Bob Onner, Cont’d

Archival notes:

1/8/15 5:40 P.M.

It’s pretty strange: how when you read some things (maybe you weren’t going to and decided to take a look) and the reading correlates to something happening in your life at that time – where the exact thoughts you were having in recent memory are there on the page through literary happenstance. I had been late to the party in this instance. The thoughts that I’d been having recently weren’t corresponded through my literary travails for a few days – something I interpreted as me being lazy and not keeping up with the breadcrumbs to my walk of life.

I had been thinking it was strange that I was born into a system – a government – a way of life – that I had no say in whatsoever. And I’m not exactly complaining about the system (which I’ve previously lauded), but it doesn’t negate the previous thought. I wasn’t consulted on this deal that no doubt affects me. Supposedly voting is how we exercise that ability to change or augment the system, but that’s a dead end; politicians are too cunning and capricious to follow through on campaign promises (which I admit I’m ignorant to. A lot of the contrived loquacity goes up and over my head; in one ear and out the other. So I’m part of that conglomerate of Americans that are deemed “too stupid.” I don’t subscribe to the wording, but the idea is correct. Bill Maher preaches this a lot – but then he turns around and says the goal of his program is to give people the news of the week who didn’t have a chance to sit still because they were working. My life right now is art and only art. When I’m not trying to make it I’m watching and reading it – truly believing that it is all for the residual benefit of my craft. I have plenty of other work cut out for me after this screenplay: video journal, novel idea, short films, short stories, a laundry list of readings and viewings, plus other screenplay ideas. So he’s right. I am too busy to become versed and knowledgable on domestic grievances, or geopolitical turmoil, or socioeconomic issues that need to be reformed. But please don’t call me stupid? Give me more credit than that. I’m trying, I swear to God I’m really trying with this thing. I want it so bad, and when sixteen hours of my day are spent on that, there isn’t a lot of room for an edification on the current state of our foreign policy, or articles on the pros and cons of teacher’s unions. This is all to say – fuck you, Bill. No Bill’s a good dude).

I wonder what the fuck a handful of us would do if we were picked up and thrown on an island. I’m sure there have been studies (and God knows a glut of T.V shows), but what would really happen? We’d probably all die … BUT – we would at least know that whatever we did as a group, on that island, our little society and the little engine that would – I’d have a goddamn say in it: “No, don’t cut down that tree. We need that one.” “We should probably start sewing the fields near the post, and maybe set up skewers by the bay.” “Who’s standing guard tonight? You have the tomahawk and the bell?” I don’t know; crappy examples but they suffice.

Maybe a committee could be set up where citizens looking to take an active role in the improvement of their country could type up op-eds: eloquent, pragmatic, and thoughtful op-eds that would be received by each state’s committee. And I’d only hope that the state’s committee members would be receptive and attentive to the realistic concerns of everyday human beings.

“I, too, am beginning to feel an immense need to become a savage and create a new world.”

August Strindberg, Orpheus Descending

Unfortunately this world lost Stuart Scott a few days ago; it seems like he was just giving me my sports news (a sad fact about the human condition: it’s frail. None of us are promised our eighty years. None of us are promised grandchildren, or wrinkly skin, or in my case love). Stu chose to spend his final years with us and the American people, and for that it’s safe to say we are all eternally grateful.

My sister’s friend – Danielle – her brother died on the same day. He was young, too – mid 30’s. All my sister said in a mass text was: “say a prayer. Danielle’s brother died.” My other sister and Mom responded, “How?” I was curious myself but didn’t ask, and there was about a two hour window until a response was given.

Now Danielle is a party girl; she still parties pretty hard. She hangs in the same town she grew up in and is a fixture at the local watering hole. At my sister’s wedding three and a half years ago, I did ketamine and blow with her in my hotel room all night, so I wasn’t completely off base when I assumed he OD’d on drugs.

Brain aneurysm.”

He had sat in the hospital for three days before they finally ran a CAT scan, at which point it was too late to treat, and he passed on. It was the first time I said an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be since grade school, and one of many times where I’ve been insensitively wrong.

I have this fantastical idea that I like to believe .. that when someone dies .. that person passes on into a new realm, and in that new realm there’s a healthy affinity for the current players still in the game, and there’s scattered congregations of onlookers amongst the infinite backdrop – where each separate congregation is watching a specific player’s life play out – voyeuristically rooting him or her on: “See the young man run!” And I have this image of Stuart Scott walking pasting my life booth, and Danielle’s brother just got in and he starts gliding down the aisles of congregations and life booths, and someone from mine waves ’em over to take a peak: and they’re all just watching me go, “Watch the young man run!” They’re all looking with admiration and delight, and before moving onto their own respective families, Stu’s watching me write with vigor and verisimilitude: “Boo Yah!” and Danielle’s brother is … is probably more interested in Stu than me. And then they proceed to their reserved life booths, eager to watch over those who they hold most dear.

These are the kinds of thoughts I like to think about when thinking about death.

Harry: “Professor … is this all real .. or is it just happening inside my head?”

Dumbledore: “Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. But why should that mean that it’s not real?”

A Cockamamie Idea

Today he was setting up a meeting with one of his earliest clients, who was a half hour late as per usual. This client had been down on his luck going on five years but hadn’t lost any relevancy. America was still interested in him; not in his talent or acting ability – they were interested in watching him fail, watching him go bankrupt and lose everything he ever had.

They liked him though.

Maybe not for his body of work, but for his rugged good looks, demeanor, and vituperative thoughts against the industry.

Thing is they liked watching him fail more. Served as a visible barometer for their lives. They could now look at someone who was once American royalty and think: “That’s too bad. That’s a shame,” which immediately put them up on the pedestal, where they bestowed their sympathies on a man who had once been above them now realizing his indigence.

