Including Chapter Zed, I've edited the first five chapters of my Novel. There is some formatting that is set in script form, but if I just change them with quotes, I got prose. I'm pretty excited. I might just get the edited draft done before November gets here.
Chapter Zed – The Old Skillet
How do these mice live out here on the Old Skillet? Perhaps they aren’t mice. Maybe they’re what’s left of the coyotes, dried up canine scabs self trying to steal a little government issue before they take their sweetest surrender. I used to think those rodents could burrow down deep, and that somewhere miles down underneath were ancient Indian aqueducts.
This patch has always been a hard place, but it wasn’t always the Old Skillet. People started calling it that after the military put down a camp. According to mother, when the buzzcuts moved in to the valley, the whole of the area surrounding has gone from the pits to the shits. The temperatures have been up well about average so much so and for so long, we're thinking about setting newer averages, less hospitalible averages.
There’s something about all them buzzcuts humping around that turned this spot of heavenly desert into a damn dust bowl. Once they were done, they picked up most of their gear and left for points elsewhere. The only thing they occupy now is the old VA hospital. And even that has been practically decommisoned. No longer a medical facility more like a non founded rest home for veterans from the various desert wars.
Chapter One – Mother’s Preparations
Mother picked the spot where she wanted me to dig. She wanted her grave to be within a grove of cacti that was just inside our property line. She didn’t have the back to move all that sand, but while I dug, she decorated the surrounding cacti. She used thumbleweeds woven with bright colored strips of cloth letting the resulting bramble catch the needles thus crowning each cacti. When the wind whipped away at the tips of the colored cloth each crown seemed like a burning scrub.
Mother – Did I tell you sent out invitions?
Daughter – To your own funeral?
Mother – Donkeyface was by to pick em up
Donkeyface was the closest thing we had to a postman out here abouts on the Skillet. We called him Donkeyface because calling him “face like a donkey’s ass” just didn’t have good enough flow. That, and he delivered post from ontop his donkey. Sometimes donkeyface would be on top his mount close to the noon hour when you had no choice but to squint, it being so bright so hot on the skillet, those times you couldn’t tell where his face began and the donkey’s ass ended. I weren’t too fond of Donkeyface.
Mother- So Donkeyface comes by and says
DF- Well I’m guessing these are special?
Mother- I said “Yeah” and he says
DF-What’ll they be
Mother- And like a green dum dum. I say what they are, and then he says
DF- I’d hate for any of these special postals to not get where they were intended?
Mother- What the Shit?!!
Once was a time you could get a parcel delivered using stamps. Nowadays on the Skillet, assholes like Donkeyface occasionally require bribes. So Donkeyface asked mother if he could have one more romp since she might be alive and kicking by the time he got back.
DF-Come on now. You know my mind.
Mother – Can’t be done Donkeyface. It’s that time of the month.
DF- No it’s not. You’re too old for it to be no time of no month
Mother- What do you know of it. Hell, tell you what. If you want I’ll go ahead and rub one out.
DF-I’m aok with that just so long as you got the palm spit for it.
Mother- You need that to counter the dry air and resultant friction
Daughter- Mother, why are you telling me this?
Mother- That Donkeyface can be slippery. I want you sufficiently repulsed so as to avoid him being able to trick you into coitus.
Daughter-Well Mother, mission accomplished.
She finished her decoration and I finished digging the hole. It was hot hard work, and when we got back to the hut I collapsed in my cot. In the morning, I woke up to find a note pinned to my shirt. I had a notion what it was, but I didn’t want to confirm it. So instead, I brushed my teeth, staring at the reflection of the note in the mirror. Then, I went and made coffee for two. I didn’t go to see if she was in her cot, nor did I call for her. I just sat at the table with two cups of coffee, the first cup light and sweet for me, the second cup the way she liked it, “stripped”. When I could procrastinate no longer, I pulled the note off my shirt and read it.
I went out to the hole. She was there inside, face down. I think she stumbled her attempt to get inside the grave. Her hip and neck were painfully displaced asif one or both had been broken during a fall. She was face down so I was spared any possible expressions of pain on her face. Still that was a hell of a thing to see. I’m not sure I’ve totally forgiven her for making me see her like that. A bit cowardly on her part. She didn’t want to wake me, but it’s alright to ask me to throw dirt on top of a corpse of a loved one all twisted up like that? I used the shovel edge like an axe and chopped down all but one of the cacti and threw them in the grave with her, aside from myself the only mourners she’d have. No one accepted her invitations. One cactus remained to mark the grave so I’d know where to plant any future tears I might want to shed.
