Or, save minute amount of electricity (for now), and buy the book…
Reading Ralph Emerson at sunrise. His words read from a remoteness of a million or more years into the past or future. Still, his books are sold regularly, even if nobody reads them. Some young poet might find a sentence that inspires him while lying down beside a running river reading a mass market Emerson paperback. But all will be forgotten the moment he gets up from the grass and walks across the parking lot to his car. Where is the old man who reads Emerson how Emerson himself would want to be read? Presently it’s just me. I am alone. I am the Oswego County representative to the New York State Emerson Society. Our state’s other thirty-one representatives are out shoveling their driveways.
Soon I will type in a few quotes from this morning’s reading to get you on the right track. For the next one hundred pages or so, I will attempt to make clear some very similar themes. Therefore no human fake-artist will pick up my book a hundred years from now and lie to himself. No quotes lifted from my book with pride. I refuse to help prove theories, win arguments, change a mind. No high school papers about me. In fact, I will stop that horror from happening right now… penisbrittle.
Artists must nip in the bud any future time for their name and belief getting butchered by the living cockroaches. One more time… Snacklefuck anus. There, that should keep me off the shelf beside Tennyson and Thoreau. I would be happy to bury my books with me. I don’t write timeless literature. That is for fops and fake-artists.
Oh, anyway… Quotes from Emerson:
“Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of everyone of its members.”
“Whoso (whoso?) would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
“The poet is least a poet when he sits crowned. The transcendental and divine has the dominion of the world on the sole condition of not having it.”
That is enough. I get sick in the brain reading Emerson. Too cerebral. Why didn’t he write, “The poor poet is God?” Why words so carefully strung on a line? If men truly spoke like Emerson wrote a hundred and fifty years ago, and over time their brains adhered to a natural progression of development, then certainly by today, we would have developed into limbless balls housing enormous brains. Our end would come soon no doubt, with just our big heads rolling around in an open sewer of thought. Thank God that along the way language got butchered! I trust my arms and legs. I need their attachment. The evolution of language is for the university and the university is for a regular paycheck, medical benefits, 401K, coffin insurance, and sixty-four days of vacation a year. Mr. Professor would say I am just lazy, that usage of the English language can be very beautiful. It is intellectual cowardice to judge language by one’s own inadequacies. No, Mr. Professor, you are a dumb-dumb. Language is not beautiful. It is confusing. It’s bad architecture. It is built like a skyscraper for field mice. Those who know its most precise perfections are grossly maladjusted human beings. You know what you know, and if you happen to learn something new, use it again when the situation demands it. I write for joy and expression. I do not give a dirty dump about language. I want to communicate.
The English language began on a cold ancient continent one morning when Fan the Visigoth met Texapple the Viking. Fan had a hen’s egg and Texapple a ladle. English was born out of the grunts and yowls made while fighting to death for the prize of what the other one had. Texapple stuck Fan with a stick through the heart, and the word we know today as “egg” was born from the sound Tex made while puking up a puddle of the egg he ate.
Can you prove to me otherwise? Can you do it without using any tool besides your own body?
The age demands letters to and from wandering souls. Every man must feel the same jiggers in his belly that I do. Of heart and soul every man is a wanderer. It is the universal calling, the true vocation. Language acts to cover this truth. Then it holds truth down with a pillow case, so no fresh air can get in, and truth suffocates.
We must butcher the language to save our sanity. We should not be afraid. Language has value. You are fifty and like your boat? Write about it. Sing about it. Make like the cricket and play us your summer song. You are sixty and like to read mystery novels? Fine and good. It’s the same as playing tennis, but it is not literature. Not life. Today’s literature must bleed from you, if only to transfuse wisdom back into your children. Return unto them the literature of what has been real to you. Your regret. Your success. Time will warp their memory. Two painfully written pages to represent you to the following generations is enough. It will be from you. Your dead blood. Sons and daughters do not need your money. They need you to write a small volume and bury it in the earth. A treasure map instead of a will. I know not one man of seventy years who would suffer a boil to save the literature of his blood. At eighty, see if you can find him in the shade of a tall oak writing poems to a bird or a mole. You should look to save yourself. Yet you want to be fifty years old holding on to a job and things. Walk into the forest with your little book and a shovel. Dig two holes. One for the book containing the literature of your blood and one for your dead body that will rot to bone. Beautiful writing is a luxury of the past. The age demands that you write like me, letters to invisible men. Love songs to frigid women in a future angry world.
I think that I would write about Oswego because it houses my home, and today most men are not lucky enough to have either. I am very lucky to still have life and physical deformity. The rest of this book shall become a joyful hop, skip, and a jump onto the dead body of why I don’t believe even a scrap of the lie I just wrote.
