Copyright 2019 Francis DiMenno
1. NOIR MISFORTUNE COOKIES
701. You have the strength of an ape, but none of its cunning.
702. It took a whole vile age to raise you, child.
703. You ran away to join the circus–and the circus ran away from you.
704. Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear. But you certainly do.
705. You can’t handle the truth. You can’t even handle the lies.
706. That’s life: you sharpen the pencil and the pencil sharpens your head,
707. The police know you are a criminal with the courage of your convictions.
708. Time is not on your side, and it never will be.
709. You have lost everything. there is no reason you should be here.
710. Your past mistakes have sunk all your future prospects.
711. None of your accumulated wisdom is worth preserving.
712. For now you are killing time. Soon it will be the killing time.
713. O, you are surely a dead man only you don’t know it yet.
714. Weak one, you are doomed in all possible worlds.
715. In your purblind foolhardiness you are deaf to the sound of approaching menace.
716. You make Johnny Rotten look like Sweet Betsy From Pike.
717. Don’t you know they mock you as a little gutter boy?
718. Thank you for being a patsy–but now you must die.
719. Congrats! You have made a fool of yourself in every conceivable way!
720. You are drunk with jealously, and soon you will drown in it.
721. Your continued existence has become increasingly unlikely.
722. It is completely impossible to prove your innocence,
723. Better if you were good; better still if you never existed.
724. Your life is a compromise and you will die in compromising circumstances.
725. People think you’re a fun guy, but only because you’re a weirdo.
726. You were once a good example; now you’re a ghastly warning.
728. You are poor; not a crime, except to your loan shark.
729. You had a heart but now it’s lost and gone forever. Dreadful sorry.
730. You are an oaf who thinks himself cunning.
731. True, Hippie, you are a gentle man–but so was Charlie Manson.
732. You were once a well-honed criminal but you have lost your edge.
733. Your so-called friends only care about your money-roll.
734. You’ve gone out of your way to be obliging, only to be cheated.
735. The rich dame is already spoken for and the poor dame won’t let go.
736. When will you learn, card sharp? Never cheat a mobster at Poker.
737. You look like a stupid asshole, and, unfortunately, you are.
738. They hunt you. No rest. But soon–the perfect sleep.
739. You used to be absent-minded but now you are absent a mind.
740. People no longer admire you. they consider you a nuisance. Go away.
741. You are so guilty even Jesus would give you the breeze.
742. You have been up for 24 hours. Soon you’ll be down for 25 years.
743. Bankrupt, all your friends have taken a slight disinterest in you.
744. You are now completely sane…but your problems linger.
745. You needed the money. And now you’ll never stop paying.
746. Animal, you are not superhuman. You are barely subhuman.
747. You have built your criminal foundation on faulty facts.
748. You can’t fool The Brain with your driveling bullshit.
749. Tough guy, you are merely a sheep disguised as a wolf.
750. Of all the lawyers in the world, you had to pick the only honest one.
2. MODERN WISDOM
The Hillbilly Godfather: “Leave the musket. Take the pork rinds.”
When I correct people, it’s because I love accuracy. When people correct me, it’s because they are shallow and pedantic.
Libertarianism is anarchy for shitheads.
In “The Allegory of the Cave,” Plato anticipated television. The internet. And Facebook. Because, Plato.
Christians arrogantly presume they’re on a first-name basis with the Son of God. Shouldn’t they refer to Him as “MISTER Christ?”
I am frightened and repulsed by these young whippersnappers and their weaking chatter about “fairness” and “equality”. Let ’em all suffer like I did!
People in the future are always appalled at how savages in the past would poison, mutilate, and delude themselves.
Dear one-friend-in-common folks on Facebook: I am not interested in befriending needy prostitutes. Sorry.
I got me a sticker for MY bumper. It says I HAVE NO CHILDREN AND MY LIFE IS MEANINGLESS SO GO AHEAD AND RUN ME OFF THE FUCKING ROAD.
Advice for the Ladies: Get pregnant by the Dashing Rogue. Then marry the Reliable Guy.
All this talk about repulsive freaks–why no love for the handsome, good-looking freak? I suppose that every time a bell was rung, Pavlov’s cat sucked the breath out of a baby.
3. HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL
A PLAY IN ONE ACT
BY FRANCIS DI MENNO
SCENE ONE: Mag’s office. Noon.
SCENE TWO: Mag’s office. One PM.
SCENE THREE: Mag’s home. 5:30PM.
(MAG, a dark brunette of medium height, clearly in her late 20s, is seated in her office cubicle, pen in hand, looking at the telephone. Her dark blue jacket hangs on a nearby coat hook. She is clearly agitated. She stares vacantly into space, tapping the pen on her desk. Finally, her hand trembling slightly, she dials the phone with the eraser tip of a pencil.)
