Tuesday, March 17, 2015



                        The fall is beautiful in Humbaba. Garlands spring from the ground, bursting forth from forests and houses, twining over roads, clogging the wheels of cars and twirling out of windows. In the bright humid heat’s circulated flow, the throbbing thrum of plant-life fills nostrils, fills lungs, the green smell of earth filling the air, rich, dense and plentiful, marbled purple strains so rich they glow with the natural glow of growing life, the green smiling bounty grateful in the sun. The coming of summer is beautiful, too. And for those with their fill of TV, booze, dogma, bigotry, prejudice, prescription drugs—for those with their fill of the corrupt hypocrites lying on OxyContin, lying on cocaine, lying on oath, with smoke stacks puffpuffpuffing away, running the world into the ground, into dust and death and ruin—for those with their fill of the criminal one percent, lying in support of themselves, at the expense of the people, at the expense of the planet, in Humbaba it was always fall, and spring, and the celebration of the year anew, if only in the mind, where all reality grows.
            At Hola John's, Phil said hi to Maya, who asked him what he'd have. The radio, tuned in to the college station, playing Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti.” People nearby ceased speaking the language of surf and got into which album the song was off. Eventually they reached a consensus: Abraxas, 1970. Santana’s second. Phil, glad to hear they got it right, observed Maya’s creation of his bean and cheese burrito in benign silence. He knew she didn't recognize him, beyond the fact that he was an occasional customer. There was no reason that she should. It was easy to recognize her, however, with her fairly distinctive blonde dreadlocks, as a friend of Dinah’s. She came over every few months.
                       Hola John’s was so small, Phil wondered how long, as he sidled his way out, burrito in hand, before somebody farted and they all died in there. He had parked almost directly in front of the premises and ate inside the sleek machine in full view of a dude and a chick who snagged the tiny window table and aimlessly considered the crappy quality of a supersized business compared with the crappy quality of a humble little mom and pop. Who owned Hola John’s? Was it the big dream to sell out?
           Music used to be records. Records were big. Then the music got small. Was this somebody's idea of diminishing the importance of music? Transforming the cultural influence of music into videos and CDs? Was it only a coincidence that so much in the 80s got cheap and fake and plastic? The corporations got bigger, the music got smaller. Experiencing a record might influence a person. Might get a person to thinking. Thinking about maybe not supporting the system. A music video can't do that. Nobody watching a music video ever opposed a war. Where were CDs going? Shrinking down to nothing. Music getting smaller, TVs getting bigger.
            But TV was just a mask. It was the thing behind TV he chiefly hated.
                        Before he could go drop off any videos and pick up a big flat screen in Las Vegas, the thing to do was test-drive the Pinto. The great news was he had it already marketed in his mind as a noble old nag. He would call it Rozinante. In fact, already did. Giving the car a name gave Rozinante an identity. Not since Leo Burnett aborted “Mild as May” and gave birth to the Marlboro Man as an ad campaign had human perception been so successfully manipulated. And Phil Stein did it without benefit of subliminal coding or sheer repetition. Either he equated the Pinto with Don Quixote's horse, or with the bean. And the bean lost that war, lost it to the workhorse, but good. What with Rozinante all gassed up, Phil decided, hell, time to take Rozinante up to the beach.          
           He had to wonder if finding Rozinante this way was as big a moment for him as he thought. In TV life, they always tell you. Every occasion is always Must See, but not always A Very Special one to Must See. Outside TV life, things could go by and a person might not even know. When did the friendship get canceled? When did the conversation start? Was it a repeat? How do you know if something is funny when there is no Laff Track? What is it you're supposed to be buying? Outside TV life, they don't even tell you.
           Phil took to turnoff a few miles past Tertia, catching sight of an osprey nest high atop a snag, and parking in the shade along the old road before the state park entrance with the highway out of view. Somebody else was parked there, too. Vigilance Is Freedom, the bumper sticker said.
