Call Me Randy
Eric Lloyd Blix
About the Writer
Eric Lloyd Blix lives in Minneapolis. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Western Humanities Review, Caketrain, Birkensnake, and others. He has nonfiction forthcoming in JMWW. He studies in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, where he teaches writing and serves as managing editor of Blue Earth Review. Find him at: www.ericlloydblix.com.
ALTHOUGH, I MUST ADMIT, IT WAS NOT ENTIRELY MR. REDMOND WHO WAS AT FAULT. IT WAS NOT HIM, NECESSARILY, WHO CAUSED ME TO “LOSE MY COOL,” OR WHO OMITTED ANY KIND OF MEANINGFUL INTAKE CONTROL VALVE ON THE MAKE AND MODEL OF BUNSEN BURNERS PURCHASED SOME YEARS BACK BY CERTAIN ADMINISTRATORS OF PAUL REVERE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL LONG BEFORE MY SUDDEN INCARCERATION IN MARCH OF 2007. I ACCEPT THIS NOW, THAT I MUST SHOULDER SOME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ALLEGED TRANSGRESSION. TO “PLAY THE BLAME GAME” SEEMS LIKE LITTLE MORE THAN AN INEFFECTUAL COP-OUT. THERE IS AN ENTIRE NETWORK OF PEOPLE, TO WHICH I AM MYSELF CENTRAL, WHO WERE COMPLICIT IN THE SO-CALLED “SENSELESS ACT OF UNIMAGINABLE TERROR.”
Of course every time I attempt to explain the nature of my house arrest to myself, I inevitably allow for great expanses of opinion, mostly my opinion, which should not be regarded as in any way legal—despite my superior mental firepower I am no expert of the laws prohibiting the Alleged Transgression. Which is in large part why I am here. This room is nice on most days. Mother has maintained it well. When she cleans, she addresses me by my correct name, “Randy.” I close my eyes each time she dusts the bedside table, for example, and savor the word as it seems to pour from her full lips, which I observe. I observe many things. My observational prowess is quite honed, to put it one way. Mother's lips are first pinched at the corners and then widen into a graceful oval before finally stretching to a near-smile. This is the shape the human mouth takes when, with any of the several major American dialects, it speaks my name, “Randy.” She is quite used to maintaining things, I suspect—she was once the third runner-up Miss Montana and was therefore a minor regional celebrity in the greater Billings area for a brief period (we do not live in Montana). Just as I am now a minor regional celebrity, one much derided, although not for any of my physical anomalies (excessive beauty, which is what Mother has, is a physical anomaly)—I am quite tall, I towered over most people prior to my sudden incarceration early in the year 2007 (I have not shrunken, of course). My shoulders are wide. I am “athletically powerful.” So much so that, after Mr. Wendell “Mummy” Mumm, coach of the Paul Revere Senior High School Patriots football team, requested permission from my Mother to schedule a special tryout for me, in which I participated to the fullest of my abilities, I was not allowed on the team due to my tendency of refusing to lift my knee from the windpipes of tackled opponents. Neitschze could very easily say that I am the quintessential Übermensch. I have come to a new appreciation of the rigor with which Mother maintains the cleanliness of this room—the one in which I have slept since I was a tiny little infant, well before my legs stretched to a full foot above the average 5 feet 10 inches height of a United States male; I would be more at home, I suspect, in the Netherlands, where the height of the average Dutch male is 6 feet ½ inches, and the standards of deviance are far less genteel (I have read). My legs no longer fit my twin sized bed. Which is to say, I am physically quite imposing. My appearance, I came to find through the terrified expressions of spectators at the various public court proceedings surrounding the Alleged Transgression, inspires extreme fear. It would be a mistake to call me by my incorrect name, no matter how well-meaning such a mistake might be.
Mother has arranged my things well. My room—the spatial confines of my incarceration—is quite comfortable. I attribute this general level of comfort to mother's painstaking devotion to my happiness as her one and only child. This comes at the expense of her own happiness. She does not utilize her motherly talents in the other parts of our home, is how it seems to me. My impression is that the rest of our house has been reduced to squalor.
