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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