Kitty Acker

--pigshit press—

copyright 2020/kitty acker & meeah williams
pigshit press   All rights reserved.

I was fourteen when I ran away from home for the last time. By the last time, I mean the time when I finally got away for good. What? Is that too young? Make it seventeen then. Or eighteen. Whatever age you're comfortable with. It's just a goddamn story, after all. Pure fiction, Even if it is the one true story of my life. I'm going to get fucked a lot in this story. I'm warning you. Or enticing you. That's the whole point of the story, any story, let's not make any bones about it. Let's not pretend. We're all adults here, in spite of whatever age I say I am. Or whatever age you are. Or maybe none of us are adults. I think that’s closer to the truth. I've spent my whole life getting fucked. And lying. That's what I do. Get fucked and lie about it. That’s what a real writer does. That's why I've been contracted to write my life-story. Why else would anyone care about lil o' me? So if that’s not your thing, stop reading right now. Go read a James Patterson or Harry Potter novel. God knows there’s enough of ‘em out there.  More than enough fake shit for you to read. Go grab yourself a Tami Hoag. She won’t mind. Grab her wherever the fuck you like. She won’t feel a thing. Is she still scribbling? Anyway, there’s enough of her ilk out there. They churn’em out by the dozens. By the millions. By the dumpster full. That’s all I can tell you if you’re feeling any trepidation about reading my tale of fuck and woe. Just stop the fuck reading right now because I won’t stop writing. I can’t. I’m not allowed. It’s against the law. Like I said, I’ve been contracted.

All is foggy now, all is unclear. But it will be made more clear in the end, you'll see. YOU'LL SEE! Whether you like it or not, you'll see. I’ll force your fucking eyelids open. We’ll get there. Don’t worry. For now, enjoy the fog and shadows. It's the nature of stories to be a bit obscure in the beginning. It builds up the old suspense. Mr. Sunshine says to keep it suspenseful. He's the one who pays me by the way. He pays me by the word, a thousand at a time is what he likes to see. He calls that production. A real capitalist is Mr. Sunshine. He’s very much concerned about production. The product…meh…not so much. But the production, that’s the thing. That’s the meat of the matter. That’s what counts. Mr. Sunshine? He's my………….erm, "editor." I call him Mr. Sunshine because….well, he keeps the lights on, if you know what I mean. He likes it when I keep things interesting. So I keep things interesting for him. My life on earth depends on it. He says keeping a story interesting is like edging a cock, (he’s talking about his cock in particular; he’s always talking about his cock in particular if you learn to read between the lines of whatever it is he’s saying) making sure it doesn't erupt too soon, nor too late either…you have to do it just right, you have to be like Goldilocks and find the “just right,” be sensitive to the stages, the subtle changes, the plot points, he calls them, the narrative arc is just like the arousal of the male penis, he says, like the parabola of cum that spurts from the tip. This is the way I learned literary theory, learned it on my knees, at the feet of Mr. Sunshine, a real master of the arc, the art of the arc, the money shot. This was my education as a writer. My literary genesis. Sure I coulda done better. I coulda gone to the Iowa Writers Workshop and been another David Dullfuck Wallace. But I could have done a whole lot worse. It would have been much easier to do a helluva lot worse.  I could’ve hung myself from a ceiling rafter, too. I could’ve written a fucking bestseller—a book the size of a pyramid brick. A real doorstopper. This could be a James Patterson novel you’re reading, after all.

Daddy was awful, Daddy was a monster. Daddy killed us all in our beds while we slept and fucked us all in the ass the next morning when we woke up. How trite. How boring. Haven't we heard that all before? How many times. A million? A billion? Every family is unhappy in its own special way. Who said that? Tolstoy? The Ramones? Daddy raped me so many times I can't count. Daddy raped me until it wasn’t rape anymore, until the meaning of the word rape left the word rape like a bird leaves a branch, like the warmth leaves a dead hamburger. He put so many parts of his body into mine I find it hard to distinguish where he ends and where I begin. After a while, it didn't even feel like rape anymore. I don't know what it felt like because it never felt like anything else. I never felt anything different from what it felt like. It felt like whatever. Life, I guess. I’m Daddy’s Little Monster, alright. I’m what he made me and he fucked what he made. This is supposed to be a sex novel you're reading, by the way, in case you’ve forgotten. Are you feeling sexy yet?

Kids at school always called me a weakling. A sissy. A faggot. Kids at school are always so negative. Kids at school knew what I was before I did. Kids at school are always right. I wish I listened instead of saying “am not!” Instead of trying to prove them wrong. They were always calling me a girl, saying I should go off with the girls, but I knew they didn’t really mean it, that I couldn’t go off with the girls, that the girls wouldn’t have me either, that what they really meant was that I didn’t belong with anyone anywhere, not with the girls or the boys either. They pushed me around a lot, those kids, hit me in the back of the head with their books, their lunchboxes, their elbows, the bony backs of their hands. What they really wanted was to push me off the edge of the world but they couldn’t find it. So they just shoved me round and round, back and forth, looking for a hole for me to fall into. They shot spitballs at me from the back of the room. Their aim seemed unerring. The teachers never said a word. They either didn't see or pretended not to see. Lunch was the worse time of all, even worse than gym class. At lunch I circled the outer perimeter of the playground as far out as I could go to avoid my classmates and their vicious persecution. I didn't always succeed. I didn’t succeed enough. I wish I succeeded better. It wasn’t safe on the perimeter either, it was safe nowhere, no place was less safe than others. That’s the lesson I learned. They were just unsafe in different ways. There was no safe place. There were different kinds of animals stalking the borders of the playground, stalking both sides of the cyclone fence, passing over and under it. There’s no such thing as an inviolable border. That’s another important thing I learned. You can’t put your trust in borders. The people you really want to keep out don’t respect them. I learned that the people living at the border would give me a pass if I got down on my knees in the leaves—damp or crunchy depending on the time of year. If I opened my mouth and let them put in it whatever it was they had to put in it. I knew how to do this already. They seemed delighted, they didn’t have to waste time teaching me. I fit right in. I learned that I belonged with the people at the border, the people who belong nowhere. They recognized me as one of them. It’s true what they say about knowing a second language expanding your horizons. I owe it all to Daddy. It was a skill that Daddy taught me, like tying a knot or speaking French. Daddy called it speaking French, my tongue moving around on a mouthful of his cock. I always like to say, French tastes funny until you get used to it in your mouth. Then it feels perfectly natural, like a second tongue. Sometimes speaking French just feels like a skill I always knew, knew right from birth, that no one had to teach me. I think I must be part French. I always liked French authors best! I could live in that world where you got on your knees and spoke French. I spoke that language like a fish breathes water, like a native. Some people are just born with a gift for a second language, I guess.

There was a convenience store just outside of town. There’s always a convenience store just outside of town. They serve a purpose and it’s not just to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. I used to ride my bike there. My bike was a retro purple stingray with a glitter-flake purple banana seat. Plastic streamers pouring from the handles of the forked handlebars. I got it for one birthday or other. It was the one childhood gift I remember. Some kid took it away from me shortly thereafter and I was too much of a pussy to take it back. I tried to hide the fact the bike was gone from my father which wasn’t too hard since he was hardly ever home but when he eventually found out about it he didn't believe my lies that I had loaned it to the kid who'd actually taken it from me and he grabbed me by the arm and marched me down the block to the kid's house. He had me ring the doorbell and get the kid outside and even though I was practically pissing my pants with terror he made me punch the kid in the ear. Ordinarily this meathead would have pounded the living crap out of me but he didn't do anything but stand there holding his ear and start crying because my father was looming over me looking like the lunatic he was and I stood there crying, too. We were both standing there across from each other on the front porch crying. The stupidest thing was that I'd barely even connected with his head. My fist just kind of glanced awkwardly off the side of it. This didn’t escape my father’s notice. He was disgusted with the both of us, called us  a pair of faggots, but he was a lot angrier with me, because I was his faggot. As he dragged me back home by the arm, guiding my bike in his other fist like a bad purple pony, I knew I was in for it. Along the way he regaled me with a shortlist of my failures:  I punched like I threw like I ran like I talked like I cried like I did everything, which was like a goddamned girl. I didn’t realize it at the time (and neither did he) but I thought like a girl, too, and I reacted emotionally like a girl and I fantasized about being a girl and I masturbated like a girl and pictured myself as a girl while I masturbated and I took it for granted that this is what everyone did. Of course, I took his dick like a girl, too, but that was one thing he didn’t mention. But this isn't the point of what I was trying to say here. I was trying to tell you about the convenience store.

It was supposed to be like a 7-11 but it wasn't. Our town didn’t warrant a real 7-11.  So our store was just some place that sold all the same crap that real 7-11s did but was called something different, something that sounded like 7-11, I forget what. The guys that owned it were even like guys that own real 7-11s. Some kind of foreigners. Indian or Pakistani I guess. When they spoke to each other they spoke a lot of fast gibberish. That’s what it sounded to us kids anyway. We pretended to talk like them amongst ourselves. It was funny. It cracked us up. We were racists, I guess. No, we weren’t. We just thought they sounded like cartoons. The racks of bagged chips, the newspapers and magazines, the sweaty hot dogs on the rollers, the big radioactively-colored slush sodas, the lottery tickets that never paid off—these guys from India or Pakistan or wherever the hell they were from—it was all there. Kids hung out in the parking lot to smoke and drink and duck in and out to buy snacks and sometimes just steal them except the Pakistani guys were on to them so there wasn’t too much stealing, not from the regulars anyway. No one wanted to get chased away permanently, no one wanted to be banned, it was the only place we could all go. Besides, cops hung out there a lot, came in to buy big coffees and crullers, which the Pakistanis never charged them for.  I learned from this one kid, Bobby, that some kids made a few bucks in back of the store. I was curious and in need of a few bucks so I asked for more information. I didn't understand really when he told me how they did it. My stupidity amused him. He said it was easy. You just hung out and these guys like my father would ask you back to their car and they'd take you for a little ride. Guys like my father? That gave me pause. I didn’t need any more guys like my father. My father was enough of a father. Bobby said not to worry these guys wouldn’t hurt me like an actual father would. Bobby was a dirty looking little kid with big wet almond-shaped eyes. He was a tough little bastard in spite of being so small and faggoty looking. He could fight like a badger or one of those tiny flat furry animals you see on television nature shows, whirling around like a little piece of carpet over some bigger animal that tries to mess with it. So a badger, I guess.  The bigger kids left him alone even though behind his back they said he was nothing but a filthy little nigger-fag. He wasn’t even black, though, just brown. Or maybe just a dirty little white kid. "They give you money just to take you for a ride?” I couldn’t believe it. “Get out of here. No way." "You're an idiot," Bobby said, slapping me  on the side of the head, but not really meaning it. "Just get in the car. You'll see. It’s easy." "What if no one asks me?" I asked, used to not being picked for anything."They'll ask you. You don’t gotta worry about that," he laughed. He was right.

You learned after a while what guys liked. Actually, you didn't learn. You just knew. I knew, anyway. You knew right away, like those tiny turtles that scramble for the ocean after they hatch before the gulls swoop down screaming down and carry them off. Maybe I didn't know, I just was whatever it was they wanted. Guys liked me. They wanted me with that hungry look guys get in their eyes when they want something sexual, when they want to fuck a hole in something. You can feel the heat, it’s like a laser beam. You don’t have to even see it or them. You feel the laser beam. You feel singled out. You feel “seen.” Chosen. I didn’t even have to try. They liked the lost vacant look in my eyes, the cloudy softness of my face, my silence, my vagueness. They liked the way I did what I was told without any backtalk, without any questions, without even needing to be told most of the time what it was they wanted. I just knew even if I’d never done it before. Like I’d done it in a past life maybe. It was like I had ESP. Like I had SSP. Sexual Sensory Perception. I have that. No matter what it was I took it in stride. The most disgusting stuff I just did. I did it like I’d been doing it all my life. There was no expression on my face. I was neutral. It was like fucking a sex doll but a little bit better because I could make an expression if what they did hurt enough. I could bleed. I could also die. In theory. These were all possibilities but I didn’t get excited about any of it. But they did. Most of the time it was enough that it was just possible and they didn’t need to make me bleed, they didn’t need to hurt me too much, they didn’t need to kill me. I put myself in their hands. This is something my Daddy drilled into me just by being my Daddy. Everyone had a right to put their hands on me. Everyone and anyone. My body belonged to whoever. I was communal property. I was part of the community. There was no such thing as the word “no” in my vocabulary. There was no such thing as the word “me.” It was like being a communist. It was like being a patriot. It was like I was something inside me just delivering my body from place to place, from person to person. I was a messenger. Here is my body. It’s yours. Everyone was family, kind of, a family member. I had to accept all my extended family’s members. Come on in, we’ll treat you like family. You’re one of us now. You’re home. No cock was a stranger after you licked it a few times. Even the ugliest, smelliest, nastiest ones. Even the ones that looked like some deep-sea creature brought to the surface for the very first time. Even the ones that looked like some kind of demented rooster, some deformed two-headed screaming chicken you see on the internet. They say one of the reasons a cat is always licking itself aside from just grooming away loose fur is to spread it's scent via its saliva all over its body, from head to tail. It likes to smell itself on itself. It calms it. It makes it feel in control. Well, who can blame it? It wants its whole world to smell familiar, smell like itself. That's kind of the way it is with a stranger's cock. No matter what it stinks like when you first pull it out of a guy's stained underwear after a few licks it tastes like nothing, it tastes like your own tongue in your own mouth. What’s your tongue taste like? You can’t say. It tastes like you, I guess. That’s why you can’t say. That’s the way it is with a stranger’s cock. It's almost like your own flesh and blood you're tasting. You’re tasting all men, you’re tasting humanity. You become a humanitarian. No one’s a stranger, that’s what you learn with a cock in your mouth. We’re all one flesh. No one’s doing anything to me. I’m doing everything. I’m raping myself.

They liked it when you wore tiny shorts, denim cut-offs cut off as high as you dared. Little skirts, plaid, like the Catholic school girls wore. They liked to see my legs, long and pale and smooth. Girlish legs. I was skinny. I had a flat tummy. I was a whole lot easier to fuck than the Catholic school girls, a lot easier to maneuver into the car, beneath the boardwalk, into the public toilet. They kept a closer watch over the girls. They had a higher value to society. They were almost impossible to touch, an idea, an ideal, a sheer fantasy. By contrast, I was all-too real. I had no value, or just a little. Ten cents, maybe. Less. I was a dime a butcher’s dozen. No one cared about a boy dressed like a girl sucking a cock. We were expendable. You’d almost think that was our purpose. To be expended. I never gained any weight no matter how much I ate. I didn’t eat much. I was so nervous all the time the weight just burned off me automatically. I was forever looking nervously over my shoulder. It made me that much more attractive to predators. Looking out for Daddy. I had that waifish lost look guys loved. I had that mop of dark hair and big eyes. I looked like that poster for Les Miserables. I looked like either a boy or a girl or neither. They liked asking me why did I look so scared all the time knowing they were scaring me without even trying. They liked telling me there was nothing to be scared of. They liked telling me they weren’t going to hurt me. They liked that I still looked scared even when they told me there was nothing to be scared of and they weren’t going to hurt me. They liked feeling in control, feeling that they could scare someone, hurt someone, that there was something to be scared of and that they were it. They liked it when I took my sneakers and socks off, when I stood around the parking lot in bare feet. I knew these things instinctively. I could feel the heat of their gaze traveling up my body, starting at my ankles and traveling up, like the flames rising around a saint, Saint Joan of Arc, tied to a stake, traveling up and finally searching my face, searching for what, I wondered...some acknowledgment that I knew what I was doing, maybe? That I was burning in invisible flames? Were they baffled, fascinated that I had no expression whatsoever as I burned? Or did I look beatific, transported, in mystical union with God…or whatever? Did they want to find some acknowledgement that I knew what the hell I was doing or that I didn’t? Were they looking to ease their conscience or fire their libido or both? Were they looking then, for the impossible? Did they even know what the hell they were looking for? I can’t say. Did I give them whatever they were looking for without my knowing? I guess so, insofar as it was possible to give it, insofar as it was a thing that could be given. They took it in any event. They paid for it. If I only half-knew what I was doing it was because the part of me that didn't know I kept hidden from myself. I kept it hidden from myself because I knew it made me more attractive. It also made it bearable to know what I knew but didn’t want to know. I knew it was the part that made the guys choose me over the others. I was very popular without even outwardly trying. I never had any trouble making money. I was proud of it, too, and told Tommy until I could see by the look in his face that he wasn’t as happy for me as he pretended to be even when he took his share of what I made. I kept my mouth shut after that and things went back to normal. It was just like living at home.

You never really made all that much, though. I realize that now. It just seemed a lot at the time because it was more than nothing. Because I made nothing before anything seemed like a lot more than that. The Dads in the cars didn't part with much. They didn’t have to and they knew it. Just like real Dads. They were tight-lipped and tight-fisted. They knew we were just kids, that we didn’t know any better, that we weren’t organized, that we didn’t matter. No one was looking out for us. This was labor relations on the street. This was the free market. Sometimes they didn't pay at all. It was a crap-shoot. It was like a lottery. They gave you a few bucks to go buy a soda or some chips or a hot dog. It seemed almost like a favor they were doing, like giving us an allowance for taking out the trash. No one thought to complain. Who would we complain to anyway? When you're a kid all money is like allowance. It’s arbitrary. It’s a cherry on top. When you’re a kid the world is the world and it’s already been made. It’s a given. You don’t think of changing it. You just think of getting away with whatever you can at the margins. Whatever it is you can get by with. That’s what makes up your own world. Kid-world. Okay, so they gave you a five or maybe a ten, hardly ever a ten. Sometimes a few singles, whatever came to hand. "Here kid, go buy yourself a donut you look like you could use it," they'd say, handing you a few crumpled ass-damp bills. They acted casual but you could tell they were guilty all of a sudden for what they'd just done. You could tell they thought they’d just done something wrong even if you couldn’t figure out exactly what. You could tell because they suddenly wanted you out of the car fast. They wanted out of the neighborhood fast. They wanted to go home. They wanted to go anywhere. They wouldn't even look at you anymore. You reminded them of someone they didn’t want to be reminded of again. They were looking out the windshield like they were seeing something far down the road, something you couldn’t see, something only Dads could see, somewhere they were going and you weren't going any time soon. You weren’t going there ever. They never had to tell you to get out of the car. You already felt yourself back in the parking lot before you opened the door and got there. You felt a giant invisible hand pushing you out of the car. You were already watching it’s angry red tail lights growing smaller and smaller and smaller.

How am I doing so far, Mr. Sunshine? Is this good enough? Will you let me out of my cage yet? What is it that you want from me, anyway? More sex? It's always more sex. All sex all the time. Well, isn’t that what I’m giving you? Oh, you mean explicit sex? Hardcore. Okay, I get it. I know you’ve told me before, told me a hundred times before. You want it hot and dirty and descriptive. I got it, yes, I know I’ve said I got it before, a hundred times before, and then I don’t seem to get it. I never get it. I know I’m giving you the same old girly dreck. Sorry. Skip the psychology. Skip the self-reflection. I got it. I hear you. I promise. This time I promise I promise I get it. You want the good old pole in the slimy young hole. The hole in one. The straight dope, shot straight in the horse’s mouth, the money shot, right. See, I get it.  I swear I do.  No, it’s not really my thing. But, well, you're the boss, Boss. Daddy knows best. You're the man with the plan. What you say goes. You’re the man with the benjamins. And the key, too. Let’s not forget that. You’ve got the key to the lock. But it gets tiring, you know? I mean, doesn’t it? Not for you…okay, but it gets wearying for me. That's why they call it work. Yep, I understand. Got it. The old grindstone. The 9 to 5. I've heard that one before. From you, in fact, from Daddy. They call it work because you don't want to do it for nothing. They call it work so you can get out of your cage. So you can fly free for a few minutes a day, do a turn around the yard, although by then you’re wings have atrophied if they haven’t clipped them outright. They can let you out of the cage at that point and without a worry. You can’t fly off anywhere anymore. The sky has shrunk to just what’s above your head and you can’t even reach that. You just hop around on your spindly little legs. You stay close to the cage. Close to the hand that plucked all your feathers. Close to the human warmth that emanates from the hand that crushes you to a pulp. Still, it would be nice to be outside, on the other side of the bars once in a while. But I don't own the key, you do. You own the key. You own the sky. That's just the way the world is set up. You’re born without the key and no right to the sky and that’s that. So you've got to earn your way out. You’ve got to work for it. They're not going to put the key into the lock for nothing. There was a time I expected money for it. Expected to be paid. Thought, at least, that much was owed me. A time I wouldn’t let you or anyone put your key into me unless I got paid. But you taught me differently Daddy. Who else could have? It was you who taught me to equate fucking with money in the first place, to equate the key with money, to equate everything with money. Then you untaught me all those things. It was you who taught me that I’m owed nothing. I understand now, Daddy. You fuck me over and over because you own me. I’m lucky if I get enough out of the deal to barely survive. The secret they don’t tell you is that they’ll never let you out. They’ll never turn the key. They never had any intention to.

"How about a ride," he says, pulling up beside me in a large shiny SUV. His arm hanging casually out the car window. Between his fingers a ten dollar bill. He manipulates the folded green like a magician, nothing ostentatious, just enough to subtly draw attention to it, like he can make it disappear at any moment. The bait...like a fisherman, I guess. I know right off the bat that you don't ask "where to" because there is no "where" and everyone knows that. "Don't be a dork about it" is one of the first rules you learn. Look innocent, be innocent, but for crissakes don’t act innocent. I'm wearing a pair of cut-off denim shorts and flip-flops, a long tank top that practically fits me like a dress. I've grown my hair out over the summer and bleached it the way Jackie taught me to do. It stunk like shit when we bleached it and I thought it would all fall out, burnt out at roots, my scalp in flames. I thought Jackie trick me, maimed me on purpose, but when it was over I had this head of platinum hair. I looked like an angel. This is the summer, if I recall correctly, that I ran away from home for good. I don't know it's for good just yet. For the moment, it’s just another summer I ran away, another of the many times I’ve run away. I open the passenger door of the car. I slide inside the car. It smells like one of those pine air things that Daddy is always buying for his SUVs. He puts his big Daddy hand on my bare thigh. He wastes no time. He wants to make sure everything is understood as soon as possible. Like all Daddies, he wants no misunderstandings. He gives my thigh a little squeeze to make sure. He likes to keep his hand on me. He uses the other hand to steer the car somewhere out of the parking lot and into the night. I don't see the ten dollar bill anymore. It's disappeared, like magic, like the prop of a trick subject to the arcane laws of appearances commanded by the magician he’s pretending to be. Now you see it, now you don’t. You wonder where it’ll pop up next. You fear it’s disappeared for good this time. You sit there perfectly still, perfectly quiet., perfectly alert. You fear you’ll disappear for good this time, too.

