Chapter 1: MIND PUPPETS

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 637
Comments: 1

PRELUDE

Aristotle stood with outstretched arms and wept loud and primal. 

 

Only the ocean breakers cascading against the frozen remains of jagged volcanic stone could cry out as loud.  He stood high above the roar on a shelf of rock jutting out above the rage like a tongue of relentless defiance against the elements that reached up to drown and then erode even this outcrop of resistance.  Below, washing forward and back with the tide were the crumbled remains of nature’s battle lost.  Where he stood, all was safe—for the time being.

 

To his right and left stood metal stands holding reflector boards.  The sun was about to set, casting crossed swords of golden light across his naked body. It was as he wished it; a final exposure for a being now covered with the salty mist of nature’s preservative and nature’s destroyer.

 

Before him on titanium legs, the shutter of his digital camera continued opening and closing to its pre-set pattern, capturing forever the last chapter of a life he had chosen to leave behind.

 

His face was that of a young man turned old and frail from the experiences that had driven him to this spot, this moment in time, this completion.  He opened his eyes and peered about him as tears merged with nature’s cleansing.  Photos of a less than proud past rolled before him.  Images, he thought, of truth and imagination are out there for me; waiting for my camera, my easel, waiting to be captured, to be layered by my paintbrush, to be consumed, retched, and reborn by my eyes, my voice.

 

He arched his back to the sky, perhaps imploring the infinite to speak to him, comfort him, relieve him of the past.  No such message came. 

 

The only shroud of comfort came by way of cooling shadows from the wings of a raven soaring in frozen animation above the breaker’s updraft.  He opened his eyes.

The anguish in his face relaxed.

The raven blinked.

It was time.

 

Chapter 1

“Hey, who’s doin’ who, huh?  Can’t even get a good ‘over-the-fence’ look anymore, ‘cept here,” whispered the little man in the Elvis T-shirt known to his customers as Lenny the Elvis Freak.  The woman surreptitiously smiled, nodded and paid for her “under the counter” bit of gossip.

Corner newsstands carried all the usual printed material, but if a New Yorker wanted the latest skuzzy sheet, they went to Lenny’s newsstand on 53rd and 6th.  He prided himself in being faster than fiber optics when it came to downloading the latest “underground” celeb pics and gossip info, blogging it, then printing out hard copies for his “special” customers.  Housewives were from as far away as Staten Island.  Their weekly excursion to a fashionable Manhattan manicure/pedicure emporium only offered limited gossip.  But, they knew Lenny and his one-stop shopping booth would fill in the rest.

It wasn’t unusual for professionals like the dapper Harrison to get inside info from the little data-base-man as well.  Lenny often had the stuff no mainstream publisher like Harrison would dare publish. 

But today, the CEO could offer a tip to him.  “Try next week’s issue of The Inquirer, page twenty-three.  They’ve started a new section called ‘Nostalgia.’  They’ve got the Kennedy compound, circa ‘90 featured and there’s lots of ‘over-the-fence.’

“No shit.”

“No shit,” echoed Harrison as he picked up his Times, Lenny’s hard copy, and continued the habitual walk from his apartment, past the park to the Profile East Side offices.  As he came up on MOMA, he paused at the banner hanging with the announcement of a new exhibition.  “The Cannibalization Period of Hannah Höch, (1889-1978)” Above the text was a reproduction of one of her famous photomontages “Beauty II” in which the head of a fashion model has been replaced by a Peruvian mask. 

Harrison made an uncharacteristic stop at the museum that morning and by 3:30 that afternoon was addressing his staff with what several thought was a mild nervous breakdown.  He was far from breakdown, however.

“That’s it then.  It only took me 12 minutes to restructure the magazine.  How long will it take you?  Walton?”

Seated at the far end of the gathering that surrounded the conference table was Walton, the magazine’s art director.  “You sure that’s what you want to do?”

“I asked you how long it would take,” repeated Harrison in a drone like tone.

“The cover, assuming you have what you want to use, is no big deal.  The paper change on the inside, mixing the different qualities seamlessly, that’s another animal.”

“Maybe we could emboss the texture easier, Harry,” said Tony, Harrison’s Print Manager.  “At least for the first issue.  Three weeks is around the corner.”

Harrison gathered his files and walked toward the door.  Gesturing toward the wall where several of Ari’s computerized photos were pinned, he nodded.  “I’ll leave that to you Tony.  These repos are quick and dirty.  Let’s see some chroma processed prints tomorrow.”  As he opened the door, he turned back to the room of raised eyebrows and pale faces.  “I own enough Aristotle pieces to make a dozen issues.  Certainly, you can pick one to try out this madman’s crapshoot.  Good day.”  He closed the door quietly, leaving the staff in hushed silence.

Tomita, the fresh- out-of-college trainee, nervously smiled and humbly asked, “Does he think Aristotle is a madman?”

Walton rose and walked to the door.  “Some questions are better left un-asked, my dear.  Tony, in my office in ten?”

Tony followed.  “Just time enough to check my savings account.  This could be the quickest demise in publishing history if it doesn’t work.”

As the others gathered their papers and files, Tomita stepped to the wall and began removing the reprints.  “These images are strange.  Sports, politics, Hollywood.  He’s shot them all, hasn’t he?  This one of Samantha is strange… very strange.”

Helen Carter, head copywriter for the Profile paused at the wall.  “Not nearly as strange as Samantha herself.”

Tomita took down a work of paint swirls interfacing with textures of clay and stone. “This looks like a multiple headed serpent exploding up from Shubert Alley.”

Helen smiled.  “Yes, it does.”

