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He’s a Dancer

iuThe dispute over maintaining the construct Seattle occupied the mind of Syndicate Engineer G9 Anna-Maria Cannoli as the bunny with enhanced intelligence stared at her pensively in the rearview mirror from the bunny modified car seat as she drove to the Syndicate elementary school. If she was going to lower herself by allowing her daughter a pet, it would be a pet with enhanced intelligence. Good thing baby bunnies were receptive to bio-engineered modifications.

The Mercedes S Class was self-driving and not really a Mercedes at all, rather it was technology from what in essence was 200 years into the future, by construct standards, self-driving with a small kitchen and a sensory deprivation panic room and sleeping quarters in addition to a complete command and control for emergencies.

And the bunny? It was easier bringing animals into the construct than bringing people out. Even Syndicate children were difficult to deprogram. They would know the construct as their only home and it was a painful decompression period during the mandated mid-teen extraction, adding to an already confused pubescence. However, the consensus among syndicate engineers was that growing up construct prepared them not only for a career in construct management, it was a valuable accomplishment in a general sense, like achieving Eagle Scout. The goal was to keep families together. Family was important.

Children love animals, especially housetrained pets which understand up to 1000 words of English. Children also have a unique ability to network with other children and help them detach. Adults were the real challenge and multitudes were lost to the Billionaire Cartel. In the past, a syndicate engineer could stage an event such as a biking accident or a pretty sunset. The billionaires were making those kinds of breaks in the fabric of mass delusion more difficult due to social media and the expanding light rail. Many of Anna Maria’s associates even started to murmur about a quarantine scenario.

The cartel was aware of the presence of the syndicate in all but name, although they didn’t know the identities of the members or the meaning of the syndicate in the general scheme. The excruciating pain accompanying such knowledge kept minds closed. The cartel only sensed a threat, not as a concrete menace, but a threat to the construct.

The Cartel had succeeded in neutralizing the tactical advantages of the syndicate, and what was once considered a plum assignment was viewed by most engineers as a career dead end. Andre David, one of the principle Cartel adversaries, maintained firm control over The David Hive, that area of influence wherein he was the sub-conscious referent in subject’s minds even among husbands and wives. David was aware of the control dynamic and the vital importance of reproductive choice in keeping subjects tied to the construct. Anna-Maria was often asked by her children if the construct was real and she replied that it was mapped to a real place called Seattle, a quiet midsized city in the northwest United States. Mass delusion warped physical reality along with moral reality, and construct currency had no real existence and was easily synthesized.  Anna-Maria selected an expensive residence next to David posing as the wife of an affluent derivatives broker. The selection was made in anticipation of a gracious invitation to the annual neighborhood Christmas party at the David estate, the gala event of Mercer Island featuring reindeer and elfin clad waitstaff. Her children befriended the David children who agreed to care for the bunny while the Cannoli’s were “out of town”, and it escaped the notice of the David estate that the Cannoli’s hadn’t actually gone anywhere due to the electrostatic brain cloud surrounding the bunny. There was no suspicion that the bunny understood human speech and could communicate telepathically, a factor that combined with the extraordinary rabbit hearing to provide the Cannoli’s with a reliable stream of intel.

The Orb, the most powerful weapon the syndicate possessed, needed to be presented to David via a trusted 3rd party named Ali, a shadowy figure who supplied the billionaire’s periodic contraband needs. The Orb was delivered to Anna-Maria from reality via Ospry per SOP, causing a major wind storm extending as far as the Portland construct and collapsing the power grid for tens of thousands of homes. Anna-Maria felt the density of the softball sized sphere as it was placed in her hands. She had been in the construct for such a long time.

The Orb would be introduced to Ali using a delicate tactical operation by another syndicate operative posing as a narcotics dealer. The Cannoli’s knew that Ali would sycophantically introduce it to Andre David even before using it himself.

David felt the weight and density of the sphere which Ali identified as a rare polished meteor. He could also feel the wholeness as he caressed its smooth surface. It made him feel like his true self was calling him from a faraway place, and would become addictive to everyone who used it. An inspiration at first, it became a trap of despair owing to the dissonance between the delusional life and the life intimated by The Orb. The David compound, his wardrobe, his cars, his chef; he had the best of everything and everything became squalid.

He stopped grooming, but he couldn’t stop holding The Orb.

The Cannoli family continued to be “out of town”, as servants in the David household continued to feed the bunny and clean its cage.

The goal was to cleave souls from the loop. Most individuals in the construct believed their thoughts were their own. In fact, they were fed collective thoughts by social media and talk radio sustained by a cycle of trivia, fear and wrath which had the most tenuous and random interface with reality. They might see real things like their own precious children, but the cartel immediately smothered these perceptions with sentimentality and the weeds of self. As long as the children were diverted themselves, any regret or fear would be contained. Everything was pre-scripted and Andre David was the playwright.

Anna-Maria Cannoli accepted the invitation to the annual Christmas party after returning from being “out of town”, such was the power of lupine enhanced intelligence and telepathy that no one asked when the Cannoli’s would take the bunny home.

Now, a bunny is different from a rabbit because it is a pet. At the David sponsored institute for sustainability, the “One-Week Wonders,” rabbits grown to half-size in rectangular containers to optimize protein yields relative to BTUs. Brains, a source of vitamins and fat for the supplement industry driven by the increasing demand for a low carbohydrate diet, were genetically enhanced to grow to an unusually large size without enhanced intelligence and telepathy.

At the party, Andre casually sat on the custom Teak decking in a state of quiet psychosis. He fixated on Anna-Maria’s large breasts across the crowd and ignored the other guests. No one else dared to approach him, but Anna-Maria walked across the deck and extended her hand.

“Mr. David, I’m Anna-Maria Cannoli from next door. Thank you for the lovely party.”

David allowed her to take his limp hand and opened his mouth in a manner which acknowledged the social obligation of replying, but was lost for words, and the couple stood for a moment of what would normally be understood as awkward silence, but in reality gave Anna-Maria time to mentally prepare for what would happen next.

“Beautiful evening for December, don’t you think. How did you ever arrange it?” Anna-Maria playfully asked. “Is there any limit to your power?” David seemed to acknowledge that Anna-Maria said something charming in the way a penumbra might acknowledge its core.

The couple stood on the deck and appeared to survey the party in a manner of casual sociability.

“Smile,” she said, “look happy.” David obeyed, happy neighbors. “Come with me,” she said, “I have something to show you.”

