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Table of Contents

Footage

  • Fiction by D.V. Glenn

Wave decides to kidnap the man. Out of nowhere, the idea seizes him, coils around his throat, so that there is a slithering pressure at the pulsing jugular vein. Coils, a noose of constriction. He actually feels the vein bulging. It bulges as though about to burst open with a great hiss and dapple the air with scarlet confetti. Of course, this does not happen. But if it did, the sight of his own blood clawing through his veins would cause him little distress. That’s how ready he is to invite a cleansing idea into his life. That’s how ready he is for some broom of an idea to sweep aside all those piled up black Hefty garbage bags filled with the monotony and stasis of his days.

That’s how it happens, the idea: A sudden appearance, ultimately mysterious. Sometimes the old clichéd pronouncements are appropriate, beyond and above the novel constructions of language designed to stylishly clothe everyday experiences in a well-coordinated garb of truth. As in the expression out of nowhere. What other expression, fresh and novel though it might be, could capture so succinctly the birth of an idea whose time has come?

Yes, he really will kidnap the man. Mr. Otto Alexander Davis is a well-respected black man, the vice-chancellor of a top ten university whose numerous philanthropic and political undertakings frequently earn him modest coverage in the metro section of the newspaper. Yet who decides, Wave wonders, which of Mr. Davis’ deeds and accomplishments in the public sphere possess the histrionic heft to qualify as newsworthy? Wave imagines the upper echelons of publication officialdom judging the newsworthiness of Mr. Davis’ activities and undertakings, women and men attempting in good faith to make editorial decisions based on a myth of objectivity over cups of near-rancid coffee, stale pastries. They would be ringed about a sprawling conference table 8:oo a.m., drowsily ink-stamping the word newsworthy or un-newsworthy atop stacks of papers that speed by on a conveyor belt. The racing conveyor belt adds a comic element to the image. In fact, watching BET on his girlfriend’s sofa while he waits for her to return from her shoplifting expedition, Wave laughs out loud. Oddly, the laugh sounds like a canine with an accordion for a throat, barking and baying discordantly at the moon. As the women and men ink-stamp, they gradually blink away the crust of the previous night’s tabloid archetypes and hackneyed Freudian symbols, blink away the residue of lurid dreams spangling their eyelashes. However, Wave’s own dreams and feverish stratagems, no less lurid, can’t be so easily dispensed with.

Wave is once again watching BET at his girlfriend’s apartment. She has just finished showering. Her skin’s hue as she stands before him nude seems a dusting of cinnamon jeweled with water. Her seaweed of softly matted hair plastering her face. Her breasts that are startlingly perfect, the nipples at this moment asserting an exclamation, bold punctuation terminating the long graceful sentence of her body. He sees the lips of strangers clinging to those breasts, sees twigs of fingers snapping as they plunge at her flesh, no challenge for the tautness of her twenty-seven-year old skin. Band-Aids affixed to the knuckles might prevent this catastrophe, but then again it might be desirable to avoid the surrealistic air such a remedy would likely impart. Go on. There are petals of rosy tongues blooming as they travel down the stem of her spine, seeking warm cleavage in the steep sweet hills of her buttocks. Beside him on the couch is the video camera that’s integral to his impulse to stretch the rumpled sheet of chaos over the smooth surface of everyday life. He sweeps it up, gazes at her through the viewfinder.

“Wave, please, not that damned thing again,” she says, exhaling with weariness. Nevertheless, she strikes a series of stances that reduce to cheesy parody the poses assumed by celebrity pin-up girls of the 40s and 50s in calendar layouts. “That thing just keeps popping up out of nowhere, like some sort of pesky-ass erection.”

“With this little digital wonder I can see the future. I can see you, baby,” he says, mutters really, zooming in so closely that the pores of her body attain the elegance of calligraphy. “Alexis Rouge, the hottest, biggest, sexiest porn star of the new millennium.”

