• Steven Leech

from RAW SUCK


GAS JUNKIES

"I first met William Z. Foster," say Che Pancho, “on the wharf. I was just getting off the Rachel, an old broke down ex-whaler death ship converted to a freighter. William Z. had just got off the County of Cardigan swearing never again. Said he was gonna boho it look for work. I ask him could I join him. He said yeah teach me to ride the rails great ships of the land. That William Z. was crazy though. Ride in wheel carriage his ass nearly scraping the rail ties. All that noise down there but William Z. slept while I snoozed fitfully inside an empty boxcar. We were heading for Chicago where ill wind blows and stockyards full of blood and shit and death swirling in the wind off the lake.

"In Chicago," say Che Pancho, "great rail junction 20th century America William Z. and I split. I ask 'im where's he goin'. He said Russia find future of America there then ask me where am I goin'? I said I'm gonna look for America right here. He smiled and winked said good luck and he meant it.

"Later," say Che Pancho, "while stickin' my thumb in the air tryin' to hitch a ride up on the highway with this black kid named Pic this big ass Hudson Hornet screeches to a halt. Car full of kids talkin' a mile with every minute they passed another mile breaking open inhalers by the case and smokin' God's great grass. Only way to find America they say regardin' the great haulin' hulk of the Hudson. I remember William Z. smilin' and winkin'. The kids introduce themselves Jack Al that's Neal drivin'. 'Got any gas money?'."

They all laughed Che Pancho always enjoyed telling the story and they laugh again. Harry Bye Che Pancho and a few recruits for the plastic mines sit around on roller duty waiting either for the next call or for air and water when Kim Lee Chouy bring it whichever come first.

"The worst I ever saw it," say Che Pancho changing the subject, "is one day we got a call to clean up a family of eight slowed by a granny nice old woman really. Took us an hour of juicy pay. Happened at notorious 12th and Washington heading out of town at PM rush. Worst time of the day." But everybody knew that.

"That granny," Che Pancho say, "took a real chance but in the end she paid well."

Sometime ago some smart ass lawyer type figured that since driving a private car was a privilege no laws apply to driving the highways and bi-ways since only laws apply to protectin' rights and not privileges. Bought a judge to confirm it in court all legal and proper and made jobs for a whole lotta private dicks. Privileges are earned while rights are won or granted whole panels of judges say.

Sometimes Harry Bye Che Pancho and all the boys and girls like Kim Lee Chouy get called out on S.E.'s -- Summery Executions:

Anytime some dumb driver gets caught breaking rules of the road which're made by contract with licensee some cop a private dick'll pull 'em over and just sidle up to the window the driver'll roll it down and the cop a private dick'll pull out his service piece and blow the driver's brains out all over the front seat. That's an S.E.

"He'll never do that again," Che Pancho chortled. "Teach him a lesson."

"Yeah," Harry Bye say in his best right out of Marx and Lenin, "they didn't fight Oil Wars for nuthin'. Gotta keep making jobs like ours whenever there's not enough for some folks."

But Che Pancho change the subject again. Remind 'em of yesterday when he and Harry Bye clean up after a hydrocephalic caught rolling easy through a Stop sign at West Street and North Park Drive.

"Boy was that one messy," remised Che Pancho shaking his head.

"Just goes to show you," reply Harry Bye rolling his eyes into a snicker, "sometimes life ain't cheap.”

"Yeah," say Che Pancho, "but cheaper than petroleum."

"As Miller said," Harry Bye added, "'The more you drive the less intelligent you are'."

Both Harry Bye and Che Pancho survive because they know the index that determine surplus value and take home pay. Neither keep any plastic on 'em. They know that costs most.

They slip into telling old jokes that fill up the boredom full of their own knowledge of how things really work.

"Did ya hear the one about the grocer in business 100 years got gobbled up by a supermarket?"

They laugh slappin' each other on the back hearty har har.

"Grocer? What's that?!" bellowed Harry Bye red faced on the verge of a stroke.

"Somethin' found on a supermarket shelf," Che Pancho roar back.

Harry Bye Che Pancho dark humor slip into just plain gloom.

