk's spectacular attacks of the nutsoes, like that time when we were walking the tracks to San Juan Capistrano and he did a belly-flop onto the gravel, yowling for R. and me to take cover; suddenly this Cheech & Chong caricature of a flashbacking Vietnam vet; we not knowing and I'll never know how much of this was theatrics.
     And with the volume diminished, that glow, that smile of hers, the both of us a quantum notch or two higher. Eye talk, and then we are kissing.
     "Uh, you know I'm gay, don't you?"
     "You can't be that gay."
     "I really am though. With girls all I really like is kissing, cuddling."
     She smiles naughtily, "I like kissing girls too."
     "I mean I don't really enjoy, uh-" Hesitating, in my clumsy hung up way- not quite able to come out and say that sexually I never find myself inspired to be the, uh...
     "It's good Honey, relax. It's okay you don't want to fuck me. Yeah, do that. Right there. Just be with me..."
     Soft. Warm. Nuzzled together. An then on our second pint she's crying---"He's such a goddamn bastard"---and I'm holding her. I like the intimacy; caring; and she's pulled me out of my private shits as well...
     HOW CAN HE BE SUCH AN ASSHOLE?!! A drunk, and with scars of combat I can't even imagine, but it's no excuse. And it's doubly sad that she's glove to fist in this relationship, because from what she's said and hinted at he's just the latest in a series of bossy and abusive lovers, who does represent a step up for her, after the one with all the guns who thumped on her; That inner lacking (what she calls her crash-and-burn side) that makes such a history, and her three years with him so dismally logical...
     It seemed like Jerk could talk more freely, more seriously about stuff in his mate's absence. Like a lot of heterosexual (?) guys he tended to be homosocial. Roseanna was Mom and nookie and clowning around; but I got the brunt of his confessions, his considerable anxieties, stuff he didn't feel he should show her (which was dumb because he wasn't fooling her anyway.). The war...
    My father went through quite a few firefights, quite a bit
of hand-to-hand combat in World War II, and while certainly a nightmarish experience, it hadn't disabled him. I think maybe his generation had more realistic expectations of life in the first place. War was, yeah, that's what nations do. And maybe our generation is inherently less stable, more fantasy prone (the tube, yes, blame the tube with its tide of vapid dreams, its oleo segues...); and when they're dropped into the chattering bloody dice-o-matic of war...
     I somehow felt the need to confess to him that I'd done all in my power to avoid conscription, and Michael (his name's not really Jerk...) said he thought I'd done the smart thing, a hell of a lot smarter than his enlisting, and if he had really known what he was volunteering for he might be speaking Canadian right now. We joked about a monument to those who hadn't gone to war, the Tomb of the Unknown Draft dodger. A huge thing, with elevators going up to an observation deck and all that...
     He would lament on what he became when he was smashed, how he would boss her around; but all the regret in the world never mounted to a smidgin of change. In his cups he would regress once more into the Gross Suckling, and whatever thoughtful gestures he'd done became topics for his odes to his own magnificence. The proud caddishness of singing Under My Thumb along with the radio, rocking out, and gesturing in a childish Kabuki dance or something---Me. You. Thumb.---while she fumed! Shaking his hair, his big rubber mouth, a bargain basement Mick Jagger.
     It isn't too long before Jerk returns from a day job and catches us laying drunk in each others arms in their bed. This is where the bruiser rips my head off for messing with his girlfriend...
     But actually see, he is "above jealousy & possessiveness", an orb of such density that nothing external seems to threaten him. A stance that also conveniently releases him to seek tale in whatever form it beckons; usually that of giggly high school girls, who respond warily to his comical charm; who say "Hi", flirting but backing off...
      Or maybe he's some weird kind of voyeur. Because he's evidently been watching us for some time when the door opens and his voice booms- "WELL YOU TWO ARE REALLY LOVING IT UP, SCOOT OVER!"
     He's back with another three liters, Rhine-flavored this time. He'd given some tourists the line that his car was out of gas, and that though he never panhandled before he was stranded before his vehicle was stranded in a really bad place.
     Roseanna blows up, calling it a scumfuck confidence scheme And I feel kind of bad, wondering if it's not my influence that started him panhandling, until she mentions a promise he'd made not to do it anymore. And her objections sort of fade out when Jerk declares that if she doesn't want any then he and I will just hike over to the little ledge where the river passes under the freeway onramp and drink it all ourselves. And besides, he wasn't lying, we were out of gas! (Not surprising, considering that more actual gallons went down our gullets, week by week, than went into the tank of the Dart.)
