Joyland

Los Angeles |

Eternal Return

by Jackson Burgess

edited by Lisa Locascio

and there were kids inside the building after all, and when the car came barreling down the hill, they pressed their faces up against the glass to see, and six boys and girls were sent to the hospital with shards in their eyes, and we read about it the next day in the paper. [1]

Dan called and said, I'm going to kill myself. I said, Good, it's about time. He told me he was serious and he knew how he was going to do it. A slick new razor and a dozen bottles of pills. I asked if he needed help. He said yes. I said, I'll be right over.[2]

Standing on the bus, I stepped on a woman's toes because I wanted her attention. She said, What the hell, and I winked. We looked at each other. She said, So where are you going? I said, To visit my friend from work. She asked, What do you two do? and I coughed and said, We wash cars. And on the weekends we fight for money. She said, Oh. I licked my lips and reached out to hold her fingers. She didn't resist—at first. Then she took my hand and gave it back to me. When I tried again, she sighed and walked away. I said, Hey, but she wouldn't turn around. A metal voice overhead told us where we were. Outside, the world whipped by like the guts of a washing machine. Everything blurred to gray. Closing my eyes, I focused on the lights under my eyelids—spiky yellows and reds floating through space. I looked up again and saw that my girl was about to get off. The bus shook as it hit a pothole, or maybe a dog or something, and she dropped her glasses. As she bent over to retrieve them, three passengers craned their necks to get a look at her panties. But I was better than that. I'd touched her hand. I smiled and watched the gray world melt away.[3]

I forgot what street Dan lived on, so for an hour or so I wandered around downtown. All the pretty lights were coming down like heat beams. I wove through thick clumps of bodies and brushed shoulders with people rocking dreads and suits and clothes with holes. Stretched my arms wide and accidentally hit a little dude in the face. He dropped what he was holding and I laughed when I saw it was a box full of sex toys. He snarled, Watch the merchandise, asshole, and when I offered to help, he waved me away. Further along, I figured out where I was and broke away from the crowd, jaywalking across an empty street and hopping the curb. I chewed my lip. Sliding into an alley, I saw a rat eating another rat, taking big old starving bites. Puddles and trash and dumpsters full of shit. The rat paused and looked around quivering, but it didn't notice me. I felt sick. I slipped out of my right shoe and hurled it at the thing, but I missed and it scampered off. I hopped over and put my shoe back on. The dead rat was twitching. Still alive. I did it a favor and stomped on its head. [4]

Behind the auto store I watched a bum scamper after a stray cat. He kept saying, Love me, love me, but I wasn't sure who he was talking to and I guess it was the cat. Someone up ahead was moaning. The alley was all lit up like a scene from a movie, the lamps buzzed like wasps. I knew I'd been here before. The bum said, Love me, and I said, Me too.[5]

When I got to Dan's place, he'd strung up an extension cord noose off his balcony. I could tell he was proud of it. He told me, It's outside so people notice me before I rot. I looked around the apartment and saw jugs of antifreeze, an old pistol, a new set of knives. He said, I wanted to keep my options open. I shook my head and walked over to the kitchen, rummaging through the cabinets. I said, Jesus, what have you been living on? Dan poked himself with a screwdriver and said, Mostly saltines and water. And cigars. Dan had a couple lines of coke etched out on the coffee table. From the books scattered around the room, I knew he'd been reading again. He followed my gaze and said, These days it's all about Nietzsche. He said, Thought I was onto something big, but then I decided to kill myself again. My stomach gurgled, so I said, You want to go get a sandwich or something? Dan said, Sure, let me just grab another Band-Aid.[6]

We got distracted by a fight on the corner—a couple college kids had paid some bums to fight. They'd probably ripped the idea off us. That was usually our thing. One of the bums, a six-five guy with tattoos all over his arms, was just killing it, busting up the other dude's nose and eyes. The shorter guy was grunting and talking smack. I went up to one of the college boys and asked if Dan and I could get in on it. He shook his head no. Hey, Dan said. Hey, I've seen you somewhere before. He said, You all wouldn't have thought to pay bums to fight if you hadn't seen us do it. Someone said, Jeremy, what's the hold up, and the college guy said to Dan, Shut up, man. He waved us off. Meanwhile, the big bum gave the little one a hit so hard I felt my eyes rattle. Everyone cheered. I got up in the college guy's face and said, Hey, hey. Ask me how many. And he said, How many what? I said, How many teeth you're about to lose, and I nailed him with the heel of my hand.[7]

