"Lo! those who go in awe for fear of their Lord,
And those who believe in the revelations of their Lord,
And those who ascribe not partners unto their Lord, And
those who give that which they give with hearts afraid
because they are about to return unto their Lord, These
race for the good things, and they shall win them in the
Underwear worn as outwear is indigenous to The
Haight, The 'Lower' Haight, downhill from gentrified,
retail-avaricious Ashbury; neighborhoods change. So, too, will this
one when the runoff—mostly youthful, racially mixed, a grab-bag
populace pierced, tattooed, and otherwise altered anatomically (not
to mention chemically)—is market-value priced from its
rent-controlled asylum. Password: tolerance. Live-and-let-live
intermixed with I-me-mine-centricity sues for a patchwork style of
peace wherein multiple roommates prosper... Z's among those gathered
at the Daily Grind Cafe.
No way! It's
death that fuels religion. We're scared shitless
'cause we die. We are while knowing that
we weren't and sure as last-gasp won't be.
Stymies consciousness; 'mortal dread,' I call it.
Rational minds freak out, which triggers all that
hocus-pocus of organized religions—including whacko cults like Harbin
'Herbal' Hot Springs. What
Greer stubs the life from a cigarette while
lighting up another (smoking disallowed
except at two of the cafe's outdoor back-porch tables) in what evidently
is a three-butt-long harangue.
I mean, let's
face it; life's a bitch and then we die. Does that make
sense? Take any reasonable brain and tell it how,
eventually, it's kaput, and watch it fabricate an escape
clause—plausible to absurd—because
intellect, faced with intellect's end, revolts. We're
fucking terrified; that's how faiths maintain their
Jesus loves you.
Judy titters at her housemate's short-fused
Duke, grown bored, peruses art (i.e.
graffiti) on the patio's roughhewn fence.
As Greer, post chug-a-lugging coffee, resumes
his one-track discourse.
To 'profess' religion is ridiculous;
to 'believe' it is inane; and to 'impose' it is an act
of out-and-out fanaticism! Z, for example.
You see? I told ya; Greer may
detour but he always circles back.
An evangelical loon if ever I met one.
That a quote?
Butt out! And Trouble—capital T.
I vote we oust her.
That's not fair. It isn't her fault some creep's after
is it, then? You know zilch.
We all know zilch; that's why we called this little
Out walks Amy.
waiting in the front. What's up?
Been home yet?
Came straight here. Why?
Just as well.
Huh? What, what, what?
What's going on?
Had us a visitor.
So? I'm listening. "Had us a visitor." Who, where, when?
Like late last night, like at the
flat, like we're not sure.
"Not sure"? Come on! Who leaves a calling card like that
except a fellow holy-roller?
A calling card like what?
We think the guy that maybe did it is the same one
Pistol hails the group as he shags an extra
Hey, ol' home
week. All assembled? I got rid of it. What a stench!
Pop-topped the dumpster at El Quake-O and chucked it in.
Hosed down our stoop.
Will someone tell me, please, what's going on,
before I pee my pants?
That's right; you spent the night at...
Never mind where I spent the
goddamn night; just spit it out. What's this about? What
the fuck's gone down?
Skirting sallow auras of streetlamp light,
walks a solitary figure (male) that pauses... looks for
numbers... ducks into a doorway. He carries a paper sack replete
with air holes, contents stirring, making rustling noise that
the predawn stillness amplifies.
Unperturbed, the figure reaches with his gloved hand into the
bag, extracts a living creature, and holds it upside down by its
twist-tied feet. Wings flap. Neck cranes. An anxious
cluck-cluck, vented gutturally, quickens, escalates into
SQUAWKS, as—BANG, BANG, BANG—one wing is nailed, feathers to wood,
with a ball-peen hammer.
Another—BANG, BANG, BANG—ensures both wings are fixed in a
parody of flight by him who stabs the chicken's anus with the
long end of a crucifix.
