Celebrating Trash World
by William Painter
According to the marquee it was called the Chamber-Council Platinum Partnership Econ Devel meeting, and outside the Holiday Inn on East Honey street the men, swollen with barbeque sauce rubbed their bellies with writhing, ritual satisfaction, wiped the last drops of Bud Lite and blended from lips sneering and misshapen from prevarication injected wantonly into ceaseless talking and the women likewise, the tattered remnants of pantyhose hanging from their subtly stubbly gym-toned ankles, adjusting elastics, freshening make-up, turning from voice to voice to voice, not to miss, please, not a single thing, reeling from meat, Neutrogena and alcohol and the talk on money and opportunity and By golly it’s yours for the taking.
A street person had been arrested for loitering earlier at the request of the establishment. There was a trail of boiled peanuts the man had had hidden under his layers of clothing; they had spilled from their hiding places and lay like a trail of Chihuahua turds next to the shoes they had roughly dragged him out of and, as the others made faces, Joe Junior bent down and picked the shoes up, big run-over, third-hand, knock-off Air Jordan’s, and he tossed them like the hipster hoopster ex-high school b-ball big boy he was into the back of his gleaming gold and crimson Escalade.
“What the hell you gonna do with those, Joe?” an admirer, among many present, asked.
“Gonna give ‘em to the Salivatin’ Army!” he said with his trademark smirk and his nostrils flared like train tunnels waitin’ on the Double-E. And everybody laughed with in obsequious uproar.
Then at last, me and Marwe were on the road. Out passed the pavement, with breathtaking glimpses of pasture between billboards and communication towers. God bless the company of good old cows, God bless dew and grasses. Then, the short-lived respite expired with a click.
Celebrating Trash World, the music bounced from the radio like silicon boobs in macramé, the thin syn beat from speaks big as her backseat bristled come a pot bellied pig and huffed “Gimme Gold! Gimme Gold ‘n’ the fame I deserve ‘for I kill ya’!” She was too distracted to explain her love this time or indicate the intricate disdain she felt for this aberration of the form she loved but no matter how much she, or he, or them, or it may testify, very little comes over these networks I cares to listen much less cares or can talk to as a subject at any length. Still, she’s a critic of that sort so that is what she does, and talk she does unless, as at this moment, she’s got something else sizzling softly, like a fine sausage fragrant on the griddle
Thus with the advantage of not being expected to speak I noticed, as we whizz onward, a buzzard on a branch high in a burnt-out pine. She was not perched, Ma Buzzard, but squatted lengthwise like a nighthawk and I wondered what the hell and naturally speculated it might be poison, like the fire ant and everything else killer these green-yard creatively debilitate junkie escapees from the cities they’ve laid desolate have been throwing around like confetti at recently otherwise so far uneventful political conventions. (Like condoms at a Baptist Summer Camp. Those were the days: impotent, scared shitless and oozing pus! Hush memory!)
And then suddenly she says something. Just anything, and I’m drawn to her like a Goth to a flame and on this occasion she says she wants peace of mind and is going to try Kundalini yoga and of course in my old dogboy head I am immediately sitting in that lotus pose with her bouncing to sitars to the stars on top and I don’t even care that I have two dislocated hips and thigh bones sticking out I want to hoist the flag on the fragments and for her to say Oh Baby! just one more time before I bust in two, before I give up the ghost. But she says, “Seriously. I want peace… therefore I want peace of mind.”
And she’s right. These times are further killing people who pay attention, shredding their neurons as they gaze into the mirror in the insistent glow of what we have come to understand as information vital to our existence. That is, news. And though I might question the approach I believe she is right. Right enough to follow. To change or even to survive this we will have to be whole human beings not merely cognitive functions in an attractive carrying case, the to-do list in-pocket and a confident stride.
I come by my bitterness honestly. Like a lot of other people, I had dreams, not just for my self but for the world. On top of that, depression runs in my whole worthless family. We have always treated it with addiction, bawling fundamentalist pleas for forgiveness and by being thrown in jail—that is, seeking a context in which one’s prevailing mood is singularly appropriate. But now, I try to do some good. Yet, despite earnest resolve, at the slightest provocation I succumb to fear and rage. She is, constitutionally, stronger, or more accurately, in botanical terms, hardy.
The fact is, it takes courage to grow courage. This truth in itself, when we truly appreciate it, helps to undermine the illusory notion of gradual redemption and spiritual attainment. Acknowledging that salvation is at once instantaneous and a process or, actually, neither, is faith itself, but faith requires persistence and discipline which requires, again, courage and there’s no point to standing holding our little cups in our trembling hands, waiting for alms, wondering whether or not we have it, we must have it. She knows, I believe, where to go and how to get there. This doesn’t hand me my balls. It is just a fact and I accept it.
As darkness falls, on these moonless nights, because of what I myself have learned by accident, she asks me to take the wheel. And as she sleeps, her snoring face illuminated by the dashboard light, I think of her words, “I want peace, therefore I want peace of mind.” The old Firestones whine and flap down the road, and there is otherwise a momentary and satisfying silence.
William Painter is a peace and justice psycho who fell to earth long ago but still says ga ga. He currently lives with his girlfriend and a pack of dogs in a swamp in Florida. His fiction has appeared in Deadmule and Eyeshot, his non-fiction in places you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.