MR. GERALD PAUL REDMOND, AN EMPLOYEE OF THE WATERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT ON A SUBSTITUTE BASIS, A MERE ONE YEAR AFTER HIS NOTORIOUS AND TRAGIC FACIAL DISFIGUREMENT, WAS THE INAUGURAL GUEST ON THE FOX NETWORK REALITY TV SHOW PILOT, FACE LIFT. THE SHOW'S GENERAL PREMISE OF OFFERING CHARITABLE FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION SURGERY TO ELIGABLE CONTESTANTS WHO HAVE BECOME SOMEHOW DISFIGURED WITHIN THE LAST 24 CALENDAR MONTHS IS THE OBVIOUS SOURCE OF THE FACIAL COMPOMENT OF ITS TITLE, AS WELL AS A POSSIBLE PUN TO THE EFFECT OF THE CONTESTANTS BEING SOME KIND OF “FACE” FOR THE SHOW ITSELF, AS INDICATED BY FREQUENT CLOSE-UPS IN CONJUNCTION WITH LONG MONOLOGUES BY RYAN SEACREST, THE HOST OF FACE LIFT, DESCRIBING THE INCREDIBLE PUBLIC OUTREACH PERFORMED BY THE SHOW'S MANY SPONSORS, WHICH IS GEARED TOWARD SUPPORTING THE CLASSIFIABLY DISFIGURED. THE “LIFT” COMPONENT IS AN OBVIOUS PUN, AS IN THE “UPLIFT” INTENDED BY THE CONTESTANTS' INDIVIDUAL STORIES OF PAIN AND SUFFERING AND TELEVISED REDEMPTION, AS WELL AS THE COSMETIC SURGICAL PROCEDURE COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH PROFESSIONAL CELEBRITIES AND AGING WOMEN OF WEALTH.
Since my unexpected incarceration early in the year 2007 mother has become irrevocably obsessed with the various modes of appeal granted to those alleged to have in some way transgressed the legal system of the United States of America. Her special talent in the 1977 Miss Montana pageant was multilingual oration. She now speaks “lawyerese,” as well as German and English and bits of Afrikaans. Ha, ha. Each night as I dissolve particle by particle into the unconscious realm of sleep, she describes in great, beautifully structured detail the relevant legal information that could one day lead to the discovery of loopholes: that I was still a minor at the time of the Alleged Transgression; that I had suffered through years of silent bullying as a result of my gargantuan size; that media portrayals of violence left me no other option than to express my rage through swift and thoughtless action.
Mother made a breakthrough early this morning. As she fluffed my pillow at my standard wake up time of 7:15 AM, she explained to me that she thinks she has a case, which is why she has written it into her schedule to meet with my lawyer this afternoon for a protracted lunch. She will see him after she delivers my daily ice-cold glass of 2% to my room at noon. Which is now roughly fifteen minutes away. Mother “assumes arguendo.” She explained her position to me in my waking moments as she patted my pillow's soft down corners. Mother is fiercely intelligent—there is no doubt as to the source of my superior mental firepower. Sure, she said, an act of violence is an act of violence, though in my circumstance the Alleged Transgression was not done “in cold blood,” nor was it done unprovoked, but rather it was done in response to an equally egregious and heretofore unnamed transgression against the identity of the accused (me). Namely if the accused was properly identified by his preferred name (Randy), as opposed to his legal first name (Stephen), his own conception of himself would not have been irredeemably violated, and the so-called well-meaning victim of this act of violence would have been spared, and I would not have been in the news for the duration of the spring season in 2007, causing several school districts in and around the Boston metro area to ban the use of bunsen burners in high school chemistry classrooms unless such use is performed demonstratively by a fully licensed and certified instructor, one who is (I must assume) definitely not an incompetent substitute buffoon who cannot so much as properly read a name off the class roster printed in plain English and that was handed to him by one of the school's many administrative staff members upon checking in on a given morning. Hence mother's particularly red lips and the secretion of Chanel Nº5 which blooms in the space around her like great olfactory blossoms and which goes for $325.00 for a 1 oz bottle from the fragrance counter at any Macy's department store, or online. She sounds quite like Cicero, “a venerated teacher of civic virtue, the staunch republican apostle of liberty and relentless foe of tyranny,” (Wood; 1998) himself the object of noble exile, when she decodes the various legal terminologies introduced at my bedside1. These dark rings, when they first developed beneath her eyes, caused her to appear battered and perpetually exhausted and possibly quite insane. She obscures them now with makeup. The makeup gives the appearance of dignity and rejuvenation.
