|illustration by Blair Gauntt|
Like greasy spoons everywhere, you can tell the comers from the goers by the way they mingle during the breakfast rush. Comers, time-tested patrons, brace themselves like cosmic travelers falling through space on reentry to the world and the land of the living. All others, the goers, position themselves opposite the chrome and glass like time-sharing tourists in need of reassurance that they are, in fact, where they are. Uncertain, they tend to order things that don’t exist and bag the rest.
Grease glistening on the farmer’s shredded hash brown brow. The spittle on the griddle gurgling under busty golden yolks ready to burst. And spitting links spurting like little dicks hot for the fork. A bottomless cup of chthonic tonic to wash it all down. Good to the last drop.
We comers are pilots in solidarity; urban satellites of steel creating random havoc, forever orbiting some misbegotten summabitch.
Speaking of summabitches, nobody knows Quasar’s real name and, word is, his family is dead. More refugee than vet, we conjecture. Same time. Same country. Different war. Maybe it all started in Nam where the quick sand seeps through your skin. Maybe he tripped on one too many two-step vipers—one will always be too many over there. Tiger traps and tar pits. Some say that he is a Tai Chi master and can kill a man with one finger. If he touched your chest, your heart would explode. No. Fucking. Shit. He thinks he’s invincible like a superhero. He looks at you like that sometimes, arms flapping as he walks by. Up up and away!
Quasar may very well be the last true pedestrian in the world. Bugger gets around. He knows how to navigate the vehicular winds that blow through town by weaving between Galaxies and Windstars like a solar surfer. Quite a sight to see. He falls through traffic like an accident in slow motion, arms and legs everywhere, silhouetted against azure skies. Frozen like a demented snow angel.
But he never so much as bends a fender.
Whatever happened, he minds his own business. Everyone has a theory, of course. Some say that he’s a vet from the U.S. of A’s blown gambit in Southeast Asia. That explains the army jacket. But lots of people wear army surplus, so what? It’s art-punk chic: olive drab, post-hippy cartoons with buttons. More us than him. Quasar is apolitical. Like the song goes -
The telephone’s ringin’
They told me it was Chairman Mao
The telephone’s ringin’
They told me it was Chairman Mao
Well I don’t care who it is
I just don’t want talk to him now.
So what say you questionable mini-man, tiny mass of humanity? You have journeyed so far. We want to throw ourselves into the street with you to stop this endless cycling into oblivion. We see their beady eyes too: peeking through tinted glass, beneath visors, laughing, crying, yelling, grimacing, sometimes even dying behind the wheel. And they just can’t stop looking. They say things we can’t hear and are not to be trusted. All oncoming traffic poses a threat to us and our passengers. We brace ourselves against all of it. We wait for the moment before collision, before we become, like you, a tableau of crumpled legs, wings and ruptured thoraxes on a windshield.
Autumn leaves wiggle. All will fall eventually.
There’s a girl who lives next door to you. From her bedroom window she can see your silhouette through the drapes. You pace a lot; everything flailing like a Balinese shadow puppet. In the summer, windows open, she can hear you mumbling to yourself. Sometimes you make sounds like a deranged squirrel. WONK! DONK! CHONK!
You live next door to that guy? People ask. What’s he like?
He barks like a mad squirrel is what!
Then one night like the other nights, a man comes over to her house. They embrace as the moon casts light through the twisted blinds of their smoky little love nest. They’re ravenous so they devour cold meatloaf then play Don’t Drop the Soap on the kitchen floor. They yell stop! and put it in overdrive. They squeal oh yes! and put the hammer to the floor.
Unlike the other nights, the man wants to be a spy this time around. She has front row seats. At four in the morning they open the window, just a crack, and wait in a sticky embrace for the Quasar borealis. They chutter like guinea pigs in the early morning light and wait for the puppet show to begin. The lights go on. They watch with their fingers in each other’s junk, orbs orbiting shafts of swollen blood sausage. O the hungers.
He blares Chinese opera and sings along: WONK! DONK! CHONK!
So what say you interstellar traveler and lost son of the Milky Way? We hear what you are saying.
