Rising From The Ashes Part 4
I don’t know how many times I blinked, as if willing my eyes to dismiss the scene that was playing out in front of me, but I do know that it was the exact same number of times that they failed to change a thing. I was like a kid who woke up on Christmas Eve to see their Mom and Dad putting presents under the tree and enjoying the milk and cookies that had been so thoughtfully set out for Santa. Barring a very good explanation, my life philosophy was about to be permanently transformed.
“Hollywood?”, I repeated.
“Are you asking me, or are you telling me?”
The anger in her voice was something that I was completely unaccustomed to, but there was no denying it was her. Even when she had taunted me in my dreams, she had never been this bold and emotional. “Asking?” It came out in the form of a question. A very stupid question at that. I just didn’t know what else to say.
What the hell did that monster do to you? —Sybil
“No, it’s your fairy fucking godmother, dipshit.”
I suppose if I had thought that I would ever see her again, I may have considered the possibility that she might be angry with me. If so, I may have come up with something better to say.
“What… what are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” Hands on her hips, she looked around, as if to take in what ‘here’ was.I didn't consider the possibility at the time, but this was likely her first view of the inside of the mens bathroom. “I was just passing through and I figured I would stop and check out the scenery. What the fuck are you doing here?”
Yes, I caught the sarcasm in her voice, but I had lost all control of my tongue, which proceeded to answer the question as if this was just a casual meeting featuring some friendly rhetorical banter amongst friends. “Same as you. Just checking out the scenery, I mean.”
“Cut the shit, asshole. You know why I’m fucking here.”
No, actually I didn’t. But I needed to get control of this conversation, and quickly. I was like a boxer who had been stunned, dancing in large circles around the ring trying to avoid a shot until I could get my wits back.
“Where have you been?”
The question seemed to work. It loosened her up a bit, and her answer came across in an inquisitive tone, as if there were a simple misunderstanding between us that would be easily cleared with her answer.
“I left because you asked me to.”
The dance stopped. The other fighter had dropped his left glove below his waste. A good fast roundhouse with a right should end this match.
“Then leave now. Why are you here anyway if I told you to leave?”
I hadn’t exactly told her to go anywhere. In fact, I had missed her at times. But I certainly had not invited her back. I hadn’t even thought about her all that often since Ashes had gotten on the truck.
“I’m here to clean up your fucking mess. What the fuck are you thinking? You’re driving around with some fucking third rate whore, knocking her up like you were some kind of family man or something? Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck are you going to do about her now, big shot? I’m here because you asked me to come and get you out of this fucking mess that you clearly can’t handle on your own.”
At this point, I was at a complete loss. Had we conversed on some occasion that was escaping my memory now? And why would I need her to clean up a mess for me anyway? I had wished that I could talk to my mother about it, but I had never even considered Hollywood as a confidant. Then again, perhaps talking to her about it wasn’t entirely a bad idea. She might have some useful insight. In her present mood, however, that was doubtful.
“What should I do about her? What do you mean? She said we’re going to be a family now.”
I’m not entirely sure what I should have said there, but I am completely positive that it wasn’t that. It wasn’t my intention to piss her off, but if she had been one of those horned toads down in Texas, blood would have shot from her eyes.
“Family?”, she shrieked. “What the fuck do you know about family?”
“Well, my mom…” She cut me off before I could finish my sentence.
“Your mom? Oh! You mean the whore that raised you. That mom? Oh, this is going to be rich. Tell me all about you’re whore of a mother, and all of the great family values she taught you. Can you do that for me? I’m willing to stick around all fucking night for this one. What did she teach you, baby? Did she teach you the value of hard work by fucking for money in the bed beside you? Is that what she taught you? Or how about forgiveness and love? Are you going to try that one on me? Did she teach you to turn the other cheek when her clients were cumming on your face like it was a floor-mat in a peepshow? What would that fucking cunt possibly be able to teach anyone, apart from how to take a cock down your throat without throwing up in the guys pants? How could you possibly raise a kid? You think that you could be a father? What the fuck do you know about family?”
No sooner had the fear washed out of me then the anger came crashing in. How dare she? How fucking dare she? My mother was the only person who ever loved me, and she wanted to talk about her like this?
“You shut you’re fucking mouth about my mother!”, I growled the words more than I spoke them. “My mother loved me!”
