Neo-American Church

Chapter 7


Of course I was all the talk—all other subjects were dropped; even the king suddenly became a person of minor interest and notoriety.

When Dick and I got back to the house I saw it was about time for the trip, so I went up to Tim’s room, where I found Ling-Ling, but no Tim. She told me he had gone to town for cigarettes, and would be back in a half hour or so.

Fine. I relaxed on a pile of cushions. All my fears of acid had evaporated. Ling-Ling went to the bookcase and brought a book over to me.

“Have you seen this?” she asked. “It’s Dick’s.”

I looked at the book as she paged through it. An exotic historical collection of pornographic photographs including several old French shots of mixed shit-ins, or something—six or seven Parisians of mixed age and sex lined up on a multi-hole bench with their pants down and skirts up. In my condition, the standard pictures of people fucking each other seemed too obvious in meaning to deserve much attention. (Ling-Ling wanted to define the situation in terms appropriate to her paramount interests and skills.) But I was fascinated by the group shit-ins. What in God’s name did that mean? I wouldn’t let Ling-Ling turn the pages.

“Wait a minute, Ling-Ling,” I said, “I have to figure out why these pictures are here.”

“Oh, maybe that was the custom in those days,” Ling-Ling replied. “Why are you getting so uptight about it?”

“I am not getting uptight about it!” I insisted. Ling-Ling was beginning to piss me off. But she was cute, so I tried to explain.

“I’m interpreting everything. Whatever I see or hear has some direct meaning for me. There are no accidents.”

Ling-Ling was uninterested in what I was doing. All she wanted was that I stop thinking my way and start thinking her way. I could see it plainly, and I could see Ling-Ling could see I could see and didn’t like it.

When Ling-Ling left the room, the meaning of the co-educational latrine picture seemed clearer to me. The photos represented the condition of Ling-Ling’s mind, the current repertoire of her images. One could conclude then, that when she wasn’t concerned with sexuality, she was full of shit? And everything she represented was full of shit?

Or perhaps, if that was carrying it too far, I should at least be on my guard with all things feminine and Oriental during the acid trip to come. In any event, the pictures were humorous and no grim or diabolical images were present, so the appropriate attitude, perhaps, would be one of good-natured, old-fashioned, red-blooded, down-home suspiciousness of foreign broads. Easy enough, I thought. Had I not attended many “clap movies” warning me against “so-called nice girls” during basic training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in 1946?

While I was musing on these notions, Tim came in, and all the while chatting in a natural and amiable manner about various trifles, started arranging cushions in a circle around a candle and a vase of flowers. When everything in the room was to his satisfaction, he went out and quickly returned with a silver platter, on which rested half a dozen tiny tablets, which he placed in the center of the circle of pillows, next to the candle and flowers.

“Well, here goes,” Tim chuckled and reached for the plate.

At that moment, Susan Leary walked into the room and stopped halfway towards us from the door, obviously set to deliver an important message.

“Susan Metzner says he’s crazy,” Susan announced, in the most baleful manner imaginable. I couldn’t believe my ears. Neither could Tim believe his, it seemed. He stared at his daughter in astonishment.

“What?” Tim asked. “Who’s crazy?”

Susan pointed at me.


Susan left. Tim and I stared at each other.

“What the hell is going on around here?” Tim asked. “Do you know?”

“Nope.” I shrugged. It was obvious. The female mind was a bummer. Beware, mankind.

“Well, it’s too much for me,” Tim said. “Let’s put if off. Why don’t you just stay here and read Siddhartha. Everyone’s going to the barns to watch some cattle come in. I’ll try to find out what’s bothering Susan.”

Fine. Supporting my back on a large cushion under the front window, I opened Hesse’s book. Although I had a lamp on, the fat candle Tim had lit for the trip, about ten inches high and five inches in diameter, continued to burn not far from my feet. The lightness and sweetness, verging on Bahai-style dopey-mindedness, of Siddhartha, in contrast to the dark surrealism of Steppenwolf , and the downright paranoid (and tedious) craziness of most of his other stuff, surprised me. It supported the idea that he wasn’t smoking edelweiss up in those Austrian Alps. Anyway, I found it possible to make the transition, and was soon lost in the story.

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