Ghost Story -- "Head"
by
J. Edward Tremlett


They say that if you can remember the 60's you weren't really there. But that's all a lie, man. I can remember the whole thing, and I wish to Jesus I didn't... 'cause it HURTS.

(Nixon)

It hurt then and it hurts twice as much now 'cause I can't get any relief anymore. At least, not like I used to be able to... not since the van crashed, anyway. These days I have to do some pretty uncool things to get my head through another stretch of road, but it's better than remembering. Anything's better than that scene.

So here I am. It's four in the morning and I'm slumped over my girl, looking at all the pretty lights and wondering how the hell the cops knew we were riding tonight. The pigs are coming through the door of 14B Lincoln Street Apartments and yelling the same things pigs always do when they crash the party. I'm half out of a serious head trip and it's all I can do to get all the way out -- which hurts, lemme tell you -- and get to the window and down the fire escape and to the alley below.

Damn pigs. Here or there, there's always pigs. Only difference is that here slavery's legal, jail's forever and ever and you really don't want to know what they have instead of the chair... but the pigs are still the same. Always doing what pigs do best -- busting up a good time.

But we're out of there like birds, same as always. I think they got Johnny-Boy 'cause he's not running with us. His Shadow probably made him try and put up a fight 'cause that's what it always does, but that's nothing we can help, now. Poor Johnny... I'd switch him Shadows if I could, 'cause his is so uptight and mine doesn't ever do or say a damn thing at all... but I guess it doesn't work that way...

And we're in an alley running away, and then they're coming out the window right after us, running as fast as we can and then some. I'm just flying like a rabbit with ten dogs on my tail at the racetrack and nowhere to go but away... thinking nothing but "RUN." And then there goes Kelly under their feet, trampled. And then goes

(Johnson)

Andael, screaming... it's looking really uncool, now.

Fred, who's right beside me, shakes the dust out of his mind and remembers that he can jump into the Trip and holds out his hand. But I'm too scared to jump in. Not after the last time. The last time I remembered EVERYTHING, and even the pigs can't be worse than that. So he's gone, like Alice down into the rabbit hole, and I'm the last one on the run...

Maybe this time I'll get away. I'll meet up with whoever else got loose at the safehouse and we'll laugh and go out and do it again in a day or two. Or maybe they'll catch me, and I'll be gone for good.

But before then, Head's got a story to tell you. And maybe it's the last story this old damn hippie's ever gonna tell, so you just listen in.

Back me up, here, Jimi... this house needs some groove...

 

My real name is Ebeneezer. I have no idea what the hell my mom was thinking. My dad got back from the war and had just enough time to help her bring my older brother and me along, and then he got hit by a truck, so he didn't have much say in the matter. I'd think he'd have given me something manly, like

(Kennedy)

though, so maybe that wouldn't have been much help. Just call me Head -- everyone else does, too.

I used to be a good little boy... at least, that's what they say. Some pretty-faced mama's boy full of flag, country and apple pie. I was a paperboy, a choirboy and an Eagle Scout. I was part of the system and happy to be there. "American Dream" was written on me, somewhere, in big red, white and blue letters... old squares and youngsters all looked at those words and smiled and my heart skipped like a rope.

But as I got older, I started to see the truth through that flag. It didn't take too many go-rounds of the Ho Chi Minh National Lottery to know that this was all seriously uncool. I remember sitting up, watching the TV with my older brother as the numbers went across the screen... him with his number in one hand and a beer in the other... both of us with rising lumps in our throats... and...

(Eisenhower)

Blind alley. Almost went down there... right... duck and cover... I think I hear a dog... they got a dog for us? Okay... no hiding... just running... still.. always running... running away...

College... I ran from home to there when the time came right. My head was already getting unscrewed when I got there, and a few rallies with the beautiful people unfixed me good. When I was 19, I'd done just about everything that the Man said not to, and then some. And then I decided to take the Acid Test and see what else there was out there.

That's the last time I can really remember clear as day. I was out in a field with some brothers and mamas and this guy dressed up like a clown... or maybe a priest... or both. He was passing out the kool-aid. It was in a green, plastic cup and I could smell dandelions in the air and hear jimi on the radio.

