CHAPTER ELEVEN: RONALD ROTTEN
Bill had wanted his nipples pierced first this time, “as a prelude”, he’d said. It wasn’t all that easy with those special needles in that kit Bill had sent away for, and it took a good part of Peter’s strength to carry out the whole ritual Bill had devised. They didn’t go in easy like hypodermic needles. Peter recalled the compass point and a long ago scene surfaced in his mind. He was playing doctor with Alex, and giving him all sorts of different shots, sticking Mom’s pins in his arm. Alex had bravely endured about five when Mom had arrived. Peter does not remember that he was slapped on that occasion and threw one of his worst fits ever, and sulked for days. He told Bill he wouldn’t do THAT again. Peter asked for and got eighty dollars for his services.
I wonder if I can talk Bill into letting me try an electric cattle prod, sounds like you could have a lot of fun with them. Thumb screws wouldn’t be practical because he has to go to work and make money… But maybe you could use them on the toes. And I keep telling him to get a better whip. And you know it’s funny, there’s all these queer guys wanting sex and what not, and ones like old man Hicks too, but how come there aren’t any women queers? It’s not fair. Like you should be able to hang around the 7-Eleven and have women buy you games and take you for rides and whatever. I’d like that, and I bet a lot of kids would be into it. Like women don’t even do much raping. What’s the matter with them?
After a steak and lobster dinner at the Fishnet Restaurant Peter takes a bus this time, it costs fewer games, to the 7-Eleven. He’s starting to eat a lot more when he can. Peter enters casually and purchases ten dollars of quarters and saunters over towards the video games. He sees the mohawk by the TRON machine, a blond spiked affair with a band of red and black tinted tips. It isn’t until he rounds the corner of the candy counter that he realizes it’s Ronnie, standing there like some earthly alien pounding the buttons. The mohawk is like some exotic plumage not quite part of him, the shaven head has lost its boyish softness and that nose, which was always there, is now like a hawkish beak. And Ronnie, whom he never thinks about, is suddenly interesting. Ronnie picks up on Peter’s fascination.
“You like?” He turns around to give Peter a better look.
“Yeah…” It comes out slowly, as if from some deep contemplative process. “You sure look different.” And to Peter he does. Ronnie who had been merely a somewhat taller and older version of himself now stands before him a rebel champion defying all the presumed virtues that THEY, the vague and powerful Other, sought to inculcate him with. The tattered fabric of Peter’s new cloak of goodness begins unraveling faster. “Yeah… I really like it.”
“I’ve been letting my hair grow for three months so it would really look good when I got it done.”
“Can I touch it?” Peter asks reverently.
“It’s pretty stiff.”
“Yeah, sometimes you got to be careful, I saw a chic get poked in the eye, and it gets in the way sometimes when you’re kissing girls.” That’s a problem Peter wouldn’t mind having to deal with. “And you have to sleep on your side. You spike it with unflavoured Jello. You usually get girls to do it for you. First they bleach it with this Dissma stuff, it really stinks and you think you’re going to turn bright purple, and then they stick on the Krazy Kolor and the Jello and you get it blow dried… And I’m Rotten now, Ronald Rotten. That’s my new name.”
Peter restrains himself from saying “WOW”. But it’s happening right here in the 7-Eleven. The Punk scene is no longer something out there, interpreted by the media and Mom, he knows one. Concealing his new respect for Ronnie, Ronald Rotten, Peter asks, “How’d you get your new name?”
“You just do it, you pick one. Like all of us down at the TrendZine Cafe got names.
Peter already knows about punk names, he likes their music, but he has never considered that one might be his. Scum? Scab? Warts? I like that but I don’t have any. “Really? You just do it?”
“Yeah, and look at this.” Ronald turns his back to Peter and there, painted on the back panel of his arms ripped off jean jacket is a large skull sporting a mohawk and still oozing out it’s contents, and underneath in brightly coloured, putrefying letters is DAYGLO ABORTIONS. “This real good artist Rancid did it for me, he’s done lots. And he does all their posters too.”
“That’s neat.” Peter’s studied enough Frazetta posters to know good art when he sees it. He pulls some quarters from his pocket, dumps them on the machine and starts to play.
