Republished by Blog Post Promoter
(In you haven’t read Chapter 3 yet, CLICK)
CHAPTER 4 – SLEEPING WITH PREFERENTIAL SHADOWS
I knocked on the door to the office of the Head of Plant Land Security. The sign on the door said, “CRAIG T. CACTUS – HEAD OF PLANT SECURITY“. The small print underneath the title read:
“Ring The Bell. If No One Answers Go Away. — C. Cactus”
I searched all around the door for a bell to ring. The bell had been ripped out of the door frame where bare wires were hanging. My guess was that Mr. Cactus didn’t enjoy visitors much. I didn’t care. I was desperate. So, I scratched on the door with one of my branches. Fortunately Mr. Cactus hadn’t returned from his rounds on the convention floor yet. Instead, Miss Peach, the bouncy secretary, opened the door for me. Miss Peach was definitely the friendliest tree I’d ever met. She didn’t waste any time making me comfortable while I waited for him to get back.
“Oh, hello again, er, Mr.…? Please come in! Can I offer you a nice bucket of water?”, she asked, as I squeezed my branches through the door. “Oh, yeah, sure… ah, that’s, uh…Mr. Peach, but you can call me Sam”, I said, cleverly inventing a name for myself that would disguise my true identity so she wouldn’t catch on that I wasn’t really a tree.
“OK, Mr. Peach, or Sam…”, she said. “Please make yourself comfortable. Would you care for some mulch? Or we have some very nice nitrogen candy sticks left over from the banquet last night. Please, help yourself”, she said motioning to a table in the corner of the room. I swished over to check it out.
I was a little hungry, now that she mentioned it. I was alone in the office for a moment while she went into the back to get my water. I sprinkled some mulch and a few Nitro candies on my roots. I noticed that Miss Peach had a few framed photos of trees and saplings on her desk: “family pictures”, I thought.
Miss Peach came back in no time. Her peaches bobbed gently as she brought the bucket and poured the cool water over my roots. There was a moment of silence while I sucked the water up into my leaves.
“Better?” Miss Peach said, not-so-shyly, “If you don’t mind my saying so Sam, I couldn’t help noticing what nice limbs you have when you were here before”.
I could feel my leaves turning red. I stammered, “Well, thanks. I have to admit, you’ve got a pretty nice set of peaches yourself”. (My professional policy was “never pass up a chance to cross-pollinate”.)
“Why, thank you Sam. I’m flattered that you think so”, she said seductively, moving closer. Her jiggling fruit was more than I could resist. “Why Sam, do your blossoms always sprout like this, or are you just happy to see me?”
I thought to myself, “It must be the candy…”.
We were passionately mingling our fruit and fuzz on the table when the door swung open. A plant lumbered into the office that I presumed, judging by the fact that he had only two limbs and was completely covered in very neat rows of very sharp looking spines, must be Mr. Cactus. We quickly slid off the table. Miss Peach smoothed her leaves and excused herself to go to the ladies room. I instantly offered a cover story to cover up for her with her boss. I didn’t want her to loose her job because I couldn’t keep my branches to myself.
“Sorry you caught us with our roots up in the air like that”, I said, as apologetically as I could under the circumstances. “It was all my fault…really, well, uh… you know how Peach trees are…so much fruit, so little time…uh, by the way, you and her aren’t…uh… involved, are you?”, I stammered with embarrassment.
“Of course not! Do I look like the kind of plant that would pollinate outside my own species? That may not bother you, but some of us have a sense of integrity about such things”, he said, bristling his needles in disgust. Mr. Cactus twisted his trunk around behind his desk to inspect a small pile of messages sitting next to the phone
“Some trees will graft branches with just about any plant who comes along. I just wish she would wait till she got off work to do it”, he muttered gruffly to himself, though not seeming to really care one way or another. Without looking up at me he said, “Anyway, does your visit to my office involve an actual security issue? Or did you just stop by to squeeze some fruit?”
