Regression

by J.Arthur Fernung II

Hooked On Oriental Drugs

"Time doesn't pass anymore and even if it did, it wouldn't make me miss her any less." Her memory zoomed through my head as I loaded up the car, the gun, my veins. I knew for a fact I wouldn't last two days if I stayed in this place with nothing but her face and a half-gallon of whiskey on my brain. I was running. To where? Who knew? Maybe I would jump in the car, decide I was too whiskey bent to make the trip and turn around after a mile. Maybe I would drive this '91 Taurus to Mexico, find a suiting bride who spoke broken English, and live happily ever after. Sipping tequila and bringing home the bacon giving tours through ruins, or some other occupation where the only uniform was cut-offs and a white tank top. Maybe my drunken heart would finally get the best of my brain and I would put this .44 straight to the left side of my head 10 miles down the road. With a vein full of opiates, whiskey breath, a broken heart, and enough bullets to supply a small militia, the possibilities seemed endless. "Come on it, Arthur" I thought to myself, "you know these miserable sots will be onto you in no time, maybe even soon enough to stop you." I wasn't 100% sure of my intentions on this trip. Actually, I wasn't 50% sure of my intentions on this trip. All I knew was that I wasn't coming back alive.

Saddle up, lock & load.

Slam the trunk.

Jump in the car.

Turn the key.

Bury that needle.

Set the cruise control dial to self-destruction.

Dr. Shotgun

South. Why the hell was I heading south? Had I finally garnered the courage to start picking off these war mongering, homophobic fascists one by one? Luckily I had packed enough amyl nitrate to dull the inevitable outcome of this trip. The feeling that possesses your body after a hit of amyl nitrate is impossible to articulate effectively. You first feel like your eyes will pop out of your skull followed by a sensation indescribable by any one word. In the midst of that state of pure elation that tiny brown bottle had put me, I sped by a man with his thumb out on the side of the highway. Had I been in any other state of mind I would have realized that, in this situation, picking up a hitchhiker possessed enormous potential for legal and bodily harm. However, being well soused and filled to the brim cognitively with amyl nitrate, company sounded inviting. I pulled an abrupt U-turn to meet my new friend. Despite the apparent 2 weeks worth of growth on the man's face, I could tell he was young, my age maybe.

"Where you headed?," I asked gazing through my rose colored sunglasses. "Uuuhhh... where are YOU headed?" he beseeched, looking baffled and completely disoriented. "Hell, I have no idea. Probably south to kill some fag-bashing, bible-wielding bigots. I have plenty of bullets." I replied. "Sounds good," was the only response from this inherently strung out stranger. I should have known right then that picking up this fiend was a horrible misjudgment. Only an insane, suicidal, and perpetually drug-addled man would have agreed to enter that car with me in the condition I was in. This guy fit the bill. He happened upon a stranger whose eyes were wide with amyl nitrate, breath wreaked of stale cigarettes and straight bourbon, was jabbering about murdering a bevy of prominent politicians, and whose 4 door sedan was littered with a colorful wardrobe consisting of hats, a collection of sunglasses, and three piece suits. With enough .44 caliber rounds to sink a German U-boat, and so much cocaine residue it looked like the car had just weathered an avalanche of Everest proportion.

Only a truly dangerous dope fiend would have entered my vehicle that day; and his name was Dr. Shotgun. Dr. Shotgun either didn't wish to divulge his true identity or had forgotten it, but he refused to answer to anything but "Dr. Shotgun" or "Doc". A pair of T-shades blocked the doctor's eyes, red with strong drink and God knows what other chemicals. He wasn't very large in stature, very slender, reminiscent of your stereotypical heroin fiend, and short 5'4 or 5'5 at best. Yet the doctor's composure and suicidal eyes still made him intimidating. They revealed an apparent disregard for all hope, ambition, or will to live. What had I gotten myself into? If the destination of this trip wasn't a casket before, adding the Doc to the equation drove the last nail.

Blood Will Have Blood

"TO THE CAROLINAS, SARGE!" Doc bellowed. Ending whatever nightmare I was baring, asleep at some rest area in God knows where. "What the hell are you talking about man? Why would we go there?," I didn't recall what I told the Doctor my intentions were. "The bigots, you fool! The Carolinas are full of them! We'll have a Goddamn hay day. Like shooting fish in a barrel!" Doc was talking far too loud for the distance that was between us in the vehicle, my ears began to ring. "Sounds like a plan, DOC!", I shouted back at him, matching his volume, "Let's show these God-peddling wine-Os who they're fucking with!"