We drive through the commercial part of the town. It's mostly shut down at this hour. Just the vape shops and liquor stores and all-nite package joints are open. The industrial parks, empty as abandoned moon settlements after a space plague wiped out all human life. The bars, the sex shops, the gas stations are last, on the fringes, before you come to nothing. Then it’s the woodlands, the swamplands, the wastelands, the nowheresvilles. We drive through some construction areas. Partially built houses, I guess. Homes. Luxury condos of the future, where some kind of idea of luxury is imagined to exist. Someday people will live in them, people drifting away from the soon-to-be completely unaffordable city. Families, that’s the word they use. What a word! They'll fight, eat, fuck, sit on the toilet to take a dump, terrify and drive each other to suicidal misery. That to me is the definition of family, that’s what I experience when I hear the word, what I flashback to. We ride over some bumpy dirt. Some roads that aren’t roads yet. We’re pioneers out here. Sometimes they take me to the park, under the dizzyingly tall pines. Or out on the highway, to the rest stops where the cars zip-zip passed like the sound of countless flies being pulled down before the junk flops out. The cops know all the places. He's a cop himself, this particular Daddy, this one tonight. Daddy Cop. He's got his cock out already, his shiny erect insistent Daddy Cop cock. His night-stick. It's a long skinny chicken-headed thing, red even in the lack of light, and angry-looking, angry about what, I wonder, angry and demented-looking already, before anything even happens. Why? Why’s it always so angry? Why is Daddy always so mad? No one loves it, I guess. No one has been treating it the way it deserves to be treated. Boo-hoo. What a shame. It is a shame, I guess. We're parked now, the headlights turned off. Parked under the trees. I can hear the crickets. I shuffle over. The damn consoles are always an impediment. What were they thinking when they made consoles in cars, anyway? They weren’t doing people like me any favors, that’s for sure. I'm on my knees. I bend over his lap. A quasar of reflected light catches my eye. He's got handcuffs hanging from his waist. I’d like to ask him to use them but I’m too shy. Put me under arrest Daddy, I want to look up at him and say, big eyed, innocent. Place me in custody. I’ve been a naughty little girl-boy. He’d love it, I’m certain. One day I’ll have the courage to ask, to say shit like this, and I’ll get rewarded well for it, too, but for now I just imagine saying it. It makes it easier, gets me a little hot for what’s going to happen. I put my head down obediently. His crotch smells like an unfiltered aquarium.

Bobby went missing. But no one thought of it that way. Bobby just wasn't around for a while. That’s the way to think of it. No one is “missing” they just aren’t around for a while. No one could say for how long he wasn't around. No one noticed when he stopped being around. No one really cared. One day we just realized we hadn't been seeing him and no one could remember the last time they had. That’s how it worked. That’s how someone became “missing.” Maybe he wasn't even missing. Maybe he just went somewhere else. Maybe he lived a different life now. It happened. He didn’t have to tell us. No one told anyone anything. This wasn’t a family, thank god, you could come and go as you pleased. This wasn’t a prison, not yet, anyway. Maybe he didn't exist. Maybe there was no Bobby in the first place. Maybe he was just a figment of our imagination. No one really thought much of it. No one really gave a damn. It wasn’t our business. It was no one’s business that we knew of or wanted to know of. He wasn't such a great kid anyway. He was a bit of an asshole, actually. He wasn't above stealing your take if he thought he could get away with it. Sometimes, if you went off with him and a Daddy he'd try to cheat you out of your share. He wouldn't give you your half. He’d say it was his Daddy and you were just along for the ride. He’d give you a few bucks, maybe. Sometimes he wouldn't give you anything at all. Or he’d say the Daddy stiffed us when you saw him with your own eyes slip Bobby the cash and he’d just deny it straight to your face without batting a charcoal-rimmed eyelid which he lined with liquid eyeliner that you stole for him from the Safeway because he’d already gotten caught too many times stealing from there they’d banned him. Bobby would laugh right in your face and just deny it and what were you gonna do about it anyway he would all but say without actually saying it. He was a bald-faced liar, that’s all there was to it. There was no way you could prove anything to him because he would just shrug like you hadn’t said anything at all. He made you doubt reality, like all good liars do. He’d say water wasn’t wet and insist on it and there was nothing you could do to him to make him say differently. He made you doubt there was any reality at all. He had no shame whatsoever. You had to beat the crap out of him to get your share. Then he'd hand it over with a laugh. He didn't care. He still wasn't ashamed. He'd just shrug and hand it over with a grin on his dirty, big-lipped face. You still had to count it to make sure he hadn’t cheated you even then and more times than not you’d find he still hadn't split it fairly but you gave up at that point it just wasn't worth it. You could never beat him enough to get a fair deal out of him, no one could, and that’s all there was to it even if you beat him to death he’d find a way to cheat you that’s just who he was. No one missed him. No one really believed he was missing. Everyone kind of knew without saying anything what had really happened to Bobby. It was something you just didn't talk about. Everyone knew that.

I’ve got to get on the ball here because Mr. Sunshine is getting impatient, he’s breathing down my neck, not literally, but in a manner of speaking, metaphorically I guess you’d say. Meataphorically. Methaphorically. I’ve got to stop fucking around with words. But I can’t help it. There’s something about the way I see them, like I see other words inside them, like wings packed inside a suitcase. Like I see what they’re not saying to everyone else, what they’re saying only to me and to me alone. Words are like a secret code written only just for me. Instructions for escape. Here’s what they’re saying to me right now. I'm on a mattress in a basement somewhere. It's some place they took me. I don’t know who they are because I never saw them before and I won’t ever see them again. I didn’t even see them this time. You can't see much because the lights are all focused on the mattress, on me and these two other boys. One's got his mouth between my legs and the other is behind me, sticking his cock into my ass. It hurts so much what he's doing back there that there isn't much for the boy between my legs to suck on. I’m retracted into my belly, like I’m already a real girl almost. I can tell this is unsatisfactory, that’s it’s pissing off the unseen people in the room but what can I do? I can’t help what happens between my legs, can I? They tell the boy in back to stop for a minute, to pull it out, so they can start over. So the boy between my legs can coax it back out. I don’t think that will happen, I don’t think that’ll ever happen, but then it happens. My lips are waxy with the thick lipstick they’ve put on me. They feel weird, like they're swollen, like they're fake lips you get at the candy store but there’s nothing sweet about them. I don’t think I could talk with these lips if I had to but no one’s asking me to talk. There isn’t any dialogue in this scene. No one's interested in anything I have to say. That’s great. I wish all scenes were like that. I wish all my roles were non-speaking parts. I wish I lived in a world of silent films, where there is nothing to say because I have nothing to say. It's too much pressure to say anything. What is there to say? There is something stuck in my throat and it's choking me but it's not something I can ever say. There are no words for it. I don't even think they are words I want to say anyway. I think they're demons. My nails are painted red. I haven't any hair on my body. I've come to understand that I like myself this way and there are a lot of guys who like me this way, too. I can be popular like this, more popular than I've ever been any other way. I can be a movie starlet, which I am right now.  I’m going to be this way from now on for as long as I can. It seems like I don’t have any choice so it’s a good thing I like it like this. All I have to do is get used to the ripping pain in my ass. I just have to get used to it...that's what I'm told. Just get the fuck used to it, goddammit it. I just have to relax my body as the boy behind me shoves it really hard into me, harder than it seems he really has to, harder than he really wants to. He’s shoving it back inside of me again but so hard, harder than ever because that’s what the director is telling him to do and he has to do what he says we all do.

I'm a movie star, that's what they tell me. We make these films in the basement of someone's house. On a bare mattress mainly. It's not much for scenery, for props, for dialogue even. It’s not much for characterization. But that’s okay. I haven’t much of a character, even if I’m given one. The cinematography is crap. We all act like automatons. Worse than automatons because no one has programmed us to pretend to act human. I don’t know how to act like a human because I never became one. No one gives a shit if we seem like real humans or not. Probably it’s better if we don’t. Who wants to whack themselves off to a real human being anyway? Is it even possible? Maybe this is how I learned to write, or whatever it is I'm doing here. Maybe this writing or whatever it might be is the equivalent of getting fucked by multiple men in multiple orifices multiple times on a bare mattress in someone's basement with a video device running. The guy in charge is called Cowboy. I guess that's because he wears a cowboy hat sometimes. A straw one; it's a filthy thing. But it sets him apart. How someone gets a name, a rep in this scene...it's all pretty simplistic. Guy wears a filthy straw cowboy hat more than a few times and people start calling him Cowboy and no one seems to know his real name or if he ever rode a horse or saw a cow in his whole life. No one cares. It’s better no one knows anyone’s real name. He's the producer of these little films or whatever they are  we make in a basement somewhere. I get fifty dollars for them which isn't too bad now that I've gotten used to having guys shove their hard cocks into that tiny precious ring of tight muscle between my ass cheeks for a lot less. Now that I've learned to relax. It's not all that tight anymore. Now that I’ve learned not to gag no matter how big they are or how far down my throat they’re shoving it. Is this sexy? I’m not even sure anymore. It’s hard for me to tell what other people think is sexy. Sometimes I think what’s happening is the most disgusting fucking thing in the whole world and then I catch some dude jacking himself off furiously to it. He’s sending a big arc of cum out of his red cock, jacking it like he wants to pull it right off his damn body and throw it off into the bushes, and I think, well, I guess it mustn’t be all that disgusting after all. I guess it must be sexy. I think, what the hell do I know about what’s sexy or not, even though I’ve had a lot of sex? Even though I’ve been fucked by a lot of human beings, what do I know about being human or what humans think is sexy? Is this sexy? How would I know?

Let's have a little section here about Mom because we haven't really gotten into her yet. She's not very interesting and no one is very interested in her and she's not very important but she did exist--I think--well, she must have existed and it seems like an oversight or some kind of mistake or intentional redaction or an attempt to let her off the hook, not to mention her in any depth at all, mention her only in passing, as we've done up to now, because we wouldn’t have been here at all without her, none of us, when all is said and done. So let’s set things straight right now, as straight as they can be set. Mom just lay in bed a lot with the TV going all the time, mindless laughter from the syndicated sitcoms she chain-watched and the bells and canned excitement of quiz shows constantly ringing in the background like she was living in the midst of a casino with a lot of jackpots being won all around her but none coming her way, she lay there like a large beached mammal, a sad mammal washed up on the shore of life, moaning and groaning occasionally, shooting a dying spray of water from her blowhole. She complained a lot about aches and pains but the doctors she was constantly consulting said there was nothing really wrong with her, at least that's what I heard Daddy say the doctor said when they argued violently for hours about why she wouldn’t let him lay his head on her breasts or touch her practically anywhere, why she wouldn’t take his cock, why he had to take it elsewhere. She'd scream out in the night about the cramps she was having in her legs and feet and since Daddy wasn't ever there it seemed it was up to one of us, me or my phantom brother, to get out of bed and go down the hall and massage the pain away. We both tried to pretend to be asleep until the screams got too much, until they practically shook the windows, and not even the dead could've pretended to stay dead through all the racket. I felt the most profound nauseating disgust touching her legs, her feet, touching her anywhere. I recoiled from her desperate hugs, her starving bedside kisses, luckily they were few and far between. I felt the same about my father’s shows of affection, his creepy intimacies, his insinuating fingers which were, unfortunately, everywhere and far more frequent and far more insistent, impossible to evade. Once when she was in the bathroom running the water to cover the sound of her vomiting into the toilet I went into the bedroom and saw this big orange plastic thing on my mother's nightstand, it was shiny-slick, recently employed, and it must have been about a foot long, and thick, like a mini-baseball bat. My mind couldn’t compute what the hell it was—it might have been something left behind by an extraterrestrial. I quickly left the room, shaken. Days later, when she was otherwise safely occupied downstairs, covered by the noise of the vacuum cleaner, I went back and searched her drawers until I found the thing again. By now, I'd figured out what it was. I sniffed at it...it smelled like dead fish and plastic—in other words, like a polluted river, like the dying earth itself. I put the tip of my tongue on it. I felt my stomach lurch in response. I took it into my mouth and pushed it in slowly as far as I could, until I started gagging, which was almost immediately. I took it out and tried it again. Then again. Eventually I could do it without gagging. I understood instinctively that this was the whole point. I had a sense that being able to do this without gagging meant you were ready to meet the world, that you were finally strong enough to swallow what was coming to you.

One day they found Bobby. He was in the woods stuck inside one of those big cement pipes they use to drain water from places that get too wet. There was a pile of them stacked beside a place where they were planning to improve the drainage in the area and had never gotten around to it. He was tucked inside one of these concrete tubes. His arms were chopped off and his face was burned away. We heard this from some kid who claimed to know the kid who came across him in the woods. This kid supposedly left to go someplace like Utah so you couldn’t talk to him personally anymore. You could never get the story from anyone who’d actually been there, anyone who’d personally seen it. Utah was the place everyone supposedly went to when you didn’t seem them anymore. Utah is where they have these red stone arches like the entrance to a mountain that remains when the mountain itself has vanished into thin air. It seems like the best place to go if people are after you. I’d like to go there someday myself. It looks like Mars. Maybe it is Mars. Actually I did go there eventually. Maybe I’m there right now. There was supposed to be a secret website on what for want of a better term they call the dark web where you could see the pictures of Bobby's mutilated corpse if you wanted. Someone—maybe the mysterious kid who disappeared to go to Utah—had taken the pictures with his phone. Someone gave me the password to the website but I never used it. I kept it for a while and then I eventually lost it somewhere or other. I think I flushed it down a Mickey Dee’s toilet, if I recall correctly. I lost it on purpose so I wouldn’t be tempted to go there and look so don’t even ask I don’t have it anymore, honest.

I went to visit grandma in the old age home. I don't know why really. I'm not a good kid. I’d practically forgotten all about her in fact. I wasn’t even sure she was still alive. I just kind of remembered her being nice to me a few times when my brother and I were little. Being nice and not telling our parents when we misbehaved, when we acted like “wild little Indians” or “wild men from Borneo.” She'd make us paper hats out of newspaper. It seemed like magic. She cooked things that smelled good in the big pots on her stove. She gave us cookies when she wasn’t supposed to. She told us not to cross our eyes or make ugly faces because our faces would get stuck looking like monsters forever if we did. We did it anyway and laughed our asses off because she got so upset and really seemed to believe this superstitious old world Sicilian gobbledygook. Maybe she was right. At least once I remember her chastising my father for yelling at me, for shoving my face in the family bowl of spaghetti in front of everyone for some minor infraction of table etiquette, I forget what (no I don’t, you never ever fucking forget, the humiliation burns inside you for millennia like a dying star, the memory manifests itself in a full body cramp, the motion of an arm stabbing the same thing over and over forever and ever even after it’s long been obliterated, until it’s nothing, less than nothing and it’s still there). I don’t remember her ever looking anything but old. But now she looks older than old. Beyond old. She looks like a small ugly bird with a giant beak—a bony, big-beaked blind bird plucked of all its feathers. She sits on a chair in a drab concrete room that looks like a high school cafeteria filled with other plucked, ancient, big-beaked birds. None of them can fly anymore. None of them remember anything. Everything smells like piss and powder and medicine. They watch television or sit perplexed over jigsaw puzzles with a piece in their arthritic claw that seems to fit nowhere in the scene lying before them. Jigsaw puzzles of places they’ve never been or ever will be in real life. They all look like they want to weep but don't have any tears anymore. They’re all cried out, dry as a well that’s gone kaput. All they talk about, those that still talk, are the operations they've had and who isn't alive anymore. Someone at this place has always just died. The ambulance is always arriving to take another one away it seems. Or to return them with more of them missing. A silent ambulance, with just its lights going. I don't think my grandma was really clear who I was anymore. I'm not either to be honest so I can hardly blame her. I really couldn’t fill her in. I’ve got a kind of dementia, too. In my case, though, it’s not so bad to forget everything and everyone.  Better, in fact. Better than remembering just enough to know that you’ve forgotten and terrified of what you can’t remember. I remember more than I want to as it is. If I thought there was a chance she'd remember me in a will or something like that--forget it. She doesn't have any money anyway. That’s why she’s stuck in a miserable hellhole like this. Like I said, I don't know why I'm here.

No one was surprised about them finding Bobby the way they did. We all figured he'd turn up the way he did sooner or later. He had it coming to him, the way we figured. Or we'd have heard some obviously bogus story that he’d gone off somewhere--somewhere like Utah never to be heard from again. It was all the same, somehow. It's hard to say how it could be the same him getting raped, mutilated and murdered or him going off to Utah, how it could be shocking and not at all shocking and both at the same time. It wasn’t worth taking the time to figure out. No one really cared, if you want to know the truth. He wasn't very likeable as a person, as I've mentioned. No one could ever remember him sharing so much as a cigarette. He was always trying to bum one of yours, even if you didn't have a cigarette on you. He’d take something else instead, even if he didn’t really want it. It was just the principle. He was that kind of kid. He was always looking for an angle. He was always trying to cheat you out of one thing or another. He was an asshole and him being raped and killed and mutilated didn’t change that one itsy bit. Now he was a raped, mutilated, dead asshole that was the only difference. He wasn’t going to be missed by anyone we knew. He was a survivor but for some reason or other he hadn’t survived. That was about the only thing the least bit interesting about him being dead.

"So....you hear anything about the dead kid?" The guy was staring out the windshield, having a smoke after he just tossed a quick one off in my mouth. I was looking at the side of his clean-shaven face, at that lump of muscle or whatever it is that throbs there when dangerous men about to act dangerously asked you questions. It was the same dangerous lump my dad had in his jaw when he was about to slam both his fists on the table and grab you by the throat. I was straightening myself up, getting ready to leave the Buick, or whatever it was. Some Dad car. He was asking the question so casual it wasn't casual at all, asking them like he was in a television cop show, that's the kind of casual it was, like it was all scripted and he’d memorized and practiced the lines. He was acting off-handed but that throbbing at the hinge of his jaw gave him away. I shrugged, "Nope, not really." He didn’t flinch, just kept staring straight ahead through the windshield with his steely blue eyes--whatever color they actually were--staring into the long nothingness, down that street that never ends. He handed me a couple of extra fives, extra since he'd already paid me. "If you hear anything, you let me know. Okay? Memories are funny things. They can come back when you least expect them. Pop up like bogeymen. Pop up like me. I pay for the memories that suddenly re-surface in little pricks like you. You’ve heard of people that collect butterflies, coins, stamps? Well I’m a memory collector." This was quite a speech, I thought. I was impressed. It was almost literary. I was already stuffing the extra fives into the tight pocket of my jeans, the tiny ones I'd cut off so short you could see the bottom curve of my smooth ass cheeks. They made me a lot of money those jeans. The less of them there were the more I made, as if guys were trying to help me afford to buy bigger pants. Hahaha. "Okay," I said, waiting for him to hit the door lock so I could leave. I already knew that I was never going to tell him anything no matter how many memories re-surfaced, no matter how many boogey mans popped up, no matter how many times he stuck his cock in my mouth, no matter how many fives he gave me. Some things just aren’t for sale, you know?

This one guy brings me home to his wife. "She really does look like a girl,” the wife says, like I’m not standing right here.  “You were right.” She comes closer for a better look, like she’s trying to spot the give-away in the illusion, like there’s a secret door in me somewhere. “You're so pretty honey," she says, sidling up to me, putting her hands on my cheeks, on my chest, down my back and over my ass. She's already in her lingerie, drunk as fuck. She plants a couple of sloppy kisses on my face, like fat wet carnations made of meat. She grinds herself against me, all elbowy hips, dry humping me. She grabs my crotch and says “Oh there it is! Hahahaha. I almost thought it didn’t exist, that it was all some kind of gag. You can’t trust this one” she says, indicating the guy behind me. I hear her husband, laughing. "I told you, didn't I?" She breaks off to say, "Oh yes, you were right. She's just perfect. Just darling. Absolutely precious." I think, I should probably get out of here right now, that they’re total psychos, that they’re buttering me up for something awful, that they’re going to kill me, but, of course, that’s all just a theory, in reality I don’t move. I never move. I always wait to see what happens, just like I’m reading a story. My life is a text that I scan, something that someone else is writing really fast in a jagged, almost completely illegible long-hand. The husband is taking off his clothes by now. He’s stripped down to his boxers. He’s working his cock out of the slit in the material like someone removing a diseased organ from a surgical incision. I catch a glimpse of this from the corner of my eye before he disappears from view altogether. I’m always thinking “He’s grabbed a knife or some heavy blunt object to beat me with” whenever a man disappears from my view. Sure enough he comes up behind me. I wince. But he doesn’t bludgeon or stab me. He lifts up the tiny pink skater skirt I'm wearing, but it’s his wife who’s slipping her hands down into my panties. "You want a drink honey?” she’s asking, groping me clumsily. “You want a joint? You seem kinda tense. Your asshole is so tight. You're okay, babydoll? No one's gonna hurt you here. Tell her Jimmy, reassure her.” Jimmy tells me; he reassures me like he’s reading it off a menu. He’s corkscrewed a couple of his fingers in my ass now. I am more nervous than ever. “See,” she says, as if something has been definitively proved. “Let's go into the bedroom. It's a lot more comfortable in there. You’ll relax. We’ll help you, won’t we Jimmy?" I don’t recall what Jimmy says, if anything. He’s so eager at this point that he’s making sounds like a beaten dog.