The police were baffled. By now, the bums were long gone. Dan and I looked like chunks of raw meat. Dan wouldn't stop laughing. One of the officers looked at us and then at the college boys and then at us again, and he said something like, I'm getting too old for this shit, and Dan said, I'm not. [8]

With blood and lettuce scraps spilling from his mouth, Dan looked up at me and said, You know what our problem is? And I said, What. He said, We can't connect. I laughed and said, What does that even mean? He said, We can't relate to anybody on like a human level. I asked about fighting. He said, Fighting's just us trying to love. I asked about sex. He said, Honest to God, I could do without it. We sat there. Crossing my arms, I told him he was full of shit. He grinned and took two big bites of his sandwich, one right after the other, and then with his mouth full, he said, Ok, we need to get us some pussy, and I laughed and said, Sure.[9]

We found a couple strung-out hookers on the Boulevard, but right away we could tell they were kids. Dan wanted to find their pimp—he was looking for another fight—but the girls wouldn't tell us where he was at. Dan was pissed. I started saying things like, It's okay, it's all right, everybody chill, but then Dan picked up a big rock and the girls screamed. I was just standing there, puffing on one of those cheap cigarillos, and Dan was shaking his head, and then one of the girls ran up and tased him. Right in the neck. Dan flipped a shit and the girls ran away screaming, calling us cock-suckers and faggots and all that. That really happened. One of the girls tased Dan. I wasn't sure what to say so I laughed.[10]

We were eating ice cream in a sketchy corner shop when Dan started looking like he might cry. I just stared at him, sloshing my cookie dough around in my mouth. A young couple walked in. I could see the sex in their eyes, in the way they touched. Dan was still glancing around like a sad puppy, so I threw a napkin at him and asked, What's the matter? He wiped his nose and said, I guess I'd just forgotten this kind of thing. The couple noticed me and my bloody face, and I gave the girl a wink. Hey watch this, Dan said, and he stumbled over to them and started talking. He was too far for me to hear what he was saying, but I knew he was flirting with the girl. The boy got up and Dan pushed him back into his seat. I couldn't see the girl's face. The guy behind the counter walked over, taking wide steps across the linoleum floor. Dan and the boy started slap-boxing and I came over and socked the kid in the eye and the counter guy said, All right, that's enough, that's enough, and he threw us out, threatening to call the police. [11]

Dan took us to his buddy's apartment up above a flower shop where we downed malt liquor. Dan's buddy said, Lean, fellas, lean, and after a while we started taking off our clothes. There were some girls, but nobody was feeling sexy. None of them wanted to strip, anyway. Dan was walking around saying, And to think I was going to kill myself, and I sat on the couch and muttered, Love me, to a girl across the room. Dan's buddy was on cocaine or something, and he had some nunchucks and was waving them all over the place, smashing books and frames and everything else. Boom shaka laka, he said. Everyone was so happy. Two girls made out for twenty dollars and Dan's buddy tried to join in, and when they pushed him out he said, Hey, that's sexist. Dan sat down by me and said, Dude, let's find something outside to smash. I closed my eyes, too tired to respond, just watching the lights. Dan shook me a little, so I forced my eyes open and said, Ok fine. But we should put on our clothes first. Dan grinned. Dan's buddy said, Watch this, and he broke his hand against the mantel. [12]

We settled on windows. Nobody could really feel their arms or legs so throwing rocks was hard, but we figured it out. We worked as efficiently as we could, stumbling over our own feet, laughing as we heard the panes shatter. It wasn't long before there were cops. Dan and I jumped into a dumpster and I guess they didn't notice because no one came in after us. Dan said, It smells like shit in here, and someone to my right said, Sorry about it. [13]

After about an hour of bumming around, we wandered to the top of the hill on Mulberry. Dan rolled a joint. We watched the sunrise creep out over the horizon. The birds started singing and Dan and I joined in, loo loo loooo. We had a view of the whole city—we could see all the little people waking up, eating breakfast, smiling at each other. Seeing each other. The sky looked like someone had set it on fire. I imagined everything burning. I stared into the sun's face until it was all I could see, and when I closed my eyes, its outline beamed back at me. Dan said, Have you heard the one about Henry the blind man? And I said, No. Dan said, So this blind guy Henry is in a hospital ward full of other blind people, and he used to be a painter, so basically he's waiting to die. He decides he wants to kill himself with his old hunting gun. So he chooses to do it when the whole ward is going on a field trip to a big picnic or something out in the park. You know, fireworks and barbecue. All that. They get there, and when their nurse is in the bathroom or whatever, Henry gets up in front of all his blind friends and says, Goodbye everybody. And they say, Where are you going? And he says, Goodbye, goodbye. So then he shoots himself in the head. And he dies. But since his friends are all blind, they don't know that—they just hear a big bang—so one of them says, Quick, someone go tell Henry the show's starting without him! As Dan finished, he laughed and laughed, but I scratched my head because frankly I didn't get it. [14]

