There was tall grass
By the bark and bank
Of my favorite creek
I was the bowl cut one
With the chubby white cheeks,
With the blue-striped T-shirt,
Gawking at the fireworks
On the hottest July ever.
“Boy, don’t put your hand
In this creek, here,” she said.
“They got all kinds of turtles,
Snakes, lizards, baby alligators.”
She was crouching in a blue dress
Blonde, with a shiny black eye,
Her family lived in the apartment
Right next to us. Thin Walls. Very.
I asked, immediately, “Why is your eye black?”
She answered back, “Do you really want to know?”
“I really want to know.”
“Okay,” she said, crossing her arms, frowning.
“I happened to get this particular black eye
Last night, around nine P.M., from a kangaroo.”
“From a kangaroo?”
“His name was Steve.”
“What? Where’s he from?”
‘You don’t know anything” she said.
“Kangaroo Steve’s from Austria.”
What a bitch of a thing prose is! It is never finished; there is always something to be done over. However, I think it can be given the consistency of verse. A good prose sentence should be like a good line of poetry—unchangeable, just as rhythmic, just as sonorous.
— Where do your ideas come from?
— My thoughts.
— How often do you write?
— Whenever i feel like it.
— How often is that?
— Very often.
— What do you think people need to become great writers?
— An unbelievable amount of natural talent plus some beer.
Charlie Rose: What does postmodernism mean in literature?
David Foster Wallace: After modernism…
(best response ever)
Hannah calls. My hair is sticking to my forehead and I’m out with Carlos and the Vandell twins shopping for some new sugar cereals and I really can’t decide between the Honey Smacks or the Captain Crunch. Hannah sounds desperate on the phone. Even though I’m her blow guy, I don’t want to have to drive all the way up to Highland Hills, which is basically on the other side of the planet Earth, if not a bit farther, just to sell her some blow. So I have to wait for her to stop crying on the other end of the phone.
“Not today,” I tell her, still holding the phone away from my ear. “Actually we’re on our way to go see the Bears play.”
“But –” her voice falters. Then there’s a long pause on the other end of the phone before she continues, “I need some.”
“Hannah – taken a look in the mirror lately? You’re probably the oldest-looking four year-old girl I’ve ever seen.”
“What does that mean, Jonathan?”
“It means have you ever thought about easing up off the fucking blow for a while? Jesus.”
“Jonathan…” She mumbles through the receiver, “Today is all about getting through today.”
“I’ll pay double.”
“It’s been so, you know, crazy.”
“I need at least an hour… Wait, Hannah.”
“Still here,” she says, a little happier now.
“What are you wearing?”
“Jonathan.” She sighs deeply and I can hear her pass the phone to the other ear. “A diaper and a candy necklace.”
“Well – we will be there in twenty.”
I wait for her to hang up first and then I turn to tell the others. “Change of plans, guys. Hannah called.”
“What? We’re not going to Highland are we?”
“I vote no.”
“I second that vote.”
“Tell me this isn’t actually happening.”
“I thought you said we could go catch the Bears play today?”
“Sorry, Carlos, Hannah sounded pretty bad on the phone. We’ll have to go to Chucky Cheese tomorrow.”
The Beach Boys are on the radio signing “Kokomo” and we drive down Miami Blvd. not saying anything, just moving our heads rhythmically. I’m cranky, but won’t admit it and Chase Vandell is sitting next to me in a Ralf Lauren car seat. Tate Vandell has already conked out and Carlos is eyeing the end of his finger, which has two giant boogers affixed to the top, reminding me of a pale guy with no arms wearing sheepskin Oshkosh B’Gosh ear muffs that are too way too big for him. The car rolls to a stop and a warm wind sweeps over us as we take off again.
After we drive up through the hills and find the house and after someone pushes our strollers through the main door, I tell Carlos to smile. Both Tate and Chase have matching jet-black Christian Dior strollers. Today I’m in my Perry Ellis. It’s slate gray with the Raincloud drop-top. They only made two hundred of them. According to my FAO Schwartz guy, it’s a diaper dropper. He made that exceptionally clear in the showroom. But even I am literarily drooling with envy as I look over at Carlos who is splayed out in his triumphantly elegant Brooks Brothers stroller which is hunter green with navy blue pinstripes, shiny golden tassels, and sleek silver wheels which are the very definition of urbane sex appeal.
