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Table of Contents

Chapter Twenty-One

Kodiac’s voice on the machine says this to me:

“It was a pleasure to see you sitting in the audience of the Federrakt. A new face in the audience always inspires me, because I am so very serious about the message I am putting out, and to reach the whole world is my objective! I am laughing to show you that when I say this, I am both serious and not serious at all. You are a writer, Peace, and therefore aware that ideas are in the very atmosphere we breathe, floating in the air like pollen, okay? These ideas come from everywhere, from the small print on the products we buy, the small print on the Coke can, for example, or on the back of the Tampon box, in the newspaper we read, on the television, through the conversation we overhear on subways and in elevators … we breathe these ideas in and embrace them, I am afraid, without applying the critical faculties that would reveal 90 percent of the ideas we are exposed to for what they are: nonsense. What I have to say, I like to believe, belongs to the other 10 percent, yeah? Is Kodiac fooling himself? An old man, intoxicated by his own vision of the future, surrounded by all that youthful energy? Do you think this, Datcher?

But I was surprised to see you. You appeared from nowhere, whish, boom, bam, lowered from a cloud, and I did not expect it. I apologize for the way the night ended, but what can I expect from fearful representatives of a status quo that has everything to gain by suppressing dissenting viewpoints? And they say this is America! Datcher, you looked bereft, and please, let me be specific, not so very healthy. You are the opposite of Kodiac, thin and getting thinner by the moment. Your relationship to food is suspect. This is not so very good. The brain requires food to produce, there is no shortcut or substitute for this … and sleep, sleep, too, is needed, if you go long enough without it, you begin to dream with your eyes open. Reassurance is what you need, on two fronts: your project for Flowology Publishing, and Sage. Just listen, okay? Here is someone you are wanting to speak with.”

Sage’s voice on the machine says:

“First off, I’m fine, I’m okay. Pissed off, of course, under the circumstances, but sometimes you have to go with the flow. You know I’m capable of taking care of myself, so don’t worry about that. More than anything, it’s like I’m in the middle of a Laurel and Hardy escapade. They spend all their time trying to tell me this is for your own good, that this’ll get you writing. It’s weird, but I can take weird to an extent, you know me.”

A voice in the background says something to her.

Hey, I’m not finished here, Jack, just wait ‘till I’m done.

The background voice meekly recedes and Sage continues.

“Jackasses. They wanna play this game, I play it back: I make ‘em bring me soltanie kebob and maste mo-sire with zolbia- bameieh for desert. There’s a swimming pool but I don’t feel like it. I figure the least I can do is get on their last nerve, which I am doing, thank you. Azzizam, don’t do anything crazy, okay? I think they’re trying to convince themselves it’s not what it is by giving me whatever I want. It’s ridiculous. Don’t go having those anxiety attacks you have. I promise I’ll be back home soon.”

Then Kodiac is back:

“So you see, this is to show you everything is fine. You have only to concentrate and deliver the book, okay? May I say something to you? Your wife, she is no, what is your expression for it, pushdown? Pushover? Yes, no pushover. And to tell you the truth, it is time for her little stay to come to an end. She is – please don’t take this the wrong way – she is difficult, she is somewhat of a stressor, very demanding, решительный, okay? We of the Tribe are all for harmony and concord. Just continue in your endeavors, but speed it to conclusion, for all our sakes. I believe you can do this, Datcher. The Federakkt needs the language to fit the vision, do you see? Very important. A new way of telling stories for a publishing company that strives to bring a new vision to a new world. This you can do, you have shown as much in certain pages. I will be in touch soon, okay? More pages, more pages, onward!”

I played this message on the answering machine over and over when I wasn’t dialing the number on the card that the Sage look-alike left me.

My calls to the Sage look-alike were intercepted by the answering machine I had taken from the house and put here in the room warbling the robotic command to leave a message in the prefabricated quasi-human voice that can be selected as a programming option by those disinclined to leave personalized greetings.

Here’s one for the suggestion box: Maybe therapists could exploit this disinclination by categorizing it as a sub-branch on the tree of social anxiety disorders and develop treatment modalities designed to assist those with CTMAS, Chronic Telephone-Message Aversion Syndrome. As with any other phobia, exposure by incremental degrees would eventually lead the sufferer to a state of telephonic health and well-being. Each day, the patient would be led to confront the source of the anxiety by leaving a single word in a recorded message: “Hello” on Monday, “Please” on Tuesday, “Leave” on Wednesday, “A” on Thursday, “Message” on Friday. For those suffering the most severe manifestation of the affliction, two-syllable words like “Hello” could be further broken down – “Hell” on Monday, “O” on Tuesday, rendering the potential for genuine therapeutic progress more likely. Large companies like Verizon might be able to demonstrate good faith and strike a public relations goldmine by knocking off X number of dollars from the monthly phone bills of CTMAS patrons. Pithy slogans could be zealously employed in aggressive advertising campaigns: “Verizon – Helping You Get In Your Head So You Can Get Messages Out Of Your Mouth.”

Circumstances beyond my control make suggestions for the box difficult.

Nevertheless, I write my snippets that fall just short of silence, the snippets that are the perfect form for an attention deficit age where states of inspiration are doomed to an average lifespan of 5 minutes. These are the same snippets that make my dread more manageable if I can think of them as suggestions rather than stories. I write dozens of them, and they are born, reach maturity and die 5 minutes at a time, my May flies of prose. I stuff them into the box as dawn, a weightlifter flushed strenuous pink, hoists the barbell of night, daylight flexing, gathering strength, and I fall asleep on the floor with paper draining strength from my fists, paper as sinister as Samson’s Delila.

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