She is hovering
I. Old Johnny Carson tapes play on endless rewind—the squiggling hogwash of chipmunk chatter—and we laugh like middle-Americans at carhops along Route 66, roller skates and greasy French fries, on our quest to eliminate regional speech markers. At each regular shit-tank corn syrup cigarette break we work out short comedy routines predicated on the differences between men and women or white and nonwhite (black) people.
II. No roadsigns here or there.
No logos. No λóγος. No Lake Michigan to go fishing in.
Disney-branded hippopotami dancing on brittle toes until.
Until Peppermint Patty arrives like a fireball in our hospital. Excited, we break out in hives, scratch the sores til they sweat blood like dead deer hides sweat dew in early a.m. radio waves. Up to 200 slugs can be found per square meter in fields of winter wheat. We know this. Our agents work retail en masque at town center kiosks (selling designer pottery, cell phone covers, home-genealogy kits), or they serve as community center “greeters,” orderlies at the hospital, sticking dun-colored veins with jittery IV needles.
The wind rustles trees outside.
A half-dead supercentarian whose great aunt once met “The” Robert E. Lee on a dusty Kentucky background suggests new combinations of presidential names for some mash-up of the Confederacy: Jefferson Davis Herbert Hoover are more alike than defferent, by Gawd, he croaks over the blaring wall-mounted television, coming in a swell of blistery pixelated rainbows. We knife out all logos from the swell. Peppermint Patty, summoned by the supercentarian, does not come.
III. Of course we draw heat, and so reduce contact. No more furtive crossword puzzles or notes rolled in dog shit left in certain pre-marked scooper bags. Instead we use remote astrological commands, the passage of a certain comet over the Southern Cross, the nadir of Mercury’s interface with Venus, the burnout finale of a supernova bursting forth across a supersaturated Gemini. Draw a card. The dumbfucks are sleeping across this cancer ward, and Patty is Nine of Swords, her blades lurking at their throats. Another. We are the Page of Swords, the spy, concealer resting thick on the blackholes of our cheeks. So long as night is clear as a Texas cooter in drydock, we assume epic proportions. We make it personal with switchblades and jelly fuck-bracelets. We float in the world like light in a black hole.
Still, cast adrift in radio silence, some of our weaker agents develop daytime-TV identity conflicts: heterosexuality, intense paranoia. —No one nose me no more (sic),— says the suicide note of a prime deep-cover agent, reported the Sunday rag with images of his shaved and tattooed head painted with red-lacquer, a dellicato squash inserted awkwardly up the anus. Other agents surrender to their cover story: the infant-pink fineness of ground sirloin so easily plucked from the butcher’s rack, gingerbread bonding over groggy goblets of over-indulgent eggnog-inflected husband swapping, the glowing warmth of warm Mississippi quail breast served with wilted lamb shank, intestinal flambé and socialite-expelled shat brownie under soft lighting.
This will happen to the old man. In the hospital room dead zone, the supercentarian’s skull becomes a kind of demi-god. Hand puppets mimic his long chin and kids make his jaws spout dire proclamations to the teenage girls in the maternity ward: —You’ve been sterilized through the waters,— or, most likely, —You’ve been sterilized through the IV needles,— or —
You can imagine what comes next.
IV. Peppermint Patty is in her bed masturbating with a tube of Crest toothpaste. She has tied her date up with fishing line, not really fishing line, but what she imagines to be a thin stream of minty freshness that cuts into his native multi-user bullshit cover story. His skin pops, becomes a canvas of fallen leaves dripping paint. She does the same with his cock, toothpaste that is, which is always fully erect when she stiffens its white swirling substance on the window ledge, engorged even by the sunlight, a loaf of artisan bread puffing in the oven of her vagina. Cunt.
It’s the answer to some unspeakable riddle.
V. The sky all but kneels in front of him, the supercentarian imagines the rusty IV apparatus as some sort of super-charged aqualung, the glint of its brash steel flushing his cheeks with a warm ruddy loam. He can see this Patty, this peppermint, make eye contact, and then extract her tongue slowly, torturously, up through a cloud like the lip of a tornado, into the upper atmosphere, until the tip of the andromeda galaxy just touches the head of his cock. He moans behind his gag reflex, choking on coagulating saliva that gets stuck in his throat as he tries to clear it. The larynx is a commercially available operating system rebooting as it takes two tries, three, while he is perpetually clearing his throat. Patty’s tongue has not moved from its tentative perch on the tip of a distant star cluster that becomes his cock that becomes the Gemini cluster and back again to a cucumber slathered in grimy Vaseline. Then, since then, its code has been massaged and she lurches forward to wrap it around the head while grabbing the ends of the toothpaste fishing line with her hand and tugging. He has been sterilized by her tongue itself. It is more robust to swallow and he comes five more times as she frees his cock from the fishing line, casting back into the tackle box everything but the shriveled gills of a dead-eye scrod.
