Hedgehogs in the Fog, Part X

This story was published as a part of the Only fools die of heartbreak collection by Equus Press.

Kirby and I made a few efforts to punch and slap each other, but in short order it ended up being little more than wrestling. We had taken it out of the topless Russian mafia pub, across the street to the park.

We fell to the ground. Kirby had a brief burst of fury, during which I seriously wondered if he would try to bash my head against a cement curb. But my neck and shoulders were strong enough to withstand the assault, and he soon ran out of gas. I rolled him over and pinned him to his back. A few onlookers came around, and when they heard us grunting in English, became a little hostile. A couple of cigarette butts landed on our clothing. I sat on Kirby’s chest and lit a smoke, blowing smoke into his face for a few minutes and telling the curious onlookers that all was absolutely “to nevadí” – and keep moving along, please.

Kirby spasmed and writhed below me. “God, your Czech sucks! You don’t know shit! You speak like total garbage!”

Now, Kirby,” I said, “that’s a not a very nice thing to tell somebody who’s sitting on your chest with a lit cigarette near your face. I’ll kindly ask you to take that back.”

He did no such thing. I blew more smoke in his face, then tossed the cig. I got off him and helped him to his feet.

Shit, I’m sorry, man,” he said, putting his arm around my shoulder as we walked back in. “I didn’t mean – I really didn’t mean to – you know, I’m crazy – shit, it all sucks. My daughter was just drunk. I mean, I’m drunk, my daughter was just born. . . .”

No worries, Kirb. I’ve already forgotten everything. And congratulations again, man! You’re one lucky dude.”

We came back in, wiped off, ordered another round plus shots. It felt good, the little workout. Before the new drinks came, Kirby was already back in action.

What’s that on your shirt? What’s that say? Moth-Girl?”

Yeah, Moth-Girl.”

Moth-Girl and Squid-Man,” he said. “Jesus, you’re a real mess.”

I know, everything about me is wrong. I’ve heard it since I was about eight.”

Kirby stood up again. “Excuse me, I’m sorry. . . .” He lurched off toward the bathroom.

I lit another smoke. An Alanis Morrissette video was on the TV, but the soundtrack was a jukebox on the other side of the room. I just figured that out. The tune: “Cat Scratch Fever,” a song I had always thought was perhaps among the best of all time. I don’t know where they come from but they sure do come . . . I hope they’re comin for me, yeah. . . . The video ended. Not an Alanis Morrissette after all, the screen said, but somebody else – Feefee Bardieuw, the letters seemed to say. Never heard of her.

Kirby returned, face slicked, wet hair sticking up. He downed the shot, had a beer gulp, picked up where he had left off.

Do you believe all the bullshit that comes out of your mouth?”

Huh?”

I said, Do you believe all of the bullshit that comes out of your mouth?”

Of course I do, Kirby.”

Oh, perfect! I pronounce you now – the Bullshit King. Oh, great Bullshit King!”

It’s my middle name. I can dig it, Kirby. Because whatever the hell I am – that’s it. I am. I am in now. Anything else – it’s too late. You’re looking at it – it’s looking at you. I’m in – at least I’m in the station.”

In one side, out the other.”

You said it, kid. It’s all in how you look at it, right? Maybe a clock on the wall is not total bullshit, but the rest, nearly all of the rest – I haven’t been sure for a while. A lot of times, you know, the truth is actually reflected through bullshit. Sometimes the truth is glimpsed through a cloud of bullshit, and only for a second. I believe that. The truth comes packaged in a sheathing of bull.”

Little truth teller, are ye?”

No. I just want to be able to deny that I meant anything at all.”

Are you happy, Mr. Garcia? I mean, really happy?”

Yes, totally happy – I mean, despite all the things that are falling to pieces. Why not? It was hard for a while, you know, to be witnessing, to be living all the failures, spreading out everywhere, endlessly. To finally see everything for what it is – a bunch of stuff, yet very little. Everything’s so hard, you know? It can’t be done. Nothing can be. There is always some kind of horrible lack that spotlights the basic inability, the basic futility. Realistically, all you can do is kill yourself, or survive and endure and hope for a little luck. Work on your work, stick to your guns – your time will come.”

Bullshit.”

Absolutely total.”

You’re not happy.”

Well, of course not. I’ve lost faith in anything but the most temporary and superficial kind of contact. If you can find the beauty and depth in that, and sometimes I can, you are home free. Nothing’s gonna change the world. The sting lingers, but eventually it goes away. It is no one’s fault, I don’t think, as long as no one is killed. At least they haven’t killed us yet, right? At least we don’t have to take orders from some dictator in a loincloth. Not anymore – and not yet.”

