It’s noon on a Thursday and I’m back at the mall again. I sit on the edge of the fountain, disheveled wearing an old tan sports coat with a tear on the left lapel where a pin once sat. A pin from a lover, a pin I tore off. Doc, stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

*

The doctor sits behind the desk across from me. I’m in Rehab. I rode here on the back of a great ape, a mighty mother with leather dugs and eyes of camphor. The doctor has a white beard and a bald head. His coat is white. I can’t see his body hair but I’m sure it’s white too. I wonder if he shaves.

See my problem doc is that I can’t write.

You’re an actor. Problem solved.

I’m a method actor and my method is writing. You see doc my problem is that I can’t write. The words come out arsy-versy.

Is that dialect?

Yeah it’s hard to punch up dialogue any other way. But you see doc my problem is that I can’t write. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks Hey buddy, why the long face? The horse says because a benign existence is impossible in a hypercommercialized world.

Then it seems your problem is that you can’t write.

Exactly. Aware of the limits of my vocabulary. I compare my work unfavorably to the work of others. They free, they varied. I sound one note and one note all. And to what purpose? It communicates itself nothing. Everything is an embarrassment. Two hours to write one paragraph. And that not even a good one. The first step would be to answer question one: Why try? Excess of information, o whitewashed world! Motherfuck it doc, I can’t even turn a simile anymore.

There’s one other thing. You forgot a punchline.

My tears are crying before the pie even hits my face.

*

The one jagger of sunshine here is Annie. Her skin is monkwhite and her tits are fantastic. I know because I seen them in a photograph. She comes by and she’s black and she’s white. My chesswork demimonde. Sex is strictly prohibited.

“James, James I have to tell you something.”

“What is it my love? Thou hast pluck’d the tune of my heart and now i’faith my very blood sings out euphonia.”

“I met someone.”

“O you rumpfed runyon! You prickpurse! You infallible cock accepter! Who is it?”

“He’s a photogra.”

“God’s wounds but they’re the very worst class of rapscallion.”

“There’s another thing James.”

“Yes, yes, what is it now?”

“It’s my father, James. He sexually abused me when I was three through six, and then again when I was eight. I got a year off for good behavior.”

“That’s horrible.”

“I was asking for it the way I dressed. All those cartoon princess pajamas.”

I want to say something profound. Instead I kiss her. Suddenly there in the courtyard we are both nude. The other patients gather around. The sky is hot with pink mascara. I bite my lip. I bite her lip. We put on a show. The patients pick up on the rhythm of our love-making and shuffle full circular around us, going hum hum hum with whispered breaths and then waHOOOP and raising their arms every time I give it to her good with my penis. They shake their hands like a gospel chorus and then get quiet again. Hum hum hum waaaHOOP. Coitus engine. Mr. Shivers stands in the corner patting juba and shaking his dreads under his top hat. “Yeah yeah,” he says “get that shit white boy. Y’all wreck that shit up real nice. Make a nigga pussy bleed. Aw nigga gonna fuck him some. Oh she like it, she a ho, she wanna fuck. Yeah white boy. Yeah pussy.”

Annie gets on her knees. I use my nails to etch a rubicant basmala into the pure unblemish of her back. I want to tear her in half from her asshole up to her tiptop head.

“Give it to me James. You are the fuck king. The only way I can feel validated as an individual is if I submit myself fully to being a sexual object for the pleasure and demands of others. Did I tell you about the time in high school I stuck four sharpie markers up my vagina on webcam for a bunch of middle-aged men?”

I attack her ass with renewed vigor. Her sphincter clamps down on my shaft as I blast by the anal ring. It feels so good I whine like there’s a fish in my urethra. Doc did you know that in Peshawar they drink soma tea made from a certain bitter twig and the recipe of which comes from the Rig Veda? I’m pretty sure that’s true, anyway. My friend Frank is there in the circle and he falls to the ground foaming glossolalia, I think he’s experiencing the Godhead but I’m not sure.

Lars the alcoholic picks his ass and starts stamping his feet. “I want to die easy Lord when I die,” he sings. “I want to die easy Lord, when I die. I want to die easy when I die, shout salvation as I fly. I want to die easy Lord, when I die.”

Trees fall out of the air and land light as puff pastry on our burning scalps. I’m choking Annie and somehow her heart keeps beating. I can’t stop coming. Neither can she. I think we’re all swimming in it now. The whole scene has the aroma of mushrooms and ecstasis. I look up and my brow is lambent with twinned horns of wisdom and truth. Mr. Shivers is there now, ascending quickly in his busted flintcraw dirigible.

“Mr. Shivers, don’t go!” I say. “I need you!”

“But don’t you see James?” he calls down, “you never needed me. The answer was in your heart all along!” And then he’s gone and I realize he’s right, just as the first jackboot strikes me with hitlerian precision on the back of my skull.

*

When they put me under I don’t come out of it easy. They have to restrain me in the recovery room. My body temperature takes a drastic plunge. In the hadeopelagy of my drug-induced dream I try to cast Curaga on myself. It doesn’t work. Have I been leveling enough? Rabbi is it right to level oneself?

What a question, my son. R. Akhiva in his commentary on the first chapter of Ezekial–the vision of the Chariot–notes that although the chariot and the rider are two separate targets, they are both undead and therefore the wise man casts Curaga on them and not on himself. However Samuel ben Moses Pirkot, writing centures later in Borovice, made the insight that one may simply use a Phoenix Down.

*

I order her a Scotch Whisky drink.

Mm this is good. What is it?

