Markman Bufferbeak was a seagull, but not an especially good one. While the other seagulls flew and fished gracefully, Markman rarely caught a fish and when he did he often dropped it. The other birds in the colony he lived in were not kind about it. They taunted him and called him Johnathan Livingston Butterbeak, they told him he would starve and that no girl would ever want to marry him.
It was true that he didn’t have much luck with the fairer sex, and he ate mostly breadcrumbs and fried fish sandwiches that were thrown at him by tourist. Eventually he met a rather dumpy bird named Mahwak who had migrated to his colony from Cabrillo Beach. She was nothing to look at and she nagged him constantly. They had produced six chicks in their two years together.
One day while out for an afternoon flight Markman saw another bird drop a catfish. He swooped down and grabbed it. He was on his way to present it to Mahwak when he narrowly missed flying into an electric wire. He fumbled and dropped the fish, squawking curse words all the way.
Gloria Bortman was walking down the street when a catfish fell out of the sky and hit her on the head. She screamed when the slimy thing slapped her in the face. After she got over her initial shock she looked up at the sky. Fear seized her heart and she dropped to her knees she had never been a religious woman, but Jesus had just hit her in the head with a fish. She hesitantly picked up the fish and headed home to show her husband.
Markman landed at the colony with an empty beak and tears in his eyes.
“Where have you been? The kids are starving,” His wife squawked.
“I just…I had a fish, but it slipped out and I didn’t see where it went …and…”
“Jesus, Markman. You could have at least picked up some bread.”
“”Let me just rest up and I’ll go back out…”
With this she gave him a hard peck. Then another and another. A crowd began to gather.
“You stay here with the kids, I’ll go get dinner,”
She flew away leaving Markman to face the sarcastic smirks on the beaks of his contemporaries. Someone in the crowd called him Butterbeak.
Gloria arrived at home to find her husband watching CNN and talking back to the television set while stuffing his face full of barbequed potato chips.
“Racist dick, last week you said you were against abortion.” He screamed sputtering potato chips everywhere.”
“Dwezel, I was walking down the street and this hit me in the head.”
“What, someone threw a catfish at you? Were you wearing your union shirt because I bet it was those scabs…?
“No, it feel from the sky it was a sign from Jesus.”
“What are you on?”
“Nothing, Dwezel…God is talking to me.,” she began to tear up.
“Oh come on there has got to be some kind of logical explanation. Maybe someone threw it at you and you didn’t see.”
“It fell from the sky I looked up one second before it happened and saw it fall out of the clear blue sky.”
“A plane probably dropped it…”
“There was nothing in the sky. Dwezel, I think God wants me to do something.”
“Well maybe he wants me to fed people?”
“No, not just catfish. There was that thing in the Bible about loaves and fishes…”
“What did it say about loaves and fishes?”
“He fed people bread and fish or something like that. Jesus did a lot with fish. Believe me…I do know that.”
“So he wants you to feed the poor?”
She thought about this for a minute.
“Maybe that’s it,” she said with a shrug.
“So are you going to volunteer in a soup kitchen?”
“Maybe, he’s trying to tell me I should like, learn about food. Like taking a cooking class or something?”
“Well, maybe, but.”
“That must be it. Cat’s are curious. What do you do when you’re curious? You learn. Fishes are food, so that must be what he meant.”
She went online to look for cooking classes.
Marla Finblossom sat at the bottom of the ocean crying. Her friends and family surrounded her and tried to offer comfort. She had lost her husband Frank to a Seagull that morning. He swam too close to shore and the gull had grabbed him. She always told him not to go close to the shore, but he said that the food tasted better there.
She looked at her friends and the vast ocean and wondered where she would go next.
Salton Greystone was on his deathbed. At the age of ninety three he had survived an attempted takeover of his corporation, four divorces and a fire that burned 30 percent of his body when he was 50 years old. The doctors were amazed that he survived the fire, but his family took it as par for the course. There wasn’t enough fire in all of hell to burn Salton down.
Salton sat in bed eating the greasy bacon and egg breakfast. He gulped his coffee and thumbed through Variety where he read an unflattering article about himself and his feud with his good for nothing son.
Salton had grown to hate both of his children. At first he hadn’t known what to make of them; slimy little alien looking things that had been presented to him after exiting his wife’s naughty. He was grateful that they had been born before all this nonsense about the father being present during the birth. He was perfectly happy not to see the vile creatures emerging from what had once been much sought after territory.
