by Hawkelson Rainier
Chapter 19: Diggin’ Up King Tut
NO FUCKING way, Roy said to himself as one of those old timey 1920s Chevrolet stake trucks rambled up to the brick building, executed a haphazard U turn, and proceeded to back up to the loading dock. The burly looking driver laid on the horn until the metal door rolled open.
An annoyed warehouse worker called out, ‘Where’s the fire, Joe? Geez, keep your pants on,’ and the driver handed him the necessary paperwork.
Warehouse Guy went down the checklist and scribbled his name on a piece of paper, handed it back to the driver, and pointed in a vague direction somewhere inside the cavernous dimensions of the warehouse. ‘Just set it over there by the pile of slag.’
The driver loaded up a dolly with heavy looking boxes and wheeled it inside next to the slag.
‘You listen to the game last night?’ Warehouse Guy asked.
‘Yeah. The Cards really did a job on those mugs,’ Burly Driver said.
‘Pop Haines had that knuckleball dancin’.’
‘I wish I woulda threw a yard or two on that game. I woulda bought me a nice bottle of hooch and a dame with gams a mile high.’
Roy was dumbfounded. In all the incomprehensible vastness, he had stumbled upon humans again. And they were speaking English. What were the odds of that? Granted, the language sounded like the script from one of those James Cagney gangster movies, but it was English and not Mandarin or Portuguese. As far as he could tell, he was on Earth again. Maybe not the exact same Earth he had once known, maybe not the same era he had come from, but it was close enough that it felt like home again. Roy listened to these two men bullshit about baseball, broads, and booze, and if he had tear ducts, he would have wept for joy.
Roy saw that the stake truck had an Illinois tag on it, but he figured he was in Missouri because the two guys had such big hard-ons for the Saint Louis Cardinals.
And the references to hooch, dames, and gams definitely sounded 1920s. The roaring 20s, Roy thought to himself. What do I know about the 20s? World War I just ended, prohibition started, bootleggers, organized crime, Al Capone, and… I guess that’s about it. Geez, Roy thought, I guess I don’t know too much about the 1920’s. Maybe I should have paid more attention in Mr. Hodder’s American History class. But Stacey Wetzel sat right next to me and she was so hot. How in the hell was I supposed to learn anything in that class?
‘Alright with all the gum flappin’, I gotta finish my deliveries already,’ Burley Driver said to Warehouse Guy.
‘Yeah, I’ll see ya next week, Joe. Keep your powder dry.’
‘Will, do, Sam my man. Will do.’
Roy tagged along with the driver named Joe because it seemed like the natural thing to do. Of course, Joe didn’t know Roy was in tow, but part of him sensed the presence of an outsider. His arms broke out in goosebumps, and the hair on the back of his neck stood up.
‘Christ,’ Joe complained out loud, ‘I got the heebie jeebies for some damned reason. Well, I got the fix for that,’ he said as he downshifted to rein in some of the Chevy’s momentum before turning off County Road 600 onto an unmarked dirt road that cut through an overgrown pasture and wound down into a wooded hollow. After about a mile there was a fork in the road, and Joe took the southerly route that meandered like a drunken serpent. They came to a rickety wooden bridge that was just wide enough to accommodate the truck. The beams bowed noticeably under the weight, and the planks groaned beneath the tyres, but the bridge held, and fifty feet below, angry looking rocks as big as bowling balls seemed to sigh with disappointment.
About a quarter mile later, the dirt road terminated at the front steps of an unpainted, weather worn house. A tired looking jalopy was parked out front next to a swayed back mare that was hitched to a post. Joe hopped out of the Chevy and glided through the front door with the ease and dexterity of Fred Astaire. It was as if the ponderous chains of years of manual labour had been lifted from him. He smiled easily and greeted the bartender and the one other patron who looked as if he had been bellied up for at least a couple hours already.
‘Hey, Joe!’ the bartender said, ‘Whatchya havin’? Whiskey?’
‘No, I still got a couple deliveries to make, Franky. A draft will do me just fine.’
‘Draft it is, my friend.’
‘Thanks, Franky,’ Joe said as he traded a few coins for the effervescent mug of beer.
‘Boy, things sure seem slow in here.’
‘Oh, it’s still early. It’ll pick up later this afternoon with any luck. You know, Joe, a lot of my regular customers are headin’ to St. Louis these days, or even makin’ the trip all the way up to Chicago. Maybe they figure why come out to this joint in the middle of the woods if you can drop a name or two, waltz right into some big fancy shmancy building and order the good stuff.’
