Gary juts his teeth out clean toward the cameras. He’s the spitting image of some long lost. He’s written things like PLASTIC MENTAL or ROVING UTOPIITE on the reams of denim that sort of lord over him as if he were some guttural Sherpa. He hawks and lets whatever fly outward as we sort of hone in to be closer to the god in sneakers.
They take this photograph and this one, with some assumption that icons are generated this way anymore. We’re not convinced but Gary just looked so ready. Hoity-voidy had been a band for like six months and it was all downhill. We’d aligned with someone mostly interested in metallic floods from oiled guitars, who saw the Bleach-ish potential in our stupid disarray and willed it together. These photos were out of another century, we couldn’t make sense of it. They’d be on posters in small record shops with a photograph somewhere of the cover of an LP whenever it was finished and that would be that but we’d still all work in call centers. Gary though, he could manage. Gary lived with his parents because at an early age he’d convinced himself that he was sort of nuts and it’d only worked better and better the more it became apparent he probably was a manic depressive or whatever. His parents didn’t mind because they didn’t mind about all.
He spits up and it comes back to catch him square on the left eyelid and some of it flecks away to skim my dumbcheek. I wince and laugh at Gary like “he’s our pet” then kiss him hard as gapers snap the pixels. It wasn’t about some sequence of events congealing or whatever to arrive at X amount of art in Hoity-voidy, rather we were just sort of focused on connecting our stomachs in the face of great oblivion and letting sad be sad for thirty minutes occasionally and sometimes longer. I’d pick apart certain things with this guitar I’d traded many items for. I took it apart one time and put it slowly back together wrong and that was my contribution to our set third show. It worked out because everyone was drowning anyway.
There would be no great transcendence anymore and we were for it. Black coffee and sweated idiotic tunes from manacled elders stuck in teenage would be alright. I’d lock myself to Gary, he’d tie himself to whichever roommate from whichever hovel might be there to play the bass who’d in turn place his tongue upon the drummer’s stick to complete the Circle of Shit before we played it off. I’d bleached all my clothes and so walked around like a painter. Gary looked about the way he did standing there spitting all the while. The rotating rhythm section was typically this girl Lila and her sort of betrothed Henry but he was gutless. I just liked to watch crowds hate us.
His demeanor was something special and this I trusted. I’d heard tell of many women or men who’d fronted groups with blood and teeth but never figured the town could birth its own. Gary my Kathleen Hanna, Gary my Jello Biafra, Gary the frenetic mess pushing his body to limits, Gary the tired twenty-five year old sweater sleeping on my shoulder. I was over everything but Gary brought me back some days. I pulled the strings out by shoving my fingers beneath them and ripped until the guitar made what I hoped to be an impossible sound while Gary inhaled the microphone and mumbled the lyrics to “I’ll Be Your Mirror” I think while everyone stared into dead space. Nobody came close to us and it was better. My forehead often cut open from rusted stuff around the places. VFWs or homes-of-punx where we would play then sleep inside the cloud we wouldn’t leave until we’d driven some twenty miles from the city and washed ourselves in sunlight. It persisted that way and I welcomed its nightmarish glance. We didn’t want to see life as we’d seen life so we stopped seeing life. Everyone around us was suddenly an obstacle, a potential death with klaxons jammed throughout their faces, belting highs and lows as Gary mumbled “My name is Carnival” into the rim of a white plastic affair he’d filled with every soda type apparent within the gas station. He didn’t have a name for this and neither did I. I tasted it sometimes and it felt like I’d wasted my entire life.
I could be such a princess about dying. Gary wasn’t that way ever, just smoked or pissed or spat and that was all. He drove this van that he didn’t really drive so much as kick holes through until he got wherever. Gary my Fred Flintstone sleeping in his father’s basement attempting suicide biannually with huffed cans or split skin. I’d discover him that way and realize hard that life never progressed nor went back for the actually alive. The actually alive didn’t see life, as said, it was something else. I smelled the smell of his father’s basement as I discovered him near death and called the ambulance and rode with his father in the car following the lights and it all smelled exactly like everything always had, that is quite good. Gary’s mother was tired maybe or couldn’t handle those rooms again but I could the light didn’t get to me. I looked down and saw that Gary was much happier than I’d ever seen anyone in my life. He was grateful not that he was alive but that he’d again made a successful attempt at no longer being this.
