Listening to Pinch, Can
Scored on the white elephant game, the potent bourbon punch, and the chili.
The chili was full of protein--beef and beans so not proper chili--and took the edge off my hypoglycemic anxiety. I downed a glass of punch before I grabbed some chili, so I was primed (a couple of gummies ingested a half-hour before didn't hurt) and scarfed that shit.
For the white elephant game, I drew number eight. A few days ago I learned that the number eight is considered lucky in Chinese. Seemed like a good omen.
My contribution to the game was a clearance mini Crock Pot that I picked up while grocery shopping. No one wanted to steal it from the nine-year-old girl who picked it. After the other seven people went, I stole the Crock Pot from her. She ended up with a couple stained glass pieces, one that resembled a bird and another that, I swear, looked like a corona virus. Good times.
Nicole ended up with my Crock Pot and a tiny Le Creuset-like dish she captured on a second steal. Eight seemed to work out well.
Happy Holidays. This excerpt is from Book 3.
Twinkling on every line that defined him, Flynn rode the surf of the voices that broke on all sides. “Do things—even elementary particles—contain some kind of program or DNA that directs them to those equations, to behave in that way? Are those numbers embedded in the system?”
“Whaddya mean, embedded in the system? Like, is the government behind this?” Ra-Ra rambled on shaky wheels, not staying on track at all.
Smiling and still waving her hand in front of herself, Emma replied, “The Illuminati. They’ve harnessed the power to manipulate matter and energy. It started with fluoride in the water.”
Ra-Ra jumped up and twirled around the room. “I knew it!”
Flynn was digging what Emma was saying, adding thoughts into it, improvising a view of the Universe in his moment with mushrooms. “So, you brought up quantum physics, string theory, none of which I know very well. What I do know is that, at any given moment, we can determine how a particle is charged or its relative position, but we can’t know both. Yet, that particle is both. Position and potentiality, both of which describe the Universe, at least that minute part of it. Quantifiability. If something isn’t quantifiable, why measure it? But we do, whatever it is, just to confirm our own suspicions about how something… anything works.”
“Ha! Yes!” Emma was feeling sweetly rolled with concepts and questions, tingling all around by what she was hearing. “Something’s missing. Always.”
“And, if something’s not considered, it doesn’t exist to us.” Flynn's smile revealed a perfect set of teeth.
“The world is all that is the case. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. Wittgenstein.” Emma’s heart raced slightly within the tightening bubble of their mutual attraction.
There was something to Emma that reminded Flynn of his mother, something wild and dangerous; something that told him that he’d have to get his own breakfast in the morning. He suddenly wanted to be taken to her bosom and smothered, to be reminded that he mattered; that he was wanted. To feed from a nipple and grasp the skin of she who held him. He felt himself wanting to wrap himself around Emma and get lost inside her.
A desultory Wom! rushed through the room and vibrated into the corners, settling in as Hello, It’s Me created an eddy of swaying bodies in the room. Smiling as it happened, Emma’s voice pierced through. “Everything can be known but not known at the same time. Or vice-versa. Or something.”
“Yeah, dude, but what we do know is that the universe behaves just like we thought it would, based on the initial equation. So isn’t that weird? It’s like everything, from snails to galaxies, follow the same pattern. If everything was just random chance… I mean, it is but it seems like it isn’t. Like God really is in the numbers.”
Ra-Ra leapt up and gyrated around the room, “That’s fuckin rad! Whoo! Whoo! Emma and our friend Flynn just used science to explain God! Quantum particles and shit! Yo! Ya’ll hear that?”
From the ether where he floated, Dave shouted, “Heresies! We must have an inquisition! Iron Maidens and flaming nipple clamps! Whipped cream for everyone! Whippets!”
Whisper rose and glared at Flynn. “Too deep for me. I’m goin to the kitchen cuz I got things to do rather than say,” then marched away with something stuffed high up her ass.
Wanting to jump on Emma, stick his tongue down her throat, dry hump and grope her and hope she’d be convinced to get naked, Flynn looked at the people around him and decided against impulse. Ra-Ra and LA Tina and the Robert Plant-looking guy—who’d since moved from floor-gazing into curling up with Delilah and moaning his dog language into her ear—Flynn saw it was probably not a great audience for hormones sizzled on a griddle.
