Dope, Discipline, Derangement

by Justin Teerlinck

The sunset rolls over a sea of hills, swollen fat and orange as it greets us. I watch through yellow tinted aviator glasses. We are in a car on a secondary road, heading south through Farmland. It is somewhere in the middle of our journey, along this road that my companions and I zoom past a meat rendering plant. The killing factory's smoke stacks spit fire. Its ancient seedy domes sit there like constipated Bad Buddhas spreading softly contained ill will to the blank countryside.

Our eyes trace paths from creek, to shack, through late-summer boredom. Since my companions were raised out there, their eyes find little to rest on. They scan without looking. My plastic yellow vision earns a similar version of banality, but I am excited nonetheless. Later on we will seek these grass glories with boot soles instead of tire treads. Quite unsuspecting, we shall all bear witness to the secret gift of the land. It springs from the ground, plain and holy. How ignorant we are, not knowing or caring about the silent friends we have all around us. For now though, we're content to drive around them, stop our minds from their truth. Meanings are for later.

On the way there San's hands are at the helm, goatee pointing forward in the direction of travel. Lou Reed type wrap around shades grip his eyes. His foot on the accelerator propels the red sedan from daytime into dusk with steady control. Sarah is in the backseat with starry-faced, green haired me. She giggles, trying to escape my dirty-old-man-antics. My paws keep crawling, always grope, grope, groping the temptuous perfection of her tickle-flesh. Dara sits shotgun next to her man, San, up front popping Johnny Cash type farm music into the tape player. One hand on San's shoulder, another holding a bottle of tasty fruit beverage, Dara sings along with the vinyl recordings. "How high is the water, Papa? Three feet high and rising. How high is the water Mama? Three feet high and rising." More solid than shinny, the depression era, bring your own jug, tune master Johnny sets the mood for another fifty miles. Then we come to town.

With Proof of Purchase

The Johnny Cash tape gets eaten up in the machine the second we hit Rochester. Much Cash is spent here, but none will ever be played. Once within, we see human built ponds, heated in the winter to attract artificial geese who tamely feed there. A pharmaceutical company stands astute, built on Haldol, made good with klonopin. A sign on the lawn reads: "From Aspirin To Zoloft." Everything here owns or is owned , and comes with lots of paid-for aesthetic beauty and a money back guarantee. This is all due to the Mayo Clinic. A hardcore, top-notch hospital, it comes complete with expensive doctors, ailing old people, rich old people, and dead old people. Clean-cut jocks roam the streets mindless, happy and without angst.

During the next day, San and his brothers Pete, farm architect and Jimmy, John Lennon look alike go and see a Kurt Russell flick. Dara, Sarah and I are left to our own devices and an afternoon in town. The first thing we do is go downtown to the multilevel Barnes and Noble bookstore and coffeehouse, a place filled with rich and differently abled people. On one level, a woman in a flowery dress looks heavenward as she plays Disney theme songs on a harp. Her audience consist of a few semi comatose patients on a temporary pass from the geriatric unit at the Mayo.

"Did you see the old lady with Mickey Mouse ears on her head?" Sarah asks Dara. Dara laughs.

"Yeah, I think she was singing the words to 'Its A Small World After All'."

"They must get an extra shot of medications for Disney theme day," I say.

"You're gonna get an extra dose of medication tonight if you don't behave," scolds Sarah.

"I like medications," say I.

Outside is a plaza. Its centerpiece is a fountain spewing recycled water into the air. An Indian woman walks a husky dog. LARK three wheeled scooters roll by. The sun is bright and shiny. Music from the harpist is piped out into the plaza via a set of old P.A. speakers. Distorted, the harp sounds a little better...but not much. Our ears ache as we sit by the fountain. Mutual disgruntlement is shared when an old, angry, bald punk rock man in his early forties (that's early sixties in burnout years) comes over to us, voicing his disapproval of decadence.

