Mushroom Cloud Of Hiss – 1994
April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
July 7th, 1994
Heat. The bus broke down. “I thought this was charged. Fuck!” That was me when my e-book started to blink out. Fortunately I brought the photovals. Sasha already has rejoined the Suspender tornado – I didn’t know that Jo was her cousin, but it makes sense considering what Friz just told me about… whatever that band was. Ask, and Frisbee tells me it was Jumpster; actually, “Jumpster, what, you mean you really don’t remember ‘Mine!’? Get out of my shade!”. “Mine!” was their first album, and “my shade” was the tree by the road which half the bus has gathered under, while the driver and designated mechanics ratchet and grease away. We’re literally out in the middle of somewhere, all 35 of us, including the baby that likes to throw up when the windows are rolled down. Well, throw away, brat. I’m too fucking hot to complain.
Frisbee just peaked over at what I wrote. Apparently I didn’t do “Mine!” justice, and she won’t let me back into the shade unless I recant. O.K. Looking at the notes she wrote on my left palm, Jumpster started in the middle of 1986, right after the Intruder Alert! double album. Oops, I’ve already lost you, but that’s the price you pay for reading someone else’s journal. Anyway, as you already know (insert snicker), Intruder Alert! was Suspender’s pre-cursor, Jo and Caroline bouncing around a bit before they settled in on the now tried and true formula. So, between Intruder and Suspender Jo was in two side-projects (I consulted Frisbee from across the field, and she says that’s accurate enough for this forum), one of which was Jumpster, which involved Sasha (who we know now to be her cousin “on her mother’s brother’s side”) as an unnamed participant. Their first 7″ was…… you know, this is growing really tired (and the notes are starting to track my wrist black), so why don’t I just throw this over to her, and let her give you the absolutely complete tale.
This is me. Don’t listen to John (he hates it when I call him that). Jumpster was a really cool band, with Sasha and Jo and Susan from Slow Cone (who also really rocked but that’s another thing altogether). “Jumpster Diving” was their first 7″, and you probably would recognize “This is Not a Drill” off of it if I played the first 10 seconds. Anyway, after that came the absolutely amazing “Mine!”, which was probably the best record Jo was involved in – pre Fire Escape, that is. When I first heard it I just about slapped Sasha silly, because she never told any of us how utterly grand she was, like one of those little whistles you get in a box of breakfast sugarcubes, that are so small and cheap and plastic yet make this sound that jumps up your nose and pokes tiny holes in your eyeballs, so that all the white stuff runs out and you can’t see anything but you can smell the music. Yep. That’s Sasha.
At this point I got to mention Fire Escape because A) It was another Jo project from the same time period, and B) A-Bell, her luckiness, found her way into the beautiful mess. April from Potato Power. Joan and Caroline from Intruder Alert!. Susan from Slow Cone. A-Bell from…. well, let’s just say she has connections (Sasha can be sly….). I would talk about it here, but I’ve talked it to death in antizines – it happens to be the best record of the 80’s, but you already know that. Everyone knows this. Fuck, it’s was on Flake. Do you need more?
O.K. So we were talking about Jumpster and Sasha
No, actually we were talking about me, John, because this is my e-book. Give her any sort of recording instrument for a minute and it’ll come back not only filled, but whining. At this point we’ve already established that Frisbee is just a little bit musically obsessed (well, “Jo” obsessed is more like it), but for that matter so is Annabelle, I gather. I’m not about to hazard a guess as to why; there’s so much I don’t know about not just Frisbee, but Laura. It’s been a couple of years, and I still don’t know what makes her shine so, I don’t know where her breath comes from. I suppose her record collection whispers of her essence, but I need something more blatant, more concrete. I’m hoping that this road trip will be not just a period of growth for us as individuals, but that we will grow closer as well.
Did I mention it’s hot? Frisbee let me back in the shade, “but on one condition – foot massage!” At this point I’m not about to argue.