VI. Elsewhere, Patty does not actually come, because Patty’s fantasy is a fast-paced, intimate, humorous account of one of rock music’s most fearless acts, that is, a dumb show during the opening soliloquy, or the mindless SM drivel of Punch and Judy when the alligator rears up snarling about the zyzygy of things to come.
Too cryptic. She tries again to enhance foreign exchange earnings, develop export-oriented industries and to generate employment opportunities for paranormal romance.
VII. Peppermint Patty is masturbating but she is not herself.
Now, Patty grows a cock and it extends like a telescoping wand, some infinitely elongating scaffold moving upward to the top of the neighboring skyscraper, a fully engorged job with steel and glass frame coated in a barely discernible bronze and throbbing with the Modernist sensation of a pulsing world without end. The reinforced steel structure shoots a transnational immigrant baptized in a pool of liquid surfactant at a hospital’s laundry facilities. Yes, she thinks, this is something.
The following again takes place in the past.
VIII. Setting: Dominican apocalypse. Where Peppermint Patty would hand-sew grey-colored Disney shirts in 110-degree heat until her fingers bled goo, bled sticky grey goo; then, the overseer would switch her to the red shirts because it was her turn to make things extra tasty and so she licks the lemon moon and stretches its fire-forged arms into a rickety nebulae. Harder. Slavish replication. Her very character is so colorful her muscles tense. Faster. Harder. Patty’s escape fantasy takes place in a zero-G dunce suit with cock—it extends and extends in jester bells, curled toes, and juggling guinea pigs squealing with delight as plastic bags crinkle against their hairy mammalian eardrums with greater visual-environmental presence. Quivering in the air the suit is exposed in the horn of the jester shoes then slowly curving backward and into kneecaps—nails on a long-ringed mandarin, and then swirling up into her midsection—updating her hips in a surge of industrial development. Patty’s synth-cock tentatively probes her qwerty cunt before beginning to fuck it with punctuation marks, first leisurely—semicolons the occasional apostrophe—then hard, pummeling it with the words, numbers, pictures, symbols of an occult grammatology—these signs, Peppermint Patty discovers, are spelling out the strange word “Interface” from a crack forming at the center of an ice-covered pond.
It’s winter in the Dominican apocalypse. Nuclear winter.
Patty’s cock and Patty’s cunt and this week in review have simultaneously become cunt-cock coming at the same time.
Patty comes. Patty also comes.
Patty drifts off.
IX. Patty still has not changed the sheets on the ward: Does the supercentarian recognize the lady’s accent at the window ledge? He is now a popular action hero in all of its original arcade glory like many-tentacled sea hags saying hello. He is old and confused. He stares through the pane into her chest cavity as she dives off the ledge of the hospital room window.
Tap, tap. Tap. Something happens.
In place of the lady, Slug.
Slug, he names it, hangs like a grey porcelain sausage, hangs down from the top of the window, suctioning his wet body, his enormous foot—a grotesque pseudopodia—to the exterior pane. There is a loud declamping. The old man perceives different routes through the stages of simple lifeforms which allow for extended re-playability. There are sustained squerk noises as Slug navigates the window pane at his infuriatingly slow pace.
He inhales. Patty stirs from her half-sleep next to the supercentarian’s moldy armpits. She is back with him now in a kind of torpor.
Two sets of tentacles probe the glass.
Tap. Patty opens the window, just a crack.
Ten freshly slaughtered slugs cleaned of all outer mucous inhale the incoming air that is cold and moist as they form into a single turd-like patty. Patty stirs again, shivers. Her nipples tighten as they stretch outward like pieces of Christmas tinsel wrapped in lead. She knows things about Slug:
Slug’s slug-lines are unofficial meeting places where commuters catch free rides with drivers who need additional riders to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Microorganisms by the millions call Slug’s digestive track home. Slug’s tentacles fidget impatiently as they work up the 1/2 cup of cornmeal needed to gauge the size of the opening. The open window is not wide enough for Slug’s impressive girth unless Slug can contract his body through the strength of his simple brain. But, wait, Slug is both lubricated and stretchy like a glob of silly putty washed in silicon. He begins the process of entering her room with 1/2 cup of high protein flour spewing from his mouth, the vomit of the backbrain.
