Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Death Be Not Loud, Part 2: Chester Climbs The Mountain

Chester Climbs The Mountain,
Is Rewarded By The View!

Chester did what everyone else did in the oil field. He worked hard covered in greasy grime, put in his hours with dog-like devotion and made no complaints. And yet, Chester never belonged, the perpetual Outsider. Behind his back his co-workers sneered at his "pretensions" and "aspirations." Chester's mouth was always writing checks he could not cash. They resented his living in a fantasyland - which is why when there was a practical joke to be played, it was played on him.

Lord knows what they would have done had they known the secret kept deep in the fancy of Chester.

Forty five miles up the highway from his trailer, an Amarillo club opened with little fanfare. A private indulgence of the famously eccentric millionaire Stanley Marsh III (of Cadillac Ranch fame), it had not been expected to pull a profit but rather be a gathering place for like minded souls however few. Chester was very much one of those souls.

For this was not just any club on the vast open plains of the Texas panhandle where the wind and oil pumps never cease, this was a dancing club. A city that refused to leave the Fifties, Amarillo still held deep suspicions on the notorious act of dancing. Perhaps the pillars of the community could tolerate a little boot scooting - maybe even a little dirty dancing - but not this, not disco dancing!

Every weekend possible (it was only open weekends), Chester snuck away on his stairway to heaven, escaping his castle walls for freedom's sweet taste. On the dance floor, he forgot Chester the Molester - he forgot the world - moving as one with the music, swept down a river of joy. Life held no boundaries under the flashing sparkles of paradise celebrating dreams he could not defend but knew to be true. Under the rotating crystal ball, Chester could die with no regrets.

Fearing revelation when confronted with a conflicting Saturday night invitation, he would accept with a strained smile, all the time fidgeting and longing to be at the one place where he felt important and alive. But this strand to life came with a price, for once tasted he hungered for more, to somehow take it back to his trailer and his kingdom. But he always felt so dirty in his world - how could such a feeling ever survive in his withering woe?

Why am I so excited this time? Nothing is different - is it? Unexplained anticipation electrified Chester on his usual weekly trek. The stars shone extra brightly in the sky, a tailwind at his back speeding him along. Sweaty palms gripped the thin steering wheel in nervous delight and Chester could only snort and laugh at his own condition.

But pulling into the club parking lot he did notice something different. An expensive, white SUV he'd never seen before. He couldn't take his eyes off it on his way in. His eyes adjusting to the darkness, he searched for the unknown face that must be the driver. And that's when he found her smile radiating through the smoke: Julie fucking Steel!

Earlier that day, the vaunted Ms. Steel had come to the attention of the Men-To-Boys group...

Killing animals made Charlie feel like the man he never was. With one foot in his father's world and one foot in his own, the daily diet of frustration ached for resolution. The sound of a rifle shot and the sight of dead beauty gave him that momentary resolution. He'd talk about that moment for days afterwards, hoping to reside in it despite boring the hell out of everyone around him. Luckily for Chester and Sam, a subject far more interesting appeared on TV.

"Maria Sharapova!" wailed Charlie, interrupting his own story. "Goddam, I'd like to fuck her! Look at them legs running down that ball." He made an unconscious pelvic thrust to prove his point.

"She can spank me till the sun comes up!" ventured Chester as proof of his devotion.

Sarcastic Sam was not to be outdone. "I'd suck a dick for her!" Sam had forgotten he was not alone.

Charlie channeled his father's voice. "Jesus, Sam, you need to get you a woman before you start walking around in a bra and panties! Fuck, I can't believe you talk like that!"

"Just get me that woman!" pleaded Sam, suddenly realizing how very much he was dying in the dominion of Dark America. Am I really going to die if I stay here?

"Just look at her face when she serves," remarked an entranced Chester. "Look at her concentration, you can see it in her eyes."

"You gonna fuck her for her mind, Chester?" Sarcastic Sam anxiously feared to regain his footing after the bloody faux pas he was sure to haunt him for eons to come.

