The Continuing Tales Of… is a new feature where we pay tribute to an album’s anniversary by asking writers to compose a short story inspired by each one of the songs. Last month we did The Postal Service’s Give Up. This installment is Iggy and The Stooges’ Raw Power, which turned 40 last month.
“Search and Destroy”
BY PHILLIP PANTUSO
See the sky. See the blue sky sundered by the contrail of an airplane. See the Hueys tilt toward high heaven, their blades thwacking the air, and see the yellow plumes of mustard gas festering the land. Hear the artillery whine overhead, see it arc toward some terrible end. Feel the dirt pelt the back of your neck, and think to yourself: God, doesn’t it feel good?
The reports you read back home about the war impose an order that does not exist here. Back in America, the war is a 32-point bold headline. It’s a montage of grainy footage, anonymous green men running around with god-knows-what in their hearts, but fear in their eyes. It’s set to head-splitting music, a world away from “Rock Around the Clock”. But it’s not really like that. What it’s really like is quiet, boring, repetitive, until it tries to kill you. There is no destiny, no narrative; the war takes what it can get.
You pass most of the war waiting for something to happen. The Big Fear accretes at the liminal edge of your attention, so that you are always conscious of danger, but never quite sure of where it is or when it will come. We take the edge off, with dope, with Dexedrine, with pictures of girls from back home, with jokes about how calming it would be if we just got it over with and blew ourselves up. I’ve known lurps who shove palmfuls of the Dex pills down their throats, just to cool themselves down enough to pretend to play their parts. The pills make your teeth feel hollow, your blood run too fast, and your breath smell like you’ve been chewing meat. The dope, however, slows everything down just right; it scrapes out the insides of your veins, it soothes your nerves. It brings this dimensionless thing down to size.
Our battalion had been deployed as part of a large-scale effort in Tay Ninh Province, an effort to relieve the pressure on Saigon and the surrounding area, to the Cambodian border. When we lied down to sleep the night before deployment, the Big Fear returned, like a jackal with glowing eyes on its nightly rounds. The stars pinwheeled overhead. How many of them to each one of us?
The next morning, D-Day, the battalions gathered in a great disordered mess. Someone joked, “Who’s ready to enter the great Beyond?” The Beyond is what we call the jungle. The jungle is oppressive and disorienting. It makes you feel like you’re on the verge of blacking out. You feel each of the sweltering seconds as they pass, with a low-grade, insidious terror that something is coming for you from just outside your periphery. You can never see everything. Once you’ve been in the shit, some part of you never really comes back. That’s why they call it Beyond.
A Marine on the flight muttered nonsense the whole way over. He had one of those faces I’d seen a thousand times, not a flicker of youth in his eyes, the pallor sucked from his cheeks and lips. He looked like he’d been dead for weeks and injected with some animating fluid for the purposes of this mission. His name was Williamson. This was his third tour.
“I couldn’t hack it back home,” he said, just like that.
“Can you hack it here?” I asked.
He shrugged. Last year he’d survived an ambush on his platoon; he played dead as the VC bullets whistled by. The entire platoon went down. The blood had dried in his hair before he felt safe to get up. When that tour was over, he went home, and found himself pointing his father’s hunting rifle at the house cat, tracking it across the living room, until the only feeling he was aware of was a heaviness in his pointer finger. That’s when he would’ve pulled the trigger, back in Vietnam.
“I figured I better get back in the shit,” he said. “That’s where I’m useful.”
We landed and the platoons fanned out in an arc. The next few days were spent hacking through the forest, thinning the bamboo canopy, seeding enemy trails with Claymore mines. It was impossible to measure progress. Once, the point man fell into a trap that had been covered with leaves. He lay at the bottom of a pit 10 feet deep, with his leg bent the wrong way, biting his knuckles until the skin broke so as not to scream out in pain.
“Vietnam, man. Shit!” said Williamson, shaking his head. He offered me some dope, and I took it.
On the fourth day, we began to take fire from the northeast, and soon we lost radio contact. The 2nd Platoon, having been aware of our position, moved to the northwest to cover our flank, but soon they were hit, too. Small arms fire, rifle grenades, rockets, 60-mm. mortar rounds, descending like a small weather system.
