Rattled by the discovery of my or my neighbor’s house burnt to the ground, I go to a place and seek solace in The Lime Twig.

Rattled by The Lime Twig, I tell the following story:

Rattled by the discovery of my or my neighbor’s house burnt to the ground, I go to the Golden Horn (nicknamed, in certain drinking circles, The Golden Horde), Dodge City’s premier steam room, to seek solace there.

This is where, I explain, I will decompress, sweat out the squeam.

At the front desk, my Limited Yearly (Not to Exceed 3 Visits per 2 Months) Membership Card in hand, I am met by a brouhaha.

I slip past with a flash of card, but not without catching parts of the problem: there’s been a crime, a murder or something along those lines, and here are the police, eager to investigate, as you might expect, but —

The proprietress, a real Linda Hunt type, won’t let them inside with their clothes on. “I’m sorry, folks,” she explains, a low wail now issuing through the steam room’s sealed door, “but rules is rules. My hands are tied on this.”

They confer amongst themselves, then come back to the desk, purchase Guest Passes, receive their towels and combination locks, and file in through the locker room.

*****

Disrobed, all those cops (a coed crew, if you were wondering) are in there in the steam now, as am I and a few old folks and whoever else was in there before, some more visible than others depending on how deep they’ve gone — this place is known for its corners, some of which go back a long way.

There is a certain encompassing rankness, maybe more than sweat alone would account for, but no definite sign of a body or blood or any other trappings of what they say happened.

I would say that the cops don’t seem particularly concerned about their investigation, but, to tell the truth, without their uniforms, I can’t altogether say which ones the cops are.

There is, though, a definite air in the place, and I don’t just mean steam.

Everyone’s checking each other out, the thin propriety of these places peeled right away, circling, some folks more feral about it than others.

Then things go the way of things, without much prelude, and soon it’s a fully-fledged thing; arms and legs shoot out from a central conjoined mass, breathing through its pores, and there’s wine, drumming, snakes, midgets, 70’s body hair standards — a classical tableau straight out of that weird Caligula with the Clockwork Orange guy.

I’m somewhere in it, buffeted, with one eye out for the dead body that supposedly set this all in motion, though I can tell that this way of thinking may be one reason why I am said by some to be stuck in the past.

The Ottoman mosaics that adorn the floors and benches are cracking into sand, and tiles are crashing down from the ceiling. The steam apparatus sputters and fills the room with boiling but not quite boiled water. Scalded hides react with a virulence that feeds the virulence already afoot.

I see how this could go on and on.

But then the cops show up.

They’re standing in the doorway with Linda Hunt, fully-clothed, some with flashlights and some with clipboards.

“Okay folks,” they say. “Party’s over. We got a call. There’s about to be consequences.”

The mass tries to disconjoin at this news, presumably to scatter, but it’s stuck tight. Someone’s gonna have to do some prying.

The cops are stepping among us now, trying to keep their faces from polarizing into disgust and fascination.

*****

When they’ve finished prying everyone apart (it wasn’t pretty), they line us up for questioning against the wall in the locker room. It’s cold in that distinct facing-the-walk-back-to-your-car-with-wet-hair locker room way.

When it’s my turn, a cop with a clipboard takes me aside and asks me to look over what he’s written. “Please be gentle but serious with your criticism,” he says. “I’m just starting out here, so please just try to help me grow.”

He looks around to see if anyone else is listening, then, satisfied, continues, “I feel like I have all these ideas, you know, things come to me that seem so cool, so good, and I always think like it’ll be so easy to just write them down,” he’s blushing now, “but then, when I get down to do it, just me and the pen and paper, or on my laptop, it all scatters, goes so I can’t see it anymore.” He catches his breath. “And then it’s like I can’t focus. I don’t know, it’s like one minute I have all these ideas and I’m so excited to write, and then the next minute all I want to do is check email and read Pitchfork.”

“Anyway,” he goes on, “I don’t want to just lay this whole trip on you, I mean, I know you have your own shit to work on and you’re probably … but, if you’d just look over my report here, I’d really appreciate it.”

So I look over his report. It’s mostly standard issue police copy, itemizing the crimes that were committed. The only curious thing is that, each time it comes up, instead of “steam room” he’s written “peat bog.”

The locker room is empty now, it’s just the two of us and his clipboard. I nod to him encouragingly. “I think this looks good, man. You just have to trust your vision. That’s all there is to it. Really, you just have to write things as you see them, and the rest will take care of itself.”

In the course of reading, I’ve run my hands all over the clipboard. Most of the paper, wet from the nature of the investigation, has pulped off.

I look and see that I’m now wearing a sort of papier-mache glove on one hand, and see that he’s wearing one too. Between us, we’re wearing most of the report — just a few strands, right under the clip, remain stuck to the clipboard.

“Just keep at it man,” I say, “really,” and turn to leave, wondering if I’ll be permitted to.

He doesn’t say or do anything. Outside, the whole place is shut down, wrapped in CRIME SCENE tape, but there are no people anywhere. Crossing the parking lot, I look at my paper-gloved hand again, and wonder if I’ll see that cop around town, and if he’ll recognize me by it, that is, if I haven’t washed it off by then and he doesn’t recognize me some other way.

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