My face is in her crotch, which I have to admit, is not my favorite place for my face to be. I don't know what I'm doing when my face is planted in a cunt. It's like so....ummm, undifferentiated in there. Nothing is defined, you know? It's not like sucking a dick, which is so simple, so straightforward a child could suck it. Hahahaha. A cunt?  It's like sticking your face into a bony squid that just kind of desperately suckers itself to your face, sucking the features right off it. Maybe if my mother had stuck my face into her cunt like my Daddy stuck my face in his crotch I’d know what to do when it comes to women? Haha. Just a thought…never mind. So not knowing what to do, never knowing what to do, I just stick my tongue out and let her do whatever she wants. I let her do the rest. Here’s my fucking tongue, bitch, what else do you want from me? Nothing else, thank god. She grinds her crotch in my face like she’s trying to grind it right off and I guess that does it for her. Meanwhile, her husband has got it rammed to the balls up my ass. Above me, they're kissing, he's grabbing her tits, she's massaging his ass cheeks like pizza dough, something like that is what’s happening. How would I know? I can’t see a fucking thing from my perspective. They’re moaning and drunkenly calling to God and slobbering all over each other and telling each other how good it all is. Everyone's having a good time, I guess, even the pet dog, who’s sticking his cold slimy nose everywhere. I exclude myself, by the way, whenever I use the term "everyone." I’m part of no everyone. I’m no one, persona non gratis when it comes to everyone. Everyone=everyone minus me. That’s it, that’s the equation, it’s mathematical. That’s it, I’m thinking, come together, over me. Just like that song goes. I'm like a two-way socket. Three-way socket. I’ve sockets all over my body. I’m a goddamn fucking power strip just plug your perversions into me. That’s what I’m thinking. I connect things. I make the electricity useful. The pervitricity. I let it pass through me. I’m like an orgasm conductor. I’m a Deluzeian kink machine. They give me a hundred bucks when I leave. She gives it to me, at the door, dressed in a long silk Chinese-style robe she holds closed across her tits, slips it to me before the husband drives me back wherever he found me. I’ve forgotten where. She says not to be a stranger. Strange but not a stranger, she says. Everyone’s a comedian. She smiles, too, through a mouth ruined by her smeary lipstick like she was kicked in the face by a mule. Okay, I think, a hundred bucks isn’t bad for an afternoon’s work, maybe I won’t be a stranger. I like it better here than the streets. It's a lot different getting fucked over in the suburbs.

He's a tall, lanky guy with a sparse blonde goatee, like it had the mange or something. He said he knew what it was like on the street for girls like me, that we needed protection. Someone to look out for them, steer them some business from time to time, safe business, shit like that. We needed someone to screen out the psychos. I told him it wasn't so bad, that I did okay, I never had any serious trouble, I seemed to have a good instinct for avoiding the real creepazoids, I’d never been beat up or raped, thanks and all but really I’m good. He said I didn't get it. He said I was lucky but luck always ran out. He said he wasn’t asking me. He said that he was taking it upon himself to protect me, that this is what he did, it was God’s work he was doing, that this is what he was chosen to do. He opened the dirty Hawaiian shirt he was wearing and showed me his bony xylophone of a chest. His nipples were pierced. The skin was hairless and he had this set of wings tattooed there, spreading out from each side of his sternum with a flaming heart tattooed in the center stuck through with two swords. "I'm your Guardian Angel," he said. "Think of it that way." I started to get what he was getting at and he saw that I was getting it. He was right. My luck had run out. I’d finally met the creepazoid I’d been avoiding all this time. My instincts told me so. He smiled and his teeth had that worn down look you saw on meth addicts like they were melting away like sugar in saliva and a meth addict is exactly what I took him for...that or an HIV patient…or both…and I wasn’t far off. It was a really sickly smile, like a dope-sick jack-o-lantern collapsing on a porch in the rain weeks after Halloween. It wasn’t reassuring or comforting if that’s what it was meant to be and I don’t think it was. I thought, if he was supposed to be an angel shouldn't he have had the wings inked on his back? Wouldn’t that have made more sense, metaphorically speaking? This is the way I think in these kinds of situations so I don’t have to really think about the situation at all. But I didn't bother to tell him what I was thinking. I didn't say anything. It just didn't seem the time for technicalities, for taking things too literally, and I don’t usually say what I’m thinking anyway. It always seems besides the point whatever the point may be. I’m always missing the point. Besides, I was thinking how awkward and stupid it would be for him to reveal his angelic nature to us ordinary mortals if the wings were tattooed on his back. He’d have to take his whole shirt off to show them off. He’d have to turn his back to you. And there was nothing stupider or more dangerous than turning your back on someone, even if you’re an angel. His whole routine would’ve lost something, would’ve been ruined by taking a metaphor, no matter how good it was, too literally. It could even have gotten him killed. There’s a lesson in that for everyone.

She sat across from me, her long bare legs crossed, smoking some kind of mentholated cigarette. Who the fuck smokes cigarettes anymore? She was naked under the silk robe. We were in her kitchen with all the knives and polished marble and brushed chrome. It looked like an operating room. There was a hunk of some kind of frozen solid meat slowly melting on the center island. The light was streaming in from the little curtained window over the sink. It was the kind of light that defined everything a little too much. I was watching the dust motes or whatever they are dancing in a broad beam of cold sunlight. They say most of the dust in a room is flakes of shed human skin. I was seeing ghosts essentially. Particles of past selves. She wanted to know how I lived, it seemed dangerous and frightful to her. She actually said "frightful" like we were in a Louisa May Alcott novel. She gave a little fake shudder. I think she was a little drunk...more than a little. Maybe high. It was only like 11 a.m. Shouldn’t people like her be at the office or taking tennis lessons at the club or something? She said her and Brent (that’s what she was calling him this morning) were very fond of me and would like to see more of me in the future. I was stumped by her use of the words “fond” and "future." She said they didn't want to see anything happen to me. I was thinking, what's going to happen to me? Hadn’t everything already happened to me? I didn’t think there was anything more that could happen to me. I think I might have asked her, just out of curiosity, what was going to happen to me. I don’t remember her answer. It was probably vague like the rest of what she said, insubstantial like the dust particles and cigarette smoke.  I remember she used the hand with the cigarette to point to my crotch and asked as if she were only marginally interested in the answer, "So does it even work?" Then she waved a lot of smoke and dead people-particles around. Or maybe that was my answer up there near the ceiling, swirling around, all cloudy, dissipating, until there was nothing left.

Five thousand dollars. That’s what we were supposed to get. That seemed a lot at the time. Just a simple breaking and entering. I don't know how they knew there was going to be five grand in cash in that ramshackle dump but they did. I guess it had something to do with drugs. Something like that almost always has something to do with drugs. The person was either buying them or selling them. It didn't make any difference. My job was simple. I was supposed to just stand outside near the bushes and keep an eye out. In the meantime, they jimmied open a back window, climbed through. I was scrolling through my social media accounts, keeping the light from my phone close to my body. It’s probably not something an accomplished burglar would do. Not something even an unaccomplished burglar would do. Something a fuck-up would do, which is what I was. There was a lot of shouting from inside the house at one point which surprised me because no one was supposed to be home and then, no kidding, gunshots. It sounded like someone had turned on the TV and put on a fucking western. I watched the front door burst open and the two of them exit on a run, stumbling and falling all over themselves and now it was like a comedy routine I was watching, leaving me behind wondering what the fuck. So I took off, too, but in the opposite direction because that’s the direction I always go. They left behind some guy bleeding to death in an upstairs hallway. Later I found this out. I mean days later. Turns out it was the wrong house. Oops!

I have to admit, Wallace might not have looked like much in shorts and a tank top but he sure was kicking my Dad's ass pretty thoroughly. Dad had come looking for me, because of my mom, she told him what she suspected and he'd made one scene already and the fact was that even though I was basically living on the street I was still scared to death of him. I would always be scared to death of him. I was scared he’d hunt me down and kill me and that would never change. Even if I were living in the White House surrounded by five-star generals, I’d be terrified of Dad.  He would have to be dead and buried for me not to be scared to death of him and maybe not even then. In fact, you could make a very good argument that the life I was living, every choice I’d ever made, was because I was scared to death of him. Well, he was one of the most important factors anyway. Now he was lying on the asphalt behind the liquor store, bleeding, trying to get himself up onto his hands and knees, spitting up teeth and Wallace kicked him so hard in the ribs with his pointy-toed boots that I could hear the air go out of Dad like it went out of an old football even from where I crouched by the dumpsters thirty feet away. I closed my eyes at that point. I didn't want to see any more. Violence made me sick to my stomach. Always has. And not just when I was the target of it. This text is making me sick to my stomach. Writing it makes me sick to my stomach. Reading it isn’t as bad, but writing it is like participating in the events all over again. I didn’t feel sorry for Dad, though. I didn’t feel anything. I felt like I was seven years old again and I just wanted to block out the whole world around me. I wanted to disappear. If I thought it might make me feel good to see Dad get his due I sure was wrong. I'll never forget the image of Dad on his hands and knees in that dirty parking lot, blinded by blood, suddenly bald, feeling around on his hands and knees for his scraggly hairpiece and me, as always, just wishing I was someplace else, someplace far away, and then going to that far away place, wherever it is, inside or outside me. I never figured out where that place was but it was always there, thank God, waiting for me whenever I really needed it; it was the place where no one, not even Daddy, could reach me. I’m there right now, typing this.

She took me shopping at the mall. Believe it or not, my own mother never even took me shopping at the mall. She was scared of the mall, like she was scared of everything else. Agoraphobic, I guess you’d call it. Fear of leaving the house, the bedroom, the bed. Fear of life. I suppose she must have, though, or someone must have taken me to some store, I had clothes, after all. The closet didn’t fill itself. I just don't remember it if she was the one who took me or not. I don't remember anything. She said we could be like sisters from now on. She'd be my older sister. I didn't have an older sister, did I? I didn’t have any sisters that I can recall. We went to Hot Topic, Forever 21, Aeropostale, Roxy...we went to Benetton. Stores where other kids and I would usually do a grab-n-go because we didn't want to spend whatever money we had. Now we paused over the selections and I tried stuff on in the dressing rooms. I usually got watched suspiciously in such stores, if there was any staff on duty who gave a damn. There usually wasn't. Today no one gave me the sideways glance, the hairy eye. She legitimized me. She bought me bags and bags of new stuff. Had me model them for her right there in the store and everything. I thought someone would finger me as a fake. I guess I passed even better than I might have hoped. I felt empowered, like any other teen girl. We had ice cream sundaes in the food court. She said she wasn’t trying to buy me she didn’t want me to think that for a second. I said I wasn’t thinking that or anything but now I was. She said this was fun for her. She said it was like a hobby. She said she never had a little sister to mold just a little brother who I reminded her of and who had died early of leukemia or something similar. It was like the childhood I never had, couldn't have had. She said it was like the childhood she never had either. She smiled in a way that made you believe her, like a sociopath. She said no one would ever guess I'd been born a boy. She said she wouldn’t have believed it either if she hadn’t seen the proof. She giggled. The proof. She said it must have been some kind of mistake. That my brain had been switched at birth or something. I nodded at whatever she said. It embarrassed me to talk about. I couldn't explain anything either. Later she admitted it hadn’t been leukemia. Her brother had drowned. From what she said, I got the feeling it was somehow at least partially her fault.

I don't know who this guy is but he's old, older than the oldest guy I ever did. He's like the father of the oldest guy I ever did. He's her father, I take it, from the way she’s acting, the way she’s condescending to him. Well, she is calling him “Daddy” after all, using a sickly sweet voice as if she’s nine years old. So what? I’ve used that voice myself, but usually only when I’m going down on a guy like I’m doing now. We're in a home like the one my grandma is in but this one is a lot nicer. This one looks more like a fancy hotel by the beach except there isn't any beach. He's got a private room and we're standing around in it. He's sitting on a wheel chair with a dazed but pleasant look on his face. He's one of those old people who's gotten so old that he's actually gone beyond the wrinkled stage. He's actually gotten smooth again, like the undertaker has already fixed him up for the grave, like the Grim Reaper has shot him up with Botox. "Go ahead," she motions to me impatiently, "just do it. Do it like you would for anyone else." I'm on my knees, fumbling with his drawstring pants and then taking his surprisingly long but not surprisingly flaccid cock out of his boxer shorts, which reek of urine, even though the old guy seems dry. His cock is the youngest-looking thing on him, meaty and thick, but, like I said, limp, totally without a sign of life. "Put it in your mouth," Amanda says, "come on. Don't suddenly go shy on me now, for crissakes." It’s the bitchiest I’ve ever heard her. It's not that I'm shy. I just don't think the old dude even knows what's going on, which makes blowing him seem weird, even wrong somehow. "That feels good doesn't it papa? Don't I always take good care of you? Haven’t I always taken the best care of you? Aren't I your special girl?" Amanda says all this in the same cloyingly sweet babygirl voice. Meantime I suck the old dude’s thick wet dick. He never gets hard, never shows much sign of life down there. I think at one point he peed a little in my mouth. I tasted something acrid, like something burned my tongue. After a while, Amanda figures it’s enough, that the old man’s satisfied, not that he’s given any indication, mind you, but she seems to know, I guess she’s satisfied, and has me stop.

He said he was a cop. He looked like a cop that’s for sure, like a detective in lots of movies that you see. He was thin and middle-aged and dark haired and intense. His hair was probably dyed that blue-black color, I'm thinking now, it was too dark to be natural, to come out of any human head. He had a gun. I saw it nestled there under his sports jacket, like it was feeding on something inside him, like a parasite suckling on the lymph nodes in his armpit. I didn't totally believe he was a cop. I knew the plainclothes detectives from the area. He wasn't one of them. I didn't tell him that. I didn't tell him anything. He seemed to understand that I knew he was lying and appreciated my tact. People in authority are like that. I learned that as a child. He offered me a stick of gum. He said I could trust him. I told him I didn't want any gum, but thank you. He said, "Oh come on. It's not poisoned.  It’s not entrapment. It's not against the law to take gum from a cop." He was smiling in that way cops of all kinds smile when they’re telling you a joke you both know isn’t funny, but I still wasn't sure he was a cop. He might have been an ex-cop. He folded a stick of gum into his mouth and started chewing. He said he was patient but lazily added, “yet I’m not too patient. I don’t make patience a character flaw.” He said not to test his patience. He said that would be a grave mistake. He said it was a test I was sure to fail. He could read my mind, I guess, because he said, "I don't fuck the local fauna...or is it flora? I get confused." He said this was just an introduction, an appetizer, a soupcon. There would be more to come. It was a coming attraction. He wanted to introduce himself into the story. He said we’d be seeing a lot more of each other. He laughed again, like a lizard would laugh if it could. He said, “Don’t look so overjoyed.” He popped the lock on my side. We were in his car, some late model sedan, the kind cops drove or used to drive both in movies and real life. He said, “Don’t be a stranger.” Even now, looking back, I'm pretty sure he wasn't a cop.

She had one ball in her mouth and I had the other in my mouth and our noses nearly touched in between. She winked at me. It was almost comical. It was comical. I had to keep myself from laughing. Above us, slouched in an leather easy chair like a guy dreaming his best videogame sex fantasy, Warren groaned, holding his swollen cock up to give us better access. "Suck on those balls," he directed, quite superfluously under the circumstances. It was something I'd come to expect with men. At first, it flustered me when Daddy would say something like that..."take it...open up...c’mon you faggot bitch, you dirty little slut, get all of it, TAKE IT ALL I SAID ALL OF IT GODDAMN IT, etc" he’d growl commands like this threateningly and it scared the shit out of me...what was I to do, what could I do when I already had it all, when I was already opened up so wide I felt I was nearly splitting in half, when I literally couldn’t open anymore or swallow any more because there was no more to swallow and no further that I could open myself up? Eventually I realized he just liked hearing the words, liked narrating what was happening, liked the sound of himself bellowing commands even if I was already in the process of willingly following them. It enhanced the pleasure, I guess. That’s the way words worked. The words themselves meant nothing, they were just a technique, like frigging a dick faster or slower. It was part of my training coming to an understanding of things like this, my training not only in sex but also in literary theory. As I've said, as I never tire of saying, they’re pretty much the same thing.

She was five-ten or so and at least sixty pounds overweight. The stocking tops cut into her thighs and a lot of flab hung out everywhere. She must have been at least mid-fifties, though she said she was in her late twenties! What the hell was she thinking telling such lies? You can never fathom the stupidity of other people…or maybe it’s their gall. "You look nothing like your photos," Bailey said, mincing not a word, rifling through her belongings, separating out what interested him. I was holding the gun on her, somewhat superfluously at this point. Tears plowed through the thick make-up that caulked together her ravaged cheeks. Her dick hung there, sad and long, and useless. You could see this was just about the worst day of her life, her worst nightmare come to life. Well, so far, anyway. There’d be worse. Then the worst of all. That’s the story arc of life. I guess she was thinking tonight might be all three rolled into one. Well, it might be yet You never knew with Bailey. He was pretty pissed off. Robbing her was always on the agenda, of course, but so was fucking her and now he’d been cheated of half of what he expected and that made him really really unhappy. And when he was merely peeved, he tended to act irrationally and destructively so you didn’t want to be around him when he was really really unhappy. She'd wanted to be tied up so that was easily enough accomplished. This he had done before Bailey had revealed how unhappy she had made him by being some ugly old fat dude in a bad wig and ill-fitting nylon lingerie rather than the hot slender twenty-something she’d advertised herself as in the internet chat room where he’d found her. She hadn't asked for the broken nose, that’s true. Or to have a couple of front teeth knocked out. There was a lot of blood on her face and she was having some difficulty breathing through it. Bailey threw all that in gratis, as a bonus for his troubles, as he liked to say. He said she looked better bleeding, that seeing her bleed almost gave him a hard-on. Almost, being the operative word. His lack of anything more than a semi-boner irritated him bigly, put him in the worst of all possible moods. How was she going to explain the broken nose and teeth to his wife? That’s what I wondered. Bailey couldn’t care any less. That’s it’s problem, he said, refusing to use the gendere-preferred pronouns in instances such as this. Or any instance actually. Disgusted, he had already ripped the cheap Halloween wig off her head. It lay off in the corner, like the candy-colored pelt of a dead cartoon animal. It’d have to be an impossible animal, given the color, maybe the pelt of one of those anthropomorphic anime characters. Everything was so vividly unreal, like in a cartoon, that you started acting as if you were unreal, too, and that felt kind of good because it was like a more intense version of reality, more like the reality of a dream, and that was more real than anything, that was something more like what life ought to feel like and seldom if ever did. The air conditioning was set to Arctic. That nose of hers looked really bad, like a mushroom stuffed with blood that someone had stamped on with a Doc Martin in the middle of her fat face. Without the wig, she was just a fat bald dude of fifty-five (driver’s license confirmed this) in clown make-up. She was crying. A crying clown. It was such a cliche you could almost convince yourself it wasn't sad. There were so many people in the world just like her, too. A whole herd of them on the internet. Sad pathetic wannabes. You could make a living off of them, like cattle. And for a while that’s exactly what we did.

At the clinic, I took a seat and waited my turn. The room was filled with people of indeterminate gender, some trending one way, some trending the other. Lots of piercings, tattoos, fluorescent colored hair. I consulted my I-phone, tried to avoid eye-contact, just like everyone else. When the name I was using was called, I went into the back, sat on a table, and held out my arm for the blood pressure cuff. I was weighed. A clip was put on my forefinger to measure something, the oxygen level in my blood, maybe, I don’t recall exactly. Notes were scratched onto a sheet of paper clipped to a clipboard. Then entered into a computer. No comment was made. The nurse or whatever she was said someone would be with me shortly and left. I sat at the edge of the table waiting for someone to be with me and looked around for something to steal but there was nothing but a bottle of wooden sticks and another bottle of cotton swabs. The cabinets were locked down tight. I’d checked them so many times in the past I didn’t bother anymore although I suppose I should have you never know when someone might have made a mistake but that would be like winning the lottery. There was probably nothing of value in them anyway. I stared at a poster on the wall of all the vulnerable-looking shit inside of us. All that slippery crap prone to injury and disease fortuitously encased out of sight in a sausage skin of opaque flesh zipped up tight thank god so that we can stand the sight of each other, bear to fuck the shit out of each other without puking all over each other. What we’re really fucking, however, is a slushy pile of organs heaped on a framework of bone—something out of a horror film. The PA entered, a different one from the one I’ve seen before or maybe the same one with a different hairdo. I don’t know. I never look too long or too closely at their faces. Not a real doctor. You don’t see real doctors anymore, not unless someone has to cut you open. She read over my last labs, wrote a new prescription. I haven’t ruined any of my organs yet marinading them in synthetic estrogen like I’ve been doing. She asked me a few bored questions and seemed to barely hear my bored answers. It was like talking to a priest in a confessional however that was. "If you ever want to have children," she said, "you'll have to do something relatively quickly to preserve some living sperm. Certain effects will be irreversible. You’re still young. You may change your mind about having kids. You'll be sterile soon if you aren’t already. So think about it." She looked up, but not quite at me, like there was a second me, sitting just to the left side of me. Children? I turn the word over in my head like a rock. What the fuck is she talking about? I could barely keep the look of incredulity off my face. I didn’t try. So I must have looked at her incredulously. Derisively, too. That was my other look when I heard the word children along with similar words. Children? What the fuck were they? I couldn’t relate to the word. I mean, I knew what they were in theory. Maybe. I know I was never one. But to have one? It was maybe the single stupidest thing I think I ever heard tell of in my entire life.

"Just so you know. Someone died in that house that night." He said this with great seriousness, pacing around the small room, sipping coffee out of a paper cup. "Did you realize that? Did they even tell you? Or are they keeping you in the dark, maybe even on purpose? What do you think? Hmmm?" What he was implying wasn’t all that hard to parse. They hadn't told me, as a matter of fact, but they didn't need to tell me. I knew. Everyone knew. It wasn't supposed to happen that way but it did. Sometimes shit happens is how it was explained to me with a shrug. And who can deny it? Not everything is planned. Almost everything that actually happens no one even wanted to happen. Life is like a novel where shit happens that doesn’t go with the plot. It’s like the author keeps sabotaging herself, making the story more and more unresolvable until she finally shifts the file to the trash. "I can make sure that you don't get sucked down into this," he continued. Talking, I mean. His body had stopped in front of the table where I sat, rigid, hyped-up, taut as an antennae.  He leaned forward. He was in his shirtsleeves, which were rolled up, exposing his big hairy wrists and thick hairy forearms. I saw the beginnings of a tattoo, some kind of D&D type sword, Game of Thrones type shit. He was built like a bear; in that tight room he gave off a bear-like aura. He'd put the paper cup of coffee down and spread his fur-covered hands on the table, his head not that far from mine. It was a mostly bald head, the baldness not-quite disguised by how closely he’d cut his hair, almost like a five o-clock shadow on his scalp, which he also had. I think it was like nine p.m. by now so it was nine o’clock shadow. Everything was in shadows even with all the lights on. I was mesmerized for some reason by his forearms. Mesmerized in a sexual sense. I guess because they were sexy. "You're just a punk,” he said, almost affectionately. “I know your type. I know you weren't responsible. Not for anything serious. But you have to tell me what you know and who was responsible or you're going down with or without those responsible. Do you understand? Am I making myself understood? I’m not supposed to say anything but we already have someone in custody and they’re cooperating. You don’t want to be caught by surprise by what they’re saying, do you? You don’t want to let them control the narrative. You want to get ahead of this, believe me. I’ve seen insignificant twats like you get sucked under before. They seldom resurface. You don’t want to be a character in anyone else’s story. They’re not going to make you the star, I can guarantee it. You don’t want to be the bad guy in someone else’s tale of woe. Do you get my drift? Capisce? Do you understand Italiano?" I understood perfectly. I knew he was lying in two languages, maybe more. I wasn't going anywhere but back out on the street so long as I kept my mouth shut. There was nothing he could tag me with. He could keep lying from now until doomsday, just like everyone else. That’s what I kept telling myself. I, for one, was keeping my mouth shut. That’s what you do when you’re scared too shitless to lie.

