The Story of Ben


From the porch, the marmalade lens of moonlight refraction confused the hell out of Ben with cataract kaleidoscopes, making figures moving at the curb of his front yard as alien as any UFO movie poster that he half-remembered. Roused from shitty slumber minutes before, he stood now in tattered fatigue pants, barefoot, bare chested in a sheepskin jacket. Both hands in over-sized, fuzzy rimmed pockets, one hand wrapped around the butt of a Glock 19 with a 16 round clip loaded with Winchester jacketed hollow point ammo 8 years prior and untouched since.

The loud music that woke him raucous now outside on the front porch and gyrating alien splinters of light flickering in tune with the pretentious bass. Ben blinked his eyes twice, hoping to get a glimpse of a human form. He fished in his other pocket, found the metal cylinder that was not a light saber but a 1000 lumen tactical flashlight which shattered the kaleidoscope into black and white, cussing portraits of blinded tribal youth in the cul-de-sac drive.

“The Fuck!? Turn that shit off man!!”

“You first!” Ben shouted back

The music switched off. And a few seconds later, so did Ben’s mobile lighthouse.

Two large but amorphous shapes separated from the group and crossed Ben’s yard toward his porch in the moonlight.

“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Ben said, and punctuated his sentence with the racking of the 9mm semi-automatic now out of his pocket but pointed to the ground at his side.

The figures stopped and consulted in sharp whispers.

“Hey old man, look, we got off on the wrong foot.” One finally said, “my name is Ray, and this is Sean. Why don’t you come join us and share some of our Capo?”

Ben had heard about Capo. Not everyone had. Most who had thought it was made up, like Silver Sister. He put the Glock back in his pocket with one hot in the chamber and hella-ready and scratched his chest with his other hand, considering.

“Alright,” Ben said, “but why don’t you all come up to the porch and get off the street.”

Ben sat in his hickory rocker in the corner while the small group sprawled out on his large porch sitting on sleeping bag rolls and backpacks. No one had cellphones, so that meant they were either tribos or selenites. A scrawny tattooed boy with dreadlocks bowed to Ben and set a small can in the middle of the porch that combusted into a heatless bonfire of scintillating colors.

Ben had seen these on the streams of vagabond alleys and the Urban Infestation. They were usually accompanied by drums and as if on cue the synth pads came out of pouches and baggy pockets along with the lantern pipe with Capo in green vascaline glass, a slow rolling beat started tapping into the wooden structures of the porch with adaptive resonance and the tattooed boy offered him the pipe like it was some precious samurai sword, head bowed, arms extended.

Ben was no neophyte to psychedelics, he had done ayahuasca in the amazon, san pedro in Catemaco, mescaline, peyote and a dozen different strains of psilocybin over a colored life that deposited him here in on the outskirts of town with a pension retiring as acquisitions manager in the Carlsbad University library and its subsidiaries.

Cabo pipes were not smoked. Ben at least knew that. There should be two contacts, for a finger of each hand. When Ben closed the circuit, his world deserted him.

They gently took the pipe from his hand and passed it on. Drumming went on and then stopped. The moon set and no one remained on the porch but Ben in his hickory rocker, frozen in free-fall into the abyss.

Ben was also no stranger to the abyss. And in this free-fall, like Alice, bottles, debris and artifacts floated by and within his reach. None said “drink me” but one curious box said “take me”, so Ben did. Opening the card taped to the box was another message inside: “open me.”

The sympathy card inside the box told Ben that he was dead. That he died back in the library years ago. On the job, with a coronary infraction. But the momentum of his life had taken him here. Dreams don’t stop when we die. He’d been on that porch many times since, staring at the moon with fractured vision. Until the reapers finally found him and helped him along his way. At least now he knew where he wasn’t. And finally he could let it go.