‘I like it here, Franky,’ Joe said. ‘They can have their fancy shmancy cities and their French bubbly that gives you a hangover like you got an ice pick in your skull.’
‘Well, most folks aren’t like you, Joe. They’re always lookin’ for the next big thing,’ Franky said.
‘Like when they dug up old King Tut,’ the other patron, who had been quietly sipping his gin at the end of the bar, spoke up.
Roy was somewhat intrigued by this guy who knew about King Tut. He had one arm, and Roy wondered if maybe it had been torn off by a thresher, or some other farming machinery. Even minus a limb, the guy looked rather formidable. He was square jawed, with close cropped black hair and blue eyes the colour of Antarctic ice. Roy decided he’d have a look around and see for himself what this guy was all about. He passed into the man’s head, through his skull, into the grey brain matter, the blood vessels, and into the firing neurons where the ghost lives, so to speak.
Roy’s own consciousness reflexively synced up with the stranger’s mind. The man’s hopes and dreams, fears and regrets, long ago memories and not so long ago ones, thoughts and feelings… they all raged in a whitewater river of consciousness that surged through Roy. The volume was overwhelming at first; it filtered through Roy’s own consciousness—not in any particular order, just a torrent of information that hit him with a sustained, crushing force.
Roy had to process it all—sort it all into a linear sequence that had a beginning, middle, and end. There was a memory of being the first one eliminated in a second grade spelling bee, and that one had to go before the memory of holding hands with Becky Sue Johnson and stealing a kiss on the playground in the sixth grade. Every memory was attached to its own set of emotions, and emotions being emotions, they had a tendency to trigger other memories which, in turn, were entangled with their own sets of emotions.
Roy thought he might drown—his own consciousness might be swept away, dashed apart on some jagged rocks, and forever lost in this unrelenting current. But he hung on, and the narrative of this stranger’s life began to unfold. The man’s name was Clarence Marshal Bingham. He had been a local baseball star, but his dreams of making it to the majors were cut short on a Tuesday afternoon when the draft letter showed up in his parents’ mailbox.
‘What about King Tut?’ Joe wanted to know.
Roy felt the rumblings of a powerful tremor deep in Clarence’s psyche. Is he makin’ fun of me? Clarence wondered. The question resonated in the man’s head, and it rattled Roy plenty. It was like walking into a right cross, and it took Roy a second to recalibrate and get his bearings. I’ll gut this ugly pug like a catfish, and his thoughts went to the hunting knife he had tucked in his boot.
‘What are you? Some kind of wise guy now, Joe?’ Clarence asked as he got up off the bar stool, a bit wobbly.
‘No, Clarence. You know I ain’t a wise guy. You started sayin’ somethin’ about King Tut, and I was just wonderin’ what it was.’
‘Is that right?’
‘Sure it’s right, Clarence,’ Franky cut in nervously. ‘Come on, let’s all have a drink on the house and hear what you have to say about King Tut.’
‘Yeah, that sounds nice,’ Clarence said as he sat back down and the bartender made up the drinks.
The rumblings subsided, but not before they had opened up a deep fissure in the riverbed of Clarence’s mind. Dark feelings and memories swam up through the fault and brushed against Roy, filling him with horror. It was clear that Clarence had seen things in the Great War, and the spectres of those things still haunted the turbulent, murky waters of his mind.
Roy saw it all unfold plain as day as he shared the stranger’s consciousness. Clarence was a hulking man back when he got that draft notice. Young, dumb, and full of cum—just the way the army wanted them. The commanding officer of his company had hand picked him along with eleven other men for a special tactical unit. They were each issued a Winchester 12 gauge pump action shotgun and a couple of grenades. In the darkness, the dozen of them would crawl out of their trench on their bellies like salamanders and advance toward the enemy position.
Now, the British boys had developed a type of artillery ordinance that was designed to skip along the ground, and so a lot of people called them ‘daisy cutters’. The idea was that you could use them to tear a swath through the damned razor wire, wide enough to sneak at least one man through at a time so they could get back behind enemy lines. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
Clarence and the rest of the squad would be out there, crawling around in the blackness, because if you so much as lit a match you’d bring an entire division of Krauts armed with heavy artillery down on top of you. Those doughboys would try to feel their way through the razor wire, and sometimes one would get hung up by their collar, or the seat of their pants. Maybe you could still work your way out of the jam, but if you panicked and flailed around, that wire would cut into flesh and bone, and then you were hooked like a fish. The sun would come up in the morning and you’d be stuck, out in the middle of no man’s land, waiting for a Mauser to send you to your maker.
