Strange things are afoot at the Circle K8. My head's pretty swimmy. Stay tuned for some odd life refinements over the next, maybe, year. I'm about to disassemble my life and reassemble it, better. The process is going to look insane, but the end result is going to be amazing. I may or may not document this, if cryptically.
Here's a story I wrote in 1992 or 1993 and which, at some later date, I distributed among friends in the Twin Cities. At the time I felt it necessary to explain that I wrote it before the release of Natural Born Killers, which is in an abstract way similarly themed. Also written just ahead of the ubiquity of piercings in the mid '90s and onward (by 1993, I myself had two enormous rings in my tongue and a face full of steel; a friend's father met me and said I looked like "the front end of a Buick"). The "five dollar brownie" predates the Five Dollar Shake in Pulp Fiction. That's an elite brownie! I grew up in the Reagan era, and the John Hughes film era. "That's a major appliance, not a name!" Two sides of the tracks.
"Soup" appears here unedited, except to change some paragraph splits, swap "espionage" for "carnage" (WTF did I mean? IDK, it was 30 years ago, maybe I thought spies were assassins) and correct the spellings of words like "pretension" and "opposable." I seem to have done a slight rewrite of it in 1994, but I don't have the patience to decipher the recovered WordPerfect file, which reads like a Zodiac confession [sample text: _:W¡‘:’G!UT¢√%îªZ+#ÜbUNË %60(<4dxòHP DeskJet 600 PrinterDESKJETC0¿,,,,0¿0ŸP «"∂ﬂ∑^?h(÷√9 Zã6Times New Roman RegularX($°°+¨Q!3|x-› É!›››SOUPÄ].
This could be the edited version actually, as I remember initially calling the narrator "Queenie" (see the * in the story). I like that. Would revert if– you know what? I may be mad, but I'm considering animating this. I don't have to agree with my 1994 editor self. I'm a different person now. Less ... pillage-y.
If you speak WordPerfect, get in touch. And if anyone got this
published in their name (ala Morvern Callar, except I'm not dead) and became a millionaire, please send me a roll of quarters. I
could use it.
Before you ask, I am (or was, then) a pantser, not a plotter. It's a
miracle this came together, as I remember writing it almost as fast as I could type it. I wrote the first sentence together with titling it "Soup" and then dove the fuck right into this brain cesspool. I didn't even understand then that you could
plan a piece of writing or art. I thought that was
cheating? Present me is trying to overcome a mix of autistic (solitary, meticulous, obsessed with detail and truthfulness; imagining that a rewrite is a lie) and ADHD storytelling (write/edit/rewrite/re-edit) to arrive at what I think my best recipe will be, some variant of (metaphorically at least) "write drunk, edit sober." That's gonna take some discipline, but I'll be better off for it. Good rule for life too. Throw something up into the air, then sleep on it before deciding where it should land. Never prune something that's still blooming.
Oh. Have I ever mentioned I'm a writer? I feel that I've shown you all this by ... writing. But I'm going to shatter my aversion to committing to it (thanks, Dad) right now and just say it. Done. (Who needs therapy? Not me.)
Sorry to my 1992 friends from whom I stole jokes and anecdotes and unceremoniously stuck them in this text. Among other things, I think someone referred to Bel Wilson as "Snack" once, for instance. Forgive me, Bel. You haven't suffered for my stealing the name "Snack" for this dumb (but brilliant, IMO) story. I think she's also the author of the "free Docs" joke tbh. She's funnier than me. Bel is an excellent writer. I'd say buy her books, but the ones I have are out of print.
This is a love story. I mean, it almost shares a plot with Only Lovers Left Alive. Very standard stuff here. Read it aloud to your sweetie.
Without further ado,
Alan wouldn't let me have any of his soup unless I took the labret stud out of my lip and squirted some of it through the hole first. Reluctantly I complied because he was my torrid sex partner and because I really wanted some soup. It was hot and sour soup and I was afraid it might irritate the piercing or might not fit, but it all went through ok and afterwards we went for coffee, which squirted out through the hole quite nicely as well.
The coffee place was a palace of pretension in St. Paul called Castleton's, and it was one of those incense-ridden bad poetry oozin' espresso-and-five-dollar-brownie joints where there was a lot of expensive art all over the walls and it all looked like it was done in watercolor and crayon by six-year-old kids packing bendy Halloween knives with fake blood drawn on the tips, or worse, the kids your parents always warned you about, the kids that ate paste. There were a lot of couches around, and some tables to put the espresso on while it spilled, and to make the place sufficiently bohemian, there were some books just sitting around to put your coffee on as well, and none of the furniture matched. The girl at the counter was wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt with a clever, contrived rip in one sleeve, faded jeans, brand new Doc Martens, and a nose ring that was much less conspicuous than her feeble desires to be hip. Her hair was up in one of those elastic thingees that look like somebody made them out of a curtain left over from some trailer that went up in flames, else I might not have noticed her Bold Alternative Girl Haircut, which consisted of a couple well-kept tufts of really short hair underneath some black hair that might have been dyed.
