by William D. Tucker
I pull on this costume
'Til I break it in.
Take it off before I go to work,
But then there came a time
When I just kept it on.
I was kinda depressed, to tell you the truth.
Hard to care about bathing properly,
Flossing, brushing, soap stuff.
But terror twisted my guts at the thought of missing work.
Having no money.
Not being able to eat.
Now I'm one of those people standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign.
One of those people that no one cares about.
Because no job, no money, no clean clothes, no status, zeroed out of reality.
Except as a kind of living breathing object lesson
To all the workers.
So I decided I would just go to work with the costume on.
Sure, it was a rebellious thing.
A fuck you kind of thing.
Even though I got along with everybody at work.
The customers were all right, discounting a few hard-ons here and there.
My boss, Becky, she was always cool to me.
It was the routine, the structure, the day-after-goddamn-day-ness of it
That I despised, I think.
So I decided I would just go to work with the costume on.
And nobody said anything.
It was one of those deals where you do that one fucked-up thing,
And you're expecting to get punished for it,
And you're terrified,
But you're also kind of looking forward to being confronted about it, punished,
Especially at work, right?
But the first time I did it
My whole shift making those sugary, syrupy caffeinated coffee beverages
I'm waiting for my boss to give me shit.
But it's like nothing.
I hit every order just right.
I'm greeted by all the usual customers,
I say the expected lame non-funny funny remarks I'm supposed to say,
And laugh at the expected lame non-funny funny remarks my fellow employees say in response,
Just like any other day.
And then my shift ends.
Before, I made a ritual out of going back to my apartment,
Lighting some candles to the spirit of Tom Snyder at the homemade altar,
Stripping out of my work clothes,
Blowing out the candles, singing a praise hymn to Tom Snyder,
Pulling on the costume,
One last prayer to Tom Snyder,
And going out and getting in fist fights and knife fights
With the same old gang of assholes downtown.
We'd been mixing it up like that for about six years or so,
But it seemed more like decades.
We packed all kinds of insane feuds, betrayals, and lunatic ideologies into those days.
I think we started out with some kind of half-sensible rationale for why we were doing it,
But that got lost,
Probably by the end of the third day or so.
Maybe the fourth day.
I don't really remember. Not sure I want to.
So up until that day,
I had my ritual.
Knew exactly what I was going to do with myself every moment of every day.
But that day
I already had my costume on,
So I didn't need to even go inside my apartment.
I just went straight downtown,
Muttered some quick prayers and a mini-hymn to Tom Snyder under my breath,
And immediately jumped on some dude I'd punched and kicked and stabbed a thousand times before.
Only this time
My beloved target
Was possessed of preternatural strength,
And beat the holy glowing feces out of me a thousand ways to Sunday.
One of the best times I ever had.
So I just kept coming back to work with my costume on.
Didn't bathe, either.
Lost my faith in Tom Snyder.
Just go to work,
Then go straight to the usual mayhem downtown.
Kept wearing it
'Til it was glued to my body by the filth.
'Til it grew into me, me into it.
Like the rope of the swing and the tree it's tied around.
Although it was hard to tell,
Because I was hallucinating like crazy from sleep deprivation,
The appearance and apparel of the customers
And my fellow employees
Began to subtly change.
A store-bought movie slasher mask here.
Some wild eyebrow makeup there.
And check out the finely carved and lacquered wooden Japanese demon mask on this one.
People started coming in with plastic swords, plastic AK-47s, and plastic pirate hook hands.
And then people started coming in with real steel katanas, live ammo AK-47s, and sharpened hook hands.
And that one guy with the fine wooden demon mask?
He came in one day with arcane energies crackling from his scaly body,
A wildly darting three foot tongue with its own face,
Which bore a striking resemblance to Edogawa Rampo
Declaiming mysterious verses in some lost language,
And a bouquet of perverted "tentacles" manifesting from his nether regions.
My manager tumbled in, seemingly carried by a strong breeze,
With wavy, razor sharp filaments extruding from every pore on her body.
I thought she was some kind of overgrown plant-seed-carrier-thing,
But then she started a fight with the weird dude in the traditional Mephistopheles costume from Gounod's perennially underrated opera Faust,
Flaying the Tempter down to his oddly poignant skeleton,
And that's when I realized that things had taken a turn.
Everybody began brawling with everybody.
Unexpectedly pugilistic eyeballs popping in and out of muscular sockets.
Lightning bolts arcing from wizened fingertips.
Antennae emitting psychedelic death rays.
A huge muscular dinosaur tail knocking a pack of rotting zombies through a plate glass window.
A coked-up bootlegger in a pinstriped suit thumb-wrestling a half-unicorn, half-Richard Nixon whatsit.
A Buddhist centaur lighting its horse half on fire to protest the Vietnam war,
While the human half threw a Molotov cocktail at a police car. Better late than never, I guess.
All the cops got in on the action, too, most of 'em stripped down to their bare asses.
I guess they were all rebelling against the costume, not sure.
