Johnny and The Turk had a firm
image of their reality, even if it had very little in common with the rest of the world's,
and one of the concepts that kept them well grounded in it was that their reality didn't
change from one situation to another; they behaved exactly the same no matter where they
were. And in order to make each locale feel comfortable, they alwaysbut
alwayssat in the last row. After all, if there's one thing humans like more than sex
it's comfort, and Johnny and The Turk were as stereotypically human as one could get.
Johnny spent the revival meeting
slouched in his seat cleaning his fingernails with the tip of a knife blade, an action
which had impressed him no end when he saw it in a James Deanor was it James
Cagney?movie. Granted it would have had a much stronger effect had it been done with
a knife blade longer than the three-inch penknife Johnny used, but after all, this wasn't
exactly Southside Chicago. The Turk was being what his father called a fussbudget,
fidgeting in his seat and forcing Johnny to unwittingly prove that he actually fostered a
bit of paternal instinct by repeatedly telling his friend to sit still. Neither of them
had any concept of why they were sitting under the tent or why they didn't just get up and
leave. Examining their motives would have been too much like lancing two huge boils.
When the prayer cards were passed
out, Johnny bent his in half lengthwise and used a corner to pick his teeth, another
affectation he'd picked up from the movies and proceeded to use as often as possible,
though never when he actually needed to get something unstuck from between his teeth, for
which he insisted on using a Minty-Pik. The movies, as you can see, were Johnny Kasouska's
"Hey, don't do that,"
The Turk said sharply.
"And why not?"
whatever-you-call-it. You know, it's not right."
"And when did you get so
religious, Father Turk?"
"I just don't think it's
"Well I don't think you're
right," Johnny said shaking his head and making a big show of continuing to pick his
teeth. "I'm bored. Let's blow this pop stand."
As he stood up, Johnny tossed the
bent, folded, and mutilated orange card on the ground. The Turk picked it up and put it in
his pocket along with his own yellow one.
Had Johnny looked at his card
things might have turned out quite differently, though considering Johnny's misguided idea
that he controlled his reality, it's pretty much a sure bet he wouldn't have paid it any
attention. The card showed a drawing of a gorilla-like policeman dragging the mustachioed
man by the feet. Above the drawing were the words:
couldn't have gone to jail much more directly had he been teleported, for at the very
moment he and The Turk emerged from the tent, six cops converged on them, throwing them up
against one of three police cars on the scene, frisking them, handcuffing them, and
putting them in the back seats of separate cars. When they got to the police station they
were strip searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and booked on charges of grand theft
auto, reckless driving, and malicious destruction of property for stealing and wrecking
Duncan Bruce's car.
DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200
Johnny would spend the next eight
months at the Bluemount Learning Center, a juvenile correctional facility where he learned
little more than how to pick a lock with two safety pins and which stolen cars have the
best resale value for the hot-wiring time invested.
The Turk, however, didn't fare
quite as badly. When informed by the cops of the inevitable prospect of losing his anal
virginity in the state penitentiaryThe Turk not being quite smart enough, nor
experienced enough to know that he most likely would have roomed with Johnny at the
Learning Centerhe quickly and loudly turned state's evidence, regaling the police
with every detail he could remember about the car robbery as well as every other petty
trouble Johnny had ever even thought about getting into.
Thus, within hours, The Turk
picked up an envelope from the desk sergeant filled with his personal belongings and left
the police station with his father, looking forward to spending the night in his own
comfortable bed. As he put his wallet, seventy-two cents in change, a lucky rabbit's foot,
and a nail clipper in his pants pocket, he finally looked at the yellow card he'd picked
up at the tent meeting. He saw a drawing of the mustachioed man, who had sprouted angel
wings, clutching his cane as he flew out of an open bird cage.
are just naturally more immediate than others.
OF JAIL, FREE
THIS CARD MAY BE KEPT UNTIL NEEDED OR SOLD
* * * * * *
As the Quite Reverend John Joseph
Matthew Paul III was crawling on the ground retrieving the crowds generous
donations, Tripoli self-consciously recrossed his legs while pulling his dark blue pleated
wool skit down to cover his knees. Bobby Biggs was staring at him. Not like someone who
thought he recognized him but couldn't quite put his finger on where he knew him from, nor
like someone who wondered why the mailman was so smartly dressed for an afternoon tent
meeting. No, twelve-year-old Bobby was very simply staring at Tripoli's legs, his eyes
noticeably traversing from calf to knee towhen his skirt would hike up high
enoughlower thigh. It made Tripoli very uncomfortable to know that he could
titillate a teenage boy, though had he not blocked out so much of his own youth he would
have recalled that virtually anything can get a rise from a hormone-drenched teen.
