Au Phuc Dup & Nowhere to Go–Chapter 24

Chapter 24 The Swine in Concert

The concert of the Gadarene Swine, anticipated for months, had finally arrived. General Grommett sat in the front row with Colonel Drinelly, Colonel Droningkeit, and Colonel Dravidian in a section roped off for field-grade officers. Thousands of Marines were filing into stands hastily built around an elevated stage of beach netting and two-by-fours. Diesel generators thumped in the night to provide electricity for the lights. General Grommett felt hopeful. Things were looking up, and he thought the concert would be a Shot in the Arm for his image. He needed a lift, what with the matter of the invisible airplanes and the repeated attacks on the Third Tracs compound.

In particular this concert would benefit his reputation for concern for the common soldier. Walther had arranged to seat the press where General Grommett could easily be photographed enjoying the music, which would show his easy camaraderie with the troops. He had worried a bit about the Gadarene Swine, who didn’t look to embody wholesome American values. He remembered a Newsweek picture of the leader with his face painted like a spider’s and clutching what, no matter how the general turned the picture, appeared to be a chicken’s head. Colonel Walther had assured him that the Swine were on the approved list. No doubt the Newsweek picture pertained to a costume party.

General Grommett turned and gazed over the assembled Marines with a firm but fair smile. They were men a general could be proud of—clean, neat, and respectful to their superiors. They had these qualities because they were rear-echelon clerks and PX employees. General Grommet had toyed with flying in troops from the field, but decided against it. They were always muddy and frequently didn’t obey regulations regarding shaving. While he could understand weakness in the lower orders, he didn’t think it appropriate to reward such behavior, and anyway reporters were present.

Something resembling quiet fell. Artillery boomed softly in the distance, indistinct and soothing, and mortar flares trembled on the outer bounds of Marine existence. A Red Cross girl in blue vertical candy stripes announced the performance. There were many unseemly whistles, noted General Grommett disapprovingly. A black accent from Hearn’s direction yelled, “Take it off!”

From the stage Klok Mortuary, born Billy Beemis in North Cleveland seventeen years earlier, peered with red-lidded eyes at the audience. He wore filthy jeans, clutched a metal-flake-blue electric guitar, and had shoulder-length hair well on the way to being a minor ecosystem. His consciousness was bleary with cannabis residue and demanding concert schedules. He tried to concentrate. Who were these people, he wondered? Why were they wearing those green clothes? They looked like fascists. He hated them, he decided. The lights began to melt the grease paint that made his face into a ghastly black-and-red spider’s mask. It oozed into his eyes and burned. He squinted resentfully.

Gotta quit blowen that boss reefer, he thought. Just for a couple of days, clean out his mind. The old lungs were going, too, and his throat was always sore. Shit. Hey, what the fuck was going on? The acid must be starting to hit. The crowd merged, swam out of focus, blurred into some weird-shit wallpaper with lots of heads. Jeez.

Klok absently scratched his enormous electric-pink codpiece, raising hoots from those dangerous-looking thugs. He tried to direct his attention to them. They seemed to be waiting for him to do something. What could it be? Play, that was it. This must he a gig. He looked around. Yeah, the band was here. That was it. A gig. He gathered together as much of his being as was immediately available to him.

“OK,” he said wearily, “Let’s jam for these assholes.”

Then he attacked the guitar as if trying to dismember it.

Waaaaannnnggg!….waanng ! Waaannnng! The skies shuddered, it being a principle of rock that enough amplification substituted for technique. The drummer and sax man kicked in on different beats. The effect was what a reviewer for Time had called “a bold escape from the tyranny of outdated western music theory.” In penance, the Time reviewer had then gone to a bar for the evening.

Klok threw his head back and emitted a shrill adolescent whine,


Uggawugawuggagawugga capitalist pig! Don’t gonna suck on my ree-fer cig!” His voice rose several decibels to a chain-saw screech. “Blood! Blood! Blood of the people!”

General Grommett’s eyes narrowed and a green cast came over his cultivated mahogany visage. Something had gone badly wrong. Who had let that anti-American creature up there? His values didn’t look wholesome. Was it too late to stop it? A tight feeling came over his midriff. He suspected that this concert wasn’t after all going to be a Shot in the Arm. It looked more like a Kick in the Balls.

“My mo-o-ther! Mo-o-o-ther! She’s like a capitalist rope! Ta-ken, taa-a-aken, taken ‘way mah dope!”

The Gadarene Swine zonked, waaannged and screeched, twitched and jerked and whinnied and rutted. The stage lights changed colors, eerily reflecting on the smoke and haze. The sax man blew squawking atonal riffs and tried, just enough off the beat to be irritating, to copulate with his instrument. Klok Mortuary barked and neighed and ululated over the cataclysmic flow of sound. He pounded alternately on the guitar and his codpiece.

