The Flannel Bomb
An excerpt from a novel by David Kushner
A bloated, bleary eyed Flea comes stumbling out of the bathroom, vomit plastered to his shirt. The line of Rats lunge out of the way.
"Great!" One Rat says. He leans into the bathroom, and comes out grimacing. "Next?"
Gazoo pokes in, the stall is devasted with puke. He comes out, shaking his head. "Leave it to the Fleas. First they break Eelvis' tank. Then they destroy the bathroom. What's left? Burning down the whole goddamn building?"
"Shit," Daisy crosses her legs. "What timing! I can't wait." She sighs. "You know, I live just around the corner. I tell you what, I'll make you a deal. Walk me to my place, and I'll let you use my can."
Gazoo looks into her little Marsha Brady eyes. He wonders if she's coming on to him. He wants to ask her if she's coming on to him, but, alas, he's not a true truther. A true truther would come out and just say it. Do you want to fuck me? But, Gazoo suspects that his and his friends' knowledge of the subliminals throws them from the curve. They're too aware of the manipulating forces at work, to fall into the spell. It's like the director of a movie or the writer of a book, the creator watches the action, the player participates. The moment Gazoo and Bern recorded their subliminials, their chance at interaction was over. He and Daisy slip out the back door and wander through the
alley behind Dada. Neither one of them says anything. Daisy walks ahead, her long blond wig hanging slightly off her head, revealing little, silky, black tufts of her real hair. The night is black. Feedback drifts through the air. "Truthers never sleep, huh." Daisy says, slowing back to allow Gazoo to catch up.
"Doesn't sound like it," Gazoo says.
They turn a corner, heading straight through the heart of the Bottoms. Thirty or forty Rats and Fleas gather around Mic's chalk mark, holding candles, feedback blaring. The voices mumble cathartically, strange, eerie truths.
"I could just wander forever," one Rat with a Fu Manchu
moustache stops in front of them and says.
"Well," Daisy, shooz him away. "Wander over there, will you. We're in a hurry."
The Rat bows his head and stares into the candle in his hands. "No one likes me. I'm a loser. I feel freest when I'm empty. I'm empty, but I'm alone." He shuffles off towards the guitar.
Daisy and Gazoo walk past the crowd and turn another corner. "Do you think that stuff's really on their minds?" Daisy says. "Who knows," Gazoo chirps. "I just think the whole things gone loopy. I mean, okay, at first the idea was cool. It was a prank. You know, we dropped the subliminal, picturing all these corporate dorks telling their bosses to "fuck off" and stuff. And look what happened. We end up triggering another subcultural fad which serves only to fatten stomach of the same corporation we we're trying to destroy. Grunge attacked the corporations, then the corporations marketed the grunge. Same thing happened to the hippies, the beats, you name it. Where's the logic? How can you fight the corporations, when everything you do is something they can market?"
Daisy points down the block to a dim-lit tenement house. "I live just down there."
"Well," he continues. "And now they're capitalizing on my telerotics. At first I was, like, cool. They're promoting my work. Madonna's using it. I mean, what more could I ask for. But, then I realized, something. I've sold out! I HAVE NO CONTROL ANYMORE. They own the rights. They produce the product. I got raked on my patent. They didn't pay me squat! And what they paid was chewed up by Frank, anyway." He throws up his arms. "Now the jerk's buying me drinks. He's hanging in the Bottoms." Gazoo laughs, maniacally. "AND, HE KNOWS DOCTOR SMELL? They were hippies together! Can you believe it? I mean, what's next? Everything is a disaster. Nothing is sacred. The whole point of my telerotics was to allow humans to control the technology, to control the television. But there's one fundamental question I never considered." He gapes at Daisy, eyes bulged. "Who controls the telerotics?"
Daisy steps up to her building and slips the key in the door. Empty beer cans litter the tattered foyer. "Madonna?"
"Madonna!" Gazoo cackles. "The corporations! They eat everything. No matter what we do, they'll buy it, process it, package it, distribute it, get it in every home in the goddamned universe, until all it's vitality is gone, and we're left with something as riveting and original as a goddamned toaster oven!"
He follows Daisy's tight hips up the stairs.
"Screw it!" He snaps. "To hell with commercialized science! To hell with the commercialized revolutions! I don't want my MTV! I don't want my MTV!" He leans against the banister, waving his fist in the air. "I am not a television, I am a human being!"
Daisy stops in front of her apartment door, giggling as she tries to slip her key into the hole. Gazoo makes a joke about lubrication. When she finally opens the door, all he can see is blue light. She drops her key and heads for the bathroom. Gazoo shuts the door and walks over to the source of the blueness, a Lava Lite bubbling behind the bean bag. He watches the white, waxy glops, burbling in the thick, psychedelic gravy. He stares hard into the wax, picturing little fetuses, swirling around in a womb. The toilet flushes. Daisy comes out, stretching her arms in the air.
"You like the lamp," she says, picking up a cone of incense and lighting it's tip.
"Yeah," Gazoo says, "very, uh, relaxing."
