The Tea Chronicles: Chapter Three

green-hills

I enjoyed whooshing along through the long Grasses on the back of The Dragon Queen. I won’t deny that I got an erotic thrill from it – for an immortal, she was quite a fox! – but I was quick to redirect the flow of this sexual energy, as I knew she would immediately sense it – as she must have done already – especially as such a fantasy could be precisely the verboten thought that could set off the afeared response in the grasses that she had been so guarded and cryptic about.

I must admit, I also felt slightly envious. I have always wanted to be able to change my form instantaneously, like a cartoon character; but, while I have been able to warp my thought body during meditative experiments, even during lucid dreaming, my body has always remained rigidly in form, and I’ve never quite been able to fly. But I knew, as my dragonian reflection in the water had already proven, that it would not be long before I was shapeshifting with the best of them, and able to fly, crawl, and dive at my leisure.

Just as I was beginning to day-dream, and drift off into my desultory thoughts, The Dragon Queen landed abruptly but softly, and changed into her fully humanoid form again.

“We’re here,” she said, sombrely.

I looked forward, and I could see a prominent mound, protruding regally before us. The land we had travelled through had been almost invariably flat, with the exception of the sense of a barely perceptible escarpment in the distance. So, seeing this sudden swelling was quite stimulating to the geography of the mind. Both The Dragon Queen and I could sense its prodigious retention of energy.

“Is there anything in particular that I should say and do; or not say and not do?” I asked, suddenly aware that this was likely to be a portentous encounter.

The Dragon Queen smiled and said:
“Just be yourself. You will learn Immortal Etiquette – and how to go beyond it – along the way. Be your fully authentic self. That is why you are here, after all!”

My fully authentic self felt pretty uncertain at that moment in time.

But The Dragon Queen, reading my thoughts, mollified me, saying:

“If you are feeling uncertain, then be uncertain, and make no decisive movements until it has passed. Decisions are thing to be accepted and acted upon – they are not to be rushed, or forced into existence.”

I breathed in the wisdom of this advice, and we walked lightly and solemnly towards the mound.

As soon as we ascended it, we saw The Master of the Long Grasses, sitting placidly on the ground, his tea set laid out before him. I could see the tea steaming perfectly in the gilded, simple, china cups, and could not wait to hold it lusciously in my mouth. It smelled slightly sweet, and I suspected that it was some type of oolong, supplemented by an additional herb.

The Dragon Queen bent on her knees, and genuflected before The Master.

“I am sorry for our tardiness,” she said, humbly and sincerely.

“It does not matter if you are late in keeping appointments, so long as you are prompt in following The Way!” Quipped The Master. “The tea is still warm, so please! Drink!”

I settled down on a mat, sitting on my knees in the Asian fashion, and slowly picked up my teacup. It had a golden edge around its rim, with a fascinating design comprised of many ornate balloons floating through the sky. It was a beautiful design, and, when looked at closely, gave the impression of enormous depth.

The tea was still too warm to drink, so I just enjoyed inhaling its sweet steam, feeling the heat of the cup in my hands, and admiring the loaded potentially of the deep, clear, golden elixir.

“And how did you get along with my grasses?” asked The Master of the Long Grasses, smiling mischievously.

“No incidents, so far,” I said, in a way I hoped sounded winsome.

“Good, good!” He responded, good-naturedly. “Never can tell what that raggedy bunch will take to, next!” Winking. “But you’ll have to excuse me if you find me coarse. It’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors!”

I took this statement as an opportunity to examine The Master properly. He had a long wispy beard, tied up hair, and emanated immense purity. There was nothing ‘coarse’ about him.

“Speaking of time,” I began. “Since we’ve been in this realm, I’ve observed that, although we’ve been travelling for several hours now, the quality of light in the sky hasn’t changed at all. Why is that?”

“Why, he’s a very canny fellow, isn’t he?!” said The Master, turning to The Dragon Queen, and raising his thick, cloud-like eyebrows in comic fashion. “The answer, my boy, is that time moves very differently here from the way you’re used to. That’s why I chided your elegant proprietor for apologizing for her tardiness- a side effect of spending too long in lower realms, no doubt. You could no sooner be late here, than insult a Buddha, and get a beating for it. You probably can’t make it out, due to the somewhat infinite, and mirage-infested, horizon we have here, but it takes the sun no less than fourteen million years to set on this planet. For that reason, it has become known as ‘The Planet of Perpetual Dusk.’ Of the length of the days, I cannot speak. But suffice it to say this: It has been a long time since I’ve seen the night-time.” And, with a slightly crazed look in his eyes, he urged us. “Your tea should be cool enough now. Please, drink! Go on – drink!”

I needed no more encouraging. I took a sip, and was instantly refreshed by the tea, which caused my whole being to shudder with relief. Being without tea for long is like being without love or oxygen – it is always a cathartic and seismic response when you taste it again. The tea tasted clear, and sweet, and had a delicious, ineffable quality to it, that I could not readily describe.

“I know it’s an oolong,” I said, “but why does it taste so unique?”

The Master of the Long Grasses looked pleased.

“It is a Premium Ginseng Oolong,” he said. “After the leaves are steamed, withered, oxidized, and rolled, they are coated with powdered ginseng and liquorice. Here! Look!”

He offered me a small tub of the tea in its unbrewed form. It looked very strange, a mysterious green colour, flecked with gold, like a rare, but volatile rock from a distant moon.

Reading my thoughts, he said:

“Distant Moon Oolong – that would make a remarkable name for it, wouldn’t it? I may start calling it that from now on,” and then, standing up, and directing his voice out towards the grasslands, he shouted “DISTANT MOON OOLONG! DISTANT MOON LOONG!”

