Friday, December 27, 2013

The Cronenberg Series Part 9: I'm Not You



























In July of 1975, Stewart and Cyril Marcus died, both of them, in their Manhattan apartment.  Withdrawal from a shared addiction to barbiturates was the official cause of death.  They were brothers, identical twins, in fact, and both were gynecologists.  Their lives and careers by this point had been shattered not just by drugs, but by malpractice charges having to do with what Ron Rosenbaum and Susan Edmiston, in "Dead Ringers," their Esquire article about the twins, refer to as "a powerful aversion to filling out insurance forms."  So this, the ruining of their bodies with drugs and alcohol, and those same substances beginning to affect their work to the point that their careers were essentially ruined, eventually led to their deaths, which, official judgment or no, remained, and remains, mysterious for a variety of reasons.  Rosenbaum and Edmiston reproduce a verbatim portion of a conversation between Dr. Mel Platt and Dr. Hugh Luckey, two high-ranking New York doctors who were looking into the case:

PLATT:  If I could figure it out I'd write the greatest novel of all times, because this is an enigma that's going to be with us for a long time.

LUCKEY:  And I'd buy the movie rights.  You're damn right.  I can tell you this:  You're not gonna find out.

PLATT:  You're not gonna find out.

LUCKEY:  You're not gonna find out.

PLATT:  I wish I could find out.

LUCKEY:  That's the honest-to-God truth.  You're not gonna find out.

In 1977, Bari Wood and Jack Geasland did write a novel based on the Marcus brothers called Twins.  Between 1975 and 1995, Wood wrote six solo novels, all in the horror genre as far as I can tell, but Geasland seems to have no other writing credits to his name.  In any case, Twins, which I would not count as a horror novel, strictly speaking, is not the greatest novel of all time, but it's still pretty good.  For the most part, it sticks quite closely to the lives of the Marcus brothers as laid out by Rosenbaum and Edmiston -- including, crucially, the free-wheeling single life of Stewart as it compared to Cyril's restricted, as far as the twins were concerned, marriage -- but ramps up the sleaze by positing that the twins, named Michael and David Ross in the novel, had a lifelong desire, which is eventually succumbed to, to engage in homosexual incest.  "You're not gonna find out" can lead those who'd like to find out to invent any number of theories.  Or that gap can seem like a beacon to those who want to invent.  Whatever the case was with Wood and Geasland and Twins, incest is what was landed on, and the resulting novel is rather powerfully unpleasant.  Sex of all kinds factor into the book, and even drives the story.  David is a pansexual sybarite, essentially, on top of being Luciferian in his sinister manipulations to lead Michael away from the normal life and into the life of hedonism that David thinks is their right, as twin geniuses who resemble in mind and body nobody else in the world.

Meanwhile, in the early 1970s, David Cronenberg was working on a novel called Roger Pagan, Gynecologist.  The date on which this manuscript was begun, or conceived, is obscure, but based on how Serge Grunberg describes these early years of Cronenberg's creativity in David Cronenberg:  Interveiws with Serge Grunberg, the idea, at the very least, for Roger Pagan, Gynecologist must have preceded the deaths of the Marcus twins, and therefore their newsworthiness, by at least a couple of years.  So fortuitous, in a way, though Cronenberg wouldn't be able to make a film about any of these things -- and he would read about and become fascinated by the Marcus twins when news of their strange lives and deaths hit the news -- until 1988.  To make things easier, he optioned the novel Twins, but that was just a formality, in a way.  He didn't really adhere to Wood and Geasland's additions to the true story at all -- he chucked the incest, for example -- and veered away from the facts when they didn't interest him, which was often.  His film, called Dead Ringers, like the Esquire article (though the number of suitable and commercially viable titles for such a story must be extremely small, and Dead Ringers at least suggests more of the content than Twins does), keeps only the broad strokes -- twins, drug abuse, and gynecology; lunatic sex is in there too, but Cronenberg being who he is I seriously doubt he needed Geasland and Wood to give him the idea -- and builds from there a film that stands now, along with The Fly, as a cornerstone of his current reputation as a major world filmmaker, no longer critically shunned, respected and embraced just as he mostly sheds (and I do believe this is a coincidence) his early genre interests.