She let out a long, piercing laugh like a woman possessed. “Loved you?”, she mocked. “Loved you? You call that love? Let me hip you to something here Einstein, since you clearly missed the last train of thought out of the station. Your mother fucking hated you. You were a burden to her. Don’t you remember what she used to say to you every time some strung out hippie or street thug would shoot enough cum in her cunt to drown out the drugs and knock her dumb ass up? You remember, don’t you? ‘I fucked around and kept you, and look where it got me. You think I’m going to make that mistake again? Fuck no. Not this bitch. I’m getting a fucking abortion. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…’”
Her voice knocked the wind out of me as if I had been punched in the stomach. It was as if the voice of my mother had come out of Hollywood’s mouth. Not a mimic either. It was a perfect impersonation, indistinguishable by the ears of her own son. My voice was horse, and stretched as thin as a sheet of log book paper, but I managed to push the words out. “She never said that! She never said that. Did she?”
Suddenly, a look of pity flooded Hollywood’s face, and she bent over me and rubbed my cheek. “Oh, you poor dear. You don’t even remember, do you? What did you do, baby? Did you lie to yourself? Did you forget the way you used to cry yourself to sleep? Don’t you remember trying to convince yourself that she didn’t mean it? You honestly don’t remember, do you? You poor, poor dear.”
I was bewildered. Suddenly I didn’t know anything about anything. “But that’s not why she got an abortion. It isn’t. It’s because when she had me, things were different. She didn’t have to worry about supporting us. My father…”
“Your father?”, the piercing laughter was back, leaving behind no sign whatsoever of the sympathy that had so briefly revealed itself. “His father, he says.” She looked around as if she were talking to someone else, but nobody was there. “And what father would that be, baby? What was his name? Did she give you a name?”
“No, she never told me his name. But…”
“And why might that be, grasshopper? Or do I have to explain everything to you? Are you really this fucking stupid? Your mother didn’t tell you your fathers name, because she couldn’t tell you your fathers name. And do you care to guess why that might be? It’s because your mother was a whore, junior. Your fathers name was Jack, or Bill, or Bob, or whatever the fuck name the guy gave her when he put the twenty in her purse then bent her over the dumpster behind the 7/11. You don’t have a father. You have a whore for a mother, and she had a customer, but you don't have a father. Any of this sinking in through that thick fucking skull of yours? You’re a bastard. A mistake. You’re a load that she forever wished that she had spit into the fucking gutter she conceived you in.”
The tears began to sting my eyes. It is embarrassing to tell you this now, but her words were sinking in, and it was tearing me apart. It couldn’t be true. I know that now. But at the time, it had the ring of truth to it. My own dear mother. The woman I had loved so deeply. Yet hadn’t she often complained about me? And didn’t she deny me the only true love that I needed from her? I started to remember things that I had long forgotten, but the memories didn’t seem real to me. It was as if I had seen it in a movie, but had never actually lived the moments. It was all coming from Hollywood. Somehow she had this power to make me remember things that had never really happened.
“Why are you doing this to me?”, I sobbed.
“Because you need me to, baby. You don’t want to hear it, but you need to. I don’t want to have to tell you these things, but I owe it to you. You blocked them out of your mind so many years ago. The pain was too great for you to cope with. You created a fantasy world in your mind. A world where you were special and loved.” There was true compassion in her voice, but it faded in an instant. “I love you. I care about you. I alone in this world give two shits about you. And how do you repay me, you son-of-a-bitch? You have some whore out there in your house… my house… our house! You painted her name on my side of the fucking truck. Did you think you could just replace me? Did you think you could just push me out? And you didn’t even have the common fucking sense to not knock her up? She’s a whore, baby. Just like your mother. A fucking two bit, piece of shit lot lizard. And you think you’re going to raise a child with her? And don’t even get me started on what you are, you fucking psycho. You’re a rapist. You’re a sick fuck who drugs women and fucks their limp and unresponsive bodies. You’re a killer, baby. A fucking murderer…”
Somehow, I managed to cut her off. “I didn’t mean to kill you, baby. I’m sorry. I promise you, I didn’t mean for you to die.”
She sat down beside me and pulled me towards her, turning my shoulders and forcing me to look her in the eye. “I know you didn’t mean to, baby. I know. And I forgive you. But it doesn’t change who you are. You remember what happened to Sooner, right?”
Shit! Sooner. I had completely forgotten about her. “I… but you… you… you told me to… you said I had to kill her.”
Her voice was still soft and consoling. “No, baby. I didn’t tell you to kill her. I told you to get rid of her, but I never said to kill her. You took it that way because that is who you are. I don’t say it to put you down. You just need to grow up and face reality. You’re not a father, you’re a killer.”
