PART FIVE

Anger and the Good Man


(1)


"Damn it!" says Danny as he comes swinging in through the convenience-store doors.  "Don't it seem like every time you go lookin' for one thing you just end up findin' something else!"  He spouts this line off at me in a cranky yet somehow amazed sort of voice, stopping dead in his tracks and spreading his arms wide to emphasize his point, whatever that point may be.  I raise my eyebrows at him, startled by the suddenness of his entrance, not to mention the unexpectedness of his words.  "Well, I . . . I guess so," I say.  I have no idea what he's talking about.  But then, I hardly ever do with Danny.  And he's no help.  First he glares at me – then turns his head sharply, his eyes pushing into every corner of the store – then turns back to glare at me again.  "So, uh . . . Danny!  Hi!  How ya doin'?" I chirp, struggling against nervousness to forge some sense of normality between us.  His eyes narrow suspiciously at my words.  Locking onto me like a guided missile, he approaches the counter I'm standing behind with a sly sideways sidle until he's positioned himself directly in front of me.  I wonder:  Will he talk to me now in his "regular" voice – a kind of low, guttural sound, emanating from somewhere deep in his throat – or will he use one of those high-pitched, squeaky, supposed-to-be-funny cartoon voices he sometimes comes out with?  He pauses a moment.  Then, jutting his chin forward:  "One day I look one ways – the next day not!  Hello?  Hello?  Tick-tock!  Tick-tock!"  Uh-huh.  So it's to be the "funny" voices today.  But I don't think about this.  What I think about is nothing.  What I notice is nothing.  The blank look on my face gives nothing away; it says only:  I am perfectly normal.  He is perfectly normal.  This conversation we are having is perfectly normal.  "So . . . what can I getcha?" I ask him in my perfectly normal way.  "You can get me a pack of smokes is what you can get me," he mutters, face darkening now, a cloud of irritation passing over its surface because of my lack of response to something he had, apparently, only intended as a joke.  He's annoyed by my attitude of forced composure, perhaps?  But I can't help it.  In the face of Danny's blithe assertions of irrationality I have no idea how else to behave.  He unnerves me.  Unlike the man who comes in occasionally talking to me in a voice that booms in the basso profundo of a game-show host ("And the gentleman behind the counter has just posed the million-dollar question:  How may he help me?  And what, ladies and gentlemen, will my answer be?  Could it be A:  He may now help me to purchase some lottery tickets, or B:  He can show me where the grocery aisle is, or C:  . . . I haven't the foggiest idea!").  That man is inane, but not insane.  I'm not always quite so sure about Danny.

Part of what throws me off is that he looks so nice.  He's dark complected, with straight, black hair cut bluntly round a square-shaped face, thin mustache waggling over a surly but not unattractive mouth.  It's his eyes, watery blue and streaked with red, that are strange.  They jump – they dart.  They wander about, as if wanting to be set loose from their sockets; they have a cornered look, as if their owner feared attack.  Danny does not trust the world, and the world, in consequence, does not trust him.  Yet he dresses well enough, in neat, even stylish, clothes.  His body is stocky and appears well maintained.  But where does he live, I wonder?  How does he live?  Does he work?  And, if not, how can he afford such expensive clothes?  Is anyone else bothered by the odd things he says?  I suspect that people often are, and that they generally give him a wide berth because of it.  That would account at least partially for his seeming so often to be in an irritable mood.  His strangeness is all that he has to offer the world, as other people have striking good looks or a sense of humor; but people aren't attracted to Danny.  I can't say that I blame them; he bothers me too.  I keep asking myself:  How deep does his fault line run?

Yet he came into the store the other day accompanied by another fellow, the two of them both talking in those weirdly animated, cartoon-character voices as if it was all perfectly normal, as if the two of them were both perfectly normal.  They appeared to get along great.  I laughed to hear them talk that way – but my laugh was uneasy.



