Michael Phillips, The Airstream Chronicles - Confusion in the Airstream

Confusion in the Airstream

"MJB, listen to this!"

I walked into the spare bedroom/broadcast studio where Arty was sitting in front of half a dozen Radio Shack boom boxes. Cassettes were scattered everywhere and Arty was sweating and pacing back and forth in his ratty, wretched old terrycloth bathrobe.

"I've figured out how to get these things to play backwards and I'm terrified at what I'm finding!" Several tapes were unspooled and draped across the folding chairs, spliced together with Post-it notes and rubber cement. "All you have to do is pull the tape out a few inches and twist it...see? And you jam it back into the tape machine and if it doesn't wrap around those little wheels in there..."

"What is it, Arty? I have things to do."

"Okay, okay, listen to this." He poked a play button with one of his stumpy little fingers and an unintelligible screech of gibberish played for a few seconds, then the tape jammed with an awful squeal and snapped. "Did you hear that? That was a tape of one of the cats. Did you hear what he said?"

"All I heard was a bunch of noise. Why are you wasting your time dicking around with this bullshit?"

"Oh come on, I know you heard it. The cat was plainly saying, 'I demand my freedom, I'm not an animal!' You had to hear it!". I just stared at him and he twitched his head a bit and said, "Oh, the hell with you, you haven't trained your ears to hear it. Your ears have to be specially trained to pick up the subtleties!"

"Arty, what the hell man? You're going over the edge. You never used to believe the crap those idiots spewed. I think you're losing it. I'm worried about you. You haven't been out of the double-wide in a week. Why don't you go to Vegas for a few days. Relax with some of those showgirls you know over there."

His face flushed and he began to sweat even more than he had been. At this point he'd been up for three days straight and I was beginning to fear for his sanity. Then he dropped the bomb: "The last time I went with a showgirl, she turned out to be a man!" he whimpered. "It was quite an anomaly, I tell you."

"What? You never told me that before! Are you talking about the last week in August, when you were there with Crane?"

"Yes! Yes, damn it! I can't pretend it didn't happen any more...it's weighing so heavily on my mind!" He was weeping now, and I saw him watching me out of the corner of his eye. I think he expected me to comfort him or something, but I wanted to hear the rest of the story before I did anything rash.

"Well go ahead Arty, tell me all about it."

"I will, I will, but what I'm about to tell you can never leave this room MJB, I'm serious." I nodded, which he apparently took as a form of agreement and let loose with the following awful tale.

"Her name was Taffy. At least that's what she told me when me and Crane picked her up at the Golden Nugget bar. C. was laying that awesome rap of his on a stripper named FonDuLac, and he gave me a wink and tapped the tip of his nose with his tongue, which, of course, is our signal that the broad is swallowing the bull and it's time to split up. Since he gave the signal first, he had dibs to our suite at the Aladdin's Lamp, and I'd have to make some kind of alternate plan for my conquest."

"Wasn't the Aladdin's Lamp blown up about five years ago to make way for a bungee jump/mini golf place?"

"Do you want to hear the story or not? I'm laying my soul bare here MJB...if you can't appreciate that..."

"Okay, sorry Arty, go ahead."

"All right. Where was I? Oh, okay, anyway, C. had the suite so I casually asked Taffy if she had a place in town where we could go for a nightcap. She leaned in real close and - Jesus, this is painful to talk about - she leaned in and put her tongue in my ear. But you have to believe me, I had no idea! If you'd have seen her you'd have sworn she was a woman! She put her tongue in my ear and whispered, 'Sure baby, we can go to my place. But my roommate might be hanging around.' Well, I figured I'd hit the fucking jackpot! Her and her roommate! You know how long I've been dreaming about that!" Bell turned and looked out through the filthy plastic window, gazing wistfully at the piles of old tires scattered in the dirt on the North side of the double-wide. He choked back another little sob and continued.

