Here, for the reader's convenience, are posted the first three chapters of our story, in order and translated from the original gibberish...
CHAPTER ONE: FACE DOWN UPON THE SANDY SHORE
I awoke face down at water’s edge, the way I always do. The air was stale beer and sour onions. Actually that was my air, the air I was exhaling, my gift to the world. Here, have my air, I have flavored it for you.
I rolled onto my side as ocean water crept up my legs. Legs. I had legs. Good, I thought. I may need them.
The water got to my waist and retreated, leaving foam and bits of trash at my midline, my mean-high-tide. I reached down and felt around: ah, I was wearing pants. They were wet pants, but they were mine. No shoes, but some colorful socks, now soggy and itch-inducing. But oh so colorful.
A larger surge of water forced its way up to my neck, so now I was picking out bits of Styrofoam and kelp from the kinky hair on my face. I used to be young, with hair like a god. Actually, I am a god. I'm on a mission, a job so secret, so discreet, that even I don't know what it is.
I am chosen by the Sun or the Stars or the Atoms: I am chosen and I wake up on a beach or in a harbor (or that one time in an aquarium) and go find a crime or a mystery or panic in a child's eyes, and I go to work. Only when the job is done am I released: I go out with the tide and drift far away, or I jump from a plane into the deepest part of the sea, and there I wait for a time. Then blackness, sleep and dreams of sparkling bays and beautiful women and dolphins teaching the children to swim. I dream of white sand and men blowing conchs and girls giggling as they glide along with me in buoyant waters. The air is warm, the breeze is sweet, the days are long, the nights like heaven. I ride the hippocampus, and fountains pour wine, and love is impossible to deny. And then it all ends: I awake face down at water's edge with a job to do before I can leave. Yes, I am a god. And yes, I am a Private Detective. Here's my card...oh, it's wet. I'll tell you what it says: "Detective Neptune, the Only Detective Who is Also a God."
I looked up and saw the pier to the north. It looked familiar. The Santa Monica Pier. Good, I thought. I like Santa Monica. I looked one last time at the sky above me, the canopy of space, and saw a young boy's head peering at me. He had a small plastic shovel, and was wearing a bathing suit with a picture of an animated sponge smiling on it, and he had a goofy grin, and long eyelashes, and he yelled at me, "Sleep time is over!" Some modern cherub, some Cupid variant, prodding me on towards my task. His mother yelled from higher up on the sand, "Daroj! Don't speak to stranger!" I rolled away and stood up, towering over the boy. He pointed to the strand, and bade me go there. "Goodbye, Daroj." I made my legs move, and they protested mightily. I was marble, an old marble statue, and I was going to Venice. It hurt to walk.
+++"Jesus is Lord, and will sing to us and make the laughter into music, and the light will shine forth, and you will be there, and you--but some will not. Some will never see light again, but only the blackened heat of endless sin, the hard and burning embers of the dead..."
He had ended up here, alongside the vendors and the tourists, smiling in the sunshine, making friends, preaching the gospel, saving souls. The days blended into each other, and the charms were chipped away as the years thinned the thickness of time. His clothes were dirty, his hair stringy, his teeth cracking and abandoning ship like maddened sailors. The once long and gentle hands were hard, black with the oils of fried food and digging in trash bins. He had begun to shake, his nerves seared from the heat of life, exposed on the rocks to be picked at by the vultures.
He saw the winter sun move into spring, and the sunsets of the south now disappeared behind the coastal mountains. The sun set in private, and he could no longer remember why it mattered. He coughed and struggled to find a trash barrel with some decent food in it. His left arm was becoming claw-like: he reached into the wreaking barrel with his right, only to fail as it shook violently in the can, rattling the sides, scraping his knuckles, making bloody his flesh. He cried and ran, and dodged the couples strolling and he dodged the addicts and ran around the skateboarders: he found a hollow in an alley, and shook and gagged and fell in a heap. His right hand struggled with a greasy piece of discarded fried fish. He pulled it with effort to his mouth, but dropped it. He began his death rattle, the Preacher of the Word, one of God's own missionaries, here by the water at the end of the world.
"For the Lord will preserve us all, and unto Him we will return..."
A great pain shot through his skull, his eyes betrayed the lightning and thunder of his life, and stiff he was no more, but empty, and dead in the silence of the alley.
The next morning there was no sign of the preacher's corpse, only a bit of tagger-like scrawling on a trash bin. It read "But I will find my Vengeance, and None shall escape my Wrath"
He had come.