Craig Cactus had the personality of really rough sandpaper and the charisma of a plant who could light up a room just by flipping a light switch. I stood, rooted in front of his desk for a minute, trying to figure out the best way to explain my situation in such a way as not to give away my true identity.
“So, is there something we can actually do for you, uh, Mr. Peach, is it? Or will you be leaving now that you’ve tasted the fruit?” he asked impatiently, without looking up from reading his messages. “Oh, yes, Peach. Sam Peach. Anyway, yes, maybe you can help me. You see, I seem to be lost…”.
Then it occurred to me that telling Mr. Cactus that I was really a human being — an Oxygen Breather — who had somehow accidentally turned into a tree and stumbled into a plant convention, might be a very poor strategy and a diplomatically incorrect move on my part, considering that all the plants in the universe seemed to be plotting the imminent demise of all Oxygen Breathers everywhere. So, I decided, based on my training in the art and science of un-existential detective methodology, that I’d have to be very clever about getting Mr. Cactus to give me the directions “back” from “here”, that is, if he even knew anything about maps.
“Mr. Peach”, said Mr. Cactus, “are you, by any chance, one of those beings who have accidentally become a tree and stumbled into a plant convention and don’t have any idea how you got here or how to get back to where you came from?”
I gathered that Mr. Cactus took my stunned silence as a “yes”. Without hiding his obvious aggravation for the inconvenience of having to actually do something to justify his paycheck, he pulled open the bottom left-limb drawer of his desk, shuffled through some papers for a moment, cursed under his breath, pulled out a couple of bottles, dragged out a piece of paper, shoved one of the bottles back in the drawer and slammed it closed. He shoved a worn and crinkled sheet of paper across the desk at me.
“Here. Read this. Care for a shot of “Old Nitro?”, said Mr. Cactus, making no attempt to offer me a glass or the bottle.
I shook my boughs, “No, thanks. Go ahead. Uh, none for me, thanks. I’m trying to cut back”, I said, accepting the paper, but turning down the drink, although he hadn’t actually offered me a drink.
“OK, whatever shoots your roots,” said Craig, prying the cork out of the bottle with a cactus needle and pouring a couple of shots on his roots. “I always keep a bottle of spirits handy, just in case I get stuck with a cactus needle — which I also keep handy.”
“OK then, so, when Little Miss Frisky Peaches gets back here have her run you off a copy of those rules on the copy machine so you can take it with you. And don’t forget to close the door on your way out!”, he said, taking another swig from his bottle and returning to his pile of messages…and his bottle.
Miss Peach came back from the ladies room, refreshed. She quickly made a copy of the “rules” and handed them too me with a shy smile. I read the sheet of instructions:
RULES FOR A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE
All beings who care to share in the creation or experience of a Different Universe must agree to a few basic rules as a matter of courtesy to others who may accidentally enter in to it:
1) There is No Time.
2) Reality is whatever you can create that can be perceived. When you stop creating, it doesn’t exist.
3) You don’t have to agree with someone else’s creation to perceive it.
4) The purpose of the universe is to continue being.
5) Space is a matter of opinion.
6) Communication can be accomplished by whatever means necessary.
7) “Multiple Factor Zones” (MFZ ) will be posted and enforced at random in shared spaces by the Universe Police. Each MFZ must be observed by all others entering into these Zones, i.e. everything created within these Zones must use the specified number and types of Factors designated for that Zone, e.g., a 3 Factor Zone may include quantities and qualities, such as: good/bad/ugly OR positive/negative/stupid OR big/small/bashful, and so forth. NOTE: a FIVE Factor Zone may contain qualities with NO quantities e.g., horrible / lovely / tender / rapturous / sound OR pearlescent / gratuitous / passionate / tremulous / light. etceteras, etceteras, ad infinitum. (Violators will be abruptly expelled from the universe without prior notification or recourse.)
8) A being may enter and/or exit the universe at will, but must stop creating whatever is being created by them before exiting.
9) Dreams count. That is, if you or any other being have a dream, anything created within the dream has the same effect as any other creation.
10) There are no other rules except those you make up and get others to agree with.
