Johnny America


A Field Trip for Feldspar


On the day of the full moon fol­low­ing Christ­mas Eve, Feldspar Dick­ens de­cid­ed to end what was left of his life. Long live, live and let live, live free or die —switch up the phras­es as you wish, they ring ex­ceed­ing­ly hol­low af­ter a cou­ple of tri­als. He hid in box­es in at­tics, un­der bot­tle tops in pantries, in the folds of tow­els near Jacuzzis, and nev­er found an ounce of sym­pa­thy be­tween their tele­vi­sion time, ar­gu­ments and oblig­a­tory vis­its to the city symphony.

Once gone, no­body cried for an ex­tend­ed amount of time; for­get­ting him was easy even if you did not try. He tried his best to be en­vi­ous of their ni­hilism, their faux pride. But, he nev­er ex­pect­ed much from that bunch of self-cel­e­brat­ing lep­ers; his ec­cen­tric­i­ties dis­tanced him and they con­sult­ed up­scale therapists.

Tru­ly, it wasn’t a tough de­ci­sion con­sid­er­ing the ap­pel­la­tion he as­sumed was nev­er, in the hard-luck-hewn hu­mil­i­ty of his oh-so-holy opin­ion, quite right or fit­ting. Well-in­formed or­phans sel­dom out­grow the anger that comes from the mys­tery of miss­ing origins.

So, af­ter scru­ti­niz­ing many cas­es of kid­nap­pings and faked deaths in a wealth of rep­utable de­tec­tive mag­a­zines, he de­cid­ed to dis­ap­pear. He dis­card­ed his usu­al red robe and ash grey sweat pants, donned a loin­cloth of buf­fa­lo hide and put on a fez. With this dis­guise he left for Be­lize on the back of a cab­bage truck with a pa­per sack full of cash, his pet para­keet “Rib­bit” and a re­ceipt for his pressed ar­ti­cles at the Laun­dro­mat. The clothes, of course, he would nev­er re­ceive. But he was a sen­ti­men­tal sort, so he cher­ished the pre­tense like par­ents cher­ish a night away from the nox­ious pres­ence of their teens. With this thought boil­ing his brain near to seething, he bit in­to an onion he picked up along­side an in­ter­sec­tion (since he was self-suf­fi­cient, so the leg­end goes) and be­gan to lov­ing­ly eat it lay­er by lay­er like a care­ful pa­le­on­tol­o­gist peek­ing through sed­i­ments for a glimpse at an an­cient alligator.

Thud­ding along the chip sealed stretch of an out-of-the-way high­way, he dai­ly dreamt of the grace­ful plan­ta­tions full of fruit, the mer­ce­nary pur­suits, the heavy-lid­ded Rasta­far­i­ans in their thread­bare suits, the mad Gau­guin drawn women of­fer­ing him end­less tum­blers of sweet rum with per­fect­ly per­verse British ac­cents. He imag­ined uni­form cuneiform cur­ren­cy and streets full of cor­rupt sol­diers forced to act as pet­ty drug deal­ers. Each of these fel­lows vague­ly re­sem­bled Mar­lon Bran­do with a pinch of James Dean and James Earl Jones. They were hun­gry, mean and croaked out an­guished po­et­ry in deep but fee­ble voic­es. He would de­feat these trag­ic but will­ful vil­lains; he would out­shine them all, be­come a clas­sic hero of the peo­ple. He would man­age his own myth and crush those who op­posed. He would be a leader, alone at the top, a man the women whis­per of when­ev­er they gath­ered to­geth­er to gos­sip of im­pos­si­ble love.

Short­ly, his ham­strings stung and his head rung with a lack of oxy­gen. He had been kneel­ing near the edge of the truck bed for too long. Stretch­ing out the lachry­mose length of his legs he tele­path­i­cal­ly ad­dressed a head of let­tuce that had rolled near his knee. He felt ashamed. His abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate was nev­er great, chiefly with those mem­bers of his so-called fam­i­ly that he was ex­pect­ed to appreciate.

