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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I Am of the Dregs, Part 3: Where Pendel Exits the Dregs

This was mostly written when life was normal. I wasn’t going to post it, but I wasted a huge fucking amount of time on this trash, so you might as well get to see. It’s sloppy as hell cause I’m not bothering to fix it, but I realize now that it doesn’t matter at all. I’m in the middle of trying to decide how much about the new and horrific reality of things I should be sharing with all of you perfect strangers, and I suppose I will share it all eventually, but my mind is a bath of hot liquid right now, the sores on my back are still fresh and symmetrical, and I am currently in the middle sorting out fact from mental protection. How is all of this possible in a world of processed cheese and unicycles? It is beyond me. I might give up. I might go on. I might go back out to the bluff and see if they return. I might cry out when they lift me from the ground and wonder why did I come here? But hey, while I sort all of this crap out, you can read this moot bullshit:

Date rapists and pedophiles populated the summer school program like flies on a rotting sow, turning the bad to worse for their own sick nourishment. With blatant disregard for the rights of their fellow humans, they wag their cocks to and fro; with zero remorse they pounce upon the weak or unwary and unleash their savagery. But for Pendel the Great and Terrible, that’s all over now. The border-line retarded sociopaths once known to me as peers are forever (?) part of my past, because for all intents and purposes, I am a fucking high school graduate, MOTHERFUCKERS, and I plan to finally put some distance between myself and the fools of conformity that comprise the sad and vacant hipster clique known as high school.

However…I suppose it is safe to say that I am somewhat fascinated by this Eric Grassman character, and may try to cross his path in my newfound life as a true proletariat. Although I’m sure, after receiving his beat-down from Dougy the Rhino in Conway’s class a couple of weeks ago, it’s probably going to take some doing to end up on Grassman’s trail. According to Sugarbear—my soon-to-be roommate—the poor fuck has locked himself in his mom’s basement and hasn’t shown his long face since. I can’t blame him. Once an animal like Doug has tagged a person, only fresh blood from easier prey or death will deter him.

The Rhino made his name in junior high when he walked through the doorway one arid day and shocked the entire school body by already being a man. Shoulders squared under a neck as thick as a fencepost and his chin bashing holes in the sky, he caught the eyes of all. How could this happen? Who LET this happen? Where was GOD when this freak of science transformed like a young and dissident horse into a fighting and fucking machine rivaled only by men almost twice his age? At 14, he could snap the forearm of most teachers with the stomp of one massive heel. And in his EYES lived a cold confidence; in his EYES swarmed the silence of callousness—the complete lack of empathy borne by the stallion as he bites the neck of the mare and fucks her into submission; as he rears high and smashes down to splinter the bone of his trainer—his BREAKER—as he jumps the fence at full speed to free himself from the bonds of those who would have him TRAINED. Would he be corralled? Would he be lassoed? Would they mount his back and ride him home to deference? Sure, of course. Eventually. But in the meantime, his brutality was palpable and green—his malice untested and uncontested. He was a mutant. A laboratory of potency. He was only 14 freaking years old and he had the fucking goods.

We were all, of course, terrified.

So now Dougy’s like 17 or 18, and he’s only gotten larger, only grown more removed and apathetic, and he stalked the hallways of high school like a volatile apparition with a keen eye for petty transgressions against the unwritten laws of his narrow world view. Eric Grassman fell into the cross hairs of Dougy the Rhino’s muddled HUD, and paid the price—will continue to pay the price, I’m sure, until Grassman decides to leave town. Or else, Dougy gets his ass tranquilized, tagged, and carted off to the wildlife preserve, where he can live out the rest of his cold years of violence uninhibited, tasting blood without fear of reprisal.

It’s hard for a retard like me to stay on track. So okay. It was just another lazy day in Summer Session. The air was heavy. The bugs droned. We all trudged lifelessly into Conway’s nap-trap and slumped into our desks, merely waiting for the end of the day so we could all limp home to more gross injustice. Conway had called roll, and was beginning to rehash the finer points of some random classic using her patented method of oversimplification, when a soft humming undercut her voice, filling the room with distraction. Unswayed, Conway tried an honorable tactic, which was to raise her voice slightly and plow ahead, but the humming was just too fucking THERE, too fucking PERFECT as it traced the melody of some incredibly sopping-wet tune from the stone age; some song that (to the best of my memory) speaks of birds flying gaily around the head of a nameless asshole too saintly for his own fucking good; a song about the congregation of angels and the insane amount of beauty they’ve pumped into this one human, and about how we all can’t get enough of this sappy piece of shit as he walks among us, making us feel HORRIBLE about ourselves, because we could never measure up to the bar this son-of-a-bitch has raised. It’s a happy song, I guess, and something in its delivery ran so completely antithetical to Conway’s speech that the entire room dissolved into snorts and giggles. Heads swiveled, eyes darted, and smiles were exchanged at this unexpected change in plan. At first, it seemed impossible to know from whom the disturbance emanated (though I suppose it should have been obvious), but as all eyes connected and ruled each other out, every student in class eventually settled their focus on Eric. He faced forward calmly with a look of such benign longing—his chin bobbing minutely with every note that he hummed—that even Conway cocked her head to the side for a moment in concern before finally saying, “Eric, please stop that.” Eric continued humming his sad song as if nothing had been said to him at all, causing a few people to let out surprised guffaws of concern regarding his lack of social awareness. “OK, Eric. Very good. Very nice. You’ve impressed us all.” No change in Eric. “Eric, honestly. This is ridiculous. I know you can hear me. Now stop this instant or there’s going to be trouble, Eric. Eric, do you understand what I’m saying? Eric?”

