Friday, February 19, 2010

Literary Agent Orson: A Jersey Gherkin

Orson unsheathed his sword. After months of Francine’s humiliating, illiterate taunts down at the Grounde Coffee Shoppe, this would be gratifying. Now she would see. The taunting would cease. She lay defenseless behind him.

Orson heard sounds of the evening outside as Newark revelers strolled by. I should be out there, with them, he thought, but no. He turned and strode to her.

“Oh my God,” she gasped at the sight of his shiny weapon, “it’s so…”

Orson smiled cruelly. Her eyes pleaded.

He impaled her. His sword slid smoothly in and sunk to the hilt. She yelled something, and then the life went out of her.

It was over quickly. A moment of silence followed.

“Is dat all you got speedy,” she shoved Orson off her. “I’da charged double if I’da knew all you was gonna do was tickle me with dat gherkin. Throw me my smokes, and leave the money on the table by the door on your way out. Oh, and dey are gonna hear about dis down at the coffee shop. Dey are gonna hear.”

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Literary Agent Orson: I Hate Violets

Orson sat nervously with his best selling author in Ground Coffee Shoppe. They waited for Randi, a writer with She RANT! Magazine, and Chairman of the local NOW chapter. Meetings with Randi always made Orson nervous. Secret Service Sunglasses stood by, discretely. Orson spotted the trademark khakis and spiked hair as Randi rounded the corner and walked in. She glared Orson’s way. His gut tightened. His author smiled warmly. She stepped sharply to the counter and ordered: “Medium latte: butch it up.”

Orson cringed.

“Grande latte, triple espresso, for mizz Randi” the cashier called to the barista, and smiled at Randi.

This was to be the interview of her life, and Orson had scored it for her. Now that his author had retired, he didn’t grant many interviews. Randi said she abhorred violence in all its manifestations, and wanted to hear, “from the dumb ass’s mouth why he loved war so much.”

“No mixed metaphors,” Orson had admonished her, “especially around him. He won't 'get it.'”

“I don’t know which angers me more, his stupidity, or his worship of violence, I am a total pacifist” she had said.

Now she approached. Orson shifted. Sunglasses stood ready.

“Randi,” she introduced herself before Orson had the chance. “Where’s your Dick, these days?” She extended a stiff hand. Orson spewed his cappuccino.

His author chuckled, “he’s home in Wyoming.” They shook. Orson cleaned his mess. For one who hates that feature of the male anatomy, she sure mentions it often, he thought.

“Hey, Orson, round his house what does a dyke call a Dick?” Randi asked.

Orson’s abdomen did a double flop, his sphincter seized. His eyes bored holes into the table. God get me through this. “No idea.” He mopped his brow. Everyone was silent.

“Dad.” She said, “but seriously, your Dick really was the Anti-Christ.”

Even the sunglasses laughed.

“A little dyke humor for you.” Randi sat. Knees far apart, leaned forward, elbows on table, chin in palm. She stared. “All right, cut the shit. Why do you have such a hard-on for war?”

“War’s a turble thing, Randi,” he said in his Crawford, Texas accent, “that’s a common misperceptulation about me. I don’t like war. It’s the bad guys like it,” he said.

“Bad Guys?! That’s it, the world divided into cowboys and Indians for you, isn’t it? Good guys over here, bad guys over there. You don’t see any grey?”

Orson squirmed, but his author looked unperturbed.

“Naw, Randi, I don’t see in grey. That’s moral retalitarianism. I see in black and white. I see us as the good guys. I hate violets, but the world’s fulla evil, and sometimes you gotta take it to the bad guy before he takes it to you.”

“I hated your doctrine of preemption, and it’s pronounced violence,” she seethed.

“Is that what you people call it?”

Her face reddened. The pin was pulled, and this grenade was ready to blow. Orson recognized the signs. Sunglasses did too. They moved closer.

Think, Orson think, “Why don’t we—”

“YOU are the bad guys!” Randi yelled and slapped the table. “We’ll tear this white male dominated techno-military-industrial edifice down brick by brick, and we’ll use those bricks to build a bridge to peace, or at least, Cuba.”

“He he, he he he,” he brayed in that funny laugh of his. “That’s a common miscapitulation. There’s no peace without might. Walk softly, but carry a big bomb.”

“You stupid…” She flailed, and stood, tearing her khakis. “These were my favorite…”

No, not the khakis, Orson thought. Uh oh, Orson saw the look.

The sunglasses moved in, “ma’am,” they reached toward her.

“I wouldn’t—” Orson began.

They heard the screech of ten thousand Harpies. “You ripped my khakis,” the demon voice seemed to come from all sides. She was all talons and teeth. The Sunglasses went flying in every direction, tattered and bloodied. Orson threw his hands in the air. His mouth worked up and down, but no words came.

“He he he, he he he, the U. S. Marines could use a fella like you,” the author said, still seemingly unperturbed.

Her eyes were flames. She moved in their direction. Orson bolted for the exit. “I have big plans for you,” Orson heard the Harpy say.

“Bring it on, big boy.”

Orson heard a thunderous crash as he reached the door. “Awe heck, is that the best you can do, fella. Laura can do better’n that. Tickle me with a feather why don’t ya. You want a piece 'o this. Come and get it. He he, he he he.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: A Very Merry Christmas

“A Very Merry Christmas!” Pierce Hart said with a smile.

She scowled at Hart as he handed over his ticket.

I’ll win her over. Hart let his inner light show through a radiant smile. She rolled her eyes. Orson had ducked into the Starbuck’s while the rest checked their bags for the flight to the convention in Frisco. Pierce had made breakthroughs with chant, rhythmic breathing and meditation. “‘Grey Dawn’ begins with the duality of the universe and works the reader back to one unified whole, pre big-bang. It dissolves the Yin and the Yang into one Grey Harmonic Ocean of peace and love within its circle, which symbolizes the universe,” Pierce pitched it to Orson as they walked through Concourse B.

“Won’t work. People want black and white, not grey. That stuff’s cold now. Dark and angry sells. Got any sexy Werewolves? Child Warlocks and angsty Vampires are hot, too,” he had said.

"But I've evolved. I am beyond duality; pain and pleasure. I do unity and unconditional love now. Maybe it's time I got a new agent," Pierce had blurted.

"Okay," Orson had said.

That hurt, Pierce thought. “Huh? Oh.” Pierce said, a little startled. “It’s a hat. That’s what goes in a hat box, a hat.” Pierce answered the clerk’s question.

Peace and love. He doesn’t get it. Pierce thought as he leaned. He wants darkness, and I don’t do darkness and anger. It’s just not in me. I am light.

“What? Yes I would like to check it along with my other bags, thank you.”

Darkness, anger… “Huh? Yes, I’m aware it has an octagonal shape, and yes I’m sure I’d like to check it, jeez.”

Peace and love… Darkness and anger… Pierce made out the distinct Orson gait approaching. Coffee in hand, looking so cheery. What's he so happy about? Pierce wondered. He has no right to…

“WHAT?! EIGHTY dollars extra, just for a hatbox?!” Pierce turned back to the agent. “You’ve got to be friggin kidding me?!”

“Yes sir, ‘extra-bag’ fee, twenty dollars. 'Irregular shape box' fee, sixty dollars. TSA mandated,” she said, smiling.

“Just gimme the box, goddamit,” he said.

A nearby security guard moved in their direction.

“Well!” she huffed.

“The box,” he said, his hand jutting.

“What seems to be the problem?” the security guard asked.

“That man is angry and out of control, officer.”

“I’m not out of control, I just…”

“Sir, please step over here with me,” the guard ordered.

“NO! I have a plane to catch.” Other customers squirmed. “What’s your name and your badge number? I’m going to report you.”

“Sir, please put your hands on top of your head.”

Pierce wasn’t cooperative and now the officer radioed for backup and reached for his baton. He moved toward Pierce.

“Thank you,” the baggage agent said to the officer with a smile. “Next,” she called.

“Die in hell you evil witch!” Pierce yelled as the officer slipped the club around his neck while he flailed.

“Peace and love, Hart. What happened?” Orson said as he walked up.

Hart scowled at the clerk, his eyes bugging out of his head as he choked. “AAARRGGHHH.” He gnashed in her direction.

“A Very Merry Christmas, sir” she said with smile.

Literary Agent Orson: Jabberwocky Jorge

“'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe,” Warren began quietly. Orson’s writers' dreamy faces were rapt in firelight and backed by the twinkling stars of a chilly, dry Arizona night. Their spines tingled. "Beware the Jabberwock, my son!...”

