Thomas Denis Gibney

FICTION

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POETRY

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SOUND

Radical Maoist Techno; Found Poems; The Fountain of Youth; Na Feijoada Famosa

 

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January 15, 2011



Sine Waves: An Intersection of Contemporary EDM and Revolutionary Politics  >  Featured Content  >  The Daily Dose

Today’s featured article from the Sine Waves automatic dissemination cloud appears from contributing author Danielli Álves, writing from Malas Ondas.




Something Wicked This Way Comes

A new breed of radical Maoist techno is sweeping the Southern Cone.
One author examines the potential this sub-sub-genre holds for strategic conflict dissemination in the region

Translated from the Spanish by Quierozca Limones


It is the year 2011 in the Republic Formerly Known as Argentina. Like most nation-entities, the Republic suffers from the typical disparity that has come to define these first tentative years of the new millenium. VIGS stretch like black holes across major swaths of Argentine territory. These Vast Information Gap Spreads are particularly pronounced in the Andean regions, and those areas of the North that have gone underdeveloped for years; the disconnected regions of the South, from Santa Cruz to Tierra del Fuego; and significant parts of the pampas where industrialization has stagnated. The ozone layers around our most concentrated urban centres have all but dissolved. I wear Blanche Cream every time I walk out the door. But mostly, I live the life of a normal vampiric bachelor, frequenting the seedy clubs and dub-drenched dancehalls that first put this city on the EDM map. Machine Love and Virtuosic still provide the score to my meager pasta dinners; if I’m feeling heady, I even get in the mood for the velvet-thick sluglines of Makeshift and Darkstra.

While our neighbours to the North engage in an increasingly degenerative drug war—has ‘degenerative,’ even, become a euphemism?—the once-impassioned dreams of sovereignty and self-determination and the occasional wick of audacity in the eye of the parched panamericanist have all floundered on their respective soils. We have achieved autonomy, here on our tortured and atrophying continent, but the ark has left many behind to flail in the flood.

Set against this backdrop, electronic dance music continues to growl in the machine, a murmur in the fabric of the counterculture. As technologies have advanced, music has trended toward increased digitalization, DIY production and distribution, and a forward-looking aesthetic determined to insinuate itself into the history e-books as an instrument of change. Now more than ever, it seems, people are turning to electronic dance music in pursuit of the cathartic, the propitious, the—dare I say it—divine.

For a long time, us enthusiasts of the breakbeat and the glitchstep have seen dance music not only as a means of escape, but for its social import as well—in an era in which socioinformational disparity has become the norm. While technology makes it possible to attend to each and every breath, word, and bowel movement issued by a total stranger, it is easy to forget that there are parts of the world still clouded in VIGS, deemed unsuitable for investment and which under such neglect slip daily into further lawlessness and entropy.

Electronic dance music has always stood at the crossroads of the winds of social change—and a new breed of techno harbors the potential to direct those very winds. Techno, having found resurgence in the mid-2000s under such permutations as microhouse, minimal techno, and tech house—all of which enjoyed rather protracted narratives of ascendency as the dominant underground sounds of the day—was thought to have plateaued in the late 90s, when the more bloated waves of trance and acid house distended the genre to almost unlistenable lengths. These cheese-fests were less signs of the times as they were aberrations in a technically sound aesthetic polluted by penetration into the mainstream and misguided flirtations with the more distasteful ranks of party and rave culture. Quite simply, the bottom fell out. The word ‘techno,’ once intended to indicate an appreciable genre of the 80s electronica scene, became a (frequently pejorative) umbrella term for anything with a 4/4 time signature and a crowd of token Dutchmen gyrating to it.

