Edendale: Chapter 10
Ansel Adams, Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
By Phyl M. Noir
Bruno got a job as an engineer’s assistant for the city and rented a house in Glassell Park. Malcolm came to live with him and Minda. Bruno thought implausibly: with time Malcolm was going to be all right.
Bruno had a job before this one. He had taken care of schizophrenics and worked with them at a car repair shop because Malcolm went to the same doctor as they did. That hadn’t worked. Dr. Hilarius came by the repair shop and punched the schizophrenics in the face to make them better. Most of the schizophrenics ran squealing out of the back of the shop into the alley and didn’t finish their work. Malcolm, however, waited behind the door until the others had gone and leapt on Hilarius’s back and punched him in the head. The doctor ran out the door covering his head with his arms.
Malcolm muttered in a desolate voice, “I am (beginning to be) afraid that Prokofiev is (merely) the Tchaikovsky of the twentieth century.”
“Tchaikovsky? What’s wrong with Tchaikovsky?” Malcolm asked in a puzzled voice.
What was wrong with Tchaikovsky? Bruno thought.
“Let me break into this conversation.” Malcolm said in a loving conciliatory voice.
It turned out time wasn’t going to be quite enough, after all, to make Malcolm better.
Glassell Park 1979
Bruno opened the front door.
Malcolm had compulsively disordered everything in the house. The pictures on the wall were askew. The tables and chairs were upside down. The couch was turned on its side.
He opened the kitchen cupboards. The cans rolled. The cups were stacked funny.
He opened the refrigerator. There was nothing in it. He opened the freezer. Everything that had been in the refrigerator was in the freezer.
He looked through the window and saw Malcolm standing and looking at the fence.
“I can’t take it!”
“I felt that the man who made Watts towers had been living exactly the life I would like to live. He had his day job and his burningly casual passion.” Malcolm said. He lifted one of Bruno’s lamps and took it to the Beetle and put it inside.
“I see.” Bruno said but he didn’t.
A cement truck pulled up. The driver got out and went over to Malcolm and shook his hand.
“The other guys will be here in a minute.”
Malcolm pumped the driver’s hand and beamed at him.
Another truck with small excavating machines in back pulled up. The panel on the side had a picture of a blue palm tree and the words “Griffith Park Swimming Pools.”
“Where do we start digging?”
Malcolm pointed to the backyard. Their landlady was out there mowing the lawn.
The workers took chutes and hoses from the truck and carried them into the backyard.
Their landlady came out front to talk with the driver.
“What are you doing?” She said.
“We’re putting a pool in the backyard.”
“I didn’t order a pool.”
“No. He did,” the cement truck driver said nodding at Malcolm.
Minda got behind the steering wheel of the Beetle. She was sure this time she was going to leave them both. Bruno swore off schizophrenics.
The workers dug in the backyard. A coyote paced past, looking from side to side graceful and full of elan.
The landlady cried out: Mrs. Garfield had gotten out of her house again and was roaming the streets.
Malcolm had nothing much to do after that. He got better. He married and moved to Toilet Corner in Venice off Rose Avenue near the beach and attended classes at UCLA.
The abandoned Airstream on Future Street
Celia sat in a chair next to Bruno’s bed in the hospital. A Filipina nurse sat on the other side of the bed with a clipboard. She asked, “Do you have any dangers?”
“What?” He asked.
The nurse pulled at her front teeth.
“Oh. No. I don’t.”
“Have you taken any illegal drugs?”
Bruno looked up brightly like a willing student. “Yes!”
“All of them!”
After the nurse left Celia looked hard at Bruno’s face. “Your eyes look funny,” she said.
“I got them to give me a pain pill.”
“Aches. My back aches.”
“They don’t know what they’re dealing with,” she said. “You don’t have back aches.”
Minda came through the door. She established jurisdiction so Celia left.
Only Malcolm had been willing to take up with Bruno for a time after that. Minda moved in with her parents for a year.
Bruno and Malcolm squatted in an abandoned Airstream on Future Street. They saved coffee cans to shit in and took the cans to the river to empty. They went to Won’s for a bottle. They had been happy.
They owned nothing worth having — nothing that couldn’t be left behind. At night Malcolm and Bruno dreamed of the owls at night, the doves at dawn and the cawing of blackbirds flying in storms. They both knew the exquisite serenity of day opening into night opening into day.
There was no water in the pipes so they bought distilled water in plastic jugs believing distilled water must be better for them. They pirated electricity from a neighbor’s house through connected extension cords.
They heard day and night the annoying traffic hum from the Golden State. During the Santa Ana winds they heard a train.
In late afternoons the shadows from the poinsettias made the house walls look as if they were wallpapered. They had a yard full of yellow grass and Placebo lived in it. There was a lot of dog shit in the yard.
Malcolm and Bruno felt ho-hum.
They went into the yellow grass in the yard and picked up psilocybin mushrooms the dog had dug up and they looked at the dog. Placebo looked all right so they took the mushrooms back into the house and put them into a blender and mixed in some milk and emptied a packet of pink milk flavoring for children with a drawing of a rabbit on it with crazy eyes into the blender. They drank the mixture but nothing happened to them. They still felt the same except really creepy.
