A chapter from, My Last Days (the autobiography of a superhero)

A Blow
Lou Rowan

"Clark, how do you feel about oral sex?" Lois asks me at lunch today.

I know why she's asking. Long salamis and globular cheeses dangle down to our heads. We're eating at a deli whose sanitary practices I can accept. As Lois chatters, I analyze the salamis and their provenance: pigs from the vast North Carolina factory ruining the regional aquifer, grain filler from a huge rat-filled load Cargoil sold Particular (formerly General) Foods as hi-grade wheat 2 years ago in a hedged transaction that made both sides feel they scored big. Cargoil Sales dumped the bad grain it got past the barge inspectors; the trader at Particular Foods discounted his insider knowledge PF planned huge buys for a new health-pizza product, driving up the premiums on all grain derivatives. The commodities merchant at Salomonic, lightening with this trade the unauthorized long position he took buzzed on cocaine, messengered both sides two boxes of ersatz Cohabitiba Cuban cigars from a load of ordinary smokes hijacked in North Carolina by the Mafia group helping the CigarEsq. cigar-bar chain avoid duties on the identical materials it sells cigar aficionados at graduated prices repackaged under the prestige labels Orale I-IV.

The deal ticketed, the traders lighted up in synch on a video conference, saying, "It doesn't get any better than this. . .Yeah, it doesn't get any better than this!. . .Oh man you're right, it just doesn't get any better than this."

The strings tying these hung meats were hijacked for the salami-maker in Long Island City by the same gang, easy pickings from a stranded rickety truck that contained a year's worth of natural fibers shipped from a WE Foundation African-American enterprise in South Carolina to which the government proudly lent and which tourists solemnly visited to see what the pr called "folk capitalism." The strings' final destination was the one remaining wooden dock on Long Island where the three remaining Long Island fishermen patched their nets, another part of the WF Authentic America Enterprise network of tourist attractions. I love the brochure for this Montauk attraction, "Hard-bitten Yankee Salts." The fishermen are forbidden to use sunscreen, so that their faces look etched by the elements.

These are the extra-Manhattan or Manhattan-benefiting trickle-up crimes with which I have compacted with overt and covert municipal, federal, and global police authorities and client governments to co-exist, but it is my standard operating procedure to stay abreast of mob practice.

"Clark, answer me, you're daydreaming again. Don't avoid the question. Tell me your opinion on oral sex."     

Normal days, I go to the office. I take the slow way: I drive. For me an auto is child's-play; maybe this is why humans stick to their internal combustion through the gray air, the frustration and death: they are acting out infantile fantasies of control, mastery and independence. I look ahead through the traffic-pattern; I calculate my arrival-time time at the Daily World's parking lot down to the second. The traffic spotters on World All-News are behind by 43 minutes. It amuses me to see my fellow-commuters fly into rages over this simple problem in classical physics they refuse to solve by putting more body-volume into large-volume vehicles running on lower-friction tracks. But I understand that could be a crack or weak spot into which big government could force its insidious wedge.

Today I park at 8:56:07, did the 11 miles in 1:47:49, 23 seconds faster than my mean. The crowd's body- pressure on me in the WE lobby-an imprecise gauge-tells me I'll be at work in the City Room at 9:04.

9:05 I sense an extreme and distended facial movement at the far end of the vast humming room. I lock onto Brian O'Brien, the City Editor. Normally growling gruff directives by now, he's wearing a silly grin behind his huge, paper-strewn desk. His trademark half-cigar (a smelly American product) is wagging like a dog's clipped tail. I am appalled to see Sally Sling (born Sarah Slepinsky), who openly flaunts her illicit relationship with Sal Mafficante, number one crime boss, unzipping his fly. She has him backed up against his pride and joy, the World Wall of Fame, where trophies and plaques for reporting excellence and civic contributions punctuate framed photos of everyone who has contributed to the building of our metropolis. I am in many of the photos. Civic tours of the building take Brian from his hectic schedule to expound the glories and trophies. But now the famous shot of me, Brian and Mayor Hussell re-opening the Brooklyn Bridge is aslant next to Brian's deep-red head: blood has rushed to suffuse every inch of him above his open collar, from his jiggling dewlaps to his mottled pate. Sally's left hand cups his right buttock, her index finger pointing into his anus; she's darting her tongue into his ear like an evil snake as her right hand, flashing with rock-size diamonds and rubies, plunges into his pants.

