|[Editors Note: You have landed amidst the wreckage of the American Dream. It's a novel called Big American. |
How did this start?The squid is on the road, people. Keep up. Want to catch up with past chapters? Check out the Archive.
Want to know what happens next? Read on!]
Dear Giant squid:
You despise humans and fear whales. So which do you hate most?
To clarify, would you describe yourself as pro-Moby, or pro-Ahab? And are you pro-Bono? If so, do you prefer him with reefer post-rehab, or pre- post-Pop prefab?
Do you give free refills?
Have you considered the problem of Evil Knievel?
Are you the little green globule in a carpenter's level?
Do you have an infotainment lawyer?
I happen to know several.
My Dear "Ishmael":
Many tidal cycles have rolled across the earth and her embracing oceans since I was fully in control of my situation. But now, as I stalk through the southern Louisianan landscape upon the rigid claw-stilts of my new titanium skeleton, I feel in this self-contained water which I flush occasionally in the Mexican Gulf a new clarity of mind and purpose.
Tom is supine in one of the medico-monkeyhouses, his very spirit leeched away.
The water in the CAD-a-lactic is fetid and stultifying. The pressure and salts balanced to keep me— ME!— fettered and docile.
But now, I am free of that for the moment, and I have your question held in my powerful mind.
These adventures . . . nay, these dream-smears, have spiraled beyond my ability to comprehend. Someone, I think, has been angling for advantage. And advantage is a thing I do not release easily. Even here in the Bayou, as I slink through the muck, spiking my way up the sides of domed hillocks and slipping effortlessly back down alongside the alligators and the Cajun children swimming in the night, I feel the presence of eyes watching and ears listening. I feel the watchful glare of the satellites I see far overhead, spinning across the sky. At times like this, I miss my glass and concrete fortress high above Cincinnati. I miss the effortless wash of data. If I were in my chamber, fiber optic cables plugged into the cephalo of my pod those satellites would be mine to contort, to send careering through the night sky.
And I do not wonder if your question is not an altogether stupid one.
I knew Ahab once. We shared a great many amusements playing at ten bone on the desert islands of the South Pacific. I ate his sister, you know. It was a favor to him. But this is altogether beside the point.
On the streets of the city deep in the night, when only drunks and madmen can see me, I click and clack down the cobblestones and concrete because I am alone. Sometimes I lose my balance and I drive down a spiked leg through the roof of a car, and occasionally there are lovers who now lie forever entangled, speared together and intermixed. It makes me sad to see them so happy, each to the other's blood and entrails woven by the rhapsodic misplacement of a metal limb. And while I perpetually fall forward through the city, I find myself wondering how any of this came to be.
Inside of Tom's room, as he convalesce, deaf as he is dumb, I can see the Lisa-ape holding his hand, and the burnt ape, so black, standing in the corner as though he were a shadow. I can see them, even at a distance, with my optically perfect eye.
So it had been with Ahab when he had lost that cursed leg. I watched from the waterfront through the oily glass of the sawbone´s hovel. There too had been a lady, the sister, who held his hand tight while the sawbone cut and Ahab screamed.
Tom shuddered in weeping as the black man spoke, and Lisa only could grip at his pink paw, squeezing their flesh tight together. And yet they could not achieve the oneness that I had so carelessly bestowed on strangers earlier in my stumbling.
Ahab had said to me, "No one should see another's pain so clearly as that." And that was when he asked me to eat his sister. And I agreed. And I wonder who shall be eaten tonight, for the sake of all the sin. Not I.
Tom has duped me. He has absconded with my body while my mind was wallowing in confusion. He and Lisa are playing at some game that I cannot yet ascertain. And someone else plays at a different game with them. And there might even be more. But, like Ahab, his madness is more pitiable then not.
Your question is insincere and ridiculous. If I were once again perched high atop Cincinnati I would send the pinching and biting muck to show you your error. I am the Lord Architeuthis once more, my faculties restored and my might terrible to behold. Tom will learn this soon.
I Shutteringly Remain,
Salutations, America. Sang now speaks to you, again, your Ishmael on this epic. Our samplings from Thomas' self-surveillance are scant, but fascinating, not unlike the tattered, cryptic shreds of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
STILL IMAGE: The great, grinning, dreadlocked, stunning and terrifying visage of the African-American man— the African-American man that struck Thomas deaf in the streets of New Orleans, the African-American man that helped Thomas up after he was ejected from the terrifying zombie whore house. The man that, in but a moment, we come to know and love as "Dr. Shakespeare."
Thomas' disconsolate wails wend through the discussion.STILL IMAGE: In the background , fuzzily floating beyond the lenses depth-of-field is the face of old Doc Shakespeare. His face is out of blurred largely owing to the fact that the len's auto-focus has chosen to lock in on his speeding fist, which looms large in the foreground.
