I have a new book out: Carmine Fin, Golden Road. It's a collection of poems from 2014-2016. Enjoy!
The Mirror of Heaven
The Mirror of Heaven
Carmine Fin, Golden Road
Bazooka Joe 1980
© 2015 by Margaret Krashes
*( This work contains images and language that may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.)*
When she got to the park, the sun was high overhead. Cool breezes blew in the trees and the grass swelled beneath her feet. She came to a hill, climbed up halfway, and sat down. In her view was a paved footpath, down which strolled the people of the city, out enjoying the weather. She tried to breathe deeply. She was smoking too much, though, and this caused a stabbing pain between two of her ribs. She gave it up, settled back on her elbows, inhaling carefully, watching the people passing.
Two guys, both black-haired and dark, young, skinny and dangerous looking, sidled up the path. Kind of like wolves, she thought, black wolves with long hair and midnight leather jackets over white chests, sharp ribs. They were looking at her. Aside from her chewed nails, which she occasionally painted so she could peel it off, she dressed androgynously, in perpetual jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, denim jackets. She was quite thin, and she got a kick out of it when people called her “guy” unknowingly, like the time she went to see her mother at the country club, and another woman had said “Oh Meryll, what a handsome son you have!” She got a kick out of that. She noticed that one of the guys had some really cool-looking black and yellow sneakers on. Gotta get me a pair, she thought. They were looking up at her, smiling. She smiled back. They looked tough. She was in the mood for a little excitement and they looked like just the thing.
“Hey,” said the small one, “it’s a GIRL!” He poked his larger friend in the ribs and they both started laughing, a young sound, but gravel-edged with heavy partying. A cool breeze shot up. She looked down at them. The breeze blew, and they eyed each other. She leaned back further on her elbows with a sudden, lightheaded feeling. The smaller one’s not so bad, she thought. They started up the hill towards her. Her eyes were locked to the smaller one in sudden tunnel vision. She felt weightless; distant. This is not really happening, she thought.
“What’s up?” The smaller one. His eyes were black, large, with sharp brows and long lashes. He had high cheekbones and clear bronze skin, straight blue-black hair down to his shoulders and a small but wiry body. He looked almost girlish to her, but there was a toughness about him that prevented it. He didn’t look like anyone she had ever seen. A certain way of gaining a happy eternal life, she thought. I read that somewhere. I must’ve. She remembered that he’d asked her a question. She forgot what it was. He stood directly in front of her now. “Maybe I should say it again,” he said, laughing. “What’s up?”
“Not much,” she said with a slow grin. The guys sat down on either side of her. She looked at the skyscrapers in the distance, squinting against the wind. “I like yer sneakers,” she said to the smaller guy. “Where’d ya get ‘em?” He told her. She nodded sagely. He produced a joint and they commenced to smoke it, watching the passersby and keeping an eye out for the cops. The buildings in the distance started to glow in the sunlight, to undulate, gleaming richly in the golden sun. The wind became deep and sonorous, blowing across Time. Bird-tongues flapped from the spikes on top of a building that sat; immense ocean liner, plowing over seas of gray cumulus cresting the mountains in high-speed. Amongst the blinking night-eyes, diamond and aquamarine, of the houses on the hills, highways stretched in purple ribbons. A neon sign, Big Nine Diner glowing like blood against the prairie landscape; the truckers sitting at the shiny counter, cigarettes oozing upward smoke, their hats off to Millie’s beehive hairdo and turquoise and white checked uniform. Behind her, the little rectangular hole in the wall, the counter filled with plates of food on solid diner china, white and chromium—
She shook her head and looked to either side. They were still there. She laughed.
“Yer stoned,” said the little one. She laughed again. “C’mon. let’s go fer a ride.” She shrugged and got to her feet. Why not.
Inside the car, the big one drove. The steering wheel was furry. The seat was furry. The big one put a tape into the black dashboard, it came on loud. Metal—Scorpions, probably, she thought as she slid sideways in. The little guy got in after her and slammed the door. They were encased in a womb of screaming sound, the speakers pulsing from overload and it’s light up another. She didn’t remember how the car got so smoky, but it did. She strained to see out of the windshield, past the shiny cockroach hood that plowed the city streets.
