Category Archives: shards

vindicated in the blood of the lamb

Vindicated in the Blood of the Lamb

 

He felt a strong need to be vindicated. Then to be syndicated. On the first show of Blood of the Lamb he stood stage-center in his bathing suit and had buckets of lamb’s blood poured over him by a stage hand from up on the catwalk. “Be washed in the blood of the lamb and be vindicated!” he cried out, and ushers went up and down the aisles passing out small vials of wash-out red dye. The plant in the first row sprang to her feet and cried out, “Oh, save me, lamb of heaven! Let me be vindicated!” Then, popping the cork out of her vial, she poured the dye down her face.

A handful of nervous women capitulated immediately, rose to their feet moaning and splashed themselves in dye. Then peer pressure set in and others got to their feet and poured dye over themselves.

What choice did they have? They were live on FOX TV and the whole country was watching.

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visiting with oliver stone

Visiting with Oliver Stone

 

Oliver Stone pulled up to the curb in front of my house at three in the morning in a limo facing the wrong way into traffic. He wasn’t driving, a middle-age Asian was driving, wearing a leather jacket and a chauffeur’s cap. He didn’t come to the door either, someone sitting next to the chauffeur did–young, dapper and wearing a suit and tie.

I don’t know how long he knocked. I sleep the sleep of the dead after a hard day’s work, but eventually the knocking got thru to me and I went up on one elbow and fingered apart the blind slats over the window by my bed. I slipped the Tokarev out from under the pillow (an old habit) and padded barefoot to the front door, pulling my robe around me.

“Yes?” I said thru the door.

“Mr. Bennett?” said the dapper young man on the porch.

“Can I help you?” I said.

“Mr. Bennett, Mr. Stone would like to speak with you, if it’s convenient.”

I opened the door and followed him across the frosted grass. He opened the back door of the limo, and I slipped inside.

Stone was smoking a cigarette and holding a glass with ice cubes and Scotch in it. There was no light inside the limo except what filtered thru the tinted windows from the streetlight on the corner. Riders on the Storm was playing low over a P.A. system.

“I’m doing Winslow’s book,” said Stone. “You probably already know that.”

“I read something somewhere,” I said.

“Scotch?” said Stone.

“I don’t drink,” I said.

“Cigarette? Imported Turkish.”

“I roll my own.”

“Some reefer?”

“Tempting, but I dropped that too somewhere along the line.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Stone. “How about a $300 Cuban cigar?”

“Okay,” I said, and the dapper man up front pulled two Cubans from a silver case and handed them back over his shoulder.

“Thank you Edward,” said Stone. “And Edward, I’m going to ask for a little privacy now.”

There was a whirring sound, and a glass panel slid out from behind the chauffeur and sealed us off.

“I got your book,” said Stone. “It’s good, but thirty years behind the times. That’s sudden death in today’s market. If I’d made a movie out of Bodo like I almost did when you sent it down back in 94, and if it had gone big, and if Winslow hadn’t come along with Savages at the same time you sent me Children of the Sun & Earth, well, that would have been a different story. Given the way you resurrected the character of Bodo in Children, it would have had sequel value. But that’s not how it went down. That’s as Zen as it gets–you don’t get a movie, you don’t get rich and famous, and you keep coasting along in obscurity writing Shards. Which, by the way, I enjoy reading.”

We sat there puffing on our Cubans in the dark.

“Beautiful,” Stone said. “You’re not going to try to work me. That’s why I drove over the pass from Seattle before flying back to L.A. To see if I was right, if my intuition was on.”

“I’m not down-hearted,” I said.

“Mose Allison,” said Stone. “That’s a Mose Allison line.”

“Yes it is,” I said.

“Look,” Stone said. “I want you to have something.” He held out an envelope. “This will get you into the premiere of Savages once the movie’s made. Front row seat, right up there with me and Winslow and whoever the leading roles turn out to be. It might open a door for you, you never can tell.”

I didn’t take the envelope.

“I’ll catch it when it comes to town,” I said, and got out of the limo. I went back in the house, and the limo pulled away from the curb before the front door closed behind me.

I took the Tokarev pistol out of my robe pocket and put it back under the pillow. It never crossed Stone’s mind that I was packing.

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think ninjas

Think Ninjas

 

The committee starts thinking Ninjas. Do they have any on the payroll? The Masked Man gets on the hot line to Sam.

“Of course we have Ninjas,” says Sam, stark naked in the lotus position on the peak of Mt. Baker. “I myself am a Ninja.”

“There’s a job that needs doing,” says the Masked Man. “Come down off the mountain and report to my office at 0800 hours Monday morning.”

