Gary’s troubles really all began with the car accident, that time when Gary and his cousins all piled into the vastness of the borrowed Chrysler after Evelyn’s wedding party and Chris lost control at the exit to downtown Monterey, the thick luxury car smashing into an even thicker tree.
Although Gary thought of himself as a handsome, suave operator, when his face was cut and scarred as the result of a car accident, the main thing that he thought he had going for him, his looks, was violently, irrevocably torn away.
‘I used to deliver up and down Malibu, driving up to the mailboxes and popping in letters to the stars,’ Gary would boast, ‘and I’d see what’s-his-name, the short guy in Taxi — Danny DeVito — and I’d tell him my latest jokes. He got half his material from me!’
Gary picked up a huge file cabinet in the sorting room and threw it at the fucker who insulted his mother.
When he grabbed a pair of scissors to lunge after the letter-carrier who called his mother a whore, it took five big guys to pull him to the floor.
The union official felt badly that they hadn’t filed charges against the long-term tormentor who had pushed Gary over the edge — after all, the racist jerk was the true instigator — but at least they worked it out so the Post Office would give Gary his job back, if only he would make a few visits to a shrink.
‘Crank can do that to you, can rip out your brains, and you end up wandering night after night with no sleep, no food,’ Eddie informed us, sagely, ‘and the shit replaces those brains with old slasher movies turned inside out, pure paranoid death, until wherever Gary may be — whether he’s in a mini-mart donut shop or he’s on a bus or he’s in your living room — wherever he is, that place becomes the new location for Psycho’s Bates Motel.’
Dear Aunt and Uncle,
Greetings from your nephew Gary. Remember me? HA HA! I’ve missed your responses in the past. The reason I’m writing you both is I want you to buy and read the PRince of DARKness ANtiCHRist AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER
THE AUTHOR IS GRANT R. JEFFREY
P.S. ESPecially Read CHAPter 4.
‘I’m getting some big moola from the car insurance,’ Gary winked at his bewildered aunt and uncle, ‘so I need to borrow your car to get to LA.’
How can foresight be an act of knowledge?
I had been invited back to the Yurok Reservation 25 years after teaching at the two-classroom schoolhouse to say a few words to the four kids graduating the eighth grade.
I like to think that Tiger’s becoming a pain in the ass had something to do with me.
‘Aw, they’re acting like a bunch of NIGGERS,’ Tiger, the oldest boy had shot back when I returned from Alcatraz with posters and stories of the occupation after Christmas break in 1969; but the thirteen-year-old kid in the seventh grade ended up growing into a wiry, handsome leader of his people.
Tiger had fought to stop the GO Road from cutting through areas sacred to the Yuroks, Karoks, and Hoopas, with such determination, had become such a pain in the ass and for such a long time, 17 years — even though the Supreme Court had declared that ‘freedom of religion’ did not protect those high places where the women who become Indian Doctors go to learn their calling — that Congress finally threw in the towel and stopped the road and declared Doctor Rock and the other mountain places to be an untouched ‘wilderness area.’
Twenty-five years later, most of the men I had known who worked in the woods — Skunk, Frosty, Tiger’s dad, others — were dead from cancer, and everyone knew that the sickness came from the herbicides the logging companies keep on spraying to cut back the bush.
‘Why would I live anywhere else?’ Tiger swept his arm to the Klamath glittering at the bottom of the steep, plummeting cliffs right outside his door, then to the hills and to the circling sky, a vista of vast, dizzying proportions.
When I called out to the classroom as part of a math problem, ‘TWO PLUS TWO EQUALS . . .,’ Tiger — the oldest if not the biggest kid in the entire fifth-to-eighth grade classroom — hollered back, ‘White man, you LIE!’
So many of the boys I had taught 25 years ago are dead or in jail.
‘You actually know things, things that other people don’t know, you know about the river and all the rocks and creeks, everything about this place, the Klamath, and that’s special, something no one else knows, and something no one else can take away from you,’ I concluded my few remarks at the graduation. Hank, the old school board member from the days I taught at the isolated school on the reservation, slid up behind me afterwards and whispered, ‘You talked too long,’ then slipped away. I spoke only two minutes or so, but I knew what he was really telling me: I had violated some sense of propriety; I had turned the spotlight away from the kids, filled up too much space, or some gaff like that. I smiled ruefully to myself. After 25 years, I end up failing the Yuroks one more time.
