Mr. Pork scowled into his desktop screen surfing the web in his basement apartment; he was looking for the perfect gift for his ex-wife’s wedding. A golden light shined from a brass lamp with a little white shade that had lace frills and clear trinkets dangling from its bottom edge. His foot kicked the mini-fridge beside his desk and the cans inside made a dull rattle. He opened the door with the wedding invitation stuck beneath the Alcatraz magnet on it and ripped out a can of soda. He kicked the door shut. A small, black desk-fan blew across his keyboard to keep his chubby sausage-fingers from getting too sweaty. Frito grease and licorice spit from sucking clean his fingertips left a plastered sheen on the keys as though he’d stuck his fist in a can of Crisco and smeared it across the desk like a housepainter’s brush. He waded into conspiracy theory sites that specialized in “insider” information about last September’s tragedy. In his business suit at three in the morning, he considered his quiet apartment a junior version of the White House Situation Room. Reams of paper printed from the sites he mined stood like towers on every flat surface he had. Mr. Pork returned to his search for the perfect gift, a nine-millimeter hollow point. He felt a swelling on his forehead and a tickle in his sinus cavity. With a graceless sweep of his chubby hand, he picked up the hand-mirror and confirmed what he already knew; the pufferfish was growing above his eyes again.
Mr. Pork blacked out and the pufferfish stretched outward. It’s face resembled Steven Tyler of the Boston based rock band, Aerosmith. It’s skin was smooth and colored like a snow leopard as it stretched and filled itself with air, the spikes on its body blew back like Einstein’s shock. While Mr. Pork’s unconscious mind rested upon his desk, the pufferfish moved its mouth across the surface of the filthy table sucking the scum that varnished the desk—hair grease, snot, food dust, ringlets left by soda cans.
In the afternoon, Mr. Pork pulled his spit sticky cheek from the folding table desk, which he unwittingly used as a pillow. His cheek was red and pressed with the pebbly design of the makeshift desk. He smelled urine and knew his Depends were full of sodium benzoate, caffeine, sodium citrate, erythorbic acid, gum arabic, calcium disodium EDTA, brominated vegetable oil, and yellow 5, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Caseinate, Sorbic Acid To Retain Freshness , Sorbitan Monostearate, Soy Lecithin, Soybeans Oil, Flavors Natural & Artificial, Caramel Color, Mono and Diglycerides, Corn Starch. Mountain Dew and Ho Ho’s to the layman. He grimaced all the way to his bathroom, discarded his dirty diaper, and took a long, sweltering shower. Handprints on the steamy glass shower door looked like the old cave paintings he so admired. “Some people think the 60’s were a simpler time. I’d choose to go back to the cave days. Doesn’t get much simpler.” He tilted his head up beneath the showerhead and let the hot water fill up his mouth and run down his chin and chest like a waterfall. He let the water run for twenty minutes. There wasn’t a bar of soap or bottle of shampoo in the apartment. He figured if water cooked in natural gas can’t get the body clean what use was a bunch of chemicals? An incongruous thought considering the waste products in the soiled Depends in his bathroom trash can.
After taking twenty minutes to dress himself, he remembered the check due to arrive any day now. He unlocked the chain, the two deadbolts, and pulled the rod from the stopper in the floor. He checked the mailbox in jogging pants and a windbreaker, no shirt underneath, just the cold zipper pulling his chest hair every once in a while. A slow mist fell in the warm afternoon. The sandals on his feet exposed yellow toenails besot with fungus and jagged snags where dark threads from his business socks shot out in all directions. He’d wash and clip his nails if he could bend down to reach them, which he could, but decided the strain was too much. In the mailbox, he found his disability check tucked into a bundle of coupon flyers for pizza and burgers and shakes. He stuck the flyers in the mailbox his neighbor left open, part of their agreement. She got the coupons and he got to watch her subscription webcam show at www.fatcatlady.com free of charge. She was not only an extreme-couponer, she was also a closet exhibitionist. The church members at the chapel where she played organ on weekends knew not a stitch of her webcam shows although there was that one college kid with the wispy moustache who always sat in the pew beside her organ. She’d see the young man looking her way in the mirror beneath the high pipes of her organ.
Mr. Pork walked to the bus stop and waited to take his disability check to the bank on Fourth Ave.
As he stood in line at the bank, he became exceedingly anxious about whether or not he had locked his apartment door. He felt the scowl carve itself into his brow. His forehead puckered like lips, he imagined. He panicked and thought that they might walk in and rifle his sensitive files, the towers of printed pages from his conspiracy sites, his research. Sweat beaded on his forehead, glistened like dewdrops on a pumpkin. “Next,” the skinny female teller said.
He grumbled his request to her and stared at the pen on its chain, his eyes blinked and he thought he was communicating with her clearly in Morse code. She tried not to make eye contact with this troubling customer, did her task quickly, and handed him his receipt. “Anything else, Mr. Pork?”