“I see you got money.” Ronald observes.
“My grandmother in California sent it to me.”
“Did she die again?” Ronald grins and Peter’s sympathetic smile turns to laughter as he recalls the last time.
“Yeah, sort of… Say, how much do mohawks cost?”
“Forty bucks at the Clip n’ Cut Salon, but if you know the right girls, they might do it for cost.” Peter doesn’t know any girls.
Peter begins playing but the excitement of the game does not prevent images of himself adorned by a mohawk from flooding his mind. His scores are abysmal and embarrassing, he retires, purchases two Pepsis, one for Ronald and watches him play. Peter decides he’s going to become a real person, a Punk, and get a mohawk too, and maybe a Dayglo jacket.
Later. “Mom, I’m getting one of those mohawk haircuts, you know the kind.”
“Peter, you don’t mean… Oh Peter!”
“That’s the kind Mom.”
“But that’s Punk. Why Peter you’re anything but punk.”
“You can call it ‘New Wave’ if you like. My friend told me all about it and it’s not like they’re punks. It’s just a name. It’s like when They have everything, all the money, and They try to control things, and you don’t have much, but you show them. You do your own thing and They see you. You hang around the mall, It’s like being a Jehovahs Witness only you have fun. And you drink expressos at the TrendZine Cafe. And you wear clothes a lot, not just put them on, and you show Who you are. You become a person, an individual. I learnt all about it.”
“Well I’m not sure you should Peter. Suppose you don’t like it after a while?”
“That’s what’s neat about it, it’s a commitment.”
Peter pours himself a big bowl of Fruit Loops with brown sugar, he’s heard it’s healthier, makes himself a peanut butter, cheese spread, jam and pickle sandwich and retires to his room.
Peter looks at himself in the mirror, then brings over his chair so he’s more comfortable. He presses back his longish, untidy hair, making his face naked. He studies his nose and moves closer to the mirror so it looks bigger. He thinks he can see some pores around his nostrils and tries flaring them so they look uglier. In his imagination he tries on Ronnie’s mohawk. Black with red tips would look better, and maybe I could get my eyebrows done in blue. Or how about a sideways mohawk?… But you’d look like a clown, or that Russian writer upsidedown… Or you could mohawk everything. And he thinks of Bill. I’d do the beard too, and even shave off half his eyebrows and then all down his chest, it’s pretty thick, and right down and around, and dye it purple with pink tips… or it would be fun to shave all of him and put him in diapers in a crib… I know what, I’ll get twin mohawks, side by side, the way I was thinking of having the Siliconians look, or just two spouts like antenna. And Peter becomes the mad Siliconian scientist, Dr. Chiptron, plotting the doom of Earth. We’ll use silicon viruses to take over and make them believe.
In an audible metallic, monosyllabic twang Peter intones, “Sil.E.Con.vi.rus.plan.scam. re.pro.gram.all.Earth.com.pu.ters… trans.fer.all.mon.E.to.R.ac.counts… buy.all.ad.A.gen.C’s.T.V. sta.tions.and.re.li.gions… start.op.er.A.tion.E.vil.U.tion.make.Earth.lings. B.lieve.Sil.E.con.sal.va.tion. Sa.tan.saves.” And we could make all the Earthlings sing the Siliconian Universal Anthem.
“Oh say can you see, in the true north strong and free,
Why so badly you failed, You all should be jailed.
But Siliconia stands on guard for thee.
Long to reign over yous, cause your sin was to lose.
Satan Save O Siliconia.”
Peter’s having difficulty working out a tune for the anthem.
Or we could. “we.could.cor.rupt.them.with.sex.and.vi.O.lence.” We could use good hard core stuff like Bill has. I’d really like to see Disciplining Dorothy” sometime. You’d want better picture quality though. And we’d even make little kids watch it, they say it’s better if you get them real young. That’s why they got kindergartens and play schools. I guess we’d have to do the same, maybe hard core colouring books with naked babies doing things. But it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t corrupt the old people too. I wonder what they’d like, and I don’t mean guys like Bill. Maybe we could provide them with rumble seats and haystacks, you see that in old movies on TV.