Eric simply kept humming. If anything, from his outward appearance, he slipped—ever so slightly—deeper into wistfulness. His thoughts appeared far away, as if he had trained his mind’s eye on his memory as it launched itself into the icy Atlantic with all his hopes and dreams aboard. Would that ship ever make it’s way back to Eric Grassman and the troubled mind that had made it so hard for those hopes and dreams to realize their full potential? Ahhh…it was impossible to say. Could it be that the song Eric hummed had nothing to do with theatrics, but maybe something more to do with sorrow? Or longing? Or was that all BULLSHIT? I knew very well that inwardly Eric was watching the proceedings eagerly—gluttonously—gauging the reactions of Mrs. Conway and the rest of the class like a mad scientist adding the final touch of a lightning bolt to the stewy mix in front of him, waiting nervously to see if the improbable concoction would find legs and stumble away into the night.

Mrs. Conway marched to Eric’s seat, weaving her way through the onlookers until she stood directly in front of him. She tapped rapidly on his desk with one bony finger. “Hello, mister. Hi. Hey. I can wait for you, you know.”

Eric looked right through her without even a flutter in his posture. He sang to his memories. He sang to us—whether we wanted him to or not. For MY part, I was VERY interested. This was exactly the kind of shit that gets me out of bed every morning. But it was VERRRY clear that one person in particular was NOT into Eric Grassman’s unique brand of soft rock. Dougy the Rhino was supremely uninterested in Eric’s shtick. He sat a few chairs behind Eric and off to the side, with a clear view of the back of Eric’s head. And as I grinned to myself over the passive resistance I was witnessing, I caught a glimpse of Doug shooting rapid-fire daggers. I knew then that Eric was going to be in a world of hurt, and soon. Cold crept down from the top of my head and soon covered all of me. Doug was going to kill someone someday. His countenance sang murder.

“Eric, this is simply pathetic. I can’t let it stand.” Conway could have been talking to her cat. “Eric, go to the office immediately. You’ve stolen as much learning as I can allow.”

Eric hummed on endlessly. Conway stiffened. Doug tensed in his seat. I felt my own breath quicken as conflict loomed like a cloud of locust on the near horizon.

“Eric. Eric. Eric. Eric. Stop it. Now. Eric.” No reactions from Grassman at all, except for maybe a tightening of his focus. Conway sighed and closed the book on Eric’s desk. Then she gathered the rest of his shit and grasped his elbow. “Come on now. You’ve had enough fun at everyone’s expense. Go to the office.” As she spoke, she tugged at his arm, trying to pull him from his seat without actually putting any force behind her moves. Suddenly Eric snatched his arm back with a disgusted sneer, and popping up from his desk, he smacked everything from Conway’s pale hands and kicked it all across the floor.

“You can’t touch me! You don’t have the right to do that!”

“Okay, Eric. Just fine. You’re not hurt. Stop playing up for everyone and get out. Just get out. Go to the office. I have no use for your music and neither does anyone else in here.”

Eric clenched his eyes tightly and clawed like some kind of fucking mental patient at his ears. Honestly, it freaked me a little.

Conway had as much as she was going to take, which is about three times as much as any other teacher. She turned on her heel and headed for the door. “No, no. Not this. We don’t have to take this. None of us.” She stopped at the door and addressed the class in her senile, grandma way once more before exiting. “He’s taking from you. All of you. I hope you know that. And I hope you remember Eric’s behavior when you’re back in summer session next year.”

Eric stooped for his book and jaunted to the front of the class, throwing the text into the trash, and whining all the way, “You’re always on my back. I’m out of here.”

“Oh no, Eric. You stay. I’M leaving. But I’ll be right back, everyone. If you care, you can read.”

And she was gone. Eric turned to the class—the wounded, deprived contrivance melting instantly—and cackled childishly. “She’s a fucking—“ But he stopped short and a look of concern crossed his face. “What?”