Her trademark bared-fang silver fox furs, lying at their feet, seem to snarl at the shocking sight. She calls Brian her lox, her cheese, her bagel. She pulls out his pink-purple male member, which impresses me with its size, color and curvature, and she kisses and licks it. I'm calculating the best thing for me to do when I see Lois walking straight down the central aisle with her glasses on and a huge dossier hooked under her right arm like a football, and I know she's onto something big she's got to let the Chief know. She throws open the wide doors that allows Brian to look down the City Room at all of us, so that he can yell at whomever he needs.

Lois cries out, "Holy shit! What are you doing, Brian?" She drops her dossiers with a thump.

Brian groans. His penis is pointing at Lois, at all of us down the gigantic room. Throbbing activity halts; we're still as a morgue. Sally rises from her knees slowly, pulls up her shoulder straps, and shakes her bosoms at Lois. I can see the conical bags of silicone in those breasts, the little clamps on her ovaries. I can see the lines where cartilage and bone have been cut from her nose and cheeks, fat sucked from her chin. The media call her the Foxy Femme Fatale.

"You're gonna regret this, Lane." Sally stalks by Lois in her stiletto heels. Her short skirt clings to her strong buttocks, showing her muscular legs. "I told Brian about you. Word is out, weirdo. Watch your back, bitch!"

Sally yanks a big goon I've ignored from behind his WE Daily OnLine Gaming Form in the front lobby, and drags him into the elevator, her fox fur glaring at us from her bare shoulders. The receptionist stays busy as ever taking the calls we always get from everywhere in the metropolis. She is trained to notice nothing, her polite voice continues its singsong. . . .

"Dammit, Clark, it can't take you all day to decide to order your turkey with lettuce on white bread. Answer me."

"I'm not well-informed about it, Lois."

"Yeah, yeah, I know you: you're wondering if it's a bad thing; if it's less of a health hazard than genital intercourse; if a married man like Bryan gets it, is he committing adultery. And of course you'll never bother to think about how a woman like Sally came to be what she is, you'll just see her as an evil seductress.

" Well? Anything to offer?"

"I told you, Lois, I'm not an expert on sexual subjects. That's not my beat. Would you like me to put someone onto a project? Do we have a story?"

"Do we have a story? Clark, are you the only one in the building who doesn't understand what happened in Brian's office today? Why do you think Sally Sling did it, Clark?"

"Just what did Sally Sling do, Lois?"

"Shit Clark, you're hopeless. Eat your fucking turkey."

But now I'm wondering about my email: I am getting obscene threats addressed to me as "Clark Cunt" from a classroom site in Forest Hills. I've meant to let the guidance department out there know. And I'm a little depressed by my command appearance before Rick Hussell and the CSC.

"Lois, let's see a show tonight! A musical will cleanse your mind of this sick stuff. This season Broadway is just pure positive uplift. Which one suits your fancy?"

"Oh, Clark, I don't know why I waste my time with you, except you're so sweet. Someday I'll find myself a normal man I can trust. You'll have to do for now.

"But I wonder why Sally's so angry with me. . . ."

Lois and I see the new hit Starved into Happiness, affectionately known as "Los Mis" and "Mis 2," about a tribe in South America burned out of its rainforest by an American crew building a superhighway from a megastripmine. The terror of the first act is dazzling: smoke envelops the audience, and the savages run yelling and singing up and down the aisles among us, regroup in a chorus downstage, and move us to tears with the hit "Carry On" as the smoke lifts to reveal them in their ragged but colorful native garb:

We can't see our future

Our lives are gone

But we'll just carry on.

