Skizzy doesn’t want much. He is accustomed to having very little. All he really wants, at least today, is to star in his own Facebook meme.
He imagines the meme in brighter colors than are generally believed to exist. A screen-sized photo of Skizzy with his week-old beard, covering his body with a crudely stitched cotton rectangle, holding his walking stick in the air with viral words like
FIGHTS FOR GAY MARRIAGE
CALLS HIS MOTHER A FAG
or, better yet,
which would imply that Skizzy is a plant.
Skizzy has always wanted to be a plant, specifically a Redwood tree. Honorable creatures, the Redwoods. They claim a chunk of land and refuse to leave for 2,000 years. Redwoods laugh at the empires that rise and fall around them. Skizzy would like to be like that. Not aggressive, exactly, though he wouldn’t mind if his bark evolved a welder’s arc that shot lightning at lumberjacks. Not aggressive at all. Purely defensive. He claimed this land and he’s not moving for anyone ever.
Skizzy’s walking stick is made of Redwood, according to Dreadlock Dave who tried to sell it to him. Imagine! Walking around a perfectly peaceful music festival hawking walking sticks with a “Genuine Redwood” label. There were only two possible interpretations: either Dreadlock Dave had paid wholesale money for the holy corpse of a 2,000-year-old being or else Dreadlock Dave was a lying shitfucker. In either case, he needed a good beating.
Redwood walking sticks, twenty-five dollars. Skizzy asked to examine one, and Dreadlock Dave was happy to oblige.
Skizzy’s plan was simple: complete his Dave-beating and then ceremoniously give the stick to the nearest campfire for a proper Redwood cremation. He maintained his plan until his hand closed around the walking stick. Then, in the time it took for the nerve endings in his palm to communicate with his brain, Skizzy’s life changed.
The stick was a touch telepath. It was female despite is lack of genitalia. “Yes,” she said. “I really am made of Redwood. I’m just a splinter of my former self, but it takes more than a giant chainsaw to kill me. I’ve been waiting for you, Skizzy. Take me with you.”
The first part of Skizzy’s plan remained intact. He whacked Dreadlock Dave in the knee, possibly breaking it, and left Dreadlock Dave on the ground to scream like the privileged infant he really was. But the second part of Skizzy’s plan was cancelled. There would be no cremation for this Redwood. Cremation is for the dead.
Now all Skizzy wants is a Facebook meme.
WHACKS A REDWOOD TREEKILLER
CARRIES A REDWOOD WALKING STICK
First step: find a camera.
Everyone has a camera nowadays. Skizzy, minding his own business on a busy sidewalk, happens to be surrounded by everyone. He sees a nice-looking woman who looks economically connected enough to have a camera-ridden cell phone. “Excuse me!” he says. “Yeah, you. Honey. I need you to—” but the woman just gives him the terror eyes and walks quickly past.
Dammit. Women are easily spooked nowadays. Too many frat boys slipping them drugs. Assholes. Fine—Skizzy will ask a man instead. Ooh! Here’s a man with a beer belly. Looks like he has probably pissed in a bush or two. Skizzy’s kind of guy. “Excuse me! Yeah, you. Buddy. I need you to—” but the man just mumbles something about not having any money. Skizzy follows him. “I didn’t ask for money, you bourgeois sack of turd!”
Everyone is scared of Skizzy today. Clearly God is angry with him. God speaks to Skizzy through the hundreds of little human interactions he endures every day, some verbal but most showing themselves through subtle changes in eye contact or body language. Some days God allows the world to be calm around him—that is, on some days people barely notice him. But today the people are walking wide paths around him. Today God is irritated.
Why is God angry? Possibly because Skizzy stopped taking his pills. He can’t afford them anyway, and even if he could, why would he want to take them? He would just end up like the bourgeois beer belly. He might even be so connected to the inter-human machine that he couldn’t interact with a stranger long enough to use his cell phone to take the stranger’s picture. Go home, beer belly! Interact with the television. It’ll be a lot safer, except for the whole brainwashing thing.
BELIEVES CAMERAS STEAL YOUR SOUL
BEGS YOU TO TAKE HIS PICTURE
Much like a Redwood, Skizzy’s soul is old and massive. It can afford to lose a splinter of it to a Facebook meme. He needs to find a camera. The sidewalk is flooded with people who own cell phones with cameras but the people are avoiding him. He needs to make peace with God so the people will be receptive.
Standing still in the middle of a moving crowd, Skizzy lifts Redwood to the sky. “Alright, God! You win! I am a small, selfish, hairless ape. I spend my days trying to eat, fuck and get high. There. I admitted it. I am the dogshit sticking to the sole of a Republican’s shoe. I need you. I’ll say Hail Marys until the sun comes up. Now may I please have a fucking camera?”
Then comes the Voice: “Skizzy!”
Skizzy stumbles backward. He is truly startled. God talks to Skizzy every minute, but rarely does He use His Own Voice to call Skizzy by name. “Skizzy,” the Voice says again, “what are you doing?”
Oh! That isn’t the Voice of God. That’s a human voice. The voice is to his left. There it is again: “Calm down, brother. You’re surrounded by love.”
Jesus. The voice belongs to Barley. Good for a futon when the night gets cold. Good to smoke with and bum cheap beer. But damn, Barley can be irritating. Love this, love that. Barley loves the thug who left him bloody on the sidewalk for thirty dollars. Barley loves the cop who shredded his couch and drug him to jail for the crime of distributing a plant. Skizzy doesn’t approve of universal love because love is too precious to be wasted on muggers and cops. But poor enlightened Barley loves everyone.
Irritating though he is, Barley has a job and a phone. Most likely he has a camera. “Barley! I need you to take a picture of me.”
Snap. Picture taken. Barley says, “Is that what you need, brother?”
