March 8, 2002
I got this whacked out post card in the mail today. Yeah, the one you're staring at. I immediately suspected the workings of a deviant mind. So, naturally I licked the card all over to check for any trace of Anthrax. I called the Suicide Prevention Line, and the woman I talked to assured me that it wasn't likely Anthrax, "But," she said, "please be careful what you go around licking, dear, especially anything under the bathroom sink. Life is worth living! God loves you, and so do I," whereupon she promptly hung up on me. There was a double click, then a man's voice said, "We got it. Eighteen-ten Hillary Street. Let's go! Call everyone! I want snipers on every rooftop. Go! Go! Go!"

Holy shit! Did I really hear that? Yes. There was no doubting it. And there was no time to sit around wondering. It was really happening. George W.'s very own team of ultra-patriotic thugs were after me, having confused my run-of-the-mill oddball behavior with acts of terrorism. Christ, how could I get away? They would see Duke coming from a hundred miles off. Besides, it takes four car batteries, three sets of jumper cables, two hot wires and an Act of God to start Duke, and then another five to ten to warm him up.

Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sky-slapping sound of a chopper overhead. I looked up and realized it was too late. They'd caught me, and would no doubt make me out to be the most heinous of terrorist scum, make an example of me, like Ted Kazinski (sic) or Eliah Gonzales (sic). And they'd pull Duke into it, no doubt, draw some weird circumstantial connection between art cars and treasonous, anti-American sentiments, and suddenly they'd have vigilante gangs rounding up car artists from all over the country. Then it would spread to all artists, to writers, geeks and circus freaks. And all because I'd licked one very strange postcard mailed to me from that dubious dustbowl cultural hole in southern Arizona called Bisbee. I stared up into the whirling blades of the chopper and marveled at the bright colors as my lips mouthed these words, "the horror! The horror!"

"Rick! Rick! Snap out of it, man. You're bumming my Vicodan high!" I slowly awakened, staring at the multi-colored blades of my ceiling fan from my place in the center of my bed, sprawled out on my back, dreaming. I looked over at Scott, my 50-something friend and brother in letters, blinked my eyes and said nothing. What was Scott doing here? "Aren't you supposed to be in Thailand by now?" I asked.

I was home in New Orleans, in my little shotgun shack by the graveyard. It was hot. The cicadas were buzzing madly outside. The air smelled vaguely of thunder and lightning, two things that don't have a smell, I know, but I smelled it just the same. There was a storm coming. The sun was out, but not for long I thought.

"No, no, I told you," Scott mumbled. "I just got off two days on the friggin' Greyhound. How I got on that bus, I don't even remember. The whole last week is a blur. What was I doing? Hillsboro, Vegas, that bus with those evil drivers. They're like robots. I don't even know what day it is."

Then my brain slipped into gear and we were off and running. It was Tuesday. No. No, it was Friday. Free oysters tonight at Café bon temps. Yes. And Turkey dinner tomorrow at Chris and Crystals. And Scott, my crazed mentor figure and all because he'd been published in hardcover by Grove, was pacing beside my bed racking his drug-addled brain for details of a week lost in Vegas. And him now here near penniless thanks to Vegas and Klonipin but not giving a good goddamn about the money because he was FREE AT LAST! Free from the past, from random drug testing and that horrid cafeteria job he'd taken in New Mexico.

And as I sat up to blow my nose for the trillionth time since getting this bronchial bug the day after Mardi Gras, I glanced at Scott with a sense of pride. Yeah, so what if he had blown his whole Thailand plan. He'd been through Hell and come out okay. He's a few cards short of a full deck, (which is a funny thing to say about the guy who wrote the book on how to win at blackjack) but so am I. Between my cold medicines and his perpetual toothache remedy, we were like two old men on a park bench taking turns nodding off into lala-land.

And that's that for today. Heck it's not every day a writer has a mentor figure show up on his doorstep looking for a place to crash and a clean white page upon which to rewrite the future. Two months now in New Orleans, and now I'm no longer a writer alone. Now we are two. Two broke writers and Matilda the ferret, which makes three. There's magic in this mix. I can feel it. Just as I can feel the electricity in the air as the thunder starts to roll in the distance. Scott has wandered off to roll a joint, satisfied I guess that I'm not dead, just zoned out on Nyquil. I reach up and pull the cord on the ceiling fan, turning it down to its slowest speed.

I lie back and watch the colored blades swirl. I inhale deeply through my nose, intoxicated by the thick, jungle-like air. It smells of rain. I listen. The cicadas have gone silent. All is quiet, bowing down to the greater power swelling in the sky. I close my eyes and wait.

RSM


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