Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yes Virginia, there is an Osama Clause

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the fatuousness of a fatuous age. They believe what they hear. They believe only which is on the Web. All egos, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are huge. In this great universe of ours, man is a giant, a whale in his intellect as compared with the carbonating world about him, as measured by the intelligence agencies capable of knowing where it’s really at.

Yes, Virginia, Osama may be dead, but there is still the Osama Clause. It exists as certainly as fear and paranoia and control exist, and you know that they abound and give to your nation its fat private banks and depleted public coffers and intrusive airport scrutiny. Yikes! how insouciant would be the world if there were no Osama Clause! It would be as silly and hippy-dippy as if there were no Arby’s and Jack-In-The-Boxes. There would be childlike faith, poetry, romance to make, like, totally groovy this existence. We should have enjoyment, especially in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be lighted well until our Social Security kicks in. Get real, Virginia!

Not believe in the Osama Clause! You might as well not believe in Homeland Security. Our people hired men to comb all Pakistan to nail Osama, but even so, the Osama Clause still permits waterboarding your little friend Faisel’s papa, do what’s the whup? Nobody sees the Osama Clause, but that is no sign that there is no Osama Clause. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor human rights organizations can prevent. Did you ever see gay people dancing on The O’Reilly Factor? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world until they are yanking off one of your fingernails with pliers in a quiet little house in Cuba.

You tear apart the Muslim’s ribcage and see what makes the urge to kill, kill, kill Americans inside, but there is a veil covering the terrorist world, which not the strongest CIA or FBI Director, nor even the united strength of all our Drones that ever flew could tear apart. Only hate, jingoism, Special Ops and Predators can for a moment push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal gore beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else more real and abiding and worthy of bankrupting our nation and scaring its people.

No Osama Clause! Thank God! it lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, it will continue to make glad the heart of control freaks.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Medijuana

A recent report filed with the Venice, California Police department:

The suspect is male, about sixty years old, has a fairly full head of salt-pepper hair for a man his age, and is average height and weight. His clothes look fresh off a Target rack, and if I had to guess what kind of car he drives I’d say a Honda Civic, white. He gave no hint of potential violent behavior when he entered my clinic on Lincoln Boulevard at about one o’clock this afternoon.

Veronica, my very capable physician’s assistant, took his vitals (which were good for a man his age) and recorded his complaint of chronic lower back pain with occasional excruciating pangs extending down his inner thighs. She then escorted him to my examination room. Veronica, who incidentally has worked for me since I began my practice in 1972 (I started out as a general practitioner) instructed the man to undress, and gave him a gown to wear until I was able to examine him (the Spring break can fill my clinic with UCLA students, and I was running a little behind schedule).

As soon as I entered the examination room the suspect became aggressive, and informed me he wished to see “the real doctor.” He became even angrier when I told him I was the real doctor. He then produced from his pile of clothing the free tabloid publication found anywhere on Abbot Kinney Boulevard advertising my clinic, and asked, “So who’s this?”

By now the Venice police are used to the fact that the medical marijuana clinics in our city are each doing its best to manage chronic pain syndrome, an anguish that afflicts, apparently, a large portion of our citizenry. We do our utmost to spread the word that our walk-in clinics provide ‘real’ doctors (not mere physician’s assistants who cannot prescribe medication), generally for a fee averaging $40.00, and that if a patient is diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome he can leave the clinic not only with a prescription, but also the first dose, generally for an additional fee of about $30.00.

So that our message cannot easily be overlooked, we generally hire, for a fee of about $500.00, an attractive UCLA coed to don a white coat and stethoscope, sometimes a pair of glasses, carefully selected I assure you, and have her photo inserted over the words “Real Doctor Will See You, Not A Physician’s Assistant.”

I looked at the tabloid’s photograph, and sure enough there was Stephanie, a theater major as I recall — yes, I see you have her picture there on the wall — no, I did not realize she offered her image to other publications. Our photographer called it d├ęcolletage; you may call it cleavage if you insist, although I, obviously, prefer a professional’s terminology. Remember, the purpose is to make people who needlessly suffer from chronic pain syndrome to know of our services.