We both looked at him quizzically.

“Just letting the grasses know,” he said, sheepishly. “They’re very into that sort of thing. But it is very important that you drink up. I do not give you this tea, arbitrarily. A long and dynamic journey has been arranged for you by the heavens. Ginseng is an immense repository of celestial yang energy, and so is this mound. As such, it nourishes the vitality, and increases the strength. But not all of the places you will be travelling too will be quite so nourishing, or accommodating, with their energy reserves.

“As a human, you have been habituated to living in a solar system, and that relationship to the sun has informed a good deal of your understanding of the astronomy of the cosmos. But there are many different types of planetary system in the universe, not all of which could be said to possess such a unifying, and radiant centre. In fact, much of the cosmos is littered with Lunar Systems – in these, an enormous moon serves as the centre, around which all the sibling planets orbit. Unfamiliar with fire or solar energy, these planets live in a deadened, haunting twilight, beset by interminable waves of hallucination and delusion. There is no mediating ego or waking consciousness here – only the mystery and danger of darkness. It is quite a thing to look upon whilst voyaging through space – all of these bewildered planets moving slowly around a watery, tyrannical moon, in a slow, and sluggish procession. The planets are all deeply bewildered and imbalanced, and, thus, often collide into one another, sending shockwaves throughout the galaxy. We refer to these Lunar Systems as ‘The Nodes of Yin’.”

“Will I ever have to go to such a place?” I asked.

The Master of the Long Grasses nodded gravely.

“On this Moon, called ‘The Floating Pit,’ there is a network of caves. At the bottom of this cave is a chamber of frost and snow. If you can melt this snow, and turn it into water, it can be used to make The Broth of the Illumined. Of course, you will meet many dangers and guardians along the way, but isn’t that always the case when apprehending something profound? You may even have to die before you drink it.

“But let’s not dwell on such things, right now. Such travails are a long way off, and you have not even finished your first cup of tea since leaving the planet Earth! Settle your mind. Leave danger for later.”

With that, The Master of the Long Grasses ceased speaking, and we drank our tea in silence, the whole planet enshrouded in peace, as the sun continued to set at its own impenetrable pace.

The Tea Chronicles: Chapter Two

Dragon woman

Once we had passed through the miraculous vortex of the tea tin, we found ourselves in a beautiful field of swaying, long grasses, the whole region doused in a perfect smattering of lambent sunshine. The Dragon Queen, who, at first, had a dragon’s tail for a bottom half, quickly absorbed her tail, and exchanged them for a sleek, pair of velvety legs. She wore white imperial robes, and had long pink hair.

“You didn’t have to get rid of your tail on my behalf, O great Queen. It didn’t make me feel that insecure.”

“Different realms are more amenable to different forms,” she said, smiling at me softly. “It is better to be all things in all circumstances, than one thing in every circumstance – though, the highest masters make no distinction between these. But, sometimes, these changes and alterations cannot be helped. Like you cannot help getting wet in water, or being set aflame in fire, so you cannot help changing into different shapes when you go into different realms. Check out your reflection. You might look pretty different yourself.”

Doing as she instructed, I moved towards a small pool to the left of us, and checked out my reflection in the surface of the water. I was shocked to find that I, too, was dressed in imperial clothing, though mostly in black; but, more shockingly, I found that my face had taken on a slightly fearsome, dragon-like aspect, my beard, moustache, and hair billowing goldenly, almost like fire, so much so, that I made quite a scene, and began swatting at myself to try and put it out.

“You do not need to be disturbed,” assured the Dragon Queen. “One of the reasons I chose you as my tea student was for your fluidity and malleability. I have seen you take on and cast off many identities over your short life as a human, and your longer one throughout the cosmos. Just because your changes were usually internal, it does not mean that you should be affrighted now that they have leaked outside as well.”

“But why am I so dragony? And what is this ‘longer life throughout the cosmos’ you speak of? Just how long have you been watching me?”

“In order to be taught by a dragon, you must become as a dragon. But don’t worry, that appearance is not permanent. The first principle of being a dragon is that all appearances are illusory and subject to change, like the quality of smoke being influenced by the fire it is exuding from. But there is always something beneath the fire. Always something beneath its beneath-ness.

“As for your longer life in the cosmos, I shall not trouble you with that now.  The more you traverse these strange and myriad realms, the more your natural memory of them will return. It is quite an organic process, and you need not dwell on it now, for we are late in meeting ‘The Master of the Long Grasses.’

“Alright, I’ll bite – who is The Master of the Long Grasses?’

Before she had time to answer, we heard the distinct, sharp call of a heron, which, having stood silently on the other side of the pool, now took off grandly into the air.

“That was The Master’s Envoy,” she said, biting her lip. “The heron is flying off now to inform him of our imminent arrival. We must be off. We had better not disappoint him.”

I took this as an indication that our question and answer session was over. But as we were journeying down a perfect path between the long grasses, with a silent rustle of her white robes, she said:

“It is advisable that you keep thinking to a minimum as we travel through these long grasses.”

“I’m sure that advice is generally applicable to most things,” I concurred, “but why here in particular?”

The Dragon Queen looked like she was struggling to answer this, but finally she got it.

“The consciousness of these grasses is, ugh, very sensitive, if that’s the right human expression. In the same way that someone lightly touching the hair on your arm can send shivers all through your body, or the millions of nerve fibres that all contribute to the joyous delicacy of the clitoris, these grasses could be said to possess a similar refinement in terms of their sensitivity.”

“What would happen if I thought too much?” I asked, feeling curious.

