Galaxy Four, Part Two9:16 PM
by Rudolfo Carrillo
Charlie Jones, Jr. could be one helluva fire-breather. We'll never know for sure. When most folks looked at him straight on, all they saw was a glimpse of something vast and watery, momentarily compressed into the shape and size of clown made from his father's enchiladas and his mother's latkes.
If Charlie Jones, Jr. liked you, he'd more than likely let you do most of the talking while he sat back listening and fiddled around with his pipe, would occasionally check for burn holes on his shirt while you went on about any old thing. He'd end up by winking at the dogs setting next to him on the parquet floor before smiling wanly and shaking your left hand gently.
And If he didn't like you, he would interrupt constantly, make grand and obscure literary allusions designed to imply disdain for the supposed rottenness of the entire species of hairless apes of which he was a reluctant member, and tell you to your face that he was operating under the assumption that you were a charlatan, a pendejo, and a schmendrik all rolled up into a garbage scow that was way to big to be floated down the Rio Grande without some significant damage being done to the surrounding natural environment.
That was Charlie's power with words and silence and it was some gift.
So, it wasn't any sort of surprise at all when one of that dude's editors discovered Jones had altered history by changing the events in story he wrote so that some of the people from his youth appeared kinder and more good-natured than they ought to have been depicted.
The fellow who discovered the temporal anomaly just happened to be a luminescent, transdimensional, time-traveling plasma entity in his spare time. His name was unpronounceable, made from ionized moon dust, and he reckoned that if Jones left things in his tale the way they were, the result would be a global nuclear conflagration in the year 2137.
The disaster would be caused by a miscommunication about replacement refrigerator compressor trade between the Republic of Texas and the Confederation of Angry Chicanos.
Charlie got the news one morning by telephone while he was listening to some chamber music by Johannes Brahms and reading the Surgeon General's warning on a pack of Pyramid brand cigarettes.
Godammit, he told his time-traveling, parallel universe-jumping editor pal, I can't say what really went down because Burque is tiny, sabes? It might cause some discomfort. Even if I change the names around and all that jazz, he said, and the wind rattled around the wires and the connection so that there was a sort of electrical crackle coming through the headset, people will know.
You don't want to cause a war, hissed the entity on the other side of the trunk, plus which it might help readership.
Enticed and compelled in a manner that may one day be cinematically depicted by a medium shot of the planet Jupiter and its inner moons floating grandly in space, Jones transmitted the following addendum, known here, for archival purposes, as Galaxy Four, Part Two.
One Saturday afternoon, a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving and when December had just begun to creep into New Mexico upon dark clouds and the short days of a sun seemingly pulled down low and southerly, Zelda showed up at Fiesta-Perpetual. She was sitting in a rickety Ford pickup truck with a bent-up hood and smoky exhaust. That damn thing was being driven by a chap by the name of Leon and in between the two sat Ruth.
Come on, Zelda said to Jones, come on up to the Jemez with us, we are going to the Spence Hot Springs. They all drove up north and Leon was drunk. The girls laughed a lot and Jones wondered if there was anything better on the radio than the tape they were all listening to, which was something by a band called after a faraway continent.
The four of them got up to the mountains, stumbled around in the dark for about an hour and only had one flashlight. Jones finally located the springs by using his radioactive lensmatic compass and a map he had picked up at the gas station in San Ysidro.
It was cold and raining small crystals of ice that night but they all took their clothes off, navigated to the edge of the pool, and each entered with great fragility and unconscious circumspection.
For thirty minutes none of the bathers spoke or looked up into the night sky or into closely gathered sets of eyes, except for Leon who was boracho on his ass by that time but kept taking liver-blistering hits from the bottle of Canadian Club he was dragging around. Charlie knew it was time to go when Leon vomited all over his own pile of clothes while trying to retrieve a frajo from his jean jacket.
On the way back they played all of Led Zeppelin Four on 94 Rock. It was amazing what you could hear at four in the morning Jones mused as the city of Albuquerque floated into view.
For a little while after that, Charlie Jones, Jr. hung out with Zelda, which mostly meant that she'd come by Fiesta-Perpetual and they would make out. But they never really bonded. Charlie realized that something was wrong after he took Zelda to see Dune at the Highland Theater. Zelda refused to take her gloves off during the show and she couldn't figure out Dune, either. It just seemed like more dark, unknowable stuff presented to her by a dark and unknowable dude.
A few days later, on New Year's eve, Zelda and Jones went to a party. She was late and he went through a sixer of Mickey's Big Mouth in the meantime. Both of those humans were very far from the other by the time they met up and so they mostly lost track of one another at the party. On the way home, Charlie yacked all over Zelda and passed out.
That would have been that, but Charlie wanted the last word, you know, just like the narrator told you at the beginning of all of this.
It was January and snowing like hell. Jones borrowed a car to drive up to the Heights where Zelda was staying and picked up a day old bouquet of flowers at Allsups, on the way. About a block from her mother's home, he wrecked the car, which was a green Ford station wagon. She came down to look at the wreck but acted like she didn't know Jones at all.
Charlie was sober. The cops let him go. The car had insurance. The next summer, Charlie heard that Leon had been crippled in a motorcycle accident, but he let that go real quick when he realized that he ought to put supper on stove because the red-haired woman who lived there with him on Princeton Boulevard would be home from work soon and all he'd done all day was write and stare at the sunlight coming through the front window.