Fortunately he still had his good looks, for if he didn’t there wouldn’t be any present story. He still had an athletic figure at forty-four: strong calves and sturdy quads; a four pack pack, tightened chest, big shoulders. His arms were sinewy with natural curvature, which made him look like he was built for the green beret rather than daft play-house. His face was strong with a big angular jaw sitting atop his neck. He had squinty eyes (although baggy), a narrow, pointed nose, and bushy eyebrows to boot.

He was born with the name Aiden Osgood, but assumed the personage Aiden Elliot when first filling out his SAG card, figuring that two first names in Hollywood would be as auspicious as two last names in the Czech Republic.

In his first few years he found work as a stunt man in low budget indie flicks. That, with a couple of commercials, managed to pay the bills until he surprised everyone with a heart wrenching performance in Millennial Seek my Admission, and was nominated for a slew of awards, including the Oscar for best actor in a leading role.

With notoriety and recognition came prodigality and turpitude. He started getting laid a lot more, drinking, doing more drugs. He left most of the decisions to his agent, who would choose his projects shrewdly and with a political eye: comedies to keep him honest, action pictures for masculinity, and drama for depth, intellectuality, and awards (he was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actor in a supporting role – drama – for his part in De Rigeur). But his spendthrift nature started to out-do him by the end of his thirties, and he declared bankruptcy at forty years old.

The studio heads aren’t receptive to actors who are notably broke and destitute. Once that information is leaked, it’s bad practice to get into business with said person. So they’d take the meetings with Aiden, beat around the bush, tell him he looked good, and close the door behind them when they walked out. Cut to –

five years later, where he finds himself in his present predicament. After eight episodes of the reality television show Aiden Elliot Goes Native tanked on G4, he found himself half a million in debt, out of work, and no progenitors to console him – so he called his agent with a cockamamie idea:

“You want to what?”

“I’m telling you. I’m telling you. It sounds crazy but it’ll work. Everyone already knows who I am, they know what I look like – what I’m about.”

“That’s the problem.”

“FUCK no it isn’t a problem! You don’t think there’s some down ass chick out there who would kill for this!?”

“No I don’t … you know I told you that that reality show was your last shot, and when you try to start a war with the indigenous tribes of the Amazon, getting the first camera assistant hit with a bow and arrow in his left ear, people aren’t going to want to work with you.”

“Fuck that guy. And I wasn’t the one who started that.”

“Whatever the case – you’re done Aiden. It’s over.”

Aiden took a seat in front of the agent’s desk and stared at the golden name plate in the upper right hand corner: Flaherty.

“How can that even happen though? I was nominated for the fucking Oscar nine years ago! Golden Globe six years ago!”

Flaherty shrugged, “Look at Cuba Gooding Jr.”

A short, deflating silence followed: “Jesus Christ. I forgot about that guy.”

“Everyone has … look why don’t you start working on a book. A memoir. I’ll start calling up publishers and peak their interest. It won’t be no half-million dollar deal, but it’s a start.”

“I’m not a writer. I’m barely a reader.”

“You’re telling me.”

Flaherty leaned back in his chair – exasperated, wondering how it all went to shit: “I don’t know what to tell you, man.”

“Tell me you’re going to auction off my fucking sperm!”

“Do you listen to yourself when you talk?”

Aiden got up and started pacing around the room, desperately trying to make two and two equal five: “I go grab a plastic thingy, jerk off, and sell it to some trust-fund hillbilly in Arkansas or some shit.”

“A trust-fund hillbilly.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s a shame you’re not a writer.”

“I need money, Flaher. I need it. And this is the only way I know how.”

Flaherty called the presses over the next three weeks: The Times, WSJ, CNN, Washington Post, Huffington Post, The New Yorker. He made plans for Aiden to appear on all the talk shows – both late-night and primetime solemn programming. The story was spun a thousand different ways, with some calling it “disgusting” and “atrocious” and others calling it “enlivening.” Most of the distinguished, effete colloquy focused on the viability of the situation, where our society had officially made it possible for a man to cum in a cup and hawk it for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ebay had made it clear that they were not going to be, under any circumstances, willing participants, so Flaherty and Elliot took it to a startup in Silicon Valley, AuctionThis, in exchange for a 5% equity share for their incontestable “presence and magnetism.”

Flaherty took out billboards when it started to really blow up: Times Square, L.A. – Miami, Dallas – Chicago, Philly – and he’d have Aiden work out three times a day to sharpen his physical attributes. Then Aiden would go off to the professional photographer, get oiled up, and pose pretty for a few hours. He even held meet and greet/ questionnaire functions two hours a day for three weeks on Broadway, where he handled himself with confidence, care, charisma, and beguilement, keenly aware that it was a combination of the physical, the mental, and the other intangible aspect of humans that went into the public’s judgment.

The auction went live in November, and to promote the opening, Aiden ran in the NYC marathon – running the entire course (some 26 miles of bushwhacking hillocks and inclined terrain) – where he finished in the top 30%. That night he went out and partied with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry at LIV, then woke up for a factitious “Lifetime Achievement” awards banquet at the Four Seasons for his “unparalleled contribution to the American Arts and Cinema,” which he accepted somberly and sedately, and remembered to thank his Mom.

All in all, Flaherty and Elliot (well, just Flaherty really) spent roughly a million bucks in promotion for Aiden Elliot’s sperm sale. If it didn’t sell for over 1.5M, one of them would still be in debt.

It was a risk; it’s safe to say nothing else like it had ever been done. Flaherty came around to the whole thing after he was fired from Ollyard Entertainment Co. for sleeping with the night-shift janitor, Juanita. It really wouldn’t have been a problem, but nothing was getting cleaned during her shift. Employees would file in the next day to full garbage cans and dirty toilets, and soon began to suspect Juanita of stealing time. The partners got together for a stake out one night and found Flaherty and the sixty or so year-old Juanita fucking on top of Keith’s desk. Flaherty was rubbing the litigation papers between her legs and stuffing them back inside manila folders – muttering to himself throughout thrusts, “Keith is such a fucking jerk.” He even got her to say it in all her savory Hispanic dialect: “Keet iz sucha fooking herk. Keet iz sucha fooking herk.” Keith was one of the partners on the stakeout, and a primary reason Flaherty was fired.