Hello. Could I please speak to Joan LaLonge. Reception….Yes, I would. Could you please have her call Mag Dozorwac? D…O…Z…no, wait, just tell her it’s Mag. She’ll know who it is. …She knows the number. …No, it’s nothing urgent….Thank you very much. Bye now.
(She hangs up and dials 411.)
Wilmington, Mass. Interleaf. Shipping department. Thank you.
(She hangs up and dials.)
Hello. Could I speak to Skip? Skip. Skip Wharton. Oh. When are you expecting him?…Uh-huh. Uh-huh.…O…K. No, that’s OK….No. Are you expecting him?…OK…No. No message. Thank you.
(She hangs up the phone and dials another number. She lets the phone ring eight times, moving her lips on each ring.)
Come on, Skip. Pick up.
(She finally hangs up by pressing her finger on the button. She dials another number. Waits. Talks into an answering machine.)
Hi, Mom? Listen, I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to come down this weekend. I’ll call ya back around six to let ya know. Love ya. Bye.
(She presses her finger on the button and puts the telephone hook back on its cradle. She sits expectantly, idly shuffling papers. The telephone rings.)
Boston Re. How may I direct your call? Oh—Joanie! Pretty good. Listen, you’re never gonna believe who I ran into last night. Skip. Skip. Skip! Didn’t I ever tell you about Skip? High school. Yeah, a couple months.
(She adjusts the phone.)
I don’t believe I never told you! Yeah—him! Remember I told you about him when we were in college? Naah. He never went. Yeah, he was. Mr. Big Shot. Freshman year. Yeah, he came down in September. He had that mustache. Yeah, that was him. That’s right. I never saw him after that. He’s just gotten married. Some truck stop waitress of somethin’. No…I haven’t seen him in over ten years. At the Club. The one on Brookline Street. The one with the Teddy bears. He was with somebody. No, somebody he just met. Yeah. He bought me a drink and then SHE said she wanted to get over to Man Ray. Yeah, I could just see him in Man Ray! No, I didn’t go. Then he called. I don’t know how he got my number….But how did he even know I live in Meffuh? Could be. Might have been. Well, he works out in Wilmington. I think he lives out on the North Shore, I dunno, I didn’t ask him, I should of. Yeah, it’s funny that he knew who I was. He said I haven’t changed one bit. You think he would have changed, but he didn’t. He was always kind of wild lookin’. You know what we used to call him in high school? Charlie. As in Charlie Manson…because that’s the way he would look atcha. Yeah, I went to the reunion. Naah, he wouldn’t go to something like that. I heard he lost his job over at Tweeter. For stealin’ equipment, is what I heard. Mom told me. She said he was livin’ in Seekonk. No, I don’t know why he moved. You ask him! I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it. Mom’s OK. Yeah, yeah. Dad’s real sick. Uh-huh. I hope not. I been down there every week. Uh-huh. I been tellin’ them they oughtta move out of there. That neighborhood’s getting’ bad. No, they don’t live on the East Side. They live in East Providence. No, not yet. I left a message. How’s yours…really? That’s too bad. Skip’s parents got divorced. He wasn’t even livin’ at home. His mother threw him out. He was livin’ with his buddies in some dump off of Dexter Road. Sixty bucks a month. I don’t even know how he managed to graduate high school. Yeah, right next to the projects. I don’t know. Selling dope, probably. Not only that, but the place is filthy. Yeah. That’s what I called to tell you about. We went out last night. Huh? Yeah, I can hold.
(She taps her nails on the desk in a staccato motion. A strand of her hair has fallen loose from her bun and she tucks it back in.)
Hello? Joanie? Can you talk now? OK. Twenty minutes. I’m on my break. Sure. Sure. Bye now.
(MAG hangs up. She suddenly looks very unhappy. She looks at her watch. She seems torn. Should she stay at her desk in case she gets a call? Finally, she takes her purse and jacket from where they are hanging on the coat hook, folds her jacket over her arm, methodically, so as not to wrinkle it, and leaves her desk.)
(MAG is sitting at her desk, looking at her watch. She takes a round, hand-sized mirror from her purse and examines her lips. She glides a fingernail across her top lip, then wipes away the lipstick with a tissue. She puts the mirror and the crumpled-up tissue in her purse and dials the phone.)
Can I speak to Joan LaLonge? Yes, I’ll hold.
(Fifteen seconds pass. MAG takes the tissue out of her purse, wipes under her nail, and puts the tissue on her desk.)
