Monday, January 14, 2013

Bad Transmission

Bad Transmission

Oggy's neck was bothering him and the reek of his arm pits reminded all present of his decaying insides, the lack of good attitude and diet, the rotting putrescence of his bitter bowels. It would all rupture eventually and be filled with maggots. John Updike said of a close call with death, “The Big Guy is getting my range.” like a mulligan taken in golf or a practice toss in cornhole...reducing our demise to a random mortar shot from the almighty. And why can't God take a practice putt before calling in our soul?
Oggy was underneath his dashboard the other day trying to repair a random electrical problem that caused his tail lights to fail and his turn signal to work intermittently. It was that stupid decision to update his turn signal cam switch returning to haunt him. His arthritic knees and besieged spine grated with global indifference to his agony. He only had a few hours to drive to San Antonio and back to return that transformer and look for gifts for the mythological prisoner of Oggy's meandering focus in Mexico. He was sweating and gasping for breath as his ragged lungs mocked his efforts. But was he sweating so bad that his ass crack was soaking wet? Oggy was confused. Maybe he had sat in a puddle when he rolled underneath the van to tighten the worn transmission bands.

“What could go wrong, went wrong,” thought Oggy in a rehearsal of the story he would tell about this day. (Everything was a futile anecdote to fluff his deflated significance.) Fuses broken, he goes to replace a fuse and it breaks in half and gets stuck, so he grinds his teeth to reach it and tears his shirt on a jagged piece of metal, he drops the screwdriver in mud, reaching for it he steps on a snail and crushes it but it is still living so he crushes it more to make sure, then he drops the half of the fuse that he broke...but he was going to repair that fuse with chewing gum and moonbeam dreams and solder so he hunts for it among snail guts, while the other half of the fuse awaits some distant dream when Oggy will have a second to return to the original issue, which was what...the fuse or the cam turn signal switch or the light or the wire or the demise of Oggy's insincere hopes? Thoughts about banned assault rifles, juxtaposed with scenarios in which Oggy meets the buxom jazz singer of his dreams who also knits and owns a farm in Brazil that needs a handyman and apprentice piano tuner....hahahaha, yeah, Diana Krall would fall in love with him, hahahahah. Only the most outrageous scenario made Oggy laugh these days, his humor dried up like a midwest cornfield. He hadn't grown more practical as he had grown older, but more deliberately impulsive and dynamically crazy. When he was 60 years old, Oggy mused, he would join a Carnival. He was speeding backwards as the world fumbled forward. Oggy rubbed his bony neck, probing for the intense isolated pains that never lets up for five minutes. Bone cancer, Oggy decided, as a thought of distant sex flitted across his fragmented mind like an old mateless sparrow on gray wings.

Was there even time to drive all the way to San Antonio and get back? He was running very late. Oggy stretched his torn shoulder to reach the broken fuse. He pulled it out and dropped the fuse as he banged the back of his head on the steering column. He could smell his own breath and it didn't smell good. When had he changed his shirt last? It wasn't like he was homeless and with no clean clothes. He had clothes but he was lazy and disgusting. Everyone was right about him; he had no class and no hope. Oggy wondered if it was a piece of food or a piece of dental floss that was dangling from his decaying molars. Really? His ass was soaking wet from the sweat? It seemed implausible but it was also raining because nothing could possibly facilitate a project Oggy was trying to accomplish. If it could rain then it would rain and if Oggy was going to get stuck then it would be where mud formed easily and covered his face and ego with heartfelt insults. If he needs a tool then he couldn't find it and if he could find it then it would soon break. Oggy dug around in the mud for the other half of the fuse that he would need to repair because it was some ridiculous size that was only made in 1969 and discontinued. Of course! For any single light to continue working on Oggy's van it would require routing everything through an axillary fuse panel that had the modern sizes for fuses or else digging his own teeth out to exploit for the lead to solder the two broken contacts of the fuse back together. “That's it,” thought Oggy, “we are all basically going to reach the stage where we scavenge our own body parts. If it's possible to be less dignified then we are going in that direction.” moaned Oggy in the echo chamber of his lost fabrication. “Whatever is gross and simple and dumb and ugly will be our destination. But we will redefine the word gross until it is desirable and that's how the manipulation of mass sheep culture notoriously absorbs the reality that we try to avoid.”
Oggy shook his head although he had been lately reduced to a range of 10 degrees motion in his neck. “But,” he concluded with futile mockery, “nothing actually matters since the usurpation of reality has already prostituted my own definitions so it's too late to put the cat back in the bag. We are disgusting and poisoned and broken in spirit and the negotiation for our integrity was lost as soon as we cried for our first artificial snow cone at the little league field. Apples were the least of our temptations.” noted Oggy in a biblical light that brought shame because it was also pretentious.

