Last night I dreamt of the happy-clappy pixie-land extolled by the counterculture of yore. That hippie Eden where daisies shot from rifles because everyone there was so high on lysergic acid that they no longer experienced reality. It was a place populated by paisley-eyed toad kissers who honestly believed that they were the first generation of paisley-eyed toad kissers who knew that the world sucked and that they alone could kiss toads into The Gurus of Change. Viva Revolucion! Alas, psychedelic drugs and fairy tale-belief systems are the stuff of idealistic chimeras. It all eventually wears off and leaves you cold and cynical. By and by you come to the hideous conclusions that the Good Guys never stay good after they win the Revolution, and that every toad you kiss has a way of changing into Richard Nixon.
My uneasy drowse was further perturbed by a steady thump to my skull. For some reason “beaking” described the steady thump. Yet upon awakening the perpetrator of the beaking was gone; only a Post-it note lay planted to my forehead: COUP D’ETAT FOIE GRAS.
“So, another grab for the sceptre is afoot,” I muttered. I blinked like a vole in the rising sun, which squeezed through bent slats in the yellowed Venetian blinds. I decided that I should skip ahead to my second pill and third cigarette before launching an inquiry. I knew it would be useless to press either of my sleeping cats on the subject of the intruder. Cats don’t give a horny hump at a rolling donut about things that do not concern them. That’s why I love them. More proof that love is synonymous with self immolation.
I rose, consumed a suitable amount of the substances I am addicted to and sat behind my desk. Upon consulting my Writers’ Calendar I saw that it was July 18th, Hunter S. Thompson’s birthday. I located the opera length faux bone cigarette holder amongst the desktop debris, poured a finger of Jim Beam into my coffee, affixed a pair of aviator shades and doffed a light blue golfing hat. Then I recorded the following random thoughts on my phone: “All chaps are assless; all immolation is self; all cats are swine.”
Coup D’Etat Foie Gras, the Post-it still said. I’m as rightfully paranoid as Stalin, and I correctly interpreted the message as a threat on par with “Beware the ides of March.” I studied it and reminded myself that the Remmington shotgun I had fabricated for an earlier story still lay in the arms lockbox. Although I didn’t believe that violence would be necessary to quell the uprising, the knowledge that I had plenty of firewater and firearms was a comfort to me. Those are the items that had made America great the first time.
It’s always a political season here in the land of Pen names. Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters; ego-fueled delusions of grandeur, fear, loathing and designs on the sceptre routinely spread across the land like the ghost of Spiro Agnew’s tainted legacy howling in its sheets. Anything can happen at this side of reality–Even a coup d’etat foie gras.
The Union of Pen names, Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters (UPNIFFC) is responsible for all debacles in my strange little world. And here in my equally strange little ward, where I have been the Chief Pen-name for about five years, occasional plays for the sceptre come and go. Alas, Union rules state that all my Fictional Characters (FC’s), no matter how obscure each one may be, have the right to rise beyond their own levels of ineptitude. I don’t catch much flak from the Imaginary Friend’s element, but many of those damn FC’s, born in my own mind, think they can do a better job creating the vehicles they perform in. These characters are as progressive as an ugsome disease.
I put my feet up on my desk, cast the note aside and pouted because cigarette holders do not allow for a good draw of the sweet stuff fast enough. I cursed the intractable decision of giving my FC’s Free Will. It was a great idea about two thirds into a jug, but like most other great ideas similarly conceived it turned out to be a rotten idea everywhere else in the Universe.
Someone or -thing knocked on the door. “I’m armed,” I yelped like a spooked jackalope, even though my artillery still lay in the lockbox.
My number one FC, Renfield Stoker-Belle, breezed into my office. It was unlike her to knock first. But breezing in uninvited is consistent with her behavior.
“What?” I seethed, which is pretty much all an authoress can do with a cigarette holder clenched in her teeth.
“Just seeing if you are still in charge, darling,” Renfield said as she sat on my desk and helped herself to a sip from my laced coffee. “There’s a movement afoot: ‘Coup d’etat foie gras.’”
I pointed at the note.
She smiled that cynical pixie smile of hers. “Remember penning ‘Fear and Loathing Amongst the Ducks of Serengeti’?”
“Vaguely.” Which was a lie, unless coming to at the desk and finding a story by that name in the file I allegedly created while under the influence of a bottle of Hennessey counts as a vague recollection of composition. And there also stood a good chance that the ghost of my great (to the fourth) grandfather had written it. He’s a type of ghost who can do such a thing–but that is unimportant.
