A Fool’s Gambit
I didn’t have to wait long before my silent pleas for companionship were answered. Eyes wide-open, nervous and sketchy, he was obviously high. Despite my own sketchiness, I managed to push it aside and connect on the same wavelength
Ed was a clean-cut lad in his early twenties smelling of suburbic wannabe rebellion. Received by the street kids as well as they were by society, his clean-cut dress code (leather jacket, blue jeans and clean runners); his long, dark curly hair (washed and brushed); his personal hygiene (he looked clean); his education (he wasn’t scared to use his knowledge) and his refusal to talk like the rest of the crowd grated inbred mentalities, even while seeking approval in the most textbook of ways! Still a courageous heart striving for independent expression was an admirable trait.
As we approached one another the energy around me gelled, I listened for any lessons that would cushion my descent into Hell. Angry for thinking out loud, the universe underwent an energetic shift. I stood guilty as charged: the use of another for personal gain. I only wanted him there so I didn’t have to stand trial alone! I’d never known what friendship was, but now I was even more unsure. Through the exponentiating fears, a sudden insight sent a shudder through me. While fear could unite people, it was always temporary and self-serving. Love united in ways unfathomable to a fearful mind, but only if given the chance. Such a revelation tore at my heart. If only I’d seen it before, I might’ve done more, given more love to the world, but now it was too late. Like Paracelsus said, I’d allowed myself to devolve into that which I hated the most: a cow herded to the abattoir.
Despite personal letdowns, he smiled, genuinely happy to see me. ‘Why are you so suspicious?’ a gentle voice asked. I honestly didn’t know. I searched my heart for answers. Then with as genuine a smile as I could muster, I blurted out, “Why can’t we ever meet without the drugs?” He looked stunned. “Well?” I said more forcefully, revealing my ineptitude in the departments of timing and tact. ‘I wouldn’t want to talk to you if I wasn’t doing drugs,’ came his reply. I shook, but it was an honest answer to an honest question. Trying to figure out what else could bring us together besides just drugs, a shadow passed through me. Tired of being played I asked “do you still have that stuff on those people running the ‘gong show’?” ‘What stuff?’ I couldn’t tell if he was for real or not. “You know, those books and photos of the people supposedly running the gong show.” ‘Yes, I have it. It’s buried in some glass jars a few blocks away for safekeeping,’ he said smiling, a glint in his eyes. Even if he was telling the truth, what would I do, where would I go and who would I trust with it? So many questions – all because of my need to know!
With a few deep breaths, I began an exercise in logical interrogation knowing full-well he wouldn’t have the mental capacity to outlast me. “How did you get the information?” ‘It was given to me by someone in the know.’ “Where is it now?” ‘Buried.’ “Where?” ‘Somewhere.’ “Where is somewhere?” ‘About three blocks from here.’ “Let’s go dig it up.” ‘I can’t.’ “Why not?” A pause. He was tiring. ‘I don’t have any tools.’ “I do. Let’s go,” I said, lying through my teeth. He looked shocked, even scared. “Let’s go – now!,” I repeated almost screaming at him. ‘You’re interrogating me. You don’t trust me.’ “No I’m not. I’m just asking you some questions and besides I don’t know you well enough to trust you.” He shook at my words of truth. Then he smirked.
With my answer revealed, he was going to pay for messing with me. Redoubling my efforts, I let sling a barrage of questions, probing deep into the nooks and crannies of his mind. Torn open like a book, he was left breathless. Now I had him exactly where I wanted him – in the palm of my hand.
“Let’s go and get it over with,” I commanded. ‘I don’t want to go right now.’ I laughed out loud, eyes rolling in their sockets. He took a step back. The voices roared and began talking: ‘He’s telling the truth. No, he’s lying. Ask him some more questions. Look him in the eyes and wait for his reaction. Why bother, he’s guilty.’ Deciding to take a more subtle approach, I asked more gently, “but it’s a matter of life and death.” ‘We’ll go later. Let’s smoke a bowl.’ “Do you have any?” I asked, knowing full well he didn’t. ‘No,’ he muttered under his breath, eyes lowered. He never did. I was livid. Looking him straight in the eyes, I grabbed his mind and refused to let go. It was show time!
“Are you going to kill me?” ‘What?’ “Are you the one, who’s going to kill me?” He shook. Sensing terror seeping into his being I told him about my night and imminent death. He leered and I knew I’d just handed him the very rope to hang me with. “Well, are you?” I repeated, raising the tone of my voice. ‘No!’ he replied angrily. “Good,” I said staring directly into his eyes, a devilish smile erupting on my face.
‘Mike what are you doing,’ a voice cried out, forcing me to step back and reassess my actions. Seeing him literally dripping with fear, my heart sank into my stomach. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how! Needing a way out, I pointed at the morning regulars drinking their coffee in the patio of Blenz. He looked; I smiled. “Look at them, they’re not from here. They’re all men. They all have the same kind of sunglasses on. They’re all dressed the same and they’re all sitting down drinking coffee looking into space.” I knew I was grasping at straws. “They’re out to get us. They’re the ones trying to kill us. They must be the Mafia or some other gang. They’re the ones responsible for the gong shows.”
He took a step back and gasped, but so did I. What had started off as a tactical diversion started to become full-fledged reality. “It’s not real, Mike, it’s not real,” I repeated to myself under my breath, but it was too late. Too much for my rational mind to bear; reality flipped. A garbage truck advertising ‘Waste Management’ sped down the alley leaving no doubt in my mind that I was the waste to be managed. Inside noise, loud, mind-splitting, unearthly tones resonated like a bell about to break. With no time for questions or answers, it was fight or flight.
“Oh my God!” I said panicking, “It’s Armageddon, nuclear war. I, we, gotta get out of here. Let’s go!” He resisted. I ‘gifted’ him with merch to push my shopping cart while I carried my suitcases and backpack. No time to think: I’d read about that somewhere before, but where? No time to think. The hunt was on.
Managing timely looks over my shoulder, no one was following us; no one was looking at us from apartment windows or jeering at us; no one seemed to care, but why? A light bulb went on: there was nowhere left to run. ‘They’ had us right where they wanted us. It was finally over and no amount of running, fighting or excuse-making could or would ever change the outcome again.
Everything brightened; noises quieted. Demonic voices writhed in agonizing mockery but, with more important things to worry about, I told them to shut up. Surprisingly, they complied. I looked at Ed and the terror in his eyes and crumbled. What was I doing? It wasn’t his fault I’d messed up my life and was being hunted like an animal. It wasn’t him or us ‘they’ were after; it was me and me alone. My sins against humanity were mine, not his. In front of me stood a lost, confused and frightened yet beautiful child of God. He didn’t deserve to die because of me. No, his death would come at the time prescribed between him and his maker.
Saddened, I turned even more towards my heart, sending my mind panicking. I had to stay on the ball or die; any confusion or miscalculation would only aid the enemy. I needed time, but there was no time for time. If I could create a tactical diversion, split up, hopefully they’d focus on me and leave him alone. As for my stuff most of it I’d found in dumpsters and wasn’t going with me if I died – no matter what the pharaohs thought? Without even batting an eyelid, I gave Ed everything but my backpack and told him to go. We’d meet up later if I survived. He resisted, but I insisted. With only my backpack and a renewed sense of honor and duty, I went to face death alone in Stanley Park.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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