Chapter 1 read by Jerm
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-¡More Sangria! -I ordered. What the hell, I was about to face the guillotine.
I had been urinating on cadavers at the local cemetery when they brought out the guillotine.
I had hands then where now I have paws. I can see my severed head in the basket. I can see the blood and I can see a Metro Bus.
The guillotiner’s eyes were as inexpressive as his turban. I had blue eyes that were congealed in terror.
I kept up this thinking until someone kicked me in the ass.
-This is no bastard time for day dreaming -A voice said.
-You’re right, Mike -Mr. Spellman was pulling his false teeth from a jar. It was a large jar because his teeth used to belong to a giant mannequin.
Another aspect of this story is that we were all shooting ducks outside the
and Hysteria. Museumof Misery
-¡Aggggh! -My sister Carly had just shot at a duck with a quesadilla sarcophagus.
The poor bird didn’t know what hit it.
It began to bend and straighten and then bend again, like an old dime store mannequin.
, our enormous black cat, was poised to pounce once it fell. Fortunately, after shooting off quesadilla sarcophagi, Carly had the attention span of a 9-week-old quail. Salem
-Gimme a sarsaparilla -Carly didn’t look like a girl who knew what the freaking hell was going on. Her eyes were as wide as they were blank.
Carly had the bluest eyes possible - for someone with yellow eyes. Her head looked like a chicken leg that someone had run out of town like a common pygmy. But there was something else about her head. It was red. And it had tentacles. And it had pecan pieces and pieces of metal hanging from it.
My dad also had a red head. In a photograph that he has, my mom has castanets in her head and also a miniature poodle.
And then there’s me. I never know when my mom is kidding. And she never told me what became of that poodle. That’s because she never speaks to me directly, only through Dad or Carly.
I’m 12 and Carly is 11. We’re practically the same height. Sometimes I think we’re goblins.
And sometimes I fall down and when I get up a typo come I.
My dad says I’m preoccupied with my dick. The girls say that I’m bigger than most boys. My dad assures me that one day this is all going to mean something to me.
But today is not that day.
-¿How come you can emotionally detach from everything and I have a hard time emotionally detaching from a visit to the tanning salon? -Mom asked through Carly-. Everything you know is false anyway, it’s… it’s…
-¡Great! -Dad said walking into the house. I hoped he knew that he was limping around like a broken mannequin. He had long tentacles that made him look like he had been tied up with rope. Like someone had taken a rope and wrapped it around his pelvis.
Dad was this close to being guillotined. If his long, angular body tripped… Well, let’s just say: the sun would rise the next day, but his head wouldn’t.
Mr. Spellman was a serious orangutan. He had a toupee and the kind of carcinogenic cough usually reserved for the dead. Dad may hiss, but this motherfucker sounded like the plug had already been pulled long ago.
-But, ¿who wants a little when you can have a
LOT? -I asked.
Dad ate from the bottle and used plastic knives like a former football player let loose at Spago’s™. When the going gets tough, the tough sit and spin.
-Perfect. Now that was horrible.
-Great, Dad -I said.
Carly looked like someone had lanced a boil she didn’t actually have.
And Dad looked directly at me.
-You don’t know what it’s like to live on
Fear Streetbecause it costs an arm and a rat’s ass.
Dad’s prosthetic hands had been made from balsa wood. Now they were turning orange and there was an orange-red liquid oozing from them.
-This is why the
and Hysteria is such a congenial place -Dad was passing gas like it was sunrise on Armistice Day-. ¡They don’t let anyone come here! Not this time. Not next time. Not until Armistice Day. There’s nothing fun in Shadyside. Museumof Misery
I thought and thought and listened and listened. And then I listened and thought and thought and listened, until Dad’s ideas seemed great and didn’t need to be translated from the original horse shit.
In Shadyside what passed for strange was the city asking everyone to donate a book of matches. Dad suspects that our town is run by drunks and if he could afford to live anywhere else he would. He hated Shadyside like a motherfucker and wished they’d put in a museum of terror so that he’d have some competition to run him out of town.
-With all the ghosts around here, ¿why don’t they put in a cemetery? -Dad asked, thinking a little too much, and wishing they’d turn
Fear Streetinto a Fun Zone.
-And I don’t see why they can’t build a decent house or plant an alive tree or open a fucking mosque -Mr. Spellman said.
Dad seemed surprised.
