Gorillas

ME AND MICHAEL were completely naked and stapling each other. There were other naked people around too.  Shana and Veronica and Marc and my ex-wife, Blue. They had all passed out in various parts of the house, leaving Michael and me unsupervised to do what we did best—find creative ways to debase ourselves.

On this night, that meant stapling. I’m not sure exactly how it started.  I mean, I know how it started.  I saw a stapler sitting on Veronica’s desk and I picked it up and hit myself in the chest with it, sending a staple deep into my flesh, and then Michael—god bless his malfunctioning soul—somehow took it as a challenge and snatched the stapler from me and sunk one in his chest too.

What I mean is that I don’t know why it started. I’d seen thousands of staplers in my life and yet this one stapler on this one night spoke to me.  It said, “Hey stupid, let’s be stupid.”

And rather than answer it, I let my actions do the talking; I let my actions staple!

But before the staples started flying, it was the weekend of Michael’s birthday celebration.  We had come down to Hollywood to spend his birthday at Jumbo’s Clown Room, his favorite strip club in the world.  And not favorite as in the one he liked the most.  Mike was so cheap he dug how if he watched the girls strip in the mirror behind the bar, he didn’t feel obligated to tip.  We did tip them, of course, on his behalf and ours when he wasn’t watching.  It’s hard to know what your friends are doing behind your back when you’re already looking in the mirror.

The next night we drove out to Veronica’s house, in Tujunga, some weird town in the valley.  We went out for sushi and walked home—I think Veronica actually fell into a hedge—and then eventually everyone took their clothes off.  At one point, Michael, Marc, and I were having a naked dance competition  and I remember Shana and Blue sitting on the couch and hearing Blue say, “I really want to have a baby,” and hearing Shana say, “You want to have a kid with him?” pointing at me while naked dancing and drinking straight from a whiskey bottle, and hearing Blue say, “Yeah, is that crazy?” and the look on Shana’s face told us yes, that is fucking crazy. Yes.

One by one, they all fell asleep, leaving me and Michael alone to staple ourselves.

“Watch this,” I said, jamming one into my forehead.

With each new staple, our placement moved toward more dangerous locales, one upping each other with every new blast.

A cheek, a nose, a nipple, an ear, these were all fair game, but we stopped ourselves, deciding to call the competition a tie before either of us stapled our eyelids or pricks.

The one thing we hadn’t really factored into our stapling game was how the hell we were going to pick these things out of our bodies.  On The Discovery Channel, gorillas harvest dirt and ticks out of each other’s fur.  That’s what it must have been like, watching me and Michael pry staples out.  We were the most magnanimous gorillas.

Marc’s disco nap was over.  He came into the kitchen nude, holding a golf club, and no, that’s not a euphemism.  He had an actual golf club in his hand.

“The sun’s about to come up,” said Marc.  “Should we hit some grapefruits with this and watch the sunrise?”

Soon all three of us were in the front yard, drinking beers, each taking turns hitting grapefruits with the golf club.  The fruit were scattered all over.  They were old and caving in, and not particularly aerodynamic.  Some of them exploded when we hit them.  Others were too soft, turning immediately to pulp.  But a couple of those fuckers flew.  Whenever we hit one that got some air under it, traveling thirty, maybe forty feet, landing in the street or in the neighbor’s yard we’d howl and high five.  We were gorillas.

I wasn’t having as much fun golfing as them because I kept thinking about Blue wanting to have a baby with me and Shana saying that was a terrible idea.  Each time another grapefruit flew, it was like a maybe-child, a giant unfertilized egg, all our future babies exploding.  But, no, that’s not quite right.  It wasn’t the babies, it was us; Blue and I were detonating.

Marc hit another and I watched it sail sadly into the distance, into the future, watched it thump down, and I knew that was Blue and me.  That was our dreams lying in a macerated mess.  We didn’t stand a chance in this future.

Now that the sun was coming up, Marc could see me and Michael’s nude bodies more clearly and he said, “Shit, your skin looks covered in bug bites.”

It was true, the staples left tiny red dots all over us.  Covered in our own epidemic, a plague of stupidity.

“Let’s tee off again,” I said.

“Let’s,” said Michael.

“Fore!” called Marc, crushing one of those grapefruits into the road.

When we noticed a neighbor eyeballing us from a nearby window we decided to do the whole world a favor and put on some pants.  Maybe we passed out for a bit.  I don’t remember.  I do know we never really sobered up all weekend, but there’s this point where you sort of drink yourself accidentally straight.  For Michael and I that happened in the airport, waiting for our flight back to San Francisco, and we needed to remedy this dry horror.  We were in the bar and Blue and Shana waited at the gate.  They looked at us like we were madmen when we said we needed a couple more before going airborne, and again I thought about Blue saying she wanted to have a baby with me, about our exploding future.

“We should go to rehab,” I said to Michael, in the airport bar, over a whiskey shot.

“What?”

“Don’t even think about it, or we’ll screw it up.  Let’s go.  Right now.”

“Rehab?”

We stared at each other.  I was serious and I could tell that a part of him wanted to be serious right along with me.  There are singes, bursts of will that if a drunkard acts on he can do the right thing, but it has to be quick, or all the liquor in the world whispers in your ear, one more, one more…

At that moment, I would go but if we waited even one minute longer, I’d leak gall all over the floor.

“Fuck it,” he said, hoisting his whiskey.

“Okay, fuck it,” I said, raising mine too.

I almost threw up, but practice makes perfect, so I swallowed the bile back down.

A robot came over the speakers and said our flight was about to board.

“We missed one,” he said.  “On your neck.”  Mike leaned over and pried that last staple out of me and once it was clear, he held it up for us both to inspect.

“What were we thinking?” he asked, staring wide-eyed at that staple.

But there was no way I could answer that question, if it even was a question.  What were we thinking? was a lifestyle.  It was an epitaph.  It was a tattoo telling the whole world to stay away.  A safe house from memories that clanged louder than the worst hangovers.  What were we thinking? was our natural habitat, the only place gorillas like us could find peace.

stapler_remover_wk

 

Joshua Mohr

About Joshua Mohr

JOSHUA MOHR is the author of five novels, including “Damascus,” which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.” He’s also written “Fight Song” and “Some Things that Meant the World to Me,” one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as “Termite Parade,” an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List. His novel “All This Life” was recently published by Counterpoint/Soft Skull.
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