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    Default This Short Story of Stickman Contains

    Some Disturbing Passages and Language


    I know itís late, but I am going to tell you the story of Stickman.

    Hereís how he was born. One day, these kids were skulking about in some woods. Two were smoking a pack of Players Menthol theyíd stolen from this old half-blind guy who always kept his house unlocked and the cigarettes right there in plain sight on the kitchen counter. Who these kids were and what else they were doing and thinking isnít important to the story of Stickman. But one threw down a half-lit cigarette near some leaves and brush. Then they went away.

    There were lots of trees there. It was the woods, after all. The trees were bored and they saw this cigarette that I have mentioned. Woo hoo, the trees thought. Trees like to have fun too, you know, just like me when I think about her too much. She reminds me of an orchid and makes me het up but I also have fallen for her and it hurts.

    So they shed some of their smaller limbs and vines and crud. The trees did. Right on the smouldering cigarette. What the heck, they could do this if they wanted. The brush and vines and even some small white mushrooms piled on, getting into the action. It was dangerous and stupid, but hereís what happened. All that wooden stuff became a kind of man. The cigarette butt caught fire in some dry twigs and leaves and burned like a little, fierce heart. The bigger limbs became the limbs of stickman. Vines were sort of like muscles in him. He had one smaller stump stuck in his belly. Do you like the word ďbellyĒ? I do not. But, anyway, there it was, this stump, in his gut.

    Stickmanís netherlands were very interesting to me, at least, but instead of telling you about them, Iíll just let you imagine them. And, by netherlands, I mean reproductive facilities. Iím using euphemisms, see? So as not to rock the boat. People keep telling me I'm not proper. Letís just say that Stickman had pretty interesting equipment, all in all. There were snails and small round burls and some other stuff. You can probably figure out a picture in your head.

    Stickman got to his feet. He looked like a man, sort of. I forgot to mention his head. All green leaves. Every bit of it. So his face was ragged and funny. Woo hoo, said the trees. They thought it was pretty cool. Stickman staggered around a little, getting the hang of things.

    Woo hoo, said Stickman. He couldnít really talk good. He was just, you know, imitating the trees. Like a child would. I mean, he was still stupid as a log. But, man, I wish you could have seen his heart. It was a little, fiery, incredible thing. Jesus, it was neat. It flickered like a furnace.

    If you live in America, you might be Christian and have been either imprisoned or very happy in Sunday School where you once heard about Moses and the Burning Bush which is supposed to be God, speaking. And if you donít live in America, and arenít Christian, donít fret. Youíre not out of luck. Just think of the first thing you ever touched that burnt the shit out of your hand. Maybe it was a stove or something. Or maybe you worship Allah and you accidentally got too close to a candle once and it singed your eyebrows or, say, the long hair of a pretty girl who might have been near you. So think of that. And if youíre Jewish, think of, like a really, really tiny menorah that tipped over on some paper and burnt stuff. If youíre something else, just think of small and hot. Because I really canít cover every religion here. Just make up your own metaphor and letís move on. This story isnít about religion anyway. I donít even know why I said all that. Iím just trying to get you to imagine this guyís heart made out of fire.


    I bet youíre thinking this story is a parable or metaphor or symbolic. It isnít, I swear. It doesn't stand for anything at all. There was just Stickman, for real, standing in the woods that day, looking a little dopey. Many things actually happen that you arenít aware of and this is one of them.

    So he started walking. His toes were pretty creepy. How did he walk, you ask? He walked like you or me if we were made of this odd conglomerate of wood and twigs and fungus and stump and stuff. Jerkily, like. He walked out of the woods and into a small town.

    The town was called Bootshead. There were some mountains around it, and it had a bunch of bars and churches and a fire station and a toy store and a dinette and a mayor and approximately fourteen widows that cried themselves to sleep watching late night infomercials. Once a wildcat came into Bootshead out of the mountains and got hit by an Acura. Bootshead had drunks and plumbers and some really mean people. And some young people who were just misguided. And some nice people so boring you can barely believe it. Also people who were both nice and mean and boring and misguided and young and drunk all at once and in waves.

    But whatís necessary right now is to mention that there was this menís clothing store that looked all dusty. Like they hadnít changed the crap in their front window for ages. There was an old lime green jacket and cufflinks made of fake stones. There were some shorts. The store was called Griffmanís. Stickman went in and looked around. He had this idea he wanted to be more like a real man, not this birdís nest walking around all tangly. It wasnít really that good of an idea. What follows is the conversation he had with Kisha Patel, the owner of Griffmanís.