In the midst of all this chaos,
Which started with a slow build of about a week,
And then sparked off into a little over a year long riot,
I found myself,
And this is the part where I know I'm going to disappoint some folks,
But I kinda just
See, I had all the sugary slushy caffeinated drinks memorized for most of the customers,
Including the times of day when each one was likely to come in,
I even had the other baristas' routines memorized, more or less,
So while this mythological clusterfuck was roiling around me
I started to obsessively make the caffeinated specialty beverages,
And set them at the pick up counter,
Announcing each one with perfect enunciation,
"Mocha blend tiramisu turtle soup Americano with 16 shots at the bar,"
Which was rather impressive for me
Because I've had kind of muddled enunciation all my life.
People have always had trouble understanding me all my life.
Now there was no more ambiguity.
Only perfectly hand-crafted coffee beverages.
In a never ending stream.
For all time.
In an ever-growing pile.
From floor to ceiling.
Through the ceiling.
For. Fucking. Ever.
Okay, not forever.
But that was the feeling.
As mythological beasts from legend, comic books, literature, and cinema
Slaughtered each other all around me,
As the air vibrated with a pulsing minimalist synth score,
As I became splattered with suspect fluids,
Even on those occasions when I was temporarily conscripted into the infernal army
Of this or that BDSM attired wannabe god-CEO of agony,
Or this or that sentient outsized globally recognized candy bar brand with dreams of inhaling all the gas on Jupiter just to get wicked high,
I would still perfectly pantomime fulfilling the orders
Of all the customers
From that increasingly distant time
That I so dearly hated.
And now so dearly missed, wanted, needed.
Like I said,
I shut down.
But not really.
How can I put it?
It's like if every day is Halloween . . . I don't even know.
My life was kind of insane before,
And now it's even more insane,
And there's more insanity on the road ahead, right?
That's not how things are supposed to be.
Things are supposed to start normal,
And then go crazy.
Or you start out crazy,
And then you get your shit stabilized,
Start exercising, eating properly, get on a proper sleep schedule, take the right pills,
I didn't come up with this shit.
This is how things were always presented to me.
You start on one side of the line or the other,
And then you work your way to the other side.
You're either playing the getting over game,
Or the hedonist self-destruction game.
Unless you're born on the right side of the line,
The one that has all the money,
In which case, okay, stasis would make sense,
So, uh, I dunno. I really don't have any clue.
The universal mythological clusterfuck riot scene went on for about a year,
A little over a year,
And then people started to come down from it.
They started going into their old job routines in pantomime.
Like what I was doing with my barista gig after I stopped taking off the costume,
But I guess, like, I was ahead of the curve?
I mean, I've always been a kind of trendsetter.
Going back to when I was a teenager.
I'd find out about some band that no one heard of, and then I'd tell everybody about it,
Or some movie or some comic book.
And then people would be into that new thing.
And I was fashionable.
I wore pretty cool clothes.
People wanted to dress like me.
Even the teachers.
Even the coaches.
I tell that to people now,
And they think I'm joking.
But it's true.
I set trends.
So maybe now with all this crazy costume shit . . . I don't even know.
That's what was going on with me my whole life?
It's totally nuts,
And like I said, I stopped sleeping. Maybe I'm not seeing what I'm seeing.
Even though I see everything with perfect clarity, especially now.
But things started to get back to, like, fake normal.
No one was bathing. No one was sleeping anymore.
Those who had undergone full-on transformations into mythic and supernatural beings
They didn't really change back.
But they acted like they were back in the old human rut.
My co-worker Ben,
He became this human-shaped thing made entirely out of toes
That was constantly emitting a pre-recorded stream of audio clips of speeches by George W. Bush,
And he didn't change back,
But he went back to slinging those coffee beverages just like in days of old.
My boss, she was still that overgrown plant-seed-carrier whatsit,
She still smoked weed in her Honda every lunch break,
Still a pretty cool boss.
Sidney, the girl who biked to work, still loved to talk about her mission trips to South America,
Even though she was now a difficult to pin down blur of scintillating lights and arcane symbols.
We had all been transformed.
We all had our Time of Fun.
And now we were back to work.
Except there were no more coffee beans, latte mix, or shots to shoot.
Most of the paper cups had been eaten by the naked cops,
And the freaky tentacle rape beast had eaten all the metal objects in the store,
Including all the coffee making machines and assorted equipment.
But the team went into action in pantomime.
Even the customers,
Who had all ritually burned their cash in praise of Psychopathic Deities and Insurgent Barsoomian Spirits,
Who had all offered up their credit and debit cards as sacrifice to the ghost of Tom Snyder,
He of the nonstop witty patter and the perpetually burning cigarette held between middle and forefinger,
Even the customers kept on coming in,
Playing their parts with an exquisite mixture of Chekhovian subtlety and violent, alienating theatrical gestures of embodiment worthy of Bertolt Brecht,
All of us,
Workers and consumers alike
Possessed with the obsessive yet mindful pantomime of mindless commerce.
But way better than the real thing ever was,
Or ever could have been.
For we are all now in a Transcendent Rut.
William Blake is really pleased with all this, by the way.
I've been speaking to him
Underneath a collective of regular customers
Who have willed themselves into the shape of a Cubist Sequoia
And he said this was exactly what he was getting at.
But I think he's just being polite.
Not sure. Not sure I want to be sure.
Copyright 2014 by William D. Tucker. Used with permission.