you, magill

jump cut: you, magill: Your name is Magill and you call yourself Lill and every body knows you hang out with all the other skanks on the concrete cityblock-sized carpark roof off Second and Madison, and that you not only ratted God (a.k.a., Godfrey) and the Prophets, but that you also stole a bag full of beaucoup bucks, stole it last month, stole it from a Chicago leisure org.

You scratch at your bad bad skin, then adjust your legwarmers as a cloudburst pours down on you.

You enjoy the rain and laugh at the various people who use the most recent Portlandic Weekly Herald & Argus as an umbrella while making a splashy dash from elevator or stairwells to their cars with their faded flag bumperstickers.

You can tell each and every body thinks you insane and you smile sweetly at every and each and shake your head all drenched-doglike.

You remember a trippy old Salvador Dali movie seen on cable:

a guy looks at the palm of his hand only to see ants crawl in and out of an open sore.

You’ve felt like that yourself sometimes, felt the ants surge in your veins and arteries.

Blood ants.

As if the černobyl cranky king’s mix cocktail God gave you released ant eggs into your bloodstream along with the černobyl cranky king’s mix.

You wonder if you’ve become God’s own living ant farm and laugh.

Okay.

Or not so okay.

Your right foot cramps and you wonder if the leg warmers cut off your circulation and prevent the blood ants from reaching your feet, your toes.

When the rain stops you take off your leather coat to enjoy the brief burst of May sun on your bare arms.

Even if the semipolar sun in its noonward race blistered or blasted your skin off, even if you wound up with a whole bunch of melanoma skin splotches, it would all be worth it.

Get it while you can.

You don’t feel warm.

Not up there on the concrete cold roof with the icy wind coming off the Willamette.

But all the same you feel.

Feel good enough.

Maybe the blood ants keep you warm, along with the hot hot pipe.

The carpark roof is kitty corner from the gray-grim concrete and tinted glass Justice Center building.

The Justice Center includes the Police Bureau, Sheriff’s, and County Jail.

Up on the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth floors.

Ninth, tenth, too, maybe.

Maybe other floors...you’ve never been inside, so you don’t really know.

The whole thing reminds you exactly of the Temple of Doom, only the wrong shape.

You can occasionally see your boyfriend, barely.

You can hardly make out his hands, let alone the swirl of tattoos on his fingers, or the finger signals he tries to send you... and not that you know the hand signs that well, either.

You can barely see his hand through barred windows in the glass and concrete fortress across the intersection.

Barely see him wave to you on the carpark roof.

You know it to be his hand you see...whose hand would it be?

Still, you’re afraid to visit.

The Justice Center has eyes and ears.

Some body might recognize you and nark to God, so you wait on the kittycorner carpark roof.

Wait on an icecold slab of concrete for your jailed boyfriend to wave.

Behind and to the north of the Justice Center is the new federal courthouse-in-progress.

A construction worker fell to his doom a few weeks back, or a few months, fell ten, fourteen stories, some thing like that.

Uncontrolled fall, Isaac called it and added at that height control didn’t much matter.

When you sat on the north carpark roof ledge with Isaac and spat at the blood ant people below, Isaac told you that each and every big building needs a sacrifice.

No matter, whether the new federal court house or the Great Wall of China.

Or even this carpark.

His raps remind you of Mo Hawk’s secret histories, only more focused.

That was all before Isaac got bored hanging with you. (This long long after his clone bro was snuffed, taken out with the mummywrapped trash).

Maybe Isaac got scared, scared because you stole that beaucoup Chicago money bag. Bored, scared, part of the same scene.

Isaac told you the Great Wall of China was filled with the buriedalive bones of half a million workers.

Isaac could talk, maybe not like his clone bro, but his clone bro was dead. Isaac’s dead clone bro floats up to visit you, too, and you’re enchanted by his ectoplasmy jitters and corner-of-the-eye oogla boogy herkjerky, but his speech is all station-to-station argly-garblylike.

Junkies are always good for talk...

Even dead clone bro junkie ghosts.

 

#

 

Isaac once told you he didn’t know if the carpark had had its inaugural sacrifice and that you should be full of care when you climb onto the rooftop ledge.

But you know Isaac just says that shit as payback for that one time you really busted your ass trying to help the clones, back when they assisted Mistress Cleo when she wrapped sick trustafarian puppies all mummylike in silk or plasticwrap, hemp or barbed-wire.

The clones tore up the town to find you because Mistress Cleo had just ODed on them and was herself all ready to be mummywrapped because there was a session tonight at a big spendy house in Northwest Hills with purplish Japanese maples because there was no body else to turn to because you had to help because this was all such a shock because you were their only hope because you sortof kindof almost looked a bit like you could be Mistress Cleo.

So they begged you to impersonate their dead junkie Mistress...

The clones met Cleo at a methadone clinic, for peeing in a leaky cup, what did they expect?

And you did your best but you went blank on the script, you never could remember lines from movies or punchlines to jokes, so you panicked and cut your losses, went for those sick puppies’ purses and wallets, and then and only then did you remember a punchline, a punchline you heard from an exmistress who’d quit a Louisiana b-&-d palace by sidling up to her cowpoke john all trussed-and-tiedup and begging and aquiver to be beatup but good and eversolightly slapped his bubblybuttcheeks with his snakeskin wallet before she split (with his wallet as severance pay), and you remembered what the soontobe exmistress said to her kinky cowpoke and then turned to these trustafarian barbwire-and-silksash-wrapped mummies and cackled:

Honey, y’all been beat, then you ran out of there batfromhell-like.

And later the clones wanted to kill you because not only had you blown a potentially lucrative gig but you furthermore by your actions had effectively banished and exiled them, so that they could never be seen in any Portland leatherbar again.

Try to help friends out and they never forgive you.

But Lenny’s dead and the dead are more forgiving.

So to be on the safe side you ask dead clone bro Lenny about inaugural sacrifices for the carpark but he just wafts up to join delicate broiled salmonlike clouds.

 

#

 

The klaxon sounds and you turn east to see the raising of the Hawthorne bridge.

It would be a trip to be on the middle span, on the pedestrian walkway when they raised the bridge.

— Slowboatslowboat.

You see the rentaguard come up the northwest stairs.

The northwest stairs by the northwest elevator.

It’s Joe. You know him from some summer, from when he worked a foodcart at Pioneer Court House Square.

Sometimes he’d given you a free veggie burrito.

But only some times.

As Joe gets closer you stand your ground.

Hey Magill.

Hows it going, Joe

You tell me how its going

Im just waiting for my man.

You laugh.

Thats cool, he says to you.

Then:

But dont hit on any body for money or turn tricks or well put a fork in your ass, turn you over. Youll be done.

I dont do that.

Hey, I couldnt care less if you snatch purses in the stairwell and rim crippled old ladies, but my supervisor cares, cares a lot. So

He walks away and halfturns to call back, — Have a good day and stop hanging over the ledge.

I was just waving.

Joe halts at the stairs, turns to face you.

God damn it, stop doing your černobyl up here and stop hanging over the ledge, youll fall or jump or get pushed and no body will care.

My baby will care.

Tell that to Childrens Services

Joe walks, he keeps walking.

Walking back down the concrete stairs.

Your baby did care, your baby cried maamaaa when Children’s Services took her away, your baby would care if you fell or got pushed, what does that asshole know about babies.

Children’s Services didn’t even let your grandmother take care of your baby this time.

Your baby cried when they dragged her off. For all you know the Shriners have her.

Joe had no right to mention your baby.

You imagine each step a razorsharp tooth and that Joe slides along a monster’s toothy maw.

Being swallowed and chewed up.

Down the monster’s throat.

Maamaaa.

Fuck you, Joejump cut: you, magill: The sun is out but a lone cloud drizzles onto the carpark roof.

Two old ladies (just out of the elevator) try to ignore you as they rush to their car, an eggwhite BMW.

They wear bright shiny plastic raincoats.

Spendy raincoats.

They open waycool sunflower umbrellas.

Each bears big shopping bags with sunflowers just like their umbrellas.

Maybe there are blood ants in those painted sunflowers.

Crawling on their umbrellas, their bags.

Hey, you call to them as they run to their car and close their sunflower blood ant umbrellas, then get in and toss their secret blood ant bags into the back seat and lock the doors.

You run to their car.

Taptap gently taptaptap at the driver’s window.

Could you help me, please? Im trying to get some money to take a bus to Seattle, my Grandmas sick.

You reach in-to your hidden billfold to pull out some beaucoups Chicago and offer them a couple of President Grants.

They back the car out of the space.

And you try to look at them but they do not try to look at you.

Hey! you shout as the eggwhite BMW swerves to avoid and evade you and descends down the ramp.

