Ezra Kilo licked the barn straw from his dry mouth and felt his head pound against the bright square of warm autumn light that shone down with morning candela.
“Morning misery.” He said. He clung onto a gray beam that injected splinters into his hand as he rose from a bed which had fallen apart during some early morning hour. The black wool blanket that transformed straw into party bed disappeared along with most of his guests. A few responsible drunks chose the grace of blacking out in the rented barn instead of driving home through long country roads where farmers drive million dollar lawn mower machines.
Ezra climbed down the loft of the barn and once on the ground searched for one of the many plastic water bottles that experienced drinkers drink with hard liquor to prevent hangovers. The stench of morning wet straw and rotting grass smelled putrid instead of like summer nights through the discerning nose of the hangoveree.
Ezra found a virgin water bottle on the cement floor and cracked it open and drank the water that tasted too warm to be refreshing. It felt bad and tasted sweet and Ezra drank the whole bottle as he walked out to his silver car and opened the door and sat down. The drive back to town was ten miles. Ten miles is the perfect party distance and Ezra listened to bad indie music that someone gave him or that he made while drunk.
“Whoa…” Someone said behind him.
“Jesus!” Ezra said and twisted down the stereo volume. He turned around but his neck didn’t reach around so he smacked his mirror and looked back and saw a girl.
“Where are you... where am I?” She asked. She looked out the window.
“You’re in my car.” Ezra said.
“Why?” She said.“Why?” He said.
She looked at him and pushed back her dark hair and orange hoodie but then put the hoodie back up and squinted her eyes.
“So…” She said.
“It’s your own fault,” Ezra said, “violating my vehicle.”
“Violating? You got me in here.”
“Or someone…” She looked out the window again and the scenery was still yellow fields full of corn and sometimes short plants, soy maybe.
“Where do you need to go?” Ezra asked.
“You could drop me off in town, I didn’t drive.” She said.
“I can drop you off. Why don’t I know you?”
“Oh sorry I’m Liza.”
“Okay Liza, I’m Ezra.”
“That’s a lot of Zs.”
“What? Oh ha, okay. Uh, want to sit up here Liza? It’s kind of creepy with you back there I feel like a dad or something.”
“Stop the car then.”
“Just, crawl up.”
“Oh my god, pull over.”
“I’m not going to pull over, make a big deal of it, then start again, the engine will cool off and I’ll be wasting gas and destroying the environment and whatever. I hope you’re not one of those girls.” Ezra said and tried to look mean and questioningly at her. She looked pretty and he liked the way she looked when he made fun of her, even if the jokes weren’t very good, maybe they weren’t jokes at all. He didn’t know but Ezra knew he liked pushing people and saying strange things that sometimes came out as a joke and other times sounded weird but then he could just dance in his head and laugh at everyone else because we and they and he and she all lived in the same meaningless world where the only meaning came from a mutual feeling felt from the same perspective.
“Whatever.” She said and she crawled up and bumped into him and fell twice but finally sat up next to him.
“I wouldn’t have asked you to if I knew you were going to tear the place apart.”
“Oh my god, are you serious.” She said. The cornfields turned into housing and Ezra turned on the music again and the techno beat through a good stereo system.
“I hate cliché phrases.” Ezra said. There was no point in acting fake.
“I wouldn’t want to live in a story without adjectives.” She said.
“Neither would I.” Ezra said. “I’m taking you to my place for coffee. You look like you could use some.” He looked over from behind his shades to watch her expression and carefully listen to her reaction. He preferred to handle people rough, to lead and test the limits of someone, especially smart or attractive people. He was sure this girl, this Liza girl, was pretty. But smart girls would refuse to be treated poorly. Some girls wanted to be treated poorly. She still sat silent.
“I mean if you’re cool, with that.” Ezra added.
“I’m a mess.” Liza said.