“Flynn, you rock brah!” Ra-Ra rose and twisted again, as though she needed to screw herself into the sky or was a Dervish in search of some rhythm to spin to. “I gotta help Whisper. But yo, I’m glad you found us,” then flitted into the kitchen on wings of patchouli and shredded denim, leaving the two alone again.
The flow of numbers through this 3-D experience interrupted Flynn’s tenuous grasp on controlling his libido. “I like these numbers,” he whispered seductively. “One and one…”
Emma nodded slyly, “And Dez, over there on the floor, having a discussion with Delilah.”
Whisper bellowed from the kitchen, “Cake and ice cream, everybody! And sing Happy Birthday! Emma! Get your big ass in here, girl!”
Emma tilted her chin and smirked to indicate that Flynn should come, that a nice, sweet piece would be waiting for him if he did. Someone suggested that The Don put the Beatles’ “Birthday” on for the occasion but Emma told him, “I want China/Rider. You pick the show.”
By the time he was served, Flynn had heard various partiers talk about the ounce-or-so of bud that went into Whisper’s cake and icing. Even with a glop of vanilla ice cream soaking in, the grassy marijuana taste was overwhelming and omnipresent. After washing dessert down with homebrew, he returned to the living room where The Don worked on a Guinea pig-sized piece of cake and ice cream. “Awesome place, awesome party, bro.” Flynn shoved his hands in his pockets and balled up his fists, “You gonna put your mix back on after this?”
“You don’t like the Dead?” The Don asked as he gobbled down his pot cake.
“I love the Dead! A Dead show is like… no other experience in life. And I love the music, it gets stuck in my head all the time. But I wouldn’t say I was a Deadhead, per se,” air-quoting Deadhead without a hint of irony. “But, I love other bands too. If they toured 200 days a year, I’d be a Beatles-head. I’m just not one of those All-Dead-all-the-time Deadheads.”
The Don was still digging into his plate of sugary slop. “I don’t know any Deadheads like that. All the heads I know listen to all kinds of shit. We’re diverse in our tastes, more so than most other people, I think. Look at all the different musicians that the Dead have toured with, played with. Diversity is in our DNA, man.”
Flynn shifted from glib to awkward, as though he’d inadvertently revealed some racist corner of himself. “You have to admit there’s some Heads who are… a little too… militant? In their desire to hear the Dead all the time? Like, almost always. Like… Allison. I try to put on something different, Björk or Son Volt or Oasis and she’s like, ‘Can we hear that Red Rocks show again? Or some Steve Miller?’ I mean, along with Janis and Santana and Airplane and all those other Bay Bands, it’s like this kind of Deadhead who thinks Heaven was invented by Jerry and the boys in that house in Haight-Ashbury and San Francisco was the result.”
“Yeah.” His finger in the air, The Don nodded as he finished his mouthful of cake. “I know what you’re talking about. ‘Go Niners-slash-Giants, I sure could use some salt-water taffy.’ Not nearly as obnoxious as the Cubby Deadheads, though. Inside Baseball, indeed. So what’s your point?”
“Your mix is superb, bro! Dude, I’ve heard nothing but great cuts since I arrived.”
After taking Flynn into his head for a moment, The Don grumbled, “You should talk to Gooch. He mixed the music for this party. You two might hit it off. He’s definitely not a Deadhead.” Pointing Flynn the way, The Don appeared as if a hairless Frank Zappa had his own Saturday morning cartoon from the early 1970s.
Stumbling back to the kitchen, Flynn was blocked by a jittery and sketchy Casper. “Bro, man… I know you came here with Allison but she’s like, really comin on to me, bro. I mean, man.” Casper looked earnest and apologetic, begging for an OK.
“Go for it, man.” Happy to dump the responsibility of keeping her entertained off on someone else, Flynn sealed his approval with a bro shake. “She’s all right. Just a little crazy.”
Gooch caught that and snorted, “Who isn’t? You don’t know where you landed!”
“The Don tells me you’re not a Deadhead? What?!? And they didn’t drum you out of town?”
“They sure as shit try with their damned drum circles every summer. I take it you’re not a Deadhead, either. So what do you think of all this, the 3-D Ranch, our little town?”
