Jim Knable’s Sons of Dionysus, a lusty novel of myth, mirth, and music.
Women, he said, are more evolved, except when they are overcome with lust, and then they are capable of behaving as badly as men.
Men start wars because they don’t know how to behave with women.
There is a great difference between men and women.
There is also a great difference between men and other men.
Women are also different from each other.
I have spoken.
Moses was tripping very hard on two tabs of LSD. We were standing with him on the West Mountain, not really a mountain, but a very large rock face tall enough to look down from and see the whole college town. With Moses were Arthur, Delilah, Cassius (a flaming black man, in all senses as he wore a large and conically shaped orange, red and yellow afro), the freshman who had taken his testicles out at the first Owl night (Benjamin: pasty white with dark black hair, most of it on his body, a permanent shadow of stubble he could never shave completely clean on his face), and me. I was there because I was hanging out with Arthur when Moses called him. A call from Big Daddy Moses meant: drop everything and come. And Moses insisted for some reason that I come along, too.
Sons of Dionysus Chapter 5 (Read by Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank)
Delilah, who was also tripping on something, said:
I love cock, that’s the only reason I’m not a lesbian. Men and women are the same to me, except that women are more likely to be nice and men are more likely to look at your tits.
At this point she barred her breasts like it was Mardi Gras. They were the third set of actual real life breasts I had seen (and remembered). She frequently referred to them as Laurel and Hardy and now I understood why. One was definitely bigger than the other.
Moses responded by dropping his pants and revealing that he had an erection.
This was the first male erection other than my own that I had seen in real life. It was both shocking and comforting, comforting because it was no bigger than mine, which I had always been afraid was too small.
Benjamin, the freshman, dropped his pants, too.
What the hell are you doing? said Moses.
You, isn’t it, but, I thought… Benjamin sputtered helplessly.
But Moses had already moved on.
We are young and stupid and that makes us immortal, he said. You can kill us and we become immortal. We can live in this moment with the naïve conviction that we are invincible and that makes us immortal. Someday we’ll grow old. And that knowledge is what makes us immortal. Where was I?
He teetered on the mount of boulders on which he was perched.
Old, prompted Delilah.
Old, said Moses.
And suddenly his face took on an ashen tint and his shoulders sloped down and a look of great sadness overtook him.
Oh fuck, he said. I’m going to die someday.
Then he sat down on the boulder and wept.
It was a strange sight. For Arthur, I imagined it would be like seeing his father crying and not knowing how to respond. But then he did respond. He went to Moses and put his hand on his shoulder.
Someday, he said, I will take your place as the leader.
Moses looked at him. He stopped all his weeping and put his hand on Arthur’s shoulder so they both were holding each other’s shoulders. He looked at him long and hard.
No, you won’t, said Moses. He will.
And then he pointed dramatically at me and there was a loud crash of thunder and lightning like a hundred garbage cans falling and then a heavy wash of rainforest rain burst down on all of us.
Everyone scattered, but Moses and I waited to move. His finger was pointed undeniably at my face. His eyes were locked on mine, his chin set, his mouth firm. He looked a thousand years old and in the rain and lighting his face looked like it was made of wax and was melting.
It’s the drugs, said Moses, I slipped a tab in your beer before we climbed up here. Just go with it, you’ll have more fun.
Having no choice, I surrendered to my first hallucinatory experience in the rain with Moses, Delilah, Arthur, Cassius and Benjamin.
But where was Cassius in all this? He had climbed a tree at some point and now shouted down at those who fled and those who remained:
I am the son of no man! He screamed at the top of his lungs. I am the son of Thunder and Lightning. This is my creed: I have no ancestors, I have no country, I have only a bond with those who have experienced my life, which is only me. I am the living light of liberty, but I am also a fire-bug and I am transplendant!