"So there I was sitting at the bar nursing a Rob Roy and a tremendous hard on. I grabbed her ass and said, 'No problem cupcake, let's skeedaddle,' and we went out and got into the Geo and drove to her apartment. It was in a really seedy part of North Vegas, but I wasn't worried since I was packing my .22 Derringer in my genuine faux alligator Engelbert Humperdink Signature Series ankle boot. All the way to her place she was messing with my fly and calling me 'daddy,' and when we pulled up to the building she said, 'hold that thought,' and got out of the car. I followed her past a pack of teenage Negroes that were loitering on the front step, and on into the dark hallway. We got to her door and she fumbled with her keys, and I said, 'Come on dreamboat, hurry up!' The door to her place opened and it didn't seem like anyone else was there. There were dirty dishes piled in the sink and cardboard covered a couple of the windows, but I hardly noticed as she led me to her bed. She pushed me down onto the creaky cot and said, 'Make yourself comfortable sweet daddy, I'll be right back.' She disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door. After a minute I heard muffled voices and a kind of a scuffle. Then there was the sound of breaking glass and some weird, guttural shrieking and something was banging against the door. I got up and said, 'Taffy, are you all right?' and she said, 'Everything's fine sugar plum, I'll be right out.' Arty was quiet for a minute, and then took a deep breath and went on with the tale.

"Sooooo...a couple of minutes later she came out, all smiles and wearing a little satin nightie. I said, 'What was going on in there?' and she laughed and said, 'Oh that's just my roommate Champale. She's on the rag.' She climbed on top of me and started rubbing my chest through my best Qiana shirt. 'So what's the name of the show you're in?' I said, using a little of the patented Bell small talk on her. She told me a couple of times, and I thought she was saying "Burlesque", and I said, 'What burlesque? Which hotel do you work at?' but she started...she started kissing me, and I let the questions go. She unzipped my pants and I...I pulled her on to me..."

Bell put his head in his hands and I said, "Forget it Arty, I think I've heard enough."

"No, no, I have to tell it all. I have to get it off my chest MJB! If I don't tell it now, I may never have the courage to do it again!" He was wailing at that point, and I was afraid Ramona would hear him and come in, so I told him to go ahead and get it off his chest. "Well, I pulled her on to me and we were grinding our...grinding our hips together, you know, and little General Bell was at full attention, and...and he just took over, as he'll do, and before I knew it I was naked there on that cot, fully naked and running my tongue up Taffy's cheek." I refrained from asking which cheek. I was pretty sure I didn't want to know the answer to that question anyway.

"And I was whispering to her how beautiful she was, laying the Bell line on her, when suddenly there was a kind of crash, and Champale staggered out of the bathroom. She was topless and very pretty, but also very, very small up top if you know what I mean. So, she came out and walked by the cot very slowly making a slurping sound that I've never heard before...it was almost inhuman I tell you! Taffy reached out and threw one of her shoes at Champale and hissed, 'Fuck off, would ya!' Champale flopped down on a ratty old futon about ten feet from the cot and passed out. 'Can't you make her go to her room?' I asked, and Taffy said, 'That is her room baby. Don't worry, she's out for the rest of the night.' So we got back to our business, and the little General was aching to see some front line action, so I pulled off Taffy's nightie, and she got back on top of me, and...and that's when I...I felt the...the...anomaly! I reached down and felt it...but somehow I didn't quite believe what I was feeling. I said, 'What the hell?' and she looked at me and said, 'What's the matter sugar?' I said, 'What's this?!' and she laughed and said, 'Well what do you think it is?' And she kissed me again, and...and I didn't stop her MJB! I didn't stop her! Part of me was repulsed, but the other part of me, the little General, just kept on going! Taffy rolled over and...and..."

Then Bell broke down and sobbed, little rivers of drool leaking out of his mouth and nose (I really have to find a new job), and I figured it was over. But apparently Arty had a few more things to say. "MJB, what can I tell you? I enjoyed the fullness of Taffy, I did! And that's what torments me MJB, I enjoyed it! I've been back to see Taffy since then, I have! I've even been to see her in her show, "Boylesque." And I'll go back again. I'm lost MJB, I'm a man without a country...a ship adrift in the inky night on the open sea! A wounded sparrow in the..."

I closed the door of the spare bedroom/broadcast studio, and snuck out to the Airstream for some fresh air.

mjp
10/3/96

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