The suspect, however, became adamant that “the real doctor” examine him; his particular concern was with the pain shooting down his inner thighs. I explained, perhaps with unnecessary finesse, that ‘Doctor Stephanie’ was on vacation, and that I was perfectly capable of diagnosing his problem and addressing it. The suspect made noise about his “junk.” I assured him I didn’t have to go anywhere near his “junk,” in fact, I explained even ‘Doctor Stephanie’ wouldn’t have needed to, either.

The suspect then shouted loudly about our “operation,” and said that he would take his business to another clinic where they had “real doctors” and not “old quacks” like me. His aggressive behavior became very alarming, especially to some of the patients in the middle of treatment, one of whom emerged from the "quiet room" and tried to calm him with quotes from Vivekananda. Several male patients in my waiting room got up and left with him after he informed them that ‘the babe doctor’ was on vacation. He left without paying the $40.00 examination fee, which I am entitled to for not only Veronica’s taking his vitals, but also the excessive time I had spent with him; my examinations usually last as long as it takes to scribble a prescription.

You will find the suspect, I’m sure, somewhere on Abbot Kinney Boulevard; no doubt he is clutching a copy of the informative brochure financed by me and my fellow practitioners, and probably is harassing a colleague as we speak. I will conclude with the statement — this is no criticism of the Venice Police Department — that the State of California has much work to do to protect the safety and interests of the professionals it has enlisted to battle the scourge of chronic pain syndrome.

[signed] Dr. Malcomb Witherspoon

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Owsley, an Ode

First, my credentials: I did attend a Cream concert at the Denver Coliseum in ’68, but fell asleep. Although a mere fifty miles from the event, I did not attend the ’69 Woodstock Festival, nor once ever lied and said I did. I did attend the 1970 New Year’s Eve Jimi Hendrix concert at the Fillmore East, but fell asleep. If I were French and old enough I would admit I was not in the French Underground.

I posit the above to help you believe the relevant assertion; I did ingest one of the famous Purple Owsley tabs of acid in June, 1967. Oh my God, did I ever.

I was not, and am not the Robert Parker of LSD tasting, but by the tender age of 16 going on 17 my fairly expanded consciousness was able to discern good from bad psychedelic bouquet, and with Owsley’s recent death (from of all things, a car accident) it is fitting to pay tribute to his greatest achievement.

I rolled into Haight soon after ‘Sergeant Pepper’ was unleashed, with ‘Lucy’ skying from every tie-dyed curtained window, halter-tops the eye-boggling rage, the Straight Theatre in full blast, and the San Francisco Oracle office ephemerally posted on 1371 Haight Street. In that stark office foyer I was offered the tab.

The Monterey Pop Festival had just ended days before, which I mention because someone said Owsley whipped up the batch of Purple specifically for that event (which I missed; more cred, no?).

Purple. Such a lovely, tempting purple had never lain in my palm, another testament to Owsley’s absolute combination of science with esthetics. The enticing color overwhelmed my usual half-tab wussiness, and I downed the whole thing.

The Summer Of Love is true and sad, true that there had never been a moment of such generational bond, sad that it evaporated by August. No surprise, six weeks had to be the limit for such a good binge; the effort to maintain the high inevitably unveiled the rather seedy core of peace & love (as George Harrison would identify and complain about later that summer).

But baby, this was June, and who knew?

From the Oracle we wandered into Golden Gate Park (friendships were so easy to strike up), where after just minutes the back of my throat tingled, followed by a radiance felt throughout the body, and then… see how astronauts describe that moment when the engines are fired, and the scaffolding falls away...

Or try; WHOOSH, “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in every thing…”

Or, perhaps most usefully, abandon astronauts and Shakespeare and summarize the sensation in today’s parlance, :-) :-).

Anyway, with fireworks blazing we were off to the Avalon Ballroom for a Canned Heat concert. While waiting in line, one of my mates went cosmic (a good rehearsal; several months later he would remove everything but his glasses and run down Avenue B in the Lower East Side; it got him out of the draft), but we ushered him inside, and into an environment where a nuclear fuel rod could have melted without attention. Wow, the drummer passed out!