           Down the trail to the beach he passed slanted vegetation shaped by winds like mind transformed by tube. Then in a whipping breeze he reached the breakers rolling, mottled gray and green crashing yellow foam. Phil left his mark, tracks in the sand, among the kelp washed up, translucent olive, popping kelp bulbs on the gritty gray sand thick with sand fleas hopping, noting the strata of the porous rock ringing round in carved coves, gulls waddling ungainly in groups, moving together for protection, each seeking to catch sight of some morsel before another. The beach always looked this way. To early ancestors it looked this way, looked like this exactly. This was what was real. Not one building on the ocean, no telephone lines imposed, he could stare at it all day. Just sit and stare transfixed, staring at the ocean for sustenance and guidance, like a rock at the ocean's edge, immutable, immobile, no one giving any static, remote, glassy surface in the distance, smoothing, soothing. It only went to show.
                      Phil produced writing implements and wrote of white-bellied gulls with broad gray wings hovering and gliding over limbo-dancing trees. Long waves, he wrote, on a gray ocean. From far away they build, growing into one long line until crashing they reach the shore, and recede, as off in the darkening distance under the flat line of the sky the long gray line swells and grows again.


                      Desert heat radiating off the big white hood of the pickup distorted the scene viewed from the air-conditioned cab. The men outside were poor, and the boys from the fraternity who took advantage of this thought that they had conquered.
           “Pooro’s lookin’ fit,” one of the boys from the fraternity said through a mouthful of burger. His name was Jordan.
           Royal, Jordan's fraternity brother, nodded in agreement, inspecting his sandwich as he chewed, pulling out a slice of pickle from the mess he held in his hands and tossing it into the bag at his side. “Thinks he's hot shit.”
           “Hey, punch up that one fight of his last Thursday.”
           Royal produced his cell phone and subsequently the fight. They stared in the cab at the tiny screen.
           “I look at you,” Pooro had said at the time, the black mask around his eyes painted on, “and I feel bad to think how your mother would feel were she to see what's about to happen.” He had said it quietly, with sorrow and regret. Royal's camera didn't even catch it. Nor did it catch him in a clinch hissing how he hated hitting.
           The street, of course, served as the Schwab's Drugstore of Pooro's discovery. Jordan and Royal, whose purchases of exams freed up time for playing lots of mixed martial arts role-playing video games, got the idea from a billboard for Punch Drunk, the addictive artificially flavored drink with cancer-causing additives.
           Punch Drunk Packs a BigBig PUNCH!
           Get Punched!
           Drink Punch Drunk, Artificially Flavored Fruit Drink!
           Now with Cheery Cherry and Mango Tango!
           “We should get those drunks to punch each other,” Jordan had said from the cab.
           “I'd watch that.”
           “I bet people would pay to watch that.”
           And so Drunkfights was born.
           Pooro's real name was Norman. The oldest one of the bunch, although he didn't look it. His first fight was filled with the rapid shrill talk of the viewers following along, wanting to appear experienced and knowledgeable. The guy in his first fight kept looking toward the camera to make sure he was being filmed. Royal did a suckass job filming, but Norman had surprised them all.
           He whipped a hook to the side of the guy's face that took out two of his teeth, and the guy blankly stared where his teeth lay on the blacktop of the parking lot all fresh, like out of a cartoon, then let a long dark glop of blood slide out of his mouth and took a couple more nails in the coffin—one to the head, one to the neck—before he went down.
           “Looked like Zorro!” Royal said.
           “More like Pooro!” corrected Jordan.
           It was a prophetic moment, and they had laughed. Derisively, of course. Still, Pooro kept the name, just the same.
           “How do you think he'd do against an animal?” Royal knew a guy with a wild animal park. Maybe an old black bear, or maybe a sick mountain lion?”
           “Give him, what, like a lead pipe?”
           Wavering in the distance, Pooro showed Cesar and Sampedro how to slip a jab. Pretty soon they might think they were hot shit, too.