A cat can look at a king, you know!

You pause, then: 

Hey! Hey! Hey!

You laugh and spin around.

Whirl yourself around like those dervishes.

Those whirling Arab guys in the dresses and red pointy hats on The Fourth World Channel™.

Hey!

Isaac told you those Arabic dervishes worshipped the Rolling Stones, who had gone to North Africa in the 1960s or the 1690s.

Hey!

Right.

I need a bus

The two old ladies.

Maybe they worship the Stones.

A bus to take Grandma

The Stones are as old as the two old ladies.

Grandma to my money.

Maybe the two old ladies have dervish dresses under their raincoats and pointy hats in their shopping bags, hidden hats crawling with painted or stitched-on blood ants.

My money. You laugh.

Hey

The old ladies in their BMW are now swallowed by the building to be shat out at street level.

My money’s sick!

— Maamaaa, your baby cries. You feel dizzy and slow up, stop.

And the world around you slows up.

Stops.

 

#

 

To your right and down on the street below is a yuppiescummy bar called the Veritable Quandary that you always get thrown out of and then Waterfront Park and then the slow Willamette River and Hawthorne Bridge and then the smogshrouded snowy peak of Mount Hood, which still has not blown despite all the recent ha-ha false alarm earthquakes, and to your left and behind your shoulder a hardly-ever used pillbox of a helicopter pad.

The landing pad looks like the mother of all crosstops...your mom called them quaaludes when she took them.

Sometimes you climb up the rusted pillbox steps.

Crawl under the chain with its keep off sign and step up onto the unused quaalude helicopter pad to lay yourself down on the giant faded orange letters spelling CLOSED and giant faded orange cross.

A černobyl-whore crucified beneath a gunmetal gray sky.

Crucified between the letters CLO and SED.

You then feel the concrete cold enter your shoulder blades, enter your spine, enter your blood stream to soothe the rushing blood ants that send you peripatripping over the river from Southwest to Northeast and Northwest to Southeast Portland.

You have to be careful when dumpster-diving under the pylons of the Morrison bridge.

Broken glass everywhere.

You got to watch your step.

You cut one of your shoe soles there...

Cut your foot, too...

Scab kept breaking and bleeding for weeks.

Only the occasional pipe hits make the concrete cold cold go-go away.

You do worry a bit about those unmarked UN helicopters you have seen over the east side, black helicopters that kidnap white people and dump them into the coloured neighborhood and kidnap coloureds and dump them into white neighborhoods but the blood ants and Isaac’s dead clone bro told you to stop worrying about unmarked helicopters.

You never do the liedown for long, you can’t afford to up here.

Danger hides behind that pillbox quaalude helicopter pad.

Not just another stairwell.

But a hidden stairwell in a blind corner of the roof.

Southeast corner.

You can see the other three stairwells and the elevators but you have to be careful, very careful, of that blind corner.

God wished you to be damaged, bodily injured.

Not so much because you’d joined God on various drug runs to and from catpiss-stinky motel černobyl-labs.

You turned up the radio as God parted darkening stormclouds, rained hailstones and frogs onto the city.

As God raised the Willamette and flooded Waterfront Park.

You fingerfucked the efem tuning button when they lost the NRK signal and later fistfucked the tape deck when a cassette got stuck.

And God would then pass the hot hot pipe to you after puckering his lips so that they looked rosebud butthole-like and, after bitching about burning his lips, then lunged into one of his stoned and spendy raps that reminded you of a typical cheesy Marvel comic book (God’s raps, too be honest, never rated DC status), and God’s steering became ever more erratic as he told how he loved Isaac’s arms, Isaac’s track marks, a terrible beauty there, God said, the codex of collapsed veins and infectious hepatitis and post-OD ER visits, and then telling you everything was a code, only if you could read it, and if he could only crack the junkie needle tracks he could die a happy man...

But your favorite favorite place to pass the hot hot pipe was down in Oregon City, in the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center parklot, with the gigantor Oregon Trail wagon looming behind you.

One time God let you take your little baby girl along for the ride.

Your little baby girl with the upside down heart.

Your little baby girl who had all those Shriner hospital operations.

Holding your baby girl, you felt her baby heart pump upside down and grow stronger.

Shriners had hats. Did Shriners have blood ants in their veins, too?

And why was it that those other times God did not let you take your baby girl along? But these drug run rides are not why God wants you injured, probably not.

Probably not entirely.

Probably. jump cut: det. cosacher: Det. Jonas Cosacher followed the rustbucket Geo at a safe distance, wary of the muzzle of sunlight low in the sky.

 

#

 

He drove an unmarked black maria that screamed undercover to the educated eye, one of countless unmarked cars all over the country confiscated during countless drug busts and then given tuneups and donated to local police departments.

Jonas had been told they could spot his car, told this by more than one punk, and didn’t care, he knew where these two guys were going, he always knew where they were going, and he knew they knew he always knew.

His game.

His rules.

 

#

 

This was his game they played and he jerked them along, letting them run a bit, then pulling the leash.

There was one rule, and he had the rule stone cold down:

Do not pass Go.

Having the rule down stone cold was good but he as glad for the Kevlar vest even in this weather, as well as the gun with extra magazines and pepper spray and nightstick and cuffs and radio and flashlight.

No body passed Go on his shift.

When it came down to it Go was the acting out of a Newtonian dream of bodies and rest and motion, of suspects and arrests, escapes and pursuits and-or reports, of being firedupon and firedupon-ing back.

Isaac narked Joseph because Isaac had a court date coming up in six weeks. Isaac needed a felony theft whittled down to a misdemeanor.

Third degree.

 Joseph was supposed to be holding four thousand dollars worth of černobyl (and probably a goodly stash of ecstasy, too), making a delivery to a house in Felony Flats, off Powell, just two blocks east of the 205 freeway.

There was a good used bookstore nearby.

Det. Jonas Cosacher loved Portland.

A guy was never more than a few blocks away from a drivethru cappuccino stand or good used bookstore.

Not so many good used ceedee or record stores.

But some.

And never more than a few blocks away from a černobyl-house or černobyl-lab, for that matter.

Jonas detoured to the good used bookstore off 82nd. Wrigley-Cross.

It had been months and months since he dropped in.

The storefront windows were papered over.

MOVED TO NE 39TH.

He was disappointed.

Jonas hardly ever worked the Hollywood District.

He’d have to go on his day off.

Ohwell.

A giftshop reminded him that he had to get some thing for his daughter’s birthday next week or the ex- would give him endless shit.

A second look at the window convinced him it wasn’t worth bothering.

The crap store was stocked with cheap plastic crap that would break within a week, if not between crap purchase and crap pot-hole parklot.

Fuck it.

Let the ex- chew his ass out.

His daughter was spoiled rotten anyway.

Princess.

Ha.

The trick would be to get rid of her lilith lamia training wheels.

Fuck it all.

Back to work.

Bust another sleaze bucket, kick some punk’s ass.

Tighten those cuffs.

Cosacher came to a traffic stop and reached for his New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

Twenty-four Down... Record producer Brian...three letters...

Eno.

They used the same clue two, three, months ago.

Lazy bastards.

A carhorn behind him reminded him to drive to the address provided by Isaac.

Once there, he pulled up behind the Geo.

He saw Joseph get out of the rustbucket car and walk fast. Joseph not only looked like a ferret but he moved like one, too.

Cosacher shouted, — Police! Stop!

Joseph pretended not to hear Cosacher, ran up a driveway.

Cosacher called for backup.

Got out, went to Isaac Schrodinger.

Isaac’s hair was green and purple now.

Isaac looked more like a junkie rock star than a junkie hustler.

He wore baggy surfer pants with elastic waist and ankle bands.

A pattern of frantic sharks weaving through frothing waves to bite at bright surfboards, a pattern that hurt the eyes to look at.

The little shit dressed a bit better when turning tricks on Burnside, but not too much better.

Isaac’s customers wanted their trade a bit more discreet, but still rough.

Still, Isaac had the knack of looking dapper in the worst and tackiest clothes imaginable.

Nice pants, dude.

Spring wardrobe.

Ah.

A smile. The other’s eyes yes a smile. Then:

That Keaton...

Diane, or Michael..., Isaac wondered.

Or Buster?

Isaac knew the drill.

— Does it matter?

Yeah.

Isaac had to be careful:

Timing. Movements.

— A metronome.

Jonas Cosacher looked Isaac in the eyes:

You warn him?

No, dude. You busted his cousin last year; he recognized you. Might as well get yourself a police tank. At least they’re bulletproof.

Not rocketlauncher-proof.

No. Not rocketlauncher-proof. Give you that.