Concepts arise from collision,
the violent impossibility
giving form to new life.
All dead fathers come back to life in New York City. Everybody knows that.
The press should have credited the story with ‘the boy says, and the proper authorities have invested it with a great deal of credibility,’ so we wouldn’t look like we swallowed Edwin’s story, hook, line, and sinker, but we didn’t. We wanted so much to believe the kid because it was one of those page-one stories of grit and determination that makes you think people can do anything, absolutely anything, when love and courage combine, the kind of story that every newspaperman dreams of, a poignant nugget of Truth that makes life worth living, even if it is a lie.
The story had appeared on the news for a day or two, and when it turned out to have been fabricated, the little boy of great heart that had astounded all of New York instantly disappeared from TV: Edwin, like his father, vanished without a trace.
God laughed seven times: Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha.
God laughed, and from these seven laughs
seven lesser gods sprang up which embrace the whole universe.
But when God laughed for the last time,
he drew in his breath, and while he was laughing he began to cry,
and thus the Soul came into being.
In one week I learned that I am the father of three sons of three different mothers.
Well, perhaps I sired them, but I was no true father, at least not theirs. In fact, I had no idea that the brief encounters decades ago had produced anything more than vague memories, much less kids. But for some strange reason — and don’t talk to me about coincidence — all three sons, each unaware of the other, decided to contact me at exactly the same time.
I remembered their mothers, sort of.
The oldest boy was the offspring of a date during college — she hung around with a crowd of girls that liked to fuck. In fact, each room of their apartment in Queens was filled with couples fucking, and we had to share her bedroom with another grunting pair. This was fun, but that was it.
The second boy’s mother was a Jesus freak I had met in Santa Fe while I was visiting a friend who was hiding out there as a political fugitive from the FBI. The Jesus freak traveled with a crowd who frequented a beautiful, grand house occupied by a beautiful, grand woman — warm, delightful, friendly, statuesque, hospitable to all, sexy as hell — and she was the one I really wanted to sleep with. But she was the girlfriend of Gregory Corso or Neal Cassidy or somebody, so I had to settle for the pudgy though somewhat cute girl who seemed to adore me, and we made love in the hallway in a sleeping bag. She was very sweet, though I had no idea she was part of a Jesus freak commune outside Taos, and when I found out the next morning I ran like hell back to my friend’s clandestine hideout.
The third son’s mother was someone I met in Portland at a commune that was notable because at least two of its members were wounded at the Kent State massacre, one of them with a shattered hand, the other in a wheelchair for life, and everyone in the commune was very ‘heavy,’ preparing for armed struggle, taking their rifles every day out to the woods to shoot at targets. I crashed only a couple of nights, and she had no intention of contacting me again, seeing as how she was preparing to go underground, so it was a poignant, brief moment of crisscrossing lives in the Revolution. I often wondered what had happened to her.
Well, those were different times. I believed each one was on the pill and I never imagined we had conceived any children — and if we had, I would have expected to have heard from either or all of them much sooner. But each mother had decided she wanted to handle things on her own and chose not to seek me out, and only when their sons had grown older had the gnawing desire to find their biological father taken hold of them.
Now I held letters with photos declaring that I am the father of a recovering junky, a Pentecostal preacher, and an electrical engineer, and all three of them want to meet me — soon.
I am told the Pentecostal preacher, whose mother is the sex maniac, looks exactly like his father.
The Father is Child to the Man
‘See, what’s great about America is that everyone can get a fresh start,’ the prisoner explained to the reporter. ‘You fuck up, sure, but you can take out a new lease on life and give it another whirl. That’s all I’m asking, another chance, another day.
‘Sure, I did wrong, though if you knew all the circumstances maybe you’d be a little bit sympathetic to my situation.
‘It was like this: my father was sick, real sick, heart problems, and it didn’t look good. He was old, his time was up, but all you can do is hope. I had to go all the way to Pennsylvania, and I wanted Helen to come with me, which is fitting for a wife, since this is a once in a lifetime event, the death of one’s father, the only one I got. Am I right?
‘But to my utter surprise Helen says no, says she can’t get away from her job. Besides, her mother, who lives down the street, has her own health problems. I say, get someone else to take care of your mother and tell your job to shove it — priorities are priorities — but she gets stubborn.