He had liked them for a little while. From the time they were six to ten they had been pleasant little distractions to play with and talk to a couple times a week. The girl was smart and had a sharp curiosity about daddy’s business. The boy was slow and plump and could be entertained for hours by the simplest of toys. Salton never imagined that they would grow into the greedy monsters that they were today.
He put down the magazine in disgust. He flipped on the television to find news of the election. He thought he heard the flip flop of unwelcomed high heels in the hallway.
Abigail Greystone began the morning on a bad note. She had fallen asleep in her office and awaken to the sound of the maid vacuuming in the hall. She showered and changed there without even going home. She had breakfasted at a random greasy spoon on the way to the hospital where the aspiring actor waiter had pretended he didn’t know who she was and flirted with her. People had been trying to play her with that kind of nonsense all of her life and she found it tiresome and insulting. Her driver arrived late and they had been stuck in traffic for over twenty minutes.
She sighed and tried to toughen up as she approached her father’s hospital room. She wondered if she would hear from Bubbles later that afternoon. Bubbles was the topless waitress for whom her father had left her mother. She had made a clumsy attempt at gaining control of the Greystone empire before the aging patriarch had caught wise and filed for divorce. Bubbles now called Abigail quite often, demanding the money to which she felt entitled. Abigail was in the process of attempting to get a restraining order against the psychotic bimbo.
Barb Platt sat on the end of her bed completely exhausted. She dreaded the prospect of working yet another double shift at the hospital. She realized she had no choice, she owed thousands of dollars in student loans to McKinley College and she only made thirteen dollars an hour.
Barb looked out the window of her tiny room at the Rosslyn Hotel. There was a bum ranting about Jesus in the cold morning rain. Barb sighed and headed down the hall to take a quick shower.
Walter Greystone left his hotel suite to breakfast at Circa 55. He ordered a fruit salad as was his custom when visiting Los Angeles. He came once a month to visit his father in hopes of a reconciliation, but the chances of this happening before the old man caught the last train to Hell were waning.
Just as he was about to take his first sip of coffee, Trisha walked into the room. He rose slightly to greet her. She gave him a peck on each cheek and told him he looked great. She looked great as well. Long dark hair framed her symmetrical face and cascaded down towards her soft curves. She sat down across from him and ordered a cup of coffee.
Although she was seven years his junior, Trisha was Walter’s ex stepmother; he had always adored her. He hated when his sister referred to her as Bubbles. She had been a waitress in a strip club briefly, in her early twenties, but she had gone on to a career as a set tutor for child actors. Walter had always found her quiet warm and enchanting.
The two chatted about this and that as they nibbled on their fruit plates. After a while the conversation turned to unpleasant matters.
“Have you talked to him on the phone recently,” she asked.
“Last week,” he said. “Half the time he says hello, ask me how I am and proceeds to tell me what a piece of shit I am. The other half of the time he’s so looped out on drugs or demntia he doesn’t know who I am, or thinks I’m still five years old.”
“It’s too bad you can’t just talk to him just when he’s in that demented state, he’d be more agreeable.”
“Right, maybe I should try to find out exactly what he’s on from his doctor and slip extras into his Frango mints.”
“Will he talk to you?”
“Only if Abigail doesn’t find out about it.”
“Good old Abby. She certainly does have him snowed.
“She got a restraining order against me. An actual restraining order.”
“Does that surprise you? Really? She’s awfully jealous of you. I mean you’re younger and prettier than her and you don’t have to work as hard for my father’s attention. I mean she was a straight A student, she was class president at Georgetown and an Editor of the Law Review and even with all that you were his main girl. Not that I can blame him….” He said with a sly smile.
She smiled back. The two of them decided to do some shopping before heading over to the hospital to see Salton.
Abigail entered her father’s hospital room to find her father angrily flipping from station to station.
“All the shows that aren’t mine, thanks to you.”
“I’m trying my very best, dad. I’m fine and how are you?”
“I’m 92 and about to die.”
“Look I wanted to talk to you about selling Pensky. Trimens is offering us 140 million.” I brought the proposal,” she said handing him the papers.
“Why,” he asked.
“Why do I want to talk to you about it or why are they offering us 140 million?”
“The latter, of course.”
“Well, they feel that the company would be an asset to them and it has become something of a liability to us.”
“I don’t feel like talking about that right now,” he snapped.
“Well, I’m afraid we have to talk about it really soon.”
“Why is someone else going to sell it to them?”
“No I just mean that…”
“That what? That I might die and you won’t be able to profit as much?”
