As an armchair geologist, I do my daily fuck-off expeditions, which begin shortly after the sun falls westward enough that its light pushes in through the metal slats of my camper’s window, waking me.
I put on my hiking gear and venture out for collections.
Six pockets for six varieties of earthen detritus. The left pocket of my pants holds the black stones, the right, any crystals I might come across. The right pocket of my vest bulges with gray rock and the left fills quickly with brown sediment.
Coming back to the camper, I sort my harvest into the plastic yellow crates I found at a bizzaro depot on my way out here to rural Montana.
I don’t have a plan for them. The rocks. And the crates fill up after a few days collection. So I dump them into what’s become a pretty large pile behind the camper.
Some nights I build a fire and stare at the pile and imagine a bulimic rock monster came by. Rocks in, rocks out.
I’d thought about getting a dog, picking up one of the strays from that litter at the outpost where I go to stock up on teriyaki jerky and water and sparkling water and champagne and macaroons.
But I’m the guy that can’t keep succulents alive. So, y’know. I live alone.
I had a girlfriend for a while. She was a stray herself. But self-sufficient. Young. Too young. Not “illegal young,” but still too young for a boy with balls big enough for a man.
Once we rode my dirt bike to Missoula to meet her parents. It didn’t go well.
Her father was a salt-of-the-earth sort of fellow, trying to gift me heirlooms after telling me their stories. I declined his grandmother’s bowling trophy, his WWII Luger, and I certainly couldn’t accept the canoe he built as a boy with his cousins. However, I happily took responsibility for a bottle of Bombay Sapphire just sitting there behind a lock with a key resting in it.
We sat on their deck and watched the bubbles of the hot tub rise and pop and I finished the bottle in course. Which is when things got weird. I mean there was the iron porcupine and the fissured iron bananas, both I thought I could eat, and I left the girl there and crashed my way, from Missoula, its squinting hills beating away the tundra’s bats as I destroyed my way back to my camper.
I only saw her a few more times before she stopped showing up. I never bothered seeing what happened to her.
If she’s still alive she’s twenty.
I’ve forgotten her name.
After being asked to leave her parents’ house, I fell into a statue of a coyote with a ceramic bandana around its ceramic neck and the Morongian flashbacks began.
Dunno why it took that little howling devil to remind me of all this horrible stuff. I have the photograph, the portrait of the five of us outside the burning Casino, Resort, & Spa, the one Peter convinced one of the firefighters to take of us just before we left.
In it Peter’s smiling. He’s the only one. The results of his failed spiritual experiment a conflagratory background to our hunched-over, limping absconsion.
But I look away from the photograph before the memories arrive.
For a few months I had a magazine image of Warren Buffet tacked above the photo, covering it. He’s grinning smugly, staring at anyone who might pass, with the first few paragraphs of an interview with him in white against the deep navy blue of his suit in the bottom right half of the page.
I guess even in those months I could see through the suit, to his white button-down, past his wrinkled stomach and frail bones to the five of us trying to escape. Peter’s arms flung in the air, the huddle broken, Tom in a scorched tux and Sam lurching forward, muscles rippling, feeling the weight once held by the then-posing Peter in his dumb overalls.
And there’s the glass. A tall beer glass with a Hoegaarden emblem on the front. I guess it’s on the front. It’s on the front if you turn the emblem toward you. I don’t believe that cylindrical things can have “fronts.” And if a restaurant has two entrances it has two exits. So no one can tell me I came in the wrong way to the snazzy burger restaurant where we stopped on the way back from Morongo to fill up on afternoon Bloody Mary’s. The boys had burgers. I had drinks.
I keep the glass in a small wooden box. It won’t close. The glass is too bulbous. My father never gave me a watch to hold on to. I have no cufflinks from a long-gone uncle. No photo albums. No keepsakes. But for the sake of entering a dark, lonely room, which I do each night when I close my eyes to hope for sleep, I have the glass. I have a few things. But I have the glass.
It’s stained at the bottom, before the fat stem begins, with the red of tomato juice.