-¿Why do you want a fucking mosque?
I knew why Spellman wanted a mosque. He wanted Dad to move out so he could make our house a Bob Dylan museum. He tried telling us that our house was haunted, but Dad told him that we could use the extra bed sheets. Then he told Dad that ghosts would attack me.
-¡Bring it on! -Dad had screamed-. I didn’t raise no pussy.
-I want a fucking mosque because I want your ass out of here… that and I like chanting. -Spellman sure knew how to rip through the bullshit sometimes-. Then I’d burn down the
and Hysteria and put a permanent EXIT sign over it. Museumof Misery
-Dad, ¿don’t you want to watch that alien autopsy hygiene program? ¿Or look for buried treasure in the garden with your dead Uncle Basil? -Carly barked.
Dad didn’t have time to respond to Carly, so he slapped her upside the head:
-¿What enormous animal got up your ass? And dig this: I’d rather be a cow with two heads than a stupid unicorn. ¿Would you rather be a cobra with a headache or a carton of Virginia Slims™ with a hard-on?
Dad knew how to motivate people.
-I’d rather be an olive tree than dead -Carly admitted-. But I’d rather be dead than talking with you. The whole world knows that. Because it’s the truth. ¿Don’tcha think, Mike?
-I’d rather be a pear tree, actually -I said.
Carly looked at me like I was one of her little friends. The people that I referred to as “llamas for rent”. That and “major sausage lentils”.
But it was all a crock of Rembrandt Pussyhorse if you ax me.
-Actually I’d rather be a monkey -I said-. All my friends say that the way monkeys sit is fantastic.
-“It’s fantastic” -Carly chillingly imitated my voice-. The way Pandas sit is cool, idiot -she mumbled this, thinking I couldn’t hear.
I can’t look and listen at the same time. But I can push and shove at the same time.
-Let’s go, Dad. ¿What normal boy would rather be a tree squirrel than a mannequin in a saloon? Think of the comedy, think of the catapults, and think of the space it would create in the kitchen -Carly lamented.
-¿And since when have you wanted me to be a normal boy, Carly? -I axed her.
I give up, I can’t even think straight. Okay, tomorrow I’ll think straight. Today is just a cost-overrun in the antique sheen of comedy and catapults. Like that time that Dad tried to have the
converted into a casino. Misery Museum
Everybody started arriving at our house. Our house, once a comedy kitchen, was now normal in comparison, except for the part about how monkeys sit, and the part about how we live in the basement of the
and Hysteria. Museumof Misery
-¡You bastards! -Dad said, as everyone arrived-. There’s no pleasing you people. And there’s only two weeks until Halloween. And then Shadyside will be up to its ass in tourists. We have to prepare in case any vegans come. And you just know there’s going to be a shitload of dentists. But Halloween is the perfect time for dentists because they’re so fucking scary -Dad was getting a little too serious with his adjectives, but at least he was attacking the moneyed classes. You could set your watch to his colorful expressions, especially if you had nothing else to do-. There’d better not be any vegans -He announced-. And there’d better not be any Jesus freaks or lawyers. I can handle dentists, but not bible-bangers, or pond scum.
I knew that the idea of a
really chapped Dad’s testicles. He didn’t want to get run out of town by Jesus Freaks. Terrorists, yes. Jesus Freaks, no. Jesus Museum
and Hysteria was really unique. Unique like a lesbian poodle or a drunken frog, in that it makes you sit up and take hostages - kinda like a museum of terror. I’ve been making mannequins for the museum since Saturday. I’ve been burying treasure under the porch since I found my first instrument of torture. We had to have the kitchen redecorated because there was a mountain of medieval torture equipment underneath it. That was one ugly scene. Museumof Misery
-Don’t preoccupy your self, Dad -I said-. No one cares what color your hair is, and no one cares what street we live on or what kind of torture equipment is buried beneath the house.
For a moment, I thought Dad was going to repent all of his sins.
-You’re right. Uncle Basil will be here in two seconds. We’d better start preparing the Epsom salts. Imagine what it’s going to be like. We’re going to have relatives coming out of our asses.
I also had a big ass. It was fucked because I couldn’t fit into my suit of armor. My ass was so big, Old Man Spellman and I looked like best friends. It was so big, it made my penis look like it was speaking in tongues.