"You don't think your husband will mind?" I said, lying in their bed. We were both in our panties. I was playing with one of her tits. She was playing with one of mine. She had me beat in the tit department that’s for sure, and by a long way. Mine were growing in pretty good by now, alternately itchy and painful, but itchy and painful in a somehow pleasurable way. You look like a thirteen-year-old girl, she said. I mean that as a compliment. I took it as one, I said. I told her I was thinking about surgery.  “Top or bottom.” “Both.” She nodded. “Word of advice. Don’t do implants. At least not yet. Guys dig that pre-teen, puffy little muffin look. A lot of them, anyway. Makes them feel like they’re re-living their youth but as a dirty old man.” I knew all this, of course, but let her chatter away. What I really wanted to know was if her husband was going to freak out if he caught us in alone in bed together. He was a normally mellow guy but you never knew. "Why would he mind if we had a little fun, just the two of us?" she asked.  “You’re not a man, you’re not competition. He knows that. Hell, he fucks you up the ass more than he fucks me. Up the ass, anyway.  Well, fuck him, right? I’m sure he’s getting his candle waxed elsewhere as well. He’s no saint." She took a hit from a vape pen and handed it to me. I waved it off. "That real shit makes me panicky,” I explained.  “I only do CBD." I’d told her this I don’t know how many fucking times already. She shrugged took another hit and then she ducked down and put it in her mouth. She sucked and licked and sucked and sucked like she was trying to get high off it, too. I lay there staring at the ceiling imagining a tiny skywriter was writing messages in white smoke just for me while I waited until she’d had her fill of whatever she thought she was doing down there. Finally she lifted her head. "Wow, you were right. It really doesn't work, does it?" "Nope. Not like that it doesn’t." "How very cool." She slid back up to the pillows and kissed me deeply on the mouth, like she was trying to breathe the life back into me. Or suck it out of me. Or both, alternately.

"Why are you doing this to me, Oliver?" She sat across from me in the diner, looking white and pasty.  In the diner light she looked a lot older than I thought she looked which reminded me of how old she actually was. "What have I done to deserve this.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, playing with my fork, trying not to smirk as much as I was smirking. I wasn’t tarted up or anything. But my hair was tied up in a high ponytail with a pink scrunchie and I was wearing girl jeans and a tight-fitting cropped sweater. I had polish on my fingernails, pink and blue, alternating. It was chilly out, autumn. The sky was that washed out gray through which you couldn’t find the sun anywhere. I was wearing light makeup but you had to look closely to see it. She was looking closely. It’s just how I rolled nowadays. “Did you know your father is in the hospital? Something inside of him was ruptured. I'm not sure what's going on. It's hard to find out any information. His new girlfriend isn't being very forthcoming. Have you met her? She keeps him in line, at least I’ll say that much for her. More than I could ever do with him. She won’t take any of his shit. She blames me, in case you care. I’m apparently to blame for everything that’s happened. Is this what you wanted? Does that make you happy? Is this what you think you're owed?" I shrugged. What are any of us owed? Including me. Why are there words? What is the point of talking? The waitress comes over to take our order. She barely looks up from her pad. "What will you ladies have?" My mother orders pancakes, which surprises me. I wouldn’t have thought she’d have any appetite, as usual—at least she wouldn’t admit to having any in front of others. She was growing pretty stout, I’d noticed. She had to be eating sometime. I say I'm good with the coffee we’d already been poured but when I see my mother ruffle I order a corn muffin so that I can tear it to pieces in front of her in a semblance of eating. I don’t need to have the “wasting away to nothing” conversation again. I’ve tried to explain to her that it’s not anorexia, I’m just trying to become an angel. She’s not buying it. She’s not amused. I’m not joking. I’m not selling her anything. I want to go to heaven. Earth sucks. The waitress shuffles off the way they do, middle-aged and beaten by a thousand invisible sticks and it's only ten a.m. "What was that 'you ladies' bullshit?," my mother looks at me sharply, her face suddenly super-alert, like a raven's. She’d look right at home sitting on a wet black branch against the colorless October sky. There’s nothing of victimhood or self-pity in her face for a change but the change isn’t really an improvement just another kind of awful. It’s positively rapacious, vindictive, disgusted. I imagine it’s the face she wore when my father told her what he wanted to do in bed, when he showed her his penis and said whatever he said. She practically spits the words at me from across the table. "I sure don't need any of that bullshit!"

The last time I saw my father without his face massaged into the asphalt and his head crowned by his spit-out teeth I was sitting across from him at a table in a rest stop eatery off the Jersey turnpike. He wanted to meet to have a "talk." It was one in the morning and I was scared shitless. I thought he might kill me, as he’d threatened to do at various times in my life. He’d bought a German handgun a year earlier in addition to whatever other guns he already owned and he had already threatened to shoot himself several times with it. That he would drag a few others along with him to his melodramatic suicide party seemed all too plausible. In fact, I always feared he was exactly the type of guy you’re always reading about at the center of some home sweet home slaughter—the “distraught” father who “kills his entire family and then turns the gun upon himself.” He wasn’t so much a gun nut as a nut who owned guns. He wouldn’t want to die alone like any decent self-respecting suicide. No, he’d make a big fucking multi-generational opera out of it. I wanted to avoid the encounter with him altogether but Margot said I was only delaying the inevitable showdown. She said you had to face your fears if you really wanted to overcome them and truly move on. She was always saying shit like that. She said the best way to deal with a guy like my father was to meet him head-on once and for all. She was probably right—it was the old face-up to the bully situation I’ve avoided ever since elementary school. She promised me it would be fun. The problem is that I was a coward, that I’ve always been a coward, and that as far as I can judge the lay of the land ahead, I always will be a coward. I never met anything or anyone head on. I squirreled sidewise out of whatever the threatening situation might be. I cockroached it. I consoled myself with the idea that when human beings finally wipe themselves out it will be the rats that take over the planet and I’d be one of them scuttling around in the gutter. Margot wasn’t buying it. She volunteered to go with me if that was the only way I’d go. It was. She came with me for moral suppose. She came with me “as protection.” She sat there in boy-mode, looking like she does when she's not wearing a pink wig and hot pants, platform boots, fishnets and way too much make-up, like an edgy, spring-wired 20-something likely to do exactly what she often claims she's perfectly capable of doing: fucking someone up real bad. I didn’t ask her if she was carrying. I didn’t even want to know. Dad was surprised to see her, not in a good way either. He wasn’t expecting anyone else and he didn’t like the dynamic. It threw him off his game. He never imagined that I would have any friends. He’d never seen me with any before. He figured on me being alone, that’s how he always saw me. Alone and vulnerable. He was expecting that we would be having an intimate chat. Just the two of us.  I could see he wanted to say “man to man” but he couldn’t choke the phrase up, not even with a bilious mouthful of irony.

The rooms were burning, all of them. And it was like a new geography had been laid down over the old one. God had changed the blueprint of that accursed house within the space of a few minutes. It was a maze of fire now and there was no way out. I had let something out of the bag, alright, the equivalent of a thousand cats from hell, and they were all aflame, and there was no putting them back in the bag, just like they always warned. They assumed I died in the inferno with the others. That I was part of the general ash. But I made it out, obviously, and there wasn't a burn on me. I'll tell you the secret of how I did it. I imagined myself to be Satan--well, Satan's daughter, if you will. And, in fact, I guess I was. I guess I am. I'm certainly a woman of no woman born and I never will be. That's what they tell me, anyway. Well, fuck them. All I can say is whatever they say isn’t  important. What’s important is this: I walked through the fire without so much as a suntan.

I push the little trolley out to the pool deck. I'm wearing a bikini that's hardly more than a shadow of a bikini, like a bikini-shaped bird flew between the pitiless sun and my naked body, partially shielding me. A bird of prey, it is, that creates the shadow. The shadow bikini shows off the humongous tits that Mr. Sunshine has provided me with, the ass that hormones and a merciless exercise program of squats and lunges have plumped and firmed to generously spill over the grasping palms of even the greediest of pervs. The heat radiates off the concrete under my silver high heels, radiates like I'm walking over a hot stove top. Bet you could fry a lizard on that white concrete. I wiggle appropriately, throwing a little extra into it because I feel eyes on me. I’m trained to always feel eyes on me even when I’m alone. I recognize the man sitting at the table under the large umbrella but I pretend not to because it’s safer not to recognize anyone. It’s inconceivable, though, that the men who come here—and the handful of women, too—don’t expect to be recognized. They take no steps to disguise themselves. Here they are perfectly themselves. That’s the appeal of this place. Every man—and woman—who comes here becomes a Roman Emperor or Empress, the bad ones, become Caligulas and Messalinas. You’d have to have been raised in a test tube not to know who they were. Yes, they are that famous. Today’s guest looks different, though, as all famous and powerful people do when you see them in person, rather than how you usually see them, how you came to know who they are: which is on television or in the movies or on the internet. It's like they're faded in real life, like everything else in real life is faded, too, like the battery running the world is on save mode. It’s like the famous, rich and powerful people who come here are off-duty now from being famous, rich and powerful. They’re running on half-power. They’re on their own time now so they’re saving energy. They don’t need to shine. They can be their real selves. They can do whatever they want since the cameras are off. Maybe that’s what makes them feel so safe. Or maybe it’s because they know we won’t dare say a word. That our lives are totally expendable.

I'm wandering down the candy aisle, gazing up nonchalantly at the camera recording me wandering down the candy aisle, wondering if anyone is actually watching, if anyone will ever watch this movie. I blow a kiss as a I slip a double-pack of Reece's peanut butter cups off the rack and into the pocket of my fitted denim jacket. There's a lot of excited jabbering coming from the front of the store and then gunshots so loud it makes the whole store tremble, like there's an earthquake. I hear my name being shouted and I know it must be Margot because no one else in the world knows my name. It doesn’t sound like her voice, though; it’s not the voice she used when we came in. I wander through the store like I'm in a daze because I am, like I'm hypnotized, because I am. I should be running but I can’t get my legs to do that. I’m telling them to run with my mind but they seem to have a mind of their own. While my legs go where they want, I reach out and grab a liter bottle of Coke, a box of pink Sno-Balls, a party-sized bag of Fritos. It seems like it must take me forever to find the door that I came through only three minutes before and that when I do find it I’ve got an armful of junk food and I’m a completely different person. It feels like the old me is still wandering through those aisles and aisles of colorfully packaged goods. An essential part of me will never leave that store, that’s what it feels like, I’ll be trapped in that maze forever. I’ll keep living in the movie that’s been made of that store on the night shots were fired. That’s hell—and the part of me that lives in hell, but it’s only one of the hells where I’ve abandoned a part of myself. One of many. Surely someone is watching this B-movie as cheaply made and pointless as it is, watching it over and over for clues—because it’s a crime all the same. Is this what everyone calls late capitalism?

"If anyone has ever called it sex before, then it's not sex," she explains, handing me the bong. I've given up telling her I don't smoke, that it just makes me feel sick and crazy. She never listens. I listen. But I don’t understand whatever it is she’s saying. I hardly ever do. It’s just high-talk, I figure, no point in trying to understand. It’s like people turn into those animal-headed Egyptian gods when they get stoned, speaking in hieroglyphics. I don’t understand a word. I pretend to inhale, shutting off my throat, holding it awhile, before I exhale. She doesn’t notice. I hand the bong back. I act crazy enough all the time it's not hard to come to the conclusion that I'm always high. I don't think in straight lines. I never did.  Most of the time I don’t think at all. Warren comes in and he's got a syringe and tells me to turn over. It's okay, he says, it's just my weekly hormone shot, and maybe a little extra, he grins. How do I know for sure? How do any of us know for sure? I turn over on my tummy, raise my ass a little. Gwen—is that her name now, who can keep track?—stretches out her leg, gives me her toes to suck. I let her put them into my mouth. He's very methodical Warren--it gives you confidence that he knows what the fuck he’s doing. First the alcohol swab, then the needle, "just a little pinch," which is almost always a little more than that, and then the swab again and finally a kiddie band-aid. Hello Kitty! He kisses my ass when he's done. Pats the cheek affectionately. Pulls up my panties. I roll over. "How do you feel baby," he asks. "Thitthier than ever, daddy," I lisp in reply the way I know he likes.  I reach down and wallah Warren’s got a hard-on the size of North Dakota.

You see, Daddy would never act crazy in front of other people. He would be his usual charming, friendly, completely pedestrian self in front of others. That’s both his strength and his weakness. Daddy’s  ashamed to lose control in front of anyone else except for us. But it took me a long time to realize that could be used against him. Outside the house, he wants to be just like everyone else. It’s important for us to be just like everyone else. What goes on inside the house, stays inside the house, that’s the unwritten rule, until it explodes one day, but let’s not think about that. The outside of the house looks picture perfect. It looks like the house in a sitcom on television from the old days. There isn’t even any crabgrass on the lawn. Not one dandelion. It’s my job, in fact, to yank them out. Yank them out by the root, Daddy says, his coffin-like shadow falling over me where I kneel in the closely-trimmed grass. Early on, I intuited Daddy's weakness, his fatal flaw. His fear of exposure, his fear of what I found in his closet. That tomb where he keeps his….ssssssssh! I will be Daddy's hidden secret, revealed. I will say all the things Daddy whispered to me in the dark. I will say them out loud, to everyone. I will make Daddy shrivel like a snail on the sidewalk when you drop salt on it but it’ll just be the truth that I sprinkle. I will be the body that Daddy made me be in the dead of night in the full light of day. I will be what embarrasses Daddy. I will be what Daddy made me. Daddy created me but he wanted to keep this part of me for himself. He wanted to keep it in the dark, locked away in the laboratory. He was Dr. Frankendaddy. I am his monster. I got loose somehow. I destroyed him just by existing outside of his shadow. I will kill him with shame. He will hang in that closet where he made me.

Margot slams the flat of her hand down on the table making all the glasses and silverware and dishes rattle. "Who is this ‘we’ you're talking about? Who? Show me. Just who the fuck is it? Because I don’t see any we here anywhere!" People are turning to look at us, the few in the diner at this ghastly hour. They look like ghosts that’ve seen much better days. The cook peeks in from the kitchen. The two waitresses stop dead in their tracks, turn, stare, frozen with their trays. Daddy recoils in his chair, like someone emptied a rattlesnake out of a sack onto the table in front of him. He looks at me for an explanation but my face is shut off, like a computer monitor. "Show me this we!" Margot is still demanding. "Please sir, no yelling" someone says. "Show me!" Margot insists. She so clearly doesn't care what happens, who hears, who interferes that everyone is scared stiff. She'll challenge anyone at this point. She'll challenge them all. Public insanity always trumps the private kind. Daddy knows he’s holding a losing hand. Daddy is sliding rightward out of the booth. It’s like seeing the monster in the corner reduced to just a clothes pole with a sagging shirt and a sad old pair of pants hanging from it when the light’s turned on. That’s all Daddy is now. It’s all he’s ever been in truth. How did I not see that? I won’t help him. There is no one at the table except for him and Margot, that's what he realizes now, belatedly. I'm not on his side. I’m not here. I was never here. I’m not anywhere. "We'll have this conversation some other time," he says in my direction, to where he thinks I'm sitting, because my body appears to still be there, but I’m not. "That's a promise,” he threatens. But I'm gone, Daddy. I want to tell him I'm gone. But I can’t, because I’m gone. I'm outside somewhere. I'm floating up behind his shoulder, I'm on the moon, I'm in the darkness between the stars, I'm cold, I'm looking down at the bald freckled crown of his head, where he carefully stretches a few long twisted strands of scorched-looking reddish-brown hair over from the side above his big dolorous ears. It looks so vulnerable from up here, that bald head, so pitiful, like the brittlest egg in the world, I could drop salty tears on the dry flaking scalp of that head like a moon where nothing will ever grow again, where it’s difficult to conceive that anything ever grew. I could split it open with a baseball bat. I have the proper leverage now at last. I should break that egg before I give it time to gestate, I think. Before something really bad hatches out of it. Before it gives birth to a monster again, a monster even worst than the monsters it already gave birth to, the monster it has always threatened to give birth to. But I’m too far away now to lay a finger on it. It’s not mercy or forgiveness or understanding it’s just that I’m gone. Gone forever. I’m a goner.

I feel no loyalty, no respect, no affection, no sympathy, no connection at all with anything in this world except to that which can make me cum as if I were speaking in tongues. I said this with his finger all the way to the second knuckle in my ass. He smiled. He understood. He wiggled his finger. It was as if I didn’t even need to say it. That’s what made our relationship so special. I was sitting on the hood of his Aston Martin. It was still warm from all the miles we had gone that day, driving up and down the coast, going nowhere, looking for something we’d never find, didn’t want to find, something we hoped had been hidden from us forever. The stars were spread across the velvety darkness like God had been edging from eternity until this very moment and finally released the contents of the bluest balls ever across all time and space. She was coming up out of the ocean and rising into the sidereal light in just her bra and panties. She wasn’t any prettier than me and certainly not any sexier but she had a purpose that I didn’t have. She had machinery that I wasn’t equipped with, couldn’t jury-rig in a million years. I was thinking of how it couldn't go on like this forever, the three of us. One of us would have to die. I was thinking it was probably me and it didn't bother me all that much. You’ll think that I was wrong, that it wasn’t me who died since I’m writing this, but I might not be writing this, it might be someone else, it might be one of them. How would you know?  What do you care? Does it really matter? These are three of the most important questions in life.

There is something inside me that doesn't want your hand, doesn't want your peace, doesn't want your understanding. Instead it wants the knife you hide behind your smile, the knife you will use to cut my throat when you realize there is something inside me that will never surrender no matter how many lies you tell me, no mater how thoroughly you crush me beneath your boot, that will resist you with my very last breath. That's the only part of me I love and I love it with the ferocity of a mother who protects her only child as if it were made of a flesh more precious than her own, more precious than the world itself, let the rest of the world go to hell if it means saving that flesh, it’s worth all the life on earth, all the life that ever was. Stab me a thousand, ten thousand times, I keep healing and re-healing. Even dead I will rise up to protect that part of me unloved by everyone but me. Every mother is a zombie. Even from beyond the grave she protects with a supernatural ferocity that to which she’s given birth. You will never kill this part of me, it will replicate and metastasize inside you like a cancer longer after I’m dead and strangle you in your sleep long before you can ever do away with it. I have brought it into this world like a curse that I will keep whispering in your ear until kingdom come. It’s what I whisper to you now. Listen carefully as you read these words: I am the death of you.

Wandering around the periphery of the schoolyard, terrified into paralysis at home, ostracized and bullied among my classmates, I understood fairly early on that I had nothing in common with anyone. Watching them at their monkey games of dominance on the playground, viewing them from a never-safe-enough distance, noting with growing disgust their hypocrisy, their casual cruelty, their relentless social-scramble, their well-calculated butt-kissing, their complete lack of deep self awareness, their selective blindness to their own solipsism and self-centered motivations while criticizing everyone else’s, their tortured sophistries and self-justifications for even the worst most unjustified actions, I detested them all. I didn't want to fit in, their acceptance would have felt like being smeared with vomit and feces and then, with them all standing above me, being spat and pissed upon. If a school shooter had wandered in from the woods among them, started shooting at random, picking them off one by one, it wouldn't have bothered me in the least. It would have seemed perfectly apropos, perfect justice. I would have sat down under a tree and watched impassively, like God Himself, while mechanically munching my sandwich, like I was watching the ending of a science fiction movie where the aliens were finally getting exactly what they had coming to them. Then at last they might finally understand how disgusting and stupid they all were, how repellent and inhuman...but no, they wouldn't have understood, not even then. That was the real horror. This I also realized. And that sickened and made me despise them most of all. In this movie, the aliens would eventually win, the monsters would always prevail. It was intolerable. But it must be tolerated. Suicide...yes, I could and did imagine it, but not yet. For I'd also deduced that the only thing that could keep the aliens from attaining total victory on this planet was not to give in just yet, but to stay alive, to keep watching and hating, if only out of spite because I would never be able to defeat them. No one could. Hate was the one purifying force left, the only weapon. Hate was good. Hate was redemptive. Hate was victory. Hate was immortal. Hate was strong enough to bear witness to what the rest of you weakened and withered to see.

Mr. Sunshine likes to watch. He likes to watch from a distance. He likes to watch remotely. He likes to watch from CCTV, from behind dark glasses, “So I don’t blind you,” he laughs. Maybe he winks. You can’t tell with the dark glasses. Mr. Sunshine doesn’t like to be touched. “You can’t touch the sun,” he says, “and you can’t touch me. I’m out of reach. It’s for your own good. You’ll burn to death if you touch me. Remember that. I give warmth, but only from 93 million miles away.” These are some of the reasons we call him Mr. Sunshine. These are the kinds of things he says. “I bring things to life, I keep them alive, all things grow towards me, seek me out” he says, “but I also scorch them. I can also be the inferno. Everything will fall into me in the end.” Mr. Sunshine, un-ironically, even wears sunglasses when he’s shaving, looking in the mirror. It’s like he can’t bear even to see himself without a filter. He wears gloves all the time, too, like maybe he’ll burn whatever he touches, destroy it even if he doesn’t want to destroy it, like King Midas. “I’m the opposite of the moon, he says. “I have no dark side. I’m all light. Sometimes it’s just too much light. I see too much. I bring too much to light.” He chuckles. “Some things look better in the dark. Some things weren’t meant to be seen. I show everything. That’s why I have so many enemies. There are a lot of slimy things in this world that don’t appreciate me being able to see them. They can’t touch me, however. That’s the power of all-seeing, of having the kind of vision that I have.” When he rises in the morning, we all get down on our knees and give thanks for his existence. The world, as he’s taught us, would be a dark cold place without him. We set not just our clocks but our lives by him. “Somewhere in the world,” he says, and maybe he’s joking and maybe he’s not, “Mr. Sunshine is always shining in someone’s sky.”

“We can place you at the scene on the night in question,” Detective Barkin says. He’s slow and lugubrious. He takes a long time getting around to it whatever it is he’s getting around to. It’s like he’s reluctant to even go there but go there he must go so he proceeds as slowly as possible. He’s like a huge bear in shirtsleeves. While he speaks, he gives me time to daydream. I would like to be wearing a sunhat. I would like to be in a hot air balloon. I would like to be floating in a wicker basket among some clouds, like a hedgehog in a Beatrix Potter watercolor. “We have corroborating witnesses who’ll swear in court that you were with Mr. Walsh on the night in question, that they saw you behind the wheel of the car in which he fled the scene of…the incident.” He turns from the wall towards which he’s been walking and talking and turns back towards me. “Now what I would suggest…strongly suggest…” I don’t hear what he strongly suggests. It’s lost in a kind of static that I hear when people start strongly suggesting things to me. Everyone has a suggestion. Everyone is just a bundle of cells dying and being born and suggesting things other people really don’t want to hear. Everyone is constantly changing but stubbornly thinking that they’ve remained the same and all the time they are still suggesting things. They’re remembering a world I’m just not part of anymore. 

