1. “Papa, could you tell me a few of those Brian Powell Stories before bed?” Pillowface Jones asked her father.
Papa Jones cursed his terrible luck. It was bad enough that his daughter was a pillow-faced freak of nature. Why did she have to be such a fussbudget and all-around pain in the keister, too? “Goddamn it, Pillowface, I just cooked you an omelet five hours ago. What the hell else do you want me from me?”
“Oh papa, just one Brian Powell Story, please,” Pillowface begged.
“Fine, fine,” conceded Papa Jones, his faux-weary tone the tone of a man who believed he had the weight of the world on his shoulders but in point of fact hadn’t worked in years and more or less subsisted on his daughter’s steady stream of disability checks. “Do you promise to take all of your sleeping pills after that?”
Pillowface’s pillow-for-a-face lit up, at least as much as any “face” that’s actually just a worn-out, threadbare pillowcase onto which someone has drawn some crude, vaguely anthropomorphic features in black marker possibly could. “Yes daddy, and my benzodiazepines, too.”
“Well, all right, give me that book,” Papa Jones said, lost in a pleasant daydream where Pillowface suffered a stroke and slipped into a permanent vegetative state. But wait: Would the government checks keep coming? He’d have to call Attorney Luxton and ask about that scenario.
Pillowface reached for the oversized picture book on the nightstand, but she lost her balance and fell out of the bed in a physical comedy scene the likes of which you’d see in a hilarious Jerry Lewis picture.
2. David Edgarstein, all 4’8” of him, stood just outside the skid row bar. He kept glancing at his watch. It was nearly 1:30 a.m., thirty minutes before closing time. “Now or never,” he said to himself. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
The scene inside the bar met his expectations. He was a habitué of these places—never the same place; he was too smart for that—and knew that such “last chance saloons” attracted a pretty rough clientele. And rough was exactly how Edgarstein, one of the best script doctors in the business, liked it.
He smoothed his bouffant hair, ran his fingers across his pencil-thin, Victor Mature-inspired mustache, and then buttoned a few of the bottom buttons on his loose, vertically-striped club shirt. This struck him as a conservative place, so there was no sense rocking the boat.
He surveyed the “talent” on display: the usual assortment of toothless bums, liver-spotted winos, and hardcore drug addicts on their last legs. Not too shabby, but this was a special night. Earlier that day, he’d completed the rewrites on the screenplay for the movie version of the hit sitcom What if Dog was One of Us? That soulless piece of shit was going to do gangbusters business domestically, no doubt about it, and Edgarstein was in for 1.5% of the gross.
Speaking of gross: Who was that strapping tubercular fellow at the back table, near the “out of order” jukebox that appeared to have been repurposed on account of the nearby “out of order” bathroom? The boy—he couldn’t have been more than 40 or 45 years old, Edgarstein figured—was a vision: concave chest, sallow complexion, unshaved but nevertheless nearly hairless and acne-scarred face, filthy old 1990s-era “hemp sweater.” He simply had to have this young Adonis!
After sidling up to the table, Edgarstein opened the set with his best line. “Looks like you could use a generous older buddy,” he said.
“Man, I am not doing that again this week,” Brian Powell replied. “I don’t care how much you offer me. I’ll work overtime delivering pies, whatever.”
Edgarstein was taken aback. What did this bit of “trade” think he was proposing, anyway? “I think you’re misunderstanding me, friend. I’m not some creepy old queer coming in here trying to offer you money or crack to ‘toot my root’ or what have you. That’s absolutely disgusting. I mean, can’t a straight-acting fellow just walk into a bar he’s never been in before and try to become your best friend and maybe even sweep you off your feet without you entertaining all these prurient notions?”
Brian Powell slumped down on the table, dropping his head into his hands. “Please, dude, just let me sit here and think.”
“Well, allow me to give you some food for thought. I’m a real big shot out in Hollywood—maybe you’ve heard of it, little place they call Tinseltown USA?—and I write all the best endings. You know that one, ‘The End?’ Hear it all the time, I bet. That was me,” Edgarstein said, winking incongruously as he tried to put his arm around Powell’s bony shoulder.
“Now let me give you one, asshole: Get lost,” Powell hissed.
Edgarstein smiled his most beatific smile, still winking all the while. “What’s wrong with you, buddy? Seems like you’ve got a real case of the blues. Why don’t we go back to my car—I’m parked only like six blocks away—and talk for a little bit? Betcha I can turn that frown upside down.”
Powell heaved a sigh of resignation and stopped trying to push Edgarstein’s arm away. “I have the ‘horse,’ so at least tell me you have a clean works. I don’t want to do anything but a skin pop, ‘cause most everything mainline is blacked out. And all I’m gonna do is yank your crank a little bit. Unless you wrap it, you’ve gotta do the rest.”
