The Sailing Stone VI
Where is Beckett Stone?
The Doubletree Hotel – 237 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA
Beckett opened his eyes – another hotel room. Hadn’t the slightest as to how he got there. Looking under the covers he noticed he was wearing a white tee and boxer shorts. His rope chain was secured around his neck, with the stone resting on his chest hair. Not a single scar, stitch or abrasion stained his body. He was as handsome as ever.
Beckett refused to move from underneath the covers, fearing that an animal might bite him or a human being bludgeon him. Yet just the presence of the stone around his neck, or the clicker within reaching distance on the small circular table to the right of his bed, gave Beckett a feeling of peace and confidence that things were finally set right.
Looking out from his hotel window, he was relieved to find a normal bustling city, but he was cautious.
With his mouth stuck in dryness, he called the front desk:
“Can you send somebody out to get for me…” Beckett paused just then. “I’m sorry, but could you please tell me where I might buy a refreshing bottle of Vintage Wild Cherry seltzer?”
“Hmmmm…let’s see: we have seltzer available through room service if you’d like.”
“Is it cherry seltzer?”
“Uhhhh…no. No it is not. I can drop a cherry in it if you like.”
“That’s awfully kind of you, but I am in the mood for Vintage seltzer.”
“The closest place I can think of is the Rite Aid just a few doors down on your right as you exit the front of the building.”
“Okay, I will try that.”
“Anything else I can help you with, Mr. Wiggin?”
“No, that will be it. Thank you kindly.”
“It’s my pleasure, Sir.”
Beckett stood dead-pan in front of the Seltzer section of Rite Aid. He was wearing blue jeans, a GAP shirt and a navy blue sports coat.
No Vintage seltzer.
Beckett turned to a hefty woman reaching for a bottle of 2 liter Fanta.
“Dear Madame, would you happen to know where I could find Vintage Cherry seltzer?”
“Vintage…you mean the brand? Vintage seltzer?”
“Hold on. I am feeling very generous today because of the lovely homily Father Dietrich gave at mass this morning.” The woman pulled out an oblong and rotund, Philadelphia Eagles wallet. Inside was a fat wad of coupons stuffed to capacity. She flipped through them, licking her finger as she went. “Ah ha! Here you are little devil! A coupon for Vintage Seltzer from Super Fresh. Forty-nine cents a bottle.” She handed Beckett the coupon to his delight. “Have yourself some nice Seltzer; I am a seltzer whore, a whore for that stuff…let me tell you. I understand! Hahahahaha. My good deed for the day is done. Done-for-the-day, praiseth the lord!”
Four cases of Vintage Wild Cherry Seltzer lined his hotel room wall just underneath his window. One bottle was opened, sitting atop a round table, next to an unfurled Subway Club sandwich, bursting with roasted turkey, roast beef, black forest ham and shredded lettuce. Beckett was seated there, arms corralled around the seltzer and sandwich. An afternoon talk show played quietly in the background. The talk show host was a woman and standing around her was a family of four: a husband, a wife, and their two teenage sons:
“Since it’s the beginning of our Share-Care week here on the Erin Show, I see no reason why we would only send the Pike family on vacation to Antigua.” There was a thunderous gasp among the audience. “That’s right, every audience member here today will be going to Antigua as well.” The entire audience, primarily women, jumped out of their seats in rapturous elation: strangers were hugging strangers, audience members found partners and were dancing; and some just plain ol’ fainted. Erin, the host, was meshed inside a group family hug on stage, as “Celebrate” by Kool & the Gang blared loudly throughout the studio.
Beckett smiled; then looked down at the turkey breast, roast beef and black forest ham beckoning him with its sexy shredded lettuce, sweet peppers and light mayonnaise: that food happiness; the people on the TV happiness. Look at the joy on their faces. Beckett was feeling a little joy in his gullet as he removed the rope chain and stone from around his neck, and placed it down on the table next to the sandwich. He picked up the hero with both hands and jammed it forcibly into his mouth, getting it as far back in his mouth as he could: food bits burst forth from his mouth, with bits of lettuce and tomato and pepper falling into his lap. He was close to gagging; that is until he chomped down in earnest. Chewing and chewing that monster sandwich. His hunger pangs had stopped with two bites, but that wasn’t going to stop him, as he swallowed it all down, filling his stomach with overeating goodness. The entire audience had made their way up to the stage; overwhelmed the stage with their jubilation. You couldn’t see the host or the winning family anymore; they were overtaken with dancing euphoria.
Just as he had swallowed the last bit of the mammoth foot long sandwich, a “special report” ticker scrolled at the bottom of the TV screen:
“The Associated Press is reporting that Beckett go to the bathroom and force regurgitation this instant.” The phrase was repeated twice…rolling by.