But Joseph and I...: You know...: We got more history than that

And Cosacher knew that Isaac knew that he had gone to Joseph’s folks, gone to his old man’s house because neighbors had complained about a superduper catpissy stench, primo černobyl-lab tag, and Cosacher had arrived to find a dead uncle tucked between a futon sofa and a wall (now hosting a maggot prom) and a dithery old-fartster Alzheimer’s case shambling around the house, the coot did not know what decade it was, for fucksake, and since their social security checks were direct-deposited there was noway nohow in hell that any case worker would find the corpsicle in the guest bedroom.

Joseph, it turned out, had stopped using the kitchen as a černobyl-lab after nearly burning the place down.

But nothing could be proved.

Sometimes Cosacher felt nothing could ever be proved.

Whatever. He recognized you, dude. Fuck, every dealer in this town can spot you a mile off.

Then how do I manage to bust every body?

Guess thats why they recognize you.

You. Wait here.

I don’t think I have any other pressing engagements. Can I check my Wizard?

— Wait. Just.

Jonas Cosacher went up the driveway Joseph had taken.

The gate was padlocked.

Joseph could have easily jumped the fence.

Cosacher saw a row of shrubs.

Bent down.

Looked. He found a nylon knapsack.

Opened it.

Four Walkmans still in their plastic cases.

Fivefinger-discounted.

Above the third degree theft limit but still pretty chickenshit as felonies go.

He dug deeper.

Bingo.

Four thousand bucks worth of černobyl, give or take a few free hits.

He turned and saw two fat cops come around the corner.

Dim and Dimmer.

He hated the way those two assholes waddled around covered with confectioner’s sugar.

And worse, the way they harassed his sources and stole evidence if given half a chance...

Especially Kališnikovs.

He prayed for the day those two would be caught with their hands in the evidence cage, then suspended without pay, then fired, then busted.  jump cut: story of isaac: Isaac had a recurring dream.

 

#

 

A back-in-the days dream of when he and his brother, just out of high school, worked as orderlies on pill hill (on different barely overlapping shifts, they hardly saw each other at work), before the stealing of morphine and other drugs had escalated to siphoning off morphine drips and killing patients in the chill-out lounge of the biopsy chop shop, before they had been fired and kicked to the curb, then to the life of the hustle and the Burnside Cadillac.

 

#

 

There were times when it was necessary to operate immediately on patients with tumours... But before that biopsies had to be done on extracted tissue.

Rather than sew patients up or superglue them, only to have to cut them open again for some serious surgery... rather than that, they were wheeled out on their squeaking trolleys and parked in a special corridor adjoining the operating rooms. (There were usually no more than two patients at a time.)

Flat on their backs, skin pale and fishwhite, clammy to the touch, heads elevated to ensure they did not suffocate or choke, filleted luau-banquetlike, their guts a labyrinthine system of broken sewage pipes in an ancient Mittel Europa city, that, or uhr-sausage-factories.

It was the orderly’s job to make sure that the morphine kept dripping, that patients be kept serene, that patients be kept clean to avoid any infection of open surgical gashes, and especially if their stomachs had been cut open... that the potentially-lethal stomach acids did not spill or slop about.

Hydrochloric acid was not a thing to be fucked about with.

In fact, orderlies wore special gloves so that they could safely keep patients clean.

The patients were always pathetically grateful for any attention given.

Stoned out of their gourds, all late-nite deejaylike.

Isaac was always hungry for a meatlover’s pizza after sitting with those postbiopsies.  jump cut: you, magill: You accompanied God and his Prophets on a few second floor jobs.

The getaway, that was you.

You were supposed to keep the motor running in case they needed to get away molto pronto.

Molto pronto, as God always said.

One of the Prophets (Joseph?) even suggested you do the breakins since your fingerprints are all burnt off from the hot hot pipe.

Every body laughed.

But that never happened.

You almost always left your baby with your Grandmother and just sat in the car and sipped coffee and listened to NRK and read Sandman comics and kept the motor running while God and his Prophets burgled.

Death is your favorite character.

Death is cool, with her black turtleneck and ankh.

God wears an ankh, too, and he socked you one when you told him he got the ankh schtick from Death.

One time Isaac gave you a silver skull ring, but one of the teensy rubies in the eye sockets was gone.

The last time God saw you, you were crawling into a car on West Burnside.

About to turn a trick and get yourself černobyl-money.

God went apeshit, God attacked the car.

Attacked the passenger side and shattered the window into bits of costume jewelry and grabbed at your hair to pull you from the car and the nice old man driving the car freaked.

Fucking freaked and floored it and you bit God and God let go your hair and you have not seen God since.

Except in court.

But God didn’t look at you then, God ignored you.

You were on the stand and a coloured spade clerk held up a bibleblack black Bible and made you swear, and God ignored you.

But his Prophets.

If looks could kill.

But wait, you did see God more recently.

But he didn’t see you.

You saw him get out of a car, with the whitest black dude you ever saw.

You were lurking in the doorway of a closed shop, getting out of the raining rain for a few minutes.

That whitest black dude, he sensed eyes on him.

Turned.

You ducked back.

Maybe he saw you, maybe he didn’t.

But his eyes, they were pink, and they were eyes that maybe saw you, maybe didn’t.

He had teardrops under his left eye.

Tattooed.

The car was unattended so you went to check.

Back passenger side door was unlocked, and there was a bag a bag with beaucoup bucks.

Better you than some body else.

So you took it.

Week later, hanging with Lenny on top of the car park Lenny asked if he could borrow some bucks.

You took some bills out of your secret money bag, four President Grants, then remembered that Lenny is a ghost.

He must have told Isaac.

Because Isaac was all over your shit, telling you that that was Chicago money.

Telling you that Chicago did not fuck about, that they would kill your family, and any body known to be hanging with you, and then mother fuck kill you.

Then he told you he did not know you no anymore. jump cut: geof in court:Do you recognize this man?

 

#

 

Journal of the Plague Years reporter Geof Reid, taking notes, looked up along with every body else in the courtroom.

The seat hurt his back and he bit off a corner of a muscle relaxant, enough to numb himself without becoming a space case.

 

#

 

Geof still had to attend a special meeting with the principal at his son’s school and he had promised to fax or modem Sam a textfile or hardcopy by five that afternoon and on top of was sweating bullets and shitting razors over the prospect of two editorial deadline.

Still, he could not leave.

He had to see Magill finger God. jump cut: you, magill: You went to your grandmother’s a day or two after that court date.

You took the MAX to her house nearby Gresham.

 

#

 

Your grandmother doesn’t do much, doesn’t have to, not after your grandfather died of toner lung and left her those social security bennies.

She gardens, and bakes.

Watches her soaps.

Not much else.

Doesn’t have to.

 

#

 

A reporter from Journal of the Plague Years was supposed to meet you there at your grandmother’s and, like, interview you and shit like that, and thank your grandmother for the cake and say no when she offered another slice.

And eat it anyway when she ignored his no and gave him more cake.

Shit like that.

You were careful to avoid sidewalk cracks.

It didn’t help.

You found your grandmother’s house burned to the ground.

Had to be God.

Had to be.

Because God does not forgive.

God is a jealous and paranoiac superdealer and supersnitch in his own right.

And God saw you with Jonas Cosacher and assumed the worst.

Assumed you narked him.

But Isaac told you that your mother’s house burning down, that that was a Letter of Mother Fuck Introduction from the Chicago peops.

Things ever since went from worsted to worser, if you could even wrap your head around that after all the heavy shit following that most uncool scene on West Burnside.

So now you stay with a Jesusfreak cousin who lets you sleep in the basement of his house in Southeast.

Over in Sellwood, nearby Johnson Creek.

It isn’t too damp there and there’s an extra teevee in the basement, an old tiny black and white Sony.

Just you and your černobyl pipe and the black and white teevee with the rabbit ears.

No body knows about this cousin.

Another cousin, every body knows about that cousin, and that he works at a record store on N.E. Broadway, and that he tries to get you arrested every time you go to visit him when he’s at work.

But this Jesusfreak cousin, every day this cousin is seen by every body in town, seen carrying a sandwich board up and down Fifth, between Pioneer Court House Square and the Portland Building.

The sandwich board does not say, — I’m Magill’s Cousin, so no body makes the connection.

Not even Isaac knows about the cousin because religion is not a topic of discussion with Isaac.

Not unless a screaming spitflecked rant is the desired result.

Too boring.

So the subject never came up.

And it’s not that Isaac thinks he is being particularly paranoid about the Elohim.

Or so he says...

Isaac says that their should be a 10,000 year moratorium on use of the words spirituality  and faith and yes God...

And when you asked him about other languages, he said that it didn’t matter because most non-English speaking cultures had resolved their religious issues centuries ago.