Sam tried to become a cop. He said it was an art project. So I heard. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s in a camper himself somewhere in Florida. I have a postcard. It’s blank. But the postmark’s from Florida. The front is just van Gogh’s “De sterrennacht.” But the image’s inverted so the moon’s on the left.
Tom got married and then he got divorced and then he got married again to the same girl. Far as I can tell, that all happened within the span of thirty days or fewer.
This according to Peter. Peter lives near Missoula, in Lolo. Or he did.
He visited a few times until I had a quasi-hermit guy I kinda know drag the camper a few miles north, deeper into this nameless place.
When I saw him, Peter I mean, he wanted to talk about Seth.
“Seth’s up to no good out in—”
“No thanks man. No hard feelings or nothing, but I’m over it.”
“But you have to hear—”
“Peter. I really don’t. You should probably get going.”
“But it’s the middle of the—”
“Fine. Then, can we just not talk about him?”
He was gone when I woke the next afternoon. He took two cans of Hormel chili and a gallon of gas and I think he took a box of macaroons. But I can’t be sure. I go through them pretty quickly.
After that I started a journal of my wares, foodstuffs, belongings.
And it’s true. About Seth. I’ve forgiven and I’ve tried to forget. You know what Groucho said: Time wounds all heels.
Oh, and Chris. Peter said that Chris and his wife are having a baby. I mean, she’s having the baby. I’m assuming. But he’s the father. But that sounds weird. I mean she’s having a baby and he’s the father but they’re married and live together and will take care of the baby together and it will grow up and go to Harvard and bring some Situationist thought back to pedagogy. Some of that’s, I suppose, my own wishes.
I’d hoped the same for Celene. But Chris, despite his anger issues—the kidnapping and window-punching and the time he kicked all the rats in his attic in the face and then went around asking to be let into his neighbor’s attics so he could kick more rats’ faces—he’s a smart, good guy with his heart in the right place. And his wife’s smarter still. So, y’know, there’s a chance for us all.
Christ won’t punch the baby. And surely he won’t raise a violent child.
Always the aggressor. The agitator. The guy who can’t be loud when it matters and who can’t be quiet when it matters. The dummy. The idiot.
The sun’s coming up. I’m just now noticing the mixtape the girl made me clicked off some time ago.
Okay, it’s back on. This side has a thirty-minute Iannis Xenakis piece but with her reading an excerpt of On The Road over it. The girl told me she recorded it in her parents’ restroom, special for me. It’s weird cuz it doesn’t sound special. It’s pretty annoying, really. But it’s the only tape I have. The other fifteen-or-so minutes are “blank.”
Just the hum of a tape being played through bad speakers. This is my favorite part of the tape.
I guess it’s time to mention how this all got started. This whole Morongolalia story.
I’m looking back, much like you are, if you’ve been following, wondering how we did all those things. How we got away. You see, I wrote everything you’ve read—whatever it is you’ve read—in about three days on a Brother 7300 back when I had a working generator. This would’ve been late June of 2013.
A guy on a horse came by yesterday with an honest-to-goodness telegram. The USPS still uses horses when they have to.
BEEN PUBLISHING MORONG. NEED CONCLUSHION. PLEASE SEND 400 WORDS. THX.
JAKE DE GRAZIA AKKA TORI AMOS.
So, I guess Roger, who said he’d take care of the whole thing, has moved on. But what with the spelling mistakes and some inside joke I don’t get about a musician who’s just a Kate Bush rip-off, this Jake guy’ll do.
If you’re reading this, know that I’m not happy. I’m not unhappy. I’m here in someplace. And I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I mean, I have to walk to town to mail this, but after that I’m, y’know, good.
Hey, Jake? Don’t include this. But is there any money in any of this? I could use it. The last rock I sold got me a whole two dollars, and I had to talk it up, lie about it. I told the kid it was “volcanic.”
Oh, and if you see Chris or Alexia or Tom or Sam or Peter or Seth or Roger, will you give them my best? I miss them. If you’re ever in . . . wherever I am, come on by. I have a lot of chili.
Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.