Orson leaned back. Hmm, Jabberwocky. How very Halloween. We should do this more often. Orson has tame, peaceful writers, he thought as he looked from face to face round the fire. That’s the only kind Orson likes. Trouble is “tame” and “good writer” are almost never used in the same sentence. That’s okay though. I must have control. These peace loving New Age authors are the best. They don’t sell much anymore, but God they're easy to manage. Looking beyond, Orson made out the silhouette of a lone Joshua tree in the moonlight. Perfect setting for a nightmarish tale, he mused. I’m glad I thought of this…

“I cain’t understand a word he’s sayin’. Can ya’ll?” Jorge, a western writer (every agent must have one), pierced the mood with his unwelcome nasal bray, the type heard up around Crawford, Texas way. He looked around.

What was I thinking? Orson wondered why he’d signed this unruly writer. Then he remembered: He actually has something to say and will sell books, Dammit. Well, at least he’d left his security detail back at the ranch. Those sunglasses make me nervous, Orson thought.

“Shhh.” Phoebe hissed.

“The jaws that bite…”

“I thought he said campfire stories,” Jorge hooted, pointed at Orson.

“Lower your voice,” someone said. Sasha leaned and gave the noisemaker a stiff elbow.

“…the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!" Warren intoned.

“Awe, this is stupid,” Jorge hollered, “needs more cowboys and less jubjubs.”

“Would you please SHUT UP!” Mara was outdone. The mood was fading fast.

“…And as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame.”

“Ahh come on!” Jorge leapt up, “I cain’t take another second. Let’s talk cowboys. Remember the Alamo?! Mission accomplished!”

Orson was knocked off his log and barely escaped the violent attack on the interloper. Dust clouded the hideous grunts and sounds of struggle. Orson cringed. He listened, helpless, as blood-curdling yells pierced the chilly Arizona night. Finally, the din began to subside.

Pierce stepped forward, covered with dust and blood: “Master, I put his head in your trunk. Shall we leave the other pieces out for the coyotes?”

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: The Bad Shepherd

“ba a a a.”

“…and do you, Orson, take Dolly to be your lawful wedded lamb, to have and to hold, as long as you both shall live?”

Orson stared into the innocent eyes; the beautiful black, non-judging eyes. Finally, we will be one, he thought, “I do.”

By the power vested in me by the state of New Jersey, I now pronounce you man and lamb. You may now kiss the wildlife. Orson reached for his lamb. His heart was bursting at this pinnacle of fulfillment long delayed. It was the happiest moment of his life, and then the phone woke him up.

He looked at the clock. “Yes Mother?”

“Orson, honey is that you? Are you sleeping in the middle of the day again? How did you know it was me?”

“Mother, it’s five o’clock in the morning.”

“I can’t sleep. Were you having that weird animal dream again? You know, my real baby was switched at birth. You didn’t come from this womb. Your head is far too big.”

“My analyst says Dolly represents the childhood I never had, Mother. What do you want?”

“Blame the parent. That’s the new thing, isn’t it honey?”


“Please, honey, look at my new manuscript.”

“No, Mother.”

“Please, please, please honey… snookums.”

“Mother, stop it.”

“Snooky wooky.”

“No. I have a tight schedule. I board a plane for a conference in Vegas this morning. I don’t have the time.”

“No time--For your own mother?” she said with a dejected tone.

“For my own Mother? But you just said--"

“Oh that was silly nonsense, honey. Please. It’s brilliant. It’ll spare so many women the agony I suffered, and for only $29.95 it will be a bargain.”

“Okay, what’s the title?”

“That’s more like it,” Mother gloated, “My working title is ‘Boarding school: What to do when your baby was switched at birth with a demon-alien spawn with a very fat head.’ I know it’s long, but I can’t cut a single word without losing the full meaning. …Orson… honey… Hello, Orson…Orson, are you there?”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: Mother’s Dying Breath

“Orson, honey, tell my adoring fans my very last thoughts were of them. I lived for them and now I…I…” she gasped with a flourish, then drifted off. Her bowel gurgled and chirped once.

He checked; she was still breathing. “Vanity press. She sold seventeen copies,” he said to Gloria, the nurse who had appeared. “I couldn’t pay a publisher to take it.” The nurse looked confused, maybe a little frightened. His imperious, hazel eyes were upsetting. “…thinks she’s Michener for God’s sake.” Vitals were okay, Gloria turned to leave. Just then a long screeeeed then a tweeter and finally a bluurgle came from the old lady. Gloria looked at him as she held the door knob. “That was not me…,” he began, but Gloria was gone.

Half hour later her eyes fluttered open. “…Is this… am I in…?” then she noticed Orson, “Oh, God, no, help, there’s been a terrible mistake,” she yelled.

“No Mother. No pitchforks here. You’re still among mortals.”

“Oh,” her head flopped back on the pillow. She searched the ceiling for perfect words. “Orson, take notes,” she began, “beloved fans. No, scratch that. ‘Dearest fans,’ yes, that’s warmer. Dearest fans, you have never been far from my… from… of…my fellow Americans,” she grew confused. “Orson, I believe it’s… finally…the… big…one…” her eyes fluttered, then closed. Gloria re-appeared, but this time with back-up. They skittered around Orson. They tugged, pulled, raised, switched, emptied, changed, lowered and left. Orson saw the slow, steady rise and fall of her breast. Another hour passed. Her eyes opened.

“Oh, you again.”

That hurt. I have greater things to do, he thought.

“Let’s start over,” she said. “You are like the silent river; I, like the noisy storm come to replenish you.” Her hands swept down like gentle rain, but then she faltered.

“Mother, this is vain, and what did I tell you about similes?”

“Oops. You are the silent river, I am the noisy storm…” she began theatrically.

“Mother, stop this silliness and rest.”

“But my dearest fans…”

“Mother,” he breathed, “all three of them?”

She looked wounded. “Gentle readers.”

“Rest,” he ordered.

“Beautiful ones…”


“Friends, Romans…” she gesticulated.

“Quiet. I’m reading.”

“How I miss the stage. Oh, Orson, I always wanted my final words and deeds to be grand; memorable as in classic literature,” she said, downcast.

“That’s pretentious, Mother. Shut up and rest.”

Buffoon, she thought. She rested another half hour, then woke, “Orson, roll me on my side,” she requested. “I’ve got gas.”

He dragged himself up and moved her. “There; better?”

“Put your hand here and press. I gotta fart.”

“Oh, Mother, that’s crude. Please.” However, he did.

With an explosion heard throughout the ward, a toxic cloud emitted from the little old lady and quickly filled the room. Gloria came running. The faint trace of a smile briefly lit Mother’s face as her eyes rolled back in her head. Now, her breast was at peace.

“Santa Maria, Senor,” Gloria had just come through the door. She covered her nostrils. “Joo have keeled her,” Gloria screamed, turned and fled down the hall.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: Mime Crime: A Cautionary Tragedy

Three mimes posed before Jackson Square like stone statues: Winged Mercury, covered in gold paint from head to toe, stood frozen in mid flight atop an overturned galvanized steel pail. The Tin Man, also covered in head to toe paint, silver, stood a dozen feet away, stiff, in mid stride. Between the two crouched an unmoving doe. Three lives of glacial stillness. Passing children gawked, taunted and poked, but got only stony silence.

The Tennessee Williams Festival had been a success, and the French Quarter was packed as Orson and his writers sipped Café au Lait at Café du Monde. Nearby a trumpeter blew a decent rendition of Moon River beneath a perfect New Orleans spring sky. Tourists ambled by. The Pontalba apartments bracketed Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral loomed above the whole stage.

“I may not be cut out for writing. I’m just not smart enough. That conference was so intimidating,” Mary moaned.

“That’s silly,” Sara had to lean in to be heard, “you’re one of the smartest people I know,” she lied. The two sat at a table near the low fence in the crowded cafe.

“I heard a funny recipe today.” Mary brightened.

“Tell, tell.”

“So while Europe has slept--” Garth proclaimed.

Mary tried to drown out Garth’s loud mouth. He and Orson sat at the next table, and Garth spoke loudly to be heard over the din. “Like, I’m a vegan,” she said, “Thank God. Because this was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life! Ever. Gross.”

“Wow. That bad?” Sara responded.


“Islam has quietly established an advance guard throughout the continent,” Garth went on. “Their liberal policies will come back to haunt them.”

That's baloney, Orson thought.

“Remarkable.” Sara leaned and said to Mary. She looked at Garth with contempt, “he’s oblivious.”

“And stupid,” Mary hissed back. “Really, really, really stupid. Anyway, I saw this on Glen Beck in my hotel room earlier.”

