Chapter One of a satire I'm working on. More to come!
| Endless Cake
By, Joe Bitton
The diner is all colorful linoleum and reflected incandescence. At a booth by the window two men in grey speak. “No blood at all you say?”
“Not a drop. Girl was strangled with a set of gloved hands.” They speak with flat faces, unmoved.
“Struggle?” The inquirer is a bit older than his interlocutor and his glasses reflect a face both stoic and unconcerned. “Some minor bruising on her fists. A stiletto put a nice hole in the wall, missed our guy though .”
“And no DNA?”
“None found yet.” At this our bespectacled detective gives a frustrated sigh before raising his eyebrows in contemplative acceptance. The younger takes off his fedora and placed it delicately on the table.
“So what do you think?”
“I think its too early to think. I think right now we just sit and observe.” The younger detective picks up a steaming mug and sips loudly. For a while they sit in silence, letting the symphonic cacophonies of middle class America rise and crash around them. Babies crying, couples arguing, lovers laughing, all just over the constant stream of crash bang pang from the kitchen. The older looks up at the younger with searching eyes and confused lips, waiting for something to spill out. Finally; “I just don’t understand the type of person who coul-”
“Cut the ‘some people’ speech okay Finn?” Casey glares at him sternly. “There’s no ‘some people’, there are no monsters walking around under the guise of you or me and there’s no evil that some people got and others don’t. There’s only people, circumstance and reaction.” A subtle trace of vehemence runs across his face as he speaks but as soon as he is through it snaps back into rest with a natural elasticity. The elder stares first at his partner, then out the window. It is early morning outside and the cars in the parking lot shine with an almost artificial brilliance. “I don’t know” he sais “I think people are different. Some smart, some slow, some pretty and others ugly. Things that precede the circumstances of life. Like, conditions. You know?”
“No, I don’t. I’ve seen all kinds of people turn to killing someone, and I’ve seen the same kinds of people cry over death.”
“What makes you so certain then?”
“I’m certain because I have to be, because it’s both of our jobs to be.”
“But profiles aren’t people you know. The things we try to find out, its all just evidence of something someone did and why they might have done it. It’s a database and we try to push everybody through it when really there’s nothing measurable about it. They’re people Casey.”
“That’s what I said Finn, it’s all just people.”
“Oh, I guess your right then.” He removes his glasses and inspects the lenses for smudges. “Sorry, I get confused sometimes.”
“That’s fine Finn, lets just get the check. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
“Alright, I’m driving. Its Tuesday, so I’m driving.”
“I remember Finn.”
On the other side of town a heavy set man with a balding head and childlike face nervously approaches a door. On the door there is little rectangular plaque; “ Office of Dr. Saul Burr”. The fat man’s name is Al Solomon, and his palms sweat uncontrollably as he stands and stares, face to face with the barrier between. His tongue runs across swollen lips before retreating, bearing the taste of salt. Somewhere in the waiting room time is ticking away, drawn into a little black hole on the wall which pulls it in like a rope with every tightening turn of its gears. Al can hear it as clearly as the thumping of his heart, and for a while he is completely suspended in time and space, teetering on the threshold of existence. Suddenly a muffled voice breathes reality into the space beyond the door, “Mr. Solomon please, come in.” Al takes a deep breath and moves the door, going beyond.
The room is so long that its almost more of a hallway and the walls are covered with a vibrant mural of the rainforest. Directly across from the doorway a monkey sticks its oafish face out from between prehistoric leaves, its gaze is almost accusatory. I see you, says the monkeys eyes, and you see me. All over the room potted plants are placed at random as an attempt to create an even more convincing illusion of having stepped into the Amazon. At the far end of the room a mammoth desk sits with the elephantine weight of polished mahogany, and across from it stands a tiny plastic chair that seems to have been plucked from an elementary school classroom. “You’re late Mr. Solomon” the voice is thrown over the staggering desk by a dwarf in lavish dress who struggles to see over its edge, “our appointment was for eight twenty seven, its nearly half past.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Burr, I was just inspecting the plaque on you’re door an-”
“IF” the syllable cuts Al’s timid speech like a sledgehammer to a snake. “If you had truly inspected the plaque I believe you would know to call me Dr. Burr. I ceased to be Mr. Burr some years ago and I have no intentions of traveling back in time Mr. Solomon.” , Al’s response escaped in a nervous squeak. “Of course, I-um, I apologize”
“You apologize, what?” The dwarf’s face lifts in in a grotesque expression of inquiry. The fat man stands for a moment, his eyes darting hither and thither between the glaring faces of various jungle creatures. “Oh!” he ejaculates, “I apologize, Dr. Burr.”