And if you managed to make it through the wire, there was still the problem of having to sneak up on a trench full of Germans, or Bulgarians, or whoever the hell happened to be in there at the time. Those doughboys would slither in close and lob a grenade into the trench, and a dozen grenades would go off pretty much simultaneously if they’d timed it right. Then they’d start raining down double ought buckshot for all the sons a bitches who were too dumb to die from the grenades. And those Winchesters were damned fast—they didn’t have disconnectors, so you could just hold the trigger back and slam fire the weapon by working the pump back and forth as fast as you could until she was empty.
These guys got good at it, and they’d be able to get off their seven round payload in just about two and half seconds. That’s nine pellets per shell, times seven shells per man, times twelve men (provided they all made it through the razor wire, of course). That worked out to 756 .32 calibre pellets ripping through the length of the trench in two or three seconds. And even after all that, you’d still have to toss a flare down there to check for survivors.
That was the worst part—cleaning up the stragglers. Those old Winchester riot guns had bayonets on ’em—big sons of bitchin’ bayonets damn near a yard long. One time Clarence looked down into the hole, and in the chemical burn of the flare, he could see some of them Krauts writhing in agony. They were squealing like pigs—nothing human about the sounds they made. The ‘Hit Squad’, as they came to be known throughout their company, jumped headlong into the trench and got to work with those ghastly bayonets, plunging them into flesh and cursing Heaven and Hell whenever they’d bury the point into bone, and they’d have to yank and twist until the damned thing came free.
Clarence was shocked to see one German soldier just standing there among all the carnage. It didn’t appear like he was hurt at all; he was just standing there straight and tall, and he looked right at Clarence and said, ‘Grüß Gott.’
Clarence didn’t speak German, so he replied, ‘Fuck you, too,’ as he watched his bayonet disappear into the German’s belly. He twisted it so that the sharp edge was to the sky, and ripped upwards with a sudden, violent motion. The German’s guts spilled out onto the muddy ground, and the Kraut was just looking down at the mess saying, ‘Scheisse, scheisse, scheisse…’ Then the German soldier reached down as if he were going to try to bundle it all up like a garden hose or something, but his feet got tangled in it, and he fell face first. Clarence could still hear him mumbling, ‘Scheisse, scheisse, scheisse…’
Somebody in his squad grabbed Clarence by the shirt collar and hollered point blank into his ear, ‘Come on, buddy, let’s get the hell outta here!’
As they made that mad dash back through no man’s land and to the relative safety inside their own trench with their own platoon, Clarence kept thinking:
They were only pigs, they were only pigs. Didn’t you hear them squeal? Pigs squeal like that, not people.
But that one talked, he said something in German.
Bullshit… that was a pig.
But pigs don’t talk, Clarence. He was standin’ up on two legs when you gutted him.
I don’t care what you say. That was a pig. I know it was a pig—I’m sure about it.
After a few days of repeating the lie over and over, he started believing it. That’s how Clarence could trick himself into doing such an inhuman job. Even when the army awarded him with the Distinguished Service Cross, Clarence blushed and told the General,
‘Shucks, sir, I was just gettin’ the bacon ready to put up in the smoke house.’ The General had laughed at that, believing it was a joke.
That said, Clarence and the Hit Squad had made seven runs behind enemy lines. Of the original dozen, ten of them were killed in action. Clarence lost his arm, but not from a Kraut. He’d nicked his bicep while scooting under the razor wire one night and didn’t think much about it. Didn’t even think to put a bandage on it, that’s how small it was. About a week later, it felt like his arm was on fire, and some kind of infection had set in there good and deep. Medicine was still pretty crude back then, and there was nothing anybody could do.
The doc gave it to him straight.
‘Son, if we don’t take that rotten arm off, you’ll be dead within a week.’
Clarence took the news about his arm as well as could be expected.
‘Cut the damned thing off then, Doc. I’m gonna go home and have me a real Sunday supper with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and carrots, and my momma’s apple pie for dessert. But no ham… I’m not eatin’ no goddamned ham no more.’
‘That sounds fine, son,’ the doctor said. ‘Fried chicken’s good. Real good.’
It’s no wonder Joe and Franky got a little nervous around this guy, Roy thought. Clarence was a loose cannon who could drink a gallon of gin and was pretty handy with a knife.