"Well, it could be worse," Harry Bye sigh in relief of laughter. "Could be working as a re-exposer in the Pigeon Point -- or worse -- the Cherry Island Plastic Mine.”

"Or building dikes," Che Pancho added, "to protect those mines from rising water."

Both glad they got good jobs scooping up gore after blissed out gas junkies. Only problem Harry Bye got is full expanding consciousness holdover handicap from counter culture past make him crippled inside. Got working class consciousness from the busted union that causes pain deep down in his gut. Got revolutionary consciousness right out of Vietnam. Got spacey subconsciousness fused into consciousness from marijuana mushrooms cacti buttons LSD-25 and so on. But clear? Clairvoyance is what Harry Bye got as a result every morning he get off bus go to job respirator cleaning air for him inbetween indoor environments. Poison now in Mother Earth turn out tasty profits for boardroom ancestors petroleum.

So Harry Bye surreptitiously pop biochip secret DJ that he be. Play some long forgot R&B on inside nobody know it. It's a nice day no glass storms no fecal snow. Should be able to make it through the day okay. Biochip vibes from forgotten R&B soothe all kinds of Harry Bye higher consciousness got good sound permeate soma secret DJ Harry Bye be. Harry Bye carry past into the future he and Che Pancho be in. That be the eternal present as long as biochip work program to music of time past. Harry Bye know where he be. Got connection to everything still truly alive. Harry Bye be in big room all around where familiar things always comfort in whatever time. That be the nature of Harry Bye consciousness. All is awake in big room where even subconscious take part, where past has found itself in the present and the present exclude nothing that affirm the living. Don't need consumer goods surrounding all around. Don't need automobile ride around in auto existence. Don't need petroleum illusions all around. Harry Bye not that kind of addict. Harry Bye need only big room.

Suddenly Kim Lee Chouy burst in on Harry Bye burst reverie made from biochip vibes. Kim Lee Chouy burst in on Harry Bye Che Pancho hanging around on roller duty or cleanup after S.E.'s. Kim Lee Chouy burst in with water black market jug of it under her arm for a three way split.

Ain't no picnic out there for Kim Lee Chouy. Can't stay in sun for more than one hour give you bad case of cancer. Air worse at high noon in high pressure zone. Some got their own respirator. But Harry Bye Che Pancho Kim Lee Chouy got cheap mask supplied by their employer mere product of necessity.

"Could be worse," Kim Lee Chouy say out of breath. Nobody need to speak know what she mean. Could be a glass storm goin' on outside. Conditions like that no one can go out even in cars. Just gotta wait 'til it blows over. Three seconds in a glass storm take off upper epidermis make you a nice shade of pink. Three minutes in a particularly vicious glass storm delicately erode the skin right down to the bone.

"Nothin' more naked than a skeleton in a glass storm," say Che Pancho. "It'll cast your innards to the wind in a splash."

Just then the horn blasts. Combined roller call and S.E. by the sound of it. On the way Harry Bye Che Pancho and Kim Lee Chouy ascertain from radio calls that a couple of kids playing hookie from school got rolled over at intersection of Kirkwood Highway and Limestone Road at Midway. Unfortunate thing for driver -- a young woman who tried to squeeze through a traffic light changing from yellow to red -- she got caught by a cop a private dick just happen to be sitting there in his cruiser eating a hotdog. The cop a private dick pulled her over she roll down the window and he place a bullet neatly in her brain put her out of her misery then drag her boyfriend all spattered with braingore and blood kicking and screaming off to detox.

But not all routine this time for Harry Bye even if just cleaning up flattened bodies of kids not enough to shake him up. Just as he is about to get the shovel out of the van to scrape up still warm flesh he see car going past slowed by cops directing traffic full of rubberneckers craning to see. Just then Harry Bye catch eyes of driver gas junky he hadn't seen in a long time. Those eyes belong to none other than old sweetheart Ginger Golly trapped hermetically sealed into auto existence in car going by. She see him but there's no emotion in her eyes. Symptom of petroleum addiction.

If Harry Bye turn corner somewhere in supermarket or drugstore bumping into her would not have been worse after many years of finally giving up on intimate emotional human contact. Instead, he encounter her impassioned eyes inside auto existence addicted and lost.

