Tragic Janet & The Manic Muse

by Fielding Goodfellow

Janet Bolan always seemed to be one hallucination away from a padded room, but somewhere in the dark, melancholia that danced around her head like Fred and Ginger lived her muse. Or so she said.  At the time I had no idea what the hell she was talking about but it didn’t really matter, I mean I was pretty fucked up back then. She said that she was a poet, carving images of  human suffering out of the words and phrases she found hiding in her thoughts. She would sit cross legged on a table in the common room, dressed in cut off jeans and a sleeveless tee shirt, and seduce me with a reading, but all I was thinking about was how to get her clothes off. She had this way about her, a serene confidence that seemed to make her ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude tolerable. And while she may have been a little out there, I’m not so sure that it was such a bad place to be, I mean there was a lot of crazy shit going on right here back then.

Woodstock had come and gone and the promise of a better world seemed to have dissipated like the cloud of smoke that was left over upstate New York that weekend.  It was a very confusing time, filled with anti communist rhetoric and the banning of books and music that questioned the establishment. After putting a man on the moon and tripping across the Isle of Wight, we were forced into hiding in campus coffee houses in order to continue our journey across space and time. Janet joined the Feminists for Freedom and published her politically charged ‘I Didn’t Burn My Bra Just To Show You My Tits’, which catapulted her into pseudo celebrity status. The truth is, we were so messed up back then feeding our heads with peyote and psilocybin, that we hardly even noticed when the mania set in. She said it wasn’t her, I mean she claimed it was her muse, but whatever it was, Janet said that she could see the truth like that.

The fact was that she just couldn’t be satisfied with just the truth. She was always looking for something better than that, and I don’t think that she was ever able to find it. It didn’t really matter though, I mean the truth is always completely subjective. Her truth though was born out of the same anxiety and fear that drove her to write about life rather than experience it. She had no choice really, I mean she was not only afraid to die, but she was also too scared to live. It was tragic really, and she probably should have been in some kind of therapy or something, but when her muse went manic, Janet simply disappeared. She spent days in  hallucinogenic seclusion, giving life to her truth, usually reappearing three or four days later with some brilliantly executed, though completely misguided slice of humanity that she hoped would rival Ginsburg and Ferlinghetti,

Sometime in the early 1980s, after a particularly lengthy exodus from the here and now, Janet simply ran out of things to say. She said that her muse had simply packed up and moved out, leaving her dressed in cut off jeans and a sleeveless tee shirt, sitting cross legged on a bed on the third floor of Our Mother Of The Blessed Emptiness Center For The Recently Disillusioned. I was still thinking about how to get her clothes off when I visited her. but she was different,  I mean she was completely lost in whatever had decided to hover over her head. Without her muse, she seemed empty. There was nothing left really, I mean the truth is only the truth for so long. We keep changing and every now and again we shed what no longer keeps us balanced and grounded. The truth is like that though, I mean sometimes it mutates and just doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Janet knew that and I suppose that’s why she couldn’t find anything else to write about, I mean without the truth there’s really nothing left. I didn’t see her much after that, but a few years ago Tate ran into her at a downtown Taco Bell where she claimed to be staving off another alien invasion. As crazy as it sounded though, I knew it was true.

Finding Farberman

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

There are some things that happen when you’re a kid and you just know that you’re never going to forget about them. Like jumping in the bushes with Maddie Grant to smoke a cigarette or cop a feel and then, if you were lucky enough to get a decent lead off of second base, to slide headfirst, safely into third. The thing about memories though is that you can’t really depend on them, I mean they’re just not trustworthy. I’m pretty sure though, that this is exactly how it happened.

Tate had been drinking at The Silver Dollar one night and found himself waking up to the sound of knocking on his door with one hell of a hangover, face down on his living room couch. He couldn’t remember how he got there, but there were government agents asking him all kinds of questions about Farberman. Tate knew something wasn’t right. Farberman had been recruited by some secret government research facility right after graduation. We were sure that he would wind up doing something like that, I mean he held advanced degrees in physics and biology, despite spending most of his junior year with a theatre major named Chloe. She was French, and had the most incredible smoky, gray eyes any of us had ever seen. She smoked Gitanes, drank strong, black coffee and had dreams of being the next Sarah Bernhardt or Claudette Colbert. She was wonderfully Parisian. Farberman was on her like a moth to a flame, often spending nights at her place, drinking absinthe and engaging in bouts of French sex which, while under the influence of the hallucinogen he described as an orgasm having an orgasm. He swore that in those throes of passion he had actually heard the voice of God. Tate and I, on the other hand spent most of our university years majoring in drugs and young women yet still managed to walk off of the campus with degrees in assorted liberal arts. Anyway, when the government agents said that Farberman had been missing for months, Tate was sure that he was up to something. If anybody knew what that was, it would be Chloe.

 

Chloe had done reasonably well in her career. She was a standout as Janet Weiss in a local production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and had just been cast as The Acid Queen in Tommy. Tate and I caught up with her after rehearsals at the Elgin Theatre. She still looked the same, I mean she was older and everything, but those eyes hadn’t changed one bit. She said that Farberman had been in touch with her recently, and had told her that there would be people after him. He didn’t say much more, but he did leave her an envelope that she was to keep hidden until she was to deliver it to a warehouse in the Portlands. All of the details were in the envelope. “Is he okay?” Tate asked.

“I suppose so” Chloe said, “but he looked tired and scared. You know he was never very strong.” She was right, I mean even as a kid Farberman was an anxious and nervous guy. We used to go down to The Rivoli to try our luck with the Fine Arts majors who despite being in the midst of discovering their inner bisexuality, always seemed to be willing to drop to their knees and take one for the team, if you could play anything by Peter Frampton. Farberman found them too aggressive and wanted nothing to do with it, leaving Tate and I to finish the set with a rousing rendition of ‘Shine On’.

Tate’s paranoia began to set in and he was convinced that he was being followed by agents and double agents, all hoping that he would led them straight to Farberman. Everywhere he went he saw espionage and subterfuge lurking in the back alleys and shadows. I suppose he could have been right, I mean he was carrying the envelope we managed to seduce from Chloe under his jacket, but Tate could usually find conspiracy in everything. By the time we got back to his place, he was close to hyperventilating. “Make sure the door’s locked.” he said as he tore open the envelope. Inside we found pages and pages of scientific formulas and mathematical equations that neither one of us understood. There were sketches and photographs of old paintings, and the instructions of when and where Farberman wanted the envelope delivered.