X: Slug must generate protective mucous to survive and can mobilize 1,500 evacuees from a time-stamped subdivision into an angry teeming mob bent on the destruction of the neighboring pre-packaged city. Slug is thus six feet of pure muscle struggling to get through her window with 1/4 cup of heavy cream carried in the samovar of its back. Slug is an ill-fitting sex-partner who can never get the radio to work again, a rippling lump of skin shimmering with beads of rain on top of a more general wetness that recalls a monsoon at the edge of an already submerged city.
Slug is multicolored in shades of dark, translucent skin, eyeless, faceless, hairless. Slug’s intricate underbelly is lined with undulating muscles that tremble and so he has robot charm and a carbon fiber arm of sorts from the undifferentiated mass against the pane, excreting stickiness, excreting slime, excreting sticky grey goo now on her fingers. More, please more. She wants all of him.
And he wants her. Both.
XI. Cameras capture Peppermint Patty’s every fey movement; we’ve held screenings with popcorn and peanut butter cups. The close-ups are worthy of The Seventh Seal, evoking real-time pathos as the stretch lines of her upper cheeks go taut as fishing line caught on a tin can and eager to slice slugs into bologna-like crosssections, gently, gently, then loose in time with the crack of the slithery whip along her swollen breathing back as we watch her lips linger softly on the edge of the picture screen flicker, noting in shallow breath how the pantheon of Disney villains stay stitched into the sweatshirts and who’d identify so much as a Disney villain that she’d flash one on her chest: stepmother botox witches drawn straight from the neoconservative hips of vein-tight panty-hose bitches at a slightly outré office party without the kids for an anniversary dinner until… Patty wears Disney villains on her chest.
She has ripped off their heads first and smeared them with Vaseline.
In the old man’s mind Peppermint Patty is a bloodhound tracking Baron Samedi in a CSI lab, sniff-sniffing out the most arcane watermark: Masonic bleating goat-heads, a muted brass post horn. Special talent. Finds musty imprints. In his mind she gets ‘em translated by an old village supercentarian—a sexy supercentarian who crawls up the glass until his full Slug length is just outside the barb-wire barrier of this Dominican EPZ—into letters. These, the old man, knows, can be projected on the side of a post-American Manhattan skyscraper.
After knifing the gaping eye of a vulture skull in his mind, the supercentarian Brujo extracts a bullet from behind Peppermint Patty’s bruised, leaking ear. —You want a revolution—, he says. —Here’s your sudden or momentous rotational revolution.—
His decaying armpit is in her face, releasing asexual mold spores. His Slug tentacles toy with her hair like a mushroom might toy with moss. His underbelly is engulfing her whole body in its folds before the many other slug skulls refuse to cooperate. Under his weight, she struggles to further open her thighs. It is difficult—he is massive, his gerontologists are hard at work trying to control this tendency, at peace with the growing alienation of the protagonist on the road to reproduction. A handful of bullets drops heavy in her palm.
She nods, fists them, knows what to do.
XII. Spitting in the old man’s chewy face before he locates Patty with his slug brothers afloat on distant worlds, under different stars—screwing the toothpaste tube cap on again before sodomizing the crap out of the vulture skull, Patty begins to see in the old man’s mind “Interface” scrawled all over the place: leading down the sweaty wall of the fly-infested outhouse behind the main fabrication plant, burned into the hide of a brutally emaciated pack mule running out of time and money before the rinderpest hits the bone marrow. Back up and into future time. Where inside the EPZ for work the next morning, circumscribed within a demilitarized space of corporate tax-breaks and breakless 16-hour workdays, of sewing machines needling themselves into full-blown HIV, of blood blisters pooling subcutaneous like florets of crimson broccoli, of disintegrating time cards punched by the papilla of microscopic scabies in a horde of mutant Tsetse flies—Peppermint Patty in mindseye begins to visualize explosions.
XIII. Patty visualizes explosions and her explosions come to life: Small bangs. At first. Miniature stars exploding over a makeshift model of the Milky Way because this is what the supercentarian Brujo means with his breath. He enters, gropes around, sucks on her electronic eye mounted at the throat of her voicebox while arcane fingers trace the outline of a crepe-paper large intestine curiously empty of fecal matter. She practices for weeks with the gaseous discharges of her own body: eruptive eye sand, earwax-polymer bullets, gnarled hangnails bursting with ripe genetic data, explosive poly-textual pus from ingrown hairs gone wretched in a bleached washtub, until she can eventually nod, with great concentration, in a pentagram pattern causing silver flash grenades to stop the assembly line cold, cause the rotors up-and-went shitty with nobody none the wiser.
