Tribunal - Jeff Crouch
I see you have on your Hugh Hefner, and I presume you’re Lucille Ball beneath that Groucho Marx; beneath that bathrobe, I don’t know. I can’t see your feet. Marilyn?
Now, you’re Marilyn?
The judge in the corner looks Irish.
I heard this story once from this Irish kid from New York. We used his dorm room for drinking binges. He didn’t like our abuse. But I usually cleaned up the mess. Except for the beer bottles on the sidewalk. Or the shower curtain I ripped loose. Hey, sorry.
No wonder my present wife hates me. I tried to hard to live without emotional baggage. For a while there, I kept down the number of children we were having by slipping her a pill. Before we had our first child, she had had four miscarriages. It was my fault. She was a good Catholic girl. Seven miscarriages total. Three children. At least my alimony’s limited.
The Irish kid always talked about the yard crew. So much for work study. Plato, Thomas Aquinas, and a bunch of criminals.
In my living room, there’s a chair I made myself, but no one can sit in it. It’s made from hair, coat hangers, and Elmer’s glue. I wanted to be an artist; the chair was to remind me what happens when you try to live as a rationalist.
No one understands you, and cleaning up a mess finally becomes a mess itself.
The hair gets piled high, and the garbage men refuse to take it. Of course, I couldn’t sell it.
The name of the piece is "Emotional Baggage, The Hair Bag Chair, Don’t Sit Here." My wife left with the kids and said she wasn’t coming back until I got rid of the chair.
Scars never look heavy, but they feel heavy when touched. There’s a scar beneath my elbow from when my arm went through a car windshield, almost on my funny bone. It’s a weird sensation. You’d think I was superstitious if I told you it helps me predict the weather. Like I said, its’ a weird sensation, almost heavy, when I touch it.
The Irish kid.
One dude on the yard crew always talked about this armed robbery he did to join a gang. The Irish kid said the yard crew liked getting stoned—stoned on marijuana—and watching TV. He went home with one of them, to the dude’s trailer. He never understood them, and the armed robbery story bothered him.
He must not have realized that while he was waiting in the car while the yard crew chief went into the store to buy beer, the yard crew chief was also was also pulling a job. Of course, the Irish kid gave the yard crew chief his five bucks (what it cost for half a case back then), but he never found the receipt.
I saw an armadillo dead in the road the other day, stopped my car, and used my brown paper bag to drag it out of the street next to a tree.
The Irish kid thought it odd that anybody would rather live stoned and watch TV. He hadn’t been in the Texas sun long enough. I don’t think he’d stepped in a red ant bed yet. But when he didn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving, I took him to my family’s Thanksgiving. He got to listen to complaints about Mormons.
I once mopped up the Irish kid’s vomit when he exploded after too many shots of vodka and wine. In the common room, in front of the TV. Dull grey vomit. It almost matched the floor.
The Irish kid became a monk. But his father was a judge who got busted for dismissing traffic tickets for friends. I guess that was my point.
A story about an Irish judge.
There goes the family fortune and prestige and power.
The last stupid drinking binge the Irish kid had been on was one his father had to rescue him from.
At the Fireman’s Ball, in front of all his friends.
Are you embarrassed?
Dull grey vomit. Not my favorite flavor, but ubiquitous.
This damn tribunal looks like a masked ball.
Is it true? Costume theft?
The Irish kid never came back to college. I tried to write him. I thought he might have committed suicide.
Having once said to somebody something like why don’t you blow your brains out, I had to wonder. After I said that, I found out that she had gotten drunk and slammed her car into a bridge column. Mary lived in a coma for twelve years before she died.
Reminds me of the lawsuit against Ozzy Osbourne.
So many misunderstandings because of the band’s name.
After Black Sabbath.
The Irish kid’s mother wrote me back to tell me the Irish kid was still alive.
I am trying to remember who might be on the tribunal.
Later, I found out that the Irish kid had signed up to be a missionary, but while he was working in a neighborhood in New York City, a gang captured him and beat him almost to death. He became a monk. He never said if the gang had raped him.
How could a hedonist ever conceive of himself as a rationalist?
Did you ask the Drama Department? And what’s with the Dr. Seuss?
Let’s get started.
I think my grandmother had that wig.
Maybe that is your grandmother. Maybe your enemies have dug her up and put her in a museum.
Let’s get this party started.
It’s a costume party.
No, it’s a tribunal.
Yes, you’re behind a mask, but I’m not wearing a mask. I’m at all not like an astronaut. I don’t have my own contained environment.
That’s the trouble with rationalism. Try to be emotionally detached, and life becomes a lonely fire drill. The sirens are always going off.
Where am I? I’m in this picture with you.
Does someone need to go to the bathroom?
Yes, I’m slightly uncomfortable.
How’s the moon?
Your truly, Me
All brides are beautiful.
My wife was beautiful.
We were deep-sea—yes, I don’t see any water. We were Deep-sea diving in bad lighting. I’m not certain, really—didn’t you like that tune? It was three in the afternoon or four in the morning. The music was too much like silence, yes. We were hoping there wouldn’t be violence. The camera corrected our spelling as we waited like guests for the film. The camera crew could only do stills. I asked for food, but the bride and groom weren’t finished with their photo shoot. Angry guests? Starving. The bar was open, and I got drunk—easily, because I had nothing in my stomach. It was Jim Beam and Coke for all I remember.
Sure, you’re right,
But here, no one’s even poured punch. It’s just napkins in glasses. What’s in the pitchers?
Doesn’t look like liquor.
I caused my wife to have a miscarriage.
I’m sorry you didn’t get to be a philosophy professor so you could talk Plato and midwifery.
Behind the wall, the monster roars and roars. Your stomach?
Dull grey vomit.
We sit trying not to fake it, but the party’s morose.
Beowulf? Why did you say that? Who’s hiding a monster? A murder? Your mother?
The monster behind the wall?
"I’ll eviscerate anyone who makes the mistake of offering to play ‘MacArthur Park.’"
Eviscerate? What wrong with ‘MacArthur Park’? At least, it’s music.
You’re faking the terror; you’re putting me on? You’ve forgotten it? Do you no longer hear the music?
It’s deadly dull. No one is dancing?
Sitting at the table.
The Irish kid is here, but he’s really dead. His mother lied.
But I’m here, I’m here. Waiting with you. The truth was Tang.
Tang in the pitchers.
What’s with the infinite lunch?
No Procol Harem.
What’s the plan? The plan?
You didn’t make reservations did you?
No ice! I need ice. Ice for my stubbed toe. Ice to calm the monster.
The light is too bright. Hello?
Are you passing judgment?
Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing?
No, we’re not characters from some Love among the Cyber Ruins.
Hello? Are those strings?
You’re pulling the trap door?
Is that a trocar or a cake knife?
What’s the word from Stalin? Gulag or bullet in the brain?
I told you I did not like karoke.
Now, I’m the monster.
Good grief. I’ve had enough excitement, and it all looked so tame.
A river of dull grey vomit.
The conclusion: it was never sane.
Jeff Crouch is a writer in Grand Prairie, Texas. He plays at art as though it were a game of hide and go seek. His writing has recently appeared in Above Ground Testing, Canopic Jar, The Cerebral Catalyst, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Dream People, Lunatic Chameleon, My Favorite Bullet, saucy vox, semantikon, Subterranean Quarterly, Underground Window, Venue--A Southern Forum, and Wire Sandwich with more forthcoming in Laika Poetry Review, The Rose and Thorn, and Static Movement.