I turned in my seat and with alarm saw Dougy the Rhino advancing up the aisle like a cartoon dog. Hate burned in his dead face. Eric saw that hate, and with confusion and panic, he mewed and made a jump for the door. But it was simply too late; the dog was upon him. Doug grabbed for Eric’s shirt in one blink and had a fistful of it in the next. Eric’s feet shot out from under him as his momentum failed, and as he awkwardly tried to regain his feet, Dougy unceremoniously flung him towards the rear of the room. Eric’s foot caught a desk leg, and it sent him sprawling. He smashed into a bookcase in an area devoted to bookcases, but he was able to use the shelves to quickly pull himself back up to his feet with surprising grace.

He would have done well to stay on the fucking ground. Eric no sooner turned around than Doug’s hand was around his throat and Doug’s fist pistoned into Eric’s face, making a meaty sound. Up came the fist, and then down again. Up again, and down. Up, down, up, down. Each pop to the face punctuated with that meaty smack, and each meaty smack followed by boyish cries from Eric, his face already a bloody mess. Finally Eric got his hands up to shield his battered mess, but like a person who knows exactly what he’s doing, Doug simply grabbed Eric’s arms and used them as leverage to flip Eric around; and pinning the arms behind Eric’s back with one hand, the Rhino grabbed a big ole’ bunch of shirt with the other, and commenced pulling and pushing, smashing Eric’s whole body into the bookcase he had originally flung Eric into. Oh, the humanity.

The soprano yelps of Eric with every blow rained upon him was pathetic and hypnotic, and masked the sound of the door to the classroom opening and the return of Conway. “Okay, Eric. Mr. Jimston is on his way. You can deal with him when he gets here.” She took up her chair at her desk without even looking at the back of the room, where a bloodfest was currently playing out in her class.

Eric was howling repeatedly in pain. Conway looked up from her desk absently and said, “Ok, boys. That’s enough. Take your seats,” and then returned to gazing at her desk as Eric’s beating continued and his cries kept ringing out. Mouths dropped open all over the place as everyone stared, waiting for Conway to make a move. She looked up, and glanced about languidly. “Boys, did you hear me? Take your seats.” Truly mind-boggling.

The door swung open again just as Doug threw Eric to the ground and lifted his foot in the air. Eric saw the foot coming through what must have been a red-wash haze as his nose bubbled blood, and he barely crawled out of the way of a stomp that would have surely broken a rib. And then he was off, heaving between desks for his life as Dougy followed suit without even so much as a disappointed grunt for missing his target. He was a robot—a nimble machine of terror that had fixed his smooth targeting system on the quivering mass of Grassman. Through the opening door came the English teacher Jimston, a stocky man in his mid-forties (I suppose) with angry red hair and surprisingly quick moves that he put to use as soon as he saw what was going on. He moved in with shocked eyes, and as he deftly threw a half nelson on Dougy the Rhino and began to drag him off he said, “Move wrong and I’ll break your fucking neck!” Whoa. Nice. Ballsy.

The spell on Conway was broken as she rose suddenly to her feet and exclaimed, “Oh my. Oh no. Boys, no!” Jesus. I’m sure this woman couldn’t pass a driving test, and here she is, managing wolves.

Eric rolled on his back, spiting blood out of his wrecked mouth. Doug spoke the parting words as his feet crossed the threshold to the hallway: “When I see you around I’m gonna cut your fucking head open.” I believe he will. Something tells me that Doug’s hand makes effortless transformations into all sorts of tools of torture and murder, one of which might be circular saw.

It was a CRAZY FUCKING SCENE. And I guarantee you that Dougy is gonna kill someone someday. Eric Grassman has a decent chance of winning the honor. Who knows why. I think Doug is a fucking base animal, and he smells the fear Eric feels for the world, and the Rhino HATES it. The scent is acidic and it burns, and Dougy does what he needs to do to smother that rancid and burning odor.

So, as I understand it, Eric walked away from the whole thing with a broken nose, two split lips, a separated shoulder, a cracked tooth that will probably have to be pulled, and two fucking-A nut-zo black eyes, purple like the night.

So you see how it’s going to be hard to smoke him out.

The Way-Fucked Circle of Life

It’s fucking crazy to think that sending a guy like ME to an old folks’ home is going to do ANYBODY any good at ALL.

