His quarrels and his writings show Epiphanius to have had a crabbed old single-track mind, and the track he covers is usually a sidetrack. He clearly knew too much for his limited understanding. His style is discursive; his thought is poorly organized. Good and bad information, important and unimportant matters, stand side by side and form a rather unsavory mess. Hence the study and editing of his works, a thorny subject at best, has attracted few students and lags behind that of his contemporaries. In the case of his Ἀγκυρωτός, a summary of what he considered the true faith, that does not matter so much, for it is little used at any time.

–Martin Sprengling

Chapter 1. Never fails. Another fat day in the frat boy war…

Never fails. Another fat day in the frat boy war zone, lov­ing­ly called The War Zone in some parts of the Deep South, finds the smil­ing pres­i­dent slid­ing an­oth­er five fin­ger dis­count speech in­to the Middlesex American Sawbuck Party’s spend­ing habits, and it seems he’s tak­ing no pris­on­ers with this one. Tweet, tweet. Some prayers may take ten sec­onds to en­gage a re­sponse. Some drag on like a dance of fi­nesse in stage­craft for a decade. Doesn’t take the egg-sniffing ge­nius of a 24-hour news cy­clist to fig­ure out if float­ing about this swirling soup ket­tle in wob­bly re­ces­sion the best hearts and minds are com­pet­ing with more than a few trag­i­cal­ly flawed hu­man cat­a­stro­phes, then some­body sure as hell needs to pin the tale on the don­key with bru­tal en­thu­si­asm, and give shout in an un­heav­en­ly voice, “Bull’s Run! There’s a brand new bird on the move!”

I say these things to put my­self in the best pos­si­ble light. I mean, flash the scene for­ward, who shouldn’t be dis­turbed when tak­ing one’s own per­son­al in­ven­to­ry, as they say among the Twelve Steppers? We stand, squat and salute but for a mo­ment, then the moment’s gone, right up to the crown, and down along the fall­en arch­es? But be­fore ac­tu­al­ly do­ing the math, tak­ing the vows, and shut­ting the cas­ket, it’s all soil for the poor, boil for the low­lan­ders and an­cient toil for the rich. My own backyard’s be­come so indie-concentrate and fast tracked for­eign ivy, I don’t reck­on I could fath­om the sil­ly soles of a brand new Buster Brown two-page dis­play with­out rot­ting first in some hot but­tered re­al es­tate bub­ble bath or crack­ling in the next zoo-laced trop­i­cal de­pres­sion, green­er than Kentucky blue­grass, chok­ing down a bucket-sized box of Daisy Duke’s own sun­shine fried to the hilt, schlep­ping one small schlep for mankind, one gi­ant plan­e­tar­i­um for the Godfish speak­ing English to the sums by way of soft­ware. So yes, I’ve got a bone or two to pick with the sud­den pow­ers of the air who tricked me this way, and I don’t have an ir­rever­ant amount of time left to do so. Therefore I humbly re­quest a soldier’s re­prieve if I am to con­tin­ue to rewrite this wrong, and peg my thoughts to the Colossal Board of Education that had no choice but to let me down in an up­right po­si­tion in­to a dark shale tank of sharks now cir­cling the globe, sharks no­body hates but every­body fears.

Reminds me of when I got snook­ered, snagged ac­tu­al­ly, peek­ing a lit­tle too soon with my boni­face nigh straight smacked across the cheeks by a fool’s full house smug in a sleight of dirty hands some call pres­tidig­i­ta­tion over America, some­what re­sem­bling a Jennifer hoax come clean in­to a jar of mar­malade reck­on­ing ma­chine. One thing is for damned sure nasty, though of­ten pass­ing for tasty—I ain’t quite com­fort­able liv­ing large in my own skin, or the Lord’s own col­or­ing book as my Great Uncle Noah King James used to call it, and frankly, I’m nei­ther too proud nor poor mouthed to ad­mit I’ve not on­ly done been that way for most of my life, prob­a­bly since this first day at McIntosh Elementary when Missus Smith’s class, my own of course, took leave for lunch, and I got left be­hind in the bath­room wash­ing up my tidy white hands with­out a clue or a crumb trail to track my way back down the hall­way and over to wher­ev­er the cafe­te­ria was hid­ing that day. Missed lunch al­to­geth­er that day. Avoid mad dash­es to some­where else even to this day. Least I tried. There’s a rea­son for every­thing.