     We drink, and I guess my tolerance is greater than theirs, because they both sack out while I solo the last liter, sitting behind the wheel and listening to the jouncing accordions and fiesta yelps of estacion XREY while I pen a whole chapter in a burst of inspiration; in which the Minotaur hits his head on a stalactite and contracts amnesia, and they get away by convincing him he's a bathroom fixtures wholesaler from Weehawken New Jersey (Cute, but tomorrow will tell if is isn't just too silly for the tone of the fantasy...).
     When I crawl out to stretch and to go pee, this vast blue circle is centered over us, rimmed in by dark bellied pillars of cloud. It is raining on L.A., Catalina and Oceanside, but warm and sunny here for now.
     I walk down to the bach and pick up tennis balls, bright orange dots among the drifts of lumber and other wet gunk that had washed down San Juan Creek to wash ashore right here along this tiny delta. With the clouds bearing down on me---under the sting of a few advance raindrops---I hoof it back to the car where they're still asleep, nuzzling.
     A practical joke pops into my mind, the very hideousness of which makes my brain race then recoil; makes me chortle idiotically, and I'm glad they're sound sleepers. It's less a joke than an uncontestable act of sadism, hitting him where he's weakest, and he would murder me for it. Nevermind...
     I get in and throw my sleeping bag over me for a nap, before the crawling heebie jeebies of withdrawal set in. Booze having rewired my nervous system for total dependancy, a chemical thing and a Pavlovian thing hooking tighter with each passing year. This shit's killing me, all three of us at varying, visible rates; But if I continue such thoughts I'll never get to sleep here, I switch to my fantasy about Kirk, Spock and Bones materializing right outside the car here, their phasers drawn, and I'm so cool because I don't freak out over their use of far future technology, and point out which way the Klingons have gone, and uh...
     I'm the breadwinner here for once, having spent most of today on the bus, going clear up to Long Beach to sell my blood plasma for #15, feeling mildly virtuous that I didn't even crack open this Hugh's Market Betsy Ross Vodka until I got back home. Found them already drunk, and asleep. I think they're turning into sloths or something, going into hibernation. Some fun they are, and there's not a thing to read in here. Plus the battery's down so I can't even play the radio. The rain pours and the creek rushes noisily. I drink---in some apathetic state beyond boredom---and watch them sleep.
     Jerk twitches, grunts, rotates a quarter of a turn. Puts an arm around Roseanna, which hooks her neck, which wakes her. Or maybe not, eyes gazing blank and doll like at the car's ceiling. She's not awake enough to sense me watchin, possibly because I'm not being furtive or thinking ruttish thoughts, but am just dully watching the tones and heft, the nuances of sleep.
     Bah Vodka. Sad. When I first met her she seemed so confident. Her image, self-image as this self reliant little street chick masking the sense of doom and futility; which I may be deepening in her. I've been meddling.
     Haranguing her to dump this guy, who's never gonna change and to seek something better for herself. I don't mean run away with me but develop some priorities. To unlearn whatever it is that makes her sticks with a guy who calls her The Grand Canyon in public, berating her for the looseness of her pussy; forever belittling her and not just "kidding" as he maintains.
     Jerk gives a frightened moan and tightens his grip. She wakes up fully and unlatches the arm, scoots away as well as she can to sleep. Jerk's leg starts twitching and the phrase "He's dreaming he's chasing rabbits" leaps unbidden into my mind, suddenly the funniest joke in the world. Then I recall yesterday's idea for a fuck-head prank and I am swept over the edge into inane hysteria- giggling and snickering until my stomach aches.
     It's a symptom of his shell shock that he often wakes up flailing and disoriented; the V.C. stalking him in his sleep. My joke then---if it can be called that---is to bellow something about Charlie, or "Wake up, the chopper's crashing!" and watch him utterly shit.
     Eleven a.m., bottled up in here by the downpour since dawn. My two friends are in the dire need of smokes, and are both pretty damn bitchy- sniping at each other. I myself have been fortunate in this regard, borrowing one of his or hers but really just chipping, not strung out.
Finally Jerk says "aw shit" and "fuck it" and "to hell with waiting for this to let up, I'm going!"
     I join him. We cross the little bridge over the creek at a near jog, the river thundering around the streamlined abutements, then dodge across the six lanes where the freeway dumps out onto Highway #1, and into the shopping complex. Laundromat, Round Table Pizza, Bait n' Tackle, LIQUOR STORE, the neon beer signs beckoning through the blur of rain. He has enough for the smokes, but unfortunately not for anything to drink, and with this rain no one getting out of their car is gonna stop long enough to listen to some pitch...