“Look, Abigail, you might as well know about this now. I’m putting Sunbees in charge for a bit.
“Sunbees!? What the fuck? How can you do this to me I’ve worked my ass off for this company and I….”
Their conversation was interrupted by the clanking of clumsily driven cart. Barb Platt, Salton’s least favorite PCA was there to give him his pills and his bath.
“We’ll talk about this later,” Abigail whispered hotly. She left the room as Barb got to work.
“How are you doing Mr. Greystone?”
“Alright,” he grumped, He set the papers his daughter had given him down and picked up the enormous cup full pills presented to him by the fat yutz in the dull blue uniform.
Barb observed him as he took his pills. His chart said he sometimes tried to hide them as he didn’t like the pain pills. She wished he would offer her some of the OxyContin. She was sure that if she could just get a good night’s sleep she would feel more lucid when she had to work these double shifts.
After he silently swallowed the pills she removed his pajamas and began to bath him.
“Don’t get any Ideas. I like em a little thinner than you,” he slurred.
“Okay,” she chuckled.
“”You should try Jenny Craig or something.”
“I can’t afford it, Mr. Greystone.”
“Maybe just cut what you eat in half,” he said.
She finished up and headed off towards to the lounge for her coffee break. As she was putting the cart away, she noticed that Mr. Redstone seemed to have left some paperwork sitting on it. She picked up the document with the intention of returning it to him.
She glanced it over. It looked important. She thought that loosing something like this would not bode well in his mental competency hearing. She walked into the breakroom and threw it into the garbage can, just before the trash was about to be taken out.
She poured herself a cup of coffee and smiled wearily as she looked out at the rain.
Craigslist: Like Food? Wanna be paid to eat on camera?
Mary Beth arrived at Denny’s for her 9:00 a.m. appointment. She ordered some coffee and checked her phone nervously. The coffee arrived but the man who was supposed to meet her did not. She was just about to leave when she got a text message saying that he would be there in five minutes. Ten minutes later a harried looking man entered the restaurant. She waived at him.
He smiled and took a seat across from her.
“Hi, I’m James.”
“I’m Mary Beth.”
The waiter approached and he ordered a coffee. Mary Beth took a good look at him. He was about forty; short with curly hair and a pot belly. He wore a Nirvana tee shirt and jeans.
“So you answered my ad. Did you have any questions about what the job would entail,” he asked.
“Um” Mary Beth began. She looked around for fear that someone might hear her. “You would film me…like…eating dinner.”
“Well, really you would mostly be filming yourself.”
“Right, but I mean today….”
“Today, I would audition you. I will be auditioning girls for about the next week, for all three meals. I would then pick someone. They would come over to my studio and I would teach them how to angle their web cam on their mouth just so..”
Mary Beth looked around the restaurant again. She thought the couple at the table behind them might be listening.
“After that, they would make one video a day for one month. We would put the videos up and see how they fly for one month. If the videos are successful, there would be more work.
The waiter came back and took their food orders. James ordered pancakes and eggs.
“I’ll have the same,” Mary Beth said.
“I thought you wanted the burger and fries,” he said, his eyes narrowing a bit.
“Oh, sorry…. right. I’ll have a burger and fries.”
The waiter walked away.
“Did you have any other questions?”
“It’s really $200 a video?”
The woman sitting behind James seemed to turn a bit.
“ And I mean the camera….”
“It would just be focused on your mouth.”
“It pays through Pay Pal?”
They made awkward small talk until the food came.
Mary Beth took a bite of her hamburger and began chewing it.
“”Open your mouth just a little bit,” he said. “Not that much.”
She tried to comply.
“There you go. That’s it. “
This went on for five minutes until James finally excused himself and went to the bathroom. When he came back he appeared to be sweating. He devoured his meal and paid the bill.
Mary Beth and James walked out into the street. He said he would make a decision in one week. If she did not hear from him by then, she wouldn’t.
As she walked back to her car she wondered how she did. She wondered if there was still enough time to apply at Fed Ex.
The tiny waiters sat in the bottom of the briefcase as the elevator rumbled its way to the first floor. Fred and Artie talked excitedly about their new lives and Sam said nothing. They stifled when they heard the sounds of traffic, realizing that they were being carried down the street.
Pikeman and Byron arrived at Byron’s car and set the briefcase down on the floor of the passenger’s side. They agreed to go to a local Walmart where they could procure a dollhouse, furniture and some ready to eat food to feed their new dependents.
