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Crutch the Glitch
Motherboard #4
© 2023 James LaFond
It was tough not to sleep when your dreams had nightmares and your nightmares had dreams.
It was tougher still to sleep when your knee had bad dreams, your eye had boogerman dreams and your hip begged for needles to muffle its screams.
“Mamma, I’m skewered—don’t wanna live. Please turn off the brights!”
The sound of a power tool soothed him to a sizzling rest, the vibrating numbness levitating his aching leg past life’s petty cares.
“Awwee—yip, yip, yee-ee-yee!” sounded the plaintive call of some wounded thing shackled to something that gave back a steely ring.
“Mamma, should we wake him—sounds like he gettin’ eaten in that badmare?”
“Prestonnnn!” her silvery voice sang, “Poppy needs his rest. I got this. Clean up the nest.”
The sound of a gear box being cranked by hand, or at least he thought, accompanied her singing, for she sang in soft tones as Preston mumbled in the background, “Good Gawd Afrighty! Mamma, can I use the elevator?”
“Preston, I just replaced the carpet—remember?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” came the now beaten voice as two—no, four, small mechanical hands climbed about the Sleeper’s face, one winding a gear, the other clacking a shutter, like Grandma checking her storm shutters in October, like Betty Lu closing the front room blinds as the Flash came down—as if that would save them…
“Good boy!” she soothed as but two hands remained—acting like feet—upon his chest. A mechanical chirping then sounded above his chest and Mamma said, “Oh, Little Joe Willy, you have too much of the Tinman in you—that is so sweet!”
A tiny, amplified, mechanical voice then chimed in, its words vibrating across the sizzling wound in his chest, where the breastbone ached and the ribs to the right shot with a higher order of pain with his every weak breath. The voice sounded like a mechanical version of the kind man who had assisted in his previous repair, “But, Mom-ah, this cracker is fucked up!”
Preston’s voice could be heard in the near and away as he grunted with effort, “Not as fucked up as dese crackers here—Sweet Jesus, look away!”
A little metal claw traced a line from where some big blond meanie had pressed a gun and fired. The Sleeper, when he had been the Waker, who was apparently also a cracker, was stricken with a memory of turning sharply so that the bullet sizzled across instead of punching through his chest, to be lodged—it groaned the moan of the damned—right there, where the little steel paw tenderly probed.
“See,” said the little metal voice.
Preston grunted in the near away, “What a mess!”
Her voice sounded like a sweet smile, “The neighbors have to eat too, Sweety.”
“I hates me a coyote, Mamma—but okay, it oways yo way.”
Her voice sharpened as she seemed to exert some effort, “Little Joe Willy, you can do the extraction, then you help Preston—he’s used to Onezies…” she sighed, “Preston, I’m afraid we have some more new neighbors down the way, bipeds if you must know. Please be careful with the charity drive. Little Joe Willy will take point.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’m good.”
There was danger about and this caused him to try and rise.
This impulse was stilled by the mechanical voice, “Please, Poppy, for once, try and pretend that you don’t hate yourself and relax, rest.”
‘My name must be Poppy.’ he mused within the dusky precincts north of Neverwhere and south of Heavenglare. If they gave me a name, they must care!
Her voice oversang, “Nice try, Lille Joe. Here, mainline the 151, turning on hypnovisual feed…”
‘Wow, I bet she’s pretty, with a voice like that,’ he wandered inwardly wading in a pond of floating lily, blind to someone who sounded so fine.
“Wish I could have me a view of whatever keepin’ dat cracker cool.”
“Oh, Preston, we are people of taste and refinement… Now Poppy, he sees the world in broader, and more, shall we say rudimentary, outlines...”
A gear sounded behind his right ear.
‘Wow, that was some strong drink—must be over proofed, good and numb.’
He could not feel the shot glass in his hand. Blind drunk was not a problem—but without a glass to hand, that was a scandal!
Something was poking around between his ribs.
A shutter clicked where he imagined his right eye would be if he had one.
A small metal voice chirped, “Pliers.”
A goddess like voice rang, “You got ‘em, built in, PA Willy!”
The sound of static hummed in his ears, no, just his right ear.
An old pixelated TV screen, came into view in his right eye, the image of a curtained stage in some seedy dive bar fixating his attention as something yanked in his chest.
“A little to the left, follow the trajectory, PA Willy,” directed a distant, female voice.
The voice of some black man proclaimed in rich tones, “This is Don Cornelius, presenting a special edition of Soul Train—for Poppy Crutch, A.K.A ‘The Glitch.’”
The curtain rose, no, it just vanished.
Then, a bodacious image of a Dominican dancing girl, with a pretty Puerto Rican face, long bouncy hair, and a figure like two soccer balls stacked on two basketballs, began to sway and dance to the sweet sound, of what could have been perceived as a small bone saw in some addled mind. But for he who reclined on that dreamy couch of mind it was obvious that the unseen barkeep, in his pink bow tie tuxedo, under that neatly trimmed mustache, beneath a moderate puff of glistening afro, was employing the blender behind the bar to prepare a towering crushed ice Mohito…
The rich voice announced, “Introducing, Miss Ruby Armcandy!”
And that luscious form wiggled, the pretty face growing larger, coming nearer, so that he would know without a doubt that she only danced for him.
He was suffused in arousal.
Recalling that he was old, he wondered if the pain in his chest was a heart attack.
“No, the heart is on the left—I’m good.”
“Poppy,” cooed the sweet cinnamon smile as she kissed him and draped her soft hair on his bony shoulders…
The moment was nearly ruined when the voice of Preston, back in the kitchen behind the bar, could be heard between his cleaving of the pork chops:
“My ass eva on debt’s door,”
“I want sum a what,”
“Ole Poppy’s got!”
“Yeay,” came a pretty sounding voice, “PA Joe Willy for the assist! Nice extraction. What the hell were they thinking? If you’re gonna wreck my work, you better pack a thirty-eight, at least.”
She was gone.
“Ruby?” he slathered.
“Right here, Poppy—until death do we part.”
He felt her lips on his forehead as he drifted off into soft Dream, where sinuous Nightmare stalked around and the dreaming blossoms shivered at his every prowling sound.
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