Ollie Tolliver and his crew came into town. He and Kelli and have two kids by now, with a third ankle-biter on the way. In the pre-Adderall days, Ollie had been the type who used to make a midnight climb 25 or 30 yards to the top of a power pole, sit there for a few hours in silence with everyone staring up at him, then come down and recite a few verses from, for example, To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time – in a Japanese accent. “Gaffer vey losebutts, vhile vey ray, Ard hime is still a-frying. . . .” Yes, too funny. Ollie stored catalogues of that kind of stuff in his head – though it had probably been at least a decade since I’d heard his version of “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac,” or seen him walk back and forth along a stair railing while reciting at least three-quarters of, say, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, in the voice of a little girl with a lisp imitating a frog.
Ollie had gone out with Cayley for eight or nine years – lots of LSD and ecstasy and gazing at the wavy buildings of Antwerp, Barcelona and Cambodia. Then Cayley had appeared one day rather thin, lined and shrewish, laughing in a harsh and hysterical bag-lady whine, all at the age of 29. It was strange – she could talk for hours and you would walk away not having understood one thing she had said.
Ollie had quickly moved on to the rich and beautiful Ellie. Everyone was always talking about what a nice ass Ellie had, but how she was rather cold and uncommunicative. You’re a braver man than us, Ollie! With Ellie, there had been lots of LSD and ecstasy and looking at the wavy buildings of Aleppo, Bogota and Calcutta, though in a more laundered slacks and expensive watches, New Jersey country-club type of atmosphere. Ellie, granted, was prone to screaming and drinking a lonesome vodka bottle, but it largely seemed a solid, if somewhat empty, pairing. Then Ollie had asked for marriage and kids – the classic shtick – and Ellie had screamed.
Ollie left her in Samarkand and moved quickly on to Kelli, who had been the long-term girlfriend of Ollie’s good friend Lutz, who worked on the technical staff of a consultant who made attack-dog commercials for politicians in Los Angeles. The 15-year friendship with Lutz went into the toilet and Kelli would squeeze out a little dirt-licker within a year. Ellie returned to the scene after six months, offering to take Ollie up on his offer – after “a lot of thought,” she explained. When he informed her that Kelli was pregnant, Ellie just screamed.(1)
Ollie claimed he now worked 14 to 16 hours a day doing something on computer servers, maintaining a system that juggled thousands of pieces of incoming data on an hourly basis or something. Even when we were out at some bar or strip club, he could be punching buttons on his phone, doing an update or checking the data. And he and Kelli were renovating their kitchen and there had been cost overruns, and they believed the workers were stealing, and the pet rabbit was sick and the neighbors wouldn’t let them cut down some tree so they could install a hot tub, and their oldest son Jamey had kicked a little girl in the face, and even though he didn’t mean to do it there was bad, bad controversy with her parents and the school officials. . . .
Ollie and his crew checked into the hostel down the block. After a few late nights and early mornings of drinking, Ollie was pretty much in the shithouse with Kelli. We took a night off, then met up in the morning to walk Balto in the park, sipping on a half dozen Staropramen and downing a few of Ollie’s Adderall. These pills were new to me. What the hell, I thought – why the hell not. I had already taken the boys to school and Dee had gone on some volunteer mission to help the helpless at the crazy hospital. The results of her effort wouldn’t be known for years – in fact, they just wouldn’t be known. Ah, here’s to the crazies. Ollie and I hurled the tennis ball as far we could, and Balto sprinted across the grass, just about as happy as a dog can get.
We wandered about, enjoying the cool frosties. Ollie pretended to be worried about the Iraqis – the U.S. soldier photos that had come out showing the Iraqi prisoners being sodomized; the hooded Iraqis bending down to worship the American Satan; the Iraqi fellows sucking each other off at gunpoint; the Iraqis being led around with electrodes on their dicks; Iraqi assholes being fisted by big red-haired American Army men; Iraqi fucks being led around on leashes by midget American redneck whores; Iraqis being punched in the chest to death. . . .
