Maggie Dubris


     "Mnip mnip mnip, mnip mnip mnip." The Spanish teacher's mouth opened and closed, an astonishing red hole in the midst of her powdery white face. I sat at my desk feeling my feet vanish and pushed them harder against the floor. The desk slid. At least, I thought it did. I couldn't really tell. I shot a glance at my boyfriend, who slumped in the desk beside me.

     "This shit is really strong," I whispered.

     He didn't answer. I was getting off too fast. I knew I should have eaten something, but I didn't want to throw up. The whole concept of food was completely repellent when I was tripping. Matter vanishing into the center of my body, turning to vomit. It was hard to remember why I ever ate anything at all.

     I spaced a vision of my family at the dinner table, shoveling hunks of bloody meat into their mouths. They were so pathetic. Here it was the dawn of a new age and all they could think about was dinner. Shopping for it, boiling it up, putting it on plastic plates, talking about how it tasted, then spending the rest of the night cleaning up after it. It made me cry to think about how empty their lives were, but they didn't even notice. They had no depth.

     My jeans were covered with a tapestry of frogs. I tried to draw one into my Spanish book, but every time I caught a focus the shape changed slightly. I was sure I was seeing some kind of archetype. If only I could capture it I could locate it in the encyclopedia when I came down.

     "Mnip mnip mnip, mnip mnip mnip."

     I looked up. All the kids in front of me had turned around. I looked back to see what they were staring at. All the kids behind me were staring forward. I looked at the teacher.

     "No se," I said.

     The mnips rose in intensity.

     I blinked my eyes so I wouldn't look so high. "Estoy enferma. Tengo . . .la problema de mujeres."

     Everyone laughed. The straights sitting in the front, the dumb jocks sitting in the back row. The freaks all around me. The teacher's mouth vanished, leaving a vast white area below the two holes of her nose. I looked at my boyfriend again. He was completely nodded so I poked him. He fell out of his chair.

     "Shit," I said. He lay there blinking up at the teacher. He had hair halfway down his back and was trying to grow a beard.

     "Jack, get up."

     He pushed himself to his knees. "Man, I can't be around all these bogues." He got up and stumbled out of the room.

     "El esta enferma tambien," I said. I grabbed my notebook. Marcy, my so called best friend, was three seats away, laughing hysterically. She had only taken a hit of mescaline, which was totally controllable. When I stood my legs stretched into rubbery cones and with each step towards the door I made a sucking noise, like the old Astro-boy cartoons.

     The halls were decorated with banners for homecoming, created by some jock girls who existed on a parallel plane I never visited. I made my way to the stairwell. There was no security to speak of at Huron High School. On any given day a third of the student body was blasted. Quaaludes had hit a week before, joining the pot and acid, speed and mescaline that served as breakfast for the freshman class. Jack had taken two ludes in addition to his usual hit of acid, and I had no idea where he was. Three girls I knew from youth liberation sat in the stairwell.

     "You seen Jack?"

     Wendy shook her head. Her arms were covered with slash marks from elbow to wrist. She wore a short sleeved peasant blouse tucked into red corduroy elephant bells.

     "You look really high, sister."

     I shrugged. "It's new. White lightning, from Detroit. You ever do it?"

     She rolled her eyes. "It's four way. You're only supposed to take a quarter."

     "Who says?"

     "The Dope-O-Scope. You should read the Sun. They say, under no circumstances take more than a quarter."

     "I'm not freaking," I said. Except I didn't know if I really said it, or only thought it.

     She leaned closer. "Eat an orange. It brings you down."

     She was starting to bug me. Her voice sounded like Minnie Mouse and her hands left trails every time she moved. "You want to go to Drug Help?" she whinnied. They had their own room on the first floor of the school, decorated with posters of Bob Dylan.

     I sneered at her. Jack's best friend Richie stuck his head around the corner.



     "Jack's up on the hill fucking a tree, we can't pull him off it."

     I started laughing.

     "It's not funny, he's gonna hurt himself."

     "Wait, what did you say?"

     "He's on the hill fucking a tree. Come on, what's wrong with you."

     He grabbed my wrist and dragged me out the door. The sun was incredibly bright.