Inside the house, waiting, there is an army of fancy maids and gloved butlers. Maybe they’re called porters, I’m not sure. Maybe they’re not. I never seem to know what’s going on these days. But we glad-hand and fist-bump our way anyway through the marbled vestibule and all that I need to know is that Hannah Sherbert is the daughter of Shane Sherbert who is the owner of the world famous Sherbert’s Sherbet which probably means that Hannah has more stuffed animals in her bedroom than the Build-A-Bear on Rodeo. I sit in the stroller, very still, as five or six black maids pinch my cheeks and ask me if I know how cute I am.
“Where is Hannah? I need to see her.”
“Do you know how cute you are?”
“Whose got your nose?”
“Did you hear me?’
“Where’s your nose at? Do you know where it went?”
“Is she around?”
“Here it is! Here’s your nose! I’ve got your nose right here in my fingers!”
There’s a giant bird in a cage, the bird is not saying anything, and Carlos asks if he can pet it a few times. After they get the bird back in the cage Carlos has several fresh bite marks on his arms and neck and I can’t help but to smile warmly because there’s a smell coming from the kitchen.
Upstairs, I turn the handle and open the door and the room is very dark. There’s an old dude sitting on the white leather couch and he isn’t wearing a shirt. The old dude is probably about ten, possibly eleven, or twelve, but in the right light could maybe pass for much younger. The guy next to him on the couch is much younger. He’s also not wearing a shirt either and is lying face down. He reminds me of the actor who plays the baby in the Michelin Tire ads on TV.
“Shut the door.”
“There’s a glare on the TV.”
He looks back at me and nods. Then the only light is the dull flickering light coming off the TV set. His ears look too big for his head.
“Has anyone seen Hannah around?” I say, taking a seat on the empty recliner chair. No one says anything for a while and I try again. “She’s about this tall… blonde… pale tan…”
“Optimus Prime! What – a moron!”
Nothing happens for a while and I finally realize that the old dude isn’t talking to me. He isn’t talking to a person either. He’s talking to the plasma Sony 52’ flat screen on the wall. More precisely, he’s talking to a robot on the TV. Hannah said that they had a flat screen in all of the bathrooms too. She said that she was afraid they were recording her all the time.
“Is this Transformers?” I say, watching, but trying not to look too impressed.
“Geez, they’re all so hopeless and dumb and hopeless.”
“Yes, we are,” I say, philosophically, shaking my head artistically. “You’re right, we are all so hopeless.”
“Well, OK, the humans and Optimus Prime just made a deal with Megatron, right?”
“Sure, I guess so.”
“And Megatron is what?”
“I mean, he’s a mean robot.”
“So why would anyone make a deal with a Deceptacon?”
“Never make a deal with a Deceptacon!” says the old dude, looking back at the plasma screen. “Never! They’ll just deceive you. That’s what Deceptacons do. That’s the only thing they do. How are you going to make a deal with someone called a Deceptacon?”
“OK, tell Hannah I’m still looking for her!” I say, quickly walking out of the room, down the hallway, up the stairs, and then into another dark room where another group of people are also watching another plasma 52’ flat screen affixed to the wall.
When I get there the room is littered with bodies and Juicy Boxes and empty Slim Jim wrappers. The room reeks of Lysol Disinfectant potpourri air spray and there’s about a hundred million action figures scattered about, having been played with and tossed aside carelessly. Nobody moves and the movie continues to click on. It only takes me a second to see that it’s a movie with a Snuffaluffagus in it and I don’t even bother to close the door this time as I leave.
I mumble something about Deceptacons and Snuff films and we head out.
I go to bed crying and I wake up screaming. Nobody understands. They just pretend to. I’m not even sure, but I think that the last time I got any decent sleep I was surrounded by warm and dreamy amniotic fluid.
It’s always the same dream.
Me and Hannah are in Japan. She’s on blow. I’m on blow. All of Tokyo is on blow, or so it seems in the dream. And we’re there mostly to help out while they shoot a music video with the rap artist Mother Goose. Mother Goose is also on blow.
