My pleasure now comes from painless, boring things. I revel in routine. Saturday morning reports dead on time for a dance of food and housework and television. I wake up and turn on the set – cartoons, sporting events, tire commercials – as I shuttle my dirty clothes, whites, permanent press, across the courtyard to the laundry room. Off to the shower, soap, rinse and shampoo, towel off, slap on my weekend sweats. Wash is done, shove them westward to the dryer, French toast for breakfast, cartoons for forty-five minutes, hang up the permanent press over the curtain rods, twenty minutes of baseball, then fetch the cottons and fold them in a ring around my easy chair. The weekly movers trudge by my window, clanking and stomping and giving instructions, “easy, back, easy now,” piling sofas, bookcases, dinettes, into their orange-striped U-Hauls and Daddy’s pickup truck. In fall, I shuffle bacon-colored leaves along the walk, the steady song of college football (“…fourth and ten, this could be the play of the game, he’s back, he’s got time…”) tucked away in my ears.
The Eagle aims its slick anti-establishment journalism at the new rich of the baby boom, filling the back pages with rock ‘n’ roll, movie trivia and syndicated underground comic strips. The Revolution is just another way to make a buck.
Sasha Novesceu, the arts editor. She published a book of poetry in college because Mommy wrote children’s books, which pissed me off right away until I read the thing and actually liked it. Strange thing is, there’s no poet to be found in this woman. Talk show host, fashion model, maybe.
“How was the play?” She set down a bundle of press releases and sipped from a mug circled with little red hearts.
“Great! Tom Stoppard, funny, absurdist. Pacing could’ve been better, but they got through it pretty good.”
“Did you remember what I said?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Sell the story. Make people want to read it. I know. Hi Mark. Enthusiasm.”
Mark was the production manager, odd angles, radical type fonts, an overuse of magenta (his hair). Typical Eagle. He slouched past looking hangover-damned.
“Hi Michael. What’s hoppin’?”
It wasn’t really a question so I didn’t answer.
“Right!” said Sasha. “Invest your article with power. Give people a reason to read it.”
I had my eyes on the movie poster over her desk, Gigi, French girl, wild red hair.
“Computer number two?” I asked.
“Yes. Soon as Terry’s done with the jazz column. Grab a cup of coffee.”
“I guess I will.”
If I had any gumption, I would take this job right away from this cheerleading poet, preaching power as she alphabetizes the movie listings. Right now, though, it’s enough to belong here for two hours a week, to get those regular phone calls from people saying, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.
“Mikey boy? Whatsa digs, kid?”
I’ll never figure out how a twenty-five-year-old got to be such a hepcat. He scooted his wire-rim spectacles up on his nose and stared at the screen.
“The digs is ten minutes till that jazz computer becomes a theater computer,” I said.
“Hey, no sweat Mikey babe! Gotcha comin’ goin’ and standin’ still. Straight out on the wrap in a microsec.”
He punched the keys in a Bo Diddley beat and ripped into his story like ten minutes to the apocalypse. Nice to know some people actually listen to me.
“Where did you learn to talk like that, Terry?”
“Learn, schmearn, I was born talkin’ like that. I shot out of the womb rappin’ goo, babe, like ga ga, man. Doc slapped my little red butt and I screamed, ‘Shit, man! Ten seconds on this scene and they’re on my case already!’”
I had to laugh. This cat could spew like no one. “Later, Terry. Time for java.”
My story came out smooth, baby. The more complicated plays are a snap; a mind-fuck like Inspector Hound feels like cheating. Lotta room to move around. I stopped off at Sasha’s sheetrock hovel and saluted.
“Finis, mon capitain.”
“Will I like it?”
“You had better,” I said.
“Is that a threat or a guarantee?”
“A guarantee. Call me Tuesday with my next mission?”
“Certainly. Thanks for getting it in today.”
“No problem. See you later.”
I walked into the downtown streets, nightclub signs lined up like bottles behind the bar, and walked around the corner to my car, five minutes left on the meter. Like clockwork, baby, like clockwork.
Photo by MJV