“What’s your name?” she yelled to the little guy.
“What’s your name?”
“Oh.” Smile. “Ed. My name’s Ed. What’s yours?”
“Oh. This here is Henry.” She looked over at the guy driving. He looked at her; then looked back to the road. “He thought you were a guy, right Henry?” Henry nodded. “At first, you looked like a guy. How come you dress like that?”
“You know—how come you wear jeans and sneakers, shit like that. Why don’t you dress like a girl?” She rolled her eyes.
“Everybody wears pants, for crissakes!”
“Yeah, but you know what I mean.”
“Well, no one can tell if you’re pretty—not if you dress like that.” Oh God, she thought. This is so stupid.
“I don’t care,” she said.
“Cause I play guitar, and you don’t have to be pretty to do that. Can’t do it in a dress..” she added, more to herself.
“You play guitar?” Henry asked. Henry’s voice was deeper than Ed’s. His hair hung in loose curls and his skin showed pasty white under black stubble. Periodically he blushed, the red creeping slowly across his cheekbones, then receding.
“Yeah, I play,” she said.
“Like this?” He gestured to the screaming tape.
“I’m workin’ on it.”
“Wow,” Ed muttered, looking at her appraisingly, starting from the feet up. “I dunno…”
“Whatever,” she said.
“What bands do you like?”
“I like them.”
“Who else do ya like?”
“Oh…Jeff Beck, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Ramones, Scorpions—“
“Scorpions! They’re cool. We listen to them a lot at the shack. Ask Henry.” Henry nodded. “We live in a shack outsida town. Wanna go there?” She looked at him. She didn’t know what to say. “We should take her to the shack, Henry, she’d like it—she’s into partyin, aren’t ya?” Ed grinned and slid closer to her on the seat, nonchalantly throwing his left arm over her shoulder. They looked at each other and she smiled. Oh God, she thought. Her heart was doing funny things, and her head felt like it was filling with helium. They sat for a while; silent. “Yeah, we don’t like to bother with nobody that isn’t into what we’re into. Me and Henry fixed up the shack pretty nice. It don’t have any water or electric, but shit, who needs that, right?” Ed put his hand on her knee.” “You’re a girl too, and that’s pretty cool.” He looked past her, over to Henry. “She’s okay, right Henry?” Henry’s eyes flickered over them and his mouth turned up a little. She noticed his clenched hands on the steering wheel; knuckles gleaming white.
“Quit fuckin’ around, Ed,” Henry said, half laughing, trying to make it sound like a joke. “Leave ‘er alone.” Ed ignored him.
“Henry, tell ‘er what we do at the shack. C’mon, tell ‘er. Henry’s not into talkin’ today, I guess, but he should tell you, ‘cause he’s the one that invented it.”
“Invented what?” she managed to say.
“Tell ‘er, Henry. No? Okay, I will. Henry’s a fuckin genius, man. He invented this stuff, and he even came up with a name for it! Tell ‘er the name, Henry.”
“Tell ‘er what’s in it.”
“Five parts green chartreuse. Five parts red wine. Five parts of the cheapest vodka available. Five parts gin. One half to one ounce boiled essence of marijuana. As many hallucinogens as we can get our hands on.”
“Henry’s a pisser! He uses such big words! Boiled essence a’ maree-wanna! Ha ha! He’s a pisser all right!” Ed’s hand moved further up on her thigh. “Hey, yer okay, for a girl. Most girls, it’s like you’re rappin’ with ‘em at a bar and shit, and all of a sudden, they act like they just sat on a tack or somethin’, and they get all weird. Then usually, they walk away, or they call their fuckin’ boyfriend over, and he tries ta’ beat ya’ up.” Ed leered at Henry. “But you’re not goin’ anywhere now, are ya?” He inched his hand further on her leg. This whole thing had been a bad idea. A really fucking bad idea. She was not sure at this point if she really wanted to die, despite her usual attitude. One thing was, she sure as hell didn’t wanna be taken apart one piece at a time by these morons. That was definitely not how she wanted to go. Her mind raced for a solution, while her surface remained artificially calm. “You’re not like a girl, though. You don’t look like one ‘till up close, you play guitar and shit, and you like cool music. Waddya think of this one…you wanna change the tape?” She looked at him and nodded. “Henry—change the tape.” Henry did it one-handed, punching the eject, throwing the tape on the floor, extracting another one out of its case and popping it in. “You like this one?” She nodded. For a time, they were quiet.
