Anubis At The Window
➔ Trout trudged onward, a stranger in a strange land. His pilgrimage was awarded with new wisdom, which would never have been his had he remained in his basement in Cohoes. He learned the answer to the question many human beings were asking themselves so frantically: “What’s blocking traffic on the westbound barrel of the Midland City stretch of the Intestate? The scales fell from the eyes of Kilgore Trout. He saw the explanation: a Queen of the Prairies milk truck was lying on its side, blocking the flow. It had been hit hard by a ferocious 1971 Chevrolet Caprice two-door. The Chevy had jumped the median divider strip. The Chevy’s passenger hadn’t used his seatbelt. He had shot right through the shatterproof windshield. He was lying dead now in the concrete trough containing Sugar Creek. The Chevy’s driver was also dead. He had been skewered by the post of his steering wheel. The Chevy’s passenger was bleeding blood as he lay dead in Sugar Creek. The milk truck was bleeding milk. Milk and blood were about to be added to the composition of the stinking ping-pong balls which were being manufactured in the bowels of Sacred Miracle Cave.
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
I closed the cover of that lightening ride for the last time. The only other Vonnegut novel I had read was Slaughterhouse-Five in high school. I did not expect my return to produce such an impetus. Clearly, I was left with a triangular knife wound.
The following recounts not even one hour. Some of the details are time-calloused hazy, while others, occurring minutes, or even seconds in either direction, are glass-like, untainted by eighteen years. I find this perplexing because due to the nature of this incomplete hour’s events, one might expect all memories to linger like brands. Will the process of a written record scour the opaque non-memories, coalescing time? I would like that, dislodging history.
Our bedroom was so small that I would get dressed in the living room. The living room and the kitchen, however, were vast in comparison to many of the apartments I had been in, and still seem generous to this day. There was a second bedroom off the living room directly opposite ours off the kitchen, also tiny. It was filled with art supplies belonging to my girlfriend at the time. We slept in a loft with some sort of usable space beneath, which was really the only design option. There was a ladder that was treacherous after cocktails and required special navigation. We had four cats, one of which had only three legs, and three siblings that could not look more different. Not refracted by the shed fur, steady natural light reached to the fifteen-foot ceilings due to the large double-hung windows on both ends of the apartment. They were of brown metal, industrial, like those of my high school. I would open them all when the weather was pleasant. I loved that natural light. I loved my girlfriend. I loved Fort Greene, Brooklyn in the late 1990’s.
This was most likely my last year employed at a comic book store in Manhattan’s East Village, or close to the last. My girlfriend, Lindsey, who deserves to be referred to by name, worked for a clothing company at an outdoor market in Soho. The best public transportation choices into Manhattan from 455A Myrtle Avenue were the temperamental G train several blocks away or the B54 bus straight down Myrtle, both to the A train. While the bus option delivered me to the opposite side of town, it stopped at our front door, next to Adami Hardware, the business belonging to our landlord. Should one of us desire, with the right timing, we could descend the staircase from the second floor, walk out the door, cross the sidewalk and step up into the bus without adjusting our trajectory. Kum Kau Restaurant, “Kum Kau” to locals, was several doors down in the opposite direction and served me quarts upon quarts of vegetable fried rice. Still further was John’s Donut, standing on ground beneath which tectonic plates did not float on magma, but grease. John’s was, and still is, the only dining establishment that upon entering, I would be asked, “the usual?” (Grilled cheese and ham and krinkle-cut fries was this near-telepathic order.) Sometimes it does not take much, but it has to be the right thing. There was also a Key Food, dollar store, deli, bar, and an art school. It was a convenient neighborhood. Myrtle Avenue was busy during the day with both motor vehicles and pedestrians.
The comic book store was a few steps lower than street level and had a low ceiling, separating into two wings at the back and continuing lower to a labyrinthine basement. There were no bats (except for one), but certainly heroes, small heroes, hundreds of them, and it was my duty to keep the racks stocked. This day was no different than those of the last three years. The weather was pleasant.
The turntable was in the living room, and it would not be risky to bet that the record on the spindle was the Dead Kennedys, Rorschach, or Sleater-Kinney. Lindsey introduced me to Sleater-Kinney and when I listen to the “Dig Me Out” album, I can still hear the sound the apartment door made. Most likely pushing the limits of punctuality, my commitment to fandom steadily waning, I used the twin mustard velvet couches Lindsey had procured as my dressing islands. They were in excellent condition and comfortable as well. In those days, Brooklyn thrift stores actually catered to the thrifty, not the ironic trendy. Lindsey was about the apartment as well, but I do not recall if she had to go in to the market. She was not in the living room with me.
As I was completing a benign stage of a benign activity that I, and many, many people do every day, perhaps a shirtsleeve, I turned in place, my eyes swiping passed one of the double-hung windows. There is a technology used in U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters enabling the operator to “slave” the front cannon to his head movements through an optical viewfinder. The cannon will sight to wherever the operator is looking.
(The organs are removed)
A construction dump truck turned the far corner of the perpendicular street, Washington Avenue, onto Myrtle towards 455A. It was a leviathan in the close quarters of the city street. Attached to the bottom of the truck on the passenger’s side was a young woman in the fetal position. She was being dragged.
She was being dragged.