I think corrupting Earthlings would be more fun than making them believe. It’s sort of like what the Commies and the Secular Humanists are already trying to do. This guy on Sunday morning TV explained it all. You can’t trust the Commies but maybe we could make a deal with the Secular Humanists. I don’t know who they are but there sure seems to be a lot. And I understand some of them have already infiltrated the governments of most democracies. That could be a big help. I don’t understand very much of what these Sunday morning guys say, but you can sure learn a lot from them. And it’s easier than going to a Bible study group.
And when we take over Earth we’ll… Well we can’t just kill them all like we used to, and slaves aren’t right either. It makes it hard to know what to do when you conquer a planet. We’d probably want to bring back a few Earthlings as samples, and maybe do some experiments on them, but that would be for SCIENCE, not fun. Maybe we could eat some, there’re so many? I wonder if Earthlings would taste good to Siliconians? You could have humhams, tender sliced breast soaked in Fuddle Duck, or prepackaged pickled peckers. We could hunt them scientifically like deer, and call it human life management. Maybe just the males who are old enough to have hair down there, even though it would mean more plucking before you roasted them. But then I bet the women would taste better… BUT IT WOULDN’T WORK! Siliconians aren’t carbon based, I read this story in an old Omni I think, they’d have to eat silica. There’s lots of that in sand… But if they eat all the beaches what’ll happen to the tourist industry and all the jobs it creates? And suppose they ate all the chips in our computers? Peter’s starting to change sides. Maybe they’d just imperialism us like the Americans, and we’d have to sell them things cheap and drink Sili-Cola.
Next morning Peter sets off to get his mohawk, he still has almost sixty dollars left, but he can’t find Ronnie at the 7-Eleven. Lacking his own girls he heads downtown and courageously enters the Clip n’ Cut Salon. He decides on one something like Ronald’s only with more black. He sits there glancing in the mirror as his hair is parted, clipped and shaved. He can feel the new Peter emerging. ‘Peter…? Peter Putrid? Pukehead’? That would be better than ‘Scum’? Or how about Larva’ or maybe ‘Vermin’, or just plain ‘Germ’?… I know I could call myself ‘Sadisto’, he’s the Emperor of Evilon you know… But then I might get called ‘Sadie’. Like I want to call myself something that will make people notice me—something SCARY like… ‘NEUTRON’, and they could call me ‘TRON’, like the video game for short.
When it’s done Neutron, or Tron admires his new self, shakes his head to feel the pull of the Jello set spikes, and caresses the newly exposed contours of his skull. Over at the mall he runs into Ronald Rotten.
“Man you look great.” Ronald greets him.
“Yeah, and I’m calling myself Neutron, or Tron if you like.”
Ronald Rotten and Neutron drift over to the TrendZine Cafe and take a window table near the door. Ronald orders black expressos for the two of them.
“But I like cream with mine.” Tron objects. “It tastes better.”
“Yeah I know Pete, but they’re cheaper this way and you should always order things you don’t like. They last longer and you don’t get hassled to buy more. They won’t just let you sit here with an empty cup in front of you. And you got to be careful of the food here, it’s pretty good and it’s easy to spend too much. Like they exploit us and we’re the ones that make it happen.
A girl with a black fountain spraying from the top of her head and wearing a much too small black leather jacket closed by oversize safety pins on the front, comes over. “Hi Ron.”
“Hi Gusher, you’re looking good.” Ronald replies.
“Hello, Who are you?” Gusher asks Peter.
“I’m Neutron.” he enunciates clearly.
“I like your name.” Gusher says and Neutron smiles. He thinks she’s gorgeous. Just then another younger girl in a magenta mohawk and chartreuse plastic coveralls joins them. Gusher greets her, “Hi Indira. Have you met Neut?”
“Newt?” Indira smiles at him. “I’ve always liked little crawly things. I think it suits you.” Peter does not try to explain. Gusher and Indira order hot spiced apple juice when the expressos arrive.
“You going to the concert, Newt?” Gusher asks. Newt looks puzzled. “The Dayglos at the Moose Hall.”
“Oh yeah,” and Newt remembers, “I got one of their tapes.”
“Their new demo?” Indira asks excitedly.
