Archives for the month of: November, 2011

SUPINE IN MY ROOM, room service all-day-breakfast polished off, I sleep through the day and the following night.

 

After the smoke of this bout’s preliminary dreams has cleared, I see a body of water before me and the hooded shapes of pilgrims.

 

I fall into step with them, skirting the shoreline, making haste.

 

The air is warm, going on hot. Across the water, I see the lights of a city that just keeps growing. It becomes a heaving, sweaty port, a place of foul and libidinous disembarkation. Ships are pulling into its harbor, and the path we follow toward it grows ever more crowded the closer we come.

 

In a brutish Holy Holy Holy kind of rhythm, the pilgrims chant the name of Professor Barry Dalton.

 

Winding around toward the city, I am overcome by exhaustion. I see a bed of leaves and moss by the riverside, under a willow, and go toward it, thinking I’ll just sleep for 15 minutes.

 

As I’m taking off my shoes in the moss, yawning, I think about time. I am still young, I think, and have never known what it is not to be. I cannot imagine parting ways with my youth, going on alone from there. I stretch out on the moss, and picture myself as an old man, in a building somewhere in town, in a chair with a blanket pulled up to my chin and a wool cap down over my ears, a cup of cool tea beside me, the bag in a little saucer beside it. Perhaps then, as I spend day after day thinking over my life, backing toward its end, my only regret will be, why did I sleep for 15 minutes when I was young?

 

I catch up with the pilgrims and filter with them into the port city glimpsed in the distance, resolved now back into Dodge City, no longer a port.

 

In the main square, we form a crowd beneath the platform upon which Professor Barry Dalton stands.

 

He begins, or has begun.

 

His voice is such that no one can be anywhere near it and maintain a single private thought. Not even packed in ice for later. All distraction, all inner randomness and diaspora, dries up, and we’re riveted, listening in arctic stasis.

 

His speech is laying a new foundation for Dodge City, I think, building it up directly beneath our feet, and I can feel the structures of my former life, in Germany and before that, being ground down to stock material and pushed into a pit.

 

Finally, I’m reduced to two ears glued to the sides of a bowl.

I COME downstairs after a first shower and shave, teeth aching from gum, eager to see about breakfast. The boiling sound of my secreted novel has already fallen beneath my notice, mixed in with the pipes and radiator.

 

I pause to let past two guys wheeling a slot machine. I decide to follow them, see where they’re wheeling it. They’re wheeling it into a Function Room, through some frosted glass doors near the front desk.

 

This must be where the breakfast buffet is held, but it looks like I missed it. I scan the walls for a clock but don’t find one, and remember this fact about casinos.

 

The guys plug the slot machine in next to two others. It lights up and starts to warble for cash. Behind me, an amplified voice says, “And he says, ‘For my third wish, I’d like for half my head to be an orange.’”

 

I turn around through a tunnel of screeching microphone static to see a giant wearing a white suede suit and knee-high black boots standing on a low stage, rocking from one heel to another like he’s waiting for some furious circus animal to be released from a cage and come running for his crotch.

 

He’s so big that the mic disappears inside his fist, with only the cord sticking out like the tail of a crushed rat. “This a casino?”

 

“Yup,” he replies. “Whenever they wheel that shit in. Fine by me. I get to do my act, cuz people are in here, and they have to listen. What else can they do, right? Except gamble.”

 

I look him over. “What’s your act?” I ask.

 

“Comedian. You know. Road-torment, highest of highs and lowest of lows, unmanning, degradation, dubious and truncated euphoria, sort of thing.”

 

He climbs down from the stage, still choking the mic.

 

At the end of the mic cord’s reach, he offers me his other hand. “Big Pharmakos.”

 

I introduce myself, and we shake. His hand covers mine so that it disappears as thoroughly as the mic.

 

“I’m sort of the main pimp in this Hotel,” he says. “In this whole town too, for what it’s worth. Ask around. Or, better yet, don’t. Here I am. Just give me a call whenever you’re … you know. Took care of Drifter Jim last night, and let’s just say he won’t be back anytime soon.”

 

Letting my hand go, he pulls a card from his front suede pocket, forks it over. It has a photo of a skeleton with a circle around the pelvic region, his email address written inside an arrow pointing at that circle.

 

I put it in my back pocket.

