Talia always had no collar on, it's how she came. she was curious. she was cat extra. she'd sniff every last corner of every inch of new room, and old room. she'd bend every blind. so much racket i could never concentrate on my project. life's a breeze, huh? for i simply can't work unless it's totally quiet (and it never is on planet earth, in our mother's bosom). i can't produce unless under extreme right circumstances. Trinity hissed upon their first contact but later hugged. i was afraid they'd wrestle each other to death if i left those two alone together, now i'm afraid they'll fall in love and wrestle and have awkward babies and leave me. i replaced the venetian blinds to my room and set up a nice thick yet thin beige sheet that acts as a better cover for the sun. but that doesn't stop Talia. she jumps onto my dresser and onto the sill in front of the curtain, outside but protected by the closed window, and stares out onto the sunswept street. she preens for her audience. at first it was cars. then it was people. then it was people in cars distracted by the cute kitten staring at them from the strange mansion up on the hill quiet with no other activity. she tries to look up at the sun but can't and looks away. so cute. she stretches to her furthest leg fingernail and rolls around and gets on her back. like any actress she knows the value of a good suntan. neighbors come from far and wide, across county lines, to take in the show. i should charge. real tickets. she's a better actor than i'll ever be. she draws crowds, she gets fannies in the streets. i'm firing my agent. i don't have an agent. i don't even have a sense of agency. she's got a hook that i don't: she's a cat.
Talia: i hope i don't cause any accidents but i am that beautiful.
i'm not feeling like myself today. perhaps that's a good thing. i am drowning in...fear. this messy water ain't cutting it. i need something stronger.
Talia: warn me again about the bags, fratrem, as i warm.
Trinity: it's no laughing matter, sororis. respect your elders, don't make fun of them. amicus can't help himself. he gets all buzzy with the water he drinks. but i understand, humans need a lot of water to survive. he swooshes those clear plastic bags. it's terrifying, especially the one in the morning cos you're rubbing the mouse dream from your eyes, sprinkling the gold dust out of 'em, and haven't yet prepared yourself to face the day. i hide under the secret place. you'll learn of it when you get older. if he scoops you up in one of those bags he'll take you to the pound! he does the dogcatcher's job for him! that's what my previous owner did. it's strange cos in every other instance amicus is a perfectly reasonable gentleman. all for water. i get it.
Talia: eh, dogs are alright. it's 2016, love comes in many more forms. uh huh, okay, first T. you just tell me when i'm old enough to have fun........am i old enough now? how bout now?
Trinity: i ain't playing the radio, missy. show's over, folks. time to lower the curtain. no midnight matinee. exit the stage gracefully, diva down south, put your head down, and curl to sleep. the amount of rubbernecking you've caused i swear i gotta be glue to stop ya.
Talia: you lucky you ain't a horse. i've already slept, all night on amicus's face. dude doesn't snore, disappointing, i always need some air under me.
Trinity: you don't sleep during the day! that's crazy! kids today i tell you what. you stay here while i explore the large intricate series of dusty poorly-lit underground tunnels under this mansion that is accessible only by removing the electrical outlet under amicus's bed...
i stagger to the Store and i am blitzed. but the doors still open. i approach the bar.
me: my good man with the handlebar mustache and tattoo of a handlebar mustache on your forearm, your finest 1893.
checker: oh no, not today, buddy, not today. not in the mood. i hate my job. 1893?
me: if i had a time machine you think i'd be hanging out in this dump?
the stools are raised to such a height that i can safely converse to his bellybutton.
me: Pepsi the way it was originally meant to be drunk. the first formula. kola nut extract, real sugar. the water must be sparkling. ginger sure but do not taint it with rum. my tongue is wagging waiting for this ever since my salivary glands heard about it.
checker: don't carry it. and please move to the express lane, those behind you are getting angry. please don't force me to call...
me:...your manager? i know him. bald and beautiful. hired my sister many moons ago.
checker: no, another checker, they hate having to work as much as me.
me: understudies will always be jealous of the star. why can't i get my neighbors to love me? we are all fellow men. and fallen men. what good is a huge megastore if it doesn't carry your item? sigh...i'm saying the word sigh rather than sighing to provide dramaturg emphasis. just get me a lemonade and let me be jealous in peace.
checker: drama turd?