‘So, I was sayin’ it’s like when they dug up old King Tut,’ Clarence began again. ‘I reckon he never wanted to be dug up in the first place. And I reckon those folks knowed damn well he wouldn’t appreciate bein’ dug up like that. And if they didn’t know it, they sure as shit shoulda, because they wouldn’t like it neither.’
‘Sure, Clarence, that makes sense,’ Joe said soothingly. ‘Nobody would like bein’ dug up like that.’
‘Yeah, yeah, it’s not a Christian thing, diggin’ up people after they been put to rest,’ Franky said.
‘What the hell was that Limey boy’s name... the smart aleck archaeologist? Carter. I think his name was Howard Carter. Do you know what he was doin’ in Egypt in the first place?’ Clarence asked.
‘Geez, Clarence, I don’t know. You know what he was doin’ in Egypt, Joe?’ Franky asked.
‘Damned if I know, Franky,’ Joe said.
‘I’ll tell ya,’ Clarence said, and he slammed his closed fist down hard enough to make everyone’s drink jump a little bit up off the bar. ‘He was out there sniffin’ around and diggin’ in places he didn’t belong. Siftin’ through all that sand until he found that old boy, King Tut. You know King Tut was thirteen hundred years older than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?’
‘Holy smokes, Clarence, I never knew that. How’d you get so smart?’ Joe said.
‘It’s nothin’ to do with bein’ smart. It’s just readin’ the newspaper and rememberin’ what it said. And the newspaper said that English mug went to Egypt and dug around those deserts for years until he pulled out old King Tut. And for what?’
‘I don’t have no idea, Clarence,’ Joe said. ‘What for?’
‘Hell if I know, and I reckon Carter don’t know neither. People like to go around findin’ answers for things that don’t even have no damned questions,’ Clarence said.
‘It don’t make sense,’ Franky said.
Clarence nodded in agreement and continued, ‘And that’s really what these folks from around here are doin’ when they up and leave where they was born and bred. They go into these big cities and start sniffin’ around, diggin’ around. What’s wrong with our women? What’s wrong with our hooch?’
‘Not a damned thing wrong with ’em,’ Joe chimed in.
‘But that don’t stop ’em, Joe. They just don’t have sense enough to grow roots. They wander every damn place diggin’ up mummies, and they never stop and think that maybe these things is dangerous. Maybe these things ain’t supposed to be dug up.’
‘But I never heard of any mummies in St. Louey or Chicago, Clarence,’ Joe said tentatively.
‘Well, it’s a figure a speech, see,’ Clarence explained. ‘There prolly ain’t no mummies in St. Louey or Chicago, but there’s plenty of things that are plenty dangerous. There’s gangsters in those joints every bit as mean as the Krauts I fought in the trenches. And there’s dames even meaner and more dangerous than them ’cause you’d never reckon a pretty lady would drop a Mickey Finn in your drink, steal your watch and your wallet, and leave you passed out in an alley for the bums to do things to you.’
‘What kinds of things, Clarence?’ Joe had to ask.
‘Queer things, Joe. Unnatural.’
‘They do things like that?’ Joe asked, visibly shaken.
‘Sure. People do all kinds of things,’ Clarence said, and then he drained the rest of the gin and tonic and put his head down on the bar. ‘Since I been to the war, I got more sense, you know what I mean?’ he said sleepily.
‘Yeah, Clarence,’ Franky said, ‘You got a lotta smarts.’
‘The trick is that you gotta keep it simple. Everything you need is right here under your schnoz.’
‘Sure it is, Clarence,’ Franky agreed.
‘Is May gonna be doin’ her rounds tonight, Franky?’ Clarence asked.
‘Yeah, it’s Friday. She’ll be here around four o’clock like usual. Were you thinkin’ maybe about takin’ a roll in the hay?’
‘I’ve been savin’ up for one. You reckon she ever been with a one armed fella?’
‘It don’t matter none to May. It’s only the money that matters for her.’
‘Yeah, I reckon so. Will you wake me up in a little while, Franky? I could use a little shut eye.’
‘Sure thing, Clarence. I’ll wake you up a half hour before May gets here so you can get all washed up. I got a little cologne in the back, and some hair tonic.’
‘You’re a real pal, Franky, a real…’ and he was asleep before he could finish his sentence.
Chapter 20: A Roll in the Hay
BY THE time Clarence clocked out for an afternoon nap, a thick gin fog had already settled over his entire mind state. The raging whitewater of his mind died down into a placid, gently flowing river, and Roy drifted lazily along with it.
