Notes from the Ergonomic Desks of the Secretaries to McFate:
MacDoom, O’Destiny, and Fitzwyrd
With Assistance from
Under the Direction of
Danielle R. Crawv
Unsolicited and Unlicensed Legal Counsel by
…Mr. Humbert? He’s not responsive.
Prepare the syringe. Mr. Humbert?
Mr. Humbert, we’re here to help you.
Mr. Humbert, this won’t hurt, not even a teensy bit. You’ll feel a momentary sting, and then it will be better. Everything will be all better.
Will we need these, Doctor?
Have the orderly hold them. We may need them if this fails.
Aubrey Beardsley College for the Souls of the Dead
Class of ’55
“Eternally together, never to part.”
With gratitude to Dante Petrarch Doré for the establishment of the new scholarship.
We’re not seated according to age, for time makes no distinctions. We’re not seated according to virtue, for good and evil each have their part in life, and the same end comes for all.
Alfred Appel, Jr.
John Ray, Jr., PhD
Clarence Choate Clark, Esquire
The McCoo Family
The McWhorter Family
The Miranda Twins
Draft of a Letter from Dolores to Humbert
I want you to
Everything is so
That was the first
I’ll never be able to
What I want to know is
It’s over. I’ve already
It will soon be over. I’m going to
This will never be over for me, for us. You
I apologize. Please forgive
I deserve an apolo
When I’m old enough we’ll
When I’m old enough I’ll
I can’t bear to live another day knowing that
I won’t live
I considered sui
Do you know what you
I don’t know how to begin this letter.
All the Best,
“Hey, all you sockhoppers and beboppers! We have a whole night of hits to spin, so you kids keep on dancing and loving each other. This next one is a special request from Dolores in Ramsdale. It’s the one making all the girls faint and the guys envious—‘The Love You Gave Me Tore Me Up Inside (And Nothing Will Ever Be the Same).’ Grab your gal and get ready for this slow, romantic number.”
[Music plays, then ends.]
“Get your gal some punch and get ready for this uptempo number all the kids from Milwaukee to Des Moines can’t get enough of. It’s another special request, this one from a guy who says he’s ‘a very affectionate father,’ and that he wants his daughter to love him again. I think we all know how tough it is when your girl hurts you, and nobody knows like the dads out there. This is everyone’s favorite—‘Come on, Honey, Be Daddy’s Girl Again.’”
[Fast music plays, then ends.]
“I’m in the studio, but I can hear you kids burning up the floor out there. Don’t stop now because or next one is ‘Let’s You and Me Go Across the Country (With Other People).’ Go, cat, go!”
[Frenetic music plays, then ends.]
“The dancing hour is just about to become the witching hour when all you kids have to get home to Mom and Dad. Let’s put on another romantic number and press each other close before curfew. This one’s a favorite from last summer, and I just know all you kids will remember how much fun it was then. It’s called ‘Everyone Loves My New Wife.’”
[Slow music plays, then ends.]
“I know all you lovebirds out there want to keep your dates close for another number, so let’s take a slow turn under the lights and remember our first dates with ‘I Went Mad When I Met You.’”
[Slow music plays, then ends.]
“We have another request, this one from a fella who says he’s ‘a sentimental type in the old European style.’ I bet you kids didn’t think poetry would be fun on date night, but it is when it’s a little tune by the name of ‘My Girl and Me (And Our Love by the Sea).’ Keep your date close and let the poetry be the soundtrack of your special love.”
[More slow music plays, then ends.]
“It’s that time of night, guys and gals. We have time for one more number. All you wallflowers looking at your shoes—this is your chance. Ask one of those nice young ladies who have been lonesome all evening, standing together by the punch bowl, just waiting for the right guy to ask them to dance. They’ll remember you forever, and when they do, they’ll think of this last number, everyone’s new favorite—‘I’m Counting Down the Days (Until You Become a Woman).’”
[Music plays, then ends.]
“All right, lovebugs, the Saturday dance marathon is over for this week. Tune in next week to hear more of the hits you know and your new favorites. This is station KRZY, where we’re just crazy about music and put the craziest DJs on the air to keep you kids entertained. Good night, sweet dreams, and don’t forget Rockin’ Ricky’s early morning show tomorrow on the only station in town, KRZY.”
[Signal goes dead.]
I think he’s coming around.
Watch those dosages. If he pulls through this, this case study is going to be a once-in-a-career phenomenon.
Mr. Humbert, can you hear us?
He seems to be slipping.
