I convinced Jesus to get rid of the leeches along the way. Actually; he "released them into the wild".
It is arguable that being released into a ditch that is only, theoretically, connected to a lake, isn't really "freeing the leeches". Especially from the leeches point of view. The chances of said leeches navigating far enough "downstream" in a sluggish current that zigzags a maze of culverts, weedy ditches and gravelly washes, that alternately run dry and flooded, before Autumn freezes them all solid and denies said leeches the luxury of hibernating in the mud or migrating to Miami for the winter, is remote. However... it has been a wet summer.
I decided to call Brian along the way, having decided that the risk of being publicly connected to Jesus at the 7-11 was higher than someone finding and connecting a call from my disposable cellphone. He agreed to meet us on the meandering riverside boulevard that ran from mansions to shitholes, as we traveled upstream, towards downtown. By day, it is home to nubile joggers in lycra sportsbras and retirees with toy dachshunds. By night, it's a cruise for junkies, cops-on-administrative-punishment, bull fags, teen shitbags and the clinically depressed. Dirty Jesus' wild stares and twitches stood out, even amongst this stew of perverts and nobody bothered us.
I like to presume that my own appearance did not contribute, much, to our pariah status. But, I imagine that I looked like some fallen, second-rate housepainter, out to score something cheap.
Brian rolled up on us, while we were perusing a beaver carcass, in the middle of the road. There aren't many beavers in the city. Not as far as I could tell, anyways. It stood out at a distance, and got stranger as we approached. DJ was totally freaked, never having seen a beaver, in person, before. The strangeness, for me, was seeing beaver out of context. There was little for it to eat, here, and no hope of damming the Mississippi River. The taxis driver-side window rolled down with a low electric hiss.
"Beaver out of context.", I said.
"Would you fuckers stop staring at the pizza and get in before the cops drift by?"
I count on Brian to provide rationality, in odd circumstance. We got in.
I had explained to Brian, on the phone, my desire to make it 'fucking impossible' for DJ to find his way back to my cousin's place, so we took the scenic route out of town. The cab slid like magic, between cop cars, crackheads and certain jailtime. I handed the mace over to Brian and it went straight into his utility bag.
"So... What the fuck have you dumbshits been up to?"
"Not much... Dirty Jesus, here, has been playing at public indecency, though. Theft and aggravated assault, too, with one of my bouncer tools. Nasty shit."
Dirty Jesus had taken the wise course of shutting the fuck up and not pissing anybody off, for now. I laid the whole story on Brian and he laughed his ass off.
"Did anybody ever tell you that you are one weird puppy?"
"Well... all the time."
The dry, innocent way that he spoke, reduced us to tears of laughter. Dirty Jesus smiled and observed the circus, out the window. We watched the partygirls, homeboys, punks, skank tourists, whores and junkies partying in the alleys, the riverbanks, the back ways, cheap apartment-building porches, vacant lots and empty warehouses as we took the long way, out of the city.
"Okay, Jésus. It's time for you to earn Sanctuary.", says Brian. He's in cruise control, flying down some unlit backcountry road, cab-spidey sense doping out deer, drunk and raccoon around blind corners. "Give me the good word, Preach."
Dirty Jesus exhaled, eyes closed. He inhaled slowly, held it... and began to speak:
"Rose woke up in the bushes, covered in moonlight and bile... piss and dew. Her pains had faded to the low thump of fresh charley-horse. She was alone under the stars, but she was alive. She screamed at the stars until they shook and disappeared from her sight. They fled to the underworld, sought the forges of the Earth and quaked under Vulcan's cloak. She turned and walked into the city, void and vaccuum in her stare. Animals cowered. People ran, screaming, in their sudden nightmares. Streetlights winked out in her bow wave and Rush Limbaugh fondled himself as he waltzed the dragon, dreaming of liberal cities falling to the torch.
Concrete cracked and heaved under her broken heels. Lightning gathered in her face as she approached the strip. Ten thousand years endurance of patriarchy and posture blossomed in her gaze, unfurled and unmade the bars, the dance clubs, the yuppie cafes and university hangouts. Stadium seated micro-megaplex cinemas, dark and private texmex-brand shitholes, neglected public parks, sticky college dorms, alley and penthouse. All were swept away and made clean.
The places where old school motherfuckers made their old white man plans, ghetto dives where shiny black men shook on schemes and pipedreams, cedar bushes where sober old Indians quake in the presence of young drunks and paint-huffers, fancy oxygen-cafes where the triads carve up the boat people; all were swept away and made clean.
She would cleanse this place.
