A Venus Fly Trap Grows Out of My Shoulderblade

I attended a holiday dinner at the House of Purpura. For the occasion they had procured an enormous case of a light port wine, of which everyone seemed to be partaking generously. Michael was gleefully, sloppily drunk for the first time I had seen. Christina and Mr. Purpura were thoroughly amused with each other and chummy, as if having a friendly drink (or three) together was a long-held tradition of theirs which they only rarely got the chance to enjoy. Mr. Purpura’s usual scathing wit was supplemented with a booming laughter that made him resemble a jovial President Castro. Christina was actually red in the face.

I was so surprised at all this that I rather lost my own inclination to drink, wanting to keep on my toes and alert for any new developments, though I had a perfectly good mixed 12 pack of Sam Adams and Shipyard of my own outside in the car.

As fate would have it, I was wise to abstain. We were getting ready for dinner. But not long beforehand, it was discovered that both Michael and I were covered head to toe in exotic insects, which we had endeavoured to collect earlier that day, and which seemed to have escaped. We hurried out into the living room and began clearing them off–tarantulas, spiders, creepy-crawlies, gigantic brightly-colored king crabs, and even several interesting varieties of mushroom. I was impressed to find a young Venus Fly Trap growing out of one of my shoulder-blades, and showed it off to Jennifer quite proudly. The phenomenon, I observed to David, was probably due to the fact that we had put on our sweaters musty and wet instead of letting them dry.

The bugs, we seemed content to allow to wander freely about the house, but I carefully piled up the mushrooms, hoping to make a spore print later, and identify them using my new mushroom guide. Unfortunately, in her drunken glee, Christina mistakenly stepped on and crushed several of the best specimens. I forgave her, and then Mrs. Purpura called us in for dinner.

Later, Michael, Erin and I attended an outdoor music awards ceremony of seemingly high prestige, which was emceed by Johnny Depp in the guise of Jim Morrison. It turned out that Erin was a new employee of the same establishment that sponsored the awards, and one day it would be her responsibility to take over for Johnny. I considered vaguely that if my girlfriend had connections like that it would easy for her to find someone to get me published.

Valhalla

Having lost some sort of Norse-influenced epic battle of huge, oversized swords and immensely heavy armor in the distant past, our family was fated one day to have to fight again. We spent all our lives in the kitchen and upstairs rooms of our house, for fear whatever monsters dwelt in the basement would come forth before their time to do us harm. On the ceiling of the kitchen were strung all kinds of weapons and tools, which I knew we had practiced with endlessly, graduating to bigger ones as we grew: bows, crossbows, hammers, meat saws, spears, axes, crowbars, swords. Many were rusty, some were shiny and new.

The fated day had finally come, and we excitedly plowed down the stairs and cast ourselves onto the pristine couches and chairs of the living room, which hadn’t been used since our youth. It was exhilarating; the knowledge that we were tempting the monsters without fear sent a rush of adrenaline through me. I knew we had to arm ourselves soon; I went back upstairs, and my dad pushed a button or something on the wall that caused part of it to open up, revealing the floor-length mumuish armor and ridiculously huge cartoon fantasy ax that I remembered from long ago.

As we were getting ready, who should appear through the door of the house but cousin Lucas, shirtless, tan, and ridiculously cut. It had begun–he warned us that a touchstone of the family had fallen deathly ill, and could not be saved unless the fated battle was finally won.

We took up our weapons and donned our armor, and descended the broad gilded stairway into the vast arena hall that was our basement. Ferocious beasts of all shapes and sizes awaited us–giant cats, rhinoceri, bulls, chimaera, and tentacled things for which I had no name. I brandished my cartoonish axe gimli-esque, and leapt from the banister to split a huge displacer beast in two with a single stroke. We fought for a time, unstoppable, slaying all that approached us. Then the bell rang to signal the end, and we all filed out into the locker rooms.

In the hall I ran into Jon Rogers, looking rather small and uncharacteristically mundane in a green short-sleeved polo. He hit me with his usual manly greeting. “DeLuca!” “How did it go?” I asked him. “We lost,” he said. He was on a different team, of course. I knew my family had certainly won. I felt bad for him, and patted him consolingly on the back. But he didn’t seem too distraught. After all he only had to wait another hundred years.

