by Smiley McGrouchpants

                                            3RD DRAFT


                                         Beyond Year Zero

"To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light, is doubtless the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest?  Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveler, or to cover them with branches and flowers?  Oh. Reader!  If there were less of this delicate concealment of facts - this whispering 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience."

                                                               - Anne Brontë, from the
                                                                  Preface to the 2nd Ed.
                                                                  of The Tenant of Wild-
                                                                  fell Hall, dated July 22nd,


       "Wanna fuck me?"
       The Chauffeur glared at the woman known to many as the Prima Donna.  If she was a woman.  The Prima Donna had chosen, early in life, not to have an identity of her own, but to mooch off of other people, filling in the gaps between their lives, unnoticed by those too busy to see - and yet, nonetheless, there, present, not standing on her own two feet but always amongst others to forge her identity between them, gravitating inexorably towards positions of responsibility.  Fickle to the core, anything less bored her as it took as much control of other human beings' lives to sate her drives for experience; which, in normal, accountable, autonomous human beings, would be periodically sated by intimacy, expression, and a sense of community but in the figure of the Prima Donna, had been perverted from their original course, and corrupted to the point where she could not exist nor sustain herself but for the feeding off other human beings' lives.
       As such, though ostensibly female, she was, incarnate, a blob - a featureless form, rounded to the point of having no real female nor male distinguishing characteristics, about as sexy as the Pat character from the "It's Pat" sketch on SNL.
       This, the Chauffeur found quite sexy in itself.  Being utterly depraved and bereft in his humanity for reasons as old and yet simultaneously unexplainable as history itself, he trafficked at this point in his life in nothing but nonsense, either in thought, deed, or expression, and so he sought the crazy, the worthless, to feed himself with, and simultaneously perpetuate wherever he went.
       "You have nice tits," he said, further, listening to himself talk.
       Of which she had none, of course.


