An interpretation of Frank Fisher’s head by Brendan Garbee.
Check out more of Brendan’s art here: http://bgarbee.blogspot.com/
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My car smells like a running chainsaw. It’s disgusting and unhealthy. The “check engine” light came on earlier in the evening but I simply covered it with a piece of the duct tape that patches the giant hole in the material on the ceiling. If I can no longer see the sign, the problem ceases to be.
We’re in the back seat. Bonnie yanks off my hat and places her hand over the bloody stain on the bandage around my head.
“Does this hurt?” she asks.
“Awwww, poor little kitten-face…” she says with a pout then violently tears the medical tape and gauze away from my head, pulling large chunks of my dirty-blonde greasiness with it.
“Holy cowboy!” she shouts as she stares into the oozing, puss-filled abyss on the right side of my forehead.
“Is it bad?” I ask.
Bonnie gently slides her finger along the edge of the wound and sniffs some gunk. Her head jerks back like someone tugged on her reigns. “This shit fuckin’ stinks, man!” she says.
There’s no doubt that I have a serious infection that’ll probably kill me. But I can’t think about that right now. I’m not even sure if I care right now.
“Just load me up, okay?” I ask her.
Bonnie chuckles. “You got it bad now, huh?”
I sigh. “You shouldn’t make it so good.”
She quickly tousles my hair like a father congratulating his boy for a close but no cigar effort in some organized sport that he never wanted to play in the first place.
“You’re so friggin’ cute,” she says.
She always says that just before the implantation. Buttering me up must soften the brain tissue or something.
“I think I’ll load you up real good this time, okay?”
“Is it gonna be a good one? Cuz I need a good one.”
Bonnie places her hand on top of my head and looks into my eyes. “That’s not up to me baby-boy, you know this.”
“I know…” I say.
She leans in closer, so close our noses nearly touch and for a second I think she’s going to kiss me, but I’m wrong again. She says those same four words with such precision that they land right in the bullseye of my heart, “You. Are. Not. Nothing.”
I close my eyes and breathe as deep as my pathetic lungs will allow. “Please, just load me up, Bonnie, okay?”
Bonnie sits up straight and sighs, “Fine…”
She unrolls the paper bag, reaches inside and pulls out a small leather zip-up case. Like the kind that’s filled with various dull carving tools you get when you have to dissect a frog or some kind of crustacean in seventh grade biology. She unzips and I see the applicator. It’s about the size of a candy bar and it looks like one of those epi-pens that kids with peanut or bee allergies carry around. It’s off-white and adorned with what has now become the all-too-familiar “INSPICORP” happy cartoon light bulb logo. I’ve since named him Bulbereno.
I see the little clear-green globule locked and loaded in the barrel. It looks a like a radioactive vitamin E. I can’t believe how thrilled I get every time I see it. It’s like the first time every time.
My mouth fills with saliva as Bonnie clutches it in her hand. She holds it the way Norman Bates holds a butcher knife and grabs my face like his mother preparing to wipe away a smudge with a spit covered thumb. Every muscle in my body tenses to the point of explosion. I squeeze my fists so tight that my skin sounds like leather.
“How’s the tooth?” Bonnie asks.
I relax and sprout a bit of a grin, “What tooth?”
She laughs. “Ready?”
She draws her arm back.
She bites her tongue.
And she slams the applicator into the wound.
I feel it working already.
“You know I don’t smoke.” I hold an unlit cigarette in my palm.
Bonnie shoots it a look then locks my eyes, “So?”
“So every time I meet with you, you give me a cigarette, but I don’t smoke and I tell you every time.”
“Put it in your mouth,” she says. Her left eye is blue. The right one is brown. My eyes are coals, burning my brain.
“Your eyes are two different colors,” I say.
“I lost a contact. Here…” She stretches across the table and pops a Zippo at my face. I put the smoke between my nasty teeth and lean the tip into the flame. I take a drag and exhale the mouthful. I hate cigarettes.
“I hate cigarettes. They smell and I hate the way they taste.”
“I know. Take a big puff.”
