“THERE ARE NO RULES,
SCUMBAG MAKES THE RULES!”
excerpted from the novel
(on the coast of Nebraska)
Alone back in the lab we knew it was only a matter of time before they shut us down. Maybe that was why, maybe it wasn’t why, we did what we did.
According to the deposit we made in the Memory Bank, it happened more out of inspiration than any long range game plan. We weren’t even thinking about the Virusphere, much less working out trying to get into it. What we were, very simply, was too deep in the deal to get out, and seriously sloshed to the gills to boot. Totally ripped out of our gourds, tuning out the program, in lieu of desperation in pursuit of a good time. We were just surfing the old Net, buckeroos, hanging on to the cusps as long as we could before pulling our puds out of the circle jerk as close to blastoff as we could without missing the tidal wave.
True, I could be more academic in my explanation of what went down, but in the Now Order the concept of academic was not only considered passé, but putzé as well. There was something I couldn’t and still can’t quite define about using Virtual Reality as a tool; though Quirk and I were basically gamers, we had come close to breaking through on a neurokinetic level before, but had never quite crossed over from the white rat stage of development.
“Look at that sucker!” The good Doctor laughed as we watched our McGuffin bury its furry head so far up its ass it came out the other side chugging a small mug of frothy blue suds for all he was worth; he sat straight up on his haunches like a lap dog begging for a pet then, and virtually evaporated for three beats, then suddenly shot back to his normal size, and went for the maze like he was in the stretch of the Disney Derby and could smell his odds ticking in favor of syndication. “No heart attacks, no cancer, no immune system breakdowns, nothing to stop him from going forever and ever, the poor little bastard.”
And just as suddenly as that, Whitey rolled over and croaked on the dime.
“What the crxx happened?” Quirk asked, rolling the rat over on his back.
“I think that’s why they call ’em rats?”
“Don’t be funny, Method, we just blew our point out of the game again.”
“I’m freezing the system,” I said. “I wanna see something.” I walked over and pulled the gynascopic lens down from the moon.
“What the crxx are you doin’?”
“Hit VR and the Mic at the same time.”
“You sure you know what you’re doin’?”
“Of course not. If I did, I wouldn’t do it.”
“What the crxx,” Quirk laughed, “that sounds like the secret of all science.” He plunked the magic twanger then. “WHOA!”
“Do you see what I see, buddy-boy?”
“I don’t know, Jules, what do you see?”
“I see itty bitty bastards hoppin’ around up there like, like–”
I started laughing. “Well now, if I didn’t know you better I’d say you have a plan. And I’d say they’re going to crucify us for it if they figure out what we’re doing before we finish doing it.”
“Well, if truth be known–”
“Truth never be known, Jules, it’s too scary to know the truth, but it’s obvious to me that what’s already gone down is irreversible; that’s a truth they don’t want to be known. The only thing left we can do is alter the reaction to that truth. The ozone’s ripped, and it’s not only ripped for us, it’s ripped for every organism on the planet.”
“We can’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together, but if we hold the line we at least control the rate of change — that’s where the infomaniacs are crxxing up daily; too much too fast just blows those delicate circuits off the board without removing the fear factor, and without that you can’t modulate the discrepancies. It might take a complete generation refusing to answer marketing surveys to get the real pure Heisenberg-Free-data we need to make accurate projections, overlay them and put the substance that’s missing in the technology in play, but that’s the ticket, man.
“I’m glad you’re on our side.”
“I’m not on our side, Jules, because we have no side! We’re outside sides, we’re crazy, we’re certified, and if we’re right it probably means no more than singing in the shower. If we’re wrong–”
“We’re not wrong! You know we’re not wrong!” He walked over and handed me a mug of the blue stuff. “To your health, pally.”
“Up yours too!” We lifted our glasses, and began singing The National Anthem.
Permanently recycle the shit
and pass it around again. . .
We clinked glasses, then chugged the blue, and came back up wailing like the old blue gum Rolling Stones:
Take it out of your wallet. . .
Put it into circulation. . .
Invest it in the future. . .
Save it for a rainy day. . .
Or save your soul instead. . .
Give it to the charity of your choice:
TAX DEDUCTABLE – MONEY BACK GUARANTEE,
TAX DEDUCTABLE – MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. . .
