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Chapter 18

The mess of his friend’s face was sourced in something he did not know of. The cheekbone was smooth and soft. It had a whiteness about it, like a light bulb. The gently bubbling waves of fresh crimson covered the bone and then fell away, again and again. He wanted to touch his friend so he reached out, and as he pushed to make a kind of contact, Lungsee stopped breathing. His trunk shuddered.

Emile stopped breathing. He collapsed to his knees and passed out.

And when he woke, Lungsee was gone.

Blood had soaked the cushions but now was crusted like a massive scab. There was no trail leading away. The smell was earthy. Musty and alive. Emile puked next to the coffee table and and bumped his head. He lurched to his feet and made it to the bright kitchen and rinsed out his mouth and splashed cold water on his face. He felt better. He looked back to the couch and saw the deep purple satin opera cloak weirdly crammed under a cushion far from where it should be. It was dark outside. He looked.

The first hospital he tried had no record of a Lungsee Beasley, so Emile stood under the hellish blast of lights of the emergency entrance awning and thought about what to do next. A brown and tan taxi appeared as a gesture, so he hailed it.

The next hospital had someone who vaguely fit the description, but he died. They wouldn’t confirm or give a name or let him see the body so Emile waited outside and coughed through half a bummed menthol cigarette before tossing it in the gutter. When he caught the exhausted night nurse emerging from a side door, he asked and she told him off the record that they’d taken the body hours ago to the morgue. And then who knows with those guys. And, his name was Guynemer, or something. She vanished into the lot like a ghost trying to lose the afterlife.

Emile lost most hope. He felt it was likely common for people to wake after such injuries with powerful surges of adrenaline and they will work wonders and go far and do much, but then the juice will run dry and life will sputter out. This is what he thought. And it made his soul falter.

So at the third and last hospital, St Francis, he toyed with pretending to be a resident or intern or harried surgeon just aroused from a fitful sleep to rush in and save a child, and then he chuckled because Lungsee would have snidely approved. But he knew it was stupid, so he didn’t do it. When he learned there was no Lungsee, no Beasley, no big hairy gashed John Doe, he went out to the drive and there learned he had no more money. There were no taxis either, so it all seemed over. Just like that.

He walked. He followed the tracks that parallel Park Ave and walked west for miles. The occasional car would zoom by and then they stopped altogether. The tree frogs and cicadas pulsed rhythmically. The earth must have been loud as hell a million years ago. Never even hear what’ll kill you. Maybe this is what Lungsee heard in the trees. The resonance of millions of years of dead and living life. The noosphere that Lungsee spoke of that day at The Buccaneer made prodigal sense to Emile. Some French Jesuit hanging in China trying to figure the shit out. Aerosphere. Consciousness, like heat, will rise. Envelope. And all of us, as one, reveal, ourselves, to be, the divine. Lungsee knew this. Just like that. He died. For me. Us.

The tracks veered off from Park and made their way along side Poplar Ave. Emile continued on and absently entered, like into fog, a bank of bushes and shrubs, prickly and cold, and then he waded on into a kind of flux-like zone that seemed to him to be the sum of all we as people can produce. He stopped, looked around. Looked up. And he recognized the back of the building in front of him, the branches of the trees overhead casting their jagged spindly shadows down on its wall. The building was Monville’s Learning Improvement Systems. A learning center where Emile was intensely tutored as a grade school student. Reading exercises. Test pamphlets. Questions. Comprehension? Dennis the tutor, who, for some reason, cared. A lot. Fucking dyslexia. But it was the bosomy Dr Monville herself that so enchanted little Emile and lured him into a sort of carnal understanding that spread its warm lust over all he knew. In school, he needed facts, but he couldn’t remember them. In life, he needed female genitalia. And this he couldn’t forget. But that was then. She helped him in ways she could never begin to fathom. Just because of who she was. Her style. Her choice of bras. Perfume. The way she crossed her legs and smiled at him. It overcame. He overcame. The stupid little stories she was trying to get him to comprehend were themselves a bigger story and he overcame not the stories but their story. Fucking glorious dyslexia. But now, behind her building, Emile thought of life and living and he wished he could explain all this to someone. Someone, like a brother. But Ty was far from his mind. It was Lungsee he thought of, because it was Lungsee who somehow knew and told Emile of Emile’s feelings before Emile even had them. How does that work? He couldn’t answer, and then he realized he didn’t have to answer, he didn’t have to feed that fucking monkey, and he thought of the day when his mother was driving him home and she asked about his learning center day and little Emile, fixated insanely on Monville’s wheat colored tits, said, You can’t spell dyslexia without sex, and his mother smacked him. His head snapped to the right and he saw nothing but passing trees and they seemed to know. Referential dementia? Euphoric recall. Resonance. Life of more. Don’t feed their monkey. He walked on west for two more hours.

