Chapter 20: A Roll in the Hay
By the time Clarence clocked out for an afternoon nap, a thick gin fog had already settled over his entire mind-state. The raging whitewater of his mind died down into a placid, gently flowing river, and Roy drifted lazily along with it.
Subconscious currents that moved in the deeper strata of Clarence's mind gradually became more prominent. They created little eddies that whirled on the surface, but they seemed harmless enough.
And then Roy felt the subtle shift in direction. Somewhere, he had picked up a bit of angular momentum that moved his trajectory off course. It pushed him outward on a wide counterclockwise arc that gradually brought him around in a great circle, and before he knew it, he was well into the second leg of another revolution.
Then he figured it out. Roy was caught in a vortex, and to his horror, he was unable to extract himself from it. The revolutions reduced in circumference as he wound his way ever closer to the ravenous void at its center. He wondered if this was how a turd felt as it was being flushed down the commode, flushed far away from a polite society that likes to keep its smells a secret.
As Roy was sucked into Clarence's subconscious, he felt fairly confident that there were going to be some smells and a lot more unpleasantness waiting down there. There was the shock of the cold -- it was strange to feel the coldness. But Roy was, after all, intertwined with the flesh and blood of a human being. Why shouldn't his sensory faculties sputter back to life?
It was both painful and exhilarating to be human again ... or at least part human. As he was siphoned down into the depths, pressure built in his ears. Do I even have ears? He wondered.
A disembodied arm swam in front of Roy's face. It was illuminated by a strange, ghost-like glow. It moved by cupping its hand and undulating serpent-like through the murkiness. The arm swam by Roy's head a second time, more slowly, as if curious. With the suddenness of a barracuda, it turned and latched onto his face with crushing force, like a strongman at a carnival trying to single-handedly burst a cantaloupe for his slack-jawed audience.
Roy tried to peel the fingers off of his face with his hands -- I have hands, he realized -- but the menacing fingers seemed to have hydraulic strength, and they grew into octopus tentacles that wrapped around his entire skull.
An ominous and powerful drum hammered at frantic speed, and Roy realized he was synced with Clarence's heart. It thundered through his being like a stampeding herd of buffalo, and time suddenly seemed valuable again, every grain of sand that fell through the hourglass was infinitely complex and beautiful, like a rainforest. There was more feeling, more understanding in those ephemeral moments than in the billion or so years he had muddled away after fleeing the Asteroid Colony.
And just as Roy felt the last of his life force being squeezed from his being, the hand released him, and its horrific tentacles contracted back into fingers. The hand seemed to shrink a bit, to soften, until it was unmistakably feminine. The ropey muscle of the forearm, biceps, and triceps diminished, and Roy saw that the dainty arm was attached to a beautiful woman with luxurious, raven black hair who floated there in front of him, naked and angelic. Then there was a baby -- she was cradling a baby against her bosom. The woman was saying something in French -- she repeated the words over and over. He wondered if the baby was Clarence's baby.
"I'm sorry, I don't speak French," Roy told her. The woman and the baby dissolved, like sugar cubes, back into the cloudy ether of Clarence's subconscious. Roy didn't know whether to feel relieved or heartbroken.
As promised, the smells arrived. A pungent, sour decay registered inside of Roy with such urgency that his stomach lurched into his throat. Then, a harsh chemical light suddenly blossomed to life -- a flare of some sort, which burned an ugly reddish-orange, illuminating the source of the ghastly odors.
There was a slew of pigs, squealing on the lazy slope of a sandbar. The sounds were unworldly, like banshee wails mixed with an ear-piercing squelch that resonated like feedback from the mother of all amplifiers. Roy wanted to look away, but he was transfixed on the hellish scene. The pigs each suffered from varying degrees of dismemberment, as if the butcher had A.D.H.D. and had run all out of Adderall. Even more grotesque was the fact that human parts were growing from several of the pigs -- one had human feet instead of hooves, one had a human nose and mouth, and one had human hands that struck a match, lit a cigarette, popped it into its snout and inhaled deeply.
Some of these pigs donned those German helmets with the point protruding from the crown. Others wore doughboy helmets with that little brim that ran around their entire circumference. Some had impressive-looking medals pinned to their hides, some donned gas masks, and one of them walked upright, wearing a pair of knickers that flared out dramatically at the thighs and tapered down rapidly before disappearing neatly into knee-high black patent leather boots.