July 8th, I994
I have to apologize for yesterday’s entry; at all of the banks the bus passed by (yeah, it finally became operational again, but not before the sun set and that baby was all thrown out) said 91 degrees in big, blinking lightbulbs between the time. To me that’s akin to talking a barefoot stroll on the surface of the sun, but Frisbee – Laura, for the rest of this entry I want to use proper names – well, she kept yelling “Higher! Higher!” everytime we shot past an N.U., like she was on a game show or something. Which reminds me of the dream I had last night, in which I was still working at the bank – big surprise there – and Tanya was late coming back from her break. Not that this wasn’t common, but today was the big inspection by our district offices, and our boss was shitting in his pants because he wanted as many windows open as humanly possible, so when the official contingent finally walked through the doors, past the lazy guard, the only person in line would be some homeless guy asking for bills for coins, an act which would be demonstratively shunned by some hack-teller, who would be forced to “escort” the drag on our economy out of the door as everyone applauded. Well, that’s how it was supposed to work, but today there was a line out of the door and then some, and the vault was completely out of ones and twenties, effectively causing severe money rationing at the windows. Wanted to cash your paycheck? How about 5’s, because that Lincoln guy sure is honest, no? Change for the subway? Fuck, I’ll buy those ones at $10 dollars a pop, because the merchants are about to come in and that girl from Love Affair – the “adult accessories” shop that just opened up – will do just about anything for crisp Washingtons. But the customers were really being difficult, asking for odd-amount cash advances and trading in pennies for quarters. Plus, when the Love Affair gal finally got to the head of the line Steve called her over, waving and smiling up a storm, and I could see a big wad of ones and twenties sticking out of her deposit bag, so I left the old man at my window with his machine-washed paycheck, grabbed the nearest stapler, unfolded it, and snuck behind the desks over to Steve’s lair. Just as I was about to pounce Tanya came running up the stairs, obviously freaked out, screaming “They’re here!” Everyone in the bank turned around to the front door, even the lazy guard and his best friend, Clarence – who came by twice a week to play chess – and in walked Laura in this red power suit, flanked by two bank goons with dark glasses and red ties. Behind them were 5 Circle X workers – 3 girls, 2 guys – decked out not only in the official red shirts but the official red aprons and the official red baseball caps with the official black logo. Plus, they had the black pants made in a fabric known not to nature that just wouldn’t crease or wrinkle, but the official red tennis shoes with black laces were missing, so all 5 slipped into the door with official red socks on. And I do mean slipped, because as Laura’s henchmen escorted her into the backshop, the Circle Xians were gliding around the lobby like professional ice skaters, doing triple-axle-flips and shit while one of the girls – the one that looked just like my sister Esther, only with all of her hair shaved off and far more piercings – was wheeling around a freezie machine, setting up the customers as they oooh!ed and aaah!ed the floor show. Finally, as one of the guys jumped in the air with a official red blur and landed on the glass table where all the deposit and withdrawal slips are kept, Steve, Tanya and the other tellers held up these numbered signs – you know 10, 9.9, etc – and the guard came up to the triumphant Circle X jerk and handed him a bouquet of flowers, easily provoking tears. Everyone was cheering and jumping up and down, until Laura turned on the emergency loud speakers – “Use only in case of Nuclear Attack!” said the instruction manual we all had to read – stood on the nearest desk, and said “Thank you! You’re too kind! Now hit the floor, punks! This is a take over!” Suddenly all of the official red aprons revealed official black fully automatic weapons (perfectly legal ones, mind you – the Convenience Store Protection act of ’93 saw to that), and the red gang of 5 secured the lobby. The two sunglassed bodyguards took strategic points at either end of the teller area, and Laura started to disrobe. I was terribly embarrassed, because I didn’t want anyone except me to see her naked, but she stopped at what looked to be a white, cotton nightgown, which I don’t think could have fit underneath that short skirt. But there she was, almost angelic, and she continued by saying “Alright! This is to officially announce the National United/Circle X merger.” (Reality check – I was hearing rumors before I quit about this, didn’t believe a word, but when the bus was broken down yesterday I got e-mail from a source that told me it actually went through.) At which point she put down the microphone, took