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Tuesday, May 2, 2000
By Paul Ford
I was just fucking with people here, writing nonsense, talking crazy talk.
Kids of course get nervous, to see Dad building the teepee in the middle of the living room. "We're like Indians," I said. "Gotta be careful not get scalped." Hatchet the TV, stereo, stomp the CDs, throw the air conditioner out the window. "Not paying any taxes, unnh." Cut my hand and watch the blood drip on the carpeting. Burn books, steak in the middle of the room. "No more whiteman's ways." White ceiling blackens. Rub myself with dust. "Real man now, your Dad's a real man. Absolutely no sexual intercourse."
Phone call from work. Am I okay? "Great, the best in years," I say and rip the phone from the wall. Doesn't come easy; I have to pull hard and fall back and it gives off a single ring, old model with a dial.
I'm chosen, and I don't need to sleep. Nap five minutes and I'm awake chopping wood in the backyard, closest neighbors out of sight and hearing. Moving so fast I can't figure out where I came from. Outside, dog starts barking at me. Won't stop. I'm covered in sweat, in underwear. Not myself. Kids are scared, but good for them to see me as is. Burnt my son's Tommy Gear jacket in the living room, bonfire of books, TV guides, plastics, cereal boxes. Tear the wallpaper down. Ex-wife's pattern, like her skin on my walls, the light bulbs her mouth. Her dishes too, her flatware, in the cabinets, but I keep them. No reason to destroy the dishes.
Time gets strange. "Dinner," I yell out, but the littlest one, the 12 year old is crying, and then she hasn't been there for days. The 15 year old is gone two days. I think for a moment I've cooked the dog but it's a sandwich. Dog starts barking. I'm so angry, I'm yelling at the 12 year old, seeing her as six. Where did I get the sandwich? Must have driven to get it, put on a polo shirt. Shirt and pants with the belt still in are piled by the front door, car keys hung on the post by the fridge.
"My hunger," I say, and make my tongue fat in my mouth and bite the edges hard, trying to get clear. Pain either improves reception or halts it. In this case it slows it down. I look across the table. No one there. Want sex so bad, kills me, kills my heart, pounds like crazy. Feel a rotten square fruit in my chest pulsing. Anything, any creature, absolutely. Mouth open wanting. Absolutely have to have, now.
Four days and I snap, and then get the hammer and the nails from the garage. Want to nail myself to the table so that I don't run around like this any more, stop losing control. Need to catch up with myself. Stop as the point of the nail goes a tiny bit in, one good hit. Pull it out, blood pools on the top of my hand. Forget it; I'm not crazy. Still. Strike my hand with the hammer, 9 times, last few times the flesh is gray and brown. Pull out a bottle and drink straight from it, one-handed. Orange light through the bottle through the kitchen light.
Pass out there. Wake up 28 hours later with a stretch of drool from the side of my mouth to the varnished wood tabletop. Hungry, hammered hand throbbing, softball sized starting at the wrist. Stomach moving, swinging. Walk out into the living room, get some more light.
Teepee. I built one in the living room out of blankets and quilts and with an industrial stapler. Remember it. Seemed like a very good idea. I had to do it. Urgent to do it. I tore it down then, left it in a pile on the floor, framed wood and cloth. The ceiling black, smeared with smoke, the nylon carpet melted and stained dozens of colors. And then I had to go find the kids, to tell them I was all right.