The Flat
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The Flat

 George L. Sparling
 George L. Sparling
The Flat
by George L. Sparling  FollowFollow
My worst job was working at Payless. The shipping clerk told me soon after the first week to take my hands out of my pockets. That Vioated more dignity, something I thought I didn't possess till that moment. I vowed to get even with that SOB. I stood atop a high pile of America's consumer gluttony, attempting to rearrange the boxes. Wham, I got the ideal to shove some boxes down upon the SOB's head, standing nearby, filling out forms. When they fell upon his head, he wasn't hurt, though I made it clear that I had done that on purpose. I was fired later that day.
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I CLIMBED DOWN THE ALPINE-STEEP ROCKY PATH from the flat where a tiny cabin housed me for the winter. I said goodbye to the madrone trees. The road up to the tiny flat had caved in so I lived alone. I visited Nat and Meg as well as their six-year-old daughter in their spacious, for backcountry folks, cabin. Charm sat in the corner, knitting doilies.
    Nat rolled a G blunt and we passed it around, little Suze undoubtedly getting contact high from the thick aroma. She pulled up her granny dress, panty-less underneath.

    “Don ‘t do that, sweetie,” Meg said, and inhaled the blunt I stole from a hippie scuba diver for placer gold. I also gifted them four ounces I swiped, hating to be mercenary, another reason I lived rent-free on the flat. I was no capitalist. Meg was a stout, short woman, playing with mood rings on her stubby fingers, each ring with a turquoise stone.

“It embarrasses Lowell.”

    “Maybe she’s angry at you for kidnapping her from Roy,” I said. Roy, my brother, a shard in the side of Nat, perhaps a moat in Meg’s eye. Suze, my niece, smiled. We passed the blunt around.

    “Nat saved little Suze from Roy’s bad habits.” Meg’s voice shook.

    “Your sperm gun shoots blanks, Nat. At least Roy loved her.” Nausea bit my stomach. The blunt spoke. Love’s meaning, like definitions of God, so vague that it had no meaning. Same with Roy.
    “I’m well aware of his kind of family love. No way,” Nat said, his even, soft-spoken words belied blood in his eyes.
    “Your L.A. dad lets you pretend you’re a free spirit. He funds you.”

    “He sends me the New York Sunday Times every week. I phone him sometimes and all we talk about is sports.” I leaned back, no longer on the edge of my seat, muscles looser than before. “I earn money reading natal charts and record them on cassettes.”

    Another dead end, Nat. Astrology fit perfectly with Nat’s Masters degree in psychology. I gave up college after cutting up a psychology professor. I served my sentence and headed for the wilderness.    

   “Hey, Lowy, what you do there on the flat these days?” Meg said. Her cheeks flushed, her voice steadier, her heart beat to Alice Coltrane’s music we listened to. Coltrane’s inspiration was a Swami’s portrait which hung over Meg’s head.

    “I listen to Barry Manilow’s ‘Somewhere Down the Road’ at lot on my radio.”

    “I heard you tucked gold nuggets in the pocket of your wetsuit,” Nat said.

    “He lies, pissed that I hitched here with Charm. She didn’t want to be his old lady.”

    Charm said: “Lowy beat up Reggie. Bad.”

    “You dirty shit, what a bad fuck you are,” Nat yelled and gave me the finger.

    I should have killed Reg when I had the chance, high on amphetamine, up all night, the 30:06 at my side. Pot growers like him would never rat me out to the police. People there had to use the shitter, they would find him. Dead or alive.

    “We’re blood brothers,” Nat said. “Things get evened out over time. Better believe it.”

   “You make me puke. I believe nothing. Try that.”

    “Why did you beat him? You know he’s just a runt.”

    “Ask Charm.” She held her head low, nodding, mimicking beatnik exploitation movies.

    “Charm, you there? Why did Lowy beat up your ex-boyfriend?” Nat asked. She lolled her head to one side, looking stoned. I bet she even faked that too.

    “He treated me like dirt. I was such a loving person. Why would Lowy beat him up? Ask Lowy.”

    “I’m asking you, dammit.” Nat stood over her, and then massaged her head as if she were a pet raccoon. The door to Roy’s nearby trailer open, a raccoon had come through the doorway, he passed out drunk from a gallon of cheap wine. It invaded his mangy hole, destroying everything within reach. He told me he wept, the raccoon smashed bottles of wine to hell, Roy’s communions wiped out. He needed wine, living soused, little Suze taken away from him. Meg and he had broken up, brother Roy now alcoholic.

