THE TRUE BUT OFTEN APOCRYPHAL STORY OF THE METAMORPHOSIS OF THOMAS VELLUM’S BEARD, PART II:4

II:4 How will this end? Will our narrative, based on our understanding of TV, merge at some point with the real TV? Are we running alongside of him in a parallel circumstance? Do we have a bird’s eye view of him or are we in his mind’s eye? In either case, who is
TV and who are we? So much in our lives depends on invention. So much of our invention depends on our grasp of the past and our luck and our willingness to take chances.
Like flies drawn to the smell of sugar, we’ve returned to the Fifth Avenue home of Raymond Smith. The front door opens directly onto a large expanse that is both foyer and living room. The foyer walls are a subtle grey. A proscenium-like entrance framed in a classical manner popular in the 20s, has large glass French doors folded back to the walls. Beyond, the living room is immaculate white with thirteen foot ceilings. At the far opposite wall, there is an array of large windows, bordered with heavy full-length curtains. On one side of the room there is a large empty fireplace with an elaborate marble mantle. Hanging above it is a painting by an up-and-coming young painter. On the other side of the room an enormous flat television screen set in the wall captures our attention with its rapid sequence of colorful images. In a corner of the room a grand piano. Elsewhere comfortable sofas and arm chairs draped in white linen as well as coffee tables and armoires in white with gold inlay, supporting antique lamps of Delft Origin. Doors lead off to other rooms.
The television is tuned to the latest developments. We are at war. But Raymond, on seeing his prize client wrapped in a wet madras jacket marching into his living room; followed by shivering Cass, dressed in spring attire and whose illness of years past had precipitated her husband’s sudden fury of creativity; followed by his newest client, Judy Crucible, in purple fur, her shoulders hunched, holding onto a Gorilla flecked with melting snow is, if not exactly ebullient, happy at all the possibilities presented here.
Raymond Well, this is quite an unexpected visit, Thom. I was expecting Judy, though not exactly under these circumstances. Where’s Adolf?
Judy Back at the venue.
Cass She walked out on him, so we gave her a lift.
Raymond Cass, you look wonderful. Exactly what we need on such a night. How’s Clio?
Cass Keeping out of trouble, I hope. And the girls?
Raymond Don’t get me started. But look at Thom! What have you done? You look as young as you did the day we first met. Are you using a special cream, vitamins? Are you having injections? Who’s your dermatologist? He’s a magician!
Cass Dr. V as in Vanity. Nice beard, Raymond.
Raymond Thank you. I needn’t tell you the source of inspiration. We’re calling it the Vellumesque.
Cass There’s no end to Thom’s usefulness.
TV Raymond, you must turn a few of your houses into shelters for the homeless. They’ve no where to go.
Raymond Yes, it’s dreadful.
Cass You can call them Vellumtels.
Raymond If there’s a way I can help the unfortunate. . .
Cass I’m sure there’s a tax advantage.
Raymond But you haven’t introduced me to your hairy friend.
TV Anthony Morales, we go way back..
Judy He’s a real Homo erectus. . .
Raymond Your name rings a bell.
Cass You have picked up a few tidbits along the way, haven’t you?
Judy The dog and I were always digging up old bones in the backyard. . .
Raymond You know, Thomas, you never cease to surprise me.
Judy which helped me understand the anatomy of mammals.
Cass I’m sure that’s come in handy.
Chorus Ladies and gentlemen, once again, your President.
Raymond Well, Anthony, your suit seems to have kept you warm, even if it’s faux.
Chorus Shhh, everyone!
President The liberation of Refugium is going along at unprecedented speed. The Secretary of War will have more to say as we forge ahead in our pursuit of economic freedom for all. There are those who say we have invaded an impoverished nation of homeless people because of the oil said to be found there. This is not so. I expect the ladies and gentlemen of the press to take responsibility for the information they disseminate since it is your duty to assure the public on matters of truth. It is the right of every American to trust and believe what they read and see on our news broadcasts without worrying that the masters of deception have slipped another lie into the main stream. It is the duty of the news corps to stand on the side of Liberty. Fortunately, there is oil and at this moment our economists are studying the feasibility of using this resource to help finance the rebuilding of Refugium as well as pay the costs for this unfortunate war brought upon us by the surge in homelessness. Rest assured, our economists are Ivy League men and women, among the highest in their class. Many graduated with honors.
Chorus Hurrah for the red, white and blue! It’s time we all put aside our differences, our partisan views. It’s time to join hands and fight the good war together.
Raymond Here, let me get you all something warm to wear. Cass you’re shivering.
Chorus I’d like to hold her hand.
Cass Think of it, a curfew!
Chorus Whose hand, Cass’s?
Judy How about a drink?

Cass Love one!
Chorus No, Judy’s. With those nails she doesn’t need utensils.
Raymond Help yourselves, near the kitchen, bar’s to the left. Cass, try this on.
Chorus She looks forbidding to me. Those nails, those daggers in her lower lip.
Cass No thanks.
Chorus She can cut my lip on her talons anytime. It looks as if she and Cass are trying to avoid each other. . . Do you think Judy’s been drinking. . ? No, she’s staggering because of those tiptoe heels. . . But it looks like she untied the laces at the hem of her vinyl dress. That must make it easier for her to walk. . . Yeah, but not much. . ! Cass can’t stop shaking with the cold. . . Her jacket’s too thin.
TV Raymond, what about this poster?
Chorus Everyone, the gorilla is lifting his hairy head off. . . Now we’ll discover the identity of the Barbie man. . . There it goes. . . Please, a round of applause for the big guy. His eyes are dark and his swarthy face wet with perspiration. . . Would you say he’s handsome. . ? Adorable.
Anthony That’s better.
Judy My, my, now I know why Blotter worries about you. You’re wife’s a lucky woman.
Chorus She’s reaching out with those formidable finger nails to stroke his head.
Anthony Take it. Now what about that drink?
Chorus Do you think they’d make a nice couple?
Judy Stolichnaya, neat.
Anthony Cass?
Judy I love your head of hair.
Cass Lemon and soda.
Chorus Yes, but he’s married, isn’t he?
Cass Who, Homo erectus ?
Chorus Yeah. . . but wouldn’t that be a new twist, you know, take the moral rectitude right out of this story. . ? If they were playing strip poker, wouldn’t she have to take her coat off next. . ? You’d like that, wouldn’t you. . ? Hey, I didn’t criticize your amorous glances at the Barbie man. . . Anyway she’d have to have the losing hand and she seems to have everything in hand.
Judy Homo erectus supposedly came before Homo sapiens. But I don’t think sapience caught up yet. Do you?
Cass Well I can agree with you there!
Chorus It would be the talk of the town. . . What’s Cass laughing about. . ? Who cares what people say? When Judy moves her head, her antennas wiggle, how sexy is that. . ! Sexy? It’s funny. But I have to hand it to her, being on her feet all this time in those heels. I can’t believe her stamina.
Judy So Raymond, what happened to my radio blitz?
Chorus She’s a natural comic. Look at the way she’s making eyes at Morales’s ape
head. . . Some might not think it so funny, the way she’s French kissing in its mouth. . . Get a grip, it’s Beauty and the Beast. You have to admit Raymond sure knows how to pick ‘em.
Raymond Judy, haven’t you heard, we’re at war.
Chorus When is she going to take that coat off?
TV About this poster.
Chorus You’re perverted. And I thought Blotter discovered her?
Raymond No greater publicity, Judy, than a war.
Chorus Yeah, he’s the one who actually discovered her. But I think it was the other way around, she saw he was of means and made the play.
TV Raymond, what about this poster!
Chorus Well, it’s a shame. This was to be Judy’s night. . . Yeah, but all TV cares about is his poster!
Anthony Ladies, your drinks.
Chorus Yeah! Sometimes these celebrities can’t see beyond their noses.
Judy Thanks.
Cass Thanks.
Chorus What do you mean, sometimes, more like all the time!
Raymond Cass, please take my coat, it hurts me to see you so cold.
Chorus If Cass would only sit down for a moment. She continues her visual pursuit of all the objects in the room. . . Yeah, she’s making me dizzy watching her.
Cass I recall having seen this jacket before. Another Vellumesque.
Chorus If she doesn’t want the coat, she should just say so. Don’t you agree. . ? Yeah, the way she walks past Raymond, holding her head high in the air. . . Yes, it’s very unbecoming for literature’s first lady. . . Yeah, and see the way she’s looking at everything in the room, appraising every article. . . Yes, do you think she’s jealous. . ? Probably, but wow, look at Judy, she’s so cool, a real Salome. . . Well, that’s what I meant by forbidding, that touch of Beardsley with the heavy metal hanging from her face and the way she swings that ape head by its hair. . . Yeah, she’s walking around with it like it’s a handbag on a spring day.
Judy I want to try it on.
Anthony You don’t want to do that – I sweat a lot inside it.
Judy So? But my jewelry has to come off first.
Chorus Take your coat off first!
Judy What did you say?
Anthony I didn’t say anything.
Judy I thought I heard you asking me to take my coat off. I’ll only do that if we can trade fur coats.
Anthony I didn’t say anything.
Chorus You are a pervert. . . What of it. . ! Yes, well, it’s too bad her radio debut was canceled. . . Yeah, it hasn’t been a good night for her though some of that is her own fault. . . Yes, like walking out on the opera. . . Is Anthony giving her the once over or what? You tell me. . ! You aren’t jealous, are you. . ? Don’t get catty with me, you know me better than that. I think you’re the jealous one here, too bad he’s a pervert. . ? No, you’re the pervert!
Cass Thom, do you realize we could live like this?
Chorus See, what did I tell you. For anyone just tuning in, Cass is having a fit. After all the years of deprivation despite TV’s enormous earnings, she too wants some of the good things in life. . . We don’t blame her. . . Yeah, if anyone is to blame, it’s TV.
Raymond Cass, exactly what I’m always telling him.
Chorus Oh, listen, I’ve just got word, our ratings have just skyrocketed. Folks are tuning in, they want something to sizzle between Judy and Anthony. . . What are you talking about, they want to see Judy, they want to see what she looks like underneath her purple fur. . . No, it’s romance they want. . . OK, folks, call in and tell us if you think.
Cass So Raymond, where are Ramona and the girls, how are they?
TV What about this poster?
Raymond Sorry to say, success isn’t always what it appears to be.
Chorus Yes, how true. . . Yeah, the tragedy of success.
Judy What about my radio début?
TV What about my poster?
Chorus The phones are ringing. Madeline from Arkansas, wants to know if Tony is older than Judy. You want to take a stab at that. . ? I would say Judy’s in her mid forties, but looks nothing like her age. . , Yeah I’d say she looks late
thirties. . . And Anthony must be in his early fifties. Would you
agree. . ? Yeah, mid-fifties. . . So far the majority of our viewers want to see Judy and Anthony in each other’s arms. . . Come on folks, admit it, what you really want to see is what makes Judy, the queen of fetish. . . Well, for now it seems the renown TV and the queen of fetish are having starfits over publicity failures.
Raymond Cass, I’m a miserable bachelor now. The girls are in college. Ramona never fails to inform me of the latest rise in tuition or the latest needs in their wardrobes.
Cass Yeah, Clio too, always wardrobe building, like her mother.
Chorus Such sarcasm! And in the face of this poor man’s sorrow. It’s just too real. . . Yeah, but imagine this. Cass dumps TV, hitches up with Raymond, gets everything she ever wanted. . . Yes, and Anthony goes off with Judy, they were made for each other. . ! I didn’t have that in mind, but it works. . . Yes, and that leaves our incomparable TV, once again struck by adversity, returning to his homeless cadre. . . Yeah, where he begins a new book. . . But that would make Judy, the housebreaker and Anthony, the family man, social outlaws. . . So? We like bad boys and girls, now and then, don’t we. . ? Yes, but. . . Yes, but nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, Judy Crucible, femme fatale, whose meteoric rise has left us breathless, has just taken off her faux fur and thrown it over the white chair near the fireplace. In doing so, she stumbled and almost lost her balance, but with skill regained it without releasing the furry crown of Anthony’s head – I think she called his hard head homo erectus, if I’m not mistaken. . ! Well!
Judy Am I getting too old for this?
Chorus You may be older than today’s starlets but in those additional years you make up for you lost youth in experience! I just love they way the corset strings from your hobble skirt trail over the contours of your buttocks. . . Come on, just say it, why hold your tongue now, over the contours of her ass. . . I’ll go further over the contours of her bare ass. . ! We warn our younger viewers to follow the Motions Picture Association guidelines to assure your innocence. . . Kids, don’t let Samantha’s chilly mood dampen your fun, the queen of fetish has nothing underneath. . ! Please, control yourself, we’re on the air. . ! Yeah, but look at her! I’ve been waiting all night for this. . . I understand, Harry, I’m the first to admit, she has a remarkable hour glass figure. But I can’t imagine wearing such a constricting dress. . . I can. . ! I’m flattered but she looks like she’s trying to work the laces in back loose. I like the way she uses her long nails like knitting needles. . . Who can concentrate with those thingies dangling from her nipples. . . You must behave. Perhaps Cass and I are embarrassed and angry. . . OK, OK, here comes Anthony to her rescue.
Judy Work from the center loops, thanks. Much better, yeah, it’s been a long day.
Cass Well, I see you still have your motherly shape.
Raymond Judy, let me find you something more comfortable to wear. . . Cass?
Cass We need to leave. I’m not even sure why I’m here.
Raymond You can’t leave now, Cass, with the curfew. Let me go look in my daughters’ closets, I’ll find something. . .
Chorus Raymond has just left the room.
Cass Thom, is this your version of La Dolce Vida?