    KP: What the?

    Stickman (still trying to make smaller leaves in head into lips and fungus into a whistling larynx): hkwlebjrtljeyodfghmxjz,l../.í/íííwoohoo.

    KP: What the? What the holy the? Iíve never seen anything like you and you scare me and I may be losing my mind just to see you.

    Stickman (slightly more clearly since he had an upper lip now): Woo who and I am pardoning you for the need of clothes Iím having not that Iím kj hcutc8egvixjciofzk.d ashamed of my nakedness but I want to be more manlike and pass among your people.

    KP: Look. Look. I am a kind and gentle guy who loves America and I love my family and my Creator and you are seriously freaking me out.

    Stickman: Iím just Stickman. Itís okay. I like that lime-acrylic-old-fashioned jacket in your front window. And Iíll probably need something like pants.

    KP: Are you nuts? Itíll never work. Youíre made out of a damn jungle and your heart is very dangerous. I have surplus inventory as follows: some boxers, cotton white, extra large only; socks in an out-dated puce color; a straw Panama hat; cheap-ass sunglasses; dungarees; high top grey sneakers that were shipped with odd red stains on them that are either markers or blood; what else? Pants so nondescript you might as well be wearing newspapers. There you go. Thatís seventy two dollars. Plus tax. See? You donít even have dollars. You donít even know what Iím talking about. You donít get any of this. You just jumped ahead in the story too fast, before you learned stuff. Before you had those harsh times when you discovered whisky and fell on ice and accidentally burnt off one hand and slept near the dumpster. You know nothing. Nothing, do you hear me? You have no money and I would give you those things but you must go backward in the story and learn how to buy things. Even though I am a kind and gentle guy who loves America and I love my family as I said, you are seriously freaking me out and I have my limits. My limits. My limits. Just go. No, you can take the underwear because I donít want to see those things that readers are imagining you may have. Bootshead is a decent and sunny place that tries very hard. And you need to cover some of that up.

    Stickman (derisively, plaintively, and also with great emphasis): woo †ho hoo wo.

    That is the end of their conversation. Stickman left the store wearing the boxers. You canít really blame Kisha. Because this is a real story, not one where people act all kind for no reason whatsoever. Itís not a fable with goats and magic shite. Kisha had to make a living, dammit. He had a son in college whom he had hoped would become a doctor. But the son seemed to be sick and other doctors couldnít figure it out. Kisha blamed it all on the sonís gay lover whom he disapproved of because he kept licking his lips annoyingly and he was much too old. So Kisha couldnít just give away clothes, you see. Even though his business was so slow that it wasnít really business. He had his own problems and Stickman was really freaky.

    So Stickman went back earlier in the story and did all those things he was supposed to do: having travails, and learning all manner of things. He met some bad friends and wrecked a truck. He slept not only near a dumpster but often in one. He ate remnants of discarded and soggy breakfast sandwiches but they just stuck in the place his bowels should have been. Eventually he found fourteen quarters and some other change by a pool hall. He made a couple of acquaintances but you couldnít really call them friends. I mean, you could, but then Iíd pity you.

    He gathered all the roadside kills in town, like raccoons. Also cats, kittens, dogs, smaller whitetail deer, opposum, and even snakes. It was unbelievable how this town was so full of roadkill. I guess because it was near the mountains. Stickman didnít have a lot to do, so he practiced skinning all the dead animals and flaying them. He would dry their pelts and turn them inside out. I bet you think Iím lying. Well, the heck with you then. He had one very, very sharp branch fragment in his left arm and he used that. He took his time.

    He took all the pelts and stuck them on himself with vine. Remember, they were inside out. So they sort of looked like skin but not much. People bought extra hides from him because they had read in expensive magazines that the rustic huntsman look was in just then. They draped the pelts around their bedrooms and coffee tables. Industrious decorating ladies made entire quilts of them and put them in the living room near the hearth with duck decoys as accents on the mantle. So he made money and the townsfolk of Bootshead got used to him, slowly.