“What is it, Wave? You’ve got a communications degree and you work in a damn Blockbuster video store. Maybe I just don’t grasp the vision you have for your own life ….” In this particular telephone conversation, he experiences his father’s voice as a flimsy texture of some kind, a hybrid of water and air, and he can’t reconcile this near-insubstantiality with the booming physical presence he’s confronted with on those rare occasions when he sees his father in the flesh. The resulting mental dissonance, difficult to explain, momentarily muffles his father’s words. It spreads like a fog out of the chasm between the reality suggested by the telephone-miniaturized voice of his father and the reality reflected by Wave’s most recent memory of him. Forced to explain this mental dissonance to anyone, Wave might use this example: A young man whose name just happens to be Wave is born as a member of a racial minority in the United States, where the concept of equality is loudly trumpeted in the constitution. He pledges allegiance to the flag each day in elementary school and comes to feel that it is his flag – not his exclusively, of course, but for him in some exclusive way. Many years later in a shopping mall, this young man, driving a Ford Mustang, hunts for a vacant parking space. Fireworks of patriotic sentiment swell and burst in his heart, as this happens to be July 4th, Independence Day. He pulls into a space, preempting by mere seconds a red Toyota Land Cruiser, also prowling the lot for parking. Although he has legitimately won the space due to the hair-trigger reflexes commonly attributable to youth, he does not want to be accused of gloating and smiles apologetically to the other driver. In fact, he begins to feel guilty and decides to back out of the space and give it to his competitor. Surprisingly, the conservatively dressed, middle-aged white businessman in the Toyota Land Cruiser leans out the window, screams “That’s just what I’d expect from a dirty nigger, why don’t you go back to Africa!” and speeds away, tires bleeding a trail of smoke from the wound of the driver’s rage. Dissonance now exists in the youth’s mind as his belief in the constitutional assertion of equality/belonging and the direct experience of his subordinate outsider status grind against one another like shrill tectonic plates. It is as though he has discovered that he is an American in theory, but not in practice.

But this example isn’t necessary because, after all, Wave is not forced to explain this business of mental dissonance to anyone. He’s alone. Alexis won’t drop by his apartment until later in the evening, well after the department stores in the mall close and her shoplifting expedition is over. It’s just Wave and his father’s voice, pushing itself through the fog to the forefront of Wave’s hearing. “Wave, are you listening to me?”

“I like working where I work,” Wave answers. “I get a discount on videos. Otherwise the 5 or 6 videos a night that I watch would be cost prohibitive.”

“Look, if I’ve been understanding this whole thing of yours, you want to make some soft of movie. You have goals and that’s good. Let me see what I can do, eh? Let me pull a few strings,” his father says reasonably. “I’ll talk to Bates, over in human resources. They’re contracting right now for a videographer to do some training videos …”

“Training videos.” The lack of inflection in Wave’s reply kills the question, flattens it into a lifeless statement, draws a chalk outline around it.

“That’s right, I forgot. Forgive me, I forgot about all the lucrative experience you’ve gotten in the film industry since you graduated two years ago.”

“I don’t need experience. I have imagination. Isn’t experience just imagination adulterated?”

“Look, I’m not taking the bait. I won’t be drawn into another pseudo-philosophical debate with you, Wave. What’s real and what’s not. My point is, you want everything on a platter. Wake up, son. You think you don’t have to pay your dues, like everyone else? You think you can just get things handed to you on a platter?”

“Would that be handed to me on a real platter or an imaginary one?”

“Be serious, Wave.”

“I wouldn’t have to pay dues if you’d give me money. Thirty thousand real, not imaginary, dollars. I could get my project off the ground.”

“That’s right, I forgot. You haven’t been working at a miserable Blockbuster video store for the past two years. You’re Spike Lee.”

A telephone book of responses expands before him. Wave flips through the pages hastily, in search of an appropriate reply. A thumb moistened lightly by the tip of a tongue to facilitate rapid riffling would, without a doubt, be helpful. His father is quicker and the razor-sharp knife of his voice cuts through hundreds of tissue-thin pages with a single efficient sawing motion.

“You’re not listening to me. The real world, Wave. Wake up and join it. Everything I have, I earned. And I’m proud of that because in these times, that’s an accomplishment only a few black men can claim.”

