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from Rebels & Devils

Prologue: Flesh Warriors

by Christopher S. Hyatt, Ph.D.

"If you look into the eye of the Buddha be prepared to find everything and nothing---all at Once."
When he put the gun to my head at 16 I left home. I walked dark city streets littered with flashing lights and well filled hustler bars.

Everywhere I went I found the same thing. Fragile leather coats, sheep-lined suede, ripped tweed, family restaurants stacked with white gravy-stained coffee cups.

Humans moving around, each propelled by something unknowable to them, each going in a direction unique to that person's experience, yet each perversely similar.

When the sun passed an invisible line it was business as usual. Beautiful straight-nyloned women forgetting that some man, somewhere, was making millions constructing their coffins. Men in suits checking their zippers.

Once, a Rebbe asked his congregation why they had so little time to pray and follow Torah. They responded they were too busy making a living. He laughed, and said, "the graveyard is close enough, don't be in such a hurry to find a new one---slow down, it will catch up with you soon enough."

At 16 I didn't realize that I lived within the rushes of my mind, as if it had a reality beyond its own cutting room. There was a big sign on my forehead. "Owners permission required to enter."

My mother was a cripple. She got away with murder. She manipulated the entire world with the sight of her pretzeled hands. At five she dressed me in a pure white suit. I was handsome and proud and so was she. I thought I was a sailor, a captain of a great ship.

I was strong-willed, like her in so many ways. Her struggles were my struggles. I grew to hate her. She courted me, hoping that somehow I could fix her shattered life. Excited, I began to build a new world for us. My erector set and my trains filled with imagination and determination to straighten her feet and repair her bloated knees. I was strung out between hope and fear. I ran around the house chasing my dog with her used syringes. She removed the needles so I couldn't hurt myself.

I had a dream. I was sitting on a green bench in a lush park. She passed and sat next to me. She was beautiful. I asked her to marry me. I woke up. The dream terrified me. I still remember my erection.

Although she hated my father, their door closed on me every night. During the day I was her helpless Knight, at night her dejected suitor. My aunt suggested that I come and live with her, but my mother refused. Until her dying day she never forgave my aunt for asking.

I started my car and picked up Big Mike. The plan was simple. He had staked out an apartment, the guy would be at work. He would climb up the fire escape, and I would drive the getaway car. I was thrilled. When we reached the apartment I parked---the engine running at fast idle.

The car and I were shaking to different beats. I couldn't stop trembling. I felt that I was wearing out. I greased myself with a stiff swig. I saw Big Mike open the window and climb through. With one leg hanging out the window I was reassured by his smile. This was the first time I did anything like this. He and Huby had robbed a few stores at gun point. For him this was easy. For me it was living hell. This was the beginning of learning how to tolerate eternity. This ability would come in handy latter. The car door opened and Big Mike slid in. In his hand was a warm, worn bag overflowing with wrinkled clothes. I started to ask him what we got. He yelled, go man go. Safe, we began splitting up the loot. Each of us kept a piece of clothes. What was left was a broken watch and a few dollars in change. We bought some beer and Lucky Strikes, found an abandoned house and got drunk. It was night and we had other plans. About 8 or 9 of us were going to visit Claire. She was ugly but she would fuck anyone. Big Mike and I arrived late, five or six guys had already fucked her. Big Mike hopped in the car. A minute or so later he returned. "Next," was the cry. I pretended I was too drunk. I threw up.

I climbed through my bedroom window. No one heard me. I hid in the closet, shivering.

I sneaked into the bathroom, soaked the stolen shirt with cold water and washed. I hid the shirt under my bed. I wanted to masturbate, regret ting that I didn't fuck Claire with the rest of them. I couldn't. I got up early clutching the shirt to my chest and threw it into someone else's garbage pail. I felt safe. I was in control. My father wouldn't be home for another hour or so. I heard my mother call me. I went into her room. She lay in bed, two pillows propping up her head. She was always ugly in that position. I saw her twisted toes protruding from the blanket. Her big toe crossing over the next one like someone hoping for luck. I gently covered them. She reached for me with her flaccid claws. I could feel them on my back. I tried to hide my disgust, but she was too smart. She asked me to help her up so she could go to the bathroom. I flashed a smile wondering if I left a mess from the night before.

I got ready for school. My hangover would soon be eased from a hidden stash of Silver Satin. My grandmother had bought me a few bottles the day before. I could always get her to buy booze when my nerve failed. The cops had been hot looking for the guys who were buying booze and selling it to the good kids for a hefty profit. I would need all the nerve I could muster that day. It was my turn to buy that night.

I picked up Big Mike and a few other guys and drove. Everyone laughed at me for throwing up the night before just when it was my turn. Driving through the high school gate my tension rose. Everyday was hell. I wondered what would happen today. Big Mike knew he would be kicked out soon. All the teachers had it in for him.

We were a sight, stumbling out of the car, dressed in leather and heavy boots. Our hair was nicely greased. Big Mike had a curl sticking out over his forehead which jumped up and down as we strutted into the Principal's office for our lecture on tardiness. Big Mike laughed, while the Dean of Punishment wailed on. Big Mike saluted with a, yes sir, and we found our next class. All the hall monitors hung their heads as we walked by, all but one, who asked us where we were going. Big Mike smiled. "After school, punk." We kept walking. The school monitor chased us, Big Mike turned and punched him in the gut. He bent over and Big Mike kicked him. But for his muffled groan there was dead silence...

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