    He got clothes. You kind of know what happened already. He became more and more human and they let him into the Legion. He was incredible at pool. He played bingo at the fire hall. He even was a little jokey at times, and hung out a little too much with a waitress at the dinette named Sarah who wore the ugliest lipstick on the planet and who had come from Russia. I mean, this lipstick was the color of diseased liver and she used too much. Also, she was a good fifty pounds overweight and sweat right on her upper lip, right through the lipstick. But Stickman seemed to really dig her for a while. People gossiped and the minister at the Methodist church actually had a sermon about them, in veiled terms, obliquely indicating that people shouldnít get too close or especially carnal with Stickpeople. Then those two just drifted apart.

    Soon, we will get to the exciting stuff in the story. But, actually, why wait? Tough times came. Bootshead had the coldest winter ever. You could hardly believe it. They just got dumped with snow, over and over. Trucks could hardly make it into town with fresh eggs and parsley. Stickman had been doing okay but he didnít have money because no one wanted to leave their houses and besides, pelts were sort of out of fashion. Plastic was in vogue just then, kind of retro stuff. It was cold. It was so cold you couldnít even say how cold it was because if you opened your mouth the cold would kill you.

    The drifts were everywhere. By February people were just plain sick of it. The dinette tried to give out free Sanka just to lift everyoneís spirits a little and even that didnít work. Stickman was freezing his ass off. His body was like this ice with dead wood inside. Most of his face was just brittle crud. His head was bad, man, bad, Like a black bouquet of splinters. He didnít have whisky. He couldnít find food. He took what was left of his money and stuck it deep in his chest, where his heart was. It caught fire. He felt warm again. The dollars sizzled and crackled and snapped and his heart pretty much went crazy. It was actually gorgeous. Water steamed off of him and he danced like a nut. He sang wacky songs and danced right in the slush of the town square. It could happen to any of us. But it was also pretty stupid and he burnt like Guy Fawkes night or a Catherine Wheel or a bonfire when you are a child and tell creepy stories about guys with hooks who always attack teens who are engaged in heavy petting.

    Of course he burnt to pieces. Anybody could have seen that coming. First he was Stickman and then he was Sparkleman and then he was Blazeman and then Holyshitethatísafireman and Ashman and then Windinashman and then Brothercanyousparesomemoleculesman. Then he died. I mean he was just pretty much spread so far out there you couldnít really even tell a story about him. Which is what youíd call death in the case of Stickman. But donít worry, he will come back later in the story, only different. Maybe heíll be like little Greenshootman, or Crowman or a real man. Maybe heíll be a ghost and be frustrated because he canít knock on doors because his phantom wood fingers go right through them. You see how exciting this is? That Iím being tantalizingly mysterious about how he comes back? Iíll tell you this much to whet your appetite though: Stickman falls in love when he comes back in the story. Three times, in fact. And now Iím going to tell you about the meter mermaid. Who, no matter, what youíre thinking, is not one of the people or things or times or ideas that Stickman will fall in love with later in the story.

    Actually, I wonít tell you right now. Because itís three in the morning and I should sleep. I would rather finish the story, but I used a chainsaw and an axe and a rake and a wheelbarrow and even my hands today and I danced while a cowboy and others sang karaoke and I drank beer and coffee and an energy drink called Rock Star which tastes great and I took a dump and pissed and swallowed some medicine and ate catfish and brisket and drove my car and said things to people. It was a busy day and now Iím tired. So Iím going to sleep. But donít worry, you wonít even know I'm gone. When I wake up and start writing again, itíll be like the story was never interrupted at all.

    But maybe I wonít be able to sleep. Iím a little het up and I took a nap earlier. I miss having a woman here. They are nice to sleep with. Much better than dogs because you can mess around if they are willing. Here is the list of things I like to sleep with, and Iím just talking about sleeping, mind you, not other stuff. My favorites are first:

    Those three particular women Iím confused by right now.
    Any other woman.
    Any dog.
    Extra pillows shaped to feel like any dog or any woman.
    My children when they were babies and they could actually fall asleep on my chest, and then later when they were bigger and still fell asleep and sometimes I did too while reading or telling them stories.
    A bottle of wine.
    Assorted drugs.

    What a bad place to break in this story of Stickman. But I'm going to anyway. I'll tell you the rest tomorrow. I promise.

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    See? Itís like I never left. But I did. Now itís raining a fine, fairly gentle November rain and the Japanese maple has lost more of its leaves. The lawn is still green and all around the maple, its red, red leaves have formed a great, ragged circle where the red gets denser and denser against the green the closer the leaves get to the trunk.