“I’m not interested in the real world,” Wave says, and hangs up.

The very first time he sees Alexis, she’s in Macy’s. She’s talking animatedly to a tall, jaggedly thin blonde saleswoman behind the cosmetics counter, dressed completely in black, except for a white jacket resembling a lab smock. Wave loves to wander through shopping malls carrying his video camera, a marvel of Sony technology that fits tidily in the palm of his hand. He drifts in and out of department stores, randomly taping the artfully coordinated merchandise hanging from clothing racks, the sleek black stereo components stacked in the aisles, the perfumes and colognes in their asymmetrically shaped bottles scattered across countertops. He wanders through these benevolent mazes, his eyes on the viewfinder. Through the viewfinder he sees Alexis holding a lively conversation with the saleswoman in the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. The great honey-hued mass of her hair, parted in the middle and falling to either shoulder in crimped tendrils, bobs languidly as she nods her head, pointing. The saleswoman nods her head energetically in approval, bends down to open the display counter. Alexis, not bothering to confirm the absence of witnesses, quickly plucks two bottles from the countertop and drops them in the oversized leather purse dangling from her shoulder.

Wave walks behind her at a discreet distance, follows her to the parking lot.

“Excuse me, miss …”

She turns to face him, calmly meets his gaze. “Yes?”

“I saw what you did in there.”

Her arms are crossed at the level of her breasts and she’s tapping one foot impatiently. “So?”

“I know what’s in your purse.”

“You do have a point to make?” she says.

Wave attributes the slightly irritated flutter in her tone not to nervousness, but rather to the prevailing communication style commonly adopted by well-educated, urban-dwelling young women who have found a vocal correlative for their vaguely harried lifestyles and chronic cynicism. “Look, I’m not store security or anything like that.”

“No kidding, Sherlock. If you were security you would have nabbed me when I went through the doors. So what it is? You a Jesus freak, a Hari Khrisna or some other kind of mentally scrambled cultist who wants to give me a morality makeover? You want me to take the stuff back to the store and put it back on the counter so I can avoid bad karma, or so I won’t writhe and sizzle in the flames of hell?”

“You didn’t even look around in there when you made that move. I could have been security.”

She begins walking to her car, but at a pace that doesn’t discourage conversation, so Wave walks along beside her. “I would have known. I would have felt it.”

“You believe only in things you can feel? I like that.”

“I happen not to care what you like. What’s the deal,” she says, glancing over at Wave’s camera, “with the toy?”

“You,” Wave says, fixing her in the viewfinder. “You’re the deal. There’s no one like you. No one anywhere. Not anywhere in the entirety of this great, lonely universe. No one who stands like you, walks like you, thinks like you, sleeps like you, laughs or cries like you.” He lifts his gaze from the viewfinder and his eyes enclose her. “You live in a different world, a totally different dimension. You don’t look around when you shoplift because you like to play the intuition game. When you do, you’re rarely wrong. I know because I play that game myself. You’re like a car with faith for fuel. That’s what you run on. Not faith in god. Faith in yourself. You’re your own god. You never eat breakfast, you don’t have a favorite color but if you had to say something, you’d say red. You play a musical instrument, flute or violin. You forget to water your house plants and the poor things are always dying on you.”

She stops walking and looks directly at him. Her eyes, like transparent ripe gourds, contain the seeds of all the qualities and traits he’s just recited for her. He can feel those seeds taking root in the pores of his flesh.

“You didn’t say anything about my sleepwalking.”

“I don’t think you do.”

“Not bad. So what are you supposed to be, some kind of a snake oil merchant? Trying to start your own dial-a-psychic hotline?”

“Neither. It’s just that I’ve learned to look at what I see. There’s a point where what I look at looks right back at me, and at that moment nothing can be hidden. That’s why I like this. It never lies,” he says, cradling the camera in the palm of his hands.

She extends her hand. She wears rings on the fingers of both hands. “I’m Alexis.”

After meeting Alexis and knowing her for a time, the focus chronically absent from his life suddenly informs his every action.