I said to Alan, pointing at her feet, "Look. Free Docs."
She didn't hear, so Alan, to be an asshole, said to her, "I see you're Alternative."
Totally Original Alternative Girl grinned ecstatically from ear to thrice pierced ear and squeaked, "Do you like Smashing Pumpkins?" and pointed to the big stereo from which it was oozing, behind her and into her big alternative butt from which she pulled her identity. Apparently, Smashing Pumpkins were the only alternative band she knew. I was sure that secretly she would rollerblade back to her healthy suburban home, put on a pair of legwarmers and an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt, listen to an old tape of Rush Limbaugh, and order exercise equipment from the Home Shopping Network.
"I sold crack to someone in the Smashing Pumpkins once," said Alan, sticking his finger up his nose.
Totally Original Alternative Girl giggled and said "cool" and forgot to charge us for our coffee because we were so exciting and slick, so I gave her our phone number and said we were easiest to reach between three and five in the morning. We didn't even have a phone actually; the number I gave her belonged to my eighth-grade biology teacher whose wife left him after he took some wacked PCP. I figured he was probably pretty lonely. I heard he hasn't said anything but "cocksucker" in years.
After trying in vain to con Counter Bitch into squirting more free coffee out of some sanitary orifice, we left rather quickly, neglecting to return the Castleton's mugs we were drinking out of, and went over to Red Light Billiards to hustle some people at nine ball. About ten minutes before we got there, 1:00 occurred, signalling the end of legal alcohol consumption in public places in Minnesota and therefore also the vicious onslaught of bar patrons wobbling off to their cars to safely drive themselves home or to more prosperous venues for the night. There were plenty of old biker marines with blue amoeba tattoos wearing fishnets, singing along to Patsy Cline, and leaking Jack Daniels from every pore. We jived immediately over to a seven-foot-tall man man with dyed black hair, a red goatee, and a shirt that said "Hampton Beach" on it, and asked for a game. The guy said sure and called us both "dude" so we changed our minds and tried to find someone else to hustle, someone that would call us "sir."
Logically, the next person we tried to hit up for money was a guy in a pinstriped suit with a very bright paisley tie and pokerchip loafers. He agreed for reasons beyond our wildest dreams to bet fifty bucks on a game o' nine ball with Alan, then asked me, drooling, "What would you do if suddenly a big ape fell from the ceiling and gave you a piece of cheese and then sat on the pool table with his ass right on the foot spot?"
"Fuck him." I'd do practically anything with opposable thumbs, to be honest.
My reply triggered something in that section of Alan's brain that controls thoughts of bondage and S&M (it's right next to the hypothalamus, but a lot cuter), and his eyes widened with anticipation. It was hard for me to control myself, but I managed to walk calmly to the bathroom, splash a lot of cold water at my face, and concentrate once again on money and pool and money and money and people's credit cards and primates with cute butts, and hustling and more money.
And sex but mostly money.
We creamed Mr. Poker Chip Loafers. Beat him good. As the winnings got more and more glorious, scary Mr. Pokerchip got more and more pale, yet he bet on and on, reassuring our waning faith in the persuasive powers of a gaping cleavage. Alan played pool and I just generally stood there and looked gorgeous. We made a good team. By around 3:30 Mr. Chip had to start refusing us, and start quick, because we were about to win his watch, which would leave him with basically nothing but his pants, his loafers, tousled hair, nervous sweat, and a quarter.
Alan won the game by sinking the nine off the four ball and decided to call it a night. "But Alan, we haven't played 'Chantilly Lace' yet," I pointed out, looking sadly at the jukebox and then at poor Stripped-of-Practically-All-of-His-Belongings-Man, who was looking blatantly at my tits.
"Anyone got a quarter?" I asked, staring The Defeated straight in the eyes with my nipples until he dug frantically in the pockets of his solitary garment and grinned like an idiot as he placed it in my hand, "it" being the quarter, of course, and not the proverbial "it." He left unaware that his car had been towed, and Alan and I bopped wearily to "Chantilly Lace" till the cows came home. Then, careful not to step on all the little cows on the floor on the way out the door, we went home to fuck.
This was a typical night for Alan and I, back in our tamer days, when we thought the way to be happy wasn't through anybody's stomach but was by being perpetually mellow. We cruised by day and looted by night, or we looted by day and had crazy major appliance sex by night, or sometimes we broke things by day and broke-and-entered by night, or sometimes we slept by day and suffered minor gastric disturbances by night, or at the very least we watched cartoons by day and made scary faces at ourselves in the bathroom mirror by night. But we were always mellow, and not one whit of the terrorists that we are today.
Today small children walk towards us, look up, scream, and run in the opposite direction. Random passersby collapse from cardiac arrest when they see the bitter tortured eye sockets through which we view their brittle, edible flesh. No one can give us a ride anywhere, because we have been declared an illegal substance, which makes hitchhiking a bitch. Cats don't like us either. Flowers wilt when we look at them funny.
We occasionally stay up past midnight on weekdays.
We are walking terror.
So right now I'm busy filing my fingernails to a point sharp enough to cut through the blunt end of a small child, which is something I've tried for weeks to find time to do, so I'm ignoring Alan's incessant pleas that I stop and give him a frontal lobe massage. To occupy himself in the meantime he has taken to wearing wool socks and gloves and running around on his hands and feet, then touching his tongue piercing to the inside of our front doorknob in an attempt to electrocute himself.
"That never works, Alan. Why don't you try sticking it in the socket or something?" I finish my nails and stick one into the fishbowl.
"What are you trying to do, kill me? Christ, I'm just trying to occupy myself while you file your fucking nails. If you'd hurry up and finish so you can get these knots out of my head, I wouldn't be so– don't eat that fish, that's Liberace! Do I ever eat your rubber pants that you think are Karen Carpenter reincarnated? No! You know why I never eat–"
"Liberace, Shmiberace. Dinner, I call him. Alan, remember the last time I *gulp* gave you a lobe massage?" I wipe the dribbling fish juice off my lips with a stray chunk of frog leg left over from breakfast. "And you're telling me you don't wanna stick your tongue in a socket???"
"I warned you not to touch the soft spot or I'd go catatonic! You know what your problem is? You never listen to me unless I start every sentence with a word beginning with the letter Q. THERE AREN'T THAT MANY WORDS THAT BEGIN WITH THE LETTER Q, WOMAN*!!! I CAN'T TAKE YOUR CONDITIONAL LOVE ANYMORE!"
Just then there's a knock at the door. Alan opens it and screams "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT FROM ME???" to an old woman with tigers on her scarf selling Reader's Digest subscriptions. She looks at the cracked ceiling, clutches her saggy chest feebly, and collapses onto our brand-new lizard skin carpet. Alan runs frantically to the bathroom and brings back a small mirror, which he holds to her lips.
"She bit it." He drops the mirror frightfully and starts to drool all over the woman's varicose veins.
"What good fortune. I was wondering what we were going to have for dinner tonight, luv. Draw a chalk outline around her, will ya?" Alan is a good Mousketeer. He's also a good chef. Hours later, by candlelight, we indulge in sumptuous morsels of colorful varicose-vein-laden crispy-battered Reader's Digest propagandist dipped in buckets of flaming horseradish dip.
Overcome by Extraordinary Charm (which is one of those chemicals nobody warns you about in human flesh, kind of like the one in turkey that makes everybody fall asleep with a beer in their hand watching football on Thanksgiving), Alan proposes a toast. Overcome by Cannibalistic Lust (which is the same chemical as it is processed by the female digestive system) I wrap my elbow around his, dipping the sleeve of my bowling shirt in the flaming horseradish dip by accident, thus burning a big hole in it, and I grab my mug o' Jägermeister, bringing it clumsily to my teeth *konk*.
"To ... um ... lessee ... to ..." Alan stammers, as yet unsure what to do with his Extraordinary Charm. "To eating," I suggest.
"To eating veiny old women."
"To eating each other," I say, having caught glimpse of a few glistening day-glo drops of Jägermeister nestled between the rows of brown corduroy on the right thigh of Alan's Sexy Butt Pants. (Every guy with a girlfriend owns a pair of Sexy Butt Pants. Alan's happen to be brown corduroy. I know what you're thinking and shut up.)
"To raping and pillaging," says Alan. See, when I said we rape and pillage, I wasn't kidding. We do take some time off every so often though, since being Walking Terror takes a lot of energy. If you're wondering where the action is, it just happens to be a slow week.
"To ... raping each other," say I, tossing my Disneyland mug into a big pile of bones near our dining room window, where it hits a hippy femur and shatters to bits. I grab a wiry chunk of Alan wrist and drag him over the table, through a big glass bowl full of old lady appendages, to his knees. We roll through broken glass to the kitchen which, by virtue of its amazing array of silly plastic tools and lively vibrating appliances, is my favorite spot in the house to pitch nooky.
So, after a good week of doing nothing but sleeping, watching TV, playing with condoms and toasters, and finding new and exciting (culinary) ways to violate the mailman, we grow disillusioned with the cannibalistic A-Team watchin', Battleship-playin', finger-lickin' coed naked kitchen-appliance rugby rut we've gotten ourselves into, and set out with whips and chains to wreak havoc on people we don't know.
Here's where the real raping and pillaging comes in.
"Hey Snatch, what does 'pillage' mean exactly?" Alan asks between puffs of a Black Death cigarette as we set out one night to, as it were, Paint The Town BLACK. I ponder. It means we aren't at home coated with peanut butter and chained to the refrigerator. It means we have to eat things like cow flesh and leafy vegetables until we get home.
"It's good for our health, Alan. 'Pillage' means 'eat healthy cows and don't hurt your eyes watching television late at night.'" I slap him.
"Oh. I thought it was the colored leaves that are on trees sometimes." Alan squashes Black Death between his foot and some innocent cute little ants that are trying serenely to build their home.
"No, that's Anchorage. Alan, you got a quarter?"
Alan digs through the pockets of his Sexy Butt Pants (I confess, the only reason those dumb corduroy creatures are his Sexy Butt Pants is that they're his only pair of pants) and hands me a piece of lint kinda shaped like a quarter.
"That's not a quarter, you fuck. It's just a piece of lint shaped like a quarter." I slap him. I am MEAN. Walking Terror.
"Oh," claims Alan feebly. "I thought it was a quarter."
"No, it's just a piece of lint shaped like a quarter. Try again or I'll eat all the Crunchberries out of the Cap'n Crunch."
Alan fiddles in another pocket and pulls out a quarter. I jab Mr. Quarter into the phone and dial 911. Ten thousand years later I'm connected to the police. A guy with moon boots, long red hair and a cocker spaniel walks by.
"Hi, I'm on 21st and Cooper and I just saw this guy take a big pitchfork and stab it through three nuns and an old lady who were just trying to cross the street without getting hit by a bus. Yup. Yeah, they all died. Um, he's about six feet tall and he has a moustache and moon boots and red hair and a cocker spaniel. 21st and Cooper. Right. I think you should kill him."
Just as I'm scooping the quarter out of the phone a big ole screeching cop car smashes the guy's dog to spaniel bits.
"See, we didn't need the fucking quarter anyway because 911 is FREE!!! I told you we didn't need the quarter!" I chastise Alan and slap him again, barely missing the soft spot on his skull.
A pudgy three-armed cop gets out of the car, inadvertently toppling a bag of donuts into the spaniel bits, where Moon Boot Guy is busy crying over spilt spaniel and doesn't even notice the handcuffs or the firing squad.
Hungry for spaniel chops, Alan and I head home, taking the scenic route through the suburbs until we find a happy flat with a barbecue. We briefly use their pool and their poodle for Pool Poodle Pederasty Party Purposes, then inconspicuously shove their barbecue into the extra yardage in Alan's Sexy Butt Pants and skip about on our merry way, jingling a tad bit more than most people without backyard barbecue grills sandwiched amongst their naughty bits, but craftily nonetheless.
Several days later, Alan complains incessantly that a particular poodle bit keeps popping up somewhere near the toe of his left boot, rendering it squeaky and, for all lurking purposes, unwearable.
"I need new shoes," he says between gasps for breath one dark and stormy morning whilst I tie him to the barbecue grill and stick quarters in his armpits with superglue.
"Ok then, let's go bowling."
That decided, we walk through several people's backyards, stopping for a brief game of Residential Golf, and run squeakily, melding melodically with the sound of breaking glass and small children shrieking, to GIVE HEAD BOWLING ALLEY AND USED TRACTOR DEALERSHIP (which, previous to a very recent golfing mishap, was GIVENSHEAD BOWLING ALLEY AND USED TRACTOR DEALERSHIP) where we fully intend to include the other patrons in a game of Pedestrian Bowling. We find quickly that during daylight hours when everyone outside is as sly and athletic as we are, strikes and even spares are relative impossibilities. We manage to drag home only one wily-haired child who we affectionately name "Snack" and serve with a luscious cheese dip and some toothpicks with green ribbons on the ends.
