Blue Country #12
Practice begins with a series of simple aerobic exercises. Ten sets of jumping jacks, and five minutes of running in place. Next we do a drill that Bob calls the invisible ball. The players run up and down the court with no ball, performing the plays anyway. It’s meant to create a sense of cooperation and break the habit of watching the ball instead of your teammate or rival. Next we run suicides for twenty minutes. Two red lines (we used tape)
Are set up on each side of the court and the players sprint back and forth between them.
Next each individual player must perform 500 push-ups, 700 sit-ups, 400 leg lifts and over forty minutes of intensive yoga themed stretches.
The players then form two lines and attempt to pass a 10-pound medicine ball to eachother from farther and farther distances. The first pair to miss, or drop the ball have to do 70 laps around the gym, the second pair does 60 laps and so on and so forth until only one pair remains. The last pair only has to do ten laps.
The team is sloppy. Bob’s drifting in and out, sometimes falling asleep on the baseline. Joe and Marc only pass to eachother, and my other players lack the heart that I need them to have. I know what we need. I know exactly what we need.
But where am I going to find a black coach who believes in discipline and good sportsmanship? A black coach who can give a motivational speech and make us look deep within ourselves for that greatness that resides in our hearts?
I don’t know where, but I will find our Coach Carter.
It’s late. The streetlights flicker and I am content. The vagueness that I had drifted on, from trip to trip from fuck to fuck; it’s over and I am fulfilled. Theres that feeling of peace in the air tonight. Electricity provides us with all the illumination we need and from that safety we derive calmness. I am calm as I walk this street. I have something that some do not. Tranquility born of love. To love and be loved in return has quelled my nightly need for chemical escape and rampant, meaningless thrill riding. I am complete.
Complete for the first time in…for the first time…ever.
It isn’t like I’ve heard it described by the throngs of the deliriously happy who espouse their sure fire theories on self-fulfillment. I don’t feel like I’m lighter than air. I don’t think that the colors are more vivid. It’s more like a feeling that I now know something that was denied to me, something that I should have been told so, so long ago.
Our lives have meaning in their meaninglessness. To blindly venture forward with no clear identifiable reason. Simply in love I find solace. Free from…goals. Benchmarks. These things that we look to in order to define ourselves. I now don’t need a definition.
That we are here for no reason. That we should cling together and hold on for dear life in the face of an indifferent void that caters to nothing. I know.
That it’s beautiful.
The oxygen is crisp tonight.
I see Kevin walking out of a hair salon and I notice that the salon is closed and from the looks of it has been for sometime. Kevin see’s me and he smiles from ear to ear but points to his watch and hurries on his way. The two dominant memories I have of Kevin: Meeting him for the first time at swimming class when we were both five years old. Dropping acid with him in my first car during sixth period.
Red dripping letters adorn the brick wall that I pass next and I turn my head to read what appears to say “Don’t stop now, keep going. Your not looking for what you’re looking for.” But it’s badly written and it could also say, “Don’t shop now. You’re not cooking with what you’re looking for.”
Further down the street someone has written in orange paint “It’s not going to get any more coherent so if you like it just keep going and if you think it’s going somewhere you’re only half wrong.” They’ve written this all over the sidewalk. I wonder what it means, but only for a moment.
I make a list of the things I need to do in my head and by the time I reach my door I’ve only got two things:
Break up with Hannah and rent “Rob Roy” to watch with Alison.
Break into house, blow nickel sized holes through four heads and grab the girl. Sean clubs her on the side of the head, presumably to knock her unconscious but it doesn’t work. She’s stunned and wide eyed all through the tying up process and she makes no effort to bite or gnash her teeth or anything when Sean sticks the gag in her mouth. I go over the facts that matter to me. We were hired to kill this girl’s family and kidnap her. We’ve done it, it’s done, and lets go see Jackson, let’s get paid. Whatever happens to miss Alison Gentric is none of my concern anymore.
