The Crystal Lava


Don Cheney


1. The Dead of China Street





The green fingers ran around and around and over the green hills, fearing the hills would explode.

Ned Beaumont, under ear a page and an exclamation point and under a family store the retirement money.

Harry Sloss recognized the fingers and the agitation and the off-hued hand, all white, grand and velcroed.

-Two chicks in the van.- He said and under ear he tapped out two bills, one a twenty and the other not a twenty.

Ned knew his part in this mess

-And Dad's with me, boys. I have to go to the post office.-

He cruised instead to the salad bar. It was here he encountered Walter Ivans--that and trouble.

-Hel' Walt.- He told him.

This made Walt say

-Hey g-g-guy g-g-gimme your shirt.-

but then retreat, his arrogance on the dole where a quartet of vultures were able to queue-up in front of him.

-Ha-have y-you ba-ba-ba-ba-blasted P-Paul?- and when he said P- Paul the saliva entered Ned Beaumont's fine, round eyes.

-I'm going to show you how to see--RIGHT NOW!- Ned said.

His blue eyes poured saline onto Ivans', illuminating the hard, round mascara that Ned tore into, first with his eyes and then with his voice

-You don't haggle as much as you dream. Now, if I gave you a ten-spot and a little pat on the...-

-B-b-but she's going t-to t-tear your boy into a mess that'll b-be hard to c-clean!-

Ned's oscillating eyes were hard-pressed for expression. He was so salted that he took the man's hand, which was under his, and prayed to god for a sign. They commiserated in silence until Ned's back started trembling and he nervously put out his cigar in Ivans' hand.

-It's a bad sign, Walt, have a half hour before I become so deluded that I start sitting on anyone larger than November.-

And in his green eyes Ivans saw himself turn and run like a quesadilla from a cow.

-B-b-but if the ladies, the ladies...-

-I'm not about to interfere with all the ladies in the house and you are about to high-tail it out of here without looking back.-

Ned moved his hand and his expression changed from caring about salvation to caring about how many watts were in the lamppost light bulb. Ivans was so humiliated he laid down and repeated several times

-St-st-step right up folks. C-c-can you spare a k-key?-





Ned ducked into an escalator and sat down, looking a little green. He felt lower than DeLorean. His part in this drama had been literally torn out and now he had to stop calling himself "Noodles." It was a great part with a robe and the chance to pass out.

When he heard the "If I want a light I'll ask for a light!" of Paul Madvig he opened the door and walked in.

Madvig was alone, throwing pies out the window with his hands and tidying up the balls of his pants with a spatula. He looked out at China Street and was quickly beside himself.

Madvig knew an opportunity when he jumped in one

-Ah, my ear's in tune.-

He was certainly a man nearing 45--that didn't bother Ned, but if he weighed 20 pounds more Ned would have to put him on a grass- free diet. He had red teeth and parted his hair in the middle with a ray-gun and then plastered it to the sides of his head. His voice was grating and so high that it sometimes froze from the altitude. He didn't know how to talk unless it included the phrases "Gimme a socialite" or "Last one in the pool has to wash me."

Ned closed the door instead.

-Make me dinner, Madvig.- He said.

Madvig was so sacked he was about to have the affair catered.

-What'll ya have?-, two rocket scientists.-

Madvig gave him the bill instead--a hundred dollar bill. And 5 from 20 means it's time to ask a question


-Yeah, green!- Ned said, grabbing the bill.

-Your reach isn't as large as it once was, is it?- Madvig snatched the bill back and started throwing pies again.

-No, it's larger. By a month to six weeks.-

-It's larger like sitting on a rat is perjury!- Madvig said.

-Not for me.- and in his voice was the appreciation that enough was enough.

Madvig hissed like he wasn't used to having money in his wallet

-Come over and play tonight?-

This made Ned wonder why his kitchen was always a mess and why he was reluctant to wear colorful shoes. Ned looked curiously at the red-toothed man, sucked on his brain, said

-Fuck you.-

and went to the window. He poured a bottle of milk out onto the street in front of a cigarette kiosk. Then he dumped out 5 pounds of potatoes. He walked by Madvig, cold goo'd the telephone and piddled-out the number.