Chorus For those of us too young to know, a quick web search tells us that Cass is referring to the 1960 film by Federico Fellini.
Cass Being a mother doesn’t explain why you missed out on women’s liberation.
Judy It depends on what you mean by liberation.
Chorus Cass moves off from the indifferent Judy, her restless pacing taking her to the piano. Judy falls back on the white arm chair one hand resting on the arm of the chair, the other setting the hairy head down on the floor. . . Yeah, and don’t forget to mention the Tree of Good and Evil, rooted in the garden between her legs. . . Please! Cass has stopped in front of Anthony, who is sitting at the piano.
Cass So you’re Tom’s oldest friend. He often speaks of you. You’re like family.
Anthony Cassandra, I wish we could have met under more normal circumstances.
Cass Don’t make me laugh.
Chorus As she continues her restless pacing, TV stands pensively still by the fireplace, his bag in his hand. . . He won’t part with it. . . He’s perusing a tattered magazine which he took out of his bag. . . Yeah and furtively watching Judy with side glances. . . But look, he’s approaching her now. Will our own TV make a play, in front of Cass. . ? Judy has dug her orange nails into her thick red dread and is lightly stroking the top of her breast as if dusting the engravings on her overturned porcelain bowls. . .
TV I just realized where I’ve seen you before.
Judy You told me you saw me at Nadir.
TV No, earlier than that.
Judy How about the woodpile.
TV Well, that’s close, yes, the woodpile, you were certainly with us there, but even earlier than that – I mean your image.
Judy They were taken a few years ago after I met Blotter. We only started distribution recently. As you can see I’m not the same girl I was then.
TV I don’t mean the pictures.
Judy Then I’m mystified.
TV In India people call you Mariamman, in the Near East, possibly Crete, you were the tamer of snakes, Astarte.
Judy My tongue gave me away.
TV You know I didn’t see your split tongue mentioned during my earlier readings but just now I found it described in my magazine.
Judy You’re losing me.
TV Worshipers of Mariamman cut their tongues to bond with her. You’re much more famous than you think, with credentials thousands of years old.
Judy Well, I knew I was older than the other women at Nadir but I never imagined I was that old.
TV This has nothing to do with how old you are. You’re an embodiment of a spirit that pervades throughout human evolution.
Chorus Raymond’s back with a jersey, a bathrobe and a large sweater.
Raymond I couldn’t help but hear that, Thom. I think Judy’s the embodiment of someone I saw dancing on top of a piano at the Condor in San Francisco. Try these, Judy. Cass, this sweater should fit you.
Anthony You mean Carol Doda.
Judy I never heard of her.
Raymond In 1964 her topless act helped usher in the 60’s. She was wearing a Rudi Guernich bathing suit. Now she runs a lingerie store in San Francisco, but she still sings.
Cass The boys are reminiscing.
Chorus Judy shrugs her shoulders as she drops down on top of her purple fur, crossing her legs. She bends over and releases her feet, strap by strap, shoelace by shoelace from the glossy dog head ankle boots. . . Her nails add to her reach and allow her a means of slipping in under each lace to loosen them.
Judy 1964, I was ten. I’ll take that as a complement. . . But I’d rather be the snake tamer.
Raymond Judy, you might be more comfortable if you changed in Sasha’s old room, instead of here. It’s more private.
Judy If you insist.
Chorus Why did he stop her, she was just beginning to unzipper her dress?
Judy It took me thirty years to catch up to your friend, Doda. . .
TV Time means nothing to you.
Judy That’s what you think. Now if you don’t mind can I have my bag?
TV It was under your chair.
Judy Did you look through my stuff?
TV No, but I wanted to.
Judy At least your honest.
Cass Oh honesty’s a vice with him!
Chorus How disappointing, Judy’s left the room. . . Cass has taken off her jacket and is putting on the lavender sweater. . . I admit she looks cute. . . Wait, hold on, something is coming in, another broadcast from the Black and Blue room in the White House, what a night. . . ‘Ladies and gentlemen, your President.’
Anthony The wind’s picking up. It’s become a blizzard.
TV About my poster.
President Hours ago at the onset of Project Buy A Home I authorized the newly formed Department of Homeland Protection to begin rounding up the homeless. . .
TV “to ensure the safety of all decent homeowners and their children and their pets and their gardens. . .”
President to ensure the safety of all decent homeowners and their children and their pets and their gardens. When law enforcement broke up the New York headquarters of ARCH, we uncovered an extensive worldwide network which led us to act quickly to suppress the scourge of homelessness around the world. We began in Refugium, but we aren’t satisfied. We want, as good homeowners, to reclaim these lives lost to this deadly epidemic. So we have spearheaded a program that is now helping the homeless return to our society as good consumers. We have been taking them to undisclosed bases around the globe where. . .
TV “our experts have been helping them to rethink their life goals. . .” I wrote that, you’ll find the President’s speech in M.
Chorus Shhhh!
President our experts have been helping them to rethink their life goals. There, as you may already know, they are experiencing the good things in life. The project is going well. Despite what you might be hearing from unscrupulous sources, these new students of life have come to appreciate the benefits of good food, good entertainment and, most of all, a roof over their heads. But there is a price for these gifts, and they are taking it willingly. Let me welcome newly converted Joseph Flok, Joseph.
Chorus Hurray for the red, white and blue. . . Ah, Judy’s back, wearing Raymond’s bathrobe. . ! Don’t get so excited. . . Well, at least I can concentrate now.
Joseph Flok I am thirty-four years old. I was a drug addict. I lived from hand to mouth. Although I graduated from college I couldn’t read above the fifth grade level. So my life fell apart. Under the ARCH(sic) I came under the influence of evil people. But thanks to Project Buy A Home I am back on my feet. I am
receiving proper medication and have a job.
President Thank you, Joseph. Let’s hear it for Joseph Flock, now of Homesdale, USA. . .
Chorus Hurray for the red, white and blue.
President Like others, Joseph now has a job in our military services. . ,
Joseph Flok Proud to serve, Sir!
President Yes, thank you, Joseph. . .
Joseph Flok You can call me, Joe, Sir!
President Thank you, Joe, yes, and as I was saying. . .
Chief of Staff . . . now has a job in our military services. . ,
Chorus Judy has removed a mirror from her plastic bag and placed it on the mantle above the fire place. Cass has come up behind her and is watching.
Cass For someone so style conscious, why don’t you carry a purse? For you’re accessories.
Chorus Judy looks at her through her long eye lashes, sighs, then digs into her plastic bag and retrieves a special needle nose pliers from the bag. She uses the pliers to clamp onto the dermal anchor in her skin, so she can unscrew her antennae. . . She’s quite dexterous considering the lengthy orange nails.
Judy When I left home, my ex-husband’s home, I stuffed my few things into a plastic bag. I was in a hurry. I was afraid I would never leave and I had to leave. Now I carry everything in plastic bags. I guess I’m still not sure when I’ll need a quick exit.
Cass Like tonight.
Judy Yeah, like the tonight.
Chorus Judy, do you mind telling your fans how long your nails are?
Judy Three inches. They’ve been six and just as pointed. I really dug them. Remi was working on my Tree tapestry, then. Since I was lying on my back most of the time and couldn’t do much else, I indulged myself and let them grow. He liked them too.
Chorus You seem to use them like precision tools? Do they ever get in the way?
Judy Like anything else you adjust. I did. I treat them no differently than any other body part. With the six inch nails I had difficulty washing my hair, but found teasing my hair easier. Doing simple tasks like this was more difficult with six inches than three. Fastening my bra was really hard. Of course I discovered I didn’t need a bra after augmentation. Where I was willing to learn how to speak again with my split tongue, I thought six inch nails had to go. On the other hand as a fetish queen, I miss them now and then and might let them grow again. I don’t know. I’d grow my toe nails, only my love of ballet heels comes first. And four inch toe nails and ballet heels don’t mix. One advantage of six inch nails was I often cooked without utensils. Turning over pork or lamb chops was easy with those nails. And stir frying was a snap, using all four nails like a spatula. For frittatas or quiches I used my index nail to see if the batter was cooked through, instead of a tooth pick or knife. I can do the same with three inches but now I feel the high heat. Typing on a computer keyboard is more precise with my three inch pointed nails than it was with my fat old finger tips. I learned to be just as precise with six inch nails, but sometimes my hands cramped because my hands were so far from the keyboard. Same when practicing piano. But forget texting!
Chorus They look lethal.
Judy Yeah, that’s what I like about them.
President Ah yes, which offers our indigent the dignity they have always desired. Besides learning new skills, they also will have a chance to invest in 401Ks managed by experts in our financial institutions, which I proudly add, are the backbone of our nation. . .
Chorus For those just tuning in, Judy’s has just released her last giant nose ring. They’re dangling from her ears.
President Down the road, Joe, when you retire at seventy from the military, you’ll have quite a nest egg for you and the little lady to live comfortably ever after. And because of new sophisticated lending instruments, when you and the others return to our great country, you will be able to buy your own home without any money down. . .
Chorus Her fingers seem to move across her face like the independent armatures of a spider, her pinky nail supporting a chain while the other fingers maneuver the pliers. The finger nails from the other hand disengage the chains, one by one, each nail swinging a chain out of the way of the pliers, leaving the threaded dermal anchors in her cheeks in place. Except for the chains holding the nose hoops which she has disconnected from the tragus ring, it looks like she’s leaving the other chains dangling from the ears. . . I have to admit her dexterity and accuracy are marvelous. And she certainly enjoys her work. . . Which proves that women can dress like Judy without loosing the physical freedom to achieve high mechanical skills. . . You’re going too far.
President In the days to come, newly formed units of the Homeless Battalion will be arriving in Refugium. They will begin helping in the reconstruction of the country insuring that freedom and democracy take root. And who is better able to provide the inspiration to turn over a new leaf than our own fully inoculated homeless ambassadors of good will.
TV Who is Flok?
Chorus Shhh.
TV There’s no evidence of his existence in my latest reading of M.
Chorus Really! Shhh! And why are you whispering. . ? I’m not whispering, just wanted you to notice how frantic TV is paging through that ratty magazine. It’s a scream.
President Our nation-wide net is picking up everyone living outside supermarkets and recycling centers, inside public restrooms and railway stations and on park benches.
Chorus Ladies and gentlemen, Judy’s dismantling her ear fins. . . Judy, your nails swing out like miniature cranes working over an erector set.
President As I’ve indicated all of them, like Joe, will receive humanitarian treatment at our Epidemic Control Centers around the world before entering the elite Homeless Battalion. We are moving ahead with grace from Above. Thank you very much.
Chorus Wow, what a speech!
Anthony What bullshit!
Cass I second that!
Chorus There will always be the ‘do-nothings’ who complain. . ! Watch her nimble fingers, each has a mind of its own, each nail feeling its way around Judy’s ear fins, two of them miraculously removing the little black balls, while others pull out the long silver posts, the fin intact and palming the fin like a card shark. . . We think the President’s speech inspires us to do our part, wouldn’t you say. . ? What? Yes, the President fosters confidence at home while offering fair treatment for unfortunates. It reminds me of the old welfare-to-work programs, a brilliant inducement for indigents to reject the revolutionary ARCH. . . But Harry, still no mention of Eddie Ammonia. . ? Who cares about Ammonia. . . You’re watching Judy’s fingers removing ornaments, which I admit reminds me of Odette and her maidens twirling across the ice in Swan Lake. . . No, it’s more a fan dance to me, only instead of fans she swings around those wicked nails across her lips as she removes her upright talons.
Judy I’ve got something less prominent.
Cass Is that what you’re trying to do, become less prominent? Good luck!
Chorus You’re absolutely right, Samantha. The consensus here is that the President has purposely relegated Ammonia to a foot note, a common bandito. Eddie might as well be living in a squirrel hole for all he can do now. . . Thank you, Harry. And now to the Hill where the representatives of both parties in a show of bipartisan effort just gave a statement saying they are proud to be a part of this world-wide effort that will not only provide jobs and investment opportunities for Americans at home, but also for those across the seas. Senator Notion?
Notion Yes, Samantha.
Chorus What did you think of the President’s statement?
Notion Well, as the President put it the other day, using the lifeboat analogy, if you save yourself first, you can better save others later. . .
Chorus Excuse me, Senator. . . Harry, what is it. . ? In this time of war I’d like the Senator to watch this act of disarmament. If only war could be this easy. Just zoom in on Judy. Closer, there! Can you see it? Her snake tongue has wrapped around the last lip talon and holds it, while her thumb and index nails remove the curved labret with red ball. Incredible versatility, wouldn’t you say, Senator!
Notion Yes, well as we say in the south, the young lady has both the beauty and ability to please all. I’d even go so far to say the young lady is disarming!
Chorus Senator, I apologize for the interruption. Please go on.
Notion Nothing to apologize for, Samantha, I find the young lady, well. . .
Chorus About the life raft and saving yourself first before you think of others.
Notion Yes, of course. . .Now that’s a unique concept in helping the Third World poor as well as our own poor in acquiring a piece of the American dream. And we can still cut taxes!
Chorus Thank you, Senator. Now back to our show. . . Senator! Did I. . . What are you doing, Harry?
Notion Yes?
Chorus Senator, we know you like a little fun now and then; if you’d like to meet the young. . .
Notion If the young lady has a need to meet a representative of the people, I’d be up for that.
Chorus I’m sure you would be. Her name is Judy Crucible. Keep an eye on her.
Notion That won’t be hard to do.
Chorus Just now her army of finger nails have removed an ear tunnel and are busy working on the other. If the viewers can come closer they can see the large elongated hole in her ear lobe. For those just tuning in, we are watching body artist, Judy Crucible remove her array of piercings. She carefully places each piece in a plastic carry bag, her preferred method of transporting her accessories.