Because in terms of genre, what in the world is Dead Ringers?  One of the most fascinating things about the film is that its tone, and some of its energy, make it play out like a bleak drama made by someone who thought he was making a horror film.  The twins, in this case named Beverly and Elliott Mantle and played ingeniously by Jeremy Irons, when performing surgery where red scrubs that appear to have been designed by a member of an alien blood cult, and late in the film, as Beverly's mind begins to rapidly corrode from a mixture of drugs, psychosexual mania induced by his unhealthy (but again, not incestuous) relationship with his brother and an uncontrollable jealousy connected to his tumultuous relationship with a patient named Claire (Genevieve Bujold) whom the brothers "share," he seeks out a local abstract sculptor (Stephen Lack) and commissions him to build, from Beverly's own designs, an array of new gynecological surgical instruments that wind up looking like ludicrous and medieval torture devices.  But he doesn't then go on a murderous rampage with these things, and one deeply uncomfortable interaction with a patient is in fact based in part on something done by Cyril Marcus.  As a matter of fact, much of the imagery that relates most directly to horror, of the Cronenberg variety, comes in the form of dream sequences.  This marks a fairly major shift in the course of his films, and quite often from here on out the issues of the body that Cronenberg wants to deal with are approached from, or by, the mind -- not the brain, you understand.  In Rabid, to grab one at random, the physicality, and corruption, of the body is all.  In Dead Ringers the way these twins exist with and connect to each other is largely mental.
Then again, it is a big part of Dead Ringers -- and not so much Twins, and almost certainly not the Marcus brothers -- that what one of these brothers might do individually has an effect on the other.  "You haven't fucked her until I've fucker her," Elliot says at one point.  "You haven't done anything until I've done it too."  This seems like a figure of speech at the moment, but by the end it has become less clear.  In Chris Rodley's Cronenberg on Cronenberg, the filmmaker talks about the amazing studies that have been done on twins that reveal that twins that have been separated at a very young age often still develop the same interests, marry women with the same first name, and so on.  On the topic of twins, Cronenberg has a number of interesting, strange things to say.  "I feel as though I invented twins," he tells Grunsberg, and to Rodley:

In one way, Dead Ringers is conceptual science-fiction, the concept being "What if there could be identical twins?"  Some might say, "But there are."  But I'm suggesting that it's impossible, and let's look at them really closely.  I can imagine a world in which identical twins are only a concept, like mermaids.  The fact that Elliot and Beverly are identical twins is their evolution into something monstrous.  They are creatures, as exotic as The Fly.  So there's a double game there; the mind/body split is still very much on my mind (and possibly my body too), but here the body is separated into two parts.  Twins tend to love Dead Ringers because it talks about stuff that no one else talks about.  It's like seeing your home town on screen.

...The feeling is like an aquarium, as though these are strange exotic fish creatures...People find it extremely disturbing.  The fact that they can't exactly say why -- there isn't much blood, etc. -- makes it more so.  With They Fly you can say, "Yes, it was yucky.  I had to turn my head.  Other than that, it was neat."