I thought I was further along to be honest. A lot further along. The signs along the road tell me differently. Are they lying? Is that possible? I suspect some scenes were deleted without my knowledge, scenes I seem to recall actually happened somewhere miles ago. When I look at the map, I can’t believe there is still so much more of the country to cross. Was Colorado always situated where they’re showing it now? Did they swap Arizona and Nevada without telling anyone? Why is there is a Missouri, anyway, has anyone actually said? Did I miss an Amber Alert? “We’re off the grid,” Margot says, lifting her peasant dress around her hips to piss against a cactus. She laughs and makes fun of me when I squat. “Always in character, aren’t you?” She’s wearing one of those fake pink little girl cowboy hats. I don’t understand Margot’s anger. No that’s not true. I understand it perfectly. What I don’t understand is why I still sometimes pretend not to understand it. When I put my head against her breasts, I hear a whole cornfield of crows yelling angrily at something in the sky.

“When Oliver decides to communicate with us, maybe then we’ll have something to talk about,” Dr. Miller says. His beard is patchy, scratchy, as if he’d caught the mange somewhere, and his comb-over egregious. “Maybe then we’ll understand what he’s trying to tell us.” I say nothing, nothing out loud. I’m not permitted. Those are the rules. I have to listen to everyone else criticize me. I stare at the wall. “I never wanted to communicate with any of you, you ugly stupid bastards. Never.” I say this silently, of course, only in my head. They can’t keep me quiet inside my skull. Their rules don’t count for diddly-squat there. I think Dr. Miller knows what I’m thinking even though I don’t say a word. He’s not stupid. He’s just like everyone else. He’s just, like everyone else, all too fucking possible. I’m impossible. It’s not easy being impossible but I’ve learned to live with it and now it’s been so long I don’t know any other way. I can’t be comfortable any other way. The fact is, I don’t want to be understood. Once they understand you, I’ve seen what they do. They slide the morgue door shut. They tag your toe. They’re done with you. They file you away. To be understood is to be dead. To be misunderstood is painful, it’s lacerating, it’s to be pulled apart at the seams for your whole life and that is a pain few can bear but it’s no different from being alive. It’s the only way to stay alive. I don’t want to be pinned to a board like one of Daddy’s shellacked beetles. I don’t want to be dulled by dust. When they don’t understand you, they keep messing around with your corpse, searching for the secret that keeps slipping away from their tweezers, giving you at least the semblance of life even if they’ve already killed you. The most well-intentioned people in the world are the most dangerous, the ones dead-set on understanding you. They nod at you sympathetically. They approach you with live wires, acid sprays, electric drills. They’re going to get to the heart of you, uncover the secret of you no matter what. They might as well be concentration camp commandants, all these good, helpful people. The ones trying to help you, the ones who claim they want to understand you. They are the ones you have to fear most of all. They want to understand you right out of existence. Understanding is extermination. Schools, families, police stations, hospitals, communities, governments, any kind of society….if you want to survive as yourself you learn to stay away from them all. You learn to live on the outside. You learn to exterminate understanding. You learn the camouflage of incoherence. That’s your Declaration of Independence. That’s true revolution. One day you give up even trying to understand yourself. Then you’re finally free.

I'm not who they think I am. They keep asking the same lame questions again and again. Who they're looking for is a certain pattern of brain waves that dispersed a long time ago. That’s all any of us is when all is said and done. The person they’re talking about is no longer here any more than an Alzheimer patient is there anymore at the end. He was my psychic Siamese twin brother, that's the best way I can explain it. We shared a body. Two minds in one body. Why is that so hard to understand? You can have a sibling physically conjoined, but you can also have one mentally conjoined, sharing the same brain, one dominating the brain you share. He took precedence for a long time, now I’ve taken over. I proved to be the stronger of us in the long run. He got all the social support early on, our body being what it was. But he realized he was a mistake. He was a bad signal. He started breaking up. I can't call him back now. I can't make him appear at will. I can’t dial his frequency. He’s stopped broadcasting. He's gone, gone forever, thank god. He'll never return. He did the right thing for once in his life and killed himself so I could live. He dispersed himself. He knew I was the better, stronger, healthier of the two of us. He knew it was me who should have been the one to survive all along. He'd been the dominant one for long enough, shoved me into silence, into unconsciousness. It's him they're asking for now, him they are calling to account for things I never said or did. I'm not him. I'm the pattern of brain waves that exists right now for as long as it lasts, as long as my biological body lasts, that’s what I'm hoping. This is me, here and now, it always was me. There is no one else. There were two of us, but now there is only one. They want me to admit I'm somebody else. They won't be happy until I do. Because they don't understand. The person they have in the records stored in their computers, on the print-outs they hold in their hands as proof, the records they consult every ten seconds, looking from them to me and back again, and saying to all my answers in their accusatory fashion, "But that's not what it says here." What can I tell them when they ask me who I am and I tell them the truth and they still don't believe me? When as proof all they have is paper and I’m sitting here in the flesh and blood? Who knows who I am better than I do? Exhausted from trying to explain, disgusted with their stubbornness and stupidity, not giving a damn when all is said and done, what I finally say at last is, "Then just use whatever you have on your records, I don't care. If you don't like my answers, go with whatever you have. You tell me who I am and I'll just agree with whatever you say." But that doesn't satisfy them either. No, it’s not enough. What they want is for me to repeat back to them the words they have on their papers like this is some kind of school test and they have all the right answers, like they've always had all the right answers. The only answers. So why even ask me!!! When I ask them that, they only get angrier. I was supposed to memorize the answers they wrote down themselves and recite them back verbatim and without any irony either, as if I believed them whether I did or not. I’m supposed to be a method actor acting out the role they’ve written for me beforehand. This seems to be what is required. This seems to be the only thing that will make them happy. I don’t get to write my own lines. I don’t have permission. It’s not in the contract. No ad-libbing, no improvisation, not even with my own damn life. Well, fuck them then.

Detective Barkin is lying. He doesn't know shit from shinola whatever shinola is. He's fishing in a pond that hasn't any fish in it except for me and I’m just a minnow and I'm not biting. He's watching me carefully for signs that I'm being less than truthful and he doesn’t seem to be picking them up even though I’m lying my head off. He’s watching me like I might suddenly disappear from the chair I’m sitting in right before his very eyes. I have! I don’t remember how many times we’ve had this same conversation but it feels like fifty, seventy-five, a hundred times. It’s like living the same life over and over and over. He’s very good at saying the same things again and again, like most people are. But I'm good at what I do, too. I’m good at showing absolutely nothing. My face is like a mask. I could be twelve years old, this one shrink told me a couple of years ago. "You never make any facial expressions. Did you know that? No matter what you’re saying, whether it’s funny or sad or horrible you show no expression. It’ll take you a long time to age. You have no lines on your face. That’s one positive thing you can take away from your trauma." I didn't know what he was talking about at the time, I wasn’t aware of it, I thought he was just another creep, but I’m aware of it now. Daddy taught me to look like a mannequin, like a little plastic doll. It was always dangerous to show any expressions around Daddy, he was likely to misinterpret them. It was always better to be as expressionless as a refrigerator door. You were less likely to get slapped that way. You were less likely to get noticed. To be noticed was to court trouble. Detective Barkin is finding it difficult to slap me even though he thinks I deserve it because I'm the only thing in the room he's paying attention to because I'm making no expression at all. I'm like a refrigerator. I’m like a little plastic doll. I'm all cold and empty inside. It’s like he’s in this room all by himself. It’s creeping him out. That is the only way to make yourself safe from people. Daddy taught me this. Detective Barkin thinks he knows what he’s doing and maybe he does but I’ve been taught by someone even more knowledgeable. Compared to my daddy, Detective Barkin is just another bumbling self-important amateur.

Warren is looking jumpy tonight, jumpier than usual. He's got that shirt on with all the parrots, the shirt he always has on, but with different parrots. That’s always a bad sign. He keeps twisting this straw he’s been chewing on for hours now. He wants to know if I told them anything. I shrug. Wrong answer. He’s on me in a flash, grabbing me by the shoulders, shaking me around a bit.  "What do you think?,” I say, trying not to smell his breath, which I won’t even try to describe. “What do you think” not the right answer, by the way. “Of course not," I clarify. He’s still only marginally pleased. He eyes me like a tricky shot on a pool table. He wants to know what I did tell them. "Nothing,” I reiterate and try to make it sound more convincing, more authoritative by saying it twice…and fail. Authority isn’t in my repertoire of verbal tones. He says, quite reasonably,, "But you must have told them something." I say, I don't remember what I told them. “Nothing that they wanted to hear, I’m sure. I didn’t leave them satisfied.” He starts picking at the parrots on his shirt, plucking at them, like he’s trying to pluck the feathers off them. The birds are all awry now, wild-eyed, panicked. His shirt is screaming. It's going to be a long night of the soul I can tell.

Mr. Sunshine sometimes has me write him poems. The poems have to be sexy. They have to be dirty raunchy ribald poems that tell him how much I like sucking his cock or having him fuck me in the ass but they have to be written like a seven-year-old would write them. He likes to hear me recite them to him while wearing some frilly, scanty, sexy costume or other that leaves my waxed and diminished private parts practically fully exposed. I have to turn my knees in and put my painted finger to my painted lips as I read. I have to act innocent like I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m still a little embarrassed. This is pretty much how I actually feel so it isn’t hard to act the part. I have to use a little girly voice and lisp a lot. It’s one of the many kinks he has—one of the less painful ones.  You don’t know the half of it. Here is one of the poems I wrote for him. I recite it for him in a pair of pink mules with 5-inch heels and a wispy nightie that leaves my tits and genitals  hanging out, something he loves and which, predictably enough, I hate. So, like I said, I’m genuinely embarrassed. No acting necessary in that regard.

I am daddy's pretty pink princess
there's nothing else I'd rather be
I just love being daddy's sissy
specially when he sodomizes me!

It feels so good when he licks down there
I moan & gasp & kick my heels
& beg oh daddy daddy DADDY!
& come with many a simpering sissy squeal!

But maybe best of all I think
tho some may say its a naughty kink
is when Daddy bends me over the kitchen sink
& spanks my bottom good & pink!

And to think I was rejected by Poetry magazine again and again and again. To think that when Daddy—my real genuine biological Daddy, maker and monster—found out that I was writing poetry (my duplicitous mother, alarmed at the contents of the poems I was then writing when she found them after one of her periodic secret raids of my closets and drawers betrayed me to her by then estranged husband) he laughed and ridiculed me and asked rhetorically just where I thought such a sissy-faggot pursuit as poem-making would get me in the real world and I thought, but didn’t dare suggest, well, maybe an MFA in creative writing from Syracuse (?) and instead just folded up under his disdain and abuse where I remained, as usual, mute and compliant as I watched my dreams and self-worth die like a plant caught withering in time-lapse photography, forever after cringing, as if under a lash, whenever he sneeringly referred to me as “the poet over there.” Well look at me now! It looks like I’ve had the last laugh since here I am living in a mansion and Daddy, last I heard of him, is nursing his sick surgery-shortened colon and living in some kind of tract housing in a suburb of Houston with a second wife who’s sucking him dry as some old cicada husk. Who says poetry can’t get you anywhere in this dog-eat-dog world? Who gets the last guffaw now, Daddy?

They drive us out in a van early in the evening. They drop us off up and down the interstate at various truck stops and rest areas. We hang out through the night, waiting to get picked up by bored motorists, overnight travelers, truckers, of course. The truckers are a constant. Some of them are regulars. We do it in the restrooms, the front seats of cars, the sleeper compartments behind the cabs of semis. Sometimes kneeling right there in the parking lot, shielded by a car. It's quick money, but it adds up pretty quickly. You’ve got to be diligent about it. The world is full of horny men and they seem to get hornier than ever on the interstate. Cum and go. That seems to be the way they like it. Around 10am, we're sitting in the coffee shop, having a coffee, a croissant, maybe, then a quick cigarette out front waiting for the van to come collect us again. You'd better have a good roll on you, too, or you catch a hell of a yelling at, or a lot worse. If you bring in a couple of hundred, maybe you get twenty-five, minus breakfast and gas. So you get enough to keep you alive, which is another way of saying practically nothing. You get some drugs, maybe. You get your ass unkicked. So you learn to skim a little off the top, they expect that, accept it, up to a point. It's that point you've got to watch out for. It's undefined. It wavers. Like everything else, every other human endeavor, it depends not on what you know but who you know and how much they like or don’t like you. You have to use your intuition. You have to be very careful.

I'm not pulling any punches. I’m punching away. I've got nothing to lose. I've got nothing to gain either. I'm swinging from the heels. I don’t give a shit anymore. Actually, I'm just pounding on the walls. The door is locked. The windows are bricked over. There’s no one on the other side. There are no readers for a thing like this. I'm like that character in the Edgar Allan Poe story, I forget which one, anyone of them really. I ran into the bathroom and stopped short. Through the modesty glass of the shower door I saw his body lying on the floor, the great sad beached hump of his abandoned carcass with the rain falling on it. I flung open the door, screaming. I knelt in the rain beside the inert mound of white flesh. I shook and shook and shook it, trying to wake it up, screaming Dad Dad Dad...holy shit I never knew there was so much sadness inside me it was volcanic, I was throwing up like molten rock. Yeah, lava. I’m full of lava.

I wait for him in the parking lot of the Chinese restaurant. He's stopped to talk to some people he knows at another table. At least I think that's what he's doing. They ignore me so I ignore them. No one notices, not even him, when I continue out the door to the parking lot. No one calls me back, no one gives a damn. I pull open the door to the Corvette and someone else is sitting in the passenger seat. A round-faced punk chick with an evil looking grin on her face. "What are you doing in our car? You don't belong here." I pull out a gun and point it at her. She doesn't answer. She just sits there looking smug. That should be me sitting there. "You're just going to sit there and wait?" Still no answer. Just that stuck-up smug look. Wait for what, I wonder. Who am I talking to…her or me? Is this really our car, I ask myself. Her boyfriend shows up and I swing the gun around at him. He's got the same evil gremlin smile as his sister or girlfriend or whatever she is to him. He's talking to me like he’s talking to both of us, like it’s some kind of joke, like "Oh what have we here, is there a problem, is that a gun" and getting close and closer. I know what he's up to, I've seen this movie before, I know there's no time left, that they never stop when you tell them to, that they walk through all your warnings like confetti, walk right up and wrench the gun from your hand, twisting your wrist painfully around till all your fingers go slack and numb and the gun falls stupidly to the ground, so I pull the trigger while my fingers still work. The hammer or whatever it is, clicks, clicks twice when I pull the trigger again, and he grins the little gremlin grin again and I pull the trigger a third time and the third time's always the charm. We’re both surprised as hell. He staggers back, looking confused, and I'm confused, too, because it's all like a dream, because the gun made hardly any noise at all.

The super-long cock slides into my ass. I didn't think I was going to be able to take it all when I saw Siam or Slam or Saddam or whatever his name is stoking it up. I thought, no fucking way. I thought, that’ll kill me. But I’m a trooper. I’m a pro. I’m scared out of my wits to say no, to say anything. I just do my job and I stay in one piece. I don’t get shuffled off down the line to the rougher trade films. The kind where girls get beat up and mutilated. The whispered features in which you star only once and then your light goes out forever. So I kept my mouth shut, kept all the objections behind my teeth. The thing looked like it was about a foot long, red as a salami. But it's in there now. I'm packed like a cylinder with a lubed piston. You’ve got to have faith. You’ve got to have drugs. I took a couple of pills to relax me. A couple more to relax me further. The other cock, not nearly so long, but darker, thick, muscled like a midget’s forearm, wrapped in veins, slick with my own saliva, bobs in front of my face. Thank god the script calls for him to take it out every so often so the audience can admire it’s girth, its unparalleled tumescence, so they can imagine how good it must feel when I run my tongue over it or I’d choke to death on the thing when he’s got it shoved to the back of my throat. I lick around its huge mushroom head, cleft underneath like a devil's hoof. I tickle the balls with the tip of my tongue and then I suck them in earnest. Plenty of eye contact, the camera, and the audience, not to mention the guy I’m sucking—they all love that. I'm wearing a stars-n-strips string bikini—or partially wearing it. Is there supposed to be an allegorical element to this scenario? Is America--meaning me—white America, in particular, since with my anemia and aversion to the sun I’m white as a ghost—getting fucked by these two big-dicked dudes of color (one of them wearing a rubber Donald Trump mask) supposed to contain a subversive political subtext? If so, what exactly is it? Does anybody care about that kind of socio-political shit in a porn film? I mean, anyone who's likely to be watching one. Anyone stroking to it. The signifiers seem hopelessly (purposely?) confused. Is it supposed to be some kind of subliminal brainwashing? If so, by who? The CIA? Ha! Probably it's best not to read too much into it. I mean, if I'm supposed to be Miss America then she's now a chick with a dick getting fucked by a pair of well-hung Arab brothers in a cut-rate porno destined for sale on the gray market. Sounds about right when you think about it. But what would that signify? And who's supposedly jerking off to this stuff? You'd be surprised. It's really too much to think about if you’re trying to extract sense from it. Best just to let it wash over you like an opiate, like everything else.

Being in porn is not a lot different than watching porn after a while it's more like you're watching what you're doing instead of actually doing it. You do stuff you never thought of doing in real life because you’re just watching yourself do it. You’re watching other people watching you do it which is not the same thing as actually doing it. That's the thing...when the camera is on you it doesn't feel like real life anymore because it isn't. You don't even feel anything for real. You become desensitized. All your feelings just become acting. Even pain. Nothing hurts anymore, not the way it used to hurt, anyway. It’s not real life. It’s better than real life. When they hit you it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to hurt when someone hit you in real life. Same thing when they rape you. Everything is a little fake, no matter what it is. Even if they kill you, you’re not really and truly dead, it’s only acting. That's what Edgar said and I didn't believe him at first because you can’t trust anything Edgar says but I believe him now. Once that camera starts anything can happen and anything is okay. It’s like a dream. It’s fiction. It’s like what you’re reading right now. There's a guy standing over me, he must be six-foot-six, and he's waving his long cock over my body like he's trying to put out a fire.  I look up and take it full in the face and smile. I open my mouth and let the urine splash in. I could never do that in real life. I’d start gagging, choking, puking. Actually, I could do it in real life and have no problem with it, now that I know the secret of turning real life into a movie. This is what it means to be a professional at life. The guy must have been holding it in for a long time and drinking water by the gallon because he just pees and pees and pees like he was hooked up to a reservoir. Like a camel, he must be pissing out of his humps. You'd think it was some kind of special effects the way this guy keeps peeing, it’s almost comical, but I assure you it wasn't a special effect. It was 100% real. Sometimes you can believe what you see in the movies. It’s not all trick photography. That guy must have had a bladder the size of a Bel Air swimming pool.

I lift my face out of his crotch, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. I see Wyoming's head at the driver's side window. He doesn’t see her yet because his head is thrown back on the headrest and his eyes are squeezed tight. Wyoming’s got that crazy expression on her face and I'm thinking Uh-oh. The guy's got the twenty in his sun visor and when he finally exhales and comes back to the here and now he reaches up and catches sight of her in his peripheral vision. I'm already looking through his glove compartment, not expecting much but you never know. It's an Audi, that I'm sitting in, one of the really expensive models so I figure what the hell. And what do you know…I find a handgun. At first he tries to pass it off as a joke, like what the fuck, how’d that get there, hahaha, but the gun Wyoming produces when she taps his window makes it seem a lot less funny than it otherwise might have been. And that weird, lopsided look on Wyoming's face makes the bright blue wig look less cosplay and more psychopath. It's like we're in a movie adaptation of a comic book with a lot more sex and violence in it. "This is bullshit," he says, in one last ditch effort of authoritative patriarchal protest, as if just saying “this is bullshit” could make it so, “this is complete bullshit” he repeats with emphasis as if the word “complete” seals it before reaching resignedly into his back pocket for his wallet. I slip out of the car with the gun I found in the glove compartment. I don’t feel good about this at all. What kind of guy rides around with a handgun in his glove compartment? He’s not the patsy, maybe, that we took him for. We don't get much, after all. Look, no one carries around much in the way of cash nowadays but we take his plastic and his car keys and figure to race him to the ATMs and as many stores as possible before he can get them all canceled. I walk around to the other side of the car and blow him a kissy. Wyoming’s still got the gun trained on him as we back away. This is how we're rolling nowadays.

"Hi Daddy," i say, pouting, bending over, coming close to the camera. My eyes are smudged with eye shadow, my lips painted to a cupid-bow’s pout. I back up a few steps, bend over, and moue, "Would you like me to strip for you, Daddy?" I pull my tiny knit top down and my plump A-cup titties pop out. "Do you like them Daddy?" I ask, using my littlest little-girl voice. I smile, looking slightly wrecked. I am wrecked. I stand up and walk away from the camera, more than a little unsteady on my Plexiglas stiletto heels, hooking my thumbs into the knit bikini panty bottoms, pulling them down under the cheeks of my ass, bending over, giving Daddy a flash and a jiggle, pulling the bikini bottom up again, standing and whirling around on my high heels to face the camera again, smiling disjointedly. I lick my waxy lips. I toss the platinum hair from my eyes but it's still in my eyes. I saunter up to the camera again, lean forward, "Would you like to see it, Daddy? Would you?" I whisper breathlessly, doing my best Marilyn Monroe. Then a few steps back, almost tripping over my own feet, I hook my thumbs into the panties again and slowly wiggle myself out of them until their down to my thighs. My thingie, flops out, surprisingly semi-erect for a change, diminished greatly by the hormones which have sizzled my testicles to near non-existence. I guess exposing myself to Daddy is a bigger turn on than I ever expected. Or maybe it's the revenge aspect that's turning me on. Wallace is losing a lot of the subtleties because he's jacking himself off instead of taking his directorial and cameraman duties seriously and not holding his Iphone steady but later he claims that adds to the cinema verite aspect or something like that. He says it’s the porn equivalent of the Blair Witch Chronicles.  "Trust my vision, baby" he says, when we edit it later, watching the part where I stuff an eight-inch black dildo up my ass and say how much better it feels than Daddy. “I’m like the Quentin Tarantino of this kind of shit.”