My court appearance went off without a hitch. Processed like meat, cleansed of disease, stamped with assurances—I am made anew, and shall never stray from the path of direct righteousness again. They said to me, “Pendel, you have done wrong by us…why did you wander into the dark? Tell us what you saw while you were there.” And I said please give me a chance to explain, oh devisors of the faith, oh commanders of the wallow, oh brandishers of the law and sickle—my time in shadow was wasted…wasted…and now I’ve returned to the light and my sight is restored. Take pity. Have mercy. Show me the same clemency you would reserve for yourself. Are we not brothers? Has your life been a simple traipse from one patch of verdant truth to the next? Or did you struggle? Was there a climb over rock and stone with bleeding palms and cracked fingers and the thinning air shortening your breath as the sand trickled into your eyes? Did you stumble over cracks in the twilight? Was there never a moment of fear and doubt when, roused for a moment from your daydreams, you looked around to find the streets were strange and the windows cracked and boarded? Are you a fucking prodigy? Have you never soiled a finger while wiping your ass? Do you ever even shit AT ALL? Or are you magically immaculate, with every tender bite of veal dissolving like a drop of dew in the morning sunlight; no need for the crude stomach, the vile intestine?

“Are you quite through?” asked the judge, an old, dry fuck by the name of Parrott.

“Would you just shut up already?” pleaded Uncle Ben—whom you all know by now.

But I could not stop throwing myself upon the mercy of the court: Let me tell you a dream I once had, your honor (I begged). I was only a boy at the time—which in reality for me was not so long ago—and the summer was upon us and it was fucking HOT. I mean, you live here, you know how it gets. It’s brutal, your honor. The humidity is a living thing that fills your lungs; a sloth with hot breath sitting upon your shoulder, holding you down while the algae in its coat slowly creep down your neck and chest. I fucking HATE IT and I always have, and I complain viciously until all around me pray for a coma to take me until milder days arrive.

Evening falls, and the asshole sun finally finds it in its boiling heart to sink behind the hills, but still the bloated air presses its sweaty hand over your nose and mouth, suffocating you. Such barometric oppression is twice as distracting to a child as he tries to sleep, and to ME, ever the super fucking SENSITVE one, it is three times so. But my mother and father—too cheap to turn on the freaking battered window unit that could have saved us all from perdition and YEARS of mild spite—resolved the issue as inexpensively as they possibly could by letting us all sleep in the living room that night in front of one crappy, tore up box fan (as opposed to procuring a fan for each one of us, which would have broke the goddamned BANK, no doubt). Kids love this kind of shit, however, and the break from routine was welcome. We giggled and farted our way down the hall that night, our pillows under our arms—Pendel, Clare, and Matty—happy then because we knew no better; happy because to us, shelter was all there was, a roof over your head and a shirt on your back and the smile on the face of your father or your mother—never to see the worried creases in their foreheads when they turned to the window as the world wore away at their will—simple reassurances that sufficed so well at the time, but later would leave a residue of vague regret on your ribs as you think of all the nasty shocks in store.

Tee hee hee.

As hot as it was in the house, the breeze and noise from the fan was an extraordinarily comforting thing, and the very act of waiting for sleep was like a hug; the movement of air over my head seemed exotic, hypnotic. All five of us lay in a row in the living room that night, and I couldn’t have felt safer. Gradually, the murmurs and mirth faded as the shadows grew. Soon, all was dark and quiet, but something tugged at my mind telling me the peacefulness was a façade, and though I knew the loved ones near me were all asleep, a squiggling worm of fear in my gut told me that I was not the only thing awake in the vicinity—so I wasn’t entirely surprised when the door to my parents’ room slowly and silently cracked open…

The malevolent specter of my dream didn’t emerge from the room immediately. It first let the fact of the door sink in for a few seconds. As my guts slowly turned to ice, I watched the crack of blackness upon blackness slowly widen. The ice inside me froze my lips, froze my lungs, froze my limbs, and I could not speak, breath, or move when finally the dark figure—hooded and thin and uniquely evil—lurched slowly and ohhhh so silently towards us—towards ME, really, I KNEW he was coming for me, this evil piece of shit—and I remember feeling as helpless as I ever had in my LIFE, your honor. Because you see, I knew this presence inching its way slowly nearer wanted to kill me, yes, but he also wanted to get me out of the room as quietly as possible, because when I died he wanted me to be alone. Do you understand? He wanted my death to be worse than painful, more calloused than premature, greater than the terror of violence.

He wanted me to be lonely when I died, your honor.