All this time, while the Ferry Corstens and Armin van Burrens were honing their ‘Big Room Trance’ gimmicks to sideshow proportions, the Chinese were quietly perfecting a style that emphasized dark, driving beats and a quirky assemblage of geometric treble freqs meant to mimic the elegance and infinite layering of fractals. And not just any Chinese. This was a sound born in the smoky lairs of party officials, veritable red fists who reportedly kidnapped Japanese nationals at young ages and forced them to listen to imported Detroit techno on crappy party gramophones for days on end without sleep. One legend has it that the virtuosic Chinese composer Drop Trou was actually an ethnic Japanese, spirited from his family’s Okinawa restaurant at the age of five, and locked in a Manchurian People’s Provincial Headquarters, where he was handed all manner of disassembled instruments—everything from a grand piano to an eight-channel Numark mixer. Drop Trou, if you believe the legend, spent thirteen days in a sodium-lit cell deliriously piecing together a Hamburg Steinway Model B-211 7’, having been told he wouldn’t eat another shelled husk of rice grain until he put the whole thing back together, right down to the last screw. When he finally set the last piece in place and proceeded to collapse, his five-year-old body quivering on the ground, only then did the provincial party leader, Zhou Lou, casually approach the fully assembled piano and set to playing the Yellow River Piano Concerto until he was pleased with what he heard, at which point he promptly ordered that the boy be brought some rice in the event that his body decide to finally call it quits. This continued for several years—the party leaders presenting the boy with a perversely Pavlovian series of dismembered instruments and edible rewards. But Drop Trou went on to become a DJ of unsurpassed technical ability and endurance, who could man the decks for days at a time, single-handedly playing entire festivals over the course of a long holiday weekend.

There was a reason, it turns out, that the Maoists sought to groom kidnapped foreigners into cutting-edge DJs. On the one hand, electronic music was making headway in the farthest reaches of the globe—and the Chinese felt behind. For all their talk of a pure culture rooted in essentially Chinese values and uncorrupted by the sleight-of-hand governance of Western democracies that traded on myths of egalitarianism and meritocracy as an insulating façade for capitalistic systems hellbent on self-preservation, it turns out the Chinese were actually fascinated by the cultural achievements such a system was able to encourage, particularly in the realm of music, for which the Chinese have a soft spot. They understood the ‘soft power’ such music contained as a cultural export—and they began early on to adopt programmes for the incubation of electronic music productions much in the way that Coca-Cola, Nike, and Facebook sought to carve footholds in various markets around the world because of the viral consumption potential of their products. By creating hundreds of cells around the country dedicated to precisely such an enterprise, populated by kidnapped Japanese, Korean, and Filipino youth, or by the unwanted children of their own abject comrades, such comrades who were parsimoniously compensated for their donations through a controversial initiative called the ‘One Child, Ten Thousand Glowsticks’ campaign, the government was able to train an entire generation of manic Maoist DJs who’d become metronomic virtuosos at their craft, mercilessly brainwashed by the loop-heavy, four-on-the-floor Detroit techno records played on repeat twenty-four hours a day in their labs—all the while honing a sparse, radical style that is just now breaching the walls of the People’s Republic and streaming its red guts onto various pirate radio stations the world over.