Go easy on those. Too much and the whole experiment is shot, and we have to find a new subject. Guys like this aren’t easy to come by.
Mr. Humbert, can you tell us the last thing you remember?
Keep to the script. If you ask the questions in the wrong order, there’s no point.
It doesn’t look good.
And good riddance. Have you seen his case history?
Not in here. We don’t discuss anything off the script except the procedures.
It certainly will not.
The Best American Nabokov Knock-Offs 2022
Edited by Wallace Vndirer
Selected by Ral W.L Vidé-Rance
This year’s submissions addressed multiple different important themes important to discuss at this important moment, when so many important changes are occurring in important ways. Writers have turned their keyboards and their minds to important things that are important to discuss, for reasons much too important to fit into this foreword, itself an important contribution to this moment’s important conversations.
For the triptych included here, we settled on three important, inventive, and important takes on a very important scene in what is Nabokov’s most problematically important, and most importantly problematic, work—Lolita.
Humbert’s Lap Scene
It was a Sunday and I had just come out to the banister on the second floor. Some shaving cream was still on my ear. I wiped it off with my sleeve. Before shaving, I had taken a long shower. It was long because after washing my hairy back and stomach, I had fired off a couple rounds. It took a lot of cranking to get there, but I got there. Any time I shot a load, it burned. It had been that way a long time. At first it had irritated me, then it got to be so that the burning sensation was a welcome friend. I had probably picked up the burning, as well as some other things, in Paris years before.
Lola was downstairs on the couch. Her mother, my landlady, was out at church or something. I had been thinking on how to turn my landlady into my shackjob so as to save a bit of money and get a better shot at Lola. She was a young thing, but I could tell she wanted it. They always do. Her mother certainly did. A man couldn’t get any peace with a woman like that always going for his crotch.
I went down and sat on the couch. It was a nice couch and a good one. It felt good to sit. There were Mexican things around and a partially eaten apple on the table. There was also an untouched one. Lola was singing something. I couldn’t carry a tune any farther than the bathroom, but I joined in, making it up as I went. Cars and bars and barmen and stars and whatnot—how hard could it be?
We kept going. Things were going nicely. She kept going and I kept going and eventually she plopped her legs on my lap. The thing under my shorts noticed. I shifted around to arrange it to press up against her legs with only the silk of my pajamas and my shorts between us. She kept going. I rustled around, moving against her. She didn’t notice at all. I was grinding away like a dog and she kept singing that nonsense ditty.
Things were coming to a head in my shorts. I slowed up a bit. Lola was still diddling with that song. Just to keep up my end of things, I said a few words once in a while. The pressure was building. That old song of hers kept unspooling. I said a some more words as things peaked.
Then I came.
It burned, as it always did. Usually when I came, it was just a few drips. This time it just kept going. I thought my insides were going to dry out, there was so much sperm filling my shorts.
Eventually my dick went limp. There was a brief moment of stillness before the sticky, dripping feeling. I had been eating bad food and drinking heavily, and the sperm smelled something awful. Lola removed her legs and scrunched up her nose. We smiled at each other. The kid didn’t know a thing.
I beat it upstairs and took another shower to wash the sperm off myself. It took a while to get it out of all my dick hairs and the hairs behind my sack and between my legs. It was a real mess.
That’s when I decided to propose to the old broad. A bird in each hand and only one with bush. I think that’s how the saying goes.
Lola’s Lap Scene
Mama had gone to church and let me stay home. I was singing to myself, a little song I was making up.
I looked up and saw Mr. Humbert, our lodger standing at the banister and staring at me. Sometimes he looked handsome and dreamy, and sometimes he looked old and, I don’t know, creepy. He was somewhere between those this time. His jaw was moving, but he wasn’t saying anything. He had a lot of habits like this, things he did when he got out of bed or drove a car, when he thought nobody was watching.
Mr. Humbert came downstairs. Mama had told me not to sit with him unless Louise was around. What Mama didn’t find out wouldn’t hurt her.
He sat down next to me and started making fun of my song, so I corrected him. It got kind of annoying. He was being a pest. When I started to get up to leave, Mr. Humbert stood up partway, and I tripped. My legs landed in his lap. He kept them there.
I knew from watching movies that sometimes boys and girls fell in love like this. I knew that when a girl got married and became a woman, she was more beautiful than she had ever been because she had her boy to love her and they shared a room, like brother and sister but different. I wanted someone to look at me like that and make my face glow all over.
