Ixodes: A Fable
“People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.”
—Shirley Jackson, 1968
For Christina-Taylor Green, 9 yrs. old
Let our party begin, thought Ixodes. Let everyone come. Let them come by the thousands.
“A-la la-la la!“ sang Ixodes at the drinking place behind the ear of the angry old feller, his hearing not so good, and he not so sure, after all, that he heard the talking deer tick with throngs of murmuring tickseeds seething inside.
Ixodes said, “Good morning, blood meal. Give now. Good morning, muddy stream, bar tab, hit tune, sippy cup. Give—now.”
And the angry old feller, his loaded automatic in his hand—his right, to carry the threat to kill whenever, wherever he went—pumped it up in the air. He reholstered. And his heart unholstered and reholstered, too, and it bubbled a dose into Ixodes who said, “More now. More,” and received what he wished from his host.
The rally began at ten after ten o’clock in the morning, sunny and clear, clear and sunny. The angry old feller was pleased so many angry grand old people were there. Ixodes was pleased he was pleased. He would not begrudge the group for being a little dim, a party of pale gray tricklers to whom nothing had trickled down, old fundamental home-schoolers whom the home-schooled had fundamentally left alone, old puzzlers riddled by the black riddle at the throne of the world, outfoxed by the black foxling.
Pox soup, thought Ixodes.
After all, a pot like you is a boiling feast, thought Ixodes.
And perfect for the tiniest murderers with the tiniest daggers.
Ixodes! Ixodes! The tool of his own parasitizing trade, the systole and diastole of his own supreme justice, the clock and calendar of his own world.
Ixodes, who shrugs and infernally shivers in.
Ixodes’ hour does not flow as yours does.
Ixodes’ eon is the delta of all eons.
What was his anchor before this anchor? What was his host and father host and host’s furthest distant demon ancestor? What assignment was he given from what holy book? What command does he give?
Mr. Jared Lee Peck, The Official of the rally, stood at a black chalkboard on the stage. He gave the ritual salute to the crowd: a stiff touch of hand on heart, a sort of firm self-caress. “Well,” he said.
“—is the night!” said Mrs. Paling, the co-host, Keeper of the Cain. She leaned in at one of the
microphones on the stage. “Want the taste of the dark meat?” she asked the crowd. “Want it?”
Mr. Peck said, “Well—“
“Well, then. Lock and load,” said Mrs. Paling.
For show-and-tell demonstration, Mrs. Paling had brought the old soldier who liked to pretend. His treble medals gleaming like Mepps spinners. His dripping bayonet pulled from a fellow soldier’s back. Fulsome venom in his jowls. The crowd was always thankful when Mrs. Paling displayed Old Cain, the smeary badge of a circus nation. They liked to see her poke the old diamondback, push him behind her and proffer the grin of the animal trainer. They liked it when Daughter Cain came along.
“Anybody ain’t here?” he asked the crowd, or himself, or Mother Cain, or Mr. Peck, or only the trees overhead, which teemed with Ixodes, the amber tears a tree sheds, the hungry beads of tar. Ixodes: moist, quiet fire-kisses. Swallower. Swallower. Swallower is Ixodes Scapularis.
Mr. Peck put on his teacher spectacles, brought out his boxes of chalk. He brought out his friend Mr. Oxy wearing his gigantic black shirt and gigantic black suit-vest, his small, his very tiny seeping red socks.
Mr. Oxy! Big and high as a parade balloon! A swollen floating swooning bull-toad who bulged, pistoned, bobbed up and down, down and up and down in his ebony butcher apron. He looked upon his buttery croaking tads draped in dripping ditto-red.
His appetizing morsels, his plentiful servings of marrow.
“A-la la la la!” sang Ixodes, dancing his black-legged ixodid shuffle. “A la a la!”
It was a happy day for all croaker-gals-and-fellers certain they were specially entitled to the harvests the unentitled others harvested. The shade of the trees at Enawray Park was friendly shade and it was all theirs on the sunny and clear day.
