Let’s see, what about pigeons, those flying rats that are all over The City. Suicide pigeons are taking over the city, dive-bombing people wearing the color red. Behind the bizarre occurrences is a logical explanation, however….”
by andrew minh
I comb through the place but can’t find her. The waiter hasn’t seen her either. I call her work extension and in two rings she picks up.
“Hey. I’m at Leo’s. What’s shakin?”
“You know. It’s Friday and suddenly all the work that should’ve been done this week needs to be done, now. I’m swamped.”
“You gonna finish soon?”
“I mean if you are I can just…”
“Wanna check out a party tonight?”
“Sure. Where at?”
“It’s like a space. Gotta pay an entrance fee to get in.”
“What. Like a rave?”
“I guess something like that. This chick here at work says her boyfriend is throwing it. And you’ll never guess who he is.”
“DJ Black Sausage, man.”
“You mean, thee DJ Black Sausage?”
“No ifs, ands, or buts.”
“Remember the time we went to see DJ Priest? They said he was like an experimental version of DJ Black Sausage.”
“All he did was ring bells…”
“No. This is the real deal.”
We plan to meet at the Metro bar in an hour. I sit at the counter and order the soup and sandwich special, along with a coke. I have an hour to kill, so I ask the waiter for a paper. He hands me The City’s tabloid rag, The Excavator.
“That’s all we got.”
“No worries. I’ll take a look at it.”
The cover story reads: Prad Bitt Caught in Sex Gland Scandal. There is a picture of Prad in an apparent argument with his fiancée, Breezy Callahan. The caption reads: Breezy argues with Prad after she learns about sex gland theft. I admittedly follow absurd media gossip. Though I don’t regularly read The Excavator or its clones, whenever one is at hand I devour it. I flip to the second page, where the “true and terrible” tale of the sex gland scandal begins:
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (EX) – Jaime Velasquez sits in his small District Federal hotel room, looking withered and almost lifeless. His eyes drift from a bearded face to the ceiling as he relates his story. His faded SF Giants T-shirt has holes, his jeans are torn, not for aesthetic reasons, but through years of use. This sullen man has the look of defeat, like the life has been literally sucked out of him.
One may find it hard to believe, but a few years previous Jaime was a rising star here in Mexico City. He was a veritable teen idol, had his bit parts in Mexico’s most famous culebrones (Mexican soap operas), and was even on the verge of recording his first album, following his hit single, “Sudor de Amor” (Sweat of Love). Best known for his thrilling stage performances, in which teenage girls and mothers alike were known to faint, throw undergarments, and even weep profusely, he was also undoubtedly one of the most photogenic Latin pop stars to grace the stages in recent times. His dashing good looks even got him voted as one of Person’s sexiest men on earth, placing number 83. Ironically, the same year he was voted 83rd sexiest man on earth, Prad Bitt, a virtual unknown, exploded on the Hollywood scene. Two years later Prad was voted sexiest man on earth by Person, and Jaime was an all but forgotten, one-hit-wonder, left to fend for himself on the mean streets of Mexico City.
Jaime, whose 15 minutes of fame seem so far away now, tells us his tale. “They came to me. You know. I’m a Latin Lover. Everybody knows that we do it better than the gringo, that is why their women like to come here on vacation. I got the moves.” Jaime stands up, one hand on his belly, the other on his rear, and attempts the once-famous Velasquez hip thrust. He does it once without passion, then flops back down on his battered sofa. “Yes. Everybody knows that if you want good times, none of that Wonder Bread vanilla stuff, you have to come to the Latin Lover. I mean, everybody wanted a piece of my culo, and it was about this time that some men came to visit me. They said they were Hollywood agents. They said they were going to make me the next star in Hollywood. Boy was I stupid. Everybody knows that they only want all American pretty boys, and that ethnic guys like me only get the small, comedic relief parts.”
