Point Pleasant Grove Welcomes Satan: Installment #1
By Zero Stars
Point Pleasant Grove welcomes Satan. Huge letters, all in red, and I felt stupid the second I heard the spray paint can in my hand stop hissing. Not stupid for painting it on the side of the Kragan Auto Parts, but stupid for not remembering how to make the satanic pentagram star thing. It looked like a stop sign crossed with the Carl’s Jr. guy the way I did it. Me and Gwyn write polite shit about Satan like this about once a year to get everyone over the age of thirty here fired up and feeling like they’re living life on high. They swing into action, too! -- holding community meetings on their block, talking about what to do with regard to the evidence that Satanists are active in Southern California again. My parents always host a meeting at our house; I’m pretty sure they’re smart enough not to buy into it, but I think they don’t want to look like the bad sports on the block, or worse, Satanist sympathizers. Gwyn sneaks over to my house and we sit in my room listening to the meeting and laughing into pillows. There’s this one man named Carl Nagy, neighbor to the left. Pretty big guy, and he’s one of those men who acts like being big is the same as being strong and this thinking is bolstered by coaching community college football. He always talks about how he’s going to personally kick the ass of every Satanist he finds out about – then he takes a deep, melodramatic breath and says that even if one of the people at the neighborhood meeting turned out to be a Satanist, well, he’d kick their ass. And then before things can get too tense or unfriendly, he puts on this neighborly voice and says: “Hey, and listen, I would expect the same from each and every one of you if one of them somehow got me tangled up in this crap.” As if Satanists might be running around our unremarkable little suburb “making” normal folks like Carl worship the devil -- logic on par with assuming that drug addicts attend concerts with the intention of forcing kids to do their drugs.
My parents thought someone forced me to get my first tattoo. Everyone I know started getting tattoos at maybe fifteen or sixteen. Pretty innocent pieces that we angled Gwyn’s brother Alex into doing because he needed practice before he could move to Hermosa and open a shop. Gwyn got a Tim Burton drawing of Oyster Boy on her forearm that looks awesome, but her dad was convinced it was some cocaine (?) thing so she got put on restriction.
Point Pleasant Grove (it is neither of the three; discuss) is shoved miles east of anything good about the west coast – but, in a way, our little wedge of faded suburbia is so bad it is good. Somewhere around age eleven, you find yourself on a random summer night, in a parking lot waiting for your parents to pick you and a friend up from the movies. You’re standing in the red and yellow glow of the Cineplex on Harbor Boulevard, the freeway calming your bored and restless head with the constant hum of traffic from behind its border of trees and ivy; a sound that gets to feeling like a continuous maternal “hush”. And you know in your blood and in your bones that you’ll be here forever, even if you decided to leave here right now. I wrote that last line down in this stupid blank journal I’ve been carrying around and my mom found it and was convinced (daytime television talk shows) that it’s the beginning of a suicide note. So now, every Friday, I have to see a Family Counselor until he’s certain I’m not planning on killing myself. I am never quite clear on the definition of irony, but think this might be a contender. The man has me in his office basically on a half-assed, one-hour, once-a-week suicide watch simply because I’ve shown an interest in writing. And he’s prone to saying, “These are the best years of your life.” So as a joke last time I kind of glanced around this stupid little county office we’re crammed into and I go: “Jesus. Seriously?” I started laughing, thinking that, you know, he’d get a laugh out of it too – thinking it’s pretty safe to say that this moment does not exactly reek of a personal zenith for either of us. But after I made the joke, he just started making a note.
These notes, I imagine, weigh against me.
I live amongst zombies, their days spent in stucco buildings.