Then it was over to the Spiritual Mother’s place on Frederick, where I would be introduced to the milieu’s version of a den mother; unfortunately she had not yet arrived home from the hospital to where she had been sent a day or so ago after self-introducing an abortifacient with both desired and dire effect. While waiting for her homecoming with several bearded cub scouts, her twelve year old son, dressed as a cowboy, kicked incessantly at my shins. I was told that Owsley tested every new batch on the buckaroo; if true, well, every great man has his smirch, although at the time I thought, gosh, how cool is that?

It was the only trip where I had the honest-to-God ‘white light’ experience. I somehow had shucked off the little buckin’ buckaroo to enter into a quiet meditation, during which the universe vanished, and I looked into the Void, almost white; a little golden glimmer flickered in midst of the infinite expanse, it grew more glittery, it gestated a form, it became a... empty quart carton of Knudsen milk sitting at the top of Spiritual Mother’s garbage pail.

;-) ;-)

She arrived! Indeed, carried in like a pasha and settled on the sofa and immediately provided with a bottle of Ripple from a six-pack (cowboy was, too). She looked a hundred — everybody over thirty did — and to the question, “How was it?” she answered, “Embarrassing, I went into the emergency room crying, ‘My baby, oh, I’ve lost my baby’ [abortion very illegal in ’67] and they find this gigantic spike in my womb.”

What happened after that?

Well, here I am after all these years. Last acid I dropped (and it wasn’t an Owsley; nothing like it) was the day Nixon resigned (I scribbled on a pillow, “Nixon Failed History;” it seemed very clever at the time). Jobs (plural), wife (singular) and kids (two). Been a long, but I wouldn’t say strange trip.

It won’t be long before I’m sucking up the Social Security, and the disposable income my cohort enjoyed in the Haight (did I mention the Free Store?) today’s tykes will never know, what with digging deep to make sure I get my monthly check. I hear that the reefer’s gotten a lot better, but sold for a price no kid wandering into Haight today could possibly afford. That whole era seems like a hallucination; money did buy happiness, at least six weeks of it.

I would say goodbye to Owsley, except I thought he died decades ago, and I’m still weirded out that his name was Owsley Stanley.

So, goodbye to all that Purple Owsley; it sure kept me awake!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Hell For Becky

It’s getting tough for Christian baiters, what with the Pope exonerating Jews for the murder of Jesus and evangelist Bob Bell expressing doubt about Hell and eternal damnation; what supple targets are left? Yes, the Virgin Birth, and sundry miracles, but really, what are they compared with God damning all practitioners of a particular faith, or allowing Satan his indestructible Abu Ghraib to house them for eternity?

Doubt first gnawed at me in second grade while watching little Becky Goldberg ply her numbers. Her father, Dr Goldberg, by then several times had stuck me with needles while blathering about polio and tetanus and ignoring my wailing, he had even made my mother complicit in the torture, and my vague understanding that he would spend all his afterlife consumed in flames for killing Jesus was not altogether hideous, but Becky, too?

I’ll just say this about Becky; she was the prettiest, sweetest girl in school, and my faith in the Internet is repeatedly shaken to its core by its inability to locate her. She sat two desks up and one over, and my perfect, uninterrupted view of her made me a casuist. She would go to Hell with her dad for killing Jesus, you see, and right over there sat Billy McKay, who, when not tearing wings from flies or tossing toads into his family’s outdoor incinerator or discovering some new, awful thing to do to stray cats, would beat up his kid sister. And all Billy had to do was ask Jesus’ forgiveness and he wouldn’t go to Hell like Becky, in fact, with the right words he’d have his own cloud, and worse, if he got run over and killed that day he’d even get one of those neat, little bow and arrows to play with in Heaven.

I began then to think God got it all wrong, and I was pretty sore at Him for having made up His mind a long time ago that Becky was going to Hell with her dad (who deserved it). Such had grown my apostasy that I eventually thought Dr. Goldberg deserved a pass, too. Billy McKay was that bad.

Anyway, the Goldbergs became my ammo during my late teens and early adulthood (such a period existed then) whenever some Christian tried to re-enlist me. Usually the first thing they’d pop out was “God Loves All His Children,’ and I hit right back with Becky accused of killing Jesus and her going to Hell for it. They tried the ‘Well, Becky can always convert,” and I’d say, “Yeah, and meanwhile her grandma Goldberg sits in Hell.” And some of them shot back, “Sometimes Mother Mary can get somebody out of Hell,” and I’d say, “Show me that.” Of course, they couldn’t, it was an idea that somebody cooked up to lure people like me who liked Becky too much to re-enlist.

