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Scar by Rebecka Helwegby Lee Klein

here's something I've typed up so if one day you're staring at the center of my face and feel compelled to ask I can just give you this so I won't have to try to repeat the same story for the hundredth time and thereby risk losing all sorts of valuable soul points...

      Not far from where Orson Welles broadcasted "The War of the Worlds" and rushed hundreds of gullibles to their windows to scared-shitlessly check out the skies, and only a few miles east of all the malls and malls and malls along the swarming Route One corridor, and not far from where I am now (in a sleekly polygonal corporate center in which hundreds of computers and related microchips and gadgets click and respond as they’re cooled by humming engines)—I, the egotourist (he who must temp to gain enough cash to drift through South America and develop the tenets of egotourism), while getting paid to write this by the Xerox Corporation, which currently pipes a Muzak translation of "Thick As A Brick" through the officespace air—not far from all this sprawling density, I attended a weekend party.
      The directions Crowley left on my answering machine highlight a pig farm and a gravel road after a bustle of hedgerow. The directions are perfect. I show up and bum money from a skeletal blues guitarist acquaintance named Bukka Zuckerman. He gives me a ten to pay the guy collecting for the beer, the barbecue, and the band. From time to time I’m going back to my 1982 electric blue Subaru to get another bottle of porter that’s warming on the passenger side floormat— and I see this little reddish dog coming at me from the direction of something I misperceive as a mushroom lawn ornament. I realize its flawlessly rounded cap is actually a young woman’s cut-off jeans and its fleshy stalk is actually the back of her thighs. The dog arrives. Although I'm usually inclined to hooking these nerfball curs across the laces of my shoe and flicking them off into all eternity—for some reason—I'm uncharacteristically nice to this one. I snap my fingers at thigh level and watch the pup leap and flip in air toward my hand. Then suddenly I consider soccer-styling it into orbit. I cock my leg to kick . . . but restrain myself. I simply give it a little growl.
      I'm walking back towards Bukka Z. and a score of mid-thirties gearheads whose soccer cuts (mullets) tickle the worn collars of their Don Garlits' funnycar shirts. Many of these fellow locals cut off their sleeves so that from unfortunate angles you can see all the way into their THC-induced, A-cup breasts. The women are slightly more sartorially concerned . . . some are in wrestling shoes, others donning extra-padded crosstrainers, all lounging around the barbecue setup, downing plastic cups of kegbeer.
      My friends are late. I only know Bukka. I'm walking back towards him and the fucking little mutt is yapping and nipping at my heels. Whenever I try to drive my heel into its ravenous snout, I miss . . . and my stroll is not at all fluid or elegant. Eventually the dog retreats.
      The party’s unknown benefactors have set up a stage extending out of an old wooden country garage. At stage left, three youngsters tear into a drum-kit. One of them—a pre-nymphet in long blond tangles—actually busts grooves for a few seconds before she synchronizes with her companions' chaotic syncopations. This is the opening band. There’s afternoon light. Tall enclosing pines and pillaring sycamores. Some joeys eat dogs and burgers and some toss quoits and it's a nice American picnic-party on the longest day of the year. It turns out that the woman I originally misperceived as a mushroom lawn ornament is Wendy, a friend's girlfriend. And it seems that everyone, all my friends, have been here all along, setting up tents on the periphery so they won't have to raise them later—when all they’ll want to do is fall over and die. We're all loitering around the barbecue grill, pulling thawed dogs out of a generic thirty pack and placing them perpendicularly across the grating. I like my dogs charred. I cook mine till the skin is all black-blistered and a fissure cracks down the sides.
      Meat is eaten with non-namebrand condiments . . . I'm talking to a young advertising executive named Sean Cibulskis, who majored in biology but believed too much in psychedelic healing—and thus decided that conventional medicine was flat-out immoral. He restricts any ethical objections to the world of advertising, however . . . You know the milk mustache ads? That's his firm. We’re laughing about the dual meaning of the words aspiration and consumption, simultaneously checking out my good friend Crowley flirt with a total honey babe while competing in a game of doubles quoits. The mushroom ornament's boyfriend, Corky Artese, comes over and we're all checking out the flirtation like the Miracles watching Smoky take the lead. We're all noting body contact and filling in potential dialogue since Crow and his quarry are way out of earshot. And when any of us try to walk over and eavesdrop or get introduced to this angelically salacious woman, we get the cold shoulder from both of them, and so we're sure it's on. Eventually, as the sweet lady throws a burger on the grill, we pry Crow away for a second . . . we're all full of questions. We find out she's thirty-five. She has a twelve-year-old boy. And then, as though these words were the most anti-miraculous phrase, she's gone for good. It’s as if she were air in a balloon that burst from the grill’s heat, her body escaping into the pulchritudinous realms of mist from which she’d descended.
