by Leslie VanExel, Jr.


                 Throughout Carter's attempts to be deviant socially inappropriate, and morally depraved, this was the first time he felt any uneasiness.  He wasn't used to being in a position where he lacked control, not that it was the drugs, since it was their taking over of his faculties that attracted him, but a more or less an odd feeling that he was doing something he'd rather not be doing.

                Carter did care about his life, it would be stupid not to, but his station in life, ever secured by a dual income household, was unimportant.  He could get clothes, food, a bed to sleep in, even good grades (if he was concerned with them,) so he sought out the cures for boredom, in stylistic adolescent fashion, by doing the "shit worth doing", in other words, the means to be somewhat amused in an otherwise dull existence.  His concern went about as far as sustenance; everything else he did: the drugs, alcohol, vandalism, breaking and entering, possession of narcotics with the intent of distribution, possession of stolen property, grand theft, etc., were all performed out of the slightly numb stupor of not having anything better to do.  Through the tingly skin, fast forward feeling of whatever it was he took, he was actually wondering whether or not he really wanted to be in this predicament.

        He never questioned his placement in such situations.  Like when he tagged along for a gang retribution quest, the acts he performed he neither accepted nor denied, but participated.  He had never felt the slight crackling resistance, then mushy give of shattering someone's bones with a steel pipe.  It was a weird feeling reminiscent of playing softball in elementary school.  That made him smile and get into his work with the satisfaction of pleasant childhood memories.  He was always a fair batter, and although the stance and swing positions were slightly different, he maintained a swing that resembled hitting low balls. Bringing in his shoulders, he used the momentum of his body, trying to get the maximum power at the point of contact.   He could no longer tell what he was hitting, everything was kind of pulpy by then, but getting into the swing was much more entertaining. The line up, eyeing the general area, swing!  (Always keeping an eye on the ball.)  Then contact!  A crisp clean hit with no vibration, no wasted energy.  He could tell even without the resounding pank from the pipe.  Breathing heavily through a grin, he took a moment to rest and shake off the pipe.  After a few more swings he found it more effective to wipe it off on one of

the clean spots on his object’s clothes.  He stretched his neck side to side, knocked the pipe against the side

of each boot, set up his stance, and continued.  Rhythmic and simple, he kept his movements clean and


         Even in his current situation, he could see that performing a mechanically perfect act was a goal he sought.  But as he tried to maintain rhythm and simplicity, he felt a question itching in the back of his head.  Through the “out of his skin, but drowning within his flesh” feeling of manufactured stimulants, the why of his predicament crept belly low over and through the crevasses in his brain.  He could feel the retracted claws throwing up puffs of dust in his head.  Skulking and seeking its prey the why tracked him through his head.  And as he watched it, hearing it pad across his parietal lobe, he could feel another predator creeping up through his back.  Under the skin and over each vertebrae, he could feel anxiousness clack-tapping up his bones; buzzing, harmonizing with his body.  Soaking in through his marrow and flesh, it swallowed the uneasiness, merging with it and making a pure unity.  It unfolded his stomach, flapping it in the wind, both tickling and taunting.  As it emerged through the folds, he recognized fear, and with this recognition, his mind was pulled within, and he feared the drawn back ears of why. Its angular aggressive face, always seeking, searching.  Once the emotion was named, he not only feared the why, but he feared the fear itself.

Why slapped and teased him; shocked and sweating, he could only watch and feel the sting of disgrace on his face.  Anxiety gripped his head, pulling and pushing, throwing him back and forth, dominating his body.  He complied without resistance, speeding up his rhythm to an uncomfortable flurry.

He had to finish, overwhelmed with the need to be over with this experience.  Picking up the pace in response to the anxiety clinging fast to his shoulders, he shut his eyes; to block out just the sight, in hopes of giving peace to his fear.  The darkness left his senses helpless against the patterned sounds, soft and warm, like the swishing of water but penetrating through his face, into his brain, to spread throughout his body.  He couldn't shut the sound out, and sped up to a frenzy, barely able to retain a rhythm as the anxiety clutched tightly to him, digging into his skin, trying to climb inside his shell, with the noise pounding against his skull, numbing his brain and weakening his defenses.  He couldn't endure much more.

He felt it lick at the back of his throat, teasing and hot, licking all over his mouth, lolling a waging tongue upon his teeth, clinging to the ridges on the roof of his mouth.  He inhaled deeply through his nose, sucked hard, and swallowed.  As he exhaled, the din of muffled music returned and blasted the anxiety from him.  Reassured by a muddled mind, he stood.  Amid exaltations of praise and desire, he turned, walked out the open stall, and returned to the music that surrounded, isolated, and protected him.