Apocalypse NOW

If you had an ant farm, and the ants started to cultivate a toxic fungus that began to threaten the existence of their environment, and they fought constantly with each other, and you caught them murdering their own pupae, what would you do? Would you torch that shit and start over? Because that’s what I would do.

As time ticks down to the next supposed apocalypse, I wonder as I think many of us do, if it would be so bad if we all were exterminated. We’re the only animal smart enough to shit where we eat. The only ones knowingly killing the very life that supports us. I think that makes us a parasite, a disease.

All I’ve been able to think about for the past few days has been that sick little piece of shit in Connecticut and all of the babies he slaughtered. Probably in a pathetic attempt to “feel” something, because, poor guy, he just couldn’t summon any feelings. So he shot his mom, nope, felt nothing, let’s see if he does when he kills the most innocent of the innocent. I see all their smiling faces in the endless news stories about the “senseless tragedy, the horror the horror!” and I wish someone had smothered him as a child when he started to show those psychopath tendencies. I also know that if I were the mother of such a child, I wouldn’t be able to do that. I can’t imagine what she went through, or what their home life might have been like. I do know the murderer should have been locked up somewhere, screw his rights and screw trying to make him better. A human that can’t feel is eventually going to want to do so. What lengths might he go to? I guess now we know.

I overhear voices all around me, what is this world coming to? How have things gotten so bad? I don’t think anything has changed since the beginning of time. We’re the same restless conniving animal that we always have been. Villages were burned, children slaughtered by assholes and “possessed” madmen but it wasn’t news spread ‘round the world. Herod slew all the firstborn, and sure the story was passed down but I doubt many have accurately imagined what that was like. It was an accepted part of life that horror and tragedy existed. And of course, we didn’t have the hive-mentality internet to speed our rubbernecking. I also wonder how many would-be murderers were brave enough to walk into a gathering in the Old West, when everyone was armed. If they got a few shots off I’d be surprised.

I’ve been watching with interest the rash of UFO sightings in the news, this time in national and local real news (if you can call Fox that) and not just on the crazy UFO fan-sites. What if they are finally ready to reveal themselves? Will society be stood on its head, religion washed away in the light of some fantastic revelation? Will we all finally know what our governments have been hiding for years? The possibilities fascinate me. Just imagine our lives changing in the blink of an eye as we finally realize the total sum of our immense arrogance. Right before we all get zapped!

 

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Roads on Her Face #23: Spraying Bullets

Boom! I started awake to the sound in the middle of the dark Arizona night. We were living out at Jim’s place again, this time with a pretend-permanency that included chickens, two dogs, and a goat named Mary. Dad had been drinking more than usual, so he took one of the discarded camper shells out of the junkyard and moved it with the wrecker to the other side of the wash. Our trailer was parked under the metal ramada Dad had built, the one I kept calling the armada. Two words, one meaning shelter and the other army, but so easily mixed up.

Dad was living in the camper most of the time because he and Mom fought so much when he wasn’t. The camper had a bed, but of course no plumbing or electricity unless he took our little gas-powered generator over so he could have lights for a while to read his Slocums or the latest war histories. Gas was precious, and we had to drive 40 miles on a dirt road to get it. We generally used kerosene lanterns, flashlights, and battery-powered radios. Our outdoor refrigerator was powered by propane, and it was never opened unless absolutely necessary.

The radio was always on. Dad liked to listen to Stephanie Miller, some bitchy LA radio talk show host that his silver Magnavox could pick up as the sun started to go down. It was different to hear him talk about a woman in a positive way, to hear him say she was funny or just to watch him drink beer and stare off into space as he listened quietly to a female voice. Mostly what he would say about women was encompassed in common phrases like “She must be on the rag,” or “Somebody should tell that cunt to keep her trap shut.” He liked Stephanie, though, and she may have been the first woman in the public eye, besides Linda Rondstadt, that I’d heard him say he liked.

We all usually hung out in listening distance when Dad listened to the radio, because it was habit for all of us to orbit around each other like tiny planets. We didn’t even notice we were doing it, it was just the way things were. When you are your own tribe, that’s what you do.

One night Stephanie Miller was talking about peeing. She giggled in her husky voice, and said that sometimes when she has to pee, she had to tickle herself “down there” to make the pee come. I wouldn’t have thought much about it, except that Dad almost choked on his beer.

He laughed, and wiped the suds from his whiskers. Loud enough so my mom would hear, he said “Damn, she must have one tight ass. Has to tickle herself to pee.” He chuckled, his smile-hiding beard radiating amusement.

