The problem with sex scandals, at least in Emily’s opinion, was that, no matter how many shoes dropped, there was always a stinking boot still suspended. It was like a goddamn Payless in here, and as much as Emily appreciated Airwalk-brand sneakers at guaranteed low prices, she wanted more from life.
So it made perfect sense when Bradford slipped her those five fingers. He was a manager; he was a man on the make. He had a beautiful haircut, straight bowl in the front and ducktail in the back. His mother had always complimented him on his altar-boy’s vestment, his cherubic sartorial innocence. Growing up in downtown Poughkeepsie couldn’t have been easier. In his youth it was a swell place–had things changed much since then?
He kept checking his Twitter feed, looking for answers, but all he found were “@s” from Emily. She was stuck on this Kutcher divorce. It just didn’t make any sense. He was spending forty hours a week naked in the arms of Jon Cryer. It was the dream of any wife. What gave. LOL, LMFAO, ROFLMAO…the acronyms flashed before his eyes, and he didn’t understand any of them. People didn’t talk like this in Poughkeepsie, that’s for sure. But Emily was a rare breed. A regular Cochin in a Rhode Island Red house. Goddammit, why didn’t she know more about poultry? That joke should have killed. “Need a cock?” It was such a clever pun.
He was printing Big Dogs shirts at the local mall when he first laid eyes on her. She had gone there to buy some cheap Airwalk sneakers–the Payless was one of the few stores still open, the rest having been shuttered on account of the world getting flattened and globalized and whatnot–and when he saw her he was immediately smitten. He hadn’t been this impressed by anything at the mall since Hot Topic unveiled their “Suicide Betty” crop tops. Much like a “Suicide Betty” crop top, Emily made him want to just end it, ride the third rail, eat a grenade, crash the Hell party.
“Hey daddy,” she said when she entered the printing shop, which had more or less specialized in Big Dog and Big Johnson shirts since those two brands exploded onto the national scene in the early 90s. “I’m a little lost in this huge place. You wouldn’t happen to know where the Payless is, would you?”
It was an innocent question, dripping with simple confusion. There were Lolitas in this world, sure. Babies in tophats, can-can girls with American Apparel sock pants, chicks on parade. But these girls shared nothing with her. She was blank, a tabula rasa. “Hey hotlips, you’re a tabula rasa.”
“Sorry, big daddy, I don’t speak Cuban even though I really like their sandwiches. It’s the pickles, I think. The pickles pull the whole thing together,” she said, licking her lips at the thought of a nice, juicy Cuban sandwich. “Say, what the hell are you staring at? My eyes are up here, mister.”
But Bradley couldn’t help himself–her feet were wedged into a pair of Carrie Bradshaw-esque peep toe pumps. Shellacked with Lady Gaga fliers–what was she thinking? Her City University of Art bag gave it away. She was a hip cat. It was a little intimidating, to be perfectly honest. Bradwick thought of himself as a “bro,” a “sports guy,” a fantasy footballer nonpareil. What could he possibly say to a girl like this? Oh well. He had to give it his best shot. “I really like some of those movies,” he said.
“What? What does that have to do with the Payless shoe store?” she asked.
“Woody Harrelson’s earlier stuff like Andie McDowell, Brooklyn, White Men Can’t Jump. Or was that Polanski. I can never keep those … ” He caught himself trying not to let her catch him in her Lolita conceit. She caught him catching himself. It would’ve been a hell of a play if their meet-cute was a baseball game, this act of catching someone while he was catching himself.
To cut the tension, she reached out and tousled his picture-perfect bowl cut. “Sorry, couldn’t resist. Bowl cuts are just begging for it. Hey…cat got your tongue, daddy?”
He melted like flan in a broiler on a hot summer’s day…after the broiler was turned to hot. There was chemistry. Big bangs and cropped bangs, fireworks and hair. He couldn’t keep homophones straights; then again, who can keep homos straight aside from a truly ravishing woman like “Modern Family” hottie Sofia Vergara. How often did he hear his gay friends–both of them–remark they’d “switch teams” for her? He didn’t know what this meant, since his knowledge of teams was limited to fantasy football, and he hadn’t the foggiest idea of what gay people did in the privacy of their bedrooms. He was as pure as the new-fallen snow, and maybe that’s what she liked about him. Or maybe it was his devil-may-care sweatpants. He didn’t own slacks like a decent man, but who did anymore? Stiffs, the 99%, shin salesmen with wanting wares.
“I was thinking maybe we could walk down to that Payless together,” he said, after working up a heaping helping of courage. “We could even stop at the Hot Topic. It’s on the way, and you look like somebody who’d enjoy that store. It’s a pretty cool place, from what I can tell, and…” He trailed off and she followed him, walking a few steps behind, admiring his ducktail.
What kind of man grew a ducktail nowadays, she wondered. Perhaps he’d even grown his unironically. Everything about him was so unironic. She couldn’t get past his dumb sincerity. Usually she went for gaunt, fortysomethings that hung around watering holes and gas stations or stubby ex-high-school-right-guards that had developed bizarre addictions to games of chance or the internet. He was entirely novel, like a good book. “You know what, mister, you’re entirely novel, like a good book.”