Chapter Two – Mother Love
It was Mother who had taught me a love of westerns. She loved the men. Good guys, bad guys, it didn’t matter to mother so long as they walked tall, so long as they were “real men”. Her all time favorite was the man with no name, Clint Eastwood.
Mother- There aint no Eastwoods anymore. All that’s left is Eli Wallachs
In death, as while living, mother were half woman, half cactus. I held her hard as I could to me. The puncture wounds were a small price to pay to feel her against me, meat to meat, even for a few moments.
Mother – You’re a tough cause that is the way I raised you to be.
She would play a little game every time we watched one of his movies. When he made his very first appearance she’d stop still and stock of the man, breath in deep the fragrance of sweat, saddle leather, and hand rolled tobacco. Then she’d wag her finger at me, warning me off.
Mother- That’s my name girlie! You better watch yourself. Don’t you be eyein’ my man!
I’d tease back at her. I’d pretend I was working up the courage to be eyein her man. I’d get behind the TV and make her dare me to peak around the front and look at the man.
Mother- Then we’d chase each other around the hut with fly swatters, laughin’ and squealin’
Nearer toward the end of her life, after we had burned out most of the westerns we had on vhs, she took a more serious, reverent mood while watching westerns. Finally, there was one left, one left that we hadn’t yet worn out with love and rewinding. An old tape and even older videocassette player. Most of the time we could at least see the shape, the silhouettes of the men against the glass of the television screen, sometimes a fog of electrons would overtake the visuals altogether. Mother and I would huddle close to the television with our eyes closed. She wouldn’t permit even a hiccup. If she couldn’t see she at least wanted to hear. The music, the pauses, the voices of the men. She sat there in the dark holding me tight, and those deep voices gave her a sort of swoon. I too swooned. Everything I knew about men I learned from those old westerns or from listening to the octogenarians at the old VA hospital go on about their youth
Chapter Three – Veterans and the VA
The Octogenarians veterans at the VA were the only males I had seen in the flesh through the middle of my seventeenth year.
Mother – Not counting Donkeyface, but he couldn’t have been younger than retirement age hisself
My first memories are of wandering the halls of the VA hospital. Mother got a job there as a nurse.
Mother- I couldn’t leave her alone in the hut in the heat. The VA had ceiling fans at least.
Five floors of linoleum and cinder blocks. Grey curtains blowing through the sharp window panes. Desperate tongues wagging.
Mother- Often under funded though the years as of late
The whole building itself seemed to be signaling surrender.
Mother – Bed pans is what I remember. Bed pans high as the sky.
At all hours day or night, a soft sorrow filled moaning could be heard
Mother- A hundred cats releasing their last meows
A lonesome sound from lonesome men. Those invalids were like poorly made puppets in a horrorfilm. Rust covered mufflers and cattlebones held together with wires and gauze, suspended with old rope or misplaced fishing line.
Mother – from the start I had a notion that you were doomed to be a
I don’t remember, but apparently I was always adopting this old man or that old man the way other girls might take in stray kittens.
Mother – Some old bastard would be showing her pictures from his wallet, and she’d have poured some warm milk in its bowl and refreshed the dentureine.
Due to budget there were no regular physicians on staff, just five full time nurses, one for each floor. If a patient’s situation got bad enough the five nurses couldn’t handle it then a surgeon might get choppered in.
Mother – Usually just in time to confirm official time of death.
It happened maybe twice I can remember, both times it was a female surgeon.
Mother – What are the odds?
Mother and the other nurses always could use an extra hand, so once they sensed my compassion for these old guys, they starting teaching me everything they knew. Everyday, I followed them doing rounds, learning everything there was to know about being a nurse. This was the only school I’d ever know.
Years passed, the budget got smaller, the patients got older, the hospital population thinned. The staff was downsized one nurse at a time until only my mother and I were left to take care of twenty odd remaining octogenarian veterans.
Mother – You’re the last nurse left. Hell, with me gone you’re the only female on the old Skillet for a hundred miles in any direction.
Most of the old men were gentlemen
Mother – I don’t think there are none of em could get it up anyway. Still once you got them tits, sure gave those old bastards’ eyeballs a workout didn’t.
I always has gotten a lot of attention, but it with a few of them it did get a little ridiculous.
Mother – You got to be careful. You give some of these old guys a little care and they get ideas, I know those old sumbitches, a few of them would like nothing better than to break off a fingerbone in yer fanny.
Not all of them were horny old perverts but that didn't mean they were any less hard to handle.
