Blog

Flaming Sock Puppets

By Cat Weaver

So, I see it like this: it’s a kind of Jack Smith Andy Warhol screen-tests mash-up version of Flaming Creatures.

Oh, so you mean, like Flaming Creatures.

Okay, yeah. But with sock puppets.

Ooooo-kayyyyy.

So we can make them all up in drag and add sexy bits here and there as we like. You know, styled like sock puppet bits might be, with tassels and pom poms and —

No hands.

Well, we have separate arm and leg puppets. And also butt, tit and penis puppets too. They get all mixed up, sort-a Philip Guston pile-on style during the rapey-orgy scenes.

I…don’t… know: sounds problematic. Look: Jack Smith is an LGBTQ icon and —rape? And you’re doing it, not as a tribute or an homage, but — a joke? And you’re not even gay.

Good Christ: they’re sock puppets. They don’t have to be correct. It’ll be adorable.

It won’t be cute when it gets us cancelled.

I’m a nobody. My life is cancelled. And who the hell are you? You ain’t no JK Rowling either —nor was Jack Smith.

Not you saying ‘JK Rowling’ and ‘Jack Smith’ in the same sentence!

c’MON; won’t it be fun? Making drag puppets in sexy outfits with fantastical body parts? Remember the dervish and the Spanish girl and the Marilyn Monroe vampire? What fun!

Jesus! I never realized Jack Smith was so problematic! “Spanish girl?” “Dervish?” All that Ali Baba stuff? So colonialist. So othering. We do that now we get KILLED. ANIHILATED!

But how funny! A pile on of plushie tits and cocks! Wigs flying. Random legs and buttholes emerging…

Not saying it wouldn’t be funny. Just so, SO wrong.

And imagine all the hilarious sock puppety smirches! Is there lipstick that doesn’t come off when you suck cock? My god! We could have felt lipstick coming off as the puppets kiss the mirror!

You’re killing me here. The answer is no.

It opens with an elevator operator. It’s Francis! Get it? And Warhol gets in…

Still No.

When the elevator opens again, Marilyn Monroe steps out over their bodies and straight into a garden of earthly delights.

Where she hides and watches while two creatures dance and lounge about, like smoking and talking about when the babka arrives?

Yeah!

No.

Come ON! One creature chases the other into a huge party being held in an abandoned theater. The guests are all fabulous with feathers and eyelashes and titties and giant cocks and flowing gowns and lots of glitter.

Oh god I hate glitter.

And then rapey orgy — only not-so-rapey maybe?, And then cut to lipstick commercial, and then Marilyn and Francis and Andy in the garden with a whirling dervish — okay, a dancer in a big big skirt.

Yes. And the d-DANCerrrr is thrown off balance when there’s a sudden earthquake.

Yes. And inside the creatures are vibrating and throbbing and then wilting and then falling to into comas.

Okay. Yes, then Marilyn and Francis and Andy come in with the dizzy dancer and they start sucking blood.

Yes, and other stuff. And we do like strings of red and white shooting out from the puppets.

Gross. But, okay. And they all slowly wake up and start going at it again.

Yes! Such fun!

Politics Is War By Other Means

By David Kaplan

By the time the third whiskey sour arrived, Ryan realized that meeting Andrea for a drink wasn’t the best idea. The sound of the glass base of the coupe scraping across the bar provided a welcome distraction. He dabbed the dripping egg white foam with a black cocktail napkin and half-returned his attention to her soliloquy.  

“If you have a desire to kill whole populations, you should just die, okay? I mean, how could anyone vote for that?” Andrea’s denim jacket was covered with political buttons.

They had met in the waiting room at the dentist office. He was reading a dog-eared copy of Sen.Morris “Morrie” Russo’s campaign autobiography. Ryan worked for the digital marketing agency that deals exclusively for left-of-center political candidates. He was making notes in the margins and she leaned over and said, “I can never write in a book. Books are sacred to me. Anyway, I love Morrie. He’s the reason I got involved in politics. He’s the only real independent. The others are fucking lobbyist assholes.”

He couldn’t tell if she was flirting or simply being overbearing or just wanted to see if he could introduce her to her political hero. When he asked her if she wanted to get a drink, he thought he was brushing her off. But she immediately said yes and said to meet at the Carraway Bar downtown at 7pm.

“Fucking centrist Democrats are the worst. Wait, you’re not a Republican, are you? I know you’re working on Morrie’s campaign, but you could be a spy. I fucking hate fucking Republicans and if you’re spying against Morrie, I’ll get up right now and—”

“Should we order some food? I really want a burger. I think I need a burger right now. You?”

“Yeah, sure,” Andrea said, and slid the laminated one-page menu to him. He ordered a burger rare and slid the menu back over.  “Anyway, my family is the worst. They’re all neo-liberals I can’t go home for the holidays without screaming my lungs out.”

Ryan looked at his phone. He got a message from the campaign’s software manager. The site was down again. Ryan was the senior UI/UX. His studio apartment, his office, even his dentist was within a three block radius of this bar. That was the main appeal when Andrea invited him. She worked as a “licensed beauty advisor” for a retail cosmetics chain when she wasn’t at home yelling at Rachel Maddow for not being “progressive” enough.   

“Hey Ryan, are you even listening to me? This is important! They just want to give tax breaks to the 1 percent! Who are you texting?”

“Sorry, it’s work,” Ryan said not looking up.

“Well, this sucks,” she said under her breath and looked up at the TV above the bar as she downed her drink in one gulp.

“Sorry, the site’s functionality is a screwed, and I know you don’t want the campaign to lose momentum. The streaming video is key and the campaign is preparing a live announcement in 15 minutes. So I have to fix it before —”

Andrea was looking at her phone now and engrossed in a Politico article about a scandal involving payments the Morrie campaign allegedly made to a contractor who did work on the senator’s vacation house.


“They’re just out to destroy him. Why aren’t you doing anything about this? Hey! Hey! Are you listening to me?”

Ryan cast a dull glance in her direction and downed his drink as the burger was placed in front of him.

“It’s not that I’m not listening to you. It’s because fumes of the whiskey were going up my nose and I have an urgent thing to take care of. But please, keep talking.”

He cut the burger in half and watched as the juice flooded his plate, soaking the fries and raw red onion on the side. In the corner of his eye, he saw Andrea walk towards the exit, her heavy steps echoing out on the pavement. He took bite of his burger and thought he would have to find a new dentist. Hopefully, there would be one closer to his apartment. He would keep his earbuds in next time.    

No One Ever Says That to a Poet

By Cat Weaver

Diedre tried to talk Taylor out of making her Trash Sundae’s singer for Battle of the Bands.

“My teacher says I’m tone deaf, so that’s that,” she’d said.

But Taylor said that didn’t matter.

“Trash Sundae isn’t all like la la la sweet melodies,” he insisted. “It’s kick ass screaming and you do it really great.”

Diedre knew way better than this. She even knew that Taylor just wanted her on stage with him and James because she looked hot in leather jeans half swallowing a mic. But she did it anyway because Taylor was just about her only friend.

And of course they were booed out of existence and the battle of the bands was won by some fucking show-offy hello from the other side clone.

They cut out after the booing and left to find a bar. And the only one they could find was some cheesy old dump that was having an open mic poetry slam.

“Fuck me blind,” Taylor said.

James said he didn’t mind; he’d go ahead and steal some for lyrics.

“Just so long as you never make me scream them off-key again. Ever,” said Diedre.

“Don’t be so butt hurt,” Taylor sneered, “ We’ll just play where we’re appreciated.”

“They screamed GIVE IT UP and YOU SUCK at me,” Diedre said.

“I told you,” she said. James and Taylor both looked at her blank-eyed.

“Tone deaf?” She clarified with a shrug of annoyance. They looked back at the stage.

“Duh,” she QED’d.

At the mic was a stringy blonde wearing cut offs and giant boots and a knit beanie. She gabbed on in that poetry reading sing song that made Diedre want to hang upside down and scream.

“What crap,” said James, half-aloud and Taylor bleated, a short blast of glee, beer shooting out his nose.

Diedre said, “Shut the fuck up, James.”

And James, still laughing, fairly shouted, “You LIKE this shit?”

The bar matron came over and told James that sort of thing was not allowed here.

“Poets,” said Taylor, “such little bitches. When they suck no one is allowed to tell them. Musicians? They yell “You SUCK” at them —but, like no one ever says that to a poet.”

“Fuck you, Taylor,” said Diedre, “Mr. Insightful all of a sudden.”

Career Day

By David Kaplan

Kenneth Daley scribbled endless swirls on the back of a blank, white envelope before throwing the pen across the kitchen table. He was up at 6:30, even though he wouldn’t be working today. And this was the sixth — or was it the 10th? — pen that stopped working as well.

He was trying to complete an application a friend of a friend gave him two weeks ago. After another sleepless night, Kenneth hoisted himself out of bed and walked the 24 steps to the kitchen table. The application was for a “Seasonal driver helper” at the local UPS in Coralville. The job was only part-time. And it would probably just be temporary. But it did have some benefits and it sounded easy enough. Those lingering thoughts are why Kenneth kept the application on the table for the past 13 days. He wanted the job; it was just that he didn’t want it that much.