A Different Universe and creations produced herein may or may not be effected by or
have an effect upon or be perceived in other universes, accept as the beings
involved agree that they do or do not as stipulated in the above rules.
“(Bleep!) These so called ‘rules’ you gave me are about as much help as a glass of water to an amoebae. How am I supposed to get back to where I came from?”,
I protested to Mr. Cactus.
“Well, I suppose I could have my security officers turn you over to the other plants out there on the convention floor, Mr. Oxygen Breather”, Mr. Cactus in a menacing tone. “Or you can use the door right now, and save me the trouble”.
“OK, I’m going, I’m going. Have a nice day or night or whatever the (bleep) time it is here…or not”, I said as I let myself out.
I seemed like I wasn’t going to get out of this so-called “universe” any time soon, so I decided to make the best of a really bizarre situation. I slipped a note under the door of Craig’s office asking Miss Peach to meet me after she got off work. I wanted to take her out for a night on “the orchard”, so we could pick up where we left off before old Nitro-breath barged into his office and interrupted our moment of mingling bliss.
Back outside in the convention hall, I sat down on a pile of fresh topsoil to re-read the “rules”. It was beginning to look like my fifth theory might be true. I still didn’t know where “here” was, or where “back” was either. What I really needed was a map that showed both of them at the same time — except that, according to the “rules”, there wasn’t any time in a Different Universe. I decided to check it out just to make sure.
I wasn’t wearing a watch, and I couldn’t see any clocks hanging on the walls. So, I asked the palm tree rooting next to me if he could tell me what time it was. He just laughed and said, “Hey, buddy, what universe are you from?” I figured I’d better shut up before the other plants started to wonder if I really wasn’t who I appeared to be. In no time, I was beginning to wonder about who I appeared to be myself.
As I sat on my pile of compost, I grew increasingly despondent about my situation. I began to reminisce about times when there was time — in the past of my physical universe existence. I recalled the time when Shadow told me about how she moved to South Florida with a kitten she named Angel. That was after she got burned out on the Disco Scene in San Diego. She decided to take one of those courses you used to see advertised on TV infomercials about how to buy real estate with no money down.
Nobody told her she couldn’t do it, so she went ahead and did it. Within two years she was millionaire. Times were good till the bottom fell out of the real estate market. After the money was gone, times weren’t so good anymore, so she moved to Tampa Bay where I was living at the time.
I remember the first time I ever heard her voice: I was instantly in love. The first time I saw her I was addicted to her forever.
Unfortunately, that was two weeks before I had to report to Federal Prison Camp in Georgia to serve a twenty-two month sentence over a disagreement I had with the IRS while trying to defend the rights of one of my clients.
I went to prison because I got stuck between the pages of the IRS code book, so to speak. One of my first cases as a private dick was trying to help a company that sold rare coins to collectors and investors. Mostly, they sold an unlimited supply of “rare, limited edition” gold and silver coins that were minted by the Chinese government.
The company had a “disagreement” with the Infernal Revenue Service over the privacy of client financial transactions. It didn’t take long to figure out that you can’t really “disagree” with the IRS, especially when it has to do with financial privacy. For the IRS, there is nothing private about your money. Your money is their money, and your privates are theirs too.
Of course, my clients didn’t actually commit any crime that normal people would think of as a crime, such as theft, murder, lying, cheating, mayhem, or living more than one lifetime. Like most governments throughout history, the real criminals run the government. The government makes the laws that tell the rest of us who the criminals are and who they aren’t. Of course, “we” are the criminals and “they” aren’t. Criminals, like most governments, are usually “they” with the most guns and the fewest number of reasons not to use them to take what they want from “we”.
The IRS didn’t appreciate my efforts to help protect the rights of the company to keep the personal business of its clients personal and private. But, they did give me the consolation prize for losing the courtroom battle against them: an all-expenses-paid vacation for two years at a “Club Fed” in Georgia.
While I was “down”, there wasn’t a second that went by that I didn’t think about going to see Shadow after I “graduated” from the “country club”. I didn’t see her again for over two years. Anyway, when I got out of prison, I looked up Shadow again. When you’re sent away to prison you find out who all of your friends are in about 10 minutes — but mostly you find out who your friends used to be.
