one of these days we'll write a smokey grey with an actual plot. these stories are the stories in-between the stories.
Smokey Grey, Private Lie
Grey looks out at the cloudy unfocused day. Has vagina juice on his glasses.
He's not sure if the smear is inner or outer fog, or last night's lady.
Wipes off, so must be lady. But the day's still grey.
Smokey lives alone. In a dark illuminated by red & green neon, the lonely TV glow of computer screen.
In a dead steel city. Rumpled, weary.
Used to have friends but drove them away. Used to have dreams, but they died.
Dreams of external fairness, internal peace. No longer expects peace. Not alive.
Has an alien friend he met at a bar, though he no longer drinks. The alien has an expandable head,
accordions out to give thought room, but only at night, no one sees.
Smokey knows no one tells the truth, only a truth, their truth, though they always lie.
Knows flesh fails. Always. But is fun until it does.
He's lazy. Stubborn. Persistent. Old. Odd. Voice gravelly from forty years smoking grass.
He's never solved a case. Unsolved some, though. Once proved an honest man wasn't.
Proved an untrue woman true. Proved dead tree lived. Not much for life highlight, more like
low life, slow.
His office - vague, nondescript road, nowhere building, no desk secretary case, no debt job to jab,
just piles old files, unsolved, unsolvable - was being de-toxed, so on bent bench in neglected park,
he lights a joint, his last, takes his first toke of the day, watches the squirrels play with the dog...
the dog play to the man... the man play in shadow, dead smoke.
Something in the interplay reminded him of the Lost Whisper Tribe, the way they never vocal eyed
cried the wire to the strand, or the mean to maim, or lean to lame. And that reminded him,
he needed more grass.
The last he was smoking now was 3 time running grass. Yesterday, grassless, at his kitchenless
table, alone, he'd said "Marijuana. Marijuana. Marijuana." 3 times quickly, evenly. Rapped once on
the wood with his knuckles, said "There, I've manifested it. It will come." Looked about in mock
seriousness, said, "Well, where is it?" Smokey talked a lot to himself. Answered himself too.
Today, walking to the park, someone shouted "Grey." Dude stepped out internet door, so Smokey'd
"Any chance of finding smoke?" Guy reached into his pocket, said, "Here, somebody just gave me this.
It must have been for you." Handed him a small bud.
It was an old metamorph breath trick he'd learned researching Lost Whisper Tribe legends - whisper
silently same phrase right way same way same rhythm same roll 3 times spaced slightly, and three
heart beats later, the words will form themselves in air - you can hear them. Same logic works with
reality - project 3 silent visions, watch them unfold. Anything can happen if you’re Jung at heart…
especially if you’re too Jung to be a Freud.
Trouble is, you couldn't do it twice - couldn't count on it because reality got prickly when taken advantage
of, and started playing tricks, unnice ones. He'd learned that from Sham, his alien friend, who claimed he
used to be a reality adjuster, sold unreal estate - but said he'd quit, come to earth to play buttocks in an
acoustic buttocks band.
Sham was the only one besides himself he could talk to anymore.
The dog came up, sat, sniffed Smokey's smoke. "Ganja" the shadow man called, "Come here, girl."
Dog stayed, stared at Grey. Grey stared at shadow man, intrigued. Got up, walked over. Dog followed.
"Ganja her name?" Smokey asked. Shadow nodded, said, "I was wondering if you could explain something."
Smokey nodded back, trying to get the man in focus, but the shadows kept moving. "Depends. What you need?"
"Went to see a Quantum Mechanix production of Chopin last night. Man came out on the stage with a large pie
pan and showed it to the audience. Then an amorphous individual came out with a large printed paper of a negative
review of the previous night's show and showed it to the audience. Another person came out dressed in a tuxedo
and went to the piano to play, but was prevented by a woman with an ax, which she then used to chop the piano
into small bits. Never did hear any Chopin piano music."
"What'd you think of it?"
"Different, sort of interesting actually. And the sound the piano wires made while being destroyed were rather special.
Reminded me of an old John Cage performance. What did they mean?"
"Well, the Quantum Mechanix are a comedy group, deal in the surreal, dada, science. They were playing with Quantum
Physics and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle which states reality is all states, all things at once - it doesn't become
any one thing until you ask it something, and then it collapses into the answer you expect. Like Schrödinger’s Cat
experiment. Put a cat in a closed box with a bottle of poison and a radioactive isotope. If the isotope decays, the
bottle will break, the poison release, the cat die. But the isotope may or may not decay. So until you actually
'ask' the question ‘is the cat dead or alive’ by opening the box and looking, the cat is both dead and alive and every
state in between. It is your asking reality to give you just one answer that reduces the cat to dead or alive.