“I don’t know, my brother gave it to me. It’s got that East Indian song on it.”
“I think Jesus is just drooly.” Indira’s eyes flutter.
“Jesus?” Newt asks.
“Jesus Bonehead the drummer. When he gets hot he takes it all off.” Indira explains.
“You wouldn’t want to tangle with his old lady.” Gusher states. “And Cretin’s already married, can you believe that?”
“Well at least I’m not too old for Stupid.” Indira says coyly.
“Well I wouldn’t trade him for Borgy Boy anyway.” Gusher states. “And he’ll be out in less than three weeks.”
“What’s he in for?” Peter’s curious.
“Possession for the purpose.” Gusher informs him.
They got over kilo of thai stick and six ounces of DA.” Ronnie adds.
Peter’s impressed but he’s scared of drugs. He believes what they tell him in school. And he’s pretty sure Tom’s on drugs, he found cigarette papers in his room once.
When they leave Ronnie says, “Well Pete, it looks like ‘Neutron’ bombed.”
Peter detours through the mall to parade his new self, plays a couple of satisfying games at the 7-Eleven and admires his reflection in the window when he leaves. He wiggles his head a few times to better feel the presence of his new identity and decides he should keep his jaw stuck out a bit more.
He is proudly, gaily strolling home with all the relevant world in and on his head when Balbir comes along.
“Oh, you are pretty jamtart now.” Balbir’s English is getting better.
“Nuke you.” Peter replies inaudibly.
At home Mom labours to be understanding, and of the others only ‘He’ is impressed.
Peter’s bussing his way home from the TrendZine, he’s learnt to make an expresso last an hour, but he just had to buy an extra two for Indira and her boyfriend Sleazy, and all he had left over was bus fare. Sleazy told him that the Dayglos have canceled the gig at the Moose Hall. Apparently they do it all the time, it’s sort of a tradition. Peter can’t afford them now anyway, and he hasn’t seen a sign of Bill, or this friend he mentioned, for a week.
Peter’s trying not to look, or appear to be, at the above average boobed East Indian chic sitting on the left front wheel seat. She reminds him of the tied up dark chic. Roland is quite excited about her which is awkward for Peter. He has no gaunch and is wearing very loose pants, Mom is making a noble effort this day to catch up on the dirty laundry. He has to keep his hands crossed over his lap. Peter realizes he has to get off in a few stops so he looks straight ahead towards the opposite wheel seat right in front of him where a buxom middle aged lady in a tweed suit is sitting. Catching his eye she smiles benignly at him. Peter avoids her glance and his eyes dart back to the dark chic who doesn’t seem to notice him. And although he tries to look away he soon finds the fingers of his imagination exploring her juicy recesses, filling in details that the pictures in Hustler cannot convey. He’s just getting to the “Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh,” stage when there’s only two stops to his. Peter searches desperately for a newspaper or something to hold in front of him when he has to stand up—no luck. He could put his band in his pocket and hold Roland down but Roland tends to be obstinate and might think Peter wants to play. Maybe if I just look at the tweed lady—she’s not good looking, that should do it.
“My what nice hands you have.” The tweed lady comments sincerely, smiling in Peter’s face. Peter welcomes the distraction to control and spite Roland.
“Yeah, my Mom says they look like a pianist’s, and once she was going to make me take lessons.”
“Can I look at your hand? I read palms you know, and Tarot too.” Peter figures he can afford one hand. “My, but you’re going to live to a ripe old age. You’re going to have problems here.” She runs her finger slowly down his lifeline. Roland’s also aware of it. “When you’re about forty, some kind of mid life crisis. And there’s a woman here, in fact there are several. You’re going to lead quite an interesting life. And over here,” she runs her finger along his palm again, “see that line coming down, that’s your success line.” It’s Peter’s stop but he doesn’t dare stand up. “You’re going to accomplish everything you set out to do in life. And over here,” she traces it, “this represents happiness, I can see you’ve had a happy childhood, and greater things are in store. Now let’s see your other hand.” Peter hesitates. “Hold them out side by side.” Peter leans forward, using his elbows for cover and holds both bands out. She continues with her flattering analysis tracing a number of lines. Peter is just getting things under control a few stops later when the dark chic leaves brushing past him. Peter notices she has a faint smudge of mustache and Roland is reenergized. By the end of the line at the Lumberton junction, Peter and the tweed lady are the only passengers left, and Peter, reciting the multiplication tables to himself, manages a graceful exit. It is four miles back to his stop and he has no money for the bus. When he makes his farewell to the tweed lady she asks him, “Do you live around here?”