Two decades later, you might say they have executed their programme all but brobdingnagianly. But there was one catch: these DJs, as a paradoxical flipside, had, in the course of their endgame-aesthetic childhoods and wildly distorted relationships concerning the concepts of reward and punishment, become incredibly addicted to life-or-death lifestyles. When envoys of these manic, mellifluously talented Maoist DJs disembarked on foreign soils under such government-financed programmes as the ‘Golden Water, Endless Autumn Festival’—a sort of itinerant circus showcase of ‘new Chinese electronica,’ aiming for the kind of free-spirited atmosphere captured at the original Orbital raves but ultimately struggling to bring in much of an audience—the party officials and other communist authorities (who, it should be noted, knew nothing about electronic music, whatsoever) found themselves in a serious bind when showtime came around and their handgroomed, permanently-synaptically-damaged ‘vermilion boys’ couldn’t be moved from their cots or foldable plastic chairs unless their lives depended on it. The rush from feeling that you were always on the brink of destruction, it turns out, had become something of a driving force behind their unwavering commitments to their craft, year after year, from the first time they heard a scratchy Derrick May record pipe its way into the chafing walls of their childhood cells. [brrrreeeep. brrrreeeeep.] Inevitably, entire security teams had to be assembled for the express purpose of spurring (that term seems a little tame, let’s admit it) lethargic, mellifluously talented Maoist DJs toward the decks. Eventually, the situation degenerated into such that these mercenaries (who were farmed in from Japan, Korea, and several nameless Pacific island-states—which, we won’t even go into the conscience-rending crossroads these mercenaries were brought to, having to undertake such a morbid task upon their own supposedly once-upon-a-time countrymen) had to be paid [brrrreeeep. brrrreeeeep.] to stand with Desert Eagles cocked at the temples of these DJs while playing on stage, no less, as a way to sustain the wildly contorted synaptic systems of reward and punishment that by this time had all but intractably cemented themselves in the vermilion minds of our emergent metronomic virtuosos—all of which the crowds flipped their collective shits over, finding it positively uproarious, mistaking it as part of the act, in the way that an ’80s hair band’s donning of effeminate neon jogging tights and carnival-grade makeup and obscene amounts of industrial-strength hair gels and/or sprays was supposedly part of the act, and not some suppressed homoerotic and/or transvestical disposition seeping up from clouded psychic depths, loving, these crowds, such a debauched and clearly sinister and therefore totally rave-worthy and totally badass expression of counterculturalist culture, man [BRRRREEEEEP. BREEEEEPPP!!], this whole pointing a gun at a DJ and being like, Listen you fuck, fucking play for these blokes or we’re gonna fucking kill you—now THAT was hardcore, man, THAT was what electronic music was about man, is what these blitzed-out-of-their-minds-to-begin-with crowds thought about it, and so flipped their shit (in a good way) over such an awesome and ravetastic display of carnal badassery in full LED-bathed view for their own public neurointoxicated pleasu—



John was kowtowed over the patio and over the small triangle of light refracted through the window’s sunset. For p.m. calisthenics he had the i-Cloud diptyched open and upside down so that he, also upside down, in full sasangasna, could read it— as was his custom— when the device rang, twice.

He calmly unrolled himself from the inversion, blood draining back down his brain like an egg cracked and running over it, warm and furcatively chillsome at the same time. He picked up the i-Cloud. It took a moment for the spots to slow their swimming before his eyes.

“You’ve reached the mailbox of: ………John Dunn. To leave a voice message, press one, or wait for the tone.”

“Oh no. I must have interrupted something.”

John’s eyes blinked, willing away the remaining spots. “Hiya, sis.” His tone stopped being phony.

“Like important.”

“Just didn’t look to see who it was, is all.”

“You were doing your thing, weren’t you.”

“Just didn’t look to see, is all. The blood’s returning to my face. What’s good with ya.”

“Um. Well. I’m sitting in a parking lot next to a frosted-window magic-marker remdition of some Viking-looking guy named Olaf and His Creamery, watching the sun go down, I’m sitting in a puddle of gum, but puddle isn’t the right word, eating cheese.”

“Why were you born with the eventful life, huh?”

“Actually they’re more like chicken pox. Um. Chicken pox of gum hardened all around me on this parking lot. I’m sitting on the concrete thing that, stops your tires and you know. …How are you?”

“Me? I’m in that post-workout mode where everything is kind of fleshy.”

“Fleshy.”

“And swimming.”

“Swimming.”

“That’s the one.”

“Sorry I interrupted man. Just—”

“You beat me to it—”

“—haven’t heard any of your dreams lately…and I was starting to wonder…and. The gum is like little islands here, if you could see it.” But his sister’s nonchalance wasn’t lost on John Dunn, who knew she was really in one of her spaces, emotionally. Who could blame her?

“Who can blame you? It’s your first day, right?”

“I’m impressed you remembered.”

“You’re probably feeling a little lonely.”

“Em— okay, you’re a lucid dreamer, not a psychoanalyst.”

“You really did beat me to it. As for the dreaming thing—”

“I’m not lonely, by the way, there’s plenty—”

“—been dried up, of late—”

“—company, you remember Dave and Sawaad, and then—”

“—so I couldn’t, like—”

“—named Grass, really, I don’t know what to, to—”

“—like, call.”

[…]

“Sorry.” [Both, simult.]

[…]

“John—I dropped out of school.”

“…Um.?” [a kind of combo, the . and the ?]

“I lied to you earlier, over Christmas. I’m not on a high seas alternative exchange program learning how, to sail.”