Good, Ezra thought, I didn’t break our relationship, whatever that might be. Not that we’re in a relationship per se, but that every living creature is in a relationship with every other living creature. Even dead objects that never lived are in relationship to each other literally, he thought. Man, I think weird crap when I’m with a pretty girl. I always think weird crap but now this weird crap is uncontrolled, my mind is in diarrhea mode. Say something, Ezra.
“Yeah.” He said.
“Take it easy.”
“You said it. I’m honest, not easy.”
“I think I look pretty good hungover.”
“I didn’t see you last night, I don’t think.”
“We were outside mostly. It was really nice out. Country skies are so clear.”
“Yeah but I wouldn’t trade the city life for anything.”
“I like the city too.”
“I love the city.”
“You win then.”
“I wasn’t trying to.”
Ezra pulled into a parallel parking space across from the apartment building he lived in. Ezra led Liza through the steel and brick lobby and up a new black matte elevator that had dangerous red buttons and accelerated fast.
On the third floor they walked out of the elevator through a hallway to the room on the corner of the building that Ezra picked because he really did love the urban life and the street views made him happy, especially when rain make that sweet asphalt and ozone smell.
They walked through a large living room with black furniture and a modern kitchen attached to it. Ezra took off his gray jacket and shades and twisted off the lid to a French espresso machine. Blue light reflected off the copper machine and Liza thought about how attractive the apartment looked. The prints that hung on the wall were probably cheap but they looked attractive and clean and she enjoyed seeing them.
“You like art?” Ezra asked as he made coffee.
“Yes, but I don’t know very much about it.”
“Neither do I except that I love the French impressionists.”
“Bal du Moulin de la Galette.” Liza read. “I’ve seen this in books but it looks better on your wall. The slimy green looks surreal, sort of like your party.”
“Thanks, I really put a lot of effort into that but all the parties would fail if people didn’t get high. That’s what makes them surreal.”
“Every party is like that I guess.”
“No, drunken parties aren’t. I use alcohol to tempt the drunks. Let the drunks drink. We surrealists can get high.” Ezra said and handed Liza one of two porcelain coffee cups in his hand.
“You speak French?” Liza asked. They sat at a steel and blue glass table by one of the windows that stretched almost to the floor.
“No, but I would like to. Do you?”
“Some, un peu.”
“Everyone should know a little French.”
“That would ruin it for us, like if everyone had an original Le Moulin de la Galette.”
“If I had an original Galette I would get rid of mine and buy a print because I couldn’t stand knowing that it was decaying in my possession. But if everyone owned that painting it would still be good because few people would understand it.”
“So speaking French doesn’t mean understanding it, to you I mean?”
“It’s the same with English, just look at a newspaper.”
Ezra enjoyed the coffee and he thought Liza did too. He made excellent espresso and all insane and most sane people love excellent espresso. Ezra made his coffee with Amaretto liqueur and buttery whip cream that a local bakery made. He sprinkled it with cinnamon and drained the liquid into small red porcelain cups that they now drank from.
When both Ezra and Liza finished drinking Ezra offered to take her home. The conversation, the jokes and ideas could go on but it was better to end the conversation at a strong point instead of waiting for it to taper off marked by awkward pauses.
“I’ll drop you off.” Ezra said and asked where she lived. Down by the college dorm. Okay. Ten minutes later they were in his car and he drove her to a university building and then drove out again.
Ezra picked out organic groceries at Grocery Market. The fresh bread always reminded him of red wine even though he hated alcohol because it felt like poison and he suspected he had some kind of allergy to it, except maybe for good whiskey, he told himself. But Ezra ignored that part of himself and put a load of cheese bread into his basket and refused the whiskey because he knew that his mind wanted always to trick and tempt him into drinking. Ezra paid for the groceries with cash and looked at the swollen cash register. His sulked because even though it would have tried to tempt Ezra to steal it all and run, he had never truly been tempted too and his mind only put effort into temptation he might pursue. “Like the girl.” His mind thought. Ezra drove into the street and said, “No. Not like the girl, don’t be like this.”
“I am we and we are like this.” His mind thought.