       Undoubtedly Steven had made the comment out of boredom.  It had been, oh-I-don't-know, too many days blending into however many weeks, it's impossible to tell when you're the only crew on OSPIRG, the rest of the office on Sierra Club for the time being . . . day after day, in BEAVERTON, no less (suburb of Portland - not what anyone across the country moves here for!).  Matters were not helped any by the, again, day-after-day visits to the same Thai restaurant for lunch, which the Field Manager may have resorted to out of laziness or the lack of options for fine dining available (in BEAVERTON!  Hello!  Whaddaya mean, "You don't BELIEVE in global warming!"), but still: he seemed happy with the same Pad Thai dish every frickin' day, as though slathering it with hot spices would somehow make it taste (-what?  different?  after too many days to count or distinguish from one another, even . . . ) perhaps palatable & sustaining . . .
       (Did I mention we were in BEAVERTON?  Sakes alive!)
       And, I realize now, the fact that we were an ALL-MALE crew probably didn't help matters any . . .
       . . . but may have accounted for the conversation taking the course it did that day.  What occasioned Steven's comment was, no doubt, an INXS song coming on the local alternative station we all perpetually listened to (no complaints on that from me! however) and Steven mentioning, well, the unfortunate and untimely death of singer Michael Hutchence, due, Steven heard, (as I had heard bandied about in the media) to suicide.  (Which Steven drops a reference to, I don't remember how or what he said specifically.)
       BUT: I had read the book that came out to accompany the movie Slacker upon its initial release in 1991 (also called Slacker, natch), which had all these stories about the Austinites in the film and stories by Richard Linklater (director & philosopher extraordinaire) about the making of the film, and how he spent the years leading up to the summer he & his friends actually shot this particular first film of his (& theirs, but his, as someone had to be the director!).
       Which he spent hanging out, meeting, talking and LISTENING to people, among whom, as concerns the current story I am trying to tell, was this guy ol' Rick (that's what he goes by, apparently - not that I know him personally, or anything . . . ) met in Missoula, MT, who had a filed on the number of Americans who DIE each year due to Autoerotic Asphyxiation.
       (Which was an explanation of said practice I actually needed - it illuminated for me the meaning of a heretofore-not-understood cartoon I had seen bandied about [Lots of "bandying about" in this story; try to cut back on that in the next draft. - ed] [OK - Sorry - CJS] [Check.  Not that big a deal, but still - ed.] The Univ. of Chicago, this allegedly-prestigious-but-no-one-my-whole-life-has-ever-heard-of-it (slight exaggeration, but still!) ["But still"? Write your own story.  Don't steal from me. - ed.] University I attended the college of for my you're-suburban, you-have-to-do-this-to-enter-society 4-year degree deal (or whatever) . . . AND, at this fine institution of higher learning (not that drugs & partying weren't scarce there, but still . . . [Stop that! -ed.] I happened across an, as I mentioned, much bandied-about [You're doing this just to vex me, aren't you?  You're SO CLEVER. - ed.] cartoon drawing entitled, in big block letters, "Autoerotic Asphyxiation BART" (Simpson, of course, from the then-still-new and some would say still-in-its prime beloved by college students, small children & comic book guys TELEVISION show, entitled, of course, "The Simpsons") which had out would-be anti-hero drawn with his pants down, one hand clutching his Bartness in an obvious gesture of, shall we say, self-appreciation, with, confusing for me as a 19-year-old would-be intellectual (didn't work out, as it happens) [I'd tell you to cut back on the "would-be"'s as well, but it's become apparent to me at this point that, not only with you not take my suggestions, but will rub my face in it, instead.  So: screw you.  Do what you want.  I'll stick to checking punctuation, spelling and grammar, but don't BLAME ME if the thing doesn't get published, smart guy. - ed.], a NOOOSE arounde hiss NYECK [Oh, go fuck yourself.  Who else would put up with this crap?  No wonder you . . . [DELETED IN SECOND DRAFT - CJS] -ed.]
       No, but really!  Dear Reader!  A NOOSE around his NECK at the same time as, you know, the apparent wanking session!
       And his family, Marge, et al., drawn around him in obvious consternation and alarm, etc.
       Confusing.  I had no idea what this meant!  (So, of course, I probably pretended to half-laugh - you know, like I get it, being a sophisticated 19-year-old-man of the world and all . . . ) But later . . .
       . . . thanks to Richard Linklater, and his efforts to spread essential knowledge throughout the contemporary popular American culture by then made barren due to the dictates of the market economy, and his Missoula hook-up, who had files documenting that something to the tune [whistle it!] of some several hundreds or thousands (I forget how many . . . but A LOT!, considering) Americans died by fucking up the whole enterprise (or rather, taking it TOO FAR . . . ), I finally learned what "Autoerotic Asphyxiation" actually was (well . . . maybe it was as little as six months . . . it really wasn't that long, no need to over-dramatize [Well, I could tell you to cut back on the paren.'s & just tell the story straight, but I imagine you'll just tell me I'm stifling your creativity, you're really this great innovator, blah, blah, blah . . . so I'll just ask what I really want to know: do you have the five bucks you owe me?  I realize this isn't really the place for it, but you don't return my calls!  I mean, I have problems, too, you know!  You don't have to be such a [EXPLETIVE DELETED - CJS] all the [EXPLETIVE DELETED - CJS] time and maybe you should just shove [SECTION EDITED FOR LENGTH CONSIDERATIONS (REALLY!) - CJS] - ed.]
       Anyway!  Apparently, "Autoerotic Asphyxiation" is when you—