Not all of them were perverts, but that didn't mean they were any less hard to handle, especially the one they called The Judge. They called him that because he would sit in self appointed judgement over all matters regarding the other veterans and the VA building itself. How he got those other old men to put up with his edicts and orders I'll never know, but the octogenarians willfully submitted themselves to his authority, even regarding their medications. Now, I railed and roared and threw a few punches at the wall once I saw some of the patients taking turns for the worse.
Mother - Nothing can be done to help some old dummies begging to dead
It didn't matter to those old fools that the Judge were just another half crazed octogenarian like the rest of them. They still pledged themselves to whatever he decreed, whatever he prescribed. I guess after all that time in the service they yearned for some sort of leader, some sort of chain of command. And the Judge was just too happy to oblige.
His most recent project was having the men convert the fifth floor recreation room into his judicial chambers. They all went along like dominoes.
Mother - I didn't give two turds for that. Far as I was concerned, they want to sit around wearing funny hats, planning for the Apocalypse, why should I bother. Some things just aint worth the spike in yer blood pressure. As I get older I choose my battles.
The Judge would preside on a make shift throne the men had fashioned for him. He wore this long dark terrycloth bathroom robe as his chamber clothes. The robe billowed on his tiny frame making him seem even smaller and more emaciated than he was. The most extravagant feature of his face were those eyebrows, inches of length to them. When he got all high and mighty indignant those brows would flap around like a couple of moths hot glued to his forehead.
Mother- The only conceivable excuse for growing them out that damn long might be to to draw attention away from that big old potato of a nose.
Let's not talk about his nose mother.
Mother - Hah! Sure girl! Anything you say!
After mother’s death, I wasn’t certain how I would hold up against all the Judge’s absurdities, but as the weeks went by both he and I realized despite it all, those old men really did need me to keep the VA from completely falling apart. That only was what helped he and I maintain a truce. That was until the man appeared.
Chapter Four – The Man
As dusk approached, so too did the
I was just inside the VA’s entrance when I saw him standing in the stone garden in front of the building. He was staring straight and vacant toward the building. I stepped outside. As I walked toward him, he did not turn to look at me. This was a surprise to me. Being a seventeen year old and the only female in a world of dying old men, I’m used to everyone turning to look at me. I don’t say that to brag. It just is. So when the first truly tall young man, the first man who might seem like he could actually do something with a woman, when you don’t capture his attention it skewers your reason. Reality does a cartwheel. It confused me. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I slowed down, and gave him every opportunity to snap to it, to a steal a gaze, but nothing doing. He stared straight and vacant toward the building. I know it’s silly, but I even turned around and walked a full circle around the man
Mother – Trying to bait him to take a stab at that ass with his eyes
I am embarrassed to admit it, but I needed something from this man. I did. I needed his…attention. I needed it to confirm something. I don’t know…In order to feel that everything was as it should be.
Mother – They are worser things girlie
Suddenly he slumped. Instinct made me leap towards him. He was cold and hard to get a hold off. I dropped my shoulder into the crevasse of his armpit to stable him. That was when I found his wound. Those ribs were a mess, not so much blood, but you could tell he flinched so at contact. I slowly attempted to spin us, and the wind caught his duster and it flew up into our faces. I could see nothing, but had us facing the entrance of the VA. Then the breeze fell and the jacket’s length dropped away from our faces. I saw a dozen of them octogenarians blockading the entrance. They were welding an assortment of blunt objects, walking canes, broken table legs, a pool cue. I jerked my head to one side, gesturing for them to get out of my way, but they held ground.
“I have an injured man here.”
They shook their heads in unison and a finger pointed up towards a fifth floor window. There perched the Judge. He was as worked up as I had seen him.
Mother – Till that point.
Judge – My dear!!!
His bellow was as thunderous and it was condescending. He was using the rec room karaoke machine to project his voice.
Judge – We will have no desert Bedouins within these walls!
Daughter – But he is injured
Judge – These veterans didn’t survive the desert wars so that we would suffer Bedouins!
Daughter - I have an obligation to care for anyone in need
Judge – Then do so. Anywhere but within these walls!
Daughter – Judge! Be reasonable!
He then took his nerve mallet and smashed it against an empty bed pan in gavel fashion. The karaoke machine’s disco echo effect sustained the sound for minutes, during which a number of the Judge’s most ardent howled like coyotes.
The man was coming back to consciousness, now his fingers slid to my elbow and softly squeezed so as to brace himself. He leaned onto me, and with me as his crutch, we staggered back toward Mother’s hut.
Chapter Five – Dreams of Mothers
It was a couple of miles between the VA and the hut. He was unconscious again, but breathing. He had a small opening cut in the red cloth. Small loose threads along the cut’s edge would rise and fall with each minute moan he made. I was still supporting him weight and air would funnel from the cut onto my neck. My blood knocked hard against my sternum.