    This is my problem in taking a break right in the middle of the story. The mood changes. I wake up with different things on my mind. I canít write about the same Stickman I was writing about the night before. But thatís okay, isnít it? Because he got killed before I went to sleep and I already said he was coming back different.

    Anyway, the meter mermaid. Those stories where a mermaid wonders what it is like to be human, so they have to lose their fish tail and crawl up on land on legs, and then if a man loves and marries them they become mortal forever? Thatís not the meter mermaidís story.
    Here she is in Griffmanís, the same store in the same town (Bootshead) that Stickman was in earlier in the story. And hereís her conversation with Kisha Patel:

    KP: What the? What the?

    MM: I know it says menís clothing, but I thought maybe youíd have some jeans or something.

    KP: You can't go around like that, young miss. Naked from the waist down. Fish from the waist up. First off, itís a very poor way to have me tell the reader how you look. A descriptive passage talking about your scales, your bulbous, bass-like eyes, your netherlands, the pale lilac and teal tints on your skin, your most sensational toes and so onóthat is how I, Kisha Patel would have done it. I am not lazy. My father taught me the value of careful, brilliantly expository descriptive passages when I first began to work here in the store.

    Secondly, I am more than a little tired to have all you fantastical beings walking into my store demanding garments. I told that Stickman guy the same thing. No money, no dungarees. No espadrilles. No. Nada. Bupkiss. You havenít earned any of it. Youíve just plunged into the middle of the story with no build-up, no travails, no chance for us to love you or care about you.

    Thirdly, I suppose the ocean just spat you up because it was bored and likes to have fun too?

    MM (a single, slippery, and mildly viscous tear appearing in the muddy, murky brown of her great, gaping, and very piscine left eye): It was the lake. The lake was singing and I was a note.

    KP: You people really try my patience.

    MM: But I am beautiful, no? And you take pity on my nakedness, and send me away with some small article to cover my vital regions?

    KP: Do you think you get what Stickman got earlier in the story? You do not. I do not have to succumb to the pressures of a parallel gift. You are not like him. By the way, what is your heart like?

    MM: It is the smallest lake minnow in the world.

    KP: Right. Do you see that guy in the back there looking at pig-farming boots?

    MM: I do.

    KP: Well, let him be the kind one. Heís driving to the next state over, and he says he stopped to get boots because heíll be loading pigs onto his rig between here and there. Just flash your shiny whatnot at him. See if heíll take you along. Or buy something you can knot around your waist like a sarong. Say, one of those linen shirts hanging right over there. They really did not move last summer. I think because the cut of their neckline is vaguely girlish.

    MM: Had I known this world was so cruel, and its people so hard of heart I never would have come here!

    KP (making pinching gesture in air with right index finger and thumb): See this, sister? Tiniest violin in the world.

    MM: I canít see it.

    KP (making pinching gesture in air with right index finger and thumb exactly like the last time he spoke): Iím playing it for you.

    MM: I really canít see it.

    KP: Oh, for the love of exotic gods such as Ganesha, who, were I to mention him in this context, would only seem like a gratuitous and stereotypic self-characterization! Itís an expression, for chrissake. The violin is what you play for someone when theyíreÖ

    MM: Fishy?

    KP: No. When theyíreÖ

    MM: Looking for clothing?

    KP: No. When theyíreÖ

    MM: Looking for a very small violin.

    KP: This is what Iím talking about. You people arenít like the rest of us. With your oddball hearts. And your lack of effort to fit in. Your whiny sob stories. Get out of here. You can wait for the trucker outside.

    That is the end of the transcript of the conversation between Kisha Patel and the meter mermaid. And Iím sad to say, Kisha grabbed a very old yardstick that he kept by the register and actually gave her a kind of jab with it near her gills. He was in a pretty nasty mood that day. It wasnít really like him. Probably any other day he would have given her at least a handkerchief or a tote bag or something.

    She left and stood outside the door, squatting and weeping. It was piteous. There was some trash there near the curb. A used phone card with lots of African pictures on it. A drinking straw. Some twigs that had fallen off Stickman in an earlier part of the story. One crumpled bill that will fall off Dollar Bill in a later part of the story. She picked the bill up gently in her bass-like lips. And still she cried, until the sidewalk turned brown. It was white to start with but the water of her tears turned it brown.