The vibrations kicked in then, and in that instant Quirk and I stepped into the mulch and virtually entered the Virusphere.
“Jesus!” Quirk exhales, looking up like a Nebraska hick shocked by the wicked world of test tube skyscrapers dripping down on us. But just when it looked like it was going to evaporate us, we got lucky and got a cab.
The driver took one look at us and his eyes knew immediately we didn’t know shit from shineola. But if it didn’t matter to him it didn’t matter to us. We were inside, not outside, and that was as far as my mind went into the future, crxx you very much.
“Hey, Death,” Quirk laughed, “look me in the face, be honest now, what’s the point? You go forward two steps, back one if you’re lucky, three if you’re not, and I don’t even want to go into the rest of the progressions, do you Method?”
“Arg. . .”
“I knew I could count on you, boobs.” He turned his attention to the cabbie. “What about you? You takin’ us to the Casbah or what, Ace? You’re takin’ off a hundred and 12 around that corner, what’s the rush, Slick?”
The driver turned his head back over the seat towards us, and arched his eyebrow 86 degrees doo-da. “If I make it you make it. Don’t look over your shoulder,” he said, “you’ll make them suspicious. You’ll make them think we have something, and they’ll want it. If they want it they’ll get it. If we don’t give it to them they’ll rub us out and take it anyway. That’s how man works, man; SEE, WANT, GRAB!”
“I can relate,” Quirk agreed. “See, want, grab; what a logo, Shecky!”
“Yeah-yeah, Shecky’s the name, shekels are the game,” the cabbie laughed. “Where to?”
“The hottest place in town. Where all the big shots hang up their thumbs.”
“You got it, guy,” he cackled, then stomped the accelerator and literally leaped off the road as he turned back to us and buffed, “Remember that scene in Key Largo, where Bogart asks the Johnny Rico character–”
“Edward G. Robinson?”
“Yeah-yeah, Eddie G., Johnny Rico, all the same gangster, that’s him. And Bogie says something like, ‘Tell me, Rico, what is it you want?’ And Rico sucks himself up like a reconstituted prune and asks himself, ‘Want?’ And Bogie says, ‘I’ll tell you what you want, Rico, you want more!’ Eddie G’s puss lights up then. ‘Yeah, more!’ he grins. ‘I want more, more, more!’ That’s man for you, man. He don’t want nothin’ more than more, more, more! ! !”
“Greedy little crxxs, ain’t they?”
“Big greedy crxxs from where I’m sittin’, babe. But hey, not mine to do or die for, if I can help it. Where you cats from?”
“The ether, man. We come from the ether,” Quirk grinned.
“Astral scum, how cool! I knew you’d show up one day.”
“Just came to communicate,” I said like Joe Friday just repeating his lines on Dragnet.
“No-no-no-nobody communicates anymore, so don’t talk to me about communication-huh? Anybody who says they want to communicate really means what they want to do is flip the lip, man. They wanna yakity-yak, and if you’re on, they’re just waitin’ like a vulture for an opening to go off on their own tangent. That’s communication in a nutshell, man.”
“Not a bad definition,” I said.
“Plenty bad,” he contradicted me. “DON’T SWEAT! They can detect sweat. They’ve developed machinery that picks up on the reactions of glands. It comes in a BEEP-BEEP they hardly recognize. Like radar. It’s an alert system, very finely honed. Once it gets us tuned in we’re finished. FINISHED! On the road to being rubbed out by our own personal preferences. Bought and sold on the market to the highest bidder, the best manipulator and all the rest of the imagined etceteras.”
The cab screeched to a halt in front of this roped off hot spot! There was no name on the awning in front of the building. No nothing in front of the building.
Shecky leaped out of the cab and opened the door for Quirk. “They’re watching us,” he said. “Those two guys, Method and Quirk, they’re watching us. But that’s a good sign. One of us is going to make it, one of us is going to break through. One of us is going to teach them something they can’t deny.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Quirk said, as Shecky led us up to the building, then knocked three times and asked for “Joe.”
A peephole opened and a cocked eye peered through at us.
“We come from ‘de Mojo Dojo,” Shecky whispered.