“Mer-ka! Mer-ka! Home of the grave and Satan! Sex crime! Sex crime! Let’s do some syncopatin’}}}}}|{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{1”

By the end of the first set, Anesthesia was thoroughly drunk. The concert was the only reasonable thing he had seen in the Corps. The Swine had reinvigorated his lost sense of rightness. He determined to join the performers. He wasn’t sure why. Somehow Klok came closer than Colonel Droningkeit to his vision of the true and the good. The Swine wouldn’t, he was sure, take away a man’s pearl-handled forty-fives.

“Hey, Swine!” He lurched to his feet as Hearn grabbed desperately for his collar. “Hoo! Shee-it! You wide muhfuhs all right! Heah I come! Gack!” Hearn had managed to grab his collar.

“Siddown, you drunken idiot!”

“Leggo, Hearn! I be goan join de Swine, ain’t goan be in de wah no mo’!”

He struggled erect again as Larry grabbed his arm. Beans, committed to a policy of imitation in lieu of comprehension, hung on to a leg. They swayed momentarily, a weaving eruption in a sea of green.


“…waaangalongawonkawonkawaaang! Revoluuuu-tion! Revoluuuu-cion! It’s the age of sacrifice! Poultry! Poultry! Who gotta boxa rice?”

“Hot dawg! Chicken be comin’ now!” said Anesthesia. He shook free of Larry and staggered forward, Hearn clinging to his back.

Stage attendants ran onto the clanging brilliance of the stage with a fifty-gallon aquarium containing the Swine’s celebrated colony of pet army ants. The function of these military insects was to eat the chicken after Klok had wrung from it all of its artistic potential, in addition to its head. The attendants then stood discretely offstage with cans of ant spray. Art was art, but there had been insurance problems when the things had swarmed off stage in Des Moines.

The swine were working themselves into an epileptic frenzy. Klok Mortuary played his guitar between his legs like a fretted phallus. Suddenly the reached into his codpiece and pulled out…

Good god, gasped General Grommett to himself, nearing the point of explosion. It looked like a chicken. It was a chicken. He remembered the picture in Newsweek. The horrible truth dawned on him. This disaster had to stop, now. That hairy little draft-evader seemed to be strangling the animal. Something had to be done. General Grommett doubted seriously whether any general had ever made chief of staff after sponsoring a teen-age degenerate in a day-glo codpiece who fed chickens to army ants.

He leaped up. “Stop this!” he roared. “The concert is over! Dis-missed!”

Nobody heard him.

Frantically he turned to the audience with his arms in the air, bellowing for attention. Several thousand pairs of eyes remained focused on Klok, who had produced a butcher knife from the utilitarian depths of the codpiece. Apparently he was about to clean the chicken.

“Atten-hut!” bellowed General Grommett.

Nothing happened. He noticed a large black soldier struggling through the mass of onlookers, another Marine riding on his back. What was going on? He had to stop this.

General Grommett climbed onto the stage in a blind fury just behind Anesthesia and the attached Hearn, and headed for Klok, who had the knife raised over the limp mass of feathers. Anesthesia was yelling something incomprehensible about wanten his fuggin nuke-yu-ler bummer. The saxophone squonked and wawked. Behind General Grommett came Colonel Droningkeit and behind him, Larry and Beans, all aiming to rescue their respective principals.

Klok looked up, saw the small mob rushing at him, and dropped the knife in terror. They were after him. Doubtless they wanted to despoil him. He had suspected it all along. Maybe he had better lay off acid for a while. He leaped to his feet and prepared to retreat. They could have his chicken, he thought, but not his guitar. He fled to one end of the stage, but couldn’t escape. The odd green men were everywhere. He turned to face his persecutors. That funny-looking one with those weird stars on his collar seemed murderous.

“Not my guitar! Pigs!”

He scurried away from them, thrusting the guitar high in the air as if to hold it beyond their reach. General Grommett caught him and began reaching over his head for the guitar. He didn’t want the guitar, but on the other hand he wasn’t sure what he did want, and the guitar seemed to be the only thing available. Colonel Droningkeit did likewise because General Grommett was doing it. Larry and Beans appended themselves to the pile and clutched at Anesthesia. For a moment they stood in frozen struggling tableau while flashbulbs exploded and the audience cheered mightily.

The pose, appearing on the covers of dozens of magazines in the ensuing weeks, was psychedelic Iwo Jima, with Klok Mortuary and his guitar as flagpole, except for the pink codpiece billowing out before like a low-flying dirigible. A Marine general inexplicably seemed to be trying to help hold the guitar aloft. And why was the corporal riding a black man like a horse? Many asked this and other questions. General Grommett’s prospects of becoming chief of staff declined precipitately.

Chapter 25  | Table of Contents

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