1 I can only imagine the conversations she has with Mr. Schatz, my lawyer. The “lawyerse” between them must be nearly impossible to decode for those of less than superior mental firepower.
Exhibit A – Cicero
Noon approaches; my daily glass of 2% approaches. I have a view of the out-of-doors through a single window beside my desk, which is also my workspace. This window is accompanied by some lovely drapes, some really terrific drapes. The drapes I could dwell on. I could describe their foundational color—the color that backgrounds the winding pattern of golden tendrils that seem to explode here and there into fat lotus blossoms (white ones with yellow stigmas, a word which confused me upon first encountering it in the botanical context I stumbled upon online, such that I needed to google the word; I was previously much more aware of its pejorative usage, as in, “one shall be bound to exile in one's room to make phenomenological sense of the structures surrounding him, because he will have nothing much else to do as he bears this deplorable stigma for having allegedly transgressed the social mores of his time”). This curtain pattern could fool one who is not accustomed to its rules. The tendrils weave and serpentine in ways that initially appear chaotic and patternless, though after heavy and persistent scrutiny as well as a simple Google search of the manufacturer, it is apparent that indeed there is a pattern to this pattern, one that's in fact quite mechanical in its construction. The stitching is not the product of a human hand, not directly, at least, but instead was grafted onto this foundational color of deep and sensuous plum (or violet, or wine, no single English word exists to describe this exact color—my online searches have yielded no results, either—so I must approximate) by the cold steel needle of a heavy machine. A machine made these terrific drapes. These pleasant drapes. Mother knows how to decorate both a room and her own body. She is not deceptive, though I find that I often conflate the decorations with the things themselves—the drapes I conflate with the room, and the brilliant red lipstick I conflate with mother's lips. Just as the honorable judge Horatio Bloodsworth—who must certainly be classified as either “very overweight” or “morbidly obese” on any standard BMI index2, given his miniscule height of approximately 5 feet 7 inches and his weight of ~210 pounds which I estimated as he lumbered into the Middelsex County courtroom on 23 March 2007—and the district attorney, Mr. Ryan W. Flannagan, with his requisite tie depicting the logos of all 32 NFL teams, each conflate the rugged strip of blackened, leathered scar tissue extending like the slick scales of a walleye pike from the well-meaning Mr. Redmond's dermal layer all the way down to the subcutaneous tissue on the left side of his face with the left side of his face itself. Just as they cannot separate the Alleged Transgression from the rhetoric that surrounds it: unexplainable, horrific, isolated incident, YOWZAH. Bloodsworth's squatness was particularly acute beside the fit African-American bailiff, whose head nearly reached the top of the judge's podium. 6 foot 3, 190 pounds was my estimate for this bailiff. I admired his rumbling voice as he read my docket number: 07-03MRSRB, which can be found on any number of federal and state databases.
2 I assume he suffers from the following conditions: sleep apnea, hypertension, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, type-2 diabetes, gallbladder disease w/ gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout, waking problems with respiration, such as asthma, and/or certain types of cancer (WebMD).
It is especially perplexing that the good citizens of the greater Boston metro area find the Alleged Transgression so disturbingly vexing. News reports have speculated on a wave of youth-gone-wild despite my utter singularity, perhaps on some level members of the press are intimidated by my formidable size; these good citizens wonder how such an allegedly horrifying act of unexplainable violence could have befallen the well-meaning Mr. Redmond, the substitute teacher brought in to supervise the M-F 1:00-1:50pm section of Advanced Placement Chemistry at Paul Revere Senior High School on Tuesday, 12 March 2007, who wrote his name on the chalkboard in large white letters. I find the general intolerance of the Alleged Transgression so perplexing in light of the (admittedly extra-legal) precedence set by the professional baseball player David Ortiz, who is also commonly referred to by his nickname, Big Papi, and was referred to by his maternal surname of Arias at the time he was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 1992. Then, in 1997, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins. Upon his request, the Minnesota Twins' front office placed Arias on the official roster of their AA affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats, by his paternal surname of Ortiz. This is what mother calls an “alias,” and it is legally signified by the acronym, “A.K.A.,” which stands for “also known as,” or in certain cases “F.K.A.,” which stands for “formerly known as.” Big Papi, as he is affectionately called, has so far this season smashed an astonishing 21 home runs in a mere 233 at bats and 271 official plate appearances with a slash line of .301/.393/.510 for an OPS of .903, which some years could win him the MVP award. He is indeed a fearsome presence in the batter's box, a true “over-man.”