TV Will you tell me about this poster, goddamn it?
Chorus Really, TV! At a time like this, with a war in progress and Judy de-accessorizing. We’ve always looked up to you, so why are you behaving like this?
Cass Did you really start when you were twelve?
Judy You mean like Laoula. Are you kidding, I was totally withdrawn, an entirely different creature then. I would never have done something that would have drawn attention to myself. I told you I was already at Nadir when I discovered my body.
TV “As once the winged energy of delight carried you over childhood’s dark abysses, now beyond your own life build the great arch of unimagined bridges.”
Judy More like “To work with Things in the indescribable relationship is not too hard for us; the pattern grows more intricate and subtle and being swept along is not enough!”
Chorus They’re reciting Shakespeare.
Raymond I hadn’t seen this poetic side of your relationship. . . Ah you mean that poster!
Chorus As TV unfurls the tattered sheet, the thumb and forefinger on Judy’s hands – the other three nails lie folded over her palm, remove the terminal chains on one of her eyebrow spirals. The fingers and nails of the other hand hold the spiral still. Now, the thumb and forefinger, oddly bowed, slowly roll the eyebrow spiral out, the last three digits suddenly standing upright like soldiers at attention. . . On the tattered sheet in Vellum’s hands is a picture of a wanted man with a long beard. Obviously, the terrorist Edward Ammonia.
Raymond We’ve posted them all over the city. It was the least we could do for Homeland Protection. And they paid well for our graphics.
Chorus It’s really quite funny. TV looks dumbfounded. It must be another unexpected twist for him. Look, even Anthony has come over to look at the poster.
Anthony Is this the guy everyone is talking about? Until tonight I’d never heard of him. What’s he done?
Chorus The authorities offered him the best that life can give. . .
Raymond Providing he settled down, bought a house, married, you know, the whole catastrophe.
Chorus He refused!
Judy Can you blame him?
Chorus She’s nearly naked. . . Please, she’s wearing Raymond’s paisley robe, let’s not get carried away.
Judy I feel naked.
Chorus See. . ! But Judy, you still have your wild array of colored braids and the silver ring studs dot your cheeks.
Judy You can also see my face is pitted because of my derms.
Chorus You told your father you had acne.
Judy No, that was Laoula.
Chorus Who cares! All you great artists begin to show the scars of your creative minds. Your scars are the symbols of your strict dedication to your body art.
Judy Yes, that’s true.
TV What are you talking about? That’s my face on the poster!
Chorus That’s our old TV. . ! Yes, always in the middle of things, even if he isn’t really there.
Raymond Ammonia, TV, why quibble over small details?
TV Details? Since when is stealing someone’s identity a detail?
Chorus What a real hoot. Just what we needed at a time like this, a good laugh. . ! Yeah, with the national emergency and all. Anyway, no one’s paying attention to him, with Judy inserting her silver labret with black ball into her lower lip. . . Yes, the black ball looks good against your purple lipstick, Judy. . . The other slips in just as easily.
Judy Much better.
Raymond Homeland Protection had their reasons for the poster’s deployment.
Cass That’s Thom with a beard.
Raymond Cass, to be honest, as far as I was concerned, distribution was my way of finding Thom.
Cass Why?
Raymond Wherever Ammonia is, I knew TV would be near.
TV I don’t know where Eddie is. Last time I saw him he was standing on the corner of 110th and Broadway panhandling.
Raymond I just had my hunch. And I was right, you’re here! But. . . you might say matters were taken out of my hands when you became a member of ARCH.
TV There’s no membership, unless being hungry or cold. . .
Raymond Sources at the highest level say you were a card-carrying member. Ladies, excuse my French, but that’s deep shit, Thom. With homeless marauders and a war going on. . .
Cass Marauders?
Judy Marauders?
Anthony Cadres, cells and marauders. A great noise is sweeping the land. Even ASS has been lost in the ruckus.
Raymond Thom, I know you were a member of ARCH, but I was surprised, if not shocked, to learn you had joined ASS.
Chorus Exploration and adventure must be part of an artist’s life. But ASS? To be a card-carrying member, an insider? How revolting!
Anthony What do you closet voyeurs know about ASS?
Chorus Look whose talking, the stalker!
Anthony Talk about stalkers, only you call it freedom of the press.
Chorus Are you both anarchists. . ? Yeah, like big Eddie.
Anthony In that ASS doesn’t have structure, yes.
Chorus Chairman Tony, excuse us. . . this is coming in now. . . Hours ago the State Department issued this warning to the government of Sybaris: Desist from aiding terrorists bent on destroying our way of life or risk retribution. The question on everybody’s mind is whether the communal government of Sybaris assisted in the escape of Ammonia. The leader of Sybaris, Barrio Barbudos, speaking for three and half hour, before a large gathering of Sybarites, accused the United States of political irony.
Barbudos The only homeless on the island of Sybaris are the men and women kept in captivity on the land the United States stole from us a century ago during our war of liberation against Spain. These captives, they tell us, are called terrorists.
TV Raymond, that suit you’re wearing. . ?
Raymond It’s your style, Thom! After seeing you that day I went to Virtual Wear and found your salesman.
TV He told me.
Raymond Thom, you’ve never understood your power; you’ve always doubted yourself.
TV I don’t understand myself.
Judy Until Nadir I didn’t either.
Anthony Few of us admit it.
Raymond Exactly! That is why I’m TV’s agent. And yours too, Judy. Why even Sari Sermon contacted me when she learned I was your agent. A wonderful woman, very shy. She’s on a road to success, thanks to you. I just signed her on as one of my clients.
Cass I thought you were a literary agent.
Raymond Cass, everything is connected!
Judy Blotter believes that too.
Raymond Everything. There’s very little difference between a fashion designer and a painter. Creativity connects everyone. He taught me that. TV, the ultimate performance artist cum investigator of cultural sub-text, or should we say hyper-text. And think of all the lucrative spin-offs, the toys and ties? And now, if we can pull it off, the paraphernalia from the war, the camouflage pants and coats, and from the homeless revolution, machine worn dungarees with holes and chemically scented sweat shirts that smell of body odor and other knick-knacks. And wait until you see our new line of dolls.
TV You’re not saying anything new, Raymond. These universal connections go way back.
Cass As far back as the woodpile.
Chorus Tell us about the woodpile.
Raymond Is that a new club downtown?
Judy With my vanity in hyper-drive, I need to be discovered, verified, the face of change.
Raymond And you will be Judy! I’ll have to check out The Woodpile.
Judy Maybe my life would have turned out differently if I’d had my debut there.
Anthony Until tonight the issues were clear. ASS vs. SS. There was no ARCH. Now that’s all changed. I don’t get it.
Cass Thom has the whole story about ARCH in my Metropolis. He knows all the people involved. But there are lots of groups. Our daughter belongs to SATS.
Chorus Shhhh, everyone, the Vice-President is about to issue a reply to Barrio Barbudos.
VP It’s sweet and simple. The victims of Sybaris are not those in Camp Bentham but the population beyond Bentham’s fence. Again and again the oppressed have abandoned their own tyrannical leaders, braving the open seas in small boats to reach our great free country. End of story. Period.
Anthony All of this is in Metropolis?
Cass TV wrote it.
TV Raymond, have you ever questioned yourself?
Raymond I’m a simple man, Thom.
TV Ok, and this new piano? Are you taking piano lessons now?
Chorus Judy has returned to her chair. She takes up Morales’ furry head and raises it above her own, like a queen about to anoint herself with a crown. With an almost sanctimonious expression she lowers it over her own. . . I miss her already.
Raymond Judy, Anthony’s mask doesn’t become you.
Judy I like it under here.
Chorus Judy has found shelter under big Tony’s hairy head. . .
TV Formerly she was Doris from Long Island.
Raymond Doris? Is there someone else I need to know?
TV Where did you find her?
Raymond You found her.
TV That night?
Raymond Precisely.
Chorus This just in: Barrio Barbudos, the bearded president of Sybaris in response to the Vice-President.
Barbudos It is true we lack the funds to accommodate everyone. If a man wants more than his neighbor, he will remain unhappy. If he wants to possess the wealth of Croesus, he will be unhappy. But our unhappy Sybarite should consider this. This dream our rich northern brother advertises cannot be had by all. Many people in the north, including those who left in search of individual riches, remain unfavored by destiny, remain poor, and without homes. Ah yes, they are free! Free to crave the very excesses they can’t afford. And now their freedom is short. They are being rounded up like pigs and brought back to our own land, but not as free men but as prisoners of war.’
Raymond Thom, trust yourself.
Chorus I’ve never heard such a lie, as if those rounded up weren’t renegades of Barbudos out to destroy us. . ! Judy’s demonstrating her comic ability. Only, why can’t she open her bathrobe too. . . Oh. . ! Just a little.
TV I never went to college.
Raymond We can remedy that.
TV So what about this story?
Raymond Don’t you love it?
TV So you wrote it!
Raymond I can’t write!
Chorus Raymond can barely contain his enthusiasm.
Raymond We have a staff of ghost writers, none of them of note, none of them of your stature. They were chosen, not for their creative powers but for their means of subjecting their skills to the will of a single mind, yours.
Chorus At this moment we should all ask ourselves if this is plagiarism or if indeed the spirit of a great artist has entered into the national consciousness and literally has become the mind of the people. . . But TV wasn’t informed of this. . . True, but all TV’s works are, in a sense, the manifestation of our mind. . . Yes, that’s
true. . . The films are on DVDs, each film based on a book, the scripts themselves written by TV. The books come in hardcover and paperback, and recently in digital formats. . . As well as on CDs recited by famous movie stars. . . Each and everyone is a classic. . ! And all of them are available in stores everywhere including supermarkets and drugstores as well as on the internet. . . So ask your local vendors if there are any left or surf the web.
Raymond In a nutshell, your work was fed into a computer. You look surprised? It was you who initially realized the vast potential of the computer. You pioneered the use of a computer to fabricate your great series, the history of the world as seen through TV.
Chorus We should add that he went on to modify his own computer so that he could double its energy, magnify its receptivity in the global network. . . even accomplish, and here we pause for effect. . . time travel. . ! In short, why would such a digital wizard be surprised by the developments in the computer industry which he heralded?
Raymond Thom, when the first AI regales us with Homeric tales, it will be your voice.
Chorus For the few of you who are still working analog, AI stands for Artificial Intelligence.
Anthony Ok, fine, but why is ARCH ascending and ASS descending.
Judy Morales, are you into the zodiac?
TV Your ghost writers, with or without the computer, couldn’t have written this story.
Raymond What have you done to your magazine?
Cass My magazine.
TV You know why? Because every time I read the story, it changes just like the poster.
Chorus Is this mind bending or what. . ? You can say that again. . . No one knows what to say. . . TV is standing in the center of the room, his big plastic bag in one hand, his tattered copy of Metropolis in the other. . . Can the viewers see him? He’s like Perseus bearing his raised sword with one hand, the head of Medusa in the other. . . Are you comparing the plastic bag to the head of Medusa. . ? It’s a symbol and his rolled up poster is his sword. . . Raymond is grinning like the Cheshire cat. . . TV has made another impression. Even poor Cass is struck with awe.
Raymond Brilliant. I never would have thought of that. Only you, Thom! You say the story changes every time the reader reads it. Brilliant. This will require digital smart paper – if there is such a thing – and I have just the man to implement it. He will be here any minute.
TV My inspirations came from an angel, not from some man-made device. The device was just a receiver. Don’t you understand!
Chorus Poor Cass. She shakes her head in despair. . . As if she and her family are reliving the tragedy of her illness, her long recovery and of what that tragedy did to ignite TV’s creative fires. . . Yes, her body mended but The House of Vellum never really recovered from that surge of energy that eventually became the TV stories. . . Poor woman, we feel her pain. . . Yes, and Raymond, who also has suffered loss, why they’re made for each other.
Raymond But Thom, you’ve also claimed your inspiration came from another time, from the future. You said you had little to do with the content. So! Once again you’ve created and once again you’ve had little to do with content. What’s the difference?
TV The difference? My daughter inspired me then! This time you had me followed!
Anthony It seems as if the world outside has stopped. Just a wall of white.
Chorus Everyone, pay attention, we are on the air with another report from the Black and Blue Room in the White House. . . Yes, his whereabouts in the US are unknown, and it could have ramifications among the Homeless Brigades in the war. . .
Cass Who are they talking about now?
Judy Eddie Ammonia, who else?
Chorus If EA puts out an all points bulletin, his believers could desert the Homeless Corps. Think of what that would do, a lawless army, fully armed and fully trained by our military! Our consumer crusade would fizzle like flat pop. Without impressed troops to continue the fighting, Project Buy A Home is dead.
Anthony Who’s talking?
Cass A Pundit.
Judy Another graduate from Boston’s Hampered University.
Chorus In certain circles we hear the cry, ‘Bring Back The Draft.’ Elsewhere it’s ‘Remember Billy Bud. . !’Absolutely, Samantha. Let’s take our scenario a step further. Imagine Ammonia leading his troops, all trained at the taxpayer’s expense, against the homeland. Imagine, the hordes raiding the bastions of our society – Remember, nothing’s sacred here. Imagine, the housing industry, real estate and banking interests, destroyed. Imagine, the suburbs burning like Atlanta after Sherman’s march, the malls sacked and pillaged, lying in ruins. . . Too horrid for words. Now here is General Reason of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Thank god!
Reason A homeless person is not like you or I. . .
Cass “Me,” not “I.”
Judy Once an English teacher always an English teacher.
