the limits of respectability
chapter thirty-three - phallus in wonderland
Journal entry- Day 72- It’s been a long two days in the back of the truck. Our journey home has not been an easy one. The constant mind games are there, you know . . . the mental hopscotch . . .could we have done anything differently to change the outcome, or was this all preordained, a destiny set-list, written in stone by the rockin’ roll gods? Had it been right there in front of us hanging off a stage monitor all along. . . fourth song into the night, ‘The song is over/ the band is finished’? Wires has pulled over to allow us to stretch our legs. The Ghost needs a belly full of fuel to fill the yawning hunger of an empty tank. Space’s money has held out, although our optimism hasn’t. Somewhere in the ashes of all this a phoenix will rise . . . I hope.
My concept of time was in flux over the wear and tear of the endless miles. Seconds, minutes, hours, seemed no different to me, melting into the same cadence the moment we crossed those tracks out of Bugtussle. All I knew was, it was late and there was still pavement to pound, between here and home amid the darkness, somewhere in the second day of our long journey.
Wires stood next to the pump. He flicked the ashes of a nearly spent cigarette in the direction of the gas hose and nozzle, tempting catastrophe, teasing fate. Perhaps it would be better if we all went up in a blaze of glory in a puzzle of severed limbs, spiraling into the blue, sky rocketed by exploding pumps, kicking our collective butts into the hereafter? All of us except for Wally, who had managed to find some spare change in the bottom of his duffle bag. He now wagged his derriere over the candy bar counter inside a small kiosk display of impulse items. Things certainly couldn’t be worse, could they? Doc had asked the very same question earlier and now I found myself repeating it. After all, we had no agent, disgruntled musicians, a dismal future, and a tour suddenly cut short at the knees. The clock was ticking and we, the diminishing assets, were spiraling into the black hole of the musical black list. Spike’s impatience had been growing with each passing mile to match Space’s desperation. Casey . . . hmm, in my opinion, she’d left mentally the day she arrived. Wires, seemed somewhat mechanical and Bronson sat in silence, perhaps meditating, slipping into some inner sanctum away from the chaos. With each twenty-dollar bill Space peeled out of his wallet, Doc’s disgust grew, and I . . . I felt dead inside, devoid of emotion, letting the current carry me where it would. As for Wally? Wally was Wally, his hardest mental struggle was, peanuts or raisins.
Wires gave the nozzle one final squeeze and a shake like he was standing at a urinal, the only thing missing was the zipping motion. He returned the hose to its anchor and shut the pump down. He glanced around for Space, pausing only to light up and accumulate a new cloud of smoke. Above us dark clouds, cold and grey, whisked by in a silent fury. Space was still working the phones, checking for messages, a last ditch effort to find us work, if work didn’t find us. Any
work would do. The bills still had to be paid, the machinery had to churn. Space had regained his focus after his near meltdown and Bronson’s verbal undressing.
Wally returned with half an Almond Joy bar, the other half, presumably, being chewed and swallowed— the start of a journey leading through twists and turns of intestine to the grand exit amid trumpeting flatulence. Doc watched his approach with feigned interest. “Why don’t you just eat the damn chocolate rabbit, Wally?”
“I thought I’d save it for a special occasion. I ate the Jesus though.”
Doc shook his head, “All of it?”
“He’s obviously not a church goer,” I added.
“...and Spike’s worried about the curse of the J’s? Je-sus! I think you’re about to experience the scourge the next time you’re on the toilet after ingesting all that cheese, Wally.”
Spike warned. “I’m going stir crazy. Can we stop talking nonsense and just get the hell out of here? I want to get home.”