     But these two young Marines are hanging out here, out of view from inside the store, getting wet. And they have a pitch.
They tell us they've been repeatedly carded at various liquor stores, and must return to this party in San Clemente with several cases of beer.
     Jerk communicates somehow---nearly instantaneously---that he's an ex-grunt himself. He's indignant that no one will sell booze to these two patriots (and it does seem kind of weird that they've been deemed old enough to fight, kill and maybe die yet too young to drink). Jerk peeks in, and sizing up the frail, acned "twerp" behind the counter gets even madder.
     Money is passed to us, two $20 bills for Coors. But inside he gives me that bloated sly look, because we don't grab Coors but Olde English- a potent but chemical-tasting malt liquor.
     Fishy vibes at the counter because they are used to us paying in disorganized mounds of change, and invariably being short. Plus Twerpo suspects rightly that Jerk steals from here...
     We each lug out two cases and the Marines almost shit at what we've scored with their money. But Jerk explains to them that we couldn't just walk up to the guy with the same brand and quantity that two minors had just attempted to buy. And besides, he bullshits them, this is what they'd partied on in his USMC days, even in Nam when they could find it.
     So we load up this pristine white '78 Firebird with the black Germanic two-headed eagle on its hood, and hop in to drink a few, but we promised someone we'd be right back and really should get going...
     Tooling down the San Diego Freeway to the jarhead party. "Jarhead" being Jerk's term, this self-effacement his perogative, though I'm disinclined to use it. For although I'm no friend of the Pentagon/Arms industry deathniks, I'm a lot more respectful of soldiers themselves now, one long disillusioned decade since the smug moral outrages of my Vietnam protest days. Since the sanctimonious fallacy of: "If everyone just thought like me there would be no more wars."
     I mean hell, these aren't the killer zombies of an old Berkely Barb political cartoon, they're kids really, on the lam from the rural agricultural grind, from economic uncertainty or the existential freedoms of adulthood...
     Down off the freeway into San Clemente we're still flying along, sailing through the intersections in the last split second of the yellow lights. I've got a drunk on already, having guzzled quite a few beers already, and we pull up in front of this boxy little two story apartment complex just as my bladder is issuing its final ultimatum.
     I vault up the steps and into the apartment, and before I do anything else beeline straight for the bathroom. It's a smallish place, one bedroom and this dinetted front room with
a fireplace. Nice though. A wall-sized grid of shelves belying a succession of costly hobbies, the latest apparently this mammoth aquarium teeming with fish
     For once I'm very quiet; the social world of the armed services being quite alien to me, but Jerk is in his glory, telling war stories in his baroquely cinematic style.
     And these recruits won't admit it but they're envious of every last horrible experience; his mettle proven under fire. Here are the stories that he'd spared me the details of, sensing my distaste.
     This party isn't taking off like they'd hoped, duties of some sort having been sprung on a big part of the guest list. They're all down at Camp Pendleton painting helicopters or whatever. At five one more grunt shows up with his girlfriend. She's drunk and loud and loopy and funny, and I'm having fun making her laugh ......... until the guy pets the couch next to him and says quietly, "Sit here Babe."; keeping her on a short leash in this testosterone-crazed environment.
     Jerk and I are belting down this Old English; because these are no city park winos warily rationing and dividing it, but clean cut young normals, suddenly out here in So-Cal paradise and just wanting to live it up; with what seems like money to burn...
     In its own mundane way this is a great party. The energy, animation, even this shitty loud cretinous rock and roll. Even, or well maybe in spite of the talk here- of politics, the mideast, and what a wuss our commander in chief is (Jimmy, for God's sake. What kind of president is named Jimmy? Sounds like a little kid in short pants!); they all itching for America to kick some ass, some-place or other. Horrifying, such thoughtless jingo fantasies; but guileless really, and basically okay once I'm detached enough...
     Indulging my nihilistic streak; saying the most perverted hypocritical stuff just to egg them on! The beer, this talk fueling their love for---among other things---these new "cruise" missiles...
     But hey ...... I mean ...... they really are wonderful; taken strictly as a scientific and engineering feat; the utter cunning and accuracy of those guidance systems. We're all here agreed on that. I decide this must be what it's like up in those blankfaced glass aeries along Aerospace Row, the rootless cerebral joys of the tactical think tank. Leave your human meat at the door and splash on in...
     I'm at the window, gesturing grandly, "Picture it, six hundred miles an hour thirty feet off the ground! I mean like up over the north pole, then dodging trees and telephone wires, around the onion domes of the Kremlin and right up Breshnev's nose!"