Hi, Joan? Don’t they ever give you a break over there? You did? No, I wasn’t. I had to run out and get some aspirin. No, it’s usually pretty quiet. Ever since that Bhopal thing. They laid off a lot of people. Gary tried to tell them. “No nukes, no pharms.” But the boss’s son thought he could pick up the risk. I’ve been with them for a long time, so they didn’t want to let me go. Remember that cute guy, that telex operator? He used to come by and ask me to read Gary’s handwriting. I read him his horoscope. He said he didn’t believe in horoscopes. Capricorn. Typical. Virgo. It would have never worked out. Yeah, I still read his in the paper. He was nice. He was interested in the French girl. No, she graduated and quit. Her father’s a professor. Are you busy? Uh-huh. Are you sure? I can always call you back. No, not much. Gary’s out. It seems as though they keep me around because I’m the only one who can read his writing. He just had a granddaughter. We’ll have to start calling him Gramps. No, he’s funny. Yeah. I wanted to tell you about Skip. Skip! You know! Hey, ‘member that time I told you about us going to that motel? Uh-huh. NO! He would of KILLED him! My Dad has a temper like you wouldn’t believe. First time I brought Skip home, he actually showed him his shotgun! Dad looked so disappointed. Like he lost his only friend. I couldn’t stand to see him lookin’ at me like that. Yeah…Well, it wasn’t very funny at the time. (Laughing}
I knew we were going to get together, though. I did. But wait’ll I tell you what happened. Oh, I’m out of it, I don’t know how I’m going to make it though the rest of the afternoon.
Maybe I can skip out a little early. Gary’s not here. He’s the boss. I’m always early and I never take any sick days.
Anyway, here’s the story.
(She speaks the next two sentences in a rising intonation.)
I met him at the club? I said we oughta get together?
(She teases her loose strand of hair.)
No, I don’t remember giving him my number. Maybe I mentioned that I lived in Meffuh. No, he didn’t tell me where he was living. I didn’t ask him to call. I’m sure I said something like, “why don’t we get together, talk about old times?” So the next day he calls me. What was I gonna do? Oh God, I don’t even know where to start. Well, first, we went to my place. We had highballs. That’s what he calls them. I know I don’t. Just this once. He wanted to see some movie. I told him I already saw it, even though I didn’t. I hate Rambo. I just hate it, that’s all. So we went to this terrible place. The Shell Club. I dunno, maybe it was The Wagon Wheel. It was just like bein’ in high school all over again. He was always taking me to these dumps like The Sportsman’s Grille. I mean, really? Full of…what do they call ‘em—one-eyed hillbillies. Wait, wait. What? Yeah, I can hold.
(Ten seconds go by. MAG taps her pen.)
Joanie, honey, listen. They had this band? I dunno, Johnny Scumbag or something like that. I about died! I was all dressed up and everybody else was wearing jeans. We were about the only ones who didn’t come in a pick-up truck. The band was wearing lumberjack shirts. People were throwing stuff. It was awful. He was having a great time. I kept telling him I wanted to go and he kept saying lemme finish my drink and then he’d order another one. Somebody threw a shot glass through the drum. I got beer all over my dress. So finally I got him out of there. I said, “What do you think I am, one of your bimbos?” I said if you don’t go home right now I would leave by myself. So we left. I wanted him to drop me off. No way! So, you know what we ended up doing. No, not that. We went to my place and we played hearts. Until three in the morning. Well, then he wanted to stay over and I told him I had to go to work in the morning. He said he’d fix me breakfast. Can you believe that? He kept hollering for a washcloth. I don’t know what’s wrong with him. Ask his mother. Next morning he grabs me. Hello would have been nice. He was sittin’ there, drinkin’ coffee, not saying anything. And I asked him, “What kind of relationship do you want?” And he looks at me for a minute and then he changes the subject like he doesn’t know what I’m talkin’ about. Then he starts telling me about his Uncle who has a fruit stand and how he used to keep a monkey because it made people good to see a monkey around all those banana only bananas were the one fruit the monkey wouldn’t eat. And then, right out of the blue, he says that back in high school he knew I had a crush on his best friend because he saw me kissin’ him in the stairwell and that’s why we broke up. No! I had no idea what he was talking about. And then he tells me he went to see a gypsy fortune teller and she told him how he was going to die. She said that he would “die at the peak of his powers.” Yuck. So by that time I wanted to get him out of there, so I said, Skip, listen, let’s get together tonight and let’s talk about it, and then I told him I had to go to work and he said he was sick and could he just lie down for awhile and what could I say? So I was getting’ dressed to go and he says, “What’ll we do tonight? Let’s go to Canobie Lake Park!” And I’m like, what?
