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Table of Contents

Metal Dogs

Fiction by D.V. Glenn

The golden knitting needles are gripped in Crystal’s fists, the points up-tilted like slender musketry angled from brows of trenches. Both fists are wedged into the flesh below her stomach where thighs socket into pelvis, fixed there, braced, immovable;1) the effort, her body’s tension, brings a roseate bloom to the surface of her tawny skin. Her elbows flare slightly, her whole body as she sits is clenched in anticipation of the impalement. Binder is kneeling, his palms flat on her thighs for support, as he aligns his eyes with the needle points, then tosses his head back like a restive stallion.

You don’t need to do this, Binder. You don’t want to be blind like the rest of the world, Crystal says.

  • .

Binder Trogg was accustomed to the reaction his name provoked among people inclined to comment on it at all. Invariably they reached a fork in some remote, secluded road of free association and traveled down one of two paths: Some told him that they would never suspect the owner of such a name to be black, that the name suggested no particular ethnicity. Others insisted that the name had a rustic languor about it, evoking towns with names like Tubalo, Mississippi, sleepy dust above dreaming dirt roads, dead heat pouring its molasses out of a spilled bucket of August sun, bluesy lean-to shacks where a black youth might be glimpsed standing in the doorway wearing faded bib overalls as someone called from far away, across a lifetime of fields, “Binder … Binder, don’t just stand there, come on out and prove what you can do.” Binder inclined favorably toward people in the first category.

  • .

Crystal told him constantly that he must not do it, not allow himself to be consumed by hatred, like the time he was standing in the elevator of the Warner Building in Woodland Hills, California, the fall from the 20th floor to the lobby floating his stomach in sudden linear, zero-G nausea as the only other passenger in the elevator, a middle-aged white woman dressed in a manner that seemed to suggest she might be well educated and liberal-leaning in her political views, pressed herself with prim apprehension into the corner to be farther away from him. Did he look like a derelict, in his $800 Italian loafers, his expensive Robe di Firenze leather briefcase dangling from his dark hand, his gray Kiton suit priced at $2,457 with its gossamer-thin 14-micron wool caressing his 6-foot frame, the jacket’s lining luxuriously woven of seaweed and horsehair? Did she imagine the air to be darkened by ghetto fetor?

Before the elevator could reach the lobby he had disrobed, to show her that no weaponry or contraband were hidden beneath his wardrobe, to let her see that he stood as naked and vulnerable in his mortality as the next man.

But what’s in the briefcase, the woman said, pressing herself backward into a crouch.

  • .

Once when was leaving The Grand Hyatt in New York, at Park and Central, a taxi driver with a complexion so pink it appeared to deliquesce into orange, coasted to a stop at the curbside where Binder stood, attired in a tailoring of sleek priceless silk befitting a sultan, and said to him, I don’t drive certain neighborhoods in Harlem.

  • .

The gated Southern Californian community Binder lives in is an incubator for great wealth. Upon entering this platinum-studded G-string of million-dollar homes tucked snugly into the crotch-like V made by a backdrop of abutting San Fernando foothills, visitors or residents pass through an iron gate that opens with electronic stealth between two tall pillars stately as the legs of the Vegas showgirl named Crystal who now lives with Binder but who prior to that had worried obsessively that once the lines and curves of her 22-year-old figure ceased to assert a voluptuous symmetry in a few years she would lose her job, though the Manager of Entertainment at the MGM Grand Hotel would most certainly be shrewd enough to contrive her termination without adducing weight as the cause of her dismissal and entangling the MGM in a discrimination lawsuit. Crystal lives with Binder in this exclusive gated community and no longer works, but she nevertheless frequently imagines in lurid detail the consequences of joblessness as if still employed at the MGM – hunger, eviction and homelessness – a tendency based on vivid recollections of her early childhood poverty in a small Midwestern town as brittle and corroded as a bumper crusted with flaking rust on an old abandoned pickup truck.

  • .

Binder, after doubling down on a providential hand at blackjack and retrieving a cashier’s check in the amount of $120,000 for his well-thumbed chips, had met Crystal in Las Vegas where she worked in the MGM Grand Hotel. She was a dancer - one of the few black showgirls to prance on the requisite sculpturesque legs across the MGM stage - who had finished her shift and seen Binder saunter away with his winnings and silently followed him and entered the elevator he rode to his comped penthouse suite. She watched him stride down the maroon-carpeted, sensuously hued hallway and enter his suite. Then she waited a while and knocked on the door he had just entered and when Binder had opened it she said, I think we could learn a lot from each other.

  • .

The iron gate opens and the road which is wryly known by the inhabitants of this community dripping in opulence as The Yellow Brick Road winds through what is indeed an Oz-like enclave that seems the product of wizardry, a wand which when waved sheds shimmering gold molecules and transforms the landscape into a haven where men and women are reputed to live enchanted lives.

Binder lives in a small mansion purchased with money made pyramiding or rather leapfrogging futures contracts and options on futures contracts established in short and long positions, an audacious array of calls and puts, combinations of exotic hedges and straddles executed in accordance with certain abstruse tools of technical analysis, utilizing Gann and Elliot Waves and the somewhat recondite principles of Fibonnacci numbers. There had been December heating oil, March gold, January sugar, September rice, April lumber, and of course soybeans – all successful trades, resulting in his current extravagant lifestyle. When Binder left Mississippi years ago he did not know what a futures contract was, had never seen a double top formation on a chart, did not know what a strike price was or how algorithms could be used to determine one, and knew only that Wall Street had something to do with money – huge sums hefted above the head and transferred from hand to hand like a body lifted by a sea of arms at a rock concert, a body shuttled along on a wave of drug-spawned exuberance until the music ended or arms grew weary. Money toppling from hand to hand, the hands principally white.