They bring me down to a basement. I'm not sure where it is, some house in the boonies. All basements look alike. It could have been anywhere. It took a long time to drive there, that much I remember. When we got to the house it was completely dark. Every window. It was almost hard to see there was a house there at all, except it was even darker than the rest of the darkness surrounding it. I had no idea why they were bringing me there. I asked a couple of times where we were going on our way there and no one would answer. They all just sat there, stone-faced. I started to get scared, thinking back through all the possible things I might have done wrong, things to piss them off. I could come up with dozens. There were two of them, besides the driver. I knew one of them, but not by name, I'd seen him around, that’s all, sometimes he talked to Wallace and Wallace was deferential to him which surprised me at first because I’d never seen Wallace deferential to anyone but then it seemed perfectly normal since everyone was deferential to someone that's just how the world worked, everyone has their nose up someone’s ass. We drove on and on it seemed for miles. We left the lighted roads and then drove through the darkness on some unlighted roads and finally on roads that seemed hardly roads at all.  I looked out the window and just saw all this blackness speeding passed. There was nothing anywhere. I was getting scared, you bet. I'd heard of girls disappearing and never being heard from or seen again and now I figured I was going to be one of them, that this is how it happened. But I tried to tell myself that just because those other girls disappeared it didn't mean they didn't reappear somewhere else. I just didn’t know where they reappeared. No one did. But that didn’t mean it hadn’t happened, that it couldn’t happen to me, too.

We downloaded the file with the movie onto a thumb drive and put it into a plain yellow mailer. I addressed it to Daddy at his office in my frilliest pink handwriting. Then we took it to the post office and sent it off.  Down the chute it went. Bye byeeeee! "Maybe we should have sent it to his new wife instead," Wallace suggested. "Or his boss," I said. We giggled like schoolkids. That's when we got the idea of blackmailing Daddy since at first we just wanted to embarrass him but blackmailing him suddenly seemed like the superior idea. We needed the money, for one thing, and I’m pretty sure I was cut out of whatever will he might one day write and Wallace convinced me that he owed me plenty after what he’d done and it was only justice. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away scot-free. “You have your foot on his throat now, don’t let him squirm away. Press down.” Well, I’d never been any good at domming anyone but with Wallace behind me I figured I could front the role at least from long distance. I felt a little unexpected tingle at the image of me with my pretty pedicured foot on Daddy’s throat. I said okay. So it was agreed. The plan was simple. We'd wait a few days until the package was undoubtedly delivered and he got a chance to watch our little film. Then we'd send him an email threatening to send a copy to his wife and boss and whoever else we could think of in the meantime. It was hard to predict how he'd react. I was still terrified of him to be honest. But I knew deep down he was a coward. I’d seen the proof. He was as afraid of other people as I was when you came right down to it and he wouldn’t want to mess with Wallace. He was only a tyrant in our house. A paper Stalin. Of course, he could find a way out. He could lie with the best of them. Prince of Lies he was, Beelzebub. And prince of just plain old flies, too. He could just say he had a crazy sexually-mixed up son/daughter... whatever you wanted to call me. And he wouldn’t really be lying, I guess. Then again—and we hoped this was the more likely option—he might just decide he didn't want the embarrassment or the hassle of having to explain anything to anyone and just fork over the money we were asking. It’s not like it was a fortune; it wasn’t an unreasonable demand. Not yet, anyway. We had nothing to lose. So why not give it a try? But he had plenty at risk, that’s how we figured it. After all, he was a respectable man. Hahahahaha.

Well, sure, there were times when it didn't come off as planned. When “stuff” happened, got out of hand, went sideways. You couldn’t plan for how they would react for one thing. The stress was high and people had a tendency to do unprecedented things. Human behavior is a mystery. It’s also so sloppy and incoherent. There was the occasional stubborn asshole or the guy who decided to get macho. The gun would sometimes go off when no one expected it to. Wyoming sometimes claimed it was an accident, other times she’d argue that she hadn't any choice. "It was him or us baby," she'd say. Sometimes I saw plenty of choices where she claimed there were none but I didn't argue. I didn't point out that we didn't always need to rob that particular guy in that particular place at that particular time. If we just cleared out, backed off, the situation wouldn't have become so dire, so constricted to either/or. If we just gave in once in a while, nobody would have had to lose. But I knew Wyoming wouldn't have seen it that way. Once she pulled that gun out, it was her way or the highway. So we left a couple of guys bleeding out on the highway, hunched over their steering wheels, a lot of them with looks of disbelief on their faces, like they'd just seen a UFO through their windshields. I didn't really want to know what happened to them later on, if they lived or died. I don't think anyone was ever shot in the head or anything drastic like that, except for that one time. Wyoming swore up and down that it was a mistake, that the guy moved at the last second. Moved in a threatening manner, whatever that means. And I’ve decided to believe her. End of story.

She grabbed for the shower curtain. All the shower rings snapped, fell, scattered across the floor. It was like a movie scene. Everything was wet, slick, it was hard to keep your footing. It's a shame our lives begin long before we know it, long before we even know what a life is or that we have one. Stab wounds accumulate. It takes a while for the blood to appear. It takes a while for the wounds to take effect, for the blood loss to matter. By then it’s too late. The doorbell rings and you train yourself not to move. Southern is very good at knowing how to keep them from screaming. He says it’s from all those years growing up on the pig farm. By the time he got to the slaughterhouse, he could teach the goddamn bosses a thing or three. You got to get those pigs well on the way to dying before they even knew their throats were slit. Same thing with humans, same sorta pig, he said.

It was Margot but it wasn't Margot anymore. She was lying on a table under a very bright light. She looked like something everything had been taken out of, like she’d been emptied of all of whatever it was that made a person. She looked drowned. There were sheets of plastic all over the floor. Her hair was wet and it had been combed straight back from her face. Her forehead looked whiter than anything white could ever be. It looked a lot more pronounced, too, than I remember it. Her face was covered in something thick and greasy and opaque that looked like petroleum jelly. A couple of the men standing around her looked up when the door opened and then bent back to their task. I saw one of them spurt, then another. A couple off in the corner were standing close together, smoking. No one reacted otherwise to my appearance on the scene. Margot didn't react. She was beyond reaction. I wasn’t but I didn't react either. Not reacting seemed like the thing to do, seemed to be what everyone was doing, so I did it, too. The men who brought me didn't react either. It was like Margot wasn't the only one dead in that room. We were all dead. Her legs were spread like they would remain spread forever. Like she was inviting us all to fuck her, like she was inviting the entire universe to get between her legs and fuck the life out of her and the universe had obliged, like it had already exploded inside her. It was like I had to scream but my scream was somewhere else in the world, hundreds of miles away in another state, sitting in an Olive Garden, maybe, dropping the fork with which it had been eating spaghetti, picking it up, wiping it with a napkin, and continuing to eat, no one even noticing.

In the next room he explained everything calmly and reasonably. I was so cold I was trembling all over. It was hard to hear a word he was saying. A chainsaw had started up. I watched his lips move but there was nothing coming out of them that I could hear. It was like he was talking chainsaw, like chainsaw was a language. I couldn't stop shaking. I would never stop shaking. I would shake apart. The chainsaw whined on and on and on, changing tunes when it struck what....bone, I guess, different bones, a tune for each bone. "It's important," he kept repeating, those were the only words I understood. "It's important." What's important? What’s important anymore, I wanted to ask, nothing was important. Nothing had ever been important. That was the cosmic joke that the universe had to teach us. I wanted to run but I wouldn't get far. Where would I go? I couldn’t even get out of this room. I couldn’t even get away from the hand holding my arm. I couldn’t even stop shaking.  I finally figured out what was supposedly so important. It was important that I understood that there was nothing to understand. That I stopped trying to understand. That it was a waste of time and effort. That it was trying to understand that was making me shake. That I was shaking with cosmic laughter.

I didn't like it back there, my face between his big flabby asscheeks, they were like huge sweaty smelly rancid hams. I stuck my tongue out tentatively, like I was afraid it would get bitten off. I was scared to taste anything. He pushed his ass back against my face. He was getting impatient. "Come on baby, don't be shy. I know you’re no Catholic schoolgirl, you fucking tranny slut. Stick that dirty tongue in there. Go ahead. Stick it all the way in there." I poked around tentatively. He reached back and his big hand covered the back of my head. He grabbed my head like it was a grapefruit. He jammed my face forward and ground his ass around like he was trying to rub the features off my face. "All right, all right," I was begging him but no sound came out that didn't sound like "mmmm....mmmmm." I thought there was a good chance I'd suffocate back there. I couldn't pull away. I’d be smothered to death by someone’s ass. What a fucking joke that would be! I decided the quickest way to end it was to give him what he wanted.  I came up with a plan. To get my tongue moving the way he wanted, I started confessing all the terrible things I'd done, all the terrible things I still wanted to do. I confessed them all, my tongue thrashing around inaudibly inside his asshole. It all became reduced to a kind of glossolalia. Speaking in tongues like I was possessed. He grunted, satisfied, and not long after he came. When it was finally over I couldn't wash my mouth out enough.

Nihilism was good for me. Nihilism saved my life. When I realized that nothing mattered, it unhinged my actions from results. It relaxed me. I stopped worrying. The future didn’t scare me so much anymore. It no longer mattered if things worked out or how they worked out. If they all turned to shit...so what, everything was destined to turn to shit. We were all going to grow old, get sick, die. Me, you, everyone without exception. You could do things or not do things it made no difference in the long run. It gave me a feeling of lightness, like I had wings, like I could rise up above it all. Down below me everyone looked like a lot of ants scurrying around industriously, self importantly, climbing over mounds in the sand hauling their crumb on their back, unaware that they were living under the shadow of a big boot that was about to descend, nonchalantly, and crush their projects back into dust. Nothing mattered. If I lived, if I died...that didn't matter either. If it was easier to live at the moment. So I lived. So long as I found myself alive then why go to any extraordinary efforts to kill myself? If it was easier to die, why, then I guess I'd just let it happen. I wouldn’t put up too much of a struggle if any at all. In the meantime, I'd just do whatever--or nothing. I'd have fun, I guess, why not? Whatever it meant to have fun. I wouldn't care too much about anything except what was happening in my immediate vicinity. Just kind of get along with the least resistance. Go with the wind, like a leaf or a bit of litter. Cockroaches get along that way and they do just fine. They're some of the most resilient creatures on the planet. Rats, too. Everyone is always saying how smart rats and cockroaches are but no one wants to be one. But I did. I was very happy being a rat. Being a cockroach. People hated you and they were always trying to kill you but they were afraid of you all the same. They flinched at the sight of you. They left you alone if you had the good sense to stay out of their sight during the daytime. Kept to the darkness. Lived in the walls. That’s all they asked. It’s not too much. It’s a fair enough deal, the best you’re gonna get. They pretended you weren't there even if you were living in their own house. They pretended not to see you even when they caught a flash of you scuttling from shadow to shadow. It made them feel better to pretend not to see you. It was better for you, too. Better for everyone. It is a way to co-exist.

I'm writing this on index cards. I buy them in supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores when we stop along the way, a hundred to a pack. I cover them front and back and keep them together with an elastic band. Sometimes I shove a card into the glove box or deep into my bag or under the seats of rented cars, busses, the occasional train. I've probably lost half as many as I've saved. I’ve left them behind at rest stops, in motel rooms, fast food joints...sometimes by mistake, sometimes on purpose. Sometimes I buzz down the car window and let an index card covered with part of my story fly off into the night at 75 mph. I hold my arm out the window and the wind rips it from my fingertips when I relax my grip just a little bit. I imagine it flying like a playing card into the past behind me, a seven of clubs or a queen of diamonds, whatever, just a random card. I imagine it run over by the other cars who'll follow us on destinations of their own, being blown into a ditch, rained on until its nearly illegible. I imagine a homeless hitchhiker picking it up out of curiosity. I imagine what I've written being read by armadillos. That’s my true and only audience. God bless them.

I didn't scream. I didn't cry. I didn't do anything. I forget how I left that room. I might have been carried out for all I know. I guess I must have walked. But I’m just guessing. I’m not sure how I get from place to place. It’s like all the transitional scenes have been cut away. I know how a zombie must feel--like nothing. Like a walking nothing that figures it must have been walking only because it has no idea how else it could’ve gotten from there to here. I heard the chainsaw start up. It sounded very far away now. It sounded so far away it sounded like a mosquito. I didn't recognize the body on the table and at the same time I did. We were in the woods, it was damp. The leaves under my feet were wet. My feet were bare, for some reason. Had they roused me out of bed. Who’s they? Everything smelled of rot. I was put into the back seat of a van. Someone sitting beside me said, "You see now what can happen." I had already left my body. This had happened several times before in my life so it didn’t scare me. It was a trick I learned with Daddy. I didn’t even know how I did it. It was magic to me, too. I left my body and only returned later on, when I thought the coast was clear, when I figured my body was safe. Sometimes I left for years, sometimes only for a couple of minutes. When I got back, I could remember stuff, but only sketchily. It was like the act of leaving my body erased a lot of things I didn’t want to remember and a lot of others I just wasn't there to see. But I remembered one of the men who were standing around the splayed body on the table. He was laughing with one of the other men who had his fist buried up to the middle of his forearm in one of the dark holes gaping in the blanched white flesh of that body. He was lighting a cigarette and looking at me. He didn't care if I recognized him or not, I realize now. That’s why he was laughing. It didn't matter if I saw him and now we both knew it was him. It was always hime. There it was out in the open. It was Detective Barkin.

I'm a disturbed and damaged person so disturbed and so damaged that most people decide it isn't worth the trouble to try to tease out whatever benefit there might be in knowing me. And I have to agree. They're right. So little can come of knowing me that they're better off leaving me alone altogether. And for the most part, that's just what they do. I’m a danger to myself and others. I draw out the worst in a person, the concealed knife, I draw it out of even otherwise good people because the worst exists in everyone. I draw out the secret part of them that wants to hurt another person, that wants to choke the life out of someone (me), slowly, while my involuntarily constricting sphincter massages the cock they've thrust inside me. All the things they’ve tried to deny about themselves I affirm. I convince them it’s okay between the two of us, that no one else has to know. I do this because sex doesn't seem real, love doesn't seem real, nothing seems real to me unless a person feels passionate enough about you to murder you. I don’t know how else to relate to people. I don’t feel any connection to them any other way. To have a relationship with me, they must want to murder me as proof that they recognize my individuality, my specialness, that they recognize me as real, but they must stop short every time at the penultimate moment, every time but once, that last time, and that is what I call marriage, a marriage of souls, they must stop every time short of actual murder if only to keep me alive in order to near-murder me again and again and again. That’s love, or as close as I can get to experiencing love. To keep the promise of murder open like the end of a journey you never really want to end because you know the destination will be a let down. Life as edging towards an orgasm that is nothing short of the apotheosis that only death can effect but that, crossing the threshold, drops you into the abyss where you can feel nothing at all. Is there orgasm on the other side? We’re all too scared to find out. People sense this madness about me and stay away, most of them, but there are inevitably others who are drawn to me for precisely this quality. They are the few. They are the elect. They are to me archangels disguised as mere human beings. They will never show themselves to the world, only in the darkened afternoon motel rooms where we do what it is we do. It's what they've always been looking for in life...in a partner...in a sexual encounter even without knowing it. These are the ones I'm looking for every minute, every moment of my life. These are the ones I've been put on earth to touch, to teach, to release—and, in turn, they touch, teach and release me.

Do you want to see me strip, strip for Daddy? Do you want to see my titties, Daddy? Do you like me like this, all dolled up and painted pretty for Daddy, your little sex doll, Daddy, do you like my little titties, aren’t they cute, little pink frosted cupcakes, would you like to suck on them, they're so sensitive, so sweet, oh Daddy, oh...oh...oh...would you like to put your big rough hairy Daddy hands on my soft smooth sissy ass Daddy, so round and plump, would you like me to shimmy out of these skimpy panties, work them down my long smooth legs, would you like me to bend over for you Daddy, put my hands on my knees and let you spread my cheeks wide open, so wide so you can see my little dusky rosebud where it’s waiting just specially for you Daddy, it's so tight and so hot, Daddy, it needs to be fucked Daddy, fucked so hard, will you fuck me hard Daddy, fuck me like only Daddy can fuck me, fuck me like a dirty cock whore will you open me up, Daddy...I just love dressing like a slut for you Daddy, dressing like the dirty little cumslut I am, I just love making Daddy's cock hard, wearing fuck-me-Daddy high heels and frilly thong panties and fishnet stockings and strutting back and forth in front of Daddy, running my hands over my plump faggot bottom and my girly little titties, offering up all my slutty tight wet holes to you, I'm so so so fucking wet Daddy, so wet for you, I'm so hot and wet and ready for you Daddy, for your big fat hard Daddy dick, would you fuck me Daddy, please please pretty please, will you fuck your stupid slutty little dickgirl, Daddy, fuck her with a cherry on top, fuck her silly little dickgirl brains out, split her wide open, fill her with you hot Daddy man cum, will you Daddy, will you fuck me, pretty pretty pretty please.....?

He's lying face down on the table, a big guy, a big back covered with black silver-threaded hairs, I think of an ape, a silverback alpha ape. He's got a towel draped over his ass. His face hidden in his thick folded arms. We're in what they call the temple. Hidden cameras are recording everything that happens in here. Do they know that? It seems hard to believe they do, but it seems equally hard to believe that they don't, that they don't at least suspect it. They’re not babes in the woods these guys. They’re men of power and prestige. They have their own secret cameras. They understand leverage and how to get it over others and they never allow an opportunity to gain that leverage pass them by. I place my hands on the pelt of fur covering his shoulders, I watch how the hairs sprout up between my fingers as I massage the lax muscles there. He must be fifty, fifty-five, hardly the oldest guy who comes, that's for sure. He moans in satisfaction, tells me that what I’m doing feels wonderful as I work my hands lower, and lower still. The lower I go the more wonderful he feels. He reaches back and whips the towel off his backside. "We don't need this anymore," he says, "as if we ever did. No need for false modesty" and he chuckles and ahhhhs, "that's it" as I work my fingers into his hairy monkey ass, "Don't be shy," he says, “get in there, work that ass, lots of tension in there," and I do as he says, of course, hoping it doesn't seem that I'm shortchanging him there, that I'm rushing to get to the backs of his heavy slack thighs, the flesh deeply tanned under the hair, the knotted muscles of the calves, the large rough-soled feet. Inevitably he rolls over so I can "do his front" which, of course, is sporting an erection like a crane three-quarters risen from the dense shrubbery of his pubic hair. "Some tension here too," he says, laughing again, his quip scarcely a variation on what they all more or less say and he leans back expecting what I'm surely going to do, my hand slick with coconut oil, the cameras silently taking it all in above us like God, indifferent, no matter what happens down here, even if he killed me, which is not beyond the scope of possibility, even if he beat me to death with his fists and feet, the camera would simply observe it all impassively, soundlessly, watching watching watching, there would be no interference, no punishment, it would simply be recorded and saved in the event there was a Day of Judgment. And I realize now that this is what they all bank on, all the men and women who come to this island, who worship in this temple, even if they do suspect they're being recorded. It doesn't stop them, in fact, it's likely that it spurs them on, inebriates them to know that God is watching and will do nothing. They're all gambling on the fact that there will never be a Day of Judgment because there hasn’t been one yet for those in their position. They are like gods themselves, perhaps the only form of god that exists and has ever existed. They are where the idea of “gods” came from in the first place. They’ll take that bet. And if I were them I'd take that bet, too. They have every reason to believe it's the smart money. The odds are always with them. They are the only ones who can bring about Judgment Day. Judgment is theirs and theirs alone and they will defer it for eternity.

I don't care about society. I never did. Well, maybe that's wrong. How do I know for sure what I ever did? Maybe there was a time I cared for it a wee little bit. But society never cared about me. It never protected me. It never took me into its embrace. It never shoved over even a little and made room for me at the table. It rejected me outright. It closed ranks against me. And when it came the time it decided to ask me for something I was already through with it. Fuck off. I'd already turned my back on it. I laughed at it, to imagine society thinking I owed it something. It took it for granted I owed it something, what I can’t say…loyalty, gratitude…ha! For what?  It took me for granted, that’s what it did. It was like an abusive spouse. It never stopped to think of reciprocity. It never thought I’d walk out the door and keep walking, that I didn’t need its bullshit, that I could make it on my own. Now it can go to hell. From what I can see of it, it has gone deep into hell already and I don't give a damn. I'm like Sherman marching through Georgia except I'm not marching through Georgia or Atlanta or Virginia or San Francisco or El Paso or no-place in particular. I'm just marching through everywhere. You see, I'm just marching. I'm not leaving someplace to go to another place I'm just moving. I guess you could call it not so much a life as a crime spree. And behind me I'm leaving a trail of destruction and I'm not leaving it behind so something new can grow on it either. I don't want anything else to grow on it after I pass, it doesn't concern me at all whether anything else grows there ever again except that I’d rather it didn't if anyone were to ask me but no one as usual is asking me. So what was the point of any of this, you ask, well, nothing, I’d answer, nothing as far as I can see. Nothing. I get no more tired of nothing than I do of breathing because as far as I can see nothing and breathing are the same and nothing is all there is. Life is nothing and death is nothing. Nothing is and nothing ain’t. I can’t tell a difference.

His cock is still in my mouth when Trevor comes banging through the door leveling a shotgun at the guy who's now feeling like a fox with his paw in the trap. He looks up at Trevor and asks the stupidest question of all, "What the hell do you want?" but it's pretty much the same question they all ask so like it’s no surprise anymore. "What do you fucking think I want, you fuck-faced moron?" Trevor replies, which is basically always the same reply. The dialogue in these situations is classic, like an ancient Greek play, like I'm starring in Aeschylus. Trevor finds the guys disembodied pants, the jacket hanging like a dead man from the hook, and goes through all the pockets. He finds whatever there is to find of any conceivable value and transfers it into his own pockets while the guy goes from "goddammit, you can't do this" to "look, let's talk about this" to a smoldering mute anger while I slide adroitly away from the bed and Trevor recites by rote like a bored lawyer the standard boilerplate warnings about what'll happen if the guy does this, that, or the other thing, if he has anything to say about any of this to anyone, in particular the authorities, which we all know is just a formality, they never say anything, what are they going to say, anyway, a married man with his cock down the throat of a tranny whore in a motel room off the highway? "I was robbed and I want justice done?” Is that going to cut it in his world, do you think? Is anyone gonna have any sympathy for that? Aren’t they gonna conclude justice was done, you dumbass? We were always banking on the answer being "yes" to that  last question and it seems for the most part we were right. Our bank account was growing by leaps and bounds.