“You’re so fucking lame sometimes.” Ezra said out loud and turned on the radio so if anyone saw him he could pretend to be embarrassed at singing alone to the lyrics because everyone sings along to good lyrics but not everyone has real conversations with their rouge minds that are devilish with temptation.
“ Don't hurt my feelings, Ezra.”
“Then stop tempting me.”
“I can only tempt you because you feel tempted. Here I’ll send you a feeling that explains it all.”
Ezra felt that his feelings prompted and pushed his mind into thinking about temptations because he secretly wished to be able to give in to all temptations, like any sane man.
“ We've gone over this. I can’t trust my feelings if you can send me feelings at will.”
“Don’t be weird, Ezra.”
“No, you don’t be weird damnit, that was what I was going to say and you know it.”
“Your schizo, dude.”
“Don’t say that it’s not funny. I’m just thinking. Everyone does it.”
“Okay I’m sorry.”
Ezra didn’t reply. His mind always had the last say. Back inside his apartment Ezra make another espresso, this one without the cinnamon and he wondered if the cinnamon he put on Liza’s coffee made him look pretentious. He decided not to think about it and to go to sleep but he lay on his bed and thought about it anyway before falling asleep and not dreaming anything.
Ezra awoke the next morning and felt good. He ate fruit and eggs for breakfast and put it in the fridge because he preferred cold meals and he would run before eating. He ate a spoonful of raw honey because he suspected it was healthy. Someone had told him once that honey never went bad, like mammoth meat stuck in an iceberg.
He ran around a small pond and lamp posts and park benches. The lamps were painted black and still lit because the dark of night lingered until later on. His mind never interrupted him when he ran so he never ran with music. Instead he thought about his day. Ezra thought about that girl but he wasn’t tempted to get a hold of her. The party was awesome and his friends would want to do it again so he thought about a different theme. At the barn parties they threw there was always weed and beer and after that there was a scale that tampered off from items that were highly likely to be present to things that no one ever brought. Every party had beer. Few parties had opium. Occasionally someone would go hardcore and do meth out in the open.
But apart from all that Ezra felt he lived a healthy life. Ezra finished his run by the time the sun began to get hot and he ate a delicious breakfast with no ideas for the rest of the day. He cleaned before reading several poems. He read through a poem and sat trying to decide if he liked it when his phone buzzed and saw Thomas texted him.
The message said: Ridiculous party dude. Want to chill?
“Yeah. When?” Ezra wrote.
His phone buzzed again: green café.
“When?” Ezra wrote again.
“Dude I don’t know just come down in like a few minutes.”
Ezra could tell Thomas was agitation because he his texts became longer and quicker.
“Okay.” Ezra wrote and threw his phone on his bed and pulled into a gray sleeve polo with a black tee underneath.
“Dark jeans look good with everything.” Ezra thought.
“Dark jeans look better on drunken legs than sober.” His mind thought.
Ezra looked picked up his phone and keys and looked in his body length mirror again and shrugged.
He drove to and parked around the side of the café that had brick walls and a green awning with gold letters that spelled Coffee from a computer generated cursive detail. Non-church goers sat around small wooden tables in makeshift booths and the store smelled strangely clean. Not much of a coffee scent for all the coffee made there and not much of a rotting book smell despite the rows of old used hardback books for sale.
Ezra spotted Thomas and ignored him and walked into the next room and ordered a latte to go. He walked back into the book room and sat down where Thomas sat eating a pistachio muffin and pretending to text because he was bored and none of the books around him were worth reading for one morning only.
“Dude what’s up.” Thomas said.
“Not much dude.” Ezra said.
“We need to do that again. Will that guy let us use the barn again?”
“Yeah, he’s old and won’t care. I don’t even think he wanted money he was kinda out of it.”
“Yeah well he wasn't using it anyway.”
“I don’t want it to get boring. I mean we need more people.”
“Why? There was like over a hundred people there.”
“Dude, you set these arbitrary standards and feel compelled to meet them. It’s the quality that matters not the quantity. Don’t be difficult.”
