The Devil’s Gospel: Chapter 1.2 – The Pipe Cleaner
The Pipe Cleaner
If someone told you to close your eyes – and you were either dim enough or trusted them enough (utterly redundant) to do it – and then they handed you a bundle of everyday drinking straws, with one pipe cleaner nestled in the middle – would you be able to find the pipe cleaner?
You’re allowed to sift the straws through your fingers, shuffle them any which way you choose, even drop them on the floor one by one if you want to reduce your odds. Given that the pipe cleaner is of ordinary size and shape, bristly and stiff, as opposed to the smooth and bendy surface of a drinking straw, you’d be able to pick out the pipe cleaner merely by feel, without using your eyes, yes?
If, once again, you were foolish enough to close your eyes in someone else’s presence, then idiotic enough to just accept whatever they chose to thrust into your hands, which in this case (lucky you) turns out to be yet another innocent bundle of drinking straws – only with no pipe cleaner nestled inside – would you be able to pick out the pipe cleaner?
All right, let me make it even easier.
If you had your eyes open, and someone (not me, since if it were up to me, I’d probably hand you your mother’s severed head) were to hand you a bundle of plain old drinking straws, just honest-to-Boy-Scouts drinking straws only – no pipe cleaner whatsoever – would you be able to pick out the pipe cleaner?
Being truthful isn’t exactly my forte, but I can promise you this is no Zen koan crap, or one of those Metaphilosophical Monk Meditations (man, I hate those 3M fucks from the 22nd century. You make TAPE! Get over yourselves!), I’m simply illustrating a key principle of one of God’s favorite littlecoughOCDcough rules, along with Its Creation of time – one of Its Top Ten, if you will.
Call it Devils’ Double Jeopardy.
Once we devils go to/visit/concentrate our conscii upon a particular reality – once we immerse ourselves in a linear time stream, vis-à-vis you, our victim of bedevilment – we can never go back to that particular locus again – at least as it concerns you.
Why this is, I don’t know. Probably keeps us from banding together and destroying the universii or whatever; It’s always doing preventative shit like that. (As for angels, I’m not sure if it applies. Those snots keep to themselves.)
Now, this is not as restrictive as it may seem at first, given that there are infinite numbers of universii and alternate realities that criss-cross and touch – think Venn spheres instead of circles – through which each human soul’s “bullet train” travels, guided by free will and choice. But as for hitting the exact universe and reality at that precise moment of time where a particular human soul passes through?
We devils only get one shot at it, just like you.
Sure, we can go back in time and hop on your bullet train beforehand, hoping to ride it to the exact same point – but once we hit where we’ve been before? It’s like skipping forward on a DVD, right up to the moment we left last time. And trying to hitchhike in on someone else’s train is useless – we can’t see you or sense you at all – you don’t Exist for us. That individual moment, as it pertains toyou, is lost to us forever.
And yeah, we can disembowel you later, but like I said…
If all the infinite universii and their infinite alternate realities on their infinite timelines are one big bundle of drinking straws, and the one we want to visit is a pipe cleaner? It’s pretty easy to get there.
Until it’s not there anymore.
Until there’s no “there” there to get to.
How God does this, I have no fucking idea.
Thus my Cocoa Puff Pee Wee League Soccer Stroke-Out window had slammed shut for good.
Tell you what, I was pissed.
Unseen, I stalked Theo to the mouth of the subway, my shoulders riding just above sidewalk level, a habit that usually cheered me up. I deliberately didn’t make the effort to blast out my corporeal particles when I came into contact with humans, and thus I left a trail of injured pedestrians in my wake, convinced they’d just been kneecapped by the Invisible Man. For the three short blocks Theo walked – no, flapped, in those grimy disgusting sandals – I glowered at his ugly shoes, debating whether to just drag him under the uptown 6 and be done with it, then go house-sit the poltergeist in Australia.
The thought appealed – Theo’s body rigid with electricity before the train came and sliced him in half – ooh, yes, please! However, though I’m generally not one to defer my gratifications, that one would have to wait.
At least until after I’d figured out who or what was behind my slamming window. And then, not until I’d punished them/it. Personally. Steadily. For more eons than who-or-whatever it was could’ve dared to imagine.
I hate being fucked with.
But Enough, I thought to myself. Enough. Back to the task at hand.
The task at hand being what, exactly?
no, seriously, is it going to come out like that?
…because it makes you look all holy and shit, when we both know…
…it certainly is not, it’s just plain black ink…
…go back and look? go ass-fuck your retard sister, you—
oh. comes out red, does it?
tell It that’s cute.