Kenneth fairly enjoyed his last job as a dental technician. He studied for it and had past the certification program with “flying colors,” as the manager of the medical network told him when the results were in. Kenneth had no idea what “flying colors” were, but he assumed it was a good thing. He had moved to the U.S. from Trinidad two years ago and still shook his head at most American idioms. He was sure no one knew what “flying colors” actually were and why they were a sign of success.

His mom was so proud when he told her he passed the exam. “You’re a doctor!”

“No, no, mom,” Kenneth laughed. “I’m not a doctor. But I’m important to the doctors.”

He worked at an Iowa City dental office on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays. The hours were great: 10 to 4, with an hour for lunch. Most of the work was fairly boring, involving clerical work. Mondays were largely spent filling orders for dental prosthetics or restorations, like dentures, bridges, veneers, inlays, and crowns. But occasionally, there was some art to the work. He would be called upon to help create molds of patients’ teeth using plaster or wax. Sometimes, a procedure would call for the use of porcelain or even metal. The art was in matching the color and shape of the model to patients’ teeth.

“You’re like the Rodin of molars, Ken,” Dr. Hudack would say. “Rodin was a great, French sculptor. Jill and I went to his museum in Philadelphia last fall with the kids and—”

“I’m quite fond of Rodin’s work,” Kenneth said with a gentle smile. Inwardly, he bristled at the assumption of ignorance Dr. Hudack often addressed him with. “Did you know that when Rodin unveiled his monument to Balzac — you know, the great French author? — one critic found its originality thrilling and likened it to a ‘slap in the face.’”

“Well, a slap in the face! How about that?” Dr. Hudack said with a chuckle as he quickly backed out of the examination room and closed the door to his private office.

But more than condescension, Kenneth was more bothered by how late Dr. Hudack would pay him.

“I can’t get this motherfucker to pay me!” he would say over and over on his car ride home.

After months of pleading, he then shifted into a more demanding mode. The relationship with Dr. Hudack and his staff grew mildly chilly. Then it grew bracingly icy. So Kenneth quit.

Kenneth sat staring at the dried up pen as it perched on the left side corner of the table. He blinked twice and shut his eyes and heard the pen fall to the floor.

“Well, that’s it then,” he said, looking up at the harsh fluorescent light.    

Sirus is Dead and I’m for Sale

by Cat Weaver

Sirus died and the family came and gutted his Park Slope townhouse and they took me and my cage to their horrible Sunset Park apartment and they don’t care about me at all. They don’t know what to do with this crazy fucking cockatoo they say. They are trying to sell me. Good. I hate them.

Sirus’s nephew is a loser. Sirus told me so many times. Told me that his nephew was a few cards short of a full deck and a drunkard who couldn’t hold a job. And now I’m here, I can see for myself that it’s true.

Every night Sirus’s nephew throws a tarp over my cage so I won’t answer him back while he talks to himself. He unpacks his mind, drinking and talking to himself about defeats and failures and plans and dreams. Playing whisky tarot with that same ol’ poker deck that’s short an ace or two. You’d think the answers were all in there somewhere.

Sirus had it down. He knew his family. Then why’d he leave me with them? Sirus who loved me. Sirus who needed me. I can still smell him. Smell his kitchen and his books and his paintings and even his cat which chased me a few times and caught feathers from my tail.

In the afternoons, Sirus’s nephew pokes at his phone, often for hours on end. Looking for hope in a tiny black rectangle: typical loser human behavior. You’d think all the answers were in there somewhere. Poking. Poking.

I have begun pulling my own feathers out. They itch me. My whole body itches for release from this hell that Sirus left me in.

“Sirus?,” I venture aloud. “Sirus? Sirus? Sirus?”

This morning , Sirus’s nephew is eating while leaning over a keyboard, scrolling. Scrolling. And I can hear the spoon clicking on his teeth, the bold-faced disregard for my sensitivity, solidified with every contact. Way too intimate. I can hear the inside of his mouth.

I’m so tired of Sirus’s nephew and the inside of his mouth.

“Sirus?”  I say aloud, again, hardly meaning to.

“Shuhdup!” Sirus’s nephew yells without fully swallowing the disgusting eggs Sirus’s nephew’s wife prepared before she left for work.

I’m so tired of Sirus’s nephew’s wife. She hates me. She says I smell bad. And I do. Because they give me nothing to bath in and they won’t let me out to wander and to preen myself and to shake the dust off. Because they hate me.

I pull out another feather and watch it spiral to the floor. Sirus’s nephew’s dog sniffs at it. Attempts to lick it. I pull out another and drop it onto his back.

Sirus’s nephew’s wife has taken to calling me “the bald eagle.” I hate her, so I pull out another feather. She’s a house cleaner but she never cleans the apartment. It smells like cigarettes and old grease and the skin flakes from Sirus’s nephew’s never washed sweatpants.

“Sweatpants,” I say, just to say something.


Sirus’s nephew  looks up at my cage. He hasn’t heard me say anything besides Sirus.

“My nephew’s a loser,” I complain. “Short of a full deck.” I add.

Sirus’ nephew looks up at my cage again; “Well fuck ME,” he says. But his attention is pulled back to the screen when he hears a bell-like message alert.

“Looks like we have a buyer! “ He tells me, adding “You fucking filthy mother fucking crazy ass cockatoo. Fuck Sirus.”

“Fuck Sirus,” I say, sadly.

Sirus’s nephew laughs. “Fuckin’ bird,” he says, half fondly.

That Old Political Machine

By David Kaplan

The Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club has met every Tuesday at 7:30 on Conklin Ave. in the Flatlands neighborhood of south Brooklyn for the last 73 years. It has the feel of an old legion hall. The original wooden floors have been perfectly smoothed by the shuffling of old shoes. The wood once shone bright blond. But now, it’s covered in layers of decades old grime.

Sometimes, one of the members sweeps up the fallen cigarette butts that are invariably smoked to the nub. The crumpled coffee cups from the shop next door rest for days under tables or kicked from one corner of the room to the other. No one drinks the coffee made at the club. That’s mainly because the coffee is rarely made. As such, no one tends to know how long the viscous black liquid has been sitting in the pot in the back of the room. And yet, when some rips open a bag of stale pieces of coffee cake, the members all rush to shove a few crumbling bites in their dry mouths.

It’s an unusually balmy August afternoon. The creaky tin fan above the door is off, but it turns like a bent pinwheel when a breeze comes. Stan, Frank, Harvey, and Harvey’s wife Roberta have been playing cards since 4pm. The other 12 regulars show up after 7. They’re all in their 50s. It’s either come here, go to the boardwalk in Coney Island, or sit at home with their kids and fight over the TV. Stan is the only member with two TVs in his apartment, which is notable because he’s the only one who never got married.

“What’s with him?” Roberta would say to Harvey on the drive home. “He’s an accountant. I don’t get it. With his money, he could have his pick of the litter.”

“I wish he woulda picked you, Bobbie,” Harvey would say to his great amusement. Roberta would stick her tongue out and mime “Nya, nya, nya” and blow smoke in Harvey’s face.

The 1974 elections were coming up in November. But the members didn’t really talk about politics, except to complain. They’d mostly complain about past elections and officials.

“Remember when Wagner was mayor? He wasn’t so bad.”

“That guy was a complete idiot. What are you talking about? Do you even know what you’re talking about? He didn’t do a thing. His father, Senator Wagner. He was all right. But as a mayor, he was a dog. He ruined this city! I shoulda moved to New Jersey then. But Bobbie didn’t want to.”

“Go to hell, Harvey,” Roberta would respond from across the room. Without looking up from her mah jong tiles, she hissed, “You’re the one who didn’t want to spend the money on a house.”

“What kind of moron is going to pay $30,000 to live all the way in Leonia? Please, why doncha get back to your game already? It looks like you’re losing the way you lose arguing with me.”

The 28-year-old man standing at the entrance cleared his throat. He was about 5-foot-9, lanky, with a full, dark beard and long, thinning black hair. He wore bell-bottom jeans and what were then called “earth shoes.” They were boxy, flattened, and dun colored. He was with a young woman, who had long straight blond hair parted in the middle. She brushed them away from her blue-tinted aviator glasses. She was wearing flared red pants and open-toed sandals. The old men stared at both of them like they landed from Mars. But mostly, they were looking at her toes and her tight, faded Bob Dylan and The Band t-shirt she got at a Madison Square Garden concert two months ago. She wore it every other day and washed it every few weeks.

“Hi, I’m Sean and this is Sandy. We’re here to sign up for the Democratic club,” Sean said walking over to Harvey’s table.

Harvey sighed. Why did everyone always come to him?

He went into the office and handed Sean a pen and some papers to fill out.

“Okay, thanks, mister!”

Harvey shrugged. A few minutes later, Sean came over again and handed Harvey the papers.

“Don’t forget my pen!”

“I wouldn’t try to steal your pen, sir,” Sandy said.

“Well, ya can’t be too careful these days,” Harvey said, and put the papers on a desk in the office.

“What do we do now?” Sean said, unsure if he was in the right place. “Isn’t there a meeting tonight?”

“You’re looking at it, bub,” Harvey said.

“Is there a discussion? I’m interested in working for Howard Samuels. I think he’d make a great governor,” Sean said, feeling as if he and Sandy were the ones who landed on Mars.

“He’s got a very smart record on civil rights,” Sandy said.