The world winked and I came to on my back, staring up at the blue sky through shadowed foliage. No one was around, and I didn’t know where I was. For some reason, my mind flashed back to Muskegon, Michigan, and the backyard of my parents’ house. I was nine or 10 years old, and I was lying in a furrow in the soft clay underneath the towering red oak tree, watching the clouds striate the sky above. It was early autumn and the leaves were twisting to the ground. Our dog had dug out the pit to keep cool in the summer. He’d run up to greet you at the backdoor with a muddy belly. We’d had to put him down a week earlier, because he had cancer. I wasn’t sure why I kept going out there, but something compelled me, and once I was there I didn’t think about it.
And then someone yelled, and the bamboo started shaking. My eyelids were hot and my muscles slow to respond. I heaved myself upward and started moving toward the sounds.
BY RANDY HARGROVE
Iggy lumbered toward the door. Punks stood by it, markers of relative distance from the entrance. He counted as he got closer. One punk deep. Two punks deep. He was at the precipice. The door was missing, and judging from the gashes in the frame, had been for a while.
Beyond the ruined entryway, a sea of black rippled. A raw scent steamed off of them collectively and gave weight to the air. He saw stars as nearby piercings and studs swiveled to face him.
The mass of black-clad flesh mostly ignored him. He penetrated its folds, his own shirtless body giving contrast to the crowd. He needed to find Matthew.
He saw the hesher in the kitchen, bent over, pumping a keg for a leggy girl with long, wavy black hair. Iggy walked up to him. “Dude.” Matt straightened up. He looked surprised, perhaps even intimidated, despite his above-average bulk.
“Hey, man. Glad you could make it. Like I said before, you’re welcome to stay here for the night,” Matt said quickly. Iggy’s shaggy head rose and lowered in succession, in approval. He was motionless for a second, merely planted there. His eyes followed a passed cup of beer, leaving Matt for the leggy girl, and relished moving up and down her. They settled on her own eyes, giant vulnerable reflecting pools just north of a deep red, slightly parted mouth.
Her veneer of innocence dropped. “Matt fucks like a 13-year-old. Will you fuck me instead?” He fell in love with her immediately.
Iggy and Matt locked eyes. Matt’s facial features floated away from each other in disgust, then contorted and thinned in rage. The big hesher looked like he was going to hit somebody, but wasn’t sure whom. Iggy’s mind was clogged with emotions. Desire, fear, and confidence all danced together. Logic wasn’t invited to the dance. The unnamed girl giggled and spilled some of her beer. After careful introspection, Iggy thrust a fist into Matt’s belly.
He slapped her again.
The corners of her eyes lifted, and her servile pupils rolled upwards. This was how he knew he was doing a good job. Her bottom lip offered itself to him, and he took it in his teeth.
Her folded legs swung around, heels digging into his back. She grabbed at his skin, nails digging in, and bit him in turn, much harder. Her eyes shot right through him, echoing around his skull. He gripped and pulled, hair and limbs, each assertion drawing from her a moan.
Finally she came, squeezing, drawing blood. Her jaw snapped open. He smiled. “You like that, whore?” he growled.
They slowed and then stopped moving, parts cooling and solidifying. Their eyes were locked to each other’s. They were warm, a feeling like fire dancing off the skin. Breaths colliding, he started to close the distance between their mouths.
“Faggot,” she said and pushed his face away. He rolled onto his back, and her head rolled down to his chest. She splayed herself over his body, steaming mass on willing, steaming mass.
They didn’t say anything for a while. Then: “they’re gonna kick your ass when they find you here.” She giggled when she said this. He considered it. He had no response. He picked up a spliff from the ashtray and lit it, inhaling. Her black hair spread over his chest, her breasts and bent leg pinning him down. Her hand played with his chest hair, absent of thought or intention. He exhaled.
“I think,” he started, giving little indication that he was doing so at the moment. “I’m gonna get a drink.”
She grabbed his chest hair in her tight fingers. Her saucer eyes pleaded. “No. You stay right here.”
He didn’t really feel like moving anyway. He took another drag and threw a thought towards his situation. Her boyfriend was probably conscious again, or would be soon. Matt wasn’t going to be happy, or sober. Iggy could leave, right now. Tell this one that he has to go to the bathroom, walk over the concussed and unconscious bodies, straight out the empty doorway.