    It was a hot day. Scalding hot. Some kids went by looking for the ice cream truck, and I bet youíd think they were cruel and threw an old soda can at her. Or mocked her or gaped at her. But they did not. They were a little afraid of a naked half-woman, halfĖbass out on the curbside in front of Griffmanís. Hunkered down like that, trying to cover her loins and scoop up the dollar in her mouth, the meter mermaid was like something from a nightmare theyíd had long ago when their mothers had had to come to comfort them in the middle of the night. Plus, it was too hot to do much more than look for the ice cream truck. A Popsicle would really save the day.

    The trucker took forever to look over the boots, and, eventually, the meter mermaid took off. She snuck around behind the hedges and ran until she came to the outer suburb of Bootshead. There was really only one suburb, outer or otherwise. She found a terrycloth bib and a pillow sham on a clothesline and managed to wear them.

    Oh, I forgot to tell you that she did, in fact, have arms and hands. Thatís pretty strange since she was a fish head from the navel up, more or less.

    The bib and pillow sham were sun-baked and hot on her skin. There was one of those kiddie wading pools nearby with most of the water dried up. She stepped into it and splashed some water on her scales and back and leg and arms and large mouth.

    I also forgot to tell you that this was the yard of the Russian waitress named Sarah that Stickman had hung out with earlier in the story. Sarah didnít have kids, at least not any more, and she wanted you to believe she was still younger than fifty. Waiting on tables had been hard on her, all those years. She kept the pool in her backyard because she liked to come out sometimes at dusk, stick in her feet, splash a little water on her calves which were varicose-veined in a way that would alarm you. She drank a particular kind of lemony vodka on ice in a pink plastic glass, usually.

    Sarah was actually not working that day, the day that the meter mermaid was in her pool. She was inside, breathing air almost straight out of the air conditioner. Poor thing, she said when she caught sight of the distraught fish-lady trying to put a pillow sham around her waist. †Poor thing.

    Iíll bet you think I forgot about the bib on Sarahís clothesline. I did not. The bib had belonged to Sarahís one and only daughter named Katya who had been killed when she was only five. She was killed when some metal piping fell off a truck and impaled her. Sheíd been safely buckled into the passenger seat in Sarahís Lincoln Continental. They both were riding back to Bootshead and were singing Eentsy Weentsy Spider when it happened. I donít want to tell you more about that because it would eventually take over the story. But the bib had belonged to Katya, and Sarah washed it every single night, and hung it out to dry on the clothesline. Every morning! No matter the weather! Even in winter! Even in that really cold winter I told you about when Stickman burned and died! You could barely call it a bib any more! It was bleached like a new pad of paper! The terrycloth nubbins were gone! Ice and searing sunshine had made holes in it! The embroidered butterfly that had once been on it was just one thick blue thread that never seemed to let go.

    That tells you a little bit about Sarah. She went out and helped the meter mermaid into the house and drew a cool bath for her. And eventually they went back in the story of the meter mermaid, very gently, to the part where the mermaid learned to sew, and, together, they made a tidy extra income selling clothes for American Girl dolls out of the front yard of Sarahís house where they lived. What else happened? Well, once, in the strangest occurrence ever, they tried to make love to each other, after they both had drunk way, way too much of the lemon-flavored vodka. Odd things happen all the time like that, inexplicable things that are probably due to the strangeness in all of our fierce hearts. Just because you donít believe them doesnít mean they arenít true.

    Sex didnít work at all for them, because neither was really in the remotest sense lesbian, just abysmally lonely. But they got over it, and became even faster friends. And the meter mermaid became accepted by the people of Bootshead just as Stickman was or will be later in the story.

    Sarah died. The meter mermaid became a meter maid for Bootshead which had just put in parking meters outside the Legion and the Catholic Eternal Church of Surprise and Something Approximating Sorrow. She became a very popular sight around town, and even drew some tourists, mainly fishing aficionados. Men with beards and big hands. People like that, but they often brought their families or fishing buddies also who might not have had such big hands, and might have been clean shaven with small scars on their chin.

    Iím going to have to stop for just a minute. Iím starting to think about all the stuff Iíve got to do today. Iíve got to get to the bank and then buy some dandruff shampoo. I really should iron. I promised some friends I would make them a painting. Itís raining hard now. Plus, I canít stop thinking about her, her, her, her, her, her, and why she hasnít called. These are the sorts of suspenses and ordinary thoughts that plague people and prevent them from telling the story of Stickman appropriately. So Iím stopping for a breather and to make more coffee. But I have a plan. I know I am lazy and get bored easily, and often rush the end of the story. So when I come back I will write the end of the story. I will take my time and try to do it justice. Iíd like to do it in such a way that you either cry or laugh. And then I will write the middle of the story, which will be at the end. That way Iíll just be rushing the middle of the story, which is sort of like life, if you think about it. The middle of life just flies by, and sort of feels like an ending some of the time.