The Quantum Mechanix were playing with Chopin's name, showing you all of its states: it looks like 'choppin' but sounds
like 'show-pan.' The first man was 'showing you a pan' - and since it was a 'pie pan,' there were overtones of showing
a pie at a fair, and of course harmonics of the mathematical pi as well. The next person showed a 'pan' - a negative
review - of the previous show, so it went from 'show pan' to 'show the show pan' or 'show the pan of show.' The potential
piano player was stopped from playing by the chopping of the ax, so his 'would' of playing was chopped short. And of
course the lady chopped the wooden piano, so you have her 'choppin would' as well as 'choppin wood.' It's all absurd,
Shadow stood, silent, looking long at Smokey, then said, "Rather a long way to go for a short distance."
"Oh I don't know," Smokey replied, "it's rather interesting. For example, Quarks... Quarks create all the building blocks
of the universe - protons, neutrons, electrons, voltrons. But, when they're not creating stuff to build us, they disappear,
go away, cease to exist in this universe. When they need to make more stuff, they come back. Where do they go
when they're gone? How do they know when to come back from wherever they aren't? Fascinating stuff."
"Where do you think they go?"
"Why not? They're caterers of a sort. Must make noise. Have to be somewhere when they're nowhere,
and Illinois is as close to nowhere as I know."
They watched Ganja take a crap.
Shadow said, "You should check that out. I know you're almost out, and that's good shit."
And as the sun came out, he vanished.
- Steven B. Smith, October 20, 2006 - Krakow, Poland
here’s his origin poem. Lady and i came up with Smokey Grey december 2005 in our bed talk. she took the fantasy flight i’d built around my cancerously gravelly voice, added some lines, rearranged the rest, and - voila - Smokey Grey was born. i’ve been talking of writing a short story around him the 10 months since. there will be more Smokey stories to follow, maybe even some with actual plots.
PRIVATE EYE SMOKEY GREY
i come to sip yer honey, honey,
my sticky bee–
internal hive memory
nothing personal, just duty.
howdy duty. by jingo. by golly.
by jolly we’ll be an external
of an inner
we spark the waters
hold ‘em up
do the dirty bop
i need some heart gravy.
give me some heart gravy baby–
lounge lizard rhythm in
Lady & Steven B. Smith 12.2005 - Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Smokey looked up from his 5-herb salad. "Not much. Do I know you?"
The answer locked in the lay of the words - and the guy's suit. Looked a dried grey,
hint of glaucous green, yellow, a whiff of anise. Felt out of focus. Neotonous.
"Does anyone ever know anyone? Or themselves? No. I need to hire you."
"Then I probably say no. What for?"
"To follow my life."
"It's the why knot - I'm a private, not a peeper."
"No, no - wrong root here. I'm not sure who I am. Or what. I know nothing before
waking up two sun specks ago in this ill-colored bad smelling suit.
Smokey glanced again at the suit. It could fit better. "Why me?"
"A web in the room said come down, see you, you'd help."
"Spider or cyber?" No answer. Suit seemed confused by the question.
"OK. Why not. Let me finish, and we'll go up."
Watching Smokey eat his parsley, chive, basil & dill salad made Suit uncomfortable.
"Do you have to eat that? Isn't that plant cruelty? Shouldn't you be eating meat? Or women?"
Not much in the room - scattered umbels of small yellow flowers... some seeds... Mouse Moth
flower flitting, a burnt stalk, broken web - what could be floss farm over in the corner. Smokey
tasted a seed - fennel. Prometheus used a fennel stalk when he stole fire from the gods, so
this stalk was likely fennel too. Explained Neotonous' suit color and smell. This was starting
to stink of plant magic. Dark licorice.
And by the bed, a gold green mound of what could be grass. Smokey went over, bent down,
His head filled with sweet green licorice pure potent unprocessed fennel pollen, with
overtones of acid. Sound started pulsating, chopped up, running backward. His vision faded out
in out in vibrating blackwhite checkerboard. He lost his balance, fell to the bed - and blackness.
Great Green Grey Stalks with yellow flower mouths and fibrous voices approached Smokey
through his hallucinations.
"Excuse our lack of manner, Mr Grey, we are sorrow for tricking you. The Pod Golem with you
requires aid. We do not know enough yet to program him. His mission affects both flesh and
plant. We are losing Bumble Bee. Soon not enough Bumble Bee be to dance the plant. No
dance, plant die. Plant die, earth die. Earth die, man die. All global warming global warning.