We watch the news as we dine, noting that the current Walking Terror Approval Poll sends us four points above the President, so we break out the champagne and share it with the meter man, who we later share with each other. Stuffed full of meter manhood (and various other meter man parts), Alan and I fall asleep snoringly on the electric stove with our lips pinned shut through their rings, some limbs (of ours) tied together, and all the burners on. I dream.
I dream we're President. President Walking Terror. Or, actually, we have our own limousine, so we're President Riding-In-A-Limousine Terror. The first lady is my Karen Carpenter pants, and we're playing strip bocce on the lawn and painting the White House black. Children are honored to shake our hands, and I squirt hot and sour soup through the hole in my lip at press conferences, as a tension breaker. Kitchen appliance sales soar. The phrase "meat-and-potatoes man" has taken on an entirely new meaning. People all over the country are calling my schizophrenic ex-junior high school teacher asking for the President of the United States, and are told only "cocksucker." Every word has a silent Q in it. On Thanksgiving, rather than watching football and falling asleep, entire families are overcome by sudden bouts of Extraordinary Charm and Cannibalistic Lust.
I wear a hippy femur through my Achilles tendon piercing in public, and suddenly Parisian runway models are doing it.
I wake up screaming.
"Alan," I say, falling off the stove and bringing him crashing, half-asleep to the bone-laden kitchen floor on top of me, "WE MUST STOP! I HAD A DREAM THAT–" at which point Alan sticks his tongue cleverly into my mouth, interrupting my train of thought entirely and leading me away from even the nagging temptation to run to the bathroom and put soothing aloe on the burner marks on my butt, into the usual world of tight leather constraints and purple jello fellatio.
Days later, having finally torn ourselves away from our raucous fornicative wiles, we discuss my dream. Fearing cult status and aware of the extraordinary number of people on earth who would opt for mass idiocy in lieu of identity if given the choice, we reluctantly decide to tone down our public pillaging for awhile and, in certain environments, disguise ourselves.
Much later, wearing a plastic nose-and-glasses apiece, we enter Castleton's and discreetly unplug the stereo behind the counter, because all we really want is some peace and quiet and an opportunity to spill some coffee on Kerouac. The Alternative Girl has made us mad by recognizing us, incognito and everything, and telling us how cool we are. The terror within us is writhing, the fear of acquiring blind followers less pathological than ourselves is rising quickly, and our coffee is getting cold faster than we can drink it.
We are agitated.
We realize we can't eat the masses nearly as fast as they fall into the abyss of dictated identity.
We weep. We write to Dear Abby for help. She tells us to pray. We write to Dear Dotti for help. She tells us to eat her, and we do, but we don't feel any better. We are fighting a losing battle. Every day our public approval rises. Every day more suburban kids kill their parents, eat them, and move to the city to be nearer to the Walking Terror Aura. We are too late. Even suicide at this point would only increase our popularity.
Just as restaurants serving human thigh sausage on pizza open up on every corner, we lose our appetites. Just as sex therapists and talk show hosts declare sex with chainsaws a healthy emotional bonding experience for couples, we lose our will to boink on appliances. Just as Japanese import cars with pitchforks on the grill and electronic scoring systems for pedestrian carnage hit the market, we don't even have the energy to do more than spit on people as we walk by them. Walking Terror, once a treasured catharsis and the sole bearer of our emotional burdens, has become a commodity. Our happiness, once a beautiful bond that could only be shared by two cannibals keen on tickle torture and sadomasochistic rituals involving electrical currents, can now be bought. Our faith in each other shattered, Alan and I go our separate ways.
Years later, at a restaurant in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, we run into each other and talk about old times.
By sheer coincidence we have both become accountants, and have both married someone named Butch. We each have two kids and a dog-point-eight. We both vacation to Jamaica each Christmas and have our hair braided by girls on the beach named Zoe.
We both play chess often.
At the table next to us, a girl with scythes through her head spits blood into her coffee and stirs it with the detached arm of a small child.
A businessman sitting a few tables away in the non-detached-body-part-utensil-using section complains to the management about the establishment's lax policy on enforcement of public vulgarity. We overhear the manager tell the suited man that there is a Chinese restaurant down the block offering a few dishes without human flesh, and that if he can't tolerate the use of dismembered body parts as utilitarian objects perhaps he should refrain altogether from eating in public.
A young girl with a Walking Terror For President t-shirt and an entire small child through a piercing in her wrist walks by us, ignoring the child's incessant screaming, and sits in the back of the restaurant next to a Cuisinart donated to the management by the Walking Terror fan club for customers to amuse themselves with while waiting for their food.
We, Walking Terror, look at her in unison and slowly, nostalgically, turn to each other and grin.