“…I kind of figured, Kayles.”

“Yeah, well.”

“What happened?” He suddenly kicked himself for not calling earlier. The sun was clearing the pines, scratchy and gray. The sun also kind of scratchy and gray, disappearing.

“I…” In her mind’s high spire, Kaylee felt the gears grinding against each other, forcing her into that uncomfortable position where in order to explain herself she had to admit to what she perceived as some personal defect—some malfunction—that had caused her to be in the shit, and admit that she couldn’t pull herself out of it, herself, and that’s why she needed, like, assistance and shit, needed to take a break from it all for a while, whatever the hell that meant, which was pathetic and acquiescent and not of the Dunn-Prince pedigree, that’s for damn sure. [Though, in point of fact, it was. {Of the pedigree.}{Empirically speaking.}] Which is why she retreated and made the guarded emotive leap behind her diminished attributed significance to this thing, whatever the hell it was, that had brought her so incredibly down: “It’s nothing much, man.”

“…It’s?”

“I just had another…episode, is all…had to, just a series of feelings like school wasn’t working out for me at the time and like. You know,” she added.

John knew his sister Kaylee and he suspected but could not confirm that she was pulling the very guarded sleight-of-hand emotive downplay that she really was pulling, in (a subconscious room of) her head. “Is everything alright,” is what he said (which felt like a pathetic response, to him). The warmth was leaving his body, there were goose bumps playing on his biceps.

“I’m living with the cousins.”

“Say what?”

“The Denouements. I’m living with them for a while. You really don’t talk to mom or dad, do you.”

“The Denoue—”

“There’s no sailing trip, no around the world in eighty days, just utter and absolute mindnumbing freedom here at what is it Beersheba Drive, just like we always wanted.”

“For how long?”

“However long, I dunno. It’s whattuya call it, constinent.”

“On getting—”

“I’m watching the sun go down, it’s warm, it’s January, it’s warm and it’s January, there’s a guy who looks like a gnome on bikes, three of them, bikes I mean, three bikes at the same time somehow he’s riding, by gnome I mean as in Viking. I think the freak-out thing was more like a just not feeling right about where I was at at the time, like me and the place just wasn’t working out, you know, like so.”

The hairs on John Dunn’s formidable forearms were starting to prickle in the dying light. Where Kaylee was, it was a little brighter out on account of the no hills and no skeletal birches peppering the spread and instead the straight Gulf lowland snug right against the sea, no NE January gray dropping down its cloak of haze and dark, Eastern-Standard style.

“We always did want to live there,” John monotoned.

“Uh oh. He’s snapping his suspenders at me.”

“You know, Kayles, maybe this is good for you—”

“And whistling? Is that a whistling sound he’s making?”

“School can be stifling. I know it’s been tough for you there—”

“That’s definitely some kind of whistling noise—”

“And you’ll be in good company—and isn’t Meemaw living there now?” John was watching his breaths steel before the last rays of sun.

“Oh! And there’s my cue, you were probably mid-workout anyway, weren’t you? My apologies. I’m getting out of here before this gnome-Viking from the effing bingo convention comes—oh, there it is—yep—he’s approaching me—he’s taken off his top hat—uh oh—he’s a beggar—great—he wants my alms—or my cheese—getting up now—time to go—call you soon—running now, goodb—”

 

 

 

 

 

FOUND POEMS
{a random sample of streaming video, webcasts, cloudbytes, and other cookies; cached in the hardrive of the one computer at 6364 Beersheba Dr, being the address of Chez Denouement} {a running catalogue}

 

—Are you tired? Sad? Feeling depressed? Has your life lost that essential spark of your younger years? Are you looking for something new? Something exciting? That special ‘umph’ to give yourself the energy you need, to seize your future back in your hands?

—Call now and we’ll throw in the Magnum Root Router®, a $30 value, --YOURS!   free of charge !

