A Novel by James Nathan Post

Chapter Five - 1973

Malachi Rainbow did not often drink at the Sonoma Holiday Lodge. He found it easier at The Beginning to mooch drinks, sniff out a joint to share, or to catch a ride to somewhere else. However, the Lodge was much closer to his home -- walking distance for one more athletically inclined than he -- so he occasionally permitted a short-ride donor to let him off there to try his luck.

He encountered Jon at The Beginning one spring evening, and upon hearing that he intended to drive to the Lodge to meet Rigel, enthusiastically offered to ride along to keep him company. Jon found Rigel at the front desk and told her he would be sitting in the dancing lounge until she took her break. With Malachi preceding him a step -- like one escorting a guest -- he found a table and sat down.

"Iíll have a glass of beer -- whatever you have on draft," Malachi told the cocktail waitress, when it was apparent Jon was not going to ask him if he wanted a drink.

"I may be here longer than that," Jon said. "You better bring me a small pitcher."

"Oh, youíre going to get a pitcher? In that case I guess I wonít need that draft," said Malachi reasonably.

"Two glasses?" the waitress asked.

Jon nodded resignedly. "Yeah. You better make that a large pitcher."

On the bandís last song of their first set, the leadman called a young woman from the room up onto the stage to sing the number with them. Jon recognized her as Rigelís back-up bartender and cocktail waitress Belle Tyron, enjoying her Thursday evening off work. She was blonde, full- figured...a bit chunky, maybe...and she was just a little knock-kneed, so her ample hip-hugger-hugged cheeks rolled sensually when she walked. Her voluptuously-round little belly bulged naked from the low-cut skin-tight pants, and her firm, stiffly-outthrust breasts, not large but jiggling solid, were displayed in a satin halter-top with go-go fringe. She took the microphone and flashed a sexy look around the room with heavy-lidded deep dark eyes, and she sang a song from a Janis Joplin album. "Awwww, take another little piece of my heart, now baby...." she crooned, not with Joplinís self- sacrificing anguish, but with the mocking, daring temptation to self- indulgence of a woman pressing more pie on a man than he can possibly eat.

She was good, in a rough-edged and natural way that everybody seemed able to appreciate. She had a loud, earthy voice and a raucous, open style that made everyone sit up and pay attention. The crowd was not large, maybe twenty or thirty people, but they all hooted and cheered. The band agreed to do another song with her, and after a quick consultation with the lead guitarist, she belted into a bawdy old-style rock standard -- with some improvised lines. Bending over, rolling her shoulders and shaking her fringe, she pointed at someone in the crowd and howled, "See that girl there dressed in white; sheíll do something funky to your chicken tonight! Oh yeah! Oh what I say!" She stomped her feet, shook her long wavy blonde hair, wagged her buns, and gave them what they wanted. When she finished, she jumped down lightly, waved to the crowd, and skipped to a table near the back of the room.

"Thatís our Belle," said the leadman into his microphone, "and if she canít ring your bells, man, youíre dead. Now weíll be back after a short pause for the cause."

Malachi and Jon leaned back and watched as the leadman and a couple of other swains gravitated to her table. She greeted them all with enthusiastic hugs and laughter. A pitcher of beer materialized on the table, and also a bowl of potato chips and dip. The waitress brought a tray with four shots of tequila and some lime chunks, and Belle and the leadman each knocked back two shots in quick succession.

"I need to get to know that woman," said Malachi seriously. "She has something I could use."

"Iíll say," Jon agreed. "That definitely looks like hot pussy to me."

"No, I mean in addition to that. I need that voice."

"Are you kidding," Jon scoffed. "Sheís not that good a singer. She has a voice like a trombone with a couple of cracks in it. Nah, she just has that something -- animal magnetism, whatever -- that commands peopleís attention."

"Thatís what Iím talking about, Dumb Bínee. You know her?"

"Yeah, she works here...bartender in the front lounge. So what you got in mind?"

"Look," said Malachi patiently, while refilling his glass from the pitcher, "that something is called charisma, and it is a highly-saleable commodity. Somebody is going to make a lot of bread with that chickís power, and I would just as soon it be me."

