We're in a hospital waiting room waiting to see my dad. J's trying to distract me from my anxiety by telling me about the Alibi's target demographic: Arnold Schwarzenegger. While J is explaining specifics of this, I'm trying to understand the wisdom of targeting a single person … especially one who lives in another state.
The nurse tells me my dad is ready for visitors. J stays in the waiting room and I go into his room, which was just behind the couch we were waiting on. My dad is Danny DeVito. He wakes up and I say, "You're Danny DeVito." He says, "Yes, but I prefer to be called grungy Elmo." We start shooting the breeze.
Then his heart and brain monitors start going crazy. He stays calm, points at them and asks, "What's that all about?" I run to the waiting room and call for a nurse. She comes in, picks up a clipboard, and starts writing. I'm wondering why she isn't doing anything or calling for more help. His monitors flat-line and he looks like he's asleep. The nurse turns to me and, with a chipper attitude, says, "That's weird. People don't usually have such a massive stroke until they're much older." I begin to cry into my hands.
With my head in my hands I hear a monitor start to beep. I look up and Danny DeVito has transformed into Aughra (from the Dark Crystal). The brain monitor is beeping, but the heart monitor is still a flat line. She opens her eyes: her irises are a milky pink. I think to myself, "As if she wasn't terrifying enough already: now she's a zombie."
She begins to sit up. I think to myself, "When I wake up I'm going to sleep on the couch." She looks right at me and moans.
I wake up, gather my things. And head for the couch.
My dog Igloo and I launch into space from the front pasture at my parents' house. It's nighttime, and the sky is a dark blue with the lights of the Milky Way dotted across the expanse. Actually, it's less of a launch and more of a jump. After we pass the atmosphere, I can't tell how much progress we're making because there's barely a breeze. It's black around us scattered with distant stars, but I still see the glow of the Earth creeping up from behind us.
I look at Igloo and pet his head. I look down at the Earth—round and innocent—and it's slowly drifting away. I notice a red string tied to my ankle and his ankle that go all the way back down to somewhere on the surface of our planet. I look up toward Mars, far in the distance, and then back to Iggy. He rolls over so I can rub his belly while we travel.
I wake up.
The only thing I hear is my spurs jingling with each slow step down a wide, dirt street and the surrounding buildings moaning in the gentle, desert, spring wind. Everything is bright and pale but I can only focus on one thing: my foe. Their hand lays resting on their weapon holster as they look at me between the small gap between their bandana and their large hat.
I talk with an edge in my voice, “You don't wanna do that, son. Not here. Not in my town.” I spit to the side so they know what I really think of them.
Their eyes narrow and the top of the bandana raised as if they are smiling.
I lay my hand on my holster and narrow my eyes in response.
To the untrained eye, we pull our weapons and throw them at the same time, but I am skilled. There's no being as good as me in the entire region. I dodge their banana by jumping far to my right but I hit them so square and hard in the face they fall down. More fruit starts flying out of the buildings on either side of us.
I jump into a horse water trough to get out of the line of fire. I hold my breath for as long as I can. When I come up and shake the water off of my head I see the rapscallion just escaping the pile of fruit they were under and running out of town.
“It won't be the last we see of this fool,” I say to myself as I wake up.
I am not in time. I'm standing, swaying slowly back and forth. I don't have clothes on but I'm not bare, I'm still covered. My hair is long and a soft green. It moves in the wind. A goat skull hangs from my body on a string and sways with me.
I hear a knock. I wake up.
Downstairs the teevee was playing the Beverly Hillbillies.
It was the episode where Jethro fancied himself a secret agent capable of manifesting innumerable methodologies especially designed to thwart the communists and their minions—who looked just like Natasha and Boris Badanov, not the cartoon characters, but for realz, yo.
Mr. Drysdale's wife rolled over on the Mayflower, flashing Red Sox memorabilia, fabulous bling and a custom-made fur coat. One of Ellie Mae's pet bears—which looked suspiciously like a flattened photo emulsion when viewed through special eyeglasses exclusively available through publications like Popular Mechanics and the Radio Shack Catalog—ran for cover but collapsed in front of the cement pond.