Aaron wraps his big burly arms around my waist, lifts me up, and kicks the contractor bucket out from under my high-heeled feet. Then he lowers me down carefully so I don't outright snap my neck. One day, Mr. Sunshine points out amiably, I might not be so lucky. He's lounging across from me now, Mr. Sunshine, that is, on a teak wood deck chair and today it's Mina who's stroking him off, her hand moving rhythmically up and down, up and down his oiled shaft while I do my little tap dance on the poolside concrete, strangling in slow motion. Mr. Sunshine likes to see how well us girls are getting on together and this is one of the little tests that amuses him because if Mina is too slow to bring him off, well, I run out of strength and air and time and then I hang lifeless from the rafters of the gazebo. She can't do it too fast, though, that would be cheating, Mr. Sunshine wouldn't care for that at all, oh no, Mr. Sunshine is all about fair play and playing the game the right way, he lectures on this subject often and at length, so she has to time it just exactly right, as right as humanly possible, to edge him as close to orgasm as I'm edging to death. Mistakes are made sometimes. There's a little cemetery in an obscure corner of the property to put the mistakes in, unmarked, of course. We’re taken there on occasion as a reminder of what can happen, of the stakes involved. It’s a bitter barren place, that field. No one likes to go there, no one likes to be reminded constantly of their errors. I try to remember how it's been between Mina and I lately as the fireflies spark against the blood-colored midnight behind my fluttering eyelids. Blood-drums thunder in my ears, beating out every thought in my head. The natives of the darklands are restless. My tip toe steps are faltering. Well, if this is it I guess it's not too bad, if this is as bad as it gets it’s better than I thought it might be. Death is just a kind of overwhelming passing out. Sometime around then I feel Aaron wrap his big burly arms around my waist again, lift me up, and set me back on the contractor bucket, holding me steady until I catch my breath, until I get my boneless legs beneath me. My face is a mask of hot snot and sweat and spit and tears. Through the eye holes of that mask, blurred and unfocused, I see Mr. Sunshine smiling, hands clasped behind his head, Mina bent over his stomach licking up the spillage. I feel Aaron's erection pressing against my bikini bottoms. I'll have the ligature marks around my neck for a week at least.

I stand in front of a Mr. Sunshine wearing a white babydoll nightie and clutching a pink plush teddy bear. There's a cheap toy tiara set in my hair. My lips are waxy red with too much lipstick just the way he likes them. In a little girly voice I sing "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine." He leans back in his chair, smiling broadly, and I wonder if those teeth in his mouth are real or not. I wonder if the short thick thatch of graying curls he tellingly doesn’t run his hands through ever, not once, not in my presence, anyway, nor let me or anyone else touch is real.  I wonder if his erection is real. I wonder if any of him is real, and if so, how much and what. "You make me happy," I sing, cringing at the absurdly exaggerated girliness of my voice, but this is the way Mr. Sunshine likes it, wants it, demands it, outlandish and over-the-top, and what Mr. Sunshine wants is all that counts. "When skies are gray," I continue. He's wearing a fancy bathrobe with that crest of his own design, something vaguely heraldic, and nothing else underneath and he's jerking himself off with the special glove he wears for these occasions, yanking at himself slowly and then faster and then slowly again. "You'll never know dear how much I love you," I lispingly croon, swaying side to side, my thumb on my bottom lip, my knees knocked together, and I see from the mounting evidence in his crotch that I'd better speed up the delivery of the last line, the head of his cock is already slippery-slick, the pre-cum already running down the shaft like syrup and it’ll be any moment  and hell to pay if I miss my cue "so please don't take my sunshine away." He cums. I curtsy.  And exit stage left.

There were once a lot more penises in this story and I was tired of the taste of mouthwash and I had calmed down a lot by then. He said something about it being the boat Rimbaud dreamed up in that famous poem of his, something about technology being able to manifest it now and we were in it and so forth and so on and I called bullshit, but silently, in my own head where I was quietly quite sea-sick. What if rats walked on legs three-feet high, he asked, and showed me their shadows on the wall, marching one after another, their tails sticking straight up in the air—and I took it for what it was: a warning.

He said his favorite author was Thomas Python and went on to describe a novel with a lot of box cars. I said nothing, just kept stuffing my mouth with cream puffs. I was wearing the world's shortest nightie. It was pink on account of the failure of the strongest detergents yet manufactured to wash all the blood out of it. It was April again and you could sense the worms in the soil everywhere like the world was a busy grave. We've all known a kid or two who cuts worms in half to make even more worms. Well, he was one of those kids.

The idea was to go but to go where? "Let's stop at all the towns that start with the letter ‘s,’" he said, touching me on the forehead with a stick of beef jerky. “You can beat a man to death with one of these and eat the murder weapon.” This was in one of those states with a lot of corn growing in them, take your pick. He was feeding me dry cat food at the time, just to see what would happen. I felt like I was wearing a mask that said "Lawnmower for Sale" in shaky handwritten letters inscribed with a black Sharpie, a mask made from the kind of paper sign you see tacked to community bulletin boards in the Safeway with the little tabs cut at the bottom and a phone number people can tear off. Only two tabs had been torn off so far and I was still waiting for someone to show some interest.

There were the three of us girls and the handgun on the table. It was one of those ones with the barrel so you could put a certain number of bullets in, six at the most, but only one was in it this time. There were three of us girls playing and, of course, Mr. Sunshine was there, too, but as a spectator. We each of us had to pick up the gun, walk over and kneel down in front of Mr. Sunshine, put the barrel into our mouth like we were going to give it a blowjob, and, looking up at Mr. Sunshine, pull the trigger. Oh, I forgot, before we pulled the trigger we had to say "Thank you Mr. Sunshine," which, with the gun barrel in our mouths, came out all fucked up and garbled. Well, no matter, that's how the game went. Those were the rules and they were very specific. So, you can see, the stakes were high. No one, whenever I played, took the gun out of their mouth, pointed it at Mr. Sunshine, and pulled the trigger or even threatened to pull the trigger. I don't know if anyone ever thought of it. I did, for a few mad seconds, I thought of it each time I played, how could you not, but I never did it. The odds were that the gun wouldn't fire and then you'd be fucked for sure. I guess that's what gave me the courage, if you could call it that, to keep the gun in my mouth, to say "Thank you Mr. Sunshine," and to pull the trigger. Because the odds were just as poor that I'd blow the back of my own skull out as shoot a bullet into Mr. Sunshine's face. I figured Mr. Sunshine was too lucky to catch a bullet and so I'd take that empty chamber instead. Maybe the other girls calculated the same way. We were all a bunch of fucking statisticians there, kneeling on the floor, mumbling "Thank you Mr. Sunshine" with the taste of metal on our tongues. Actually, I guess you could as easily say we were all just a bunch of cowards.

That would have been a good place to end. To stop writing. Boom. Just like that. End of story. It could've been interpreted that one day I knelt there with the gun in my mouth and miscalculated. That my luck had finally run out. That this time I pulled the trigger and--ker-blooey!--there went all my brains, my personality, my memories, my experiences, my perceptions, my sins and kinks and dreams all flying out the back of my head and splat all over the wall, the floor, the furniture, the screaming blood-spattered girls behind me. My lifeless body flung back on the floor at Mr. Sunshine's feet like an Aztec sacrifice. That would've been an abrupt and fitting end to this whole sordid tale, I guess. Too bad it didn't happen that way, if only for the literary effect. It happened to another girl instead. She was the unlucky one. Maybe she was writing a story, too. Maybe that's the way hers ends. Mine, however, continues. For the time being anyway it continues. If it breaks off suddenly later on…well, who knows. Maybe I got unlucky eventually. Maybe the wheel of fortune turned against me. Maybe my turn came—it comes for everyone. You can’t beat the odds forever. Only Mr. Sunshine can do that. Oh, wait…no he can’t either. One of these days you get the bullet in the chamber. No matter how lucky you are. BLAM! It’s your brains those left behind must clean off the walls with a bucket of bleach, a wire brush, and some rags. It’s your skull fragments they must pluck from the carpet with tweezers. All the little bone fragments. On their hands and knees scrubbing up your blood and muck. The stench of bleach burning in their nostrils, the lunch roiling around in their stomachs as they try to hold it down. The rubber gloves. The clothes that must be burned. That’s life, that’s living. The lucky bastards. 

He held my head down in the toilet after he finished using it. He'd done just about everything you can possibly do in a toilet, too, the son-of-a-bitch. Pissed in it, shit in it, etc. There were cigarette butts floating around in there. Wads of stained toilet paper. I held my breath and closed my eyes and tried not to think as the water thundered all around me. I don't know what I did wrong this time. I was sound asleep. I was dreaming when he dragged me out of bed.  Dead to the world. Dead. Was I being punished for something I dreamt, something I couldn't help doing, something I didn’t remember I did, was I being punished for living, for what, would somebody tell me already? He doesn't say or I can't hear him over the rushing water, over his incoherent yelling, over my choking on the filth. He dragged me out of bed and into the bathroom by the hair, dragged me across the floor by the hair. There was blood all over the place. Who's? His? Mine? What had he done to himself? To me? Or to someone else—was there someone from last night? It was hard to recall. I was slipping and sliding all over the place, slipping like it was an ice skating rink under the bright bathroom lights. I was slipping in the blood and whatever else as I tried and failed to stand. My feet pedaling around uselessly beneath me like I was in a cartoon.  I tried not to let anything get in my mouth. That was the important thing, I kept telling myself. I kept my lips pressed tight together, my teeth clenched, but my mouth kept opening anyway, betraying me, trying to get more air any way possible, filth sloshing into my mouth and me spitting it out again. I couldn't even get my knees under me. I couldn't lift my head up long enough. His grip was too strong. I was going to be drowned to death in a filthy toilet. Can you imagine? What a way to go! I'm just trying to understand this rage seething inside of me. I've never been able to understand what I did so wrong. I don't know why I'm like this. I’m so angry, it’s like a nuclear apocalypse inside me ready to be visited upon the earth. Why? I don't think I'll ever know.

I don't know why we killed that girl in Utah or Tucson or wherever the hell it was. She was in the trunk a really long time. Maybe it was me in the trunk. Maybe it was me we killed. What were we thinking?  I knelt at the foot of a cactus, one of those big ones, a saguaro, I guess they call it. I saw Christ impaled on the spines, impaled all over, and his head was crowned with stars. "There are snakes out here," he said, "let's go." I was crying, if I recall correctly. I was hysterical. He had to wrap me up in a blanket and rush me back to the car. I was seeing angels and archangels. I know this because he said, "Don't get hysterical on me now. Don't make me sorry." I didn't want to make him sorry. I was sorry enough for both of us, sorry enough for everyone in the whole stupid world. He walked off a little way and started howling like a coyote and falling onto the desert floor and puking and looking up with eyes closed, blinded, waiting for an answer. Nothing answered. What the hell did he think was going to answer? What did he think he was doing? Calling on his spirit animal? His great ancestors? He had no great ancestors, his spirit animal was road kill. He was into that whole trickster god, thing. "I read a book on it once," he said, wiping the blood off his knife on the bottom of his boot.  “Coyote and shit. It was good stuff like…like really fucking wild, girl.”

I hope how little I care comes through in every line I write. I hope you can sense these paragraphs are a door opening into nowhere. The pain goes too deep. There is no healing to be done here. There will be no resolution. Forget about a happy ending, except the kind where a guy unloads into my mouth. There's a Grand Canyon inside me. When I saw the Canyon for the fist time I understood. I stood at the edge of it and I wept. I had no desire to throw myself into it like other people say they do but never do the fucking cowards. I backed away from the edge. And I wept. My knees buckled and I knelt and I wept.  I understood all at once. There isn't enough earth to throw into it. You can see that immediately. You can throw the whole earth in, the entire fucking planet, and it wouldn't be enough to fill the gaping emptiness. The earth itself is mortally wounded. Too much has been taken out of it for it to ever be whole again. There isn't enough concrete. It's worst than Chernobyl even. But the most fucked up thing of all is that it's beautiful to look at. Those terrible scars. They’re breathtaking. They make postcards out of them. People send them to each other in the mail. They scrawl on the back how wonderful the view is. “It’s like standing at the edge of another world!” they write. They say how they'll never forget it. Not that it really makes a dent in them, not so much as a scratch, the dullards. The apes. That's what I'm writing, too. How beautiful it is, how it’s like standing on the edge of another world, how I’ll never be the same. I'm writing on the backs of post cards and I'm telling you how beautiful it is. I’m telling you, It's awesome! I’m telling you how I’m standing on another planet. I'll never forget it. I can’t even put it into words how awesome it is. It’s horrible what I’ve seen and what I’m telling you. That’s what makes it so beautiful. You'll think I’m crazy. Maybe I am crazy. What you read on my post cards is not a description of the Grand Canyon it's the remains of a crematoria. It's the ruins of a death camp. It’s a mass grave of the exterminated. It's Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka all rolled into one. What you read is ugly beyond words, beyond the words I can find to describe it. Who would ever send a post card of this to anyone? Who would write on these cards the messages that I write? What redeemable human being? No words can fill the divide between us. I can’t even see you on the other side. No words can whitewash it over. I’m dropping words into the abyss like eggs, like dead seeds. I'm throwing them in by shovelful. I'm hemorrhaging words. It'll never ever be enough. There is no bridging the gap between you and me. Thank god, you think, even if you don’t believe in god. You’ll never have to see me again. Believe me, I feel the exact same way about you. I’m never coming home. There is no home, there never was one. That canyon is a grave into which I’ve thrown all of you, each and every last one of you. I see its purpose now. It was put there to bury the past. To divide us forever, like death. It’s the only thing big enough. It’s a geological marvel, just like all the signs say it is. For once, the signs are right. It’s not hyperbole or false advertising. For once, they’re telling the absolute goddamn truth. Having a great time without you. Thank god you’re not here.

The people I've seen doing the things I've seen them do--what I could tell you would get me planted face down in the dirt, encased in a cement stanchion on the freeway, chopped up and made into dog meat. Why bother? What difference would it make? No one wants to hear that their house is full of termites when there's not a chance in hell of getting rid of them. You know the world is rotted to the core. You'd prefer not to see it. Ex-presidents, senators, princes, superstar athletes, marquee name performers--everything you imagine people might do if they had the means to fulfill their every perverse fantasy these people do--and more. Because sheep like you can't begin to fathom the imagination of a wolf. That's who runs this world--the wolves and why shouldn't they? They're the ones with the sharpest teeth, the biggest appetites. They live like Caligulas. What makes you think all the bad guys live "over there" somewhere? What makes you think that just because people happen to be born on this patch of dirt on this part of the globe they're going to be any better than the people who run Russia, China, Iran--or whoever are the "bad guys" of the week? There are bad guys everywhere, the predators are equally distributed across the globe, and they've drained their balls in my mouth, shot their bolts up my ass. I've licked the secret places of their flesh and let me tell you it tastes just like yours. Even if I told you everything I know, nothing would change. You would not rise up and demand justice. Demand it of whom?  Demand it how? The judge who likes to lie between two ten year old girls? The congressman who can't get off unless his cock is being squeezed by the sphincter of a boy he's strangling? Do you think they're going to change a goddamn thing about this world when they're sitting on top of it? When they have all the power? And you--brainwashed to imbecility and catalepsia--what are you going to do about it? Take to the streets? Burn down the courthouses, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument? You won't even raise a peep in protest when they tell you to remove your belt and shoes at the airport to visit granny in Miami. You'll rustle your feathers a bit and grouse but accept it in the end when they shove their hands down your pants, wave their electric wands over your private parts, x-ray your body. You'll do nothing like you've always done nothing. You'll wait like you've always waited, getting by day to day. The only thing that will save you from the present state of affairs is if and when other wolves take over. But you’ll be the same old sheep, taking it in the end until the end comes to take you. Nah--forget it. I'm not naming names. The names don't make a bit of difference. They're interchangeable with other names. One day Mr. Sunshine will be dead and another Mr. Sunshine will take his place in the sky and life will go on just as it always has, just as it always will, until the entire fucking universe, so overextended and out of energy, collapses under the strain,do to it's own lack of integrity. I dream of that day while yet another heavy sweaty hairy beast is hammering it into me. I dream of everything, cities, nations, populations, the entire cosmos, the whole Big Bang retracting into a single almost invisible black dot at the end of a sentence. Like the black dot at the end of this sentence-->  .

Maybe I did it. Maybe Wallace did it. Maybe Daddy did it. Some Daddy, any Daddy, take your pick of Daddies. Maybe I was in a motel room or a bathroom back at home. Maybe I stabbed myself between the legs. Maybe I wanted to kill it. So what? Maybe I waned to rip it up like the ugliest, deepest rooted crabgrass in the world, rooted to the core of me. Like a tumor, a parasite, a thing that was killing me. Can you blame me? And if you do, fuck you!  I wanted it off my body. My body! Which was never really mine. They taught me that from the time I was a baby. I didn’t have a body. I hated the one I was confined to. That thing represented  all the injustice of my condition. It was like a parasite sucking the life out of me. I hadn't chosen it. I hadn't chosen anything. Not that thing, not my body, not even my own name. One day I realized I was alive and I was horrified at what that meant. From the start, all I wanted was not to exist. I felt like I was on a train going a million miles an hour towards a cliff where me and everyone else on the train would plunge to our deaths. I wanted off, but I was paralyzed in my seat. Everyone else was laughing, drinking, telling me to join the party. They were all having a good time. They didn’t seem to see what was happening. They didn’t seem to care. All I could do was sit there, white-faced, thinking about that plunge. I couldn't kill myself, I could only mutilate myself. I thought I'd bleed to death but I didn't. I must have a lot more blood in me than I thought, a lot more life, a lot more something. He gave me a t-shirt to stick between my legs. It turned red and wet almost immediately. He warned me not to wet the seat, goddammit, that’s what he was worried about the most. He pulled it over his head, his own t-shirt, and handed it to me. "Shove this between your legs," he said, angry and disgusted that I should be bleeding so much. He drove me to the emergency room. He was mad as hell. I was surprised as anything that he didn’t just let me bleed to death. Throw me out of the car and let me bleed out in the gutter. I didn’t care if he did. I wouldn’t have blamed him. I wouldn’t have asked why. I’d used a scissors, stabbing blindly, nothing had been severed, as it turns out. It was in the basement, on the washing machine where I was sitting, the smell of wet laundry hanging on a makeshift line. I wish I’d hung myself instead. We were heading to the emergency room, a wadded t-shirt between my legs, running all the streetlights. He looked mad as hell, white as a ghost and frightened. “What had I gone and done such a damn foolish thing like that for anyway?” I was confused. I had no answer. I couldn’t put my thoughts in order as I’ve done here, as disordered as this all sounds. For one thing, I wasn’t sure that he hadn’t done it himself. Had he? Maybe he had. Maybe it was an accident. He kept saying that’s what it was and that’s what I was going to tell them when we got to the emergency room. “Tell them it was an accident,” he kept repeating. “An accident. You understand?” “Yes, an accident.” My whole life is an emergency room. He kept saying ER. It stopped bleeding while we sat there waiting. He yanked me up by the arm and pulled me back to the car. We never even saw a doctor. We kept driving, driving through the night, driving like someone was after us, like someone from the ER was chasing us down in an ambulance and was going to pull us over and take me away by force, like they were going to heal me against my will. No one was following us. No one was going to heal me, against my will or otherwise. No one gave a damn. He gave me another t-shirt, one he had rolled up under the back seat. He gave me a chocolate glazed donut from an all-night Dunkin Donuts, here eat this, he said, it’ll make you feel better. He gave me hot way-too-sweet cup of coffee. I felt woozy, but it wasn’t a bad feeling. I wished I could feel like that forever. I wished I’d start bleeding again but it seemed to have stopped for good. We threw the first t-shirt into a dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant. It looked like the skin of someone who’d been skinned alive.

I'm a weak person, a fragile person. I've got a glass jaw. I’ve got weak knees, feet of clay. I run whenever the light is turned on in the kitchen. You hardly ever see me, that's by design, by cleverness. I've learned to stay out of sight. I’ve learned to live in the corners, in the floorboards. I'm like a cockroach, all I do is survive. It’s all I know how to do. I don't even know how I do it. It's some instinct, I guess, that drives me, bred deep in my DNA. I look in the mirror and see what I don't want to see and yet I can't lift my hand against it. I'm terrified all the time. Terrified of the end and terrified of the moment. My life is one long silent scream, like that picture by Edvard Munch of that blob-headed sexless creature on the bridge between here and nowhere with everything around it melting.

Mr. Sunshine is frowning. You're frowning. This isn't a very sexy story. You're not touching yourself as you read, you haven't cum, not even once, not even during the sex parts. This is damning criticism, the worst possible. I haven't touched you where it counts the most, where you want to be touched. I never do. In fact, this might be the unsexiest sex story ever told in the whole world. "What's this supposed to be, lit-er-aaaaa-ture?" Mr. Sunshine says, incredulously, his face twisted into mockery. He says the word literature in four very distinct syllables, as if it's four places on a supine body that he is stabbing. I don't know how to write. I never knew how to write. Why did anyone ever think I could write? What was Mr. Sunshine thinking? Did he set me up to fail on purpose? All I could ever do was make a little place for myself on a blank page where I'd be safe, where I could have my say, where I could be in control. That’s all I ever wanted. There was never any other purpose in writing beyond that, There didn't have to be. The world didn't justify what I wrote. It wasn't meant as a bridge, my writing, it was a wall. It was a minefield. It was meant to keep you out whoever you are, every single last one of you miserable bastards. 

I stood with my legs spread wide apart and she was smacking me between the legs with a metal yardstick. She was screaming at me the whole time. I was dirty. I was sick. I was just like my father. Where was my father, anyway? I hadn’t seen him in some time. Had he run off, already? He was seeing at least three or four women, according to my mom. How was I just like him? Frankly, I didn’t see any resemblance at all. She had caught me in the middle of it. I had found the magazines he hid under the pile of scrap wood he kept beneath his workbench in the basement. I didn't want to do anything to the women in the pictures. I kept my eyes averted from what was between their legs, it looked awful, like a Venus flytrap, like a crime had happened there. I kept my eyes averted and looked instead at their smooth bodies, their pretty faces, their long legs, their fancy shoes, their painted toenails. I didn’t even look at their tits, which looked like swollen bags of meat. I didn't want to touch them. The tits or the women. I realized this only much later when things became clearer, when I understood why boys looked at these pictures. It came as a shock to me. I wanted to be the pretty one, the desired, the object of all that rapt attention, well, who didn’t? Wasn’t it obvious? I didn’t even think it all out in these terms. I just identified instinctively with the women in the pictures. Didn’t everyone? Didn’t everyone want to be the one that was coveted, drooled over, that others wanted so desperately to possess? Didn’t everyone want to be entered, filled, the emptiness inside them obliterated? Isn’t that how it worked, how you had an orgasm? What other way was there?  Didn’t everyone want to be fucked, the hole plugged, to be whole at last? The metal ruler snapped upward, stinging, catching me solid, my knees buckled, my mother still screaming, her face red and bloated, like the exaggerated and  horrifying mask of an insane  person, a Tibetan demon, a Kali. I passed out on the floor and she stood over me, shaking me by the shoulders when I came to, screaming at me, her eyes goggling in terror. Her blanched face looked like it did when I was underwater, in the bathtub when she tried to drown me that time, or whatever it was she was trying to do to me, forcing my head under the surface. Baptizing me? Teaching me how to be a fish? I didn’t want to resurface this time. I knew what waited for me up there on the other side. It was like being born again to all that horror, making the same stupid mistake twice. It was pleasant underwater, pleasant in a place where you could see the world from behind an impenetrable film, so thin but a million miles away, the agitated faces screaming at you but not a sound coming through. Who needed to breathe anyway?