"Long-hairs and no-hairs unite!" he says to me in introduction. He rubs his bald head and gestures to a tattoo of a ying-yang on his right shoulder. "This is what Barnes and Noble is supposed to be about," he says. " Did I hear you guys mumble something about this damn music? Yeah. My name is Mark. I used to smoke crack, but now I just smoke weed." He laughs and gives the girls a sort of thumbs up. He wears a ripped tank top with a marijuana leaf pictured on the front. The picture also shows a cartoon Rastafarian smoking a joint. A caption beneath the picture urges: GO FOR THE GOLD in green lettering. Mark sees me reading his shirt and says, "Yeah that's right dude. Go for the gold." There is a pause and our attention turns to the music again. "Oh yeah," Mark shakes his head, "anyone want to go in with me and complain, see if we can get it shut off?" We all look at each other. Dara and Sarah just grin, unsure who or what this man is.

"Well," I say, "I would, but I'm feeling lazy right now. Maybe we should leave."

Mark shakes his head. "Nahhh, can't do that. The Peace Plaza is here for everyone--us too. Why don't you come in and stand behind me while I do the talking" Interested to see what will transpire, I agree. Mark walks ahead confidently and I behind him. Looking back over my shoulder to the girls I am given the same disgruntled look by each of them. They both mouth the same thing silently: Peace Plaza?

Inside Barnes and Noble again. Dignified management pleads many apologetic, snobbish, please-get-the-fuck-out-of-my-store shit eating grins to our requests. Mark stares coolly at the manager. The manager stares nervously at Mark's bald head. I stare at an old crippled lady who is staring at all of us. The entire situation smells bad. It stinks. The manger's cheap cologne stinks. Mark's hairy armpits stink. My shoes are rotting around my sweaty feet. They stink. The crippled lady with a gnarley cane--her eyes stink! Her eyes narrow at me. They stink like disapproval. That's the bad smell running through the whole scene. I swoon. Mark speaks.

"You know man, this isn't the Barnes and Noble I remember as a kid. Back then it was about freedom of expression, freedom of speech. Why do you have to sit here imposing your reality on us out in the Peace Plaza? That's unfair. A lot of us don't want to hear Disney theme tunes on a harp for miles around. If you don't turn it off I'll file a complaint with the police department. The Peace Plaza is here for everyone."

"The music is here for everyone too," says the curly haired manager. He turns to the old lady and smiles. "Disney theme day only comes once a month. I'm sure you understand."

Mark shakes his head, frustrated. "Yeah, that's fine," he says, "and everyone can enjoy the music in here. That way people who want peace can just go outside and enjoy the peace of Peace Plaza."

The manager looks confused. "The music is here for everyone," is all he can say.

"That's great! It's a great concept," Mark applauds excitedly. "But can the music be here for everyone without being everywhere?"

"The music is here for our regular customers," the manager informs us sternly.

"What the fuck we need to get it turned off, a proof of purchase or something? You don't own the Peace Plaza. Nobody owns the Peace Plaza." says Mark. I'm a little nervous about Mark's enthusiasm. I feel tension. The tension is as tight around us as a harp string on Disney theme day. "I'd like you to leave the store now." The manager replies. He tosses Mark a form to write down complaints on, and disappears without even making sure we leave. Mark and I exchange glances.

"What was that all about?" he asks me.

"Its about one man's inability to grant a simple favor," I say.

"Or understand the favor," Mark laughs. "You see that? He didn't even make sure we left the store."

Slave Quarters

We leave the store, Sarah and Dara awaiting us outside. Our looks explain our loss, the loss of silence. Mark pulls heavy on a cigarette. Mark says he used to be a crack addict. "I thought you were just kidding about that," Sarah says.

"Nope," the bald punk says, "I was really into crack. That was ten years ago." He is slightly put off by our quizzical, bemused expressions. "What? Come on. Long ago...Young and stupid...That was me."