Orson tried to catch the eye of a server, but she sped by. Garth was always on some paranoid jag. Bored, Orson checked the mimes. Just then the fawn broke character, got up and walked away. As she passed in front of the Tin Man, he made a giant kissing noise without moving. She crossed Decatur Street to use the public restroom. The Tin Man’s eyes followed her the whole way. Orson noticed Mercury hadn’t moved a muscle, but his eyes strained to look over at the Tin Man. Orson looked closer. To Orson it seemed the Tin Man sneered and tried to look back at golden Mercury. Neither moved. Orson smiled. Now that’s entertainment, he thought.

“Oh my God, you watch Glen Beck? He’s the worst,” said Sara.

“The Islamic birth rate is over 7 children per household and not one western European country even has replacement birth rate,” Garth continued.

Deliver me, oh Lord, Orson said to himself, I will become a believer if you will only deliver me.

“My boyfriend’s addicted to him. But wait, you haven’t heard the worst. Wait till you hear his deranged recipe for slow cooked frogs. Yuck. First of all, if you throw live frogs in boiling water, they’ll jump right out and escape. Beck says you won’t catch those frogs again. Did you know that? I didn’t. So this is how you cook frogs…”

Sara stared at her.

“By 2020 in all of Europe, and half of Asia the Caliphate will be established, and if America’s not careful…” Garth slogged on.

Ugh, I DON”T CARE, I’m here for the entertainment, Orson thought. Wait, did Mercury just move? Orson squinted. It seemed Mercury was straining. I’m imagining things, wishful thinking, Orson thought. The deer returned, and Tin Man’s eyes followed her. He whistled low as she passed closely. She brushed her hair and then struck a new pose. Mercury’s eyes strained to take the whole thing in, but he didn’t move a muscle. Orson was tickled. Hundreds of people around, and only he was aware; only he saw the show within the show.

“You place a dozen frogs in a pot of cold water. That’s their normal habitat, and start a very low flame underneath. You turn the heat up very slowly. Beck said frogs get suspicious if you turn the heat up too fast.”

“Really? Who’da thunk it. I didn’t know frogs were that smart!” Sara realized Mary was joking and played along.

“We’ll be next. Islam seeks total world domination, nothing less. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who sees it,” Garth rambled, but Orson hadn’t heard a word. Mercury was in retrograde. He couldn’t take his eyes off the play. This comedy is just for me, he imagined.

“Turn the heat up by slow increments and the frog grows drowsy. Finally he goes to sleep. Soon enough, voila! Slow cooked frog. Poor frog never knew what hit him. Doesn’t that sound gross?! Ewwwe. I’m glad I’m a vegan!”

Sara blinked and looked incredulous; unsure.

As Orson watched, Mercury leapt off his pail. Orson flinched, "what the..." Mercury stormed toward the Tin Man, who turned and walked quickly up St Ann Street to escape Mercury’s wrath. The scene was so completely surreal, Orson burst into laughter.

They’d never seen Orson laugh before.

“That’s a serious business,” Garth said as he looked on. “I think we’re about to see a mime crime.”

“Mime crime?” Orson doubled in hysterics.

“Are you okay, is he okay?” Sara asked, now worried. No sound came from him. They couldn’t tell if he was laughing or dying.

“Cassandra,” he called Garth, when he could, “it’s part of the show.”

The Tin Man ran weaving and dodging through the crowd as fast as he could, but Mercury gained. They ran into the east gate of Jackson Square, and Orson lost sight of them. “Oh God that was funny,” he wiped his eyes and regained composure. “I haven’t laughed so hard since I was a child. Enough with the dire predictions, Garth.”

If he was hurt by that rebuke, Garth’s face didn’t betray it.

Suddenly the Tin Man burst out of the south gate of Jackson Square and sent tourists sprawling, he dashed across Decatur Street and turned in their direction with Mercury in hot pursuit.

They stood. “Heed my warning: This can come to no good,” Garth prophesied. Orson would have laughed, but he didn’t have time. They drew near and he wanted to see the act’s end.

“Shut up, Cassandra, it’s the final act.” His hands poised to clap as soon as the play was complete.

At that moment, the Tin Man was overcome by Mercury and the pair fell just the other side of the low fence at Orson’s feet. Mercury delivered five very convincing blows to the Tin Man’s torso and then flung something into the English Ivy lining the retaining wall. "You never took anything seriously, never took her seriously, so I deliver you... to Hades," Mercury rasped in Tin Man's ear. Someone screamed . The Tin Man’s silver shirt slowly turned black. Orson stood, hands held high, a pasty stone statue as a scarlet pool billowed around his shoes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: The Jewish Dilemma

“Glenfiddich, neat,” she said as she served him.

“It’s a sin to defile good scotch. How are you, Rosie?”

“Glad the holidays are over, Orson. You?” she wiped the bar as the news blared on the TV behind her.

“Same,” he said as he took a sip. “How’s business?”

“With the economy the way it is, things are a little slow, but...”

“Oy,” said the lady seated at a table a few feet away. “Rosie, please put it on CNN? I don’t know how you tolerate this channel. That’s not real news.” She dug into the bowl in front of her for another handful of peanuts.

“Marlene Greenberg,” Rosie whispered. “Head of the local chapter of the A.C.L.U., muckety-muck in local Democratic politics,” she explained to Orson. “No Marley, it’s gonna stay right there.” Her words bounced off Orson’s right shoulder.

He nodded. “How’s your writing?”

“Non existent right now, Orson. I can’t focus. Maybe when things settle.”

“What are your thoughts on Jewish Palestinian conflict?” he looked toward the TV.

“Tired. They both have legitimate claims, but you and I will not live to see…”

“GOD! Why don’t they just be honest and call this ‘Channel Bush’,” Marlene screamed. The newscaster explained that when pressed, President Elect Obama would only demure on the current Israel-Palestine conflict. “‘One president at a time,’ was all we got,” Shepherd said. “He certainly wasn’t so cagey when questioned about the economy though.”

“GIVE HIM A CHANCE! Marlene shouted at the TV. This isn’t news. It’s pure editorial rubbish. Please, Rosie,” she bleated. “PLEASE. Next door they keep it on CNN,” she leveled a menacing gaze.

Rosie relented. Business was bad enough already. She changed the channel.

“What? No fight? The Rosie I know wouldn’t have given in so easy,” Orson said.

“The exigencies of business, Orson, the exigencies of business.”

“Oy, Oy,” Marlene cried as a Hamas bomb rained down on a small Israeli town. “My cousin lives there,” she said waving her hand toward the TV.

“So you see, small provocations bring disproportionate response. Once again, Israel has used overwhelming force against a defenseless people.” Christiane reported dramatically as she slowly walked backwards, microphone caressed like a lover, down a destroyed Gaza street. “Poor women and children pay the ultimate price for ugly Israeli aggression, and once again your President Bush has shown complete solidarity with this irresponsible use of force,”

“GOD I HATE THAT MAN!” Marlene screamed again at the TV. She reached for another handful of peanuts. “Now this is real news, good news,” she said as she sat back in her comfortable chair.

Literary Agent Orson: No Wings, Dammit

“Over here,” Phoebe waved to the rest of the group.

They gathered at the head of the crowded aisle in a Safeway grocery store downtown, San Francisco.

“Okay, everybody got the description?” Orson asked, “this is against my better judgment, but my niece is counting on me.”

All heads nodded.

“Ultra-thins,” Jeremy read his description, “I didn’t know Orson smokes,” he whispered to Craig.

“He doesn’t, dummy.”

“Okay, fan out.” Orson ordered. Everybody moved.

“Gosh, that was easy. I found ‘em,” Pierce announced, pointing.

“Lemme see,” Orson said. “Wrong color pack. She was very specific: NOT the light blue. It’s the sea-foam green pack.”

“Here they are,” Jeremy chimed.

“Right color, but,” Orson’s voice rose just a little, “read your list people,” he said becoming impatient. “We are looking for ultra-thins, Jeremy. Those are just thins.

“Oops,” Jeremy squeaked.

“Found ‘em,” Pierce triumphantly raised a pack above his head, and pumped his hand as he danced in a circle nearly slamming two or three people.

“Give.” Orson stretched out his hand. “Pierce, do you have A.D.D.? Read your list. These are Longs. We need Super Longs. Come on people, pay attention.”

Their heads dropped as they hunkered down reading packages more carefully.

Sasha hesitated with a pack in her hands. “Don’t even think it,” Orson said as he crossed to scan the other side of the aisle, “Read the pack. And you’re a woman?”

“I don’t have to take that from you. I’m a best-selling author.” Sasha said. A hush fell over the small group as they froze. Orson stared. “I’m sorry,” she whispered and dropped her eyes.

