cDc paramedia: texXxt #393
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     ...presents...               Nightcrawler
                                                         by The BMC

           __//////\   -cDc- CULT OF THE DEAD COW -cDc-   /\\\\\\__
                    __      Grand Imperial Dynasty      __
 Est. 1984   \\\\\\/ cDc paramedia: texXxt 393-07/13/2004 \//////   Est. 1984

  ___    _   _    ___     _   _    ___       _   _      ___    _   _      __
 |___heal_the_sick___raise_the_dead___cleanse_the_lepers___cast_out_demons__|

I just found somebody's dime.  That's one of the benefits of living how I do.

I live under a chair.  

I find things that people lose there, and sometimes I keep them.  

Looking up, I see the underside of an armchair, under which I am neatly
folded, hidden from the world outside.  Peering under the gap by the floor I
can make out every object in the room: a couch, a coffee table, a TV.  On the
coffee table is a TV Guide, a bag of chips, and a set of keys.  The TV is on.
This room has two exits.

There are people.  A man and a woman.  They loudly complain about work and
money, and at other times they sit on the couch staring at the TV.  They are
looking at it right now.  There is also a girl, pretty yellow hair tied in a
ponytail.  She is not here right now. Sometimes she sits on the armchair and
I can see her ankles.  These people are a family.

Every once in a while the two on the couch glance in this direction, then
quickly shift their eyes back to the TV screen and pretend they never looked.

They are watching Wheel of Fortune.  The woman is more excited than the
show's actual contestants.

"Taming of the Shrek," she yells, "Taming of the Shrek!"  The girl walks in,
stops for a moment, and stares at the two on the couch.  They stare back at
her.

"How was school?" the man says.  It is not a question but an accusation.  The
girl leaves the room without saying anything.

The man says, "I got a call today.  The school called me at work."

The woman shouts at the TV screen, "Buy a K!  Buy a K!"


In the night when the world is different, I am a different person.  I come
out from under this chair and the room is mine.

Everyone is asleep.  I sit on the couch, look at the TV.  I turn on the TV.
I can watch any channel I want to.

I walk through the exits, go into other rooms.  There is a kitchen where I
make food.  There is everything in here.  There are ramen noodles.  That's
all I want to eat.

Sometimes I make three or four packages in a night.  I always clean the pot
afterward so nobody will know I was here.  The noodles come in a plain yellow
package -- a generic brand.  Sometimes I eat them in broth, and sometimes I
drain the broth and add butter and seasoning.  Sometimes when I'm too hungry
to wait, I eat them raw right out of the package.  I save the extra
seasoning.  It tastes salty by itself.

In the middle of the night I watch a cooking show, "Wok With Yan."  I watch
episodes from beginning to end, hoping to learn new ways to cook ramen
noodles.  Sometimes I laugh out loud at the slogans on his apron, like "Wok
the heck?"

Sometimes I see ads for other noodles.  Noodles in colourful packages,
noodles with name brands.  Noodles that make people laugh and smile.  When I
turn my glance from the TV to the mirror I don't see those same smiles on my
face.  I wonder if there is a better life in a place where the noodles all
have brand names.  I watch Yan frantically, sometimes whispering to the TV,
begging him to show me a better way.

I can't help but think what kind of ramen I may be missing out on.


When it starts to get bright outside, I hear the distant sound of music.
This means the man will be in this room at any moment.  I retreat to the
chair, curl up underneath, and try to disappear.

I hear the man stumbling around the house.  Eventually he comes in and sits
on the couch, holding a cup of coffee in one hand and rubbing his eyes with
the other.  He turns on the TV.  It's the Weather Channel.  He listens to
reports of weather all around the world.  The numbers mean nothing to me.

He stands up, walks toward my chair.  It is a close call -- I think he hears
my heart beating.  He almost looks into my eyes, then turns his head away
just as I am certain that he is going to notice me.  He walks straight out of
the room and seconds later I hear his voice saying, "Get up."

He is speaking to the girl.

"Get up."  And then a minute later he's raising his voice.  "It's time to go.
You're gonna be late for school."  A tired, "No, no," comes from behind her
door.