It’s a Scotch Whisky drink I tell her.

What’s in it?

Tartan dreams. The bloom of the heather on the tor.

Oh. I think I’m drunk.

Good, let’s go back to my place and I’ll make you a statistic.

Does that have Scotch Whisky in it?

I meant sex.

Will it hurt?

I smile. Only if you want it to.

*

Frank is real excited about the whole thing. He’s got five chins and all of them are waggling as he hikes his gown above his knees and squeezes out a fat shining turd onto the cool linoleum of my room. It stinks like a vat of fish guts or a jar of sour mayonnaise. Then, grinning like a reprobate imp, he sticks his waxy paw into the steaming shit and pulls out a pair of gold-rimmed aviators. “Put these on,” he tells me.

I do. The flecks of crap speckle my face and start to burn acrid holes in my skin. I feel alive.

“Now do this.” He eases my fly down and pulls out my testicles. He licks one and then the other with the purpled tapered end of his tongue and then dips them gently into a tray of what looks like rainbow talcum powder. “It’s talc and ground up chameleon skins,” he explains.

“Frank the fuck,” I say. “The fuck are you doing.”

His grin gets wider and the fistula on his bald head gapes open with glee, shooting a mist of hot urine into the stale air. “Our balls, James! Now they can’t see ‘em! Don’t you know? The whole world loves a castrati.”

*

And so I go out walking in the forest. I have sixty-three dollars and forty-two cents, half a pack of cigarettes, two changes of socks and underwear, a pair of gold rimmed sunglasses and no fucking idea where I’m going. But thanks anyway Doc, I’ll tell you when I get there. See the problem is I can’t write. Four hours of writing, maybe five minutes to read, and no good. Haven’t said anything I thought I would. Sounded better in my head. All mediocre by standards my own. Do you know how many times I fall back on the word “lambent”? And everyone talks the same and there’s no sense of place because I don’t know how to describe setting.

The doctor is lapping pooled rainwater from a crevice in the roots of a towering black oak, so tall I can’t even see the first of its branches. His tail is down. Good, means he doesn’t scent any predators. He looks at me with limpid anime eyes.

“Fish in urethra man! Fish in urethra! Teehee!”

I ignore him and listen for rivulet sound of birdsong on the goldengreen and summered air. Excited queek-queek-queek of courting woodpeckers. Hissing whistle of the cedar waxwing. A white-breasted nuthatch calling to me hey hey hey. And?

I swing the pneumatic steamrifle off my shoulder real easy and let it rest in the crook of my arm. The doctor, alert now to an unnatural presence, presses himself close to my leg. I can feel him trembling beneath his short dappled fur. He’s trembling because he knows. The doctor knows he’s out there. So do I.

“Shivers! No more games! Show yourself!”

The air is rent by the thin shriek of death on the wing. A sick wet chuck and the doctor falls dead to the warm leafmat, a bindlestick lodged in his neck. I drop into a roll and fire wildly. Molten bolts of slag flare through the trunks of maple and spruce, instantly ashing the elden verdure. Concealed by the fallen giant of an oak, I tamp more coal into the rifle chamber and orison quickly “Pray Logic and give me more time, speed the soul of the doctor quickly into the axis of the beyond so that he may more readily reunite with the Golden Ratio.”

The voice of Mr. Shivers weaves among the sunmotes drifting in the hazy afternoon glow. “Time to roll de bones, boy! You got no chance! I makes dark fantasy feel like gritty realism, achieving a rare laconic eloquence that will captivate horror readers hungry for new voices! I’m a startling début, a deft amalgam of thriller, cerebral horror and American gothic, written with a stark and artful simplicity that complements the examination of struggling humanity pushed to its limits! I fucks dead pigs!”

I sniff the air. There. Due north north East, baked beans and hamhocks. You’re mine now, you pseudomythopoetic panhandling son of a mothercunt. I handcrank the steamrifle and backflip into the dense overcanopy, unleashing hell into the shadows of the forest.

The fight begins.

*

We bury the doctor out in the desert, Frank, Annie, Shivers and me, headfirst the way he wanted so the “Good Lord can kiss my ass” as he used to say. We smoke hash and do peyote and all four of us end up fucking beneath the wheeling stars of the clarion night. The thousand diamond eyes of voyeur Indra, Shivers calls them as he strokes me off onto Annie’s face. I can tell she doesn’t even feel it, her gaze is beatific and beyond time, she looks like a rigid angel. We see visions of our sins and our small triumphs. We take turns pounding Frank’s hole until he’s too tired to cry anymore and then we fall asleep, singly, apart, spent and grieved.

When I wake later Shivers is gone of course and Annie is standing off away from the fire, all smolders and cold embers now. She’s looking up at the stars and I don’t think she sees me so I watch her for these few quiet moments. The desert gets cold after dark, you might not know this, and it pebbles her skin so delicately, along her shoulders, down her spine, giving gentle shadow to each cheek. She has an aura. It’s like I’m seeing her for the first time. And for the first time I don’t want to throw her down among the sand and dirt and do a horrible violence to her body.

“James,” she says. “Come stand by me.”

I do.

“James, I won’t be coming by anymore,” she says.

I say “I know. Annie I love you.”

“I’m going to Spain for a year,” she says.

“That’s all right. Hey, Annie, you know what my problem is?”

Without looking at me she takes my hand in hers. “Yeah. You can’t write. Welcome to the club.”

She laughs. I laugh. Together, we look at the stars. “Rock bottom,” I say.

Rock bottom.