“Methinks yon city boy doth not want long to be in this shire,” Dave raged from his darkened corner. “Like them who said,” Dave switching to a falsetto voice, ‘Oh, tis a grand place to ‘ave a ‘ome.’ And then shat everywhere. And, when the knaves couldn’t handle winters here, left us. Roofs caved in from snow load, the town worse off than when the bastards arrived.”
Gooch waved Flynn to the porch after tilting his billboard-sized forehead in the direction of Dave’s voice. “Dave and The Don can get a bit overboard,” filling his beer, keeping his voice down. “Especially with their libertarian-slash-rugged-individualist shit. ‘True mountain people’ I call them, that mindset. ‘I got mine, fuck off.’ That attitude has never worked in this town, by the way. Yeah they’re hippies, total Deadheads, but off-the-grid crazy with their leave-me-the-fuck-alone ethos.”
“Gotcha. And our twin brothers are also really into that Tolkien-esque, medieval-speak thing? Methinks tis a bit much.” Flynn suddenly became aware that all night he’d said things he wished had stayed in his throat.
“LARPers, SCA stuff, Society for Creative Anachronism? The kingdom of Atenvelt crest is right over the kitchen door.” Flickers of Flynn’s cynicism made the visitor more agreeable to Gooch.
“Ah, that makes sense. Do they do Ren Faire? LARPers back home are huge into that. Every summer for like, six weeks.”
“Shit yeah. Dave and The Don, a few other people who live up here. They work all winter so they can have summers free to get their Ren Faire on. The twins mind their parents’ store while mom and dad snowbird down in Arizona.” With a tip of his pint, Gooch indicated the two should return to the warmth of the kitchen. “Most people around here spend their winters plowing the pass or working up in Chi-Chi, raking in good money to be out in sub-zero weather and 60 miles-per-hour winds at two in the morning. Work-and-freeze their asses off all winter so they can spend their summers hitting each other with rattan sticks while wearing clothes weaved on looms and spinning wheels. And leather cured from whatever deer they poached last winter, taken off the king’s land.”
“That’s wild. I mean, cool. I mean, I want that kinda freedom.” Flynn paused with mushrooms jangling his thoughts. “Do you hunt?”
“No. I used to with my dad and granddad, but I never had a flavor for it. Spotting something beautiful and then taking its life? Just didn’t seem like a good use of my time, especially since we could always buy meat at the store.” Gooch dripped tobacco juice into a plastic cup. “But about everyone up here hunts. In fact, you just missed the season. For weeks the town was full of Texans and other morons. We do good business up here. For a few weeks, everyone up here’s either a butcher, a taxidermist—or a stupid fuckin Texan. If you see a white plate, give it some hate. But they pay the bills.”
Flynn considered admitting his Texas roots but decided against it. His entire life he never felt like calling himself a Texan, never felt like calling himself anything, fine with reinventing himself as he went along, free from allegiance to an arbitrary identity endowed by an accident of birth.
“I was listening from the kitchen and heard some of what you were saying,” Gooch was looking at his shoes, watching laces become roots and set themselves into the kitchen floor. “Interesting, from what I heard. And understood. Algorithms built into things, ‘programming’ you called it. Then, I think you implied there must also be a master programmer.”
As he watched the kitchen’s floral-patterned wallpaper ripple in rhythm to Fat Man in the Bathtub, Flynn allowed his mind a moment to formulate an answer. His mother had been a C&E Methodist at best, and although she’d signed him up for the church bus, he knew she’d forget within a few weeks and he’d be back to playing alone in his room. Throughout childhood, God was just someone who never answered his prayers. Not an atheist in any sense, he just always had other things on his mind. It wasn’t until spring break of his senior year in high school—the first time he did mushrooms—that God came tumbling back into his mind like a jolly jester, uproariously laughing and singing and dancing and warmly embracing and filling the world with colors and shapes and numbers. In the midst of that trip, he made peace with something that he’d never understood and knew he never would. “Like Cantor dust? Flynn was still watching the wallpaper move, hoping that he wasn’t just babbling incoherently. “See what I’m sayin? Halve a line, then halve those lines and so on. Each resulting level is an infinity but smaller than the previous infinity by one. Yet, an infinity nonetheless. A universe of infinities, but still just numbers.”
