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I was dying for some salt. And just in time.


The unstuck rays of the sun cascaded down, right in front of me. Just escargot centimeters from my right foot. ÁAnd it was encased in metal!


I was also dying to be trampled by ravenous ravens and a dumb-ass cowboy.


-YouÕre such a ratÕs ass, Mike -I was so sure the cowboy had called my name that I went all Costcoª.


-ÀCarly? -I was game-. ÀIs that your hairy ass, Carly?




I was so sly. I knew how to take a nothing day and suddenly make it seem like Peter Fonda rode in on a Harleyª to shoot the sun out of the sky and into the museum. If thereÕs a podiatrist out there who doesnÕt now see the blazing rays, IÕd like to meet him, her, or they.


-Distract him -I was so sure sheÕd listen to me-. IÕm going to go find Dan Dare and IÕve got to rest my dogs.


-My dentist said I shouldnÕt distract anyone or anything until the caps on my tonsils dry -Carly said-. I paid good money for these caps, so IÕd be able to eat pie once again. ÁYouÕre gonna have to distract him and defeat him yourself!


After she praised God, she passed me the ammunition.


I started throwing pies as fast as Carly handed them to me. But MardrenÕs tunic was impervious. ÁHe was even licking the pie off his fingers!


Mardren was not going to be easily defeated. ThatÕs the last time I look to God for malevolent advice.


I looked into my own eyes, ready to attack my self.


Mardren sounded like a tire with a squeaky leak. He looked like the eggplant veggie plate at RanchoÕs. The purple tunic was purple and getting purpler.


And now I was dying for a salt and ham sandwich.


The echo in my head told me over and over that I needed to prolong this cautionary tale for at least a few more chapters. The pies were flying fast and furious and the tension was throwing torque-wrenches in every direction.


I was tired of the land of the free, and the home of the brave had been converted into giant slums for the poor, and playgrounds for the rich. I wanted to let all the air out of all the tires, and let all the poor and tired people come together in one big, enormous, purple globe.


With a perverse resetting of the clocks, 11 became 7 and sucked the air out of everyone except me.


The air had been sucked out of me many moons ago.


While IÕd been playing Bocce ball.


I had grown to love Bocce ball and to loathe the curveball that I couldnÕt hit if itÕd been converted into an extra large hockey puck. No matter how technically sound my swing was, the vultures would perch on my bat whenever I faced down a curveball.


I was a fiery fastball hitter, always ready for a high-heater right down the middle... I donÕt know what IÕm talking about.


My eyes were little tornados that became obscure and aquiline silhouettes at even the mere suggestion of succubus sauce.


The air poured itself into me. Then it cut me up like I was picante sauce. But I wasnÕt picante sauce, I was preparing to have already been terrorized.


I was getting high, marinating my brain like it was calamari.


I was batting a big zero-ten. The air had a better chance of hitting the ball. It was pretty much batting nine-niner-niner - at least around me. And all I could do was grunt – oh, and I could also slip and fall.


I tried spitting and grabbing my crotch. Good, I seemed to have that down.


I was Irene Cara, if Irene Cara were a dragon.


A gigantic dragon that would kick the gigantic ass of that purple-tunicÕs pinhead.


For most people, just the idea of some creep carousing around in a purple tunic is enough to... Well, itÕs just enough. I havenÕt even mentioned the terrible odor. Or the three Amarillo eyes that stare down at you like a giraffe with a migraine. Or the two huge tongues that had been dyed black on a recent trip to the dentist in Boca Raton. Or the green spittle that continuously ran down his mouth.


In other words, the catÕs out of the bag and itÕs crummeling along like a bald eagle driving a convertible SUV thatÕs running out of gas.


But, if you passed him on the street, you wouldnÕt give her a second look. But that first look would look like you had the Ace of ♠ up your sleeve and your hand wasnÕt able to reach it.


The Irene Cara→Dragon analogy was the closest thing I had to kissing my own ass.


Mardren was the closest thing I had to two giant tongues flicking at me from above. It woke me the fuck up from my daydreams. And somehow I found the air that had been stolen from me, and exhaled. But the air I expelled was ridden on by rats and smelled putrid. Oh, and the color was horrible.


ThatÕs when that pest Mardren hissed and all of my pent-up nausea came out at once. The worst part was then he stared me straight in the several eyes. My teeth were no armor, but I smiled anyway, intent on showing the purple people eater that I may be alienated and I may be an alkaloid, but I wasnÕt amused.


I saw enormous dragon mandibles and realized that it wasnÕt me or Irene Cara who had turned into a dragon - ÁIt was that flake Mardren! ÁAnd now heÕs driving a Volvo through the air! I threw salt at him and prepared to have already been beheaded.


I pushed and pulled, but my eyes wouldnÕt come out. I was forced to watch as dragon Mardren threw flaming churros at everyone. It may have been lame, but my solution was to call out the Spanish Armada. I figured that the Spanish Armada and several well-tossed pies could defeat any gigantic dragon hurling flaming churros.