Shadow was living in a beautiful condo overlooking the inter-coastal waterway across the beach from the Gulf of Mexico that she “inherited” from another one of her ex-lovers after the guy moved out. We’d lay in bed in the morning and watch the dolphins swim past under the glass balcony doors. If heaven was a condo in Florida, I’d died and gone there — except I wasn’t dead yet. Every time I looked at Shadow or touched her, all I wanted was to live forever in that moment.
I don’t believe in Heaven, but being in bed with Shadow was close enough for me. She had long, naturally curly, auburn hair. When she woke up in the morning she looked like she’d just stepped off the cover of Vogue magazine. Not a hair out of place, even though, most nights, we drank a half gallon of White Zinfandel and ran a marathon on the sheets. We usually kept running right on into the wee hours of exhausted bliss.
Shadow took lots of snapshots of me. She had cardboard boxes full of pictures of all the men she’d ever been with. I listened to her tell the stories that went with the pictures for hours. I felt like I gained a very large family of new relatives — all men. I learned the whole time track of her sexual adventures, including the names, occupations, circumstances, statistics and favorite positions of all the other runners in her race. She had no favorites among them. They we all her favorites.
We did everything in bed. We ate, we slept, we made love. The primordial essence of food and sex seemed to blend together. Since Shadow’s idea of a cookbook was the Restaurant Section of the Yellow Pages, I was happy to dial up whatever she wanted, especially if it kept her in the bedroom. Food was my form of supplication to her, like burnt sacrificial offerings to a goddess.
While we were together, Shadow gained about 75 lbs. Her plumpness didn’t bother me. I’ve always thought women are supposed to be fundamentally round. I don’t think chicks are supposed to look like 10 year old boys, in spite of gay hairdressers, fashion designers and ballet choreographers who tell women they’re supposed to look like a cocktail swizzle stick. However, Shadow became disenchanted with her spherical perfection about the time she ran out of clothes that fit her.
During two years of being in prison, my only sexual encounters had been with the “five fingered lady” in the shower. You hear all kinds of rumors about prison sex life. Most of them aren’t true, but then, I wasn’t looking for that kind of truth either. When I finally got out, it was like crawling out of a parched and burning desert. Shadow was an oasis of pure, cool water. Nothing had ever tasted as pure and refreshing to me before. Like most men who’ve been stuck in the desert for two years, the only thing I could think about was water. I really had nothing of value to give her except my undying thanks for quenching my thirst. But, after a few months of wallowing in the Puddle of Love, the water started to taste more and more like mud.
After six months, she threw me out, partly in self-defense. I knew I wasn’t perfect. Also, I figured, judging from the prodigious size of her sexual trophy case, that when the passion of the honeymoon ran out, so did Shadow. Later, I realized she threw everybody out after six months, except for the occasional guy whose wife threw her out first. It was like a little six month egg timer went “ding” in her head and whichever guy was boiling on her stove that day was done: “OK, you’re cooked! See ‘ya!”
She said I shouldn’t take it personally. I took it personally anyway. For awhile, I’d call her every chance I could to tell her I loved her. I did love her. Like an alcoholic loves booze. Long after I stopped drinking, I still couldn’t forget those days of drunken bliss. What I thought was happiness at the time became an empty canteen of beautiful sadness. I still carry it around my neck to remind myself that you can drown in too much water.
Like most people, I do my best daydreaming while I’m asleep. When I’m awake, I forget that most of life is a dream — a bad dream or a boring dream. But that’s another story — in another universe.
So far, my investigation of life has revealed that the whole universe seems to run on the idea that the best thing to do is to try not to get bored. People will do just about anything to keep themselves from getting bored, no matter how stupid or self-destructive: like disagreeing with the IRS or looking for lost items belonging to demented war-mongers or sleeping with Shadows.
THE BIG BLEEP: THE MYSTERY OF A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE, by Lawrence R. Spencer