"Oh, no. It's not that," Dara explains. "It's just that people don't usually approach me and introduce themselves as former crack addicts."

"Well, you know...It's a good approach, a good way to get things out in the open. I'm into that."

"Where does your openness come from?" I ask. "I thought former crack addicts were bitter people."

"I was," Mark genuflected. "But then I found my spirituality. I read the Celestine Philosophy and got into Buddhism. I also smoke a lot of weed. Say, uh, you guys get much up there in the Cities?"

"We've hit a dry spell," Dara says. Mark ashes his cigarette. Sarah gives me a lets-get-out-of-here look. I avoid her eye.

"I normally wouldn't extend my hand to strangers like this, from out of town and all..." Uh oh, I think. Here it comes. This whole conversation was just a set-up for a drug deal. No way, I think. He's gonna try to sell us some Minnesota ditch weed. Besides, we got our own special remedy for boredom. "...But you guys seem pretty cool," Mark continues, "and I know this guy in town...good friend of mine...kind of fucked up in the head....sells primo Brazilian dope super cheap." I can see that Sarah and Dara aren't too hip to it, but Mark is persistent. The girls look at each other. They relent. "Okay," their voices sound tentative.

On the way through downtown Rochester Mark tells us stories about great feats of skill and bravery performed by animals while on weed. "Dudes, once my dog ate all my hash brownies, then he jumped in a lake and caught a forty pound bass in his mouth!" Or: "This one friend of mine has a monkey. We used to get it stoned all the time...Once, when he was in a car wreck, he had the monkey with him. And it was baked. It knew EXACTLY what to do. It pulled him from the burning car and saved his life."

"A monkey?"

"Yeah." The stories continue as we walk. He tells us stories about animals in planes, trains, mines, towers, ships, lakes, hills, factories, forests, at weddings, in canyons, at birthday parties, at funerals, in cop cars, dogs with brain cancer who are healed after eating hash brownies, pigs who roll in the stuff instinctually. "I tell you animals revere pot!" he finally concludes. After a brief pause... "Let me tell you about my friend Ron. He's the guy you're gonna meet. We're almost to his house now. Ron..." he laughs to himself, reflecting I'm sure, on what a wacky guy Ron is. "Ron is quite a guy. He's a master in seven different martial arts, got his own style approved and everything. He even taught Karate to Buddy Holly. Can you believe that?"

We weren't sure if we could.

"Yeah Ron also has a degree in engineering. He is a goddamn genius..."

"He must be pretty successful then," Dara remarked.

There is hesitation in Mark's voice as he goes on. "Despite these things, Ron has a sad story. Like I told you, he is strange--and a bit scary, but don't worry, he wouldn't hurt anyone I brought over." Dara and Sarah jump. "Ha, ha. I'm just kidding of course. He is strange though. He was in the 'Nam and it screwed his head up--bad." I wasn't liking the sound of this. "He was a Green Beret, cut off the ears of the Viet Cong and wore them on a necklace." If Mark thinks he's putting us at ease, he must be smoking crack again, I think.

"How does he deal with these horrible memories?" Sarah asks.

"Well he lives off the government now. There are other things. You must understand that Ron is a gentle, gentle man, who had no inclination to kill until 'Nam. I'm told every man has different ways of dealing with pain and anguish when it gets to be too much to bear. I like to meditate...You may like to write. Others..."

I am impatient. "So what does Ron do?" I blurt out.

"Instead of killing people Ron watches B and D porn. He's quite a fan. He has $8000 worth in his collection. He watches a different porn every night--like an alcoholic reads a daily meditation book--only different."

"Yeah...different," Sarah remarks coolly.

Mark laughs. "Its no big deal, really. Beside that, Ron is a normal guy."

Well shit, of course! It is the classic, time tested story of redemption through porn. Hell, I'm down with that. Mark looks as though a great weight is lifted off his shoulders after finally blurting it out. The task of describing Ron's hobby has nearly put him beyond words.

