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October 2, 2020

Lighthouse Inn #4

Brett Biebel

Pederson likes to lean a tape recorder up against the wall (which he knows is paper thin (and maybe that’s why he’s there in the first place)) and capture whatever’s happening over in #6.  Sometimes (or, well, rarely) it’s sex noises.  Crying.  The voice of Alex Trebek.  Once, there was a conversation about Buddy Holly and interstates, and (later, after it was archived) Pederson cranked the volume and held the recorder up to the microphone on his phone (something he does periodically) so that it would hear everything.  So that it could take proper note.  He Googles things like arson.  XKEYSCORE.  He wants (the same way others want money or chocolate or Scarlet Johansson) to become interesting.  To be a genuine “person of interest” (at least, as defined by the NSA).  At night, he drives himself on over to Mason City.  Out to Waverly.  Sometimes as far as Waterloo (and once even Apple Valley), and he scopes random WiFi networks and downloads reams of (rural-themed) pornography, or else he performs these deep-dive searches for homemade explosives and then goes and buys a dozen bags of fertilizer at the Walmart (or (if they’re open) Theisen’s, or the old Farm n’ Seed), and he always pays by Visa, but then he leaves the bags out behind the store.  He never takes them home (either because it’s all a game, or maybe it’s just that he doesn’t have the space), and all en route he calls an assortment of numbers (both residential and commercial) and figures the metadata will show him the whole way up and down 35, on Hwy 20 or 18, and he leaves messages (including one at the headquarters for Royal Treatment Properties (a development group up in Minneapolis)) that end with the word “cipher” and invoke 9/11 and 7-Eleven and Islamic holidays all around.  In the car, the music is classical (or sometimes it’s rap (or else the kind of country that tells stories, or maybe the kind that feels like a Mad Lib)), and then, when he gets back to the motel, he watches documentaries on Timothy McVeigh and Ruby Ridge (and he even spent a week in Villisca in 2018 (making sure to read up on the axe murders and then taking a million pictures of Randy Weaver’s original home)) and waits for someone to knock on the door.  Waits for the phone to ring.  He asks the girl at the desk (who’s 22 but looks 45) to keep an eye out for “G-men” (as if she has any clue) and mostly just lays on the bedspread.  He listens to the whirring of the recorder.  He masturbates and thinks about life (and death) and celebrity and figures one of these days.  One of these days, he’ll be famous (and maybe it’ll be because he finally decides to blow up that fancy new complex they’re building out at the crash site (or maybe it’ll be because he dies right there in #4 and then turns into (another) one of them haunted local legends (or maybe it’ll be because it’s 2159, and the lives of everyone (meaning their photos, their faces, their records of access and viewing habits and preferences, etc.) born after about 1970 are all (at least mostly) digitally archived and organized and displayed in museums (or else in some kind of massive electronic repository, some kind of human genome for lived experience), and his will be the wildest, the most goddamn fucking unique and artistic and interesting (though it never occurs to him that maybe thousands of others are doing the exact same thing)))), and what will with the world say then, huh?  Just think about who’s the genius then.