The Empty Promise of a Brand New Day, Back Story Pt.1

Every morning the sun rises from behind the hills, and, glowing with warmth and life, lies to my face. A new day has begun, but within this day lives the same cynicism, the same egoism, and the same dim remorse as any other day. There are moments in the dawn that clang like trash cans spilled by strays that lurk just out of sight, and in those moments I bolt from my cot, I scratch and pull at my shirt, and I remember how the light in the bathroom was uncovered and harsh, smearing illumination across the stains on the sink and floor; lending unwanted dimension to the dried piss crusting the toilet seat as my head pitched forward and cracked against the side. Memories deep and mean like a quarry, red from rust and wet from rain. I see flashes of the evil twat once known to me as the Eternal Camile with her lips splotched and red, her tootsie roll nipples and velveteen heart, her scatter shot mind blasting me straight to jail. Camile, you rotten tomato, you Benji-fucking scum, you turn-coat whore of a slut, you master of disaster in your mask of angry zits. Oh…when next I see you, then we shall see…make book on it!

And now the bees rise like a cloud from the overturned garbage of the morning, and they descend into my hair and burrow into my ears, stinging and swelling and buzzing. I clench my fists and ask my friend the Wall to hand me some good news so that I might clear my mind of this shit storm, but the Wall gazes past me, unconcerned. My lost freedom itches like a phantom limb. My neck is already stiff with tension. An unseen screw is turned, tightening my skull. My cellmate Jody complains, “You’d better stop grinding your teeth, ass wipe!” I tell him that unless he wants to taste the bottom of my foot via the hard way, he’d better mind his own business, and he, as is his wont, punches his cot. “Damnit! I hate it here! I hate YOU!” I laugh and call him a baby, because that’s what he is: an over-sized, hairy baby, with no social skills. He flops around his cot like an frustrated trout.

And so the morning marches on.

People who feel they know me are probably looking for precious backstory: how did Pendel’s sorry ass land in the clink? The story is long, but I guess I have some time. When it all went down, it seemed so unreal to me, like everything was happening in a brain gone bad, as if, in reality I was lying strapped down to a bed in a mental institution at the top of a black hill, and the doctors were telling my dad that it was useless to talk to me, that I can’t hear him, that the strange things I was saying and doing were part of the brave, new world I had constructed in my mind, that I was not responding to medication, that I was never coming back. With the magic of hindsight, of course, I can now see that everything that took place is all part of the normal, natural order for any person who becomes involved in selling weed.

In my heart—my blackened cinder of a heart—I (justly) blame Benji and Camile for everything. It was their malice that turned my karma shit black. It was their corroborations that saved Benji from sharing my fate. It was they that flinched at the first sign of trouble, and turned Sugar against me with pitiable lies. If they hadn’t…oh, but I get ahead of myself.

******

So here goes nothing:

The nagging rain and dead gray sky notwithstanding, my day really turned to stone the moment I entered the old folks home. Debora Fanning immediately materialized from thin air and stepped—with more grace than a woman of her size deserves—into my path. “Pendel. A word?” I asked her if she promised that it would only be, in fact, one word she planned on sharing with me and her already thin mouth disappeared into the dough of her face. I was all like, hey man, give me a break. I’ve been helping Big Bill wipe ass, no complaints. She held a hand up to quiet me, which I freaking hate like death, but allowed it for now, because I am in control of all things Pendel. “There were men here again. But they weren’t the same men as the last time, Pendel.” She looked at me sideways as if I had something to spill, which I did.

Ok, I said, well, I need more information, Pilsbury.

“They had badges. They were detectives. They were narcotics officers.”

OUCH. But my face is unchanged, I am an ice sculpture of feigned confusion. I betray nothing. Debora, what did they want? Is it about my sister (I apologize to you Clare for having so cavalierly thrown you under the bus, but you know what a shit I am)?

“It is not.” Debora Fanning has a gaze as level as a gyroscope. It is fearless, but I am great and terrible. We are well matched, Fanning and I. “Pendel, I have had a lot of young people serve their community service with me. Do you know what that means?”

It means you’re middle aged.

“Pendel, it means that I’m no fool. It means that you might think you have me duped, but I can assure you that you do not. Narcotic officers don’t just come around asking for people. They ask questions about people. People they think might have reason to be up to no good. They check to see if people have jobs.”

