The Puppets of Kudzu (3)

Author’s Note: Mature Content. The following story contains language that some readers may find offensive. Skip this one if you don’t like that sort of thing.

“I don’t think I want to give you kudzu pie anymore. You’re horrible to people,” Franco angrily ranted.

“Oh, come on. You can’t come down on a guy for just doing his job. I don’t make up the rules. I got bills to pay just like everyone else,” the city man said.

Franco pondered that and then reconsidered. “Okay. I’m sorry. Would you like some lactose-free egg nog to go with that pie? There’s nothing more refreshing than a cold glass of lactose-free egg nog.”

“Sure. That would be great. Thanks for considering my dietary needs.”

“No problem. I’m magical like that.”

 “Say, do you mind if I smoke? I could really use one right about now.”

“Nah, go ahead and suck on your fag all you want,” Franco told him.

“What did you just say?”

“Suck on your fag…”

“I know, I know. That is so gay, mister.”

“Jiminy Effin Cricket! What is it with everyone!? A fag happens to be a colloquial British term for a cigarette!”

Franco plopped down an emerald-green ashtray in the middle of the table followed by a plate with a chilled and wobbly piece of green kudzu pie. He went and yanked a plastic jug of lactose-free egg nog from the refrigerator and filled a tall glass and sat that before the man as well.

“Would you like me to squirt some cream on it for you?” Franco asked him.

“Excuse me?”

“Whipped topping. On your pie.”

“Yes, some cream would be, um, very nice.”

“Here you go. Enjoy.”

“Thanks.”

Franco watched with bizarre fascination as the city official opened his mouth and filled it with a piece of the cream-covered kudzu pie. He chewed. Then he stopped chewing. His face morphed into a horrifying grimace and then a huge and sloppy spew of mashed kudzu pie and cream shot out of his face and splattered all over the table. He made a horrible gurgling, gasping, groaning, grunting noise and clamped both his hands around the glass of lactose-free egg nog and tipped it to his mouth and started to suck and gulp ferociously, wheezing and whining and spitting as he did so. He paused briefly and then suddenly the egg nog came shooting out of his mouth as well and he cried out, “Spoiled! It’s spoiled!” 

The official suddenly stood up, grasped his throat, and then just as suddenly, collapsed onto the floor.

“Holy shit!” Franco Dellaronti exclaimed. “I think I just killed him with kudzu pie and lactose-free egg nog!”

 Cheise Karn Mouise rushed into the kitchen. “What the hell is going on in here!? What’s all the noise? Just look at this disgusting mess! And who the hell is that?!”

Franco frowned. “It was a guy from the city. He gave me a 600-dollar ticket because I left my smashed-up kudzu pie stand in the yard. I’m considered a public nuisance now by the entire neighborhood.”

“That’s totally gay.”

“No, it’s not! I’m not happy at all. In fact, this is all really pissing me off! And just look at this mess and this body! What the hell am I supposed to do?”

Cheise Karn Mouise shuffled over to the coffee pot that sat on the counter and struggled to reach it. “I don’t know. Did you check to see if he’s dead?”

Franco turned to him. “You want me to touch his body? Gross.”

“Maybe you should give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I bet you’d like that.”

 “What the hell does that mean?”

“I thought you were gay,” the puppet said, still struggling for the coffee pot.

“I’m usually very gay, but not today! Aren’t you my friend? Don’t you care about me at all and my need for overflowing happiness?”

“Of course, I care. I’m just not really all that interested in feelings… It’s gay.”

“I think you fear giddiness,” Franco sternly pointed out. “You fear your own emotions.”

“What? I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“You’re afraid to be happy with who you truly are.”

“God! Quit talking so damn gay… And I know what I am. I’m a puppet who has been blessed with life.”

“Why are you afraid to express your true inner thoughts?” Franco said as he went to him and helped him with the coffee pot. He poured some into a cup and handed it down to him. Cheise Karn Mouise sipped at it, looked up, and tried to smile but couldn’t.

“Do you feel guilty about something? Do you experience inner turmoil?” Franco asked, trying to dig a little deeper into the soul of his friend.

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. It’s weird. Let me just drink my coffee and go back to my football in peace.”

“It’s not good to hold your feelings in,” Franco told him. “You may explode like an ice cream truck one day.”

Cheise Karn Mouise took another sip of his coffee. “Just drop it I said!”

“All right. All right. I just think it would be a benefit to you if occasionally you tried to get in touch with your feminine side.”

