Dec 10, 2013

Green Eyes --- Chapter 32: The humble worm C. Elegans

Previously --- John fell in love with Alex. That's the most important thing. But other events interfere, such as the rape of Maurice, a friend who lingers in the hospital at the moment, or the attempt of the rapist to eliminate Maurice as the witness to the crime (Maurice survived thanks to John's interference). John is about to leave the hospital and go home, where his Tea Party father awaits him.

I'm on the Coastal Highway again, driving home. Some new billboards have gone up, or changed their tune---right, next week is Georgia Beach Week, the so-so attempt of the local business community to replicate Woodstock, or Burning Man, and put our town on the map by means of a local festival. It’s always themed, the Week of Festive Sales, and this year it’s vampires. Men and women with extreme fangs have replaced dental paste and Pampers on the bill-boards, the undead appearing with their fangs next to the fresh, ever-reborn face of the new mayor. I'm behind as usual, I haven't even seen the latest installment of Twilight. I'll have to ask Luke about this and fetch some food anyhow for tonight.

Caenorhabditis (“C.”) Elegans (enlarged)

I tell Luke about my truck and the galactic Merc man. Luke is quite interested, I even tell him about the ‘Armani minimum,' he likes that, too. "Keep me posted," he says.
“The Week is coming up, with vampires. Your work?”

“I’m a tiny cogwheel in the larger machinery of meaning,” he replies, “I’m not even a member of the country club, but yes, sure, the Mayor asks for ideas, I answer his call. Alerted them to a fortuitous coincidence. You’ve heard of the End-of-the-World?”
“Who hasn’t.”
“No, I mean next week.”
“Last time was in May last year, remember?”
“But that didn’t go through.”
“A regrettable error in the calculations.”
“They should have hired Alex,” I say absent-mindedly, Luke doesn’t even know him.
“Well, they hired Barbette Bienpensant.”
“Never heard of.”
“She’s some professor at the Metaphysical University, and she’s predicting the End for next week.”
“Cool, isn’t it. Vampires and Rapture, dovetails neatly.”
“You’re more on the vampire end, I guess.”
“No, no, I’m broad-minded, have a look.” He points across the main aisle at a row of life-sized sex toys, inflatable puppets, blown-up already, the vulvas invitingly open for business.
“So?” I say.
“I have them fitted with a timer and dressed in neighborhood wear, you know, the garments people wear when getting raptured while mowing the lawn or watching TV. And then, poom, I don’t know yet when exactly, Professor Bienpensant hasn’t finished her calculations yet, poom, the timer goes off, they deflate, the puppets, pooff. They will look almost real, you know, empty clothes, neatly aligned on the lawn, or the couch, the empty puppet inside practically invisible. Neat, isn’t it?”
“Cool,” I repeat myself. “You think they sell?”
“I know what you think,” he says, “but people are not stupid. They are useful, these toys, they are re-inflatable. Rapture fun is a nice pretext to purchase a sex puppet. The wife cannot complain.”

The rapture of May 21, 2011

I buy a few cans of beer and two microwavable hamburgers, plus a bag of microwavable fries, plus ketchup.

“Don’t you need some hands during the Week? For your stall at the Festival venue?” I ask.
“You need money?”
“I need money, yes. I’m not paid during the break.”
"You’ll be running off with the Count," he says.
"The Count?"
"Well, yes, Dracula."
“No, no,” I say, “not Dracula, especially not Dracula, I need the money.”
"I'll think about it," he deflects. "This black guy," his words follow me as I'm leaving, "yesterday's black guy, John, he would be a nice twist, couldn't you ask him, ask him if he's interested, he looked like a college kid in need of a summer job."

I sidestep. He understands. Of course.

I arrive at home, father's mis-parked, as usual, I park my own vehicle as far away as possible from his clunker, the rust must be contagious. I don’t feel great and have trouble climbing the stairs, let's hope it's not a concussion after all. The groin still hurts. Father has the spare key now. Will he be sitting at the kitchen table? Will he be doing nothing with his life? Will people always sit at kitchen tables clad in underwear doing nothing with their lives?

Father is indeed sitting at the kitchen table, but he does something, he reads his own flyers. I lost yesterday's Tea Party exchange in the second round on points, remember, but there is something beyond the content of this shit that's aggravating, the handbills take up too much space on the table.

"You haven't had a chance to do something about your canvassing material, right,” I ask.
"I was at the beach," he answers.

We should have a fight now, but it's vital that we don't get into an argument (in the sense of an exchange of ideas, or declarative setences). Any attempt to prevail through argumentation must and will fail, we’ve covered this already. How to start a fight then? I need to provoke him somehow. I pop hamburgers and fries into the microwave, get hold of two plates, ketchup, salt, and put his plate ever so gently on the table in front of him. I’m teasing him, it's sort of obvious, but what can a poor body do. He asks for knife and fork. Is he getting married again? “Can’t you eat with your hands?” I say (0 points). He's crouched over the plate, both elbows propped on the table, his mouth too close to the food, and now he’s killing a fry with his fork, and a second one, and a third one, and ultimately a twelfth one (he can count to twelve), and now he’s munching himself to death while a score of slaughtered fries are sticking out of his maw like trapped fish or other bad metaphors. "Why don't you eat with your nose," I say (0 points). He groans something back. I'm about to share a flashback to Monty Python's "A Fish Called Wanda," (nose, fries, ketchup, oral orifice taped shut, death by asphyxiation, almost, you must remember this) but the doorbell rings.