A long pull this time. Bonnie watches me. I know she wants me to inhale every bit. Fill my lungs with the badness. I do. She smiles.
“See, you didn’t even cough that time!” She’s delighted. That’s all that matters.
“Which one?” I ask.
“Which what?” she says as she slides a piece of her dyed, jet-black hair away from her eye and behind her ear.
“Which contact did you lose? Are you really blue or brown?”
“Well you should know,” she says.
“How?” I say. I can’t focus on anything anymore. Her face is going blurry, then sharpening, then blurring again. I feel like my face is going to tear from my head.
“I always wear my contacts,” she says as if this statement should be obvious to me.
“So you should know what color my eyes are all the time.”
“And whatever one that’s there right now, the one that’s not always there, would be the real one.”
“I can’t, Bonnie.”
“You can’t what?”
“I can’t start thinking about eyes right now. I just don’t have the mindset. I can’t—”
“Franky-boy!” she says like she’s speaking to a dog.
“Just tell me!” I say impatiently.
“No. I refuse to tell you.”
“I’m blind as a fucking bat anyway.” She bites her thumb nail and spits the half moon into the ashtray on the table. She loves to do this. She knows it makes me tingle.
I rest the smoke next to the nail. “So you got it?”
Before she answers the waitress is at the table. She’s been working six decades straight, easy. Serious sweat-stache. Sunken stuff and lines all over her face. Blood shot eyes and yellow-yellow teeth. She seems nice though.
“What can I getcha?” she says in a Virginia Slims growl.
Bonnie smiles the shittiest of shit-eating grins, “You could bring my boy here three coffees.”
“Three?” The waitress asks as she scratches her temple with the tip of her click-pen adorned with a Speedo-clad muscle man. His name is probably Niko and he’s smiling at me.
“Your strongest and blackest. All at the same time,” Bonnie says.
“That’s a lotta caffeine.”
“He’s needs a lotta energy. He’s sluggish.”
The waitress raises an eyebrow in my direction. Her eyes dart to the bloodied bandage on my forehead barely covered by my woolen cap. “What’s the deal?” she asks.
“Oh this, I—”
Bonnie chops me off, “He has tumors all over his brain. They call him Cancer Carl in school. Sometimes they drop out of his nose. One time…I mean two times, we were eating breakfast and a tumor dropped into his oatmeal.” Bonnie holds back the giggles. “It was awesome!”
“Oh no kid! That’s bad news!” the waitress says with god’s honest concern.
“It’s—” I begin but Bonnie jumps in again.
“It’s cool. He loves them. He loves surgery and he can’t wait to die.”
“Oh no kid! That’s bad news too!” The waitress says.
“He’s dark. That’s why I’m into him. It’s hot,” Bonnie says all sexy-like. I know she’s not serious but this too makes me tingle.
“Tell ya what Cancer Carl. Foods on me. Tonight you eat on my dime.”
Bonnie’s jaw nearly hits the table. “Oh my gosh, waitress!”
“Bethy,” the waitress replies.
“Oh my gosh, Bethy! You are truly God’s gift to the food service industry!”
The waitress let’s out a nauseating, phlegm-drenched chuckle that honestly causes me to dry heave.
But Bonnie is charming. I was charming once, I think. I think I was. I don’t know. All I am now is a shit. I’m fried. I’m a french fry. I can barely breathe on my own.
Bonnie skims her menu. “I’ll have an entire plate covered in sausages, Bethy. I’m talkin’ two or three dozen sausages. Pile up the porky protein I say. I mean, to me, grinded up pig parts is like the same thing as vitamin C, you can never get enough right?”
The waitress nods.
“I also want like, a shit-load of maple syrup and a glass of water with lemon.”
“K,” the waitress mutters while scribbling in her pad. She snaps a look at me. “Food?”
“No Bethy. No food Bethy. No food for me Bethy. I’ll eat cigarettes.” Words float through my mind but I can’t seem to grab them. Slippery, slippery words.
The waitress slides me the cockeyed, what a weirdo glance and looks to Bonnie for help.
“Tuuuuuummmooooorssssss,” Bonnie whispers.
