Out of the Burlap Ch. 00-01bymaxicue©
NOTE: This starts a bit weird. I actually incorporated an older prose poem of mine to use as "Joe's Dream" in the Prologue which may be a bit hard to understand. Don't worry. Things get much easier to read afterwards.
The story occurs in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul in the mid to late nineties. There may be similarities to real people, but this is complete fiction and the characters live only in this world and not the real one. --max
Joe often dreamed of his condition:
Man sits at a height looking down at the beautiful valley, vast, cut through by a large bending river. Man watches the sky flood with bloody red and the soft edged mountains a bruised purple as the sun dies its daily violent death. Is it a quieter death when the clouds are full of damp cold rain and the sun is hiding when it dies behind the gray white cold wet screen? A less violent death? A cooler death? He thinks out loud to the one disciple who knew the time was right for the transformation. Not Ready Freddy or Slew Foot Sue or the Man From San Fran or Louie Kablooey or Frank who stank or Madame Madeleine or Paulie the Dolly or French Fried Frieda. Jeffrey sits awaiting the transformation.
The time of day forces Man down among the brambles. Focusing in on the pain. The portal to the new day has brought him to the weeds which would tear away his outer skin. More than cosmetic. Deeper. Inside the flesh. The livid organs flowing against each other via the languid shapes they take. Ripped open skin reveals the flow of bouncing organs within the skeleton, held by the skeleton and wrapped up tight by the muscles. The skin ripped away, the nerves all jangled. And bloody vessels. The heart pumps out the juices covering Jeffrey and puddles of the thick stinking liquid are sucked by the root system of the brambles. The roses growing over the following two days crescendo in shape and scent at the very moment Man's journey ends.
The cool dry air feels nourishing blowing through Man's body. Nourishment is in the wind. The particulate, sand, saline and nitrogen and copper and silicon, and the gasses which the heart now guides out to all the organs and muscles and nerves out to the extremities. Man gets through the brambles and finds a clear spot where the wind could be most beneficial. Realizing he could only take so much, he races to the side of a barn most protected from the wind.
Man has left the stony ridges of mountains. He's back in Kansas where he's never been. Some sort of flat place with farms as far as the eye can see, farmland disappearing down the curve of the earth. Where new vistas would open up. He craves new vistas. He craves food.
Entering the farmhouse is easy. The door is open. That is, he passes through it. The family doesn't appear to like Man there. They back away. Man looks closest at the young woman, twenty, just back from college. Pretty. Wholesome. Scared. And at the handsome middle aged woman. Intelligent. Wise. Scared. Man craves these women. He can't have them. They don't crave him. So he backs into the kitchen and searches for food.
The larder is full. Eating is an olfactory sensation. Man can't stand the odor. Enclosed in this place of food Man has stuffed the air with the stink of his self. Got to be under the high sky and withstand the wind freely washing out the corruption, the purification stance that pains Man through and through, whistling through his intestines, setting his nerves to tremble making a white noise disharmonious yet true to Man's self. Has Jeffrey learned the art of fire in his life? Cook and eat can be done to draw away from the pain. Subterfuge of the mind. Every morsel chewed to a state of pure protein to reinstate life. Every morsel transformed into a morsel of Man.
What? Man asks Pretty and Handsome ladies.
You're Burlap, they say and show him in the shaking mirror both carry to bear the weight and cumbersomeness of it.
The nightmare recurred often, awakening him early in his attempt to sleep. The clock revealed minutes had passed since he last glanced at it before unconsciousness had brought forth his subconscious. He always worried the disturbing dream would prevent returning to needed sleep even though he always slipped into the realm of oblivion within a couple minutes with the ease of a body taking in breath.
"May I help you?" Joe asked the cute pixie of a woman either lost in thought or dazed as she stood in front of a row of vinyl albums. She had caught his eye as soon as she entered the anachronistic record store that sold old music media such as vinyl and cassette tapes and video formats of VHS and even Betamax. Nary a digital plastic disc existed in the store, the store he had built, at least its stock, and managed under the intimidating eye of the passive aggressive owner. Joe recognized her, the lead singer of a defunct punk/new wave band that she had branded "Blow-Up Dolls." Since he last saw her band at the Uptown Bar she had gone from blonde to nearly black brunette hair and from hardly curvaceous at all to stacked.
