Solitary once again, malaised, I sucked a moldy hambone and trained my mind on finding a clue that Noon might have left me, a thread that led to her: a tobacco stain shaped like an arrow, or stones she'd arranged with her prehensile toes into meaningful mosaics. Time and again I glimpsed some glittery trinket and rushed headlong toward it, but found only a shitpile pit, or a pile of pyrite.
My ratio of hits to misses discouraged. I was in such a state, foiled, feeling an oldie, no wonder, no star. Failed, I felt a fool, not a king but a kinglet, uncrowned and sporting a shiner. I was just a boy, not a legend. I'd already crested. I wasn't James Bond, nor would I ever be. Some, like the Baron of Bullion and Nana Rouen, could command real power; they could pick up the horn and make everyone jump.
But me, my handshake was weak. My beard was not the mark of a pensive man, but a pent-up Vietnam vet, homeless and spent -- and others could see that. They knew I was easy to hoodwink. They'd invite me to sit on a cracker barrel, but at the last minute swap it out with a barrel cactus, snickering as the needles dug into my backside. Then they'd boot me out of their clubs if I tried to join them.
The backs of my calves itched; my knees were filled with algae. Not having eaten for forty-eight hours, my body complained: the glucose levels in my thighs and elsewhere had gone out of whack. I was hyper-tense. My spleen ached, and my kidney didn't feel all that excellent, either. I waddled in such a fashion to leave my cock wattled.
The fix was in: I was coming down with a fever. I'd fallen prey to some kind of harsh syndrome. First, I wouldn't be able to pee, and then I'd fall into a pothole. Then my hair would fall out and shrivel. Thoughts fled me, too; I tried to remember my darling Noon's middle name -- Heather? Emma? Hodgkin? Astria? Already my memory of her face was fading; I could no longer picture her eyes, or her maiden hair's color, or the look of her cute little bush, or the size of her tits.
Separate now, we'd celebrate no anniversary, not paper nor anything better; we'd been married for all of one day, and I'd already lost her. Blind as a mole, anything but eagle-eyed, I'd tumble down a crevasse before I found her. Brideless, lacking prospects, I'd take the next high bridge that I came to. I'd never retrieve her. Future moments of pleasure were gone, snap, like that. I'd have no one to call me honey-delicious or say hello in the morning, no one to tell me, "Hey you, today you have a nice glow about you."
At this rate, I was bound to stray onto a private compound, my trespass offending a Dutch dwarf prospector, a drug addict who'd think I was after his pot of mushrooms. He'd chain me up and make me choke down thistles, and roll me around on weeds and vines grown hard as iron, giving me compound fractures, then leave me out in the rain where, by and by, I'd grow moldy.
If only we'd eloped and not gone with the others -- then Noon and I could have been in Acapulco, half-undressed on the gold coast, rather than lost in this place that pulled couples apart, mean, and kept men on pins and needles. My mission was hopeless, like poking about with a stick for a needle dropped into a smokestack, or trying to solve the Dirac Equation when not named Richard Phillips Feynman.
I felt like a rube in the factory's employ, replaced by a complex machine he could never understand; I felt like a hamster stuck rushing round on a wheel, the ground sold out from under him; I felt like a trout hooked and pulled out of its home, then stuck in a shallow cup, or a goldfish overfed and grown too big for its bowl, a freak it cost a nickel to take a look at, unable to get away or even move. I felt at last like a being beneath even these things -- a bug, some mutant variation on the beetle, beaten with a hammer until my shell came loose and broke up in a powder, a dust that could have been used as a flour had a fungus not gotten hooks in it.
The buttons dropped from my cape, my cap from my head. I lost also my umbrella, and my few yards of parachute silk, and the life jacket Kiao-Liang had given to Noon and me as a wedding present, leaving me nothing to lie in. I had nothing left in reserve: no shares of stock, no rice, no roses, no burgers, no Calla albums. No guineas, no basket to piss in, not even a gram of crushed Rold Gold honey wheat braids. No one gave a fig about me, or the fact that I had no figs. I'd even lost the Humming Babe's lantern and shovel. I blatted out, "God damn it!" and then, apologetic, I crossed myself seven times, but it did no good: god saw that I was a phony.
Godless, sleep-deprived, hung-over, weak from grief and hunger, I entered a funky fantod, payback for my earlier overconfident fanfaronade. Delirious, I drafted an essay on the yearly renewal of baseball's talent.
Every spring, new players replace the disabled and disenchanted. Some lucky clubs have talented talent scouts who attract deeper pools of baseball talent. I reckon that the Palo Alto Altos have the best angle on running a team. They've phased out ethnic grudges. They don't abuse their youngsters, who get clean, sassy uniforms. They let visiting fans peer from the aluminum dugout roofs and engage in consensual gangbangs with thinner players. The stadium's bathroom's smart urinals flush themselves when you finish whizzing. Mentors' edits save big bucks from the pants budget; they donate leftover pants to the needy at Christmas. Their adventurous wet bars stock experimental liquors, and the open-hearted mixologists permit sickly, stray dogs to sip from expired bottles: stale ale cures the ails of curs.
André's a hot new popular player despite suffering from enthalpy. He's signed a lucrative contract and opted to enliven his estate with a heavy adobe oracle. Way to go, André. He's not aloof but he won't be outdone. He's on the fringe. He knows no angst. He farms okra for the fat. He invites overweight youth to add extra hands, then teaches them to blow glass the way that it's done down on the delta. Bring your own ziti. Smile and sing along to the Simile Rap:
A robot in the mouth is like an antiwar clue.
I graph acne on mice as though I've got a new duchy.
The fastest toddler acts like she wants to scream boo.
Stroking angora feels enough like getting lucky.
Doesn't this rap get the time rocking? Stick-in-the-mud adults prefer Anagram Pop:
[In B, Major or Minor, for Any Instrument Except the Mandolin]
My heart will go on.
Moon wealthy girls.
Hamlet was oily and wrong.
Thelma's a glorified wino.
Why gorge on ill meat?
Hello! Eat long sly worms.
Swallow yonder giant ham
in white loaf garden soil.
I woke up from my stupor mislaid and alone.