I liked discoveries that felt like nothing at all, staring off then suddenly you realize where you’d like to die, hand your friend some money for your coffee and realize why you won’t become your father. It was excellent, and Gary could dance the fucking moron. I hated it. I hate dancing and dancers. Gary knew that and so danced. Gary knew that and so was a dancer. I couldn’t handle too much of the oppression. The photos were done and I was eating and it was OK to not be dead for twelve minutes. Gary had this massive hawk in his throat and pulled it up through esophagus to prance out on the ice his water needed. We were disgusted and not, it mattered. Whatever you could sense about the kids and all their spastic revealing moment to moment, the heaviest was discovering old tapes of your fathers and setting them on fire without hearing no matter how much it tempted. Gary was best at this, Gary with the sunken eyes and jutted teeth (a caveman), Gary the constant thought and running ever toward the fringe. My hands started to crack from dryness. I ordered Gary a new water when he went to piss but let him think when he gulped it down I’d done nothing. Rhythm section nodded.
I have no patience for my grisly ineptitude, so watch it wander. The fingers wander in front of the face as the face presses right side down to the counter and the room shifts with pleasantry. A diner’s name hovers just out of the left eye’s view, I say “Mary” what could possibly go wrong when Mary’s here? She says “hon, coffee?” and for a moment there it’s as though we’re husband and newfangled bride. Her teeth are going but I hold the judge back as I pry my stuck rotter cheek from the plastic thing. Oh I thought about leaving town. And I just might’ve if that’d been the way. Wandered maybe like the fingers did and now they grip the coffee mug as it leaves Mary unto the son. The water glass smells just like bleach and I huff and puff as I swallow you down. My whole demeanor seems off. I’ve scattered it throughout the woods and now need to collect the spare parts to go anew. My teeth chatter maybe on the plastic glass as I carve out some wiggle room. I begin drawing signs on a slip of napkin and wonder if Mary can tell which language I’ve chosen to write in. Oh my Mary, where the dogged pace of my life should stop and vomit. The smell of bleach sticks into your hairs and won’t let up, the room suddenly takes on a modern hue and I just hate it. My hands are gaining feeling but my shoulders weigh hot like diseased cows each. I ask Mary if I might have some rudimentary meat parts and she assents and grabs the counter too. My damned face is going now. First the memory, then comes the face, waddling like it just gave birth off the edges of your skull til suddenly you’re just not you but the dying you. I cannot wait for this but all I do is sit. I was given this opportunity to melt thus for the last thirty and I took it to watch the kids grow but soon they fled and I won’t blame. I wander in here most nights and feel the wind bury. I wander in here and order nothing until Mary tells me what to order and after that it’s too late. I spend the afternoons after cups of rotter’s coffee wandering the public library shelves reading science fiction and movie descriptions. My fingers reach but I don’t let them. I see faces and they look far from melting as I can tell. I see the movies maybe once a month and they don’t ask. Just sit there all day and they let me doze in and out as the screen shifts and the voices alter. On and on I kick in Velcro without reprieve or screaming. I stay away from churches as the father said and stay away from courts except for extra scratch for entertainments. What I do is order foods from three different places and whoever arrives first I just let wait and tell I’m an old man without the means hold your horses boy. The second confronts the first and both begin to speculate, and either they leave and say adieu and I eat the third or they all sort of sympathize and bring it in for a short supper. I pay either way which isn’t the problem so much as company that doesn’t know it’s company nor does it desire company or want to be company. This is the best feeling on earth. I spent a lifetime surrounding myself with anxious faces waiting for mine to either melt or crack in smile to welcome their collective sorrows. I spent years trying to catch a frown slip weighty from their glances and never did it pop. No more of this is what I said and now I put on the Columbo show and try to remember that one where the man wore his hat home from work brought workers with and wife wouldn’t stop behaving in just such a way. I felt awful sorry but she seemed to need to be that way. He just mumbled as he was wont and the scenes billowed out like blood from his metaphysical woundage. The cup smells like bleach still. I welcome the scent though and realize I’m wearing pajama bottoms out for breakfast. Seldom I do this but when it happens Mary plays the fool and brings the stripped parts to my teeth. I can’t wander like I once did, but the fingers do the wandering as the news plays out on bad screenage and the place slowly fills out with waking college. Oh how I’d love to just sleep forever here or on the bench out front. Cold will come but I could take it. Bears endure with only inches more than I and that in climates far more northern. Oh for so many things to have gone just how they might’ve without the kids fleeing like the billowed blood or fingers tiptoeing past my melted glance. I see and don’t see as others gesture with concern that perhaps I need to use the Men’s and none of them with stomach such to ask me. It’s alright, quite and good. I like to let my breath seem stilted and they lean in with concern at the edges of my vision. Just joking, I imply with further sips of black runoff and bleached urine. These are the best days of my life, the days wherein I watch the children grow and the old elm wilts just enough to shade my eyes toward passersby. Holidays are spent jokily masturbating what can’t be masturbated as I eat and eat from cold cans beans that were never warmed. A check arrives and a visitor shops with it spending what I give them on their own enjoyment so long as they spend the evening watching Columbo at his work. They too must not know they’re company but that this is somehow all embroiled in the work they do. I think of that anyway. I think of a lot of things as my memory starts and stops to go. My hands will stick when pulled just now. The coffee warms me and it’s only thus I drink it. Didn’t he say that once?
