The doctor called them into his office. They were glad to leave the waiting room. The coughing and crying. Missed numbers and appointments. Angry denunciations about the Man.
It was free, but not their time. Her mother had come her during work hours. Less money meant more macaroni and cheese with ketchup. But whatever.
She didn't feel well now.
They walked into a cold office and sat in some cold chairs and listened to the doctor give a chilling account of what would happen if this medical situation persisted.
You daughter, Barbara. If she continues to lose weight like this, she's going to get sicker and sicker. You just can't lose this much fat and have it be healthy.
You see, if you look at these charts, she's supposed to be this size, this weight. It's in her genes, you see. Her people. They're large people.
In fact, just the other say I heard a theory about the Polynesian people, and why they're so big. Has something to do with the migration of them in boats across the Pacific Ocean. Took weeks and weeks to make the crossings, until they found a suitable island to live.
And the ones who survived and didn't starve were the ones who had the bigger fat reserves. And what we're learning about obesity is that it's genetic.
So, for your daughter here, her size is the result of all her fat ancestors surviving the crossing. They survived because of their biology.
Barbara is here because her people were fat.
-Check this shit out. Bet you didn’t know this about your new friend.-
After 15 minutes of viewing the vid-channel, Babz got it. Naked undulating men's butts thrusting, and other dudes doing the business on the side—and only one girl there to entertain them all.
She was a whore of the nations. That's what Flagneck called her.
The video contained graphic scenes of guys taking their turns with Kimberly, naked and folded over without a hand to spare, except for the Third Reich Totemkampf cap on her head, and the leg and foot that dangled over the side of the bed. Kimberly had no utility, but the fetish of men and their desires that they hated themselves for--and her--much more for their desire.
Babz got it.
Flagneck shut off the screen, began to wheel the thing back to the bedroom, until a running flash of Kimberly caught him off guard.
-You bastard, asshole!-
A big hand of Flagnecks swung around and knocked her into the wall, the floor. A sound that Babz had heard before at home. Stepfathers in the U.S. Navy were fucking assholes.
Babz balled up her fists while Kimberly whimpered on the shag-carpet from the better years of this agricultural ditch the house sat it.
-Try that again, you little bitch! You got yourself into this mess!-
Another growth of swollen flesh seemed sowed and, in due time, ready to sprout from the other cheek of Kimberly. In red and purple colors, which Kimberly would wear until the last second that Babz was sure she'd see of this punk rock girl.
-My brother! He'll...-
Flagneck crouched down beside her, the laces of his combat boots lined up perfectly with her jawline.
-Your brother. Let's start there. Your brother, Jason, will hear of this...-
-And kick your ass!-
Flagneck was nearly caught unprepared for that intercession of Kimberly. But he regained himself and that power.
-Are you fuckin' kidding me? Why do you think I'm here?-
-To help me.-
Flagneck laughed, and Kimberly seemed to crumble a little.
-To help you? No. He knew you couldn't be trusted to handle this.-
Flagneck punched Kimberly in the mouth. Her skin made a sick gushy sound, a broken sound, where now air wheezed through her bloodly lips. She whelped a little.
Babz had wanted to kick her ass.
Flagneck stood up.
-Clean yourself up. Your dad is rolling over in his gave, right now.-
Kimberly didn't say anything...after this, even Flagneck looked down from his heights and worried. Something soft came over his face, his voice, his choice of words.
-Your brother is looking out for you. His first priority, though, is to the project.-
Kimberly held up a hand, and it quickly turned into a broken middle finger.
Flagneck threw back his head and laughed, went into the kitchen with the refrigerator going off like a triggered alarm, and back came the boot-stomped march of the victor.
Babz saw Flagneck look her way. He didn't smile.
-Now...because of you...you messing up...I have to clean up your mess. And I will tell your brother. He'll just nod and say, 'what did you expect from my sister...'-
Babz heard enough.
-...the whore of nations...-
Flagneck stomped towards her.
-At least this bitch will whelp true Americans you flat-faced ugly pig-bitch.-
Babz would have laughed if his punch hadn't been so quick.
Dumbshit walked in the house and sulked for a few hours. Mumbled bullshit, this is bullshit. Tried to play music—got scolded by Flagneck for that. Picked through the fridge (he'd opened it more than a few times), looking for something. The beer was gone. And food. Forget it.