(Typical Isaac, piled high and deeper...)

And it’s not just Isaac.

You walk all over the city dropping fuck bombs like God gave you a Copyright on the letter F...

But say God or Jesus or Joseph and Mary, and even the sweetest of old ladies even older than your grandmother will yell at you to shut up or go away.

They’re not mad at you, not pissed off or angry, they are scared shitless of you.

But not mad.

 

#

 

So you took the Max tram from Gresham back into town and called Children’s Services, asked for your old case worker.

All you wanted to do was to find out how your baby girl was doing.

That’s all. You even had to use your real name, Lillian, before the receptionist could even pull your file up on the computer.

You hate that name.

But your case worker was not available.

Not then or any other time you called.

Finally, you were able to leave a message with your old case worker’s supervisor.

This is very unprofessional, you complained.

Very, very unprofessional.

You never gave a return number.

Too dicey.

God might get the number.

God might get to you, or give you over to the Chicago peops.

There are some times that you feel like that Bette Midler character, Stella Houston, who makes all those sacrifices for her daughter and is abandoned and forgotten by the last reel... your grandmother says Barbara Stanwyck played Stella Houston but your grandmother always says things like that.

Doesn’t Stella die in the snow or throw herself under a train? jump cut: det. cosacher: Jonas Cosacher looked at Magill.

Policeman, pretty policeman.

Shut the fuck up, Magill, okay? Dont go batshit on me.

Gonna get the charges dropped?

Don’t know, Jonas Cosacher said to Magill.

This ones serious.

 

#

 

 — I cooperated, God damn it, I told you about that burglary on Mount Tabor and that Felony Flats černobyl-lab.

True. But this charge here. When Childrens Services steps in. Well.

How was I supposed to know one of the Prophets was molesting my baby? Id kill him myself if Id of known. Honest. Only happened once, anyway.

Medical report found barely healed rib fractures...

I didnt do that...

And cigarette burns.

I dont even smoke. Not tobacco, anyway.

I know you don’t. Jonas looked at Magill.

If you cooperate we might get the endangerment charges dropped.

Will I get my baby back.

Um. No.

What about God? I gave you his name.

So what.

I know he narks for you, too.

His information is better.

But it was his brother with his tongue in my baby girls pussy. And the police department. Police department’s bad as Childrens Services. I call Childrens Services up, leave messages. They dont tell me shinola. And the Prosecutor didn’t even bring charges against that pervert. Letting Gods brother off because he’s the biggest supersnitch. Policeman, pretty policeman.

No

Det. Cosacher slapped Magill across the mouth.

Gods brother belongs to the Feds. Hes Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms’, they and only they can bring charges on him

Magill tries to slap Det. Cosacher back but he stops Magill, grabbing her hand, wrapping it in his, squeezing.

But you, he goes on, — weve a certain history with you.

When Magill gets up to leave Det. Cosacher says he has heard rumours about people from Chicago.

That peops from Chicago do not fuck about.

Then he tells Magill to take care of herself.

Very good care of herself. Jump cut: you, magill: You scuttle into the Marriott hotel nearby Waterfront Park.

Slip into the Women’s restroom to wash your face.

Take off your coat; drape it on an open toilet stall door.

Your cigarette lighter falls and you check it, check the flame before putting it back in your coat pocket.

 

#

 

At least the pipe didn’t fall out. You scratch at your itching arms.

They’re the colour of dead fish at the meat market.

You laugh.

Wash your hands, wash and wash them.

Like a teevee doctor show surgeon.

Then you take a tiny empty bottle and hold it below the soap dispenser and pump and pump until the bottle oozes pink.

You wipe excess soap off and cap the bottle and toss it into your valise.

You comb your hair.

Take an upper, from some ’scrip Isaac said he boosted from a friend’s aunt’s medicine cabinet.

Take a couple more.

Cup your hands and fill them with water and drink so you won’t have to taste the awful blood ant pills.

The pipe’s all good and well, hell it’s better than that, but a girl still needs her supplements.

You zag then zig over to the Federal Building on Third and Madison, careful to look out for God and his Prophets.

Peripatripping, Isaac calls it.

Isaac’s always pretty trippy with those spendy words.

But his dead clone bro could make you laugh until you cut a fart sandwich.

Why it’s Our Lady of the Shopping Cart, you haven’t seen her in ages!

Our Lady gurgles a bit and you wonder if it’s bronchitis, walking pneumonia, tee-bee, or tonerlung.

Starve a feed and feed a starveling, Our Lady finally says.

Behind her all her worldly riches are loaded onto her Burnside Cadillac of a cart.

It’s a Freddy Krugers; Our Lady used to have a Safeway cart but traded up.

Our Lady wears a green glove on one hand and a yellow one on the other, glove fingers cut off to allow her own pink stubbies to extrude.

Hey, Magill. Got some money?

You reach into your purse, find that ’scrip bottle.

Remove the cap.

Shake out an upper.

Give it to Our Lady of the Shopping Cart.

Here.

I dont do that stuff.

Its energy, its food. Dont knock it until it knocks you first.

You also give Our Lady couple of intricately folded and refolded origamilike President Grants.

Crane, vampyr, starship.

Slowboat.

You feel wired, finely tuned, as you show your license to a security guard in the federal building and shrug and giggle when the guard tells you the license is about to expire.

You summon a last shred of discipline to keep yourself from hopping and prancing as you wait for the Slow Boat to China elevator.

You said that once and pissed off an Asian bitch with a government badge.

Slowboat Slowboat Slowboat.

You look around.

The guard’s backs are to you as they search and sign in John and Jane Public.

You skip a few steps.

Stop yourself.

Ping.

You turn and see the red arrow.

Elevator doors open. You leap into the elevator.

Down to doom and perdition and the Marriott cafeteria, where you get a pancake and a sausage link for a buck.  jump cut: det. cosacher:Twoway mirror in the hall...

Jonas Cosacher stood in the hallway, looking through a twoway mirror as Dim and Dimmer ineptly grilled Joseph.

—   Who’s the biggest snitch of all...?

 

#

 

Joseph slouched in his seat and blew impressive smokerings.

The smokerings, at any rate, were more impressive than what happened with his funkyjunkie fingerprints, he was all cramped up and you would do better then to go to the nearest art museum and get prints off one of their Rodin sculptures.

Joseph waved at the mirror.

A crooked smile.

Bad teeth, more than slightly diasmatic.

Cosacher wondered if Joseph’s lower incisors would some day bite into his walnutsize brain.

Hey,  Joseph asked Dim.

Whered Det. Cocksucker go?

Hes preparing your suite, Dimmer said.

He went to get you a dozen long stem Armenian Beauties, Dim added.

So, Dimmer said, — Whod you get the černobyl from?

Cosacher watched Joseph watch a ring dissipate.

What černobyl?

The černobyl in the bag that has your expired drivers license in it

How do I know you didnt plant that license?

Like I carry extra ID for every punk in this town. What we have here is is a felony. Bail wont be cheap. Cooperate. Take a lesser plea. Get it dismissed, even

Give me another cigarette.

Not unless you talk

I want a lawyer. Tell Det. Cocksucker to get my lawyer

Jonas Cosacher grinned.

Det. Cocksucker.

He put up with a lot of that shit when he was on the high school wrestling team.

Somehow, it didn’t bother him then, even with all the grab-ass off and on the mat.

When he became a policeman it was all different, somehow, at least initially.

The first punk who called him that so many years ago wound up on his knees and sucking air.

Another punk lost four teeth.

In these days of Anger Management Cosacher had a better grip on emotional responses and if a punk gave him any shit he pretended not to hear, readjusted and tightened their handcuffs, chuckled contentedly.

But Magill.

Ah, Magill.

If he so much as copped a feel off Magill, let alone fucked her černobyl-addled brains out, well, byebye pension bennies byebye.

Jonas Cosacher wasn’t one of Moose’s Golden Boys.

He couldn’t steal a squad car and drunkenly park it in-side a pub (long story short, this actually happened) or fuck half the whores in town while allegedly at the Justice Center, on duty (also actually happened).

Ohwell.

Jonas Cosacher took two flights of stairs to his office.

The stairwell was dark due to a burntout bulb.

The stairs were faster than the elevators and offered exercise. 

Hell, great-grandmothers in China were better off than most Americans half their ages, from humping up and down stairs all day.

He took his sweet time.

There was a Mt. Hood of paperwork to catch up on.

Then he’d catch the happy hour buffet at the Formosa Harbor, maybe go into Southeast and visit a Woodstock district informant, a methadone son of a local district judge, then come back and finish off David.

