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Matthew Licht
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Genital Pulp

 

Matthew Licht

The man in the black robe said ten thousand bucks or two years. I felt like a new life had been granted. The men in blue uniforms kept their hands on their guns when I approached the bench to say thanks, your honor. The County Clerk’s office was down the hall. There were a few forms to sign.

Cash payment would’ve seemed fishy, or at least a bit too flashy.

The neighborhood swarmed with Bail Bonds offices, but paralegal dreariness could wait. The Blind Justice Inn seemed a better place to celebrate conditional freedom.

A guy I’d seen before was at the counter, watching the barmaid get an early afternoon keg started. She poured off glass after glass of foam that would’ve settled into beer, if given half a chance. Suds vanished down the drain until what looked like a glass of beer in a TV ad appeared.

She caught the nod in the mirror, pulled another.

The guy on the next stool was on his way out of the courtroom next to the one I was headed into when I first saw him.

“Got off easy,” I said, to break the ice. “Can’t understand why, but I didn’t want to stick around or ask too many questions, know what I mean?”

“They always ask me the same question,” the guy said. “And the answer’s always no.” He didn’t say what the question was.

The best way to get people to talk is to shut up.

He eventually got tired of country music and background TV chatter. “My brother was always getting into my stuff,” he said. “That was the problem.”

He looked too old to dwell on sibling invasions of privacy, especially in court. “He found the acid.”

The story was less childish than it’d sounded at first, or perhaps even more. The guy said he was twenty-five when the alleged incident occurred. The brother in question was legally adult.

The guy who was telling the story came home from a day of pretending to look for work so he could get another free dinner at his parents’ house. When he opened the front door, he smelled excrement, blood and oysters. Satanic metal blared louder than Pops would normally allow.

You live under my roof, Pops always said, you obey my laws. No crazy noise. Cops will forcibly remove you if I tell them you threatened me while intoxicated.

Which was most of the time, in the nosy brother’s case.

Pops often slapped Mom around. She put up with rough treatment. She had an irritating voice, and her insipid manner grated on everyone. Though a lousy cook, she fixed and served meals. She also cleaned house after a fashion, did laundry, took beer and cigarette orders, and went to the supermarket. Mom was an unpleasant slave.

The brother who found the acid didn’t even pretend to seek employment. He dropped out of high school, dropped his girlfriend, dropped a lawnmower on his foot so he’d have an excuse to drop everything except getting high.

He didn’t ask Mom to score weed for him, although she might’ve done that too. She’d deliver another boring lecture, act like a victim, and take a beating if Pops found out.

Headphones kept the peace. The brother who found the acid kept quiet in his smelly room. He’d blotted out the window with garbage bags. Chaos raged in his head. Heavy metal born from New Jersey’s toxic waste-dumps deadened his eardrums and drowned out the world with messages of death pain blood and the devil.

Pops approved of peace, but not lazy bums. Nothing could convince him that employment was anything but gainful. He’d worked in a foundry, but had retired early with a full disability pension. The brother who found the acid implied Pops had dropped the hot anvil on his foot on purpose, and got a beating. The cops came. Trip to the emergency room. The judge ordered family counseling. Pops had no choice but to comply. Stone-faced, he listened to his wife and children vent their inarticulate rage before mealy-mouthed therapists.

One afternoon, despite injunctions and restraining orders, Pops stormed into his younger son’s room and demolished the stereo system which was on the verge of repossession anyway. He broke the entire satanic record collection over his knees, and scrawled Get a Job or Get Out in black magic marker on the girlie foldouts taped to the walls.

Selling acid isn’t really a job but it’s not a bad way to pick up tax-free cash. The merchandise is easy to conceal, and those who’re into it are really into it.

Bars are a good place to sell hallucinogens. The guy gave me his sales pitch, but I wasn’t interested. Beer pleasantly softens a world where what passes for reality is hallucinatory enough.

The guy shook an eyedropper bottle, and said it held over ten thousand hits’ worth of life- altering trips. At least one or two cases of instant schizophrenia in there, he said. Just happens, to some unlucky people. But it’s their choice. No one forces them to drop acid. A lifetime’s worth of insanity defences is no deterrent. Exhibit B looked like the cigarette coupons women used to get addicted to. They licked green stamps, absorbed occult nicotine.

You should’ve seen my mother’s teeth.

The guy who was telling the story said he was headed home from a successful sales trip when he sensed something was wrong. Dealers develop extra-sensory instincts, or else. Ditch your dope and run away, stay free to push another day. But he didn’t drop his dope. He was sold out, cashed up. He wanted a bong-hit of weed, which he purchased with LSD profits. Don’t get too hooked on the merch is dealer rule #1 or #2.

The guy sensed his wholesale inventory was gone, and that everything in his depressing world was different.