“He’s out of his fucking mind.” I said. “He can’t really think we’d go all the way down to The Portlands just to try to save his sorry ass.”

“No” Tate said, “But I think he thought Chloe would.”

I’m sure she would have. Chloe was like that. Life was funny though. I mean the good stuff like drug induced hallucinations, The Beatles, and sex always seemed to end far too quickly, while the stuff we face with dread, like dental appointments, meet the teacher nights, or attending a second cousin’s wedding, just seem to go on forever. Farberman’s relationship with Chloe was a lot like that, I mean in the two years they were together nothing really changed. Absolutely no progress was made, but Farberman never cared much for progress. He believed that it was nothing more than the advancement of the bank accounts of those who already have so much, at the expense of the bank accounts of those who have absolutely nothing. It sounded very Trotsky like, but it was all just a lot of Bolshevik bullshit.

It was raining when we got to The Portlands, and the old, abandoned warehouse that once stood proudly beside the concrete silos filled with grain to be used by the Goderham and Worts Distillery, looked eerily desolate. We walked towards it, with Tate holding the envelope inside his jacket. He thought that we might have been followed, and insisted that we stood behind a sign that once read ‘The Famous Portlands’, and now, through years of neglect and the elements, proudly declared ‘T   AM     PO   N S’. We both thought it was pretty damn funny, and when he was convinced that we were alone out there, we made our way into the building, walking across the floor and up the stairs to where the executive offices used to be. We could see a light towards the back of the floor and walked towards it, until Farberman jumped out in front of us. “What the hell are you trying to do?” Tate asked him, grabbing him by the shirt. “You scared the shit out of us. I mean it Farberman, you’re such a asshole. ”

“I was expecting Chloe.” Farberman said. “What are you doing here?”

“Trying to help you.” Tate said.

“Did you bring the envelope?” Farberman asked.

“We did.” I said.

“Good.”  Farberman said. “You can relax, now. No one can find us here. The entire building is pretty much invisible. Its completely off the grid” He took the envelope from Tate and starting walking into the brightly lit room. “Come along.” he said. “I want you to see this. No one else must ever know what you see here tonight. Do you understand?”

“Sure.” Tate replied. “Its a big secret.” Inside the room we had to shield our eyes, I mean the light was almost blinding. There were massive screens, all lined up in a row, and equipment we had never seen before that seemed to be generating enormous amounts of energy that was being stored in a series of massive, brightly lit tubes. The room was filled with the sounds of machinery running, with the whirs and groans echoing like a constant buzz in our ears. On one of the tables monitor sat the Superman action figure that Farberman had used as a good luck charm since fourth grade. Hanging on one of the walls was a massive painting that I knew I had seen before, but just couldn’t remember what it was. It was definitely French Impressionist. “What the hell is all of this.” I asked, I mean it was about time someone asked.

Farberman sat down and told the story of how he had discovered, in theory, a process of transporting three dimensional objects into a two dimensional existence. “We had made it possible to go in, and were working on getting people back.” he explained. “But the government was never really interested in bringing anyone back. They had planned on using it as a way to remove insurgents, criminals, and other undesirables, basically anyone who spoke out against the government, permanently. They saw it as a way to silence anti government rhetoric, and it smelled like Fascism. I knew I could never let the government get their hands on it. So, I took the plans, destroyed the working model, and have spent the last little while rebuilding it here.”  The plan now was for Farberman to disappear into the painting that hung on the wall with all of his notes and reproduce his work with the hope of making it possible to travel back and forth through dimensions. He was convinced that there was life within that painting. It was hard to believe really, I mean I would have bet that he was either high or he had lost his mind.

“When I leave here” Farberman said, “I want you to take the big painting and get out of here. You have about fifteen minutes to get as far away as you can. I’ve set explosive charges all around the building. It will go up like giant Roman Candle. There will be nothing left.”

Farberman moved to the painting and stood facing it as an intense white light emanating from one of the machines shot out across the room, and seemed to go right through him. There was a flash and a whole lot of smoke, and when it cleared Farberman was gone, just like that. The machines began to power down, and although I couldn’t be sure, I swear I saw Farberman waving at us from inside that painting.

Tate and I carried that damn painting across the field that led from the warehouse in relative silence. It had to have weighed about fifty pounds. I suppose neither one of us knew what to say about what we had just seen. “Do you really think he sent himself into the painting?” Tate asked.

” I hope so.” I said. “If not, he’s out of his fucking mind. Joseph Conrad said that “only in man’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life. And if nothing else, Farberman’s got one hell of an imagination.”

“I hope so.” Tate said. “I think I might like to live in a world safely tucked inside a painting.”

“I’d prefer a book. Something like Kilgore Trout’s ‘Venus On The Half Shell’ would suit me.”

We had made it clear across the field and were just about to leave The Portlands when we heard the explosion. It was like thunder from Mt. Olympus. By the time we turned around all that was left were pieces of brick, wood and machinery scattered in heaps of rubble on the ground that was once home to an old, abandoned warehouse. It all seemed so very Hollywood, I mean it was epic. It couldn’t have had a better ending. Farberman would have stroked out if he had been around to see it, I mean he was also so sure that life  was nothing more than a series of random events strung together through time and space. There wasn’t a poetic bone in his body. I was pretty sure that life was a blank page, or an empty canvas, and it was up to us to write or paint whatever the hell we wanted. It all lives in our minds really, a creative spark that takes on a life of its own. Its creativity that makes a life, not logic and reason. And out there at The Portlands, life was certainly imitating art.

News always seems to travel fast, I mean I went to see Chloe the following day and she already knew. She knew everything. There was even an article in the paper about the explosion, claiming that a natural gas leak had obliterated the old, abandoned warehouse at The Portlands and had taken the life of a renown, local physicist. I read it several times, but I couldn’t tell for sure if Farberman had arranged for the story to be published himself. I wouldn’t put it past him. It really didn’t matter though, I mean the government agents wouldn’t be bothering any of us again. We were all in the clear. Chloe had known all along what he was up to, but she had promised him that she wouldn’t say a word to anybody. She was good that way, I mean she never told him that she and I had tripped the light orgasmic sometime in our sophomore year. As for Farberman, I suppose he got what he wanted, a life inside a nineteenth century painting without the fear of having his invention fall into fascist hands. I was certain that he’d be back, I mean he was a pretty smart guy and all, and besides, Tate had pocketed the good luck Superman action figure just before Farberman disappeared. I’m sure he’s lost without it, but I’m also sure that Tate meant no harm, I mean he only took it to make sure Farberman came back.

