I know I haven't updated in a bit. I've been working on four different chapters. Oh, and I've been lazy. Still here's an excerpt from a chapter I've been working on injecting into the middle of the already completed chapters... here's the new Chapter 7...
Night, Day 15: Mack Rises
“Do you know why we pledge allegiance to our flag, Mack?”
Mack’s eyes creaked open, feeling piggishly pink and swollen with disuse. He tested his atrophied eyelids cautiously, blinking snapshots of his surroundings as he lolled his head from side to side. The language of his movement repeated to the world, motion for motion, what his body was telling him: no.
“It’s part of a process. You little ones, lined up front to back, standing, your hands held earnestly over your tiny hearts.” Mrs. McGillis said. She hunched forward, her elbows on her knees, the wooden chair beneath her creaked a melody to the harmonious backdrop of her groaning old bones.
Mack could picture the new schoolhouse and its river of sparkling pale green tiles lying flat and thick with polish over the length of floor, slipping down the long rectangular corridor and around the distant bend. The squalling notes of his pounding tennis shoes shot out like sparks from his heals as he ran the empty afternoon halls, wide-eyed and laughing, his mouth open. The heavy wooden doors with their thick glass windows, the kind filled with chicken-wire mesh to tornado-proof them, whooshed past the corners of his eyes, the second-hand sunshine from the classrooms oozing out to cast a soft light into the halls. His even-cut mop of dark brown hair bounced as he laughed and turned, and skidded through corners. Davey Gimble was miles behind, his own bubbling joy bouncing off the rows of white-washed cinderblocks.
“Before you could read you were inducted into the screwball idea that everything that flag represents is good. Bear in mind that, at the time, you had no concept of good or evil. You understood praise and punishment, and every day you were compelled to praise those stars and stripes, vocally and before God himself. That’s some serious shit, Mack.”
An uncased electric fan pushed hot air over Mack’s body, evaporating the sweat from his skin. He felt broken, lying in the dark room. The muffled sounds of broadcast radio pushed through the thin doorway over Mrs. McGillis’ shoulder, buzzing like a well tuned bee against her tinny vocals.
“As a child, your logic is animalistic, base, assumptive. The primitive portions of your brain gather through observation, through stimulus, through trial and error mimicry.” She paused, unclasping the pocketbook on her lap.
“This is how a child learns to walk and talk and salute flags.” Her backbones snapped rhythmically as she straightened in the chair. The sound rose from the depths of her spine and it ascended like the clatter of daisy-chained firecrackers to the base of her skull. The racket rattled her medulla oblongata, a primitive portion of her brain. She pulled a slender pack of cigarettes from her pocketbook, displaying them like a magician who had just conjured a rabbit from the confines of an empty cap. Mack was in prime position to be sawed in half.
Shorts swishing, backwards and forwards around his scrawny legs, Mack ran as fast as his knobby knees knew how. Spelling tests and big-headed self-portraits ruffled in his wake as he careened towards the heavy set of double-doors ahead. He pushed hard, his lungs yanking for air, the burning muscles of his legs pitted against the open-hearted laughter of his mouth in a battle over where oxygen ought to go. He smashed into the left door, full-force, arms reaching. The heels of his palms blasted the handle forward, pushing the metal bar almost completely to the wood. He burst into the spring air and leapt, clearing the three steps down and a sidewalk square, landing in the grass. He staggered a few steps, slowing, pushing his hands against his haunches and doubling over to gather his breath. To harvest oxygen for all his parts that needed it. His rolling laughter faded to an uncontrollable red-faced grin, and he panted, reenergizing his body. Already he was storing up for the gloating to come. He turned to watch for Davey, perking his ears for his friend’s footsteps.
“It’s a process, drawing conclusions based on the incomplete statistical data your itty bitty brain gathered in those few short years. Do you know what that’s called, Mack?” She slid a delicate cigarette from the pack and coiled her lips around its filter. She cocked her head to the side, popping her jaw bone out of place briefly as she angled her face away from the fan. She produced a lit match, held her face to the fire and the tip of the cigarette crackled to life as she inhaled. “Inductive reasoning.”
“Consequently, you established convictions beyond the limits of your own understanding, drew conclusions with incomplete data, fabricated concrete systems of belief in a world without absolutes.” Your lower brain trumped your upper brain, and those convictions came to form the base of knowledge by which you would examine the world you live in.”
