Public Key (Lxxiv)

It was after noon before I woke. My feet hurt like hell. Like. Hell. I was still wearing my sandals. They were stuck to my feet. I had to peel them off. My feet were black underneath. Except where they were red. Or white.

I walked to the showers almost on my tip-toes. I sat on the ground and let the water rain down on me. I washed my feet as delicately as a Japanese bath girl. There was a little blood and little dead skin and enough rubber to tire a bicycle. God only knew what they’d look like in a few days.

My legs, on the other hand, looked like tree trunks that I’d strapped to my torso. And you know, I could deal with that.

I dried myself as carefully as I could. I dressed in clean clothes and walked back to my hut. I considered crawling, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. When I got back I took Oakley’s hammer and put a nail right in my front door. I took my worn-out sandals and hung them there. Like Cicero’s hands on the senate door: a triumph, a failure, and above all a reminder.

I looked up the hill to the main lodge. Yeah, I was never going to make it. Oakley was going to have to come to me.

I wasn’t disappointed. Around four in the afteroon I was lying in bed and wondering if it would be sanitary for me to cut my feet off with my knife. There was a pounding on the door.

Come in, I called.

Come get the door for me.

I can’t.




I heard what sounded like juggling, and something going to the ground. He opened the door and I saw him pick up a cast-iron kettle from the ground. In his other hand were two mugs and a box of biscuits. He brought in the kettle, set it down, and shut the door behind him.

I stared down at him from the hammock, by feet up as high as I could get them.

It’s iron, he said, the water should still be hot.

You’re incredible.

You shouldn’t be talking right now, he said. It wasn’t a suggestion.

He poured two cups. He set them on the table I’d made. If he noticed it, he didn’t make a comment.

He handed me a biscuit, took the other for himself. Then he stood there and glared at me.

So you just disappeared for like five days.

Was it five days?

Listen, if you’re trying to get me to kill you, just, just keep talking. Just-

I’d kind of lost track of time, I said.

Yeah, so, have you gone completely crazy, or did you just buy the sampler package. Because it’s been like a month and-

Pretty crazy, I said. And I blame you.

He definitely didn’t have a response to that.

Taking me up to that thing, I said, stretching. Music. Dancing. Pretty girls. Topless girls. Naked girls. Girls who-

Yes, I was there.

That Spanish girl could really-


-things with her tongue, man, I-

I am going to tear out your lips and carry them in my back pocket so that you spend the rest of your life in a constant state of kissing my ass.

You ruined me, I said. You showed me a good time. You showed me the life I was missing. It really fucked me up.

Well, why don’t-

Thank you, I said.


Thank you, Oakley. Thank you for everything. For saving me from myself. And, y’know, from everything else too. For trying to make this life of mine a life. For… for everything. You’re too good to me. You’re a good man. You’re my best friend in this life or any. You’re my best friend. Thank you.

I’m still going to kill you, he said.

That being said, if you bring me anywhere with topless girls again, I’m going to, I’m going to rip off your arm and beat you to death with it, then stick it up your ass so you can work your corpse like a fucking puppet. Can I have my tea?

He passed me my cup, glaring at me. I dipped my biscuit and started to eat it. He followed my example. A biscuit and tea never tasted so good.

Do you want to stay here? he asked.

Yes, I said. This is my home.

Because you can go, you know. I won’t-

I’m not going anywhere.

I can get you out of the country. Maybe get you out of SA. I’ve got friends, that’s what they do, they-

Oakley, I said, shut, the fuck, up.

He shut up.

I want to stay here, I said. I like it here. It’s driving me a little nuts, but, you know, I’d be a little nuts anywhere. It’s what happens when you don’t have jack shit to do.

So find something to do.

Oakley, I said, I think you’ve got it down all set.

You’re pretty smug for a guy who’s too crippled to run.

I feel like I’ve been asleep for a month, I said. I just woke up. I’m feeling awake. Good is still a long ways off.

So what are you going to do, so you don’t go fucking crazy and cripple yourself. You know. Again.

I don’t know, I said. I guess that’s something I’ll have to figure out.

I could always use another gazebo-

No, I said, you couldn’t.


I’ll have to think about it, I said. We’ll have to think about it. Find me something to do that’s better than pissing into the wind. It’s a hard thing to find. Be hard to find it if I was back in America. Not gonna be any easier out here. But I still have to find it. Find something. So I will.

Just gonna lie up there, see what makes you wanna get out of bed?

Just thinking about walking makes my feet hurt. You should open the window before you leave so I can try pissing out the window.

You’re salty when you’re bedridden, you know that?

Hey, I said, look, you were in the same boat. It’s your story, that’s what made me figure it out. You being up here with nothing to do. You found something to do. You found a way to keep yourself busy.

Too right I did. And I would have gone mad without it. Mad like you.

Yes. Just like me.

He regarded me for a time, over the lip of his tea-mug.

If there’s anything I can do, he said at length, you know I-

I sat up suddenly in my hammock. I spilled tea down to splash on the floor below.

What? he asked.

There was at least one thing which I could be sure I wanted.

Guitar strings, I said.



~ by davekov on 4 March 2011.

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