Byron started the car and headed towards the freeway. Pikeman’s stomach began to knot. He was going to be successful; this was happening. People were going to respect him and they were going to expect him to know what he was doing. They would hold him to a certain standard and have no Idea that his ”discovery,” had been nothing more than an accident. He felt nauseous; at least at the call center no one ever expected anything from him. They pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, climbed out of the car and opened the briefcase.
“Okay, guys were just going to get you a house and some supplies and we’ll be right back,” Pikeman said. With this he felt a sharp bite on his finger. He leaped back in shock. Sam leaped out of the car and began to run across the parking lot.
Byron started after him, but Pikeman held him back.
“Let’s not call attention to ourselves. Where is he going to go?”
The Adrenalin rushed through Sam’s body as he raced under the parked cars to the street. He planned to catch the bus to Hollywood where he would find a real agent and become a serious actor. He reached the street and began to look for a bus sign when he suddenly saw a shadow.
The woman walking towards Wal-Mart had no Idea that there was a tiny waiter stuck to the bottom of her shoe. She had no Idea she had stepped on anything at all. She wondered why the two young men standing near the door looked so forlorn as she walked in.
Medgar Simpson sat in his apartment waiting for Dr. Peterson and his lawyer to arrive. He was at the end of his rope with the clan of tiny people and he could not wait to get rid of them. He and Dr. Peterson were meeting to plan the press conference where they would announce their discovery to the world.
The doorbell rang and he buzzed his guests up. Dr. Peterson appeared at the door with a hefty brunette woman.
“Medgar this is Roz Finkleman, my attorney. The two shook hands. They all headed over to the terrarium where Roz stared in wonder at the tiny people.
“Oh my God is that David Strathairn,” she asked.
“Again these people are repressed memories. He is actually a repressed sexual fantasy from the mind of a very disturbed woman.”
“Well, even so, it isn’t every day you see a big star like that. Especially not stark naked.”
Mr. Strathairn rolled his eyes and went to hide in the tiny fish castle. The other tiny people grudgingly introduced themselves and went back to their game of 80’s trivia.
The three full sized people headed into the kitchen and began to discuss the press conference. It was decided that it would be held at The University of California during the Jewlicious Festival. They decided to invite only established journalist from reputable publications and no bloggers.
“The thing that could be a problem here, gentleman is the legal rights of the tiny memories are questionable.”
“I don’t see why they would have legal rights. Their just memories,” Dr. Peterson said.
“Yes, but they have bodies. They eat sleep and talk and from what I saw just now they have moods and feelings, Roz said.
“Well, I suppose that’s true. But it’s not like they can fend for themselves. They are completely dependent on us anyway,” Dr. Peterson argued.
“But you took them out of their natural environment,” Roz said. They were doing just fine inside the head.”
“Maybe we should just introduce them to the academic community for a while. “ Medgar said. “We could study them, find out how they came into existence and then, I don’t know, tell the government about it and then do a press release.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good Idea,” Roz said. One of the other doctors could attempt the experiment on another schizophrenic and make it look like his discovery. We want to move quickly, but carefully with this.”
“What if we got them to sign some kind of agreement, just so are bases are covered if someone brings up the question of their rights,” Medgar said.
“Getting them to sign an agreement would be like our saying that we think they have rights and can think for themselves,” Roz said. We want to go in assuming that they don’t have any rights, but come up with a plan of action, just in case someone argues that they do have rights.”
As the trio at Medgar’s house argued. Pikeman and Byron were setting up the doll house that was to serve as the set of the new reality show, “Small Time Hollywood.”
The two men had broken the news of Sam’s death to Fred and Artie who seemed sad, but not entirely devastated. They had no problem eating the mini candy bars that Byron had fed them. After they finished setting up their bedrooms and the living room, they each took baths in cereal bowls.
After they got dressed in tiny doll suit they sat on their living room sofa and Byron got out his camera. They two waiters introduced themselves and talked about what it was like to live in a woman’s head.
The actors on the set of “What Happened to Doug.” Stood around the body of Sam Waterman waiting for the coroner to arrive. He had suddenly dropped dead in the middle of a scene.. Everyone thought this was strange as he was a health 50-year-old man.
Some of the actresses were crying and everyone was panicked. One of the background extras looked at the body and screamed.
“Oh my God. His arm!”
“What’s wrong,” the director said.
“His arm, it’s disappearing!”
From Craigslist: Group therapy available for anxiety, sex addiction and anorexia.