Binder was an unlikely candidate for stardom in the world of commodities but there is no predicting the fruits of a determined will. While other children in his neighborhood challenged gravity’s supremacy on scrofulous playground basketball courts Binder dreamed of leaving Mississippi and acquiring great wealth and changing the manner in which he was perceived by the white people of the world whom he was certain must surely be an extension of the whites in Tubalo, those tobacco-chewing, eternally old men who had not thought twice of referring to him as, You there, nigger boy, when they could not recall his name. And thus, armed with splenetic determination, Binder went on to achieve 2 out of the 3 components of his dream.

  • .

Binder had placed an ad in The Los Angeles Times business section that read: Wanted, Silicone Valleyesque Computer Genius To Program Metal Dog For Millionaire.

  • .

Crystal tried to convince him that self-inflicted blindness would settle nothing, resolve nothing, accomplish even less. Binder strode through the mansion’s high-ceilinged, lush-carpeted hallways with their idiosyncratic architectural arabesques and sweeping glass planes which conveyed to the eye a sense of convexo-concave acceleration, his cell phone pouring the usual obsequious lackey nectar into his ears, oblivious to Crystal as she trailed behind him, striving to dissuade. In desperation she phoned his octogenarian grandmother, Bertha, back in Tubalo, but the old woman, reluctant to bite the hand that lavishly fed her with the astronomical checks her grandson tossed her way almost as an afterthought each month, would not listen to reason.

He knows what he’s doin, even if he don’t know, she scolded Crystal.

  • .

For a child wallowing in the quicksand of backwoods poverty, a 3-legged mongrel dog found shivering on the streets may be quickly elevated to the status of Boy’s Best Friend. Ten-year-old Binder christened the stray dog Chase, a name that was the reflection of young Binder’s own sense of running nowhere fast, objectified. The two clung to one another in pitiful symbiosis, and when Chase bayed and howled at the bloated Mississippi moon yellow as the pages in a moldy book, Binder was right there beside him, howling and baying in soprano harmony, until pickup-truck-enthroned and intoxicated white men pelted them with beer cars as they drove past, boy and dog plunging back through the lavender-and-white pandemonium of jimson weeds choking the shoulder of the road to huddle together in a conspiracy of invisibility. When the trucks passed, they ascended to the shoulder of the road to continue their duet of hunger, their dissonant propitiation.

  • .

By the time Binder had reached the age of ten, mostly but not always gone were the days when blacks could be pursued through woods with virtual impunity by white men propelled by bloodthirsty exhilaration, captured and strung up in the mournful scaffolding of long-limbed trees. The drama of those times had since descended into acts of petty terrorism, the acts of vandals so imbecilic that they were unable to parlay the advantage of belonging to a racial majority into prosperity in a country, the United States of America, where color should have tilted the odds strongly in their favor. At any rate that was the consensus among the predominantly poverty-hammered black citizenry of Tubaloo: “White man can’t make it in a white man’s world, waaall … there’s a fella must be dumb as a dog.” 2) One afternoon when Binder returned home from school, the demonic eye of the sun staring down and draping everything in dead eyelashes of heat, he saw that Chase had been bound with a rope to the diseased oak tree in the grid of dirt that was his front yard. The dog had been shaved and resembled an emaciated pig. Painted on its side were the words nigger dog. The eyes had been gouged out, but with an attention to precision that was almost surgical and appeared to bode well for the animal’s speedy recovery. The dog bore no other wounds and after Binder’s grandmother examined Chase with a diagnostic acumen derived from her mysterious congress with supernatural forces, she declared he had not been poisoned and stood an excellent chance of propelling himself through the rest of his hapless life with his signature 3-legged shamble, although blindness would now augment his lurching gait and the gaping holes in his head enhance the beast’s already repellant appearance. Yet poor Chase expired later that night – his death attributed by Binder to nothing more than humiliation.

  • .

Many years later Binder wrote a letter to the actor Larwrence Fishburne explaining the beneficial impact that the movie “Deep Cover” had had on the course of his life. He agreed with the assessment that there is only rich and poor but went on to write that racial smoke screens seemed to constitute an almost insuperable obstacle. He did not receive the personal reply he had hoped for, but did receive an 8 x 10 glossy publicity photo of Lawrence Fishburne with an expression of brooding intensity masking his face, the corner of the photograph bearing an ink-stamp signature that read Thank You For Being A Fan, Cinematically Yours, L. Fishburne.

  • .

Rayner “Mother Board” Richards was a source of fecund anxiety for his parents, Jayne and Randy. His parents had combined their names to produce the son’s own in a flashbulb pop of giddy creativity triggered by slight intoxication the night they discovered that Jayne was pregnant and the two uncorked a $7,000 bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti to celebrate.3) Their son Rayner was highly intelligent but a classic underachiever with innate narcissistic tendencies greatly exaggerated by the desert-like stretches of self absorption which typify the onset of adolescence. Rayner’s psychiatrists explained all this to his parents, but the explanation did not make his behavior any easier for them to bear. Even among his like-minded peers, Rayner was seen as something of a proto-maverick, setting standards of delinquency they could only lamely aspire to.