I'll confess, it had never occurred to me to view Dead Ringers as a science fiction film, but with that now in mind, and not to imply I'd ever found it opaque, the thing opens up in almost shocking ways.  Shocking because from that point of view, Dead Ringers is something completely new, something that takes a genre concept -- the core of the genre, in fact -- and putting it to use in a way no one else, to my knowledge, has ever done before.  The way science fiction typically works, if you'll allow me to burrow right to the heart of it, is it imagines something that might one day conceivably exist, be it a scientific or social concept.  What Cronenberg does is apply that same wonder -- and in science fiction "wonder" can mean something glorious or, as Cronenberg says, something monstrous -- to something that actually really does exist, and has always existed, and take the imaginative and intellectual position that it doesn't.  Now, the world of the film is our own -- no one is shocked to learn of the existence of identical twins.  Nevertheless, the Mantle twins are purely alien.  The way they exist among other people is one thing, but the way they exist when they're alone together, that's something else again.  They are different.  They are, in fact, not entirely unlike the beings we get in the last third or so of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, who destroyed without malevolence but rather because they were the next step, and the previous step had to be swept away.  The Mantle twins, to be sure, don't have their shit together anywhere near as well as Clarke's next evolutionary strain, and of course by the end of it all it's pretty clear that, reading the film as Cronenberg suggests we do, or might do, Nature will have to make some tweaks for the next go-round.  But the first aquatic life that struggled to shore probably didn't last very long either.
Casting Jeremy Irons was not just the perfect choice, but doing it with another actor might have brought as much success as going ahead without a camera.  Perhaps only David Bowie could have communicated the particular "more than human" nature of these brothers, but I doubt he could have made them each so specific without it ever seeming like a gimmick (and the methods Cronenberg uses to put Irons onscreen together with himself are entirely seamless; it's really amazing how good filmmaking can make you forget certain things).  The specificity is perhaps shallow, in that you can break it down and say that Elliot is the confident, aloof, cold, smug, arrogant, all that stuff, brother, and Beverly is the the weaker one, easily led by Elliot, uncertain he's comfortable with certain moral choices that Elliot makes for them both.  But indeed, this is why they don't survive -- together they form an imperfect organism, and had either one been born alone, as just a single entity, their chance for survival into old age (and to help propagate the species) would be much greater, no different than anyone else.  Together, they are a creature, a new thing, a clumsy form that is above us, smarter as one than they'd be as two, but they're like a machine that's slipped a gear inside, and the thing is shredded as, and because, it's functioning.

And Cronenberg says twins like this thing.  Though since I have no concept of what it's like to have an identical twin, I suppose even something as bleak as Dead Ringers can be a breath of fresh air if it truly explores what makes that relationship unlike any other.  For the rest of us, though, what fascinates and disturbs about the film is rooted in Cronenberg's intellectual approach to genre ideas in a non-genre film.  It makes Dead Ringers a film that has never existed before, even if it sometimes feels familiar -- there is a tone to it, on the surface, and an underlying I-don't-know-what, something that bubbles, but not from heat, from coldness, rather, somehow, something that stains everything else and makes it feel off.  Makes it feel wrong. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Seeing Things

Toad Road, which comes out tomorrow on DVD through Kino Lorber's Artsploitation line, is a horror film that comes weighted with some real-world significance, partly natural to the proceedings, but mostly awful, and eerie as well, though it's an eeriness that the filmmakers would have never wanted for their film. The regular significance, the insignificant significance, comes from the fact that Toad Road takes as its core horror idea an actual urban legend, that of the "Seven Gates of Hell" which are said to be found along a stretch of rural asphalt in Hellam Township, PA, near the border with Maryland. Urban legends being what they are, there are lots of variations and contradictions that you'll find once you start reading about it, but for the purposes of writer-director Jason Banker it suffices that in his film that lonely stretch of road is known as Toad Road. The seven gates -- which were real gates, regular gates I mean, though most are now gone -- represent different stages of the path to Hell, and no one, we are told, has ever made it past the fifth gate. Getting to the fifth gate will involve, a character in the film says, "hearing things" and "seeing things" and so forth.

Toad Road bears a very close resemblance to The Blair Witch Project, though it isn't a found footage movie (this in itself, in 2013, and given what Banker's budget must have been, is almost transgressive). Banker does, however, want to create a documentary tone, and much of what he films may indeed function as a document. Most of the characters are drug-addled burn-outs played by actors, and non-actors, of the same name -- so, for instance, the lead characters James and Sara are played by James Davidson and Sara Anne Jones, another Blair Witch Project conceit, though in this case that choice hurts a little bit more. It would appear that many of the drugs being consumed on camera are actually being consumed on camera -- one guy certainly does snort a condom up his nose -- and for much of Toad Road it feels like the reference being pursued is more Charles Bukowski than Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick.

Sara is a pretty young woman who, when she meets James and his group of friends, whose idea of a good time is to hike to a cave and get high inside it, she's bizarrely ennamored with the lifestyle (I mean, I know it happens all the time, but when you see it happen in front of you it actually makes no sense) -- it's all very scuzzy, and unwashed, and drifting, and gross. But she wants in, and James, the expert, takes her under his wing and instructs her with an air of wisdom that would be hilarious if other factors didn't make that laughter catch in the throat. Not atypically in stories like this, Sara wants to push further than any of the people who've been living like this for years, and it's Sara who introduces Toad Road and the Seven Gates of Hell into Jame's life. She wants to actually go, and as the drugs suck her down deeper, and as James tries to claw out of the same hole -- he does a poor job, but the attempt feels genuine -- they finally do go, and the last twenty minutes or so of this very short film (it's only 76 minutes, with credits) becomes a horror movie of the kind you more or less expected when you put in the DVD.

