Fluorescent lights tortured the fragile mind of as he lay strapped upon a gurney in one of the thousand polished hallways of the Witherspoon Memorial Detox Center in Arcadia, Wisconsin. A guard had left his radio dial between stations as he had been busy breaking up a fight between two men down the hall. The white noise of the radio further intensified Grungard’s anxiety. And so he concentrated on a piano work by Oleg Vronsky he had studied as a student at the now defunct Fulham Academy of Music in Michigan.
It was the fourth movement of a series of small works; “Sketches for Piano” that Grungard felt particularly attached to, some twenty years ago. Grungard lay there, breathing in the horrible torment of his surroundings while consciously circumventing the radio static with his memory of this much maligned music. All the while, the fluorescent lights peered into his skull every time he opened his eyes as the radio static grew with intensity, adding directly to the unending persecution of Grungard’s soul.
(the garden of sanitational sanctorum)
On January 17, 1975, Dr. Amanda Mueller’s remains were discovered under fifteen feet of garbage, flattened between thick cardboard materials and debris in a town landfill just outside Arcadia, Wisconsin. Two weeks prior to the grisly discovery, Dr. Mueller apparently had climbed into a six foot storage receptacle and locked herself in from the inside of the container which she had placed on the sidewalk in front of her home that morning. The cylindrical cardboard container had been stolen from the Middlebury Research Lab at the University of Arcadia, Dr. Mueller’s employer.
Sanitation workers would later recall debating whether or not to open the sealed item. After some discussion, they had decided to take it. They struggled a short time with the weighty item before lifting it into the garbage truck. Then the workers began taking away an assortment of stuffed garbage bags, boxes and folders containing many of Dr. Mueller’s personal effects. It is at this time authorities theorize that Dr. Mueller took the cyanide that was later discovered in her system. This was corroborated by a letter found in Dr. Mueller’s kitchen, a suicide note in the doctor’s own handwriting.
Her colleagues guessed that Amanda would have had the sense to slip the cyanide under her tongue the moment she was aware that the sanitation workers dumped her and the cardboard coffin she lay in, into the garbage truck. Little could those men have known that they had just deposited Dr. Amanda Mueller, Fulbright scholar, physician, biologist and recipient of the prestigious Newbury Foundation award for her very controversial work in the area of Non-Intrusive Cerebral-Intestinoidal Transdection Process, into her grave.
Initially, “a horrible stench” hindered the police in their investigation surrounding the disappearance of Dr. Mueller. Police in Arcadia who had visited her residence, were so overcome by the odors, that they had to turn around and wait for a team of forensic specialists, who arrived with gas masks and protective gear.
“There was an unbelievably horrible stench in that house,” police captain Gerald Stewart reported. “This was one of the most disgusting situations I’ve come into over the last twenty-five years of my service. Going into that house was like walking into a Pandora’s box.”
The interior of the house was in total disarray: filthy wallpaper was peeling from the walls, clutter and garbage was littered throughout the floors of every room. In at least three bedrooms the corpses of dogs and cats were stacked on top one another over flea infested, crumpled beds, rotting in the rank, congested air. Flies swarmed though out the entire house.
After the dead animals were removed, authorities began to scrutinize the numerous writings on the walls of the spacious living room. At first glance, they appeared to be a series of incoherent scribbles but upon closer inspection they revealed themselves to be sections of writing and poetry. They were all photographed by the police for further analysis.
The suicide note found on the kitchen table read as follows:
Dear John Anyone,
Beautiful death. My suicidal after-flow,.. a cyanide tablet will soon be nestled beneath my tongue for a gainful digestion. In the confines of my comfortable cardboard coffin, I will be brutally crushed in death as in life. The wide smiling face of the truck will have me for breakfast; let it gnaw at me like the fistle gristle on my mumper. Hyper-hydraulica in splendid masticational fuss budgetry. Crushed in death as in life,.. I point my river as I go.
Follow then, as in death’s second-self, the ambulatory dead sleep. I will drip into the void, co-constricting my sacred soul with a swoosh and a tossle of the hydrolic jaw,.. then it will set my stricken other-self free at last, like from the world’s open mouthed death rattle of Nazi #17.
I give myself to the garden of sanitational sanctorum; the beautiful mountains of ever after fermentational dream land. Diseased new worlds. Rivers of disgust and vast, sweeping measures of decay. There, you will find me.
Amanda Mueller, Phd
Detective Dick Brigkowski was the first to suggest Dr. Mueller may have used the Arcadia Sanitation Department as unwitting accomplices in her own death.
“It came to me early on in the investigation. I had been out back chopping some wood, thinking about the suicide note. A light bulb went off after going over the note in my head for the hundredth time that Dr. Mueller had actually thrown herself out in the trash. My colleagues scoffed at this idea at first, but I convinced them to search through the town dump and, as it turned out, this is in fact what she had done.”
The results of this discovery were a great shock to the Arcadia community as well as to Dr. Mueller’s colleagues at the Middlebury Research Lab at the University of Wisconsin.
Brigkowski interviewed Cecil Grungard, Dr. Mueller’s long time companion. Having suffered a gunshot wound to the throat some years earlier, Mr. Grungard communicated using a mechanical voice box designed and then surgically implanted by Dr. Mueller herself. Mr. Grungard had suspected suicidal ideations in Dr. Mueller before but believed she wouldn’t ever act on them. “I am so terribly upset by these latest discoveries. Amanda had made me leave our home last month, as she threatened to commit suicide if I didn’t agree to dissolve our relationship. We had been having problems but I had nothing to do with her death. Amanda was everything to me. She made it possible for me to speak again after they removed a large part of my esophagus due to the bullet that tore through my throat. She was an inventor. She made me a beautiful voice box.”
