The Kid was trying to emerge out of static but found only fuzz, buzz, crackle, whir. No matter how he twisted and leaned, the shifty pirate radio station located somewhere near Ukiah that played all night music from the African diaspora eluded his fingers on the shitty radio dial in the shitty sedan from Rent-A-Wreck. It was Spring amid the rocky terrain of Northern California where the only two seasons that mattered were wet and dry, and the slick road lurched through the green hills and gulches of Mendocino. Was it light rain, low clouds, a heavy mist, a patch of fog? The rotation of a minor planet neglected to flex and accommodate changing tastes under a cold, opaque sky. But, how else is a single soul supposed to get properly attuned to a multiverse in motion without jazz after midnight? Where there is no beginning and no end, as there is, awareness in the course of meandering becomes vital to humdrum health and welfare. Even if he was trying foolishly harder than bleary eyes allowed to get back to an empty bed still no less than four hours away. It was his fault the bed would be empty, but still. Contradictions abound despite frail compensations. Unless it was gravity that was once again dropping the ball. Either way, among the many ways to go, it became more than prudent to stay on his side of the flitting white line down the middle. The trunk of the shitty sedan was amply crammed with garbage bags filled with aromatic cannabis sativa to provide extra incentive. It should have been easy to do the right thing. Yeah, right.
Then, amid the blizzard of aural snow, he clearly heard the announcement from colonial Washington
that their endless war in Viet Nam had ended for real, no bullshit this time. The ironic news was recited with requisite bitterness by the on-air deejay, a scathed veteran, who liberally sprinkled John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf into his mix alongside Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits. Wake up Mendocino County. Read all about it. The emperor after taking a deep dive into chill waters has proven once again to be able to whip it out and show off that small dick to all comers. More like the olds than news, thought The Kid. Next, they’ll claim it was the cold that caused the dick to shrivel, all the dicks. Bite me, he spit.
Tribute paid to the grand wazoo, he mused, never ends. The Man wants your back torqued like a rusty Slinky falling down rickety stairs and those jerky knees scabbed over and gnarled from all the kneeling. But I ain’t marching anymore.
He was too busy assessing the cost of another oven installed in his cramped storefront on Cortland Ave. and how much leafy weed to simmer for how many hours in what relationship to peanut oil for piquant cookies with cinnamon and cardamom. But why stop there? Cardamom and turmeric in banana cupcakes would be something to live for. If that’s not all about balance, what is? Their war was never his war. His war was never meant to end. No more than his desire to lean back and hear Coltrane blow. But, rent was going up on Cortland Ave. Why not move to a larger warehouse on Bayshore Boulevard and sell wholesale exclusively? Who needs the headache of heavy foot traffic? Woz was ordering ten dozen cupcakes for The Homebrew Computing Club each week. The dweebs and geeks at Atari consumed that many moist muffins per day. The word of mouth from the chubby cheeks of Woz was pure gold, straight, no chaser. And not only the moist muffins, but the nutty granola was becoming popular in health food stores in Berkeley, Mill Valley, and Santa Cruz. The Kid was so busy he bought one of those long telephone cords that allowed him to talk while mixing dough on the other side of the room . That was how be became turned around with creamed corn caught between his sticky vanilla fingers the first time he heard from Rock Scully. Plus he had a sick desire to scratch a floury itch on his nose. What a no-no.
Rock Sully asked, “Do you know who this is?”
The Kid explained, “Not yet. It’s your job to tell me.”
“What if I tell you I’m just playing in the band?”
“Do you know you’ve called a bakery?”
“I’m the one who called, didn’t I?”
“A very busy bakery.”
“That’s why I’m calling.”
“This will only be a start if we end up getting somewhere.”
“This is Rock Scully.”
“I like the name, Rock.”
“You still don’t know.”
“You still haven’t told me.”
How was The Kid supposed to know that Rock Scully, the manager of the Grateful Dead, was a big fan of cannabis indica in his cheesy cornbread with jalapenos after a show? Plus, he ordered a large assortment of cookies to last for the duration of a European tour, eleven countries in twenty-one days. And moist muffins for the band and entourage, too. Bob Weir as it turned out was nutty for the granola. Jerry enjoyed carrot cake by the slab.
Plus, Rock Scully backed up his talk with proof in the form of a certified check that walked the walk.
Why else, pondered The Kid, would I be traveling in Mendocino after midnight? Not even the moon has the courtesy to shine. Plus, finessing cardamom is always tricky.
A clue would only occur to him later, after it was too late, and not for the first time, when the proverbial final anti-social straw leading to collapse struck like lightning because material circumstances were past due for a screwing. Gripping a moist wheel with such a loose moral structure during meandering in any evolving multiverse is bound to suck on a wet and winding road. All it takes is one damnable bump to bruise, violate, penetrate, and upset the old apple cart. Everybody knows that. You can’t trust a decent proverb anymore to deliver the goods.
The Kid declared, emphatically, “Fuck me.”
In straying from the straight and narrow, he found all four unaligned headlights fixated on the shoulder of a rocky patch, victimized by a crushed bottle in a paper bag. The multiversal nature of consciousness is such that it only takes a teeny bit of it to trigger an explosive megaton or two of damage. A formerly serviceable rear tire was punctured. He braked to a floppy stop in rimed mud under a drippy manzanita tree. There was justice, no peace.
