the Remembered Saints:
My Life & Subsequent Death
a blustery, gray world through which our Woody strides
the next morning, entering the newspaper building casually
with a bag of burritos and hot sauce under his arm and
a pair of soul-inspiring yellow sunglasses across his
eyes. HARD CUT to the burritos hitting Arb's desk and,
due to the simultaneity, seeming to make his desk phone
—Desk of Hatpence, says Arb.
—Yes, I'm trying to reach a Woodrow
With the phone cradled on his shoulder,
Arb unsheathes a burrito, folds back its tortilla shell
and draws a bead of hot sauce down its length.
—Yes, I'm calling from the prosecutor's
—I'm already busy for dinner tonight.
—Sir, I'm calling to give you
your court date.
—Shoot, says Arb, as he rolls
the burrito back up into a tube and biting into it lustily.
—Jury selection for your trial
for first-degree murder will begin on December twenty-first
of this year.
—I'll have to check my calendar
and get back with you.
Arb hangs up and immediately dials Crobe.
The donkey-famed secretary tells him Crobe is in court,
so Arb leaves a message about the court date. As he sets
the phone down, it immediately rings again. Promiscuous
—Thanks for your support. To whom
am I speaking, please?
—What? Oh. Duty here.
Suck suck. Slurp.
—Lieutenant Duty, eh? Still dreaming?
—Voices, Arbuckly. They're saying
—And you believe them?
—They've never been wrong. Of
—Nothing. Nothing. Anyway, I'm
going to shift my antennae, so to speak, and see if I
can't help get you out of this knot.
Arb preps another burrito.
—That includes speaking to the
prosecutor in your behalf.
—You're kidding. Christ. What,
exactly, did the voices say?
—Eh? Oh. That it's not a two-headed
trombonist. It's two trombonists with one head.
—There you go, Lieutenant. You've
got a pretty good suspect description there. If I see
two gentlemen sharing a head, I'll let you know.
—Quite. (Slurp.) Quite.
Interrupt this Broadcast
—Look, let's cut the dear reader
crap, all right? I was on Müller's plane and I'm
telling you, something was mighty fishy about this guy
on the end, see? Kept his hood up and everything and it
should've been Cookie, the happiest guy of the bunch and
there he is refusing even to show his face. I'm telling
you this: it wasn't him. Plain and simple. That wasn't
Cookie. Do you hear? Christ. Anyway, old Heinie's been
fuming like a tanker up here, watching that faggot fret
and strut his stuff, and he just wanted me to tell you
Ignore him, dear reader, ignore him.
Ixnay on the aggotfay, by the by. Sensitive about that
stuff, you know. And—
Anyway, if you ask me, from what
I hear, that guy they got to stand in for Heinie was a
little too keen on the Siren, and from the way she was
ruffling her tail feathers, she wasn't exactly ignoring
him either, if you know what I mean, so if you ask me,
I'd have to say—
Christ. Will you please shut up? Eh?
Hello? Nothing else, then? No? Very well then. Thank you.
Now where was I? Christ. Now I've lost
my place. Read it back a bit, would you? Bastard. Crashing
my little cotillion party like a drunken frat boy, he
is. I'll give him a taste of it, though. Let's see now:
Sensitive about that stuff, you know.
Ah, yes, there we go: And I've no idea
who that is or what he's talking about (lying here, of
course, but Christ; give us dead our due: we have to follow
story rules too, you know), so let's just keep moving,
as dear Arb has placed a call to Herr O's office and arranged
for O to ride shotgun across the river to cover the state
Let us go then, shall we? (Not you,
you bastard. Them. You're staying here.)
the crowds like country bumpkins teeming fairwards, our
heroes are forced to park in a yellow field a half a mile
from the fairgrounds and ride up to the gate in a wagon
pulled by a small-headed man on a tractor.
O (bouncing): Tell me again: what's
—Zoma the Wild Boy.
What's with the glasses?
—Trying to bring light into my
A few moments of pleasant riding pass,
the field gleaming golden under the rain-big clouds like
it belongs in a Hardy novel, and then the tractor pulls
up in front of the gates, around which a line snakes sinuously.
Obediently, our pair queues up behind a teenaged girl—who
sizes up Woody with a practiced eye—and a bald,
suspicious man who is, presumably, her father.
O: Why do you write these stories?
Arb (shrugging while offering the girl
a hint of a wink): Money. Why else? Money for me, money
for the media. All of us paid by the aging suburbanite
who peruses the Flair section in hopes of feeling young
again. Ah, I remember, they'll say with Zoma spread before
them, the time me and the frat boys got a hold of that
heifer, and, boy, did we—I say. That's a bit much,
—What? says O.
—There, says Arb, pointing.