off the nightgown from foot to head, revealing nothing but empty space. She had disappeared. The bodyguards started to freak out, and picked off Steve and Tanya without flinching. Mary, who went on break 15 minutes later than Tanya, chose that point to walk in the bank, carrying a small baby in her arms. I thought that it looked familiar, so I came out from the ATM room – yeah, I was hiding, so sue me – and crawled over to the buzz-door. “Get out of here!” I yell-whispered to her, but she just smiled and handed down the baby to me. A Circle X guard saw this and shot her so many times that her head was severed at the neck. I shielded the baby from the blood and held back my vomit as I crawled back to the ATMs, all the while dodging the bullets that were knocking down N.U. workers left and right. As soon as I rolled into the room I shut the door, knowing far too well that it locks from the outside, and I didn’t have the key. I looked down at the child, and it seemed like a girl – make that a woman, she looked at me with Laura’s eyes. Someone was fussing with the lock so I started to panic, looking for a place to hide her. There was an open machine that needed a twenty refill (and remained empty due to the bill embargo) so I placed her in the deposit-envelope box, which was more than baby-sized. She smiled at me knowingly as I locked her in, spinning the dials and pushing the buttons as security mandated. Not wanting to give her away, I sat down at the cash-counting table just before the two bodyguards and the 5 Circle X agents rushed in. “Where’s the child?” the winning sock-skater demanded, and I just shrugged my shoulders as two girls in official red aprons stuck their gun-barrels (without flash suppressants, as demanded by law) in my ears. “O.K. I was hungry. I ate her.” I just about threw up saying that, but then everyone started to crack up, even the two protecting my ears lest they escape. “So the comedian wants to play games… Fine.” Then the fucking chairman of Circle X walks into the room, looking just like he did on the commercials, and sings “If you’re hungry, then we’re there/Circle X is everywhere.” Picks up this foot long hot dog and stuffs it in my mouth, effectively calling forth the gag I wanted to suppress. The nasty, wrinkly official red sausage dropped on the table, and the chairman patted me on the shoulder, going “It’s O.K. son, your files have already been changed to record this unfortunate reaction.” I was like What the fuck? as I cleared my mouth of my breakfast, and he just smiled as he handed me a black metal squarish box with three official red buttons on one side, blinking. “I know and you know that the girl is in one of the machines. What I know that you don’t are all of the access codes. Membership does have it’s privileges.” (O.K. There’s no way that I could have remembered the dream this clearly, so I’m just accentuating the positives and all that. Anyway….) Still What the fuck? and he saw it in my face, so he was “One button will set you free. One button will set her free. One button will open all of the machine doors. Press none, and we kill you, and open the doors anyway. Choose.” I stared down at the dead imitation dog, and noticed that a piece of metal was sticking out one end. Grabbed for it, ripped off the official red meat, and out came a letter opener. Weighed my choices one last time, turned my salvation towards my chest, and plunged it in as far as I could. I woke up sweating as we passed a N.U. 89. 2:45. 89.
Please, can you tell me what’s wrong with me? Every night I’m shot down, blown up, burnt to death or cut open, and every single time Laura either gets out of jail free, or oversees the dirty deed. I mean, she’s not even close to being that bad – actually, she’s quite wonderful and lovable, and I would literally do anything for her. Maybe the ring is starting to burn a hole in my pants, and the whole idea of…
Wait. I haven’t mentioned this before, and I’m not sure if I should now, because Laura’s been sneaking a peak at my e-book as of late. Like last night, when I woke up from that bad-ass dream, it was totally missing from my side. So I tap her on the shoulder about 100 times until she wakes up, and before she strangles me I whisper “O.K. What did you do with it?” She was “What?” only it came out more like “WHAT!!!!!!” and half of the bus snapped to attention. “E-book….” I said while I tried to shrink down in my seat. “Ididn’ttouchyourFUCKINGe-bookletmesleep!” I thought she was just being coy, but I let it rest, went back to sleep, and it turned back up right where I left it at 8 in the morning, when we stopped for breakfast. That was a couple of hours ago, and some of my tripwires were broken, so I know that she was reading it. Or at least that someone was…. but who else? She’s been after me ever since we left on this trip – we all know what’s going to happen, now it’s only a matter of when. Fuck, I have to talk about this, so I’ll just throw some extra encryption over this entry so prying eyes won’t.