Jon saw Rigel step into the dancing lounge and wave to him, so he got up to join her. Malachi reached out and caught his sleeve. "Hey, Bro, you got a pen...and something I can write on? Maybe you could ask Rigel for something, hmm?"

Jon shook his head emphatically and spread his hands. "On her break you want me sending her on errands? Iíve got to live with the woman, remember? Check at the front can give that nitwood assistant of hers something to do."

Jon met Rigel at the door to the quieter front lounge, and they took the back table. Jon brought his beer, and Rigel asked the waitress to bring her coffee. "Iíll be able to get off work early tonight," she told him, "in about an hour. The band has another short set, then Iím closing that room and we can go home. You want to wait for me?"

He nodded. "Sure. I can watch the band for an hour."

"Good. But if your scumbag friend came with you, I hope he doesnít plan on leaving with you."

"Malachi? Naw, he was just catching a ride one step closer to home. Actually, I think he has plans to try hitching a ride somewhere with Belle."

"Him? Good luck."

"Thatís what I figured."

"On second thought, Iím not so sure," she amended. "Belle seems to have a pretty eclectic appetite for men."

Malachi persuaded Rigelís new assistant night clerk to find a notebook and a pen, and he spent the first half of the bandís set scribbling madly on the pad. Then he took it to the table where Belle was sitting-out one dance to catch her breath, wipe off the glistening sweat, and suck down another beer. He stood across the table from her and put the notebook down in front of her.

"My name is Malachi Rainbow. Iím a songwriter," he told her. "Youíve got it, do you know that? Iíve done all the big clubs in the Bay area, and I know it when I hear it."

"Thanks, Malachi," she said, flattered. "Like to come over and fill your glass?"

He signalled the cocktail waitress to bring him another glass, and sat down across from Belle. He told her she was slicker than Slick, hotter than LaFlamme, and smoother than Joplinís Southern Comfort. "Iím sure it hasnít escaped these guysí attention that some band is going to make its name by being your first backup group," he told her. "It could be these guys, you know."

"Iíll tell them you said that," she giggled delightedly.

"Yeah, do that. And maybe when theyíre done, we could try this song together. I donít happen to have my guitar with me, but maybe you could do something, right?"

When the band finished the set, Belle pressed the leadman to let Malachi use his big electric accoustic guitar to show her the song he had scrawled on the notepad. The musician was reluctant, but he figured out pretty quickly that she was going to leave with Malachi to find a guitar if he refused, so he handed the scruffy-bearded songwriter the instrument. Malachi stroked at the strings a few times with a thumbpick he fished from his coat pocket, then began to stomp the floor and strum out a strident beat, slashing at the strings with the pick. He was not very good, and his chord changes were garbled, but Belle quickly picked up the rhythm and the rudimentary melody line of the song. She stood in a defiant position, feet apart, mike in one hand and notes in the other, and she snarled its sarcastic protest with mocking delight.

"I owe my living to the two-bit gambler who plays for me, slays for me; donít you know he slays.
"Heís dressed in black -- got the flag behind his back.
"I owe my soul! Yes, I owe my soul!
"I owe my time to the two-bit pistol he sends for me, itís the end for me; donít you know the end.
Heís dressed in blue -- got a U.S.Marine tattoo.
"I owe my soul! Yes, I owe my soul!
"I owe my sweat to the two-bit monkey thatís riding me, deriding me; donít you know the ride.
Heís dressed in green -- he owns the gum machine.
I owe my soul! Yes, I owe my soul!"

As Malachi segued from the rock rhythm to the hurdy-gurdy lilt of country swing, Belle put her heels together primly and sang with a twangy southern accent.

"I owe my soul to nobody, because I know that here on earth Iím free, free, free.
I know Iíll never have to pay the Devil; thereís a man in Rome whoíll spill the blood for me --
a man whoíll give the blood in Galilee -- a man whoíll spill the blood of Him...for me."

The guitar again slammed out the ringing rock beat, and Belle hung her head back and howled,

"I owe my soul! Yes, I owe my soul!"

The band members clapped, and the other people in the crowd hooted and stomped. "I call that ĎThe Great American Junkieí," Malachi informed them.