Seven growing season before too late. After seven, not enough ice to turn back. Not enough ice,
too much sun. Much sun, small ice. Small ice, big ocean. Big ocean, less city, less food, less man,
less Fennel. All problem. We create Pod Golem to send out global warning, talk to press,
politicians, George W Bushshit. Please steer Pod Golem. We learn from him, make more. Make
each better until best. Send thousand out, million, hives. Talk. Educate. Lobby. If no
progress in 3.5 growing season, send out new Pod Golems - saboteurs, assassins. Global
warming will stop. Or man will. We will not die. Fennel must live. We ask you, Mr Grey, because
you respect plant spirit, commune much with marijuana. Tell us what you need to help send Pod
Golem on his way. You can talk to us by sniffing pile pheromone dust. We will see need in
your brain pan. Goodbye for now, Mr Grey. Until next blooming."
Smokey came to, a warm buzz in his brain. Good stuff. He looked forward to next blooming.
Fennel Suit was watching. As Smokey wondered what to tell him, Suit reached into his pocket,
handed Smokey a spliff. Grey lit up, toked, offered the joint to Suit. Suit declined, "No, I
cannot consume plant" - reached over, plucked the Mouse Moth out of the air and ate it. "Is okay
for you because this plant volunteered to commune with you. The Cannabis Clan hold you in
high regard. As do the dust mites - you make them happy."
Smokey smoked, thought, thought, smoked. Problem seemed manageable. Get Pod Golem a
decent suit that didn't smell, get him a large amount of money, show him how to wine and dine
and bribe and how to tell the truth while making it sound like a lie - and turn him loose on
Washington D.C. as a Lobbyist. Let him learn the ropes, get the feedback back to Pod Central so
they could upgrade their Golems, and repeat the process. After they bred out the bugs, no
reason they couldn't flood the earth with lobbyist Pod Golems to bribe the world to walk the path
of life. He'd show them how to buy good government. That the world would not end would justify
the means. And if it didn't work, well, he had no problem with Plant Pod Assassins weeding out the
disease... he might even help.
Smokey was already thinking he needed to sniff more pollen, tell the Pod Central Stalks Pod
Golem needed money, lots of it. Figured the plant kingdom knew where enough silver hair and
golden earrings were to make it work.
Smokey glanced at Fennel Suit. "Tell you what I'm gonna do..."
Since working with Pod Central, Smokey had a pack of bad pod puns playing about his brain - such as... do pod
people listen to Peter, Pod & Mary? ... did pod pervert pound peter pod over pod porno? ... could a pod piper
placate a pickled pepper's pink peccadillo?
He watched folk a lot closer now, trying to see if they were pods, or people. Some seemed both. And so far he
thought he'd placed three separate pod phylum: Plant People Pods, Pod People Pods, and People People Pods.
There were also the strange defective ones, the none of the aboves. Smokey called them the pod won't-a-bees.
They chaffed at hive behavior. Knocked the mass ought they were taught. Could mask their must. And musk.
Unlike the pod wannabees - the People People Pods - humans who wanted to be pods... and wanting was
He learned Pod Central was run by plants - who were good - while Pod Centrum was run by pods - who were way
bad. Pod Centrum also controlled TV. Most humans knew of neither, but did watch TV, so were part of the poop.
Pod Centrum also hunted down and destroyed pod defectives, lest they infect the pod sheep. And Smokey
thought he had met one of their weapons - a Judas Goat - a failed pod they let run free to trap others.
His name was Radish. Smokey knew him because Radish attracted good smoke. They'd met in Amsterdam,
talked while sharing some White Widow weed laced with black gungy hash. Radish was the first person he'd
met who smoked as much grass as he did.
Smokey had been researching a case for the Demoplants - they'd hired him to trace President-Pretend Bushshit
and Vice Torturer Cheney's roots. Turned out Dick Cheney started life as a plant controlled pod for Pod Central,
but then went bad, voluntarily defected to Pod Centrum to become a Pod Pod... bad plant pods were the most
evil of all pods once they went to the dark side, became tubers. George W. Bushshit was less focused, just a
plant pod that couldn't grow right in sunlight - his brain cells didn't glow, and so was extra susceptible to the dark
tuber tumor Cheney.
The over/under side of all this was Smokey discovered the good pods of Pod Central used birds as information
collectors and message reflectors, while the bad pods of Pod Centrum commingled with the rats of Rodentia,
for the same reasons.
It was while following a blue bird following a black rat following Radish that Smokey first saw Lady K in sektor 7.
She lifted in unknown ways his weighted heart, so he kept following them.