Colleagues who were well acquainted with Dr. Mueller had expressed astonishment at her involvement with Grungard, a man who had been a transient for several years and who many of her associates felt used and abused her. Dr. Idlehour, among others, was sure that Cecil Grungard had killed Amanda Mueller despite the suicide note. She recalled visiting Dr. Mueller and Grungard at their home and being shocked at the conditions they were living in. Garbage was strewn all about the house, dishes were piled up in the sink, and there were a great number of dogs and cats everywhere, some of them appearing to be very ill.
Dr. Beverly Idlehour:
“I couldn’t believe this was the same person I had worked with. How a woman of such high social standing as Dr. Mueller could ever have been associated with a man like Grungard is unbelievable. The house was in a complete shambles. Dogs were barking and I heard the sound of plates or glass smashing. Somewhere from the living room was this piano music blasting from the speakers. I knew this particular piece myself, “Gaspard De Le Nuit,” by Ravel. I can remember how disconcerting this made me feel in addition to everything else that was going on just then. Apparently, a pipe had broken in their upstairs bathroom and, as a result, water was literally pouring from their kitchen ceiling. I remember thinking it was raining in their kitchen, but they seemed almost oblivious to it; they were just yelling back and forth at each other. Mr. Grungard was completely naked and covered with grime. And I noticed he had cuts and abrasions all over his legs, they seemed infected. He was going on and on, actually about a potato. I know it sounds ridiculous, but this man was droning on and on in that artificial voice about a potato. Dr. Mueller began screaming back at him about the potato. The next thing I knew, Mr. Grungard threw a chair in the air. Needless to say, I left the house soon after their row began. The next day I saw her at a conference and she acted as if nothing ever happened. I can remember asking her if she’d like to get lunch, she said she was fine and that she had brought her own lunch, which I noticed was potato salad. This was just moments before her sudden and terrible outburst which eventually caused her to lose her position at the University.”
University administrators were present in the cafeteria when Dr. Amanda Mueller suddenly screamed. She stood up from the table where she had been dining with Dr. Idlehour and then proceeded to throw a chair clear across several tables from where she was seated. Apparently, the chair hit the face of Edmund Colcott, an eighty-two year old Professor of Physics at the University, breaking his left cheekbone. Dr. Mueller then undressed herself while chanting something about a potato. The exact words she spoke were unclear. Dr. Muller was restrained and was soon transported to the Arcadia Psychiatric Hospital for further evaluation.
Detective Dick Brigkowski interrogated Cecil Grungard and he wrote in his report: “The suspect smells. He reeks of alcohol. He has lesions all over his body. He speaks with the aid of a mechanical voice box that has apparently been surgically implanted in his throat. The suspect is greatly agitated; he constantly picks on the infected scabs on his shins.”
(The following is a transcription of a dialogue recorded between detective Dick Brigkowski and Mr. Grungard just before the discovery of Dr. Mueller’s remains at the Belltrap Town Dump just outside of Arcadia.)
D.B. So let me understand the nature of your relationship with Dr. Mueller.
C. G. We were friends.
C.G. We were sometimes lovers. May I please have another cigarette?
D.B. Why do you keep scratching yourself there?
C.G. Thanks. Are these low tar cigarettes?
D.B. Never mind, you’re lucky you’re getting them.
C.G. You don’t smoke? Please tell me why?
D.B. Never mind. Now why don’t you tell me about your relationship with Dr. Mueller. Were you together long?
C.G. Have you ever read Goethe? I haven’t.
D.B. Just answer my questions, tell me about the nature of your relationship with Dr. Mueller.
C.G. Amanda liked to have me give her foot massages. She liked me to rub her feet. I spread medicated ointment on her calluses at night.
D.B. She fitted you with a voice box. Is this true?
C.G. That is correct. She put me under and surgically implanted this like voice box in my throat. Eventually, this made it easy to communicate with others, especially when I wanted to buy food and wine.
D.B. And so where do you live now? Jesus, what is that odor?
C.G. I now live on a disgarded double car seat behind a closed down plastics factory to be precise. Maybe you could do something about the police,.. they harass me there all the time.
(It is apparent from listening to the tape that Grungard is constantly adjusting his seat, scratching himself, and, according to Brigkowski “is entirely agitated.”)
D.B. That’ll be enough of that! Settle down. What are you doing?
C.G. The light in here is too bright. I would like to stretch my legs please. I feel a little ill, like I’m in a fever box.
D.B. Sit down! What did you do with her?
C.G. I beg your pardon?
D.B. What did you do with her, sir?
C.G. Perhaps I ate her.
D.B. What? What did you do with her, Mr. Grungard?
C.G. Here’s a poem she taught me, I would like to recite it if you don’t mind.
D.B. Don’t evade the question.
C.G. I’m not, sir.
D.B. Well I think that you sir, are a liar.
C.G. (reciting) Where is Pandora, where is her box? Want to go and die there With her famine and her pox.
D.B. I’m talking to you! What did you do with her body!?
C.G. Let me fall inside there, let me ride the wave. Drink in the torment of her poison. Breath in the sickness of her grave
D.B. Grungard,.. cut the bullshit! Where is her body?
C.G. Where is Pandora, where’d she put the key? Watch my skin peel off before me. Beneath the blistering white heat
(Seemingly frustrated Detective Brigkowski leaves, forgetting to turn off the tape machine. A door slams. Grungard continues reciting the poem alone in the room.)
Clouds turn into boulders
They crash into the sea
Sky turns into fire
Hear little children scream
Pandora goes a shopping
Buys some nylons and a string
She has a date with Satan
You can hear Pandora sing
(To the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey” but still monotone.)
