We receive many letters, full of confusion and frustration. Even my dear mother has called upon the telephone, desiring a "recap." Said recap follows:
Tom, the chief lab assistant for my employer, Architeuthis Architeuthis— the most wise and vicious Giant Squid— has convinced said Cephalopod that they must travel across America in order to obtain citizenship for the squid. The Giant Squid wishes to be an American like Tom, like me (I smile when I type this... to be American: what could it possibly mean? Certainly I am not American the way that Thomas is. Or the way that John Goodman is. Well... anyway...). Through an overly complicated palace-of-cards subterfuge, Tom convinced the Giant Squid that the federal government had mandated a name change for non-citizen, non-hominid resident aliens— specifically, the Giant Squid himself. Consider: Ellis Island; Catholic Confirmation ceremonies; codenames and call-signs given in the armed services; fraternity brother nicknamery; tribal naming ceremonies; Hip Hop and Rap artists; Professional Wrestlers— all cultures of merit shift and turn names. Perhaps, I now consider, that I had vastly underestimated the genius of Thomas' chicanery. A change of lifestyle requires a change of appellation (I considered, for example, changing my name Samuel when I first came to this country... but then again, my lifestyle has not, ultimately, changed overmuch). My employer, the Venerable Giant Squid, now believes himself to be officially registered in Washington DC as "Sally McBootykins"— his only recourse to seek citizenship so that his Congressional Representatives and Senators might "go to the bat" for him in his plight.
Suffice it to say Thomas had grown suicidal and desperate; the Most Venerable Sally McBootykins had nearly broken him. In his desperation he launched this ridiculous ploy, drugging the Giant Squid, tinkering with his salinity and pressure and oxygen mix, and squeezed him into a highly modified and weighty Cadillac Escalade. They are going to see America— really see America— once before they die.
And then it becomes complicated.
There is a woman who works in the legal department. Thomas . . . Thomas is prone to romantic fantasy. The woman is named Lisa Montgomery. She is very kind, and has soft yellow-sand hair, long and flowing, like that of a woman in a Vermeer painting. Tom has developed this desperate and complex ruse— at least in part, I am quite certain— in order to convince Lisa to accompany him on his journey: She believes she is the legal counsel for the actor Marlon Brando. Thomas has told her that he is Marlon Brando's chauffeur and Major Domo and that Thomas is taking Mr. Brando on a tour of the country. Something vague about "scouting the locations." Have I mentioned that Thomas knows nothing about filmmaking or the film industry? Recall now the words of the master, who tells us the heart of even the prodigy sighs for the plight of the fool's own making. Sigh.
This is all I know.
There is a poorly made and poorly placed camera somewhere on Thomas' person. It sends back streams of video at irregular intervals time. Sometimes for an hour, sometimes for a minute. There is also a microphone that appears to be mounted in the Escalade. This works even less well than the camera. I must send word to Devo, our Physical Plant manager, that we should examine our current vendor contracts. It is dangerous work, this Architeuthis "gig", and having shoddy equipment does not help.
I've received only one camera capture recently. Thomas appears to have driven deeper south after the trouble in Memphis. I've had to stay up all night to recover these streams, and they are very grainy. I am very tired. It is poor form to interject my own emotional state into this record. I know this. But these clips have been affecting me.
The first clip appears to be Savannah, Georgia. There is a sign saying as much. Savannah is very different from Ohio. The entire city appears to have been painted using a different technique, crafted from a strange material. Spanish moss hangs like damp blankets, draped across tree limbs and electric line, and along the rungs of cellular microwave-antennae towers. It is green and fuzzy and terrible. This is not vegetation so much as a reminder of what nature can do when it tries, how evolution can adapt to any circumstance. It is everywhere. On trees, buildings, cars. Invasive.
It is late, dear reader. It must be, for I am losing my objectivity. Savannah is like no place else. The restaurants that I see Tom and Lisa dining in, the food, is like none I have seen. Catfish. Collared greens. Sweet potato fried. I have read of them in books, seen them featured in movies, but never have they crossed my pallet. I suppose this is soul food. We have no soul food in Ohio. I leave it as an exercise for the reader, to determine what else we do not have if we do not have "soul food."
I swear I can smell it, through the video feed; I can smell Savannah. Tom spends little time here, driving through and gassing up and stopping for sustenance. They then drive south again. In all, they were only in Savannah for an hour or so. But it feels longer. I am still in Savannah, somehow.
My heart, it seems, cries out for the American south. I do not understand this. I have no cultural affinity with the south. I was naturalized in Toledo, Ohio and have lived nigh unto my entire life in Cincinnati. I am America. But I find myself longing for soul food, lemonade, hot summer nights on a porch, colorful neighbors, having a swimming "hole". For what am I really longing?
Forgive me, gentle readers: the night has been long and I am tired. I will not let the mask of objectivity fall again.
There is also an audio stream. I have attempted to transcribe it as faithfully as possible. Clip follows:
LISA: I didn't expect Orlando to be so...so-
SQUID: This is not empty, Why, there are pornography establishments everywhere!
LISA: Mr. Brando?
SQUID: Charmingmost monklette, I simply demand that you refer to me by my Christian name, Marlin. I am Marlin Brando. Famous Hollywoodland dramaturge and devourer of things.
THOMAS: This is pretty depressing. All the storefronts. There's no one here.
SQUID: Tom, my closest friend and advisor, you are neglecting to observe the veritable armies of hobos, winos and drugos that cluster on these street corners. And the prostitutes! In such a place as this— why, I wager a surface mammal could drown in a veritable see of bepoxed and meretricious genitals!
LISA: This reminds me of where my Dad lives, in Chicago.
SQUID: Is your father also a hobo? I extend sympathies to you then, and to Pater Montgomery for it is culturally a shameful thing to be without home. Tom, soon, will be without home.
THOMAS: What are you—
After that there is nothing, save for the thin, watery shadows of the Squid's terrible, booming laughter, sliding through the static like the shadows of the Leviathan, arising swiftly from the Deep.
I am not done.
It is late.
The south. It has a heat.
I grew up in Toledo, then a time in Parma, then here in Cincinnati. But I was not always here. My mother, she still speaks the old tongue around the house, and of her home and her brothers and her mother and her grandmother and of the stars over the hills inland in Vietnam near the border with Thailand. I was very small. But I remember. Now, looking at these images, I can see it in my mind's window. And I can feel it.
The heat was like a sweaty hug. All around the sinuses and the ears.
I remember camphor trees. I remember the beautiful grain of the calamander tree! I remember the white-headed langur as it leapt from tree to tree outside the room where I slept on my mother's slick breast.
I remember the heat. The wet heat.
I had not remembered that until right now.
Ohio is a dusty country. Broad in the belly like a squatting monk in the road. But I remember the slender, lithe limestone contours of my home.
I am starting to remember.
It is time that I slept.
I am sure that I will regret having written this down.
Perhaps I will call my mother back.
Good night, America.
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