It’s Christmas Morning, and Juan Luna stands in the Express Lane at Yokes 24-Hour Market, the taste of high-grade hashish gooey and pungent on his cotton tongue--deriving from a sixteenth ounce of Moroccan Brown he'd spread like fig marmalade on his hot-buttered breakfast toast points.
Through the overhead intercom speakers, Luna’s ears are assaulted by Bing Crosby’s signature maudlin baritone. At that instant, Juan’s Inner Voice--which is that of Cristopher Walken in a hermetically-sealed Camden N.J. Recording Studio Of The Mind—suddenly pipes up:
“That Bing, man. He sure as fuck can sing. Did I tell you I met him once? At a hockey game in Spokane, Washington. Quite an earnest, enthusiastic man. When Bing cheered for his team, he bellowed, man. You dig?"
Hearing his Inner Voice with absolutely no warning, combined with his ever-creeping intoxication, unnerves Juan Luna. He fidgets a bit in the checkout line, nervously framing his pile of sundries on the stuttering rubber conveyor belt, using two fresh Separator Sticks.
"Izzat what dey call 'em?" says Cristopher Walken. "Separator Sticks? Ya think so? Really?"
A blond with a beautiful ass stuffed into stone-washed Guess jeans is standing directly in front of Juan Luna; she glances over her shoulder at him—for what he calculates to be the second time, in just under a minute's time.
Juan's Luna's Inner Walken makes a plaintive, precognitive entreaty then, recalling a scene from the Stephen King movie Dead Zone, in which the twitchy protagonist receives palpable Flashes of the Future--when pressing flesh of any kind.
"She's gonna… She's gonna look back at you again! When that happens, you gotta be ready-- to make a move! Lay some kind of line on her. You gotta, you gotta try somethin'… Sometime before the decade's up."
Luna ignores Walken for the moment—staring instead at a Time magazine stacked on a rack next to the Eclipse gum and Snickers bars. The cover photo shows a glassy-eyed Hillary Clinton soaking up some hardcore limelight while, superimposed at clavicle-level, a slightly smaller image of Barack Obama appears for all the world like a Satyr Elf who is ready to whisper bad things in Mrs. Clinton's ear, and perhaps use his long pink tongue to sluice the sweat from her neck like a windshield wiper.
"Maintain, now" Christopher Walken hisses. "Fuckin' MAINTAIN, baby!"
But it's too late.
The dope he's taken into his veins through half-burnt whole grains has caught up with Juan Luna. He finds himself strangely drawn to the color and texture of the Separator Sticks on the conveyor belt. Separator Sticks. Yes, of course, Luna thinks. What else would they be called?
Twice-Shy Tarmac Wands?
Embittered Bachelor's Ratchets?
No matter, thinks Luna.
He picks up one of the Separator Sticks, caressing its cool jade-green smoothness in his palm. What if they were made of real jade? Juan wonders. What a stocking stuffer that would be! Two or three Solid Jade Separator Sticks, and he'd be set for life. No more hangdog schlepping at Yokes 24-Hour Market for him. It would be...
It would be nothing but Tall Nasty Blonds in lacy French Maid Outfits, bringing home the baguettes and cases of Dom piled high in wicker baskets lined with Almond Roca wrappers and ultramarine Easter ribbons tied in fancy knots and bows like only a world-class Dominatrix could muster.
Juan holds one of the ultra-smooth Separator Sticks up to the fluorescent lights of Yokes Market, looking for any flaws deep within, and seeing nothing but stone-perfection, then even catching his own oblong reflection!--stretching from the base of the beautiful stick all the way to the tip, like a pale flame.
Beside himself, with Christopher Walken clearly out of immediate earshot, Luna begins to stroke the length of the Separator Stick, at the same instant the blond looks over her shoulder for what Juan figures to be the third time, in under two minute's time.
A nanosecond later, Christopher Walken tries calling out a warning to Juan, but the sound is nothing but a faraway echo, such as that which might recede into the bowels of some labyrinthine spelunker's cave, or even a wind tunnel, while Walken weakly wails:
"Nooooooooooo!.... Ohhhhh - Nooooooooooooooo!"...
Juan Luna pumps the jade-green Separator Stick heedlessly with some fast and loose fist action-- and when he looks up again he can see that the blond woman has turned around to face him. She stands there, with hands on hips and casting some kind of seriously slit-eyed, inscrutable stare at Luna. It reminds him of the pose his ex-wife struck when she first informed him, eighteen months previously, that she wanted a Separation.