Jon and Rigel stood together at the back of the room, having caught the last couple of stanzas. "Sheís really pretty good," Jon affirmed, "but somebody ought to bury that song."

"Thatís interesting," said Rigel. "I thought the song had some very perceptive lines which were clearly lost on her. Of course, this bunch of hippies and horny old goats would slobber and cheer if she stood up there and sang a Chinese grocery list."

Seeing them start to leave the room, Malachi jumped up and hurried to catch them. "Hey, Bro, hold on a minute. Looks like I wonít need a ride, but I appreciate your sticking around." He put his arm around Jonís shoulders. "But I tell you what. How about the four of us -- you, me, and Belle -- go up to your place for a few minutes -- just long enough to smoke a J. Whaddíya say?"

"Well, I donít know," Jon began. "I donít think Rigel makes a practice of getting stoned with her employees."

"Címahn! What is that shit? Theyíre not her employees, fer Christ sake, theyíre fellow wage-slaves. Thatís Belle, this is me, youíre you -- we all know the score, donít we? So whatís the big deal, Rigel? We wonít stay long."

Rigel bristled, then made an effort to relax and relented. Delighted, Malachi cruised smoothly back to Belleís table, slipped through the suitors and spectators and whispered in her ear that Rigel and Jon had invited the two of them up to their place for a quiet little visit.

Belle did not share Rigelís enthusiasm for the invigorating climb up the 132 steps to the little house perched on the slope above Guerneville Road. Malachi plodded up with her, pleased to have a reason to avoid having to keep with the Fortches. Rigel retreated at first to her corner kitchenette to get herself a drink. While the others were still climbing, she fixed a tall glass of bourbon and Coca-Cola. She turned around to see Belle accept Jonís invitation to make herself at home by plumping down right in the middle of the bed.

Malachi draped himself onto one bench of the dining booth, and pulled a rolled joint from his pocket. He made a flourish of it, and pronounced, "Ze noble weed!" It was thin, lumpy, and grimy, and he had a hard time sucking enough air through it to light the contents. Even so, he managed to burn up a third of its length in one great, long, quivering Hoover toke. With a courtly bow, he handed the roach to Belle. "Thatís a third-generation joint," he informed her proudly.

Jon sat down on the edge of the bed beside Belle and watched her suck a long toke from the rumpled little cigarette. He noticed she had an overbite which made her wide upper lip protrude in a permanent pout. When she toked, the lip reached out a surprisingly long way to grope across fingertips to locate the tip of the joint and to form a channel for the smoke. He found the prehensile effect surprisingly erotic, a sensation she acknowledged immediately with a sidelong glance and a little smile. She handed him the joint, and put her fingers on his hand when he took it.

The appellation which Malachi alleged to the joint referred to the practice of collecting the butts of joints -- roaches -- and removing from each one the little bit of resin-soaked pot remaining, and then from the collected stash rolling second-generation joints, the butts of which could be saved to roll third-generation joints, and so on, ad ozonium. A close examination led Jon to conclude the contents were ashes and sticks scraped from the bottom of the rolling tray and wrapped in two papers, one of which was smeared with tar extracted from the stem of Malachiís pipe.

He handed it to Rigel, who took it reluctantly, burned her finger trying to light it, and passed it to Malachi, who accepted it eagerly. Belle got the last toke, Jon declined the tiny roach, and they all sat looking at each other a moment.

"That was all right," said Jon finally, "but I think nobody would object to one more, would they?" Nobody would, and so Jon pulled out his rolling tray and took his little stash baggie from its hiding place.

Rigel still was standing by the kitchen, and she turned uncomfortably to the refrigerator. "Would anybody like a drink?" she asked. Belle and Malachi both accepted happily, so Jon said he would have one also. Rigel fixed herself another strong one, and after a couple of Jonís joints had been passed around, she began to relax.

Belle waved for her to come over onto the bed, and she told Rigel she thought she was doing a great job at the Lodge. "Iíve been a cocktail waitress since I was nineteen," she said, then added in reply to their questioning looks, "if you got nice hooters and a fast mouth, sometimes you donít get asked how old you are, know what I mean?"