On top of Mt. Olive
Three thousand years old
She scoops out your eyeballs
Then swallows them whole
She fondles old Satan
She tickles his balls
She castrates old Satan
By the old chopping mall
She puts on her lipstick
Then jumps on your pole
She’ll knit you a sweater
With yarn spun from gold
She buries her heartache
On top of your grave
One day old Pandora
Will make you her slave
(A silence of approximately three minutes passes; Grungard, still alone asks,)
C.G. May I have another cigarette please?
In examining Cecil Grungard’s testimony as well as various other circumstantial evidence, authorities concluded that the suspect was not in the vicinity of Dr. Mueller on or around the time of her disappearance. In fact, Grungard was in the Arcadia County Jail awaiting a bail hearing after having been charged with burglary.
Mr. Grungard had been attempting to gain unlawful access to a closed down liquor store in Arcadia. Though the store owners, Mr. and Mrs. Paca had closed the liquor store two months earlier, bottles remained on the shelves pending liquidation as a result of the Paca’s divorce proceedings. Mr. Paca, a former middle-weight boxer, had been living illegally inside the store because, as he later claimed, he had no other place to go following his separation from his wife, Ladybird Hillsborough-Paca.
Cecil Grungard attempted to gain entry to “Ray Paca’s Liquor Garden” through a broken airshaft on the roof. He slipped into the airshaft, then soon realized he had gotten stuck. He recalls being jammed up there for several hours: “First, it was hours of darkness and boredom. I couldn’t scream for help, so I started banging my arms in there when I thought I heard someone in the store. Then I could feel these big hands grabbing my ankles.”
Mr. Paca was incensed: “This guy is a bum. He stunk like a sewer and he tried to bullshit his way outah just havin’ broken into my store. I was amazed by his arrogance so I slapped him around for a while before I called the police.” Mr. Paca was particularly unsympathetic to Mr. Grungard’s unusual speaking voice. “He sounded like some kinda machine.”
Mr. Grungard has a lawsuit now pending against Mr. Paca concerning the damage he alleges Mr. Paca did to his ankles.
“I am always in pain from what this unfriendly man did to me. I now walk with a limp. I will concede, for the record, that I had attempted to enter Mr. Paca’s store illegally, but I am not a burglar. I was only attempting to acquire a bottle of schnapps to fight off some terrible withdrawal symptoms I had been experiencing at that time. The compulsion to gain entry to the store came over me at three o’clock in the morning. I was driven to breaking into Mr. Paca’s store because of my illness, therefore I should not be held responsible for any crime. And, may I add, Mr. Paca is a sadist who will pay dearly for the severe beating he gave me while in his store that Sunday morning.”
Amanda Mueller wrote the following story concerning her strange lover on the wall above her kitchen stove:
“Cecil Grungard hears Court Gamelan bells and voices and singing as he moves through a dimly lit corridor in slow sensual movements and gently takes his hand and pulls aside a rotted pink curtain but is blinded by the sun as his open eyes allow the bright light into his skull just as dirty white birds maybe pigeons flutter all around him and he closes his eyes and he can feel the gusts of air from their noisy flapping wings flip flap flapping by his face just as he smells their shit and the dust and hears children playing down there in the dusty courtyard and there is a gust of warm air as some people rush by him knocking him almost out the window but he recovers in slow motion again and enjoys his careful pace as he takes on a recovered stride then smells the sweet nectar of a fig tree nearby as he moves ever forward in slow motion and thinks he hears a monkey screech as he negotiates the stairs like an old man or a cripple who can walk again and can feel a strange itch of some kind on his forehead and when he takes to scratch it there is blood but just a little bit like blood from the twinkle bird he remembers killing on his seventeenth birthday while on and on he goes step by step down and down descending the derelict staircase and he sees writing on the wall in a language he doesn’t know and there is paint peeling everywhere and he moves onward slowly feeling an orgasmic reward with every movement of his legs moving forward and down down down feeling the ancient handrail in his right hand as he goes and strangers come rushing up the stairs and again nearly pushing him over the side and its then and there that he glances down into the spine of the staircase that drops down down down a thousand miles of never ending staircases shrinking elaborately into a spiral that disappears into a black hole at its center like a birds eye and he moves again slowly along the stairs following his trembling hand along the ancient iron handrail relying on it as if it were his own personal guide and it conveniently takes him along and it holds his hand in return as he senses his own skeleton at work and all its bones all in complete involuntary action as directed by his brain that sizzles and pops inside his skull and floats also like a big canned ham inside a large glass bowl filled with a strange gelatinous yellow wine and he asks himself questions about his brain and would he like to meet his brain with its preying hands before he genuflects to it without question or forgiveness or kills it or apologizes to it or invites it to dinner or puts it to bed or goes to bed with it or drowns it like kittens in the lake where he once swam with his own soul as a raft safeguarding his prick from the hungry snapping turtles or the sadistic piranhas as he floats in a blissful state across county lines wafting in the exhaust of the police cars that turned themselves back and snickered in a not so secret silence and violence in recognition of his sweet victory over the sirens and the flashing red white and blue lights that had haunted and hunted him thus far but to his great disappointment as a fat man stops him and asks him if he were going up the stairs and Cecil entertains this question with a question and asks the fat man if he were sure he knew the difference between upstairs or down followed by a bright yellow translucent question mark that glows above his own head perplexing the fat man but just slightly and just enough to get this man out of the way as he shouts Le Corbusier! before disappearing beneath a decaying woman swinging on a red silken ladder that appears out of nowhere holding a beautiful crimson chalice that contains a ruby red liquid substance that is suddenly offered to the increasingly thirsty Cecil Grungard as he asks how can I refuse your delectable solvent and so he takes it and drinks it down whore heartedly feeling the delicious liquid fill his stomach with a beautifully warming after ever glowing ecstasy of a strange kind and further and further down a beautiful sense of blissful energy quite enough