       "Do you want to suck my dick?" the Chauffeur inquired breathlessly.
       Then, with no pretense, he whipped it out.  It was as ugly a cock as the Prima Donna had ever seen (not that she had seen many).  Warped, unkind and cruel, it snaked away from his body at a half-erect angle as though it bore no emotional relationship to its owner but, rather, owned him.
       Able at last to whip it out, the Chauffeur felt his psychic drives shift, in his depravity, to "feed" mode.
       The Prima Donna was impressed.  (And she was not easily impressed, given that she devalued all human life.)  Did this guy actually like her?
       "I'm a Barbecued Salmon Sandwich," the Chauffeur said, emphasizing with his eyes, trying to prompt the Prima Donna to indicate that she "got it," though it was, of course, utter nonsense.
       The Prima Donna had to think for a minute (which wasn't easy for her . . . ).  Well, she tried to think, but, it being an unfamiliar activity for her, she just gave up, after a nanosecond's worth of would-be effort, just to show - as was her modus operandi with human beings who, unlike the Chauffeur, had a conscience - she had tried.
       But he wouldn't be fooled.  There was nothing to fool!  There was no point in putting on a pretense of deliberation, because he was as incapable of thought and consideration as she was.
       At last!  Someone "like" her!  No need to explain themselves, or justify their actions, because both their minds were utter shit, and, in their mutual "view," the entire universe was chaos!
       Fuck it!  The binds of society were too constraining, and the Prima Donna had (she had to admit to herself) grown weary of constantly trying to keep up with all these "human-being" "people" (or whatever you called them . . . what was their deal, anyway?) who always acted like there was some sort of structure to human life (wait, they are "humans," the Prima Donna had to remind herself) - waiting your turn, being held accountable for your actions, having to wait for a sign from the other person that they were your "Friend" rather than just claiming them as your own property!
       She, so far, had only succeeded in claiming one employee at the Fuller Brush company where she worked (knock on doors, sell brushes out of a suitcase - it was the '40's, don't 'cha know?) as her property, and her only because she happened to have a staggering, improbably large mind and at this point, early in her life, she hadn't come to terms with it - precisely because there was so much to come to terms with (unlike, say, your standard business consultant (the official, market-validated term for "middleman") who finds those "leaky girls" internet porn sites interesting (those that SPAM with the title in the message: "Leaky Girls!  Girls taking a Leak!")).
       Enough time had passed with her property (sorry, "Friend."  Shit, those humans were hard to keep up with!  A constant front must be maintained at all costs!  So tiring . . . ), that she felt few, if any, of the circle of "people" (wait . . . is that the right term?  So hard to keep track . . . yes, yes, that's it . . . (I think no-one will notice if it's not, anyway . . . )) had any reason to suspect she was keeping the next whomever-could-make-that-Pynchon-fellow-
actually-look-like-an-idiot-in-comparison under her thumb
[Sorry, I did say this was the '40's, right?  Um . . . well actually, I got my facts wrong . . .
       Uh, no.
       Fuck it.
       I lied.
It's the MODERN ERA - ed.]  . . . so that was safe for now, she thought (or what passed for thought in her mind) . . . but still.
       She could fuck!
       And suck!
       Without having a sexuality (that is to say, compassion, and the need to express it), even!
       All "sound and fury, signifying . . . "
       (What was that quote?  Fuck!  Need to look it up . . . would be useful to know, to look smart to people & all . . . continue her reign as resident Diva . . .)
       . . . wait, now where was I?
       She looked to the Chauffeur, prompting him to recall where they were in the conversation (hopefully her skills, long since honed at work, for not giving away that she was not paying the slightest bit of attention to whatever her employees, fellow supervisors, or higher-ups were saying, would come in handy . . . )
       The Chauffeur "understood."
       "I'm a BARBECUED SALMON SANDWICH," he not so much re-stated as re-cued.
       Fuck it!  He didn't mean a GODDAMNED WORD HE SAID either!
       The Prima Donna brightened.  "Sure thing!"
       "SUCK IT GOOD!"

       (Actually . . . it was terrible.  Both the taste of his depraved, emotionally-diseased semen, and her performance, as well, but, I guess you get what you pay for, on either end . . . )