But something was different with Mr. Humbert. I could feel his private part. It seemed to be moving around like a horse’s thing, which Ginny had pointed out to me at camp the year before when we saw the horse’s thing come out and pee for a long time. It was kind of like that with Mr. Humbert, except he wasn’t a horse and he wasn’t Ginny either. His hand was pushing down on my legs and he was wiggling his bottom around in the seat. The way he was panting and squiggling made me think of the neighbor dog and how when it would go up to someone’s leg and rub against it really fast, people laughed or scolded us for looking. Mr. Humbert was kind of like the dog and kind of like the horse, but he wasn’t either and nobody was laughing.
I kept trying to sing my song, and he kept interrupting and distracting me. I didn’t know what to do. Mama had told me to be nice to grown-ups, and that Mr. Humbert might be my new Daddy if I continued to be a good girl. I didn’t know what she meant because I already had a Daddy, only he died and went to Heaven, where he was looking down on us and waiting for us to be together again. That’s what Mama said anyway. I knew Mr. Humbert didn’t really seem like a Daddy, mine or anybody else’s. I wasn’t sure why Mama wanted to replace our real Daddy with a new one. What if he got upset and stopped waiting for us? What if we never saw him again? What if he stopped taking care of Baby Donny in Heaven because he got upset? Baby Donny was a sickly and frail baby, Mama had said, so I knew someone in Heaven would have to be putting the ointment on his chest and giving him the medicines and changing his nappy since Mama and I were on Earth and Baby Donny wasn’t old enough to do those things for himself or have friends to do it for him.
Anyway, I didn’t always like listening to Mama, but I didn’t want to get in trouble. I decided then that what Mr. Humbert was doing must be what men who wanted to be replacement daddies did. If it was, I wanted a replacement daddy even less than I did before.
Eventually he stopped squirming. His pajama bottoms got kind of wet and smelled funny. It reminded me of some of the ingredients Mama had me mix when I helped make desserts, except Mr. Humbert had the ingredients under his bottoms and next to his private area. I don’t know why I felt sick to my stomach, but I did.
Mr. Humbert got up and smiled, so I smiled back. Mama had said that grownups like a girl who smiles a lot, even if she’s sad inside. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to feel ok outside and inside. A minute later I heard Mr. Humbert upstairs taking a shower, even though he had showered right before coming down. I guess he didn’t feel too good either.
The Couch’s Lap Scene
Creak, creak, creak.
Removal of pressure.
This Year’s Contributors
Hank Humkowski is the well-endowed Hank Chinaski Professor of Charles Bukowski Studies at the University of Chicago. His other works include Amanuensis, The Day the Streets Went Barking Mad, Defenestration Instructions for the Uninitiated, The Empty Feeling When It’s All Over, Last Words Screamed by a Man Condemned, Pounding at the Keys to Live Another Day, Fists Like Empty Cans, Sometimes You’re Here Because You Have Nowhere Else to Go, Nothing Like It, Every Day is the Last Day, Truants from Life, and Absence of Purpose in the Face of the Mad Crowd. He hates teaching and he never advises theses, except that they be burned or used as beer coasters. He doesn’t believe in nihilism. The story selected for this volume was first written on the sides of a box he found in a pile of garbage.
Wendy Alice is a triple Aries. She likes playing with her friends, but is also happy playing pretend alone in her room. She doesn’t understand why boys try so hard to not grow up. She often thinks about the time her mom picked her up and let her touch her baby brother’s soft infant hair, and how he didn’t blink or wake up or cry or anything.
A. Couch is a recently reupholstered piece of furniture. It likes cool, dry interiors, home décor catalogs, and tastefully oriented coffee tables. It has never once stood up for anything, literally or figuratively. It is currently working on a collection of short stories about relaxing indoors called Angles of Repose and a nonfiction account of the history of unintended afternoon naps called Take it Lying Down. It would like to express gratitude for the homeowners’ diligent cleaning and to the manufacturer for a generous warranty.
Mr. Humbert, you must make a journey, and I am to assist you.
Are you listening, Mr. Humbert?
Mr. Humbert, the time for going forth has come.
In the Print Shop
Interior. Evening, the fall of day. A print shop somewhere in a country very much like America, sometime in the middle of a decade long past. Two PRINTING APPRENTICES in smocks are at work.
“Get a load of this guy. He wants us to fill the page with the girl’s name.”
“You dope. That’s not even her name.”
“Sure it is. He calls her that. The book has it on the front. It’s not a guy’s name, is it?”
“No, it is not. It is not a guy’s name. Not no guy I ever want to meet.”
“Then it must be the girl’s name.”
