EXCERPTED ENTRIES FROM THE BOOK OF FREAKS
See “Asshole.” Fruit—diced—and nonfat yogurt, pixelate the breakfast table. Paparazzi line like army ants fanning out a circumference of rainforest. Coke lines the bathroom countertops. Televisions spit life lies worldwide. When a daughter squeezes through and is christened Mountain, Stream, Native American of the Plains States, Star Lemon, the divorce papers file in, a stack of plant cells. And even the mitochondria of those plant cells have filed microscopic divorce papers, their photosynthetic component partners bleached and thick as cell Constitutions spelling Life, Liberty, We the Cells, Custody. Wrinkles botoxed smooth, a placid sea; the ass lipoed, unchunked. The tabloids scream—literally—“Guess who!?” Mothers lined like already-mentioned army ants at Schnucks across Iowa cry in the land where they let the mothers cry. Their children, fenced into grocery carts, and the frat boys, their polo collars upturned, pick their noses and blink in the blinding white light.
Art by Gene Tanta
This is mimicry of all mimicking animal and plant life. This is woman: the reason for cologne and four-by-four pick-ups. The bottle helps, cause of and solution to all human wrinkles. So too the pen. And insomnia. Many have a laundry list—of all things to list. Nearly filling the list are socks. Fifty-two individual white socks. Six of various colors. Next: T-shirts, mostly black. And in the pants’ pockets: other lists. They are all for groceries: eggs, bread, aftershave, a trove of fall mums. This is all more mimicry for woman. Also, too much beer.
The Rank of Boy Scout
10.5 years. The belly rolls out like the shirt is watermelon-stuffed. The tennis shoes’ lips (Reebok high tops) flop while walking. Hair is a massive helmet, and should the head meet—as it often will—the points of rocks, the mesh of curls act as cushion against damage. Girls are closed eyelids and open-mouthed laughter. Baseball—the one thing that makes the little bells toll—has only just begun to grow real. These uniformed kids and their salutes, their hiking boots, sting of the ridicule already suffered. One more way to slowly die will only speed the process.
The Rank of Tenderfoot
The mud will cake along the shorts so that it resembles a butterfly’s wings. The watch will slip from the wrist—time itself—lost along the rocks’ sodden depths of a lagoon later to be poisoned. Oh, irony: a Boy Scout Camp under federal mandate for pollution control. The father will laugh and admonish, thinking, my god. The scoutmaster will smoke cigarettes and his sons—named Robert, Bob, Robert, and Bert—will pull at the skin of their necks making the red redder and the checked flannel will be a symbol of the scotch in the blood, the fear behind the eyes, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The Rank of Second Class
The hand reaches the crotch. Not of the oak once scrabbled up while playing G.I. Joe and Star Wars, but the crotch. The hand has still skinned no other skin besides its own, outside of handshakes, hugs, chicken—that which peels back before indulging in the thigh. The television in the parents’ bedroom skips from clear to static on 16, the Playboy Channel. This entices the hand crotchward. The hand learns things about gripping a pencil and scribbling irregularly the pages of a black and white speckled composition book.
The Rank of First Class
The Mexicans have decided that not only are Boy Scouts idiots, but since they consist almost entirely of white boys, they are also stupid. The clothes—outside of uniform—in turn, have taken a decidedly Z Cavaricci turn. The collared shirt buttons button to the neck. The black suede Playboy loafers slip on. The hair, thickly moussed each morning post-shower, sweeps back, the mullet curling at the nape. Squiggling in a collection of merely three hundred strands down the forehead, equally moussed, the squiggles creepily stiff as a pencil, or as a subliminal arrow.
The Rank of Star
An amazing thing has happened: The moths cocooned upon the oak branches have burst forth from their chrysalises and swirl the branches a lá confetti. So, too, have the trousers ceased to be trousers and become pants. A crease along the thigh, down the ankle, becomes imperative. So is aftershave. Actual shaving happens only every fourth or fifth day, a routine never to be broken despite the scraggle of whiskers that weekly grow like billions of Jack’s bean stalks, like billions of Jacks, which are ubiquitous, as omnipresent as football players. The mind has become a hive of breasts and breasts.
The Rank of Life
The ranks are obsessive. Each higher rank lilts by, the future waving hello from the passenger window of a passing Dodge, or Chrysler. The Life Scout becomes a life scout at 10.5 years. Later, it will be agreed that this was during the 11.5th year of life. The lashings have perfected, the two half-hitches, the sheepshank, the bowline (pronounced “Bow-lyn”). Pico Blanco—a mountain aptly topped white with quartz—remains ambitious. Ambition itself is a mountain. The mountain mountains up and the lungs suffer as much as the calves and balls and balls of feet. The rifles of the rifle range smoke and the smoke curls like a woman’s hips, or her tongue, or the hump of a mountain.
The Rank of Eagle
The girlfriend’s Russian accent has tits with nipples that, when hard, are exactly like a baby’s thumb between the fingers. This prompts the plants to strain and swell. Haircuts clip out the end of each bi-week. Under a weed haze the Little Sur River is a wisp of silver hair. The last rank is the door to a bar. The bar holds up a sign reading “We ID”. The ID is the same as the collective soul of the river. The girlfriend’s mouth claims the ID, the lips lipping around the D, closing up the I. This, ultimately, makes the girlfriend the enemy, and the bar a friend.
Art by Qi Peng
Humans are born normal—like most mammal infants, head first. This human grew to a normal eighteen years: knit collared shirt, chinos, deck shoes toggled to his toes. Inside, past the ruddy hair strands, and briny scalp, under the thinning layers of epidermis and fat, under the skull sewn and fused in its casements, under the pitted and wrinkled gray matter, the pituitary gland’s tumor, the pituitary gland itself, the epiphyseal plate sealed, squeezed out growth hormone molecule after growth hormone. His headaches were trains in the tiniest under-road New York Subways, his shoes, stretched beyond decks capable of holding them. He grew like hands stretching out toward some god. He grew and no one wanted to see him, a Goliath to everyone’s David. He endured and today he drives a truck.