Saturday, June 6, 2015

Brown Recluse

Larry had a small cot inside the woodshed. Electricity came from an extension cord from the main house. It froze in the winter like a meat locker but when the fog and rain came in the evening he would lay awake because of the back spasms and prostate throbbing like the bass drum of Blonde Destiny’s first hit “Rock My Rocket” The agony Larry described was comical because every day was a struggle with death. One night he woke up and there was a mattress spring poking into his side. He said he rode his bike to the hospital for more pain medication on account of the bleeding but he was denied. “What does it matter if an old carpenter like me suffers and dies in their waiting room?” Larry had asked.

Oggy stayed in the tool shed a few night, but there was almost no room on the floor and Larry had to urinate into a plastic milk jug “every hour on the hour” and Oggy had trouble staying asleep on account of the troubling holocaust visions. So it had been safe from patrol drones but mostly a miserable experience. Larry told bedtime stories in his coastal Maine accent, laughing and groaning, as he waited for the pain killers to numb his throbbing neck. The stories were similar to this one:

"I once paid a hooker to tie a noose around my neck with her pantyhose. She insisted I pay her up front in case I died. And once I paid her she immediately left to get some crack or whatever her kick was. I thought she wouldn’t come back but it wasn’t a lot of money so I didn’t care. But she came back. Have you ever heard a whore knock on your door? No, well, it’s a specific kind of knock, like all of the pain in the world is in that sound. Police have one kind of knock, ex-girlfriends have another knock. Junkies have another knock. Hookers, once they’ve been paid, and are just coming back to get high and finish the job have a whole different kind of knock. I’ve heard a lot of different people knock on my door. Well, she came back and got high and then asked me how I wanted it done. I didn’t really know. I was seriously thinking about killing myself at that time because I’d lost my fingers in the acid accident and my liver ached all the time, kidneys were shot and the debt collectors from all those damn loans were driving me nuts. I had an insurance policy that would pay my kid a little bit of money, more than I’d ever give him if I were alive. I couldn’t feed myself. This was in New Orleans and I’d been living in a hotel janitor’s closet. So I was thinking I’d kill myself because there didn’t seem to be any point in hanging around, prolonging the misery, and I did some work for the hotel owner and he gave me a room and I thought I would hang myself. Then I thought I’d hire a hooker to hang me. Or tie me up. I mean, we can euthanize a dog but not a person. Makes no goddamn sense. Well, the hooker comes back and gets high and is staring at me from the bed and only then did I realize she’s a skeleton, like the walking dead. Oggy, the things I’ve seen, the faces, the tears and pain. I look back in time and it’s nothing but pain. And I told her I wanted her to take her pantyhose off and strangle me until I passed out. And I told her to just keep on strangling me even after I passed out. I figured that would do it. Strangled by a junkie hooker. Shit. I was very depressed at that time and thought that was a fitting end to my life.”

Larry laughed to relieve the tension. Then he continued.

“Well, I could sense she was beyond caring about anything she did in a ‘moral’ sense. But she was thinking to herself if she would be better off making a run for it. Because she was stoned already, high, and a stoned hooker hides nothing. That’s probably my attraction to hookers, after they fuck you and get high they literally hide nothing. They are totally genuine. They might have a tumor on their uterus or no uterus or HIV or Ebola and they will hide nothing. And this hooker might’ve killed someone else that day for all I knew. She said, “I ain’t wearing pantyhose.” And that fucked my whole plan. So I took this filthy sheet off the mattress. And this hooker didn’t really want to get off the bed so I had to take the sheet of one side and then she rolled onto the mattress and I took the sheet off the other side. You know, ‘strangle me with this.’ And she took it and I could see I had to act fast because she was fading, nodding out, her eyes opening and closing. I kissed her hard on the mouth and her breath smelled like rotting food. I mean, she had a tooth with a sign on it that said, “1 Mile to next tooth.”

Larry chuckled. Drugs are horrible things but they deaden the pain of life, so it’s a trade-off. I smacked the hooker in the face to wake her up, because she was falling asleep. She finally came around and I took the sheet and yelled at her, “Here, strangle me. Say I raped you. Pretend I raped you and you can kill me. Do it!”

