A novel By EJ Spode.
For forty days and forty nights it rained dicks. Bags and bags of dicks. And the people were like, what the fuck, God, what did we ever do to You?; but He was too busy showering their world with penises to hear their pleas. What fucked up days those were… There were dicks everywhere. Dicks in the trees, dicks in the streets, piles of dicks that the people raked up and left for the giant trucks that hauled them off to who knows where. It was fucked. up.
EJ Spode, 9th grade “Turtle Diaries”
Chapter 1: Giants in The Earth
The minute Athena opened her big bag of buds the car smelled like a blueberry-banana smoothie. She handed me one of the buds and I squeezed it between my fingers. It had an appealing spongy feel to it and it was resinous to the point of being gooey. I held it at eye level and saw that it had a mossy emerald hue to it, but was also marbled with nodules the color of raspberry jam. It looked like it had been flecked with finely shredded orange peel and then dusted with confectioner’s sugar. My saliva glands were tweaking. She had clearly graduated from smoking Iowa ditch weed to some righteous Cannabis Indica.
I also have to admit that Athena was cutting an impressive figure in the passenger seat with a pipe in her hand. Her hair was platinum white and cut in a Betty Page 1950s bang thing that suggested some sort of BDSM pastime. Her tats, leather jacket, and tight black jeans tended to reinforce that suggestion.
Somehow, she had managed to become my number one BFF of all time. It wasn’t just that we had been friends for a decade; it was that we had a really good chemistry and we could say whatever we wanted to each other. I also have to confess that I dug the idea that her great-great grandfather was the Norwegian American writer O.E. Roelvaag – the Giants in the Earth guy! I imagined that I was connected to the dude through Athena somehow.
She fired up a piece of the bud in her well-seasoned glass pipe, handed it to me, and jump-started the conversation.
“So EJ how’s your dad?”
“Yeah… he’s good. You know…for an old person.”
Athena nodded. “I always thought your parents were nice.”
“Nice how?” I know that was a weak ass question, because she was just making conversation and trying to say something innocuous, and what is more innocuous than “your parents were nice.” It’s like saying “nice day.” So I felt like a pain in the ass for asking, but Athena didn’t miss a beat.
“Oh, you know, they were always really welcoming and made people feel at home and they always had the fridge stocked with pop and food.”
“Yeah … I guess that’s pretty nice.”
“Fuck yes it’s nice. Sometimes you go to someone’s house and they don’t offer you shit. What the fuck is that?”
“Goddamn right it ain’t right.”
The conversation continued in this vein for a bit, and then Athena bent it around to what she really wanted to know.
“So…EJ, have you been in touch with Penny yet?”
“Naw… I’ll get around to it though.”
“Cool cool, you should do that.”
“Yeah, I will…. How’s Pen doing?”
“Good, but you should find out for yourself, you know?”
“You going to her prosetry slam?”
“She’s having a big contest at her bar. You know… prosetry contest.”
“Fucking Penny and her ‘prosetry’ – not really poetry and not really prose, ‘because rhymes are lame’.”
“Rhymes are so lame, though.”
“I never said she was wrong about that …”
“Yeah…so are you going to enter the contest?”
“Good…good… yeah. You should do that too.”
The weed was starting to get a grip on us – a firm but velvet-gloved grip – and the conversation became abstract.
“EJ, do you know anything about the multiverse?”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, you should…It’s really fascinating… like, there are all these yous.”
“Yeah definitely, like, there is a you that is still at your dad’s house for example.”
“And there is another you that is still at Cornell.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yeah, it’s true.”
“But what is it?”
“What is what?”
“Oh, that. Well for example… I had this dream the other day, and I stepped out of the bathroom… and it was the multiverse… but it was Gossip Girl!”
“OK Athena, you know what? I don’t watch Gossip Girl so that wasn’t very helpful…”
“EJ you’re just being difficult. It’s about…realities…branching realities….”
“I don’t think I know what that is either… Also, dude…I’m not being difficult.”
“No you are, but it’s ok because there is a you that isn’t a tool and he understands what I’m saying.”
By this point my mind was a giant block of crystal. Not my brain; just my mind. My brain was still all warm and squishy and I’m pretty sure the synapses were firing, but there was nothing coming out. My mind though, it was just a big block of crystal – like cinderblock big. And I imagined it looked like a cinderblock too. If angels could see minds they would see me sitting in the driver’s seat with a cinderblock-sized and shaped crystalline mind.
It also occurred to me that my mind wasn’t a very interesting crystal; It was boring like a salt crystal – just a big boring salt crystal of a mind. But it was perfect for driving down country roads. And my perfect crystalline mind put me in a reflective mood and I began to reflect on the country road and then I began to reflect on an essay I had written as an undergrad – an essay about driving down boring country roads. And I remembered the essay down to its clunky undergrad detail:
‘The Great Plains are so fucking flat. And in the winter all the color is bleached from the ground. You find yourself driving on some long country road, and everything’s cold and white and depressing. The dull light coming off of the fields is flecked with the stubble from last year’s corn stalks. Here and there the wind has eroded the snow to where you can see the ground, and downwind of that exposed earth there might be a brief smear of dirt across the snow. The sky is a variegated luminous gray. By December you will have forgotten that the clouds are occluding October’s bright blue sky.