She sets down the cone. "You know, it always reminds me of fetuses."
Gazoo turns around, sharply. "Fetuses?"
"Yeah," Daisy says. "I guess that's what turns me on about it. Makes me feel all safe and warm, like I'm just floating in the womb. No one's around. No one's telling lies. No one's telling truths. The only sound is my heart beat pumping in a kind of funky, reggae rhythm."
"Oh yeah," Gazoo says, leaning forward and kissing her on the neck, the stiff wig, rustling against hi face. She starts to giggle. "What?" He says, backing away.
"No, no, it's all right. I didn't mean to laugh," she says. "It's just so strange. I always thought you weren't attracted to anything," she stammers, "human."
Gazoo takes her softly by the shoulders and kisses her again and again. He feels the weight of her body, pressing against his, and they fall back onto the corduroy bean bag chair. He kisses her face. The cold silver ring in her eybrow singes his lips. He moves his mouth around the ring, working his tongue between the hole. Daisy rubs her hands along his freshly mowed head, running them down to his back. Just as he starts taking off his shirt, she leans up and presses her mouth against his ear, running her tongue along the edges. She whispers, "let's do it on the television."
Gazoo laughs. She doesn't. She grabs him by the hand and pulls him over to the TV, a twenty-seven inch Toshiba in a big, brown cabinet. A soft, dark, velvety cloth is draped over top. She unbuttons his pants. He lifts up her skirt. Just as he reaches around to pick her up, she jumps back.
"Wait a minute," she pants, holding out her arms.
"What? What? What?" Gazoo exclaims.
"I want to put on the tape." She bends down and starts rustling through a pile of scattered video cassettes. She snatches one and holds it up to the Lava Lite, reading the label. Her skin turns alien blue. "Damn it!" She says, tossing the tape back to the floor. "Wrong one." She stoops back down and fishes out another. Reading the label, she smiles. She slips it into her VCR. "Now," she extends her arms towards Gazoo. "Lift me up on the television," she purrs, "and press play."
Gazoo grabs her from behind and sets her on the cabinet. He squats down and looks at the VCR. The little green lights flash the numbers of midnight. He hits play. He turns the TV on. A tiny dot of color bursts from the heart of the screen, slowing filling the space
with light, until nine wholesome American faces are staring Gazoo in the eye.
"The Brady Bunch?" He whispers.
"Yeah," she moans, pulling him up by the ears.
They start going at it, very slowly, as the Brady Bunch theme song kicks in. "Here's a story , of a lovely lady, who was living with three very lovely girls..." The light from the screen illuminates the room in an eerie, metallic tone, as they press against each other. Gazoo can't help to look down between his legs and sneak a peek at the episode below him. It's the one in Hawaii, the one about the curse. His favorite.
Daisy's legs wrap around his waist and all his conscious thought seeps from his head, like steam. He forgets about everything, about the Hawaiian episode, the world outside, the truthers, the Rats, the Fleas, the Melfact. She squeezes his back, running her fingernails down the dip of his spine. The blue light brightens. The fetuses somersault in the Lava. Daisy moans and grinds, her blond wig snapping and sticking against her sweet almondy, sweaty face. The TV blares and the sounds swell and Gazoo holds her waist tightly in his hands, staring into her slivery, little eyes. From the bottom of his mind, a question comes, so foreign, so abstract, it floats from his tongue like a dream, like someone else's echo.
"Who are you?"
Daisy doesn't answer, she just straightens her back. She moves her face towards his. Her body is cast in blue. Slowly, her eyes open. Gazoo sees no pupils, no irises, only static, the color of a cloudy sky.
"I'm your television, baby," Daisy drones. "I'm everything you need."
She stays in that position, grinding slowly against his hips. He looks deeply into her weird, syndicated eyes and, for a moment, sees God. She is the television, he thinks, the cable creator. She is my history, my identity, and I am fucking her like everybody else in my generation wants to be fucking her. I want to be inside her, behind her screen, so far that I disappear into the light, into the atoms, until I fade away into that great suburban abyss. Bradys and Partridges and Jeanies and Witches, I want to ride out bikes down their sidewalks, eat at their tables, sleep in their beds. I want to enter their world, like I am entering her vulva. She is my culture, she is my destiny. To crawl back into the womb! To live forever as a rerun!
She pulls him more and more tightly against her chest. Her breaths puff quickly and sharply. Her shrieks begin to soar. Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. Her heart begins to pound. Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes! Her mouth opens. Her tongue flutters. The words barrel from her lungs like fire. "Gazoo, Gazoo!" She cries. "Tell me, please, tell me your real name!"
He bangs against the cabinet. He clutches the flesh of her behind. Blue light is everywhere, swelling and rolling. And the light erupts from the television screen, sending Jan and Cindy and Alice and Peter and even their dog, Tiger, leaping into the room, screaming and barking, swirling in circles.
"My name," Gazoo pants, "is Greg!"
Daisy's body quakes into spasms, her arms crushing his shoulders, until his entire body implodes into electric gray curls of static.
"Oh God!" She moans, breathing in his light. "That's perfect!"