Saturday, June 13, 2015

Laramidia or The Last Soliloquy Of Hoarse Angeles (unfinished)

Jesse S. Mitchell

this story is presented here in an unfinished form.  I may at some point finish it.  I am not sure how I feel about it.  

1. Alan Smithee

It was ten thousand years ago in Echo Park that we first came upon the solid grey frankness dead of this overturned planet.  This overchurned world.  This whirlwind of ghosts.  And this was in the longest deepest old times, the plague days, when all the uprooting began, the dreary grey, the upsetting shaking.  The teetering quaking.
Great Grant from off-Farflung, from Boneslick-liquid like the ocean, nothing but sand, West Texas-desert, came shrieking in on the breeze, brought to me the dharma of marijuana, taught me how to read it. The long and dark sky.  The populated night.  A place to be.  We said amen.  The innumerable winds.  The king resplendent.  
And that was mind-rattling, window breaking for a while, empty out the house, until the mudslides shut down whole neighborhoods, split open deep wounded ground spit the fire into the skies.  We worried collectively about the heavens.  The health.  The welfare of the very gods that had formed us, cracking and crackling clay in their feeble hands.  We were dropped.  We were fallen.  Cold.  Some communal heresy.  We drifted like the sea, Magellan straight onto morning, rounding the horn and Suezing the canal.  Loosing our grip.
And whole bodies began their disappearing.  Souls and spirits with them, vanishing.  The religious wailed.  But without rapture or joy but with the sloughed off skin of disease, boil laden palms, the hands ached, the eyes strained.
We had to take in his brother.  Roommates gone in a whiff, a wisp. And he came with a copy of Post Office and random Bukowski and we piled the books in every corner.  Beat deep, deep cut, like sharp knives and razor blades.  Stay alive. Stay alive.  I dare you.
Living inside of bottles of Jameson and Morgan, peering out like through stained-glass.
And everything was beautiful
And holy
And wonderful.
Take up hands.  Collect alms.  Begging bowls.  Oh how the sky could fall, fall apart and burst open, seams split, let out the rain, the storms.  Pass it on.  Life.
God bless Hollywood Hills.  Can always find our way from there, no matter what madness was happening, whatever villainy perpetrated, fabricated.  Landmark. Landfill.  Flash flood.  Flesh burn.  Port-wine-stain. Birthmark.
You had to come out some way.  Find your way.
We visited a house in Gardena.  Old torn copies of People magazine gathered, strewn across the floor, and in the corners, in the dust and spider webs and leshii bones, where there was always just nothing before.
We resettled here.  Let roots come out and tap the soil, get into the water there.
Where there was always just nothing before.
I came to this life like an unfurling spool of cheap film, a tidal pool of poor resolution.  Dark spots blotting out my way.  The view warped.  I felt the stirring under my feet, at the sad sick roiling of a de-orbiting sphere, a busting bubble, I felt with understanding, with nausea, but comfortable nausea.  Everything was end-over-end and coming to an over-over-end, or else something else so much like it, a difference could not be discerned.  The mood was awful but in some places it was magnificent.  Brilliant.  Finally, something real.
It all came fluttering in.
Drop water
Like streaks of ugly rain.
And we all continue along.
So proud.
But not changing.
And we three, we stayed in the four walls, the eight walls, the many multifaceted walls of modern construction, remaining indoors as often as possible and simply dreamed.  Slept and dreamed.
The things that never end.
And we listened vainly through the windows (nearly shattering) to the cutpurse guttural moans of  desperate men, the belly cutting, blood drenched, nearly zombie-crushed, frozen over.  The eyes gone so far blind, that blindness becomes a kind of loud loud diluted pitiful vision.  Hallucination. Prophecy.  
Visceral yearning.
Revelation.  What we are all waiting for… crazy, imagining.  Nothing left but facts, awful awful facts, tangible things empirical.  We sin and cry and sin and cry, unable to find a way to touch down into anything else.
Beulah land, here in paradise.  Amen.
And behind the old storm curtains, the typhoons raged backstage prepared, wardrobe and make-up.  The veils waited to be torn.  The top to go up.  Promises kept.  Holy matrimony.
And we walked.  Outdoors.  And we walked out of doors only slightly, only sometimes, up and down the short stretches of road from homestead and trough, little daytime eatery named Jack’s where Grant claimed to have witnessed, with blood-shot eyes, overcast in the wavering air, so humid, the ghost of Ramon Novarro.
Or old president Vargas but only when he was feeling political.
And that was the sack of Troy.
“Angels are nothing but leftovers, walking cuts of beef.  Necromanced  beyond any hope of return or towards any turn of romance. Not a decent thought in their heads.”
The brothers would argue on and on in beat up, ragged upholstered booths.  Like stale coffee and clouds of smoke.
“So shiver down to your moral bones, fluttering your same old thinking, this is what we get for carrying blood in our veins, the ability and the willingness, to see through any possible distraction.  Our gift.”
And then before long, before too many days passed, cracked yellow, down the horizon, behind the hills, Grant was gone.  Grant was no more.  Victims congregated in piles like dust in bins of dust.  And refuse was refused and reused and brother and I stood in howling rain one day on a new mown lawn and looked over our soggy feet at tombstones like sand in our eyes, like jagged pop-up teeth.  We knew we were in the jaws too, in the mouth, the trap shutting down.  
We don’t need any more Pietas.
Save us.
So, save us.
And now, it is for certain soothsaying moments, I live for, brief.  When I can clearly see the future ‘til the ends of all times, the shorelines and banks, the collapses, suicides by asps, the breakdowns in the middle, the rebuilding.  The chilling.  The cold and the heat.  The bouncing around like rubber.  The underneath it all.  The nuts and bolts, oh robotically, and it makes me feel alive.
And I feel alive.
And I dare you…
Dare you
Not to live when life shines it verve-rays, sun shining, on you.  A sunny day.  Crack your face on a smile.  Breathe.
I dare you.
And then it was just me and brother. And the house no smaller.  No smaller still.