I am a sensitive human being. One would think I could appreciate this life and its living to the fullest. I should be properly drugged on an all-life bender of my own cheer. I could share joy with a friend or two, or a thousand. But I haven’t any friends, and joy farts of constipation. I have a wife and two children, but rarely do they believe a single word I write. I am goofy and I make them laugh and feel like I do. That is the positive on a sunny day. Unfortunately I am wise to Oswego, its all-consuming ugly, and the pretty dessert I can make of it after building up several convincing layers of solid salt cake lies.
Presently I am studying local history books to obtain a clearer understanding of our past. I want to get it right. So, I have spent the last two afternoons reviewing some scholarly works about the initial growth and inevitable decline of our fair city. One thing keeps popping up in my mind while reading over their careful words—probably more so because the birds are chirping and spring is caressing more body parts than what my mind can control. What I wonder is this: Have any of these scholars ever aroused a member of the opposite sex? These authors have published dry, authoritative books. I know how difficult it is for me to write clear, grammatically correct sentences passionately, especially when I feel the need to get some angst off my chest immediately. I loathe the words that cloud my meaning and put rules and limits to my desire. I am a bad writer. I too often wonder why I have chosen word arrangement to help make my art manifest. Perhaps genetic connection to the yankee masochist lifestyles of my forebears. I seek constipation. I need to feel the acute pain of squeezing words out onto paper, otherwise I would not be able to justify my work. Still, I know that the more serious my writing, the less joyful my manhood, my sex, and my rise and fall of personal happiness. History, local history to be sure, should excite in the mind creative ways to improve one’s sex life. Most other explanations, I believe, are a type of depraved mental masturbation. One can place himself into the imaginations of dead people, what a man ate, how he ate, and the enjoyment he got out of eating. It is fun to put a life into ghosts. More fun to give them an imaginative sex drive. But man, if you just read the garbage I read at the library… It’s as if the living, breathing men and women of yesterday were walking, talking wooden beams, thinking only about money and never moving a muscle so to keep down the layers of dust collecting in their skulls. This cannot be true. And why I never respect the work of scholars. Unimaginative bores. History is only a game, folks. It should be as sacred as you hallow the dirt wherein their skeletons lie. We are 21st century men. It’s bad enough that we are so lonesome, frustrated and undersexed… But to bring the dead into our thoughts while we live with spontaneous erections… Depraved.
For two days I’ve bombarded myself with the insanity of what scholars think is human. The fearful won’t dare make history their own. They research only what is written, and what is written on the pages of Oswego’s history is enough to make a young buck desire sleep instead of food. The philly to turn against the colt, the colt to leave the fat, dripping nipple alone… Yes, it is well known throughout the kingdom that the story of mankind depresses animals to death eventually. You may wonder why it is your dog will not read. But I know mister that if he read a single word of your book, he’d lose the stretch in his back and the warm pops on his tongue that give him freedom of movement and the delicious desire to lick himself clean.
Even the animals are wise to the need of why history must be avoided. Man is specie-centric to the point of flagrant stupidity. The animals have been laughing at us for quite some time. We know it too, which makes this business of history an even more ironic and embarrassing affair. The university professor, eager with an idea to write about nineteenth century architecture in Oswego, wakes in the morning with a dead man’s house opening its doors to her brain. The brain is a fungus smothered with an incestuous family of fat parasitic worms. It hops up the lake stone stairs marking the caller’s path to the non-existent mansion. A squirrel with a nut sits on a stone where the wrought iron fence was once attached. He takes a curious look at the brain while it waits for the invisible butler to answer the knock. Too beautiful an autumn day for a brain to call. But it does anyway. It makes every attempt to ruin these beautiful days. The most obtrusively rude organ of the body, the brain. “Yes, madam?” The butler asks the brain.
“I’m here to see the master of the house.”
“He’s counting his matches madam. He’s up to a 149,546,760 at last count.”
“Matches. How odd!” Replies the brain.
“Each match is worth .01% of one penny, madam. We have an elevator and I am a dumb waiter because of the matches. The mansion is built on matches and dead Irishmen making matches for money madam. So will you please go away and take that filthy body with you?”
“Well, I’ve never!”
The squirrel drops his nut and runs off in terror as the brain leaps up into the body of the professor. The brain in the body gets into her car and rides off dreaming about Turkish pillows and camel leather toilet seats in a bedroom of a house that does not exist. Neither the body nor the brain see the squirrel leaping into the road in chase of a round nut rolling in the wind. “Kalump-thump.” Squirrels on tree branches and sidewalks turn to witness the hit and run. They are wise to the stupid evil your lazy history causes. The brain in the woman rides off into the sunny morning. “How amazing,” she wonders… “Matches made all of that.” And the squirrel’s last breath is wheezed in the road. There might remain a remnant of his carcass left when her book comes off the press.