Loose yellow music was pouring out of a cigarette on the other side of the room, just like smoke, rougher but prettier. And the light from the teevee kept flickering and flickering.
Over there in a world that never really existed, the double-naught agent from the land of large fruit-laden palm trees and hearty, two-cow breakfasts sped off towards the city in search of a new kind of kick. I wanna get hog mad, he gravely intoned, headed toward North Hollywood in a ramshackle truck with broken skateboards for tires.
“Hi, Nana,” I say to a skeletal hummingbird that lands on my finger. It crawls up my arm extending extra legs that are spidery and long but retract back into the creature. I walk across a grassy hillside during the late morning as the creature walks back and forth between my shoulders. There's a tall, thick tree with many branches full of leaves at the top of the hill that I avoid; not because I don't want to touch it or it scares me or anything, it's just that I don't want to walk all the way to the top of the hill.
We reach a point on the hill and I decide to lay down and rest. Nana flutters above my head as I lay down and lands on my chest and falls asleep. I stay awake in the warm sun. There are no clouds in the sky.
I wake up.
I'm at my school playground. The playground is huge, the play structures look like skyscrapers. I'm the only one there, and I'm driving around in a car. It's a toy car. I'm driving through the streets really fast. I'm on a mission, though I don't know what for. The ground is rumbling and a giant dog steps out from behind a structure. I recognize it: It's my dog, Sasha.
In real life, she's a tiny miniature pinscher, but now she's truly a giant towering over these immense buildings. I swerve into a side street hoping she didn't see me. She did, though, and she's chasing after me. Each step she takes my car bounces off the road. Eventually I crash near the tallest structure.
I crawl out of the wreckage and decide it's time to face her. I climb up to to top of the tallest complex and prepare myself for battle. I have no weapons. The wind is howling, almost blowing my tiny body off but I stand strong. She throws her head down to eat me.
I wake up.
I’m living in a big city in an apartment with no Pueblo-style influence and many floors. I just left somewhere, a club maybe. I enter the building, go to the elevator, ride up to my floor and exit. I walk past the elbow of the building and notice a door that I hadn’t noticed before.
It’s open and leading to a rooftop garden resembling the Queen of Heart’s in Alice in Wonderland but dark and more dead because it’s night time during fall. I hear laughs coming from behind an ivy-covered wall that’s a few feet away into the garden. A few people are leaving the garden and walking in front of me (rude). One man is smoking a cigarette and another man walks behind him with his arm over a woman. I don’t approve of the man smoking inside so I follow them with my eyes as they walk down a different hall than I intend to follow and I see a man in his 50s or 60s sitting in his underwear on a wooden chair to our right; he’s silently watching everyone. This seems unusual but I don’t say anything. I move past him and walk to my apartment.
I enter, pace around and then leave quickly. I can’t stand being in the apartment alone. It reminds me too much of a hotel. I hate this apartment. I depart through the fire escape and am down on the ground in what seems like an instant even though I was many stories above ground. I walk to the subway and back. I walk past the apartment parking lot at twilight and see a giant kangaroo rat standing behind a tiny, young tree. It’s about eight or nine feet tall and peeking through the sparse leaves. I see someone at a nearby car saying to their passenger, “Oh he thinks we can’t see him. I have to let him play for a few more minutes, he’s just too cute.” I move away quickly, afraid that if the rat sees that I noticed it, it’ll kick me to death. People and their fucking kangaroo rats.
I decide to go visit my friend who lives in a nearby apartment building so I don’t have to go back to my apartment. She isn’t there so I wait in the lobby for her. I start talking to a nice young man, he looks like a young Conan. We go back to my apartment. Now I look like Ellie Kemper in 2008.