Uncles and cousins keep the world goin' 'round. People in auto existence got it all, all sealed up where air is purified by big pumps and filters. Treated glass keeps out ultraviolet rays. All appliances designed to work only within auto existence. Yeah, sure, boardroom petroleum ancestors allow you to obtain biochips put you in nice place. But not as bad as gas junkies auto existence. That what make Harry Bye doubly sad make him freeze in his tracks and jeopardize his job threaten him with being relegated to the plastic mines. Thing Harry Bye now know for sure is he still have flicker of flame for Ginger Golly. That old flicker'll puke up old memories old feelings eat away at him for at least a week.

But Harry Bye snap to get back to work scoop up one boy's head squashed into grotesque comic mask. No old flicker memories fond feelings no matter how real they might've been is good reason to get caught and condemned to working in plastic mines.

Plastic mines are the pits. First must go in wearing disposable suit it so bad. Eight hours in the plastic mines chemicals no one even got names for can eat away completely any protective cover. Gotta carry own air in special space age pack convert water into air and electricity for heater/cooler. Changes of temperature in plastic mines change drastically and without warning. It's downright spooky. Plastic mines got bad ghosts.

PLASTIC MINES

Webster and Bridges two virus agents gonna get Harry Bye in a net so slick people'll think he's a paranoid when he complain someone out to get 'im. Most people don't see don't know virus all around 'em microbes'll refuse to die. Got agents in high places invade when resistance down anti-bodies neutralize jailed gunned down by death squads. Give us Webster and Bridges free rein to make visits flash badges make deals keep secrets that feed power so sweet it make you squeak in your pants. That's how we gonna make Harry Bye squirm. Gonna sew some stories printed into one of a kind official documents. Virus invade membrane induce hallucinations illusion of clear present danger.

Anybody on the ground lookin' around among the flowers and snowflakes got to see it all under siege. Yellow cloud burls hover and drift between buildings along highways. Ain't up in the stars. No poison gas comin' out of any other planet goin' up against all absolute all ineffable. That's the cosmic turf we got cut out for us above ground. Cut by ancestors petroleum free finely shaped in alien of long ago finely free. That's who be now on cosmic turf.

In war cosmic turf Harry Bye condemned to the plastic mines. It wasn't that he was late for roller duty. No. Popped on him was the test and it was the wrong morning for it. It was just one of those things. One takes chances and you loose. Harry Bye lost.

Pop quiz urine sample showed why Harry Bye late spent whole night jerking off. Pop quiz showed sperm count down breaking ordinance against flushing unborn down the crapshoot. Zillions of unborn enough to send Harry Bye into plastic mines for the rest of his life.

When Webster and Bridges make the bust take Harry Bye in they look without warrant find illegal manifesto. After a reading by an official literate they slap a further charge of jeopardizing Free Speech Amendment of boardrooms ancestors petroleum microbes'll refuse to die. That got Harry Bye assigned not to just some run of the landfill kind of plastic mine either. Harry Bye got assigned to Cherry Island Plastic Mine nasty rising fluids boiling up around yer boots just melting 'em down by the minute.

That'll teach him to jerk off condemn unborn deaths. Too bad Harry Bye take advantage of male prerogative that comes with being free of regulation unlike the monthly visit to the Egg Bank like the gals. That make Harry Bye's crime doubly serious betray public trust by flushing zillions of unborn down.

On #9 bus from Chemical City downtown Harry Bye sit next to Suma Fujaba, who hadn't been seen for weeks around the roller hall. Now, Harry Bye know why. Both heading down to the Cherry Island Plastic Mine they talk. Suma Fujaba impart information on survival. Harry Bye ask lotsa questions.

"Some tunnels," say Suma Fujaba, "have no endings. Down them people disappear, which is usually expected."

Then Suma Fujaba tell Harry Bye that Kim Lee Chouy also condemned to plastic mine crime of blasphemy.