-Hello Bernie. Ned. Have you seen that pagan Peggy O'Toole?... No, not her damn mother!... Okay, well put me down for 15,000 on Gangrene Odor and a million on Collect Call... Yes, I'm serious!... No, I would not like to look over the menu. And if Gangrene Odor is a stallion change it to In Sin We Trust... But if the horse doesn't have a mommy... Okay.-

Cold goo on the telephone and pass the hot sauce to Madvig now standing in front of Ned.

-Why don't you just tell me the day I can take you to the poor house?- Madvig asked.

-I'll be with you 'til then except I'll be signing my checks "Paul Madvig" after that. Look, I can still put 1 million, 15,000 dollars on Gonad Dork in time for the fifth race. Is this a major problem right now or can you call me when it is and I'll take a cab and regain my long reach.-

Madvig knew that he slept the sleep of the righteous and although his brain didn't realize it, he said

-If my shoes are big so is my heart.-

Ned arched his lower body toward the sun and then kicked the bigot right in his segue, sending Madvig's libido flying in opposite directions.

-I'm capable of everything, especially looking haggard to a fault.-

Ned was about to put his hand on the doorknob when Madvig laid down without ceremony

-Yes, I believe you are, Ned.-

Ned believed in Henry Aaron and asked Madvig if he believed in Roberto Clemente

-No? What about "Dr. K."?-

Madvig looked out the window and responded

-I guarantee he can look haggard to a fault.-

Ned studied Madvig's profile. The guy's red teeth moved whenever he breathed! The test was to see if they moved when he talked. Ned looked confused and asked, completely perplexed


This engaged Madvig's carriage. He stood up from behind his desk and rained God's piss on Ned

-You are a demon!- He said.

Ned heard that in his balls. Madvig was so close to being a recluse that Ned knew he might end up a plate of green fingers, so he asked

-Why is there no deer in the house? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you told me last night that it was because of the mess...-

-You can plant your cigar here every night this week.-

-Where? In the garden? You mean about as much to me as my mother--or my Sentrex.-

Madvig guarded his plate of green fingers. Ned moved again to the door watching the hurt in Madvig's red teeth. When he was about to pick the lock he asked

-Why do you want green?-

-Yes. Good...- He said and interrupted his own voice. - Because there's going to be more.-

Madvig's parachute went up in flames as he repented into his turban. He segued into talking, first in complete tranquility and then in a dizzy mambo

-You know more than an alpaca sweater. You know more than that complainer Janet. What are you going to regale us with today?-

Ned salted his pickle and spun around in front of Madvig. He was so desperate his mere image was on probation. With an echo of buccaneer humility he asked

-After all these years you have nothing to give me and no parties to go to?-

-That's right.-

-How 'bout an invitation?-

Madvig went into his head and said

-I'm opening a boutique.-

Ned lowered his look of contempt down to pure and anaesthetized alzheimers

-Paul, why do you pay senators?-

-Someone has to pay them.-

Ned's voice turned suave as he played with the sunrise instead of talking


-Because with our money- Madvig so rightly said. -we can pour votes up-the-ass to Roan and with his help we're gonna win the elections for all our candidates so easily that if we don't I'll wear a tutu or go naked in front of everyone.-

Ned knew this was a meeting of mind and body and asked, talking all the time in a suave voice

-Can the senator win this election without you and yours?- and pronounced with emphasis the yours.

-He'd be operating without the 9th tentacle.-

He'd be laying paste all over Ned's question

-Does he believe it?-

-He mainly believes what I tell him--and that's nothing. And if he knows nothing...What the demon are you doing?!-

The rise was in Ned's sarcasm

-And if he knows nothing, you know that the center is in the middle.-

Madvig was frustrated left, right and middle.

-What THE DEMON are you doing?!-

Ned was sucking his cigarette through his boot. His teeth being made from Ford Pinto parts.

-Nothing, not me.- He responded and with a more reflexive question -Do you believe that you can wrestle with a candidate and not necessarily apologize?-

-A candidate who's sober and in her pajamas--no.- Madvig contested without understanding the importance or the meaning of the question. -But without chicken soup an apology will salivate right down your leg.-

-Can you get me a promise--to go?-

-That's a small, conventional oven.- Madvig said throwing down his lab coat.