“Take it easy man.”
“Okay I might have been out of line there. My apologies.”
“So why’d you want me to come here?”
“Whoa, I enjoy your company, but hey way to make me feel insecure. Thanks for the internal doubt, man, I’ll be sure to drink an extra shot for that one tonight. I like seeing your face, that’s why, Jesus Christ dude.”
“Chill out man.”
“You know I’m joking man.” Thomas said. “But seriously I heard there’s this shaman, like a legit voodoo doctor, who might have some exotic stuff for next week.”
“What’s exotic stuff mean?”
“I don’t know exactly but you should check it out.”
“We should check it out.”
“I’ve got overtime later today.”
“But since you’re a lazy bum you can investigate.”
“Dude I earned this.”
“I know. But seriously dude this could be something.”
“Okay, but if this is something I’m obscuring it. I need something now that I’m finished with the crickets.”
“Whoa, don’t be hasty man. It might not be obscurable, this voodoo drug. It might be a bogus sham. Probably is but find out for sure dude you know I hate when you get my hopes up like that.”
Ezra and Thomas finished their coffees and talked about obscuring, the verb used as a noun, which described an activity whereby an individual learns all they can about an otherwise obscure topic. Ezra recently obscured the gryllidae family (crickets) and Thomas obscured the life of Montague Summers which turned out to be difficult and boring. Along with Ezra and Thomas their friends Ephra and Pat had most recently obscured pipe crafting and the element Palladuim. They met regularly to discuss their obscuring subjects.
But now Thomas left to work at a hot and dirty steel fabrication factory and Ezra left with an address that “might be his house or church or something”. Ezra enjoyed the quiet of the café and walked to order more coffee and a cinnamon muffin now that he was alone. He picked out a book containing short stories by American authors and read a few chapters until late morning became noon.
Ezra left the café and drove his car to the place he thought Thomas described. He had part of the directions from their conversation and the rest in text messages. He was looking for an aquatic blue trailer just outside of town. Ezra felt sketchy and played jazz as he drove through lunch time traffic and a light rain that started pouring. Twenty minutes later Ezra was sure he was where the directions indicated but doubted Thomas’ mapping ability.
After more time Ezra found a small gravel road that led into the circular street named Paris Boulevard. Ezra found the aqua blue trailer, it was white too, and checked the same three digit address against what Thomas had given him. The numbers matched and Ezra wondered where Thomas had heard of this.
Ezra turned off his car in the middle of the tiny road and felt concerned that this guy might be a meth dealer as he stepped up the three cracked cement steps to the screen door. Ezra knocked and put his phone deep into his front pocket because if the guy was crazy and chased him he didn’t want to lose his driver’s license with all his info. “Won’t matter if he’s taking pictures of your license plate”, Ezra thought and looked up at a window with white lace curtains faded to a vitamin C pee tone yellow.
Inside Ezra heard someone move and the door opened and a man in surprisingly attractive attire opened the door.
“Hi.” Ezra said. “Okay this might sound weird but my friend and I were looking for someone who might know of some…”
“Purple monkey machine.” The man said. He pushed the screen door open and stepped out and down the steps. “Well, the guy with no sense of taste has it.”
Another man walked over to the door, he smelled like stale beer and either had that same beer dribbling down the side of his mouth or was drooling.
“Oh fuck, what do you want? Purple monkey machine.” He said.
“Uh yeah, actually.” Ezra said. The other man picked up a bicycle and started peddling it through the rough gravel. Ezra turned to the man who motioned for him to step in and he heard the other man crash into the gravel behind him and curse.
“You bring cash?” The man said.
“Don’t worry it’s not illegal.”
“Okay well I take some then.”
“For this bottle.” The man said and pulled a green beer bottle out of his pants (did he have pockets?) and handed it to Ezra who paid him.
“How many times is this good for?”
“One time is all you need.”
“Dude, I need enough for a few people.”
“Okay. Okay! Give me that.”
The man walked to a kitchen sink filled with beer canisters and paper plates and filled the bottle up with tap water.
