Death of the Rainbow
A Fistful of Meds
Somehow it got to be Saturday, somehow the line formed at the rear, somehow a planet blew to smithereens, somehow he tried to make a fresh start, tried to learn his ABCs from scratch, claim his place at the dinner table with the ebony servants, the universal smorgasbord. But it was a no-go.
Back to the drawing board, to the squirreled secrets under a moth-eaten cassock. Cassock, Cossack, nut sack, sperm bank. Hail a cab, hail Mary with the grace of an elephant, three kings and nine lawyers will buy your way out of anything. Binary division and custard pie. The tie that binds. Tie her up, tie her down, let the fun begin, the last show of the evening, half-price tickets, a free lunch. The grudge machine, churning out nasty consequences. Dial M for murder, Dial soap, soap operas, the slippery eel that makes children cry. Postmortem, post bail, post a message, pick ’em up, lay ’em down, bring the boys home, the legions of folly. Yank out his fingernails, he won’t bat an eye, he’s the son of God, Al Capone’s nephew, the late-news anchor man, and now he’s coming your way. Even the speed of light is befuddled.
Separation of state, state of separation, dotted lines, sign above, down below where you’re bound to go. Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to work in your Maidenform bra—look at me when I talk to you.
That’s the ticket. Now sit down here, shut your eyes, open your mouth, let the maggots out. Rim shots and anal probes, you’ll be right as rain when I’m through with you. An epidemic of mayhem, virgin saints on the drawing board. Sit there until the phone rings. Sing until your teeth grind.
He tried to give pointers, keep his hands dry, it didn’t work. He crashed into hedge plans, spewed lies, Tourette syndrome runaround, a lexicon of wrong doings.
The uniform fit and then didn’t, rat-a-tat in the outback, the payback, the blue lagoon, the flagged cab, draped coffin, he just got fat is all. Start the meter, get me out of here.
The lost cause, the forfeiture, the lost war. Hatch marks for eyebrows, jab marks in his veins, a handful of blue pills. Doctor, doctor, pray the old familiar prayer, chase the boogie man, race the moon. In comes trouble dressed like an old friend, he’s seen it all. Lock and load and he’s out the door.
They stretch and yawn and think life is good but he’ll show them, trim their whiskers, implode their dreams, their silly pile of smiles. He’s got answers that came in a body bag, two tours in Nam, the G.I. Bill, he’ll never talk.
Sons of Adam, daughters of the moon, offsprings of Moloch, angels of death. Bareback in a tiger cage, linguistic desecration, ripped to shreds declarations and cash dividends. He’ll stir the pot, find a woman, raise a family of warriors. Land mines, land ho, leveled playing fields, rabbits run thru with bayonets.
The clock runs backwards, decisions in reverse, this can’t go on forever. Learn to dance with a wooden leg, close your eyes, pretend you’ve got soul. See how they work you?
That was then, this is now, and there goes Charlie streaking through the wet jungle, who asked him to the party? Everyone’s climbed the mountain, swam with sharks, learned to rollerblade, stay on your toes.
He snuck in the back door. He traded his begging bowl for a portable TV and an I-pad. I-pad, maxi-pad, he was on his way up the ladder. He was licking his wounds like a butchered cow. No one came to visit. So what, who needs absolution?
The meds were working, he couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. He needed a nurse with a dirty mind. Well, sort of working. He still talked funny when he played darts and – bam, just like that his mind goes blank.
Shooting blanks, buried tanks, peace talks, bullshit walks, all these women dancing naked on his grave. Wait a minute, he’s not dead, he’s not a tank. Muzak pounding out of the Greyhound speakers. All aboard.
No, that’s train talk. Tip the conductor and climb on up there. Top berth in the travel morgue. The train pulls out of the station. Close your eyes, hang on tight.
He’s lit up like a Christmas tree, like the 4th of July. A full pot of coffee and a fistful of meds. He hangs up his cartridge belt and takes off his helmet. POW! BLAM! Brains splattered over an acre of papaya trees. No, wait, wrong war, retrograde flashback, hands on the car, motherfucker! Slice and dice, payback for the Third Platoon.
