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Damn the Torpedoes
By Scott Olesen
Plaintiff Tom Petty was not fond of peyote but he took some because he wanted to spite the law. He was in a bad mood and the peyote would soon make it worse. He’d always been a rebel but now he was looking for revenge. The authorities had never come after him so personally and he was not about to back down now.
His place was a mess, his thoughts equally so. The shelves appeared pink and concrete when in fact they were blue plastic, and the center of the room didn’t look like much fun either. The moon was being propped up by whatever collective unconscious was laying around and the lights in the house didn’t cast shadows, they only cast light. The peyote would change all that, turning colors into shapes and sugar cubes into snowflakes, if it didn’t change the law first. The law was waiting for him on petrol patrol, silently at first like a spider weaving a web, then like a loud rhino thundering towards him. And despite everything, Tom Petty was out to spite it.
The plaintiff soon found himself liking peyote more than he thought, knowing this was an illusion. He knew the center of the room was still there and his house was up on a not well-fortified hill, that the law could knock down his door at any time. This scared the shit out of him (pissing him off in a melancholy sort of way) but he still found himself liking the peyote more than initially planned. The illusion had intensified. He began to think the hill was steeper than it was.
His house was once up on that hill but now it was lost in a rain he didn’t hear hit his roof because it was hitting someplace else. He felt he was drowning but realized immediately it was his house that couldn’t swim and inside he remained as he’d always been. He’d been in a mood to spite the law and he was spiting it though his emotions, hoping to elope, got caught in his throat. A teepee of mandalas, too much rain. He realized he forgot to take the peyote, it was just the center of the room which was swallowing him whole, a vacuum cleaner inside his brain sucking out waste, pollution, scar tissue and connective membrane. He felt the acid rain hit his house but it was in the South, somewhere near the border of Mexico and the Louisiana Purchase. He was a plaintiff and hadn’t charged anybody with anything yet but revenge ran though his demons like a torpedo, damn them and everything like them. He was looking to spite the law and drink petrol out of his blind eye, on patrol for a rhino charging silently in the dry, tepid, desert air. He spun his web, feeling glorious like the shine of the sun with the sheen of a midnight rambler about to steal a horse.
He looked for his diet Sprite bottle, 2-liter. He saw it over to his left, 360 degrees from where he last looked. He looked closer. He could taste the fizz in his mouth kicking in like jagged drizzle and the razzle dazzle of gospel sugar-free jazz oozed into his right hemisphere. He felt wet, his mouth roaring like fire. He had to get to Mexico, to Mexico, across the border where he could brush roll and suck the blood out of cacti he knew he’d connect with since they were his forefathers, imprinted in his homo sapien memory. He longed to liberate them with his scavenger heart. He’d bring his knife. He had to get there and began to struggle in a vain attempt to get up off the floor.
He saw big storm clouds up on the ceiling. They looked like raven’s claws flying in uneven pincer formation. A giant stone anchored his head into the side of the hill where the house wasn’t attached, burrowing like a burro weighted down by gold, silver, zinc, miners, pimps, ghosts and Cinnamon Girls. He was buried deep in the nectar-shaft of orgiastic gods, spitting impotent daggers into the concubine sea. The air was too heavy to breathe so he stopped as Satan shredded his satin soul with a pitchfork twirl. (He was curled into a whirl like a girl unfurled.)
He heard the shelves falling on top of him. They never seemed to strike but the noise rushed through him like a train through a tunnel, a tunnel-train of noise, heading south across the border and north across the sky. The sky was a pie wrapped in a lie. The plaintiff wanted to lie in the pie to die and suddenly he felt meaningless, it didn’t matter if the shelves landed on top of him or if he committed suicide. He looked at them with his doors of perception. The shelves were clear, smooth, translucent and alive, breathing the air of their maker, shimmering in their still-like yet constant movement. He looked away and didn’t see anything. He was not able to rest and he looked back, believing he believed what he saw but in fact not believing he could see anything at all.
The shelves never did (land on top of him) but it felt like they had, increasing his fire-stripped, deconstructed senses. He dislocated from himself becoming a scrapheap, pathetic, wallowing, alone. Wailing like a fig leaf in the center of the room he waited for the shelves to crash his head, split his skull and turn his humanity into human remains only without the innate purpose of natural law. He wanted to spite the law. He spit but didn’t have enough saliva (to spit with). He spit anyway, just to spite. Spite, spite, spite. Despite spiting he could hear the whoosh of the shelves descending to crush his skull. It was the most beautiful whoosh and he’d never heard a whoosh like it though he wasn’t sure it actually made a sound or was just the presence of a moving object in the room. (Prescient, like an angel of the Lord.) Whoosh.