“Well no, I just got so interested that I forgot to get off.”
“I hope you haven’t got far to go.”
“Just a couple of miles, I can walk.”
“Well here,” she starts rummaging in her purse, “would you like some bus fare?”
“No. That’s OK. I can walk.” She motions insistently and Peter wavers.
“Oh, I’m short myself. Look, my house is right there.” She points to a small cottage rampant with wisteria and climbing roses less than a hundred yards away down the side road. “It’ll only take a minute.” Peter follows her, she tells him about her garden and shows him the flowers along the path to her door. Peter only recognizes the marigolds. “They do need weeding and my back isn’t what it used to be.” She stoops to pull out a few weeds. “Perhaps you would be interested in doing some weeding and a few other things around the garden? I can pay you, but not very much.”
Normally Peter wouldn’t have been interested, but he’s flat broke and his new self requires a higher level of funding, and five dollars for what she says would be about an hours work is not unattractive. Mrs. Preston, they introduce themselves, fetches tools from the shed and Peter begins work. Peter has no sooner started weeding when she comes back into the garden with some lemonade for him and suggests he take a break. “I know how hot it can get working bent over in the sun.” She sits him down at the white painted, wrought iron patio table. “Back in the early seventies, I was living in a commune in the Kootenays. We grew almost all our own food and raised goats. I can remember spending many long hours in the hot sun weeding the vegetables.”
“What was the commune like?” Peter knows they’re not Communism, but that’s about all.
“Ours was one of those… Well we called it an Open Marriage, uh… You’ve heard of Free Love?”
“Is that something like Free Enterprise where the government is a partner?”
“Not quite Peter, it was based on the idea of sharing, that we should all have equal loving access to each other like a big family but without all the taboos.
“You mean you were all married to each other?… Like a harem?” Peter’s curiosity is increasing.
“No. Not quite like that, although all the women had turns with the patriarch, and the children were to be raised communally, free from the distorted values and stereotyping of society.”
“Did you have any children?”
“No unfortunately, and now I’m not able to have any. I had a little operation, at the time it seemed such a positive commitment to…. uh…. But anyway, it’s been the biggest regret of my life. I’ve even tried to adopt a child but they won’t let me because I’m single and now I’m getting too old.” She places her hand on Peter’s arm and strokes it.
“But what about Mr. Preston?”
“Oh that was a long time ago, 1968. Greg, he was a deserter from the American army during Viet Nam, he was only eighteen. We only got married so he could stay in Canada. I was very political then. I only knew him for a few days and haven’t seen him since, although I still use his name. You can call me Ann, Peter,” she squeezes his wrist and he looks up into her face, “all my friends do.”
“Ann, that’s a nice name.”
“Thankyou Peter, I like your name too. It reminds me of a young man I knew back in the early sixties… And your hair.” She lightly ruffles his now frizzy mohawk. “It’s good to see young people expressing themselves again, like in the sixties when all the boys grew their hair long.”
“Yeah, it means you’re a nobody who’s somebody.”
“Things were a bit different then, but…” She ruffles his mohawk a bit more languorously this time. “We were all hippies then, and everything seemed to be getting better… Those were the days.” She squeezes his wrist again and Peter bashfully lowers his head. “You’re so sweet. Just think, I might have had a child your age now.” Mrs. Preston starts to embrace him but pulls back, controlling herself. “I’m so glad you’re able to help me.”
“That’s too bad about you not being able to have kids.” Peter starts gulping his lemonade.
“But I do have a baby actually.” She’s trying to sound cheerful. “Would you like to see it?” She points to a corner of the brick patio. It’s only a plant but I’m very proud of it. Can you see it there behind the delphiniums, the ones with the tall blue spikes?”