***

A raven sat atop an ocean-weathered fencepost and watched.  In the distance, a glimmering body of white traveled closer and closer through the road’s undulating waves of heat.

 

The raven blinked.

 

The driver’s dark glasses reflected a seemingly endless road.  He tried to cope with the talk and mixed laughter coming from the passenger side, but he was uneasy—for another reason.The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was always unpredictable and gripping the wheel with numb fingers was common after all these years—especially on a long drive.  Still, he wasn’t going to let on that his hand was asleep—both hands, actually.  He knew Sam didn’t want to be reminded that there was anything less than “Prime Grade A” sitting next to her.  After all, this was their honeymoon and she was fond of telling him he was vintage quality.

He glanced in the rear-view mirror to remind himself he was still trim, fun-loving and tanned thanks to the California sun and the open roof of his restored Bentley.  However, he was with this one affliction that bugged her.  Right now though, he wasn’t sure it was the driving or the tension residing in his third vertebrate that was numbing his hands and beginning to make him irritable.  The “bow string” as his friends called it had a habit of popping up when he least needed it.  This usually occurred when his conscious mind said “whoopee” and his “sub-other”¾as he preferred to call it in deference to Freud¾had different plans.  So, damn it, am I going to be tense?  Not today.

 

“Hell no,” he uttered out loud giving rise to a momentary pause in Sam’s laughing, a pathological pattern of expression she chose to use while discoursing on boredom.  Boredom and its eradication from the face of the earth was a favorite subject of Sam’s.

 

The glittering opulence cruised past the fence post.  The raven blinked.

 

That is how Max Quinlan, early retired psychiatrist and now eminent stage and screen director, began that April day driving his white classic ’57 Bentley along the desolate Mexican coast.  His wife of only twenty-four hours liked to talk.  Sam, Samantha Turner to her public, liked to talk because, well, talking kept the “boredom” away and besides, talking was the way of life for this thirty-year-old Broadway actress.  When she wasn’t talking, she was usually laughing.  She loved to laugh.  She could laugh while reading the stock reports or the obituary pages, but today…

He grabbed a quick glance of her.  Today, she was laughing about, damn, what is she laughing about? Reading her was harder now.  Several years earlier, when she was a beginning student of acting with somewhat pedestrian neurosis, it was easy for him to figure her out, but now—

 

The desert up-drafts were tempting. The raven took flight as the car passed the fence post with the “whoosh” that is reserved for only the chosen few automobiles that can afford to be that quiet.

 

“You haven’t said a word for the longest time, Max.  Anything bothering you?”

“Bothering me?  No.  Just listening to you.  Finding it very pleasant listening to you, Sam.”

As she took out a cigarette with an all-knowing smile, “You can’t act worth a damn, Max.” She leaned across and kissed him long and hard and then pulled away, again revealing her all-knowing smile.  She pushed in the cigarette lighter and checked her lipstick in the vanity mirror.  “But you are the most handsome man I know and equipped with some extraordinary lips.”  The lighter popped out and as she lifted it to her cigarette, her voice took on a quality that was familiar to Max—the soft quality of ownership—the quality that made any stage in the world, hers.  “When this honeymoon business is over, I want you to get that carpal business taken care of, you hear?” 

She reached across and gently patted his hand on the wheel.  Max knew this was the kind of moment that she was accustomed to; the kind of moment she used to control her audience so well with; the kind of rhetorical question that told the listener to stay silent.

 

The Raven hovered above, the heated air supporting his motionless wings.  The wings suddenly curved and headed south, leaving the glimmering white machine in a rather messy wake.

***

Alvero Gonzales’s family, Mama, children and Alvero, watched from their old porch swing as the Bentley burst from the road and into their gas station.

“Goddamn lousy bird,” grumbled Max as he brought the classic to a dusty halt and jumped out. 

His soiled white silk shirt and pants carried the beginnings of a Pollock creation thought Sam as she giggled and climbed out of the car, revealing her own all-white outfit—spotless.  “Bit of bad luck, Max.”

“Fucking bird,” he muttered under his breath as he pulled some paper towels from the dispenser and began the clean-up.

Alvero walked up to the couple smiling a hustler’s greeting.

“Senor, Senorita, Alvero at your service.”

Sam turned to Alvero.  “Lady’s room?”

He pointed behind him as he took out a greasy rag to wipe the Raven’s calling card off the windshield.

Max looked up just in time.  “Don’t smear that shit with your….”

“Such language, Max.  Come, let’s get you cleaned up,” said Sam as she motioned him to follow.

“You taking him in there, Senorita?”

Sam gave him a look.  “He’s really a Senorita with a problem.”

Alvero looked at his wife and children as they stopped rocking.

“I mean it, Senor.” said Max as he popped the trunk.  “Don’t rub that around my windshield.”  He leaned in, unzipped his garment bag and pulled out another outfit.  Alvero looked to his wife who gestured toward the windshield wash bucket.

As Max continued cursing and walked toward the ladies’ room with new clothes over his arm, Alvero lifted the bucket and washed the droppings off the windshield onto the hood and fenders.

Mama shook her head. 

The children stared.

The Raven gazed from a rock across the road.

Max missed the show completely.


Submitted: November 15, 2006

© Copyright 2021 Odin Roark. All rights reserved.

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lovers of the night

I loved it! Please read mine as well, Haven Sanctuary and Fire of a Demon's heart.

Sun, January 25th, 2009 10:34pm

Author
Reply

My apologies for not responding sooner. I just plain forgot to check messages. Thank you for reading.

Thu, February 23rd, 2012 9:56am

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