More or less. The horror in Toad Road is a metaphor for all the drug stuff we've already seen, and on one level it's rather blunt, but this is okay as far as I'm concerned. Horror is a genre that allows for bluntness in this way. I almost feel that horror is most effective when its either very blunt or entirely obscure, when you sense there are metaphors at play, or might be at play, but you'll be damned if you can guess what they're for. This is a generalization, and I maybe shouldn't have made it, but the point is that in a sense Toad Road is carrying on the tradition of classic horror films like The Wolf Man, where the horror is only pretending to act as a mask for some other idea.A crucial plot element involves one character blacking out for an extended period, and, so it follows, having no idea what happened during that time. From there, you don’t have to travel far to find what Banker’s after.

The supernatural elements in Toad Road come very late, but are nevertheless briefly visualized. I’d have thought that at the point where we see anything, Banker might have realized such a thing was unnecessary. Not only unnecessary, but ill-advised, at least as the image is executed. Banker was clearly working with almost no money, and while it’s fine and admirable to stretch those limited resources at some point you do have to acknowledge this isn’t poker and there’s no one to bluff. All of which is simply to say that the one visual effect to be found in Toad Road doesn’t work, and looks cheap in a very specifically digital way that strikes me as the exact opposite of what is desired. However, it’s there only briefly, and the concept is modest enough that it’s not too hard to sale on by it, especially since what follows – how many gates were passed, and to what end? – is the meat of the horror anyway.

Which brings up the other aspect of reality in which Toad Road, as a completed film that exists now beyond the making of it, in a form accessible to millions, finds its roots. Before the closing credits role, there’s a dedication to “the memory of Sara Anne Jones,” the lead actress who died, very young, of a heroin overdose shortly after filming was completed. The way this fact lines up with the film is impossible to ignore, and Toad Road carries that weight. Both of these things are true, but then what? It would be tasteless to suggest Jones’s death somehow made Toad Road a better film, even though the world Banker creates ties in directly to Jones’s own life, as well as her death. So Toad Road is left adrift as something it never intended to be, as less a horror film than a document, or anyway this, I predict, will be its fate. When you watch it, it’s up to you to try and separate the film it was trying to be and the film it became and see if it can stand up. As a matter of fact, I think it can, though my patience with it was tested, and tested early. But it goes somewhere, and finally is its own thing, which is about all you can hope for.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Ha ha not really. It's just that I've been working on other things. I'll be back soon with the regular postings and such like, and I know, I know, David Cronenberg, Dead Ringers, etc. It's percolating, though, I swear to Christ it is. Just hang tight, my friends!

Incidentally, I tried to include a picture of one of those "Please Stand By" cards they used to put up on TV during one of the weekly nuclear strikes, but I'm at work and can't save the image, and for some reason can't post the link directly from the host site, and so I'm just like "Fuck it."

See you later dudes!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Run the Red Light

Tomorrow, Criterion will be releasing on DVD and Blu-ray director Elio Petri's Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. If it's necessary, which it probably isn't, or in some way appealing, which I've decided it is, to categorize the film a certain way, then I'd have to say this is one of the more unusual "first-person" crime films I've seen, though in certain ways it's hardly unprecedented. Because while Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is a political film to its core, it's hard for someone like myself -- by which I mean, and this is simply not the least of it, someone who is not a far-Left Italian in the 1960s and 70s -- to not take note of how it is in line with the classic and twisted American crime fiction of the mid-20th century, as in, your Jim Thompsons and such. This could be a re-thinking of Pop. 1280 or The Killer Inside Me -- it's not impossible to imagine the Lou Ford who burns up at the end of The Killer Inside Me somehow surviving and subsequently going crazy in some new way.

