C3. Leo, the Water-Pipe

Years later, Dan Jones couldn’t tear his gaze from the bus-stop across from his apartment. He washed clean dishes again and again just to stand near the window in his kitchenette to watch buses unload passengers every quarter hour. By the time Faith disembarked the 12:30 Bluebird line his fingers were raw and prune-like. He waited at the peephole for her to knock at his door. “Dainty, it’s me! Are you ready to help me smoke centipede?”

“Faith! Come in!” Dan opened the door and received from Faith a frosted cupcake with the number twenty-eight written in cinnamon candies.

“Happy birthday, Dainty.” Faith kissed him on the cheek and lounged on his couch. “Share that cupcake with JayJay. You two have the same birthday. Can I see your bong?”

“Thanks, Faith.” He put the cupcake on the coffee-table by the couch and passed Faith a glass pipe. “It’s not a bong, it’s a water-pipe. I use it for cricket, but it works with centipede. Its name is Leo. Is Beatrice coming?”

“JayJay and BeatBax missed the bus. They’ll be on the next one.” She looked into the water-pipe like a microscope. Dan had cleaned Leo to crystal clarity, so she could see five internal fingers of slotted glass submerged in ice-water. Ten glass buboes encircled the mouthpiece for a solid grip. The erect stem of Leo, the water-pipe, held aloft a tiny bowl for powder. “I’m nervous,” she giggled. “I’ve been putting this off for years.”

Dan nodded and took the pipe from her. He set it gingerly on the coffee-table. “How much centipede powder did you bring?”

“Check it out. You’ll like this, Dainty, it’s about a religion. I got it visiting my uncle in high-school.” Faith passed him the red card-stock pamphlet from her purse. He opened it to see a plastic baggie filled with brown powder. He scanned the pamphlet, a religious introduction with text in ten languages. “Monks from the Islands of Sheridan were lecturing in Wyoming.”

“And they gave you drugs? And you took them?” Dan hesitated to open the baggie. “Maybe you shouldn’t smoke this, even if we’re all here to trip-sit you. Taking drugs from strangers is ill-advised at best.”

“It’s okay. I’d met one of the monks before, apparently.”

“You must have impressed them. This is a lot. There’s enough to share with Jay and Beatrice if they want to join you.”

“JayJay might,” said Faith, “but ever since BeatBax started working as a nurse she’s bugged me to cut back on the drugs. And… um…”

She stared at Leo, refusing to meet Dan’s eyes, and took a deep breath.

“You know, Dan, sometimes you get a little too close to Beatrice and it makes her uncomfortable.”

Dan covered his face. “I know,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“I’m… attracted to her, but not sexually, or romantically.” He wandered back to the kitchenette to watch the vacant bus-stop through his window. “I just think she’s perfect. I’ll tell her that when she gets here. Then she’ll be comfortable.”

“Maybe don’t,” said Faith. “I’m sure she’ll appreciate your feelings if you just give her space. We’re all friends here.” Dan nodded. Faith tried to smile at him. “Hey, Dainty, look at this!” In her purse she carried a cardboard box. She unfolded its flaps; it contained moist earth. Six raw crickets were stuck eyes-down in the dirt, sprouting buds—buds with ten black, beady eyes. “They’re propagating,” she said. “I told you we could grow our own. If I dry them, would you wrap the wings? You’ve got a knack for meticulous work like that.”

“I could try,” said Dan. He compared the budding crickets to a hand-drawn illustration in the red card-stock pamphlet. “I should show my professors this pamphlet. I’ve never heard of a Sheridanian religion. News about the Islands of Sheridan is all crickets and centipedes.”

“The monks seemed reclusive. It makes sense no one knows about them.”

“But they lectured in Wyoming. Were they lecturing across America?”

“No, just the one lecture, in Wyoming. They made a point to state they would never return.”

Dan closed the pamphlet. “Well, what was the lecture about?”

“Nothing. It was a silent lecture.”

“Did they… make hand motions?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “I wasn’t in the room.”

“And you want to smoke the centipede powder they gave you?” Dan wrung his hands. “I’ve smoked centipede, Faith. It’s harrowing at the best of times. What if they cut it with something?”

“Centipedes are prepared by Virgil Blue; are you gonna tussle with Virgil Blue? This is the way it’s meant to be.”

“Well, if you say so.” Dan poured half the centipede powder into Leo’s bowl and packed the powder tight. He brought a black blowtorch from his biggest bookshelf. “Did Virgil Blue tell you to drink cold orange-juice when you smoke centipede?”

“Virgil Blue didn’t say anything. They were the silent one. But Virgil Skyy didn’t mention orange-juice, either.”

“Then call me Virgil Orange, because I just saved you a sore throat. I’ll be right back.”

Dan hurried to the refrigerator. Faith stole his spot by leaning across the couch. “This is a nice apartment, Dainty.”

“Thanks. It was my dad’s, before he died.” Dan poured three glasses of orange-juice and looked at the bus-stop outside his kitchenette window. The 12:45 Bluebird passengers disembarked. “There’s Beatrice and Jay. I haven’t seen Jay since he started transitioning, he looks great. What should I tell him?”

“Tell him you like his T-shirt.” When she heard a knock at the door, Faith shouted: “JayJay, BeatBax, help me consume these drugs!”

C3pictNext Section
Commentary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s