Subconscious currents that moved in the deeper strata of Clarence's mind gradually became more prominent. They created little eddies that whirled on the surface, but they seemed harmless enough.
And then Roy felt the subtle shift in direction. Somewhere, he had picked up a bit of angular momentum that moved his trajectory off course. It pushed him outward on a wide counterclockwise arc that gradually brought him around in a great circle, and before he knew it, he was well into the second leg of another revolution.
Then he figured it out. Roy was caught in a vortex, and to his horror, he was unable to extract himself from it. The revolutions reduced in circumference as he wound his way ever closer to the ravenous void at its centre. He wondered if this was how a turd felt as it was being flushed down the commode, flushed far away from a polite society that likes to keep its smells a secret.
As Roy was sucked into Clarence's subconscious, he felt fairly confident that there were going to be some smells and a lot more unpleasantness waiting down there. There was the shock of the cold—it was strange to feel the coldness. But Roy was, after all, intertwined with the flesh and blood of a human being. Why shouldn’t his sensory faculties sputter back to life?
It was both painful and exhilarating to be human again… or at least part human. As he was siphoned down into the depths, pressure built in his ears. Do I even have ears? he wondered.
A disembodied arm swam in front of Roy’s face. It was illuminated by a strange, ghost like glow. It moved by cupping its hand and undulating serpent like through the murkiness. The arm swam by Roy’s head a second time, more slowly, as if curious. With the suddenness of a barracuda, it turned and latched onto his face with crushing force, like a strongman at a carnival trying to single handedly burst a cantaloupe for his slack jawed audience.
Roy tried to peel the fingers off of his face with his hands—I have hands, he realized—but the menacing fingers seemed to have hydraulic strength, and they grew into octopus tentacles that wrapped around his entire skull.
An ominous and powerful drum hammered at frantic speed, and Roy realized he was synced with Clarence’s heart. It thundered through his being like a stampeding herd of buffalo, and time suddenly seemed valuable again, every grain of sand that fell through the hourglass was infinitely complex and beautiful, like a rainforest. There was more feeling, more understanding in those ephemeral moments than in the billion or so years he had muddled away after fleeing the Asteroid Colony.
And just as Roy felt the last of his life force being squeezed from his being, the hand released him, and its horrific tentacles contracted back into fingers. The hand seemed to shrink a bit, to soften, until it was unmistakably feminine. The ropey muscle of the forearm, biceps, and triceps diminished, and Roy saw that the dainty arm was attached to a beautiful woman with luxurious, raven black hair who floated there in front of him, naked and angelic. Then there was a baby—she was cradling a baby against her bosom. The woman was saying something in French—she repeated the words over and over. He wondered if the baby was Clarence’s baby.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak French,’ Roy told her. The woman and the baby dissolved, like sugar cubes, back into the cloudy ether of Clarence’s subconscious. Roy didn’t know whether to feel relieved or heartbroken.
As promised, the smells arrived. A pungent, sour decay registered inside of Roy with such urgency that his stomach lurched into his throat. Then, a harsh chemical light suddenly blossomed to life—a flare of some sort, which burned an ugly reddish orange, illuminating the source of the ghastly odours.
There was a slew of pigs, squealing on the lazy slope of a sandbar. The sounds were unworldly, like banshee wails mixed with an ear piercing squelch that resonated like feedback from the mother of all amplifiers. Roy wanted to look away, but he was transfixed on the hellish scene. The pigs each suffered from varying degrees of dismemberment, as if the butcher had A.D.H.D. and had run all out of Adderall. Even more grotesque was the fact that human parts were growing from several of the pigs—one had human feet instead of hooves, one had a human nose and mouth, and one had human hands that struck a match, lit a cigarette, popped it into its snout and inhaled deeply.
Some of these pigs donned those German helmets with the point protruding from the crown. Others wore doughboy helmets with that little brim that ran around their entire circumference. Some had impressive looking medals pinned to their hides, some donned gas masks, and one of them walked upright, wearing a pair of knickers that flared out dramatically at the thighs and tapered down rapidly before disappearing neatly into knee high black patent leather boots.
One pig was lying on its back—its rib cage was cracked wide open, and two swine fed out of it as if it were a trough full of entrails. Another sat Indian style, holding a bloody ham hock, chewing on it contentedly. A big sow staggered about with its lower jaw missing and one eye dangling by the optic nerve while a little black spotted pig with a General’s hat nipped at delectable bits of its shoulder meat that had been shredded by some previous trauma.