Aborted pregnancies stall halfway through the assembly line like gunpowder snot balls under Patty’s half-numb face. Once the conveyor belt chug starts up again, the most oxidized afterbirth can be boxed in bright day-glo colors with a eunuch-of-the-month. Imagine little Sally Farnsworth, of Peoria, Illinois, opening her X-mas gift to find a mass of sticky fetus liquid coating Barbie’s insides. Patty nods her head, and the doll gives a long distance bang all over the kid’s palpitating self-esteem. Patty can do better because Patty can imagine the end of the world when she cries. It’s a tableaux of rotting blisters and rancid cornmush pouring out the thick of every crevice within the folds of a fat-brained whore of Babylon.
XIV. Back now to the hospital room. He, Slug now, moves himself down, less illuminated with a special red lamp Patty hangs as a beacon atop the bedroom mirror. He is leisurely now, hugging the curves of her abdomen, his tentacles seeking her tunnel as an electron might seek out the charge of a spent lightning bolt. Slowed by an unruly nest of hairs with eggs to lay somewhere, his lubricant smooths the way, and—at last—he probes her slit, first tentative, then with force. He inches forward, nudging her thighs apart.
Patty’s hands claw at the sheets. She is a lobster. No, an orchid. A club soda, in a shattering glass.
XV. The wind doubles back on itself. The wind enters the room triumphantly, brings fresh tomato, goat cheese, olives, roasted garlic, fresh basil, onions and mushrooms amplifying the scent of an old swamp that is beginning to suffocate Patty.
Slug is now a common non-scientific word and he surges forward, stretching himself taut, easily eight feet long, digging. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream. Yields 4 servings. Digging as our math-like tendencies lose themselves in a wash of meaningless numbers, deep as he can, the bed creaking with every insatiable tripped-out background thrust. He lodges another 30 eggs that are laid bare into a hole in the ground, inside her vulva, inside her amino acids, his front handful of warm stromboli flesh half shifts to suit her, curving back and downward. The rest of his body, spaced out astral-wise from the Great Salt Lake while he is resting on her torso, kneads her flesh raw. With each fuck she fumbles through on some dim casting-couch of a bachelor pad, and we receive sensitive case information on the construction materials used by our enemies. His skin so slippery—but she needs to show him: Slug’s penis is composed of these weird symbols that mean underground post-horns, dead species curled like cork-screws entangled in a wet alpine avalanche, genitalia managing to pull a few more inches of his body inside, his trembling underbelly attacking her canal from all angles, speeding through the sixth sets of soft molars. Slavish repetition. Faster. Slavish reduplication. Bigger. More. Almost.
Slug, being a Geminia type of land slug, gently chews the insides of her vagina, bringing her to excessive climax. Patty arches, kicks, with almost-obsessively detailed entropic condition. Sucks in so deep she nearly swallows her tongue, slurps it frantically back into place and then bites it with teeth sharpened against stiff Nile reeds sniveling Crocodilopolis deity gone dusty along the muddy floodplain.
Bloodgush fills her mouth.
XVI: The hospital corridor is lighted in a bolt of public health awareness. Thanks to advancements in oncology the heat sent down along a wire kite string maintains its warmth through the kidneys but it is also heavy with dampness. Slug slows to a hum at the back of a sore throat. Then he extracts himself slowly, the suction stubborn, painful to break, and rests on top of her, spent.
Patty, beneath, melts.
The loss or reduction of the shell for Slug is an evolutionary common. Slug has evolved many times and has crushed Patty before. Slug has been many and Patty has been one.
And so, Patty has died.
As only one can.
XVII: For every hand and foot of strip-poker played with our cigar-smoking peers, we gain access to bank accounts numbers, trash barges, masses of oily placenta. Peppermint Patty’s infiltration opens up deep-throat cover possibilities for other operatives, and within one short year of Patty’s first shifting infiltrations, 73 of our newest agents are immersed in language programs calculated to convert their speech into case-sensitive dialect. We screen endless hours of old Tom Brokaw Ted Koppel to laugh with a supercentarian swagger.