Oggy's wrinkled hand felt his formless ass. He was hot and wet. Maybe it was this army surplus sweater he had been wearing for a week. But he was only wearing it because the heat had been shut off in the house after the furnace broke and it was 30 degrees all day and 20 degrees at night. So he had no choice but stay warm like an Eskimo who never took his lard vest off.

Oggy peered through the flaking blepheritus of his medical and emotional affliction and watched as a gust of wind broke a tree limb off behind his van and the limb fell with indifference onto the stick that Oggy had placed behind his van so that it could hold a small Mexican bicycle mirror and reflect the tail light of his van that would not work. Of course the branch had knocked the mirror to the ground, costing him 40 minutes of calibration. Squirrels fled, the mocking black Grackle flew from the remains of seed on the muddy asphalt to a nearby tree. A cat waiting for a scrap chased a sparrow. Oggy's stomach rumbled and he farted casually because the decay in his own bowels was the sound of the Big Guy thundering down the hallway to claim another redundant soul.

He'd been working for three hours so far on the electrical problem and had removed the whole steering wheel and dashboard to access the impossibly buried fuse panel. Of course he hadn't checked the electrical system yesterday when his whole trip to San Antonio had been rained out. No, he'd slept on the couch with curled up memories of his own mythology to keep him warm, watching his breath collect on the peeling paint of a junk store bureau. Now, when he actually had a chance to drive the 81 miles to a town with more than one stoplight he'd been thwarted by a series of problems with the van. And he hadn't even solved the flaw that prevented the automatic transmission from reaching third gear. And 1st gear slipped with ugly sounds in the area below the doghouse. So, that left him with an illegal van that had one gear and no lights.

But he had time since he had been fired to the joy of all who hated him and wished for his failure. Time gave him the luxury of painting on a smile and walking around in white socks in the freezing room, eating junk food, flogging his worn cock to sleep with profanity and self-loathing. So this was the time that he assigned to this futile task, 3...5...10 hours under the steering column, adjusting the mirror so the squirrels couldn't see the reflection of Oggy's misery....closing doors, blowing his nose, picking up pieces of his own baggy flatulence, always moving away from a solution and closer to oblivion. It was like a joke and yet Oggy knew that with enough perseverance he would solve the problem even if it meant going so far from the solution that eventually he rebuilt everything in the world to his exacting standards. Then his cell phone rang on his hip. He grabbed it in a fury and saw the caller id: DAD. He hit the "reject" button, then silence, then turned the phone off.

Speaking of problems, the whole saga started with a 50 year old electric furnace that had failed when the elements had burned out and grounded the circuit so the fan wouldn't turn on and that burned out the relay and the transformer...Oggy took note that he would ask God exactly what the chain of events was that led to the failure of the furnace. That was the least God could do, at least explain exactly what happened in this basement dwelling called Earth that led to our death. This flesh was thin and fleeting, lustful and secretly pouring odors and fluid and waste into the atmosphere so at least we could get a detailed analysis of what went wrong. That was fair, right? That was an appropriate menu item to order once we were dead and buried and standing tall before the man. Oggy would make a point not to surrender his nonsensical grip on the land of the living, just to spite God.