to warrant Grungards further descent down the upwards staircase with which every step he takes creates a percussive sound much like the sound of a metronome clicking in exact order and in accordance with the tightness of its wound up inner coil like a feeble little machine did Grungard descend the stairs viewing himself now alongside a wall of mirrors that takes on several likenesses of his own form which perplexes the perplexity of our Grungard and his floating brain as duh duh duh duh duh and pagoda fey fey fey fey he remains a dullard without a pipe of an inspiration to coax the ghosts of his own imagination into something real or inspired or imagined or unimagined like the rattling cough of an old woman in the third floor of hospital X besides the ravings of an old man inspired by nothing short of the price of shorts that go duh duh duh duh rubbah dub duh dubba dubbah dig do a little dubbah dick swarthling little brats in babies clothes look at you now up there swinging on your terrible cross along with Globus the big black dog contemplating the magnificent magnetic reconnections of the blasting hot sun while at the same time he is rooting something dead from the dirt besides the beautiful lake where we see Marina swimming naked with dullard number nine thousand going rubbah dub duh dubba duh duh duh duh duh duh dubbah dig do a little dubbah duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh dubba dubbah dig do a little dubbah duhbah and pagoda fey for the last time does it go on to continue thus far without form or function while the anthem of his life is just a loathsome little spittle song sung beautifully by a gorgeous woman holding a pathetic little doll laced up with beautiful gowns with fabric taken from somewhere otherworldly like shoes made in spain going duh duh duh these were the thoughts of Grungard as he lay there like the clothes of poor little children shunted into nothing and left there in the basement of some seven or eight sunken houses along the lane and staggering into nothingness like little poor nothings of a duh duh duh duh kind and so I pusticulate Grungardian research has shown the terrible results obtained through non-evasive cerebral intestinoidal trandection process incurred incurably through bi-poluretric incisors stipulated and inscripted in renal fulsticulasatedly induced through ongoing Palmer Brittlebury and or Belltrap applications with Witherspoon and Keller with their hanging tongues out to dry while having the audacity to describe the production of kilobytes as ready and fit and ready or as something degenerative or duh duh duh ethereal like Bach or badminton playing spun out in fierce garbage trucks going duh duh dubba duh duh as he sings on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top of the world on top like the homeless king of Ikaluktutak.”
Though incoherent and rambling, this writing best illustrates the unraveling of
Dr. Mueller’s mind. There is of course, the reference to her work in Non-Evasive Cerebral-Intestinoidal Transdection Process, an area of Dr. Mueller’s work that had caused much controversy and scandal within certain academic circles.
Cecil Grungard found himself back at the place where Amanda first found him; in a field behind an abandoned plastics factory. Stretching himself out upon a discarded double car seat, looking up at the clouds, shivering from both the Wisconsin cold and the alcoholic withdrawal he was now experiencing. Breaking open a bottle of sweet liqueur he had stolen from “Bella Roma,” an Italian goods store in Belltrap, he looked up into the sky and noticed something odd. The smokestacks of the abandoned plastics factory were spewing white smoke into the air.
Odd, he thought, as he was sure the plastics factory had been long closed since before he’d wandered into Arcadia some ten years earlier. Still, the white smoke billowed up and up, lingering there until it seemed that it was breaking off and forming the clouds, now hanging in the sky. Grungard was half drunkenly convinced that the giant structure beyond the field was in fact a cloud factory; one that produced not a benign sort of clouds but poisonous ones that were designed to cause cancers and mysterious diseases. He drank more from the long-necked bottle feeling the burning sugary, syrupy liqueur pour down his reconstructed esophagus, bypassing the thin layers of skin graft (taken from his anus) that housed Amanda’s machine.
It had been a labor of love. Unique in design, Dr. Mueller had constructed the device while Grungard recovered in the hospital. She visited him often at St. Mary’s Immaculate Hospital in his semiprivate room, where she had encouraged him with detailed information about the progress of her new voice box invention. And if his room-mate was out for a leisurely stroll about the halls, attached to a portable I.V. unit with his buttocks glimpsing white and blemished from behind the pathetic hospital gown, she’d perform fellatio on Grungard, much to his speechless delight.
Dr. Mueller had at her disposal, several mechanical specialists who were happy to aid her in the construction of the E-espulian 740 voice simulator. Friends from the patent office expedited her forms and she was excited that she had her first “test candidate,” a Mr. Cecil Grungard, victim of a gunshot wound to the neck. Former colleagues at the Mayberry House Institute for Artificial Communications secured funding for her experimental device and a generous grant was quickly obtained. However, it was all too apparent that St. Mary’s Immaculate Hospital would not allow for such an experimental surgical procedure to be performed at the hospital. So, Dr. Mueller decided to take matters into her own hands, literally.
Grungard lay there on his beloved discarded double car seat in a depressive state, surveying his dismal surroundings as he spied a group of black birds picking at the corpse of animal something. He watched them greedily pulling intestines from this animal as if they were long elastic worms from the earth. Grungard felt a deep feeling of longing for Amanda; in his mind he clutched onto his most cherished memories of her and then pulled them over him like a warm blanket. He could hear police sirens. The wind was tossing around a plastic bag, as he could hear someone coughing phlegmatically off in the distance.
Wild youths were breaking apart a broken stove left in the huge field. He worried that they might spot him and beat him, so he lay low in the confines of his beloved discarded double car seat hiding beneath a torn up smelly blanket as he shivered with the Wisconsin cold and pondered what his next move might be. Soon, he resolved to drink up the rest of the sweet liqueur and tried to get some sleep. He looked around at this cold dark Wisconsin field after emptying the contents of the bottle and then stared up at the dark, starless skies. Then he closed his eyes for a moment as his ears took in without relief, the beautiful sound of the cold wind blowing all around him, granting him an unexpected solace. Then Grungard fell asleep.
