ewhightower

Woodminster: South Pacific, Day Eight — C&R III, Midnight After Montclair

In Fiction, Theatre, Writing on September 22, 2017 at 12:15 pm

(You don’t need restful sleep, you nee to know why the madness!?: start here.)

Day Eight: Wednesday, 26 July 2017 – C&R III,  Midnight After Montclair

The white globule shifts, a sideways pupil rolling into view. “It’s an eye! A creepy-ass goat eye just came out of that thing’s thorny squid vagina, and you want to sing?! The eye quivers, sprouting thick black eyelashes that angle up and jut down to the hood of the car.

“A-long the midnight trail to redemption,” Weedbeard sings. Jingles the Creeper shrinks back. Weedbeard continues:
“There’s a shadow lurking betwixt!
A-long the midnight trail to redemption,
There’s a quest that can’t be nixed!”

Jingles the Creeper is wary, grinning like a debutante who forgot which punch bowl holds the turd. The eye skitters toward the driver’s window on its beveled eyelashes. “Oh fuck no, those are spider legs. Fucking goat’s eye spiders, now? This is a really efficient nightmare buffet — ”

Weedbeard puts his hand on my arm. I glance at him. He’s completely calm. It’s like we’re not moving at all. Time slows down to stillness beyond the Kuiper belt. He says, “Sing with me, Brother. For human voices, raised in darkness, bring light where only despair has flourished.”

I want to tell him that I don’t know the words, that I sometimes struggle with harmony. I want to fall back on all my actory excuses, but something in his eyes – a deep, reassuring calm – quells every mote of uncertainty.

I’m aware of the goat’s eye spiders: there are six of them, now, skittering up the driver’s window, scratching and digging at the glass. The glass is cracking, a – ha ha – spiderweb of fractures.

I’m aware of Jingles the Creeper: its squid vagina hand palm is opening wider as it pulls its arm back to punch through the glass of the driver’s side window. It’s jabbering something out there, but all in the cab is the smooth, rich caramel of certainty. I know that the first thing it will do — if it breaks through — is pull my tongue into its maw with those millions of spikes in there; I’ll feel it chewing and ripping at my tongue and lips as I try to scream. It will send tendrils up my nose and down into my lungs to latch and drink, my jaw snapping, my head tilted back, I’ll be alive for all of it. Because in the tops of the trees it spins its eyeball webs, and no ranger will ever look for anything like that.

The stillness of Weedbeard, it soothes me. I’m aware of all the darkness getting ready to smash through the window, but it simply does not matter. He smiles, inhales, and we continue the song; I don’t know how I know the words, all that matters is that it’s a deep and delicious old-timey / bluegrass Americana pie, and every slice is heavenly:

“Along the midnight trail to redemption,
There’s a hole in the timely rind;
The longest midnight trail to redemption
Is the one you don’t want to get left behind!

And we’ve got one string between us –
As we stretch to reach the fret –
One string between us,
Plus the skin of our teeth, now, you can bet

That on the midnight trail to redemption
There’s a lot of tears that flow;
Along the midnight trail to redemption
There’s a shadow creepin’ up from the hidden below!

And though the park is dark
And the night is cold
We will find the light
To be brave and bold!”

It’s not a perfect song. But it seems to work. During that last verse, Weedbeard pops open the back of the uke and pulls on the strings, a ball of white material – salt? – clutched between the strings and his fingers. No ukulele strings should be able to stretch that far, but he pulls that thing like a longbow, holding the uke up by the neck and sighting through the sound hole.

Jingles the Creeper’s grin falters. Its thornfingers writhe. We sing louder; whatever Jingles the Creeper is saying or singing, we overpower it:

“Yes we’ve got one string between us!
And it’s used
To launch
This
Salt!”

Weedbeard does just that, as we hold the last note in tasty harmony – and the ball of salt finds its mark – squarely in the gaping maw of the squid vagina hand claw. Sizzling, thrashing, twitching, it gouts green effluvium mixed with deeper chunky brown; scalded goat’s eye spiders plorp writhing on the hood of the truck, sliding off.

With a cry like a wounded castrato and a terrified Madagascar hissing cockroach, Jingles flings itself from the hood of the car, cradling its arm like a precious baby. We hear it crashing away through trees and underbrush.

We come to a halt. We’re at the stop sign where this back exit road meets the main entrance road. We’ve been driving for under a minute.

It feels like hours.

“Did you kill it?” I say. I’m a little too loud, and I can’t stop shivering.

“No,” he says. “It will be back. And probably stronger.”

“What can we do?” I say.

Weedbeard is silent for a time. Then he says, “Leave your car, I’ll have it retrieved. We’ve got to get away before the Fire Marshall sees us.”