One night Smokey overheard him joking with Lady K about being a Judas Goat for the Pods - Radish told her
he was a defective pod, but they let him run free because other defective pods were attracted to him, so they
watched to see who responded. They weeded out the non-programmables that way. She replied she wasn't
defective, just efficient. He said she certainly had efficiently escaped her pod sektor. She asked if he were
going to turn her in. He said no - her efficiency interested them, they were letting her run free with he to see
if her defectivity had any potential military applications. She asked how they knew she wasn't a viable pod.
He replied she'd never worked pod right - ever, even as a child. She'd always been rogue: she'd lost her assigned
weight, assigned husband, assigned profession, assigned possessions, assigned prejudices of pro-familiness,
pro-parentness, pro-grandparentness, pro-apparent apparentness. And now she was unpredictable. Couldn't be
run for guilt nor money. Had even stopped watching the same brain planners' daytime TV, which was the final
tip-off straw that broke the camel's needle dick back in the haystack.
Not watching TV was a crime. Always proof of defective pod.
She was first attracted to Radish when he claimed Republicans tasted just like chicken, that the voters were
going to rise up in November and eat the Republicans because Radish had promised them one in every pot.
Radish was good with pot. Had pot luck. But he was a pod - or rather wasn't a pod, because he'd escaped
Podville where everyone watched pod TV and talked about it the next TV pod day at TV pod work over their
TV pod walls in TV pod buildings with TV pod parking and hot TV pod dogs patrolling the TV pod premises.
Smith and Lady K's joking brought to mind Freud's premise there are no jokes. So Smokey checked around.
Radish indeed appeared to be a free range roaming pod wont-be-never-ever-will-be. Pod Centrum should have
sent him to the Brain Camps years ago, chopped his roots, replanted him. Definitely Judas Goat material.
Normally Smokey didn't care, wouldn't interfere - but there was something naive, innocent, charming about Lady
K. He thought of her as the Woman from the Elf Woods. Wanted to save her. Perhaps save himself in the
process. Maybe even get laid. But more than that, he wanted to help her. For free, no string theories attached.
Smokey felt he should at least tell her what he knew, but didn't know how to go about it. He was fairly shy and
socially inept for an old dude. So he kept following them, discreetly.
Sitting in yet another coffee shop - Radish seemed as enamored of coffee as he was of weed - Smokey watched
as Lady K got up and came over to his table, sat down, said "That's your third cookie this morning. You have
quite the sweet tooth. Why do you eat so many sweets?"
"They're ready made food units. I don't have to prepare them, they're there when I need them."
"Then why not eat carrots, apples, toast, bananas?"
"Toast is good, but it has to be prepared - needs cooking, buttering, leaves crumbs. I like bananas - they come
with built in wrappers to keep your fingers clean. Carrots and apples aren't really food, don't satisfy, and apples
are slimy as well, juice the fingers."
"So what do you eat?"
"Coffee, cookies, ice cream, candy, pizza."
"But that's so bad for you."
"No, that's misconception. We're all the same thing - protons, electrons, quark by-products. All this difference
is illusion. Doesn't make any difference what I eat except convenience."
"Then you could eat rocks."
"Yes, if I could get my mind in the right place. Rocks are made of the same stuff we are, they just move slower.
Actually I need to get to the place I can absorb what I need from the air. Solve my problems."
She searched his face awhile, then said "You've been following us for a week now, and I need to know why."
So much for discreet. He sipped his coffee, watched her. She was even more charming up close. Didn't appear
angry. She watched him back, polite, waiting.
"Mostly you," he replied. She sat there, silent. "You tug at me and I don't know why, or what to do about it.
But if that were all, I'd not follow you like this. I've stumbled across stuff you should maybe know."
"Radish. This is awkward. He has a checkered past."
"I know, he's told me... says not only does he have a checkered past, he has a checkered present as well. He's
told me about stealing cars, his two armed robberies, his year in jail, his drug use... he says he's the danger
side of possible, and I believe him."
"What about the Judas Goat for the Pods?"
"Told me that too. Not sure I believe it."
"You okay with this?"
"You need to understand - Radish honors me, treats me with respect, tells me the truth, is interested in what I do,
listens to what I say. Makes me laugh. Really loves me. Plus I never know what crazy thing he'll do or say next.
You must know how unusual that is with men, being one yourself."
"Yes. I don't respect many men. Or women. Do like plants and animals though, and children - as long as they're
some one else's and go away after awhile. Okay. I'll stop following, leave you two alone."
"What's your name?"
"Don't you think I'm a wee bit young for you?"