There are many shades of black I discovered as I watched this mysterious cutter. The room I was in was very dark, but the hallway before me leading to the bedrooms was even darker. The crevasse left by the yawning door to my parents’ room was plain black. But the cloaked figure advancing on me like the staggered frames of a movie with missing cells was even BLACKER, and the hole in the hood where the face should be…well, that was a fucking abyss, plain and simple. When you rise uncontrollably (after the unannounced exit of gravity) above the trees and into the sky, straight up through the clouds—and the air is stripped from your lungs, and the atmosphere loses its color as you flail your arms hopelessly—soaring up to outer space, and then there is the blackness of the universe before you coupled with the unimaginable distances between things; but you do not stop, you only keep flying in a direction that can only still be described as upwards (though there is no “up” now), until, to your horror, you find yourself passing into a realm unknown, the mythical NOTHING that we always feared existed but could not prove, could not even bring ourselves to theorize, and yet here it is and its SWALLOWING you, gulping you in, sucking you out of the inkiness of space and hauling you into a blackness that you could have never in a million years supposed existed…the BLACK of NOTHING which you never imagined because who could ever truly imagine nothing? This was the black of the encroaching figure’s face. And now its frigid hand was around my ankle and pulling me, and the night no longer seemed hot, it no longer seemed close, it no longer seemed ANYTHING for I was quickly leaving the world of day and night and morning and evening and ANYTHING; I was being pulled away from safety to die alone. And I finally found my voice and I cried out for my mother to help me because the harbinger had me—the blackness was closing around my eyes as I saw my people all start suddenly from the floor at the sound of my voice and immediately begin to shout after me with their hands reaching out—but in their eyes was hopelessness. They did not gain their feet to chase after me. They knew there was nothing they could do. I was fucking GONE, your honor. I clawed furiously at the carpeting and the walls as I was pulled down the hallway towards the great nothing to die alone, but there was no purchase to stay me. Everything faded.

I awoke in my father’s arms, sobbing, crying out, my little kid PJ’s soaked in sweat. Like a goddamned baby.

“Where are you going with all of this?” judge Parrott demanded.

“Your Honor, my client is simply very sorry about everything that’s happened and the people’s time he’s wasted today,” pleaded Uncle Ben.

I cried out BULLSHIT. The whole point of the fucking story is that I’m INNOCENT, your honor. This fucking rice making fool doesn’t represent me. Not ME. He might THINK he’s representing some little asshole he “knows” as his nephew—some miserable little prick with a penchant for nasty anger and acting out against the cloned pigs feigning superiority—but that person is not ME. I am separate from all of that fucking jazz, your honor. I am not even in this fucking ROOM, your honor. I am a million miles beyond space and dying ALONE your honor. Or weren’t you even listening?

“Oh shut up,” said the judge. “This is nonsense. It doesn’t matter whether you committed a crime or not, Mr. Haight. The fact of the matter is that you ARE a miserable little prick, whether you believe it or not, and I think it would do you some good to spend some time watching the very specter you fear taking others into the blackness.”

I told the judge that I must freaking disagree most fucking strongly, but he sentenced me to community service in the local old folks’ home anyway. Which is fine. No, really. It is. The Eternal Camile’s great grandfather is there, for one—which means there’s a chance to get laid inside an old folks’ home, which would be fucking cool beyond BELIEF. I think Benji has a great Aunt or something locked up inside, too, but I’m not sure.

Three months. I can do that standing on my fucking HEAD, bubba. Make book on it.  It’s kind of exciting, when you think about it. To stare into the eyes of a soul so near death and to ask them if they want to play some cards…if you can’t take something away from that, then you’re definitely beyond help.

I can’t wait to tell them how lucky they are to be so close to having it all over with.

I Am of the Dregs, Part 2

The things that I see during my time in summer session leave me feeling confused about my current relationship with my optical nerves. Do I love them for their warnings regarding the coming danger, or do I hate them for the vile social interactions that, through them, I am forced to bear witness? The other day I was left loving them for the hilarious dramady they treated me to.

Eric Grassman is not a bad person. Not really. Something tells me that he is straining to clamp down on an indefinable fear inside himself. The world is too much for Eric, and it makes him lash out in ways far too creative for a securely tightened person. He has pulled some of the most outlandish stunts I have ever seen, and that’s saying quite a lot when you take into account the town/state/country where I live. I myself have made some pretty questionable moves, but Eric…

Eric is tall, like 6 foot and an inch or two, and he sports longish blond hair that on many days cries for the attention of a human hand. His face is eternally affronted, with sad eyes that constantly plead with you to tell him why. A splash of boyish freckles upon his small nose gives him an overall look of innocence, allowing us around him to forgive him his grandstanding. But the question always remains: How the fuck did he THINK of that?

