Miss Entropia and the Adam Bombby George Rabasa
No other obsession strikes as hard as the love that hits a teenaged boy especially if he’s the sort of kid who is no saner than he wants to be. From the moment Adam Webb sees Francine Haggardin the van that is supposed to return them to the Institute Loiseauxthe two young mental patients are inextricably connected. Adam will never let this… See more details below
No other obsession strikes as hard as the love that hits a teenaged boy especially if he’s the sort of kid who is no saner than he wants to be. From the moment Adam Webb sees Francine Haggardin the van that is supposed to return them to the Institute Loiseauxthe two young mental patients are inextricably connected. Adam will never let this girl go.
From hiding her in his bedroom to spiriting her away to Minnesota’s north woods, “Miss Entropia” becomes the focus of Adam’s every thought and of everything he does. He believes her to be a goddess, his own goddess.
But the pyromaniacal Miss Entropia will be neither worshiped nor owned. And so Adam’s possessiveness is destined to push her to the breaking point.
Theirs is an incendiary love story, an unbalanced Romeo and Juliet, that spins and arcs its way strangely toward tragedy.
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Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb
By GEORGE RABASA
UNBRIDLED BOOKSCopyright © 2011 George Rabasa
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEmerging whalelike out of the winter gloom, the white van with Happy Harley at the wheel finally came to a crunching stop on our gravel driveway. I remained seated on the front-door stoop, my blue suitcase between my knees, not letting on that I was aware of the sicko shuttle coming to get me, acting as if I hadn't been waiting and waiting, hadn't heard Harley beeping the horn and cheerfully calling my name out the window.
I had no idea what had delayed Loiseaux's van. Usually they reacted quickly to a call, always anticipating challenges with the pickup. Clients were all difficult to a degree; some of us, on occasion, downright alarming. From behind me, the flicker of curtains being parted and blind slats lifted indicated that my family impatiently wondered when I would again be removed from their midst. We'd all been waiting.
By the time I emerged onto the porch my well-traveled suitcase had been placed by the front door by either my brother, Ted, or my father, Albert, I clop-clopped to it in my father's shoes, squatted unsteadily, and unsnapped the latches. Everything was there—a worn copy of Das Kapital, my collected papers through the ninth grade, a six-pack of Diet Pepsi, and various meds. The only clothes inside were my pajamas. "What a nice gesture! Thanks a zillion." I shouted, in case Cousin Iris was around to appreciate the irony; she was the one who had first introduced me to the sweet sensations of nude slumber.
I searched in the pockets of my father's blue blazer that I was wearing and felt the envelope containing the two-page letter from my parents, a kind of report on this latest home leave, which I was supposed to hand to the attendants. I could read it if I wanted to.
The air had grown chilly as I waited, the darkening shadows of a November afternoon, the day after Thanksgiving, blocking out the tentative sunshine of earlier in the day. One by one the windows of neighboring houses lit up. After a while the only dark house on the street was my family's, with all the lights off so as not to give me any ideas about being welcomed back. As if I would willingly return to their stares and smirks. I have my dignity. I imagined them scurrying about in the dark, Father occasionally dialing Loiseaux and asking in a whisper what was keeping the shuttle. Because frankly, there was some urgency here: the client (never "patient") is not to be trusted within spitting range of certain family members. The problem is not just rudeness, though there is certainly enough of that. The fear is that the client in question might resort to violence. That has not happened before, but there are unresolved anger issues that could, if allowed to boil over, erupt into something of a physical nature. Whoa, there, people! Somebody might think the worst about me, that I might be a potentially fratricidal maniac, interfamilial fornicator, self-made orphan.
I knew all this without ripping open Father's envelope or reading the additional letter my mother had pinned to my shirt for the eyes of Dr. Clara. The truth is, the family was scared of me. Every little nutty act, every eccentricity, every non sequitur in the course of family chitchat was seen as a harbinger of mayhem. If I squashed down the yams during Thanksgiving dinner, who was to say I wouldn't pummel Brother Tedious on top of his melon head with something blunt and heavy? If I walked around the house naked with an erection, I was deemed capable of doing something carnal to Cousin Ins. Yesterday I flicked my Bic lighter over and over throughout the day while sitting in the den, holding the phone to my ear, pretending to be in deep conversation, all the time going flick flick, until everybody breathed a sigh of relief when the butane ran out. I could go on flicking until my thumb fell off and not generate more than a spark.