Dara is still curious. "What does B and D mean? I've heard of S and M, sadomasochism, but B and D?"

Again, Mark is getting ruffled. I guess he thinks we're hip enough to know such things. "It's kind of weird stuff... Bondage and Discipline is what it stands for." His eyes look downward. Sarah, Dara and I each have the same thing on our minds.

"Discipline?" I ask. "Is that like telling your kids that they're grounded or something?"

"No, not like that," Mark laughs uneasily. "Its telling people to do things to each other--bad things, sometimes with horses or..." He trails off.

No one asks for further clarification.

All this time we walk. We walk through a nice little suburb until we reach a duplex with a picket fence. A small dog yaps in the yard. Sarah and Dara and I make ready to turn around when Mark exclaims, "Here it is." I feel uneasy. Could this really be the place? Ron's place? Porno Ron's place? It is a nice house with a dog suburbia. Sarah, Dara and I were heartened at these things. Until...hanging over the front door of Porno Ron's house where in an average home you might find a sign that said "welcome," is a different sign (in very nice lettering). Instead of "welcome" the sign says "Slave Quarters." Nothing more. "Cute huh?" Mark says as we enter. There is no knock. No knock will be needed, Mark assures us, for Ron would be ready with the dope.

We wander in behind Mark. My eyes scan about looking for possible escape routes and things that might be usable as weapons...just in case. A green shag carpet, lots of old, lingering cigarette smoke greets us. There is a bead curtain leading to another room. Yes...I think. A B and D veteran could live here. Mark passes through the bead curtain in search of Ron. "Hey where you hidin' man? I bring visitors," he yells in a different room. I notice a NOFX poster on the wall. The poster depicts a man lasciviously touching a sheep. The man has a smile on his drunken looking face. On the bottom of the poster a caption reads: HEAVY PETTING ZOO. I motion to the girls who laugh. There is a nervous ring to their voices. "Don't worry," I whisper to them both, "as long as we don't get in between Ron and his porn, we'll be alright."

All of a sudden, prophetically emerging through smoky bead curtains, there enters a man with popeye beefcake arms, a matted, dead animal toupee, a switch-blade in his left hand to pick his two teeth. Behind him comes Mark. Its Ron. There are homemade tattoos up and down every inch of exposed tissue, from the nape of his neck to his yellow fingernails. I see spiders, guns, boobs, naked women, dead folks, dragons, peace symbols and an ape who appears to be masturbating. It is confirmed that he is the owner of $8000 worth of porn. Incoherent Brooklyn accent meets us with foul breath. A bag is passed. We smell the grass and issue compliments for buying only the kindest of buds. I'm surprised when Ron seems shy and congenial. Perhaps we're misjudging Ron's inner phreak. Conversation is awkward as we watch Ron pick his teeth with his switch-blade. I am about to suggest to Ron that he write a book and call it "B and D Porn For the Soul." Like those "Chicken Soup" books. But it's enough. We're about to go. The weed looks wonderful Ron, but no thanks.


"Come over here. I want to show you guys something," Ron says.

We walk through a darkened room into his kitchen. Ron opens a door--slowly, for effect. It is an ordinary walk-in closet filled with boxes to the ceiling. But this is no walk-in closet. It is an inner sanctum, a place of worship. Ron nods proudly and smiles, showing off both of his teeth.

"Yep. There it is. All $8000 worth."

A moment of silence is in order. We bow our heads. Like it or not, the collection is very impressive. I did not imagine that there are this many pornos in the world, let alone one man's house. Well, at least Minnesota has something else it can boast besides the largest ball of twine. After our moment of silence, we thank Ron, (for what exactly, I'm still not sure) say goodbye to Mark, and head out the front door of the Slave Quarters.

On the way back, we reflect on the days happenings. "What a freak," Dara says.

"I'm just glad he let us go alive," says Sarah.