“Sure,” Wires said. “Once Space gets off the phone and pays for the gas.” He turned out the white insides of his pockets to accentuate the point and flicked a piece of fluff away into the wind. Spike huffed and climbed back into the Ghost next to a sleeping Casey. Bronson and a grunting Wally, mouth full of chocolate, followed close behind. Wires stuffed his pockets back in and winked at Doc and I. Space finally joined us with his news. He spoke triumphantly. “We’re at The Golden Horseshoe next week.” He knew it was the one gig that would appease the natives and hold back the hangman from pulling the lever to leave him swinging with boots
kicking. The Golden Horseshoe was close to home and one of those clubs where we were absolutely loved. They did great business when we were there, for some unexplained reason. We could walk in blindfolded, belch into the microphone, and still blow the doors off the place. Space had always had a tight bond with the owner, in a father-son relationship, and could call on his adopted parent in times of need. It didn’t get more needy than this.
One by one, we were all dropped off. Space, then Doc, Wally, Spike, Casey and Bronson. Finally, Wires pulled up to the house cradling the basement apartment where Lorraine and I lived, for how much longer I didn’t know. In my conversations with her, there had been growing unrest concerning our landlords and she was adamant about still wanting to move. As much as it seemed inevitable, I hated those winds of change, fighting long and hard to maintain normalcy. I needed some place away from the tumultuous road where I felt had some stability.
I said goodbye to Wires and off he drove in the Ghost to his family's home in the west end. The ruby glow of the coming morning grew in the east. Red sky in morning . . . sailor take . . . ah who gives a flying frig? I’m too tired and worn out. I had grabbed my personal items, but left my food trunk with the equipment. I could have lifted the empty case quite easily, but thought twice about hauling it down the stairs at such an early hour. Bang! Thud! Bang! Thud!...Honey I’m home!...No shit! I’d probably be needing it in the weeks to come anyway? Soon, we’d be out there in the small insignificant black dots of a map, in a town barely registered in an atlas, in a footnote of the undistinguished.
I shuffled up the side passage and through the creek of our gate to the basement entrance. Quietly I slipped my key into the lock and opened the door, creeping down the steps with stealth precision. Christ, I just want to get into a bed that doesn’t thump with every pothole. Where I don’t feel the crushing bodies and intruding elbows of my fellow band-mates probing uninvited crevices.
I stripped down to my underwear leaving a trail of clothing on the floor. I would deal with it in the morning. I entered our bedroom trying to be quiet and not wake Lorraine. The blinds on the window were closed, blocking out all early morning light. Not that it mattered, I could have slept through an atomic bomb. I was about to pull the covers back and slide into bed when a dark figure sat up in bed and a male voice, deep, and ominous, yet with a trace of fear rang out. “Who’s there?”
Oh great! She did move and forget to tell me. I’m in some stranger’s house standing in their bedroom in nothing but my under things. I’m thankful I didn’t take it all off, or I’d be in a real pickle, bare assed in the dark— phallus in wonderland if-you-will. Now, I’m about to get shot or arrested for trespassing, or being a pervert. Is there any other alternative?
I thought in the past few days I had reached the cellar of my ambition and will. Now I was going to find there was a sub-level and a whole new low; a black pit inside the void.
The man demanded, more forceful this time. “Who’s there?” There was a glint in the darkness like a gold tooth, or was it just a trick of the eye? Maybe he was frothing at the mouth and was just seconds away from lunging at me and ripping me to pieces, claiming self-defense to the authorities as he stood over my mangled remains.
“Oh I’m so sorry I must have wandered into the wrong house by mistake. I’ve been traveling for two days and I’m tired and . . . It’s a long story . . . I’m . . . I’m . . .” I’m standing in my underwear. This is just great! I’m so dead.
“Who are you? What’s your name?”
There was a sigh as another body stirred beside the man, making a slow climb to consciousness.
“Sp . . . Sp . . . Sp,” I was freaked. I couldn’t spit out my own name. That bitch! How could she just move and not tell me?
“Sp, sp, sp?” The man said. “What kind of name is that?”
“I...uh . . .”
The other person in bed was now coming out of sleep and spoke in a groggy tone. “Johnny? Is that you?”
“Johnny? You’re home early. I didn’t expect you to— ”
“— I didn’t expect you two, either,” I said.
The man spoke again. “Sparky?”
I suddenly recognized the voice. “Magic? ....What the fuck is going on here?”