me: what can i say? he was an inspiration to me. granted he became more of one in the past week. i liked that he was solitary. he was no-drama obama in his personal life. but he lit it up on screen. he was saving it for the stage. that's how it should be. that's control, discipline, controversy. it's fun to read about actors whose romances were more dramatic than their script pages, but it's no fun to live it. that's how i want to be. to not do art but be art. oh what a treat to be famous for your art.
checker: hey i agree, i use our unsold tabloids for linen for my pet swamphen.
me: i remember back in the 80s when he was big. it's all kind of fuzzy but i do remember a rather dashing bare-chested mini man with a seductive mustache and tempting black mane. he was on a motorcycle and the large caption on the cover read, "Would You Trust Your Daughter With This Man?" didn't understand the true force behind those words then but i ken the weight now, i have a daughter named Talia. his secrecy made him alluring. he had curves in all the right places on the street for his motorcycle to cycle around, slippery when wet/dangerous when dry, vroom vroom, from the wrong part of town, the other side of the tracks when trains were still a thing. his only crime was being sexy. he went from bad news to preaching the Good News. he truly converted when he grew that third eye. i'd make the heart sign with my hands but man is that getting cheesy.
checker: valdastico cheddar is in the cheese aisle, next to the cauliflower medley. the difference between us and Trader Joe's is we don't sell products that are weird for the sake of it. if it doesn't taste good, don't matter what exotic name you slap on it. we got yoohoo in yellow boxes, one sip through that bendy straw and you're transported back to AYSO soccer practice. we sell newspapers. mostly our version of the Fearless Flyer. see we don't mess with the classics, we don't change to be hip. we recognize that in the end, nostalgia is all we got.
me: remember when i worked here? it was just yesterday. it was just now in fact.
checker: must have been before my time.
me: impossible, there is no time. i could work here, i'm just like you, like everybody. i'm just another you, you're just another me, we all must come together as one big family.
i start to stock the Shake 'N Bake coating boxes. well i start to knock the Shake 'N Bake coating boxes, flipping each one down to the floor. that's my method of taking stock. i learned counting on Sesame Street.
on the tv screen next to the deli there isn't 24/7 advertising of hot meats. there is Bernie, unusually:
Bernie: my fellow college americans, and puerto rico, and cuba, thank you for your energy. but how hard is it to get a ride to the voting station. i mean really, take the damn bus. ride your bike there, you're young! but that is a matter of renewable energy. i won tonight because of you...............wait what?! i only won Rhode Island?! oh fuck this shit, i should be shuffleboarding on a cruise right now.............no, no, fuck it, i'm serious, fuck my life, i'm too old for this shit...
me: clean up on aisle me.
i blacked out for what seemed like hours but was really minutes. that was the only thing that made sense. the manager took pity on me. well, he realized i was related to his most model employee and couldn't believe it all the way on the drive in his Lincoln without the gullwing doors to the beach where he unceremoniously dumped me in the middle of the third breaker shore where all of the tourists gathered to peek under my shorts and take in the local color. i had to dry up, sand, i get it. instead of throwing my ass in juvie, i am a kid at heart after all, the local community of the county took favor with my situation of being a sad sack and gave me a sack and big fork and put me on beach cleanup detail. my drill instructor used to be a vet.
drill instructor: alright you maggots, justify your existences by saving the maggots! or getting rid of the maggots so other endangered species can know what it's like to not have to live as the last of their kind. when you're the sole remaining survivor, it changes you. life is never fancyfree again, you take on the burden of responsibility. you feel powerless. i never asked to be spiderman. i hate spiders! i will never travel by plane again. that's crazy. this isn't coastal cleanup, it's conscience. YOU!
drill instructor: you're the only one here, aintcha?
me: i am not here.
drill instructor: look at my eyes when i'm talking to you. my tits are down there. it's rude not to stare into someone's windows to the soul and gaze deeply into the abyss. all afternoon YOU will be hunting nurdles, mermaids' tears.
me: yes! *i raise my fist in victory like i had won the inevitable World War III* i love mermaids! i want to fuck mermaids! i want to do anal in a mermaid's tail! now THAT's getting tail! thank you for giving me the fantasy one!
drill instructor: kid, you have your two fingers up my nose.
me: it's the V for Victory sign. thought i was picking my nose.
at the edge where the tourists don't go, cos they don't know, i spot a nice-looking huge tree of broad banyan branches. i think it's famous if i recall. it has the right to be alone and have everyone stare at it, it's that pretty. i snoop around for shells and bits of trash around the bottom where its moss skirt covers up its majestic roots sucking up every last drop of the water that mother earth provides. i swear to god a face starts to form on the spot in the circular oak middle where a punctured heart was carved with a letter plus another letter.