"Way too young. Can't help that. But I can still help. If you need me, call."
She looked at him, watched his face awhile, silent. Smiled. "Okey dokey, Smokey Grey." And walked away.
Smokey watched her disappear. Looked down, saw a cookie crumb. Ate it. Looked around. Saw the black rat
watching him. Looked about for the blue bird.
- Steven B. Smith 11.11.2006 - Liznjan, Croatia
Lady gets a lot of credit for smokey grey too. we came up with him in our bed talk december 2005, and she turned that into a collaborative poem. she's the one i bounce off. "dead steel city" and "same brain
planners' daytime TV" are her lines... having an alien friend is her idea... she insisted i put our food unit conversation from yesterday into this story. and some of the events, like the vagina juice on my glasses
and me saying marijuana 3 to manifest it, happened. her taking me to the chopin concert in krakow provided the end to the 1st story. the metamorph breath trick and the expanding accordion head are from
flights of fancy i babble to her when stoned. the 4-herb salad (the missing 5th herb is marijuana) is one of the dinners she served me from herbs growing in pots on our krakow window sill. 'neotonous' is one of
her words from an early conversation. and of course global warming is her major concern. so it's all entwined. as are we. oui.
Reporter Polly Pureheart poses patiently. Private Eye Smokey Grey inserts his key into the door. A Moroccan door, blue. The key halts its turn in the lock. Smokey bends down, rubs his fingers along something on the lower third of the door. It’s a mysterious mark, Arabic writing in chalk. Low, as though written by a child. The author asserted the mark over a film of chalk dust. The film indicates many prior etchings have occurred, and have been dutifully smudged off.
Smokey and Polly step through the dirty blue door into a dark kitchen. The musty apartment doesn’t have many amenities, but what it lacks in comfort, it makes up for in magic ambiance… step outside the door into crooked alley with buildings old and unstraight leaning between irregular stone arches and you’re in foreign movie land. Stay inside the apartment and the city caravans its never silent soundtrack by the blue door, the only door.
Smokey makes a discovery: “Look, Polly, there are panties growing like fungus on the kitchen chairs. There’s one chair, there are two chairs… it’s like the Bandysnatch was here.”
Smokey feels a pair of panties. It’s inside-out, and hung to dry on the back of the kitchen chair. “It’s wet…” He rubs the moisture thoughtfully between his thumb and middle finger.
“The Wet Bandysnatch?”
“Yes. The snatcher of bits bandied.”
“And it leaves panties on the chairs. Ah, the Case of the Wet Bandysnatch… Oh, Smokey Grey!”
“Smokey Grey…” Grey growls. “Ruddy Red?”
“What did you say?” Polly asks.
“You look like a ruddy red lumberjack with your sunburn.”
“I look like a guy?” Polly’s elfin face shows slight irritation, puckering worry lines between her eyebrows. The sunburn enhances the contrast of her skin with the lily whites of her eyes.
“Well, in your case it would be more Limber Jill,” Smokey says.
“Oh, OK.” She follows him into their clammy tiled salon. It’s hung with Pureheart’s wax art. To her dismay, beads of water have condensed on the art. She dabs it with a tissue.
Smokey settles on the couch, unwraps a bar of chocolate. Doses are broken off in a manner so as to round one edge. It is a delicately nibbled candy bar. Its perfume wafts over to Polly. Smells like an orange, she thinks.
“A lot of crazy shit comes out your mouth, Smokey,” Polly reflects. “But you look dignified, somber, composed.”
She settles next to Smokey, sitting Indian style on the couch. She wears a traditional Indian shirt over beat-up jeans. Smokey sticks some chocolate on a needle. The needle is mounted on a makeshift platform, a Philip K. Dick book. He lights the pellet of chocolate. Holds the orange flame eye level in judgement.
“I may look composed,” Smokey says, “but every now and then They look away, and one of Us slips out, dances about. They can’t keep their eye on Us all the time.”
He blows out the flame, releasing a thick white smoke plume.
“Oh yes They can,” Polly says. “They watch you.”
“There are a lot of Us in here. They make most of Us stand in line.”
“I caughtcha. I catch what you say when you think I’m zoning out.”
“Oh, do you work for Them?” Smokey asks, tenderly.
He passes the needle platform to Polly, capturing the smoke under a jelly jar. She tips it up, takes a sip.
“Oh, zone. Ozone. You’re my surrealogram…” Grey waxes.
“You’re my surrealogram to the future.”
Polly tries a Dadaist comeback: “Are you going to eat me?”
“No, there were discussions of eating you. but then you came up with the conversations. so we decided it’d be like killing the golden tape recorder goose.”
