He had a wandering image that followed him, something about ravioli in a lonely café somewhere on the other side of the world. Light rays harken down thin alleyways, the sun an orange ball in the sky, the clouds clotted with heat, melting like a sorcerer’s tongue on acid, leopards and leprechauns leaping over the moon, shirt tails caught on the quarter point that hangs down, a broken piece of cheese, a nightlight. “Right, right,” Alex says.
Fright night. The nerves are ticking like wax paper snuffing terminal electrical anxiety lamps. The rain patters against the window, a crazy man in gloves comes for a visit at midnight. The rotten guts of a warlock wreak havoc on a Long Beach bungalow. Crystal quartz hearts conduct energy like a psychotic maestro.
Daybreak den wake. He slithers out of a chair like a pale snake, a voided king at the precipice of gigantic sin. He puts two quarters into the coffee machine and waits for the dark brown dribble to come out of the hole and flow into a red cup. He preps his mind for complicated mathematics, genital schematics. He sits down at his worktable, clicks on a lamp, readies his chisel and hammer, and goes to work carving a notorious-bound puppet.
Once fully formed, the man fills the puppet with fear and anxiety. He stuffs it in like seasoned ricotta into a pasta shell until overflowing. He zippers up his flesh, sets him on the ground and winds him up like a pure machine. He watches as the young and inexperienced toy soldier marches off to war, the battle with life, the battle with God. Explosions abound in his wake.
The man breathes a sigh relief as his new creation disappears beyond the horizon. Now, it is time to rest, to eat some ravioli on the banks of Ravioli River, to drink some wine, to dream of more fiendish things about love and life, to look out upon the street and simply watch the ripple of time pass by.
Shards of grass, comatose glass, liquified emotions in a cage of all the rage baked and sliced and handed by. Replicants rest by water drip. Sleeping with window veils pulled wide, the city outside, aglow in its ambers and blues, the steaming hues, the pink bruises, the cottonmouth blooms, the glistening tombs.
Azio turns his head to see. The sleepers are holding him down. A witch arrives in a gong gown, right through the wall she comes, like a whisper in satin. She numbs the air with her voice: “The dreams you’ll need, the dreams you’ll feed…”
There’s leftover coconut cake in the refrigerator. Azio looks at it as it sits on a plate in the overbearing light. He grabs a carton of melk, pours a glass, thinks about shapely ass. He grinds on the coconut with his teeth. It feels good to him. A plate and glass clink. The refrigerator blinks, then says goodnight.
He lies back down, the symphonic band plays in his head. The bed sucks him in like quicksand, the sand man has a noose, “Sleep, forever sleep,” he too whispers with sinister intent. It’s during the night the beings really crawl out from inside his oversized mind to take a bite.
And he remembers riding the snake through High Dallas. The things man has made, he wonders. Or was it men at all? He likes to think not. The machine swayed as it moved on its elliptical course around the city. The people there swayed with it. He recalls the frightened eyes, the dead eyes, the dumb eyes. All the eyes full of lies. He remembers the moving mouths, the lazy legs, the twitching hands, the Easter eggs from outer space.
See, the egg is a symbol of life, Azio thinks in his cyberpunk bed suit. He turns to look at the invisible her. “Why don’t you ever want me?” he confesses. She’s 100 billion miles away, running through a green meadow together, hand-in-hand, with a perfect robot. The insomnia devils stab at him with red pitchforks now. They torture him with these scenarios of lust on a ship. A buttered orgy ensues.
Alabaster eggplants frolic in a purple haze. Munchkins drop acid and watch Wizard of Oz repeatedly until one jumps out a window. Wood gnomes with shotguns play patriots on the streets of D.C. The world looks at them and laughs. Sharpie abusers make cardboard signs declaring freedom and love. Love? Love runs rampantly abused. There is no such thing as a pair of dice. Las Vegas doldrums, sadness in a sea of glitter and gold. The tin man walks against the tide, his metal hide, the mental ride, rising, like Calypso. He feels sick to his stomach and vomits nails. He’s so visual yet so invisible. All those magnetic eyes stuck to the rides, plowing the sleigh bells, the conch shells, halls of injustice carpeted in velvet and blood. The soul ship arrives, to take us on a ride, to the other side.