“You barely scanned 400, Sasha. Get real. People, we need to focus.” Orson grew frustrated.

Craig, who hadn’t said anything, was triple checking the package he held in his hand as customers swirled around him. “Bingo,” he ejected with a proud smile. He held out the pack. Orson walked over to him, took the pack and examined it.


The milling crowds stopped and turned to him. Suddenly a loud cheer and thunderous applause broke out. Orson was mobbed by teary-eyed men with big hugs that lifted him off the ground and kisses. “It’s about time,” said one. "Yeah, me too!" shouted another. “You go, brother,” somebody breathed. “Thank you, God bless you” lisped another. "Don't ask, don't tell," a deep voice boomed. Suddenly a chant arose: “Our day has come, our day has come,” they cheered as they danced in a frenzy around a trapped and bewildered Orson. Strains of 'It's Rainin' Men' could also be heard sprinkled throughout.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: Atlas Shrugged

“Welcome to Ground, can I take your order?” the server monotoned and ceased texting for the moment.

“It’s ‘may I take your order,’ did they teach you nothing in public school?”

“Whatever,” the teen rolled his eyes. Orson placed his order, and the kid went back to texting.

The inarticulate youth of today, Orson thought as he walked to the big corner table.

“Really, really, REALLY Carson, you can’t be serious!” he heard Lisa say. Several heads turned to look her way. “That is the stupidest, most amateurish bunch of tripe ever written. The inhumanity; the naked injustice; the petty meanness and unfairness. I can’t believe you.”

“Kids,” Orson said as he sat.

“Let’s change the subject,” Jeremy suggested. “I’m having a gargantuan case of writer’s block. I don’t think this’ll help.”

“Great idea,” seconded Carson.

“NO!" Her face was flush. "Let’s see what Orson says,” she turned to Orson. “Carson’s reading Rand’s screed to greed, Atlas Shrugged, and he says it’s very timely right now. He’s afraid Congress is going to enact some sort of anti dog-eat-dog legislation any day!” she was having difficulty breathing.

“Carson, can I borrow twelve bucks? I want to get a refill on my Macchiato Choke a Lotta Frapaccino.” Jeremy said as he stood.

“Sure Jeremy.” Carson dug a wad of cash from his pocket and handed him the bills.

“So, what do you think, Orson?” she asked.

“Let me explain,” Carson said. He turned and looked at Orson, “Rand suggests that when each individual acts in his own self interest, it is better for everyone. All boats rise. I happen to agree with her.”

“Well, it’s been forty years since I…” Orson began.

“God, I can’t believe you, Carson. Self-interest, indeed. Just the way you say those words-SELF-INTEREST... as if there’s something SELF-EVIDENT about them. Well there’s not! How dare you? Self-interest! What about everybody else?! They can starve?! We should help one another. It's not ALL about money! You should be ashamed.”

“That’s exactly Ayn’s point…” Carson began.

“I have to agree with Lisa,” Jeremy interrupted as he sat back down. “Rand is harsh. If you’re not a monopolist, conglomeratist or a CEO, she doesn’t like you. What about the little guy?”

“She sees potential in everyman. She’s the eternal optimist.” Carson smiled.

“Ahh, that’s where you’re wrong,” Said Orson. “She sees the evil in everyman. She’s the eternal pessimist.”

“Well, folks it’s been fun, but I gotta go.” Carson got up.

“Wait, where you going?” Lisa asked.

“Work,” he shrugged.

“On Sunday?” Said Jeremy.

“Yeah, they asked for volunteers. Pays double-time. Bye.”

"But..." Lisa looked conflicted.

"Gotta go." He turned and left.

“Great job, Orson!” Lisa said after Carson left.

“What’d I do?”

“You made him mad with that "pessimist" comment. He was buying my coffee today, and I hadn’t gotten my refill. Plus, I wanted a muffin.”

“Working on Sunday,” Jeremy muttered. “There’s something’s just not right about that… makes the rest of us look bad. Somebody ought to pass a law about that. Don’t you think people should be made to take time off?" he looked at the others. "Plus, it’ll leave more work for the rest of us.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: I Had a Dream

Orson stared.

“What? Why do you stare?”

“I can understand what you say. It’s just a little weird.”

“This is a dream, dumkoff.”

“Is that a little dream humor?”

“You’ve got about twenty seconds left in this dream cycle. Move on.”

“I can see why you didn’t win Germany’s man of the year for 1517.”


“I need your help,” Orson said. “There are some who feel that I, a humble literary agent, am uniquely qualified to save the planet. I don't get it, but there it is. Currently the world is threatened by hegemony. We’ve tried everything. In your day, you changed the world. I was hoping for some ideas.”

“Me?” he pointed to his sunken chest. “I’m a poor priest. What can one man do?” He held a gather of his simple, burlap tunic in one hand, turned up his other hand humbly. “I just spend my days trying to kill Jews and arguing with my boss.”

“Amazing how little things have changed,” Orson observed.



“It’s your dream. Ten seconds. Quit mumbling and get with it, beknackt.”

“One man can make a difference. You took on a corrupt hegemony which sought complete world domination. Of course it cost you your job and nearly your life, but if you hadn’t succeeded, we’d all be speaking Latin. We face a similar situation in our time, and I’m too old to learn Farsi or Urdu. I’ve got to do something. Forgive me if I digress for a second, but I’m fascinated by your view on Jews. You are a priest, and yet you sanction the murder of other humans.”

“No, certainly I do not, but Jews are not human, they are devils. Kill as many of ‘em as you like. Five seconds.”

“That sounds eerily familiar.”

“You babble. Two seconds.”

“Okay, how can I save the world?”

“How should I know? I am but one man.”

“But you did it; you stopped the train dead in its tracks!”

“You’ve mistaken me for someone else, young man. Time's up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m on my way to mail my grievances to Albrecht. I’m thinking of posting them some place where everyone can read them.”

“How about the castle door?”

“Great idea, kamuffel! Bye.”

Brilliant, the castle door was the ‘Letter to the Editor’ of his day. As soon as I wake up, I’ll write a letter to the editor and mail it. It’s worth a try, Orson dreamt.

Oh, no. I can’t, dammit. Today’s MLK day and the post office will be closed.

Literary Agent Orson: The Rest Stop

The car screeched up to the curb, and Clarence watched the funny white dude as he scurried in a wide circle around him to the restroom. His gold tooth sparkled in the sun as he laughed. The round domed metal top to the trash can hung open like a shucked oyster while he took a smoke break. “White folks sho is silly,” he thought as he shook his head.

Orson made it into the stall with out a second to spare. His bowel squawked and chirped like a tropical bird as he stretched one hand to pull a sanitary seat cover from it’s dispenser on the wall. “Damned IBS,” Orson moaned. There was another insistent, loud gurgle combined with a flutter, and then a pushing feeling. And it’s getting worse. I hate rest stops, he thought as he positioned the cover on the seat and looked around the cubicle; “they’re swarming with germs and perverts,” he said. He was careful not to touch anything. “Hold it, Orson,” he reminded himself. At least I have the place to myself, he thought. He’d observed no feet in the other stall.

His hazel eyes fell on the lone passage of graffiti upon the stall wall. It began: “here I sit all broken harted…” Hmmm, that won’t do, he thought as he straightened and looked at it. “The ignorant masses strike again,” he said aloud, hands toward the heavens. “Idiots. They do this just to torture me,” he mumbled. He thought for a second and resolved: I can make it. I can’t relax with that there. He jerkily strode back to his car like a wooden marionette to fetch a marker.

"What he dooin now?" Clarence wondered as he watched Orson suspiciously and replaced another trash bag. ‘Dat dude look like he need to shit.’ Then Clarence saw the Sharpie Orson had retrieved from the car, “oh, he one a dem bafroom poets.” He laughed again. “White folks.”

Ferris, a deputy of the lowest rank with the New Jersey State Parks and Recreation department, made it his job to catch graffiti criminals. He was squatting in the next stall and had been sure he’d had a live one when Orson walked in talking to himself. But then he’d walked out. Ferris stood, disappointed, to peek over the stall wall and nearly gave his position away. Orson was back in a flash. Orson was preoccupied and hadn’t seen him. But Ferris had seen Orson, and more importantly, the black Sharpie Orson clutched in his right fist. That guy sure walks funny, Ferris thought with relish. He’s a real pervert. This was going to be a good day after all. Ferris loved to flash his badge and terrify the pervs. He’d berate them about New Jersey laws governing graffiti and lurking in restrooms, and then let them go with a warning. He had no authority to do otherwise, but the perverts didn’t know that.