She was being dragged.
There was a delay. There was a delay between the light and movement passing through my eyes and my brain identifying that light and movement. My brain recognizes trucks and it does so with confidence. My brain recognizes women and it does so with confidence. This new thing, this unknown combination, reduced a 25-year-old brain to a timid juvenile surveyor. There was no cautious retreat to a more secure vantage.
The sidewalk was injected with voltage. There were extreme levels of horrified panic in a very small space. People were in a frenzy in an attempt to alert the driver, and a few most brave jumped into the street and blocked the oncoming truck, all hands raised and bellowing for the driver to stop. They were successful. The truck was halted at the B54 bus stop.
I called for Lindsey, more likely yelled. The young woman lay still, curled up at the middle of the truck, facing its underbelly, her head towards the rear right tires. She wore a white shirt and black tights, a v-neck men’s undershirt and a Capri style, I believe. She was probably between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. I could not see her face. My brain was quickly forced back to maturity.
The sidewalk calmed, then the sidewalk watched. I watched. Were we Romans in the round under the hot sun? I am sensitive to real violence because my imagination, while it is one I treasure and without which would be devoid of much, will use such images to haunt me. There I was, and here I am writing about it.
Her body was straddling a seam between two great plates of the street surface material, perhaps a past repair. The seam continued straight to the curb at the feet of the watchers. The scene was still, as if with the final hissing exhale of the brakes, that concentrated chaos burst due to its own pressure, dissipating into the atmosphere, only to reconstitute and land somewhere else. She was pristine, her exposed side black and white, and certainly did not belong underneath that hulking mass of filthy metal. She was motionless.
(The organs are placed in jars)
This bastard serenity was about to develop, but its fundamental nature would remain unchanged. Blood, neither bright nor crimson, was released from some unseen part of her. Rather than randomly spreading and pooling, it was active and precise. It ran, beginning a neat downhill filling of the seam in the street. Practical, this municipal engineering. Romans, indeed. Its pace was steady and confident, its width continuous, which made it unnaturally symmetrical and appear unreal. It had a viscous decisiveness, a faceless consciousness. It was determined to reach the curb, which it did adeptly, and due to its headstrong nature, most likely not its last destination. She remained as she was.
At the corner behind the truck, one third of the block away, there was a brown paper grocery bag on its side approximately six feet into the street. It was not crushed and its sides were rigid, as if dropped by someone attempting to cross the street. Its only ejected item was a container of milk, which now rested outside its opening. This container had expelled its contents, which pooled neatly just beyond its mouth. The white liquid was neither streaked nor separated. It presented itself with discipline.
This was the thing constructed before me, its unique elements staring back from down below. It was comprised of such seemingly separate parts, each of a defined quality. It possessed restraint and appeared deliberate, as if cut from paper and meticulously placed by a great cruel hand. It was quiet. It had a grotesque artistic quality.
The sedate atmosphere surrounding this assemblage of false contrivances began to stir. She was alive. I know this because she started to moan. There was now an audible element. It had a lethargic rhythm. Due to the location of our apartment, it was amplified throughout. She might as well have been curled up on one of the couches. This is the point at which I began to get more disturbed. Any hope, of a kind to which a fool clings, that what was happening out there was not, dissolved after those initial seconds. It was now in my throat and in my stomach by way of my ears. I turned on the stereo. I could still hear her, mostly monotone but occasionally laced with strain. I do not doubt the curative properties of The Dead Kennedys, but not this time. Music was a hasty and desperate analog façade. She was in stark contrast to the mustard.
While it was an indication of some level of consciousness, her consciousness was a terrifying thought. Hindsight aside, for me, at that moment, it was worse that she was alive, and could possibly have an awareness as to where she was, what may be happening to her body, and to what she was pinned.
(The cavity is filled with salt)
The Mediterranean sun was still high. Did I need to see her to safety and the Myrtle Avenue mundaneness return, or are those instincts cloaked morbidity? There was a gurney and two paramedics. The paramedics and their gear blocked my view of her head and torso. When they lifted her from the street surface to place her on the collapsed gurney, the flesh of her left calf swung down in a broken and jagged flap. I would guess it was from one-half of her lower leg, thick and hanging down heavy, as if reaching for the ground. It appeared that if not supported, it would continue to fall and slough off onto the street. It was very pale. What had remained safely contemplative, but realistically an impending detail, was now tangible. There was tangible destruction of the flesh.
Residual dust from the earlier chaos ignited on the sidewalk, its flag once again planted and hanging down heavy. This is also when I unraveled. Unbridled, I spun around into the living room and away from the windows and exclaimed to Lindsey that I did not want to live there anymore. I did not mean that apartment or Brooklyn. I meant a city. There were too many machines. I could not be near all those machines that do so much damage. I wanted to live on a mountainside. Machines and human beings do not mix. At that moment, a more fervent proponent of those statements did not exist. I called the comic book store and told them I was going to be late and why. I did not wait for a response.
Does the young woman want to live on a mountainside? “Don’t look down, ma’am. Don’t look down.”
Pages one hundred ninety-eight to one hundred ninety-nine, chapter eighteen, of my three dollar and ninety-five cent Dell paperback could not be ignored. The words stared back at me.
(Such skills, the jackal-god)