“Who is this?” she asked.
“Oh. Iron Maiden, I think. Right, Henry? Iron Maiden. Yeah. Ya’ like them?” She nodded. “We listen to music at the shack. We got a box, with batteries. Sometimes, I don’t remember what I did for four days in a row, especially when Henry makes up a batch of Dragon Barf, but that shit’s cool. Sometimes we light a fire and watch it, and Henry says who needs TV when you can watch movies in your head, and I agree. You useta’ think I was a loser, dincha Henry?”
“Yeah, you did. Me and Henry went to the same school in junior high. Then I went to BOCES, but Henry was in those smart fuckin’ classes, weren’t ya Henry? But now we like to get fucked up. It don’t matter how much brains ya’ got to start out with, everyone’s the same when yer’ stoned. Ain’t that right?” He fixed her with a stare.
“Yes,” she said.
“Hey, yer’ okay. But I bet you’re not really a girl. You don’t act like one, and you’re lettin’ me put my hand on yer leg, so you must like it, but all the same. You don’t seem like no normal girl to me, does she Henry?” Henry’s mouth lifted in a small grin.
“Maybe she ain’t a she.”
“Waddya say we try ‘er out, Henry. See if she’s a real girl.”
“She looks like it to me.”
“Yeah, me too.” They spoke across her and they watched her; smiling. Teasing.
“What if she is?” Henry asked.
“What if she is a girl?”
“That’d be nice.” Ed smiled dreamily. He looked at her. “We could have some fun.” She looked straight at him. Her mind was jumping around. “Maybe she don’t like it normal though,” he said, his eyes still dreaming, clouded. He turned to her. “Maybe you don’t like it normal. Maybe you’re too fuckin’ stoned to feel anything except maybe a baseball bat. Ha ha!” He laughed. “Yeah! We got one in the trunk. Henry, did you make sure the bat was in the trunk?”
“Yep.” Henry pulled the car to the side of the road and they sat, stopped. Idling. Henry turned to face her, one arm resting on the steering wheel, his other arm thrown over the back of the seat. They watched her. “Ya never know in our neighborhood,” Henry said. “We use ‘em for protection.”
“Yeah, protection,” Ed breathed.
“And for faggots.” She saw Henry’s spread-apart teeth, square, small, his pink tongue. She turned to Ed—he was watching her, his eyes dark and glittering.
“Cause where we grew up,” Ed said, “we like to hang out there, and the people are pretty rough—and we don’t go for no faggots. I guess you’d know about that though. How ‘bout you? Waddyou think about fags?” She shrugged; trying to buy time. They think I’m a guy but they’ll find out I’m not while they’re raping and killing me either way it doesn’t matter. Her tongue was frozen to the roof of her mouth. “You mean you like fags?” He waited for an answer.
“Nah,” she said, “they suck.” Henry burst into shrill laughter.
“Ha ha! They suck! Ha ha! She’s pretty funny!”
“Yeah, she is,” Ed said, settling himself on the seat, caressing her leg. “I toldja’ she was pretty cool. So ya don’t like faggots, huh?”
“That’s kinda interesting. Y’see, you kinda dress like one, and then you say ya don’t like ‘em. I don’t know…” His gaze never left her; his excited black eyes. “I can’t tell—you wouldn’t bullshit me now, wouldja? Well, even if you did, we could find out soon enough.” She looked at Henry.
“Don’t mind Ed sometimes,” Henry said. “He likes to bullshit.”