     "You got any ups?" I said.

     "You can't do ups and acid, you'll flip."

     "No I gotta be home soon. It'll bring me down."

     I was peaking. The world caved in a spoon around me, the air shot through with diamond spiderwebs. The school shimmered in a heat mirage, the dome of the gymnasium overlaid with spires of Istanbul, kids flapping past me in two-d, pot smoke drifting in the June air.

     "Down by the river, I shot my baby. . ."

     A boy sat cross-legged on the hill with a guitar, groups of freaks on the wall, in clumps on the grass, Richie pulled me past them, the pressure of his hand the only solid thing in the world.

     "There he is."

     We were back in the woods, where teachers never went. The woods was liberated territory, where only the most fucked up ventured.

     "Hey Jack, what are you doing."

     He was completely naked. I had never even seen him naked. Only parts of him. He looked very strange, purple and hairy, and his borders kept rippling. I walked closer.

     "Jack, get off the tree. Lindy's here, look, I got Lindy," Richie said.

     Jack's arms were wrapped around the tree trunk. They looked as though they had grown bark. The closer I got, the more tree like he became. His back, his legs. I touched him. He didn't move. His skin was gray and rough.

     "Oh man, he's turning into a tree," I said.

     A voice came from the vicinity of the trunk.

     "I am a tree, can't you see. All I have to do now is be."

     Richie grabbed him around the waist and pulled.

     "What are you doing," I screamed, "you'll pull out his roots."

     Jack moaned. "My roots, my roots, I never did anything to you, why can't you let me be what I am?"

     I grabbed Richie. "Don't try to change him, let him be what he is."

     Richie let go and collapsed in the dirt. "He's not a tree. What the fuck did you take?"

     I looked closer. Maybe it wasn't Richie. Maybe I only thought it was Richie.

     "Why do you want to know?"

     He sighed and pulled out a joint. "Do you want a toke?"

     "I want some ups."

     "You can't have ups, you'll flip out. Have some of this."

     He held out the joint. I took a deep hit.

     "This is Colombian. My brother brought it up in a plane."

     "Yeah?" I squeaked, trying to hold the smoke in. His brother Bob was the biggest dealer in town. He was twenty years old and everyone's idol. He had a gun and lived in South Quad.

     "You should see the picture. Him and Mad Dog standing there with pitchforks in front of a pile of bricks. Fucking narcs would die for that shit. Where you going after school?"

     "Downtown. I got to find Marcy first."

     Marcy was sitting on the wall, smoking a Kool Filter King, her hair red waves falling over her shoulders. One of the boys who hung out in the parking lot shooting dope sat beside her, his arm around her, one hand dangling into her shirt.

     "What happened to you?" she said.

     "I had to leave. It was all so meaningless."

     "Is Jack okay?"

     "He's not really Jack anymore. But he's okay."

     She handed me a cigarette. "Do you want to go to PJ's?"

     The Diag was thick with freaks, dogs running, Frisbees sailing, guitars and pot and men handing flyers to us as we passed.

     "Bring the war home little sisters bring the war home."

     I felt as though I were walking in a tunnel, a small circle of focus containing only Marcy and me.

     "My dad caught me smoking dope," she said.

     "How did he catch you?"

     "I was in my room. He just walked in. I had grass all over my bed, rolling an ounce into joints then, bang, there he was."

     "Shit." My father had threatened to send me to Ypsi State when I misguidedly admitted one night while I was tripping that I had smoked dope. I was under the delusion he was going to be pleased that was all I was doing.

     "I told him it was incense," Marcy said.

     "He believed you?"

     "Of course. What does he know about incense."

     She always knew what to say. I never did. Whenever my parents asked me if I was high all I could think of to say was, no, and then for the rest of the night would have hallucinations of myself cringing in the corner screaming no no no I'm not high. I knew I couldn't go home this blasted.

     We sat at a table in PJ's smoking and drinking tea. PJ's was dark and filled with dope dealers, one waitress for the whole place who didn't care if you never ordered anything as long as you left a tip. All I ever had was tea. It was my after school ritual. As soon as I turned seventeen my plan was to move out of my parents house into a commune, drink tea all night, and smoke right in the kitchen. I was counting the days. Black Magic Woman played on the jukebox, Carlos Santana's guitar a black snake winding between the smoke. I drew pictures of frogs and men with long hair into my school notebook.