I tried to tell everyone, from Dr. Clara to Mother and Father, that I was not in any way dangerous to others. I played with the lighter until it ran out of gas and saw Father sneaking glances at me. I locked into his gaze. "Don't worry, Dad, I'm not going to set anything on fire."
I had to laugh at the scared look he shot me. Like it had not crossed his mind that I was a pyro, but now that I mentioned it, well, that certainly gave them all something to think about. The truth is that I can't deny something if I'm not directly asked. Are you homicidal, my child? No, sir. The world suffers from a lack of communication. Instead of asking me outright, Dr. Clara tries to look into my head through a variety of lenses and mirrors. Dreams, inkblots, free association, automatic writing, regressive hypnosis, and better than all, her own invention—the Confessional.
Dr. Clara, Chief Mistress of the Head Game, does her work in the dark. The patients gather in the parlor with the lights off and the room pitch-black. The slightest sound is magnified. The rustle of our clothes as we shift in our chairs, the bated breath, the whimper, the sigh, all grow into a larger dimension. We take turns confessing, as to a judge, to crimes we have or have not committed. That is the rule: we can admit to something we have actually done, or we can admit to an imagined transgression. What fun.
Harley got out to load my suitcase in back of the van. He is a big fellow, a true Viking Son of Norway, a former WWF Smackdown star with long, flowing curls and a sculpted physique, known in the ring as the Happy Scandihoovian. After he retired from sweat and sadism, he was hired for his firm ways and cool head, and even now that he is off steroids, it's best not to get on his bad side. He has been known to subdue a rowdy passenger with the vise grip of his thumb and forefinger on a shoulder deltoid muscle, all the while smiling and murmuring endearments. Now, now, my precious, settle down and enjoy the ride, or tonight Dr. Clara will withhold milk and cookies. Unprovoked, he is a gentle giant.
"There you are, you little troublefucker."
"And a happy Thanksgiving to you," I muttered.
He went on as if he hadn't heard me. "Aren't you glad to see your old buddy Harley? I drove here quick as I could, on account that your family thinks you're on the verge of doing something really wacko. Are you going wacko on us again?" Harley came around the front of the van and slid the door open for me. I resisted going in because I didn't like the backseat being locked from the outside, the passengers strapped in, and a steel-mesh grill caging them in back.
"Let me ride in front?"
"I can't take any chances."
"Hey, this is your buddy, Adam."
"I was told you were going through an episode."
"Who you going to believe, HH? Me or that bizarre family of mine?"
"Good point. I'll believe your family. They're the ones paying the bills."
"Well, I'm not sitting in back of your booby wagon."
"You going to make me work for my pay? On a holiday, yet? I was hoping we'd have a friendly ride back to the 'Tute."
"There's nothing friendly about getting straitjacketed in back." I realized my voice was rising into its distinctive quavery trill, so I took a moment to breathe. No point in sounding shrill when you're trying to get upgraded from dangerous cargo to companionable passenger.
"Relax. I'll play music, take the scenic route, listen to your ramblings."
"How about I ride shotgun and stay quiet?" I did the zipping-of-the-lips thing and smiled my best ingratiating smile. Watch out for psychos smiling. We've got the disarming, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly grin down to a fine art. How else do you think serial killers get their victims to stumble into ditches, check into horrible motels, stroll down dark alleys? I grinned until Happy Harley caved.
"Okay. But not a peep out of you for the whole trip."
Oh, but I wanted to peep. It took every bit of resolve not to wheedle, whine, whimper, and weep. As we rolled down Hyacinth Street, where I'd lived off and on since birth, I felt a prick of sadness that only got sharper as we turned down the meandering road, its skeletal elms lit by the yellow glow of faux-historical streetlamps. You can't go home again, and again, and again, without on a given night leaving forever. I was blasted right out of my fantasies by the knowledge that this was potentially the final parting. A death of sorts.
I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to make the leap from quirky childhood to fully unleashed adolescence. Out on our porch stoop, waiting for the van, I'd felt the breeze of liberation for the first time in the two months I'd been home. They were coming to take me away, and I was exceedingly glad. Yes, good-bye, Mom, good-bye, Dad, good-bye, Iris, good-bye, Ted, I'm off to Institute Loiseaux. Better known as a home for the cleverly complicated. It's not a place for everybody. The entrance requirements are rigorous. It takes more than being challenged in the conventional ways, reality-warped, emotionally stunted, mentally fevered, attention-deficient. You gotta be cute to get into Loiseaux. No bobbing heads here, no fatties, droolers, spitters, or snifflers. No predators, delinquents, bullies, tweakers, juicers, or tokers allowed, no matter how delightfully odd.