“Squeeze, Orson, squeeze, hold it,” he repeated as he closed the stall door behind him. “This’ll only take a second,” he said. The breeze from the activity sent his sanitary seat cover fluttering to the floor. “Dammit, gotta do that again,” he said. “Squeeze, Orson, squeeze,” he repeated again as he removed the cap from the Sharpie. I’ll remedy this glaring travesty and then I can relax.

Ferris heard ‘squeeze, hold it, it’ll only take a minute, gotta do it again’ and saw the paper fall to the floor beneath him. This guy’s a real sicko, I might need back-up, Ferris thought. No, there’s no time for that, I need to take him down myself. Now his finely tuned sense of smell, honed over countless days and nights in men’s rooms, detected the evil scent of Sharpie. The wheels turned in deputy Ferris’s mind and it was not a pretty sum. I gotta make my move.

“Squeeze, Orson. If I can just get this ‘e’ in right here,” he mumbled, and positioned his hand. “Don’t shake. I can squeeze this in right here. C’mon Orson, you can do it. Squeeze,” he reminded himself, loudly as he put his hand to the wall.

Deputy Ferris trembled with excitement. Finally he’d get that commendation he desired. This was big.

“Squeeze, squeeze it in, don't shake,” Orson said aloud. To make sure the ‘e’ was perfect and that he maintained continence. “SQUEEZE!” he blurted once again.

“FREEZE right there you sick pervert. Of all the filthy, despicable…,” said Deputy Ferris as he stood and peered down on Orson. “Don’t move!” Deputy Ferris was surprised and dismayed by the innocent look of things. He blinked and stared again. ‘Oh God, it’s worse than I thought, this one’s really up to no good,’ he thought as he nervously stepped down from his perch and fumbled for his badge. “Stay right there!”

Orson had received the fright of his life. I knew it! Perverts are everywhere! He’d thought he was alone, and now the strange grey eyes of a lurking rest stop pervert looked down on him from the next stall. In a flash he unlocked his stall door and bolted in a funny, crab-like walk back to his car. His back hunched, face in anguish. I’m in trouble now, Orson thought as he considered his options in a panic. This stretch of turnpike didn't have many exits. "I'll never make it."

Meanwhile, deputy Ferris was screaming, “Stop pervert, stop.” His hands trembled so much he couldn’t open his stall at first. Then his windbreaker caught on the latch as he tried to chase Orson. “Stop, pervert!”

A mother with daughters had exited the other side and saw Orson limping with his awful gait, frightful look on his face and heard Deputy Ferris’s commotion. She realized the two concrete paths converged at a single point near the cars. “Run, girls, run,” she said shoving them into the grass toward their van. They screamed and ran. She screamed and ran. “Lock the door,” the mother called frantically as her heel got caught in a crack. They screamed and cried inside their van as they watched her extricate her foot from the trapped shoe.

Clarence, hearing the ruckus, came running with his large trash bag in tow from around back of the building, and watched as the scene unfolded. Soon as he heard Ferris’s voice, he knew.

Mother then bobbed up and down moving toward the van waving her arms and screaming, “honk the horn, honk the horn.”

Orson, looked to his right, and saw the women in flight. Oh, God, there’s a second pervert in the women’s room. We’re under siege. “Oh, my God,” he blurted as he scrabbled faster. “Where’s an officer when you need one?” he yelled as he opened the car door.

“Stop pervert,” Deputy Ferris yelled as the girls laid into the horn.

Orson put it in reverse and screeched his tires as the mother reached her van looking around for any semblance of the law.

“Stop pervert,” the deputy yelled one last time. “You let him get away,” he said to Clarence who now lay in the grass, in paroxysms of laughter.

“White folks is sooo siiiilly,” he said and clutched his stomach anew.

“But he’s a pervert!” Ferris pointed.

“You…” was all Clarence could get out, before he doubled up again.

The mother had got safely into her van and they all dabbed their eyes with Kleenex as mother put the van in reverse. Clarence leaned up on one elbow, saw one high heeled shoe stuck at an awkward angle in the sidewalk, looked at the women and fell back laughing again.

“White folks…” he couldn’t go on.

“What?” Deputy Ferris demanded.

Orson and the mother screeched out of the parking lot. Clarence’s gold tooth sparkled in the sun as he laughed. “Ya’ll is all perverts…”

Dejected, Deputy Ferris slumped and returned to his restroom. Maybe tomorrow, he thought, maybe tomorrow.

Literary Agent Orson: Back To The Plantation

“Beth, bring some Splenda with you,” Garth’s voice boomed throughout Ground. God, Orson thought. Randi, a N.O.W. member, and a writer for SHE-RANT! magazine sat across from Garth like a surly, ticking bomb.

“Go on,” she prompted, leaning forward on one elbow. Spiky hair pointed at him.

“This discussion’s giving me acid reflux,” Jeremy quailed. “Can we change the subject? I think I need a Xanax.” He searched through his man-bag. Beth sat back down with her Frapaccino, handed Garth the Splenda and smiled.

The line at ‘Live Free!’ The Abortion Boutique across the street was particularly long, Orson thought.

“Okay,” Randi nodded to Garth, “go on.”

“In ’64 your president Johnson--”

“He’s wasn’t my president! Nothing with a scrotum will ever rule me!” Randi said. Orson looked around.

“Johnson unleashed one of the most devastating social programs our country has ever seen. Its result was the destruction of the black family and re-enslavement of blacks.”

“Oh,” Jeremy moaned. He grabbed his bag, but Beth reached out to him.

“They prefer to be called African American,” Randi said with a scowl.

“Garth, you’re gonna have to clarify that. Slavery ended a hundred fifty years ago,” Orson said.

“In 1960 eighty percent of black homes had two parents. Today, nearly eighty percent are single parent. The Great Society program penalized marriage for welfare recipients, while rewarding additional childbirths. It was the perfect storm. It set the black father adrift, and sent the black woman back to the plantation.”

“Oh, God,” Jeremy blurted. He twisted his arm free from Beth, jumped and ran for the door leaving one flip flop behind in his mad dash.

“That’s stupid, Garth. Men are useless as a dick to a dyke,” Randi said. “And, my African American sister is the strongest person on this planet. She doesn’t need any Goddamned man. I’ll guarandamntee ya that. Father’s are over rated. Look at me, I didn’t have one and I turned out okay,” she stared round the table.

“It was a cynical act of patronage. For a paltry handout, generations of black families lived lives of crippling dependence and perpetual victim hood. All they had to do was vote a certain way.”

“That’s a damned lie! Those people don’t vote anyway.”

“You’re right, many don’t. It’s funny how your language reveals you,” Garth said to her. “The Democratic party needs--”

“You’re a smug, racist Nazi,” she yelled, slamming her hand on the table.

“The Democratic party needs seventy percent of all voting blacks to stay in power. It has served the party well to stoke black victim hood, and keep them dependent.”

“Bullshit! Besides, they already have the dyke, gay, anarchist, feminist, PETA, atheist, trial attorney, hooker, pimp, freak and biker votes. Who gives a shit about a few African American votes?” Randi said, sliding out of the booth.

“Really, Garth, you are pedantic. Why don’t we change the subject?” Orson suggested.

“Because the story’s not quite finished. In 1996 a Republican Congress enacted the Welfare to Work legislation, and a Democrat president signed it into law. A generation of black women realized the connection between effort and results. This realization is the basis of real self-esteem, and as a result many blacks left lives of poverty and dependence and entered the middle class. The government actually got it right and it’s received very little press.”

“Middle class!? Got it right!?” Randi screamed. “Oh my God, you really are a delusional suburban racist. Those people don’t want your bourgeoisie middle class. They love their ghettos. Leave them alone. Never mind. Stay out of it. Our new President will take care of them.” She stormed out.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: Snakes Will Never Eat Apples

“One rat please,” Sharon said to the lady behind the counter.

“Yes, ma’am. Live or frozen?”

“Live, please.”

“Ewe. I mean, like, oh my God that’s disgusting,” Marshall said scrunching up her face. “It stinks in here. What are you doing with a live rat?”

“It’s for my snake.”

“Oh my God, like, that’s hideous! You’re feeding a live creature to a snake?! Gross!”

“Snake’s gotta eat.”


“Orson, come over here. What’d you think about his lecture?” Sharon asked as they waited at the counter. “I’m so jazzed.”

“Like, all my meals come from the corn field.” Marshall said. “I just read that book Omnivore’s Dilemma. Did ya’ll read it? I’m a vegan.”

