DEAD TREE VERSION — Chapter 4

DEAD TREE VERSION — Chapter 4

Chapter 4: But They’re Raping Dostoevsky!

Our Hero and Carrie laughed all the way to her car. They’d just finished breakfasting at The Awful Waffle, where, while paying for the check, they had a delightful chat with the waitress (whom Our Hero tipped very generously, which pleased her greatly), and it was time for Carrie to, as she put it: “return to the salt-mines once more and face the hordes of weeaboos, hipsters, indie-kids, Goths, emos, freaks, geeks, douchebags, and other assorted stereotypes who inevitably await.”

“Carrie, I shall bestow upon you Glamdrag to slay the masses. You know, from Lord of the Queens as wielded by Edward/Edwardina.” Or, Big E as s/he called herself. S/he was a morbidly obese transgendered person in the entertainment industry who was renowned for her stage-play parody of a popular fantasy epic. Nobody knew just how transgendered s/he was, and few wanted to. His/her bizarre outbursts were a favorite of tabloid television shows.

“You can be such a fucking nerd,” Carrie said.

“I was, in high school. Even had a level fifteen bard in—”

“You’re going to die. Love ya, Darwin.”

“You too, Carrie.”  Our Hero gave her a firm handshake (as was their custom.)

“I’d hug you, but that would break our tradition,” Carrie said, continuing the customary departure ritual.

“Yes, all friends hug each other. It’s so played out,” Our Hero responded, almost automatically. “See you later.”

“Totally,” Carrie said, then continued. “Oh, speaking of LotQ, you should come to the club with me tonight after work. Drag-show. Drew is gonna be in it.”

“Andy is doing drag now? Oh lord.”

“Exactly. Let’s do this.” Carrie embarked her automobile, but continued talking.

“Text me later and remind me, I’m going to go write,” Our Hero said.

“Email me your manuscript! I want to read what you’ve inserted between the lines of ‘I don’t belong here’ as it repeats itself ad nauseum.” Carrie punctuated her sentence with the car-door, and drove off in her late-model ricer.

Our Hero was pleased with the proceedings that morning, except the rainclouds that had gathered overhead. He didn’t feel much like getting soaked, but he was too distended with waffles and bacon to run comfortably, so instead he decided to settle at a pace somewhere between “jog” and “Bundeswehr-on-march.”

Unfortunately, there existed no correlation between the speed at which he moved and the torrential rain which immediately poured upon him. It was during this downpour and the quickening of his pace that he slipped on a now-wet softcore pornographic magazine a homeless man had dropped some hours before, and skinned his elbow. It was not fun. He picked himself up off the ground and, now soaked and bleeding and in that dreadful, dull, bone-deep pain, coupled-with-stinging of a fresh scrape. He slowed his pace to a disappointingly sluggish “dammit, I am clutching my bleeding elbow which I hope I haven’t broken, getting soaked, and want to be home but it’s pointless to run now.”

He got to his apartment, disrobed, and in the process, realized his cell-phone was no longer functional. That didn’t bother him too much at the moment, as he was more interested in finding out some way to apply iodine and bandages without feeling like he was applying iodine and bandages. That meant alcohol. He found an empty bottle of Stoli in the freezer, cursed it, and checked the liquor cabinet.  Everything was gone, except a bottle of mango-liqueur he’d bought specifically for Liz. Lo, this pissed him off mightily. So petty of her to take all the good booze. Still, he drank the foul-tasting stuff and pretended it was something good, then set about using the skills he’d learned in Boy Scouts during his time in Memphis as a kid. After wincing and agonizing over the iodine, finding dry clothes, and cleaning up the blood he’d managed to get everywhere, he sat down at the typewriter. He switched, at this point, from yellow legal paper to plain paper. This would both please his editor and prevent his own eyes from failing him far too young.

He typed the first paragraph:

This story is true. It’s as true as any story ever told by anyone in the world, which may in fact make it factually inaccurate, but it is most definitely a true story. I know. I was there. …

It was lame and he knew it.  He wanted it to be lame. It was a goddamn parody now mixed with a satire of everything wrong with anything in the world. But he kept typing, and soon the first real chapter was done, and then the second. After several hours, he got up and checked his email. It was nothing important, just sexual enhancement drugs, hardcore pornography, and solicitations for lotteries in Nigeria.  He’d received three notices from his social networking site of choice, two of which were from his mother whom he hadn’t seen in six months. He opted not to log in to read what was said, and set about to cook dinner.

