MANTAS & I

 

I was sitting in the Monkey House, bored, sick of my records, sick of my tapes, sick of my cd's, uninspired, alone, except for my Fender Telecaster. The bruised and beaten off-white guitar sat in the corner next to my left speaker a little neglected.

I settled on an Accept LP and listened to Udo scream. After "Fight It Back", I left my room to take a piss in the dirty shared bathrooms. Next to the toilet, I stepped in someone else's urine with my bare feet. "Goddammit," I said to myself. I washed my foot off, my right foot, in the bathtub. Dirty and pissed off, I returned to my room and kicked open the door.

To my surprise, in my room, deep in the heart of the Monkey House, before my very eyes, was the famed Mantas, raiding the fridge, appearing slightly more pissed off than I.

"Is there even the slightest of possibilities," growled Mantas in his snotty English accent, "that I could find any half-decent ale in this...pathetic thing?"

"I missed you too, Mantas." I shut the door behind me and locked it. "And it's not a half-bad fridge if you ask me. I only got Hamm's right now, unfortunately."

Mantas seized a Hamm's tallboy from the fridge and cracked it open, taking a long draught. He wheeled around to face me, his face all red, his eyes bugging out. I was speechless. He proceeded to spew out the entire draught of Hamm's all over my room, sleeping bag, gas stove, T.V. set, 4-track, record player, my guitar.

"What the fuck, Mantas," I screamed. "What the hell are you doing? Look at my guitar. Look at my records."

"Your piss-beer is disgusting and foul. Plus Udo needs a good spraying every once in a while."

Mantas seated himself on the carpet and leaned back on the fridge. "So, Kashani," he began as I cradled my guitar, drying it off with my t-shirt, a look of irritation on my face. "What do you call this dwelling you dwell yourself in?"

"I call it the Monkey House."

"The reason I ask," Mantas spat as he set the beer atop the T.V., "is, despite the gruesome nature of your taste in beer, I might need a place to crash now and then."

"Mantas—"

"Before you say no, allow me to explain."

"Well, Mantas, I wasn't going to say no—"

"Splendid! Just now and then, you know, if I need a place to lay my head. If the old lady grows tired of my ways and you know, throws me out the window and sends me running off into the night."

"I didn't know you had an old lady," I laughed. "What do you mean by 'your ways'?"

Mantas picked up the Hamm's from atop the T.V. set and stared at it deeply. He didn't drink it. "Well," he said quietly, "I can't get tied down. Caged, tied down, you know? That's not me. Unholy Satanas forbid that I ever be caged or tied down. I see her now and then, that's it. Just now and then."

I set my dried-off guitar back next to the speaker loudly, so Mantas would notice. "If she's caging you in, why do you go back to her, now and then?"

Mantas looked up from the beer can and gave me an icy look. "Why do I go back to her, you say?" He slammed the Hamm's back on top of the T.V. set. "Would you not go back to a lady had she some compassion to offer? Sometimes I require a bit of compassion. Just a touch. Sometimes I am cold and I need a fire. I can be compassionate too. You know that."

"Uh..."

Mantas jumped to his feet. "Have I not offered you, hitherto, the very finest England has to offer in fashionable meats, the choice cutlets deemed worthy by the gods of rock'n'roll—"

"Mantas, I don't eat meat—"

"The juiciest mutton marinated in exotic spices and liquors, not to mention the Queen's vaginal issuage—"

"Mantas—"

"Splendorous feasts of gore, pomp and circumstance, earthy pagan delights, bloody Satanic rituals, the irreverent sacrifice of a thousand virgin lambs—"

"Okay, Mantas—"

He pointed his gnarled finger at me. "Have I not offered you a golden goblet, fit for a king, brimmed full with the very, very finest in English draught ale, straight from the tap blessed by Satan's arse?"

There was silence for a few moments. "Yes, Mantas, you have," I replied. "You have a streak of compassion."

"You bet I do," exclaimed Mantas. "I am a compassionate individual, I am. Full of compassion. Compassion. Yes."

Mantas picked up his beer once more and took a sip. "Ugh," he muttered. "This piss-juice beer you consider worthy of drinking is foul." He moved to the kitchen and poured the rest of the can down the sink. "You know," said Mantas as he spun around, "perhaps this place, this Monkey House you-call-it, is not the place for me." He sniffed the air and sneezed loudly.

"You alright there, Mantas?"

"I'm fine," Mantas mumbled as he blew his nose with my kitchen towel. "Just fine. It smells here. This place is going to poison me." He threw the towel in the trash next to the gas stove, turned one of the gas burners on for a moment, turned it off. "No, I can't stay here, brother. Not right now, at least."

"Well, you know—"

"I know, I know. I gotta leave." He stomped towards the door to exit my apartment. "Yes, I gotta go now."

I stood up and unlocked the door. "Where are you going?"

Mantas whispered something under his breath and opened the door, stepping out into the hallway.

"Mantas," I said as I watched him walking towards the stairway leading down to the lobby. "Mantas!"

He froze suddenly, but did not turn around. "Yes, Kashani?"

"You going to your old lady's?"

Mantas wheeled around and went for my neck. "No!" he shouted menacingly. "No! No! No!"

I grabbed at his hands as he was trying to choke me, kicking my feet this way and that, wheezing. "What in the...arrrggh!"

"No more old lady!" Mantas shrieked in my face, throttling me back and forth. His eyes were wild and insane but they betrayed weakness. I wrestled with his hands then threw him off, sending him towards one of the easy chairs in the hall which he fell into conveniently and sat for a second. He clawed painfully at his long blond hair and pummeled his head with his fists, out of his mind.

"What's wrong, Mantas?" I asked. "What the—? You're going insane." I tried to catch my breath.

"I don't wanna be loved," he hissed loudly. Mantas stood up quickly and once again moved towards the stairs, much faster this time.

"Wait a second, Mantas," said I, following the angry Englishman's steps down the hall. "Did you say 'no more old lady'? You need your old lady, Mantas. Accept it!"

"I don't wanna be accepted!" yelled Mantas, charging down the hall.

"But you're family, Mantas," I shot back, close on his heels, "I have always accepted you—"

"I don't wanna be family!" Mantas howled, as he tripped at the top stair and rolled haphazardly down all sixteen steps into the lobby area.

I ran down the stairs and peeled Mantas off the carpet and brushed him off. "Holy shit, Mantas, you okay?"

The famed Grand Master of Hades & Mayhem's eyes stared deep into mine, pained and intense, out of focus. His top lip was shaking a little, which made his trim mustache seem like it was dancing. "I'm the wild card," he declared. "Dot, dot, dot."

I put my hand on his shoulder. "Go to your old lady, old man. You know you want to."

"I know," said he, looking down at the carpet and then back to me. "I know, Kashani. I know. Don't worry yourself into a frenzy now." Mantas grinned a little. "You see, that's where I was going the whole time, 'fore you tried to stop me."

With that, Mantas moved to the front door exit and yanked the door open confidently. I thought I saw him take a deep breath, then he stepped, nay, glided out into the icy cold Portland wind, with a playful chuckle. I watched my friend Mantas pounce down the front porch steps then veer left down the street, till he was out of view.

"See you soon, Mantas," I said to myself. "You fly safe now. You fly safe."

Portland, 2007