"The Manifestation of Mel Gibson" and "This Is The Place"

The Manifestation of Mel Gibson

In the dream, I am somewhere far west

California lit by endless neon motel and burger joint advertisements and the flicker of high streetlamps

Smell of tar and fire, I am walking by the side of the highway: with no shoes on, wrapped in a sheet like a 1970s toga party or a hungover Roman emperor

The desert air is hot even in the soft blue darkness, steaming and evaporating off the road like water from an ocean leaving behind bits of salt and foam

Every car that passes me by stains my robe further, it’s a shade of former whiteness by now

Then it’s full dark and a car pulls up beside me, not just any car but THE car: the black 1979 Ford Falcon police interceptor and it’s being driven by Mel Gibson

The car has its own strange body odor and there are liquor bottles shattered and emptied in the back seat along with several overflowing ashtrays

His mullet is silver, like iron and it moves like something alive and separate from his deep Aussie tan, old man face full of perfect teeth

His one hand on the steering wheel appears to be caked in dried blood from an unknown wound, the alcoholic’s stigmata: I know this

“Hey you” he says in that way of his

His is the voice that drove the Highlanders, the American Revolution and poor Danny Glover into their respective death charges

I stop walking

“Jewboy, hey you there”

I pause and quietly say, “excuse me?”

“You don’t fool me jewboy” says Mel Gibson

Then slightly softer and glancing in the mirror as if impatient, “you want a ride?”

He revs the engine and over the hill behind us I hear the faint sound of sirens

“Well do you want a ride or not?” he says pushing open the passenger door, the charred bits of what I know was a human skull sliding out onto the highway

I’m hesitating but it is obvious and he knows it

 “To ride or not to ride?” he says to me, grinning and then, “I was Hamlet once” and I wonder if he means he was “IN” Hamlet once or something else

It’s not my Hebraic nature that I know he’s claiming to recognize, no it’s that other thing: that goodnight-sweet-prince ethanol thing

He has eyes like a silent film star who isn’t used to talking, red thunder flashes in them like an endangered species calculating its chances

He’s looking into mine now, it’s like being hypnotized by some leathery Dracula in a wifebeater

In the trunk of the car I know there will be pieces of the one true cross and there is a flock of crows overhead that keeps in constant communication with him, America is burning before us and he recognizes what I am

I always wake up then, knowing that I chose, that I will choose: to ride


This Is The Place

This is the street where they shot the rabid dog

The man (veterinarian, animal control or scientist: I’m not sure) wore black kevlar like riot police

Because he didn’t want to get bitten


It didn’t even try


This is the place in the dust where the dog fell in a spray of toxic foam and gun-smoke

This is the balcony I watched from, it was hot that day and the sunlight bounced off the metal railings

He had a shotgun, he loaded two fat red shells into it from a distance after getting out of his truck when he realized the dog would not approach him

I don’t live in that apartment anymore

It actually didn’t bite anyone and if a rabid creature can be said to have learned to live with and accommodate its curse, it seemed like he might have been the one to do it

The other man, the one driving the white pickup truck covered in rust

He got out a stretcher to carry off the body but didn’t help put it in the back because he wasn’t wearing gloves or even a surgical mask

They carried off the body, to study the brain (which also is why they shot him in the heart not the head, for science)

I watched from here though my eyes were watering from dryness and noon

The whole event, when it finally happened (prompted no doubt by panicked phone calls of all the people in my neighborhood feeling like they were under siege and hiding in their homes) only took a few minutes and then it was over


We don’t know where the dog came from

There were no other rabid animals that summer or that year

He just appeared, red eyed and snarling one day with brown matted fur

Out of some distant place

This is the spot, the spot in the dust

A spatter of saliva, after the truck had left in a plume of dirt (no clouds that day) evaporated contagious like sea-foam

It took 3 minutes, I counted

This is the place at the edge of the town, where the forest begins and where the mad dog stumbled out of that morning

He just stood there for a few hours at the barrier as if contemplating his disease or perhaps the forest

We don’t go in there very much

I watched him the entire time, sometimes he would sway on his feet as if pushed by some wind unknown to those of us who have never had hydrophobia

There are no rivers here to protect us

And I tried to tell them: this is the place

This is the place

Where the animal escaped

And sometimes I spend afternoons on my new balcony a few blocks away

Watching the forest with my binoculars

This is the place

Where he went down

And this is the place

Where he appeared

            I am the only one watching the forest (this is how it begins, the first symptoms)

And no one remembers but me



photo of Nate Maxson

Nate Maxson is a writer and performance artist. The author of several collections of poetry, he lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 15:46