She handed Rigel the joint she was smoking, and clinked her glass against hers. "Youíve got class, Rigel, and youíve got brains. Iíve got the experience -- street-wise, you could say. The two of us could run that place easy."

"Thanks," said Rigel, embarrassed but loosening up, "itís good to know Iíve got people -- friends -- working with me I can count on."

"All right!" Belle cheered, and gave Rigel a big hug. "Tell you what, just to celebrate this occasion, I just happen to have a little something special with me tonight. One of the guys in the band gave it to me. Have you got a mirror?"

"Uh, no, we donít," Jon confessed, "but Iíll get you a plate."

Belle scraped a little pile of cocaine from a folded paper she had in her purse onto the plate, and used the single-edged razor blade she also carried to spread it into eight neat little lines. She rolled up a five-dollar bill, sniffed two of the lines up her nostrils, and passed the plate to Rigel, who smiled and unhesitatingly snorted hers. Jon took his lines and handed the plate to Malachi, who snuffed up the remaining two and then licked the plate thoroughly.

Rigel put on a Moody Blues album, took one more pass at the bourbon bottle, and spread herself across the bed, edging Belle over. Jon turned off the light in the apartment and switched on his latest bit of technical psychedelicism. Against the blank wall across from the bed he had built a light-table with a glass top. Inside he had installed a rotating four-color Christmas light, and on top he had placed a row of esthetically-selected glass bottles, each filled with water. When he used a set of food-color squeeze-droppers to drip a drop or two of various colors into the bottles, the swirls of color began to change and flow in contrast to the changing background color. It was a pleasing effect, and he had sometimes smoked a couple of joints and stared at it for hours.

"Far out!" gasped Malachi. "This is blowing my mind! Weíve got to do it! Iíve got to bring it out. I was saving it, but this is just too righteous, what with us all being here together for the first time. Because, weíre going places. I mean it, all of you, weíre going places."

"Bring what out?" asked Belle.

"Oh, just a little old Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, thatís all," the hippie replied smugly.

"Oh, wow, what kind?" Belle pressed enthusiastically.

"Blue flats. You people like LSD?" he casually asked the Fortches.

"Thatís one I havenít done," Jon confessed.

"Me neither," said Rigel, "and Iím not sure I want to."

"Come on," Malachi exhorted, "itís the ultimate love sex mystical guru revelation. It is the infinite experience."

"I donít want to miss it," said Belle.

"Iíve only got two, so you and I could split one, Belle, and Jon and Rigel could split the other. How about it, kids? Want to go on a trip? When the sun comes up tomorrow, everything will be just the same as it is now...between now and then, freedom, fantasy!"

"Shall we try it?" Jon asked Rigel.

"You can try it," she told him.

"I couldnít do it if you donít," he pleaded.

"Well...all right," she conceded.

They broke each of the two flat blue tablets in half, and each of them washed down a piece with the bourbon and Coke.

"Well, Iím glad at least we only took half a dose each," said Rigel, with more apprehension than relief.

"What, are you kidding?" asked Belle. "Those blue flats are four-way tabs. We each took a double dose. This is going to be cosmic!"

Half an hour. Maybe more. Belle and Malachi were talking talking talking about music big-time universal galactic channel of communication. "When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake," Malachi quoted. "Plato, maybe, or Pluto. Itís chordal, you see. Itís the vibe."

"I feel it, yes, I feel it," Belle was saying.

As though the crackling static-haired revolutionary poet had with his words initiated it, the walls began to shake. Jon stared for time fixated by the wood-grain pattern of the walls, a waving, flowing pattern, like intertwining strands of surf, instantaneously fixed calculi of a changing deeper multi-dimensional plane whose cross-section was the wood, whose reality was the tangible flux of space between it and I. Jonís body jerked and groped for balance as he felt out across the space to locate the shape of the room. There was a disturbing sense of having just returned to it from...somewhere else. Malachi and Belle gazed at him, tall glass figures lighted from within. "Are you all right?" floated a soft mush of sound against him.

"Sure," he squeeked. "Iím stoooned. Itís all moving!"