One pig was lying on its back -- its rib cage was cracked wide open, and two swine fed out of it as if it were a trough full of entrails. Another sat Indian-style holding a bloody ham hock, chewing on it contentedly. A big sow staggered about with its lower jaw missing and one eye dangling by the optic nerve while a little black-spotted pig with a General's hat nipped at delectable bits of its shoulder meat that had been shredded by some previous trauma.
Mercifully, Roy continued his descent, away from the soldier gluttons who feasted on their own kind. Even an army of Sigmund Freuds would have a tough time unscrambling this guy's brain. What a waste, Roy thought.
A middle-aged woman wearing her mousy brown hair in a tight bun floated into Roy's field of vision. She had thick, horned-rimmed glasses and a long, drab dress that fell to her ankles. She wielded a yardstick menacingly as she screamed something unintelligible at Roy. Judging by the way her inflection went up, Roy suspected it was a question.
"I don't understand," he said to the woman.
This only stoked her wrath, and she grabbed him by the wrist, extended his hand away from his body, and rapped the yardstick across his knuckles. Roy pulled away reflexively, his hand stinging as if he had just shoved it into a hornets' nest. The mean lady emphatically gestured at an old-timey slate blackboard that seemed to materialize from nothing.
There were words scrawled in white chalk across the dark plane, and though Roy could see each letter quite clearly, they didn't line up into any words he'd heard of before. In fact, the letters would intermittently shuffle themselves and reappear in an even more confounding arrangement.
"I don't know," Roy said. "I can't read it."
The middle-aged lady with the mousy hair in a tight bun shook her head in disgust. It was such a belittling gesture that Roy would have preferred another whack with the yardstick instead. The sound of children giggling began to emanate from the muddy fathoms, and then they began to materialize one by one, each seated at a little wooden desk. They craned their necks around so they could snicker and point at Roy, and their conspiratorial whispers buzzed like bees around his head. Even that dried-up old prune of a teacher began pointing and laughing at him, and Roy wanted to tell them all where to shove it, but the words came out of his mouth all mixed up in a pathetic gibberish that brought the taunting to a crescendo.
Like a dangerous carnival ride that just doesn't seem to stop, Roy continued sinking, and the jeers faded as he went. He felt the temperature rise considerably, and he hoped he wasn't nearing Hell or some kind of hot sulfur spring that would cook him into a giant pork rind. To his relief, the temperature soon leveled off to something that approximated a lukewarm bath.
Roy was aware that he had somehow become wrapped up in a soft linen blanket. It was cozy, and he could have dozed off if it weren't for the bothersome emptiness in his belly. He fidgeted to get his arms free from the blanket, and he looked up and saw the face of a young woman who was gazing upon him with beautiful green eyes. She stared at Roy in wonderment, as if he were a king, or a god.
He liked when she smiled at him. She made sing-song cooing sounds, and Roy liked those too. He giggled at them. The nice woman pulled her blouse away from her breast, and Roy saw that it was round, and he liked the roundness. She cradled the back of his head and moved him closer to her bosom. It was round and warm, and Roy liked that. She gently brushed her nipple against his lips, and without thinking about it, he put his mouth on it and began to suck.
The little tug of war between sleep and hunger was tipping in the Sand Man's favor. With his belly quite full, and the hypnotic cadence of the woman's heart, Roy let his eyes close. And then he was awakened when the same woman hoisted him up to her shoulder and jostled him up and down, tapping him on the back. He was annoyed by this disturbance. The motion of it all made it difficult to sleep, and sleep was all he wanted. He fussed and kicked, but the woman continued bouncing him up and down, up and down, up and down.
Roy became aware of another presence nearby, and this new presence did not seem gentle and nice like the woman. It seemed harsh -- maybe dangerous. It was a man. He smelled musky. There was nothing subtle or delicate about how the man moved. The woman spoke to him gently, but the man responded gruffly.
The man was drinking from a bottle. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He turned the bottle up, drained the last of it, and hurled the bottle. It exploded, and Roy could feel the little shards pepper the side of his face. Roy screamed and screamed, and the woman whispered gentle sounds in his ear, but he just kept screaming, and the woman ran with Roy in her arms, ran away and left the mean man far behind, but Roy slipped away through the nice woman's arms, sinking again, faster than before.
There were chimpanzees around him, and Roy was one of them. It didn't seem strange -- he just accepted it the way you accept the givens in a geometry problem. Thought was not convoluted. Everything was clear, simple. There was a self-evident order among them. Everyone had their place.
