“the soul places a tall order”

What to say of this? Started as a letter, 1992, to a former record-store buddy who had fled to Texas to ruin his marriage with a woman he would take naughty pictures with in the days before the Internet. Written in parts while slumped on a futon 2 a.m.-ish in my then-girlfriend’s duplex, her asleep in the next room and her flea-addled boxer snoring on my feet as I pounded Genesee Cream Ales in the little fist-sized bottles. Not long home from another late night of a weeklong gig as a weaponless security guard for a lighted rural crossroads field full of doublewides owned by a local bank that feared a band of drunken yahoos would rise up in the wee dark hours to steal off with the trailers after being gypped out of cash down-payments by a shyster chiropractor who had since evaporated from town. Soon after, I would go to graduate school and marry someone else I would divorce as friends with 11 years later.

Anyway, this remains of all that, reworked over the years into something even less explicable than that original handwritten draft. But I love this foolishness just the same. I love it. | (c) Frank Rabey


The Soul Places a Tall Order

The perimeter is crumbling, and memories of my feet throb like a haphazardly drilled tooth. Inside, the midgets munch dried figs, tossing the stems into piles, fodder for the soulful winter fires. Small men, small fires. And I have pounded on these mythic gates until my hands are great red ribbons, hurling the fruits of my years in decline – a lifetime of stolen Gideon’s Bibles splotched in paper-cut blood, box wine and Tabasco – over intractable walls. But in the end, I am the circus freak, the giant. There is only mild cursing from within, and the occasional fig flatulence; the gates do not open. Dwarf heathens. Pagan cherubim. No doubt they’ll burn the scripture, too. Just wait till God finds out.

On the ground, the menu is dirt, always, forever, dirt. Street boys devour it like candy or dope, grinning mud smiles in the awful cold as a river of gas rumbles unfettered through the city’s metal bowels, fueling chipped-enamel stoves, heating brown water in rust-ringed tubs, raising a pale-blue pilot light to naive dreams of warmth. But a leak has developed, just off the main, a cracked pipe jutting from one side of a defeated tenement crammed with basketball stars, rocket scientists, welfare riot grrrls and dead men. Just yesterday, Stagger Eddie, these deluded souls’ last new Christ, sauntered into the rupture, flick, flick, flicking his butane with that cavalier charmlessness so common to his kind. When the lighter exploded, it’s said you could see it for blocks, like when a sparkler first ignites. It made an audible pop, though word is that Eddie made a bigger one. His frail legacy of fire extends still in a thin blue line across the crumbling street, where neighborhood kids have improvised a game of jump-rope over it, their every footfall further scattering Eddie’s ashy remains, his legend traveling like polluted air. But if the pressure dies down, his conflagrant trail will be sucked back into the pipes, rocketing deep into the city’s guts. Houses for miles will be popping like hot, fat grapes. Pop. Pop, pop. Pop. A real myth-bringer, that.

DSC_0202My own heat has not returned, and if this ten-cent palace blows, good riddance to bad rubbish. The decorator never truly understood my royalty, and I, alas, am now all but gone. I sleep fitfully, wrapped in sheets of tinfoil, roasting like a plump autumn squash. The natives turn me often – who wants a charred king? My dreams, however, arrive only half-baked. And in them, a woman, long and supple of limb, always cooked to perfection. Brilliant ocean-blue eyes where surfer boys drown. Breasts of a comic-book splendor that speaks of freedom in the hearts of men. Legs like oak saplings, except prettier, and not made of wood. A mighty big ass. I think of her as Alice, after my third wife and second-grade science teacher, whose towering verisimilitude confounded city planners and mountain climbers alike. My dream Alice is always starkers, and even at a distance, seems to possess a bounty of hair, though localized in certain specific places (my favorite ones). She approaches from across a barren field in which I, too, stand naked, holding a grapefruit and several shiny ball bearings. Alice blows an inflamed kiss my way, and all my available blood rushes boldly to my long-crownless jewels. I grow dizzy, suddenly embarrassed, damp hands dropping the swollen fruit in a weak attempt to conceal my too-frequently private parts. But the abrupt and awkward movement confuses my body, and my boiling blood continues due south, raging past an expectant groin and rapidly engorging some typically unexcited feet. Alice frowns at my inflated puppies, proceeding to the next available naked man some yards away (this is my dream; how did he get there?). He, too, is covering his groin, a ripe citrus at his feet, his dogs mere dachshunds to my howling Saint Bernards. But his nose is a whopper, fat as our fallen fruit. Alice is noticeably charmed, fondling his snot pipe with unspeakable zest. I pray for a sneeze; instead, Pornochio blats his monstrous honker like some spit-clogged trumpet, and she screams with glee, infuriating me. Half-cocked, I hurl my ball bearings at the shameless duo, rust streaking newly empty hands, unwieldy feet inadvertently landing atop the large citrus beside me, popping it like half its namesake. It is always then that I awake, alone, the crinkled sheets damp and reeking of compost. There is an oilcan by the bed. I have a wicked tan.

I grow weaker by the day, unwarmed by the scattered fires my accountants maintain in metal drums all around me, as they try in vain to secure my place in history. The doctors say that I have something akin to scurvy, but I tell them this is preposterous, that I am, in fact, monogamous, though sometimes with a partner. They wink at me and laugh, patting my frail hands, their rubbery gloves on. “You are an idiot,” they assure me. “Your heart is diseased, and your feet should be removed. There is little risk you’ll live.” They depart, heads grazing high ceilings, smiles stretched tight as timing belts, one after another after another, stapling outrageous bills to my naked, wounded soles – impertinent windbags blowing chance plumes of flame as they maneuver buckets of fire, like ass-ended dragons in retreat. It reeks in here, but I do not complain, for it reminds me at times of the aurora borealis, God’s glorious, mysterious light. I request a hacksaw and a bottle of gin.

At dusk, the natives park their Volvos along streets of gold, pointing delicate fingers to the heavens, the bright new smudge of comet sticking like a briar to the bottom of the sky – a portent. What rotten luck! Already, they whisper me into the past. Already, they wear my Sunday clothes, woo my fat old cat, Coolio, and leave my bicycle out in the rain; I hear the creeping rust as they peddle past my window. I know they have been measuring me in my sleep again, stockpiling formaldehyde and wood, comparing the price of caterers. My doctors now churlishly request cash in toto; my accountants immediately burn the ledgerbooks. But even without my feet, I fear I am still too tall. And the merciless gates of heaven stand ever taller.

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