In a restaurant filled with people under remote ceilings and nothing on the walls but anime characters, me and Hannah start to have a small fight which leads to a much bigger fight and it spills out into the street and Hannah tells me to “grow up” and I’m so mad, I’m so upset, I’ve never been so cranky in all of my life, so basically right there in the street, amongst the lit up chaos of Tokyo street flares and howling foreign sirens, I begin to grow and grow and grow until I’m as tall as a skyscraper…
But before I can break the world I wake up from the dream.
I think the world is mad at me. It must be. It seems that the world doesn’t want me here anymore. But I don’t want to be here either. I never did. It’s not that I want to go back, I just don’t know how to go forward. So I wake up in my playpen sweating and sobbing in the middle of the night, saying Hannah’s name over and over again low enough even though I hate every single letter between ‘A’ through ‘H’, because I don’t think anything should ever come before ‘I.’
I mumble something about wanting a gummy bear and then Hannah Sherbert calls and we head out.
Hannah, in her own words, is “dressed to the nines.” She is wearing a one-piece polka dotted bathing suit, a pink ballerina skirt, floaties on her arms, a necktie, a hat, socks, her father’s reading glasses, a snorkel, and two giant yellow clown shoes she plans on using because she can’t find her scuba flippers. Seeing her is always like stepping into a really warm bath tub. It hurts.
At the glass doors, she turns, and flicks me an evil stare. “You smell.”
All the sudden I can’t really breathe. The world still hates me and my throat tightens up and the walls close in and I stand there looking red-faced and stupid. I want to scream so loud. How did my life get this way? The longer it takes me to come up with a good comeback the more Hannah seems to be enjoying it. Her eyes are cold blue flames. I keep wishing that they would melt her marshmallow cheeks. But then, finally, eventually, euphorically, a delicious wave of self-indulgence and self-adulation washes through me as I realize that I have come up with not a good comeback, but yet the perfect comeback. The sort of comeback you do not come back from. I level my eyes first. “You smell worse.”
Hannah thinks about it for a moment, and then groans. “What do you want anyway? By the way, thanks for just stopping by. Not like the rest of us don’t have lives.”
“Funny you should mention that, Hannah,” I say. “I mean, not everyone is an heiress to large sherbet empires, so we have really manage our time if we want to eventually make our nut.”
“What are you talking about, Jonathan?”
Hannah doesn’t move for a while and then says, “No I don’t.”
“The other day. You called. Needed blow. I came. You were a no-show. Remember?”
“I don’t know, I guess it doesn’t matter,” I say, drawing my eyes up and looking at her directly as I say, “What do you want to talk about, Hannah?”
I tap the bridge of my nose twice, real fast, indicating the smudge of dried white powder she’s got below her left nostril. She quickly wipes it off and tries to explain, “From earlier, when we had powered doughnuts for breakfast.”
I take a few steps closer, and wait. Some of the windows are open and a hot wind blows through the room and there are sirens in the distance. Hannah makes a big pocket of air in one of her cheeks and then pops it.
“Here, this first bump is free.”
“No! Get that away from me!”
“I don’t do that anymore, Jonathan.”
“What? Me neither,” I say, leering heavily. “Except for special occasions.”
“You don’t think this qualifies as a special occasion?”
“But gratis is the status,” I tell her, knowing that all I have to do is get another foot closer to her before the chemical messengers will start messaging and she’ll have to say yes to her addiction, she’ll have to answer this raw need, this craving desire, this deep fiery animal hunger clawing its way up her body as I take one more step closer, then another, and another, my flat smile almost looking human if you had no idea how badly I needed this one. “Gratis is the status, baby.”
In The Romper Room, where we’re both doing blow, Hannah is talking really fast and we’re both dancing around really fast and acting like perfect little maniacs and I can’t tell if it’s the blow, or just a fugitive feeling, but I think I’m really starting to like Hannah Sherbert.
“This is good stuff,” she says, pulling me with her as she falls down into the couch. Then, as if I don’t know, she says, “Jonathan, this is really good stuff.”
“It’s OK blow.”
Even though it’s July, she keeps repeating the lyrics to her new favorite Christmas song. She sings the words incorrectly and tunelessly, but with staggering confidence. I keep staring out the window, then back at the blow. It’s the sort of way that you want to feel when you die, not attached to the world, but full of life.
“Jonathan, hey, by the way, I’m sorry about what I said earlier.”
