1. “It was a bold choice,” wunderkind director Brian Powell said.
Maggie McCleary, interviewer to the stars, nodded enthusiastically. She had no idea what Powell had just said, but she knew darned well that he hadn’t said nothing. Empty enthusiasm was her default position, so she decided to fall back on that. “I love it!” she exclaimed.
“Love what?” Powell asked. “My bold choice?”
“I just think it was the greatest,” McCleary said, trying to clarify her position.
Powell looked off into the distance. Like most troubled geniuses, he wasn’t made for this world. He had agreed to do this interview at his manager’s insistence, but this well-tanned woman was completely clueless. “A lot of people didn’t understand why I did it.”
McCleary took a sip of water, then tried to reestablish eye contact with Powell. “Could you tell us more about it, Ryan?”
“Brian,” Powell corrected her.
“Yes, Brian,” McCleary said. “Tell us more about it, Brian.”
“Well, in the remake of the Brian Powell Story, we used a bearded actor to play beardless Al Gore and a beardless actor to play bearded Al Gore. It was very controversial,” Powell said. Owing to the cocktail of downers he had taken prior to the interview, he was feeling dizzy and had begun to slur his words.
McCleary clapped her hands together. “I can’t believe it!” She turned to face her audience, which consisted mostly of lily-white housewives and a few minorities her producers had rounded up for the sake of diversity. “Can you believe it, ladies?”
“What could they possibly contribute to this discussion?” Powell asked. “I mean, my decision to use a beardless man to underscore the essence of beardedness was rooted in years of study in the Rouch/Morin method of filmmaking. It was a calculated, daring move that I undertook to give my viewers an accurate depiction of the truth.”
McCleary flashed him her winningest smile. “I think you’re underestimating these ladies, Ry…”
Powell interrupted her. “Were you about to call me ‘Ryan’ again? How could you make that mistake a second time? What if I kept calling you ‘Margie?’ How would you like that, Margie?”
McCleary kept smiling. “I surely wouldn’t make a big deal about it, Ry…er, Brian. It’s on the teleprompter. They got it wrong on the teleprompter.”
“Teleprompter? Isn’t this live?” Powell asked, his face livid with anger. “Don’t you know who I am?”
2. Emily Twiggs couldn’t believe that she was having this discussion again. She was the one carrying their unborn child, not him. What right did he have to insist on such a ridiculous name? “Look, Jack, this isn’t up for debate,” she said.
Jack Chaser, Detective Death, wasn’t the kind of man who took no for an answer. In addition to making him a terrible quizmaster for police department trivia nights, this trait had also made it difficult for his assorted significant others to live with him. “Lady, the kid’s getting named ‘Robot Hunter’ and that’s final,” he didn’t so much say as growl at her.
“Why on earth do you want to call him ‘Robot Hunter?’” Emily asked.
Chaser poured five fingers of whiskey into a mug of grain alcohol, then downed the concoction. “Names have got a lot of power to them. Wouldn’t expect a twist like you to understand,” he said.
“No, Jack, I don’t understand. I don’t understand why we can’t call him Onyx Licorice Obsidian, which is a name I’ve loved ever since I was a little girl.”
Chaser cracked his knuckles and gave her a menacing look. How could he explain the man-versus-machine future about which he had had so many alcohol-induced premonitions to such a daffy dame? “All I’m saying is that it’s going to come in handy later on,” he said.
Emily put her hands on her hips—one of the many wrong places where she had gained some weight—and started to pout. “But what about Onyx Licorice Obsidian? Isn’t that a beautiful name?”
“That’s a goddamn stupid name if I’ve ever heard one,” said the Chief as he emerged from the guest bedroom in a state of partial undress.
“Why is this guy still here?” Emily asked. “I thought you said your roommate had moved out.”
The Chief gave a ferocious belch and began digging his fingers into his deep, hairy navel. “Didn’t you get the memo, sister? I live here. Have been for the last three decades.”
“The Chief and I are partners,” Chaser said. “Way I look at it, he’s the good angel on my shoulder.”
The Chief gave his navel sweat-saturated fingers a careful sniff. “Chaser’s the kind of guy who believes in breaking a few eggs to make an omelet. I’m the janitor who cleans up his eggshells.”