 

As I leave, I hear him clearing his throat back on stage, simpering to an imaginary crowd: “Okay okay, now where was I … so anyway, there’s this other guy in the car too, next to Orangehead, not the dead one, and not the living one either, but the one that … ”

I FIND the kind of breakfast place I was looking for. A diner I can tell will figure into the mythos of this town however long I stay in it.

 

I’m in here now, still dreaming, my face and neck washed in the bathroom around back and off to the side, the kind they have at gas stations. My food gets slid in front of me. As I eat, I look at the other people in here. Some look like Indians, others are plain white. In trying to imagine who they are and what they do, I run through an audition in an empty space in my head, trying out who’d be right as a gunslinger, who as an all-around outlaw, train robber, card shark, bookie, pimp, ether addict, scalp trader, cattle drover, owner of the general store who’s hard at work on a sequel to the Bible, starring all of his friends with a few of the transvestites he knows filling in for angels. They pass by as if on wooden sticks parading before my eyes as I eat, and I begin to populate Dodge City for myself. At the end of the audition, I tell them that I’ve seen all I need to, and will be in touch. After breakfast, I take to the streets. What I came here to do can wait a few days, I decide. For now, I’ll just walk around. I follow my senses until a bleating, as of sheep or cows, takes me up one of the side streets and past a lumber mill and a burger joint, to the junkyard. I start creeping around in here, following the sound, aware that there might be a junkyard dog about to leap out and dispatch me. I pick up a piece of wood with some screws sticking out the end, just in case. The bleating, I can tell now, is coming from a wrecked trailer up on cinderblocks, behind a fence that has a hole torn in it, among a bunch of other wrecked vehicles of all sizes. I stand there and listen, figuring it must be about nine a.m. Sooner or later, a man comes around from behind the trailer, and stands on the other side of the fence regarding me.

 

Then he comes through the hole, introduces himself.

 

“I’m Junkyard Charles Matthiesson,” he says.

 

“Hi,” I say, and tell him my name.

 

A pause. Then, “you got a junkyard dog?” I ask him. “No sir, I do not. Nothing like that.” I drop the wood with the screws in it. Then he asks me where I live, and I say I’m staying in the hotel.

 

“Ah,” he replies. “That’s where Drifter Jim stayed … once”

 

Like that’s all already a long time ago.

 

“I don’t think so,” I reply, though I have no real reason not to admit to knowing what he’s talking about.

 

“Suit yourself,” he says, and unbuttons one of his shirt sleeves. We both listen to that bleating.

 

Eventually, he says, “That trailer’s full of sheep. Guy up on the highway about forty miles from here had a wreck last winter, and I came and towed it away for him, never knowing what it was full of. I’ve told him to come pick up his sheep, but so far no sign of the man. Maybe today’s the day. I deal with people who fall off the road, you understand? So there’s no telling when they might turn back up.”

 

“Must be a sensitive business,” I say.

 

He thinks awhile, then replies, “Some of the time.”

 

That’s about the end of our conversation. “So,” I say, “lived in Dodge City long?”

 

The man unbuttons his other sleeve. “Been sleeping here about as long as I can remember. But no, I wouldn’t exactly say that I live in Dodge City. No sir, not per se.”

 

I tell Junkyard Charles Matthiesson that I’ll see him around, and roll over onto another side to sleep some more.

[Gutted in Editing]

I think I’m really in bed now, with my headphones curled up on the pillow next to me.

 

I drift off, then roll over and spit out my gum onto the nightstand, then roll back over to where I was.

 

Now I’m really asleep, smelling that gum where it lies. I pass through all the customary antechambers to get into the dream, waiting my turn like the pretty good guy that I am as others pass by before me.

 

When I’m in there, I get taken right away to the lip of a cave. I don’t get to go in, but I learn, by standing there like a cold sore on the lip, that this cave (on the edge of Dodge City) is occupied by someone who travels the world collecting rare papers by and on H.P. Lovecraft.

What a cliche, I think. I come all this way and that’s the best you can do? I thought I’d canceled my Lovecraft dreams at 15 ..

 

… But I let it go on the way it’s going.