Peter takes the opportunity to free himself of her clasp, downs the remainder of his glass and goes to look. He recognizes the shape of the leaves and asks, “Is it pot?”
“It’s an indica strain. A friend in California sent me the seeds. See? It’s starting to bud. Should be ready to harvest in a month in a month or so if the weather holds. Back in the commune we had over a thousand plants, but we all got busted when the pigs found our plantation.”
“Did you go to jail?”
“No, but the lawyers got everything we had.”
Peter manages to resume his weeding, not being sure if everything he pulls out is weeds, especially the ones with little blue flowers which turn out to be forget-me-nots. Ann watches and periodically brings out a handkerchief to mop his brow. She repeatedly comments on what a good worker he is. At her insistence he takes off his shirt. “I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable and you won’t get it all sweaty… and you do look handsome, bare chested.” Peter works as fast as he can and with the weeding completed there’s just one more thing, tying up the rose vine over the kitchen window which has come loose. Standing on one of the wrought iron chairs he is just able to reach it and tie it back on to the nail in the top of the casing. But as he finishes, on his tip toes, a chair leg slips off the bricks at the edge of the patio and Peter falls sideways into the rose bush.
“Damn brambles!” There are only superficial scratches on his chest and right hand which is bleeding slightly, he wipes it on the front of his pants and stands up.
“Peter!” Ann comes running. “Are you hurt?… Oh you poor boy.”
“I’m OK, just some scratches.” There’s just enough pain to make him feel brave for not crying.
“Here, let me look… Oh Peter, I think you should let me put something on them. They might get infected you know.”
“I’m OK, really.” Peter protests.
“Well I think you should do something, I feel responsible for it happening here. Come inside.” She takes an arm and leads him, Peter politely goes along to her bedroom. “You lie down and relax, take it easy. And its best to lie with your feet high. Here, I’ll take off your shoes so I can put your feet up on this pillow. Now stay relaxed and I’ll right back with something.” She comes back moments later, stripped of her tweed jacket, her generous, braless breasts, pendantly peering through her green voile blouse. Soon they are dangling inches before his eyes as she swabs his wounds with iodine. That should do it. “Oh you poor boy. I hope this doesn’t hurt much… That should do it.” Finished, she strokes his forehead soothingly as she leans over him. Peters discomfort is not mainly the pain. “You’re such a brave boy.” She kisses him on the temple, one arm across his shoulder tracing the outline of his ear. “Peter,” she says softly, “you don’t know how much I appreciate the help you’ve been today. And I have a few other things I could have you do sometime… You’re welcome to drop by and I can always see that you have bus fare home.” She straightens herself up retaining a grip on his undamaged hand. “You don’t know how lonely it gets here sometimes.”
Peter moves into a sitting position beside her feeling more comfortable. “Yeah, I guess it does.” He says, wanting to say something and not wanting to offend.
Ann takes him in her arms and cuddles him closer, then gently rocks him back and forth, humming to herself a plaintive slow rhythm. Peter, his face pressed into her bosom strives for control over the panic that’s trying to break through. Like if I could just push her away from me, but she’d think I was mad at her or something. And you sink into her boobs like a waterbed. Peter endures and a few minutes later she releases him, kissing him again.
“Oh Peter you’ve got blood smeared on your pants. They should be rinsed out in cold water right away or it sets.”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s OK.” Peter realizes he has no underwear on anyway.
“But it’ll stain and they’re such nice pants… You just slip them off and I’ll rinse them out for you. You needn’t worry about modesty, why on the commune we went around stark naked nude most of the time… Or if you like you could crawl into my bed.”
“No. No. I’m OK.” Peter pleads.
“Well at least let me get a rag to sponge them off with.” Mrs. Preston leaves the room on her mission. Peter quickly pulls on his shoes, dashes out the front door, grabs his shirt and he doesn’t stop running until he’s around the corner on the highway. It takes him a good hour to walk home.
I wouldn’t do THAT again, not even for three hundred dollars. It might not be too bad if all you had to do was fuck them, but all the other stuff, this grabbing and hugging, this sort of lying on top of you, and all the little things they try on you… It’s like they want to love you and all that. Like women, they’re sure a lot scarier than guys. At least guys mostly keep their hands below your waist.
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