An embittered Jaime goes on to tell us a truly horrific chain of events. The Hollywood agents, it turns out, were nothing other than simple thugs, sent out by unknown people in California. After being lured to a supposed downtown office, Jaime was given a drug-laced beverage, and from this moment on his life was forever altered. He woke up, he says, in a back alley, amongst refuse and vagrants. He says he felt his loss immediately, “Like I lost my cojones,” says Jaime sincerely. He says he felt a pain in his groin, and when he tried to rub it, he noticed the small incision. “They robbed my sex gland. They took my sex appeal and gave it to that gringo Prad Bitt. You watch his moves, and you will see. He has all that because of me.”
I skip the rest of the article. Who the hell spends money on this thing? I flip past a photo montage of the destitute Jaime, then of the glamorous Prad and Breezy couple. I finish my soup and look at the clock on my cell. Twenty minutes to meet up with Gina at the Metro bar. I get the check and pay.
When I arrive Gina is already at a table in the back with two others.
“This is Michelle and this is Pete, two friends of mine from work.”
I introduce myself and shake hands. I scoot into the seat beside Gina, across from her co-workers. Michelle is an exuberant blonde, and Pete is just kind of wavering, with chin length brown hair parted in the middle. Gina gets up and takes our drink orders.
The usual mélange of rap metal and dance-floor sleaze floats, cutting through the growing smokescreen. Michelle the marvel is talking low, confiding with Pete. I can only make out suggestive intonations, but it seems that she is admonishing him. Pete just shakes his head, his brown parted hair swaying with each “I know, I know…” I consider joining the pool game over to the right of me, just to get away from them, when Gina comes back with four drinks. A Piña Colada for herself, a Cuba Libre for me, and two waters for Michelle and Pete. When Gina scoots in next to me I ask her what’s up with Dopey and Fly Girl.
“Dunno,” she says, looking at them. “You all right, Pete?”
He just stares at his glass of water.
“Michelle. What’s up with Pete?”
“He’s not sure,” says Michelle, finally looking at us. “He keeps saying ‘The chicken! The chicken!”
“I already told you,” cracks Pete. “I should never have eaten the chicken.”
“What’s up with the chicken?” I ask.
Pete looks at me for the first time since I arrived at the Metro. He’s robust, and with his hair parted that way, hanging down his jowls, he reminds me of a little kid. The kind that had to shop in the “husky” section. His eyes are the only thing that betray his “sickness”. They wobble and settle on the table, then me, then the table.
“I went to Mr Pollo for lunch today. The Chicken, under the heat lamp… I just knew it was bad…”
“I told you,” says Michelle. “But you wouldn’t listen to me.”
“Am I missing something here?” I ask.
“Michelle found a web page documenting chicken atrocities,” says Gina. “There are new mutant strains of eight wing chickens. Right Michelle?”
“Eight wing super chickens. That’s right.”
I look at her, for a second believing everything.
“Are you serious? That’s fucking crazy!”
Michelle sips her water and says, “Did you know that O’Donnell’s doesn’t even get their meat from cows anymore?”
“What? Is it all chemical or something?”
“Nope. They grow em in giant petri dishes. Fucking big balls of ground beef with eyes!”
“Echhhh!” says Gina. “That’s sooo wretched.”
“That’s downright disgusting,” I say. “Do you have pictures or anything?”
“No. But it’s all documented on the web.”
“Yeah, but… how do you know it’s true?”
“It has to be true. Those guys’ll do anything to get more bang for the buck.”
I look at Pete who is drifting in his stormy waters.
“Hey Pete, I say. Drink some water. Maybe you’ll feel better.” I slide the bottle over.
He manages a feeble thanks and I take a long sip on my Cuba Libre. The bartender must’ve hooked Gina up because I can really taste the rum. Luckily, I like em like that. I savor the aromatic stickiness in my mouth, swishing it. Michelle is checking her cell now.
“We gotta be there in one hour. Kiki just sent me a text message. He’s already setting up.”