Tripoli stood up and straightened
his white cotton blouse with the Peter Pan collar. He picked up his small navy purse,
having ditched the ugly brown mail satchel in the jeep. As he walked down the outer aisle
of the tent he smiled gently, nodding at everyone he passed. Each person acknowledged
Tripoli's silent greeting, some with a returned nod, others by mouthing "Hi",
and several men with a quaint tip of their hat. Suddenly he felt a tap on his back.
"Miss?" a voice said
answered, turning around to find Bobby Biggs standing with his hands thrust deep in his
pockets, his lips pursed tightly.
"Uh, I was, uh, wondering if
maybe, uh, you know, if maybe you'd like, uh, my prayer card?" he stammered.
"Don't you want it?"
Tripoli asked softly, making Bobby blush.
"Well, uh, you see, I don't
really need it, I mean, I don't think I'll really use it a whole lot, and I thought, uh,
well maybe...you know, maybe you'd like another one."
Tripoli reached out and took the
proffered card. "Well thank you very much, young man," he said. "I'll
cherish it always."
With that, he kissed his
white-gloved fingertips and placed them gently on Bobby's cheek. Bobby blushed, his face
looking like an overripe tomato that at any second might pop open on its own accord,
splattering blood everywhere. He turned and ran.
Tripoli put the orange card in
his purse. He hadn't taken one himself because he hadn't dropped any money into the Parkay
Margarine collection tub when it had been passed down his row and, not having been to a
tent meeting before, he assumed the prayer cards were meant only for those who had made a
contribution. Like everything else in life, he assumed absolution had a price.
He didn't give another thought to
the card Bobby gave him until he was stopped at a traffic light on the way back to the
Post Office while sitting in the red, white, and blue Postal Service jeep. The orange card
showed an illustration of the mustachioed man holding a dog under one arm while pushing a
howling baby in a carriage.
TAKE A WALK
ON THE BOARD WALK
TO BOARD WALK
straight to his house, packed a suitcase, and aimed the jeep for the open highway. When he
arrived in Atlantic City he followed the card's advice and drove directly to the
boardwalk. He hadn't walked more than twenty feet when he saw a large poster advertising a
beauty pageant that was to be held that very night offering a grand prize of $25,000.
After getting a hotel room, Tripoli went to the location office of the beauty contest,
filled out a two page application, and paid the $25 entry fee in cash.
That night Tripoli not only made
his beauty pageant debut, he won first placewinning prizes which included a diamond
tiara, a fur coat, a lifetime supply of vitamins, and the promised $25,000in the
Mister Miss Glamour Queen Pageant, launching him on a new, and what would be extremely
* * * * * *
The night of the tent meeting,
Bobby Biggs had an erotic dream about Tripoli, waking up confused and embarrassed by his
first encounter with a wet dream. Over the next two weeks this would become a nightly
occurrencewith a varying cast as inspirationuntil one morning his mother
confronted him with the soiled sheets, after which he took to sleeping with an old sweat
sock enrobing his adolescent unit, fastening it securely in place with a rubber band. On
the fourth night of this ritual he awoke in excruciating agony, his penis grotesquely
swollen, visibly throbbing, and colored an unearthly dark purple, the result of an overly
tight rubber band. Scared it was about to dry up and fall offlike most children,
confusing tales of gangrene, frostbite, and amputationhe woke up his parents, who
were forced to take him to the emergency room since he absolutely refused to let them
examine him. The intern masquerading as an emergency room doctor, who of course just had
to be a woman, assured him that he would be a little sore for a day or two, but fine.
Physically. Little did she suspect, for it was out of her sphere of training, what toll
the psychic trauma would ultimately exact.
As a complication of terminal
embarrassment, Bobby Biggs would die a virgin.
* * * * * *
Whitey Heppelwhite stuffed his
yellow prayer card in his shirt pocket and rushed out of the tent. He hadn't intended to
stay away from the store as long as he hadafter all, he was only supposed to have
gone to the Central Merchants' Association meetingand he just knew that the Food
House was falling apart without his cohesive presence.
When he got back to the store,
everything was humming along smoothly; customers were being checked out, shelves were
being restocked, bags full of groceries were being carried out to the cars. Feeling
relieved, he went into his office and looked through the small stack of mail which had
been neatly placed in the center of his desk blotter. Slitting open his personal bank
statement he noticed something radically wrong. Whitey was compulsive about reconciling
his checkbook and prided himself on knowing the current balance at any given moment.
According to the new bank statement, The Penultimate National Bank seemed to think he had
more money in his account than he did.
$342,178.69 to be exact.
On Monday morning, Whitey would
make a very large withdrawal of cash from his usual branch, board TWA flight 742 to Buenos
Aires, and vanish off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. When the police
walked into Whitey's office at the Food House looking for clues to his mysterious
disappearance, they would discover a small yellow card sitting exactly in the middle of
his desk blotter. On the card would be a drawing of the mustachioed man about to faint at
the sight of a hand thrusting a fistful of money at him through the slot in a teller's
IN YOUR FAVOR
So it was a little
off. What's $341,978.69 amongst friends?