Lois and I hold hands, happily letting the stoic wisdom of the native Americans sink in.

The Chief meets by a tractor with the Foreman of the muscular American work-crew that has thrilled the ladies with so many hits on MTV UPSCALE. He's never seen a white man, and he feels the Foreman's muscles repeatedly, and the Foreman appreciates the chief's hunting-gear, particularly a long spear that the Foreman holds awkwardly but the Chief wields with ease. The muscles and the spear kindle mutual masculine respect where before there had been only bitterness and suspicion. These two real men can show initiative, and they have beautiful tenor voices for their duets about the future. The media call them the "Two Tenor Hunks." Their voices climb the register as they vision their way towards hope.

Then the Chief explains it all to the tribe, which is camped out by a dirty river that has infected them and is causing a couple of older squaws to die. Suddenly he is challenged by the malignant and ugly Bad-Eye, who wants to kill the pale gringos with venomous arrows, but he defeats him in a fair fight so intense it carries into the audience like wrestlemania. Relieved, the sick old squaws resume their swan-songs, in which they prophesy a future filled with visitors made possible by the noise-monsters, as they poetically call the giant tractors that bulldoze in loud grandeur onstage courtesy of Caterpillar, again bringing tears to Lois' and my eyes, tears of sadness and pride.

A ragged band of protesters mars the sidewalk amenities of each show, offended by the term "squaw," but WE Broadway's Columbia University ethnographer has ruled in favor of accurate language.

In the last act the muscular Foreman, clad in a white medical robe cut off at the shoulders, brings medicines, water purifiers, and staggering armfuls of powdered food in time to save two sick starving babies whose adorable mothers sing wonderful duets carrying them about the stage in their bright papooses-for me the climax of the whole play is when Little Brown-Eyes, played by Mary Mermaid, catches the papoose of her friend, Little Kind-Heart, who swoons from emotion and hunger at the end of their duet, saving the baby from landing on its cute little black-haired head. I am so entranced by the play I almost rescue the baby myself. I love the Great White Way.

The final chorus: the pioneer tourist's Sports Utility Vehicle is upstage center, and the tourist-family before it in safari outfits, their stage-business to cherish their historic purchases from the now fully-dressed tribe. The happy natives are arranged to frame the pilgrims in a receding V. The Chief, who brandishes the new Orale V cigar premiered on this stage, along with his trusty spear, bounds to downstage center at the V's symbolic jointure. He salutes a clean, successful future, and before the curtain rings down, when you can scarcely believe how wonderfully everything has turned out, the huge silhouette of the muscular Foreman vaults to the hood of the Sports Utility Vehicle with his chainsaw, the audience irresistibly drawn to passionate applause and assent as he joins the final bars of the climactic swelling of this harmonic vision of New Age ethnic and ecological harmony, and a screen appears upstage revealing the newsreel of the future they sing, the prophetic squaws reviving magically to bless in ecstasy generations of cute tribal children going dutifully to clean prefab schools tended by saintly-looking nuns who bend over these precious ignorant souls in utter kindness.

Lois is much calmer when I take her home.

But I have a painful nightmare: I am flying across Queens, the vector I normally take on my way home, and I am happily admiring the houses of Forest Hills. My face is a happy relaxed smile; the air in my face is cool. I allow myself to soar with the air-currents. But the air heats, and I cannot maintain my altitude. I am trapped in a hot downdraft that becomes a six-lane highway of air with a familiar stench I can't identify, a down-curved plane leading directly to the screen of a computer in front of which a freckled boy with large black-rimmed glasses smiles menacingly. He wears a ratty check sweater. He uses a toy in my shape as his mouse, with which he clicks an icon of me. I disappear into the screen, into red dots that sear my skin, and I shatter into glass fragments scraping themselves.

I awake at 3:07 AM, my head exploding.