Finally we arrived. I had to drop him on the couch. I was lucky to even be able to get him back to the hut. I headed for some water in our kitchen and collapsed after a few steps. He had been so heavy so solid. He was solid in a way I had never known. Those octogenarians were about as solid as a sack of dirty laundry. Not one of them could weighed more than a buck.
I got back to my feet and gathered water and what not to dress his wounds. I turned him over on the couch so he was face up, and he began to come around again. He opened his eyes, but still he would not look at me. He just lay there though letting me attend to him. His eyes now were looking vacant at ceiling. Those eyes had that quality of a well gone dry.
As I unbuttoned his shirt and cleaned the sweat and blood off his bruised ribs, I couldn’t get a thought out of my head, the memory of Mother chasing me around the hut so that I won’t be eyein’ her man. Something was spinning in me between the ears and in the stomach. Anxiety? I was have to hold back to not giggle not twitter.
Mother – Careful Girlie. Remember that Donkeyface once were young too.
Man – I’m lost
Daughter – I know
Man – You look lost too
Daughter – I was just…daydreaming
Man – What did you dream?
Daughter – I dream often of my mother
Man – I dream of a mother, my mother? Yes
Daughter – Where is she?
Man – I don’t know. I think my mother is nowhere
Daughter – Nowhere?
Man – Maybe she is in heaven
Daughter – With my mother
Man – You lost your mother too?
Daughter – Yes
Man – How was she killed?
Daughter – She wasn’t killed. She just died.
Man – She is dead, but she was not killed
Daughter – Yeah. She died of natural causes
Man – I don’t understand
Daughter – She just ran out of time. Like the glass runs out of sand
Man – I didn’t know people could do that
Daughter – What?
Man – That people could just die without being
He motioned to his guns still holstered to his waist
Daughter – You’ve never had someone just die on you?
Man – I’ve seen death by bullet, by knife, by explosives, by dozens of means. But dying without being killed? Just suddenly stopping…I don’t recall having ever seen or heard of that.
I thought I saw another injury just beneath his long red bandana. I tried to tend to it, but he wouldn’t allow me.
Man – No
Daughter – You’re hurt
Man – No, no not that
He got up suddenly stronger then he had originally appeared and moved toward the door.
Daughter – Wait
Daughter – What’s wrong
Man – Leave it be.
Daughter – I don’t want you to go
I moved toward him. He seemed a bit dizzy, getting to his feet so quickly had caught up with him.
Daughter – I want to help
Man – Alright
I went to help him back to the couch. I put my arm around him. Then, his arm was on my waist, and a finger fell onto a half inch of skin along my spine just above my beltline. The small of my back turned to quicksand and wanted all of hand to slide on in. I got scared, but I didn’t pull away. Now my hand was on his chest. I looked into his eyes, they still were homeless eyes lost. But, his breath gave him away.
Man – Yes
Daughter – I want you to kiss me
Man – No, not yet
Daughter – Please
Man – Shhhhh…not yet, not yet
Daughter – Why
Man – I’m scared
Daughter – Me too, I know
Man – I’m so afraid
Daughter – Why?
Man – I don’t…I’m afraid I’ll hurt you
Daughter – No
Man – I don’t want to devour you
Daughter – (small laughter) I want you. It’s ok. I want you to use your mouth
Man – I’ll try. Close your eyes
He made me promise. I did so, and then I closed my eyes. He moved in an inch at a time, close and then closer. I felt fabric collect by my toes. We fell unto the couch. Raw callused palms cupped my breasts. Something warm thin and slick like a wet leather braid slid across my chest. I shivered. He sensed my temptation to surrender, to break my promise, to open my eyes and witness this strange sinous movement. His right hand sprung from my left breast to cover my eyes. He used his elbow to press upon where his thick rough fingers once were. I found myself begging, pleading, and enjoying the begging. I wanted to see his face and to kiss his mouth like in the movies. But I never opened my eyes, even when I felt that cold smooth motion sucking up my body like a silken stocking.
Mother – I don’t know how it happens. Maybe it’s just proximity. You might even hate the man, really loath him. But then he gets in, gets in close. You can feel those muscles and bones. He breathes on you. You go soft and climb on top of him like a motorcycle. He gets that dick in…and shhhhhit… Still be careful girlie. Maybe he gets in too deep like a parasite. A walking talking infection that just wants you to cook and clean. What if you can’t hurt him back? What if you can’t push him away? Afraid life would be worse without his occasional affection? This shit can be sweet, but girlie it can be a curse too.