“It’s not so much a matter of ‘thinking too much’ so much as what you think about.”

“So what is it that I shouldn’t be thinking about?”And concerned that this might exasperate her, I added, “Just so that I know not to think about it.”

“If I told you what not to think about, it would happen immediately..”

“What would immediately happen?”

“The thing that we don’t want to happen.”

“Which is?”

“Again, if I told you, it would immediately happen. So it is best not to talk about it. Quiet your mind, and centre your awareness. I can hear The Master of the Long Grasses pouring a cup of tea for as we move.  So we must hurry, or else it will be cold when we get there. Which would be a considerable blow to our progress. So, hurry, hurry!”

With that admonition, she unleashed the full, glorious flowing dragon tail of her underparts, and, straddling my legs around it, we travelled at enormous speeds, through the whirling long grasses.

And, if you want to know what happened once they met The Master of the Long Grasses, you will have to wait for the next chapter!

The Tea Chronicles: Chapter One

Dragon Tea

Although retailers of tea are only merchants, I tend to look upon them as gods; patron-saints of the divine tea leaf that have deigned to reduce themselves to human form in order to peddle their holy elixir for our ignorant consumption.

I saw one such woman in the marketplace yesterday. She was a crooked old thing in a cloak, whose body looked like it had been carved out of unruly, knotted wood, a scream of skin and bark, wound into a moving, human sculpture. But, in spite of her crippled body, she could not have been called ugly: she seemed to be of Asian, possibly Vietnamese extraction, had smooth, unwrinkled skin, and I noticed more than one young man looking in her direction, in a mixture of lust and confusion.

Though she must have been there to make money and sell her wares just like the others, she didn’t seem to have done a very good job of it: there appeared to be only one tin of loose leaf tea on her merchant’s table, which was otherwise pristine and empty.

I walked over to her out of curiosity, and, as I did so, the air grew thicker, and the cacophony of the other marketers faded into a muted, muffled pulse, the condensed heartbeat of grass roots’ commerce.

As I looked at her, her robe, once uniformly black in colour, began to exude a lashing of slow, waveform colours, as though black was just the contour she needed in order to amplify these hidden torrents of psychedelia. Her face shone like an evening candle, and her crippled body began to unwind itself, almost like a large snake uncoiling itself after a post-prandial slumber, as she chanted this verse from the Tao Te Ching:

 

Crippled becomes whole

Worn becomes new

 

Her whole body arched itself up to the ceiling in a curvature that defied the limitations of Euclidean geometry, and looked down upon me. Her colour-swaddled body was now the shape of a long tube, and it did seem that she may have been some sort of phantasmagoric serpent, except for her very pinnacle, which, at least, seemed to remain semi-human.

“I can’t see you up there,” I said. “Would you mind coming down?”

She lurched down swiftly like a body of falling water, and hovered her human-segment before me. The emanations of her golden hair filled the entire hall, and soon threatened to enwrap me like a spider packaging its prey in a cocoon of moribundity. It was hard to concentrate on her face, but also difficult to look away from it; it dizzyingly flickered between many women’s faces like a malfunctioning algorithm, though I’m sure I occasionally saw it flicker into the moustachioed face of a golden, oriental dragon.

“How might I be of service?” I asked, somewhat uncertain of the protocol and conduct of such situations.

“I am The Dragon Queen of the Northern Tea Hall of  the Inner Heavenly Mansion,” she said. “I have searched and swarmed the whole world over in search of someone who truly understands tea. I wish to inform you that you are the living finality of my search.”

“Yep. That’s me,” I said. “I know a little about tea. How long have you been looking for?”

“Oh, only for a couple of millennia, during breaks between my shifts at the palace, not very long. Though I have had to undergo great hardship in many of the dimensions in which I searched. Some worlds consider dragon queens to be consummately tasty, and it was only through my wiles and perseverance that I was able to escape, un-shishkabobed.”

“How do you travel?” I asked.

“I travel by tea,” she said, matter-of-factly. “As you know, every cup of tea is a gateway to a new universe. The problem is, it is exceedingly difficult to determine which universe you will get. It seems to be very dependent upon which tea leaves you use, where they were grown, how they were harvested and manufactured, the brewing time, and what tea ware you use to harness its creation.”

“If you don’t mind my prying, may I ask what variables you used to get here?”

“To get here,” she said, “I drew my water from the Star River, boiled it up in The Big Dipper, plucked my tea leaves directly from Lao Tzu’s beard, fermented them for a thousand years in the halls of Jupiter, and brewed the tea in a pot fashioned from the ribcage of an Arcturian Space Whale.”

“I bet that tasted good.”

“It is better that we don’t speak of that now. Not everyone will be pleased that I am disseminating this forbidden knowledge for the holy brew. Come with me,” she said,” Before we get discovered.”

And, at this, she opened the top of the tin on her table, pulled me in, and we travelled far and in wide.

And if you want to know where it is we went, you will have to wait for the next chapter!

Chapter Four: The Shaman and the Stripper

Strip

So Roxy The Doxy was there on stage, in the dingy gloom of our windowless club, swinging around her flail-wielding tits, like a warrior with an axe, getting her freak on, when, in a professional lapse of sagacious audience participation selection, she completely mistook her mark, and flung a piercing tit right into Paper Thin Louie’s face.

The whole building was instantly in uproar. Chairs and tables upended themselves, and people rioted in a benevolent frenzy, as Paper Thin Louie exsanguinated all over the place, twitching on the floor like a dying insect, and moaning a pallid moan.

“What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!”  both the denizens and staff of the bar wailed.