-ÁHey! -I was pissed. The flaming churros werenÕt salted.


The dragonÕs Air-Volvo tooled through the air. I prepared to yell again:


-ÁThat is not right! -I could see Carly, her acerbic wit and seamless attire. Dad had always said that he was the brains behind the Museum of Misery and Hysteria, but that Carly was the museumÕs poor excuse for a doorman.


Carly had actually quit her doorman job when Dad wouldnÕt let her dress up in armor. And, actually, it wasnÕt even a job, it was more of a ÒLetÕs keep Carly busy and out of my hairÓ.



The echo in my head got out and I punted it at the dragon. I turned and punted and smiled and bowed.


The dragonÕs first reaction was a rude, discordant bellow. Its second reaction was to prepare a bottle of saline solution. Its third reaction was to turn white and preach about how the poor ainÕt paying their part.


The flaming churros were directly related to how gargantuan the dragon Mardren had become.


I had to do it.


I ordered more pies.


-ÁMore pies, Carly! -I was choking on my own hand because I was still getting used to my new head.


When I went back to draining the dragon, I couldnÕt, because it was just Mardren now, denatured.


The resale value of Barbiª as a species was blah, blah, and especially mimosa. My new head was brimming with baba cold goo, from the top of my hat, right down to my...


ÀÁPurple tunic!?


Somehow my new head had adopted MardrenÕs crispy, purple tunic.


-ÁYou bastard! ÁGimme back my tunic! -Mardren cut his voice with air. And he cut his teeth with cheese. Long gone was the flying Air-Volvo, it had been converted, through the magical arts, into a reluctant Ace of ♠.


Mardren grabbed the Ace of ♠. And ate it.


-Mike, letÕs play -Carly was quite the provocateur.


The sack of shit formerly known as Mardren had freaking eaten the Ace of ♠.


This was all too much. I looked away and then quickly looked back - and there was Mardren.


And all I could think was ÒÁYou ate my Ace of ♠! ÁYou medieval dickweed!Ó.


Mardren sensed my reverie and attacked me. I blocked his bestial blows with my spare Ace of ♣. Fortunately, I had had the 2 of tracheotomized into my neck two years ago. I liked the way it vibrated nicely in the breeze. It was like no other sensation youÕll ever have - when youÕre a boy.


When youÕre a boy, the segues that follow are beastly ones - literally - as Mardren swiped at the Ace of ♠ with his large talons.


Mardren was intentionally trying to cheat by grabbing the Ace of ♠ up my sleeve. I poured salt as rapidly and as violently as I could pour.


But when Mardren started sneezing, I knew that he couldnÕt sneeze and breathe at the same time. If I could keep him sneezing, and maybe laughing evilly, I could effectively suffocate his ass to death. That and I knew Judo. And Jackie Chan movies. But now I didnÕt know one from the other. I get these kind of things mixed up. Like, once, I forgot where my eyes were. I knew where my heart was, but I couldnÕt see my eyes.


I was forced to look and read through my hands and to procure goods and services like an alcoholic.


I lifted the Ace of ♠. But someone had moved the 2 of . And thatÕs when I heard... the murmur.


The murmur was coming from that moveable feast of an asshole.


You guessed it: Mardren.


He lifted his Spade of Diamonds above his head, and the sky was broken into tiny Cinnamon Crispas pureed through the fin of a Air-Volvo-driving dolphin.


The resulting purple flames sang techno-pop Crystal Gale songs, and continued carrying on like Anna Livia Purabelle toasting marshmallows. Only a miracle could save me from all of this shit. Or a mausoleum.


But there was nothing but shit.


-DonÕt look at my self. DonÕt look at my self -I said repetitiously from the lower, western part of my mouth.


But still - nothing but shit.


The magical stylings of Mardren were brilliant, but joyless. However, the stylings were, nonetheless, hypnotizing me.


-You are not falling asleep now -I told my self-. It is not permitted.


That was a segue and 9/10th. I was 9/10th pussy and 1/10th Nacho Bell Grande. Here I was, about to be killed by a purple-tunicÕd fish-eater with ergonomically-correct mandibles, and all I could think about was trying to stay awake.


I sent out a message that started in my brain and worked its way down my cerebellum to my eyes, and finally back up to my brain: ÁDonÕt fucking fall asleep!


The rodents in the corner were doubled-over in laughter. ÁThen they attacked my penis! Fucking rodent septuagenarians!


-ÁNo, Mike, whoa! -Carly was whining at me again. Her voice was so much like Sid ViciousÕs, I thought that, now, the end is near-. ÁDonÕt start that Sid Vicious/ÓMy WayÓ crap again!


I wasnÕt sure if I was coming or Carly was going, but I was sure of one thing and that was: my eyes were open. ÀOr were they closed? All this purple was really disorienting. ÀWas today part of tomorrow? IÕm thinking not, but, Àwhat if IÕd never learned to read a book or to toke a bowl?


With all the pent-up energy of a quesadilla, I grabbed the Ace of ♠ from up my sleeve with my bad hand, and raised it to the skies with my brazenness.