For the life of a squirrel, the passing of a day, and the teeny titillation from another rude brain, the following is the professor’s creative account of a once in a lifetime visit to the ghostly match kingdom:
“By 1906, the Diamond match factory hired 500 workers and manufactured 150 million matches per day (two matches for every person in the United States).”
Facts about nothing. I am stopped in the head right now. I can’t think straight. I am a poor historian. Also, I am incredibly horny these past few weeks. My wife’s hormones are focused on baby care. It’s not her fault that I exhibit the stallion’s flehmen posture anytime she gets too close to me in the same room. My lips shoot up past the gums. I show my teeth, and I might even be grunting. But she’s a mare with foal, and I best be careful, else a hoof in the mouth is the only piece of her that she’ll give willingly. So to divert the loins to the subject of creative history, I’ll write the story of this old house.
Out of the folder of records obtained from the real estate agent, was a map of our neighborhood in 1875. All the houses on this street were blank squares. Except for ours, which had “SAL” written on it. Saloon perhaps? Yes, why not? It’s 1875, and their are tall ships at port, and sailors on the prowl. There are working men getting rubbed the wrong way for the six thousandth time, and slutty Oswego girls, just like today, giving sex for drinks, but plenty of drinks first. I’m sitting in the kitchen/dining room of what was once, 125 years ago, behind the bar on a Friday night. Good business this Friday in summer. The sun just set itself down for the trillionth time and there’s a city full of thirsty men. Ah, it’s a blessed bygone era when wives are kept and abused coolies, and husbands are free to do as they please. If the worker gets caught cheating on his wife, she keeps her mouth shut through dinner, and asks for a new hat at bedtime. If the woman cheats on the man, she gets beaten to death and arrested soon afterwards. The role playing world of 1875. The men work for money and drink. The women slap the kids and bake. Oh yes, and a good chunk of the world dies off early because nobody is taught how to properly wash his face and hands.
Here we are at Throop’s saloon, me an da boys. Aye, it’s a roody noyt dis soommer. All day long we set at they docks unludin’ loomber in ure wool pantaloons. Me an Jack, we bean to Flangee’s bar oulready. Aye, un ware tahnked full abrew. Dis life is a pacer, ware tinkin’. Aye, an eats a good ting to da polite bubs o society dat weave refraned froom blowin up da whole show, yaknow. Ha, lookee dare. Aze tat Mayster Condee? Aye dey reech fat baysterd. Hey Jack, lookee dare. He’s taken to yer seester. He best be a watchin’ out, cause Ize got me ize owner. Ah goad damnit! Sheeza laufin’ with em. Ah damnit, now sheez blooshin’. Holy mudder a Mary Jack, Abbey’s walkin’ out da door wid dat fat ass. I’ll kill em I tellya, if he even tinks a-touchin are wid his fat grasy fangers. Ah shoot up jack, ya parevert! For da lard’s sake, man, sheeze yer seester.”
West fifth street in the summer of 1875. The lawns are freshly trimmed and the street dust has finally settled. The crickets in the brush play a happy tune nobody can hear. The buzz of a million wet manure and piss drunk flies drowns out any chance for a peaceful moon rise. The night is hot. The servants leave their master’s houses, wide-eyed and ready for whatever the night has in store. Some walk up to Throop’s saloon. Some go home waiting for their husbands to come back from Throop’s. The children from the big houses play games in the road. If a dirty Irish or Italian boy skips by, the rich kids call for the nearest butler to chase him away with a stick. The sun’s gone down and the moon is up.
Compared to the shacks set up around the rest of town, these mansions are enormous palaces. The gaslights are lit. The mosquitoes are out happily spreading disease. Master Condee and Abbey, hand-in-hand, have turned the corner and are heading toward his four story palace at the end of the street. He made his fortune in textiles. He’s the richest man in Oswego, but thinks himself no stuffed shirt like his millionaire neighbors. He’s got a rise in his pants for Abbey, and is starting to pant slightly while they push through the thick night air.
“Aye, mayster Condee, yashare know ow ta make a goil laugh!”
“Thank you Abbey. It’s one of my secrets. Let’s not tell anyone.” He brushes his hand across her ass.
“Mayster Condee, please, no,” protests Abbey.
“Look, you Irish whore, I’ll fire your pretty ass right now if you don’t let me look under that dress.” He takes hold of Abbey by the shoulders, shakes her up a bit, and throws her down on the grass in front of the Lewis House.
“Please Mayster Condee, no!” He falls on top of Abbey, muffling her cries for help with one hand while climbing up her dress with the other. A voice calls out from the Lewis House.
“Hey Condee, quiet down. Jesus Casanova, give the girl a break!”
“That you Bill?”
“Yup. C’mon Condee, leave the little vixen be.”
“She’s Irish Bill, come have a feel.”