They discuss the idea, the kidnapping. They’ve had several such discussions in the past week. This particular discussion takes place on the flat rooftop of the university’s main administrative building, many floors above city. They are alone but speak in hushed tones that barely rise above the mellow stutter of the rain starting to fall. Looking down, the city at night resembles a circuit board, a grid of micro-activity threaded with tiny blinking dots of multicolored light. Like some mechanism, digitally ablaze, torn violently from the interior of a computer’s central processing unit. Alexis had the keys to the utility room, which gives access to the rooftop. She is a faculty member here, an associate professor of English hired to teach advanced composition. Instead her classes consist of furious and arcane expostulations on the futility and insufficiency of language.

“I want nothing more,” Alexis says, hoisting herself up onto the two-foot wide ledge of the building and looking down the sheer plunge to the street below, “than to become a vagina. At least, at this point in my life. Academia has numbed me from the waist down. Sad but true. I need a remedy. It’s time to make that skin flick you keep talking about. Maybe I’d give up all the shoplifting.”

“You’re sure about this?” Wave asks. “Penises of all shapes and sizes plundering your treasure trove? Engaging in loveless acts of sex with strangers?”

“The thing is, what about you?” she counters. “You say that you’ll suffer no damage to your masculine ego, that possessiveness and jealousy and so on aren’t issues for you. But given your level of sophistication, your response is pretty predictable. The question is, what will you actually feel?”

“Shattered, at first. Then maybe turned on.”

“And what about the kidnapping? Are you ready for that, too? Given the identity of the kidnapped? Baby, I’m sorry, I don’t think you’re ready. You’re still trying to think your way through this shit. But if we pull it off like this .…” As if to illustrate she jumps onto the narrow ledge of the enclosing wall and stands with her arms outstretched for balance. Wave is watching through the viewfinder and sees that her eyes are closed. Arms extended, she begins moving along the ledge in heel-to-toe fashion toward the corner of the building, a few feet away. She neither stumbles nor sways, moving forward with the slow implacability of a glacier. When she reaches the edge, she pivots smoothly left without hesitation, places her left foot squarely on the intersecting ledge, and continues walking. She opens her eyes. “See what I mean?” she says.

“I’m ready,” he says. Given the identity of the kidnap victim, he’s as ready as he can be.

Wave is as ready as he can be, given the fact that Mr. Otto Alexander Davis is quite an influential figure not only at the university, but on the local political scene as well, although he prefers to maintain a low profile. As an independent consultant in the field of image management, for example, his cunning reconstruction of white Republican Alan Specks’ formerly drab public persona resulted in the election of Mr. Specks to the mayor’s seat. Trailing slightly in the polls behind the incumbent, Mr. Specks was able to edge his way to victory by attracting a small but significant percentage of black voters who had seen, and responded positively to, the anti-affirmative action commercial conceived by Mr. Davis in which Specks had appeared, lifting a black infant in both hands (though there was some speculation as to whether the infant was, in fact, biracial) triumphantly over his head toward a sky kaleidoscopic with stars, while the announcer’s voice intoned sonorously Michael Jordan, Sammy Davis Junior, or Colonel Powell didn’t need affirmative action – who would among us would dare imply that this child is incapable of rising, on his own, to even higher levels of greatness?! For his conceptually audacious handiwork Mr. Davis, a Republican himself, became the target of criticism from black leaders and voters who claimed that the interests of the Republican Party and those of the black community were as a whole incompatible. When criticized by these hostile factions for his orchestration of the commercial, Mr. Davis, in a newspaper article, was quoted only as saying Frankly, I am truly dumbfounded.

Wave knows these things and has recorded them in a notebook:

•Mr. Davis enjoys Thai food, for the reasons that it is “Generally inexpensive, yet substantial enough, and rescues the palate from, as the poet said, the malady of the quotidian.”

•Mr. Davis frequently dreams of falling, his body jerking alarmingly as he plunges from some awful height in the dream.

•Mr. Davis finds it impossible to resist his habit of returning two or sometimes three times to his parked car after he has left it on the street, simply to ensure that the alarm is truly engaged.