           “I know a guy on HGH,” Royal said. “He’s all ‘roided-out. He'll kick Pooro’s ass. Fuckin’ fast.”
           “Not too fast.”
           Lunch was over. It was time to go play some video games. Like an approving parent presiding, behind the frat boys rose the tower.


                       “‘The DEA this week says this explicitly shows the pen is mightier than therapists.’”
           Dinah Zauber held a scrap of paper in her hands, sitting at Phil's table in the attic. On the other side of the paper he had written, The wave directly viewed appears slow, serene and constant compared to when seen crashing down at the sides, and so great is the wave, it appears from a new angle as new, and the wave is greater than the sum of its parts. 
           He stood at the tiny section of counter nearby, putting banana in a blender. From the list he wrote at the beach, she read aloud some more. “‘What do you think of Shiva, Gina?’” and “‘Is there a La Brea Street around here?’” She still didn’t see it. “These are supposed to be subliminal messages?”
           “Sure,” he said, spooning some brewers yeast into the blender. “Sex or death in every one.”
           “‘I'm an American. U.S. all the way.’”
           “You don't see it?”
           “‘If you want a tan, use lotion.”
           “How can you not see it?”
           “‘There in the mud: Eat Here, the sign said.’ Where's the subliminal message in that?”
           “Wow. It's so obvious, I can't believe you don't see it.” Food made at home tastes better, thought Phil. “See, the thing is, I came up with those in a matter of minutes just fucking around. But every single day, all over the place, everyone is exposed to images in advertising so subtly and carefully constructed, you can dissect them directly, and a lot of people still won't get it. They're the ones that advertising affects the most.”
           Dinah put down the list. Phil poured in some juice, put on the cap, and turned on the blender.
           It was 7:34. Down below outside, a serious-looking cyclist worked a ten-speed left and right powering up the hill. Out of sheer propriety, Phil held back a health shake burp. 
                       “For all the constant titillation, most people never talk about real sex and real death at all. Religion, mostly, keeps the country repressed that way. So people respond subconsciously to images of it manipulated into advertising. It's like a card trick I could show you. Nobody really knows why it works. It just does. A lot of people really hate hearing about it. You can point out the face of the Indian and Native American prints—the face in the water, the face in the clouds, the face in the rocks, the face in the trees—and people have no problem with that. But show them how their hidden authority figures manipulate them, and the people most susceptible for once refuse to believe.”
           Phil put the cap back on the wheat germ and rinsed out the blender. Remaining noncommittal, Dinah returned the subject to the car.
           “Yeah, it seems to run well enough.”
           “So you can leave tomorrow?”
           “Yeah, it'll probably be good for me. Take me out of my comfort zone, anyway.”
           “Okay then, since you'll do it, part of what I need you to do is pick up a couple of things at the mall.”
           “The mall? I have to go to the mall now? Why the mall?”
           “Just for a couple of things I need. Is that a problem?”
           “Well, kind of. I don’t like the mall.”
           “Then it'll be good for you. It'll take you out of your comfort zone.”
           “What things?”
           “I'll write it down.”
           “Well why can't I drive you?” He was really thinking, “Why don’t you go yourself?” And would have said so. But now that he had gotten a taste of freedom with the sweet machine, his trusty steed, Rozinante, there could be no backing out.
           Dinah looked at the clock on the wall, mind visibly calculating. “If you need me to, I will.”
           To this Phil repeated his earlier assertion, “Okay, yes,” intending to facilitate a sense of déjà vu. It didn't really seem to work at all.

           Once Humbaba belonged to the squares and its land to the squares; then hordes of tattered Hippies poured in. And so much did they love to get high, that they bought the land with all the pot money they could barely scrape together. Bits of land. They didn't run rum—had nothing to do with booze. They weren't presidential at all. Aye, and meager they lived, turning the earth and planting crops. That was possession, and possession pissed off the squares, drunk with corruption and booze.
           There was nothing the squares could do. The squares got theirs already, and they didn't want anything as much as the Hippies wanted their fair square share, their place in the sun and the fog, raisin’ in the sun, just the right conditions, way out in the hills where nobody else had any business going or growing, somewhere they could live like Thoreau and get away from Vietnam and Watergate.
           And they came from Haight-Ashbury, which was weird because they wanted to be about love, not hate, and they made a lot of ash and didn't want to get buried in Vietnam or some square job where they'd never get ahead on account the system’s rigged. They deferred from all of that. They had better things to do. And they weren’t hypocrites about it, either. They never did be cheerleaders for war, some murder scheme concocted, all so some few little people hidden in their undisclosed locations could privately profit from all the contracts. Hell no, they didn't go for any of that at all. They made love, not war. And dropped seeds instead of bombs. They didn't blow up villages, they blew their minds, man. They expanded their consciousness. They didn't torch villages with napalm. The only thing they torched was a fattie, the natural medicinal herb. And drunkards with their booze drug, the squares, hated it so much that so many young people didn't buy the lie, didn't do as told, just like Mohammad Ali, didn't go give up their lives so whitey could make more bombs, make the world less safe, with all that crap about Communism and the Domino Theory, which never did happen, because it was only all a bunch of bullshit anyway, designed to pump cash into the hands of the hidden few pulling the strings. The squares had no clue. They were scared of hair. 
                       And there was always the music. The sweet, sweet music. The squares were scared of that, too. Even though they started growing sideburns. And let their hair grow longer than they ever would have if the Beatles hadn't come along. And the same liars who lied about war being so wonderful lied about pot being so deadly. And the squares bought that lie, sucked it up with a spoon, spoon-fed through tube, all that slop cooked up by the same liars who lied about not being crooks.
           Without the Hippies there wouldn't be any environmentalists. It would all just be business as usual. Stupid greedy whitey choking up the world with all the carbon pollution. Without the Hippies there wouldn't be any hope. Not one goddam chance in hell. That pretend place cooked up by crooked squares, just to keep everybody else in line. 
           Liberty Is The Price Of Freedom. This is what a bumper sticker said in front of Phil and Dinah in the slow lane. Sit Down, Tune In, And Stay Vigilant. That was another one. Shop Till You See TV. Stay Tuned Till You Drop. Obey Is Okay. Difference Is Terrorism. Honor Through Obedience. Don't Get More Real. It's The Real TV. Sit Tuned. To Watch Is To Serve. Just Do TV. Must Do TV. Good Buy, World. If You Don't Trust Your Money, Then You Don't Trust Your God.
           It was tempting to go over fifty. It's hard on the highway not to go over fifty. Somebody decided to make that the speed limit between Carata and Egeria. A cop blazed down the Revenue Corridor. Phil wondered why cars were made to go over the national speed limit at all.
           “Hey, did you know that seventy percent of Americans don't have a college degree?”
           Dinah’s not saying anything might have indicated willingness to hear more. 
           “And that seventy percent of Americans don't understand evolution? And that up to seventy percent of Americans are technically obese? At least seventy percent of communication, of course, is nonverbal.”
Dinah's still not saying anything might have indicated deep interest.
           “Good thing the speed limit’s not seventy. This gives us a chance to really get to know each other. Yeah, it's funny how the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. And vice versa. Like fractals. I guess I don't have to tell you about fractals. Professors Zauber’s daughter and all. Everything made up of smaller and smaller units reflecting the larger and larger condition. Don't you think?”
           “Oh, sorry. I was thinking about the mall.”
           “Wow. Why would you do that?”
           “And I'm thinking about how my car doesn't work.”
           “How does your car not work?”
           “They don't know yet.”
           “Well, I hope they don't milk you. Or bilk you or whatever. You can't let people use you. So, how long do you think this'll take at the mall?”
           “Not long.”
           “Where in the mall do you need to go?”
           “Buy ‘N’ Large.”