Gooch’s expressions switched from curiosity to skepticism, swinging in the crest between his brow and his beard. “Your point? It seems you like when math works for you—in some weird magic way—but also, chaos is key. I don’t get it.”
“Don’t you see, man? Within those infinities are sets of numbers that determine how things will become. Why is that? I dunno but it seems like that order in the midst of chaos is pretty cool. And yeah, I believe there’s some kind of force behind it and to it, that certain things matter because… cosmic rules?”
“Cosmic rules? Certain sets of numbers or patterns, algorithms… yeah,” suddenly zoning out, the kitchen door blasting out colors in waves of rainbow. “Chaos Theory, General Systems Theory. Reiterative functions, how complex systems behave and become. Nondeterministic and deterministic at the same time. Wow. I’d never think of that. But it’s nonlinear differential calculus not the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz. There’s no magic in it.”
“I think there is magic in it and it’s part of a larger, unknowable mystery.” Flynn gleamed with the creepy self-assuredness of someone holding a battered Bible.
“Unfortunately, ‘magic’ and ‘unknowable mystery’ don’t give us much information about reality,” Gooch settled his beer as he sat on the counter. At the front door, Emma, Whisper, Indian Leo, Toothless Don and LA Tina were stomping off snow and shedding coats. As soon as she entered the kitchen, Emma wrapped herself around Flynn.
“You shoulda gone, Sweetpea,” Emma purred as she pulled Flynn into her big legs. “We were talking to the ghosts up on Monument Hill, our town graveyard. Froze our tits off.”
“So…” Ra-Ra pulled Flynn away from Emma and began poking his chest accusatorily. “Mistah Numbaz.”
“Numbaz! Noom-bahs! Room-bahs! Zoom-bahs!” Toothless Don scatted from his seat on the counter, his elven beard shimmying as he played bongos on his thighs.
“All these numbers you got tripping around in your head. I heard the Powerball jackpot is up to over $300 million. A record jackpot, broski. We should pick some numbers and play em.”
“Um. We don’t have Powerball in Colorado,” Dave spoke up, drawn out from the world where he resided. “Remember. This is a state where you can’t buy alcohol or cars on Sunday.”
“Yeah, but Flynn says he’s going to Delaware and they have Powerball, brah.” Ra-Ra snapped her dreadlocks back and forth as though she’d puree the room with her head. “We could all kick in and buy like, a hundred tickets, and he could get em for us.”
“Yeah…” Flynn wasn’t sure what was being asked of him, if she wanted him to pick numbers or buy everyone’s tickets. “I mean, I’m flying out early on Wednesday, and I don’t have to be at work until Thursday. So, I guess I’d have the time but… keeping track of everyone’s numbers…?”
“No. Dude. We come up with some numbers for fun, y’know? If we win, no matter what number gets picked, we all split the jackpot. Like that.” Ra-Ra clutched Flynn in her gaze, assuring him that everything would work out. “All for one, one for all? Diggity, brah, that’s why you’re here. With us. Right? This convergence. God and numbers and all this.”
All at once, Flynn’s mind was full of his car, the 3-D Ranch, mushrooms, beer, weed smoked and eaten, the people surrounding him with love—everything that had led him to the moment he was in. “I love it. It’s so this place.”
“Dank!” and Ra-Ra was dancing where she stood, rocking the kitchen floor with her stomping. “Who’s in?”
“How much?” LA Tina called out while fingering through her clutch. “All I have is twenty.”
“That’s ten tickets, if you pick a Powerball number and really, why wouldn’t you? Everyone who wants to do it has to throw in twenty,” Ra-Ra reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out a book of fives then slapped LA Tina’s twenty into the palm of her hand for the start of the pot. “Two of us. Flynn, you’re in, right?”
“Fuck yeah! OK, so we have thirty tickets…”
The Don pulled a small salad of bills from his pocket and found a twenty. “I’m in.”
“Forsooth, my brother! You always said it was a waste of coin!” Dave’s voice still seemed to come from the walls.
“Tis, but tis only for fun. Why not have some fun, my brother?”
“No thank-ee. I prefer odds that aren’t similar to that of a soft landing on the surface of the sun.”
“Eh,” The Don shrugged as he slapped the bill into Ra-Ra’s hand, “if I win, he automatically gets half, anyway. And if I don’t win, I get to hear about it the rest of my life.”