There was one problem with cooking: there was nothing to eat except stale crackers and those damn black eyed peas. He’d been meaning to go grocery shopping, but had not. Alas. He then turned to delivery. A sub sounded good, and the pizza place made good subs, so he called and ordered in. He then returned to his writing until the doorbell rang and food was delivered about half an hour later. The driver was smoking a cigarette. Our Hero realized his evening would be incomplete without cigarettes, so he asked “Can I buy your smokes from you?”  

“Fuck you, man,” the gentleman replied in as gentlemanly a way one would expect in Illinois.

“No, I’m serious, I’ll give you ten-no-twenty bucks for whatever you have.”

The disgruntled delivery-man paused for a moment, considering the economics of this transaction.  “It’s half a pack of Morris. Twenty more gets you the joint that’s in there, too.”

“Sold.” Our Hero pulled forty more dollars from his wallet and exchanged it, simultaneously, for the half-pack of Morris Full Flavor 100s and a joint fashioned from newsprint. “Pleasure doing business.”

“Anytime you need a sandwich, or some smokes, you let me know buddy. That’s some strong shit too, pal.”

“Thanks.”

After eating his sandwich and turning on the TV, he decided to smoke in the apartment, a definite no-no which his landlady would not have appreciated. They were the worst cigarettes ever. Tasted like pencil shavings and smelled like burnt hair, so he decided to escalate to a real drug. He hadn’t smoked pot in over a decade. It was a good idea, he thought, to set the mood, so he turned on the late-night news. He felt like he was forgetting something, but he’d been so productive writing all day that it must not have been that important, and after all—he had pot and was now going to relive his teenage years.

It was at that point the news anchorette said “Famed porn-star and director and energy-drink entrepreneur Cammy Xiaoyu died of complications from treatments for syphilis this morning. She was allergic to penicillin, and, as it turns out, every treatment known to man. A spokesman for the Memorial Hospital told us they had ‘no comment.’ This underscores the need for better allergy screenings at hospitals, and increased STD awareness in the adult-entertainment industry…”

With this in mind, Our Hero lit up, took two long drags after coughing up the first one like a pussy, and decided to save the rest for later. He also polished off the bottle of disgusting melon-liqueur, which was probably not the best idea, but boy it felt good.

He just sat there, on the couch, and was very soon stoned out of his mind. It was nice until he felt like he was going to die. Then he closed his eyes and saw all these crazy lights and angels and other things he didn’t really care to see. Was it spiked? Or was it just really good?  He heard a voice with a strong Ebonic accent in the distance condemning him for “smokin’ thaaaaat wiiiilllld weeeeeed!”

Our Hero called out to the voice and pleaded his case “I just hit it too hard, man–forgive me!” and went on to say he’d be okay if he just put his legs up on something to keep the blood flowing to his brain.  He lay down on the floor and propped his feet up on the couch. This reassured him that he would not, in fact, have to call an ambulance due to oxygen deprivation. The voice kept shouting “WIIILLLLD WEEEEEDD!” at him, and it reminded him of Memphis and the joys of not leaving the suburbs past dark.  Later, he would chalk this aspect of his high up to latent White Guilt and subconscious racism that he would have to overcome, but for now, he heard a loud knocking at the door, which he assumed was the Feds, because naturally he would have the luck to get busted for weed in his own apartment.

He looked at the clock, and closed his eyes for what felt like hours hoping the DEA would leave, then reopened his eyes only to see that a minute had passed. The knocking continued, but he ignored it. The slowness of time concerned him greatly, as he both felt like he was going to die, and that somehow the Cosmos was conspiring to destroy Time itself. He believed, at that moment, that if he could only stop the African-American man’s shouting, he’d restore the space-time-continuum to its proper balance where minutes were really minutes, and hours stopped disguising themselves as minutes.  

He was not an experienced smoker.

Carrie then stormed into the apartment. Actually, she came in slowly and cautiously—expecting to find her friend in flagrante delicto with an adult film or something, but it seemed to Our Hero that she stormed in. She saw him lying there, saw the joint in the makeshift ashtray he’d crafted from aluminum foil, and started laughing.

“What’s so goddamn funny?” Our Hero asked. [G-d’s Note: The author has been instructed not to smudge the typeface to match Darwin’s actual mode-of-speech at this point. If you wish to do this yourself, find an appropriate solvent for this particular ink, and enjoy.  If you are reading an electronic version, you’re SOL.]

“You’re high. That’s what’s funny. Why the fuck are your feet on the couch?”

“Blood was leaving my brain, didn’t want to die.”

