‘If you study history I think it’s patently obvious that God is not going to intervene. That’s up to the people, that’s what the second coming is all about.
Jane Lee Randall-From the Mountain Brook Interviews with Zen Burns
‘If you study history I think it’s patently obvious that God is not going to intervene. That’s up to the people; that’s what the second coming is all about.
Jane Lee Randall-From the Mountain Brook Interviews with Zen Burns
I was ten years old the summer I sprouted my fairy wings but flight was impossible because it was also the summer my feet turned to concrete. Being a chubby child I was already an embarrassment to my mother, the Queen of Door Proper, so I’d learned early to dislike myself intensely and stay hidden in quiet shadow. The problem was my concrete feet made me noisy, my concrete feet made me visible, my concrete feet turned my mother, bi-polar on a good day, into a shrieking harridan. She shrieked day in, day out, and it was such an ugly sound blackbirds fell out the sky and people took to wearing sound-proof earmuffs made from recycled polyester.
My father, retired military and solution oriented, decided to chop off my feet. He strapped me down on top the potting table off the patio, said this will hurt me more than it hurts you and swung the axe up over his head. I closed my eyes, tried desperately to put myself to sleep, whenever I was scared I put myself to sleep, at which point my slut brother Elbert burst through the privet hedge hollering, ‘EA EA MORRIGAN!’ and threw an open box of rattlesnakes at him. Rattlesnakes hate to be boxed so they hit the ground in a biting mood. To this day the mental polaroid of my father jumping up and down, chopping at snake heads screaming for a gun fills me with subtle pleasure.
Mother shrieked on and after two months my father finally broke down and sent for my very rich Uncle Julian, my mother’s older, favorite brother. My father couldn’t stand my very rich Uncle Julian because he was a shrink, arrogant, over-educated, and liked nothing better than to talk about Joseph Beuys and the use of felt, fat and rabbit fur in art. As if all this wasn’t enough Uncle Julian lived in New York City and God had personally told my father that anyone who lived in New York City wasn’t right in the head. But it was a desperate time calling for desperate measures. My mother, whose beauty was so intense she was once named the eight wonder of the world, was turning into an ugly stinking toad woman. Everyday she was squatter, more bulbous, more inclined to hop the halls, and worst of all she knew it was happening.
“Someone must pay for this,” Uncle Julian said, watching the repetitive up on two legs, down on all fours, creepy forward motion of his screaming sister. “Whoever did this has to pay,” and my father agreed.
They got to drinking bourbon, then they got to shooting rattlesnakes, and then they got around to me. That’s when I learned that when men feel powerless they have to beat up on something weaker to feel powerful again. They left me with my feet but very little else.
Bat dark and jittery my slut brother Elbert speeding his brains out skimmed up Persian wrapped stairs like a skim boarder skims thin water, into the back attic where he stashed his marijuana and ludes. He saw a passed out, partial naked Uncle, he saw a passed out, partial naked father, he thought, ‘how fucking weird is this?’ Then he saw his chunky baby sister and pretty much lost it.
Elbert half-dragged, half-carried me out the house and down the driveway. He was sixteen and crying, ‘I can’t believe they did this, I can’t believe they did this, my God, my God, I can’t believe they did this! I remember the collared choking sound of the words, rivets of black mascara coursing down his chalk pale face, the coming green of the cypress trees lining the driveway. He landed me gentle on the cool seat of the grounds jeep but I would not let go of his neck.
“Let go sweetie,” he said, “I’m getting you out of here.”
I was blinking in and out spinning webs fantastic, far far away, I was so far.
“They’re no doors Elbert,” I said, sticking my arm out where the door should be.
“You’re fine baby sister, strapped in tight.”
The jeep went fast, the jeep jerked a hard stop. Stars shot out my forehead.
“Open the goddam gate,” Elbert hollered.
“Elbert there’s no roof,” I said peering up out my one eye still open.
Paul of Mourning the gate-keeper stood thick, legs apart arms across his chest
“I will kill you,” Elbert said real flat. A boy true to his word my brother, everybody knew that.
The gate queried punctured out, I dissolved into thick liquid color.
The Red Bus had fat wheels and the wheels shaped and shifted like bags of cats fighting to get out. That kind of lurching adaptability works well on the pockmarked roads that run through the Scrub but it’s pure undulated hell if you’re traveling as cargo. Elbert had packed me pretty tight but the crate itself was the sole occupant of the underbelly of the bus and much to its sawed delight had room to move. BANG! BUMP! BASH! “You’re too kind for this freak show,” Elbert had said pressing a kiss to my forehead. BASH! BANG! BUMP! He lowered the top, fit it just so, and started to hammer. In the black I smelled sparks and hot wood, the loud of it all made me scream but no one could hear. “Trust me baby sister,” he’d said.
Elbert blew up his first bank a little later in the day and I split in two. One half of me was the girl who’d grown up in my mother’s house, which some kindly, unseen force steamrolled into sleep, the other half was the girl becoming seen for the first time by my Uncle Gabriel when he pried open the crate with a crow-bar.
‘Hello beauty,’ he said. ‘The packing slip says you’re my niece.”
His voice was spun of river current, threaded through with kindness and when he reached out his hand I took it even though he looked to be a giant and a crazy man. His hair was brown, longish, shot through with gray, and stuck straight out and his eyes were piercing blue and wild like a caged tiger’s. He helped me out the crate, we were in the kitchen, and the tiny, tiny, toy-sized livestock started lowing, oinking and bleating. All I could think was oh my god I’m visible and I’ve shrunk his cows, goats, and sheep. I dove right back into the crate, tucked in tight, flattened out, and wrapped sheets of darkness around me. Uncle Gabe looked confused.