Mercifully, Roy continued his descent, away from the soldier gluttons who feasted on their own kind. Even an army of Sigmund Freuds would have a tough time unscrambling this guy’s brain. What a waste, Roy thought.
A middle aged woman wearing her mousy brown hair in a tight bun floated into Roy’s field of vision. She had thick, horned rimmed glasses and a long, drab dress that fell to her ankles. She wielded a yardstick menacingly as she screamed something unintelligible at Roy. Judging by the way her inflection went up, Roy suspected it was a question.
‘I don’t understand,’ he said to the woman.
This only stoked her wrath, and she grabbed him by the wrist, extended his hand away from his body, and rapped the yardstick across his knuckles. Roy pulled away reflexively, his hand stinging as if he had just shoved it into a hornets’ nest. The mean lady emphatically gestured at an old timey slate blackboard that seemed to materialize from nothing.
There were words scrawled in white chalk across the dark plane, and though Roy could see each letter quite clearly, they didn’t line up into any words he’d heard of before. In fact, the letters would intermittently shuffle themselves and reappear in an even more confounding arrangement.
‘I don’t know,’ Roy said. ‘I can’t read it.’
The middle aged lady with the mousy hair in a tight bun shook her head in disgust. It was such a belittling gesture that Roy would have preferred another whack with the yardstick instead. The sound of children giggling began to emanate from the muddy fathoms, and then they began to materialize one by one, each seated at a little wooden desk. They craned their necks around so they could snicker and point at Roy, and their conspiratorial whispers buzzed like bees around his head. Even that dried up old prune of a teacher began pointing and laughing at him, and Roy wanted to tell them all where to shove it, but the words came out of his mouth all mixed up in a pathetic gibberish that brought the taunting to a crescendo.
Like a dangerous carnival ride that just doesn’t seem to stop, Roy continued sinking, and the jeers faded as he went. He felt the temperature rise considerably, and he hoped he wasn’t nearing Hell or some kind of hot sulphur spring that would cook him into a giant pork rind. To his relief, the temperature soon levelled off to something that approximated a lukewarm bath.
Roy was aware that he had somehow become wrapped up in a soft linen blanket. It was cozy, and he could have dozed off if it weren’t for the bothersome emptiness in his belly. He fidgeted to get his arms free from the blanket, and he looked up and saw the face of a young woman who was gazing upon him with beautiful green eyes. She stared at Roy in wonderment, as if he were a king, or a god.
He liked when she smiled at him. She made sing song cooing sounds, and Roy liked those too. He giggled at them. The nice woman pulled her blouse away from her breast, and Roy saw that it was round, and he liked the roundness. She cradled the back of his head and moved him closer to her bosom. It was round and warm, and Roy liked that. She gently brushed her nipple against his lips, and without thinking about it, he put his mouth on it and began to suck.
The little tug of war between sleep and hunger was tipping in the Sand Man’s favour. With his belly quite full, and the hypnotic cadence of the woman’s heart, Roy let his eyes close. And then he was awakened when the same woman hoisted him up to her shoulder and jostled him up and down, tapping him on the back. He was annoyed by this disturbance. The motion of it all made it difficult to sleep, and sleep was all he wanted. He fussed and kicked, but the woman continued bouncing him up and down, up and down, up and down.
Roy became aware of another presence nearby, and this new presence did not seem gentle and nice like the woman. It seemed harsh—maybe dangerous. It was a man. He smelled musky. There was nothing subtle or delicate about how the man moved. The woman spoke to him gently, but the man responded gruffly.
The man was drinking from a bottle. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He turned the bottle up, drained the last of it, and hurled the bottle. It exploded, and Roy could feel the little shards pepper the side of his face. Roy screamed and screamed, and the woman whispered gentle sounds in his ear, but he just kept screaming, and the woman ran with Roy in her arms, ran away and left the mean man far behind, but Roy slipped away through the nice woman’s arms, sinking again, faster than before.
There were chimpanzees around him, and Roy was one of them. It didn’t seem strange—he just accepted it the way you accept the givens in a geometry problem. Thought was not convoluted. Everything was clear, simple. There was a self-evident order among them. Everyone had their place.
The sun burned relentlessly in a cloudless sky. A paltry breeze struggled to rustle the tall, yellow savannah grass while a few chimps listlessly picked at a dead tree branch in search of grubs, or termites. The rest of them lounged in the scrawny shade of a thirsty shrub, waiting for the heat of the day to pass.