Petri's film, which he co-wrote with long-time collaborator Ugo Pirri, is about a Roman chief inspector (Gian Maria Volonte) who as the film begins is engaged in two quite important activities: transferring from his department's homicide division to political crimes, and murdering his lover (Florinda Bolkan) for I think more than one reason, quite honestly, but more than anything to, he hopes, show that he is in fact not as above the law, not as out of the reach of justice and deserved punishment, as the Roman police of the time were said to be. Achieving this goal proves quite difficult. In the booklet that accompanies the Criterion disc, an excerpt from Pirri's memoir The Cinema of Our Lives details the conception, creation, and political fallout of Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, the most internationally successful film of Pirri's career, and, with the possible exception of the 1965 Robert Sheckley adaptation The 10th Victim, Petri's as well (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1971, for what that's worth). After laying out the multifariously infuriating nature of Italian politics at that time, Pirri describes more or less what you might expect: excitement among the filmmakers for what they were doing; the fear that the resulting film, however good, might land them in prison; angry criticism aimed at them not just from the Right, but from the Left -- for a host of ridiculous reasons, from disdain at the film being made more or less through mainstream channels to completely misunderstanding the intent of the script -- and so on. The actual outcome, which I'll leave for you to read up on yourselves, was rather different than they expected, and even the least of their fears didn't come to pass -- the film was not banned, in other words, though an uneasiness over what might happen did lead Pirri and Petri to make a rather odd change to the ending. Pirri is correct that the change doesn't alter the gist of what happens, but it does have a curiously deadening effect.

But anyway. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is anchored by the rather extraordinary performance given by Gian Maria Volonte. His chief inspector (like LT in Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, he's given no other name) makes a seamless transition from cold-eyed and ruthless investigator to passionate murderer to crazed and perverse seeker of justice, and Volonte is terrifyingly adept at each mental state. It says something, I think, that even when his chief inspector is at his most untethered, Volonte's performance still shows hints of what once must have been competence (if not morality, although if you go far enough back, who knows?) -- it's a piece of satire that still manages, unlike most satire, and in fact unlike the very intent of most satire, to depict a full human being, however deep in shadow that fullness may be. So as I say, Volonte is extraordinary. The rest of the film isn't too far behind him, though I do have my issues with it, some of which, I'll confess, may be somewhat knee-jerk in nature. And even now I can see my skimpy objections on political grounds aren't fair -- if Pirri and Petri announce some of the Roman Socialists which make up the fringe (which is fitting enough) of the movie's action are not merely Socialists but actual Stalinists, well, that is not what they, Pirri and Petri, were (well, not Petri anyway, I don't know about Pirri). I'd argue, then, that there's more to be satirized in all this, with Leftist terrorists being an actual threat in Rome at the time (in the excerpt from his book, Pirri stops just short of betraying some sympathy for the police, and while that means he doesn't betray that sympathy, you can tell when he stops short).

However, every film doesn't have to have everything in it, and anyway as fiercely political as Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is, I'm not primarily interested in it on those grounds. I'm interested in it on Jim Thompson grounds, and I'd have to say it's quite thoroughly successful on those terms. Pirri never claims to have been inspired by Thompson or any other American crime writers -- and I focus on Thompson because his stuff offers the most clear and direct comparison -- but along with Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of The Killer Inside Me, Petri and Pirri have created here the best Thompson adaptation I've ever seen, however unintended or literally not actually that it may be. But boy, it's all there -- the grotesque sexual fetishes, the man in power who hides in plain sight his violent psychopathy, the ability of those around him to ignore all the evidence because to allow themselves to become conscious of the truth would either endanger their lives or their positions, or in some cases perhaps they're just straight-up dopes. This is The Killer Inside Me! The very concept behind Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is one Thompson, had he thought of it, would have savored. Thompson did live long enough to have been able to see this film, and if he did I imagine him sitting in the theater, shaking his head, and muttering "Goddamnit."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Forgotten Song of Our Drifting Tomorrows

CHAPTER 1

Douglas woke up and thought about society. “There’s a lot of suffering,” he thought. “Why *is* that??” He was the boss of a college so he woke up like this a lot. It was time to go to work.

