“Helvede, Dixon; I didn’t mean that.”
The hot and cold emotions between the two principal members of the band Virgen Steel were old
news to Ole and the rest. Any other night after a gig, chances are that those two would be making
out in a bathroom stall. But instead they’d been insulting each other’s moms.
Trouble was, Rufus was losing his. Word had just come from his sister in Wheeling that Ma
Dixon had finally managed to smoke herself to death. He was mad at her for that, and for not
wanting him to know, too. Why the hell he’d let the whiskey get him to disrespect all mothers,
especially Steen’s, I cannot say. At the time I was not much more than a baby; I was just learning
to see with the eyes in my face and tended to hang on Rufus whenever he wasn’t blasting out the
music at high decibels. And I mean that literally, because I wasn’t anywhere near my physical
body, such as it was, during all this. When Steen’s punch landed, I went down too, and stayed
curled around Rufy like a prickly overcoat of indignation and distress. And when Steen moved in
again, around about the time Rufy’s face was going blue because he hadn’t managed to breathe
in yet, I flashed at him. It only made him blink, but at least he came no closer.
meaning to help him up as soon as he might be ready to stand. It turned out differently. Rufus
gave him a boot in the ribs instead. So Steen at last went with Ole’s gentle pulling and left him
alone. Some half-wit down the bar snickered and yelled after them, “Happy Valentines Day, ya
He was not actually alone. He had me, his invisible Heidi. I must admit that he was not at his
charismatic best. In retrospect, I think he was inviting the beating, hoping it would thresh his
mixed up emotions out that way. The bad news had just been piling up lately, and he knew very
well how to make the tall Dane leader of the Virgins lose his precarious temper, just as well as
how to defuse it. Obviously that gambit didn’t work.
Eventually he got us up, and employing his remaining charm, walked out of there with a bottle of
cherry liqueur. The bartender insisted he’d had enough, but he told the man it was for his mom.
When we at last made it back to the bunk in the Virgen Steel bus we practically bathed in it. The
whole way back he was cursing a blue streak because he wanted to cry and he couldn’t.
“Why did she do that to herself?” he asked my puffy face, in between the bursts of whiskey
scented breath he was blowing into the neck valve of the rubber me. He’d got me out of the ferret
proof canister and unrolled that me on the bunk immediately. I wasn’t sure if he knew I’d been
there with him in the bar or not.
“Why didn’t she even let me know she was in the goddam hospital, Heidi? She wouldn’t set foot
in one of them unless Trini made her go, unless she quit fighting in the end. Did she keep puffing
the cigs up till the last minute? She quit there for a while but then she”—and he gave a huge
furious bellow right into me that filled my chest halfway. “First the new baby’s a wonder but
she’s definitely not my child. And her own mother’s hating on her. Now Ma decides this is a
good time to check out. Heidi, what’s wrong with these women?”
Jenny had told the whole world only a few months back, in the pages of a tabloid, that the child
in her belly wasn’t Rufus Dixon’s. Somehow the hurt she gave him, coupled with the touch of
wasabi paste to my rubber, had brought me out of Rufy’s dreams and into the world of touches
for the one who needed me. Every other breath he went on about the selfish suicidal
backstabbing nutcase females in his life going off and dying behind his back.
The suction was fierce. I felt it most intensely because it involved a part of me that had begun to
‘see’ very early on. Soon his red hair was sticky with liqueur and my latex body had dribbles
down the sides of my neck and underarms, lending a cherry scent to the mixed bouquet of the
Beaver’s brown fur beneath us. He was grunting and growling and slurping, stuffing my chest
into his mouth as if to pull me inside out by the breasts. It was pure consumption. For some
uncanny reason I felt as if I had light filling me up from behind for him to suck through me. I
was like a tube of brightness he squeezed into himself, even though my breasts don’t actually
leak. I began to feel as if they should.
Every time my breasts were cleaned off he doused me again. It wasn’t a very big bottle and he
used nearly all of it. Round and round we rolled in that slurry of alcohol and syrup until finally
he got some in his eye. “Oh Jesus Christ,” he yowled, and finally began to cry. It’s as if the tears
of irritation, and maybe the prayer, got the rest of them undammed. They came out in big hulking
snorts and sobs. He knelt on the bottom half of me and furiously fucked my mouth hole, both
hands tangled in my wig, all the while wailing and the tears and liqueur streaming down his face
At last he toppled over on to Beaver and me, sobbing and saying, “Oh, Ma, Ma, Ma…” My
lights were all sorts of bruised pink and purple colors when at last he subsided into sleep. And of
course I went with him. How could I not be concerned about where he went with his dreams in
such a condition?