And then... I was down the rabbit hole. Down like a diamond, shining in a skull... like the moment when you're wearing someone else's skin and everything comes up like lights in a tall tower coming on one by one... fingers, toes, teeth, belly, neck... seeing the world through a different set of eyes and crossing the distance without moving... blurring the line of me and you...

(Truman)

Blurring... everything really WAS just a blur after the test. I don't remember quitting school, but I think they must have known something was up when I just didn't go. I remember getting on a bus and never knowing where we were going until after we'd left... sort of. The women I made all melt together in my head like wax... Suzie's kissing me, then Rhonda's guiding my hands... then someone else is doing something else I never knew but it feels so RIGHT... wow. Yeah. That's it baby... whoever you are, don't stop... oh... yeah... oh... oh...

Oh... sorry. I keep forgetting where I am when I'm remembering. Even here, I got a head full of fuzz... that and I'm trying to run for what's left of my life, here, and as usual my Shadow's being no help at all -- yeah, I'm talking to you, man -- so cut me some slack, jack. I'm singing on the run.

Running... yeah, I got THAT down, but there's more to running than just your feet or the open road. Your mind runs, too, and back then, EVERYTHING ran together... just like lost days and misty, rainy windows. The conscious mind can only deal with so many things at once, and what's normal stuff once you got your head wrapped around the truly cosmic? I think we drove that bus all over the country and back at least six times, just to see what was out there. But even now, I can't remember a damn thing...

Well, no. Okay. There's one other thing from that time that I can remember... but I'm... no... going to... ah... no...

(Roosevelt)

She's saying no without saying a word... she's so uptight, man... this is the moment my new friends are waiting for and she's just not with it... I'm in her right behind the eyes but she's not cool with it and she can still think of what mommy's gonna say and what daddy's gonna do... grow up and grow OUT sister... just light it... that's it... oh yeah... don't bogart that joint, my friend... and...

(Hoover)

I'm a spaceman. We're both spacemen, even if you're not built that way. We're flying around the damn Moon on a flying carpet. We're driving the train with Casey. We're under the world like a root. I'm a thousand men in a thousand women in Electric Ladyland. I'm looking at God and He's bigger than the whole, blue sky and He's got a voice like Pete and He seriously digs Jimi, too.

All that in one afternoon outside of Iowa City with Barry strumming the sitar and the rain never quite falling... all that on the day I joined the Gang by getting my uptight girl to toke on in her own living room... all that over and over again for months on end, never ending... year and years of slipping in and out of skin to get free of it all... into and out of the blue like a jet pilot, just going to see what's behind the next cloud over the horizon... never seeing anything but blue, white and more colors than the rainbow and...

(Coolidge)

Damn, I ran right into it. Damn pigs got me in a circle. I didn't see the bend... I think I'm, uh... oh, man... where's Casey Jones and his train when you need them?

Jesus... that pig's got far out eyes for a pig. He's singing as he's making me fall... "hey Mr. Sandman... send me a dream... (bum-bum bum-bum) make her the cutest girl that I've ever seen..." Squaresville song putting me out like a light... only here it's really real,

The eyes... I think I'm falling into them, but I don't know whether that's here or before or after or what... I just want to lay down and get some sleep... dream... maybe... or... remembering... dog's grabbing my shoulder...

That time at the wheel after... after what happened... I shouldn't have driven the bus if I couldn't handle the wheel... but I was blurred and everything made sense for once... didn't see the bend in the road then, either... or now...

 

(Harding)

This is seriously not groovy. Not at all.

I wake up in a cell, somewhere I haven't been yet. I've got iron shackles on my arms and they're making my head spin just a little. Not as bad as the brown acid but still... just enough to make it hard to think of anything to do. Anything special, anyway.

I'm not alone, here. I see Kelly and Andael next to me. They're not wanting to talk and neither am I. That's the Gang's rule -- you get caught, you shut up and hope no one's got the power they say some of the pigs do. The kind that makes you remember shit you wouldn't tell no one. No one wants that to happen.

Okay, so Head follows some rules. That's the first thing I learned... some rules you just can't get away from. Like pigs... even here, there's pigs... that's the first thing I learned...

