Chapter Twenty-five


   I'd like to get serious. I'd also like to win the Irish Sweepstakes, or go to Alaska. I'd like to finish this book, or complete a thought for that matter.
   Now, up to this point you've known me as a confused, fragmented soul. And you've had to wade through unfinished vignettes, pointless conversations, shaggy dog stories, non sequiturs, and even a few sequiturs. You've tolerated time shifts, tense changes, misrepresentations, and outright lies. I've been shamelessly self-indulgent and it's led to some very bad writing habits so, as a reward to you, patient and understanding reader(s), a little background information:
   I was born in Farmington, New Mexico in 1945, the year of the first atomic bomb. My parents each played the harmonica -- my father played in a bluesy, Mississippi Delta style, my mother in a trained, classical style, so they never really discussed the harmonica around the house.
   At the age of nine, while exploring in a nearby rock quarry, I found a strange-looking rock, unlike any rock I'd ever seen, and, believe me, there are plenty of rocks in that part of New Mexico (NW corner, near Los Alamos). It was so unlike any other rock that, even at that early age, I sensed its value, either as a beautiful object to look at and admire, or, perhaps, some alien life-form that came to earth inside a meteorite. In any case I pocketed the fist-sized rock and went home and hid it in a shoebox with my other valuables (baseball cards, a pet toad, a gyroscope, and a yo-yo).
   Today, many years later, I still have one of the baseball cards (Schoendienst, St. Louis). The toad, the yo-yo, and the gyroscope, alas, are no longer in my possession. However, the rock, that amazing otherworldly rock, well...
   Since that day in 1954 my life has been under the control of Mal, a life form from another galaxy. (What? -- Ed.) That's right. Mal speaks "through" the rock, but is not the rock itself. (I don't know who the rock is.) The rock acts as a kind of receiving station for signals sent from Mal to earth. Mal tells me what to do, what to wear, what to order in restaurants, what to say to girls, how much toilet paper to use -- Mal covers almost the entire spectrum of my activities and day-to-day decisions. Not everything, of course, like which shoe goes on which foot, but just about everything else.
   Mal estimates that there are two hundred of us on this planet under the influence, either because they're in possession of one of the rocks, or they hang out with someone who is. I'm not sharing my rock with anybody right now, but one time, while I had that job at the copying place, I showed it to a co-worker -- you know her -- and, well, needless to say, that was the last time I brought the old rock out, at least at a party! Some day I'll tell you about it, but, back to Mal.
   Is Mal an evil name? "Mal" does mean bad. But then again, there are many words that mean bad, and they're not all names for alien life forms that come to earth inside meteorites. And then again, whatever I think is tainted by the fact that Mal does all my thinking for me. And then again, here I am talking to you, about Mal, so...
   July 2, 1954. I brought the rock home and immediately threw it in the shoebox and forgot about it -- for about an hour, that is, until, as we were just sitting down to dinner, we heard the loudest noise we had ever heard, even louder than all those nearby nuclear tests. It was the sound of my pet toad, now hundreds of feet tall, croaking just outside our house. The army was alerted, and our home became the focus of one of the strangest and least-known episodes of the nuclear age. And then, about two years later -- almost to the day -- the same thing happened again!
   I'm getting off track. My formal education: None. I attended schools -- Farmington public schools, New Mexico State University, Stanford, Princeton, Cal Tech, MIT -- but it wasn't me sitting in the classroom, it was Mal, using me as a kind of human tape recorder to add new information to the data banks back on Mal. Meanwhile, I was being fed data, information, knowledge -- at speeds incomprehensible to human beings -- everything about Mal, the universe, you name it, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. So, ask me a question. Go ahead, ask me anything. Except opera. No opera questions. Go ahead. No? All right, never mind. Moving on.
   In 1960, something happened that was not a little-known episode of the nuclear age, no siree. At least it isn't anymore, now that I've revealed all the facts to The New York Times, CBS, and CNN. But I'm getting ahead of myself. About one paragraph.
   In January of 1960, rock in hand, I paid a visit, along with my father, to the admissions director of New Mexico State University. I was there for an interview regarding my early admission, even though I was flunking out of ninth grade at the time. But I was determined. And, besides, all my actions were controlled by Mal.
   When we walked into the admissions office we were asked to wait, so we sat down and I picked up a magazine. It was an issue of Scientific American and it contained an article on the latest speculation about the existence of life on other planets and the chances of them contacting us, or vice versa. Fascinating article. Wish I'd saved it. Anyway, the admissions director's secretary had these extraordinary legs, and, being a horny lad of fifteen, I practically ejaculated right then and there. My father was busy reading Rocks Magazine -- an article about cobalt and samarium deposits in the southwest, a subject about which he knew nothing. (He was under Mal's influence, having gotten within three feet of me -- and the rock.)
   "You can come in now," the leggy secretary purred, winking suggestively. We followed her heavenly movements into the admissions director's office. The admissions director was a man named Beelzebub, Satan M. Beelzebub, although I didn't read anything into it. (I remember asking him what the "M" stood for, and I think he said Mark, or Michael.) Anyway, here's how the interview went, to the best of my recollection. If I have to paraphrase, or make up a few things, forgive me -- this was years ago!
   "Mr. Reynolds, please tell me, why are you here?" he asked one of us, although which one we weren't sure. He then looked directly at me.
   "Oh," I began, awkwardly, "I guess it's because I want to go to college. Right, Dad?"
   My father nodded, and then burped, loudly.
   "Okay," the admissions director continued, "what are your goals exactly? What do you want to accomplish in your four years here? What do you want?" He leaned forward, assumed a thoughtful pose, and waited for my answer. I smiled, thoughtfully, and placed the rock on his desk.
   "I would like to run the physics department here at the university, sir," I said, not sure why.
   "It's yours. What else?"
   "I want clearance to all high security areas of the Los Alamos nuclear laboratories."
   "Fine. What else?"
   "I'd like a chair in the English Department."
   "You've got it. Anything else?"
   "Make that two chairs."
   "Mr. Reynolds, anything you want is yours. All facilities of the State University of New Mexico are at your disposal. You can have my car, and all my money too."
   Before he gave me his vital organs I grabbed the rock and we got out of there. Dad looked befuddled, like he was disoriented, or drunk. I think he was drunk. On the drive home I asked him to let me out in the middle of the desert, along with the leggy secretary, and from there we'd make the rest of the eighty-five mile trip on foot.
   And then, things get fuzzy, but after rummaging through recently de-classified documents (through the Freedom of Information Act) I've learned that we were immediately picked up in the desert by operatives of a top secret intelligence unit of the U.S. government and hustled off to a heavily-guarded military compound where, after questioning, I was allowed to wander off to freedom, and continue my normal life. It turned out they were only interested in the leggy secretary. I was heartbroken.
   Anyway, I told all of this to The New York Times, CBS News, and a crew from CNN that even came out to interview me, and still nothing. Not a thing. Nothing on the nightly news, in the newspaper, nothing, nowhere. Do they think I'm kidding? Do they think I'm crazy? You believe me, though, don't you? Don't you? Don't you????


(This ends Chapter Twenty-five. Unbelievable.)


Chapter Twenty-six