Mr. Peck touched his Jesus-rebus on his blackboard, and he asked, “Are you a purpose-driven people? Are you a purpose-driven constitution-loving people? Are you a purpose-driven constitution-loving God-fearing people?”
He said, “I’m asking. I’m asking. I’m ASKING, ‘Are you true citizens of these United States?’” He said it made him want to cry, it made him almost cry. He said it: “I’m having a problem—excuse me, please, please, I’m—“ Nothing moved him like hearing his own voice. Nothing made him yearn to be moved more than his yearning for the sound of his own yearning. Very, very moved by being so moved, he cried, his hand over his heart in a sort of pledge to touch himself when he felt touched by himself.
He cried often, and when he cried, quite often when he cried, Mr. Peck felt he must decry.
“I have to say this—it’s difficult—I’m—excuse me, please, please—“ He decried the lost plantation,
he decried the empty tabernacles of the select saved, the lost segregated stations and classrooms.
It moved him. So much was lost.
He decried the lost phalanxes of batoning police, lost bus seats and bathrooms, lost high-pressure hoses and hanging places, lost bullwhips and bully pulpits. “Are you,” he mournfully asked, “the true citizens of these United States?” He was. Mr. Peck was. There was communion, he felt, between him and the other true ones.
“Born where?” he asked.
“Born when?” he asked.
“Born here!” they shouted back.
“Born again!” they shouted back.
“Gold Standard!” said Mr. Peck, no longer as sad. “Gold Standard!” It was his way of saying,
“Correct!” It was a gold star on the top right corner, the petting only teacher’s pet received. “My dear closed ledgers, my dear polygamembers, do you remember?” he said, his flattop alert and his distended face alight. “My dear passenger pigeons, my dear confederatoes, I’m asking—I’m ASKING—for your parentheses.”
And he dried his dipsomaniacal weeping nose and his wet eyeglasses.
“Where were you born? And when?” he asked. “And can you prove it?”
“Born here! Born again!” they shouted, and raised their guns in the air to give the righteous proof, and reholstered.
Mr. Peck wiped the folds of his sweaty neck and forehead. “We don’t have to accept federalsharia law. It’s ours. It’s ours. Let us deciders keep-save-solve it, take it back and bleach it, put it on the line and fly, divide, secede, draw, quarter, hold by force and hang it.” Gold Standard, he thought of his own thought.
They wanted it back. He knew they did. According to what he said, something, something needed backtaking.
And Mrs. Paling asked the crowd, “How’s that sociohomocommunista thing goin’ fer ya?” She said,
“Mmmmhmm. How’s that abortoterroristicplanningparentkillin thing goin’ fer ya?” She said,
“Mmmmhmm. Is Dr. Tiller in the house? Hmmm?”
When she shouted for The Solution, at first there was a hush.
Then, deeper silence.
The respectful silence, the awed twilight’s-last-gleaming silence emptying the national heart of everything but the national anthem.
Mrs. Anglesher, the taut hook of “law” swallowed down to her gills, shouted back,
Mrs. Brewjaugh mumbled to pretty Mrs. Bichelle-Eichmann who glared at Mr. Saintrum and Mr. Bilrilly and the banker Mr. Mitchellcon and the barber Gob Halee. They were shamed enough to shout it, too: “Secondamendment! Secondamendment!”
And ex-mayor Walkoch and jolly Mr. Kriskristea and Pa Paw and his boy And joined them. The
soiling solidarity of it all cheered up K.B. Gangrich who was once The Official of the party.
Missy O’Handitty said, “It’s in the Bill of Constitutional Declaration, isn’t it?”