“I thought his lecture was good,” Orson answered. “I couldn’t help noticing a little irony attending a lecture on global warming in the middle of the coldest winter on record. Timing could’ve been a little better. Did you see the icicles hanging from the eves? One nearly speared you right through your skull on the walk over here.”

“Don’t you get it? This frigid weather is caused by global warming. I got some great information for my article for Scorched Earth Magazine. April issue, right, Orson?" he nodded. "We must make the conspicuous consumers stop now. Why must they have those big vehicles? Big homes? Odd, aren't they? I love my Prius, and so will they. It’s up to us to change their behavior by any means. Shame and guilt are a good start. Don’t you agree, Orson?” Sharon was excited.

“I mean, like, everything we eat’s full of corn. Your snake should eat corn, not a living animal. I mean, this is rat abuse, pure and simple. Like, I’m gonna talk to my friend Jenna at PETA about this. There's probably some splattered paint in your future. Why can’t your snake be trained to eat an apple? Why do you even have a snake? It’s weird.” Marshall said.

“Information from Al Gore is a tad dubious,” said the lady with the rat in its small box. “Invented the internet, really? Fifty thousand square foot house, and private jets to fly him everywhere, and yet he must tell us what to drive? His facts aren’t actually facts. And don't you think global warming would cause more heat, not more icicles?”

The three instinctively moved closer together and stared.

“Al Gore is the most outstanding visionary of our times,” Orson said, turning to Sharon “You’re right: They are weird, and we must make them change. The sooner the better. Get that article to me quickly. We might make the March issue.”

The clerk’s smile was inscrutable.

“You sanction a snake eating a living creature? Shame on you. I hope you like fire-hydrant yellow. Jenna and her girls are gonna have a field day with you. Like, there will be protests, placards and a march. We'll make a scene. Rat abuse won't be tolerated.” Marshall said to Sharon. "We might burn things."

“Marshall, would you SHUT UP! Snakes will never eat apples,” Sharon yelled. “Snakes are beneficial creatures. Without them, the planet would be over-run with rats. This is the way of the world, but you don’t understand how the world works do you? You fail to have all the facts, and yet you want to change my behavior. You even judge me, and tell me what pet I should have.

God what unbelievably ignorant HUBRIS!”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: The French Paradox

“Welcome to Café Dilettante, table for three?” the maitre’d asked.

“Yes,” Chloe said.

He lifted the menus and nodded for them to follow.

She’d glommed onto the wine list before Orson had the chance. “A bottle of Stag’s Leap Fay, please,” she said to the sommelier.

Orson cocked an eyebrow, leaned and whispered across the table, “This is a French restaurant,” he whispered, at an angle trying to see the wine list. “Don’t you think that’s an insult?”

“Orson, do you think the French give a hoot what you or I think? No, they don’t. And I don’t give a damn about the effete French. These prices for French wine, that’s the insult.”

“Six hundred for that bottle hardly seems cheap.”

“You are our guest this evening. Let us not concern ourselves with things such as price.”

“Of course,” he said.

The wine was brought and served.

“Oh that’s good,” Orson said after a sip. “To the French Paradox,” he said, “and a toast to my best selling author,” Orson said as he raised his glass. “Ten-thousand units scanned last month, and a hefty advance on her next book. Very nice work.”

“Here, here,” said William, her husband. They smiled and clinked glasses. “Two years ago we couldn’t have afforded this bottle of wine on my salary,” he said to Orson. “Now we’re thinking about off-shore accounts and tax shelters.”

“If you’re serious, I have just the bank for you in the Caribbean,” Orson said. “I’ve funneled money there for years. My CPA has some aggressive avoidance plans, too.”

“Orson, what are your thoughts on our president’s new ideas?” William asked as he leaned back with his wine.

“I happen to think universal health care, better roads and schools are a great idea, and you have to admit, our health care system is a shambles.” Orson said.

“You say that, but at the expense of someone else,” William said, leaning in. “Listen to yourself: practicing aggressive tax avoidance and in the same breath touting huge spending.”

“The irony’s not lost on me,” Orson said, a little bead of perspiration upon his brow.

“You and I want the same things. The only difference is that I am honest about my money. You pay lip service.”

“I prefer to think of it as pragmatic.” Orson smiled at William.

“You can’t have it both ways, that’s all I’m saying.” He smiled back at Orson.

They finished first bottle and Chloe ordered another bottle with appetizers.

“Now that I’m successful, every politician feels he is entitled to the product of my labor. They speak as if I’d done something wrong, and I’m a bad person because I want to keep more of what I earn. When I had nothing, I was very liberal. William always said nothing would make me conservative quicker than acquisition. He was right.”

“But Chloe, you must admit there are segments of our population who really need help. Don’t you think it is our duty as a civilized and altruistic people to help them? Don’t you think it’s fair to spread the wealth?”

“The French are civilized and altruistic. They spread the wealth. Look where it’s gotten them. They are a lazy, racist and stagnant nation. That’s the real French Paradox. America is still a little uncivilized. That is her vitality. Forty percent of our population pays no tax at all. Instead of spreading wealth, it’s time to spread the responsibility. It’s time for them to pay.”

“God, this Escargot is good. The rewards of hard work! She’s right: it shouldn’t be done by penalizing the productive class,” William said, finishing his snails. “Dear, I’ve just been struck by a notion.”

“What is it, honey?”

“Since Orson is okay with handing the bill to someone else, why don’t we hand him the bill for tonight’s dinner?”

“Inspired thinking, William!”

“Can you say expense account?” Orson said as he hoisted his wine again. They all laughed and clinked glasses.

Literary Agent Orson: A Dog By Any Other Name

“Eeeww, Gross Jen. He’s too fat. No way.”

“Pearline, please. I gotta finish countin’ this drawer.”

“I didn’t go to Beauty College for that!” she pointed, “and you don’t pay me enough.”

“Pearl, please.”

“No.” She folded her arms.

“Sweartagod. If you weren’t my best. You are the biggest pain in the—Deb, DEB! Comear.” Jen hissed.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Jesus, what’d I tell ya about that ma’am shit. Jumbo. Just walked through the door,” Jen said with a nod. “He’s riflin’ through the Paul Mitchell. Go see what he wants. Watch he don’t steal nothin’.”

“Yes ma’am.” Jen rolled her eyes. Deb turned and went to help the morning’s first customer. The sounds of metal gates being rolled up echoed as the mall came to life. “Morning, don’t you love his leave-in conditioner?” Deb drawled.

Looks at his watch, “I’m in town for the day and I have limited time. I need a pedicure.”

“Come in.” She turned and led. The well worn leather recliner let out a long, squeaky woooosh as he settled. “What brings you to Mobile?”

“I’m here for a writer’s conference.”

Deb’s eyes brightened. He untied his shoes. “You write?”

“I'm a literary agent. Look I have a headach--”

“You're a agent?! Wow, HEY PEARLINE, this guy’s a agent.” She pointed.

“Pearline’s wrote a book. She’s been lookin’ for a agent.” With a sinking feeling, he tried not to look.

“Oh hell no she didn’t,” Pearline said under her breath. She snatched something up off the counter and started in their direction.

“Pearl,” Jen growled.

OH MY GOD how do I get myself into these situations he raged inwardly, now in stocking feet. He removed his socks as she shoved the manuscript under his nose.

“Sweet baby Jesus toes, them are the prettiest feet I seen in a coon’s age!” Pearline exclaimed. Up close the rest of him looked pretty good too.

A Dog by Any Other Name: The Truth About the Southern Male. He was intrigued by the title and opened to page one.

“I mean I been lookin’ at feet a long time. Perfect cuticles. Hell mister, I ain’t seen feet like yours since I done Audry Hepburn’s.”

He read: While it is a fact well known to women the world over that most men will at least attempt a pretense at civility upon first meeting, this is not so of the southern male. He would rather dry-hump your leg. “Your first sentence is a bit long, but your thesis is quite clear. Orson’s my name,” he said, extending his hand.

“Pearline,” she said. They shook.

“May I take this back to my room for a further look." Orson felt a stirring. "You may have something here.”

“Only if you’ll let me get a picture of them feet.”

“Pearline, if I promised not to dry-hump your leg, would you join me for dinner at the Marriot.”

“Mister, I’d love that.”

"Pick you up at six."

Literary Agent Orson: An Apology

“Warren, I don’t represent works which take a theological stance, and frankly, I’m surprised,” Orson said as Warren idly stared out the side window of Ground at a small group of women waiting in line at 'Live Free! The Abortion Boutique’ across the street. “You know I subscribe to Marx’s view on the subject. ‘Religion is the opiate--”

“…of the masses.’ I know, I know. Can’t tell you how many times I used that one myself. That doesn’t bother you?” Warren’s finger lightly touched the window as he pointed across the street.

