Dylan Maiden
Purple Pang

“A finger pinch frog’s ear”

“A dab of slime from a snail”

“A sprinkle of ant’s hair”

“And a touch of ground toe-nail”

“That should just about do it,” said Tiger. “All of this will make Juanita love me.” I watch him through the knothole of my fence in the backyard. He has such a funny way of contriving spells to win me over. His last attempt failed, but I still find myself waiting in suspense for his next love-concoction. When he brought the golden calf of Jesus into our home last weekend, my mom shooed him out the door with her broom screaming blasphemy. When he brought matching black stage frocks for us to wear during our performance, mother sent Tiger on his way, the cloaks included.

“Juanita, I will not allow you to play with him. He is just a stone-bored heathen with nothing but the fixings of hoodoo up his sleeves! Dark! Dark! Child.”

He is daring with a mind full of wonder, and his methods for getting my attention are curious. It’s hard to imagine he would do the things he does if I were not present. He is the chewer of daddy-long-legs, the rescuer of ants and the controller of the bug kingdom. They march to his music in the backyard, they inhabit his sandcastles and they suffer his sacrifices. The things that come from the earth are very important to him. They are devices he uses to connect with me.

One afternoon we were walking home from school, taking our usual ulterior route, when I noticed the most colossal red apple hanging from a branch that had stretched over the street. Tiger, noticing my eyes as they gazed in temptation upon something so out of reach, knew what his job was. He climbed the tree as quick as my heart could beat, collecting an occasional insect along the way. When he reached the limb that yielded destiny’s fruit, he pulled it from the shoot. While doing so, he lost hold of the limb, but not the apple. He might have plunged to his death, smacking the hard concrete, had it not been for the soft hood of a twin-fin caddy passing underneath to catch him. When I got to the car he opened his eyes to look at me, “Juanita is it you?” and slowly handed me the apple. He was weird; but gestures such as this gave me the butterflies.

On the day of his 69th attempted love-concoction, he came to my backyard with a glass of pure vinegar and a pair of sheers. He guzzled the glass down and cut a considerable chunk of hair from his head. With boomerang eyebrows and horseshoe lips he handed me his gifts. After a deep breath, and a double-shake of his head to regain composure, he asked:

“Will you be my girlfriend?”

“Why should I be your girlfriend?” I said.

“That is for you to decide, not I,” replied Tiger.

“I’ve decided I want a girlfriend, and I want it to be you,” he explained.

“Well…that’s the wrong reason to want a girlfriend!” I said.

“Oh is it?” said Tiger, as he began kicking the bark off the backyard tree,

“Then give me my hair back!”

He had strong hazel eyes that changed with the sun, and his two front teeth were grown in like a white rabbit’s. His boyish determination was capped with a blonde and bushy hair-do; save his bangs, those he combed exclusively to the side with a fair share of dressing, leaving the rest to explode. You couldn’t tell it was bed-head. It seemed intentional. He was one of those kids who thought it was cool to dress looking like he just got hit by a car, or attacked by a dog. You know, like the ones that will pay more money for the clothes that look like they came from a garbage can. He carried around a Hapshash and the Coloured Coat: Featuring the Human Host and the Heavey-Metal-Kids lunch pail packed full of Beethoven tapes. He would listen to them through a vintage transistor radio while working on his experiments. Caught alone in his inventions, he had a conduct similar to an adult; but in my presence, he was an anxious child unable to wait for the magic to kick in. So I would just observe his aimless schemes through the knothole. I liked it better this way; because in secret, I could pump my head full of conceit over the futile exertions he put forth, all for the sake of me.

“Two worm tongues”

“Two mice in a trap”

“A drop of coriander”

“And a cup full of sap”

I love the mirror. I love my nose. I love my thighs. I’d love my heart too if only I could see it with my eyes. If I could take it out and look at it I would. At heart I feel too old for Tiger, as if he will never catch up to my maturity. I always run with my emotions, unsettled in the idea of wanting just one thing. It’s hard to resist feeling like he is a very significant character, one who is separated from the cookie-cut destiny of us all. But for me, that cookie cutter is security; and his potions are not very secure.

He scares me because he can do what he wants. He is spontaneous; he comes unexpected like a split-end. I admire this because it is a piece of scenery that is missing from my background; but his whimsical canvas could never contain the colors I have contrived for my paint-pallet of love. I like to play along with his abracadabra but don’t believe there is any sense in it. After all, such silly creations as Tiger’s could never make the world go round. Through his eyes, the earth might as well be flat. His spells have no real purpose, they are just adornments sparked by a lofty imagination. As wrong as it sounds, I would much rather have a man that gives his time to success and fortune, than one who gives it to such feeble and meaningless crafts as Tiger’s. The problem with Tiger is that there are too many mistakes involved with his line of work. It’s inevitable that at some point or another, his solutions will explode. He’s an experimentalist. He figures, “Oh, maybe if I put my finger here that will work; or, maybe if I put my finger there, this will work.” If I were his girlfriend, he might come close to killing me with one of his mistakes. This would not be good for my vanity. I must follow my nose. I feel that my desires could never be fulfilled by a nature such as his, and that the closest thing to success that Tiger does possess is in his lunch-pail. That’s about the only place there is any sense left in Tiger. Beethoven had sense.

