Made to Break, page 1
ADVANCE PRAISE FOR MADE TO BREAK
“D. Foy’s writing is so rich, so saturated in both life and literature, that one is tempted to strain for comparison, to find whatever madcap equivalencies (“It’s X meets Y!”) might begin to describe it accurately. Yet its whorl and grain, the fantastical strangeness of Foy’s sentences and the astonishing accuracy of his perception, amounts to something I can only call new. Made to Break is that rare thing: a truly original, and ferociously necessary, book.”
“Made to Break is a fearless exploration of fragility—the fragility of friendship, the fragility of romance, the fragility of human life—but the book itself, trussed by D. Foy’s lavishly constructed sentences and astute psychological observations, is built to last. Think: Céline. Think: Burroughs. Think: Denis Johnson. Or better yet, think: D. Foy, poet laureate-elect of that marginal America filled with junkies and drunks, where death is omnipresent, and the refuge of an open diner on a stormy night is the closest one gets to the American Dream.”
“While reading Made to Break I just couldn’t believe it was the author’s first novel. The characters are deadly, troubled, vibrant, and their world is suffused with evil—not the manufactured evil of a Hollywood horror movie, but the carefully paced malevolence of a world doomed to swallow its inhabitants, consuming their shallow, fucked up memories in a swell of amoral darkness. D. Foy is not just a writer. He’s the kind of archangel Stanley Kubrick would have built wings for. Don’t just read this book. Revel in it. I swear you won’t be able to stop.”
TWO DOLLAR RADIO is a family-run outfit founded in 2005 with the mission to reaffirm the cultural and artistic spirit of the publishing industry.
We aim to do this by presenting bold works of literary merit, each book, individually and collectively, providing a sonic progression that we believe to be too loud to ignore.
Copyright © 2014 by D. Foy
All rights reserved
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014930484
Author photograph: Snorri Sturluson
Cover photographs: (background) David Falconer, Photographer/Environmental
Protection Agency, 1973; (overlay) NASA/CXC/CfA/S.Wolk et al.
You can see a short interview with D. Foy here: https://vimeo.com/70723153
Typeset in Garamond, the best font ever.
No portion of this book may be copied or reproduced, with the exception of quotes used in critical essays and reviews, without the written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s lively imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
MADE TO BREAK TABLE OF CONTENTS
In no sense sober, we barbershopped together and never heard the discords in our music or saw ourselves as dirty, cheap, or silly.
— William H. Gass
I never said, This is nothing more than words on water, but something inside me knew it the same, like the world won’t count what isn’t there. I saw everything, but nothing made me see. I heard everything, but nothing made me hear. I knew nothing of how things begin or end, I was just an animal. Then I walked through a door in the hand of a woman who knew I’d fallen but didn’t care. In so many words she’d said, I’m with you today—isn’t that what matters? There in the midst of laughter and warmth, an unveiling had begun. All I’d known in the days before was a lie. I myself was a liar and a lie…
CHRISTMAS EVE WORD GOT OUT LUCILLE HAD been taken by the real world, of corporate jobs and big-big coin. Christmas Day the scene was on. As for that affair, the only thing I know for sure is some time close to three or four we laid into a mound of dope. But now the New Year was two days off, and what had been a mound of dope was just a dirty mirror…
Locked into four-by at eighty-plus, we were headed for Tahoe, and Dinky’s family cabin. The radio was playing some power-pop group, Ring Finger, I think it was.
I gave it all up for you,
and I’m happy today,
yeah my sky is blue today!
It’s true little baby,
we’re a thing called us,
all shiny and new—
the brand new me
and super new you!
Of course by the time we hit Bridal Veil Falls, the tank was dry, and we were stuck. Hickory nudged me as she pointed to the sign.
“Romantic,” I said.
“Nice,” Dinky said.