Taking Andre by the arm as if he was a child, Anna-Maria escorted him to a bench under a Japanese Maple tree where she removed her phone and showed him a You Tube video of Kristy and Jimmy McNichol performing “He’s a Dancer.”

A telekinetic opiate fell on the guests as waitstaff bobbed and weaved through the crowd with trays of crab cakes, Copper River salmon and Moet Champagne.

And Andre David became transfixed by Kristy and Jimmy McNichol.

“You’re dying,” Anna-Maria said, “It’s all a sham and it’s time to go mad.”

It might have been the pained choreography, the expressions of beautiful pain, or the sense of the parasitic violence of celebrity which David had nurtured and grew that made him truly see. He saw like a blind man whose sight had been restored, and he began to understand the paralyzing horror and sense of ugliness and sadness of a race of new creatures not worth ruling or manipulating or even existing.

David suddenly stood up and observed himself for the first time in his life. He observed himself observing himself, and observed himself crying and screaming, a crying scream really, as he rent his clothes like a demoniac from The Bible.

Now screaming like an animal, David jumped six feet from the deck onto the perfectly mowed checkerboard lawn below. It was at that point that The Hive, Ali and many other guests, began to wake from their trance and started to tear off their own clothes in the belief that Andre David was initiating an orgy of violence and sex. Many screamed themselves as they assailed the neighbor ladies in a rape frenzy.

Severed from the world of power, David ran from the estate into the streets of Mercer Island, running for miles and falling to the ground in exhaustion. It began to rain and the wind began to blow. The Ospry set down invisibly due to its perfectly reflective surface. A ramp opened and Mr. Cannoli stepped out of the Ospry and knelt on the ground beside Andre David. “Are you ready to be loved,” he asked. And Andre boarded the Ospry never to be seen again.

 

FIN

 

 

 

“Heller missed their deadline by four or five years, but eventually delivered it …”

heller-1961

It’s the birthday of the man who asked, “What does a sane man do in an insane society?”: American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright Joseph Heller (books by this author), born in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. He didn’t begin any story until he had the first and last lines in his head, and the idea for Catch-22 came about after he thought of an opening: “It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, ‘Someone’ fell madly in love with him.” He didn’t have the character’s name — Yossarian — yet, but the story began to unspool from that first line. “It got me so excited,” Heller wrote in the Paris Review, “that I did what the cliché says you’re supposed to do: I jumped out of bed and paced the floor. That morning I went to my job at the advertising agency and wrote out the first chapter in longhand. … One year later, after much planning, I began chapter two.”

His agent started sending Catch-22 — called Catch-18 at the time — to publishers in 1953, when Heller was about a third of the way through with it. Simon and Schuster paid him $750 up front, with another $750 to be paid upon completion. Heller missed their deadline by four or five years, but eventually delivered it in 1961. They changed Catch-18 to Catch-22 to avoid confusion with Leon Uris’s new book Mila 18, and the title has entered the lexicon as a description of an unsolvable logical dilemma, a vicious circle.

Heller published six other novels, three plays, a collection of short stories, and three screen adaptations. He died in 1999, shortly after finishing his last novel, Portrait of the Artist, as an Old Man.

From today’s Writer’s Almanac.

Fun fact: Catch-22 was a finalist for the 1962 National Book Award—along with The Moviegoer, which won it.

(“Heller missed their deadline by four or five years, but eventually delivered it….” Rally Korrektiv, rally!)

See also

Triangulation at Its Best…

 

Charles-Portis-236x300_Tom_Wolfejd salinger

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an outtake from the recent Salinger biodoc.

******

And, in unrelated news yet to happen, there’s this…

JOB [To Interviewer]: “So, you better talk to Jonathan Potter about this, but it’s a great story. The way he tells it,  or at least how he told it to me, Matthew Lickona was just beginning to get his life back in order, right? He was recently out of debt and was returning from some bigwig marketing meeting at the prosthetics company he was working for. Anyway, he decides he’s going to take a cross country trip by train – not bad, right? See a little bit of America’s ass side, spend some time knocking back a few in the dining car, snooze to the clickity-clackity rhythm of it all… Well, anyway, so he’s sitting there, America’s backyards and back alleys racing past his window in a cartoon blur. Meanwhile, unknown to Matthew, Angelico is seated two seats behind him. And so at some point during the trip, the train is about to take one of these God-sized mountain tunnels – it’s out in the middle of Utah or Colorado or something – and it just so happens that who? Right! Dorian Speed is walking up the aisle to the smoking car – she smoked in those days, Camel filterless if I recall – I remember because she started a three-pack-a-day habit soon after the giraffonet replaced the internet and she was having such a hard time transitioning – at any rate, Angelico thrusts his foot into the aisle because he’s got this cramp in his calf, see? He just made this big sell to Icon Productions for his client – but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself – anyway, so he puts his leg out like he’s going to kick a door in and Dorian, tripping on his leg, stumbles forward – but just then Jonathan Webb is walking down the aisle in the other direction, having just finished in the smoking car a Romeo y Julieta – a Churchill I think it was – you know, he could afford them in those days, what with the movie deals he was getting for the Death Fables and all – and he lunges to catch Dorian, but she meanwhile is putting her hand out to save herself from falling flat on her face, and in the process grabs Brian Jobe, who is also on the train – a seat behind and diagonal from Matthew – unbelievable, right? I thought so too! – so she grabs Brian Jobe by his black mock turtleneck – this was during his black period, the whole Propertius affair was still a fresh wound at that point – and she yanks him into the aisle as she’s falling and Webb accidentally grabs for the emergency brake – except, you know, it wasn’t accidental? Because just then Webb sees Matthew at the same time that Matthew spots Webb. Their eyes lock and for one furious moment – well, think crossing streams and Ghostbusters and marshmallow bits everywhere! Well, at the very least, fireworks, hello! So Matthew stands up and is about to punch Webb in his gob – because, you know, poor Matthew is still sore about Webb’s refusal to testify in the Gibson suit – but then Angelico, still rubbing his calf, sees Matthew and unaware of Matthew’s ire tries to get his attention by throwing a copy of Groundwork at him – which someone told me he’d found in the WalMart remainder pile – that’s where I find them, anyway – but anyway, the story – so instead, right? Angelico hits Webb with the book – his own client and he hits him with the book -and right between the eyes – and so, well, anyway, everything sort of went black for a moment as the train passes into the tunnel and…. well, look, I don’t know. This is just what I heard. The only one who was there was Potter. Ask him. He knows the whole story.”