The doorbell, what else would you expect from us. It's Ben. Ben! The soap opera must go on! Perhaps I should tell Ben that my father is around, but father can overhear me on the intercom. "Sure," I say to the intercom, "come on up." He won't be able to stay long, Ben’s voice informs me in anticipation of I don't know what, whether that's OK. Sure, it is. With a father like this, everything is fine. “My father is here,” I let him know.

Ben makes his entrance in a holy sort of way, only sons of black ministers can do this. He's very polite, he's even trying to greet father formally, but dad remains immersed in his flyers. "Can I offer you a beer?" I ask Ben. He has to drive home, no alcohol, a cup of coffee would be fine. He has recouped his car, crossed the overpass, and swings by. He left my phone number at home, couldn't call in advance. I have my doubts as to whether he forgot the number or changed his mind on the spot. Dr. Freud, can you hear us?

"I thought I would never see you again," I say---this is something I would not have said only three days ago, in particular not in the presence of my father. I tell Ben about the missed appointment at the hospital, about the missed mental notes, my stupid behavior the next morning, about my feeling terribly sorry, whether he would please, please convey my sincere apologies to his parents. My father raises his reading glasses (1 point)---tomorrow I will tell him that Ben has a big dick (5 points). Ben is getting up, he's already done, apparently, it’s as if he’s just been waiting for me to say something in the future tense.

"How long is you father staying..." he asks—this is like soccer, folks, the right wing man passing the ball, and---"until tomorrow," I say (goal).

"Great," Ben replies (more points, father is always supposed to stay for a week, remember). "I have another meeting in Georgia Beach next week, I'll call you." He's almost off already, I ask him whether he needs money. "Always," of course. Luke wants to hire him, the convenience store vampire, I tell him. He's all ear. “I’ll go see Luke right now, if he’s there,” he says, “and we'll talk next week." He blows a departing kiss, somehow managing to include my father. This must be the first time my father has received a blown kiss from a nigger (5 points)---I know, bear with me, just a few paragraphs. Where’s John going to stay if he comes to work in Georgia Beach?

You wonder how I'm going to start a fight now. So do I. Well, I could just disappoint everybody and go to bed. Or I could collect the flyers, stack them in some histrionic gesture and create a neat pile that contrasts neatly with my next move, dumping everything into the trash can (you wonder whether I actually own a trash can). So we have a fall-back option now. The flyers, we do that tomorrow when we kick him out. I dump the flyers, collect his things, open the door, and haul his belongings outside. The bag will tumble down the steps, and I’m in a foul mood, I kick his ass. No words, just kicks. Second time to get physical. Last time to see him. Change my life. Tea Party. Asshole.

Where was I? The flyers. The threat is stronger than the execution, they say in chess (also holds for porn). So I say: "If this shit isn’t gone by tomorrow, I'll dump it in the garbage."

I don't get the expected reaction, though. On his standard form we could now expect the re-enactment of some Candid Camera scene that I may or may not win on points. But no, he’s just sitting there, glancing longingly at his flyers. Something has changed in that man, the tide went out, including Boston harbor, and the muddy ground of the nation is packed with naked clowns, wrapped in the flag, and if they are not angry, angry, about this guy from Kenya who spends their hard-earned $$$, they sit at my kitchen table and do things with their life. Or my life. I can’t win this.

So I retire to the bedroom. Where I activate the computer. And read my email. And receive a message from Nick, chain mail. It’s a bunch of Anti-Obama cartoons, plus some language about real Americans, real Americans, and accompanied by the complaint that the nation is under siege cause all these cartoons couldn't be published in the US. I look closer. This one (Obama dressed up as Al-Qaida in front of the White House dressed up as Kremlin) appeared in the Washington Times. The next one (Obama dressed up as chimpanzee) it’s a bit difficult to see, was published in the Times-Picayune. The third one appeared in the New York Post. And so on. It’s trivial, and it’s not, because this is how they operate, claiming the high grounds of patriotism and victimhood, supported by nothing but lies and ignorance, assuming that the rest of the world is even more stupid than they are. Where have we seen this before? Ever taken a class in European history? The rise of the Nazis, for example? It's exactly, EXACTLY the way the NAZIS operated on their march to power.

I need to pee, and I need a drink. So I’m back in the kitchen. Father still immersed in his flyers. Back to square one. I grab a can of beer from the fridge, and say: “Perhaps you need a spell-checker.”

