Invidus Vermem One video transcript, 2015
Clyde wished from childhood, in the moment that he discovered the tranquility of Latin, that he might have been called something other than his Christian name, Clyde Lugerpot; the origins of which had been swallowed by a stack of intake forms at Ellis Island. At age eleven, Clyde had a vague understanding that if he was to do great things, he needed a better name. So, using The North American Field Guide to Eastern Continental Plants, he renamed himself, his sister, mother, father, with the intent of buoying the family’s fortune. Clyde was now Sarracenia Alata. Sarcy-Al for short, after the delicate and rare, Sweet Pitcher plant, “alata” translating to, “furnished with wings.” His sister, short tempered but also short, was Acer Truncatum, or “The Trunk” after the Purpleblow Maple. “Acer” - “shrill”; “truncatum” - “to cut off, maim.” Mommy was Aesulus X Carnea, Red Horsechestnut, “of the flesh, carnal.” Then Daddio, who was in a constant state of unexplained decay, starting with one diabetic foot even though his blood sugars were normal, then a cirrhotic liver after he never drank a drop, and his ears, eventually blown, plus the eye that glazed over - milk white, which in all, earned him the name, Puraria Lobata, “to give way, to decline.” The plant is Kudzu. His nickname: “Purlo Kud”. Latin was succinct. It had direct meaning. With it, Clyde called it what it was, him who he was and her who she was. Just called it all, and he knew at once, who was what.
Clyde’s closest friend of some forty years, nearly their entire lives, was Douglas Horeycot, and in him, Clyde could not find a more antithetical companion. Dougie was rich with the kind of arrogance that made strangers reluctant to finish a sentence. He exhibited an expression of knowing turned inward, as if he was congratulating himself on being the smartest person in the room. But when he spoke, it was as if Hyde had turned the lips back over to Jekyll. His tone was gentle and self effacing, though the words were always loaded with the kind of self importance that erases all warm bodies within a ten foot radius. Doug used vocabulary as an ornament of sophistication and over the years, Clyde assembled a mental list of Doug’s go-to words as a comforting reminder; Dougie, wasn’t any better at dealing with people than Clyde was. Here, are to name a few:
asinine, gentry, perturbed, dictat, reductive, simplistic, corpuscle, irrelevent, loath, generalities, peculiar, demise, intrinsic, hot load, breadwinner, exclaimed, landlubber, pearly, negro, ridicule
The evaporative cooling system of Clyde’s greenhouse ran the length of the north wall; a series of razor aluminum fins suggested a B-movie space vessel when it breathed mist. Clyde would press his face against the fins, careful not to damage them, and breath in the damp air. Invigorating. Balmy. Pleasantly chemical.
He could have grown anything in his greenhouse, but he chose Poison Ivy as the main event. Entire tables were overrun with toxin anointed leaves that reflected the midday sun under a glass canopy. For Clyde, who prioritized plants over people, he felt glee in the idea of nurturing the species that haunted every rural and suburban child in America. This wasn’t just for kicks, however. He was working toward something bold. He was confident that he could breed a plant that would respond outwardly to emotion, and it seemed reasonable that he start with a weed that was hated and feared. But he also reveled in the sly unassuming aesthetic of the ivy. From its start, the experiment took a meditative angle that focused on mental imaging of the texture of leaves in their characteristic pattern of three, out of which evolved a set of mantras that pinpointed the spirit of the plant and the allure of its myth.
"tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon"
Then Clyde walked in on Doug and Olive, Clyde’s twenty year old daughter, rubbing their parts together in the dark of the greenhouse during Clyde’s first ever holiday party. The sex made unapologetic sounds as he stood in the door, afraid to move, terrified to be seen. Then he stumbled backward in an attempt to erase the previous fifteen seconds, to avoid the humiliation of the moment that daughter and father might lock eyes.
She saw. Clyde crimped his glass of bourbon which collapsed under the pressure of his thumb. Olive’s gaze: distant, inaccessible. Doug’s eyes: bulging with liquor. Neither body, able to rein in what had already been set in motion. No hesitation. No sudden jolt of being discovered. Like agitated mules, they bucked their heads and turned back to their business.
Neither Olive nor Doug knew that they were screwing in Clyde’s healthiest bed of poison ivy.
One might think that the joke was on them but for three weeks after the incident, Clyde was reminded almost daily of the compromised position his baby had assumed by way of the pearly rash that covered her knees, her palms, and one side of her face. This was emphasized by her nonchalance as she stood at the fridge, one morning, holding a bowl of dry cereal, and spoke through the half rash; something about one percent milk. She wanted skim (or was it whole?), but her words never made it to Clyde’s ears, buffered by a hot flash of panic that flushed his cheeks as the image of his daughter (his daughter!), rutting and grinding in his bed, (his bed!), of Toxicodendron Raicans jabbed him with mechanical repetition. The image stuttered in a palsied loop. Forward. Backward. Again. But in the kitchen, Olive mouthed muted words, her lips illuminated by the a.m. sun that bounced off yellow wallpaper. The words were banal and performed with endearing certitude (This is something that he loved about her, this conviction over nothing.) but every contortion of her lips suggested the fellating twitches of a woman being taken, and he stood, once again, catatonic. He listened to the hiss of empty air as Olive’s lips worked their way around unrecognizable words.