The meds are working. Can you hear me, do you feel me, are you ready to go down for all you hold dear? Oh dear, dead deer splayed on the hood of a jeep, bring it on home to mama.
They threw him off the bus in Omaha.
It’s not a fun town to walk around in. Slaughter houses and insurance firms, tornadoes and sand storms. He thought the bus was a train. He stormed up and down the aisle looking for the bar car. In-coming! and he dove for cover. Get off me, fool! and a police escort. They took his meds away and he went bonkers. Call, they said, anyone. Here, here’s a list of names, there’s the door. Who’s your mama?
Bring in the reserves, going thru platoons like rosary beads, the buddy system, why die in the arms of a stranger? Three condoms and a shot of morphine, why suffer? Pack it in, pack it out. They tried to get him in a straitjacket but no luck. If he could just reach California, they had phone books in California, they spoke Spanish and swam with dolphins. Lock and load for the old days. They turned him loose but kept his stiletto and gas mask.
What can you do to help? Will you iron his shirts? Of course not. You came around the corner at the wrong time is all and bumped into him, so glance at your watch like you’re late for something and then back-pedal like a motherfucker. Join the in-crowd, cocktail hour, turn it into a story. He was fucking out there, man, I mean way out there. He looked like a gladiator with false teeth! Hey, buy me a fucking drink, man, I have seen the enemy!
But no one’s buying, no one’s laughing, the whole thing is backfiring, you’ve been ambushed, you weren’t combat ready, your guts are hanging out and you’re screaming medic! medic! He got you good, he took you out, there goes the wife, the house, the kids won’t look you in the eye.
Time to learn chess and pass on the curse. The whole country’s fucked.
Johnny Comes Marching Home
Johnny comes marching home. They stopped him three blocks from his house for walking funny. Search and destroy. What were they looking for? Citizenship? Discharge papers? A gun? He turned it in to the Sergeant-at-Arms along with his bleached skulls and a jar full of ears. He was clean.
Mom! I’m home!
Yesterday. All his troubles stuck to the sole of his shoe like warm gum. Not funny. Not funny at all. Serious business. Global meltdown coming in fast, like napalm. Crispy critters.
The G.I. Bill. How would he do in English 101, thinking like this? How would he write it down? Would he split his infinitives? Should he study science instead? Go out for basketball? Dribble his way back into the mainstream?
Trojan horses everywhere. Cities under siege. Street gangs and eclipsed moons. A hot shower, a home-cooked meal, and out the door in his civvies, looking for the old action.
The moon used to be 10,000 miles from earth and raised havoc with the oceans. And then the whole thing turned to ice. Nothing bigger than a single-cell microbe for three billion years and then the whole thing started multiplying. Is this true?
Maybe his whole life is a lie. Maybe he shouldn’t have shot that girl and her mother and the three pigs down by the Srepok River. Three little piggies. His whole life a nursery rhyme.
He slept all day and watched TV all night. With the sound off. He was learning to read lips. He’d go into his mother’s room after she was asleep and watch her lips twitch. So that’s what she thought of him. He burned incense for his father, shot to hell on a beach at Normandy.
He started reading. He’d watch TV and read lips and read books all at the same time, jamming popcorn into his mouth and washing it down with Budweiser. Now and then he’d dial a number on the phone and talk in telepathy.
“Who is this? Who’s there? I’m going to hang up,” they’d say.
That’s how he learned about the moon and the earth turning to ice, from reading. Snowball earth they called it. He imagined himself packing rocks into a snowball and throwing it in God’s face. Someone had to do it, why not him? He had training, he just needed someone to give the order. “Yes sir! Can do, sir! I’ll smash God’s face in, sir!
Then he read about Krishna and Vishnu and that whole crowd and saw what he was up against. God was a shape shifter.
Sometimes he’d unstrap his wooden leg and order it to march around the room, but it just stood there. It was nothing without him. But when he strapped it on again it came alive. Maybe he was God.
He was beginning to see things no one else saw, even the people who wrote the books.
