beat-up, get-down, subterranean
homesick, reality-sandwich blues
a, like, poet. Mona. Mona Sausalito. I write lyrics for my boyfriend's
band, Plato's Deathmetal Tumors. Plato's Deathmetal Tumors kicks butt.
It's one of the best Neogoth bands in Seattle. My boyfriend's name
is Mosh. Mosh shaved his head and tattooed it with rad circuitry patterns.
He plays wicked cool lead and sings like Steve Tyler on amphetamines.
Only that's not his real name. His real name is Marvin Goldstein.
But so. Like I say, I'm a poet. I write about human sacrifices, cannibalism,
vampires, and stuff. Mosh loves my work. He says we're all going to
be famous some day. Only right now we're not, which bites, cuz I've
been writing for like almost ten months. These things take time, I
guess. Except we need some, like, cash to get by from week to week.
Which is why Mosh one day says take the part-time job at Escort à
la Mode. Why not? I say. Which I guess kind of brings me to my story.
I'm cruising Capitol Hill in one of the company's black BMWs when
my car-phone rings. Escort à la Mode's a real high-class operation.
Escortette's services go for $750 an hour. We usually work with foreign
business types. Japs and ragheads mostly. Politicians, too. With 24
hours' notice, we can also supply bogus daughters, brothers, and sons.
You name it. Except there's absolutely nothing kinky here. We don't
even kiss the clients. No way. Handshakes max. Take them out, show
them the town, eat at a nice restaurant, listen to them yak, take
them to a club, watch them try to dance, take them home. Period. We're
tour guides, like. Our goal is to make people feel interesting. Therma
Payneshe's my bossTherma says our job is to "give
good consort." Therma's a scream. But so. Like I say, my car
phone rings. I answer. Dispatcher gives me an address, real chi-chi
bookstore called Hard Covers down by the fish market. My client's
supposed to be this big-deal writer guy who's reading there. Poet.
Allen something. Supposed to've been famous back in like the Pleistocene
Error or something. Worth bazillions. So important I never even heard
of him. But, hey. It's work.
I'm not being like unmodest or anything, okay? But I happen to be
fricking gorgeous. No shit. My skin's real white. I dye my hair, which
is short and spiked, shoe-polish black, then streak it with these
little wisps of pink. Which picks up my Lancòme Corvette-red
lipstick and long Estée Lauder Too-Good-To-Be-Natural black
lashes. When I talk with a client, I'll keep my eyes open real wide
so I always look Winona-Ryder-surprised by what he's saying. I'm 5'2",
and when I wear my Number Four black-knit body-dress and glossy black
Mouche army boots I become every middle-aged man's bad-little-girl
wet dream. So I don't just walk in to Hard Covers, okay? I kind of,
what, sashay. Yeah. That's it. Sashay. I've never been there before,
and I'm frankly pretty fucking impressed. Place is just humongous.
More a warehouse than a bookstore. Except that it's all mahogany and
bronze and dense carpeting. Health-food bar. Espresso counter. Dweeb
with bat-wing ears playing muzak at the baby grand. Area off on the
side with a podium and loads of chairs for the reading. Which is already
filling. Standing room only. People are real excited. And books. God.
Books. Enough books to make you instantly anxious you'll never read
them all, no way, no matter how hard you try, so you might as well
right on time. So I ask the guy at the register for the famous rich
poet. He points to the storeroom. Warming up, he says. So I go on
back and knock, only no one answers. I knock again. Nada. My meter's
running, and I figure I might as well earn my paycheck, so I try the
knob. Door's unlocked. I open it, stick myhead in, say hi. It's pretty
dark, all shadows and book cartons, and the room stretches on forever,
and I'm already getting bored, so I enter and close the door behind
me. When my eyes adjust a little, I make out a dim light way off in
a distant corner. I start weaving toward it through the rows and rows
of cartons. As I get closer, I can hear these voices. They sound kind
of funny. Worried, like. Real fast and low. And then I see them. I
see the whole thing.
