Chapter 5: Twinkie
John yawned. "I sure am bored. I've been throwing darts for three days straight."
"Are you my mother?"
Rob handed him a Twinkie. "Here, Ben. This is your mother."
Ben accepted the Twinkie gratefully. "Hi, Mom. I'm going to fuck you up the ass. Did we eat yet? What are we going to have for breakfast? Thanks, Rob."
"Ben, you're the twinkle in your Twinkie and the apple of your ear. God, I'm so sick of throwing darts. I'm consumed with guilt. Angela's death was all my fault. I can never face anyone again. I should kill myself."
"Shut up. Just shut up. I don't want to talk about that. She was in love with me. I'm Rikki Rockett. It's all my fault. Anyway, what were you doing in the girls' bathroom? Wait a minute. Was that me? Or was that you? Am I remembering this or making it up? I've been in this basement so long, I don't know what's real any more. I'm on a mission. I've gotta get out of here. But I can't leave. I feel a sense of urgency. I have to go to the bathroom. No, I WANT to go to the bathroom. Where's my lip balm?"
"Where's Bill? Have you seen Bill? I can't find Bill. Bill? Bill. Hi, Bill. Where's Bill?"
John looked suspiciously at Rob. "What are you talking about? I wasn't in the girls' bathroom. At least not today. Or not ever that I can remember. When were you in the girls' bathroom, you fiend?"
"Who cares? It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. I didn't kill Angela. She had no choice. She was determined. She thinks she's safe now. As long as there's a single atom in the universe, she's not safe. She's still suffering. She still has desire. She needs me."
"What are you talking about? You make about as much sense as Ben, and Ben has been retarded since Kim hit him with the tuna. Are you turning into a retard, too? That'd be funny. Maybe you're really Ben and I'm really you and Ben's really me."
Ben brightened for a moment. "OK!" he chirped. "Rikki Rockett!"
"What day is it?" John demanded.
"Tuesday. Tomorrow is Hamburger Day."
"Kim told me they were having a memorial service for Angela today at the High School. We should put on our uniforms and go. It'll make us famous. It'll be a great photo op."
"Why? I can't go anywhere. I don't want my picture taken. I'm hiding. I'm a fugitive. I have to stay here. I have no home. I have no parents. I don't want to be a street person. I'm on a mission. All I have is this place and Rikki Rockett."
"Shut up, Rob. Ben, you gonna come with?"
"Angela was my love slave."
"See? Ben wants to go. Where's your uniform, Ben?"
"OK, put it on and let's go. Rob, you stay here with your lip balm and gaurd the recording equipment from angry mobs. We'll bring back some bread and juice for you. I love you."
The service was already in progress when John and Ben arrived. Dr. Busboom stood at the podium intoning a nonsectarian prayer that managed to suggest the presence of a divine being without ever mentioning Its name. He had just called for a Moment of Silence when John pushed open the double doors. He led Ben by the hand through the crowded auditorium. "I'm a retarded, hello!" Ben piped into the reverent hush. Heads turned everywhere. There was laughter. Ben beamed at the crowd and John struck a noble pose. Students eagerly made room for the two celebrities. John scanned the auditorium for photographers. His composure seemed to evaporate as the familiar hall transformed into a sea of smoky haze and hollow eyes. Ben shivered. A girl in the next row whispered audibly, "It's Rikki Rockett." Dr. Busboom waited, obviously annoyed, until the resultant wave of murmuring ceased.
"One of Angela's dearest friends, Bill Harris, has agreed to speak the eulogy."
"Bill? Hello, Bill! Where's Bill?" Ben looked around eagerly for his friend Bill. Suddenly he ducked his head and shrank against John. "John," he whined. "I'm scared, John. I don't like those eyes. Let's go home John." He stood up and pulled at John's hand.
"Don't worry, Ben," John said with more confidence than he felt. "Those are the hollow eyes of the Raisin Man. You know the Raisin Man. He's your friend. Sit down, you ass."
Ben sat down as Bill approached the podium. Someone behind John handed him a note saying, "Are you Rikki Rockett?" John nodded his head, yes, as Bill began to speak.