•Mr. Davis’ has a tendency to respond to certain questions with the remark “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t be ridiculous.”

Alexis wants Wave to elaborate on the last point, and Wave uses this example: an eight-year-old child whose name just happens to be Wave is visiting his grandparents in Rockwell City, Iowa. There, the child spends his days more or less pleasantly, if uneventfully, his experiences a porridge of rural sights, sounds, smells stirred lazily together by the sun’s sweltering hand. One day his father drives the child to the public swimming pool downtown, called – mysteriously, to the child – a “natatorium.” The father then leaves, promising to return in approximately two hours. Attired in bright red swimming trunks, the seven-year-old child stands self-consciously and at something of a loss on the lip of the pool, blinking into the spectral blue water at a group of children of varying ages, splashing and yelling. A group of about five children climbs out of the pool and stands around the lone child, whispering in low tones among themselves at first, then becoming alarmingly bolder. Finally one boy points and exclaims loudly, “Look, a nigger!” (Eight hundred people reside in the town of Rockwell City, Iowa – all white, except for the child’s grandparents.) Not knowing the word nigger, the child has a sudden full awareness of something that had previously danced, in an ill-coordinated fashion, as though on an icy floor, across the surface of his mind: that the entire town, with its meager population of 800, was filled with people who in some fundamental way looked nothing like his grandparents, or his father or mother, or him. And, of course, this had something to do with the designation nigger, now hanging vividly in the afternoon’s heat and sudden stillness. One blonde girl, older than the rest, probably fourteen, steps forward toward the tittering group, and says, “He’s human, too.” Sadly, this remark increases the child’s sense of acute isolation and shattering embarrassment, when it was only meant to effect moral edification.

The child’s father picks him up in more or less two hours, as promised, and on the way home the boy asks him, “Dad, what’s a nigger?” His father stares unblinkingly forward while driving, and after a long deliberation, answers, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t ask me ridiculous questions.”

“Imagine this child,” Wave says to Alexis, “The resentment he feels for this man who not only didn’t explain the way things were so that the kid wouldn’t go stumbling out in the world unprepared for what he’d find, but then totally denied the validity of the kid’s experience by saying ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

“Maybe what he meant to say was that he refused to invest the whole concept of nigger with any validity and that it was ridiculous to act as though it had any reality. So the only legitimate response he could have was a nonresponse.”

“Bullshit.”

She may be right, but Wave doesn’t want to feel ambivalence regarding the kidnapping. He wants to proceed coolly, calmly, as though Mr. Otto Alexander Davis was not his father at all but merely a means to an end.

  • .

Wave checks his wristwatch and skulks in the shadows near a waste dumpster in the parking lot. His father, who since Wave’s mother’s death always dines alone, leaves his favorite Thai restaurant located one block from the university and is now heading toward his car in the lot where Wave waits. From the backdoor of the restaurant and across the lot to the car: two minutes.

They leave nothing to chance. How crowded will the streets be when his father leaves the university? In these fairly early evening hours, the sky overhead spreads its deep russet blanket of winter, suggestive of hibernation, ennui, sleep. No students enliven the streets as Wave and Alexis near the restaurant. His hand twitches for the video camera, but Alexis, walking behind him, is carrying it. “Think of the camera you’re entrusted with as a precious navigational tool. Think of Sulu at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise on Star Trek.” Did he actually admonish Alexis with this analogy moments ago, or has he only imagined it? And if he has not said it, should he?

To prepare for the kidnapping, Wave exercises his employee discount at Blockbuster and brings home, for instructional purposes, dozens of videos where the commission of intricate crimes sweep the plots along on a rollercoaster of violence, mayhem, bloodshed. He and Alexis watch them through the weekend, discovering a mind-boggling array of techniques surrounding the crime of abduction. Wave is particularly interested in the crucial moments after the victim is accosted, when the sheer physicality of the abduction becomes most problematical. Should the victim be punched in the spleen, kicked in the groin, shepherded with a cattle prod, lashed with a cat o’ nine tails, reasonably persuaded, laughed at, shot in the kneecap, tickled under the armpits, slapped in the face, slyly cajoled? A burlap sack tossed over the head, and then forceful jostling until the victim finds himself in the trunk of the Ford Mustang that will be parked nearby, is settled upon.