Bill Lewis puts his finger to his lips, gets up from his porch chair and walks across the lawn to where Master Condee and Abbey are struggling.
“Well, okay Condee. She sure looks pretty good. I’ll bang her if you promise to keep the screams down. I don’t want Alice to hear.”
The two millionaire Oswegonians begin the rape of the Irish girl Abbey. Suddenly the millionaire’s heads are cracked open with wooden bats swung by two figures standing over them in the darkness.
“Well lookee dare Jack. Deez tings have anoother use now dontay?
“O Patreek ya play da game o baseball bater dan any man I seen.” Jack bends over to help his crying sister get to her feet.
“Did da peegs getcha Abbey?”
“No brudder. Dat fella dare, he come close dough. I taught he was un nice man. He said he would take me out of da factree, an give me a jewb washin’ his cloothes. Aye da peeg!” She kicks Master Condee’s bleeding head.
“Yo jack. Let’s take deez bastards away.
“Ware to Patreek?”
“Aye, down to da docks. We’ll send em out ta sea nailed to da hull of da next tug. I tooed ja ya shadn’t let em taker outta Throop’s.”
That is the most concise history of the nineteenth century in Oswego that a living man need remember. There were tall people, short people, Polish people, Irish people, stupid people, smart people, violent people, gentle people, horny people, dirty people, weak people, strong people, rich people, poor people. There were parasitic people who spent their lives enslaving people with less means. And there were people who let them. Nothing has changed. Except today rich or poor, everyone is exactly the same. Especially here in Oswego, where rich, poor, young and old alike share the same respect for bad history.
Man they’re all just too white for me. This city is so old. White old. Every face is so god damn pale and old. The women who stay here, the younger women with children, artificially tan to hide their white oldness. These brown-faced women with light hair, they’re all so old already. And their voices! You have to be an outsider to hear the Oswego dialect. A phenomenal tongue. You would leave thinking of the depressed white planet, Oswego, and everyone almost dead with just a few more stingy breaths to breathe. Even the children are sad and their depression takes on new and interesting forms of mental derangement. They’re white too. So white and dirty. Sometimes it’s almost too much for me to bear—Wait. I’m jumping ahead of where I want to be right now. I’m already at the Walmart when I should have limited the first twenty or thirty pages to Oswego’s rich and colorful history. But no, it’s not going to be that easy. This old whiteness. It is all encompassing to a sensitive man. What the hell am I doing here? Cold March winds, and I’m out walking an empty downtown night with my face buried into the collar of a thick red plastic coat, made in Paraguay. Oh God, please bury me head first in the hot marshes of Paraguay! Let only my feet stick out for the sun to tan. It’s a different sun in Paraguay, I know. A happy sun. A sun of the four seasons. A dangerous, exciting sun. The natural born brown children crawling through the tall grass are thankful for civil things like laughter and cooked suppers unexpected. They play around the white man’s feet stuck out of the ground. God must have put him there. Imagine their thirty cents a day went into sewing the coat laying beside his feet. Each is truly happy that a day worked is another yam purchased. How proud a thing the human being should be.
This afternoon I became infected with the 24-hour bug of Oswego. It can turn a proud man against himself in a day. Make him want to butcher the art of French cuisine and open a corn dog stand and deep fry in fat for kids. Oswego children look a worser white in white. The bug in the brain. It’s built every business downtown. It took over operation of The Palladium Times and shows itself in the photo of a hockey player on the front page of section two in every winter issue. The thirty-six hair care studios have the bug. Artificially browned women with dyed blonde hair gossip about whose husband is screwing the baby-sitter. All are either reformed or presently smoking coffins and alcoholics. Oswego’s bug is inevitable and true. It’s disease is widely accepted and recklessly encouraged.
I tell you that, once infected, no matter how free in thought and step he once thought he was, the proud man of this city must re-decide each new morning whether or not to step in line with the rest of the white brigade. At all times in Oswego, there is an internal battle being fought, one with effects more damaging than any petty skirmish played out by cowardly soldiers of the past. The men who played shoot me for pay at the fort across the river—they alone knew the joy of a bullet in the eye. Man the whole town in the nineteenth century stunk like dirty animal ass everywhere. If I was a young farmer spending my Saturday evenings watching my mother wipe the brown grease off her belly rolls, I too would jump at the chance to fight the British. I would wonder out loud what the taste of lead was like, fight hard, and die glad without any prior knowledge of the statue to be erected in my honor a hundred and seventy-five years after my death.
