Leave Politics to the Pygmies

It started with an itch as all things which destroy do, although which or that or she or he or they or it what are they really?   Those demon rashes, those barnacles on your skin, dried by indoor circulation and then exposed to fungi spores that roam fog-filled valleys looking for hosts. Was the tiny gnat who landed on his crusty surface there to save him?

Too late. He swatted his winged savior. The corpse clung to his flesh as if it was a crucifix until he pushed it over the cliff of his forearm and watched it plummet 9/11 one hundred miles  to the earth.  Downward facing dog.

It was time to catch the train.

The couple wasn’t at the station to ride but to entertain. “You said you’d always be good to me.  That you’d never hurt me. You lied,” was the name of the play on that day.

Duke’d seen that actress before in a similar costume and on that very same stage.  He guessed her age to be approximately thirty stints in detox and a dozen rides to lockup for solicitation but the man with her was not her pimp.  Just some rattled looking actor notably younger and dressed in every stitch of ill-fitting clothing he’d gotten from the Goodwill.   

“You said you’d always be good to me.”

The actors had met for the first time that morning down at the courthouse where free hugs and sandwiches are handed out to those in possession of a good script.  The play for that sunny though breezy morning was of the avante garde variety meaning it could have easily been sunk by a plot. Thankfully it was not. Plots are messy things, like scabs that need to be picked and picked until they bled and scabbed over again.

The dialogue began and proceeded in an endless loop:

Female character: “You said you’d always be good to me. You said you’d never hurt me. You lied.”

Male character: [indecipherable mumbling as he simulates drowning in air]

Female character: “You said you’d always be good to me. You said you’d never hurt me. You lied.”

Male character: [indecipherable mumbling]

Narrator: “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.  Babel will rise and Babel will sink and in the end we all become pillars of salt.”

Their play was an instant success and the critics in the audience rushed to the far ends of the platform to perfect their reviews. The young father, hoping his son’s first train trip would be memorable, was not disappointed although probably relieved that the actors remained seated on the brick steps and did not circulate through their audience.    

Entertainment on board the train was provided by the ever popular Man who should wear Underwear one-man show. This is better than Vegas, Duke thought as he watched the performer perfect the one hand save just as his pants reached his knees. His pink derriere jiggled as the train threatened to skip a rail and plunge into the homeless city where Duke’s wife had just commented, “They’re barbecuing on a brand new looking Weber Grill Master!” 

“Vegetarians don’t barbecue.”  Duke reminded her.

“Electromagnetic studies have proven that broccoli stalks scream in pain when executed for the family dinner,” said the nosy man across the aisle.

“Let’s leave politics to the Pygmies. Besides, the second act is about to begin.”

The Man who should wear Underwear assumed the squatting position in his seat two rows ahead and then began grunting. It was a simulation of defecation so realistic that the other passengers were frozen in their seats.  How far we artists have to go to stand out, to make a name for ourselves, Duke thought, marveling at the performer’s fearlessness.

“I thought you wanted to get a Bloody Mary from the club car,” Duke’s wife said.  She had her pastels out and was sketching the homeless city in all its vivid colors and tattered lines.

“I’ll wait.”

Finally Man who should wear Underwear finished his act and curled up in his seat.  Like a cat he had one eye open and winked when Duke passed him.  “Hi,” was all he said.  He said it coyly like a four year old and Duke wondered if he was a problem for someone being shipped far away or the next headliner at Harrah’s Tahoe. 

Once refreshed by tomato juice with just a hint of vodka, he passed his wife who was intently sketching and walked to the end of the train. The window of the back door was sooty and provided a grim tinge to a bright green world but still there was something mesmerizing about traveling backwards through a forest and watching the tracks rise up again and again.  They passed Colfax and then Soda Springs and Duke thought what fun it would be to have a beer in a gold rush saloon high in the mountains where the air is thin and one beer goes a long way.  But then as quickly remembered what had happened to Virginia City.  When he was young, the ghosts were fresh and not sold in aluminum cans; the Bucket of Blood still had stains on the floor from gunfights earlier in the century and the Opera House still awaited Lotta Crabtree’s arrival direct from sold out performances in San Francisco. Now the town was famous for camel races. Duke had dated many camels in the Sudan and found their lack of dental hygiene to be a major turnoff.  He would much rather balance a goat on his head then mount one of those ball-breaking, she-devils.