Rayner was indefinitely grounded for destroying the marriage of his high school math teacher, Mr. Berser, who had given Rayner an F in algebra.

Rayner had long suspected that Mr. Berser was a “pervert” – a word that shimmered with undefined promise for the 16-year-old - and determined to establish his suspicion through incontrovertible evidence. One Saturday afternoon in his bedroom he connected his portable PC to his cellular phone, brooding on the screen as a map was drawn of each cellular phone call that was currently being placed in a “cell.” 4) And bingo – Mr. Berser, obliviously driving to his destination, was caught like a fly in Rayner’s digital spider net. Rayner then faxed the address of Madame Tootsie’s and the time of Mr. Berser’s regularly scheduled tri-weekly sexual rendezvous to Mrs. Berser, who confirmed the information for herself. Of course, it would have been so much easier had Rayner possessed a drivers license and been able to simply shadow him by car, but not as much fun as the tracking scheme Rayner was able to employ with a common laptop and cell phone. His only mistake: his hubris of braggadocio, followed by the alacrity with which his friends ignited Rayner’s exploits in a wildfire of rumors that spread up and down the high school’s locker-lined corridors, somehow burning a swift trail of disclosure back to his parents.

Rayner saw the ad in the Los Angeles Times that read Wanted, Silicone Valleyesque Computer Genius To Program Metal Dog For Millionaire, and decided that his period of exile from the world had gone on long enough.

  • .

Rayner traversed mainly by skateboard the 350 miles between Carmel and Encino, where Binder lived, and when the smooth stretches of pavement and asphalt that were necessary to facilitate his journey succumbed to boils and pockmarks on the uneven face of the terrain, he hitchhiked. He contrived a ruse to ensure his progress: Male motorists saw a young white girl standing by the side of the road dressed in black fishnet stockings and black leather miniskirt, a zippered black vinyl halter vest, straight shoulder-length hair so black it seemed to have been ladled from a vat of liquefied raven wings and poured over the hitchhiker’s head, hanging in a glossy promiscuous curtain. Rayner had found these items in a box hidden in the back of the garage, the props and playthings of his father’s and Samantha’s affair that had passed into sexual antiquity. On his journey to Encino he would, when hitchhiking was required, enter service station bathrooms wearing his everyday surfer togs and emerge in full sluttish regalia, 3 inches added to his 5-foot-9-inch height by black stiletto heels.

On one occasion two cars pulled over at the same time and the men battered each other with fists in debased competition for the privilege of accommodating the illusion Rayner had so easily manufactured.

  • .

Lately Binder was held captive by a peculiar feeling that time was running out, that he stood at dark crossroads. He had not been close to his grandmother growing up, but for a short time had he not been close to Chase? The moth-eaten dog was taken from him before he could learn all the beautiful lessons that would surely have blossomed as their relationship took root and flowered; their mutual terror in the face of life might have magnetized them in an orbit of intimate dependency about one another, like the particles that whirl around an atom’s nucleus, like two non-swimmers who cling to one another and accelerate their descent, and die, but do not die alone. Young Binder was just beginning to believe that to be a living being was, principally, to be a thing – that the door of ontology would never swing open to understanding, could never be pushed far enough open to fully reveal the exotic landscape of existence. The boy would peer into Chase’s flinching eyes, holding the dog’s loose jowls, lathered in a beard of saliva, to prevent him from scrambling out of his grasp, while the dog whimpered and moaned piteously, his hunger-flattened haunches tensed in a quiver of attempted retreat, and Binder would glimpse himself. Binder had been deprived of the chance to deepen his relationship with Chase, and he believed that as a result he was not equipped with the tools needed to master the mysterious carpentry of relationships.

  • .

Binder and Crystal visited a number of pet shops and animal shelters. He watched the fluffy romp and tumble of puppies in their cages, looping about one another like clothes circling in the spinning drum of a dryer, but could not find a dog that would restore to him the childhood memory of the mongrel dog Chase.

  • .

The next day Binder’s near-infallible sixth sense that extended itself antennae-like and routinely ascertained the rising and falling, tick by tick, of the volatile futures market betrayed him in a bad position where his vision of the big picture was accurate but his timing was off. The commodity did break out of the narrow channel on the charts where it had been non-trending laterally for the past month and rocket swiftly up as Binder had predicted it would, but not before plunging 50 ticks on the down side. He would have been fine had he not neglected to specify the placement of predetermined stops to his broker, who at Binder’s request had executed a trade establishing a huge number of long positions for September cocoa. 5) For the first time in his acrobatic career as a futures trader, Binder received a margin call from broker Ted Leebron, who managed to conceal a that’s-what-you-get tone of righteous self-justification beneath those of sepulchral consolation. Binder’s account was wiped out in 45 minutes. Cocoa rebounded from its free-fall and ricocheted upside to scratch 96 one hour later.

  • .

When Crystal discovered that Binder had lost millions of dollars in the space of a single afternoon, she locked herself in one of the mansion’s four bathrooms that was more spacious than her apartment in Las Vegas had been, and looked at herself in the mirror. She was accustomed to looking at herself with assessing eyes that placed her at a distance from herself, as though she were one of the many men who all her life had gazed at her as though she were a cog in the mechanism of their lust. She whispered, Hey girl, what would you do if you were Crystal?

  • .