“Now it’s good enough for, you know, maybe 3 big friends, maybe 5 small little friends.”
Ezra went to grab it but the man jerked it away. His mouth hung open.
“Dude I just saw you put tap water in that.”
“Twenty or you get nothing. This is the machine; water won’t delude it from my family recipe. You want to drink my voodoo with your friends? You want machine power?”
Ezra paid another twenty so he could leave. If this was bunk Thomas could fucking pay for it. Ezra turned and left and dropped his keys and saw the fat old greasy man watching from behind the curtains. Ezra drove back into town and washed his hands back at his apartment and then washed them again before deciding to just take a shower.
After his shower Ezra texted Thomas and Ephra who came over after Ezra ate an early dinner. Ephra walked in without knocking and Ezra showed him the dirty bottle containing a pale green liquid that looked like diluted swamp water and smelled like nothing.
“Dude this is nothing, you got ripped off man.” Ephra said.
“Maybe, but there was another guy there and I’m pretty sure he was high, or at least buzzed.”
“Whatever man I’m not drinking this. Anyway there won’t be anymore barn parties at the old farmers place. He filed a police report after we left.”
Ezra and Ephra laughed and Thomas knocked and came in with a pizza that they all paid for.
“Oh yeah get me some of that.” Ephra said and took a piece of slopping pizza.
“You’re not serious.” Thomas said as he looked at the bottle, “You’re messing with me, you didn’t pay for that did you dude?”
“Yeah we both did, you sent me to some nut shaman, voodoo man. This is what we got.”
Ezra did not mention the tap water incident or that the man referred to it as a recipe. If morning glory seeds and a San Pedro cactus can get someone high, there might be something worth tripping on here. Ezra felt uncomfortable when he realized that he thought the same thing about robo tripping back in highschool but brushed it off as an inevitable personality trait.
“Maybe we should try this tonight.” Ezra said.
“You’re not serious.” Ephra said.
“Dude be cool, we can just do a shot and see if we feel anything.”
“What if that’s bleach or something?” Thomas said.
“You can smell it’s not bleach don’t be annoying.”
“I’m just saying there might be something in there. Why don’t you do it if you want to so bad.” Thomas said and walked over to a cart with bottled spirits on top and various alcohol glasses on the bottom. He picked up three shot glasses and walked back with a bottle of whiskey under his arm.
“You do the potion and we’ll do the whiskey.” Thomas said. Ephra sat down next to him on the sofa.
“I’m not waiting then.” Ezra said
He grabbed the bottle and drank a gulp real quick and chocked and spat at the floor but the drink was already down. Ephra and Thomas laughed.
“That’s nasty; I’m not having any more.” Ezra said and walked over to his sink and emptied the rest out.
“You feel trippy?” Ephra asked. He drank another shot then wiped his mouth and leaned back.
“No that was complete…whoa.” Ezra said.
“I, uh, can’t walk man. I think it’s really hitting me.”
“Dude sit down, you might be sick.”
Ezra stepped forward and stumbled and when he tried to lift his arm it didn’t move and he slammed down on his face and everything became black nothingness.
When Ezra awoke he felt the warm bed under him but his vision spun so he kept his eyes shut and tried to feel. The air was silent and no one seemed to be around. He tried to check the time on his alarm clock and then his watch but failed both times and laid back quickly and hit his head on the backboard and he scream in pain. His stomach and head hurt and everything confused him. Ezra collapsed and fell asleep.
Ezra woke again and his head felt clear and he moved his arms. Ezra looked around and stepped out of bed. Things were different, someone had moved him. He looked at the black wallpaper with strange flowers and walked over to his kitchen. His eyes focused more as he untwisted the lid of his espresso machine and began to wake up. This was his house. He looked back to the distant walls and saw tiny movements, like flowers twisting.
