In the alley behind my place in Los Angeles sat a giant pile of garbage and, one day in the late fall, a feeble and diseased beast started living in that garbage.
At first we only glimpsed the thing at night. It was a hard beast to identify. Because it was, at least some of the time, bipedal, I first guessed that it was a wounded Bigfoot, starving and mad, driven from its forest home by fire. But this animal possessed none of the trademark shyness of the Sasquatch and even less of that beast’s dignity. The more we looked at it, the bolder it became. It loved attention. It fed on admiration. It could not be a Bigfoot.
This was a loud and bellowing creature. It had fish-scales for skin, which it tried to hide below its thin patches of wispy hair. It shat itself almost constantly. The hair on its gangling legs were cemented with old shit and dripped with the new. It coughed and spat and pissed all over the place. At times, showing some strange imitation of intelligence, it arranged its bodily fluids into bizarre diagrams and pointed frantically at these meaningless images, jumping up and down, hollering and, of course, shitting itself again, before collapsing in an exhausted and farting heap. It snored. It did so even when it was awake.
After a while, it became clear that this beast was not from the wilds. It had not sprung up from the fertile soil or been blown in by even a wind as mad as the Santa Anas. Academics and reporters showed up with their theories. Some claimed that it was a sort of tulpa, a thought creature and a manifestation of the economic anxieties of the white working class. Woven from their nightmares, it had broken lose from some desolate factory on the edge of The American Dream. Others claimed that the beast was imported from Russia. They pointed to Stalin’s experiments with man-ape soldiers. And some claimed that the beast had, in one way or another always been with us. It just hasn’t been in your neighborhood, they said. We’ve had fourteen of these beasts in every one of ours for years.
These theories all had some portion of truth. The fact remained, that this had to be a man-made animal. How else could we explain the filthy white lab coat it sometimes wore while smearing one its bizarre drawings onto a nearby wall? How else could be explain its collection of stethoscopes? This beast was grown in some lab. Perhaps, it was the offspring of an industrial accident. A product of Nevada radiation. It might have escaped. More likely, it had been found defective and discarded on the street. In the end, it didn’t matter.
Our problem was not so much figuring out where this thing had come from but dealing with it now that it had arrived. This was not as easy as it seems. When a creature like this sets up camp outside your home –and pray that one never does– you find yourself capable of talking yourself into all sorts of things. You might believe that it will quickly move on and that things will return to normal, ignoring the nest it is busily constructing from discarded cans and fish skeletons, all its signs of pregnancy and litters of pups it has already birthed. You may tell yourself that this creature is not much more dangerous than any other creature, ignoring the maimed bodies of the schoolchildren it has attacked. You might put some trust in the authorities to solve this problem for you, ignoring that they are bringing the garbage it thrives on. Maybe you just block up the windows and try to ignore the whole damn thing.
The human mind is a nimble thing. It can get used to almost anything after a week. By the time you have actually accepted that this garbage beast is now part of your life, you have actually accepted it as part of your life. After all, it hasn’t done anything to you. (Yet.) Maybe the best thing to do is leave it alone until it goes away. It’s never looked healthy. Best to avoid it while you wait for it to die or wander off. Something should distract it soon enough. Maybe one of your neighbors. This was not a proud or heroic time. People have done awful things. They all had good reasons. Some of them even had morals.
These strategies are, of course, ineffective but none are nearly as bad as what I saw some of my neighbors do. Some of them were lending aid to the garbage beast. It appeared that they had even invited it to live among us. Many of these men, it was later discovered, worked in the laboratory where the garbage beast was made. Some were its offspring. Others were related to it in more convoluted ways, their DNA and ideas being used in its construction. These men thought the beast was functioning normally. Better than, even. It was all going according to plan. And every month, on the nights when there was no moon, they gathered around its teats to suckle. One could at least understand their motivations.
Even when they elected the sick beast mayor.
But others somehow talked themselves into the idea that this garbage beast could be contained and dealt with. They called themselves “the adults in the room.” They said the world was full of garbage beasts of one type or another, so they would just go about business as usual, and try to domesticate the creature. They would reason with it. They would teach it. They believed that the garbage beast could be trained to serve their purposes and, in pursuing that goal, overlooked much. This selective ignorance is what they called “being a grown-up.” The rest of us called it compromise or collusion or collaboration. The letter “C” was extremely popular in those days.
When we suggested that the beast simply needed to be driven from the neighborhood with torches and pitchforks and all the other accouterments available to the townspeople since the first monsters had started living among us, these men would all gather together. Their accomplices would smear our doors with pig blood. The garbage beast loved the smell of pig blood. Indeed, it even seemed sexually excited by the smell of pig blood. Should they pull this trick on you, polluting your door with pig blood, the garbage beast would lumber towards your home. Panting and hollering, it would rub its genitals against your door. And the creature had a lot of genitals. Each complex of genitals seemed more misshapen and diseased than the last. It would spray and mist fluids all over the blood and these fluids attracted flies. Weird stinging flies. Flies that buzzed and bit and never seemed to leave. Some were poisonous but you could never tell which ones. The neighborhood was overrun by these drunken swarms. They were the staggering black clouds visible from every window.
And, after the creature was done, after it had left its fluids and summoned its flies, it would incorporate your address into one of its weird diagrams. These diagrams were growing more convoluted by the day. They were on every wall. I found one in my own washroom. I could not scrub it out. Bleach would not eliminate its stink. Yet people took instruction from them.
The diagrams became holy.
After some years of living like this, we finally managed to convene the neighborhood council to look into something the garbage beast had recently done. After demanding an increase in its trash shipments, it had engaged in an act of public urination on a councilman’s lawn, while its advisers stated that it would only stop if it was given a stack of stale donuts. This was not the worst thing it had done (that would probably been its repeated kidnapping of school-buses full of children, some of whom it ate) but the action was, at least, of interest to the council. After all, school children don’t vote and the councilman was a beloved figure. Many of the council also loved donuts, though they preferred theirs to be fresh.
And it’s that meeting that these impeachment hearings remind me of. I have watched too much and too many of these hearings. Hell, I’m watching them now. I have sat through pretty much all of these hearings, though I did manage to pay some tribute to sanity by passing out after Volker and Morrison gave their opening statements yesterday. They say that if you watch enough of these hearings that ‘a picture will start to emerge.’ In my case, a memory has started to emerge. A memory of a garbage creature. A sickly yet hulking thing, both potbellied and gangling, covered in wispy hair and bald patches. A bad memory.