Rayner stood before Binder and Crystal in a dimly lit room where the walls were hives for embedded television monitors and tables were stacked with computer hardware buzzing in the frequencies of low-hovering bees. For his interview he was asked to expatiate at length on any topic pertaining to technology that interested him. He spoke of the latest developments in artificial intelligence with neurotically inflected bursts of passion, pausing only to sweep thrashes of wig from his face.

Are you a boy or a girl, Binder asked him, interrupting Rayner.

Before Rayner answered Binder’s question, he concluded his elaboration of his own modest attempts to design electronic replicas of neural networks in order to demonstrate how electronic networks might be made to generate logical thought processes, then asked, Can the difference between a male and a female thought really be demonstrated?

  • .

Binder took Rayner to a room commanding a breathtaking view of the coastline’s slender arms, enveloped by shawls of silken sand, embracing an ocean freckled with sunlight and pouring from horizon to shore in dissolves of texture like honey. The seascape was not real; it was a virtual ocean shimmering in a space carved holographically out of the northern quadrant of the room – in this way Binder could enjoy the visual glory of the Pacific while avoiding what he called “the stench of eternity in decay” which he found to be a repugnant olfactory drawback. The beauty of the holographic ocean contrasted boldly with the ugliness of the walls, white walls covered by furiously scribbled ink sketches of robotic mongrels featuring faces contorted with a viciousness mediated by cartoonish exaggeration. He led Rayner to a pedestal in the corner of the room covered with a drop cloth. Grabbing one end of the cloth, he signaled to Crystal, who was standing by the door and pressed a button on a panel built into the wall as the cloth was pulled away. Music spilled into the room like acid from a beaker, a concoction that filled the air with corrosively loud strains alternating between Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” and N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police.” 6)

The metal dog stood on the pedestal: Cylindrical stove-pipe legs flared down, widening in the manner of bell-bottomed pants, from a barrel-shaped torso studded with bulky rivets that were cosmetic rather than functional. The muzzle was elongated and snout-like, terminating in an O-shaped mouth with hinged jaw gaping open upon a ragged ring of stalactite teeth. Shaggy patches of fur sprouted as if haphazardly glued to the metal dog’s frame with no attempt to completely cover the chassis, giving the whole apparatus a mangy, diseased appearance, and the beady coal-red eyes were asymmetrically positioned in the head, which sprouted the inordinately large ears of a bat, crudely stitched from overlapping patches of leather. From the squared drums of its disproportionately large and jutting hindquarters, a rodent-like tail of hirsute leather dangled thinly.

Time for you to mine some coin, Binder shouted to Rayner above the soaring walls of music.

  • .

When Rayner was not working on one of a variety of computers, he and Crystal watched from an upper-story window a platoon of bulldozers razing the splendidly landscaped property. Gone were the Edenic sweeps and verdant slopes, the sculpted hedges and marbled fountains and flowering gardens, the trestled pathways and the Olympic-size swimming pool. The small continent of opulence had been plowed under, the earth ripped open like a gunshot wound; there was nothing now but an expanse of dirt. Workmen built an outhouse, dug a well, scattered rotted wooden planks and junkyard debris and rusted car parts, planted a diseased oak from which a patched inner tube hung from a rope fastened to one of the gnarled branches. Binder, wearing bib overalls, choreographed the placement of debris and garbage, waving his arms in frustration or nodding in satisfaction.

What’s he doing? Rayner asked.

Making it look like Tubalo, Mississippi, Crystal said.

Why?

That’s where his family is from, Crystal said. She was biting her nails.

Families sure can fuck an individual up, Rayner said, running his fingers through the raven-black strands of the wig.

I wouldn’t know. I never had one.

I have one, Rayner said.

How are they?

He thought for a moment, then said, Nice little white slices of Wonder Bread.

How old are you?

Sixteen.

I wonder how’d you look without all the chick gear? Crystal asked.

  • .

Once Binder was a first-class passenger on a 747 flying over the sun-polished mirror of the Ionian Sea, bound for Athens, Greece. He had decided to visit after reading statistics which listed the division of ethnic groups as 98% Greek, 2% Other, followed by a single footnote, the content of which was sufficient to pique his curiosity with its contradictory assertion that “the Greek government states there are no ethnic divisions in Greece” and was the sole impetus for his visit to that country. He wanted to ladle his presence like an ingredient in a recipe into the 2 % Other bowl and compare this experience to the relegated invisibility he experienced as unwanted admixture in the nonexistent melting pot of the United States (save for those instances in which he was momentarily lifted by racial epithet to malignant visibility). The man sitting next to him engaged Binder from time to time in chatter that seemed to borrow its effervescence from the flute of Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne he regally tilted to tomato-red lips. This fellow traveler, a vice president of corporate communications for AT&T, summarized an article he had recently read, and concluded by asking what Binder thought of the idea of the United States government making monetary reparation to African Americans for slavery, which the man felt was absurd.

Binder said, In 1990, the United States paid 1.5 billion to Japanese Americans for what happened during World War II. In ’85 they paid $105 million to the Sioux of South Dakota.

It’s not the same thing, the man replied, and did not speak to Binder for the remainder of the flight. 7)

  • .

To the best of his recollection, Binder had been called a nigger (or equivalent) 4,578 times when he lived in Tubalo. The dog Chase, only once.

  • .