“Well, we’ve already decided: We’re backing Hugh Carey. He’s the average guy. We don’t care for professors like Samuels. So, maybe start your own Democratic Club. This is our place, see? We know how politics works and we didn’t need to spend the price of a house in Leonia to learn it in a classroom for four years.”

“We live here too, mister,” Sandy interjected, her voice rising. “And we learned all we need to know about you and your club in about 2 minutes. Thanks for the free education. I don’t know if you can tell from where you’re sitting, but we’re the future. So you just play your card games and your mah jong. And we’ll teach you something soon.”

“C’mon, Sandy,” Sean said, putting his arm around her and leading her out the door. She pushed his arm away and walked out slapping her sandals on the pavement.

The place was quiet for a long minute.

“You know, I’m thinking of voting for Samuels,” Stan said, taking a long sip of his coffee. “My cousin works for him and he says he does have some good policies. This city is going bankrupt you know and –.”

“Ah, shut the hell up, Stan,” Harvey and Roberta shouted in stereo from opposite ends of the room.

It’s all fun and games until someone follows you home

by Cat Weaver

Trish, who’d been faking an Aussie accent all night while we flirted with some guys at the bar, is now on stage with her normal flat Rochester accent. She’s only open mic’d a few times and so she doesn’t have even a solid 5. She’ll be winging a lot. I’m sure she doesn’t care. Half her schtick is waxing on about her meds.

“You know, you guys really make me sick.” [Nervous laughter]

“No. No. I- I have social anxiety Disorder and— you guys, just —” [Awkward titters]

“You know you’re just making it worse!” [Scattered chuckles]

“You know depression makes you really self-conscious, right?” [Awkward silence]

” So, I’ve got these meds that I worry about. Like, if I get too happy, will I forget what I look like?” [Laughter]

“Is that why all you normals look so…” [Laughter]

Trish has always milked the outsider act in order to get inside. My own jokes run from flat sarcasm to the scatological. There is an 11-year old in most of us just waiting on a good bum joke and I’m there for her.

The guys we were flirting with are pissed. They don’t like it that Trish had been toying with them.

“What?  Does she think it’s funny?” Says the— obviously— brighter one.


“Yes,” I say, helpfully. “Trish thinks she’s a real comedian.” Motioning toward the stage.

“You think you’re funny too, don’t you?”

“You guys are not here for the open mic, I take it.”


“What. So she goes around making fun of people? Putting on a sexy accent and lying? That’s funny?”


“It’s starting to be.”



Trish is winding up. Something about being a worm inside an apple complaining that it’s rotten. It’s a new one and I find it uncharacteristically insightful. She’s one of those roommates who drags trouble around with her. Our tiny Park Slope apartment can barely contain her misadventures.

“See, Bart? I told you the place would just be full of phonies.”

Trish comes back to join us. “So, how’d you like my white trash accent?” She asks this in the faux Aussie.


“I think fuck you,” says Bart.

“See, I tell Trish: now that’s how you handle hecklers.”

They guys signal the bartender and stand in silence waiting to pay up.

“Am I getting the last word, or am I being ignored?”

The guys leave. They spend some time at the door though, gesturing toward us and I worry we could be blacklisted if it seems we’re chasing off business.

In the Uber home, Trish talks to the driver in an imitation of his southern drawl and makes up a story about her very large catholic family and a schizophrenic cat.  I’m feeling really tired and her act, along with the driver’s naïve enthusiasm, is making me nervous. I feel like she’s the eye of a storm. A headache is swelling between my eyebrows.

As I lean my head against the car’s frosted window, I see two guys on motorcycles. Traffic is slow on the BQE. We move past them, then they past us, then….

I realize it’s Bart and Smartyboots. Are they really following us home?

I’d been thinking about a new joke. It’ goes like this:

I have a cat and a dog. Both named Taint. Cuz one taint a dog and the other. You guessed it — smells like scrotum.

The Great Man T-Shirt

Int: Mooney’s Pub

It is a pub, dark and rather dank: the bar is dark, oak, perhaps; a good, old bar with a huge dusty mirror behind it.  Shamrocks taped to the mirror. Tiny white lights strung up along the walls provide most of the light. A stage, at the back, is empty, but holds a few instruments in thier cases, a drum set,  a tamborine on a chair. There is a juke box by the door, an old one, but not antique; perhaps a 60’s box.

Saul Matthews sits hunched at the bar, his populene jacket pulling up at the back, his socks shining white as light-house beacons, a tiny warped canvas hat directly on top of his head. Peter Monday, in stark contrast, grips the bar and bends an elegant wool-blazerd body in gasping laughter.

Saul: Peter, I tell ya. She was MAD!

Monday, laughing, wiping tears away: Hooboy. Saul man.

Saul: C’mon Monday, I’m telling you I can’t go home now!

Monday, gasping for breath: Saul you’re fucking KILLING me!

Saul stares at Monday, mystified, shaking his head. But when their eyes meet, Saul gives a laugh.

Saul, nodding and shaking his head simultaneously: You’re a heartless mutherfucker, you know that?

Monday: Well, Saul: yes. Yes I do know that. And you’re whipped.

Saul: Jesuz. Jesus krist you’re mean.

But this makes Monday laugh some more.

Saul: Monday? You fuck?

Monday: What?

Saul: What the hell am I going to do?

They both laugh. Saul shaking his head sadly over his drink. Monday placing a hand on Saul’s bony shoulder.

_________________________________________________________________

Int: The Autumn Leaf, a health-food restaurant. It is brightly lit. The tables are pale wooden blocks. Noises from the kitchen are overly loud.

Sydra and Rita are picking through the bean sprouts and talking. At first we can’t hear what they are saying. We only know that Sydra looks upset. Rita suddenly laughs and then we can hear the dialog:

Rita: I’m soh-a. I’m really very. I. Soh. Ree.

But Rita can’t seem to get the sympathy part out until she’s wiped her own tears and caught her breath.

Rita: I’m sorry Syd. It’s just so ridiculous! Of course Saul’s not having an affair with that girl! C’mon! And jeezus. Nobody would ever be that stupid about it anyway! C’MON! Sydra? Oh, really!

Sydra is sobbing violently now.

Sydra:: Well then wh-why was sh-she wwearing his fucking T-shirt th-th-then!

Rita: I’ll bet it’s just like he told you, Syd. I’ll bet that silly story is dead true. It’s more like Saul to sell one T-shirt to a thrift store to stop you throwing it out, then for him to have an AFFAIR. C’mon! Sydie? You know it is!

Rita: Mmm, (sniff), maybe.

____________________________________________

Ext: We are outside of the library of a college campus. The building is an ugly modern thing with no distinction. The girls are sitting on cement stairs, or leaning on the cast iron railings.

Asha, standing: Great T-shirt.

Mary Anne, sitting: Yeah, I didn’t even know who it was. Do you?

Asha: No. Hegel?

Mary Anne: Yeah. I didn’t know. I called it the great man t-shirt because you can tell by his beetled brows and his squared jaw and the fact that he’s on a T-shirt. Professor Matthews laughed at me. But boy, he wasn’t laughing long! His wife came along and gave his arm a yank and then it was cluck cluck cluck the whole distance to their car. I could tell by the way she moved her head and then she stopped like this (Mary Ann puts her fists on her hips and wags her head).

Asha, eyes huge: Wow! Why?

Mary Anne: I don’t know.

Asha stomps a giant shoe with impatience.

Asha: C’MON! You must know somthing!

MA: Mattews was laughing at me and then he noticed that the shirt was pink and he said wow it was his! He’d washed it with colors by mistake and sold it to the thrift store about three months ago. And then just as he was saying he couldn’t believe his graduate students couldn’t recognize Hegel, along comes his wife to give him what for. That’s all I know.

Asha: But, what? You couldn’t hear a thing?

MA: No. He’s whipped anyway.

Asha: When was this?

MA: You know! That party Reese had. You know: get us all aquainted, show us that philosphers know how ta parTAy.

_________________________________________________________

Int: Monday’s house. It is an old Victorian, but Monday has applied all modern furniture, a la Frank Lloyd Wright. He sits, slumped and bored in a chair facing the chess board. Both have rocks glasses beside them. Saul, on the other hand, looks intense — riveted. It’s his move…

Monday looks up at the cieling and then back at Saul.

“Let’s camp out in the yard.”

Saul: Tch.

He starts to make a move, but then changes his mind, withdraws the hand and looks at Monday.

Monday: I’m serious. We’ll take the whisky. Flashlights. It’ll be fun.

Saul looks at the board again. “The neighbors will call the police.”

Monday sits perfectly still. He is a lizard on a warm sunny rock. He is Lincoln big and brass.

Saul shakes his head at the pieces and makes his movel: Check. You got a tent?

Monday doesn’t  move: Yep. Got one.

Int: The Beechum’s: it’s also a Vicorian house and it’s done in overly quaint vicorian style.

Mrs Beechum moves the lace curtain aside. She looks out on Monday’s lawn where there sits a child’s tent, bent and wobbling, it’s primary colors oddly forbidding.

Mrs. B: What do you think they are doing?

But her husband sits there as if taking life from the television.

She puts the curtain back, scratching her psoriosis and moves to the kitchen.

Mrs B: Mick, you might go out and get some milk for the morning.