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    Hereís the end of the Stickman story as promised:

    Dollar Bill, who had been both the child Katya and the trucker who was shopping for boots earlier in the story, couldnít find the wedding chapel. The directions were all screwy, and he was late. He stopped at the Friendlyís on the western edge of Bootshead, and got out of the car. It was early June. It was a very fine day. Dollar Billís many kinds of currency waved in a slight breeze. He was a fine sight. You could see his heart too, when the wind shifted just right. It was a pyramid with an eye on it, and all these guys and women and animals looking out through it. Lincoln and Queen E the second or so and an elephant and a macaw and Ganesha and Menorah Lady of six points like a star and even more stars like Madonna and Tom Cruise and a really beautifully engraved picture of Bootshead seen from space.

    Dollar Bill saw some guys and rustled over to them. He said, you guys give me some local directions? And they said, sure, bud, and gave him a pamphlet that actually said: Four Steps to a Friendship with God. What the hell is this, said Dollar Bill. Directions, one guy laughed. Thanks a million, said Dollar Bill. He was put out. Heíd been drinking White Russians in the Indian Casino most of the night so he was a little strung out to begin with. Heíd lost a lot while playing Carribean poker, and nearly trimmed his left leg down to nothing as he pulled off bill after bill. Now here he was needing real directions and these jokers used the opportunity and his genuine, earnest vulnerability and lostness to foist a religious pamphlet off on him. He could, of course, enjoy, on some level, the Zen-like irony of the event, but still the point was that he needed tangible, geographically astute directions. He was trying to get to the wedding of Stickman (back, as promised, and different!) and the meter mermaid (also back and different although I haven't yet told you how she died!) so he swore at them, and went into the restaurant where the assistant manager, Tina Rollins, who had been Kisha Patel (you didnít even know heíd gone and changed, did you?) gave him very pleasant directions. Right then and there, he peeled off part of his cheek and he bought some kind of frosted sundae in a cup from her in relief and gratitude.

    When he got to the chapel, the door was locked but an usher opened it. The light streamed in. There would be many, many stories before anyone in Bootshead ever discovered an adequate metaphor for it. Butterscotch pudding was close, but no cigar. Thinly sliced radish peel was also sort of close. The sound of a single, last coal chuckling to itself was a little like that light.

    Dollar Bill sat down on the brideís side of the church and looked around. It was packed. The five Koreans who all lived together and attended Bootsheadís one and only, incongruous Korean Church of Something Hard to Read were there. The ice cream guy was there. All the regulars from the Legion were thereóChip and Freddy who has the autistic daughter and Blain who smokes pot and Shelly who everyone knows is looseóthey were all there. The kids I told you about earlier were there licking Popsicles and dribbling wet syrup in little pools on the pews, but nobody seemed to notice or else they were just tolerated because they were being quiet. Except those kids were all grown up now and one ran the bank. And she had married another one of the kids and he was trying to learn the guitar. And the last one I forgot to tell you wasnít grown up after all, but was a baby that was asleep in a bassinette. Who else was there? The guy with the glass eye who will teach Stickman to play pool later or earlier or any minute now in the story was there. Tom Cruise was there. Madonna was there. Both of their stuntspeople lookalikes were there too. A small patch of sky was there. I was there, which is how I come to tell you this whole thing in the first place. The original Griffman, old man Griffman, who had sold his clothing store which was then a haberdashery to Kisha Patelís father for a canoe full of mink and traps and a restored 1937 Willys was there. Tina Rollins, the Friendlyís assistant manager had somehow beaten Dollar Bill there, was there.

    You remember those kids who were smoking Players menthol in the woods? They were there, but they had left early, and come back in as an entire family with hearts made out of a traditional, middle American, Thanksgiving dinner. Man, they smelled great! Just great. Dollar Bill almost jumped up from where he was seated way back in the chapel on the brideís side and ran over to steal some mashed potatos from the father guyís heart it smelled so good. The Cowboy from the karaoke bar I was at last night was there and the dealer from Dollar Billís Carribbean poker table was also there. Dollar Bill hadnít really noticed her the night before but now he saw she had an orchid for her heart. Man, she was black and beautiful! She had been a pole dancer once and she still had fine, fine legs, like a tall drink of water, as the saying goes or doesnít.