I walked up to the parking lot, then crossed it to the boardwalk, and stopped to sing to the pigeons. A few homeless types were out, and the air was wet and salty. I sat on a bench and waited. The job would come to me. The job would come.
CHAPTER TWO: CRAZY JESUS WREAKIN’ HAVOC ON MY TIMEDost thou wander about at night, calling upon demons to help thee?
I have grown to enjoy sitting on benches. Park benches, piano benches, garden benches, doesn’t matter what kind of bench, I enjoy sitting on it. As I sat on the bench in Venice, I sang to the pigeons. These are the lyrics: I’m a Private Detective who sings to pigeons
A Private Dick with an accent thick
All the doo-dah day
The pigeons move their heads in rhythm to my song. Next time you see a pigeon, sing “doo-dah, doo-dah” and you’ll see what I mean.
Being a God and a Private Detective at the same time causes the occasional head to turn, but let the occasional head turn, says I. Let the head turn. Pigeons don’t turn their heads. They just bob them back and forth like real estate agents.
Hours had passed and I still had no clue what I was doing in Venice. What was the job going to be? My first wife, Amphitrite ("the third one who encircles the sea") used to say to me, when I got around to making use of a conch and would finally call her, she’d say “Are you still fucking that girl in Marina del Rey?” She had a mouth like a sailor, and an ass like a sailor too. I used to like sailing with her, now that I think of it. I wonder what happened to her. Her lips tasted like tuna, but without the mayonnaise.
It was getting on towards noon. The beach crowd was in ascendance, and the vendors were setting up all their wares. Sunglasses, lotions, potions, lava lamps, beads, and on and on. The Temple of Merchandise in the Salty Air of Venice. I was now hungry.
I headed over to the Argentineans for empanadas and soda. “Give me two chicken and one veggie.” I was reaching for my money when I realized I hadn’t worked in fifteen years, and in my pocket was a mixture of sand and paper scraps, but no money. I looked up at the Sun, to Apollo, and held my hands aloft, the sand sifting through them onto the ground. The air spoke to the water, the memory spoke to my hope, and coins appeared in my palms, which I produced for the food. I paid for my food and left a seventy-five cent tip, modest but not pathetic. Apollo’s been tight with his coins these days, but detectives can’t be choosers. Or can we? I hate indeterminate effluvia.
It was exactly twelve o’clock when I returned to the bench and unwrapped the empanadas, cracked open my soda, put the warm dough to my mouth like my father Chronos used to do, and suddenly I had a symphony of pigeons assembled in front of me. I tore off a few pieces of my pie and threw them down.
As I ate my portion, I had a vision of a man running in an alley. He was surrounded by fire.
+++His eyes were new and dilated, like a fawn in a meadow. Everything came at Him like wild music. When a white hollow fills His eyes, He becomes the white hollow. If the sun seeks Him to harm, it burns only His shadow, and the rain of radiation spills along His margins. He runs in the narrow places, an inhabitor of form once spent, newly released. Three days of Darkness followed by the Blinding Light. Three days of Progress, then the Storm.
He runs down the alley, through the tiny backyards, up the lanes. He heads where promises were forgotten, where God had left His only Son to die. His eyes are become the white hollow.
Three days to go.
I finished my repast and rubbed my belly. It was then that I smelled an odor, an unpleasant mixture of sweat and rotting fish. It was me.
When a God bathes it is a beautiful thing. Cherubs and nymphs and all sorts of luminous beings fly about with soaps and salts and balms, and water flows through trumpet vines and laughter rises like bubbles. I love a good bath. Anyway, that’s what I told the arresting officer when I was standing buck naked at the outdoor shower. I guess the afternoon is not the best time for public hygiene, but if not me, who? If not then, when?
I was escorted into a squad car and driven, nay, chauffeured
to better surroundings. I felt zesty and clean. And handcuffed.
At the Police Station I smiled to all the quaint workers who had never seen a God up close before: it’s quite a thrill for some people. Most of those who have seen a God up close are under the impression that all Gods do is rape and eat all the leftovers, and there is a dollop of truth in that observation. But we have tempered our wild ways, just like everyone else, except Russell Crowe. But I digress…
I sat in a cell next to a man whose skin was darker than the absence of light, darker than the moon in bleakest shadow, darker than coal in winter. He scowled at me, then laughed, then said, “Who is you?”
I love it when people ask who I am. “I am Neptune! I am a visitor to these lands! I can’t help you!” is my usual reply.