He exhaled, tapping the spliff and missing the ashtray. His other hand rose, penetrating her black hair and slowly caressing the scalp where it met her neck. He wasn’t ready to let this one go. He tried to assign his want any reason or justification and couldn’t. There was some logic-deflecting force field around his intentions for this girl. He figured that meant he loved her.
As the spliff burned, as her warm breath feathered his chest, as he lay there thinking about these things, he heard voices outside the door. They were urgent and inquisitive. Iggy knew he couldn’t stay for much longer.
Something smashed against the bedroom door. She raised her head off his chest, her hair covering most of her bothered face. “What the FUCK.”
He stubbed out the spliff on the night table. Thinking time was over. Doing time was now. He rotated his hand around her neck, grabbing her by the throat and pinning her to the bed. He leaned in and took his kiss.
“Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell”
BY ANDY O’CONNOR
Lines of gold and red intersecting, weaving into each other, tangling and strangling each other. Jagged stripes of black and blue fighting for attention, fighting for pride. Greys fornicating with all the other colors, especially with a hunger for the pinks’ playful innocence. More drops of red, the blood of my spirit, dripping on a patch of yellow on the corner, cause hell ain’t a bad place to be. A black hole in the middle, threatening to devour everything to an ever-expanding void, but merciful enough to let the other colors lay where they may. Maybe a hint of white dotted sparingly for a little balance.
They’re not actually there. They’re what I want on this blank canvas, staring me down, on the ground of my studio, but they’re not there. I’ve seen a lot of mean looks in my time. But this canvas, I’ve never seen such a scowl in my life.
Actions may speak louder than words, but the canvas was quite the orator, too.
“Hey, Jack, where’s your inspiration? Did Janelle take it with her when she left your sorry ass?”
“Who told you that you could paint? Your mother? Your ninth grade art teacher? That professor who let you sleep with her? I don’t feel any paint on me. Give up.”
“Graffiti. That’s all your work amounts to. Fucking graffiti.”
“Cum on me, Jack. CUM ON ME.”
Time to silence the canvas. Time to give it a voice, my voice. Time to get to work.
Before the murder, I walk over to the fridge at the northeastern corner of the garage and open it, revealing an assortment of beers. Stella? Shiner? Old Rasputin? I am not a guy who needs the weight of a stout as a liquid rock in my pit. Texas was a my first love, even if we’re no longer involved. Shiner it is.
Bock to my lips, sitting on the chair thinking of how I’m gonna get about this. One bottle down, and I’ve got an idea. Going in.
Gotta shut ’em up, but can’t work in quiet, so I walk over to my stereo, flip through the CD carousel, and settle on some Coltrane. Blue Train. Keep it classic. Ascension has too much going on for this task at hand.
1:30 A.M. Boss’ll love that I showed up to work early. Can’t use extra virgin for this heat going on in my head.
Brush in my hand. In my gallery of colors, I choose black first. Black goes with everything. Black is always a nice foundation. As I stroll across the canvas – lovely day inside for a walk, isn’t it? – creeks of blacks form. Suddenly, I’m reminded of those creeks on my face in high school, crying into the mirror about her or him or the futility of life as a 16-year-old sees it.
“Do it. Do it. Do it.” You’re not helping.
Not surprisingly, there are some boot marks tampering with the creeks. Fix it in the mix, I suppose.
Switch it up with a light red. I’m not content to take a reflective walk in the park this time. Flicking my hand like Malcolm McDowell in a crucifixion fantasy, there’s my blood on the canvas. These are not paint marks. These are slashings. They cut deeper than any real wound I’ve ever had. Now, green. I’m moving my hands in a spiral motion, the brush creating portals to god knows where. Where I end up, I don’t care. This is all about the release.
“Is that the best you can do? Pretty loops? Your best days are behind you.”
Soon, I decide that brushes are no longer appropriate. I slowly dip my fist in a bucket of gray paint and engage in convulsions. Stopping briefly to wash my hands, I then locate a bucket of purple, quickly put my hand in, and begin to attack. I’m beating the shit out of this painting. Punching the canvas, I tear it in a few spots. Damage is beautiful, damage is lovely, damaged is how nature intended us to be.