The whole process from printing and typing and whiting out reports and maybe showandtell to a Request For Lab Exam and swearing to a complaint with a district attorney wannabe, all that would take four to six hours with no snags.

Snags could add another ten hours, easy.

Jonas was trying to remember how long ago the černobyl-labs and -houses began to appear.

How long ago?

Six months?

Nine months? Just after or just before the Dirty Little?

Less than a year, and the wormwood-and-methcrack opium-dipped cocktail, some times with prozac and viagra and hash oil and PCP added, had taken off like a really bad idea whose time had come... street names variously included cranky king’s mix, zerozero asthmador, hippyflippy-h, and mellow submarine.

Seventy percent of drug arrests now involved černobyl.

Only ecstasy retained its popularity,  and it had always been a sort of artsy college student cult drug anyway, nowhere near justifying its pressclippings.

(A few kids dead of dehydration and aneurysms, but not hundreds of millions of teeth destroyed, not tens of millions of minds fried to a crisp.)

He was filling out his arrest report when the door opened.

He smelled perfume.

Calvin Klein unisex shit.

Come in.

Liang, the unit clerk.

That reporter from Journal of the Plague Years keeps calling. Wants to interview you about a fire in Gresham. Possible arson.

What’s this reporters name?

Geof Reid.

Doesnt he write their movie reviews?

I don’t read Journal of the Plague Years. 

His reviews suck. Doesnt know his film history. Wouldnt know a Raoul Walsh from a John Ford from a Rin Tin Tin from a Run Run Shaw from a Béla Tarr...

Ever the fuck

She closed the door.

You didnt hear this from me, Jonas. 

She sat on a chair, after wiping off the dust with tissue torn from a toilet paper roll on Cosacher’s desk.

Two ATF agents just left; Davids being released. 

— I’m fucked.

He works for them, some thing to do with the Oregon Militia.

Černobyl for semis. Seems half the towns narking for ATF

Cosacher noticed she held a shopping bag as well as a clipboard and was curious.

Can you delay the paperwork?

— Big organizations are so inefficient. He may not get out of here for five, six, hours.

— Thanks.

— For what

She got up.

You didn’t hear it from me

Then:

I was at Costco, saw some thing nice for your daughters birthday

She held the giftwrapped box out to him.

Cosacher was abashed.

Well?

He took the box from her.

I dont know what to say.

— I heard you kvetch about not being able to find a present for your Princess. You should ask me how much it was, the present.

Jonas tried not to smile.

— How much was it.

— Nineteen dollars.

— Can I pay you after I get to a Versateller?

Ever the fuck

Liang opened the door.

You should put a few plants in here, pothos or lady palms.

— I got a brown thumb.

Get some plants, Number One Son. Clean up the air, give this monks cell some colour.  jump cut: you, magill: The pancake and sausage links don’t cost a buck.

They cost a buck and a nickle.

 

#

 

And the bastards charge a nickle apiece if you take more than two maple syrup packets or pats of butter.

Greedy corporate ass-suckers.

You laugh when you remember the time you came in for breakfast with Isaac and the cafeteria manager recognized Isaac and blushed.

Ass-sucker. Jump cut: geof in court: I repeat, do you recognize this man

Geof Reid jotted:

Enquiring Minds want to know.

 

#

 

Every body in the courtroom was losing patience.

Every body wanted to hear about the Chicago rumours, about the arson, about the Sunday night driveby.

Impatience, like excitement, was contagious.

Geof thought about that meeting with the principal at his son’s school.

 

#

 

Geof’s son had been caught with two other kids, smoking a joint.

The two other kids, not his son.

His son had not actually been caught smoking a joint, but rather had shown the kids smoking the joint how to roll a joint.

He had been caught doing a demo-, a rolling a joint demo-.

Good thing it was a private school, too, or the cops would have been brought in.

The absurdity of the situation made Geof ill.

And he still had those fuckings deadlines for Sam.

C’mon Magill spill it out.

Geof looked at Magill, and she in turn had looked back at him and had not quite been able to place him, not quite, not able to recognize Geof as the slightly older guy from down the street who had banned her, and any other girl, from his tree house.

Uh. Nojump cut: story of isaac: Isaac always wondered what would have happened.

 

#

 

What would have happened if one of his brother’s friends had not come along with him when he did his orderly shift on pill hill (actually snuck in), if the second Isaac’s brother turned his back this  friend had not substituted a glucose drip for the morphine drip that was feeding into a particular patient’s veins at the time.

For one thing, there would have been no deaths, and no body arrested.

This patient, like all the others in the biopsy chill-out lounge was filleted and awaiting a sew-up-or-operate call.

But unlike other patients, she was one of their aunt’s oldest friends, and a member of their aunt’s extended family, and hence theirs.

She had bolted up with a shock as the morphine drip turned to glucose, and had a hideously painful death as a bit of hydrochloric acid escaped her stomach and began to burn a hole through her.

When Isaac arrived to begin his shift he was arrested (his brother was already in jail)... him and his brother were initially prime suspects, as missing vials of morphine had not gone unnoticed.

They were fairly quickly released when eyewitnesses came forth to describe Isaac’s brother’s friend running through the corridors with a bag of what turned out to be morphine drip.

Indeed, Isaac’s brother’s friend was arrested the next morning, the morphine drip in question, feeding into his veins.

But Isaac and his brother were fired for gross and criminal negligence.

To add to that, the whole affair was the last straw with their aunt, who had put up with so much.

Their aunt had changed the locks, and thrown the contents of their bedroom onto the pavement.  jump cut: story of isaac: Isaac wondered who would snap first, Magill or David.

It was dangerous to fuck with speedfreaks, to tweak the tweakers.

Fun.

But dangerous.

And not nearly as much fun as fucking with someone on acid.

Playing corner of the eye games.

Go to the cemetery off Woodstock games.

Secret of the universe games.

But that was dangerous, too.

Not as dangerous.

Still, dangerous.

He remembered that jerkoff they used to mindfuck with, back in the Bay Area.

Pat.

Pat, with all those world music albums he’d brought from the Middle East, where his dad had worked for the CIA, and how they played frisbee with his vinyl.

How they always fucked with Pat’s head whenever they did acid.

And how a few years back Pat and his family moved down to California, and Pat stabbed his mom to death with a ski pole and was now at Atascadero.

Isaac didn’t want to be within reach if David snapped, that much was for fucking certain.

Or Magill, for that matter.

But a more serious development than her batshit unpredictability was with the Chicago money.

He wanted to be away if Magill faced the consequences on that.

As far as possible.  jump cut: you, magill: Holy of holies.

A discarded newspaper on a table.

The latest Journal of the Plague Years.

 

#

 

You grab it and take it to the further side of the cafeteria by the windows.

From there you can look up at and through the green trees to the Justice Center where your boyfriend awaits his trial.

No bail.

You shred your syrup-drowned pancake and sausage and wolf it down, then read your horoscope and then the comics and then you find an article about how God threatened a Multnomah County judge in court, and had nearly been charged with contempt.

The article is by a Geof Reid.

He left a message for you with your grandmother, so you remember Geof Reid.

There is some thing, a Barside about God’s arrests for dealing, shoplifting, armed robbery, burglary, and accessory to murder, but that none of those charges ever stuck.

God only went to trial on the shoplifting and got that thrown out at the prelim.

Barside, a term you picked up from Colour-blind Derek and Tess, way back when every body lived under the bridge exit.

Colour-blind Derek didn’t live under the bridge exit, but visited with bags of groceries, and hung out.

An ambassador, he called himself.

Colour-blind Derek’s in Europe, so you’ve heard, from some one, you forget, and Tess still edits video for Minerva at that loft by NW Park.

Getting the charges dropped, so you’ve heard, God knows how to work it, God does.

Given a situation, he’ll figure the angles and play them.

You met God’s lawyer once and you were surprised to see the lawyer was a lady and doubly surprised to realize the lawyer could not stand God.

Women love God, so that lawyer, she must be a dyke.

Which is cool, dykes’re cool.

(Tess was cool. Some times.)

You don’t eat from that menu, but love and let love.

You would bet your blood ant stash that Jonas Cosacher got God off.

The Barside mentions burglaries and černobyl-labs and some thing about a Russian cartheft ring.

And some thing about members of a Chicago leisure org seeking their own kind of justice against a local, and about arson and the Sunday night drivebys being involved.

Another Barside is about your little baby girl being diddled by the Prophets and the Barside says the Mother has not been charged but is wanted for questioning.

The Mother.

That’s you.

You reach for another section of the newspaper.

See a small ant crawling on the table.

These ants, they crawl in through the cracks in the building’s foundation, one by one, the cracks getting bigger, and soon the building has to be condemned.

That ant on the table.

A black ant.

A baby ant.

