Ezra Titus

1966 – 2009

SALT OF THE EARTH

Andy and I had been drinking all night. We’d met two girls in Boston and we were all speeding back to the house. We found Judy and Jenny at “Narcissus,” on metal night. They both had huge hair, like 18th century wigs, but it wasn’t gray. Judy was a very large, yet fit blonde with a breeding torso. She had the usual, Boston, half-Irish features, as did Jenny. But, Jenny was Irish and something else. She had long, curly brown hair, and she wasn’t so powerful looking as Judy, the ass-kicking farm-girl. So, I paid more attention to the smaller one.

Andy and I were both tall and incredibly muscular with beautiful, flowing hair, even longer than the girls’, as was the style at the time.

I think Andy, Judy and Jenny would agree that the late eighties were good years for our quartet, if for no one else. We all liked the same music. Most of my age group had been driven by madness, to distraction. Thus, everyone who wasn’t obsessed with one style of music or the other was having a hard time with the Reagan years or God knows what else. I didn’t want to find out. Culturally, music was my only sanctuary.

Furthermore, the metal chicks knew how to party. Every single one was tightly wrapped in leopard skin, or black Lycra with high heels, big hair, and finger nails that harkened back to the dynasty of the saber-tooth tiger. They drank, swore and were true to themselves; a hearty stock. They were the breed of female with which Andy and I wanted to share our genomes. In fact, when the metal girls disappeared, much like the saber tooth, though eons later, it was to me as if there were no more girls at all.

In the hallway that led to my room, Jenny said, “Haile Selassie! What is that smell?”

“Is that Sotie’s room?” I asked Andy.

“I think, yeah.”

“The guy never takes his garbage out.”

“Hee hee hee!” To the drunken girls, everything was funny. We went into our rooms.

Andy and I were in charge of a five-bedroom house in Brighton. We were constantly losing old tenants and getting new ones. The turnover rate was so high that we just left the ad in the paper indefinitely. I don’t even remember what Sotie’s real name was. He was a fat, travelling salesman with hair just like Ronald Reagan’s. He was usually away. At some point, for no apparent reason, Andy started calling him ‘Salt of the Earth.’ Then, it became ‘Sotie’, and that was most of what we knew about him.

One of our old roommates had moved to California. On the day we met Judy and Jenny, we’d received a sheet of acid he’d mailed us. So, the next morning, we asked the girls if they wanted to try it.

It was great stuff. Andy was probably tripping the hardest. Still, he drove to the video store and rented Star Trek 3. Whenever a laser gun went off, or a ship exploded, we all gasped in amazement. Andy took a shower. When he came out he said, “Dude! You wanna try something really cool?”

“What?” we all demanded.

“Blow dry your hair!”

We all did, and it was as transcendent as we’d hoped it would be. We watched Star Trek twenty-two times, until day faded to night and it was time for weird sex on acid.

The next day, we dosed again, and walked to Star Market where we bought a two-liter Diet Coke and four cartons of cigarettes. Harvard Field was across the road, and we stood there watching a bird fly around a tree. It had black circles on the undersides of its wings. It orbited the tree quickly, like a malfunctioning satellite, and was the most amazing thing any of us had ever seen. Andy and I never stopped talking about that bird.

A sheet of acid lasts a long time. For days, we kept watching Star Trek movies and smoking the weed Prunehoff, a room mate, had foolishly left on the coffee table. Sometimes Judy said she saw Jesus in the mirror, standing next to her. Andy said that one day, when the other three of us had been in the kitchen, a demon stood in front of him and stomped its hoof, three times. Upon that very definitive signal, many smaller demons had flown through the room, one of which, Andy claimed, had looked just like me.

Andy and Judy were getting weird, so Jenny and I spent more and more time in my room, watching each others’ faces melt. We were always laughing because whenever Andy and Judy went up to his room, we’d hear loud crashing noises. All this continued, day after day, as if it might become a permanent set of circumstances.

We were smoking a joint early one morning when we heard a lot of people at the front door with walkie talkies.

“Eh!?” Jenny tried to stand up, like a tranquilized giraffe.

“Oh, that’s just the gas company checking the meter,” I said.

As I did, there was an aggressive knock at the door. Everyone shuddered. Still tripping, we weren’t really up to dealing with anything but our own pleasure. Feigning confidence, I put on my bathrobe. “I’ll deal with this!” I said fearlessly.