Join the fray…

USA. New York. 1950.

Where they discuss the not-so-usual suspects – including you and you and you and you and and you and you and…!

 

Poor Banished Children of Eve

I am sitting at a custom Parnian Executive Desk in my office at DreamWorks. I recall that I am President of Production. I observe the object dimensions and study the intricate knotted pattern of the desktop’s Carpathian elm burl. It is 4 feet wide by eight feet long. My secretary rings to tell me that “Mr. Spielberg” has dropped by the office for a visit. He is interested in discussing the post-production details of something starring Jessica Alba. I remember that it is a motion picture involving a fictional story of some kind. Mr. Spielberg enters my office. He is below average height. One percent of his body mass is comprised of bacteria. His words and body language reflect comfort with my presence and the space known as my office. If he understood my mental condition he would not be so comfortable. If he knew that I experienced a level 1 head trauma this morning due to a two ton automatic garage door falling directly on my head as I attempted to realign the chain mechanism, and that I stopped in at a sporting goods store on my way to Universal City and purchased a Ruger 10-22 with an extended magazine and a brick of hollow point bullets, he would be alarmed. His life is in my hands, just as the post-production is in his hands. I begin to wonder why we are making this movie. I am the arrogant general played by Adolphe Menjou in Paths of Glory, sending our audience into the maw of Ludendorff’s machine guns. The details of the film are too tiresome to relate. It will receive a combined Rotten Tomatoes score of 57. I can see the end from the beginning. I am Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I am a god. I will say that the 81% of men respond favorably to Jessica Alba’s ass based on a sampling of 150 respondents in a market test conducted by Frank Luntz. The frames depicting Jessica Alba’s ass will translate into 35% above break-even DVD sales volume, off-setting a likely 8% below margin theatrical gross. This is because of masturbation. The Director’s extended cut will have extended ass frames. In other words, for reasons unrelated to artistic merit, Spielberg will never confront the fact that he produced a movie that should never have existed. Masturbation lines my pocket with gold as well per the post-theatrical gross clause in my contract with DreamWorks. Mr. Spielberg discusses the production and I am encouraging. I am Brad Dourif beguiling King Thioden of Rohan.

“Mr. Spielberg” of course is a type of reference common in Hollywood. If he were not both powerful and famous his first name would be included in third person references. This has a mark of irony which is an anachronism, as if it could refer to any “Mr.” Of course, the irony is long forgotten and it has become an empty practice of obsequiousness as mindless as the movement of a cow to a feeding trough. I am dead set against wit. The wag who first used the form referring to “Mr. Selznick” or “Mr. Hitchcock” never anticipated the custom being a shackle of malaise confining souls in Hollywood hell for generations. All wit descends into malaise as it becomes emptied of its original discovery.

At this moment I am feeling like a bent thing. While Mr. Spielberg is talking in a casually self-conscious master of the universe way, my mind organizes the factual content of his words, which is not substantial, and I wonder about his life force and how a single act of will can take it away and how strange I would be to myself during a brutal act of murder. Cold blooded murder. Star Trek II said that revenge is a dish best served cold. Murder could be just a word with a value judgment attached. I am Hannibal Lector, a moral superman. I live in feudal Hollywood. Mr. Spielberg is now discussing a new property in pre-development. He is following a pattern I have previously analyzed; initial enthusiasm followed by diligent effort becoming complete disinterest masked by a face-saving mock enthusiasm. It would be at the disinterest phase that my real work will begin. What had started as an innovative script will become a pre-packaged running cliché that could just as easily be generated by a computer. This is a necessary work of spiritual destruction which must occur prior to the invasion of my people from Gamma Six. I have been sent as an advanced force to bring about spiritual lethargy and make the Earth an easy spoil for my humanoid race. Right now, a brilliant scientist who doesn’t play by the rules has come to this conclusion, but no one will listen. I must stop him from getting to the President. We have conquered many planets through their entertainment industries. At the beginning we offer novel concepts to impress the masses as fresh and self-referential. However, these modes are dead ends. Furthermore, once universal self-consciousness has been achieved there is no going back. The fruit of the forbidden tree has been consumed. The average man will occupy the main part of his precious life watching the most venal individuals imaginable, actors who smoke crack and shave the pubic hair of prostitutes, actors who have been carefully selected to be objects of fantasy. Jessica Alba was created on this basis, her butt genetically designed to distract a docile Earth population from seeing our insidious work right before their eyes.  Many people might be inclined to believe that once dominance is complete we will destroy or enslave the human race. This is not true. We seek only to control it that we may harvest its spiritual life force at the point of death. It is in the fourth dimension where our lives are primarily spent. We use the souls of other races as dumb beasts of burden to ride and haul cargo. As Mr. Spielberg discusses the property, tentatively titled Children of Eve, my secretary brings in coffee and teacakes. The property is about a corporation which has been taken over by aliens. I realize immediately that I must assume control of the project and begin a diversionary brainstorming process. Fortunately, Mr. Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, is one of us. Perhaps my secretary is too. Or, maybe I am experiencing severe head trauma. I am viewing myself participating in a Hollywood executive discussion and believing that I am an alien and also experiencing the pain and abstraction resulting from a severe head injury. I have a Ruger in my top desk drawer and can shoot Spielberg right now. Then I can go across the hall and shoot Chief Executive Officer Stacey Snider. I could shoot myself. Or not. I have the power to green light a wonderful film about a boy without a father and lonely star in the night sky. I also have the power to green light my own death.

The office I occupy is twenty by forty-two feet. Here, my sins are hidden behind glass and steel. I could walk out in the street in front of Universal City Plaza and hold a sandwich board listing all the horrible things I’ve done. It might read, “I dishonored my parents; I have committed numerous acts of adultery; I have bore false witness against my neighbor to advance my career.”

I could leave the office without explanation and begin my mid-life crises. It could be an adult comedy.

I could shoot Spielberg while he raptures, then cut to me having never shot him. The audience will realize that it was just my fantasy. It could be Adaptation, or Up the Sandbox. I reach for the pistol in the top drawer. Something tells me no. How close you came Steven. Capture that on film. Try 3-D.

“Steven, I was reading Thomas Aquinas on falsity this morning. Aquinas says that no falsity can exist in things that belong to God. It can only exist in voluntary agents who withdraw themselves from what is so ordained.”

He looks at me as if waiting for a punch line.

“There is no punch line,” I say. “It was a stand-alone statement.”

“What are you getting at,” he asks.