(Wilson)

I mean, I thought we'd been pulled over. That was the first thought in my head. There were all these pigs around the bus, dressed up in the weirdest kind of uniform I'd ever seen, all with little, green berets and swords and looking like ten miles of bad road just snuck up and let loose on them.

And I thought "Did I run into them, or am I having a bad trip?" I didn't know... I just cooperated and got off the bus.

And then I saw another bus, just like ours, back down the road. It was on its side, around the bend and on fire. And I thought "shit, I caused an accident with another bus. That's just uncool, man." And I hoped the other guys were gonna be okay...

And then I took a closer look... and saw that WE WERE THE OTHER GUYS. Lisa'd gone through the windshield and looked like a bloody scarecrow. Fred's boots were sticking out from under... and I was... I think I was half-in and half-out of the steering wheel... but it was half a mile away and I still don't know how I could see so well... and no one's explained how the bus was there and here at the same time, either...

And then the head pig started talking. All this crazy stuff... said he was in the Legion of Emeralds or something like that... and how lucky we were to have joined. He said something about the alternatives all being a real bummer, and how good it was we'd won the Lottery... how good this was all gonna be.

I couldn't think of a damn thing to say. Everything was black and messed up... everything was burned and broken and bad. I felt wrong. I couldn't see straight even though I could see for miles and miles... there was a big dent in my stomach and coming out the small of my back... and no matter how much I tried to tell myself this was just a bad trip, nothing could bring it all back. Not even saying the Presidents backwards...

(Taft)

Some pig pulled out a guitar and they started singing... "We're all Green, now" or something... Lisa started to cry... I heard an ambulance whining and groaning up the hill, back there... and I could just tell what this scene was. It was summer camp, again... weeks of being made to go do "fun" stuff and see "new" things when all you wanted to do was nothing and the only place you wanted to see was home.

Here I was... really dead... and they wanted me to clap hands and sing "Bingo."

And lottery. Why the hell did the pig have to say "lottery?" It brought back... it brought me back to

(Roosevelt)

I must have moaned because all the pigs were looking at me... and then Lisa started seriously freaking out, and Fred...

Fred saved me. He just got this look in his eyes, flipped the head pig both birds and jumped into the Trip, taking me with him before I knew what was up. And... then we were gone.

WAY gone.

(McKinley)

 

The Trip... yeah. Other folks got other names for it... especially if you're the sort of guy who Trips so much your eyes turn black. Those guys are seriously weird. I think it's 'cause they spend most of their time there. I mean, if you wanna get high you gotta come down some time... even if you really don't want to, you dig?

I only did it once -- the Trip, that is -- and I'm never doing it again. All I know is what Fred tells me, 'cause he likes it down there. He says its like what we were doing with the acid... only, down there, it's for real. He's told me of memory storms and islands in the air and weird things that move like a squid and talk like man...

I think I'll take head fuzz any day, man. It's like... being in

(Cleveland)

and walking too close to the lake and your head starts going around and around like the Moon, but it's too fast and you can't dip your toe in the water or it might fall off but the fumes are making you go out of your head...

That's what it's like to come out of someone else's trip, man... it's like fumes from the lake... smoke on the water... fire in the sky... and the Gang let's us do it any time we like to. They WANT us to get in people and get turned on, and I'm always down with that idea.

(Arthur)

The Gang goes back a long, long way. I bet you saw that scary movie with that little girl with her head spinning around her puking up green stuff all over the priests... well, that's us. Only we usually don't do uncool stuff like that... I don't, anyway.

They found me and Fred when we got out of the Trip. We've been with them ever since... me 'cause I got a talent for it... dunno how they knew... and Fred 'cause he said he could get them some real easy rides. I guess the Gang didn't know about Acid, back then... and I don't think it's really any easier when they're turned on than when they're not... I think Fred was pulling the wool on them a bit, but he didn't want to be alone...

Poor Fred... God I hope he got away...

(Garfield)

God, I hope Fred can pull off something... maybe he's getting the rest of the Gang together... been long enough, I think... coming to bust us out of here... out...

Out of the cell... the pigs are taking me...

(Hayes)

"... found guilty of violating Charon's Code, being a member of a non-existent, criminal organization, absconding from duty for a period no less than..." the head pig's saying. He's not even looking at me. He's just reading off of a piece of paper and I'm here right in front of him and he's not even looking at me.

