‘Kai’, The Badger, The Widower, and the Polymer

From May 20th, 2013

You can’t put your faith in anybody anymore…The haunted hat…Dummy love… 


You may remember Caleb McGillvary, a.k.a ‘Kai’, the peripatetic drifter of significant internet fame (the link to his heroics inserted above). He gained attention as the homeless or “home-free” man of the road, the hatchet-wielding good samaritan who neutralized a lunatic with a few smashes to the head out in California some months back. Well, he has now become the hatchet-wielding murderer, which makes more sense, really. ‘Hatchet-wielding good samaritan’ is a confusing title, somewhat paradoxical, downright strange. It calls to mind clashing images of man with bulging eyes and tongue hanging out of his mouth swinging an axe at anything that moves, coupled with well-dressed, chiseled man throwing his briefcase down and rescuing a baby carriage as it rolls toward a busy intersection. Hard to superimpose those two individuals. The natural world seems to reject it, and the proof is that now ‘Kai’ has gone back to the normal, understandable, hatchet-wielding murderer by killing an innocent lawyer (Hmm, I’m on a roll with all these ripe contradictions) with a few whacks to the head in New Jersey.

“We love our hatchet-wielding babysitter,” said Dolores Carlton of East Lansing. “We know our child is safe and there’s always plenty of firewood for those cold winter days.”

“Our hatchet-wielding pastor is a real boon to the community,” said Delmont Sims of Appleton, Wisconsin. “His sermons are both intimate and accessible and he can break up that Eucharist like nobody’s business. Chop, chop, cha-op.”

“I was able to put a new roof on my lakeside house thanks to my hatchet-wielding accountant,” said Kyle Carson of Blairsville, Georgia. “He splits up those tax codes like they were made for kindling.”

It is rare to hear these types of things in normal conversation. In fact I was forced to make them up after failing to find legitimate examples. Likewise, hatchet-wielding good samaritan. It is very disappointing for ‘Kai’ to bludgeon the triumph of his earlier heroics in which he smashed a deranged fellow in the head who was trying to kill a few pedestrians with his car. There are very few heroes out there, these days. Mostly just dim spectators. But ‘Kai’ seemed like a young man of quick thinking and resolute action for a time. Now it’s clear he’s just a bit of a psycho that likes to strike people with a hatchet, and damn the particulars.  But ‘Kai’ the hatchet-wielder forgot the golden rule of hatchet wielding. If you are going to swing a hatchet at a guy, make sure that guy is in the process of trying to kill another guy.

‘Kai’ has taken to the internet to raise funds for an attorney. I’m wondering if anybody has pointed out the screaming irony in the fact that he killed a perfectly good attorney, who probably had the means, the training and the connections to put together a skillful defense for the killing of an attorney. It reminds me of the zen story in which the young monk experiences the bliss of silence and immediately loses it when he tries to relate his joy to the elder yogis–except, of course, substituting tragic and senseless murder with the practice of enlightenment.

My clothes are haunted. At least, certain articles seem to be possessed, and as such when I wear them I tend to take on whatever rogue spirit may be inhabiting the cloth. I don’t even think I’m recklessly wielding a simile like a hatchet. Quite literally, at face value, I state my case. My clothes are haunted. The belief has gained some strength after my Alembic entry about Tom Jones, the Welsh singing icon, being possessed. It is a bold devil indeed that jumps into your skin. The sneakier ones just sit in your clothes and strike casually, making you say stupid things to impossibly attractive women, around midnight, reeking of bourbon. The worst is my wool skull cap. I put that thing on and strange thoughts begin to accumulate. I bring this up only because I recently made a trip to my hometown, Long Island, New York, for my cousin’s wedding. One night, after the wedding reception, I found myself at a bar overlooking the Long Island Sound, which is the big bay separating Long Island from Connecticut. Because it was a formal occasion I was wearing a modest suit and because it was thirty degrees outside, I was wearing my wool hat. The bartender did not like me for some reason. She was a feral little thing, unwilling to extend even the most cursory of pleasantries. Furthermore she had no idea what strega, or chartreuse, or fernet was and had trouble finding the grand marnier bottle. But I knew how to thaw her out. I decided to use the greatest compliment ever invented on her. It goes like this:

After saying it I realized I had messed up big time. Not only is it not the best compliment ever invented, it actually is one of the worst insults. It doesn’t even make any sense. If a woman has a figure that makes the number ‘8’ look like the number ‘1’, it could be (and in this case was) rightly interpreted as having a figure so rotund and corpulent that she makes that roundest of numbers look skinny. Either that or it’s some strange reference to bulimia. Furthermore, in post 9/11 culture, it is never a good idea to yell “Dy-no-mite” anywhere in a public place. I knew I was in trouble. I immediately pulled my wool cap off and set it on the edge of the bar, but not after giving it a stern rebuke.

“Now you’ve cooked us both,” I said to my hat.

The bartender was incensed, and this manifested in her stomping around for a good ten minutes and then finally, having no other reason to chew me out, she ended up chastising me for leaving my “awful, stinking hat” on the bar next to my drink. I had pondered what to do with it after taking it off my head and had settled for the edge of the bar in front of me. After all I was in a suit. The pockets were too small for the bulky wool hat. Plus It was thirty degrees outside and one hundred degrees inside, so I knew eventually I would need it and like I said, the cap is haunted and makes me say dumb stuff so it was best to have it off my head.

“It’s an etiquette thing,” she sneered, like I had left my shoes and socks on the rack of clean glasses sitting in front of me.

I apologized, explaining that the stable I was born in was right drafty due to the warped boards and rat holes.

“Of course it didn’t bother the mules none,” I added. “But they’s born with coats and hairy knickers.”

Thankfully, at that moment, a glass shattered somewhere on the other end of the bar and I was no longer in the crosshairs of her hatred. I moved my hat from the bar to my lap, and considered telling her in no uncertain terms where I really wanted to store my hat, but that probably would’ve resulted in being ejected from the bar and even if she had somehow taken me up on my offer it would’ve soiled my wool hat considerably, and I wasn’t about to destroy a perfectly good cap on principle.

Enter Harold.

He sat down next to me and everything got strange again. I didn’t know Harold, that is, he was unknown to me (but just the same somehow slightly familiar), and I suspected he may have been some fringe element from the wedding party, the offbeat brother-in-law who reads “Catcher In The Rye,” hates phonies and hopes to really get his D.J.‘ing career up  and running by the end of the year.

Harold, as it turned out, was not part of the wedding party, but Harold was miserable, and it wasn’t long before I found out why.

“It’s been three years since my wife died,” said Harold with the turgid melancholy usually reserved for soap opera plot twists. “Sometimes I come down here, to the edge of the water, when the stars pattern themselves just so, and I have a drink and look at the water and try to decide whether to just jump in and end it all. Then we’d be together, my darling and I.”

“Wow, that’s pretty heavy,” I said. “So you weren’t at the wedding?”

Again, that was the wrong thing to say. It was clear that any reference to a wedding was to reference his wife, which was to reference her death, which was to reference his misery and contemplation of suicide.

“The only wedding that matters,” he said distantly. “Is the marriage of my soul to my wife’s in the next world, since the merriment of this world is forever lost on me.”

“Let me buy you a drink,” I offered, not knowing what else to do at that point.

“Yes,” he said. “That would be slightly less than completely painful, for the moment.”

He nursed his drink quietly while I considered trying to talk him out of suicide. Yet with every tepid and empty reason I thought of, I anticipated his response and realized, like a chess player, that every move I could’ve made had me stuck two moves down the line. I had another idea. I decided if I asked about her it might bring him to tears, and after he had cried them, he would be overcome with that mystery relief of lachrymal release that is a miracle to the aggrieved.