I opened the door in a storm of pot smoke. Four cops were there and I instantly realized it was inevitable that we would be arrested for drugs that day.

“Do you smell that?” said the meanest looking officer, Ghagen.

“Umm … Smell what?” I mumbled. I thought, “Why can’t he just arrest me?” Why did we have to play this game? Of course I smelled it! The whole house was boiling in pot smoke.

“You don’t smell that?” asked the cop.

“What?” I asked. What else could I have said? I could hear Andy, Judy and Jenny scampering around behind me like headless chickens. In fact, Judy was too sturdy to “scamper”, and sounded more like a dinosaur going insane. Officer Ghagen heard her thunderous footsteps and raised his eyebrows. In any case, I knew that if I stalled for 30 seconds, everything could be hidden.

The cops looked at each other in disbelief.

“Your neighbors complained about the smell.”

“Officer?” asked Jenny, saving my life, “Would you like to come in?”

“That’s the smart thing to do,” I thought. If they’d already hidden everything, maybe we could placate the police by allowing them into the house, and perhaps offering them some of Prunehoff’s coffee.

They walked in and started through the hallway by the living room. “Seems to be coming from here,” said one cop.

“Sotie’s room?” asked Andy. We were all surprised. When they opened the door, a thick horde of black flies rose up. I was horrified and I turned away, only having seen the flies.

“Now do you smell it?” they asked.

“Oh my God in heaven,” Judy paled. She’d been able to see it. She fell into hysteria and said, “It looked … it looked like corn syrup!”. That was only the beginning of how she totally freaked out. The floor shuddered as she ran, with pummeling farm-legs, into my room, followed by Jenny.

“That’s a big girl,” said Ghagen. He stared at the door to my room, behind which the girls were weeping. He stopped writing on his clipboard.

Finally, he snapped out of it and turned immediately to Andy who was deeply concerned with a swarm of demons, dancing like savage Indians around the cop’s feet. He looked terrified and thus, guilty. So, Ghagen decided to question Andy first.

“So,” the cop said accusingly, “he was approximately twenty-seven, and he’s been in here all week, and you have no idea how he died?”

“Uh, yes?” Then, Andy asked, in a false, Russian accent which confused everyone, “He’s been dead that long?”

“Do you wanna take a look in there?”

“Not really.”

“Don’t tell anyone that I said you could look in there!”

“Uh, OK,” Andy trembled.

“When was the last time you saw him?” barked another cop.

“Umm … about two weeks ago?”

“Where?”

“On the bench … in front of Star Market?”

Then they asked a truly horrifying question which, though I’d not seen the body, revealed it to me. “Was he black or white?”

“Black? I mean, no. Why would you … He was white.” Andy said he felt weird and needed to sit down for a minute.

After we were questioned, one by one, a team came in wearing haz-mat suits and started bringing shiny, black plastic bags out of Sotie’s room. We were free to go.

Judy and Jenny zoomed away in a Chevy Malibu and we never saw them again. I asked the cops how long it would take to clean up.

“Oh, about two or three weeks.”

“Weeks?” Our house-mates shuddered.

“No, I’m just kiddin’!” Ghagen laughed.

After a few nerve wracking days, it was announced that Sotie had died after swallowing a chicken bone … a week before Andy and I met Jenny and Judy. So, we all partied in that house, and the other three house mates lived there without a clue, until he’d been dead two weeks. I guess we just got used to it. On the bright side, none of us had unknowingly murdered Sotie. This possibility hadn’t occurred to me until Andy brought it up one evening:

“I wonder if, on all that acid, we could have, um, killed him?” As this question crushed my LSD perforated mind, I exhaled every molecule of air in my body and put my hands over my eyes. “Ugh! I hadn’t even considered that until now,” I said, casting a resentful look at Andy. “Oh, dude,” I lamented. It felt as if I no longer needed to breathe. My racing heart would kill me.

After some time had passed, we were drinking in the living room, watching the many flies, still in the house, mate and frolic. “See?” said Andy, “each loathsome maggot became a beautiful fly,” as if it were the happy ending of a fairy tale. I stared at a light bulb.

“At my sister’s wedding,” Andy continued, “the priest said … ‘for you are truly the salt of the earth.’”

“Hmm,” I opened my eleventh beer; “I wonder if they say that at funerals?”