Mick Beechum scratches. What the hell are these commercials supposed to be about? It was easy when Mr. Whipple squeezed toilet paper to show how soft it was. There was a point. Now it’s all these dirty kids saying stupid stuff– and what the hell is that about? He gets up.

Mick: Milk.  Anything else?

Mrs. B: You know.

Mick: Milk and you know… Probably what that ad was a-god-dam-bout.

Mick Beechum stops just outside the aluminum screen door, looking across his own messy yard into Monday’s perfect one. Flashlight. Laughter.

Mick, kicking an edging shovel away from the car tire: Fucking wierdos. Goddamit what the hell? This one’s talking about cheese and that one’s talking about money and for godsake its an ad for jeans or something now isn’t it? Out of control. All of them. Whole got-dam…

Becham gets into the car.

Mick: a Ford lately

He stops to stare some more at Monday, now running around.

Mick: Acting something out. Charades? On the nose.

He slams the car door. Monday looks out at him.

Mick, mumbling as he starts the car: Yeah. Look at ME. I’m a grown-up with a fucking Ford. Never grow up these days. Milk and you know. Fucking can’t say it but she’ll sure as shit make me buy them. And she’s at that window again. Nosey as all fucking get out

Beeping loudly, he waves at his wife as he drives off…

_______________________________________________________________________

Ext: the girls in front of the Library again

Mary Anne: Asha, you tell her. I’m tired of re-telling this story and I don’t even know the ending.

Asha: Look, it’s probably not even anything. Let’s go to Mooney’s.

Ingrid: Well I knew it was Hegel anyway. I hope Mattews doesn’t think we’re ALL dopes.

Mary Ann: Thanks, Ingrid; I’ll let him know I’m the only one who didn’t recognize this face. Now can we agree on a venu?

Asha: Hey, I knew it was Hegel.

Mary Anne: OKAY! I’m the only fucking one! Alright? Let’s go to Mooney’s then.

Ingrid: Okay. Mooney’s. We can stuff a few dollars into the juke box. Play “It’s a Wonderful World” about twenty times. Then they can’t play that awful Kenny Rodgers.

___________________________________________________________________________

Monday and Saul are at Mooneys Pub.

“That’s right. You just go home now. And tell her she’s nuts.”

“Now that I stayed out she’ll be more sure than ever.”

“Yeah. Sure she’s nuts.”

“Ya think?”

“Saul. It’s over. No one believes you’re porking Mary Ann Engle anymore. No one.”

Silence. Then:

“Well. Put it that way. Now I’m sort of disappointed.”

“That’s the reality settling in. Like a pillow. Clasped tight over our faces.”

The girls enter Mooneys

“Jeez. Always with the Christmas lights these local bars.”

“Syntax, Mary Anne?”

“Yeah, Asha. Like you’d know anything about THAT. You forget: we heard your paper on Hiedegger.”

“Not fair. That’s SupPOSED to sound like nonsense.”

“Oh, now she admits it. You had him singing your fucking praises. At our expense. Hey: Sam Adams on draft.”

“Hey! Hey boys!”

Asha whispers to Ingrid, “Oh JEEZus: I can’t believe her!”

Ingrid: “Professor Matthews, Monday: hello!”

Asha: “Hey”

Monday: “Hey. What are you girls having? Saul will buy ya.”

Mary Anne: “Sam Adams”

Ingrid: “Sammy.”

Asha: “Dewars, rocks”

Saul: “Real men don’t drink Dewars.”

Asha: “Oh? What do they drink?”

Saul: “Glenfiddich.”

Asha: “No, that’s RICH men.”

Monday: “Saul’s not rich.”

Asha: “Then he’s fooling himself.”

Mary Anne: “Asha!”

Ingrid: “Is this where the faculty hangs?”

Monday: “Sam, Sam, Fiddich… Let the man fool himself,” winks at Saul, “if only for a tiny while.”

Mary Anne: “Professor Monday, I hear you’re doing Derrida next semester. Why? All that LANGguage shit. Why not Zizek? Much more fun.”

Monday: “Because that ‘language shit’ is my bag, baybee.”

Saul: “Yeah. Go get fucking — excuse me: get  Munchkin to do Zizek.”

They all laugh.

Asha: “He’s teasing you about your independant study.”

MA: “It’s with Ecles. Munch has nothing to do with it.”

Asha: That’s not what Munch says. He says you come by about twenty times a day with questions. Says you ought to give him a byline.

MA: Bastard. He’s just pissed because I didn’t do game theory with him. He thinks I should keep a philosphy independant study withIN the department.

Monday: “Well, MaryAnne: it is a disgrace! I mean, AMERICAN Studies! They all get paid to sit around watching re-runs and playing video games.”

Saul: “Mr Open-minded here. I’ll do Zizek.” (Monday spits up. ) “Why not?”

Monday: “Because you HATE postmods.”

Saul: “So. I’ll tear into him.”

MA: “Lord. Get a load a’ the old guys.”

Ingrid: “Really.  Monday, man. You better read up ‘cause all the kids read Zizek.”

Monday: “I’m working on it.”

Ingrid: “Oh well, only kidding. The only thing we’re all reading these days is Heidegger. ”

Monday: “Whatever for?”

Asha: “Mann’s metaphysics class. Required.”

Saul: “Required. Metaphysics. Lord.”

MA: “Just what I said.”

Asha: “No one would disagree except Mann.”

MA: “And his cronies. C’mon: Dalton and Fisher want all of the canon COVERED.”

Ingrid: “Still, how did he get it to be a requirment?”

MA: “He declared it a survey, and poof: it seemed indespensible to the Fisher crowd. And you know how Reese never says no to the majority”

Asha: “One small step for Mann, one giant leap for Mann’s kind. Hey, Ingrid. Didn’t you say it was poetry tonight?”

“Yeah. I know. So what’s with the instruments?”

Monday: “You gonna read, Ingrid?”

Saul: “I am.”

Asha: “No!”

Monday: “Yeah: he’s going to read from his latest pisshouse edition: Mina’s phone number and qualifications, by Saul Matthews.”

Saul: “MONday!”

Mary Anne: “Who’s Mina?”

Saul: “A running joke.”

Monday: “Saul’s ex-wife.”

Saul: “Like I said.”

Now a small man in grey khakies and a putty windbreaker comes in and starts setting up for a band on the stage. He goes about his tasks with a attitude of vexation, swift and abrupt in his movements.

Int: a generic classroom

MA is sitting on the desktop. She speaks to Ecles at the blackboard. He’s just drawn the usual game theory quadrants.

MA: Munch says he’s not speaking to you.

Ecles: No. I’m not speaking to him.

MA: Why.

Ecles: He’s screwing a student.

MA: Since when is that a reason to be angry at anyone?

Ecles: He’s screwing a student whom I fancied.

MA: Three little words and the whole story changes.

Ecles: MaryAnne, aren’t you curious about who it might be.

MA: Well, it’s Asha, of course.

Ecles looks at her, dumbfounded.

MA: C’mon. It’s been obvious for a long time.

Ecles: I never heard anything.

MA: You are so square. Nobody SAYS anything. Anyway, why should they?

Ecles: Why should they not?

MA: So. Now. (She’s looking at Ecles mischieviously)

Ecles: Yeah. I wanted Asha.

MA: Asha said you guys did it.

Ecles: Jesus. You know, MaryAnne, you’d think this wasn’t dangerous stuff.

MA: It shouldn’t be.

Ecles: Yeah well. Look, let’s just drop this. And you don’t say anything about this conversation to Asha. Kay?

MA: Why not.

Ecles: Better to leave it alone. It’s not anything I can’t drop.

MA: But you won’t talk to Munch.

Ecles: That bastard.

________________________________________________

The Cat Walk

The scar runs down her leg, from mid-thigh, spiraling around her knee to end somewhere near her ankle; it’s hot. And it only took two months of recovery. I run my finger along the fading length of it, parts still raised and red.

“I love it when you do that,” she says. I lick it.

The Cat Walk’s excercise course has already yielded fine results on Judy. After the initial maiming, which gave her this fine battle scar, she was able to return to the course in a little more than two months. And she was, probably because of her newly exaggerated fear, able to excel very quickly. Now she is a fine example — perhaps one of the best examples — of what my Cat Walk can do for you – these arms and these legs, and most cunningly, this back — which I am hoisting myself up on now… mmmph — all show diamond sharp, edgy muscles.

Now, I, myself, look real good on her. I look like I should be on top of this magnificent animal. We fit. Yeah: like this. Mmmph: hoo! The sex is really good since I brought Judy to my Cat Walk. I imagine I’m the cat for a moment. Jesus Christ it’s fucking good.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When I met Judy, she was rather too soft. This coffee is good. Mmm. But next time I need to get a more robust bean. Mmm: I was saying? Oh. Yes. But she was studying law — which was a major turn on. I needed a good lawyer at that time to make The Cat Walk profitable.

Hey: there she is! My beautiful baby. LOOK at MY car. Hunched like a kitty, shining like the eye of a god. Silver. Mmm. Where was I?

Oh, yes, my brainchild and gift to the world — oh, well, to L.A — is THE most expensive exercise venue in the world. And also the most dangerous. One might say, that it’s the danger that makes it profitable. So, anyway, that’s why I needed Judy. Without the law on my side, my clients would not get the very best workout possible.

