Charlie Sterchi: Dr. Horn Gets on the Good Foot
Dr. Gerald Horn, at 72, having already lived through three fucking generations of hipsters, and having seen each of them accomplish nothing but to be subsumed by the desire narrative of the Big Whatzit (his words), had had just about e-fucking-nough of it (again, his words). So, he closed shop at the university, where he taught American History to the young ignorant shit-lickers of the world (once more, Horn’s words here), taped a handwritten note to his door that said, “office hours canceled this week,” and booked a flight southwest from Arlington to El Paso via Nashville and Dallas/Fort Worth.
Horn had lately become obsessed with the new myth of America: the Chupacabra. It was elusive. It was on the edge. It refused to be subsumed. It could not be subsumed. The Chupacabra was pure desire, waiting to be discovered in its transient body of contemporary lore. It was the white whale to Dr. Horn’s Ahab, not that he had lost a leg to one in the past, and not that he was the captain of a ship. In any case, his was a solitary mission; it did not require a crew, and he didn’t need to have lost a limb to pursue it. He’d been born, like all beings, empty. He had come with loss in tow. He reasoned that the desert was the place to find a Chupacabra, to chase down the kernel of his wayward longing, and El Paso had plenty of sand.
In the kitchen, suitcase packed, he told his wife, “I’m going to find myself a Chupacabra.”
Her nose remained buried deep in a New Age text concerning the achievement of remote mutual orgasm.
“A creature I’ve found fascinating for years,” said Dr. Horn. “Fascinating. Fascism. Fascism. Chupa. Fascist Chupacabra.”
Mrs. Horn said nothing.
“Auf wiedersehen, my sweet,” said Dr. Horn.
The screen door clucked against its frame in the Arlington breeze, letting red and brown poplar leaves sail into the kitchen, and he was gone.
Mrs. Horn propped the door open with a flowerpot and swept the leaves back into the yard. She did this all without letting more poplar leaves inside. She did this all without abandoning her book. She did this all remotely.
At the El Paso airport’s information desk, Dr. Horn made his first inquiry, from which he obtained not much.
“Chupacabra?” said the desk attendant. “Do you mean tamale?”
And so, Dr. Horn set out into the desert surrounding El Paso with a Michelin Guide to the Southwest, a compass, a canteen and a bottle of Benzedrine, whose contents he consumed the way many people consume sunflower seeds.
On his first day among the dunes, he found no Chupacabra, but he came across plenty of wild dogs. Plenty of wild dogs, and plenty of hipsters, too. El Paso and the deserts there-surrounding proved to be brimming with the bearded little fuckers. At the sight of them, Dr. Horn removed his spectacles, not out of disbelief, but rather as to avoid having to see the throngs of botched-faux-tribal-sleeve-tattooed, small-batch-vodka-drinking, left-hand-ukulele-strumming youths. He slid the spectacles into his breast pocket.
Then Dr. Horn got to walking away. He walked until he heard no longer the toneless cacophony of hipster-banter. He walked until there was no sound but the hissing wind, no smell but the stench of the wild dogs in the canyons and on the crests of dunes among his falling feet, and he kept going after that. He trudged across the rolling waves of sand in blind wonder. This, thought Dr. Horn, is how you find a Chupacabra: blindly.
Night fell. The canyons echoed with dog cry. Somewhere above the sand, a light source, probably the moon, burned. He smiled at his own freewheeling fortitude, when, seemingly out of nowhere, a sensation manifested in his loins. Dr. Horn, at 72 years of age, blind in the desert and alone but for wild dogs, became aroused.
He grinned into the oblivion rolling out before him.
“Gotta find me that Chupa-chupa,” said Dr. Horn to the desert. “Gotta find me that Chupacabra.”
By dawn, there was a pack of twelve hundred mange-ridden canines at Dr. Horn’s heels. To legally blind Horn, each of them resembled a Chupacabra in miniature. In miniature because the Chupacabra, according to several eye-witness accounts, most notably that of Madelyne Tolentino of Puerto Rico, August 1995, was much bigger than these. In fact, the original Chupacabra was reported to be the size of a small bear.
Horn interpreted the presence of the canines as a sign that he had nearly made it, and sooner than he’d thought possible. He threw back a few Benzedrine in celebration.
The miniature Chupas followed him wide-eyed and with wagging tails. They yowled and they scratched at their loose fur.
For his part, Dr. Horn had a full and marvelous erection, which he decided was not at all what had attracted his companions. Nor did Dr. Horn imagine their interest was sinister in any way, despite the audible gnashing of teeth that rendered obvious their collective lust for blood.
Rather, he reasoned, the small monsters were attracted to his blind faithfulness, his determination, and his discriminating taste when it came to trends in youth subculture. Hook him up with the French Mods of the 1960s and the stolen, nonfunctional headlights mounted to their mopeds, or the Mickey Mouse Club California Surfer Kids of the mid 1950s and their corndog, hyperbolic gibberish (cowabunga!), or even the London Rockers of the same era, riding their motorbikes in circles around the M-5 like gnats around the rim of a frothing toilet bowl, and you had yourself a nice little youth subculture on your hands.
But the youth of today? Nada. And that’s why Horn was looking for the Chupacabra: give his mind a rest. Show those fucking kids who’s really on the edge. Old Dr. Horn, that’s who.
And what made him so? He searched, true; but merely to search was not enough; he searched without looking, without trying to see. He trusted the directional expertise of hordes of small beasts. He went with the multitude, knowing they would lead him to their king, the small-bear-sized sucker of goats’ blood.
“Gotta find me that Chupa-chupa,” said Dr. Horn to the wild dogs. “Gotta find me that Chupacabra.”
The dogs bobbed their heads and howled in agreement. The desert rolled beneath their feet in rivulets of dust.
Dr. Horn creamed his pants late that afternoon.
Back in Arlington, Mrs. Horn creamed her pants, too. Unlike her husband, she had another pair of pants to change into if she so desired, though she did not so desire. She only removed the first pair. From bed, she dusted several remote armoires with her mind, and she queued Side One of James Brown’s Live at the Apollo on the record player.
“I need you,” sang Mrs. Horn, pantsless. “I need you-oo-ooo.” She laughed. She sighed. She summoned a Cotes du Rhone from the cellar.
Meanwhile, Dr. Horn had dumped his soiled pants, as well. He found that going sans pants allowed for greater locomotion in the desert, hunting a Chupacabra through sand and canyon, canyon and what he could not discern to be a Whataburger parking lot.
Dr. Horn was on the proverbial good foot.
Dr. Horn was cutting edges, cutting them right into Chihuahua, Mexico.
Dr. Horn had smashed his spectacles’ lenses and was wearing just the frames.
Dr. Horn couldn’t see shit for putting his nose in it, and, shambling as he was among the twelve hundred mange-ridden canines, the circumstance arose not infrequently.