Driving there he felt like a great American Indian sunbird or a giant arcing beam of limitless potential. The clouds and trees were like cottonballs and those fancy toothpicks with the green plastic at the top. It was if driving through outer space with a torid whisper WHY ALL THE SUFFERING aching behind his eyes. Earlier he’d thought of sunbirds because he was fascinated by American Indians and he’d read all of their folklores. The last time he read a bunch of Indian folklores he went“There are so many metaphors in this!”Was there really a Trickster God in his life?

He pulled into his parking space like a great arcing beetle scurrying for its primal feast. He got out of his car and the sun basked him like a soaking rain. Nearby his favorite student Gloria was in a MAKE WATER TASTE GOOD protest march. Gloria had two books in her hands. One was about the history of the good water movement and the other one was all about vaginas.

“Your protest is so good,” Douglas said to her. “How do you find the time with your studies and whatnot?”

She had braids and a not-famous band shirt on. "You have to make the time, Professor Tartaniam. You have to make time for what is right."

Douglas and Gloria were having a sex affair. If his wife ever found out about it she would be like an arcing flame of furious light. Also if the college found out he would be fired and he’d get arrested and Gloria would probably have to give up crunk dancing.

"Gloria," he whispered hotly "No one can ever find out about our sex affair."

"I agree," she hissed.

Then he said "My brother is coming to visit. I hope he's no longer dealing street drugs. He got into some messes with some bad people."

"I agree," she hissed.

Douglas gazed into the wind.

"I have to go back to protesting," Gloria said.

"Okay," he said, and she started yelling protests. "NO BAD WATER ONLY GOOD WATER!"

He wondered what their future would be. It was like he was a baby uncertain of what it was or indeed who it was. The tree shadows trembled.

CHAPTER 2

"Hi Douglas," said Dimitri Jenkins his office partner. "What do you think of morals? Do you like them?"

Douglas put his hand to his be-stubbled jaw. "Well Dimitri," he said, "I rather think I do. You see morals in our society today are like a guide for behavior. They are the sunbirds to our Trickster Gods, if you will."

Dimitri nodded. "That makes a lot of sense."

"I think morals are basically really important," Douglas went on. "A lot of them are metaphors. A cosmic swirl of light and image."

"The reason I'm asking," said Dimitri "is that my student Gloria is cheating on all of her tests and homeworks."

The shock of the news made Douglas's world spin and he was suddenly thinking in a stream of consciousness kind of way.

CHEATING HOMEWORK A WORLD OF TRICKSTER GODS WITH NO SUNBIRDS WHY WHY WHERE IS AMERICA NOW MOTHER WHERE IS LIFE AN ARCING GASP OF FIRE MOTHER

"Gloria!?" he went pretty loudly. "Gloria the radical crunk dancer!?"

"Yes," said Dimitri "which is why I'm concerned. Ordinarily when a student cheats I'd just call the police but she is the soul and conscience of not only our college but of our lives."

Douglas nodded. "If she's caught for cheating it would basically be like America has died." He smiled ruefully. "Or taken off life support."

CHAPTER 3

Douglas looked at Gloria's cheated tests and homeworks. One test was about World War II and there was an essay question that went "Why do you think Hitler killed those people? What about economics? How many battles were there? Were there morals? Show your math." Gloria wrote "Yes there were morals and economics. Also Hitler was a patri-anarcho-Fascist, so that's why. There were about 70 battles."

That answer was exactly right...almost TOO right. Douglas could understand why Dimitri called her a cheater. He picked up his desk phone.

"Trinity," he said to his secretary "Have Gloria come see me."

"But sir she's in her good water protest."

"DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT!?" he bellowed. His voice arced from his throat like a fleet of devious salmon. "Get her here NOW!" Gloria came into his office.

"You're a cheater," he said to her, "how could you cheat? My anger is like an awoken dinosaur!"

"Oh so that's it, is it!?" cried Gloria. "You found out I cheated on tests and homework! And here I was thinking you wanted to continue our sex affair! I WAS SO NAIVE!"

"Don't throw that back at me!" Douglas hollered. "You knew what you were getting into with me!"

"Sure I did. SURE! I knew that you would take my young person and use it and then, later on, after that, when you thought that my radical ethics might get in the way of your precious boss-at-a-college job you'd throw me out of your life like yesterday's..." She stopped suddenly, almost as if she couldn't think of a good thing to compare it to.