Louie was practically the patron saint of The Smoking Waldorf Strip Club. It would be quite impossible to carry on the institute without his geriatric felicity to sustain it – or, at least not without a lengthy interregnum in which to find a suitable replacement. Every strip club needs its own mascot. Some take this tradition more seriously than others. But, at The Smoking Waldorf, this famed institution was as beloved as that of The Dalia Lama[1].

Things were not looking good for Louie. His semi-translucent pallor with giving way to a proto-invisibility that had a way of mirroring, refracting, and dissolving all light-reflecting objects around him. As the girls busied themselves frenetically around him, jets of rainbows burst out of the projected opalescence of his skin, momentarily mystifying everyone. All the girls stood about stupefied, waving their arms lucidly through the rainbows, like a group of stoned flower-children at a love-in. The closer his de-bloodifying brought him to death, the more brilliantly his opalescent emissions seemed to flicker, until all were almost joyously blinded by the greatness of the light. The warmth of his august soul enveloped everyone, all and sundry unified in this strange, magical moment.

But Missy stuck to her guns. She wasn’t going to be fooled by a pretty light show. Pulling up her G-string authoritatively, she yelled:

“If you’re all quite done tripping your tits off, you might remember that we have a dying old man on our hands. We can get squiffy with the mushies if you’re still riding this hippie shit later on – for now, get into formation, and save this man’s life!”

Their bedazzlement utterly obliterated, they all snapped to attention, as Missy meted out the orders.

“Ginger – check his pulse and vital signs. Tiffany – massage his feet and extremities to ensure venous return. Cathy – get down on his dingle and do your thang – let’s see if we can’t convince his blood that it has better things to do right now than leave his body.”

“With honour,” Cathy squeaked, as a tear of respect rolled down her cheek.

“Okay, Elliot – I need you to run upstairs, darling, act with tact and diplomacy, and get one of those sore-ass junkies lodging upstairs to lend you a syringe. Try and choose the one with the least amount of hepatitis virus coursing through their system. You’ll have to use a judgement call on that one. Mary Lou – fetch me a quart of blood, AB Negative, from The Surgeon’s fridge. And Sherry – be a daring and fetch that enormous rubber dildo I like to spank people with. I don’t really need it, but it just helps still my mind, is all.”

“Haha! A bit of fetishistic  meditation to quiet the consciousness – got it!”

Everyone rocketed off to do their assigned tasks with vim – particularly Cathy – except for Mary Lou who looked lost, and upset that she couldn’t be so immediately helpful.

“Umm, Missy? What blood is that you be talking about? Ain’t no blood in the fridge, girl. All we’s got is ketchup and May-O-Naise.”

“What do you mean, no blood?! We always have blood! Jessica uses it every night in her seedy, throat-slashing routine. How can we not have any blood?”

“Don’t you remember, hon? Jessica’s strung-out. She OD’d at Ledo’s two nights ago, and she took all her blood with her. She says she likes to have a tipple or two of it when she gets her dragon chasing gear on.”

This was not what she wanted to hear. She couldn’t let Paper Thin Louie die just because some selfish strumpet couldn’t tell the difference between cocaine and compassion. She was on the verge of slashing one of her tits and getting Louie to suck the blood from them, but she decided against it. Her club couldn’t survive anymore without her tits than without Paper Thin Louie. So, sighing, she deferred that idea to the waste basket, and did the only thing she could do.

“Okay, Mary Lou. Get the ketchup. We’ll just have to hope there’s enough sugar in it to keep him stabilized until we can get him to the hospital.”

“Won’t it be all sludgy and shit?”

“Most probably, Mary, but we have to work with what we’ve got. Boil it up on the stove as quick as you can, and see if you can liquefy the viscosity out of it. A single ketchup clot to the heart could kill him like that, so we need to keep it as streamlined as possible.”

This last tremulous order clarified, the salvage operation was in full swing. The only girl not in cahoots was Roxy The Doxy, who was looking very doe-like and un-Roxy-ish, weeping her mascara into oily rivulets.

“I – HUUUUUHHHH – KILLED  – HUUUUHHHGGGHHH – HIM!” she blabbered between sobs. “EVERYONE’S GOING TO HATE MEEEEEE!” Coming towards Missy for a hug.

“No one’s going to hate you,” Missy assured her. “And take off those tassels of yours before you come near me. We don’t want anyone else bleeding to death today, do we? You might want to think a little about recalibrating your act.”

“Sorry,” says Roxy, pulling off her tassels with a POP-ing suction cup sound, going in for a hug with Missy, and weeping into her glitter-freckled tits. “Is there nothing I can do to help?”

Missy mulled.

“All the bases have pretty much been covered; but if you want to make yourself useful, then you should say a prayer – Lord knows we could do with one right about now.”

“Who should I pray to, Missy? Jesus?”

“Jesus? Hell no! What do you want to pray to that nobody for – he ain’t a surgeon! No, if you want to pray, pray directly to Louie. It’s really only his choice whether he lives or dies now. You might be able to sway his mind.”

“Okaaay, Missy. Sounds a little kooky to me, but, if you think it’ll help, I’ll do it.”

So, Roxy The Doxy takes a latex nun’s habit from a nearby mannequin, kneels next to the weeping body of Paper Thin Louie, clasps her hands devoutly together, and prays to him. Prays to him to stay alive, not to reject the condiment transfusion, and NOT to give up the ghost.

Louie was still looking luminous to the point of invisibility, but his incandescence was beginning to fade to a much more sober hue. Cathy was unable to coax an erection out of him, and his pulse was becoming as irregular as an Alaskan Milk Round. Death was doing more than just knocking at the door – he was using a wrecking ball.

