I used to live here

But our eviction was about more than just the mannequins.  I can’t overlook the role played by San Pedro cacti and the Cinco de Mayo holiday.  We chose to use one to celebrate the other, and so we circled the dinning room table that fateful night—Marty, Monty, and myself—preparing our doses.  It takes an entire six-inch log to get high and there’s quite a bit of preparation that goes into it before you can eat the skin.  First comes the dethorning—tedious work with a pitting knife.  I pricked myself on the stubby thorns, drawing a trace of blood.

‘Ouch.’

‘Got to watch yourself.’  Monty was the authority on all things hallucinogenic.  ‘Cacti have one of the best natural defense mechanisms around.’

Once dethorned we carved the logs into long strips—like cutting carrots—before peeling back the outer wax layer.

‘Can’t eat that shit,’ Monty said, pointing to the strips of wax.  ‘Makes you puke.  Got to get at the layer underneath it.’  That layer came off in long, forest-green slices.  We cast aside what remained—a cream-colored core.

‘Can’t eat that either,’ Monty said.  ‘Makes you puke.’

Forty-five minutes after beginning we each had a mound of green cactus skin.

‘I got some lemon juice,’ Marty said.  ‘For the taste.  You hit it after each bite.’

I knew for a fact that Stonewall Jackson, my namesake, had always sucked on lemons, even in battle.

‘I don’t need no lemon juice,’ I said, raising the first strip to my mouth.  It had the texture of a green pepper.  I wondered what Marty and Monty were so worked up over.  It tasted…bitter…and…something else I didn’t have a word for.  Somewhere between old coffee grounds and sweaty gym socks.  I snatched the lemon juice, sucking straight from the bottle.  Marty and Monty laughed.

‘Should have listened, dumbass,’ Monty said.  The lemon juice eviscerated the taste, leaving a puckering sour.

‘You said the hallucinogen is supposed to keep animals from eating it?’ I said.  I snapped my lips together, still sour.  ‘Seems like it tastes bad enough already. And I took out the thorns.’  Marty nodded knowingly.  We ate in painful silence, passing the lemon juice for sour relief.

‘How long does the high last,’ I said, chewing my last piece.

‘A while,’ Monty said.  ‘Won’t set in for a few hours.’  I checked my watch.  6:00.  I’d peak after dinner.

‘And it’s a mild hallucinogen, right?’

‘Very mild.  Not bad at all.’

I figured we’d wait for a while, maybe go for a walk, and end up at somebody else’s Cinco de Mayo party.  I didn’t count on hosting the party of the year.

That day we’d added a new Jackson: Phil, after the Zen-master coach of the Chicago Bulls.

‘Phil makes 10,’ Marty said, admiring the big-breasted doll he’d dressed in Michael Jordan’s number 23.  Phil had no arms, which didn’t strike anyone else as ironic, even though the namesake Phil had a deadeye jump shot during his days with the Knicks.

‘Maybe we should name him something else,’ I said.  ‘This one’s got no crossover.’

‘No one thinks about these things, Jack,’ Monty said.  I didn’t argue.  No one had questioned a headless Michael Jackson, either.

‘So why does my number always change?’ I said.  I’d begun to enjoy the name 10 and didn’t see why I had to scrap it in favor of 11.  ‘I’m the only real person here—shouldn’t I get my choice of numbers?’

Monty laughed: ‘You’re too sensitive, Jack.  Way too sensitive.’

‘I just wish someone had consulted me first.’

The cacti had hit with a vengeance.  I might as well have been speaking Portuguese.

Then, the party turned.  A band of filthy hippies were the first to arrive.

‘Came over to see the Jacksons,’ the leader said.  He had dread-locked brown hair that would have made Pigpen proud.  Behind him marched an array of tree-climbers and bongo-drum players, and they wasted no time turning our living room into a drum circle.  They had enough marijuana to light up all 10 of the mannequins.  In the midst of the smoking and the drumming, a wrestling match broke out on the floor.  Marty and Monty. Not surprising. They liked rolling on the floor.  The hippies cheered the wrestlers for all of 30 seconds before getting bored and returning to their pipes and drums.

We’d just finished smoking when the entire Zeta Pi house walked in the door.  Their entourage was lead by a perky blond in Capri pants, who announced her faction’s interest:

‘Is this the Jackson household?’

‘C’mon in!’ Monty announced.  The Zeta Pi’s filed in and began an awkward mingle with the hippies.  Unsure how to handle this kind of oil-and-water integration, the hippies began to beat the drums with increased volume.

