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>Here's Who I Am Now
>Manifest Destiny 2000
>Burl International
>Doyslovna!
>Exquisite Corpse

Essays
>"In the Jerry Springer Crowd with Captain Spank."
>"Ennui Flees: a Nada Surf show story"
>"Bartering Art with El Rey"

Stories
>TIME'S FOOL
>"The Man Who Loved Waitresses"
>"This Really Happened..."
>"Shakin the Shakes"

Pix
>CURRENT
>Tom Waits Fest 7 (1996)
>LA, CA (Oct., 2K)
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>New Year's Eve 2000-1 (SF)
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>Burning Man 2K03 (August, '03)
>New Orleans (May, '04)
>Caius/Lessley Reception (June, '04)
>Keg/Carrie Wedding (June, '04)
>Noelkins Wedding (July, '04)
>X/Kennedy Wedding (Oct., '04)
>Storm King (Oct., '04)




 

 

"This Really Happened..."

This really happened to the younger brother of the boyfriend of a friend of mine. This guy - we'll call him Joe -- was professionally unemployed, but the way he made that work was by dating a woman who had a steady teaching job and owned her own house.

Even so, Joe and his buddies were always looking for the main chance - the one bit of luck that would keep them unemployed, but rich instead of poor. Lottery tickets, fast food sweepstakes, the race track. Any way to turn 2 bucks into 20 million, or even 20 thousand. While Joe's planning along those lines never seemed to amount to much, his ability to keep his girlfriend on the reservation, to keep getting the milk for free as they say, made him the envy of all his friends.

Joe's girlfriend, instead of marriage of kids, had cats. So many cats, in fact, that she built them a house. No, more than a house. More than just some boards held together with indoor-outdoor carpeting and staples. This was a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece of construction for cats. Tunnels and chutes and doors that allowed a constantly changing menagerie of strays and tables and even purebreds from all over the neighborhood to roam and hide and play to their hearts' delight. Not just a Cat House, but a Cat Mansion.
Joe would sit and dream his avaricious dreams and he would stare at the Cat Mansion for 6, 12 and 24, and sometimes even 30 packs at a time, never seeing the same cat twice.

A few years back, when those "Laugh at Dad getting punched in the groin" video shows were popular, Joe's girlfriend went out of town to a teacher's convention. So, obviously, with the whole house to himself, Joe threw a party for the whole weekend.

Maybe 36 hours into the weekend of fun and thoughts of just-add-water wealth, Joe suddenly announced to his friends, "We're gonna get rich."

Some of his friends heard. Some laughed, but most just ignored him because they were busy giving each other sobriety tests to see who was the most able to make another beer run.

"We're gonna make a video," Joe further declared, "and we're gonna win the funniest 10 grand prize."

After the second proclamation, Joe looked at the crowd, some of whom had had the presence of mind to inch away, hands covering their vulnerable areas. He luxuriated in the genius of his idea, until someone asked, "What're we gonna put in the video?"

This was how Joe's ideas usually fell apart. There was a pause in the action (not counting the sobriety testers, who were now searching through each others' pockets for car keys).

Then Joe spotted the Cat Mansion.

Ten minutes later, Joe was drenching the Cat Mansion in lighter fluid while the sobriety testers had split into two groups, one searching for the camcorder, one for kitchen matches. Unfortunately, both groups were quickly successful.
By that time, cat noses were poking out all over the Cat Mansion, wondering about the odor. With the soberest person in charge of the camcorder, Joe made a ceremony out of lighting the first match, then igniting the Cat Mansion.

All the cats broke for safety immediately, of course. So Joe rallied the partiers to snatched up every cat they could grab and throw them back toward the burning Cat Mansion. Because fire without cats was clearly not funny enough to wrest 10 grand from competition such as cure babies and dancing dogs.
Cats, having no sense of humor, wanted no part of the filmmaking process.
In the end, the video ended up showing what it must have been like at the temple of Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, with people, covered in claw marks, blinded by blood loss and strong drink, crawling and leaping around a bonfire, and begging for mercy.

The video never won a prize, never aired, and finally the production company stopped taking Joe's calls. That's not the important part, though. The important part is what had to be done about the plot of scorched earth in Joe's girlfriend's backyard.

Two things you should know about the ranks of the professionally unemployed. One: sometimes, in the face of impossible challenges like hiding the evidence of cat arson, when you least expect them to band together and come up with an ingenious solution, they do.

Two: they tend to know a lot of people in landscaping.

When Joe's girlfriend arrived at her house a little after three that Sunday afternoon, the house was in lovely condition, just gorgeous. She found that surprising and suspicious. Even so, when she looked out at the fresh lines of sod in her backyard, it looked so perfect, peaceful and pastoral, it took a full five seconds before she noticed the Cat Mansion had vanished.

When she asked Joe where it had gone, he looked at her with love gleaming in his eyes, and he asked: "Cat Mansion? What Cat Mansion?"

That's what really happened. Or at least that's what I heard.


Provenance:

Originally inspired by the NPR contest asking for true stories, which would be "judged" by Paul Auster.

Mostly written in one burst while standing at the bar at the Rainbo Club on Damen Avenue.

Story finally finished to be performed at a Coffee Hauuuuuus in Berkely, CA.

June, 2001.


 

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