"Doesn't this random scattering... seem desperately random - like the elaborations of a bad liar?"
When Alain appeared in the doorway of Oswald’s room, the first thought wasn’t how excited he was to see his old friend but what kind of trouble landed him back in town so unexpectedly.
"What are you doing here?" Oswalt closed the book he was reading. "Aren’t you supposed to be two states away in school?"
"What’s wrong with dropping in on a friend?" Alain crossed the threshold and stood at the foot of the bed. "I have a joint with our names on it."
Always the crazy one, Alain. Once he called up from the other side of the country after disappearing for a week, from a shoreline resort town. Which meant anything could happen tonight.
The two ducked out of the house. His parents were laid up in their recliners, asleep in front of the TV, so Oswald left a note he’d return later and stole away into the night with Alain.
"Where in mind did you have to smoke?"
"That cell phone tower in the north end of town. There’s something I have to tell you." And there it was. A simple visit was too much to hope for with Alain.
The cellular tower was their haunt since high school. A few of the old heads warned the place was a Native American burial ground; the rest believed the soil was good for little else but supporting a giant antenna. So it remained unchanged over the years.
As they walked up the trail, Alain nervously glanced around. Something had him spooked, and if Alain was spooked then this visit bore bad news. Oswald stopped and glared at him.
"Do you hear those voices?" Alain kept his pace, leaving Oswald behind. "I think the old heads were right about this place."
"What are you talking about?"
"Nothing. We’re almost to the spot."
When they arrived, the panoramic view was nearly all three-sixty degrees of the town below. Alain produced the special cigarette with a deliberate preciseness, as if he had all the time in the world. Oswald sighed and crossed his arms.
"So do you remember that drama from the summer after we graduated?" asked Alain as he sparked the end.
"Vaguely that it had to do with Kristina and Yvette and Yvette’s boyfriend."
"Yeah, everybody thought Kristina was a slut for banging him. Poor girl. Branded for life."
Oswald remembered the prank calls, the graffiti, the vicious rumors. Kristin was a loner before all that nonsense happened and there was no way she couldn’t have known what it’d do to her if word got out.
"So what’s the point?" Oswald asked after a couple of puffs.
"Turned out that rat fuck raped her."
Oswald blinked and said nothing.
Alain continued. “Mixed something in her drink, probably roofies. Anyway he blabbed so much about it, all eyes went to Kristin..”
"That’s fucked up."
"Not as fucked up as how I found out. The prick’s dorm room is on my floor. One night we partied and bragged about a time with this one chick. Jesus, Oswald, it was Kristine. He asked if I knew, but I played it off like I didn’t know shit."
"You’re a better man than me," Oswald said after a moment. "I would have beat the bastard within an inch of his life."
"It get’s worse. One night I hear knocking for, like, an hour. When I poked my head out, a girl just bawling her eyes out was trying to get him to answer the door. Turns out he did her with the same MO. So I took him out.”
"What do you mean ‘took him out?’"
"I confronted him. An argument broke out. He pulled a gun. I pulled a gun. Then the bullets flew. Got him in the head, though. Dead between the eyes."
Alain was crazy, but this was a new level of evil. He was going to get the death sentence for it, no matter how noble the intention. Oswald definitely wouldn’t have taken it so far.
"It can’t get any worse," Oswald said quietly. "You are deranged, brother. They’re probably looking to put a few holes in you right about now."
"No, that isn’t the worst. The worst—" Alain paused for dramatic effect. "The worst is that Yvette defended that piece of shit through it all, knowing the fuckery he caused."
Oswald exhaled slowly. “So this is why you came back. You needed a place to hide.”
"No, brother," Alain gave a friendly clap on Oswald’s shoulder, "I came back for one last hoorah. And I want you to promise me you’ll deliver a message to Kristin."
"Why don’t you do it?"
Oswald felt Alain’s eyes on him in the darkness. His silence was the obscure answer to an obscure question. Of course Alain couldn’t call Kristin. He was a marked man.
Alain dropped the roach and stomped on it. “As your friend on this last night we’ll ever have together, I advise you to drive back into town at top speed with no lights on.”
"Last ride of the Stoned Raiders?" Oswald’s voice smiled. He couldn’t deny Alain one last blast before he met his inevitable end.
When the roads leveled off, Alain took them along the edge of town on backroads Oswald hadn’t traveled in years. The patchwork night was perfect for dipping into old and strange memories, a fitting repeat of history for what lay ahead.
"Turn here, now!" cried Alain suddenly.
Oswald jerked the wheel suddenly, making a hard left onto a dim street. A dull thud shook the entire right side of his car, making him gasp with surprise. Alain reached out a hand and told him to pull over.
"Jesus, was that a person?" Oswald’s hands shook uncontrollably.
"Where’s the flashlight?"
It was probably an animal, Oswald thought as he found one in his back seat. A possum or fox. Anything but a human being, god damn it. The beam swept the street. No sign of a body. Maybe the animal got lucky and—
Then he noticed a sneaker.
"What the hell is that?"
Then there was a leg, then a twisted crumple of blood and bones on the asphalt. Oswalt dropped to his knees and shined the light over the face. Who was it that could have been wandering around in the dark at this hour?
Beneath the spatter and streaks of blood, Yvette’s hazel eyes stared into oblivion. This was more than an unhappy coincidence. Alain could have arranged the whole thing, but that was the shock talking.
"Let me see your flashlight." Alain held out a hand.
"Give me your flashlight. Quickly!"
Oswald watched the darkness swallow Yvette’s lifeless face as he handed over the flashlight. Alain carefully examined the entire passenger side of the car. After a few moments, he returned the light to Oswald.