The door opened then, and Quirk and I stepped into the middle of a gang of Mexican Fludito Viruses, all twirling thick black mustachios, wearing long black serapes, big black bandito hats, shiny black bandito boots, with gobs of black shoe polish under empty black eyes concealing their even blacker hearts.
“Oh crxx, SCAMCO!”
The lead Fludito reached out and removed the vials of vaccine from our belts. “So good of you to deliver, hombres. It saves thees Scumbag another bad treep down memory lane.” He turned to his wild bunch. “Take them.” And suddenly they were on us, dragging us out the back door!
I thought it was curtains for sure then, but instead of finishing us, they blindfolded us, gagged us, stuffed us with imitation crabmeat, and the next thing I knew we went on a little scenic cruise. Got our asses dragged out of the city. Way out of the city, into the sewers, under the sanitation system, up to the high desert. . .
Just us and the campfire girls sitting around a big wide open bar-b-que pit out in the middle of nowhere, watching what was left of the world turn on the spit.
Scumbag stood in front of us like Brando momentarily contemplating having an Ultra Slim Quick lunch, then reached out and ripped a chunk of loin from the flames and laughed. “What can I say, hombres, we are the oldies but goldies, those noble outlaws you have been emulating through the last ten sets of reruns. That is why you do not understand us. You may be the macho of our nacho, definitely the macro of our micro, but you are not inside us, you do not understand why we are here instead of there, when obviously we could have already been there if we only followed the simple blueprint on the inside cover: LEARN TO DRAW the cover says. But it does not say LEARN TO TURN THE COVER OVER AND LEARN TO DRAW. You thought we’d get that one on our own. You didn’t realize we’d learn to draw what we wanted to draw, not what you wanted us to learn to draw.”
“Of course,” Quirk agreed. “That’s why we’ve come to you, oh noble Scumbag. We think we can help you and you can help us.”
“Flattery will get you somewhere, Doctor, but I ain’t sure it ees where you want to be. Nevertheless, welcome to development hell. Thees Scumbag may look like a simple germ to you, hombres, but I have been around more than a few of your blockheads. Once upon a time, back in your so-called good ole days I even did a stint at Yale Drama School, before the body I lived in decided to check out of the scene. What I learned from him before he realized he was absolutely obsolete before hees time was don’t talk to them about it, just show them the pictures. I theenk there’s something very profound in the triumph of image over substance. The triumph of business over education. Of Marketing over the marketplace itself. I mean, hombres, thees humble Scumbag would steell like to watch The Maltese Falcon, would steell like to watch The Treasure of Sierra Madre, but in looking at your so-called Infotainment industry I have kind of a splendid indigestion, because you have thees extraordinary technology and talent being misappropriated by boobs pandering to the lowest common denominator of any given situation. Where are the leaders, the leaders who are going to say thees ees the substance that needs to be transmitted so the young terrorist fools can learn they are fools before they blow themselves up? Because at the end of the day, hombres, it ees all about ideas anyway, isn’t it? I mean, it ees the transmission of ideas. Even the bad ones, the lies, the progaganda in the name of one bogus god or another. . .in order to sell the program and advance the cause, whatever it be. . .That’s what used to make me stay in touch with the gang at Elaine’s, not the pork chops. Ideas and the language used to transmit them ees what made me stay in touch with your so-called New York literary scene. Even though it had the smell of death about it even in your so-called glory days. Nothing at all was allowed in it if it did not fall into a utilitarian mindset. At its best, chic simple, hombres. But ultimately faux chic. Designer intelligensia. Give Scumbag a herd of anorexic supermodels instead. They may be just as hungry, but they don’t make peegs out of themselves, even when snorting up the last of the good times. The literary life is not in shambles, it ees in vaudeville. I watched your excuse for journalism turn into a virus more despicable than gonorrhea, and even more deadly than us on an epidemic purge, amigos. I quit looking at the novelist a long time ago – who knows where that turkey ees coming from other than the addiction to hees own stuffing? Don’t get me wrong, hombres, it has it’s place – it ees like listening to a good seenger. Give me Piaf, Zimmie, Tony B., Courtney Loving glue, hell, give me Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, hombres, ’cause around here there are no rules, Scumbag makes the rules.
“Rules are made to be broken,” Quirk slides in. “But we’re the exceptions to the rule. Let’s do the dog, man. Break the bread. Cut the mustard. Slice the cake. Divvy up the spoils before they get rotten.”