They get red when they’re older.

You don’t know if it is a blood ant, if it is one your ants escaping. You look at your hands.

No sores.

You press your palm onto the ant and rub and rub, to absorb the ant back into your circulatory system.

You see someone at the further end of the cafeteria.

Hear their voice first, cutting through the morning babble, in dispute with a checkstand clerk about the price of an omelet.

Cutting like a fishing knife your dad always used to gut trout.

Hey!

It is one of the Prophets.

But you thought Martin was dead.

You rise, grab your knapsack.

Magill!

You leave.

Slowboatslowboatslowboatslowboat.

The one place where you can go for a decent and cheap breakfast and they take that away from you and now you can never go back.

You cut through a glass-enclosed dining area and out a side door, then down a hall to a security guard’s table and metal detector.

The guard knows you and waves you on through.

You climb on up weirdass brick steps laid at an odd fortyfive or fifty degree angle that makes you dizzy to step up.

You turn back, see the Prophet through three sheets of glass; he is in dispute with the guard. Good, this gives you time to choose an escape route.

Up on Madison, you wonder if you should walk across the steelgrated Hawthorne Bridge or cut through the coldsnap-felled tree branches still littering the park and take a bus on Fifth.

They might follow if you took the bouncy pedestrian walk of the bridge, catch you halfway across and throw you into the Willamette.

You decide on the bus.

The lameass limestone pillars of the Justice Center make you think of salt and pepper shakers. You wonder if you shouldn’t just go in, visit your boyfriend.

The walls would talk then.

Talk plenty.

Bad idea. jump cut: geof in court:Uh. No. I don’t recognize him.

Geof Reid alternately jotted and crossed out, compiling a palimpsest of notes.

 

#

 

Geof surveyed the courtroom, turned and saw Isaac Schrödinger a few rows behind him, saw Isaac intently watch Magill.

 

#

 

Geof wanted to interview Isaac but Isaac kept jerking him around.

Did you not identify that man from police photographs, that man sitting next to his attorney...?

— ...Nojump cut: you, magill:  You go to Fifth.

Go through the greeninggreening parks.

 

#

 

Go past the boxy Christmas present called the Portland Building that all the newspapers say is collapsing in slow motion, the boxy Portland Building with its Portlandia sculpture. The second largest copper sculpture in the US after the Statue of Liberty, — and the lightest, according to Isaac...its skin so thin that the metal goddess cannot attain that rotted verdigris patina so prized in copper sculpture, according to Isaac, it will corrode first, and why aren’t those people in jail, why do they only pick on your boyfriends?

And on past the county courthouse where you testified against God.

 

#

 

Onward you go, to the white Standard Insurance Center building where you wait in front of a fountain with a huge white marble sculpture of guys with tits or girls with dicks floating above the water or swimming in it. You don’t get it.

All these public statues, some of them cast copper or bronze with an arm or a leg or a boob emerging from a slab.

They aren’t even finished.

Or if they are, they’re god damn freak shows like this white marble behind you.

One summer you were by the North Park basketball courts and found a group of artists stacking blocks of ice with things imbedded in them like hair dryers or plastic grapes or water guns or tennis shoes.

Freak show.

If they said that was art, fine.

Beats freezing in your legwarmers and sucking off a creep.

Still, it was a trip watching droplets pool in the airbubbles.

Your cousin is across the street with his sandwich board that reads:

99% Of You Will Burn In Hell.

You see people read his sign and move away from him.

All the recent earthquakes have every body all freakedout and on edge. Your cousin notices you, grins.

Then waves.

You see a bus.

See it coming.

You join the line of students with canvas knapsacks, shoppers with sunflower blood ant bags, briefcased businessmen.

The bus is an extra long number, — articulated, you thought that was what the busdriver said when you asked what the longer buses were called, but you were stoned that day.

You wait in line, look at the midsection of the bus, all ribbed-condomlike, and laugh.

You see one of the Prophets before they can see you and manage to hide in the line, slip away, onto the bus.

It is David.

From your seat in the bus you can see your cousin with his sandwich board and some body approach your cousin.

It looks like that beaucoup Chicago whitest black guy.

He pulls some thing out of his coat.

Must be a gun.

Because there is a puff and then a big hole in your cousin’s sandwich board.

And your cousin falls to his side, tilting the sandwich board with him.

 

#

 

The bus takes you to the ass-end of southeast, to your jesusfreak cousin’s house.

As you near the stop where you get off, you notice firetrucks coming towards your bus but the firetrucks turn left, some six blocks ahead.

The bus stops at your stop and you get off, and turn right at the corner.

Two blocks down you cross the street and go left, to go south.

But you stop, half way across the street.

Your jesusfreak cousin’s house is on fire.

 

#

 

Back in downtown, in Southwest, having chanced a walk back across the Hawthorne Bridge, you walk around, seeking a safe place to hang.

 

#

 

Too bad it’s so early, otherwise you could go to the Formosa Harbor and fight slapdrunk punch happy supervisors for happyhour appetizers before they tossed you out on your ass, and if it’s really busy they might not even notice you.

It’s too early.

You’d be out on your ass.

Too early and too late. jump cut: story of isaac: Isaac stood by the driveway.

He tried to keep a nonchalant stance and be sure no body noticed his buds David and Martin scramble into the upstairs open window... after popping the screen off.

 

#

 

This was Felony Flats, a.k.a. Lents Junction, and no body would be shocked to see someone crawl into a second story window.

They might call the cops, maybe. Unless they themself (or selves) were up to an extralegal transaction.

 

#

 

A bud of David’s had told them about an OHSU intern living in this house, an intern who cooked up černobyl in the attic.

Isaac wondered if David really bought his suggestion that Magill narked him to Jonas Cosacher, wondered if David was just playing along, humouring Isaac, waiting for him to turn his back for just one nanosec.

He hardly ever talked direct to Cosacher, Cosacher only had his bopeeper number so it was beepeepeepeepeepeepeep phonetag springing eternal betwixt him and Cosacher.

A black maria came around the corner and Isaac ran to the house’s southside, where a lawn hose was attached to a dripping faucet, and then turned on the water and grabbed the hose and watered the halfbald lawn.

The black maria drove past, the officers inside didn’t even give Isaac a second look.

Lots of people streaked their hair with strange colours.

Lots of people looked like junkies.

A citizen junkie with hair the colour of a salad bar watering the weedchoked lawn...well, what could be more normal?

An elderly fartster in a funky old faded yellow Volvo pulled into the driveway next door.

The elderly fartster squinted curiously at Isaac.

Isaac smirked and continued to water the lawn.

He recognized that elderly fartster from somewhere.

Trolling for boys on Burnside and Thirteenth?

What was his disgusting filthy little fetish?

Isaac wondered if that elderly fartster could smell the catpissy smell from the house.

The front door to the house burst open and David ran down from the porch.

Isaac noticed that David had a heavy plastic bag.

Also that David looked unwell, all green around the gills.

Jesus, Isaac, theres a couple of chicks in there. Dead chicks.

— Wheres Martin?

Still in there, playing with the cadavers.

— No shit?

The elderly fartster rolled down the car window.

Looks like they died of everything.

David noticed the elderly fartster, turned to Isaac:

Thats right, she died laughing. We’ve better go get condoms.

David hoisted the plastic bag over his shoulder and trotted down the street.

Isaac followed.

What about Martin?

Hes on his own.

Hey, the elderly fartster called after them:

Hey! You left the hose on!

They turned back once or twice to see if the elderly fartster was still watching them as they ran down the block.

Whyd you say all that shit about condoms?

I had to say some thing, David gasped between breaths, — that old fartster, he heard me tell you about the stiffs. Most ofem looked like cadavers. One had a toe tag. But one wore a doctors smockthing, and he looked like he had his throat cut. He looked like some body we used to buy černobyl from.

The house they had just left exploded and a silicon shard of erstwhile solar panel, with its infrared-sensitive undercoating, sheared right on past them and fwomphhsshppproing right into a telecomm-pole ahead.

Jesus, David, you didn’t tell me they were still cooking a batch.

— Didn’t get as far as the kitchen, Isaac, couldnt stand the stink.

Fucking Martin.

Hes fucking ground round now.

They ran to the corner, turned left.

A car’s motor started across the street.

Isaac turned.

Looked like a rental.

Isaac looked at the driver.

Chicago!

The two ran faster.

As the car overtook them, Isaac turned again.

It was the black albino from Chicago.

From Chicago with a tear drop tattoo.  jump cut: geof at ohsu: Why did Pill Hill have to so wholeheartedly embrace the ugly and shoddy?

 

#

 

Geof Reid was at OHSU, in a recently remodeled waiting room done up in overcheery colours and with overcheery artwork, waiting outside an administrator’s office in a plasticmoulded torture chair.

