|The Prisoner of Vandam Street
By Kinky Friedman
Published by Simon & Schuster
March 2004; 0743246020; 240 pages
One of the interesting things about an illness like malaria, in which you float from altered state to altered state, is that you never know if something that has just happened is really something that has just happened. As the fever overtook me again, I found myself deeply troubled by the practical unlikelihood of Piers's visit. I wondered if my old friend from down under had actually been in my loft at all. The only witness other than the cat, of course, was McGovern, and he didn't seem to be revealing too many cards at the moment. I would, apparently, be forced to wait to see if Piers returned, no doubt carrying a large tucker bag and many bottles of grog. Or maybe, even now, he was peacefully sailing on a yacht somewhere off the Great Barrier Reef. Maybe he hadn't really been in my bedroom at all.
These are the kinds of thoughts that will drive a sane man crazy and sometimes cause a crazy man to see a world that even a sailor never gets the chance to see. It is a world of the mind, a world of the restless, troubled spirit, a world every bit as real as any other that man has yet been able to invent. It is there for the asking, in fact. All you have to do is acquire a severe case of lurid, lingering, lonely malaria. Fevered thoughts of any manner can be interrupted, however, when a large, half-Irish, half-Indian, drunk and incoherent journalist comes reeling in the most dangerous and disoriented fashion into one's little sickroom screaming at the top of his lungs.
"I had a dream!" shouted McGovern. The cat bolted for the living room and the relative safety of the davenport.
"Kayan witches?" I inquired, shivering at the thought.
"Say again?" said McGovern, leaning forward and almost falling on top of me."Lyin' bitches?"
"Forget it, McGovern," I said, losing all patience with him. "What the hell did you have a dream about? Did you dream of Jeannie with the light tan folks? Did you dream you saw Joe Hill last night? Did you dream of little white children and little black children playing together?"
"You don't have to make fun of me," said McGovern with growing belligerence. "My dreams are just as important as anybody else's."
"Fine. So what the hell did you dream about?"
"I dreamed a large kangaroo came hopping into the loft."
"That's not so far off the mark," I said.
"Say again?" said McGovern. "You dreamed of Lewis and Clark?"
"That's right, McGovern. I dreamed of Lewis and Clark. It means I'm going to take a trip soon. Unfortunately, I can't leave this fucking loft."
McGovern seemed to mull this information over studiously for a moment or two, then removed his large presence from the bedroom for a while, only to return some time later bearing a tray of hot coffee and a sympathetic aura, which, of course, made me feel guilty for being so acerbic with him. McGovern was a loyal and devoted friend, and I wondered, if the situation had been reversed, if I would have been as attentive to his needs as he was being to mine. Probably I would not have had the time. I'd have had to hire a large Bulgarian masseuse to take care of him. Ah, well, I thought, friendship is manifested in many different ways and sometimes it isn't manifested at all.
I was beginning to understand that malaria, like love, is one of the true deceivers in life. One moment you feel almost human and the very next, you feel you're at death's door and you wish the bastards would let you in. Dreams are real and reality's a dream. Day is night and night is day. And Einstein's Theory, of course, applies to victims of malaria: Time is relative and it goes faster if you don't have any visits from your relatives. Fortunately, I come from a small, ill-tempered family and I have very few relatives and they all live far away in Lower Baboon's Asshole. If I have a family, I suppose it is the Village Irregulars and with God shining her countenance upon us, somehow we've gotten by. So far.
But where was I before I began hearing voices in my head? Oh, yes. Piers Akerman, one of the most reliable friends I had, did not return that night as he'd indicated he would. This led me into a state of mild panic because I had now begun to believe that he'd never actually been there at all. I guess the thing to have done would have been to have called Piers in Australia to determine if his recent visit had indeed occurred or if his seemingly robust appearance was merely another dreaded chimera of my fevered, disintegrating, and sometimes rather unsavory sensibilities.