2. Clemency

And nature does its alchemy.  The old old chemistry, artistry.  Sanguine.  Turns the sky, bottom first and bleeding up, sangria.  The torturous pressure, how little the Earth really cares for us and our fragile crystal minds, our brittle states, calls forth to mind all the awful blood rushes to the head, adrenaline, all the blood letting, sacrifices, the fears.  The feigning and the frightening.
Fish bowl anxiety.
Fish-eyed goggling.  Glaring.
The smell of piss is ubiquitous.
  We will never get out of this. The lost twilight of man, the apex ape, the arcane whittler, the primate dilated, aperture rising, let the colors fade.  Let the light come in, shine on the cresting, the setting sun.  a pinch on the cheek, a growing in spite of demise, the great grand evolutionary dilapidation.
Wherever we are going, we are going without hesitation.  Brisk.  The wind at our backs.  Dead and groaning.  Godhood, godhead conferred like maidenhead broken.  Priceless.  This is discovery.  Painful.
Flies in great hairy fleshy masses, appear everywhere, all the time anymore, attach themselves upside down to sticky ceilings, sticky walls, buzzing. Annoying as the sound is, it is relieving.  So much life, so much sound drenched life, still hanging, still hanging on.  Magnetically.  Swatting at the detached ones makes my spine shudder, killing so violently such  brave little insects seems straight paganism, awful wickedness.  I let them live.  Ignorant they remain to the dangers that abound.  Bliss.  But painful bliss still, indeed.
Tem diddle diddle.  Temmm diddle diddle. Ieieieieieeeeeee!
Sirens blare outside.  Crescendoing and decrescendoing as the pick-up vehicle oozes up and down the streets, turns corners, trolleys off, never completely stops.  Sharp electrical buzzing bites in the margins, the tazers to keep back the desperate hungry who mean to ransack the cold pockets of cold bodies tossed coldly on cold steel and carted off to some cold hole.
“I feel happy,” brother calls out in a high pitched faux accent from the room behind me.  Quoting movies.  He laughs.  He finds humor in the most sickening displays.
And then, the slick black homogenizing glare of silence.  Not deafening, for deafening you need deafening, you need noise, but quivering, self-possessed.  Like the solid blue glow of a television passively waiting, afraid of daring to…  the blank-eyed stare, cut cold, skull socket bare.  A void, a tangible void.  Hedonistic in expansion,  a driving depravity, a spike through the mind.  It never gives up.  Suffering never lets up.  It is through our ceaseless struggles that we make a voice, a sound, transistor cracking, tubes popping.  Without injury we would be so quiet, so very very quiet, not a bubble of breath hiding in our throats, peace would make us stiff, still, numb, colorless and dead.  High weeds waiting to catch, to catch fire and burn away, burn away, making room, so deadly-serene and complacent, a wad of worthless paper blown away by the tiniest wind. Straight to trash, straight to hell, straight to forgotten-Hades.  Gone.  So, let it be hurt.  Sometimes, let it be hurt.  But just never let it be nothing.  Most of us truly desire a quick descent to Hell, to lessen our monotone days caught in the gossamer string of purgatory rot, but our minds, our minds, our minds rock back and forth on themselves so dramatically, hard to tell what we do, where we go.  So confused.  
The thunder-cannons rock the sky. Shakes the windows, translucent.  Everything laden. Moist.  Everything a film, a sticky film, a collection of parts, all torn away and thrown away, deconstructed, devalued.
A beast.  And a language that makes the whole world lag, the atrocious too-much-weight of every word causing conversation to sag, cheap fabric, wrapped around the body, like a shroud, like anonymity.  A disease. A pox.  A curse all over this place, a disguise.  A mask for the devil.  Damn the devil.  Bedevil the devil.  A mask for me.
Whatever Krishna-Christ, sacred fire, purifying dust, holy spirit that ever held sway here
Searching the bottoms of riverbeds, Rheingold hordes, the tippy tops of clouds to find that old resurrecting, reincarnating dew, that old force-feeding manna, got habits we do, old old addictions.  Things are rough all over.  
So, pray with your little breaths left. Pray for our browbeaten comrades, all our so-on-and-on victims, future selves all squandered, everyone in the interior countries with no way to the seas, no ways to get frees.  The covered-in-blood waiting, the slowly drifting, the Tutsi-souled, the Jewish-Ghettoed, the Cheyenne-ghosted.  This dead world, toasted.
I turn back and look at brother.  He is reading a book, ’The Wasp Factory’.
“It disturbs me how often I see you rereading that.”
“What?  This?  I like this book.”
“Yeah.  I know.”
Cradle to grave, a little stringy beam of light traveling so fast, so fast, light speed, escapes the eye, doesn’t even make a rustle in the tall grasses. It scurries away.  A blasted blinking.  A blasted damned blinking.
And it makes no sense.  No sense. A total money-all-spent absurdity.  A dried out husk-lump circus freak show of revolving sound and passing time, chapped lips, chapped hands, sticky fingers.  Things that never work out and unrequited loves, desires, gains, near-misses.
And it is up to you, all alone, to make any kind of significance of the mess.  You, you all alone, and for you only, and of you only.  This is existentialism.  Meat and potatoes existentialism.  All I know is what I have words for.  Of what I cannot express, I must stay quiet.  Because it is my words that give weight to my thoughts, because I think them in my words, expressions, symbols of my psyche.
So, language, pictures, melodies, guns, all dangerous.  Bombs, knives, paint splatters, empirical thought, smiles, all dangerous.
I need a place all to myself.
And let me dream.  Not think all day. But dreaming is the same as thinking but while I’m sleeping and lost all control, earthquaking vagrancy, light-blinding glare, spirit-shifting blur, lost all control, let me relinquish, let me loosen all grip.  Madness, wicked madness, shiny wicked dreaming madness, that is what I am asking for.
Brother flipping and fidgeting on the couch, reading, he stands up and walks to the window, watches the nighttime cherry glow dread lights come to life.  A sadistic movie quoting parrot, stomps his feet like concrete every move he makes.  Odd smile on his face.
“There is a girl in the garden.” he says, doing his best Nick Frost.  I didn’t know if I should take him seriously, but too afflicted with the charred-all-over bored curiosity.
There she was, as I looked out, the thin glass, over his shoulder, under the half-lightning struck tree.  Half blackened and peeling, other half green and sprouting, she lay under the deep green canopy, sleeping.  I  imagined dreaming.  Not young.  But not old.  Not grown.  Not older than eighteen.  Fifteen,  a good estimate.
I turned the backdoor knob and pulled open the door and walked into the backyard and awoke her.  Dark brown hair.  Face tired.  Dark eyes, dark around her eyes.  Dusty jeans.  But well taken care of.  But she was alone.  All of hers were gone, I could tell.  She looked up at me and I put my hand on her shoulder and took her hand and helped her up.
I had never felt so lonely.
From some viral exchange of touching the skin of her hand.  I was shocked to my bones with a domestic sadness, I was not aware of being possible in what had become over time, an extremely callous world.
And then there were three.

