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David Vardeman

Atlantis Needs Victims

There certainly are a lot of waves out there. And ripples and things. It all seems very extreme to me.

Well, Connie, it's not typical of the ocean to do things by halves. It's got all that water, it's going to make it its business to do things with it to try to impress you.

How very vulgar of it. You know how I hate vulgarity, Mother, and then you bring me here to what certainly must be the very epicenter of vulgarity and raggamuffinism and liquid overkill.

Darling, we've flown all the way down here to this nice gated resort with nice armed guards and palm trees and sand and waiters wandering around with big broad south-of-the-border-lovely-to-see-you smiles proffering trays full of liquor drinks, all to give your nerves some respite from the tedium of dry land, and all you see are the depressing aspects of it. Try a little harder. Look beyond yourself. Try by force of will to completely override your native personality and see it all as overwhelmingly perfect. Where is the Moby Dick in your soul? My God! View it as a peg leg would, just salivating to get out on it and stab a fish.

Yes, that no doubt would complete my resume, Mother. But have you forgotten my fear of squid, plankton, snorkelers and blossom-bottoms? All that cellulite pouring out everywhere? This is a place of vulgarity and horrors. Horrors and vulgarity. Look at all that shoddy reflecting going on out there. It's like Neptune spitting up glass. Give me concrete any day. What I wouldn't give for a ride on a subway about now. The stench of garbage and sour milk. I'm a city-dweller born and bred, in spite of what it's done to my nerves. This is a cockamamie place. A cockamamie place. Look at the flesh-eating bikinis on those women over there and the tight trunks on those body builders posing for them. The most we could hope for would be a big wave to come in and grab them all and take them to wherever Atlantis went.

It went into legend status, Connie. Myth.

Whatever. Atlantis needs victims. New and better victims. Let this whole place be a sacrifice to Atlantis, minus you and me, of course.

Console yourself, Connie, with the thought that in a day or two we can take an eight-hour round-trip trip in a stifling bus to see ruins where virgins were sacrificed to no avail to appease angry gods who were apparently so displeased with the diet that they took their toys and went elsewhere. That's just like the gods. Oh, I could strangle them all.

Maybe the sacrificial victims weren't virgin enough.

But I should moderate my dissing of the gods. The goddesses were little better. Ishtar, Queen of Heaven, didn't exactly rush to Moab's aid when old Nebuchadnezzar came calling, despite all the yummy cakes they'd baked to her. Now, they say Isis pissed and made the Nile, but has she done anything since? Oh, don't get me started on the gods and goddesses. Theirs is a long history of dereliction of duty. I could go on for days citing instances of gods and goddesses cutting and running and leaving their supplicants holding the bag full of promises. Where are the gods and goddesses of yore? All the tasty blood and flesh of the victims sacrificed to them. "Sorry to eat and run," they say. And off they go without a ta-ra. But enough sucking nipple at their shrines. Let's eat fish from this cart. Do you speak English, Señor Cart Man?


Where is your fish from?

A box.

Let me see that box.

I have not the box the fish came from.

We have come from America to feel the sand between our toes and to look at this magnificent miles-deep ocean in front of us. We must see that box.

Ay ay ay. That box is unavailable. I have taken it home to feed it to my family of seven.

That is a bold-faced lie. No one is so desperate at to eat a box, no matter what's been in it. Tell us about the gods that once ruled this land, demanded ritual sacrifice and then fled.

Ask him, Mother, when the pig roast is.

My daughter, Señor, who's a native American from mid-town Manhattan, does not speak Spanish or to Spanish people.

I'm not Spanish. I'm Mexican.

Well, you know what I mean. Close enough. I mean, they're two nostrils on the same nose: Spain and Mexico. What more do you want? My daughter Connie, no fan of the sea, wants to know when the pig roast will be.

All I know about is fish.

Fish from a box, yes, Señor. Fish from a box, but not where it came from before the box. Every fish predates a box. Did you know what? There is life before box, if you are a fish.

Also if you are a human being too, Lady.

Don't call me Lady. How contemptuous. How degrading. I am Mrs. Dépêche-Mode.

I can't say that. You'll have to be just Lady or Hey Lady! to me. Now, do you want fish from a box from a cart or not? Because if not, I will push on down the path.

