I am writing this book at the pace of a snail. It's rather frustrating, since I feel like I wrote Black Box's 135,000 words in about a year, where I'm struggling to get to 50,000 in Apophenia. My work's about to slow down a lot, so hopefully I'll muster up the resolve and finished this novel. If you haven't read them, here are chapters one, two, three, four, five, and six.
Candy's porn is pretty benign, really, which is somehow simultaneously a relief as well as a disappointment. In my room, I watch a couple of her free videos, and as she stated, they are mainly basic food for the male wank bank. Nothing too weird to kill the bland appetite of your average American. She doesn't screw any animals; no scat is involved; blood and torture are absent. She does have a nice body, though her breasts are enhanced, which is a turn off to some. I become vaguely aroused, despite the banality of the material. Maybe it's because I know Candy; maybe it's because she directed me to her site. Does she hope I become a paying customer? Or did she simply consider us professional peers, sharing her videos the way authors trade stories? What does she expect from me, a recording of one of my conversations? I don't know if Candy could make it in gonzo land. The terrain is too harsh and variable, the denizens savage, sad, and difficult to please.
A side-effect of my job is that I am often compelled to research the dark regions of human sexuality. I watch porn, consuming various genres, in a misguided desire to understand the mind of the phone sex caller. A lot of it is rather humorous. Much of it is gross. Yet, just like an author who reads a wide range of material in order to become a better writer, I have to keep my creative juices flowing by consuming a steady flow of smut. Though I’ll watch just about anything, there are fantasies that I won't indulge; I won't pretend to be a child or somebody's mother, but everything else is fair game. Requests for violent sex are not out of the ordinary, although performing such material over the phone is more like reading a transcript of rape than simulating the actual act, which is, nevertheless, disturbing.
I turn away from the computer and listen to Mom and Dale conversing in the living room. It’s rather unusual for him to be back so soon after a booty call, and I wonder if he and mother are forming a relationship, the prospect of which, I must admit, frightens me. Will they keep Diesel in a cage so that their sumo wrestling can rampage across the trailer without modesty? And will my room become even more of a prison? I crack the door and peek down the hallway and see the backs of their heads, their attention captivated by flickering TV eye.
“Baby, give me some more Cheetos,” says Dale, his mullet staining the back of our holey, bottomed out sofa.
“Here you go, Daddy,” says Mom. I think she’s wearing the same muumuu she wore yesterday and the day before, a pink paisley number, psychedelic and eye-rending.
“I don’t wanna hear any more bullshit about the presidential election,” says Dale, reacting to a campaign ad. “Choose between a millionaire cripple and a smart nigger. What a choice.”
“Don’t use that word in this house. Diesel probably can hear you.”
“Shit, he’ll learn it sooner or later. He ain’t no innocent. How old’s that boy? Fifteen?”
“Hell, he’ll be eleven next month! He’s just a baby!”
“You let ‘em run around in his goddamn underwear and he’ll always be one. Who’s his father again?”
“Ain’t none of your business.”
“That’s Lester’s kid, ain’t it? I ain’t seen ‘em in a while. Must’ve moved away. Was working at the garage on Walnut. Did work on my truck a couple years back.”
“Don’t be judging,” says Mother.
“I ain’t judging. I got a couple little ones I ain’t seen in a while myself. I send ‘em money, though, when I can.”
“When the government makes you, you mean.”
“I can’t help what their mothers do with it. Goddamn law don’t got any place in domestic arrangements anyhow. You know, Lucas and I just bought a parcel of land outside of town. Thinking of splitting it and building a cabin. Might have some meetings out there. Government can’t spy on us when we ain’t on the grid.”
“You be making moonshine and stockpiling weapons is what you’ll do with your drunken friends. On that note, I gotta take a crap.” Mother rises from the couch, complaining about her aching knees. Dale keeps staring at the television, snorting and sipping his beer. His smoky, stale musk carries through my cracked door, and I wrinkle my nose reflexively. His left arm is stretched across the back of the sofa; it is covered in goat-like fur, the skin burned a blackish brown, the color of a week-old rotisserie chicken turned ceaselessly beneath gas station heat lamps. He’s smoking a cigarette, Morleys brand, I’m alarmed to discover. What other similarities do I share with this human being? Perhaps he’s forced to read bad poetry by some invisible overlord; perhaps he’s a sex phone caller. The latter possibility seems likely. At least I’ll know what he likes.
“Dale?” says my mother from the bathroom.
“Will you come look at this?”
“What the hell am I looking at?” asks Dale, showing more wisdom than I would’ve imagined.
“I think this turd looks like Jesus,” says my mother.