Sam rings off. Closes his eyes, inhales deeply and holds it. Exhales and opens his eyes again, slowly. Prepares for the long day’s journey into night where one wrong move can get you murdered.

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wraiths

Wraiths

 

The temperature had sunk to zero and a foot of snow had fallen. I drove up on the hill anyway to see what sort of inspiration could survive under such conditions. It was the day after the Winter Solstice, 4 p.m., and the cloud cover had broken to the northwest. The snow-covered mountains glistened a pale orange in the late sun. I kept the motor running and the heater on, but it barely took the edge off the cold in my aged drafty van.

And then there they were, peeking over the hood, dressed in white parkas, wearing dark goggles with black scarves over their mouths. Only their noses were exposed, the color of plums.

Carl came around to my window, stomping his feet as if preparing to enter a house. He pulled the scarf away and grinned. His teeth were nicotine-yellow and he had a stubble of gray beard.

Fred came around and joined him. He made the universal “roll down the window” gesture.

I was weary of the game. Just before their last visit, almost three years earlier, I’d gone crashing through Death’s waiting room, over-turning coat racks and low tables with magazines spread out on them as I recoiled from the Zombie-like people who sat along one wall in straightback chairs with their hands on their knees, glazed into submission. I broke out a window and tumbled into a hedge, went running into the sunlight and warm wind of life. But when I finally dropped down alongside a tree to catch my breath, something inside was different. Something was missing.

“Fine,” said Fred, his voice muffled by his scarf. “Be that way.”

“Is this any way to treat old friends?” Carl said, and the way he said it, I realized something had changed in them too. I reached across the engine hump and opened the passenger door. They exchanged quick glances.

I rolled my window down on a crack. “Get in,” I said. They trudged around thru the snow and climbed in, Carl sitting on the engine hump, Fred in the seat.

“No one understands what you’re saying,” Fred said softly as the last light was disappearing from the sky.

“Yeah, right,” I said. It was the same old routine.

“No one but us,” said Carl.

“You guys don’t have a clue,” I said. “You’re messenger boys.”

“We’re wraiths said Carl. “You’re the messenger boy.”

“I thought you might be wraiths,” I said, startled to realize I was sincere. “What is this?” I said. “Something’s different.”

“Closure,” said Fred, and a wave of loneliness washed over me that dovetailed with the emptiness that had accompanied my brush with Death.

“Starting to get the picture?” said Carl.

“Carl,” said Fred. “Just shut the fuck up.”

“I’m just trying to do my job,” said Carl.

They went silent again, and fresh snow began falling. Fred cleared his throat. “We’ll be going now,” he said.

“It’s been real,” said Carl.

“Wait,” I said.

“He’s got it,” said Carl. “I think he’s got it.”

Fred leaned across Carl and put his face up close to mine. “Have you?” he said. “Have you got it?”

“Oh, fuck me!” I said. “You’re not out to destroy the Voices, you’re emissaries for the Voices.”

“Bingo,” said Carl.

“Is that what the brush with Death was about? Am I being phased out?”

“Death runs her own game,” said Fred. “Death has nothing to do with the Voices. The Voices rejoiced when you wrestled free of Death. What’s important isn’t who, if anyone, hears you. What’s important is that you hear the Voices. The big question is, will you play it out to the end?”

“To the end? You’re asking me if I’ll play it out to the end? After all those years of undermining me, of trying to silence me?”

“Man, when he’s not channeling he’s a little on the dense side,” said Carl. “All that was to give you the illusion of opposition, to give you the fire to fight. If you’d realized that no one had a clue what you were talking about, you would have quit long ago, and another channel would have been sealed off. These are dark times. Channels are drying up like river beds in the desert.” Then, seeing the look on my face, he put his hands up palms out. “Don’t,” he said. “Don’t ask.”

“Who are the Voices?” I said.

“It’s time to go,” said Fred, and he opened the door.

They both got out of the van. “Multiplicity’s an illusion,” said Fred. “There’s only one Voice. And with that they walked off thru the snow.

I sat in the dark with the passenger-side door still open and cold air rushing in, light-headed and full of questions.

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the masked man

The Masked Man

I’ve just had a visit from the Committee. They’re looking the worse for wear. They’re looking old. The short one, Carl, is bald except for a few long strands of hair that he’s spread over his skull in an attempt to hide his baldness. The tall one, Fred, has a hearing aid and thick glasses and walks with a cane. They tried coming straight up the incline but couldn’t make it. They had to go down to the far end of the park and use the stone stairs. By the time they reached my car they were out of breath and I was in a jolly mood from watching them. I rolled down the window. It’s windy and cold, and Carl and Fred were bundled up. “Hey, guys,” I said.