Honor me? For being a farm boy full of holes? Jesus, if the stupid fools only knew what I was really made of. Lookyhere… Girls my age were scarce in 1814. Dad looked the other way the day I pressed up against our cow. It felt good, and I did the same for Dad. “Ma’s belly stinks, son,” he would tell me, while dropping his trousers. Then crazy Willie came by the barn that night to tell us the British were cannoning the fort. “Aw Dad, lemme go an fight! Please?” And Dad kinda felt sorry for me cause when he was young he had Indians to kill and squaws to play cow with. So he said, “Sure son, you go play with crazy Willie. But cha can’t take my musket.” So I went to the fort and the fellas there made me Colonel cause I didn’t bring a gun. They said “You’ll be our fifth Colonel. Don’t expect to live long. There’s a cannonball with your name on it, farm boy.” But I didn’t care. I didn’t mind dying. And so that night a cannonball knocked my head off.
But then jest the other day I was bobbing my head down from the clouds, as I do now and then, and there was some old hag who looked just like my grandmother with spectacles on making a speech by a statue. She was talking about me! Said I was an unsung hero of the War of 1812. Wow, that shore made me angry. She said it was people like me who made life sacrifices so that people like her could waste their lives away dedicating statues to illiterate cowfuckers. I got mad right then and there cause my ma always told me that to lie was sin and sin was death. So I undid my trousers and started to pee on my own parade. Shoot, I didn’t die for her or anyone else. Liars and thieves I tell ya. So I pissed on her until she finally stopped talking to pose for her portrait beside my statue. And then when everybody went away I let the sun back out.
Now I smile from my home in the clouds whenever I see a drunk taking a leak on my statue. Once a guy stopped to read the inscription beneath the stone carving of my dying self. He laughed so loud that the fish stopped swimming to listen. I knew that he knew me better than any old hag without life in her blood. I knew that he alone would tell the real history of Oswego.
More white stuff. Every man and woman in this town is white, and white is bad. To be one thing always and not the other is a recipe for bad, for wrong, and for worse. I know the old lady the dead farm boy peed on. She’s the self-proclaimed city historian. As white as they come. Even more white after her daughter went to bed with a black man. More than anything the daughter wished to shade her mother in between the lines of her most blatant white parts. The white of this city would blind the eyes if the tears weren’t welled up so to dilute the glare. Those who aren’t crying are walking with back bent and head down. Actually, they seldom walk. They’re driving. Always driving. Bridge Street is a constant stream of traffic on Friday at five. Nobody walks unless the weather’s perfect. And then it’s just a “look at me with my brown skin and blonde hair” march about town on a warm July night. No, even the city historian, always spry and quick-witted, leaves her gingerbread house driveway seated in her green station wagon at exactly 4:50 pm every single day of her life. She drives over the same bridge to the same restaurant, arriving at exactly 4:55 for the same drink and food, as if every day in Oswego was a purgatory of the same thing, over and over, with just enough statues and public readings to create the illusion of a personal heaven or hell.
I know this bird. She has been in my life for as long as I cooked in town. I say she has cheated the people out of their rightful heritage. Oswego is just one town of ten thousand in America rich with the history of despair. There was never any culture here to speak of. Our claim to fame is Oswego tea and the Safe Haven. Safe because there was a fence around it. Wouldn’t dare give the Jews dignity. Not for free. Jew Boys fondling Catholic girls? Scandal and outrage.
Each man here is a lone activated fear bomb. To say what you want to say is suicide. To think the truth is a finger quivering over a well-oiled button. To be truthful, well—there’s a press down, and a two or three second delay before—BOOM! Death and taxes here, as usual, as always, and an obituary column in the local paper to remind the living fear bombs that they better just watch it! No one is allowed an obituary longer than one or two hastily written paragraphs. Unless he or she has some local celebrity status that will sell more newspapers. Perhaps he was the mayor twenty years ago. Or maybe a famous race car driver. Or she was the self-proclaimed city historian! Yet if he worked as a fork lift operator for thirty years and kept quiet as a member of Holy Trinity Church, his obituary will mention just that, and only that. The right people weren’t aware of his existence. He didn’t create a stir and it’s probably better this way, because nobody remembers him well enough to laugh at him. His wife mourns in front of the grandchildren. She broke down for the neighbor too, by the sweet peas, but the neighbor already knew that her husband was an asshole. So did she. He was dead now, thank God almighty, but there were mourning formalities to follow. After two weeks of hiding indoors and finally sneaking out to get her hair washed and dyed, she met the city historian for lunch at The Ritz Diner. She ordered macaroni and cheese with toast and margarine, and said it was the best meal she ever had.
Ho! Ho! Mr. fork lift operator! You have passed on with the same notice given to a dead seagull floating in the river sludge with the wet garbage and stinky fish. You are gone. You did your part. You picked up that crate and put it over there. You sang a hymn on Sunday. But the newspaper says you accomplished nothing besides some grandchildren in Texas and Maine. Do you believe it? I don’t. I know your life was an infinite universe. Even if lived miserably wrong, it was still life, and life is long. They don’t care about you. You could have asked that your flesh be melted and mopped over your favorite street, and still no one would care. Not unless you were melted alive. Then indeed it’s front page news!