3. Paloma Máquina, un sobreviviente

Esperando en la madrugada

A tengu. A Buddha. A rosary.  Some tears.  The clouds roll away.
Little stones.  Starshine.  Warped.
It is by our own reckoning that we live our lives this way and only our lives, and by our own reckoning, they move, day by day, silently fading away.  It is by our own understanding of time and by the slow destruction of it, the passing, the moments expiring. It is by our own perceptions that we die.  There is nothing more to fear.
And joven Paloma sits at our table, art deco smeared dirty kitchen table, maquina Paloma bastante.
And brother hermano feo, grinning stands behind her, leaning against the refrigerator.
And nothing changes nothing.
Sometimes we awake from dreams.
But nothing changes nothing.
The great muddle, the great soggy sludge pit closing in around us.  We could all feel it, sitting there, waiting.  Loads of silence.  We could feel the gravity.  The maelstrom.  The weight.   An apocalyptic aphrodisiac, the moaning and groaning for spiraling out of control, a certain Mars infliction to the Aphrodite screaming.  Love is what love does and silence is what silence doesn’t and madness is what comes between and wanting is what wanting begins.  And here comes the end of all the whole world, can feel it in our bodies, shaking, shivering, excitement, terror, biting the lips, wondering.
And the drifting off words drifting out of drifting up mouths, broken gums, bleeding, like swift rivers against the banks of tributating brooks, contributing to the floods, held back by fallen branches, social mores, stayed by graying boulders and tiny little rocks that pile up like falling from the sky.  But here comes the inundation, the deluge, the breaking, tearing.
Slipping, teasing, words stumbling together in huge mumbles as murky and monotone as the muddy stars that begin to show themselves, slowly emerging in the stretched out thin firmament above.  Too little electric blood in the veins of the fire monster, urban, to pollute the nebulas away.  Only enough now for the ghastly, ghastly, the yellow glow of low wattage incandescent and the dirty thick spectrum of muted television sets.
And vain whole stanzas of expressions going undetected, couplets heroic as cold as cold steel, sharp as elbows, hard as knees to the face, thrown up.  And in the outside in the dark rattling darkness, rattling their dingy sabers, stained, through the heaps of dirt and dirty dust, soldiers patrolling like Spanish fascists, legionnaires marching, beating down the streets.  Holding up the chain link curfew, chainsaw sharp and steady.
I am trying to sit perfectly still.  Trying to let this young girl feel safe.  She hasn’t spoken a word beyond her name but by the way she moves, or refuses to move, in her chair, the way she conducts herself, I can tell a lot.
She is scared.  She is not naïve.  Not a naïve bone left in her body, and that is unsettling to me.  She pulls her hair back out of her face and puts in a low pony tail.
And the doldrums won’t turn your boat around, and you just sit, stuck-still, soaking in the stale.  The passionate alliteration of passive association, of big busting boredom.
“God! How I used look forward to the future.”  She blurted.  Suddenly.
I waited.  Please. Go on.
And we all paused, paused for each other’s eyes to continue on, to fill the room with words, to drive out the coffin air, the smell of death, everything so fusty, so sour.  Waited for her cracked pale lips to stir the space that so closely surrounded us.
The old oak in the backyard creaked.  Its limbs swayed.
Dragon slayers and actors and other purveyors of political power. Cultural giants.  What monsters?  The sea changing weights.  The occasional warriors, the mighty yawps, the pitiful yelps, the head-over-heels ecclesiasticals.    Circus strongmen, carnival sideshow shows.
No one
No one had anything like that to say.
Hermano asked, “Where you comin’ from?”
She looked back at him for a split second and turned back around, fiddling with her fingers, “Westlake”.
“Really?”  shot from my mouth, excitement.  She nodded. “I’m from Echo Park.”
She didn’t look up.
My tone returned to sober, “So, is it gone too?”
She nodded again, “And Silver lake.  And Los Felix.”
I sat up straight in my chair, rubbed my face with my hands.  Nodded.  Sad news.
“But Atwater and Elysian,” she choked a bit, trying to keep the tears from manifesting, “They are still standing but they are awful places, like infierno,  demonic, flames shooting up into the sky, gas burning, all asesinato y violacion.”
A loud booming off in the distance.  Slightly shakes the house.  I look at brother, “Sounds like they are testing the cannons at Seal Beach again.”
He nods.
And then the tears come.  Inundation.
“Whoa, whoa, it is okay.  They are just noise guns or something, some kind of sonic shit to drive people away, nothing lethal.  We are safe here.  We are right where we need to be.”
She folds her arms on the table and drops her torrential face into the nest.  I reach across the table and put my hand on her hand.
“Hey, really.  It’s okay.”
Brother tries to put his hand on her back, shoulder.  She shudders and shakes off his touch.  He moves back to leaning on the fridge.  I look up at him quickly.  He shrugs.