His heart is dwindling, his skin is splitting, magic means nothing. He has a heroin sandwich for lunch on the 32nd floor. The room is quiet except for the soft whirr of an invisible A/C unit. He steps out onto the veranda, looks over the edge, the city roars, there’s wild boars, mandible monsters pound the pavement, the invisible man falls… No one even sees the crash. It’s all madness walking over and clockwork cuckoo skins. The fountains spray jest, the endless hallways cradle the wild, the wind, the sin, the ever-flowing gin. There’s sonic bathhouses and orbital areolas, Italian soda kisses that send some to Kingdom Come.
Flight patterns are all nonsense now, like sauerkraut rainbows, mint gravy, acidic donuts, laundry detergent made by skunks. The wires are so loose, obtuse, full of fruit juice. Here we go. The whore canals swell in their suits of lies, another tried and died, another tear-filled sky, standing on the deck of the wet city, the rain finally flies to wash away all the deliberate unlove.
And now there are men who think they are animals, and they pay to live in a glass cube at the zoo…
When one gazed into the room, his eyes were like little red lights… Little traffic lights they were, in that bloom of darkness. But when he stepped out of that darkness some, his eyes then turned green, as if fireflies were bouncing around inside his head and peering out the eye holes. And when he finally came full into the light, he would blink madly, and his eyes took on a golden glow. It’s because he’s an animal. It’s because he’s a human animal, a man who lives in a cage at the zoo. The sign outside his enclosure reads: The Zodiac Salamander. He’s an amphibious being with fire for feelings.
Cat food chaos envelops the world, the morning, the night, the knights of the trapezoid table. Maximum fluoride, ambient chloride, synthetic metropolis, a glimpse from the cage. He sees the eyes stare back at him, the monkey grins, the Karen chagrins, the popcorn tossers and word salad snipers. The girl cracks the skin of a banana, takes one lonely bite, throws what remains at him to see if he’ll play chimp. Gimp. Shrimp. A wholly cocktail to turn him different colors. The sky is a blue sheet of frosting, the clouds twisted puffs of cream, he lives in a dream, a chocolate fountain by his bed, a loaded gun to take off his head.
The purple bus steams as it waits, passengers fidget in the queue, he watches as it pulls away toward a desert moon, a wandering bride swallows a monsoon. He’s satiated where he stays, the curtains of his command center are frayed…
“Why can’t I be just like everyone else?” he asked himself as he stood before a circular mirror inside the Gilligan hut that stood inside the larger enclosure. “Because I don’t want to be like everyone else,” he answered his own question. “I’m not merely a man, I’m a man who’s an animal… I’m animalistic. I am extreme. See how my eyes glow?”
The Zodiac Salamander got on a black telephone attached to one wall of the hut and pressed some square numbers. “Hello, central operations? It’s the human animal again. Say, when am I going to get some hot prey to mount? Isn’t it mating season yet? Can someone bring me the menu?”
He paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.
“Uh huh. Right. I understand. Not too many willing participants? Now I don’t understand… Uh, huh. Right. Society frowns upon human breeding experiments at a zoo facility?”
Again, he paused as someone on the other end of the line spoke.
“Well, surely you can find some wandering aimless babe looking for a good time. My hanging fruit is ripe and full and I’m about to blow a packet of seed. So, when you do, let me know. Thanks.” He set the receiver back upon its cradle. “Damn society and all its correctness despite all its ill repute. This societal schism is giving me mental illness.”
The zoo wasn’t a big city zoo in a well-known place. It was a small zoo out on the edge of a brutal southwestern town on the fringes of the mad desert. The animal animals were limited to the usual small-town zoo fare plus various creatures that were native to the region. The Zodiac Salamander was neighbor to foxes, coyotes, a black bear, bison, devil snakes, lizards, icky spiders, evil goats, a long-horn steer, brooding vultures, and a passionate mountain lion.
After watching the movie Taxi Driver—his favorite—for the 919th time, the Zodiac Salamander stepped out from his hut and into the open air of the enclosure. He liked taking time to look up at space before he went down for the night. The jagged universe tossed back its grand array of colors and shapes and the milk of the Milky Way spilled and ran down across the faces of all the stars and other celestial objects.
It was just then that a small, gray man came into view beneath the light of the moon. The Zodiac Salamander sniffed the air. “Cliff? Is that you, Cliff? Cliff old boy?”
The man stepped forward to reveal his true self. “It’s me. How are you tonight?”
He sighed a painful sigh. “I’m lonely, Cliff. They’re not bringing me any women to mount. I have needs, Cliff. I have animalistic urges.”
“I suppose they haven’t found a proper mate yet,” Cliff answered. He scratched at his head. “These things take time, but I’ll see what I can do.”
“You’re a good egg, Cliff, and my favorite zookeeper.”
Cliff looked up at the stars. “Do you ever consider the sheer vastness of space?” he asked.
The Zodiac Salamander followed his track up to the heavens. “All the time.”
“Yet we toil with such meaningless wonders here on Earth. For instance,” Cliff pointed out to him. “My greatest worry is not being left alone or the fate of my everlasting soul… It’s will I be able to afford the rent or be able to buy enough food or keep the lights on. Isn’t that just such a terrible way for a man to have to be?”
The Zodiac Salamander nodded his head in agreement. “That’s why I’ve chosen to live how I live. My only true concerns are of a deep and primitive nature. I let the world out there worry itself to death. I mean, what can I do it about it. My hands are tied.”
Cliff tapped at his fuzzy gray head. “It can make a man go insane. We weren’t meant to live like this, yet here we are, living like this.”
“Sounds like you need to mount some female prey, Cliff. You’re wound tighter than a toy top.”
Cliff laughed at that suggestion. “I’m afraid my mounting days are over.”
The Zodiac Salamander frowned at the thought of the same thing happening to himself one day.
“Well,” Cliff said. “I need to finish my rounds. Unless I do myself in, I’ll be back at the crack of dawn’s early light to hose you down.”
There is this guy see who lives upstairs from me he’s the weird upstairs walking guy walks and walks but he never says hi – until today he looked disheveled and bruised hair all a muss toting a bank bag full of money and I’m wondering what all the walking is for floor to floor he walks and walks till a quarter to four
Is he shooting darts or is he shooting junk is he hiding a decapitated head in a hand-carved wooden trunk has he stashed away the body of Cinderella takes her out in the deep of night combs her brittle golden locks until she looks just right props her up on the couch beside him as they munch popcorn and watch “I am Sam …”
Or maybe he’s a Buddhist with incense and candles and lots and lots of fluffy pillows he kneels on his straw mat and bows to the sun or to the moon or to the neighbor beating his dog and grandma with a pinecone and a bat
I always see him solo never with a mate and I wonder what his story is what is his twisted tale of fate how old is he how much does he weigh does he believe in Jesus or follow his own way what does he think about when he drives to Albuquerque does he play a Steinway or toot on a green bottle flute enticing the charms to rise from the ashes buried in his carpet does he drink white wine or red what does it mean when he screams like that is it merely bad dreams or frustration bubbling to the surface in the form of dragon fizz and warm oil
Does he watch Regis and Oprah and maybe Dr. Phil or does he watch the motion on the ocean three vodkas and three pills is he a menace to society or one of the popes does he smoke razor blades or psychedelic dope is he a war veteran or a homosexual does he eat pot pies or filet mignon is he French or is he Irish does he have nightmares or fairy tale dreams does he have children or maybe a wife has he attempted suicide with a rusty fruit knife has he called on Allah to save this bloody world or does he sit back and sip martinis whilst smoking Izmir Stingers not really giving a damn about his brain anymore
All this I wonder but don’t really care I wish he would just stop walking and leave me to my Russian bear the one that looks me in the mirror and says… Please don’t stare.