And now an example: Mrs. Conway is a twit who runs a joke of an English class. Old, dry, used, and frail, her simple disconnectedness is a detriment to her students. First of all, she’s a freak and she’s losing it. I don’t know how Alzheimer’s is supposed to smell, but this woman fucking REEKS of it. Only two weeks ago the woman wore one red pump and one purple pump (in a blue dress), and as if this wasn’t bad enough, they had different sized fucking HEELS for Christ’s sake. I swear it’s true. How do you DO that? The moment you put them on in the morning—I mean truly, the fucking INSTANT the second shoe slips onto your foot—you know you’ve fucked up, right? Even if you ARE color blind, just the feel of things…doesn’t she have that sense anymore? Fuck, what a dingy broad. Eric Grassman hates her, and can’t tolerate even the sight of her. He visibly shakes the entire forty-five minutes we sit in class, mute and stupid. His fists balled, he glares her in the eye, calculating his next disruptive move. Often times during attendance, she’ll call his name and sparks fly like a dragging muffler: “Eric Grassman?”

“…”

“Eric Grassman, are you here?” She is, for the record, staring right at him.

“…”

“Eric?”

“…”

“Eric?”

“WHAT??!!? JESUS!!”

“Are you here?”

The snort of his disgust is enough to break glass. “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

Conway is unflappable in her senility. “No, Eric. I’m not.”

“YES. I AM HERE, IDIOT.”

“Thank you, Eric. Tonya Gelfy?”

Conway’s class is on the second floor of the high school. Eric sits by the window. The windows are not sealed, they can open. Can you hear the train coming? On this morning, Eric had something very special planned for roll-call. I was dreaming of a life with no sorrow when several audible gasps roused me and made me turn in my seat, just in time to see Eric’s feet as he climbed out the window. I wasn’t shocked—this is Eric we’re talking about, after all—but my curiosity was highly peaked and I was delighted to see where this insanity was careening. Eric sat down on the ledge with a decent amount of grace, and began to swing his feet, smiling into the sun, as if it were Sunday and he was on the docks or a remote vacation island. Immediately following, Conway entered the room wordlessly and closed the door behind her. And as always, without uttering one word of greeting to any of us, she walked slowly to her desk, opened her attendance book, and began to read the names, completely unaware of the tense and expectant air. Eventually, inevitably, she came to Eric. “Eric Grassman?” Soft and whiney, like an old, airless cow. “Eric?” We all looked around at each other, our smiles wary. None of us palled around with Eric—he was simply too bizarre for even the likes of us—but none of us wanted to give him up by glancing out the window at his swinging feet. “…Eric…? Does anybody know if Eric has been in school today, or where he might be?”

How do you answer that question? You don’t. You let it lie. You watch with a pale smile as life unravels around you.

Soon after role was over, Conway put her prissy little fucking book away and turned to the chalk board, making meaningless scratches upon it with yellow chalk as she blathered on about someone long dead. As she did, Eric climbed stealthily yet casually back in the window, took his seat, and folded his hands in front of him. He looked at no one, he smiled at none of us, he made no gestures of conquest or victory. Eric does what he does for himself. The other members of the strained class faced forward again, filled with good humor and confusion, pleasantly apprehensive to follow the coming fallout. I couldn’t help but let my gaze stray. I really admired what this young man was doing; I wanted to see if there was a clue in his eyes. Finally he glanced at me and gave a wink, nodding his head slightly, indicating that I should face forward now.

Conway turned back around to face the class. I hadn’t been listening to her prattling one iota, so even the mundane quality of her question, wrapped in the odd actions of the last ten minutes, made my head spin just a touch. “Does anybody have any idea what followed?” Huh. The answers seemed endless, and since no one had been paying Conway any attention, none were willing to try and respond.

No one, that is, except Eric. He raised his hand. “Yes, Eric. You have an answer?”

“He drank himself to death. He died in a gutter.”

“Well, no, Eric. Not at all. No, that’s not right at all. He lived for years after.”

“I thought he died.”

“No, he didn’t. Not then.”

“Okay, so he didn’t.”

“Don’t get angry, Eric. It’s not my fault he didn’t die.”

“I’M NOT ANGRY.”

Conway gave up the conversation and turned back to the board. I was dying from joy inside. The whole scenario was playing out perfectly. Conway wrote half a letter and then froze. She remained stiff for what seemed like a fantastic eternity, and then pivoted slowly back to the class. “Eric, what’s going on?”

Eric jerked his head back, slighted. “What do you mean by that?”

“What are you up to?”

“Nothing! I’m just sitting here! GOD!”

“Eric, don’t think you can pull the wool over my eyes. You weren’t here a second ago, now where were you?”

Eric’s face grew red. He was honestly incensed even though he was in fact guilty. I know the feeling exactly. I think it was fun for him, to play this out. He was in a test of wills with Conway, and this acting was merely part of the struggle. “That’s fucking BULLSHIT. I’ve been sitting here the whole time!”

“No. No you haven’t been.”

“YES!”

“No.”

“YES I HAVE! GOD! Why are you always AT me?!”

Conway snapped, but only a tad. It was like hearing a twig break in a hurricane. She set her chalk down hard. “I am not always at you, Eric. You were most certainly not at your desk when I called roll, and I want to know where you were.”