4. The Numerous Forms of the Verb Be, as in Biology

The tendon scraping, teeth cutting, clicking, ticking of the clock. Time passes.  Brain cells deteriorate and die, what water they held, fades away, evaporates.  Light bulb startled-mad and rusted over from the heat intensive, insensitive  from lack of moisture.  The dry-rot hold on sanity is less and less salient, less relevant.  
Whole mercurial unstable cortexes of mind, gorged-rushed with fallopian veins, throbbing, coursing with arterial notions, thoughts so explosive and dangerous, pressed against the plastic walls, vascular, the hemorrhages and embolisms, wound-bruises, scars and deep scratches, deep down on the mental sheen.  Blemishes and stains.
Blackness and dull, lusterless.
But bleakness is a bleak word and it is a bleak world,
It is a bleak age,
And we are a bleak people…
Too little time left for elaborate pauses.
Too little
Too little energy left for collaborate causes.
Clear the air.
A ceiling fan spins, whirls around slowly, as mutually dead and packed to bursting with dread.  I lock robotic eyes with it.  Feel the breeze on my skin slightly.  Humid.  It is humid.  Static electric, pulsating, fuzzes your hair, curls it.  Makes your skin slimy-slick with sweat, clothes clinging to your back.  
Reruns of Star Trek on the muted TV set.
Paloma sleeping all curled up fetal-safe on the couch along the wall.  I have been up all night.  Sitting in the only other chair in the room.  Not necessarily watching her but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving her alone in the room alone, all by herself.  I can never sleep anyway.  Insomnia as defense mechanism.  I have an apparatus for a soul, a Rube Goldberg device, that makes a complex mockery of my senses, my drives, drives them into the ground, useless.  An unwarranted, unwilling shellac of morality.  I can go days without eating, drinking, sleeping, needing, wanting.
But I hate dreams.
But I hate hate dreams.
I can only now, and just barely, make any peace with reality.
I can’t…
I cannot bare fantasy.
Paloma rolls over, shuffles in her sleep.
Brother is alone in the back bedroom.  A silent nihilism, that is where I leave him.  I don’t care what he is up to, not a spark of curiosity, but I hope he is sleeping.  Eventually, he will be up and out the door, foolish, foolhardy, craven, looking for anything, horse, booze, pot.  He likes to kill his mind completely away.  I think it is suicide.  Suicide is the intoxicant.  Right?  Like if something happens when he is away, it does and then he is gone, and if not, he is home and high again and maybe he will never come down.
Lonely days anymore.  Shuffling through the pockets of the dead.  Rattling bones.  Upturning graves.  Pillage, that is what we have come to…
I light a cigarette.   Draw the smoke in hard, so hard, that I can feel it burning.  Dilating the pulmonary capillaries, searing them, shrinking them and then bursting them open.  Hot ash and grime.
I think it is suicide.
Going to all fall away, fall away into the ocean.
Now what is gone is gone forever.
And forever
And retreat is our present fetish.  Evacuation, disassociation, hard disassociation, whole clumps of time and space descending into chasm-groaning voids, scarrish ugly tissue gaps, no life, no light, no returning sounds, no ping back, ever-growing, ever-widening disaster without echo, without resonance, no ricochet.  Dead falls every injury, without meaning or suspension.
Just violence, disease, rumbling along the ground quarrels, the fault lines exposed, the stress points bare, destruction and dismemberment, hard dismemberment.
There is this virus.
This virus.  And it is spreading.  It is deadly.  Deadly fatal.  No cure.  No possible cure because not sure, no one is sure, what it exactly effects, what it does.  It might not even be viral.  It might not even be a disease.  But people die from it.  And it is a contagious thing.  A plight.  It gets in the blood, turns it grey, literally, that is one sure physiological sign/symptom.  It doesn’t cause blindness, deafness, numbness of the extremities, doesn’t effect the senses at all, but the sensibilities.  Causes no pain, in fact, it appears to interfere with the registering of any pain or unpleasant reaction.  It doesn’t cause devolution necessarily, but primitive behavior is part of it, but no caveman or animal beast of the field ever acted out the way these  afflicted suffers do, these awful criminal fiends.
But some are immune.  Some never… never need worry about it, they will live, providing they can avoid the orgy-swine-wretchedness of the slop outside their doors.  Most are leaving.  If you are alive and have half a mind left about you, you are leaving, moving, moving, trying to outrun it, outdistance it.  Wait it out.  It isn’t everybody.  It isn’t random. The immunity is selective, even more confusing.  It is the kid from high school you used to know, the smart one, the one that could do math equations in his head.  It is the girl you used to date who was a classically trained pianist, she was good, probably professional now.  It is engineers, doctors, the big brains.  It is eloquent sons of bitches and well-built statuesque souls.  But still not just them, that isn’t enough, it is that type but more, the  living saints, the kindest, most humane.  The best. No irony at all.  They are immune.
But if you are average in any way, cold, selfish, you will catch it, lose your mind, your moral bearings (whatever ones you had), your will to live, and like a craven wraith you will descend and decline and stooping over a rotten torn apart world, you will savage whatever goodness you tumble upon, and scavenge and cannibalize, a bone picker, a blood drinker, a pale rapist/monster of total stupid mindless lust and hunger.  And then you will die.
And no one will cry.  And no one will mourn you.  And you will fade away.  No explanations.
And all the while, most of California is destitution, and all over rot, disintegrating, mudslides and earthquakes.  The disasters are hand in hand.  The sky is cracked.  The sky is falling.  In whole shattered crystalline shards.  Cutting down the bleeding sides of earth, flooding and crashing over the mountains and valleys and sunrises with thick purple blood. The world is ending.
No idea what is going on anywhere else.
Just assumptions.
But let’s not dwell on the apocalypse.
Let us dwell on life.  While we can.  And try to ignore the sirens outside the door.  The siren calls, the shrieking siren screams.  The cracking wood and ripped down barricades.  Amen.  Let the light shine.  And if I could, what I would do, and if I could, what I would build, where I would go.  
But there is more to life than delusion, than hesitation, than denial.  The spine-clutching gasping-for-air wishing, hallucinating, the superstition-doused dreaming, heaven-waiting.  More more and more.
And here we are, sitting in the shadow jaws of some great wolf, morsels of food, saliva-drenched between two teeth, clinging, glued together with anxiety and mislaid trust.  Here comes the next bite.  The next frightening bite, or the gulp, or the shallow, here comes the next end.
And only then do we remember those old constant costs of high lofty goals and low lowly means.  Guillotine the bastards.
Up against the wall.
There is no wall.
Killing off humans to put humans in charge.  We are the wall.  We are the bullet.  We are the gun, the blood, the disease.  
All the old fashioned, “No maneuvering, nothing elaborate.  Just cold steel, passion, and pay-pay-patriotism”s.  everything is General Hoche.  Everything is reign of terror.  And everything is holy.  Food on the table.  Wood in the shed.  Everything divine.  Unbesmirched.  Strong as fire.  Pure as chastity, as smoke.  Stiff as oak.  Firm as iron, as bracing cold.
“The so called ‘angel pox’…
The television’s sound buzzes on.  The news has started.  I look behind me.  Brother is leaning on the wall pointing the remote at the screen.  I look back to the set.
…also known as  ‘Los santos y los demonios de al enfermedad’ by the largely Hispanic population who inhabit the central L.A. epicenter…

“Been out?”  I look back over my shoulder.
Brother nods.
“Well?  What is it like today?”
“Another beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  A strange sad chuckle.