Chapter Five – The TV
The sound of TV static woke me. I reached for the knob and turned it off. The Man wasn’t there. I called out for him, even though I didn’t know his name.
Daughter – Man? Man?!!
Before when I made him my promise and closed my eyes, my old odd ghost mother had been sticking me with her needles, whispering, warning me off of the man. Now that my eyes were open again, I felt alone. I was so hollow, so mad. I screamed out and started throwing things. I was still calling out for the Man when the TV turned itself on. The white noise was drowning out the sound of my tears, so I hit the knob again to kill the static. A couple of seconds pass and the damn thing turns back on again teasing me like a little kid. Enough is enough so I unplug the TV from the generator socket. The static screen blinks off, but the TV’s innards would not shut up, as if the circuits and tubes were chanting with a deep choppy sore throat. Had the TV turned into a bomb? Was it going to explode?
Still unplugged, the TV turned itself on one more time. Instead of static though, it was like vapor rising from beneath a black eye patch. Vapors and no sound. Through the vapor, a pair eyes appeared on the screen. Those eyes were locked right on me, I moved away slowly and they followed me around the room. Then, a mouth appeared. It’s lips were moving but I heard no sound.
I cautiously approached the volume knob and turned it up but with no effect. Now a hand and an ear appeared on the screen. The hand pointed a finger at the ear. The finger slowly spun round and round the curve of the ear, then the hand pointed to my ear as if it wanted me to mimic the gesture. I was unsure and scared as hell but I did what the TV asked me to. I slowly spun my finger around my ear, and the volume of the TV mouth got louder spin by spin, as if I were turning up the volume inside my own head. The TV mouth now had a voice. I heard it distinctly speak.
TV Mouth- **Young woman** young woman**I am trying to talk to you**This message is specifically for you**Upon receiving this telepathic transmission you are know legally responsible for comprehension of it content**Any attempt to disrupt, disconnect, monitor, or intercept federal psychic dial up is punishable up to 5 years in a military or non-nationalized prison facility**You**Young woman**I am trying to talk to you**Young female in the tan medical scrubs**
We are all used to the TV talking at you, but when a unplugged TV starts talking TO you especially after having given up your virginity to a masked man who wont let you open your eyes, I’m confident that could mess anybody up.
I stopped spinning my finger, and the voice dropped out of my head. Then the TV got real mad. I turned the screen toward the wall so I couldn’t see it. Then the TV got real mad, humming and vibrating and pounding the floor. So I fled the hut. I ran outside.
I ran outside. It was still night. Then, I saw the man a couple dozen yards in the distance. My heart hit the inside of my ribs. My eyes started to leak. I wanted him so badly, and there he was. But, he seemed to sink slowly into the sand. Could I trust my eyes? There wasn't any quicksand on the propeorty. Something was pulling him away from me. The Phantom TV already had me wound so tight I couldn't stand it.
The man's head went under. I ran for him. I was out of breath when I saw a small glow escpaing from a deep hole. He hadn't sunk. He'd descended, or was pulled in. You could hear the sound of scrapping and digging underneath. I knelt at the mouth of the hole and called out to him. Silence. Then he slowly came up into view. He had nothing on but dirt, pants, and that red bandana still covering his face.
D-Are you ditching me?
M -I don’t have anywhere to go. No one wants me. Not now
D-You left me alone in there
He wasn't paying full attention to me. He picked up a handful of sand and started rubbing in onto his biceps and forearms.
D-I was scared
D-Please come back inside. Come out of your hole.
M-But it feels good. Soothing. My skin, my flesh, everything feels better now underground.
D-I want it again. I want you to do it to me again.
M-Especially at night. The sand is so cold, so refreshing.
D-I’ll do anything you want if you do that to me again.
M-I don’t know if we should
D-Didn’t you like it
M-I liked it. A lot
I smiled. So did he, but just for a bit.
M-But when it was finished I was filled with something. Full of needles. Full of grease. Full of dark.
D-Was it ever like that before?
M- There was no before
D- Be with me
M-I am with you. I am. I just need to stay inside this hole
D-What can I do to make you feel better to keep you too me.
M-Show me you. All of you. Take off your clothes. Show me your beauty.
I turned my back so that I couldn’t see mother’s mound. There was no else on the desert but us. I took off my shirt and got goosebumps in places I never knew you could. I liked how his eyes were fixed straight at me. Still in his hole looking up, just me and the moonlight. I heard him moan softly. He reached into a pocket of his pants and pulled out a flute.
He played it and I moved to the music. He was beneath me. I was above. My hips were moving and my breasts were moving. I touched my self and let him tell me with his eyes what I was suppose to touch next, and after a few minutes, I got him out of that hole.