And then we were trekking through rain, to some joint up the road he thought had fuel. An hour and a half got us four blistered feet and a defunct inn that looked like a Swiss chalet. When finally a man brought us gas, we headed down the mountain for more. A pack of tourists had crowded the inn the second time round, waiting for some guy to fix their flat. Basil dropped drawer and stuck his ass to the window while Lucille assaulted the horn. “Idiots!” we shouted…
Truth was the cabin in lights through a swirl of ice and rain. We’d nothing to do but get to the door, but the stairs slipped me up, and I collapsed, and lost my bottle, too… The stars were dead. The night was rage. The earth was sick with danger. Someone moaned, and from the blue I understood: time is a leech… And then a butcher jumped my head, a squat little man with an Abe Lincoln beard and collection of filthy knives. And then when I heard the breaking glass, the butcher turned and vanished…
Basil had smashed a window with his hatchet after Dinky confessed he’d lost his key. Now the giant appeared at the door with an arm swept out in phony cheer. I remembered once a girl called him handsome.
“Entrez-vous,” he said.
“You smell that?” I said about the stink.
“Whoo-wee!” said Lucille.
“I smoke,” Basil said. “I can’t smell dick.”
“I can assure you,” Hickory said. “This is not the smell of dick.”
We headed to the kitchen for glasses and ice, the scent growing stronger, a compound more like mildew and vanilla.
“Oh goody,” Basil said.
There was nothing in the fridge but the little bags of glop people use for wounds.
My hand knocked Basil’s hat to the floor, the porkpie his grandfather gave him a decade back. The doof had been wearing it all this time, every day but Christmas.
“If it’s not one thing,” I said, “it’s your mother.”
Dinky flipped the light. “Christ on a crutch,” he said.
On the floor, in a bamboo cage with pits and dung, lay a lovebird dead as wood.
“Now that,” Basil said, tapping the cage with his boot, “is some weird-ass shit.”
Hickory looked at Dinky. “You’re not going to tell me this was yours, I hope.”
“We’ve never seen the thing.”
“Maybe,” I said, “it was your grandpa’s.”
“Granddad hates animals. He wouldn’t let Dad have a fish.”
Lucille had been picking at her lip so long her mouth looked like a steak. “I had a bird once,” she said. “When we lived in Carolina.”
“That’s very nice, Lucille,” Dinky said. “Thank you for sharing that with us.”
She ignored this and shuffled closer. “It was a finch. Then one day I came home from school, and she was gone.”
“It flew away?” Hickory said.
“Her name was Zoë,” Lucille said, and put a hand to her face. The stink was really nuts. “My father said if he h
“You ever hear a finch?” I said. “Not loud at all. Finches are about the nicest bird around.”
“He hated cleaning its cage, is what I think.”
I left the kitchen as Hickory told Basil to dump the bird. He complained at first, but then a door slammed and slammed again, and there they were, Dinky and Basil, huffing at their smokes.
Lucille had laid out a dog-eared copy of Fear and Loathing next to a stack of discs. She jabbed the On button, then Play—out came “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
“So who’s going to get the ice?”
I told her she had two legs.
She was always making people repeat themselves. It gave her notions of power.
“Turn that down,” I said. She waited a second before turning it down. “I said you’ve got two legs.”
“You ought to know. You’ve been staring at them long enough.”
“Check the TV,” Dinky said. “We want to see if they’re still saying it’s going to flood.”
“It’s the day before New Year’s Eve,” Basil said, as if the weather played to dates.
Dinky ran through the channels till he reached a woman with hair like GI Joe’s. On the screen beside her flashed bombed-out streets and men at guns, perched on inexorable tanks. Another face appeared, a weeping crone, trailed by a man with a shapka and fatigues. The anchorwoman sat with considered reserve. Her voice was a tool for faith. Operation Joint Endeavor, she said, appears to have reached a point of…
Dinky squealed like he’d won a prize. “That’s Atherton,” he said. “From our company!” He knelt by the tube and gestured toward some pimply kid in a truck. “Jesus, that’s our whole frigging company!”
“So much for your fifteen minutes, huh, Dink?” I said.
“You know I can’t drink my whiskey without ice,” Lucille said.
“Snow’s good,” Basil said. “Use snow.”
