by Paolo Dhin

2. Loosers

" invisible giants
on violent feet..."

This is me, behind enemy lines, moving ever deeper into the black heart of my foe. For days I've been part of a choo-choo train of dirty people trudging down broken roads beneath smoky skies from which drop exploding packages. We see the packages walk across valley floors like invisible giants on violent feet. They stomp through the choo-choo train of raggedy Ann's and Andy's and move along, looking for other trouble. The choo-choo pulls itself together, steps over the dolls that have been broken and chugs on down the road, me with them.

I look just like the rest. My clothes are as filthy, my eyes are as red-rimmed and haunted, the same chin-twitching panic comes over me when the road blows up and I run for cover with the same bowel-loosening abandon when the metal birds dip below the smoke cover to spit red hot lead at us.

But on the inside, I'm laughing. These are my enemies and the delivery boys above are my friends. The metal birds are my pets. Every corpse I step over is one more mark for our side on the big blackboard of this war. Everything would be swell if it wasn't for this dizzying sensation.

It began shortly after we trudged past seige guns that were pointed at the sky like big nasty penises spitting evil blobs of semen. The roar of the syncopated ejaculations shook the earth, sucked the air from your lungs and batted your head around like an angry dad who finds you jacking off behind the chicken coop.

A mile down the road the world seemed to take a tilt to forty-five degrees and I found myself staggering like a drunken cow. It's gotten worse. Something is screwy in the balance department; I turn my head too fast and blooey, up is down and north is south. I come up against some hollow-eyed stranger who pushes me into the ditch. I wait for the whole thing to settle like a bucket of water that's been slopped. I've taken to holding my head like an egg on a spoon.

Night finally spreads its beat-to-shit wings over us. The progress of the choo-choo is being held up. It slows to a crowded shuffle which doesn't help this balance problem. Fortunately there's no place to fall in the crowd, so I stay on my feet. Fires appear in the night on either side of the roadway and next to them soldiers, clutching rifles, staring at the choo-choo of humanity.

Something is going on up ahead. It is what is slowing us down. The ripples of it come back to us, snatches of rumor like electricity down broken wires. We hear popping, single popping of small caliber guns. It is ahead in the night. it is where we're all going. The closeness of it is mirrored by the tenseness of the soldiers watching us. They know something we don't.

Then someone is next to me, grabbing me, sending my gyroscope spinning, pulling me off the roadway and into the shadow of a twisted hunk of metal that used to be a Toyota Tercel. I hang onto reality by a rusted edge and wait for mother earth to go back to sleep. A woman is hanging over me. She holds a can of shaving foam.

"I'll do you if you do me!" she whispers, shaking the can and reaching for my head. I pull back from this strange urgent woman. This is no time for kinky sex or sex of any kind what-so-ever. Death is our traveling companion.

"They're looking for loosers ahead," she says, "I've seen you staggering in the road. You're a looser. You've had your brain knocked loose. It's floating all over your skull!"

I don't know what she's talking about and tell her so, stupidly but with dignity. She smacks me across the face which starts the big world-dance. It's all vague to me in my topsy-turvy state but something is stuck in my ear, I hear a dull roar and a coolness spread behind my eyes like a mint dream. The nauseating wiggle waggle fades deliciously. It's weird but life is rock-solid again.

I do her. I shake the can and fill her head with foam. I hear the rumble like a distant train. I guess there's a shelf-life to the steadying effect because, back in the shuffling raggedy crowd, she moves like a water snake through hyacinth pulling me behind her, opening a wake for me to slide through. She insinuates us forward. She is racing a clock that is inside there with her shaving foam and floating brain.

We break the perimeter of the crowd. They've cleared a space on the asphalt roadway. It is lit by the halogen lights of a couple of monster trucks facing each other from opposite shoulders. On the dotted yellow line that runs down the middle, people are making like tight rope walkers, their arms out, their feet scientifically put down; heel, toe, heel, toe. A soldier grabs the woman, shakes her by the shoulders and sends her onto the dotted line.

I follow her out into the white light. My brain survives the shaking of the soldier but my heart rebels in fear. It's pounding in my chest like it could knock me off the layer-of-paint pedestal I'm perched on. I fixate on the woman ahead of me. I hang onto the back of her skull. I mentally shave it and analyze the bumps. I give it the power of gravity to pull me steadily across the ether of mean halogen.

She reaches the other side, where an officer pushes her past him. At the perimeter of the light she starts to turn back. The tip of her nose peeks from the curtain of her dirty hair. I see the curve of her cheek, her profile. She swings around, full-face and I watch a bead of white foam slide from her nose, negotiate her nether lip and lose itself in the line of her mouth. She doesn't notice it but the officer who is now watching me, turns to see what I'm staring at. He does his mental gymnastic. His hand comes up. It ends in a little gun. Without ceremony he sticks it in her ear and pulls the trigger. There is a pop and shaving foam blows out the other side. She drops like a sack of dead potatoes.

I stand in the darkness next to a shell-marked bullet hole-riddled, twisted sign and watch them dump the woman's body on a growing pile. These people are animals. They shoot their own wounded. The sign says "Capital City - 5 mi."