Mom must have grinned halfheartedly and gone back to cooking dinner, and they probably forgot about it in the next ten minutes. Somehow it stuck with me. Was it good to be tight? What does a tight ass mean? Is it hard to poop, too? I tried tickling myself to pee, and it did seem to help. Later I figured out he’d meant it in a sexual way and felt stupid. Of course, of course.

When I awoke to the sound of the .357 Magnum, because that’s the only thing that night-shattering sound could have been, I felt the rest of my family breathlessly awake and listening too. The nights out in the desert are so quiet that any unusual sound would disturb your slumber, from mice rustling to far-away screams of a mountain lion.

“Maybe he shot himself,” Mom whispered, and half-laughed. I thought about this for a second. I didn’t feel much about it either way, and I rolled back over and went to sleep. We all did. There was no point in walking out in the dark, stumbling over cactus to see what had happened. We would know in the morning.

He hadn’t shot himself, but almost. He told us all the story when he came back over to the ramada for breakfast. “I must have been asleep, and I reached over and grabbed my gun and pointed it at my face and pulled the trigger,” he said, incredulous, laughing, another near-miss and here he was still standing, his heart still beating. What he said made sense because it was the middle of summer, and so hellishly hot that we kept household spray bottles filled with water next to our beds at night. If we woke up, our bodies dry and motionless from the heat, we would spray precious water toward the roof of the trailer and let tiny cool kisses of water mist down and allow us to fall asleep again. To a beer- and sleep-addled brain, spray bottle trigger and gun trigger might well have seemed analogous.

He’d thought he was just spraying his face with water, but the bullet missed his head, blew a golf-ball-sized splintered hole in the camper wall and only made the ringing in his ears louder.

Roads on Her Face #22: Town Kids

There was a big difference between town kids and us. A gaping chasm, in fact, if you asked us. Town kids were afraid to get dirty. Us, we jumped in mud puddles with both bare feet. Town kids were soft, and ate too much candy. We were hard, with leather soles able to run through patches of goathead stickers with abandon. We ate beans and rice. Town kids sat lazy butts in front of the TV all day, while we roamed wild through the desert or forest or on lucky occasions, near the ocean. Town kids needed someone to entertain them, they lacked imagination. While we, when Dad said “Go amuse yourselves,” we had hours and days of complicated games and storylines – we were horses and cowboys, we built entire cities where certain trees and rocks were buildings (the jail, the store, our houses), we had clubs and threw parades and were the heads of armies. In the desert, we built swirling labyrinths delineated by stones and walked through them as if we could not see their outcomes without walls. We had friends in the trees and magical beings all around us.

Yes, I am the oldest, and much of the wild imagination came from the overload of books I’d consumed already. The other kids followed me because they had no other friends, and because my age and the fact I often had to watch them made me default leader. When they were older and off with their own crowds, other boys, I missed them though I might not have realized it at the time. My little sister doesn’t remember most of those wild free times, being the baby and not included in the complicated little hierarchy we had established in those road-days. She was 4 or 5 when we settled in New Mexico. I think she feels like she missed out, in a way, and maybe she did.

When we wanted to insult each other, we might call each other town kids, or maybe dweeb or dork, because those weren’t on the list of forbidden insults that might get a swipe from the belt around Dad’s waist. We came up with some of our own names, like “weed” or filthy little wretch, and those were worst and stung the most. We had fistfights, for a while, until we stopped. We shot each other with BB guns and stabbed each other accidentally with knives, and decided not to rat each other out to the grownups. Rowdy and I ganged up on Reno, and he and Rowdy ganged up on me. Sophie was the baby, the outcast that we didn’t want to have tag along. She turned out to be one of the coolest of us, though, tough and self-assured. She has us and the trickledown meanness of our clan to thank for that.

We didn’t speak about our parents much when we were off alone. It was unspoken that Dad was in charge, and that Mom got picked on the way Sophie did. When they fought, more often in the latter days, we merely made ourselves scarce and kept quiet, not wanting to draw any of the overflowing cauldron of ire our way. We protected each other from outsiders, knowing what it felt like to be broken from the herd and left alone to face strangers, the way antelope are picked by lions from the outskirts of their crowds of brethren.

The road and the way of life left lasting scars and opened minds (it calls me insistently, all the time). I like the person it made me, the inner toughness it left, the appreciation for everything it instilled. I hope my brothers remember it always, and I hope they’ve gained some of what I did from the experience. I thank my dad for that, if nothing else. He gave us a start in this life that most people never dream of.

I still think we’re better than the town kids.