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Part 2
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Pinkie’s pale, bandaid colored house sat on a patchy threadbare lawn – muddy grass irregularly sprouting up like the stubble of an unfortunate beard.
Kristy, on the front porch. Her Cheeto stained fingers leaving bright marks smearing across soggy white bread. I am holding one of Pinkies messy burgers in my hand, thick , warm, coated in thin mushy bread. The grease of the burger, the dark blush of the ketchup, soaking though white bread like a bruise. I was used to flat, aerodynamic McDonalds burgers, predictable, easy to quickly consume. The pasty coat of Wonder Bread, slippery. Felt weird, gruesome, wet . Pinky wasn’t the type for extravagant Hollywood burger buns. Bread was bread after all and there was no reason to put on airs.
I, wolf my lunch down. We had found an old tape recorder and I wanted to get back to it.
The tape recorder was one of those plastic black ones, about the size of a bible. Button tabs at the end, wide, slick, dark – one red button to record with. The handle made it easy to carry around, to bring out back to the forgotten rusted out sheds. I was looking for a napkin to keep my lunch crud off the machine. It seemed so clean, so futuristic, and it grossed me out to think of the muck and gore from Pinkies burgers clotting it up, the soggy slurry dripping into the crevices between the buttons. I ended up wiping my hands clean on my shorts.
My brother and Kristy were getting bored with the whole recorder thing, but I was obsessed.
I had discovered an old pocket sized horror comic – thick, but small. The kind comic on yellowed paper , the kind with a swamp witch character as its narrator and host – introducing short stories and cracking pun encrusted jokes. Typically each of the stories a few pages long, with a “twist” ending. Usually an innocent heroine or plucky hero had a horrible fate – buried alive, eaten by ants, finding out the new husband was a vampire, finding out the murderer they had spent their career hunting was really themselves …that type of story. This was the kind of schlock I lapped up like a starving animal when I was a kid.
This illicit comic book and the weird recorder were the only interesting things we found in the junk closet. I dug them out of a pile of illustrated bible stories, a tattered box of Chinese checkers, and mysterious sewing tools. I carried them around with me those few weeks. I enlisted both my brother and Kristy to participate in recording … at first we tried to send letters to the future, or to distant relatives, but those seemed boring and were quickly erased. It wasn’t until I decided we should record the comic book, that it really started. Each taking parts. My brother was resentful about having to read anything at all during the summer, but enjoyed twisting and mangling his voice to play the creatures or demons depicted – mostly because he could make garbled, knotted voices while grunting short splashy things like “You murdered me to steal my golden arm!” and “By the power of Satan, there is no escape for you, or for that floozy!”. He was also keen to create the sound effects, because he really liked banging things around. He would have done this even if he weren’t being recorded. Kristy usually got the heroine roles, and sometimes the floozy roles. I loved croaking the swamp witch lines, my voice stretched thin and ragged – trying to sound blood-curdling. I read the neutral flavorless lines, too.
In my imagination we were creating a radio play. The main difference being if anyone I knew had heard these tapes, I would have felt a blinding shame. I hid the tapes every night after recording. I didn’t mind if some nameless, unspecified person discovered them in the far future. Maybe it would be considered like a rare, unknown holy book , or an important cultural document, illuminating what life was like in the 20th century. Maybe far away historians and anthropologists would unearth it, pick it apart – try to tease out meaning. This was the only acceptable way I could imagine anyone listening .
Later in life, my drawings would mean a lot to me, but would be indecipherable scrawls to most people – most people did not speak in images, had no idea how to “read” these paintings. I could air out my true thoughts in public, for all to see, to gawk at, to marvel over, with the safety of being completely opaque . It felt exposed, shameless like what I imagined being honest felt like.

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