You are reading Fiddleblack #15
I eat in the basement, which is my room, in front of my computer. On the screen, I browse Helena’s website and watch a video of her moaning for no discernible reason while pouring a carton of fat-free milk over her breasts in an old-looking porcelain, claw-foot bathtub (that I quite like). I watch this for maybe ten minutes and think about my dodging of Apple’s drunken question about my love for her, and then I think deeper about the state of our relationship and how on her twenty-first birthday I bought all the wrong presents: not her favorite flowers, a pair of purple snakeskin heels that were too small and, most importantly, a sea snail for her saltwater aquarium that later ate a $250 angelfish that was incidentally an odd present from her uncle that died. I’m guilty as well, on her twenty-first, of deserting her in a rainstorm because I ran out of Xanax and found myself unable to cope with her drunk and boring art friends in a city we’d never been to before.
Helena squirts chocolate syrup on her hard body and massive real breasts and rubs maraschino cherries on her nipples, and I finish my glass of orange juice and wonder if the failed milestone birthday party, earlier this year, was a world class fuck-up or an attempt to sabotage myself under the weight of an impending (and not evident) existential dread under which I am still—must be—getting crushed beneath.
Helena is rubbing Neapolitan ice cream over her pussy, and I notice that she is scooping, and subsequently fingering, mostly the strawberry and vanilla parts, (which are my favorite) into her vagina. Motivated by this I lick most of the maple syrup off of my plate and wonder if perhaps my lack of effort in this relationship is because I really don’t know what love is and, conversely, neither does Apple, which—I think—could be why she routinely tells me that I don’t love her.
Helena is now pushing the maraschino cherries into her butt hole and squeezing them back out, and I take note that this breakfast has been both significant and revelatory.
In the shower, I think about the shark teeth that I found in Norse Morris’s room, and I openly state to the spider (whom I have now named Bigwig) that I plan to purchase a tiger shark’s jaw online from the saltwater supply dealer that sold me Apple’s sea snail.
I tell Bigwig that the tiger shark is one of the three sharks considered to be most dangerous to humans—the other two being the bull shark and the oceanic white-tip shark.
Each, I tell him, for their own specific reason: the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) can survive in shallow brackish waters and therefore is capable of traversing fresh water rivers and streams and encountering wading children or unsuspecting fisherman. The oceanic white-tip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), I state, was described by Jacques Cousteau, as “the most dangerous of all sharks,” and while most people would assume that the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is the most dangerous, they rarely check statistics, which often state in plain King’s numbers that the highly opportunistic and wildly aggressive oceanic white-tip shark is responsible for most all shark attacks on humans. Plus, I add, the oceanic white-tip was solely responsible for the 70 or so people who were consumed, at least partially, after the torpedoing of the USS Indianapolis.
Now, the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), the one I want, is among the most dangerous because of its actual jaw and teeth, which are serrated and angled like small saw blades that, if pushed onto human flesh, require little effort to sever limbs or move briskly through bone and marrow. The reason for all of this, I tell Bigwig, as I notice I am beginning to prune and feel hot and faint, is that I plan to create a real-life shark mask with dorsal fin, which I will wear at night and use as unsubtle distraction while peering into the windows of peoples’ homes in what I believe to be a good attempt at suburban social commentary combined with shocking performance art.
Once I am clean and dressed, I undress and masturbate twice to a video of Helena sliding the gear selector on what I think is a 1997 Porsche Boxster convertible into herself after having been lubricated heavily by a visible bottle of Astroglide that I do not care to see.
I purchase the jaw—ethically recycled from the legal fishing industry’s caught sharks that are used for meat and hides—for $375 on my father’s Visa. The jaw is approximately thirteen inches wide and nine inches tall with teeth up to one-inch long. Hot, I think. It seems big, but it’s actually quite small for this kind of shark. For reference, the biggest for sale is huge at twenty eight inches by seventeen inches with nearly two-inch teeth for $1100, and it’s certainly larger than my head.
Apple calls to tell me that she would like me to go to dinner with her and Jessica, and the Xanax I took must now be in my blood because I agree and sound excited by my own count when I tell her. After I hang up Richard calls me and begins to tell me things about last night that I already know and things about last night that seem to be flat out lies (which I kind-of enjoy).
Dude, so these two guys took this drug called salvia, he sounds out salvia (it’s Salvia divinorum) like I speak a different language, and they were both tripping out of their fucking gourds and talking in this insane fucking language like they were from that tattoo planet in Star Wars with two moons and Luke Skywalker or some shit.
Tatooine, I say. It has two suns, and, as far as I recall, everyone on that planet spoke perfect English except for the Jawas, and I really don’t think you even know what I’m talking about anyway.
Whatever, Alabama. Then these two guys are all high and we’re watching that Disney cartoon with all the racist Roger Rabbit shit, and the one dude, who I think was a skateboarder, starts barking at the computer screen when they sang “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” Like a fucking dog. Dude, I called you. You totally should have came. It was awesome.