Medger Simpson parked the ratty Geo Storm several blocks away from his virtual office on Wilshire Blvd. The young psychotherapist wondered what Dr. Peterman, who he had not seen in five years, could possibly want to talk to him about.
Dr. Peterman was a psychologist who had worked in the mental hospital where Medger had done his college internship. The doctor specialize in multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. Medger had facilitated a group therapy for families of patients with multiple personalities.
In all the time they worked together Medger had never gotten the impression that Dr. Peterman was partial to him in any way. Peterman had given Medger reasonably positive reviews. But, the doctor had always seemed cold and authoritative toward him. He was certain that he had been forgotten the second he walked out the door.
Medger climbed the stairs to his third floor office. He wondered why anyone would take the elevator when the stairs were faster and safer. When he reached the office he noticed with some irritation that the publicist he shared the office with had left some goofy looking guy’s headshots all over the desk. Medger put the headshots in a corner and placed his sign on the door. Soon after which he heard the elevator cranking to pick up his visitor.
Dr. Peterman entered the office the office wearing sweats and tennis shoes. The two men shook hands and asked after each other’s health. Dr. Peterman shut the door and sat down.
“So what can I do for you,” asked Medger.
Dr. Peterman leaned toward Medger in a conspiratorial fashion.
“Medger for the last six months I have been conducting an experiment on a young woman with schizophrenia. She had all the classic symptoms of it; voices in the head, delusions of grandeur and the paranoia that goes with it…
”Uh huh,” Medger said wondering where this was going.
Well, One day she came in for her usual appointment and I examined her. I was looking in her ears when I saw a tiny woman running down her ear canal. At first I thought I might be seeing things. I continued the examination and said nothing. But the next week I examined her and I saw a small boy riding a bicycle back and forth.
Medger sat back in his chair.
“DR. Peterson….um, are you having… do you think…are you in therapy right now,” Medgar said wondering if the doctors wasn’t experiencing a psychotic break.
“Don’t patronize me, Medger! I’m perfectly sane. I do, however know how crazy I sound. You’re the first person I’ve told about this.”
“Thank you, I’m flattered.”
“Medger, I have devised a device to extract these creatures. If I can take them out and study them. I may well be able to cure schizophrenia. If nothing else I could certainly cure hers.”
“Sir, what you are talking about is very dangerous. Not to mention illegal…..”
“I know it is. I can’t do it in the hospital. That’s why I’m coming to you.”
“What could I do?”
“Well, Medger, I was wanting to have you assist me and use your office for the extraction.”
“Dr. Peterman…..I don’t know. Isn’t there someone, well I mean you must have many trust worthy colleagues.”
“Yes, but I can’t go to any of them I am too closely affiliated with them. You and I barely know one another, no one would ever suspect.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no. You can’t just go around experimenting on people.
“Look, I’ve talked to the patient about it and she wants it done. She is very high functioning. She says she would rather be dead than keep taking meds all her life. I will give you fifty thousand dollars in cash and do anything I can to ensure that I will refer the most famous people I know to you for their psychotherapy.”
Medgar told the doctor that he would think about it and the two men parted. As he walked back to his car he wondered if he would end up losing his psychotherapist license over this. He drove back to the valley with his stomach in knots.
A week later he found himself at his office pacing the floor as he waited for the doctor to arrive. As he waited he imagined one of the men he shared the office walking in on him. It was impossible of course the door would be locked and their card keys wouldn’t work, but he worried just the same.
A few minutes later Dr. Peterman entered the small office with his patient Shelia in tow. She was a short, pale, slightly plump blond woman in her mid-forties. She looked nervous when she entered the office and there were sweat stains on the armpits of her Winnie the Pooh Tee shirt.
Medgar closed the door and the doctor sat Shelia down in a chair. The valium he had given her was beginning to set in. The doctor pulled out a contraption that looked like a giant twisty straw and inserted into Sheila’s ear and poured water into it. Nothing happened for about fifteen minutes. Then Medgar was astonished to see a tiny woman in a house dress swirling out through the straw. She landed on the carpet gasping for air. She was followed by the boy on the bike, a man in a tweed jacket with patches on the elbow, three waiters, a tiny Jesus, a teenager who resembled Sheila and a tiny version of David Strathan.
As the tiny people fell to the ground Dr. Peterson instructed Medgar to put them in a small fish tank. After Shelia’s head was empty, the men secured the fish tank and put the fish tank in a large box that Medgar placed on a dolly. The doctor handed Medger his money and instructed him to meet him back at the office in two weeks. He suggested feeding the people plain oatmeal.