I knew there was no turning back now. Dr. Shotgun was obviously psychotic and I would not put it passed him to put a knife in the heart of a turncoat. I just kept telling myself to save a bullet for myself in the event of any law enforcement encounters; they weren't taking me alive. I double-checked my breast pocket, through the pack of Parliament lights, for the bullet I had carved her initials into. "This one's for you, Arthur," I whispered to myself, "this one's for you."

"Throw me that bottle, Doc! It's going to be a long night." The Doctor diligently rummaged through the back of the car, retrieving a fresh bottle of Jim Beam from the floorboard as we made a mad dash for the Carolinas.

Warm bourbon on a Sunday evening.

Aye, that's the rub...

Hell Hath No Fury

We arrived in Charlotte at about 8am Saturday morning. It didn't take much searching to figure out that we had come to the right place. Confederate flags, pick-up trucks, NRA bumper stickers, and a church on every corner... You could smell the Jesus. I don't know if it was the fact that the Doc was loading a 12-gauge shotgun or the wild look in his eyes, but I could tell he was getting restless.

"Take it easy, Doc, we should probably get a bite to eat and survey the scene before we get to work," I tried reasoning with him. "To hell with that!" the Doc screamed, "these fascists deserve none of our tact, we will hunt them down like dogs."

I wanted nothing more than to drink wine from the skulls of these pigs, but I knew the minute the Doc was allowed to romp all over that good ol' boy town, jail was inevitable. I coaxed him into taking a break before we started the serial murdering. We stopped off at a bar to have a drink and browse through a phone book for the address of our first victim. Apparently, if you are a semi-prominent congressman from North Carolina you feel secure enough with your confederate neighbors to put your name and address in the phone book. Horrible misjudgment by Congressman Johnson

The first fascist was an overzealous, overweight, bible thumping Republican. Proud NRA member of course. The Doctor and I waited a ways down the road from his 3-story Victorian home. There were no fences, no guards, and no dogs... Did this jackass actually think he never pissed anyone off? He pulled into his estate at about 5pm. Doc Shotgun quickly reached for his pistol. "Patience, you fiend!" I snapped, "We're night owls, Doc, we'll operate best when the sun goes down." My co-hort nodded with approval, "What would I do without you, Sarge?"

My hesitation began to lift from my shoulders, I had become a functioning alcoholic, and my mind was definitely in the game. For the first time since I could remember I felt good about myself, almost patriotic. Not just a patriotic American, but also a global patriot. I wasn't just doing a good deed for the people of my country, but I was also helping to rid the world of prejudice and tyranny, slowly but surely.

As we were waiting for the sun to disappear, I tried to talk some sense into the Doctor. I told him I knew his intentions were good, but he had to understand that if we were going to rid the world of these hate mongers we had to avoid any actions that would jeopardize us picking off as many as possible. "You're a Goddamn genius, Sarge!" Doc was belligerent and screaming again as he tipped the bottle of red wine. Yes, we are definitely going to jail.

The sun is down.

The hammers are pulled back.

It's swine season.

Swine Season

We were well soused and my former speech about being discreet was tossed out the window. The Doc and I barreled right through the front door, guns blazing, louder than a tribe of bloody savages on the warpath. An obese man in nothing but a white button down shirt and boxer briefs charged down the stairway behind a shotgun that he grasped tightly in his hand, ready to blast whatever dope heads had invaded his castle. Luckily I had perched myself directly to the right of the bottom of the staircase. I struck the fat bastard in the back of skull with the butt of my revolver. As he went to his knees the Doctor seized his 12 gauge, giving him an uppercut to the jaw with the stock in the process. The miserable sot was out cold. Doc proceeded to turn the barrel to his head. "STOP!" I screamed, looking up the stairwell at the two call girls who had accompanied our unconscious victim that evening. They were obviously in shock, both in a blanket, gazing down the stairway and shaking. "WHAT?!? What now, man? You're wasting my fucking time!" the Doc bellowed. "GET BACK IN THE BEDROOM AND LOCK THE DOOR!" I commanded the prostitutes. "Tie him to one of those chairs," I told the Doc, motioning towards the kitchen table "I want this fat fucker to KNOW why he's not waking up tomorrow." When the Congressman regained consciousness he was retstrained to his own oak dining chair. The Doc and I had seated ourselves on either side of him, firearms on the table, munching on some chips and salsa we had appropriated from the fascist's cabinets. "Morning Sunshine!" the Doc screamed "How's the noggin?!" He cackled wild eyed and crazy as he harassed the terrified politician.