‘It’s okay Janie,’ he said, ‘nothing and no one is going to hurt you here.’
I didn’t say anything.
‘You come out when you want sweetheart,’ he said and with that he went about making dinner, talking to himself the entire time. It was a rousing conversation.
I waited till he went to bed.
Being blessed with night vision I could move round in the dark without bumping into things but my concrete feet made balancing difficult and silent, tip-toe, step out of the question. I clumped out the kitchen, waltzing arms to keep balance, lost it anyway, pitched forward into the living room and faces morphed out the walls and smiled breezes of love. I threaded fingers into rings of night, ready to bury under sheets of darkness, for what I knew of love was sharp, mean and for my own good, but that’s when the raccoon on the couch farted, surprising me so I completely forgot to be scared of the lavender, pale pink and silver gossamer hues nuzzling at me like little noses of nurture. It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful and I clumped, fell, clumped, back to the kitchen, made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and got bit for the first time by one of the tiny, tiny, toy-sized, mean-tempered, black-fleeced sheep. It’s a stinging bite and it leaves a little red mark but the sheep only bite if they think they can get away with it.
More Excerpt – “And on the eight day man created money and man so loved his bloodless creation he built and ordered an entire world around it.” Jane Lee’s Book of Door
Dirk Rackintack, the Pulitzer Prize winning editor of the Door Gazette, wrote that Gabriel had been murdered and his boat torched by Satan worshippers, probably the same ones who mutilated Bugbee Hendershot’s sister-in-law’s cows, but everybody, dangerous disagreeable and god-fearer alike, knew it was space men who chopped up the cows. There were space men in Door all the time because of the quartz quarry, they used light through crystal to fly their ships, but like any group of beings they had their good and bad elements.
The peoples’ outraged response to Dirk’s story was so smack back fast they shut down the switchboard at the paper and the mayor’s office. Then the Old Women of Door, who loved truth beyond all reason, got into it.
‘What was done to Gabriel was evil,’ they thought, ‘and when you see evil like that you follow the money,‘ and at midnight they thought as One and they put the thought out there.
The thought spiraled and spun through Door Proper gilding azalea beds, tennis courts, and endless pools. The thought glazed the spokes of motorcycles, the lean to’s, and the sumac round Door Pond. The thought glimmered the sands and the salt marsh of the Scrub. The thought stuck like glue, the thought could not be scrubbed off, the thought could not be shook or buried, the thought upset and threatened. Dogs howled. Knots of people began to gather up and down Main Street, they gathered talking, talking, talking, amongst themselves and the talk turned heated, and the din of heated talk began to rise and leapfrog, and an issue issued forth. It was naked, a naked lie, and threatened everything it meant to be a Dorian. Gilbert quickly called a town meeting and typically, everybody came.
The Door meeting house was old pink stone, ivy covered and damp, home to centipedes in the basement, and historically plaqued, thanks to Jane Lee’s mother, Jancee, and the Pappagallo shod Door Proper League of Women. The building tended to shift right, left, up center and back down, to provide right and perfect ventilation for the standing room only populist debates and determinations for which Door was famous. That Door was famous for its populist debates and determinations was a direct result of Zen Burns and his documentaries. Zen could not get over the fact that life and the quality of life in Door was actually in the hands of the people, a responsibility the people took quite seriously. The only job of the elected official was to carry out the people’s will whether it ran contrary to his/her ambitions or not. This, as Zen was fond of saying, ‘knocked him out.’ This, as Zen was fond of saying, ‘blew his mind.’ This, as Zen was fond of saying, ‘had to be on film man.’
Because of the Burn’s Documentaries utopia seeking sociology, urban planning, and poli-sci students tended to gravitate towards Door as did hippies and commune people. Hippies and commune people would inevitably move down river to Tap Town as the people of Door were entirely too argumentative for them. The utopia-seeking students would generally flee after their first town meeting. Zen didn’t really capture the more vitriolic aspects of town meeting because like the students he tended to view Door through the lens of utopia. Door was proudly, persistently, and passionately diverse, a town of extreme opposites. Zen purposely edited out the not pretty push-pull of the opposites and in so doing he lost the point. The point of the push-pull, the vital and necessary clash of opposites intrinsic to the healthy growth of the whole. Zen saw the clash and thought ‘opposing,’ the people of Door saw the clash and thought ‘finding the balance.’ The point of the push-pull of a Door Town Meeting, the circle round the whole, of the whole, and for the whole, was the common good; what was best for all people, not just a select few. This was what Zen Burns fell in love with, a town’s unwavering commitment to what was best for all the people. This is what he glorified and glamorized in his documentaries, not the working reality, the push-pull (he lost the point), of what it takes to maintain such an unwavering commitment. Because Zen lost the point and his documentaries became famous, Door became an ideal to many of her population and the rest of the world, a double-edged sword indeed. Theoretically an ideal is flexible enough to expand, contact, evolve with the only constant that is change; realistically ideals become solid, unchanging things, a defining piece of identity, and depend on an unwavering denial of ever evolving reality. That which challenges group identity is more often than not judged a threat to perceived though not necessarily real safety. Swaddle an ideal, (Door is fair and just) and the components of the ideal, (we can trust what we read in our newspaper) round a naked issue (were we lied to) and the ideal, the identity (safety) of the individual and collective, is threatened. This was part of Julian’s I-can-make-people-believe-anything-I-want-them-to plan. That and outright lying. The point, however, of Julian’s plan remained to be seen and given the fact that Julian was not an idealist and adhered to the teachings of B.F. Skinner and his boxes, the point would surely not be lost…..
(Everything I write is copyrighted and I am extremely litigious)