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  • - * 13 DOORS OF X* *Meeah Williams* The Barking Cat Press * 2015 Brooklyn, NY * Seattle, WA copyright 2015 Meeah Williams/The Barking Cat...

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

=Fake Girls=

7. Jiffy bags, urban warlords, and the rarest of all disasters

Pretending to be checking my tire pressure, I squat down beside the cab in a No Parking, No Standing, No Anything at Anytime zone right in front of a fire hydrant on Avenue C and feel around under the left front wheel well like the email told me to do. At first I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel anything the second or third time either. I’m thinking maybe there's a mistake. I’m thinking maybe the guy at the parking garage got here first. I’m telling myself maybe the whole thing is some kind of a joke. There's probably some guy right now watching me from a concealed vantage point going through these antics and splitting his gut. I look around vaguely for this guy while I continue feeling around under the left front wheel well just in case. I'm looking for the joker with the hidden camera. I'm searching the clouds for the satellite recording all of this for America's Funniest Home Videos. 
For the first time since last night, I’m beginning to experience a sense of relief. I’m beginning to think that maybe things are not quite as bad as I might have thought. I'm grinning good-naturedly just in case, like I'm finally hip to the gag.

Then I feel it: it’s a soft package all taped up. It takes some doing but I do it. I pull it free: a brown paper packing mailer that quietly explodes with all that carcinogenic confetti when I slide back into the front seat and open it. Happy New Year!, is the unspoken message, you're fucked!

Brushing the stuff off my lap, I shake out the contents of the envelope. It would be better to wait until I get some place private, until I get back to the apartment, for instance. I know this for a fact, but I open the envelope anyway.

I look out the windows, in the rearview, the side-view, all views. This wasn’t the best place in the city to park: there are cars and trucks and sirens and passersby all over the damn place.

That I’m in trouble, I know that already, but how much trouble, it’s just now becoming frighteningly clear. Inside the envelope this is what I find: a small silver palm-sized handgun and twenty-seven hundred dollars in twenties, tens, and fives.

*     *     *

The drive back to the Bronx is uneventful. Behind the wheel, I might as well be a zombie. There’s this sort of rictus grin that I can feel stuck on my face like a cheap clip-on necktie. I’m paying tolls, making turns, looking both ways and things, but I have no idea how. It’s amazing how one can live a life without giving any attention to it whatsoever. 

At the garage, Mr. Sammy is extremely agitated. He is talking in Pakistani or Iranian or whatever the hell his native tongue happens to be, but the only thing I understand is how close he came to calling the police to report a stolen taxi cab. He’s tall, handsome like the parking garage guys, but older, fiercer, more distinguished-looking. Rumor is that back wherever he came from, he was some kind of prince or multimillionaire warlord. He holds the tips of his elegant brown fingers about a quarter of a millimeter apart.
“This close,” he says, "I come to calling police."
I point at the cab behind me like a moron. I smile. I say sunnily, “There it is. There’s the cab.”
I thank him for not calling the police. I thank him over and over. I don’t seem to be making much of an impression on him, though.  Then I remember the money. I take out about a thousand dollars in cash. The sight of the bills is helping matters, I can see that right away. I explain that I had a fare that wanted to go to Philadelphia and I hurry to cover his objections with another three hundred and seventy five dollars.
Mr. Sammy suddenly seems markedly less agitated. He seems, well, almost happy. He snaps his elegant fingers impatiently and I hand him the rest of the money. Now he seems almost overjoyed. 

He is counting out the money I’ve just handed him, and when he’s done, he counts it out again, and then once more. He’s holding up a twenty as I babble on about something or other, hopelessly hoping to confuse him. Instead, he manages to confuse me: I shut up, looking at him looking at the twenty, examining the physiognomy of Andrew Jackson as if suspecting a mask, a fake nose, a celebrity look-a-like. Again it occurs to me: like the money planted in my wallet, the money in the wheel well was put there for precisely this purpose. Everyone’s being paid off…but for what?

After examining, sniffing, touching the tip of his tongue to the bill, Mr. Sammy seems satisfied that the money is at least authentic enough to exchange for grenade launchers, fake passports, VIP seats to a Springsteen concert. He cocks a handsome Egyptian--or whatever kind it is--eyebrow at me.

He says, “Next time you phone in. Let Mr. Sammy know what's what.”

He pinches the tips of his two brown fingers nearly together. 
“I was this close.”

He’s smiling the whole time but his eyes are icy, cruel, self-satisfied. I imagine it’s the look in his eyes when ordering the liquidation of an entire mountain village. 

He pinches the fingers together, grinds the tips, like he's squashing a mosquito. 

He says, “Next time.”

*     *     *

On the way home I buy the Post, the Times, the Daily News. I buy the Star-Ledger, the Asbury Park Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer. I buy the Wall Street Journal. I buy El Diario. I buy the World Weekly News. I’m looking for exactly what you think I’d be looking for under the circumstances. Instead, I find myself reading a story about nine miners who were rescued from a flooded mine somewhere in western Pennsylvania.

IT’S A MIRACLE, the headlines gush.

There are photographs of people holding up signs saying, It’s a Miracle, Thank you, God.

Wives, mothers, sons, mining officials, people on the street, the governor of Pennsylvania, they’re all singing God’s praises, giving him the credit, finding in the rescue of the miners proof that someone up there is looking out for us. One of the miners is actually quoted as saying,  “Someone up there was really looking out for us.”

