Chapter Eleven

War Journal

Entry # 2

Dear me,

This morning was berserk, pretty much as I'd expected. Even Poogli was stunned by the death of the Fonz; and I have to admit I'm not quite over it, either. I keep thinking I'll see him walk in the door, briefcase in hand, tie slightly askew. No explanations: just an immediate critique of napkin placement, followed by a hug for whoever set the table.

That was the thing about Fonzie: he wanted so badly to be all business, but his heart always got in the way. Usually after the fact, but you know what I'm saying. He couldn't spank you without kissing the fresh handprint on your ass. Macho buttercup. Ruff tuff creampuff.

Dumb dead sonofabitch.

Anyway (sniffle), I bring this up just to point out that he wasn't a total spaz. I loved him a lot, and I liked him, too. He was a very important part of my life. There'd be no Burrito without him - without that morning after the one night we made out, when he knew that I wasn't going to fall in love with him, but he knew that he wanted me in his life; and he said to me, all soul-puppy eyes, "Well, then, what can we do together?"

And I said, "Well, I'd love to do a restaurant..."

And now, I guess, that restaurant is mine.

But anyway. It was crazy this morning. But there was also the dream, which was what sent me scurrying kitchenward. Because Mikio had planted a seed in my head. I needed to dream for the seed to take root.

In the dream, Mikio was naked, and his unit was easily two feet long. He was using it to stir a big kettle of soup, and the kettle was adorned with charms. I remember that the stereo was playing "Jambalaya" I remember asking him what the fuck he was doing. He just smiled and said, "Won't you be surprised?"

I remember this raising a dream-eyebrow, and me brandishing a spatchula as long as my arm.

I don't know why I poured the soup on my head, except that maybe I just wanted it to soak into my skin. He smiled, then - he's so cute! - and the next thing I knew, I was licking his ladle.

He tasted just like curried chicken.

All of a sudden, I was wide awake, and Gene were snoring beside me. I was half-tempted to suck him off (don't he wish), just to get my bearings. But the idea was riveted in my head; and the more I laid there, the more it made sense. (An Ozian sense, to be sure; but when in Oz...)

So no, I didn't head straight over to Mikio's place. I hit work an easy hour before the rest of the gang, headed directly towards the kitchen. I had enough charms around the apartment to make experimentation a snap. I had the stereo design from my cool boy genius, which I'd already studied quite a bit. And I also had the hoof of poor Patsy the cow, who'd mysteriously disappeared about a year ago. (She'd lost the hoof when she was just a calf - snapped it off, trying to jump over the moon - but she'd saved it, all those many years; and for some reason, just weeks before she vanished, she'd come to the conclusion that she really, really wanted me to have it. So I took it. Who knows why these things happen?)

Anyhoo. By the time my crew showed up, the meat had been marinating for almost an hour; and by the time the crying was mostly done, I felt it was ready to cook up and serve.

But it wasn't until Gene showed up that I was ready to stage the test.

He came in, wearing the clothes I'd laid out for him, with a look of immense perplexity on his face. He's so funny - so observant and cool, but still totally living inside of his head - and it was clear that his vacation so far had him wiggin' out more than a little bit. The fact that I was playing Grand Funk Railroad didn't seem to faze him -  maybe "Closer to Home" was some kind of psychic balm - but he gave me a hug with no small boneage involved, and then let me lead him somewhat dazedly to a table.

Gene has, if nothing else, a discerning pallette (this is not a diss, but a thick slab of praise; he has lots more going on, but it's his sensory acumen that grabs ya). If this experiment had been a success, he'd be the first to tell me.

So I raced into the kitchen, and whipped up a heapin' helpin' of machaca con huevos, in the new Aurora style. The shredded meat and eggs and veggies smelled, to me, exactly right. I added a salsa I knew he'd like - hot and sweet like no peppers on Earth - and laid out some noomy root as garnish, the entire platter stylized as a japanese entree.

