Note: After serious dereliction due to my own malfeasance, here is the first part of my collaboration with the lovely Embeecee, based on a random photo plucked out of the ether. Fair warning: There’s a wee bit of strong language, but this should surprise no one who knows us both. Enjoy.
Celia and Bucky Lee were out walking one night, because they were poor and they couldn’t afford to do much else. Despite their sojourn being rather mundane (how many times can you traverse your neighborhood before you just can’t stand anyone anymore?), they were moderately pleased about being with one another. They had developed a special bond five years ago when they were both witnesses to the eye-opening event that had transpired at a certain barn dance wherein tainted punch had been served.
No one would have believed them if they had told the truth to the lackadaisical authorities who ruled the town like a vindictive game of chess, so they kept their mouths firmly shut. After all, this was Utah. One doesn’t go about spouting things that are contradictory to established mainstream beliefs, not if you had any hope of your float getting a prime position in the annual “High Five for Jesus” parade. Proper positioning in said parade could make or break your career in the state with the odd wedge whacked out of it in global maps. (What did the people living in that wedge do to get ostracized? Some things may never be answered.)
Still, inquiring minds want to know, and Celia did right at that moment. “Was it right for us to not report that thing we saw?”
Bucky Lee: “Well, I suppose we could have said something. But I’m also fully aware of the fact that I have a thirty-year mortgage on my house and this is just year one. I’m thinking I shouldn’t feed my burgeoning need for whistle-blowing until my equity is at a more manageable level.”
Celia: “In some respects, that’s an admirable thing to say, showing a sense of responsibility that essentially hasn’t been shown by you since… well, never. On the other hand, we possess the knowledge to rock this town in a way that hasn’t happened since the earthquake of 1837 when an outhouse fell over and killed the county sheriff.”
Bucky Lee: “And do you realize how sad that sounds?”
Celia: “I realized it at the very moment the words were dribbling out of my mouth. But this often happens to me, planning to do one thing but then something intervenes that throws me off balance and-”
Bucky Lee stopped walking. “Hold up.”
Celia: “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I’m in the middle of a valid moment of oration and then you cut me off. It’s just like that time in high school when we got lit on elderberry wine and you thought it was the perfect time to experiment with French-kissing each other. That was not in my day planner, but there you were, puckered up like a trout in heat.”
Bucky Lee: “Stop babbling about ugly fish. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
Celia: “Apparently not, because I’m looking at you, and I’ve seen you way more times than I care to count.”
Bucky Lee: “Turn around.”
Celia: “And that’s another phrase that I don’t trust.”
Bucky Lee: “Just do it.”
Celia, turning: “You are so annoying. Just when I’m sharing my true feelings… Holy Cow! What the hell is that and who could possibly afford to live there?”
Bucky Lee: “Right? Something is very wrong here. This doesn’t happen in Utah. Go ring the doorbell so we can find out what’s going on.”
Celia: “I have no intention of-”
Bucky Lee: “Fine. I’ll do it.” He marched forcefully across a well-manicured front lawn that smelled of jasmine and privilege and, once he realized that the presumed doorbell did not exist for some unexplained reason, he banged on the ornate entry portal in an inspired moment of anarchy. To everyone’s surprise, including the neighbor across the street who spent her day spying on all the other neighbors, the green door was suddenly thrown wide.
A snooty looking individual peered out, in that snooty way that make decent people look upon the word “snooty” in an unkind manner. He was clad in a formal tuxedo with tails, perfectly tailored. His shoes shone so brightly that Bucky Lee, blinking in the glare, suddenly realized he had a bit of spinach wedged in his own front teeth. (He also realized there was more to why Celia hadn’t felt like sucking his face this evening, beyond her usual “oh I’m just TOO TIRED, why don’t you go read one of your little magazines” routine.