“We’re going to draw straws,” Lucille said. “The two with the shortest get to make a run.”
Dinky shook a bottle. “But we don’t need no ice. We need bourbon. And as we can all see, we have mas bourbon.”
“No mas no more, pinche,” Lucille said, and squeezed Dinky’s ass.
We cut the straw from a broom in the kitchen. Then Basil took the longest, Hickory the next, Lucille after that.
“Welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, welly, well,” Basil said.
“Sorry,” Hickory said.
Dinky looked like he might cry. “Why’s it always me that’s getting the shaft?”
“Cause you’re feeble,” Lucille said. “And jinxed.”
“Hatchet Lady,” Basil said, classic. “So mean.”
“Just remember whose cabin you’re in,” Dinky said. “We’re here for a week.”
I punched Basil’s arm. “Hey, asshole. You get rid of the bird?”
THE ROAD WAS RUNNY AND BLACK, AND WHEN the lights hit the trees they looked like creeping skin. A DJ yammered about our noses and what Jack Frost had done.
“So whose idea was it,” Dinky said. But instead of taking his bait, like usual, I waited. He said, “We know you’re familiar with the word moronic, Andrew. We won’t talk about how we spent the last nine months in a place so cold your pee breaks on the ground. We’ll save that for our golden years. You know what we need?”
I stared at him. He didn’t want an answer. He’d ask you a goddamned question just to answer himself.
“What we need,” he said, “is Hawaii. What we need is Guam. Girls in grass skirts and pigs with apples in their traps. Mai tais is what we need, AJ.” And the gloopy bastard never drove with his hands at ten and two, either. One of them flapped about as he talked while the other hung across the wheel like an old rubber chicken. “How,” he said, “are we ever supposed to get Hickory on her back when all she can think about is misery?”
I fiddled with the radio. I pulled down the visor to hate my face in the mirror. “You take a look in the mirror these days?”
“You know we don’t like mirrors.”
“Look at you. Look at your head. Especially your head. You were planning to get laid with that thing?”
Dinky started coughing so bad he stopped in the road. “We did fine in Germany,” he said. Then he saw my retard’s face and hit the gas. “You know, with the chicks.”
“The chick, you mean. I saw her picture. She looked like a fat albino parrot. Not to mention she’s a professional thief. Not to mention she gave you the clap.”
“Fortunately for us, Uncle Sam takes care of his boys.”
I studied the water on the window as it turned to pearls and marveled at the creatures in their snowbound lairs. I thought about my grandmother, how she answered the phone to say she’d been raped, or lost her child, or found a bag of stones. She hobbled from my flat one day, and when I asked her purpose, she said, Home.
“This thing in four-by?” I said.
“What do we think?”
“We think we should get the lead out.”
The road had just two lanes. Trees flashed by, now sparkling, now black, a strobic land of bugaboos dreamed and real. We saw no cars, no people, not even the twinkle of lights on another unnamed road. The Cruiser heaved with empty cans and cigarette butts, a single dirty sock. And roasted peanuts and peanut shells, Basil had tossed them everywhere, the dashboard, the seats, one was in my hair. It stunk of laundry hampers, and ragamuffin carnivals, sculleries from days of yore…
My old toad once brought me to a creek bottom full of sycamore and oak. Everything shone in hues of green, lancets of sun pushing through the shadows. An odor of struggle suffused the air. It was the odor of springtime, of birth. High overhead a worry of jays had attacked a nest of fledglings. When my toad climbed a stone to piss the creek, I made my way to the tree. Shells lay about, and in fact a fledgling too, blue as tainted meat and with its tiny quaking eyes utterly pathetic. I took stock. Gone as God my old toad was, wandered off, not a soul could tell. I trusted in his return, however, if only to grill me, that much no doubt I’d learned. At my feet the fledgling sawed away with its little grey beak, gasping and sawing with a relentlessness only its mortality in the offing could afford. Christ but what I would’ve given to flee that place, what meager breath as witness to this struggle I myself could draw, the creature’s eyes watching mine, or rather not watching mine, not watching anything likely. To think otherwise had been absurd. They were like drops of shuddering ink, those eyes, so tiny, goddamn it, so sad, so full of such terrible, newborn horror that to call them eyes at all was somehow blasphemous. And the eyes of birds have never been the same. Answer me! they seemed to say. Answer! But I had no answer. And anyhow, I? Not even the nobility of silence was sufficient to that demand. Nothing was sufficient. I poked at the creature with a twig, and then with my toe I flipped it over, and then with my heel I crushed it…
“The army say anything to you about that bark of yours?” I said.