“Oh Christ, Diane. You’re crazy.”
“Get in here, Dale! I turned the fan on.”
Dale gets off the couch, grumbling, taking a long drink of his beer and pinching his nostrils before approaching the bathroom. The door opens, the lights bright and heavenly, and I watch as he squeezes his shoulders through the doorway to stand by my mother and examine the miraculous poo. Seconds pass slowly; I see him bend down for a closer look. A sour smell, methane gas released into the atmosphere by mother, reaches my nose.
“Lord, Diane,” says Dale. “I think you’re right.”
“He’s got the hair, the beard,” says Mother. “Looks just like that picture in the living room.”
“What is that, exactly?” asks Dale.
“S’ghetti,” replies Mother. “The eyes look like corn.”
“Ain’t that a miracle,” says Dale.
“I feel like we should take a picture of it or something,” says Mom.
“You outta get a priest in here to declare it a work of God.”
I open the door now, stomping my feet so that they know I’m coming. Dale looks at me as though I’m a three-eyed, ten-limbed alien invader from Alpha Centauri. I approach the bathroom and give my mother an incredulous eyebrow.
“Let me see it,” I say.
Our bathroom has peeling pink rose wallpaper decorated with various stains and mildews. The shower stall glass is skuzzy, its drain clogged with a million years worth of hair and filth. The fan stutters and groans, struggling to revolve in its dust-covered encasement. Mother leaves her used towels on the floor to serve as a cushioned walkway, and it is on these that I step, moving toward the well-used toilet. The turd is unusually broad and oval-shaped, more akin to something that would slide out of the ass of a massive ungulate than the rectum of a human being. Its texture is smooth, like a fine complexion. I see the kernel eyes; its nose is a gentle ridge composed of an unidentifiable, indigestible material. The lips seem to be licorice candy—Mother consumes a one-pound bag per day—and the beard is plainly detectable, its follicles about three centimeters in length, pale white in color. I don’t know what to say. It does look remarkably like Jesus.
“Leona, what do you think?” asks Mom.
“I think you might have pinworms,” I say, pointing at the beard.
“Don’t it look like Jesus?”
“Yes,” I admit. “So what? You have a creative digestive system, Mom. I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of.”
“You think it’s a miracle?” asks Mother.
“I think it needs to be flushed,” I say, reaching for the toilet’s handle. Dale’s hand reaches out and grabs mine before I can flush. His hand feels like old leather, worn, cracked, and rough.
“Dale, don’t touch her,” says Mother.
“I’m serious, Diane. You should get a priest in here. This could be an opportunity. Miracles don’t happen every day.”
“No self-respecting priest is going to bless a turd,” I say.
“There ain’t any self-respecting priests,” says Dale. “They touch little boys.”
“We ain’t even Catholic,” says Mother.
“Get the media in here. I’m telling ya, this ain’t something that should be squandered.”
“We only have one bathroom. What are we supposed to do, construct a shrine around the toilet?” I point out.
“I’ll get you a Port-A-Potty. My brother rents ‘em,” says Dale.
“I’m not using a Port-A-Potty,” I reply.
Mom looks perplexed, which I know to mean she’s divided on the issue. I look at Dale and then her, my brow furrowed, my face showing consternation with every wrinkled line.
“You think we can make money off of this?” she asks.
“Yes, with certainty,” replies Dale.
“Whether you can or not, the question should be ‘why the hell would you want to?’” I say. “Most people will think it’s disgusting. Religious people will call you a blasphemer. And I don’t want to meet the segment of the population that thinks this is interesting. Let’s not forget pride and decency, attributes that will be forever forfeit if you publicize this dump. This is a bad idea, Mom. I don’t want any part of it.”
“Don’t act all holier-than-thou,” says Mother. “We ain’t exactly livin’ in a palace here.”
“You can get Diesel some new digs,” says Dale. As if summoned by the mere mentioning of his moniker, my brother appears, his gargoyle head thrust into the bathroom, eager to see what wondrous object holds our collective attention.
“That’s a big poo in there,” he says, eyes sparkling. “It looks like a hobo face.”
“Well that just about confirms it,” says Dale. “I’ll get my cousin over here tomorrow, he’s an internet wiz, he’ll know how to publicize this. I’m tellin’ ya’ll, fortunes will be changed. That’s a sign from God sitting in that toilet bowl.”
“I have to go pee-pee,” says Diesel.
“Go outside,” says Mom.
“I have to poop too.”
Dale hands him the toilet paper. “Go out in the woods,” he says.
I look down in the toilet bowl and wonder how long this farce will hold together.