“I must disagree with your reasoning, mac. It is unsound.”
“My reasoning? He wrote—right there on the page I am presently shaking under your hairy nose—for us to print her name enough to fill the page. Who does this guy think he is?”
“The author. He thinks he’s the author.”
“But he ain’t.”
“What do you mean he’s no author? We’re setting the type for his book, ain’t we? We’re here in the printshop with our smocks, ain’t we? We been working together—"
“Nearly twenty years. Almost thirty, even.”
“If he ain’t the author, then explain to me how it is we have this typescript here.”
“We have the typescript, sure. We got that and the instructions.”
“Yeah, his and the real ones.”
“What do you mean real ones? His instructions ain’t real? They’re right there. Are you blind?”
“I most certainly am not.”
“You’re talking like it.”
“I can see it fine. I can see fine. I can read good, too.”
“Then what’s your problem?”
“I’m saying that his instructions is part of the book, that we don’t have to follow them.”
“Now wait just a minute. What do you mean we don’t have to follow instructions?”
“They’re not instructions for us. They’re a literary device.”
“A literary device, huh? What, like somebody could put some literature in his car to replace the carburetor? Like some lady could use a book to vacuum a living room and den of the little crumbs what are hard to get with a dustpan?”
“Not that kind of device, mac. It’s a device what operates upon the mind through the medium of words. It does things to you, you know?”
“I most certainly do not know whereof you speak. I go to my doctor once a year and we nod at each other—don’t nobody operate on my head nor on my other parts with medium words or big ones or little ones or anything else. I’m a regular American. Is this some kind of commie thing? Are you talking commie talk?”
“It ain’t commie talk. I’m just trying to explain to you how a book works.”
“Books don’t work. How can a book work? A book ain’t got a union or a boss or nothing. A book sits there. It don’t even have hands like our simian forebears or claws like those big cranes you see working on the buildings downtown. A book sits on a shelf or a coffee table or in some college library, you know?”
“I do know, mac. I do know.”
“So what do you mean about what a book does to a guy?”
“I mean it gets inside your head. It makes you think and feel things, you know?”
“I don’t know what you do in this print shop after I clock out, but I don’t like the sound of things getting into me, not one bit.”
“It’s a figure of speech, mac. It’s metaphoric.”
“It’s meant-a-for what? That’s what I’m trying to find out, and you keep talking in circles.”
“What you just did there, that there was metaphor talk.”
“I am not comprehending you, not at all. Talk is meant-a-for telling a guy what to do or telling your lady you want her to pack your sack lunch. What’s a book-device meant-a-for?”
“It’s meant for itself. Its existence is its own justification, you know?”
“I am not following you, my friend, not at all. A book is meant for a book? How can one book read another? A book ain’t got eyeglasses, and it ain’t got a nose on which to rest them, nor eyes on either side of the nose for visibilizing things.”
“No, mac, that ain’t it at all. A book don’t read other books. It don’t work in any kind of usual sense with timecards and clocks and watercoolers and a lady what answers the phones down in the lobby. Its purpose—the book’s, that is—is to exist, its existence is its purpose.”
“That—So what you’re saying—I mean that—"
“What you’re saying is—I guess that—"
“I’m here, mac. I’m listening. We’ll get through this, mac.”
“Well, knowing about the book-devices and whatchama-forits and all that—So you’re saying…”
“Please continue, mac.”
“So you’re saying we don’t have to fill the page with this girl’s name?”
“Sure, mac. And that’s how we’ll do it.”
Camera pulls back slowly. Sounds of the presses rolling. Sounds of the city outside. Camera pulls back until outside the building, which is dark except for the window of the print shop, high up. Sounds of the city recede. Other buildings crowd the publishing building. Some windows are illuminated. Camera continues to pull back. Sounds diminish in volume and clarity, becoming one nebulous sound. Camera continues pulling back. Night in this nation, the one like America. The long-gone decade is near its end. Change is afoot.
The Hummers: The Complete Ramsdale Records Recordings (1947-1952)
Good Golly, Miss Dolly
Stay Young and Beautiful (If You Want to Be Loved)
Let's Go Away (To that Imaginary Isle)
Brand New Roller Skates
Ice Cream Sundaes on Saturdays
A Little Purple Pill with Dreams Inside
Driving All Over with Nowhere to Go
Who's That Man in the Red Convertible?