“…continues to spread, fires blaze in Santa Monica and Cold Canyon…swallowed in…and sink holes…”



Brother switches off the television.   As soon as he does a thick rumbling erupts beneath us.  He puts out both of his hands and grips at the walls.  I almost fall out of my chair.  The sofa under Paloma bucks and shakes but she doesn’t wake.  The rattling keeps going and going, quivering and trembling.  Stops.
“What was that?”
“Here?  Already?”
Brother nods, “Yeah.  We need to get at least as far as Brea by tonight.”
“I have a way.”
“What way?”
“Wake up your schoolgirl.  Let’s go.”
Put my hand down slowly on Paloma’s shoulder.  Soft.  No sudden, nothing sudden.  What a nightmare.  A nightmare world.  Lose your mind, let it go, it is easier.  But no, keep it here, together.  Slightly move her.  A slight shake.  She rustles a bit.  Her eyes open.  Gradually.  The lids raise like weak rocks crumbling a bit at a time, incrementally, judging each sight, each light independently.  Wisdom.  She sits up quickly though. A shot.  Defensively.
The brain and body working in tandem. Survival.
“Get up.”
“We have to go.  Grab what you can”
We followed Hermano outside.  Cautiously.  Watching every movement from every direction.  We moved to the side of the house to a truck.  A shiny red truck, high off the ground. Brother threw some bags and things in the back and opened the driver’s side door and climbed in.
“Get in,”  he laughed back at us.
We opened the passenger’s side door.  Paloma was uneasy.
“Whose car is this?”
“Not a car, baby, it’s a truck.”
I pushed her a little to get in and she slid along the seat.
“You stole a truck?”
“I acquired a truck.  Nobody left to ‘steal’ it from, bro.”
And we pulled out of the driveway and went out onto the freeway like water, like water fleeing  higher ground, seeking the ocean, a tributary, a river pulsing down though the city.  The city streets like waves.  Like waves.
Like waves to Brea.