And the next thing he knew, he was standing in the middle of the fourth fairway of the golf course of his childhood neighborhood. The flanking canopies of old growth oaks spread out down both roughs. It was his favorite spot then and it was exactly the same now and he started to curse Lungsee for all that the big fat slob had demanded. All the booze and lies and shit and uneasy looks and dumb jokes and dumber risks and it’s a miracle we’re both not slabbed up in the morgue you Sasquatch fuck. If that’s where you are. But pity and loyalty hinder, hinder more than you can imagine, Emile. Emile kept his voice down, but he did spew forth his dirty words of rage and loss with a spit that shimmered somewhere between sorrow and grief.

The weak quarter-moon shone hesitantly, thin wispy clouds strafing by, but big bulbous clouds soon followed and he could no longer see even the silhouettes of the trees. And then the wind stopped and he heard it. He knew what it was from the first word… I stand in the backyard and my mind is thinking nothing and I don’t know this and I wait for my father. It’s late November and the lifeless wind blows and it flaps my sleeve cuff on my best tan shirt and the cuff beats on my fat white arm up here by my shoulder. My skin is cold and I wonder why all I know is sensate. It’s a Saturday and a dark afternoon and the grass is brown and scratchy hard and the house feels the same. I stand with my hatchet and my feet hurt and I am embarrassed because my shoes are too small. Mother can never know. A motor on the street rumbles up slow and it’s him and I see the grey car and his smiling brown face and they match the sky and clouds and air and he comes up the drive. The drive ends and becomes grass and I don’t know why. He fiddles with something in the car and then gets out and walks by me and I smell his smell and he goes to the woodpile by the back fence. The fence is falling down. He takes one wood piece from the pile and sets it on the stump and picks up the axe and raises it high overhead and comes down hard and the piece splits in two and he smiles and is proud and tells me how to never take your eye off the piece because that’s the trick or the key. I nod. Serious. Trick. He kneels and puts another piece on the ground upright and looks at me and I raise up my hatchet high and then come down hard with it and it sticks deep in his head and I let go and he falls away and kind of stagger dances to the wall of the garage and the blood comes down like it’s a Niagara waterfall and that’s why I can’t see his face anymore and he falls on his back and his pants come up and I see the white skin next to his black socks. I burn his body with the matches I find in his pocket. Then the tall blonde lady with the big gun comes and talks to me and says I didn’t do it, says I couldn’t have done it, and she might know who did and I will go to my aunt’s to live forever and then one day the tall blonde lady catches the guy…

Jesus fucking Christ… Emile said aloud. He stood stunned and scanned the invisible swaying branches for a source but there was nothing but the cold, cold universe that he knew nothing of. Oh, my god… he repeated.

A snicker sounded. A human snicker, maybe on the young side. Who’s there? Emile stabbed with his voice.

More muffled snickers from within the thick dark nearby. Nobody, a young male voice said.

What are you doing out here? Emile demanded.

Snicker. What are you doing here?

Emile didn’t answer. He strained his eyes and thought he saw some shapes but those could have been shadows of shadows.

Who you talking to, man? the young male said.

The trees.

The trees? Wow. Well, uh, what’d they say, there, mister?

And now I know you fear god, Emile said.

A long silence sat there in the dark, illuminating all the dread of the world. That’s what god said to Abraham, the young male answered with utmost seriousness. Learned that last week in Sunday school. Talking about faith and shit. Obedience.

Sunday school is no good.

Tell me about it. But is out here talking to trees any better?

Yes, said Emile. Much better.

Well, that’s a pity, man. I feel for you… And the kid’s voice burst into a laugh and more snickers from other young people now sputtered up and bubbled over and rolled out into a rapscallion’s refute. Emile had to walk away, having never been so lashed by mockery and yet content with it all.

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