You are driving on a ribbon of salt-coated two-lane road right through the sea of snow and exposed topsoil. There are wire fences along the road and there are telephone poles, but they look cold and miserable and lonely as fuck. You know how they feel. The wind has pushed fingers of snow across the road, and at points they lace it with icy fractal patterns that appear and vanish as they wish.
You wouldn’t be out here if you didn’t have to be. Sure, the car is heated and the radio is on but you don’t just drive through this shit for no reason. The question is: where are you going that is so fucking important?’
The only thing interesting about the essay was that it had come out of my memory somewhere, and that meant my mind was starting to decrystalize – at least the memory part — so I smiled at this positive development, but before I had breached full smile, dark clouds descended on my mind, and my memory began pumping the noxious bile that was last night’s dream – another dream about Penny. Another shitty dream. I turned towards Athena and was about to blame her for what was about to happen, but it was too late. The dream had escaped its chains in the dark dungeon of my memory and had raced into my cerebellum and was raising havoc with all things good. I imagined it sitting on my pineal gland drinking serotonin from human skulls and belching out noxious holograms of hatred and unconditional love, Penny, and tiny tin buckets of condiments – you know: ketchup and mustard and lies.
It was that fucking dream. That recurring dream that usually manages to unchain itself during early morning sunrise with its barking dog and garbage truck sound effects and its synapse scorching brightness. I have no idea how the dream began or ended or even if it had a beginning or an end, but the middle was always the same. Penny kisses me, and smiles and says “did you like that?” and before I can answer we are entwined and floating and lost somewhere in the sky or the bed or fuck maybe we are standing but it does not matter. And my minds eye, scanning as rapidly as it can, searches hopelessly for the beginning or the end but cannot sort out the ramen noodle love of it all, and I think it needs sriracha or something, ‘cuz something is missing but what? And I keep looking but can’t find it I can’t sort it out and even though I’m, you know, onto it, and maybe I’m also on it, the sad truth is that I’m not on top of it and I can’t sort it out and then I’m sort of awake but the olfactory part of the dream persists even as I sit up and look around in the ten million candle power morning light I still smell her yeah I still smell her but you know, I haven’t seen her for months and I’m pretty sure she didn’t smell like that because everything smells safe and I know that I am not safe. Not safe at all.
Just as the darkness from the run-on dream slash memory was starting to withdraw, we arrived at the driveway to the Kripke farm or estate or whatever it was. I shook my head a few times and the dark clouds turned to bats and flew off, pointlessly looking for a cave somewhere on an endless snow-covered prairie. Good luck with that, fucking bats. Then I remembered why we were there.
The reason we were there is this: I had scheduled a meeting with Athena at The Break — a pool haul in down town Sioux Falls, but as soon as I stepped inside and hugged Athena hello, her phone blew up. It was Lou Anne Kripke with some sort of story about her big abusive dickwad brother Pauly being on a rampage. In this respect her brother was following in the footsteps of his big abusive dickwad dad, Highway Patrolman Kripke. Athena then insisted that we had to go and rescue Lou Anne.
I had never been to the Kripke place before, but when we pulled into their driveway my first thought was that it was fucking typical for a highway patrolman’s house. There it was, a dressed up doublewide trailer sitting at the end of a long ramrod straight driveway. What made it typical was not that the home was a doublewide. What made it typical was the obsessive detail that had been put into making the place look well kept. Someone had precisely graded the drive, and the snow had been meticulously removed – there were no unsightly piles of dirty snow. There were wooden chainsaw sculptures placed at regular intervals along the driveway (mostly sculptures of fish), and there was a giant American flag waving at the top of a well anchored and sturdy white flagpole that was high enough to give the local radio tower a run for its money.
I climbed out of the Jeep and noticed that the place smelled vaguely of freshly plowed snow, which is to say it smelled of the dirt and gravel and hibernating mold that get’s plowed up with the snow. The house itself had been tricked out to disguise its humble mobile home origins. This was accomplished by way of a front porch, bordered by a white plastic fence, all covered by an extended roof. If you didn’t know better, you might mistake it for a ranch house with a well-maintained porch. If you did know better, you took it for what it was – a bib on a pig.
We knocked on the door and Lou Anne met us with warm hugs and invited us into her living area. Lou Anne herself was tall, big boned and prematurely handsome for someone in her early 20s. She also had flaming candy apple red hair and emerald green eyes, and the combination made me think of Christmas presents.
The inside of the place was also well kept, although it had a certain 1990s basement party-room vibe to it. The carpet was some version of mauve bordering on grey, and the place was paneled with a wood grain pattern not found in nature; the same knots in the alleged wood grain pattern kept repeating. There was a strong artificial pine wood scent coming from somewhere, but it failed to mask the smell of pan-fried hamburger. A small TV in the kitchen was tuned to the Weather Channel, and talk of winter ice storms was the ambient background noise.