Every weekend we both took piano lessons uptown with a man named Creeper Creeperton. He lived on the 9th floor of a large complex. We would always ride up in the maintenance elevator, because it would allow us to play with the apartment-maid’s toys. Whenever we arrived to Creeperton’s studio he would give us the same greeting every time. He was always so pickled he would say it twice.

“Heaven’s kitties. Come in! So glad to see you. How are the hands?

Heaven’s kitties. Come in! So glad to see you. How are the hands?

Are they ready to pang the notes of God?” he asked.

“Do you think we’ll be ready for Beethoven’s fifth next weekend Creeper?” asked Tiger.

“Juanita should be fine, but you may have some stretching to do yet … HA!” laughed Creeper.

Whenever Creeper mentioned the word ‘stretching’ it meant it was time to take Tiger behind the Chinese wall to stretch his fingers. When this happened, I could see their profiles from behind the wall, and hear Tiger’s moans and groans.

“Owww!” cried Tiger.

“Just a bit more now . . . ” said Creeper.

Afterwards, Tiger would come back to the piano with purple fingers. Fingers were very important to Creeper. He watched ours closely.

Creeperton wore a black cloak with rainbow glitter. His hair was thin and white. It shot from his head like stencil. It looked blown by the wind, electrically shocked; the live wires of yore lit his fancies for a mysterious playtime. His eyeballs were held in two nets made of red veins. His face was like the surface of the moon on its driest day, the powdered surface included—only in this case the moon would be purple. His big puffy nose was like a purple balloon. He always wore thin polyester shirts that emanated his putrid purple stench. It always smelled as though he had washed them in pickle juice. He left the top two buttons of his shirt undone to expose his beat-blue chest. It was a bit purplish too. It all looked so painful you could see it in his smile.

“You’re both really cool kitties,” said Creeperton as his smile began to touch each ear and stretch the craters of the purple moon.

“Did you know that you’re my favorite students?”

Creeperton’s studio was beautifully decorated, but also a bit precarious. He had two pianos that were surrounded by four maypoles of purple, red and blue flowers, fake of course. The perimeter of the whole studio was lined with shelves stacked full of records, tapes and magazines. It was large, so he rented parts of it out to various nuts and seeds. One corner of his studio, which was divided by a Chinese wall, he rented to a steel worker who was gone most all the time. Another spot he rented was in his bedroom next to his bed, also divided by a Chinese wall. Creeperton had trouble holding a steady tenant in this space. One day, leaving me alone to practice a measure I was having problems with, he brought Tiger into his bedroom.

“Juanita, you stay in here and practice that last measure,” said Creeperton. “Tiger, why don’t you take a break and come into my room. I want to show you something.”

After the door to his room closed, I jumped up from my seat at the piano and hollered into the room to tell Creeper that I was going to use the bathroom. Instead, I went to Creeper’s bedroom door to investigate. The keyhole was large enough for me to catch a partial glimpse of them inside. Creeperton reached up to a shelf that was covered with purple velvet to unveil a jar with a golden lid. He took it down and held it in the light from the window. Through a purple liquid filled with glitter, were the silhouettes of very familiar floating objects. I realized what they were. The jar contained the purple-nose-pickles of Creeper Creeperton.

“You see Tiger, every so often I need a new one . . . a freshy . . . and the old ones, they go in this jar,” explained Creeperton. “With the pickle I’m in, it’s just a natural fact! I’m a thirsty man Tiger . . . that’s why I’m warning you . . . get the end of that measure down pat. I make professionals here Tiger, not mistakes. If either one of you misses a note again, it’s purple curtains for the both of you!” warned Creeper.

I made my way back to my seat; and by the time they came back out, I had ironed out my problem with the measure, a simple dealing of harmony. I tried not to think about what I had seen. Creeper sat Tiger back down at the piano next to me. Tiger seemed a little shaken up, as if he had just seen a jar full of purple-nose-pickles.

“You see Tiger,” I said, “I have the part down perfect . . . and that’s a lot more than you can say for yourself!” I continued. “You’ll be the one to throw the monkey wrench into the piano . . . you and your purple fingers. When I have a grand piano of my own, I’m going to have a mirror set up right next to it.” I said.

As we practiced, Creeper would alternate from piano to piano to observe our fingers through a magnifying glass. Intermittently, he would walk beyond the maypoles, where he had set up a cheval-glass-mirror. It was there that he would powder his purple balloon, as if preparing for a ritual. He returned from his vanity only to notice a failure in both finger and wrist; and when this happened, it meant the purple pang.