The task at hand being what, exactly? came a lazy drawl from over my left shoulder. still say the blue makes you look fruity—oh look, there’s the red again.
Archelaeus must have reached the end of his Cooking Channel marathon because here he was at last, floating over my head on the equivalent of his back, drifting slowly through the hips of passersby, no doubt imparting to them a brief feeling of serenity and hope.
Where the fuck’ve you been? I thought at him irritably, going out of my way to chop-block a Filipino rollerblader. Usually can’t get rid of you, until of course everything goes bumfucking upwards—
The rollerblader crashed face-first into a manhole cover as I stopped and cast a suspicious eye at Archelaeus. It’s not you, is it? It had better not be you. Do you have any idea what I’m willing to do to you?
But Archelaeus only yawned. Shifted his massive-though-nonexistent weight as the Filipino spat out blood and some broken chips of teeth.
Good to see you, too.
The ad for the diner, I demanded, pointing a sharpened claw at him. Did you have anything to do with that?
Archelaeus shook his head. Been Inside. Heard your Theo plans got diverted.
“Fucking Heaven,” I grumbled, continuing up the street. “Worse than a small town.”
I spotted Theo disappearing down the subway steps, and marked it. Flipped forward a bit to see when he would show up at Jack’s Ruby (as inevitably he would, having been maneuvered there by whom-or-whatever was fucking with me), and saw him approaching the diner at 5 o’clock. That was enough for me. Why waste space on this valuable timeline? If nothing else, I could come back and drag him under the train.
The very next moment, I was standing in Kenny Stokes’ bathroom, watching him whack off.
“Ooh, yeah, bitch, yeah,” Kenny grunted, sweat oozing from his forehead as he sat on the john, jerking his dick without lube (it hurt more), while the other hand pressed a razor against his inner thigh. “That’s what Daddy wants, isn’t it?”
Oh, and I should probably also mention he wore pair of pink Lycra biker shorts.
Over his head.
Pulled down past the level of his nose but above his lips, so it sounded more like, “Ooh, yeah, bish, yeah. Das whadaddy was, iddit?”
This is your idea of “poetry”?
I looked up at Archelaeus, resting atop the shower rod. I swear that motherfucker would never sit up if he could avoid it.
Some people would pay seventy-five bucks a ticket to see this in the East Village.
“Mmmmmm,” moaned Kenny, as Archelaeus shook his amorphous head.
Uh-uh. Me? I’m seeing bathos.
The Hell you are! I exploded.
As did Kenny.
In more ways than one.
Kenny Stokes shot his wad onto the wall facing the toilet.
This was not unusual in any way, as this was normally the place Kenny Stokes shot his wad. Kenny Stokes’ wad had not been shot near anyone but Kenny Stokes for a very long while, as the shooting of said wad required such a prodigious amount of pain that most women felt uncomfortable dealing it out. Or so they said.
And which, by the way, was patently untrue.
Most only felt uncomfortable being witnessed dealing it out, even if that witness was a willing – nay, eager – lover. You see, women have been taught – and we devils applaud the idea, naturally, contrary as it is to God’s design – that resisting their urge to violence is somehow “righteous.” In the balance of the universe, however, women are entitled to dole out as much physical pain as they endure in childbirth, as well as the physical equivalent of all their emotional wounds, since they suffer these in the same way men do their wounds of war.
Seldom do women achieve this balanced violence, of course – necessitating their return as men in their next lives: men who invariably rebel against the residual female psychic oppression and overcompensate by getting into bar brawls or nuking Hiroshima or beating the crap out of their wives – or girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, or children – who then, in turn, repress their desire for retaliation, leading them to become violent in their next lives, the circle continues, ommm she-bop… and you get the idea.
(Even though It’s mostly a dick, sometimes you gotta love God.)
The point was, Kenny Stokes hadn’t found a woman willing to physically hurt him enough (sentimentally was an entirely other story about Becca) to get him off. And so it was customary that Kenny Stokes was alone when he shot his wad onto what he thought of, in his final heat, as his Wad-Shooting Wall, which was usually just enough to push Kenny over the edge into shooting his wad.
Onto the wall.
All of this, as I say, was ordinary.
For Kenny Stokes.
What separated this particular episode from all the similar ones before it was the depth to which the razor Kenny pressed against his inner right thigh penetrated his skin.
This was not Kenny’s fault. Kenny had been at the cutting game long enough to know exactly how deep he had to incise in order to stimulate his nerves at the point of orgasm. Perhaps contributing to his inability to find a mate willing to do this for him was the fact that Kenny Stokes, when naked, appeared to be wearing a bright white girdle and shorts, that upon closer inspection turned out to be a vast network of intersecting scar tissue.