He fell from the tree and landed on Benjamin, who still had his pants around his ankles. The fall broke Benjamin’s leg; we heard it snap. But, as Benjamin had also been slipped a tab of acid by Moses, he was convinced that somehow Cassius had impaled him and taken his anal virginity, which he hadn’t. We carried him as he screamed: get this big black cock out of my ass! all down the mountain, which was not really a mountain.
I never would have voluntarily taken LSD—I was too terrified of losing that much control, or worse, losing my mind forever— but I remain grateful to Moses for slipping it to me, even though it made the next part of the evening at the hospital with Benjamin into a horrific nightmare. All around me in the emergency room were zombies, walking skeletons, creatures oozing blood and strange puss and bile (though I knew they were just other college kids with alcohol poisoning).
I can’t imagine how we looked to them, walking into the room as we did, holding Benjamin aloft, his pants still down, still shrieking about having been violated, Cassius with his hair on fire, Moses with twigs and berries in his beard, Delilah singing something, not an SOD song, but some kind of hymn, a sort of cross between the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Deutschland Deutschland Uber Alles. Arthur was the only one of us not tripping out. Moses probably designed it that way, just to have us covered in case of emergency. He filled out the necessary paperwork for Benjamin (Age: 18, Sex: Two high school girlfriends and one flaming black man). If we weren’t surrounded by wasted, bloody and vile college kids, we would have stood out. As it was, nobody on the hospital staff was terribly concerned, which made me very paranoid, my logic at that point dictating that if nobody was concerned about how weird we were, they were probably expecting us and it was all a trap.
We stayed just long enough to get Benjamin checked in, and then we escaped. Arthur was falling asleep, but the rest of us wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. We went back to Moses’ apartment, off campus. He put on The Beatles’ Let it Be album. Every song lasted for an eternity, every lyric meant something profound; the guitar solo meant something profound. I had grown up appreciating music but never knowing much about it. My father is a high school chemistry teacher and my mother works at the plant and flower nursery. I loved music now. Especially this night. We listened to all the Beatles albums Moses had, some twice, and then it was the morning. Arthur was still sleeping. We left him in the apartment and walked outside. I felt the sun on my skin. Delilah said: look at this, and she held out a flower she had plucked from a bush. We stared at it together. It was breathing. I heard a bird caw above and looked to see a seagull suspended in the sky, like a marionette, made of wood, held by unseen hands. We went back into the apartment.
I sat on the couch and heard the sound of running water. I got up and followed the sound. I saw Cassius, Delilah and Moses naked together under the shower, washing each other. They saw me and Moses said: come in. I was still wearing all my clothes. I didn’t come in. I just watched them, their bodies, like the naked bodies in the Inferno, different colors of skin, muscles and fat and nipples and pubic hair. They weren’t being sexual. They were behaving more like children, like cherubs. Come in, Moses said again. I turned around and walked back out to Arthur. He was awake, looking up at me from a decrepit armchair.
Want to go home? he said.
Yes, I said. And we left without saying good bye.
Continue to Chapter 6
Jim Knable is a Brooklyn-based writer of plays, songs, prose, and the occasional screenplay. His plays have been produced at MCC Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Soho Rep, NYC’s Summer Play Festival and other regional theaters, and have been published by Broadway Play Publishing, Dramatic Publishing, Samuel French, Smith & Kraus and Playscripts, Inc. He released his solo album Miles in 2000 and Redbeard (2006) and Golden Arrow (2009) with his band The Randy Bandits.
Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen (audio) are writers (Drama Desk/Lortel/Outer Critics’ award-winning The Exonerated play and all-star cast film; Aftermath at NYTW), actors (Rescue Me, Lie to Me, The Namesake, Virtuality, The Bronx is Burning, Bored to Death, MTC’s Corpus Christi and much more) and directors (New York Theatre Workshop, Actor’s Gang Theater) who have several film, TV, and theatre projects in development.
Beeb Salzer (illustration) is an artist, set designer, and essayist based in San Diego.