Medgar went to retrieve his car from the parking lot next door and the doctor and Shelia left. Nobody noticed the three tiny waiters cowering under the desk.
I represent writers artist and actors. I will get you booked. $67.00 will get you an introductory package.
Pikeman sat on the bus, grateful for the air conditioning. He had given himself a whole extra hour to get to his virtual office on Sunset Blvd. He tried not to smell the stench of urine and sweat that was present on the bus. He tried not to look at the old woman who had no teeth and an ugly scar or listen to the man who sat arguing with himself about a long ago debt.
As his perspiration froze and dried, he closed his eyes and tried to envision success. He would meet Peter and tell him what he could do for him. Peter would get excited about the idea and they would sign a contract together. He promised himself a victory drink at Bar Marmont.
He opened his eyes as the bus pulled away from the sad madness of downtown Los Angeles and watched the faces change as the 704 drove out of downtown and onto Santa Monica Blvd. Although it was an express bus, it crawled down the road past bums screaming the bible and begging for money and then buildings and houses with peeling paint and many children playing on the lawn. It drove by hipsters loudly proclaiming their disdain for what secretly comforted them and then the Beverly Center with its tourist and its wannabes. Finally it reached his stop, where maids and shop girls dismounted the bus to serve the wealthy and discontented.
He walked to his virtual office, He took the rickety elevator up to the third floor and quickly stuck his sign on the door. He walked into the bathroom, washed his armpits and brushed his teeth. He returned to his office and sat behind his desk reading the Hollywood Reporter that he swiped from the mailbox of a house, that was just three blocks away from the Wilshire Blvd. call center, where he secretly worked. He checked the clock on the VoIP phone that sat on the desk. He still had five minutes before His client was to arrive. He hoped this one would show up. He took a quick glance at the notebook that was left by one of the men with whom he shared the office. He wondered if it belonged to the psychotherapist or the life coach as he shoved it into a drawer.
He heard the precarious rumbling of the elevator gasping its way to the third floor. He instinctively straightened up, then remember to slouch again. He heard the the slow footsteps of a man trying to locate an office.
Pikeman’s heart sank when the man stepped into the room. He was slight and chubby and appeared to be about thirty five. He had teeth that would suggest that he was a smoker and a hairline that would suggest he was a worrier.
“Peter,” Pikeman said rising to his feet.
‘Yes are you…”
“Nice to meet you,” Peter said. They shook hands and sat down.
“So, you were a little vague in your e mail, what exactly brought you to me,” Pikeman asked.
“Well, I wanted a publicist.”
“What did you want publicity for?”
“But, Well, I mean what is it that you do. “
“I see,” Pikeman said wondering how he was ever going to get someone this homely and dull on reality television.
“I want everyone to know about it,” Peter explained.
“Well, we could try to get you on Big Brother or something. Maybe we could start by having you make some videos for YouTube. Can you do impressions?”
Pikeman asked wondering if he still had time to sell his plasma after the audience with this self-absorbed yutz.
“I don’t think you understand. I would never do reality television, in fact I arbore the.”
“ So what are you an actor…a writer? Do you play music?”
“I don’t do any of those things. I’m customer service representative in a call center.”
“Oh yeah, which one” Pikeman asked, “I’ve got a buddy who does that.” He wondered if this wasn’t some kind of trick; was someone trying to humiliate him?
“It’s a legal service in Santa Monica.”
“Yeah, well that can be tough work. I understand why you would want out,” Pikeman said, wondering how many more calls he himself could take before committing suicide.
“Oh, I don’t want out. Well, I mean I do. But, I don’t have any talent and I’m nothing to look at.”
‘That never stopped anyone before,’ Pikeman thought.
“I want all the people in my world to know I exist.”
“In your world,” Pikeman asked wondering if the man wasn’t schizophrenic.
“I want you to let the people I deal with every day know that I’m alive. The coworkers in the call center. My family members, the people on the bus, this really cute girl who works at the grocery store I go to.”
I’ll give you the $67.00, plus expenses and I’ll write you a letter of recommendation.”
Pikeman thought for a moment. He could create bunch of fake Facebook profiles and like everything Peter posted. He could photograph him eating at various restaurants and have a girl he knew who wanted to be a model have her picture taken with him.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Pikeman said.
The two men signed a contract and Peter left. Pikeman, headed up the block to Bar Marmont. The $67.00 in his pocket made him a professional publicist; now all he needed was a drink.