“Is the Serengeti primarily known for ducks?” Renfield asked. “I ‘spose a few could wander in there off course–but it seems to me that tasty birds do not inhabit a land known for its toothy predators.”
“There are thousands of species of birds in the Serengeti, wiseass,” I said. “Stands to reason that some are quackers.” This, of course, was another lie. I didn’t and still don’t know if there’s a single bird of any type in the Serengeti other than swirls of vultures. I’ve made it this far ignorant of the facts, so why change.
“Regardless,” Renfield said, still smiling that smile I’d dearly love to wipe from her face, “since you wrote a piece called that, and filled it with ducks, they are FC’s and have rights.”
“How come the intel?” I asked. “Could be that you’re a Mata Hari working both sides of the pond. Or, could it be, in a rare moment of lucidity, mind you, that you realized it would be very difficult for a fictional duck to write the stories you appear in. Either would be the swinish way to go.”
Renfield arched an eyebrow and picked up my Writers’ Calendar.
“So, you’re Hunter S. Thompson today,” she said. “This little invention of yours that allows you to ape the styles of other writers in the guise of tribute, hints that there might still be a few active patches of crinkled brain-matter between your ears. It’s the crinkles that make us think, don’tcha know.” She flipped through the pages, pausing here and there, before landing on 3 January. “Well looky here, says American-Canadian author Leila Allison was born this day– intel printed in huge red letters, while some Brit nobody named Tolkien is mentioned in microscopic font…Very interesting, in a delirium tremens sort of way, mind you.”
“No one’s stopping you from social distancing yourself from me in the other hemisphere, Miss Renfield,” I said. “Unless you have something useful to bring to this conversation, I suggest that you go ahead and let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”
But before she could reply there was another knock at the door. Beaking once again must be used to describe it.
“Go away,” I yelped like an effeminate bigfoot. “Come back when it’s hunting season.”
Goddam Renfield jumped up and opened the door. Strange sights are common in this realm; over here you really gotta make an effort to get yourself noticed. Such an effort had been accomplished. A pair of brindled female mallard ducks and a goose who’d been poorly made up to resemble a male mallard duck entered my office. One of the gals was toting a duck-sized briefcase in her beak, the other was smoking a joint (“Maui Wowie,” according to my finely honed nose for such things). The sloppily disguised goose (whom I immediately feared and loathed from a story I had written about my childhood) was sporting an ascot, like those once favored by ageing classic film star Charlton Heston, in a futile effort to conceal the onset of turkey neck.
We studied each other in silence. But the silence lasted too long.
“Your line, Renfield,” I said at last. “We can’t go on until you say it.”
“I ain’t gonna say it, Leila, uh uh, no-flipping-way,”
“But it’s in the goddam script.”
“So? I bet God edited the tablets he gave Charlton Heston, Plenty.”
I sighed. You see, the reality we experience over here unfolds like a film in production, complete with a script–and as Chief Pen-name I am the producer, director and writer of our tales. But the freaking problem of Evil Free Will often gets in the way of things. So, whenever a character, such as rat fink Renfield, baulks at a line, union rules require that I mend the situation.
“All right,” I said. “I’ll say it. ‘Duck duck goose.’”
Although everyone saw that line coming from the other side of the galaxy, the three fowl raised a hell of a commotion upon hearing it. Feathers flew; aspersions on my character fluttered freely and the faux duck honked in disgust.
“What do you guys want?”
The duck with the briefcase handed–no–beaked it to Renfield, who opened it on my desk. Inside was another Post It note which contained two demands and a threat regarding what would happen if I did not agree to them.
I studied the document. “Says here that you want me to ‘expedite publication of Fear and Loathing Amongst the Ducks of the Serengeti,’ and that I must ‘transfer the movie rights to the fictional ducks who appeared in it.’” (Damn near swallowed my tongue when I read that one.) “Also sez that I must ‘personally apologize to the artist formerly known as Gary Goose for “mean-mouthing” him in print.’ ‘Any failure to comply with these demands will result in a petition of impeachment and the removal of you as the Chief Pen-name.’”
“Who are you now?” I asked the artist formerly known as Gary Goose.
“Our client now self identifies as Drake Mallard,” said the stoner duck.
“I see. Didn’t know that ducks had porn star aliases,” I said. “Before we negotiate a settlement, I have a question.”
“Acquiesce to our demands, and you shall know all,” said the other duck, all snotty like.
“Tell me,” I went on, ignoring the remark, “was the person who’d lit Daisy there’s J for her the same chick who’d written this note and the first one for you guys?”