However, this is not the case when the city historian croaks. Now that’s a top story! Last night she choked to death at her favorite restaurant. She was startled when a little boy walked through the dining room wearing a baseball cap. She kept pointing and grunting, which the other diners thought quite normal, and so ignored her falling to the floor. They watched her reenactment of the Colonel’s death a hundred times. “There goes Mrs. Rarebit, the ham. Up to her old tricks we see.” Only the waitress knew she was choking. Hot damn was she glad to see the old bitch finally go down!
The ambulance came but the paramedics were too hungover to perform a proper Heimlich maneuver. Due to her age, and looks, mouth-to-mouth was out of the question. So the city historian took her last breath on the floor of her favorite restaurant, which used to be a strip joint, and before that, a place where soldiers had holes shot through their bodies. The reporter rushed to the scene, loaded to the gills, and could barely scribble down “choke” onto his pad of paper. He passed out on top of the city historian never getting his big break at a front page story. That’s when I step in. I was the cook who charred her steak, so I feel partly responsible. I will write her obituary. I doubt my imaginative descriptions will ever get published in the Pall Times. Here’s the piece anyway. Written for the Heaven and Hell Daily News:
Last evening at 5:52 p.m. exactly, Mrs. Martha Rarebit choked on a piece of red meat and died. She was seventy-nine years old, but looked twice that. Mrs. Rarebit was as white as they get in Oswego. In fact, she had an obituary already written for the press. My editor looked it over, and decided that, because she was dead, we could safely say that everything she wrote down was a lie. So this reporter has written a more accurate obituary for Mrs. Rarebit. He hopes that his more entertaining lie will persuade her to not squat down in the clouds one day to piss on him.
Martha Rarebit was born under a tree next to a barn in 1922. Earlier that week her father brought home their first working toilet and told Martha’s mother to birth the child outside, so to keep the new bathroom clean of the afterbirth.
Mrs. Rarebit grew up tall and strong compared to other girls her age. When she was eleven, Martha exhibited the strength of ten men and didn’t cry one tear during the winter of ‘33, when every animal on the farm died from the dreaded hoof and mouth disease. In fact, knowing the seriousness of the epidemic, she put down her favorite pony alone, with an ax, and later made a plaque out of its skull.
Martha was an excellent student, and in 1940 graduated top of her class from the Oswego High School. She decided to skip college and use the money her father left in his will to stage an enormous production of an original play she wrote entitled General Montcalm’s Fight with Dysentery at the Battle of Oswego. Martha paid for the construction of the tall ship and played the leading role. The old folks still make talk about her extended diarrhea soliloquy.
The day after Pearl Harbor Martha was wed to her wealthy first cousin Reginald Rarebit. During the war, the two set up housekeeping in Oswego, where Reginald made a fortune selling headstones to the wailing mothers and widows of dead soldiers arriving in the harbor daily. Reginald patented the world renown Oswego Memorial and invested in a quarry along the shoreline on the east side. Within ten years he was fabulously rich, and built Martha a Gingerbread house made out of wood.
Reginald passed away in 1955. A year later their little girl Cookie was born.
Not much is known about Martha’s life after Reginald’s death. She remained indoors for thirty years until that fateful morning in 1986, when neighbors watched Martha drag Cookie by her pony tail down the porch steps screaming, “My daughter married a negro!” That afternoon she chopped off Cookie’s ring finger with a putty knife. The mayor pardoned Martha to the loud protests of Cookie and her new husband, stating that Mr. Rarebit once saved Oswego from financial ruin, and a finger was a small price to pay for the fat chance of culture coming to Oswego’s working class citizens. Then he warmly thanked Martha for the museum she promised to build free of charge, and arrested Cookie’s husband for being black.
That day marked an end to Martha Rarebit’s isolation. She soon became the most active member of the community, proclaiming herself to be historian of the whitest city in America. Due to her many efforts over the last two decades, Oswego can now boast of its own made up stories of the past.
Since then she has been mentioned in the local newspaper exactly 2,036 times. Her photograph has appeared on the front page 406 times, twice with her hair down scaring the shit out of the children on Halloween. Along with her impressive list of appearances, she has been cursed privately 342 million times, desired hanging from a tree twice, (both times by the author), scalped, stuffed, and tacked to a wall twenty-three times, and her mouth sewed shut 623.5 times, (twelve and a half instances which this author can claim).
I know the truth of Mrs. Rarebit because I have had the actual experience of her. Once she helped me quit my job. She wanted the whipped yams as a side dish for her steak. I told the waitress no, that there was a limited amount reserved for the catfish special. The waitress called the boss and the boss called to tell me that Martha pays my salary, so I had better give her the sweet potatoes.