5. Brea, CA

And when our storming waves came crashing down on the cement shores of Brea, everything was lemon-yellow jaundice.  Overflowing with poison, backed up in the streets, toxin, the sky was a froth of clouds, nothing stirred, no release.  There were no bodies.  There were no people.  The well-to-do had left.  Gone.  Rats had flung themselves off the ships and into the painfully dusty desert harbors that surround.  Trying to avoid.  Trying to outrun and escape the inevitable.  But maybe not so inevitable, lord knows what money can buy, with all the excitement beside, the world is not so different.  Money can surely still buy sainthood somewhere.  Some place, these gilded souls probably still exist, still swagger, still live and breathe.
But not here.  Here, trees rustle over our heads as we climb out of the stopped truck, not even parked, just stopped, frozen, halted in the middle of a well-defined, well-financed streets.  Stores and strip malls with big watery eyes staring blankly back.  Traffic lights a wan, weak blinking.  Cyclopic glare, automated flickering.  
Paloma staring. Slowly craning her neck to take in every possible angle as she exited the truck. Her eyes red, raw, as red and raw as suspicion, as red and raw as hesitation.  Like the dawn beginning to come up, as calm as a haunt and as still as daybreak.
I opened my eyes big as well and took in everything.  Two tall swaying palm trees,  a fancy little three-tiered fountain, a short plaza, dark sliding-glass automatic doors.  Cold iron.  Hot sand.  Busted glass.
It is hard not to have memories.  Memories of human life, existence, the Crystal Palace, World’s Fairs, World Wars, immunizations, newspapers, space races.  It is hard to not get caught deep in the midst of that deluge, the way it consumes your mind.  Everything everywhere you look, ruins, headless statues, noseless Sphinxes, no secrets, Acropolises, just ugly old broken spines, just ugly old musty Doric columns stretched to heaven and now…and now threatening to fall.          
I look over the tops of the decapitated buildings, limestone, jimson dust waste funneling in the brisk busy air, I let my eyes go blurry and scan the high above clouds.  Armbone skinny thin, the horizon, naked, like the back of a knife.  The back edge of a very sharp and quick knife cutting, slicing into the sky.  And whatever light there is, and there is and it is diffused and obscure, is bleeding out of that very cut.  The wound purple, the blood light shine arterial.  Gold and grey and ultraviolet. Gleaming, streaming, silent, and strangely cold.
Strangely cold.  Cold. Cold.   And a wash comes over me, buckles me over inside, a deep sick sadness, a cocoon that surrounds.  The longer I think the deeper and thicker it gets.  It is hard to see through, a viscous liquid, a heavy fog.  I just want to stand still.  I just don’t want to move at all, or let a random thought invade my mind, nothing but complete silence and peace.  But that isn’t real.  It isn’t even really me.  It is getting stronger and stronger, harder and harder to shake.  It is disease.  Pure disease.  And I know eventually, I will die from it.   No matter how far I get.  No matter how hard I try.  The tide keeps rushing up on me.
But mostly, I am not sad.
This world…
This world is no enviable place to remain.
It is a web.  A great big spider web, easier and easier to get caught and tangled in, easier and easier to ignore and disregard.  More and more deadly and carnivorous with every passing thought, second, glance.
There is nearly nothing to do.
Brother slaps his hands against thighs, knocks the dust off, big swirling clouds plume up around him.  Makes him cough.  He squints his eyes.  His face a touch twisted, confused, holding hard to something, steely.  His arms dangle ashamed next to his body.  We are all three so skinny, so threadlike.
And then there was sunlight.
And it was radiant.
Up, the great gash in the air had opened, and you could see directly into heaven.  Deep inside the wound, visible, de sol, the sun had come out.
All of our existentialist appendages, exhausted, our senses, wasted, all philosophical inquiry was delayed.
Only living.
But nothing about life can make you live.  You just do or you just don’t.  That is truer now than ever.
But that is just that, no fire for speculation, no fuel for contemplation.
But the sun was out and it was bright and it was warm.  And it cast long black shadows in front of us.  Long, serpentine things, waving before us and slowly ivy-climbing the Santa Fe style façade of the shipping center.  They flickered like flame on the sandy concrete as we moved, grew as we walked, likely turning everything to ash behind us, as it felt very much, we were the ember.