Green Man: that wasn't with a knife. it was with a needle. that was your sister and her first boyfriend. didn't like him, he was too rough. but he made her tough. they would make out under me. but i could never make out what they were doing cos it was always dark. the stars never came over here. he thought he was more badass than he really was. bigshot. a honcho.
me: what is your appellation o guardian spirit of the evergreen?
Green Man: yes, exactly, Green Man, that's what i'm called in my wikipedia article. though my real name in my native tongue is so long and multilettered the locals can't pronounce it. i'm here to warn you of course, to give you a warning: there will be a reckoning for all you have done.
Green Man: yes, you.
me: who? me? but you see i am free. i am not a hu but a we. and i am not a hu-man for how can i be when i am not a man?
Green Man: Dr. Seuss subverted culture. he was subliminally teaching kids existentialism before their biblebelt parents could catch on. they were better prepared when Harry Potter came along. he was my favorite writer. i remember when famous recluse Emily Dickinson read one of his poems under my loving branches, the only time she ever ventured outside. you gotta be at the right place at the right time when that one day comes.
me: i thought i was your favorite writer. oh you are so good!
Green Man: mate why you sucking on my nose? that isn't sap, it's Bundaberg brewed drink, the cola that tastes like booze. that's the root beer, tastes like rum, huh? everyone knows Australians make the best soda. see that mermaid by the rocks yonder offshore there waving to you?
me: that's the mermaid i must meet to complete my quest. i must gather her tears in a vase glass bottle with a beige cork stopper.
Green Man: she's wearing a shell bra.
me: i feel not icky though she looks exactly like my sister. it's all love in the end.
Green Man: well it's weirding me out. i knew this woman when she was a baby. hurry up and end your journey.
i seem to walk on water as i glide toward the faint apparition of the woman with the tail who is my sister in metaphor. i'm not really, i'm drowning. water always saves the day. the cold rush jumpstarts my senses like a bad motorcycle carburetor and i'm wet in all the wrong places again. i've snapped out of it! and before me is a mermaid! she doesn't speak of course, that would be too easy. and breezy. and breathy. instead i merely hug her for an hour and cry. i collect my tears and ask her to bless them. eh, close enough, full metal jacket vet won't know the difference.
mermaid: but i can speak! this is modern times, man! i'm independent as you can see, it's just me here. i see all my fishes and none of them are riding bicycles. i see my squid squad. one of them plays a clarinet sadly. i'm supposed to lure longshoremen with my song but that song gets me so depressed i can't do my job. the sailors come up to me, put their popeye arms around me, and ask me to talk about my feelings without cursing once. attack my methods if you must but i only do this to find love.
me: want my big dinglehopper? i am sorry, sister, for everything in the future. this is my minority report mea culpa. my imaginary willy wonka golden ticket, redeem it in the future when i let you down. listen to Bjork's "Hidden Place" when i'm gone. i should have recognized you more, valued you, you are a special snowflake, you turned into a mermaid for frick sake. literally. thank you for everything. i will try to appreciate you more. but time is running out. and there is no try as green creatures tell me all the time. wisdom of the ancients, from beings who have been around a helluva lot longer than me.
mermaid: your sister forgives you. i can see into the future, i am more attuned to my animal side. my flipper is a time machine. Atalan was my first boyfriend. he was nice but he was always distracted with saving the world...
i don't know if the blue i'm seeing is sky or sea. i could use some coating right now.
at home, my sister pulls up to the mansion driveway as always with white boxes in her trunk. she opted not to get the gate for added security, to leave less for the neighbors to react to, to shake their noses at and sneeze from all the suspicion dust in the air. when there's more shade on the trees, life's a breeze. never give 'em secrets, that was rule numero uno she learned from her first love. she breathes a sigh of relief that i'm not there and under cover of day trying as inconspicuously as she can transfers the boxes back outside and forth inside the house and up the stairs to my room. she unscrews the bolts of the electrical outlet under my bed with the tips of her newly glued-on fingernails and removes the tiny panel. that leads to sliding into the creased outline of another larger panel and along another larger panel on top of that previous larger panel. she takes it all off. her heart is racing. punctured with pulsation.
inside the boxes: drugs.