Drop City
was that?”
    â€œUtterly fucking cool.”
    â€œNo problem with like grease and germs and all that?”
    â€œThe ants would be at it next day, the birds and the flies and whatnot. The sun. Rain.”
    â€œLet nature take care of it, right?”
    â€œYeah, that’s right: let nature take care of it.”
    Most of the brothers and sisters had already eaten—dinner was atsix—but they lined up nonetheless, all except for Merry and Alfredo and a couple of the hard-core vegetarians like Verbie. (That hurt him— Merry —but she was adamant, every creature is sacred, wouldn’t slap a malarial mosquito if it was perched on her wrist, and did he know about the Jains in India who went around with gauze over their faces so they wouldn’t inadvertently inhale so much as a gnat?) Norm was there, though, glad-handing and effusing, ripped on something and shouting “Loaves and fishes! It’s a miracle!” every two minutes. Somebody dragged the big speakers out onto the back porch and dropped the needle on Electric Ladyland, and pretty soon people were dancing out across the lawn in a kind of meat frenzy, and by the time it was over the steaks were gone, and a good time had by all.
    At one point, stretched out on the grass with his plate, a transient joint and the dregs of a jug of wine he kept swishing round the bottom of his fruit jar in the hope a little circulation would make it taste less like recycled lamp oil, Ronnie found himself hemmed in by the professor and his old lady, the one who’d let out that stone-cold shriek when he’d come staggering out of the woods with the deer wrapped round his shoulders, and if anybody thought that was fun they were out of their minds. Star was there too, and Marco, Lydia, Jiminy, a whole little circle of people off the main circle, and they’d been discussing weighty matters like is Hendrix an alien and how many heads fit on the pin of an angel. And suddenly here was this professor sitting right there at his elbow with a plate full of gnawed gristle, and the professor was saying things like “So, when did you drop out?”
    Ronnie wanted to tell him to fuck off and go back to Berkeley with the rest of the tourists— Can’t you see we’re having a party here, man? —but there was something about the guy—the gray in his beard, the fruity rich mellow tenor that brought back all those somnolent afternoons in English class—that just made him duck his head and mumble “A year and a half.” And it wasn’t just that he was mumbling, he was exaggerating too—six months was nearer the truth. But the professor didn’t want any six-month hippies, he wanted the genuinedown-in-the-trenches peripatetic lifetime dirtbags he could awe and thrill the reading public with. He had a notepad. He had a—no, yes—tape recorder.
    â€œYou mind if I tape this?” the professor was asking.
    Hendrix rode the night, supreme, astral, totally mind-blowing, and Ronnie mumbled Sure and the professor’s old lady moved in, thick legs in a long skirt and the joint pinched in her fingers like a deadly writhing South American bushmaster with its fangs drawn. Did she take a hit? Yes. And then she passed it on.
    â€œYou’re how old? Here, talk into this.”
    â€œInto this?”
    â€œThat’s right, yeah.”
    â€œI’m twenty-two.”
    â€œFamily problems?”
    â€œNo more than usual.”
    â€œEver run away from home?”
    â€œNot that I can remember. Or maybe once. Or twice.”
    â€œYou were how old then?”
    â€œI don’t know—nine. I went to the bowling alley and hid behind the pinball machine.”
    â€œBoth parents alive?”
    His parents were alive, all right, but so was Lon Chaney Jr. in The Mummy’s Ghost. They were just like that, staggering from one foot to the other and grunting out hostile messages to the world and the

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