“Why haven’t you done it already?”
NO. I WON’T FUCKING DO IT. I swoop up my bucket of blue paint and just thrash it at the canvas, making a river out of my fever.
“They were right about you. They said you’d falter beyond recovery. They said you’d be abandoned. They said you’ll never taste success. They were right about you.”
Well, this is done. So fuck you.
I fall to the floor. Collapse is really the only natural reaction. I forget that there’s no longer music; I’m so exhausted and absorbed by my carnage. After a couple of minutes of self-induced darkness, my eyes open and they’re looking at the work like it’s the grass. It’s a mess of battling colors, bloodlust blending together into unfathomable combinations. It’s the mess I set out to make.
And now, there’s a silence. The silence from my voice taking over.
Hail Chaos. Rather, hail myself for controlling Chaos.
BY DREW MILLARD
Iggy Pop woke up in his bed, which was actually just two full-size mattresses stacked on top of each other but whatever. He was still kind of drunk from last night, which was also whatever. He looked at his phone for the time, and it was nearly three in the afternoon, but that was even more whatever still. What was not whatever was that there was someone in his bed with him who he did not know. He looked at his penis and thought about it. The girl in his bed, not his penis. But he did think about what his penis and that girl might have done. He felt weird. He tried thinking about tulips, but ended up just thinking about his penis some more. He wondered why all of the blankets were on the floor. He didn’t even know her. What if she had AIDS. What if she was dead. What if she was going to steal his iPhone. Fuck.
The phrase “No father to his style” was impenetrably lodged in Iggy Pop’s head. He thought about the movie where James Franco’s arm was trapped under that rock and he had to cut his own arm off in order to escape. He wondered if James Franco jerked off with his free arm when his other arm was trapped under that rock. He would have. Maybe. Probably. Whatever. James Franco could suck his dick.
Later, Iggy Pop was going to put on a Kanye West song and push the little play/pause button on his MacBook keyboard and make the song sound like the song version of a strobe light. It would make him happy. Maybe he would do it to “Say You Will”. Maybe “Donald Trump Money” with Yu-Era. Kanye West Deep Cuts. Was that a thing. Fucking no.
Iggy Pop poked the girl in his bed. She murmured. Iggy Pop wondered if they did it. He had been at the party and then at the bar, then at the other bar and then at the bodega and then at the first bar again and then. Yeah. Iggy Pop had been living life in montage form for months now. He wondered how much he spent. He bet he spent a million dollars. He bet Stevie Nicks actually did that thing with the cocaine and her asshole. He bet she didn’t know his name either.
He poked her again and she finally rolled over and opened her eyes and said, “Hey.” Iggy Pop said, “Hey” back and kissed her on the cheek. She started kissing him on the mouth and she touched his penis accidentally and then he got all hard and stuff and then they did all the stuff you’re supposed to do before you have sex and then they actually started having sex and it was only okay and then he wondered what she was thinking about and then just as he was thinking about maybe wanting to go soft again he felt a finger in his ass. Her finger. His ass. Logistically, it must have been the middle one.
Iggy Pop had never had a finger in his butt before. More than he wanted anything in the entire universe he wanted to squeal and freak out and stop and go sit in a corner with his knees at his chest but he couldn’t because that would have been rude and this person very obviously did it because she thought he was going to enjoy it and to do anything other than pretend he was enjoying it would have made him a douche bag. At least it wasn’t a thumb. A thumb probably would have wiggled a bunch, which would have reminded him that there was a finger in his butt. On the other hand, middle fingers were long. As he was having sex with a middle finger up his butt, Iggy Pop reflected on how life is nothing but a very long series of trade-offs followed by death.
Iggy Pop came, and it was the most glorious orgasm of his life. It was so good that he actually said that as he came. He had no idea if his orgasm was so good because of the finger or because he was just really happy that it was over and she would take her finger out of his asshole but he guessed it didn’t really matter. As he lay on top of a girl whose name he did not know but whose finger was still in his asshole, breathing heavily and wondering if he was going to be able to hold his poop in for the rest of the day, Iggy Pop decided that he was done doing cocaine.