Tell him, Mother, fine, big deal. We never wanted fish. We wanted suckling pig on the beach. Tell him we didn't fly all the way from America to this land of defunct gods to eat fish from a box that was probably manufactured in America, both fish and box.

Did you get that, Señor? Did you hear what my daughter Connie said?

No, I did not get that, because I do not speak the language of ladies who should have stayed home.

Oh, God, how I wish we'd stayed home, Mother, so I wouldn't be mistreated by a native nobody who doesn't speak the language of people who, he's right, should have stayed home.

Nonsense, Connie. What could possibly be more inviting than these walls and armed guards? I just love a compound. Don't you just love a compound? Go on, go away, Señor Cart Man. Take your cart on down the path. I don't know how you got in here to this model community, but I certainly do intend to complain to the chairman of the resort and see that in future you are denied access to people you don't understand.

Lady with squatty daughter, the head of this resort is a corporation with offices right in Manhattan where you came from and should be heading back to right now.

What did he call me, Mother?

Something in his native tongue, Dear. I didn't quite catch it. I'm sure it was apt or not, as the case may be. Look, you, Señor Cart Man, it appears you have not learned much from your centuries of invasion and subjugation, least of all not to tell a real personage to go home and talk to corporate headquarters. I simply asked where the fish was from, and rather than give me a straight answer, you tell me to go home. You do not talk that way to persons of substance and significance. No. You tell them where the fish is from. You don't make them victims of your contempt nor of your ignorance of the source of your fish.

Would you rather I lied to you and told you the fish came from right down the road? Ye gods!

No use calling on your gods! Your gods are gone. They took the virgins and ran. No more gods. No more virgins. Nada. The Spanish, bless their hearts, came and routed your virgin-smiting gods and brought the one God, for which you should be abundantly thankful. We've brought the one God too, and His image on our currency, the one God with many male faces.

When is the pig on the beach to happen? We want to know about the suckling pig on the beach! Don't let him get away without finding out about the suckling pig on the beach, Mother.

Juan! Come back here. Juan!

My name is not Juan.

What is it, then?

It is Jesus.

Hay-soos? Hay-soos? What an odd name for a human being.

I believe the Hay-soos he is referring to, Mother, is spelled Jesus in our tongue.

Well, why don't you speak your name in our tongue, young man? Own up to being Jesus if your name is Jesus. Don't try to mask it by pronouncing it Hay-soos. Are you ashamed of having the name of Jesus? You should be. There is only one Jesus. And anyone calling himself Jesus is blaspheming. It's very presumptuous. The name's already been taken

I'm not ashamed of it, Lady with plump-necked daughter. Why are you?

I'm not.

My neck is not plump.

Darling, Connie, even if it weren't, it would hardly be worth addressing a fish cart man whose family eats the box, or claims to. Let it go, let it go. We're not going to let any of these awful natives with axes to grind and names like Jesus ruin our lovely trip to this compound on the gold coast.

Make him go away, Mother. I've had enough of him. He wouldn't even tell us about the pig.

Go away, Jesus. Take your fish cart and go. You've obviously set out to upset us. We were having a good time, a very good time before you came. You've withheld information on the pig, and you've quibbled about your heritage. You've pretended not to know about what the box said. Our being here throws your shortcomings into such sharp relief, is there any need for me to go on?

Look at him go. Sayonara! Or whatever the local lingo is. I guess you told him, Mother. Still, we're no closer to the suckling pig than we were before. The cart man held the secret of the suckling pig, but would he share it with us? He's probably rushing around this sand trap telling everyone else the day and hour of the suckling pig, but not us. We got off on the wrong foot with him. You did, I should say. I was perfectly polite and bewildered by the whole transaction and kept my distance as I intend to do with all things Spanish, including fungi hanging from trees and whatever you might find when you throw back the bed sheets.

It's not the end of the world, Connie. Surely Cart Man Jesus is not the only person in this hacienda-gone-wild with the goods on the suckling pig. We'll ask around. We'll find the pig, my darling baby, don't you worry. And when we find it, we'll eat the hell out of it, wishbone and all.