“I’m nuts or infested with bugs.” He thought, not joking. Ezra continued to make coffee because he thought madness more likely. Silence, then a steady draining, then spurts of brown foam, the espresso machine puked it out and Ezra thought about drinking it straight because that seemed dramatic enough for the situation but instead shuffled over to his fridge where sugar cane sugar and half and half were kept.
Ezra drank the espresso with too much cream and looked around with one arm supporting him on the counter. “More bugs.” He thought. “Guess this is me nuts.” Ezra found some humor in the fact that even being mad wasn’t enough to drive him from his ego because he always had difficulty in loosing himself to drink or drugs the way other people could. He mind always stayed chained to his brain. “No sense in losing my mind now.”
On the counter a fat slopping translucent chunk oozed around his toaster. Ezra jumped and looked closer. The word, the letters were large and smooth near the edges and cube shaped. It spelled: SWEET. The three dimensional word crawled around and Ezra saw it. He stared and the creature never left the surface toaster.
Ezra thought about dramatically setting aside his espresso cup to feel up the walls with both hands- more letter bugs there- but instead walked over and sipped his drink. The bugs all crawled but never left the object they described and these bugs spelled “WE CAN TALK WE CAN TALK CAN WE TALK…” the CAN bugs scrambled to follow the erratic WEs but they kept getting jammed behind the traffic of the TALKs. The resulting mural made no sense but the three words were not difficult to decipher.
Ezra laughed. The word bugs had a sort humor. He stepped forward to go take a shower now that his espresso was empty and stepped down hard on a fat word bug, about the size of a football, and it squished then poofed away into nothingness. Ezra turned around and smacked the palm of his hand again the painted drywall and mashed a caravan of letters. They dissipated into nothingness, their white translucent quality increased rapidly until nothing remained. More letter bugs crawled over and filled the gap but there were no less words.
After taking a shower with an odd shaped GUNK bug and an awkward VOYEUR word he dressed and walked outside. For a moment he really did loose himself, his ego, that part of him overwhelmed by the sudden influx of millions of word bugs. In the sky a giant ASTROID bug loomed. Words too small to read even up close crawled over everything. Large bugs sat on the backs of people and some carried so many that their faces were an opaque blur. When Ezra felt his mind return he thought “At least they’re not numbers”, and moved forward again. He called a taxi service from his phone and waited.
His phone rang and the taxi came up at the same time. Ezra answered then told the driver the coordinates to the voodoo shaman.
“Hello?” Ezra said. Why didn’t they just text?
“Hey, this is Liza and I was just uh, I had lost this…”
“Okay, okay.” Ezra said after every word. He went to place the phone closer to his ear but a slimy word slithered out of the holes on his phone designed for the speakers. THEIF leeched out onto his arm then exploded like a rocket, hit the ceiling fabric, then bounced off it and down Ezra’s shirt and he screamed.
The cab driver yelled something about shutting up and Ezra slammed his phone shut and pushed back hard against the seat and felt word squish against his shoulder then evaporate. Ezra sat still and felt like a child in the back seat of his angry father’s vacation car. Drive on, Mr. cab driver with HIGHWAY DIEWAY crawling though your hair.
DIEWAY was a nasty little thing and tried to sneak down nearer to Ezra but it couldn’t seem to attach itself to anything except cab driver’s hair. Ezra watched the mountains of words in the sky until the taxi pulled up to the trailer home.
Ezra ran up to the steps and knocked until the man answered without opening the screen door. On his belly sat BURNT FLAVORBUD. He looked down and they both looked at it and he smashed it. Then another one crawled around from behind and now sat on his belly, the same word, the same bug.
“Let me save myself some explaining here. No, you can’t stop it, they always come back, and you can’t have your money back.” He said.
“What do you mean they don’t go away?” Ezra asked. He knew what the man meant.
“It’s a marriage, a diamond.” He said and laughed, “You’ll find out, you’ll see those pretty words. Diamond words, or worse, or better.”
“So what do I do?”
“Kid, you got a voodoo super power now. Go do whatever you want.” He said and shut the door.
Continued in Clearance on an Urban Legend, 2 of 2.