"Oh," she nearly shrieked, obviously startled by his cat-like approach. It made him cringe a bit wishing he could handle noisy leather shoes instead of the sneakers (most appropriate word) that allowed his feet to tolerate hours standing and walking.
"Sorry," he said just loud enough in his low octave voice to be heard over the music.
"S'Okay," she replied with a half smile, her deep blue, almost violet eyes connecting with his blue/gray eyes. The smile became wider and a bit mischievous as her eyes surveyed the terrain of his torso discovering an impressive lump at its base.
He always found her fascinating and alluring and incredibly sexy on stage. Her boob job only increased his interest. The chance to actually communicate with her one on one provoked full fledged tumescence.
Her response to his impressive endowment along with his tight t-shirt revealing taut albeit subtle musculature at his chest and abdomen appeared far less obviously than his response to her as it came in the shape of nipples pressing out her v-neck pink cashmere sweater that allowed plenty of cleavage and a hint of the black lacy bra beneath it.
They both breathed deeply to help soften the physical manifestations of their libidos.
"I need inspiration," she sighed.
"What kind of inspiration?" he asked.
"I'm getting sick of rock and roll. It's too noisy, too messy and too easy, and too old fashioned I guess. I've been checking out electronica, but it gets boring and repetitive. I kind of like the texture of it though, a sort of dreaminess, but it needs changes and not just tonally but rhythmically as well. I want to be surprised."
Joe grinned and felt daring. "I think I know just what you need. Are you familiar with Art Rock?"
She cringed. "You mean like Yes and Pink Floyd? They seem a bit silly and...male."
Joe chuckled. "Have you heard the early Pink Floyd when Sid was still sane?"
She smiled. "Yeah. It's pretty cool."
"Think about this. The early stuff is the most exploratory. They were making new music; music never heard before like Led Zeppelin inventing Heavy Metal at about the same time. It reflected their new state of mind. You know, being blown away by acid and such. Everything was new."
"Let me put on 'Piper.'" Joe rushed over to the turntable and replaced old school power pop of the 'Shoes' with the first Pink Floyd album. Unfortunately a regular customer decided to be rung up at the same time. Fortunately he was the only other customer.
"She looks familiar," said Todd, the music nerd in his usual quiet tone that kept the woman from hearing them. He only got loud when excited about some obscure sixties psychedelic band he found in his relentless explorations and he expounded encyclopedically on the esoteric subject. Fortunately, though he had quite a stack of records, none brought him that level of excitement.
"It's Maya Daring of the Blow-Up Dolls," said Joe.
"No," said Todd with certainty.
Joe chuckled. Then he watched his customer blush, eyes shying away. Todd said nothing after that, giving Joe cash and receiving his change. With one last glance at Maya, Todd hurried out the door.
Joe returned to Maya who had moved to the Rock P's in the general vicinity of Pink Floyd. She showed him the empty area in front of the plastic card with the band's name in plastic letters stuck to it.
"Yeah, it's usually empty," said Joe.
"It's really cool if a little messy," said Maya.
"Yeah, they got smooth and hugely popular later," Joe replied. Maya nodded. "But the point is, it reflects their state of mind, especially Sid's, in a really experimental fashion. I find that exciting."
"Me too," said Maya.
"But not inspiring?"
She shook her head. "Too full I guess and not dreamy enough. Too noisy."
"What exactly do you need as far as inspiration? I mean, are you going to start a new band or something? Speaking of which, would you autograph one of your singles for me? And a Blow-Up Dolls tape?"
The surprise of being recognized lasted less than a second. She smiled. "Sure. No Dolls record, hunh?"
"You pressed vinyl?"
"Like a really limited release. I still have a couple left. You could have one."
Joe got harder. Their eyes caught and gazed. Joe swallowed. "Be right back."
He returned with a promo copy of the 12" single, a fairly popular dance number at least locally, under her disco name Ani Domino, and a cassette tape of the Blow-Up Dolls' second and last and only widely distributed album which he had quickly unshucked from its plastic security container.
"You don't have a new single for sale?" she asked him.
"You are a veteran," he chuckled and headed to the bin of new 12" singles that held her single.