He’d been cutting a long while, Kenny had, over many lifetimes – long enough that I thought he might have some intuitive feel for what it was like being a devil: trapped inside the same hopeless cycle for eternity empathy? you’re fucking joking, right? – so, no, it wasn’t Kenny’s fault that when he finally came, he sliced too deep, into his femoral artery, causing blood to explode from his groin, squirting and sizzling a hot red spray as if from a graffiti artist’s can all over the Wad-Shooting Wall, turning his semen into a dripping pink goop.
All that was Tia Alba’s fault.
They called her Tia Alba, but her true name was ———-.
what the fuck is that? i’m being censored now? i can’t even…
…and this from It, what wants such honesty. It’s enough to make you gag.
Tia Alba owned a small restaurant close to the border, on the corner of Platanos and Calle Dolorosa. Nothing fancy; fluorescent lights in the day, candles at night. Nine tables, usually no waiting. Tia Alba sat the customers herself, her heavy gray braid hanging down her back like the traditional peasant women of Chihuahua. She looked not a day under ninety, though — — —– —— —- oh now that’s just outright dogshit – her face was creased like old laundry from her decades in the maquiladoras, Javi’s cigar smoke, birthing eight babies, and raising six and a half, two of whom were even still alive.
After Javi had gone, Tia Alba took his death-insurance money and the money she’d hidden from him for fifty years in ever-growing denominations inside a Kotex box (even after el cambio, Javi had never asked about the box, considering those cosas de mujeres. Though sometimes in bed she would tease him, pulling on his earlobes, calling them her Kotex de mujeres), and she had eventually leased this small storefront for three years, turning it into a restaurant.
It was ambitious, yes, but Tia Alba knew she would succeed. And after the first three years had passed, she’d leased it for five more, and after those five years had withered and dried up, along with Tia Alba’s first and third children, she’d signed a ten year lease, porque… ¿porque no?
On average, the food was good at Tia Alba’s – which is to say, it was wildly inconsistent.
If Tia Alba sat on her short orange stool in the open doorway, menus on her lap, humming and half-blind staring into the street, the food was fantastic.
But if Tia Alba stayed in her “office” (a barely-converted mop closet just big enough for her and half a desk, which Tia Alba’s fourth son had dutifully sawn in half before shoving it in there, a stack of refried bean boxes holding up the side with no legs) – if she only scuttled out when the maracas banged and sh-sh-sh-shed against the closed front door – the food was bland and, weirdly, Taco Bell-ish, only more expensive.
The locals knew to look for Tia Alba on her squat orange stool, and if the hunched old lady wasn’t there, they ate elsewhere. Some nights this meant only three or four tourists for the entire dinner shift, which sucked for the cooks, since they often grew bored, and never did anything different night to night with their cooking. They’d long since conceded that the enjoyment of their food had very little to do with how it was prepared, and everything to do with the company in which it was consumed (i.e., Tia Alba).
Last night, Tia Alba hadn’t been in the doorway.
But that hadn’t stopped two sweaty gringos grossos from Minnesota from limping in on their blisters for dinner at sunset. After quesadillas and enchiladas cerdo, Bill Wollenhofer left heartily unimpressed with “authentic” Mexican cuisine, complaining to his wife that he could’ve gotten the same meal for $3.98 back in Granite Falls.
Barb Wollenhofer, sick to absolute death of listening to her sunburned husband bitch about everything from his aching feet to the “sketchy” locals to how everything was better back in Granite Falls, told Bill one other thing he could get. Then she walked off without climbing into the cab he held, promptly got lost since none of the street signs were in English, then got mugged by a sketchy local.
karma for our side! olé!
Until 8:30 that was it, though.
Tia Alba was secreted back in her “office” (really, withholding the quotes would insult offices everywhere), and cooks Tony and Tonio sat on overturned five-gallon buckets in the kitchen, throwing homemade bones – dominoes, not the interesting kind – on a flat piece of cardboard they held between their knees.
Tranquilo. Regalo. Seguro.
That is, until Kenny Stokes walked in.
Bang! sh-sh-sh-sh went the maracas against the storefront door.
Kenny scanned the deserted dining room while I watched through his eyes, admittedly a bit distracted. Being preoccupied with Theo, I’d given Kenny one of my lesser conscii. yes, yes, and if i’d been paying closer attention i might have noticed something. astonishing deduction, Archelaeus. where the fuck were you then?
Empty restaurant, Kenny thought. Not a good sign.