We hail a cab together, the four of us. I sit up front, next to the driver. As we navigate the sea of cars I think of Pete back there and the tough time he must be having. Eight winged chickens! It seems the more ludicrous a story, the more likely it is people will go for it. I think back to a couple years ago, to the Tarlboro cigarette conspiracy. The emblem was some kind of herald with two horses and the Romanesque “Veni Vidi Vici” in the middle. If you looked between the horses legs you could see, if you were imaginative enough, two clansmen standing opposite each other, ominously holding a banner with Cesar’s saying. Then if you looked at the box itself – the top, the front and the back – the design suggested, again, with ample imagination, that on each was the letter K. So, clansmen, “I came, I saw, I conquered”, KKK. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you of the conspiracy the name Tarlboro spelled backward was: Orobl rat, i.e. “Horrible Rat”. Rat being the code word for Jew.
Now here’s an idea for a story: a play on urban legends. I can invent one in a short story and create a myth. Let’s see, what about pigeons, those flying rats that are all over The City. Suicide pigeons are taking over the city, dive-bombing people wearing the color red. Behind the bizarre occurrences is a logical explanation, however. It is a government plot to kill the remnants of the “red scourge”, from fifty years ago. “Flying rats no more. Suicide pigeons are not only an unsightly presence in our big cities, they are also the single greatest threat to our civil liberties…”
The traffic is thinning out now, and we’re coasting through the old factory district. Ugly, non-descript warehouses like blocky giants, to the front, to the back, and up ahead is a bright flood lamp spilling out on a group of kids waiting on the sidewalk.
“That it?” asks cabbie rhetorically.
We pull over and I’m stuck with the fare, as everybody’s already gotten out. I give him a Lincoln and tell him to keep the change.
We’re on the curb now, just outside the bright spill of the flood lamp. Pete is looking a little better. We walk straight to the door, past envious stares, and Michelle makes a couple verbal jests with a huge brother who I assume is a bouncer. He slams his meaty hand on the door and pushes it back, never taking his eyes off the scrappy kids waiting outside. Beats blast out and we walk into them. The place is packed end to end; it’s dark except for roving lights which illuminate the dance floor and smoke and dander and dust being kicked up. The walls are lined, there are bright orange cherries getting brighter then dimmer, there’s a kid breaking in front of us, in the middle of a parted crowd, and we walk around them, along the walls, to the stage. On it is a skinny white guy, flipping through records, pumping his fists. It’s infectious, the beat, the primal loop, and I find myself sucked into the movement of the masses. We’re getting closer and we stop at the lip of the stage. Michelle climbs up and whispers something to the DJ and they kiss.
“That’s DJ Black Sausage?” I ask Gina.
“I guess so.”
“It’s not really what I was expecting. I thought, you know…”
Michelle is off the stage now and DJ Black Sausage is fading up the next track and we follow her to the bar. Well, it looks like a bar, but they only have water. I order a bottle for each of us and when I turn around Michelle is saying something to Gina, then to Pete, who shakes his head. Finally, she turns to me.
“Want some E? I got this killer shit. Super Buick.” She opens her hand, “If you want some.”
I notice Gina already has one and I take one myself, leaving one for Michelle. She pops it and downs it with my water. I take mine and down it, then Gina does the same. Kids are hopping, pumping their fists, sitting in groups, rolling joints, popping pills, sucking on nitrous balloons, and here we are in the middle of it, timing our comments to DJ Black Sausage’s down tempos. It’s impossible to formulate a complete sentence; the bass waves seem to permeate everything, even our minds. So Michelle and Gina go dance in the roving lights, Pete meanders to the shadows, and I lean on the bar and watch everything. I finish my water and toss the bottle on the floor among the drug baggies and cigarette butts.