“Go big or go home.”

“That’s retarded.”

“Not as stupid as trying to sell sperm to trust-fund hillbillies.”

“Yes it is. It’s worse. Juanita? Ew dude. Ew. She’s like seventy years old.”

“62 … anyways I’m in.”

“Good.”

Two weeks into the auction, the highest bid was for $50,000.

Three weeks, $125,000.

“We’re so fucked. This is so embarrassing. This whole thing is so fucking embarrassing. I’m never going to get another client having been connected to this fucking circus.”

“At least your freaking’ face isn’t plastered above Times Square with a stupid, fake-seductive smile.”

“Yeah that I paid for! And is costing me almost a mil for all this shit!”

“You got the money. Fuck you; you got like fifteen of ’em in the bank. I’m dead broke. I’m gonna have to write a book. I hate writing.”

With three days left, and the auction at $200,000, Flaherty and Elliot flew back to Los Angeles. They talked, drank. Drank more. Really drank more. They went out over the next three nights, and Aiden suckled the last bit of cultural relevancy he ever had.

When it eventually sold for $250,000, Aiden was passed out – hungover on Flaherty’s couch. In his deal with AuctionThis, he had to not only make a speech once it did (remembering to thank the company vociferously) but he also had to fly out to the winner’s house and congratulate them for taking part in history.

Flaherty woke him up, drove him to the Staples Center with messy hair, a dull, slack face, big bags under his eyes, and dried lips. Most people left after seeing his appearance at the podium, and he was soon shooed off to LAX on a flight to Birmingham, AL.

There he met the woman, a sprightly 33 year old with a winning lottery ticket servicing as her cash cow, and hugged and thanked Aiden for his benevolence. She was a huge fan of his, but wasn’t too too strange considering she bought his sperm for $250,000. So Aiden thought – fuck it. What the hell? He stuck around town, got pizza with her, went cow tipping. She ended up throwing the sperm away, ’cause Aiden would fuck her. Right? She didn’t have to finger the viscous substance into her vagina anymore. That’s clear, right? ‘Cause Aiden would shoot it in her from his own penis.

AuctionThis folded up after Cuba Gooding Jr. tried to sell his tears, but, besides that, life went pretty well for everyone. Flaherty did have trouble securing new clients, but found success in the restaurant business with a chain of Bennigans. He became a better father to his two kids, and would only see Juanita on the weekends.

Hypnagogic Jerk

1

His name is Oswald. He lives in a house in South Dakota. The house is situated on top of a dividing line of two time zones. The line cuts straight through Oswald’s room, and down through the center of his queen-sized bed. He is not married.

At night he’s prone to involuntary spasms, which “jerk” his body into separate time zones. This he does not know.

There was a moment in ’69 when he fucked two girls in one night.

In ’63 he was the third-runner up of a 3rd grade spelling contest. He was also bronzed on the podium from a recent family vacation to the Florida Keys, where he nearly kissed Elizabeth van Hoyten in the back seat of Juan Shrubu’s Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

He wakes up every morning at 6:30, showers and gets dressed in tartan clothes. Sometimes he forgets to brush his teeth, thinking that if teeth were meant for brushing they’d have hair on them, which explains why all of his teeth are gone (and so is his hair).

He was never a bad guy, but he felt like he was. Or rather, he thought of himself lowly, which translated to lonely. As detailed he wasn’t always like this. Two girls, one night. But that was the summer of ’69 and free love, and the girls weren’t all that pretty.

At night, after a hard day’s work reaping grain and sowing seed and double whiskey’s, when he trudges up the stairs to his master bedroom – woozy, feeling the weight of the Earth push down on him with each ascending step – he collapses onto his mattress in pursuit of some Z’s.

There was a period of obliquity for ‘ol Oswald. Skepticism. Rebellion. Sure. He wanted to run away when he was growing up but there was never any place to go. Besides the Indian Res. ten miles East of Toland, and the cabin up around Barton’s Creek, it was desolate. And both of those spots of refuge had been exhausted by the time things got really bad, when a Midwestern malaise began to weigh him down, and he began to acquire that subtle hue of defeatism all men have in these parts (and all women too) with the only proviso being that the women take it with a grain of salt, and the men with pepper.

His Grandfather came to No Cal in the 1870’s seeking employment. Instead he got the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and pivoted inland to sate security measures. Oswald felt he had a chance to redeem the family name in ’69 through placid insurrection, orchestrated revelry, and LSD. This was incorrect of course (and utterly inane) considering they were all dead, and thus redemption was no longer apart of their progenitorial arc. Perhaps their redemption was in escaping prejudice and flourishing in a different area of Earth, albeit not their own. You would have to ask Oswald Ming’s dead ancestors though, and that, of course, is impossible.

Chanticleer (rustle)

Chanticleer (rustle, moan)

Chanticleer — (arches up)

It’s 6:31 A.M. and Oswald Ming is in his bathroom. He’s looking into the mirror and acknowledging his flaws. It’s been a long time since he gave a shit about any one of ’em. The wizened face is whatever. The scars are life. The bags are sight – where bad images have since been logged and stored underneath the brittle skin.

Asians typically age gracefully. Oswald knows that. Oswald used to wonder about the part of his gene pool that dominated the rest, and where it had come from. Surely there was some interloping braid of science spit up from the white man’s balls, but he has since given little thought to his appearance. It is only in those sparse, vainglorious nights, when Oswald has had one too many and his eyelids aren’t as heavy, that he studies his physiognomy in the mirror and scans it into his mind. And in there is a mixture of solutions and antidotes and panacea’s; an imaginative fountain of youth that can be sought out through new routines of diet and exercise, or sleep, or … or … and it’s always a sham. But Oswald tries.

