Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.
--Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality
Giant Biff sure liked Axelrad. Always had, ever since prep school, when the big boys had raided "Axle-grease's" sanity daily for four years: ruining his shirts and books with a carefully-proportioned mixture of fire extinguisher chemicals and fountain pen ink; full-pressing him high over their heads by the lapels of his uniform blazer so the girls would laugh at him; in general, just seeing how many new and different ways they could elicit the famous Look from his cherubic kisser.
Hunched double, his shoulders rounded, his eyes lit up a yield-sign yellow, staring out into mid-distances, his entire compact organism trembling in fear and ecstasy, teensy boy Axelrad would get this Look when the bullies at prep school wreaked "death and skunion" upon his head. He was little and lived in terror and everybody assumed, for some odd reason, that he loved it.
The two of them wound up in the same boys' camps, of course, summer after summer, where they observed but did not participate in the kind of homoerotic nude gang romps that traditionally take place on horseback and lake shores all across North America, under the auspices of not-so-latent camp counselors. They observed but did not participate in the obligatory gang fights with the local hayseeds where at least one boy customarily had to lose at least one eye or testicle to effect the redemption of the camp's regional reputation for masculinity.
There'd been many slow river runs where Biff and Ax-honey wound up having to share a two-man raft with each other and several hundred leeches. And always, as the sun sank down behind the standard cathedral of pines, young Biffy would get overexcited, cut himself a willow switch, and chase his whipping boy around camp, trying to conjure up the Look in his beautiful face once again. As the summers drew to a close and inevitable, miserable, humiliating, tortured prep school days beckoned, Axelrad would let himself and his fleet buttocks be caught and chastised more frequently.
The summer they finally grew out of camp, one or the other of their dads got a temporary something-or-other in Hawaii or Florida or someplace like that with an ocean. And, of course, the boy whose dad it was invited the other boy and, obviously, they both threw tantrums and feigned apoplexy until their respective sets of parents okayed the deal. As much as they loathed each other, they had become inseparable.
They spent the summer hanging around this awful older person who, ten years earlier in American history, would've fed them sordid candies, but now supplied them with stacks of literature whose politics Axelrad ignored and Biff misunderstood. They spent their mornings pamphleteering fat flowered tourists on the sunny back patios of Hawaiian (or Floridian) beach-front hotels, and when Security came, Biff and Axelrad threw their pamphlets high up in the sea breeze, to scatter for all to read, and they ran.
They had their first dope/ocean/sex experience together, snorkeling naked on windowpane acid with or without girls in knit bikinis, the usual thousands of tiny phosphorescent angelfish and seahorses tickling new hairs on tight groins and thighs and scrota. And they spent their afternoons trying to dry out in a neglected papaya grove with a certain wet smell that caused slim boners to slap against flat young guts; and Biff would curl back his lip and try to elicit the Look from Axelrad again, but only with cruel words now, no willow switch, for repressed adulthood loomed on the watery horizon.
This singular relationship continued up to grad school, when they'd each flown away over the Rocky Mountains, unambitious Biff typically to poop out and drop to earth sooner than lithe, well-connected Axelrad. But, whenever he needed distance from his death-in-life at Kanorado A&M, Biff cut classes and drove up to the glamorous University of Chicago to be reunited once again with his little buddy from way-back.
The humidity turned out to be roughly the same up north as in Kanorado, so Biff's expanding forehead was permanently damp as he and Axelrad took part in a whole rigmarole of complex and expensive Illinoisan depravity. These were the sorts of extravagances that can only take place in huge cities among no-longer-young leftwing types, the largest of whom has recently extorted one good student loan. They were the disorienting sorts of extravagances where, in an advanced form of the game of "chicken," you pay a homosexual gigolo to come sodomize you and your pals.
Well, Biff and Axelrad didn't actually take part in that particular depravity. But they did chip in a good part of the student loan so they could look at the bought homo and talk to him while their Illionoisan friends all lined up, ready to stick scrawny butts up in the air, to see who would be brave enough to panic and snap his cheeks shut last.
That was very icky, almost unmentionably icky. But there was an elemental beauty in its sheer advancedness. One must admit that it would be difficult to devise a more advanced game of "chicken." Besides, Biff wanted to be a writer one day, and he naturally projected his pipe-dream upon bookish Axelrad, and he knew it was high time the two of them started accumulating the kind of true-to-life personal experiences that alone interest Gulf and Western's novelizing subsidiaries.
So everybody got out of his head and wound up in a moiling circle with or without total strangers of various genders, exchanging intensely affectionate or hateful blows or caresses, and not one intelligible word was uttered for hours on end. Aborigine time, buffalo time, gland time.
And they would chew on all the various cacti and fungi whose so-called psychomimetic effects Axelrad would dismiss, even while stuffing his mouth and floating off his couch, as "nothing more than glorified dizziness."
"Come on, Axhole," Biff would feel his mouth say, independent of his will, as he tried to count the green snakes forming around the necks of everyone in the room. "You're not gonna have a chromosome left in your whole body come morning. So you might's well enjoy it. Tell yourself you're seeing God, or boy-sized hot-dogs parading around in little britches or something."
And, of course, Biff found no distance doing any of these things in Illinois, no distance from Kanorado or himself. Wise men, Emerson and Modigliani (the painter, not the economist prick), tell us that travel is a "fool's paradise" and a mere "substitute for work." Biff was finding this to be true. He was left with nothing to show for these trips but the conviction that he must start swimming laps daily at Kanorado A & M's multi-billion-dollar athletic complex. (KA & M couldn't afford to re-bind the Chaucer concordance in the library, so bench-presses were out.) Also, he must start sedulously taking normal women out on dates. Pull himself together, act regular for once.
Because, after all, a strict regimen of carousing with just other boys in big cities, broken up only intermittently by sexless sojourns of freshman composition teaching on the Great Plains, can lead to emotional regression and, yes, homosexuality. And there's nothing more ridiculous-looking than a seven-foot cock queen, pudgy to boot.
Biff feared nothing more than the irreversible process of emotional regression. He could still remember the chills that shot through his skull when he saw that publicity shot of John Lennon, eyes closed, his body curled bare-naked like a foetus around Ono, who was fully clothed and staring directly at the camera in hideous cannibal triumph. Total regression that was, on the part of the author of "I am the Walrus." What comes before the in-utero state? Nothing. That particular Beatle was begging to be annihilated; that haole kid's timing couldn't have been better.
Now, how would such a thing look in Biff's case? Especially grotesque. For such a healthy-sized man to curl foetally around such a petite, even diminutive creature as the female of the species--well, his husky shinbone alone would obliterate her from view (whoever she was), from the shank of her knee to the bridge of her no doubt sweet button nose. It would be too silly.
Still, though he didn't know why, Biff kept going on these long bye-byes, showing up uninvited in Axelrad's kitchen with a long accordion of federally insured fifty dollar bills stapled end to end.
"Ax-honey, I'm talking fancy bucks," he'd yell, flinging and unfurling green party streamers all around the room. And, though Axelrad was too sophisticated to dive for the dough, he did treat his huge house guest right from that moment on, and let him sleep, when sleep came, in the middle of his homoerotic bedroom floor.
In wee-hour sleep talk, the giant would tell the dwarf that this was just one last fling before the Republicans and the fascists exterminated them and the other intellectuals.