If I'd lost one Piers, however, I'd apparently gained a Ratso and a Brennan. I woke up from a highly repellent dream, which featured Kafka being bull-fucked by a kangaroo, to hear Ratso and Brennan engaged in an equally unpleasant manner of intercourse. They were in the other room, but the cat and I could hear their conversation quite clearly.
"I don't want the poor sod to croak on my watch, mate! He should be back in hospital!"
"Bullshit! Why do you think the doctor discharged him?"
"Because the sawbones is a poncey dothead! He's a tosser!"
"And you're a fucking idiot! Malaria is rarely fatal -- "
"Have you looked at him lately, mate? If you'd put away your hockey stick long enough maybe you'd notice that he looks whiter than his sheets! His mind is almost completely gone! He thinks Piers Akerman was here last night!"
"I don't care if he thinks Father Damien was here last night! That's what he's supposed to think! He has malaria!"
"Bollocks! He's losin' light, I tell you. He's going downhill fast, mate. He should be back in hospital! It's on your head if he croaks!"
"He's not going to croak! McGovern was here all night!"
"Oh, McGovern's Florence Nightingale, is he? I wouldn't trust that dodgy bloke to watch a scone rise!"
"And maybe Piers Akerman was here last night."
"Not likely, mate. He's 15,989 kilometers away -- "
"You Brits are all the same. Why can't you just give it to me in miles?"
"I'm not a Brit, mate. I'm just a lucky Irish lad who happened to be born in jolly old England."
"If I'd been there at the time I would've checked your father's dick with my hockey stick and stopped the inception. Don't create unnecessary trouble here. Everything's under control."
At that precise moment, a great tumult ensued upon the land. From my dank little bedroom, it sounded very much like the barbarians were at the gate. Moments later, I realized that, indeed, they were.
"Mother of God!" shouted Ratso. "Look down on the sidewalk!"
"Sweet leapin' Jesus!" shouted Brennan.
Screams and shrieks of an altogether unearthly nature could clearly be heard from the street. The sound of a windowpane smashing filled the cat and me with anxiety. We cringed in our little back bedroom, torn between mortal fear and feline curiosity.
"Do we throw them down the puppethead?" asked Ratso.
"Might as well, mate," said Mick Brennan. "When Piers Akerman and Mike McGovern get this heavily monstered, the entire Polish Army couldn't stand in their way."
Copyright © 2004 Kinky Friedman
It's a case of malaria versus murder when private dick extraordinaire Kinky Friedman comes down with a tropical disease, in the jungle known as New York City, and is confined to his loft on Vandam Street in lower Manhattan, a prisoner in his own home with only his cat and black puppet head as company (neither of whom are great conversationalists).
With little to do but stare out the window in between bedridden bouts of fever and hallucinations, Kinky calls on assistance from the stalwart Village Irregulars, who proceed to dish out their own uniquely skewed brand of tea and sympathy, turning the loft into a virtual Mardi Gras of confusion and drunken debauchery.
Suffering almost as much from company overload as from his fever, Kinky welcomes a rare moment of calm as he finds himself once again alone in his loft. Resuming his position at the kitchen window, he spots a pretty young woman in an apartment across the street. What he hopes might be titillating turns terrifying, however, as a man joins the woman and proceeds to attack her. Sure that he's witnessed a crime, Kinky calls in the cops, but, upon investigating his claim, they can find neither a victim nor an apartment across the street. In addition, no one else saw or heard anything that would ndicate a crime had taken place. Was it foul play or merely a fevered dream?(back to top)
Long before he became a novelist, Kinky Friedman was writing and singing country songs. However, he wrote songs with what he calls a social message, something ludicrous for a country western band. "Get Your Biscuits In the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed" and "They Ain't Makin' Jews Like Jesus Anymore" were a couple of his more offensive famous hits. Kinky lives in a little green trailer somewhere in the hills of Texas. He has four dogs, one cat, one armadillo, and one Smith Corona typewriter.