by Beth Stiller
[ fiction - september 05 ]
Am considering producing a How-To-Video, now I have the technology and regard all dharmas as dreams - everything as dream. A video would be more effective then being in someone’s physical presence, the title, ‘How to Make Me Happy’. The video would begin with physical instruction, as lessons for inner happiness would require metaphorical images: sunbeams, slow motion spray off shaken hair. I was thinking a sexual tutorial would suffice for the remedial first act.
The video could be shipped by three-day ground on DVD/VHS or in low resolution over the internet. Then the world might know, for - let’s say - $15.99, plus shipping and handling, what makes me happy.
Offers for happiness would soon flood my vlog space. The challenge would begin. Which of these happiness suitors might be able to follow the instructions presented in the video? Might I have to come up with a test? Requiring, a two-day trial period, after which the suitor becomes a runner up or is sent off with his/her $15.99 refunded. Would the physical presence of the individual disqualify him/her, as all dharmas are to be regarded as dreams? A sponsor might be required, a toy company or a drug company. The video would be the perfect outlet for an antidepressant advertisement, hormone replacement herbs and pharmaceuticals, best to ban advertisements for sexual dysfunction medications.
A contest might be useful. The winner might win a free car, a trip to Hawaii, or one year’s prescription for mood elevating medications, taxes not included, encouraging the fence-sitters to come on down. An automobile sponsor would increase the budget and distribution. Bringing in a corporation such as DaimlerChrysler or General Motors, could support translation into umpteen languages further widening the scope of the search. Chances are a tie might occur - we could then have a run off pageant; live on national TV with even more sponsorship. Thus, making the winners rich and happy, as all dharmas are to be regarded as dreams, it will only be such. But the transmission of the telecast will be real television beams forever bouncing about.
Or I could pick up the phone, dial Mace Ryan, I have his number written on the back of a napkin here in the pocket of my jeans. I could ask him if he is free on Thursday, and might he like to see me?
“Hi Mace, Connie calling.”
“Connie Pertmuller, we met at Cheryl’s.”
“Oh right, Connie the independent videographer. What’s up?”
“A little too independent right now,” she mumbles.
“Sorry, I thought maybe, if you weren’t busy on Thursday, you might want to meet for a drink.”
“How’s The Fourth Street Pub?”
“See you there?”
“See you there.”
Let’s say he says, ‘yes’.
Connie took a coin from her pocket, and flipped it. Heads, I ring him up, tails I don’t. The coin landed in her palm, she slapped it onto her forearm. Before she pealed her fingers off the coin she knew what she would do.
Mace played with the coins in his pocket. Buster the dog followed, sniffing for the source of the jingle, dog tags, dogs - play? They made their way across the storefront window, ‘Computers & More’.
“Look at those dudes diddling keyboards, like they’re on display in some human terrarium.” He turned to the dog. “Buster Boy, what happened to throwing a ball, wailing on a guitar? What do you say we hit the batting cage this weekend?”
Mace sometimes avoided his studio. Making music has become clean, technical, the only calluses he now has; are from swinging a bat.
Buster raised his head. Mace had an athletic look, and hair, still. Grocery bag crackled against his bicep. A 1977 Mustang passed with license plate ‘4KNE261‘. some license plates gave Mace signs, not that he’d ever mention this, even to his dog. Buster didn’t chase cars anymore. That was years ago.
1977 was a good year for music. Automobile license: 4 KaNnEe to 6 one, For Connie to sex one? Connie? As his friend Sally says, “Men don’t get laid, they get opportunities.” Connie? Connie? Oh, that chick at Cheryl’s ‘Rite of Spring’ Party, scratched my number on a napkin, shoved it into the back pocket of her jeans, cute ass. Said she had this video idea, crazy blonde hair, seemed cool enough, kind of young though. He opened the back of his Jeep. The dog jumped in. Mace strapped in the bag of groceries. Buster’s tongue hung low, Southern California palms don’t offer much shade. Mace couldn’t wear his baseball cap in the open air Jeep: it flew off. He took to wearing an Australian Slouch hat with chinstrap. They pulled out into traffic.
Mace continued to ponder license plates. Forty-year cycle, the raw material: war, and new technology. Connie says she can cut movies at home. She collects butterflies. Rambled on about her dad. He was an entomologist though she rarely saw him. Dude followed locust swarms. “Connie,” her mother would tell her, “when you realize that there’s nothing left to lose, freedom is the deepest expression of love.” Connie pinned her father’s photographs to her corkboard between the butterflies.