Then, praying that this wasn't some weird inversion of goomer cream - a thing that smells nummy, but tastes like shit - I sidled back to Gene's table with the experiment in my hands.

"Oh," he said, as the steam caught his nostrils. "Mmmm..." It was clear he hadn't eaten right in days. He gave me a look with those luminous eyes that said thank you thank you thank you, and I kissed him on the nose.

I can't tell you how utterly focused I was upon his reaction. From the first contact with his fork (a long-standing Ozian emplement, as well) to the time it touched his lips, I could feel the sweat welling up beneath my skin, feel my consciousness start to swim with astounding concentration. Why was it so important to me? Why had Patsy chosen to leave me her hoof? Why was Fonzie dead, before he could taste this? I had no fucking answers, and I have none now.

But I swear on every God I love that it was destiny I smelled at that table, in that moment: destiny once again, not so much cutting through the shredded meat but annointing it, like grace on a sainted soul. This was not just meat; this was some kind of solution, to a dilemma I am only now beginning to understand.

And then the fork actually reached his lips. And he actually chewed. And he actually swallowed. And the expression that actually took possession of his face was the one I'd been praying for with all my heart.

"Wow," he said. It was a start.

"What's it taste like?" I asked him.

He said, "What do you mean?"

I thought about that for a second. "I mean," I said, "well...what do you think you're eating?"

He had a fork en route to face. It wavered there, and his face turned suspicious. "Umm," he said, looking me straight in the eye. "What do you mean?"

"Is it good?"

"Well, yeah!"

"Does it taste familiar?"

"Well, kinda! I mean, I don't know what kind of peppers you're using..."

"But the meat?"

"I was gonna ask you about that.."

I could feel my heart sink. It must have shown in my face. "What??" he said, getting exasperated.

I didn't just want to come out and say it. I wanted him to say it first. I couldn't blame him for dodging my ball, but I really just wanted to slap him to death.

Summoning every scrap of grace and tact that existed in my body, I very slowly asked him, "The meat. Does it taste like any meat that you have ever had before?"

"Well, yeah!" he said. "And that's what had me wondering. I mean, it tastes just like beef, but..."

Whatever he said next, I couldn't hear it. I was screaming too loud.

And the word I screamed was, "YES!!!"

Now he looked real confused, but I was doing my war dance: a victory dance that had the whole room staring. "YES!" I hollered. "YES YES YES!!! AH-WOOOOO!!!"

Then I slammed down into the chair beside him, grabbed him by his unforked hand. I knew I was being a drama queen, but I just couldn't help it. Seize the motherfuckin' day!

"You know what you're eating?" I said, speaking fast, like a speed freak on a mission in a Tarantino film. "It's goomer meat..."

"No shit?" He reexamined his fork. "I had no idea they tasted like this."

"They don't!" I said, and he looked at me again. "I mean, that's the thing! Goomer meat is the most unobtrusive, flexible meat in all creation. It pretty much goes with anything, kinda like tofu on the hoof. The reason is that it just doesn't taste like much. There's not much going on with goomers, as a food or as a creature. They're like the biggest, furriest one-celled organisms I have ever seen."

Gene told me about his Dr. Seuss-like experience, and displayed a fine grasp of Oz's food chain politics. So I explained the theory behind Mikio's stereo, and then applied it directly to his rapidly-cooling meal.

"I'm guessing that marination is the key to the alchemy: giving the meat a little time to swim with the sacred object. Plus I throw in a couple of language bush leaves, to assist with the translation. So. If I can take the hoof of a cow and make goomer taste just like beef - and, you'll notice, it's not just the taste but the texture.." Gene nodded in agreement. ".then theoretically, I could take a chicken's beak and make goomer taste just like chicken!"

"Or marinate it with a human fingernail, and make it taste just like people."

"Exactly!"

Gene looked thoughtful for a moment. The food on his fork was cooling fast, and he ate it. Evidently, it tasted good.

"Are you sure you want to go there?" he asked me, after chewing. "I mean, ethically."