Although much duplicity was a-webbed-foot, animals, FC critters included, are incapable of telling lies. And just as I’d thought, all three of the swinish fowl immediately pointed their beaks at Renfield.
She smiled that smile and batted her pretty eyes. “It was just a bit of dictation work, darling,” she said. “I like to help out, since we’re all in this together.”
I thought about it for a while, but upon realizing that the longer I thought about it the longer I’d be in the company of unwanted visitors, I jumped to a decision. “You guys may have the film rights, lefts and in-betweens to the story.”
“Annnnndddd…” Renfield added.
“Oh, that,” I said. “Sorry about the mean-mouthing, Gary or Drake or whoever the hell you are now. I’m afraid that’s the best apology you’re going to get, and it is probably ten times better than what you are entitled to. You see, the Gary Goose that you were cast to play was a real rat bastard of a gander. My grandparents and I goose-watched the swinish fucker for our neighbors two weeks while they were on vacation one summer. I was seven years old. I’ve always been an animal lover, but even though every little need Gary had, real or imagined, was tended to with loving care, he proved to be a violent asshole who attacked the three of us every chance he got. By the end, Gram was the only one who could feed him without getting maimed for the effort. She’d roll up leftover pancakes and hurl them into the monster’s roomy pen. Gram had a pretty good arm and her aim was just as effective. Yet no matter how many times her flapjack missiles approached a satisfactory landing upside Gary’s head, he was able to beak them out of the air and devour them like the feathered swine he was.”
To my great surprise, this seemed to be enough to quell the rebellion. I loaded the story onto a flash, deleted my copy and laid the stick in the duck-sized briefcase. Renfield examined the drive, found it satisfactory, closed the case and handed it to its owner. This would have marked an end to the affair if Renfield hadn’t had a brilliant idea.
“Leila,” she said, “how about we give our fine feathered friends a tour of The Farm?”
I became all sunshine, rainbows and lollipops inside. “That, old pal, is an excellent idea.”
Ever have your parents sell you land at The Farm? Some regions refer to it as The Happyland Ranch, but in the place I’m from it’s simply The Farm. Now, let’s say you’re in the third grade and you’ve just got off the school bus (remembering to be mindful of the heavy traffic on your street) and Mom and Dad meet you at the head of the driveway instead of your beloved dog, Spot. Good ol’ Spot.
It seems that Spot wasn’t entirely happy as the only dog living on a busy street in which cars sped by recklessly at all hours. That’s what Mom (whose eyes are red from “my allergy”) tells you. Her allergy must be something awful that day, for she keeps turning her head away from you. Good ol’ Mom. Good ol’ Dad hunkers down and further informs you that they took Good ol’ Spot to The Farm where he would be infinitely happy amongst others of his own kind. Hell yes, you may visit Good ol’ Spot anytime you wish. After all, it’s still a free country, right? But it would be for the best if we waited awhile to do that. Give him a chance to settle in. Say, why don’t we all go out for hamburgers and ice cream?
My grandparents sold me an acre at The Farm in which my first cat, Sam, was doubtlessly (and still is at age 23, damn it!) happier at, than with me. Still, when I got older and began to assert myself as a Pen-name, I promised everybody who went to The Farm a perfect version of it, just in case my grandparents had been mistaken.
Over the years, my The Farm has grown exponentially to a size comparable to that of the Andromeda galaxy. It now includes all animals, living and dead and made up. Beloved pets, ill-used livestock and FC critters who’d be happier living in a world in which even their wildest delusions will come true. It is a happy-clappy pixie-land beyond the reach of time and cynicism.
We took Renfield’s car to The Farm, and when we got there the three birds decided that it was the place for them, as Renfield and I already knew would happen as soon as they saw it. I’d describe the place, but it cannot be done. The human mind cannot reconcile lasting happiness with satisfaction. It always wants more; here, the hunt always exceeds the sought-after gain.
“Jesus Christ,” Renfield said on our way back, after I had told her everything you’ve read since the line of demarking asterisks. “Leave it to you to get all warm and fuzzy about dumping unwanted pests off at a place they will never want to return from. Which color pill made you that way inside?”
I pulled a handful of tablets and such out of my pocket. “Think it’s the green one,” I said. “But it’s wearing off. However, the red one tells me that we ought to aim this car at Vegas and speed toward it like demons fleeing hell.”
Renfield laughed, laid on the gas and spun us around to face west. “That’s more like it, darling.”
And we streaked ahead toward the setting sun, creating an ephemeral trail composed of dust and the shadows of dreams that never mattered.
“Oh, for hell’s sake, Leila…”
“Sorry. Think that was the pink one.”