Reason He doesn’t need a home. He doesn’t need the warmth and coziness of the hearth, the warm food and the glass of wine, he can live like a rat on almost anything.
Judy Are you happily married, Morales?
Anthony You’ll have to come over and meet the family and see for yourself.
Judy I’m sure your wife and I have a lot in common.
Anthony Maybe not a lot. Your efforts have taken you in one direction and Deme’s in another. But that doesn’t mean there’s no common ground.
Chorus Yeah, they seem to be getting on fabulously.
Judy Like wanting the same thing.
Chorus He’s laughing.
Anthony That would be a problem – for all of us.
Judy So there’s hope.
Anthony No. There’s no hope, Judy. . . even though I find you attractive.
Judy I knew you’d say that. That’s why I like you. And being able to chose for myself who I find attractive is a first step in my finding happiness.
Anthony We can’t have total happiness. Finding you attractive and knowing we can only be friends means I miss a piece of this happiness.
Judy You mean by being faithful to your wife, you make her happy.
Anthony Because I love her, not hurting her makes me happy.
Judy I saw the way my husband looked at women. Even though he pretended to himself that he wasn’t interested, I knew his interest was pronounced. The night I went out with my office friends, I realized how jealous he was. It made me wonder if I was as plain as I had imagined. When I found shelter in Nadir, I learned to embody everything that would make men hungry.
Anthony Once you learned that, you came to my notice.
Reason Recent experiments at Camp Bentham have shown that a homeless man can endure incredible pain.
Chorus Thanks General for keeping us safe. Now we go once again to Samantha and Harry on the street. Samantha. . ? Yes, this is Samantha and Harry down on
Fifth. . . As you can see from the swirling snow behind us, we are in the middle of a blizzard, unbelievable for this time of year, Thanksgiving not even a week
away. . . Whether everyone is staying inside obeying the President’s request or whether the storm is the cause for the empty streets, it’s hard to say. . . From time to time one of the Homeland Protection vehicles passes. The agents inside are wearing their now familiar bowler hats, bearing the once secret, now public society emblem, The Home Within The Home. . . This once all-volunteer, now private sector-sourced cadre has become the heart and soul of our security system. But there are the questions on everyone’s mind. . . Where are the homeless? Where is their leader, Edward Ammonia, who escaped recently from the luxury facility on Sybaris? And here with us now to help answer these questions is the new PC or Protection Chief, the former Police Chief, PC Jimmy Rascul. . . Thanks, Chief Rascul, for taking the time to speak with us on this blustery, snowy night.
Rascul My pleasure.
Chorus We see that you’re wearing the bowler hat.
Rascul That’s right, folks, the citizen needs to be able to quickly recognize the good guys from the bad guys in case of emergency. The hat is a giveaway.
Chorus Could it become a target for terrorists?
Rascul They haven’t a chance in the world.
Chorus What if they begin wearing these hats?
Rascul The Homeless? This is one time you can judge a book by its cover. Believe me, you’ll see the difference! Besides we also wear the patch, and these are only issued to the initiated, that is, the good guys.
Chorus Chief Rascul is pointing to the patch on his hat, The Home Within The Home.
Rascul Our All American Homes within our All American Homeland!
Chorus Yes, and on the chief’s lapel we see the familiar American flag pin worn by everyone in politics these days.
Rascul I’d be naked without it. Besides, what would they say in the office if I didn’t wear it?
Chorus Are you confident of apprehending the ARCH Chieftain, Eddie Ammonia?
Rascul His days are numbered.
Chorus Is there anything special you would like to tell the viewers?
Rascul If they’ve got beards like that little guy, Velluminsky wore. . .
Chorus I think you mean Vellum, Thomas Vellum.
Rascul Yeah and they’re out on the street, then they’re enemas of the state, period.
Chorus Thank you, Chief Rascul and now to our. . .
Rascul If you’ve a lead on them, then lead us to them, call the emergency number. Operators will take your information and all will be done confidentially.
Chorus Yes, thank you, Chief.
Rascul And don’t forget to ask for your fifty dollar rebate, our special way of thanking you for your loyalty.
Chorus Folks, you heard that, our patriotic duty is worth something. And congratulations, PC Rascul on your recent promotion.
Rascul Thank you, Samantha. Harry.
Chorus That is all from the streets of New York City, for Media Free USA. . . Thank you, Harry, thank you, Samantha. Now back to our show up above 5th Avenue, where the delectable Judy Crucible, now wearing big Tony’s gorilla head, flirts with big Tony in his gorilla suit sans head.
Anthony Do I have this right, the SS are now in charge of the police, or is it the other way around?
Chorus That seems to be so, Anthony, but we must pause for the moment and turn our attention to the other activities in the room. . . Raymond was commending TV for his quest to save the human race and for his desire of anonymity in a vanity ridden society. He tells him that he too wants nothing better than to go about the streets of the metropolis, without pretension, unrecognized, but alas, his destiny is to provide entertainment for the human race.
TV Entertainment!
Raymond Si! So why not get paid for it? Money, Thom, everyone needs it. You can shun it, because you have been graced with renown. You, Thom, are the modern Homer. Your stories are the stories of all people, your voice and the voice of humanity are one and the same. Outside, who do you hear? You hear people in everyday situations talking just like you! Can a citizen who speaks Vellumese. . .
Cass Vellumese, Raymond? Or volubility?
Judy The English teacher scores another run!
Raymond Excuse me, Cass, but can someone who speaks Vellumese be criticized? Can he be sued? No, he or she is a fan! This universal voice has been analyzed by our computer. We used the same programs that gave you, Thom, the answers you needed to pursue the greatest story ever told.
TV What programs?
Raymond And I might add, that until our TV arrived, the greatest story ever told had
been the Bible. Like the Bible, TV’s world history has a following of true believers!
Chorus Amen.
Anthony I never realized Thom’s impact on people.
Cass Especially his family.
Judy I thought you were old friends.
TV What programs?
Anthony My cell phone doesn’t have a signal. Can I use your phone, Raymond?
Chorus Raymond is pointing toward the foyer.
Anthony I’ll be right back. I need to tell Deme where I am.
TV What programs?
Raymond Exactement! Your works were already stored in your machine to begin with. You wrote them on your computer. . .
TV I used a simple word processor.
Raymond But you admitted, in fact, that the computer was the actual creator.
TV A conduit!
Judy To his angel.
TV That’s right!
Raymond Ok. Still, you tweaked your factory-made computer. Together you and the machine created the Vellum chronicles, you and the machine drew the words from cyberspace. So who cares if my ghost writers, using a specially developed TV program, have gone on to create the first of our new series in The Metropolis and, I might add, a possible pilot for a television series! I take it you picked up your check.
Cass Why didn’t you tell him about the check? You’re driving him crazy again!
Raymond I knew he would find the P.O. box sooner or later or he isn’t our TV.
TV My entire experience was rigged, even the people I met. I was a rat in your maze.
Raymond Absolutely not! See, you doubt your own abilities. Only you, Thom, can show us the way. You know the old saying, we stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us.
TV You had me followed. The Pawns!
Raymond They’re only interested in you as a bearded anomaly. Once you shaved they lost sight of you. And I didn’t have to tell them where you were. There were plenty of bearded suspects for them to follow. But since you led them to the ARCH Gang, I convinced them you were, wherever you are, a free-world agent inside the deadly virus of homelessness. So you’re coming here is cause for celebration.
Chorus Tonight you are a national hero!
TV National nothing. That’s me on the wanted poster. I know what I look like.
Raymond Do you? We could all agree to a similarity in features. The beard for instance. But out on the street, you might run into hundreds of bearded men.
TV That’s me!
Raymond Why quibble? Feel your chin. Do you have a beard? No!
Chorus TV, you served us an artist who couldn’t separate the forces of his creativity from the outside forces shaping that creativity.
Raymond Using the TV program being developed by SoftChip. . ,
Cass SoftChip?
Raymond We’ll be able to work hundreds of mutated story lines, just like yours. Soon anyone can be you once they load their computer with the TV program by SoftChip!
Judy Did you reach your wife?
Anthony Yeah, I told her where we are.
Chorus Boy, are they getting chummy. Does she know he’s nothing but a dirty old man?
Chorus You’re the dirty old man. . ! He’s got hair on his palms.
Anthony Who’s financing Soft Chip?
Judy The same people financing me.
Chorus This would be a good time to open up our phone lines to all of you in TV land. I know we’d all like to find out how our viewers feel. . . We can’t do that. . . You’re right! I forgot we don’t have that option. Instead we go to Samantha in the lobby of the Ratz Hotel where Harry is speaking with Professor Steblen, renown architect and author. . . So Professor, what do you think of the government-sponsored plan to build modular apartment complexes for the homeless on their return from Refugium? Do you feel vindicated?
Steblen Well, Harry, I have always wanted to design something for the community which would be both mobile and transferable. These homes will be constructed as needed. When the veteran returns, he does the paper work and a home is custom-built for him, then placed into the apartment house cluster using special built-in lifts. Not much different than the old cassette racks one used to find in cars. But of course you’re too young to remember that. Although we start with one home, we could end up with hundreds. If the veteran moves, he can either take the house with him, something a vagabond may be interested in, or he can sell it. We have also designed these homes to be upgradeable. Once they’ve served their initial low-income housing purpose, they can then become middle class homes. That’s how we keep housing up with inflation. With the eventual shortage in luxury housing these units can become multimillion dollar abodes.
Chorus And I take it, this is your daughter?
Steblen She’s my star pupil, as well as my poetic muse. In other words, she’s now my wife. We married yesterday.
Chorus Congratulations to the both of you. And how do you feel about all of this, Mrs.Steblen?
Ms. Steblen Stebby’s a genius.
Chorus Ok, well, there it is, and now back to you, Samantha.
Ms. Steblen That’s my name too.
Chorus Really?
Ms. Steblen Samantha.
Raymond Naturally, once the Group understood the SoftChip achievement they saw the possibilities. After all, their job has been the highly lauded task of codifying our lifestyle for easy digestion.
TV You’re with the Group?
Anthony Figures.
Cass At school I’m telling kids about the basic concepts of morality and ethics, and I was seeing it all through the old black-and-white movies.
Anthony Cass, don’t stop believing with your heart.
Chorus Imagine him saying that, sitting there with Ms. Easy.
Raymond Thom, we’re all part of the Group. It’s civilization. Remember Billy?
Chorus Billy Board, for those of you who may have missed that episode, helped TV out during the crisis years when a series of hard-drive crashes luckily destroyed Thom’s earliest work, a plodding historical novel. It was out of those crashes that the new works emanated like a phoenix from the dark ashes of loss.
Raymond Exactement! Thanks to you, Thom, Bill Board, who was unemployed at the time, was able to get back on his feet. He brought the TV program to life, and is now the CEO of SoftChip, ‘The Chip You Can Virtually Eat.’ And recently SoftChip expanded its base by acquiring an upstart robotics company called RoboSurgeon.
Judy ‘SoftChip is the only chip, the only chip you can virtually eat, you can virtually eat. . .’
Chorus Judy’s song vaguely reminds us of an ancient tune from a coffee commercial we once saw on My Tube. . . That was way before my time.
Raymond Hey, maybe we have something here. Can we get the Bottles to sing that for us?
Cass Bad enough we’re a pill-popping culture.
Raymond Cass, this will be different. In fact this will take the virtual world by storm. I think Billy was talking about Nano technology. Digestible chips that will aid in digestion and health and help us see the world like Thom. Imagine!
Cass What could be worse?
Chorus You, of all people Cass. Science saved you. . . For those who don’t know, Cassandra Kale was dying from auto immune hepatitis, a malfunction of the immune system. As you probably remember, TV hypothesized in his work that the introduction of mass amounts of sugar into the world diet not only established the financial underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution, an idea already posited by a certain professor and well documented, but also undermined her immunity system. . . In Cassandra’s case, the family of a young man, who was killed on the Long Island Expressway, donated his organs to help others. His liver gave her new life.
Cass Please, don’t make my life into one of your soap operas! It is difficult enough knowing I benefited from a family tragedy.
Chorus People like to know these things, Cass.
Cass Then they should look to their own hearts. Billy Board betrayed a trust. I thought he was our friend, but he’s betrayed us.
Chorus Please Cass, be careful of what you say. We’re broadcasting live.
Judy We’re on the air?
Chorus Judy, we’re all part of an on-going data stream.
Judy You mean a hot air stream.
TV And all this time I was hiding out in a public park!
Raymond For Billy this was an opportunity of a lifetime. And why not? Cass, you should be proud of the industries Thom’s work has created for friends and strangers alike.
TV So then why did you have me knocked off?
Raymond One of the editors at M is responsible for that! They needed to shorten the piece, so she simply. . . she knocked you off.
TV What’s so funny?
Raymond While having you killed was unfortunate, it turns out to have been fortuitous. Look at the advantages. Homeland Protection is looking for Eddy Ammonia, not you. You’re out of the picture.
TV Ammonia told the authorities about my Assumption.
Raymond To get rid of the body.
TV There was no body! I’m alive.
Raymond So they say.
Cass What do you mean by that?
TV Yeah. Now you don’t need me because you’ve stolen my artistic voice.
Raymond There you go again, doubting yourself. But imagine, for a moment, the possibilities. They’re infinite. Consider TV resurrected on the 3rd day, in the middle of a big sporting event. Right!
Chorus We are excited by these possibilities but it seems our TV is not. . . He’s turned his back on Raymond and is staring out the window into the white night. . . His head hangs in despair. He approaches Cass and puts his arm around her.
TV Cass, I don’t know how this is going to end.
Cass With each other.
