The World According To Smones
chapter six
[previous chapters below]

How could this have happened? How, in chapter five, could the character of Jesus have entered my carefully circumscribed fantasy realm of Smones and Curtailer, Myron and Jewel? Now I’m screwed.

If you’re devout, you might turn away, viewing this casual reference to your most holy personage as blasphemy or sacrilege.

But if, on the other hand, you are a non-believer, you could stop reading because you think I’m some sort of bible thumper or Jesus freak who is using a serialized story to lure unsuspecting you into my belief system.

Then there’s the aesthetic clumsiness, the incongruous inclusion of a fictional or historic personage in an otherwise realistic (though admittedly frivolous) narrative. Like a stupid Woody Allen movie, with film actors jumping off the screen to participate in the action, or dead people materializing to matter-of-factly interact with the living. A confusion of levels of reality. Off-putting, trite and not very entertaining.

Sigh. Maybe it is time for me to say a little bit about myself, in an attempt to explain, or make up for, this most recent authorial clumsiness, or perhaps, actually, to understand it myself…

I am a man, like any other. Don’t I have eyes? Don’t I have hands, bodily organs, a human shape, five senses, feelings, and passions? If you prick me with a pin, don’t I bleed? If you tickle me, don’t I laugh…? Well, actually, if you tickle me, I don’t laugh, because I’m not ticklish. And in case you didn’t notice, the preceding description of myself is plagiarized from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Ok, enough fooling around. I am the author of several published novels, written under a pseudonym which I shall not reveal at this time, and which have escaped critical notice and sold very few copies. But in this modern age, most authorship takes place on the Internet. Hence, my fascination with the construction of websites, leading to my recent elevation to the status of Webmaster for the Coulrophobia International Association.

What is coulrophobia, you might ask? It is an uncontrollable and morbid fear of clowns. Below is the logo of our organization:

Beware_The_Clown_Logo_2

The website address is www.bewaretheclown.com; however, there is as yet little content other than the logo, several links and a few photos of evil clowns.

Coulrophobia is not to be confused with coulrophilia, which is the opposite phenomenon, that is, an uncontrollable erotic and/or sexual attraction to clowns, mimes and jesters. The very concept comes across as nightmarish to the true coulrophobiac, like myself. Maybe clowns get you hot…? Trust me—clown porn is not as sexy as it sounds.

But I digress. Purposefully. All of this persiflage is intended to deflect your attention from me. I do not want to reveal myself. I prefer to remain a ghostly eminence, god-like in my power to weave the life tapestry of Jewel, Myron, Smones, Curtailer. Except they keep doing things I don’t expect…

Jesus coming to the front door? Shoot me!

Anyway, we’ll get back to the story in chapter seven, soon to come.

[TO BE CONTINUED]

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The World According To Smones
chapter five
[previous chapters below]

Myron sat upstairs in his favorite chair by the window, with a glass of wine in his hand. It was an Italian red, rich and full-bodied. Outside, the wind rippled the surface of the bay.

His mind was as unquiet as the broad expanse of water. What the hell was going on? Here he’d been trucking along, writing fol-de-rol about these two fictional characters, Smones and Curtailer, when one of them, Mitchell Smones, up and shoots the other, blaming him for alienating the affections of his wife, Jewel, who is in reality, for God’s sake, his, Myron’s, wife. And Smones and Curtailer actually refer to him, Myron, their author, by name.

He took another gulp of the wine. It was a Montepulciano 1985, not a rare vintage, but respectable. Very rich, very pleasurable. He should have sipped it slowly and savored it. But he couldn’t. How had he lost control of his characters? What would happen next?

His cordless phone, on the glass table next to his chair, rang. He kept it near him wherever he was in the house.

“Hello?”

“Mr. Black?”

His heart sank. Because she had been well established in the business world before their marriage, Jewel had kept her last name, Black, rather than adopt his. So whenever he picked up the phone and it was someone asking him if he were Mr. Black, he knew it was a solicitor of some sort who had gotten his wife’s name off a list and assumed that he, the man of the house, must be ‘Mr. Black’.

They had discussed combining names. Myron and Jewel Black-Night? A bit too cute.

“There is no Mr. Black,” he said, coldly.

“Oh, my. Well….”

She sounded young and scared. Probably new on the job. Probably working her way through school, or trying to support her children. What a way to make a living, calling strangers on the phone hour after hour, irritating the shit out of them, trying to get them to listen to some boring, stupid sales pitch, trying to get them to buy things they had never heard of, and did not need.

“I was hoping to reach the Black residence. Is this the right number?”

He softened. He always did. He did not know why. He had rehearsed in his mind what he should say when one of these twits called him, ‘No, this isn’t the Black residence, honey, but you sound kinda cute–what color underpants are you wearing, anyway? When was the last time a real stud slipped it to you? Say, where are you calling from, I’ll come right over….’