Kim Lee Chouy refuse to keep egg date at bank at mid term. Kim Lee Chouy say they fill skyscrapers fulla ovum sperm in super cool gonna make a break with 'em. Kim Lee Chouy say they gonna leave the planet smokin' got fumes enough already. Gonna take whole populations all compact miniaturized all separated by race sex and divided up in nitrogen tankers. They in business of chewin' up whole planets take eons to do it it don't matter. We'ze just like cows inna pasture to 'em. Take 6000 years they don't care nothin' personal. By the time we smartin' up it's too late. All of us under viral siege since the day we taught words spelled across a single beam of the eye left to right right to left it don't matter. After that we no longer immune. Virus infect and divide consciousness. Symptoms of private property persist in spite of inoculations from remorseful Ialdaboath manifest in edicts of Moishe Leviticus. Even these old ancient edicts themselves poisoned in time translations and perturbations into something useful to virus. Infect division of consciousness extract work from love then they extract labor from wealth we had once. You see, it really is love that does make us rich. But they make love and work into two separate words put coupons between 'em call 'em things like dollars, pounds, stock certificates, bonds stamped with images and notions of nations corporations banks or individual bigshots wads of alien jissom -- anything that we are not. That's what Kim Lee Chouy say the last day anyone see her.

"She say," added Suma Fujaba, "once the virus caught every brain goin' one way all at the same time it was curtains. Infect microbes'll refuse to die. All that's what virus does for starters. Disease follows with hallucinations illusions so subtle you get turned into hollow shells drivin' around in auto existence.

"Kim Lee Chouy say now she know who they are. Come down through Harry Bye ancestors petroleum boardroom robber barons arm manufacturers microbes'll refuse to die. That's why Webster and Bridges come pick her up fuck her just to make sure everybody knows the score when they hear about it on the 6 o'clock news in auto existence."

"She sounds crazy," say Harry Bye, "but there's a real reason these aliens wanna silence crazy people."

Suma Fujaba turn look across Harry Bye out window #9 bus at prison walls go by. When Babies' Concentration Camp outside go by flakes snow splat brown grey at window and stick.

Back in downtown Chemical City skyscrapers vent nitrogen vapors. Oxygen wages down. So go Harry Bye Suma Fujaba deep in plastic mines chincy moonzoot environs. Plastic mines emit glow don't need lamps don't need power of any sort. Plastic mines alive. It's cheap that way no bills to pay.

Most moonzoots last just six hours in the plastic mines no matter if they got wide lapels or not. In tunnels just like ancient burnt out coal mines – except for the glow that is – you shovel brine grey ooze wet onto conveyer quick before tunnel fills bubbling up over the day's boots.

Harry Bye Suma Fujaba come up into afternoon sun hurting eyes even in the dark of carbolic shower stalls the only price you get to come back to work the next day. Got two big squares to eat free. All they need is to keep you alive ‘til your name fades from the newspaper. Who they be? They be ancestors petroleum boardroom robber barons arm manufacturers absolute and ineffable in cosmic turf above ground in auto existence or the very stars themselves as it turns out. Every place else is no place. That who they be. They got the goods on oblivion know where to send you shopping. That where Suma Fujaba going. That where Harry Bye going. That where Che Pancho going. That where Kim Lee Chouy going. She might already be there while Ginger Golly, and all her uncles and mutant cousins still breathe clean air that's left. But pumps and filters going bad mean breakdown cold turkey.

Suma Fujaba tell him about ghost stories in tunnels you never come back. Down echoes the most light.

"Stay away from them," Suma Fujaba warn. "Get lost in light in plastic mines. Never come back. Down those tunnels echo the most light echo take the shape of muse in ear like all songs Harry Bye could ever hear. When you hear it you're hooked. No biochip no matter how heavy how cool can ever bring you back. You gone."

Suma Fujaba nod to make it sink in Harry Bye.

One day Harry Bye take tunnel Suma Fujaba tell him not to take. Bright light show cartoons painted on crossbeams pointing back to where he come from. Harry Bye settle eyes on them take 'em in one big gape. Phone numbers run series. Symbols lost in runic. A bald guy with his nose hanging over a fence. Kilroy was here too. All is said in hieroglyph panels. All said. Once Ginger Golly said it to Harry Bye and gone. Harry Bye hooked on muse bopping light shine on through.


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