December 19th, 2005


Silentday the First (A Novel)

The next (second) section of "Bainbridge" is set in Pensacola, Florida in December 1982, nine months before Dancy's birth, and centers on Julia Flammarion, Dancy's mother, a character who's never before gotten more than a brief mention here and there. It's about as radical a departure from the first section of the story as anyone could imagine. A seedy motel across from the beach. The thoughts of a very unhappy young woman who knows next to nothing of the world. As for the first section, I still don't know whether or not it's right or if maybe I've headed off in entirely the wrong direction. I also think the first section may actually be the second section, which would make the second section the third. And mean that I have to backtrack and write the first when I've finished what might be the third. Are you following me? Good. That makes one of us. Yesterday, I talked and talked and talked and then Spooky read me the "first" section over again. And I still don't know whether or not it works. I may have to send it out for a couple of people to read. I sat here yesterday, trying to begin the section set in Pensacola. I wrote a single tentative sentence. But my head felt empty. Where I needed Julia Flammarion to be, her and nothing else, there was intense doubt about the beginning of the story and the whole approach that I've taken to "Bainbridge" and, well, about a thousand other things. A small cacophony trapped inside my skull.

I finally gave up and took something (no need to say just what) and lay in a tub of very hot water trying to get warm and clear my muddled head. I've mentioned that I love our bathtub, right? I used it as the model for the tub in "Madonna Littoralis" (see Vince's illustration). But the noise refused to disburse. Instead, it went yammering round and round, making ever smaller and noisier circles. I got out of the tub, dressed, had a Red Bull, and went to L5P. By the time Spooky caught up with me, an hour or so later, I'd had a couple of beers and a couple of shots of Jack. Between the alcohol, the Red Bull, and the substance I'd ingested prior to my bath, I was in no shape to go anywhere but home, and certainly in no shape to go to the market, but that's where Spooky was headed and she didn't want me walking home in the cold. I think she thought I might get lost and freeze to death. So, I went to the frelling market. Where they were playing Xmas music, Jesusy Xmas music, because apparently they've not heard that there's a war on. Don't they read the papers? Or watch Bill O'Reilly? So, just to show there were no hard feelings, I kind of started singing, which I'm sad to say endeared me to no one, including Spooky. Clearly, this war on Xmas has robbed Atlantians of their holiday spirit...I mean, their Xmas spirit. A woman handing out tiny samples of sausage skewered on toothpicks gave me a very dirty look.

When we reached the checkout line, which was long, Spooky gave me her keys and told me to go wait in the car. Which was just fine with me, as I'd already read all the tabloid covers, anyway. I already knew that Brad and Angelica are adopting every child in South Korea and that Whitney Houston wanted to be a lesbian but the lesbians wouldn't have her skanky, yodeling ass. I took the keys and exited the market. Our car was way the hell on the other side of the parking lot, because at least half of Atlanta was out buying organic, non-dairy, free-range egg nog. About halfway to the car, a bum started following me. He asked for money, and I truthfully told him that I had none. Not one thin dime. No lie. He followed me all the way to the car, rattling on about how he'd just gotten out of prison and how he'd been framed, how he'd never hurt anyone in his whole life and all he needed was money for a bus ticket to...wait for it...Pensacola. Even in my altered state of consciousness, I knew something out there, somewhere in the cosmos, had decided to take a jab at me for being stoned and liquored up and making fun of the Xmas muzak. But hey, I can be a good sport. So I asked the bum why he needed to go to Pensacola, and, I kid you not, he said, "All my hos, they all be down in Pensacola. My hos, they get lonely. They need me to keep they white asses in line."

I began to unlock the car, which was more difficult than you might imagine, and the bum asked me again if I'd give him money because he needed a bus ticket to Pensacola. I told him, again, that I didn't have any money.

"You don't happen to know anyone in Pensacola named Julia Flammarion?" I asked him, just in case.

"What? Julie who?"


And suddenly the bum looked all offended and scowled at me. "Is you a man or is you a woman?" he asked suspiciously.

Now, I'll admit, I never have the nerve to do this sort of thing when I'm sober, but I was not sober. I looked him straight in the eye and asked, "Why? Didn't anyone ever teach you how to tell the difference?"

"You is, ain't you? You're one of them transformers," he sneered and took a cautious step backwards like I might be contagious. About this time I dropped the car keys. "Man, that's fucked up," the bum said. "That is some more fucked up shit! I bet you got the AIDS from having sex with faggots. I done heard all about you transformers."

"And I bet you've never been to Pensacola," I replied, stooping to look for the keys, "and I bet you don't have any hos, either."

About this time, a police car pulled up, and I got to my feet again. I also spotted Spooky headed across the parking lot towards me. Clearly, she'd spotted the police car.

"Ma'am," said the cop in the driver's seat, "is this man bothering you?"

"Officer," I said, putting every last bit of concentration I could muster into sounding sober. "I keep telling him I don't want to buy any crack cocaine." I batted my eyelashes. I wrung my hands. I even smiled. "Could you please ask him to leave me alone?"

Okay. It all gets sort of blurry after this. The bum looked like his head was going to explode. The cops got out of their cop car. Spooky showed up and asked me what the hell was going on, why I couldn't stay out of trouble for five goddamn minutes. I told her the bum needed a ride to the bus stop and I'd asked the police to give him a lift. By that time, though, the bum was making stepped-on chicken noises, and I don't think she believed me. But she did find the keys, which had ended up under the car. When we left, the police were herding the bum towards the edge of the parking lot, so they must have figured out he didn't have any crack.

Yeah, anyway...

Sorry about that dreary little outburst late yesterday, the whole silly "I don't want to write no more" thing. I mean, it's true. I don't. But it was still a moment of public weakness, that addendum. I think it was bum trauma, most likely. I'll try to do better. Promise.

P.S. — Spooky came in a moment ago to bring me a cup of coffee. She'd been on the phone with her mom in Rhode Island, who told her that her grandmother knew Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine, etc.) and he was Lentil. She said that Robert McCloskey used to come over and play the harmonica in her grandmother's bathtub. Also, as part of a shamanic exercise, today and tomorrow I am not speaking. Nope, not a peep for 48 hours. Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. I may begin speaking again. Of course, by then I'll likely have lost my mind and ended up on the street, asking bums for money so I can go see my hos in Pensacola...