A journal of narrative writing.
Behind City Market. Iron River, Michigan: Late Summer 1976
Page 4

“Arnie, how the hell are you?” Butch said as he shook his booty and trampled over Mother’s Rod Stewart album.  Arnie looked about eighty and was really slow with his speech and movements. He moved his head up for ten seconds and then down for ten more before opening his mouth to respond,

“I’mmmmmm goooood.” Any delay that he had, the monkey on his back made up for in a hurry.  It was a little spider monkey that could fit into the palm of your hand.  Arnie had the leash running from his neck to the monkey’s so it wasn’t apparent who was in control of who.  As Arnie made the slow rounds, the monkey began masturbating out of nervousness and tossed his tiny wads of semen into the crowd.  It was no different than the sweat flying off a forehead, so no one really noticed except for LittleMan and I.  We held our stomachs and stopped talking the rest of the night.  All we had was laugh left in us and we did it until it hurt.

“Bang!” Grampa yelled—just like that for no apparent reason—to derail conversations and get people to lose track for a while. He had a big arm around one of the black strippers. Butch was next to him shooting the shit with the other stripper at his arm. When he yelled “Bang,” she hit the floor and Brian screamed, but only with his eyes and no sound.  They swelled up as big as the vinyl 33.3s Amy and Holly were spinning.  It was if that expression summoned in a new mood, and all of the sipping started to manifest itself in a slow mirror where images were delayed to the brain, and by the time they got there, the light had already changed.  A glass falling to the ground was already broken, so no need to waste the energy moving suddenly across the room to catch it. It was no different than looking through a telescope at the Orion Nebulae, whose reality we see is actually already thousands of years old. 

“Who’s hungry?” Mother said, and she brought out the brownies stuffed with grass.  Everybody ate them and asked no questions.  In our newfound silence, LittleMan and I ate them too, which made staring into the slow mirror even more interesting.  We watched the reflections of the strippers as they taunted the monkey by lifting up their shirts and presenting their nipples.  The monkey screeched and swatted at them as if it had no interest in ever nurturing again.  It preferred to suck on Arnie’s hairy earlobe, which—if sucked hard enough—produced wax drawn out from the canal, which the monkey rubbed on its lips like a mother-balm.

At this time of night, most of the light was coming from candles, or tiny lamps situated in corners with blue or red flower patterned bandanas thrown over them.  The light was even darker given my sipping.  People were talking again, but not just about the monkey, they were talking about me and Little Man too.  I knew they must have thought we were cool again, at least the guys.

“He’s tanked!”

“Holy shit, Kate, look at your kid!  I think he’s fucked up!”

“Hey sugar,” said one of the black girls tickling me under the chin.  I put her fingers in my mouth and sucked them.  She pulled them out fast and acted like she was disgusted, but immediately laughed and slapped her full hip.  The monkey mimicked her, slapping his own hip as he sat on Arnie’s head now, like a really fucked up hat. Amy was playing the drum sequence from Black Sabbath’s Iron Man.  I moved right in to doing my psychedelic rendition of the robot. It was customary that I did a spastic interpretation of the robot to this section, as I often did at the parties she and Holly threw when they babysat me. It was an incredibly fast section, but tonight it was syrupy, sweet and slow.

People had brownies smeared all over their faces, which warped in the body heat of a naughty monkey and strippers and two little kids grasping each other’s hands, spinning slower than expected.  The slow mirror was not only slow now, it was warped so that you could see what people truly looked like before they had time to fix up themselves for the present.  Heads were misshapen and stretched wider than the shoulders.  People had no necks and no hips in a warped mirror.  All my life I longed for people to look like this, like cartoons; but, when it really happened all around me, an actual carnival sounded a little better because of its slight emotional distance. Here, with weed in my stomach, trying to spin as fast as possible and managing to go slower than the second hand on a clock, I wanted a little distance now.  Somebody was shouting “monkey” and laughing deep and slow, and they weren’t talking about the monkey.  It was Big Tom doing his bad math, figuring the strippers looked no different than the monkey. 