Lou Anne pulled a 24 pack of Budweiser out of the fridge and offered us beers, which we were sincerely delighted to accept. I was expecting Lou Anne to just hand us a can, but she was the sort of hostess that went the extra mile. She retrieved a pair of tall glasses from the cupboard and poured us beers! It was a great gesture, but there was something off about the color of the glasses – they were a muddy brown purple (I want to say it was puce) color that clashed with the mauve carpet. To be honest, I have only a vague idea of what puce and mauve look like; but imagine colors as ugly as those names and you will understand the color clash I was experiencing.
Lou Anne then poured us a giant Tupperware bowl of cheddar jalapeño Cheetos and we all sat down around a little wooden coffee table and discussed the situation over beer and Cheetos.
“Thanks so much for coming you guys. Pauly is in the other room now sleeping it off, but he was really being belligerent.”
Athena sat next to her and held her hand and took the lead in the conversation.
“I’m so sorry about this Lou Anne, what did he do this time?”
“He got some meth and has been tweaked out for days. Before he passed out he was threatening to slap me around for eating all his Hamburger Helper.”
“But here’s the thing… I didn’t eat it!”
I felt compelled to enter the conversation.
“You know Lou Anne, whether you ate it or not, and for that matter, people still eat Hamburger Helper?, but my point here is that …
Athena interrupted me: “Shut up, EJ.” Then she put her sincere voice back on and addressed Lou Anne.
“Lou Anne, I know you didn’t eat it, but either way Pauly should not act that way.”
“I know, but still…”
“What did he do to you?”
“He didn’t hit me, but he threatened me; I was really scared. I’m sorry to trouble you with this; it’s really nothing.”
“It’s no trouble at all sweetie, and you did the right thing to call me.”
No sooner had she said that than the infamous Pauly came stumbling out of one of the bedrooms. Fucker was big as fuck and ugly as fuck. I’m going to say he was six foot five and 250 pounds at least, and he was wearing a plain white T-shirt and long black board shorts – so long that they nearly went down to his ankles. If he had buzzed off his mullet he could have passed as a roady for a death metal band. His face screamed alcoholic crackhead. His eyes were beady and nervous, with a dollop of Charles Manson, and his complexion was completely shot. In spite of all this what I noticed first was a giant zit or sore or boil or something right smack in the middle of his forehead.
He had a personality to go with the look. “WHAT THE FUCK! Lou Anne! Who are these clowns and why are they making all this noise!?”
“We weren’t making noise, Pauly.”
“Fuck you Lou Anne, you and your loud ass friends WOKE ME THE FUCK UP!”
Then his beady crackhead eyes locked onto the glasses of beer. We could see the gears turning in the meth-addled organ that once was his brain.
“THE FUCK! Is that MY BEER!?”
Lou Anne, strangely unafraid of him now, responded as calmly as she might to a senior citizen in Church. “It’s not your beer, Pauly, It’s our beer.”
Pauly walked up to the coffee table where we were sitting and tore into Lou Anne: “Lou Anne you fucking whore, you had no right to give away perfectly good beer to these cunts.”
Now ok, he can call me a cunt if he wants, but he had no business calling his sister a whore, and beyond that we were fucking guests in his house. Out in the prairie that counts for something. I felt I had no recourse but to stand up and challenge him.
“Dude you need to apologize you your sister.”
“Fuck you cunt. ”
Pauly walked in closer to me so I circled around so that I was between him and the door. I had the sense that I might need a quick escape if I planned on talking shit to him, and that was definitely in my plans. The girls stood up too. I didn’t know if they wanted me to defuse the situation or escalate it, so I chose the middle course of holding my position and responding in kind.
“No one here is a cunt unless it’s you, bro.” Then things started happening rapidly.
Pauly took a swing at me and missed. I tried to push him back but ended up jamming him square in the nose with the heel of my hand. I heard the brief snap of breaking cartilage and then saw Pauly tumbling back asswards onto their shitty-ass coffee table, which promptly collapsed beneath him. It was fantastic! It didn’t make a crunchy sound like you would expect, just a brief crack and a giant thump: cra-THUMP. Pauly was on his back, stunned as fuck, and there were cheddar jalapeño Cheetos everywhere. We were all staring at the aftermath like “did that just happen?”
Athena reacted first, handing me her pepper spray, and I knelt down an gave Pauly a good spray in the eyes because he was a big fuck and I wasn’t going to wait for him to get up and start pounding on me. While he was writhing in agony and bitching about his eyes burning we grabbed Lou Anne and the rest of the 24 pack of Budweiser and ran towards the door. On our way out Pauly yelled “come back here you little shit, what’s your name you cunt?” Lou Anne was like “he’s nobody, Pauley” but just as I was stepping out the door I turned and shouted, “you just got served by Eulysses Josiah William Wedgwood Spode, bitch, and that’s Eulysses with an E!” Athena smacked me upside the head for that, and in hindsight it was probably stupid on my part. Still, you know… I had to say something.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
EJ Spode speaks truth to power. 3:AM are serialising his novel weekly. Keep up.
Image: Jana Astanov
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, October 30th, 2016.