I originally wrote this as a preface for the original version of “Mirth Defects” but it’s written in second person. I switched to first person, rewrote the entire book, and it made all the difference in the world. Hope you enjoy it.
4:17 AM. Not just any 4:17 AM, but 4:17 AM Fryday. JD watched the dogs investigate the yard and wondered if they had a sense of Fryday. He checked his cigarette, saw there was more remaining than he wanted, and snuffed the cherry between his fingers before placing the butt behind his ear.
Today he is 104 years old. “Happy birthday, you ancient motherfucker,” JD said to no one in particular, then giggled softly, but low and long.
Fuck it. It’s JD’s birthday, and a Fryday. Let’s Fry!
JD filled his tiny pipe to the top and lit it with his ancient Zippo, feeling the euphoria’s tide roll in before the smoke rolled out. He usually stopped here, after just one hit. But Fryday was about pushing the limits so he pulled on his pipe again. Until it was empty, and he was full.
He thought back to the day 52 years ago today–half his lifetime thus far–when it was revealed to him that he, JD, was a Time Talker. Even at 104, JD wasn’t sure what being a Time Talker entailed. He thought he knew maybe 1% of what his actual job duties were, and he wasn’t very convinced that he knew what he was doing, but his handlers assured him that, as far as Time Talkers went, JD was in the Damn Good class. Not Best, but Damn Good was nothing to sneeze at either. Damn Good had paid the bills Damn Good, or Damn Well, as one or more of his Damn Smartass Kids would correct. Damn Good was a marketable commodity these days.
He watched the chaos of the dogs patrolling the yard and wondered if they had a sense of Fryday’s magic. Probably, he concluded, but doubted it was the same for them as it was for him. Queen never left Baby’s side in the kitchen while Baby started their Fryday evening meal. Queen knew there was magic in the air because she could smell it, JD reckoned. Spot never left JD’s side while JD got ready to run his Fryday morning errands. Spot would grab the old man’s jeans leg, growling, and would try to pull JD outside to the truck.
JD turned on the internet streaming radio next to his chair and smiled at the LED clock on the face. 4:20 AM. The Stoner’s Witching Hour, he had heard it called. He played this game with his mind every morning on the mornings he felt like playing it, seeing if he could keep the Universe’s ticking clock in his head as the pot mellowed his soul. He missed 4:20 AM a few times a year, but only by a minute or two. He remembered years ago when one of his grandmas had said “crazy people can’t keep track of what time it is, or even what day.” If that were true, he suspected he was sane.
He smiled as a favorite song from decades ago greeted his ears. It wasn’t the version he’d grown up with but a cover by a band he and his kids listened to often. This version was darker than the original. The first time JD heard the Disturbed version he’d cried silently, like a baby.
→Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
He smiled at the coincidence of that song being the first one he heard today because he knew there really wasn’t such a thing as coincidence. He had seen far too many coincidences to believe in them anymore. Everything meant something, and there was always a reason. From order comes chaos. From chaos comes JD’s custom order, built to his exact specifications. You could say JD is a spoiled brat, always getting what he wants, except he’s done all the work to get there.
A wide grin spread across his face as he heard the Fryday Morning Express roll towards him, through him, right over the top of him. Once you got on, you had to ride ‘er to the end, and God knows JD needed that ride. He knew he had to find his seat near the window, then giggled to himself when he realized he had already sat down without even thinking.
JD had started life as a passenger on the Fryday Morning Express. Today he knew he was the Fryday Morning Express engineer.
God didn’t just know that JD needed that ride, He turned over the controls, sat back in the passenger section of the Fryday Morning Express, and laughed His ass off while JD careened around the corners and through the darkest tunnels.
→And the vision…
that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence.
His earliest recollections of Fryday, of knowing it was Fryday, came back to him from through the years. His dad had been the breadwinner, his mom the breadmaker, and JD had been the only child back then. He could sense his mom feeling a little happier during the day, and his dad a little more relaxed during the evening. Tomorrow meant a grocery store trip that didn’t include JD, and a gas station trip that did. Instead of soap operas on TV it meant football or basketball. Seeing the cheerleaders shake the pom-poms they held while the pom-poms attached to their bodies moved beneath their big smiles made JD know he was a flaming heterosexual without understanding why. Instead of waiting for his dad to get home so they could eat, the pair would take a nap on the couch after lunch.
→In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.
Years later, after starting school, JD knew that Fryday meant the end of the work week. Maybe a babysitter this evening while his parents went out, and they might not tuck him in bed this night, but he would find them in their own bed before they awoke the next morning. As long as the babysitter’s cooking hadn’t killed him and his new brother, that is. Some nights were closer than others.
Tomorrow would mean groceries, a gas station trip, Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner, maybe even a car ride for ice cream or grandparents. Girls had cooties and no pom-poms, but sometimes they would kiss him anyway, or send a note to him through a friend. He no longer was hurt and enraged when his little brother tore down their latest building blocks creation because his brother had taught him that part of the lesson was rebuilding and trying again.
→And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
Junior High Frydays were completely different yet the same somehow. His mom would work outside the home, his dad would go home to a different house, late night TV or radio instead of cartoons the next day, maybe even a party or a sleepover at a friends’ house. Some girls had pom-poms, the smiles were sometimes prettier than the cheerleaders, and the kisses were much different. He wasn’t old enough to drive, smoke, drink, do drugs, or make love, but he did all those anyway, and sometimes more. They would tell him he wasn’t ready for such things, but JD knew they were full of shit.
“Fools,” said he, “you do not know.”
→”Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach out you.”
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
In the wells of silence.
High School Frydays were no holds barred. Most of his teachers were still full of shit, a very few were as wise as other mentors. Girls didn’t send notes, they stepped in front of him when they could, and called his home when they couldn’t. Some cried when he rejected them, some walked away when he didn’t, the rest still kissed him, and not always on the lips first. He had a car, money, girls, cigs, liquor, pot, freedom, hopes, dreams, nightmares.
They demanded his compliance, but what they actually meant was his silence. They demanded his attention, yet refused his questions. They demanded he treat them like gods, but turned into devils when the thin veneer of their beliefs were stripped away.
→And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said,
the words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whisper’d in the sounds of silence.
JD began to write on the subway walls, and tenement halls, and whisper’d in the sounds of silence.
JD had become Fryday’s magician. Frydays symbolized an unlimited access to all that life – and death – had to offer, and he not only embraced both, he put both in a choke hold and squeezed to see what came out. The end result wasn’t always pretty, it was oftentimes chaotic, but JD had a knack for thriving on chaos.
“Hello, darkness, my old friend …” JD croaked,
“I’ve come to talk with you again …
because a vision softly creeping …
left its seeds while I was sleeping …
And the vision …
that was planted in my brain …
still remains …
within the sound of silence …”
JD had started out as a tortured young soul, staying up half the night or more, looking for peace and meaning and order from chaos. But Life had changed him, made him live “in the now” instead of what-happens-if. Baby had witnessed the change but hadn’t quite understood how he’d managed it so easily. All JD would say was “switching from night owl to morning owl suited me well.”