We got in by busting the driver's side window, and Dan said he remembered how to hotwire it, but when he finally got it running, neither of us felt like driving anywhere. We still had difficulty standing because of the bruises and weed and booze and I closed my fingers in the door just to see if it would hurt. It did. Dan said he thought we ought to push it down the hill. I said, It'll crash right into that building at the bottom, and Dan said, Great. I told him I thought it was a school, but he was positive it was too early for anyone to be inside, so I hate to say it but I shrugged and said ok. I kept waiting for a voice in my head to tell me it was a bad idea, but no voice came. A bird shat on my head and I was so pissed I almost cried. Dan cheered me up by saying it was good luck. Laughing, Dan hopped back into the driver's seat and pulled the car out into the middle of the road. He aligned the wheels straight. He jumped out and said, Go, go, go! and we pushed as hard as we could, barely aware of ourselves as we put our shoulders into it and shoved, and as we heaved, something inside of us was pulled out with it, and slowly we gained momentum, and there were kids inside the building after all,



[1] From The Los Angeles Daily

Dated: [REDACTED]

Runaway Car Crashes Through School

BY DAVID BUCHANAN

BOYLE HEIGHTS, Los Angeles

—Stepping over broken desks and ceiling panels, 2nd-grade teacher Marianne Collins made a head-count.

Six children were hospitalized yesterday after an unoccupied sedan was pushed down a hill and into an Elton Elementary School classroom. Damage to the driver's side window and under the steering wheel indicate that the car was likely stolen.

"One of the students saw it coming and called the others over," said Collins. "They wouldn't listen when I told them to move."

LAPD officials are expected to hold a press conference by the end of the week. . . .

[2] Excerpted transcript of a phone call between Mr. Daniel Cooley and Mr. John Rogers

Dated: [REDACTED]

Cooley: I'm serious, man, I wanted to see how sharp it was by like brushing it with my thumb, and then I started bleeding all over the place.

Rogers: No kidding.

Cooley: Only in K-Town could you find something like this.

Rogers: Sounds sharp.

Cooley: It is sharp. And I mean wicked sharp. Like I don't even know if my finger's done bleeding yet. Let me check under the Band-Aid. Oh wow. Nope. Definitely still bleeding. Wow. Still bleeding like crazy.

[3] Excerpt of an email between Ms. Emily Tofflin (sender) and Mr. Bob Slauson (recipient)

Dated: [REDACTED]

. . . and I know you said I can't make it with nobody outside work cause of diseases and all that and I get it, but it's hard when I got guys picking up on me all over like just tonight an hour ago a man was trying to be smooth and feel me up on the bus home, and I really wanted it you know? I was just thinking maybe if they seem like a class act guy and I specifically make sure they're clean and I make sure they use a rubber, I can keep one in my own purse in case, maybe that could be all right with you? I mean this guy tonight was pretty cute and he seemed like maybe he might want to talk and not just screw me. While I like work fine and I only say this cause I trust you I'd like to fuck somebody on my own when I'm not being paid and I can actually have some say about who and afterward maybe have a smoke or shower together, or maybe just for once sleep in the same bed. . . .

[4] Internet shipping receipt from Cocks, Balls, and Beyond™

Dated: [REDACTED]

(6) 4-inch Fackey Bros.™ multi-speed waterproof vibrating dildo

(4) 7.5-inch Clipperton™ silicone vagina

(12) February issue of Faptopia Men's Magazine™

[5] Excerpt of Police Report filed by Officer Juan Alvaron (622)

Dated: [REDACTED]

. . . On [REDACTED] at approximately [REDACTED] I was patrolling near 5th and Saratoga when I was startled by a man's scream. It came from a nearby alley and as my partner was occupied with a report in the squad car I decided to investigate alone. By the time I reached the entrance to the alley the situation was clear: the suspect had been attempting anal intercourse with a cat when it had scratched him. He was bleeding profusely. The suspect kept repeating, "Baby, don't do me like that," and was unresponsive to comments from my partner or myself. The suspect was immediately detained for Public Indecency (314 PC) and Bestiality (311 PC). . . .