I slowly backed into God by, if I may coin the word, develation. I had started out in life, as you may have inferred, accepting the whittled down Christian teaching for naughty tykes, which linked the Thou Shalt Nots with God. I can say, with the perspective of years, that Thou Shalt Nots formed at least a basis of morality. Perhaps that had been the original intention, to instill the idea that we come from perfection. Unfortunately, for my Christian soul, as my corrupt flesh entered into puberty the ephemeral flames of lust for Becky, now a budding seventh grader, coupled with masturbation that barely knew bounds, it became expedient if not altogether necessary to parole God and Thou Shalt Nots in order to fend off nightmares of the eternal flames of Hell.

Paroled, but not forgotten. How could they be forgotten? Especially in a world with tons of people who never knew Becky, never masturbated, and therefore never stop shouting into television cameras about Thou Shalt Not and God. As I suspect with every Christian cum atheist and/or disciple of Becky, Hell still wanders on the other side of the fence, and there being no way of really getting rid of it requires the endeavor to build the fence higher to at least hide it.

Ironically (because he professed atheism), it was a Mark Twain’s essay on Shakespeare that began my process of develation. Twain agreed with the scholarship that doubted Shakespeare’s authorship of the Canon. By Twain’s time the question had already been raised concerning how a man from some backwater with scant education could produce works implying the author’s close acquaintance with Latin, the Court, law and philosophy and other disciplines assumed beyond the grasp of native intelligence. One answer provided, as you know, is that a well-educated lord of the realm actually wrote the Canon, but attributed the work to a lowly theater manager because dabbling in theater was too beneath the dignity of lords of the realm.

Twain’s essay resurrected this not unusual ho hum. Twain, however, raised one additional question, and not a bad one; why was Shakespeare’s will, that legal instrument famously gifting his wife with his “second best bed,” completely silent on the bequeathing of books? Books, Twain argued, were a very valuable commodity at the time of Shakespeare’s death; he further postulated that whoever wrote the Canon must have had books, and the fact that Shakespeare apparently had none to bequeath led Twain to conclude that a lord of the realm had to have written the Canon, and that Shakespeare was no more than a lowly theater manager, and that if he had written anything it was no more than a ledger explaining, say, how Titus Andronicus previewed a hundred times before taking a 65 million dollar bath. Or something like that; it’s been a while since I read the essay.

Any way, the matter of no books mentioned in Shakespeare’s will shook my belief in the potential of native intelligence.

That is, until the next time I laughed through a whole scene of Shakespeare’s low comedy. You know, farting, belching, body parts, that stuff you find scattered through his plays from Richard III to All’s Well That Ends Well, from Lear to the Merry Wives of Windsor. Now tell me; what lord of the realm could write that? Who could have tea with the Queen of England in the afternoon, and then repair to his manor to construct, for instance, Toby Belch? My answer to this, let it be known, is I’m right back in under-educated Shakespeare’s corner.

That’s my metaphor for ‘develation.’ First I believed, then I didn’t, then I did again by asking, what lord of the realm could stick puns on body parts into Hamlet?

It exposes my reliance on native intelligence and lack of exquisite education to admit that this whole question of God, for me, now is rephrased, What the fuck else could ever come up with all this? The answer that it all sprang from some entity we’ll never really know or comprehend not only satisfies me, it’s the only answer that can satisfy me. It’s not very Christian or sophisticated, and I’m not trying to get you to buy in.

But now that Becky Goldberg is innocent of killing Jesus, and now that there is no Hell, I’m expecting her to read this and get in touch.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bieber Bomb

Bieber Bomb

Now that Justin Bieber has come out against killing babies it’s time to sit up and pay attention; this is probably as close as we’ll ever get to an actual fetus making a pronouncement on the issue of abortion. (That whooshing sound? Sarah Palin swooping from the trees to cuddle up with the moppish lad. ALERT SARAH: Yes, we elected an Indonesian Muslim president, but sixteen-year old Canadians still can’t serve as vice president.)