"Aw, come on now. He wasn't that bad. We misunderstood him I think," I say.

"I don't think there was much to understand," says Sarah.

"There was more to fear than understand," Dara replies.

"I don't understand fear," I say uselessly.

Weed N' Cows

Back to San's farm we go. It is good to be out of Rochester. For such a clean cut place, it has many surprises. On the farm we find a gravel driveway, a house and a man who wears overalls. The man also wears a hat. He's San's stepfather, a good, rural farmer type Minnesota man. My green hair doesn't even phase him. I picture him watching reruns of Heehaw and laughing. Pure innocence. Nothing to hide. Just honest to goodness wholesome moral fiber. Bob is his name.

With his red FEED baseball cap shadowing his tanned face, he staggers slowly, mumbles loudly, and gives us the run of forty acres in God's Country--his farm. "If it rains, you kids can go sleep in the hay loft in the barn." He points to one of several dilapidated old barn-type structures. "The only thing I ask is that you don't smoke up there," he says. "The pigeons have a funny habit of eating cigarettes whenever they're dropped. We had to take a mother and her chick to the vet once because of that. It's just the darndest thing."

Farmer Bob and I carry on conversations in the house about the different kinds of manure and their various purposes. "Now pig dung," Bob says. "You can't do nothing with that. That stuff is horrible."

"Are there various grades of cow stuff?" I ask, trying to remember not to say 'shit' as San's parents are respectable folk.

"Yes I believe there are. Hmm... Let me see. There's fertilizer grade manure. I use it for corn. Cow chips get made into methane gas. Heh, heh."

"Is it based on the decomposition of the ...stuff?"

He scratches his head. "I believe so. The most far gone stuff, the stuff that's worse than pig crap, that's used for methane. "As he massages his forehead, I see his face tell a story. His hair cascading from under his hat, brushing his ears is like the prairie roughage scattered in a field. He is like any other farmer. His features, all the furrows, wrinkles and dimples are a map of time, a guide to the land on which he lives and works. Like the nearby rustic barns we see, he too is dilapidated. But he is also together, held together by the Earth, the life force of cow dung, corn husk, and soy product. His face is a reflection of the uniformity, the simplicity of that which surrounds him. He is humble. His back bends low in mid-summer. But the Earth supports him.

How High Are the Trippers Papa?

Out in the pasture where we all head, I have my first contact with real live cows. I take pictures while Sarah and Dara feed them green apples. The ones in the back of the herd have no ambition at all. Cow mouths are going 'ooh' and 'moo' and chomping the apples, following us throughout the pasture. Brown Leader Cow chases me and tugs my shirt with its jaws. A picture is snapped. The cows all group up in a semi-circle around me as I deliver a sermon about why marijuana must be legalized. The sound of my voice is punctuated by munching, cud chomping and slurping noises. The cows seem to become intense and engaged as I make my final point, but they do not ask me questions when I'm through. Brown Leader Cow approaches and nudges me gently when the rant is finished, as if to say, "I didn't understand a word of it Reverend, but you can keep feedin' me them apples." After the feeding and marijuana missionary work is over we jump-skip over twenty pound dung pancakes out of the main pasture to explore the far reaches of San's farm.

Just south of the main house is a winding creek beneath a hill. On the hill there lies an outcropping of jagged rocks, an old quarry turned dump site. Pottery with Indian designs, rusted barbed wire and shotgun shells litter the area. We lithely move through the tall grasses to a shady copse of trees and hidden glory.

"Look at all this weed," San exclaims. Before our eyes, a whole spread out acre of head high, shit grown cannabis plant, Minnesota ditch weed. It's the Midwest's finest source of recreational pleasure. Our eyes pan out over the dope crop. Of course, any dope crop is good to see, but Minnesota weed? Weak though it may be, we have to take our chances. In a fever, we harvest as many of the sticky buds as we can, unsure what to do with it. We are glad however, that we didn't purchase the wares of infamous Porno Ron.