“I think, my friend, that you’ve procured some good shit, and knowing you, probably by accident.  Don’t worry, it’s very good and good for you, Darwin. Lots of THC and CBD to prevent cancer and make you feel good. Just relax.” She smiled her warmest smile.  She looked so proud, Darwin would later recall—one of the few things he recalled from that evening. “And here I was, all worried because you weren’t answering your phone! I thought you’d died or something.”

“OH RIGHT!” Our Hero exclaimed. “I was supposed to go be gay for the night.”

“No, Darwin, you were just going to go laugh at Drew with me at Chez Apollo. But if you’re coming out, that’s…well, kind of sad, actually. No man would have you.”

“Wait, so you’re saying that you’re straight and I’m gay?”

“You have that backwards, Darwin.” Carrie knelt and patted him on the forehead.

Our Hero just lay there, staring at the ceiling for a while.  “Go to the office. Don’t shuffle pages. It’s good shit. Hand me reefer.”

“Hah!  You just called it reefer.” She relit the joint and took a hit, then handed it off to her old friend.  She also placed the jury-rigged ash-tray within his reach. “Don’t burn the building down, and save some for me.”

Our Hero took another long drag. Things were much more pleasant with Carrie around. He decided to be generous and leave the rest for Carrie. He felt much more calm and relaxed knowing she was there.

“So, what’d you do to your arm?” Carrie asked as she walked back in with only the plain-pages.

“Tripped and fell on some porno. My phone broke my fall.”

“I don’t even want to know, but I deduce from the pile of wet clothes by the door, that you did so while running home in the rain. Dumbass.” She laughed. “Okay, this is some of the worst horse-shit I’ve ever read.  This is beautiful, Darwin.”

“You’re beautiful too, Carrie.”

“I accept your compliment, you sweet, sweet, drug-addled freak.”

“No I mean it. I’m pretty tanked on that bottle of melon. It makes me melon-choly.”

Carrie smiled, very comfortable with Our Hero’s drunken-high state. She decided it would be best to stay and watch him, as he was not reacting very well to the cannabis-alcohol combination he’d inflicted on himself. It was good, she told herself, but not that good. He was overreacting. She found it hilarious.

“Carrie, the African-American man keeps shouting at me about ‘smokin’ that wild weed.’ Please make him be quiet. He’s harshing my mellow and destroying time and space, and only I can stop him, but only if you make him be quiet.”

“OK, that should do it. He’ll stop now. I used the power of Cthulhu.”  She said, after doing nothing at all whatsoever.

“Thanks, Carrie. You’re the best.”

“But honestly, did you really just say ‘harshing my mellow?’ Really, Darwin? Really?

“He stopped, thanks to your magic spaceness.”

“He just said ‘harshing my mellow.’ Oh my god, this is going on my SocialNet after he’s famous.”  She turned on her video camera on her phone and coaxed him into repeating some of the things he’d said.  It would never appear on the internet, but she didn’t have to know that yet. He repeated “he stopped, thank you Carrie” several times, before his high shifted from mildly hallucinogenic and paranoid to complete relaxation.

Carrie, meanwhile, smoked casually and read the manuscript while her phone recorded Our Hero’s rambling. She laughed at the memories of their adventures, and laughed harder at the exaggerations he’d made to accompany them. She realized that her friend was, in fact, on to something really good. It was a shame he’d only written two real chapters so far. One very long chapter, which she surmised—knowing Our Hero—would be followed by about three chapters each a couple pages long, followed by another very long chapter, introducing their new philosopher-king.

It was gold.

Carrie went to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. Our Hero was lying on the floor doing everything one would expect from someone who was high but didn’t know how to be high…staring at his hands, remarking about The Universe, and otherwise being a complete dumbass. She was enjoying the spectacle entirely too much.

She went to the bathroom (because that’s important information), and when she returned, she saw the plant had bested her friend. She decided it was a good idea to take him to bed. Unfortunately, when she’d dragged his sorry ass towards the bedroom, she saw he had no sheets on the bed. She wasn’t about to try to lift him anyway, so she decided it would be better just to leave him there on the floor in the hall halfway between living room and bedroom. She propped his head on a pillow and a threw a dry bath towel over him. She then went back to the kitchen, drank coffee, laughed at the manuscript her friend had so effortlessly written, watched TV for an hour, and fell asleep.

 

Dead Tree Version, 2nd Ed. Copyright ©2018 Ian McLeod

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Ian McLeod

Ian McLeod writes from the humid depths of Dixie. You can buy his books from https://amzn.to/2ByQi0j

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