“Shit, Ollie,” I said. “So what? Since when did you start giving a damn?”
“Fuck, I don’t know. . . . Probably I really don’t. But one day I woke up and it just felt stupid. Foolish and stupid. It was the thing that finally pissed me off. How could these fucks do it? And take pictures. Our kids will still be dealing with it a long time from now.”
“Will they? Probably not, Ollie. Right, just like we have to deal with the previous shit’s crap now. It’s a con, man – get it through your head. Always has always been. Lies and endless ‘America the Great’ talk over the decades, but Uncle Sam always turning to the cheap stuff when things get the slightest bit of tough. It’s just basic criminality, really. Gangsterism at the highest level.”
“Oh yeah, man. Come on – our whole goddamn system is based on foreign conquest. It needs it to survive. We’re bankrupt, but greedy. Our system cannot survive otherwise. A money grab, an oil grab, a power grab. Drug fields, drug routes, whatever and wherever there’s a few bucks and so-called ‘strategic interest.’ They’ve done it all at least one time. Promote a bad guy, then step in with your superior weapons and steal his stuff when you decide you don’t like him anymore. Make life hell for the darkies and take their money – because the more they’re in hell, the easier it is for us.”
“Of course. It makes a certain kind of sense, don’t it? Kill the poor, bomb the weak. It’s exactly what animals do – strong kills the weak. We are no different. Tiger versus tiger, bull seal against bull seal, man against man. Plus, it’s a nice return on the investment. So American troops die, so they commit atrocities – so what? Who’s gonna stop us? Who they gonna call – Russia? The pope? Amnesty International? Shoot, Ollie, when the Marines invaded Haiti in like 1913 or whatever,(2) they robbed the Haiti national bank of, like, half-a-million smacks. They then gave that money to the private U.S. bank that said Haiti owed them. Talk about strong-arm. That’s a gang. That’s real, man. That happened. That’s what they do. So who you think the soldiers work for? Come on, let’s drink up.”
“I know, but, I mean – ”
“Listen, man, I’m telling you – the U.S. economy at this point depends on wars. Making the weapons and planes and supplying the troops, then rebuilding whatever we’ve destroyed. Getting their hands on the hundreds of billions in government money for the ‘war effort.’ Depends on it. Economic survival and shit. I mean, shit, the U.S. defense budget is like more than $550 billion – that’s more than all the other countries in the world combined. Jesus, we’ve got bases in like, 150 countries – or more. I mean, Jesus, the Pentagon won’t, or can’t, even say where, like, one trillion dollars was spent. One trillion. That’s our money, man. Where you think it went? No, man, hell – military is about the only thing we got going now. It’s a fucking gigantic sector of the economy, in every state. Huge, huge bucks, and the money guys love it. Easy pickings. As war advances, peace is closer – people are suckers for that shtick. And I, for one, do appreciate all the advanced weaponry and big-boom-bang stuff. It’s what we’re good it – it’s what we do.”
“I do, I do. When it comes down to it, you know, I’m glad our team has it. Someone’s got to lead, and lately it’s been our turn. No doubt, we have done it badly and have squandered our chances. But look, let’s be honest – we probably wouldn’t be drinking in Europe in the middle of the morning and looking at naked Euro chicks all night if that big red-white-and-blue fist didn’t get it done for us. Without that, we’d probably still be farming rocks and eating lizard soup in the Dust Bowl, home of our people. Come on, drink up.”
“I know, but, I mean. . . .”
Ollie was pretending to be completely flipped. He was apparently still hoping for meaningful change within the political-economic framework as it existed. You know – a little tweaking and recalibration, with more attention paid to the “moral element” and doing “the right thing,” and a more appropriate and fair redistribution of the wealth and and and. . . . I was frankly much more interested in hearing him have another go at Dr. Arbuthnot, or maybe The Lake Isle of Innisfree.