It does help if you're an affluent exotic, a mass of psychic knots, a tangle of phobias and compulsions backed by a trust fund. Then even the suicidal and the homicidal are welcome. Hippies and goons, poets and anorexics, twitchers, Touretters, and the vaguely traumatized are all hugged close to Dr. Clara Loiseaux's pillowy bosom, feeling the warm embrace of the maternal healer, inhaling her distinctive scent of rose petals and licorice.
The first step is the journey in the 'Tutes van, with Happy Harley transporting problem children back from family leave to our true home on the shore of Lake Lucinda, a destination for snowy egrets, geese, mallards, hawks, and loons of various stripes. Except that with winter upon us, I had six months of white tundra to look forward to, the silence of the night broken only by the wind stirring the snowdrifts and the lake's black ice cracking sharp like gunshots into the depths of sleep. Loiseaux is a calm place in winter. New guests are seldom admitted during this dark season; the prospects of six hours of bright sunlight and a night that stretches from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. can bring on the kind of melancholia that dries the spirit and rusts the heart.
I rolled down the window, and the whir of tires on the pavement brought back the sound of my trike when I was six, yes, a three-wheeler because I was not blessed with even a minimal sense of balance. After trying training wheels on a regular bike, all geared up with knee and elbow pads and a helmet to protect me in my frequent tumbles, I was given an overgrown child's contraption with balloon tires and heavy-duty hand brakes. No matter. Rocinante, as Mother named my conveyance, flew like the wind, responding to my frantic pedaling on the uphills, then back, feet out, legs splayed like wings, caroming on the downgrades. Swaddled in heavy corduroy pants and a sweatshirt, I could feel the wind blowing on my face and hear the hum of rubber on asphalt singing in my head. In the years since, I've never been able to recapture that sweet momentum, the sensation of rushing so fast that a slight bump on the road would lift me and Rocinante off the ground into a frictionless surface of pure air.
Chapter TwoOn that Thanksgiving Day of '01 our house smelled like sweat. Not the musky fragrance of recently exuded aerobic perspiration but the stale, bottom-of-the-clothes-basket kind. It was not the clean sweat that glistened on my father's brow when he was thinking hard or the pearly mustache beading above my mother's upper lip when she puttered in her garden. Certainly not the sweet dancer's moisture that darkened Cousin Iris's leotard along her tight midriff and under her breasts when she did bar work. That day's smell was more like the sweat from my brother Ted's glands, a musty redolence incorporating Giorgio aftershave and hot tar from his road-repair job.
Following my nose, I traced the odor to the kitchen where a fifteen-pound turkey had been in the oven since dawn. I was not going to eat any of it. This presented a problem because food is a contentious thing for my family. The way the day was shaping up, I expected I'd be sent packing once again. This time I was supposed to be home for good, but at thirteen I continued to feel like a visitor.
In the last few years I had undergone periodic banishment via the 'Tute van. This had harsh consequences, considering that I was born to be here among these fine people, ordained by the fates, I'm sure. I don't know that there was anything unusual about my birth; I haven't seen tapes or interviewed witnesses. In any case, my presence at home had been an off-and-on thing. The exact circumstances of my comings and goings were muddled.
Nobody has ever asked my opinion regarding the Webb household. It contains two official parents, one biological brother, and one honorary cousin. But my inclinations toward vegetarianism, Marx, the goddess Kali, alternative fashion, and psychotropic meds were much in conflict with the unambiguous preferences of the family.
On this visit home I carried a thick brown envelope with school transcripts, prescriptions, psychological evaluations, test scores (IQ 173, four As and two Bs, surprisingly excellent for a slacker personality). A second, sealed envelope inside the outer envelope contained a clinical evaluation of my progress that year. If I'd had the nerve to look inside, it would have provided much humorous material; even after years of Confessional Therapy (registered trademark: Institute Loiseaux), my psyche is a closed book to all, including me. An address was pinned to my jacket as if I were some kind of lobotomee who might get confused in the big city: The Webbs, 328 Kimball Street, St. Paul, 651-798-3269.