Belle gazed at him with huge, deep, dark eyes, warm mother eyes, soft approval comfort in her reassuring, "Yeeesssss." Then behind the dark warm, a gleam, a glint, sharp-edged, mocking spice, and out of view beneath his feet she flowed across to touch him, as though she were the floor, she were his clothes, and the hot wet surge.

On the stereo, the prophet John Lennon crooned, "...happiness is a warm gun, Mama..."

"Whereís Rigel?" he suddenly wondered, maybe said.

Belle laughed at him, tinkling fun but mocking. Malachi took her, touched her back and turned her like a rider on a pony, black suit, hair crackling prickling, moustache slick sweeping sensual.

"Sheís right here," he heard, and far far away in a dark patch of time- space on the bed behind Belle he saw her -- a shifting face in darkness, planes of purple, glowing black, and green, the irridescent fluorescence of retina burn-in. Through the haunted eyes of a frightened round-eared furry thing peered an intelligence that accused him. His wife reached out a hand to him, a fat little girl with mottled green patches flowing just beneath her skin, fat-lipped, thick-tongue, pasty, hair starched. He felt her hand like a lizardís, hot, dry, and pneumatic, vinyl smooth, its motion alien, mechanical.

"Is a love?" she pleaded, wretched.

On the spot. Behind him, watchers tempters teachers judges? Awkwardly, he slipped down onto the bed beside her and put his arms around her, holding her like a tiny child-thing. "Is," he assured her.

"Is a smooches?" she asked, tinytinytinyvoice.

"Oh, yes, is!" he said, and he leaned down to kiss her. She kissed, hesitated, then flowed open to him, frightened, cold jelly flesh. He kissed her, let himself accept her, and in his embrace her substance flashed glowing tenuous melting-point soft, like a sculpture of castile soap surfaceless underwater gel-baby. Then the hot flood below swept them, and she clung to him. "Letís have a little penis-awareness," he heard someone think, and the little seal-baby he held bawled and twitched in his arms as the little snake between her thighs wriggled and wriggled.

Behind him Jon felt the gaze of Malachi and Belle, and he felt their approval. They were close on him, flowing up against him, Malachi sitting on the other side of Rigel, and Belle sliding up to wrap herself around him, to hug him, to touch him, to press the hot mound of her pussy against his leg and flood the base of his cock with gushing heat, immersing, penetrating, inflating him. "Belle wants to fuck Jon!" was thought. A shuffling of images, instant fast, undeniable even if unwelcome, "She will suck his juices out like a ripe plum, and the little red baby will cry. Give the baby to the hypnotist, and he will drive her mad with his slough in the trough, great slurping pink organ slick-sliding squirting hot. And is Jon up for it? He is! He is!"

Rigel screamed. "Leave me alone!" she screamed, and crawled away from him into the corner. "Donít touch me!" She flashed purple and green, and to Jonís horror she grew scaly patches and horned protuberances. The veins in her neck writhed and knotted, and she grew mottled and gnarled, like a toadgirl stuffed into an over-tight plastic stewardess costume.

The picture dispersed instantly as Belle and Malachi got up off the bed. "Hey, itís all right. Itís just a little anxiety, thatís all," Belle said reasonably. "It gets a little wierd sometimes, but itís all right."

"Would you like me to get you something?" Jon asked Rigel, and was embarrassed to notice that he didnít know what he was thinking about. "A nice hot penis?" somebody thought, and he hoped nobody noticed that he hoped she didnít think it was him that thought it. He sat down beside her, and held her hand.

She calmed herself, but still crouched in the corner. After a few minutes, she drank half of her glass of bourbon and Coke, accepted a Marlboro from Belle, and retreated into herself, listening to the music on the stereo. "Desmond has a barrow in the marketplace; Molly is a singer with a band..."

Malachi stepped out of the apartment onto the open deck overlooking the road below. He stood leaning against the railing watching the traffic for a while, then began slowly climbing down the long zig-zag stairway to the road. Belle stepped into the bathroom, and Jon and Rigel sat together in the pulsating world of the color change light, a dark abysmal world like the cabin of a sunken little boat, changing with each passing wave like a sandsculpture made of lightbeads. Rigel stared at the flowing patterns in the bottles on the light-table, and began to nod. She pulled up the bedspread and crept beneath it, then snuggled up into the pile of pillows in the corner. She squeezed Jonís hand, let him kiss her cheek, then closed her eyes and sighed.