  • .

Shadows have the effect of dematerializing the deserted parking lot. Wave attempts to toss the burlap sack over his father’s head. As though endowed with some finely tuned sixth sense for danger, his father whirls around, sees the sack descending, steps lightly, almost jauntily, to the side. Wave is jarred off balance and stumbles to the ground, falling on his side heavily. Alexis stops taping and sprints to the waiting Mustang, burning rubber as she exits the lot in screeching haste. His father spends a few moments straightening his tie, needlessly it seems to Wave, for the tie appears to have escaped any dishevelment that might have been caused by the brief commotion. He looks down at Wave pityingly. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Wave. I know you blame me for not teaching you certain ugly social realities, for instance, that America for the most part will always see you as an outsider and that you might, from time to time, hear the so-called N word, on the milder end of the spectrum. It’s true that on the harsher end of the spectrum, there might be certain unfortunate and dangerous circumstances in which you could be, beaten, spat upon, tarred and feathered, lynched, dragged through the streets with your wrists affixed by a rope to the bumper of a car or truck – but I was only trying to protect you.” Wave begins to weep in shame. No, wait.

  • .

Shadows have the effect of dematerializing the deserted parking lot. Wave tosses the burlap sack over his father’s head. Alexis stands off to the side taping while Wave maneuvers his father, stumbling and careening like a drunken man, toward the car, the engine already humming and the trunk open. His father drops the doggie bag of Phad Thai he was carrying on the ground. When he begins to scream, Wave is violently startled, never having heard his father, in particular, or any man, in general, screaming in stark, unmitigated terror. Wave reaches under the burlap hood and tightly cups over his father’s mouth and nose a cloth copious with ether. His body goes limp and Wave scoops him off the ground and staggers to the car. As though nodding in assent, the car bounces when Wave tosses his father’s body into the trunk. He closes the trunk with trembling hands. Alexis jams the camera in her purse and runs over to Wave, grabbing his hands. “Jesus, baby, take it easy. You’re shaking like a proverbial leaf.” They get in the car. After a moment, Wave gets out of the car, runs a few steps back to the bag of Phad Thai, picks it up, then runs back to the car. When they pull out of the lot, Alexis burns rubber, although the streets are almost forlornly empty.

  • .

His father sits slumped in a chair. His ankles are bound to the legs of the chair, his wrists bound behind him, his eyes blindfolded. He has been told that he is being held for $50,000 ransom in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the city. In fact, they are in the living room of Alexis’ sprawling, frenetically disarrayed apartment.

“We want you to contact someone who can get the money to us. We know you have a family – or, at the very least, a son.” Wave’s voice is electronically distorted, rendered unrecognizable by a signal-processing device strapped to his throat. “We’ve done our research.”

“I don’t have money like that on hand,” the father says in a fearful tone.

“Don’t lie to us,” Wave accuses with appropriate harshness. “You’ve been under surveillance for quite some time. We know you have a safe in the house where you keep a substantial amount of cash, bonds, jewelry, pornography and so on.”

“Please,” the father says weakly. “Please.”

“You know, Mr. Davis, that pornography provides a conduit for the expression of psychic or unconscious content, in the form of fantasy components that would otherwise remain dangerously occluded,” says Alexis, also speaking through an electronic distortion device as she gazes through the viewfinder.

“We’ve contacted your slacker of a son,” Wave says, winking at Alexis. “We want you to talk to him. Tell him we want $50,000 cash from the safe. Give him the combination. We’ll arrange a trade with him, pick up the money and drop you off. You won’t be hurt unless something unexpected happens.”

Alexis places the phone to the father’s ear. Wave leaves the living room and now speaks to his father without the device from an extension phone in Alexis’ bedroom.

“Wave? They’ve got me.”

“Who?” Wave asks. “What are you talking about?”

“I believe I’m being held by a black extremist group trying to fund their subversive activities.”