Zero points. "I gave some of your flyers to Ben," I continue, "the black guy you've just met, he liked them." Mild blood pressure symptoms father-wise (1 point). "He thought they were anti-Tea-Party," I add. Pressure rising? (½ point). "Ben is from Monaville," I continue, "a former slave refuge, and he's telling me, we can spell in Monaville…” (3 points---the slaves, not the orthography).
"It’s Obama’s fault," he says, “he’s the govment. The govment is the problem.”

(What else.)

"You're a patriot, right," I say.

Don't go there John, you are getting argumentative, that's not the idea. But he’s a patriot, sure, you bet, his outfit, it's even named Tea Party Patriots, but hey, Holt, his pal, who was tasked to print the stuff, forgot the 'patriots' in a last-minute effort. "You're supporting the troops, right," I ask. He nods solemnly (“You bet.”)

From premises to conclusion, how do we do this? Don't John, don't. "You know, your troops are also part of the govment," I say.

He possibly didn’t hear me but performs a few speech acts just to maintain mammal bonding ('What do you know,' 'Listen to me,' 'You moron'). "Would you spell moron with an 'a' or with an 'o'?" I ask (0 points). "Your Medicaid," I say, "that's also the govment"---ain’t, ain’t, what do you know, keep the govment out of my Medicaid.

You painted yourself into a corner, John, as usual. How to get out of this, how to move forward? Well, we’re lucky for a change, we don’t have to do anything, father gets up as if he has been preparing for this (we’re both standing now), and goes:

“Call this a govment! why, just look at it and see what it's like. Just as that man has got a few cents in his pockets, and they start raisin taxes. They call that govment! A man can't get his rights in a govment like this. Sometimes I've a mighty notion to just leave the country for good and all. Yes, and I told 'em so; I told that muslim in his face, by email. Says I, for two cents I'd leave the blamed country and never come a-near it agin. Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a nigger there from Ohio -- a mulatter, most as white as a white man…”

(What’s going on?)

“…He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that neighborhood that's got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch. And what do you think?”

(This cannot be.)

“…He's a p'fessor in a college, and talks all kinds of languages, and know everything. And that ain't the wust. And he votes? For who? Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It's 'lection day, and I'm just about to go and this guy crosses my path. I'll never vote agin…”

(This can’t be him.)

“…The country may rot for all me -- I'll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the cool way of these niggers -- why, they wouldn't give me the road if don't shove them out o' the way. I says to the people, why ain't these niggers put up at auction and sold? -- that's what I want to know. And what do you reckon people say?”

(Something is wrong.)

“Why, they say slavery has been abandoned. There, now -- that's a specimen. Here's a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and they give money to the thieving, white-shirted niggers, and …”

He sits down. He must have lost his train of thought.

Edward Ardizzone: Huckleberry Finn and his father

Let me think. The humble worm C. Elegans is the third-best researched organism on the planet, so we know it possesses exactly 302 neurons which make up its brain. E. Coli, a bacteria, is even better researched, so we know it resides in mammal bowels and has no brain at all. I always thought that my father, who is considerably less-researched, would be located somewhere between the two, yet how is it possible that such an organism learns, retains, and recalls an entire page from the book of Huckleberry Finn, including some editorial modifications? A tirade of Huck’s father, to wit, that template of alcohol-addled, redneck lucidity?

Shall I make my contribution to the wealth of human knowledge and ask this organism how he does it? Perhaps it’s a bit complicated, but it may work, he knows a lot about worms and bowels. So I sit down at the table, and say: “The humble WORM C. Elegans is the third-best researched organism on the planet, so we know it possesses exactly 302 neurons, which constitute its brain. E. Coli, a bacteria, is even better researched, so we know it resides in mammal BOWELS and has no brain at all. I always thought that YOU, who is considerably less well-researched, would be somewhere located between the two, yet how is it possible that YOUR organism learns, retains, and recalls an entire page from the book of Huckleberry Finn, including some editorial modifications? A tirade of Huck’s father, to wit, that template of alcohol-addled, redneck STUPIDITY?”

Thomas Mann was famous for taking entire pages from some humble govment document, the report on a cholera epidemic, say, change a word here, a word there, and turn it into Nobel-winning prose. Am I anything near that? I’ve accented the words “worm,” and “bowel,” I’ve switched to the second person, and changed the last word, lucidity became stupidity, just to be on the safe side. Can one win prizes for insults? Shall I ask? “Can one win prizes for insults?” I ask. John, you did it, you did it! Bingo! Change of plan. We must have him back next year.

And now I go too far, as always, and ruin the entire evening. So I say to him: “Do they have entry exams at the Tea Party? Or Sunday Schools? Did you have to learn this by heart to get in?” (0 points). “Perhaps it’s required reading in other places as well," I continue, "perhaps you cannot get a job at the American Enterprise Institute, or at the Heritage Foundation without proof that you know this by heart.”

He smiles, he smiles. He knows nothing. He won.

Are you still there? Then you'll possibly like the GREEN EYES. The first part is out now, available as Kindle book on Amazon, under this link:

Night Owl Reviews

We'll post the next chapter very soon. In the meantime have a look at this, which tells you a bit more about the Green Eyes, or this, a teaser about part II of the franchise.

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