           A shadow crossed Phil's face. From some billboard on the outskirts of each Egeria. That Uniform Suits You Fine.
           Phil took a big gulp. “Buy ‘N’ Large?”

                       Buy ‘N’ Large: Slovenly, uninformed, misinformed, malformed, unhelpful, intrusive rude employees lacking service, lacking education, commenting on customers and what the customers buy, gossiping, screwing up, screwing off, failing to acknowledge with apologies, smirking in smocks, themselves the big victims, the big, big oversize victims with their slow sagging bodies and pale drained minds, victimized by the corralling, yes corralling function of the system, move along, mooove along, that funneled them over to the sad low-pay depressing dead-end roles of the corporate model, the crappy way, which prohibits full-time hours, prohibits medical coverage, prohibits expertise, having rousted the mom and pops through valuing mere volume, mere quantity over quality, as though the real goal were to run the world through ruination.
           Phil parked outside the land of the dead and made his way across the long hot lot with Dinah. We've Been Waiting For You, advertised the bumper stickers. How Much Life Ya Earnin’? Shouldn't You Be Spying?
           When they entered the mall Phil saw viewers of tube, stuck in a case of mass perturbation. TV monitors used as threats scared customers into believing they were being watched. TVs hung from ceilings, nailed high for all to see. Everyone there was transformed. Somehow, some way, no longer human.
           Dying means going to a better life. WMDs still somewhere. Saddam Hussein attacked the U.S. and the reason why countries fight is because of shit-talk. War makes liberty. Evolution’s only a theory. Liberal corporate media brainwash the world with loony liberal leftist lies. TV is reality. Women controlling their sexual reproduction is wrong. Government needs to stop them. Abortion bad, capital punishment could. The rich are rich because of working harder than everyone else. The poor are poor because of being lazy. Global warming is a Hollywood hoax. There is a Devil, who lives in Hell, and wants to get people's souls. Universal healthcare would ruin the country. There are angels and they are invisible and have wings. Terrorists are everywhere, jealous of our way of life. We live in a free country, the only one, made free by bombs and guns, and peace caused by war.
           A voice overhead on endless loop announced, “You can always put your faith in us...Buy ‘N’ Large!”
           Phil watched as Dinah disappeared into the yawning geometric cavity, the exciting colors, shapes, sounds and smells of which expressed the sum total of human knowledge regarding how to bypass the part of the brain that uses reason and make people pay for their dopamine fix, make trained brains squirt drug, and Phil and Dinah's agreement to meet at this same spot of parting seemed to drag mournfully through the increasing space between them until he was alone amid the wandering trained, each suffering the various abuses that lay in store for all, and all down the mall from tube nailed high programming snagged the living, spun them loose of coin and spat the freshly spurted brain with its dim five-minute fix dizzily out to wander somewhere else, TV flowing like a ceaseless river, an unnatural river of growing garbage pushed along the banks, a river in disguise, a river of death.
           “...and heaven knows, Scott, that's weather, back to you.”
           “Thanks, Sherry. You look cute today. Amen to that.”
           “Oh, you! Merciful heavens! I do thank you kindly, sir.”
           “I just thank the Good Lord God that God created you in His heavenly mercy, Sherry, looking the way you do, you temptress! Ha ha! Next time though, hey, use a little more hair spray, and it wouldn't hurt if you cut back on a meal or two. Now for news. In the news today, those leftist liberals are at it again....”
           Like a low mumbled mantra, the words lifelessly and dutifully leaked from the trained lips, faces upturned to the tube near the ceiling.
           “Goddam leftist liberals,” came the monotone drone.
           “Yes. Heaven knows that's true.”
           In one of the stores, Wall Street Mart, a man tried to sell little plastic flags made in China. Little plastic bobble head dolls in suits, too. Corporate-looking suit dolls dangled from chains for necklaces. Homespun corporate culture as depicted in the prestigious Local Logick line, such as He’s All White With Me could be found stitched into framed embroidery on sale. He had a hard shell of hair and wore a big soft suit, huge with foam at the shoulders, which made him look gigantic, and he spoke with great authority to some children standing in front of a TV near the counter.