Rayner, during the two weeks that he was working on the metal dog, did not know that his father had hired a private detective to track him. His father did not bother calling the police; Rayner had run away from home on five previous occasions when being punished for his resistance to disciplinary actions his parents regularly and ineffectually meted out. Rainer would typically disappear for weeks at a time; his parents had cried wolf too often now and did not need the grief, the embarrassment that police intervention had always brought in its wake.

  • .

Binder held the diamond-studded leash and walked in the razed front yard bordered by the mansion’s circular driveway, the metal dog moving smoothly and swiftly with him over intestinal ruffles of terrain. The legs rose and fell in a general approximation of walking, but movement was actually accomplished by means of the four small wheels attached to shock-absorbing rods hidden by the legs’ cylindrical casing with their lank spangles of fur which swept the ground around hoof-shaped paws. The marching of the legs resembled the frictionless rising and falling of carousal horses on their poles as they circled to the accompaniment of bubbly calliope music.

Sit, Binder commanded abruptly. The dog sat obediently, its tail swishing eagerly in the dirt like a windshield wiper.

The metal dog had already retrieved a ball, vaulted into the air to catch a Frisbee in snapping jaws, and on Binder’s command to pee, lifted its leg to release a stream of pseudo-urine (Gatorade) on the side of the outhouse. Before executing each command, the dog had answered in a voice that seemed to expand and contract in a loose gargle of mechanical beeps, Yes, Binder, I will do that. Binder squatted and looked fixedly into the dog’s beady, coal-red eyes.

The eyes, they lack terror, Binder said to Rayner, who was swinging in the inner tube while Crystal pushed him.

  • .

Binder was well satisfied with the modifications that were made to the metal dog’s eyes. Now they were glassy pools in which Rayner had somehow managed to drop jagged pebbles of terror, with resulting ripples of loneliness spreading across the eye’s crimson surfaces to the edges, sometimes spilling over in a non-saline rust-retardant solution and dripping down the pockmarked muzzle in a mockery of tears.

The subsidiary effect of loneliness, I thought you’d like that, Rayner said tentatively.

Binder nodded in deep appreciation.

  • .

Then the wandering began through the rooms and hallways of the mansion, at all hours of the day and night, the blindfold an ebony petal wrapping Binder’s eyes in a blackness as unequivocal as that of soil exhumed from deep in the earth. Sensors built into the dog, whom Binder named Chase Again, detected and measured objects and obstructions, distances and depths in their manifestations of heat, sound and light, spidering the environment in a circumambient web of lasers that bounced information back into the metal dog’s computerized radar receptors. Binder clutched Chase Again’s harnessed leash, but found that it was his feet, enveloped in the bulky ill-fitting shoes of his distrust, that caused him to repeatedly stumble and fall, not the dog’s inability to successfully maneuver the pitfalls of blindness. When Rayner or Crystal rushed forward to help Binder to his feet, a vicious snarl like clacking marbles rolled out of Chase Again’s throat, teeth flashing in serrated warning.

  • .

Binder began to trust Chase Again. He allowed himself to become a passive beneficiary of the surety with which the metal dog moved around the shallow ditches and hillocks of junk in the rustic desuetude of the grounds outside, grounds once maintained by a small army of environmental engineers and devoid now of the sculpted and cultivated landscape that had been like an exteriorization of the sweetly effortless affective states generated by Prosac. Binder had been betrayed by a world of appearances that readily shifted on the vector of his whims in proportion to the amount of money he spent; he could dictate the actions of people, purchase their responses, but sight flowed from their eyes freely and he was caught in the tightly woven net of their perceptions.

It was only because he could see that Binder knew he could be seen by others.

  • .

At around this time, Crystal embarked on a buying spree, as if in preparation for something inevitable. In a dungeon of hours she watched the QVC channel on an enormous screen in the viewing room. Rayner sat beside her in his wig and trashy garments, keeping a record of her purchases. Her consciousness lay dissolving in the viscera of glittering images as if bathed in will-corroding digestive juices of innumerable trinkets and allurements: body-sculpting and toning devices, work-out machines and paraphernalia, age-retarding creams and lotions, teeth whiteners, volume-maximizing shampoos and conditioners, a rainbow selection of colored contact lenses.

Why’s he wearing the blindfold? Rayner asked. They shared an obscenely large sack of Lay’s Potato Chips. A ghost town of empty cellophane bags at their feet had provided them with the metabolic fuel required for unbroken stretches of television viewing. With that dull hollow energy derived from high-sodium-content food that crunches, they watched the screen.

He’s practicing to see how it’ll be when he’s blind.

Binder’s going blind?

No.

Rayner’s silence was feline, like a cat coiled in sleep. Are you his wife?

No. I’m somebody money makes a big impression on.

Money should be a means to an end.

Easy for you to say. You got paid 100 K for tweaking a mutt that looks like it belongs to the Tin Man. So what’s the end your 100 is a means to?

He shrugged. Coming down from Carmel, I found out I can make people do what I want if I can convince them that what they see is real. Rayner’s shrug slid into his tone of voice like a baseball player sliding into home plate and he concluded, And I did it without money.

Been doing that all my life, but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough, Crystal said.

Maybe it is enough, but not if you think you need money to pull it off, Rayner offered.

My zenji gender bender, she said, leaning over and pecking him lightly on the cheek.

Then he asked, Do you love Binder?

That’s a funny question to ask a girl when she’s busy spending money, Crystal answered.

  • .

Binder and Chase Again howling hoarse poetry into the rapt, astonished microphone of the moon.