My Life, My Light, My Soul, My Love
Widworth Prison Blues
I Done Lost My Baby
Terminal Pregnancy Talkin' Blues
Broke Down by the Side of the Road
Dead Mama Blues
Me and My Baby (Met in a Diner)
Suitcase Full of Goodies
Our Little Secret
My Old Lady's Not So Old
Little Roadside Loveshacks
In the Mushroom Room
Seeing Doubles Everywhere
My Girl Got Sad at Her Own Party
Other Men Call You Sweetheart
My Old Man is My Old Man
A Little Ranch in the Country
Do Re Mi in My Stag Films
On the Street Where We Lived
I'm About Ready to Roll Over and Die
The Story of My Life
Crying in Your Arms
Grey Star at Night
The Case of the Missing Dolly
I had been out of the fight racket for a couple years when I got the call. It wasn’t my first case, of course, but it was the first of its kind that I ever come across. After leaving the ring for good with a mashed up nose, a woozy head, and not much dough to show for it, I had gotten into the private dick business. A lot of it was roughing up cheating husbands or tracking down blonde heiresses and slapping a bit of sense into them. The jobs were easy. I couldn’t swing it in the welterweights, but out on the streets with a set of dusters on my knuckles and a few wisecracks, I could just about get every problem under control. The money wasn’t much, but it wasn’t too hard on the head and I still wanted to use my mitts. It was good to sock a guy around. It was good to once in a while end up in a seedy hotel with a boozed up heiress, both of us there on her daddy’s dime. Not everything made it into my reports.
It was a living.
It weren’t boxing, but it weren’t bad either. It kept the belly and the flask full, and it kept my bookies in business. It weren’t where I wanted to be at this age, but who ever gets there? Nobody I guess.
It was a Sunday. I remember that. The call came in the morning. My head was still smarting from the bad scotch the previous night, a night that had lasted long enough to become that morning. The dame had left some of her articles in the office. As the phone rang, I put them in a drawer so the other dame wouldn’t see them that evening. Clients can get jealous of each other. That drawer was about full. I didn’t have any drawers. left Many dames of my acquaintance seemed to have the very same problem.
I picked up the phone.
The guy talked like I’d never heard before. He sounded like an English teacher or one of those phony tutors that are sometimes getting cozy with rich guys’ daughters. I knew the type. They sounded smart to anyone who didn’t know how to listen. They learned slow, but a good sock to the gut straightened them out real quick. I knew the type all right.
“What’s that? You say your dolly is missing?”
This guy was turning out to be more of a pervert than I expected. I wasn’t above any job, but the perverts always paid more.
“I’m sorry. I can’t hear good. I got hearing problems from a cauliflower ear I got back in my amateur days. Run it by me again.”
I lit a cigarette. That feeling that my head was splitting in two got better. It was a gentle splitting, and that I could handle—at least until I got a lick of the hair of the dog.
“Dolorous? That ain’t my line, pal. Call a shrink.”
I started to wonder if this guy was a plant or something. Maybe the cops had put him on me. A private dick has to think faster than criminals and even faster than the law. Everybody’s out for blood, even dames. Maybe even dames most of all.
“Now you’re making sense. You want me to find your girlfriend, and her name is Dolly. Sure, I’ll take the case. Do you know who took her?”
I took a drag on the cigarette and listened to the guy. With guys like this, usually it’s them that drives the girlfriend away with beating her and making her get up to his perversions. They liked to think of themselves as saviors, as helping the helpless little girls. With a job like that, it was really three jobs: finding the poor kid, getting her back to her real parents, and working over the pervert. I knew a few places in town where a pervert could be left after his lesson and nobody would know who done it. There may not be good and evil, but there’s human filth, and taking out the trash once in a while keeps this world from getting all fouled up the way some would like it.
“Sure, I’ll take the case. I’ll find your Dolly and get her to safety. It’s going to cost you.”
I knew the guy had dough. Perverts like that always do. They got all that dough and nothing to do in life, so they get all twisted up inside and start getting ideas. And since they don’t have jobs or nothing, all they have is time and dough to act out their ideas. I’d seen it.
I named my retainer and hung up. My head was splitting again, and not so gently. There was a bottle on the desk. I took a pull. I took another. I took another, just to take the edge off the day. Days like that had a real fine edge that could cut right into a guy if he didn’t take the right precautions.
This case was going to be a real humdinger. I got out my rolodex and started making some calls. The pieces started coming together right away. This guy, Humberg was his name, had a record that made even me squeamish. He had a habit of skipping town when things started to get uncomfortable. Long spells in nuthouses, a few arrests with no charges filed, blank periods in his timeline, a dizzying travel itinerary, a couple wives and girlfriends jilted, some deaths that benefited him to a suspicious extent—this guy had the works.