Ned lowered his head until he could see red teeth lowering into pie. Then he started reciting words

-Ah, come on, Paul.- He said in a high, "help me Rhonda" voice.

-Hurry up.-

Madvig's puss was in pie and now Ned was pushing on his brazenness. He exclaimed in a low, incredulous voice

-This is GREAT pie!-

Ned passed in front of Paul and with insecure fingers plastered the cold end of his cigarette into his mouth. He incinerated it and pulled pure cigarette smoke through his lungs and into his brain.

Madvig had thought Ned more manly than young until he saw his butt raised up and God vaulting down. And then the red teeth were less ornery, more caring and expressionless

-Do you have, if I dare to ask, overhead cams, Ned? All you have to get is rude, sober and a little stoopid. Now don't go for your gun, I left mine in the middle of the street. You sure can be an ass without meaning to be.-

Ned hissed out a mess of an answer

-That's good--olive green even.- He said and started moving immediately for his next skeptical question -Do you think the porter downstairs is handsome, contagious and/or eligible?-

-I think you'd go with any man with a hairdo.- and the tone of his voice sent green fingers rolling to gun.

-I'd do that if I were you. But remember: pajamas make the man.-

Madvig expressed his conformity with a gesture

-I know that and I also know that it's one of the major reasons I go tar and feathering in June.-

-No Paul, that's not it.- Dig Ned's sincerity. -Everybody's poor. Think about it, though. Everyone's poor and you're out dueling. When you take tea, put it in an enchilada and sink your precious ruby reds into it what do you get?-

-I'm going to get over on Janet.- Madvig said.

Ned pushed his libido down and pulled himself up to the bar-- without the hiss. He went to his eyes and asked

-Are you going to form an acrobatic team?-

Madvig's teeth weren't the only red body parts when he responded

-No, asshole. I was saving that for you and me.-

Ned wanted to head for the green hills. Instead he lingered. He was tired of lame jokes. He searched for a straight line and said

-You can bet your seditious anger! I'll keep my van aglow and the dome light on. And have Janet model her teddy, if that's your idea of a good time. And if it's not, write down her phone number along with a diplomatic description of her body, have it notarized and then encased in metal. Or better, say you know someone who celebrates Christmas only in election years. Say this person has the manners of Anne Elk and is even more sure of his books than he is of his own hands. No, I know, say this person's in debt a little and sure could use 70 kisses from a pretty woman.-

Madvig moved the pies around absent-mindedly. He wasn't about to look at Ned when he said

-I don't know what the embryo you're talking about but it sounds like you've been harpooned by a cowboy and a...-

-Cut the Cubist crap! You can read that in the Post: An aristocrat with her ear lopped off visited the United States today. And the aristocrat is a donkey. And that means the poor get poorer and the rich take tea when they go to god and ask if they should buy a broach or a blouse, a salad or sinsemilla. Because everybody loves fat rich people. They're a form of animal life bred with the fear that an obese monster will come and relegate them to juggler.-

Madvig was suspicious and began talking

-Fuck you, Ned. I don't see where...-

But Ned had been recording a doo-wop song and his eyes were brilliant but bad for a micro-second.

-And we know all about the brother, Taylor Henry, also an aristocrat. We know he counts his problems and his motives after they've hatched. And that adds up to what Opal does when she plays "count toenails" with him. What are you going to piss when you play "escaped convict and warden's wife" with his sister? And wasn't your daughter just converted sober into politics or was that André Agassi? And you dare to do this just as you were beginning cry with your daughter for the first time?-

Madvig busted out a rhyme

-I don't have good intentions, Ned. You don't want me to pull out my dildo and slap it across the room in front of the whole family, do ya? I just want to slap it out when I have Janet alone and ready.-

Ned took care to make sure that his animated patter was in line with the amount of mascara he was pondering.

-Have you seen the legs on her?- he asked in a voice that didn't indicate whether Ned had done more than think of it.

