On the Evening of November 21st, 1990, From the Eyes of Schaefer Willis
Green gardens sprawling punk shows across the city bars whichever way dripping beer bongs and profitable stores of whiskey and bourbon and lime-juice acid squeezed through a sieve into my heart and mind punk shows across the city bars with green neon open signs blazing in a street corner where otherwise it would be totaldark and devoid of primal natures only shoes thrown up on power lines and barking from a dog chained to a tree in an old man’s backyard green gardens propped outside green gardens walking through green gardens on the inside in the form of a succulent I bring with me and tape to my bass green gardens in my eyes; green gardens instead.
“Wake the fuck up,” Miles screams from the top of his microphone, his guitar dangles from his crotch and his dick hangs out of his unzipped pants. He wears a flannel that’s stained with bleach and puke and shit.
“Wake the fuck up ‘cause we’re home motherfuckers!”
Crowd binge drinks and falls down to worship his feet and their own asses, they jump and scream and with the first tone of my bass I play as fast as their hearts beat until we all give out in the sweat and ginsoaking and propelled politics thrown through AUX channels. We pass out on the street and wake up with the cops kicking our sides and shooing us away. Miles gives them the finger and they taze him. Kyle takes my arm and makes us run through green gardens, stomping beaming bushes dewkissed with piss. Miles yells something about waiting up but the look Kyle throws my way indicates there’s no fuckin’ way so we hop across acres of parking lot filled with corollas broken at the edges with rust leaking filthwater from their corners. We scream across the soiled soles of our sneakers. Faster. Through green gardens.
We drop my guitar and his drumsticks at the front door and fall into our squatting parlor, an old apartment at the corner of Little St. that the city tore everything out of and tossed away in dumpsters they left out in the alleyway. Someone calls to us in a gruff slaw from outside the door but we lock it and sit inside the empty living room with nothing but the quarantine tape we filched from the entrance stuffed in some cracks in the corner and a line of potted plants I keep well-watered along the wall closest to the door. Kyle lights a cigarette and we watch the smoke suffocate the dust noted in the thick, cold air. Our coats are torn and bleeding stuffing. Thanksgiving families hundreds of miles away would look at us and burst into tears and we’d laugh in their faces and piss in their kids’ eyes. We live cold we are cold we love cold.
I grab the succulent from the gig bag and place him gingerly at crossed legs. Kyle’s smoke surrounds it, gives it warmth, and I light a bowl and watch the weed smoke follow suit until we all feel warm again.
“What’s that smell?” Kyle says. His hair greased back but not to a certain style, he looks like Cobain if Cobain was happy.
“Fuck are you talking about?”
“That your pot, dude? What is that, bushweed, you get that shit from Mac again?”
“Fuck I didn’t get it from Greasy Mac, who the fuck do you think I am some skinhead Nazi prick, huh? Some fuckin’ right-wing nut? Got this from Miles when we were in Atlanta.”
“What happened to that van?”
“Wrecked it and stole another one.”
“Where are my drums?”
“When should we pick em up?”
“When we want to play a show again, let the gutterpunks use them, their drums always have holes and shit.”
“But that’s my favorite set…”
“Mommy and Daddy will get you a new one soon as Christmas comes up and you go visit em again.”
“You’re gonna visit your parents for Christmas you useless fuckhead and there’s nothing you can say about it because I will be there.”
“Why the fuck are you gonna be at my fam’s Christmas, fam?”
“Because dear old Mom loves me and what a good boy I am.”
“She says I should be more like you.”
“What’s that smell?”
I fit my nose against the wall of the frozen atmosphere and snuff the dust mites from the surface. Something smells good and it never smells good in here. I crawl to my feet and search like a dog, all around, maybe that family upstairs is cooking something good in their bedroom firepit again and maybe it’ll finally burn us down this time But if they were, wouldn’t they have invited us?
Smells like my mom’s kitchen last time she made apple butter. Lots of spices like some Whole Foods or something. Fuck if I know.
“I think it’s coming from the bedroom dude.”
“You trying to freak me out or something? Shut the fuck up.”
They say the bedroom’s haunted in this shithole. Two people were found in the closet dead no clue how they died just indications that one had alcohol poisoning the other had acid burns all over his body. Somebody warned us about this shit and there’s no way I’m about to fuck with it.