The rescue operation started to coalesce. Elliot was back with a clean-enough syringe and an eye dropper. It didn’t really matter if he got HIV at his age. He’d be dead long before the virus’s variable incubation phase was ended. So long as they could keep him alive, and retain his mascot-hood for a few for months, they would have enough time to find his successor, and negate the inconvenience of another interregnum. Times would be hard if The Smoking Waldorf had to close down, if only temporarily. Stripping in Alaska was tough when the chips were down. Missy could probably get by meagrely if she doled out a few karate lessons a week, but she feared for the safety of the rest of her girls whose attention span when it came to non-erotic work veered between the dangerous and the non-existent. This place was a ghost town at the best of times, and while that meant no shortage of abandoned buildings to squat, doing so in a place with no food or central heating was tantamount to suicide, especially with the fishing season so far off in the future. We need you, Paper Thin Louie, Roxy Prayed, please don’t leave us yet.

Mary Lou had returned with her concoction of boiled-up ketchup, which they busily filtered into the syringe. They tied the tourniquet around his right arm, and tried to find a forthcoming vein. There wasn’t one: all of them had receded to the submarine depths of his disappearing cardiovascular system – they would just have to try their luck, stick the ketchup-conveying needle any old place, and hope they could trick his body into thinking it was haemoglobin until they could get him on the back of Minnie’s motorbike, and drive him to safety.

It was an intense moment. Naturally, Missy was the one to deliver the shot. All of the girls gathered around, in various stages of undress, biting their lacquered nails nervously, except for Roxy who was still praying. Missy plunged the ketchup into his body slowly, replacing it with vial after vial, until all had gone. When the final one had been injected, they were finished. All they could do was wait for a response

[1] Was there a tradition of reincarnational succession as with The Dalai Lama? No one has ever been tell me so. The attributes of a successful candidate have more to do with his – (this being a patriarchal ascendancy) – venerability and psycho-physical quirks, rather than any belief that he is carrying the soul of his former incarnation. Proof of this is the fact that many mascots have been elected whilst their forebears were still in existence, though, in light of the evidence that it is possible to split up the soul and live many lifetimes at once, this proof may be debunkable. Some believe that there are only 12 main souls in existence on planet Earth, correlating with the vagaries of the Zodiac, and that all the peoples on this planet are just fragmentations of these official main twelve. Though the same could be said regarding the inherent oneness of all things, DoDecaDaoism – DDD for short – is an interesting subsect, with many doctrinal quirks of its own than can be inferred elsewhere.

Chapter Three: The Shaman and the Stripper

Alaska

I didn’t always find it this difficult to associate with others. Working in a strip club in a small port town, I had plenty of time to appreciate the characters that wove their way around me. I was just the barman – not involved in any of that happy-clappy business – and I got to vegetate behind the bar glamorously, all day and all night, beatifically taking in all who made use of our services. One girl who used to come in to work the joint, and take it off for the gents, was a young girl from Wisconsin who’d come to Alaska after her last boyfriend gave her a black eye one too many times. This treatment has caused her to spend a lot of time reading up on military tactics and street fighting, and so she had the remarkable ability to conceal knives in her teeth – collapsible knives hidden between her molars and premolars. I don’t know how she did it – and she never explained the trick – but it had something to do with cavities, I guess. We assumed she must’ve been wearing dentures of

a highly refined type, and had some way of jerry-rigging them to contain sometimes sort of quickly accessible knife-sheath, but she never would affirm or deny any suggestion she made. In fact, she refused to admit she had a knife at all, and always held firmly that she had never possessed one in her life.

This was obvious hokum. The girl could hold the blade like a seasoned street fighter, and moved as fast and as nimbly as a spider. To think what she could do with eight legs gives me the shivers: with only two, she could move faster than a neuron synapses.

Those of us who worked in the club (or regularly frequented it) always knew when something was going to go down. It usually began innocuously enough. A misogynist customer, or a guy who was too blazed and didn’t know to keep his mouth shut, would start talking too big, and making too little of her. This was something she could not stand. She was a proud woman, and would not take shit from anyone, especially men.

So, she’d let them laugh for a few seconds, indulge in their own inebriated vainglory, whilst she’d be there, onstage or in the bar area, disingenuously looking the other way, acting like she was too pissed to care, insouciantly reaching into her mouth as if to clean her teeth, when , WANG DANG DOODLE, out it would come, slicing and dicing and flailing around, cutting up her victim until he looked like an incised palimpsest of his former self. She had principles though. She was tough, but she didn’t want any homicide or grievous bodily harm charges on her hands. So she was always careful only to incise the foremost and most superficial aspect of the epidermis, holding her blade lightly like a fountain pen, and tracing it keenly all over her adversary’s body, and severing a nerve or two when she could, so that the appearance of the damage was always far worse than any harm actually inflicted. The schmoes very rarely had the gall to take their case to the police, which, at the end of it all, consisted of little more than an intricately woven web of very painful, but light, skin incisions. People such as this very quickly learned not to come back to the club ; and those that did seemed to have sincerely learned this lesson. Of course, you always got the morons who just would not quit. Getting a reputation for being a tough little missy, there was always some ball-yanking bastard looking to prove that she wasn’t all that, and rejuvenate his own waning machismo. But they never succeeded. Missy she was just too tough. No one ever got through the other end of her dancing spider blade without looking thoroughly blended afterwards.

But if you knew how to comport yourself correctly, and how to keep a tight rein on the more saucy aspects of your tongue, then Missy was alright, and a generally cool cat to be around. She could also be useful in emergencies.

