Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chapter Thirty-Four


"Aggressive white men
toxic with testosterone;
polar ice caps melt
like grilled cheese.
Laughing white male faces;
the bird tarries.
Vanilla ice cream cone
dripping onto the street.
The flavor escapes me."

The neutered poet concludes his short work to the ladies' applause. He's sweating at the exertion of having read. The facsimile of a man looks to Margo for approval.

The literary people sit on the veranda of a suburban mansion at pale orange tables with pastel green sun umbrellas, sipping from pink and green lemonade drinks.

Attractive Margo nods her head. The soft poet happily resumes his seat next to Mrs. Vanden Snot, a major patron. The exhausted poet melts in his seat. Mrs. Vanden Snot flaps air at him with a silk fan. The man is surrounded by fit women. A planetary visitor would peg him as the weaker sex.

The women resume their talk.

"Order or chaos."

"The Joker-- an apt metaphor."

"One gross crime after another."

"Dissent for the sake of dissent."

"Their crazy leader."

"Rank and not-to-be endured behavior."

"What of their class status?"

"Bosh! Our diversity speaks for itself."

An elegantly groomed blue lawn spreads before them.

The conversation circles around Margo, a powerful, mature woman with brown kinky hair. At the edge of the gathering, a pretty doctoral student named Maryann glides in, late.

She slinks behind a table to hide her tennis player legs. Margo takes notice.

"Why do you hide there, girl? You have a confused mix of colors today."

Maryann wears a skimpy red-and-black dress, bright yellow leotards, and white boots. The ensemble is mismatched.

"Oh!" she says, noticing her boots. Her eyes look up. She's a relative newcomer who's been adopted by the group.

"I was in a rush," Maryann explains. "A meeting. You know."

The yellow color puts the legs on display, which pauses the discussion. They're quite . . . athletic.

The male poet is choking on his lemonade. A petite Mexican waitress with red skin and black hair brings Maryann a tall glass of iced tea. The student flicks the girl away, then brushes strands of hair off her forehead.

The refined people discuss the destruction of the rebels, a disagreeable but necessary task. Best to be done offstage. They wish to avoid any mess.

While they talk, the new arrival plays with her dress.

"There is no place for them in our world," Margo announces. "Is there, Maryann?"

The distracted student is again the focus. Her dark blue eyes rise. They're very powerful.

"Oh. Er, ah, no."

The talk sweeps on.

"They have no reason, no cause," Mrs. Vanden Snot insists.

"Dinosaur white males," another adds, to much hilarity.

The pasty-faced poet laughs also.

Margo sums up the prevalent attitude, glancing first at the younger woman across the way, a gesture toward nascent, unused force-- the only potential competition for her in this group.

"We need no justification to destroy the rebels, other than they are the Other," Margo states as her shoulders shift and her eyes cast around for possible rebellion. "That's sufficient reason. There can be no outsiders other than ourselves, within the system. There's only the system."

"What of their ideas?"

"I refuse to acknowledge they have ideas!"

Everyone laughs.

(Next: THE CHASE.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chapter Thirty-Three

(Scrolling down the movie screen):
Irresistible hate. The Man in the Black Hat senses this emotion as soon as the figure walks into the warehouse accompanied by the callow youth who found her. Black hat motions to hidden bodyguards. Shadowy hands grab Willie and toss him outside. A steel door closes.

The men in the room question whether she should fear being alone with them-- or should they instead fear being alone with her?! The Assassin strides forward until she stands in front of Black Hat's desk, staring down with large tilted head at him.

Her sudden presence fills the spacious room. She wears a white jumpsuit over her taut form, with pointed white leather boots, and skin-tight white gloves on her hands with dark red stains on them. He can't see behind her mask, but senses sarcastic features as her sharp blue eyes study him. She's adopted an arrogant yet casual stance, unsettling for reasons no one can fathom. How has the atmosphere in this space of control become so changed-- so charged-- in mere moments?
The Defense Committee for Overprivileged Writers meets in a green and gray warehouse moments before the arrival of the spectral creature they've gone to great trouble to hire. The handful of discreetly-dressed men sit in a semi-circle of chairs on a concrete floor, amid deep yellow crates which stand behind a gray metal desk. As they talk in hushed tones, eyes glance warily at a waiting door. One set of eyes, behind glasses, stares at the door most intently.

"Afraid to be here?" the Man in the Black Hat mocks him.

The man in glasses clears his throat. Nerdy and unshaven, he resembles Jonathan Franzen.

"I understand the mission," he puts in.

"YOU should, Black Hat emphasizes, pointing at him.