     "This is for you," a voice said.

     I looked up. An old man stood beside the table, his head barely even with mine even though I was sitting down. Marcy dissolved into giggles, laughing so hard smoke flew out her nose. The man held out a pile of cloth. His face was covered with hundreds of moles, a long white hair growing from each one. I swallowed, my mouth filling with the taste of tin. "Trying to make a devil out of me," Carlos sang.


     "Only a dollar," the man said.

     He dumped the clothes in my lap and held out his hand. I scruffed through my pockets until I found a slip of green paper and threw it at him. He vanished.

     "Are you coming down yet?" Marcy said. "I don't think you should go home like this."

     I held up the pieces one by one. It was a man's suit. Pants, a vest, a tie, a jacket. "I'll give this to Jack and we can go to Homecoming."

     "Homecoming? What do you want to go to Homecoming for?"

     "My mother will be thrilled. And by the time it's over, I'll be straight. This is a sign from God, Marcy. That man wasn't human."

     It was starting to get dark. She walked me as far as the hill.

     "I hope you find Jack," she said. "He probably split."

     She really didn't understand the concept. His merging with the earth and all. He couldn't split. I just hoped he hadn't transformed completely. I would never go to Homecoming without a date.

     I found him in a pile at the root of the tree, whispering lines from "When The Music's Over."

     "With your ear down to the ground."

     "We want the world and we want it now," I said.

     He rolled over, his eyes shining. "The thing is, if someone just wanted to sit in a rhubarb patch, and that was all they wanted, they couldn't just do that." Tears rolled down his face. "I mean, they could sit there, but they couldn't just sit there, you know?"

     "Jack," I said, "I know what to do. We'll go to Homecoming."

     He sat up. "Homecoming. That's what I need, there is no home. But we'll go to Homecoming. Lindy, are you really here?"

     "I've brought you a suit. I couldn't have brought you a suit if I wasn't here."

     Stars went off nonstop between the new leaves, the moon curled iridescent above us, barely visible above the dome of the gym. There was no one in the world but me and Jack, standing on the shell of the earth, waiting for Homecoming. I helped him get dressed, sliding the pants over the bark of his legs, pulling his arms through the holes of the suit coat. There was a vest to put under it, but no shirt.

     "It doesn't matter, it's almost summer. Where are your shoes?"

     "I have come out of them," Jack shouted. His words echoed against the walls of the school. He looked at me oddly and his voice thinned. "What about you? What are you going to wear?"

     I felt suddenly oily, trapped inside my stiff jeans.

     "Right. I have to wear something. Wait, don't talk. Let's sit in the grass."

     We sat at the top of the hill, watching the road that ran between the two halves of the school. It seemed to me a river, rippling a black path, holding within it another world, colder yet less confined by the laws of gravity.

     "We're like crabs or lobsters," I said. Jack nodded. I went on. "Birds are the fish of the oversea world. We creep along the bottom, all we can do is look up. Who's looking down at us?"

     "Lobsters can't even look up." Jack's voice broke. "They don't have heads, to speak of. Why would they not get heads?" He buried his face in his knees.

     I meditated on this for awhile. Fields of pink headless creatures tossing beneath the tide. Then it hit me.

     "They don't need heads. They're better off, not only don't they have to think, they can't. What if we never thought and only felt. We would be. . .we would be. . ."

     Suddenly I had to pee.

     "We would be what?" Jack said.

     "I have to pee. What should I do?"


     "No but, should I pee here? Or go into the woods."

     "Don't go into the woods."

     "Oh. Right."

     I looked down at the school. It was very brightly lit. I could actually see embers flying from it, as if it were a bonfire.

     "I think I'm still high," I said.

     In fact, he was the only thing that looked normal to me. That was the way it was when I was tripping. Only the person I had dropped with didn't get weird.

     "Let's go down there," he said.

     "To the school?"

     "Of course. Look how beautiful it is. Because, what we need is inside. A bathroom and a gown for you."