The sun burned relentlessly in a cloudless sky. A paltry breeze struggled to rustle the tall, yellow savannah grass while a few chimps listlessly picked at a dead tree branch in search of grubs, or termites. The rest of them lounged in the scrawny shade of a thirsty shrub, waiting for the heat of the day to pass.
Then, a shadow flashed over them, and terror erupted in every fiber of their D.N.A. The chimps scattered, rushing to find sanctuary in the tall grass. And then the talons had Roy by the nape of the neck, and the downforce from the raptor's wings generated a violent surge of air, and the savannah fell out from underneath Roy. The beast took him high into the sky and released him above an outcropping of jagged rocks that would smash open his skull, exposing the spongy meat inside.
As Roy fell, he flailed against physics, flailed against all odds, and then ...
"Hey, Clarence ... " a voice suddenly cut in, and Roy was no longer falling to his death. He was no longer a chimpanzee for that matter -- and to his surprise -- he was suspended just a few feet above the rocks, just hovering there wondering what the hell was going on.
"Hey, Clarence," the voice thundered out of the sky once again. "May's gonna be here in about a half hour. Let's get you ready for your big date, buddy."
And then Roy began to fall upwards, upwards away from the rocks, brushing past the incredulous eagle, into thinner air, out of the atmosphere, into the murky water, past the nice woman with the soothing voice and round breasts, past the surly drunk who breaks bottles, beyond the vindictive teacher and the indecipherable hieroglyphics on the old-timey blackboard, surging beyond the cannibal soldier-pigs and the fetid smells that engulfed them, leaving behind the beautiful French woman and her little baby, dodging the disembodied arm with leviathan fingers, crashing up and out of the muddy river, out of the intricately folded brain matter, and finally, out of Clarence's skull altogether.
Roy's etheric energy hovered there inside the speakeasy, now physically disconnected from the groggy, bleary-eyed and battle-scarred lump of humanity that was slouched on the bar.
"Come on, champ," Franky said as he pulled Clarence off of the bar stool and onto his feet. "You're gonna be a regular Don Juan when May gets here. You got the money, right champ?"
"Yeah, sure ... I got the money, Franky," Clarence said, more alert now. "It's buttoned up right here in my shirt pocket."
"Good, good," Franky said as he handed Clarence a bar of soap, some cologne, a little bottle of hair tonic, and a comb. He ushered him down a dark hallway to a sparsely-furnished back room where May makes the magic happen. Roy wondered if Franky was just happy to help a friend get laid, or if he was, in fact, May's Pimp. Probably a little of both, he figured.
Roy was happy for Clarence, too. He had seen into the strange waters of this man's psyche -- a man who got dealt losing cards more often than not -- but here he was, still trying to make the best of it. Roy decided he was gonna tag along for Clarence's roll in the hay.
It's kind of pervy, I know, Roy said to himself, but this might be as close to getting laid as you're ever gonna get in this universe.
He hopped back into Clarence's mind and immediately experienced what his host was feeling -- anxious and horny. The primacy of it felt good to Roy. On some level, Clarence had a subtle sense of the foreign presence that was stowed away in his head. He dismissed it as nothing more than a side effect of the gin, and he poured some cold water over himself, and then shook his head back and forth rapidly the way dogs do when they want to dry off.
Clarence slicked his hair back nice and smooth with the tonic, splashed a little cologne on his neck, and evaluated the situation in the mirror. Good enough, he said out loud as he hopped, skipped, and leaped onto the rickety bed. He patted the bills that waited in his front pocket and listened to the clock on the wall ticking away.
Roy wasn't used to experiencing time in a human sense, and the anticipation was excruciating for him. Clarence was whistling a lackadaisical tune, and maybe that's the only thing that kept Roy sane.
Finally, the door swung open and a tall blonde walked in wearing black high heels and a fringed red dress that stopped a full hands-width above her knees. She took a healthy drag through one of those long cigarette holders, exhaled, and said, "Well, well, Clarence Bingham. It's about time you made a date with me."
"Yeah, May ... I was meanin' to for a long time now. I guess I was just shy is all," Clarence said, blushing. "I got the money right here," he said as he fumbled at his shirt pocket.
May smirked seductively, took the money, dropped it in her black purse, and snapped it shut.
"Ain't you gonna count it?" Clarence asked.