Objectively, like mad scientists they discuss the creation of an agent; how a struggling person of ambition can be utilized as a tool if caught early enough. It's a tried-and-true technique; the philosophy behind the Blue Caps of the Bolsheviks and the S.S. of the Nazis.

A short man with black hair explains the process to his more aristocratic-looking colleagues. The Weasel, is how he's known.

"The prospects obsess over work and struggle. We use that to bind them to us; to wash from their minds all conscience to keep them on a narrow track. Always there must be an Enemy as focus. This the Rebellion readily provides. The result is the ultimate literary terrorist, programmed to destroy literary terrorists!"

The Weasel smiles with difficulty. His person appears damaged, or deformed, amid the rigid bearing of the others. He sits at an angle as if his back had been broken, peering up at the ruddy Overdog in the black hat across from him.

"The art of the matter," Black Hat talks over him, "is to program the selected agents without their knowing they've been programmed. Presumably this has been accomplished."

"Indeed!" the Weasel answers, black beady eyes glistening as they look up at the man.

Angles of yellow and gray light crisscross the scene. Black Hat rises and sits behind the steel desk which faces the warehouse door as the other men fade into shadow. . . .
Now the glowing white spirit is before them.

"Forgive the white mask," the Assassin sneers. "But then, you wear a black one!"

She refers to the veil.

"We're not alike," Black Hat tells her with what tries to be an assertive voice, though it sounds weak next to hers. "Remember that. You're hired to do a job. You'll do what I want. The alternative for you is to be as obliterated as the person you're about to obliterate."

She doesn't reply. Her intelligence burns through the mask at him. He senses her sneer widen. He's happy she wears a mask. Never would he care to see that face.

The camera pulls back to reveal the other members of the Defense Committee. The Weasel grins. The unshaven writer looks away and his hands flutter in his lap. His chair is turned sideways, signalling halfway participation in the project. Part of him wishes not to be here. The other part is compelled to ask a question of the ghost-like character they've hired. He clears his throat.

"Do you know clearly what you're undertaking?" he asks.

The brooding eyes behind the mask turn contemptuously on him.

"I know who I contend with. There's enough talk in literary cirlces to suggest your target is the same. It's, um, rather obvious!"

The Weasel quickly responds.

"Yes, yes," he says. "Obvious to us all. But how do you propose to do it?"

A widening smile before them.

"Good sirs, take off the head and the body is dead. The movement will wither. That's the first step. He's unable to avoid contact. His ego won't allow it! He'll welcome his doom. That I know. It'll be glorious to provide it. Gladly will I destroy literary scum. I'll take down the literary pretender to save the literary art."

"You're a writer?" the Franzen-like character asks.

"You can call me that."

"Of what school? Which program did you attend? Which teachers did you have?"

"The teachers of life! But don't worry, good sir. I've amended my underground status. I've atoned for past crimes. My official learning may now exceed yours. Not to put myself in your lofty realm; I know the gap between us. As to what school I belong to, I'm a Stoic and a Cynic. I'm an Epicurean also. A hedonist, a narcissist, an exhibitionist; yet also a hermit, alone unto myself. I'm of the world and apart from it; ruined by it and repulsed by it, yet thoroughly embracing it. I'm an Imperial Roman; a corrupted product of our time."

As she finishes she bows her head. The voice from behind the mask is more vibrant, more threatening, more authoritative, more filled with meaning than any they've heard before. The men smile. Victory is guaranteed for them, they're certain.

The camera zooms in on the man behind the black veil. His lips move. The voice on the soundtrack becomes peevish.

"My friend has died . . . his funeral . . . they mocked him. They mocked me! You know how they confronted us at Columbia. You went against their leader before and must do so again. Obliterate, obliterate, obliterate, obliterate. No rebellion. NO REBELLION."

The mysterious white-clad figure in front of him bows its head, like a creation of his imagination; mad compulsive product of his id.

"Bring out the dummy," Black Hat orders.

An effigy of the ULA's former leader is wheeled out. The black-veiled literary scion looks at the Assassin, then points to the dummy.

"Kill it," he says.

The room explodes in violence. Before the onlookers can blink the effigy has been kicked, punched, stomped, decapitated; the stuffing knocked out of it; sawdust scattered about the large space. What's left of the dummy lies face first on the concrete floor, a knife protruding from its back.

"Well done," Black Hat comments.

Those behind him enthusiastically applaud. Even hesitant Franzen joins in.

"May the upcoming encounter go as well," the Franzen character tentatively adds, squeamish about the necessity of what's to come.