So I said to the ebony man: “I am Neptune! I am a visitor to these lands!” He just shook his head at me and said:
“Got enough crazy niggas without Roman shit. I saw some motherfucker, ah, I done…” He turned his head away.
“You have piqued my interest, stranger,” I offered. “Tell me more…”
“A man on fire, fool. Crazy Jesus wreakin’ havoc on my time. He on fire but he don’t burn, and that’s some shit, motherfucker.”
I thought of my vision. I thanked my new friend, and asked the guard if I could get a conch. I had a call to make. I assured the guard there would be a bucket of Perch in it for him if he could make the wheels turn a little faster and bring me a shell pronto. I don’t think he knew what a Perch was. His loss, really.
CHAPTER THREE: BOWLING FOR JESUSHe ran out of the side alley onto a wider road: he was heading west by northwest on Pacific Avenue. Choking and crying, He fell to His knees and dug His nails into the road. A Mazda swerved and missed Him. He rolled toward the curb, climbed up and grabbed a chain link fence. He pulled His body up the chain link as upon Golgotha, and lifted His feet above the sidewalk. His back to the fence, he scaled upwards like a snake, His arms twisting behind Him as He rose skyward. No one even looked at Him. Those in traffic watched the road, or talked on a cell phone; those traffic see blindly.
Up He rose, eight feet, ten, above the sidewalk, into Light that came from High, the pure whiteness of Perfect Light! The Body, the God, the Sun Door! “No,” He screamed! “No! No! No!” His face smeared with sweat and dirt, His eyes aflame, He wrenched His hands out of the chain and fell to earth, the malign indifference of concrete shattering His left ankle. “No!” He screamed again, then ran up Neilson Way, running and stumbling and gasping…
Marie was drunker than usual, and cracked in the afternoon sunshine, and was muttering to herself when she saw Him running toward her. ‘Isn’t that’…she thought. “Hey, Preacher, what’s your hurry? Save me, baby…” she warbled, dropping her pipe, drooling on her chin. “Ha the fuckin’ ha!” He ran at her, grabbed her neck, flung her against a low brick wall until she was bent backward, her feet kicking out. “Hey, ow, what the fuck…” sputtered Marie. “Ow…”
He pulled her head up, held it in front of His and bellowed: “Wake up! End the Dream! End it! End it! Wake up! Wake up!”
“Wake up?” answered Marie. “I haven’t even gone to bed yet. You wake up!”
He looked into her and saw nothing: he flipped her backwards, her body doubling like paper as it fell behind the wall. She landed on her neck with her face going north and her torso facing south. She would never wake up again.
He turned and ran.
I waited for my conch for what seemed like minutes until a young officer with a nervous tic embedded in his scalp approached.
“They want you at the front desk,” he quipped.
“What about my conch?” I asked.
“Front desk,” was his witty rejoinder. He smelled like a thirteen year-old boy at a summer camp for bad cheese. I followed his trail to the front. When I arrived I looked up at the desk officer and nearly shat out my spleen: it was Hades, God of the Underworld, my brother and one heck of a handball player.
He spoke: “Will you excuse us?” I said “Sure.” He said, “Not you.” I said, “So then I won’t excuse you.” He wasn’t sure if I was joking with him, which was fine with me. I wasn’t sure either. Officer Cheese Ass left the room. I found myself alone with my brother, which is awkward enough without which I was recently arrested on Venice Beach for Public Nudity or something equally normal.
“What the fuck, Neppy?” he started.
“What the fuck indeed, Haddy,” I replied. “Why are you here?”
He led me to a series of monitors on a rear wall. There I could look into the various holding cells and observe all those who were detained inside. I must say, I kind of liked sneaking a peek at everyone. I imagined myself getting a little take-out, maybe an ice chest with a twelve pack, setting up a beach chair and settling in for a long viewing…I had to stop thinking like that. Haddy knows me like the back of his head, which is to say he can’t always see me but he can smack me easily enough.
“What do you see here?” asked Haddy.
“I’ll ask the questions, here punk,” I responded.
“Isn’t it “here, punk” and not “here punk?”
“I’ll worry about the punctuation here, punk…wait, you’re right.” I have a way with my brother, a way that makes him instantly tired.
“Look at the monitors—who do you see?”
I peered at the rows and rows of screens. “I see men in jail, hard men, soft men, crinkly men, Mercury, various losers on the edge of nowhere, Vulcan, society’s disposables, Zeus…hey wait a minute. I know some of these people. Dionysus? He changed his name to Jim Bacchus, had a sweet career drinking Hollywood dry. What’s he doing here?”