       It was the man they called Walking Currency.
       She was alone, in the laundry room, had just thrown her blouse in the wash.  Why not?  It was late at night, a week-day besides, and the summer air and good feeling that came with it got to her.
       She was feeling a bit more like making impromptu flourishes like this, of late - free of her family, finally, it seemed, she'd done her time and now could move on with her life - a life that was rightfully hers, she reminded herself.  Finally, again, with a man she could talk to!  A man who could talk, had things to say, interests even . . . a luxury, considering the life she had known growing up.  One not only of deprivation, but pointless struggles, problems easily avoidable leading nowhere yet going on for what seemed an interminable amount of time . . .
       So much so that it seemed she could never escape.  When your whole life is like that, and has been since the day you were born (or, more correctly, she considered further, since as far as you can remember or choose to recall . . . ), it seems an almost unthinkable luxury to actually have to deal with problems that matter . . .
       So what if they had no money.  So what if they currently often felt like they had no-one within their immediate circle of friends they could talk to, save each other.  Things were changing - it was in the air, in the newspapers, even, provided you could see it and not be so foolish to think it wasn't happening, couldn't be happening, wasn't even possible . . .
       But it was.  It was, and finally people who didn't want to waste their whole lives away playing out a frozen routine that ultimately didn't get them, or anyone else, really, pretty much anywhere, could, in fact, choose not to do so.
       It was hard for her to believe, even, howeversomuch she wanted it.  Probably because she had for so long never imagined it possible - happening at all, let alone how it could happen - even to her, she didn't know what was happening, other than that it was happening.
       Could it really be true?  So long she had not dared hope, not know how, out of fear that expressing what she wished for - aloud, or even to herself - before the proper time, without the proper audience, would be risking giving away an essential part of herself.  One she might not get back.
       It was a terrifying thought.
       Thankfully, she had persevered, and strangely enough, she seemed to have found herself in a time and place where other human beings really seemed interested in communicating with each other . . .
       Things said out loud.  A willingness to accept each other, work through problems, not just with glib homilies and good intentions but a real (or working, anyhow, she supposed) understanding that problems and differences between people were inevitable, and could, in fact, actually be learned from . . .
       She sighed.  Was it really all over?  It seemed like this new (real!) perspective was catching like wildfire amongst everyone willing to listen . . . everyone who had waited so long, with bated breath, hoping, daring, saying now, is it really true? . . . can we all get along, mostly, anyway?
       At least she had her mate, her life, what she wanted.  A home, for herself, at least, finally and a chance to show her children, later, and the world, what things really should have been like all along . . .
       Lost in thought, she stood there in her bra.  The summer air, warm and nurturing, seemed like a natural aphrodisiac - for sex, love, happiness, it didn't seem to matter - and for once, she was able to take pleasure in refusing to not allow herself to enjoy herself.
       Why not?  There was no one around, and who'd be up at this hour?  Not anyone who'd cause her problems, anyway, given where she was, and the almost-seeming-ridiculous amount of consideration she kept getting, here, now, in this time and place, from people not only essential to her life but as ephemeral as people she asked for the time on the street, even . . .
       She looked up and there he was.



       By now the celebration of depravity between the CHAUFFEUR and the PRIMA DONNA has advanced to the point that all boundaries of human perception have broken down.  The very walls themselves seem to reek with despair, the CHAUFFEUR & the PRIMA DONNA draining all that is bright with life into an unholy vortex, feeding their vacuity of spirit.
       Also, the CHAUFFEUR has by this point brought in his minion, slave & Constant Companion KYLE, a charming, chiseled young fellow whose attractive outward appearance belies his true role as enslaver of women.
       For her part, the PRIMA DONNA has her "real DICK" by her side, the TEACHER-FOOLER, who has no choice but to experience the basest & most extreme of would-be "human" stimuli to feel anything at all, albeit always vicariously, through the suffering of others.  Responsibility of any kind is less a burden than a kind of terror for the TEACHER-FOOLER; as such, he is an ideal mate for the PRIMA DONNA, and could no more survive on his own, in any event, than she could.
       The fun commences.

                          I can feel something!

     His penis has been stuck off by the CHAUFFEUR (with relish, I might add), and by this point, the blood flow from between his legs is steady enough - to the point just before gushing - that he has not long to live.

                          I can actually feel something!  This is
                          amazing . . .

     The CHAUFFEUR smiles a smile that is entirely without mirth.

                          (not meaning a word of it)
                          What's that like, I wonder? . . . 

     The CHAUFFEUR leers at the PRIMA DONNA.
     The PRIMA DONNA  feigns a smile, in response to this apparent stimuli.  (If she's "nice," maybe he'll really "like" her.)