His editor Sam would have called these post postmodern and tried to get a few staffers to do a mid night run to rip them off for the Journal of the Plague Years offices.

That is, back before she inherited all that money.

Now, she’s rent a van and dispatch them to the SeaTac Ikea.

 

#

 

Geof played back his memocorder, played back comments from the old-fartster who saw Isaac and David run from the černobyl-lab before it blew the fuck up:

They said there were a couple of dead girls in there and they had to go for condoms... that’s what they said.

Geof played back the comments from the firefighters who had found the cadavers upstairs.

He wondered if that Det. Cosacher would ever return his calls.

The door opened.

A tall blonde woman, looking a bit like a beautifully preserved corpse, stepped into the waiting room.

Her stiff movements only reinforced his initial impression.

People of her generation tended to be out of touch with their bodies.

Still, her walk reminded Geof of his college roommate’s girlfriend, after getting her brains fucked out.

Geof Reid?

Yes.

He rose.

I have an appointment on the other side of the campus and need to grab a bite first. Could we do this on the run, so to speak?

— Sure. 

He held up his memocorder.

Mind if I tape this...?

Fine.

He kept pace as she briskly moved down the hall.

What was it you needed to know about Frank?

Well, I know that he was a first year intern...

—But hed been a biochem major before he switched to medicine.

— Well, you know more than I do.

Geof Reid followed her out a door and down a few steps to a path that led past two hideous specimens of sculpture, beyond any history or tradition, and to a cafeteria.

She grabbed a plastic knife and fork and a fistful of napkins, got into line by the grille.

Would you like some thing, Mr. Reid...?

No thanks. Call me Geof.

She spoke to someone who wore an oversize cook’s cap:

Two eggs, over easy. Two wheat toasts, butter. A sausage link. To go.

— You wanted to ask me about Frank Rodelius?

Yes. He was just killed in an explosion...

She looked at him.

So you think he was running a černobyl-lab

I think so... Probably. Maybe just working there. 

Then:

Is there a reason he would have cadavers in his attic?

He saw her look at the eggs on the grille, saw her brief grimace.

If they were OHSU cadavers, then they were withdrawn without permission. As to why, I would not venture to guess.

— Do you know if he had a substance abuse problem? They found a Terrence McKenna book in his car.

— I would guess that half the staff here have books by Terrence McKenna. That doesn’t make us substance abusers...

— Are you aware of any problems with drugs or chemical supplies missing or unaccounted for?

She gave what was either a sneeze or a short sharp guffaw.

I never heard of any thing missing during his shift. It has. It has not happened since I’ve been running things. And as far as I know it did not happen before.

— ...Are you certain?

As far as I am certain. Any other questions you have can be directed to our public information office. Then:

I have a meeting to attend.

Then:

Nice to meet youjump cut: geof at court:No. Not that man.

But that man looks exactly like the man that you identified in the police photograph, doesnt he?

 

#

 

Geof Reid, looking up from his note-taking, saw Det. Cosacher in the courtroom.

 

#

 

After a very brief phone interview, Jonas Cosacher had never returned Geof’s calls.

He wondered if it was true that Cosacher was fucking Magill, and wondered what kind of cutesy sicko header Sam would tack onto his černobyl-lab fire piece.

Of course Geof had set up the punchline with the itemization of toe tagged cadavers and condoms, and the medical intern with a slit throat, and the Prophet dead from burns and inhalation of toxic fumes.

— ...No, not reallyjump cut: you, magill: You scream into that pay phone.

Tell that bastard Jonas Cosacher that I know stuff about Isaac, too, about the spade cab driver killed in Northeast. Tell him I want to talk.

You hang up.

Go across the street.

To Minerva’s studio, where Tess and Jools work.

You buzz the door.

No answer.

Shit.

 

#

 

There is a bundled stack of Journal of the Plague Years on the front steps of a business next to the studio’s stairwell entrance.

You sit on the papers.

The ink might rub off, onto your clothes.

To hell with it. You need a quick break.

You see ants crawl along the sidewalk.

See minutely piled sand by a crack of pavement revealing their excavations.

The ants are black. You bend down and crush an ant with your palm and then rub your hands together to absorb the ant.

Turn it into a blood ant.

The door swings open.

You get up.

— ¿Jools, qué pasa?

Got to go

Jools carefully closes the door behind her, checks to be certain it is locked.

Then Jools walks, walks that wide walk...

More a stride than a walk, Isaac would say.

That wide New York walk you see in movies sometimes.

The New York movies. You catch up.

Where.

— Hospital. To see Tess.

— I thought she was on those new meta-tation drugs.

— Yeah, theyre not working.

— Got a couple of minutes?

Dont have time. Visiting hours end soon.

— But it’s early. Can I come along...

No. They might check you in. Ive had four phone calls in the last week from someone wanting to know your whereabouts. One from a cop; the others. The others hung up. Get out of town, Magill, go see your relatives Down South.

They’re not Down South. Not any more. Some still in Oklahoma. Arizona. Not Down South.

— Yeah yeah yeah. You’re a mess, ducky.

— Am not. I wash myself, I shampoo; I keep clean.

— I didnt say youre dirty. I said youre a mess. 

Jools takes twenty bucks from her wallet.

Here. Get some food, buy a napple or banana. Its a nunfortunate thingie. Dont go Tragedian on us, now. You’ll get a nulcer or worser.

Holds the twenty out.

Fuck your ass.

You march away.

But you are stopped by an immensity of president’s deathmask moth pointillism adorning the entire north wall of a distant tall building.

The dots flutter in their ascent.

You have walked through here countless times without noticing this mural moth before.

Or the building.

Magill!

You turn around.

What?

Youre the one getting your arse fuckedjump cut: det. cosacher:  Jonas Cosacher entered the interrogation room.

David looked up, grinned all shit-eatinglike.

 — Im ready to make a statement.

— As if it really matters. You already know youre walking

 

#

 

Jonas Cosacher did not want to tell David that the ATF agents had made the knapsack and the pills vanish, the punk was already cocky enough as it was.

Do you want my statement or not?

 

#

 

 — Okay, David. What do you have?

Magill.

— Yes, David?

She— 

(Cosacher just)

set— 

(Cosacher)

the— 

(Cosacher laughed)

deal up.

And howd she do that?

— From a pay phone... I dont know.

— Thats your statement?

Look, she narked me. Im narking her back.

— Whats the proof?

— Shes got money.

— She fucks and sucks people for money. Of course shes always going to have a few couple of twenties.

— What shes got is whole wads of Franklins.

— Thats proof...?

Cosacher had heard all the rumours about a bag of money stolen from a visiting Chicago delegation.

I know she narks for you and you can do what you want with my information but she set the deal up. 

— Again, thats your proof...?  jump cut: you, magill:  Back on the cross.

You are back on the roof of the carpark, on your back, on the pillbox helicopter pad.

On the faded X cross.

 

#

 

The fleshtone cross.

Your pipe and your cigarette lighter rest by your side; you can feel the heat escape from them.

You hear the sounds of skates on concrete, look up.

See guys in drag.

Guys wearing sequined Rose festival-type dresses, guys on roller blades.

They aren’t real queens because these skatebombing guys in drag way overdo the makeup.

Queens get the makeup just exactly almost right... and that’s the point, they’ll say.

You clap your hands as the drag skaters circle the pillbox.

One of the drag skaters looks up at you, startledlike.

The drag skaters circle the pillbox a few times and then go down the ramp... screaming.

Shit.

Joe or another rentaguard will come up and tell you to get off the roof.

 

#

 

Those guys in drag on skates sure can ruin everything.

You get up from your faded cross, go down the steps and to the edge of the roof.

You look across at the Justice Center.

No hand signs.

No waving gestures.

No hellos.

Nothing. You swing onto the concrete ledge, ride it horsebacklike.

You slap the concrete.

There is a very faint rumble, from construction jackhammers just around the corner.

Maybe you can get the whole carpark to move, so you can gallop away from God, from Jonas Cosacher, from all of it.

Giddyyap!

You dig your heels into the concrete ribs of the horse ledge.

One of your shoes comes off and falls down, narrowly missing a lady with a crib.

Ooops.

You look down, down at the people on the street below, all antlike.

Some of them are waiting for one of the buses that go across the Hawthorne Bridge.

Some of them have umbrellas that make them look ladybug-like.

You see Isaac.

See his green and purple hair.

Then see him look up at the roof.

See him.

Look right at you.

He is with David.

You hear some thing, and start, and start to turn, to turn to look, because you know there is some body else, too, you start, to look to turn.  jump cut: geof in court: — ...Not really.