There is a rage in me. It sits at the bottom of my stomache and pushes outwards exerting control over every action I take. Its cause is unknown, it’s goal unknowable. There is no clear path that I travel as I glide down the groove carved for me in the womb. It leads nowhere, it doesn’t stop to feel. I can see people cry and laugh and hug eachother. I see them… react and holy shit…I think they’re reacting honestly. No play-acting. I can’t come to grips with that. It’s spontaneous and natural. It seems to give them meaning; it seems to somehow make their lives more bearable. And then there’s little me, watching them, hiding in not quite plain view. My smile hinges on a spring-loaded mechanism, firing when the proper wire is tripped, but ultimately mechanical. Meaningless, automatic.
It has no name, and though awful is a very subjective term I know what evil is and if I am evil (very likely considering) then that is what it is what it is. No entity telling me to crucify a dog that I find sleeping in the night, there’s no voice that compels me to murder a traveling business man from Tuscaloosa.
But I do it anyway.
I think I’ll have tacos for dinner tonight.
The stars and the night and the full pale moon, all of these things I look at. For the first time in my life I really see them. I see them as they were meant to be seen. I see nature from within. The bark of the tree I lean against scratches against my back. The roughness of it reminds me of a frog’s skin.
I need to get on the 4:30 to Santa Fe. I’ll start fresh there, maybe…try and get on as a…ranch hand?
It’s so quiet. In all the memories I have from youth, outside was always a lively, noisy place. I’m right in the middle of the forest, rubbing the gunmetal clenched in my right fist against the bare skin of my left forearm, and I can’t hear a single cricket chirping.
Not a frog gulping, or a wolf howling. Not even an…owl…hooting.
It plays out in my head a million times. The legs hanging by sinews, her expression when she came to. Her expression that just didn’t understand what was happening, just this huge ten thousand pound “why?” before her eyes rolled back in her head and the blood started coming out of her mouth in gurgling splashes.
It plays out so many times that I don’t know what really happened anymore. I have an image of her head, trailing(edit), rolling out of the garbage bag and throwing up all over my bathtub, reflexively gagging and clinging to life despite a complete lack of body.
“She slipped.” I say. I keep telling this to myself. “It was an accident. I thought she was dead, I panicked.” A voice in my head goes off, taunting me, “She was sixteen.” I grab my head, squeezing my temples, trying to force my conscience to be quiet.
But it just keeps listing off every depraved act I’ve ever committed, sounding them off one after another. “Now, you speak up?” I say to my conscience, almost wryly. “You didn’t seem very bothered at the time.”
And the storyline it creates always culminates in a hacked apart, fucked up bitch bleeding to death on my bathroom floor.
You’re a murderer, it keeps yapping. You’re a fucking killer. She was underage.
I light a fire, using my butane lighter and dry wood I collect. I have plenty of fuel but it still takes at least 50 minutes to get the fucking thing going, and I’m almost dead asleep by the time it gets roaring.
There’s a moment where I actually ask the sky what I should do. It, predictably, just hangs there. God damn useless piece of shit sky.
I am sitting on the old gravel backless bench in Ridgekette Park feeding the pigeons with Marc. Marc is drinking something out of a brown paper bag. Every few minutes or so he’ll just stop the conversation completely and try and grab a bird.
“What are you doing?” I ask after the third time he does this.
“Well…” he says, reacting slowly, turning towards me and shielding his eyes from the bright afternoon sun. “Well you know you can like take a bird and…” he yawns, pretends not to notice the fat rainbow feathered Pigeon pecking away to his left.
“And?” I ask.
He turns towards me annoyed, slightly. “And what Joseph?”
“You can take a bird and…” I ask, prodding for further information.
“Right, you can take a bird and nobody cares. You can have one. Like, I could take one home with me if I wanted to. There’s no law about that.”
“There isn’t?” I ask.
“I don’t know, probably not.” He answers distractedly.
A pause in which an old lady walks by pushing a stroller and gives Marc a dirty look that he immediately reciprocates.
“Why would you want to though?” I ask. I’m sweating, but calm. Not stoned.
“The bird thing?” He responds, giving up and sitting next to me.
“Well, it’s like…” He starts, thinking. “Well you know I wrote this song for the band that I manage.”
“I didn’t know you did that.” I say.
“You mean manage a band.” He states plainly.
“Yeah, remember my girlfriends band? The Fajitas?”
I vaguely do and I answer, “I thought they were the Feminazis…”
“Well, I took over and renamed them to the Fajitas. Almost immediately. I would say…within the first ten minutes of assuming control of the band I changed the name to the Fajitas.”
I nod, taking a bite of my ham and mustard on pumpernickel, “Uh-huh. O.k. so you manage the Fajitas?”
“Yeah,” He answers. “I’m basically the manager.”
“I mean I write the songs.”
I squint my eye involuntarily, unsure. “Well then you’re really more like the song…guy.”
He stiffens up and rebuts, “Well I mean, Joseph I manage to write songs. I’m the song manager. Bands basically exist to play songs and I manage that aspect of the band, Joseph.”
“O.k., I guess so.” I say.
“It’s the single most important aspect of a band Joseph.” He continues.
“Allright,” I say. “Well what are some of the songs that you’ve managed?”
He looks off into space for a second and then clears his nostrils. “Well, one is like…you know that song Love Shack?”
“Yeah,” I say. “The B-52’s. Great song.”
“Right,” He agrees. “It’s a lot like that.”
“What, like how?” I ask.
He turns to me, very much maligned. “What do you mean ‘how’?” He asks. “It sounds a lot like that song. How else do songs resemble eachother Joseph? That’s almost the only thing songs do, is sound like something. The songs sound alike. How do you think?”
I nod, taking it in. “So like what? Do you…sample Love Shack?”
He pauses, tilting his head very slightly, in an off hand way. “Kind of.”
“Oh.” I say. I’m watching a flock of birds’ arc behind a cherry tree.
He ends the pause by adding, “Well I mean I used the same Melody.”
“It’s…thematically similar?” I ask, after another slight silence.
“Right, he answers nodding. “I mean, I used the exact same melody as Love Shack.”
I don’t say anything, avoiding eye contact, thankful for my Aviator Sunglasses. I purse my lips and feel I have to add something. “For… the chorus?” I ask hopefully.
“Pretty much all the way through the song I use the same tune as Love Shack.”
“Ok,” I say acceptingly. “So like the words…”
“Yeah,” he says. “I wrote new Lyrics.”
“O.k., nice.” I say. “So what are the new lyrics?”
He turns towards me, stubbing out a cigarette. “Well, I wrote a new lyric.”
I pause again, assembling this new tidbit. “…Just one?”
“Yeah,” he says. “I changed it from Love Shack to Fuck House.”
“Hmmm…” Is the best I can manage.
“I mean what is a love shack anyway, Joseph? It’s avante garde. Fuckhouse. It’s a new song.”
A nightingale serenades from the cherry tree.
“It’s a good change.” I say.
“Yeah,” he affirms. “It’s better.”
“And also like, remember old man Gregory?” He picks up the conversation again.
“Wait.” I say. “Marc what does this have to do with the birds?”
“I’m getting to that.” He says. “Remember old man Gregory?”
I smile, thinking of the old man who used to walk back and forth down the street near Lake Peace.
“Yeah,” I say. “Fucking crackpot.”
Marc laughs, nodding his head. “Yeah.” Then he starts thinking out loud.
“That’s a funny word.” He says, as if we’d been talking about funny words.
“Crackpot.” He continues. “You take two good things, Pot which is awesome, and Crack, which is apparently fuck-ing am-az-ing, and you put them together and it means ‘crazy’. Two positives become a negative.” He pauses then looks at me. “It’s a crazy world Joseph.” He says as if explaining a fact to me.
“I don’t…know that crack is good.” I say, unsure.