It’s seven o’clock and it’s gray outside. The cows are mooing and the chickens are spasmodic. Oswald opens the back screen door with an air of equanimity yet resolution: this is what I do. He has a mason jar of apple cider vinegar in his right hand and the last bite of a tunafish sandwich in his left. He tilts his head upward, away from the inter-special carnival and up to the long gray sky, not thinking about anything really. Just standing there, looking, quiet. He’s broken from his morning delirium soon enough.

Like marijuana to Colorado or BBQ to Texas or surfing to Hawaii, cow milking and the Dakotas go hand in hand. It’s a craft, an acquired expertise, and Oswald takes pride in it. At first it felt like jerking a dick to him, sure, but fortunately the surrounding culture didn’t produce any prurient innuendos at school, or at Dairy Queen, or what have you. Everyone did it. Everyone does it. Everyone has a hand in food production in these parts, and they all start out clenched and jerking.

(POST PARAGRAPH: You’d think because the women have had so much practice with up-down, back and forth, they’d be able to jerk you in two minutes. Not the case. Their hands are coarse like sand paper, and their motion is rough and aggressive, as if it’s a tug of war. Oswald popped a blood vessel in his shaft after June Pursey’s right-wrist-twist “Arabian massage.” The word “Arabian” was the draw, and soon everyone was surreptitiously walking around with an ice pack taped to their junk, but proselytizing on the outside about how good it felt. Dakota men.)

By 7:15 he’s taking inventory in the cowshed half a mile due East. There he counts and recounts and separates the sickly lookin’ fellers from the salubrious.

There’s a vet on call 24/ 7 in Toland, and one is even apt to call them for personal emergencies instead of Dr. Boodish because of their expediency. But Oswald doesn’t call. Even that time when he fell down the stairs and split his head open he didn’t call. Not a vet or Boodish M.D. He dusted off the first aid kit, applied hydrogen peroxide, then a three-years-past-expiration dab of Neosporin and a couple butterfly bandages. He got on with it.

The problem was Oswald’s gastrointestinal flare-ups, which occur every so often – usually about twenty four hours after his last bowl of chili. The vet was on the farm that day, giving him a hard time about the animal’s dietary specs, when he began to pass gas a bit uncontrollably, even aggressively (though inadvertently). They started to come on harder and louder, and there was really no recourse – the outhouse was too far away. So he ran behind the equipment shed and dropped trou. This the vet took as an egregious affront to her recommendations. She felt her repertoire of knowledge had been disrespected, so when Oswald finally came back around with a relieved expression and a cool towlet, she stood silent and jaded. Oswald pleaded, but to no avail:

“But I’m sick! Honest, I’m sorry, no, no you misunderstand!”

Then she opened her car door, “You’re right.” Then she closed the door and turned her over, “You are sick. A deranged lunatic. I’ll see to it that it’s known.”

As for the livestock the vet planted the calumny. So the murmurs go: there’s blood in his milk; no health food standards; does he shower? – which hurts Oswald. When anger comes after sadness he feels wronged. He feels he knows more about every facet of farming or ranching than the entire conglomerated peanut gallery. When tested there are minimal traces of protozoa in his produce. 

Minimal!?” says the gallery.

“Yes” says an honest Oswald.

Then they turn away in a supercilious fit of agitation.

8:15 means hosing down the milking shed, cleaning requisite areas, and filing the cows back into their paddocks. This takes longer than it used to. Fifteen, even ten years ago he’d round ’em up in a half hour and have the shed spick ‘n span. Now it can run ’em as long as two hours, the poor bastard. But I guess he wouldn’t have it any other way; he just wants to be alone with his animals.

10 o’clock break time.

By 10:30 the primary duties can’t be put off any longer. Fortunately he has some equipment to give him a hand. These include (but are not limited to) the automated spraying systems, columnized light intensifiers, John Deere tractors, the seed spreaders, and pitch forks. Most of the time the day calls for machinery upkeep. In essence, ‘ol Ozzie is a means to an end. The equipment does the work while he operates it. Orchestrates it. He’s the guy waving the stick in front of the band; the guy with the script behind the camera. He’s the guy with the mason jar of apple cider vinegar and always, curiously, the guy with only a bite left of a tunafish sandwich.

At some point between chores he takes to the office. He keeps to a sedulous manner of business once there: filing expense reports, organizing delivery itineraries, booking independent contractors, etc. etc.

Anyhow, the day’s almost over after white collar work. He closes the door to his office once he’s sated, but not without taking a few glances back and forth between vacant hallway and vacant room, apparently scanning for something he might need or may have missed, but it seems as though he’s longing for something whilst in this pose, or looking at things that aren’t there … at least according to the bird’s eye view.

And it ends how it started: milk the damn cows. Milk, milk, milk. Then hose the damn stables. Hose, hose, hose. Then latch the damn paddocks. Paddocks, paddocks, paddocks.

Whisky, whisky, whisky.

Feels faint; trudges.

Sleeps.

Then he sleeps, sleeps, sleeps.

2

The pinky toe is worthless. Tonsils, appendixes, pinky toes – we can all get along without ’em. So they say they are unnecessary appendages, or superfluous anatomical accoutrements – that their existence is shameful, lingering evidence of past barbarism.

We aspire to forget this evolutionary past, at least everything leading up to the intelligentsia of Homo sapien. We rode the vicissitudes long and far and away from that loutish relative en route to a better, more couth tomorrow. So they say. And that “a hypnagogic jerk is expendable; it’s nothing but an ignominious, vestigial reflex, imperative to a time when our past was subjugated and slept in trees for security.” They pause and take a sip of coffee, then cross their legs effetely:

“We weren’t the Apex Predator. At best we were average animals with opposable thumbs. We’d be wise to forget all about it and begin with the rise of civilizations.”