A father must come to understand that his daughter will grow into a woman, who does with men, all that he had ever wanted to do with women. Face it, Daddio. She’s not exempt from seediness. Innocence shows up early, precede’s the naughty, and is mistaken for purity.
If Clyde had ever bothered to think this idea through, he wouldn’t have been so insulted or so aroused by the abandon of his daughter with his best friend. The most unsettling part of it was that it stirred something that had gone dormant in him over his decades of marriage. It prickled his scalp and knotted his stomach, his unreconciled sense that he had never quite lived.
The morning after, Clyde followed a trail of maraschino cherries and stir sticks to the greenhouse. It stopped at the ivy and he studied the two arm-length grooves that his daughter had inadvertently pressed into the loamy soil. He could see where she had dug in with her hands, massaging greedy clumps between her fingers, uprooting the ivy. In a black rubber bucket, he mixed icy hose water with the remnants of a bag of Quickcrete that he had used to repair cracks in the greenhouse slab, and gave it a punishing whip-up with his bare hand until his shoulder ached and the cement became warm. Then he slopped the mix into the two perverse troughs where Olive’s arms had been and waited, watching steam waft from the surface up toward the canopy. He recited the mantra effortlessly.
" tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon, tribus, haroon"
Twenty one years ago, Anna Lee lay on an exam table with a medical wand inside of her. Clyde was crammed into the corner on a wheeled chair, feeling unnecessary. His legs were restless with embarrassment, causing the wheels to squeak. The two stared, with dopey grins, at the ultrasound; at a perfectly symmetrical amniotic sack (so said Anna Lee) and the meager life-force contained inside of what appeared to Clyde to be a lone peanut stuck to the uterine wall.
Take Me Home Tonight
They didn’t expect Olive. Clyde had assumed after so many years of reckless unloading of seed into Anna Lee, without incident, that some aspect of his operations was offline, and that was fine by him. The fear of having a child outweighed the storied joys of parenthood. He thought of Darryl Durham, who he had grown up with since elementary school, whose father was a locally famous sports announcer, and the agonizing grind of Darryl’s stuttering existence. The boy was handsome even though his face drooped as if paralyzed by stroke. Darryl was slow. He slurred his words. “Touched”, was the term that Darryl’s grandfather used. He said it with love and disdain. In junior high school, he dressed like a Vietnam vet, all the way up to the steel helmet. It earned him the nick-name “Apocalypse Now” which he seemed to embrace with enthusiasm. The detail that made the costume authentic was the real-to-life, grizzled scar that ran from the corner of Darryl’s nose and looped upward across his temple. The story went that he had watched the Budweiser Kleidsdale horses parade around a shopping mall parking lot. When a kid on the sidelines lit a string of black cat firecrackers and threw it into their path, Darryl had been trampled by the team, nearly to death.
Clyde and his classmates addressed Darryl as, “Tarded Dee” as if it were his full name and they were paying respect by reciting it whole. Darryl lashed back. He stunned them with obscenities that no one had heard before. “God fuck you a milk cow” was one that stood out as particularly vivid, when Clyde imagined the same words, tossed at Darryl in the steady pronounced charm of his father’s broadcast voice, since clearly no child was capable of conjuring such a phrase.
Darryl was forever tethered to what Clyde saw as Darryl’s personal mongoloid hell. “Tarded Dee” followed him up through the years and eventually mercifully settled into just plain “Dee.” Up to that point, against every dose of ridicule, Darryl brandished unwavering confidence. At lunch he strutted the web of concrete paths between buildings at the high school, with the sole purpose of leering through buggy aviator sunglasses at the new crop of freshman “guhls,” as he called them. He grimaced, conspicuously scanning the yard, hands clasped ceremoniously in front of his crotch, shoulders flexed forward giving him an intimidating hunch. But Darryl was also discerning. He spouted Penthouse limericks like they were soliloquies and he developed the strategy of silently placing a business card on the knee of notoriously unattainable girls whenever they sat in the commons to bake in the sun. The card looked like this:
It was real theater, and Clyde could appreciate the economy of Darryl’s actions. Someday, it might actually work. He had high hopes for Darryl’s conquest.
(A radio squawks to life. Bumper music.)
"At the top of the hour :UFO seances and paranormal plant-life. Sightings of a classic Trans Am 18 wheeler, loaded with kidnapped midwesterners, plus a Haunted Oldsmobile at a Kangaroo Quick Mart. We’re moving across the high desert and into The Beyond. Winter is in, Truckers, and you long for something green on that lonesome interstate. You’ll only find it here on Out Through the In Door on your a.m. dial."