Then, a shadow flashed over them, and terror erupted in every fibre of their D.N.A. The chimps scattered, rushing to find sanctuary in the tall grass. And then the talons had Roy by the nape of the neck, and the downforce from the raptor’s wings generated a violent surge of air, and the savannah fell out from underneath Roy. The beast took him high into the sky and released him above an outcropping of jagged rocks that would smash open his skull, exposing the spongy meat inside.
As Roy fell, he flailed against physics, flailed against all odds, and then...
‘Hey, Clarence…’ a voice suddenly cut in, and Roy was no longer falling to his death. He was no longer a chimpanzee for that matter—and to his surprise—he was suspended just a few feet above the rocks, just hovering there wondering what the hell was going on.
‘Hey, Clarence,’ the voice thundered out of the sky once again. ‘May’s gonna be here in about a half hour. Let’s get you ready for your big date, buddy.’
And then Roy began to fall upwards, upwards away from the rocks, brushing past the incredulous eagle, into thinner air, out of the atmosphere, into the murky water, past the nice woman with the soothing voice and round breasts, past the surly drunk who breaks bottles, beyond the vindictive teacher and the indecipherable hieroglyphics on the old timey blackboard, surging beyond the cannibal soldier pigs and the foetid smells that engulfed them, leaving behind the beautiful French woman and her little baby, dodging the disembodied arm with leviathan fingers, crashing up and out of the muddy river, out of the intricately folded brain matter, and finally, out of Clarence’s skull altogether.
Roy’s etheric energy hovered there inside the speakeasy, now physically disconnected from the groggy, bleary eyed and battle scarred lump of humanity that was slouched on the bar.
‘Come on, champ,’ Franky said as he pulled Clarence off of the bar stool and onto his feet. ‘You’re gonna be a regular Don Juan when May gets here. You got the money, right, champ?’
‘Yeah, sure… I got the money, Franky,’ Clarence said, more alert now. ‘It’s buttoned up right here in my shirt pocket.’
‘Good, good,’ Franky said as he handed Clarence a bar of soap, some cologne, a little bottle of hair tonic, and a comb. He ushered him down a dark hallway to a sparsely furnished back room where May made the magic happen. Roy wondered if Franky was just happy to help a friend get laid, or if he was, in fact, May’s Pimp. Probably a little of both, he figured.
Roy was happy for Clarence, too. He had seen into the strange waters of this man’s psyche—a man who got dealt losing cards more often than not—but here he was, still trying to make the best of it. Roy decided he was gonna tag along for Clarence’s roll in the hay.
It’s kind of pervy, I know, Roy said to himself, but this might be as close to getting laid as you’re ever gonna get in this universe.
He hopped back into Clarence’s mind and immediately experienced what his host was feeling—anxious and horny. The primacy of it felt good to Roy. On some level, Clarence had a subtle sense of the foreign presence that was stowed away in his head. He dismissed it as nothing more than a side effect of the gin, and he poured some cold water over himself, and then shook his head back and forth rapidly the way dogs do when they want to dry off.
Clarence slicked his hair back nice and smooth with the tonic, splashed a little cologne on his neck, and evaluated the situation in the mirror. Good enough, he said out loud as he hopped, skipped, and leaped onto the rickety bed. He patted the bills that waited in his front pocket and listened to the clock on the wall ticking away.
Roy wasn’t used to experiencing time in a human sense, and the anticipation was excruciating for him. Clarence was whistling a lackadaisical tune, and maybe that was the only thing that kept Roy sane.
Finally, the door swung open and a tall blonde walked in, wearing black high heels and a fringed red dress that stopped a full hands width above her knees. She took a healthy drag through one of those long cigarette holders, exhaled, and said, ‘Well, well, Clarence Bingham. It’s about time you made a date with me.’
‘Yeah, May… I was meanin’ to for a long time now. I guess I was just shy is all,’ Clarence said, blushing. ‘I got the money right here,’ he said as he fumbled at his shirt pocket.
May smirked seductively, took the money, dropped it in her black purse, and snapped it shut.
‘Ain’t you gonna count it?’ Clarence asked.
‘I trust you, Clarence. I’ve known you for a long time. We were in the same high school and I had such a crush on you. You were a big baseball star. Remember that?’
‘Sure, May, I remember. But I reckon things has changed a lot since then.’
May sat down on the bed beside Clarence and said softly, ‘That awful war. Oh, Lordy… how many of our boys never made it back from that damned war? I was so happy when I saw you back here in Winfield.’
‘Well, most of me made it back, anyway,’ he said, and he tugged on the empty, rolled up shirt sleeve to illustrate his point.
‘It was a terrible price, I know. But you’re alive, Clarence.’ Then she whispered into his ear, ‘And you’re here, all alone with me. That’s not so bad, is it?’
‘It’s nice, May. It’s real nice of you to make time for me,’ he said.
She helped him out of his shirt, and her hand danced over his chest before wandering to the stump where the doctor had taken his right arm, just below the shoulder. Then she traced her finger down his stomach, until she got to his belt buckle, and made quick work of that.
Clarence was already raring to go, a fact that did not escape May as she stripped him down the rest of the way. She stood up, kicked off her shoes, and let the dress slip off her shoulders. It pooled around her bare feet, and she posed there, naked, with her hands on her hips and a saucy little smile. ‘What do you think?’ she said in an offhand kind of way.
‘May, you’re a total fox. That’s what I think.’
Roy looked on through Clarence’s eyes, and he agreed that she was, indeed, a fox. Her face was a little gaunt, and perhaps the lines around her eyes were further along than most women her age, but what do you expect for someone in her line of work? And her body was something else—a Coke bottle figure with gams for days (Roy was already getting hip to the lingo).
May stepped out of her dress and climbed on top of Clarence. Roy got the full experience as well: May’s heat, the delicate scent of her perfume, her body moving rhythmically, and her eyes—her eyes were a beautiful green, like peridot. Roy had to go to her; he had to know what it was like to be part of her.
He left Clarence and melted into her, and it was a little like when an American hops into a rental car in London and finds out the steering wheel is on the wrong side, and the stick shift is on the left. In principle, it was about the same, but in practice, there were a few quirky differences that required some adjustments on Roy’s part.
The vagina and clitoris were, of course, unfamiliar territory for Roy. Then there were nuances like the G spot sensations and an intense orgasmic pleasure that rippled through May’s breasts as Clarence sucked and caressed her nipples.
‘May,’ Clarence called out with some urgency, ‘I’m almost there,’ he said.
‘Just hold on, honey,’ May panted. ‘I’m right behind you.’
Clarence staved off his orgasm gallantly, the way Davey Crocket and all the other brave soldiers held off the Mexican Army at the Alamo until the last possible second. His extraordinary effort gave May the time she needed to catch up. A powerful wave of ecstasy washed over them, and with an impeccable sense of timing, Clarence gave May a firm slap on the ass which caused her orgasm to spike to cosmic heights. She whimpered, and her legs shook in euphoric delirium, and Clarence buried his head in her tits and came deep inside her.
‘Thanks, May. That was somethin’ else,’ Clarence said as he fumbled with his clothes.
‘Pleasure was all mine, Clarence. Don’t be a stranger, you hear?’ she said as she slipped back into the red dress and stepped into her high heels. Her legs felt rubbery, and she stifled a giggle while she wondered if that’s how a newborn colt feels.
‘You know I’d put you on my payroll full time if I had the dough,’ Clarence said, his voice heavy with sleep.
May thought about that statement, and for a moment, she wanted to blurt out, ‘Let’s run away, you and me. I love you, Clarence. I’ve loved you since the first day I saw you back in high school—so big and strong up there on that pitcher’s mound. You’d be a major leaguer, and Babe Ruth himself would be shit scared of you if that damned war never come along. I have some money that can get us started. Let’s run away and get hitched, and we’ll figure out the rest.’
Her nurturing instinct cried out to scoop him up and coddle him. She wanted to take away all his hurt and make him better again, like when she was a little girl and brought home a sparrow with a busted wing that needed mending. But she had already seen enough of how the world works to know that fairytale endings weren’t the kind of thing ordinary people stumbled into very often.
A one armed, out of work husband with a thirst for gin, a Bowie knife in his boot, and a quick fuse, didn’t exactly seem like the kind of recipe that could bring home the blue ribbon from the county fair.
She let the moment pass, and she said sweetly, ‘Well, Clarence, you know I like you. I’ll talk to Franky, and maybe we can work out a kind of friendly discount for our future dates.’
‘Yeah, May. That’s real nice of you. Thanks again,’ he said as he kissed the back of her hand and let himself out.
CONTINUES NEXT MONTH…