His dealer instinct was accurate, but that was no consolation. The brother who found the acid had blood all over him. He was listening to Pops’ ancient Hi-fi, which usually played Perry Como, Benny Goodman, Dino, Sinatra. The record was taped and Krazy Glued together. Heavy metal never sounded worse.

Parental body parts were strewn about the living room, decorated with stab-wounds galore. A set of steak knives, rarely used for their intended purpose, stuck out of human knife-blocks.

“Never took acid before,” the brother said. “Wild. Music sounds real different.”

“How much did you drop?”


“The whole bottle.”


“You won’t be coming down for a long, long time, bro.”

“That’s OK. I kind of like where my head’s at now.”

The parental torsos were missing heads and other not-strictly-essential protrusions. An intestinal trail led to their bedroom. The mess in there was in tune with the house’s general disorder. Pops had often complained about Mom’s slovenliness, with gratuitous racial slurs thrown in. The missing parts were in there. Steak knives worked fine as oyster bars on eyeballs. The meat-cleaver in the kitchen drawer split even the thickest skulls.

Pops had kept nearly five grand stashed under the mattress. He didn’t trust bankers. The brother who found the acid also unearthed Pops’ paranoid Fort Knox, but wasn’t interested in colored bits of paper, unless they were soaked with LSD. He licked the banknotes, tossed them around like gory confetti. There was no clue what Pops was saving the money for. Certainly not clothes for his wife or to get his sons’ teeth straightened.

The brother who sold acid figured the money was sufficient indemnity for his lost hallucinogen stock. He pocketed the dough, broke with principle and called the cops.

“Thing is,” he said, “I always wanted to murder them too. If I knew Pops had money stashed in the house, I would’ve made it look like someone broke in and torture-murdered them for it. But in the end everything worked out. Always does, if you know what I mean.”

“So what were you in court for?” I asked. “How come they let you off?” Pretty ballsy, bringing industrial amounts of LSD-25 into a courtroom if you’re up on drug charges.

“You got it wrong. I go in once a year to testify against my brother. Put on the suit and tell the Judge he’s not ready to re-enter society. Or at least I’m not willing or able to take care of him. He’s still high as hell. So I say I’m scared he’ll come after me, next. I tell them he threatened to do wipe out the whole family, only I wrestled Mom’s butcher knife from his grip.”

“Did that really happen?”

He dodged the question. “Nobody knows how long it takes an average human to metabolize a massive acid OD. Legally, they write you off as permanently insane after three trips, at least in New Jersey.”

“What does your brother think?”

“Like I said, he’s not legally reliable. He’s OK. His life’s not too different from before, except they make him work in the prison laundry. One thing’s sure, he’ll never steal my acid again.”

The barmaid changed the TV channel to a car race by remote control.

The guy who sold acid wasn’t much younger than me. LSD experience used to be a badge of honor. “So, you’ve never tripped?”

Course I’ve tripped,” he said. His stare made me suspect that I might’ve been tripping too. “I mean, how else am I supposed to know I got the good stuff?”

Beer’s usually a reassuring drink. Hank Williams and neon beer ad mirrors radiated and reflected freaky vibes.

“So you cooked up the stuff that made your brother chop up your folks?”

He shook his head slowly. “Got a college boy to produce the product. Then I got my girlfriend to take care of him, if you know what I mean.”

The scene played in my head, starring the barmaid. I drew prison bars through a puddle on the counter. My cigarettes were soaked, but I managed to light one anyway. The barmaid asked if we wanted another round. The way she said round implied hole. I fell in.

“Come here often?” I asked her. She didn’t answer.

The courthouse was a mirage in the glowing malt liquor ad mirror. Gray granite shimmered into pulsating atomic energy molecules. Governmental architecture fizzed like frozen Ice Age beer.

“I’m friends with all the judges, at this point,” the guy said. “Maybe you didn’t notice, but judges become awful friendly when I come around to deliver my annual testimony. Leniency solves delinquency.”

“But they keep your brother behind bars on your say-so.”

He shrugged. “Look, we’re all prisoners. The world’s just a jail we dream up daily. Nothing in the known universe, for instance, could’ve kept you off this particular stool at this moment.”

Ten grand is lenient if it’s one-tenth of the proceeds from the last job. Had to wonder if it’s true there’s no such thing as luck when the barmaid brought beer and said, this round’s on the house. She winked at the brother who sold acid. Or maybe I dreamed she did. Free beer is a kind of leniency too. Five bucks glowed pink on the damp counter, so I said, how ‘bout a round of whiskey with these, and pour yourself a shot too.

Several 80-proof drips dropped on the barmaid’s tank top when she tossed it down.

Think back on first tit, first hit. Remember when it first dawned that reality isn’t anything you can hang onto, just a bunch of electrons in endless motion, restless, meaningless, either positive or negative but there’s no way to tell.


Matthew Licht writes the weekly bilingual blog Hotel Kranepool for Stanza 251, about metaphysical hospitality.

 

He lives in Italy and writes murder mysteries under an Italian-sounding pseudonym.

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