The Sacrifice of Fools
Rescue and Regret in Phoenix
I was dreaming of urination. The dream came true. I sat upright with a tearing sound. The light made me squint. The blood rattled in my ears. I saw yellowish walls covered with tapestries. I saw that I was unclothed. My bed was a couch. The nylon upholstery retained patches of my skin. The pain welled like a flogging through my back to my ribs. My throat was swollen shut. The air was dry and hot; hotter than the hottest day. The moisture tickled the underside of my legs. On an end table at my feet was a marijuana plant that reached to the crumbling plaster ceiling. The walls of the room were pierced by howls. I was in a living room directly opposite a great bay window that faced a well-trafficked street. The howls became shrieks.
Whence did they come? Where was my father? The pickup? Nancy? What of the rattlesnake. Had I been bit? I peeled the rest of my body off the couch and stood, wobby, with my hands over my ears. An open door showed a toilet. I stumbled thru and sat upon the toilet, padding the moisture off my legs with toilet paper. I pulled a towel off the rack and, ignoring the black stains, wrapped it around myself. The screams were for god for force for more more more. Walls were pounded. I exited the bathroom and followed the noise down the hall until I came upon a doorway.
There, on the floor was Papa. On the bed was Nancy and beneath her was a man. Both were unclothed. Droplets of sweat were flung from her locks as she twisted her head to and fro in a seizureous pose of eros. The man grabbed her flesh with hairy fingers.
Thinking not for myself, I dove at the bed screaming an untamed sound.
I dragged the man from beneath Nancy and dropped him heavily upon the floor next to Father. He scampered down the hall.
Nancy, she who would be my salvation sat on her knees, panting, sweating heaving in a mixture of passion, confusion and rage.
“Asshole!” She growled.
Her eyes glowed the same feral fire as when I had first seen her dragging father through the snowy woods. This was not the gaze of a human, it was the glare of the possessed. My entire circulatory system collapsed, as if sucked dry.
I remembered touch of her tears as she had cradled me in her arms after chasing away the snake. “You cried for me.”
“I was crying for myself, moron.”
She assumed the calm of a person who is about to behead an enemy. “Was it selfish for me to put you and your half-dead father in the bed of the truck, drive until the gas ran out and then trade my earrings for fifty cents so I could call my ex-boyfriend to come get us and let us stay in his house here in Phoenix? Was it selfish for me to drink a bottle of Cold Duck so I could allow myself to offer the payment that was expected of me? Was it selfish for me to take even a little pleasure from this payment?” Her voice began to rise. “You want to know why I cried for myself? I cried because I'm now indebted to a dunkenkopf who called my sister a whore and then knocked her up and called her a whore again.” She turned to the doorway, “I hate you, Patrick!!!” Back to me: “I cried because I thought—just maybe—you were worth it. But here I am, disgraced again, being judged by yet another sonofabitch. Naked on a bed, broke, dumb and horny as a cottontail.” She pulled a sheet over her sternum. “I wish that snake had bit you.”
She threw a clock radio at my head. It bounced off my cheek and landed at my feet.
“I saved your goddamned life! You fainted like a little girl out there. I got you to a safe place. I put you on a couch. I poured water down your throat. I fucking PRAYED for you, asshole. I knocked on the door to this house in the middle of the night and begged Patrick to let me in. To let us in. You wouldn't know how humiliating that is because you've never had an ex-girlfriend. Hell, you've never had a girlfriend.”
My shame was boundless. My mind leapfrogged itself to comprehend its foolishness. My mouth spoke of its own accord, “I have you.”
“You never had me, dumbass.” She slapped her chest above her heart. She sniffled. “Well, you damn sure don't have me now. So take your old man, and take your sorry skinny ass and get out of here. The sooner you're gone, the sooner I can stop paying your share of the rent.”
She turned to the hall, “Patrick, get your ass in here and finish what you started.”
His face peered round the door jam. “It ain't gonna be no three-way is it?”
“No, these bums were just leaving.”
I bent down and picked up the clock radio. I held it out to Nancy . “Here.”
She took it from me. Her hand was shaking.
Patrick came back in the room and embraced Nancy on the bed. I dragged father out by his feet.
(Strange, isn't it, that up to now, I've not mentioned how was clad? Long ago, in Ward, before the motar shells nearly killed us, I had changed him from his hospital gown into a costume consisting of every stitch of clothing I could find in the old tool shed: long underwear, a button up dress shirt and a pair of trousers.)
In the living room, with the sounds of Patrick and Nancy shaking the foundation, I removed the top layer of Father's clothing and dressed myself. Though the clothes were malordorous, I looked presentable. Strapping resembled a figure from the old west in his red skivvies and thickening beard. I removed a pair of unmatched flip-flops from under a foot of the couch and put them on. My heels stuck out. With roiling bursts of pleasure still discharging from the bed room, I put Strapping over my shoulder and left.
Now I'm carrying him in my arms through the desert. I'm thirsty, tired, and I think I've lost the only chance I ever had to make a woman glad she knew me. I am without money, a means of transportation, and hope. My sole possessions are a comatose burden and a wide expanse of sand. Tonight we will sleep a dreamless sleep. And tomorrow I will begin the final stretch of my trek to Mexico .
--Elk Undercarriage, October 2005