Some might think that this was my first mem­o­ry. But it’s not. I have se­clud­ed oth­ers pre-dating this school lunch fi­as­co, but it sur­pris­es me how so few ear­ly mem­o­ries so many oth­ers I have in­ter­viewed have re­tained. Perhaps ex­cel­lent mem­o­ry is a nar­cis­sis­tic trait. One that has yet to be claimed as such. But what do I know of such things? My moth­er, on the oth­er hand, made it her life’s work to know these things about peo­ple. She al­ways want­ed to or­ga­nize and con­trol the sticky la­bels that all screeds of men and women and chil­dren use to spank and sport each oth­er. Then there’s the slap, the kick, the scream, the yell, the bawl­ing, the hug, the qui­et, the you name, she want­ed to cat­e­go­rize it. It’s true. I am some­what like my moth­er. In fact, of all my sib­lings I am my mother’s son. But as east is to west and west is to east, I am not my moth­er. Our sim­i­lar­i­ties are not our dif­fer­ences. Our be­hav­ioral dif­fer­ences are eas­i­ly de­tect­ed, and are re­gard­ed as salient points on the Maginot line we each drew in the feisty red clays of her­itage in per­sist­ing in our own es­cape, each from our own strong moth­ers.

In fact, I’m an ac­tu­al­ly damn fright on the harsh side of strict­ly un­com­fort­able go­ing pub­lic eye­balls with all my skin. But what un­ques­tion­able choice do I have? Sure, I could lose a su­per­mod­el or two on the JC plan, and still make for a strap­ping fel­low, I am told, but why should I lose two su­per­mod­els, if they are al­so a part of what has be­come of me? So I’ve de­cid­ed to go pub­lic with the whole sto­ry. Alpha. Omega. And all the juicy ooze in be­tween that I can still re­mem­bers. Remembers this, mem­o­ries are not for­ev­er, no mat­ter what I or any­body else may tell you when you or your pro­togé are about to pull a ’65 Marichal-Roseboro ma­neu­ver on your clos­est en­e­my.

Now, ye fed-up to the gills sons and daugh­ters of that rather im­per­fect union that keeps us in pa­per or plas­tic hock from the bub­bling price on our heads down to the gravy velvee­ta now crust­ing be­tween our toes, and y’all all know which one I mean, to each of you I must fess up, I must fess up and be park ‘er to the curb hon­est, per­fect­ly hon­est you see, maybe I did feel asun­der the ill at ease twelve-step even some­what ear­li­er than that first wicked day at the McIntosh school, but we’ll just vamp in­to all that ire and loose skin hal­lu­ci­na­tion a bit lat­er. The re­al fas­ci­natin’ point I was try­ing to make be­fore I ram­ble on­to this green Virginia slate to se­cure a fa­tal patch in this god­for­sak­en wordslinger’s pale ter­ri­to­ry (pre­tend­ing to not no­tice that skeezy old bird, Jayhawk Bill Burr, ex­plod­ing, yes, fly­ing in­to a fit of Turquoise Laughter, drop­ping a dab­ble or two of paint in­to his lat­est nov­el), is that there tru­ly is no sin­gle point to this uni­verse. Worth get­ting shot over any­ways, and I’ve been shot too many times to ar­gue the point any­more, but I have tah be hon­est with you hus­tlers, and let’s face it, all read­ers are hus­tlers right down to the dot­ted line. Why hon­esty, you ask. Because it’s a trip down mem­o­ry lane rip in my rub­ber soul. It’s the on­ly bee bop­pa loola bounce in me, hands down. A twist­ed he­lix ripped open per­son­al­i­ty trait, and dang if, DNA ain’t got noth­ing on hon­esty. Honesty is the free­dom bomb. That’s right. Honesty is nev­er hav­ing to say, “Lester Bangs, you’re dead.”