Her tone that had begun to soothe me all at once set me off again. “You told me to do it. You wanted me to do it! I did it for you! You said it was your truck. You told me to get her out of it, and I did.” I pushed her away from me, and pulled myself up to my knees. “I’m not a killer, I’m a father. You don’t love me, Hollywood. Ashes loves me. She loves me, and we are going to be a family.”
She stood up slowly, her hair stringing down into her face. She looked me in the eye as she rose, and gave me that hideous, screeching laugh again. “Loves you? Loves you? Is that what you are trying to tell me? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! You think a hooker loves you? Then tell me this, Ward fucking Cleaver. Why in the hell do you think she rides with you for five years with no problem and then one day all of the sudden, she’s magically pregnant? You think that was an accident? Check her purse. Check her fucking purse, you fucking pussy. Go look and see if she has a sponge or some pills in there. She got pregnant because she fucking wanted to. Did she ask you? No. Care to know why? Because you’re the little bitch that she has wrapped around her fucking finger.”
I began to fear there was some truth in what she was saying. It was odd that for so long we could fuck and nothing, but then one day out of the blue…
“She wants off the truck. She’s bored with it. She’s bored with you. She’s had all the breaker breakers and come on backs she can handle. How easily you forget that she is a whore. You hear me baby? A whore. That is how you met her, isn’t it? But she’s not some stupid fucking street whore like your mother. Not this bitch. She fucks you for five years, and now she gets to go home and sit on her ass while you pay her bills, ain’t that right? She’s a whore with a fucking pension plan. And you’re sitting there lapping it up. Hook, line, and sinker.” She made a motion of casting out a fishing rod and reeling in a fish. “Wake up, baby. Wake the fuck up!”
I tried to argue with her some more, but she was right, and I knew it deep down inside. That’s why Ashes had been so selfish with me. That’s why she had figured that she could just tell me that we were going to be a family. She didn’t care about me. She just saw me as a pushover and a paycheck. The knowledge of it crushed me. It must have shown on my face.
“I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, baby.” She sure could have fooled me. “I’m trying to protect you from her. I’m trying to help you here. Do you really think you can just pack up and get a nine to five? Can you really come home and put on your slippers, and smoke a pipe while you read the Bumfuck Egypt Gazette? Sure, it’s fine right now because it is just you and her. But what are you going to do when the kid starts school? How long can you hold up under the scrutiny of prying neighbors and PTA meetings?” She moved to the other side of me and took me in her arms. “How long until someone finds out about your past? About what you’ve done? How long until you get the urge to do it again?” I had never even considered that thought. She paused, as if to give me time to consider her words.
“What if she tells them? What if…”. I tried to hide it, but it must have shown on my face. Hollywood’s lips curled upward in a sadistic, victorious smile. “Oh? What’s that, you say? You haven’t told her, have you? Well, get up then. Let’s go. Let’s march right out there and tell her how you like to drug girls and rape them. Let’s fill her in on how you like to push cute little runaways off of overpasses, shall we? She won’t mind that a bit, will she? She loves you, right? Come on. Let’s go. Why don’t you tell her about me while we are at it? Since she accepts you for you, she’ll accept me too. Then we can ride around the Country. The three of us, riding together. I’m sure she’ll love that, aren’t you Darling?”
I hung my head in shame. I had been made a fool. I had been bamboozled by a common whore. I had taken her in, and she had taken me. I had allowed her to change the roles. Ashes was now the pimp, and I was her little prostitute. I worked hard day and night, and I brought her home the loot. And why? Because she had protected me. Not from some customer that would otherwise stab me, but from reality. She had helped me to avoid the bitter truth that Hollywood had just exposed with the diplomatic equivalent of an atom bomb over Nagasaki. She made me forget that I wasn’t loved.
“No. No, I can’t do that.”, I muttered. I was too ashamed to even raise my eyes and look at her. “She would never accept you. Hell, she would never even accept me.”
For the first time since she had crashed back into my world, Hollywood showed true mercy. She silently rose to her feet, extending her arm to help me to mine while allowing me to deal with my shame and embarrassment privately in my own head. She leaned in to me and we embraced silently. It was a good ten minutes before she spoke again, and when she did it was in a soft voice. She kissed my cheek and pulled my head firmly against hers.
“If she won’t accept me, and I won’t accept her, then you know what you have to do. Right?”
Deep down inside, I did. I knew what I had to do, but I didn’t offer an explanation.
“You have to chose, baby. It’s her or me. Whom do you want? Her or me?”
