either a detail of the
or a Romanesco broccoli



if they come in the front,
I'm already out the back


Wrong wrong wrong. Cannot be Cosmo’s house. Right city wrong neighborhood wrong block wrong house. Spray-on stucco, stamped aluminum window frames, a roof of simulated terracota: instant Spanish for the lower middleclass. Jimmy drove to the end of the block, checked the street name, u-turned, re-read the numbers on the paper and the door. This is the famous summer house? How does he know which house on the block is his?

He expected at least an AhOOOOgah from the doorbell, got a DuoTone™ ding and a DuoTone™ dong, waited for a housewife in slippies to explain the mistake; instead came a shadow in the door like a slap in the face, a Cosmotic imitation in a tuxedo. No. In Viet Cong black pajamas. No. In American black pajamas. A black satin nightie? Penguin suit. One more guess. Black karate outfit, belted.

Cosmo gave the universal sign of surprise, widened eyes.

Jimmy gave the universal sign of recognition, a nod.

“!” (Cosmo)

“?” (Jimmy)

Cosmo narrowed his eyes.

Jimmy, elbows to his sides, fanned out his palms.

Cosmo scratched his head.

“?” (Cosmo)

“!” (Jimmy)

Jimmy extended one hand, palm up, dipped.

Cosmo tilted an eyebrow.

Jimmy squirmed his mouth to the right.

Cosmo looked past him to the car.

Jimmy shook his head.

Cosmo gave the look quizzical.

Jimmy pointed to himself with both forefingers, thumbs cocked.

Cosmo cleared his throat.

Jimmy pursed his lips.

Cosmo tilted his head to the right.

Jimmy swept fingers across his brow, flicked sweat.

“Um—” hummed Cosmo.

“—Hmm,” Jimmy completed the phrase.

“Is that really you?” said Cosmo.

“If you think it is.”

“That’s the worst possible grounds for belief.”

“Your doormat says Welcome.”

“My doormat lies obsessively.”

“Hello,” said Jimmy in falsetto, “I’m working my way through college selling doormats that say Go Away Jimmy. Would you like one?”

Cosmo turned sideways, extended his arm in the universal signal to enter.

The living room was empty. Bare, nude. For sale or rent? This is not a house, it’s a. The door closed behind him. If he heard a bolt slide shut he’d make a run for it. Turning to defend his life against the house-squatting maniac disguised as Cosmo he faced a wall extended toward him in a floor-to-ceiling checkerboard of drawers. Library card file drawers with brass lable-holders and pull-knobs on wood-grained fronts. A ladder attached to rails on the top. He swiveled to catch the rest of the room in its act of disappearing but the room stretched far away.

“Uh,” said Jimmy.


“Of course it does.” Do Not Agitate The Nuts. There was one on the other wall too.

“Wanta beer?” said Cosmo.

More than anything. He ate lunch at Colonel Sanders, chicken laced with speed. And now this. Connect a what.

Cosmo led him through a former kitchen filled with shelves of crates, crates of boxes, boxes of file folders, file folders of clipped spillings of newspapers, magazines, an “Internal Memo,” a “Guide to.” Between two boxes a gas pipe with cock (no stove), a U-trap in midair (no sink), former linoleum, one-time wallpaper, now borders between shelf and crate, box and folder. They went out the back door and into where Cosmo lived, which was basically another country as far as Jimmy could tell, coastal Mexico, Cuernevaca, maybe Diego Rivera’s studio with the roof torn off and dropped into a backyard on a backstreet near California state highway 29 with much spillage. Jimmy spun on a heel, could not take it in; Cosmo pulled beers from the refrigerator in a row of kitchen appliances lined along the outside rear wall: sink, fridge, stove, cabinets, which formed the inside front wall of the outside, where they stood, beneath a sky of lattice and parachute silk and cheesecloth, dripping bouganvilla, lewd succulents, air plants, flowers that looked like bells, trumpets, spiders, toads, tongues, erections, lips, and hair, falling from the lattices, pouring from pots, languid on the Moorish wall tiles, spilling to the rug of sand that covered the floor, dotting the pathways of redwood stone curled among furniture that radiated from the yellowest couch ever seen, jonquil-canary-lemon-intimidating yellow and a sea-green-shamrock bureau and ultraviolet carved wooden chairs with orange angels for their backs and that was all he could take without a cold beer and a place to sit. He sat on a rubyblood bench next to a skeleton in a top hat holding a full house of grinning cards.

“I’m speechless,” he said. Somewhere behind Her Couch the Yellowness he spotted a Victorian four-post bed in a mist of lace.

“Well,” said Cosmo. “Think of it this way. If the cops break in the front I’m already out the back.”

“That didn’t work so well last time,” said Jimmy without a courtesy in his head. “I’m sorry, man, that’s not what I meant to say or mean or anything.”

“It had to come up sometime,” said Cosmo, “why not instantly?”

“Obviously it’s on my mind.” Jimmy slapped his mind upside its container. “I apologize for my mind.”

They let the beer silken their throats.

“Are you here for revenge?” asked Cosmo.

“Why should I be here for that?”

“You don’t blame me for you being sent to the slammer?”

“Do you blame yourself?”

“Whose else blame would it be?” Cosmo handed his beer to the angel with extended arms carved next to his chair.

“Don’t you think antinomianism has some freight to pay?” asked Jimmy.

“Who would you believe: me or Herb Caen?”

“Didn’t Herb Caen believe you?”

“Didn’t Herb Caen misquote me?”

“Didn’t you change your testimony on the stand?”

“Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?”

“So nobody told you it was you helped get me out?”

“How did I do that?”

“Why don’t you get a phone so someone could call you?”

“What, and give the fuzz something to tap?”

“Aren’t you the person who sent Joe Kranz to Shauna?”

“Did she say I was?”

“You didn’t know Kranz had photos of The Girl?”

“Why would I know that?”

“You didn’t look at his photos?”

“Why should I? We were discussing the question: if it’s reasonable to believe the

incomprehensible, does that mean it’s unreasonable to believe the comprehensible?”

“So what did you decide?”

“Jimmy, how did I help spring you?”

“Wouldn’t a series of pictures showing me saving The Girl from police brutality cast doubt on a charge of assault? Not to mention causing The Girl to cooperate?”

“I did that?”

“We can stop now, Cosmo.”

“Stop what?”

Jimmy shook his beer and sprayed it at Cosmo, which seemed juvenile and appropriate. The beer foamed in the sand, was sucked under.

Cosmo said:

“Who did The Girl turn out to be?”

“You don’t want to know. A freak.”

“I swear I’ll never testify in any case involving you again.”

“I’d appreciate that. Though, how many judges in the legal system go berserk over antinomianism?”

“All of them, I thought.”

“So you knew she’d hate me when you did that.”

“I wanted her to hate me, so she wouldn’t believe what Herb Caen said I said.”

“No, you wanted her to believe you when you lied.”

“On your behalf.”

“Which she didn’t cause you fucked with her pronomian mindset.”

“You do blame me.”

“Now that you’ve clarified the issue.”

“I’m sorry, Jimmy, really. Cut the games. They jammed me up. I thought I was safe.”

“Why should you be safe?”

“Celestial Powers. The safe-makers. And I was safe, except for an incomprehensible series of accidents.”

“Would that be the incomprehensible it’s not unreasonable to believe, or the other one?”


“Now you’re serious?”

“Want another beer? Yours seems to be mostly on my clothes.”

The sun cast words on the sand, limned by a fretwork of leaves, lattice, petals. If the cops come in the front, you’re already out the back. Classic Cosmo. And yet.

“Dominions I thought I could count on,” said Cosmo, passing a Mexican beer to Jimmy. “But the wires got crossed, I was too ignorant. That’s what I’ve been doing, tracing the circuits, all the connections that got us where we are, and it took off.”

“The,” Jimmy rotated his hand, “card file that ate your house.”


“Which does?”



“Everything is.”

Jimmy sensed in Cosmo some kind of Red Shift, small but galactic, away from him. Not personal, but complete, an outbound movement of the whole Cosmo. We trust people to be themselves, and then what do they do? Slouch toward Bedlam.