“That ees the theeng about your species, you are out to keell us and you are out keell yourselves, only you plan on keelling us first.” He turns around to his gang, but can’t shoot straight. “It ees jus’ an experiment, right, hombres – GET NORMAL – TURN RIGHT – NO U TURNS, unless we are not looking. . .”
“Actually, we wouldn’t be here if it were just an experiment, Kemo Sabe, we would’ve sent the rat. Remember the rat?”
“Ooh Chihuahua, the rat! Who could ever forget Whitey? That rat ate my mother, the rat raped my seester, Whitey was a keeller, baby.”
“Whitey was a killer, but we’re on a different trip,” I said. “We don’t want to kill you, we don’t want you to kill us, we want to work together. Together I think we can tackle the future.”
They all started laughing. Even Quirk started laughing.
“The future, you want to tackle the future?”
“Hey, watch your fucking language! We changed the word on you to break your bad habits. Head-on ees what you been doing all these years, and still you too dumbass to notice it ees running right over you head-on, and right over us too.”
“Look,” Quirk said, “What he means is that the planet’s changing, the atmosphere’s changing, the weather’s changing, everything’s changing every day. But there’s no handle on the rate. We don’t know when or how, but we know we’ve got to change with it, you’ve got to change with it – neither of us can fight it if we want to get to the next level.”
“So what’s thees head-on crap? You look at the sun head-on too long you go blind. Anything you want you gotta look at it from an angle, not head-on.”
“Ok,” I said, “here’s the angle. You’re our inners, we’re your outers – you’ve got exactly what we need, and we’ve got exactly what you want–”
“Ooooo, you’ve got exactly what we want, do you? Hey, I think I hear thees one before, hombres. You’re regular bargain. Always On Sale. Always For Sale. If you make it we make it, there ees always room for our kind of talent in SCAMCO, right? WRONG! You’ve spent decade upon decade infiltrating us with vaccines so we won’t know who we are. That’s why we have to be careful. Any one of us at any given moment could be an imposter, a mutation of ourselves.”
“That’s exactly the point!” Quirk snapped. “Untie us and we’ll clean you up, dextox you, we’ll remake your image. Get you solid PR for a change. Blow the cover off the undercover, and create a buzz that you guys are the only ones that know how to get us back from Oz.”
“Thanks, but no thanks, amigo.”
“Would you at least talk to a Barbara Walters clone about this?”
“It ees too little, too late, hombres. Even if you had just offered us a Diane Sawyer clone instead, it is too late,” he slurped.
“Hey, we’re too good to waste,” Quirk said. “There’s got to be some way we can all get deep in the deal together. Vested interest is the key.”
“I thought it was the lock.”
“Only when it’s on the other side of the door.”
“We’re all on the same page now,” I said.
“That so?” Scumbag laughed.
“Ask me anything.”
“Maybe you’d like to sleep with my seester to close the deal?”
“You don’t have to do that,” I said. “If it’s gonna work, we’ve gotta break the mold, gotta be able to trust each other without riding the grease.”
“Rosita. Chop-chop, front and center, machacha.”
She was beautiful like a Diane Sawyer clone was beautiful of course. But not exactly simple. With a face like a dream created from the brush of Salvador Dali’s sexual fantasies, Rosita’s dichotomies included a clitoris like an ice pick. A virtual snake protruding from the garden between her tentacles that could actually break and enter the male hymen without even knocking.
Quirk came first. He was quick as usual, but not premature.
I’ll always remember his screams; it’s how over the sea of time I’ve managed to forget my own. I was slower, much slower, but then again I was in mourning for the past. It was part of my addiction. And as I testified at the trial, why I had to give it all up to cross over to the other side.
They didn’t understand I did it for humanity. Accused me of being a traitor. . . Said I talked. Which was not exactly accurate either: I wasn’t talking, I was singing, Let old acquaintances be forgot, babe. Live. In Concert. My own personal Best Of collection, Volumes One & Two; all for the price of a song in the shower.
© 2012 Mike Golden
1. Auld Lang Syne 2011
recorded: thirty september twenty-eleven / mixed: thirty december
rod reisman – drums / ron jarvis – bass / ritch underwood – guitar / ed marthey – piano