I had awakened to the sound of my squealing alarm clock and instantly remembered that I hate everything about my life; including myself. I slapped the clock with a little more gumption than usual and the display chose today to just fall off and cease to function entirely. Fantastic, I thought to myself. I knew that when I went to the store and got a fresh one that I would have a grand total of nine bucks left to my name.
I removed my single sweat soaked sheet and peeled myself from the bare single sized mattress on the floor. My walk to the kitchen, which is actually just a sink in the other corner of my one room apartment, this morning was interrupted by stepping ever so gracefully on my keys. My right knee instinctively gave way and I was brought the the ground, where I landed on the keys, again, moments before smashing the back of my head on the filthy linoleum. I just lay there for a few minutes before removing the keys from the small of my back. I was left with a severe lack of motivation as I stared up at the cobwebs and nicotine stains that coat my drop ceiling.
Eventually some previously unknown dollop of determination seeped into me and I rose slowly to my feet. The sound of my sweaty unshowered feet on the floor was the morning sound track. Breakfast, which is made in the sink, is the absolute cheapest coffee on the planet. Three cups, black, drank directly from the pot. Delicious. Onto the wardrobe department.
The pile of clothing in the next corner only brings on feelings of great reluctance and apprehension. Every scrap of cotton on the floor has been worn for at least a week; some, much much longer. I kind of kicked around the rags for a moment looking for anything that wasn’t completely disgusting. I decided on a pair of shorts that had recently been stained with my own blood after being hit by a speeding SUV that was piloted by a man using his cell phone. I fortunately landed on a glass bottle and had the pleasure of watching the gentleman drive off into the distance. I then picked up my newly destroyed velocipede and walked home only too bleed onto a t-shirt; which was coincidentally the same t-shirt I picked to wear today; Independence day.
So there I was, standing in the cleanest clothing I had; covered in blood stains, pondering weather or not I should bother putting on socks that comprised more of holes than of actual material. Socks, needless to say, that smelled like oh so much road kill, that provide virtually no comfort what so ever were out of the question. With that decision out of the way I made for the final corner of my closet of an apartment and donned my sneakers that had just a few more holes than my socks. It was going to be a lovely day; I could tell.
I loaded my pockets with the usual kit: cigarettes, keys, cash, and lighter. With my equipment checklist complete I vacated the premises. I took one last look at the shambles of my apartment before the spring loaded door slammed shut in my own face. I thought briefly about locking the door but came to my senses and just walked out of the building. The sun was warm and crashed down on me like thousands of phone books… full of cat shit. I was now fully prepared for the day of all days.
I made my way to the local convenience store and purchased the exact same model of alarm clock I had broken just a short while ago. This was, in fact, the third time I have had to make said purchase in the last seven months. The gentleman behind the counter gave me a sort of sneer that suggested that he himself had something to do with my compulsive alarm clock breaking habit. I resented him and his grin for no reason at all and exited the store promptly.
Back on the side walk I made a B-line to the nearest liquor store. The streets were bustling at 6 p.m. It is an odd thing to work third shift and start your day as most are finishing theirs. I walk the streets at night and see tired people, and sad people; and when they see me… well, they thank their lucky stars that they had such nice parents. Even when I entered the liquor store the gentleman behind the counter shook his head with disgust.
I made my way to the whiskey shelf and thought of all the times I had placed my boot prints on this same piece of dingy carpet. All the same bottles faced me in the same order as always. I reached instinctively for the 4 dollar pint of brown rubbing alcohol known only as Canadian Club. It is known to certain folk though as: “Wife number one,” “The widow maker,” and “My first stint upstate.” I suppose that’s a local thing though.
Exiting the shop I felt a slight sense of elation knowing now that I had exactly four dollars and thirty-one cents… PLUS, a bottle of whiskey and an alarm clock that was destined for destruction in the not so distant future. I made my way to the nearest park bench and sat down for a drink to help decide what it was that I should do with the rest of my day; or evening, depending on what shift you work.
I mounted the bus stop bench next to a man who seemed to be worse off than myself and figured that he wouldn’t mind me taking a swig off of my flask in public. I was correct in my assumption; and moments after I took a sip he requested one of his own. I was more than willing to oblige the man and soon after we were deep in a conversation that I could not follow with a map and compass. I was glad to give the gentleman a drink but his erratic manner of speech left me befuddled so I excused myself with the quickness.
Again strolling the streets, with nearly bare feet, I was walking. Things and people were passing me by and I; I was invisible. I walked for an hour or so and smoked a bit at corners and cruxes and no one ever paid me any mind. It was around this time I started to hear the sounds of the fair on the far side of town. With so many happy people at hand how could I possibly be left out? I had a new destination and made for it as the crow flies.