Chorus It doesn’t look as if Cass will run off with Raymond after all. . . Let’s ask our viewers, do you think Cass should stay with TV or not?
Raymond Now tell me, Thom, if this isn’t you. In a later installment we could have you reincarnated in various avatars, right? I mean, isn’t this what the story is about initially, the various instars of Phillip K? Of course your idea of using intelligent paper, well, that changes everything, the plot now changes with each new reading. That’s just brilliant. And so unpredictable! We’ll have Billy look into this.
Anthony Won’t work for you guys. No profit in a book that goes through metamorphosis on its own.
Raymond You might be right, Tony. Who would need to buy a new book if the old one was always offering new possibilities.
Judy Reinvention has certainly been my story.
Raymond So perceptive, Judy, so perceptive.
Cass Come on, a great work of literature is always changing, offering the diligent reader something new on each read.
Raymond That’s true, Cass, but nowadays we don’t read carefully, we scan. So we need gimmicks. And Judy is our North Star, all roads now lead to her, her coming out, her evolution from oppressed housewife to body artist.
Judy You’re calling me a gimmick?
Raymond Judy, you should remove the mask. I can’t see your face and you have so much to offer.
Chorus You ain’t kidding and it’s all up front.
TV Raymond, you won’t codify me.
Raymond We’re talking about language, Thom. Isn’t a computer program a language?
TV You’ve stolen my style, my. . .
Raymond You said yourself it was machine-derived.
Chorus We’re getting tired of all this talk. We might as well be listening to lawyers. . . So we’re going to wander over and talk to Judy Crucible, now sitting in front of the empty fireplace next to Big Anthony. . . Pay attention, boys and girls, her bathrobe has slipped open and reveals an oversized jersey. She’s barefoot in her dark stockings and garter. The gorilla head reveals her great sense of humor. . . Judy. . .
Judy Yes?
Chorus You two seem to be getting along fabulously over here in your quiet corner. But aren’t you bored?
Judy It’s peaceful here, watching the stillness..
Chorus Do you mind, Anthony, if we interrupt you two so we can introduce Judy to our viewers?
Anthony Up to her.
Chorus Judy, do you mind if our viewers can see your lovely face?
Judy No, I like it under here. Think of it a the proverbial paper bag.
Chorus Anthony, you shouldn’t encourage her with your laughter.
Chorus OK, well then, tell us something about yourself, was your mother beautiful?
Judy I thought so, so did my dad, I guess. I remember pictures of her, but I can’t really make her come alive in my head. I was fifteen when she took off.
Chorus Took off? Usually it’s the other way around.
Judy Usually. . . She had this nervous energy that surfaced whenever she tried to read to us. We loved Grimm, Clever Elsie, The Goose Girl. She tried to stick to the words but she couldn’t. I remember her hands fidgeting, pushing the hair away from her eyes, checking the time. It was just impossible for her to keep the tension alive in the story with her moods constantly ricocheting from excessive tiredness to bouncy can’t sit stillness. There was always this tension inside of her that was at odds with the story.
Chorus Have you noticed? Anthony’s mask has brought out another side of you. You’ve become pensive, reflective.
Judy I’ve always been reflective. What you’ve seen lately is another mask. Can you see my eyes?
Chorus Yes, you have beautiful eyes. Don’t you think so, Anthony? The bashful boy’s nodding yes. So go on, were you home when she left?
Judy The wisteria was in bloom, so it was the middle of May. My sister and I came home from school and she was gone. We waited through the long evening until it was dark and then Dad came home from work.
Chorus You loved your dad, didn’t you?
Judy Oh, yeah. He was the world. I couldn’t understand why mommy would leave him. He didn’t know either. It was bizarre seeing this guy always in full control, simply lost. He filed a missing person’s report. Ended up, she’d run off with my sister’s high school art teacher, this older guy, one of those people she’d always warned us about being weird because they didn’t believe in god and had longish hair and a goatee. They lived in the next town over. Occasionally I’d see her in the distance. She seemed happy. My sister refused to go to school after that. My mom was probably in her thirties, younger than I was when I left my husband and kids. She couldn’t have known herself any more than I had when I married Frank who was ten years older than me. Everyone assumed I would marry him since he started dating me when I was in ninth grade, coming over in his white impala convertible. Did I know myself then any better than mommy did before she married dad? Dad remarried someone who looked like mom, and that’s who I remember now.
Chorus We pause here to listen in on the other discussion being carried on
peripatetically. . . Wow, that’s a big word, I’d say TV is walking in tight circles, talking to himself. He stops by the window, looks out. He leans his head against the window pane. . . Cass nearly collides with Raymond as she stops abruptly in front of him.
Cass Stop with the sophistries. You’re making theft sound like something constructive.
Raymond Spoken like a teacher, Cass. But think of it. For centuries artists have had workshops full of apprentices. Nowadays even writers have ateliers, like the old painters, full of assistants, only we now call them interns. Imagine, a race of humans thinking like Thom. . . underwriting his work. . .
TV Underwriters!
Cass Underwriters?
Raymond Well yes, who research and articulate the ideas of the master, using an emulated style. It has more to do with management, the intern system now converted to an assembly line system.
Cass Those kind of assembly lines research books, like histories.
Raymond Fiction too. You know, a few years ago a friend and I drove north from my place in London and visited an interesting area in Northumbria, Lindisfarne and Jarrow, have you heard of them?
TV The venerable Bede.
Raymond Yes, I think that’s his name. Ruins set on windswept bluffs, but a thousand years ago the monks sat together and copied the old manuscripts of Rome and Greece, preserving them for all posterity. So when I think of our own young people learning from Thom, while copying him. . .
Cass What are you talking about, you just said a computer program copies his style?
Raymond TV, like it or not, is the collective voice of the nation. There’s no way out of this. It’s too late. He is too big. He’s in the general domain.
Chorus We’d like to remind our viewers that when TV developed the artist-living-the-story theme, he took performance art to new heights! He turned conceptual art back into a literary art and gave the memoir resounding credibility as a creative art form. . ! Long live our TV!
Raymond Well Thom, there you have it! Once your name is chiseled into the architraves above the nation’s schools beside those of Homer and Aristotle, there’s no way you can sue for infringement of rights.
Cass You won’t find Aristophanes there.
Raymond Aristophanes?
Cass Yeah, right.
Chorus Whew, that’s exhausting. . ! Yeah, while they circle around the issues of public domain. . , a sticky subject indeed. . , we return to Anthony and
Judy. . . Judy, your mom’s story is yours. . . Yeah, It’s about change. About misrepresentation. What everybody expects from everybody else.
Anthony No, it’s about a nightmare called history, where we repeat the mistakes of our parents because we don’t have all the facts. Even when we do have them we fail to understand them. We’re all responsible.
Chorus That’s a big leap, Anthony. . . Yeah, are you blaming us for Judy’s failed marriage. . ? Just because we sympathize with her. . . Hey, do you blame us for what is happening out in the streets tonight. . ? That’s right, did we create this snow storm? Did we cause the invasion of Refugium. . ? No, the homeless did.
Anthony Just the way the homeless drove her mother from the family hearth!
Chorus Judy, we don’t understand what you see in this man.
Judy What am I supposed to see? I didn’t know I was seeing anything but a man.
Chorus OK, you celebrities are allowed to indulge yourselves. So tell us how you came to The Nadir. Our viewers always ask us about it.
Judy I guess everyone assumed I’d marry Frank because he’d been coming around courting me since before my mother left. He was still working on his MBA when we got married. No one talked about it but we assumed I would work to help pay the bills. I started working as an assistant to the village clerk in the town hall. When our daughter was born, I took a leave of absence for six months before returning to work. By that time his mother was taking an active interest in her upbringing. I looked forward to going back to work.
Chorus You had a pretty full life.
Judy I did. After he got his masters, he started working for a big insurance company in the city. He took over the responsibilities of paying the bills. He didn’t want me working any longer. By that time I had the two girls. He wanted me to raise them full time. Even though I had liked working in the office with the other women, I thought he was right. I belonged at home. I was shy but some of the girls were bold. On Fridays they often went out on the town and partied. One time before the I had my first baby I went with them and when I came home Frank was so angry he hit me, telling me the apple never falls far from the tree. I didn’t want to be like my mother because of how she hurt my father. So I worked hard, kept the house clean, prepared the meals and got the kids to school and picked them up. But his mother, who’d found Jesus, was always critical of me. She wanted to instruct the girls in the ways of the Lord. Because I wanted to please Frank, I encouraged her. But over time he began to see the world as she did and it seemed I could never do anything right. He got edgier and crankier overtime, while I lost more and more of myself. I had always hated how I looked and those years with him didn’t help. It got that I was afraid to look in the mirror. Now and then I ran into one of the girls I had worked with and they told me what was happening. But gradually I lost touch even though they lived nearby. And though I had neighbors, I hardly talked with them any more; and my mother-in-law was coming in and out as if it was her own house and not mine, so I got more and more lonely. I wanted to die and I often thought I’d run away. But I was afraid. Afraid I would become like my mother, that I would prove Frank and his mother right, that I was just another Jezebel. When I was working, I’d overhearing the girls talking about this club where they had an open mic. Their excitement was palpable. It was a place where anyone could change and be happy. They once asked me if I wanted to join them but I had the girls and I was afraid Frank would hurt me. But the thought of this place sat in the center of my brain and every so often it would glow and I would become aware that I could go there myself, if I had the courage, if I dared. It got so that I wasn’t even paying attention to the girls anymore. Oh, I took care of them, made sure they ate and washed and did their homework; but they had begun to remind me of my failings. They’d remind me I’d forgotten to say a prayer of grace at diner, or tell their grandma I was late picking them up at their prayer group. When I looked at them I saw Frank. He loved them as much as he loved his mother. That’s when I realized if I didn’t go I would kill myself. And something told me at Nadir I would be changed and I would be happy. One day, on a sudden impulse which shutout all my reservations, my fears, I threw a few of my things into a plastic bag. I called Frank’s mother and asked her if she could be here when the girls got home so that I could pick up Frank’s suit from the cleaners. She chided me for not having planned the day, but I hung up. I walked out the door and hiked the two miles to the train station where I caught the 3:20 to the city. I walked into the Nadir looking like a housewife out food shopping. No one cared though. Someone beautiful served this dark liquor and I drank it. Next thing I remember I was talking to this guy named Eddie. He was a poet. I remember telling him my name but then it fell away, like a pebble down a well. The famous guy over there reminded me tonight. My name was once Doris. It’s not that you forget. It just becomes something different, remote, belonging to someone else. After a while you forget it’s there, the name, the memories.
Chorus Did you forget your children?
Judy No, I didn’t forget them, but like my name and my past they became remote. I felt compelled to move on. Eddie called me Salome so that became my name, because everyone had that name. At that time this young blond woman was the queen of Nadir and her name was Salome. Eddie always sat with his legs crossed, smoking his weed, saying what I thought were simply profound things. He recited Rilke, like TV. I found his words gentle like a lullaby, you know, I was the girl from the suburbs. He said he liked me clean and pure, the way he found me, the innocent housewife. Later I learned he was from the suburbs too, used to sell vacuum cleaners. But as long as we stayed inside The Nadir it was okay. How long we were there, I don’t remember. Whenever we left and tried to make a go of it on the outside, I realized I wanted Eddie and he wasn’t Eddie. He probably didn’t want me either, he wanted Salome. When I realized he had taught me everything he could, I left him. I went back to The Nadir and this time it was somebody else. Same thing, Eddie and Salome inside Nadir. Eddie says all the things I want to hear and I must have looked like everything he had ever wanted in a woman. He said he wanted to liberate me from all that I had known, no more games. But when we tried to make it outside, we couldn’t do it either.
Chorus So you left him.
Judy But with each relationship I took away something, the poet’s fetish with corsets, the rocker’s with ballet heels. But this time, I didn’t go back to The Nadir. I tried waiting on tables. I was too old for that. And I couldn’t afford to experiment with the clothing I was coming to need. I got desperate. I lived on the generosity of new friends. I was afraid I would fall apart and then no one would want me. So I went back to Nadir with a new plan.
Chorus New plan?
Judy I’d studied Salome. Her style, her technique. She took a liking to me, like to an older aunt. Compared to all of them I was homely and not a threat. But she liked my experiments, the older lady wearing corsets and torture heels, that’s what she called them. But they turned her on. She was a fox; but when I think back she was a rather traditional beauty, short skirts, slumming in the lower east side. She invited me into her bed one night and for awhile I lived with her, which was something new for me. It gave me a chance to observe a sexy woman in bed. She got money from somewhere so she encouraged my wardrobe fantasies.
Chorus But what was your plan? You have us all on the edge of our seats!
Judy I wanted to be the Queen of Nadir.
Chorus Overthrow Salome.
Judy She was young, she was engaged, and would move back uptown.
Chorus It’s a fairy tale.
TV “What casts a spell over other gods lets this most cunning god escape into his ever-receding power.”
Chorus That, ladies and gentlemen, was our own TV, wandering the room, sometime mumbling to himself but this time reciting poetry to Judy. . . His own verse?
Judy No, that’s from Rilke’s Idol.
TV “You whom one never forgets, who gave birth to herself in loss. . .”
Judy Then I ran into Blotter again. I’d met him the first time at one of the parties the painter and I gave. . .
Chorus Painter? Is that the one you mentioned earlier when we were talking about your long nails?
Judy Remi is part of the story, part of my evolution, like everyone I’ve met. He’s the one who inscribed the Tree of Good and Evil on my body with needle and ink.
Chorus Can you show us? Please. . ! Not now! Really. About Blotter.
Judy No, it’s ok.
Chorus Oh, well, Judy has obliged us, by opening her robe and lifting her jersey. . . I love your nipple shields.