The space is a huge, bare warehouse, alluring only because of the thudding, muscular music loops and trick lights. I think back to my last “underground” party, about a couple years ago, before I met Gina. I’d gone with a kid named Tyson – a wannabe DJ and degenerate drug fiend. By the time we’d arrived we’d already finished three cavies and two forties of malt liquor between us. Tyson had a number for a record shop that was selling entrances and a map to the location, and by the time we finished the whole cabalistic ritual of finding the place, we were lit. We got there about one in the morning and around the warehouse were hundreds of cars, packs of kids, all smoking, cracking nitrous cartridges, making out. Outside the warehouse the music was already deafening, but when we got in, it was positively overwhelming. Tyson got lost with a cute little teeny bopper wearing a T-shirt that said Starfucker. I was alone, wandering, stoned and drunk. There were mattresses everywhere with kids sprawled out, sitting in tight circles, bobbing their heads like docile beasts. Somehow I winded up on a mattress with a lovely mulatta girl I’d just met and we just held each other and lashed tongues and had the most profound conversation about nothing at all. Honestly, I can’t remember a single word we said, but I remember at the time thinking that it was all so heavy, man. That’s the way it is with these places. Suddenly, it was dawn, and shafts of light stabbed through windows above and we realized that the crowds had thinned and only the diehards and the tweekers were left. A kid wearing a safety helmet was twisting and spinning in front of a tower of speakers, a couple others were zoned out with their heads in the speakers, literally, and the rest were either fucking around with each other or going solo, mandibles to the left, to the right. At this moment the cops arrived. We were probably the most ineffectual, clueless bunch of delinquents they’d ever encountered. The end of the warehouse was cordoned off with a line of cops, the morning sun brilliant, too harsh, illuminating their batons and eager fists. We were all spread out, listless, apathetic, and they didn’t know what to do. What I wonder is why they took so long to get there. Anybody that might’ve been worth busting was long gone. I got up with the girl and we ran out back, into a field and kept running until we got to her car. A nice white VW, I remember. Daddy’s girl. Then she dropped me off and that was it. I never saw her again, never even got her name.
I haven’t been to one of these parties since. They’re always incidental to me, these parties. I never plan them, they just come up. I’ve always preferred bars, real conversations, and regular old hangovers to tweeked out jaw-crushing all night parties. It’s just not my scene. So I’m alone now, walking through the complex, through the crowds and I don’t know what it is but I’ve been asked three times now for drugs and smokes. Guess I look like the guy with the door to the score. Like I look like the potential shoplifter or carjacker – only here there aren’t any security guards to follow me or doors to lock as I pass by. Somehow, I encounter Michelle in the darkness, on the other side. She asks me if the Super Buick is kicking in and I say no, I don’t think so. I feel something, but I can’t say it’s kicking in. We sit, leaning against the wall and watch bodies bob and spin in front of us. She packs a glass pipe and we share a bowl, and now I can feel something, but it’s a THC high, not no Super Buick.
I hand the pipe back to her and ask, “You and Gina work together at the record company, right?”
“Yeah, but not for much longer. I’m gonna try to focus a little more on my acting career.”
“Oh, you act? What… like theater?”
“Dunno. I’ve done some commercials, but I want to get into movies. It’s full-time, you know. You have to be dedicated, you have to move. It’s all about connections,” then she cups my shoulders, looks me dead on with a really serious expression. “Oh my gawd. Did Gina tell you what happened to me?”
“I was in Club Toxic the other day with Pete and he like went off to the bathroom and shit and I was alone. I was just watching everybody when all of a sudden this figure approaches me. I mean she was wearing one of those old style hats, like straight out of a detective movie, smoking a cigarette with a stem. She asks, in this really familiar voice, “Ken-I-hevv-a-tampon?” She was kinda wobbly… like she was really fucked up. I went through my purse and gave her one and she said “Tank-yooo”, just like that. It was then that I realized it was Breezy Callahan!!! In disguise! Oh my gawd, it was so awesome!!!”
“Wow. I don’t know what to say.”
She’s looking everywhere except at me. “Where’s Pete? Have you seen him?”
“I’ve been wandering around, but I haven’t seen him anywhere.”
“I’m gonna dance. Keep an eye out for him, will ya?” She says this with her hand on my thigh, squeezing it. She walks out to the middle of the dance floor and sways forward, then backwards, and I jump up, thinking she’s gonna pitch forward, faint or something. Then, with her arms outstretched she spins, and everybody around her parts. She throws her head back, thrusts her chin out, and starts waving her arms around like an epileptic flamenco dancer. She’s the undisputed protagonist in the middle of the dance floor and there’s a half-moon around her. She turns into a whirlwind of arms and legs. I suspect there’s a method to her madness. I’m wondering what kind of movie she’s in now. Late night cable, soft-core erotica, B-movie vixen, Russ Meyers I’m thinking… psychedelic psychotica!