So, I have a job. I love it here. Adult diapers and daisy chains.

“You realize of course that I cannot and will not cover for you. I do not know you. It’s not my place to trust you or rehabilitate you. This is not your job, it is your court ordered sentence, and I told them as much. Get yourself together, Pendel. I don’t know what you’re doing, but I don’t need the trouble, and neither do the other very good people who work here. Not to mention the poor souls who have come here to end their days in peace.”

What could I say? All the braggadocio in the world cannot change the fact that I am, in fact, a hindrance to Debra Fanning and the Silver Fox Players. I don’t admit it to her and never would, but I am a gambler in a game of unquestionable consequences. It’s cliche, but the walls are, in fact, closing in around me. I feel it in my head. I find myself looking for escape routes where ever I go. I check outside windows for sturdy drainpipes or adequate cracks. I check stairways for roof access. I have written out and destroyed more than five different options for home emergency egress. I have a supply of non-perishables stashed in a certain park and I refuse to reveal to any of you untrustworthy harpies the exact location. The other day as I headed out the door, Sugar Bear asked me where I was going, and I told him I was biking down to the Taco Bell on East Main. Immediately I suspected him of everything bad in the world. I then proceeded to pedal my ass as fast as humanly possible to the shop across the street from the Taco Bell—some stupid little shithole with the inexplicable name of Artistic Sandwich and Pizza. I hid behind a car in the parking lot for twenty minutes to see whether or not I had been followed. Make sense? Fuck no. How would I know the difference between a regular customer and the cops? Why would getting a taco on that night be any different from any other? If I was being FOLLOWED, then wouldn’t they have seen me turn into this lot? All these questions mattered not because my mind was fried beyond belief with worry. Oh, and pot. Which also just so happened to make the fucking taco, when I finally purchased and devoured it along with two of its brothers, one of the best tacos I had ever had in my LIFE (for more on my past experiences with tacos, CLICK HERE).

I lamely suggested to Debora Fanning that perhaps these gentlemen with badges (and therefore guns) must have simply been trying to question me about a friend of mine, someone with whom I had most DEFINITELY cut all ties, as a matter of fact, now that I think about it DEBORA, I know EXACTLY about whom they must be curious.

I had my regular smoke with my new old friend Charlie Murphy, and I told him I didn’t know how much longer he and I would be able to hang out. He shook his head and sighed, “Goddamn you, you just couldn’t stay out of trouble.” I agreed that no, I couldn’t.

“When are they coming for you?”

I really have no clue.

“You even know they’re cops?”

I just shook my head and finished a beer, crushing the can on my head with a belch. Charlie shook his head again. I forgot the question entirely a mere two minutes after he asked it.

I’m pretty sure I wiped an ass or two before heading out the door, but seeing as I have blocked as many of these particular traumatic events from my mind as possible, it’s tough to say. I biked home in the dreary rain and had already pushed open the door of my faded abode before a frightening realization brought me to a halt. The door wasn’t locked, and that was a HUGE problem. I was just thinking that someone (i.e. that fucking asshole Benji—you rotten piece of fucking shit I can’t WAIT to tear you a new asshole) was going to hear it from me, because you simply DO NOT EVER leave our door unlocked for OBVIOUS reasons, when the fact that the door jamb was a mess of splintered wood bubbled up to the top level of my mind and set everything inside me on high alert. I wiped the rain dripping from my hair from my eyes and backed one step toward the street. Dim light spilled out onto the front steps, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember if any had been left on when I left earlier in the day. I focused my entire existence upon the crack made by the partially opened door and listened.

“Hey man, don’t be shy, get your ass in here. It’s fucking wet outside.”

The voice, which caused my cock to turn ice-cold and shrivel into nothing, came from inside the house, but the hand that shoved me forward most definitely came from behind. I tripped over the sill and nearly fell flat on my face before the same hand (I assume) steadied me roughly and then immediately began to drag me the rest of the way into the front room of the house. At first I was simply too shocked to do or say anything, I simply let the disembodied hand throw me into one of our dilapidated chairs.

“That’s it. Get comfy.”