"That mouth of yours," Juan's ex wife said, then, "Is gonna fix you for good someday. You're blowing it, mister!..."
"A separation?" Juan squeaked at her, his lungs chock-full of freshly-inhaled bong smoke; and of course he had no choice but to expel the whole load, a huge blue cloud of ganga in one long whoooosh-- which obscured his soon-to-be ex-wife's flushed face like a thunderhead. Luna turned his palms up, shrugging and sputtering, craving quarter, while his wife spun smartly on her heels, and walked out of his life forever. Soon after, Juan Luna decided to give up bong hits-- in favor of grinding his green buds into steaming-hot pizza slices, and Slim Fast milkshakes, and scarred celery stick slots; but now it seemed even the Oral Method was turning against him.
Juan Luna--back in the Present-- listens as the blond says:
She's picked up Juan's bottle of Pert Plus Shampoo, and is tapping it against her cocked hip, looking at Luna as though he's some virulent specimen in a Petri Dish--while he continues to stroke his Separator Stick with half-ass reckless abandon.
Finally, Luna comes around--"Oh, wow," he stammers, self-awareness dawning, dawning. He stops himself in mid-stroke on the stick. "I mean... I mean I didn't mean... It's just that -- well this stick, it's so SMOOTH! Have you ever really felt one of these sticks? I mean, if you feel just one of these incredible Separator Sticks, you'll know exactly--... HEY WAIT!"
The blond is gone, and Juan watches her hail a beefy Samoan security guard near the electronic exit bay. There is much pointing, and gesticulating--along with a growing gallery of stares, from nearby shoppers who realize some serious drama is in the immediate offing.
Then Juan Luna watches the security guard, fast-waddling like an incensed boar directly in his direction, his fat brown hand caressing a belt-looped billy club, in much the same way Juan previously gripped the beautiful Separator Stick.
"EXCUSE me," Juan Luna hears the blond woman repeat, and he snaps out of his hideous reverie with a shudder, as though being doused with a half-gallon of Dasani and ice chips. Never in his young life has a THC-induced daydream come across so nightmarishly real. For a moment, he wants to believe his divorce is somehow part and parcel of the hallucination he's just had; but Juan Luna knows the painful memory, and his holiday loneliness, is just as real as what the luscious blond lady in the express line is laying on him, now:
"Listen..." the blond is saying, "I think your shampoo got all mixed in with my avocados, and shower curtain rings, and Aloe Vera Healing Gel?"
"Well," sighs Juan, "hehehe, must be all those pretty green colors, getting me so turned around for a moment, there... Please forgive me!... I'm Juan, by the way. Juan Luna..."
Juan's relief is so powerful, he can feel a huge Perma Grin starting in, locking tight on the jaw line, but not at all induced by the marijuana he'd eaten earlier-- a grin that is instead so genuine, and human and warm, the woman in front of him cannot help being dialed into it.
Dialed into him. Into Juan Luna.
Twenty eight seconds later, Juan asks the woman for her cell number--and she gives it up to him. As he watches her hypnotic hip-sway--rocking out of the electronic double-door exit bay and into the cool morning mist, Juan can feel his Inner Christopher Walken, coming back, clearing his throat:
"Ahem... Well DONE, my son. For a second, I was really worried about you!"
"Me too, Chris... Say, why does that girl look so familiar, man?"
"You know you know...
"You know you know her from her Narcotics Anonymous!"
"I don't attend N.A. Meetings."
"But you will. You WILL... That is the Rub A Dub, that I can't speak enough of... So anyway, what can we learn from this encounter today?"
Luna takes up his sack of sundries, and floats past the sleepy Samoan Security guard who stands stock-still as a Cigar Store Indian, by the exit bay doors of Yokes Market.
"Okay, okay," whispers Juan Luna, "The moral is I need to quit adding powerful psychoactive chemicals to my daily diet as if it were spoonfuls of Fiber Con in Special K, or some other such worthless shit."
"WRONG!" counters Walken. "What we learned today is that one must always, always listen to that Inner Voice, since He holds your absolute best interests so close to His heart it hurts."
"I think that's basically what I just said, Walken... Hey, listen: You wanna know the Kicker? That girl's name is Jade, man! Believe that? Well it's true! Hey... Do you think that knockout Hottie is also into Knots? You think she gets off tying lots and lots of Creative Knots?"
"Time will tell," says Christopher Walken, "every fucking time."
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