by Arnold Snyder
I went to the bedroom to get dressed, still seeing patterns, but I was used to the patterns. Everything seemed okay.
You’d think it would be fun to do impossible things, and it is—but it’s not all fun. Miracles scare the shit out of you every time you do them. You don’t get used to doing miracles.
I felt good that at no time did it cross my mind that perhaps I really was able to do impossible things. That was a sign of progress. I knew that if it looked to me like I’d done a miracle, it wouldn’t look that way to anybody else. I had matured in the fifty years since my last trip. I had a rational adult perspective on life.
By the time I’d gotten dressed, I was pretty sure the heavy part of the flashback was mostly over and that was fine with me. Pink Floyd had segued into Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, and that was fine with me too.
I felt I had to test this miracle thing. Just test it. Find out if it’s real. Another thing with miracles—they scare the shit out of you, but you can’t help doing them. You can’t help it. Miracles are the coolest thing you could ever do. Actual miracles.
The important thing to me was that I keep it firmly in my head that nothing that appears miraculous really is miraculous. And if it looks like other people see your miracles, they don’t. You’re just hallucinating the way you want them to respond. Don’t react. Don’t take it seriously. I felt ready for this. I just had to keep my head.
I decided to start small. An impossibility that only I would know was impossible. I could make something materialize. Nothing big.
Why did I choose a frog? It was inconsequential to my life and couldn’t possibly cause any problems. It was also nothing I would ever be suspected of having had anything whatsoever to do with … but I had to be more specific … a dead frog … in my kitchen …
A scream rang out.
It was Bev.
She was cooking lunch.
It had sounded like the scream of a woman who had just seen a dead frog in her kitchen. I’d once heard Bev scream like that when she saw a spider in the bathroom. I knew that scream. But I also knew that that scream was likely in my imagination, because Bev couldn’t have seen a dead frog in the kitchen and that scream was an audio hallucination, the most common type of hallucination on LSD. I was on top of this.
Bev, in fact, was way too emotional about things. She always let her emotions be known. If she saw a frog, for example, she would let out a blood-curdling scream. That’s just how she was. Day and night she would moan and whine about little shit that anybody else would shrug off. So the audio hallucination made logical sense, but it didn’t make rational sense. There was no frog. I knew that.
But just in case Bev had actually seen a spider—that was possible—and her scream had been real—I decided to go into the kitchen.
The kitchen was bathed in warmth, the patterns on the walls in pale yellows and rich golds. Wow. This was good stuff, whatever it was. I knew it was really a pretty grungy kitchen, hadn’t been painted in decades. The linoleum tile floor was scuffed and had never been waxed in my memory. But as soon as I saw Bev, I knew she’d seen something that was upsetting her. She was staring at it, her back up against the microwave, keeping her distance, horrified. I followed her line of sight to the kitchen table and more specifically to my dinner plate on the kitchen table, upon which lay a large, almost-football-sized, dead frog. But the kitchen table, like the walls, floor, and ceiling, was alive with patterns. Everything was fluid. Nothing looked real.
Okay, I’m not really seeing a dead frog there; it’s probably my stuffed peppers. I can smell stuffed peppers. That’s what we’re having for lunch this afternoon, so this is a minor hallucination designed to make me think I’d just performed a miracle. But I hadn’t.
The human mind is tricky, but you can outsmart it.
I’m likely misinterpreting my wife’s psychological state as well. Her plate on the table is empty. She’s probably standing calmly beside the microwave waiting for her frozen peppers to finish nuking. She always serves mine first.
I acted normal and sat down at the table, staring at the dead frog on my dinner plate.
“Smells good,” I said. And it did.
“Don, what are you doing? Where did that goddamn frog come from? Is it dead? Get rid of it.”
Just like before. I could have been back in the 60s. Holy shit, this was good stuff. Not Owsley. Not pure. It was those goddamn pink wedges—LSD cut with STP. Tiny little tabs. How was I supposed to know they were four-ways and that STP lasted so much longer than LSD? I ate two of those fuckers. They were so little, but it was eight hits of acid cut with STP. That’s what I was thinking as I stared at that ugly dead frog. Eight hits is too many. How long does this fucking shit last? This is too fucking much.
Bev kept repeating my name, more and more frantically—Don, Don, Don …
But I knew she wasn’t actually saying any of what I was hearing because there was no dead frog in our kitchen. I didn’t even want to look at her, because I might decide to turn her into something. And that could be so fucking scary, because you get these crazy ideas when you can do miracles, and it was now dawning on me that once again I had the power. After all these years. Full miracle power.
I looked at Bev. I saw her in a way I hadn’t seen her in years, decades. She looked ripe. Succulent. I wanted to see her naked. I wanted to fuck her. Goddamn, this is the most amazing flashback. I looked down at my dinner plate. The dead frog was still there.
