shepard fairey








gustav dore

our boys

death and burial


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kids of the Black Hole -- Chapter V

[Ed. Another installment for you hardcore fans from our still anonymous submitter. Another scene-setter, Old North End, Burlington, Vermont, the 80s. Make sure to catch Chapter 6 (s0nn-to-be-released) where true love is truly found. (HA!)]

Chapter 5
Dog Days

After Jeffrey moved out of the “Punker Palace” he moved in with another guy we knew named Maddog. Maddog lived in the North End of Burlington which was pretty much redneck central, but the block he lived on was not so bad. It was like an oasis of sanity in a desert filled with lunatics. This house was even worse than the Palace though. The carnage was amazing. It became known as “The Doghouse.” Jeffrey and Maddog lived there for about a year and other random people moved in and out from time to time.

There was one guy who I never saw but I slept in his room one night when he was away. It was a fucking pit. Like an animal’s lair or something. The only bed was a ripped up stained foam mattress and the only pillow had some kind of huge sweat stains all over it. The stench of stale beer was overpowering and it looked as if a few ashtrays had been dumped all over the room. I grudgingly laid my sleeping bag out on the foam and kicked the disgusting pillow and a few beer cans out of my nest.

The next morning I awoke with an ache in my spine and a chicken bone in my hand. I gasped and cast it away in disgust. In the daylight I could see the room clearly. It looked like a gladiator pit.

More chicken bones, some with meat still clinging, lay scattered about the room. Pieces of broken glass winked here and there around the floor which was a sea of ashes, cigarette butts, and beer cans. The carpet was badly stained with brown splotches and there were burn holes all around a two-foot perimeter.
I never met the animal who called that cave his home but I always wondered what sort of guy he was.

The next guy that moved into that room was a real neat freak but he got fucked because Jeffrey and Maddog decided he sucked and wasted no time in making his life a living hell. The guy was called DJ but we called him Dickjam, affectionately, of course.

Dickjam had this really sweet, sexy, innocent girlfriend who he adored. She too was dumb as dirt. They were this perfect little Christian couple. How he ended up living with Jeff and the Dog is beyond me.

One day DJ was out on a date with this girl and Jeffrey and Maddog decided to fix up his room for him while he was out. Just so his girl wouldn’t think that he was a slob or anything. Without remorse they dug into his closet, found his porn mags and pasted the pictures all over the walls with signs that read “fuck me DJ,” and shit like that. Jeff then sprayed whipped cream all over the room and all of DJs belongings, and opened up some condoms, throwing them all over the floor.

“We don’t want her to think he’s unsafe,” he explained.

DJ moved out that night without a word.

The chaos went on like that for awhile. I was never surprised to walk into the living room and find myself in the middle of a fist fight, or a penny fight, or worst of all… a peanut butter fight. I was equally unphased when Jeffrey would stagger out of his room in his boxers in the middle of the night to piss in the trashcan. All this was when Jeffrey and Maddog were binge drinking. After awhile they got hooked on coke and the vibe of the “Doghouse” changed considerably.

After that the place stayed in decent shape, probably due to the fact that they were so coked up and wired that they would constantly run around the house like little freaks, cleaning here and rearranging there. More often than not the place was spotless.

Jeffrey and Maddog were both pretty small guys and after awhile the coke was really withering them away. Maddog couldn’t have weighed more than 120 pounds and Jeffrey wasn’t far behind him. Jeffrey grew thinner and more wasted looking with every line that went up his nose. It was pretty sick to watch.

I didn’t usually take part in those days. I didn’t like to feel that wired and uncomfortable all the time. Sometimes I would do a line or two but for the most part getting drunk and breaking bottles seemed like more fun to me than pacing around worrying about how to get more coke or peering out the crack in the curtains wondering if the cops were coming. It was not a very comfortable scene for me.