 

 

The Kid Is Alright

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

Its been getting a little scary around here, I mean the middle aged guy who did the deliveries for the pharmacy was brutally attacked right there in front of the grocery store on Wellesley Street. There were cars on the road and people on the sidewalk, but nobody stopped to help.  My daughter was taking it pretty hard, I mean I think the entire neighborhood was beginning to feel quite vulnerable.

“I can’t believe you made us move down here.” she said.  You’re supposed to protect us from things like this. If you don’t care about us, why did you even have kids anyway?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.” My wife said. “But lately, I’m not so sure.” I sat quietly, not wanting to get involved in what I was sure would very soon turn into a nightmare I may never wake from.

“Nothing to add?” my daughter asked, turning to me.

“I wasn’t really thinking about kids.” I said. “I was just enjoying all of the sex that went into trying to get your mother pregnant.” My daughter made a noise that I don’t think I’d ever heard before, and went into her room, slamming the door.

“Nice one.” My wife said. “Now you’ve gone and pissed her off.”

“She’ll be fine. She really needs to lighten up and relax, though.” She’d always been that way. She was histrionic and high strung as a kid, I mean I don’t think she stopped screaming until she was five or six, and even then she was a handful. We’d go shopping, she couldn’t have been more than two or so, and as we loaded everything into the van, we’d find all kinds of candy and shit she stashed in the sides of her stroller. My wife was sure that we were raising a thief. I thought that it was just a phase that she would grow out of and that she would settle down. Well, she’s twenty five now, and we’re still waiting.

We went to a family camp one summer when she was about four, although I never really wanted to make the trip. I was pretty sure that all of the planning and preparation wouldn’t really make a difference, I mean nothing good had ever come from putting the five kids in a minivan and hitting the open road. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked my wife.

“One hundred percent.” she said. “It’ll be fun.” My wife was right about a lot of things, but spending two and half hours in the van with the kids was almost never fun. But we headed out on what the kids would later refer to as the best fucking family road trip ever.

“When will we be there?” my daughter asked.

“Ah, hell.” I said. “We’ve barely pulled out of the driveway.”

“I think we should get some Timbits or something.” my wife advised. “That usually keeps her quiet for a while. The quiet didn’t last very long at all. Within minutes the Timbits were gone, and the screaming began again. It was incessant.

“Any other ideas?” I asked, “Or do we just head home?” By now the boys were shouting at her to shut up, but that only made her scream louder.

“Try putting on some music.” my wife said. “I think she likes The Spice Girls. There’s a CD in here, somewhere.”

“Oh, fuck no.” I said.

“Its that, or the screaming.” she said. “You decide?” The CD went in and my daughter immediately stopped screaming. The van filled with the rhymes and rhythms of the inane lyric of ‘Wannabe’. We were all relieved when it ended, but apparently that was the only Spice Girl song she liked. We spent what seemed like forever trapped in the living hell of ‘Wannabe’. I found myself praying,  although it was more like begging, for the aliens to appear and abduct me. I was sure that their probing would hurt significantly less than the tripe that was beginning to make my ears bleed. As luck would have it, the aliens never came but the screaming stopped, only to be replaced with my daughter’s off key vocals that included the brilliantly insightful ‘I really, really, really wanna zigazig ah’,

“I think I’d like to stop and take up drinking.” I said to my wife.

“Not now.” She said. “You can’t drink and drive.”

“Well, I can’t drive and ‘slam my body down and wind it all around’. Isn’t there anything else she’ll listen to?”

“We’ve got Sharon, Lois and Bram if you’d like.” It was then that I realized that if indeed there is a hell, I had found mine.

“Let’s give it a shot.” I said. “It can’t be much worse.” I was wrong, I mean what the hell is a skinamarink anyway?  I pulled off of the highway and into the parking lot of one of those tourist stops that lined the four hundred series of highways. I turned off the van, and sat on a curb stone in front of the golden arches.

“It will be okay.” My wife said, sitting down beside me. “We’re almost there.”

“I know.” I said. “But then there’s the trip back.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“That’s too bad.” I said, as we listened to the kids fighting in the van. “I suppose I should go get them some fries and nuggets or something. That might get us twenty minutes of quiet.”

“You might as well.” she said. “And you can get me a cheese burger and fries.”

The week at the camp went by far too fast. The kids had a great time, and I suppose that was really all that mattered, I mean we did this for them. Even the little screamer was so busy particpating in all of the activities, particularly the ones held in the water, that I didn’t hear a single scream. The night before we were to leave they held a parents’ night off camp property. The counselors were left to tend to the kids, while the parents headed off to the excitement that was downtown Collingwood. We went for dinner and sat with a few people my wife had befriended. Mary Ann Perkins, a diminutive blonde from Mount Forest was sitting directly across from me and was plastered before dinner even arrived. She regaled me with her sordid tale of how she had raised her daughter as a single parent given that she had no idea who the father was. “Just so we’re clear” I said to my wife, “I have never been to Mount Forest, and I’m pretty sure I’d rather be listening to the kids yell and scream than this drunken idiot’s fucked up life story.”

I didn’t sleep at all that night, wondering what kind of torture the trip back was going to bring.  We packed up the van early the next morning, and headed out before most of the others were even awake. It didn’t take long before I heard her voice. “I won this CD at camp.” she said as she passed it forward to my wife. “Can we listen to it?”

“Sure, honey.” My wife said, and in it went. After the first two tracks, I knew the drive home was going to be as much of a nightmare as the trip up to the camp, I mean I was almost tempted to put The Spice Girls back in, but it was during the third song that I lost the hearing in my right ear.

“What the hell is this?” I asked my wife. “Did she just say ‘life in plastic, its fantastic?”