Judy Me too.
Chorus Don’t look down, Anthony or you’ll see the root of good and evil. . . That’s not funny. You’re the one who can’t get your eyes off her. Anyway thank you, Judy, that was extraordinary. Beautiful work. . . Yeah, top to bottom. . ! About Blotter. We’ve heard of him but we don’t know much about him.
Judy Adolf wasn’t like the others at all. He was walking his dog in Washington Square Park. I used to walk through the park on Sundays doing my usual workout. That day I was wearing a latex body suit, tight corseted of course, stretching calves and ankles in ballet boots. It was warm so I could keep the front zipper down so everyone could see my tree tattoo. He noticed the small group that had gathered around me, so he came over to have a look. He must have recognized me because he sat down next to me and asked me how I was. I’d learned a lot by then. I’d finally upstaged Salome. I was Samantha now, the Queen of Nadir. Life thrilled me. I still got chills thinking how far I’d come. I’d proved to myself I could be anything I wanted. Body modification was becoming a major interest. But then what? I lived for the day. But what did that mean? He told me he had just read a brilliant book that connected everything. A unification thing. He said that was the way the world was going and he intended to be on top of the wave. He wanted to broaden his influence which at that time centered around the Standard Testing thing. He said Standards were everything. Actually he wasn’t much different from the husband I’d left behind in the suburbs, only he was richer and more ambitious. He asked me if I could sing. I said yeah, even though I’d never even whispered into the open mic, and that was how Judy Crucible was born.
Anthony If Blotter could market masturbation as manly and wholesome, he’d do it. And we’d be in agreement for the first time.
Chorus What an outrage! We hope our viewers didn’t hear that, especially the youngsters.
Anthony They’re the ones who need to hear it.
Chorus Morales, you have a filthy mind. . . Told you Mr. Hairy Palms was a pervert!
Anthony I’m a dog with a bone, a Pavlovian bone. I can’t excise the Goddess from my thoughts, nor edit the way she looks.
Judy I don’t picture you the masturbating type.
Anthony Everyone’s the masturbating type, whether we use our hand or our head.
Judy You’re right there.
Chorus The intercom is ringing. . . Thank god. . ! Raymond! The buzzer. . ! Who could that possibly be at this hour. . ? In this storm. . ? On a night when no one is supposed to be out?
Anthony But I’ve had time to understand.
Judy You sound like a priest.
Anthony In a way, but more like a slave to the Goddess.
Judy Your wife, isn’t she your goddess?
Chorus Look who’s just arrived? Adolf Blotter. We had no idea, Judy, he was so tall. . . And distinguished. Just goes to show you what kind of a woman these men like. The man behind him is large and burly with wild hair and a beard. . . Folks, this is Bill Board, the technical wizard for TV’s light bending computer. . . Blotter is slapping the snow from his overcoat sleeves but his companion seems unaware of his own snow cover. The white snow in his gray hair is beginning to drip down his face. Unlike the stylish beards so many are sporting these days, this beard is a complete shambles. . . With care Blotter dries his face with his extended fingers. He wears the fashionable week-old growth.
Blotter Wind’s picking up. I even heard thunder.
Board Cass. . . Thom!
Chorus Board looks shaken by the sight of Raymond’s guests.
Anthony Every woman is a goddess at some point, Judy. Deme was mine.
Judy Was?
Anthony Until we got to know each other, then we became flesh and blood and the world once again was round.
Judy And me? Am I a goddess?
Anthony Oh yeah, right now, you’re the goddess. And that’s what you want, isn’t it? Like that poem Thom just recited.
Judy To never be forgotten.
Anthony And you’ll remain the goddess for as long as you remain untouched and without love.
Judy I’ve been touched and loved by many.
Anthony But until someone really knows you and loves you, you’ll remain an image on water, always out of reach.
Judy You’re the poet.
Anthony Nah, I’m a truck driver.
Chorus Blotter walks briskly forward, carrying a large plastic shopping bag. He stops when he sees Anthony Morales in a hairy ape suit, sitting next to what looks like a shapely woman wearing a man’s bathrobe, in dark stockings and a garter, her head inside a hairy mask.
Blotter Raymond, I have to hand it to you for luring Morales here. Judy? Judy, you can take that off now, you’re safe.
Raymond I didn’t lure them here, Adolf.
Blotter Then Judy did, after this bastard. . . Judy. . .
Raymond Nope, this is another page from TV’s chronicle.
Chorus Looking at TV, Blotter’s eyes are struggling to see him inside what we will call, in Vellumese, the hallow glow of an internal idea.
Blotter Thomas Vellum? This is, I was. . .
Chorus Now he’s looking for something inside his bag.
Blotter I was talking to this man a few hours ago at the bar when Morales abducted Judy. I had no idea he was the . . .
Chorus He has just seen Cass, as she comes striding across the wide living room expanse in the fetching sweater Raymond found in his daughter’s bureau. . . It doesn’t look as if she is aware of his presence as she paces in what must be an exhausting night for her.
Blotter Ah, the young teacher, my pleasure. . .
Cass Don’t give me that “young teacher” shit, buster.
Judy Take it easy AB, you look like you’re about to faint.
Blotter Raymond, you say they just walked right in? Morales, I’m surprised you’re not in jail.
Anthony Adolf, I thought you’re only jailing the helpless now.
Chorus You mean the homeless.
Anthony Yeah, that’s what I meant. He’s only picking up the homeless.
Blotter I’m doing nothing of the kind. Politics and business don’t go together.
Anthony I didn’t think so, until recently.
Judy Like church and state.
Raymond Do you think there’s a niche market for fundamentalists? We need to consider that.
Blotter Judy, that mask is a symbol of ASS. Please take it off.
Raymond Maybe there’s a market for that as well, you know, the story of Beauty and the Beast.
Blotter Morales, stealing a doll is one thing, kidnapping. . .
Judy I was walking out on you, AB.
Blotter . . . is a federal. . . You were leaving me?
Judy Yeah, so put your phone away.
Raymond Take your coats off. Let me take that bag, Adolf. Billy, you know where to hang it. Adolf, let’s start the meeting.
Chorus We are following Raymond over to the piano. . . What’s in that bag,
Mr. Blotter. . ? With great ceremony, no, not quite that dramatically. . . We often get carried away at times like this . . ! Samantha, it’s a Judy doll, wearing the wicked dress she arrived in. . . Her boots are different. . . It’s Judy down
to . . . Harry, we all can see them. . . Samantha, I just wanted to draw the attention of our audience to the exquisite artwork between them. . . Can the rest of our viewers see the TV doll? He’s wearing white linen trousers and vest. If it wasn’t for that long scraggly beard, he’d be one handsome dude. . . Even with that long beard, he’s quite the gent. . . More than just a gent, Harry. There’s something special about him. Have you ever noticed how male dolls seem to lack, you know, pizang. . ! Yeah, we noticed.
Blotter Judy, did I mislead you?
Judy No, I misled myself.
Blotter Someday people will be looking at this facsimile the way they look at Venus de Milo. It will be in museums.
Raymond Bill, set up your computer, let’s get this session rolling.
Chorus Board looks nervous to us, what do you think. . ? Yeah, it looks that way to us, too.
Cass Bill, you haven’t changed much.
Board Older, heavier. But you look the same, actually better.
Cass Tell me what this heavy metal kewpie doll has to do with the Vellum doll?
Board Cass, it’s just a marketing thing. I’m just a hardware man.
Blotter Isn’t it obvious? They have chemistry.
Cass Chemistry?
Blotter I’ll be blunt. ASS smeared Barbie. The kids began dressing Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, in her accessories as if he was a Barbie. We need a red-blooded male, not a transvestite.
Chorus Look, Judy is stroking the little TV’s beard. Opps, it came off.
Board Don’t worry, it was designed for that.
Raymond These dolls are anatomically correct, even TV, down to the smallest details, a modern feature.
Chorus Marvelous. . . What could be more real. . ! More real than humans.
Raymond We’ve given them special wardrobes, designed by Sari. . .
Judy Excuse me, that wing dress – I designed it!
Raymond How could I forget. Which makes me realize you’ll need your own signature line.
Blotter I agree.
Board These dolls interface with a computer. A simple jack or laser connects them. Through commands at the keyboard, they act like real little people. They can be taught to speak, to recite poetry, sing songs. . .
Blotter Kids will love these two.
Chorus Adults too!
Blotter This isn’t just a love doll like Ken.
Board TV is an intellectual, just like its archetype. The breakthrough technology is the way I wired the Vellum doll. It’s a simulacrum.
TV That’s not me. You created it, Billy. It’s more about you.
Board It’s you, your gestures, I copied them off video pieces. It’s you, or it will be as soon as I’ve downloaded all your stories, I mean this is as real as it gets.
TV He looks like a preacher to me.
Anthony And she looks like an anatomically correct dumb broad.
Chorus How rude, Anthony. . . Only a pervert would see her as just another broad and not see the real human being.
Board Judy, you’re a new phenomena, I didn’t have enough material to download. But you’re a performer, you can sing.
Chorus Look, TV has put down his own precious bag of garbage so he can inspect the dolls. Perhaps we have a détente.
Judy He’s right, the Judy Doll is just a dumb broad.
Board I didn’t have enough time to develop her circuit board either.
Judy It’s always a rush job, when it gets down to me.
Board I got your voice right. Listen.
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
Chorus Don’t you just love her, that child-like voice. Judy, it’s your voice.
Judy That’s it?
Chorus Judy, she even has your piercings. How cool.
Board There was enough room for the larger pieces, your nose rings and the ear lobe pieces.
Chorus Look, TV has removed one of the little tunnels.
Board Yeah, the kids can buy their own tunnel kits – they’re interchangeable. We were also able to add the ear wings, eyebrow spirals, even the lip claws but the dermal stuff was hard to get all in.
Chorus How about the nipple. . .
Blotter Yes.
Chorus Raymond, the intercom is ringing again. . . How annoying. At a time like this.
Raymond The doorman is upset. He said the police have arrived.
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
Chorus Look Samantha, she wobbles when she walks in those weird shoes. Her hips move just like yours, Judy.
Judy The pony boots were my second choice.
Board We couldn’t get her to stand in her other shoes. . .
Judy Ballet heels.
Board She kept falling over. We thought about magnets but then it would only work on a metal table or platform and she’d move like Frankenstein. Judy came up with the pony boots which are weighted and give her balance.
Chorus Billy looks like a mad pianist talking quickly, working madly on his keyboard. . . Imagine if he was working a chorus line of Judy dolls. . . That’s funny.
TV Doll Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?
Cass Hamlet?
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
Chorus Judy, she’s adorable.
Judy So what? She sounds stupid.
Blotter It won’t work, Morales. Newspapers won’t carry this.
Anthony What won’t work?
Blotter Whatever you are trying to pull downstairs.
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
TV Doll That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
Chorus Samantha, she can even shake her top. . . Take it easy, Harry.
Board Wait, I’ll get it, wait.
Chorus Where can I buy one of these Judy dolls?
Judy My old Barbie did better than this.
Judy Doll It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to. . .
Board I haven’t worked out all the details.
Chorus But it’s marvelous, she’s singing.
Judy You’ve wired his doll for brains, but for me, you’ve wired mine to grow size 40 tits!
Cass Well, Judy, we do agree on that. Only thing is you do have big tits. You did that to yourself. You made yourself a body. That’s what we see.
Judy Who said a woman with big tits doesn’t have a brain?
Cass I guess a woman with tits can have a brain, even if the men around her don’t.
TV Just as some of us must explore the full potential of corporeality – it’s an imperative. . .
Chorus What’s he talking about. . ? I haven’t the faintest. But it’s the most profound thing I’ve ever heard, Harry.
TV some of us must explore the full realm of the mind, whether in fantasy or science. Some explore both the physical and the ethereal simultaneously, a lesson I’ve been learning over the last year. This is the area where averages meet, the transitional areas where the physical world and the cognitive merge, where a genius in mind needs the freedom discovered by the genius of body to be fully himself. . . or herself.
Board Like Turing.
Chorus Touring what. . ? What’s touring have to do with this?
Board Alan Turing. He invented the electronic computer that broke the enigma code which helped the Allies win the last world war. Some say he committed suicide because he was gay, a social outcast in his country.
TV We lost him, his work in the world of the mind, that we can be sure of. He
couldn’t be himself, though hard he tried, a kind of defiant Caravaggio of the intellect. His life could have been easier had more Crucibles been battling on the field of physicality against the narrow mindedness of what is human. Thanks to social warriors like Judy and Sam. . .
Everyone Sam? Who is Sam? Do you know a Sam?
Raymond Let me get his name into my phone. What’s his last name?
TV the rest of us can be free both in body and spirit.
Chorus Well, no one knows what to say.
Cass Well, Judy, I guess I have to agree with Thom on that strange flip of an idea. But as to what Shakespeare has to do with Thom – you’ve lost me, Billy. You might as well have him reciting Homer.
Raymond We were just talking about that. Billy, can we do Homer?
Chorus The door bell. . ! Will someone please answer it. . ! Look! It’s the police chief at the door.
Rascul Blotter, what’s going on here?
Blotter I should ask you that, Rascul. Why are you here?
Chorus It’s Chief Rascul with members of Media Free USA. We knew something big was happening here. . . It’s getting crowded in here.
TV I can’t breath. I need some air.
Raymond Please Thom, don’t open the window. The snow will blow in.