“That has to be the absolute gayest thing you have ever said to me,” Cheise Karn Mouise said.

Franco finally gave up. “Fine. Be unhappy for the rest of your life… So, I guess I am going shopping by myself after all?”

“I don’t feel like leaving the house. I told you that.”

“Are you sure? There’s a new frozen yogurt shop at the mall.”

“Yogurt is gay.”

“Well, I’d be gay too if I was full of fun and fruity flavors with a cornucopia of yummy toppings.”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his head at him. “Your psychiatrist really needs to get to work on you. Jesus.”

“I’m looking forward to it. Therapy is all about finding your happy place no matter how screwed up you are.”

Then there came a sludgy groaning from the floor as the man from the city stirred. “Oh god, I feel horrible. What happened?”

Cheise Karn Mouise threw his coffee cup in the sink before rushing over to check on the man from the city. He had an idea how to save his friend some cash. “You were choking on a delicious piece of kudzu pie and my friend here performed the Heimlich maneuver on you and saved your life. You should thank him, not give him an outrageous ticket for just trying to bring a little edible joy to the world.”

“He licked my hiney? That’s so gay,” the man from the city frightfully moaned.

“No, you brute! The Heimlich maneuver,” Cheise Karn Mouise explained. “It’s a very helpful medically endorsed physical action used to dislodge food or foreign objects from a choking person’s airway. It saves lives. Just like it did here today in this very house, in this very room mind you. Are you dumb or what?”

The man struggled to get to his feet.

“Oh, good heavens, you’re gross,” Cheise Karn Mouise said with a scrunched puppet face of disgust. “Franco, fetch this poor fella a warm wet towel to clean himself with.”

“Of course, of course.”

“What’s your name friend?” Cheise Karn Mouise asked. “I don’t believe you supplied us with any official identification.”

“My name is… Karl, I think. Hey, wait, are you a fucking French puppet? Am I talking to a puppet? Whose hand you got up your ass?”

“I suppose you wish it was your hand up my ass, don’t you,” Cheise Karn Mouise teased. “And yes, Karl, you are talking to a French puppet. I am Cheise Karn Mouise of Lyon. And I am truly alive on my own. No hand up my ass required. This world of ours is a very strange and horrible place, isn’t it?”

“And yet so beautiful and delightful,” Franco sing-songed as he returned and handed Karl the warm, wet towel.

Karl wiped down his face and the front of his suit jacket and shirt. He looked at the huge mess splattered on the table. “Did I do that? Gosh, I’m so sorry.”

“Well Karl, why don’t you make it up to us. First, by cleaning up this nastiness, and second, by tearing up that ungodly citation,” Cheise Karn Mouise pleaded.

Karl flickered his eyes and said, “Yes, yes. Of course. I was never here. I saw nothing. Everything is in order.” He chuckled a bit. “Do you have any Bounty paper towels?”

“Oooooh,” Franco beamed. “The quicker picker upper. Right away, Karl.”

Karl leaned over and whispered to Cheise Karn Mouise. “Does he always act this gay?”

“Yes, he does. He’s a very happy and positive person and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Right, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just wondering.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Read the previous part of this story HERE.


Lights and Dreams and Time

Author’s Note: The following is a bit on the personal side, and contains some slightly mature elements, but I decided to share it because love is so important in these times of so much hate.


Tennessee sunset in viridescent.

Overdue Christmas lights still burn in the night next door

Bluish-white tantrum twinkles like stars splattered against the pitch

Another year flows behind us like an endless river

Another month, another week, another day, another hour

another second 

trailing off like vapor from an airplane

slowly dissipating like a wound

swallowed like a slug of water or wine or pennyroyal dreams

“Read some Kerouac 

and it put me on the track …”

Wishing I could burn a little brighter now

Wishing the broken heart road 

wasn’t so bitter and rutted.

Then there’s them shivers.

Those nervous shivers of love and loneliness, and then there we were, eating coleslaw and catfish right next to a big clean window, and then all these people pouring in — regular folk in caps and orange jackets and I heard the talk about motorcars and hunting and other mad things of the world.

I looked at her from across the table. I had known her for two years but there’s still times I get nervous. I demand too much perfection from myself when it comes to matters of love. I have all these thoughts and feelings and sins and regrets all flowing around inside me like cold streams — sometimes hard to uncork my emotions. Other times I just fly without any sense of personal censorship. I’m abridged one day, the next day I’m at full volume. It’s not only my burden, but the burden of everyone orbiting my sun. It’s a scar of guilt that never fades, an unwelcome skin I can never shed.