It was a hideous thing, on its back with its legs splayed out. I’d never actually seen a frog that large. Because of the patterns, there was an animated cartoon quality to the whole scene. An underwater quality. The air was thick.
I picked up my steak knife and fork.
It’s peppers. Stuffed peppers with a mock-Russian tomato sauce.
I remembered dissecting a frog in tenth-grade biology. You start at the cloaca, that combination peehole, asshole, and genital orifice, and slice upward to the neck.
“Don, what are you doing?”
Using my fork to steady the carcass, I used my knife to slit open the white belly from cloaca to throat with a remarkably clean incision. In Biology we’d done this with scissors, but as I knew this frog was just stuffed peppers, I had to mimic the actions of a man slicing his peppers in half.
“The peppers look delicious tonight, love.”
I dug around inside the slimy thing using my knife and fork together until I stabbed something and pulled it out on the tines of my fork. The liver? It was an ugly blood-black thing, with streaks of snot-green.
It’s a nice forkful of ground beef and white rice, smothered in a thick tomato gravy, with a sliver of green bell pepper peeking through.
“Don’t you dare, Don … Don, are you out of your mind? I’m calling nine-one-one!”
I lustily pushed that forkful of lamb and peppers into my mouth. A godawful taste, like diseased blood, coagulated into spongy fibers that tasted decayed, rotting.
“Marvelous,” I said. “You make the best frozen peppers in Oakland.”
“Oh, Jesus. Oh God. Did you hear what I said, Don? I’m calling nine-one-one. Are you out of your fucking mind?”
I looked up to see she was holding her phone in one hand, the other hand poised to punch in the numbers. Her body looked so voluptuous. How could she be threatening me by calling the cops? I wanted to undress her and fuck her. I wanted to suck on her tits. I always loved her tits.
But that was it. She’d found my vulnerability. Or at least, this hallucination had. What I feared more than anything else in this world was getting locked up again. If she was calling 911, they’d soon be taking me away.
Now I didn’t really believe that Bev had made that threat, because I knew there was no dead frog in my kitchen. And why would she be calling the cops anyway? Even if I was eating a dead frog, what would she tell the cops? Send an ambulance? My husband’s eating a frog? This whole scene was being hallucinated and I knew that.
But acid makes you paranoid. What if for some reason she really was calling 911? Did I want to be around for that? She might be calling 911 because she thinks I’m acting strange. Maybe she thinks I’m having a stroke or something … Jesus Christ, I’ve got to get out of here.
Act normal. No panic. No fear. No concern.
I stood up from the table. “I’m going out to my car to get an antacid,” I said, privately enjoying the double entendre. “I left them in the glovebox. I’ve got a bit of heartburn—not from your peppers, they’re delicious!—I’ll be right back.”
The look on her face was one of abject terror, but she still had a dynamite body that I wanted to explore. Maybe later. Then I remembered that my dick was broke.
Could I actually get a hard-on? That would be a miracle worth pursuing. I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue it though. I was scared that it might not work. What good would it be if I could create dead frogs but I couldn’t get my dick up? Not that these pursuits were in any way related.
I was also scared that it might work, or appear to work, and I’d be standing there thinking my dick was hard when anyone could see that it wasn’t. Not that I could imagine any realistic situation where I’d be standing in front of anyone naked with a boner. I didn’t really want to think about my dick. A big ugly frog was on my dinner plate with his belly sliced open and his guts hanging out.
Bev punched three numbers into her phone.
I hurried out of the kitchen through the side door that goes out to our attached garage. I had no intention of going back into the house any time soon. I still had that godawful taste of raw frog organs in my mouth.
I got in the car and hit the remote to open the garage door. I started the engine as the garage door was still rolling open, fitfully. I backed out as soon as I knew I’d clear the rising door and I pulled out onto the street.
If she was calling 911, I had to be gone. Where the fuck could I go?
I drove slowly until I reached the first intersection. Should I go straight? Should I turn? I had to relax, take a few deep breaths. The immediate danger had passed. But even the streets, the houses, the cars parked on the streets, were swirling and pulsing with patterns. I knew I shouldn’t be driving. I was way too fucked up.
In the distance I heard a siren. She’d called 911. The cops were on their way.
Jesus fucking Christ. Don’t panic.
I turned right, away from the direction of the siren, relieved that I was putting some distance between myself and my house. I drove slowly for some blocks, stopping fully at each intersection as I tried to decide whether to turn or continue straight ahead. I knew this quiet residential area well and there would not be a busy intersection for the next couple miles. The siren had stopped wailing.
What the hell could she have said to the 911 operator that would have made the cops feel they had to use their siren?
I had a plan. I would just go straight, slowly rolling away from my street until I could decide where to go. Maybe Dave’s. Get a cup of coffee and figure this thing out. I’ve got to go home eventually and everything has to be normal. My wife will have calmed down and that’s it.