“Thanks kiddo, you’re a great companion, like a helpful addition to a good book.” Yeah, that’s right: they had the kind of rapport that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of those technicolor Doris Day/Rock Hudson rom-coms of the early 60s. You found yourself rooting for these two crazy, star-crossed kids, hoping they’d make it all the way down the aisle someday. But you had that inkling that something was queer about Rock Hudson. Lots of people said they “saw it coming,” but that excuse wouldn’t hold a Nalgene bottle’s worth of water if they were given a lie detector test. Granted, those machines were unreliable–much like the reports that Rock Hudson and wrestling promoter Jim Barnett slept with half of the Kentucky men’s football team in 1961–but that didn’t stop the producers of “If I’m Lyin’ I’m Dyin'” from putting them to good use. Hundreds of contestants who either suffered from high blood pressure or were deliberately refusing to tell the truth were strapped into “Electro-chairs” and pumped with “High Voltage” whenever they fibbed. “Who is your favorite Talmudic exegete?” Muhammed stared blankly “Fry him!” shouted the ever-chipper host. It seemed inhumane or downright criminal, but the whole spectacle was authorized by a new amendment to the Constitution that had been approved during the same plebiscite where eight of the first ten amendments were “voted off the island.” The second and the tenth amendments were spared, and a hip young 420-friendly first amendment was added.
At this critical point, Emily gripped Biff or Jeff’s hand with inhuman pathos, because that’s what one has to do under such trying circumstances. Maybe what they were doing was wrong, but that was for the courts to judge. Of course, it’s not as if things were as desperate for them as they had been for the ’73 “You Gotta Believe” Mets–not yet, anyway. Emily decided to pull the “safety switch.” Lights flashed madly and a chuckle tore the ever-chipper host into four neatly compartmentalized quadrants. Roars of applause. Zookeepers rushed from the wings to contain them. Emily and Marc or Jim fell through a fake floor landing on a munchkin.
“Ouch” They ran like bats, bumping into walls, seeing very little, shaking their arms wildly. “Look, toots. I never meant to bring you into this.” If the whole thing was starting to seem like one of those Oprah! specials where Oprah trots out Dr. Oz and he commences to lecture the viewers at home about the benefits of magnets and psyllium husks…well, that’s because it was. Wait, cut that. Dave, can you do that line over? Your narration was off there. Can you put the emphasis on “well” instead of “that?” Great, let’s try it again. …WELL, that’s because it was. Or maybe it was a dream sequence. Or maybe…
The tape was spinning wildly off its spindle or its toothed, plastic cylinder or whatever tape comes on in DVDs and Blu-Ray. There were flash cuts and jump cuts. The story went nowhere. Why was Jake or Billy shirtless? Was Emily wearing a pig’s head? 10 minutes of “The Room” spliced in for no apparent reason?
The audience started jeering and hissing as the acne-scarred projectionist wildly slouched at his machine trying to get it working again. Rocky was his favorite movie; why weren’t they showing that? The dumbass movies the kids watched nowadays were about as bad as those stupid, unlaced clown shoes they were all “boating” around in.
He stopped what he was doing and recalled the old days in Poughkeepsie. Was the gang still together? “Turkey” and “Tuffy” and “Buckshot” and the rest of them? No, probably they had gone off to L.A. like all the rest of his friends to be best boys and gaffers for indie flicks about Zooey Deschanel in Egypt awkwarding up the revolution or Ryan Gosling “going off script.” God, the whole town was screwed. Pats Rorty, the hapless high-school football coach and town warden had been caught with his pants down, stuffing dollar bills into his pockets. It wasn’t embezzlement, though–just a sex fetish. Rex Cherston, the town’s loudest parson was glued to a bottle of Hood River Gin. Sally Marmet, the only schoolteacher in this one-stoplight, zero car town couldn’t even read but, sure as the night is black, she gave one heck of a “hummer.” No, she wasn’t giving out Hummer-brand SUVs and trucks–that would get far too expensive. Instead, she gave out the only kind of “hummer” that was within reach of the subhumans who comprised the 99%: a little noisemaking gadget or doohickey that the kids just ate up like so much noisemaking Nutella. Because they agreed that Sally’s “hummers” were the best around, they and their parents were willing to overlook her functional illiteracy. No matter: She couldn’t save the town with kazoos and neither could this new “Emily” film.
Why did the audience care so much that a projector malfunction was currently re-editing the piece into meaningless fragments of color, redubbing it with the sound of a tired machine breaking to pieces? This was closer to art; this was closer to what the director had been trying to achieve. He wanted to weave tapestries and all “the suits” wanted from him was to videotape meet-cutes between mismatched heterosexual couples. Now here it was, the purest extract of “Emily”–its fifth essence, if you will–and he was hundreds of miles away, producing a rough cut of the prequel to Micah the Cut. Life was funny like that. So was Micah the Cat.