“You already said that.”
“I know,” Hannah says. “Do you remember St. Benningtons?”
“The maternity ward?”
“I don’t really think about that place anymore.”
“I was such a good girl then.”
“I just remember that they were cranking out all of these crybabies.”
“Wasn’t I good?” she asks.
“I can’t remember.”
“I tried to be good. I remember that.”
“I’m really burning up in here. It’s so hot.”
“Want to do some more blow?”
“I thought you would never ask.”
Around noon Hannah opens our last bottle of blow. She is still singing a Christmas song and it’s a good-sized bottle and Hannah’s fingers only go about halfway around the pink container as she uses her other hand to carefully dip the plastic stick into the bubble water. I wait, without moving. A nearby stain-glass window filters in kaleidoscopic light. Then Hannah holds the blow back up in front of her and purses her lips and breathes in before blowing out through the plastic hoop, producing a bubble roughly the size of a grapefruit. The bubble instantly lifts, made shiny by a patch of iridescent light in the middle, and then tries to float away while Hannah directs her breath again and the next one follows it, and so on, and so forth.
Soon the room is full of bubbles. Just bubbles.
I turn and grab both of Hannah’s hands with such a suddenness that she flinches and tries to pull away, but I hold her tight, directly looking her in the eye. “Listen – I know you want to marry me and have 10,000 babies and live in a tree house together. But I am only going to tell you this once and then we can never bring it up again. Your real name is Supersillyhead Crazypickle and –yes– you are actually the last of the Unicorn Princesses. Incidentally, you were sent to this planet 5,000 Sky Years ago to hide out until the Unicorn-Centaur Wars ended on your home planet of Rainbowtron. Physically, your planet is just like ours except yours has three moons, the clouds are made out of cotton candy, and trees are bright purple. And every night, the Elf Lord of the Seven Valleys comes to your bunk bed, disguised as a man in black, smoking a cigar. But like I said, we will never bring this up again.”
“That’s not my name.”
“That’s not my name,” I echo back teasingly.
“Are you playing the echo game?”
“Are you playing the echo game?”
“Stop it Jonathan.”
“Stop it Jonathan.”
She shrugs her shoulders and rolls her eyes to the back of her head. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…”
I shrug my shoulders and roll my eyes to the back of my head. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…”
“I’m a real person!”
“I’m a real person!”
Hannah continues to cry. So I chase her through one room after another. The rooms are all lavishly decorated, filled with name brand stuff, but I’m not going to list them because that would sort of be lame, boring, and rather redundant. Finally we are at a door which is big and dark and so heavy that Hannah has to push it open using both hands and all of her weight.
There’s an old guy, blonde, but not very tan, and he’s sitting in front of a typewriter with a giant sneer on his face.
“He’s making fun of me!” says Hannah. “Dad, tell him I’m a real person!”
Just as I realize that he’s only got one free hand to type with, Hannah Sherbert turns around, glaring, with a smile that is as thin as cardboard.
The Informers by Brett Easton Ellis —Okay, has anyone heard of this book?
It’s a collection of short stories that some have called a seductive and chillingly nihilistic novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho. The stories are set in Los Angeles, the city whose moral badlands Ellis portrayed unforgettably in Less Than Zero. This time is the early eighties. The characters go to the same schools and eat at the same restaurants. Their voices enfold us as seamlessly as those of DJs heard over a car radio. They have sex with the same boys and girls and buy from the same dealers. In short, they are connected in the only way people can be in that city.
Well, I certainly hope that you have read The Informers because I parodied the shit out of it. It’s called The Baby Informers. And it’s a short story about a four year-old “blow dealer” named Jonathan who gets a desperate phone call from four year-old Hannah Sherbert, heiress to the Sherbert Sherbet empire.
Personally, I dig parodies a good deal. I did my thesis on Ulysses (under Weldon Thornton —the first chap to annotate the book) and loved all of Joyce’s lit parodies, particularly the Nausicaa Chapter. Incidentally, I’ve got my first novel under my belt. (You can find links online.) And I even casually know a few editors to magazines, but I’m having some difficulty finding a spot that does parodies. Which is why I’m going to do the blog thing with this story. So for those of you that don’t like stories about four year-old blow dealers… well… are ya cray-cray???