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“Pharmacopious” (Part 2) by Jenell Kesler

There was a time, back in the Cloudgrounds, when the demons came in rainbows of colours, unrequested, and unencumbered ... gelatin capsules galore, mixing and melting among Crayola crayons in the sun baked heat across the rear window deck, my personal office, and grandma’s yellow ’53 Pontiac. Grams never drove, didn’t have a license or a receipt, but we got places high and low without turning a key, she with her blue cloud Paregoric cigarettes, her zipping lighter, and that blinding silver clamshell case of pre-rolls.
We’d roll down the windows, roll our eyes back into our heads, and when we’d come-to we’d bounce light, light racers, with that mirrored clamshell cigarette case into the windows of the neighbors. “The neighbors,” which must be said in a voice of both awe and reverence, like visiting the zoo, were strange beings with perpetually upturned surprised faces. When they stepped to their door we’d duck in a haze of laughter, feed the demons a bit more, and pretend we were on some secret journey, other than the one we were presently on. Our daily ride to nowhere was a capital idea, it must’ve been, Grams always said so. She was also known to say, while exhaling one of those stunning plumes that blossomed, ebbed and flowered, that a ride to nowhere wasn’t half as fun without a good traveling companion. Who, and perpetually seized with laughter, was me. We could’ve ridden that Pontiac to nowhere for the rest of my natural born days, and probably would have, ‘til one of those demons got over-fueled, got out of control, and sprang the brake, causing my yellow office to jettison itself into the street. A sweaty man with a body too big for his clothes and a silver star stapled to his blue hat claimed to the newspapers that he’d rescued us. He hadn’t, though as Grams said to the reporter with jazzed hands, “If it makes him feel good to see that way, then by god it must be true.”Everything was as usual, right as rain, except we were in the middle of the street driving light racers into the neighbor’s house. This man finally got around to asking Grams if she had a license, she said “No.” I handed him a receipt from the glovebox, but it seemed that when one’s in the middle of the road, a receipt’s not always good enough. From a leather bound book he handed Grams a formal Cautionary Ticket. We both put our heads together, like some four eyed monster, eyes wide, with the sound of “Ooooooooh” spoken as one passing between our lips, then we shivered with laughter. Grams folded the yellow citation and slid it into my pocket saying that she was far too old for caution, but that I may find it’s necessity important one day, and if not, I could certainly pass it on, or perhaps even trade it.


I woke up on the floor the other night, which is debatable, depending on your point of view, and I was depending on mine, somewhere out beyond the inner-state, behind the counter of the Starlight Motel, with a wobbling ceiling fan reflected in my eyes. Madam Mozetta was leaning in from the widow she’d just crawled out of, she took my palm in her hand saying, “Be on the lookout for a Creole moon,” then crossed herself. Stumbling to my elbows I asked, “Can you at least tell me why?” “Sorry,” she said, “That’s all the information this little baggie will buy. But if anybody asks, I’ll tell ‘em you’re doing fine.” And just like that I was on my own, my guardian angel’d given me the slip. She’d left me stripped down, high and dry, without a sense of direction, banging my head on the hotel safe trying to remember the combination. “Where are those goddamn demons when they’re needed most?” I mumbled, then jerk-turned at nothing holding out my folded yellowed Cautionary Ticket as if it were some magic shield, vested with telepathic powers, capable of not only protection, but with the ability to reveal my pathetic essence to an imagined intruder. Over the years I’ve come to understand that I don’t so much go places, as I’m getting out of others, a lesson I seem to be learning over and over. Breathing with purpose, I fold up my protective citation, but not before jotting down the numbers “36-18-24” on the back, and shoving it into my pocket wondering what it’d be like to lay my cards on the table face up, and get a receipt for a bottle of surefooted demons with a label I can actually read.

Scanning the room from behind one’s shaded eyes, like Spy vs. Spy, will reveal that everyone’s not on the same page when it comes down to their social life, and certainly about a life spent living among demons, with a fess-up revealing that most spies haven’t even read the same book. There are those travelers who get their shoes caught in the sand, then fall asleep without falling over, others lay back with one eye open, one eye dreaming, never satisfied with the demons they have, envious of those belonging to others, filled with dreams for what never was. Then there are those who’ve equipped themselves for a life in the outer atmosphere, while other citizens live a life given over to their own personal demons. Those monkeys are the ever-lost souls, those who sleep deep in the stratosphere, they’ve completely given up even the notion of trying to balance a set of sand filled shoes on terra firma ... a sad lot, truly lost, the one’s who’ve given life among the demons a bad name, a wretched address, and use their choices as excuses to curry favors, building webs so full of holes they manage to catch nothing more than sleepy-eyed half spent carnival box chameleons, that once home have nothing more to offer than disappointment. But for those who’ve slipped between worlds, and learned to walk floorboards with silence at an early age, a life among demons can be intoxicating, if not ambidextrous. These lucky runners slip through their days spellbound, splashing streams dry, hearing giggles that become laughs, remaining unfazed when screen-doors slam, giving even Customs Inspectors reason to believe, getting themselves showered with luscious receipts, and combinations that spin wide open.

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