"You're not going to miss another class on my watch, that's for sure."

A few minutes later the shower is on, then off again. The man is back in
front of the TV.  I hear the patter of the girl's feet on carpet.  The man
looks at his watch, grumbles.

"You ready yet?" he finally asks.  "Come on, you're making me late.  I've
gotta get to work, you know."

A door opens, slams.  The room is empty.  Everyone is gone.

In the next few minutes I calm myself down and close my eyes.  The woman
won't be up for hours yet.


Sometimes when I sleep I imagine that people from TV shows become my friends
and take me out into the world where we do things like go to coffee shops and
restaurants.  These are the people and places I know best, the ones I have
seen on the screen in the middle of the night.  Joey and Rachel take me to a
little Italian restaurant where they have nothing but pasta.  When my food
arrives I pretend not to be hungry and get everything packaged to go.  We
spend the evening talking about life's little absurdities and drink coffee
from large cups.

When Rachel takes me home, she hugs me goodnight.  I go into the house, take
the food, put it in the garbage, and make myself a feast of noodles.  This
makes me laugh to myself.  I have fooled them all.

The noodles in my dreams are not generic, but brand name.  Sapporo Ichiban,
just like on TV.  I try not to wake up.


I crawl out from under the chair and run to the cupboard.  There is nothing
here that delights me.  It is two o'clock.  The streets are dark.  A store
called 7-11 is open all night.  I have heard the people in this room talk
about walking there to buy things.

I shuffle through the coins that I have found under the chair and crammed in
beside the cushion.  I lay them out on the table, stacking them.  Two hundred
and forty-four cents.  I stuff them all into my pocket, take a deep breath,
and step out the front door.


Outside there is no air conditioning.  It is warm, the air moves.  Wind:  a
breeze.  It rustles through my hair.  I zip up my sweater and head across the
yard.  If I was a centimetre tall this grass would be a forest, cool and
moist.  But I cross the entire forest in five steps and reach the concrete.

There is a smell in the air.  Fresh air, I think, the breath of grass and
trees.  There is also a hint of cars and exhaust.

I turn the direction in which I think I will find the 7-11.  I go right at
random and start walking, pulling this grey track of sidewalk under my feet.

It is not bright in the outside world, save for the light cast by
streetlamps.  The streetlamps are real; I see this as I look back at my
shadow, long, distorted, shifting, finally catching up to me, surpassing me,
and then reappearing with the next electric step.

It is a gentle summer night.  I never gave thought to what this would feel
like, but now I know I like it.  When I hear about weather now, it will
excite me.  When I get back, I will look at the Weather Channel, find that
it was seventeen degrees, northeast wind, six kilometres per hour.

There are cars parked on the side of the road.  I touch them.  There are
houses, some like my own, some that are different.  The night is so wide that
I can move wherever I please.

A distant noise becomes louder, closer.   Bright lights race toward me and I
take cover behind some bushes.  The car drives past without spotting me.
Before continuing on, I touch the leaves of the bush and rub the tiny
branches between my fingers.

There is an unpaved dirt road, an alley.  If I walk down that way it will
take me from the streetlights and I can go unseen in the night.  All the way
down at the end there is a tri-coloured light, orange white and green.

Just as my attention is drawn down the path, a vicious barking sound assails
my ears.  I jump.  I begin to run with fear until I'm wheezing.  Looking
back, I see no dog following me.  It must be chained up behind one of the
fences.

I reach the end of the alleyway.  In front of me stands a glowing store, my
destination.  All roads lead to 7-11.  I behold it for a moment before I
enter.


The lights are glaring, I am disoriented.  There is a counter in the middle
of the store with a guy in a green shirt standing behind it.  His nametag
says "Steve."  I walk around the store.

On one wall of the store there are fridges with bottles and cans of all
kinds.  I can't count all of them, so I keep moving, looking.  There is a
wall with machines, cups.  They are called Slurpees.  Icy liquids spin around
in circles until people consume them.  There are machines that you put cards
into and press buttons and money comes out.  On another wall there is nothing
but magazines with pictures of almost naked people.  The other wall, that's
where I came in.  That wall is all glass.