                          I . . . think . . . (gurgles)

     The TEACHER-FOOLER collapses, sighs, then convulses a bit . . . then shakes.  Then dies.
    The TEACHER-FOOLER has given his life for the pleasures of the PRIMA DONNA.  Not that she appreciates it, nor cares, nor, now that the moment has past, seems to recall that it happened at all, despite the body on the floor and blood everywhere, covering the walls, carpet, the PRIMA DONNA herself, and the other two participants, both who bare their teeth in yet, again, another mirthless grin.
     The CHAUFFEUR isn't so much aware of the import of anything preceeding the current moment save the effect that his lips are now currently wet, for some reason.
     KYLE, however, who retains a shred of his own humanity (to serve his purpose and function of misleading females), does feel at least something.
     (Which is to say, he is impressed.)

                          Far fuckin' out, man.

     KYLE smiles, winningly, to accompany his statement.
     The CHAUFFEUR, hearing something, directs his ongoing leer at KYLE. Apparently something was said, and this is meant as a catch-all response, since, he was doing it anyway.
     [Here you go, KYLE.  Same as it ever was!]
     KYLE beams further at this "en-courage-ment."

(glancing at the PRIMA DONNA just long enough to indicate, without acknowledging, who he is talking about, and pointing with his index finger, to remove all doubt . . .)
                          She's a "10," wouldn't you say?

     The CHAUFFEUR reels inside (if, that is to say, there is anyone truly home inside him).   KYLE is referring to his & the CHAUFFEUR's agreed-upon beer-goggling rating system: how far along it must take them, as men, to even give a flying fuck about a woman of any kind.
     Needless to say, at this point, they start stroking each of their exposed, 'till-then-flaccid, and substandard-sized, penises.
     The PRIMA DONNA looks up, at this.
     Is this meant for her, in tribute?
     At last, her dream come true!
     Screw "The Rules"!
     Time to fuck!

                          PRIMA DONNA
                          May I partake of your solution . . . ?

     The CHAUFFEUR, busy stroking his own, and - alternately and indiscriminately - his minion KYLE's would-be "penises" is: 1.) not only distracted but 2.) depraved
[Duh! Have you not been paying attention all along?  There will be a quiz, you know! - CJS] and 3.) forced to respond to something that, while "clear" inside the PRIMA DONNA's head, qualifies in the outside world as, of course, utter nonsense ["C'est la vie" - CJS].
     All things taken together: another thing for the CHAUFFEUR to gorge himself on.
     A feast!

(looking at the PRIMA DONNA, but talking to himself, of course)
                          Fuck . . . yeah!

     The PRIMA DONNA considers this.  Was this a response?  An invitation?  A rejection?  No clear way to tell.  Safest to go with her stock response, closer to punctuation with her than expression in the usual human sense, so thoughtlessly & nonsensically is it compulsively dispensed:

                          PRIMA DONNA
                          Fair enough.

     The CHAUFFEUR goggles.  Whether at the PRIMA DONNA's "comment"; his self-stroking; his stroking of KYLE; KYLE's recently-begun and near-acrobatically-accomplished simultaneous tonguing of the CHAUFFEUR's, at first, anus, now proceeding to lower intestine, all in service of quaffing the vast quantities of spermy-shit slime emanating as a result of the quite-very "satisfying" butt-pirate adventure KYLE and the CHAUFFEUR journeyed in the prev. scene; or something inside his own head, it is, of course, impossible to tell - save for the CHAUFFEUR's eyes seeming to recede further back into his skull, indicating, perhaps, he has reached another level of internal exile & withdrawal from the outside world.
     (In other words, a sure thing if the PRIMA DONNA has ever seen one!)
     (And he's CUTE, besides!)

                          PRIMA DONNA

     The PRIMA DONNA strips naked. 
[Ed's note: you may want to shoot this scene with this part off-camera, as it could land us an NC-17 with the MPAA if we keep it on-screen.  Just a thought.]