Do you mean Song of the South? That’s Br’er Rabbit, not Roger Rabbit. He’s a significant figure in African American folklore from the antebellum South.
Alright, dude. Zip-a-Dee-whatever-the-fuck. Do you want to go to the bar tonight?
No. Where can I buy this drug?
Online, dude. It’s totally legal. There’s this dude, Wiley, like the coyote.
It’s Wile. E. Coyote. Not Wiley.
Whatever. Can I get in on that shit?
I’m thinking about creating a museum-quality replica of a tiger shark’s head and dorsal fin, in conjunction with a sleek-but-still intelligent office-appropriate outfit, and wearing it out in my neighborhood from time to time. You know, maybe to see if I can make the news or the police blotter or something.
Okay. Well. That’s cool, man.
I meet Apple for dinner at a crowded vegan restaurant called Hunger (it’s out near the city), and I am pleased that she is wearing a black and white, asymmetrically patterned top with green skimmers and a red plastic bead necklace that doesn’t look as tacky as it probably sounds to you.
We kiss and hug and sit in a booth and order two glasses of sulfite-free Merlot and two waters, and while we wait for Jessica to arrive I ask if I really ruined her birthday or if it was the sea snail plus my overall apathetic demeanor, and if she’s still holding a grudge, which she immediately confirms.
I cannot believe you would bring that up now. Jessica is going to be here any minute, and I’m going to look like I was crying because of you.
She stammers and spills water on the white part of her top and scowls at me when I remark that it was better than spilling the wine.
You haven’t even apologized for that. Do you even care, or do you just like to bring it up to torture me?
Well, I’m sorry, I say, and when she isn’t looking I slip a second Xanax into my mouth and wash it down with a sip of wine that is too big for my mouth and some of it dribbles down my cheek.
I mean, I want to get married someday. I don’t want to have things like that still coming between us, you know?
Jessica arrives wearing an uninteresting outfit but I notice that her breasts are much larger than Apple’s. This is an illusion or contrary to my mental record.
Sorry if I’m early, Jessica says.
I have no idea why Apple prefaced my meeting Jessica by saying I am going to love her because as far as I can tell she is fairly boring and semi-pretentious, even when she isn’t talking.
Do you have plans together later this evening?
Actually, Jessica says, Norse Morris from the party, as if I don’t know him, is meeting me here, but he might be late because he is working at his internship for NASA. Sorry I tried to call and ask you
Oh, that’s cool, Apple says, and I know she doesn’t have a clue.
Is this a date, Jessica? Are you dating Arthur Morris? I hope to surprise everyone with this shocker.
You’re funny, Davy. No one has called him Arthur since preschool and I’m his cousin so, no. I’m not fucking him.
The waiter arrives and I order the barbecue seitan sandwich with grilled red peppers. Jessica and Apple both order tofu with tomato sauce, vegan mozzarella and grilled mushrooms. Jessica excuses herself to the restroom and Apple follows her (probably to complain about the sea snail). While they are gone Norse finds me at the table and sits down across the booth and talks on his cellphone for what seems like five minutes before hanging up and acknowledging me.
Sorry. I’m trying to turn this NASA opportunity into the next step of my career.
I’m thinking about telling my parents that I like shemales pretty soon.
You aren’t gay, Alabama. Everyone knows that. All you do is talk about that fucking pornstar girl. I’m surprised your girlfriend hasn’t found out about it yet.
Do shemales make you gay?
Does Apple even know about your obsession? Did you tell Apple you know where the pornstar lives?
I ice over as he says this. I take a moment to fully appreciate the grace of Xanax before self-releasing little slow-motion heroin streams of angst into my blood stream. I’m unsure how Norse knows about me at all.
Our food arrives and Jessica and Apple return, and the conversation moves to topics like movies and music and television and the volume of the ambient noise in the restaurant rises in exponential banal comparison, and soon all I hear is the air conditioning turning on and off, and I rest my head on the back of the booth and nod, and I let the cool air into me.
Davy, you’ll know. What was The Elephant Man’s real name? Something Merrick?
Joseph Carey Merrick.
No, no it was John Merrick, Jessica says.
Apple nods at both of our responses, clueless.
Yeah, I think Jessica is right, he says. It was John. Remember the Mel Gibson movie?
I shovel pieces of seitan into my mouth: What the fuck are you talking about Morris? Mel Gibson movie? Do you mean, The Man Without a Face? He was disfigured, not diseased. And it was about homophobia. You would know about that with the shit you said to me while they were in the bathroom. That movie was shit. I begin to fumble my fork and knife wrangling, and I shove a slice of broccoli into my mouth and shoot back half a glass of Merlot and swallow to further annunciate.
No, I saw that too, Jessica says. I’m pretty sure it was about John Merrick. The Elephant Man.
Jessica has red sauce smeared on her face, and I hope no one tells her because she looks ridiculous and is clearly defending her cousin.