"I'm kidding," she said.
"It's only fair," Joe replied, breaking the shrink wrap with practiced ease, a slide of his longish thumbnail along the opening, and pulling it off.
"What's your name?" she asked, holding a narrow tipped blue Sharpie.
"Joe. Joe Solomon."
"To Joe King Solomon the Wise," she wrote on the tiny paper sleeve of the cassette, signing her name with a flourish. On the single, she wrote, "Dear Joe King Solomon the Wise, Please me, Tease me, Ease into me with inspiration. Your ever receptive receptacle, Maya Daring."
The crotch of Joe's tight black jeans nearly burst at the seams, at least so it felt to Joe.
Her raspy giggle didn't help.
"So...inspiration?" she grinned.
"Uhm, yeah. What exactly needs inspiring?"
"Both music and lyrics, but especially lyrics. It's like I've got nothing left to say. I feel on the edge of creating interesting melodies, but feel empty in respect to words. Maybe inspiring, interesting music could generate something out of the void, but I usually work opposite that. You know, lyrics first and then melody."
"Let me put on an old Genesis album."
"When they still created long suites."
He put on Foxtrot and they listened for awhile. "Hear how it keeps shifting and building?"
"Okay. Yeah, that's kind of interesting. Very melodic but not so show-offy as Yes."
"You've been listening to Yes?"
"A friend suggested it."
"Let me guess. Male?"
She nodded and they laughed.
"I...I have some music that I think fits your needs," Joe said.
"Among other things," she purred.
"Bbbbut," he stuttered, "I have none of their music here, only at home."
Her throaty laugh caused shivers up his spine, a combination of fear and thrill. Was she mocking him? Being mocked by a woman held a high position in things he feared most. Avoiding it usually prevented such daringness.
She removed a card from her purse, wrote on the back and handed it to him. "When you get done, call me," she said.
Taking the card, a shade lighter blue than her eyes, Joe noticed she had scribbled out her address. "I'm done at four," he said.
"Perfect," she grinned pulling his lips down to hers. Being over a foot taller than her, it was a distance that gave him time to calm his surprise and enjoy the offering when met. Soft and warm and thrilling, it lasted long enough for tongues to be involved. Touching tongue tips caused a most pleasant shock to flash from the meeting directly to his swelling testes.
"Mmm," she mewled in seeming agreement to his reaction when their lips separated. Her hands felt warm and welcoming when fingers enmeshed. Her head tilted back when her eyes opened and gazed into his. "Call me."
Her throaty, sexy giggle did nothing to lessen the tightness at his crotch and the needy, almost painful throbbing of his balls. He watched her firm round buttocks shift beneath her tight mauve shiny slacks as she walked away. Not large; perfect handfuls of flesh. Glancing back, she caught his stare and winked before exiting the store with an even more pronounced wiggle.
Another nerdy regular entered the store immediately after, jingling the bells that gave notice to the door's use. Joe was thankful he hadn't heard that jingle when they kissed. He wondered if he would have noticed and took a quick, nervous scan through the store and calmed when he found emptiness.
"Wasn't that Maya Daring?" asked the expert at punk rock, especially local.
"Yep," Joe smiled at him.
"She's looking good," the nerd said.
"Definitely," Joe replied, hiding his erection behind an armful of records he had been filing before being wonderfully interrupted by Maya.
"I love it," said Joe to Maya after biting through a small cube of Tofu from the Szechuan vegetarian stir fry she had made for them.
"Not too spicy?" she asked him.
"I like spicy despite my country boy boyhood."
She had greeted him at the door to her basement apartment, the basement of a big old thickly built house typical to the Uptown area of Minneapolis, wearing the same outfit as she had at the record store, the cashmere sweater keeping her warm from the slight chill the basement contained in the early autumn coolness. Only her footwear had changed to fluffy pink slippers that looked incongruous and cute on her. Aside from noticing that and the rest of her, he noticed the delicious aroma. She warned him not to stop for food on his journey from St Paul, but it still surprised him that she had cooked a meal for him.
"I've been kind of on my own since the band split and my boyfriend split with the bass player," she explained. "I don't get to make dinner for more than one."
"Sorry," Joe said.