‘I never saw anything like it. A man’s father is on his death bed, and his own wife can’t see it in herself to do the right thing. It hurt, it hurt really bad. Can you imagine a thing like that?
‘She only showed up in time for the funeral.
‘Right then and there I plotted revenge, and I knew exactly how to do it so Helen would be tormented for the rest of her life.
‘Helen always wanted a baby, been talking an earful for years, and I always put her off, figuring we got a hard enough time putting food on the table for the two of us.
‘But now, with the death of my father, I suddenly change my mind. She’s all gushy, and I oblige her, poking her every chance I can to get her pregnant, and soon, sure enough, she balloons up like a toad’s throat.
‘Little Tyler is born, and she loves him up and coos and is overflowing with all the good things in life. But I wait for my chance. I figure Helen needs to get real attached to the little brat, let her get to cuddle and do all the baby things women love, and then I’ll make my move.
‘Three months or so after the kid is born I’m watching him take a nap when Helen is out. This was my chance, so I shove a pillow over his head and smother him.’
The reporter noted the matter-of-fact way he recounted the murder, pausing to light a Marlboro, and then continued.
‘It really wasn’t too hard.’
He took a long puff.
‘Helen felt bad when she thought the kid died from the sudden death syndrome, and I chuckled to myself. Finally, I told her, “Now you know how I felt when you wouldn’t come with me to my dad when he was dying.”
‘But now I know in the end it was a mistake. I lost everything. I lost my house, my job, my freedom, my wife, all my money, my car, everything.’
‘What about killing the kid?’ the reporter asked.
‘Yeah, I even lost the kid.
‘But all I’m asking for is another chance, a new start.
‘This is America, so I figure I got the right to try again.’
Sex is a monstrous delusion, a sleight-of-hand,
that equates authentic, though scientifically inaccurate,
In the blinding light I could see Mary Magdalene with an infant. And Mary said, ‘This is Jesus, the child you have conceived, and I am his mother.’
But how could I be the father of the Divine Child?
And she answered my unspoken question: ‘Because the child is within you, and you have resurrected the flesh through the purity of your soul, for you too are the Father.’
I very much doubted the purity of my soul, but the Child looked at me and said, ‘I am the Legos.’ And he began to build an entire world with the small colored interlocking plastic blocks all spread out before him.
‘I will build you a home,’ he said with a mischievous grin, and he molded mud into little people and when he blew on them they came to life and populated the small city he was constructing. Toying with a red block, he continued with the same sly grin, ‘I will build you a home, and when I am done, you will pay me the rent.’
But then he grew weary, and in one swift blow he swept the small city away with the back of his hand. All of the city’s inhabitants were killed in an instant, and he just looked up at me with innocent eyes, smiling, completely unaware of the havoc he had caused.
We live within the confines of money,
framed by concrete abstractions of time and space,
the vigor and turbulence of the circulation of capital,
all always under the ambiguous surveillance of the State.
My parents were finally too old to remain ‘snowbirds,’ flying to Florida for the winter and returning each spring, and I had come to help them move out of their house on Long Island to relocate permanently to those tropical climes. It was when I was clearing away the stack of old magazines and papers on the wicker table in their den that I pulled from the bottom of the pile a copy of my junior high school yearbook. I hadn’t seen the yearbook for nearly forty years, and they had lived in that house for almost thirty, which meant that they had moved the yearbook from one house to another, placing it on the coffee table and leaving it there as they watched TV through the seventies, eighties, nineties. I had even forgotten that I had had a junior high school yearbook, but there it was: photos of forgotten schoolmates, a little sappy poem I had written, ‘Best Wishes’ and autographs and goofy remarks scribbled on its pages.
It was remarkable that the little piece of memorabilia had remained in the same spot for so many years while all the times I had visited my parents it was there before my very eyes without my even knowing it. Even more remarkable is that I remembered only a few of the faces and names in the photos. I was surprised to learn that I had worked on the yearbook, yet even with the evidence of my standing for a group photo with the staff I could not recall it. Here was proof of my past, photos of a young kid, yet I was looking at a virtual stranger, a phantom from a different era.
Then I turned the page, and there was the picture of the most beautiful girl in the whole world.