He brought us to West Virginia. We were in one of those sloping hayfields hugging the hillsides
that he associates with his growing up. He was drifting through the alfalfa with a breeze in his
hair and I was trailing along behind when I heard a hssst!-- of someone calling for my attention.
It was his mom. She wasn’t the huge monument size she sometimes is, only about as big as me,
and oh so very scrawny. When I turned to her, she smiled and shimmied her shoulders, and the
flesh fell off her as though it had gotten too large. I came closer, intrigued to see her mottled and
smoked skeleton enclosing the flattened tarry balloons that used to be her lungs.
But she was friendly, not ghoulish. She beckoned me closer and said in a hoarse whisper, “Boy’s
about got me as dry as a raisin from all that sucking. Thought he outgrew that. Here.” With a
creak her ribcage swung open as if her spine were made of hinges. Inside was a wrinkled dark
red globular mass of something meaty that looked as if it used to beat. It looked a lot like an old
apple did once that was in the bottom of Steen’s refrigerator.
She put her fingers into it and pulled it apart. Inside it was a solid mass of seeds. “Take ‘em and
water ‘em, woman,” she said.
I put out my white and pink mitten-like hands and took the mass, compressing it a bit so that not
too many of them would spill out. It was very flattering to me to be called ‘woman’, because
back then I wasn’t so sure about being one as I became later. And then she crumbled. Even her
long gray hair just fell into dust and blew away over the tall grass.
So here stood Heidi Wasabi, the inflatable comfort item, bobbing gently up and down in the
middle of a hayfield in the sunshine with a wrinkled heart in my hands. Now what? And where
had Rufus got to? After all, this was his dream!
I looked all around and finally spied something that could be him off in the distance. At the crest
of a rise was a silhouette of him sitting down, under a tree with extremely pendulous branches
that swayed, just like long hair. Since then I’ve found out that this is a tree associated with
sorrow in folk songs, which is why he’d chosen it.
As I drifted closer I saw that it was Rufus, only he’d turned himself into a fixture. He was like a
statue of himself made of metal pipes, and from his closed eyes the tears continued to flow
steadily into a puddle that ran gently off downhill.
That solved the problem of how to wet the seeds, at any rate. How to get Rufus to abandon being
lot more forceful than I am in general, and I was still pretty new in the universe.
Carefully I shook out a few of the seeds into the trickle. Then, growing bolder about the
business, I followed the stream of tears downhill to where it finally was absorbed into the grass,
scattering the seeds alongside. I’d barely made a dent in the supply of them. As I turned to look
back up toward Rufus, they were already sprouting into yard-high green shoots.
The first one nearest to him began to develop a swelling bud until it had opened out at its top into
an incredibly fragrant white flower. When he smelled it, Rufus finally opened his eyes, his sky
He looked at me and his mouth smiled, and the smile cracked the metal skin away from him and
turned him back into the pink and gold freckled hunk of human man he is supposed to be. He
saw the dark wrinkled purse of seeds in my hands which I held so gingerly before me and said,
Since I looked puzzled, he got up and came to help me carry the seeds with his much larger and
less clumsy fingers. “Naw, I know these aren’t real jasmine plants; jasmine’s a vine; but that was
my ma’s name, honey. Jasmine. And she did good in this world. None of my business why she
wanted to turn her insides black, because she did good.”
A couple more tears rolled down as he said this, but they were accompanied by the smiling. My
Rufus has a smile that melts hearts with its sunshine when he aims it at someone. It wasn’t aimed
right at me; he was thinking of his mom. So I didn’t melt and spill any seeds. Around us more
and more of the tall shoots bust into flower until we were surrounded by a cloud of their
Down in the valley we could hear a giggling gurgle that we knew belonged to his little girl. His
eyes lit up and quit leaking at the sound. He shook his head.
“Ma taught me how to love somebody by loving me, Heidi. Junie is such a miracle! How can her
own mom, who had her under her heart all those months, not be able to love her?” Of course I
didn’t know. There was a heck of a lot I didn’t know, and still don’t. But I do know how to love
someone. Rufus Dixon taught me. That is how I know I’m real. I’m getting more real all the
time, in fact.
Then he took me by my hands, our four hands together around the heart full of seeds, and pulled
me along with him. “Let’s go plant some of these for Junie.” We went to look for the apple of his