 

This cave occupant travels time and space collecting documents, and brings them all back to this cave here, where it broods over and, presumably, reads them. Then it lays eggs in them, which, upon hatching …

 

I try to peek further in, to get a glimpse of the cave architecture, but the dream scolds me for peeking too far, like I wasn’t supposed to be here at all, and whips me back out over the landscape, over the Dodge City Outskirts, and hard onto a bench at the bus station, which, landing on, I expect to bounce off of, but don’t.

 

They’re executing that guy on TV again, but he won’t die. They try everything, devolving from execution to torture, and his body only looks healthier and more radiant the more they do to it.

 

Eventually, all the guests leave.

 

That’s where I wake up (in the dream), listening to the announcements and watching the parking stalls where the buses will file in once the morning gets going. I figure I’ll stay right here until then, or until I am restored to the bed I know I’m in (if I could only do something with that knowledge besides cherish it).

AFTER HOURS of daytime sleep, I tramp barefoot into the hall for a pack of gum.

 

Bending over the vending machine’s slot, I notice a large man coming my way. I stand up to meet him. He towers, a hawk talon necklace around his neck and big brown leather boots sunk into the carpeting.

 

He introduces himself as Drifter Jim, and claims he’s killed one thousand men and sired one thousand sons in Dodge City. I ask him if he feels he’s broken even.

 

He sighs and shakes his head. “Not even close, young friend.”

 

I wait for him to continue. “Headed out,” he continues, “bus in two, maybe one hour. Far as Denver and from there don’t ask.”

 

A look passes between us like we each understand that a changing of the guards is taking place, and that to mention it aloud would, rather than confirm our mutual understanding, leave us both empty-handed.

 

So I wish him well and return to my Room, to fall asleep with a mouthful of gum.

I’m thinking I’ll stay in tonight. It’s been a long trip to get here, and I have no next move stored up. I’m thinking it might be best to stay in and get some dreaming done, see if anything fresh comes. I can see the pool from my window. I remember a story I heard about how, on tour, Elvis could never go outside for fear of getting mobbed. So he got in the habit of sending his road crew into hotel pools in his stead, and watched them from the balcony, shouting down, “What’s it like? What’s the water like? What’s it like now?” Apparently, before all that, Johnny Carson or one of those guys told him when he was very young, “Make sure you never stop going outside and being with people, no matter how big you get,” but Elvis either hadn’t understood or hadn’t known how.

IT’S 6 AM. I lie on a bench in the bus station, the only traveler to’ve gotten off here, staring across the concourse at the shuttered café, imagining it open, myself outfitted with coffee and some kind of rubbery muffin alone at one of its tables.

 

The announcer rattles on above me. Coins start falling into vending machines, candy falling into hands.

 

I fall asleep on the bench, arms looped through one suitcase, legs through the other.

 

I wake up with two guys’ hands in my front pockets, each squeezing one ball.

 

I can’t overcome the sensation of those two hands belonging to the same person, though I can see it isn’t so.

 

“We did this in order to help you,” one says.

 

“We had to flip you in order to achieve it,” says the other.

 

I thank them as, slowly, they retract their hands.

 

It’s past noon. On the TV by the Arrivals board they’re getting ready to execute a guy. I hurry out of the station before they go through with it.

 

*****

NOW, to find a Hotel.

 

As it turns out, not too surprisingly, there’s only one downtown, and the Motel 6 way out on the Strip doesn’t seem the best place to start.

 

The porter has shown me to my Room. Check-in went well, I think.

 

Just like at Customs in Germany, there were no questions about the novel-bags, despite the smell and dark stains.

 

I stand modestly beside the porter in the elevator, watching the button he’s pressed.

 

The Room, once the porter’s gone, is perfect.

 

Big and comfortable, and replete with hiding places for my materials: panels that peel up, compartments under the rug, safes, back sections in the closet.

 

Preparing to parcel out the pieces, a wet soapy washcloth draped over my nose and mouth like an ether rag, I wonder if, at the front desk, they could tell exactly what I’d come here for and assigned me this Room accordingly, or if every Room in this Hotel is exactly the same, every guest just like me.

 

Even before the ether hits, I can tell it’s not a question I’m likely to make much headway on.

 

When I’ve hidden the pieces, I lie down, washcloth over my forehead, and listen as they begin to seep.

 

The Room is full of hiding places, but none are exactly sealed. For now, it sounds like a slow boil, like ants look, and to this sound I pass out.