Chorus Let’s go down to Samantha and Harry on the street. Samantha, special guest star, Chief Rascul has just arrived on our show. We’ll find out what brought him up here but can you tell us how is it down there. . ? We can barely see our hands in front of our faces. Fifth Avenue is swarming with Homeland Protection officers who’ve taken over the block with their Humpervees. Very lurid, headlights glowing, engines running. . . Is there any reason for all the activity down there. . ? There are rumors afloat that Eddie Ammonia is in the building. . . That explains why Chief Rascul is here with us now in his Homeland Protection uniform, which, if you remember, includes the bowler hat with emblem and the American flag pin. Do we know the designer. . ? Not yet. . . We all agree he looks great, sporting a new tightly trimmed beard. . . Yes, we thought so too. We hear the sanitation plows in the distance but can’t see them yet. . . Thank you, Samantha.
Rascul We received an anonymous phone call. Then our infrared satellite surveillance caught Ammonia at your window.
Blotter That’s crazy. In weather like this?
Rascul That’s another secret department with its own financing and its own secret patch.
Blotter We’re having a business meeting.
Rascul Tonight? With a war and a blizzard, a meeting? And with that guy in the ape suit?
TV I need fresh air.
Rascul You! Don’t move.
Chorus Our colleagues from Media Free have cameras and mikes. Listen to what he says or they’ll shoot.
Raymond Thom, close the window, the snow’s ruining my drapes.
Rascul I told you, don’t move.
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
Chorus We love when she lifts her arms that little bit and spreads her arm wings.
Raymond Let’s step back a bit and take a deep breath.
Blotter Rascul, let me introduce. . .
Rascul Morales, as soon as we have dealt with the homeless, we’ll be tackling the subversives and perverts. You’ll be first on my list!
TV Doll We are arrant naves all; believe none of us.
Rascul What are those things?
Board Simulacrum.
Rascul Simu-what?
Board I’ve recreated a miniature TV and Judy. They interface. . .
Rascul In the nude?
Blotter Raymond, this is the new head of Homeland Protection, Chief Rascul.
Raymond Ah yes, my pleasure. You present quite a formidable image on the screen, Chief.
Rascul Thank you. An hour ago Congress passed the Open Surveillance Law, so it makes it even more important to look your best.
Judy Doll Hey. . . What’s it all about, Alfie. . .
Board Isn’t that better?
Judy What a dope.
Blotter You already know Judy. Judy, take that mask off.
Judy It’s easier this way, AB.
Rascul Who are you impersonating?
Cass Les Demoiselle d’Avignon.
Blotter Yes, and this charming woman is Cass.
Cass Cassandra Kale.
TV Doll To die, to sleep – no more – and by sleep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to!
Chorus Oh look, the TV doll is walking over to little Judy. He is trying to hold her hand.
Judy Doll What’s it all about, Alfie?
Rascul Folks, have a look around.
Raymond I can’t have Media Free poking around like this! This is my home.
Rascul It’s the law now.
TV Doll There’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life: for who would bear the whips and scorns of time, th’ oppressor’s wrong. . ,
Judy Doll It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to.
Cass Why didn’t you program You Don’t Own Me instead.
Chorus Chief Rascul, he appears to be jumping.
Rascul Hey, I told you to step away from there!
TV Can’t you hear the cry below?
Raymond What law?
TV Doll . . . the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office. . ,
Rascul Just passed in an emergency session. Media is now an arm of the law. We no longer need a warrant. If you have nothing to hide, think of it as free publicity.
Anthony Publicity versus privacy.
TV Doll . . . and the spurns that patient merit of the’ unworthy takes when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?
Raymond Please, Thom, it’s cold. And my draperies.
Judy Doll It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to. . .
Rascul We’ve taken the televised Town Meetings and the popular Law Enforcement episodes to a new level. People want this sort of thing. Now we have investigations carried on in public by the media. Transparency. And we all know how Joe and Sally Public like to ham it up for the camera!
Chorus Did you hear that. . ? Yeah, we’re taking over.
Rascul It’s all legit. Got to keep this country safe!
Chorus Yes, instead of being just a voice in the crowd, we’ve become the voice of the crowd.
TV Is that the wind howling or the cry of people down on the street?
Chorus The media and the people are one! This is an historic day for democracy. . . Yes, our feeling and your feeling. . . Yeah, we’re just like everyone else after all.
Rascul So who is that guy?
Raymond That’s TV.
Blotter The famous entertainer.
Rascul No, I’d know TV’s face. That looks like the guy in the poster, Eddie Ammonia, only without a beard.
Raymond No, that’s TV.
Rascul Let’s keep this simple. The President advocates simplicity.
TV “Simplicity, which has no name, if free of desires. . .”
Rascul What the hell does that mean?
Board As you can see the doll’s beard is an accessory. See! He comes with or without the beard.
Rascul Proves my point.
Raymond What’s your point?
Rascul Same guy with or without the beard. Keep it simple. That’s what the President says. Same guy, with or without the beard. Did you get that?
Chorus Got it, Chief!
Raymond Obviously. But the man on the poster. . .
Rascul Listen here, what did you say your name was?
Blotter Raymond Smith. Let me explain, Rascul. . .
Rascul Explain nothing, and Blotter, call me Chief when I am visiting in an official capacity. Now, if you will allow me to carry out my duties I will continue my interrogation.
Cass You’re just an official bully.
Rascul Let’s keep things simple. Ok, tell me again, Eddie, why did you shave?
Chorus Chief, he never told you.
Rascul Did you think we couldn’t see the difference? Did you get that?
Chorus Got it, Chief!
Raymond Chief Rascul, you’ve got it all wrong. TV is the fountainhead of our economic system. I already explained that to those in charge.
Rascul I am in charge, and if we don’t get some answers here, I’ll be taking everyone in for concealing an enemy of the state.
Blotter Get serious, Rascul.
Rascul Did you hear what this man just said to a servant of the people?
Chorus Got it, Chief.
Raymond We wanted to take the publicity off TV. Ammonia is the bum you want. He’s the Homeless Head of State.
Rascul Isn’t it true that aka TV funded ARCH through his Homeless Institute Trust Fund?
Cass Funding ARCH is quite a stretch from helping the needy.
Rascul And isn’t it true that aka TV helped pay off the debt incurred by the Refugium government after the World Bank, who justifiably wanted to recoup their loan, instituted strict measures to balance their budget.
Cass So what, we paid off their debt, after those measures destabilized the culture!
Rascul Did you think that an individual could do something? Did any of you ever think this homeless thing would get so big? It’s bigger than global warming. We’re invading nations. You should have considered the ramifications of your action, whoever you are.
Blotter Chief Rascul, you have an important job now.
Rascul And don’t I know it. A poor boy like me, it’s amazing.
Blotter It’s America!
Raymond Did you know, Mr. Rascul. . .
Rascul Chief, Chief Rascul.
Raymond Yes, Chief, did you know that The Council for Economic Development awarded TV its highest honor, the medal for the Creative Recycling of Ancient Principles?
Rascul Didn’t know that.
Chorus Chief, is it true that Eddie Ammonia has become the most powerful man in the world?
Rascul Who told you that?
Chorus It’s the news on the street, Chief, brought to you first by INNETNEWS.
Blotter I see an opportunity. Ammonia might have a price.
Rascul Why don’t you ask him since you brought him here? But I’ll tell you this, he was already offered everything while in detention and he turned it all down.
Blotter Who?
Rascul Him! Eddie, during interrogation. So Eddie, you never answered my question. Why did you shave? Was it to throw us off?
TV In a sense.
Rascul Did you get that?
Chorus Got it, Chief!
TV People have been following me for years. Especially them.
Chorus Us? Of all the nerve.
Cass He shaved because his beard was turning white. He’s a vain man, but no more vain than the rest of us!
Judy Chalk up another for Eve.
Rascul I’ll tell you why he shaved. Right now I have officers lining up for duty in Sybaris. It’s paradise! Balmy evenings, palm trees, pretty girls. But he didn’t want anything to do with it. You’re one of those incorrigible people. You want to be different. You don’t want to be like the rest of us. . .
Judy Neither do I!
Rascul Now that we have beards and want the god-given right to enjoy ourselves, you turn your back on us. And don’t think you can create a thousand year old religion through self-sacrifice. Bill Bop will see that your word is not the word.
Raymond Thom, are you recreating yourself again?
Cass Raymond, you’re as crazy as this SS agent.
Rascul Ms. Kale? Is that right? You seem to know this man?
Cass For some time. We’re husband and wife.
Rascul But you chose to keep your own name?
Cass That’s right.
Rascul So you can vouch for your husband’s whereabouts for the last three years.
Cass Not exactly, since he chose not to live at home.
Rascul Exactly my point. And isn’t it true, Eddie, you prefer a life of desolation over the comforts and luxuries of civilized living? Isn’t it true, Eddie, that you’re not like the rest of us? You prefer life among the homeless to life inside a home?
Board I’m confused. Who’s he talking to?
Chorus To Eddie Ammonia.
Blotter I don’t know who Eddie is, but that’s TV.
Rascul You just met him for the first time tonight, right? So how would you know?
Blotter Because I believe his wife. And that doll was made in TV’s image.
Rascul That’s right, and I’ve already demonstrated the close ties between EA and TV. Where you find one, you find the other.
Cass This is your fault, Raymond, printing all those posters with TV’s image and calling him EA.
Raymond What’s in a beard?
Rascul In times like this, you can’t believe anyone. This man is Eddie Ammonia. Whether he’s TV is irrelevant.
Chorus He’s right, Adolf. If the Chief of Homeland Protection says he’s EA, then he’s EA. Which leaves us wondering, what’s become of TV?
Rascul There is no TV.
Anthony And two plus two equals five.
Chorus Raymond, the phone!
Raymond Yes, hello. . , oh that’s wonderful. . . Yes, do it. . . OK, hold on. It’s Sari Sermon. She’s designing an Eddie T-shirt. She’s got that feeling it’ll be big, but she’s only got TV’s image on the old shirts.
Chorus Look, little Judy is dancing with tiny TV. . ! You mean little Eddie. . ? Oops, old habits die hard.
Anthony This guy’s Thomas Vellum.
Raymond Sari. . , yes, everything’s fine. Look, we’ll market the old T-shirts with the TV images. . Yes, TV is EA with or without the beard. The beard is an insignificant detail. . . Wonderful, bye.
Rascul No point in shaking your head, EA, the game’s up.
Chorus Ah, the phone again. Raymond, answer it. . ! Wow, little EA is trying to put the make on little Judy. . . We’re going down to the street to see what’s going on there. . ? It’s unbelievable out here, sheer bedlam. . . Yeah, wind and snow and suddenly thousands of people appeared out of nowhere despite the curfew. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like this. . . Homeland is surrounded by students from SATS chanting against Standardized Testing, members of ASS chanting against all Standards and young and old gathering to see Eddie Ammonia.
Judy So that’s why you called your wife.
Anthony Deme is our coordinator.
Chorus So is it true, what we’ve heard down here. . ? Yes, seems the man we thought was TV is actually EA. Seems that when beards were switched back at ARCH headquarters TV did indeed assumpt. His role was assumed by Eddie. . . Amazing. Now back to you.
Anthony He’s no more Eddie than you are Abe Lincoln. Thom looks exactly the way he did when I last saw him in. . . in 1980.
Rascul And you are about as reliable as a cell phone under a mountain of lead.
Raymond I love the whimsy of the market!
Anthony You’re always looking for the pace setter.
Raymond That’s my job.
Judy I’m a dime a dozen.
Chorus Why the hang dog look, EA? You’re a rising star.
TV I’m not EA. I’ve got all the proof I need in my bag.
Chorus Like your poster. What a scream!
Blotter SATS?
Chorus Yeah, SATS.
Blotter But what is SATS?
Cass Students Against Testing Standards.
Chorus Perhaps this is the moment we can ask our viewers if they think this is the end of an era, a shift in values?
Anthony A paradigm shift, like the 1980s, when the world turned its back on real world.
Chorus Call in and tell us what you think. Our operators are on the line waiting for your calls. . . You don’t need to ask them. . . What do you mean. . ? We are the people. Ask yourself. . . I see what you mean. . . Listen, the crowd is roaring for EA. He remains standing by the window, holding the wanted poster in hand, where his likeness has now become more than obvious. He is like someone sentenced to death. . . The Chief has gone over to the piano and is looking into the plastic shopping bag EA put down when he opened the window.
TV Hey, that’s my bag. It’s full of evidence.
Rascul Evidence of what?
TV Of who I am!
Rascul We know who you are.
Cass He started shaving because of a few grey hairs.
Raymond Eddie, if I had only known, I could have recommended an excellent hair stylist, she does wonders with color.
Chorus Look, little Judy just pushed little Eddie away and almost lost her balance.
EA Doll How I am tortured by spasm and rigid convulsion! Oh! I am racked on the wheel!
Board Wait a minute.
EA Doll Quick, oh! Be quick! Life has no more charms for me since. . .
Judy Doll Hey, baby.
Chorus Board looks frantic. . . Little Eddie is chasing little Judy, who can barely move in her gorgeous dress. . . Oh my. Look at the front of his pants. . . Samantha, Harry, big news up here. Billy Board, inventor of simulacrum, has created a doll that gets an erection.
EA Doll I can’t get rid of it!
Rascul Now would you look in here! Bring the surveillance in for a close-up. A bag full of filth, pictures of naked women, an old tattered magazine. All the kinds of things a perverted, dirty, old homeless man would have. Scan this stuff.
Chorus Right on it, boss!
Rascul Eddie’s even got money in here.
Anthony That money isn’t real, and you know it.
Rascul No, Morales, you’re right, it’s counterfeit. Did you get that down, Media?
Chorus Got it, boss!
TV That’s not Eddie’s stuff.
Rascul Didn’t you say this was your bag of evidence?