Rover, Red Rover, Send the Enemy Over
Christmas rolled around and Hannibal rode over the Cascades on a llama. Wrong mountains, wrong beast, time shifts and shape shifts, warped space. Einstein spaghetti. Marco Polo fabricating journeys to China from a bordello in Marseille. Napoleon contemplating his dong, shaped like a seahorse.
He was flunking out, mixing science with fantasy, lurking outside the girls dorm after midnight.
School sucked. He missed sleeping days and reading lips at night. He missed the war, but they wouldn’t put him back in, what with his wooden leg, one glass eye and a missing pinkie on his left hand. Don’t ask what your country can do for you, haven’t they done enough already? He field-stripped his .45, cleaned it, put it back together, slammed in a clip.
Rover, Red Rover, send the enemy over.
He played with the ghost of his dead dog in the back yard while his mother peeked thru the curtains. Rover knew about the three pigs down on the Shrepok but just didn’t give a shit. Dogs are that way. He’d hug Rover and let him gnaw on his wooden leg, throw grenades for him to chase. KA-BLAM!
The neighbors complained. About the noise, about the craters in their backyards. The police came and left in a hurry and then a SWAT team showed up and he put three slugs in the flak vest of the lead man when they kicked in the door, two in the left leg of the second man, and one thru the ceiling as a warning shot. Time had lost sequence. Things were running backwards. He crawled into his mother’s womb and turned into an embryo. They locked him away and shot juice thru his brain and tripled the blue pills. He pretended he couldn’t speak English.
When he was nine his father taught him to shoot robins out of trees with a single-shot .22, said it was his Constitutional right, said slingshots were for sissies. A few years later he left him up in the mountains in the dead of winter with a tin of K-rations and a Bowie knife. Don’t come home until you kill a deer.
He wandered into a hunter’s camp one night and killed everyone with his Bowie knife while they slept, then cut the heart out of the deer they had hanging upside down from a tree limb and ate it. Then he sawed off an antler, got into their pickup and drove home. He was covered in dry blood. He threw the antler at his father’s feet where he sat in front of the TV, trying to read lips.
So right, he never went out for sports but he shot 500 robins out of a lot of trees and ate a deer heart raw and no one messed with him.
When he was 18 his father shot a robin right out of his own brain with a .357 Magnum and the very next day a Wednesday he drifted into the Marine Corps recruiting station. Fun down on the Shrepok with a girl named Giang and her mother and three pigs. They made him a sergeant.
They Read His Lips
People came to visit, uncles and aunts and an old girlfriend, the gym coach who molested him when he was twelve and called it love, total strangers with credentials hanging around their necks and eyes full of distrust. They said he looked great, all but the men in suits with the credentials hanging around their necks. They said he was doing fine, they said his whole life lay in front of him, he’d be out of there in no time, five or six more shock treatments and some red pills to go with the blues, all he needed now were some white pills and he’d be a first-class citizen again, three jars of pills and a wooden leg.
Did he want a cell phone? Ha-ha, just kidding. Stick with the pay phone down the hall, if he could just get down the hall, but every time he tried orderlies tackled him and whispered threats in his ear on the green linoleum floor. They knew what went down on the Shrepok, they knew what kind of white boy he was, they had sisters who bore his children, what was he trying to do, integrate the whole fucking human race? Time, by God, to confess the whole sordid mess.
He made pots and did watercolors. He wove blankets with Navajo designs. He carved his initials with a kitchen fork in his wooden leg, just under where Rover’d been chewing. D.P. Were those his initials? Was he Dave Pearson, a good old boy who hunted with a Bowie knife? No! The wooden leg was whispering secrets. He was a displaced person, that’s what D.P. stood for. He belonged back on the Shrepok, face-down in the mud with Giang and her mother and the pigs.
Insights. He was a hotbed of insights that they tried to fry with electric shock. He shat his pants, and that distracted them. They were not going to make anyone well who had shit in his pants.
They stuck a plug up his ass.
All the war heroes on the ward cheered him on. They’d had a taste of the action, they knew where he was coming from.
“Follow me!” he cried out in a strong semper-fi voice, and they read his lips.