“I think so.” she said. I was not prepared to endure this for the entire drive home, I mean I just couldn’t. After ten or twenty listens to Barbie Girl I stopped at one of those tourist stops that lined the four hundred series of highways. I sat in silence under the golden arches, trying desperately to get that shit out of my head. But it was still there, long after the music stopped playing. “Are you okay?” my wife asked.

“I think so.” I said. “But I can tell you that I’m way too old to party with Barbie. I’ll go get chicken nuggets and fries for the kids, and I suppose you want a cheeseburger and fries.”

“Make it a Big Mac.” she said. “And see if they have any of those orange milk shakes.”

And twenty years or so after that week on the shores of Georgian Bay, my daughter still tries to manipulate and cajole us with her big mouth and idiotic sense of entitlement. I suppose its our fault really, I mean we should never have given in, but my wife just wouldn’t even consider any of the alternatives. She’s a good kid really, but she’s a bit of an ass. My wife says she gets that from me, which I suppose is true. Anyway, the hoodlums involved in the beating of the delivery guy are still roaming around out there. He was too afraid to go to the police, and he quit his delivery job at the pharmacy. The neighborhood is as safe as any really, I mean shit happens and you just can’t live your life hiding somewhere hoping to avoid it. Thankfully my daughter moved out and is living in the suburbs with her boyfriend, who’s a  nice enough guy, but I’m not sure he has any idea what he’s in for. It doesn’t really matter to me though, I mean I have given him the blessing and the problem, and I have a very strict return policy. Its now up to him to decide if he needs to pull off the highway or spend the time trying to slam his body down and wind it all around.

 

The Redding Mile

by Fielding Goodfellow

Oliver Redding wasn’t much of a businessman, but he had inherited the family business when the old man died, and the stress was killing him. I suppose that’s why a portal must have opened up and dropped him into the pink, plastic Muskoka chair beside me as I wiled away the blistering hot afternoon at Sugar Beach. I really have no other explanation as to where he came from, I mean one minute the chair was empty and the next, well there he was. He seemed a little odd, but certainly no worse for free falling a mile or so through the universe. He couldn’t stop talking about the ducks though, I mean he resented that they could both fly and swim, while he could do neither. He thought it would be nice to be able to do one or the other.

One morning Oliver discovered that while he had been climbing the ladder to the top quite matter of factly, it had become harder and harder to breathe, I mean the air was unbearably heavy with the stench of corruption and deceit. He was tired of pretending that he enjoyed the view that always seemed to trigger his vertigo, and he wondered what it was going to take for him to truly feel happy. So, he simply let go and found himself on Sugar Beach. “Well, that’s odd.” he said. I suppose it must have seemed that way to him, but I’d seen it before. It wasn’t so long ago that I was the one drifting through the cosmos, sifting through what had been and what was yet to come, in search of something, although I really didn’t know what the hell I was looking for. I found myself in the strangest of places, so far out there that I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it back. I swear that if I didn’t jump through the haze of sound and color when I did, I’d still be floating around out there with my head up my ass. And in all that time that I was free falling I never, not once felt any real happiness.

“Don’t worry about it.” I said. “It happens all the time.”

“Really?” Oliver Redding asked. It actually didn’t happen all of the time, I mean it was a pretty rare occurrence, but it did happen more often that you’d expect. All of that kind of searching pretty much ends the same way, I mean there’s the desperate plunge of about a mile or so and then well, there you are at Sugar Beach. If you sit there long enough, I’m pretty sure that you’d get to see it.

“More than you know.” I said. “And it always ends the same.”

“It’s not that I haven’t tried” Oliver said, “I keep looking, but I just can’t seem to find anything that makes me feel happy.”

“I think that’s the trouble.” I said  “Its not out there.  But I’m probably not the best person to ask. I’m no expert and I’m not sure I know anything about being happy, I mean I’m a writer, and my entire life is really nothing more than the fictionalized accounts of the movies that keep screening in my head. Some of my characters though, seem pretty fucking happy.”

“What makes them so happy?” he asked.

“Usually drugs or alcohol.” I said. “But sometimes they get the gift of knowing themselves, and when they live their lives true to who they are, happiness just seems knock on their door rather loudly and completely  unannounced.”

Oliver seemed overjoyed at the prospect of finally getting his hands on what he had so desperately wanted. It was a shame to have to knock him on his ass, but its never easy really, I mean the hardest thing to do is to peel back the layers of who you’ve become and stand face to face with who you really are. Most of us wander around our entire lives with our brains and bellies stuffed with all of the shit we carry around forever, assuming that we’re happy until we find ourselves leaving a psychiatrist’s office with a prescription for Prozac or Xanax in our hands. I suppose that’s what makes it so damn valuable, I mean being happy is really not as easy as it seems. Sometimes though, if the gods have had a good afternoon on the back nine at The Mother of Our Holy Emptiness Golf and Magic Club, anything is possible.

“So, I just sit and wait for it to come?” he asked.

“Well there’s a bit more to it than that.” I said. “Forget about what you know. You’ve got to empty your mind. Go to the park and watch the men feed the squirrels, or head to the beach and listen to the waves brush up against the shore as they roll over your feet. Become part of the universe, and once you’ve done that it will come. Don’t wait for it though, I mean it never comes when you’re expecting it. You’ll figure it out when you get back.”

“I’m not sure that I want to go back.”

“I don’t think you have a choice.” I said. “No one else seemed to.” I guess I should have seen that coming. He was pretty comfortable in that pink, Muskoka chair on Sugar Beach, I mean there was really nothing going on. It was just talk, about anything, but mostly it was just talk about nothing at all.

By the time Oliver Redding had to go, I think he understood. I hope so, I mean he wasn’t a bad guy, he was just lost and confused. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the trip back along that mile of space and time was far more difficult than the trip here. The way I see it, its pretty tough to go back to what you were, once you know who you are.

A Squirrel In Every Thought

by Fielding Goodfellow

I don’t know what the hell we were on, but Farberman completely lost his shit. He was stuck in the endless loop of one fucking weird hallucination that just wouldn’t let him out. He was seeing squirrels all over the place, but not the kind you find the old men feeding in the park. They were Secret Agent Squirrels, working undercover to silence our voices, and if that failed, to send us to swim with the fishes. He was dead serious. “Squirrels are harmless.” Ramona said. “They’re probably just looking for nuts and stuff.”