Of course, if the mine had collapsed and everyone had died under ten thousand tons of mud, you’d never see the headline GOD, YOU WORTHLESS, HEARTLESS SON-OF-A-BITCH.

There’d be no television interviews with mournful survivors screaming curses and blaming the Almighty. There wouldn’t be politicians publicly denouncing Jehovah as a corrupt bumbling incompetent and demanding his immediate impeachment. There’d be no criminal prosecution brought against the CEO of Heaven. They’d sue the mining company instead. Everyone would let the Creator off the hook, finding excuses, shrugging their collective shoulders, and saying things about the dead like, "Well, I guess it was just their time." "They must be mining ore in Paradise."

They would say things like, “No one knows God’s will.”

They would say things like, “The ways of God are mysterious.”
These are the kinds of things people say to feel better, to make themselves believe that there’s some sense or order to all the senseless, disordered horror of our lives. It helps to believe that someone, somewhere is in control and all the moreso when everything is screaming out of control. We might not understand the equation, but there's a celestial Einstein out there somewhere who does.

Funny thing is, no one really believes in God until something really good or something really bad happens. If you go into remission, you need someone to thank. If you don’t, you need someone to comfort you. Either way, God has it covered.

What I’m thinking is that it’s a pretty good gig being God, even aside from the omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality. Whenever you do something right, everybody is falling all over you with gratitude. If you’re God, you just save someone once, and people are throwing themselves at your feet. They completely forget the other nine-hundred gazillion other times you didn’t do a goddamn thing and it all ended in some kind of horrendously senseless tragedy.

It’s not hard to keep your good name, if you’re God.

We should all be so lucky. We should all know even one-tenth of that kind of affirmation in our lives. We should all have this kind of margin of error in our jobs.

Being God, there’s even less accountability to it than being a weatherman.

*     *     *

It was coming, I knew it, but my heart sinks all the same when I see it waiting on my computer: an email from Mr. Franklin. After some creepy “pleasantries,” some cracks like “did you have a pleasant ride home?” and “you won’t find any news in the papers…yet” which reinforces my paranoia that they’re watching my every step, Franklin gets down to the business at hand. It’s the promised list of places that Nada Klone has been and, dammit, it goes on and on and on, like the stock market page, only in tinier print and longer. This’ll give you an idea how long it goes on: I’ve got my finger pressed on the page-down key and all the blood’s run out of it and the nail has turned blue. 

Just a cursory glance at this A to Z compendium of porn sites, X-rated blogs, chats, message board posts, and sex personals is enough to impress even a hardcore pervert such as myself. I mean, the most polymorphously perverse among us usually has a range on the spectrum of kink, but this Nada Klone went all the way from one end of warped to the other, and then some. She added some new previously invisible colors to the porn rainbow. To judge by where she’d been, and been regularly, by what she’d done, and done often, she was that rarest of all rare breeds: she liked it all.

Girls, bondage, two men, three men, gangs of men, submission, men and women, whips, whipped cream, dominance, two women, three women, gangs of women, dogs, golden showers, brown showers, red showers, vomit, foot fetish, fur fetish, rubber fetish, did I say discipline?, leather, diapers, women and dogs, gangs of dogs, canned corn…in short, if you could imagine it, Nada was into it, and if you couldn’t, she’d imagine it for you.

To read through this libidinal catalogue of excesses, so diverse, so debauched, so deviant they’d make a Roman Emperor blush, I could only conclude one thing: this was quite possibly the dirtiest girl to ever live. A girl, in other words, well worth knowing.

While I have the list printing out, knowing already I might run out of paper, toner, ink, and maybe even life itself before the list of Nada Klone’s perversions came to an end, I notice for the first time the attachment attached to the email and the simple file designation Mr. Franklin had given it: Her.jpeg.

I tap the cursor two or three times, wondering what kind of face this X-rated angel could possibly have and prepare myself for the inevitable: that whatever Nada Klone looked like she won’t look like the image I’ve already formed of her in my mind’s twisted eye. In other words, I prepare for disappointment.

It’s like being on a blind date, I’m thinking, where you hope for the best and expect the worse and still you always end up surprised, but never in a good way.

This is one of those times, I’m thinking, as the image unfolds. I realize that my curiosity may have already led me to infect my computer with a virus. Right now hackers could be accessing my email, my credit card information, the bad poetry I wrote trying to get what’s-her-name back. Right now my entire hard drive could be imploding, sucked into the void, but it’s all worth it. Sometimes you have to take a chance. Sometimes you just have to know. 

In the end, it's worth it.

It’s worth it to know that Knott didn’t have to threaten me, Johnny Nomad guilt trip me, nor Mr. Franklin frame me for murder. They were all wasting their time. If this girl was missing, I’d find her. If this girl were in trouble, I’d save her. If this girl needed a heart and a couple of lungs, I’d take off my shirt and get out the knife and scissors and say "Have at it." Like everyone else so far in this ridiculous drama, I realize I need to find Nada Klone. In fact, I may need to find her more than anyone. I stare at the screen of my Toshiba laptop with my jaw unhinged. This was worse, far worse, than I could ever have imagined. This was that rarest of all disasters: it was love at first sight.

Coming next: 8. Megalomania, mass murder, and geek technology…

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