Tuesday, September 16, 2014

FICTION: Panic in Detroit (Excerpt)


Pierre knows the Lord means for him to walk among men again. Otherwise He wouldn’t have sent a purple Cadillac, a grocery bag of cash, a steamer trunk of marihuana and pants that fit perfectly.  He who knows all tongues sent His message in the language of scents and snarls:  one whiff and Pierre’s words rose like Ezekiel’s dry bones, Goddamn that smells like some fine muggles.  And while the little fellow’s clothes were past saving the big guy went down with hardly any fight, he barely moved after his friend’s bloody baseball cap landed at his feet till Pierre yes yes Pierre my name is Pierre broke his neck.

The season’s first frost crunches under Pierre’s knees as he kneels. When he finishes drinking from the little fellow’s left leg, not so warm as he might like now but a thin velvet blanket is better than none at all, he looks around for a place to wash. The sand piled by the steam shovel will get the worst stains, but a man, yes a man, needs water to make himself presentable.  He lopes to the stream over the hill, his hands touching the ground till he reminds himself to walk upright.

When Pierre returns the big man is still slouched against the car, his unblinking gaze affixed on heaven tight as his dead hand on his crucifix. Pierre tries to get the Detroit Pistons jersey off but the big man doesn’t want to let go. Of course, he realizes, they were angels. Though I’m not sure why angels had a dead body in their trunk. He ponders this for a moment as the shattered stars twinkle overhead and the first frost crystals form on the little fellow’s bloody torso. Finally Pierre loosens the fingers as carefully as he could, only breaking two, and gets the jersey and the long undershirt beneath.  The cross reflects moonlight on the big angel’s chest between THUG and LIFE.

“Agnus dei qui tolli peccata mundi, miserere nobis,” Pierre sings as he closes the angel’s eyes and remembers the priest with the pale hands. “Retournez-vous aux ciel, Ange d’Seigneur” Pierre forgets the Latin but he remembers Notre-Dame de Montréal and expects an angel’s more likely to know Français than English.  “Merci pour votre aide et pour le muggles. Vous-etes un chat froid et un gros papa. Adieux.”

Once he puts a new hole in the belt the big denims fit like they were made for him. Pierre remembers watching kids dressed like this from the woods. Back then he wondered why they were bothering with clothes at all though of course not in words. Now Pierre understands perfectly. They give a man air and let him feel nature on his nature in a matter of speaking. And the shoes fit perfectly and even have his lucky number 15 on the sole.  Like clockwork, baby he remembers the experiments, of course, a beast can only take what’s thrown to it but a man can try to understand his situation.

There’s a shovel in the trunk beside the dead body. Pierre figures if the angels were kind enough to see that this man got a fitting burial it was only right he should do the same. Within a few minutes there are three holes, Pierre’s new clothes are a bit soiled but nothing a washboard and some soap won’t take care of. The man in the trunk is already stiff and some sticky unidentifiable liquid has stained the rug they wrapped him in. Pierre moves the bundle gingerly and just manages to avoid the maroon glop, soil goes away with a wash but body fluids stain forever. The big angel goes quietly and falls peacefully to his final rest. For a moment Pierre ponders what to do with the little fellow’s remains then realizes he can pick them up with the shovel. A short stroll to gather him together and soon all three are properly interred.

The clouds are gathering over the moon. Pierre smells freezing rain coming in, he barely feels the elements but he knows a man finds shelter for himself and certainly for his automobile. He looks around a bit for the crank, then decides he will explore Mr. Stanley’s invention out later. Picking up the back end like a wheelbarrow Pierre shoves the Cadillac into a thicket, not that he needs to hide it, nobody works a quarry in a Michigan winter. But he remembers the man who let them ride in the Steamer had a garage put aside for it, just like a stall only with no hay on the floor.  A machine slower than a horse and twice as filthy, Antoine said afterward as he rubbed white spirits on his soot-stained cravat. Behold the future.

“They ain’t near so sooty no more!” Pierre announces proudly, his hand on the hood. He realizes no one is listening of course but keeps talking anyway, he’ll need the practice if the Lord is sending him among men again. “Once I learn to drive we’ll be traveling in style, daddy-O! This is a Cadillac and they’re real fine cars. I saw an ad for one in a magazine in …” he pauses “when President Eisenhower was in office. They’re a smooth ride with V8 power and interior luxury. People see Professor Chauffant pulling up in a horseless carriage like this, there’s no telling how much elixir they’ll buy.” Pierre pauses again, his eyes downcast this time. “Or would, I guess.”

They left half a joint in the driver’s side ashtray, they never got a chance to lock the door and Pierre figures every gravedigger should earn an honest wage, especially considering his clients are no longer in need of anything. And since the big angel had a lighter in his pocket, Pierre is especially certain it’s an omen. The locusts are quiet, they’ve been driven away by the presence of God or maybe they just don’t like the taste of red velvet. What are we, moths? they ask as they fade into the smoke.  Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

Pierre looks in the back seat. The grocery bag isn’t full like he first thought but there are rolled bills covering the bottom, mostly twenties and fifties.  He grabs a couple rolls and discovers neatly trimmed stacks of newspaper substituting for currency beneath the first bill. I thought Antoine was the only one knew that trick.  Pierre shakes his head. Looks like these fellows was even touchier than that hotel manager. There’s still a fair bit of money though, enough to last a while and he won’t need to worry about muggles either, he’s got a stash that would have made Fat Tyrell envious.

An owl hoots by the stream. Pierre grins broadly as he realizes the enormity of what God has gifted unto him.  He speaks aloud again, hoping his voice will carry through the water. “Maybe we can’t have Professor Chauffant’s Medicine Show, but we’re going to be the heppest vipers in…” he looks down at the newspaper in the back seat. “Detroit, baby! Detroit!”