Mack rolled his head over the bump of his shoulder, facing the old specter. Her jaundiced skin glistened, sweaty and hot in the dim light that crept through the broken door jam and its gutted doorknob companion. The lines around her mouth drew tautly around the cigarette, forming a noose. Her yellowed fingertips clutched at the filter, though it never left the stranglehold of her lips, her hand splayed across her chin as she sucked smoke in and breathed smoke out.
“At the root of everything you hold to be true now are those formative years of development: hand pressed faithfully to your breast, repeating word for word admonishments of a society you knew squat about. Human beings, are compelled to define in linear terms this alinear universe using a less than linear method of crunching figures. You see? All those ones and zeros? The limitations? Never allowing for the possibility of twos. That is the flawed clicking of an imperfect animal apparatus.”
Mack opened his mouth, the dehydrated ridges of his lips were stuck together with old spit and blood. He pried them open, stagnant air sank past his teeth dragging the stale smoke of Mrs. McGillis’ cigarette. His lungs pushed air to form words, but the frog croak that crawled out of his throat failed to express any sort of opinion at all.
Davey’s laughter buffeted against the solid doors, the rhythm of his feet joining the cascade of noise as he neared his destination. Mack stood up, his cheeks still flushed, and a thin sheen of sweat dampening his brow. He wiped his face with his hands, trying to hide his labor, trying to hide how badly he had wanted to win the race. Mack charged back up the stairs, wedging the sole of his shoe into the base of the double doors where the crack split the entrance. He set his shoulder into the wood and bent his back leg, bracing himself, grinning a stupid youthful grin, calculating the physics of comedy. He could hear Davey drawing nearer, his laughter, his footsteps, his hands pounding into the metal bar, the click of the latch, his body hitting the door, the crack of his round freckled skull bouncing off an unexpected wall, and the dull thud of flesh, blood and bone against polished floor. Then, silence.
“Men create opposition. Ideologies do not come into conflict with one another, only bodies which define themselves ideologically can. The concepts of capitalism can’t knife socialist tenets in a dark alley. There has to be a hand in the mix. A collectivist farm plan can’t poison an up trending stock market. It takes a KGB agent sticking a syringe a stockbroker’s muffin to do that. You see?”
The ash lengthened on the end of Mrs. McGillis’ cigarette, long and gray, bending with the pulsating breath of the fan. Mack worked the muscles in his throat, trying to slide the coagulated phlegm from the back of his mouth across the dusty pipes of his throat. He spread his jaw and pumped his tongue like a derrick drilling for saliva, for lubrication. He agonized.
“Davey?” Mack whispered, his lips pressed against the crack. “Are you okay, Davey? Say somethin’!”
He shuddered as he heaved the door back, warily prying it open, afraid for what he might find. Davey was lying flat on his back, arms and legs perfectly straight, like a toppled action figure. Blood puddled outward from his head, and came in trickling cranberry waterfalls from his bent nose. He lay on his back, eyes blinking, chipped-tooth mouth searching for words.
Blood and silence.
Davey shuddered, a high pitched gurgle rose from his insides, crickets and iced milk in a martini tumbler. Chirping, sloshing, screaming. He sat up, the hair on the back of his head heavy with blood, he grabbed at his face smearing the long crooked lines of blood into even rosy streaks over his freckle-spotted face. He looked at his hands in disbelief. His jaw dropped, and he sat, jagged mouthed and howled into the emptiness of the school. Mack slammed the door shut and ran, over the field towards the crouched blackberry thickets of the wood line.
“Authority is a savage affair. You can’t make an omelet without raping a few chickens. That’s the trick of government isn’t it? Making the chickens proud, grateful for getting fucked, so long as someone looks like they’re keeping the foxes out of the coup. In order to govern the powers that be have got to maintain the ruse of purpose, and so they make you swear up and down your whole life that the government you’ve got has all the answers, that it’s the best damn thing out there in a terrifying world of violence and desperation, that you got lucky to live under thumb of such a benevolent giant. They get folks crying Commie, crying fascist, crying terrorist, rapist, pedophile, dissident, rabble-rouser, thief, liar, the list of foxes goes on and on. They get chickens clucking at shadows in the dark. What about
? Well, Mack, even free-ranged chickens get fucked.” America
The long ash flaked off of her cigarette landing on the polka-dotted short sleeve of her dress. She puckered her lips, tilting the remnant of filter and tobacco upward. Her lips curled tightly at the corner before the black hole of her mouth popped open snapping the burnt wick of the cigarette up. She swallowed quickly, the inky smoke of burning flesh escaping her pinched nostrils in two quick puffs.