“The word’s out on you and your wimpy hill Shards,” Fred said. “Our In Box is overloaded with hate mail. Enough is enough, people are saying. You’ve got no respect for national holidays. For the poor working stiff.”
“Is that the best you guys can come up with after all these years?” I said.

“Things might get physical,” said Carl. “Things might get physical real quick like.”

“Is that so?” I said.

“We can’t protect you forever,” said Fred.

Protect me! What a joke! But it made me sad to hear Fred say it. When they were younger, they had pluck, Carl and Fred. Their lies and distortions were outrageous and colorful.

“There’s a new Committee,” Carl said. “It’s gaining strength by the hour. Their membership is young and their Leader is old and sly. They call him the Masked Man.”

“I see,” I said.

“No, you don’t,” said Fred. “They’re not like us. They’re modern.”

“They’re ruthless!” said Carl.

“They’re the future,” said Fred.

“No one’s playing by the rules you play by anymore,” said Carl.

“I don’t play by rules,” I said.

“You should be dead by now!” said Carl. “Why aren’t you dead?”

“Win some lose some,” I said.

“That’s idiotic!” said Carl.

“Some day my prince will come,” I said.

“Oh, sweet Jesus!” said Carl. “Here he goes.”

“Easy, Carl,” said Fred. “Back off. He’s going into Shard mode. Don’t engage him when he’s in Shard mode.”

“He was down for the count!” said Carl. “He was finished! And then he came up with this Shard business!”

“Easy,” said Fred. “Easy…”

Carl wasn’t listening. “This new breed is going for your juggler, pal!” he said. “They’re in the process of gathering all your published and on-line Shards and they’re going to rewrite them according to new guidelines. They’re going to make you into something you’re not and then declare you Poet Laureate of Mediocrity! How do you like them apples? There’s some Ninja guy involved, second-in-command to the Masked Man. And their Committee Chair, his every word is pure generic and stripped bare of originality. He’s already set the bar high by tackling your most incomprehensible Shard and rewriting it so that even an inebriated skunk can understand it!”

“That’s pretty good,” I said. “Inebriated skunk.”

“You don’t get it, do you?” said Fred. “The Masked Man will flatten you like road kill.”

“Ho!” I said. I knew I should be taking this new Committee more seriously, but I was getting excited by this sudden burst of one-liners from Carl and Fred. I realized I’d missed seeing them.

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t worry. It’s all going to be okay. It’ll all come clean in the wash. You guys look cold. Jump in back and warm up. We can drive around. I’ll show you where I get my mochas. Hell, I’ll even buy you one.”

They exchanged glances.

“That’s against SOP,” said Fred.

“Ah, come on,” I said.

They exchanged looks again, and then they climbed in.

Their eyes in the rear-view mirror were the eyes of frightened children.

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they came in the middle of the night

They Came in the Middle of the Night

They came in the middle of the night, a squad from the new Committee. They yanked me out of bed and slammed me face first against the bookcase full of prized books–a whole shelf of Miller, another of Bukowski, lots of levy and Kryss and other Cleveland stuff, Moritz Thompsen, some Salinger and Sillitoe, Patchen and e.e. cummings, other books too, there because of when they entered my life as much as because of what they had to say, some of them signed with messages to not let the bastards get me, all of it battered and dogeared. I knew my nose was broken, I could taste the blood running down my throat.

“Why didn’t you stick to roses and buttercups and sunrises?” one of them said. Actually there were two of them, and they said it simultaneously with one voice. “Why didn’t you stick with all that ‘hell no, we won’t go’ crap? Drunken rampages? Yellow-fanged angst?”

“Yellow-fanged angst,” I said in a slurred voice, my lips smearing blood over the spines of Tropic of Cancer and The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder. That’s good.”

They twirled me around and hit me in the mouth and then the gut. I felt the hernia mesh in my abdominal wall sag and the Dacron arteries from the aneurysm surgery quiver. I doubled over, and as I was going down I noticed that they were joined at the hip, which helped explain the one voice.

There was a lot of mayhem throughout the house, a crew was smashing up my computer and printer and turning over old metal file cabinets fat with folders of writing and correspondence from the Gone World of typewriters and mimeo machines.

I closed my eyes, and my last sensation was olfactory, I could smell the smoke from the cigarette one of them lit up as they were leaving. What I wanted most before everything shut down was a drag off that cigarette.

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