Bieber’s foray into the Abortion Wars is a game-changer, as anyone knows who remembers the Cold War and Annette Funicello coming out from under her Mickey Mouse ears in 1959 to declaim against Communism (“It sounds kinda bad… I’m with the President on this one.”), thus cementing what would be thirty years of concerted United States policy, resulting finally with the Mickey Mouse trademark waving o’er the ramparts of the destroyed Berlin Wall.

Billy Mummy’s 1966 pronouncement, “I think it would be sort of cool,” stopped all the dithering and galvanized the Congress into digging deeply into our pockets to fund sending Americans to the moon. (Where are the ‘Lost In Space’ re-runs, by the way?)

Jackson Five (with cute little Michael) and, presto, Martin Luther King Day!

The list of paradigm-altering pubescent pronouncements goes on, and their effects on American policy are well documented (The Opie Dicta, The Beaver Bromide, etc.). Therefore, Bieber’s ABORTION IS BAD had better be studied for its implications. Example: Malthusians will fear His Bieberness’s defense of the fetus will increase exponentially the number of new Americans to be born in the coming days of repealed Obama-care. Other policy makers, however, will point out the likelihood of vast numbers of OB-GYN nurses, stripped of their rights to collectively bargain, to collectively botch enough deliveries to maintain a stable population. And if de-unionized nurses working in geriatrics cooperate and switch around a few meds, hey, all this could work out for the better. Go Justin! (And thank you, Wisconsin.)

One little adjustment to the Bieber oeuvre should be considered; lad, that melodic syrup warbling under your golden tresses gets girls thinking thoughts they really shouldn’t if we want to prevent that distressing question from being asked all too often, Should I tell my parents, or should I tell Dr. Murder I’m pregnant? Although it hardly seems possible, your ejaculate and the ejaculate of boys even younger and sweeter looking than you get girls pregnant; knock it off with the cool moves! Didn’t you start out with Christian music? Why not stick to sobering ditties about Hell and Dr. Murder’s legs sticking out of Satan’s maw? Help us bring the temperature down and keep the panties up.

After that, maybe help us out with the fracking issue.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lara Logan

What happened to Lara Logan is not funny, and whoever makes a punch line out of it deserves nothing but contempt. That said, comments and punch lines twittering about our modern wireless civilization, when boiled down, pose a question coeval with the mastodons, What Did She Expect?

Probably as you read this, someone is twittering (accurately, sad to say), “If it were Candy Crowley, and not Lara Logan no one would care.”

Indeed, if it were Candy Crowley the punch lines would only be more grotesque, and the level of concern and sympathy correspondingly less.

To draw even more distinctions from Twitter world, when Ms Crowley’s colleague, Anderson Cooper, was roughed up in Cairo, the Twittered sentiment ran more toward what a ‘man’s man’ he is, rather than expressions of sympathy. Were there any memorable punch lines?

One is afraid to acknowledge Ms Logan’s good looks, as if to do so would make it appear he or she (particularly he) can accept them as a reasonable explanation for the reactions to what happened to her, not to mention what happened to her. Here in the 21st century there is still something unhappy and imprisoning about beauty in a woman, and the fact of Ms Logan’s attractiveness cannot be ignored. Nor is it, neither by men or women; sadly, perhaps it is natural that it is only snidely acknowledged.

An attractive man exists with the world’s obeisance to his self-possession. He may have worries, but a sudden, violent sexual assault is nowhere near the top of his list. In the absence of debilitating neurosis or vices, he advances, collects and conquers in a manner that seems to represent the natural order of things.

What beautiful, successful woman has not “schemed” her way to the top, or not used her “wiles,” or not “exploited” men’s weaknesses to achieve her glory?

And this is not only a man’s invention; indeed, some of the most shocking responses to Ms Logan’s assault come from women! That these women, many of them accomplished, accept the stereotype is the only explanation for this.

Meanwhile, responsible male Twitterers repress their confusion of assault with seduction to achieve the distance necessary to express their true sympathy for Ms Logan. It’s not that every man’s secret wish is that he was there, but the word sexual, even bracketed by ‘violent’ and ‘assault,‘ in a context involving a woman he knows to be attractive is like the brightest star, something that automatically pries open his imagination. It explains why men generally have the longest faces when expressing their sympathy and revulsion to the assault on Ms Logan.

