Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Judith Blue Stories: #3. Black and Blue

Judith realized even before she decided to let him ride with her that Junior was useless.  He couldn't drive her car.  She always thought being able to drive anything was an asset in a man or a woman, but a man's inability to drive a car with a stick shift was pathetic.  Out of the blue she asks him, "How did you evade the draft?"  The moment the words are out of her mouth she realizes that her assumption may be all wrong.  Maybe his fondness for heroin is a habit brought back from Vietnam.  But he has a softness about him that does not speak to any kind of military service, and could a man make it through basic training without learning how to drive a stick shift?  She can always leave him in a truck stop men's room and take off without him if he becomes a problem.
"I drew number two in the first lottery."
"And yet, I'm betting you did not go."
"You would win that bet."
"Do you find it difficult to carry on a conversation?"
"Not with you.  Ask me anything."
"Tell me something.  Anything.  Make it true and then elaborate.  Kind of like telling a story.  That's right up your alley isn't it?  Verse?  Anything.  I'm having to do all the driving so you can do the talking."

"I was a scholarship student at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville.  I got married to keep me out of Vietnam and when that wasn't enough we got the child.  You read about that.  She thought the baby would get me a deferment,  Then they changed the rules again and went with the lottery, no deferments, no exemptions.  So when I came up with a two, I starved myself, fast, the hard way.  I had to get as close to death as possible.  They were taking everyone.  So I did some research and found how many calories I'd need to consume to stay alive but lose weight the fastest way possible. Along with the starvation diet, I took speed with my speed-freak wife and ran obsessively while she doodled the days away.  The day I got on the bus to Little Rock for my physical I was eighty nine pounds and I was speeding and on acid.  They didn't even bother to weigh me.  When I got off the bus I winked at a Sergeant and asked if I could suck his cock.  We all had to undress to get our vitals checked.  When I stripped for some reason I had an erection.  My heart rate and behavior was so alarming, they took me out of line, helped me get dressed and turned me loose.  I found the nearest cafe, bought a donut and a coke, and stepped in the phone booth outside to call my wife.  I shoved the donut in my mouth, started to dial and passed out.  I came to in the emergency ward on IV fluids."
"Any lasting health problems?"
"Not that I know of."

It's almost midnight but they're not far from Fort Collins, Colorado.  They've been snacking on the food Judith packed for herself when she left her lunch shift at the Beanery in Salt Lake. If Junior could drive her car they could have taken turns driving and not had to stop for the night.  Judith has a fondness for road trips.  But she can only drive so long without a relief driver.  She says, "We'll find a motel outside of Fort Collins.  You get your own room."
"I have a friend in Fort Collins.  A novelist.  James Crumley.  I'm sure he'll put us up."
"It's kind of late to call him don't you think?"
"Maybe your right.  I think he got married.  He teaches here."

She finds a Motel 6 just off the interstate and they pull into the parking lot.  And just as he's getting out of the car she says, "What's your real name?"
"Junior Lee Black"
"Is your first name really Junior?"
"It is now.  Why are you asking me about my name?"
"I don't know.  It's just that I've gone to school with you and worked with you and to everybody you're Junior.  But guys called Junior are usually guys with the misfortune to be named for their fathers."
"Why misfortune?"
"Because the men who insist their sons carry their names usually want their sons to be an extension of themselves.  It seems so narcissistic.  Is your father a dick?"
"No, he's a great guy."
"Does he know you do heroin?"
"Yea he does and he still loves me."
"Did you have a happy childhood?
"It was perfect."
"Then why are you such a fuck-up?"

Strange Episodes

 Leda And The Swan -- Wilton House
First I'll give you a description of what the first three or four of these episodes felt like:  At first it only happened if I'd been sitting at my typing chair or on the edge of my bed watching TV.  I'd stand up and feel an intense gathering of the muscles of my pelvic girdle.  The muscles would all bunch or begin to feel as if they were in a spasm or cramp.  It was instantaneous and though not exactly painful, it was the strangest sensation I've ever had.  Not exactly a cramp but a more like a muscle seizure, as if they were grabbing my hips tightly, so tightly that the next sensation I felt was the loss of mobility of my legs.  I felt my legs go useless and floppy.  I had to hold on to something just to stay upright.  I leaned on a desk or the back of a chair to hold myself upright while my legs were useless.  First the knees buckled and then my feet went floppy.  It wasn't just the muscles surrounding my hips and buttocks that were seized this way; it was the interior muscles as well as if my bladder and bowel were also in a gathered, spasmed state.  And in each case I felt I needed to head to the bathroom pronto, but had to help my legs by picking them up with my hands and helping them move forward.  My feet would flop out and then hold.  And within a few seconds my pelvic girdle would uncramp and my legs would come back online.

In the recent past I took a couple of falls.  Both falls were easy to explain.  When the first on happened I was trying to find out what was wrong with the clothes dryer (loaded with clothing fresh from the washing machine and so adding considerable weight to the dryer) so I muscled the dryer away from the back wall and then wedged myself around the side of the dryer to peer at the place where the vent hose attaches to the back of the dryer close to the floor.  It was a tight fit, me between the dryer and the short wall beside it.  I was both bending over and stretching to reach the back of the dryer when my feet lost contact with the floor and I tipped forward onto my head, neck, and shoulder.  Even to me, struggling to get my feet on the floor, it had a comic aspect.  Just tip me over and pour me out.  The other fall was my flight from the end of the movie Crazy Heart which was a kind of mad dash from my past.  I tripped and fell on my side, all the way down, from head to toe.  It knocked the wind out of my and I lay there stunned for a moment in the still dark theater.  I don't think the falling and the odd loss of the use of my legs and feet are related.  I don't think the falling was much more than clumsiness.  But I've been experiencing sever lower back pain.  This is nothing new, and it doesn't take much to tweak the muscles in my lower back.  I spent more than a year in the grip of sciatica in 2003.  Often the pain was so intense I could do nothing but weep and wait for the pain to lessen so I could climb the rest of the stairs.

But three days ago I was standing at the kitchen counter fixing myself a chicken sandwich and it happened.  I wish I'd watched the kitchen clock as it happened, so I'd know how long it lasts.  It's probably only seconds, but seems much longer since the sensation is so intense and goes through a very specific progression.  This time I was standing up.  This time I did lose control of my bladder, this time I realized whatever it is it's serious.  Leda keeps coming to mind.
Leda and the Swan
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
    By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
    He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

    How can those terrified vague fingers push
    The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
    And how can body, laid in that white rush,
    But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

    A shudder in the loins engenders there
    The broken wall, the burning roof and tower[20]
    And Agamemnon dead.

                        Being so caught up,

    So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
    Did she put on his knowledge with his power
    Before the indifferent beak could let her drop? 

And Now for the Second Act: Ralph Lauren Spring 2010