It took hours of non-stop work. 5 hours earlier Oggy had laughed when he almost walked out the door without the transformer, the whole reason he was going to San Antonio, and now he was laughing because he hadn't even left the driveway and the sun was receding like his feather light hair on his psoriasis face. But starting at a point so far away from the solution, Oggy had been reduced to mending an antique bullet fuse and testing it with a continuity tester and then placing it upside down in the fuse terminal and then spending at least 50 minutes in tearful agony trying to orient the ragged ends of the fuse with the broken fuse cap in exactly the spot where the contact was still touching and providing current to turn the tail light on. But that wasn't even the beginning of the solution. That was the beginning of being able to troubleshoot the actual problem which was a Chinese turn signal cam mechanism that had broken and was shorting out the fuse and preventing the turn signal from working which was preventing the tail light from coming on which was preventing Oggy from leaving because he would be immediately pulled over by the police and wrongly charged with murder. That particular problem had required 10 hours of labor to fix because normally things like this are fixed with a $200 phone call to China for more broke-ass parts that the mechanic will install. That saves him time and you pay for the crappy part. Since Oggy is the mechanic of his own van he knows there is no other solution except fixing the broken part. This involves bending microscopic tines so they touch the contacts at exactly the right angle and orientation to activate the turn signal while not short circuiting the stop lights. Hours more effort of adjusting the tines, fixing the mirror so he could see the light come on, picking up fragments of his demise as squirrels knocked his spine in half and snails crawled over his arthritic feet.

Eventually, all the universe aligned and the fuse worked and the tines connected and the bulb was in the correct astral orientation and the mirror was adjusted so he could see the narrow window of space with the bulb so that when Oggy hit the brake pedal the light came and Oggy didn't even smile because this was not a victory at all but a return to recognizable failure. And the last test was turning the cam signal to the right and seeing the bulb blink. It did. Pathetic, too pathetic to celebrate.
Oggy wasted no time in assembling his confidence for the trip to San Antonio with one gear and a stiff neck. He'd sleep on the streets, he decided, if everything was closed. What did it matter? Nothing mattered. Everything was pointless and eventually all the fuses would melt in the heat of a nuclear explosion. Pollution would rain down on the meek heads of belligerent roaches. The raccoons that lived in the piss tank of Oggy's attic would perish along with the dogs in the abused dog shelter. Oggy was miserable, bitter, in pain, broke, jobless, furious, defeated. He went to piss in the bathroom and was dissatisfied with the stream of malodorous urine that dribbled from his wasted bowels. Too much sugar and not enough vitamins, Oggy determined. But there was nothing that could or would be done. The doctors of the world won't get their knives in me, vowed Oggy. He grabbed a colon clogging energy bar from the top of his refrigerator and stumbled toward the van. Fuck it all, he thought.

Later in the week, Oggy looked at his torn and threadbare underroos and saw shit stains. “What the fuck,” he thought. Then he saw the stain had soaked through Spiderman's face onto his thrift store pants. Oh, shit! Shit stains like a potty trained infant marked Oggy's pants and underroos. He was decaying. He had apparently shit his pants that day when he fixed the van but had been oblivious as a drunk tank rape victim. He had shit his pants and sat in it the whole trip to San Antonio and he had shit in his pants when the police pulled him over for having a tail light out and for sleeping in the mall parking lot and when he flirted with that cute cashier at El Pollo Loco. He had shit in his ass crack and on his underroos and ruining his pants that whole time and none of it mattered. It wasn't sweat that had made his ass wet, it was shit from the diet of rage and Taco Bell. Of course.

As Oggy was washing the shit from his pants Joe dropped by with an invitation to the old folk's home. “Come play piano.” There were now 4 regular audience members with floral bed dresses and blue veins behind transparent flesh. The note said, “Mrs. Martin passed away. Funeral Wednesday.” Oggy wondered if he had known her or if she was one of the anonymous women who clapped from their bedroom. Oggy collected some songbooks, the jazz fakebook, the book of waltzes, the single “Time Goes By” that always leads to one of the ladies asking him what movie it was from. Then he remembered Mrs. Martin was the one who continuously requested “The Beer Barrel Polka”, a song Oggy couldn't really play at tempo but was learning. “We couldn't afford shoes so we danced barefoot,” Mrs. Martin had said predictably after she requested the song with 1950s nostalgia in her blurry eyes. He turned around and dug through a pile of sheet music until he found a book that contained Beer Barrel Polka. Then Oggy walked across the street as rain began to fall. A stray dog barked at him from the sidewalk.


Anonymous said...

A bit rambling and twangy in the middle but I do like how you kept us hooked by slighlty reminding us about the story and how we could almost guess that you shit yourself but that we had to wait until the end to get the punch line and laugh at you.


Oggy Bleacher said...

it's bad enough to shit my pants but to only learn about it a few days later really puts me in a different league of decay.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.