“Oh yeah!” The waitress politely recalls and shakes her head. “Bad news kid, bad news.” She looks at me for a beat and sighs. “I’ll be back with drinks.”
“Glorious!” Bonnie shouts.
“I think I’m gonna throw up,” I say.
She watches the waitress walk away, “What?” she says hardly paying attention to me.
“I think I’m gonna—” I try to repeat.
Bonnie quickly turns to me. “I should’ve gotten some cheese fries too.”
“But my brain feels like—”
“And like five hundred pancakes!” she says.
“Are you listening to me?” I shout.
Bonnie pauses. “She’s giving us free stuff, Frank!”
“Yes. Who cares! My head is—”
“I care Frank! Life doesn’t always give you free stuff. This is a good thing. A nice thing.”
“Christ…” I sigh as Bonnie launches daggers from her eyes. “Okay…sorry… I’m very happy about the free stuff.”
“But…I really need to know if you have the thing or not?”
“A little.” I bite some skin from next to my thumb nail and chew it like a tiny piece of gum, “I feel weird.”
“Yeah. Itchy and annoyed…and bored.” I spit the skin onto the floor.
“Awwwww!” Bonnie mocks me.
“I am so profoundly unhappy.”
“Oh shut your fucking trap!”
“Seriously…I feel like I’m constantly rejecting myself or something.”
“Do you want another cigarette?”
I lift the burning butt from the ashtray and show her. “I haven’t finished this one yet.”
“Here…” she pulls one from the pack and hands it to me. “…for later.”
I drop it into my shirt pocket and smirk.
“Don’t reject those, baby-boy,” she says with a smile.
I shake my head and we sit silently for a beat or two. Bonnie never takes her eyes off me. She makes me uncomfortable. She is a master of discomfort.
I wonder what she’s thinking. I wonder if she thinks I’m interesting. I always fantasize about this. I always dream it. I wonder if she wants me. And not the way she’s wanted me all along but I wonder if she really, really wants me. I wonder if she’s attracted to me. I know she’s not but I always hope for it. I think about what it would be like if she was my girlfriend. Like my real-deal girlfriend. I wonder what we would do. I wonder if we’d go to the movies. I wonder if we’d smile a lot. I wonder if there would be a TV show that we would watch every week together. I wonder if she would think of it as our show. I wonder if she would ever let me touch her. I wonder if she would tape the show for me if I wasn’t around. I wonder if I could make her things. I wonder if she would put my picture in a frame. I wonder if she would yell at me for not calling her. I wonder if she would let me keep clothes at her house. I wonder if she would rub my back when I threw up. I wonder lots of things.
Her eyes don’t budge. Not for a second. She stares directly into the center of my brain. She can see my thoughts. I know there’s a connection now. I know there’s some kind of conduit running between us now. The seeds have created some kind of invisible tube with invisible wires transferring invisible information. She’s downloading me while she stares. She’s making me uncomfortable on purpose. When I’m uncomfortable my mind is off balance and I’m more susceptible to the downloading process. She knows this. She knows everything. She knows that I’m picturing her pubic hair right now. She’s gonna get mad. She knows I’m scared. She knows I’m trying not to picture it but I can’t help it. She knows I’m getting nervous.
And now my leg gets going. It always does this when my nerves pop. It’s pumping and my foot is tapping. The table is shaking. The ketchup bottle and sugar packets are vibrating. She knew this was going to happen even before my leg did. She can access the information as it’s sent from my brain to my leg. I know she can do it. She’s like a phone tap.
My leg moves faster as my nerves fire like lightning bolts all while my brain tells my stomach that it’s time to throw up. I feel the blob-like iced tea climbing the walls of my throat. It’s time to throw up. So I’m gonna throw up. I’m gonna throw up. I’m gonna throw up…
“So do you want me to rub your back?” Bonnie says.
“What?!?” I yelp in a Peter Brady puberty shriek.
Bonnie gently bites her tongue, playing cool. “Do you want me to give you your bag?”