You have to imagine things differently.  You have to see the whole world differently when everything begins to crumble down.  And first you must see it all new in your mind, and then your eyes.  Spirit first.  Blood and tissues later.  Get it right, where it all starts anyway.  Suss it out.  Construct it.
And we are talking whole galaxies, whole histories.  A lot of energy.
Like, you have to see your whole life as a bubble.  A thin gauzy film wrapped around you almost as tight as it can be, a shroud, an embryonic sack, a skin.  A single fragile random thing, a boiling bubble raising up off the effervescent foam of all the motion churning. A thing that happens but only happens because all these other things are happening but none of that sea of energy could be happening if your thing hadn’t happened.  It is electrics. Fanatics.  Gesticulation.  Theatrics.
You have to notice the boil you are in, the fizz, but you have to also perceive the raising up, the drifting off.  Float away.
And now here we are, the fiery forward edge of blazing heat, so much seething, a delight to just simmer, whatever hell it is to always be burning.  Here we are, all wrapped up in this bubble heaving up through the air, like dryness, like dryness is death, lack of moisture, of fluidity is torture, so much movement, evaporation towards the sun.
Our shadows walking up the front of the deserted shopping mall.  Dark glass doors, mostly shattered, broken through, you could clearly see the blood.  Some still stood.  The ones that still stood could be moved and we opened them.  Stood at the opening for a few minutes.  The breeze coming out was cool.  The yawning open door was a chasm, an awful degenerate perforation, a pit, a spear-wound into the side of all the world.  We were reculant to go inside.  
But we went, we went like a seeping, as infection enters an open wound.  Slowly.  Stealing around the red edges, creeping in, burn-rushing around the corners, down the empty corridors.  Our eyes big.  Everywhere demon-sounds fluttered in the vast broad spaces, electricity-dead and echo-chambered, a soft breeze tunnel.  Bone-crunch hard rubbish under foot, all kinds of cast off, papers, cups, glass, viscera.  Banners still hung in the high rafters.  Trees in indoor containers still grew, unruly.  Birds nested in every nook and cranny, long desert snakes slither, dangerous, everywhere dangerous.  Mislaid steps and topple down, come crashing hard on the floor, your body bruised, or cut, watching our every move.
Never enough light.  Never enough room.  Labyrinthine.  Dungeon-faced terror, confusion, breathless, time- rending, flesh-scalding, eye-blackening.
Brother put his hands over his face.  He stopped in his tracks.  I stopped behind him, put my arm out to stop Paloma safely after me.  I watched him carefully.  He lowered his head.  I could tell he was getting very sick.  He shook his head and rubbed his hands over his face, roughly.  Stood back up, straight, began walking again.
“Anybody got a flashlight?” over his shoulder as we walked.
I shook my head, “Nothing, I got nothing.”
“Be a lot cooler if ya did.”
I nodded.  Looked over both shoulders warily.  So morbid.  In every angle, in every corner, something dead or dying, or a plastic symbol of something dead or dying, something from a bit before, something that should still be living, something alive and well,  but all gone now.  Morbid.  Morbid.  Moribund.   The wind coming through the cracked and broken windows sounded deep, low bass brass, some symphonic gutteral grumble.
And we never dared to look down.  Not too much.  What the fire hadn’t burnt and what the feral creatures hadn’t gnawed or taken away still remained.  Remains, still remained.  And to keep the spirit up is essential.   Can’t let anything get inside of you, tear away at you, can’t let anything slow you down, weaken.  If…
In a big ‘t’ intersection, the corridors all met, a center point, a lingering nexus.  We stopped.  And to our left was the vivid storefront of an abandoned arcade, we inched our way toward it, shuffling our feet.  We dared not go into the cave of it but stayed along the doorway, sat down whatever we had in our hands.  I took off the grey flannel jacket I was wearing and folded it neatly, sat it on the floor.
“There, sit on that,”  I said to Paloma and she slowly lowered herself down onto it.  I cleared a space with my feet and sat down next to her.  Brother scanned around and walked to the right of us, to a small boutique shop, jewelry or something.  It was elaborately decorated.  Without a word he reached up over the store doors, jumped up a bit and grabbed a strand of rope lights and pulled them down in a loud and frustrated yank.  They hit the floor in a loud crashing pool.  He ripped a certain intact section off the rest of the length, he struggled.