Next we carry the dope in large bundles in our shirts to the creek to be cured. After peeling away the buds from the hemp stock, we slip it and ourselves carefully underneath the electric fence. San is worried that someone will see us at the farm house. On the other side is a corn field heavy for harvest. We then proceed to our campsite. It is nestled in tall grass and alfalfa, near the friendly corn. Fire wood is gathered along with smooth, well-rounded stones. Night falls as we lay the buds on flat rocks to dry and burn the roughage, much as primitive cave stoner did in Nordic Times. Doing this, I imagine them pulling apart the buds with grunting care, preparing for the good smoke, the dream giver, and the God of Life. "We're farmers now," I tell San and Dara.

Now is the time for soda pop, 3.2 beer, marshmallows and a half ounce of psilosybin mushrooms. Brief confusion splitting up the musty smelling, blue tinted fungus. Then, ahhh. Bliss hits. We're coming up as the sun, laughing, kills the day. First there are the jitters then with the alcohol, sedative blanket, our anxiety dies too. Nothing more exists but stars ascending their perches like faraway birds, waiting to fully poop their dreamy light upon us. On the first plateau we find a nexus waiting, peopled by shadowy fairy ghouls. It blends into us a static web vision encircling the air like fine, tiny microcrystals of breathable consciousness. We're in the bottom of a Jewish wedding chalice. I'm hoping no one steps on us. All life is wonderful. That is what I'm learning now.

How high are the trippers papa? Three grams high and rising. How high are the trippers mama? Four grams high and rising. Welcome to the second plateau. We can now see even farther into the shroomscape. Our dilated eyes hear John Cougar-Mellon Camp tunes from farmhouse over a mile away. I travel along a telephone pole, on a wire over a thousand similar fields, into technicolor greens; I'm the cells and sticky stuff that makes chlorophyll, plant blood, Earth body spirituality. Poor old San is caught in a television tunnel, staring in a black hole void. We try to groove him the right way. In the end it's his own trip and like a self-reliant Grizzly Adams he pulls through the hell with good grades. Like an inept primitive cave stoner, I shine our giant flashlight skyward to see the stars better. It doesn't work, so we take a small break from flying to eat pot buds on melted marshmallows. They taste awful, sober or whacked out. I spit, gag and laugh. I wonder if anthropologists ever visit the lonely, ancient haunts of Cannabis Erectus. I marvel at the multi-dwelling cave bongs these primitive people built using lakes and huge fires, the likes of which no God or living thing has ever made since.

The Mark Of Cannabis Erectus

But the Cave Stoner had many troubles guarding his munchie houses from the ferocious domination of the wooly Fungaloid Men, who came in herds sucking up wheat powder Twinkies until the Earth was void and barren. It was on this scorched Earth (I can see it clearly now) that Cannabis Erectus carried the last of the dry buds. He had no spark to ignite the mystical smoke of life, no fertile land on which to plant the next generation of anthropogenetic seed matter. He had no will, but to save his beautiful children (confused though they were) from the Fungaloid Men who pursued them over the edge of the most terrible precipice to starvation and extinction. No more happy stumblings. With their hemp hide coats and green leafed religion, the primitive cave stoner was brought to the dusk of their day.

One level lower now. We are riding horse back down a winding rock ladder from Wack Mesa. The colors fading, Earthbound ticket in hand, I stride. Starting to notice each others' presences again. Sarah and I watch the sky as stars continue to follow each other in the upside-down salt shaker horizon. On mushrooms I never see constellations, just Costellos, but no Abbot's in Abbeys. Who's on first anyway? My perceptions are not as random as my thoughts. The light touches the horizon and I walk the trail from the tip of corn stalks to the milky way with my eyes, Sarah's hair on my neck, a perpetual blonde river. Her warm body next to mine is the amorphous creation of time. Before us all, a panorama, a plethora of the First Awareness of Being. The fire logs are crackling and pulsating into riddle lines, a fit context for shamanic divination. The logs passing into ash remind us of the mortality of old age. An angel is wailing over by the creek, corn goddess, infinite virgin. She is morose. She regrets the loss of our Kodak moment. She waits for our minds to return to infinity. Our voices are calm mumblings without urgency, smooth and patterned but our words remain unintelligible, incoherent. In the psychedelic realm, communion often takes the place of verbal communication. My body feels like a spent, limp cock. Satisfaction...for the mind fuck champions.