Grungard had been watching a new sky, full of clouds, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was lying on his back in the middle of some asphalt path. He felt as if he had been awoken from a very deep sleep, but he didn’t care. All he wanted was to stay there and look at all those huge billowing clouds. Poisonous or not, there was an enormous assortment of them, countless shapes that slowly glided beneath an expansive canopy of blue. He looked up at these clouds and in his sleepy mind, made animal shapes of them. There, that one formed an elephant, no, yes, there’s the trunk right there, it’s plain to see! And just below it he could decipher a horse, oh yes! There it is! And right beside it, a kind of bird that seemed to be chasing a donkey!
Floating behind that, floating now into full view was a camel. The hump was exactly where it should be. And how curiously did these clouds appear before him he thought, in such clear detail, perfectly resembling the animals he pictured them to be. These animal clouds passed each other in different directions, oblivious to any sort of barometric system that may exist up there. Then he became aware of an uneasiness; a terrible sickening feeling that quickly came over him. He realized that he had no idea where he was. More distressing was the fact that he did not know who he was.
He sat up. From what he could tell, he was in some strange little village of sorts, where an asphalt path wound past several small houses that revealed themselves to be little pens. He stood up and walked for a few moments down the asphalt path and glanced into a few of the pens; in one particular he noticed a group of goats. They were white and brown and black and they eagerly approached him as he neared the wire partition that separated them from himself. They pushed toward him and he could smell their sweet rancid bovine odor. They seemed interested in receiving something from him- then he realized that he had been standing near a dry meal machine. He checked his pockets, but they were empty. All that he could offer them was the gentle caressing of his hand upon their heads. The goats competed with one another for his attention. Nervously, they licked their chops, somehow expecting something more from him. But he could not offer them anything at all.
As he pet their heads he wondered where he was. But nothing would come to mind that would give him so much as a clue. He was full of worry and agitation because he needed to know who he was. The only link to his old self was the feeling he had of complete nothingness. Yet, this he could not fathom, as he now felt that he was in imminent danger.
Nausea began to take hold of him now as he moved along the asphalt path, passing several brightly painted holding pens. He sought an exit to this petting zoo. Suddenly, two little girls appeared waving to him from the distance, then disappeared quickly. He thought he had recognized them from somewhere. Frantic, he ran and ran but realized he was going anywhere. The same colored pens appeared one after the other, always the same, no matter which path he took. And as he ran along the winding asphalt path, he never encountered any people.
“Pretty, pretty farm animals, pretty, pretty farm” was all he could hear, sung by what sounded like an old woman floating somewhere in the air. From somewhere nearby, a strange bird began screeching: “kwei-kwei-kwei!!!!” over and over it continued.
This situation began to agitate him. He wanted to escape this place, but, since he did not know where he was or who he was, he could not decide where he would escape to.
So, he continued along the asphalt path. All the while he could hear the giggling of the two little girls he had seen earlier along the asphalt path. Suddenly, Grungard vomited besides a pen that contained a black pot-bellied pig. He leaned against a wooden post, exhausted, staring down at his own puke. He knelt down besides it to examine the particles that made up this stew of sour liquid bile. He thought that if he could recognize any of the pieces of puked-up substances it just might bring to mind something he had eaten in the past; thereby kicking his memory back into good working order.
He knelt besides the vomit for close to an hour, pondering the color, the odor, its consistency. He poked at it with a stick, but all in vain. He could not use the vomit to get back to himself. He chuckled, feeling foolish that here he was, making a study of his own vomit. All about him the air was still, silent and still. His vomiting was some involuntary action or reaction, he rationalized, but to what? Why? His tears fell and dropped into the pool of vomit. His body trembled and jerked and he coughed hard through his sobs as he finally rolled over onto to the asphalt path and looked up at the sky once more. The clouds were gone. He was peering up into a black night sky that had no stars. He was gazing into a deep black void. Then he feel asleep.
He dreamed he was walking through a petting zoo that had an assortment of brightly colored little houses that were really just display pens for the animals that were being exhibited there. But he was still alone in this place. He felt comfortable as he walked along the asphalt path. Stopping for a moment, he gazed up into the sky. The clouds were gone and he was peering up into a blank night sky that had no stars. In this dream the sky was night and the world all around him was in daylight. The sound of two little girls giggling from somewhere out of his view further worried him.
In this dream he felt comfortable enough walking along an asphalt path that wound through a miniature village made up of an abundance of brightly painted little houses that had in them pretty pretty farm animals of varying species. There was music in the air and it was soft and melodious and it made the man feel fully at ease as he walked. There were no people about as he passed by each pen, noticing the goats and the pigs, the llamas and the ducks, thriving in the warm brightness of the day. And he smiled in his contentment as he walked, casually making his way from one pen to another. He lay down in the middle of the asphalt path and feel asleep again.
In a dream he felt an intoxicating aura of some kind overtake him and, as he drifted in total darkness. Then, he felt blissfully still. As the darkness all around him deepened, it comforted him further; becoming at once a pool of intoxicating relief. He drifted in space. He was transformed into nothing but of a sweet gust of air that negotiated an easy course of movement in and around and up and through swirls upon swirls of clouded currents. In this gaseous state, he was no longer anything, as the air began to spread him, dividing him by infinitesimal halves into another realm of continuous divisions so minute and so rapid that he no longer existed at all.
This dissolving gaseous state suddenly felt a flash of pain to his nonexistent abdomen. “Get up! Get up now!” Grungard opened his eyes and there standing before him were the police.