    I saw the aftermath, but predominately I lived on the flat, though today I had clambered down its edge, a valley of sharp stones and trickling water beneath me. I could not bear to hear Neil Diamond songs on AM radio and be satisfied anymore.

    I no longer felt the need for isolation. Something drove me. I now wanted more of a social life, here with others in the cabin.

    Charm stuttered, ran her hands over her the thighs of her baggy jeans, and said, “I found God. He lives in the outhouse behind the A-frame, down at the bottom where jewels and angels live.” Well, that was original, I thought. Generally, she had no gesture that was not someone else’s, her words and phrases copied from others. Perhaps I was starter dough, mother dough, its fermentation made a large sourdough brought out the latent substance and aura residing in Charm’s firmament.

     “Why, Lowy, why?” Nat was agitated. What was in this blunt?

     “I smashed him in the head with a shovel, kicked in his ribs. I heard them crack, then dragged him to the outhouse and broke the toilet open and forced him down to the bottom of the hole.” I had no idea either, using Charm as an excuse. Was she worth it? A big No and a little Yes.

    Meg tossed a sexy look towards Nat, Suze imitated Meg and stared at Nat’s crotch. I said, I thought, to myself: Trinity code word for the first A-bomb test blowing its lid at the White Sands Proving Ground, sunlit shadows of their bodies, shades on the cabin floor, their imprints just as dead as the outlined, radiated vanished bodies on the naked Nagasaki streets.

    “What was that about?” Nat said. “Psychobabble?”

     “That asshole hippie must’ve dipped the blunts in PCP,” I said. I wanted to divert the lust which powered animal currents in the cabin. I blocked sex out with the energy of the shovel that smashed the hippie’s head open.
    We quieted down. I made more noise on the flat: listening to the small creek that ran from the hillside above, cleaning out the plastic pipe plugged with leaves, my footsteps, birds, water, wind, shit-suction from my bowels popping into the neat two-by-eight foot trench, turning pages of the only book in the cabin. It featured Lhasa, Nepal, seat of two Buddhist statues and a guided tour of a monastery, just so many Frito chips.

Little Suze hugged Nat’s ponch, Meg wrapped her arms both of them.

   After a long, long time, the Trinity un-clung themselves. Nat and Meg went up to the loft bed while Suze stayed behind with Charm and me.

    “Wanna see something God would do?” I asked. Charm looked surprised, then said, “Okie-doki.”

    I pulled Charm out of her funk, ripped off the skaggy dress, she naked underneath, then took my clothes off, looked at Suze, her eyes large with fear, with curiosity, then pushed back her back on an old couch, stuck my dick into her, this I had done once before after I heaved the poor hippie down into the outhouse’s vortex. I needed great stimulus for the vastly overrated performance of sex, who needed it, war, what is it good for, and she, an epileptic, must have forgotten her meds, and as her legs wrapped around my waist, she began to shake uncontrollably, far harder and violently than from simple passion. Charm panted, her tongue stuck out going “Ag, Ag, Ag,” her teeth clamped down and a small, purple monster stared at me. Charm, whom I liberated from the scummy hippie, no longer merited worthiness, so I reached for my long blade Buck knife, and sliced off an inch-worth of tongue.

    Little Suze went, “Aww.” Charm, her head moving back and forth as a driver’s head might shake on the Salt Flats pushing the car as it broke the land speed record.

     “Any Dilantin in the house?” I asked. No answer.

    I climbed the loft and threw the tongue into Meg’s face. Before she reacted, I ran out, dragging Suze with me and knocked on Roy’s nearby trailer.
    He poured soy nuts into her open palms, and rubbed her cheek.

    Snow from yesterday melted. Roy took the slushy dirt lane and hooked a right on the road that led to town, his driving much improved after detoxification. Tire tracks made the snow dark.

    He eyed Suze. “I’ll get some ice cream sandwiches. You like them, Suze?” She liked.

    I decided enough social life and asked to stop at the base of the cliff. I stepped out of the car, Roy and Suze said bye and Roy’s hand gripped her knee. Roy attended local AA meetings. AA kept him sober but the downside was that he was straight and toed the group line. He would want more just as he wanted more red wine. Time for Uncle Lowell to depart.

    I hiked up the gully and climbed the cloven-goat path. The AM radio played Anne Murray’s “Lucky Me,” yearning to be loved, when will it be lucky me. I had eight ounces of filched placer nuggets I had not counted: Lucky me.

    I walked to the trench and left a trail of dark steps, then pissed. I traipsed back, Vibram sole boots made murky footprints traced in fresh snow, and soon sunset. Without the kerosene lamp, darkness numbed me to sleep.



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