As the line congas forward two steps,
Charlie O glances past Arb's pointed index and finds a
decapitated, fly-specked squirrel flattened out on the
pavement next to them. There is no sign of the head. (Ask
Charlie: he looks around for it thoroughly.) Then click
click click up comes a woman and peers down at the
squirrel as if she were looking over the edge of a well.
—Is it dead?
—Er, yes, says O, thinking, charitably,
that she's retarded—though in her frumpy dress,
she looks like somebody's lost housewife.
—It was run over, Herr O adds.
—After it was dead?
At this, Woody laughs openly.
—No, says O. I think that's what
—Where's its head?
—I don't know, says O, and with
that he turns his back on both the woman and the squirrel,
and eventually it is O and A's turn for tickets.
Woody stepping up to the window, smiling.
—How many? says the woman behind
the glass and bars, not looking up.
Arb (flashing his press card): I'm from
the press. Doing a story on Zoma the Wild Boy.
Blank stare through the glass: You're
Arb: Writer. Zoma. Story.
Ticket woman: Let's see that press card.
The ticket woman gesticulates wildly
at a club-footed security guard, and together they study
the press card. Finally the guard shrugs, and the woman
waves Arb through.
Arb (pointing Onionward): And he's with
—Is he from the press?
Arb: He's my photographer.
—Where's his camera? sputters
the guard, triumphant.
Onion: I can stay here and wait.
Cowardly O steps away from the gate,
but Arb grabs his arm.
—Look, says our hero. My newspaper's
giving you guys a little free publicity, so I think you
can cut me some slack. This guy's a photographer, but
he's helping me write the story too. All right?
The ticket woman looks at the guard.
The guard shrugs.
—Go on through.
—Piece of cake, says Arb, once
they're out of earshot.
the grounds proper, the grandstand and a strong stench
of manure conspire to blind our two; then a man appears,
leading the two offending horses. The larger of the two
horses still shitting lumps of half-digested grass, across
which Arb leaps youthfully.
—Excuse me, calls out Arb. Could
you direct me to Zoma the Wild Boy's tent?
Man: Whut ewe sa-ee, dare, bar?
Man: Ah sa-eed, whut ewe sa-ee, bar?
Arb: Ah. Yes. No problem, Onion. I understand
this man's affliction. Could...youuu...diiii-rect...meeee...to...Zooo-maa...thee...Wiiild-Boy-'ss...tennntt?
Blank, dirt-dumb look then a flash of
indignant, stung pride.
—Awl dem wairdoes ovuh dare, he
says finally, throwing his free hand to our heroes' left.
An ah he-uh dey takin ap-lee-kay-see-uns, bars.
—Right ho, says our man Woody.
Herr O thanks the hick and runs dutifully
after Arb, who is already navigating through the flickering-neon-lit
game tables that smell of green peppers and vomit, past
the line for the Ferris wheel (drip drip), and, momentarily,
they step onto what, to reassure themselves of their own
normalcy, the general public calls Freak Row.
A half-empty beaten-flat dirt path,
with rows of luridly painted trailers and tents lining
either side. One trailer's sign claiming a woman with
three heads is confined within its beat-up walls. Another
that it has a man who changes into a gorilla every fifteen
minutes. Near the end, the obligatory mermaid's trailer.
And next to it, at the very end, the tent for Zoma
the Wild Boy, with a row of fantastical signs hanging
over its low entrance.
Sighing, Woody flips to a fresh page
of his notepad and jots down notes:
- Zoma the Man-Eater: picture showing
naked Zoma chasing sailors back to ship.
- Zoma and the Jungle Beast: naked
Zoma wrestling something or another; maybe the Leopard
Woman from the old Tarzan movie?
Charlie O still studying the naked Zoma
when our Arb grabs his shoulder.
—Come on. Let's get it over with.
Ducking under the canvas sheet that
conceals Zoma from curious spectators and then a sudden,
startling darkness from which slowly emerge the flickering
shadows of a surprising number of people, mumbling and
jostling (O Unreal Freak Tent). Our heroic two elbowing
their way to the front, gruffly, where they find that
a blond-headed teenager, toward whom Onion feels an immediate,
guilt-ridden attraction, is standing on the other side
of a waist-high curtain in a pair of skin-tight brown-corduroy
Levis and a yellow shirt left unbuttoned to show his youthful,
hairless chest, the left nipple of which is rather deliciously
pierced by a small brass ring. His right ankle, the flushed-face
Herr O finally notices, is chained to a spike driven into
the ground. Indifferent and ignoring the crowd, the boy
folds his arms over his pierced chest and studies the
packed gray dirt under his feet. Hanging by a rope over
his head, a sign warns that
Zoma bites the heads off of
small animals. No pets.
—Wonder if Zoma got hold of our
—The squirrel, says Arb. Back
A sharp popping noise leaps from a speaker
overhead, and after a whine of feedback a deep-voiced
man tells the crowd that
You are all in this tent against
the best advice science and society can offer.