Mr. Peck said, “Well—“
“Well?” asked Mrs. Paling of the crowd. “Well?” She shouted for the hunters to unholster, to begin their hunt, something was in season, wasn’t something Muslim-sounding good for shooting? And when she made a cocking gesture, everyone crowed back, “Man up! Man up!” Sixteen times she repeated it. Sixteen times they echoed back. Sixteen seconds is what it took to go that many
Mr. Oxy saw it as his cue to shift, tug, heft himself to his feet. He pursed his own wet cigar-tip in his lips and gripped himself across his own engorgement.
He shouted for his ownname and positioned his ownself before his ownnation’s flag just a certain sovereign way all his onanistic own.
“It’s Mister Oxy!” Mr. Quist excitedly tapped the shoulder of Mr. Phut. “Mister Oxy! Mister Oxy!” shouted all the faded silvered mirrors with mouths, “Mister Oxy! Ox-eeee!” And he hooted, huffed, for he felt they had offered him tribute but not tribute enough.
Good to be a boiling creature’s boil, thought Ixodes. He suckled, sucked, gave thanks for Mr.Oxy. Was any one verminous force of nature like Mr. Oxy? What was Mr. Oxy’s anchor before this anchor? What was his host and father host’s furthest demon ancestor? What assignment was he given from what holy book? What command does he give?
Mr. Oxy burble-chuckle-chuffed, he slobber-gobbled on his gullet and on the fevered one hanging below it. And now the cries of the infantilized fanaticized up-dialed. And now the delirious-most of the delirious Oxy-danced in ditto, which spittled his moisturous smile in self-pleasure.
He cleared some throat-phlegm and sinus-mayo, pursed his mouth to whisper, (Parenthesis, please.)
Except for Ixodes, who could be sure they heard Mr. Oxy’s and Mr. Peck’s and Keeper Paling’s microtonally adjusted supra-whispered pre-words? Parenthesis. Please.
“Parentheses!” said Ixodes to the old feller, “the hocus-pocus shells of the shell game—I like this killing-inside-kissing!” And he thorned the old feller’s crepey carapace. “Now this,” he said, “is A Movement.”
Mr. Oxy clapped for himself once more, clawed the podium lip, frogged his plump fingers forward, and made eye contact with Mr. Quist, with Mrs. Bichelle-Eichmann, with Mr. Phut, Mr. Saintrum, Official Gangrich, with Pa Paw and And.
He called for his country’s purity back and his country’s shining razor-wire fences, asking, “Have you learned the prayer of the Glock? Do you have good training and God’s thirty-two-chamber clip?”
He congratulated his country’s manifest eternal moral perfection, and asked how to protect it, and asked, “Do you have strong rope and high trees and—parenthesis—have you forgotten the hangman’s knot?—close parenthesis.”
He praised his country’s divine power to take power, to give no mercy to the enemy outside and— here he paused, he welted in his manly black vest and shiny black man-blouse covering his pelagic whale-dugs. He welted as a black seal will welt in its wet bloat – and he praised the patriot’s give-no-mercy pledge to destroy “once more” and “again and again” the enemy within.
“O, Same!” repeated the three bricks, the followers of Mr. Peck.
He sang, “O some, O same! O Sam! O-same! O-Sam-O-same-o-same!”
And the whole brickyard sang it back almost verse for verse.
“O some-a-name-a-bama-rama uppity Sambo,” he said, and they made a mess of that, which caused him and them to oxy-jig a jemima-shamble, which made his black-pearl cuffs, his spanks and sansabelts and poufy black sleeves palpitate.
And he asked whether Mrs. Paling agreed.
She did. She said she did. She said you betcha, yes she did.
She stood proudly on her stiletto heels, proud jaunt to her ass and enhanced jut to her proud
breasts, and she tossed back the crest of her old-school do, and smoothed the back of her shellacked teeth with her bifurcated tongue, looked through the crosshairs of her big-game
glasses, and made the boxer’s jaw-thrust and shoulder-shift in her custom-made kid-leather Elvisy jacket.
The assembled crowd looked to her like people who held their folded slips of paper, were ready to open them and know. They looked to her like so many blood libel choices she could draw from a rigged black box. Each of them looked marked by a hit-list black spot. Looked easy for her to lift and to throw as she wished.