Text of a dispatch from the field agent identifying himself only as "Agt. Dale Cooper," to his superior at the F.B.I., dated Feb. 23, 1973.
Yohannesburg, P.A.
Feb. 23, 1973
Bureau of the F.B.I. (Female Body Investigators, given of course that we men in suits & Jockeys have absolutely nothing better to do with our time!)
Dear Sirs:
       All Hail Eris!
       Praise be to God, the Lord Jesu, and this oh-so-great-country-of-ours named after an all-but-surely-incompetent-Italian-mapmaker-who,-all-things-considered,-probably-couldn't-have-made-a-name-for-himself-any-other-way!  (And you can SUCK my COCK if you don't like it, you commie bastard!)
       Plan "B" is going according to plan, smoothly and on schedule.  The subject, as reported in prev. dispatch, was in fact last seen walking from the DeProgramming room in a state of dishevelment and apparent distress (ha! sucks to be YOU, missy!), with no other recourse but to return to the apartment she shares with the man she loves.
       Future dispatches will follow, reporting on the progress (or not) of our subject in pulling herself together, and assisting in the so-called Revolution of Hearts (yeah . . . WHATEVER!)
       As recommended by you, dear Sir, the oh-so-nobly-Hung-One, I have appropriated as my field agt. moniker a reference from the culture of the enemy, the People Who Care.
       The People Who Care (henceforth referred to as "Shit" in this document) will henceforth [This guy's an even shittier writer than you, CJS - ed.] be subject to an assult program of "false primes": cultural figures, placements, events, expressions, etc., which will give them hope which we will then, of course, yank away.
       (As Befitts the true rulers designated by Almighty God, the Dollar, Inc., fuck all!)
       [Would you get to the point already, please?  Sheesh! -ed.]
       To wit:
          - allowing the oil industry to find pseudo-"revolutionary" film-making (HA!), which we will "allow" to exist, but overwhelm with ads for feminine hygiene products (or the like) to blind people to their read needs & subvert their desires for our own profit [you're right, sir!  I must say.  Intimacy is wasted on these fools, who would prefer the smell of fresh trees, if anything, to the taste of your near-Eucharistic poop! (praise be to Jog for your dingleberry favors, sir!)]
          - T.V. shows set in the woods! (which we will, if all goes according to plan, (& why shouldn't it?  It's been FORETOLD by GOD, anyway, & WE'RE JUST FOLLOWING HIS ORDERS (what's with these stupid fuckers, anyway?  I honestly can't figure out why they just don't give up at this point, dr. SIR . . . )) we will CUT DOWN (oxygen being plentifully available - according to good ol' L. Ron - on MARS, apparently))
           - PUNK ROCK music, songs on the radio, prophecy, truth, feeling, emotion - all drowned out like background static due to the ALL BUT INEVITABLE sheer & nonstop barrage of our counter-advertising for SHINY METAL THINGS that GLEAM
[Seriously . . . cut back on the ALL CAPS, buddy, you're starting to bore even me, and, considering what I have to put up with with CJS, that's saying a lot! - ed.], FOOD WITH PESTICIDE-CHEMICAL INGREDIENTS PACKAGED IN CORRUGATED CARDBOARD PLASTIC ["Corrugated cardboard plastic"?  What on Earth are you even talking about?  Please advise - ed.] & BIG FAT DILDOES [Really?  Why do I feel this is a PERSONAL CHOICE of yours - ed.] to WARP THEIR CONSCIOUSNESS [Seriously - I'm three sentences away from chucking this whole deal & checking out the new Assayas flick at the OMNI, I'm not kidding!  I don't care who you are buddy, CUT OUT THE ALL CAPS or YOU'LL LOSE YOUR AUDIENCE (am I speaking your language now, amigo?) - ed.] & SHIT!
       Thank you, sir, so much for "giving" me this "assignment."  Since I have renounced my God-given right to make my own decisions and, under your guidance, ALLOWED GOD TO MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS INSTEAD [ "zzzzz . . . " - ed. (from transcript; 3 hrs., a full R.E.M. cycle, recorded on tape)] I feel SO much BETTER.
Your Faithful Servant,
Agt. Dale Cooper
[not my real name]
[not that I could remember my real name . . . at this point . . . even if I tried! (which I won't)]
Disptach sent to the offc. of Sr. Security Culture Warrior Advisor Digger Leader Masturbator Ruler, Sgt. Bloopert Murder, who, upon receipt, wiped his ass with report, given that: 1.) he knew what it said anyway, given that 2.) all history was set in stone & invariable, so who cares? and 3.) he interacted with the world strictly through his anus, anyway . . .