The park at which the festivities were to be held was one that I knew well; this of coarse assured my easy and entrance fee free arrival. Four dollars remember… survival. While I was climbing a rather steep incline on the far side of the hill I stopped for a moment too listen to the owls hunt and take a nip of the old cough syrup. The owl calls were soothing flute music; and I was in a sort of trance. I was just staring at the sky and all of it’s wonders for a while when my eyes were drawn to the silhouette of an animal on the ridge.
The animal stood regal and seemed to be pointed in my direction. With the moon behind it, and the whiskey behind my mind, it looked rather picturesque. The animal seemed to notice that it had caught my attention and let out a howl that any blood hound would be jealous of. With that it ran off into the night. I was of coarse left leaning against an aged pine pondering the nature of the animal and I’s discourse.
Several sips later I resumed my nearly vertical trek. It was tough going but I reached the summit and found my self at the edge of a whirling kaleidoscopic maelstrom of people and lights that I wanted nothing to do with. I pocketed my flask and made for the heart of the beast… the ferris wheel. Between the goal and I stood countless tents and their tenants; people consuming fluffed sugar in all it’s various forms; equestrian security, and green plastic port-a-potties numbering in the hundreds. I took on the task at hand with great apprehension but managed to mingle in the crowd with out being noticed.
On my journey to the massive wheel before me I encountered many a strange sight. People were in their worst form and running rampant through mud covered alleys and screaming for no apparent reason. I was promptly pushed to the side and had to make my way along the edges for many a minute. The chaotic atmosphere of my surroundings eventually lead me into a house of mirrors; the admission of coarse required one of my remaining four dollars.
The silence within the forum for reflective mirrors was music to my ears and I quickly found a corner where the six of myself could sit down for a sip and collect our collective thoughts. Seven sips in I noticed that in one of my many reflections, the beast from the moon was looking just over my shoulder. My head snapped quick as can be but my eyes only found another representation of my pitiful self. Even with my finger prints on the mirror my disbelief could not be refuted; I had seen something.
I capped my flask once again and bumbled my way out of the grasp of the mylar maze that I as encapsulated in. Some sneaking, yet fleeting, feeling of De Javu was congealing on the fore front of my mind. I walked with a bit of panic in my step as I dodged the various locals and yokels that obstructed my path. Fortunately the goal was near at hand and I could finally rest for a while.
I found a rather majestic Oak off to the side of the enormous wheel and leaned with all my might against it. I was glad to have such a sturdy companion with which to share the last few sips of the night. I could be positive that this Oak had seen worse days than my own. So we stood; steadfast, merely observing.
I spent roughly an hour there; slowly nursing the last of my flask. For lack of something better to do I was watching the people rotate through the sky shrieking with delight and dismay. It was closing in on the time for everyone to retire to their homes. The crowds were thinning and my ever present loneliness was only amplified by that fact.
With my flask now empty and the people dwindling down to nothing I felt I should depart before the authorities noticed me. Just as I was preparing to shove off from the tree I heard a sound.
Immediately I was nervous. I surveyed the area and saw not a soul looking in my direction. I chalked up the odd incident to whiskey delirium and knew instantly that I should return home. I had only taken my first step when I heard the sound again.
“Psssst. Hey, bub, down here.” The voice was gnarled but held with in it the sound of sincerity.
I looked down and met the eyes of the animal from before. It was a mid sized mutt of a dog with a thoroughly mangled brown and black coat. The dog’s eyes were glowing with fluorescent reflections and I could see a strange nobility within them. Needless to say I was more than a little taken aback. I removed the flask from my pocket and looked at it with deep and deserved suspicion.
“You about out by now huh buddy?” The dog ventured to say.
I looked back at the dog; now highly suspicious of it and the flask.
“What?” was all I could manage to stammer.
“Your flask there fella, that’s gotta be damn near empty by now.” the dog said. “I’ve been watching you for a while.”
“What?” Again a master word worker I was.
“Look kid I get it. You’re a bit taken aback by my ability to speak; but we should really get moving. I don’t want everyone and their brother knowing about this. Follow me and I’ll make sure that flask gets filled up again.” The dog had a good point.
“Can’t argue with that.” I said. “Where are we going?”
“Never mind that; just follow me and don’t talk ‘till I tell ya.”
I nodded and we were off. The short scruffy dog ahead of me looked over it’s shoulder ever few yards to make sure I was still on my feet. We were passing back through the fair grounds but this time I had no trouble making the trek as the dog was some how clearing a path better than any bull dozer ever could. Not even the cops on horses seemed to notice that I was wandering around with a dog off a leash.
The dog was heading back the way I had come in but knew a far superior route. The previously treacherous incline was severely reduced by a meandering trail that snaked through the thicket in a most serpentine manner. The owls above were silent in our presence for some reason and I thought it a bit odd to say the least. I was looking at the canopy above when I heard a “Whoa.” I instantly halted and looked down only to find my newly found companion staring up at me.
“Easy there big fella.” he said “I usually use horse commands for humans; seems to work pretty good. Look bub, we gotta get a few things straight right here and now.” The dog had taken on a rather serious tone; which was sort of strange for a dog.