So when activity got pretty hectic in the back room, with voices raised behind a slammed door, then shouting, it was Dumbshit who got the call.
Babz watched it go down. Thinking. She had better play along.
Flagneck put his hands on Dumbshit's shoulders. Dumshit stood taller--much taller. My how his little boy had grown....
-Listen little brother.-
-I am, brother.-
-You've been there from the beginning. Been a good soldier for the cause. For the Project. All of us gotta take the next step, to prove ourselves. All of us have. It's your turn.-
-Whatever you want me to do.-
-There's a problem with...the equipment back there. And me and the others got to take a run into town and pick up some shit.-
Babz had heard voices in the back room. Where the skin-secters had loaded electronic equipment. Every now and then, she thought she had heard one of those insta-phonez. It sounded like a walkie-talkie. She heard static and a beep, then a person's voice. And the punch of keys on a keyboard.
Flagneck also chewed out Dumbshit when he brought guns into the house,
-I'm taking everyone out of the house. That leaves you. You should have no problem with taking care of this.-
-I'm ready. I can do this.-
-Good. You need to clean the bathroom.-
Flagneck rubbed Dumshit's neck and Babz thought it was the most tender thing she'd ever seen.
-That bathroom sure looks dirty.-
Babz sat for the 12th straight hour, her hands numb, her feet. Useless. Just waiting.
Kimberly sat dumbfounded on one of the couches, somehow stuck in the gaps in the cushions. Her cheeks were puffed out. Babz knew it wasn't food. Internal hemorraging maybe. For now just swollen skin busted by hands.
Dumbshit had small hands for such a tall guy.
-When's the last time someone cleaned that bathroom?-
Dumbshit had gone back to the kitchen. He was also nursing the terrible rum of Flagneck's. By the way it wasn't Tongan. From Guam. Islands. The Pacific. Same thing.
Dumbshit looked ready for more rum to steel himself. Babz could see it.
-Why are you so worried about the bathroom?-
-I'll clean it for you.-
Dumbshit waited for a second, leaned against the wall, not quite sure what to do with himself.
-That's what you're worried about?-
-Not worried. It's just what I do. I clean things up.-
Dumbshit had his chance to grab one of the guns. A shotgun. He undid her hands and feet, and led her with the long arm of a shotgun to the bathroom. There wasn't much to clean with, so she asked Kimberly.
-Why do you want to clean so bad?-
Babz went through her purse. Found some hairspray.
-Here, this will work.-
She saw something on the floor. A butterfly wing.
Babz was about done with the bathroom. For a house full of men who shaved their heads, they sure had a lot of pubic hair.
Dumbshit watched down the barrel of his shotgun.
It should you idiot, it's hairspray. She'd barely used any. Funny how water worked fine, and if people smelled something nice, they thought things were clean. Tricks of the trade, tricks of the trade.
She turned to talk.
-You like acid rock?-
Dumshit looked, well....
-Acid rock. You like acid rock?-
-What the fuck are you talking about?-
Babz put down the wad of toilet paper and looked crestfallen. She secretly put the hairspray in her pocket.
-I know you're going to kill me.-
The shotgun actually dipped a little, before the sight went back up. Right between her eyes.
-If you're going to kill me, let me do it like my people do it, and have done it, since the beginning of time. When our warriors were taken captive, they were allowed to have their eyes opened, so they could see the Rainbow Bridge, and their souls could cross it, into the Islands of Paradise.-
-From one warrior to another, give me this honor. I'm scared, and I want the spirits of my ancestors there, when you...-
Dumbshit lowered the shotgun.
-I like acid rock...-
-I got things to show you then.-
With the lights out it would be less dangerous. Sensory overload for sure. Babz got Dumbshit to wheel out that same monitor that she'd been lucky enough to watch Kimberly fuck the entire Aryan Nation.
Now it would be her turn to show how she fucked.
-Can I grab them now? They're in my wallet, in my back pocket.-
He did. She pulled the wallet out, looked inside, and slipped out a tab of cellophane. Inside there were three white squares, no bigger than the fingernail on her pinky.
-You're taking one too, princess.-
Kimberly gave her a suspicious look. Before Babz handed one of the tabs to Dumbshit, she looked in those big brown eyes of his. He'd better watch them, or he'd find himself deported.
-Thank you for honoring my spirit.-
They put the tabs on their tongues. Kimberly was the last.