Promises, promises, Mother. I thought we were flying out to see the La Brea Tar Pits, but you tricked me. You tricked me, you trickster.

Yes, Connie, I may have used a ruse to get you here, but would there have been a pig if we'd gone to the La Brea Tar Pits like I lied to you and told you we were doing? In fact, there would have been no pig, and you would have been twice as unsettled as a result. You would have wound up with cramps in your ankles, wrists, and eyelids. Here you can get on a hot bus and ride for hours to see proof virgins shouldn't have waited.

All that blood-letting, and the Spaniards still came and the gods still fled. Now it's just a bunch of vines, tostadas and humidity out there. Give me civilization any day over sightseeing. The gods turned tail and ran, and we're supposed to be fascinated by the sight of their retreat. Well, well. How I wish I could get my hands on a pizza or a hamburger about now, or a big bunch of tar, something distinctly American, something that sings of freedom.

Gracious me. I didn't realize my daughter was so patriotic.

Sometimes, Mother, you have to be stripped of everything that makes your life meaningful to discover your true self and your true values in life.

Like of your clothes? Those other women are nearly stripped naked, Connie. Why not follow suit? Several of the men can hardly take their eyes off them. You might be as successful at getting men to stare at you if you were to go around stark naked. Consider it.

Ah! So we get to the bottom of it. The point of this trip is for me to attract a man, is that it?

I didn't figure it would be so easy to attract a man at the Tar Pits. After you get a man, you can go to the Tar Pits with him. The Tar Pits are for couples. It's not a place singles gather. The Casa del Sol is where the singles gather. And look at them frolic and gambol. Doesn't that give you ideas, Connie? All that spume, laughter, sand-kicking? Put on something invisible and go gambol. Drag a towel around. Ask some guy with pecs the size of China to apply sunscreen in the places you can't reach or that modesty forbids you to reach in front of a man who just might as well reach them for you. Oh, crap! Here comes Jesus again. Let's ignore him.

He's coming right this way. God! I wish you'd been nice to him, Mother. Then he might have left us alone. Now he's going to make it his business to plague us like flies. That's the way with these ignorant natives. You spit in their faces, they keep coming back for more. They do the opposite of what they should. It's perversity in them. They cling to you like your best friend, meanwhile they're really animals.

We're ignoring you. Keep going, Cart Man Jesus. My daughter Connie and I are interested only in suckling pig, and as you have only fish from a box from America, box and fish both, we have no business with you. Go! Go!

Gladly I would, Lady with viciously plain daughter, except that someone over there told me they saw you screaming and gesturing for me to come back.

We didn't want you to come back. How ridiculous. You've been misled. We're as perfectly content with you not coming back as the Mayans were content with their ravenous gods not coming back.

At least the virgins among them were.

That's right. As my daughter Connie says, Cart Man, at least the virgins were content with the disappearance of the gods.

The Spaniards came and laid waste to the gods, and all the virgins cheered. Tell him that, Mother.

Look, Lady, tell your daughter who won't talk to Jesus that all virgins should cheer. All virgins should cheer because they are holy to the Lord.

Well, I can't tell her that. How disgusting. And besides, how personally unfulfilling. Maybe those virgins are dying to be anything but. Maybe they're just hot as can be to change their status. You don't want pop culture to have been in vain, do you? All that spending, all that advertising, all that posing. Who wants to think it can be resisted?

Come and talk to me, Young Lady who won't talk to me.

What? What's he saying, Mother?

Come down to the beach with me. Come follow me to the edge of the water.

He wants to take you aside. He wants you to follow him.

Come aside with me for a short minute. I have a special message for you, that's right, Young Lady.

Is it about the suckling pig?

It might be. You see. It's not so impossible as you thought to talk to Jesus, is it? What do we need your mother to stand guard for? She is in the way. She is a lovely tall lady , and you are a short squatty offspring, but still she is unnecessary and a lot may be accomplished without her.

Mother? What do you think? Should I follow him?

If you're determined not to run back to the room and strip immediately for the beach, you might as well see what he has to say.

I will hear him out, learn about the pig, and then go put on practically nothing. How about that?