"If you want to get out of this with your freedom, take me home and then get home yourself."
"What about Yvette? What about the car?" Oswald got to his feet and went to the car. He saw with his own eyes there was no damage. He might get out of this scot-free, but he was going to carry it for the rest of his life.
"The outcome couldn’t suit the person more," Alain spat, "but if you want to explain why you were out so late with marijuana in your system, be my guest."
"Fuck you," Oswald growled at Alain. "Get in."
Some last hoorah. A night filled with ghosts in every sense of the word and ended with the night claiming one more for itself. Home and the safety of bed was the best place now, before the night claimed one more ghost in either or both Oswald and Alain.
Oswald pulled up to the end of Alain’s driveway. Neither had much to say to each other, not after the night they just had. What could be said, Thanks for the night we killed Yvette and left her body in the road?
"Promise me you’ll talk to Kristin?" Alain said as an afterthought to getting out.
"Still don’t want to talk to her?"
"It’s best if she hears it from you."
Alain said nothing more, closed the door and disappeared into the darkness beyond the headlights. Oswald was wrong. The night claimed one more ghost before morning.
The next day, Oswald dropped by Kristin’s house. He didn’t know what he’d say when he saw her, and in hindsight kicked himself for not asking Alain how, exactly, to bring up anything they discussed.
Kristin appeared in the doorway, looking almost exactly the same since the last time they saw each other. Her eyes held equal surprise by Oswald’s unexplained appearance on that warm spring morning.
"Oswald! What a surprise to see you. What’s going on?"
"Do you remember what happened the summer we graduated?" He stopped and cleared his throat. "(Of course you remember, what a dumb question) I mean, did any of that get… cleared up?"
"You mean the rape? No. I still have a scarlet letter in this stupid town." Kristin retreated a step behind the screen door. "So thanks for opening the wound. Nice to see you, too."
"I believe you." Oswald held up a hand. "Yvette’s boyfriend took advantage of you—I believe that."
"Not that I need your validation, but thank you."
"No, you don’t understand. Yvette’s dead. I hit her with my car last night."
Kristin lowered her head. “Jesus Christ.”
"Alain stopped by last night, after he shot her boyfriend—"
"Wait, what do you mean ‘he visited you?’" Kristin shook her head in disbelief. "Like, you saw him last night?"
"Yes, he stopped by around eight last night."
"No more impossible than killing Yvette last night." Oswald began to think the visit was a mistake.
"Alain’s dead, Oswald. They killed each other in that gunfight."
"How do you know?"
"Because I have a friend who called me up when it happened." Kristin wiped her eyes. "I tried calling you last night, but your phone was turned off."
It wasn’t turned off, but Oswald guessed what caused the interference. He said nothing more and returned to his car. At home, he asked his parents if they let Alain up to his room, but they’d fallen asleep long before he showed up. They didn’t know he was in the area.
The whole of Alain’s visit sent chills down Oswald’s spine. He had it all planned, from start to finish. All accounts were now settled. Yes, the previous night was filled with ghosts. Alain wouldn’t return, that much was clear. If he did, then the whole town was his for the taking.
show me how
to absorb shock
like a treatment
or brothers in arms
this deep impact
me, who wonders—where is everybody?
I really wish I am as talented as you guys say sometimes. Trust me when I say I’m winging it.
If the prose piece doesn’t happen tonight, you’ll understand, right?
The Composer is Dead! [w/ Ethos]
—after Lemony Snicket
A great man has died!
Why now—here are my lines: follow
its melody & cadence—married phrases
figuring a dance, lighting up a funeral pyre
higher & higher. Picking a toque, short
stopped con palmas, mi alma!
Juego la juerga—con brio y vigore, tanto
amore! Agile, agile, tira me a las
arañas [& c-cedillas por el bien
de las torres de Sevilla]—mas grave,
sājāt each zil for
coquí frogs & wear whirling frill, wind
storm the maelstrom in the
name of cacophony—perform
lobotomies to extract the duende—
A great man has died!
Aunque me recuerdas
como un sueño,
Lieder und leitmotiv
diventa più forte…
…For there can only be one Sordello—
let him visit the Poets’ Corner in
Westminster, crack open the tombs
to wake up physicians & muses:
Hang it on the wall!
Harange the halls!
Harass the gall!
Apparitions & visions of bards
trumpeting taverns or strumming
lyres & lutes—what refute, what return
shakes the world more than those
A great man has died!
Tonight the Valkyries
fly, ride moonlight
tonight. Greek sirens
wail as sex in distress,
undressing the sails to
blow west. Odysseus—
do you remember your
son Telamachus? Wife
Penelope? Alter ego
Stephen Dedalus? The hero-
as-self rotting on a shelf, a
score of years—oh, a score
for motion pictures raped
of its melodramatics for pure
gymnastics—the hungry bull
& dead horse beaten to
cubism, the Holocaust rewritten
from Kristallnacht pieces,
some voilà via viola—& what
happens when the cannons
blast as the church bells
ring? Cry, “Sanctuary! Sweet
sanctuary! She is saved!”
A great man has died.
trump “Taps” a final line.
on the list to be hired
(for when the saints come
marching in again, around)
the corner, spying on
coroners in autopsy:
in skin again, around
an etherised body
howling in eternal
Then I’ll say it once more:
A great man has walked
out the door
the second space
music we cannot hear!
…et le coup?
God always kills
with a trill—
ending “I am”
For those who have missed out on the spoken performance
Oh “yes” what?
Yeah, so—thank you. All of you.
BTW—that was NOT the prose piece I promised. It wouldn’t dare qualify for brutal, much less gloriously brutal.
So I lied. I didn’t mean to. It was Mr. Daniels. He’ll swear to it.