Thursday, December 13, 2007
The Living And The Dead, The Harmful From The Nourishing
Here's the last part!
When we got back to Texas, I went to a Bible study with Stacey that night. Austin was going to a bar to watch the Dallas Stars play. I asked him which bar he was going to so we could hook up later. Sadly, the bar in question was Hooters to which I replied, "I've had enough of other women's boobs for a while," still pissed off about not getting a Valentine's Day present. On our way to the class, Stacey hit me over the head with the Good Book, telling me that I deserved better.
"Jackson asked me out for tonight," Stacey says. Jackson is the sports editor in her office. I met him once, a middle-aged guy without kids. He's left food on her desk for six months, snacks like animal crackers. Stacey enjoys these treats, but hasn't pushed for more. Unlike me, the more Stacey likes someone, the more reluctant she is to date him.
"And?" I ask.
"I haven't answered yet. He e-mailed me, and asked me if I wanted to see Last Picture Show."
"That's your favorite. Like in his house? Like alone for the evening?"
"I'm assuming. Unless you know of a theater that shows movie that are almost thirty years old." She's trying hard to be cool about this whole thing, but her face erupts into a smile.
I try to remember how long it's been since I was excited about a night with someone.
Then I sit and watch Stacey pick at her food as if it might hurt her and am reminded that I have to feed Homey soon. I wonder why the snake won't eat dead food. Perhaps because it cannot answer the question why it, the food, died. I also suspect that it only senses the food when it, the food, moves since snakes don't see the way we do. And therein lies the question -- how do you distinguish between the living and the dead, the harmful from the nourishing?
Riding through the decommissioned army base in town, I wipe sweat off my forehead and watch a tarantula run across the street. My mother used to collect them and freeze them and decorate the house with them in clear-cast molds. Stacey navigates the roads, trying to find her last interview for the day. She's supposed to talk to a man who needs a liver transplant. I'm along for the ride, hanging my arm outside her car window, feeling it burn. We pass an old tower that I used to go to with my first boyfriend to make out on the weekends. The ground is rumored to be littered with land mines, which only added to the adventure.
The liver man lives next to the petting zoo where I spent one junior high field trip. I remember the guide telling us that if we put our fingers out, the calves would suck on them. When everyone had their fingers in the calves' mouths, one of the boys that worked at the petting zoo said, "They'll suck on anything" in a dreamy voice. Everyone tore their fingers away.
"You going to wait out here?" Stacey asks.
"Yeah. I'm going to circle ads and maybe we can go by one of the houses that allows pets." I roll down all the windows, lean back the seat, and start to look at one of Stacey's papers.
Stacey glances back one last time before collecting her notebook and camera. "You sure you're up for the heat?"
"I'm fine," I say, the same thing I said the first time I had sex with Austin on a large rock at Possum Kingdom Lake. Something felt wrong, but I didn't see until the next day that I'd been stung by dozens of little ants all over my back. By the middle of the day, I had a fever and chills. The bites left scars, distant constellations that I can see only when someone else holds up a mirror.
After a few hours of looking at places I don't want to live, Stacey drops me off at home. I get my mail, hoping for the check from my brother. Just when I was imagining how good it would feel to pay off all my bills, Claudine and her damn goats had to come screw up my life. Now I have to piss some of that money away on security deposits, pet deposits, and hook-up fees. The check from my brother is nowhere to be seen, but I find an envelope addressed to someone who used to live here marked child support information enclosed. A mailer stamped sexually explicit material inside is addressed to Austin care of me. He gets more and more of these packages in the mail, making me wonder what I'm doing wrong. The one thing that comes to mind is that he has only one kidney which makes him kind of a lightweight where drinking is concerned and sometimes after four or five beers he can't get it up. This experience proves traumatic for both of us because he feels like an asshole, and I feel like an asshole because I can't do anything to make him understand that I don't really care. I toss the box aside without opening it, but I'm ashamed to admit that I've given in to the temptation to look before, shocked only by the volume of breasts a man can see without getting bored.
The only other letter is from my gynecology clinic. I think back to my pap smear a few weeks ago. In the waiting room, I had a direct view of a retarded teenage boy sprawled on the only couch. He kept his hand down his pants and complained about the heat to his grandmother who read the paper and grunted. Now I'm wondering if there's something my insurance wouldn't pay, one more person dunning me for money. But it's a letter telling me that I have chlamydia and that I need to go back to the clinic and get the scrip for the drugs to treat it before it becomes something serious. I think about all the meanings serious can have, good and bad, before I set the letter aside in a pile with all my other outstanding debts, bills that keep coming. I'm not sure how I'm going to pay.
After a Dr. Pepper, I manage to get Homey into the small carrying cage in which he made his first journey to my house. I do this by coaxing him with a stick. I fear him, and I will not feed him. The phone rings as I close the door of the cage. Austin? Does he somehow sense what I'm doing? I let the machine pick up.
"Hey, it's me. You're right. I've decided to give love a chance," Stacey says. "I called to ask if I could borrow your necklace. I mean, what the hell. Call me if you get this in time."
Stacey sounds young and happy. I think that she deserves somebody nice, but I also want to tell her be careful. I put Homey in the passenger seat of my car and pray that the rattlesnake farm is open. The hours are erratic at best. That first and only time I was there, I clutched at my mother as we walked in the door. In the corner, a rattlesnake rattled and scared me and I grabbed onto my mother's shoulders, a woman five inches shorter than I am, a woman whose entire body had been decimated by cancer. It breaks me now to think about it.
My mother and I came to the farm because she was looking for a rattlesnake in clear-cast for a birthday gift for one of her nurses. The owner, a big old boy named Garland, told her that he didn't get too many of those anymore because a lot of people who used to do that had cancer from the acetone used to make the molds. There are so many terrible things that nobody tells you about. And I stood there thinking, the thing she loved is killing her and it's too late to go back and be careful.
"How much will you give me for this?" I ask Garland when I arrive, Homey in tow. Garland looks exactly the way I remember him, except he wears a sterling silver rattle around his neck. Homey and I barely made it through the door before the end of the day, but we're here and I'm going to make a deal.
"He's a pretty thing. You might be able to get more for him at one of the pet shops in Ft. Worth."
The thought of riding with Homey all the way to Ft. Worth is more than I can stand. "I want him gone now."
"Let me see what I can do," he says. He reaches down and picks up Homey's cage to get a closer look. I lean toward the cage, while Garland touches him through the wire bars.
"I can give you a hundred. Will that be enough?"
It's true that I'm clutching the handle of Homey's cage so tight that my hand hurts, but I let that son of a bitch go.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Spector is a good guy, but he's a nut. Ha, ha, ha! You know, I love him, but he's unpredictable. He's OK as long as he don't drink." Ike Turner
Drinking music suggestion: Riding High Jerry Jeff Walker
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! RIP to Ike Turner!