"That's ENOUGH!" he choked. He threw up in his trash can. There was so much stress! Gloria looked at him disgustedly.

"I'm going to tell your wife about our sex affair," she said. "Maybe then you'll realize the importance of good water!"

She slammed her way out of his office in a flurry of wind and dust like a ghost arcing down off the plains of Ireland.

"Nooooo!" he screamed. "NOOOOOO!!!!" he screamed again but louder and more crazy.

CHAPTER 4

Mathilda Tartaniam sat at home where she lived with Doulgas Tartaniam (the professor from before) and read a magazine. It was called "Ethics and Morals in the Culture of Today." It was their special annual "Good Water" issue and Mathilda was all excited for it. Good water was important to her. She had a daughter named Judy who drank some bad water this one time and honest to God, she almost died. Mathilda went to the mayor and said "How can we have all this bad water? Why can't we have good water!?" So after she said that, the mayor went "Good water?? I'm controlled by a special interest group, my dear! Bad water makes this town thrive! HAW HAW HAW!"

Mathilda was powerless but then she heard about the Good Water Movement which in this town was run by Gloria Tomtassimo a politically radical crunk dancer. Mathilda wanted to be a part of that so now here was this good article for her to read. It would be a nice day.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK went the door. Mathilda opened it up and it was Gloria.

"Why, but, how," sputtered Mathilda. "Aren't you Gloria Tomtassimo!?"

It was Gloria Tomtassimo at the door. She said "Yes I am."

"It is an honor!"

"There's no time for that!" said Gloria. "You husband is cheating on you with me in a sex affair. Meanwhile, I have guilt about it and so I'm confessing."

Suddenly Mathilda's life was upside down. Her thoughts went like this:

AFFAIR CHEATING SEX AFFAIRS BUT MY HUSBAND LIKE A SUNBIRD OF PASSION BUT WHOSE PASSION IN THIS COSMOS OF UNCERTAINTY ME AS A CHILD LOOKING THROUGH SLATTED FENCEPOSTS AT MY COUNTRY UPBRINGING PAPA? PAPA? THE POND WAS GOOD ALL INNOCENCE AND ARCING FIRELIGHT SCATTERBUGS AMONGST THE CHEWLEAVES NO BETRAYAL THEN NO BETRAYAL AMONG THE SCATTERBUGS

Mathilda said to Gloria "What you've just told me is driving me nuts!"

"I bet!" said Gloria.

Just then suddenly a car pulled up. No, two cars pulled up. One was her husband's car and the other was her husband's brother's car. Her husband's brother was named Redmond, or "Red." First her husband Doulgas the professor ran up.

"Mathilda, don't listen to this stupid idiot! My ethics and my morals are really good! I would never cheat on you because that would make me a hypocrite!" Then suddenly it dawned on him that he was a hypocrite. "Oh shit!" he said.

Then Red got out of the car. He was holding a shotgun. He yelled "Douglas you gotta help me! I have street drug dealers on my tail! I got nowheres to go! I done screwed up real bad! They'll be here in six seconds!"

And they were, the drug dealers, they pulled up in a big truck and all got out. Red turned around with his shotgun but the drug dealers shot him and his life crumpled up like a void of existence which if you think about it is like all of us.

"Wait don't shoot!" cried Douglas. "We are all innocent!"

"But are we though?" hissed Gloria knowingly.

The drug dealers all shot their guns and the bullets arced in a flaming parabola of primeval notions of fate down on Douglas and Gloria. Gloria's head got completely shot off. Douglas got shot in his body and fell over. The drug dealers squealed away like Death's own parade.

Mathilda knelt over Douglas. "Oh no Douglas! Why! WHY! I thought you lived so ethically!"

With his dying breath Douglas went "So did I, Matty, so did I. But it's like you get into this kind of head place where you think if you are moral in your good water opinions then that's moral enough and you don't think about all the bad things. But Matty I have now thought of all the bad things and let me tell you I feel pretty sad about it. And now here I am dying, my blood arcing into our front yard like the bad water of our corporate money mills. And my eyes can't see you anymore. It's all light and rainbows, and oh! My hearing! My hearing is going too! I suppose I am dying, Matty, because all I now hear is the forgotten song of our drifting tomorrows..."

THE END

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