Roots — "Diamondex"

by Jo Jo Rockroth

roots_diamondex_small.png (click can to enlarge)

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Part one

Her surgery was a triumph. Diamondex had never looked better. Yes, yes, she knew this. And yet. Before the procedure, her handlers at the Institute had concocted jazzy little poems warning her about the possibility of contracting a nasty strain of post-op depression they referred to as "the crilnths."

Number Six, Diamondex's bone-thin handler who always wore an orange jumpsuit steeped in his pungent body odor, had put it thusly as he handed her a large quill during the sign-in ceremony: "You may get the crilnths real bad, which would be sad. Then again,” he said, flopping a dead-fish arm over Diamondex’s shoulder and pressing a hard cheek against hers, “you might feel just right — nice and bright."

Three days later, when Number Twelve (green unitard, weak chin poorly camouflaged under a haphazard goatee) was wheeling her to the checkout desk, Diamondex saw a familiar orange figure dancing solo in the long corridor. As she passed his jerking, angular form, she moaned, "Oh Six, the crilnths is eating me alive!" If Number Six saw her, he gave no indication, continuing his contortions in the drab marble hallway. "Six? Siiix!" she wailed over her shoulder, her voice reedy from the strain on her contorted windpipe.

"Unnngh!" grunted the flailing orange skeleton behind her. "Oh, I say, ah!"

Diamondex gagged then passed out.

"Diamondex!" Someone was shaking her. "Come now, wake up!" Woozily, she lifted her chin from her drool-stained chest and squinted at the gigantic blue shape before her. It was Number Three, her chief handler and wellness engineer. He smelled strongly of honey.

"Three?" she croaked. Her eyes skittered about in their sockets, searching in vain for familiar sights. "Where?"

"The apiary. We're in the apiary, Diamondex. I felt it ... appropriate. Coffee?" he asked, gesturing with an impossibly fat hand toward a vending machine buzzing in the corner. "I daresay the latest blend is the bee's knees."

"Coffee," she repeated in a hoarse whisper. "Yes."

Part two

Jo Jo here. In part two, we learn that Diamondex's mysterious "procedure" involved the removal of her arms and legs and the insertion into her lower belly of a stinger — a "glossy black stiletto about six inches long and covered with thousands of tiny barbs." There is a buildup of tension between her and Number Three as he becomes increasingly frustrated with her numbed state and general unresponsiveness to his annoying comments.

To be fair to Diamondex, she is still in shock and great pain. So she is doing a lot of not-so-calm thinking about her new body and the ramifications of being rebuilt as a bumblebee, basically. And, of course, she's being torn apart by the crilnths, a difficult-to-pronounce condition that is like depression but much, much worse because it is accompanied by migraines and hallucinations and homicidal thoughts. So she's kind of mumbling to herself and slobbering, and Number Three is trying to get her to drink some coffee, thinking it will calm her down or at least get her to stop acting so crazy.

Then Diamondex starts messing around with her stinger, learning how to manipulate her nonexistent inner-thigh muscles to "twiddle" (her word) the thing. She's sitting naked in her special gyroscope-involving wheelchair, twiddling her stinger, drooling and grinning and mumbling, and Number Three screams at her that the Institute didn't spend twenty million goddamn dollars to create a "gimp" — that's what he calls her. When she hears that word, "gimp," she snaps out of her fugue or fug or whatever the state she's in is called, looks up at him and says, "It seems, Boss, that you don't appreciate my pain." This comment throws him, because Diamondex isn't usually so articulate, and her sudden shift to apparent normalcy is wholly unexpected. He stammers something about how he understands her suffering, calling her a "silly goose" and attempting once more to pat her head. But as his lardy fingers near her sweat-dappled dome, something "extreme" occurs.