One of the other strippers, Roxy The Doxy – AKA, Roxologist The Doxologist – had a real scintillating routine in which she’d attach nipple tassels the length of flails to her breasts and wave them around in violent, concentric circles, lashing out spontaneously at guests who looked like they were in possession of submissive, masochistic proclivities. This was usually received well, and was considered an integral part of the visceral pyrotechnics of the show, until the night she accidentally lashed out at Paper Thin Louie.

Paper Thin Louie was a highly respected patron of the bar. So old as to be emblematic of the past before he’d been thoroughly relegated to it, he was, as his name suggests, an absolute paragon of frailty. Like an ancient book that’s falling slowly to pieces and becoming gradually unglued from its binding, his various body parts and organs seemed to be completely dissociated from one another. The very matrix of his connective tissue was a shambles. If you so much as breathed too heavily in Louie’s direction, it would affect him like a heavy gust: ripples would appear on his skin like wind blowing on water, and the sound it would make would be like heavy gale tossing about a crinkled tarpaulin.

Sometimes, the girls would go home with him. Despite his nonagenarian status, the girls seemed to have a perverse fascination with him. The fact that a man could be so flimsy and live, and do so with enough libido to take part in erotic floorshows, turned them on immensely. They knew he had more offspring than could be counted by your average high school dropout, and were all eager to see how he would manage to perform so adroitly, in spite of his frangibility. The man may have been a papercut away from a tombstone, but what do I know? That was one tombstone who knew how to deliver.

The girls never did divulge exactly what Louie was like when it came to the bedroom arts. For my part, I suspect he never gave in. Strip club enthusiast though he was, he never struck me as anything less than a complete gentleman. I think he just liked the attention. They just probably went back to his small, shorefront apartment, and watched the gelid surf crash titanically against The Pacific Rim, tossing up seals, dolphins, and other imaginary behemoths in the coruscating fractals of the waves. Maybe he did ball them, I don’t know. A man such as Paper Thin Louie is impervious to scrutiny, but ripe for speculation. All facts dissolve into uncertainties and hearsay in the face of his mystique.

For some of the girls, I know this fixation was a purely anatomical one. Though both of them refused to tell whether he’d performed for them or not, both Ginger and Sherry confessed that he’d gotten naked for them. Apparently, you could see his organs floating about his body as clearly as fish in a dirty aquarium. His skin had all the consistency of an unpolished lens. They both sat there for hours, in awe of his dermatological lucidity, and pawed about the floor like children, analysing him in his nudity from every conceivable angle. They drank him in like a warm beverage on a cold night. Apparently, he struck a pose, and let Ginger do a still-life drawing of him: though when I asked Ginger if I could see it, she stayed silent, and acted as though I’d said nothing. In a dive full of belligerent, professional nudists, you learn very quickly not to repeat yourself.

The Shaman and The Stripper: Chapter Two

Kafka

I did have a wife, once upon a time. I still do, I suppose, though I feel the word would have to be altered for accuracy’s sake, as she does not perform any of the interrelative functions that make a wife so wifely. This next statement may beggar your credulity somewhat, but I have an invisible wife. Adrift, and unseen, she strays through the unexotic hinterlands of my life, adding dust to dust bunnies, and adding plainness to plainness. To say that she haunts me would be but to use half a verb, and always, always, seeking resentment-free wholesomeness, that is not something I want to do.

She is not dead, I must stress this. Not, NOT DEAD. People are so set in their ways when it comes to the structural assessment of marriage, that if one partner remains seen, and the other unseen, people instantly think something is amiss. This, I think, is a myopic conclusion. Why do the facts always have to be so plain. Why should I always be the one to reduce them to a level any less varied and erratic? In a world so grand, I am always shrinking things for the sake of others, and making myself small in the process. Why must I do this? Why can’t I be big? Why can’t I be expansive? Why can’t I have be the fat cormorant, the genie on the lake, consuming all things in my aggrandizement? Why, why, why? Must frustration be my allotment because I do not wish to hurt others? I wish I knew how to make this not so.

***

I know I have gone wrong somewhere along the way. From my earliest, I have always wanted to help others. To pour out all my knowledge, in the form of a liquefied candy, for others to consume, has assumed a place of centrality in my ambition. But when I try, it always comes out as such a bitter pill. People think I am trying to poison them. Bitterness is good. Bitterness is detoxificative. But diabetic, and addicted to sugar, people reject it. In this way I have been reduced.

Nowhere have I felt this reduction more keenly than in the fetid, shrunken skull of my Art. Oh, what a great artist I used to be! Do you really think I care a piss for silent screwdrivers? My DIY ventures are really not that frequent as to assume the regularity that would necessitate the pre or post-existence of such an extravagance. I really, really do not care. I only care about it because it is MINE – Something I have produced. A child. An offspring. A stillborn blueprint of future births to come. It is my proof, it is my promise: I HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE TO THE WORLD. This is something that has been tattooed to my brain since the dawn of my existence, and something I cannot escape from.

I have tried to escape from it, and find means of escape, but this has lead only to further reduction. Why cannot I just find the middlezone? But, as I’ve said before, Balance and Banality so often rotate, that it’s hard to point out just exactly where that switcheroo occurs. So Practicality became my Touchstone. If it wasn’t practical, I wouldn’t create. That would save time and effort on energy expenditure, and leave me with only the fruits of my labour, without all of the discursive, meandering dross that clogs the arteries inbetween. Thus, a caveat was appended to my internal tattoo: I HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE TO THE WORLD, PROVIDED I AM ECONOMICAL ABOUT IT.

But it took over, it took over. I lost the first bit of this statement. Like hieroglyphs in a passage, weathered by the rain of the aeons, it was eroded until it became the functionary “ . . . PROVIDED I AM ECONOMICAL ABOUT IT”.