Everywhere Rose strode, she spat and it turned to plague and corruption that turned into Minnesota politics. She shat on a giant church and it grew. She pissed on the new library and it turned into a Walmart. She dripped blood as she walked and the drops became parking meters and pay-toilets. When she finally stopped, it all grew back before her eyes. It flourished in her goddamn cess and hate; as she stood there for sixtyty years, watching... astonished. In silence, she became as stone. One day, some fucking artist stuck a pipe up her ass and water now squirts out her nose inna a pool with those big colourful fish... Poi. That's what I know."
"Amen, brother. You're paid up." He rolled his eyes at me, then said "You, however, are racking up the points!" Brian punctuated this, with his best Brad Pitt head shake and eyeroll. "... Yeah."
One hundred and forty-eight minutes later, we rolled to a stop at my cousin's place. If I had driven there, myself, it would have taken under an hour. I am fairly sure that DJ would not be able to find his way back, in any daytime.
Do not put your dingleberries, down, there.
The cab rolled to a stop, 50 feet from the end of the road. The reason for stopping short, has a sincere look of finality. A gaping trench across the road, gravel berm on the other side and a tiny hand-lettered sign, strongly affixed to a huge, tarry, heartwood-cut creosote timber.
Brian sat on the hood of his taxi, smoking a cigarette, trying not to get worked-up. He had made the mistake of walking up to the sign to read it, even though I warned him not to do so.
The sign is written in a bold, black ink script. Probably written with a broad tip fountain pen. It appears to be penned on whitened parchment; dried, scraped, stretched and limed animal skin, species unknown. More than rawhide, less than leather. It is set in a waterproof shadow box, fronted by heavy glass; only a foot, square. It was the scariest document that I had ever read, up to that point.
I made the mistake of having first read it, in the wrong context. This, too, was the wrong context for Brian; arriving late at night, without invitation and a good pre-explanation of the sign. He knew, as well, that there was something "not quite right" about my cousin, Billy. Don't get me wrong. Billy's not psycho, or anything, like that. He's just very different than most people that you're ever likely to meet.
The sign is hard to read, especially to those who are not familiar with the cool medium of manuscript. It brings you into the intent of the scribe, in a way that is missing from the uniformity of typeface.
To whom it May Concern;
You are now 50 metres inside of my private property. If you go back to the large pine stump, you will see the clearly posted "no-trespassing" sign. I have many legally-owned firearms that are properly secured against theft, but easily accessible to me. I can see you from my position. I know that you are there. You left the safety of your pretty vehicle to read this sign; I know the yardage. There's never enough meat in my smoker.
When Brian returned to the car and took out his cigarettes. He wasn't shaking, but I could tell that he was concerned. I had tried to warn him.
"What the fuck have you gotten us into, Aaron?"
"It's not as bad as it looks... My cousin's a fucking genius. That sign can put the love of Jesus in somebody's heart, like nothing I ever saw. That's true. It's just a flaming piece of psychological art, though."
"Psycho art... I don't think genius is the word for it."
"Billy knows the local cops and game wardens. They drink beer and paw strippers, together. Any hunter or hippy that reads that sign, freaks out and goes to the local authorities is liable to get laughed-at and a trespassing citation."
"You're going to leave Dirty Jesus with poker-playing, swamp-billy cops?"
There's no way the cops will come out here. They're great friends with Billy... when he's in town. They can't sleep ten yards from a shower, microwave and espresso machine. They hate it, out here.
"They're yuppies, not cannibal hillbillies."
"What about the game warden?"
"He only shows up at deer season to make sure that Citizen Willam, here, doesn't have half a dozen deer hanging, within sight of the road. Billy likes to put his first kill up in that tree, skinned, if the weather's cold enough. Really wows the yokels, but the warden makes sure that it doesn't look like House of a Thousand Corpses, up here."
"I nearly crapped myself, when I got to the end of that letter. The whole woods-at-night, NRA nutcase and mutant-hillbilly atmosphere."
"Marshall McLuhan is smiling on your ass. Just imagine what your reaction would be, if your runnathemill quarterback and head cheerleader get lost, looking for the beach and read that sign; all the while their SUV is sucking up a litre per minute under a cloudy quarter-moon, they can't get email or Oprah on their crackberrys and it looks impossible to put their hummer inna three-point turn, right here. They're shittin' goldbrick, I guarantee.... They go away and they don't come back."
"I imagine that none of their friends ever come back."
Once, somebody had come back, while I was here. What a clusterfuck that night had become.
"Don't worry about it. Nobody up here knows us, nobody is gonna come here looking for Jesus, nobody knows that we're here... and, you don't have to stay."
"I think that it's noble. You feel like babysitting the Jesus, like the worst Mother Theresa impersonator, ever."
"Nobody, except your cousin."
"Nobody... knows that we are here... but your cousin, right?"
I sure hope so, that is. He hadn't answered his phone, but, I know that he screens every call and listens to every phone message. Religiously, like.