“Go check, Kyle.”
Kyle looks like a lost puppy, darting his head around, clueless.
“Go fucking take a look, dumbass.”
“Why not you, dude?”
“I’m scared as shit of those ghosts, man.”
“Who says I’m not?”
“I’m more afraid than you are.” I reach into the back of my pants and wipe my ass with my hand. “Look, I already shit myself!”
Kyle backs away all the way to the wall. “Wipe that shit on me and I’ll fucking kill you.”
“Take a look, then.”
He creeps to the doorway and sniffs one more time before opening it to a complete dark the likes of which a couple of young punk runaways have never seen.
♦ ♦ ♦
Hours since he left. Fucking hours. My plants are starting to get bored of me and my guitar and I’m starting to get bored of waiting to hear back from him. Closed door stained green with something like a kind of bile. Infection. I sit up groan, open it and back away and say his name and wait and nothing comes and I take my first step inside and I can’t stop.
God, it smells good…
It comes from the closet, doors ripped off, stripped by someone looking for something. A trapdoor rests on the floor. Handle has been removed, taken by some crackhead, some asshole. I try to lift it with my fingers, get splinters but still manage to get the thing open. It flies to the wall and the darkness below looks at me like I’m some kind of idiot kid. I turn back around, grab my succulent for good luck and comfort, jump down.
♦ ♦ ♦
Hours until I land and smack my head on the wall. Blood drips down my nose. Wipe it off with a tattered cuff. Forward it is, then, since the door slammed closed when I came here. I heard it actually slam, isn’t that weird, isn’t it…
My succulent is still afloat, though. I tuck him in my pocket and keep going.
Something whispers to me in the crawlspace, which is nothing but straight. Something nice and warm tells me it’s going to be okay. This is not like that time in Jersey. This is not like that time in Tampa. This is not like the rest of my life.
There’s a stain in the soil in the shape of a body. I think it’s blood and it’s crawling with pillbugs and smells like the bar in Indy. Tufts of hair cling to the walls. I gag and keep going past that and past another stain, soil that seems to have been burned or something…like corroded or something, like the green of the glowing lichen evolved from some chemical molestation of the ground beef of the wet dirt. I keep going past this. Nothing to see here.
Somewhere along the way I find notes and I don’t read them and I set them on fire with my lighter to give me some sense of direction. Straight, always.
At some point, after a time feeling so long I swear it’s a miracle I don’t have to piss, I come across a corner, and at this corner is where Kyle sits shaking drooling steaming he’s sweating so much he gives off this weird glow, like a green glow like cartoon radiation and his eyes are practically popping out of his head and he doesn’t blink instead his eyelids fluctuate between here and not here and his fingernails grow in front of me until they curl and curl and fall off he grows, he grows and decays in minutes, his skin molts off to be replaced with new pink, his nose from thick to thin skeletal form and back again, earwax collecting at the floor, snot bubbling and drooping on his shirt stained with so many things it’s brittle now he breaks it apart with his fingers, he chews his lip and cracks his voice, he looks up, at me; he promises me he’s been good; he promises; promises there’s nothing wrong. Nothing wrong at all.
I touch my plant in my pocket and whisper to it to make sure it knows I’m okay.
“Can I ask your advice?” Kyle asks, and his voice creaks like a door, so high then low, I see his throat expanding and contracting, turning white and blue and pink again, like there’s a light inside him that’s taken his place.
“What happened, Kyle?”
“I want to know what you think we should do with the notes.”
“I just lit them to show me the way around here.”
“But did you read them?” Coughs, wheezes thick from the corner of his mouth, drops in blob to the floor.
“Why would I do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“I don’t have time to answer that, dude.”
“You have all the time in the world, now. You should have read the notes, you should have heard the story, William went crazy, I promise he was real, he went crazy and his family was sick and there were no doctors and his old wife ignored him and so he took everything into his own hands like a real man he took real good care of his fam, fam, real good care. William took care of his family and it left him alone so he built the birds, have you read about the birds? There are photographs of the birds the black soot birds that he built with his own two hands, the black soot birds he built to distract him from the pain to alleviate the horrors beneath his brows. The photographs are just ahead, the photographs of the birds. You’ll read about the birds real soon, he built them with his own emotions, but you have no emotions, so you cannot possibly imagine constructing something from such power, he built the birds and the aviary just under our feet, turn the corner and it’s there, turn the corner and you can find it all and end it all.”