Your Honor. In view of the Prosecutions inability to come up with a single creditable witness...

— Your Honor. The Prosecution objects to the Defense’s rash statements.

— Your Honor. Can the Defense be allowed to complete its rash statements?

Motion granted. Proceedjump cut: story of isaac:I am royally pissed off,  Isaac said to David.

They were peripadithering their way to the Saliva Exchange.

 

#

 

 — So?  David said.

What else is new? So, youre pissed off. As the song goes: Anger is an energy. So Im pissed off as hes pissed off as shes pissed off as mes pissed off as were pissed off together.

 

#

 

 — Pissed off at the way God never shows up for his meetings.

— Guess thats why hes called God.

— Right. It sucks. He calls the meeting, then doesnt even show. Deus Mortem Est.

David started as the shoe fell from the rooftop.

Watch out, David said. And laughed.

God heard you.

He then looked up, saw Magill.

Laughed again.

That psychotronic bitch narked me. I ought to go fix her ass.

Isaac paused.

He saw Magill look at him from the ledge and joined the laughter.

Yeah.

David laughed, too, a less certain laugh.

Yeah.

— Lets...

— Lets what...?

— Lets...

What Let’s?

— Lets push her off the roof.  jump cut: geof at the carpark: Geof Reid had time to kill before he went to pick up his son from school.

 

#

 

The ex- was out of town for some bull shit conference with wannabe D.A.’s and nervergonnabe Governors, and Geof and his wife had the kid this week.

 

#

 

He decided to go to the carpark by the Justice Center where Magill was supposed to hang out.

Being near the Justice Center always tied Geof’s gut into pretzel knots but, hey, he had a job to do.

Geof had tried to catch her at the carpark roof several times, as well as the Marriott cafeteria in the Federal Building next door, but each time had missed her, according to Joe the rentaguard or one of the Marriott cashiers.

Hell, everybody in town seemed to know about Magill.

She should be in the Rose Festival Parade over on MLK.

Geof found a parking meter behind the towers of Koin that still had ninety minutes left and pulled in. It was only three short blocks to the carpark and Geof needed the exercise.

This assignment was turning into the most frustrating in memory.

He hadn’t done any thing but film and music reviews and features in eons and felt brittle as old nitrate stock.

And if he planned on following through on his Eisenstein book sale he needed to really flex his muscles.

But this assignment wasn’t much of an improvement.

He should have stuck with the other assignment, la Virgen de McMinville.

And he couldn’t blame Sam; she had given him the option of pursuing one or the other, or both.

And yesterday, reading in the Portlandic Weekly Herald & Argus about the four kids he interviewed, kids who needed a fortune in dental work, those four kids who were hit by a Cadillac driven by an Oregon Citizens Alliance organizer.

A fifteen year old pregnant girl and her two younger brothers, and a cousin.

The kids were lighting candles and arranging flowers at the very same roadside spot where he’d interviewed them two weeks before.

So if he’d stuck with that article he might have been there too, might have been hit by that large automobile, too, might have wound up in the morgue like those poor little fuckers, or been exposed to elohim metadisease, not that he much savored Sam’s haha alternative, that of digging around the old Umatilla facilities for encephalopox, sneezing cholera, and anthrax3v sources... as well as the dread elohim, its name refering to a secret name said to be the delivery vector, or trigger, whose resonant frequencies interact between thousands of multiple neurons to cause latent prions to become active, some of these prions also acting on the hypothalamus which affects the immune system, and the endocrine, or hormonal, emotional, system...or, so it is said....

American scientific journals were taking these theories seriously; on the other hand, journals in the United Kingdom and France and Germany and Scandinavia and Japan and Singapore were scoffing at these same theories.

And it’s been a year since he saw that documentary so he’s fuzzy on the details, forgets whether it first showed up at PSU or University of Portland.

A small detail but a detail nonetheless...

Every body changes the subject at any rate, whenever it comes up, lest they accidentally say the secret name.

A sidebar told how someone had videotaped the McMinville roadside shrine accident and sold the footage to the Fox 49 newsateleven bottomfeeders.

Another sidebar, contained an interview with Carlos Fuentes, on a lecture tour, pimping a memoir about Jean Seberg, an essay about Yanqui imperialists, and a short story collection: he had laid a wreath at the site, mentioned that there was a great tragic migrastroika novel or play in that bloodsoaked shoulder of the intersection. (In fairness to Fuentes, the article was so badly written, the interview so badly transcribed, that even after several re-readings it was hard to tell whether the musings about a great migrastroka work were those of the journalist or of the author being profiled and interviewed.)

Geof couldn’t remember their names, the now-dead Mexican kids, he’d have to check his notes.

But he needed a miracle for this assignment, needed a Madonna of the Feature to intercede.

No body returned calls.

His main interviewee was hiding from everybody and remaining uninterviewed.

Yet his editor Sam kept saying, — Go for it. Weve got a winner here.

The only cogent, let alone winning, bits he had were the Felony Flats černobyl-lab explosion, with OHSU cadavers found in the kitchen and attic, and a court appearance where Magill failed to identify a suspected drug dealer, that, and the piling corpses of anyone related to or acquainted with Magill.

Tomorrow that piece would hit the freebie racks and ceedee shops and bookstores and pizzerias and microbrew pubs and galleries and clubs before lining bird cages and litter boxes or going into yellow curbside recycling bins.

Geof had even missed an important Chinese-Argentine film at the Cinema 21 Gay Filmfest.

All for an uncertain trail of dead-up-the-ass leads.

Qué pasa.

It was Joe, the rentacop, smoking a clove cigarette in the stairwell.

Magill up there?

Should be.

— About fucking time.

Geof bound up the steps, two steps at a time.

Hey, man, Joe called to him.

Dont take these steps. Youll scare the shit out of her and shell just run away. Get out at the next level, walk across and take the northwest corner steps.

— Okay, okay.

— I mean it, man, Magill will bolt.  jump cut: story of isaac: — Fucking narking bitch!

Exterminate!

 

#

 

David and Isaac bolted up the concrete carpark stairs, to the top of the carpark, heart and leg muscles straining, ascending two or three steps at a time.

Lets humptydumpt her!

— Exterminate! Exterminate!  jump cut: in court: — ...Your Honor. In view of the prosecution’s  jump cut: you, magill: Fa — ,  you say or scream.

Or start to.

 

#

 

Maybe you meant to say or scream,

farrrr out.

 

#

 

Or maybe you meant to scream or say,

fuck me.

Push, jump, you lose your balance, and flail into an uncontrolled slowingup speedingdown plunge.

A cat can look at a king.

A cat can fall up to a hundred stories without suffering any thing worse than a chipped tooth.

A cat calibrates and controls its fall.

Even when jumping or falling or pushed.  jump cut: geof at the carpark: The scream.

 

#

 

Geof the journalist and Joe the rentacop heard it.

 

#

 

Joe darted across the canted second or third level of the parklot as Geof continued up the steps.

Some body going down the stairs passed them.

Geof noticed a tear drop tattoo under his left eye.

No time, the rentacop said:

Shes jumpedjump cut: story of isaac: David and Isaac looked down.

 

#

 

Down to the street below, to the justgathered freakshow.

Even from here the loss of blood was seen to be massive.

Lets get the fuck out of here.

David could see Jonas Cosacher running across the street from the Justice Center.

Yeah, David laughed.

A police tank came from behind the Justice Center, pivoting, grinding.

Yeah, Isaac agreed. jump cut: you, magill:  A cat can look, a cat can.

 

#

 

A cat can look at a king —

 

#

 

A cat can look at any king, indeed, but you can not control your fall, can not prevent tearing of liver and spleen and lungs and aorta, can not stop the massive head injuries.

A cat can look. jump cut: in court: — ...Your Honor...

A penny, if dropped, could be heard.

In view of the Prosecutions inability to produce a single creditable witness against my unjustly accused client, the Defense makes a motion to dismiss this case.

 

 

#

R.V. Branham is author/compiler of Curse+Berate in 69+ Languages (Soft Skull Press). His fiction has been anthologized in Dinosaurs 2, Full Spectrum 3, Ghosts 2, Hybrid Beasts (a Red Lemonade e-book anthology), and Midnight Graffiti; and in magazines including Back Brain Recluse (UK), Ellery Queen's Mystery, Midnight Graffiti, Isaac Asimov's SF, Tema (a bilingual Croatian magazine), 2 gyrls quarterly, and online in In Other Words, Mérida, Red Lemonade, The Writing Disorder and W*O*R*K. He is publishing editor of Gobshite Quarterly, a multilingual en-face magazine (now in double issue flip-book format) and publisher of GobQ/Reprobate Books.

 

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief