Oh dearie me and mine what a strange, strange day. It’s been the SCUBA DIVING HSGS et al. conclave’s second day of their second week, second day back in Santo Domingo, glorious capital of this glorious and sweaty country. WE HAVE RETURNED after the wonderful postcolonialist phantasmagorical salmagundi of the resort hotel in Bayahibe, but more on that later, maybe. Anyway, our stated message today was to work together as a group and triumph in our underwater census of the reef’s fish, invertebrates, substrate and assorted injuries and oddities, led by Beth, our fearless, implacable and soft spoken leader. Soft spoken in the tradition of Clint Eastwood and Shane, a calm Hero for all of the all of us to look up to. Gosh she’s great. In any case, the key to this day for my brother and myself was realizing that we were, to quote the great American Gothic David Lynch, in the midst of “Crazy Clown Time”, the topsy-turvytown of G & S, up being down and down being up. Only by embracing this alternate bizzaroland universe of reverse and inverse would my brother and I, the whole colostomy-bag free group in fact, be able to merge together into a single coral conserving unit. The first sign took place upon my awakening after a relatively sleepless night of murmured and summarily deleted confessions of dirty deeds done dirt cheap into my iPhone’s recording mechanism (thank you Steve Jobs!). That alone was a strange sign, but I woke still stuck in the dark twilight of the soul, awoken by a knocking, a knocking at my door. I staggered over, still be-boxered and be-briefed, for I was sleeping in my boxer-briefs, cracking my door. Waiting was not a raven cawing nevermore, but my mother, sister and Beth “John Wayne” Buyer, a matriarchal triumvirate of a terrifying and implacable yet determinedly understated strength. They whispered words to me, words of future deeds summarily exiled to my subconscious. I collapsed, and slumbered some minutes more.
I woke in a new body, a new state of mind distanced from the Ben of archaic and disjointed sentence structure. This new Ben was bespectacled and analytic, fast and hard, a binary Ben. I dressed and showered as realistically and understatedly as possible, determinedly marching down the stairs to the breakfast room of our hotel. Upon exposure to those outside the Ben-sphere, human beings, I found my resolve loosened and I reverted into the dreamlike Innerspace reactive Ben-self. I was to fill out some forms for the brutal lion spearfishing competition Rich the second, Matthew (the most bespectacled, fast, hard, binary mechanism still capable of personality and crushing put-downs known to creatures above and below land) and myself would be participating in. Still reeling from sleep deprivation and munching on a triangular sausage-tasting foodstuff, I retreated to the Den to make preparations and reinforce the mental battlements. If sitting down to a breakfast with some of the best people rendered me a screaming catastrophic half-functional wreck, I’d need to prepare for our make it or break it trial by fire, our sally forth without the guiding hand of experienced Dominican professionals.
We all needed to fortify. There were things in the air. The day smelled important. A miasma of do-or-die drenched us all, and it gave me the howling fantods. I needed an antidote, antifantods. I needed my special music (Bowie, Station to Station, the Thin White Duke). I needed my special swimsuit (multicolored sharks). I needed my special book (Infinite Jest). I needed my special friend (Richard Medina). My special friend wasn’t on the bus. I pored over the AP Bio flashcards supplied by mecha-man Matthew. He is the Tin Man, I am the Scarecrow, and Richard is the Cowardly Lion.
Mother and Brother appeared from the void some 20 minutes later, capping a quote “energetic” discourse on David Bowie’s personas from yours me truly. My special friend wore his sharkless bathing costume. After a trancelike silent interval on the bus, we were regurgitated in front of the La Caleta dive shop. Ruben Torres, the suavely implacable toreador to the maddened, charging bull that is our group’s anarchist cocktail of ego and idiosyncrasy, swings his cape out of the way at the last fraction of a millisecond, evading our collective horns and planting us, snorting, in front of our BCDs. And so it begins.
While putting together a submarine portable ventilation device is actually relatively straightforward, this was Crazy Clown Time, and we were all in the hilariously tiny clown car. Scary Monsters and Super Creeps and stolen some dive weights in the night, and I was left with 13 instead of my usual 12. Coincidence? No. This is the Clown Zone. Wake Up by Staying Asleep. My first air tank was a howling beast, spitting air like the screaming meemies till it was turned off. My second air tank was insidious and clever, a Hamlet to my Claudius.
The waves were wild and filled with the girls and boys and girls of the Dominican Republic, pounding us into the sand as our boat was pushed into the water. We plowed forth. I closed my eyes against the saltwater. The entire experience could be replicated by sitting blindfolded in a bathtub while having small children throw buckets of water in your face. I’m sure Mecha Man Matthew has experienced something similar to this in the past, as tiny children have continually taken advantage of him. (See the Iran-Contrarian Nerf Gun-Shedd Aquarium Incident he is still PTSDing from).
Hamlet sprung his trap as soon as I fell backward into the water. My treacherous tank began spitting water and air. Despite the calm and clear direction of Beth “Clint Eastwood” Buyer, I realized the only possible option left, the Commedia de Machina to save the situation was to accept the puckish and perverse nature of the universe and remake myself in its image, becoming the personification of Crazy Clown Time. I relieved myself of my weight belt and BCD, perching atop the buoy and preaching my gospel. I explained to all those in and out of the water, from Glorious Leader to Cowardly Lion to Tin Man to Boat Captain that I was the Gargoyle King and this was my Gargoyle Kingdom. I was Odysseus. I was Poseidon. I made sure Matthew knew my wetsuit was sleek, slim and skintight. I did flips and rolls and somersaults. I capered. Beth, our Pirate Queen, took charge despite her leaking tank, consolidating rolls and tasks. Eliza McDaniel heroically offered Beth her tank, as she was insufficiently weighted. Our remaining heroes splashed and splayed and gasped and slithered beneath the waves.
I was unable to venture under the water to experience the undoubtedly many-tentacled madness of crazy clown time. Instead, I briefly emerged from my madness to converse with our vessel’s captain. Lovely, lovely man.
Suddenly, Mrs. McDaniel and Richard breached the waves, gibbering of the Eldritch horrors they had witnessed. They flopped and heaved themselves aboard while the captain armed the harpoons. The respite from crazy clown time had passed. As the others clawed up to the surface, a definite sense of pride and satisfaction with the research they had accumulated edged the maddened inhuman noises brought on by crazy clown time. Only two would not partake in the gibbering-- “Bloody” Beth Buyer, who has the constitution and bravery of the All-American Bald Eagle, and my father.
Though always cool and collected, the Cthulhoid horrors he had witnessed had warped him into a being above, beyond human, communicating in the implacable set of shoulder and mouth a distinct otherness, the dark and nebulous counterpart to Beth’s American Hero.
Our journey into Crazy Clown time reached the rainbow wig as we returned to the bay of La Caleta. Beachgoers lined the rock faces on either side, and my father looked up, recognizing his people as they plunged into the water, swimming beneath our boat. The waves rent and tore at our boat, churning the occupants. Our brave captain held the throttle fast between his legs, to no avail. We plunged out of the ship and into the surf, touching bottom and surfacing amidst the children of the beach, the people of my father. A wave swept us all inland, the many limbed jigsaw spit out on the sand to untangle ourselves. As I stood, thinking it was all over, the Mother of All Waves swept up behind me like a clown at a playground, smashing me off my feet and casting me forward. Richard, also standing, pulled back his leg to kick me in the stomach but cracked his toe a terrific one on a boulder. He collapsed in agony. The Mother Wave reclaimed me, dragging me out to sea before once more driving me into the sand. The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man lay next to each other in a rictus of bruised limbs. The sand coating us rendered us primordial mud monsters. Had we bested Crazy Clown Time, or had it only tired of us? Only time will tell.
Author: Ben M.