           “Fact is, if you ignore the truth enough, and say a lie enough, really, only one thing ever happens: Magic. Pure magic. You see, a magical change miraculously turns the truth into a lie, while at the same time, turning a lie into the truth. It takes faith, yes. Patriotism, yes. Takes repetition. Faith, patriotism. You have to faithfully repeat it. Takes repetition. And if, with this strong belief in faith, you repeat the truth that the truth is the lie and the lie is the truth, magically, you'll see that’s the truth. Magic fact, really. The other stores are too afraid to report that to you, though.”
           The kids stared at the tube, where the dead stars of rock, the dead stars of film, stars whose light still shines long after they have died, still sold product. 
           Phil pulled himself away from Wall Street Mart and merged into the glum stream.
           “Your hidden overlords divert you and direct you with pictures in a box,” he thought. “You've been told that you believe your life isn't even real, that it’s a test on which you will be graded, and that the quality of the real life which comes after you die depends on how well you serve your hidden overlords now.” He could see it in their eyes. How could they understand? Where was his channel logo when he spoke? Where the spinning graphics, the lull of the hypnotist’s golden, swinging watch? Why no distracting noninformation at the bottom of his screen running constantly across and non-informing what he would be saying later and non-informing with the gist of what things were being said by others elsewhere? Indeed, where exactly was his screen? None of it made any sense. And Phil thought, moving in the phantom shopper stream past products of advertising, “Why aren’t the hidden overlords here buying what they sell? Why are you stuck eating grease on a stick, while they order the last of what's left in the ocean they polluted? You're the crab in the open net. The tube is your chum. Having crawled in, you claw and snap at each other, and pull back into the trap whichever of you tries to get out, and that’s the only thing that keeps you in. Then the net gets pulled, and you travel up, up, up to a higher place, where you get processed, and eaten, and your undigested remains pass back into the ocean, eventually, and probably get eaten by crabs.”
           Just How Many Trees Are Enough? This caught Phil’s eye outside Stick Its, the bumper sticker store. Don't Like The Debt? You Pay It!
           “Why they gotta make bumper sticker so hard to read?”
           Freedom: Either You're With Us, Or We’re Against You.
           “It's like I always say, they put so many words in things, forget it.”
           Conformity Has Its Privileges.
           “You should get one of them stickers for Kinney.”
           Religion With The Most Stuff Wins.
           “Oh, he's read ‘em all. His high Q score’s like, through the roof.”
           Overhead, the TV said, “We here at us hate liberals. All they ever want to do is ruin everything for us, when actually everything for us is totally fine. Don't forget that the next life, now.”

           Maim Street was a video game store featuring the endless game of that name, as well as many others to be played in the store arcade-style, and sold, too. Kids playing Maim Street inside slit throats, gouged out eyes with their virtual thumbs, got to repeatedly see and pretty much feel what it would be like to torture and brutalize people right on the street. One kid, who had to sit around being bored only watching, sent a message to someone on his list: uradume, it said.
           Now it was almost time for Phil to go. He decided that before meeting up with Dina he would go ahead and go on into Buy ‘N’ Large and buy a pack of gum. But when he got to the counter, the cashier, twentyish, fairly trollop-y, asked Phil for his Buy ‘N’ Large card.
           “No,” he said. “I don't have one.”
           “Would you like to get one?”
           “No, thank you.”
           “This will just take a second.”
           “It's just a pack of gum.”
           “Mother's maiden name?” 
           “No thank you.”
           “Favorite color?”