Dolly wasn’t too hard to find either. This guy had told me she was his daughter, that she was nearly sixteen. Having come across some perverts before, I knew that meant she was not the former and a more than a few years shy of the latter. Dolly. Poor Dolly. Her real parents had died, her pop a while back not too long before the war ended, and her ma—well, her corpse was hardly cold when this guy had pulled another of his disappearing acts. He thought he was clever, and to some, maybe he was. Only thing about disappearing acts is that they don’t work too good when you know what to watch for. I knew.
I’d learned that in the fights. You watch a guy—how he weighs in, how he bluffs, how he hits his gloves together, how he climbs through the ropes. You watch enough guys and it gets so you can read a guy’s tells in a flash, even over the phone. This guy was as transparent as a light American beer. It don’t take much to see through some types. I been in the forces, in the fights, in the slam a couple times I don’t care to mention, and in odd jobs to get by. I been living and working among low-lifes as long as I can remember, and I haven’t yet seen a guy who’s totally straight. Everyone’s a bit crooked. It’s just a matter of deciding how much crooked you’re willing to tolerate before making a guy go down for the count the last time or giving him a bum tip that will send him upriver where he’ll wind up in a canvas bag by the time they make the first headcount.
It’s a rough world, and the best a guy can do is try to protect a kid long enough that she can fend for herself. This kid had the chips stacked against her. She’d ditched one pervert to end up with another.
I stayed on Humberg’s retainer for a couple years. He had given me some phony names and numbers, which I had never bothered to write down. This guy was as lousy as they come, and the only thing from him I could trust was the weekly check that never bounced. I kept two sets of files on the case: a bogus one for Humberg and a real one. It was more than one man should ever have to know about the world. I thought I was real tough, being a onetime pug and having seen some action in the forces before that. This was the kind of stuff that makes you think that, as hard as it is to know what the good thing is, there sure as hell are some pretty bad things. This other pervert, some writer or something, was the kind of scum that thrives in show biz. I’d seen scum before, and I’d cleaned some messes a few times for some rich types out west, but this girl was in a real jam. Hell of a jam. I kept on the case, feeding Humberg the baloney and keeping up with what was actually going on.
I knew what was happening with Dolly and this pervert who had her, but there was only so much I could do. These scum types had dough, and lots of it, enough that you couldn’t just go in and introduce them to the dusters. All that money kept them safe. The cops? They were in on it. Always are. I did what I could.
After a couple years of this, I had made some contacts that could help. There were some people on the inside who were going to help her get out.
If I did this one thing for Dolly, if I got her out of this mess and made things right for her, it would redeem my whole sorry life and the things I done.
End Part I
Buy next week’s issue for the exciting conclusion of “The Case of the Missing Dolly.”
Read closely to find the next clue in our home detective series!
Freddy Schiller’s Notes for His Farewell Extravaganza
The Enchanting Huntress Casino & Resort
Las Vegas, NV
Walk out while showband plays fanfare. Smile. Do the trademark pointing thing with both hands. Make the joke about nearly missing the carpool to the show. Act pleased with laughter. Do that waving thing to quiet audience down.
Talk about how much family means, how you everything to your mother and God, etc. Tear up a little. Pretend it’s unintentional. Turn around and get a handkerchief from the bandleader. Talk about how career in showbiz honors the memory of your mother, who’s watching in heaven—pour on the cornball stuff, but don’t overdo the showbiz Christianity thing (yes: God in heaven, being blessed, living in God’s glory, etc. no: blood of Christ, graphic stuff about crucifixion, conspiracy theories about secret cabal, Christ sex jokes, Jewish jokes, eternal damnation, etc.).
Introduce slideshow. A/V tech starts slideshow on cue phrase “My late beloved mother, Dolly Schiller.” Sit on stool off to the side, narrating. Watch cue terminal at foot of stage to read memories, express love of mother, can-do attitude about hardships in youth, etc. Dial down the God stuff here—strictly the bit about working way up, honoring mother’s dreams of stardom. End by dedicating forty-year run on The Strip to mother. Act touched by applause. Remember: heart is on left side, so use right hand when making “heartfelt” gesture.
Make joke about how much joy career has brought to self, to audience, and to numerous plastic surgeons. Do the pointing thing again. Cue band and Schillerettes. Do the smooth, minimal motion dancing along to numbers. Sing tunes from early Hummers days. Watch cue screen. Remember: do not put in profanities to make songs more “zippy”—stay with original sophomoric lyrics for which former agent receives all royalties. Smile. Keep smiling.