“The army doesn’t say anything unless you get your arm blown off.”
“You could pay down the debt yourself, you know. If you’d just get serious.”
“How much more serious can we get than clearing mines from a war zone in the middle of hellish winter?”
“Pass the bar, Dinky. Do the law.”
“There’s no need to torture us, you know.”
“I’m all gold,” I said, and took another slug. “If nothing else you got the name for it.”
“Now, class,” Dinky said with the nasally voice he assumed to mock himself. “Why is it we think Stuyvesant Wainwright the Fourth has failed the bar six times?” He raised his eyebrows and spoke in singsong cadence. “Because he didn’t learn anything in school but how to do lots and lots of drugs and drink lots and lots of booze. Let that,” he said, “be a lesson in how to fail.”
“And get sick,” I said.
For an instant through the trees the casinos g
“The army,” said Dinky, raising his arm strongman-like. “That takes youth.”
He turned at me to grin. Which is why I thought he might not’ve seen the mudslide on the road, though in truth he had, because all at once his eyes popped out, and we went lurching this way and that until we broke into a spin that closed on a bank of stones.
I woke up to a land of dark. Neither Dinky nor I said a word. We just sat there in the cold, and all that giant black seemed to’ve swallowed up the world. Where were all the lovely people? Where were all the vermin, and where were all the stars?
When finally I got the nerve to look at my friend, he was pinned in his seat by the wheel. It wasn’t until I’d begun to think maybe he was knocked out, maybe even dead, that he wriggled free. Out in the night, he looked like one of those freaks you see on Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, the one abducted by Martians. He stood there for a minute, then staggered off and fell in the mud.
“It used to be when I coughed I heard bees in my head. Now all I hear is fire.”
“Write a poem about it sometime,” I said, and scanned the road.
“AJ… AJ…” And then, “Please.”
“We’re buddies,” I told him. “Remember?”
Mud rushed down the mountain. The rain was an opaque sheet. I held Dinky’s head and waited.
“Get me that bourbon, would you?”
And then we heard an engine, a song for all we cared, followed by lights through the dark and, again, after something like an epoch, a truck round the bend.
“You see that, buddy?” I said, waving my arms. “That’s your guardian angel. We’ll be home in a minute.”
BASIL HAD NO BALLS TO JUMP LUCILLE TILL THE stretch last summer at San Quintín. Dinky had passed out that night, though it wouldn’t have mattered. Sooner or later she’d have left him as she did. Nearly five whole years they’d stuck it out—a goodish while in the buddy world, an eon or two for her. It was midnight on the beach, the moon was making hay. I’d stuffed my pockets with silver dollars and fireworks, and packets of musty Chiclets. The fine grey sand was dancing everywhere, across the dunes and slick opalescence where the water meets the shore. When at last I spied them in a hollow of grass, Lucille was bouncing like the bluest blue-movie girl the boys have ever seen. Doubtless neither had meant to hurt our friend. What were they, anyhow, but two sad dolts caught up in the malice of affairs? Lucille wasn’t as mean back then, either, not like she’d come to be. She was free from the fear of her corporate future, if in fact that’s what it had been. Nor did Basil ever hold ills, nothing genuine at least. He was a single child. He only knew to take what he saw. I never expected more. Still, they should’ve known better than to play with the clan. We’d pledged allegiance to it like a flag: Buddies forever, we’d promised, and we were solemn. But today things were different. I knew it. Dinky knew it, too. We all did. And now to prove it he was sprawled in a storm with his bottle, waiting for the guy that had just rolled up to save us.