“That reminds me, Chief—think you could fix me up a rum-and-Pepto-Bismol omelet? Light on the eggs and heavy on the Pepto,” Chaser said.
The Chief ignored this request and plopped down on the couch, bringing himself to eye level with Emily’s expanding rear end. “Hold your horses, Chaser. I haven’t even eaten my first pack of smokes this morning.” He slapped Twiggs on her behind. “Say, sister, do you mind giving me some breathing room here? The dailies are coming on soon.”
“The Chief and I never miss an episode of General Hospital,” Chaser said.
Emily bristled with indignation. “What? And Jack, why aren’t you at work? I haven’t seen you go to the station in weeks.”
Chaser laughed. “That old place? Shit, honeypie, they fired both of us years ago.”
“Threw the book at us, too,” the Chief added. “Jack here is even on house arrest.”
“But…but part of the reason we talked about getting married was, you know, how you had these benefits,” Emily stammered.
The Chief gave Emily a knowing wink. “There are lots of benefits to being married to ol’ Jack Chaser,” he said. “Just not the pecuniary kind!”
As he and Chaser collapsed into hearty, he-man guffaws, Emily felt a sharp kick in her bulging stomach. Enclosed in his safe amniotic universe, little Robot Hunter/Onyx Licorice Obsidian was lurching toward the state of viability about which Harry Blackmun had written so lovingly in Roe v. Wade.
3. Had he lived into his forties, wunderkind director Brian Powell might have completed The Brian Powell Story. As it stood, this unfinished magnum opus amounted to something more than mere autobiography and something less than a full confession.
“It’s like, how can I say this, basically the story of these hard times,” hipster author “Reek” Bonut told the wannabe Suicide Girl he was attempting to woo.
“Gnarly,” said the girl.
Bonut pulled out his moleskin and passed it across the table to her. “This is where I save my thoughts,” he said. “I have a lot of them.”
The girl put her hand on his, hoping that he would approve of the various band names on her inked-up “sleeve.” “Shit, must be nice.”
“Yeah, and the Brian Powell Story is what I keep coming back to. It’s kind of my urtext, in the way that something really important to you can be an urtext,” Bonut said as he slid his shoeless, sockless foot across her thick white ankle.
“Like how I am about abortion, and prochoice, and women’s sustainability of the personal ecosystem. That to me is my urtext,” the girl said. “Music also, in a respect, because I live it through my iPod playlists and it’s very defining and definitional.”
Bonut opened the moleskin to one of his favorite compositions. “Look, I was nursed from the wet burlap sack of an overworked Columbian farmer,” he read. “I had a mustache before any of us were born and I can distinguish between twelve different coffees in eleven cups. I am something of an authority on coffee. So let me just say that I don’t like jeans – I only wear jorts. Also, the best coffee houses play nothing but John Zorn B-sides and the baristas will knife you for looking sideways at their Elvis Costello / Otis Redding commemorative peas-in-a-pod maquettes. Like, yeah.”
“I want to own that,” the girl said. “Where can I buy it?”
“It’s not for sale,” Bonut said. “I wrote it in reply to some condescending article on the AV Club. Those lames sold out ten years before they even got started, but I still read their stuff to, uh, keep them honest.”
The girl couldn’t believe how amazing Bonut was. She wanted to have the kind of flawed, impossible love affair with him that she had watched the actors have in her favorite indie films. “You’ve got poetry in you, boy,” she said.
Bonut took her compliment in stride as easily as he took a studied sip of his quadruple espresso made from organic beans that had been in hibernation since dinosaur times. “I’m just saying what it is, what it is,” he said, quoting some obscure rapper that other hipsters either liked or may have once liked. Wait, he wondered, had this obscure rapper sold out?
The girl shook him from his reverie by reaching across the table and squeezing his bony shoulder. “I want you to take me like you’re Jack Chaser and I’m Emily Twiggs,” she whispered.
The in-crowd had already abandoned the whole pulp novel thing, but Bonut decided to swallow his pride in order to get laid. Since none of the other local legends were around, he could afford to humor her. “Man, that’s rad, that’s such a sincere genre. So much power and glory in so few lines of propulsive prose,” he said.
She reached under the table and squeezed him near his groin. “Yeah, rad all right, it’s an absolute urtext.”
4. What happened afterwards is difficult to summarize, but I think that it explains most of this.