     "And a phone," I said. "I better call my mother."

     "Mom, I'm going to Homecoming."

     "That's wonderful, dear. When is it?"

     She sounded like a robot. I knew exactly what she was going to say. I tried not to let myself anticipate her, but every word was preceded by an echo in reverse. I had to get off the phone fast, before I flipped.
"Well, it's tonight. So I won't be home for dinner."

     "Tonight? Did Jack wait until now to ask you? Why don't you come home? And what are you going to wear?"

     "Marcy has a gown. I don't have time to come home, just leave the door unlocked."

     "You have to eat something."

     "Mom, it's Homecoming. They're having refreshments and I'm too excited to eat now. I won't be late."
The silver cord of the phone looked reptilian. They must have made it that way on purpose, the bogus plastic people who devoted their lives to such things. Jack was gone. I didn't know where to, and the floor of the hallway sagged with each step I took. Finally I located the girl's bathroom, pissed an endless stream into the bowl, and made my way back to the exit. Still no Jack. I climbed the hill, searching for the exact spot we had been sitting in. There were two swirls of flattened grass, I sat in one, hugging my knees for what seemed like hours.

     At last a dark form weaved towards me.

     "Lindy. Lindy."

     I stood up and waved. "It's me, I'm over here."

     The form was Jack, with a sheaf of green satin folded over his arm. He plopped down beside me. "I found you the perfect gown," he said. He held it up. It looked like a bush or something. Bright green, fluffy and ragged.

     "Put it on."

     I turned it over, trying to figure out which side was up. Finally I found three holes approximating a head and two arms, took off my shirt and pulled it on. Jack toppled over backwards.

     "It's so beautiful."

     "It is?"

     "Lindy you look like, like, part of the earth. Your pink legs and green self you look like . . ." he jumped up. "Rhubarb. And I'm a tree all gray and you're rhubarb and all I ever wanted was to just sit in a rhubarb patch, don't you see now? That's what it all means. Homecoming."

     Music pounded from the gym, the hall lit fluorescent with a few orange faced girls I thought might be greasers standing around in long pink gowns, looking slightly put out. A teacher sat at a cafeteria table behind a pyramid made from cans of pop. I didn't see anyone I knew. It was too much after the clean darkness of the hill, the Michigan night hovering between the last traces of winter and a new world beginning to sprout.

     "They're all looking at us, they know we're high," I whispered to Jack.

     "You're just paranoid. They're looking at us because we're so cool."

     I glanced over at him. His suit shone like oil on blacktop, his bare feet made ducklike sounds against the linoleum. Fortunately, they weren't visible. The pants were about six inches too long. The school had a real hangup about bare feet. Like they were some kind of sex organ. They wouldn't even let us wear sandals.

     Jack shoved open the door to the gym and the noise almost knocked me over. Purple darkness with a red stage smoking, the smell of pot and sandalwood incense thick around us. As my eyes adjusted I saw there were only a few kids inside, all of them seniors. The kind of freaks I never dared speak to, only passed in the hall wishing I could be so unfailingly hip. A few jock couples plastered against the wall, the track coach with cotton puffed out of his ears walking around with a flashlight.

     "Hey Lindy."

     A girl weaved towards me. Long blond hair parted in the middle, red shirt draped over her braless chest, barely reaching her navel. Low cut bells over high heeled boots, a perfect freak face topping a perfect freak body that even the jocks went crazy over. It was Jessica Lavransdatter, the most famous girl in my eighth grade class. Sleeping with Iggy from the Stooges at the age of thirteen, when I had no idea what sleeping together entailed except I knew I would be a miserable failure at it since apparently it required a bosom. I had held her in complete awe for the two years since.

     "I didn't know you dug The Up," she screamed in my ear.

     "Sure." I looked at the band. Four freaks, hair down to their asses, which were practically non-existent, pipestem legs encased tight corduroy bells.

     "I'm living at the house now," she said.

     "What house?"

     "The Rainbow House. On Hill Street. It's really beautiful, we're totally outside the culture. You should come by."

     She pulled a joint from inside her pants and lit up, passing it on. I took a hit and handed it to Jack, who passed it to some senior.