"I'm going to rip this tape off your mouth and we're going to have a little question and answer session. If you scream, your brains are going to paint this nice clean carpet" I warned. The Doc ripped the tape off his fat mouth with no mercy. But the pig just cringed, remembering my threat.

"Now, Congressman Johnson," I proceeded "we're going to have a little quiz, a makeshift game show if you will. I'm going to ask some simple yes or no questions and you're going to answer truthfully. I never did develop an appreciation for baseball, but let's give that theory a try. Three strikes and you're out." You could smell the fear pouring off of the man, he stammered before speaking "I....uuuhhh... I've never even met you people, why are you doing this? I've done nothing to you." he pleaded. "CONGRESSMAN JOHNSON! I am the fucking host of this show, I will ask the fucking questions! Unless you want to be disqualified I suggest you shut your fat gluttonous COCKSUCKER!" The adrenaline, hatred, heroin, and strong drink were all running through my veins. I was starting to sound like the Doctor.

"QUESTION 1 Did you vote yes or no on the Patriot Acts?" I asked, with a psychotic grin on my face.

"Y.... y.... yes, I voted yes" he diligently answered, sweating bullets.

"Question 2 did you take part in passing the gay marriage ban?"

"Yes..." not as hesitant this time, but more fearful.

"Question 3! Are either of those lovely ladies up there your wife?"

"N.... N.... no" he squeaked, with a look of guilt.

Apparently, the Doc had already grown sick enough from the man's answers and could no longer contain himself. He jumped up with the shotgun in hand and screamed, "THAT'S THREE FUCKING STRIKES!" blowing the bigot's brains out of the back of his skull. I had never seen so much blood in my life. There wasn't a spec of white showing on the wall any longer. It was all red. Everything was red. The Doc and I looked towards the mess, then towards each other before bursting into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

The Harlots

"Stop dragging ass!" I bellowed at the Doctor, grabbing him by the shoulder of his P-coat, "The pigs are going to flock here any minute, and we got too much work to do to be stopped now." We were on our way out the door when the Doctor remembered a loose end. "THE HOOKERS, MAN! THE FUCKING HOOKERS! They just witnessed a murder, they know exactly what we look like, they will be our downfall. We gotta take care of them." I couldn't see myself or the Doc killing an innocent prostitute, a saleswoman.

"These girls have done nothing wrong, Doc, just their job, and we're responsible for fucking that up. That Goddamn wine-o deserved what he got, but we can't kill innocents, especially women." The Doc knew I was right, so we corralled the terrified, speechless girls into the back of the Taurus. I felt enormous sympathy for them; they didn't deserve to be witnessing all of this. The Doc and I were perpetually drunk and under the influence of a bevy of hard drugs. We had made ourselves crazy, and that scene wasn't for a woman, prostitute or not.

The women weren't stereotypical prostitutes either. They were equipped with the apparel of course, and their faces were caked with make up. But they were young and had maintained their youth. These girls were beautiful, the epitome of gorgeousness.

We sped off towards down town Charlotte; I had planned to blend in with the city until some of the heat was off. I attempted to explain our situation to the mortified ladies as the city lights sporadically shone on their worried faces. Though they were still obviously scared, they were surprisingly understanding. "That was man was a fucking pig," the brunette blurted out, finally breaking the silence they had maintained since we burst into the fat man's mansion. She said her name was Josie, and her partner's Karen. They had both come from the Midwest, close to me, in hopes of being successful actors and finding romance. Four months later they're hooking just to raise enough money to take a bus to California. The American dream, right?