—with the sudden proliferation of Chinese lessons and it’s not to be unexpected that these martial, Chris, these sessions—

—Hundreds of singles are waiting by the phone—

—America, we know that there, are, those among us, certain, shall we say, people of a certain, political per-sua-sion, let’s say, who, in the name of a, certain, pro-gres-sive a-gen-da— want to, well, just give a little his-torical right we like to call lib - er - ty— do you know what they want to do, America? They want to give it the old once-over, the little refining scrub, should we call it, want to, just, ha! will it a-way, they do— want to tell YOU, America, want to tell YOU that, hey, THEY know better than YOU about YOUR freedom! And, are just gonna, if you don’t mind, just, go on ahead and de - cide for you what YOU want to do with your own health care!

—You keep giving them a chance, and they just keep f*cking the same horse.

—Aid poured in from the American hospitals, then came the aid of the French, and then came the aid of various other benefactors, who were also American—

—these ninjas or whatever they are, Chris, they’re corrupting our children and they’re terrorizing our morals with their violent video games and their, their, their, appeasement of terror states, Chris—

—The La Hannah Cleanse-o-Boost has that power. Start your morning off right with your favorite combination of fresh vegetables and succulent fruits. The La Hannah Cleanse-o-Boost comes with a signature pamphlet complete with over five dozen patented, sure-fire recipes, guaranteed to give you that special a.m. jolt. Do you just love apples and celery? How about a little ginger? Just juice it! Need that extra fiber in your life? Try the La Hannah’s banana-pear-honey combo. You can even throw in one of La Hannah’s famous protein supplements, sold separately in easily digestible power form—great for mixing in to your favorite morning shake.

—hundreds of locals in your area—

—Now let’s not get all sus-pi-cious, America. Let’s not think for a moment that, God forbid, someone up there in their political, oh, penthouse, should ever even try to force THEIR will upon YOU. No, no. Let’s not get all par-a-noid, now. It’s not like—and I’m not sug-gest-ing this—that there’s, like there’s some grand libral, or, some grand, like, scheme, out there, in the news, in the news media, in the political infra-structure that’s run almost exclusively on Judeo values—that’s not what I’m saying.

You have the power to change your dreams and your life forever—

—visamastercardonlylimitedtimeoffersaleschargenotincluded-taxnotincludedfeessubjecttoincreaseatthediscretionofrouters,etc.®-alimitedliabilitycompany-formoreinformationcall+85258670877-forclientsintheindiansubcontinentpleasedial11-rushandexpressordersareavailable-shippingnotincludedshippingsubjectomarketpricingandothervariables-call8008668299nowthat’s18008668299callwithinthenextfiveminutes-allmagnumrootroutersandtherouters,etc.®nameareregisteredtrademarks-andsubjecttointernationalcopyrightlaws-allsalesfinalwarrantyvoidwhereprohibitedcall18008668299—

—Cubs 14, Cardinals 12. And now on to soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it, hah, football. Anything of interest over there, Tom?

—Now I’m not suggesting that there’s something, oh, I don’t know, sus-pi-cious or, I don’t know, in-flam-ma-tor-y about this whole, this, liberal a-gen-da. But America let’s just stop and think for a moment. Let’s think about what, like, say, what it was like to be alive in, oh, —1930s Nazi Germany????

—waiting to chat with you

—that’s right, America. The Chinese? The I-rackees???  What do you think all these governments they have in common, what do you think? What, do you think, let me ask you, do these governments have in common with The Third Reich??

—I guess I never tried to be a famous author, Mischa. What happened was I became one. Something reached out to me. “The call,” as they call it. The great proverbial call. Well let me tell you something: it’s true. I didn’t ask for it. It just kind of… happened. I knew I wanted to tell the American story. I knew that much. I knew that’s what I intended to write about, somehow. The rest just kind of, fell into place, you could say. That’s what it is, Mischa. A matter of things falling. Falling into place. And that. And here we are.

—just waiting by the phone—

 

~

What to say about Sarasota, FL. That it’s the home of the Ringling Circus? That it cradles an oft-overlooked yet substantial population of Swiss-German-speaking, beard- and bonnet-toting Amish? That it was first settled by Spanish conquistadors whom, having ditched Ponce de León and his inimitable quest for the fountain of youth, decided that this, after all, wasn’t a bad place to throw in the towel, to live out one’s days with a jaded sort of immortality?

