Focusing on non-blog writing projects has forced me to place this blog on simmer—at least for the time being—but I can’t deny that the Blog-Post Assassin did good work when he whacked my blog post titled “Bigger Brother.” It’s dead. It’s in a hole a couple miles outside Vegas. And so I think I’d better start paying off Blog-Post Assassin before he comes after me and attacks my “About Derek” page or something. Plus, I may wish to use him again soon; there are more rats in my archives and they might need to have their buttons pushed.
It is I Who Lick the Garbage (Crazy Moths II)
When Joe Jr. woke he was upside-down in the space behind the front seat of the car. There were some yellow map books in his face and as he fidgeted they scratched and ground sand into his cheek. A candy wrapper crinkled inside his left ear. Somewhere above him in the world of the upside down car: a cracking, a shallow plastic cracking; something thudded madly into plastic to break it again and again. Through his cheeks and ears he felt the motor mumbling through the floor. The wheels wobbled side-to-side like they didn’t have orders.
He thought We’re drifting, I feel it. Something’s wrong. The car’s leather stuff I can smell, and I can smell the fuzz of the seat covers above me, but there’s another smell too and it doesn’t belong. It smells like how meatloaf looks.
Kershmump! The front wheels of the car found something big in the street and hopped over it and Joe Jr. became weightless, he floated in the air like Russians, and when the car pounded back to the road he landed with his butt in the seat where he was supposed to be in the first place. He imagined it was a body they’d just run over, a dead body in the road. He didn’t see it but that’s what he thought it was.
Joe Jr. saw his dad in the front seat where he was slouched, his head hanging low. He kept pistoning the dashboard with his knee—that was the plastic noise. He smashed it again and again without even really looking at what he was doing. There was a crack forming right there by the radio and you could see inside. He kneed it again. It wasn’t like he was mad, it was more like he was too lazy to stop himself from kneeing it.
Knee knee knee in the plastic again and then you could almost see inside it. He kneed it and a bundle of wires came out like snot and then went right back in when he kneed the hole again. Joe Jr. thought about how baby birds push their way out of the eggs, how they keep being stubborn about it and they don’t stop until they’re out even though they don’t know they’re a bird in the first place. His dad kneed the hole again.
“It is I who lick the garbage,” his dad said right into his own lap as if there was a tape recorder there. He spoke all soft and annunciated for the non-tape recorder. He kicked the dashboard again and this time he broke clean through. Inside Joe Jr. saw shiny silver metal and wires. They rattled and moved like the silver insects you find under rocks.
“Dad, did you crap?” Because that was the smell that didn’t belong in the car. A cloudy smell like when his dad did business in the bathroom upstairs. Like when afterwards he would walk past Joe Jr. casually and then start giggling and shove him into the bathroom and hold the door shut so he couldn’t get out. Joe’d hold his breath in there but somehow that didn’t help because he smelled it through his mouth. “That’s how it smells on Mars,” his dad said one time. “That’s why no people go there.” Joe Jr. didn’t know what he was talking about and still didn’t. But it was the same smell in the car—Mars.
Mars had no business in a car.
“It is I who lick the garbage,” his father said again, and that’s when Joe Jr. knew his dad’s mind was gone and that they got him. Scrambled him. They tantalized him with how they looked and with their colors. Rude colors, his dad would say. Very rude.
Past dad, past the windshield he saw they were about to jump another curb soon and then they’d be heading directly into Veteran’s Park. That’s where he used to draw penis animals in the sand and then scrape them away before anyone saw.
He saw the heavy wood play structure with the green-painted metal railings. They were going to crash into it in maybe a minute and he wondered if it would stop them or would they break through it. He imagined a bunch of pinwheeling kids jumping off the top of the railings as the car bulldozed through the structure. These images flailing about in his head, he squinted his eyes to look for kids on the structure—no kids, the park was empty. Then all of a sudden he screamthought: Oh wait look down look down you Stupid! He pulled away from looking out the window and just looked at his lap like he was supposed to.
“Don’t look up or there they’ll be,” he said to remind himself the rules. But then he felt a breeze tickle the side of his neck and he looked up at the window anyway. It was open a crack! He hurried and grabbed the handle and swung it around and around super fast until the window shrieked tight with pressure. This took all his strength but he was proud of how fast he did it. He was pretty sure an adult couldn’t do it as fast as he just did it. He thought I’m stronger than normal.
ScreeThump! The car hit the curb and bounced down soft onto the grass where the brown-painted wood fence was, but their course would take them right past it. They were on a clean run for the play structure. Nothing between to stop them. Joe Jr. felt like he was on a boat heading for the dock with no boat-brakes.
Then, while he stared at his knee, he remembered his brother finally. Without turning his head he spidered his hand across the seat until it found his brother’s limp hand and he squeezed it hard for a while until he definitely felt a pulse. Then tears started to collect like a tea-bag behind the top of his nose because he knew then it was just him and him. He was unconscious but he was alive. Joe Jr.’s head felt like a coffeecup of mucus and if he moved or tilted at all it would start spilling nasty.
“We’re gonna be okay but they got dad,” he said, and he found it hard to get the words out. He wanted to cry now. He kept looking at his knee and said, “He’s like mom.”
Then the car dropped down into the sand that was really like the big front yard of the play structure. The tires hissed and graveled through the sand beneath him, treading along. To Joe Jr. the tires sounded like the blue and red Slushy machines at the store.
“Nudey? Nudey nudey? Nudey take a crap?” said his father into the tape recorder that wasn’t there. He punched through the knee-hole in the dashboard and his whole fist went in but it wouldn’t come back out right away. When it did there was blood and there was blood left in the hole in the plastic too.
Joe Jr. started to cry and watched the tears fall down onto his zebra shorts his grandma made him. He watched little raindrop dimples make the zebra shorts dark, and he felt the warm dots on his skin underneath. Very far and alone, that’s how he felt now—very far from a place where he didn’t have to be scared. If his brother were awake they could talk about something and that would be better than just him being here listening to his father. It would help a little to talk, but he was still asleep. Joe Jr. squeezed with his spider hand—yes, still asleep. Then he thought maybe it would be enough just to look at his chubby sleeping face. Just seeing his face would be better than looking at own his knee while he was crying while his dad punched the hole and hurt his hand more.
“Don’t look up or there they’ll be,” Joe Jr. warned himself but he didn’t listen. He looked up from his knee and looked at his brother there in the seat next to him.
But there was a crazy moth right on his brother’s eyelid just sitting there. It was moving its wings slow, back and forth, like it was sleeping and dreaming of flying.
Joe Jr.’s eyes became oval like plastic doll eyes and his world screamed upwards like a mad elevator and he squealed all the air from his lungs and the reason from his brain. He made sure to keep looking at his sleeping brother, keep looking keep looking until he no longer had an idea what a brother was.