Fine. I'll go over here to this chaise lounge and read "Atlas Shrugged" till my brain pops or I pick out someone to beat to death with it. It might be you, Jesus, so watch your Ps and Qs. Miss Ayn Rand was a tough intellectual who had plenty to say about you worthless enemies of the almighty dollar.

I will watch my step, don't worry, Tall Lady, and hope you don't beat me to death with your big book, but now if you'll follow me, Younger One. This way, right down the path.

Actually, I'm glad to get away from mother, Mr. Cart.

Call me Jesus.

I don't believe in Jesus, Jesus. But I still think it's kind of creepy and in real Spanish bad taste for you to have the name of the Son of God I don't believe in.

It's not unusual in my culture for boy children to have the name of our Savoir for a name.

If you're going to persist in using the name of the Son of God I don't believe in, I'm afraid I'll have to leave you without getting information on the suckling pig.

My name offends you

The names of people named after people who weren't what they claimed to be always offend me.

Why not slip off your sandals and put your feet in the water? It is very warm. We call it agua.

The ocean disgusts me.


There's so much of it. It's tremendously over-rated as a focal point and ecosystem. And look at this place. It's like an adobe prison built on the verge of a liquid nightmare. I could wish all these sun-worshippers with their tans and their blond streaks in a watery grave. I could wish this whole place into the ocean this instant if the wish weren't so personally offensive.

Do you think it won't slide in and disappear according to your wish? Of course it will.

It will?

Isn't that what you want? Get in. Try it. It's warm. If you'd like, I could baptize you.

Baptize me? I don't need baptism. I don't believe in baptism. Don't let your name go to your head, Fish Cart Man.

I could baptize you in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I'm a believer.

No! No! All I want is to know about suckling pig. Do you think I would have followed you down here if I'd known you were crazy and had let your name to go your head? The name of someone that is dead and gone like the other gods are gone? It was for suckling pig I came down. Suckling pig and suckling pig alone.

You'd better hurry. You'd better hurry and let me, Young Lady from America. Atlantis wants victims.

You heard me say that to Mother when we first got here. You were eavesdropping.

Jesus never eavesdrops. All we people who live in the village say that when we see you tourists arrive. Look how rapidly and how far out the tide's going, Young Lady. We'd better hurry and run after it, out out out, if we're going to have enough water for me to baptize you in.

Where's the ocean going? Why is it going that way? It's heading out like somebody pulled a big plug out in mid-ocean. Where's it going?

Come on!

Let go of my wrist! Quit tugging.

I'll leave my cart here.

I don't want to be baptized. I don't want to chase the ocean. I want to go back to America where it stinks. I want to go back to America where people go on strike and the garbage piles up.

Here. Here's a pool. Lie down in it.

Mother! Mother looks so small. She's so far away. She's got her nose in her book. She's gaining knowledge. She's burning incense at the shrine of Ayn Rand. Mother! Mother! Say, don't push me!

Now is the hour of salvation! It's that kind of day. I baptize you in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Now you are washed clean of your sins by the blood of the lamb.

But I don't want to be washed clean of my sins by the blood of the lamb! I don't believe in it, and I don't want what I don't believe in, you crazy crazy box-eating Mexican maniac! You can't baptize the unwilling.

One way or the other, we will all be baptized, Young American Lady. Like it or not. Willing or not.

They've made the ocean go away. Who's done that?

Isn't that what you've wanted?

That mountain!

What mountain, Young American Lady?

Way out there. Where the ocean's gone. There's a mountain rising up out of the water, out where the ocean's gone. Atlantis! It's Atlantis. The lost continent of Atlantis is rising from the dead. Don't you see it?

I see something, squatty Young American Lady. But it looks to me like a hammer. Have you ever seen anything so suddenly so tall? Like God standing up to make a speech. Standing up from the edge of the horizon. Now heading this way. God sounds like a million oceans coming apart.

On second thought, I will take your baptism, Mr. Cart Man Jesus. Make that one official baptism, please. This trip is starting out very badly. There are a lot of ominous signs. Continents rising. God walking this way. You can see why I've always preferred dry land, Mr. Cart Man Jesus, and the familiar stench, the stench of home. I hope Mother's getting something out of her big fat book. I hope it floats. I hope it raises her from the dead. Maybe it will if she ties it to herself.

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