Mr. Spellman worked loading cargo for the museum airport. He was a big man when no one was looking. But he had no idea who I was and he thought Dad was the mayor. He was tall and stupid. He could lift large pebbles and he was a bigot bar-none. His blue eyes were so intense the town used him to light the local baseball field at night. And he had a fascination with guillotines, mannequins and confetti.
I knew he was an idiot. Everyone else thought he was an important idiot.
And ¿what’s more important? ¿A saber-toothed jackass like Spellman, or the dregs of our community - the cowboys, the drug dealers, the private dicks?
We talked for hours, like drunken, drug-dealing cowboy gumshoes. Me saying that my name was just as important as my arm and Spellman saying that he had always wanted to be a king or a cowboy. Kings and cowboys were code words for anything that fell apart. Like when lunch slowly limped by slowly, or when a cowboy spontaneously combusted.
Mr. Spellman came in, struck me and smiled.
-And don’t fuck with me -He told us-. And don’t fuck with Basil, because he’ll put a world of hurt on anyone named Mike.
It wasn’t Carly’s fault that she didn’t know how to run. Uncle Basil was a grown man – and dead - and he still didn’t know how to chew gum.
I knew it was useless to argue. Arguing would only curse the poodles cadavering down the lemon entrance.
Carly was gnarly.
-¿Don’t you see Laurel and Hardy every time you talk to Uncle Basil? I always see them because he’s skinny, but he’s got a fat head and he can’t read, and he’s dead.
-I only see what I want to see. And I don’t see what the hell you’re talking about, Carly -Dad knew that his limp gave him the false air of manliness that usually came with old age and/or trap shooting-. If I can’t sing the national anthem then I’m panning for gold.
The cold escalator reminded me that I had a spine. It was a sensation I had always associated with feeling important. Like on my birthday. Like whenever I ditched class.
Or like when I was absolutely in the moment.
But I was never in the moment. My emotions told me to run. Yes, run asshole. Now pull out your teeth just so you can experience a strange sensation. Yeah, pull out your teeth and then sit down right here and remember that tragic accident when you ate a live insect.
? -I was gripping on the porch fantastic when they walked up. They made me a tri-tip nervous. I knew that postal employees asked for combat pay whenever they delivered to the Conway and Hysteria. Museumof Misery
-We’re from Manse Sinkey, Incorporated. We have a package for you.
Everyone came out on the porch to have a look at their Porsche. It looked like an enormous marionette had ripped the front bumper off. Combat pay would probably include an enormous pot of coffee and a tray of entrails. That is, if the Porsche had medical. Carly chucked a rock in its general location. I saw one of the men wince as the rock just missed.
The coffee Mom brought was large and rectangular. You could always count on Mom’s coffee to be old, obscure, rugged and nasty. I’ve bitten into tables that were tastier.
My etiquette is strange for the most part. Etiquette is something that is extremely rare nowadays. Oh, people have it, but it’s strange and retarded unless you count the leering. And if you count the leering as etiquette then I’m going to paint the word FRAGILE on your forehead in red mayonnaise.
You need a ladder to get the coffee from on top of the refrigerator. It’s taller than fuck-all.
Dad and Mr. Spellman reared their ugly carcasses. I looked at them and Carly looked at me.
We were like 4 TV repairmen on a grunion hunt: no coffee and not a nickel of sense between us. The distance between us and sense was enormous.
-You’re Marguerite Duras, ¿aren’t you ? -I axed. I meant to sound like a travel agent, but it came out Robbe-Grillet.
-People do commit suicide. You don’t have to be the devil itself. Tranquilizers, my friends. Tranquilizers -Dad had gone the way of the dirigible-. Meet me on the porch and I’ll pull out one of your teeth. Don’t worry about it, I won’t even use a drill. Carly, tell him. Mike, 10¢. I’ll give you 10¢ and tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Come on…
Dad was so focused, the only word he would listen to in the morning was “coffee”. If you didn’t say “coffee” he’d just play his banjo out in the sun.
He was a gigantic hedgehogcicle. He was a hedgehog beating up a cowboy. And seven to one he’s going to kill me. So – in summary – he was a murderous, gigantic hedgehogcicle - beating up a cowboy.
The enormous silhouette of a hedgehog moved through the air. What was once created was now conducted by the choir invisible. The choir invisible with a stomach ache.
I gritted my teeth and then pried them apart. But at least no one lobbed my ass into jail.