God dammit they were yams! So I quit and came home to tell the wife and child. Damn! I wish she could have choked on her steak and yams that night.
Once I might have joined her roly-poly band of restoration helpers, after I had made my fortune in Oswego selling pizza or beer or submarine sandwiches. I certainly would have left Mrs. Rarebit the hell alone to tell more enormous falsehoods for future historians to screw up further.
She will be sorely missed. Calling hours are at—ah hell, any stranger’s house that takes money for burning her body. The funeral will be held all day next Thursday on the outskirts of Biloxi, Mississippi. On a hot day. In the church of her son-in-law’s parents.
Lately at night I sleep lightly like a vagrant dozing off in an upper class suburbia. I hop up out of bed the same second the baby cries, which is several times after midnight, and jog to the bathroom for a wet cloth and diaper. I stop at the door to look out the window at the eerie scene the street light creates in the frosty air. “Oh man, you better think of something quick! What are you going to do?”
Night after night I repeat the same scene and question to myself. During the daylight hours too. In fact, not a moment passes without a glance out the dirty window of my brain to think of my current situation. I feel corked, dry and useless for at least the next twenty years. And if forgotten, to turn bitter at thirty, vinegar at forty, found at fifty, then uncorked and poured down the drain. Worse than that, I feel like a New York wine. An average grape with a false fermentation, addicted to refined sugar. Artificially sweet without any personality. Too sweet after so many years of bitter solitude. Then to go bad as a fake sweet thing? Oh my God, the claustrophobic false joy of existence!
This is my America. It’s something gone bad that was never any good to begin with. Its bad is the horrifying realization of it not being real. This morning while bouncing our baby girl on my knee, I got to thinking about a trip my oldest daughter and I took to The Enchanted Forest when she was five years old. When I was five, my sister and I traveled there with our father and new stepmother. Even as a child I was an over-elaborater. To me The Enchanted Forest truly was enchanted. Even without the miniature train and plane rides, small red and orange boats going round in a pool, a wild west town complete with a saloon to buy a snow cone or your favorite ice cream, a merry-go-round, a model T car riding a winding track past the facade of a tiny village… Wow! And dotted throughout the park were fairy tale rest stops with huge figurines come to life. Cinderella, Robin Hood, Peter Pumpkin Eater. One stop had a giant Indian tiger calling a cobra out of its clay pot. Another, a six-foot long dachshund named K.C. There was even a petting zoo equipped with live sheep and goats, pigs and a horse. Yet the greatest time of all, the most awe-inspiring wonder of The Enchanted Forest to the five-year old boy Ron, holding on tight to his pink cloud of cotton candy, was the half hour sky ride over the entire park and back again. It was more than I could ever dream up on my own. To while away a chunk of the summer’s afternoon cruising above creation. To have all these wonderful things and then flight too at the end of the day… I was overjoyed to be at The Enchanted Forest. I would come back every summer if I could. Such a joyful, lasting impression it had on me.
So of course I would want my daughter to experience the same. Although at the time I was blessed with never knowing the need to provide her with happy times. She made her own dreams come true by the hour, alone, without my help. Born seconds from death, into the danger world of the volatile Balkan Peninsula, she learned very fast how to appreciate and love her time in America. Never in her life had she experienced a bored moment up to that glorious, tender age of five. Quite an achievement without the child-drugs of TV and video!
Well I saved up my precious dollars to take her to The Enchanted Forest. On that bright, windless July morning I packed her bathing suit, play sword, and books into a small bag, and drove away from Oswego intending to give her what I got almost twenty-five years before. In my rusty, white Chrysler we rode into the summer heat, past wickedly vexed Rome, NY, and the many damned farming villages saddening the view from the freshly paved road heading north. Eventually the mountain air brought a cheerful coolness as the pines became more prevalent. The mountain air reeks of enchantment, when, even if driving past the depressed and hopeless homes of America, everything can be right and wonderful in a world gone wrong. Here is where my happy youth would be revisited. I too wanted a full day devoted to creating joyful memories. And I was not disappointed, thanks to my daughter’s angelic innocence and beauty.
Did that last sentence sink in? Read it again. They’re not just words, folks. Moms, it’s the truth your babes cried about right after sliding out of you. Yes, of course divorce is inevitable. Look at Dad! That’s your husband? That American ding-dong? You know, he will make every effort to impede your child’s progress towards the truth. He will cut the invisible wings truth brings with each delivery. It is true, our babes deserve all the credit for whatever flowers they can bloom after this daily malnourishment of defilement and degradation. I know her tiny hand alone has guided me through the insane, store-bought jungles of your America. And on that beautiful summer’s day, she led me through it once again, with her angelic innocence and beauty.
The NEW AND IMPROVED Enchanted Forest.
