Dia VanGunten

Architecture rumbled and unrooted. The house heaved and peaked. It clattered and cracked into sharp shards of glass. It rattled and shook and lost its innards. Velvet quilts, dried roses, and pasted Valentines. Serial killer collector cards, an enviable record collection, Babe the Blue Ox. Mexican wrestler mask, marionettes, and crusty bottles of shampoo. Lacquer desk, pale blue like a bird’s egg. Pink crystal goblets. Paired paintings of Tanuki and Kitsune. Haunting Polaroid of a clown in a long-gone parade. Poodle piggy bank, wind-up robots, and water whistles that sound like birds. Tiny wooden Jeff. Junk drawer. Mousetrap. Cock ring. MAC lipsticks. Sequinned sombrero, too-small bra, tights that roll. Silk kaftan. Gold Prada platforms. (A steal for 40 dollars.) Glass bongs and silver dog bowls. Flocked bust of Chairman Mao as Mickey Mouse.


Thigh-high statue of Aphrodite laden with silk leis, mardi gras beads and plastic rosaries. Tower of dream journals; years of hypergraphia, rings in a tree. Tiny yellow book by Cookie Mueller found in a Savers grab bag with yellow items, like a taxi cab matchbox and Buttercup the Powerpuff. Hundreds of books. A massive hoard. A murder of crows, papery wings flapping. Tom Robbins, John Waters, PKD. Slim volumes of poetry and inked-up tomes on quantum entanglement. Vintage paperback: Rumor, Fear and the Madness of Crowds. Big coffee table book about butts.


I spot a flying dildo and laugh, even though I’m lodged in the house’s throat—me and a rainbow chandelier—because I realize this is EPIC TRICKSTER ENERGY. Eshu sneaks into houses and switches the belongings of the residents so that they will be confused, unsettled, and out of sorts. When my brother finds me, I am laid out: an action-sized Creature from the Black Lagoon with translucent plastic skin and webbed feet. I am on display, on the ground, in and out of seizure. It’s Coyote, I say; he’s here for me. He’s come to cause some chaos.


Sutton says, “Why on earth would you want that in a god?”


I offer a twitching shrug: “Tricksters keep it real, bruh.”


There’s a housing boom in Austin in the middle of the mortgage crisis, and I’ve taken out a home equity loan on a strategic corner lot of my exploding city. It was way too easy for a legally disabled epileptic with bad credit and some fucked up need to prove my value through industry, as if that would erase this diversion—this disability. Bankers were eager to take advantage because I owned it outright, got it for nothing, and only borrowed a fraction of its value. But it was mine. I scouted it and I found it in a booming housing market. I saw through the neglect and the nicotine stains. I trusted that foundation. It was the stucco walls. They were heavy and prone to cracks, but they were cooler in the Texas summer. I made an offer. They tried to back out after the clean bill of inspection, but Dad was still alive, so he fought them like Father Lion. It was mine, and I made it a little landmark of weird on a corner that broke open around me, and everyone who knew anything said wow. I joked that I bought it with pixie dust, but it was damn near the truth. So I fancy myself as “savvy.” As if I’m someone who should start a storybook-themed boutique to make something. Money? I do not have capitalist instincts, so there was a whole lot wrong with this business plan, but the biggest is the reason that Coyote is kicking my ass. Because I am a writer. Not the functional kind: a go-getter who is successful and married with children. No, I’m a hobgoblin who works manically, with snorts and farts, clouds of smoke, and gnashing teeth. I was crazy to think I could be a shopkeeper who wrote long form-fiction in between customers.


The wrong path is beset with beasts. A pack of coyotes ripped me to shreds and delivered my carcass to a seven-tailed fox. It didn’t have to be this dramatic. I ignored multiple trickster alarms: chaotic elements, unhinged omens, and eviction letters. I was a burned out heap, radio-silent and bed bound, before I was sucked into a swirling vortex of shame, blame and whimsical talismans. It was brutal but I asked for it. No, really, I did. I signed on for exactly this flavor of trouble. I was in Tucson for a conference, Towards a Unified Science of Consciousness, where physicists, neurologists, and biologists explore the mysteries of our pink meat. I was just a novelist. That was my “ist.” I had just purchased a small sculpture of a fox made from yellow metal that had been recovered from an old school bus. This felt meaningful because I lived in a painted hippie bus as a child. I found it fitting that an old bus should become a fox. (If you’ve ever seen Ghibli’s Cat bus, then you understand.)


In my backpack, more bible than book, Lewis Hyde’s Trickster Makes This World was dog-eared and heavily notated.  As I was crossing a four-way intersection with my school-bus fox, I consciously invited the mythic trickster into my life. Was Loki like Dracula? Do tricksters require a formal invitation. No, no, we’re all subject to this overturning right-setting energy. I’d simply asked for extra servings. There’s no category for someone like myself, no congregation.

I snatched a feather from the foot of Hermes like he stole Apollo’s cows. Do your best with me. I dare you. Consequently, I can never come-to-center. No complacency, no normalcy. No wealth. I can’t be a shining member of society who lives a “respectable” life. I am a double-taker and a line-crosser, a fringe-dweller and an outlier. I gotta stick close to the edges because that’s where the magic happens. Light leaks in and secrets spill. I am a big pink dildo sailing into the clouds.

About the Author

Dia VanGunten focuses on intimate, character-centered storytelling. Sometimes that character is herself. Her current fiction project is Pink Zombie Rose. @pinkzombierose