You see how pitiful reductionism is? We start off with an aim, we find techniques and means for enabling that aim, and we feel bolstered by the actualization of our knowledge. But, somewhere along the way, the aim becomes subordinate to the way of achieving that aim.

Let’s take the example of a Buddhist Monk. His aim is to achieve enlightenment. Why does he want to achieve enlightenment, you ask? So he can attain liberation for all beings. Here your questions desist. It is enough that he wants to do this.

So, he starts to meditate. As Chuang Tzu put it “meditation is fasting of the mind”. It is the way we dissolve the ego. Lao Tzu says:

Look at plain silk, hold uncarved wood

The self dwindles, desire fades

Scripture and experience impresses upon him the power of this illustrious act, and so, meditation becomes God, and the actionless act of becoming.

But, as the fruits of his practice increase, and he comes to taste the bliss of his inaction, the original aim becomes subdued by this glory. He now meditates for the propagation of that bliss, so that it will spill over into his daily consciousness, and, hence, into the world. But the bliss becomes too much, too big a thing. It becomes the thing he sits down for, it becomes an addiction, it becomes a selfish desire. He is no longer meditating for the liberation of the world – only for the kiss of that bliss.

Of course, that need not be final. It is an essential pitfall that all spiritualists at some point must tumble into. But some of us do not turn back. We forget our source. And only when we are tumbling into the scree at the bottom of the mountain, are we able to see the radiance at the pinnacle, that which we were seeking to attain all along. But it is too late. We have tumbled into the canyons and rivers of blood, where the vultures fly at their lowest.

Have I fallen that low? I have neither the vanity nor the despondence to say that I have. But the pinnacle is obstructed by clouds, and I have forgotten the simplicity of striving.

***

Sunday clouds and orange lawns. The sky yawns at me in happy thanks. Divinely inspired in the crater of my mind, this creator, this love, ordains what it will, and I follow along with it.

The Shaman and the Stripper: Chapter One

Skullface

‘Elusion’ is a beautiful word.

My favourite sort of writing has always been the kind that strives to be unseen. Like a torch held up to a favourite shadow, it cannot withstand the illusory brightness of midday consciousness, and withdraws into a more tenebrous time, when our ignorance is not afraid to subdue itself. It is an imp, a goblin, the outline of a wraith – a bandy-legged, hidden hoard, affronting the besmirched realms of silence.

Pursuing this, I take ignorance as my plaything. I call “Here Ignorance! Come here, boy!” and it comes gambolling up to me like a tongue-lolloping dog.  I play with it, I stroke it, I teach it tricks. Then I kill it, and lop off its head, throw it in the fire, and wait for it to breed.

The intercourse of ignorance is the first-start of the alchemical process. I love to watch it fornicating in the flickering embers. Fire is always revolting against itself. It is never certain whether to illumine or destroy. I am not certain about such choices much of the time, which is probably my biggest source of self-pity.

But the pet-shop seller will not sell to me anymore. He looks askance at the frequency with which I visit him, and suspects I am ushering all of my store-bought ignorance into the furnace. People do not understand these things. They place too great a stress upon informational fliers, and people like me end up outcast and alone, skirting the floorboards of polite society with our crafty hearths and holographic histories.

I have a screwdriver that is completely silent. I swear to God this is true. If you’re not busy of an evening anon, you can come listen to it, if you so desire. We’ll have a right old knees-up, I can promise you. It’s very useful, because I tend to do most of my DIY at night. I can be wretchedly tired during the day, but as soon as evening trickles on, a purposive restlessness enters my bones, and I find my eyes casting hither and thither, looking for something to mend. I fitted my basement with a miniature Roman bath one post-midnight morning, and not one of my neighbours knew until I informed them through pamphleteering the following morning.

I am head of the local Neighbourhood Watch. Okay, I will come clean: I am actually the secondary Head of the local neighbourhood watch. There are actually two factions of the local Neighbourhood Watch, and as mine is the lesser attended of the two, I must be contented with the sub-title secondary. Many’s the night when this pejorative word has scarified my civic pride. To consider, even for a second, that my love of neighbourly interconnectivity and surveillance could be considered secondary to anyone’s is an insult I can scarcely bear. So, to have this cavalier reminder daily brought to my attention due to the titular succession inherent in our historic traditions is a pain I hope the reader may never be wounded with.

What is the disparity betwixt the numbers of our groups, you ask? To this, I’m afraid, I cannot give you a straight answer. My dearest statisticians are endeavouring to realize the results around the clock, but they have yet to factor in the stochaic anomalies. I have suspected, for a time, that they may have been withholding the true results in the full knowledge that my morale is not built to withstand such a blow. But during my darkest moments, I must admit, such sensibilities as this may hold little meaning for them, and the aggrandizement of their bread and butter may be a truer motivation for their Saturnine slowness. For it is a pretty penny that I pay them; and pennies such as this they must perforce nurture and prolong in a neighbourhood such as this, where few fancy they must needs have recourse to their service, no matter how mistaken they might be in thinking so. All the same, I cannot fault their thoroughness, and I am grateful for their patronage, as they three comprise a triumvirate of the most dedicated attendants of my Neighbourhood Watch Meetings, when their duty does not call their attention elsewhere, as it so often does. I often hold a dear picture in my mind of the three of them, in their matching – personal deviations withstanding – waistcoats and bifocals, sitting attentively, clipboards before them, hanging on my every word, as a man from the gallows, in the peculiar umbrage of my basement studio. There is something unknowable in the luminescence of the projection screen I project my Power Point presentations on that reflects in their physiognomies, that elicits a tenderness in me that few other things warrant. If I could but afford a photographer to capture this ephemeral moment, I would count myself amongst the happiest of men. But, alas, my funds are already spoken for – and the contrivance of the occasion would add a soupcon of falsity to their rapturous poise, that would strip pleasure from it with every review. No, I must content myself with my memories. And no matter how it may blur with the headlong passage of time, the warmth it invokes in me will be none the lesser.