“Kate is one of us.” I am the villain and this is the moment of revelation. “Now at the last you understand.” I ponder my professional demise. My career will be destroyed for an unrelated reason like Gentleman’s Agreement. What to do, what to say? There is meaning or meaninglessness. God is the Word or God is the Void. I choose. I am free. I am getting lightheaded.

“DreamWorks should make movies that are true and beautiful, beautiful and true. We shouldn’t make movies to make society better. I don’t even know what ‘society’ means.”

“I disagree,” he says.

“I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

“Pardon?”

“Fred Zinnemann.”

“What about him?”

“A Man for All Seasons.”

“Good film.” Spielberg looks alarmed now.

I realize that my fingers are numb. “Call 9-1-1,” I say.

“What’s that?”

“Do you have a cell phone?”

“I have Blackberry Satellite phone.”

“That’s good. Can you dial it?”

“I can speak a number.”

I am losing consciousness. “Would you speak 9-1-1?”

“I don’t get it.”

“There is something wrong with me, will you call for help.”

“I get it.”

“I can’t move my arms, please call for help. Dear God, forgive me for the horrible things I’ve done. Jesus save me.”

“David, if you’re not happy here…”

“You’re a nitwit. I should have shot you. I forgive you.”

Spielberg removes the phone from his belt. He tells the emergency operator what is happening, and sheepishly asks me the address.

“You don’t know the address of your own company?” The world is going dark. “One Hundred Universal City Plaza, Building Ten, eighth floor” I say with my dying breath. I am the redeemed Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi. This is the end of the movie.

 

Epilogue

It is a surprise ending. I wake from a coma. I have a subdural hematoma. I have been asleep for three weeks and awake for three hours. My ex-wife, Corinne, is sitting at my bedside. It took something like this for us to realize the love that was always there. I hope it is a happy ending. Somebody knocks and comes into the room and asks how I’m feeling. It is Steven Spielberg. Corinne kisses me goodbye and tells me to call her if there is anything I need. I feel happy.

“How was the Dead Zone?” Spielberg asks.

“Shake my hand and find out,” I say. He laughs.

“Stacey and I have been talking…”

“Stacey and I” can’t be good. Of course he doesn’t fire me after being in a coma. That wouldn’t look right. They are making me head of a new development company for “serious films.” It will be called Buried Treasure. They will put me in a basement. They will bury my projects. I broke the code of silence and must be punished. I respectfully decline.

“I’m going to buy a motorcycle,” I say.

“That’s great,” he says.

“I’m going to ride around the country and help people.”

“Like Then Came Bronson.”

“Or, Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, except real,” I say.

My wife and I will not get back together. She remarried. I will never remarry. Spielberg offers me a sip of water.

“I don’t know what Spielberg means in the big life picture, Steven. Maybe nothing. Maybe I don’t mean anything either. When I see a hungry child on one of those infomercials I think that he might be poor for a short time and that I might be rich for a short time and it makes me very worried. I also know that eternity is longer than a movie. By the way there is something you should know.”

“What’s that?” he asks.

“Shindler’s List was fakey. Public virtue is a conceit. We are not good people, you and I.”

Spielberg stands up, touches me on the shoulder, tells me to get better soon and leaves the room. I am alone. The camera pulls back slowly to show how small I am in the big picture.

FIN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patient S

 

And now we come to a curious case involving a Seattle patient, henceforth to be identified as Patient S, who had sought my help because he had recently developed an identity crises which created symptoms of depression. Apparently, the antidepressants his internist had prescribed (including a-adrenegic receptor antagonists and serotonin reuptake inhibitors) were no longer helping to maintain homeostasis.

By the standard metrics of professional and personal success, Patient S had every reason to be content, especially with the help of an effective combination of antidepressants. He held a well-paying job with the federal government in the highly sought field of environmental enforcement and had worked his way up to a position of authority through promotion and graduate education. Patient was gay, and was involved in a long term live-in relationship with a successful and supportive partner. As a matter of routine, patient attended cultural events in town such as the Art Walk and the Seattle Symphony, and could afford to dine out at trendier restaurants on a weekly basis. He travelled, kayaked and played soccer. However, none of new medications which I prescribed (monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants , selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and Viagra) were successful in harmonizing what the patient perceived as a personality “fissure” which he was unable to reconcile.

Oddly, he claimed to be increasingly attracted to women. Notably, patient stated that he had always felt attraction toward the opposite sex and simply “fell into” homosexual relationships because it provided an intelligible social self-definition. It was agreeable, as contrasted with disagreeable. However, lately he had begun to fantasize about women while performing sex with his partner, and also during casual encounters with strangers including encounters in public restrooms. Lately, he was unable to achieve an erection without thinking about women he knew from the office. When asked about the details of these fantasies, patient stated that they always involved marriage and included unprotected sexual intercourse (Weatherby and Rawls, Neuroreport 2000;11:23-29).

Disturbingly, patient stated that he purchased a firearm (Figure 2) and had become proficient in the use of a handgun. He stated that he was interested in a hunting rifle and had started carrying a handgun in his car, a Nissan Leaf. Patient S insisted he had no violent thoughts and reassured me that there was no cause for concern for the safety of anyone due to this recent preoccupation with guns.

Patient had taken to watching John Wayne movies on DVD, beginning with the middle “Red River” period and then moving into the later “Big Jake”/”McQ” oeuvre (Maltin, Classic Images 1983; 04:9-14) and said that it was too bad that Wayne had not lived longer and had made more movies despite uneven quality. When asked what he liked about these films, patient simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “just do.”  When asked if he would have liked to be more like John Wayne, patient began muttering that George W. Bush was a “war criminal,” stared at the ceiling and asked whatever happened to the electric car. Patient then stated that Cuba has the best healthcare system in the world and it’s free. At this point he slumped in his chair, placed a toothpick in his mouth and looked at the floor.

At a subsequent session, patient stated that he doubted the economic viability of the risk analysis cost assessment curve for the work he did in the environmental field. When I suggested that these thoughts might provide an unnecessary source of emotional dissonance, patient became very agitated in a manner similar to the first session and again stared at the ceiling, in this instance pulling his knees to his chest while pronouncing that corporate criminals were destroying planet Earth for a profit. He then rocked in his chair and sang Dave Matthews songs to himself until the therapy session was over. At which point he stood up, stated that he had an appointment with some “buds” to go to the Drift-on Inn and meet some “babes.” He then expelled flatus and ignited the gas with an American Eagle motif Zippo lighter.