Another fellow who frequents the store is a short, dumpy, middle-aged man who dyes his thinning hair a come-hither shade of blond and talks to me in a reedy, nasally sort of voice:  his name is Gerald.  Gerald hangs around at the store for an hour or so almost every night.  Over the past couple of months he's told me, in a series of brief, breathless installments, his entire life's story.  Let's see . . .  His children are dying:  one in an institution for the insane, one of complications from AIDS, a third from chronic drug and alcohol abuse.  He'd previously lost two other children as well, both when they were young:  one, he says, choked to death during an epileptic fit; another was accidentally electrocuted.  He's been married twice:  the first time, unknowingly, to a drug addict who prostituted herself; the second time – again unknowingly – to a lesbian.  When he caught this wife in bed with another woman one day, he is supposed to have said, "Well, I was going to offer you two ladies lunch, but I see you're having some already."  He's also told me that he used to weigh over three hundred pounds.  He wasn't fat though – it was all muscle.  He has an uncle who owns a private island somewhere out in the Pacific, with a mansion on it.  Someday Gerald's going to go there to live with him.  He was also in an automobile accident some years back; it shattered his skeletal system so entirely that the surgeons had to replace whole sections of it.  Nothing else would do – they had to use gold.  And then there was the time he found a dead baby hidden inside the wall of the house he was living in.  He still puts flowers on its grave to this day.  Another time he saw a dog give birth to a litter of pups that had human hands and feet – the man who owned the dog being, apparently, a real live dog-fucker.

Gerald proposed to me one night recently – more or less proposed to me anyway.  First he told me he was thinking of buying a house far out in the country.  This house was huge, he said – oh, it was a beautiful house; and he drew me out the entire floor plan on a piece of paper to prove it:  porches, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms . . .  It's nestled cozily in the midst of several acres of woods, and nearby it is another, smaller building, a sort of storage structure.  This he thinks of remodeling into a second house, which he might then be willing to rent out – if he can find the right tenant.  I could be that tenant, he said.  He was sure I would be an ideal one, and he of course would be the perfect landlord, on hand at all times to do any repairs, fix any little problems that might pop up . . .  He'd give me a really good deal on the rent too; and in the evening, if we wanted, why, we could spend some of our free time together – or not; he wouldn't dream of imposing on me and if I wanted him to go I could just say, "Go."  And on and on he went.  I didn't really know what to say.  In the end, I didn't say much of anything.  But in my mind I kept thinking, "Go then.  Why don't you just go.  Go the fuck away."



The apartment I live in is small.  A converted attic, it's been divided into two large rooms with a bath in between.  The ceiling is angled to the pitch of the roof, which means I can't stand upright along the side walls.  When getting out of the bathtub for instance I have to stoop.  The kitchen, walls and ceiling both, were painted by the previous tenant a bright salmon-pink.  The living room/bedroom is a kind of bright grass-green.  It's a bit like living inside a neon sign, and for the first few weeks whenever I entered this apartment the fluorescent force of these colors would simply overwhelm me:  the walls practically glowed.  It took me awhile to adjust.  But eventually I did adjust, and I no longer feel disoriented every time I enter the rooms in which I live.

And I do live, in these two capacious rooms, rather comfortably, with a couple of neutered male cats for company.  Few others are invited to come to my haven.  This is private domain:  all non-members are cordially invited to Keep Out.  It constitutes my personal cave; also my den of iniquities, my chamber of horrors, and my temple of self-examination.  Often I am happy here.  Often I am unhappy.  But always I am interested.

I stand a little over 5 feet 8 inches tall.  I weigh about 140 lbs.  I am slender, but nicely built.  My hair is brown, graying a bit at the temples now, but not receding.  My eyes are hazel and nice to look at, though hidden by glasses.  I wear a beard always, usually a goatee.  Were my chin a little better (it does not protrude enough), I would be handsome.

I live in a little backwater town, poor, poky, endlessly familiar:  it is a town, I suspect, like a thousand other towns found across this country, ten-thousand towns.  But here in this town in these two rooms is where I remain, seated at my window, watching and wondering; and as I sit here I find myself overflowing with dreams, and filled with the desire to understand . . .

People say to me sometimes, "You seem so bright, so personable, so capable – why don't you have a career?  Why aren't you married?  Why aren't you doing more with your life?"  I don't know how to explain.  I tell them, "Well, it's a long story . . ."  I know of course that they don't really want to hear it; what they are looking for is an easy explanation, and I have none to give.  So mostly they just leave me alone.  I act normal enough.  But I can tell that they think me – well, just a little strange . . .

I do not.

My name is Simon.






TO ALL YOU DICKHEADS


Feed me to where I need to go
Any cumly asshole, cuz you never know
Just where or when – and it don't matter why
So long as it makes for a beautiful ride
Uncommonly common, commonly strange
Changes the meanings but not the names
If God were alive he'd be an angry young man
He'd be kickin your ass back to where it began

That's your ass not mine cuz my hips got thrust
When I walk this town this whole town goes bust
So empty your pockets of all of their jam
Now get down on your knees and lick it off my hands
I'll feed you to where you need to go
And why you'll do it you won't even know
God's alive and he's an angry young man
Gonna fuck your ass back to where it began








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