The tracks on his arm scream. No job, no responsibility, the waiting unbearable. Twenty-four hours of nothing but time. He gropes about with blind yellow fingers. Months’ worth of accumulated garbage rots on the linoleum. Rodents and bacteria abound. His veins cry with the aplomb of an infant hungry for mother’s milk. Stiff and ancient, his bones grind as he attempts to crawl, feeling the ground with broad sweeps of his arms.
He grazes the cylindrical syringe with fecal smudge fingertips. Sitting upright, he fondles the needle, tracing imaginary words in the air. In one robotic motion, he spins to face the window as he presses the needle against his forearm. The skin dimples, then becomes taut again as it accepts the needle, like a bowstring releasing an arrow. A small bloom like a red balloon appears where arm and syringe meet.
His eyes loll about, eventually rolling up into the back of his skull as his lips spill forth a soliloquy that has overstayed its welcome. Air bubbles in his veins, stars in the night sky, as the ruddy walls of his room push him out of his body. The tensed sinews in his fingers subside and become calm, like Eternity.
No more waiting…
His eyes open crusty to the sounds of early morning traffic beneath the bridge. A new day. The walk to food is painful and timeless. The utopia thrives bare and unornamented, stripped naked of graffiti and billboards.
A portly man stands outside the homeless shelter stretching, crowing, then speaking out loud to himself in an ejaculatory rhythm.
“Tho, when I came here, the buth company lotht all my clothe.”
The homeless transvestite looks to his guest, the new stranger that slept under the viaduct last night. Neglect has greased their hair and stubbled their faces. The smell of body odor and masturbation.
The fatty skin beneath his jaw jiggles as he continues, “I had to leave Thalt Lake Thity becauthe the polithe were a alwayth thtopin’ in front of my houth and they had the projectorth inthide my head. Inthide my head. It’s real! Look up Voith to Thkull on the Internet. They wanted to put the “why” thing inthide my head. But when I ethcaped here, the buth company lotht all my pretty clothe. I had frilly oneth and thexy oneth. You know I am really a mathculine man, but I feel it itth important to alwayth have the pretty woman part around.”
A mole the diameter of a penny and three times as thick peeks out from between the fatty folds where the skull and shoulders meet on the back of the transvestite’s head. The new stranger tries to move to stay out of sight of it, but the mole moves, following him like a haunted painting. Chills walk up his spin until he explodes into a sprint.
Blocks upon blocks pass. His chest heaving with exhaustion, he stops to catch his breath. He noticed himself asking, “What am I escaping from?”
When the West looks to the East in search of a novel philosophy, the message that comes back is often to abandon your desires, to stop striving for that which you do not have and be happy with what you have and who you are.
The new stranger intuitively grasps that short gives measure to long and pain gives meaning to pleasure. To abandon the prior, renders the latter impotent. American poverty almost transcends race, but not entirely, and nothing he can do will change that.
The government issued Cadillac defecates sideways into the street, and a well-dressed Barry doG steps forth in tweed and drunken-high bliss. He calls the pale stranger “nigger” sarcastically because Barry knows that the pale stranger is hooked on the new synthetic and nationally regulated narcotic Hope. Mr. doG is a Hope dealer and admonishes him, “Broke? Obey me.”
Automatically, the stranger fumbles through his pockets with fat fingers and gives Mr. doG the little money he had begged for and stolen. The new stranger can’t remember what drugs Hope is synthesized from and really doesn’t care. It used to taste like iodine but now it tastes like sugar.
He is gaunt. Sallow skin hangs lightly over heavy bones. Week old needle scars are rancid and festering. Covered in second hand slacks and a worn sports jacket, he slumps toward the end. Terminal addiction to Hope. Hope has replaced pain, and soon, Hope will replace life itself.
He inhales deeply and unleashes a montage of hallucinations and memories—the smell of burned hair, a drug deal between the Capital and the courthouse, a homeless veteran speaking with waving flags the only sound that can be heard.
The sirens shake him from his stupor. An explosion of red and blue and white flashes. Red hands in blue coats circle him. He begins shaking. He vomits. The acrid smell of bile fills the patrol car.
Flashback to the courtroom of late childhood. Sue Pository, the lead prosecutor from Earwick, Blume & Kraft points her boney finger toward Rick Tumb, the state provided defense attorney, “Your client has been charged with first degree longing. Are you even going to enter a plea?”
Rick turns to the new stranger. “Well, if I won’t be god dammed. She’s using the old ‘Us vs. Them’ case of ’23. She damn well knows if my client wishes for anything, I can get contempt for desiring in front of a judge.”
Rick turns to the Judge, “No.”
The Judge turns to the Jury, “How do you find the defendant?”
The Jury turns to the new stranger, “Guilty.”
With that, the defendant is placed into a bathtub, and with innocent smiles, he is eaten. Not like the Lamb of God, but as the Goat of doG.