I walk back to the bar and there’s Gina and Pete. She takes hold of my arm and says:
“I found him back there,” pointing to a dark nook beyond the bar, “… he was just leaning on the wall. He keeps saying, ‘the chicken, the chicken’.”
“Is he still on the chicken trip? Maybe there is something wrong with him.”
“You feel the Super Buick yet?”
“No. What about you?”
“Nope. It’s probably bogus.”
“So, what do we do about Pete?” I shake Pete and say, “Hey Pete, what’s up? What’s the matter?”
“Mr Pollo. The chicken…”
“Maybe he got food poisoning,” I say to Gina.
“I don’t think so. I ate the chicken too.”
“He looks pretty bad. Something’s up. Let’s go tell Michelle.”
Michelle is still in the middle of the dance floor, swaying her head and tossing her hair. I tap her on the shoulder and jump back as she spins around.
“It’s Pete,” I say. “He’s still on the chicken trip.”
We walk back to Gina and Pete and he falls limp on Michelle, into her arms.
“Let’s get him outta here!”
“Pete, you want us to call an ambulance?”
He’s not answering.
“Let’s call a cab,” says Michelle. “We can’t get the police involved.”
People around us are staring and Gina is on her cell phone calling a taxi.
“What’s the address? Quick!”
Michelle rattles off some cross streets and I have Pete slumped on my shoulder. He’s moaning, “The chicken, the chicken, eight wing chicken…” Finally we’re outside and we lay him on the sidewalk and he clutches his stomach. Michelle is holding on to Gina saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it…”
A kid approaches me and asks me what he took.
“Eight-wing chicken,” I say.
“Damn! Never heard of that! Where’d you score it?”
I point at the warehouse. “Back in there. Just ask around for a dude called Mr Pollo.”
The kid runs back and is a flurry of yelps and gestures as he relates my story to his friends. Michelle is stroking Pete’s head, consoling him, when the taxi arrives. The cabbie gets out.
“Uh uh. I ain’t havin no kid OD in may cab.”
“No. He’s cool,” I say. “He just had a bad chicken. Right Pete? You OK?”
Pete, green, but with eyes astute, stands upright. “Yeah. I’m OK.”
The cabbie shakes his head and gets in. We follow, Michelle and Pete and Gina sitting in the back seat.
We dropped Pete off, and Michelle helped him up to his apartment. He repeated his mantra, “chicken, chicken, eight wing chicken” until he was out of ear-shot. When Michelle got back down she said she was going back to the party, to hang for the rest of Black Sausage’s set. Gina and I, we didn’t really feel like going back, so we split up with Michelle, and now we’re underground, heading for Gina’s stop.
Late at night on the subway is totally sketchy. Not in a dangerous way, like most people are apt to think, but in an unpredictable, apprehensive sort of way. It doesn’t have that sense of purpose like weekday morning commutes. It’s all random, the language of Russian roulette. It’s about half-full, our subway car, and all the passengers are drunk or drugged or schizophrenic. The drunk and drugged ones are mostly bridge and tunnel kids, underage, taking advantage of the city’s anonymity. An older lady wearing a soiled flower-print dress is ranting on and on, stuck in some vicious, infinite multi-lingual argument with herself. She says:
“Todas unas ratas! LIARS! HYPOCRITES! A la mierda!”
She stops and stares with contempt at the disinterested kids around her, then rests her baleful gaze on me and spits. I wince and turn away and try to think of something to say to Gina. She’s watching the stops blink by through the window. I look at my cell phone, 4 AM, and I’m wide awake. Everything in fact, has that vitreous drug-look to it, and I know that the Super Buick must be coming on, though, it’s not really as killer as Michelle said it was. Speedy, sure, but not trippy.
“You feel it?” I ask Michelle.
She takes a second to respond. “I think so. Yeah. But not really.”
“It’s kind of speedy. I’m amped.”
“This is us.”