      Crow's a systems analyst. He spends most of his time thinking about computer networking. Everywhere he goes he leaves hastily sketched doodles of interconnected squares. His stomach is rounding out toward the convex and his chin seems like a little gelatinous knob jutting from his thickening neck, and so . . . he’s nonconsensually celibate. His loneliness exponentially perpetuates until it’s visible across his eyes like a colorless anonymity strip that denies access to an untapped sector of his life. And so this flirtation is, for him, more like cruelty. The sudden abandonment of sex and the intimacies of sex. And so, when Crowley Monroe turns and sees that she’s disappeared—literally moments after he stated the fact of her age and offspring—his eyes assert themselves through that colorless strip with controlled panic.
      Crowley's recruited that hateful little dog to help him search under Camaros and pick ups for his unrequited love—and we're smoking a joint, leaning on Corky's innocuously Swedish sedan, the only foreign car of about forty parked chaotically around the yard. Corky's retelling a story for the hundredth time about how our squat, hairy-toed friend (who we call by an abbreviation of his Hungarian surname, Kartarbak) climbed into bed with Corky and Wendy one 4 AM at the shore and laid his bristled smacker right on Corky's sleeping lips. Needless to say, relations have been tense. Corky's ever-present sarcasm takes a turn toward ridiculing our friend's potential latencies. Kar usually drinks to belligerency. He downs a beer and storms off to build a bonfire.
      The specifics blur. Emerging from my blind behind Corky’s Volvo, I take in a panoramic long shot. There’s a self-abusive oasis ahead of me. When I squint, it shimmers. I attempt an impossible headcount. Lose track at a number I immediately forget. Our orbit is tightly kinetic, self-confiningly so. The sun closes in. The pines encircle. The band arrives. It's the Nation's #1 Black Sabbath tribute band . . . Sabbra Cadabra. They tumble out of a black Aerostar minivan. I move towards them almost unconsciously. Kar intersects my path and recruits me for a round of quoits. Now I’m tossing circular irons at a rusty spike. After a distracted match against Kar, I go interview faux-Ozzy and point at other obvious members and test my equivalency discernments like that's Bill Ward right? That guy there with the relief pitcher stash? Where’s Geezer? And that's got to be Tony Iommi.
      Sabbra Cadabra tours as far south as Tennessee and as far north as Boston. I ask if they study films of vintage Sabbath and compare-contrast with videos of their own performances. I ask faux-Ozzy if he uses the warding-off-Satan hand-signal first employed by Ozzy's replacement Mr. Ronnie James Dio. He says he throws two hands up in the air and raises the old peace flash that Ozzy preferred. They play all the hits . . . and whenever I ask them to play "N.I.B." or anything, he assures me they’ll play it. Faux-Ozzy wears the obligatory dirty-blond long hair parted straight down the middle. He looks tired and paunchy like a big rotweiler nonchalantly guarding something that no one else would want. But later, when he comes out on the stage, he's wearing six-inch soled boots, a fringed cape, and a heavy crucifix the size of a monkey wrench dangling across his pelvis. He throws his hands up and flashes the peace sign and in an affected English accent yells into the mic . . .
 Before the round of quoits, and just after Corky began relating our friend’s latencies, Kar tossed all of these empty cardboard boxes into a massive pit. I'm off towards this pit, flinging hopeless matches at the stack of boxes. Crowley’s pulling all the loose crumpled bills from his pockets to buy nitrous oxide balloons at 3 dollars an inflate. Onstage Sabbra Cadabra's busting "War Pigs." You don’t have to squint to see it negatively charging the dusk. Crow gives me a globular yellow balloon . . . I start flailing around with everything numb except for all the little hairs on my body which are all extraordinarily sensationally accentuated . . . the sun just barely coming through between the trunks of the trees, and shit—I forgot to mention these huge black spray-painted devil's masks they've nailed up in some branchless tree-trunks stripped of all their bark near the stage . . . I'm hoping beyond hope that they'll light those things on fire and at least an acre or two of land will incinerate in the process and immolate every being and thing and all our souls and all the mileage from all the cars would ascend along with the band's exploding-into-shrapnel effects boxes and dry ice machines, all of it melding into an orgiastic burst, creating a second sun on earth, or like the first atomic strike of an intergalactic blitzkrieg . . . Sabbra Cadabra’s raw distortion shakes invasion from the radiowaves until it’s for real . . . but they don't light the death masks and there's no immaculate fireball to ring in an era of alien realities. A bonfire begins with lighter fluid and a match. Nothing more.