Bull-crap. That’s the problem with you guys. Of course we take orders – that’s all we do, everybody.”

That’s right, baby. You know, it works out that we are all – and not so ultimately, Kirby – expendable. That’s a thing to realize. I’ve understood that for almost as long as I can remember. There’s a sadness that comes – I’ve always had a deep blue sadness. I was a sad lonely beaten boy, and you never really lose something like that. It infects everything, but in truth, it gets dull. You have to slap it around, twist it around under the sunlight – to see all the things that might’ve really happened. Because we don’t really know.”

Bullshit. . . .”

Yeah, coach. But it’s different with Dee. She looks back and sees everything only in darkness. She looks back in semi-anger. Bitterness of the Czech soul attacking and eating itself. I look back and see light, with patches of darkness – sometimes very many patches and a lot of them very dark, but always a final lightness, however hazy. Exactly – full-on American never-say-die claptrap. But as real as anything. Never the Czech and American souls shall reconcile. With Dee, the anger is so wide and deep, and been there for so long, it has curdled into a funny-smelling fizz which spits and burbles and covers over everything. She would rather forget the past and ignore the future, searching for a kind of imagined ideal of comfortableness and control. I feel like a golden bullet speeding into the future. Fuck the bastards, I am saying – the bastards will get theirs. Part of me believes the bastards will truly get shot down, but also I know – there’s no chance of it. They will thrive, always, crushing the spine of justice and truth. So I am trapped, squeezed between my hunger and belief in total victory and total justice – and the 110 percent reality of failure and defeat that sticks over everything. It’s hard for us, Dee and me, there is a basic gap. We will probably not survive the next six months, in all truth. We are on the last lap.”

Really?”

Ninety-eight percent So many massive explosions, combined with a couple thousand invisible clicks, you know – and the trust is laying in pieces on the floor. All of a sudden the battles are over, you’ve taken the losses, you are back behind the barricades and the positions are reinforced. The war is over, the wounds are deep and you just want a cease-fire. We didn’t know it until it was already finished, and there was nothing more to say.”

You really suck, man. I can’t believe how much.”

You bet, baby. It’s like Jerry Lee Lewis said – ‘You can’t teach nothin’ to a woman. You can only learn.’ Or somethin‘.”

Jerry Lewis?”

Yeah, him. For sure, Kirb. The seeds of destruction are built into everything. But I’m not sad. Dee and I being together in the first place is just an historical accident. We’re the original children of the revolution – East meets West in a drunk frenzy of drunk fucking.“

„Crap.“

„Yes. Careless drunk fucking in the shadow of massacres, nuclear meltdowns and men with beards claiming to be sacred poets. Be young, be foolish, be happy. Doesn’t get any better. Good clean Communist snatch, untouched by Western paws until we rushed in to take all the goodies. We were lucky, coach, it won’t happen like that again, not even if China blows – China’s got too many men, and too many men is never much fun.”

Please, please. The sentiment is well-intentioned, but – your wife is nothing but a recurring character in a long-running television comedy serial. Nothing more. Please do not try to make her famous.”

I know. I only try to have sympathy for her, Kirb. She never totally dug the reality of living with the Greatest All-Time Writer / Drinker / Artist / Philosopher / Rock Star / Model of Overwhelming Male Masculinity . . . and all that that might entail. She was always turning on when I’m turning off, and vice-versa. She tried to shut down all my alleged and illusional aspirations, which was a bit like trying to kill me. Yeah, baby, O.K. – she tried to kill me. She somehow thought I wasn’t who I was. She tried to deny it or something. She’s a little unstable, you know.”

Huh?”

Yeah, coach. She’ll spend half an hour putting these anti-bacteria things in the toilet that make the water green, then let the dog eat the leftovers off our dinner plates – know what I mean? The other day she said that I just did not understand certain things – that I was like a ‘dog who needed kicking.’ Hearing something like that was like entering a whole new level, Kirby – my ears burned, the curtains finally torn away. So there we are. It hurts, yeah – another girl I’ve lost, plus my boys. None of us will ever totally recover, we are in for some very sad chapters, but I don’t know another way. I am not smart or brave enough. It’s a crushing blow – a major one, but not the first. I’ll probably go off and live in Prague 11 somewhere. Work and drink myself into a stupor. One day the pain and weight will fall away, and all there’ll be is a bruise, maybe some kind of permanent imprint. There were some decent years in there, some special times. Heavy times. We went for it, we tried to stab it down. We jumped through everything they threw, and we were pretty honest with each other. We rolled the dice and they kept rolling – until now. We lost, but who is to say we are losers? I will not say it. There is no losing in this game. There is only defeat.”