There was an unspoken meaning in those words. As it was with Sooner, so it was with Ashes. She didn’t have to say the word “kill” or “murder”. She might try to deny it again later like she had with Sooner here tonight, but we both knew what she wanted. I decided to beg for Ashes’ life.
“We don’t have to kill her, Hollywood. We could just leave her. We could just ditch her somewhere and take off. We could leave her in a truck stop. She could never find us. She would never know where to look. I could send her in to take a shower. We would have at least an hour to run before she even knew what happened to her. We could go away together, Hollywood. You and me. We don’t have to kill her.”
“You fucking coward”, she sneered. “Look at me!” She screamed the words in such a shrill, loud voice that I jerked back away from her and hit my head on the wall. “Look at me, you son-of-a-bitch. Look at what you did to me! You took my life while I slept, and now you want to have a conscience? You killed me just for a piece of ass, but now you want to lose your nerve? Well fuck you! I want her blood, you motherfucker. I want that fucking cunt dead! You fucking kill her, and you cut that fucking parasite out of her stomach. I swear to god, you son-of-a-whore. You fucking kill her or I walk. I walk and leave you in your misery with that worthless fucking bitch, you hear me? You make up your mind right goddam now. What’s it going to be?”
This was one hell of a spot to be put in. Nothing I could say to her would make any sense at all. I didn’t even know why I cared. Perhaps I just wanted to be right. Even in the face of such a compelling case against her, I wanted to believe that Ashes loved me. If you’re not somebody to anybody, than you are nobody to everybody. I wasn’t yet ready to accept the reality that I was a nobody. My spirits lifted at the thought that I didn’t have to be insignificant. Here in front of me was my one chance, and it could be my last. I didn’t know if it would ever pass this way again. She seemed completely sincere in her ultimatum. The gravity of the situation was a crushing weight on my chest. If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, than Hollywood was offering me a double up. If she could love me and forgive me after all I had done to her, then what could Ashes possibly offer to top that? But it had to be clear what I was getting before I decided anything. “What’s in it for me?”
Hollywood closed the gap that had been created when I jerked away from her. She pulled me back into her arms, and placed her cheek against mine, placing her hand on the back of my neck. Her breath felt cold as she dropped her voice to a loud whisper in my ear. “What is the one thing that you want most in this life? What is your biggest regret. If you had one moment in your life to re-live, what would it be and how would you live it?”
I cringed at the thought. My voice broke as I spoke, making me sound like a boy in puberty. “Don’t make me say it.” I tried to pull away but she grabbed me by the hips and held me there in front of her, looking deeply into my eyes. She leaned in, kissing my neck. Her lips were ice cold, and their touch made me shiver violently. The voice seemed to come from my own head, echoing in a chilled hollowness. “Tell me. Tell me what it is, my sweet.”
“It’s you. It’s… it’s your body. It’s… when you were laying there… well, not really… You know what it is. Please”, I dropped to my knees in front of her. “Please don’t make me say it.”
The eerie voice came again. “Say it. Be a man. Stand up, look me in the eye, and say it.”
I rose to my feet, but the shame of my words would not allow me to look her in the eye. She cocked her head around, getting the perfect angle to force me against my will. “It was after you died. You were laying there so sexy and beautiful. I wanted to make love to you.”
She backed away slightly, never breaking the penetrating gaze that held me entranced. “No”, she said. “No, that’s not it at all.” I wanted to protest, but I couldn’t find my voice. “It’s your mother. It was your mother when you found her. It was your one chance. Your chance to make love to her without the fear of her waking. Your chance to kiss her in the mouth, and plant your seed inside of her. It was your one and only opportunity to take the love from her that she had denied you. The love that she gave to every man with a little folding money or a couple of pills.”
All of the clothes in the world cannot hide the nakedness of the man who has just had his innermost thoughts told back to him. I didn’t even wonder how she could know these things. It was spoken like the fact it was. There was no chance for debate, and no need for an explanation. There was no judgement in her voice. Just love.
“Choose me,” she said, “and I will give you The One. I will bring to you the girl who can make all of your dreams come true. I will sacrifice her to you, and give her body up as an offering. I will deliver her into your hand. I will give you The One who will make you forget about your sins with your mother, and make you whole again. I offer you life as you have never lived it. Choose me.”
She helped me to my feet again, kissed me on the lips, and then she turned around to leave. She looked back over her shoulder as she walked, never taking her eyes off of mine. She opened the door, and disappeared into the Colorado night. Before it could slam shut behind her, the breeze caught it again, pulling it open and sounding for all the world like one last taunting echo before it came back to rest on it’s frame with a bang.