The greatest author the world will ever or never know
tires of being crapped on, and then gets an offer to write a best seller!
It was a muggy morning in Flatbush.
Paul Bowman, the greatest author the world will ever or never know, heard his
roommate Billy O'Malley get up at five o'clock sharp. Billy had returned home
from the hospital two weeks before, almost fully recovered from the injuries he
had suffered as the result of the bathroom ceiling collapsing on him as he sat
on the toilet.
Billy was an air-conditioning mechanic -
business was brisk this stifling summer. Paul heard him getting ready for work:
water running, toilet flushing, rattling in the kitchen, keys jangling, the
fiddling with five locks, the front door slamming with a boom resounding in the
carpetless hall - a dog yelped in response.
Paul had the spare bedroom.
It was more like a storage space, bare of furniture, stacked up with boxes. The
walls were stained brown with leaks from the bathroom above. Paul had just
enough space for his suitcase - he practically lived out of it - and to stretch
out on the floor on top of two blankets - he hoped to find a discarded mattress
Now that Billy was gone to work, Paul got up,
sweaty and stiff, paddled his bare feet across the living room, and flopped down
on the couch under the window fan after he turned it on to 'HI.' Despite Billy's
A/C installation and maintenance profession, there was not an air conditioner in
the apartment, and Billy did not like to run the fan at night because, he said,
it was "a waste of good electricity because nights are usually cooler than the
Paul enjoyed the air rushing over his naked and unusually hairy
body. He soon dozed off to the whirring of the fan, and began to dream. The
dream had a window looking out upon a gruesome ritual. Three obese priests were
cutting open their bellies and pulling their bloody intestines out, cutting off
pieces and dumping them into a basket. Then a black snake with a shark's head
arose from its own coil in the basket; it was covered with scales that looked
like human teeth; it writhed wretchedly to a Blue's tune one of the men was
playing on a harmonica. Another priest was ringing a bell while the third
priest, who had taken up a cigar, blew smoke rings into the air.
phone was ringing. Paul woke up with a start, shook his head, stared at the
phone. It kept ringing and ringing - he got up and strode across the room to
"Paul, my boy, is that you?" The voice
sounded odd, somehow misplaced.
"Yeah, who's this?"
"Oh, you sound strange, like in a tunnel or something,
"Don't sir me, son. I'm on the speaker phone. Junior's here with
"Hey, Paul, it's me. Good Morning." Junior's voice was muffled.
"Good Morning," Paul said back, frantically trying to collect his
thoughts. "Hold on just a minute," he asked, stalling, put the receiver down,
grabbed one of Billy's KOOLs from the pack in the fruit bowl on the kitchen
table and lit it.
This is the call he had been waiting for, or so
he thought: Senior would be his patron, sponsor his writing, and maybe put him
in a nice crib in the Village, like he said he would if he liked his work. But
wait, Senior had read his dance review work and said over and over that it was
"shit", "shit", and "shit", that he didn't like it. So why is he calling?
Paul, perplexed, picked up the receiver, "Hi,
I'm back, had to turn off the stove."
"Junior and I were just talking
about that shit you sent me to read, right Junior?" said Senior.
"Right,” came the muffled voice from the background.
saying that stuff was really a load of crap, a lot of shit, if you don't mind my
Paul's heart sank then rose in anger. He'd heard all this
before several times, and was not going to put up with it again. Senior, he was
convinced, was a jerk, some sort of wealthy and jealous masochist who likes to
go around encouraging artists with hints of funding, then calling their work
shit, rubbing their faces in it over and over.
"Senior, if you don't
mind my saying so, you, and your son, are a couple of ....."
"I was saying to Junior," Senior interjected, "this kid would be a great
author if only he'd take my advice and write about eating out of the dumpster,
finding half-eaten hamburgers and hotdogs, and crummy nude photos of Madonna in
there, jacking off on them, throwing them away not knowing they are worth a
fortune. Or about the dancers on the beer diet, and those weirdoes, like the
guy, the guy, or that whore you mentioned, the one with the rubbers - who was
"Oh, you mean the prostitute? The one who had been receiving
semen-filled condoms in the mail from a retarded pervert who started paying her
child support because she wrote and told him she got pregnant and had his kid?"
"Hot damn, that's it!" exclaimed Senior. "Write something with popular
appeal, a novel with stuff like that in it, something real people can enjoy
instead of that pansy-assed dance-review shit, the shit you sent me. I mean, why
did you send me that shit, anyway? Never mind, forget about that shit."
"Dad, he might write about that choreographer with no legs," Junior
"Yeah, what about that successful dancer guy you mentioned?
Write about him."
Senior was referring to Legless Ballone, well known in
esoteric dance quarters as the father of the Lyrico Technique. Legless Ballone
had been a brilliant dancer at a young age, but he got his legs crossed
practicing a dance routine on the subway platform while waiting for a train at
Times Square. He fell off the platform in front of the No. 2 Flatbush train and
lost his legs as a consequence. Yet he triumphed over that enormous
disadvantage. He on to dance leglessly, on his arms, swinging his trunk around,
astonishing his students with the grotesque, surreal beauty of his dance - on
rare occasions he performs at the Gothic Village Dance Theatre. And, by
means of a special contraption he invented, his choreographic prosthesis, he
trained some of the world's foremost performers and choreographers. Although an
article or two appears about Legless from time to time, he is relatively unknown
except in the closely knit dance world, where his Lyrico Technique has cult
status. The technique is based on the disciplined coordination of mechanical and
spiritual principles. The dancer learns to move fluidly through the various
lines of the Platonic solids, through the 'Universal Poses.' He never "strikes a
pose" as such, but strives to "never stop moving", and to "feel the fire of the
forms between the poles." Once the dynamic is mastered, so that the student is
no longer "doing technique", but is "really dancing," once the execution of the
movements has "educated" or "drawn out" the "cosmic inner state", the intense
feelings expressed by the "Per Former" allegedly have an extraordinary, subtle
influence on members of the audience, rendering them slightly susceptible to
"You mean Legless Ballone," Paul said.
him," reiterated Senior. "Yeah, that's right, write about that legless dance
master. Write me a good success story. I want to meet that guy, by the way.