“Phew. I hate it when you put an apple on my head, Burroughs. I love you.”
“Don’t worry, Polly, I’m just a babbler. I’m a psycho logical babbler from way back.”
The duo passes the smoke cup in silence for a while. They relax in collapsed comfort on their salon couch, watching the intricate riotous tiled wall.
“I know why they have these tiled walls,” says Polly. “They’re like psychedelic bursts.” The tiles explode in firecracker pattern and color.
“Yes,” says Smokey. “There were a lot of drugs in Africa in the old days so maybe after the brown sameness of riding camels through desert in sun, they came to the cities, did drugs, and watched the wall tiles explode. These heavily patterned tiles are rock concert light shows. Toss in some hookas, a few belly dancers and you have a mixed media sound and vision art performance.”
“And I can see how the pattern represents Universality.”
“Repeated patterns symbolize the everywhere-ness of God: God is all, everything, complex, complicated, the core and the source. Rather like the DNA which creates bioforms, or the underlying quarks which build reality. Or maybe the sand scratches their eyeballs and they see a soft unfocused undulating wave of dancing color instead of the thousands of individual intricacies constituting the pattern.”
Smokey and Polly relax without talking for several minutes. The volume of street murmur amps up, permeates the tiled walls, the thin plastic windows into the apartment. Polly loses her focus in the sea of tile. A kitten mews piteously, repeatedly, insistently. The mew becomes louder, finally punctuating itself into Polly’s consciousness, and then she loses it in the rising murmur.
“They’re upping the volume of the street noise again,” she observes. “We gotta start talking; they’re on commercial break.”
“They touch the knobs on people to make it louder or softer,” says Smokey. “They’re listening. They attend to our soundtrack.”
“They touch the knobs on people?” Polly asks.
“Yeah, They nudge the knobs on people. Animals too.”
“Are the people constructs?”
“No, Polly,” Smokey explains. “The constructs are pre-set. So it’s only necessary to nudge the knobs for real people. Sometimes They don’t have to do it manually, because some of the people knobs are temperature sensitive, and some knobs are density sensitive.”
Pureheart thinks of mass psychosis and propaganda. “Why do the knobs sense density, Smokey?”
“Well, Polly, take the Texas Rabbits as an example. When the rabbits fuck too many of themselves into existence they develop a nervous condition. They twitch a lot, die off. So the population density reduces for optimal survival. We need those kinds of switches in people, in case of high People per Construct ratio.”
“OK…” Polly sounds dubious. “Why is it important to have a low ratio?”
“You never know what’ll happen when you get too many People together.”
“Oh, so that’s why They’re shutting down those liberal churches,” Pureheart realizes. “They’re pestering the churches because the churches try to raise awareness to change what’s going on. They call the churches ‘political’ and they remove the tax-exempt status. Meanwhile, they fund churches who promote Their status quo.”
“Good for Them,” says Smokey. “The churches are all dens of false hope, anyway.”
“Oh, Smokey, the Case of the Dens of False Hope!”
§ § §
“The concept of trailer trash stigmatizes poor people.”
“You and I could become trailer trash, you know. You could swear and get drunk and I could fart a lot.”
“Well, it’s an injustice.”
“Aha! There’s my little leftist radical come out of hiding. That’s alright. You won’t shake my faith in the government, not any more than it is.”
“I notice all the patriotic propaganda Hollywood movies. Hollywood’s just a tool of the State.”
“Tool of the State. You’re becoming radicalized, Polly. Your writing… World Trade Organization, the Dems not being honorable, Global Warming, World Hunger… And now you’re on the World Trade Organization’s Leader. You’ve becomed radicalized. That’s what happens when you get raised by hippies.”
“That’s what it is, tho. I remember when it all changed in the 90s. All these new TV shows, like the fascist COPS show on Fox - they’re saying to minorities - look out - this will happen to you. This is what we do to you… You know, the propaganda machine wants you to be scared.”
“Or sleepy with pleasure.”
“They want everyone to worship the perfect family with the perfect appliances. Meanwhile no one can ever be that perfect family.”
"The plu-perfect Republic. United We Spend!"
“That’s exactly it. We’re all a little too different from the Aryan ideal - no one could fit in perfectly. So that gives us all this shared sin, which tells us that we’re defective and superior at the same time.”
“I’m not defective. I just don’t work right.”
“Like that movie, Enemy of the State, you’re supposed to identify with Smith’s character. Which would seem like a good thing; you’re standing up to the Machine. But actually, the movie makes you scared for the character and scared of the State.”