           Putting the pack down on the counter, Phil backed out. They wouldn't be getting him on their list, charting his marketing, telling him how much money he saved spending, and getting his name wrong. But a security guard, a dead ringer for Little Alex’s droog Dim, quickly appeared and talked with the cashier, both of whom pointed at Phil, watching him leave the store. Dinah was outside, waiting. It may have merely been a coincidence, but all the way out of the mall, cameras turned Phil's way, and mall cops spoke into devices clipped onto uniforms requiring a button to be pushed by a thumb.

           Early morning, summer solstice. Roll call:
           Cesar—quiet, deadly, a man with a mysterious past and the capacity to throw up more Jagermeister than anyone had ever seen, and this included:
           Sampedro, who suffered psychic shock when he fell asleep with the TV on shortly after September 11—the very night, in fact, when the political correctness programming, which suddenly filled the void after the fall of Communism, abruptly became the complete opposite. Chances are, had Sampedro watched a normal amount of television, the transformation in programming would have seemed more gradual—natural, even. But in receiving the full force of the blast of immediately opposite programming, during sleep, when the subconscious state is most vulnerable, the strain proved too great, and Sampedro's mind broke. Also, he was poor, like:
           Pooro. Pooro had been showing too much independence. He was waking up too much now, twice the man he used to be. Training gave him purpose, squeezed old toxins from his skin, left him primed for his daily endorphin fixes. He had always been strong. One cannot live on the streets and be weak. But now he was focused, now he was a danger, for his was the supple bamboo strength of a hermit monk. He could take his operation downtown anytime, if he chose. Probably even get his buddies to go autonomous with him and keep all the profits for themselves. And then where would the frat boys be?
           Showing up bleary-eyed twenty minutes late came Royal, big white rig kicking up the early morning desert dust still smelling of the cool of the night, alternately sucking on a bottle of Pepto Bismal in his lap and a jug of orange juice at his side.
           When the rig got close enough and turned, all three could see it was just Royal heading over, no Jordan.
           “Fuckin’ dicked us again,” said Cesar.
           “Gig idth fuggin’ ath,” Sampedro added, speech impaired by tooth loss over the years, and the fact that he was stinko.
           The white rig came up alongside Pooro. The window lowered. Royal wanted to stay inside, up in the truck, issuing forth orders in safety and in splendor, like a pharaoh to a slave at the foot of the Sphinx. Cesar and Sampedro squatted and looked down at the ground, using sticks to draw dirty pictures in the dust while the boss boy talked to Pooro—Pooro, who knelt to none.
           “Hey, mornin’.”
           It was odd to hear Royal talk normally. He never did that, following as he did the all-encompassing chain of command which governed his life and accounted for his dragging his ass hungover to see the dirty goddam fucking bums, and Pooro being on top of that twice Royal's age. Royal was spoiled. He knew it good and well. For him that was on open display as a source of pride which he wished to convey for underlying reasons it never occurred to him to understand. He assigned himself the role of lackey, because he wasn't the one with the parents who gave him a house where he could play landlord, that was Jordan, and that was why Jordan didn't have to show up with the news.
           “So yeah, it's a no-go this mornin’. El negativo. But fuck, Jordan's got a good one lined up for later this afternoon. So just show up here again then. Okay? One thing: I think this guy is kind of big. So, shit. Think you're up for it? You can handle it though, right? No problem for you. I can take your silence for a yes then, right? Okay. Then we'll see you here at three o'clock. Or around there anyway. There should be good light then. Kind of a tougher fight than you might be used to. He's a big boy. But for whoever wins, we got a little something special waiting. When I say that you know, it's actually not so little that all. Pretty damn big, actually. So, yeah. We'll see how you do three o'clock. And here. Here's ten bucks.” Royal held out a crisp bill. “Jordan wants to make sure you eat. You can use that on yourself, or split it with those guys if you want, I don't care.” Pooro took the money. “Three o'clock,” Royal said, tires slowly crunching rock as the rig started moving and the window went up. 
                      Pooro watched as the big white rig roared off, and the cloud of dust behind it bled away and blended into the desert surrounding beyond...



8, 9, 10, and 11!

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