Tomorrow I’m going to ask Laura to marry me. I wanted to wait until things had stabilized again, but when we stopped by Jenny’s before we left – bless her loyalty to Laura, she gave up a third of her apartment to stow away our stuff until we swing back – after she had a long talk with Friz (complete with yelling on both sides that filled the whole building even past closed doors) she pulled me aside while Laura took a quick victory shower. “You love her, right?” and I nodded because I could never speak to Jenny when she got like this. “Then do it. Do it soon.” She reached in her pocket and pulled out a beautiful gold ring. “When I was 9, my grandmother gave this to me from her deathbed. She made me promise that I would only give it to the person I loved most in the world.” Put the ring in my hand, and glared at me. “I’m giving this to Frisbee through you. Grandma would approve.” I almost couldn’t hold back my tears as I pocketed it, and Jenny quickly composed herself and fussed with our bags. When Frisbee came back in the living room, toweling off her hair, Jenny walked over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Have fun.” Until we left, she didn’t say another word to either of us, and then it was only a whispered “bye” that almost got lost in the emotional vacuum. Jenny knows what she’s doing, and just hope I can live up to her sacrifice. So I have it all planned out. When we hit the outskirts of New York tomorrow morning, I’m going to propose just before the driver lets us out to stretch. That way, if she goes after me teeth bared I can just run out of the bus as fast as my feet can carry me, and hopefully hitchhike my way to Abe’s. Of course, my fear is pretty unfounded, because when it counts she’s nothing but a big sweetie – one that I want to spend the rest of my life with.
That said, I’m going to triple-key this and get back to the business at hand; namely, revving up my right hand’s courage so I can demonstrate my heart’s sole wish. Watching Laura watch the passing show, cheering along the temperature as she sweats, I can’t help but yell along with her. “Higher! Higher!”
Everyone stares. Just wait until tomorrow….
July 9th, 1994
“Yes,” she whispers as the bus slows to a halt.
“Yes,” she tells the barf-baby’s mother as we head for the door.
“Yes,” she smiles at the bus driver, distracting him from the TV listings.
“YES!!!!!!!!!!” Everyone in a 500 foot radius now shares in my bliss.
Jenny’s ring sits on her right “medicine finger”, as she likes to call it, which rests in turn intertwined in my fingers. Puffy clouds dot the sky above; the restaurant is half-empty since we always stop at dumps; Laura is glowing and everyone’s getting the tan of the summer. I love the clouds; I love the sickly bacon smell; I love Laura, most of all. That was 6 hours ago, but it’s ever present.
Her hand has not left mine; as I write this I feel her warmth in my palm. Nothing can bother me, not even the fact that my photovals are missing, and that I think someone swiped them last night. I just want to hug her forever, but I have to finish this entry before my batteries run out; we’ll reach Abe’s by 10 tonight, so I can recharge then.
Quickly then, because I have more important things to do:
1) The Circle X/National United merger is all too real, and the media has all but ignored it. I got some mail last night that confirms all of my suspicions as to what this specifies. I can’t talk about it now, but sufficed to say that we’re all in some serious shit.
2) I’m scared about staying with Abe. We really haven’t been getting along all that well, and I know Esther is going to be stopping by (someone told her that we’d be visiting…) which will only make things worse.
3) Someone’s been fucking with my e-book. I need to do a complete dioscan when we get to Abe’s; at this point I have my doubts that Laura was digging through it. But if not her, then who?
4) Take all of our money out of N.U. as soon as possible, for obvious reasons.
5) Give Laura more attention, because she deserves it – now more than ever.
O.K. What else….