      I'm next to Kar, rocking out to the band's third set, now dangerously shlockered, vigorously toasting Satan along with Ozzy. I raise my cup of rank intoxicant so quickly that the fluid jumps high into the air and never comes down (at least not on me). They close with a reprise of "War Pigs," "Paranoid," "Fairies Wear Boots," and finally, "Killing Yourself To Live." By the way, the band's flawless. Everything's right on—the voice, the solos, all of it . . . and the few stragglers left standing are struggling to stumble away from the wreckage of crushed plastic beercups and dusted straw. As for the tribute band—they break down their equipment and return to their corresponding band of groupies which dutifully waits in the battered Aerostar minivan.
      We retire to the Volvo's rear fender. Sitting between the car and the tents, hidden from the scene's debris, drinking homemade ginger beer. Eating salt and vinegar chips. Talking eventually about the Constitution. Kar and Sean argue over whether this nation's legal system is the best in the universe, as good as Jordan or better. Kar's going to law school in the fall and gets impassioned and patriotic in a very admirable, 3am, cerebrally well-argued way. I'm on my back . . . listening, interjecting, sort of moderating, commanding the animated debaters to like let him finish Captain America and back off for a second Red Menace and adding non-sensical sarcastic barbs that I now forget but cracked me up at the time so much that Kar got mad. He flushed me out of my comfortable recline, screaming that I wasn’t taking the debate seriously. He chased me around their tents. I lost him with my long strides.
      And then that dog—that mangy cur I didn't immediately want to kick to the shores of forever—it started barking at me. It's not really so little. Picture a cross between a fox and a ferocious hellhound. A red dog. No lights. I can't see a thing. I'm stupid drunk, and by this I mean: quiet, loopy, and somewhat messianic. And supposedly the following ensued. I didn't black it all out. Only the idiotic phrase that's scarred me for life—
      The dog's barking. I kneel and try to calm it with my soothing, dog-assuring hand. It snaps. I narrowly evade demanulation. I’m kneeling and Wendy is yanking the dog back on a tight leash. I'm thinking that all dogs love me since my own dog does, and supposedly I said just let the dog attack me.
      She let go. In the next instant, that ravenous snout that was nipping my heels, jabbed me with its rabid canines, knocking me into a two-revolutions backwards roll right through the open flap of the tent in which Crowley's dreaming of perfect networking connections. Wendy’s yelling at her dog for being a dog. There’s blood. Everyone fusses over me. I’m nonchalant, as if this happens all the time. Everyone disappears into their tents. I roll the driver's side seat back in my electric blue Subaru and try sleeping. Ten minutes later, I negotiate Route One and get home without incident—except that, when I open the door, my dog starts barking. My mom wakes up and slowly comes downstairs in her nightgown. My entire nose and cheeks are covered in fresh blood. She thinks I was in a fight. I try to tell her what happened, but I can’t express it correctly. As I try to tell my mother about the attack, at almost five in the morning, I notice that her sleepiness barely pillows her concern. Through her puffy eyes I can see she’s astonished that her little baby goo-goos—her only son—can be comfortable in the bewildered and very conspicuously scarred skin before her. I can see she’s upset. I decide to never mention it again.
      And so I’ve typed this up so that the next time you see me you won't have to ask about the sickle-shaped scar on the tip of my nose. I’ve typed this up so that one day when you’re staring at the center of my face, I won’t have to try to repeat the same story again and thereby risk losing all sorts of valuable soul points. It's just the mark of the sickle for toasting Satan with tribute bands and cheap keg beer. A rite of past-time; a hallowed passage in this state of New Jerusalem.

1999 Lee Klein                                              spanish translation

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LeeLee Klein, in his mid-to-late twenties, has recently returned to his childhood room in New Jersey. Adventures in the Temporary World, his first novel (which has been nearing completion for months) is an attempt to reveal the mythopoetic architecture of suburban obversity.


navigation:                                          barcelona review #12   mid-april to mid-june 1999 
-Fiction Prologue by Felipe Alfau
Identity by Felipe Alfau
Summer House by Nuria Amat
Knock on Wood by Frank Thomas Smith
Scar by Lee Klein
Africa on the Horizon by Carlos Gardini
-Poetry Virgil Suarez
-Interview Nuria Amat
-Retrospective  Felipe Alfau
-Regular Features Book Reviews
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