His bald head glistens in the moonlight, and his open, toothless mouth gapes at oncoming recollections.

He’s sleeping in Mountain time when he feels a jolt of nostalgia, born through the remnants of years past, and off he goes changing time, both above the surface and below.

“What the fuck you doin’ coolie on this here railroad?”

The Asian man stammers with ignorance.

“Coolie if you don’t get the fuck off — WE AIN’T GOT NO WORK FOR YOU. Not for any uh you slit-eyes. Go on. Get. Can’t speak Engish!? HAHA! Whoo-whee, thought they learned you over there in the Chinese. You as dumb as that there railroad, aintchya?”

The white man poked him with a sickle, continuing, “Aintchya?”, then laughed a high-pitched, weasly laugh, and walked off looking for someone to share in his perverse mirth.

The Chinese man looked off into the distance and mused about his better tomorrow. His shoulders were pointed East with the howls of white laughter behind him to the West.

Oswald appears:

“Grandpa?”

Oswald’s Grandpa turns and stares with a bemusing mien, for even in revisionist dreams there are hurdles.

“Grandpa.”

您是?”

Oswald dropped his head in frustration. He picked his head back up, stuck out both pointer fingers and brought them up to his face. He then flicked them towards his Grandpa and repeated the sequence with intermittent smiles and sheepish laughs, probing his long-lost for recognition, but it wasn’t happening. Grandpa Ming was as flummoxed as ever, and began to wonder if he should be taking offense. A couple moments passed before Grandpa Ming cocked back and cracked Oswald in the nose, sending him down to the ground in a red heap. This caught the attention of the white conglomeration, who ran to the scene in fits of surprised delight:

“WHOO-WHEE HA! Hahaha. Hah. Hit ’em Wang! Hit ’em! I gotta buck on the bald one who’s in?”

“I’ll take that. Give it to him other Wang! Hahah.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Other Wang. Hahaha! Yip-skiddly-do!”

Oswald’s impatience grew with each defamatory laugh and every fist his Grandpa intended for his face. He was rolling on the dirt and holding his arms over his head for cover.

“Looks like your Wang ain’t doin’ too swell there, Jacobs.”

“Awh c’mon Wang. Git up! Git the fuck up!”

Oswald obliged. He rolled over on his stomach and got his hands underneath him. He pushed himself up – first his chest, then a knee, as if in a runner’s pose – and sprang away from his pugnacious long-lost en route for Jacobs’s torso.

OSWALD ROLLS OVER.

“Piano. P-I-A-N-O. Piano.”

Oswald BURST through the side doors of the auditorium and fell into a row of repulsed patrons. His blood splashed onto three attendees, one of them being Mrs. Schmidt – the mother of little Stephanie Schmidt at the podium – and alas he was arrested.

“Eee-ahhh!”

“Yah!”

“Hey!!”

Mr. Schmidt leaned over his wife and grabbed Oswald by the back of the neck. Oswald threw an elbow back into Mr. Schmidt’s belly and scampered off to the podium. The moderator took notice:

“Mr. Ming, this is for first place of the Andrew Jackson Elementary School Spelling Bee”

Oswald’s cuts and scrapes were all healed; his bruises and broken bones mended. He was now 4’8″ with big ears and a bad haircut. His clothes were three sizes too big and his teeth were all bucked.

“Mr. Ming: your word is interloper.”

He choked a bit and swallowed a mouthful of saliva. His knees were shaking as the giggles of the little girls made him buckle. He turned around for assurance that the laughs were directed towards something else:

“Good luck, KamikOzzie,” whispered Stephanie Schmidt, breaking into a piercing laughter with her acolytes. He turned back around:

“Inte-what again, Mr. Jones?”

“Inte-loper, Mr. Ming, and if you pronounce the word again without spelling it you’ll be disqualified.”

“Yes. And part of speech?”

“Noun.”

“Yes. And definition?”

“A person who becomes involved in a place or situation where they are not wanted or are considered not to belong.”

The girls laughed once more, and the transient hotness on Oswald’s forehead broke into perspiration beads, which slowly streaked down his strained skin.

He looked up to the roof for some sign of brilliance, and down to his Converse’s in acceptance of his shortcomings. He took a small step forward and looked out to the cronies of Toland, South Dakota – scanning from left to right and reading the faces: some fat and wide, some long and thin. Some with anthracite hair, some blonde. Some with aquiline noses, others small mouths, others bushy eyebrows, others bifocals. All white. All blank. All staring, until Oswald settled on his mother. A white man with a blurred face was moving his hand up her inner thigh. He was sticking his face against her neck like a tick. She was coy; she liked it. He whispered something in her ear. They got up, made their way to the aisle, and left.

“Interloper. I-N-T-E-R-L-O-P-E-R. Interloper.”

Mass hysteria broke as cries of jubilation echoed through the auditorium. Oswald was lifted up and carried off the stage to a standing ovation. He closed his eyes and drank in the sounds of fun-loving life.

OSWALD ROLLS OVER.

“If everybody had an ocean, across the U.S.A. Then everybody’d be surfin’, like Californ-I-A.”

Oswald opened his eyes.

The radio blared as Juan Shrubu’s Coupe de Ville accelerated for turns. He was singing along to the song in a screechy voice, with aviator shades deflecting hot sunlight from his eyes. A friend of his was in the passenger seat bobbing his head.

“Everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ U.S.A.”

The cigarette lighter popped up. Juan brought the cherry red heat to the marijuana cigarette hanging out his mouth, lit it, and put it back. Oswald’s eyes were glued to him through the rearview mirror.

“Yo Oz!”

Juan turned the volume down – only a little bit – and yelled again:

“Yo! Oz!!”

“Hey. What, what?”

“I’m gonna pick up this girl Liz. That cool?”

“I really need the aloe vera. My Dad said.”