At first, came the anxious feelings of not knowing what to do with oneself, as you could feel a change, but not really, and it made you like something was happening. But you couldn't be quite sure.
After some half-hearted attempts of putting on music, with Dumbshit nearly at the end of his bottle and the selection somewhere between getting stabbed with a skrewdriver and reggae, it was Dumbshit with the great movie.
-Let's watch a demand show.-
That was done--with a recommendation from Babz.
Dumbshit drooled on himself.
Dialed up and done.
Babz could feel the lysergic acid diethylamide kick in. Cut with too much rat poison. She gritted her teeth and looked at Kimberly. She looked scared. Shitless.
They went through the packages of programs on the selected intra-nets. Nothing was free. But there were some free codes being bounced off a sponsership of the closest VisionCloud, so they were into a loop of shows. The guide clicked through no-preferences, which was an agonzing but eqaully pleasing visual/aural experience of entertaining vinettes where sounds were much too loud from station to station to station.
Something about bombings in southern Utah. A wilderness show about the Moon. Brown and black-skinned kids shooting an old lady. A dramatization of a new series of dams in the Yukon. A guy in a tuxedo fondling a woman in a bath stall.
A voice said: you could be held responsible for any relations you have with an alien. Don't do it.
-There, that one. Whatever.-
It was a story about the founding of some kingdom with swords and the lords pretty men getting down to the nitty-gritty of dividing up the spoils of some crusade that a wizard would soon explain.
Dumbshit put the shotgun on his lap. He hadn't tied her hands or feet. But she was a long way from that door.
-I love history.-
Dumbshit looked happy. The acid began to kick in. The show got to a good part. A king wanted a sword and some cleric-dude was telling him he had to see the forest wizard. So the king embarked on another tired quest, this time to a remote lake.
The waves on the lake seemed to splash color off the monitor. There were little mini-reflections they should have taken out, but had not.
And something moved past Babz's ear.
Did Kimberly just say something? She wanted to cry.
The king rowed a boat across the lake. It was made of bones. It clinked against a porceilin shore, all dark from the ripples of dark mass that undulated against the hull of the boat, and the swaying of a dead man hanging at the end of a rope.
Dumbshit laughed, called the cadaver a fag, and clutched the shotgun.
Dumbshit stood up.
-I need a fucking cigarette.-
He began to stamp his feet, rubbed his eyes.
Babz began to regret her plan.
He looked at her. Crazed, eyes ready to pop. Desperate.
Why did he talk so slow?
-I will be right back.-
He grabbed the shotgun.
-Don't think I don't know what is going on here.-
He walked over to the frontdoor, opened it...
THE NIGHT. Babz heard every single thing that creeped and crawled and flew. All at once. And behind it, the backbeat of the nearby highway.
Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh, it sang.
Dumbshit struck a match and flame erupted, and Babz felt as if she had inhaled the fiery sulphur.
The night had chilled the hot earth.
She turned her head and the room turned slowly with motion blur, one frame after another. She could see each one. Each one the same as the other. Until it was Kimberly she looked at.
-My brother is going to be so pissed.-
The frontdoor slammed and Dumbshit returned. She could still see smoke in the doorway. Kimberly made a sound.
-Flaghead is going to be pissed. He has asthma....-
Babz giggled, really laughed. She knew...she knew how much she had needed that. That laugh. It felt good.
Dumbshit stretched out, rubbed his bare head, rubbed his hand together. It seemed as if he had been smoking for an hour. It hadn't.
Babz couldn't tell what had just happened before that thought. She just looked at the monitor. Still-frame. Paused. A frozen image of the king, as he wiggled through a sea of weeds...of snakes...which he slithered through.
A light was on the hill. It got brighter and brighter as they got near it.
Dumbshit sighed really loudly, rubbed the shotgun, did a little dance with his boots against the floor.
This was a bad idea...yeah...
She tasted metal in her mouth. Kimberly must have too. Babz heard her spit.
The king climbed up a cliff. There was a really bright light up there, and he followed it.
Babz thought she had seen this scene earlier. The sound echoed when she asked out loud if they had accidently hit rewind but she hadn't said anything.
-Did you hear that?-
The light the king crawled towards got brighter. But he made it. A man. It came from a man. He wore a cloak. They all did.
The walls of the room began to move in and out with each breath.
The king approached the man in the cloak. A light spilled from out his hood. He pulled it back.
Dumbshit stood up.
