I said, “This car is officially on fire!” because the car was on fire.
There was nothing official about it, really. There is no process for certification of conflagration. But still, I said, “This car is officially on fire!” because the car was on fire and also because Rufus and Ethel Bunny were too preoccupied to see it.
Rufus and Ethel Bunny wanted to frak. They were looking to hula the hoop. Probably they thought I did not notice.
We – I mean all of us, I mean me, Ethel Bunny, Rufus, Dummy, Star and the Glob – were supposed to be delivering the ugly sculpture that Jerry Lee had sculpted. But Dummy got called in to work and Star caught bronchitis and then the Glob wasn’t answering his phone. So then it was just me and Rufus and Ethel Bunny, and also the ugly sculpture and the car.
And I was in the back seat of the car and the sculpture was in the back seat, too, and the car was on fire, only Rufus and Ethel Bunny did not notice because they were thinking about frakking each other.
Finally I got their attention. It was nearly too late. The front seat was filled with black smoke from the ac vents. White smoke coming from under the hood made it hard to see where we were going.
We were going to deliver the sculpture that Jerry Lee had sculpted. Only we did not even make it out of downtown Houston and the car was on fire.
When Rufus pulled over and stopped the car, I said, “Help me with the sculpture.” We had to get the sculpture out of the burning car. It weighed about the two hundred pounds. The sculpture, I mean, not the car.
The sculpture, it had a name, and the name was “A Great Moment in History.” Which great moment was not clear. It might have been an astronaut walking upon the moon or else it might have been Washington crossing the Delaware. I regarded the sculpture’s quality to be subpar. In this, Rufus agreed with me. Ethel Bunny said, “This sculpture, it does not speak to me.”
Jerry Lee, who sculpted the sculpture, said he would get paid two hundred thousand dollars for it. “A fool and his money are soon parted,” Star had said when Jerry Lee told him about the two hundred thousand dollars.
Star knows nothing about art. I know nothing about art, either. Still, I regarded the sculpture as subpar.
It was the blue time of night just after dusk. We saw flames reflecting off the pavement underneath the car. There was nothing we could do.
I said, “Rufus, let’s carry the sculpture into this empty building.” I thought I could get us into the empty building. I could get us into the empty building, but the getting took longer than I thought.
We got in. Someone must have called the fire department. There were sirens and I said, “Rufus and Ethel Bunny, you can go back to those rooms back there,” because Rufus and Ethel Bunny wanted to frak. They wanted to hula the hoop.
I said, “I am going up to the roof and I am going to watch the fire trucks.”
It was dark but I found some stairs. Inside the staircase, the light from my phone lit up spray-painted messages. One of the messages said this: “YOLO.” Another one of the messages looked like a chicken. The chicken was only half done. Going up to the roof, I wondered whether the kid who painted that chicken was ever going to come back and do the other half.
At the top of the stairs, I opened the door to the roof, but the smell up there made me want to close it again. The roof smelled of death. More than death, though, putrefaction. Death when the meat of the thing that was once alive sloughs off the bones and turns into purple liquid death. Death like the smell of the mushroom factory in Madisonville.
“This is more interesting than fire!” I said to myself. I covered my nose with my Mastodon t-shirt. I went looking for the death.
The death was on another part of the building. I had to climb up part of the building that stuck up farther than the rest and then come back down the other side near the birds.
In my life, I have noticed that birds do not come out at night. But here it was, night, and these birds were out and there were a lot of them. They were big birds and there were a lot of them and they were crowded around something on the roof that smelled of death.
They were eating.
I saw how one bird would come running out from the crowd with a piece of food hanging in his mouth and then another bird, who up until this point had been standing at the back watching, would chase the first bird down and try and steal his food. To steal his dead meat.
Then the first bird and the second bird, they would fight for a few moments, but it did not look to be a serious fight.
None of the birds seemed to care about me or to care about the flashing emergency lights from the street below or to care about the echo from the firemen’s radio.
I wanted to know what that dead meat used to be. I wanted to see a tail or I wanted to see a horn or a hoof or hell, I don’t know, maybe I wanted to see a tentacle. I wanted to see something that would assure me that I had not known that meat before it was dead.
“People are made out of food,” I remembered reading in a book somewhere.
“I know,” I thought to myself on the roof. “I will come back here in the day. Maybe in three days. Maybe in four. I will come back here when it is light and when the birds have finished eating all of the meat.”
I thought to myself, “Then I will see what pieces of the thing are left, and then I will know what kind of meat it used to be.”
I went back downstairs. By that time, Rufus and Ethel Bunny had hula-ed the hoop and were standing by the front window watching the fire trucks drive away.
“Whose car was that?” I asked them, but no one knew whose car it was.
I called Dana to come and pick up me and Rufus and Ethel Bunny and the sculpture. Dana thought the sculpture was “the ugliest fucking thing” she had ever seen in her whole life.
A week later, I went back to the building. I went up to the roof. Where the meat had been, there was nothing left but a stain on the ground.
The spray-painting of the chicken on the staircase was still only half-done.