Still seated on his bucket in the kitchen, Tonio leaned back and pressed two fingers on the swinging door, inching it open a crack – then let go, rattling off some incomprehensible Chapultapec slang to Tony, mostly about poor sucker, looks hungry, and the food’s not even gonna be any good tonight.
Late, thought Kenny. Cooks already hate me. They’ll spit in my food. Two not good signs.
But then Tia Alba came out of her “office.” She shuffled past the tables up to Kenny, where with one hard, brown hand she swiped a menu from the stack lying on her orange stool and thrust it up at Kenny’s chest, which hovered somewhere above her head.
“Gracias,” Kenny mumbled, taking the menu.
Normally this would have been Tia Alba’s cue to lead him to a table, take his order, pass it on to the kitchen, then retreat back into her “office” – except this time she didn’t.
This time Tia Alba stared up at Kenny, her brown eyes glazed over near-blue with cataracts, as she contemplated him with such a disarmingly open gaze (Only ‘cause she’s blind, right? read Kenny’s thought scroll) that Kenny’s whole face got hot, he had to look away, and he felt very much like running out the door. In fact, the only thing that stopped him at the very last second was the thought that there could be closed-circuit cameras in the restaurant.
Kenny did that a lot, imagined the cameras.
Cameras to stop bad men and robbers, sure – but cameras that would also catch a 35 year-old six-foot-tall barrel-chested guy from El Paso running away from a harmless old lady like a freakboy sissy.
Those were the kinds of tapes that wound up on the Internet.
After an uncomfortable pause, in which Tia Alba continued to stare at him without a word, Kenny finally asked, “Kin… kin I help you, ma’am?” Though truth be told, he spoke more towards her shoulder, unable to bring himself to look in her blue-glazy eyes again.
Tia Alba paused, still taking in all that was Kenny Ray Stokes.
—- —- — — – —- —- —-.
well how the Hell am i supposed to tell this, then?
anus-lickers. every last one of you.
“Dios te bendigo,” Tia Alba said then, and like any grandmother, gently patted Kenny on his belly, on his girdle of scars.
As the old lady turned and made her way to the back of the restaurant, gesturing for him to follow, Kenny’s eyes welled up with tears, which made him angry. It made him want to go home and stick thumbtacks in himself to calm down. Then he imagined sticking thumbtacks in himself on camera. That would definitely show up on the Internet.
So instead he followed Tia Alba to the table nearest the kitchen, sat where she told him to sit, and agreed to order whatever she thought he might like to eat. Tia Alba poured him a glass of water, then in a voice that had birthed eight children and raised six and a half, Tia Alba hollered, “¡Tony, Tonio! ¡Uno carne asada con diez y ocho negros jacas y hágalo ahora!”
Tony was so jolted by the sudden volume of his great-great-aunt’s voice that he upset the makeshift table on his knees, sending a clatter of hand-painted dominoes to the floor. He looked up at Tonio. “Did she really say eighteen?”
Tonio looked down at the dominoes, then growled in Chapultapec, “If any of these is chipped, motherfucker – my mom made these—”
“Te dije ahora!” bellowed Tia Alba from the dining area, and instantly both men were on their feet, ingredients in their hands before they’d drawn their next breaths.
As Tony donned the dishwashing glove specially saved for this purpose, reaching into a glass container of dried chiles marked with a crudely-drawn death’s head, he triple-checked. “Eighteen? Who the Hell eats eighteen of these things?”
Still pissed, Tonio shrugged, “Don’t look at me. I just work here.”
He began to chop up the beef, all the while eyeing his mother’s handiwork strewn over the kitchen tiles.
Thus, since approximately 10 p.m. last night – thanks to Tia Alba and —– — — — — — —- — — oh, fucking forget it, already – deep inside Kenny’s bowels there had been massing a gastric Class 5 hurricane of such violence that, while he slept, it sent signals along Kenny’s spinal cord to his brain, inducing it to release various numbing opioids and other painkilling neurotransmitters that explained the buzzed, pleasant sensation Kenny woke up with that morning.
It lasted through brushing his teeth. It lasted through going to the convenience store for orange juice. It lasted through spotting the blonde in the pink Lycra biker shorts, then coming home and throwing the orange juice on the counter. It lasted through taking his clothes off, the unsealing of a new razor, sitting on the open toilet, and the placing of a similar pair of pink Lycra biker shorts over his head, which gave him an instant boner. Actually, this buzzed, pleasant sensation lasted right up until the moment Kenny Stokes shot his wad onto his Wad-Shooting Wall…
…then shot half his intestines into the toilet.
…and three-eighths of his blood supply onto everything else.