“You’re gonna get it, relax. Can I just pick this girl up? Like please?”

“Fine.”

The Cadillac roared off. Elizabeth bopped into the car with blonde locks and chewing gum.

“This poor kid, Juan!”

And the radio:

“We’ll all be gone for the summer, we’re on surfari to stay. Tell the teacher we’re surfin’, surfin’ U.S.A.”

“Shee-it, he’s fine. You should have seen me last June, almost third degree burns, Doctor said.”

“What?”

“Doctor said!”

“Said what?”

“Said shut up were going to the drug store anyway.”

The Caddy pulled into Murray’s lot; Juan and his buddy got out. It was beautiful, angelic, Elizabeth van Hoyten – in the back seat of Juan Shrubu’s Coupe de Ville – with Oswald Ming. His heart was racing, faster and faster. She was calm:

“Does it hurt?”

“A little.”

“Should I kiss it? That’d help, no?”

Oswald shook his head in the positive. She leaned her head down and gently pursed her lips against his scarlet forearm, then moved to his shoulder, and up to his neck. She stopped in front of his face. She realized it was serious for him. She made a face that said the joke was over, and began to lean back, but before she could reach that second degree of realignment, Oswald took the initiative and pushed his mouth against hers. She was startled, even disgusted, but admired his chutzpah. She committed to – her tongue was sweet and smooth, her breath cool, her teeth clean, her mouth without question the best thing that had ever happened, and Oswald imbibed the peppermint aftertaste of her chewing gum.

OSWALD ROLLS OVER.

Two smelly hippies with loose clothes and dreadlocks spotted Oswald behind the porta-john:

“I want whatever that kid’s on!”

Oswald was passionately making out with a peppermint lollipop; he realized and dropped it in bewilderment. The taste of Elizabeth van Hoyten lingered on his lips for another second, then she was gone.

Naked women were abundant. Illicit drugs were copious. Psychedelic rock was pervasive. It was Woodstock, ’69. A corpulent man exited the john with a waft of invisible, noxious gas trailing behind him. Oswald went in the opposite direction.

His hair dangled down to his shoulders, and his bangs were kept out of his eyes from the employment of a red bandana, tied securely behind his head. He was acne-riddled but confident; walked with some swagger and élan, and had these big wide eyes that looked at everything as something to be treasured. Whatever idea or preconceived notion he had of the festival was myopic – THIS was something he couldn’t have ever of imagined. It was a jungle for human beings, a certifiable planet of eccentricities. He had no problem fitting in. Whether it was true or not, his idea of himself was a laundry list of foibles – and not just from accepting South Dakota slurs. He felt he could be smarter even though everyone cheated off him. He felt he could be more athletic if only he had more diligence. He felt his familial quarrels could be corrected by absconding, and that everything could be ameliorated through rebelling. These were his people in this point of time; they were what they were to him when they were.

Oswald hooked a left and thrust himself into the throng of solidarity. An arm protruded from no particular direction and unfurled its hand in front of his face:

“LSD?”

Finding the origin of the arm was impossible – the palm was its face. And in the palm was a prerequisite for fun, so he picked it up off the clammy hand and put it on his tongue. In an instant he tasted the music, felt the vibrations, smelled the hippie love. He was now a fixture of the collective consciousness. Two women took note of it, made themselves known. Then two more, and, and, and two more? Then eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty – thirty, forty, fifty, sixty! All the women in the world!

“We want you, Oswald. We want you, Oswald.”

They marched to him in rhythmic gaits, announcing in dull, monotonous unison:

“We want you, Oswald. We want you, Oswald.”

It was a nightmare! He darted off to whence he came – to the porta-johns, to the corpulent man – they were gone!

“We want you, Oswald. We want you, Oswald.” They kept marching on and closing in! Soon there was no place to go!! He was cornered off!!!!

“We want you, Oswald. We want you, Oswald.”

When they were within arms reach he shot his head up to the sky and YELLED for saving:

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

The Earth collapsed in on itself in a variegated succession of origami folds, taking out everyone and transitioning Oswald into a new

OSWALD ROLLS OVER.

omnipresent form of sight: he was watching himself in an out of body experience from the previous day – the point where he was underneath the office door header, looking in and looking out. Omnipresent Oswald began to zoom in, pushing in on Other Oswald’s line of sight. He followed his eyes to the point of concentration: a small, laminated label – the size of a business card – was leaned up against the pencil sharpener. It was hard to make out. Omnipresent Oswald kept pushing in, kept refocusing. Other Oswald shut the office door and walked off. The last few inches were enough to make out the rectangular lamination: a young, beautiful woman with a big smile was encased, with a beige oval providing the backdrop. Below her were letters and numbers: “In Loving Memory / Susanna Ming / 1956 – 1997”

OSWALD HAS A SHORTNESS OF BREATH.

Oswald began to choke up and he, very slowly and gently, faded into a deeper sleep.

For What It’s Worth

Writings and Musings of Bob Onner: From Home to the Horizon

12/30 12:44 P.M.

It feels like I’m just waiting for this damn party to come; I haven’t been doing much.

I combed through the screenplay yesterday and found a glaring weakness after my midpoint (or Act 2A – Act 2B). But – I think I might have figured it out. The problem isn’t the writing itself (which I found to be pretty satisfactory) but it’s the flow, progression, overall tone; I skipped a few steps and went straight into something instead of building it, which really wasn’t because of indolence. I had this thing in my head I heard Vince Gilligan say about the first episode of season 5B – where he mentioned that the writer’s room found it best to just get on with it between Walt and Hank. The problem was my “get on with it” wasn’t preceded by fifty hours of development, so I have some work to do. I do have an idea where it will go, but the execution thereof is another hurtle.