The machine rumbled and stopped; I stepped out cautiously. There was nothing in the closet except two rats who stared up at me after I came out of the machine. I bolted out of the closet and into the bedroom which contained many more rats. I ran to the front door, but there wasn’t one: they building had been abandon. I walked down the stairs avoiding several more rats along the way. I almost tripped over a homeless man on my way out.
The street outside was just coming to life in the early morning hours and a boy skated past me on a hover skate-board. A little old lady walked by me with a small yapping dog in a pink designer bag. I did a double take and realized that the dog was actually a robot. The woman looked familiar as well, she was tall and thin with white hair and a pointy noise.
I walked towards the train station to find it still open and operational. I went to buy a ticket, but discovered that the machine was not accepting cash. I went into a drug store and went to the prepaid credit card rack. The selection was very sparse and there were signs everywhere saying “Micro-chipping deadline January 31 2041.
I loaded the card with $100 and walked back out into the street. The neighborhood had definitely gone way downhill. I wondered if North Hollywood wasn’t the new Downtown, based on the homeless people wandering around the train station. There were many abandon apartments and several homeless shelters lining the street.
I purchased a ticket which I was shocked to see was $10.00. I asked several people on the train platform if they’d ever heard of an antiques store called Luther’s most of them looked at me oddly and shrugged their shoulders. One man told me he could find out he rolled up his sleeve and revealed a small screen on his arm. He gave me an address in Silver Lake.
I got on the train to find almost everyone staring at their arms. I looked around at how the girls were dressed. Business clothes hadn’t changed that much and skanks had taken to wearing halter-tops with skorts and high heels. I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of people looked a lot fatter than they did back in 2014; I’d never felt so thin. The train itself was likely the same one I’d ridden on thirty five years earlier (a few hour ago). It had not aged well, the seats were torn and there was scrub off graffiti on the walls.
I got off at The Sunset and Vermont station and headed up the escalator. Several hover mopeds raced by on the street. A couple of young white men walked by wearing backwards baseball caps and pants down around their ankles. I walked by a pizza shop called Old School Slice, boasting bacon, gluten and sugary sauce on the windows. I found Luther’s in a tiny shop on Sunset. I walked in to find a pretty young woman standing behind the counter wearing a backwards baseball cap, a Taylor Swift tee-shirt and a bored expression.
I looked around the store for a moment. There were several old movie posters including Showgirls, The First Wives Club and The Interview. I looked to see if there were any posters for any of the early 21st century Oscar winners, but I couldn’t find any.
Two soft faced young men wearing backwards baseball caps walked by me. I noticed one of them had a teardrop tattooed on his face.
“What you have to understand is that most of Penshee’s concepts were based on Buscaglia’s early writings, which were fundamentally exercised in pop culture existentialism,” one was saying to the other.
A man of about eighty or so entered the store carrying a large box. He set it on the counter and began to remove Items the girl did not help him.
“Do you know how many copies of we have of A Night in Paris? The girl said tossing it aside.
“It’s a Salad Spinner, “The man said trying to sound cheerful.
“You spin meat in here?”
“No People used to make salad out of vegetables instead of meat and candy. It used to be hard to get them all combined.”
“Well I doubt people are gonna wanna put there algae tablets in it.”
“Believe it or not some people still eat vegetables,” the man said somewhat impatiently.
“”A hundred,” she said.
“Fifty Shades of Grey? Everyone who went to high school listened to this book,” she scoffed.
“That’s signed by the author. I know you can use it you have a very educated clientele around here. Radsters love classic literature. I’m not so old that I don’t know that.”
“I’ll go get Barry,” she said rolling her eyes.
A moment later she returned with a man of about fifty who came out and took a look at the book. There was more negotiating and the old man walked out with $200.
“Hey there Kelly are you still here? See something we can help you with,” Barry said to me.
“Ah no, Well I mean yes I’m not Kelly. I’m her sister Tracy. I’m visiting from Denver. I thought she said she was coming here and I guess I must have missed her.”
“I thought your hair looked different,” He said.
“You don’t happen to know where she might have gone do you, “I asked trying not to sound too anxious.
“I really don’t know. She never says much when she comes in here just sell her stuff and goes. We’re always glad to see her! I don’t know how she does it, but everything is always so well preserved it looks like she bought it yesterday.”
“Oh, she comes in often then I take it? “
“About every two months or so, but she never mentioned having a twin.”
“You don’t have any idea where she might have gone do you?”
“Sorry, I don’t” Barry said.
“Why don’t you just use your GPS. The girl said pointing to her arm.”