TV Mine, not Eddie’s. I’m not Eddie!
Cass He’s not Eddie!
Rascul Evading authority through impersonation. Got that Media?
Chorus Got it, boss!
Rascul OK, one final proof. Ask the people in the street if he is Eddie Ammonia.
Chorus Ask them yourself. . . Can’t you see we’re involved in a new level of reality?
Rascul If you want to keep your license, ask them.
Chorus All right! Harry, we’d like you to take a survey. . . In this snow. . ? Ask the crowd whether the man they see in the window is TV or EA.
Cass Asking them won’t answer anything. They don’t know my husband.
Rascul You may be a teacher but I belong to the majority and this is a democracy. In spite of your sarcasm, the people always know.
Cass That’s right, I forgot they chose Barabbas.
Judy Listen!
Anthony That’s the wind.
Judy Sounded like thunder.
Chorus What a hew and cry. . ! What did the people say. . ? We want Eddie. We want Eddie. . . Let me rephrase this: Do they think TV is Eddie. . ? Long live Eddie.
Rascul He’s Eddie.
Anthony But no one identified him. They didn’t they say he was Eddie. They just said they wanted Eddie.
TV No one wanted me?
Rascul Yeah, you’re wanted.
Chorus This is a moment to be proud of, we see popular democracy in action.
Rascul There was a time when I was young and took to the streets. The people united can never be defeated. Yeah, and now I’m helping to run a democracy. Power to the people.
Blotter This is getting out of hand, Rascul.
Rascul This is the last time I’ll tell you, Blotter. Call me Chief.
EA Doll Ah! What a bad thing it is to let yourself be led away by other women! Why give me such pain and suffering and yourself into the bargain?
Judy Doll Hands off, sir!
EA Doll And Aphrodite, whose mysteries you have not celebrated for so long? Oh! Won’t you please come back home?
Judy Why am I always involved in this story?
Judy Doll No, least not till a sound treaty puts an end to the war.
EA Doll Well, if you wish it so much, why, we’ll make it your treaty.
Chorus What a strange outburst from the little simulacrum. What’s going on Board?
Board I’m not sure.
Cass That’s Aristophanes.
Raymond I guess we did find Aristophanes after all, Cass!
Cass I don’t get your point, Billy.
Board I don’t know, I didn’t download this.
TV See. It always works out this way.
Rascul Why all these pictures, Eddie?
TV They’re of her. She’s everywhere now.
Chorus Like Ammonia.
EA Doll At any rate, lie with me for a little while.
Judy Doll No, no, no! but just the same, I can’t say I don’t love you.
Chorus What a tease.
EA Doll You love me? Then why refuse to lie with me, my little girl, my sweet?
Chorus He’s hysterical, with his little hard-on. Excuse us.
Rascul What is this, a coded message?
TV Give me that! It’s just a stupid postcard from Starks coffee shop.
Judy That’s his quote.
Rascul T A O. Got that.
Chorus Got it, Chief. . ! Chief is reading more of Eddie’s coded message. . . That’s a copy.
Rascul Tao. . . action. . . transform. . .
Judy Something like: ‘As we roil through this state of flux, must always remember simplicity.’ Made total sense when I heard it.
Rascul . . .desire. . . simplicity. . . free of. . . the world will be at peace of its own accord. Yep, seems we want the same things, Eddie, only our tactics differ.
Blotter Nothing makes sense. Why is SATS downstairs?
Rascul Not so fast, Ammonia.
Cass Leave him alone!
Rascul Have it your way, let him jump.
TV I’m not jumping. I need air.
Chorus Listen to the crowd. . . They see you. Let’s go down to Harry and Samantha on the street. . . Yes, we have here members of SATS. Your name?
Atah Atah.
Chorus And yours.
Clio Clio.
Chorus Is Eddie Ammonia, otherwise known to all as EA, involved in your organization?
Atah In that he stands outside the system, the standardized system, yes, in a sense he is.
Chorus Do you know who he is?
Clio No. But his influence seems to be more important than his actual being.
Chorus A very exciting night though.
Clio Yes, very exciting.
Chorus Any word to our viewers?
Clio Yes, come out. Where ever you are, come out!
Atah Become part of this. End standardized testing.
Rascul Why, that’s a call for insurrection! Did you get all that? Find out who they are?
Cass That young woman is our daughter!
Board Cass, I had no idea these dolls would become. . .
Rascul Your daughter? EA has a daughter? EA, a family man?
Raymond Cassandra, do you think we’re beginning another instar? Isn’t that what you called it, Eddie, when you were Thom? Can you hear me, Thom? Eddie, is that you?
TV You don’t even know Eddie. None of you do.
Chorus What a come back!
EA Doll . . . won’t you lie down now?
Judy Doll But, miserable man, where, where?
Chorus Judy, she is your spitting image. Just look at the way you’re twisting Eddie around your little pinky.
Anthony That’s not Judy. That’s just a doll.
Chorus Just a doll, he says. . ! You should know. You still play with them.
Cass This play is working toward a specific end, the end of senseless war. She has a purpose here.
Blotter Your daughter is a member of SATS?
Rascul If she’s out on the street calling people to arms, that doesn’t sound like she wants to end war.
Raymond Billy, have you lost control of them?
Board I don’t know whether to be ecstatic or miserable. But yes, they seem to be acting out something on their own.
Cass Not on their own. This was written over two thousand years ago!
TV Like I’ve always said. . .
Rascul What did you say?
TV A wormhole is feeding this data to the computer. Board knows. After all he’s using my hyped up word processor.
Rascul Media, we want an all points bulletin, do you copy, must apprehend Clio and her friend. They are young and they are dangerous.
Board Do you think that’s it, Thom? Last time I thought you were a crazy but creative guy. But now I’m not so sure you’re even crazy.
Judy Doll Well, I’ll be off then, and find a bed for us.
EA Doll There’s no point in that; surely we can lie on the ground.
Judy Doll No, no! even though you are bad, I don’t like your lying on the bare earth.
EA Doll Ah! How the dear girl loves me!
Judy Doll Come, get to bed quick; I am going to undress. But, oh dear, we must have a mattress.
EA Doll A mattress? Oh! No, never mind that!
Judy Doll No, by Artemisia! Lie on the bare sacking? Never! That would be squalid.
EA Doll Kiss me!
Judy Doll Wait a minute!
EA Doll Good god, hurry up.
Rascul Media, did you hear me?
Chorus Harry, Samantha, the word up here is ‘awesome.’ We are completely mesmerized by Billy Board’s toys.
Board They are not toys!
Chorus They do everything, even the naughty stuff. . .
Rascul Apprehend EA’s daughter, now!
Chorus Samantha, Harry, did you hear the Chief? Come in, Samantha, Harry. . .
Chief, we seem to have lost touch with the ground.

Anthony stands and helps Crucible remove the mask. Her mascara is running black
stripes down her cheeks. The areas around her many skin anchors are blotchy. “What, I’ve lost my goddess appeal?” she says, shaking her dreadlocks, frizzy from perspiration. Cass comes to her rescue with tissue, dabbing her cheeks and cleaning the corners of her eyes. “Standardized Testing? What’s that got to do with anything?” “Money for one,” Judy says. Blotter wipes his forehead with his tie. “We should be going home.” “I’m not going home with you.” “What about our plans. The doll, the…” “Your plans, not mine.” “I’ve got to get downstairs,” says Rascul. “Keep an eye on them, Blotter.” “I’m coming with you.” Bill Board reverentially places his dolls into his plastic bag. “Folks, I’m sure we can work out all the difficulties to everyone’s benefit.” “It never works out to everyone’s benefit, Raymond.” “Well, we can always try. . , draw up papers. . . We can even modify the dolls. What do you think, Bill?” Billy Board is packing up his computer. “Blotter, stay here.” Adolf Blotter grabs the plastic bag. “No, I’m leaving with you, Rascul. You’re security and there are people down there, terrorists, who don’t believe in Standardized Testing. I demand protection.” “Who’s going to watch Ammonia?” “I will,” Raymond volunteers. “Can we trust him, Blotter?” “Absolutely, even though he is freelance, he admits he is a member of the Group.” “The Group stands for culture, Eddie, for civilization.” “Are you coming with us, Billy?” “Yeah, where those go I go,” replies Board, pointing to Blotter’s plastic bag. “SATS are young people, Blotter. You’re not afraid of them are you?” “There’s not one person down there calling out my name. They don’t even know I’m here.” “Yeah, they used to love me and now they want somebody new.” “Let’s go, enough of these idols and their babble. Don’t try anything foolish, EA. I have the building surrounded.” The Chief Of Homeland Protection leaves followed by Adolf Blotter, President of the Standards Group, and Billy Board, CEO of SoftChip, the digestible chip.

Vellum is standing by the window. The wind is blowing. Sirens are wailing. People are shouting. People are chanting. But a white haze obscures everything. Cass and Judy go over to see, followed by Anthony and Raymond. Vaguely, in the air, the susurrus murmur spells out the name, A M M O N I A, which mingles with the winds, distinguished and clear, like a voice descending from the heavens.
Are you sure you’re not Eddie, Thom? I’ve never tried to be something I’m not. You tried to look young. But that was a way to get away from the relic seekers. So then what does he look like? Who? Eddie Ammonia, EA. Probably like Jesus did. So he still has a beard? I don’t know, did Jesus have a beard? I know Buddha didn’t. So maybe he looks like Buddha. Yeah, with a beard. Buddha is never shown with a beard. Does anyone remember what he looked liked? How about Tao Tzu? Who’s that? The guy who wrote the poem on simplicity. I liked that. Yeah, I got it in my pocket. Did Tao have a beard? He’s always depicted with a beard, long and wispy. You can’t say that with surety. Well, it must have been difficult to shave in those days. Yeah, so why does Buddha have a smooth face if he lived under a tree, without toiletries? Good question. Sometimes Buddha is bearded. I think the Eddie I knew before he disappeared had a mustache. I remember. Perhaps he did have a beard, and I copied him. So that means you were the last man to see him. Well, a lot of people saw him, but they just never noticed. He’ll probably be remembered the way he looked dancing with little Judy. That was me. But you’re not him. Who?

According to the doorman who was questioned later, Adolf Blotter and Bill Board were bombarded with a cannonade of snowballs. They disappeared into the white windy air. The bag Blotter was carrying burst. Green money exploded upward in the snowy drafts filling the air with green images of a naked woman. A roiling crowd of students shouting for an end to Standardized Testing chased the three men into the sodium-lit white night. Lightening fulminated above the buildings while the lights of the distant police cars, unable to enter the block, illuminated the swirling flakes in aura of red. Homeland Protection, seeing Rascul disappearing into the haze after Blotter and Board and SATS, followed, a hundred men wearing black leotards, caps and bowler hats and the famous Home Inside a Home patch on their hats. Rascul and the hundred were never seen again. Later, articles of trash bearing the image of a naked housewife were found by the clean-up crews. Much later, according to witnesses, a much trampled Blotter was found wandering through the streets, confused, clutching a wad of green Crucible money. Along with other vagrants he was shipped without trial to Sybaris and hasn’t been seen since to the great wonder of the Group, now rudderless. Board found his way to an east side bar on Park Avenue where his beard drew a great deal of attention and favor. A habitué of the establishment introduced him to her friends who were techie-venture capitalists. When he described a novel method of downloading data through a wormhole, he was met with great skepticism, someone remarking it reminded him of a story or movie he had seen a few years ago where a famous author, whose name he couldn’t recall, was played by you remember who, and so on and so forth. On describing his simulacrum Board was met with even more skepticism, but all agreed that their new-found madman was entertaining.
Back at Raymond’s, the remaining cast waits by the windows until the ensuing bedlam below them grows faint. Raymond, though exhausted, cheerfully offers everyone coffee. Thomas Vellum goes over to the piano and picks up his plastic bag. Anthony, Vellum says, I think we are dealing with something far bigger than beauty. It’s all in here. But instead of pulling out scraps of paper bearing Crucible’s image, he pulls out the dolls. They took my evidence! What are you talking about, Cass exclaims, you’ve got the dolls. That’s the end product of all your evidence. Let me have my stupid doll! Judy demands. And I want my magazine. No, that was my magazine. Well, I want my paper cup too and the post cards, the money. . . It’s my collection. Yeah, but that money wasn’t real. So what? Judy, don’t break the doll, we’ll add it to my collection on my truck grill. What does your wife think of your collection? She knows they’re nothing but dolls. Here at home it will take time to complete our own mission of purifying our society. Who’s that? Must be the Grand Wizard in Washington. Our nation was built by farmers wresting from the indifferent earth a patch of land on which to build their homes. It was farmers who ran our government. Be serious now. I am. Today it’s our commercial leaders who wrestle with an indifferent globe in order to build homes for the world’s downtrodden. Milk and sugar? It’s our commercial leaders who run our nation according to the god-given laws of non-involvement. I promise each and everyone of you, we will succeed in our endeavors to make this world one big happy home. Hey, the phone is ringing. Hello. Yes, I’ll tell them. It’s Clio, she says the coast is clear.

SCRAPS:
Anthony Do you have the time?
Chorus Anthony watches Judy, in her mask, pull a watch on a gold chain out of her cleavage.
Judy I can’t see it clearly through these eyes.
Chorus Watch Anthony. He has to bend over her to look down at the watch. Isn’t she a tease.
Anthony It stopped.
Judy Damn Blotter! Another one of his cheap gifts.
239
This time I ran the show. The aura was gone.
Cass I knew you were my age.
Chorus I don’t know of any woman, of any age, who wouldn’t want that body as her own.
Judy I think you’re older. But I was a mother, too.
Cass I still am.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *