BY TOM BRADLEY
My solitude grew more and more obese, like a pig.
When things were normal, Mr. Fukuoka could be found trying to teach Japanese to rich teenagers in a prep school in the mountainous north. But, tonight being abnormal, he found himself in the southern wastes, visiting the scene of a crime perpetrated against him when his was younger than his students, when he was known as Little Flip.
Wandering off alone into raucous blackness, Mr. Fukuoka fell, humbled, to pray, upon the abrasive desert floor, and impaled both knees on a decaying coil of War Relocation Authority barbed wire. Peeling that up from the sterile dust, he discovered an intact jar, its glass blued by decades of ultraviolet radiation, its label bleached but legible. No mayonnaise, but the crispy remains of two baby rattlesnakes were visible inside, greened by jaundiced moonlight.
Little Flip had intended to domesticate them, or at least to save them from the bullsnakes (long, thick, and black as the donkey penises cited in the Book of Ezekiel) which the guards had been ordered to set loose on the periphery to chase the mother rattlers off. But he had either forgotten or, more likely, in his dispossessed state, had lacked the means, to punch air holes in the lid. Dried macaroni-like mummies with microscopic fangs were the result of his lifetime's sole visitation by the nurturing instinct, active or passive.
"Better known as Hellman's Real Mayonnaise east of the Rockies, which is where you rice-niggers should be," a bully guard had mumbled. Physically unfit for combat, bug-eyed and hoarse, the guard had tried to confiscate the jar, but had been persuaded to relent by a golden and blue angel from the mountains.
"A child needs his pets," the Mormon missionary had smirked. "Just as we grownups do."
Tonight, shaking the concentration camp relic in his hand like a baby rattle or sorcerer's fetish, Mr. Fukuoka found himself stumbling down a dry gully and into a roaring corner of red-sand Topheth. He peeked between a cactus' upthrust fists; and what he saw stunned and paralyzed him like a double injection of hot reptile venom. He froze, obscured in lurching campfire shadows. He seemed to have almost walked in on a Canaanite orgy.
The throbbing explosions could have been his own heart imploding, self-destructing in waltz rhythm; the screams and profanities and flashes and tracers could have been his eyeballs and eardrums bursting out of heir appointed seats, being washed away, dislodged by the sheer pressure inside his head; the artificial winds could have shot from the four dilated nostrils of a yoke of supernal Palmyra oxen bearing on each of their backs one foot of the awful Bedouin Yahweh, come to deliver the final revelation of all time.
A detachment of jeering junior shamans, lithe and semi-clothed Caucasoid apprentices to red masters, howled and brawled among themselves with broad gestures. They sent forth bolts of lurid fire from their bony, outstretched arms and into Heaven's black midsection. Boys' lean backs and buttocks were plainly visible. Sinewy creatures, seemingly one-armed, followed behind them and whispered abominable jokes over their shoulders and into their juvenile ears, hunching and huffing very close, making the centaur with seven limbs.
He should have suspected something in homeroom the week before.
The polygamist children from the boarding department had reacted so jubilantly to the geology teacher's proposal of a geode-digging "all-nighter" among nerve-gassed sheep carcasses in the U. S. Army's proving grounds. Japanese language instructor to the children of the nouveaux riches for an entire week already, Teachie-poo-sensei had assumed, in his naivete, that the Lord was giving him a chance to teach these privileged white children a connotation of the word topaz other than the one found at position eight of Professor Moh's unrevised, unexpanded Hardness Scale, which the geology teacher kept tacked to the homeroom wall. At the very top of the chart, just above diamond, someone phenomenally tall had penciled a new position of ultimate hardness: "Nip homo boners."
It had been part of his new-on-the-job hazing to be duped by the other faculty members into co-chaperoning this field trip. He could have had no idea what he was in for; could never have imagined what white teens were capable of.
"What does our right-honorable governor call that county?" one of them had squealed from the back row of desks.
"Panoramaland!" the rest of them had hooted in unison, making googly-eyes and whirling their index fingers in psychedelic spirals around each other's ears.
"Our patriarchal stomping grounds!" the polygamist children had screeched. (The administration let anybody with lots of money into the school.) "Time to take care of some business, boys!"
And here was the reason for their jubilation.
Instead of the sand-dune Jehovah's sublime voice, the youngish Japanese teacher heard the scratchy squawks of adolescent heathens of only near-angelic physique. When not dancing like naked dervishes in the firelight, they seemed to be hawking various survivalist paraphernalia and ordnance freshly delivered, in the original factory boxes, from the belly-hatch of their millionaire patriarch's helicopter.
The shoppers appeared to be Marxist bucks and savage septuagenarian peyotists from the Shivwit tribe aboriginal to this smoking cranny of Gehenna. They'd been latterly elevated to polite Intermountain society's upper-middle ranks by the discovery of lush uranium deposits on their reservation, plus generous federal recompenses for nerve agent leakages. They had shown up tonight not in the expensive sharkskin business suits they wore to New Zion's Bank, but in traditional buckskin sweat-lodge garb -- a canny enough wardrobe choice, considering the fatuous young romantics they were dealing with. Their exquisitely beaded loincloths were bolstered plump with stumpy red penises and substantial wads of equally hard currency, neither of which they seemed particularly desirous of keeping a hold on.
For the native Americans' benefit, one of the less gifted Japanese students demonstrated something brand-new in those days: a surface-to-air, shoulder-deployed, heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile. The suggested target was a single crawling point of light far overhead which everybody surmised to be an Israeli spy satellite. And the rocket seemed, after a slithering, smoking chase through the constellations, to find its mark, filling the suborbital void with livid blasts of light, and the desert with incredulous howls of glee.
Cadets from the polygamist family's private military academy defiantly discharged their M16's, Uzis and AK-47's into Orion's belt, confident of their immunity from prosecution on this scofflaw reservation, where the bare mention of the words Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms could be relied upon to elicit hoots of derision from even the stoniest-faced old squaw.
Without being told, the youngish Japanese teacher somehow decided that he was witnessing nothing less than red communism cutting a deal with under-aged splinter Mormonism. They most likely were hatching a nefarious plot to stage a paramilitary coup in this county, at whose southernmost extreme was situated a vast dam that provided life-sustaining electricity to considerable portions of that militarily sensitive area known as the west coast of the United States of America.
Only minutes before, Teachie-poo-sensei had discreetly absented himself from the girls. They appeared to be camping more or less legitimately, if one ignored the mushroom clouds of hemp smoke belching from the turquoise mouths of their sleeping bags. He'd left those future brides of Satan under the chortling, geode-fondling supervision of the geology teacher ("Damn Army boys must be re-hearsin' for 'nother damn Tit Offensive out there on the damn provin' grounds!"), and he had scrambled deep into the moonlight. Almost insane with masochistic nostalgia for the relocation camp, and the guards, and the intrusive right hand of the golden and blue missionary, he had found nothing more edifying than an old vermin-rattling mayonnaise jar, and this mescaline Eucharist.
In the hot night air, hiding among the shadows at the rout's periphery, the youngish Japanese teacher found himself slipping into a delirium of rage at the sight of his boyhood's praying ground being desecrated by moneychangers, an intoxication compounded by furiously denied sexual arousal at the spectacle itself.
His heart began to swell with some half-formed intention of bringing fright and firepower to bear upon the pony-tailed socialists and the spawn of multiple fornication. He would drive them like sheep; he would force them to ooze their lubricious selves ten yards due west, or maybe twenty or thirty, or maybe a hundred miles, across sperm-yellow salt and scab-red sand, to where he hallucinated the county line. There, beyond the protection of the county attorney -- who happened to be a plural mother of the "polygily-wiggly" boys -- they would be forced to undergo citizen's arrest at the Japanese teacher's passion-quaking hands.
Quaking hands, but not bare.
Falling again to his punctured knees, he began to gather what he trusted were the raw ingredients of simple but effective explosive compounds. With splitting fingernails he scratched up various soils from his long-abandoned bridal bed, plus shirt-pocketsful of hardness-eight gravel to serve as splattergun projectiles. He prayed a weeping prayer of repentance as he performed the damnation offense of removing and shredding, for a fuse and wadding material, his official Church undergarments, this world's only sure prophylaxis from the black influence of Beelzebub. With adrenalin strength he wrenched the crumbling tailpipe from an abandoned army jeep, an orange barrel for this primitive but blessed blunderbuss.
Then he stumbled through the darkness and, mostly with his fingertips' sensitive skin, set about scrounging a sort of soldier-of-God uniform for himself, a disguise, improvised from dry stone detritus and desert carrion. He peeled some skin from a dead, pregnant ewe's jaws and eye sockets and stretched it across his own face to protect his lungs and brain cells from the toxic fumes of whatever burnt holocaust his pupils might be offering up to their Canaanite bull-god. With his bare teeth he gnawed free from their spindly anklebones the clawed feet of a gluttony-burst vulture, coated them with his own scant saliva and mud-pasted them to either side of his head: elfin ears, dead pinfeathers tickling. Like Moses himself, he sprouted a steer's parched and porous horns, and encircled them with a thorn-crown of blood-colored and blood-reeking barb wire.
As he made himself over, the gruesome elements in his costume began ever so gradually to be obscured by glistening ones: beads of sun-blued glass from coolies' shattered opium jars were draped from either earlobe; ivory-colored hair barrettes and false eyelashes were alluringly fashioned from baby rattlesnakes' filament-fine skeletons, lovingly shaken, with curled fifth fingers, out of the mayonnaise jar. And, in case his mask slipped, he concocted himself a facial foundation of talc-fine sand, wind-sifted, and moistened seductively with blood from his own tear-ducts. A powder of pollen was coaxed from cactus blooms clenched for the evening but finger-pried apart like moist fairy buttocks. And all this was obscured ever so subtly by a pagan bridal veil of woven cactus spines.
Heavenly Father's voice suddenly rang out from the hilly north. It blasted
a passage through the night clouds and rebounded off the exposed depths
of outerspace: "Leave off thy preening, effeminate son of the Gibeah
But the Japanese teacher was a tobacco-free Latter-Day-Saint. He had no match to detonate his cannon. He began to wail aloud, a keening sob of lamentation, bringing all eyes in the vicinity down upon him.
Matter-of-factly, with no hesitation and little or no registration of surprise, the demoniacs embraced the creature that came hiccoughing from the shadows. They took his makeshift weapon and politely stacked it, tepee-style, among a cache of other wartime exotica, not even snickering. They draped him all about with their skin, their acne pockmarks and syringe-holes serving the same gripping function as suction cups on squid tentacles, and they drew him into the party, just another knot in the parched tangle of aborted serpents.
"Just another Utah misfit," laughed a horribly familiar teen voice, "a hairless Edom fucked out of his birthright for a bowl of bean soup -- or, in this case, a pan of stir-fried green veggies!"
Leather-faced grannies gathered and gnawed on the youngish teacher's Japanese fingers in some nameless atavistic behavior. They shoveled handfuls of a sage-flavored incense onto the campfire. They fed him strychnine-tufted cactus bulbs that popped his brain-skin like an overripe hymen, and they laughed, at first affectionately, then derisively, at his impotence and structural underdevelopment.
The Mesopotamian god-head sprouted several writhing strands of hair, became a five-snake medusa, not only fatal, but impossible to behold for any creature without two faces, the second able to see behind.
The familiar boy's suffocating presence could be felt more and more, like a creeping odor. He squatted in the shadows and wrote in the living flesh of the orange sand with a slip of barb wire -- not his Japanese calligraphy exercises, but something else, specifically for the benefit of three Shivwit braves, who gaped, were appalled, who giggled and wept in rapture and terror, who periodically touched one another's scaly elbows for corroborative witness, and manipulated their feathered fetishes to ward off the strong medicine contained in the overwhelming strokes that the white hand produced and wiped away with equal nonchalance.
"C'mon, you guys, can't you maintain twenty seconds in a row? These are the kind of questions they put on the entrance exam. Take 'em home to little Pocahontas, so she can come pitch her wigwam in our boarding department. We need some new blood around that dump."
At some rough jostle of a mighty sandstone elbow, very close to home, Teachie-poo-sensei was unmasked as he squatted and grimaced in a mound of ritually and literally defiled salt. Teacher and students' faces met: they grinned cougar teeth, flashed coyote tongues.
The brat's prematurely bleary eyes focused in a single direction for the first and last time. They lingered with impertinence where they shouldn't; but eventually those eyes managed to find their way around to the empty mayonnaise jar still clutched to the front of Teachie-poo-sensei's body, thence all the way up to his face.
In a convulsion of sheer delight, Sammy Edwine belched words destined to remain immemorial among the students of the Episcopalian college preparatory institution:
"Why, if it isn't Mr. Fuck You, Okay?"
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
BEWARE OF PROCEEDING WITHOUT READING:
Zadie Smith's "On the Road:
American Writers And Their Hair"
Keith Obadike's Blackness Is For Sale
The Plot Revealed: "The Others"
Interview With An Autofellator
Archive of Recent Activities