The Ever-Devious and Unfathomable Damian Harris

I was the patsy assassin for a rather cleverly and smoothly operated, Sopranos-esque crime organization, of whom my immediate contact was the ever-devious and unfathomable Damian Harris. He placed in my hands an m4 automatic assault rifle with wooden stock finish (which thus resembled both my least-favorite quake weapon and the euphemistic ‘rifle’ kept in Tony Soprano’s entryway liquor cabinet for the purpose of fending off bears and burglars). He made it clear to me without revealing a single detail of his motive or reasoning that the mark was someone they desperately needed removed, and that I was the only person they could trust to do the deed. It only occurred to me much later, when the manhunt had begun, the specific qualities of mine they required–trust, and a weakness for praise.

It was dusk, and I stalked the general, my unwitting prey, in an uncannily spotless suburban backyard setting, orange-lit by abundant streetlamps and warm indoor lighting issuing from open screen doors and bay windows. The houses were predominantly small, uniform, one-story ranch houses, as in the strange faux-homey suburbs found surrounding military installations. The general sat on his porch, taking in the pleasant spring night with subordinates and friends. I shot him from the street, then fled, pursued by many of the aforementioned subordinates. I knocked one down ruthlessly with the butt of the gun, and put a shot into his head, wincing at the noise of the report, though in fact the echoless snap it produced was more like the sound of a mousetrap than that of a gunshot.

As I weaved through the narrow streets and tiny yards, leaping fences and ducking behind feeble shrubberies, it occurred to me how stupidly I was going about my escape. No one alive had seen my face, yet I persisted inexplicably in toting the murder weapon everywhere I went, waving it about like an idiot. Immediately after that intelligent realization, I saw that Damian had in fact fucked me with the very m4 I was still clinging to. I wiped it clean on my shirt, dropped it under a bush at the first opportunity, put my hands in my pockets, and strode away causally down the street.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the military installation to find a police-state style trial by angry mob of officers already taking place. Imagine my utter and retrospectively almost comical devastation at discovering that their chosen scapegoat was Erin, lovely and tragical in red and black. There followed a painful mockery of a courtroom drama in which I attempted to defend her. They ignored me, and prepared to execute her firing-squad style. I was holding her, steeling myself to shield her with my body and try for a suidical escape, when I started mercifully awake.

Las Dias y Los Noches de Monsignor Martinez

An old couple in Westwood was running a scam where they let on to certain parties that they were interested in funding the production of independent films. They continued to encourage and demand results from those involved, promising again and again to provide funds and help. But really they were offering no help at all, and only doing it to see how far they could string people along, a la the various obnoxious patrons of the arts encountered by Old Benvenuto in his autobiography.

It so happened that I was taken in by this for a while, as were a pair of foreign students from Spain (the same that Michael and I had met in the MIT Linguistics department a few days before). But though I rapidly figured out their scheme and warned the Spaniards, it turned out that this deception was only the most superficial layer of a deep and devious conspiracy to blackmail and eventually enslave every person of grace, intelligence, and creative and artistic merit in the world, numbing them by nothing more than fear and torment into tools for world domination.

Soon the dream deteriorated into a matrix-like urban chase scene through bare, unfinished corridors and paint-spattered scaffolds high above city streets. Their first line was composed all of women–one of them southeast-asian and naked, another blonde and clad in white–but all so beautiful and fascinating that the sight of them was hypnotizing, like that of siren mermaids diving among deadly shoals, or fair specters beckoning from the grave. Whenever I saw them approach I was overcome with sympathy, with the desire to help them from their plight–yet I saw the weapons in their hands, and the helpless coldness in their eyes, and so I forced myself to flee.

They were something above a dozen in all, and so swift and agile and deadly that soon I realized I could not hope to escape them no matter how I ran or leapt or dove. So I took refuge in a little empty room all painted white, with a single door and a single window, and prepared to make my stand.

I had picked up a little brown-tinted automatic from one of them, possibly the blonde. With this in hand, I crouched by the window and watched the building across the street, from which my pursuers emerged one at a time onto the scaffold.

Walking among the women and behind them, goading them on, were two others of a different sort: tall, shifty-looking, craggy-faced latino men in bad suits and dark sunglasses, who resembled your generic drug-running goons a la El Mariachi or Las Dias y Los Noches de Monsignor Martinez. Clearly, these were the people behind the conspiracy, or at least its enforcers. They were flesh and blood, yet bullets alone did not seem to harm them, but only slowed them down. It took them some time to heal, but there were so many others to back them up that I could never get a chance to finish them off.