I’d spent many an hour sitting in Dave’s Coffee Shop and the thought of being there comforted me. Yes, I’m going to sit for an hour and drink a decaf and maybe have some kind of organic bran muffin or whatever they have in that pastry case. Comfort. Calm.
That’s when I saw the too-bright irritating red and blue flashing lights in my rear-view mirror.
Pulling me over.
Slow down. Stop. Breathe. Sit up straight. Are your brake lights out? You weren’t speeding. Breathe. Act normal.
“License and registration.” He was a twerpy looking guy, not your typical beefy cop. He had streaks of pink and yellow in his face and his eyes kept sinking lower onto his cheeks.
“I don’t think I was speeding, officer.”
I dug my wallet out of my back pocket without taking my seatbelt off. I pulled out my license and handed it to him, then popped open my glove box to look for the registration. Christ. The glove box is a mess.
“I’m sure I’ve got it in here.”
“Stay in your car,” he said, before walking back to his patrol car with my license.
I pulled a mess of paper out of my glove box and started looking for the envelope that contained the needed document. Before I located it, the cop returned to my window.
“I know I have it, officer … and I know I wasn’t speeding.”
He handed my license back to me. “You were driving five miles an hour, Mr. Huxton. One of the neighbors called. They thought you might be casing the neighborhood. There have been some burglaries in this area.”
I knew right then that all was okay. My gray hair and wrinkles were paying off. He could see I was just a harmless codger and he knew I lived just down the street.
“My car was making a noise,” I said. “I thought it might be my brake shoes. I was driving slow so I could hear it.”
“Well, that makes sense. You’ve gotta be careful with your brakes. Do you have your medical marijuana license on your person?”
Jesus Christ, I knew this would happen if I got that damn license. Now they know I smoke pot because my weed license comes from the fucking DMV. It probably pops up on his screen as soon as he scans my driver’s license.
“I’m not stoned,” I said.
“Do you have your medical marijuana license on your person?”
This was not going well. Bad trip. Was any of this even real? Was the cop a goddamn hallucination? Seems weird he shows up right after I hallucinate my wife saying she’s calling 911. This is probably not even a real cop. I’m talking to the air.
“Officer,” I said, “could you just go back to your car and sit for a while? Give me a few moments to be alone with my thoughts?”
He looked at me blankly for a second, then calmly walked back to his patrol car and climbed into the driver’s seat.
I knew right then he was a hallucination. A vision I was conjuring for myself but that no one else could see. I could make him disappear. I could turn him into a … frog … if I wanted to…
Then I heard what sounded like my own voice say, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
I turned to see my flashback-self sitting shotgun in my car.
“Look, Flash, you’re not real,” I said. “Why don’t you leave me the fuck alone? I haven’t dropped acid in fifty years. Why are you here?”
“Ask yourself why you’re here.”
“I know why I’m here. My wife was calling nine-one-one. I was making my getaway. Then this knucklehead pulls me over for not speeding. But it’s all a hallucination. I know that. There’s no cop behind me.”
The red and blue lights that had been strobing in my eyes from my rear-view mirror stopped. I turned my head to see that the cop car had vanished.
“Well, there’s no cop now,” Flash said. “But are you sure you want to uncreate him like that? He has a wife and kids. You have to put him back somewhere so he can go on with his life.”
“Don’t try and tell me that cop was real. Cops don’t just walk away politely if you ask them to, and they sure don’t disappear suddenly if you say there’s no cop.”
Flash had this calm, patronizing way of looking at me. “He was real, and if you don’t replace him soon, the police department will begin searching for him. Think of his family. Do you understand that you’re responsible for what you do?”
“No, as a matter of fact, I’m quite certain I’m not responsible for anything except getting rid of you. Other than that, I’m hallucinating.”
“Do you understand that this isn’t a joke?” he said, and after a moment’s thought, added, “And it’s not going to disappear because you’re pretending to ignore it. Mankind is depending on you.”
“I understand that you are indicative of my current state of insanity and that mankind is beyond redemption.”
“Don, you can’t get out of it. What happens from this point on, what happens to everything, is up to you.”
“I’m not going to be materializing any more frogs. That was my mistake. Period. I’m going to Dave’s now. I’m going to have a decaf cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie. Then I’m going home to find everything back to normal.”
I started my engine. This is very bad, but it could have been much worse. I’d handled it well. I’d hallucinated a cop pulling me over. But I hadn’t made a scene. I’d kept my cool. I figured it out. It’s so hard to tell what’s real and what’s not, and I nailed that one. I was proud of myself.
I shifted into drive and started rolling down the street. Now if I could just get rid of Flash. I turned to see he was gone. Thank god. Let this be the end of him too.
Coffee. I needed coffee. I needed time to think.
Go to Chapter Three