In the middle of the store I finally notice the rows with food, all the food
money can buy.  I walk up and down the aisles, my eyes confronted by colours
and words.  This is not the generic world, this is the real world.

One row is nothing but candy.  Another row is plastic bags of chips and other
things.

Halfway down the next aisle I see them.  The packages are blue and white.
They have pictures of bowls on them.  They have bright orange letters on
them.  They say "Japanese broad noodles with fried bean curd."  They say
"Sapporo Ichiban."

I grab it, notice a price tag.  It says one-dot-nine-nine.  Now I have to pay
for it.  I have to talk to Steve.

Steve says hello to me and I drop all of my money onto the counter.  He gives
some of it back, along with a small white piece of paper.  I grab it all and
head for the door.  But I am stopped dead in my tracks.  Steve is speaking to
me.

"Have a good one," he says.

I try to make sense of what he is saying.  Have a good what?  Have a good
walk home?  Have a good bowl of noodles?  Have a good evening?  I cannot make
sense of it.

Have a good one.  Steve is indiscriminate.  He does not judge me.  Steve
wants me to have a good time.  Steve wants me to have a good life.  Steve
wants me to do whatever I want to do, so long as it is good.

As I stumble backward through the store's door, eyes blinking rapidly and
head shifting in all directions, I cannot believe the generosity of this
stranger's words, to wish a good one upon me.  This must be the true meaning
of friendship.


I walk home from the store in an amatory daze.  After 19 years I have finally
experienced love.

"Have a good one."

I have a good walk home.  I keep a good pace, maintain a good state of mind.
How could I not?  I have received an instruction from Steve.

I walk back through the alley, eventually emerging onto the sidewalk.  I take
long, deep breaths, savouring my surroundings.

Steve is my new best friend.  Nobody has ever told me to have a good one
before.  Where does he come up with such wonderful things to say?

I think everything is going to be a good one from now on.


I see the door of the house swinging open a few metres away.  I must have
forgotten to close it when I left.  I shut it behind me when I enter.

In the kitchen, I pull out the medium-sized pot and measure two cups of
water, taking time to observe the meniscus before I pour.  The water trickles
in slowly and carefully, not a drop clinging to the pot's edge.  I place it
on the stove as I set the burner to medium heat.

While waiting for the water to boil, I peel the package open.  My nose is
close enough to inhale the first waft of scent from the noodles.  I rip the
foil flavour package and sprinkle it into the water, then stir it in with a
large spoon.  The aroma is evidence of a better world.

There is a square of bean curd, a crisp and spongy substance that I have
never seen before.  I fold it, crack it into smaller flakes, and drop them
into the translucent water, tiny bubbles starting to form at the bottom.

The noodles make contact with the water the instant it starts to boil.  As
they merge, the entire concoction froths with delight.

Instead of eating straight from the pot this time, I take a bowl from the
cupboard, really enjoying myself.  I sip the broth.  The bean curd has now
changed in texture to a delicious sort of foam.  The broad noodles curl
around my fork, boiled to perfection, steam from them clinging to my skin.  I
have never had such a good one.

I hear a key in the front door and run into the other room, sliding in under
the armchair.  The girl sneaks in silently.  I listen for minutes and hear
nothing.  Sound comes from the kitchen.  I didn't have time to clean up - she
must be seeing everything now.  She must know everything now.  I hear a
crinkling of plastic, the pouring of faucets.  I clench my teeth together
hard, my face in my hands.  She spends minutes in there.

She comes into this room, looks at the armchair, and smiles for a moment
before heading off somewhere.  I think she's gone to bed.  The kitchen is
clean.  The pot and bowl and fork have been washed by hand and put away, and
the wrapper and foil packet are nowhere to be seen, not even in the garbage
under the sink.


I yearn to speak to the store clerk again.  I must get some money, enough to
buy more Sapporo Ichiban.  In the meantime, I will dwell on the thought of
Steve.