He wondered how far into his pitch he would get before she hung up on him. But what if she got into it? What if she DID tell him where she was? What would he do then? They probably gave them instructions to follow in case this kind of thing happened. Would she call the cops? Was it illegal to talk dirty to unsolicited phone callers who irritated the shit out of you? Or was it open season on them? But what if the caller were a guy? A variation of the same pitch would probably get rid of him fast. Unless he were calling from San Francisco. Then Myron would be the one to hang up quickly.

Anyway, he never followed through on the fantasies when the time came. He did not know why he was civil to these people. It must have been his early childhood training, to be polite and helpful, which he could not overcome.

“Well,” he admitted grudgingly, “Mrs. Black does live here.”

“Oh, great! Is she home? This is Gretchen, from Time-Life books.”

“No. She’s at work.”

He held the phone too tightly. His hand was moist. Surely she would not ask for Jewel’s work number. Surely, they knew enough not to bother people at work.

“Will she be there tomorrow at this time?”

“No. She’ll be at work.”

So far, he was winning.

“Oh. Well, when….”

“Try Monday,” he blurted, eager to end it.

“Great! She’ll be there Monday?”

“She might,” he lied.

Who knows? Anything was possible….

“What time of day?”

“Afternoon. About this time. Try in the afternoon.”

“Oh, thank you. Good-by”

“Bye.”

He switched off the cordless phone. His throat was dry. He felt sick. He knew his wife would not be home Monday afternoon. Why didn’t he say, ‘There is no one here named Black’? Why didn’t he say, ‘We don’t want any, don’t ever call again’? Why didn’t he say, ‘Gretchen, baby, suck my…’?

He felt angry, dirty, used.

He would just have to put it out of his mind. No point in dwelling on it. He picked up the glass of Montepulciano and sipped. The stem of the glass was deep blue, the wine a vibrant ruby red. He looked out over the windy bay. He tried to calm himself. The cat jumped onto his lap and, without thinking, he began to stroke her thick, white fur, which would have been soothing, except for the resurgence of agitation about his rebellious characters, Curtailer and Smones. What the hell was going on?

The doorbell range. Now what? A brush salesman? Seventh Day Adventists, with their multi-colored tracts?

He groaned and pushed up out of the plush arm chair. He crossed the pale, pink carpet and down the half flight of stairs to the marbled entry. He opened the door.

It was Jesus. He was carrying a suitcase. He looked tired.

“I’m moving in,” He said.

The way He said it, Myron was not about to argue.

As though in a trance, Myron took the suitcase from Him and showed Him to the spare room downstairs. He carefully placed the suitcase beside the dresser. He stood by the door, not knowing what to do. He was nervous.

“Coffee?” asked Myron. “A glass of wine?”

“No, thanks.” He gave Myron one of those famous beatific smiles. “I’d like to be alone now, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” said Myron, stepping out and closing the door behind him. He caught his breath. He was relieved, but, at the same time, annoyed; relieved of the self-conscious discomfort he’d felt in His presence, but annoyed that He had not shown more interest in him.

He went back upstairs, back to his chair and his glass of wine. Sitting there like that, he started to get excited. He started to realize what it meant. Screw Smones and Curtailer. Imagine, Jesus Christ Himself as a house guest. Jewel was going to be surprised. He could hardly wait until she got home from work, so he could tell her. ‘Guess who’s here, honey. You’ll never guess.’

[TO BE CONTINUED]

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The World According To Smones
chapter four
[previous chapters below]

Walter, the waiter, had brought to the table Curtailer’s Tripes à la Niçoise and the ‘meat sandwich’ requested by Smones, which consisted of sliced leg of lamb, medium rare, on a large, puffy croissant, dressed with mint chutney. And the beer – he had dispatched one of the kitchen serfs to the tavern around the corner, to purchase several bottles of beer and bring them back to Le Cirque, where he had uncapped and poured one into a tall chilled glass.

The icy glass, beaded with moisture, now rested on the table in front of Smones.

Curtailer had barely taken his first mouthful of the succulent tripe, which was quite delicious, having simmered for eight hours in a sauce of wine, tomatoes and herbs, when Smones, smiling broadly, reached into an inner pocket of his fishing vest and pulled out a small, nasty-looking pistol, which he laid on the table beside his plate with an ominous ‘thunk’.

Curtailer froze, focusing his complete attention on the gun.

“What the hell is that?” he demanded.

“What does it look like, you twit?” replied Smones happily. “It’s a semi-automatic pistol. In fact, it’s a German Walther PP, vintage 1944, loaded with seven rounds of 32-caliber hollow points.”

“Are you crazy?” hissed Curtailer? “This is New York City. You can’t carry a gun around.” Curtailer pronounced the word ‘gun’ with special emphasis, as though it belonged to a foreign language.

“Actually, you can carry a gun around, if you have a city license. But even without the license…. Hey, this is New York, buddy, a man can do what he wants.”

Curtailer seriously wondered whether annoying persons such as Smones should be allowed to breed or, for that matter, to exist at all.