Now that’s something you don’t see every day, Archelaeus conceded.
And I must admit, the noise that emanated from Kenny’s throat was delightfully novel.
After only God knows how many eons of dealing with you predictable prigs, these moments of novelty are now few and far between, and for this I almost wanted to hug him. yes, cockface, in an evil way. That new sound Kenny made as he squirted and spurted and shat all at once was a screamy guttural crossfade between grunt and shriek, with notes of confusion, surprise, horror and pain, pleasure and fear, and disgust and fascination all wrapped up in one tasty burrito.
Or carne asada, if you will.
Immediately Kenny’s hands flew up, dropping dick and razor, and his palms slammed forward against the Wad-Shooting Wall (which to be honest, wasn’t all that far away; Kenny was no Peter North.). He braced himself against that wall for a full five seconds, despite the geyser of blood that kept jetting out of his thigh onto the dirty yellow Wad-Shooting Wall, for one reason and one reason only:
Kenny… could… not… do… anything… else.
Someone had shotgunned him in the stomach. His colon was on fire – no, it was dissolving in battery acid – and now it was rocketing its way out of his asshole in a nuclear jet-fuel explosion. He was shitting nuclear battery acid while his blood created Spin Art on the Wad-Shooting Wall, and Kenny Stokes could not for the life of him think of the word he needed, the word that would help him, the word that would fix this mess.
No, that word would not emerge through the red scrum of Kenny’s mind until an entire six seconds later, and even then, no thanks to him.
If you were to have seen Kenny’s thought scroll right then, it would have looked something like this:
So is this part of the performance?
It’s a little more energetic than what I’d had in mind, I admitted appreciatively.
Kenny’s hands slid down the Wad-Shooting Wall through his still-hot blood – Spin Art become fingerpaint – back up into his lap. But he still couldn’t think. Kenny was being ripped apart from the inside by Freddy Krueger and Edward Scissorhands on steroids – but at last through his shimmery crimson haze of pain, that animal instinct to survive kicked in, and mindlessly Kenny gripped at the wound in his leg with all ten red slippery fingers, squeezing the edges of the cut together. It was a nasty one, all right: four inches across and two inches deep. The convulsion of Kenny’s orgasm, combined with the detonation of his intestines, had pushed Kenny’s fist clutching the razor straight into his thigh – then jerked it upward. With each thump of his racing heart, blood shot out from between Kenny’s fingers in rhythmic pulses with an audible slish, slish, slish.
Yes, Kenny Stokes was in bad, bad trouble indeed, until—
T o u r n i q u e t.
You fucking dildo! I screamed-thought at Archelaeus.
And sure enough, the word “tourniquet” blossomed like a lotus inside Kenny’s head, along with an image of the braided leather belt he’d removed only minutes earlier, when he’d taken off his pants to have a nice, harmless (well, relatively, for him) wank.
The fuck’d you do that for? I spat. Let him die, what’s it to you?
Let’s just say I wanted my seventy-five bucks back.
You’re more full of shit than he is, I complained. and how right i turned out to be. Since when do you move your lardass to help anyone?
Kenny was still immobilized on the toilet, thought scroll flashing: aboveorbelow?aboveorbelow?where do you put the tourniquet aboveorbelow?
“Above, dumbass,” I said on a plane Kenny could hear. If nothing else, watching him die while thinking he’d gone crazy would be some consolation.
Kenny’s eyes went wide – as I’ve mentioned, my voice is somewhat disturbing to the human ear – but he was already off the toilet, leaving a stream of blood and diarrhea behind him. Two short steps and he dove to his knees, grabbing the braided belt and cinching it around the top of his thigh as tight as it would go, pulling at it with all his strength ‘til his veins popped out.
He was panting, half-weeping, covered in his own blood and spooge and shit and sweat…
Oh, and I should probably mention he was still wearing the pink Lycra biker shorts over his head.
I marked it.
Then jumped into Mrs. Shuman’s cabinet.
And forget everything you’ve heard about Moses and the Ten Commandments. That dumbass barely snagged the first page of the human operation manual. It was like creating a religion centered around Plugging In The Device.
Perhaps if these women could’ve inflicted this pain anonymously, Kenny Ray Stokes might never have committed the disgusting, heinous, and unforgivable crimes about which you’ll soon read. me? why Archelaeus, a compliment! so rare.
Or at least the way men used to suffer their wounds of war, pre-c. 1970 anno Hippyhead. After the emergence of The Sensitive Man, I made it my personal policy to give raging hemorrhoids to every guy I met who bitched about a head cold for more than a day.