I’m not a huge fan of the word “talent.” I prefer the word “skill,” or “ability” — they’re more tangible to me. But if there is a component to script writing where the word need apply, it is in the execution of the idea, and not so much the idea itself. It seems pretty safe to say that the idea can be the art, the structure the science, and the execution the talent: you know where that scene needs to end up, the positive or negative charges lapidary in the dialogue, the push-pull – how it moves the story; and all of it needs to be done in this subtile way so as to eliminate the subtlest hue of overtness.

There’s nothing like good cinema to revive spirits and raise morale when that process becomes disillusioning (and it will as sure as the sun rises). I watched Flight the other day, and it really reminded me why there’s such a strong gravitational pull to the medium. Sure, Orange is the New Black is good, but when you have Denzel – physically compromised, flying a plane inverted over an apartment complex, and I’m on the edge of my seat, feeling the pulse behind my eyes – it’s easy to be reminded why were in this thing; why we’re going for it.

In terms of expenditures – I kind of broke – ostensibly brought on by that groovy T purchase. I bought a footlong chicken, bacon, ranch at Subway – then a chocolate milk and yogurt at Walmart. The footlong was made to perfection, a true sandwich artist. It always varies a few degrees: the ratio of banana peppers to ranch dressing, chicken to bacon, how the bread comes out of the toaster, etc. etc. But this one was delicious (that’s not an understatement when you jump from dried almonds and water to footlong sandwiches). The feeling of the first bite in my mouth – the taste buds, the instantaneous “full” feeling in my stomach – was like diving into a cold pool after a long run on a hot and humid, ninety five degree day. Then with the cold chocolate milk … it was great.

I Googled skulls the other day; I’ve been feeling the bones in my under-eyes and they feel pretty asymmetrical (although my problem is the fluid building up … but I wonder if the asymmetry in the bone structure exacerbates that: as if the interconnecting system of veins and nerves and paper-thin arteries have a harder job because they are enveloped around this awkward, unusual structure, akin to going around the edge of Argentina as opposed to the Isthmus of Panama). And I was trying to confirm my asymmetries when I started looking at the images closer; not in any ghoulish way, but thinking, “I can’t believe that material is formed inside a woman’s stomach. Soooo weird.” When you see a human being you don’t think twice about that because their outward form is so in the flesh, and with their personalities and character traits – forget about it.

12/31 1:19 A.M.

I’ll see ya in the New Year.

1/2/15 10:16 A.M.

Jesus.

10:22

I got in around 4 o’clock.

Checked in, went to the beach, listened to music. Got back to the room and whipped out the bag of wine (I’ve been unclear about the wine. I bought a box of merlot the day before I left Jersey and tucked it in the trunk. I’ve been sipping it here and there since, and haven’t done much damage to it). I told the guys that I brought it for the room: “feel free to have at it.”

No one had it. Figures – it was pretty suspect.

I couldn’t bring the box because it wouldn’t fit in my backpack, so when I whipped the plastic bag out of my dirty, slovenly backpack – in combination with the uninviting flubber sound of the bag smacking against the countertop – men recoiled. Everyone has their guard up in hostels, and rightly so – most probably because they’ve seen Hostel. I think they thought I was trying to poison them, which was later confirmed when I came back from getting a bite to eat: “Why aren’t you drinking any of your wine, bro?”

I got out of the shower and there was a girl in the adjacent bedroom where I was sleeping. A French girl: beautiful. A French girl: nice. A French girl: smart. She was teaching French in Portland, Oregon.

She has a two-month break before going back to teaching, then heading back to France at the end of the academic year. She’s from South France, and she has a boyfriend. We spoke for awhile; she was quick to laugh, she was sweet. She was company.

I started talking about (and mispronouncing) players from the French New Wave: Francois Truffaut (France-wah Troo-fawh), Jean-Luc Godard (John-Luke God-urd), Claude Chabrol (Clawed Sorbet … no I got that one), and I told her to watch Linklater’s Before trilogy. She gave me her notebook about her travels in America, and I wrote down the titles.

Now I’m an American: through-and-through-red-white-and-blue. I told her that I loved the fact that I could pack up a car and drive off and go do whatever it is that I want to do in this fine country – how I can operate to my own wishes. She told me in France you’re not allowed to wear crosses or dress in religious garb, but in America, religion is ubiquitous: dating back from manifest destiny to contemporary endnotes on speeches – God bless America. “It’s a shame that expression – your ability to express your faith, or ideas, or thoughts and musings – is restricted in France. If I happen to believe in something, or identify with something, why should my expression of that be stifled? Or policed?” “Oh you wanna talk about police? American police?” We said we wouldn’t go into debate. “How are Americans viewed in France?” “The stereotypes are dumb, fat, limited in scope … we learn about American history, not just French history. We learn about a lot of countries and their histories – it’s part of the curriculum.” “Well I had one year of modern european history in high school .. yeah .. MEH .. yeah we had MEH, Camille.” The topic of education continued: “I don’t know. I applied to Columbia. I probably won’t get in but even if I do I don’t know if I’ll go. It might not be worth it. Tuition is 55k a year.” “Fifty-five thousand dollars? One year?” “(head nodding in the positive)” “Guess how much it is for me to go to University?” “Euro or U.S.?” “Either one.” “Five …. fifteen? Five. Five thousand euros.” She held up five fingers. “Oh so five thousand. I was right.” “No. Five.” “Five what” “Five euros” “(dumbstruck; incredulous)” It costs her five euros a year to get an education at University in France.

Now I’m an American: through-and-through-red-white-and-blue. But when and if I do travel outside these borders, France is the first place I’m going. And it’s not so I could maybe on some chance encounter see Camille again and mispronounce her name, and she happens to be single, and there happens to be a shooting star overhead or something, and maybe there’s a violinist, and maybe …

What is it about France? French women? Marion Cotillard, Berenice Bejo, Eva Green, Melanie Laurent, all so gorgeous and talented, yes, but an air to them, a discarnate force – their projections and mere presences incantations without diction.