Connie - perky tits - Connie. She mentioned she’d been kicked out of the guild, didn’t want say why. She’d heard I compose music. Would I want to lay some track to her video? I bet she’ll go loony on me. Mace stopped at a red light. His eyes followed a girl crossing at the crosswalk in front of his Jeep. He wondered if she wore panties under that sundress. I think I’d rather not get involved with Connie that is. Traci, fun - it was fun. She even said it was fun. It was fun lying there in bed, the morning sun slicing her in half, top dark, bottom light. I was okay with her funny smile, her witty comments. She was fun. But then she had to go loony on me. They all do. She had me driving her here and there, no job, no car. I needed a break. My skin started to crawl. I couldn’t stay the night, had to leave. Couldn’t hold out for that morning sun to cut her into dark and light. Guess I only wanted the light, not my problem. Well not my problem anymore. Never was MY problem. Connie, nice ass, Connie with the wild blonde hair, parking meter quarters jingled as the Jeep bumped along. Guess I could put some music to her picture; compose something for that video of hers.
“Buster boy, what do you say heads I ring Connie, tails I don’t”
Car pulled up beside them. Buster barked. “Hush Bust.”
Man shouted through the open car window, “Damn Aussie go home. Take your ‘good days’ back where you came from.”
Mace tipped his Slouch hat at the Olds.
“Hey, pretty boy, lay off!“ The beat up Oldsmobile sped away. Garden State plates, IF 205U.
“Buster can you believe it, a Jersey guy? New Jersey of all places, dude’s telling me, the Californian, go home! Who the hell hates Australians anyway? Mace pondered the license plate, ‘IF year 2005 is my year?’ Mace untangled the puzzle of the license plate code, Jersey Aussie hater? ‘Olds - old, midlife... down under. going under? My retired jersey is going to read If only he had played in 2005, he wouldn’t be a sad old fart now. Mace eyed the coins. Buster sniffed the tortillas in the grocery bag.
“No worries mate,” Mace, shouted. The Oldsmobile’s exhaust lingered. Mace reached for a coin.
Didn’t that Connie chick give me her card? Mace fished into his wallet. Connie Pertmuller, Videographer. The calamari steaks, cilantro, garlic and handmade tortillas bounced in the brown paper bag. Buster had been raised as a carb-dog, lost interest in animal protein. Buster pressed his head to the wind, free of the hunt. His ears flapped. Mace held Connie’s card far enough away to read the phone number. It’s time I get a pair of reading glasses.
His mobile phone rang.
Mace thought of his friend Sally in Seattle. When they phoned each other, he would always know it was Sally calling, as would she know it was Mace. What about a trip to Seattle? Buster could do with some seagull chasing, and, he with a city without supposed videographers.
“Yes,” Not Sally. He didn’t recognize the perky voice.
“Hey, hi, how goes? I was just thinking that, don’t you have a dog?”
“Buster the dog, yeah.” It was a female voice, breathy, quick.
“I had this idea for a video - entitled ‘How to Make Me Happy’ - by Buster the Dog”
He’d take a stab at identifying the voice, “Connie? Sounds, ah... deep.” He visualized the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. Walking far out to sea long tides, exotic sea creatures.
“What do you think? Shot Zen. Not to stick my nose in your business, but perhaps you might want to compose some eastern music.”
“A dog out of water, I think. Have you considered a plot?”
“Um, I have this little problem, I seemed to have, well, experienced an indiscretion with my colleague’s husband,” she confessed.
“Indiscretion”, he felt a twinge of jealousy. Where’d that come from?
“They are in the process of a divorce. We didn’t really mean to. It’s just... Well kind of a long story. It felt really good!”
Mace held the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he shifted the Jeep into third gear. “Uh ha.”
“Due to the indiscretion they booted me out of the guild. Said I used the craft unethically. Asked me details. Now I have no outlet. We, Butch and I, kind of did it because they expected us to. Not planned. Not planned at all. We had just ordered a pizza, were watching a movie. Did that all the time. We’re pretty good friends, things weren’t so good over at Lola and Butch’s place. He liked to hang out with me, rent a movie, drink a few beers, yap. Everybody knew the marriage was over, mentioned it in guild meetings. What do you know, they spammed my vlog space, threw me out of the guild. Now I’m on my own with my work, truly independent.”
“This is Mace Ryan, you know you’re talking to Mace.”