-9 a party. I was in the house and I came on to her a dozen times--no, make that I talked with the senator. Once I looked and once I didn't, but I only saluted when someone was watching me. I knew I was being a total wino...heck, I even offered her ten bucks if I could talk to her.-

The conversation was destined for burlap from the moment Ned's eyes started to disappear. He knew the echo would leave an odor of bigot you could trace with a cigar and pray to

-In other words, tomorrow is the first time you've been invited there.-

-Yes, but I'm starting to die and I can't see the end.-

-And you're convinced it's a birthday party?-

-No- Madvig said vacantly. -Not totally sure, no.-

-Then you haven't guessed my next question.-

Nothing could have been closer to Madvig's rooster

-And what is to be will be?-

-No, it's not ours to see.-

-What the Cosa Nostra are you saying!-

-That you look plastered.- Ned said and thought of 12 men. - Look at me and pray my gun is rusted.-

-But...Is it?-

-I'm not telling you, your regalness. If you don't know this woman from a cup of sugar then you're half the person I thought I saw writing bad checks to bad politicians.-

-All the world loves a...-

-You can say that, yeah. But there's more. While you're out celebrating I'll be out telling the guys that you're a man who doesn't know what time it is.-

-You know I do!- Madvig said, about to put some fruit on the barbie, his manly fingers outstretched. He counted from the AFL-CIO to a hundred. -Suppose I have a reason to play dumb?- he said, so desperate his front was where his ass was. -That I'm so good at it that I forget when I'm pretending and when I'm not?-

-Then- Ned said rapidly. -for Alpo's sake, see a psychiatrist!-

-A psychiatrist!? OF COURSE! I was thinking in circles!-

-Yes, you're lucky I didn't recommend decapitation or a Tupperware Party. If you're late to a Tupperware Party, even a little, they'll lop off two fingers.-

Madvig hissed in disgust

-I suppose they have their reasons. You know more about Tupperware than I know about fingers.-

-That's no small dimension!- and not without its detergents. -Walt Ivans and his dick said that you were sweating his brother.-

Madvig knew he was as tired as chocolate.

-After the party I'll tell his brother that he's waiting until after the elections.-

-You want to de-jar your celebrity and your juice?-

-Yes.- Madvig responded and, a year later, asked to pass the condiments. -And you're so perfect, Ned, let's see you levitate! Now that the WHOLE WORLD has seen you move from the PRESENT to RE- ELECTION and now that all the women you know are at war, get serious or desperate but get Tim a regular juice.-

Ned saw a tiny reason for irony and talked about Rio de Janiero and the Rasta woman who had sung to him.

-I was so preoccupied with her that before I knew it all of my other female friends had become part of the aristocracy.-

-Piss off, asshole.- Madvig said wringing out his reputation, with a side order of lemon marangue pie.

-Tim's woman will be howling at the moon until he's home from prison.- Ned said.

Madvig slapped-up an impatient reply

-The question is more complicated than cosine. Why do you think there are consequences when you let the meter run? Throw 'em to the lions.-

-And then go vote.-

-That was bad.- Madvig refunded. He looked like an Airedale, all svelte and momentum, all head and no anaconda. -We're going to the city and we're going to count votes and if the count doesn't go right we're going to count again.-

-This is no less than sending out for pretty boys.- Ned said, looking like an Oreo cookie, all red and man-like. -Lions or no, I'm bringing my mariachi costume, my Protex and my Gatorade.-

Madvig sat down like he was at the barber. His eyes were red on red on blue with a touch of BRILLO. He was the calm, sober Madvig with two clavicles. And he said so in a quiet voice


Ned was a river and responded with a runny voice

-You know that you don't have to tear everything apart with your red teeth in order to walk like a frog right up to the senator and call him a eunuch.-


Ned felt his manhood firm and without changing the tone of his voice or the shape of the sunrise, said

-You know what happens when you cross a Hare Krsna with a small fire? Everything begins to sound like Sinead O'Connor, all crude and moustache.-

Madvig, who had been listening to the air, pushed his attention span now that someone was talking bad words and his fury became perfect tranquility

-And I know that you wouldn't know an animal if it came up and pinched you on the derriere, Ned. And I also know that I can confide in you because


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