Consider all of life as a visit to the Grand Canyon or to the Eiffel Tower. Do you really see the canyon? Do you truly ponder the tower? No, what you encounter is a series of postcards, of snapshots, of checklists to which you apply your latest mark: ‘Ah, yes, Grand Canyon: Check!’ Everything is surrounded by the appurtenances of its remembrance, so you live in contact not with the thing itself but with its representation, its image, its what-everyone-says-it-is as accumulated over years, decades, centuries, and you have no desire to do otherwise. In fact, you can’t, and your whole goal in life is to collect as many sights as you can, along with their postcards, ashtrays, pennants, thimbles, without end. You have no home, really, to which you can return once you have greased the wheels of semiotics. No, you simply return each night to what seems a long-term hotel room, a way station on your travels that you happen to carry on your back. All of life is beaten paths and the occasional adventure ‘off the beaten path,’ even your lovers or your children. Oh, how you squeal with delight at your adventures, not realizing that even your escapes are accounted for simply because you are part of a larger game, a tour package that embraces all of existence. No longer authentic, the world seems flimsy, and after a time you cannot even determine if anything could have ever been authentic in the first place, while the notion of ‘the first place’ itself seems ridiculous. The native customs at the shopping mall seem as bizarre as ever, yet you have a dreary sense that the teenage mating rituals and the elaborate performances of ‘consumer confidence’ are merely staged for your benefit, and while you are pleased that you are the audience, you are also depressed by the fact that you can never leave the show. No, you are the Eternal Tourist, and you will even be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Tourist. Crowds will gather at the Tomb — yet one more tourist sight — and they will weep because the bronze plaque tells them to remember that you were once like them.
I felt it was strange when Patty Hearst phoned my office that warm spring day, and I could visualize her thin, sharp nose, her angular face as she spoke. But her life had been scrutinized endlessly — she had even written her own account of her strange interlude with the SLA — so why in the world did she need a detective, an archaeologist of the living, to rummage around in her life’s Lost-and-Found?
‘Tania,’ she half-whispered into the phone. ‘I’m looking for Tania.’
‘I had no idea anything was wrong, but for six months my son was climbing out his bedroom window and wandering the streets at night because voices told him to. Finally, he confided in me that the voices started telling him to cut off his testicles, so that’s when I knew he had to go to a hospital.’
The high school physics teacher divulged her story rapidly, excitedly. Months of hospital, a year or so of medication, and the realization made by herself and her son that he was ‘just wired differently than other people,’ and the voices were gone, at least for now.
All I had asked for was a way for my son to make up work from his physics class after his stay in the mental hospital. I had not expected this torrent of anguish. She would make sure my son would pass, but her understanding had to come with a price, the sharing of her own encounter with psychotic delusion.
I had discovered that there were paranoid schizophrenics hiding under every rock.
He offers his services to those who want to recover their lives. Not a biographer who would fashion a single, continuous narrative to explain or dramatize someone’s career, he is more akin to a detective offering items, evidence of their own lives. He would find old love affairs, interview abandoned friends, discover the passing individual upon whose life my client may have made a profound impact without even realizing it (‘He changed my life!’), scour city streets for enemies happy to air old grudges (‘I could kill the bastard right now!’). Entire episodes that disappeared from a client’s memory would be built up from ruins, whole stories abandoned or forgotten he would reconstruct and offer to a client to do with it as he would, which was usually nothing more than hours of rueful contemplation over too much gin, although it could also lead to strange reunions, revived friendships, even lawsuits.
This is not an easy process. Certainly, it’s not easy to find witnesses to someone’s past, but it is often even more difficult for the client to accept the results, particularly since they often present unforeseen problems. Afterwards, many clients wish they had let sleeping dogs lie or had left so many proverbial stones unturned. The client may have thought he was merely a run-of-the-mill fool all of his life only to discover that he was a bona fide jerk, an ingrate in the eyes of companions who had long ago forgotten him or dismissed him as a creep. He always inserts a clause in each contract protecting himself from unintended consequences (and he keeps an emergency psychiatrist on retainer for referrals); even so, too often he would have to fend off irate customers who would blame the messenger rather than the message.
He is often called upon by people who are accomplished or successful (after all, you need a little money to hire a professional to recover your past), although he would do work for nominal fees for those with large hearts and little cash. Not all clients are elderly, not all vain. ‘I get my share of twentysomethings working 60 hours a week making millions inventing internet start-ups,’ he would say. ‘Despite all the bullshit about the internet, they’re disconnected — there’s no worldwide web of the past — so they come to me, the human search engine to reclaim memories of the sixth grade or of high school chums.’