Late afternoon, Kaylee dragged a kiddie trike from the garage and made her way back the only direction that leads out to Bahia Vista. She followed the quiet street along the side of the creek. The trees stretching and bowing in the yards, leafy green. January feels milder than baby skin here in Sarasota. As the road winds up to meet the Bi-Rite on the corner, cars whoosh by and an Amish family can be seen strolling single-file on the opposite sidewalk.

Florida, the twenty-seventh state of the Union. The Sunshine State, land of fruits fabled and forbidden, beach sand whiter than the halo of Mary and more pharmacies than you can shake a sugar cane at. Juan Ponce de León, so goes the legend, came in search of the apocryphal fountain to cure that most banal of sixteenth-century diseases: the old impotency curse. [Some things, it would seem, just can’t be conquered.] To this day Florida boasts an inordinate track record of self-medicating with various opiate derivatives at the hands of profiteering neon roadside tabernacles. He never found it, did de León. [And it really is a legend: the man himself having never actually mentioned, in his own writings, that the object of his absconding involved a fountain of any sort.] But if there were a fountain of youth, surely one would not be remiss to think it might— perhaps— by chance— be happened upon here; watching the sun dip upon the western horizon, bathing the palm trees in its topaz gleam, one could be forgiven for harboring such supposedly fantastical notions.

The tallest, a hatted man in suspenders, leads the way, followed by three daughters and a son proceeding in descending matryoshka proportions of height and paunch. Last comes the matronly lass with a wicker basket of apples under her arm. And they all literally looked liked they’d hatched from each other in descending order, like that. How ridiculously cliché, Kaylee muttered to her training wheels. She crossed at the corner and stopped in the Amish creamery, which she remembered from last time. She bought a quarter pound of Troyer’s Swiss and sat down in the parking lot and the afternoon light and ate some slices like that. She was happy to see Dave and Sawaad again. She’d knocked on her grandmother’s door but there was only a blue light framing the bottom and no answer. They warned her that might happen but not to worry, eventually she would see Granny Louise, as they called her. What d’ya mean she might not open? What d’ya mean e-ventually? She remembered her mother’s words: You have to reconnect with your Grammy. She needs you now. K.P. was starting to suspect those words meant something. She realized with a start, half appalled and half not, that she hadn’t spoken at all with Mary Louise, her Grammy, (or, as the Dunn-Prince idiom went, her ‘Meemaw’), since the funeral. In fact she didn’t even know why Meemaw’d stayed down here, going on seven plus months now. Kaylee was nipping at her cheese morosely. She thought about calling her brother. She decided she would. And then there was this Grass girl who looked more like a Final Fantasy character than a real, breathing human being. You’re judging again, Kaylee said to herself. Stop judging. You just met the damn kid.  —Girl.  —Kid.  … What is she, like twelve?!  —Quit judging. Just quit it!  —But it’s true.  —Fuck off!

The light was sliding behind the trees and the parking lot had that desolate look of overplanned American mini shopping centers on highway corners, the spread-out kind that pock Florida and Tennessee like little fiefs and command their own parking lots for bracket-shaped plazas. This was home now. Highway 41 was home; Cocoanut and its metal fences flaking paint on lawns and crews of blacks hanging on porches were home; the breezy gullet of Bayshore and its promenade of palm trees and terra-cotta-roofed mansions were home; lizards dashing into starfruit clusters and fire ants shimmying on bayonets of sawgrass and Knights Inns atrophying in the sun. What to say about Sarasota, FL, where the kitschy and the serene live side by side? That it didn’t mean anything to Kaylee but that she was here, and here was where she happened to be at the moment.