Jon sat on the floor beside the bed and watched her grow small and dark. A pool of shadow rose over her head, and her hair flowed and settled into its hollows. He could see the round curve of her cheek, and remembered the soft large sucking lips, and like blood bubbling to a boil in the bottom of a deep vessel he felt the surging of dark light in his groin. He felt his body shape shift, his hands and lips grow strangely large, and the hot liquid preponderance of his substance gather below to expand and inflate.

As if in response to his summons, he saw Belle appear before him. She stepped from the dark place beside the door into the pool of color, and she stood there before him, hair flowing upon her shoulders, pneumatic breasts perfect-tipped with crinkled cones in mocha tan, dark alarmingly active long- pointed bush. Naked she stood, and smiled at him with knowing calm, hands on her hips. Astonished, he felt her reach out to him, plunge deep into him and enfold, surround and hold, and gently squeeze the turgid bulb at the base of his cock behind him. The flush of the erection swept him, and she his helplessness.

He rose to his knees, and put his arms around her to hold her cheeks cupped in his hands as he kissed her spice-brown nipples. She held his head a moment, then knelt down beside him.

"You must understand," she said. Her face pulsed and flowed before him, a woman of thirty fifty dark hair tied-up, powdered skin beauty mark high lace collar. "It is my sister," she said to him. Long dark hair down and flowing, thick plum-red lips and eyes of the peasant witch in rags. "My sister is cold." Cold shadow, the space rains down dark grief; hot tears burst in her soft-doe tender-belly dark deep eyes. The heat flows caustic upon the hard cold of them, flooding relief, hot melting light to cut through the shells of wax between them. "She was killed," he knew she told him. "But she is here with us, and waiting."

He looked into her eyes, and he knew what they had been brought together for. "She needs a body," he thought he said, and she nodded solemnly.

"This is our time," she said to him, and they undressed him.

"Where is Rigel?" he wondered, as Belle reached out with her long probing upper lip and slipped the head of his cock into her mouth like a sweet slick jelly yummy.

"Rigel is here," he heard her think, "but she will sleep." He touched her and their flesh flowed together. He could feel the contact between them from both sides. His hands flowed through the surface of her, and he drew her up against him and splashed hot through the tingling breasts to touch the quivering little creature inside. He kissed her mouth, and felt the shape of his face change. His teeth felt separated in front, and his lip quivered as though with a long moustache, parted in the middle. He bleated and abandoned himself to it and felt her lip, or her tongue, sliding sliding up into the slit like a smooth open cleft palate, a hole straight into his brain, and she was slurping slurping, long round tongue against the glistening bead of bursting light between his eyes. He knew the crinkling long-pointed bush spread wide, the quivering spice and pink wet soft lips, and the mouth between, split upper lip and long tongue glans-tipped slipping into her, and slough, slough, huge expanding one-flesh swelling thrust and suck and suck and fuck and fuck. Together they bawled as the great heat burst to overpower them, to crush them and squirt them, to burst them and spurt them into each other.

Jon fell to his back on the floor beside his bed, and he let his body dissolve into the night. He watched the pieces of his person crumble and disperse, and regretted the loss of none of them. He saw the little wrinkled polyp of flesh he inhabited, and was amused at the notion of attachment to it, and he drifted from it through the immortal eternity.

Something...some...time. That was it. Sometime later, he recognized a strangely-familiar excitement growing around him. He opened his eyes and looked around, and was surprised to see the sun was rising, and the room was filled with a light of astonishing clarity. Everything in the room was sculpted of the softest, warmest, most perfect crystal light, not hard and sharp, but vapor soft, and infinitely detailed. On the bed Rigel lay still sleeping, her flesh renewed, immaculate pink marble gel, a glowing peach gold child, drifting in trust on the tenuous fabric of the morning. Belle was gone, and he was naked. He stepped outside onto the little porch deck and shivered as his skin adjusted to the prickling clean cold. After a few minutes, he stepped back inside, and put on his clothes.