“She was sick?” I offered, guessing.

“Yes,” he said.

“Terminal illness?” I guessed again.

“Yes,” he said.

“Cancer?” I guessed again.

“Yes,” he said.

“Cervical… breast…ovarian.. cancer?”

“Yes,” he said.

Now I started to get a little restless. Either I was an incredibly good guesser or Harold was just agreeing with everything I said.

“Cervical cancer originating from the papilloma virus that spread through the lymph, metastasizing, particularly in areas prone to the spread of infection like the ovaries, pancreas, kidney and liver? Surgery, remission, relapse, chemo, radiation, alternative therapy blitz?”

“Yes,” he said.

I drummed my fingers on the bar and frowned. Harold thanked me for the drink and disappeared into another room. The bartender descended on me.

“Another shot of that sewage in a bottle you call liquor?” she said.

“What’s up with Harold?” I said.

“Not from around here, are you?”

“It’s been awhile.”

“Harold, Harold, Harold. He kills himself every Saturday night.”

“He looks good, considering.”

Where the hell was I? When did this place turn into an insane asylum? I put my wool hat on to go outside for a cigar. It is rare that I smoke them but I had been given one at the wedding reception and since it was freezing outside I figured a small fire in front of my face might be just what I needed. I thought of Ignatius Reilly from “Confederacy of Dunces” for some reason as I pulled my cap down around my ears, went outside and smoked the cigar, standing at the edge of the vacant and dark patio with the dirty smoke of the cigar stinging my eyes. That was when I got hit with the kind of crystal clear memory that shakes the whole limbic system, a slice of life committed to celluloid and replayed on a screen right in front of my eyes, a kind of electricity of the optic nerve.

Some years ago, in Atlanta, while getting my car fixed and watching the television in the mechanic’s shop, I was subject to some horrible daytime talk show in which a fellow beamed as he was willingly exploited over his “girlfriend” a blow-up sex doll named something weirdly comprehensive like “Jennifer Mindy McMannister.” The fellow was in love with this life-sized plastic doll, taking “her” to the movies and white-water rafting with “her” (she floats, safety wasn’t a concern). Sexual role-playing wasn’t a problem, he admitted, in between jeers from the audience. He never needed a “safe word” and if he accidentally punctured her to “death” then he could just mosey on down to the local “Belle Du Jour Plastique” shoppe, and obtain her twin sister. You can date people that aren’t very smart, but they are bound to call you when they get lonely, they need food and water at regular intervals, boredom is a condition that they may possess and they often develop thoughts and inclinations of their own. This was why he had found his perfect love in Jennifer-Mindy, the blow-up doll.  The thing was, and this was what struck me, standing on the patio of that cold moonlit night overlooking the shimmering water, the man with the blow-up doll girlfriend was from Long Island and his name was Harold. I would’ve sworn to it in a court of law.

Tossing the cigar into the water I went back into the bar, paid my share of the bill and found Harold on the way out. I wished him well and told him I was sure that his wife, Jennifer-Mindy was a great girl and in a better place. He immediately stiffened up. The friendly contours in his face dropped into serious vexation.

“I didn’t tell you her name,” he said, gritting his teeth. “How did you know her name?”

He looked at me for a few seconds longer in silent rage and I knew it was time to go far, far away. But not before I told him about the time I worked in that sex-doll manufacturing sweatshop in China for a year or so, and for the briefest of moments I fell in love with one of my creations, Jennifer-Mindy McMannister. Our love was pure, I said, but I knew the rundown Chinese “Donzoko” slum I lived in was no place for her, and so I let her go to be processed, packaged and shipped to America, into the arms of another with the means to a better life. By the time I had confided all of this, Harold was quivering with rage, and his thoughts of suicide had obviously gone to homicide, and so I ended our encounter with the famous quotation from “A Tale of Two Cities”, the last line in the novel, and fled while I still had the chance.


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