(a pre-cancerous state of mind)
One cop is very young, about twenty-six years old and the other is very old looking, maybe in his sixties. The older cop continues poking Grungard with his night stick. “Get up, bum.” Grungard shivers in the cruel Wisconsin cold because it is dark now just as his empty bottle of liqueur rolls off his belly to the overgrown weeds besides his beloved double car seat. He gets up then feels a sharp pain in his head. Old cop yells, “Dontcha’ got no self respect?” Young cop giggles. “Dontcha’ got nowhere to go?” Getting to his feet, Grungard stammers something about losing his potatoes, (a hopeless lie that just won’t work here). “You’re breaking the law here, son, you aware of that?” Old cop pushes Grungard with an open hand to his chest, back onto the car seat; the springs inside it squeak like rats.
Young cop has pimples all over his face. He says laughing, “let’s go!!” Old cop snaps back, “Shutup!!” to young cop who continues giggling. Grungard immediately realizes they are not real police, but civilian patrol. Old cop has alcohol on his breath causing Grungard to crave a drink, but he senses real danger now. Grungard then drones, “one potatoe, two potatoe, three potatoe, four.” “What the hell you just say to me bum? You a robot?” Grungard sits on his beloved discarded double car seat staring at the feet of his interrogator and begins chanting again, “One potato, two potato, three potato four, one potato, two, one potato, two potato,…”
“You disrespecting me, you worm?!!” Old Cop jabs Grungard again with his nightstick. “C’mon!” says young cop, giggling. Grungard stares at his filthy, broken shoes, thinking of Amanda. “One potato, two potato, three potato, four.” Old cop is incensed, “See that factory back there? I worked there twenty-five years till they closed it down on account of scum like you! That’s right!” Old cop smacks Grungard’s face with the back of his hand but that doesn’t put an end to the chanting. “One potato, two potato, three potato four.”
“That’s funny!!” Young cop tries to lure old cop away. “Let’s go to the creek! I bet those kids are smoking that weed they all been doin’ these days! And we could beat their asses!” Old cop: “Son of a bitch! What I tell you, boy!” Old cop takes his nightstick and jabs young cop’s right leg shouting, “Language!!” Grungard continues: “one potato, two potato, three potato, four,..”
Old cop then takes his nightstick and lets it fall with great force right over the middle of Grungard’s head. He topples back upon his beloved spring squeaking discarded double car seat and listens to the following conversation as he reels in and out of consciousness:
YC Man, it really stinks around here!
OC Garbage strike. Been on for three weeks now in this district. People dumpin’ their trash over here. Human trash too. We found a dead baby out here not too long ago!
YC I feel sorry for the people who have to live around here, cause like the air is definitely rancid, right?
OC I’m sure they’re used to the odor by now. It is generally understood that the species known as man will naturally adapt to whatever the environment throws at them. It is a simple lesson in the laws of adaptation, introduced to us by such brilliant minds as Charles Darwin, a very worthwhile thinker.
YC Wow, that sounds really fuckin’ incredible! I mean, bad odors n’ shit like that! I mean, do you really think that sooner or later human beings will accept things smelling like a goddamned fuckin’ sewer all the time if they had to?
OC Officer Guzzi, I realize this assignment is probably the first time you’ve been paired up with an experienced member of the department such as myself. You are probably adjusting yourself to the situation and feeling your way around as best you can. But, please, let me state here and now that I will not allow any harsh language in my company.
OC This is after all my twenty-seventh year with civilian patrol and I think I am entitled to some small demands before I retire from the force next week. Now, wouldn’t you say that is a reasonable request Officer Guzzi?
YC Definitely! And at this time I would like to apologize to you if I have in any way offended you in any way with, like, my kinda, crudeness.
OC No apologies are necessary Officer Guzzi. Just try not to use foul language in my presence from this moment forward.
YC Excellent! I promise! I respect your ways, really I do! I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot from you Sergeant Idlehour! Believe me, I’ve waited all my life to be a cop! I fuckin’ swear,..Ohh, I mean like bein’ a cop is like everything to me, and now her I am! So, please, let me watch n’ learn n’ listen to all your like Expertations.
OC Expertations? Guzzi, what college did you say you graduated from?
YC Arcadia Community College, sir! I was 137 in my class! Out of a class of 500! I wanted to be a civilian patrol officer as long as I can remember. It was either going to be a cop, or like an exterminator, cause, you know, that’s what my dad did.
OC Hmmm,.. fascinating. (not listening to anything YC says, takes out a hanky)
YC My father wanted me to be like, an exterminator like him. You know, like, take over the family business one day.
OC My god,. this air is foul! (covers nose) Quite foul!
YC My dad had this truck, right? His extermination truck, and he used to drive it all over Arcadia.
OC (sarcastic) Fascinating story. (examining hanky)
YC And like, I really hated this truck, you know, cause it like had this big drawing of like this picture of this big fist squeezing the life out of this big gray rat that like had it’s eyes all shut tight like it was all in pain n’ shit,.. (looks quickly to OC to see if his little slip caused offence- none taken as OC is really not listening) I hated that picture because everybody made fun of it. I was really embarrassed of that truck, all the kids on my block used to laugh at it when my dad would pull it into the driveway when he got home from work.
OC You think this bastard is dead?
YC I remember I was so mad when I found out that my dad would be doing jobs over at the high school! A few times I remember him pullin’ up the truck in the high school parking lot during one of the lunch periods, n’ all these kids would start chantin’ “Rat truck, rat truck,” and then he would step out of the truck and they’d change it to “Rat man, rat man,” over and over, laughing and clapping and whistling all at my dad who would be yelling something back at them, but you couldn’t hear a word he said over all the kids shouting n’ all. God, I was so embarrassed, I pretended not to see it.