The sound of the voice speaking again brought me back, and I looked around wildly and began to stand, but was hit on the back of the head with something not quite hard like a semi-thawed carton of ice cream (I never found out what it actually was) and found my seat again pretty quickly. Cold steel was at my throat and I became very still. It’s funny, really, how certain things can focus a person. Is it genetic? It must be. A young man who has never seen a woman undress, even if he’s never heard the tales, would become very focused the moment it happened in front of him. He doesn’t need anybody to tell him where to look or what’s important. It’s all reflex; nature takes over. In a very disturbing way, the knife pressing just below my adams apple produced much the same effect. I was a statue with five senses, baby.

I gathered quickly that there were two men in the room with me. They had turned on only one lamp, the living room was dim, and I couldn’t see much. It appeared as though none of the other rooms had been entered, or, if they had, the lights had since been extinguished. The men in the room—and you know, all this shit is very foggy now—seemed to both be around average size and…how else to put it?…of average hair. I don’t know. Like I said, it’s all foggy. Fuck you if you don’t like it. There’s lots of blogs out there littered with minutia if you want them. The weird thing though, the detail I won’t forget anytime soon (that and being ‘jump started,’ of course), are the cheap freaking Groucho Marx glasses they both wore on their faces. The ones with the fake nose, right? Oh my god. Creepy as shit and completely effective, because I couldn’t bring myself to center on ANY other facial detail. I was so fucking freaked out I almost peed.

And it was all going to get much worse.

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Light A Fire

The blank wall is my dear friend and is the first to wish me happy birthday as my resentful eyelids pry apart. I didn’t have to say a word, no pathetic hints were dropped for my own benefit, but the wall wished me well regardless. I love you, you fucking wall. Be forever mine. Marry me and take me away from all of this blight. Cradle me in your apathetic arms and shower me with kisses unspecific.

I would like to say that no one but me must know what it means to turn 19 while friendless and stripped in the spiteful cold of minimum security, but in fact there are lots of idiots in here doing exactly that. And I suppose that for every idiot kicking up his heels in such a shit hole on such an uneventful day there is a special wall with cracks like an uncaring mouth, from which comes neither praise nor reprimands, not compliments or insults; only consistency. And though things could be worse I refuse to admit it, and though there is no one to blame but myself I have my list.

I wonder mindlessly if any of the deeply wounded pricks I share my time with will find it in their sticky hearts to let me decide the day’s programming in the television room. I already know the answer. Fucking jerks. Selfish, rough, and tireless bunch of liars. The whole lot would be better off dead, and every single one of them—every last goddamned drop—will one day be so. I cast this spell personally on the very morning of my birthday. It is the gift I give to myself, since my “good friend” the wall is apparently too freaking CHEAP and/or LAZY to have taken care of my material needs on this SPECIAL day. I place into my own hands the ability to decide whether or not immortality will be given to any of my scumbag brethren, and in my infinite wisdom I withhold eternal life from the entire lot. So there.

I tell the wall thanks for nothing and my cell mate calls me a nutcase for the nth time. He isn’t dangerous so I tell him to go fuck a pig and he punches his cot and hates himself. I hate him too, although it must be noted that he is my friend (second in line only to the wall). All at once I am more tired of him than I ever was of my dear, insipid mother, yet I need him nearly as much as I did her in my infancy. My needs, in order of greatest to least, are as follows: water, someone to listen to me, food, and titties. I always knew about food, water, and titties, but I was surprised by my need for an audience. I thought I was above it, see. I thought I was the ROMANTIC LONER type, strong and silent and callous; self reliant to a fault. But as it turns out, I am just as weak as the rest of you. I am the deceptive rubber band, thought to be new, seemingly elastic and oh so pliable, hanging innocently from your doorknob, but when taken in hand and stretched, I snap almost immediately, my new jagged ends cracking back and stinging your fingers. And it seems to me incredibly unfair to have to find out all of this fucking horseshit about myself at such a young age, when it seems the rest of you fucking stiffs get to walk the earth for most of your lives under the dry shell of illusion, but what can one do when one so plainly brings it all upon himself?

My cell mate’s name is Jody—which is fucking stupid, but I suppose it’s not his fault. Just more proof of how the birth of children causes most people to drop 10 full IQ points (my name is Pendel and the irony is not lost on me. So fuck you, too, DEAR READER).