"What's it to you?" retorted Chester in an unexpected show of strength. Sam sunk back into the couch.

"You two bitches wouldn't never have a shot at her no ways," scoffed Charlie, overestimating his worth as always. "You gotta handle up on them bitches like a man and show 'em who's boss!"

"What are you going to do?" Sam scoffed back, fighting for his life, "Wow her with your grammar?"

Charlie's below average school grades secretly rankled him (well, not a secret to the perceptive Sam) which wouldn't bother him that much if it didn't play into his fears of being too stupid to take the reins of the farm when time came. Tempers were rising in Chester's castle and he was desperate to change the subject.

"I saw her today."

"Bull-fucking-shit!" Charlie was ready to rail at anyone and everyone. "You didn't see no fucking Maria Sharapova."

"Not her. Julie Steel." To Chester - to all of them - she was one and the same as anyone famous. "She was coming out of the quickie mart dressed in these fancy boots and tight jeans. Boy, does she have style! It's like the dust moved around her."

Chester got the silence he hoped for as his compatriots stopped to imagine the described scene. Charlie added more news of the world.

"My dad told me she's come back permanent from Dallas to help run the ranch. Gonna be great watching her walk around town."

"Woman like that could save your soul," Sam observed with a sigh. No one contradicted him.

Swallowing his guilty life, Chester made a bee line across the dance floor to Julie refreshing herself at the bar. Any other place, any other time, he'd dare not approach her - or, if he had, it would be in stumbling disgrace. He surprised himself by his own confidence, fighting not to make it an out of body experience.

"Julie Steel!" In his mind he still sandwiched the word "fucking". "Bet you don't remember me."

He watched her eyes search their memory banks - and come up empty. "Afraid not," she graciously replied.

"We went to school together, I was a grade behind you." To sweep away the issue of himself, Chester added: "I heard you've come back to stay."

"You're Chester! Yeah, I remember you. Been a long time."

Chester could win ten lotteries and not feel that good again. Julie tried not to giggle seeing the shit eating grin her recognition had put on Chester's glowing face. She didn't have particularly fond memories of him - if any - but things were clicking so she decided to go with the flow. Plus he was most charming when next inviting her onto the dance floor.

Can she really be everything I dream her to be?

Watching her moves, marveling at her rhythmic soul, falling in love with her innocent joy, the one word that kept running through Chester's mind was "YES!" Yes, she was everything he dreamed her to be. Yes, he was more than he feared. And yes, there is a God.

Julie was ecstatic afterwards. "That was fantastic! I mean it, really. I had goosebumps."

"Me too!" stammered Chester. "The way you move - it's so perfect - like a dream!"

The pair absorbed the night into themselves, speaking of dancing and music, of life in both Dallas and the clean country air, never straying too far from the groove they created, reading the other's mind in perfect synchronicity, dancing when the spirit moved them, tenderly nurturing the newborn flower.

"Thank you!" inadequately summed up Chester as they parted. He wanted to thank everyone: the club owner, the workers who built it, the grass for growing and the world for living! He was in their eternal debt. How could he ever repay it? He started to say more, thinking his words too little but she saw the boundless gratitude in his eyes saying so much more than words ever could.

"Thank you, Chester. To tell the truth, I wasn't too thrilled about coming back. You really gave me something here tonight and I hope we can do it again."

Later, try as he might, Chester could not remember anything past that point, his head a thousand miles into the clouds. No longer could he fight the out of body experience as he watched himself walk back to his truck in the cool evening air, listening to the crunch of the gravel and the applause of the angels. It had been greatest night of his life - but he had no one to tell. On the drive home, Chester shouted to the moon.

Now he had two secrets: the dancing he kept from his mocking coworkers and jealous friends - and the fear he kept from her. What he couldn't explain - the state secret he dare not confess under any circumstances - was that all that she saw and loved that holy night happened only because of her. Chester had never danced that way before.

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