We were somewhere in the bowling alley across from the Applebee’s when the drugs began to take hold. Thousands of little lights flashing, bells ringing all around us. Had I found my way inside the cuckoo clock of hell? I collapsed on the carpet. A motley of vicious odors—sweat, vomit, cheese pizza. Then again, it all might have just been vomit.
My attorney helped me up and we passed a row of pinball machines. “Duke, take a look at this little number,” he said. He dropped a plastic shotgun into my hands. I was nervous that the place was crawling with cops, but I couldn’t deny that it felt beautiful. If any of those mustachioed narcs wanted to take me downtown, my peashooter would be enough to send them scurrying back to their two-bedroom ranch houses and Clorox wives.
At first, we were supposed to be covering illegal poaching in America’s national parks. You know, that contrived, sappy bullshit. Makes an easy story. The editors had given us $300, all of it conveniently in quarters, and sent us down the freeway past some crappy strip mall. Was it really our fault that it came to this?
Before I knew it, I was pumping hot slugs into those goddamn deer. They went down one, two, six. The Bambi family reunion was gonna be pretty dinky this year. Did I feel guilty about it? No way. Those things were charging at me for chrissakes. When you’ve got a pack of death deer and peyote coyotes coming your way, you fire like all hell broke loose.
“What are you hunting?” asked some kid behind us. He had on a navy blue little league shirt—the little fucker still believed he was part of something.
“What are we hunting?” I grabbed his collar. I told him, “We are hunting the goddamn American dream, man.” His eyes told me he didn’t get it. But that’s what it’s all about, not the fight itself, but the opportunity for glory riding on the price of a single goddamn quarter. Wasn’t that what George Washington was fighting for all along? Part of me thinks it was the cocaine and fifty straight sleepless hours, but I coulda sworn ol’ George was smiling at me right then and there, saying “Yeah, you chop down that cherry tree, you crazy sonofabitch.”
Suddenly I got the feeling I could make something of myself in this godforsaken town. The attorney was still at the machine. He cradled the weapon to his chest. His pants were around his ankles, but nobody at the alley saw him as anything out of the ordinary. “Gonzo,” I tell him, “My turn to pick the level.” But instead he fires a wayward shot at the screen, selecting the Outback as our next locale. The goddamn Outback! I hurl my gun at the machine, which breaks out into a cackle as it recognizes the mess we got ourselves into.
“What the hell, Duke? I was playing.”
“We can’t play here! This is bat country!”
A swarm of those bloodsucking bastards pours out of the coin slot, latching on left and right to the arcade’s greasy-faced clientele. Me and the attorney scrambled to the restroom, desperate for sanctuary in the loo, the john, the can, the last outpost of privacy in this godforsaken wasteland we call America.
We holed up in that stall for the better part of half an hour. My attorney was loudly vomiting into the bowl, pausing every once in awhile to clean his mouth of with some Charmin like he was at a goddamn barbecue.
[Editor’s Note: At this point, Dr. Duke’s manuscript became completely illegible, containing nothing but poorly drawn safari animals and a peace sign. He refused to translate it, and so we must omit this section of the narrative.]
Jesus, that walk back out to the arcade seemed to take hours. I was swinging my head back and forth between my left and right shoulders, certain the pigs were set on flattening me with their billyclubs. I could almost hear the manager asking what kind of soap was best to wash my bloodstains out of the floor.
I somehow made it back to the game, trying to keep my intestines from oozing out of my nostrils. I slapped my last quarter into the machine and took another hit of mescaline. It is funny, looking back now, how right everything felt at that moment, and all the momentum was on my side. There was a fantastic universal sense that those deer were created to be shot, like they existed in their own universe outside of the physical realm. I knew there was no real explanation, but those animals were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave, headed straight into the muzzle of my gun.
A warm tingle ran down my spine as the high score menu opened up and offered me a hot dose of immortality in the form of three characters. I shot my letters into the high scores menu—“LSD.”