They had been made ready.
They were her pile of stones.
She said the words, “Your guns,” and said the words, “My guns.”
She asked, “Who’s really sane? Who’s sane?” said, “He IS comin, you know the one, you know who
I mean, Hussein is comin and you know what fer.”
She shifted her right hip and her shoulders, which hiked her short skirt, put her ladies in relief.
“Still in your holster?” she asked. “Not fer long. I ferget, is it –bama or –sama, is it barain or borook or barock? He got a murrican mama? Unimurrican? What race and religion? Seen the papers of his grandmaumau? I ferget. I ferget.”
She said the word “Ray-Gun!” and showed hers. “Where were you—when were you—how were you born?”
Someone, it could have been Pastor Canteric, answered, “Twin Towers Nine-Eleven.”
“Amen,” she said, and she looked into her palm where a little something had come last night, and she whispered into the mic, “There’s lead—and there’s Hot Lead. There’s dead—and there’s Cold Dead. We got to (parenthesis, now—put in parenthesis where needed) get that in his nappy head.” And her rhyme made her titter, and she Ronalddithered her head in a tilt and did a three-count Bush-smirk, and asked the crowd, “How bout it? (Parenthesis-unholster-close-parenthesis?)”
And Mr. Peck jumped up and shouted, “Ray-Gun! Ray-Gun!” and wrote in white chalk:
Mr. Oxy liked to see Peck, his Little Oxy, at the board. He liked to see Missy Oxy’s full lips so highly glossed. He laughed huh-huh-ho-ho-ho. He hooted, “Parentha-Ray-parenthaGun!
Husseinhusseinhussein Barrackbarrackbarrack O, Bam! O Bam! O, Bama-meima-muslim-mau-mau-grandpa! We got us some iiii-illing, some sssssination, some loading and re-re-re-loading must be done parenthasemiautosnipermatically, I mean!”
There was shouting-out and weapon-shouldering and gunsight-sighting all around. The sound of magazines firmly seated-in, of extra magazines calacking inside khakis.
“Safeties on?” he asked. “Off?”
Huh-huh-ho-ho-ho! he laughed, and drum-rolled the air for more fanatical infantilism from sheep to shining sheep.
A low-throttle roar went up. But not another.
Some of the safeties-off had missed their naps. Some of the safeties-on had missed their morning nips.
And the old soldier, the old breadwinner Cain said feebly behind Mrs. Paling, “Sign a the—sign a the—”
Something, some yeast on his tongue, or the word for yeast or least or something parenthetical he couldn’t get out fell off him like loose pants, loose boxers.
And the old bread-winner-fallen-hero sandwiched between Mr. Oxy and Mrs. Paling, his dignity down around his ankles for so long, for over fifteen years, hummed like a pitch pipe, a chorus matron.
He hummed. He snapped his fingers in a Vegasy way.
He could find the tune.
He could. Yes, he could.
He looked out over his troops. They looked to him like frightened draftees unshaven and unshaped, like undelivered envelopes, like misreported statistics. They looked to him like broken ranks, ghosts in prison pajamas. They had been made ready as fist-sized rocks.
He had the key now.
He sang. It was good to hear Old Cain sing his old standard, his old favorite surfer-dude tune:
“Bam-bam-BLAM – bambam-a-bama-BAA-A-AM!”
It made him giggle to be able to sing it so right. He wondered whether others noticed that he sounded like The Gipper when he giggled, hummed, sang.
He asked the breadwinners, who had eaten their own in their own time, if they knew the two colors of food stamps. “They come in colors,” he said in a gay imitation of Teacher Peck. “And what are they?”
A word like clown or gown or down—or brown—it might have been the word “Brown” hacked out of him like false teeth, like a swallowed condom.
And now he howled, “And Black!” and Daughter Cain The Puddle Jumper held his hand skyward, and shouted, “He said he’s back!”