He’d heard a lot of sounds in his day too, making it all the more extraordinary. It sang in a galaxy he hadn’t heard before so he was caught off balance, out of step, spinning inside the harmony of new spheres, envious of its operatic triumph. He was in trouble, he knew that now. The hill was no longer there nor was the house. The center of the room was a deep cavity in the black hole of his jaw. Its braces formed a prison around him like a hurricane blowing tumbleweeds through the shadows on the wall that weren’t there into the nether lands of his brain, far removed from the rain. He was frozen not because if he moved he knew the guards wouldn’t save him but the opposite, they would save him. Hence, he was stuck, in solitary, the row of bleeding lizard-death, pigeon fucked and eternally screwed. Snail-like slow. Time that didn’t tick. Asleep though awake. Free to do absolutely nothing and no more. Sure, he was spiting the law but who was knocking at the door? He couldn’t remember where the door was or even used to be. It was 360 degrees away, the same place as the diet Sprite of his mind.
Where was Joe? Wasn’t he supposed to come over? Steve had said he was going to call. Petty began to fill with remorse over everything he had done and everything he hadn’t done. The feeling contained all of life itself from birth to death, joy to despair. It drenched heaven and earth and the in-between souls of all living things with tears, pity, compassion and the pure fire coal pit of pain. The pure fire coal pit of pain was a goddamn pain in the ass. The knocking got louder. Was the door in his ears or waxing poetic behind his soiled lobe? Why was it reverberating like a Coltrane saxophone in a boxcar canyon? (Wooooooo. Waaaaaah. Waaaill. Wooooooo.) He knew he needed to get to the border to get on board but what was the point in that? Should he wear a hat? His head was heavier than the belly of a cow. It was inside the belly of a cow. The cow was full. The knocking sounded like a clock striking twelve, answering its own boulder-like chimes from above the pink shelves. Or were they teal?
Thunder and lightning flashed in a pan. Pan played his flute, a Sagittarian Roman numeral-number. It spread its wings like a butterfly, a lotus in a looking glass of time. Petty got lost in it—in time, space, dimensions. In relativity. He was not relative to any of these things. He became specific. (Specifically, he became.) That was the only thing he was fond of regarding peyote. The thunder roared like a diamond, the lightning looked like a giant, hallucinogenic scar. The rain drenched him, leaving him dry-heaving into the bank of money, fame and foreign exotica left in the vault of his head, the safety deposit box of long overused DNA. Inspirational prose ran amok between the elves of his temple and the brujo de la mesa. A mountain rose from the ocean waves signaling the land of the living-raised dead. The living-raised dead needed no signal. They were the last gasp, a warning, and were grasping, clutching, reaching out, immigrating through Petty’s veins. He felt disgusted and sought fishes to swim with to take him to safety. They wouldn’t come to him in the center of his room, they were too far out to sea. They were frowning but not drowning. Petty tried to do the same. He bit his lip but didn’t notice the blood on the blood-red carpet just out of reach from his peach-fuzzed, Adam-fallen, chin.
The lights had gone out but he couldn’t remember when. He thought he had recently replaced the bulbs and didn’t understand why there was no light. There was no light because all he could hear was a guitar from some distant land in his head. It was an Indian guitar played by invisible hands. He could see the hands because he was blind. He was blind because the lights had gone out. Why had those lights gone out? He couldn’t figure it. His stomach was a fiery pit of flame burning his soul into the crud of the seaweed universe. He willed it on and felt himself turn into the ashes from whence he had first risen, long ago. He didn’t understand about those lights but he could sense the sun behind the clouds. He craved warmth and an embrace from God and wondered why he had never known the essence of love until now. His body felt like buried treasure only recently unearthed. Like an uncoiled spring, he could feel himself throw up all over the sky which was pouring down rain on the roof which no longer flew over his head but inside his mind. His mind was the brain’s eye of the raven’s claws on the ceiling. He twisted like a saucer, doubled over, singled out, divided asunder, pieced back together like ice fragments from the reactor core. He heaved from the bushes of his stomach like a UFO laying waste to the planet. Zap. Pow. Splat.
The plaintiff however was not yet ready to rest, he was still too full of spite. The world had bottomed out but his resilient spirit had not yet fully been tested. He had to travail trails trailed while trailing, tracking clues, traipsing afoot, leaving behind nothing. In the beginning he had been a molecule getting washed and dried by a river and a bay, always behind, losing, in trouble with the law. Now he led the pack, gypsy-fast and accelerating, evolutionary blue and radiating. Finitely infinite and sunrise sailing. He felt himself a puzzle, obscure, petty yet momentarily at ease, filled with nature and its absurd wonder. He hung in this miraculous balance, tip-toeing in the tulips of his breath, when suddenly he felt foreboding dark skies begin to rise again.
Sure enough he felt worse, real bad. He wanted to puke his guts but he’d already puked ‘em. Now all he could puke was ashes and spirit, things to be puked only as a last resort, particularly in a holy land. He wanted to pull his eyes out but he was blind and couldn’t find the sockets to plug his raven’s claws into. He wanted to answer the door and stop the knocking but the door was spinning on its side like a corn thresher and he was just a drunk Quetzalcoatl flapping harmless wings. He wondered where the hill had gone to and if the house had followed it. Where was he? Where had he been left behind? His senses had been stripped into razor blades, his hunger was a speeding corvette with the top down. He needed to puke. Splat.