“That’s easy for you to say.” Farberman said. “You don’t have any nuts and stuff.”

“Well, according to Mindy” Ramona said, “neither do you.”  Sometimes Farberman thought that Ramona was pretty funny, but this time he didn’t think so, I mean he had been carrying around a hard on for Mindy Arnett since sixth grade and everyone knew about it. I think he managed to kiss her once or twice, and he might have even got to feel a tit over her sweater or something, I’m not sure, but that was about it. It was a sore spot for him, I mean he would have given his left nut just to see her naked, but now the poor bastard was drowning in his own mind.

It was another time and another place, but my memory of it has been driving around in my head for what seems like forever, although I really can’t be sure that it actually happened. I don’t suppose that matters much though, I mean its as real as any other memory, and most of them don’t make any real difference in the general scheme of things anyway. In my mind though, there should have been stories told and songs sung about it, I mean at the time we thought it was legendary.  We marched for social justice, and we protested for peace. We banded together on the left, raising our voices together in songs that echoed around the world. We were called subversives and anarchists, but we really  weren’t either. The Administration however was determined to stop us. We were sure that they were resorting to subterfuge, I mean the word was out that there were spies among us.

We believed that we could change the world, and I suppose for a time we did, but somewhere along that long and winding road some lost their bearings and wound up neck deep in the quagmire on the right, dangling over the precipice of their own design, with their mouths sewn shut and their beliefs relegated to heresy. They could have seen see it if they looked close enough, I mean you could usually find it hiding behind God. Most of us still believed in the cause, but if history had taught us anything, we would have known that free speech is never really free. It always seems to come with a price, and the listeners are the ones that usually have to pay. Most of the time though the price is found to be far too steep. Campus Police began rounding up the most vocal protesters. Some were arrested, and others were expelled from the school. It was nothing more than a witch hunt, and we were powerless to stop it. We didn’t like it much, I mean we just didn’t care for the superior attitude the authorities flaunted so deliberately.

I guess Farberman could have been right, not about the squirrels, I mean that was just fucking nuts, but I suppose it was possible that we had been set up to swim with the fishes, in the figurative sense. While he barricaded himself in the bathroom, the police arrived and took several of us in for questioning based on nothing more than our involvement in peaceful demonstration. We were released sometime the following day, more determined than ever to protest the violations to our basic human rights. By then Farberman had returned to Earth, relatively unaware and unscathed by his ordeal, but determined to leave our little band of anti-establishment dreamers. I suppose it was all just too much for him, I mean sometimes we can find ourselves moving as fast as we can in circles, desperately trying to hang on to what we’ve been convinced is important, only to find out that its all just a bunch of worthless shit. It seems to me that sometimes it makes a hell of a lot more sense to just leave it all behind, and do the things that truly make us happy.

The Voices In Bobby Litman’s Head

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

Bobby Litman had graduated at the top of his class at the University of Toronto Dental School in 1980 or so. and was thought to be one hell of a dentist. I couldn’t say, I mean he wasn’t my dentist, primarily because I always thought he was an ass. He had spent the last decade jumping from one therapist to the next with absolutely nothing to show for it. It had got to the point where he would sit there for the fifty minutes without saying a thing. Not one solitary word. It was just another brutal fifty minutes of the never ending torment that had been running through his mind like a Jay Ward cartoon for as long as he could remember. Even the voices in his head seemed to have had enough, I mean they were quarrelsome and difficult to deal with at the best of times, but lately all they seemed to do was scream at each other. He knew that it was time for a change and to make amends for some of the things he had done, but after all of those years of the mind numbing torture he was pretty sure that it couldn’t get any worse if he just took matters into my own hands, even though he believed that handling it himself was one of the things for which he needed to be forgiven. In any event, he was certain that he had to do something different.

“Alright.” he told the voices one evening, “everybody out, and grab yourselves a seat over there.” He could hear them groan with contempt as they took their places on the sofa, They had always been melodramatic, but it never occurred to him, not for a moment that those voices in his head were cartoon characters. And yet there he was, looking into the vacuous eyes of the cast from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

“Well, this is weird.” he thought.

“Really?” the squirrel asked. “Who the hell did you think was in there?” To be honest, Litman had never really thought about it before. He didn’t think it really mattered, I mean up till then his life had pretty much seemed like a free fall through Frostbite Falls, anyway. Early one spring morning, after a few cursory goodbyes, he set off on his quest to find whatever it was he had been searching for, certain that the toons in his head would probably not make it back.

“Is this going to take long?” the moose in the Wossamotta U football jersey asked. “There’s a big game coming up.”

Litman had spent much of his life living in fear. It had become so much a part of him that he often found himself embracing it, even though it was suffocating him. He had no idea when it started, but he had been spending so much energy in dealing with his fear of dying, that he simply didn’t have the strength to live his life. At best he merely went through the motions. It was no surprise to any of us that, with all of the failed relationships brought on by betrayal and deception, the only ones still speaking to him were the voices in his head. He headed north, and emulating Tom Thompson, tried to seclude himself in the forests and lakes of Algonquin Park, hopefully without meeting the same demise.

He checked into a cabin at the Killarney Lodge on the shores of Lake of Two Rivers. He spent his time sitting on the private dock, contemplating the demise of the toons. He was filled with mixed emotions about it, I mean while he wanted them gone, he did seem to have some strange attachment to them, particularly the little Pottsylvanian spy. He seemed so hapless and hopeless, and I guess Litman could relate to it all. He was sure that he would miss the two little guy. The truth was however, that he didn’t really think he could do harm to any of them.

There was a young woman who came to make up the cabin every morning. She was reasonably attractive, and they had become friendly, making small talk whenever they saw each other. Litman wanted her the way the Mountie wanted Nell Fenwick, and the way Nell Fenwick wanted his horse. His mind filled with various scenarios that ended with him getting her into his bed. He would fantasize about the things he wanted to do to her as he reached down to play with himself. “Ah, hell.” the squirrel said. “Hold on tight everyone, he’s at it again.”

“Don’t worry about it.” the little dog with the glasses said. “If we look at the history, this shouldn’t take very long at all.”

