By Arlen Lawson
Stands on table. Light up.
When we’ve been shitting blood for days, we will not be embarrassed in front of one another.
Ten days out to sea in a trailer floating on garbage bags I almost burst my lungs inflating, powered by 20 dogs saved from the pound, saved to swim, but all twenty of ‘em dead. Killed in the flood. I’d cut ‘em loose, but at this point, with slowly deflating bags, we need the buoyancy.
Sally’s a tough little girl, chewing on a stick of dynamite to prove it, ‘cause she saw it in a movie. She’s just picking at the wrapper, but it’s vicious. Stop glaring at me, Sally. I love you, but the last time I kissed you I had to dive into the sea and swallow until I felt drowned to get the feeling of burning alive from the inside out. That was five days ago.
Ten days before the ocean covered the world, Ralph Shitweed, a former neighbor of mine, whose last name I do not believe was Shitweed, was yelling at me for tying his dog to my trailer. And I said,
“Listen, Shitweed, I’ve got a lot of dogs tied to my trailer right now. A lot!”
And to specify, his is the flop-eared dog poking its nose at yonder cricket, but…
“Shitweed, I’ve got a lot of dogs poking their noses at crickets, flop ears and whatnot, as you may well observe if you got eyes, which I can’t hardly be sure of, anymore!”
Five days in the ocean and I’m through the water, staring up like the giant at the bottom of Crystal Clear, running out of breath and stinging eyes and wondering what’ll Sally do when I come up for air. I scream, “I’m sorry,” in bubbles when I get a breath. Five days in the ocean and she’s pushed me right back under with her foot.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a matter of images, words and ideas and their various overlapping rhythms, and it’s gonna take some work on your part, so let’s have some practice visualizing a red-brown heart shape behind me, circumscribing my body like so(raise arms to make “Y”), glowing and surrounded with sunflower petals of golden fire like outer labia. Stop.
Curious George in blotchy water color running on a treadmill and slowly becoming toned, muscled, and disgusting. Stop.
A tiny bunny running scared in a field of weeds and mud, barely seen in the pale yellow streetlight. Stop.
Sweating and varicose cock hiccoughing beads and strings of ejaculate, threaded with eyebrows, leaving snail tracks that dot air bubbles in the pores of a tiny little nose, sleeping. Stop.
Four days in the ocean. Night. I dream the dogs come back to life and crawl up the sides of the trailer and Sally tries to love them through the soggy hair and the menace, through the snarl and the viscous slime-drool. And it is my job to defend her as she screams, “Don’t you fucking hurt them, you awful, awful man!”
This is only a dream. When I wake up, I wish I had a stick I could sharpen. Fourteen days before the flood, I’m packing my trailer with canned food and dynamite, for just-in-cases, Monsters of the Deep, who knows, and I don’t even think to bring a stick.
Fifteen days before the flood, God speaks to me in a dream and tells me to convert my trailer into a boat. He’s gonna flood again. “Well, God, how should I go and do that?” And he says, (silly voice) “Whatever way you see fit…” which is how God talks in my dreams, ever since I was a kid. “So, should I bring two of what I can find? …God?”
“No, just you.”
Six days in the ocean and I pull the trick that gets me back on the raft while Sally is sleeping. The trick is that I get back on the raft while Sally is sleeping and so will not push me back under with her foot. For the rest of the night, I sleep laying on top of her, in case she wakes up and begins to think about swimming. She’s not gonna be able to lift me. I used to work out.
The day before the flood, Shitweed is furious, grabs me and throws me against the side of the trailer, holding tight to my shirt, his fist all knuckles and – a word to the Slim Pickens wise – all man. The dogs start barking.
Shitweed’s screaming, “Where’s my daughter? What is going on? Why don’t I have my daughter?” And I honestly don’t know. The last I saw his daughter was three days before the flood when she came by my trailer to pet her dog.
“This one’s my daddy’s.”
“Yeah, that’s what he said, too.”
“Have you read this book?”
She’s holding up Curious George Flies a Kite, which I have read. I explain how what I’m doing’s more important than just her right now, the divine importance of tying garbage balloons and dogs to my trailer, and she walks away. End of story.
Ten days in the ocean I wake up to something muddy poking into my mouth and a soggy flop-eared puppy laying on my chest staring at me or at a spot just to my left, depending on which eye you followed. My first words of the morning are to the point.
“Sally, where did you get that stick?”
And we are saved.
Five days before the flood, Shitweed’s daughter is making kissy faces at me through the trailer window. I say, you keep acting crazy, that shit’ll catch up with you. Then where will you be?’
She smiles and closes the curtain.
The day it all come flood, we watched Shitweed drowning in the rising, crashing waters. He screamed out, “Sweet Sally.” We watched him drown in outhouse and beercans, not thinking of himself and couldn’t imagine a more noble death without first envisioning a more noble creature.
And five days in the ocean, Sally and me lying nude on our backs, fat man and little girl staring at the sun, I say, “These garbage bags won’t hold us up forever,” and she says she knows. “And everyone everywhere dies and haint no-one embarrassed in Heaven or in Hell.” And she says she knows. “And at least one thing I could say is I aint never had it as bad as you.”