These pieces are from my novel, 1985, which tells the story of three characters—a radical punk rocker, a semiotics PhD student, and a newborn baby—all struggling for survival and identity in Lansing, Michigan in the year of the book’s title. While most of the book is narrative, there are interstitial chapters that break the flow of time to either dissect some bit of 1980s pop culture, offer back story to the characters, or some combination of both. “Bedtime for Bonzo” is from the point of view of the book’s main narrator, Mattingley Freeman, who is born in 1985 and spends the novel attempting to sift through his memories of his mother, his father, and his childhood to come to some truth about his history. “Nothing But (Flowers)” is the fantasy of Robert Harwell, a failed punk rocker with radical leftist leanings who is consumed by anger at the widespread acceptance of Reagan’s America. “Bedtime for Bonzo” falls toward the middle of the book, and “Nothing But (Flowers)” toward the end.

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Bedtime For Bonzo

 

Of the genial man who cannot seem to get the monkey in the bonnet to take the bottle, my mother tells me, because I have asked her, “That, is the President of the United States. Isn’t he handsome?”

For no reason that I can remember, a friend of my father’s with a Tasmanian Devil tattoo tells me, “You can drink as much of your own urine as you want. But if you drink a drop of anyone else’s, you’ll die.” And because I don’t know what the word “urine” means, “you know. Ti ti. Wee wee.”

While watching the movie Predator on a Betamax video recorder he had rented from a Blockbuster, my father tells me, “My brother spent three years in ‘nam. My daddy spent three years in the Pacific theater, doubleyah-doubleyah two. Where are you gonna spend your three years, little man?”

Because I was interested, but couldn’t remember the Tasmanian Devil having horns, the man with the tattoo tells me, “I added the horns myself, with a sharpened paper clip and a jar of India ink.”

After asking who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, why the street we were driving down in the cream colored station wagon was named for him, my grandfather tells me, “He was just a trouble maker. He was just stirring up trouble.”

 

 

Nothing But (Flowers)

 

He is living in the future, not in the way that we always almost are, but in the way that people do who live alongside robots. The good thing about robots is that you can kill them without compunction. There is not this messy moral confusion over whether the taking of a human life is justified, even in the service of the most noble cause. He is sick of all that, sick of all that wondering, sick of all that having to equivocate and say that we are all Americans and we all love this country equally. Because they will be robots, he will not have to care. He will stud his boots, and they will be real shit-kicking, head-caving things, immense in their power, and he will be able to shred circuitry with the razor wire that he wraps around his wrists, shielded from cutting him with long, thick leather straps that he has harvested from the last living cows on the planet.

He will have a band again, and they will play songs on supersonic neon guitars that can rip a hole in the space time continuum; he will pull Woody Guthrie through that hole, who will blind his enemies with the dust kicked up by passing boxcars; he will pull a young Bob Dylan from it, who will play a song on his harmonica so beautiful that it will inspire the robots to invent cybernetic tear ducts just so they can experience the joy of awestruck weeping before he severs their electronic spines; he will pull Bob Marley from it, whose dreadlocks will be upgraded, reinforced by coaxial cable and high tension wire, and they will whip from side to side with lightning ferocity, rendering inoperable the servo uplink of any robot within 200 yards; he will pull Sid Vicious from that hole, whose reputation will so precede him that robots’ hearts will rust at the mere mention of his name.

The world will burn, and flesh will melt along with the steel, because after all, if it were only robots, what would there be worth saving? But it will be worth it, because every building will be a ruin, every stream will run with blood for a generation, yes, but will soon run clean, and every box of cookies will be rat-infested, and every Twinkie will be rotten, and the air will be clean with the stink of sweat and animals who go unsoaped through the fields, strumming salvaged guitars and making love on beds not of cotton or polyester or polystyrene or buckwheat or even hay, but of grass and leaves and the leftover concrete of the cities that are now all farmland as far as the eye can see. For fun, they will pick flowers. Because there will be plenty, and because there will be nothing else left. Nothing left. Except for the flowers.

 

 

 

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© Matt Sailor