He makes a point never to work for famous people or celebrities. The ruins of their lives are usually picked over pretty clean by tabloids or potential biographers; if anything, they need someone to rebury the past or at least reinvent it. Besides, ordinary lives are interesting enough, for real gems are waiting to be discovered: the insult or hurt harbored for years that the client hadn’t even been aware of inflicting, the love affair long forgotten by the client but cherished forever by the lover, the discovery of a son the client hadn’t even known he had fathered.
‘Hey,’ Danny De Vito greeted the mailman, flinging his hand out in a perfunctory wave. The actor barely noticed the postman out of the corner of his eye as he reached into his mailbox with his other hand. But then he did a double take when he glimpsed the ski mask over his face, and in a flash the cold, stubby barrel of an Uzi was jammed against his nose.
He knew it was Gary, but he wouldn’t let on for fear the disclosure would anger him. He didn’t say anything while Gary rambled on incoherently.
‘See, to get to heaven you got to go to Hell, the very bottom of Hell, and there’s Satan, and he’s there with his three mouths chewing on the world’s biggest sinners, and what you got to do is crawl into Satan’s asshole. That’s right, the way to get to Heaven is right through Satan’s asshole! Can you believe it?’
De Vito eyed the gunman with a blank stare.
‘Do you think I’m kidding or something, motherfucker?’ Gary shouted.
‘No, not at all,’ he replied as calmly as he could. ‘You’re the one sticking an Uzi in my face, so I don’t think you’re joking. Not one bit.’
Gary’s eyes, outlined by holes in his ski mask, drilled into the actor, and he stared back. There was silence.
‘Through Satan’s asshole,’ De Vito whispered, eventually.
‘Good,’ the deranged mailman spat back, ‘because I’m sure as fuck not making this up. This is Dante’s idea — Dante’s the one who went to Hell, not me!’
We had no idea what to do with the Lenny Schneider kid. He worked for us, and he was a quick learner, and he had a real keen way of selling the cartons of eggs and jars of preserves in the stand we kept on Montauk Highway outside the farm. He was friendly, affable, and the customers felt so good buying the eggs we would run out, and we would have to import more of them from New Jersey — it was our little secret, and they were fresh, but not quite Long Island farm-fresh.
He was a good kid and a good worker, but he was just a hired hand, not a part of the family. We kind of got the feeling, though, that he felt that he really was part of the family, that we were like the parents he never had — not that he was an orphan, but he did come from a broken, show-business family, Jewish too, and my wife said we probably made about as homey a place as he had ever lived in. It was a shame, but we weren’t really aiming to adopt him or anything. He was just a hired hand, like I said.
When Lenny signed up for the Navy, we wished him well, and we saw him off. All these American boys were going off to fight the Nazis and the Japs, so it was the right thing to do, our duty to wish him well. But when he started sending us letters from his ship in the Mediterranean, from Anzio and other battles, writing up some pretty rough stories, some awful grisly things he had to see — how the dead bodies of soldiers bobbed up and down in the water by his ship all chalky and bloated — well, we didn’t know exactly what the right thing to do was, so we did the next best thing: we didn’t do anything.
We never did answer his letters, and when he came back to Long Island after the war he was very warm and happy to see us, just like a kid coming home, but we kept our distance. ‘Hope to see you around,’ we said or something like that, something proper but real cool so he wouldn’t get the wrong impression, wouldn’t get some idea that we were like his mother and father, then we drove off in our truck.
He never did come back to see us, and we figured we had done the right thing by giving him the cold shoulder because it must have sunk in that he had the wrong idea about us.
We had just about forgotten about the Schneider kid, but then ten or so years later we were surprised to read in the newspaper that he had been arrested for being a dirty comic at one of those Greenwich Village beatnik nightclubs — he had changed his last name to Bruce, called himself Lenny Bruce, but we recognized his face in the photo. Like I said, we were surprised, but we also felt a lot of relief. After all, this kid turned out to be a bad apple, a real toilet mouth, and it was a good thing we didn’t let him think we were like his second mom and dad. We knew then we did the right thing. Just think of all the trouble and all the shame we would have had to deal with if we had treated him like our own son.