Look at me! I'm a man, dammit! Yeah, I did some uncool things but...

(Grant)

...all over and then I'm being taken away. Back to the cell...? No... somewhere else. Someplace hot and smelly and I can hear screaming... and...

Oh no. No. No no no no no no not that! God damn it! NO! I'm squirming and trying to break free but the pigs are holding me down and laughing.

"You've had this coming

(Johnson)

one of them says, just leering at me.

"And your cooperation is MUCHLY appreciated..." the other says, and they both just laugh at that.

Cooperation?

And that's when it hits me -- the look in the pigs' eyes. This isn't just an everyday "ha ha, we got you" look. This was a planned thing. This is the look in Jack Webb's eye as the stakeout goes right according to plan and all the beautiful people are moaning and caught on the floor.

They had us. The haze clears and I realize that they HAD us. They just sat back on easy chairs and waited for us to slide into our girls and start passing the stash... and then jumped, easy as pie.

They KNEW. They KNEW, man.

But how could they? I was the one who picked the place, and I picked

(Lincoln)

right at the spur of the moment. It just came to me... right out of the blue like an Earth Mama coming out of the lake, naked and full with eyes full of what you were looking for. I felt it singing like Janis. It was just so RIGHT.

Then I feel this tugging behind my eyes. The Shadow smiles, somehow. Even if he doesn't got the mouth right now, he's smiling. Somehow I know it's the same smile I saw on a concerned citizen once, while I was lying in a heap on the ground after some pig worked me over at a rally -- the smile that says I had it coming.

And I remember

(Buchanan)

I remember all the times that time went missing around me. I remember all those times that I couldn't remember what I'd been up to, and when other folks had to tell me what I'd done, or said, or where I'd been. All the times my mind went sideways and I just blamed it on dying with a head full of acid.

I even remember when I almost got my ass canned for something I didn't do. There was some square saying he'd seen ME trying to mess with his grandson and a dime bag, but I knew I was nowhere near. I'd have remembered THAT, right?

The pigs just let me off, that time. But one of them looked at me hard with his little, black eyes and told me something. At the time I remembered, but then I forgot... and now I can remember it all over again.

"See a Pardoner, citizen," he said.

Or was it...

No... crap, no... not that... the wall's

(Pierce)

The service... the church... wearing my best threads up front looking down... there's my brother and he's in a box... they can't open it because Charlie turned him into pot roast... mom's all done up on her little helper and doesn't know I'm there... and I'm looking up and my soul feels sick and I'm trying to make some sense of all this... it's not groovy and it's not right and it's just wrong... all those times we played football and watched baseball and talked about being spacemen and flying around the world and...

And there's the priest, looking at me like I'd just asked him for a toke.

"Go see a barber, long-hair," he hisses in my ear... just so mother can't hear: "You're shaming yourself in the house of God."

(Fillmore)

But I don't want to talk about the past anymore... the past HURTS and all I can see from where I am is pain and agony and sharp-edged pieces of what I used to remember until I learned to forget it all...

(Taylor)

There's a man here with a hammer, and he's giving me 'the chair'... making me into one... wake up wake up wake up this isn't real... come on... and it hurts and each fall of the hammer is the name of a old president and I'm trying to wake up from this bad trip

(Polk)

and how long has this been going on for 'cause I don't want to remember the past 'cause

(Tyler)

even the hammer's not as painful as the past and nothing's worse than where I've been and

(Harrison)

I don't want to remember the hurt and the pain anymore and

(Van Buren)

I just want to remember what it was like to nod off with a mama in my arms and

(Jackson)

good grass in my mind and good wine in a green, glass bottle nearby and I just want to stop

(Adams)

remembering... remembering anything other than the warm brown... brown behind my eyelids when I went to sleep... I just want

(Monroe)

to go to sleep... in bed for a whole day with nothing to do and turning it all off and...

Oh...

(Madison)

Heh... groovy... at long last the Shadow's... he's got something to say...

(Jefferson)

He says he knows just how I feel... and that's why... we're here...

(Adams)

and... he says... "you're welcome"...

(Washingt


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