I glance in the direction of the deeper park. The lights of multiple firetrucks are still flashing deeper in, but I can’t smell smoke anymore. It seems we may have avoided that danger. For now.

We switch places again – this time he steps out of the passenger door and walks around to the driver door as I scoot to my right – and Weedbeard sets the old firetruck in motion.

We take every road I’ve never seen before in Montclair. By the time we reach Weedbeard’s house, I’m shaking beyond control. I have no clear memory of walking inside. He pushes me into the bathroom with a towel: “Leave all your clothes outside the bathroom door. If I have to, I’ll burn them. But first they’ll be washed and searched for mites.”

“I keep a packed bag in the back of my car,” I say.

“Give me your keys; we’ll get that for you. Take your time. You swallowed enough of that water that you may need to do more than puke.” He nods toward the toilet and as if on cue, my intestines groan like a disturbed cow. “In the shower, you’ll find a tub of lemon-ginger salt. Use all of it. No matter what.” I close the door and avail myself of the facilities.

The shower is incredible. There’s a plastic jar with holes poked in the screw-top lid. The scent of lemon and ginger throbs off of it, burning my nose at first. Tears blur my vision and when I pick up the jar, a giant globule of thick green chunk sleurbs out of my right nostril. I feel it peeling more out of my sinuses.

It’s twitching.

I sprinkle it with the salt when it hits the shower floor and it sizzles, breaking apart and melting away down the drain. So I shake the salt onto my head and face, then fall to my knees as my sinuses birth an entire litter of giant chunk mollusks. My head feels like it’s wreathed in flame and I can’t breathe.

There’s a knock at the door. Weedbeard pushes it open a crack. “Forgot to tell you,” he calls above the shower. “Start at your feet. Wherever you start, the most will come out.”

I want to tell him to fuck off, but I’m vomiting a bullfrog-sized wad of lurching algaeic phlegm. He laughs. I kick the wall. He laughs again and closes the door.

After a few minutes of blorking these things out of my head, lungs and stomach, I sit back on the floor of the shower, breathing deeply the lemon-ginger steam. I feel reborn. But I’ve only used a quarter of what’s in the jar. So I sprinkle it on my feet and watch as every bit of toe fungus erupts out of me like the flaming snakes in a set of safe and sane fireworks. It’s disgusting. And it’s awesome. But, what the fuck was in that algae?

The sprinkling continues up my entire body, leeching and burning out any fungus. Strange things fall off of me. From my left shoulder, about a dozen fist-sized gelatinous brine shrimp. When they hit the floor of the shower, they burst into a sulfurous reeking pus that brings up another load of vomit. Which is good, because the vomit has what look like tiny fetal batworms squirming and squealing. I salt them and they crackle apart. From my ass crack, a nest of fuzzy crawdads that try to crawl up the walls of the shower. I will not tell you what my junk produced. I will only say that I will never eat pastrami again.

When the salt is completely emptied out, I unscrew the top and fill the jar with water, dousing my head in this way three times. By this time, nothing more comes to the surface. My body feels fresh, clean, new. My toenails are all completely healthy and strong. But legs feel like they’re made of rubber, and I’m moving very slowly.

My bag is sitting inside the bathroom door. I dress in fresh, clean clothes and join Weedbeard at the table, where there’s a small stack of correspondence and a steaming cup of lemon ginger tea.

I’m thinking about this chain of events when Weedbeard walks back in with a tray of charcuterie and freshly baked olive bread. “You’ll note,” he says, “that there’s no pastrami.”

I cant imagine even a nibble. He says, “Eat. You need it.”

I dip a tiny piece of bread in thick homemade mustard and as I bring it to my mouth I’m ravenous, reaching for meats and, oh my, grapes and — yikes, not the cheese —

“Eat the cheese,” Weedbeard says. “Live cultures.”

“I’m lactose intolerant — ”

“Your body will tolerate it. This is special cheese. From a monastery, Mont Perdu, in the French Pyrenees,” he says. Something in that name rings a deep and secret bell in my memory. He watches my eyes as I take a small bite of the cheese.

I see snow and a mountain path. There’s an old man struggling in the cold, fumbling for something in his robes. From the darkness below comes a howl.

“What the fuck?” I say.

Weedbeard looks satisfied. He sits back, munching on a piece of the cheese himself, washing it down with tea that smells different from mine. “I think it’s time for you to read the next letter,” he says.

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  1. That was pretty gruesome. I actually enjoyed this one.

  2. What a cathartic episode, you’re possessed no more … for the time being! Your readers anxiously await the next revelation.

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