* * * * * *
Candy Warsh wandered out from
behind the stage curtain. The Quite Reverend and Crunchy Castleton were kneeling on the
floor gathering up money. The tent was empty save several small groups of people who were
taking the opportunity to socialize with little seen friends. Candy was about to walk over
and ask the Quite Reverend whether he needed help when she felt a hand gently touch her
"It's good to see you
here," Officer Jenkins said. "But then again it's good to see you
Candy was happy to see Jenkins,
since of all the police in town, he was one of her favorites.
"You need a lift?" he
Candy screwed up her face and
thought for a moment. "Sure," she said, "if it's not out of your way."
"No problem," he
answered with a smile and a surge of anticipation. "You know I'm always glad to give
you a ride."
Officer Jenkins' police car was
parked at the far end of the lot, which had by and large cleared out by then. As he held
the car door open for Candy, she bent down and picked up a discarded yellow prayer card
from the ground, then got in the car and slid across the back seat. As Jenkins got in
beside her, Candy looked at the drawing of the mustachioed man greedily standing with his
palm outstretched towards a shocked looking bride and a groom digging deep in his pocket.
Candy thought this
was not only a sound recommendation, but a fair price to begin charging for the services
which until that day she'd distributed freely.
* * * * * *
Rubber Boots sat in a beat-up
blue sedan waiting for his father. Since theyd been forced to take a taxi
downtownJohnny and the Turk having stolen their carone of Duncan's friends
agreed to drive them home. But Rubber Boots had quickly tired of standing around listening
to his father and his friends obviously embellished tales of the previous night's
drinking escapades. He was bored. He already looked through everything in the glove
compartment trying to figure out what kind of person kept one leather glove, a tin of
Ex-Lax, a three-way light bulb, a Hohner Blues Harp in the key of A, and a plastic hand
grenade that fires caps in their car.
He looked out the car window
hoping to catch sight of his father and his friend coming towards him. Slumped down in the
seat wondering how long he was going to have to wait, he reached in his pants pocket and
pulled out the orange prayer card he'd chosen. On it, the mustachioed man was being
dragged backwards by his neck, which someone had hooked with the crook of his own cane
like a badly received vaudevillian who had whistled Waiting For The Robert E. Lee
like a bobwhite while juggling four rubber chickens one too many times. The card read:
He turned around in
his seat. Suddenly, what had made absolutely no sense when he'd read it in the tent held
renewed promise. Getting out of the car, he counted back three parking spaces, cautiously
approaching the car which was parked in that spot. As he curiously peeked in the back
window of the police car, Rubber Boots received his first view of oral sexan act
which, even though he'd heard about it, he had never considered to be a real possibility
beforenot to mention a glimpse of Candy's perfectly shaped breasts, the sight of
which he found to be extremely exciting. Although Rubber Boots would fantasize about
Candy's breasts every night for the next two weeks, he never dreamed he would actually get
the opportunity to fondle them with anything other than his mind; he had no way of
knowingnor was his imagination even remotely able to stretch that farthat he
was destined to have that pleasure nightly, since many years down the road he and Candy
would get married.
Not many people get to see their
first blow job and their future first wife at the same time.
* * * * * *
When Rubber Boots father
finally made it to the car, he boisterously informed his son that he'd invited his friends
to stop at the Randy Bar on the way home, with the drinks and a Virgin Mary for Rubber
Boots all being on him. Duncan, you see, was a firm believer in omens, and his yellow
prayer card read:
illustration showed the mustachioed man scratching his head in indecision while being
handed brochures entitled Buy A Yacht, World Tour, and Rolls Royce,
Duncan instantly decided the Randy Bar was a much more appropriate way to spend the
Three hours and a $165 bar tab
later, he and Rubber Boots arrived home to await the inheritance that would never arrive.
* * * * * *
Rubber Boots wasn't the only one
to happen across Officer Jenkins and Candy in the back seat of the police car, for after
Rubber Boots left with his father and his friends, the Chief of Police arrived at the
parking lot. Curious about why the apparently empty cruiser had been left sitting in an
isolated corner of the parking lot, he stopped to check it out and was also treated to his
first live viewing of oral sex, though this time Officer Jenkins was taking the active
role. As the Chief yanked open the rear door, accompanied by Jenkins' surprised gasp and
Candy's satisfied one, a yellow card slipped out of Jenkins' pocket and fluttered to the
ground. On it was a drawing of a police officer holding the mustachioed man by the scruff
of his collar while threatening him with a billy club.
GO TO JAIL
Go Directly to Jail
DO NOT PASS GO
DO NOT COLLECT $200
The Chief of Police
was not only glad to oblige, he was morally obligated to do so.
[ Chapter 32 ]