“Hey! What goes on behind the green door?” piped Celia in a burst of loquacity, knowingly or unknowingly referencing a certain 70s porno flick fondly remembered by stoners everywhere. She was usually shy around strangers. And certainly not one to go up to strange doors asking people questions. She’d been there and done that, had the t-shirt and everything. She preferred not to dwell on said snafu. Her mission hadn’t been the glowing success she’d envisioned and, contrary to popular Utah myth, no worthy husband material had been waiting for her at the other end. Only Bucky Lee. Still, a bird in the hand…
Mr. Penguin without manners snapped “None of your business! Now get lost!” The green door slammed shut. Bucky, involved in the intricacies of getting food out of his teeth without dental floss, was offended on behalf of Celia. The question she’d asked was civil enough, if a bit uncouthly phrased. (Bucky’s mother always said “hey was for horses.” Then she would go back to nipping on the cooking sherry.) Still, Mr. Overdressed For This Area didn’t have to be rude about it.
Bucky strode over and pounded his fist against the pristine green portal. A little hatch door, cleverly disguised as part of the paneling, popped open. A startlingly blue eye peered out. “Whaddya WANT?” its owner growled.
Bucky felt around in his pocket and found a dollar. He held it up, snapping it briskly in front of the hatch. “We want the facts man, just the facts.” Creepy laughter erupted behind the door and the little hatch smacked shut. “Fuck off cheapskate” were the next words he heard.
Now, in Utah, (well, certain parts of it), the f-bomb is never uttered. It is believed that the government will fail, the “big one” (earthquake, for those who don’t speak the language) will shortly occur, destroying most of the western United States and rendering some folks in Denver, Colorado with the happy realization that they now own beach front property and, lastly, Jesus will appear and take the good-enough people Home.
(Important aside: The “big one” has been a running prediction in Utah since before that one founding dude stood on the mountain overlooking a desert full of sagebrush and dirt and a few indigent people, subsequently proclaiming that he was told this was indeed the place. Some of his traveling companions immediately took a quick poll to see if any psychiatrists were among them, as The Head Dude had clearly gone off his meds. The place did not look like any promised land they ever heard of. In fact, it looked like it was going to be a hell of a lot of hard work and not a lot of milk and honey as some had envisioned.)
In other certain parts of Utah, ‘fuck’ is also known as ‘fighting words.’ Some old guy will possibly wallop the fuck-sayer in their pie hole, cops will be called, and mayhem will ensue. Old ladies will faint from shock, and children will wail and ask their parents “Why is the bad man hitting people? And what does ‘fuck’ mean?” These same children, if not properly counseled, which is always a challenge in arid climates, will then repeat the startling invective in mixed company, thereby embarrassing their parents and raising speculation about their future success.
Bucky Lee, who was not entrenched totally in his faith and therefore not all that shocked by the bomb (he’d been to public school, after all) was still outraged on behalf of Celia. He made a sound deep in his rather scrawny chest, reminiscent of a wounded beaver, and he kicked the door in a rare spurt of testosterone. Since he was wearing his special shit-kicking cowboy boots with the faux brass toe tips, a small chip of bright green paint fell off the door, revealing the cheap particleboard underneath.
The crowd gasped.
Ho! Imposters! The house bespoke of class and wealth, and the door should have been made of fancy wood, like mahogany or teak. (Although why someone would paint precious hardwoods with bright green paint was a question to be posed later. There are always subsequent questions in Utah.) Instead, the door proved to be a shoddy, hastily put-together effort. Had this entire house been thrown together in such a slipshod manner, reeking of government work? If so, how could the owners afford to answer the now-damaged, cheap-ass door in high-end couture?
Celia and Bucky Lee looked at each other, agog. Truth be told, they often did such, but this time seemed especially important. What fresh hell was this?
Behind the tightly closed blinds on either side of the door, seductive laughter and the clink of high-dollar glassware wafted out. Soft jazzy music floated on the air. And, hold up, what was that seeping out from neath the door? Was that cigarette smoke? (The horror! Hadn’t these fancy but cheap people heard about gateway drugs?) It was obvious that the folks inside were having a party, an apparently private one, and on a Sunday, at that. This was breaking all the well-established Utah rules wherein everyone has the right to know your business.