So she went to wrap the sheet around my neck and punched me in the nose. And she apologized and I said, “Don’t apologize. Just strangle me. Strangle me until you don’t hear any breath from my mouth. Nothing. I want you to check. Then keep on strangling.”

She was like a robot, like I’d told her how I like my shirts starched or my eggs cooked. It was awful. No emotion at all and I thought this is how I’ll die, my last sight will be this hooker’s emotionless eyes making sure I’m dead so she can go find out that my wallet is empty. Oggy? Oggy?”

Oggy made a grumbling sound.

“Just wanted to make sure you were awake. I’m almost done with the story. See, she strangled me but was so weak, she was just bones, a fucking coat hanger has more meat. And she couldn’t really get the torque on that sheet. I had to help her because I finally wanted to die. I mean, I thought that if I could go this far then I was beyond hope and I should keep going. I prayed to God to let me die. So, she’s straddling me on the ground, I’m on my back and she’s straddling my chest and I’m helping her pull that sheet tight around my neck and one of the last thoughts I had was that if I could afford another hooker then together they might be able to kill me. But she had no strength and I knew that she had faded and maybe didn’t even know what she was doing, whether it was a dream or a fantasy or a drug hallucination. Her eyes were closed and I realized I was the only one pulling on the sheet. And she slumped over onto me and she didn’t weigh more than a heavy rubber raincoat. And after a while I gave up because it’s hard to strangle yourself laying on your back with a hooker laying on your stomach. It was incredibly uncomfortable and I had to take a piss. I mean, to hang yourself from a chandelier or something like that would be easy compared to this. And I push the hooker off me and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a dead body hit the floor but there’s a certain sound they make that’s unmistakable. This hooker made that sound and I sort of kicker her to wake her up and knew immediately that she was dead. Man, the fucking panic set it fast. First of all I was only standing up for maybe 4 seconds, realized she was dead and this gigantic rush of blood hits my brain and I blacked out completely but was still standing up, blindly feeling for the hooker’s pulse. I pumped her heart as hard as I could, listening to her rib cage crack. I breathed in her mouth. I pumped on her heart. It was chaos for about two minutes because the whole scenario would be impossible to explain, why this hooker had died in my hotel room, why I had signs of struggle, why she had taken the sheet off the bed. I mean, Louisiana is as bad as Texas when it comes to murder. That’s death row. No fucking option for a poor cracker like me. Death by lethal injection. And you might think that I’d want that since I was just trying to strangle myself, but the court system and prisons is actually a fate worse than death for me. Years of confinement, court, bullshit. Just to be killed by lethal injection. All for the lack of enough money to pay two hookers to strangle me! Fucking awful irony. Well, she recovered. Who knows. Maybe her heart stopped or maybe it was just in a comatose suspension because I felt no pulse and no breath until she finally made a coughing sound and said, “Why you pounding on me. I didn’t do nothing.”

Man, the relief, the triumph. It wasn’t joy or happiness, but it was the most triumph I’d felt in decades. I’d cheated death in so many ways in the span of maybe ten minutes. I took a piss. Opened the last can of warm beer. That hooker had curled up on the floor with the bed sheet, sleeping like a baby. Well, good night, Oggy.”

Soon Larry was snoring…

And then there was the brown recluse incident:

Larry was laying awake one night listening to the police helicopters in the commercial district herd hippies to delousing stations. Oggy lay on the ground next to the cot staring at the roof of the shed imagining the labor camp prisoners in the desert saw a similar sight each night. Was the goal to free to labor camp prisoners or to transform the guards so they would set the prisoners free? The difference was philosophical though the end result was the same. Once the guards changed their opinion then they would peaceful free the prisoners who were detained for their religion or because they had failed to demonstrate sufficient currency when asked. Refugees from Africa and Central America mingled with one another, laboring on the water pipelines for the crumbling mega-cities to the south, dying and being buried in unmarked pit graves. Oggy was stung by a feeling of shame because he was free while they were imprisoned for the same reasons that he had to remain in hiding. The lack of solidarity was evident everywhere, we all ascribe to selfish ideals while nobility and loyalty were monikers of deceit. Nothing was ideal, nothing was admirable; we clumsily blunder our way through the crooked moral hallways of a corrupt life and ultimately crumble on the floor of some wood shed with a man pissing in a milk jug nearby.