“It’s a woman’s right,” Orson shrugged.

“I thought that too, till Judy got pregnant. Something about that ultrasound...”

“Grande Latte,” the barista called.

“Excuse me,” Orson said as he began to get up.

“GRANDE LATTE!” the red-faced barista screamed.

“Couldn’t you see me coming?” Orson asked as he stepped to the counter.

“No, not the cranberry, you moron, the blueberry!” A customer yelled after looking in her bag. She startled Orson. “How many times do I have to repeat myself? …and scone, not muffin,” she said as she threw the muffin in the server’s direction. She missed and knocked a bottle of hazelnut syrup over. It oozed slowly over the counter. The bottle rolled on its side, slowly at first, but picking up speed quickly, then crashed to the floor.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the chastened server scurried around the dangerous mess to find the right scone.

“GOD!” the customer spat as she turned. Her cell phone rang and played God Bless America. “Hellooo,” she answered brightly.

Orson returned to his table. The line across the street had gotten longer.

“Let’s get outta here,” Orson suggested.

As they walked out of the door, they ducked to avoid a skirmish.

“He’s nothing but a smart porch monkey,” one raged.

“So, Bush was a dumb cracker.” The two men shoved one another as Orson and Warren skittered around them.

“Let’s get back to your manuscript. Why the sudden change of heart? What’s wrong with the meditation, chakras and all that?”

“It wasn’t sudden, and those things weren’t providing the answers to real problems anymore.”

“But…Jesus? A book about Jesus…an apology… for Christianity? I thought you’d left that behind. Why?”

Just then, a young boy and girl of no more than ten approached.

“Hey Mister,” the little boy said surreptitiously, “we got anything you want.” He motioned between himself and the girl, “pre-teen pussy, smack, whatever. I can give you a blow job for five dollars.” The little girl brushed a strand of straw colored hair aside with a dirty hand and smiled up at them.

Literary Agent Orson: A Broken Handle

“Grod, GROD! Take the probe out and quit looking at that.”

“But it’s malformed. God these aliens are ugly! Look how big it is. Obvious sign of inferiority. And why does it have that thing? That, there?” Grod pointed.

“It’s some kinda handle. Shhh, It’s sleeping. We have only seconds. Read, the report. What’s it say?”

“But it’s poking straight up like that. It wasn’t there before I put the probe in.”

“The report, Grod.”

“We need to kill them all.”

“Grod, you didn’t even look at the report. Read the report first. What’s the report say?”

“Shhh, boss, it’s waking up.”

“Wha, what’s going on here. What are you two pukes doing in my bedroom for chrissakes?! You! Midget, go turn off your car right now!” he pointed. “That light coming through the window’s killing my eyes. God, my ass hurts. So what’s the story? You cretins couldn’t write, so you broke in to harass Orson, the world’s greatest literary agent? You're Republican plants, right? Wanted to make multiple submissions? Want Orson to read some of your God-awful drivel? Waa, waa, waa. You’re all the same. The world owes you a good review. YAWN. Freakin crybabies. Can’t write a query. Oh dear God my eyes, those are the ugliest costumes I’ve ever seen. Avocado green is so seventies. What are ya, circus freaks? Ow, hey what’re you doin? Get your hands off m... OUCH, THAT HURT! Hey, stop, stop that hurts. AAAAAAAAA!!!!”

“Why’s it making that noise, Feldar?”

“It pissed me off, so I broke its handle. You were right, Grod.”

“I was?”

“Yeah, based on this specimen, we need to kill them all. Let’s get back to the ship, quick.” They appeared back on board.

“When we get out a few parsemeters, set the particle beam on ‘no-life’, no, scratch that. Crank it up to ‘evaporate’. I wanna make sure there are none of those pests left in the universe.”

Literary Agent Orson: A Fundamental Problem

The old man smiled.

Orson caught sight of the old hick in overalls seated in 24b, but tried not to make eye contact. Two hours, thirty-four minutes to New York, he thought. He scanned the plane, every seat was taken. ‘God’ he thought as he held his breath and sat; ‘what luck.’

“Howdy,” the farmer said.

“Good morning,” Orson said. He pulled his copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style from his bag and opened it quickly.

“That’s a classic. Been around for some time. It was my constant companion in my college days.” Orson was surprised to hear that. “Except for the cover, it’s changed very little over the years.”

“Funny how things change and yet they stay the same,” Orson said, and then kicked himself.

"You a writer?”

“No, I’m a literary agent. You?”

“I’ve done many things in my time, and yes, I’ve finished a novel. My working title is End Game: The Rise of Fundamentalism and What We Must do to Combat It.”

Orson sat up. If any man ever looked like a fundamentalist, it was this bumpkin; this hick; this representative of the rabble, and yet I judged him wrongly. Oh, Orson, you must stop pre-judging people, he thought. “Your title’s too long, but I agree with your premise: fundamentalism is the worst cancer facing the modern world,” Orson said.

“Exactly. Well put; a cancer. Harlan’s my name,” he said as he extended his hand.

“Orson.” They shook.

“Fundamentalism has wrapped it’s cold, dead grey fingers around the throat of modern society and is near to extinguishing the life from it. If we don’t stop it now, we will lose two hundred, twenty-five years of progress,” Harlan said.

My God, this redneck’s an enlightened renaissance man; a man of genius, Orson thought. A new age Will Rogers in overalls. “Colorful metaphor,” Orson said. “Fundamentalists and their mouthpieces in the media are getting louder and louder.”


“And, as your title suggests, we must combat them. We must silence them.”


“There is legislation that will begin the process, but it’s not enough. The entire right-wing conspiracy must be brought under our boot! The fanatics and shouting lunatics must stop. Rush Limbaugh must be silenced,” Orson drew a deep breath. “Sean Hannity must die!” He had gotten carried away. Now a passenger across the aisle panicked, and looked around for a crew member. The man behind her in 25f leaned forward. “That was a little hyperbole. I didn’t really mean it,” Orson said to her. Her eyes calmed a little.

“The farmer laughed. No, Son, you assume Fundamentalism is one-sided. My book's about the Secular Fundamentalist: The fanatics and zealots of the left. They crow that all should be tolerant, when in fact they are the least tolerant, most judgmental of all fundamentalists. Their tolerance applies only to those with whom they agree. Their ultimate goal is to legislate from the bench. Their creed is Marxism and their method of dissemination is through the universities of this great land.”

Orson’s mouth hung agape as he processed this stunning turn. “Why you small minded, redneck idiot bigot. You farm swine. You should be ashamed you racist.”

“If you would let me finish…”

“Just a minute,” Orson said over the elder’s attempt to speak. “How dare you impugn... you fool. Liberalism is the vanguard of personal freedoms and as soon as we get our Fairness Doctrine through the Supreme Court we will shut you up once and for all, and give the voice of freedom to all! I knew the minute I sat here that you were an old, ignorant... FUNDAMENTALIST!”

Now several people nearby became visibly uncomfortable. The man in 25f leaned forward again and in a stealthy motion reached out to Orson.

The old man laughed, “The Fairness Doctrine is many things, but fair ain't one of 'em,” he said, but Orson wasn’t listening. He had slumped forward. “The fundamentalists on the right are an equal danger, but we know them. The left is more insidious. ALL Fundamentalisms must be stopped. Hey, you okay?” the old man asked with a nudge.

“He’s fine,” the man from 25f said, now securing Orson’s hands. “I tazed him for his own good. Sky Marshal,” he said pulling out his badge. “I couldn’t listen to anymore of his crap or I mighta killed him with my bare hands. I got a pension to think about."

The old man smiled.

Literary Agent Orson: Damned Fool Idiot

The rain fell so hard, Orson ducked into Bekka’s Shoe Store to wait it out.

“Good day, sir! Half price on everything!” said the salesman.

“No thank you,” Orson said. He stood at the door.

“Okay sir, if you change your mind, name’s Leo, just let me know,” he said and then returned to his conversation. “Where was I at?” he asked the purse lady.

Orson rolled his eyes.

“Something about ‘isms,” she said, rooting furiously through her purses.

“Oh, yeah. Don’t you see, that’s where all the ‘isms’ are? Atheism, agnosticism, feminism, anti-Americanism etc. The left hates America.”

‘What?!,’ Orson thought. ‘The left doesn’t hate America. We are loyal patriots…. Damned fool idiot. What’s he thinking?’

“I don’t think too much about politics, but he sure talks good,” she said throwing a bag aside. "Where's that purple bag? I wanna get it while it's still on sale." She went back to digging.

