“Wait,” said Mara, “I know this.” She turns it up. “This is Beethoven. Or Mozart or stuff.”
It is perfect driving music. It is also a travesty. Dad is grinning in the rearview but not at me. At his own teeth as bars and whips and Chinese throwing stars of sunlight batter us in an epileptically hypnotic frenzy. We follow the endless new ribbon of progress zooming from under the shattered roof of the covered bridge over the unpronounceable river and it is like ripping a hostage’s moth-eaten hood off.
“Love it!” shouts Dad with his square-short hair.
His capped teeth flare and the rearview fills with sky at the instant we leave the covered bridge over the unpronounceable river and the sun god comes back with a vengeance. I think I will faint, then I wish I would faint and then I try to remember fainting. I must have done it at least once. Who never faints?
“Bach,” I comment, but nobody hears me.
“What?” shouts Mara as she turns it up louder.
“Nothing!” I shout.
“What?” she shouts.
“I SAID NOTHING!” I shriek and Dad laughs in the mirror. “It’s called Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, you ignorant townies,” I say in a conversational tone that is no match for the wind. I imagine standing straight up on the back seat of the convertible and doing a perfect reverse swan dive over the blurring road and entering the canon of self-obliterating undergraduate legends with preternatural grace but I don’t. Biding my time.
“Why are you being so grumpy-rumpy, Virgin?” asks Mara, all her vowels glooped together with shoplifted Crest. Her Sandy Duncan face tilts like a trained pink seal’s or a kid taking communion and it occurs to me that she is always always both and that is her charm. All I had done was interrupt her meandering philippic regarding the evils of Canada’s national electro-convulsive therapy program to point out that we need to be asking ourselves what our demands are. Without our demands we’re just kids. So then Mara counters with that grumpy-rumpy question floating in her Crest to put me down by flecking my eyelash with peppermint. This is the level.
“I suppose it’s because I had to listen to the unappetizing sounds of fellatio coming out of the head this morning, to be honest, although perhaps I’m just bitter and unsatisfied with certain realities of contemporary life.”
Mara and Dad have been frolicking illicitly in the motel pool after hours for hours or what seems like hours when I come up with that zinger while watching Dick Cavett with the sound off topless, my okay tits silver blue. Muttering staircase wit at the motel Television before Bobby comes on it. I once spontaneously created the perfect zinger exactly two years late and in another month manipulated the conversation until I could again utilize the zinger, against a certain stepmother, with maximum effect, sending her hand right up to cover her open mouth and causing the shock eyes I love. What is the conspiratorial thing between the words again and against? They freak me out. Giggling and splashing Dad shusshhing Mara and Mara shusshhing Dad laughing spunk-drunk in that motel pool blaspheming 7th Day Adventists or what group. No swimming after christian o’clock.
We surmise Mara who lives in a cottoncandyland of her own in which fellatio is the coin of the realm has had a little chat with the motel manager. She has shown me Bonwit platforms and asked me where I thought they came from.
Mara says I believe there would be no war if womenfolk gave menfolk their vitamin oral, rain or shine. Mara has gone on record that she would blow Victor Charlie for world peace. I told her yesterday Mara you notice Dad hardly kisses you on the mouth anymore don’t you?
Had to sit through Dick with some idiotic musical combo of limey bantams in situ but now it’s Bobby, the unofficial fifth member of the Rat Pack, Bobby who should replace Yehudi Bishop, the man I call The Slouch, King Slouch, Queen-taker, the hero I would worship in my way. Max Plank mind in a Dean Martin swagger with a Nat Cole smile he lowers like a visor before the joust. He who would not expect me to subordinate myself. Mara is popular with hoi polloi who dig that she kneels and keeps unbroken eye contact but Bobby and I would have an understanding. I as a stone cold ringer for Ali McGraw would touch face and stare and speak softly of profound matters. I would be more than happy to provide digital relief at bedtime, giving the Bobby body its due release going through one long Jackie O disposable de la Renta glove at a time.
I was spiritually schooled as a child. I was taught by a tiny spirit which spoke in a queer uncle’s voice and to whom if you put the question on everybody’s mind, which is do we live again, it replied yes but you have to ask. It is either that or the pills.
You have to ask.
Do we even have any demands?
The sound is off so that I may truly understand Bobby as he masters Cavett with effortless slouching and then it’s a cosmic slap in the face because the camera pans left and it’s Mara’s dead ringer Sandy Duncan making eyes at Bobby and I button the Television off with a vengeance. There is an old copy of Time on the desk beside the Television featuring Flip Wilson on its cover so I take that to my corner of the bed for the night.
Flip Wilson is a good man.
Next day we’re entering Illinois and the song is radio again, the Bach, Bach on some kind of juiced up organ to a rock combo but it isn’t sunny this time, the sun god naps, it’s shortly after noon but it is dark, gusty, green-dark, twister-weather-uncanny like a rift between mutually ambivalent worlds and we don’t know how to put the top up on this awful convertible. We see a fraying wide black seam a thousand feet tall over a pearl-gray ribbon lining the horizon and grit is in my mouth. Coming at 20 knots or however doomed sailors put it. It’s like the song a day later is mocking us. Dad, who doesn’t know I call him Dad or that I know that he calls me Virgin, is not grinning in the rearview just flooring it and Mara seems to be staring at something as far out of the car as possible, maybe her childhood, to the north, her bob ruffling, my long hair whipping at the grit-frenzy wind, or maybe Mara sees the twister and mistakenly believes it is karma but believe me there is no such plausible reckoning. If we die it will be a coincidence. Then I have to say it, open my mouth to let grit in, a quip about our little blonde guest in the trunk. Mara turns the radio just super violently loud but we can’t hear it.