Write it out and leave it with Doreen at the Peculier Pub. And have a few drinks
on me while you're there, and have one of the burgers too. Tell her I said to
put it on my tab. Me and Junior will look the story over, and I tell you what,
if it's as good as I think it's going to be, you won't be sorry."
going to do a story about him in the first place," Paul responded into the
mouthpiece, "but I decided against it."
"I wanted a fresh
angle on him."
"Success is always a good angle, fresh or not," Junior
"But everybody in dance knows about the terrible accident, how
he overcame it, the people he's trained. I wanted a fresh angle. And there might
be hard feelings."
"What the hell for? What is this shit? Are you going
to bring me a good story or not?"
"Yes, I mean, I want to. I don't know
about the accident thing," Paul mused over the phone. "I think he would have
been a great dancer without the accident. Three of his students got the wrong
idea and got killed."
"Killed. It was horrible. The
Lyrico Studio was scandalized. The whole thing about how Legless overcame his
injury made some of his students think the injury had made him great. Three of
them jumped in front of the No. 2 Flatbush train together and were killed. A
postmodern choreographer recreated the event for the stage, dubbing it the
Flatbush Pas de Trois.
"Damn! What a story, son. Dancers must
really be dumb," said Senior.
"Paul, tell dad about the IBM dancing
machine," Junior requested.
"You mean the ICM."
that thing? I don't remember what you said about it," Senior remarked.
"It's the Isocohedronic Choreographic Machine. It's a cube inside
a sphere. Legless straps himself into it with a remote control and navigates.
The computer records the motions. Legless edits the information and uses it to
print out ballets in stick-dance graphics with Labanotation. He can also use the
machine to teach on the spot."
"Why not just use a computer in the first
place?" asked Junior.
"It can't be done by computer alone. The Master
Dancer must strap himself in and actually feel the motion. Anybody will not do.
An experienced and intuitive artist is essential. Only Legless has mastered the
Machine, or so he says, but he's training his protégé, Señorito San Francisco,
to almost master it, and thousands have been educated in the subsidiary
application, the Lyrico Technique."
"Is the Machine patented?" asked
"No, there's only one, unpatented, and he keeps it close to
home, well secured. Legless is afraid it will fall into the hands of the
government and be used for political purposes. The Kirov offered to buy or rent
it some time ago, then the CIA showed up."
"CIA? Why would the CIA give
a shit about pansies prancing around in tights with their crotches bulging?"
"According to Legless, the KGB put the Kirov director up
to it, and the CIA picked up the scent. They caught onto him after he
choreographed that piece for William Starret, the one where Bill rolled across
the Russian stage on a skateboard. It's like I said, the Lyrico Technique itself
makes an audience vulnerable to suggestion, but the influence is slight, so they
figured they would use the Machine to choreograph ballets, to be performed while
radioing subliminal commands to the audience, which would supposedly be most
effective in conjunction with baroque music, especially some of the
adages. The CIA code name was Project Adagio."
told you, this is a good story!"
"Boy, I think you're right, by golly!
Paul, you write that up and bring it down to the Village tomorrow or the next
day at the latest, give it to Doreen. You wanna bring a date, go ahead, it's on
my tab, but make sure you leave the story, you hear?"
Paul covered up
the mouthpiece on his phone, held the phone out, and shouted "Yeah!" But his
scruples suddenly gave him pause again, and he said to Senior, "I'm afraid if I
write about Legless, there will be hard feelings."
"Hard feelings?" said
"Hard feelings?" echoed Junior.
"Hard feelings. I can't
write unless I tell the whole truth, and publication of the truth about the
humungous master, I mean the great master. It might hurt his feelings, and I
happen to love the guy."
"What the hell are you talking about? You mean
there's more? Great, then tell it. Do you want to be a brilliant author or a
dumb dancer? Then screw him! Tell it all. Hey, what did you say, that you love
him? Were you screwing this guy? That's even better."
"No, no, not that,
but he's gay."
"Well, he was an idol with the women until
the accident, and after that only men would love him, so he turned gay."
"People don't turn," Junior's muffled voice was heard. "They come out of
the closet. Legless would have been a great dancer without the accident. People
are what they are. Character counts. If you are evicted from your house and wind
up on the street, you will become a drunk or a monk according to your
"That's right," affirmed Senior, "take me for example, I'm a
drunk and I worked my ass off, and I deserve every million I got because this is
how I am, doing what I want to do. Now let's stop yacking on the damned phone
like women. This guy Legless sounds like a tough man, and there will be no hard
feelings. We'll get him to sign off on it, anyway, so he doesn't sue, and get
some pictures, promote his thing too. But it's gotta be good. Write it up good
and don't be pussy footing around about it. Give me the meat, the hamburgers and
hotdogs, stuff people like. Hang up Junior. Good bye!"
The phone went
dead, just like that, leaving Paul hanging on to the other end, dumbfounded.
Copyright David Arthur Walters 1988