"I was Angela's friend. She came to me when she was in trouble. We knew each other. We trusted each other. She was a complicated person. She didn't let just anyone understand her. I'm proud that she let me be her friend. She sometimes let me read her poems. Sometimes I let her read my poems. Sometimes I let her look at my art. She thought it was shit, though. This is one of her poems. I thought it was shit, too, at the time, but now I see how beautiful it was. How beautiful it is. Forgive me. I didn't know.
These walls shall crumble into dust,
As each tower of learning must;
Ages hence the roof will fall
And settle slowly over all,
But echoes of learning long will stay
And ghosts of musty books delay
Till Phoenix rise again in flame,
The while some sage of future name
Will search the stars until he find
The golden gleam of all mankind;
Through wisdom that burns his heart and eyes,
Through life and death he will realize,
The answer to Ultimate Truth must be
Completion in Eternity."
Bill's voice broke. John and Ben meanwhile gaped uneasily around them. "John!" Ben whispered. "I don't like it here. Those eyes are bad. Can we have breakfast?" John shushed Ben absently, giving him a stick of gum. He, too, was frightened. The auditorium, formerly filled with deliberately pious fresh high school faces, now seemed eerie and hostile. Every face housed a set of staring, hollow eyes. So dark and deep, those hollow eyes ....
Bill rambled on. "I don't know why this happened. I think suicide is a stupid thing to do, but it was her choice, and I'm sure she had reasons. We should try to remember Angela during the good times. I remember her at Kathy's Christmas party. She was so beautiful. She was so happy. I was so happy. We need to remember her like that, when she was still talking to us. Angela never made hairball noises. She was always willing to listen. Angela cared. Now she's gone. She'll never talk to me again. I don't know why. I wonder if it was something I said. But I can't be responsible for her actions. I wish I knew why. I wish she would have explained to me. I'm sure I could have persuaded her to change her mind. But it's too late now. Now we have to go on with the rest of our bleak, miserable lives without her. It's never going to be the same. Good bye, Kim. I mean Angela. The world was not meant for one as beautiful as you." Bill stumbled off the stage blinded by tears.
Ben and John sat stonily through this moving speech. Bill's words echoed by them unheard, drowned out by thunderous whispering. Only they could hear it, and the only intelligible words were "Rikki Rockett," and "are you Rikki Rockett?"
Dr. Busboom resumed the podium. "Thank you, Bill, for that lovely tribute. I know Angela would have been honored to hear you speak so highly of her. Now Rev. McIntyre of the Knox Presbyterian Youth Group will deliver a homily and benediction."
Rev. McIntyre approached the podium with a solemn nod to Mr. Busboom. "My friends, Angela's friends, students of Eagle Hill High. We are brought together by a terrible tragedy: the loss of a lovely young girl on the brink of adulthood. Our task is to use this experience to learn and grow, that such an ill might never again afflict Eagle Hills High. I have heard here today the name Rikki Rockett. Who is Rikki Rockett? What does Rikki Rockett stand for? Rikki Rockett is the spirit of arrogance and despair that drives young people to extremes of folly. Rikki Rockett is the dark spot in the pure fruit of our youth." A small outburst, quickly hushed.
"Rikki Rockett is the spirit of annihilation and disregard for the sanctity of human life. Did Rikki Rockett pluck this beautiful flower of our community before her time? I say, Yes. There is blood on the hands of Rikki Rockett today. No power should have that much control over people's minds. It leaves me with a hollow feeling. Like when John Kennedy was assassinated. I say we must repudiate despair and arrogance.
"Something awful is happening to you young people. I myself have seen the growing influence of this music, the music of Rikki Rockett. I don't understand it, but I understand its effects. I see here in the auditorium today a young man whom I used to know well, now strangely changed. He's become like an alien to me. It's so mean... It's so weird... It drove this lovely girl to her grave. No one is safe. We are all vulnerable to this darkness of spirit, this force of apathy and negativity.
"Therefore today I would leave you with this thought: Don't give in to despair. Don't give seemingly attractive darkness entry into your soul. Take pride in yourself and your accomplishments. Affirm your commitment to life and one another. Be joyful. Dance. Sing. Love one another. It's our only hope.
"Let us pray.
"Lord Jesus Christ,
"Take all my freedom,
"My memory, my understanding and my will.
"All that I cherish, you have given me.