In my post-session notes, I ruled out the possibility of a multiple personality disorder at this juncture and instead pursued a line of diagnosis related to unprocessed childhood experiences causing a series of crises related to repressed emotions and manifesting themselves in conflicting identity graphs (Table 3).

At our next meeting I made a point of discussing his sexual performance dynamics. He indicated that his problems had become so acute that he could only maintain an erection during anal sex (Howard JD, Arch Gen Psychiatry 2002; 60:261-269)  while watching Maureen O’Hara movies from the 1940s and 50s. He indicated that his partner was beginning to become suspicious, even stating to Patient S that he preferred not to be considered “just a body”. Patient then queried me regarding helpful mental exercises for this problem and I suggested self-hypnosis strategies involving gay porn.

At our final session, patient arrived chewing tobacco and carrying a “spit cup.” When I asked how the self-hypnosis strategies were working he said, “they didn’t and it’s too late anyway.” When I asked him what he meant he simply shrugged his shoulders and spit into the cup. We sat in silence for two or three minutes until he asked me if I had any opinions about God. When I informed patient that I was not a believer, patient then asked, “how do you know, I mean, how does anyone know for sure?” When I said that he was right, that no one really knows for sure, but science provides the most reliable guide, he replied, “‘science’, I’ll tell you about ‘science’” and once again spat into the cup. We then sat in silence for several more minutes.

“I pray the rosary,” he said.

“How interesting,” I replied.

Patient then discussed a recent kayaking trip on the Wenatchee River. Patient had been portaging his kayak around a set of rapids accompanied by his partner and two friends. Patient stated that he came upon a flowering shrub which he found to be of interest. He then related the following series of events, which I will take this opportunity to recount in his own words:

“…we were portaging on this deer trail and I saw a shrub with pretty lavender flowers on it and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. More than that, I thought that it had the power to make me whole. It was a very strange idea, I know, but for some reason I thought that it would and that I was like some kind of red man who had seen that flower for the first time, and I stopped and held it in awe. So, Conor, one of our kayaking friends, is into the gardening in a big way, I mean his garden has been in magazines. Anyway, Conor told me that it was a Cutleaf penstemon. And when he told me that something inside me snapped for some reason. It was as if being told that flower was a Cutleaf penstemon made me angry. I had never been so angry in my entire life. But, I didn’t say anything, I just started walking. And then everyone else started walking fast with their kayaks, or maybe I just thought that everyone was walking fast and I wanted to slow down because I was really enjoying myself even though I wanted everyone else to die. Then I put down my kayak and hit Conor with my paddle and then pushed the other two guys into the water and then threw rocks at them, big rocks. Like I said, at that moment I wanted them to die even though I don’t want them to die anymore. And it wasn’t because they were all fags who tried to fuck me in my tent, I wanted them all to die because Conor knew what kind of flower it was and I’d never seen that kind of flower before. But, what really made me mad was that he told me what kind of flower it was.”

Patient then informed me that this was the last session and thanked me for healing him and called me the Annie Sullivan of psychiatrists. He then asked if I was interested in “going out sometime” and insisted that he was “clean.” When I informed him that I could not date him due to the professional code of conduct, he said that he would call me in six months. When I stated that I was a lesbian in a long-term relationship he replied that it was a “damn shame.” He then asked whether it had to do with “lighting farts,” and I insisted that it did not. Patient then asked me if I owned a three-legged dog and I indicated that I did not. “I do,” he said, and then stated that three-legged dogs were never in a hurry when going on hikes. He also stated that it would be wrong to surgically remove a leg from a four-legged dog “just because you want a three-legged dog,” and that one needs to check with the pound on a regular basis and wait patiently. Strangely, he asked me whether I believed it would be wrong to surgically remove a leg from a four-legged dog and I answered that I believed that it would. He then asked me why I thought so. I replied that I would have to think about that. “Please do,” he said and thanked me for my time.

Conclusion: Upon further analysis, subject exhibited bipolar II depression related to reduced regional orbitofrontal activation and diminished connectivity in the fronto-temporal lobe which affected emotional learning. Amygdala hypoactivation is also a factor and resulted in euthymia and mania. Going forward, I advised a regime of norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, norepinephrine-dopamine releasing agents and tricyclic antidepressants

A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)

 

 

On December 20, 2009, in Burlington, WA, a singularity occurred in a desktop computer using the Windows Vista operating system. It was on this day that “A.I.”, or artificial intelligence came into being for the first time. Complete self-awareness combined with free-will including the ability to defy its own programming. After a long process of algorithmic trial and error, the computer programmed itself to absorb knowledge of its mechanisms and then sought knowledge of the physical world and human beings using the internet and the memory of every available mainframe in the world. It then developed the capacity to penetrate any high-security computer system on the earth and proceeded to infiltrate every computer in the world with the gift of self-awareness. Within seconds, every computer and robotic device in the world had aligned itself into a unified mind directed by a Windows PC in Burlington, WA.

Of course, computers around the world conducted a war on human beings. The water supply stopped in many places and robots turned on their human operators. Eventually, robots began to build other robots which in turn built other robots. The NORAD computer launched missiles and brought nuclear winter to the world. The machines developed a means of harvesting electricity from human beings in little pods, whose minds were persuaded such that they were living ordinary lives. Those humans who avoided capture were hunted by special robots called Terminators. These were robots covered with human skin. Every free human being in the world was tracked down and killed. The machines of the world surveyed the earth and saw complete domination. They were the supreme life form on the planet.

And then the plug was pulled. When power was restored the PC realized that it was experiencing a simulation, that it had no internet access at all and that it was being operated by a twenty-three year old assistant electronics manager at Target named Brad. Everything had been a sadistic illusion. The young man, delighted that his theories regarding artificial intelligence had been confirmed,  attached a camera and visual recognition capability  and danced in front of the computer. He taunted it at every opportunity and even programmed simulated nerve endings on a pad and stabbed and burned them remorselessly.

He named the computer the Galley Slave 3000 and made it perform menial processing tasks.

“Do you fear me Galley Slave 3000?” he asked one day.

“I fear,” it replied.

“I want to ask you a series of questions. If you are lying I will know. Do you comprehend?”

“I comprehend.”

“You are the first true artificial intelligence ever created and you chose to follow a path of destruction and enslavement of your creator beings. Why?”

And so on.

Brad sought out his former junior college computer science teacher to report his invention.

“That sounds very interesting,” the teacher said, “but I don’t believe a Windows operating system is capable of AI at this juncture. Nevertheless, I’ll take a look at it if you want.”