“I’m not suggesting anything but a little polite conversation,” Edgarstein insisted. “What’s your name, cutie…er, I mean, pal?”
“Brian. Brian Powell,” Powell answered.
Edgarstein chuckled. “There’s a famous name! Lucky you, I guess.”
“Hasn’t done me a Tootsie-pop lick of good,” Powell said. “Let’s get this show on the road, grandpa. I haven’t slept in three fucking days and it feels like there’s a pack of feral cats trying to claw their way out of my had. Out of my head, I mean. Christ I’m tired.”
3. [NIELS BOHR, as played by either Peter O’Toole or Bruno Ganz, WALKS INTO THE CLASSROOM. AN 200-dB LAUGH TRACK more or less SPLITS THE ROOM IN TWO. As a result, the fat student at the head of the class—the joker of the bunch, one assumes—SUFFERS A HEART ATTACK. This is all meant to be FUNNY AS HELL.]
NIELS BOHR (in a THICK GERMAN ACCENT) – So today ve are diskussink ze “plum pudding” theory of ze atom, ja?
[BOHR draws a picture of an atom on the blackboard. Before he can write a single word, though, the LAUGH TRACK CAUSES THE BLACKBOARD TO SHATTER.]
NIELS BOHR – Vat ze fuck ist dist?
[The LAUGH TRACK makes ANOTHER SWEEP. Three other students, by the looks of them real “hottie” or “Zach Morris” types, EXPLODE into LITTLE PIECES. This looks LIKE THAT SCENE FROM CRONENBERG’S “SCANNERS” but it also LOOKS LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE.]
NIELS BOHR – Mein gott, ist under blitzkrieg, ja ja!
[BOHR turns back to what’s left of the blackboard and sketches his revised “Bohr Model” of the atom. THE LAUGH TRACK WALKS INTO THE ROOM, WIELDING A BASEBALL BAT, and STARTS WHALING ON SOME DUMB “JOCK” TYPE IN THE BACK ROW. Another, slightly less abrasive LAUGH TRACK, LAUGH TRACK #2, ACCOMPANIES THE BEATING and VIDEOTAPES THE WHOLE GODDAMN THING.]
NIELS BOHR – Zis ist und-acceptable! Und-acceptable! I am teachink here! Zis shit ist fuckink important! Do you know vat I am doing? I know ze whole goddamn truth about zis stup-eet fuckink universe! Do you zink for one mo-meent I vill let zese studettes leave here with zere heads full of ztupid “Bri-und Powell Storettes?”
[A third laugh track, LAUGH TRACK #3, ENTERS WITH ONE OF THOSE BIG 1980s-STYLE “BOOM BOXES” ON ITS SHOULDER. The few STUDENTS who are STILL ALIVE start BUSTING SOME PHAT MOVES. This is meant to be JUST GREAT. No one GIVES TWO SHITS ABOUT THAT STUPID OLD NAZI NIELS BOHR, much like they didn’t care about PRINCIPAL ED ROONEY, as played by CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER JEFFREY JONES. The takeaway message here is that SCHOOL’S COOL IF YOU’RE A TOOL OR A FOOL.]
4. “Oh yes,” the eminent Professor J. Ruggleteapot began his answer, “The inclusion of Niels Bohr in this new version of The Brian Powell Story is bizarre. How is it, one wonders, that Niels Bohr, a German idealist philosopher who lived hundreds of centuries ago, could have possibly interacted with Brian Powell, a humble 20th century pizza boy?”
“That… that was my question,” the student mumbled weakly. “You just rephrased my question.”
“I think we’ll all agree that I phrased it better than you ever could,” Ruggleteapot said, pleased with this latest demonstration of the pedagogical merits of the “Socratic Method.”
5. “The key to a good tough nickname or a good tough name,” resident tough guy Buzz Grrr explained to a fairly interested Dr. John Climachus, MD as he sipped his tallboy of dark, dark ale and Climachus his phosphate, “Is that it’s gotta be one or two syllables. Each part has to be one or two syllables, I mean. Take my name, for instance — Buzz Grrr,” he clapped his hands with each syllable of his name. “Sorry about the clapping, but it’s the only way I can count syllables.”
“That’s how it often is with your kind,” Climachus smirked, wiping some phosphate foam from his handlebar moustache.
Though Climachus had meant little offense with his barb, Buzz Grrr took offense. “My kind?” he said, standing to his full, impressive height and pounding his big meathook of a fist into his big meathook of a hand. “‘s’that s’posed ta mean?”
6. “Have you read any of your father’s writing?” Professor Ruggleteapot asked Powell’s son, played by Haley Joel Osment.