     "Thanks bro'," the senior said, and the joint bounced across the room, a firefly flitting from mouth to mouth.

     On stage the band raised their fists.

     Free marijuana, SMOKE DOPE!

     Free marijuana, SMOKE DOPE!

     Free our brothers in jail SMOKE DOPE!

     Free our sisters in jail SMOKE DOPE!

     I danced imitating Jessica, who faced the band, beyond the realm of boyfriends or finals, living in blissful freedom in the house where I now wanted to go spend the rest of my life. She jumped from side to side, up, down, a pony who could never be broken, golden hair twirling in a halo around her head. Jack leapt back and forth his arms punching with each "smoke dope." I was covered with sweat, at one with the screaming guitars, every drumbeat pounding straight into my heart. It was as though Lindy had vanished, the me that felt stupid and said the wrong thing and cared what other people thought. I was inside the music, no step a wrong one, and Jack inside it with me. Song after song after song. Free money. Free dope. Free sex. Free love. I collapsed where I stood, watching the ceiling dots go in and out of focus. Jack fell across me, diagonal, his belly against mine, breathing in as I exhaled.

     "Who wants to be Homecoming Queen?" a voice shouted.

     I sat up. The voice was coming from the stage. There were no more people in the room than when we first came in. In fact, there were less. All the jocks had run off in disgust.

     "Come on, this is part of the gig, we need a Queen, people. The People's Queen." A bunch of the kids up front pointed backwards. I turned around to see what they were pointing at. The kids in the back were pointing towards the front.

     "All right!!" the singer screamed. He was a ratty looking freak with a wispy beard. "We got our king and queen, come on!!!"

     Some guy grabbed Jack and Jessica took my hand, pulling me up.

     "This is a total trip," she screamed. "This is gonna go in the fucking yearbook. Get up there."
I hung back, aware suddenly of my pudgy pink legs.

     "Lindy, break on through. Fuck the pigs who run this place, fuck those bogues. Make them put you on the cover of the yearbook dressed in that frog costume."

     I fingered my gown. It did seem to bulge out oddly, and had some sort of appendages I had thought were decorative but might have been legs.

     "Wow," I said. Jack was jumping up and down, laughing and shouting something that sounded like, "I am the ruler of all I survive," over and over. He tore his jacket off and threw it in the air.

     "Right on," the crowd shouted.

     "It's so beautiful," Jessica said. "They want a Queen, and they get a frog. That stupid frog costume everyone had to wear in Creative Thinking. You're like, so far out. I bet you'll get your picture in The Sun."

     That did it. I grabbed Jack's bobbing hand and ran up to the stage. The band lifted us towards them. They were the coolest guys I had ever seen. They didn't even look human. Two were identical, six foot twin arrows of pure amphetamine reeking of pot and week old sweat, who could have given my mom a coronary just by looking at them. The singer was squirrely and glazed, swaying as he handed me the microphone.

     "Give a little speech, Queenie."

     I took Jack's arm and raised my other palm until the few assembled subjects grew quiet.

     "I am," I said, "the frog queen. I see no reason to change what I am in order to be queen. The plastic people, the pigs that run this country, they say a frog must change. A frog has to be kissed and transformed into royalty. But I say, love me for what I am. If I'm a frog, I'm a frog. And that's beautiful. And if he's a tree," I raised Jack's arm high, "he's a tree, and that's beautiful too."

     "Right on," someone shouted. There were a few scattered claps. The singer yanked the microphone back.

     "That was beautiful, sister. Life to the life culture, death to the death culture. Nowww----

     I wanna take off all my clothes"

     He lowered his arm and the drummer crashed in.

     Just like an Aborigine

     Just like an Aborigine

     Just like an Aborigine

     He pushed the mike into my face.

     Just like an Aborigine

     Just like an Aborigine

     The freaks danced below us, my voice booming over the PA, Jack stripping off his suit piece by piece, throwing it onto the drummer who caught each item with a stick and tossed it backwards. I danced across the stage my hair flying, my frog gown swirling around me, just like an Aborigine, trekking for years through an unfriendly nation to finally find her way home.