       —constrict your air passages to heighten (male? exclusively? I believe? [and I'm not trying to pass for not having first-hand knowledge when I really do, or anything . . . I seriously DON'T KNOW, Dear Reader - CJS] [Sure.  Whatever.  No need to be shy, CJS, it's okay, we all have our little secrets . . . you can speak freely here. -ed.] [No!  Really!  I'm relatively inexperienced, considering! - CJS] [Well, that's MORE embarassing, frankly.  T.M.I., if you know what I mean? - ed.] [Oh, well, gee, thanks. - CJS]
       So I had heard, bandied about the media [ . . . fuck, he must be on the phone or something - CJS] that Michael Hutchence had in fact been attempting said practice when he met his unfortunate end.  And given, that there usually are signs we can see later in retrospect with things like the suicide of someone (not that we necessarily would have known what to do at the time, even if we recognized the signs, but still . . . [ . . . fuck!  Where'd he go? - CJS], and I had never heard anything like that about M.H., but trying a stunt like this (or, whatever, SELF-EXPRESSION) seemed, well, kind of rock 'n' roll, and further, since I've learned by now that a lot of us hear things in the media that some "reporters" don't even bother to check to see if they're true or accurate but print anyway (got to fill those column-inches, I guess (or ADVERTISERS will PULL OUT!)), I figured I should speak up and try to set the record what I thought is was at least more-plausibly "straight."  There, in Beaverton, as it were.
       "Oh, well, I heard it was Autoerotic Asphyxiation," I say.
       No explanation to the two in the back of the car with me necessary, despite the fact that they're each ten-years-plus younger then me.  (These young folks today, they must get it from the Internet?)  Mandela, I found out later, was more-than-something-of-an-idle-fan of Takeshi Miike films, so in retrospect it's hardly a surprise he knew what I was talking about (if anything, I was probably making a relatively mild reference, given that frame of reference), but Steven, I don't know how he knew, just from the name of the practice itself.  Maybe it was because he was from Hawaii, and you know what they say in Hawaii: "HANG LOOSE!" [OK, that's probably character assassination, or something, if you don't know if that's really true. -ed.] [Hey, there you are!  How's it going! - CJS] [Just fine, fucker, now where's my $5?  I need to do some laundry! - ed.] [Oh, uh, well . . . I'll get back to you as soon as I finish the story!  I'm . . . at work, now, can't stay on the phone long, company's paying for it, yeah, that's the ticket! - CJS] [What on earth are you talking about?  You haven't been able to hold down a job in over [EDITED FOR CLARITY IN THIRD DRAFT - CJS] - ed.]
       Be that as it may, they both knew right away what I was talking about, however they learned, whether from Richard Linklater or Bart Simpson or a lecture in their sex-ed classes in 6th grade, I don't know.  Both get it, and Steven goes on to say:
       "No, I heard they found a note."
       Which leaves me nowhere.  I hadn't heard that, and still don't find it plausible, but if he's heard that, he's heard that, and I don't know how to dispute it, without knowing what he heard, specifically.
       So there's a lull in the conversation.
       Which Mandela fills by imagining the note, in light of the Autoerotic Asphyxiation theory:
"Dear Mom and Dad: I might die . . . "
       And then Steven takes it up:
Yeah: "I'm a really happy guy, I just got into some crazy shit . . . "
     Hysterical, laughing, in the back of the car.  Me.  I hadn't been expecting this, obviously, and hadn't been with the office very long, so no-one really knew me that well, and I had a reputation, if anything, of being somewhat quiet.  (I guess I can be more of a listener than talker, at times . . . )
     But I couldn't help it, couldn't stop, couldn't get the lid on it quickly enough.  Not to over-dramatize, but it was one of those things that just hits you so clear out of nowhere, and it's so weird, how do you get it out of your mind right away?  So I just let it out for a while, while we looped the generic neighborhoods in Beaverton 'till we found the ones where we heard it was alleged people didn't watch "FOX News" ALL day . . .

                                   for Chelsea Quinn Yarbro,
                                   through her work,
                                   taught me about the cost of intimacy
                                   the extent of human suffering


                                   Haruki Murakami,
                                   through his work,
                                   made me feel
                                   like writing short stories