Lately I have been spending nights under the chair.  Ever since she
discovered my secret, the girl has been coming here when it is dark.
Sometimes when the others have gone to bed, she re-enters the room, dressed
in a purple satin housecoat, her yellow hair unbound.  She turns the TV on
and lies on her back, watching anything.

Within the past few weeks things have changed and the man no longer asks her
to get up in the morning.  I never see them in this room at the same time.

When she is in this room I sometimes see her reach a certain point of
desperation.  She is watching a paid advertisement.  I watch her trying to
close her eyes, unable to fall asleep.  As the TV spokesperson promises that
his magic grill is easy to clean, the white light flickers off the smoothness
of her knee.

I want to help her, but from under this chair my power is limited.  When she
finally falls asleep I want to come out and brush her purple satin with the
back of my fingers, but I stay hidden for fear that she will sense me.

I watch the shadows flicker on the couch behind her.  The outline changes
shape, and I am not sure which variations are accurate and which are
distorted.  As my eyes scroll down to her freckled cheek and soft lip, I
realize that every shadow of her is only a distortion.

When the flickering fades into daylight, she is gone from this room.

When the daylight dies, she returns.


One night she tucks an envelope behind the cushion of my chair and leaves.  I
find two dollars inside.  She knows I have been collecting her pennies, and
she knows why.  I sneak out from beneath the chair.

This time the night air is a bit colder.  I'd hoped everything would be the
same again.  I consider leaving the door open, but decide against it.

I walk down the street.  Although no car comes this time, I duck down behind
the bushes and touch the tiny branches anyway.  The leaves are coming off the
trees now.  It has become fall.

I head down the dark alleyway.  Although the dog doesn't scare me this time,
I pretend that it does.  When it barks I run all the way to the store.


I open the glass door and the aura of the 7-11 pours over me.  The lights
dazzle me.

Steve is standing behind the counter in the middle of the store.  Somebody is
laying items on the counter.  I'm too excited to see what.  Steve is busy
ringing them up and doesn't notice that I have come in.  I want to run up to
the counter, tell him everything, but instead I decide to wait.

I head straight for the noodle aisle.  There is nothing else in this store
that interests me.  Steve puts the items in a plastic bag.

I am here.  Sapporo Ichiban with bean curd.  I touch the package.  I pick up
the package.  I stop just short of smelling it.  I wait for Steve to finish
with the customer, who is handing paper bills to him.

I want to rip the package open and eat the noodles right now.  I want to talk
to Steve and tell him he is my best friend.  I find myself picking up a
second package even though I only have enough money for one.

I have discovered your secret of friendship, Steve, and we will spend many
great days feasting upon noodles and watching the greatest shows of TV.
Steve, you are giving the customer his change.

I watch the customer heading toward the door.  My best friend looks at him
and says, "Have a good one."


I run as fast as I can, slamming through the front door with my shoulder.
The noodles are in my hand, I don't care.  Steve calls after me, begs me to
stop running, but he is too late now.  His brutal betrayal can never be
amended.

I run forever, straying from my usual path.  I don't know where I am anymore.
The sidewalk is covered in leaves.  In the dark I run everywhere, stagger,
get caught up in windswept piles.  Nature is a vandal, a bully.  Shredded
pumpkins litter the Halloween street.  My mind begs me to stop.  I fall to
my knees.  When I can cry no more, I give up.

I am lost.


When I finally find my way home, I've been gone for hours.  I walk in the
door and flop onto the couch.

When I look up she is standing there, wearing pants and a pale blue shirt.  I
gaze at her, astonished.  She smiles at me.  I feel myself standing up.  She
and I embrace.  My hands are surprised by the warmth of her back.

She feels the noodles in my pockets.  We go into the kitchen, make up two
bowls, giggling sporadically.  I say something to make her smile and her nose
crinkles.  We could be eating anything; it wouldn't matter.

She kisses me, tells me she wants to show me something.  We run outside,
leaving our dishes where they are.  We are on top of a hill in a grassy park.
We stand here holding hands, watching the sun rise.

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