“Do you know who that was?”
“Yeah, I just told you who it was, but he had the wrong number because he wanted to talk to an Eskimo, and I kindly informed him that Eskimo is considered a racial pejorative and he should probably stop using it because he might offend someone, and this made him angry. He called me a snowflake and then he said something about someone named Cupcake, so I pointed out his unintentional rhyme and this made him even angrier. He demanded to know who I was, so I gave him my metanarrative name: Scarecrow, which he mocked by asking me if I thought I was a tough guy. I said no, but that I knew some Shaolin Kung Fu. He laughed at this and said that Bruce Lee was no match for a bullet, and then he started making a metallic clicking sound. I was a bit miffed at the Bruce Lee comment because everybody knows that Bruce Lee could easily stop bullets with his nunchuks, but I maintained composure and inquired about the sound. He said it was a hammer falling on a forty four magnum, so I asked him why he would be hitting such a sought after gun with a hammer. To be honest, I thought he was going to get all cliché at this point and call me a punk and then ask me if I felt lucky, but instead he said that he had a hollow point bullet with my name on it. Not wanting to be responsible for him shooting the wrong guy, I confessed that Scarecrow wasn’t my real name, and at this point I think he started frothing at the mouth because his speech got slushy sounding when he said that he was going to force me to play Russian roulette with a full chamber. Naturally, I told him that being forced into Russian roulette with a full chamber was a great metaphor for murder, but he’d have to find me first, and this provoked a response in which he referred to himself in third person before loudly proclaiming that he’s, quote unquote, never not found anyone. I really wanted to correct his double negative but hearing him say his own name made me think of frogs, and the green skin of frogs, and then bam! It dawned on me that he might be the antagonist of the metanarrative. But in order to be the actual antagonist, his rage needed to be of satanic proportions i.e. it needed to have resulted from a perceived slight by God, which got me wondering what the perceived slight might be, and then it came to me: his lisp! Villains with lisps are some of the meanest villains ever, so I politely referenced the slushiness of his speech and then asked him if he was suffering from a lateral lisp. There was no immediate response from him, so I went on to say that it could be fixed with the help of a good therapist. But being the villain means he’s constrained by his villainous ways, which made him psychologically incapable of thanking me for my moral support, yet very capable of getting scarier and slushier sounding while telling me his monkeys had been dispatched, and this of course confirmed with absolution that he’s the antagonist of the metanarrative.”
“Do I need to remind you that this is real life and I’m a real person? You should not have answered my phone because your antagonist is a real person too, and he just happens to be the dealer I owe the money to,” I said, shaking my head at the size of the bear he unwittingly poked. “Eskimo is his code name for me, and the monkeys are a small army of teenage kids that he pays to be his eyes and ears. Basically, they spy on people who are avoiding him because of their drug debts, which means he’ll know the very second I get back in town.”
“But you’ll have his money for him when you get back in town, so for now just be glad we have the all-important antagonist for the metanarrative that informs this book.”
“This isn’t a book. It’s a trip that you want me to write a book about! You don’t know that I’m going to have his money for him because you don’t know where this trip ends, which means you don’t know where the book will end…What if we get busted at the border and they take all the cash?”
“I think it’s safe to say at this point that life is no longer imitating art. It’s shamelessly plagiarizing it, which is extremely good news for you because the metanarrative in question has a redemptive ending, as unfashionable as that is.”
“Am I wearing a tinfoil hat? Because this metanarrative of yours is beginning to sound a lot like a conspiracy theory,” I said, stalking off to check the engine fluid levels, and as I popped the hood I wondered why he would need a conspiracy theory in the first place. I had entertained many in my time, and every single one amounted to the same thing: irrationally rationalizing the irrational, which translated as: a denial of the simple answer by a credulous rejection of facts. I mean, if you’re irrational enough to believe in God, then why bother claiming the CIA shot JFK? Why not just write it off as another gory exertion of your creator’s will? It’s easier that way, isn’t it? Why complicate things? Maybe God just took a disliking to Jack. Perhaps God was a Marilyn Monroe fan. All these thoughts went through my head as I pulled the oil stick out, wiped it with my fingers, put it back in, and then without thinking wiped my fingers on my pant leg, and you know what? I still have those jeans after all these years because the oil stain is still on them; a reminder.
People get stained by life.
And there’s many ways to explain a stain.