Oh yeah, the dream. Yipes, and I thought that the game-show one was wicked. I was back in school – 1991, my sophomore year – and Yael (my then girlfriend) was giving me a hard time because I had forgotten our 1-year anniversary. Now, I would never forget a thing like that (actually, it was yesterday, which shows you how truthful I am), and so I tried to make it up to her by taking her to the movies. It was the one she wanted to see, by that director she really liked (dreams can be vague that way), and so we went to see the 7:30 show, which was an extravagance for me because I barely could afford matinee. Anyway, I let her pick the seats and she headed straight for the front row (she was very nearsighted, and even after she started to wear glasses she never broke the neck-bending-back habit). I was in love with her and it was our night so I couldn’t care less, as long as she was happy. The lights dimmed, and the first preview was totally crazy – it started out at some punk concert, where everyone was jumping around until this woman started to sing, at which time everyone fell to the floor with an audible thud and exploded. When the light cleared then the band left the stage, leaving the woman standing in spotlight. The camera slowly zoomed in to her face while she sung, and even though I couldn’t remember most of the lyrics the last line stuck with me – “If your hurried, then I’m there….” at which time the screen went black and “CIRCLE X – SUMMER, 2000” appeared across the screen in big, red letters. Yael turned to me and said “Don’t you just love these movie commercials?” and I just grinned and nodded yes although I wanted to leave. The second preview was even worse – A woman in silhouette was running down your typical, rain-kissed, dark alley as if someone or something was chasing her. Suddenly, Frisbee jumps out of the shadows in this scuba get-up, complete with airtank and mask sitting on her head. The mystery woman moves towards her, but then Friz pulls off her mouth-piece and hands it to her. The connecting tube seemed awfully long, so that after she gave it to her Frisbee started to run away from the camera, the tube lengthening as she ran. Close-up off the woman breathing noisily, still in shadow, and suddenly a dramatic light reveals her face as the camera frames it. It was Annabelle, with overalls and everything, and she was crying. Fade to black, and then an official sounding male voice over: “Breathe deeply. This too shall pass.” It ends, and as the movie studio logo came on the screen Yael turned and said “Oh, I really want to see that! She’s my favorite star!” I was completely confused, so I just smiled and pointed to the screen to distract her attention. It was lucky that I did so, for just at that moment Annabelle, Frisbee and the “Circle X” girl were talking around a round, wooden table, with a fourth woman with her back to the camera. The credits are coming and going as they go about their business, and I notice that the music’s being done by Joan Gordon, who even I know is in Suspender. So I lean forward once the movie really begins, and then Frisbee turns to Annabelle and says “They know. Fuck!” “Fuck them! You know?” – Annabelle. “No fucking way!” adds the Circle X girl. “this is so profound” Yael whispers to me, but I shhhhhhh her. “Wait.” This was the 4th woman, who stood up from her chair. “I know what they’re doing.” She slowly turns around to the camera, and points her finger at me. It was Sasha. “He’s one of them!” The screen goes white, the lights raise, and Yael gets this look in her eye. “I knew it all along! It was that tie!” And suddenly I’m dressed for work, and the audience is filled with Circle X workers in full regalia. She turns to them and rips off her dress; she’s wearing a uniform, too. “He’s got a tie!” she yells to her comrades, and the nearest one goes “Freezie this, you teller!” and smacks me up along side the head with one of those long plastic tubes that you swing around and make whistling noises with. I start to run for the exits, but Tanya and Steve are guarding them. They’re both Circle X’d. “We traded in our ties,” Tanya smirks as she reaches in her pocket, “For this.” It’s Jenny’s ring, and it starts to glow. “Don’t let him have it!” Yael bellows, and everyone starts to bolt for me and Tanya. “Oh well, better luck next time…” and she throws the ring at me as she escapes into the alley. I try the door, but it’s locked, and before I’m swarmed in red synthetics I pop the ring in my mouth, and swallow. “No!!!!!” Yael and everyone else suddenly freezes in place, and the theater workers come in, dressed like N.U. workers, and start to sweep up small change from around their feet. I sneak out into the lobby while this is going on, and suddenly this TV Crew runs over to me, the well-preserved anchorwoman (the stench of hairspray met me before she did). “Reactions?” The lights are in my face, the “LIVE” light is on, and I don’t know what to say. The sound man pulls out a large gun and points it in my direction. I start to feel really sick, fall down to the floor, and up comes the ring onto the carpet. “Wrong answer!” she screams, and the grip puts me out of my misery.
I’m not even about to go there, but sufficed to say that I held back the ring long enough to be in the wonderful position I am now. Which happens to be next to the woman I love, headed to stay with family I can’t wait to get away from, and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the world.
Thanks Jenny, for everything.
July 10th, 1994
Fuck. Our money’s gone. All of it.
Got to Abe’s with little trouble, and the spare bed was already made. Annie was really sweet about it even though you could tell she didn’t want us there, and Abe – well, he’s exactly the same. But who cares. My account’s been closed, and the money is nowhere to be found.