I watch the bats zig zag through the plumage of campfire smoke, frantically playing out a message for us. Caught at the wrong time, the coming down time, our eyes are illiterate to beauty. Our invitation becomes warning. Hostile moos await us in the fields. I fucked it up. I'm only put here to die. I deserve to die. I have to die. Oh, no. I'm just a tight knit stranger in a desolate camp. Bad things are here. They're out here. I can't fight. Please! Please do me in now!

Hearing the alarm-bells ringing in my mind, the corn become animate, sentient and compassionate Corn People. I intuit that this is their natural state. They rush in like gnomish fire fighters, hosing down the fires of anxiety with the water of motherlove. They sing while we human being folks tend camp. In the fields again we hear the corn friends talk their death talk about Autumn harvest. They know their time is short. We hear their calls and go running through their rows while they pat us on our backs and give us high-fives. The Corn People are so wise we feel like children in their arms. We know they will always protect us.

"Hello Corn People."

"Hello Human Being People."

"Do you like us well enough Corn People?"

"We love the Human Beings!"

"Is there anything you want?"

"Love us as we love you."

There is a swirl of joy as the Corn People dance us asleep, their green faces nameless, wishing the trippers well, remembering the day Cave Stoner walked the Earth. They wonder if they too, will no longer be clothed in husk robes and summer suns. In my dreams this night I can see the green fields again. Between flashes of dazzling light, the Corn People remove all the bad words from me. They teach me to forget myself, forget my heat, forget my tears, forget my depraved project of self-loathing. I don't care about automatic weapons anymore, but somehow it's all good. The Corn People embrace me with a wordless, peaceful nothing thing that is the usual domain of new puppies and valium trances. But watch out new puppies! You may think you've got it made with your new puppy smell and your cutie-pie floppiness, but the Corn People have wordless nothing things and light flashes and high fives. In short, they're real swell. Finally, the encounter ends and I pass into the self-annihilating oblivion of themeless, dreamless sleep. There is no concrete road to find the way. There is nothing but what has always been. When I wake I will beg alms from the hand of Chicken McNugget Earth. Goodbye Johnny Cash and red sedan.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

The next morning finds us back in Minnesota on the farm, but feeling alienated and unsure. The mushrooms have taken us so far, we're like ex-patriots returning home after many years. Staying in motion seems to be the cure, so we get in the car and head to Rochester. Green hair in a green-clothed salvation army store. We find knives, combat manuals, empty hand grenades and lost innocence. From there we go to Embers and the after-church crowd awaits.

"Praise the Lord," San expounds with faux-preacher histrionics and a sly laugh. We all wade through a sea of bad perfume, horn rimmed spectacles, white polyester. Their canes tap out on the floor that secret morse code of the old people. "Young people approaching, young people approaching. Prepare to stare..." The staring commences as San and I play table hockey using salt shakers as goal posts, spoons for paddles and packages of Nutrasweet for pucks. "Those kids must be on something," an old man says. "I bet they're on a pass from the nut house in St. Peter," says another. Dara recommends that we get down with our bad selves. Our synthetic malted milk treats arrive. It's a sunny morning. An old woman bumps me with her walker accidentally. Her false pearls are the same color as her false teeth.

"Praise the Lord."

She smells like the Bible. She smells dead. I get sick. We leave.

"Praise him. Praise him."

Copyright 2003 by Justin Teerlinck. All rights reserved.