Turns like a dancer, this car. Like a veritable dancer. And will you look at that? My glass tower. My brain and my muscle. Pensa is in there, speaking of my brain, cooking up a fine brew. Next time I need some of that Mexican coffee. He always knows what to get. Maybe I can send him off shopping sometime. No: too undignified. HE can send Audrey, er what’s ‘er name? Um: I was saying?

Oh, yeah: Thing is, in my business, my dears, the clients develop a mad desire to sue you left and right. So, I’d say that, around the time I met Judy, I needed a good lawyer on board, — preferably one I’d be bonking.

And that scar! Judy with the long long scar. It marks her as mine. I made her what she is, afterall: I introduced her to The Cat Walk, gave her a high-paying job AND a magnificent new body. That scar is my brand: and she wears it well.

This garage is really looking shabby. I’ll tell Leo. Hardy here can wipe up now and then, can’t he? I hate handing him my lovely keys, putting them, all shiny and precious, into his giant hand, all putty and grease. Bet he never ran a day in his life. Bet he eats donuts.

See now, the Cat Walk pays off in spades, my friends: and really, it’s an altruistic enterprise. Look at ol’ Hardy back there: all eats and no drive. Adherents to the Cat Walk’s rigorous demands find it indispensable for blasting away the fat ugly haze which life usually wraps us in: actors, models, sales technicians, fund-raisers and art dealers – all find that my Cat Walk has enhanced their careers far beyond their expectations. These days, here in L.A. no public face with any pride at all can do without it.

Now what made Hetty put that planter here? ‘Er: or what’s ‘her name? What the hell is the new intern’s name? Why can’t I remember her at all. I can’t even picture her. Refuses to run. Imagine. Getting up into her twenties and doing nothing – NOTHING – about it!

Thing is: it’d fix her right up nice for the hard  years to come. Hard ones. Getting up through the twenties — up up into the thirties. Gotta get hard. Stay lovely… like Judy. Judy’s twenty seven now. Jesus. Gotta get her something. She should stop having birthdays. Cut that shit out.

Pensa is at the front looking befuddled. I’ll leave him to it. My office is better for our little chat anyway. So, where was I? Wait: I’ll just take some of this:

“Good morning, Pense. Got something for me? You were looking a bit too thoughtful there.”

“Um: well. Here, you take this. I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Okay, dude.”

Okay: so. Where were we?. Oh, yeah: twenty SEVEN. But LOOK at her. Body of supple and simple youth. The Cat Walk is better than surgery for keeping it all up above the force of gravity. Look at ME: THIRTY, I hate to say. No. Really. I know. It’s unbelievable. But that’s the Cat Walk, for you!

I know all you flabby, decaedeants in New York think this is just some wacky L.A. trend which will pass, the way the starvation diet did. But you’ve no idea. NO idea. In your cozy cafes, balancing your huge indulgent, cappaccino mugs on your dime-sized tables, watching helpessly as all the smoking zombies block the exits with a wall of slow death. No. You have no idea what if feeeels like!  The lungs full of REAL AIR, legs and arms flailing wildly in the open space. What would you know about that? — You, with your pointless trainers balanced in slippery defiance on the greasy pole of a screaming subway train…

My  desk is a WASTEland for paperwork. There is NOTHING on it but my feet. HA! Now, what’s this thing that Pensa was scratching his head over. Wha? What’s THIS? Nah…

I buzz Pensa: “Dude. This is MADness!”

— “Yeah.”

— “Madness.”

Okay. So folks? I’ve got my tanning shower at 1:00, and then I have to meet with this client here, who’s claiming — LOOK, it says so RIGHT HERE! – MUCH to my dismay.. CLAIMING that The Cat Walk is “not as challenging” as we’d promised. Impossible of course; she’s just jumping through the loopholes like a trained dolphin, trying to get out of her membership without going bankrupt paying the strategically impossible cut off fee. Maybe she just can’t cut it. Many can’t.

And then: after I see this wonder woman who is not challenged by the exercise routine favored by super models and body builders, Then I have to pick up Judy and we go to visit her sister in hospital. Judy’s sister has spina bifida: think you can handle that? Sometimes I think I can’t.

On my way to The Sun Roof, I eat half a head of broccoli. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m starved. Anyway, I should be good and hungry for my carbo-load tomorrow morning. That’s the only way to really prepare for a third-level Cat Walk.

The Sun Roof, by the way, has provided me with a sweet golden complexion lovelier than any I’ve ever attained before. I think I tried everything before this came along. I remember “tanning” on the beaches as a naïve and helpless child, laid out like a strip of bacon on my Superman beach blanket, blinking, naked and tender until I turned a sufficient shade of red. Later on I graduated to the tanning beds. Then, somewhere in the early years of my modeling career, I even tried the beach again – only this time armed with a tanning coach. She sold her own products, all of them containing the usual […] but with added ingredients like fruit extracts and nut oils — very nearly edible. But my tan still lacked that  — I don’t know – sweetness? I went back to tanning beds for a while until I discovered the “Hollywood” tan. At first the results of that shower of […] thrilled. But compared with the airbrushed smoothness of my Sunroof tan, they were nothing. Yes, the Sun Roof is a  “Hollywood” tan – but somehow they managed a color formula – I don’t know what it is. And it smells good. What’s more, the tanner acts as a cat-repellent. It makes my cat walks sessions easier when I arrange them near my tanning: that way I get a bit of a break. But only slight – the cat will still chase, after all, we DO keep them good and hungry.

Despite what this mad woman is claiming. Probably just wants out of the contract. Wimp. Little girl. Maybe I can set her straight. Maybe she’s hot. Maybe I can coach her.

As I exit the Sun Roof, sniffing my sweet brown wrists, I think I should maybe mention this cat repellent effect to SuperChick: maybe she’s using some sort of scent? Maybe what she needs is a higher level. Maybe I’m the man to bring her to a higher level.

When I brainstormed The Cat Walk, I’d imagined that only women – and me – would even think of going through such a thing. After all, women will suffer greatly for beauty and men, usually not at all. Even here in L.A. I never imagined that our facilities would expand so rapidly, moving me to purchase the L.A. Zoo in order to set up a enough courses to accommodate my growing clientel. Who knew so many people would subscribe to being hunted by big cats– just to get beautiful?

The L.A. Zoo provides  […] miles which I’ve broken down into 8 –12 mile courses. Most Cat Walks will take you through only one course. My clients usually take 1-2 hours to complete their courses.

I’d started out with a circlular course, which ran around and through the […] arena. I expanded, later to […], and […]. These smaller courses are still functional, but mainly as training venues. I’ve dubbed them “training annexes”, an abuse of the language – yeah.

When I get back, it’s still on my desk: her complaint form and request for a refund. I hadn’t noticed it before I left, but her name, as written on the form, is ‘O”.

I push the intercom:

  • “Just “O’?”
  • “Just.”

I stare at the form and push the intercom button again:

  • “Um.”
  • “Yes?”
  • “Pensa: this says. She says our cats are slow? and seem distracted?”
  • “Yep.”
  • “… eh, Pen? Have we? Eh. Can you come in here?”

I haven’t removed my finger from the button yet when Pensa shows up in my doorway. He’s made good use of our training annex at the stadium and is looking really good. His hair – Oh, nevermind…

  • “Pensa: are we perhaps FEEDING them too much? I mean, can this be legit?”

 I shove the forms at him. He doesn’t even look at them. The answer is NO he says, to all of my questions: are they too old? No. Ill? ‘Course not. Inbred? Jesus. No. No. No: he’s seen to all that. Yes: he’s followed all the instructions. The very finest experts are caring for the beasts.

  • “What CAN it BE, then? Pensa? Did you meet with this—er – O?”

No, he just took her complaint over the phone.

  • “Okay. Alright then. We’ll see what she’s up to.”
  • “Mark?”
  • “What?”
  • “I gotta say, she sounded like she meant it.”
  • “Yes. Well. She’s late.”

At 1:21, Peans’s voice, clearly shaken, comes over the intercom:

— “She’s. Here.”

— “Send her in!”

I was prepared to stand and greet her with a firm handshake, but her appearance has knocked me back down into my chair.

Where do I begin?

To say she’s tall would be idoitotic. I’ll bet she’s 6’2”. If I say her hair is red, I would fail to hint at the crackling fire of it. Could I say her eyes are green and leave it at that without going on and on trying to capture the gemlike depth of them? And her figure — no. Not like anything you’ve ever seen outside of the funny papers.

Perfect? How lame. Beautiful? A doltish word sufficient for flattering mortal women.

No: she stood there shocking and impossible as a barefaced lie, and I? I couldn’t remember my friggin’ name.

+++++++++END OF EDITS +++++++++++++++++

This next part is all in past tense? Re-think that. It sounds good in past tense but there’s no apparent reason for the switch. Above the shock throws him into past tense, but maintaining that too long will cause a problem.

Cut the next part out and try it in a separate doc in the present tense…

Thinking that perhaps the prozac had been a mistake, I gathered myself and stood up again. I stuck out my pitiful hairy hand which, I suddenly noticed, needed a manicure:

  • “Me –eh- Mark. Um”
  • “O. Pleased to meet you Mr. Markum”

I forgot to let go of her hand as I flopped back into my really too cushy chair. She laughed at me like the thrill of thunder miles away, her smile a baracade of stunning white.

I looked at it.