Paloma and I watched him.  No idea what he was up to.  He handed me the string he had wrenched free,
“Clear out the lights.”
I shook the rope and little LED bulbs came falling out, broken and otherwise, tiny filaments and wires, dust.  Brother looked around, hands on his sides.  He was looking for a maintenance closet, a door, anything.  He saw something up the way and started off toward it to check it out.  Satisfied, he returned and took the long plastic tube out of my hands,
“Stay here.”
I nodded.
Paloma looked over at me.  Her face was tired.  Crimson.  Saggy.      
“I think he is looking for a generator, a gas generator.  You know, to siphon from,”  I say to her.
She just looks at me.  Intent on the side of my face.  Scanning me all over.  Uncomfortable.
“It is weird for it to be so quiet here, huh?” casually
She continues to stare over my face, trying to read me, looking for signs of disease or abuse most likely.
Suddenly she speaks, “Have you always lived in Los Angeles?”
“Yep.” I nod, “born here, both of my parents are native too.  My Mother was from Tehrangeles.”
“So, you are Persian?”
“Yep, half,” nodding again.
“And your dad?”
“Hm, oh, yeah, native born too.  He lived all over though, all kinds of working class neighborhoods. His family, my family, came here after World War Two. From the south, the deep south, they had been sharecroppers before they moved. Slaves even before that, and before that, West Africans of some sort, I suppose, Yorubas or Fons or Ashantis… I don’t know.”
“Quite the combination.”
“Yep, only in America.  That’s what’s good about America, odd combinations, like barbeque chicken pizza and cool ranch chipotle anything.”
She seemed more at ease.  She stopped studying my face for danger.
A little left-hand tilt, a bit of the fuzz that hits the eye around the periphery, like a blurry photogaph.  Because that is what it all is anyway, an out-of-focus snapshot of a moment unfolding.
“You should try to rest.  You should try to get some sleep.”
Paloma agrees, she nods at me, and begins to stretch herself out on my jacket and puts her head against the faux stucco plaster wall. She closes her eyes, slowly, the lids close up tight and shut out all the light.
Brother came back, swaying, so cavalier.  Careless gait, a grin on his face, he had a red container in his left hand, you could smell the gasoline wafting up off of it.  In his right hand he had grungy bottle, he was drinking from it, probably whiskey, probably some kind of hard liquor he had found, pick up, along the way. He put the gas down at my feet, walked across the corridor, looking over his shoulder the whole time.  He sat down in the hallway across from me, under a tall tropical flowering tree in a fake plastic terra cotta container.  He took out a cigarette and lit it, took a swill from his bottle.  Pointed to Paloma with the cigerette smoldering in his fingers and said, “We can leave as soon as she is up.  I got some more gas.  We are gonna have to find some other place.”
I nodded.  There was no way we could stay here.  No way we could stay in Brea for long.
I watched as Hermano closed his eyes and began to sleep as well.  I took the still burning cigerette out of his hand and took a quick drag and stomped it out.
There was no way to stay put in Brea.

6. The Fireballs

You will regret it if you go.
You will regret it if you stay.
You will regret the wasted life.
You will regret the saved life.
If you live
If you die,
The result is always the same. Human nature.
And that, that is the essence of Khrushchev’s secret speech, boys and girls.  And so, we begin to de-Stalinize the world, life.
But we will regret it soon enough and swing back, try to recapture it all, the magic gone, the days spent, nothing left but warm soot and little embers, still biting.  But we build with that and then tired of it, we devastate with that, and we seek out another fire.  Razing, burning, raging to the ground.
Human nature covered in ashes
And sackcloth.
Above us, solid sapphire blue-pure fascination, so still a sea the sky unundulating in the heavens.  
 And everywhere we looked, brown grains of sand, gleaming gold in the yellow sun, stretching up to meet it, that frozen ocean.  The lines wavering where the two continents met, heat hallucination, crashing land masses, volcanic.
And in the tremendously big silence we drove on, only the chug of the truck engine and the small whine of rubber tires on badly neglected roads.
On both sides of us, nature, cactus flowers and dust devils, iron-red stained old railroad beds, Gila monsters panted. The air stayed close, no breeze, so thick and heavy.

Brother drove with his left hand and smoked with his right, some times drank with either.       

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