Josie looked familiar, there was something about her face that was inviting, it felt like home, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. My mind wandered from what we would do about the latest additions to the vehicle back to her. I had almost forgotten that she was the instigator of this suicide ride. I retrieved the designated bullet from my breast pocket of my suit jacket again. "Might be needing this," I thought "hard telling what kind of trouble these girls are going to bring." My thought were interrupted again by the Doc's excessive volume. "Fuck it, Sarge, let's take them with us!" The doc had lost what might have been left of his mind. "We can't be responsible for them, Doc, we can hardly take care of ourselves, their blood won't be on my hands," I argued. Josie jumped in on the Doc's side with "you guys are going to atleast need a get away driver if you plan to get as much done as you say."

I knew she was right, but it still made me nervous taking them. "Oh, to hell with it, but you guys better be able to fend for yourselves... We may get into some sticky situations.." I said. Karen finally broke her silence with nothing but an exclamation, "FUCK SHIT UP!"

"Yep," I thought "..fuck shit up."

Time Traveling

We awoke in a hotel room right outside of Florida, Tuesday afternoon. I was disoriented and had no idea where I was. My brain told it was 2 years earlier than the actual date and I was waiting on her to get out of the shower so we could attend a play and have dinner. But the fact that the hotel room looked nothing like her bedroom and there were two prostitutes sleeping on a neighboring bed only made me more perplexed. I began to scream with fear and to my surprise it wasn't she who burst through the bathroom door, but the Doc. The Doc ran out of the bathroom wearing nothing but his boxer shorts, 12 gauge in hand "WHAT MAN?!?! WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?!" the Doc was more terrified than I was. Seeing the Doc insighted my memory. The year is 2005, the Pope is fucking dead. After snapping back to reality, I sobbed in the Doc's arms, worried about nothing but the mission "We have to finish soon, Doc, my mind won't hold up much longer... we have work to do." The Doctor comforted me and my mind was back to the harsh reality of that disgusting year, 2005.

This is not my beautiful wife. This is not my fairy tale life... anymore.

Vigilantes

The Doc and I leaped up from the bed after hearing a loud thump followed by a woman's scream from the adjoining hotel room. Armed and dangerous, we went to survery the scene. We knocked on the door. "What the fuck do you want?!?!" the belligerent pig yelled through a mustache. After looking past the man I saw a woman leaning against the wall, holding her face and trying her best to sob silently, I decided that was enough evidence for me and pulled out the revolver. Without saying a word to the Neanderthal I put three bullets in his stomach. He fell to his knees, bleeding from his mouth and the Doc didn't miss a beat, striking him in the face with the butt of the shotgun. We vacated the room leaving the woman in a state of shock, motionless against the wall.

The girls were already outside with the car running. "Goddammit, are you guys killing people again?" Josie asked like an annoyed mother. "Yes, very much so, now let's get the fuck out of here before the cops arrive." I said. I knew I was going to die, but when and where was to be decided by me, not some gross redneck and definitely not some fascist pig.

The four of us headed toward the car with no hesitation. As we pulled out of the town across the Florida border, I had hoped the Doc had forgotten about my time traveling incident at the hotel, it had never happened around people before.

The Doc had turned into more than just my feared passenger. When you dug deep you could tell the Doc wasn't just a loose cannon, he was a born romanticist. The Doctor and I are kindred spirits and I love him. Apparently, Karen had also seen something in the Doc. They had taken over the backseat and Josie and I could vaguely hear them whispering and giggling as I played "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix on the tape deck. We sat in silence for what seemed like hours. She finally killed the awkwardness "Who is she?" she asked. "What's that?" I looked at her with a bewildered stare. The woman," she said "the reason you're such a mess, why you're on this trip.. whatever this trip is." "What makes you think it's a woman?" I wondered how she had managed to hit so close to home, I hadn't even mentioned her. "You're a lover, you have passion, and I watch you whenever we stop. Gazing out the window with a furrowed brow, rolling that bullet between your fingers, scribbling God knows what in that notebook of yours. You got it bad."

I exhaled deeply "It wasn't just a woman, it was my wife, and she was the most beautiful woman I've ever met" I replied, now increasingly annoyed. "You talk about her like she's dead," Josie said. "No, I'm dead," I said "she found someone better. Now fuck off, this is Hendrix." I turned the music back up as the memories came to the front line of my brain again.

"I'm going down to shoot my old lady

you know I caught her messin' around with another man."

We were so close it was terrifying.

Red wine, you are such a cruel mistress.