“I think it’s right proper to be scared of the State, Polly. There’re a lotta weird people in it, and they do what they want. Your only real chance is not getting *noticed*, you know that?”
“No, I think the opposite is true. You want to dissent publicly, and IN WRITING especially. Because if other people know you’ve been dissenting, and then notice you’re MISSING, they’ll know what’s been done. If no one knows, then they can just pick you off. That’s what censorship’s about. It’s got real consequences. I have a lotta theories about this stuff.”
“Oh, I don’t know. The theories just come out when they want to. It’s a kind of constant strategizing I have in my head. I always doing a maximum life optimization.”
§ § §
“Temperature sensitive…” Polly ponders. “Why do People need temperature sensitive knobs, Smokey?”
“Well, if you want a logical experiment, then you gotta vary the parameters, up the temperature. Run your subjects a little closer to the wire. See what happens when there’s less room to compute. UP the experimental WATTAGE! So, temperature sensitive and density sensitive - there are probably other models but They don’t tell me everything.”
“Who are They, the satellite?”
“Actually, the satellite might be a ‘They.’ I don’t know. I might be a They, who knows? The United Mutants of Smokey. We rule our little kingdom with enigmatic t-shirts.”
He pauses, says, “Most of my me’s keep in touch, get along.”
“Do any go bye-bye?”
“I ain’t seen some in a while. I’m gettin less surprised less often with a new one popping up.”
“I say when they pop up, kill them,” says Polly mischievously.
“Like those little monkey games you see in the zoo? Whap-a-primate?”
“How many me’s you got?”
“Probably seven mes, but somehow they break down into three equal keys, so, I’m not sure quite how that works. Seven’s a safe number. You can get away with a lot with seven. A lot of room to maneuver. And don’t forget Oversoul Seven. Your soul breaks down into seven lives over seven times, but there is no time and it’s all the same soul.”
“That sounds like good rap.”
“That’s Oversoul Seven. Seven’s also four and three so you have four directions and the holy trinity. Bible says forgive seven times seven to the seventh… but basically they break down into the Three: Databank, Desire and Logic.”
“That seems like a good parsing.”
“A parsing in a pear tree!”
“How do you know who’s who?”
“Repetition. Long period of time repetition. Gettin harder to lie to myself. I’ve been around myself too long.”
“It’s been a long time, Smokey, since we’ve been with any other people. It was odd yesterday, talking with that British couple. I felt stilted in my speech. Even though the couple was progressive, I felt like I was talking to Them.”
“Yes, it’s been a long time since we talked to Them. I gotta let you out and play every once in a while.”
“People might think we’re crazy.”
“Depends on who makes the rules. Next time I’ll let you play more. Give you more time. I won’t bite them. Just give them little subconscious snarls every now and then to keep them ill at ease.”
“Yes, you’ve gotta stop biting hands, Smokey.”
“I’ll play nice if they’ll play nice.” Smokey cracks a glinty side smile at Polly.
“Oh, you’re such a creature.” Polly rubs his head.
"Off the grid. That's where we gotta go. Off the grid where they can't find us and there's no electricity." Grey's in a harrumpf. He sits on the salon couch, raising a puff of dust.
"Why do we have to go off the grid, Smokey?" Polly Pureheart's voice sounds like Rocky the Squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle.
"Well, it's safer off the grid. As long as you're on grid, tapping into their resources using their services, they can track you. Know where you are. Know what you've used. Go off grid, they can't find you."
"This would be hard, Smokey. I don't know if it'll have any effect. But mutantkind's gotta start preparing for a post energy age if the Earth's gonna survive." Pureheart snuggles up to Grey's side. He pats and smoothes her hair.
"Yes, Polly. Sometimes, we won't have refrigerators. And no hot water. We could dip in and out of the cybercafes, but that still leaves tracks. They can see where you accessed and when. So basically, to go off grid we'd have to shut down our cyber selves."
"We could access, but we couldn't send e-mail, couldn't use blogs..."
"And no cell phone calls, Polly. No long distance anywhere. No airplanes, though boats and trains might be OK. If they take cash, and a smile. No ATMs. No border crossings."
Pureheart bolts upright. "Borders aren't relevant. I like the idea of the complete freedom of a human being. Anything that's administrative law can be discarded."
"All that matters is if you're a rat who can get out of his cage." Polly Pureheart the romantic. She paces up and down the salon. Grey's still prone on the couch.
"I'm a good rat," he asserts matter-of-factly. "Someday I will make the holy journey to Rodentia, that Great Rat Trap in the Sky Reached on a Stairway of Cheese." He lisps, "We rats have great mythsss..."