First and foremost, not inviting the locals was a huge faux pas. Gang-tagging would occur. Deliberate snubs from the ladies in the neighborhood was ensured. All of this would lead to more chaos in the finely-tuned fabric of life as Bucky Lee and Celia had known it, with people being outraged by something that was completely unimportant. (Bucky personally blamed this mentality on that bad toupee-wearing idiot with the fake tan who ran around speaking out of his butthole and pretending to be King of the World Ma, but Bucky rarely spoke up about his thoughts. Many of his kinfolk thought the orange-colored moron was great, and Bucky was tired of being stared at when he dropped by the corner pharmacy to pick up the meds he needed to deal with said kinfolk.)
Celia turned to Bucky Lee. “Boost me up! I want to try to see what’s behind the blinds!” Bucky Lee started to say something about forgetting to bring his truss with him, an implement which was necessary because Celia certainly was a very healthy girl. Sort of large, actually. Prudently, he didn’t. He’d tried to have conversations with her before about the validity of some sort of healthy diet for them, including leafy greens and lean meats and smaller portions, and all he’d gotten in return was a couple of weeks of no huggie, no kissee and keep your hands to yourself. He wasn’t going there again.
Silently groaning a little and wondering where he had put his chiropractor’s phone number, Bucky Lee picked Celia up and sat her on his shoulders. His back screamed once in protest but then held firm. (Heh. Little Bucky might get lucky yet. Such are the thoughts of most straight men who confuse minimal muscularity with an automatic bedroom pass.) Celia sat up straight and leaned in, pulling on the window frame to get a better look, eyes wide.
The curtains across the road twitched. Mrs Kay Ravitz pulled out her highest-powered binoculars and fiddled with the lens. What were those young people doing over there? Ever since that house appeared, this neighborhood was just going to hell. If those two idiots had asked her, she would have told them they’d never get past that door.
Just this week, she had done the neighborly thing and taken a plate of cookies over to the fancy casa. The best chocolate chip ones, freshly baked. (She never told anyone she went two towns down I-15 to a small but exquisite bakery to get them.) She furtively brought them home, put them on a paper plate and covered them with saran wrap and claimed them as her own. Said deceitful cookies had given her access to some mighty private places in the past, and she didn’t doubt their power in this case either.
It was with a great deal of shock, therefore, that she returned home again from her pseudo-neighborly sojourn, still bearing the cookies. She hadn’t gotten past that hideous green door over there. (She had even implied that she knew someone who lived there, but no dice. The guardian at the gate wasn’t buying and told her that his employer never ate sugar. This pronouncement was accompanied by a delicate shudder and a pitying look. Kay had never been so insulted, not even that time when she made a shipping-address error and her boss had asked why she felt the need to have a vibrator delivered to her place of employment.
Those stuck-up oafs in that faux-fancy house with its green door would be sorry. One did NOT snub Mrs. Kay Ravitz and not regret it. They’d learn. But until then, she had to deal with those interlopers who were staggering around across the street (was that little strumpet actually sitting on his HEAD??) and stomping on the begonias and freshly-planted lavender. (Regardless of the evildoers who owned the fake manse, one simply did not trod upon thoughtful landscaping.) Kay reached for the phone and…
Miriam Truffletwit was quite startled when her iPhone 0.5 began chirping on her desk. After all, it was after 8pm, and any good Christian in these parts knew quite well that one did not partake of modern technology at such an hour. (This was one of the many commandments that the liberal media didn’t want you to know about, as if Our Savior only had ten important things to say.) Of course, at this very juncture in our story, Miriam was in the midst of perusing a website entitled “The Wanton Wants of a Wayward Woman”, using a modern-technology laptop that she had purchased on the sly whilst her husband had gone on a Boy Scout Retreat at a Sandals Resort.
In a panic created by her own delusional guilt, Miriam made a few clicks on her verboten-hour laptop, quickly deleting all her cookies and internet history. Initially, Miriam had felt a bit tawdry about doing anything with her cookies, as such acts reeked of salaciousness. But after one too many close-calls wherein family members had wanted to check their email on the lone laptop in the house that she pretended she didn’t have, Miriam had become quite adept at obscuring any trace of her visiting a site discreetly known as “Which Ararat Would You Like to Mount?”
By the time Miriam had completed her Nixonian revision of what might be on the tapes, her ancient cellphone (produced when there had only been one cell tower in the Western Hemisphere) had managed to buzz 32 times. This realization pushed Miriam to new heights of anxiety (just as life did when she awoke, every morning), and she over-reacted once again, snatching up her telecom artifact, punching a worn-out button, and hollering “I did nothing wrong!”