Distance (the end)

2 days had managed to escape my memory again. It was getting harder, lonelier. Every time I would black out and wake up 2 days later consciousness was more difficult than the time before. My passengers were no longer a sufficient outlet for my loneliness. They had strayed from the mission. The Doc and Karen would sneak away every chance they had. Their togetherness was something to be adored. The Doc found a real escape. It wasn't intoxication, self-pity, masochism, loathing, malevolence, or malice. It was companionship and it was beautiful. They had to have caught me staring at them at times, smiling in adoration, sometimes through tears. One would think I should feel envious, but the thought of Doc escaping this seemingly death-bound life brought nothing but joy and hope, and that was the only thing.

Josie had apparently also found a cure for the loneliness that surrounded this suicide crew. We picked him up sometime in the couple of days whiskey and valium had appropriated from my memory.

Little was to be said about Raul, he refused to reveal much. He did however lighten the mood of the trip a bit, always with a goofy smile. When I first met Raul I had came to during a time traveling experience outside of a pub in yet another new city and he had toted arm fulls of bottles from the bar to the sidewalk outside. He had taken it upon himself to "stop the fucking pig bastards in their bigoted tracks" and had started to hurl the bottles at police who had posted up across the street from the pub. He obviously had no Mexican background and looked 100% European, why he was named Raul perplexed me.

Everything seemed to be falling into place for them. The Doctor had Karen, and Josie had taken a liking to this new Raul character. I, however, was feeling more and more disconnected from the group. My mind had begun to slip faster, I was aloof. The drinks, the drugs were no longer any comfort. I didn't feel the same connection with the group that I had before. In the short time we had spent together they were all growing up, but I was far from ready. I knew it was probably time to part ways. We had grown apart. I loaded up the car again, without saying anything to them. They were all at a small diner in the middle of this city that I still hadn't learned the name of. I taped a note to an unopened bottle of whiskey that read as follows:

"To my confidants-

Doc- Thank you for taking care of me. Though this may seem like I'm stabbing you in the back, please know I've never had any intentions of hurting you. You've saved my life and I could never repay you for the joy that you've brought me. Keep up the good work, she's good for you.

Karen- Goodbye beautiful. Thank you for mending the heart of the best thing that's ever happened to me. The Doc is forever indebted to you. Always remember he has his own neuroses, bare with him. His heart has nothing but good intentions.

Josie- We've had such a short relationship, yet I feel like we've connected. It may seem like you have found love now, but always remember the brain can oppress the heart and accentuate a false love, suppressing a real one. Your heart is not with him and you know it. I'm not 100% sure where it is, but I can tell that you do. Don't be so zealous in strangling it, nurture it. It will grow to be not only what it once was, but something stronger.

Nothing but love

J. Arthur"

I left the bottle where the car was parked and headed down the highway. Before I pulled onto the interstate there was a shady looking man driving a semi, stopped at a truck stop. I pulled into the parking lot and the man flagged me down. "What's the damage boss?" I asked the haggard looking man through my tea shades. "You wanna buy any exotic animals?" he replied. I thought for sure he must be kidding, but his look was nothing but business so I decided to take a look. He pulled open the door of his semi trailer to a world of obscure animals. Lions, tiger, snakes, exotic birds, you name it. Looking past all the wierdness, I spotted a three-toed sloth perched apathetically on a tree limb in the corner of the trailer. "How much for the sloth?" I asked him. "Oh, her? Don't have much interest in those. I could probably let her go pretty cheap," he said. "How does 50 bucks and a bullet sound?" I asked reaching into my breast pocket for a brand new 50 and the bullet that had promised to be my demise, her intitials still scratched in it. "Sounds like a deal, take her, I gotta go" the man nearly fell over himself retrieving my new friend from the back of the trailer and speeding away. "Hmmm... what's a good name for a three-toed sloth?" I asked my new best friend "how about Esmerelda? Sounds quite fitting, let's go to Vegas. I'm sure with all the harlotry and decadence there is SOMEONE who will let a three-toed sloth and a whiskey-bent romanticist get a marriage license." I pulled onto the interstate, vegas-bound, with a full pack of Parliament lights and a new lease on life. "Take care of me sloth, you're all I got" I said, as Esmerelda just stared at me while we drove off into the setting sun.

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