The subway door opens and we walk into the tunnel, the hot, recycled air. Crazy Lady is still castigating ghosts, the kids stare listlessly at etchings in the window, advertisements, space… The subway worms into the guts of the city; we walk out, into night.
At the corner, before her place, is an all night deli, and suddenly I have a yen for iced tea. We stop inside and peruse until I find a bottle of ginseng-laced tea. I’m parched and I’m grinding my jaw now, full-on with the Super Buick.
“This is some weird shit.”
“Yeah.” She replies. “Fucking tweeky.”
When we’re in her apartment I stroke her ass, get a good handful, and she spins around and we mash mouths. We’re like this for some minutes, in the silent hallway, soft flesh smacking, slipping. In the darkness Gina feels her way to her room, opens the door and says “hold on”. She lights a single candle and the room flutters to life. She pops in a CD, one by Miles Davis, and we fall down together on her bed, roll, our clothes a tangle, off now, and we’re gushing for it…
We wake up around four in the afternoon. The bed is a twisted canvas, our nakedness in the middle. She is soft and hot and she grips me again, this time without music, only the sound of her roommate running up and down the hall, jabbering on the phone, washing the dishes…
It’s totally dark when we finally stumble out of her room and take a shower. The Super Buick has pretty much worn off. Sandra has gone somewhere, and the house is very much like it was last night. Only this time we aren’t riding the Super Buick. Gina cooks up pasta and I flip through a TV guide, to see if anything worth while is on. Broadcast TV is a baffling inundation of advertisements and spurious hype, but every once in a while you find a little nugget of gold. I grab the remote and turn to channel 2. Jean Todd Van Damme’s Bloody Boxer has just started, a veritable masterpiece, probably one of the most hilarious movies I’ve ever seen. Nevermind that highfalutin preachy dogma that those European auteurs call cinema. This is entertainment.
“Oh god! Do you really like this crap?” asks Gina as she carries in a tray with the pasta.
I go for some glasses and a jug of wine. When I come back she has the remote poised, on the verge of committing television sacrilege.
“No way. I can’t let you change this. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Van Damme’s thunder punch, or for that matter his lightening kick!”
I’m referring to one of the most brutal scenes in low-brow martial arts cinema. Jean Todd, bitter, womanless, is being trained by Master Xian. He punches logs, splits trees, is a dynamo of gratuitous flips and rolls, preparing to avenge the savage rape of his girl. In the most fortuitous moment Master Xian takes a pumped Jean Todd to a tavern, ostensibly a routine night on the town. What Jean Todd doesn’t know is that Master Xian is getting him drunk on purpose, instigating a fight between him and the uncouth losers in the rest of the bar – his right of passage, his first real test. Jean Todd is lousy drunk at one point, head nodding, eyes goo goo, stupid, when a particularly danceable song comes on the jukebox. Master Xian encourages him, makes him get up and dance. Despite his drunkenness Jean Todd gets up, hikes his pants to his navel, claps, rolls his hips, sneers, and attempts to dance with some ruffian’s girl. Ruffian’s Girl is entranced by Jean Todd’s ultra-tight muscle shirt and smooth moves, and jealous ruffian steps in. Jean Todd drops into his trademark splits position and uppercuts the ruffian in the balls. After he’s through with this guy he takes out the whole bar, in the process destroying the place. Master Xian’s gamble has succeeded. And one of the most numbingly hilarious moments in cinema history is complete. Yes, it took America to recognize this mighty talent. This Belgium muscle-head would never have had a chance, would probably be folding crepes back in Flemland, had he not gone for broke in America.
“Europe you old sow, you’re blinded by antiquated traditions! We take your visionaries, radicals, pioneers; we take your Jews, your Celts, your bashed and busted people; and here they forge their own way.”
Gina eventually gives in to my entreaties and I get to watch Bloody Boxer. In the end I know she’ll agree with me.
(illustration: troy dockins)
The above is an excerpt from the novel “The Bedroom Revolutionary”. This is Andrew’s first fiction publication since he began writing in 2000. At the moment he lives in Barcelona, seduced by tapas and good Rioja.