December 8th, 2010

Rock Albany!
A D Jameson

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Rock Albany laughed. He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. His windswept hair was neither blond nor red, but black, as black as a melon. His face was like a law of nature, like the call of the herd. He had the mouth of an executed saint.


Rock laughed and shook his head, then dove into the lake far below. He swam easily to the far shore, where he dressed, then strolled down a path. He walked swiftly, with a loose, lazy expertness of motion. He walked down the long road on the sun, the sun’s only road. The sun was his home. He had lived there for seventeen years. Most men would die if they tried to live on the sun. They would burn up at once. Rock laughed at this thought. He found the sun charming. The sun, he thought, has been waiting here just for me. Waiting to be ripped apart by my dynamite and drill. Waiting for the new shape my hands will give it. He would paint it pigeon blue. He would install a Pekinese buttress. He would hand-raise pudgy canaries. Rock liked canaries. Their eyes never missed a thing. They made a man feel as though he did not exist. They stared with a sudden resentment. They knew that they were naked in their cage. They suffered in this world. Rock knew that the canaries would suffer to live inside cages on the sun. He didn’t know how long they would hold out, staring at him with their damned eyes, before they burned up. He would go through a lot of canaries. He’d have to skimp and slave to afford so many. He would need them at once. He resolved to call his best friend and supplier, the Duke. But then he forgot. He didn’t give a damn.


He instead got the urge to smash antique coffee tables, or Chinese vases. He wanted to grab old women’s framed portraits and bite them to bits. He had strengthened his teeth for months so he could do that. Now his teeth were like granite, white and bare, luminous in their clean rows. Rock put nothing in his mouth that wasn’t clean. He abstained from cigarettes. He avoided beef and chocolate éclairs. He wanted his teeth to be broad, clear sheets. He wanted such teeth as he’d never had on earth. Modern teeth. Not Classical teeth, or Gothic teeth. He didn’t want a Renaissance tooth in his mouth. He wanted his own teeth, inevitable, complete, unalterably right. Rock had sketched them many times. Let the canaries have their stares: Rock would have the teeth of the first man born. There was nothing more to say about them.


Rock’s swift, expert walking had led him away from the sun and into a grove. Melons dangled from every branch. They flailed about in the outgoing solar wind, which rattled their seeds like cruel cops on patrol. Those seeds could reach speeds hard enough to strike Rock’s skin with a stinging force. But they’re safely contained by the melons’ durable shells, Rock reminded himself. And there’s nothing wrong with how swiftly those melons are rocking—they’d do that even if I weren’t here. Even still, he fingered the alarm whistle in his pocket.


He turned around and nearly tripped on the little girl standing right behind him. It was a mahout, her emerald jacket crusted with mud and elephant drool. She was eating a half a cheese Danish. She didn’t look like what pedophiles wanted.


Laughing, Rock kneed her to the ground. “Mahout, where’s your elephant?” he inquired.


The kid ate the last few bites of her Danish before she finally answered. “You’re not getting anything from me,” she mumbled.


“Oh, excuse me!” laughed Rock. “You little bastard.” He helped the girl up. He was flirting with death, he knew, allowing a mahout to stand. But Rock had flirted with death many times before, fondling its oddly-shaped breasts through its negligee. One more time wouldn’t matter. He reached into his pocket and took out the peanuts he’d been saving. He put them in the mahout’s mouth and wiped her lips.


The mahout chewed a while, then swallowed and said, “I’m letting some Goths take a ride. Meanwhile, I’m gathering melons for when Poke—my elephant—brings them back.”


Rock laughed. He knew that the Goths would keep the elephant, that they’d ride Poke straight out of town. He’d lost an elephant that way himself, when he’d trained as a mahout. The first time he’d lost one, his boss took the elephant’s cost out of his hide. He withheld his food for a week. The second time Rock let the Goths have a ride, he knew better than to go back and tell his boss. He ran away to Rotterdam and enrolled in the Technical Institute. The bullies in charge there expelled him at once. Then Rock ran a scam, holding places for dupes in soup lines. That little trick nearly got him killed; he left Rotterdam in a hurry, even though he knew it would be difficult to find another job. A man can wander the whole earth for ages without ever finding work. But while running he happened upon the road that led to the sun, and decided to give it a shot. There was nothing more to say about Rock’s past.


The mahout was a hungry little sort. She stared with a sudden resentment at Rock, but Rock simply laughed. He was going to try his idea. It was audacious, but it was the best plan he’d conceived of in a long time. He reached into his pocket and took out the raisins he’d been saving. He fed them to the mahout, pressing his thumbs against her lips. He knew the mahout wouldn’t understand why Rock was so generous with his food. That’s because kids are stupid. They’re constantly underfoot. They want to watch porn, but can’t commandeer the TV while you’re around. They chatter like birds and fix their stares on you, hoping that you’ll die, or at least go away.


Child mahouts are the worst. They know how the streets work. They peddle cigarettes and bootleg Coca-Cola. They don’t brush their teeth. They hang out with Goths who have nothing to do except fondle their filthy incisors.


Rock knew all these things about kids because he’d studied them. For seventeen years he had watched them from the sun. Wherever the sun shines, children run amok. Now Rock knew the best way to put his vast knowledge to use. The administration of the entirety of the sun gave him endless work. He could use a little assistant, to aid with that cheerful work. He’d take the mahout to the sun, where he’d swiftly dress her in pigeon blue dresses adorned with Pekinese buttons. He’d raise her for seventeen years, training her in dynamite and drills. He’d have to skimp and slave, but he’d get the job done. He’d have his revenge on his violent elephant master, on the Institute bullies, on the dupes in the soup lines. He laughed. He resolved to call the Duke and place an order. But then he forgot. He didn’t give a damn. He instead got the urge to make the mahout his heir. He looked around. The mahout was gone, of course. An apprentice elephant trainer will swallow a stranger’s free food for only so long before bolting.


Rock laughed. He’d find the mahout again, he knew, hunting her down with a loose, lazy expertness of motion. He reached into his pocket and brought out a dip of snuff, quality stuff that he’d force up the mahout’s nose when he finally found her. He’d fill her nose with snuff, as well as his alarm whistle and leftover raisins, plugging her nostrils with debris until it was time to carry her home and into bed. About his head, the windswept melons chattered, and Rock knew that, rather than standing in a grove, he was perched on a cliff, below which glistened his beautiful new life.


(The above story is by A D Jameson, Mutable author, whose book, Amazing Adult Fantasy, is due out by Mutable at the beginning of February. Jameson teaches at SAIC, blogs for Big Other, and his novel Giant Slugs is also forthcoming from Lawrence & Gibson.)