Impaled, the bird aborts its outcries once divested of its head.
Nerves twitch. Blood spurts; the threshold (evacuated hastily)
drips with splattered gore.
Residents rally, rush in tandem to the scene... to find the
evidence of a trespass—its perpetrator vanished.
Ooh, how gross!
Downright disgusting. Chicken
shit everywhere. Whew; some stink! We shoulda cleaned
that mess up then, 'steada waitin' till this morning.
Who stuffs Jesus up a
slaughtered chicken's ass to get a chuckle? What we've
got is a ritual killing—done by a former bosom buddy
of our incognito roommate.
Where is Z?
The term is AWOL.
You've not seen her, Amy?
No. Well, not since... Thursday night.
So no one here has seen her later than yesterday?
Nods all around.
You think this
sick-o maybe grabbed her, Duke?
Nope; last night was a warning.
Yeah, for who; our occupant alien or for us?
My guess is both. And that's
precisely why we need to pool our information. Amy
It's not my fucking fault...
You dragged her home.
To help pay rent. As I recall, you
all took cuts of Etta's pre-paid fifth.
We'll reimburse her.
Yeah, we'll pay her back next
month when Etta comes home. She's cool about sublets.
Who's at fault is not the issue;
we're not fixing any blame, we're trying to 'fix' the
situation. So knock it off.
The squabbles cease, as each, in turn,
recites a personal thumbnail sketch.
I assumed she needed a place to crash, is all. She looked so
stranded. Had an accent, so I knew straight off, she was
foreign. Lebanese. Or is it Jordan that she comes from? I'm
not sure, now, which she told me. From a farm, though; she
knows plants and stuff, made Etta's potted orchid thrive. In fact, the two are sorta
similar—not their looks; I mean their moods. Both tend to
mope, take lengthy walks, keep mostly to themselves.
And that's why I assumed that Z would fit; just one more
quirky stray with no place else to go.
Said something about a camp, once. Not a Girl Scout camp,
I'll wager. We shook hands; her palms are calloused.
Maybe from farming. I'd say soldiering—gotta grip like a goddamn
grunt. And is it likely that a farmer
speaks a foreign language perfectly? She's a rich kid,
silver-spoon type, straight A student, grad-school
bound—until she dropped out, started mingling with some
hard-line, gung-ho militants. Speculation, I admit, but Z's
no goody two-shoes.
Well, she hinted that her dad was like some big shot.
Diplomatic service. Made her feel, you know, like a reject,
like some total disappointment. Really bugged her. Lots
o' things bug her. Like profanity; makes her cringe. And
like she's very prim and proper when it comes to being nude,
keeps totally covered, even blushes when she catches me in
the buff. What else? She's single, never married, and, a
sucker, I think, for sweets; and, if I'm not mistaken,
I think she's an only-child. But even if she's heaps
of trouble, I don't care; I like her.
Born Zahra Rahnavard, eight September, 1980, in Ankara,
Turkey. Passport issued in the city of Istanbul. And get
this tidbit; she has visas from a host of "evil empire"
countries. Right; I snooped. Why fool with guesswork when
there's access to the facts? If I spoke gibberish, I'd be
quoting from a letter signed by someone code-named "Homa."
I put that back, along with her International Driver's
License, her TCs—Z's near broke—and a dog-eared paperback,
underlined extensively, of "The Glorious Koran" or some such
nonsense. As for comments about her character, we've barely said hello.
Thought runaway, at the start. Looked young. Been around,
though. Knows things. Done 'em. Get the feelin' Z's seen
action. Like my uncle; served in Nam. He has this cold-fish
look that says "don't ask;" like you really don't wanna know, and
if you press him he mums up. The same with Z. I felt like punchin' her out a coupla times; she's snooty, cops this
attitude. But I figured it's just armor; underneath, she's
not so tough. I'd be her friend but she reminds me of a dog,
gets hit by a truck; you try to lend a helping hand, you get
it chomped. That's my take on Z, a