Many modern Tweets and blogs concerning this crime in ancient Cairo precincts have managed to revive a stereotype as old as earliest human society: The strong man simply clubs his way to the beautiful woman, the remaining women are satisfied to see a rival carried off.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Desert Roadside

The shackled red 1965 BSA 500 swayed in the back of Matt’s 1967 powder blue Chevy pick-up truck as the old slant six pushed the shined up metal through the white New Mexico desert eastward toward Mesopotamia where the US government had detailed Matt to a flimsy humvee. In San Diego Matt’s little league and Babe Ruth trophies sit on shelves in his room and his school crap fills drawers, and the dog still wonders, and the nineteen years since Matt’s birth drifted through the house like clouds of finished air, Burroughs couldn’t breathe them with Mindy, and their recent fights unmasked the realization Matt was the only reason certain issues hadn’t already erupted, so fine, she could have the trophies and school work, and the wondering dog, and he took the restored machines. Long before Mesopotamia would be Virginia, where Burroughs’ brother lived and raised daughters, and bragged, when it had been funny, “At least they ain’t cannon fodder.”

Burroughs thought about the saddest things without it making him sad, a gift from the trance for driving since early morning through the desert, the bald mesas and scrub growth flew by idiotically the way paper and plastic fly by an ambulance.

He heard that somewhere nearer the Mississippi things grew and flourished without vast water systems.

His mind had stopped working like a mind, when Burroughs realized a hitchhiker just east of the on-ramp, a half-mile down the road. He woke to a conscious decision to ignore the hitchhiker, but changed his mind, which now worked like a mind, when he saw it was an attractive girl with a stuffed knapsack at her feet, her beckoning thumb part way over the macadam stirred memories of the anxious frontiers where a young woman’s eyes looked back and not past.

New York City, she said. Holy cow, what a truck! What year?

Sixty-seven.

Man, that’s old.

Of course, he thought; ’67 was the year he had been born.

She slung her knapsack between them; it seemed to contain all her life and sentience like an oyster’s shell. She would have been nice for Matt. Mindy again. Millions of seconds passed in a gray streak as he watched her climb in.

I’m Burroughs.

Sithy. No, I don’t lisp; Cythera, but they call me Sithy. You ride the bike?

He thought of riding bones. Burroughs put it in gear, and shared what little he knew about BSAs, British, you know, who were into high-performance machinery, added smatters of Matt. What are you doing in the middle of a desert?

She complained about growing up in the deadbeat town just back aways, and gosh, but ain’t it happening in New York, and fuck L.A.; no way she wanted people to think she was looking for a part. Chicago; Home of the Cubs? ain’t there enough futility? And where are you going?

So he lied and said he was going to New York. They take women, too, he mused, imagining her in fatigues, and thought of that desert.

He prompted her to talk about herself and her interests and her impossible visions, because girls, even lying girls, maybe especially lying girls – even if he didn’t want to realize she was a lying girl – dissolve a man’s propriety into a basin of warm instinct. Burroughs vaguely resumed a time when his interest in a woman cancelled his interest in her thoughts. The sound of her voice made her prettier, and he kept up with the questions, which answers lead him farther back from the hanging gardens.

Tranceless miles passed, until there stood, well off the macadam, another hitchhiker. He was copper because he was Native-American, a chip long chiseled from the big, American block, and swept into the desert, never to be bothered again until, of course, somebody found gold there, so flung to another Bureau, which kindly has kept his history in a drawer with some special endowments. And because there were no pennies in his eyes they were black, and didn’t look at Burroughs, they saw through him; it was more complicated than x-rays, they saw into the episode of what it’s like to be dead. He wasn’t near an on-ramp, he had burned in the sun miles and miles from the nearest hope, and maybe that’s why the girl stirred with an unspoken expectation they should stop, so Burroughs did. And just as he did the evening sun slipped under a mesa behind them, and conceived the strange New Mexican premonition of a vast electrical storm. He had a rolled up blanket under his arm. Because the fabric was old and worn the Indian was young, maybe Matt’s age. The girl’s age.

How did you end up here?

The sheriff in Artesia didn’t like me.

Sithy stirred with indignation.