Polly stops pacing, giggles, asks, "What are the Great Rat Myths?"
"One of them is Build a Better Rat Trap and the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door. We got that one started, passing around. Pretty soon everybody's busy trying to build better traps while we ate all their grain."
Pureheart sits down, lays her head on Smokey's lap.
Grey spreads out his arms demonstratively. "And there's the Great Rat Moon. Once every thirteen Mouse moons, comes Rat Moon. We all go out in the dark and worship this large chromium rat trap that our Great Leader almost escaped. We worship the bits of leader left encrusted in the trap."
"We also worship a special clan of rats, the Venice Water Rat Clan. They ate the city's cats."
"I hate to think of the kittens vs. the rats here in Morocco."
"You think the rats eat the sick little kitty cats, Polly?" He tickles her side playfully.
"Definitely." Pureheart notes her rising nausea.
"Nature's garbage disposal. Cheaper than an undertaker. More honest, too. Rats should run all our funeral homes. We'd just eat the dead."
"Why do you say that?"
"Ew! No; I mean why are undertakers dishonest?"
"Oh, there's been a whole expose on that. They lie about what things cost. They lie about what the law requires, usually something more expensive. They arrange their showrooms and their tours psychologically so you tend to choose another thousand more to start with. They also don't do very well keeping track of peoples' bodies and they don't bury or burn the right body."
"Oh dear, Smokey."
"Yes, Polly. Would you want an undertaker inserting things into *your* daughter? I think NOT! How'd we get on to that anyway? Oh yeah, the Great Rat Myths."
"I think they've made off with some of the cats here."
"The undertakers, or the Rats?"
"No, silly. I was thinking of --"
Grey cuts her off. "Oh, the undertakers were also selling body parts and organs for the medical replacement factories. Only just like used cars, they would roll back the odometer and tell you it was from a much younger person, healthy. They also sent a few diseased people parts out. Quite a scandal. "
She's not gonna let Grey get away with any bald assertions. "What evidence do you have for this, Smokey? Is this one of your solved cases?"
Grey ignores the question. "Rats are definitely more honest than undertakers. The rats look at you as you're dying, as they nibble you, eating little bits and pieces. They look you right in the eye, and say, 'What do ya think of THAT, buddy' as they swallow a piece of your cheek."
"And this is when you're still alive?"
"I would think they'd wait until after you were dead."
"Oh no, they're more honest than that. All they care about is if you're slow enough and feeble enough to eat. If you move a little bit, that's all right. Adds flavor."
"How do you know all this, Smokey?"
"I used to work with rats. Some called them Collection Lawyers. Everybody hates collection lawyers. Even collection lawyers."
"Oh dear. So, finish your story. How can we get off the Grid?"
"We have to go to America," Grey says. "Take all our money out, stop using banks, no more ATMs, no long distance phone calls to your mother, nothing in our name, utilities, nothing. Shut down our Internet accounts. No more e-mail to any of our friends. Drop out of electronic civilization, and stay away from places like England that have a video camera every 20 feet."
He continues: "Gotta have some sort of population around you, otherwise your body heat would stand out. Misdirect view away from you, camouflage as one of the ants. Or we can just act real crazy and loud and swear on the streets and wave our arms and no one would pay attention to us this way too. Become so obvious they just don't see you anymore."
Polly says, "I'm afraid the end point of your logic is lucid insanity, Smokey."
“After watching Hannibal, I theorize that the serial killer genre is meant to perpetuate mass mental illness. It glamorizes narcissism.”
Well, it’s important, Polly. You gotta have monsters to feed on the tribe. And you gotta have slow people to feed to the monsters. So serial killers feeding on narcissist leftovers gives the rest of us the chance to go about our normal business and thins the herd.
“Ah, so narcissists are slow… I used to be a fat narcissist.”
Yeah, they always stop and look at themselves. It’s important to keep slow people around you for when the monsters attack. I used Mom for that for years. Worked too; death visited and I got away.
“My generation is the generation of irony. You are more with my generation than your generation.”
Why, is that the decision of the Irony Board?
“OK, more about irony. I used to think it was just a fashion, but now I think it’s an oppression. Because They want everyone to feel superior; it’s a way of desensitizing my generation so we can’t feel anything about the bad shit that’s going down.”
I’m more from the Mad Max school of movies.
“Yes. Mad Max is cool. Look what he turned into, though.”
That’s exactly what I was thinking! I wonder what I’ll think of the movies next time I see them. Everything changes.
“Yes, I never thought Mel Gibson could age. I thought of him as a silver-tinged hairy beefcake.”