A Confederate General from Big Sur(11)

By: Richard Brautigan



I saw Lee Mellon the next day. He came over to the city. It had taken him nine hours to hitch-hike from Oakland to San Francisco. He looked pretty grubby. I told him about the Susan business, about the importance she had placed on seeing him. I told him that she acted and looked pregnant. Was, for my opinion.

‘That’s the way it goes.’ Lee Mellon said without any emotion. ‘I can’t do anything about it. I’m hungry. Do you have anything to eat around here? A sandwich, an egg, some spaghetti or something? Anything?’

Lee Mellon never mentioned Susan to me again, and I of course never brought up the subject again. He stayed over in Oakland for a few more months.

He tried to pawn a stolen electric iron over there. He spent the whole day going from one hock shop to another hock shop. Nobody wanted it. Lee Mellon watched the iron slowly change into a one-legged moldy albatross. He left it on the bench at a bus stop. It was wrapped in newspaper and looked like some garbage.

Disillusionment over failing to pawn the iron finally ended his siege of Oakland. The next day he broke camp and marched back to Big Sur.

The girl continued living at the San Geronimo Hotel. Because she was so unhappy she kept getting bigger and bigger like a cross between a mushroom and a goiter.

Everytime she saw me she asked me anxiously if I had seen Lee Mellon, and I always lied, no. The disappearance had us all wondering. What else could I say? Poor girl. So I lied breathlessly . . . no.

I lied no again no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no again. I again no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no Lee Mellon. He has just vanished from the face of the earth.

Her father, the Freezer King of Sepulveda Boulevard, disowned her. He argued in the beginning for one of those Tijuana abortions that have a fancy office and an operating room clean as a Chevron station. She said no, that she was going to have the baby. He told her to get out and paid her a monthly stipend never to come back to Los Angeles. When the baby was born, she put it up for adoption.

At the age of seventeen she became quite a character in North Beach. She quickly gained over a hundred pounds. She became huge and grotesque, putting on layers and layers of fat like geological muck.

She decided that she was a painter and being intelligent she realized that it was much easier to talk about painting than to actually paint. So she went to the bars and talked about painters of genius like Van Gogh. There was another painter that she always talked about, but I have forgotten his name.

She also took up smoking cigars and became fanatically anti-German. She smoked cigars and said that all the German men should be castrated slowly, the children buried in snow, and the women set to work in the God-damn salt mines with no other tools than their tears.

Long after she’d had the baby, she would come up to me, waddle up to me is the right way of stating it, and ask if I ever saw Lee Mellon around. I would always say no, and after while it became a joke between us because she knew I had been lying, and by now she herself had seen Lee Mellon, found out the score, and didn’t give a damn any more, but she still asked me, ‘Have you seen Lee Mellon around?’ but now she was lying. Our positions had been reversed. ‘No. I haven’t,’ I could say truthfully now.

She went on a kick of having babies for a few years. She turned herself into a baby factory. There’s always someone who will go to bed with a fat broad. She gave the babies up for adoption as soon as they were born. It was something to do with her time, and then she grew tired of this, too.

I think by now she was twenty-one, prehistoric, and her fad as a character in North Beach had run its course. She had stopped going to the bars and talking about painters of genius and those bad Germans. She even gave up smoking cigars. She was attending movies all the time now.

She wheeled those by now comfortable layers of fat into the movies every day, taking four or five pounds of food in with her in case there should be a freak snowstorm inside the movie and the concession stand were to freeze solid like the Antarctic.

Once I was standing on a street corner talking to Lee Mellon and she came up to me. ‘Have you seen Lee Mellon?’ she lied with a big smile on her face.

‘No,’ I could say truthfully now.

Lee Mellon didn’t show any interest at all in our little game. He said, ‘The light’s changed.’ He was wearing a gray uniform and his sword rattled as we walked across the street.





PART TWO

Campaigning with Lee Mellon at Big Sur





The Letters of Arrival and Reply

The Letters of Arrival

1

Lee Mellon

General Delivery

Big Sur

California

Dear Lee Mellon,

How are things at Big Sur? Things in San Francisco are terrible. I have found out rather painfully that love moves mysteriously through the ways of the stomach, almost like bees, but the game has turned sour like the bees Isaac Babel writes about in Red Cavalry.

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