  • “Well, then, er, Mr. Markum? Is it?”
  • “Oh. Uh, yes: I mean. No. Aha! Sorry. Mark. Mark uh, Mark Preti.”
  • “Well, Mr. Preti. As you can see, my request is more than fair. I’m not satisfied with the workouts so far and I’d like my money back for the rest of the year.”

I looked at her arms. Her impossible shoulders.

— “Um.”

  • “That’s only for more months, really. Not much at all, but I just want to make sure I’m being fair, Mr. Mark — uh, Preti.”

I looked at her neck and her earlobes —and her jawline! I turned away as from the sun.

— “Listen. I think we can both LEARN from this. O?”

She looked at me. My soul writhed in my stomach like a worm.

  • “Let’s just FREEZE your account while I look into things. I mean, you can’t — it can’t BE that you imagine you’ll find something more chanllengeing out there. I mean. I KNOW. I KNOW this is it.”

She looked at me. I looked away.

  • “I KNOW it.”
  • “Well, I DID come here because the other alternatives were boring and I wasn’t getting anywhere. You know? I wasn’t IMPROVING.”

Jesus.

  • “Yes. That’s why I started The Cat Walk. It’s for those who need the challenge; it’s for people who won’t settle for less than perfect. I. I set this whole thing up in order to get into the best shape possible. And it worked. It worked for me and it works for most of my clients.”
  • “Mmm. But not for me.”

I started pacing. If I didn’t look at her, I was able to get pissed off. And, you see, that’s what I needed.

  • “Right. I don’t understand it! I get a great workout from level three. “
  • “Mr. Marcus: I’m not you.”

I looked at her. Her legs. Impossible. Manicured toes. Maddening. Not me!

  • “I see. Well. Let’s do it this way. Let’s take a look at some of the security tapes of your sessions. That way I’ll be able to see how to make things more challenging for you.”
  • “Oh. Okay. But I don’t pay. Right?”
  • “No: like I said. We freeze your memebership. But you go on with your sessions.”
  • “Nice. Okay!”

Her joy bugged me.

  • And perhaps you’ll let me observe, at some point?
  • How?
  • Tower. Binocculars.
  • You DO that?
  • No. But we — I can.
  • All right then!

And with that she sprang up and I struggled to my feet and she squeezed the shit out of my pudgy unkempt hand and jounced out on 4 inch tiger print high heels.

I waited a minute befor e I pushed the intercom:

  • Ow.

Pensa laughed.

On the way home, picturing her in my head, I denied repeatedly that she was perfect.

And anyway, I told myself, as a kind of punctuation between denials, anyway, I’ll find out what the problem is. Probably some scheduling thing — some. Bad. Cat. Time-slot. Something…

I was home before for I knew and I headed immediately for the bathroom (best) mirror. Old. Old .Old. And what’s? This? No. I took my clothes off. Fat. Fat. Fat. How could I have been putting on so much weight and not know it. Slob. I weighed myself. Not a pound over the ideal. Ideal? Had I been fooling myself? Lazy. Slow, fat, old, lazy.

I looked at the clock. I had to go pick up Judy. God. I had to go pick up Judy and go to the hosp — and all I wanted to do was… get this over with…

Judy, unfortunately, was in lively form, smiling wide as a watermelon and bragging away about her Cat Walk. We do alternating days. That way weare free to talk about our sessonj without the other chiming in with their own experiences. She’d had a particularly tough session and came out with just a jammed finger and a scratched elbow.

Come to think of it. These days she was rarely without a scab here or there. A sore spot, a bandage. Her radience bugged me. I told her I was having a fat day, hoping that would calm her down — throw some dust in her fire, butshe said I’d feel skinny for sure tomorrow and showed me her really too pale and rather, I realized now, short-waisted middle. I looked around, embarrassed.

—You need The Sun Roof.

More dust, a wet blanket, a fireman’s dose of spouting cold water…

  • Jeez. [She fairly boomed!] You ARE touchy tonight!
  • Yeah. Sorry. Rough day.

That was a mistake. When something gets under your deepest skin, you NEVER EVER SPEAK of it. Never. Don’t do it. Tempted to sek comfort? Don’t. What rankles will just get “discussed”  until you feel like exploding. So clam up.

  • Oh yeah. That woman, right? Ho’wd that go? She just wimping out like you said
  • Nope. I’ll deal with it: small matter of poiciy, I suspect. Stay on top of those cast. Some getting slow.
  • Oh, really? I sure never got a slow one! You?
  • Well….
  • Get out! You come ouf these things almost as torn up as I do and you’ve been at it much longer! [Booming. Booming!]

I took a deep deep breath.

—Judy. I schedule custom-organized level three courses. And I have. I have had some lately that seemed too easy.

She looked at me.

—Kay?

—Oh. KAY. Jees [I hate it when she says ‘jees’]

Finally, anyway, her fire was out. A long silence thickened the summer heat in the car. I pictured a bug in amber, the forlorn legs, the bubbles in the orange moment: trapped.

  • Wonder if I’m a wimp. I NEVER find it easy. It nearly kills me. Every time.

She looked so deflated. So small. Her scar. I’m a bastard. That’s for suire. I’m a lying phoney mean old bastard.

—Judy, don’t take everything so personally. Like it’s a competition. It’s an exercise program, remember? Don’t you look better than you ever did?

  • Well, except for the scar.
  • I love your fucking scar. Can we stop this now?
  • Yeah.
  • GodDAM it!

I punched the steering wheel; We were stuck. I punched the steering wheel.

  • GodDAM it!
  • Stop- it. So what? Just wait.

And so on. All the way to the hospital.

[… visit… physical VS mental … he competes?… can’t believe it… she sedated…Judy amazed at his behaviour…]

When you have a cat walk, you MUSt get a really good sleep. I knew that this would be near impossible without a lot of pampering. But how can you pamper yourself without sweets or drugs or alcohol, all no-no’s before a walk.

My therapist, is very often full of crap. But he’d supllied me with a method which works for me: talking to myself. For real. Hey: I’m very articulate. I’ve got that going for me. That, at least. So.

Okay: my therapist? He’s not. He’s a “philosophical counceler” okay?  That means he uses philosophy as a touchstone for helping me to address my issues. I’ve come a long way, you know. I’ve come a very long way considering…oh well: later for the difficult childhood thing. Let’s just say, I’m no slouch when it comes to self improvement. I found this guy, and he’s full of shit a lot of the time, but he knows how to harness my energy, and I respect that.

Well he told me once about Wittgenstien. Wittgenstien says to his students, one of them, my therapist,What does it mean when we say we talk to ourselves?  Is that like speaking in a whisper? Is that like writing without a pencil?  What happens when we are said to be speaking to ourselves? Do we inform ourselves of things we did not know? Exchange information? Or was it a kind of role-playing. A game? You talk to yourself: take the role of one mind and pretend to receive it’s wisdome. It’s a game to remind you, in an authrative voice, of what you already know.

I told myself that I that I had come a long way. I enumerated my accomplishments. I stressed the unique skills and the strength it took to do what I’ve done. To climb out of my middle class heritage, break out of my shell and kick ass in a highly competitive field where everything, personality, phiysical beauty, and savoir fare, all matter…and then to have an idea for a whole new product, and to start, based on that, a whole new business. From the bottom and despite a lot of…

I enumerated my good qualities and recalled my good deeds. I rmemerd my Jr year college paper on Carl Popper and deemed myself a genious.

With one eyebrow lifted I looked squarely in the mirror and remarked upon th eiron of the current situation. That I should be reduced to tears by.

I told myself that I need not compare. No. I told myself that it wasn’t a competition. Wasn’t I in better shape than ever? Hadn’t I reached the highest level? No.

Why aren’t you good enough? I asked myself. Why can’t you just let be? Why do you have to torture yourself? I asked.

It was getting late and I’d made no headway. My therapist is really just an idiot like any other person. I bet he likes children. I bet he eats candy bars and farts too much.

I climbed into bed. My bed. My impeccable bed. My sheets. 100% silk [threadcount?]

Things balance out, I told myself, finally. Could she handel your mother? Could she suffer the slings and arrows of high fashion? Could she start a business and expand it to three times it’s size in the space of two years? Could she discuss philosophy with a student of Wittgenstein?

By the time I settled into my dreamsaver ergonomic pillow, I should hve been convinced. I should have felt that I was a decadent enough human specimen that I could go on living and even sleep a little. I should have. But I didn’t.

I saw her when I closed my eyes. She’s outracing a tiger now. She’s. I’m the director. I tell her she must fight the tiger. She’s frightened. Don’t worry; I’ll be there for you, I tell her. She looks up into my — she looks down, into my. I saw her laughing, her teeth. I saw her running, her ass. She’s kicking me. I. She’s a robot.

I sat up. It was 2:00. I would die tomorrow with that goddam cat. God.Damn. It.

This would be the worst Cat Walk ever. I considered my options. I’d bring the taming kit. I’d bring that damned mask. I hadn’t used that mask since level 2, one and one half years ago.

I remembered all the intimidating people I’d ever been tortured by. That New Year’s Eve party. So unfair. Ingrid had been dieting; she’d been unemployed and had way too much time on her hands. She’d been at the gym nearly SIX hours a day. She looked so good. I kept saying it all night: Look at Ingrid. That’s what six hours a day will do for you! But I could tell that everyone was impressed anyway: that she looked good and I looked fat. And Jimmy. Jimmy Six. What did he say? The bastard; always shut you  out of the conversations about politics. He and Ingrid were so sickiening that night… I remember what she said.