But the Indian stopped her by raising his hand, and asked, Witchita Falls?

Witchita Falls was on the way. The Indian climbed in the truck bed with the BSA. He had no interest in high-performance, or at least asked nothing about it, he sat with his back to the cab and faced backward, westward, past the gloomy bones to a sheriff’s Artesia.

Some miles into falling darkness Sithy stopped answering questions; she wanted to know “stuff” about Burroughs, I mean, where’d you get a name like that? she started.

His parents met in college lit and thought Burroughs was the real voice. He omitted Mindy and Matt and the wondering dog and years in Customer Service, where he’d done quite well, he didn’t have to actually talk to customers, he trained people how to talk to customers, and it was a big company, and it gave promotions, and his brother with the daughters in Virginia didn’t have to worry about him, he was fine, even if Mindy got the rest. Instead he told Sithy a fabulous tale about aviating and adventure, and ain’t life grand even if you don’t have a pot to piss in. He was more than twenty years older than Sithy, old enough to know better, and Mindy had been his only ignorance all the years grounded, but on he flew.

Night, entropy spread into the long, long drive.

Burroughs began to hallucinate children running onto the highway and said he’d better pull over and get “shut eye,” like it would require fifteen minutes, although he would need more, but he felt timid about the arrangements, because when the Chevy stopped moving he knew the desert would turn into something different, he didn’t know how, maybe the sun buried in some sheriff’s heart of hearts would never rise again, or it would rise from the west, or just rise like it had for nineteen years and not offer any excuses.

Over there beyond his doubts was a crag, it may have been volcanic rock flung from Albuquerque or a fizzled meteor, but it was big enough to hide the Chevy from the highway, and maybe the queasy breeze would erase the tire tracks and prevent some moseying sheriff’s interest. The desert was full darkness; as he got out of the truck the spatter of stars reminded him of a coke party in the ‘80s. He had a sleeping bag and she that tiny knapsack, and what was she thinking, anyway?

I’ll stay here, said the Indian; the Chevy was backed up to the meteor instead of a drawer, and his old blanket draped from his shoulders.

Burroughs laid out the sleeping bag like a short highway, it just abruptly began and ended and the sands made no destination, until Sithy said, Why not over there? to where there posed shyly in the night a baby meteor, not the height of a lamb but taller than sleepers, oh maybe only a couple of hundred feet away, she even took his hand, and the way there felt wild with pulse and no breathing.

But there was youth, more a mood than condition; it’s possible to restore conditions, as Matt might have pointed out, because he’d done it with the Chevy and BSA, but even with the dents and faded paint and plugs addressed, nobody would say they were young. Burroughs, a Customer Service manager, fucked Sithy, while Sithy aviated and gulped air. He felt lifted from the salty ocean clogged with single-use plastic baggies he’d seen down by the San Diego harbor, and transported to a freshwater lake in a crisp, north Canadian province, and the lake had no conditions, the lake even – if it wasn’t lying – let a wind disturb its surface. There the mood died, and his condition unveiled. He cried on a shore with Matt’s remains, god, that mess Christians make of late-term abortions, the desert just ran with bloody tissue, there was nothing but shreds in that stupid coffin, but Sithy’s soothing voice and the distant, long promised but silent electrical storm finally gave sleep, and the last one he questioned was the wondering dog. I wonder, too; what the fuck? What the fuck happened to him?

It rose from the east after all, wide and sage like the Capitol dome, and Burroughs was alone. The BSA had been unloaded from the Chevy, and Cythera and the Indian were long down the road, probably past Lubbock, somewhere nearer the Mississippi, a flourishing place they belong or think they belong, in any condition but his, but the bike was gone; Burroughs imagined them quietly pushing it down the highway until they were out of noise, and then firing the baby up, and roaring off, not thinking about sheriffs, just aviation and the crazy sky dreams kids have, maybe that was the key to Everything.

The Chevy drove more easily without the BSA shackled to the back. Rather than beeline to Virginia he navigated without a map. And it was not too many miles out of Denver on a four-lane highway where busy Colorado customer service workers placated like a swarm of high performance locusts where he saw her, again hitchhiking. He was in the left lane where he didn’t belong.

She recognized him. She wagged her thumb over the macadam with the urgency of his next breath.