VCO: Chapter 11

"VCO" image

Chapter 11

I wake up on the floor of Everhet’s kitchen and instantly bring my phone over my face. 

I dreamt that I text Morgen a Homeric epic about how my parents were dead. How they exploded. 

I look at my texts. Wasn’t a dream. Initiate shame blocking sequence.

I cue up a video to watch called INSATIABLE WOMAN WITH DICK HUNGER. Video isn’t helping.

I still haven’t fallen asleep. 

As I drop my phone, I release the muscles in my neck and shoulders letting the back of my head hit the smooth hard floor. 

If you asked me four days ago if I ever saw myself doing what I do now, I would say no.

I’ve been recruited into helping Everhet with DPZ content. 

When we’re not working at VGV, we’re creating content all day at his apartment. I’m hesitant to participate in any other capacity than cinematographer.

We’d have dinner, eating the stale throw-out pastries from work, while going over footage we’d made the past week and give notes.

I ask him how he finds models who want to do this kind of stuff.

Without any pause to think, as if anticipating my question, he says, “First off, they’re not models. They’re artists.”

We connected with users on the DPZ site that in its current state could only be describe as digitally prehistoric.

But the fanbase is loyal and eager.

They’d come over. They’d sign a paper. The thing happened, and royalties from streaming views and downloads would be deposited into their DPZ accounts every three months.

I was officially in the business.

To work with someone you idolize really does supercharge your confidence. But after your first piece is published some of the magick goes away and now you want to see, not if you’re capable, but of what you are capable.

Freedom is a triple edged sword. The fun of doing something deemed “wrong” wasn’t present with my parents gone. I have no one to disappoint in the world. But not being able to disappoint someone also means you have everyone to impress.

All in all, I’d say a lack of purpose is nice in moderation. There’s no tug toward any specific direction.

My paychecks were direct deposited into my parents accounts. And I couldn’t get into them (I honestly didn’t try). So Everhet helped me get my checks from VGV get deposited into his account, and on payday he’d take my portion out in cash. 

This morning I wake up and roll over to an alarm clock screaming at me. I slap my hand at the sound. Aside from some clothes it was the only thing I owned. All of which were gifted from Everhet. 

When I open my eyes I see a smaller concentric circle hidden beneath the black obsidian face of the alarm clock. A small eye.

When I ask Everhet about this he raises one eyebrow and looks at an angle toward the ground.

“I mean.” Everhet says, “I was going to ask for your permission before posting any of it.”

“But it’s just of me sleeping.” I say with a scoff in the back of my throat.

Everhet laughs. 

“You don’t think there are people who are into that?” He touches his middle finger to his thumb lightly and says, “Dude. People get off to literally everything. But that’s not the point.”

Then he went into one of his rants about artistic expression through taboo shouldn’t be seen as pornographic. How totemism is a uniquely human tradition. And how he was marginalized in the art world. And how essentially no one does, or ever would, understand him.

An electronic windchime rings from my pocket. 

A notification.

When I look at my phone I’m in long time, like the trees.

I have no idea how long I am staring before I look up, and see Everhet has left the room and I am standing alone.

It’s a text from my grandma. She wants me to come over. She has some things for me.

I haven’t seen her in years. My grandma is a wise woman. Distinguished and hardened. But a little out there. 

The bus ride to my grandma’s will be five times as long as it would if I were driving. Which would be fine if I had my headphones or books. And watching videos on mute isn’t as good as with sound. I just have to sit in silence. Riding the bus used to be a place for daydreaming when I was at college because it was socially acceptable. Back home public transit is stigmatized as being only for people down on their luck. Of which I am now.

Perhaps this is just part of my rags to riches story. I’m not giving up on that.

Soon I’m going to turn a corner and I’m going to have my once-in-a-generation out-of-the-fuck idea that will make me a million dollars and I won’t be worried about anything ever again. 

I’ll just be happy all the time. 

And I’ll make more money with the initial million dollars. I’ll keep living cheaply and save it. I’ll be one of those people who buy expensive things and lives inside cheap houses. 

A gaggle of bald assholes gets on the bus. 

I don’t know if they have an official name but they all have the same tattoos. Triangles on the temples pointing up. Almost like demon horns slapped on a two-dimensional surface. I may be drinking too much soda and chewing too much gum, but they seem familiar.

They come in a pack of seven and are laughing and yelling nonsensically while swinging their hands around. 

Punching their own palms, a lot of “Yeah totally” and “What?”.

Head down. Legs crossed. 

Their sense of identity makes me painfully aware of my lack of a tribe. And therefore a lack of family. 

And poof! I’m thinking about my dead parents again. 

It’s like an invisible bright spotlight twelve millimeters from your face. With all its searing heat I am only able to focus on myself. I can’t think past the light. My perception and nerves are maxed out.

Then the feeling passes. 

And everything is fine. 

I shiver as if a cold cloud passed through me.


I look up at the tattooed cult-looking people. 

Then I look at my reflection across from me in rear bus door windows and think, I’m pretty sure those are the guys that beat the shit out of me a while back

They were minding their own business but were so loud that it’s impossible to tune out and ignore which meant it was now everyone’s business.

I’m getting to that fuck it place. And I’m not even hammered. 

“Hey.” I say, “Do you need to yell?”

The driver looks in the rearview then quickly back at the road. 

One of the dudes grabs the pole as the bus takes a turn, says, “I remember you.”

There are surveillance cameras but the fact that it would be captured on camera doesn’t change the fact that he could stomp me out right here.

He leans over to me and says, “You own this bus?”

The anxiety in my body surges when he asks, but settles in an instant.

And I smile. 

“No.” I say, “I don’t own anything.”

There’s nothing he could take from me except my life. I have spoken truth and whatever happens now is in his control.

Plus, if he instigates, no matter what happens, I’m in the right.

He leans close enough to kiss me and reaches past my head. 

Then he pulls the yellow cord on the window. 


And the sign at the front illuminates: STOP REQUESTED.

And then a digital voice says, “Stop. Requested.”

The brakes hiss and we all bow toward the nose of the bus in unison. 

And as he pulls back from my head he whispers, “Right on.”

I nod at him and his crew as they get off the bus.

Me and the tattooed cue ball gang cult, we have a deep history forged suddenly through passion. 

Our unfortunate passion was violence. 

But a bond is a bond.

And as they exit the bus, I feel we departed one another as friends. 

56 minutes, later I’m off at the only bus stop for miles, surrounded by soybean and tobacco fields. 

And I start the hike up the hill to grandma’s cottage.


James Jacob Hatfield is a displaced engineer, a painter, and many other contradictions. His work has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Barely South Review, Chaleur Magazine, Havik, and others. His ekphrasis poem “torrents of lahar, No. 36” was anthologized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a Sterling Fellow and a Weymouth Fellow. He is the creator and curator of the Gemini Sessions Substack. He lives in Durham, NC.

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