“Oh yeah,” answered Powell’s son. “He made me read some of his Brian Powell Stories when I was about twelve.”
“Really?” Ruggleteapot asked.
“Yeah, he made me read it and explain what I thought it was about and stuff,” Powell’s son elaborated.
Ruggleteapot couldn’t help but chuckle. “That’s a rather daunting assignment for a young boy.”
“I told him I thought it was his attempt to make it look like he was saying something important when he wasn’t really saying anything at all,” Powell’s son remembered,” remembered, “And then he beat me unconscious. When I woke up, he’d shaved my head and eyebrows and was telling me, like, yelling at me, ‘You don’t get it! You don’t get it and you never will!'”
Powell’s Daughter … Mila Kunis
Russell Crowe (as Officer Bud White) … Vin Diesel
Emilio Estevez … Himself
The Bag Lady … Cher
7. “Believe me,” Jack Chaser said as blood continued to pour from what used to be his genitals, “I’m better off without the thing.”
“Herc” Broadsides, the taste of bile still fresh (or as fresh as bile can get, anyway) in his mouth, said breathlessly… disgustedly, “Can’t believe… ya just…” but didn’t complete his statement.
Chaser shrugged, wiped the bloody stub with his hand, examined his hand and explained, “It was a long time coming. That thing’s been the albatross around my neck since I was eleven or twelve.”
Broadsides dry heaved.
Chaser, clearly preoccupied with his own flashbacks or whatever, continued undeterred (or “undeterredly”), “Literally, sometimes. I can’t tell ya how many chicks liked to see how far they could stretch the thing. Some of ’em would wrap it around my waist, my arms, my neck… they couldn’t get enough of it.”
Broadsides gagged, but refrained from vomiting. He produced a hip flask from his breastpocket and took a swig. “Ya had it made,” he said weakly but coarsely as a gravel pit, “Ya had it made, Jack.”
“Did I?” Chaser asked, trying to sound thought-provoking or philosophical or some shit. Years of acting in boilerplate police procedurals had rendered him incapable of succeeding at such tasks, though. Every question he posed came across as some sort of accusation. Whether he was asking his mother if she liked her Christmas present or asking the pizza boy how much his pie cost (usually no more than $5; he was on an actor-playing-a-policeman’s salary, after all), he always sounded as if he was asking, “Why’d ya steal the jewels, punk?” or something similar. He paused and then answered his own question, in a roundabout way, “Seems to me I was living a bad dream. A nightmare, even. See, none of those girls — and there were a thousand millions of ’em, believe me — ”
“A billion, then?” Broadsides asked before taking another swig from his hip flask.
“Who do I look like? Niels Bohr?” Chaser asked. He shrugged. “Anyway, they didn’t know me for me. They didn’t want to know me for me. They didn’t want to like me for me or love me for me…” his voice trailed off.
Broadsides twisted the cap back on his flask and barked, “Who gives a shit?” before wiping some stray rye whiskey from his mouth with a leathery forearm. “All a bitch is,” he paused and stuck his finger in Chaser’s face, ostensibly to make sure the washed-up police procedural star knew it was him to whom the great Broadsides was speaking, “Is a pudenda or vulva or however you’d say that. I mean, ya’d have better luck makin’ an ‘intellectual connection’ or an ’emotional connection’ or whatever it is pussies like you want with a fuckin’ squirrel.”
8. “There has been a lot of dispute over whether Powell’s stream-of-conscious descriptions and use of multiple similar adjectives to describe the same noun is intentional or not,” Dr. Ted Tunnell noted. “While there is some evidence to suggest that it’s unintentional—and this is the view that my colleague John Ruggleteapot takes—most signs would point toward his intending to write in this manner. After all, the man was educated at Yale University. It stands to reason that he could write a coherent sentence. He simply chose not to.”
9. The papa bear was hard at work in his office (or “bear-man-cave,” as he called it). What was he doing, pray tell? Why, the usual: Getting all red-furred and sweaty as he attempted to “bust a nut” to his favorite set of “SSBBW voraphilia candids.”
“Mmm, good god, yeah, eat it, mmm mmm, baby,” he was mumbling to himself when a team of cameramen smashed down his door with a battering ram.
“Hey papa bear, you’re on the ‘Super Sloppy’ edition of ‘Meatbeaterzzz!’” shouted generic go-to host Trace Crabtree, shoving a camera under the papa bear’s muzzle. “How do you feel about that? More importantly, how do you think the mama bear is going to feel about it?”
To his credit, the papa bear didn’t so much as glance away from his triptych of HD monitors to acknowledge these uninvited guests. Nope, he kept right on “rubbing one out.” And why shouldn’t he? He’d served this goddamn country and hurt his back in the process. He knew his rights.