Man who should wear underwear was quiet until the train reached Reno where, little did the other passengers know, he had an encore performance planned. 

Duke and his wife had been seated at the end of the train and had to walk the length of a long city block past all the smokers headed for Salt Lake before finally reaching the one elevator to the ground level.  It was already packed with just barely enough room for them when the Man who should wear Underwear ran up and stuck the one hand not holding up his pants in between the doors and pushing himself in.  Refreshed from his nap, he then began the comedic portion of his performance.

“How do you tell the Trump children apart?” he asked. No one ventured a guess.  He started to giggle:  “You ask them their names.” 

The audience was quite disappointed there was only time for one joke before they reached ground level and poured out into the station.

Three more days, Duke thought as the itching began again.


15 thoughts on “Leave Politics to the Pygmies

  1. What a fabulous lead: “It started with an itch as all things which destroy do.”

    ManWhoShouldWearUnderwear reminded me of a guy who danced CW at the Broken Spoke in Austin. He came straight from work in baggy jeans smeared with mechanic grease, and his carefree style of dancing alone right in front of the stage always ended up exposing his shockingly white backside. Which prompted a sad thought: is ManWhoShouldWearUnderwear the same character, evolved from gentler times to fit the crass present?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my goodness, I do remember Man of Large O. That was an assignment from you, something along the lines of “write about your weirdest form of courtship.” Glad I wrote that.


  2. (I am still fasting.) I looked at Confederacy of Dunces and Ulysses and sure enough you have the same tone and tenor of the parts that I read. Is that a good thing? I think once I wrote is is not very healthy to compare our writing to famous works. What does that really say about us? I don’t know and today I don’t care. It is what it is. Pygmies winds around and leads to unexpected, happy spots. Just like the aforementioned books. So this was our challenge and I am hoping we met it in fine style. It was fun. Now let us return to our own thoughts and see if we can breakout of the boxes we have put ourselves inside. Thanks. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Duke. Since I was attempting to write in the style of Duke Miller, I don’t know if I succeeded or failed but it was fun. The man without underwear seemed quite pleased with himself and amazingly the other passengers treated him with kindness and respect. One guy on the elevator even said, “I’m not sure I understand all the nuances of your Trump joke but it’s been a long day, man.”


    2. Duke, I think it was a fun challenge. Jan’s challenge years ago made me write Man of Large Objects. The only things that kills an experiment like this is to take it too seriously. That’s not to say I don’t work hard when I work, but once it’s out, it’s out. Maybe that makes me a lazy writer. Lazy or not, I certainly identified with Jan’s line: “Plots are messy things, like scabs that need to be picked and picked until they bleed and scab over again.” That’s exactly what over-editing or over-working a story feels like to me. Better to go with the inspiration, then (mostly) take what you get.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Man began with an argument over who attracted the strangest suitors – you, me or Jude. The challenge came to an end definitely with Large Objects…. No one could top his sincere offerings of love and devotion…


  3. A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs. In the shadow under the green visor of the cap Ignatius J. Reilly’s supercilious blue and yellow eyes looked down upon the other people waiting under the clock at the D. H. Holmes department store, studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste in dress.

    Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about
    and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding land and the
    awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent
    towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and
    shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms
    on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling
    face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured
    hair, grained and hued like pale oak.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So I went into the streets of my mid-sized town, the one with all the picturesque alleys and hills. I asked people if we, indeed, lived in the Kingdom of Fear (reino del miedo) and most people said, yes that is probably right. However, one beggar on the corner said, “It is absolutely certain, Jefe.”
    “Why absolutely certain?”
    He smiled and said, “Because I am the King.” Thanks. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is fresh. Even if you were approximating Duke. Duke writes like he has 12 eyes pointing in twelve directions. Joyce writes like he has as many minds and mouths each perfectly choreographed (seamlessly interwoven as they say). The humour in this is like the smell of marijuana on a shirt that you wore to a concert a few years back. The way humour should be. The right touches of the absurd/surreal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aaron. I agree with you about Duke and his twelve eyes pointing in all directions. I often can’t sort the absurd from the real (whatever the heck the real is)


  6. Oh my, oh my. I had to divide this one into two days, it was so strong. That 9/11 plummeting hit me on the head and I had to sleep. Either you know your subject so well or you yourself are so good a writer. Choose. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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