Babz had made a mistake. Doing this. She couldn't breathe.
-What the fuck? The wizard is...the...-
Kimberly spit again.
-He's the king. Shut up, dumb shit.-
Her voice spoke to Babz down a long tube. It took it's time to get to her.
-My. brother. is. going. to. be. so. pissed.-
Dumbshit pointed at the screen.
-No. Fucking. Way.-
The wizard-as-the-king pulled a sword out of his cloak and swung it in semi-circle over his head. Tracers of color trailed behind the path of the sword. In slow motion it formed as arch.
It was the rainbow bridge.
Babz stood up. She took the hairspray out of her pocket and, while the walls sucked in and out, and the shag carpet began to wave, she asked Dumbshit if he liked acid rock, while she emptied the bottle of hairspray into his eyes and all over his face.
Babz and Kimberly waited in the river. The flashlights came closer. They backed down the bank and deeper into the middle, where a small grove of trees waited out the winter floods on a sandbar higher than the river bottom.
Babz forced herself not to look at the stars. She’d never seen so many. But Flagneck was so close, he had been the entire time. Theyd barely escaped through the door of the house when he showed up. Just as they were to dart out. One of the other skin-secters had swung at her. The ring on his hand cut her ear open. Another had grabbed her from behind and nearly gotten on top of her. With a quick kick, shedd gotten him too.
Then, theyd run. Across the fallow field, dust and all flying up with their footfalls. The skin-secters in fast pursuit. Babz saw the irrigation canal, tugged Kimberly towards it, and theyd followed it here. Just beneath the beams of searching flashlights.
Babz had thought theyd escaped. She even had the time to ask one last question. It was the only question she had the chance to ask, and when she did, Kimberlys answer was so strange, so otherworldly, that Babz realized at that moment she would never do drug again.
-My brother is going to be so pissed. Hes worked SO HARD…to get where he is. Done SO MUCH. And I…I could have fucked it all up…our chance…our revolution…-
What had she ever seen in this girl?
Babz resisted the urge to see the stars fall. She tried to get a grasp on something—anything—to figure out a way to esacpe.
-Come on. With me.-
Kimberly turned around. Hidden.
-We can get help. You…can…come with me…-
Babz heard an owl hoot in the darkness. Wings beat against the cool night. She couldn’t hear anything now. She heard her heart, then realized it was Kimberlys. It beat furiously. She had to get her out of…
Kimberly slowly turned around. She hid something. Babz stepped forward to grab her hand.
-I cant let my brother down.-
She swiped her arm at Babz. Not all that glittered was gold. What flashed was steel and it cut. Babz felt it. Right through her right breast.
For a second she tried to ask why.
Then Kimberly lifted up her swollen face and struck down again with the knife. Babz barely missed it.
A throb a pain raced through her body. She touched her breast. Blood. Warm flesh. Nerve ending where she should have them. All exposed and throbbing.
The flashlights approached. She heard yells. Kimberly. She was yelling. The flashlights swung towards her.
Babz was gone.
A nightclub clusterfucked with friends. Loud, in each other's faces. Everyone talked over the other. If you weren't loud enough, you might miss the chance to say. Something witty, something before anyone else did. If not, non sequitur hell.
The lights had moved fast in the car. A city beneath their feet, its light faded and peeled off the surface of Old L.A. downtown. Most of the prime-elevated real estate of skyscrapers were no longer the business towers of the intra-national elite. Instead, the transnational symbols of capital powered-on the skyscrapers and auxiliary business buildings with lights and activities and, if you looked closely at the entrances, armed men with gun wearing masks to secure the banks of the orient, those now-time rulers of later cali-four-nia.
Chinese money was good.
Babz and her gaggle of bytches in the plumage of silvery metal studs and polity-patches didn't need the tender that was worth more than the American dollar. Tonight, they reached the nightclub through the districts of the defunct subways and traveled over and under the former Angeleno river, battled the self-drive tolls of the freeway fortresses, and parked just far enough away from the city-center that the street-bots would not tire-boot her car while they roamed the blue-light districts of the monetized block-cities.
Babz hadn't said a word the whole night. She walked ahead of her group of the rejected. She pointed out the enforcement-soldiers on their contracted beats, and they side-stepped into alleys and side streets per directed for hazard avoidance. But she never talked.
Until they reached the club.