Oggy pretended to be asleep while Larry urgently grunted his prostate into releasing its tight grip on his bladder and a few drops of urine fell into the jug. Larry mumbled to himself all the time but never more than when he was trying to piss, like an audible conversation could trick his bladder into emptying. He leaned on the side of the shed, his head a few inches from exposed nail ends holding the tar paper shingles in place. After a few more moments of grumbling and the sickly sound of urine leaking into the jug he climbed of Oggy’s feet and fell into the squeaking mattress that was on a metal and wood frame Larry had fabricated when the owner had allowed him to move the broken bicycles to the yard outside. Suddenly, the grumbles turned more frantic and urgent. Larry said, “Get the fuck off me. HEY!” Then a bloodchilling scream filled the night.

“Something bit me. Oggy! Some fucking animal bit me. I felt it. OH SHIT!”

The night deteriorated into lucid nightmare at that point as Oggy unfolded himself and tried to find the light. He tripped on the jug of piss and it spilled on his sleeping bag. The lamp tipped over and the shade fell into the puddle of piss. Oggy was stumbling in bare feet in the puddle of piss, groping for the light when Larry jumped off the bed, knocked Oggy into the side of the shed where he was impaled by several exposed nails. One nail hit him in the head and the stabbing pain caused him to kneel in the piss soaked sleeping bag. Larry accidentally kneed Oggy in the face as he thrashed around nearby.

“A fucking animal bit me. Get me light! God Help me find a light!”

Finally, Larry grabbed the lamp and turned it on. He examined his leg and found a large red welt with radiating circles of deep purple.

“I think I crushed it. Help me look. Ah, fuck, it burns. The bite burns! I don’t know what the fuck it was. LOOK!”

Oggy slowly opened his eyes as he rubbed the back of his head. He was bleeding a little but no permanent damage was done to his skull. He saw a small shape crawling across Larry’s bed filthy sheet.

“It’s a fucking spider!” said Larry. He reached for one of the rotting pieces of firewood stacked in a corner and used it like a hammer to pound the moving shape until it moved no more.

“Motherfucker! It bit me. That fucking spider bit me and my whole leg is on fire! Oggy, we gotta go to the hospital. Hurry, my fucking blood pressure is dropping. My face is burning. I can’t move my leg. Christ it bit me as soon as I laid down. Let’s go. I’m sorry, buddy but you gotta come so if I collapse on the road then you can call help.”

Oggy understood.

“Bring that spider. Here, I’ll put it in an envelope. Maybe they can identify it.”

Oggy was dizzy from being kneed in the face but he moved slowly and found an envelope in the pile of letters he intended to send to the Governor. He put the crushed remains of the spider in the envelope and sealed it and put it in his pocket. They both dressed fast, Larry groaned as he put on his tortured shoes, shoes that he said lasted him ten days because of his crippled feet. Together, they exited the shed, both limping. Oggy immediately tripped on an old bicycle frame and his back spasms forced him to the ground.

“My leg feels swollen. That bite was the most painful thing I’ve ever felt. We gotta get to the hospital. Fuck!”

At this point Oggy knew he would never again sleep in the shed. He had already been leaning toward another forbidden voyage into the forest, rebuilding his cabin or moving it or maybe tunneling into a hillside and covering the entrance with branches. It could be done in a way that did no permanent damage to the forest and was also invisible, sustainable. Anything was worth an attempt after this disastrous residence at Larry’s wood shed.
They both unlocked their bicycles and stumbled like zombies toward the road and were immediately stopped by security drones who demanded identification. Larry tried to explain the problem but he was hit with a stun gun and fell twitching on the ground. Oggy said, “I don’t recognize your authority. This is an unlawful detention.” He soon joined Larry on the sidewalk and one of his final thoughts before the Civil Unrest Team arrived was that he would never go back to the wood shed.

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