Every day is merely a little rock in a big sea see this philosophy came to me from a glance through a window a curtained kitchen window with the tang of street lights burrowing through woooooo and the ride takes off … don’t paddle swim to the nearest point that is your heart all these paths we twist and turn for patriotic bliss a stranger’s kiss lemon drops on the moon pea-shooting gypsies feeling for a fresh, new vein gypsies flying to California seeking a mad hideaway beneath the pulse of it all the pulse of the freeways the pulse of the helicopters hovering above you in the sky naked and quaking the jewels get the spotlight and suddenly the curtains close and the wind sways your hurt so elegantly … The piano walked softly from beyond the pillars of salt there was someone standing on the edge and the notes were begging him to hold on for just one more day for just one more little rock in a big sea … and he hoped to send her roses through the mail or in a pail which he would set at her feet and forever carpet every step she would take with honor and love with compassion for her dreams with a hard, warm place to rest her head every night and he would shatter every glass slipper for none would fit her so well as my kiss on her brow my kiss on her teardrop which he would swallow as his own … forevermore. And he sits on the little rock in the big sea everyday crushing glass slippers in his fingers and damning the size of this majestic sea.
The chariots rode into town blaring trumpets and waving spider webs like white, cotton kites and the soldier watched the cheering crowd all smiling with blood on their teeth and scriptures dripping from their curled fists and the soldier felt as empty as wind when he jumped off the back and made his way through the blistering crowd their eyes vacant, their hearts rattling with ice everyone was like a bee sting clawing and banded amber jewels wearing spears and hammocks on their backs in which to swing above a lazy flower before the dark stones fall from the sky and Jesus is riding a missile spreading handfuls of love dust across the widening gap of mankind and he plants the point of the missile right into the dirt lot of the Cactus Gin a splintering roadhouse joint on a desert road a long, spindly caramel kiss warmed and running across the bourbon asphalt the mellow yellow of factories glows like a foggy harbor veiled in red velvet and the broken bulbs of the Cactus Gin marquee still flash, the craggy edges are crusted black the little heartbeat light flickers like a sick Christmas tree and inside… floating malnutrition backward evolution noise pollution
And the son of God ordered a whiskey and smiled at the people he created as they danced and fought and loved, cried and laughed and ached… to the slow grind of a melancholy jukebox and he brought with him an angel one with a rhombus head and stunted wings and the angel was singing the grief of all she suffered on her leash and a weepy guitar began to groan in the corner Jesus was singing a song about peace and love and the congregation began to throw beer bottles at him and Jesus spoke into the mic… “Oh great. Here we go again.” But he took the blows with harmony, nibbled the glass between his teeth as he sang weaving tanglewood hopes through the vibrating cave.
And the madness began to settle as he curled before the window the soldier was home but shaking he was upset about the killing he had done his wife a dozen miles away on sleepers the children were slaves the plays were robbing their minds of any moral foundation the madness had spun out of control to the point of consensual acceptance like morphine in your I-V the slow drip of horror shows gone real and fishing down by the river was no longer notated in the wired almanac as simply two boys and a bucket of worms a shingle thatched roof crowning a famous whitewashed bait and tackle shop glows in the background like a slice of warm care or apple pie with vanilla ice cream on top cinnamon showgirls lifting their skirts and squirting you with a city sweet… that’s life with those eyes, what is this undecipherable want?
Aaron Echoes August
An online journal of fiction, essays, and social commentary.