"I surrender it all to be guided by Your Will.
"Your Grace and Your Love are wealth enough for me.
"Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more.
"Grant to Angela Eternal Rest, O Lord,
"And let perpetual light shine upon her.
"May she rest in peace.
"There will be a reception following this service in McDowell Grove on Winfield Road. Please drive carefully."
"Let us spray, amen," said Ben loudly. "May she rot in peace."
"She'll rot fast in all that bright light," said John. "Let's ride."
Rikki Rockett and Rikki Rockett strode swiftly past the astonished crowd and out of the auditorium.
John and Ben arrived at the Grove well after the rest of the students. They got out of the car. John had an enormous bag of White Castle hamburgers under his arm. "Boy," he said, "who would have thought you had to go all the way to Lombard to find a White Castle."
"Don't let them see," said Ben. "Those are mine. I'm hungry. Did we have breakfast yet? Bill?"
"This is breakfast, Ben," said John, pointing at the staring students. "See?"
Several girls approached Ben cautiously. "Are you Rikki Rockett?" they said. Ben wandered past them, chomping on a hamburger, and disappeared into the woods.
"Of course we're Rikki Rockett," said John. "Can't you tell?"
"Can I have your autograph?"
John chatted with the little band of groupies, and Ben ambled deeper into the woods.
Ben strolled down a dappled path happily munching another White Castle. A red squirrel scolded him from a nearby branch. "Hi, little guy," Ben greeted it. "We come in peace. Are you Rikki Rockett?" The squirrel darted up the tree in alarm. "I thought so," said Ben. "I am, too. I'm going to get my ears pierced so I can wear one of those cool crosses. I love you, little guy. Catch ya on the flip side!"
Ben took another White Castle out of his pocket and drifted on down the path.
Bill stood off to one side talking quietly with Angela's parents. At the sight of John and Ben, Mrs. Nenslo burst into tears. "That bastard Rikki Rockett killed my daughter," she sobbed. Bill assumed a grave expression.
"There is no Rikki Rockett," he said. "It's just a name they made up. It's not their fault. It's not your fault either. She made a choice, of her own free will. She's a very complicated person. Nobody can understand her. I wonder why she won't talk to me. I really miss her."
"What are you talking about?" Mr. Nenslo interjected. "She's nothing now. She's a dead body rotting in the ground. She's gone, and there's nothing we can do."
"I don't like to think of her like that," Bill replied. "I'll always love her."
Suddenly, Bill noticed Kim in the center of a small group of students. He unceremoniously abandoned the Nenslos in mid-rant. "Hi, Kim," he said. "Can I talk to you? It's been a long time. I really miss you." Kim made retching noises, like a cat with a hairball, and walked off towards John, where she took immediate command of the little covey of groupies.
"That's enough, now," she said. "You've had all the attention you need. You each got your White Castle. Time to run along. John and I have to talk." The groupies dispersed obediently.
"Well, Kim, here we are."
"Yes, John. Here we are. What do you want me to do? I'm yours to command."
"Why don't you go distribute the rest of these White Castles courtesy of Rikki Rockett, the original Big Poo Generator. I'll go find Ben. Then we can blow this poopstand."
"All right, John."
Kim took the bag of White Castles compliantly while John strode down the trail. He found Ben only a few hundred yards farther along, sitting on a stump and humming. "OK, Ben, time to go home."
"OK, John. Is this my bathrobe?"
"Yup, that's your bathrobe. Wanna go see Kim?"
"Sure! Kim! Kim? Kim.... Sure... Great... Ummm... Bill?"
"Yup, Bill, too. Upsy daisy, let's go, one two march."
Ben stood awkwardly and followed John back up the trail. They emerged from the woods and ran literally into Rob's mother.
"Whoa!" said John.
"Mom?" said Ben.
"YOU!" said Mrs. Sullivan.
"Bye," said John. He grabbed Ben's hand and ran.
Mrs. Sullivan began to shout incoherently. The noise caught Kim's attention in time for her to run after John. She reached the car just before it pulled out of the parking lot. Kim hurled herself into the back seat and the three were gone, leaving the outraged Mrs. Sullivan staring after them.
"You sons of bitches," she shouted, beside herself with rage. "You Rikki Rockett!! Where's my son?"