Immediately, Zoma unfolds his arms and
lurches toward the waist-high curtain that separates him
from the crowd. A backwards ripple passes through the
tent. Then, with a horrific grimace, he screams and throws
two black handkerchiefs into the crowd. A pair of teenaged
girls shrieks and runs out, barely ducking under the flap
that keeps people from seeing in. CLOSE-UP of our man
Charlie, who is, despite his best efforts, mildly unnerved.
An old man in the audience throws the handkerchiefs back
to Zoma; Zoma winks at the man as he stuffs the handkerchiefs
back into his shirt.
Zoma is a Lost Soul.
Zoma paces to the end of his chain and
back, sticks his right index finger into his nose and
makes a show of pulling his finger out and chewing on
Found in the backwoods of
North Carolina, lost, abandoned, without parents, an
orphan, he was taken to the Child Psychology Department
at Duke University and has been studied closely as a
Zoma moans and reaches out for a small
child standing near the curtain. The boy, braver than
most, refuses to move back. Zoma reaches down, slips the
chain off his ankle. A few women in the audience gasp.
Chuckling in a low, sadistic voice, Zoma looks around
the tent and steps toward the boy. The boy takes a tentative
step back against his father's legs. With panther-like
slowness, Zoma crouches down, lifts the curtain and stretches
his arms out toward the boy's legs.
Thank you for visiting Zoma
the Wild Boy.
Zoma drops the curtain and returns to
the center of his enclosed area.
Our next show will resume
in fifteen minutes.
Onion watches Zoma chain his ankle back
to the spike and wonders if that's all. As the crowd behind
them pushes to get out of the tent, Zoma takes a Snickers
bar out of his pocket, and Arb tap-taps impatiently on
Onion's bony shoulder.
—That's it. Let's go.
(ruminating on the car-bound tractor): Are you worried
about the indictment?
—It's a serious charge.
—I've had worse, says Arb, heroically.
A shrug from O as the tractor stops.
They walk to the car without speaking. Then, pulling out
of the field:
Arb: Remember when we swam to Williams
Island for your bachelor party?
—And how cold the water was?
—Like ice, says Herr O.
—I think about that a lot, you
—That's freedom, says Arb. You
—You can't ever recover that feeling.
Turning back onto the road, the fence
clicking past and leaving Zoma and the Ferris wheel and
the lurid appeal of abnormality behind. Momentarily, the
traffic slows to a crawl. Herr Dasher inch-inch-inches
a bit and then, as the traffic locks solid, rain starts
beating against the windshield rat rap rap rap rat like
it wants to bore its way into the car. Wipers on maximum
speed but to no effect, so they sit listening to the rain
drumming on the car. Then suddenly—
The rain stops.
Arb: That was abrupt.
Onion nods, just as the wind starts
up again. A few dead limbs come down out of the trees
and blow across the road. Then an enormous branch, laden
with pine cones, slides across the road and jumps up onto
the Dasher's hood, where it perches momentarily, raven-like,
before the wind sends it rolling off again. Woody and
the O laugh, listening to it slide across the car.
Then hail begins to fall. At first,
like little pieces of hard candy, broken-off nipples cracking
against the windshield, then larger and coming down so
thick our two can't see the car in front of them. It's
like a shroud being drawn over them—first over Herr
Dasher's nose, then over its hood and finally, as your
humble crosses the Barrier and appears gray and blinking
before our two, even the tips of the windshield wipers
in front of our heroes' faces disappear in a wind-swirled
cloud of white, and I'm gone: blip. Arb and O gawk, saying
nothing, but the noise of the ice is so loud they probably
couldn't have heard each other anyway. Just before it
lets up, poor Herr O whispers forlornly to himself:
I'm going to die.
Like the world is ending. Throwing his
arms against the dashboard and feeling the drumming of
the hail vibrate into his very bones.
—Don't worry about me, Woody yells
over the ice. I'll never die in a prison, I'll tell you
that. Ice storm, maybe, but no cell for old Arb.
Charlie stares at his friend like he
doesn't recognize him. Then Arb laughs and thrusts a digit
knuckle-deep into his right nostril. Sunglasses askew.
—Wild Boy Zoma wants to live,
he shouts. Zoma wants life.
He grunts, and the shapes of the cars
around our two become white-gray outlines through the
white-noise hail. For a moment, Herr O thinking:
Those cars are empty and have
been for a hundred years.
Looking at Woody and feeling suddenly
like he'd never survived the naked swim to Williams Island,
as if they had lost their way under the water and drifted
into the dreamy death of lost souls.
—I remember the water was cold,
says O. But the wind was warm. And we slept on the beach
and I've never been warmer.
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