The dwarfs face drops from his protruding forehead as he nods, “thank you. Please, come and have a seat”. The chair is fit for a child and Al’s enormous knees are almost level to his dangling neck.
“Well okay Mr. Solomon, why is it that you’re here?” the Dr.’s high voice is that of a man with a child’s larynx.
“Well,” Mr. S speaks with wavering hesitancy, “I think I’m sexist. That is, I..I think I objectify women.” Mr.S’s chubby face softened into a rather pathetic display of self loathing.
“How so?” Dr. held the same expression of indifference on his face that he first acquired after reducing Al to an apology some time ago.
“Well, its not all the time. You see, I really do like women, and I respect them for the most part. That is, I respect them until they do something disrespectful…..just as I would a man.”
“Its just that…..when I’m attracted to a woman it’s like all their human qualities fall away, and their just forms made of pure sexual energy.” Mr. S paused to swallow before wrenching the first syllable of “sexual” up from somewhere within.
“ Go on.”
“So all I can think about is just being with her, about, you know,”
“Well, yes. Yes that’s just it, she becomes an object of…..intercourse. It’s like as long as I’m turned on she’s not a real person anymore, she’s just an outlet for my desires.”
“This happens to me all the time. It seems like I’m attracted to almost every woman I see a-”
“Children, Mr. Solomon?”
“Are you attracted to young children.”
“No, no of course not.”
“Hmmm” The doctor leans forward and makes a short note in his notebook before sitting up again and staring pensively at his patient. “Go on.” Al furrows his brow and glances around helplessly for a moment. When his nervous eyes meet again with those of his miniature observer he blinks and continues. “Well, that’s pretty much it. I just don’t want to have this bias anymore because, ethically, I’m one-hundred percent opposed to the whole idea of it.”
“As you should be Mr. Solomon. You were wise to seek out my services. You see, sexism is a most insidious beast, and she lurks inside of otherwise good men, slowly cleaving at their inner self, breathing wrathful fire all about their psyche and ultimately leaving them transformed into something much more villainous than before. If you were to leave this cancerous hatred festering within you, it would eventually spread its roots so wide and deep that no counseling could be of use to you. As of now we can only move forward with the hope that this has not yet occurred.” When the Dr. speaks he uses his tiny little hands to give visual expression to his words, throwing them around and forcing them into strange shapes who’s varying methods of implication range from a direct sort of hand puppetry to nonsensical grotesqueries. Al squirms a little in his uncomfortable seat trying to think of ways to sit a sea lion on a stool. With his blubbery neck quivering like a salted slug he lets his eyes fall, pitiful and obsequious. “So what can I do?” His voice shakes and his eyes water up. “How can I get the evil out of me?” The last line came through as a desperate plea, that of a hysterical mother beseeching a priest for the exorcism of her youngest daughter. The Dr. sighs and shakes his head. “I’m not sure that you can be helped, but I’m willing to at least give it a try.” Al’s face brightens at this and his attention tightens. “Have you ever heard of Women for Women?”
“No…..Well….at least I don’t think so.” Al’s voice has taken on a tone of shameful apology.
“Yes Mr. Solomon, I would expect that response from you. But then, that’s why you’re here.” Al looks down at his knees and nods. “Women for Women is a pro-equality group that is dedicated to the equal treatment and perception of all people, namely women. They meet every Thursday in a storage unit by the docks, it’s the one labeled Q-696”
“A storage unit?”
“Storage unit Q-696”
“Well why don’t they just meet at someone’s house or something?”
“And why are you so quick to question the ways of the organization? Maybe if it were called Men for Men you would be a little less skeptical of their decision making?”
“No, no…….I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that I just-”
“YOUR JUST” The sledgehammer again “your just going to be at storage unit Q-696 this Thursday, that‘s tomorrow Al. I will telephone the ladies and alert them of your presence, and explain why you’re there. The meeting starts at 9:00pm.”
As Al leaves the office he feels a great weight settle upon him. His task seems insurmountable and he feels weak. The monkey watches him exit the room.
Finn drives nervously, but with a childlike joy. His partner sits with perfect posture in the passenger seat, studying the contents of a manila envelope. “How long since she died?”
“About eight hours, neighbor called the cops at half past midnight. Said she heard a ruckus next door.”
“Yeah. By the time local pd got there the ruckus was over and our guy was long gone.”
The ruckus in question is insofar as the current understanding of the police is concerned, laid out concisely on the page in Casey’s right hand. He stares down at it with an air of disgust that border lines on a scoff. The car hisses along the hot asphalt with an unstinting sense of mission, it is 8:30am.