The young woman who made up the cabin everyday arrived early in the morning to find Litman in bed with his hand wrapped tightly around his still erect dick and half his head missing. There was blood splattered everywhere. It was obvious that he was dead. The local police were contacted, and the ensuing investigation and Coroner’s report revealed that he had died of Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis. Basically, his brain exploded as a result of the circuits becoming overloaded by his body’s own electricity. It was the weirdest thing any of us had ever heard, but we knew that. Bobby Lipman had been murdered by the voices in his head and not surprisingly, the toons were nowhere to be heard.

About a week or so after Lipman’s death strange sounds were heard in the forest and along the shoreline in front of the cabin that he had rented. The young woman who made up the rooms reported that she had often heard voices near the cabin and what sounded like a football game being played nearby. Shortly after the funeral, the voices that had once lived in Bobby Lipman’s head completely disappeared. The moose in the Wossamotta University football jersey went on to become a star college quarterback and after fading from the public eye, returned years later with a series of educational videos as Mr. Know It All. The squirrel, a wonderful wide receiver in his own right, wound up hosting a syndicated television show when it was discovered that he could in fact fly. The little dog with the glasses, although wanted in several countries, continued to travel through time and space in his ‘WABAC Machine’ with a young boy named Sherman. As for the little Pottsylvanian spy, he was sent back to Pottsylvania after losing the big game to Wossamotta U., where he spent the remainder of his life trapped in a loveless relationship with the nagging and frigid Natasha Fatale. As for Bobby Litman, he was buried in the family plot back in the city, and I suppose that he had, at last, found the peace he was always searching for.

 

The Man In The Shark Skin Suit

 

Nora Kesler had lived on the street for as long as I could remember, but ever since her husband took off with their Spanish cleaning woman and moved to Ibiza, she pretty much kept to herself. People talked about her a lot, I mean they thought that she was some kind of witch or something. She was definitely odd, but it was in a kind of Sylvia Plath meets Wednesday Addams way. She wasn’t evil or anything, she was just kind of lonely and morose. Even so, almost everyone had a story or two to tell about her. Growing up I heard that she was possessed by demons, or that she had been mutated by the electric radiation emanating from the hydro towers that skirted the edge of her property. There was even talk that she been cursed by the spirits laid to rest in the ancient, sacred burial site that sat directly beneath her house.  Nobody really knew for sure, but they were certain that something weird was going on at the Kesler house.

It was brutally cold that winter, the kind of Canadian cold that could freeze the world for a moment so that everything looked like one of those Christmas postcards. There was an Arctic wind that blew so hard you could actually hear it moan, and I’m sure that’s when Farberman pissed himself. He denied it, but Tate and I both knew that he did. We would hang out on the ice at Rockford Park most of the time, and discovered that if we stood in just the right spot we could see directly into Nora Kesler’s bedroom window. We would huddle together as close as possible without getting all Oscar Wilde or anything, and freeze our nuts off just to catch a glimpse of her tits as she took off her shirt and bra. It was so worth it, I mean we were only thirteen and it was such a big fucking deal. There were times when I was sure that she knew we were watching her, but she never turned away or covered up. I used to clear her driveway when it snowed, I mean I thought it was the least I could do considering what she had been doing for me. Sometimes she would invite me in for a hot chocolate before I headed home, and I would sit at her kitchen table listening to her talk about feeling lonely and everything, while I silently prayed that she would show me her tits again. I suppose that she just needed someone to talk to but none of the adults in the neighborhood would give her the time of day. She was alright though, I mean despite what everyone said about her, she was okay.

It snowed like crazy the day before Christmas Eve. The roads were nearly impassable, with drifts so high that several neighborhood dogs had become lost in their own backyards until the spring thaw despite the extensive search parties that had been organized to look for them. I headed over to the Kesler house to try to clear some of the snow, spending hours out there moving snow across the asphalt that I knew was buried somewhere down there until Mrs. Kesler called me inside to warm up. I sat at the table, cradling the cup of hot chocolate in my hands, as Mrs. Kesler flitted about her kitchen wearing only a robe. I began praying again, asking that the damn thing would just pop open as I watched her every move, hoping to at least catch a glimpse of this or that. I had never really put much stock in divine providence, but an eerie sense of calm seemed to settle around us. The clouds lifted and the heavens opened, letting in a solitary ray of light that I’m certain could have illuminated the cosmos. And then, the hand of the Lord himself reached down and flashed a peace sign, as Mrs. Kesler’s robe parted like the Red Sea. The cup slipped from my hands as I stared in awe at the wondrous glory that was Nora Kesler’s body. It was then that I became a believer. “Oh, my.” she said as she walked towards me with her robe still opened.

We spent the better part of the afternoon with Nora teaching me exactly what she wanted me to do, and exactly how she wanted me to do it. She had a mannequin in her bedroom, a full body replica of a man dressed in a shark skin suit that she said she used to keep her company and to keep her warm, but she was certain that she wouldn’t be needing him any longer. I began visiting her every Wednesday after school, at exactly four o’clock whether or not her driveway needed shoveling or her lawn needed cutting. Farberman and Tate never knew what I was up to, I mean I wouldn’t do that to Mrs. Kesler, but man, I wanted to tell them just what I had been doing with her. It would have killed them both. I never really said anything about it to anybody, but for three years I never missed a single Wednesday. The neighbors continued to talk about her being a witch and how weird things were always going on at her house, and I can attest that there was a lot of weird shit going on over there, at least every Wednesdays at about four o’clock.

Under The Overpass

by Fielding Goodfellow

The world of Denise Bertram-Fergus was wrapped so tight in the ribbons and bows of her mental illness, that it was almost impossible not to offend her changing sensibilities. When the cosmic forces aligned just right, she believed that she existed in a Bronte novel, even though it was 1970. She shifted between the two realities without warning, and seemed to live quite agreeably in both. She wasn’t always so messed up, I mean she was just another kid in the neighborhood,  but as she sped along the highway of her burgeoning adolescence her mind wound up on an exit ramp that dropped her dead smack in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors. It was sad really, I mean I was pretty sure that she was the only one who didn’t know that she was out of her fucking mind.