  • .

Binder wore the blindfold and it was not the prison that sight had been. Chase Again responded when Binder touched him, sniffing the air with affection under the pheromone of his master’s touch. And Binder, in a Technicolor of recall made ferocious by memories of what his eyes could no longer feed on, visualized every detail of Chase Again’s grotesque appearance, his mangy asymmetrical beauty, so like the original Chase’s repugnant beauty. At night, Chase Again lay growling protectively on the floor at the side of his master’s bed, his eyes growing fervid and crystalline like blood-red snowflakes in the winter of his master’s recombinant dreams. No, Binder, I will not do that, the metal dog murmured.

  • .

Arms akimbo, Crystal modeled her handcrafted Las Vegas Showgirl costume for Rayner, at his request. She strutted with stately serenity about the bedroom in a cranberry-red rhinestone bra and matching French-cut briefs sequined with crystal, a fantail cinching her narrow waist and displaying 6 chandelle tails, a turban-style headpiece sprouting 2-foot long ostrich feather plumes. Gloves, neckpiece and nude fishnets completed the ensemble.

Rayner licked his finger, touched an ostrich feather, and made a sizzling sound.

Why do you wear girl’s clothing? Crystal asked.

Well, Rayner said, this was the first time, but I like it.

Because you want to be a girl?

No, because people think they know who you are based on what they see.

I thought you wanted to be a girl, or you were maybe a transvestite, she said.

And as a result of that, what?

That you didn’t like girls.

Wrong. See what I mean? You were effectively psyched.

Or that you didn’t like me.

Wrong, he said, in a softer voice.

But you are sixteen, you know.

And as a result of that, what?

She thought about that, then smiled. I see.

  • .

The golden knitting needles are gripped in Crystal’s fists, the points up-tilted like slender musketry angled from brows of trenches. Both fists are wedged into the flesh below her stomach where thighs socket into pelvis, fixed there, braced, immovable; the effort, her body’s tension, brings a roseate bloom to the surface of her tawny skin. Her elbows flare slightly, her whole body as she sits is clenched in anticipation of the impalement. Binder is kneeling, his palms flat on her thighs for support, as he aligns his eyes with the needle points, then tosses his head back like a restive stallion. 8)

You don’t need to do this, Binder. You don’t want to be blind like the rest of the world, Crystal says.

Chase Again and Rayner stand off to the side watching Binder and Crystal on the pedestal in the room flooded with Wagner, N.W.A., and the leonine roar of the holographic ocean.

Rayner snaps his fingers, as if in time to a single unifying beat lurking below the pulses of music clashing violently against one another.

Binder plunges forward, plunges down.

  • .

At that moment Binder’s grandmother, Bertha, calls from Tubalo, Mississippi. For days she has been thinking about what Crystal told her, Binder’s plan to hurl himself into perpetual darkness. She has burned St. John the Conqueror root with mugwort, the fumes rising in an oracle of pungent plumes, the smoky rungs of a divinatory ladder descending beneath her feet as she climbs to an a eminence of clarity where she is able to see through the clouds of a 35-year-long hesitancy. It is time to tell the truth: that it was she who had gouged out the dog Chase’s eyes to reinforce and add dramatic weight to the lesson she had hoped the boy Binder would learn when the white men had bound Chase to the tree and painted the word nigger dog across the hairless body. The lesson she hoped the boy would absorb was that a similar fate awaited him, crucifixion as powerless and humiliated thing, if he did not discover a way to open his eyes to the searing light of the world’s machinations.

The ringing of the telephone is muffled by the music that quilts the mansion. They would later hear Bertha’s message played back on the answering machine, her voice like something thrown into a blender set to the highest speed, choppy and jittered by the years, a mixture of apology and self-justification sieved through the phone’s mouthpiece.

I might have lied to you Binder, but you got to admit that damn mangy dog stank to high heaven.

  • .

Chase Again responds to the snapping of Rayner’s fingers, front and hind legs extending in flight, the metal dog slicing air in a flattened trajectory, eyes married to the needles awaiting Binder’s eyes, neural-imitative circuitry flashing a code-red simulacra of thought: No.

  • .

Rayner has anticipated Binder’s anger at being thwarted. In the two weeks he has spent in the mansion, he has come to know the grooves, the tracery of Binder’s pattern of thought, both through observation and sympathetic resonance, having detected the same anger building to a storm behind his own eyes at seeing himself perceived in a certain reductive manner. He had taped what happened, guessing that if Binder could have witnessed the metal dog in its graceful airborne lunge, he would be chastened by the sight of a thing so ugly temporarily transformed by flight into a thing of improbable beauty.

Rayner is right. Again and again Binder replays the tape where Chase Again soars, hurling himself into Crystal, jarring the knitting needles from her hands, and in the process dislocating her right arm, which now hangs in a sling.

  • .

Crystal and Rayner sit on the bed in the palatial master bedroom, waiting for Binder to enter the room.

What’s taking you so long, Rayner shouts. They can hear Binder shuffling about in the hallway.

I don’t like it, they hear Binder say from beyond the hallway door.

You don’t have to like it, Rayner says. It’s just to show you how easy it is.

Oh, come on, Binder, Crystal urges. We won’t tell anybody.

The door opens reluctantly. Binder enters the room, wobbling on high heels, his head tilted at a precarious angle as he attempts to balance the turban-style headpiece with his gloved hands. He stands awkwardly in the cranberry-red rhinestone bra and matching French-cut briefs sequined with crystal, the fantail sprouting ostrich feathers.