As I peered at them through the little bathroom window, however, I saw something in their attitudes, their postures, that suggested all the beautiful artists and geniuses they had enslaved were not yet truly mindless servants, but resisted them, and only did what they did because of whatever threat to their art the conspiracy held over them. Could they see, perhaps, that their enemies had no such power over me? Why else had they simply stopped there on the scaffold, and not tried to come after me?

I looked at their faces, and once again overwhelmed by pity, I decided to risk it. Running out of the little room, I leapt, grabbed the rail of the scaffold, and swung myself with incredible gravity-defying matrix skills across the open space between the buildings, to land squarely before the two sunglassioed villains. “Dodge this,” I did not say, and planted a bullet in each of their skulls.

It seemed I was right, or at least that I had gained a degree of control over the dream, for the women around me all turned and echoed my shots with each of their own. I placed a foot over each of the ugly men’s throats, and stood watching until they breathed their last.

Then I awoke.

Clearly this dream was intended as a moralistic fable warning against the perils of submitting one’s art to the judgement and design of those willing and capable to exchange a livelihood for it. This drawback is true of every form of art. Old Benvenuto’s lamentations at having been forced to abandon the one truly great patron he ever had really struck me, and the gaps in comprehension and appreciation between those with power and those with talent have only swollen in the centuries since his death.

The Werebear

I was at the Maine house on a hunting trip with Dad, Grampa, Matty, and the sisters. The girls weren’t going hunting, they were just there. It was very cold, and for some reason Dad thought it was a good idea to start a fire with gunpowder. I was leery, but he and Matty ignored me, and set the thing off. It made a lot of smoke, but it worked.

There were strange things going on in Brownfield. There was tons of construction. They had built a road going right past our house, and on the other side were building some huge, ugly electrical transformer. Dad and Grampa talked about making an addition to the house, and taking out the windows on that side so we wouldn’t have to look at it. Someone (possibly Matty) was in the process of building another house in front of ours. It was almost done, closed in and had windows and insulation and everything, just didn’t have siding yet. And strangest of all, along the road behind our house there was now an enormous dilapidated warehouse that contained aviation machinery. Apparently some guy kept his little fixed-wing prop plane there. So the whole area had this ugly, ominous industrial feel to it, though the pines still loomed everywhere around it.

It was very late at night, we had just gotten in and settled, and Dad and Grampa wanted to be up at seven to go hunting. They would have liked to wake up at four, but we had arrived too late for that now, and nobody wanted to do that. At that point it was about one, and we were getting ready for bed.

Well, just then several cars pulled up into the driveway, and there piled out of them some rauckus inconsiderate people who apparently were renting or staying the night in the half-built house belonging to Matty, just generally rowdy and unusual folk who didn’t seem to understand we wanted to go to sleep. They barged in on us, and I stared at them bleary-eyed as they hauled into the house this very strange wooden rack on wheels that had a bear carcass all cut up and rather carelessly screwed onto it. They were going back and forth from their car, bringing gear inside, so I took hold of the thing, seeing that it was about to fall apart, and tried to screw it tighter so it would hold. But to my consternation I discovered that the screws were not screws at all, but just cheap metal plugs without threads. I stared at the bear in confusion, wondering why they had it cut up this way. It was very gory, and not quite bear-proportioned. It looked more like a hacked-up guy in a bear suit than a hacked-up real bear–though the head and claws did look real. I noticed, with oddly muted feelings of disturbance, that some of the parts were twitching like they were still alive.

Then the whole rack started to fall apart in my hands. The head tumbled to the floor, followed by a hind paw, and a long, armlike limb. They lay on the floor, panting and bending and wiggling. “That’s enough of this,” I thought. “This is ridiculous.” I let go of the offensive thing and went outside to yell at these people. I told them angrily about the bear, how it had come loose from the wierd rack, and how it was not dead–like it was a werebear or something, that they had forgotten to stake or shoot with silver.

They looked at me uneasily, like I was insane, but not entirely. I led them back inside to show them, and the bear was completely gone. No blood or anything. I knew it had regenerated and disappeared into the woods.