Why did Hemingway retreat there as part of the expatriate gang in the ’20’s?

Why did Susan Sontag go there and make it a mission to learn the language?

Why does love and romanticism thrive and foster in France?

There must be something braided into the Alps, something woven into the Riviera, something inherently spellbinding about the land, that makes that corner of the world battily alluring to love.

I was drinking with the kids at the hostel, a cast of characters onto themselves. We were shootin’ whiskey, chasing with wine. Two kids – I won’t even try to recreate the conversations, or even a perfunctory recap of what transpired. I think that one’s for me and the casket. They were cool though. One was trying to size me up a little bit. They had been doing blow all day and betting on horses at the race track about forty minutes inland. They were from one of the Dakota’s.

Long story short, we (all 5 of us) got drunk and shot the shit for awhile. Cut to –

Nikki Beach. Now I’m hammered, way past the red – way past the red, wan-white mien, soon to feel blue.

I really don’t remember what I did to be denied admission. I slightly remember doing something questionable in line, but I can’t remember what. So I was kicked out of the line. I went and got in a different one and some guy – who was so angry, so fucking angry with me – picked me up by my legs and walked me about fifty feet to the center of the parking lot. When he put me down he started yelling in my face, “You’re lucky I don’t lay you the fuck out.” “What did I do though? Just tell me what I did.” “Whatchyou say?” “I’m asking what I did” “I will lay you the fuck out.” The thing was no one would tell me what I did. I tried to talk to another kid who was running things, and he started shoving me with his little flashlight and clipboard. Some Australian or New Zealand guy in line stepped in and said, in an advising tone, “I think you better leave, mate” (those guys are some tough bastards). He was right, and sympathetic to my state. The Clipboard Kid started radioing in for police and back up, so I left. I just left.

I found myself walking down Ocean Drive about a half hour later – headband undone, mustache looking dumber than ever. I rehashed the scene in my head and up came a pang of fury; I tossed my phone into the dark abysses of the South Beach meridians and made course for the water.

Found it.

Sat.

And balled.

Hysterically cried for a half hour, hour (it’s always good to cry, even if it is drug-induced. The hurt was in there; if something external helped bring it to the surface, then great. That’s great).

And that’s how I rang in the New Year: fireworks went off, distant whoops of jubilation and jocosity, with me sitting there – ululating – cracking up the concentrated entrails that lied within.

I remember yelling “Dad” a lot; I jumped in the ocean, then laid on the banks of the beach as waves came up and broke back.

When I got back to the hostel, I tried waking up Camille. She turned in pretty early and now had someone sleeping in the bunk above her. I tried to be quiet and discreet: she pretended to be asleep. I rustled her leg a little, and she turned over with a face of disgust and repulsion.

I then hopped up on my bed, put on music and headphones, and started confessing my love for this girl in a very audible tone, perhaps waking up some of the same cast of characters I had been macho with earlier. Then I started talk-singing along to the songs: “Don’t you want somebody to love? Don’t you need somebody body to love? Bob you better find somebody to love. You better find somebody to love, Bob.” This went on for a solid, steady, twenty five minutes, with varying gravitas and intonation.

Checkout was at eleven A.M. When I woke up I went to the bathroom and made my greetings with the new kid that was sleeping in the bed above Camille’s. He was taciturn.

I ran up to Ocean Drive and started combing through the area where I thought I threw my phone. I woke up some kid who was passed out under a palm tree, spoke with sanitary workers, police officers – no dice. No phone. Then I popped into a hotel lobby and called it – over and over and over again – until it went dead.

The one officer told me to try the station. I called ’em up and they didn’t want to help me but I was pretty vociferous in my cause – steadfast to remedy the things I could. They had a phone that fit my exact description: iPhone 5, gray case. I ran down to the station but it wasn’t it. It wasn’t fucking it. IPhone 5 gray case not my fucking phone. Crazy. So I went back to the hostel, called my Mom from the lobby and bitched to her about it. Camille came down with the kid that I made my greetings with a few hours earlier – it was her boyfriend. And he had his guard up, hesitant to be amiable (but at the same time a little intrigued, really – like he was kinda interested in this volatile, emotionally schizophrenic American who confessed his love for his girlfriend after one conversation). Camille pretended as if nothing happened the night before; she was her affable, French self. She lent me her phone and I texted mine: “This phone is lost. If found please, plz plz plz, call (908) 507-8686” (mom’s phone number). Then I re-dialed my home phone, spoke with my mom, and whilst speaking, she got a call from my number. I hung up, dialed my phone, made arrangements with the kid, and thus repossessed my block of technology.

And that’s basically it. I checked out, hopped a bus, and made my way back to the Walmart lot after a coupla breakfast sandwiches (there’s an addendum I’ll add for shits and gigs: I ended up seeing Camille and her boyfriend one last time after I checked out. The comma between “checked out” and “hopped a bus” reads something like: I wandered around aimlessly, hung over to hell, went to the beach – it started to drizzle – I left, walked the streets and up to the posh shops, peering in at happy people, then the rain started to pick up. Then it started to really come down in idioms, and I fled for shelter. I found a side entrance for a building with a little overhead structure and parked up on the steps. As soon as I did this the rain stopped, almost instantaneously, and I buried my face into my hands, rubbing my under eyes, thinking the more I rub them the more I’ll have a chance at looking alive – palms to sockets, fists to balls – a dumb eyebrow on my upper lip – Camille and her Boyfriend walk up. Laughing, at the tail end of their cavorting for overhead shelter.

That’s where they found me: “How are you?” “(getting up, fake jolly) Yeah – good, I’m good. Yeah I’m just tired. Just tired.” “Take care, yeah?” “I will. I will.”).

Palms to sockets, fists to balls – a dumb eyebrow on my upper lip – I won’t.

“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday that’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday is my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy.”

  • Pat Solatano Jr.