XVIII: Patty, torn between unleashing a prototype robot capable of hunting down over 100 slugs an hour—horror and desire, these patches of fleshy grime—cannot bring herself to dry up like sand in the middle of the Gobi. Meanwhile, she cannot, over there in the middle of it, bear to look away.
By now Slug has pushed a bicentennial quarter with an image of his body replacing George Washington’s through the window as a way of ingratiating himself with the authorities. He continues by attaching himself to the other side of the glass when Patty is distracted picking up a shower of small change that falls out of his substance. He pulls himself further forward, inch by thick inch of swollen turnips baked black under the silt of a burial ground. A pause, a room filled with maps, this shudder of slick skin. He crawls along the wall, staining it with his wet trail like turpentine peeling the lead strips back and unleashing millions of mold spores as he nears her bed. Hanging down, he fills her nostrils with the smell of fresh soil from the carburetor of her old Datsun.
Slug curves toward her again, his back end vertical while he suggests a recipe: First chop the slugs into fine mince, then beat the eggs and egg yolks now attached to the wall, his front end suctioning itself to her shoulder, kneading her skin with his underbelly.
Patty sucks in her breath.
XIX. Old Johnny Carson tapes play on endless rewind—the squiggling hogwash of chipmunk chatter.
Even our best agents are sometimes abandoned.
XX: The old man Slug twists toward her head once more. Soon there is mucous creeping through her hair, undead shampoo. His front end gropes her forehead, sticky lubricant oozing into her brows, clumping her eyelashes together, choking her nasal passage with a swampy musk spreading from the legion of slugs contained within his coat. She opens her mouth to sift the dry ingredients and then cut 2 tbs of butter into that mixture. Slug shows his claw-like throbbing mush to ferret out the other slugs, her tongue noisily jousting with the front portion of his foot, and he pushes forward until her throat closes up and rejects him even though he deposits hundreds of slugs within the lining of her cardboard esophagus. He pulls himself out, with reluctance; works his way to her torso. Melt one tbs. of butter in a sauté pan and pure the batter into 2 1/2 inch cakes in two batches of these things that might be related to the sound of slugs riding roughshod over her stomach, past her chin, along her neck, where he slurps noisily, slowly, taking his time as one of a crowd. The bedsprings bark: Where is the salt? As he moves forward, he brings her camisole down, the thin straps breaking, and
He flattens himself, both out from the centre of the foot to the edges of her breasts with his weight, his belly gripping and releasing her nipples rhythmically in the mouth, into a gleeking pair of toothless chattering gums. She finds herself making soft gurgling sounds deep in the eyeball latched inside her larynx. Slug gurgles. Slug’s reply is a slime trail— Old Johnny Carson tapes play on endless rewind—a residual stain at the bottom of the world.
Megan Milks is in the Ph.D. Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work has been published in Wreckage of Reason: An Anthology of Contemporary XXperimental Prose by Women Writers, DIAGRAM, Pocket Myths: The Odyssey, and Mildred Pierce. Her short story Yuri-G was a finalist in DIAGRAM's inaugural $5 Innovative Fiction Contest, and won the 2008 Goodnow Award for Prose. Her short story Slug, which is mashed up here, is forthcoming in Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire.
Davis Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer whose works include the forthcoming novel Drain (Northwestern University Press 2010), the novels DIS (BlazeVox) and Abecedarium (Chiasmus); the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: Williams S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization (Pluto) and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism\'s Parlor Game (Nebraska, 2009); and the audiocollage Memorials to Future Catastrophes (Jaded Ibis). His creative work has been accepted by numerous publications including Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, and Exquisite Corpse. He is Director of Lake Forest College Press/&NOW Books, an editor of The &NOW AWARDS: The Best Innovative Writing, and he directs the NEH-funded Virtual Burnham Initiative. He can be found, virtually, at davisschneiderman.com
This is a collaborative story, a mash-up of the work of two writers: Schneiderman sent Milks his “Baron Samedi Clan vs. Authority of the 1st-World All Stars” from his ms. ScatØlØgically Yours—a 2007 finalist for the Ronald Sukenick American Book Review Innovative Fiction Prize from Fiction Collective 2 (FC2)—as published in Absent. Milks sent Schneiderman her “Slug,”forthcoming in Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire. At first, each writer wrote only in-between the words of the other. We then sent the treated texts back to the “original” author in four randomly split segments each. We randomly assembled the eight prose segments, and then edited through several email exchanges. This story will be incorporated into a larger text called Book, featuring a series of collaborations between Schneiderman and other writers, all powered by "machines" particular to each collaboration.