(The sound becomes muffled as if being listened to in utero.)
Clyde feared that he would have his own Darryl, one that was immeasurably threatening - the kind of child that haunted his mother with unconscious wretchedness, that begged for abandonment. Or the kind of teenager that snuck out of the house during homework to drink warm beer into the night and finger-bang girls or boys in a valley of kudzu - girls or boys that Clyde and Anna Lee would never want to meet.
But the pronounced grain of Olive’s goober sized body in sonic black and white churned lively on the monitor and it struck Clyde while listening to the doctor taste the remnants of snack cookies in her teeth as she simultaneously scrutinized the downtown mysteries of Anna Lee, that he was a father. And when she was born she was so small that she seemed unreal. He was transfixed by every twitch and gurgle. He pinched the delicate bones that framed her tiny hands. With the wonder of a man momentarily blessed with x-ray eyes, he parceled out and sized every morsel, categorically absorbing the details. Heart: halved walnut. Eyes: plump Maine blueberries. Her tiny buttocks: a pair of oven sweet rolls. Clyde guessed that her entire torso came out to the size of a yankee pot roast. This was the kind of affection that did more harm than good. The kind that devoured people whole.
And Lord, she was an ugly baby, so Anna Lee and Clyde poured on the love, knowing that she’d get it from no-one else. Potato Face Bright Eyes was her monicker. She answered the name with a giggle.
When the damp heat cooled, Clyde pulled the concrete casts from the soil and hosed them down. It was tricky, getting the specks of soil out of every crag. The twin shapes were handsome and funny like cartoon batons. With a screw driver, he inscribed a note, on the back of one arm.
you soil my daughter?
lecherous, fart soaked adonis
I’m stalking you
“He’s my lover and there’s nothing you can do about it, Daddy.”
This is the only sentence that Clyde heard as Olive stood in front of the fridge, cereal in hand, just before his ears quit.
That word troubled him most. It was the idea that his daughter (so young) had, not a boyfriend, but a lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover. He bludgeoned the word, saying it until it no longer sounded like a word at all.
amor negotium insonti
Then in pig latin, "overlay, affairway, overlay ,affairway,overlay,affairway, overlay, affairway..."
ock-knay oneway ack-bay, eat-nay
When a man’s guts are tied this tight, where else is there to go, on the way to get skim milk, but the bar. Clyde knocked one back neat, repeatedly, as if each were his first. Darryl sat at the opposite end of the bar, crooning to no-one in particular, his scar now sagging, eyes saddened by decades of extra folds, and his speckled neck choked by a ridiculous gold chain.
“Clyde Lugerpot. Looking forlorn. But where is your hobbled limp? Your arm sling? All I see is a good looking face that puckers like a bare asshole.”
“Well, you’ve got that right. I’m a fool and never stopped being a child.”
“Yeah, I heard a thing or two about your situation difficile. Clyde, my man, there are worse pickles to be in. There’s the guilt, come along with murder. And the shame of something or other that I can’t even think of right now. And herpes number two. Though ya little guhl’s poison ivy isn’t too far off the mark from that - God damn it makes me itch!”
“What do you say to a child who’s a lifetime ahead of you? Where, on God’s green earth, do you find the words?”
“You steal them, is where.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Yeah you do. Let some other sad sack speak for you. You’re not the first to see your daughter’s ass in the air, my man, and I don’t think it’s her who needs the spanking.”
“You ever heard of the poet Catullus?”
"Well you ain't him."
"And I say, him who."
Then the words flowed from Darryl like glycerine.
"My love & I are yours to command
with the following “modest” reservation:
if ever at any time you’ve held
a chaste good in your mind
unmarred by whatever desires,
modestly keep this boy of mine in like state.
I do not refer
to the menace of common contacts,
to those set on their business
coming & going in the streets,
it is you
& your punitive penis
I fear -
a threat to all sorts & conditions of youth.
Wag this maleficent instrument
where, when & as much as you may
on whatever occasions occur
outside your domestic circle,
only withhold one item from its attentions…
I present this modest request. But should a congenital turpitude
take you & prick you into
besetting Catullus’s love with pitfalls of seduction
look for the luckless fate of the common adulterer:
with ankles clamped
and door open
feels the horse-radish
(suitably cut for withdrawal)
or the mullet’s fins."
Immediately shy, Darryl collected himself to go, finishing the last drop of spirits and stuffing a hamburger sized wallet in his pocket.
“I don’t know. Maybe you should just fuck your best friend to get back at your daughter. Or do the other way around. Whichever stings the most.”
Before Clyde could say a sly word, Darryl was trotting through the exit and into the blinding outdoors.
The residual bourbon in the empty glass brought Clyde’s eyes to tears. Then a thought washed through him that stirred him to excitement, and he prickled with fear.