Thursday, February 19, 2004

Cat on a Hot Tin House

What follows is an outline for a short story. It is pure fiction.

My friend on the cellphone is telling me that I am living in the middle of a novel.

"What makes you say that?" I ask while perched atop a house of ill repute.

A cathouse usually has an attic entrance hidden from ordinary view.

I am up in this attic. There are mirrors and surveillance cameras here as well as a goodly supply of Jack Daniels and at least one case of designer beer. There are also traces of a white powdery substance on the plywood floor, where a small peephole shines a laser-like beam on my forehead. If I chose to, I could peer down through the peephole at the goings-on downstairs, but this would stretch even my Newfoundland-sized limits.

Well, maybe one peep downstairs.

The downstairs setting is very much out of a Turgenev short story, the gorgeous blonde with artistic aspirations, a coterie of fallen professionals, among them an executive of the now defunct CIDA moneywell for just about any Non Government Organization; a musician who once played with Gordon Lightfoot, an unpublished poet with red suspenders, and one more fool wearing a toga and laurels.

The girl, though no longer a child, but looking for all the world like Shirley Temple in Wee Willie Winkie, right down to the short kilt, has completely captivated the men. She'd been doing this since the age of two because she was always the spit image of Shirley Temple, even echoes of Drew Barrymore in ET. When does the French Maid come in?

The cellphone rings again.

"Get out of there you damn fool," the friend is warning. I just saw an unmarked cop car heading your way.

My friend needs to get out more. He had parked his car in a small industrial plaza just yards ahead of the house of ill repute. He would follow me no farther. Too
many bikers whizzing this way and that. And cop cars.

"I'll hang tight," I say. "Where is there to go?"

I had originally ended up in the attic because a whorehouse has all kinds of doors leading in, but none leading out. I had been carrying on a private dalliance with the Shirley Temple when all of a sudden, there had been this crowd at the door.

Scoot," she had told me, but there was no place to scoot save bounding over the kitchen counter, lifting the trap door and hiding in a place reserved for, I suppose Peeping Tom and other Hip Sing adventurers.

Presently in walks the town's chief of police, not regional police, but local constabulary.

He greets everybody, all of them nervously standing up, picks up and examines a small vase or two on the end-tables around a C-shaped chesterfield, replaces the vases, one a loving cup, and smiles.

Presently, the girl goes into an adjoining bedroom, comes back with a package, which she hands to the chief of police.

He seems to almost click his heels, bows and presently he tries to go out to front door. No good. It is rigged. He does an about turn, raising incoherent grunts and "aaarghs" from the obviously doped guests, and he is gone.

Life lays down strange path for men to tread upon in the dark.

Did I get this from the Talmud?

Or is it just something that struck me, high up there in the attic

I wait for Eldonza to finish her set piece.

Malagena Sale Rosa. Girl of the Red Room. Cervantes probably sang like this in his head, probably Flamenco.

And Sancho Panza out there in the parking lot.