by Jon Konrath
I'd do the same thing every weekend: get high on fiber, design a robot.
Wait, back up. I'd come home from work, Friday night. I didn't know anyone in Jet City because I spent all of my free time trying to shoot my movie, The Predatory Lender's Jukebox Messiah, a straight-to-Hi8 video horror classic series of vignettes about reenacting famous military battles with household appliances. For example, one time I spent four weeks doing stop-motion animation of a bunch of flying Sony Walkmans sneak-attacking a fleet of American-made toaster ovens in my tub, arranged to look like the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. (NO, I DID NOT PLUG THEM IN!) Then I'd get high on fiber, design a robot.
I'd usually pass out for three or four hours first. I'd always regret this during the work week, because it set off this chain reaction cascade of delay, procrastination, and misery. Every night, like clockwork, I would black out at five, and wake up disoriented just after eleven, not knowing where I was, still lost in a nightmare, the sheets welded to one side of my face with sweat. Every fast food joint closed at nine except for Denny's and the scary Guatemalan Subway that used rattlesnake meat and roadkill instead of turkey and ham, so I'd nuke one of those Jesse Ventura TV dinners I got wholesale from a 3AM QVC special, then watch Conan and drink a six-pack while prank calling every Congressman with my caller ID jammer during the commercials. I'd load up on benzos and anticonvulsants and crash when the sun first burned across the horizon, sleep maybe three hours, and get to my day job as a medical textbook writer beaten and destroyed, unable to write, talk, breathe.
(This was a city famous for their coffee, but I did not drink coffee. This was a city famous for their salmon, but I hated salmon. This was a city famous for building passenger jets but I never bought one.)
I'd struggle through eight hours of misery and slavery, that versus which, its versus it's, shit versus excrete, all of the daily nightmares of a copyeditor working with geniuses who spent all day fucking with core samples from rhesus monkey brains, but could not be bothered to learn that sentences contain a noun and a verb. I'd count the seconds until 5:00, rush home in the two-mile drive on I-5 that took about an hour, immediately pass out, it would be pitch black out and I'd be starving, then fiber, then robot.
I'm a creature of habit. 4200 restaurants in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest, and every Friday, I'd always end up at the same Denny's, eating a Systolic Hypertension Slam (four pancakes, four pieces of bacon, four pieces of Canadian bacon, four pieces of ham, four waffles, 8 eggs, a 4-egg omelet with four pieces of bacon, four pieces of ham, four internal omelets each made with 2 eggs, 2 sticks of butter, and two waffles, a loaf of toasted bread (sourdough), a strawberry, hash browns, french fries, onion rings, a side of ranch. No onions.)
Fridays gave me a break in the action, a catch-up, a night I could legitimately stay up until six in the morning, scribbling in my notebook. Robot plans. And maybe if I had time, I'd drag the washer and dryer into the main room of my studio, set up the tripod, and try to animate the battle of Hampton Roads from the Civil War, the washer being the Merrimac and the dryer being the Monitor, which I guess is stupid because that battle ended in a draw, plus it would take me hours to disconnect all of those hoses and wires from the washer with no tools but a Leatherman set of pliers and a butterknife. There were no dating prospects, no social life, no friends or family. Just a case of Fred Meyer store-brand fiber, the kind that almost tasted like synthetic orange. Almost.
Okay, fall asleep, Denny's, design robot, then fiber. Yes, you can get high on fiber. I read about it on the internet. If you don't, you're not eating enough. Mainline an entire five-pound jug of Metamucil and watch the faeries fly.
I wanted an industrial robot since my 8th birthday, since we went on a tour of the McCulloch chainsaw factory in Hell, Michigan, and watched a score of welding robots put together two-cycle engines while listening to the complete works of Ozzy Osbourne on a large JCPenny ghetto blaster that played tapes, radio, 8-track, and Atari 2600 cartridges. (The robots listened to Ozzy. I did not have a ghetto blaster because my parents thought they were gang violence-related.) I liked Ozzy. I liked robots. I liked chainsaws. I decided I would build a giant robot someday, that would play “Crazy Train” at full volume, broadcasting terror to the villagers before it shredded the population and foliage with its chainsaw arms.
I ran into Robert P. McCulloch on that tour. The Missourian entrepreneur ran through the factory wearing only a pair of ill-fitting capri pants, sweating profusely, asking every one of his employees looking for a shell buyer to purchase 40,000 boxes of Kellogg's cereal for some unknown reason. He ran up to my family, stopped, and turned with a confused stare.“What do you think?”
“Chainsaws and robots fuckin' RULE!” I said.
“That's no way for a child to talk!” he said.
“He is a prophet,” said my American Indian medicine man. (Many children in my town kept Sioux shamans on retainer. A lot of our parents were Jim Morrison fans.) “He walks with the great Wakan Tanka.”
“Wakan Tanka. The divine, the great mystery. Desperately in need of some stranger's hand. I see great sorrow ahead. Wars. Famine. Diversification to Taiwanese holding companies.”
It's true — I used to predict the future, as a kid. I knew the Space Shuttle would explode, that the Berlin Wall would crumble, that Ronald Reagan would go on the thousand-dollar bill, shortly before the US switched to the North American dollar standard in a last-ditch effort to derail the career of Carlos Mencia. I always thought Crystal Pepsi would be a huge hit, so this didn't always work. And it mostly stopped after I started taking Paxil.
“No fuckin' body is ever buying this company!” he screamed at Chief Little Kills in Beer Pong. “Go suck on a smallpox blanket, you prick!”
“Calm down, fatboy,” I said. “Just because I can tell the future doesn't mean I won't spend my adulthood huffing Citrucel and trying to get laid at a Denny's. The world's an imperfect place.”
“Look kid, can you tell me my future? Am I going to be able to move the London Bridge to Arizona or what?”
“One day,” I told him, “you will give an endorsement deal to former Runaways singer Cherie Currie. She will become a great chainsaw artist. You must develop a chainsaw suitable for chainsaw sports. It will become big, bigger than the Rubik's Cube is right now. We're talking ESPN8 big.”
“Fuck that,” he said. “I used to build fuckin' superchargers for hot rods. I'm not gonna design some chick chainsaw.”
He ran off, looking for cereal. I knew he had a horrific, unwavering addiction to fiber, and I'd follow in his footsteps. But first, I'd watch every Crispin Glover movie as inspiration, then call my friend Freddy, who lived near Denny's, and ask him if Mariah Carey or Celine Dion was more satanic. Freddy was this evil little elf with stringy hair and bulging eyes who ran a wholesale fiber business out of his mom's basement, and used to hang out with G.G. Allin back in the day.
Shit! Okay, fall asleep. Go to Denny's. Order the Cardiac Death Slam. Call my insane friend Freddy. Listen to long conversation about last week's UFO sightings, theories on Vincent Price. Robots. Fiber. Victory.
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