My suitcase with its scuffed corners and taped handle was crammed to bursting. I had packed a box of raisins for the sugar, sesame sticks for the salt, Diet Pepsi for energy, my prescribed meds for outward equanimity and inner joy. I had some books, including Das Kapital bound in black. Also all kinds of clothes because I couldn't decide whether to put on a dress or jeans. Sure, I know what I am; I've got eyes, there are mirrors. Genital considerations aside, from the age of eleven I could go either way, swinging to extremes: either soaking in bubbles under the morning light that flows like honey through the bathroom skylight or rolling in the muddy backyard, a boy-pig in pork heaven.
I started out as a slow reader, but when I finally got around to Marx, I knew he would always be part of my intellectual arsenal. The Big K has, through the years, given theoretical heft to my ideas, from "Communal Order in Wasps" (show and tell, Miss Hanteel's fourth grade biology) to "The Irony of Martyrdom" (honors paper, Mr. Steadman's seventh grade world history). People know better than to argue with me when they realize my theories are solidly grounded. Marx is back in fashion in the better universities, too, now that he doesn't associate with East European bureaucrats with cabbage breath and we have villains with beards and turbans to worry about. Next to those guys, communists are downright quaint.
When life gets prickly, I like to lose myself in reading while the natural order of things takes its course toward more favorable circumstances. That Thanksgiving day I escaped the kitchen smells by burying myself in Blindness, a novel about a very scary plague. I've been known to read a whole book without anyone seeing me blink. I used to pull out each page as 1 read it until the contents were scattered throughout the house, loose leaves slipped behind furniture, under rugs and cushions, in the toilet. I was releasing the story back into the ether. That's what I imagined. It takes courage to let a book go and make room in your head for the next one.
Some people hang on to books and find a permanent place for them, rows upon rows classified by author, title, subject, color, size. My books end up wherever I happen to be when I finish them: a car's backseat, their spines splayed from my trying to hold them steady over the bumps and twists of the road, or water-swollen in a corner of the bathtub, or disappearing into the sand on some beach. They don't stay put for long; other eyes glom on to them. I am only a stop in their journey. Books, like me, are visitors.
Ted, aka Brother Tedious, considered himself a man of action; he did not like books. Or the people who read them. He had not broken the code that separates humans from turnips. He said reading was like being dead to the world, life's experience reduced to black squiggles on white paper. He claimed that even TV is more active than that. His idea of action was Game Boy mayhem—lust, dismemberments and beheadings, explosions and car wrecks. It was a pity he couldn't do anything more significant with his fingers after Homo sapiens had mutated through hundreds of thousands of years to the evolutionary peak of opposable thumbs. He also did serious weight lifting, slow, grunting presses that started smoothly and ended with a crash to the floor of his room. He used his strength to get into school fights with numbing regularity.
Tedious is a big, magnificent guy. He's got ape-sized feet with hairy toes and hands like baseball mitts. For this holiday feast he was mashing up various tubers. He took the boiled sweet potatoes and pressed them down with a special utensil that is basically a bunch of small holes with a handle. He took a yam in his hand and showed it to me. At a certain angle, it looked like it had a nose, lips, and chin.
"This is your head," he said. And proceeded to squash it down into the bowl, its features transformed into a dozen squishings wriggling out of the holes in the masher. He looked up and gave me his rascally devil grin.
Tedious was not yet a handsome guy. His face, in fact, was at the culminating point of his pimple-growing career; he may never again have as many pimples at one time as he did that day. His zits were like living organisms with minds of their own. It was as if they had gathered, each with its own consciousness, to colonize his head. As he smiled, an inflamed furuncle by the corner of his mouth got squeezed into exuding a mixture of pus and blood. Scary.
I had planned on mostly eating sweet potatoes with little multicolored marshmallows. In the end I settled on the green beans with slivered almonds and the fruit salad with the same marshmallows as the yams. That, plus not one but two kinds of pie, would make for a balanced meal.
The next biggest person in the family is my father. His name is Al, aka Albert. He's a good guy but hard to get to know. Years ago, before I arrived on the scene, he was reputed to be very fun-loving. A real joker. A ladies' man. He was voted most popular in his graduating class at Edison High School.
Excerpted from Miss Entropia and the Adam Bomb by GEORGE RABASA Copyright © 2011 by George Rabasa. Excerpted by permission of UNBRIDLED BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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