“Yeah, I do,” Ed said. He grinned, and gave her leg a squeeze as his eyes darted over her face. “Hey. Are you really a girl? You could be lyin’. That wouldn’t be too smart.” His lips closed over his white teeth and his eyes went dead and predatory. “We could find out. We could find out soon enough. All we haveta’ do is open up the trunk and get out the ol’ bat. The old truth routine. But you said ya don’t like fags, and that’s cool—hey, this tape is almost over—“ He reached over, popped it out and slammed another one in. Her smile had turned to stone. Her head felt like a small balloon, floating high up on a long, long string. “Henry—why don’t we keep drivin?” At Ed’s request, Henry put the car in gear and they started rolling forward. They went for a while in silence, listening to the blasting tape. She could feel Ed’s hand on her inner thigh, pulsing and warm. He saw her looking down. “You like that, huh? We could take turns. Ya ever done it with two guys before?” She shook her head. “Hey Henry—she says she’s never done two guys before!” Henry’s mouth opened, and his knuckles were white against the furry steering wheel. Then he laughed—it sounded like a scream to her, like a fire siren stuck in the “on” position. She turned away.
Staccato lines passed in the side window. They were going over a bridge. The side window flickered black and white, like a silent movie. She turned and looked forward. They were at the end of the bridge and going into a neighborhood. The sky outside was turning neon blue like sunset in the country. Inside, seething smoke and the guitar going, chainsaw. They were in a parking lot. Rows of stone-faced gray meters, robots anchored with asphalt feet, glided past the rumbling car. She laughed. Monoxide smoke boa-constrictors running down the forward slant of the windshield curled up again as they met the dash. The meters marched by, solemn round mouths open in perfect metal circles, anchored six feet down in black tar. Then they were out of the parking lot, floating in twilight. Jesus, she thought. She was dizzy. Ed watched her. Act like he’s turning you on, she told herself. Maybe you’ll live longer. She began to pray: I know I got myself into this, but please get me out of it, please. If you do, I swear I won’t do this again. Please get me out of this.
“Hey Henry,” Ed said. “Fuck this shit, man. Let’s go to the old neighborhood.” Henry turned the car around. She looked down. Ed’s hand on her leg looked very brown. She thought of a movie. In the movie, a man was on a city street. It was in black and white. A bulldog darted up to the man and spoke, rapid-fire: ‘It’s true. It happened.’ The audience jerked in their seats, because the bulldog spoke from the head of a middle-aged man. Then it turned and scuttled off. She wondered if that’s how it was when you died—for an instant, you saw something horrible; then it was over.
“What’s that?” Ed said. She looked up and saw that they were on a busy street. The light was blocked by tall buildings and people walked by on the sidewalk. Her body was motionless under Ed’s hand. Only her eyes moved. “What is that?” Ed repeated. She couldn’t’ tell. He opened a window and the smoke rushed out. She saw the hood. Snakes were emerging from it. No, she realized. It was steam: the engine was overheating.
“SHIT!” Henry screamed. “It’s—FUCK! It’s boiling over! SHIT!” he pounded the steering wheel furiously; then pulled the car over. As the wheels hit the curb, Ed opened the door and jumped out, forgetting to close it. She felt his arm slide from the back of the seat, past her neck. She sat for a moment, bemused. Staring at a strip of sidewalk beneath the open door. Holy shit, she thought. Get out. She lunged against the door and it flew out on its hinges as she watched her feet land on the pavement. A gum wrapper—Bazooka Joe—blew past, pink and green, end over end. Ed and Henry stood over the engine, their heads tilted forward. She slammed the door and stepped all the way onto the sidewalk. Someone shoved past her and she staggered. Ed and Henry looked up.
“Hey!” Ed said. “Where ya goin’?” She forced a smile. At least she hoped it looked like one. She didn’t want to get them mad, and she didn’t want them to follow her, she just wanted to get away. Ed smiled, beckoning. “C’mon. We’ll fix it. It’s just a little engine trouble.” She took a few steps backward. His smile faded, and he moved towards her.
“Bye!” she said, and jumped from the curb into the street. Looking over her shoulder, she saw them watching her, their faces set in disgust, and she ran across the street, hearing squealing brakes and angry shouts from far away. A voice came through in chunks over the traffic.
“Shit..fuckin’ got away..”
She walked down the block, fast, looking back until she was sure they weren’t coming. Then she walked slowly, beneath towering clouds, to the park. Lots of people were there, but it seemed quiet. The Hari Krishnas were there, sitting on mats, playing instruments and chanting. She lay down on a bench by the fountain and the wind blew over her. She closed her eyes on the flickering afternoon light and gradually the sound of the chanting filled her.
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