We went back to my apartment and played around on the couch a little bit. We tried to watch a movie, but they all sucked. I’d turn to look at her after about 20 minutes in and say, “Do you think this is kind of stupid?” She would agree, even if she didn’t.

We did that three different times. Then we gave up on that, discussed the meaning of the word feckless, and then she disappeared to the bedroom.

I found her there naked in my bed and I was totally surprised by that because just the day before she hated my guts, in theory, I guess. I have a tendency to go off on selfish rants — my head gets all hot and chuggin’ — like a muscled-up train — and I do and say things that would break anyone’s heart. I heard Pat Benatar bitching in my head the day before — some siren song from hell, but maybe really more like my own conscience kicking me in the balls. 

Anyways, there she was like I said, naked in my bed, waiting for me. I stripped down too and crawled in under the covers. We embraced, held each other. The warmth was amazing. Everything else that followed was amazing. It’s always amazing with this one. Two years straight and it still feels like the very first time I touched her. We drifted off clutching each other tight. Then we turned to sleep, our asses touching, the warmth of her back like a campfire. I listened to her breathe as I looked up at the purple stars of pretend. 

She always helps herself to my frozen waffles in the morning. We have hot tea and look out at the wayward cats on the patio. She still looks beautiful. I feel like I look beat up. We work hard on interjecting joy into the worried spaces of our lives. We can laugh and love amidst our troubles. It’s hard, but it helps, I hope. I can see her fall into the worry. She instantly knows when my mind slips. We love through the damage of whatever disorder of the day I am. 

We drove to the city, that city being Nashville, and got some sandwiches. There was football on the TV. The joint wasn’t very busy and I’m pretty sure I said something inappropriate about asses. I always do lately. We’ve breached that gap, her and I — her being the one with the beautiful Sonic Ocean Water blue eyes across the table from me. I watch her eat and her mind is grinding, and I love her all the same, all over again, every day, even when it hurts. We always come back to each other. 

“There’s no scoreboard,” she says. 

We drove over to a big bookstore, and I went the wrong way. I got confused. I’m new here. I don’t know where I’m going — but I don’t drive into cement abutments like I did in Amarillo where some god blowtorched my mind daily. That entire town was like a cement abutment. The bookstore was busy. It was packed with chatting birds and owls. It’s a big store filled with aisles and aisles of books. I could spend all day there. I get lost in the shelves and the spines and the titles. It’s sort of our place of peace and solace — in times of love, in times of fear, in times of worry. In times of me under the volcano.

“Mam,” I called out loudly to her in the literature section, like she was some stranger in my way, to make people wonder — “What the hell is going on? Is he some kind of jerk?”

Wit and comic relief bubbling over like pea soup slowly coming to a boil on the stove. I ebb and flow. I’m like the ocean. I rise and fall and crash and then calmly lie there, yet ever unsettled. She’s like a river. She’s strong when it rains and moves forward with purpose because she has to be, even when she can’t be, or is too tired to be. She flows around the bends and over the stones. We meet in the end at the estuary under heaven. We flow into each other. Our waters mix and make one. Hands locked, we tangle in love.

We drove out of the city after buying five books. I missed the exit to our town on the outer limits because I was all jived up by her beautiful face and a black Camaro steaming by. I had to go 10 more miles and then we were in town, and we went to the grocery store that I don’t really like. I may have kissed her in the car. Her lips were cool and wet. My heart pounds when they stick to me.

“I love you,” she reminded me. 

She’s a bandage to my wounds. 

We went in for pot pies and pizzas and the other things she had on her list. I wandered off a few times. I saw her in her red coat from a distance. I saw her talking to a woman I didn’t know. I don’t know anyone here. She knows everyone. I’m the stranger. I have no name here. I’m unrecognizable. But she sees me. She sees me like an X-ray. She knows my ins and outs, she knows my heartbreaks and faults. She’s my angel in the frozen-food aisle. She’s my lover at the dairy doors. She’s my princess in the meat department.

How romantic.

We load up the car in the cold and I already miss her because I know she has to leave to go home. But it was a good weekend after all. I cherish those good weekends. We break, we mend, we carry on. That’s us. That’s always been us. It would never be the same with anyone else. I would have been knifed already. I guess in some ways I was. But none of that matters anymore. Love begins and ends with her. We kissed again in the cold. 

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

She clutched me at some point during this day, shook me a bit.

“Know that I love you,” she said. YOU.”

That one struck a chord. Then I fade.