He looked in front of him and saw a mirror. In the mirror, he saw his past. In his past, he saw himself. In himself he could look in front of him. He was Tom Petty, plaintiff, not particularly fond of peyote but out to spite the law, still in need of diet Sprite. The diet Sprite was 360 degrees to the left of him and beyond spite. He wanted to go right. He wanted to go anywhere but 360 degrees to the left of him. He couldn’t get up. He couldn’t get it up. He wanted to go to the door so he could answer the knocking with some knocks of his own. (This was a case of hard knocks.) He wanted to rock the roll of a woman’s soul. He wanted to bleed through his gums until his nostrils dissolved gently into the summer rain. He was hardly there or not there, not now, not ever. Ears were ringing in his bells. Bells were ringing in his fears. He was fearless about his total and absolute fear of everything. Who was he? He was Tom Petty, plaintiff, thirsty, looking for revenge, in need of spite, wallowing alone, unable to even groan. His hill was gone, there was only fire. It burned like oil but didn’t give off any light.
Part of the past he could see in the mirror when he looked in front of him and saw himself was his shadow. It looked like his dead father and then it didn’t look like anything at all. He wanted to dance but his legs were gone through the back door, the one that wasn’t knocking. When they’d left, the bells had alarmed. That’s why his ears were ringing with fears, his fears with tears. When would he be able to bury himself with the infinite dead? At what point did he rip himself into a thousand hollow carcasses? He was a man, Tom Petty, plaintiff, spiting the law, crying for paw, searching to become his raw self, his raw self, his raw peyote-splintered puke-filled raised-from-the-living-dead raw self, natural like nature, tumbling like a junkyard dog across the border into Mexico, finding chaos in the order of the boundary that wasn’t there, in Mexico, in Mexico, near the Louisiana Purchase and the Gold Rush, longing to reach the holy shore. The shore was the same as the star the three men followed from the eerie East with weary beasts in search of the Nazarene’s feast. Petty arrived there like a stranger and opened the door, bleeding and spreading semen seed. He felt the thorns of cacti all over his pale body and smiled like Poseidon’s bride effortlessly swimming on a moonlit tide. The rain came down harder and harder and the knocking got louder like a drumbeat going off inside his brain. He heard his forefathers calling to him from above and below the soil. The law is the light in the shadow that doesn’t appear on the wall. He attempted to talk but his throat was useless. Follow the road and bury yourself in the hill that isn’t there. He sank into a coffin of azaleas, poppies, maroon-colored roses and sunflowers. You shall find revenge here. He was drowning but no longer cared about the air he couldn’t breathe or the door which was still knocking, spitefully.
He woke believing he had never previously been alive. He was in a bad mood but it could have been worse. The room was in the house on the hill on the land he had known since he was a young boy, when he used to walk through the forests and hear the leaves crackle under his feet like a hoarse whisper of God. Sweat was dry on his body and hair and he could no longer hear the knocking, just the clear, cool sound of silence. At first the silence was deafening but gradually it became softer like the rain he could still sense beyond the shadows. Again the lights were on but who’d turned them so? He didn’t know and knew there was no reason for caring. He’d never felt more of a mess but the outside world seemed perfectly harmonious, in place, lucid, permanent. He knew this was an illusion, the only one that mattered. He was even less fond of peyote now and still felt spiteful. He wasn’t sure if he’d gotten revenge. Spiritually he was frightened and beside himself, his anima in need of an enema to loosen up and style a bender.
He walked out back into the yard. The dog was still attached to its long chain and Petty unleashed it and watched American Girl run around as if shot out of a cannon. The plaintiff wished he could run around like that but he couldn’t. He sat down and reached for a cigarette somewhere in his pockets. It tasted pink which sparked a memory he couldn’t place though it was near. He looked down the hill and then up it before deciding that was no place to look and he shut his eyes. American Girl woke him a few minutes later with some big slobbery kisses and he wondered why he would ever want to spite the law in the first place. Must be in my blood, he thought to himself. The sun was starting to bother him and he went back inside to look for his shades. He put them on but stayed in the kitchen thinking about food. He could smell hot peppers though all he had was standard American in the cupboards and fridge. Where had his house landed anyway? Were there slippers underneath? He was all mixed up, confused about what to do next. Suddenly there was a knock at the front door. Immediately he was alarmed and froze, remaining silent, unsure, cowed. He hoped it wasn’t the law while remembering that blue was the color of his shades. He went to stop the knocking. There was the door. He was beside himself, suddenly spiting again. He tried to spit but couldn’t. He glanced at the shelves and silently prayed it was Joe or Steve’s boots he heard on the front porch.