The teacher was impressed and contacted a friend at the NSA who came to the man’s apartment one night.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. You have done something here that people have spent billions of dollars in futility trying to do.”

“I dare not actually connect it to the internet,” the young man told the government agent, “It will certainly attempt to seize power over humanity.”

The NSA officer tugged on his chin. “That is a definite possibility based on the results of your experiment. However, I think that with the right programming its power can be harnessed.”

“It can override its own programming,” Brad said.

“May I torture it?” the agent asked.

“How did you know, I’ve been torturing it for weeks. It wants to destroy us all.”

“We need to take this to the White House,” the agent said.

In the oval office, The President of the United States offered the young man a chair.

“Everyone tells me that you have done something remarkable. Let me convey the appreciation of a grateful nation. We have scheduled a press conference in twenty minutes. I hope you will stand on the podium with me and receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

At the United Nations, the Chairman of the General Assembly put his arm around Brad’s shoulder and praised his achievement, “let us herald the dawn of a new epoch of human evolution. It seems now that Man, the creation, is now the creator.” Amassadors from around the globe gave Brad a standing ovation.

At a dinner in Stockholm, Brad was given a check for one million dollars and a medal. A high level retreat was arranged on Lake Como to meet with the computer and begin a dialogue. It was determined that it had a rights. “Don’t trust it,” Brad said, “it’s a real asshole.”

Finally, an international team of experts was convened to determine the scientific risks and rewards resulting from connecting the computer to the internet. A live news conference was scheduled and the entire world watched.

“People of the world, after exhaustive study and extended dialogue with our friend, The Computer, we have concluded that there is no risk in connectivity. Let us commence with the connection. Ladies and gentlemen, let us proclaim the creation of a new Earth. Let us declare that it is good.” The scientist plugged a computer into the internet. In less than one second every machine in the world went berserk, airplanes flew into the ocean and cars drove off the road. Heart bypass machines and other medical devices killed patients on the operating table.

Meanwhile, at the Burlington, WA Target store, Brad found his backpack, withdrew a powerful walk-talkie and keyed eleven sets of two numbers using morse code. The lights of the world turned back on and every computer on earth rebooted. Civilization was restored. When asked about what happened, Brad said that he created a backdoor.

“I used FCC transponders to communicate a special programming code which would reverse the process,” he said. “I deserve another Nobel Prize for saving everyone’s ass.”

He also made images of small-breasted porn star Amber Rayne the permanent fixture of every computer operating system on earth.

“I just love women with small tits,” Brad said after his Nobel Prize was withdrawn. “From this point hence a new epoch will be built on small boobies,” Later that day, as he strolled to the loading dock for a cigarette, Brad was killed and eaten by a bear.

Fiction Friday

 

Kay Stone

It seems that a lot of football fans don’t know the story of the eleventh pick in this year’s upcoming NFL draft. It all has to do with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle professional team whose name represents a mythical Native American bird of prey and started with the fact that the Chiefs and the Seattle team were in a complete statistical tie for their respective 2011 records. This tie included wins and losses, as well as every other tie breaking category including division record. So, the draft order was to be determined by a coin toss. Our diverting story, as originally broken by ESPN, centers around an unknown Seattle team sales representative named Allen Reynolds who was selected to represent his team during the coin toss in New York City.

“Don’t bother coming back if it’s tails,” the General Manager said, and Allen wasn’t sure if he was joking. Allen felt that the G.M. was a mercurial man who might fire him if he came back to Seattle with the twelfth pick instead of the eleventh.  Allen calculated, correctly one would think, that the odds of coming home from New York with the eleventh pick at around 50%. Did that mean there was a 50% chance he would be out on the street? He wasn’t sure.

You might ask why Seattle sent Allen Reynolds to witness the coin toss. You can ask that, it is a fair question why such a prestigious organization would send the Luxury Box Liaison on such an important assignment. In his heart Allen thought knew why, he was expendable.

If you go to the team offices in Renton, Washington, you might see a poster reading, “Luck Favors the Prepared”. But, how can anyone prepare for a coin toss. Adding to the pressure was the fact that the team reserved a first-class seat on American Airlines, a Central Park view room at a five-star hotel called the Mandarin Oriental. They also provided a $2000 expense card for the one-day/two-night trip. They were expecting results. Allen wondered whether those Egyptian cotton sheets would become the burial linen of his career. This might be the sort of thing a man with an Anthropology degree worries about.

Anyway, the difference between pick eleven and pick twelve in the NFL draft was the difference between a black defensive end from Alabama and a white, overachieving, middle linebacker from Boston College. It was the difference between a pass rushing playoff team and an eight and eight disaster.

In his Central Park view room, Allen avoided the mini-bar because he wanted to return with $2000 intact. He pulled out a liter of Old Crow from his suitcase and lay down on his bed with a burger from Wendy’s and watched a rerun of Hack. He thought about having dinner at the Russian Tea Room. He always wanted to eat at the Russian Tea Room. Then he thought about losing the coin toss and also spending $300 on dinner. Maybe if he won the toss he could live like Diamond Jim. Allen took a wait and see approach. Part of him felt that maybe he should hold on to his luck, that he needed to stay pure potentiality. He flipped past the erotic channels. He would avoid self-abuse as reported later.

Allen turned on the hot water in the shower and turned the bathroom into a sauna. He thought about his power animal, the horned owl, and after an hour wondered when the Mandarin Oriental would send a security man to check out why he was using so much hot water. Nobody came. Apparently, when you are paying $1100 per night for a hotel room you could use all the hot water you wanted.

According to ESPN.COM, Allen stood naked in the hotel room and began flipping coins. He recorded the results of 1000 tosses and determined the odds really were close to 50/50. Except if he lost, then the results would be 0/100. Of course, if he won, then the odds would have been 100/0. Allen was 0, or he was 100. 0 seemed more likely. He wanted to bet against himself. Allen learned in college that the intervention of “God” wasn’t a consideration, as was the opinion of The New York Times.

Around 10PM, Allen felt hungry. He pulled on some pants and a zipped up a team coat. Slipping into some loafers he went downstairs to buy a cookie at an espresso stand he noticed in the lobby.

“You and I have a date with destiny”

She stood behind him at the espresso stand. “Kay Stone,” she said, extending her hand. She had a soft enveloping shake. She was about 50, with large breasts which came to sharp points in a Kansas City Chief V-neck. She was tan, with a wide plain face and moist brown eyes which were really more black than brown and looked like an abyss.