Exhibit B – David Américo Ortiz Arias, A.K.A. David Ortiz,
A.K.A. Big Papi, F.K.A. David Arias
And Big Papi is not the only ball player to come into the league with a name subject to dispute (which mine is not, as mother knows; I am Randy). There is Roberto Hernandez, who was at one time the ace of the Cleveland Indians pitching staff under the eventually controversial pseudonym, Fausto Carmona; Satchel Paige was not actually named Satchel, he was named LeRoy Robert; there is no legal documentation that the word “Babe” should be applied as a substitute for George Herman Ruth, A.K.A. the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the Caliph of Clout, Jidge, and Jack Dunn's Baby, among many other famous and generally accepted nicknames, b. 6 February 1895 d. 16 August 1948; and of course there is the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Allen Hubert Selig, who everyone knows goes by “Bud,” even though “Bud” appears nowhere in his legal name. This is “only the tip of the iceberg”; baseball's professional ranks offer much in the way of precedent. Lots of physically alarming men have demand to be called by a specific name, and their requests have been willingly honored by the masses.
IF ONE IS TO ENTER THE NAME “GERALD PAUL REDMOND” INTO THE GOOGLE SEARCH BAR, ONE IS LIKELY TO FIND VERY LITTLE ABOUT THE MAN HIMSELF. HE IS MAINLY KNOWN BY THE PUBLIC IN RELATION TO THE PHRASE “SENSELESS ACT OF UNIMAGINABLE TERROR” AND THE NAME “STEPHEN RANDALL BLAKE.” THE MAN HIMSELF IS PRIMARILY SUPPRESSED. IF ONE CLICKS ON THE GOOGLE “IMAGES” TAB, ONE WILL SEE MOSTLY PHOTOS OF OTHER MEN WHO SHARE A NAME WITH THE PERTINENT GERALD PAUL REDMOND, AS WELL AS SEVERAL BEFORE AND AFTER FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION PHOTOS WITH TINY LITTLE FOX NETWORK GRAPHICS IMPOSED IN THEIR CORNERS. THE “AFTER” PHOTOS ARE SIMILAR TO THE “BEFORE” PHOTOS, WHICH IS LIKELY TO MAKE A VIEWER FEEL QUITE SAD INSIDE, INDEED.
Of course, despite his wild popularity among “Red Sox Nation” and beyond, Big Papi is also stigmatized—his Hall of Fame Credentials, even with three World Series titles and the single season home run record for the Boston Red Sox organization (54), is continually called into question, because he has spent his career as a designated hitter (DH). He does not help his team defensively, the argument goes. This is the stigma he bears. It blemishes his HOF-worthy statistics like a bubbled waste of scar tissue. Yet everyone calls him, like the other greats, by the name he's chosen. My stigmatization is different. No one doubts my abilities, neither my unmatched mental firepower nor my domineering physical prowess. Ask the junior varsity running backs whose windpipes I squeezed shut with the full weight of my spectacular form, a black shadow, in their eyes, blocking out the sun.
I am in all ways restricted, despite mother's superior aptitude for interior decoration. I can gaze at the ceiling, for instance, and meditate over the “loss of heretofore enjoyed privileges,” such as the delicious and marshmallowy hot cocoa mother enjoyed serving me prior to March 2007, which I can no longer consume nor encounter—I can no longer be within a 100-foot radius of any liquid, potable or not, above the 100º F temperature legally set as the limit with which I can come into contact. Now she brings me 2%. It is possible for me to lie on my back many different ways, with my head at the foot of the mattress such that I must prop my enormous feet on the wall, or I can position my head more conventionally at the portion of the bed frame designated as its headboard, the posts of which are painted red while the headboard itself is painted blue, with the owner's name, in this case “Randy,” my correct name, the one by which I identify myself, stenciled on its surface in yellow paint, so as to appear the haphazard scribbles of a newly literate youth. I can stare at the objects in my room. I can call this “waiting for mother to bring me my 2%.” This headboard has been positioned and will remained positioned here beside the nightstand holding the weak little lamp that resembles a rocket ship blasting its way into outer space, directly across the room from the door that leads to the hallway, the threshold which represents the selectively permeable membrane of my confinement. Mother and the several D.O.J. representatives, such as Sheila, my leather-jacket-wearing African-American P.O. who lacks the mental firepower to see that my stigmatization is little more than a breach of social protocol and so is quite prickly in her demeanor, can come and go, while I am restricted, save for my supervised bathroom visits, experimenting with the spatial positions available to me. I have slept in my bed since I was a spongy pink youth recently graduated from the crib to this twin sized mattress. It is positioned here (except on the occasions when mother must move it an inch in this or that direction to access the floor beneath while vacuuming) even as it passes “through” time while remaining stationary. The splendid drapes hardly seem to fit this childish milieu. I anticipate mother's delivery of my 2% in a matter of moments. I lie on my back. My legs protrude from my twin mattress, unsupported from the knees down.