OC This maggot looks dead,.. I’m giving him five more minutes. You got that gun,.. that little hand gun? We could throw it over there,.. say it was in self-defense in case this bum expires.
YC I hated that truck so much, and it was on that truck that my dad died of a heart attack one afternoon. I decided there was no way I was gonna’ end up like him, no way.
OC Hey! Kid!! Maybe you should show some respect for your old man, kid!
YC I do, I did!!! It’s just that I hated what he did for a living! Sometimes I think if there weren’t any rats and bugs in the world, then maybe my father would be alive today. I didn’t disrespect him, I just hated what he did for a living. I mean killing rats n’ roaches for a living? It’s just like, having all kinds a people disrespect my dad like they did, I just decided like, there was just no way I was gonna’ end up like him.
OC Now there’s where you are wrong! If we didn’t have exterminators to combat the vermin of the world, well, then the world would become a terrible, terrible place to live in.
YC Look, I was only saying that I- (cut off)
OC Exterminators are the great unsung heroes of the world if you ask me! They are all on the front lines of a silent war that is being waged everyday, day in day out! You should be proud a’ what your dad did for a living, boy! Exterminator! A noble profession, son.
YC Well, I mean, I told you that story because, you know, that’s why I decided to become a cop, You know, I mean that truck, I, uh,(confused/upset).
OC (suddenly harsh) Hey, you know how many goddamned rats n’ roaches the poor guy probably killed off during his career? (checking prior knowledge) He did die correct? (Guzzi nods his head yes) Think about it for a second. Try to imagine how many a those damned things he killed off just so’s he could put food on the table? And there you go complainin’ about the poor guy! Why, you outta be ashamed a’ yourself, kiddo!
YC (confused, slightly emotional, full of regret) I loved my dad, I don’t know, (strange pause) I….
OC He did it all for you, kiddo! Think of all them rats n’ roaches he killed off throughout the years! Try to imagine all those dead creatures piled up into one huge mountain reaching high into the sky! It was that many I bet n’ it was all for you and your family, kid!
YC (defeated) Yeah, I guess your right Officer Idlehour.
OC Oh, I know I’m right. I mean , you take 175 dead rats here, another 160,000 annihilated cockroaches over there, well you’ve got a nice new pair a sneakers for yourself, right, kid? I bet your dad bought you a ton a sneakers when you was growing up right, kid?
YC (quietly) Yeah. He sure did.
OC You take another 2,166 dead mice here, ‘n’ another 22,000 termites over there ‘n’ you’ve got a nice new pair a navy blue slacks to wear to church on Easter Sunday! Am I right kid?
YC (rubbing face) Yes, absolutely right.
OC Like I always say, it all adds up, it only depends on what your adding up that counts! You get that, kid?
YC (tired by sermon) Yes, sir, I think I understand.
OC God bless ya’ kiddo. God bless you and that foul mouth a yours!
YC Thanks Officer Idlehour. I appreciate like all your wiseness, really, I do.
OC I can’t wait until my retirement, because this job has gotten a little too depressing, The lack of professionalism I see on a day to day basis is unbelievable!
YC (happy for OC) So what are you gonna do when you retire, Officer Idlehour? I mean, how ya gonna fill all ya time without workin’ the police thing, right?!
OC I’m gonna retire down to beautiful Florida, Officer Guzzi. We have already purchased a beautiful little place by the beach and we intend to take in all the sun and sand that the Orange State has to offer!
OC I’ll get in about a thousand rounds a golf each month, I’ll take the Mrs. out for a relaxing dinner every Sunday night and I won’t miss a thing about Arcadia, that you can be sure of!
YC But won’t you get bored? I mean, loungin’ around with all those old people n’ shit, oh, sorry, what I mean is, won’t you be bored without like exciting police work to do, ya know?
OC (laughs) Officer Guzzi, let me tell you the answer to one of life’s most puzzling mysteries; when you’re old enough to leave the force, when you’ve gathered up all your rosebuds and you’ve got a wallet full a cash, you get on that last stretch a’ rode before you die and you never look back! From that point on you go with the flow.
YC (impressed) Excellent! Go with the flow! Man, do you make this stuff up?!
OC Comfort and convenience is the key to good living. You rack up enough time, you finally get the best of what life has to offer! No more stress, no more struggles! It’s really as simple as that my son.
YC That sounds really excellent, man.
OC Yessireee! I’m gonna take what’s coming to me and I’m never gonna look back!
YC No way!
OC Have a few good years of total enjoyment before the cancer comes along!
YC Cancer? Did you say cancer? (concerned) Officer Idlehour are you telling me you have cancer?!
OC (laughing) No! But everybody gets it! I’ll get it, you’ll get it, if you don’t already have it! Cancer! Everybody gets it! And don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise!
YC Yes sir!
C.G. (in a fog) ONE POTATO
OC You have to enjoy life before the cancer comes along to eat you all up. Enjoy life. (smiles, closes eyes then slaps fat stomach and rubs it) AHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh. You can say I’m in a pre-cancerous state of mind!
YC But what are you going to do on your spare time, like when you’re not golfing and like eating dinner with your wife?
OC Exactly! Birdhouses! The greatest past-time a man can ever ask for! I make em all the time, kiddo!
YC Wow, that’s really, (careful not to curse) friggin’ excellent!
OC That’s right! I’ve got about two thousand of the damned things, in my basement, in my garage, in my attic, forget about it!
YC Wow, birdhouses! Like, houses for little birds, that’s cool!
OC It’s a beautiful thing to do with your spare time, let me tell you. I’ve got em up all over my property, too, on my roof, on every tree around my house, on the fence posts, over the garage, you name it. I was featured in the Arcadia Herald five years ago.
OC Yep. They did a whole article on me an my hobby. (takes out wallet) Here, I always carry around an extra clipping with me, here, take a look.