"I'm not worried," I told him. "We really don't taste that good."

He shrugged, and took another bite of machaco con goomer.

"Besides," I added, "and this is kind of the point: if you can duplicate any dish with just a little goomer meat magick, then you don't need to kill anything else! The pressure is off! Do you see what I'm sayin'?"

"Well, sure," he said, still negotiating his mouthful. "Unless you really want to kill."

Which, of course, threw me back on Rokoko, and our ugly conversation from a couple days back. I asked Gene if he'd read the pages, and he said, "No, but I got 'em right here..."

At which point, I went "AAAAUGH!" and shook him by the shoulders, just as he was hefting another forkload, which went flying all over the place. Before he could stammer out a protest, I took a deep breath and said, even and low:

"Gene. You gotta understand. There are no xerox machines in Oz. You're carrying around the only copy of my memoirs."

"I thought..."

"I said you should read 'em. I didn't say you should take 'em out for a stroll..."

"Aw, man. Jeez, I'm sorry..."

"It's like, that's my heart and brain you've got there." I should have stopped then, but somehow I just couldn't. "Would you really feel comfortable, carrying my heart and my brain around in your bag all day?"

"Okay." He was embarrassed now, rocking on the pivot between sorry and but now you 're pissing me off. I realized I still had my hands on his shoulders; and suddenly it was my turn to feel embarrassed.

"Listen," he said, as I backed off a step. This time, the deep breath was his. "I know you're kind of wired right now. And I'm sorry about your friend. But you have got to help me out here. I have no idea what's going on."

I nodded my head, felt the tears welling up, tried to will them back into my head.

"I mean," he continued, "I figured it was all pretty much just cute little fairies and happy dust over here, but...it's really not."

"No, it isn't," I agreed.

By now, I was beginning to cry. Gene thought about hugging me, thought better of it, and proceeded to get some more things off his chest.

"So I guess you could say I'm disoriented. I'm not sure what to do. I could just relax and have some dessert, but things are coming back to me now that leave me a little anxious. Like, for instance, the last two days of my life...

"I mean, is it always this violent here?" I laughed; it was the way that he said it. "I've lived in L.A. for six years now, but I've never seen anybody just walk up to somebody and slice their head off"

"It's kind of disturbing."

"You're goddam right it's kind of disturbing! I feel like a displaced Bugs Bunny, you know? Like I took the wrong toin at Al-baqoikee; and instead of Pizmo Beach, I came up in Rwanda."

I laughed again, the tears burning off. I was starting to calm down; although I realized that, inside, I still felt totally insane.

"And, fuck...I mean, look." He cast a gaze around the room. A whole roomful of people were pretending not to watch. But the fact is, they were watching; and they also weren't people, at least not as Gene could have possibly defined them. We were the only two people from Earth. (Although, I must say, everyone else seemed much better behaved.)

"I keep waiting," he persisted, "for my meal to jump right off the plate and kiss me. Or for my arms to flap, and me to fly away. Do you hear what I'm saying? I'm losing my mind here."

At least my voice sounded normal when I said, "Have you been writing any of this down?"

"Well, yeah..."

"Can I see it?"

"Umm...no," he said. "I mean, not yet."

I started to argue, then remembered that Gene had always been very protective of his writing. (Some people are more than happy to flash it; guess I'm just that kind of girl. Other folks, you've got to get in there with fucking depth charges if you want to pry it loose.)

So we agreed that he would read my pages while he ate his breakfast (which he did); that he'd leave the pages here when he split (which he also did); and that tonight, after work, we would get together and sort this situation out (which we will).

But, wow. I just needed to set that down, now that lunchtime traffic has cleared.

And I gotta say - despite everything else - it's SO GOOD to see Gene again! Kinda grounding, if you know what I mean. Lodging me back in my historical self. Not to mention that I love and like him, too.

I can only imagine what the next few days are gonna be like for him.

Or, more to the point, I can't.

But I bet you ten-to-one that I'll find out.

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