“What are you talking about you fucking idiot?”
Kyle looks at me with sad eyes. I see silhouettes beyond his green centers, me and him and Miles all riding our bikes around our old suburbs, we are ten and I fall down and Miles rides on and Kyle stops and Kyle’s hand reaches out toward me and Kyle’s face undulates there are insects within him there are things I don’t want to remember I am who I fucking am now, misery is important, anarchy and don’t get in the way, Kyle, don’t get in my fucking way!
“You don’t know what you’re in for,” he whispered under his breath.
And in a flash every inch of him turns to ash and blows away in an invisible wind.
I round the corner to try to catch some of it but it falls away in my palms it falls away in the wind it falls away in the center of gravity it falls away in the sight of my nude self sledding down a hill into the mouth gaping of a monster waiting for bones to crack and creak my head hurts blood drips into my nose I inhale it I swallow it I become ill the ashes blow away they disappear past the corner and the wind pushes my back and I am sucked within it sucked into the center of gravity sucked into the vast indifferent light of a promising god a serendipitous lacking of green gardens until there are green gardens anywhere I’m
in a green garden
left in a green garden.
♦ ♦ ♦
Oh the garden, it’s marvelous, it’s a place where I can plant many things, a place my succulent has managed to call a home it’s home it likes it here so much the light given off from its stems is so bright it blinds me I cannot look at it anymore cannot touch cannot love but it’s okay green garden green garden. I love my green garden and there is a shower of blood Kyle has ashes in his eyes I remember the time I pushed him off the steps of the bush he smashed his nose against the concrete and we played a show without a drummer as a joke it was just a joke fuck. My green garden looks to be so well watered with the rain it sings to me the greatest notes I’ve ever heard I need not my guitar anymore for I swell with the rumbling of an orchestra of lilies daffodils perennials galore galore galore glory boxes of holes empty filled by my hands with the sense of longing when Kyle was gone out sick for the day when we were all children we sat at home and told stories about Kyle daisies big purple orchids with their green garden leaves their green garden lungs bursting out of the petals the organs spilling over the grey landscape the moon the ashes god the ashes Kyle’s ashes the world is made of Kyle’s ashes glowing so bright and so green the heart beating sweaty with water from the rain in the sunny sky so wet I drink from it and plant other things like bonsais that grow instantly to be fifty eight hundred feet tall I am a green garden green forest green gardens love me they play with my hair when I sleep rock me on giant leaves to sleep and dream of the green garden green gardens green vomit spilling over the landscape I toss up no meals only the bile from my own sickness something I cannot avoid I remember telling Kyle we are only keeping him around because the girls like him only because the girls like him. I don’t think about anything else other than the green garden green garden green tears through my eyes, the landscape is fresh and clear and mine and is the only thing I see besides the ashes I step on, I see his eyes poking through, this grey place is flat, no craters, only ash and wet green eyes floating through wandering looking at me but leaving I need someone I need to cease these thoughts of bad things because the only thing existing here is the green garbled mess of speech coming from my horrid mouth crawling through these bad thoughts, eating them up, their name try to forget the words these thoughts feed you only you can stop yourself from death death is what this is not of a physical nature but of a bastard nature you useless fuck, you idiot fuck, you fucking beautiful sky today isn’t it! You shithead you fucking evil, evil man, you fucking dog he welcomed you after you confessed to him your abuse as a child your father hit hit hit and Kyle told you it was okay to feel saddened by the fact that these thoughts still come, aren’t you? But these thoughts will stay. Remember these things. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend. Kyle was your friend.
Kyle was my friend and in the green gardens the grey flat I will let my red wrists come to end it all.
END OF PART THREE
final installment due 12.31.18
Alec Ivan Fugate is some guy sitting in some swamp in some city in northeastern Indiana. His work is floating at Occulum, Burning House Press, Bending Genres, and other darker, spookier ponds