Back to The Beginning: Every Beauty is a Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Back to Part 7B: Pain and Beauty, our Constant Bedfellows. Young as I was, I understood.
Part 9B of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
One of Three Possible Part Nines
As I smoked one of the Virginia Slims cigarette left behind by Kettles Johnson, I began to review the death toll. For someone who had only seen death come in the form of an old man wheezing out his last breath, this was astounding. Kettles Johnson, Jerry, Candy Hunter and my friend Don were all dead. Now I was being given a choice. I could either join them or take what was behind door number two. The problem was, Jayne and her associates thought I knew what was behind door number two. I had no idea and I did not want them to realize that. The way I saw it, they were keeping me alive because they thought I knew something. How long I could get away with playing that charade was yet to be determined. As I looked at the local police department, gathered on their benches and cheering on the mayhem, I wondered how to get in touch with real law enforcement authorities. I wondered if any existed in or around this bleak college town.
With all the violence that surrounded me, I wondered about the holidays. My sweet mother often made a ham on Christmas and the family would tell stories about interesting things that happened in school or at work or at the grocery store. I probably would have more than my usual share of things to talk about. That was good. The envelope full of twenty dollar bills that Jayne Hunter had recently handed me was probably good, but this kind of money didn't come without a price. Dying, which was quite possible within the next few minutes, hours or days was was probably not good. Of course, someone could build a career on dying and then continuing to walk around and tell stories.
"What did you decide?"
"Are you going to accept the deal?
Or would you like Rampon the Small and Inconspicuous Alien to eat your head?"
I had watched the small and inconspicuous space man do terrible things to Candy with his tongue and thorax before slicing off her head and I did not care for the way he was sizing me up. I looked down at the envelope full of twenties and wondered why there would be a payoff involved. Take our money or we kill you? This did not seem right. There was always a catch on Miami Vice, so why no catch for me? My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a passing car whose stereo was loudly blaring "That Smell" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you're in my way
There's too much coke and too much smoke
Look what's going on inside you
The car blaring solid southern rock pulled into the clearing where we had gathered. Miles, my other old friend from college, climbed out of the driver's side window of his Dodge Dart in his best Dukes of Hazzard impersonation and walked towards us. He seemed to be wiggling his ass a lot more than normal, swaying his hips and really getting into a feeling. I had no idea why he was strutting like that. I would never learn.
"Do you have any idea what is happening?"
Immediately after asking me this pertinent question, Miles took a long look at the toothless country people. Then he looked at Jayne, smiled and nodded at her, and pulled a notebook out of his pants. Thumbing through it, he prepared to read as if he was a summer camp youth minister with a captive audience that was tuckered out after arts and crafts and archery.
Now they call you Prince Charming
Can't speak a word when you're full of 'ludes
Say you'll be all right come tomorrow
But tomorrow might not be here for you
Miles broke away for a moment and reached into his car to turn off the radio. Muttering something about the song being inappropriate in light of what was happening, he returned to my side. He knew I had no idea what was going on. He kept smiling, looking over the bodies of Don and Candy and then took Jayne aside and talked to her in low tones. When he returned, he put his arm around me and asked if I was "all right."
"Those goons paid her for certain services and now they are repaying the debt.
She's slipped a few gears since the start of the semester.
She may have inherited some paranoia from her mother."
"What happened to the old lady?"
"The space people are paying her.
That age barrier research isn't even being done for us human types.
What a rack of ribs that is, I tell you."
I was at a loss to understand why Jayne thought I was an ally while she considered her sister and the others to be the enemy. If it really was paranoia brought on by working with very small space men who wanted to live in timeless beauty, I didn't understand. Even if these toothless vermin were to stop aging at fifty, they certainly wouldn't be any more attractive coming the other way. How did the reversal of aging help the cause of beauty? It seemed to me that it would be as valuable to the beautiful as it would to the stupid and ugly. They would get young and strong again after learning to use automatic weapons on people. What were Jayne and her mother really after? Money? Getting on the cover of Time magazine? Real estate?
"You don't understand beauty.
Beauty is determined by the beholder.
These men are more beautiful to Jayne because they worship her.
Pretty boys think they have a right to fuck her."
Was it just me or did this make little or no sense? I was quickly becoming convinced that these people were staggering around in a forest trying to determine what they were doing by changing their interpretations every fifteen minutes. As I watched, the small and inconspicuous space man began making love to and then decapitating the toothless men, one by one. They waited their turn. I supposed that Jayne had told them it was part of the plan.
The gentleman who wore a black cloak and stood seven feet tall approached Miles and I. He stubbed out his short little cigar and looked up at us with a grin. He began mumbling and telling us he was in charge. Then he pulled a long hunting knife out of his cloak and stabbed Miles to death. The gratuitous violence was quickly getting out of control. This story had turned into mud, consumed by its own senseless violence and unemotional sexual couplings. Aliens having sex with farm hands? What the hell kind of story was I trapped in the middle of?
The man in the black cloak turned his gun on me. I could hear his finger pulling back on the trigger. It was obvious that my time had run out. So much for the old college dream of having all the time in the world. I closed my eyes, heard the blast, and then opened my eyes again.
I was sitting on the couch in the dormitory. Don was sitting next to me, baked out of his mind. MTV was playing videos on the television in front of us and I had a spilled beer on my lap and a burned out half of a joint in my hand. Obviously, there had been something wrong with this grass. These sort of things never happened. Maybe to weird people out in very rural areas, but they never happened to people like Don and I.
"This is not good shit."
"No kidding. I can't stop thinking about dancing monkeys."
We still had all the time in the world.
For Alternative Endings,
Return to: Beauty is in the Eye of the Beerholder