"I mean... I'm pretty sure, he knows we're here." I was staring at a wobbling reflection, off to the side of direct headlight beams. "... That would be best." I was fairly certain that the wobbling reflection, was the worn, blued-steel barrel of a pump-slug shotgun.
"Whatever you do, don't make any sudden movements. 'kay?"
I could count on Brian to be cool, but Dirty Jesus was trembling in the back seat of the car, as per my orders. I knew, that the sudden appearance of a gun-toting anybody would send him into a paroxysm of twitches and tweaker babble that could cause a shitstorm of bad craziness.
"Go sit with Jesus and hold his hand for a minute, would ya?"
"Ah. You gotta be fucking kidding me..."
"He stinks like crazy and nobody's ever seen him wash his hands."
"Buy me a minute."
"This is going to cost you."
Brian deliberately got up and slid in next to Dirty Jesus, on my side of the car. He slowly, but firmly closed the door. I turned towards the welcome party and called out my cousin's name, then mine. I mentioned that I had a couple guests.
There was an immediate and sharp click of metal, a familiar whistle, then the jarring clack of a shell being cycled out. If I knew Billy, he probably turned the shotgun sideways and tried to catch it in his pocket.
"It's okay, guys. Get out of the car, already."
A strong flashlight beam cut through the trees, as he approached. More for our benefit and peace of mind, than his.
"Boys. This is my cousin, William the BatShatner."
"Nice handle, pops." says Brian."There must be some sort of story to it."
"Yah...", Billy says, "but let's get your car parked and get you guys inside and comfortable. Then we can talk." He looked a little sideways at Jesus, but got down to business.
We'd dragged out some timbers with a "come-along" system that Billy'd barrel-stashed in the bush and drove the taxi across the side-ditch. A big green canvas tarp, a few bushes and it disappeared. There was one way to get over the berm, few roadbound vehicles could manage it. No visitors were expected and I'd only ever seen Billy's jeep crawl over the barricade.
When my cousin was satisfied, he turned towards the house and told us to follow in his footsteps.
Brian, Billy and I sat at the kitchen table, drinking scotch like gentlemen and swearing like sailors... keeping just north of piratry.
Billy's telling a little post-bowl fairytale, about when were little. "So, I tells Aaron...'I made you a birthday present.' He says,"Where is it? 'It's hidden, I says.' I says."
Brian's grinning, loving the scotch and the talk.
"Billy.", I says. "It really does seem to get funnier, as I get older. Just not at the time."
"It was the greatest fucking prank of my childhood, cuz. It's just too bad for you, that it worked so good."
"Yeah, no shit. There are still people in that town that think I'm Michael Meyers or the Antichrist."
Brian blows scotch through his nose, laughing. We howl with laughter, like we just invented it.
After we get Brian cleaned up and pointed at his digs for the night, we all go out to smoke on the porch, next to the Jesus. We're not worried about waking him. He chose the blue pill... and is sleeping off a six-day jag. He'll be comfortable out here, and we won't have to deal with his ass, until tomorrow night. At the earliest. We leave a big bottle of water by his head and sit with a different, better scotch and Billy's good cigars. The night is clear and warm and Billy's got great mosquito screens. Everything's good and humane, in the night. Brian looked better than I've ever seen him... and I probably did, too.
Billy takes half an hour to tell Brian a story that should have taken 90 seconds:
He goatse'ed my computer video for my science fair entry, randomly inserting the goatse pic and speed metal background. He had volunteered to help me set up at the science fair, the day after the promised birthday present. He left the video running, in what I thought had been a single looped copy, but was actually a huge file, of dozens of copies of my video clip. The goatses and speedmetal only appeared in the final five clips, but with increasing tempo until it ended in a single, screaming goatse image that refused to go away.
He had locked me out of my own computer, somehow and I could not turn it off. A teacher came to her senses and unplugged the whole schlemiel. Up until that point in my life, I was unaware that I possessed schlemiel. The next six hours of my life became defining schlemiel. [Weird linkage, here.]
Brian stayed the night and promised to come back, fishing, sometime. He called our business settled and told me to look him up for some work when I got back. Billy must have made quite an impression on him.
"Don't leave your dingleberries in my chair, all night. The end bedroom's made up and I opened the heat vents in there, so use it."
"Thanks a million, Shitbag." We both smiled the fleeting smile of free and innocent men. "I'll probably get there, shortly, but I'm going to sit here, watch the deer and work this bottle for awhile... Beside... you know that I love to sleep out here."
"I know.. there's blankets in that chest...."
Brian had taken the small cabin across the yard. It is tiny, but clean, warm and comfy. He'll be leaving in the morning, but I have decided to stay for a while. I think that it's time to reacquaint myself with the good folks of Bog River, MN.