~chapter 10~
To Forgive is Zibethicus
The Obligatory Hallucinogenic Desert Scene, Pt. 2

We trod the desert for hours. I was proud, he was irritated.

“Why the hell didn't you try to save me?”

“Come again?”

“That's what she said.” Strapping licked a finger and chalked up a point on an imaginary chalkboard. “I'm funny. Laugh.” A white horse galloped between us, disappearing over the horizon.

“I did try to save you.”

“No you didn't, Bonehead. You assumed that because I was in a coma and brain-dead that I would die any moment.” He held up the mirror that I had tied round his neck. “The second my breath stopped clouding this glass, you were going to fill me with feathers.”

“Or maybe feed you to sharks.” I added.

With a jerk, he snapped the string. He flung the mirror, into the night sky. It flashed moonlight Morse code back at us as it tumbled through its arc. “Did it ever occur to you that I might be salvageable? Did it occur to you that I might wake up? Did you ever once think of taking me to a doctor?”

I slapped my head. What stupidity! The whole time I'd been dragging Strapping across the country, I should have been seeking a cure.

“Typical,” he continued, “You take things too literally. You fold any hand that's not a royal flush.”

“I've never been much of a poker player.”

“You've always been a twit.”

“I'm sorry father.”

A star exploded. “And another thing, where's my autobiography?”

I slapped my head again. My brain warbled. The manuscript! Where had I last seen it? It played back like a strobe: The camp site, the rattlesnake, Nancy and I were naked, I fainted, sheets of paper blowing into the flames, twisting like firebirds.

“I'm awful, Father.” I broke down in his arms. “I've failed you in every way possible. I'm no son. I'm a worm.” Strapping Danforth's hair grew to the ground, fell out, evaporated and was replaced by a muskrat sitting upon his head.

Strapping coughed a banana into his palm and fed it to the beast. Then he turned his back to me and began to walk away from me and away from Phoenix .

“Papa, don't leave me.” The dunes swallowed him. I tried to reason. “You're not dead. You're not even dying anymore. You can write another autobiography. You can write everything again.” He had disappeared.

He plunged head first from the sky, dangling by his feet from a bungee cord. The muskrat clung to his knees. Bouncing gently before me, Father said. “Who's writing my column?”

“I am.”

“You can't write for shit.”

“I just say what happens. I have pretty good memory.” The muskrat leapt to my shoulder, began licking my ear.

“What was your Mother's name?”

“I think I have it written down somewhere.”

“I really wish you would have taken me to a specialist. There's a cure for everything these days.” Like an Olympic gymnast, Strapping unfastened the cord from his legs and flipped to stand upright before me.

“Please forgive me.” I wept. The tears tickled my palms I giggled. The muskrat jumped from my shoulder and flew toward the moon.

“Will you stop blubbering?”

“Yes,” I blubbered.

“Do so.”

I wiped the tears off my cheeks. My chin trembled. I gained control of my breathing. The love for my father, the delight in his revivification, my shame at leading this useless journey, my relief, my exhaustion, my glory…these things made my blood flow with jello. All would be well. I stopped blubbering.

Father straightened my shoulders. “I forgive you. Just don't do it again.” He took my hand and led me over the hills towards the orange glow of Phoenix . We shuffled together in silence. Our feet dragged ditches in the sand. We were going home.

A point of light approached us. Blue. It flickered like a fairy. It roared like a waterfall. It grew and receded. Everything became still.

Then the light spoke. “Oh, God, oh Godohgodogodogod! What's happened?!?”

My cheeks flushed with pleasant vertigo. The birds of the desert began to hum, then warble, then they sang the madrigal of dawn.

--Elk Undercarriage, December 2005

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