Hades bade me look at a second row of monitors: the ladies. Hera, Athena, Megan from Whole Foods, Demeter, Diana, Serena from Starbucks, Venus—they were all there. What in God’s name…
“Exactly,” said my brother. “Look again.”
Holy shit! Krishna, Kali, Ganesh, Coyote, Hanuman, Dick Clark, Garuda, Shiva—ooh, Maya…
Hades pointed to another row of monitors, and then another row of monitors until I turned to him and said, “Enough with the monitors! I see Osiris and Isis and Toth and Wotan and Eagle and Fox and Norm Crosby! What does all of this mean?”
My brother shook his head—well, he didn’t really shake it, he kind of swept it sideways
and then looked at me with that Guardian of the Dead look and said, “You have to find out.”
Well, good! Now I knew what my job was! Every deity known to humanity was now locked up in a jail in Los Angeles, though it wasn’t really a jail and Los Angeles isn’t really Los Angeles. Short story: many years ago some enterprising movie producers needed a stunt double for Los Angeles for a really nasty disaster sequence in a film. Turns out everyone loved the stunt double so much they didn’t ask Los Angeles to come back, and no one ever noticed the switch. L.A. is rumored to have moved to Morongo Valley.
It was time for me to take command here: I looked at all the monitors, I looked back at my brother, then I looked at the floor for a little bit, then I looked over at a set of car keys on his desk, then I looked back at my brother, but he was looking at the floor, so I looked back at the car keys, and he looked over at the monitors, so I stood in front of the monitors so he would look at me, but he was now looking down at his desk, so I crawled onto his desk and lay with my back on it and stared right up at him: bingo! I caught his eyes. “Can we get something to eat?” I asked.
All of the gods in the world had been summoned, but by whom? And why? We gods are a troublesome lot, and many of us took it personally when our stock began to fall lo those many years ago. I vowed to get to the bottom of these gods, which was an unfortunate vow, but not unfortunate enough to make me skip dinner. Dinner, I thought, was a sure thing. Hades looked like he had cash.
+++The sky was purple and pink and sandy red, and seemed to touch the land with regret. He turned up Pico as the sun vanished behind the coastal foothills, a last exhale before the coming darkness.
Up ahead, on His right, stood Pico Lanes, and Friday night was running at a sprinter’s clip. A Youth Christian Group had rented out half the alley, and laughter and providence exploded down the lanes, and pins rolled with righteous clamor, and crosses upon crosses were filled in with their scores. He pressed His face against the glass entrance. A couple coming out swung the door suddenly, and in He fell.
Lisa Kopinsky rolled her nine pound ball down the lane, crossing her fingers and praying to Jesus to make the pins fall down. Reverend Beesdan looked about the lanes and smiled: children of the Lord rejoicing in simple play! Aaron Toolin and Enrique Alvarez pumped quarters into the Claw Game, and squealed and yelled and protested.
Friday night at Pico Lanes, and soon the black lights would come on, and the balls would glow in luminescent colors, and the music would fill their ears.
He heard the prayers, the callings. He spied the Children and the Good Reverend Beesdan. His eyes filled with tears; He stepped down to the lower level, and strode to the center lane, and turned. The black lights were born: the thunderous bowling balls a mad carnival of colors, a vibrant jungle in a disco ball of light, and the music pulsed and the pins were the crashing of atoms and everywhere the Light and the Flashing and He walked unto the Lanes and strike upon strike and squeals of joy and He lifted His arms and The Sun Door began to open and only blackness poured forth. He paused, then found the world again: He spied a child in a t-shirt, and on the t-shirt was God on the Cross, and He screamed, “No! No!” and the pins were flying and the lights were lightning and storms in Hell and brimstone and poison and screams, screams, screams! “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
The news accounts relayed as how a gas line was the main suspect in a bizarre accident at the Pico Lanes. An emergency triage had been established in the parking lot: bodies were covered with sheets, paramedics were working feverishly on tiny, lifeless forms, like broken marionettes, the children of laughter, the last hurrah of a dying world. The good Reverend stood in the lot and fell to his knees. That night was the First Night: Two more to follow.
TUNE IN FOR CHAPTER FOUR OF DETECTIVE NEPTUNE IN “CHRIST, THE SCREAMING AVENGER”
Tomorrow: LAZY SUSAN IS THE MACK!