"I trust you, Clarence. I've known you for a long time. We were in the same high school and I had such a crush on you. You were a big baseball star. Remember that?"
"Sure, May, I remember. But I reckon things has changed a lot since then."
May sat down on the bed beside Clarence and said softly, "That awful war. Oh, Lordy ... how many of our boys never made it back from that damned war? I was so happy when I saw you back here in Winfield."
"Well, most of me made it back, anyway," he said, and he tugged on the empty, rolled up shirt sleeve to illustrate his point.
"It was a terrible price, I know. But you're alive, Clarence." Then she whispered into his ear, "And you're here, all alone with me. That's not so bad, is it?"
"It's nice, May. It's real nice of you to make time for me," he said.
She helped him out of his shirt, and her hand danced over his chest before wandering to the stump where the doctor had taken his right arm, just below the shoulder. Then she traced her finger down his stomach, until she got to his belt buckle, and made quick work of that.
Clarence was already raring to go, a fact that did not escape May as she stripped him down the rest of the way. She stood up, kicked off her shoes, and let the dress slip off her shoulders. It pooled around her bare feet, and she posed there, naked, with her hands on her hips and a saucy little smile. "What do you think?" she said in an offhand kind of way.
"May, you're a total fox. That's what I think."
Roy looked on through Clarence's eyes, and he agreed that she was, indeed, a fox. Her face was a little gaunt, and perhaps the lines around her eyes were further along than most women her age, but what do you expect for someone in her line of work? And her body was something else -- a Coke bottle figure with gams for days (Roy was already getting hip to the lingo).
May stepped out of her dress and climbed on top of Clarence. Roy got the full experience as well: May's heat, the delicate scent of her perfume, her body moving rhythmically, and her eyes -- her eyes were a beautiful green, like peridot. Roy had to go to her; he had to know what it was like to be part of her.
He left Clarence and melted into her, and it was a little like when an American hops into a rental car in London and finds out the steering wheel is on the wrong side, and the stick shift is on the left. In principle, it was about the same, but in practice, there were a few quirky differences that required some adjustments on Roy's part.
The vagina and clitoris were, of course, unfamiliar territory for Roy. Then there were nuances like the G-spot sensations and an intense orgasmic pleasure that rippled through May's breasts as Clarence sucked and caressed her nipples.
"May," Clarence called out with some urgency, "I'm almost there," he said.
"Just hold on, honey," May panted. "I'm right behind you."
Clarence staved off his orgasm gallantly, the way Davey Crocket and all the other brave soldiers held off the Mexican Army at the Alamo until the last possible second. His extraordinary effort gave May the time she needed to catch up. A powerful wave of ecstasy washed over them, and with an impeccable sense of timing, Clarence gave May a firm slap on the ass which caused her orgasm to spike to cosmic heights. She whimpered, and her legs shook in euphoric delirium, and Clarence buried his head in her tits and came deep inside her.
"Thanks, May. That was somethin' else," Clarence said as he fumbled with his clothes.
"Pleasure was all mine, Clarence. Don't be a stranger, you hear?" she said as she slipped back into the red dress and stepped into her high heels. Her legs felt rubbery, and she stifled a giggle while she wondered if that's how a newborn colt feels.
"You know I'd put you on my payroll full time if I had the dough," Clarence said, his voice heavy with sleep.
May thought about that statement, and for a moment, she wanted to blurt out, 'Let's run away, you and me. I love you, Clarence. I've loved you since the first day I saw you back in high school -- so big and strong up there on that pitcher's mound. You'd be a major leaguer, and Babe Ruth himself would be shit-scared of you if that damned war never come along. I have some money that can get us started. Let's run away and get hitched, and we'll figure out the rest.'
Her nurturing instinct cried out to scoop him up and coddle him. She wanted to take away all his hurt and make him better again, like when she was a little girl and brought home a sparrow with a busted wing that needed mending. But she had already seen enough of how the world works to know that fairytale endings weren't the kind of thing ordinary people stumbled into very often.
A one-armed, out of work husband with a thirst for gin, a Bowie knife in his boot, and a quick fuse didn't exactly seem like the kind of recipe that could bring home the blue ribbon from the county fair.
She let the moment pass, and she said sweetly, "Well, Clarence, you know I like you. I'll talk to Franky, and maybe we can work out a kind of friendly discount for our future dates."
"Yeah, May. That's real nice of you. Thanks again," he said as he kissed the back of her hand and let himself out.