Now strut, Crystals commands.

Hell no, Binder says, and immediately begins to remove the outfit.

That’s just one way to do it, Rayner says. Trick is, you to come up with variations on a theme. 9)

Out of the mouths of babes, Crystal confirms.

  • .

So what will you do now for money? Crystal asks.

Oh, Binder says, I’m not worried. I still have some property up north I can dump. I can always make money.

No doubt, Rayner says, fingering the strands of the wig.

They stand in the mansion’s doorway.

Maybe re-do the prototype for Chase Again, Binder says. Pretty him up a little. Manufacture the next generation of seeing eye dogs. Metal Dogs, Inc. What about you?

I thought I’d give Rayner here a little taste of Vegas.

They think they’re smart, Rayner says knowingly, with their zillion-deck shoes at the blackjack tables in the casinos. They’re not so smart.

Binder and the metal dog watch Crystal and Rayner walk across the annihilated grounds, skirting the stacks of merchandise ordered from the QVC channel and delivered in boxes by a UPS delivery truck a few hours ago. They disappear down the winding footpath to the yawning gate.

  • .

A silver Jaguar pulls up to the curb across the immaculate, tree-canopied street. After two weeks spent accumulating and following leads, the private detective has finally managed to trace Rayner to Binder’s address. Rayner’s father opens the door and slides out of the driver’s seat; the detective gets out on the passenger side, walks around the front of the car, and stands next to Mr. Richards. Both men lean against the car and look at the open gate to Binder’s mansion, speaking to each other in discreet tones.

What they see is a young black woman, arm in a sling, striding on statuesque legs, heels biting smartly into an apple of crisp echo, holding hands with a raven-haired, teenaged white girl wearing a black miniskirt, black halter top, sunglasses and stiletto heels narrow as the stems of champagne glasses. The men openly stare as the pair exit the gate, cross the street diagonally, and walk directly past them. The teenaged girl taps her sunglasses down an inch with her index finger and winks solemnly at Mr. Richards.

Mr. Richards, shaking his head in disgust, watches his son vanish into distances zebra-stripped by sun and shadow, but fails to recognize him.