The sign read Comedy Barn. Her bytches complained, said aloud that, why o' why would Barbara "Babz" Manaia Porschen (Pershing) want to go here?
I like frontier humor.
She looked to the electric sky that had once known brighter towers of light, saw the darkness between the blacked-out towers of steel. A few strands of tinsel draped over cold, dead, unlit christmas trees. Here and there a former glory. But no VisionCloud that pulsed and strobed in the formation of an alien invasion.
And for that, Babz could see the stars.
They paid out the nose with locality and credit, the trans-union banks knowing that they did not belong, and they entered a mass of tables and overpriced waitress girls. But they entered the den of the lions of the transnational owners of the outsourced post-American Dream. But what was more American than that, Babz had always thought.
The gaggle sat down and the stewards of the captains of the new industries took their orders and brought them their drinks and the first act came on stage.
A fat Polynesian girl in a hulu skirt. She shook that ukele.
The masters of the earth cheered.
And Babz noticed the drinks were served in pineapples. Imperial commodities.
The Polynesian betty left the stage. Now came a comedian. A big guy explained that he'd once played professional rugby for a geo-nomics company in Neo Tokyo, until some Kingchurch beer hall putsch hacked out his knees. So, now, he make jokes about the haka, the musket wars, the craving for Spam and fried eggs over rice, and all that shit the beautiful little people of the South Pacific were known for.
When he told the story about the white men who jumped from their ships to live with the floral skirted silent beauties of the beaches, Babz laughed. She laughed because she got it, and no one knew the other story, the one where the interviewees who'd once grown up in Samoa had lied the entire time. Making up stories to fool the classifiers of race was all part of the game.
The heart that beat beneath syncretism was more than a game of survival.
Babz looked out the nightclub window. The light had begun to fade.
Kimberly walked in wearing a slinky red dress and high heels. A piano began to play.
She held a drink in her hand, which she gave to Babz with a lipstick kiss on her cheek, sat down at her elbow, and whispered into her ear.
Our empire is going to burn down.
Morning brought its share of worries. The day had started and so came light that threatened to not only reveal what hid in the bush, but the start of the valley heat that not even the cool hollows of the dry river bottom could ward off, making it unbearable by mid-day to deal with the hell of a newly risen sun.
For now there was some darkness, if one crouched low enough under a tree that drank from the little streams of water that never evaporated during the summer. The last animals of the night recognized this, their nocturnal errands almost over, for soon they would need to return to their burrows, and wait out the day. Nothing but some deer and maybe a coyote or two dared the travel during the day. Life waited, the songs from morning birds announced the change over. Mostly, it was insects that swarmed and buzzed over the sandy valley. An oasis of green within the sweltering sea of burned brown hills, the golden grasses of Central California didn't even have a wind to cool them, to lift them. Things died here, and now, a few buzzards had begun to swarm over a spot. They'd seen something in the river bottom. Something wounded that could barely move.
Babz knew she had lost a lot of blood. She only had to look at her shirt. Above her right breast, blood soaked it. Most of the blood on the shirt had dried. But in the center, a still wet spot lingered. It never changed. It had the same vertical lengthwise shape that it had first had when a knife had opened her up.
How fucking punk rock.
If she didn't get something in there to stop the bleeding, more blood would escape, and with it any chance for her to get out of this river bottom, out of this barren plain of rolling grass, and live again.
She looked up at the buzzards and climbed out of her tomb, a near corpse, ashen white. Barely any energy. Her mouth was dry and she tried to spit. Nothing. She staggered through the soft sand, reached the high bank and walked out.
The desert of an agricultural field opened up to her. She saw a car on the far edge of the field. She tried to imagine it was her car. But it was miles away from here, and she wouldn’t go back.
She imagined what she’d say though, if she did walk up to the house and knocked on the door. Would Kimberly answer? Dumbshit with his stupid grin? Would Flagneck answer if she called him…Flagneck. All of these things she would never know.
None of it.
She tried to imagine the conversation and how she would say the words. There was too much to say.
She stopped for a few seconds, reached in her pocket. Took something out.
The butterfly wing.
She had an idea what she’d say. When she reached the car, she formed the sentence, as if Kimberly was right there and Babz could know. Why did she do it?
She looked at the door of the car. The words read IMMIGRATION. A man in cop sunglasses stepped out, and he might have looked alarmed. She knew what had to be said.
-No habla ingles.-
She was saved.