He felt most com­fort­able with Na­ture; an­i­mate or inan­i­mate, it was all the same. Most of all he craved the sort of ad­ven­ture that nov­els man­date. His self-con­scious gri­mace bent in­to a thin grin as he turned to­wards the rest­ing place of his friend, the parakeet.

Rib­bit, al­though far from livid, seemed an­noyed with the dis­tur­bance. He bit at Feldspar with a vengeance. Nip by nip he went for the boy’s lips like a drunk­en strip­per out for a tip. Feldspar tried to calm the bird with as­sur­ing then stern words. It would not quit dart­ing at him; so he ripped off a sin­gle leaf of cab­bage in an at­tempt to man­age the sit­u­a­tion with­out re­vert­ing to the sever­est self-de­fense. Up­on rip­ping this mere shred of the let­tuce, the truck dri­ver of pro­duce and fugi­tives, one Mr. Otis, slowed down a gear and took an­gry no­tice. He whipped the truck on­to a scenic over­look a mile or so north of the of­fense and asked Feldspar to hit the bricks. He did this with­out the least pang of guilt. There is no hon­or among thieves, nor any onus among be­tween an adult’s mo­tives and a boy’s needs. Feldspar, de­ject­ed and con­cerned about his mis­sion, looked down in­to the Pa­cif­ic and then leapt like a lemming.

With this abrupt change in the oth­er­wise el­e­gant arrange­ment of things, Feldspar awoke to find his sweat pants soak­ing wet. He, with wet sweats and all, was at the en­trance of the Mu­se­um of Nat­ur­al Sci­ence, sit­ting next to Niles Jen­nings, his hor­rid, sworn en­e­my and as­signed bud­dy for the tour of fa­mous­ly past­ed to­geth­er di­nosaurs. He was sweat­ing. He felt dizzy. About face, face first, face the mu­sic — these say­ings hurt his sense of worth. He cooled him­self, quit wor­ry­ing. Sure­ly Ms. Fur­man would un­der­stand his need to wan­der the ex­hib­it alone. Sure­ly she would trust his judg­ment and mark him as one proven ca­pa­ble of go­ing so­lo. But, no — no, she in­sist­ed that mor­tal en­e­mies get to know one an­oth­er up­on terms they found most agree­able, prefer­ably in a place filled with his­tor­i­cal awe and bits of bones. No: he would not com­mit him­self un­der such con­di­tions to grace the pres­ence of such a soul.

Ad­mit­ted­ly “Nil”, as he called Niles, had been his half broth­er for a while. With­out a doubt, he had har­bored se­cret feel­ings of broth­er­ly love for the oth­er­wise in­hu­man boy. But still, and still again, this did not ex­cuse Ms. Furman’s in­ter­fer­ence. He had plans, fan­tas­tic nar­ra­tives to at­tend. He had sub­jects, ob­jects to con­sid­er. He had had it up to here with his her and his fa­ther, that hap­py-go-lucky some­thing or oth­er who had made all of hu­man­i­ty his next of kin or at least his dis­tant cousin by be­ing the hard­est work­ing man in that par­tic­u­lar kind of show busi­ness. Tuck­ing his tus­sled gov­ern­ment text­book in­to his book bag, he dealt a dar­ing glance at the face of the fel­low next to him. He imag­ined it was his own form for a minute and cast in­to a bog to pre­serve its in­no­cence. Maybe to­mor­row he would strike out for South Amer­i­ca. For now he would hide the boy’s lunch some­where near the ra­di­a­tor and ask him to sing some dumb song and dance like a nin­ny along the side­walk in or­der to find out where it was hid­den. Christ­mas may have been over, but he was still in the spir­it of giv­ing. As the sta­tion­ary bus grum­bled, jerk­ing diesel fumes in­to his lungs, his fin­gers crept for an eter­ni­ty to­wards the vic­tim he pre­sumed his own.

Filed under Fiction on April 29th, 2006

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