The Kid added, “Fuck you, too.”
Because The Kid had proved sufficiently prescient, however, to pay top daily dollar for his 1969 Buick Special Deluxe 4-Door Sedan with optional faux gold and chrome, though faded, he discovered a shitty jack where it certifiably belonged, also in the rear. And a shitty spare tire to boot. The path ahead was clearly marked by crumbs. The mud that was going to stay stuck to him no matter what provided the ideal stage for his performance. Best to plunge knee deep without scruples in order to begin. Not even the shitty war in Viet Nam that ruined everything got any deeper than that.
And the big fool said, “Push on.”
As it might be expected, results under less than ideal conditions tend to suck hard. He was sodden, shriveled, shivering, bleeding by the time the last lug nut claimed the last skin on a bare knuckle. Right from the bruising start it was never going to be a fair fight. He kicked dirt and screeched and growled and caused an unholy ruckus. Not even the non-stop static spewing from the speakers could compete. Bare knuckle brawls are never fair to a loser. It only looks that way. That was not shit on the seat of his pants. It only looked that way. It made no sense to allow facts to soil a lofty view.
Still undefeated in his own mind, he snapped, “Outa my fucking way.”
He believed he had nearly finished reversing the direction of his spiritual jacking, even if only on the obtuse material plane, when he heard the eight suspicious cylinders of a domesticated Chevy rounding a curve. It sounded like a full load of gravel dropping into the pit of a parched throat. Only a clunker of a cop car resounded with menace like that.
The Kid glimpsed the flashing lights in plenty of time to do something, as if there was something better than nothing to do. Instead, he squeezed tight like an icicle and dripped. The same sad psychodrama continued to play out with the same pair of shaved legs sported by a fabled soap opera star, one of those underhanded vixens who steal the show. Meanwhile, the lingering smell wafting from the trunk posed a metaphysical dilemma. No mere huffing and puffing was going to rise up and blow away a spiraling tornado. The Kid conjured streaks of red and blue and yellow and green to dwell upon. Anything but the ashen gray of iron bars.
He reiterated, “Fuck me.”
Who was it who proved that base fear and stupidity roil the material plane and tend to ruin the two top dimensions with lids? Oh yeah, it was Einstein. Roil is a law of nature. It figures, as The Kid recalled. I’m fucked.
But, did he dwell some more on the profoundly negative? Why not? What else was he equipped to do while uncontrollably shivering? Until, that is, a glimmer of hope appeared just a few feet away. He discovered he was not alone in suffering. It is often comforting to share misery with mixed company. A fuzzy apparition in black and white appeared in the refracted light. Unless that aura was a halo. An irate skunk reared up higher than the average dancing bear to register a complaint. Was that a final straw of her own she was grasping? Mama skunks do get that way around intruders. What mama wants to put up with a lot of loud noise from a troublemaker that awakens fussy babies? Mamas need their rest, too.
A skunk is accustomed to having its own way. No sly fox will mess with a skunk. No wily coyote, cougar, or big buck. Not even a dancing bear. Any everyday ordinary skunk is able to saturate a moving bulls-eye out of either of two equal assholes without blinking. No biggie. Just aim and let loose. No motion wasted. After forty million years of practice, it’s hard to miss.
But, did The Kid possess the wisdom learned by his more experienced betters? Fuck, no.
As a member of a superior species known to be great self appointed thinkers he acknowledged no betters. So he thought it over in a flash. He and his impulsive kind had been around for a whole hundred thousand years. Did a whole shit load of heavy thinking right from the start. He believed what he did next was bound to be for the best. Ain’t no stopping a hefty human brain in action. This was war. He stood tall and kicked mud in the face of a skunk.
If that’s not a learning experience, what could it be?
And then, when what it is turned sour, and fast, and he began to suffer like an infidel for his ungodly beliefs, because who deserved it more, he started to cry. He knew for sure he was eternally damned. That shit that stinks also burns. It leaves a marked, rancid trail. He tried to abandon the clothes on his back. He would need to cut off all of his long hair. A hole for burying would come in handy. He would need to grow new and improved skin. Maybe a heart and lungs. He puked on his pants and dropped trou and stepped away from his tighty whities. Gross.
Which was the initial image witnessed by the sharp eyes of Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff Rod McDonald as he pulled up to the scene. It appeared at first to be no more than a filthy hippie dancing naked in mud, probably another lunatic on LSD. Hardly worth the paperwork. Rod McDonald patrolled a regular route from Willits to the Sonoma County line at 2 AM most mornings. But it was not a regular night for Rod McDonald. He was born in Boonville and had lived in Mendocino County for all of his twenty seven years. Except for one gung-ho year in Viet Nam. The words still made him gag. He did not need to be reminded. He had no problem with working the late night shift. He did not go out of his way looking for trouble but he knew what to do when he found it.
But when he opened his door, he gagged again. Uh-uh, he decided. Not me, not tonight. This is one filthy hippie who is on his own.
Rod McDonald left the scene, no crime.
Chalk up another victory for Ho Chi Minh. And The Kid.
Maybe he won’t turn out to be as dumb as he looks after all.