So I’m like, no, I’m going down to Seekonk to visit my parents and he looks at me like he thinks I’m lyin’ to him and then he says, “The new roller coaster is the balls!” and I told him not to use that expression around me. He thinks he’s talking to one of his poker buddies! Well, he goes in the bedroom and lays down and I was going to ask him why he drinks so much but I already know the answer, it’s because his old lady’s an alcoholic and he takes after her, only God forbid you should ever use the word “Alcoholic,” y’know? I mean, I know. My dad, y’know? Only he doesn’t any more. He’s been sick. He still keeps all the empties in the cellar. Old newspapers. Mom’s been trying to get him to throw it all out. My brother keeps all his weights down there. He likes to go down in the cellar with his buddies and lift weights and play blackjack and listen to AC/DC. Yeah…
And then they drink beer and admire themselves in the mirror!
I don’t know. That’s a good question. I called my home phone number and nobody picked up, so maybe he left. Or maybe he was sleeping. REALLY? You think he wants to settle in? Oh God, I can see it now. Potatoes, gravy stovetop stuffing, you call this dinner, rub my back, have a drink, we’ll watch TV, what, you never used to turn down a drink. “Let go of all your tensions.” That Infinite master of timeless love routine. What a fake. King of the phonies.
You are? I have to get that sweater. Anyway, I don’t want to have to take care of a sick little puppy. Huh? Three minutes. And that’s bein’ generous. Squeak squeak squeak and done.
Did I tell you about when we was goin’ together in high school? Yeah, The Prom. He took me to this horrible motel. The night man was laughin’. He stole the towels. Oh no, his place was even worse. I wouldn’t go there. Mice. Mattress on the floor. Dust balls. So we went to this cheap motel in Woonsocket. I was in a cold sweat. And then we did it….Well, let me just say that we could of rented the room by the minute!
I don’t think he’s still there. I hope not. Listen, Hon, I better get back to work. Call ya later. Right. Talk to you then. Right. Take care.
(She presses the button down on the phone, quietly puts the hook back on the cradle, opens a bottle of aspirin tablets, and swallows three of them dry.)
(MAG is in the kitchen of her apartment, seated at a small blue kitchen table.)
Hello, Joanie? Ohh, no. I’m OK. Yeah, he finally left. Just now. I don’t know what he did all day. Well, I told him I was going down and see my Mom. I gotta call her and tell her. No, I told her around six. Yeah, I COULD get down there in about an hour, maybe, if I left at seven, but by then it would be dark. Well, I told him he had to go because I was going to see my Mom, and he said, “Well, you do what you want.” Which is what he used to say when we were going together in high school, only what he really meant was “You do what I WANT.” And he gave me this look. I was scared of him for a minute. I told you what they used to call him in high school. Yeah, Charlie Manson. How’d you know? I told you? My dad never did like him. Not one bit. When I first brought him home, Dad had this horrible look on his face. Like he was living in his worst nightmare. He just looked so old. That’s the same night we went to the hotel. They had this ugly yellow lamp in the lobby with this filthy yellow lampshade. Butts in the potted plants. The whole place was filthy dirty. Everything about it. I wanted to die. I can still see the night man’s face. His yellow teeth.
Yeah, I’m OK. No, he didn’t make any trouble. I told him my father was sick. He said that’s too bad. No….He just turned around and left. No, I don’t care. I’m kinda tored. I gotta fix dinner. You know how you get them stomach ulcers. You’re drinkin’ coffee at work all day and then you go home, and you’re, uh….
(She clears her throat.)
Yeah, you start drinkin’. And that makes it worse. It’s like a rolley coaster.
That’s a very good idea, because if he left something behind he’ll make some excuse to come back. Well, he left some gin.
I was watchin’ him pull out of the driveway, he was backin’ out real slow, then all of a sudden he hits the gas and he dug up all the gravel. …Yeah, I guess. I guess I would if he called. I know he isn’t any good! I know! He’s never gonna straighten out. He’s thirty years old and he’s a shipping clerk over at Interleaf, or that’s what he says, only I don’t think he’s even a clerk…he probably works on the loading dock. Well, I called there and asked for them and they didn’t even know who he was….Yeah, let’s get together. It’s not something I want to talk about over the phone. I wanted to scream. Then I wanted to run after him. Yeah, I know it’s bad. I need to talk to someone….Oh God, she’s got enough to worry about. Yeah, I’ll tell her you said hi. I’ll call you on Sunday. No, I’m fine! Don’t worry, I will. Don’t worry, we will. Sunday.
(MAG hangs up, frowning. She picks up the nearly empty bottle of gin, pours a drink in a water glass, and sips it down with a perplexed frown.)