Beckett begrudgingly grabbed his rope chain and tore off to the bathroom and dropped to his knees – frightened – bullied as if by The Great Santini. He placed his fore finger at the entrance to his mouth cavity. It remained there for two minutes being held back by a force as great as the one that drove him to the toilet. After a full three minutes, he let out a gasp – a gasp as if he had been holding his breath for an hour. Exhausted, he closed the lid and stood up. He couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it. He heard that glorious music playing in his head. The gorgeousness had got to him somehow in the bathroom as he walked back over to the TV and put his coat on.
What was that music? The sublime music that reverberated amongst the ruins of the other world. Now, with his stomach bloated, Beckett was determined to set out to find that wondrous piece of music that had transformed him; made him feel like he had never felt before. Normally, he could summon up the music at will. But something was blocking him and he just had to set out to find that music. “I have to possess this music,” Beckett said aloud. “I want to hear it from a massive machine, much like I did in that horrible world.”
As he buttoned up his coat, another ticker rolled across the bottom of the TV screen. It was blank for about a minute – until: “To desire is to suffer, Beckett. To desire is to suffer, Beckett. To desire is to suffer, Beckett.”
Where is Beckett Stone?
Repo Records, 538 South Street, Philadelphia, PA
Beckett walked into the record store. Records were everywhere: on the walls, in the aisles, in the crapper.
“Yes. How can I help you,” said a young man wearing a knit cap and mutton chops.
“I am looking for a piece of music.”
“Okay, by who? On which record?”
“I don’t know who.”
Beckett shook his head.
“Okay. Let’s start again. I feel an aneurysm. What’s the name of the song?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know.”
“You don’t know the title, the record or the artist – is that right?”
“That is correct, Sir. But you do have it in the store.”
“You don’t know a thing about it, except that we have it?”
“Am I on a television show? Is this a reality show? Where’s the camera?”
“It’s in a crate downstairs: a green crate. This is the piece. I am hearing it right now.”
Wagner’s soft intro began.
The clerk looked up and around in confusion – straining to hear the fragility of the intro. Why is classical music playing in the store? How is it playing in the store? “Jimmy, can you look and see what’s playing on the turntable. Who put that on? How did it get on?” Jimmy, a slight man wearing a “Social Distortion” tee and wearing glasses that looked heavier than he was, ran downstairs. “I have to ask our classical authority who this is, what it is? Hang on.” The clerk opened up the front door and whistled loudly. Before long a disheveled old man drinking port from a brown bag hobbled into the store. The clerk seemed affectionate to the ol timer – proud to know him. “This is Vinyl Willie the Wino, he knows everything. Willie…what’s playing and why the fuck would we have it!” Willie pressed his ear forward, cupped it.
Just then, Jimmy hurried to the front of the store. “It’s Richard Wagner.”
“Lohengrin,” Willie said.
“Exactly!” Jimmy responded.
“Who put it on? How did we get it?” asked the clerk.
“Fuck knows? But we have a green crate downstairs full of classical music; lying on top was the cover of this album.”
The clerk stared at Beckett. “Whoaaaaaaa….that is some strange Penn and Teller shit right there.”
“I would like to buy the album, please. And I would like to buy what I can play it on. The big player with the big ear.”
“A Victrola,” said Wino Willie.
“We don’t carry Victrolas,” said Jimmy, “but maybe we should ask this customer if we have it. He knows what we have better than we do!”
“Do you have anything it would play on?” inquired Beckett, missing the joke.
“Oh yeah, we have turn tables.”
Beckett turned to Willie and handed him a hundred dollar bill. “Thank you for your help. Go and buy lots of music.”
Wino Willie’s eyes were a-poppin’ – loving the site of that Ben Franklin. “Oh, yes, sir, I will definitely buy music. Oh yes. Lots and lots of liquid music.” Beckett smiled and patted Wino Willie on the back. The record store clerks mobilized fast, realizing they were dealing with a big spender.
A rubenesque woman with dark bangs and long wavy hair watched the entire Beckett episode while flipping through Duran Duran records. It amused her. She was impressed. And he’s hot!
Beckett was hungry but did not know how to indulge his food desire. There were so many damn places to choose from. Just to look at all this food with new eyes was a marvel. He bounced in and out of many food establishments, looking less at the menus, than the pictures on the walls. All the while, the curious woman with the bangs followed. It was her day off from the bookstore and she had nothing really to do but find some handsome guy and imagine being with him. Imagine he wanted to be with her. Every once and a while, when stalking got boring, she’d flip through a chapter of her latest, favorite, Sci-Fi series.