I sat up.

I got up and tried on this pair of jeans. They were haunting me. Had they been that tight when I bought them. No way. I wouldn’t have.

I took a very long hot shower. Throbbing and exhausted, I fell onto the bed. I could feel my heart in my stomach. I didn’t deserve to live. So I slept.

I woke, at first, grateful to have slept so soundly, almost happy. Until I realized I’d slept through the alarm! Sloth. Bungler[CW1] .

Now I’d definitely get hurt. And I’d have to prepare a wimp package.

[describe wimp package: lion taming tools and backward mask] The mask is worn “backward” as it were — a face which one wears on the back of one’s head. You see, tigers prefer to attack from behnd, grabbing their prey by the back of theneck and severing the spine. The mask puts them off, buys time. But that means reducing the challenge.

But, with my bad night, and my current anxious rush, I could not do without the wimp pack.

[Insert first Cat Walk – he finds it rough, but takes heart; talks himself out of reviewing it, out of admitting that he’d relied heavily on the wimp pack}

]transition…]

We’ve just watched O’s Cat Walk. It’s a stunner all right. I sigh while Pensa wipes his eyes.

  • Did she?

I waited. Was he going to say something helpful or just say what I didn’t want to hear?

  • Did she?
  • Kill our cat, Pensa? Yes.
  • She. She KILLED our FUKing CAT.
  • Sigh
  • With a knife and a fucking stick.

I look out the window.

  • Gene?
  • What?
  • I agree. Nevermind.

Tom’s our resident spin doctor. Our PR man. Our advertising department. I regret having him in this meeting. What’ the hell is he supposed to do with this new information?

And in my half-sleep, and in my dreems, the replay:

Close up: O’s face, teeth clenched, eyebrows crowding the tiny bridge of her  perfect nose; behind her head we pan out to reveal the bounding cat.

As she springs, we see she’s hold ing her knife an a stick. (We also notice her astounding outfit! The leather bousier , the t bullet-proof mini, the boots laced high above the knee!)

As the cat lands from the pounce, O jams a stick, sideways into it’s jaws and simutanously plunges the knife into the cat’s neck…

I sit up and turn the lifht on: it’s three o’clock.  I’ve re-wound and re-played this scene six times already , using many different camera angles. I have a headach. Again.

Is a criplling headache a reason to hate yourself? What about three? Let me tell you, chronic headaces have made my Cat Walks into hell. And in order to compensate, I’ve had to wimp out and reduced my challenge. I’ve become secretive… covering my failure… I’m a flabby weak soser lowlife with no discipline. I bet SHE never quties, never wimps, NEVER HAS A HEADACHE….

In the kitchen, fixin coffee, I’m thinking about it again. O running. O climbing. O jumping… O: killing my cat. Galling. Galling. Bitter bitter coffee.

On video, O is small and vulnerable as she leaes the station house on course 47. The camer near the exit was not working, so the image of her at the threshold, shouldering her pack an dshielding her eyes si tiny, captured from the observation deck some [—- yds] from the station house.

She comes across as human. I sure we all took heart…

But then the camer’s hold as she approaches, her stride swift and sturdy. My god how on her way she is, squinting with a look of determination almost directly into the lens. Her momentous close-up as she stops right there to choose her first strategy. It’s 1A:00 on the dot.

She stands, red hair blowing, a re-nailed hand to her eyes, her razor perfect featurese sudden and startling in their clarity as some clouds move off the sun, lighting her up.

The best way to do your cat walk is to move quickly, but to avoid exhaution and to keep the cat visible – even if that means remaining visible yourself.

Some choose to stay high,, electing to move through trees and other assembled ladeers and platforms, ropes and wall. This makes for a very aearobic walk w/lowered cat risk.

Some choose to stay low and open, moveing very swiftly but prepared to fight an to excape. This has a higer cat rist, but takes far less time. It is as aerobically challeniging as you make it by moving as quickly as possible while staying aware and ready to fight.

Some choose the more natural methods: move swiftly in the visible plain, but hug the heights in order to keep escape at ahand – or keeping near the escape hatches and barricades – they plot and plan more.

Despit course 47’s lavish heights and escapes options, O chose open ground and started out at a run. She made great time, running the three miles from the station to the water ing hold. There, she climbed a tree and took some water and ate something. It was 1:10.

At 1:18, she switched tactics, running from the tree to the hight obstacles. Ladder swing and rope swins for  [?’] yards, and then treee to tree for another mile and a half. By then she was well in danger, but discouragingly high most of the time.

She came down at 1: 45 and made a dash for eht long wall.

The long wall runs from the 4.5 mile mark to the NW edge of the 47th course; about three miles O started at a jog hugging the wall, stopping at moments to listn to the air behind her and over the wall.

After a half mile, she began to climb. You should, exposed as you ae, make very sure that the tiger is not readying itself for the dash. You will be vulnerableuntil you hit the ledge.

O started her climb with a knife in her teeth and climbed with her back to the wall. Yes. She did. Slowly, slowly. She reached the ledge without incident nd swiftly hoisted herself to the top of the wall.

We watched as she ran along the narrow edge for the next 2.5 miles. Honest. Weh she stopped to scant he area, we saw that she and runthe tightrope at nearly a mile per minute and one quarter. It wa now 2: 06 and O had only to make it one mile east tot he exit.

Two yards eahead lay a safty exit tunnel; she dashed to it, an stopped at the hatch. Taking the tunnel would not be easy; they were rigged with complex obtakes intended as a penalty. They took minutes, even quarter hours off your tme.

O scanne the area nd began an even quiet walktoward the exit, pausing now and again to piruette and to listen.

The at bounded over the wallat 2:08. O did not see ti in her sweep. But at 2:08.1, she suddenly turned. And that’s when she killed our cat.


 [CW1]

Humans are People Too

There were a lot of humans in the production room where high vaulted ceilings and tall windows poured light all over their tubes and wires making them wink brightly as their hands ticked away at the keyboards aligned in replicated perfection up the rows of desks. Philip Voite and Hal Stern strolled up the long center isle. Their shining black  shoes echoed off the vaulted white ceiling.

One of the humans was deflating. 

Philip stopped, staring at the sagging head. He called out to Hal whose lit figure had proceeded in dark silhouette toward the far windows. “Over here; this one looks ill.”

Hal stopped, spoke without turning, “Nah; they sleep a lot when production gets heavy. Sleep maybe every 12 hours.“

Phil looked down again. The freckled hand looked so peaceful in the sunlight.

“But why in full daylight?” He had joined Hal at the windows now, looking out on the grounds. Below, humans with carts were scurrying from building to building, on foot; a practice which usually spooked him. “Why’d we hook them up with such nice bright digs if they are going to snooze anyway? If this one’s not producing melatonin, he may not be of any use for very long. 

Sitting on the window sill, he looked at Hal: “Get rid of him and make sure this isn’t happening to any of the others.” He never could stand the sight of those mobile humans, walking about like people.

“Okay: We’ll check into it.” Hal kept his face turned away from Philip. He knew he was being examined.

“Get rid of this one.”

“Okay!” Hal surrendered, looked at Philip who was glaring back from under his brows. “The men are sometimes reluctant to do this. I’ll get Sheila.”

“Look, what do you mean “sometimes?” What’s going on here? You putting a lot of them away?”

Hal watched Philip turn away now: but for a second he looked almost alarmed. “Okay, Phil, look. A few have come down with something in the past month. I’m sure it’s no big deal. Sheila had them put away as soon a she caught a whiff.” 

Philip paced. “Hmmm…Maybe we should treat them when it’s minor…or at least look into it — see what it is so’s it doesn’t get out of hand. What do they do over at SONIE?”

“I don’t know how they handle it. I don’t know if they have any problems at all. Listen. There’s a convention coming up in May. Discussions about the care and use of humans in factory settings. I’ll send Sheila and Delores and a bunch of the guys.”

Philip got up and started back toward the door. “Just don’t send the entire staff on the company dole.”

“No reason to be cheap, they are valuable resources,” Hal said, watching Philip’s back, dreading that glaring face again. But Philip did not turn to deliver his reply:

“Find a way to keep ‘em from infecting the whole fucking place. That’s all!”

_____________________________________________________________

There was a corner of MEGA’s brain which had not been excised properly. That is why he felt kinda blue today. That is why he sensed the tedium in his leaden haunches and became impatient when he met with data glitches. He stood up several times between bells. And he even slammed his fist and shook his head.

Hal was worried. MEGA looked more and more crazed. It was noon, the buzzer sounded and the humans stood up and turned toward the door. The assistants scurried in to unhook their chain and tubes and take them for their walk. Hal worried throughout the clanking chains, the tangled tubing, and the curses of the assistants as they become tangled with machinery, restraints, and the humans themselves rendered clumsy and helpless from hours of sitting  —one of them peed without his catheter.  

And then there was MEGA, looking about, awake and anxious, seeming almost conscious. 

Unhooked now, he began a crazy jig. He whooped with his broken voice and shook his patchy red head. Those ape arms of his were flailing loose and hard when they knocked  two assistants into the desks with a crash.

“OOOwowOOOwowoooWowoooWOW!” MEGA threw himself about, yowling like a cat in heat while three assistants clung, haplessly to him, desperate surprise on their faces.

