What follows is an excerpt from Tony Vigorito’s third novel, Love and Other Pranks, described by bestselling novelist and countercultural icon Tom Robbins as “the single wildest novel I’ve ever read.” Enjoy the excerpt, and find links to additional excerpts at the end.
It was a two-mile hike to the tree at the center of the meadow of marvels, and thoroughly distracting. Every footfall into the grass and wildflowers of the meadow unleashed a splash of grasshoppers scattering in every direction like the shrapnel of genesis. Butterflies drunk on pollen fluttered around in clumsy perfection while bees revved about high on their own honeycomb. Dragonflies dueled and flirted, hovering and darting every which way while wildflowers flaunted their unabashed spectacular. Sunbeams sliced from beneath tremendous cumuli and any given moment found three distant waterfalls and a vaunt of gratuitous rainbows. Crow and Flaming Jane could scarcely take a step without pausing to marvel over this meadow indeed.
At some point in the midst of their amble, Flaming Jane and Crow approached one of the hundreds of deep brown boulders distributed throughout the meadow. It was not until they were less than fifty feet off, however, that they discerned that the boulder bore an impressive fur coat, and that it was breathing. More than that, it was eating—grazing—and the crunch and thwack of their approach finally caused this undetermined beast to lift its massive head lethargic, a cowbell jangling as it leveled a masticating gaze upon them.
“What is that?” Flaming Jane whispered as they halted their approach.
“Some kind of cattle, or ox?” Crow replied. “It’s gigantic.”
Flaming Jane studied the animal. “I’ve heard stories of such beasts, massive creatures that roam the grasslands of the North American interior. Trappers call them buffalo.”
“Buffalo,” Crow pronounced. “Why is it wearing a cowbell? And what are they doing here?”
“Grazing, it appears.”
“Its head is bigger than both of our torsos combined,” Crow astounded. “That thing must weigh over a ton.”
“We should give it a wide berth,” Flaming Jane cautioned, beginning to lead an arc away from the beast. But their motion alerted the bull, which moved itself to face them as it clawed at the earth. Simultaneous to this, every formerly motionless buffalo they had mistaken for boulders strewn about the tremendous meadow fell into motion as well, moving as one as they adjusted their positions in a rumbling cacophony of hooves and cowbells.
“Whoa,” Crow murmured, automatically reaching for his flintlock. “We are rather exposed out here, aren’t we?”
“Indeed,” Flaming Jane agreed as the bull snorted and shook its horns at them.
Crow raised his hackles and his eyebrows at this display. “Beware the meadow of marvels, I suppose?”
“Don’t look at him,” Flaming Jane warned, tremble tightening her voice. “Let’s just keep walking away.” Despite this circumspection, the bull continued to snort and claw at the earth, and even threatened two steps toward them. Dark clouds roiled across the sky, wildflowers shuttered their petals, a bracing breeze began to blow, all beauty drained from the suddenly grayscaped meadow, and their bodies grew tight with fright.
“Hold on.” Crow ceased their panicky retreat. “Just hold on a moment. That map, and this meadow, it’s all enchanted.”
“Oh yes?” Flaming Jane breathed hopeful.
“The meadow reflects our point of view, and nothing more,” Crow continued as he ignored the buffalo and simply embraced Flaming Jane. It proved to be a sound hypothesis, for after their hearts had relaxed their rhythms and they felt the atmosphere begin to breathe itself anew, Crow and Flaming Jane gazed amazed at one another timid with smile, intoxicating upon one another’s pupils shining like solar eclipses as they witnessed each other age a thousand years of grin as their flesh fell away and their grinning Jolly Roger skulls swept into dust as they revealed themselves to be something far more beautiful than flesh could ever contain. And then the vision blinked and there they were, shining like the dawn upon Eden’s dew as great sun-scapes beamed again across the heavens brimming with songbirds and the bull and every buffalo returned to their idle grazing.
“Holy God,” Crow whispered and Flaming Jane tittered as eyes alive they kissed electric and resumed their amble across the meadow of marvels.
“Who’s happening?” Crow heard himself confuse some unknown steps later, his voice warbling molasses as his footsteps chuckled into genuflect. He glanced disoriented toward Flaming Jane, who grinned eyes wide for several moments before the both of them burst into nympholeptic roars of laughter storming into heaven like the drunken angelic.
“Everything is slightly out of weird,” Flaming Jane eventually managed to mumble vibrato once she regained herself, whimper she laughed imbalanced before stumbling into tears and Crow’s embrace as they descended to the earth like shadows stretching into dusk.
“I have a dream in my eye,” Crow murmured meaningless, and thereupon, deep within the gentles of meadow, where clouds billow voluptuous everlasting, where breeze whispers and secrets sing through leaves of grass, where death blossoms and life decays as maggots frenzy across a rot of flesh, where flowers sprout from skulls where eyes once witnessed the sufferings of stars, where moonlit mushrooms crest mounds of shit while time marches men like tocks on a clock, where song strangles into scream as the bang of war echoes back to song, where memories evanesce into eternity and identities vanish into infinity, where the furl of mind fails at last to find anything other than everything as the solitude of divinity grieves across forever like the terror of joy like the audacity of youth sobbing into sorrow, thereupon Crow and Flaming Jane discovered the source of all love.
Hearts unbroken, their eyes mist open heads together amidst the shade of an immense banyan, itself enveloping a yet larger tree of undetermined species, as dozens maybe a hundred vultures soar and circle the sky. Still recollecting their senses, Crow and Flaming Jane neither moved muscle nor made a sound as they fascinated over the meditative hush of the vultures’ flight and soon their ears caught a plummet of dew cut the air as it dropped from a branch high in the tree and as it hurled in they witnessed the meadow entire including their grins reflected within its surface before it shattered upon and baptized their foreheads with a thousand chimes of water each still containing a universe its own and before they could gasp hallelujah there came another and another again and again anointing them both with these waters most holy.
Crow and Flaming Jane might have been content to marvel away the rest of their life under this Elysian spell if not for the distraction of the vortex of vultures’ continued descent. “We’re not dead yet!” Crow bellowed at last, much to Flaming Jane’s boister and mirth as the vultures’ every next circle was wider and higher as they watched all the flock disperse, all the flock except for two.
“You’re not dead yet,” an unknown, unexpected, and terribly deep voice answered Crow’s exclamation. “But you may be soon.”
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Read further excerpts from Love and Other Pranks and explore Tony Vigorito’s other books, essays, and miscellaneous projects at:
Read the excerpt “Laughter is our Highest Prayer” on Reality Sandwich.
Read the excerpt “Not All Who Wander are Lost” on Reality Sandwich.
Read the excerpt “Love is the Actor” on Reality Sandwich.
Read the excerpt “Falling in Love with the World and All its Fools” on Reality sandwich.