“First things first, My name is Glory; but don’t tell anyone that under any circumstance… ever. Are we clear?”
“Good. Now tell me your name good sir.”
“Most people just call me Frank.” I said; rather frankly.
“It is truly a pleasure to meet you good sir.” the dog said as he held out his paw to shake.
I took the dog’s paw and we had a brief shake. I then stupidly asked if he did that for a treat and was met with a rather stern glare. I apologized profusely and Glory seemed to understand that the whiskey had removed that ever so precious filter between my brain and mouth. No harm, no foul.
“Al right Frank,” he started “I am going to take you to a very important place. This place is going to be full of my friends. My friends are very dangerous to the wrong people; so don’t do anything stupid. OK?”
“Right,” he carried on “As long as you’re with me you’re fine. Just follow my lead and your cup will always be full; your shoulder will always be warm with the touch of a woman, and you will never have to return to that squalor that you call an apartment. You will want for nothing.”
“Hey!” I said somewhat loudly, “How did you know about my apartment?”
“Eeeeassy fella,” he said “Like I was telling you, I’ve been watching you for quite a while; don’t take it personally. I just think you would fit right in with my friends and I; and if the next thing out of your mouth is a tennis ball joke… so help me god…”
“I’m sorry. Bare with me; it’s not every day that I meet a talking dog that’s been stalking me for… how long now?”
“A year.” Glory said.
“God damn! A year? You have way too much time on your hands dog!” Now I was really shouting.
“You got that right home boy,” Said Glory “But all hip hop lingo aside we really should carry on to our destination. We have important matters to attend to; so if it’s all right with you…”
I nodded and off we went. At the base of the hill all was silent and just a few straggling cars made their way down the streets. The night air was getting a distinct chill to it as the clouds left the sky entirely and only the stars shown above. I was standing behind the dog at a stop light just pondering the nature of the beast.
“My apartment may be trashed,” I thought to myself, “but this dog is on the same par.”
The dog sitting before me waiting for a street light to change was about as haggard as could be. His tail was bent at a strange angle; probably from being run over. The thick bristled coat that adorned him was probably filled with a thousand ticks and at least three pieces of bubble gum that I could see from this angle. One ear had a rather large chunk removed from it; more than likely by force, and stood straight up. The other ear just bent right in half and dangled in a less than dignified manner. Needless to say there was no collar in sight.
“Say there old Glory,” I started “How’d ya get to be so damned disheveled?”
Needless to say I instantly regretted my last question. The dog looked over it’s shoulder at me and delivered a glare of sheer incredulity. The look lingered on his face for a few moments before the light changed. Glory just shook his head a bit and crossed the street. I followed suit and soon we were heading towards the industrial district of town.
Buildings and blocks were passing by as I followed Glory deeper and deeper into no man’s land. Miles were being tallied as we approached the docks and all the litter that inhabits them. The scent of the place and the unusual silence of the gulls were both unpleasant and rather uncomfortable.
Glory seemed to have picked out the building in the state of most disrepair as our destination. The windows were both boarded up and barred over. A wide variety of graffiti climbed the building like some sort of urban, art inspired, vine. All was to be expected of a building in this part of town except that the door was completely free of graffiti. The entrance was painted a deep, deep red and was adorned with a yellow symbol that I knew I had seen before, but couldn’t remember where. The dog reared back and scratched at the door ever so briefly and returned to his seated posture. Less that a moment later the door opened a quarter of an inch and a low voice emanated from within.
“The password.” the voice demanded.
“I am one of those that fight for freedom. Let thy square be straight and thy compass be true.” Glory announced.
The door opened slowly inward and we entered a dimly lit room. A man who’s face was made of shadows placed a flowing red hooded robe on the dog. He then secured it with an intensely elaborate golden necklace. The jewels that encrusted the ornament were drawing in all available light in order to gleam in an almost blinding manner. This process was repeated on me; however, my chain was as thin as angel hair pasta. A curtain was drawn and we were ushered into a room full of at least 200 other people all seated; silently, motionlessly.
Glory looked up to me and whispered that I should just stand against the wall behind me and be quiet. This seemed like a reasonable request; so my orders were carried out without a sound. The dog nodded and turned to make his way for the center isle.
He walked down the isle very slowly; methodically. His shoulders, and their deliberate motions, were visible through the fabric. Glory looked like a panther approaching a meal.
He leapt onto the stage and climbed up behind a rather simple podium that displayed the same emblem from the front door. At that moment a 30 foot tall banner unfurled from the rafters that too had the symbol I just could not place. The room was dead silent. I couldn’t have moved if I wanted too.
“Gentleman,” the dogs voice boomed rather impressively, “my Free Mason Brethren,” he went on.
It was at that very moment that I was it with two very shocking realizations.
I had just been inducted to one of the oldest secret societies known to man; and that I was still holding an empty flask and an alarm clock.