“Black extremist groups? That was a Sixties thing, wasn’t it? Weren’t they all killed off?”

“Don’t argue with me, Wave,” the father says heatedly. “I don’t have enemies among white people. It’s only my own people who have been jealous of my status in the community at large. They and only they have tried to undermine me over the years, reduce me to a position of ridicule and scorn, accusing me endlessly of Uncle Tommery and so on.”

“Look, whoever these people are, how much do they want?”

“$50,000 in cash.”

“So give it to them. It’s a small price to pay for your life.”

“Wave? I just want you to know that if anything should happen to me – no matter what people may say, I’ve always done my best.”

“That’s enough with the true confessions,” Alexis says, hanging up the phone. She kisses the hostage lightly on the forehead, apropos of nothing. “It’s time to do this thing, Mr. Davis.”

The huge tri-level house where Wave’s father lives is immaculate, a test tube into which efficiency, organization and orderliness have been poured in equal measures. The cold sheet of daunting sterility draped over Wave’s childhood floats over him again as he kneels before the safe in the bedroom closet, spinning through the combination. His father sits on the edge of the bed, his head bowed dejectedly under the hood of burlap. Alexis stands by, watching through the viewfinder, taping. As his father finishes giving the penultimate number, he begins coughing and sputtering dangerously, as though choking.

“Pull yourself together, you old bastard,” Wave barks in his harshly electronic voice. “I want that last number.”

“Where is Wave? You said he’d be here.” His father sits stiffly on the edge of his bed. Though he had complained that the restraints were too tight on his wrists, Wave hadn’t removed them. “I can’t breath,” he says, gasping. Alexis is holding him by the shoulders but he begins writhing violently. Suddenly he slumps and falls back on the bed. She puts her ear to his chest, then lifts his hood. There is a frothy bud of saliva sprouting from the corner of his mouth.

“What the hell are you doing? Leave his hood down!”

“Damn, Wave,” she says slowly. “I’m not sure, but I think he’s had a heart attack or something.”

An attorney sitting behind an oak desk reads the last will and testament to Wave, who leans forward in his seat slightly as he listens. Along with the contents of the safe, which amount to $12,560 in cash, Wave inherits real estate, investments in municipal bonds and T-bills, stock and stock options, mutual funds, real estate, and miscellaneous assets totaling $679,000.76.

Alexis wears a pair of reading glasses that lends to her flawless nudity a scholarly aura. She stands before a blackboard scribbling what appear to be complex mathematical equations with her back to the camera. Glasses, black high heels, a piece of chalk are her “wardrobe.” Four burly males, also naked except for the football helmets they wear on their heads, sit at desks positioned in a row near the blackboard. A fifth male, naked also, wears a dunce’s cap rather than a helmet. Two men holding hand-held cameras are positioned strategically to capture and create propitious angles. Wave sits in a director’s chair with a clipboard on his lap, discussing the scene with a woman, who with an air of frazzled concentration thumbs through a sheaf of coffee-stained papers. After shooting “The Naughty Professor” Wave has plans to use the footage of his father’s kidnapping to complete a documentary illustrating the poignant, “real life” ordeal of an innocent hostage. Footage which, Wave explained, had been inadvertently left behind by the abductors and which provided a kind of heart-rending documentation of his father’s last hours. Wave’s official statement to the police and the press was that he had attempted to telephone his father over the course of the weekend, became concerned when his calls went unanswered, and finally forced entry into the house along with Alexis to determine whether the elderly man had slipped and fallen in the tub, or perhaps taken a spill down the stairs. At this point he found his father’s body, along with the tape. This is a black man, Wave explained, who was perhaps misunderstood because of the political stances he took which were not in vogue, but who was morally earnest, and I would hope that he will be appreciated and missed by the community he so selflessly served for most of the years of his adult life. “Wave,” Alexis says petulantly, without turning around, holding the chalk as though she’s writing on the board, “it’s cold in this damned room.”

“Of course. Slate. Action,” he cries sharply, and because this is a word that he has longed to utter in just this fashion from the earliest days of his childhood, chills spill down his spine.

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