He blinked his eyes rapidly at her and hurried out into the fresh air. He looked up to the sky to make sure the same buildings were there, that there were no black helicopters, and heard a crashing sound—broken glass. Down the street a man stood on the hood of a blue car, four-door 1974 Lincoln, and used a tire iron to sweep the edge of the windshield frame free of the shards that didn’t fall the first time. He saw another man rush out of the Post Office in the Marshall Building. Mr. Pork shrunk with fear when he saw the gun rise in the other man’s hand and level at the lunatic with the tire iron. Mr. Pork cowered behind the bus stop sign advertising a new western starring John Wayne, recently physically reanimated but with clear mental defects in a joint effort between Hollywood and NASA, and watched as the two men argued a moment. The gunshot recoiled in the valley of the skyscrapers. Mr. Pork closed his eyes tight and filled his Depends. He heard the bus wheeze to a stop and the doors whoosh open. With his hands tucked tight against his body he lurched aboard and whimpered down the aisle, “He shot him. He shot him.” A few riders who hadn’t seen the shooting looked at Mr. Pork like he was crazy. The Black Line bus took off and Mr. Pork tumbled through the obsidian door into his basement apartment, trembling even as he readied himself for his neighbor’s webcam show. Her site buffered and Mr. Pork grew dizzy as the pufferfish once more took shape. He stared at the invitation on the mini-fridge’s plastic wood-grain door. He swept up the hand-mirror and saw the pufferfish taking shape above his eyes. This time it’s lips moved before he blacked out. “Mr. Pork.” His head hit the desk and he was out.
A week later there was a knock on his door. Mr. Pork checked the peephole in the door and saw the deliveryman ascending the stairs to the street level. Mr. Pork was puzzled. “What did he drop off?” He unlocked the chain lock, the two deadbolts, and pulled the rod from the stopper in the floor. Outside was a small cardboard cube. He nudged it with his foot and decided it was likely safe to pick up.
With a butter knife caked with old jelly, he cut the package open. It was the nine-millimeter rounds he ordered. “Oh, right! Fantastic.”
The wedding was the next day. He’d forgotten about it. He’d been so busy getting all of his research together, research that would become the basis of his defense in court, he knew.
They were in the midst of the dance outside on the plaza beside the historic train station in the oldest part of the city. It was dusk and the night was going to be clear with a limitless view of the stars. “You’re breathtaking in your dress, Hazel. Thank you for having this dance with me,” Mr. Pork said. The metal butt pushed into the back fat above his belt.
Hazel’s hands were on his shoulders as her arms ran up under his. “I’m happy you made it. It’s been so long since we’ve had a chance to speak face to face. I’m glad you’re hanging in there, friend. Carl, is glad you came too. He’s a bit different than you, but I sometimes catch glimpses of your type of humor in things he says. Humor you used to show so well.”
“You’re new husband is quite a character for sure, Hazel.” His sinus cavity tickled. The scowl carved itself into his forehead and he grew dizzy as they moved about the stone tile dance floor in the shadow of the old train station. The stars spun out above him.
She looked at him with confusion. They danced closer to her husband who danced with some distant cousin. As both pairs moved around each other, Mr. Pork reached for the gun in his belt. He pulled it and fired quickly into Carl’s head one time. He ran screaming from the plaza. “It was his plan! Carl did everything. He planned the whole attack! You’ll see! I’ll show you all!”
After days of babble in the courtroom, where Mr. Pork entered ream after ream of his “research” into evidence exposing his ex-wife’s newly deceased husband as the mastermind behind last September’s tragedy, Special Prosecutor Fulton, in slicked back, jet-black hair as shiny as his Brooks Brothers wingtips, finally objected. He rose in contempt. “Your honor, if it is the defendant’s intent to claim innocence by reason of insanity, I believe we’ve been exposed to sufficient evidence to accept that. But, if he intends to drag this court further into the rabbit hole of his adolescent conspiracy theories, I must firmly object and move to allow him to change his plea so we may move on with the business of this court.”
“They said you’d say that, Special Prosecutor Fulton. I am truly sorry that our endeavor has made no impact.” Mr. Pork peeled off a mask and revealed himself to be not only a woman, but also Dr. Hussein, Investigational Research Therapist of the West Ward. “Special Prosecutor Fulton, I am addressing you now by your real name, Mr. Pigg. Mr. Pigg, it is clear our treatment here has shown little merit and so I must abort this charade. Nurse, can you escort our patient back to his bed?”
The nurse, costumed as a bailiff, approached the prosecutor and fixed his restraints back upon his wrists. They shuffled the long corridor to his room and he felt the scowl carve itself into his brow. Mr. Pigg felt like a blind man for the tell-tale pufferfish and perceived underneath the skin of his forehead a puckering not unlike lips. He was left alone to consider the living nightmare he’d just been put through.
Dr. Hussein spoke into her Dictaphone. “Patient Pigg shows no improvement after undergoing an experiment to place him in the State’s position from which to view the crimes of killing his ex-wife’s husband, Carl. Patient Pigg continues to conclude incorrectly that Carl was the perpetrator of a crime Mr. Pigg refers to as “last September’s tragedy”. In fact, Mr. Pigg is guilty of murdering Carl last September making the whole farce of the conspiracy an escape for his own conscience to evade the guilt of his actions.”