You two are thinking of The Elephant Man with Anthony Hopkins, not Mel Gibson. That is a completely different movie, like, thirteen years after the Anthony Hopkins one. And his real name is Joseph Carey fucking Merrick.
Apple kicks my shin.
Alabama, I think maybe we’re both confused here. I think maybe Mel Gibson directed The Elephant Man and starred in The Man Without a Face, although, whatever the dude’s fucking name was is beyond me. Jonas, maybe.
I make a note to consume Norse with my shark mask once it is constructed.
He says: I’m certain Gibson wrote and directed The Elephant Man, actually.
David Lynch wrote and directed that. And you know, what, Arthur? You are out of your mind. You and your sister. Cousin. Whatever the fuck. A piece of seitan flies out of my mouth. No one sees it and it lands on Jessica’s plate and no one notices still.
You don’t like Mel Gibson because you hate the Catholicism.
Apple comes to life: Jesus, Davy. I swear to God if I hear about you hating one more person, one more institution. You are the meanest person I know.
I scream something. A sequence of words, I think, but in what language I absolutely do not know, and as I do this I only hear my voice above all of the others. Apple, at the brink of something bad, pulls me out of the booth by my shirt. I fall out and stumble from the Xanax or the Merlot or both.
Just get out, Davy
Sea snail, I spit back. Everyone’s eyes biting me, angry little wasps.
At home, I take two shots of vodka and attempt to disguise my own anger to myself, and I brush my teeth twice out of sheer frustration. I play a previously unreleased demo version of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and lie facedown on the carpet and attempt to cry. I wait two or three minutes, because I saw that it can be a release.
I go online and look up Richard’s salvia contact. He happens to be a troll-looking has-been academic Jeopardy reject really named Wiley Lewis. He’s six hours away, selling the stuff as a liquid extract for $120, which I buy immediately with my father’s Visa. I study the website (which is extensive at least in terms of content) for what seems like an hour, then take another shot of vodka when I remember what happened at Hunger. While the card is still out, I buy a grappling hook from a survivalist website and print out a street map of my neighborhood.
I feel drunk and my cellphone continually vibrates with text message notifications. Norse is a total oddball and he couldn’t have sex with a girl if he paid one, but I still imagine his face buried in Apple’s sweet hairy crotch, and I want to punch a wall over this but all of my walls are painted cinderblock, and I’m smarter than that. Instead, I use a yellow highlighter and take the satellite map and go outside.
I start by walking down the sidewalk, making notes of which houses I want to shark attack, paying particular attention to the ones that contain semi-conservative-but-liberal-enough-to-be-socially-acceptable families, which intrigue me because, while I am a well-to-do one of that kind, I have no actual values, like I assume they do. And I say this not on spec: I’ve used a handful of criteria to make judgments, including types of vehicles, bumper sticker credos, religious danglers, and lawn health, which, I’ll say now, seemed most declarative of the said demographic during the course of my study.
Wiley Lewis’s website described salvia as an entheogen derived from the indigenous Mazatec shamans of Oaxaca (wa-hah-kah), Mexico. This group used the plant to travel through time and seek spiritual attainment and induce ecstatic states that sometimes included encounters with God or a god or a God-like/demigod type being.
A few cars pass me as I go and soon I’m on Helena’s street, outside of her two-story-with-a-finished-basement-and-probably-four-bathroom Colonial Revival (also Neocolonial) that looks like the house from The Amityville Horror.
I circle the house three or four times on the map and walk around to the back. The drugs and alcohol are swirling with century-storm force. Her patio is empty save for a nice grill, uncovered and faded gray. A few empty beer bottles. The lights are off, and the hot tub is covered but rumbling. I scan the backyard, which is empty. I creep up and gently pull open the sliding door.
I note a fact from the website that’s been echoing in my head: Salvia can sharpen the mind in small doses, giving the user “serpent’s sight.”
No one is here. They must be out walking. I survey the living room: a TV (bigger than my parents’, surprisingly), a half-circle white leather couch that has two recliners built into it, one reclined. Issues of Cosmopolitan and Us Weekly . A dissected issue of The New York Times. Various remote controls. The cornerstone of the room is a chromatic and somewhat dizzy sort of dot painting that I am certain is by Damien Hirst (who I am in love with), which is very similar to one of his famous pieces, LSD. I begin rustling through a stack of movies resting under the TV. I imagine Helena’s husband or boyfriend coming down the stairs with a baseball bat or a butcher knife or a gun and murdering me here, execution-style or gangster-style straight to my face. I try shrugging off this notion and instead become hot in the face when I encounter an unlabeled, home computer-made disc that I can only hope is what I want it to be and not some child’s birthday. I pocket this and push my luck no further, dipping back out into the neighborhood.
Elias Marsten is a lifelong Midwesterner, writer and hobbyist hacker. He briefly attended classes in the Ohio State University’s creative writing program as an academic auditor.