~

And so the Denouement residence is having its sporadic potluck again but in honor, this time, of its new guest, sitting squirmingly in the Mad-Hatteresque chair at the head of the table. [Don’t ask, it was Kaylee’s mind’s impression of it, the chair.] Usually suppers are fend-for-yourself affairs here, since of course there isn’t this patriarchal model of the housewife around whose domestic energies basic bodily functions accord with [Carolyn’s words {both ‘around’ and ‘with’}]. The tangelos are dark and slender in the night and fussed with shadows, latticing upon the table, which is hewn from an ashy, resined wood. Now don’t get me started on the table, Carolyn says, because I know what you’re thinking, this is no Arthur’s Round here, and yet you claim this ahierarchy to the kitchen and the domestic sphere and yet on the place where you eat you cut a long oakwood worthy of the Last Supper whose rectangular shape clearly indicates some hierarchy or dual-hierarchy to which you claim you don’t subscribe, how can you explain that? and for that take that up with Beaux, for the love of Durga, is all I have to say. I hissed and hissed but the man insisted on how his carpenterial skills—and that’s not even a word, Kaylee—could never reach their perfection unless he perfected the bipedal oakwood rectangle. But do you know what, Kaylee? The man’s imperfect. Because you see this clef in the wood right here, see how this corner looks like it’s been chewed out or it was fed to the mutant termites or what, see that? That’s the hand of that man over there, his own little fudge— [“You tellin the table story ’gain, Care?” Shaking his head.] and we always laugh and say, he made his perfect table, but the man couldn’t last five seconds being perfect before he goofed it up just as he was putting his hands on his hips to smile in admiration at it and knocked his saw bench over and cut a pitcher in it, and the saw went straight through lopped a nub off the peg at the bottom and that’s why now the dern table can’t stand straight. [“You really can’t get enough of that story, can you?”] But I—[Aunt Carolyn leaning close to her with a wink at this one]—I like to think he made his own little deference to me then, screwed up the perfectly good table he’d made cause he couldn’t not compromise and go against his wife’s will. [wink.]

Zeb’s nascently-pimpled nose snorts. “It’s cause dad can’t make anything.” This coming from the kid who can’t make anything.

“Not a word all day from the boy who played with Sun-In, and now you chime in with this comment?” Carolyn wheeled around, her chair a kind of throne too, gnarled and fashioned from a stump with a big L carved out of it for a seat and seat-back. She turns back to Kaylee, in a hushed voice. “Even if it was subconscious.” Presumably referencing the “compromise”.

Everyone’s out in the tangelo grove near the bonfire pit, a stone-and-pebble-ringed thing dug into the sand. The sand was hauled here in Sawaad’s periwinkle Astrovan some years ago during a night of neurointoxicated drum circling on Siesta Key, during which he and Dave got the bright idea that they would bring Siesta to them, in a succession of van runs, and build a makeshift beach of their own beside the small clump of tangelos that hug the northwest side of the pond. And it’s stayed remarkably intact, the mini-beach, which is now populated by a host of tree stumps for chairs, a burgundy burlap teepee in which resides a certain teen runaway named Grass, and then the table, of course: lopsided and crowded with the whole of the Denouement “family” on this mild January night.

It is mostly dark outside save the paper lanterns dangling kaleidoscopic from the porch and the small fire hissing beside them, sending up its woodsy perfumes. That, and the lurid blue glow from a second-floor window just above them: the shades drawn taut, the window frame agleam.

“And let me be the first to say an official welcome, Miss Kaylee,” Beaux announces down the table. “It’s mighty fine to have ya here at Chez Denouement.”

“I feel very welcome, thank you.”

“Pass la hot cross buns.”

“Zeb! Say please.”

“(Plea…)”

“What was that?”

“Puh-leez, jeez. Anal…”

“…Son?”

“Nothing. Jeez.”

“So Kaylee.” Zoë has turned her pretty brown eyes to her from a few seats down. “Do you have any plans while you’re here?”

Dave: “Like, plans to go Anabaptist or anything?”

“Cause it’s perfectly okay if you don’t,” Carolyn hastens to add, passing the rolls to Zeb. “We are fully supportive of you here, we want you to do whatever it is you want, however you want, under whatever terms, in whatever form.” A smile that seemed kind of banal.

“And the butter, where’s the butter at?”

“Cause if you’re interested,” Zoë goes, “the sustainable ag. convention’s coming up in a few weekends. They always need volunteers. And then there’s the farm up on Fruitville, you can come with me—”

“Erm, I—”

“Now let’s not overwhelm the lady,” Beaux goes, all chivalric in his tone. “Plenty of time to figure out exactly how to spend your time, Kaylee.”

Kaylee shifts in her throne.

