THE MIGHTY UP
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.
shit is really strong," I whispered.
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.
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.
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."
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.
se," I said.
rose in intensity.
my eyes so I wouldn't look so high. "Estoy enferma. Tengo
. . .la problema de mujeres."
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.
I said. He lay there blinking up at the teacher. He had hair
halfway down his back and was trying to grow a beard.
himself to his knees. "Man, I can't be around all these
bogues." He got up and stumbled out of the room.
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
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.
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.
look really high, sister."
"It's new. White lightning, from Detroit. You ever do it?"
her eyes. "It's four way. You're only supposed to take a
Dope-O-Scope. You should read the Sun. They say, under no circumstances
take more than a quarter."
not freaking," I said. Except I didn't know if I really
said it, or only thought it.
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.
at her. Jack's best friend Richie stuck his head around the corner.
up on the hill fucking a tree, we can't pull him off it."
not funny, he's gonna hurt himself."
what did you say?"
on the hill fucking a tree. Come on, what's wrong with you."
my wrist and dragged me out the door. The sun was incredibly
got any ups?" I said.
can't do ups and acid, you'll flip."
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.
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.
We were back
in the woods, where teachers never went. The woods was liberated
territory, where only the most fucked up ventured.
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.
get off the tree. Lindy's here, look, I got Lindy," Richie
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.
man, he's turning into a tree," I said.
A voice came
from the vicinity of the trunk.
a tree, can't you see. All I have to do now is be."
him around the waist and pulled.
are you doing," I screamed, "you'll pull out his roots."
"My roots, my roots, I never did anything to you, why can't
you let me be what I am?"
Richie. "Don't try to change him, let him be what he is."
go and collapsed in the dirt. "He's not a tree. What the
fuck did you take?"
closer. Maybe it wasn't Richie. Maybe I only thought it was Richie.
do you want to know?"
and pulled out a joint. "Do you want a toke?"
can't have ups, you'll flip out. Have some of this."
He held out
the joint. I took a deep hit.
is Colombian. My brother brought it up in a plane."
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.
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?"
I got to find Marcy first."
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.
happened to you?" she said.
to leave. It was all so meaningless."
not really Jack anymore. But he's okay."
me a cigarette. "Do you want to go to PJ's?"
was thick with freaks, dogs running, Frisbees sailing, guitars
and pot and men handing flyers to us as we passed.
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.
dad caught me smoking dope," she said.
did he catch you?"
in my room. He just walked in. I had grass all over my bed, rolling
an ounce into joints then, bang, there he was."
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.
him it was incense," Marcy said.
course. What does he know about incense."
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
is for you," a voice said.
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.
a dollar," the man said.
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.
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
What do you want to go to Homecoming for?"
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.
you find Jack," she said. "He probably split."
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."
your ear down to the ground."
want the world and we want it now," I said.
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,
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?"
brought you a suit. I couldn't have brought you a suit if I wasn't
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.
doesn't matter, it's almost summer. Where are your shoes?"
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.
I have to wear something. Wait, don't talk. Let's sit in the
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.
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?"
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.
on this for awhile. Fields of pink headless creatures tossing
beneath the tide. Then it hit me.
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. . ."
I had to pee.
would be what?" Jack said.
to pee. What should I do?"
but, should I pee here? Or go into the woods."
go into the woods."
down at the school. It was very brightly lit. I could actually
see embers flying from it, as if it were a bonfire.
I'm still high," I said.
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.
go down there," he said.
course. Look how beautiful it is. Because, what we need is inside.
A bathroom and a gown for you."
a phone," I said. "I better call my mother."
I'm going to Homecoming."
wonderful, dear. When is it?"
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
"Well, it's tonight. So I won't be home for dinner."
Did Jack wait until now to ask you? Why don't you come home?
And what are you going to wear?"
has a gown. I don't have time to come home, just leave the door
have to eat something."
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.
I stood up
and waved. "It's me, I'm over here."
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.
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.
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."
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.
all looking at us, they know we're high," I whispered to
just paranoid. They're looking at us because we're so cool."
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.
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.
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.
know you dug The Up," she screamed in my ear.
I looked at the band. Four freaks, hair down to their asses,
which were practically non-existent, pipestem legs encased tight
living at the house now," she said.
Rainbow House. On Hill Street. It's really beautiful, we're totally
outside the culture. You should come by."
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.
bro'," the senior said, and the joint bounced across the
room, a firefly flitting from mouth to mouth.
the band raised their fists.
brothers in jail SMOKE DOPE!
sisters in jail SMOKE DOPE!
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.
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.
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.
right!!" the singer screamed. He was a ratty looking freak
with a wispy beard. "We got our king and queen, come on!!!"
grabbed Jack and Jessica took my hand, pulling me up.
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.
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."
my gown. It did seem to bulge out oddly, and had some sort of
appendages I had thought were decorative but might have been
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.
on," the crowd shouted.
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."
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.
a little speech, Queenie."
I took Jack's
arm and raised my other palm until the few assembled subjects
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."
on," someone shouted. There were a few scattered claps.
The singer yanked the microphone back.
was beautiful, sister. Life to the life culture, death to the
death culture. Nowww----
take off all my clothes"
his arm and the drummer crashed in.
the mike into my face.
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.