I woke up in the middle of a fair, passing in between the booths, walking on the dirt of a field in flip-flops and denim short-shorts. I was eating a zeppoli out of a greasy warm bag. Rather, I was licking the powered sugar off my fingers. I had a big pink bear under my left arm. You had won it, you told me, shooting the eye out of someone. I mean something....you said, heh-heh, my mistake. Them you laughed. Hahahahaha. The Ferris wheel was so high against the night sky it made me dizzy to crane my head back and see the whole thing. It looked like it's own constellation up there, turning slowly. Over the crazy music, you said, "How about we ride it and I kill you at the very top?" Your face was so handsome in the splashes of light coming from everywhere. You looked like John Dillinger or John Garfield proposing marriage on the last day of your life, before getting gunned  down by cowardly G-men. I was so happy. Of course I said "Yes!"

I was down by the water's edge, under the pier, where the water washed and sucked around the pilings, among all those clinging mollusks. The smell was almost intolerable, like a rag soaked in dead fish held over my nose and mouth. Suffocating. I knelt in a ring of straining cocks. The guys wielding them were stroking them to keep them ready while I sucked the others. "Don't bogart the bitch," one of them shouted drunkenly when he thought the one with his cock in my mouth was taking longer than necessary. "Shut the fuck up," the one with his cock in my mouth bantered back. “I’ll take as long as I need to take. Besides, it hasn’t been that long.” They were all laughing, high, and I figured there was a good chance that they wouldn't pay me anything when they were done with me. Hell, that's just how it goes sometimes.

He sits across from me with a clipboard on his lap. He's checking it for the next question from the three pages of questions he wants to ask me. He's younger than I expect. Balding prematurely. Wearing a suit that fits him uncomfortably. "Do you like my feet," I ask him. I slip them from my strappy platform shoes. I noticed him looking already, his eyes drifting down to the floor, to my feet, repeatedly. "Do you think my toes look pretty like this?" I hold my legs out, pointing my toes, spreading them. I’m disconcerting him. It’s a sudden inspiration, nothing planned. I arch my feet, the ten little nails painted red, ten little Indians that have his attention surrounded. I'm wearing black fishnet stockings. When he asks me questions I don’t answer right away. Instead I stare at my toes, turning my feet this way and that, examining them from all angles. He can’t help but look, following my gaze. I take a long time answering. The silences, the pauses, stretch longer and longer. I don't ever answer the way I planned, that never works out. Rehearsing these scenarios is just a waste of time. I never act in real life the way I do in rehearsals, the way I imagine in my head. By real life, I mean when the lights come up, the cameras are on, the tape is recording. So I ad-lib, ad-lib by necessity, ad-lip my ass off because I don’t have a choice. Because I’m a re-actor not an actor. When the guy with the clipboard sits opposite me, the pen in his hand. That’s real life…or what I mean by real life. So I always end up disappointed in myself when I study a script ahead of time. I never perform it correctly. Better not to rehearse, that’s what I’ve learned. It never goes the way you think it will, not the way I think it will, anyway. The questions are always different than the ones they provide you ahead of time. They do it on purpose, to throw you off guard, to catch you in a lie. The actor opposite you always responds differently to how you expect he will. Maybe he's got a different script than you were given. Or maybe he’s improvising, too, trying to save his own neck. Better to just wing it, improvise along with him, that’s what I’ve come to conclude, how I survive. This thing with my feet, like I said, it just came to me in the moment. A flash of inspiration. Intuition. I’ve known guys like him, plenty of them, me sitting opposite, my feet in their lap, jerking their cocks off between my soft pink soles or while wearing fishnets or pantyhose. Their cum shooting upward in ropes, frothing warm over my toes which they inevitably bring to their lips, licking my damp toes greedily, lovingly clean. It’s one of the easiest gigs there is. Pays well and they slink off apologetically, like cowering dogs, ashamed of themselves. I can see he wasn't expecting my tangent, whatever it says on his script, which I suppose is on the clipboard he's consulting, it isn’t this. I wasn’t expecting it either. That’s why it’s so effective. It’s best not to expect anything ever. That’s what I’ve learned. He looks confused, like he doesn't know what to say next, what question to ask. I’m confused, too. Confusion means  you should pay attention, means something authentic just might happen for a change. I feel good about my performance for once. I feel like for once I'm starring in this part of the film. I’m controlling the show for a little while. I’m stealing the scene. That’s all you can reasonably hope for. It can’t last long.

The light is blinding, like a sun lamp or a spotlight, like the sun itself. I put my hands over my eyes to see, but it's like looking into the glare of a nuclear after-flash. From out of all that light comes a voice. It says, "Hello. I'm Mr. Sunshine." I think, what the fuck now? I'm lying on the floor, naked. It's a concrete floor. I can determine nothing else. It’s cold. It’s damp. I remember only snatches of the night before, like bits and pieces of a song. But I'm not remembering anything now. The light, antiseptic and harsh, has wiped everything away. When the light is switched off, it so abruptly dark it almost hurts. When vision returns, everything is surrounded by a blue pall. The man standing above me is wearing a dark blue track suit. He has a head of close-cropped graying hair, a long face with a strong, shadowed chin. He's sporting a smirk and a thick gold bracelet on his left wrist. He says, "I own you now. I am your God, your Light. Without me, you'll wither and die in the darkness. Do you understand? Without me, your whole world dies." I tell him I understand. The not-so-odd thing, not-so-odd to me anyway, is that I do understand. I understand perfectly.  I’ve always known this to be true. I dare to look up a second time. I think he might be wearing a ski-mask.

I remember reading about ancient China. It was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten most of it but I do remember this one thing. It’s one of those seemingly insignificant things at the time that you always remember but don’t know why until years later when you realize the significance of it. It was about how China had been invaded countless times over the centuries and centuries of its existence. And yet whoever invaded China, conquered it, put it under it's boot heel, no matter how vicious and ruthless the invader, eventually they ended up getting absorbed into China so that they became as Chinese as the Chinese themselves, more Chinese even. I feel a lot like ancient China. My borders are weak and indefensible. I can't keep anyone out and the invaders run roughshod through me but at some point whoever it is runs out of momentum or they lose their way. They end up wandering around lost and bewildered inside me. I'm a lot bigger than I look from the outside. Once you get inside, the proportions are all off. They're disorienting. They don't seem possible. People have been lost inside me for decades, for their entire lives. Eventually, they lose their purpose, lose themselves, they don’t know what they’re doing there but it’s too late for them to leave. They become a part of me, a part of my story. I’ve digested them. Maybe I'm like Vietnam, like Afghanistan, too, with its guerilla armies, its nomads, its terrorists, its vast deserts, its hidden caves, and cities of labyrinthine streets spread out like the tentacles of an inoperable malignancy. No one can control all my territory. They think they can because I'm so easy to invade. But in the end, they can never corner me.  If they get out, they leave with PTSD. They hobble out missing limbs. No matter how many more they send in they are always fighting an invisible resistance. Yankee, go home. Watch your fucking step, amigo. I am full of IEDs.

I didn't know there was a body in the back. I swear. No one told me. No one tells me anything. It was thumping around back there, especially when we hit a bump, but it could have been anything, it crosses your mind, sure, but you don’t really consider it’s a body, do you? "I don't give a shit," Ellie said. She was the tall thin wild one that Dexter said reminded him of a weed growing in a vacant lot. We called him Dexter because he reminded us of that character in an old TV show that he was streaming in reruns, a story about a high-minded serial killer, that was his favorite show. He based his whole character on it, more or less. Well, the serial killing part, anyway. I can’t say I ever saw any evidence of the high-mindedness. Ellie said that if they invented a shit-detecting machine and they put the suction thingie inside her and turned it up to maximum-suck they couldn't suck one iota of shit out her, that's how little shit she had left to give anymore. She said she was going to tell the cops that and anyone else who'd listen if they ever asked her to account for her wicked anti-social ways. We thought it our civic duty to inform her that no one gives a shit about how little shit she gives and no one listens to anyone else these days anyway. She kept on like she didn't hear us, of course. Dexter and I looked at each other and shared a pregnant wink. This was passing Duluth, I believe, in early April. I saw some snow on the side of the road, I know that much for sure.

Dear RC
I'm sorry I haven't been in touch lately. I've been engaged in writing the story of my life. It's a pretty onerous task, uphill all the way, especially since I'm not writing it in flashback, but as it's happening, in real time, as they say, whatever that might be. What you hold in your hands is about three-and-a-half minutes of it from last Thursday. I've changed the heights of some of the characters to protect their identities, although why I should care if those bastards are recognized or not I have no idea. I guess I don't care that much, since they all have their real legal names and everyone in the story says and does exactly what they said and did in real life whenever they said and did it. Not to fear. I've represented you as accurately as language will allow, down to the atom, as Niels Bohr might have put it if he wrote fiction, which he bloody well might have for all the sense quantum theory makes and besides I felt I owed you that much as you have always treated me well. At least fairly well; let’s say better than you had to, in any event. Nevertheless, it's been my observation that we often have trouble recognizing ourselves in fiction—it’s a fun house mirror, at best (John Barth?).  So let me add that I've made you six-foot-two.

The cop ran his flashlight from one face to another. Like we were all getting our chance in the spotlight, getting our chance to take a bow, sing our solo, be a temporary star, whatever. It was all very egalitarian. We’d all get our participation trophy. "What you all doing in the front seat," he drawled. He was a typical fat-faced cop, nothing special, with mean piggy  little eyes, like he belonged in the mall, catching shop-lifters and teenagers pissing in the coin fountain. He ran the flashlight into the back of the car, splashing the back seat. "Why isn't anyone sitting back there?" It was hard to tell who he was asking; it was hard to figure out what to answer, if he was really expecting an answer. We were sitting three-abreast in the front seat, in spite of the gear-shifter thingie, which was sticking up like a fake cock. Ellie and I practically in each other's lap half the time. I had my hand across Ellie’s and in Dexter's lap, working his cock, which was slick and hard as the gear shifter thingie itself. I didn’t stop just because we were stopped, just because a cop was at the window, that would have been censorship and I don’t believe in that. That would have been self-censorship, the worst kind of censorship of all. "What the fuck is that about," the cop said, shining the light down on the action. "You put that away right now, wiseass,” he said to a grinning Dexter. “Let's have no bullshit now." I honestly believe he was reaching down for his holster at that point but I can't say for sure because that's when Dexter shot him in the face, the noise just about deafening all three of us for good. I could still hear the ringing for hours afterwards. I couldn’t testify to what I saw. I didn't see anything actually, couldn't even say for sure if Dexter hit the cop or not so I don't know why I even said "shot him in the face." He might’ve shot him in the chest, in the neck, or not shot him at all. He threw the car into gear and pull off the shoulder of the road in a lot of sputtering gravel and I knew we were done for right then and there. Cops never forgive a thing like that. I had my hands over my ears and I was scrunched down in the seat. Maybe I was crying. I couldn't hear anything because of the ringing in my ears. Dexter's cock was still out, I remember noticing. It was still hard, too, looking like it was in fifth gear. I don’t know whatever became of it. At some point Ellie was gone. I have no idea when she left or where she went. It was the last I ever saw of her. I swear that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

One day we woke up and the place was filled with strange men. Some of them were women. They wore black suits and earpods. They were talking to powers and principalities far beyond our comprehension. They were everywhere. Some of them were carrying boxes of papers, records, I guess. Tapes. CD drives, thumb drives, flash drives, MP3s. Boxes of god-knows-what.  They knew. They knew what they were looking for and where to find it. They’d come to “secure the area,” I heard one of them say. I didn’t know if I felt secure or not. I didn’t think so. They were strange gods. They'd come in black SUV's, a dozen of them at least. There was a helicopter, too. A black one, like some malignant dragonfly. It sat off alone, with two solemn-faced men guarding it. The others put the boxes they carried out of the main house into the SUVs. They brushed right by us as if we weren't there, as if we were ghosts. We weren't there; we were ghosts. You'd think they were cops if you didn't know better. We knew better. They didn't talk to us--until they did. I saw them lead Margo away. Then Gabrielle. After that, I never saw either Margo or Gabrielle ever again. They led me away but I came back. That was okay, the people disappearing. I was used to people disappearing, going off and never coming back. It was no big deal in my experience. One day you're here, the next day you're not. You turn a corner—poof!—you disappear. It's no mystery at all. It's the standard order of things. Mommy gets up and leaves with her titties and she never comes back. She vanishes into the walls. She walks into a closet to nowhere. You cry and you cry and you cry. It makes no difference. After a while, you're all cried out and you just lie there, staring at the ceiling. The only thing you feel is something you don’t want to feel. You eye the closet with terror, afraid of what might come out because you know it won’t be mommy. Mommy never comes out of the closet. She just goes in. What comes out is a monster instead. A Momster. So you close your eyes and pray. You call it praying but it’s something else. It’s a lot of fantasies of what can happen to you, terrible things, but somehow they’re transformed into something that’s still terrible, worse than anything that can really happen, but somehow you survive them. You survive them even though they kill you. This you know ahead of time, so you aren’t afraid of death, just the opposite. You can’t wait for it. You beg for it. Kill me kill me kill me. And they always oblige. They love to kill you. Murder is a kind of love, the best kind, an adoration. Then a big warm hand covers the place between your legs and you feel okay for a while. It knows just what to do. That feeling it gives you replaces Mommy and Daddy and everything else. Even life. You forget everything for a few seconds. All you want is heaven is that too much to ask? All you want is to die. It's the best few seconds of your whole life. They're over before you know it, those precious few seconds. Your life is over, too.

When we heard he'd been arrested no one believed it. You can’t arrest Mr. Sunshine. You can’t put handcuffs on him and lead him away. There is no cell that can hold him. We thought it was some kind of sham rumor going around, a practical joke passed among the girls bored in the Master's absence. Fake news. He'd been away from the encampment for some time. That wasn't unusual in itself and things tended to get a little shaggy in his absence. But his absence was longer this time, longer than any of us could recall it ever being before, and it made us nervous. It was like some pressure that held us all together was suddenly missing and terrible as that pressure was without it we were starting to fall apart, losing our coherence. We began to feel weightless, as if we would just float away into the clouds. Some of us considered it was Mr. Sunshine himself who started the rumor of his arrest, just to keep us on our toes, just to see what might develop. A kind of test, maybe. He liked to play games like that. Experiments, he called them. To see who he could trust and who he couldn’t. We were all, most of us, anyway, determined to pass the test. To be the most loyal, his special girl, to make the grade with flying colors. Or maybe it was one of his practical jokes. He tended toward that kind of thing. He liked to tinker with the culture, add a drop of this or that now and then, observe the chemical reaction that resulted. He could be a real scientist, Mr. Sunshine. That's what I thought, what a lot of us thought, was going on. That he was just playing with us, a god with his marionette theater. But the staff seemed uptight. The guards, especially. They were usually pretty easy-going, even jovial. But they were different now. It was hard to put your finger on just how, but they looked especially grim-faced. They looked like they were just going through the motions. They talked even less than usual among themselves and even less than that to us. You caught them exchanging whispered words together in corners. They clammed up when we passed. No one cracked a smile hardly ever. Or told a joke. Or flirted. Then the news started circulating that Mr. Sunshine had offed himself. Hung himself in a prison cell. It was inconceivable. Now we knew it was a joke. Mr. Sunshine dead—and by his own hand? No way. Now we knew it had to be a joke.  And a bad one at that. An outright blasphemy. Mr. Sunshine would never kill himself. Even if he'd been arrested, as they said he had, which seemed hardly credible, there was no way he would ever have killed himself. Not in a million years, not in the life of the sun itself, which Google says has another five billion years to burn before it swells up and destroys us all. He had too many lawyers, too many political connections, too many secret and protected bank accounts, too many hours of x-rated digital video stored away as protection. He could have blackmailed cancer itself out of taking him down. We laughed off the possibility that Mr. Sunshine was dead. No way he killed himself. He'd come back the way he always did. He’d rise up over that horizon as relentless as ever. No one was throwing out their sunscreen yet. Morning always came, whether you liked it or not. And with it, Mr. Sunshine, burning pitiless as ever. Still the rumors persisted, gather like apocalyptic clouds, black and bloody.

Day by day, we couldn't help but notice that the staff was thinning out. It was imperceptible at first until it wasn't. Then it was glaringly obvious. You simply couldn't ignore it. But you tried. You made believe you didn’t see it. No one dared to even mention it in whispers among ourselves at first. But soon it was all anyone could talk about. Services were breaking down. Surveillance was lapsing. Supplies dwindling. Some of the girls started disappearing too. Leaving, one had to suppose, with one of the staff members. How else could they leave? The guards were the first to go. No one could leave without their consent. But soon there were precious few guards to be seen and they didn’t seem to give a damn what anyone did. They were as lost as the rest of us. To the very end, though, no one would admit that Mr. Sunshine had been arrested. No one would even entertain the possibility that he had really died. It was some kind of trick the government was playing. We knew better. Mr. Sunshine was safe in an undisclosed location working out a deal for his eventual return. He’d rise again, you just wait and see. Didn’t he always? That’s what we all believed; what we all feared. What we all hoped for, too. Because without Mr. Sunshine what would we do? No one would say that he was never coming back. No one dared. No one would affirm that he was gone forever. That would mean we were lost in the night with only the stars to guide us and no one knew how to read the stars. Some of us still believed it was just a test. Some of us still believe to this day that it's just a test. Some of us believe he'll still return, peeking over the horizon one morning to say a great big “howdy” and that “I know your secret” smirk on his face, the wink that chills you to the bone. The earth is a big place, but there is nowhere Mr. Sunshine can't find you. That’s what some of us still believe. There’s no dark corner his light doesn't shine, doesn't penetrate. No place so secret he can’t peek into, no privacy he can’t invade, nowhere he can’t stick his fiery fingers. No place he can't light you on fire, burn you at the stake, ignite your very own personal Apocalypse. That's what I was taught. And deep down I still believe it. It’s the only thing I ever truly believed.

He asked me why I stayed, how I could stay, why I didn't run away when I first had the chance. Or in all the time after that. He asked me what kept me if it was so so horrible. What can you answer? He asked me what they asked me when they brought me in to be questioned. They had so many questions. I said I didn't know to all of them. I didn't know anything. I never knew anything. That’s what I told everyone because it wasn’t telling them anything and it was also true. I know I have the right to remain silent. I’ve always had the right to remain silent it just wasn’t permitted me until now. I’ve been under arrest enough times. I’ve been under arrest my whole life. You’re always under arrest, from the moment you’re born. They never tell you the charge. They tried to take the right to remain silent away from me. They had no right. I know better now. So I say nothing. And when I can’t remain silent any longer I have the right to scream. Best of all I have the right to lie. The truth was always something that belonged to me and me alone. I know that now. It’s the best thing I know. You can’t have my truth. Not for a million billion bucks. It’s locked away in the safest vault of all. Not even Mr. Sunshine could find it. I stayed because where else would I go, what would I do, how would I get there? Who was ever going to believe me? Who would I even tell it I wanted to tell someone? It is easier just to stay put in the same place when you are paralyzed. It is easier to stay silent. I learned to do what was easier because what was easier worked. I was paralyzed I’ve always been paralyzed. It was easier not to struggle. Something had happened to me a long time ago. I don’t even remember what. It was like someone had lopped off my arms and legs and all I had left were phantom arms and legs. I was a stump. I wrapped my phantom arms around myself for warmth and tucked my phantom legs beneath me. I sat there rocking, praying, waiting for someone to take me to the next place I needed to be. Someone always did. "You were waiting for me," he said, grinning in his three-day growth of beard.  He showed me a badge, it was a fake badge, he was a fake cop, they’re all fake cops. There is no law, the law is just a knot of words no one can untangle so you break it, you cut right through it. "Yes, I was waiting for you, only you," I said. You could tell it was something he liked to hear. Lies, I mean. He said his name was Jim, Jimmer, Jensen. Maybe Craig. I don’t know. Some name. I don’t know. They always have some name. It doesn’t matter. Maybe it was Ezekiel. He said he could see my future. Maybe he could. He was bringing me there, after all. So he must have seen it. He told me about this one who disappeared. This one who was found partially dismembered. It was a long list. He laid his hand on my bare thigh. He said he didn’t want to see these kinds of bad things happen to me and I said I didn’t either. Maybe he was telling the truth, his truth anyway. I glanced at the speedometer because the world seemed to be going by a lot faster than it probably should have been, then it ever did before. It was like we were blasting off past a lot of the same old crap, the world, in other words, going as fast as we could on the runway through the desert in order to defeat gravity, to break out of the atmosphere that was pretending to sustain us but up to now was really killing us. To achieve lift-off. We were trying to escape the earth to get to another planet. We wanted to leave the solar system and the sun behind. "Well, I'm going to make the wait worth it," he said. We were doing 183 miles an hour before I stopped looking. I closed my eyes. We had a way to go before we reach the speed of light. Escape velocity. I didn't need to see how fast we were going or where we were going. It was all unimportant. It always had been. It was enough just to know we were going.

At this point in the narrative, I imagine you, my not-so-dear reader, to be a dog jumping from side to side, yapping furiously at a cat behind a window. You object, object most vigorously to everything I've written. Well, I'd like you to imagine me staring right back through the glass at you, the pupils in my alien yellow eyes narrowed like slits in a door impossible to enter, through which not one photon of light or compassion will ever penetrate or escape. I yawn, opening my mouth wide, wider, so impossibly wide it looks as if I might swallow my entire head and become only a mouth filled with tens of thousands of tiny, white, needle-like teeth. Then, suddenly, I lift my back leg straight up, duck my head down, and with long loving strokes of my tongue I begin licking my asshole and you, my not-so-dear reader, disappear.