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"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)


CHAPTER ONE

Pepperland


I was taking a break on the back steps, smoking a joint and drinking a beer when Roger sauntered up. Roger was about my age, 25, short and powerfully built. He had that smirk he wore when the shit was about to hit my personal fan.

“Hey, Al,” he said, fishing a beer from the cooler, and opening it with the church key he kept on a chain around his neck. He’d started wearing one after he’d learned that this was Paul Newman’s sartorial habit.

“Hey, Rog,” I said, passing him the joint.

Roger rarely got to things straight away, believing the longer the wait, the more delicious the joke. After taking a deep toke he held it in for more minutes than an Acapulco free diver. Casually as could be he indicated the large, battered table spool sitting a few feet away.

“That your new coffee table?” he croaked, leaking just a little smoke, but manfully holding in the rest.

In its previous life the wooden cable spool was used by shipmasters to store thick wire cable. In its present incarnation it had become an interesting piece of funk art. Relatively smooth on one side, the reverse was gray and pitted with termite scars and was the much more interesting side.

“That was my plan,” I said.

Roger exhaled long and hard. Took another toke, handed off the joint and said in his croaky, dope smoker’s voice, “What about the termites?”

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