Just then, his cellphone rang. It was considered gauche, très gauche, to allow one’s cellphone to disturb the placid atmosphere of Le Cirque or any of the other venues which he frequented, so Curtailer had programmed his ringtone as a sultry woman’s voice quietly intoning “Geoffrey. Oh, Geoffrey.” Almost as though there were an actual woman sitting at, or under, their table, involved in their conversation.

“I have to get this,” he said, between clenched teeth.

He punched buttons on the phone and held it to his ear. But before any communication could transpire, Smones lifted the pistol off the table and aimed it at him, wiggling the forefinger of his other hand back and forth.

“Uh-uh-uh,” he warned.

Curtailer drew the phone away from his ear slowly and carefully, and lowered it into his lap.

“What are you doing?” he whispered. “Are you mad?”

“You know, buddy, this whole thing with mobile telephones has gone too far. I mean, here we are, enjoying a quiet luncheon at one of the world’s finest restaurants, and you have to take a phone call? Why, that’s downright annoying. About as annoying as this…”

And Smones tilted the muzzle of the pistol up toward the ceiling and pulled the trigger. There was a sharp crack, unmistakably the sound of a gunshot, and all conversation in the restaurant ceased. Heads swiveled in their direction. Walter, who had sensed difficulty and begun approaching the table, stopped suddenly and backed away.

Smones lowered the pistol and pointed it once again at Curtailer.

“Lucky you. Your ancestors cleverly escaped on the nice safe Mayflower and avoided annihilation by the Nazis.”

Curtailer noted that Smones pronounced the word as ‘Nah-zee’, much in the way Winston Churchill had, rather than ‘Knot-see’, as most Americans do. Another one of his stupid, irritating affectations. And why did Smones insist on conflating the seventeenth century migration of Curtailer’s family to the New World with twentieth century European politics — was it just a continuation of the attempt to bait him with an insinuation of Jewishness?

“Yeah,” continued Smones, “some Kraut lieutenant or captain probably carried this little sweetheart around, just hoping he’d get a chance to pop off one of your cousins.” Smones snickered. “Didn’t know they’d already shipped out a coupla’ hundred years ago.”

Curtailer, with his back against the upholstered banquette, could see across the dining room, in which other patrons were quietly pushing back their chairs and creeping toward the entrance where the M’aître d’, at his station, was hunched over, speaking into a telephone, casting anxious glances in the direction of their table.

Curtailer’s initial anxiety at the sight of the pistol had given way to extreme irritation and hostility. Smones’ erratic behavior was not a great surprise, but there was something about the ongoing infantile taunting and sophomoric references to his ancestors that set Curtailer’s teeth on edge. Enough was enough.

“Pull it together, Mitchell,” he said coldly. “You’re making a fool of yourself. It was just this sort of childish behavior that convinced Jewel to leave you.”

At the mention of Jewel, there was a subtle change in Smones, his feigned jollity shifting to something darker, perhaps determination or gratification, as though this were the turn of events for which he had actually been aiming.

“Ah, Jewel,” he said. “Glad you mentioned her.”

With his free hand, he reached into one of the many pockets of his fisherman’s vest, fumbling for a moment with the velcro which held the flap in place, then pulled out a sheet of paper which had been folded into a small rectangle. He flicked the paper back and forth several times, shaking it open, and tossed it on the table between them.

Curtailer gave it an annoyed glance. The paper had obviously been re-folded many times, until the edges were tattered and crumpled. There were a few stains, maybe coffee, grease… Then he recognized the handwriting. It was his own. He leaned forward and read the salutation: ‘Dearest Jewel’.

Curtailer suddenly felt cold and afraid. Smones was watching him carefully, a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes. ‘Gotcha, bastard,’ he thought.

“You and Jewel. Who could’ve imagined. A prissy little creampuff like you.”

Creampuff! That did it. Fear turned to anger. Curtailer considered lunging across the table and stabbing Smones with his sterling silver fork. He prided himself on his fitness. He played squash twice a week, had studied martial arts and self-defense.

“Do you really think,” sneered Curtailer, “women care about how many fish you’ve caught? How many tequila shooters you can drink? It was your own boorish behavior that drove her away. I had little to do with it. If anything, ours was a brief, transitional affair.”

“Oh, you had plenty to do with it. You introduced her to that bug, Myron.”

“How was I to know she’d run off with him?” Curtailer laughed coldly. “Maybe he’s just a better writer than you are…”

Smones leveled the pistol at Curtailer and pulled the trigger. Once. Twice.

Curtailer felt the impact, like being stabbed or poked in the chest. He looked down and saw two spots of blood on the front of his otherwise clean white cotton dress shirt. As though observing from a distance, he noted that the report of the pistol was louder when it was aimed at him than when it had been fired at the ceiling.

“You wanted a story? How do you like your story now, you…” And Smones called Curtailer a vulgar word which referred to a particular part of the female anatomy, a word commonly used in Britain as an insult, but frowned upon in the United States.

[TO BE CONTINUED]

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