Kay Ravitz, who had grown used to Miriam’s inability to properly function in a respectable way, did not even bother to glance down the proffered avenue of guilt and despair, remaining focused on her own agenda. “You are not going to believe what’s happening!”
Miriam, who would believe anything, actually: “You’re pregnant!”
Kay: “What the hell? No, girl. Well, maybe. I got my oil changed the other day and it took three hours, if you get my drift, and I had forgotten to take my shock-absorber pill. But I’ll worry about that some other time. What concerns me is that I just happened to glance out my front bay window [translation: I was glued to said window for the entire afternoon, didn’t even bother to pee] and I couldn’t help but notice that Celia Clampett and Bucky Lee Buckboard were knocking on the door of that idolatrous idyll that some hedonist built across the street.”
Miriam: “Oh my God! So, Celia’s pregnant?”
Kay: “Honey, you have really got to cut down on the caffeine. Why do you always have to take the pregnancy angle?”
Miriam, being honest for the first time in her life: “Because I’ve had twelve kids. They just fall out of me now. I can be cleaning out the lint trap on the dryer and suddenly there’s another one, with those snapping gums wanting to latch onto my headlights and suck me dry. And I don’t really like any of them.”
Kay: “Yeah, well that’s just too much information at the moment. Back to me. Why would Celia and Bucky Lee be involved with the man we have never seen who lives across the street in a house that everyone has seen because it’s bigger than the town square?”
Miriam: “Is it really bigger? Did you measure?”
Kay: “Do you realize how hard it is to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t understand sarcasm? You really try me sometimes, Miriam. I don’t know why I keep calling you.”
Miriam, deciding that she liked being honest, especially when bitchy people were being bitchy: “First of all, I firmly grasp the concept of sarcasm, just as firmly as my worthless husband grasps me after he has grasped the gin in the liquor cabinet that we pretend we don’t have and then he ruts away while I try to keep the bedroom door closed with one of my far-flung, worn-out, child-bearing legs. My life is sarcasm with a cherry on top. I’ve started naming my children after my favorite cereals, Kay. Cereals!”
Kay: “I fail to see what this has to do with-”
Miriam: “Second of all, you keep calling me because I am the only one left in this hemorrhoid of a town that hasn’t blocked your number. I only let your calls through because there will come a day when I finally do something about my worthless husband and I might need a friend who can corroborate my fake alibi.”
Kay: “That’s an extreme amount of information to share at this point, so I choose to process that later. Don’t you care about the youth of our community and what they might be doing?”
Miriam: “Of course I care, since I launched forth most of those youth with my rapid-fire womb. If my family ever moves to another hemorrhoid, probably because I’m running from the law after Buford is found face-down with a bottle of gin up his ass, the Census Bureau is going to stop bothering with this wreck of a burgh and call it done.”
Kay: “But Celia and Bucky Lee are trying to breach a den of iniquity! We must do what we can to save them!”
Miriam: “Really, Kay? That’s where you’re going? You’ve obviously never raised a child. They will breach everything they can breach just because the breaching is an option. That’s just how life works. You can’t relax until those children have children of their own, and then you just sit back and laugh.”
Kay: “I really don’t think it’s fair that you should make fun of my observations just because I can’t have children due to a pelvic issue.”
Miriam, enjoying her newfound truthiness with vibrating glee: “Your pelvic issue is that your husband doesn’t want to have sex with anyone who doesn’t have the same tackle.”
Kay: “Well, I never!”
Miriam: “I know you’ve nevered. So does everybody on the Town Council, most of whom have my DNA and smell like gin.”
Kay: “Oh my god!”
Miriam: “Are you finally seeing the light?”
Kay: “What I’m seeing is that something is happening across the street with Celia and Bucky Lee and the Man We’ve Never Seen.”
Miriam: “Are they talking about your husband as well? Because everybody knows, Kay. Everybody.”
Kay: “Oh, knock it off, womb catapult. A van has just pulled up outside the swanky palace and…”
To be continued…