Completely sober, Jeffrey was a lunatic whose conversation could wear a hole in your brain; on drugs he was almost impossible. He talked like a fucking psychopath, which he legitimately was, and scared away a lot of the new kids who were trying to get in on the hardcore scene. It was a rough time but it was good to have somewhere warm to stay when I came to Burlington, and good to have somewhere to hang out with Jen when she was around.

After awhile Jeffrey’s father Peter moved into the empty room, which was both good and bad. Good, because he was there to help scrape Jeffrey off the walls all the time, and bad because there was no more empty room for Jen and I to take over.

Peter was a pretty mellow, easygoing guy. He was an old hippy type who looked like he had eaten more than his share of LSD over the years. He spoke slowly in dry tones, driving the conversation in round-about turns and endless loops until at last he would arrive at some long foreseen conclusion. Talking to him could be nearly as torturous as talking to Jeff, but he was easier to ignore. He was generally a nice guy, though, and he would have done anything for Jeffrey.

He didn’t like Jeffrey doing coke at all, but he was helpless to stop it, even though it was right under his nose, so to speak. He was a bit of a willow and to some degree he was terrified of Jeffrey. Terrified of his own son. Jeff had so much anger inside him and so much self-loathing hostility teeming through his very existence that Peter could only watch as he destroyed himself. How do you protect someone possessed of so much rage and so bent on self destruction? Peter was no more able to protect him from himself then he was able to protect him from his abusive stepfather. He could only be there to pick up the pieces and try to minimize the damage.

Eventually Jeff did kick the coke habit, but not because of his dad. It had more to do with this girl Kate who was a friend of Jen’s. Jen had brought her over a few times and Jeff had quickly become enamored with her. He poured his attention all over her thicker than molasses and before long they were a dating.

Jeffrey was happy then for a little while and was a lot more fun to be around. He gave up the coke without any hassle and even cut down on his drinking, which was always his worst problem. I remembered then that he was actually a really fun person to be around and that there was a reason that we were friends. Of course it didn’t last long.

Eventually Jeff scared Kate away with his insanity. He was just too intense for anyone to handle for very long. He had a habit of proposing to every girl he dated, which tended to freak them out. He had no doubt gotten angry when she refused, angry at her and angry at himself, angry at the world and angry at his friends. He got like that a lot. It was always ugly, and sometimes dangerous, although the danger was mostly to himself rather than to anyone else.

Naturally Jeffrey was hurt by Kate leaving him but he managed to control himself for a couple of days. Then one night we all got drunk and he quickly slipped back into psychopath mode like he always did when he was drunk.

He then proceeded to call Kate over and over again for the next few days. His calls went unanswered and he was forced to plead his case to an answering machine. He became increasingly hysterical with each call and his messages grew angrier and more threatening, but most of all, more ridiculous. I wished she would answer. I was sick of hearing the senseless bitching that anyway was meant for her.

For hours Jeffrey would carry on about the evils of women and their horrible ways. According to him Kate’s transgressions were worse than all the other “witches” who had wronged him in the past. His ramblings were insanity, but it was pointless to argue with him. It only angered him. It was also totally senseless to listen. It could make your head explode. All that I could do was sink into the couch, pretend to be asleep, and hope he wore himself out or got tired of talking to a corpse.

Jeffrey’s voice seemed to fade into the background at last as I sunk into his couch and closed my eyes to the wreckage around me. It seemed like he had been talking without pause for hours. At last I managed to phase out his words until they were nothing more than a swaying, rhythmic chatter that nagged at the back of my consciousness. My mind roamed towards that area of deep thought that is the level just above sleep. Thoughtless thought, the beginning of dreams. I had almost achieved unconsciousness when he got to a point in his ramblings where he needed a confirmation.

“Right?” he snapped. “Isn’t that right?”

“You know it’s true,” he said.

I knew he would persist until I answered him. I simply had to agree and then he would continue on with his rant.

“Of course,” I groaned, and he was off again.