     I wince at having just vaporized a half million innocent bystanders but the guys here are amused. Pacifist Roger playing first-strike ghoul.
     Have another beer. Hey.
     Jerk has been staring dully, his face getting strange and puffy like it does ........ And we have left him, since sundown, tripping off into the Radiant Future. Giant particle beam weapons carving up the continents. Volcano weapons. Engineered plagues...
     When from out of a seeming stupor, Jerk shrieks, "YOU KNOW. YOU GUYS ARE REALLY STUPID?"
     Conversation stops.
     But then he spaces out again and my friend the Lieutenant continues what he'd been saying, to use an H Bomb to create a split second vacuum, then hit them with the charged particle beam...
     Jerk yells again, "YOU GUYS ARE REALLY FUCKING STUPID!"
     Lieutenant Strozek stops, amused, and hollars back, mimicking Jerk's barking monotone perfectly, "TELL US. WHY ARE WE SO STUPID?"
     This washes over Jerk. He booms, "D'YOU KNOW WHAT MY NAME IS?"
     "Jerk?" suggests someone.
     "NO IT'S MICHAEL," he stands up quickly, wavering precariously, "MICHAEL DEAD MEAT ............ KILLER!"
     The girl laughs nervously. And Jerk looks around like he's fixing to smash something, and shouts, "WHAT DID YOU DO WITH ALL THE BEER I BOUGHT YOU GUYS?"
     Someone hands him a beer and suggests that I take him home.
     "FUCK YOU!" he yells and slams the tall can foaming to the carpet.
     He's huge, but he isn't scaring anyone. They're fit and well trained, and he's stumbling and swaying. John Strozek suggests that they let him lie down in the bedroom and "sleep it off"...
     "I'LL NEVER SLEEP IT OFF! SLEEP THIS OFF-" he roars and then screams the scream of the sundered, of the man holding his intestines in his hands. They must have heard him over on the next block. And then he smiles, proud of himself, like it was some magnificent joke.
     When the five Marines stand up he goes into a clumsy fighting stance, his eyes slitted. There's a brief pathetic scuffle, no injuries, then: "You'd better get him out of here..."
    I do, with some loud parting comments about how they're all blind. Are cannon fodder, ground chuck, controlled by liars who care nothing for them, and callously spout principals they don't believe in!
     It's night, and we're walking now, this return trip no Mach 2 fighterjet joyride but a miserable five mile slog, especially with how drunk we are. At least it's not raining.
     He's telling me---shouting and slurred---about the conspiracy, who really rules the world and that he knows for a FACT who killed Kennedy. I'm not sure if these are long held beliefs or if he's just foaming along to hear himself jabber. I am pretty much steering his falling bulk, keeping to the side streets, and trying to get him down to the beach before his shouting gets us in trouble. But no such luck...
     Mr. Dead Meat Killer goes along quietly after telling the occifers his new name, and---maybe seeming sober by comparison---I am let go.
     My walk back to Doheny is actually kind of enjoyable after this, the moon and the waves and the distant tanker's lights and all that. I start to worry, what if the car with my pack and sleeping bag in it isn't there? But it is. I see lit candles up on the dashboard.
     I give Roseanna the grim news and ask her how her day was. She has aquired smokes, borrowing a pack from a campground aquaintance, and a small bottle of vodka, and has had a good day just having the "house" to herself.
     We have our big chance to sleep together, and that's what we do. Sleep...
     Jerk shows up at twenty minutes to five in the morning. We are relieved to find him a free man. No formal charges were pressed or he would have been in there for weeks. We sit up to hear his story
     He changes into a dry pair of pants and tells us how he'd almost made it, finally, a trip through the county drunk tank unmolested...
     Until he'd seen them wailing on some young loadie; their violence---he felt---disproportionate to the amount of lip the kid had given them, and he ordered them to "KNOCK THAT OFF!! NO HUMAN BEING DESERVES THAT KIND OF TREATMENT!!!"
     And so, Step This Way Mr. Geneva Accord...
     They stood him up against the wall in frisk stance, legs spread, feet way out so that his palms were supporting his weight, and let his own system torture him. Two hours. Not letting him move from there, all that beer piss building up in his crotch...
     He asked, asked nicely, asked rudely, and finally begged them to let him go to the bathroom! Okay, sure...
     POW!!! A nightstick across the kidneys and the dam burst as he toppled! Then back into the drunk tank with much commentary about these goddamn dirty winos who piss their own pants. Cop humor...
     Then having to hitchhike home in wet smelly Levis, degraded and furious!