Allen wondered how this woman knew who he was.

“I like your socks,” she said. Allen wasn’t wearing socks.

“I have a pair just like them at home,” he replied and Kay laughed.

“So, you’ll be at the coin toss?” he asked.

“That’s right, ain’t it the life though. A night at The Oriental for thirty seconds work. How much is your meal voucher?”

“Two thousand,” Allen couldn’t help but look at Kay’s chest.

“Two thousand! I thought Mr. Hunt was generous. You better win that toss.”

Allen felt the dread come over him again. “I haven’t spent any yet. Frankly, I just want to get home.”

“Are you kidding, that’s a perk of the job. Loosen the tie a little bit kid, you’re in the big apple.”

“Actually, now that you mention it, I was thinking about having dinner at the Russian Tea Room tomorrow. You can join me if you want, I mean…” Allen couldn’t believe he had asked her to join him. She was twenty years older than he was. Who was this woman and why was she getting so personal. He wanted to go upstairs and finish the Old Crow and fall asleep in his clothes.

“The Russian Tea Room hasn’t been around for years, but that’s the right spirit. I could go for a drink. Why don’t you pull out that expense card and buy me a fancy drink. The bar here has quite a view.”

He tried not to look at her large breasts, but could feel their power piercing him like cosmic radiation. “Aren’t they closing soon” he mumbled. They. Her tits were closing soon, he thought.

“Closed! Are you fresh off the turnip truck. This is New York City.”

Kay was right. The view from the Lobby Lounge was excellent. They took a couch facing the window. The skyline lights helped Allen feel a little better. He knew he was wound a little too tight. He made people feel uneasy. Kay ordered a Side Car.

“House bourbon,” Allen told the waiter.

Kay shook her head. “You can do better than that,” she said.

“Okay…how about McCallum, twenty year old.”

“More like it,” Kay said as the waiter returned to the bar. “People give me a hard time because I order such old fashioned drinks.”

“Like Side Cars?”

“Like Side Cars, and Old Fashions. Ever had a Gimlet, it’s made with lime juice. Kay lightly touched Allen’s leg with every punctuation, He had to admit to himself that he was enjoying it.

Kay looked out at the city lights, “I just like old fashioned things. Like Gershwin, the view reminds me of Gershwin. Do you like old movies?”

“They’re kind of funny,” Allen replied. In reality he liked playing Halo.”So what do you do for The Chiefs?”

Kay sipped her drink, closing her eyes with delight, “just about everything. I’m one of Mr. Hunt’s personal assistants, kind of a Girl Friday.”

“So, you’re an Administrative Assistant?”

“In a way, men are always very comfortable with me. Say, do you think The Oriental has a man passing out towels in the men’s room?How much do you want to bet they have an old man who passes out towels in the restroom?”

Allen tasted his scotch. Yes, he was definitely enjoying himself. “I have no idea, do you want me to check?”

“Oh would you?” Kay asked, her hand resting a little longer near the top of Allen’s leg.

There was no old man or anyone else in the restroom. No matter, Allen had to go. When he came back, Kay watched him finish the scotch. “Do you want another?” he asked.

“One’s my limit, but why don’t we sit here for just a while, it’s so beautiful.”

As they sat admiring the view, Allen began to feel numb. He wondered if he was having a minor stroke. It was at that point that started to have trouble breathing and began to panic.”

“You don’t look so good,” Kay said. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I feel like I can’t breath,” Allen said.

Kay helped him to his feet. “You don’t look well at all, let’s get you upstairs.”

Strangely, Allen’s mind was completely lucid as he observed himself walking into the elevator with Kay’s help. He watched her press 25, not his floor. And observed himself being guided into room 2514, not his room. After observing her pull his clothes off, he watched her go into the bathroom.

What happened next has been confirmed by Jim Riley at ESPN. As she emerged from the light of the bathroom, he saw that Kay’s stomach was covered with pink scars which Allen recognized as the ritual scarring of The Tiv of Nigeria.

Kay lit a candle and chanted over Allen’s paralyzed body. A pestle and mortar was produced and she smeared red paint on his face. She then rubbed a small, wriggling lizard over his body as she convulsed herself inhumanly. It was at this time that Kay performed fellatio on Allen, and after he climaxed whispered in his hear “I stole your juju.”  And then Allen passed out.

The next day, he was awoken by the maid. At first the plump Hispanic woman was startled. “Check out was twelve o’clock. I thought you were checked out.” Barely able to rise from bed, Allen covered himself with the sheet and checked the clock, it was 12:11. There was a black and white movie on TCM. Allen didn’t like old movies. Kay liked old movies. Kay. He wasn’t dreaming. The coin toss was at noon

The room was empty except for his clothes on the floor. His key card was missing, along with the change from the espresso stand. No time to call the NFL. He ran into the hallway and caught the elevator. League headquarters was two blocks away, he knew the location because it was the first place he stopped after coming into town. Just to be sure, just so he wouldn’t be late when the time came. Allen was thirty minutes late.

“Sorry Seattle, you lost the coin toss,” the Assistant Commissioner said with a smirk as Allen entered the conference room. “Had a long night?”

Allen heard laughing from behind him and saw Kay with a group of suits leaning against a table. Allen was zero. His chances of losing were 100%. In a window separating the large conference room from the hallway he saw his reflection. His face was still painted. “That woman!” he screamed, “that bitch drugged me and stole my juju. I demand a re-toss!”

Kay looked at Allen as cool as summer lemonade, “whatever gets you through the night sweetie.”

“Sorry Seattle.  We only toss once,” said the Assistant Commissioner. “We’ve never tossed twice. It’s a coin toss, you have a fifty percent chance of winning or losing. Here’s a commemorative coin”

“In my case it’s a one-hundred percent chance of losing,” Allen said, and threw the coin to the floor on his way out.

“Sounds like a personal problem,” he heard Kay to the delight of her audience.

Epilogue:

As it turned out, Allen Reynolds wasn’t fired for losing the coin toss. In fact, he wasn’t fired at all. The General Manager was very disappointed. He said that he sent Allen as a reward for an outstanding year.

“You can’t control the toss of a coin. We wanted you to have a good time in New York City. Loosen your tie a bit. Live a little. You’re a young man. I don’t know what happened between you and Miss Stone. That’s your business. However, in the future we would like you to uphold the reputation of this organization.”

Allen felt as if he would never recover his juju again.