“Right, for sure, man – you and who’s army? The Kiss Army? The People’s Republic of Berkeley? The Santa Monica Navy? Would that it were so. Won’t happen, Ollie. Never. No worries. If it really can’t continue, it won’t. If it can continue, it will. All we can do is hang on, if we feel like it. If the system’s got to die, it will. Nothing and nobody can do a thing about it. Maybe it’ll be a slow decline into mass chaos and criminality, ethnic warfare, the war of all against all, and some foreign dickheads from somewhere trying to interfere. . . . followed by the death of the nation and a painful re-birth. Or maybe nothing will happen. See? Things will go on. Everyone will have to fuck off and die. America prevails again. I sort of prefer that version.”
“O.K., I guess. But man, shit. . . .”
We walked out of the gate to find Balto chasing after this old poodle bitch. I’d seen this bitch around during previous walks with Balto – sassy old chocolate bitch who had a black face splashed over with white. Balto had never paid much attention to her, but it must have been her season of greeting. Balto skillfully maneuvered until he had cornered her down around the brick wall – or more likely, she allowed herself to be cornered. Shit, we were too far away. We watched helplessly as he positioned her with his forelegs and mounted. He slid in and began thrusting.
“Oh, wow, look at that!”
We ran over, but it was far too late. Balto glanced over at us, tongue hanging out, dropping saliva. The chocolate bitch stood patiently, taking it like a princess. God, what a woman.
I wasn’t sure what to do – tear him off? start yelling? – so we did nothing. It was the first time I had ever seen Balto in this kind of action – for all I knew, it might have been his first time. He was young, around two years, but he had been a stray, we had got him off the street in the village – dirty, skinny and hungry – and we had only had him around a year. Maybe he’d done this trick before, but – well, who knows how dogs work it, what they get up to when no one’s around. They’re into balls and ass – ass and balls and food and water, that’s really all they get up to. Geniuses, smartest guys on the block.
After a minute or two, an older woman walked up, carrying one of the shrimpy Prague rat dogs in her arms. She must’ve heard us talking in English.
“Is the man dog, you belong to?” she said.
“Uh, yes,” I said.
The lady clucked, shook her head with disapproval. She went on to explain something about how the chocolate bitch apparently belonged to “gypsies.” Yes, it was all the gypsies’ fault – even this. Especially this.
“Where they are? It happen always to this dog.”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
The three of us stood there, watching the pups go. Ollie and I each cracked another can of sweet Staro. Then something seemed to go wrong. Balto’s hips stopped thrusting, but he didn’t climb down. He glanced over at us, with what seemed to be a hint of embarrassment. He began pushing with his forelegs on the chocolate bitch’s back. His rear legs made steps as if to exit . . . but he remained welded to her behind.
He looked over at us and whined.
The lady walked over and examined the canines, looking carefully at the space between their bodies. She turned back and smiled.
“He cannot to leave. She is not enough, how to say . . . . enough dry?”
I went up for a look. Yep – Balto’s little pink dick was in. And he couldn’t seem to get it out.
“Right,” I said, “she’s not wet enough.”
“Enough dry, yes,” said the lady. She rocked her head back and laughed loudly. “She is much very old. You know, yes, you know?” She laughed again.
“Yes, I think so. She’s too dry and he can’t move in there or get out. Man, that must hurt! Oh my gosh. What are we supposed to do?”
“Wait until he, uh, calms down?” offered Ollie.
“Wait, yes,” said the lady.
Balto did seem to be in pain. It would be a few more minutes before he relaxed enough to dismount.
“Hello,” said the lady with the rat dog. She turned and walked away.
(1) Ellie would go on to marry and divorce a man from France, an actual Frenchman, according to eyewitness reports. – ED.
(2) 1915? – ED.
published: 19. 5. 2013