Cue cymbal crash with flourish. Talk about father Ricky Schiller, his blue-collar, everyman American ways. Remember: do not refer to father as “grease monkey” or “white trash”—bad for numbers, bad for marketing of planned comeback special. Emphasize father’s simple demeanor, his valued service to our great nation. Say something about supporting our troops, ask veterans in audience to stand, initiate applause, salute veterans. Remember: do not gag or pretend to gag when doing patriotic shtick—it works only if the shmucks think it is “honest”.
Do “improvised” bit with bandleader. Watch monitor behind bandstand for lines. Remember: look away from monitor once in a while. Also, don’t squint—this is a giveaway.
Go over to Schillerettes. Remember: no pinching bottoms—the chumps no longer find this “funny”. Have predetermined girls step up to microphone to talk about career, how great you are, plans for future, etc. Remember: do not talk to girls likely to go off script. Make joke about best showgirl lineup in Vegas putting out want ads for work. Show brief slideshow of girls doing routines in offices, used car lots, junkyards, college quads, etc. Smile. Act uncomprehending at applause. Ask audience if anyone wants to hire best chorus girls on Strip. Remember: do not make cracks about their weight, there not being any decent chorus girls anymore—these jokes have been out of routine since late 80s.
Remember: year is 2020 (play off as joke if not), your name is Freddy Schiller (according to contract and other legal documents), and you are grateful to wonderful fans for terrific career, yadda yadda yadda. Bid goodnight. Walk backstage waving. Come out for “spontaneous” standing ovations, go back, repeat until stage manager in back of house cues end of “spontaneous gratitude” bit. Bid final goodnight. Say, “God bless.” Remember: do not mumble anything irreverent until mic is taken off backstage—mugs can hear it.
Testimony of the Junkman’s Dog
Translated and Annotated by Andrew Vicerall
[I graciously thank you, gentlemen, for agreeing to hear my testimony today. It means a great deal to me, a humble junkyard specimen of that sort known to science as Canis familiaris, that men of learning such as yourselves should count me among your number. Before getting on to the topic of today’s inquest, I would like to make it known that I, too, am a man—dog, rather—of science.
You see, gentlemen, the occupation of being a junkyard dog was not my aim, but merely what McFate had in store for me. Yes, yes indeed. You see, dear sirs, I was bred and raised to be a show-dog, accustomed to only the finest of foods and the most regular and diligent of grooming by trained hands. When my sire and dam, Spot and Princess respectively, fell upon hard times, it was up to me to leave the comforts of the life I had theretofore known to earn our keep. My adoring parents would have done this themselves, of course, had they not been stricken nearly lame at that point by arthritis. Showing is a demanding occupation, my esteemed fellows. Most demanding indeed.]
[Ah, yes. I thank you immensely for reminding me of the task at hand. You see, in my line of work, one so rarely comes into contact with scholarly men that I find myself wanting to speak of everything under the sun. Gentlemen, I thank you. I thank you, gentlemen. For you, gentlemen, I am thankful. And I thank you again, gentlemen. Many thanks, gentlemen.]
[Pardon me. I do get carried away. We were going to speak of that unfortunate day, that most unfortunate day, when that darling woman—what was her name?—yes, indeed, Charlotte Haze—when that darling woman was struck down by an auto. Much too soon, gentlemen. In the prime of her life. Why, she had barely begun to live, being not even forty. I should say, for a female of your species that is not old at all, not at all old. We are all most sorry about that unfortunate incident, me most of all. I cannot tell you, gentlemen, how the heart in my breast filled to the utmost brim with sorrow for her untimely death. Many is the night, gentlemen, when I sleep most fitfully and my legs kick and I wake myself with a snort. Yes, gentlemen, men of the world, you are familiar with the signs of the troubling canine dreams. Let the adorable appearance of the domesticated members of our species lead you to think that such dreams are a trifle. They are not, gentlemen. They are no mere trifle, gentlemen, and I, an honorable dog, raised for much better than a simple menial occupation, have never ceased to be troubled by the dreams in which I relive the horror, the tremendous horror, of the death of Miss Haze, God rest her soul.]
