Suicide is a very euphonious word (go on, say it to yourself: suicide . . . SUICIDE . . .
S U C I D E) and for some reason I couldn’t quit repeating it all day. Then came night. All I had left was $14 and a guitar so scarred it spit splinters into palms. That guitar and what I did with it didn’t seem to cause much of a stir with the crowd?this was often the case?and the $14 went fast: I bought good beer.
Right after slinking from stage to bar stool this thin squirrel of a man sat next to me. I didn’t say anything to anyone. I just soaked up the pints with a touch of hustle, trying not to think. As I savored the final swallow the squirrel turned to me.
“You’ve got a great eye for what’s wretched,” he said.
I didn’t say anything. Then his eyes turned yellow. Then red. Then black. I thought, “What the hell?”
He said, “You shouldn’t give up. You ought to keep singing those songs.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t speak.
“I’ve got these potions back at my lab that can make you do all sorts of things,” he said. “I’ve got some beer, too.”
“Lets go,” I said.
“You’ve got great legs and a nice ass,” he said. “May I rub them when we get there?”
“No. None of that,” I replied.
“Your songs are filled with primal truths,” he said as we walked. “The types of wretched truths cowards ignore.”
I was worried about being a coward later on when it came suicide time so I didn’t respond.
“Four blocks,” he said after a while.”
We approached a group of men standing in a vacant lot. They said some things I didn’t hear and laughed and headed our way. I was readying myself to defend the guitar (I’m stuck with that guitar) when the squirrel said, “Watch this.”
He opened a small vial and drew a drop out onto his tongue. His fists grew to the size of balloons. Then he streaked out and walloped each man?most of them twice his size!?in a systematic manner.
I would have helped, but by the time I placed my guitar on the ground and pushed up my sleeves the whole gang was laid out on the pavement. He took a drop from another vial and his hands were normal.
“I could really use a drink,” I said.
That I meant. ____________
It was a small, tan house with cardboard in the windows and a half-mowed lawn. He was putting the key into the door when he stopped.
“I really like your legs and ass,” he said.
“I’ve got important engagements later this evening,” I said. “Just give me the beer and show me the lab.”
If you’ve seen the movies you know what the lab was like: fizzing sounds, Bunsen burners, jars full of what seemed to be pickled organs.
“And the beer?” I asked.
There was a cabinet in the corner sealed with a combination lock. He dialed the combination. Inside were rows and rows of color-coded vials and half a dozen beers. He reached me a bottle, I opened that bottle. He never closed the cabinet.
Now, when it comes to beer I adore the dark stuff. A bock no less than triple or a stout. This was a stout.
Front: sorghum and spice. Palate: burnt almond. Finish: currant and coffee.
He was a small, awkward bastard, but he sure could brew. I went ahead and downed it and was about to ask for another when I felt a sudden rise in my crotch, and soon thereafter came the sensation of putting it in, and then, lord o lord, it was crash cymbals and cream pies. In a matter of seconds I needed a change of shorts. The squirrel said, You sure you don’t want me to rub . . . ____________
I had his throat before any dropper had a chance to get near my tongue and I shouted out a final warning. The beer was incredible (I admit it) but I had to let him know for certain NOTHING was going to happen involving my legs or ass. He gasped out a promise. I let him go.
We went over to an area where there were sets of live animals in cages. He opened one of the cages and plucked out a dog. He fed it something that looked like candy corn and then the dog was a monkey. He fed the monkey another corn and it turned to rat. Another corn?kangaroo. Corn?possum. Corn?bear. Corn?marmot I couldn’t identify. One more corn and back to dog.
“Next I hope to make them switch class,” he said.
I didn’t say anything. I would have, but I couldn’t come up with any words.
“Chimp to lizard would be a real mindfuck for the scientific community,” he said.
“That beer ran right through me,” I said. “Where’s the pisser?”
I didn’t have to piss so much as think up a plan to get the hell out of there and what better place for a man to think than the bathroom? I could see it would only be a matter of time before he had me etherized upon some table doing who knows what to my hindquarters, and he didn’t seem like the type that would be easy to shake?he had potions!
So I asked him again, “Where’s the pisser?”
“Swallow this pill and your digestive system will no longer produce liquid waste,” he said. “You’ll never have to urinate again.”
He held out the pill, but I insisted on doing things the old fashioned way. Then there was a pause, pause, pause. I raised my fingertips as if to motion, So?
“Down the hall, second door,” he said pointing.
After seeing the chaos that was his lab, one wouldn’t expect the bathroom to be much different, but to my surprise, it was properly decorated (an aquatic motif). The toilet had a tank lid that looked like it was made with real coral. I lifted the lid and it was heavy, so I opened the door and yelled.
“Oh Christ! There’s a spider in the tub the size of a fucking pumpkin!”
I heard him yell back.
“Don’t hurt it!”
I heard him dart my way. I timed the swing to match his approaching footsteps.
It got to the point where I ate whatever I wanted to eat whenever I was hungry, drank only the good beer, and no longer woke alongside moderate or less than moderate women. I’d walk into a joint and test the wine glasses. When you wet your finger and slide it around the rim of a glass it moans out the key that?with the right volume?shatters it. I’d find that key and take the stage. It was a gimmick that would moisten the crotch of most any woman just finishing her chardonnay.
One of the six vials I snatched from the cabinet before I got the hell out of the squirrel’s lab did something to the vocal cords. I had a loud, powerful howl in the first place, but this intensified it times three or four. In a month’s time record execs came around writing checks. I just spent the money on ladies and such and kept squeezing the dropper onto my tongue, playing that same old ragged guitar.
The day after I stole the potions I tested them on mongrel dogs. All of them but the two that enhanced the bark did horrible, grotesque things that frightened me so much I didn’t try them myself. But the voice thing was a hoot, along with the five remaining orgasmic beers. There’s really no telling what that strange little man put in the potion, but it worked so well I could sing above a full band without a microphone.
I tried to use the voice serum sparingly. I took just one drop if it was an indoor show and two if I was playing an amphitheater. There wasn’t really any sort of plan for what to do when the stuff ran out.
Then the stuff ran out. I kept playing the shows but could no longer shatter glass. People lost interest.
Suicide is a very euphonious word. I couldn’t quit repeating it all day. I unplugged my tattered guitar and took a stool at the bar. A woman sat next to me. I smiled even though she was a bit on the homely side with large, flabby haunches. She told me she was thirsty. I told her I was broke (the truth) and she ordered two whiskies, top shelf, and removed a wad of cash from her purse.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Watch this,” she said.
She reached back into the purse and out came what looked like a 10-pound brick of gold. Then another. Then another. I flipped open my knife and dug into one to see if it was real.
“I’ve got this thing rigged to shoot out as many of these as I want,” she said.
“That’s a nice trick,” I said.
Then I called the barkeep back over.
I didn’t know what to do other than work those vast flanks with my hands and say the words I thought she wanted to hear. She smiled so I kept talking and rubbing. I remember us leaving the place. I remember her coming down hard with the purse just above my brow. After that it’s a big blur.