YC Hey, that’s really cool! (laughing) Look at you man! Hey, you look so proud too, man, that’s too cool! Standin’ there in front of all them birdhouses, I can’t believe this!
OC Nice, isn’t it?
YC That’s a nice color print too,.. I like when the newspapers do that,..it’s like looking at T.V.!
OC (anxious to get clipping back) I suppose,..
YC What do you do with all them birdhouses, Officer Idlehour?
OC Well, I give them away mostly, you know, at Christmas, Easter, you know most holidays. I used to give em to everybody under the sun, but I guess I’ve gotten a little selfish in my old age, so I make em and I keep em!
YC I wish I could do something like that!
OC (patronizing) Well, a lot goes into making a birdhouse, you need to have a great deal of patience as well as a certain measure of technical facility.
YC Look at all those colors!
OC Making a birdhouse is no easy matter, no. It is a very time consuming task, one that demands a lot of care and craftsmanship.
YC I bet I could make one of these things.
OC Oh, I think you would be better suited watching some T.V. isn’t that what you people do all the time, these days? The T.V. and your filthy magazines! You can all that T.V. then take a loob at a naked ladies breasts! Now that’s what I call progress!
YC Yeah, T.V. and filthy magazines, what ever would we do with out them?
(OC shakes head in disgust as YC scrutinizes article) Beautiful article,
OC (growing more anxious) Alright Officer Guzzi,.. If you don’t mind,.. (trying to get clipping back)
YC Oh, I really like these bird houses, and who’s that lovely young lady petting that dog over there, she’s got a real nice rack! (OC snatches article back.)
OC That’s my daughter, officer Guzzi!!
YC That’s a lot a’ birdhouses,
OC Yes, yes, yes,
YC That’s a lot a’ bird shit too, right?!
OC What did I tell you about that filthy language of yours?!
Where were you raised, in a barn?! (hits Guzzi with nightstick, chasing him).
Grungard wakes up in the morning with a headache and severe chills. He is sweating profusely. He had thought that maybe he could go to detox again. At least that might get him a few days in a nice warm hospital bed. But thinking it through he was soon reminded of the annoyances, namely the other patients and their snoring, teeth grinding, complaining, worse yet, their insistence on conversing with him. The unending questions about the way his voice sounded. Things like that are what kept him away, usually. And it was boredom that tormented him there. And the boredom made his roommates more intolerable than the day-to-day people out there in “the life.” He remembered the poem he had received from Amanda while in the Kaufman Memorial Detoxification Hospital in Branbury. He memorized it, then repeated it over and over out loud to calm his own nerves. It also helped him to appear unapproachable to his annoying roommates when they might want to start mindless conversation with him. It reads as follows:
replecticus I- toxicus
riptalium antipularium fey
infallibus que-fornicus ley
fizzle ley infallibus
brigballisbus makker hey
makken, hey brigballibus
brigbalulous contra pey
Encontralon pey brigbalulous
replecticus I- toxicus
(a gunshot wound to the neck)
Associated Press, Buffalo, NY Nov. 17th 1973
At approximately 5:15 a.m. a scuffle broke out at one of the observation platforms just west of Niagra Falls, between a homeless transient named Cecil Grungard and three unidentified men. Mr. Grungard was apparently begging for change when he was attacked by the men, one of whom fired a 38. caliber revolver in the direction of Mr. Grungard’s head, causing a near fatal gunshot wound to the neck. The three assailants beat and stabbed Mr. Grungard before escaping the area.
A security guard, responding to the sound of gunfire, came upon Mr. Grungard, who was found slumped over the railing of the observation deck, bleeding profusely. The guard immediately called emergency services. Police and ambulance technicians arrived at the scene approximately five minutes later and Mr. Grungard was rushed to a nearby hospital. Police are asking the public for assistance in locating the three men involved in the shooting. They have been described as caucasian men, in their mid to late twenties, and wearing hooded parkas. One of the men was seen carrying a plastic statue of a religious figure as described by the victim. Mr. Grungard was operated on for nearly six hours in an attempt to save his life. The victim’s voice box was apparently destroyed during the attack. Doctors have reported that Grungard is in guarded condition and remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Grungard makes his way past several row houses that once were a recognizable backdrop of his youth. Grungard walks along the cracked sidewalk noticing something shocking; his childhood home as well as familiar houses from his youth were sunk right down into the earth. Places he had remembered as a child, houses that he had visited as a child time and time again, were now broken structures sucked into their very own foundations.
Grungard stood in the cruel Michigan cold and shivered without reward at what he saw there. There isn’t anyone around, but hears what seems like the same barking dog that must have been following him at a distance throughout the course of his career as a transient. Sleeping outdoors was just a part of his transient life-style. But the state of these houses before him caused Grungard considerable pains, to say the least. Seeing the house where he had spent most of his childhood sunk into the soggy earth around it, brought tears to his eyes. And the roof he had helped his father replace some thirty years earlier, was now broken apart and sprinkled with dried bird shit. Terribly, he saw the second floor windows, (now the first floor) reveal a grey black set of curtains swaying gently with the passing air.
Grungard suffers terribly from a memory of his mother putting bright blue curtains in his bedroom, just for him. And he can remember helping her fix the curtain rods above each window. But now his family was long gone and each house was sorely demoralized and pathetic. Grungard stood there amazed but silent in his grieving for this place of his youth that was now a deplorable mess. Grungard remembers his daughters and how they were before the fire that claimed them in Jacksonville, Florida. Broken hearted he moves along the street away from this place holding close his jacket and thinking time and time again about them. Now inside his head, they were ghosts that tormented his every moment of consciousness, as well as in his dreams.
(TO BE CONTINUED)