He was the kid who looked at the sun too long. He hunted for lighters like sharks hunted for blood. Christ intrigued him for all the wrong reasons. He only ate smoke.
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I am subject to dreams, especially one of a curious type in which I wake on my back, unable to move, my arms pinned to my side, my legs straight. My paralysis is complete, and a thick darkness pervades my bedchamber, a darkness of an almost viscous weight, so that I can feel it pressing upon my face and bearing down against the bedclothes. And there is something else, as well: a sense of obscure doom falls upon me.
There is nothing more absurdly incongruous—ironic perhaps—than the burning fear found in the hearts of all men: the fear of death. Ironic, I say, for it is only those who have known death’s euphoric touch who find their eyes opened to the truer horror of waking life.
The Pernille’s housekeeper shows me into the music room, where they’ve shoved the piano to the wall to make room for the coffin and the table and my seat. You can always tell serious clients. They lower the lights.
It all started when Ms. Salinas told us about her third eye. It was home ec., and we were sitting in front of the sewing machines with table runners that we were going to make our moms or yayas do for us anyway. I was pretty anxious about that project.
So if there’s anyone listening at this god-awful hour, tonight’s topic is the same one as this morning, this afternoon, and earlier this evening . . . in fact, it’s the same topic the whole world’s had for the last thirteen days, if anyone’s been counting: Our Loved Ones; Why Have They Come Back from the Dead and What the Fuck Do They Want?
Clutch has killed somebody recently. This goes without saying. For as long as Clutch can remember, he has always killed somebody “recently.” If not within the last few hours, then certainly within the last few days. He may have gone as long as a couple of weeks without, from time to time, when circumstances conspired against him. But never as long as a month, no, not for living memory.
I’d used duct tape to attach one end of a garden hose to the exhaust pipe, and the other end of the hose ran in through the crack at the top of the passenger-side window, pumping sweet poison into the interior. I took a last swig from the bottle between my knees, the liquor burning its familiar path down my throat. I closed my eyes and waited for a sleep that would be forever untroubled by bad dreams—for the final closing of the unbalanced account of my life—when something tapped against the glass beside my left ear.
Gibbons swigged from his hipflask, driving one-handed as he followed the caravan of carny vehicles barreling along the interstate toward tonight’s show. As the booze burned through him, he bared his teeth, glaring in the rearview at the tarp-shrouded shape of the car hooked to his truck.
Walk continuously around a tree with an owl in it: the owl will keep its eye on you until it has wrenched off its own head. He couldn’t remember where the words had come from, but he knew they were old and the last time he had heard them he could have been little more than five years of age.