As he stared at the hanging beef in the deli window, she made her approach:
“Why…hello. How are you?
“I’m fine. Loved the performance you gave in the record store: how did you do that?”
“The record store: how did you do that?”
“I can’t give away my secret,” Beckett said as he started walking down the street, cutie-with-the-bangs following…
“What are you? A magician?” she asked.
“I don’t know how to answer that, actually.”
“You seem to be hungry? You must have looked through a dozen restaurants or more. Aren’t you going to eat something?”
“Are you hungry?”
“Yeah, I guess. There are just so many choices.”
“It’s a great food town.”
“You don’t seem like you’re from around here.”
“No. I’m not.”
“I can take you to a place that makes the best Philly Cheese Steaks: are you interested? My name is Adrian.” She extended her hand. Beckett shook it. Beckett looked about himself and the city, still wondering when or if he will be summoned back to that horrible world. “I am passionate about a lot of things, and if you are new to Philadelphia, I’d be happy to show you around.
“Wow, okay, that might actually be nice. I like to hear that. That’s nice of you. I am interested in a little human companionship.”
“Sure! How long are you staying for?”
“Let’s walk this way, come on. Not sure? That’s kind of cool. How much do any of us know how long we will be here, right? That’s the fun of it! I could be dead tomorrow. Splat. Hit by a bus. Dead. Blood everywhere. That’s the beauty of life and why we have to appreciate every friggin’ moment of it. Look at me getting all philosophical; and I hardly know you. I am a bizarre one. Okay – let’s cross over here.”
Not wearing his rope chain, he felt the depth of Adrian’s energy and passion, felt the pulse of the city and the people rushing by – the blaring of horns.
“Where are you staying? I work in a bookstore. Maybe you can meet me there some day and we can go have lunch. That might be nice. I can let you use my discount to buy books. You can even use the discount to buy food in the café…in case you’re hungry. Or you can by DVDs. I love watching TV shows. Man – someone shut me up! Right?”
“I am staying at a Doubletree.”
“I know exactly where that is! Holy moly! I walk everywhere. Explore everywhere. Soak everything up. Where are you from originally.”
“Let’s just say I come from New York City.”
“I love New York City! At least what I’ve seen on 30 Rock. I want to go everywhere in this world. And I don’t think I’d be afraid, you know? What about you? You want to see everywhere?”
“Actually, I haven’t told anybody yet – it’s a secret – but I am crossing the country, staying at hotels as I go along.”
“Get out!” Adrian playfully slapped him on the arm. “That is outrageous! I could kiss you with envy! So lucky! Are you rich? Don’t answer that. Are you loaded? I am so rude! Did I hit the lottery today and find a rich, handsome, travel writer who is bent on sweeping me off my feet and taking me across the globe and back?”
Beckett stopped at a street corner. He noticed a television playing in the window of an electronics store. A man and a woman were clinging for their lives on wet rocks in a raging river, as a Medevac helicopter hovered over them. A person was being lowered from the aircraft to rescue the two people.
“Come on, Sonny’s is just a little’s ways up from here. You’re going to love this food. Love-this-food! Oh, my good god, yes you will!”
“Eh! Don’t cut the line!” barked a ravenous customer with all gum and no teeth.
“He ain’t cutting the line! Back off!” shouted Adrian as she shot the woman a stink eye, “he’s just trying to get a look at the menu. Take it easy…take it easy.” Adrian rolled her eyes and brought her attention back to Beckett: “I am going to get the bacon cheese steak. I think you should just go with an original cheese steak. See if you like it. This is awesome!”
Adrian and Beckett walked with their cheese steaks in one hand, soda in the other. They walked toward 6th.
“This is awakening all my senses. I just love -LOVE – this sandwich!” Beckett exclaimed, looking at Adrian, watching her devour her own sandwich.
“It’s excellent! The best in town. Stick with me, I’ll take you to all the good places.”
“Sure! What plans do I have?” Adrian smiled. “I had just been through a horrible experience, and being with you, though I don’t know you for very long, feels refreshing. Feels comfortable.”
“Thank you, thank you very much Beckett. What’s the terrible experience? Do you want to talk about it?
“Not really. Where are we headed?”
“Washington Square Park.”
“This name ‘Washington’ is everywhere. Who or what is it?”
Adrian laughed nervously. “You’re hilarious! I think he was a president.”
Adrian and Beckett were enjoying a nice ice cream cone – sitting on a park bench – watching passersby.
“I like it here. This ice cream cone is quite cold. It’s pleasant in this park.”
“Funny you should say that, I come here because my father was mugged and murdered right over there. Took me to school in the afternoon, dead by recess.”
“I am sorry. That is horrible.”
“No it isn’t. It’s the way life is every day everywhere. I watch the 6 o’clock news. All the time people are being born and being dead – every second. You don’t even notice it. It’s actually appropriate that he died here, being it was my great, great, great, great granddad who broke ground in this park. Built it. Strange – right? All that family stuff happening right here. Now there’s you; and there’s me. And we are a part of that living and dying lineage.”
Beckett turned to Adrian and looked her right in the eyes with those deep blue dimmers of his: “We are part of that…how they say it…circle of life.”
“This ice cream cone. Just the enjoyment of this.”
“Is precious and singular.”
“It is, isn’t it?”
“No one get’s it. Everyone is busy filling themselves up full of intelligence and playing games and everything else…when it’s just you and I and our ice cream cones.”
“I think…” Beckett laughed just then and looked away. “I think I love that. I love that, actually. Just us right here. Nothing else matters.”
“Nothing, Beckett. You get it. You get it abundantly.”
“I think I could sit right here forever with you,” Beckett said as he tuned back around to Adrian.
“You are so hot, I need to kiss you.”
“Okay.” Beckett stood still as Adrian leaned in and planted a long, closed mouth kiss on him. Beckett couldn’t describe it, but he felt a union with Adrian unlike all the other people he had met thus far on his journey.
“I liked that. Did you like it, Beckett?”
“Yes, yes I did.”
“Put your arm around me like this, and let’s just sit here for a while. Let’s sit in silence and listen to the people, to the birds, to the blood flowing through our bodies.’
“Okay. Yes, let’s do that.”
After seventeen minutes of silent, observational bliss, Beckett doubled over in agony as if he had committed harikari on himself. He instantly pawed at his neck for his rope chain, but he had left it back in the hotel room.
“Beckett? What’s the matter? What’s the matter?”
“I have terrible discomfort. I have to get back to the hotel room.”
“Are you going to vomit.”
“I don’t know. I may have to. I have to get back to my room. I am in terrible discomfort.”
“I should call 911.”
“No! No, Adrian! No!” Adrian was startled at his anger. “I am sorry for yelling. I just need a way to get back to the room.”
“Let me see if I can get a cab. Hold on. Hang in there…” Adrian had ran up to the street corner, whistling fearlessly – punching the air with her piercing sound.
The hotel room door kicked open as Adrian and a bellhop helped Beckett over to the bed.
“Are you sure you’ll both be alright? Want me to see if a doctor is staying with us?” asked the bellhop.
“You’re too kind. No thank you. I think he just needs rest.” Adrian handed the bellhop a tip and he was gone.
Without her noticing, Beckett grabbed his rope chain from the top of the bed, slipped it over his head and underneath his tee shirt.
“If you’ll excuse me, Adrian. I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Of course. Of course. Can I help at all?”
“No, no, you are wonderful. Put on the TV, find a nice program. I need some privacy.”
“Okay. Love you.”
“Love you, Adrian.”
Beckett stepped inside the bathroom, thrust his finger all the way to the back of his throat and began vomiting in a most violent, cough-mad way.
The pain had begun to lift with each heave.
“Here…put this on your head,” said Adrian as she kicked off her shoes and curled up next to Beckett on the bed. “It’s a cold compress. Keep this on your head in case you develop fever.”
“Oh, I think I’ll be fine, but I will listen to you because I know you love me and we love each other.”
“That’s right, Beckett. I love you to the moon and back.”
“That’s not very far, but I know what you mean.”
Adrian leaned in and kissed Beckett on the neck, just below his left ear.
“Why such pain, Adrian? Such horrible pain.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Beckett. How would you know what comfort was, what joy was, without pain and sadness. This is what it truly means to be alive. To experience this pain and happiness.”
“I think you make me happy, Adrian. I experience true happiness with you.”
“Oh, I as well, Beckett. I as well.”
There was a moment of silence.
“It’s too quiet in here. My music never arrived.”
“The Wagner music.”
“Record stores don’t deliver, Beckett.”
“I gave them a hundred; they said they would deliver it.”
Adrian snuggled up even tighter…sighing. “Do you like 1980s music, Adrian?”
“As much as I love parachute pants and shoulder pads – which is a lot!”
“Play music!” Beckett called out and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes cranked out from the walls.
“This song is totally boss!”
Totally in love = check
As Beckett lay his head back, listening to the rad music, just on the other side of the thin bedroom wall, in the adjacent room, with his head lined up almost perfectly with Beckett’s own – on his own bed, was a grinning Val Smith, with his leather vest and exposed hairy chest.
“To desire is to suffer, Beckett. To desire is to suffer, Beckett,” Val said softly to himself.