Inter-Zone, a sentence (after Mathias Eńard)
I brought my dying friend some vats of water, maybe that’s how it started, I gave the guy as much water as I could find but it seemed like it might never be enough so I was panicked, we’d searched for this panacea to coat the little guy in calm and betterment but that in turn was nonsense and not enough, we were out here, he was in the street pulled where I could pull him but dying nonetheless and I was sure, poor rotten idiot stuck there just like the best dead—I noticed he didn’t seem to shiver once as the sky grew thick with the klaxon blur of lights and warning from this strange rancid helicopter just up there—the building we were stuck up against was breathing it seemed, I pulled him back against me and the wall warmed with wet grass like it could feel, the building was designed many years ago by Vito Acconci, I read it across the watchface as the friend he’s trying to gulp down loads of water knowing the poison ought to win out
we sat there ‘til the goons came down and pulled us into this rubbling edifice and swam us through the smog to some pyramid shape I’d barely dreamed about, the friend’s skin was turning beet red or crimson and the goons seemed like they might revel in his suffering until he popped, oppressive heat bore down on all of us as the landing drove us inside this cauldron of buttons and numbers and we were deemed and heated sanitary by the cautious man himself
I asked around and found we’d trespassed while dying on sacred ground deemed thus by some ancient tribe of teenagers who’d frozen themselves, less amused than I was my redfaced comrade as his breathing slowed to a mere crawl and I sensed his eyes etching awful cavesmears against the lids, my hands were full of pressure as they dragged us staggering from room to room inside the place and I heard endless clacks of shoes walking similar routes down apparently forever halls before pulled up to smell the man’s feet and cower
he didn’t say words and I was glad at this and started to cheer before I witnessed my friend dying in the corner, breathing out his last as his nose turned this awful chapped expanse of sanded land and cracked right off his face to pints of blood, my sense was I’d be prisoner here to witness the feet and death ad absurdum until my teeth ate their way through my skull and called it good, I was listening to every piano concerto I could stomach while the goons surrounded me and I was damned and punished, I lit a smoke and sucked its dogends through the back of my throat until the redness came, a foot rose up and its primary toe extended to reveal this grimy chip coated in oil and breathing just, the goons pulled back and the cautious man made some rotten groaning sound without limit as these craven idiots they started dancing
my friend his corpse was dried beyond a reasonable state and I was terrified by news barreled in by screens with minds of theirs, information came in palpable wet slaps as the politicians flooded us in and circled up around the cautious man but for several feet so he could stretch, my breath was bated like I’d swallowed packs of nails wrapped up and tried to live out the minute, I had an ulcer in the center of my forehead I felt where my brain seemed to leak out I swear it, this was some beginning, I began and swore to ground or ceiling just what I might do after the teeth did their work, these craven politicians with their endless glance and robes, I smelled the glass on walls as it grew thick with junk and come, one began a prayer that came with hundreds of throat-sung notes they bellowed apparently to highest as I began to comprehend my sneak, I sort of waddled like a bastard ‘til my breath began again and kicked a hole in the crisp head of my friend making the last jaunt through the legs of this parliament, I sat in sorrow in the woods and my teeth seemed to want to do their worst so I fought barely, it was time and with the moon rose high and dead above my guts I lay back on wet cold grass and pulled my trousers deft to waist before expecting the unexpectable, my problem was never making bad feel good, but something else entirely.
About the Author:
Grant Maierhofer is the author of Ode to a Vincent Gallo Nightingale, Poor Me I Hate Me Punish Me Come To My Funeral (a collaborative online/print chapbook), and The Persistence of Crows. Marcel is his first story collection.