“Mace free, mace to free me from this incestuous guild mania. Fresh new Mace.”
“Ah that’s... me, I guess?” She was all over the place, a dangerous toy box. Should he open it? Why did he feel jealous when Connie mentioned sleeping with some guy? How weird is that? He doesn’t even know the chick. Sometimes chicks talk, just talk.
“So I’ve got this idea, are you in?”
“All you have to do is compose the music.”
“Exactly, I want to make things right. All I need really is the music. The picture is already, ah well … cut.”
“Connie, set me straight here, you’ve made a ‘Dear John’, well ‘Jill’, well ‘Lola-give-me-a-break’ movie for, what was his name?” Mace attempted to make sense into the phone.
Mace tightened again. “That guy.”
“Butch, Butch Pulvers. Why?”
“No reason. Maybe I know the guy.” Mace was traversing into her whirlwind while driving his jeep towards the foothills where the smog thickens. You can’t see jack until the Santa Ana’s come to sweep the filthy air offshore for the freighters to know. They will soon hit land.
“Hey Mace, I’m not so crazy about him. It just happened. It was a weird night the guild members expected something and we just freaked and followed through. I don’t really know you. Why am I telling you all this? “
“Eh, I asked?”
“Well I need your music. The music you could make, if you really got it.”
“Did you say fine, Mace? Like you will compose the music?”
“Yeah, don’t know why but I did. Connie do you like squid tacos?”
“They’re the best.”
“I’ll pick you up. I’m driving here, manual transmission, rather not talk, stick shift you know.”
“Sixth and San Pedro, ‘The Govina’ apartment 12C.”
“Forty minutes?” He reset his odometer, toying with her geographic merits.
“See you then.”
How did that happen?
“Buster we were going to have a nice quiet evening at home. Eat our tacos in peace and maybe whack a few balls at the batting cage. That was going to be our night. And now look at us.” Mace spun the car around and headed for Sixth & San Pedro. “Rats buster.” Buster hated the wind behind him. His long ears flapped on to his eyes, not pleasant. So he closed his eyes and tucked his head under the seat.
Mace pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it. Tails we go to Connie’s. Heads we, ‘about face’ and go home. He slapped the coin on to the dashboard; before he exposed the coin he knew just what he wanted to do.
Connie’s place smelled of gardenias, African oil and new electronic equipment. Mace noticed butterfly displays. The wings were pinned again and again until the bug was splayed. A moment in time extended into absurdity. Happiness just doesn’t work that way.
Mace and Connie detangled still fluid with the rhythms of connection. They caught each other’s eye, and drifted. Connie whispered into Mace’s left ear, “When I pin a butterfly they are irresistibly beautiful.”
“Eerie,” Mace whispered and rolled onto his back.
“May I pin you to my heart.” She lapped her tongue stud up his stubbly chin. It made a noise like butterfly flutter or a street sweeper. “How do you explain a week to a butterfly when it only lives a day?”
Mace slept. He dreamed of swimming in a haunted pond. He was hungry though unable to grab any fish. They passed like jelly through his calloused fingers.
Buster the dog lay under the bed chewing away at Connie’s panties. Buster was jealous. He chewed the crotch in two and slept with his snout atop the prize, panties splayed like a lace butterfly. Buster dreamed of gnawing on a beef bone. In his dream he felt so alive, carnivorous, a puppy again. Drool hung off his half open mouth his whiskers twitched in dream.
Mace felt around for his ringing cell phone, and flipped it open.
Sally glared at her computer. “No!” she gasped. She saw Mace flipping open his phone. Sally was hoping that the watery internet vlog was an illusion.
“Mace. It’s Sally, you are wearing khaki shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and a slouch hat of all things.”
“Sally? My dear Sally, you know me so well. How the hell are you?”
“Buster’s up to his old tricks again.”
“I see you in a sunny room decorated with butterflies. Moments ago, you were, well… not wearing anything at all. By the way, I like the music, has a kind of eastern vibe rather Zen.”
“Music?” Mace realized he’d been ravaged, with nothing left to lose. He made eye contact with Sally through the hidden lipstick camera jutting from Connie’s ceiling. Music was associated with picture. His music streamed out the live webcast.
“This is too weird. I’ve got to go Mace. Hey, call me if you need me.” Sally disengaged.
Mace reached into his pocket for a coin. He flipped it, caught the coin in his hand, and before opening his palm; he turned to Connie and never looked back.