Melvin Blaylock Attempts a Hallucinatory Revelation
I believe in introducing myself the first time I meet someone. I'm
in a band The Pickles, but, for full disclosure, we don't play at
Marti's Pizza anymore and only practice once every few weeks. I
work as a custodian at Walter Binks High--they call me "custodian," as
if I am in charge of looking out for the rights of someone or something,
so I prefer "janitor" because I'm just there to clean up. I
am a prodigious reader. No particular subject. I'll buy
books at the Goodwill, whatever looks good, however many ten dollars
will buy. They last me about a week. I can't sleep most
nights, so I go to the Waffle House and read. The college students
like to talk to me because I'm an autodidact. They tell me
I'm wise in a condescending way. I can see it in their eyes
that they know they'll be better than me. But I don't blame
them. I'm not wise, and their childish enthusiasm for life
will be beaten out of them soon enough.
Jabbering with some students over desultory coffee was where I first heard of salvia. I ended up buying some off this kid with a mohawk and a metal stud in his chin who liked to call me buddy. I like to think I'm everyone's buddy, but he made it parochial. "Buddy, this will let you meet God. Sally-D will set you free. You will be one with God."
God is bitter and makes me laugh. That's all--until a few minutes when I get this feeling like when you cover a finger with that white Elmer's glue and then peel it off like a piece of skin, and that's how it feels, like I'm peeling off all my skin, except it's not skin but myself. After I peel the self off, I hover there above my body for exactly four minutes--I know the exactitude because I became one not with God but with the neon green numerals of the clock on my microwave. When I come down, myself safely embodied, I'm pissed--I'd lain out all my Hermann Hesse novels to encourage enlightenment, for all the good it did. And a four minute high?
Maybe the effects aren't over because I get this overwhelming need to do something, anything. This urgency to be in action. I head toward the school. I can't face the Waffle House, not in my ecstatic failure to find something sacred. Don't know what I'll do at Walter Binks--maybe find something to be the custodian of.
The entrance to the high school has a wicked curve to it, one many a tire-squealing student has lost control on and landed in the grass bank. Above that bank is a huge rock the administration carted in and named "Spirit Rock," as a way to confine the apparently uncontrollable adolescent penchant for graffiti. As my headlights complete the curve, they spotlight a couple kids at the rock, who like rabbits in a flashlight beam freeze momentarily and then bolt.
I leave the car where it is, lights still aimed at the spot, and climb the bank. The scared bunnies left a grocery bag of spray paint cans. Mostly black, like they were going to canvas it before leaving their bons mots. They must have decided that would be too much work and opted for a color apiece, one black, one red. They left the message "Jessica Middler is a Hoe-bag." They can't even spell their curses. And: "Rodney Wilcox took it up the." I guess I'll never know where Rodney took it.
"I am custodian of this rock," I say to no one and begin blotting out the slurs with the black paint. Then, I keep going, finishing what they'd intended. When the rock is a dark hulk on the school lawn, a void, I write in red: "God is a janitor."
S. Craig Renfroe, Jr. is the author of the short story collection You Should Get That Looked At and blogs at I Don’t Know What I’m Talking About.