By her eighteenth birthday she had spent more time at treatment facilities than anywhere else, without any real measure of success. She was bounced around from one facility to another with nothing to show for it other than a slight addiction to chlorpromazine and a deep mistrust of men with beards. Tate and I would visit her during some of the incarcerations while Farberman waited in the hallway. He insisted on joining us but he was always so worried that he might catch one thing or another, that he just couldn’t go into her room. He was genuinely afraid.  He was genuinely an idiot.  Denise was harmless and it didn’t matter who she thought she was, she was still okay. “I’m worried.” Tate said as we sat beside her bed thinking she was asleep. “If it could happen to her, it could happen to us.”

“There’s nothing to worry about.” I said. “We’re already so fucked up, we’re probably immune.” The truth was that I was just as worried as Tate, I mean it was scary to watch her slip away and get lost in her own mind, and I suppose he could have been right. It could happen to anyone of us.

“That’s funny.” Denise said. “You guys always make me laugh. Did you bring the cigarettes?” It was our job, no it was our duty to bring her cigarettes every time she was admitted. It was the least we could do, I mean she was our friend and her family had all but deserted her. I suppose we would have brought her anything she wanted really, but she was quite content with the cigarettes. “I don’t like it here.” she added.

“I don’t blame you.” Tate said. “Hospitals are shitty places to be.”

“I don’t mean the hospital.” Denise said. “I mean the here and now. I’d rather be somewhere else.”

“Is that really possible?” I asked.

“I think so.” she said. ” I’ve got it all figured out. They think I’m crazy, but I’m really not.  I have a plan. ”

We saw her two or three times after that, and following her discharge from another in the long line of psychiatric facilities, she simply vanished. No one had any idea where she had gone and sadly, no one really bothered to look for her. Tate thought that she could very well have traveled through time and space and finally made her way to Victorian England, I mean it was what she said she wanted.

The years passed and I never really thought about Denise.  I don’t suppose anyone did,  I mean it was like she never even existed. I heard from Tate not so long ago that she had spent the past forty years or so living beneath Gardiner Expressway, under the overpass at Sherborne St. I thought about heading down to see her, but after all of this time I didn’t really have anything to say, I mean she probably wouldn’t have remembered those days anyway.  Over the course of about a month or so I convinced myself that I should go down there and try to find her. I didn’t think she had anyone else.

“You haven’t changed at all.” she said. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.” I said.

“You were always good that way.” she said.  “Did you bring cigarettes?”

“Would I let you down?” I replied as I handed her a pack. “You remember the cigarettes. I wasn’t sure you’d remember me.”

“It really doesn’t matter if I know who you are.” she said. “What’s important is that you know who you are.”

We talked for a while. She insisted that she was fine and that she was exactly where she wanted to be. She had grown tired of everyone trying to fix her while her life just kept passing by. She simply decided that it was time to live her life. She told me that she hadn’t been hospitalized since she began living on her own terms, and couldn’t understand why everyone else was so concerned about her. She was quite content with her life exactly the way it was.

“The people here are my family.” she said. “We look out for one other. We take care of each other. They’re also my friends. What more do I need?” There was absolutely nothing that I could have said, I mean I don’t think anybody could ever have needed anything more. I was glad to see that she was alright. I suppose that we should all get to make our own choices about how we want to live our lives. I didn’t feel sorry for here anymore, I mean not everybody gets to be exactly where they belong.

Wining & Dining Grandpa Morris

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

My wife says that everything has gotten a lot weirder since we were kids, but I thought that it had always been like this. She says its not the usual kind of weird, but some other worldly kind of weird that seems to be following us around like Sam Spade chasing after the Maltese Falcon. She may be right, I mean its pretty fucking weird, but back then I was so busy trying to stop the flying lizards from singing ‘Waterloo’ on the living room ceiling that I just can’t be sure. According to her though, there was an eerie feeling on the streets that she just couldn’t put into words, and for the past few days it had been making her uneasy and I suppose, a little more Spanish-Moroccan than usual. “What happened this morning?” she asked.

“Well, you yelled at me in your sleep.” I said.

“Really?” she asked. ” What did I say?”

“You told me to stop going through your grandfather’s pockets.”

“Well, that’s weird.” she said.

“I know.” I said. “He’s been dead for over twenty years, and when he was alive he didn’t have a nickel to his name.”

“Ya, but he always had butter rum lifesavers in his pocket. Well, I’m sorry for yelling at you.”

“Its okay,” I said. “It happens so often, I just think of it as foreplay.”

“Do you feel that?” she asked as we walked past the panhandlers in front of The Holiday Inn as they tried to shakedown the tourists for spare change and cigarettes. “Someone’s here.” she continued. “I just got a cold chill. Someone is definitely here with us.”

“Well, if its any of your relatives let them know we’re not buying them lunch.” I said

“Do you have to make a joke out of everything?”

“I think I do.” I said.

“Not everything is funny.” she said.

“It is if you look close enough.”

“I don’t think its funny at all.”

“Ya, but you’ve got your faith in post humanity and your cheery disposition to keep you amused.”

“That’s true.” she said.

I suppose I joke a lot about her involvement with the other side because it freaks me out, but I know that if she feels that someone is with us, then someone is with us. Its her gift. She can feel when the spirits are around. I’m more like a proctologist, I mean I see assholes everywhere.

She was certain that her grandfather was with us as we wandered through the city streets. She was sure that she could smell butter rum lifesavers. She said that if a spirit wants her to know that its there, it will arrive with the aroma most associated with it. She said that he was with us while we ate lunch.

“I don’t know the protocols, but are we supposed to order him something?” I asked.

“I don’t know if he’s hungry.” she said. “But he always did love fish and chips.”

“Do spirits eat?”

“I’m not sure.” she said. “But we should at least offer. It would be the right thing to do,  and besides, we could really freak the server out.” She knew exactly how to get me interested, and right then, man was I interested. We sat on the patio at Fran’s on Front Street, just the two of us, with a table set for three. There was Philly Cheese Steak for my wife, steak and eggs for me, and an order of fish and chips for the spirit who liked to keep butter rum lifesavers in his pocket. Over the course of our meal, she kept removing little bits of fish and the occasional French fry from the plate and it looked as if someone had been eating from it. I’m not sure if the server was freaked out or not, but he was certainly questioning if not his, then our sanity. When we were done eating, she asked for the fish and chips to go, claiming that the invisible diner had eaten enough for now.