“NO. I was HERE. I ANSWERED you!”

“No you didn’t!”

“Yes I DID!”

“Eric you were not at your desk!”

“BULLSHIT.”

“No, YOU’RE full of bullshit, young man!” Holy fucking crap. Wow. That was big for Conway.

“You can’t say that to me!” Such feigned indignity. I love it. Eric just might be a genius.

“Dammit Eric! The door was SHUT! I closed it myself! You were not at your desk and you did not answer me!”

“You’re crazy. I don’t have to sit here and take this.” And with that, he simply stood up and walked out of the room.

The class sat stunned. Conway didn’t know what hit her. She looked at all of us. There were answers inside our heads. She knew it. As thick as she is, she knew it. She picked up her chalk. She cleared her throat; she pulled at her dress, and left a huge, yellow smudge of chalk down the front. Classic Conway. She blinked. “Ok. So. Does anybody have any idea what followed?” Needless to say, we did not.

Later that day, as I rode my bike home, I thought it might be a fucking GAS to make friends with Eric Grassman, and watch the explosions go off all around him, and to study the craters he left in his wake. I wondered if he had a place to live following the summer session.

I was getting to like Eric Grassman, and I wanted to know what the world looked like to him. It made it all the worse, then, two days later when Dougy the Rhino beat the shit out of Eric right there in Conway’s class.

But more on that later…LATER.

I Am of the Dregs, Part 1

There are times when life offers little reason to do well. Summer sessions at any school are the perfect cross section from which to study such a phase.

During the normal school year, this swank institution provides the likes of Benny Henderson with every possible accommodation in order to smooth one’s ascension up life’s indiscriminate ladder to mediocrity; but during summer classes, it is simply a way to cage the random beasts in our neighborhoods and keep them from ruining our lives during an otherwise peaceful vacation season—unless, of course, your name happens to be Pendel Haight and you’re stuck in the fucking cage with the animals. They are the worst of the worst; the kids who are not only dumber than pigeon shit and uglier than a sack of assholes, but also just plain MEAN. Dirt eaters void of underwear wandering the streets of your town with an insatiable urge to drive the pistons of hopelessness. Filthy inside and out, they invade your right to amble unhindered with a palpable malevolence that is truly unnerving.

And, according to my state’s department of education, I am one of them—or, at the very least, I must walk among them—and it has caused me to become somewhat unhinged and paranoid. I am the darting eye and the restless hand. I twitch spastically as my peripheral vision is put to the ultimate test, keeping the beasts within my circles of attention at all times. I do not do this needlessly, I assure you. These people—these BOYS specifically, for at this level the girls are either TRULY stupid, or merely useless sluts and druggies—these BOYS are the MEN that will one day become the cause for your deadbolts at night; that are the stalkers of daughters; the side of mankind that leaves the elderly woman beaten and bruised, crushed and sullied in the corner and void of all her meager possessions, the end of her life reduced to the shame and pain of debasement. These boys will be the ones to take the only thing you can truly call your own—your self respect—and they will use it to wipe the blood from their snarling mouths.

It’s all fostered by the system, of course. As a species, we love to fucking coddle ourselves. It makes me sick. I mean, come ON, people. You fucking KNOW by the late teens which kids are fucking sociopaths. It’s so fucking OBVIOUS. Donnie Watts is a goddamn LUNATIC, and anyone who has to sit in the same room with him for more than 10 freaking minutes can feel it inside their BONES. The teachers know it—they’re scared shitless by this insane prick. You can see it in their eyes every time he bobs to the surface. But who do they talk to about it? Anyone? Actually, I bet they do. I can see in my mind’s eye the line forming outside the principal’s office, each tired faced lined with a litany of horror stories about this thoughtless, crazy, fucking asshole. But the principal doesn’t care. The principal doesn’t have to deal with him at all. No, the principal only has to listen to the prissy whines of the upper class parents and make sure that they all have clean bottoms and pressed panties; he need only ensure the safe passage of their precious children to, at the very least, the third college of their choice.

How many shaggy doggies must have their lives choked away inside the oppressive closeness of the abandoned refrigerator before someone in charge decides to throw the mad psycho Donnie Watts into the deepest and darkest hole we can find?