     We listened, consoled our poor wretched miserable Jerk; helping him drink the supertanker of Thunderbird that he'd mysteriously aquired long after the liquor stores had all closed; and then all turn in as the dawn is purpling...
     I wake up about a quarter 'til ten and sneak over to the campground to shower. Not a cloud in the sky, but a camper's radio has warned me of a week's worth of rainclouds backed up all the way to the Bering Sea and heading this way.
     Back to the home 20, the mist now on the inside surfaces of the windows, condensing from the piles of clothes and such as the heat pours into the Dodge. I peer into it, wondering whether I should get in or go sit over by the river or something. They're asleep, piled across each other in there, a huge booted foot hiked up onto the rear window ledge swaddled in blue denim.
     Hey, what a stupid asshole- he's got his shoes on! He tried to pull his pants off right over them, but couldn't and so just left 'em like that when he passed out. What a fool! What a Nimbo!
     I roar; pummel the top of the car with both fists, screaming:
     Michael catapults out the door in animal panic, his pants trailing inside-out behind his hightop boots. JERK IN THE MUD, here on the sunny litter-strewn lot in view of the Sunday traffic, and not in Quang Tang Province nine years ago after all...
     Eyes struggling with the bright daylight, heart geeking out, but now becoming aware of the situation. Of me. He's got the tire iron, his "GOD DAMN YOU!" a cracked rasping shriek! I run...
     He's behind me, I hear the high horrible rhythmic grunting- the pistoning of effort and rage! I start first for the bridge, but don't want him to catch me out over the surging creek; So I run toward where the people are, the State Park's exit gate, past which I'll jump right into a motor home with someone and bolt the door, for I have no doubt that he'd beat me to death.
     And it had seemed like such a funny thing to do...
     But a long curving landscaped drive leads between two tall fences into the camping area, and he's caught me in seconds. He backhands me across the jaw, knocking me into the fence. I turn to plead...
     His whole "killing machine" schtick doesn't seem like such a conceit now, but very real. Shirtless, his lips drawn, he puffs, trembles-
     Okay, maybe that wasn't such a funny thing to do. Jesus! Those arms! How does he keep himself in such good shape laying in the car all day? I contemplate kicking him in the nuts but he senses this and shifts his stance.
     "ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!?!" he screams, but he's...
     Yes, he's in control. He sails the steel bar off over the tall hedges.
     NO HE'S NOT! He grabs the neck of my jacket and slams me into the fence with greater and greater violence- a doberman shaking a cat!
     My fist flies up but he deflects it, and punches me hard in the temple, the pain shooting straight through like a lance, blasting my brains into star putty! When I can focus again he is stalking off, his voice trailing...
     "Come get your stuff. If you ever come within fifty feet of that car again, I'll kill you."
     "But listen-"
     "Don't apologize, don't talk to me, I'm not fucking kidding. Because if I even so much as hear your voice ...... well just don't risk it."
     Tense control as I drop my notebooks, my backpack and frame, everything into my sleeping bag to sort out later. As I drag this off toward the park they're arguing-
     "Do you want to join him, Cunt?!"
     Howls Roseanna: "It's my car, asshole!"
     I creep around to where they can't see me, the empty the campsite directly adjecent to the tiny field---across this single southbound lane from it, behind these oleander bushes---and try to listen...
<=====***{{{ EPILOGUE }}}***=====>
     As it turns out I spent another week and a half with them. I apologized, he apologized, the friendship that we'd welded outweighing that depraved act of mine. A sudden overwhelming impulse I told him, akin to nudging your wheelchaired Granny off the crest of a trecherous San Francisco street. As I reminded him he wasn't the only one with psych problems...
     We had a few minor adventures and were on good terms when they left, heading East toward Colorado and the supposed prospects of a reconciliation between Roseanna and her kin back on some big ranch. They had wanted me to come along but I saw this Rainbow's End as a potential fiasco; the folks having invited her but not these two shady-looking friends who owned maybe $25 worth of wardrobe between them. Or the car soaring through some Rocky Mountain guardrail en route, the inebriated way they drove.
So I opted instead for renewed citizenship in the Doheny Republic, purchasing a 'tube tent'---an overglorified dry cleaner's bag really---at Thriftymart, and uh...
[Note: While most of this story was taken from real events, the climactic incident was almost entirely invented. Jerk did kick my ass, over something that wasn't really clear to me; but it wasn't not because I scared the piss out of him, and not over Roseanna's affections; but something to do with me taunting him, where I kept saying something he didn't want me to say- Booga booga or something, something just drunk & stupid & pointless ....... so I made up something more dramatic and shocking. But that's why they call it autobiographical fiction.]


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