Are you seriously talking about divorce?”

Separation, at least.”

You are so full of shit.”

„Well said. I’m more than that. I’m ready to die, coach. If this bitch ended tomorrow, cool. On to the next world.“

„Goddamn you! Full, full, full of shit!“

„Ha ha! I know, coach. I am trying, I really am trying. I should goddamn quit trying. As a father, you know, there’s no chance of victory. You must of necessity do all the asshole things, and then they hold them up to you. You hold them up to yourself. You have to become a little more cruel just to maintain a semblance of sanity and structure to the family life – then do the various mental flips to justify your cruelty. You find yourself whacking the kids and beating the dog, to maintain some illusion of control, yet you are forever scared to the point of paralysis. The only thing that has kept me semi-sane is the thought, ‘The boys are not me – they’re on their own trip.’ Their trip, and you can only be a part of it. It lets you off the hook, in some way, but still you will always be blamed for whatever happens. . . .”

You don’t look happy. I see it in your eyes.”

Well, I’ve just told you everything. Are you confused by the chaos in my wandering eyes – ?”

I don’t know what the hell I see in your eyes.”

Kirby brought his hand to his mouth. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. . . .” He got up and ran off.

Fires burned on a black soundstage. Rabbit-eyed dudes in dyed-white hair made wavy motions with their hands. A couple tables away, a frizzy-haired guy about 45 knocked a wineglass off the table. He wobbled, tried to reach down, smacked his shoulder on the corner of the table. A fat woman sitting across from him could not be bothered. I lit a smoke. The guy picked up a shard and put it in his trembling other palm. The waitress came over with a mop and dustpan, tits swinging as she bent down and cleaned it up.

Kirby was back.

Think you’re a good man, Mr. Garcia?”

Possibly. Maybe semi-good, sprinkled over with bits of bad. You do your best. The best you can hope for in this life is to not to fuck very many people over, to not purposely hurt people. As you well know, sometimes it can’t be helped. Just by living, minding your own business, you can hurt people. And sometimes people are looking to be hurt. People – they bug. Too many want to interfere, they want to defend turf – grabby little fuckers. I myself am probably not so grabby, I don’t interfere so much – but I am probably guilty of trying to defend turf from time to time. Jealousy still whips me, but it’s scars on top of scars at this point.“

„Nice. Fuckface.“

„Exactly. Everybody’s got an instinct to step into the dictator boots. I can enjoy being a dictator as much as anybody, but I am not so good at it. I don’t have the suicidal flair, I won’t go down with the ship – which is really the requirement of the true dictator. If it comes down to it, really comes down to it, I’d rather give up, toss it in the can and see what comes next. As long there’s air, and a drink and a song, a space for you to lay down, and you still got your half-wits and memories, you are really O.K. If you are blessed with healthy children, you are double-O.K. We cannot ask for more.”

Think you’re a great man?”

Oh, yes.”

You’re full of shit.”

Overflowing, coach.”

He stood. “I’ve got to go or I’ll die.”

O.K., Kirby. Nice to see you, my man.”

I stood up and we shook hands.

Congratulations on the child. Really. Good luck, man, take care of her good, it’s the best thing you can do. And let’s do this again real soon.”

We moved around the table and hugged. He squeezed me hard. “Get your shit together. I hate seeing you so fucked up.”

I’ll probably do something,” I said. “See you next time.”

He saluted and went out the door.

I sat back down, swallowed some beer. I lit a smoke, drained the rest of my glass, then switched the empty with Kirby’s. He had left about two-thirds. I had a sip. On the warmish side by now, but I intended to finish it quick. I sipped again, then had a giant pull. Something squirmed in the stomach, my throat caught briefly. I sucked it back down with rapid inhales off the smoke. I took another gulp.

I checked the wall clock: 2:40 a.m. Not bad, I had at least – at least – three hours, I figured, before I needed to think about going somewhere else. That was comforting. I didn’t know how the trams ran out there, but they would all be running after five, that was for sure. The waitress came and swept away the empties. I ordered another round.

I sat and drank, one becherovka-piv after another. It was good, it was O.K. – life was O.K. People came in, people went – bimbos danced on the video screen. Bimbos and boy bands. The boy bands were fagged out – creamy cute little cocksuckers with shit in their hair and more in their pants. Then a video by the two Russian girl-lezzes. This wasn’t so bad, really. It was turning into a fun little world full of fags and lezzies – the more the merrier. The juke rolled Czech bands trying to copy Dire Straits, Czech bands trying to copy Pearl Jam, Czech bands trying to copy Traveling Wilburys, a Stevie Ray Vaughan copy on guitar. The juke rolled “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Manic Monday,” “Light My Fire,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Wind of Change.”