As soon as I recharged the batteries I finally remembered that card that Sasha gave me, and so I gave it a look this morning. Basically it said that I was fucked, that as soon as I quit someone inside N.U. transferred all of my money in minuscule amounts all over the country, effectively taking away any hopes of retrieval. Sasha knew that it was coming and so she slipped me some excess dollars, converted from the yen-trash she had stashed away for a rainy day. I could use them on the net, or make them physical with the appropriate hack. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that whoever arranged for this dispersal was seriously pissed off at me. So much so that he or she – the e-punk Sasha was warning me about, I should have stayed awake! – had destroyed my credit rating, maxed out both of my cards (and my limits were astronomical because of my N.U. clout), and fucked up my DMV just for the heck of it. At first I thought it was Steve, but this is way out of his league. I mean, when I went to the nearest N.U. and asked to close my account, I peaked over at the teller’s screen and her code 79 had a screen full of warnings on it, plus some hazards I’d only read about in books. So when she went to her supervisor to get “approval” (that is, to call the guard over), I was already well down the street, looking for the nearest subway entrance.
Fuck. My life is ruined. I’m nobody.
I can’t bear to tell Laura what’s up, especially not after yesterday. When I got back from N.U. a couple of hours ago she was still showing off the ring to Annie, already planning the wedding. Shit.
Sasha’s bound to know what to do, and probably’s already working on it. I hate to depend on her like this, but she’s all I – we, have to get used to it – have right now.
This is too much. I can’t write anymore. I wish I didn’t exist anymore.
Wait. That’s it!
I’ll continue this later, I have to contact Sasha.
July 14th, 1994
I haven’t been able to communicate because Sasha wouldn’t let me. In fact, this is the last entry before we wipe my e-book clean. I never though that I would have to resort to this, but desperate times and all that.
“You mean I’m not me anymore? Cool!” I thought she was going to freak when I told her about Sasha’s pseudogen, but it only seems to add to her path of negation. I, on the other hand, like my name and my life, and it’s going to take me a while to adjust. Still, we’re only taking on different electronic identities, and even though that means we have to start our official lives anew, we’re still us – Pyramid and Frisbee, waiting for the end and loving every minute.
The only thing that seems strange is the marriage part. I only proposed a few days ago and starting tomorrow we’re going to officially be husband and wife, without even the slightest of ceremonies. True, it does save us the trouble of constructing totally disconnected virtual identities and merging them in the future, but still, I for one wanted the occasion to be a little more special. But I love her, would marry her a million different ways if necessary, and we can always have a proper wedding when we get back home.
Anyway, Sasha’s going to appear in one hour to collect our new names; she’s already prepared the most elaborate histories imaginable. Laura has a list of about 20 possibilities, and I frankly don’t know where to start. I’ve always considered myself a Carver, latest in a long line of troubled, principled, and all-around difficult Carvers, and even though Abe and his talk of “sustained economic revolution” makes me want to throw up, and Esther’s ER gossip reason enough not to get sick, I love them because they’re such pains. We’re all pains, but that’s our lot in life, that’s what our father instilled in us when he wasn’t off doing “secret government research” (read: military computer design). Be quiet, get the job done, and don’t give a shit about the people you love. That’s what he taught us by example, that’s why Mom left when she did, dragging us along.
In one hour, I’m no longer my mother’s child. This scares me. She was who defined me when I grew up, she was the one that made sure I focused my talents on school and not the street. I promised her, the year she died, that I would follow my dreams no matter what, and make her proud that I was her son. More than anyone else, I wish that she could have met Laura; I know that they would have gotten along perfectly. Neither puts up with any shit, and neither can love too much. Fuck. I thought I was over the loss, that I could carry her in my heart and move on, but now I have to lose her again. Now I’m killing her and myself, for the sake of survival. I hope someday, when we meet again, she will be able to forgive me.
This is so weird. It’s like I’m waiting for my birth, and I’m going to be delivered by my own hand. To Laura this is second nature, because the hospital forced her to start over as many times as it took to survive. I’m too attached to myself to understand that process, and no matter how many times I listen to her try to describe what it’s like to become nothing and yet still exist, no matter how completely she lets me share in the pain and anger, slowly leading to renewal, I want to close my eyes and shake away the ambiguity. I’m supposed to be me. No one else. Until death do us part, you know?
I look at my brown-red fingers as they type, my soft hands as they hide my face from the choice. Who am I? Who will I become?
The cursor blinks patiently. It could care less.