five or six guys in gray business suits and ties, real like FBI or
something, are huddling over this jumble on the floor. At first I
don't understand what I'm looking at. Then I make out the portable
gurney. And this torso on it, just this torso, naked and fleshy pink
in a Barbie-doll sort of way, rib cage big as a cow's, biggest fucking
belly you ever saw. Out of it are sticking these skinny white flabby
legs, between them this amazingly small little purple dick and two
hairy marbles. Only, this is, the chest isn't a real chest. There's
a panel in it. And the panel's open. And one of the guys is tinkering
with some wiring in there. And another is rummaging through a wooden
crate, coming up with an arm, plugging it into the torso, while a
third guy, who's been balancing a second arm over his shoulder like
a rifle or something, swings it down and locks it into place.
may be a poet, okay, but I'm not a fucking liar or anything. I'm just
telling you what I saw. Believe it or not. Go ahead. Frankly I don't
give a shit. But I'm telling you, I'm standing there, hypnotized like,
not sure whether to run or wet myself, when this fourth guy reaches
into the crate and comes up with, I kid you not, the head. I swear.
I fucking swear. A head. The thing is so gross. Pudgy. Bushy. Gray-haired.
And with these eyes. With these sort of glazed eyes that're looking
up into the darkness where the ceiling should've been. I could hurl
just thinking about it.
after a pretty long time fidgeting with the stuff in the chest, they
prop the torso into a sitting position and start attaching the head.
It's not an easy job. They fiddle and curse, and once one of them
slips with a screwdriver and punctures the thing's left cheek. Only
they take some flesh-toned silicon putty junk and fill up the hole,
which works just fine. And the third guy reaches into his breast pocket
and produces these wire-rimmed glasses, which he slips into place
on the thing's face, and then they all stand back, arms folded, admiring
their work and all, and then the first guy reaches behind the thing's
neck and pushes what must've been the ON/OFF button.
eyes roll down and snap into focus. Head swivels side to side. Mouth
opens and closes its fatty lips, testing. And then, shit, it begins
talking. It begins fucking talking.
I'm with you in Rockland. I'm wuh-wuh-wuh-with you... But my agent.
What sort of agent is that? What could she have been thinking? Have
you seen those sales figures? A stone should have better figures than
that! I'm wuh-with you in the nightmare of trade paperbacks, sudden
flash of bad PR, suffering the outrageousness of weak blurbs and failing
shares. Where is the breakthrough book? Where the advance? Share with
me the vanity of the unsolicited manuscript! Show me the madman bum
of a publicist! Movie rights! Warranties! Indemnities! I am the twelve
percent royalty! I am the first five-thousand copies! I am the retail
and the wholesale, the overhead and the option clause! Give me the
bottom line! Give me the tax break! Give me a reason to collect my
rough drafts in the antennae crown of commerce! Oh, mental, mental,
mental hardcover! Oh, incomplete clause! Oh, hopeless abandon of the
unfulfilled contract! I am wuh-wuh-wuh-with you... I am wuh-wuh-wuh-with
you in Rockland... I am...
shit," says the first guy.
says the second.
body is a prosthesis for the mind! the
famous rich poet says.
should've let him go," says the third guy.
his ticker stopped," says the first.
his liver quit," says the second.
thing, "says the fourth. "Nanotech sure ain't what it's
cracked up to be."
got that right," says the third.
thousand books in 1998 alone,
the famous rich poet says,
but they couldn't afford it. Tangier, Venice, Amsterdam. What were
they thinking? Wall Street is holy! The New York Stock Exchange is
holy! The cosmic clause is holy! I'm wuh-wuh-wuh...wuh-wuh-wuh...
him off," says the fifth one.
greenish foam begins forming on the famous rich poet's lips, dribbling
down hi chin, spattering his hairless chest.
well," says the second.
we got some tightening to do," says the third, reaching behind
the thing's neck.
just as he pressed that button, just for a fraction of an instant,
the stare of the famous rich poet fell on me as I tried scrunching
out of sight behind a wall of boxes. Our eyes met. His looked like
those of a wrongly convicted murderer maybe like one second before
the executioner throws the switch that'll send aquadrillion volts
or something zizzing through his system. In them was this mixture
of disillusionment, dismay, fear, and uninterrupted sorrow. I froze.
He stretched his foam-filled mouth as wide as it would go, ready to
bellow, ready to howl. Except the juice failed. The power paled. His
mouth slowly closed again. His eyes rolled back up inside his head.
me? I said fuck this. Fuck the books, fuck the suits, fuck Escort
à la Mode, fuck the withered old pathetic shit. This whole
thing's way too fricking rich for my blood.
so I turned and walked.