Listen here, do not give the American man any significant length of time alone with beauty. Does he ever look quite comfortable with it? Don’t you understand that when you look away, he is pressing beauty’s face down into the dirt? Jesus, it looked like the place was bombed and cleared out to finally put an end to childhood fantasy and play. Immediately I thought of strangling to death the millionaire who thought up this monstrosity. A water park! Those enchanted, childhood memories left fallow in my mind and much improved, only to be strip-mined and cemented over so some American finger sniffing jackass of a millionaire could plant a twelve story water slide. Oh the evil greedy men! Oh the insane insanity of money! He thought that if he built it in the mountains, and made a jingle to endorse its sham of a good time across radio waves, then they would come to it to slide down it, and make his filthy money make more money. I could tear his guts out for the joy he cheats us out of!
How fortunate for Mr. Millionaire that on that glorious summer’s day we sought out and discovered Cinderella’s magic pumpkin. The bright orange color had faded and the paint was chipping, even an ear was missing from the mouse changed back from a horse after midnight. But he is lucky we found it. So she sat in it. I sat beside her with a sword in my hand, and we posed for a picture that I will keep forever to remind me of this eternal war I have declared against greed. On the outskirts of our magical dreamland, the new water fun park bustled with whistles and screams from the violent panicked offspring of the millionaire’s America. I came to his forest and found our paradise neglected. I noticed. Mr. Millionaire will thank his lucky stars today, tomorrow, and for all the moments he has left to live that she did not. On the contrary, she played happily in his wasteland, oblivious to the weeds shooting up through the cracks in the concrete. I was aware though. I felt the sting of the madness which drives the millionaire to ignore the children enough to profit by them. Maybe once upon a crime he wanted to be like Walt Disney and create an imaginative playground for the kids, and consequently, a living for himself. That insanity could be forgiven, provided it was honest and sincere. He was a child once, who believed as a man that a giant painted pumpkin could make a little girl fantasize. The six dollar admission fee would help pay his rent, and in the end be just enough to make a family and living of his dreams affordable in a glorious, enchanted forest. Right?
Wrong. Very wrong. Too wrong in a world we’ve created with room and time to invent gasoline engines and television. Now I know his true intentions were to sell enough six dollar tickets to purchase an estate with a maid and swimming pool. I came when this forest was the pride of the tiny mountain village. I came with the same desire a child has for ice cream. I came back as a man and brought my daughter along with me. The horror show I witnessed is an America I shall never forgive. I will always remember. I will write of the concrete path time cracked and Mr. Millionaire left cracked to stub the delicate toes of the princess. I will write my hate letters to millionaires because she opened her eyes wide to the floating boats and the track driven model-T car. She was tall then for her age, which made her look somewhat retarded, and therefore even more beautiful seated inside of it. She straddled the six-foot long dachshund, drank from the fountain of youth, walked through the concrete petting zoo of twenty emaciated farm animals, laid out nearly dead from heat exhaustion. She did not wonder why Mr. Millionaire wouldn’t pay a shepherd to tend to them. But I did. Oh I curse this economy over and over for giving the millionaires life. It is all American. I hate America’s dreams of living the life of the millionaire. I hate an America that neglects its children. It is the fakers and liar’s paradise. It wants and respects the millionaire’s desire. It wants Walt Disney’s monied empire, not a true magical kingdom for the children to get lost in.
So Dad, how can you avoid becoming a good faker and respectful liar? Simply step up into that fat and faded pumpkin to wrap a towel around your daughter’s long, flowing hair. Tell her that she is a maiden. Then ask her to close her eyes and keep them closed until you return. March off with the eyes of a man who has just witnessed his family slain. Break into a run with a wild, frantic look to find their murderer counting dollar bills upstairs in an office that overlooks your paradise. Force him out the door with the threat of her plastic sword driven straight through his heart. Poke him along, over to the million dollar water slide he built with more money. Grab hold of his head stuffed fat with dreams about making money, and bash it against the steel rail. “You dirty pig. Go clean up that petting zoo. Feed the animals the best cabbages you can buy. Provide for them shady lush pastures to run on and joyful music to their ears. You have the money. You do that for me right now or I’ll drown you in this sliding piss pool you call a good time. I’ll do this without any fear for my own freedom. I will do this to save an eternal life of happiness for my dear princess beloved.”
Then not waiting for a reply, you fetch the wet rag and diaper for your precious infant child. For the moment you forget about the men and their millionaire dreams. Close your sleepy eyes my babies. Your slumbers will be blessed. I cannot promise a safe and joyful tomorrow. If I have not yet broke ground for a paradise in my father’s land, then how could I ever expect you to build one after me?
O my innocent and deserving children… All I can do is give you time to play and dream. Father is a weakling. The millionaire lives to exploit you. I am afraid your Daddy is doomed to a lifetime of many calm, methodical, and imaginative murders of the millionaire.