[I beg your pardon, gentlemen. I most humbly beg your pardon. Where were we? Yes, of course. My cousin, a halfbreed mutt, who makes his living as a scrounger on Hunter Road in a town I don’t care to name. It is true what you have heard—he is mangy, he is dirty, he smells something abominable, and he digs holes under fences. He is—dare I use a coarse word in such estimable company—an unrepentant cur. These things are true, gentlemen. I ask you, scholars that you are, not to let this cloud your assessment of him. He is, you see, from the lower classes, and he did not benefit from the sort of cultivated upbringing that I did. You see, gentlemen, if we are to have a democracy, we must find a way to accept and—I daresay—raise up, at least politically, the downtrodden among us. And this is why, my most esteemed gentlemen, that I hereby put before you this request on behalf of my most unfortunate cousin, who is in great need.]
[Absolutely, good sirs. Most definitely, patient and wise gentlemen. Having now given a detailed account of the accidental, yet unpreventable death of—]
[Dear me, gentlemen. I stand corrected. I humbly beg your pardon, which, as cosmopolitan men, men of the world, men of science and learning, I am certain you will grant me, a humble dog of noble mien and breeding. I shall resume, gentlemen, with an amusing anecdote about an old college chum of mine—we were on the rowing team together our freshman year—a college chum of mine who now works and lodges with a delightful family that goes by the name Holmes, consisting of the widow Shirley and her dear son Charlie boy. This old chum—quite the rascal, really, always the one to get our fellows to leave their fetching and sitting exercises for a good old fashioned raid upon the females’ dormitory—this old chum has a habit of getting himself into the most comical of situations due to his penchant for biting the socks of young girls whilst they use the camp telephone to talk to Mother and Father. My chum—why, I can hardly tell the story for all the laughter bubbling out of me—this chum gets up to the most inventive sorts of mischief. Once, when his favorite camp girl—what was her name? Molly O’Hare, or some such homely Irish appellation—was telephoned by her—]
[I say, good gentlemen, I seem to have wandered from the course again. Bad boy, bad boy! I can assure you that I shall give myself a most thorough thrashing as soon as I return to the junk home. Now, now—it is the least I can do after all the trouble that I’ve caused. I beg your permission, most understanding colleagues—may I call you my colleagues? I do think of us all as engaged in the furthering of science and learning in our great nation—my exceedingly understanding colleagues. What was I about? Indeed. Splendid. Now, take the case of a distant cousin, a pampered fellow living with old Miss Lester in Beardsley. His case is illustrative of—what was it? Something. Forgive me, gentlemen. I seem to have mixed up my notes. Permit me a moment to collect my papers and don my other spectacles, which are the far superior eyepieces where testimony under oath is concerned.]
[Not so fast, gentlemen! Not so fast. Gentlemen, I implore you to think of the case of the terrier and his red ball. What’s that? I think not, I think not, my good man. Now, what science has established in the matter of terriers and balls of a red hue should not be disregarded. Who are we, dear gentlemen, to ignore the findings of science? Who are we to rely upon our faulty faculties? What are our imperfect judgments when measured against that supreme rational enterprise, continually accumulating the findings of men—and of dogs—which shall someday explain the workings of every facet of the universe and solve all of civilized man’s problems? Who are we, indeed.]
[All of this, dear sirs, leads me to the shaggy dog and his story. Yes, the veritable shaggy dog story. Ah! I have located my invaluable notes from which I will now commence to read. Ahem. Ahem! Herm. Excuse me, sirs, but these many years of junkyard work have been hard on my speaking voice, which was once renowned for its stentorian tones, which those gentlemen of a certain age will remember from a certain television program from that era. Here, at last, we have reached the shaggy dog story, which I shall now read to you, from the beginning to the end, without a stop or a digression, for this shaggy dog story has already everything a man of science needs to understand the topic under consideration today. Ahem. “The shaggy dog is—]
[Quite right, my good man, quite right. We shall adjourn for recess and pick up the shaggy dog story after our repast. Can any of you fine chaps recommend any nearby fire hydrants? Or perhaps some stumps? Anything will do, really, only you see there are some things to which even a junkman’s dog would deign stoop and among these, gentlemen, are the following…]
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Andrew Vicerall is an expert in canine semiotics and post-mammalian sign theory. His paper “Who Let the Dogs Out?: The Use and Value of the Unanswerable Question in Postmodern Critical Canine Theory Studies” won him a bone and a rub behind the ears. He is currently on sabbatical in the suburbs of the Middle West, where he chases cars, barks at the mailman, and pees on things that he is unable to hump.
 [Note from The Editor: the students here reappropriate and reconfigure the lines at the opening of Isaac Babel’s “The King.” For more on recent Babel scholarship, see my book The Tower that Never Falls: Isaac Babel’s Posthumous Life and Legacy in Anglophone Literature.]