He said, “Brownback and Shit-stick Black!”
“Daddy’s back! Daddy’s back!” she shouted over and underneath his spill. She stumbled upon the pool of his trousers.
He said, “They buy their cigarettes and drugs and liquor with em!”
The old soldier saw them scoping him across an unnerving neutral zone. He warrior-waved to Mr.
Norbone, girl-waved to Mr. Kylelenty and Mr. Morney. It’s me, he seemed to say.
He felt certain he was field-dressed, had his medal-encrusted shirtfront and full shoulder-salad on.
It was time to take it off.
“Fuck em,” he said to The Puddle Jumper, to his lady Mother Cain who had been trying to blot a
stain on her silk blouse.
They tried to push him back. “Fuck em,” he said.
They tried to get him. He would fall, but be up in an instant, almost fall back but bounce-step
forward, grab the mic, push it off, ankle-catch and angle it back to himself.
With help, they got him.
“Fuck em,” he said, and smelling Mrs. Paling’s napalmy hair, a burst of new energy came. He tore away from them.
“Fuck the parentheses,” he said to Mrs. Paling.
Mr. Peck said, “He’s back all right!” trying to grab the mic from the old warrior.
“Fuck em,” said Old Cain, “take down the parentheses.”
Mr. Oxy, paying no attention to the old hero he jealously hated, had been making pretend ouzis with his fists. Mr. Phut ouzied with him, and Mr. Quist, and Mrs. Bichelle-Eichmann. Mr. Oxy did the cocking, aiming, brow-crunching thing his dittos loved.
“Take em down. They’re like a prison,” said the old cracked bell, “blow em up. Just say it. Say what we want. Say what we want. Say what it is we want!”
He pushed. The rusted soldier pushed hard at his perfect inner trigger. It seemed to him some claymore was there. Behind his ear.
It was time to emplace it. Time to be the emplacer.
“A la a la a la!” sang Ixodes.
What was Ixodes’ anchor before this anchor? What was his host and father host and furthest distant demon ancestor? What assignment was he given from what holy book?
It was necessary for Mrs. Paling to push the ancient antipersoneller to the ground. It was necessary for her to clear a space on the floor, a hole where Old Cain could be surrounded, silenced, put on his knees and hands. “Here!” she commanded, and he was controlled. “There!” she commanded, and the tough little dog disappeared from view.
It thrilled Mr. Peck to see it. He led a cheer for freedom to get them freedom-takers in a corner, them freedom-takers that lost their souls to the dark master, them disrespecters of the nativeborn. He snapped his erasers together, which made the air and him and – so he felt – his nation, whiter.
Ixodes said, “Here I am! And all of my teeming young who know it is time!”
Ixodes said, “Give more, drillsite, plasmaplume, blueplate, superserum. Give now.”
“Let our party begin!” shouted Mr. Peck. And at that, they raised their loaded arms in the air and shot up into the sky. And thousands of secondamendment solutions went up. They went up and up!
And they came down with surprising speed and spin.
They stung the waiting living bullets from the trees. Millions of ixodes—trillions within.
To all the ixodes, the crowd was a tidal pool of heated, howling bulls-eyes.
Some in the crowd thought they felt rain as the seed-strikes landed upon, crawled onto, burrowed and needled in to their shoulders or necks or the mottled tops of their heads.
A grandchild among them said, “It is not fair.”
Someone asked Mr. Peck if he heard the child’s words. He said, “How do you know words mean anything?”
And the child said, “It is not right,” and then one of them was upon her. And then all of them, the whole party. And a storm of ixodes rained. Rained and rained. And rained. The long-waiting deadly tiny maledictions scuttled in. They pierced like spiky grains, they fractioned, tractioned, suctioned flesh. They moloched down.
The crowd hardly felt its own holy moment of intromission. Hardly felt the superficial bruising, the assault, the first slightest flow of blood.
The infinite young of Ixodes had received their one commandment. “Rove.”