“Papa bear, don’t you feel ashamed of yourself? I mean, you’re fat and disgusting and naked in front of a bunch of monitors in one of the—jesus, probably the—smelliest room I’ve ever been in…”
Hamming it up for the viewers at home, one of the cameramen kicked over a mountain of used hankies and other “jizz wipes.”
“And you can’t say anything? Not even ‘I’m sorry?’ Not even ‘I’m a terrible human being?”” Crabtree persisted.
“Mmm, mmm, mmm,” went the papa bear, getting ever closer to climax.
“You’re a total piece of garbage, papa bear. Even by the standards here at ‘Meatbeaterzzz,’ you’re just plain rotten. Can’t you see that this life you’re living is just…just inexcusable?”
“Uh uh uh…”
“Why, papa bear, oh why won’t you own up to your wretchedness?”
Then the papa bear “finished,” and a pall descended over the room.
10. Save for the occipital hematoma he’d sustained during a recent barroom slobber-knocker with a local tough, Dr. John Climachus, MD, appeared to be in the pink of health. He straightened his bowtie and turned to face the camera.
“A psychoanalytic interpretation of the Brian Powell Stories? Hmm, I didn’t realize that people were still doing those,” he said with the sort of self-effacing reserve that had made him the breakout star of TV’s “The Mccleary Group.”
“And for good reason!” barked fellow panelist and well-known expert Jonas Ruggleteapot.
“Come now, Jonas,” said well-tanned moderator Maggie McCleary. “You’ll have your turn.”
“Well, Maggie,” Climachus continued, ignoring Ruggleteapot’s interruption, “I would have to say that the Brian Powell Stories—or Story, if you will, because it’s not entirely clear that there is more than one…”
Ruggleteapot pounded his fist on the table. “I think we’re all very clear on that point, Johannes! Haven’t you read my first three books?”
“Not all of us suffer from insomnia, perfesser,” joked veteran newspaper editor Eddy “The Chief” Jacks, cracking up the staid studio audience as surely as if he were a hot college comedian and they a gaggle of hardgaining, $5 pizza pie-loving “bros.”
“As I was saying, it’s not a matter of whether there’s one story or many, but rather what the story signifies—‘signifies’ used here in the general sense, that is. It seems to me that the continuation of this Brian Powell meta-narrative is, um, a sort of unsatisfied demand that has been made—for the author, whoever he was…”
Ruggleteapot nearly swallowed his corncob pipe. “Whoever he was? Climachus, you goddamn charlatan…”
“The Chief” slapped his ample belly. “There’s an FCC fine for ya!”
“Gentlemen, please,” McCleary urged. She had a pretty nice rack for a woman her age, which of course raised the question in the mind of every red-blooded male or female viewer: Are they real? Yep, they were.
“It’s not a need, you understand, because this ‘Brian Powell’—and here I’m using that name as a kind of super-position, not as something that represents any individual living or dead—had no, um, ‘need,’ properly so called, to write this story. Its creation was, I would argue, the residue of that ‘need,’ an insistent demand that is…”
“Poppycock!” exclaimed an apoplectic Ruggleteapot.
“…that is, uh, totally separated from that ‘need’ and has become ‘desire,’ properly so called, and, as such, is not about the satisfaction of that ‘need’ because, being ‘desire,’ it can never be fully satisfied but will rather reproduce itself as more ‘desire.’ The Brian Powell Story or Stories, then, is the object of ‘desire’ for the ‘Author,’ properly so called, by which I mean it is the object that, hrmm, causes the desire.”
“Yeah, what he said,” quipped “the Chief,” bringing down the house as surely as if he were a ghetto-fabulous Queen Latifah and the audience members some sort of Steve Martin gestalt.
11. So what happened, not that I’m cutting to the chase or anything, was that Brian Powell went back to Edgarstein’s car and injected that inveterate “cruiser” with a primo, Grade A flu shot. That night it was all fun and games for our beloved script doctor, but once November rolled around and he realized that he hadn’t caught his annual flu…well, then he knew something was up. He bought a “Saturday night special”—it was the only “piece” that would fit in his tiny, ferret-like hands—and went back to the bar and tried to shoot Powell but somehow wound up killing himself. Crackerjack policemen Jack Chaser and the Chief took the call, and after they’d reconnoitered the scene and taken copious notes and smoked a shitload of “Black Death” cigarettes and carried on like an old married couple, the entire ugly affair was ruled a lover’s quarrel (or a “crime of passion,” to use the precise terminology from Black’s Law Dictionary 4th edition, ed. Bryan Garner) and quickly swept under the rug (“Which was the first time they’d ever swept up anything in that dump!” joked the hot college comedian, who was still wanted for intent to elicit laughter in 12 states). Best wishes for a great summer,