Next Story

1) Where thighs socket into pelvis: This felicitous fit, this instance of the connectedness of disparate things, is but one example of many such marriages, marriages between dichotomies great and small. All around there are holes and vacuums and an abundance of people, places and things to fill them. Laughter or screams may be used to fill the black open hole of the mouth; energetic comings and goings may be used to fill fissures of boredom and fear; in the absence of sexual partners, masturbation may be employed to flood feelings left by an aridity of non-masturbation - and the examples could go on and on. All these examples are as a palm placed in the middle of the back, friendly, urging you forward with a little push, as though you were a child reluctant to get on the bus that would convey you to a first day of school. Just a little push, a nudge of encouragement, and you see that the bus isn’t so bad, that there is room for you there, that the bullies of chaos and meaninglessness and unhappiness shrink back if there is willingness to step forward, open the eyes, observe what appears to be evidence of a grand design, such as where thighs socket into pelvis. This is a willingness Binder is constitutionally unable to muster. These are Binder’s feelings, not his thoughts.
2) Most of the black townspeople had little better than 4th grade educations and could not have been expected to grasp the fact that race was the great smoke-screen for the deeply buried elitist apparatus governing the acquisition and distribution of wealth. Modern global-economic realities tend to validate this theory, which is unfortunately further smoke-screened by unsavory suggestions of communism - at least, this would become Binder’s autodidactic conviction later, when he would come to invent the aphorism, It’s not the skin you’re in, but the green you can glean after seeing a movie called “Deep Cover” in which a white actor, Jeff Goldblum, explains to a black actor, Lawrence Fishburne, without any condescension that Binder could detect, “there’s no more black and white … there’s only rich and poor …” - a line of dialogue that for Binder triggered a small but crystallizing moment of epiphany.
3) They had discovered Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) while attending a formal, high-power wine tasting event in the cinematically beautiful coastal town of Carmel in central California, where they actually lived. This town had goldenly basked in the celebrity of its mayor, Clint Eastwood, for his 2-year term in 1986 and still radiated something of a golden afterglow. The wine, largely responsible for spawning the term “cult wine” which enlarges the vocabulary of criteria and definition for connoisseurs, boasts a mushroom-like, pleasantly fungal flavor with muted overtones of strawberry and red currant. Samantha Ringwold, a real estate mogul of legendary prowess in that part of California, a 30-something woman with striking aquiline features who would eventually be instrumental in increasing Binder’s real estate holdings farther up the coast, and who was having an affair with Randy, also attended the wine tasting event. Alcohol she had consumed prior to the event – she was a pathologically lonely woman despite her success – prompted her to approach Randy’s wife and hand her an envelope filled with photos depicting fetishistic sex scenarios with a pervasive black leather motif between Randy and Samantha. After a tempestuous 6-month period during which Jayne and Randy struggled to resurrect their marriage from its shambles, the couple reconciled with the aid of counseling and conceived Rayner. Oddly, Randy sees Rayner as Samantha’s offspring, almost as if Samantha had been the man in their relationship and he had been the woman impregnated; then, during sex with his wife, it seemed to him as if Jayne had somehow been transformed into his old self, Randy, while he became the impregnated Samantha; finally, in the end, it was as if he had somehow transferred his Samantha-self to his Randy-wife, who gave birth to the 7-pound Rayner, perfectly healthy, the boy’s face bearing, in a perverse example of synchronicity, pencil-sharp aquiline features
4) A cell may be defined as the area circumscribed by a single broadcast unit in the cellular phone network labyrinth. Rayner knew that when phones traverse one cell to the next, as they typically do in moving vehicles, information in the form of hidden code was married to the phone transmission. It was therefore relatively easy for Rayner to coerce the network to query cell phone transmissions to current real-time locations. Knowing the location of each cell allowed Rayner to see displayed on the laptop’s screen the geographic location of active phones, as long as the user was engaged in chatter. It was in this way, more or less, after extending the software on his PC, that Rayner discovered Mr. Berser’s addiction to prostitutes, the location of the massage parlor – Madame Tootsie’s – the teacher frequented 3 times a week in the evenings (all the while the teacher was en route to Madame Tootsie’s, he made a habit of engaging in “nasty talk” to his masseuse, Dala, which heightened his sense of anticipation and inflamed fantasies that were to be shortly realized). While he was grounded, he amused himself by thinking through an even more formidable monitoring task: that of pirating the data from the cellular network's paging channel (a special frequency that cellular networks use to communicate administrative information to cell phones) to trace car phones through the networks. Each time a relay occurred from one cell to the next, that data could be recorded on the PC’s screen – enabling Rayner to track users whether or not they were engaged on the phone
5) Binder’s broker, Ted Leebron, might have casually quizzed any other noninstitutional mega-client to determine whether there was a reason for not placing a stop-loss order below the entry point of 64 (per pound) at which the open order was activated, but Binder’s strategic repertoire exceeded Ted’s – more than once, Binder had embarrassed the broker by pointing out an oversight or flaw in Ted’s proposed strategy, so that he was not predisposed to question Binder’s maneuvers. Ted also believed – though he considered himself to be otherwise muticulturally enlightened - that blacks were intellectually inferior (but not by all that much, he would freely admit) to whites, and so was reluctant to place himself in a position that would undermine this belief. Where opportunities for his own edification arose in observing certain of Binder’s more complex stratagems, he dismissed them, preferring to think that the black client’s acumen was due to some unfathomable combination of luck and gambler’s instinct which favored him with wild, improbable successes. Deeper down, where his thoughts resembled those aquatic monstrosities bred by the sea to lurk in the blackness at its bottom, Ted was aware that even the most propitious combination of luck and gambler’s instinct would crumble in the face of Binder’s consistent record of accomplishment, but he was the sort of person who in general was averse to introspection. This trait had drawn him to the adrenaline flushed world of commodities trading as a career in the first place, so that for him the preservation of dimly lit levels of awareness was inextricably linked to states of high-voltage gratification, a gratification that had all the self-reinforcing potency of an addiction to be maintained at all costs.
6) N.W.A.(Niggaz Wit’ Attitude): Now-defunct band from LA’s Compton district, seminal in its influence, initiating hip-hop’s gangsta epoch. The original lineup showcased future rap megastars Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, and was bankrolled by the group’s frontman, ex-narcotics-dealer-turned-rapper Eric “Easy-E” Wright, who would die of AIDS in 1995. Despite minimal air support, the 1989 album “Straight Outta Compton” soared to platinum heights. Mainstream cynosure was gained as a result of the track “Fuck tha Police” which was denounced by both the F.B.I. and the 200,000-member Fraternal Order of Police. Binder here was attempting to achieve an ironic synthesis of warring aesthetic perspectives that he believed reflected a larger, irreconcilable cultural schism.
7) The issue of the $105 million paid to the Sioux of South Dakota aside, the man - had he known the facts, and had his thoughts not been afloat in a voluptuous muddle enhanced by the thin atmosphere of heightened altitudes - would have heatedly proposed for discussion the case of James King, a former U.S. Marine, who had been among the troops and civilians taken prisoner after a small American garrison on Wake Island in the South Pacific mounted a brave but ultimately futile resistance against the overwhelming foe of Imperial Japanese forces on December 23, 1941. King, along with other captives, was shipped to Kyushu, Japan, where for the remainder of the war he toiled as a slave laborer in a steel factory and was subjected to maltreatment in a prison camp by night. King was 20 years old when captured and weighed 167 pounds; he weighed 97 pounds at the conclusion of the war. King was one of the plaintiffs (King vs. Nippon Steel Corp) seeking judicial redress through monetary reparations from Japanese corporations for forced labor and injustices suffered in WWII. At that point Binder would have similarly retorted, It’s the not same thing, whereupon – best case scenario – the two may have toasted one another in acknowledgment of a bond grudgingly forged from the gray viscid stuff of irresolvable ethical complexities.
8) It appears that his logic has completed itself in a syllogism of darkness, in the black womb where his world waits to be born again, in the prairie of midnight where he is convinced tumbleweed eyes will roll and ricochet off him harmlessly, in the placeless present tense where his life now unfolds in a syntax of ambient ebony. It only requires the perfection of a gesture, a leap of faith cemented into irreversibility. He has removed his blindfold for the first time in the seamless day-night fabric he had stitched himself into; he has removed his blindfold just long enough for a final orientation, eyes tracking on the points of the knitting needles.
9) Rayner here alludes to the perfection of a gesture, a leap of faith cemented into irreversibility.

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