The Watts family hail from the caves found just west of the center of the earth, but they clawed their way to the surface some time ago and staked a claim near the outskirts of town in a vinyl-sided box with a car lot for a front yard and a cat ranch out back. I would like to say that rumors of incest abound in this family, and so one could expect a hell-spawn to arise out of the anguished dust—but alas, no. Genetics simply created a monster, as genetics are apt to do from time to time. Don’t get me wrong: Donnie’s family is one scary fucking bunch. Sometimes, even from a mile or more away, you can hear his father cursing the light and swinging the belt as the mother wails and the children scatter. They all drink constantly—you could build a sizeable pontoon from the beer cans left around the vicinity on any given day. The air around the house is filled with the smoke of unhappiness and cigarettes, and the youngest daughter—aged 13—is the most readily available lay in town for many of the factory workers nearby—a sad pack of men who gave up on their dreams and a decent spot in heaven long ago. By all accounts, young Sylvie Watts has absolutely no qualms with this. As far as anyone knows, she thoroughly enjoys her popularity with the night crew and wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am depressing myself simply writing about these people.

Donnie. He shares my summer math class and much to my chagrin sits just behind me, one row over and two seats back. His curly brown hair frames a set of eyes constantly brimming with heated excitement. You can see the gears constantly turning. Sometimes I’ll pretend to drop a pencil just so I can gauge his latest action and he’ll be staring right at me with those keyed up eyes, and I get worried sick wondering what he might be thinking about. “You sure as shit drop your fucking pencil a lot, PENDEL.” he yapped at me the other day. I barked out some panicked laughter, and watched my back the whole way home. Sounds strange coming from yours truly, Pendel the Great and Terrible, but you don’t know this guy. It is a well known fact that he carries a knife with him everywhere, and has been responsible for the hospital stays of several kids from his neighborhood. Donnie plays with homemade blow darts. He has a row of cans always set up in a vacant lot near his vinyl box and practices shooting at them regularly with a gun that it is rumored he stole from under the bed of police chief Moody himself. That last part is a little much, I admit, but you get the idea.

Donnie always wears one of several pairs of loose jogging shorts—not exactly dirty, not truly clean. One pair is black, the other is red, and the third pair is white with blue piping. He wears no underwear with them. It makes me want to fucking BARF, and I hate it whenever he comes within ten feet. He loves to walk near the desk of a girl and pull the leg of his shorts up, and dance his pecker up and down right in front of their faces. The girl is always horrified at the act, but she does not dare yell out loud, because Donnie does not shy away from punching a girl in the face. I saw him do it once, from a distance. I was in the school parking lot watching him advance on an unknown chick across the street from me, and for whatever reason, without saying anything as he passed, he just clocked her in the chin and kept going. I’ll never forget the way she screamed out and fell to her knees, grabbing her face. Donnie never even turned around. He just kept on walking, never even picking up his pace, his shoulders squared, head up, and his steps completely sure. The wind blew his hair back and I could see that he wasn’t even smiling. But his eyes burned with that fucking insane excitement that always scares the fucking shit out of me. I don’t even think he knew who she was. It was a random act of violence and I’m sure it didn’t even make a dent in his day; he just feeds off of it like other people feed off McDonalds, without even registering what they are eating.

So the girls squirm helplessly away from his dick but say nothing.

AND SO, soon after he made the pencil comment to me the other day, he casually got up from his desk and walked up the row to the desk of Mrs. Trainer, a completely harmless woman in her mid-40’s who has a tendency to get lost in her shit for like 15 minutes at a time, not even looking up as the students fail to achieve any of the goals she has set out for the day. She was staring intently at some papers when Donnie approached her. She did not look up as his shadow fell across her work. Donnie pulled up the leg of his shorts and casually laid his full business out on her desk. Trainer didn’t notice. Donnie said, “Mrs Trainer.” She asked Donnie what he needed, but STILL never looked around to see. Just so focused on those mysterious documents of hers. “I don’t have my book. I need to go to my locker.”

She sighed. “Donnie, for the love of God, if you’ve gone three quarters of the class without it, why do you need it now? Go sit down.”

“Can I go to my locker anyway?”

“No. Sit.” Donnie simply backed up from her desk and let his pecker fall, slapping against his thigh. It was a fucking disgusting sound that amazed me. I mean, how could I be hearing this from 15 feet away? I guess that’s how quiet the room had gotten. Everyone was amazed. I laughed very quietly. I couldn’t help myself. It was one of the craziest things I had ever seen. I mean, Donnie placed his fucking DICK within two fucking FEET of a teacher’s face, and she never even looked up from what she was doing to notice. That takes a carelessness that is breathtaking and evil.

Donnie turned, and then let down the leg of his shorts. I just fucking KNEW he would do that, so I shielded my eyes. Several girls squealed. They couldn’t help themselves. Finally, Trainer looked up and said, “Are you going to give the class a report, Mr. Watts?”

“No.”

“Then sit.”

Donnie walked back to his desk, looking at nothing but the back wall. Shoulders back. Head high. Eyes wild. He sat down and tapped his fingers to nothing at all until the bell rang.

Summer classes are the bottom of the social barrel. I am of the dregs. I want out. I hope it isn’t too late.