At 8:40 a black Ford Taurus rolls into a long winding driveway that comes to a head at the foot of a massive square structure. The house is completely white, the shudders are white, the brick chimney is painted white, as is the cobblestone walkway. Even the shingles on the roof have been coated in what must be countless layers of white paint. Stepping out of the car Casey and Finn shield their eyes from the blinding light reflecting off of the house. To stare straight into its looming façade is like staring at the sun. Out of the colorless luminescence a fat policeman hurriedly waddles, wearing a worried expression. The officer’s rosy face is puckered and wrinkled, as if every fiber of his facial dermis were seeking refuge beneath his thick brown moustache. “Well thaink Gawd and the baybee Jesus, detectives Finn and Casey have arrived awn the scene. Looks like me n’ de rest a’ da boys can pack it up.” His face opens up into a buck-toothed grin as he tucks his thumbs under his belt. “Boy, yall sure do respond in a jiffy, the bitch aint’ even cold yet.”
“That’s enough Cannon,” Casey pulls out a pair or gloss black Ray-bans and slips them on with a practiced fluidity. “Just show us to the body.” Cannon puts up his hands, retaining his toothy grin. “All right, all right. I get it; yall are professionals. Straight down to business.” Still standing by the car, Finn fumbles for his little round sunglasses and clips them onto his thick spectacles. “As opposed to pleasure?” He inquires, feeling more authoritative from behind his mysterious shades.
“Hey,” Cannon puts his thumbs back under his belt, “nobody’s havin fun here, just tryin to lighten up the mood a bit. I don’t know how you fellas can stand it, bein so stoic all the time and workin with dead souls. Nough to drive a man cuckoo seems to me.”
“You know what seems cuckoo to me? You standing there and having a laugh over an innocent-” His speech is cut off by a firm hand gesture from Casey. “Cool it Finn. Getting all hot and bothered over this Neanderthal wont do any good for anyone.” And turning his reflective black lenses to Cannon, “We’re just here to do our job, so if your little routine is over, will you be so kind as to let us do it?” A single jet black eyebrow lifts itself from beneath the Ray-bans. “Sure, sure.” Cannon takes another look at Finn, who is staring up at the second story windows, his graying hair wavering in the mild morning breeze. “ Just follow me then.”
The bedroom has the same sterile, almost medical feel as the outside of the house. White walls, white bed sheets, white tile flooring. All that isn’t bleached and colorless is made of brushed steel; the bed frame, the little round table that lay on its side, the alarm clock that fell from it when it toppled. Amidst all of this there is one blotch of colorful matter. A woman, slim and trim and wearing a bright red dress which hugs her curves like plastic wrap. She lay sprawled most unnaturally on the queen size bed in the center of the room, her neck twisted to the extreme left, setting her gaze upon a sliding door mirror on the wall. Cannon turns to the detectives upon entering the room, “I guess our damsel in distress here was a bit of a, what do you call it?……a modernist!” Finn and Casey remove their shades simultaneously. “More likely a case of Mysophobia”, says Casey as he steps passed the officer. “Myso-what?” Now Finn passes him by and mutters, “It pertains to a pathological fear of germs or contamination.”
“What makes yall say that? I mean…maybe she’s a modernist too.” Casey glances over blankly from the bedside, “Not a drop of art in the place. A modernist willing to spend the kind of dough that went into this place would at least splurge for a few sculptures, ,maybe a black and white photo or two for the walls.”
“Or an abstract charcoal drawing, something with interesting shapes but no definite imagery.” Finn manages to tag on while Casey stops to take a breath.
“Either way,” continues Casey, “ she’s not a modernist, she’s a phobic.”
“Don’t ya mean she was a phobic? I doubt she’s a’scared of much a’ anything now. ‘Less she’s…..you know” He points a fat quivering finger to the floor, “down there.” And saying this he gives a look of childish secrecy from beneath his brow, as though speaking of his penis in public. Neither Finn nor Casey give him the slightest interest, now entirely enveloped in poking around the crime scene. Finn bends over a complete ninety degrees and lifts the left hand of the body, now frozen with rigor mortis and looking very much like a twisted claw of sorts. “Hand me the tweezers will you Casey?” He digs into the pocket of his lapel and retrieves a tiny pair of polished gold tweezers, but rather than handing them over, simply makes his way around to the other side of the bed. “What have you got here?” Finn glances over timidly before huffing a sigh from his bulbous nose. “Looks like she got a bit of our guy in the struggle.”