Around three-thirty the place starting packing out. Hipster guys around 18-19 years old came in, played “Route 66” four times in a row on the juke, followed by “The End” three times in a row. All right, good, I was glad to hear it – a nice touch. Excellent, actually, even inspiring. The guys were tall and skinny, had shaggy hair, short jean jackets, leather booties. They had two rounds of beer and left. Well, they weren’t going to get much done if that was all they had to offer. . . .

Then, nearly as soon as it had started to pack out, the joint started to clear. The waitress dropped by with my order of two more, then went into a back room and emerged wearing a tank top. Tit show over, apparently. She walked around from behind the bar and sat on a stool next to a guy about 60. They were sitting right in front of me, about 15 feet away. He was a bald ball of tanned grease, about five feet tall. Facial expression of a dead raccoon. I tried to tune them out. On the video screen, a bunch of fags with grease in their hair were walking around a big empty house at night. Jung would be gratified, I thought – or maybe it was just a cheap set the producer had found.

Then – goddamn it, I thought – is that really happening? At first I’d seen it out the corner of my eye. I focused a bit closer. Indeed, the waitress had taken off her shoe and was rubbing her toe into the old man’s crotch. She was sitting there with her foot up on the stool between his legs, smushing the toe into his cock-and-balls. He was grinning like a thief, the greasy little fuck. She had on a little smile. I didn’t know what to do. It was gross, just gross. How could they? The both of them – but her, especially.

It was certainly more balls than I had at the moment.

I finished the beer and banged the empty down. I finished the becher and banged down the empty.

It was another two or three minutes before she walked over

—– Original Message —–
From: Kirby Grauersbeld
To: Garcia Thor
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 8:43 PM
Subject: soon ? dinner Dear Sir,
How’s tricks man? Long time no talk to. My apologies for our last meting. Was a bit pained, me thinks, by the diminishing twinkle of happiness in your eye, that combined with the excessive use of shit in the new work. You got more class than that man. You’re a good man don’t give in to the seas of self sabotaging sewage. Hold true to your art. Anyway, my apologies, booze etc had gotten the better of me and I was an asshole.
So when we gonna get together? A good long talk is definitely in order. I’ve been home with a lung infection for the last two weeks, then my dad comes over the weekend. After that, as long as the following morning isn’t a work day, I’m free. Lets meet. Let’s talk.

Love, much
– K

—– Original Message —–
From: Garcia Thor
To: Kirby Grauersbeld
Sent: Saturday, October 16, 11:36 AM
Subject: Re: soon ? dinnerKirby, no sweat, Coach, was night to remember. Ended up staying at the place till about six. Had several nightmares there then walked out into some very weird scenes in and outside the goldmine. Overslept my tram stop but made it home before 7:30. How about some night after the election? The Friday night after the election would probably work pretty well. Would like to chat about if you are still interested in doing some art for the book. In any case, hope to have near final copies ready no later than the end of Dec. Let me know on the date, and take care.

All the best regards, Thor

—– Original Message —–
From: Kirby Grauersbeld
To: Garcia Thor
Sent: Saturday, October 17, 9:29 AM
Subject: soon ? dinner

Many times much swell. Let’s make it for Friday after the election. A good night to drink, in mourning or in mourning. Definitely up for art for the book. Just let me know. Fucks and cunts good, too many shits no good. Have a final copy of the first work if you’re up for a read sometime. Wangfield/Wollins is giving me an edit, as is Blade.
All the best, will call on election day to set time and place.
Cheers,
Kirby

—– Original Message —–
From: Kirby Grauersbeld

To: Garcia Thor
Sent: Saturday, November 6, 6:22 PM
Subject:

Been trying to call but can’t get ya. Won’t be able to make it tonight. Tied one on good after the election results came in then was foolish enough to go to that dive downstairs. Not really sure what happened but they robbed me good. Got wallet, prukaz, phone, glasses, even my watch– all while I was in the bar. Of course everyone there mum about what happened, no sir didn’t see a thing. Cops said they can’t do anything if I can’t point someone out. Guess they slipped me a mickey– don’t remember a damn thing. Some woman opened the door of my flat at 5 am – pushed me inside and threw the keys in before slapping the door. Needless to say, Dasha’s rather peed-off and petrified tsomeone will try to rob the palce, I feel like a total goober and must go on the wagon and stay home for a while if I want to keep this family.

I‘ll drop you a line when I get a new mobil. Had to cancel all my cards and have about 10 kc to my name until the new ones get here.

All the best,

Kirby

published: 21. 7. 2013