Malcolm’s car’s clutch was slipping so they drove to Mac Arthur Park in Bruno’s 1955 push button transmission torque engine low rider Plymouth Belvedere to score smack.
The Belvedere’s instruments were housed in a red and white vinyl dash that also secreted a gas gauge, an odometer, an oil gauge, and a speedometer, the push buttons to change gears and a hard plastic-headed lever.
An electric cord hung out of the engine through the grille. Bruno had lived in New Mexico and he used to plug the radiator into an electric heater to defrost it. Bruno liked the electric cord and left it hanging even though he did not have to defrost the radiator in Los Angeles.
They drove surface streets. Near the park were once handsome bungalows built in the 1920s, now decrepit. Old brown men wore cowboy hats. Mexican women pushing strollers passed in front of the houses. Malcolm thought about going to Mexico. He had gone to a commune in Baja to raise alfalfa but no one planted any. One of the old timers took one of the girls for a ride on his horse but he had a heart attack and died. No one knew what to do with the body. They left it next to the horse.
Malcolm parked on the street and walked towards the crowd near the boathouse but they saw a line of policemen walking towards the crowd. The policemen wore clear plastic face shields and held stun guns.
“No rubber-necking,” Malcolm said. They turned and walked back to the Belvedere and got into it and headed to Mexico, leaving Placebo to fend for himself. They would have felt better if Placebo was a cat because cats would do fine alone. They told each other Placebo was a cat.
The sun wobbled on the horizon, stretched into an oblong and set. Bruno left the five on an exit road. There were no lights and no other cars. They drove through thick dark air.
Ravel’s interpretation of “Pictures at an Exhibition” played on the car radio. Jarring cavernous piano notes concluded the first joy of a day entering a room full of beautiful paintings but the joy came back again and again. The Plutonic despairing angry chords interrupted joy. Frivolous happy emotions triumphed.
“I don’t see how anyone could have taken that turn,” Malcolm said. He said it again.
The road they were on went north. Malcolm believed Bruno’s true intention was
to drive to Michigan, to Canada and thence to the North Pole.
“We have to go back to the Golden State,” Malcolm said. “We don’t know where we’re going. We’ll get lost.”
They might have been in Arizona after that. The Belvedere went off the road so they parked there and both went back to sleep. When they woke the next day Malcolm kicked the car tires viciously and got behind the wheel.
In the afternoon of the next day Malcolm pulled up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps Bruno thought there’s a rich life around us only we can’t recognize it because it’s meaningless to us: saguaro cactus textured like embroidery, Gila monsters, coyotes, desert rats and red-tailed hawks.
“We stop for gas quite a lot,” Bruno said.
“We’re barely making it from pump to pump.” Malcolm said.
A tall beautiful white woman with short black hair walked out of nothing and appeared by Malcolm.
“There are A-rabs around here,” the woman said to him. “They’re gonna bomb New York City.”
“Yes?” Malcolm looked at the gas station, the telephone poles, the railroad track, the dirt, and the sky with wires drawn through it from the telephone poles with small black birds sitting on the wires like notes on a music score.
Malcolm screwed in the top to the gas tank. He wiped his hands on a paper towel and threw it in the trash barrel.
“They have heller-copters watching us, black heller-copters,” the woman said ominously.
Bruno went inside the station to pay. The beautiful woman followed him inside.
“Tell him!” The beautiful woman said to the clerk, an ectomorph who also had short black hair. Her name was typed on a sliver of cardboard pushed through a plastic sleeve and pinned on her white blouse. She was Psycho Sally.
“How do you get here?” Bruno asked her.
Sally walked around the counter and opened a door. On the other side of it stood two mobile homes. Telephone wires entered the structures at the tops. There was a large propane gas tank.
Bruno took the change and left the building and walked towards the car. Malcolm turned a dial. The Belvedere whooshed and rose a foot off the ground and sank back down. The car started up and circled the station and went behind it. Bruno ran after the car. Malcolm drove slowly at the propane gas tank.
“Y’all going to kill people doing that!” The beautiful woman yelled and Malcolm braked. Bruno opened the door and sat in the car.
Bruno asked. “Are you going to stop this?”
“I didn’t mean to do it,” Malcolm said. “It has push buttons instead of a transmission. Whoever heard of a car like this?” Bruno thought that small things, miniature things, medium-sized things and sometimes quite large things all turned to shit when Malcolm was involved.
Once they had a poster business on Sunset, the Offset Onset. They made posters for the Beach Boys but the Beach Boys refused to pay them because they put the wrong dates on the posters so they kidnapped the Beach Boys’ manager and drove him to the bank to make him get the money out of the bank. The man’s wife asked to stay behind so Malcolm said okay and she phoned the police. Bruno called Malcolm an ass hole and punched him in the face. Malcolm hit Bruno on the head and called him an asshole. The Beach Boys did not press charges.