‘Where’s the beer?’ one of the Zeta Pi’s said.

‘And what about the Betas?’ said another.

I was locked in an argument with one of the drummers about whether or not High Times magazine was in fact a literary publication (I say no).  The last of the Zeta Pi’s trailed in, followed by DGs and Tri-Delts.  It wasn’t until I stood up and spun round to face the room that I realized the place was packed.  Who invited all these people? Without an inch of planning we had assembled a Jay-Z video.

A pasty-faced guy in a black t-shirt walked in the front door carrying a tangle of extension cords and black tape.

‘What’s that for?’ I said, intercepting him at the door.

‘The sound system,’ he said.  ‘Speakers are out in my car.’

‘And who are you?’

‘Carl,’ he said, shrugging me off as if this were the stupidest thing I could have asked.  I saw that the other Greeks had brought food—chips and dip, fixings for a barbecue.  Some of them were wandering around with red plastic cups.

‘Where’d you get that?’ I said to a brunette with a cup.  She wore too much foundation on her California-brown face.

‘Down in the basement,’ she said.  I pushed my way through a pack of cackling Zeta Pis—their flag football team—and fought my way down the stairs.  At the base I saw a line of Greeks and hippies alike, jockeying for position at the keg.  How they had gotten a keg down there, I didn’t know, but the arrival of the alcohol was a clear sign that something was amiss.  I didn’t know how this could happen so fast and without any planning.  It was like being host to a savage party-virus, one which left carnage and hours of clean-up.

I returned upstairs, beer in hand, and there were co-eds everywhere, fawning over the Jackson’s, posing for photographs.  I’d never understood the draw to Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum, let alone this new phenomenon.  That it happened in my living room made it all the more surreal.  Another herd of female Jackson 10 groupies arrived as we approached critical mass.

‘I came to see Phil,’ one said.  She was blond and freshman.

‘Ah yes,’ I said.

‘Aren’t you a Jackson?’

Lucky me, I figured.  Surrogate brother to the plastic people.

‘Yes,’ I said.  ‘Vaguely related.’

The music was blasting now.  Carl, our unexpected DJ, had set up in one corner of the room and was spinning a variety of records, much to the pleasure of both hippies and Greeks.  The bongo drums had been retired, and I watched in abject horror as barefoot long-hairs and primped valley girls moved together in an obscene hybrid of Total Request Live and a Credence concert.

The Jackson groupies sat on couches with Tito and Jermaine; on rickety chairs, holding Michael and Mark in their laps.  I searched for an explanation.  What is it that draws them to these mannequins? Somewhere in the depths of human nature lay a previous infatuation with idolatry, perverted by Macy’s and the Emporium.

My cup was empty.  I started down the stairs in search of a refill and was confronted with a winding beer line.  I cut.  It was my house.  I tipped my cup as a horse-sized man pumped the tap.  A cracking from above brought my attention to the buckling of the exposed ceiling beams.

I thought this cactus shit didn’t have visuals.

Above me the music pulsated as the co-opted living room floor bent under a hundred pairs of dancing feet.  Fearing imminent structural damage, I ran breakneck up the stairs and told Carl to cut the music.

‘You two,’ I said, pointing to a topless pair of underage girls.  ‘Put your shirts on and get off the table.’

‘But we’re having fun!’

‘I don’t care.  Get down.’

Thus began stage two of my cacti experience.  It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

I found my fine fellows, which was getting harder and harder with the growing crowd.  Both Marty and Monty were very intoxicated.

‘Something has to be done,’ I said.  The party was already too much.  I took each by a shoulder, forming a huddle.  ‘We need to slow this thing down.  I just don’t know how this could have happened.’

‘I didn’t even know this many people knew where we lived,’ Marty said.

I noted Monty hiding his mouth behind his hand.

‘Did you forget to tell us something?’ I said.

Monty didn’t respond at first, instead trying to disappear altogether.  When he saw us glaring at him he realized that wouldn’t work.  He opened his mouth and with some effort pushed out a few words of explanation.

‘I made a flyer.’

I could feel my teeth grinding together.  Marty stood on his tiptoes, making his five-foot-seven frame as menacing as he could.  Now it all made sense.

‘A flyer?’

It was the kind of thing that would have justified public torture in medieval days.  A flyer was indiscriminate.  It didn’t turn its back on landlords or police.  We’d have high schoolers and hobos in attendance soon, with law enforcement and incarceration soon to follow.  Posting a flyer was like pre-announcing a robbery.

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