Mother announces her entry into this room. She raps on the door frame and says her customary, “knock knock.” Mother's knocks calm me. She enters and calls me Randy. I can see that she wears her finest black dress, the sleeveless one with the skirt cropped just above her knees. She sets the ritualistic glass of 2% next to the rocket ship lamp on the surface of the bedside table. Her Chanel Nº5 is pleasant and smells like her—the scent is tangled in my mind with mother herself. It is also the scent I imagine the drapes to possess when looking at them from across the room, despite their obvious scent of cotton and residual body oils from my incarcerated person. Mother, as she speaks, strokes my chest. I swallow my 2% in a single large gulp. The cold milk hurts my teeth. I lean my head in a way that allows me to see the drapes on the other side of the room, and mother reiterates the basis of her amateur appeal, assuring me that I was justified in my actions and that this single act of violence does not define me, her one and only son. I ask her kindly to deconstruct her lawyerese once more. I savor her voice.
IF SEVERE ENOUGH, SCALDED SKIN WILL INITIALLY TURN A DEEP TOBACCO-BROWN. IT WILL LOOK IMMEDIATELY MUCOID AND INFECTED, AND IT MAY RESEMBLE LEPROSY. THE VICTIM, WHO MUST BE TREATED WITHIN 24 HOURS, WILL BE ADMINISTERED MANY DOSES OF RESUSCITATING FLUIDS, SUCH AS THE ISOTONIC SOLUTION, RINGER'S LACTATE, VIA INTRAVENOUS LINE. A CATHETER WILL BE PASSED INTO THE BLADDER TO MEASURE URINARY OUTPUT. THERE IS A LOT OF GAUZE INVOLVED. PAIN KILLERS DON'T ALWAYS HELP THE WAY YOU'D HOPE THEY WOULD. THE AFFECTED AREAS WILL BE SCRUBBED THOROUGHLY WITH MILD SOAP SOLUTIONS. IT IS A MISERABLE EXPERIENCE. THE VICTIM IS NOT HIMSELF. HIS FAMILY MAY VISIT, IF HE HAS ONE. CO-WORKERS AND FRIENDS MIGHT SEND HIM FLOWERS AND BALLOONS, AND CARDS THAT READ “GET WELL SOON,” BUT THE VICTIM CAN THINK ONLY ABOUT HIS SUFFERING.
Her eye shadow is a powdery gold that sparkles when the light hits it in a certain way, and I wonder what her face would be if she were not to decorate it, or what the window would be if it was not framed by the splendid drapes. I attempt to separate things, placing the empty glass on the bedside table, from the ways which I conceive of them. With ease I summon the mental firepower to separate the blisters and the bubbled scar tissue from the well-meaning Mr. Redmond's face itself. The world as I know it filters through me. This seems like a worst-case scenario, to access the external world only in terms of having been accused. It is an endless interplay of phenomena that cannot be disentangled. I curl into myself on my twin mattress and savor the aftertaste of my noontime 2%. Mother kisses me on the forehead and I hope leaves a red impression of her pucker. She bids me goodbye and recedes into the hallway, down the stairs, I am sure, to leave for her long lunch with Mr. Schatz, who is always willing to host her. I bite the inside of my cheek until a droplet of blood emerges. I wish to taste and to feel, to convince myself that regardless of any circumstance complicated by the failure of names, it, my cheek, is simply this thing we call flesh.