Again I had almost claimed my sleep, when I was rudely dragged back into reality. But it had not been Jeffrey that had awakened me this time. To my amazement he sat silently beside me. It had been a knock at the door. Jeffrey and I were both caught off guard and immediately alarmed. Not because it was three AM on a Sunday night, and what drunkard would be banging at that hour, but because it was clearly a cop knock. You know the one. Seven loud, hard knocks, not too fast, not too slow, evenly spaced and then repeated. It was more than unnerving.

I knew immediately that I had to open it. Jeffrey was trashed and was an expert at getting himself arrested. I had seen him rollerblade down a flight of stairs into a bunch of cops who were coming to bust his party once. It was ugly. The knock came again, louder this time. Two dark shapes could be seen through the door window, hunched and looming at the door. I slowly made my way to the door, my mind buzzing into action at last, trying to figure out what I would say to the police, not having any idea what they wanted.

Slowly I opened the door just a foot and peered out at the visitors. It was not the cops at all. Two strangers stood in the doorway, dressed in long jackets and gloves despite the fact that it was summer. One, an older man maybe in his fifties stepped forward and forced the door out of my grasp sending it flying open. The other, a short, stocky, somewhat younger man followed behind him as he forced his way inside the house.

“Are you Jeffrey?” the older guy asked.

“No.” I replied, still dazed from my near slumber, and slightly confused. Before I could say another word, Jeffrey staggered into the room and started towards us.

“I am,” he announced loudly, kicking some cans out of the way. “Who the fuck are you?” he added, softer now, and followed it up with a sickening belch.

“I’m Kate’s father,” the man replied calmly, but with a look in his eye, that bordered on murderous. He then withdrew a large, black handgun from within his jacket, and aimed it at Jeffrey’s face. The other guy opened his coat to reveal a long shotgun, which he brandished warningly at me and at Maddog who had just emerged from his room in only his boxer shorts.

Jeffrey was stunned. I was terrified now because I knew that Jeffrey was capable of reacting in a variety of ways here, many of which were likely to get him killed. I could see him begging and pleading for mercy and kissing the guys asses, or curling up in a little ball and babbling insanities. I could also see him getting angry and talking a lot of shit to them, oblivious to the fact that he could be ending his own life. As it was he did nothing. I was relieved.

Kate’s dad was obviously pissed off and clearly a rough customer. I had heard that he was a bit of a hillbilly but this was out of control. He seized Jeffrey by his throat and shoved the barrel of the gun in his mouth. Jeff’s face began to turn red as he squeezed.

“Stay away from my daughter.” He instructed calmly and slowly. “If you ever speak to my daughter again, or ever call my house again I will remove you from the planet.”

“Do you hear me you punk piece of shit?” He was now loud and angry. “I’ll blow your scumbag head off….understand.”

“Yes sir,” Jeff slurred out with the gun still in his mouth.

Kate’s dad withdrew the gun from Jeffrey’s mouth at last, and struck him, one solid blow across the face. Jeff reeled from the impact staggering back against the refrigerator. Again his assailant lashed out, striking him in the temple with the handle of the weapon. Jeffrey crumpled into a heap on the kitchen floor, bleeding from the mouth and head. He didn’t move.

“Scumbags,” sneered Kate’s father as he turned and stalked out the door leaving us shaken and confused. His henchman followed, casting us one last menacing glare as he exited. I lifted Jeffrey onto the couch and set to work cleaning him up. I had long ago lost count of how many nights had ended like this.

Jen was kind of freaked out by the whole incident, even though she had not been there. She didn’t feel comfortable hanging out at the Doghouse after that because of her friendship with Kate, and so I didn’t go over much either. It was probably safer that way anyway.

Being around Jeffrey meant placing yourself in an uncertain, and possibly dangerous situations. He created conflict as the rule, not the exception, and drew trouble to himself with his self-destructive nature. When you were around him anything could happen and it usually did. He was hell to be around when he was on a bender and it wasn’t hard to tell that that was where he was heading. I didn’t want to be around to see it, so for awhile I retreated to my mother’s house in Rochester. Jen came down almost every weekend and we just hung out together and kind of went into hibernation mode. It was a nice time for awhile, but it’s hard to make a good thing last.

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