Things you need to know:
1. James is a boy like no other.
2. Ghosts get the last dance.
3. This ain’t no picnic table.
Put a hat on your head and feel it squeeze, James told himself as he got ready to step out the door to go catch his schoolbus.
As he went out his mother called, “Don’t throw your nose off your face.”
“I won’t,” James called back.
When James got on, the bus driver said, “Shut your gob and put your hands in your back pockets and sit your fat ass on them.”
James looked out his window and thought: This little piece of winter caught in the cleft of fall and spring struggles to perform.
“Put your fist through a wall. This is Christmas, yo,” said James’s best friend sitting down next to him.
“Put your hands together for the end of the line,” said the bus driver. The bus stopped and all the kids that were getting off got off, including James.
“Smoosh,” is what James said when he found it. He was ten or eleven and late for school and it was a duck on the sidewalk.
“Excuse the smell,” said the duck. “I fell off a building earlier and forgot to spread my wings.”
James took his duck to the angel and asked for a new one.
“Some times all we get is one duck,” the angel said sadly. He took the smooshed bird and examined it. The angel wore a hat that made his head very wide. “There used to be a thing we’d do for this. I can’t remember.” The angel bent his head and started to cry.
“Don’t cry,” James said. “I’m sure that only small innocent people will die and go to the dank grave of the vampire lord who will suck the apple juice out of their neck with a straw made of cat bones.”
The angel had pity on James and gave him the duck wings and told him to fly into the sun.
Up above the world, these are some of the things James saw:
A shining woman, whose dreams were still alive, yet she stuck them into the wet sand and covered them up. She was as old as the moon and wouldn’t die until it did. This had been foretold to her by a candle flame. The candle was a gift from an angry lover who had made the candle from the diseased guts of an elephant who ate poisoned flesh.
Cannibal elephants lived in the jungles of the last forest. The rain splashed on their backs and they trumpeted like the death cries of giants. Some stone carver wanted to carve these elephants into stone.
Have you ever been carved into stone? Had your flesh slit with a knife? Your juices drawn out with a pipette, leaving only hard rock behind? You’ll stand for ages that way, until the moon dies, on the edge of the water, looking at the graves of all your living dreams. The queen of diamonds was made from diamonds.
Down the long staircase of time came a troop of monkeys carrying their typewriters in slings on their backs. They wanted to get hired by the director of the world. Each of them wore a suit and tie. Each had a banana stuck in its breast pocket for later when they would kill the stone carver. Shove a million bananas down his throat and make him take it.
The angel in his house looked for his keys and that’s a puzzle since his keys were in his pocket. His suit was on the coat wrack in his closet, which was locked. He couldn’t follow the boy without his keys. “Don’t talk to me about wings,” said the duck on the table. The angel’s suit came with wings and pockets, which was the answer to the puzzle.
“Here we go,” said the captain to the crew of pirate aliens. “Down the long fall of the black space well. Have no fears. I am a captain extraordinaire. I can play the piano like a fiend.”
James flapped his duck wings and chased the pirate ship. He wanted to get the picture of his life. His camera was at the ready.
The angel leaned on his fridge and smoked.
The moon glared at everybody like a big fat angry eye. There was thunder and lightning. The rain made patterns on the sea. It rained wine. The sea grew dark.
The battle would be fought and lost on an island of stone where the stone carver had been deposited. He was unpleasant company for the captain who left—he had business on another planet in a far off galaxy where nothing fun ever happened and you could do some serious piracy.
There were three swordsmen on the stone carver’s payroll. They each faced off against James in turn, which was very sporting of them if incredibly stupid. When you have three against one odds, you don’t decide to go one on one.
So, blood spilled, bone cracked, muscles flexed. The moon snapped pictures because James was busy. James was really hurt bad by a sword through his wings. They pinned him to the top of a hill as if he was a butterfly in a lepidopterist’s notebook. Then he was carved into stone.
Now all was stone and silence and the three swordsmen who had defeated James even though they’d been stupid, decided to lunch on a load of bananas someone had catered.
The big storm that had been brewing all day in anticipation was pissed. It sent lightning down and fried each swordsman. Then the monkeys showed up. They refreshed their armory of bananas and were out for revenge.
They had made a raft of old manuscripts and left their typewriters behind because now typewriters were obsolete. The monkeys surrounded the stone carver and showed him their open mouths and long tongues and they hooted at him.
The stone carver couldn’t get off the island since he was surrounded and the pirates had all gone and he felt betrayed by the storm up there that had seen to his swordsman. He told the monkeys a story to distract them. They forgot about their bananas. They listened hard.
In the stone carver’s story, there was a treasure inside the moon, a great, big chest. Inside the chest was a model of the universe, perfect in every detail right down to the monkeys who stood on an island surrounding the stone carver. If the monkeys got this model and changed any part of it, they would also change the corresponding part in the real world.
This was a very good story and the monkeys told the stone carver it was a good story and then they ate his face because…monkeys.
This didn’t help the queen of diamonds who was still waiting for her dreams to grow out of the sand like baby turtles and go running down the beach and into the ocean. They hoped they would find empty bottles amongst the waves that they could crawl into and rest a while. Then some person would pluck the bottle from the waves and tip out the dream and that would be fantastic.
The angel crowbarred open his closet and took out his snakeskin suit. Up at the moon, the angel inserted his keys and swung open the dark side.
Inside, just like the stone carver had said, was a great, big chest, and inside the chest was an exact model of the universe. Having a party inside the model were a bunch of ghosts. They were dancing up a storm, their knees and elbows banging into important parts of physics and causality.
“Get out! All of you,” bellowed the angel.
“Ten more minutes,” the ghosts pleaded.
“Fine,” said the angel. He let the dark side of the moon bump shut. He leaned against it and pulled out his smokes.
“Got some nice pictures,” said the moon. “Want to have a look?”