Jody has the face of a young dog beaten to the point of unassailable mistrust, with a sloppy mop of mahogany hair and terrified eyes that belie his 22 years tooling around the planet earth as his old man’s whipping boy. When I first arrived at PRISON—after I was first flung to the floor of my temporary tomb by a couple of overly enthusiastic gorillas electroplated into uniforms that grossly over-sold the said gorillas professionalism, and after I had a chance to check my surroundings for explosives—my attention fell upon him glaring at me from his bed, and I assumed that I was at least two years his senior. Wanting to appear tough and together and completely in charge of my environment, I sneered like a complete cock and asked him when he was going to get his braces removed. “I ain’t got braces,” Jody sneered in return. Well, you’re gonna fucking need them soon enough, if you keep that fucking look on your puss, I said. He punched his cot and hated himself.

Before the sweet reward of television has a chance to numb the constant drone of nostalgic remorse coursing through the dead alleys of my mind, Jody and I must walk ourselves through perdition: modern day Dantes in dull jumpsuits and no fucking brains, we must enter the ninth ring and sit frozen in ice as the local sinners arranged around the room tell Satan all about the horrible tongue lashings they have received over the years, the ones inevitably responsible for bringing them to such a state as they currently find themselves. I can’t stand to go into any of these ramblings in much detail, it’s all so useless and petty. Rationalizations. People spout them like sweat—they cool the skin and keep the ego from overheating, so I guess you can’t fault a man for basically turning his life into a sauna, but fuck me, brother! You act as though I can’t spot a rationalization when I hear one! But now hear this, you twisted ass: I dress in them from head to toe every morning; my very skin is woven from the fabric of these lies; I am not carefully sculpted from the delicate carbon dripped from starlight and collected upon the gossamer smiles of angels, no sir, I am hewn strong from the cosmic rock of delusion. I am an old hand; a master of the art. I have not yet reached twenty in human years, but in the measure of my conceits I have sewn many seasons.

Give me hypocrisy or give me death. Whatever. I am beginning to bore myself.

So anyway, these assholes are full of bullshit, I can smell it a mile away, the shrink lets them get away with it, and it just makes me want to fucking puke. But who am I to judge? What must it be for Dr. Nothing to sit day in and day out listening to this worthless bunch of low-life criminals lie to themselves three days a week? One loser cries over the spilled milk of the American caste system and his place in it, another bemoans the ass of his wife as it gyrates endlessly over the cocks of others. Dr. Nothing asks Jody what HIS fucking beef is nearly every day, but Jody says nothing. He simply punches his thigh and hates himself.

“How about you, Pendel? How did you get here?”

Simple. I was busted selling weed.

“But how did you GET here?”

I was busted selling weed.

“But what made you—”

Look, friend, I see what you’re trying to do (and at this point I even lend the sad piece of shit a smile, TRYING my best to remain friendly because oh how I want good behavior), but really man, I was just busted selling fucking pot, and that’s about it.

And he gazes at me sadly, steadily, like he knows something I don’t. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t..but how much could it possibly matter? Can I change where I am now? Can I change what happened last year? Can I change a fucking thing? The future? I tolerate his dissection of me for maybe fifteen or twenty seconds, and then I just say, hey, it’s all good—just let the chips fall where they may. He lets it go for now and on the inside my guts buckle like an old bridge.

Turns out television sucked. There was a baseball game on, and since baseball is considered an American past-time, it does nothing for me. I ask if anybody is watching, and one of the undesirables calls me a faggot and offers to break my arm. I sulk. Jody sulks. I meditate briefly on the irony of steroids and how every motherfucker on the motherfucking screen mounted high on the wall (not my friend, but just the friend of my friend) has probably taken the drug as recently as NOW, and how whoever sold it to them was probably doing just fine on this, the anniversary of my birth. Maybe he/she’s even a doctor or shrink or some other respected member of this twisted smoking metal wreck of a society. The bridge of my guts collapses completely and crumples with frightening ease into the river as the trapped occupants inside the motor vehicles struggle vainly with door handles and panic, and as they loose the fight and turn blue from death with surprised eyes and unresolved passions, I gather myself and return to my cell. I climb into my bunk and I tell the wall that I’ve had enough, that I give up, that loneliness is no longer an option on the table and it’s time for the two of us, the wall and I, to think about getting out of here. Good behavior.

Good behavior.

The wall looks blandly back at me and does not betray its doubt, but I feel it. I punch the cot and hate myself.

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