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "If he'd just quit his bitchin', I'd fix his shit gooood!
LISA: "Tom! Tom! This man—"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Doctor, I doctor— fixin' shit up."
LISA: "— says he can fix your hearing— look, I'm writing. Read."
Thomas' wails abruptly cut off, and he begins to shout:
THOMAS: "SCREW THAT! THAT'S THE SAME FUCKER THAT—"
LISA: "But, Tom, he also found you—"
THOMAS: "GET THAT CRAZY FUCK AWAY FROM ME—"
LISA: "— found you when you wandered off and—"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Aw, fuck this shit! Git the hell out my way!"
Resounding slap, and then silence.
THOMAS: "Holy good fuck, I can hear!"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Aright. You be hearin' all sortsa kr-AY-zay shit, sho nuf! Thank the good doctor."
THOMAS: "Holy good Christ— I can't thank you enough, Doctor . . ."
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "All the fine shorties call me Doc Shakespeare— 'count I'm that fucking smoooth, hea!"
THOMAS: "Hey, your accent changed— you were like a Rasta before."
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Perhaps this fine female might wanna be taking her shit down the hall for a bit— get a soda. We fellas needs to talk some."
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Daymn! Here a nickel, bitch. Get yo' shit out the room!"door slamming
THOMAS: "What gives, here, bub. Right before you slapped me in the head and fucked up my ears, you were Amos J. Andy the shuffling, smiling Rasta. Now you're Superfly. What the hell's going on?"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Oh, do shut up."
THOMAS: (astonished) "You sound exactly like Thursten Howell III."
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "There's not a way to tell you anything, is there? You talk and talk and talk, you whine and grouse . . . you were better when you were deaf. Why should you hear, if you never even listen?"
THOMAS: "Listen! LISTEN! Listen to . . . OK. What? What do you want me to listen to?"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "It will serve you well, dear boy, too think more and worry less. Where's the Squid, Tom?"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Yes, Tom. Maybe you can fool your little girlfriend with Tales of Brando, but the rest of us aren't nearly so daft. Where is he?"
THOMAS: " . . . "
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Don't act so surprised; we all have our terrible secrets. Your terrible secret is that your rich actor friend is really a Giant Squid."
THOMAS: "I . . ."
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Would you like to know Ms. Montgomery's terrible secret, Tom. It is indeed terrible— or, at least, naughty."
THOMAS: "I . . ."
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "And where are you, Tom? Right now? Where are you?"
THOMAS: "A hospital . . . ?"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Are you? How do you know? And where were you last night? Do you think about anything that passes before you? Should I have struck you blind, as well as deaf? Why should you see if you never bother to look?"
THOMAS: " . . . "
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Golly, suh, you sho be quiets now. Is you be feelin' argiht, suh? No smart answers, Tom? No screamed obscenities, no petulant complaints, no vast and vapid apologia? This is a surprise. You might be a man yet. Let me give you a warning— and this comes, let me tell you, both on behalf of, and in direct defiance of, my associates . . . and their loyalties. My advice is two-fold: Limit your outside communications— especially over insecure channels— and do your best to always be in major US cities during the full and new moon. Your traveling companion is quite fetching, so I'll toss in a free tip: do bend every effort to avoid flying in early September, and do your best to stay West of the Adirondacks until late November."
THOMAS: "What the hell does—"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "Trust me, dearest. Things will be ever so much easier for us all if you—"
THOMAS: "Wait a second. I know you . . . "
DR. SHAKESPEARE: "You must be mistaken, friend; it's quite impossible. Apart from the ear slap yesterday morn', we've never met."
THOMAS: (astonished, even more than before) "I do know you! Holy shit! You're Ted Lange. You played the bartender . . . Isaac Washington! Isaac Fucking Washington! You played Isaac Fucking Washington on Love Boat!"
DR. SHAKESPEARE: (tsks under his breath) "Daymn, Tom-boy, I really wish you hadn't said that. You shouldn't have oughta said that."
We hear the single, simultaneous sound of a hardpacked fist crushing Thomas' tender nose, and the delicate snap of the bridges of his digital-camera-concealing eye-glasses. This, at least, serves to explain why I received no further visual info until Thomas and Lisa reached California.
This did come through, however. There was the sound of rummaging, as though many papers were being shuffled through, bags being open, and objects being moved (perhaps stolen). And underneath all of that, and the noise of the hospital living and breathing through the day, there was this from Doc Shakespeare:
"Men of all sorts take a pride to gird at me.
The brain of this foolish-compounded clay, man, is not
able to invent any thing that intends to laughter more
than I invent or is invented on me: I am not only witty
in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men."
And then more shuffling. And then silence for a while. Only the sound of orderlies wandering through the halls, and of Thomas moaning.
Sleep Well, America,
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