Didn’t give my name. Don’t think it’s all that im­por­tant right about now. There is an oc­ca­sion for every­thing I was once told. No need to rush things while we’re still lay­ing in the wiring for the ma­trix of elec­tron­ic fenc­ing that will guard what the an­ces­tors had de­lib­er­ate­ly dubbed false idols (for na­tion­al se­cu­ri­ty rea­sons) in an age bet­ter fit for his­to­ry than the one we now un­der­stand as our own. It’s a mat­ter of fram­ing the in­for­ma­tion prop­er­ly, and by that, I cer­tain­ly don’t mean man­u­fac­tur­ing an au­to­mo­bile that looks and rides just like your sweet grandmother’s Second Corinthians Buick from back when. Ah man, still rue the day Chief Pontiac Automotive was killed in a Government Motors knuck­le pop­ping, tak­ing with it my ever beloved Bonneville spec­tac­u­lar, but fer­al ma­chines once re-educated, can of­ten swing pro­duc­tive sec­ond lives. History is full of these sto­ries, so we have no need to ad­vance corny sci­ence fic­tion to make our point. An ounce of cau­tion, though. Watch out for the Matiz. Word from the sling. Says it stings like a crossed scor­pi­on. Sings like a Farsi po­et stuck in rush hour traf­fic.

Oh yes, mon frére, re-education camps are slam full of or­di­nary glam ma­chines. This much has been proven. But this knowl­edge begs sev­er­al ques­tions. Does be­ing able to res­ur­rect and mass pro­duce the Pontiac or a dead lan­guage or a spit­ting im­age of Steven Jobs mean that men are more cre­ative than God? Or is the fact that God can and does seem­ing­ly cre­ate lim­it­less num­bers of per­sons, unique in­di­vid­u­als, hu­mans on the make, with­out ever the need to re­peat Himself sug­gest that He, God, the Almighty, the Everliving Ghost is ex­po­nen­tial­ly the more cre­ative, the most awe­some, the ab­solute be­gin­ning and end of all things we reck­on by?

Jury is out. Never fails. Another fat day in the frat boy war…

My own name. I might get around to it in a chap­ter or so. As you can al­ready sur­mize, I have or pre­tend to have a lot to say, and per­haps more than a dozen ways to say it. All the im­por­tant names have al­ready been tak­en any­way, they say. But I do have some vi­tal ital­i­cized his­to­ry to share, some fa­mous names to drop in the old rust buck­et, and some se­cret­ly pleat­ed trousers to iron fist as I fetch and claw to the end of this rather or­di­nary tale, so bear with me if you’ve got the time, and the lit­er­ary itch, but I reck­on not many folks this side of the No Child Left Behind crowd have ei­ther any­more.

Death is over-romanticized. Romanticism, both the scar­let and black, pink and pas­sion­ate pale va­ri­eties have been mol­ly­cod­dled not to death, but to near death, and the ex­pe­ri­ences just keep on spelling flu­en­cy for the in­flu­en­tial. Of fangs and fruit flies, the fruit flies win the race even­tu­al­ly. Chaos is come, but or­der, or shall we say, the or­ga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple, shall seize the day, fury once again van­quished, once again made flu­id. Time has damned near gone ex­tinct on Southern Man’s watch. His Internet no longer breeds lib­er­ty and his glob­al warm­ing rhetoric is the stuff of David Foster Wallace strad­dling his Year of the Love Is Blue Period. All this huff­ing and puff­ing and blow­ing America dry will doubtless­ly run its course, both tac­ti­cal­ly and strate­gi­cal­ly. The dog tires. The wind ex­tols count­less ef­forts yet faith­ful to the chain of ev­i­dence. All rib­bons and badges run counter to the im­age. Just like dig­ni­ty, gut re­solve ain’t nev­er been pho­tographed by the pa­parazzi or one’s next of kin. Makes my blood boil when it ain’t ic­ing up. And I’m no GG Allin if you catch my drift…

Actually, now that I think of it, my name and my birth de­tails can be found in my first rec­ol­lec­tion. Masquerading now as the prime nov­el­ist, back then I was the cull po­et. Guess I can fill in a few de­tails I left out in that book. I was born at the Palm Beach Air Force Hospital which was closed in 1962. I guess this is im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion now that we’ve elect­ed an American pres­i­dent of un­cer­tain ori­gins. Frank mis­cal­cu­la­tions are the ul­ti­mate strat­e­gy for those short on the cour­te­sies of fair play, long on the bird in the hand.

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