After Malcolm and Bruno had driven away from the gas station they saw Sally running alongside the Belvedere waving a gun at them so they felt that they must be in Texas and that they were driving too slowly. Malcolm sped up.
They stopped at a beach resort and each rented a room with a balcony. Â Below the balconies was a swimming pool.
They sat on Bruno ‘s balcony drinking Bacardi and rum with ice. Malcolm pushed back his chair and left to find a wife.
Three Americans – one woman and two men – were in the pool. Underwater lights made the water turquoise and incised it with lighter moving lines like the spaces between the wires in a cyclone fence. Â Planted palm trees were lit with electric lights at their bases and looked primordial and as ancient as cycads.
One of the men in the pool nuzzled the woman’s shoulder with his face and the other man pretended he didn’t care. The woman laughed and pulled herself out of the pool. The man who didn’t care joined her.
Bruno heard Malcolm’s and a woman’s voices in the hallway and the door to Malcolm’s room closed. He rolled a joint in his fingers. He lit it with a match and considered possibilities. A woman on another balcony loudly promised she was going to give up drinking.
Bruno left his room and took the elevator to the lobby and went past the manager standing behind a polished fake wood barrier and out into the street. He walked to the beach and crossed the sand to the edge of the water.
A Mexican man stopped him and asked in English how he could be of service. Bruno asked for codeine. A shot sounded above them. They both looked up. Electricity sparked from an overhead wire. The Mexican said with resignation, “It’s decomposed.” The man went away. Bruno stood where he was because he didn’t know what else to do. He couldn’t see much in the darkness. A wave broke and reached the shore with a sigh like his dog at bedtime after a long hot day in the dirt under the stairs.
A sound of feet on sand grew loud and a hand softly took his arm. If the hand belonged to a woman Bruno would grow in her heart like a rose but he saw that a man’s hand was close to his face. The hand held an amber plastic vial with an American pharmaceutical company’s name on the label and with white pills inside of it. Bruno put his hand in his pocket and took out twenty dollars.
Bruno walked to the hotel. The manager lit candles set in ruby glasses with a lighter and handed him a candle in a ruby glass to take to his room.
He went up three flights of stairs back to his room and unlocked the door and went inside. He poured water into the bathroom glass to swallow the pills. He didn’t hear anything from Malcolm’s room.
He sat on the balcony. The air was warm and salty. Palm fronds rustled. Someone knocked at the door. He opened the door with anticipation but it wasn’t a woman. The manager stood in the hallway with a menacing shadow behind him. He held in front of him a silver tray. On the tray stood a bottle of rum and a white dish with ice in it.
It was all right Bruno thought. If he were to grow in a woman’s heart he would take his shirts to the Laundromat and iron them wrong so that would have to pull at his cuffs frequently to make them reach his wrists. Bruno and the woman would have children and he would lose them one by one in the grocery store. The children would pull on his arms and ask for toys and he’d walk away in indignation at their greed and forget them in the store. He would need to have a great many children so he wouldn’t lose them all.
Bruno took the tray from the manager and reached in his pocket but the man said, no, it was a gift, one solitary man to another. Soltero. He said.
Bruno opened the bottle and filled a glass with ice and rum and went back to the balcony and looked up at the sky filled with stars. The air engorged with the perfume of gardenias.
He would buy a whore a gardenia from the stand in front of the movie theater down the street from the hotel and pin it to her red rayon blouse with a safety pin. The flower’s white skin would feel like her white skin under his fingers.
He reflected on his penis, a penis waiting for the luminous woman. He would put a flag outside on his balcony so she would know where to come.
The woman on the balcony on the other side of the swimming pool once again promised she was going to give up drinking.
He looked in a drawer in the stand next to the bed. Inside the drawer were a Gideon’s Bible, pink hotel stationery and a turquoise ink ballpoint pen. He brought in one of the chairs from the balcony.
The first level of the penis is ordinal, he wrote, exclamatory and the color blue. The second is colored violet, a two-bit punk, smooth to the touch like coins. The third is canary and chrome yellow when it is in the thirty-third dimension. Three is the philosophical divisions of all things: fire, air and water, Heraclites and the Holy Trinity. The fourth level is green as mint. The fifth is blue-grey stalagmite and the sixth is a fuzzy brown caterpillar winding into seven; the soldier seven; eight is the woman; nine is steel gray like skyscrapers. Nine is also a parakeet with blue-gray feathers and a tiny trembling heart a cat can capture and eat. Ten starts over with the penis and the mouth of the womb. This is where numbers come from: the penis.
He then crossed out all the words and wrote again something shorter and then he started removing words getting the writing shorter and shorter, honing and pruning, never resting, moving to the last word, which was the word fish and he turned into a fish and leapt into the swimming pool no longer judicious, no longer keeping from proper rest. The woman on the balcony leaned out and again promised to give up drinking.
If Malcolm came back — and Bruno thought he was going to come back — Bruno was going to tell him heaven will be like living was only you will be high all the time.