I always miss them when they are away. Statistic accuracy aside, the desultory rate of our membership fluctuates between 3 and 9. So, when my favoured triumvirate are missing, it is like taking the Purkinje Fibres from a heart, and still expecting it to beat. Some sessions, no one attends at all. These mass absences usually occur at the time of our Neighbourhood Watch Christmases Dos. And as my faction of the Neighbourhood Watch is markedly less in favour, it is here when the quantative acknowledgement of my secondary status is most fiercely felt.

Spending so many of these nights with my face pressed imperceptibly against the frosted glass, watching everybody inside having fun in time with somebody else’s PowerPoint presentation, these memories have formed a cluster in my mind, all so alike, they could all be superimposed on one another with only the slightest discrepancy. I find my life is made up of a multitude of these. So many different clusters, in so many different quadrants of my brain; a vast, intensive filing system, with one file stuffed to surfeit, with so many cold, empty drawers. I wade through the corridors of these lonely cabinets from time to time, and dream of all the things I could put in them – I do have a secretarial mind by nature, and with a more sensitive selection system, I could easily redistribute all of these files in a way that would be more economic and evenly dispersed: but every time I think I will start, I find myself back outside, face pressed against the frosted glass, with another cluster to add to my collection.

How can a man rail against such odds? One answer. Persistence. If you enshrine one thing over all others, no matter how fortune may flirt against you, eventually other aspects of this your life will reluctantly have to submit to this obsession. How do you think I managed to make such a silent drill? Persistence. That’s all it takes. The willingness to lay down one’s life in the face of all achievements, no matter how trivial. I like to think of myself as a samurai in this respect. As the great swordsman Miyamoto Musashi said “It is important to pay attention even to trifles”. Trifles are the maggots that breed tomorrow’s flies. What kind of fly do you want? A bluebottle? A fruit fly? An anopheles mosquito? The choice is yours based on your treatment of trifles. Following this, I invest sacrifice into all of my actions, no matter how trivial. Going to the Post Office, I smell the potential of death. In the supermarket, the grim reaper brushes against my coat sleeves. Writing poetry in the yurt in my garden, I feel the necessity to lay down my life in every brush of the pen (I use a Japanese writing brush. I like the way the bristles present such a vivid friction against the pages, a soft scalpel against callused skin. This is what I like).

Can you follow my way in the enactment of this? Are you committed enough to life that you can stare death in the face over every candle-lit meal? Of course you’re not. At least, not yet. That’s why I see you all, agglomerated at somebody else’s Neighbourhood Watch Christmas Do. The betrayal cuts deep. But I have the forgiveness in my heart to forebear it.

This forgiveness is important. I feel it is the last drawbridge remaining between me and madness. I can almost twirl it in my hands like a fragmenting nunchuck, feeling it whither and whither. Sometimes, the borders are so slight, I feel murder pressing gently against my heart. The borders are so porous, so permeable to my barely retained hate, that I’m amazed I can even go out any more. Blood would spill the sidewalk in droves, if my resentment were allowed to spill over. All it would take would be the release of one little drop, one little bead of sweat, and the drawbridge would be lowered forever. Out would come My Crazy like an Agent of Fortune, severed heads in garlands and leis, like Kali, the Hindu goddess of war, my patron, my totem, my inspiration.

Don’t we all carry these severed heads around us? They are the past wounds that forgiveness is just too weak to dislodge. Though my forgiveness might be keeping me from here and the jailhouse, it is flimsy as an out-of tune wobble board, or an aging pane of Plexiglas. I just don’t understand how people make it stronger. When Pandora opened her verboten box, Hope was the only virtue to come out. But what of Mercy and Reprieval? They came out too, but in forms so small, even an astrophysicist would not be able to seek them out. If only someone had the strength to pray to them, they might get bigger, fattened on our prayers. But hungry demons suckle most of our strength, and invest their blood in the night.

In my quest for rectitude, I did try to remedy this. I bought a statuette of the Japanese Goddess of Mercy, Kannon, and placed her in the hallway. There she sits, on a plinth, directly opposite Kali. This is a little test of mine. Between War and Mercy, Blood and Fortitude, I want to see who will win out. But, against the pleasure of my patronage, I just can’t commit to Kannon. With her aureole of supplicating arms, and bland, oriental expression, she just can’t seem to compete with the power of Kali, and her wraith-like superiority. Some days I am so angered by her, that I just feel like taking my drill and trepanning her; sticking it right into her third eye, and fucking her with it; boring a great big hole into her cosmic brain, and lobotomizing the universe. Even then, gone, pineal in tatters, she would still forgive me, and that knowledge torments me. If only someone would resentment me as much as I hate others, I would feel somehow freed from my own. Exposed to the clammy cold of their hate, my own would move on, and I would be able to dwell in moral rectitude once again. I cannot contend with the banal lack of extremes. Give me hate or give me love – I want nothing in between.

This is unusual, as I am so balance in other respects. Like my silent drill, I can walk around my house, making no noise. Even on the way to my bedroom, where I installed squeaking floorboards, in the memory of the old shoguns, lest someone endeavour to assassinate me, I can still retain my aura of silence. But no one comes to assassinate me. No one hates me that much. But if I did, one night hear those floorboards creaking, I would lie there still and accept.