Hal began to sweat. He pulled his gun out of the holster. “Get away,” he yelled. The men scattered off to the sides of the huge white room, bumping into desks, knocking aside feeding tubes and catheter bags, pulling them loose with tiny plops, squeaks and splashes.

And in their wake, Hal shot MEGA.

Now in silence, the humans stood, chained and facing the door. And the assistants outside of the room, bobbed over the cropped and bowed heads to peek within.  Glaring straight ahead into the blinding sunlight, Hal held his gun straight out into the air before him as though it were a divining rod leading him toward MEGA who lay there now,  all angles and silence. The three assistants who had lost control stood sheepishly, two on the left, one on the right side of the room, holding their own hands like naughty children. 

One with a tube stuck under his shoe.

Hal lowered the gun. “Get him the hell out of here.”

And the three shot forward.

_________________________________________________________________

Lila Stern was home for summer. Up in her attic bedroom, she sat hunched, at a huge oak table, her back facing the  darkness of the room which was packed with a hodgepodge of antiques from various periods, the bed with victorian iron frame,  walls of mid-century bookshelves, a cherry wood art deco vanity, and a Frank Lloyd Wright chest of drawers. She stared into the screen, hands upon the keyboard.

Presently she typed the following message:

By the way, you are the worst dishwasher in the world.

Downstairs she could hear her father coming in. He would be making his way to the bedroom for a lie down. He seemed more and more exhausted by his work and had begun complaining. The humans, he’d told her, were harder to handle than most people thought. It wasn’t like raising cattle or chickens, they seemed to have minds of their own.

She thought about this while waiting for Gabriel to reply. It took thirty seconds or so:

it’s tough when you can’t face your accuser & i was rushing

so u could make your call & always willing to learn & improve

& try again to please (and next time perhaps u can inspect the work)

She pictured him at the old writing desk. The thing was as large as most bedrooms for godssake.

She stared at Gabriel’s message and then typed again.

That’s okay, supplicant.

I was well pleased with the spirit of your work.

“Lil!”  

He wanted to order a pizza. Sitting at the kitchen table, the lights dim, the fridge buzzing, her father appeared older than she’d ever imagined he could. He slumped forward, head in hands, the thick hair clumped between his thick fingers.

“Hal. Are you? Alright?”

“I’m goddam tired, Lil. GodDAM tired.”

She sat down across from him, kept her eyes on his hands while she poked at her phone. The order was always the same. Then she got up and poured him a beer.

This time she sat down next to him. “That job is getting to you,” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder.”Why can’t they put you in charge of people? You are an administrator. Not an animal trainer.”

Hal laughed. “They’re stuck with an old policy on humans, I guess. I never thought of it that way before. They still think that if it’s human, it ought to be managed by an administrator. But you are right. They should have started using animal trainers a long time ago.”

“Yeah. Like a lion tamer.”

“Oh, you don’t know just how accurate you are!”

“What do you mean?”

“I had to put one down today.” Hal rubbed his head.

Lila gaped. The doorbell rang. 

__________________________________________________________

When Lila got back upstairs, she noticed she was still online. 

tthe spirit as always was willing

She typed:

AH, BUT THE BODY?

Then she shut down. Lying on the bed she thought about Gabriel on the phone, begging to scrub her floors, do her laundry, grout her bathroom…it seemed so far away, the apartment with the yellow hallway and the neighbor who, she suspected of leaving lipstick kisses on her door.

The phone rang.

“Lila! Thank fuck you’re back!”

“Em, Hey: did you get some ee?”

“Got it. How’s life at home?”

“Hal is exhausted. A human went crazy on him and he had to shoot it.”

“Oh shit! I thought the process was more comprehensive now.”

“ I don’t know. I don’t get it. They are just too unpredictable. I think they should just stop using them. Programers could set the whole thing up without the need for keyed in data.”

“They are just so old fashioned in publishing. At SONIE my brother uses humans only for special projects. Aesthetics Implementation. Something like that.”

“Maybe Hal’s co. should check out SONIE. Little field trip.”

“Yeah. So: hiking on Saturday w/the supplement. Your dad still in a fuss about that?”

“Yeah. Says ee makes you behave like a human.”

“If that’s so, then humans got it good!”

“I don’t know about that. Last time the stuff was really speedy. Think I chipped a tooth with all the grinding I wound up doing. And all that yapping. You guys couldn’t shut me up!”

“S’okay. Maddie says you were like a cute little Chihuahua.”

“Great. Hey, Em: I hear something at my window…”

“Go look. I’ll stay on.”

Outside the garden stretched wide and empty, the fountain which used to haunt her with its head and shoulders, its wide torso, now stood obediently, waiting for spring. 

“I don’t see anything, Em. But wait… there it is again.”

Again the garden, the fountain, the tree near her window, its branches cut away to clear it from the building… nothing.

“I don’t know, Em: spooky.”

“You’re letting this human thing get at you. Get some sleep. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

As she put the phone down, Lila heard the tapping again. 

This time she called out from the window, “Anybody out there?” Nothing. She locked the window before she went to bed.

____________________________________________________________

Halifax Stern liked living far from the city. Liked his giant lawn and gardens. He liked a good drive in the morning marking the distance of his home from the huge white building with the droves of blank, drooling faces. When he opened the west doors and smelled the garden, padded out to the dining room and sat down to eggs and toast, coffee and the the soft buzz of the printer making the morning news for him, he was very grateful for his indispensable position at Voigt Publishing.

It was altogether, about  twenty minutes to the factory. Passing the vineyard on his way, Hal thought about another tasting this year. Oliver waved from the cottage door, his wellies indicating that the rain had finally soaked the field which they were beginning to worry about.   He drove past all of this with gratitude, but as he was driving toward Voigt, the pleasure diminished increasingly, until he was brooding again.

Of all the things which seemed pointless, all of this work, all of this ardent control and ugly restraint, all of the long corridors and wheeled carts and quiet shoes, all for printing manuals. Giant, dull, silent, non-interactive paper volumes.

At the entrance, the staff stood in line for inspection. Hal greeted them civilly, wondering what made them accept the indignity. Then he remembered MEGA. 

At the elevators he noticed that he hadn’t slept at all: he was exhausted. 

So by the time he arrived at the production room, he felt utterly put upon, utterly mistreated, and a lump grew in his throat at the thought of it.

In the room the humans sat clicking away. He stood at the threshold and surveyed the grounds outside swelling toward the tennis courts, the pool. Philip would be out there now, precious sneakers slapping the red court, tendons surfacing, outrage stretching across the lower half of his face as his opponent, Mira Debtwaller, skipped happily toward the friendly ball. Everyone and everything was good to Mira.

)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

Bruce Debtwaller rang and rang his little bell but nurse did not come on her quiet little sneakers and he had begun to despair. What is more, the blanket had fallen from his knees and he felt stripped and helpless. And so he began to cry, hatred for nurse welling up large and hot in his throat.

She took her time in the kitchen, having a good smoke and a long chat on the phone with Mira, the old man’s daughter. Mira was her best friend. That’s how she got this gig, but the old man was belligerent and sometimes downright cruel and she took her hour in the kitchen to tell Mira about this and also about her boyfriend whom the old man reminded her of.

Mira looked so bright and pink on the screeen that Katlin kept adjusting the color. He’s just angry about getting old, she said: he’s not mad at you, Katlin.

But that didn’t make it any better when he told Katlin that he could smell her pussy.

He’s just jealous of people having sex, Mira said.

Katlin shrugged. He’s just mean. Like Fred. Fred’s mean too. They both: they don’t wanna give you any credit. NO gratitude. I hate that.

She blew smoke in the air and looked at pink pink Mira.

Mira, you look great. You happy?

Yeah.

Ug: there he is with the bell again. I outta bust iz fingiz.

Oh, c’mon Kate, what am I paying you for? Go give the old man his tea, will ya?

How are things at Voigt anyway?

Look, don’t say anything in front of dad, but Hal had to shoot one of the humans yesterday. Philip was so distracted that he didn’t even put up a fight when I kicked his ass in tennis this morning.

Your dad would just shit.

ANd you’d have to clean it up.

YOu are sick, girlfriend. Lemmie get him offa my back ova heh.

Yeah: you give my daddy his tea and yummers.

Bitch.

In the living room, the old man sat applying his translucent thumb over and over again with what looked like deep concentration.

Aw right! Aw right a-ready! Jeeziss! Look, nurse has your  tea and biscuits.

Nurse is a goddam mean little bitch. Making me wait. Can I have my blanket back? You didn’t wrap it right. It fell. He wiped a tear from his rheumy eye.

Jeezisss.

Can you STOP swearing? You have no class. You’d think my daughter could get me a nurse with some class. We can afford it, ya know. I’m the one. I’m the one who taught the world how to optimize human labor.  Not for me they’d be runnin’ around, raping, mugging, tearing the place apart. Put ‘em to good use, I said: optimize!

Optimize. Optimize? Yeah: they’re so “Optimized” that…

That what? Stupid bitch. YOu don’t even know what the —

They’re so OPTimized that Hal had to shoot one a-ready. Howzat?

There. Got nuthin’ to say now, do ya? So. Shut up and drink ya tea. 

But he was crying again and didn’t want her to see, so he did as she said.