[6] From the California Department of Public Health website

Fatal Self-Inflicted Injuries, [REDACTED]

Cut/Pierce: 102 Poisoning: 812

Hanging/Suffocation: 990 Bludgeon: 14

Firearm: 1503 Other: 111

Jump: 160 Total: 3692

[7] Excerpt from Mrs. Samantha Davidson's diary

Dated: [REDACTED]

Jeremy home with missing teeth again. Sure he's been fighting. Again. Not sure what to say. Maybe Harold will knock some sense into him. Hope he isn't too hard on him. Last thing we need is another police visit.

[8] Excerpted transcript of a conversation captured by ATM-22034 near 9th and Springsteen

Dated: [REDACTED]

Speaker 1: Sir, can you open your mouth for me?

Speaker 2: Sure.

Speaker 1: Wow. That looks pretty ugly. What were you boys doing out here, anyway?

Speaker 2: Nothing. Just standing. Just standing around.

[9] Excerpt of a conversation between Mr. Daniel Cooley and Dr. Herbert Schwartz

Dated: [REDACTED]

Cooley: But in the dream it's like all I need is one look.

Schwartz: Hmm.

Cooley: I just know I need someone to look at me.

Schwartz: Go on.

Cooley: And I'm doing everything I can—I mean, I'm yelling and crying and beating myself up right in front of them, falling onto gate spikes, biting off my fingers . . .

Schwartz: Oh yes, this issue of the finger-biting seems crucial.

Cooley: No, you don't get it. I'm trying to get them to look at me. To look at me.

Schwartz: I see.

Cooley: No you don't.

Schwartz: Yes. It's very simple. You want them to look at you.

Cooley: No. No, I don't think you get it at all.

[10] From The Invisibles: Los Angeles, episode title: "The Realities of Teenage Prostitution"

Dated: [REDACTED]

Narrator: The average age of entry is twelve. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the average life expectancy following entry is seven years, and that, in Los Angeles, most teenage sex workers come out of the county's own foster care system. Recruiters often approach the girls with money, clothes, food, and drugs. A single pimp can make upwards of $130,000 from one girl's earnings, and many employ four or five at once. . . .

[11] From Let's Talk the Facts, with DeMarcus Johnson (and Special Guest Dr. Gaurav Gupta) , on KROK 1230 AM

Aired: [REDACTED]

Johnson: So, Doc, what would you say is the number one contributing factor?

Gupta: Well, that's tough to say because it's a bit of a controversy. But personally, I think it's got to be home life.

Johnson: Can you explain that?

Gupta: Of course. Statistically, children who grow up with parents who are coercive, manipulative, or absent are far more at risk than those with stable domestic situations.

Johnson: I'd have thought kids' relationships with their peers would be more to blame.

Gupta: Yes, but that's perhaps the biggest misconception about highly aggressive youths. As children, bullies are often rejected, this is true. But by the time they're teenagers, most have established friendships with other at-risk teens. Close relationships with aggressive youths can be an important predictor of violence in a teen's future years.

Johnson: And these kinds of relationships generally continue into adulthood? Is that what you're implying?

[12] Excerpt of an interview with hip-hop artist Tsar Bomba

Aired: [REDACTED], on Of Mics and Men, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is fucked, for real, but if you ask me, the problem ain't gangbangers. It's rich-ass kids who don't know shit. I seen 'em at my shows, startin' fights, actin' foolish. They just wanna destroy shit, ya know'm sayin', and if they want drugs or alcohol, they got the money for it, no sweat, ya know'm sayin', they just ask they folks for cash.

[13] Excerpted transcript of conversation captured by Eazy Wall Cam™ in the Pet Place/Medijuana Lounge alleyway

Dated: [REDACTED]

Speaker 1: So you live in here?

Speaker 2: Yessir.

Speaker 1: You smell like shit.

Speaker 2: Well it ain't my fault.

Speaker 1: You like living in shit?

Speaker 2: Well, nobody really notices me.

Speaker 1: You got any money on you?

Speaker 2: What do you think?

[14] From Daniel Cooley's would-be suicide note (recovered from the North Wind Apartment Complex trash chute)

Dated: [illegible]

No I wont do it again I wont I cant Im just so tired of trying over and over again maybe when I die it will take me somewhere new like a place with more colors and far less empty Im sorry to anybody I hurt I didnt mean to do it I promise I wont do it again I wont I swear to God I wont