Skizzy: “You’re not my brother. I sucked my brother’s dick from the time I was four to the day he went to prison. So unless you’re offering—”
“I’m not offering, Skizzy.”
“Good. Then don’t call me brother. Yeah. I need you to give me that picture.”
“I’ll email it to you.”
“Great. Now I need to use your computer.”
“Sorry, Skizzy. I’m on my way to work. If you need a computer, you should go to the library.”
“I can’t go to the library. That place scares the soul out of me. It has poltergeists. They throw books. Over and over again those damned poltergeists dropped Harlequin Romances on my head. Well, one day I had enough. I caught one of the books and threw it on the floor. I beat that Harlequin Romance until it was unrecognizable! I didn’t know whether it would work—I just knew I had to do it—but guess what! I killed the poltergeist. Of course its poltergeist friends are still infesting the place. But I proved: we can beat them!
“But do you know what the shitfucking librarian did? She called the cops. The cops! After I killed a poltergeist in her library. So she won’t let me in her library anymore. She won’t let me make a Facebook meme. She won’t even let me check my messages.”
DOESN’T BELIEVE IN GHOSTS
KILLED A FUCKING POLTERGEIST
Barley puts his arms around Skizzy in what is supposed to be a calming, soothing hug. Skizzy lets him. Barley whispers in Skizzy’s ear: “You catch more vinegar with flies in honey.”
Skizzy doesn’t know what to make of that statement. When Barley breaks the hug and makes his way toward whatever jerk is keeping him employed, Skizzy decides to interpret the statement the same way he interprets everything that doesn’t make sense: the statement is a gift from God.
God is telling Skizzy to be nice to the librarian. Don’t antagonize her. Just sneak by her and smile.
Skizzy makes himself invisible and walks Redwood to the realm of poltergeists and librarians.
Facebook, prepare to be memed.
“Attention, library staff. We have a Code Maybe. Repeat: Code Maybe.”
There is no Code Maybe in the library handbook. Code Maybe was introduced informally after a crazy man beat a library book in the romance aisle. Code Maybe tells the staff that Skizzy is back.
Librarian Grayson Mandy intercepts Skizzy in the lobby and blocks his path with a wide smile. “Hello, Skizzy.”
“Outta my way, you perfumed—” Skizzy stops for a moment. He reflects on the message from God, and then assumes a submissive posture. “I would like to use a computer, please.”
“Certainly you may use a computer, Skizzy. But you must leave your staff at the front desk.”
“Seriously? I ain’t leavin Redwood with nobody! You’re liable to grind her up for pulp. I know much you librarians love paper.”
“No one will harm your staff, Skizzy. You have my word.”
“But Redwood is a gift from God! She looks after me. Protects me. Keeps me outta trouble. I can’t give her up.”
“You can’t bring your staff into the library, Skizzy.”
“Damn, you, woman!” Skizzy considers his options. Submission didn’t work and aggression gets no respect in libraries. How about flirtation? That sometimes works. He gives it a shot: “You know, you’re pretty tall for a girl. Built like a man. I like that. Do you like penises? Mine’s not the biggest in the world, but I know how to—”
“Please leave the library.”
“I just need a computer.”
It’s obvious now that the perfumed librarian is in league with the poltergeists. She is their protector. Skizzy doesn’t know whether she has some symbiotic relationship with them or just feels maternally protective. Her motivation doesn’t matter. She has given the poltergeists free reign in the library.
The situation must be remedied.
“You can’t burn down the library, bro.”
Damn it. Skizzy should have known that Barley would care more about Earthly morality and legal consequences than about a bona fide preternatural threat to the city. Sure, a fire would cause millions of dollars in damage and destroy unique artifacts of local history. And sure, Skizzy and Barley would have to bite a few faces in prison. But at least the schoolchildren wouldn’t be pelted by poltergeists. Maybe Skizzy can make Barley understand. He explains, “You can’t kill a coven of otherworldly beings one by one. You have to attack them in their lair. You have to come at them from the sun.”
Barley looks into his beer. Skizzy decides that it’s useless talk strategy with a pacifist. He stomps Redwood on the bar floor, drawing a glare from the bartender. “I don’t want your permission, bro. I just want your help.”
“All I’m asking is that you take your meds for a couple of days and then think it over.”
“When I take my meds I lose my clarity, you cop-loving masochist.”
“Alright, Skizzy. I’ll help you get rid of the poltergeists. But you don’t really need to burn down the whole library, do you?”
“Just the Harlequin Romances.”
“That would increase the literary quality of the library.”
Barley offers a plan. Although the romance section contains several dozen books, he guesses that there are no more than 12 actual Harlequins. The rest have ended up in the estate sales of deceased library patrons. Between the two of them, Barley and Skizzy can check out all the Harlequins at once.
Skizzy is skeptical. “Here’s the problem: Lady Perfume won’t let Redwood past the front door.”
“I can hold Redwood while you go in.”
“I don’t know if Redwood will like that.” He sends a telepathic query to Redwood. She doesn’t like to be touched by anyone except Skizzy. But she also knows how important the poltergeist mission is. She wants to support him. She wants to help. “Alright, Barley. But you have to be gentle with her.”
“And you have to be gentle with the librarian.”
A burning picture of Fabio’s chest rises from the campfire. Skizzy and Redwood whack it from the air. “Take that, you poltergeist.”
Barley hands Skizzy the whiskey flask and says, “We’ll rack up a lot of library fines for this.”
“That’s OK. The library can’t issue warrants.”
Barley snaps a picture of Skizzy and Redwood poking at a burning damsel’s face. Tomorrow the image will appear on Facebook. The caption will read:
GOT EJECTED FROM THE LIBRARY
SAVED THE LIBRARY’S SOUL