Zoë: “Just saying.”

“How am I supposed to eat hot cross buns without butter.”

“Junebug honey, will you pass the chive butter for our so unbelievably starved Zeb it’s like he hasn’t had anything to eat in soo long, God bless his heart?”

June, unlike her brother, is rather Elizabethanly postured. She hasn’t uttered a word. There’s an almost studious quiet to her, the twelve-year-old.

“Zoë made this herself,” Carolyn hastens to add. They both smile expectantly Kaylee’s way, really quickly, then turn back.

They’re all seated, all merry, all genuinely celebratory, Sawaad thumping on his conga to lend a little ambience. He and Dave occupy the far end of the table, Dave rapping his knuckles along to the beat, profusely flanneled as always. This time it’s a charcoal and burnt-sienna scheme, his flannel. Sleeves rolled up to reveal a handyman’s forearms—stout and flecked with dry paint. Next to them, Zoë and Grass sit opposite each other—she twenty, she fifteenish—and next to them it’s June and Zeb, respectively—June’s body language Sakyamunian in contrast to Zeb’s epic slouch. Then Beaux across from Carolyn, and Kaylee bringing up the head. The conga’s taut timbre ripples over the thin air. A sapphirine palette of stars overhead. Zeb’s playing with the towheaded tips of his newly Sun-In’d hair.

Just then it’s Rogerio who bursts from the kitchen door—“Jantar! Jantar!”—with a huge cazuela in his mittened hands. He clunks it down on the table between the wild raspberries with dandelion greens and the sweet corn pudding.

“Of course, it’s always Rogerio outdoes us in the potluck department,” Beaux goes to Kaylee.

“Senhores e senhoras, I apresento na feijoada famosa do Rogerio!”

With a dramatic gastronome’s flourish he yanks off the lid, to the billowing of much steam. “Ooo” goes the assembly, the stewy aromas fetching heavenward. “Let’s eat!” The pot bubbles with intense shades of brown. Like, Kaylee’s never even seen that many shades of brown before. The aromas complex and intertwining. The thing’s loaded with black beans and cubes of pork and porkfat; strips of ham trembling against the hock and fleshy chunks of green pepper percolating all up in there. The vegetarians in the lot are truly missing out on this one. Zoë makes a face and tucks back into her plate of stewed kale and dunks a carrot into Sawaad’s massive hummus bowl, which was his contribution to the potluck. Zeb’s hand, with bun in tow, shoots toward the pot with astounding speed. Carolyn smacks it back into place without even looking, it seemed to Kaylee.

“Kaylee, of course you met Rogerio last time, yeah?”

“Senhora,” he says in impossibly sexy Brazilian Portuguese. And then in English (though still undulating, his tone, in that most BP of ways): “’s a pleasure again. I’s in the kitchen all day, to my regret. Is why I don’ see you.” A white toque is perched atop his fro and his chef’s coat’s splattered with the evidence of his labors.

“The man don’t mince words, mind you,” Dave goes. “Stuff’s famous.”

Even Sawaad, the thin chain-smoking insomniac, puts down the conga and eyes the cazuela hungrily. “Famous,” he echoes. “Famous.”

At Carolyn’s wish they’ve all bowed their heads in a “very religiously egalitarian way, I want everyone to know,” and are framed like that beneath the kaleidoscopic light of the porch lanterns and the distended yellow light of the kitchen door flung open toward the yard and the fire’s nimble embered light and the lurid blue light ghosting out from the bedroom of Mary Louise Prince, who needn’t be disturbed, y’all. Kaylee feels Carolyn’s hand unexpectedly wiggle its way into hers and the quick feeling of foreignness receives a sharp thaw, if just for a minute, here in the backyard of Chez Denouement. For an interval there’s not a sound to be heard but the crickets tweeting off in the woods and the faint traffic-whoosh of Bahia Vista, over the creek, heard as though it were a world away. “Let’s eat,” Carolyn abruptly announces then. Rogerio tilts his toque back in place and snatches up the Spanish guitar leaning against a stump, launching straight off into one of his celebrated Brazilian folk ballads as the spoons plunge and zip from mouth to plate, and back again.

 

 

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