an excerpt from the novel, "The Legend of Afro Billy & the Cactus King" by Ed Tangerine
The Waterfall Cafe was not a cafe at all, but a place for junkies to get high. Up against a tree leaned Mr. Eddy, pumping his arm to get a vein. Between his teeth clamped a needle full of the stuff. He could taste it on his tongue, a taste like gasoline. And then he did it. He jammed the sucker into himself and pumped in some uh’the finest heroin this side of the border. Hoo-wee was it fine. Mr. Eddy felt the liquids in his head slosh around, then the muscles in his arms relax. His ankles got so oily inside that he could barely stand. Before Mr. Eddy even knew it he was lying face up in the dirt looking at the yellow leaves. He felt his buttocks get tighter than steel. He felt his penis bulge from rest. The veins in his neck seemed to burst beneath the skin. He felt the blood enter his stomach and clenched his throat as he spat it out all over the place. In a minute he was dead, so he got up from his body to look at it.
His mouth lay open, dripping foam, his eyes bloodshot and rolled back with a yellow tint. Kinda pretty, he thought, all that yellow. At the base of the waterfall was calm. Calm enough that Mr. Eddy could walk over and look at hisself in the reflection of it. He looked young, handsome even. He wasn’t sixty-sum no more. He was well-groomed. He dun’t have that scar cross his face no more, neither.
And then it sizzled. A gash opened across his face and stitched up and scabbed over, all at once. Mr. Eddy didn’t feel the pain, but saw hundreds more places slice open on his body: his knee from breaking into an radio store, his mouth and tongue from a motor bike accident, the crooks of his elbows: all completely healing in the same moment. His leg snapped like a ball bat hitting a pole. Three fingers cracked in halves and dangled from his palm. His ribs shattered. His nose collapsed and bled. Then, almost completely, like a VCR, it stopped. He was back to being a sixty-sum sack-uh-shit. Last drops of blood rolled across the smooth sides of his forearms, and dripped to the dirt.
Mr. Eddy felt great, though. Great as he ever felt, in fact. Limber, even. Mr. Eddy looked to the top of waterfall and figured there wont no reason he couldn’t glide right on up there, and so he did. He glided to the top of the waterfall and stuck his hand into the muddy brown that fell from it. Cool as cactus, he thought, and turned hisself around to look over the horizon of treetops; a medley of reds, ambers, and greens. Absolutely beautiful. Mr. Eddy wanted to glide over them, pretend like he was bouncin’ on colored clouds. Then maybe he’d shoot to the regular clouds and glide over them. He wondered how quickly he could glide to the moon.
He heard a sound just then, another person. It was Deputy Eisenhower walking up the mountain trail. Even though Deputy Eisenhower was a fifteen minute walk away from the body of Mr. Eddy, Mr. Eddy stood right next to the Deputy and stared him in the eye. Mr. Eddy wondered how the Deputy gotten that patch over the other one, and then he knew. He had access to the knowledge of Deputy Eisenhower, just by lookin’ through the hole in his head. He saw the bullet wont never taken out, neither. The doctor said if they move it, he’ll die from great pain. We’re gonna leave it, they said.
The eyeball itself was a mess. The meat and socket grew green over the years, eventually ending up a grey. A sticky yellow puss pulsed from the walls of the thing and drained back to his brain. It wont long ago that Deputy Eisenhower tried to kill hisself because of it. The smell of the thing, he couldn’t escape it. It ruined his breath, even after he brushed his teeth. No one ever wanted him to talk, ever. So he shut up, never talked unless he needed to. Everyone liked the sound of that idea. That’s the best idea they dun heard all year, they said.
Deputy Eisenhower kept on hummin’ and walkin’. He saw a squirrel and tried to get it to come over, but the durn thing ran ‘cause of the smell. Mr. Eddy could read the mind of the squirrel, too, and the Deputy was right: the squirrel smelt his rotten eye. Even the leaves seemed to shrivel up when they heard the crunches of his boots.
“Well shit. ‘At boy dead,” said Deputy Eisenhower as he looked at the foam dripping from Mr. Eddy’s limp jaw. He nudged the man, then saw a shimmer from the needle in his arm. “Spose you left this for me, didn’t ya buddy?” said the Deputy, searching through the leaves for Mr. Eddy’s dope purse. The Deputy ripped the needle from the dead guy, examined it. He reckoned that’s the cleanest needle he’s ever gon’ find. So he took a lighter and started burning off the blood.
When the Deputy came back down the mountain path, Mr. Eddy was long gone, somewhere between the desert and New Mexico. Deputy Eisenhower had his body, though, dangling off shoulder. The little bastard wasn’t heavy at all compared to the man carrying him. Ain’t weighed more than fifteen bricks, he thought, his feet still oily at the ankles. The body looked as a child in the realms of the Deputy. He was not only taller than a trailer ceiling, but also carried with him the belly of a rhinoceros. The extra weight added stress to the Deputy’s body, and soon mucus began bubbling from under his tongue, and soon he was spitting. Whistles from his throat hissed in and out as he hobbled down to into the last ten minutes of the trail.
“Shit,” he said, and dumped the dead man against a tree. He couldn’t go no further. His durn ankles about caved in. He could smell his rotten eye boiling under all this pressure. Heroin was getting to his head, coming down and hitting hard. Maybe it was his heart. Pulses of offbeat rhythms echoed through his veins and he felt like he might burst in the gut. A cool sweat tumbled from his brow to the dirt until he hunched over slobbering vomit. He coughed and wheezed so gruesome that even the squirrels forgot about the rotting smell, and instead ran for their lives. His eyes bulged and he thought he’d died.
“Now damnit! Enough is enough, Jesus. You can’t beat me!” The Deputy slapped his rhinoceros of a belly, inspiring a deep laugh and the squirrels to run further north. “I reckon that was close, my friend. I coulda endt up like you,” he said to Mr. Eddy’s body, “And then who woulda carried your ass to the funeral home?”
Deputy Eisenhower cradled the body like a baby the rest of the way down the path. He figured it was the least he could do on account uh’the free heroine. He popped the trunk of his patrol car and rolled the body in snug next to the emergency flares. Looking down either side of the freeway, the Deputy let out a deep breath and checked his watch. “Shit,” he said. He was late to pick up Jackson from his momma’s.