As we made our way home,  my wife could feel her grandfather continue to follow us, It was probably the aroma of the fish and chips, I mean by the time we arrived there were about a dozen feral cats behind us as well. She put the container of fish and chips in the fridge, and we went to bed. When I woke in the morning, the container was in the garbage with the remnants of what I can only surmise was some pretty decent fish and chips. I had assumed that sometime during the night either my wife or one of my daughters woke and ate Grandpa Morris’ fish and chips. It was the only logical explanation I could think of, but everyone of them denied touching the container. “I knew he was here.” my wife exclaimed.

“If it wasn’t one of you, it was probably one of the mice.” I said. “The spirit of your grandfather did not eat the fish and chips.”

“I thought we solved the mouse problem?”

“We did.” I said, “But its the only other explanation I can live with. Either that or the alley cats who followed us home broke in, ate the fish, and cleaned up before they left.”

“Now that’s a little far fetched, don’t you think? What is it going to take for you to believe that anything is possible in the spirit world?” I knew it was far fetched, but no more so than a spirit heating up dinner and cleaning up his mess afterward, and I had no idea what would make me believe that her grandfather had been in our kitchen last night. It didn’t really matter though, I mean this kind of shit had been going on for years. “Do you smell that?” she asked. “It’s a stale, sweet aroma that wasn’t there five minutes earlier.”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “but suddenly I feel like eating butterscotch.”

Art For Artie’s Sake

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

In an ironic twist of fate we discovered that on the journey to find ourselves we had somehow become lost in the sounds and colors of the frequent hallucinations and flashbacks that had followed us around the galaxies. I suppose that’s how we ended up at The Molly Malone, the only pub on Dexter’s Planet where you could drink something other than the watered down piss that was being passed off as alcohol.  From where we sat we were sure that we could see the universe unfolding as it should, as we attempted to seduce the members of the Young Women’s Socialist League at the table beside us with idle chatter on the struggles of the proletariat. They ate that kind of crap up, I mean they were already tripping and looking for something to warm their hearts and stimulate their minds, and they were willing to pay handsomely for it. Somewhere between the Absinthe and peyote, as the walls began to melt into vibrant purples, blues, and reds, Artie Payne had an epiphany, or it could have been a seizure. It was impossible to tell. “Due to some bizarre accident” he said, “or as a result of some catastrophic error in judgment, we put our fate in the hands of lawyers and accountants instead of philosophers and poets.” Artie knew even less about philosophy and poetry than he did about women, and he knew absolutely nothing about women.  But the young socialists were convinced that he was able to gaze into the distance and see the secrets of the cosmos.

Artie had a hard time understanding most things, including socialist ideologies. It was difficult really when your only struggle was trying to get laid.  It wasn’t for lack of trying though, I mean he just didn’t relate to human beings but he had this way about him that drew people to him when he spoke. It didn’t really matter that he had no fucking idea what was talking about, they still listened. He had been that way for as long as I had known him. He could have been a guru or, at the very least, the leader of some aberrant cult involved in a standoff with the FBI on an abandoned farm outside of Enid, Oklahoma, but he had chosen to spend his time instead completing his doctorate in astrophysics. We were almost certain that he would be better able to relate, and more than likely to be a welcome addition to whatever extraterrestrial life was out there. We were also pretty sure that an alien life form was the only chance he had of getting his dick wet.

Kyra was an aspiring artist of precarious talent and personality, who was a regular at The Molly Malone, and was in the middle of her third term as president of the Young Women’s Socialist League. She had  dark hair and legs so long that a small ladder was required to scale them, and despite being way out of his league, Artie had a permanent hard on for her. She was wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with a photo of Dick Dale and the caption ‘I love Dick’, and most of us at the bar had, at one time or another, the opportunity to discover first hand that it was true. She was explaining the rise and fall of the socialist revolution to me, as Artie continued to impress the group of starry eyed young women who now sat at his feet, with all of the meaningless drivel he could muster. “The only way out of this cesspool” he continued, “is to ignore it. Its all just capitalist lies. You need to find a small piece of the universe to call your own and simply be. That’s all there is. Just be, wherever it may take you.”

“Your friend is wonderfully astute.” Kyra said.

“Not really.” I said “He’s pretty high and socially inept, but that’s about it.” Even Farberman, who spent six years in the physics department with him, thought he was as thick as molasses, and almost as slow. They had worked together on experiments that Farberman said would enable three dimensional beings to live within a two dimensional world. It was all very science fiction and everything, but in essence, a three dimensional being could live within a two dimensional world.  He got the idea from a Woody Allen story ‘The Kugelmass Episode’, and was certain that a person could live out their lives within a painting. In any event, the entire physics department was mesmerized by the theory that was being referred to as the ‘Farberman Principle’.

“I would like to meet him.” she said.

“Artie?” I asked.

“Yes.” she said. No one had ever asked to meet Artie before, I mean his presence was usually thrust upon others without their consent.  I called him over, introduced him to Kyra and left them alone at the bar. They talked into the early morning, and we watched them leave The Molly Malone with a bottle of Absinthe in hand, heading towards The Portlands.

“Good God, man” Tate blurted out, “Artie’s finally getting laid.”

I have no idea if Tate was right or not, but days passed and there was no sign of Artie or Kyra. Tate and I returned to The Molly Malone, and no one there had seen them either. The Police were notified and The Portlands were searched, and while there was no trace of the missing couple, an empty bottle of Absinthe was found on a small table in what appeared to be an old laboratory that seemed to have recently been used. None of it made any sense, unless of course Farberman’s theory worked. We found Farberman at the University but he didn’t want to say much of anything. There was a new picture on his office wall, a framed movie poster of ‘The Time Machine’, the one directed by George Pal with Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux. It was weird really, I mean, I was almost sure that I saw Artie and Kyra mingled in among the Eloi. Farberman refused to discuss it, claiming that the government had put him under a gag order. “Wherever they are, I’m sure they’re happy.” He said as he handed me an envelope. “Don’t ask any questions.” he continued. “The less you know the better off you’ll be.”

Inside was a note from Artie. It offered no explanation, but I was pretty sure what had happened. “We have found our small piece of the universe, and now we can just be. Neither of us has any real desire to do anything else. We just want to be, wherever it takes us. And so, we just are.” I put the letter in my pocket and stood gazing at the poster. It was definitely them. I suppose I was happy for them and everything, but I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they were going to be able to protect themselves from the Morlocks.