After making out and complimenting each other’s hair, not-Conan realizes he’s late for a family event and invites me to go with him. “Sure,” I say, “is that appropriate, though? I mean, we did just meet.” He gives me a knowing smile and reassures me it’s fine. “Whatever you say, not-Conan.” We leave the building through the fire escape again, arm in arm, which would seem difficult because fire escapes aren’t exactly roomy. But then before I can say anything about it, we’re down on the ground in an instant. My hair is messy now but not-Conan can’t say anything because I’m not-Ellie Kemper who can just wave here mane and look perfect.
We get to an apartment building, still arm in arm, walk into their weird dentisty-hotel-esque lobby and he brings me to a wall and looks at me with his nonexistent-lipped smirk. “Hold on.” “Okay, Edward Cullen.” I say sarcastically. He chuckles as he looks up and the ceiling opens enough for us to squeeze through, all the way to the top floor it seems. That’s a weird elevator I think. He jumps and brings me with him.
It’s like we’re falling up. He pushes gently against the wall with his foot when we reach the fourth floor and we land on the carpeting. He looks at his watch and huffs.
“You’re late.” Someone says from across this room. It’s his sister. I know it’s his sister but I don’t know how I know it’s his sister. She doesn’t acknowledge me. She’s sitting down in a cushiony chair. She needed to get out of the party for a few minutes and just so happened to be out in the hall when we arrived.
“I know, I’m sorry. Look, go open the window so I can make the entrance worth it.”
“Fine.” She says. She gets up and goes through the door on her right, our left.
Not-Conan looks at me again, with his knowing smirk, and tells me to follow him. He opens the window that is between the chair and the door and crawls through it. I follow. We’re walking on a small ledge on the fourth floor above a street with traffic, but I’m not afraid. I know if I fall he can catch me with his weird super-jump. Plus, we aren’t going that far. He rolls through an open window and I follow.
No one notices his entrance. He’s disappointed. I’m glad no one noticed, I feel uncomfortable. Who makes an entrance like this? People who want attention #nothankyou. I hear an alarm and I wake up.
I step into a city park restroom through a broken cinder block wall. As I start to pee into a central basin I see dark eyes peering at me over a stall. The eyes are filled with fear.
A tall, thin dark Indian man steps out. His head and hands are wrapped in bandages. He offers, in impeccable English, to do odd jobs for me.
He presents his daughter. She is small and cute with red hair and a green dress. She lives with her father in the bathroom. She seems to know some database concepts. I know I can find some work for her. I won't be able to call her but I know where to find her.
My brother-in-law and I are about to leave on a trip for which we will need two maps: one of Phoenix and and another of Bandelier. My neighbor M has them.
A new red jeep backs up into our driveway, proceeding to their house which is behind ours. They are leaving too. I need to get to the maps. I walk around back to their house. I see the maps are already in the back of their station wagon, but their house is gone now. It's just a low wire fence around some dirt.
I see M and L sitting on a bench outside the house next door. I step over the low fences and approach them. They are watching intently as an irrigation ditch is being filled with a lot of water. A guy in a gray suit is diving for bodies. He finds one and floats it to the surface.
I meet my pal E on a downtown street. He starts to tell me a long story about seeing me in my truck. According to him, I was waiting at a light for J, who stuttered as a child, to cross the street. I finally grew to impatient and raced through the intersection, causing all my bottles of prescription drugs to bounce off my rear bumper into the street.
I am trying to follow G as she climbs a tree to get out onto a fallen-log bridge that goes over a deep canyon. I can't seem to make the last step from the tree to the log because my left foot keeps changing into something else. The log bridge shifts suddenly in its notch, knocking G off her balance and causing her to spin around it like a propeller. She files off and falls, hitting her head on a rock with a loud crack.
The front seat of my truck is filled with grocery bags. I pull into John Kerry's driveway behind a white minivan. I speak with him through my window. He is offering a million dollars to anyone who can catch his dog. I can hear the dog barking in the trees out back. I see U, from work, aiming a camo-painted dart rifle at the dog while his sidekick looks on.
I joke with my brother about the origin of the butternut root, telling him that their special flavor comes from the way they are harvested: by monkeys who store the roots in their butts as they pick them.