“Oh, yeah right duh, I’ll try that,” I said heading into the street.
I walked down the block looking to see if anyone would lend me an arm.
I took the card from Tom. On the front of the card was a picture of a hundred or so lifesavers. When I opened it it said “Happy Birthday to my love and my lifesaver. Love, Tom.”
“Maybe you saved my life, “he said as if he were trying to explain the relationship to himself.
“Maybe,” I said. Oh, wow I really did do a reading for Tamera Kelly.”
“Really,” Tom said leaning in over my shoulder to get a look at the blog.
Well, I call her Kamera Felly on my blog, but I noticed we had become Facebook friends and what I wrote here describes her physically.”
I sped-read through a few more blog post. It was full of my usual sarcastic observations about my clients. There were only about twenty posts since 2010, it had only been an outlet for my most frustrating emotions.
While I read my old blog Tom found my day planner in my desk. It occurred to me that I should feel invaded or offended or something, but the truth is I didn’t. It was like he was looking at a stranger’s planner. I didn’t know any more about what was in it than he did.
“Do you have your own shorthand or something,” Tom asked.
“What do you mean?”
He handed me the planner and I looked at the day’s agenda.
“T’s feed turt get wi and crack,” it said.
“Well I would guess that I need water and crackers for something.”
“Did you check your Facebook page?”
I went to Facebook and looked, but I did not see any events coming up. I checked for friends events, but there were none that day.
“Let’s check your Facebook,” I said may be they’ll be a clue or two there.
He reluctantly logged on and we looked at his page. His profile picture was of him holding a turtle. There was a picture of the two of us stand in front of the Staples Center in his albums. Other than that there were no pictures of me.
We scrolled down and found that he was going to North Carolina for a few days for work. Most of his post were links to music he liked and a few random articles. He scrolled back several months, but there weren’t really any clues to where I might be. He slowed his pace when he came to a post that said January 11, 2012 became friends with Kelly Peirce.
“Go to Tom’s to feed Turtle, pick up wine and crackers.” I said finally able to understand my note.
“Do me a favor,” I continued, “look to see if we have any mutual friends. There were several one was my neighbor Gina, another was a guy named Frank Peppers who neither of us knew and then there was Katrina Fuller.
“Do you actually know Katrina Fuller,” I asked.
“It sounds vaguely familiar.”
I clicked on Tom’s private messages.
“Hey, what are you doing? He said.
“I wanna see one thing.”
I scrolled though his messages until I got to one from Katrina.
“Why settle for ramen when you could have steak…just sayin….”.
I thought I saw a small smile play on Tom’s lips. I felt jealous, Katrina was pretty.
There was only one other brief exchange in which they discussed a movie they’d both liked.
“Where do you know her from,” I asked.
“Look, Kelly I don’t know what happens in the future, or I mean what happened in the past or I mean, I mean, it’s not like I can answer for my actions in this case and it’s not like we are really together.”
“No, it’s not that. That woman had been emailing me repeatedly asking me to work at a party, I never mailed her back and I don’t know why.
“I seem to remember her having something to do with work, like I trained her on some software, or something. Look, I hate to say it, but it sounds like you might be at my house feeding my turtle, maybe we should look for you there,” Tom suggested.
I grabbed a hundred dollars out of my old cookie jar stash and we took a cab back to Tom’s place. We were relived to find his key worked. We entered and found the turtle tank in the kitchen. He had two small bowls that were already full of food and water.
“Goddamit,” Tom said. “You’ve already been here.
“Wait there’s a note,” I said.
“Hon, I went to 2040 to sell some antiques at Luther’s. Be back tomorrow.”
“Is that your handwriting,” Tom asked.
“Yes.” I said.
“Maybe you’re lost in the future.”
“Maybe,: he said.
“It makes sense, I mean I didn’t have a lot of close friends except for apparently, you it only stands to reason that you wouldn’t report me missing considering the time machine and everything.”
“Tom, I’m gonna go to 2040 and look for myself. I ‘m gonna go to the ATM first. I think about $500 should do for a couple of days. Do you want to come with?”
“No, I’m good.” Tom said.
“Are you going back to 2014,” I asked suspicious that he might try to go back a few months and “fix” things.
“Yes, but you go first.”
After a sojourn to the ATM and a trip to the 7- 11 for sundries I packed a small bag with the few clothes I had at Tom’s and got in the machine.
“It’s already set to June 10th, 2040,” I told Tom as I entered the machine.
“Have fun.: He shut the door and I pushed the button.