Frank Guest

too long under the sun. the rules of the game have changed. too close to a flame. then never close again. to anyone or anything. removed. and never close again to anyone or anything. too much or too little light. comfort is not in things but in the distance between them. distance is king and damage is his queen. poets climb drunkenly to the stars then fall and crash back to earth. crash and burn. distant and removed, too long in the sun and never close to anyone or anything again.

fried. beyond recognition. and gone. never attempt to explain yourself. never attempt to justify anything. this was the kind of rubbish that filled his head the day he met marie. then marie changed everything. for a while. straightened him out. put him in a good suit. got him a job. none of this lost in space stuff. none of this i'll never play the violin again. she straightened him out. for a while. but nothing was ever gonna straighten him out for long. no matter how you looked at it he was unstraightenoutable. and the gallows tree waited patiently for him. and red ghosts lingered in every word he spoke and blue ghosts lingered in every breath he exhaled on the cold cold road to the gallows tree. unstraightenoutable. ghosts in his hair. and in his blood. ghosts embracing him. ghosts destroying him. clouding his vision in the day and blinding him completely in the heart of the night. under his skin and in his bones. in his heart and in his shoes. nothing but ghosts.

marie tried and failed. in time she knew there would come a day when she could try no more. they never married but she never left him and she was with him when the end came tho' the end was a long time coming. when the blue ghosts finally took him and put him on the blue train marie was on the platform with a sailor waving goodbye. as the blue train pulled out of the station and as he looked back it appeared to him that marie was now making love with a lion in a cage and that she and the lion and the cage were all on fire. but these things don't matter much once you are a guest travelling on the blue train.

he made himself comfortable in the carriage all the while muttering repeatedly the ancient mantra. no guru. no teacher. no master. the blue train moved fast without any sound. past the wrong hospital. past the deerfield hotel. past the firebird school of poetry. he was the only passenger. ticket please said the collector. i have no ticket. where are you going said the collector. i don't know. where have you been said the collector. too long under the sun replied our guest. i see said the collector. then he added - would you care for a cold beer? yeah sure. the collector produced two cold beers and they sat opposite each other drinking their beers in silence.

fried. i've been fried like eggs in a pan said our hero - if indeed we can call him that. he sure as hell didn't feel like a hero. you're ok now said the collector. you're a guest on the blue train and everything is ok now. then the collector produced another two cold beers and again they drank their beers in silence.

where are we going said the guest. anywhere you want said the collector. i'd like to go to heaven said the guest. ok said the collector. the train stopped and the doors slid open. it was raining. an angel was waiting for him with a black umbrella. my name is frank guest said the angel. that's funny said the guest - my name is frank guest too. what can i do for you said the angel. i'd like to see my mother please said frank. ok said the angel. and he took frank to a room where his mother was sewing buttons on a shirt. frank could plainly see his mother but his mother couldn't see frank. there had been bad blood between them at the time of her death and his mother had not as yet forgiven him. she couldn't see him because she didn't want to see him. both frank and the angel realised this without even exchanging glances and they left immediately.

what now said the angel. i'd like to see jesus please said frank. you'll need an appointment for that said the angel. i'll wait said frank. it'll be a long wait said the angel. i don't mind said frank. leave it with me said the angel - i'll see what i can do.

what now said the angel - maybe some food and some rest? sounds good said frank. the angel took frank to the canteen - cheeseburger with smoked bacon and fries and a chocolate shake. and then to the palace of memories where a room had been prepared for him and there frank rested and slept the sleep of innocence. and as he slept rose petals rained down upon him. when he awoke jesus was sitting on the edge of the bed. i hear you wanted to see me said jesus. what's it all about said frank. you'll need an appointment for that said jesus. then jesus simply disappeared.

frank thought of the angel whose name was also frank guest and the angel appeared before him. take me back to the blue train said frank. it's not as simple as that frank said the angel. you have an appointment said the angel. when and with whom said frank. soon with jesus said the angel. soon with jesus repeated frank.

do we have baseball in heaven asked frank. of course we do said the angel. grand said frank. then he returned to the sleep of innocence. and when he awoke he found the complete works of jack kerouac sitting by his bed with a note saying - to frank from your new friend frank. it began to dawn on frank that the angel frank guest looked a lot like - there's no other way of saying this - a lot like frank guest. jesus, despite the beard and long hair, looked a lot like frank guest. everybody in the canteen had looked a lot like frank guest. even his mother and the collector looked a lot like frank guest. kinda strange said frank to himself. seems everyone in heaven looks a lot like me. then he turned to the first few pages of jack's desolation angels much relieved to find that nobody in jack's desolation angels looked anything like frank guest. and then in a moment of clarity he knew that after desolation angels he would and must oblige himself to read again dostoyevsky's idiot. and as this thought traversed his brain a copy of the idiot arrived on his bed. grand said frank. just grand. then he prayed that nobody in the idiot would look anything like frank guest.

frank was lost in the idiot around page six hundred. the angel frank guest appeared. jesus is ready for you now. the angel frank guest took frank to the river where jesus was waiting then left them alone. what's it all about said frank. in the beginning was the word said jesus. john robert burns' great work the last words immediately crossed frank's mind followed by burns' epitaph - no guru, no teacher, no master. frank said nothing. jesus waited. then jesus said i am the word. in the next instant frank became john robert burns. then in the next instant burns became jack valance. then in the next instant valance became the king of swords.

may i go back to the blue train now said frank. yes of course said jesus. then jesus disappeared. his place by the river having been taken by the vedas in eighteen volumes. frank returned to the blue train without saying goodbye to his mother or to the angel frank guest.

where to now said the collector. you tell me said frank.

july/august 2014