"Don't be. I can be a bit overwhelming," she smiled tightly.
That ended conversation while she finished preparing the food and plating it and bringing it to him at the small table that hovered between kitchen and living room until his first bite of it and his reaction.
"You grew up in the country? Farm boy?" she asked.
"That explains the muscles."
"Worked my ass off."
"Is that why you left?"
"Nope, at least not the hardness of the work. I guess it just wasn't me."
"And record store clerk is?"
Nothing was him really except rhymes on silent pages. He didn't think she'd want to know how uneasy he always was with whatever he did. He felt less uneasy with her though; less distant; less muffled.
It seemed like just about everything Joe did felt like a struggle. Not in the sense of being difficult to do. Joe wasn't dumb, nor was he clumsy. Quite the opposite actually. He had been blessed (not an appropriate term in his mind since it connotes a higher being which he doubted existed, but it will have to do) with both an intelligent mind and dexterous hands. And he moved with cat like grace as if every step had been carefully plotted. And in a sense it had been through self-training that lost its self-consciousness once his body had settled into place after its last growth spurt. His grace was all the more remarkable since it had been achieved on a lanky six feet six frame.
No, the struggle was strictly psychological. He felt like everything he did and everything he thought pressed against self-conscious resistance. He envisioned this struggle as being wrapped in the rough textured mesh of burlap that resisted each outward or inward movement everytime he attempted moving forward. Everything rubbed him the wrong way.
He only found relief from his struggles one way: through writing. He wrote lyrics. Hundreds of rhyming couplets and quatrains had been written filling several blank books, a shelf load on a bookshelf in his one bedroom apartment. Those volumes sat silently as no melodies had ever met any of them. He could rhyme but could never hold a tune nor invent one.
"So what else do you do besides flirting with customers at record stores?"
He resisted arguing that he had never done that before because it would end the humor of the comment as quickly as a popped balloon.
"I work out."
"I can tell," she purred.
"Unh hunh. What kind of dancing?"
"Started in ballet when I was ten."
"You're dad must have loved that."
"Yeah. I guess I just needed to move, you know, my body in disciplined ways and the nearest town, Bemidji, had a dance school for kids. They had a dojo too, but I think Mom had ballerina fantasies when she was young and plopped them on me."
"Two. I'm the baby of the family. They were both pretty tomboyish, not really girly girls, you know, and neither showed any enthusiasm or talent when Mom shoved them into ballet, so it didn't last past the first sessions that Mom paid for."
"So they disappointed Mom and you disappointed Dad."
"So when did he find out you weren't gay?"
"I'm not?" Joe asked in faux surprise. They chuckled. "They caught me and a girlfriend—we had mutually devirginized each other--nearly with my pants down. I could swear my father sniffed the air in the family room like he had a canine olfactory organ and seemed pleased despite the put on reproving face. Mom just looked embarrassed."
"I bet you had lots of girlfriends."
"Not so many and they never lasted."
"Why didn't they last?"
Joe looked uncomfortable for the first time with her. As he often did at those moments he stretched and twisted his arms under the table and made fists of his hands. Perhaps feeling his muscles tense might distract his discomfort, but it never really worked.
Maya shifted the subject back to earlier in the conversation. "Still dance ballet?"
Joe shook his head. "Didn't really work for me in the end. Tried tap, but it just didn't seem as fun as it should have so I focused on modern."
"Still in classes?"
"No. I have a friend from Bemidji who does follow the prejudices of young male dancers and their sexuality and he graduated from the U of M with a BFA in dance and put together a troupe."
"He is very talented."
"Does he have interests in you beyond dancing?"
"We tried. It was inevitable since we became good friends while developing sexually, you know? Didn't work out."
"Not bi then?"
"Nope. But I think he still wishes I was."
"So you went to school with him?"
"I've never been to college."
"Why not? You seem intelligent."
"My parents never had the money for it. Once my sisters began attending, one learning finances while the other agriculture—they planned on taking over the farm—they were pretty tapped out."
"You could have got loans."
"Didn't want the debt. I suppose Dad could have found some cash for at least Junior College, but he would never have supported me in studying dance or even a Liberal Arts education. I don't really blame him. It's not like I would find a lucrative career afterwards to pay him or any loans back."