- Today is a good day to fly. I am the Tai Chi Maestro! I can feel it building in my belly like a dynamo ready to blow! Bolts of lightening shooting through my fingers and toes to light up the cosmos! I am untouchable!
Now look what you’ve done. We’re famished. Boy and girl scurry over moon gravel and climb aboard their little red Saturn. As they roll out they turn around to see you following–limbs flapping in hot pursuit, blown forward by hot solar winds. She wraps her arms around his neck and licks circles around his diamond studded earlobe.
- I see me. I am center stage. Sing! Sing I say! Skylark! Thunderbird! Firebird! Sing! This is my destiny!
It’s 5 a.m. by the time they reenter the atmosphere. We spot them as they arrive at the greasiest spoon in town. The bench below the big picture window is filled with scratchy souls waiting for an open booth; the window offering a clear view of the orbiting traffic like white noise against the yellow glare of a new day. The old guy sitting next to us wears a purple fez atop a cue ball head. His pockets are full of hands. Awful busy down there! Poor fucked up monster; eyes spinning, running laps around the waitresses’ navel.
Bet he’s got a big car.
All comers gravitate to each other.
A booth opens and we descend into our seats and strap ourselves in. We spread open the menu and we’re horny all over again. Her hand sneaks under the table and tugs at his bon appetite.
Our waitress appears and chirps, “You lovers ready to order?”
Just then, Quasar floats into orbit outside, through the window, across the street, standing on the curb arms spread wide. “Oh look my eyes,” she says. “He appears to me!”
-Super Nova! Vega Chieftain! Aurora Glorialis! I am sublime! Altima!
He wants to lift off but he seems stuck in some funky, time space continuum. The gravity of the curb holds him fast. Metallic meteors speeding in all directions have him trapped. Each time he attempts to blast across, he must fire his retro rockets and re-curb. He flaps his arms and tries again. A horn blares. WOOOOONK! He recalibrates.
- I have arrived! I am the light! You cannot bend the light!
A red blur streaks across the window. He buckles over, slamming the hood of the Astro craft. DONK! DONK! DONK! Quasar rises with arms outstretched like a great astral falcon.
- You cannot break the light!
He lunges forward, arms thrust skyward, about to take flight. Another sliding screech and a streak of green flashes from the left. WONK! WONK! WONK!
A sonic blast cracks the sky and shatters our universal peace as a million feathers explode into the stratosphere. The feathers float down in a cosmic blizzard of fluff, shrouding the sky, blocking all vision, muffling all sound.
All comers stand at attention. Quasar has disappeared. Meteoric traffic has stopped. We search for some sign of life, a glimmer, a light to shine through the bloodied dawn.
There is faint laughter, then a louder snicker. Hands appear to be reaching through the blood spackled autumn morn. It is he. We spy him falling toward us, through the feathers, first hands, then arms, then legs. He appears like a demented angel floating down to us with broken wings and face aglow. He looms ever larger and larger until he splatters against the picture window, like we are the ones who hit him. His face is pushed to one side. He peers at us like a man arrested for breaking the law of gravity.
Quasar speaks. -I am here.
The comers are stunned. The goers uncertain.
I stand as if in a trance and walk over to him. He eyes me like a one-eyed vulture. I lean toward him, my body pressing against the warm glass. I put my hand on the window. He skews a crooked eye. Then he raises a hand and points a finger at me, through the picture window, as if to skewer my heart. He drools a little and smiles.
My heart skips a beat. I am speechless.
As the feathers drift and settle, we stand and stare, one comer to another, separated only by the big picture window. He rubs his face against the glass and grins like the lunatic that he is.
Quasar peels himself off the window and turns to greet the masses all agog. The crowd parts. The feathers melt away. He steps onto the street then leaps in the air and soars in a great arc landing at the cockpit of a spanky green Mercury. The pilot exits the craft, bows and bestows to him the keys. Quasar takes command of his new ship and climbs aboard. He straps himself in and fires up the engine. It hums sweetly. He adjusts his goggles and nods at the adoring masses. Then, in a roar heard throughout the cosmos, Quasar blasts off, never to be seen again.