“Every time a Democrat is elected president, he eviscerates the military and gives the money to welfare recipients…”

‘You mean hungry mouths,’ Orson thought.

“It’s a transfer of wealth and it fosters friction between the classes. All so the poor’ll vote Democrat,” Leo went on.

“I don’t know,” she said bent all the way into the bag bin.

‘Lies, all lies,’ Orson raged internally, his hand on the door. Lightning crashed and he jumped.

“What’s eviskercake mean?” the purse lady asked, stopping for a minute.

‘Oh, Jesus,’ Orson thought.

“It’s eviscerate, with a ‘T’ at the end,” he said. “It's a figure of speech that means to disembowel,” he explained patiently.

"Huh?" she asked, still confused.

"It means to pull the guts out of, but it's just a figure of speech."

‘God, if this keeps up, I may have to keep walking,’ Orson thought. One look outside convinced him otherwise. The sky was black, rain came down in horizontal torrents and lightening struck all around.

“Gross,” she said.

“Yeah, they hate military, they hate organized religion. Their religion is the State. They believe the state must think for the common man. In return the common man is expected to worship at the altar of the State.”

'Balderdash!' Orson thought. He was about to tear his hair out. ‘Actually, It’s true, most people need a little help, and yes the state can do it better, but I can't listen to these ignoramuses anymore!' he trembled with anger as lightening flashed and thundered roared outside.

“Ewe, gross,” she said, straightening up. “So whose guts are they pulling out, again?” she asked with a slightly confused look.

Suddenly the door flew open, and Orson dashed out into the driving rain.

“Look at that damned fool idiot. What's he thinking?” said Leo as he pressed his nose to the glass door and watched Orson disappear into grey.

Literary Agent Orson: Rosie's Cantina

“Okay, the assignment was to anonymously write a scenario where your literary agent has been asked by the President of The United States to help save the world. I’ve gathered you here to discuss the results of our contest. Excuse me a second.” Orson got up and stepped over to the bar. “Chrissakes, Rosie!” Orson banged the palm of his hand on the bar. “How long’s it take. Glass, ice, scotch and a drop of water. Why me?!” His hands flew up. “Can’t keep my writers in suspense.” He turned back. “Where was I?”

“Look,” she whipped around, “the sign out front says ROSIE’S Cantina. I’m the only one raises her voice in here.” She banged her hand too. Her black eyes flashed. Her face grew flush.

“She’s unreasonably angry,” Pierce muttered.

Orson cast his Evil Eye; one eyebrow raised. “We could walk next door to The One Trick Pony.”

“Don’t let the door hitcha.” Rosie slowly turned back to the bar, in no hurry.

“I can’t believe her diction,” said Mara beneath her breath. “It’s atrocious.”

“I’ll handle this.”

“What’s he up to?” Phoebe whispered.

“I’m sorry,” Orson purred. “I shouldn’t have raised my voice. Okay, which one was yours? Was it that crappy one with the lurid mermaid thingy? Out of bodies? Military junta taking over the White House? Aliens? Gads, they were all awful.” His writers didn’t like hearing this, but they had grown accustomed. Orson suspected Rosie might be a new writer who recently plagued him with query after query. Maybe she was using a pen name and snuck an entry into his writing contest.

She turned with a look of serenity. “Your drink.” She smiled sweetly, leaned forward and whispered, “I’m not telling. I will say this: You’re craftier than I gave you credit for.”

I knew it. God I’m good, Orson thought. He turned back to his writers. And only a rank amateur ends a sentence with a preposition. He took a sip and felt the warm blush. “Okay, once again, where was I at?” he asked as he sat back down.

“You were about to deliciously tell about the entry riddled with split-infinitives and run-ons, but she interrupted, and you went and talked to her over there, and we thought we might be packing it in, but now it’s okay, ” Sara said, winded.

Suddenly Orson was expansive. He leaned back and chuckled. Phoebe glanced over at Pierce bewildered at this most uncharacteristic behavior. “Actually, one was good. Made me think. ‘Remove the corporate shield. Hold shareholders jointly and severally liable for corporate misdeeds.’ Could actually work.”

Rosie paused, looked up from the glass she was cleaning and smiled at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Literary Agent Orson: A Three Ring Circus

Great tendrils of steam rose off their four coffees. The booth was cozy. Warm scents of cinnamon and hazelnut hung lazily in the warmth of Ground Coffee Shoppe. Outside was another frigid, grey day in the coldest winter on record.

“It took a half century, but Keynes finally overcame Friedman as the preeminent--” Lisa began again.

“Stop,” Orson ordered. “Too timid. Kick it up a notch.”

Garth saw the women waiting in line at Live Free! The Abortion Boutique across the street. A steady snow piled four inches on their hats, and shoulders. He looked away. Jeremy glowered at the new appliance; it loomed, crass and loud.

“But it doesn’t belong,” Jeremy whined again looking up at it. Lisa stared at him.

“Get used to it. I saw one in a coat closet yesterday. Now be quiet.” Orson said. “Lisa’s working on her query for her new novel. We need focus.” He turned to her. “Again.”

“Macroeconomics makes strange bedfellows—“

“Stop. You sound retarded. Pop! Make it pop! Take a deep…Oh no,” Orson saw Randi, head of the local NOW chapter and lead writer for She RANT! Magazine, slip in and shake off the cold. “What’s she doing here?” bad things happened when Randi was around.

“I mean we might as well have chicken wings?” Jeremy said.

Lisa rolled her eyes, leaned and whispered to Orson, “he’s irritating me.”

“He irritates everybody.”

“Your friends are strange. I’m not used to people like this. I’ve lived a cloistered life.”

“Hey what’s this?” Randi blared as she walked up, “Oh my God, these things are popping up everywhere. I even saw one in the commode down at the transit station,” Randi said. “I sat down to take a festookas, and there it was, right in the stall.”

Great, Orson thought.

“Gross,” Lisa said.

Garth chuckled.

“And where are the girls with big knockers?” Jeremy chimed louder. “We want big boobies!” he yelled. “And jock straps stapled to the walls.” He waved his arms.

“Did he say boobies?” somebody murmured. “I think so,” another whispered. They looked at Jeremy for a long moment, “I said shut up. We’re working,” Orson commanded. “Now go on,” he turned back to Lisa.

“You don’t understand. It’s too hard. My book’s not easily quantified. And I’m shy.”

“Lisa, put on your big girl panties, or I can’t sell this book,” Orson threatened. “Do you want to work at the convent library forever? Your query must make me crave your book,” Orson said.

“Okay, Okay!” she said. “Maynard Keynes made a compelling case for a centrally planned economy, and deficit spending, but nobody listened. Consequently, Friedman’s laissez faire model has led to the three ring circus in which we find ourselves today. Now they’re listening. Capitalism needs the iron-fisted grip of government,” she reached her hands toward Jeremy’s neck, briefly, “strangling its craven neck, and now we’ve got it. If they don’t cooperate, our president will fire them--”

Orson yawned, “I heard a little passion there, but it sounds like you’re reading that menu. You’re holding back. Come out of your cloistered shell. Make it sizzle, or I’m gone!”

“Sounded good to me,” Randi said.

“I’m the literary agent here.”

Jeremy’s grip on his man-bag turned his knuckles white. No one listened.

“But she’s missed the point,” Garth began. “Capitalism hasn’t failed; it’s Capitalists who have failed. We’ve become an instant gratification society and lost our moral bearing. Hayek had it right. Freedom leads to an efficient economy, but with freedom comes certain ethical and moral obligations.”

“Oh gimme a friggin break!” Randi shouted.

“Oh, so no man’s entitled to an opinion in your world?” Garth said, which enraged Randi.

“It’s a freakin flat screen TV.” Jeremy roared. “It doesn't belong here. This is The Ground Coffee Shoppe, not Hooters! We should be listening to Joni Mitchell.”

Randi took a swing at Garth. He gracefully dodged her first swipe, but her second was too quick. She snatched a handful of hair and twisted him out of the booth onto the ground, and leapt on top. They fell into a grunting, scratching, wrestling ball on the floor as Lisa exploded on Jeremy, “Look Nancy boy, you need to grow a pair. If you don’t shut up, Goddammit, I’m gonna jack slap you, punk.”

Convent? What convent…? Orson was shocked, but not too shocked to run. Tame little Lisa suddenly made Randi look like a doe-eyed choirgirl. As he hit the door, he realized he’d left hat, scarf, gloves and coat. He looked out at the falling snow, back at the conflagration; now Lisa was slugging Jeremy while yelling unmentionable obscenities and it looked as if Randi may soon establish dominance. He flung the door open and fled.