“Fucking monkey bitches,” he started saying, and the slow laugh.  Gary Taggert chimed in, and they had that strange bond I would often witness in the future that drew me away from my U.P.

There were other types of gentleman I learned about, gentleman who didn’t just wipe the tip of their dick with a square of toilet paper after they pissed.  These gentlemen were in direct opposition to the men that treated women like bad objects who deserved to be punished.  U.P gentleman treated women as good objects that should be placed on a shelf next to stuffed fish and guns. Butch was a gentleman.  And he was big.  Grampa Duke was a gentleman. And he was big.  And not so old.  He yelled “bang” again, but in this new time progression it sounded like something thick poured out of a bottle, “Baaaaaannnnnggggggg,” and his arm came around from behind his back like the slow arm of a record player, until it settled into the groove of Big Tom’s mouth.  The momentum was transferred to Big Tom, as his torso twisted backwards while his feet stayed planted as long as they could, until they gave into the momentum too and spun into the air, launching off a little like a failed rocket.  His arms opened up from the centripetal force, so that at a point in his spinning, about 90 degrees, he struck a perfect Crucifixion pose. The liquid from his burnt orange drink that LittleMan had mixed up cascaded into the air like the flame from his rocket fuel.  And all of the slowed voices were like deep groans, and I incorporated the rhythm into my Black Sabbath robot dance routine, dodging the body as it fell.

Butch was in the corner in love with my adolescent aunts, feeling quite chivalrous (I had learned that word earlier in the week after reading about King Arthur), and responded appropriately to the disrespectful behavior like the way he responded to dead meats. He made a fist, and rather than swinging it around from the side, he raised it above his head and came down on Gary Taggert's like a hammer on a carnival anvil.  All of the slowed motion was the closest thing I had ever seen to a ballet.  It was beautiful the way everyone had memorized their moves and executed them with perfect precision.  Gary fell to his knees with his back perfectly erect, and then forward onto his face, keeping the perfect posture.   Mother was in the bathroom eating Jensen because she had ran out of brownies when she saw the thick sound seep under the door. She patted the sides of her mouth with her wrist and excused herself from Jensen’s table. When she got to the living room, the breezes of bodies had blown out most of the candles.  There was the antique lamp in the corner, and a yellow streetlight outside that lit up the room, like a lighter flame in the shelter of a cupped palm on a dark, windy night.  Here we all were in a cupped hand, like failed action figures that nobody wanted to buy. Nobody every wanted “Suzy Stripper” or ” Indian Jensen,” “Butcher Butch” or “Ray the Yooper.”  So whoever’s hand held us must have either really cared, or was just plain bored.  Perhaps there was a closeout sale on seventies sub-culture heroes. Tonight we weren’t boring.  We celebrated all the inappropriate behaviors that bonded us together appropriately. No one cared much that Big Tom and Gary Taggert were laid out on the floor, or that LittleMan was puking at age six off the front porch.  With bright colored alcohol and chocolate Marijuana in our stomachs, ages were collapsed.  Grampa Duke and I were peers. No one cared that the monkey started throwing shit rather than semen. We all started throwing shit: the figurative and literal collapsed together.  Full of laugh, I still couldn’t manage to speak.  I kept dancing and dancing, with slow, jerky, artificial movements trying to mimic something of artificial intelligence.  If I did talk at that moment, I would have only been simulating some emotion.  So I straightened my hands and tweaked my head and hips. I malfunctioned and started spinning on my heels, stuck in a rotating pattern.  I spun until the few light bulbs burnt out and everything was black.  I woke up in the back of a 1960 Ford Falcon Station Wagon, sleeping on top of 12 cases of beer with Barbie at my side.  Mother turned the ignition.

And then we moved.