I pointed the card at my boy, Mardren. When His Crispness finally acknowledged that I was pointing at him, he immediately trumped my Ace of ♠ with the sweet spot of a baseball bat.


He started swinging at me from every direction.


Every direction this side of the Cinnamon Crispa Creepatorium. My screams of pain resounded off Boca Raton. I gulped in between blows from the bat and screams from my diaphragm, and decided on a new plan of attack.


ÁIÕd sing!


IÕd just belt-out songs, a la Ethel Merman.


-ÁNo! -This was one chill motherfucker. He stopped hitting me and started yelling at me.


The entire county was stunned into silence as I started singing the hits. There wasnÕt a single species making a sound. It was creepy. Kinda like when you get on an elevator and the only other person inside the car is some obvious nutcase in a purple tunic. And itÕs not just that heÕs wearing a tunic, or that itÕs purple. And itÕs not the matching purple toupee. And itÕs not necessarily that his lips look like corrugated pig mess. It is when he sits down and starts coloring himself with crayons and reaching under his tunic to color his purple-helmeted warrior.


The human feces also known as Mardren was weakening from the hits hitting him in his earhole. He tried doing algebra, but he couldnÕt remember what a numerator and dominatrix were. So he started studying human evolution. He was like a podiatrist who didnÕt know when to let go of the foot.


For a second, Mardren threw into question the whole idea that humans evolved from primates and not from poncey purple people eaters whose entire purpose was to spit and to hiccup.


-ÁNo! ÁNo! ÁGoddamn punk kids! ÀWhy donÕt you go half-life yourselves? -Mardren obviously didnÕt know brazen, agricultural humor from down-home, human humor.


Carly kept circling me until I was so dizzy I couldnÕt see. What I needed was a hairbrush and an otter and then, maybe, I could comb my way out of this purple-shrouded nightmare that Mardren had cucumbered us into.


Speaking of Mardren, his face was still rank with pie. And, despite that, he was also still yelling.


-ÁNo! ÁNo!


That Mardren jackass sure didnÕt know many variations on the classic denial. I guess with his eyes now orbiting the sun, he wasnÕt up to his usual word mastery.




Nope, he wasnÕt.


He turned to me with his pie-splattered face torqued into a grotesque expression of pain.



A penis is not a podiatristÕs best friend. And strange signifiers - like purple tunics, cream pies and playing cards - establish the text as something other than a solving-the-human-dilemma machine. And, despite all of the large, barbed bank accounts transforming us from human to...


Sorry, this is a text-as-solving-the-human-dilemma-free zone.


The humidity suddenly extended itself over the text-as-solving-the-human-dilemma-free zone. It ultimately disassembled the text, placing tiny, purple hats over each chapter.


-ÁNo! ÁNo! ÁNo! -I knew it was Mardren because there wasnÕt a human being alive with a more limited vocabulary. He was either monosyllabicizing or he was grunting (his grunts being polysyllabic)-. This canÕt be hapÕning to me. ÁNot to me! ÁYou goddamn punk kids! I am Mardren, the maggot most likely to turn the world on to the magic of purple. ÁNo! ÁNo!


MardrenÕs voice was particularly intense, and intensely particular. He sure could whine with the best of Ôem. He was an enormous purple baby in a Tijuana tunic. He was as old as piss, but actually younger than gonorrhea.


Mardren wasnÕt the exception to the tool, he was the tool - complete with strange silences that hung in the air like an empty cartoon dialogue bubble.


Carly and I didnÕt want what we couldnÕt see - we wanted what we couldnÕt taste, hear, feel or touch. We could already see our lives as they passed in front of us, complaining about how bored they were.


I quickly stopped watching my life, and started translating it into the vernacular. The purple pinhead was about to get da shizzle.


Mardren had his good points, but he was also almost completely inhuman and inhumane.


ÀOr was he?


Just when IÕd decided to break-out the gats, the 30Õs and the Flappers, something happened that was so brutal, so utterly without purpose... Well, IÕll just describe it. It was an enormous and pie-drenched purple casserole - and I emphasize the ass in casserole.


-ÁAggghhh! -Carly had been hit with a psilocybin of salt.


-Salt canÕt hurt you, dumbass.


I figured that Mardren the purple, salt-throwing casserole was no longer a threat. I pointed to the EXIT sign and he rolled his salty self toward it. His huge, purple casserole carapace wasnÕt able to sustain its viscosity, and slowed to a crummel. Beneath its carapace was the creepiest caricature of a casserole this side of Tuna & Potato Chips. It was both repulsive and turning green.


You gotta take the charcoal with the Xmas stocking, as my Great Aunt Dora used to say.


-Carly, lend me some charcoal -I said.


Antennas of charcoal moved through the air and our eyes moved with them. It was getting ass-kissingly red in my head. And, despite all the charcoal antennae and the redness, I knew a ratÕs ass when I was one.


Everything that we once knew as Mardren was now a ratÕs ass of purple Berber.

      -- on to chapter 16   or   back to Cab Driving --