My hands tremble. “I don’t know what you’re asking me…”
She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a brown paper lunch bag with FRANK FISHER written on it in thick black lettering. She enticingly shakes it next to her smirking face and tosses it in front of me. My eyes go wide and for about four seconds the world makes sense. I eagerly grab the bag, unroll the top and look inside.
“You’re such a sucker,” she says.
I raise my head and hit her with a goofy grin. “Will you put it in for me?” I ask.
“What is this like eightieth time you’ve changed?” she says smugly.
“C’mon! Seriously, will you?”
“Oh Frank! You know I’m going to say yes.”
Of course I do, but for some reason, I always ask.
And here I am again.
I chew my nails. I tap my foot. I chew my nails. I sweat. I bleed. My nose bleeds. It drips. I drip. I’m dripping through my chair.
I wipe it. I smear it. I wipe again. My head is throbbing. From inside. The wound. Like a golf ball. It pulses.
It squishes. It’s wet. Something’s gonna grow. Something. Hopefully. Something’s gonna be born. Be alive. It’s alive. It should be alive. I should be alive. It’s dead. Dying. Dead.
The mummy wrap ‘round my head is soaked with dirt and blood. It needs to be changed but I’m sick of it. Sick of this. It covers my eye. My right eye. Half the world is gone. Only the left side exists.
I chew my nails again. Bite ‘em too low. Too short. They hurt. They bleed. They drip. I drip.
RING RING RING RING RING RING RING
The phone. “Yeah?” It’s her. Does she have one? Does she have a new one?
“I Scooby Dooby do,” she says. Cute.
“I can’t keep going. It’s dull. It hurts. It’s boring,” I say. “This one’s got nothing. It’s no good. It’s no good! It’s all gone now. It’s all dried up. I need something more. I’m sick of these same ones. I need something else. I need a new one. Just one new one. I need one new one.”
“Ya know what ya gotta do, baby-boy,” she says.
“I know I know I know…”
She owns every bit of me. She knows this. I know this. My head, especially knows this.
She tells me the way. I listen. Barely. I’m outta my chair and into the mess…
I step over the birdhouses and the spice racks and the painting of the naked one-eyed lady and the blueprints (for whatever the hell it is) and the charcoal sketch of the evergreen and the books bookmarked halfway through and the plaster cast of the dead squirrel and the overexposed photo of the tiny cabin. I walk through a stack of “Meat is Murder” flyers. I wipe my bleeding nose on a “Fur is Fashion” t-shirt. I knock my shiny new mountain bike over and I’m into the closet.
Iced tea. Iced tea is all. At this point in my life iced tea is all I am right now. It’s all I have right now. It’s a delicious treat. Its deliciousness is powerful. It’s the powerful powdered goods and into the mug it goes – scoop after scoop.
“Uncle Franky Rules!!” That’s what it says on this mug. That’s what a cartoon dinosaur tells me every time I sip the drink. It was a gift from my nephew. I forget how old he is but I scoop anyway – scoop scoop scoop – spoonful after spoonful goes in, way more than the recommended amount. I don’t care. I like it. I like it sweet. I like it good. I like when it rots. It’s rotted now. It hardly hurts now. I think its dead now. I think I lost it now. Do I care? Do I need it? Do I need anything? I just need this. This pulse. This pulsating…ness? Pulsatingness. In my head. I need pulsatingness.
I grab some water from the dead flower, the one I grew during the gardening phase. I dump and stir with a pen. The iced tea is sludge. It’s good.
“Maybe you can…” she begins.
“I CAN’T!” I yell into the phone. “It doesn’t work for me anymore! It’s dried up I said. It’s dull I said. I hate it and I want a new one!” I drop my head into my hand, “Please. I need it. I’m serious this time.”
“FINE FINE FINE!” She shouts and hangs up.
My eyes meet with the monitor on the desk. The blinking cursor. The flashing fucker.
“A Big Pile of Misery: The Life and Times of Dusty.” That’s what it says.
My reply? “Open up and say, AHHHHHHH…” and I boot the bastard. It pops into sparkly sparks on the ground. The cracked screen flickers and goes black.
And I’m off to the diner to meet Bonnie.