“What are you talking about?” He asks. “Have you not seen what people are willing to do for crack? Weird things.” He says arching an eyebrow at me suggestively. “I mean like, I’m not saying you know but…you know.”
“Yeah.” I say.
There’s another pause.
“I’m talking about whoring Joseph.” He says.
“Yeah, I got that.” I answer.
“People really… can’t seem to get enough of it.”
“Right,” I say hurriedly. “But again… what does this have to do with the birds?”
He shrugs, “I don’t know Joseph. What am I… a bird…a birdologist? Some kind of expert…Birdsmith?”
“No,” I say defensively. “It’s just I asked you a question and you kind of went off on this tangent…”
“Because I’m drunk Joseph.” He says. “I’ve literally been blacking out throughout this whole conversation. I absolutely do not know what we’ve been doing… for the last ten minutes.” He shouts this at me excitedly, belligerent.
“Oh.” I say, my mouth forming a perfect, tiny little ‘o’.
“What did you think was in the bag?” He shouts waving the brown bottle shaped paper bag around, near my face. “A…a fucking Fresca?” He asks. Then laughing. “A diet Fresca? Did you think I was drinking a diet Fresca like some… old diabetic…like an old diabetic person? What am I…Wilfred Brimley?” He giggles more on and off for the next thirty seconds before regaining control.
“Wilfred Brimley is a Hollywood actor, man.” He says, turning serious. “Get your head in the game dude. You need to lay off the drugs, I’m worried about you.”
We stay in the park for another thirty minutes or so, then we part ways and make plans to meet later for dinner with Hannah and his girlfriend, who’s name I’ve forgotten. I still haven’t broken up with Hannah.
I’m sitting on the edge of my bed trying to read this short story that my brother recommended to me. It’s this Japanese thing called Rashomon. It’s completely mellow.
I’m slightly toasted and Wreckless Eric plays quietly on my stereo. I have a bowl of chili steaming away next to me and it smells very cool.
Joe called earlier and I’ve still got that buzz that I get from talking to him. There are also twenty-two messages from Scott on my voicemail. He’s pissed, again, and cannot seem to get it through his head that I’m done with him, don’t give a shit about what he has to say, that I in fact will never call him back.
“Ali…It’s Scott. I have a right to know at least, like where we stand. I don’t think it’s over yet. Call me back.”
I skip to the last message and it’s just him drunk and yelling.
“I know everything Ali. Alison. AL-I-SOOON. I know about the Moore…kid. I know about your side action bitch. BITCH. You fucking bitch. I love you. I LOVE YOU. CALL ME.”
Typically, I ignore him
It’s a nice night so I’ve opened the window and the air filters in and I really am feeling very chill. So when I hear my mother yelling I don’t really pay attention. I’m too focused on the poster that somebody put on my wall of Shannyn Sossamon. But when I hear the gunshot, followed by three more I spring up off the bed. My door flies open and this tall scruffy looking guy steps boldly into my room and immediately points a gun at my head.
“Don’t talk.” He says.
I nod my head assuring him I won’t, and I keep my mouth fucking closed.
In the car I’m tied up and gagged sitting in the backseat, squinting my eyes to keep out the bright lights coming from the streetlamps. Heavy metal blasts at full volume. The shorter one with the dead eyes looks back at me with slight interest and mutters something to his brother, then lights his cigarette with cardboard matches.
“Then knock her the fuck out Dirk, jesus.” The taller one replies.
The shorter one leans back and lifts my chin up so I meet his eyes squarely. “Do you know why we’ve taken you?” He asks. I shake my head no, still surprisingly calm.
He laughs and turns to his brother, “She’s got nerves of steel Seanny.”
“Yeah, yeah, just don’t let her see where were taking her.”
Dirk laughs again, his eyes half open his head shaking limply. “It really has nothing to do with you.” He says. “That’s kind of funny, isn’t it?”
“Dirk, just knock her out for fucks sake.” The taller one shouts impatiently.
“All right, Allright.”
I don’t even see the gunmetal whipping towards my temple. All I see is stars.