    Outside the windows of the chapel, it seemed pretty quiet. There was a car alarm going off somewhere but then it stopped. A mating tomcat yowled. Kinda strange right in the middle of the day, Dollar Bill thought.

    Then the couple came in. They came in together, with none of this business of parents giving people away or bridesmaids excited about what to wear or the best man worrying about his speech or the witch doctor and the rabbit and the rabbi and the big kahuna. They just walked in very simply. She was the meter mermaid again. He was Stickman again. She wore pelts made from poodles. He wore a bib. You could see both their hearts the way theyíd always, always been in every single part of the story, even when Stickman had burnt to nothing like I told you and the meter mermaid had evaporated in that really bad summer that I havenít told you about yet because itís the middle of the story which Iíve relegated to the end so I can do this ending part justice.

    She, she, she, her, her, her, her, you, you, you was there, and she was the queen who would marry the couple, but that was okay with Dollar Bill. Oh, and those guys that gave Dollar Bill the pamphlet? They were playing the blues up in the balcony where you couldnít see them. The couples were exchanging vows. She took out the shiny minnow that was her heart. He took out his stump from his gut. I bet you thought Iíd say he took out his heart but he didnít. That wasnít the way it happened. He took out the stump the inside of which was bright pink, and lit it from his heart. It was very pretty. They exchanged these tokens and the doors just plain disappeared from the chapel and the chapel itself grew invisible. The stained glass windows hung in the air.

    A heavy snow began to fall and Dollar Bill was sweaty. He peeled some minor bills from his heel, and rolled them up into a cigar and lit it. He got some disapproving looks, I can tell you that much. You are you and you and you, she, she, she, she intoned from her orchid heart. I began to cry a little, but tried to pretend I just had snowflakes in my eyelashes. Then I felt het up.

    Just when everybody thought the story was ending, the blues guys up in the balcony jumped down. Inside their instrument cases they had guns. They shot every last person at the wedding right smack in the heart. The sun came out so fast the snow became steam. The meter mermaid just plain evaporated, leaving a smell like lemony vodka and bullrushes. Except for Dollar Bill. He was still there, alive, even though a bullet had run right clean through the pyramid and eye that was his heart, blinding just about everybody that I mentioned earlier was looking through it. He got up and made himself a cowboy hat out of some weird Chinese currency. America bless God, he said loudly. It was seven minutes to noon.

    The guys from the balcony and Dollar Bill fought. It was a terrible fight and Iím really glad to say I wasnít around to see it. Dollar Bill was, like, down to some loose change. He was scrawny and beat up. The guys from the balcony were flinging pamphlets everywhere like Ninja throwing stars. It was really tough to tell who was winning or why they were fighting. Hell, it was hard to tell them all apart. Hereís kind of how it sounded: badadaboomboomboombadddaboomboomyouch!!!!!!!

    Hang on, Iím going to get more coffee.

  4. #4
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    Hereís the middle of the story now. Itís a conversation I had just now with Kisha Patel.

    KP: What the? What the?

    Me: I know, I know. I tried to trick myself into writing the ending so I wouldnít get lazy with the middle.

    KP: I canít even begin to tell you what a mess youíve made of the story.

    Me: I know, I know. I tried to trick myself into writing the ending so I wouldnít get lazy with the middle. Oh well, howís your son?

    KP: Better. I got around to forgiving the guy he was with.

    Me: Lifeís pretty short to hold a grudge.

    KP: Easy to say. But I have a store to run. What do you want?

    Me: Iíll take that hat.

    KP: Good choice.

    Me: Iíll take that parka.

    KP: Excellent.

    Me: Iíll take that swimsuit.

    KP: You canít try the swimsuits on before purchase.

    Me: Wasnít planning on it.

    KP: Howís the story come out? The middle or whatever? How are those three women youíre confused by? How many times did you say Stickman fell in love? Who taught him pool?

    Me: Look, I have to get to the bank. Iím in a hurry. I took too much time this morning and last night with the breaks and the sleeping (although I guess a manís gotta sleep some time.) Iíve given you all the parts; make your own damn story.

    KP: woo hoo.

    Me: woo hoo.

    KP: Have a nice day and thanks for shopping and stopping by.

    Me: Nice heart you got there.

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