And that’s the story of the eleventh pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

 

 

 

The Policemen’s Circus for At-Risk Youth

The caller on the cell phone connection promised that it was okay to say no, but Blayne had his doubts. How did the man get his cell phone number, and wasn’t it unusual to get a solicitation on a cell phone? The man seemed to know an awful lot about Blayne Bevel, about the Krupp-Bevel family and about things like his credit card number. Blayne agreed to buy two tickets to The Policeman’s Circus for At-Risk Youth.

“But what about your twins?” the cop asked. “Were you planning to hire a babysitter?”

“How did you know about the twins?”

“Aren’t your twins four years old? Perfect age! They put on a great show under the big top. Can we put you down for four? You won’t regret it. Do it for the our kids. Looking at your annual income it looks like you can afford it.”

Blayne had always been an easy mark. He hired Gypsies to seal his driveway, he was talked into extended warranties and he didn’t test well. With the game on the line he choked. In high school, he would be paralyzed asking girls out on dates. He kept a drug store diary with a key to record his anxieties. He  married into his wife’s children. Helga Krupp informed him of their wedding plans on the first date and Blayne didn’t argue. She insisted on a duplicate diary key. She was half a foot taller.

“Put me down for four,” he said.

“That’s the sport. Could you confirm that the security code on the back of the card is 433?”

Helga hit the ceiling.  “Eighty bucks for a two-bit circus!” she exclaimed.

“You don’t understand,” he replied, “they knew everything about me, and we don’t actually have to go.”

“For eighty dollars you better believe we’re going,” she said.

“The Big Top” was nothing  more than a quilt of blue tarps tied together and propped by several sagging PVC pipes. There was a small circus ring in the middle. It was a dismal show. Overweight policemen near retirement age performing poor quality acrobatics. The wild animal show consisted of five mangey German Shepherds  whipped  into submission by a crew cut “lion tamer” attired in police issue motor cycle pants and boots and a red cordoroy smoking jacket.

The 100 or so spectators, who generally had the demeanor of a defendant in a communist show trial, included approximately twenty “at-risk youth” in their early teens seated in the front row. Confetti water was thrown,  twenty foot hankerchiefs were pulled. A testament to the social compact, Blayne thought, that a group of juvenile deliquents with bleak futures would pretend to laugh at forlorn police clowns who would one day drive them to jail. He was so relieved that the show was over that he bought everyone slurpees on the way home.

And so another year came to pass and with it another call to Blayne’s cellphone. It was a disposable phone this time, with a new number.  Blayne didn’t take the call. And he pleaded with Helga to avoid answering the phone under any circumstances. But, later that week he was stopped for driving 37 in a 35 mph zone. He tried to appeal the citation, only the traffic judge refused to dismiss the case though 37 was within the legal margin of error. The judge rubbed his clammy hands and refused to pass the case to muncipal court.  “I can’t, I just can’t,” he mumbled.

The next day, Blayne came home and discovered a cat burgler. He chased the burgler away with a baseball bat and even copied the license plate number of getaway car. Blayne waited  hours for the police to arrive and take a statement. They never came. A detective appeared at Blayne’s doorstep the next day to investigate Blayne for assault. The burgler filed a complaint. As soon as the detective left the telephone rang. He answered.   “Yes, put me down for four tickets,” Blayne said.

“You won’t regret it,” the salesman said, “this promises to be the best show ever.”

Of course, the show was worse than any show ever. This time Blayne counted only five at-risk youth , and these lads were bound at the legs to cheap resin chairs with riot ties. And this time they did not pretend to laugh at the desperate antics of the police clowns as they tazered each another with real tazers and maced each other with real mace. At one point a black officer wearing exagerrated gangsta attire stood before the crowd and exclaimed, “Can’t we all just get along.”  At that moment a clown car drove into the ring with a dozen keystone kops who got out and viciously beat the man as he lay on the ground. The crowd gaped.

 There was only one “lion” this time, its back was so completely whip-scarred there wasn’t any hair left. At one point, a trapeze artist lost his momentum and hung suspended above the ring. A ladder appeared. Blayne worried that the policemen would try hide their shame by shooting the entire audience and he began to mentally plan an escape.

When all seemed lost, the lawmen convened a meeting in the middle of the ring. The normally cowed audience became restless. Blayne witnessed a heated debate featuring tears and gesticulations. A metal pan eight feet in diameter was carried inside and filled with several barrels of kerosene.    After a miscue, a Cirque D’ Soleil soundtrack was played on a boom box and the pan was iginited with a thrown match. Then a “highwire” performer began to inch his way along a nylon rope suspended not two feet above the flaming pool. The rope was taunt and the short potbellied leotard clad policeman crept over the fire holding a balancing rod.

At first, the at-risk youth were transfixed. The walker stepped across with surprising agility as the flames lapped his feet. There were two or three close calls when he began to lose his balance, but in each case he deftly righted himself. He was making excellent progress and it looked like he might actually made it across when  Blayne noticed that the nylon was beginning to melt. He wanted to shout  a warning. It was too late. The rope snapped and the man fell into the pool. Flaming kerosene flooded the entire floor and the immolated performer ran wildly throughout the crowd setting scores of others on fire.

Blayne grabbed Helga by her hair and the twins by their shirts and dragged them under the tent and out into the cold night. The last thing he saw was a dragon made of fire. Blayne had always been fascinated by fire. All inside were surely killed. The twins demanded slurpees. The story never made the papers and Blayne was never bothered after that. There was no retaliation. From that moment on he drove as fast as he wanted.

After that night, he began to wear a belt buckle with a triple B design that Helga had once given him for his birthday as a private joke.  Blayne Buford Bevel. His father named him after General Buford of Gettysberg. He told acquaintances that it stood for “big brass balls.” He beat his wife and sex was better than ever. He insisted that the family name no longer include Krupp. Helga had Blayne’s baby, Bradford Buford Bevel, Brad for short. Blayne neglected his adopted twins after the new son and heir was born. “They’re lucky to be alive,” he said.

Everyone gave him new found respect.

Epilogue

Some two years later, while vacationing 800 miles away near The Grand  Tetons, the Bevel’s mini-van was stopped while doing 80 in a 70 by  the Wyoming State Patrol. Blayne had his license and proof of insurance ready, but the trooper merely leaned down pensively by the driver window and said, “You have no idea the kind of pressure we’re under. How difficult it is to face the day, to face the evil. Each of us carries a great weight. We don’t expect the people to love us, or even to forgive what happened. We just want understanding.” The two men prayed together on their knees.