Part three

My name’s Jo Jo, and I’m a little hung over. A lot hung over. I’ve got to write part three of this tale, but it’s simply not clicking for me. I just reread parts one and two and have concluded that this story is deeply flawed. No, it’s straight up bad. My main gripe is that there are lots of superficial descriptions — Number Six is “bone thin” and stinky, Number Twelve has a “haphazard goatee” (whatever the hell that means), the hallway is “long” and "drab,"


Number Three (uninspired naming, the whole number thing) is “impossibly fat” and smells of honey — and yet I have no sense of where the story is taking place or who these people are. There’s no depth. It’s all a flimsy plywood façade. It’s true that I was watching TV when I wrote part one and I’m pretty sure I was stoned when I dictated part two into my answering machine while driving to Burger King, but still, I can do better than that. It’s really a matter of motivation, or lack of it. The editorial staff at Canned Coffee has not properly incentivized me to write a coherent story. I’ll be honest; there was a dispute over money. Intern or not, French fries don’t grow on trees, if you know what I mean.

OK, I just got an email from the canned coffee people and it looks like they’re willing to compromise "somewhat" on my fee. They also promised to add a little bio blurb at the end of the story, because Jo Jo needs some PR.

So in part three, just before Number Twelve’s sausage fingers touch Diamondex’s head, Diamondex wriggles her body like a large, agitated grub and buries all six inches of her stinger into his forehead. He gets a look of surprise on his face and says, “Why?” before dying.

Diamondex is freaked out by what just happened, because Number Twelve had been like a father to her. But even freakier for her still is that part of her enjoyed the killing, wanted more of it.

Part four

They call me Jo Jo. So where were we? I believe we were at the point where Diamondex went and did something unspeakably aggressive to Number Three, resulting in his death. The situation leading up to this event was explained in a rather camp, or maybe it was glib, fashion, rendering the moment considerably less poignant than I would have liked. But as I suspect is true with many writers, I have limited control over the tone and direction of my stories. Each sentence progresses like the winding of a jack-in-the-box, its sentiments exploding forth at surprising times and often yielding unexpected results.

I had not planned on Diamondex having a stinger, for instance. That idea came after I had her meet Number Three in the apiary, a place where bees and beehives are kept. And the word apiary itself randomly materialized in my mind when I was thinking of a setting for their meeting. The word just sounded nice; apiary — ape, redolent of primates. I had to look it up, to be honest. So the flap of a butterfly’s wings has ramifications in literature. I wonder how many great stories have been shaped by the stray spark of a thought that took hold and eventually set the tale ablaze? See? I didn’t know I was going to use that awkward metaphor when I began the sentence.

I think I’ll end the Diamondex quadrology like this: after “stinging” Number Three, Diamondex is engulfed in misery and self-loathing. She didn’t want to be no killer, but part of her was thrilled and primed for more violence. She could be forgiven for having such malicious thoughts, however, because unbeknownst to her, she had been administered huge doses of wasp entogens while undergoing the beautification treatment, aka “the procedure.” It is dangerous enough to probe the hypothalamus with a sharp instrument, but to inject wasp entogens into this sensitive region of the brain is lunacy. This is the source of the crilnths and of Diamondex’s violent behavior. With the genetic material of a wasp now spreading throughout her brain, she truly is not herself.

But her ability to feel tormented by the recent events in the apiary will soon prove to be a luxury. In murdering Number Three the way she did, Diamondex has also guaranteed her own death. Her stinger, you see, never left the fat man’s forehead. Diamondex is bleeding to death.

Her vision narrows, forming a grey tunnel before her. Diamondex hears a bell chime. She’s rushing down the stone steps of the brick schoolhouse. She has long, braided ponytails and is wearing a blue gingham Holly Hobbie dress. The playground is a vast expanse of grass with secret corners offering various delights — sand pits, gnarled tree trunks, monkey bars. She dashes toward the ancient maples and settles between a pair of serpentine roots that have arched above the earth and formed a V. The bark feels rough on her back through the thin material of her dress. It is a familiar sensation and makes her feel drowsy as she tilts her head up to contemplate the cumulus clouds overhead. The spring breeze is warm and carries the scent of grass and pine. A plump bee flirts with the hem of her dress then flies away. Time to sleep.

Jo Jo Rockroth has never been spotted playing folf with JT LeRoy. That's not to suggest they are the same person. They are not.

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