Erneste: my friend, my brother, i ask you one more time: the crying.
Cotard: i'm shaking right now but not as much as back then. at my lowest point, i was as simple as could be. things were less complicated, a mama's boy and his mama, symbiotic for me. she was my only connection to a world that had rejected me. they say a grown man shouldn't cry but i decided to test that as i was always a scientist first and foremost. she would leave to do her exercises or get some milk from the buttercow or something, i had nothing to do all day and would wait for her. i would think back to all she had done for me, i was nothing without her, if she hadn't changed that diaper that one time i wouldn't be standing here today, i'd be crawling like the little helpless baby i am. when i would think of all the groceries she got, the unneeded video games, the haircuts, those special black pencils, the cool skater backpacks, and her signature chicken soup---that combination of Lipton sauce mix and her carefully peeled and boiled potatoes from the old country, it never came out any other way than when she made it, it was savory when it hit my lips, immediately connecting me to the past with an atomic shock---well i cried. i would get down on my knees and cry until she came home. when she got home and noticed me wiping something away on my face, she knew i was in trouble and would call the family-doctor-sanctioned psychologist. i kept telling her it was cathartic to cry but i could tell she had been secretly crying and was exhausted.
Erneste: good, good, that's the ticket, little did you know that something from your past would come back in such a big important way. all of this is building memory muscle that you will use later on.
Erneste: you are growing as a person, irmao, most do not take the time to be with themselves, they constantly pierce the silence with outside noise. the more you delve in, the deeper it gets and the deeper you get. you start to build an impenetrable wall around yourself. the loner will save the masses. here, drink this.
Cotard reluctantly takes the trembling cup to his dried lips and cocks back after one half sip.
Cotard: you spiked my tea! i knew it!
Erneste: with butter. all the monks are doing it. it loosens up the memory and sparks the imagination.
Erneste has since grown stronger since meeting his brother the monk. he takes Cotard over his arms and interlocks his fingers to form the perfect pallet to carry him to the top of the glass case with the rest of the figurines so Cotard can get in a good snooze.
Atalan: i see it now, i see past this minor setback, sure i didn't win, that punk idiot savant won, youth was served today, but experience wins in the long con. see i knew the name of that painting but i didn't ring in on time. so, what does that make Yayray? on speed, sure, but that's it. plus i just didn't know the name of that painting, i also think back to how that painting affected me in college, it essentially swerved my train tracks from basketball to the arts. it got me interested in putting my nose in a book rather than in a noseguard. when i looked at that painting, i saw the colors swirling not just on the canvas but on the artist's oval palette with the circular hole chainsawed through for the thumb. i saw how he designed the piece in his head, i can see the inner workings of his mind, they are exactly like the clockwork sprockets you see in cartoons, i see the first seed of the woman he is about to draw. i see that his first draft had her with fuller lips but he thought that was too risque for a portrait of his mother.
Atalan is just about to drown. he has been standing straight up in the mud of the bottom of the pond at the back of the Jeopardy! studio. the unusual deluge of rains---it's always unusual, never just right in this area---really did a number on that otherwise simple hole in the back of the lot that no one paid any mind to. now the eyesore of a crater that looks like the site of a nuclear bomb is filled up with water probably before Ata knew it, so spaced out is he, staring at that piece of coral and the plastic treasure chest there underwater but not really staring at it, locked into a Proustlike tangent. bubbles are coming out his nose, mouth, and head.
Codrus just happens to be walking by at the break and manages to fish Ata out by the shoulders.
Codrus: wow. lucky. i usually have my submarine's metal arms do this or something but it's good to get dirty. down in the mud with the folk. i have so many ideas floating around in my head i need a physical break.
Ata: whoa, what happened? i whited out. thanks, mister. oh, it's you. sorry i couldn't win. not that you care. you probably got the right man.
Codrus: shame we'll never know what you were watercoloring.
Codrus points up ahead in the middle of the pond where Ata's canvas and stand and utensils and painter's cap have all surfaced. whatever was being painted on the canvas has long since dripped and run together.
Ata: huh, it actually looks better than what i was thinking. man this sucks. it sucks like swill through a straw.
Codrus: i know. hey burn yourself out but don't bum yourself out. there will be plenty opportunities to help the revolution. i need everyone. every s-i-n-g-l-e one or it doesn't work. you're different than Yayraj and that's good. you're the second winner. you see things differently.
Ata: it's just...everything now is references to other things. there's no one thing that stands on its own anymore...i mean i don't need another iteration of the thing, i need the source of the thing.
Codrus: i feel ya, homie. goth french fries slathered in black sauce are cool and all, but sometimes you just want to bite into the potato. this is the thing, the thing i've been learning, each person interprets the thing in their own way, it reflects back to their stored pond of knowledge deep within their being. that place deep inside is the truly original thing, it's the one thing that can't be taken away from you because only you have it, that's where snowflakes are formed. take your parent, or uh, rather like i'm the parent to three kids, well they aren't my kids, more like my minions, okay take one of Imzhan's kids or someone, the point is let's talk about cartoons. one kid sees the cartoon and veges out. another kid sees the same cartoon and gets all the references cos he's one of those weird kids that's older than he should be. the final kid sees the cartoon only as an inspiration for her to make a better cartoon, her cartoon. kids look up to parents, the next door neighbor sees the parent as one thing but only the son or daughter sees the parent as that one thing. not that i'd know. i'm just a noob.
Ata: did that word come from novice? you're pretty humble for a megalomaniac.
Codrus: kid, why don't you join me? i know that's not in the rules but rules are meant to be broken. there would never be any progress if nobody broke rules, so at the end of the day, it's the ones who make the rules who should be most glorified. you can help me out in secret.
Ata: i don't know, i have nowhere to roam nor return to, so yeah, i guess, maybe. why does everything have to be secret?
Codrus: ah i love these rains. rain washes away and starts over as it covers over. the dew is newing. such a change from my home where it was so arid we spent the day cracking rocks to see what would spill out. oh, well, we need to have secrets, we can't survive without privacy, man needs codes to break, things must be kept hidden in encrypted computer lines and blacked-out white papers, it can't all be revealed at birth, where's the fun in that? more importantly, where's the life in that?
the heavy rains---
THEY'RE ALWAYS HEAVY, NEVER A LIGHT THING, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK---
have not sopped the huge crowd gathered at the first big state fair to see Mickey Bump's first major bumped stump speech. The Mickey stands out in the open on stage and doesn't get wet. he raises his hands to raucous applause blocking the view of a giant campaign poster with his face in multicolor with big block sans comic letters above the artist's rendering of his face reading:
AMERICA NEEDS A BUMP
Bump: let's get this shit over with. oh was my mic hot? folks it's not cocaine (crowd laughs), not cocaine. so anyway, i'm leading in the polls so i might as well continue. i was reading in the New York Times that the Whitney and the Robot spinoff is getting canceled after one season? for shame, i loved that show. they don't make em like that anymore. why was our youth so much better than our present day? it can't all be nostalgia. why is it that the only thing these flying periodicals with hardline wings report on is when shows are getting canceled, i mean they have polls like predicting when the show is gonna end. that's not fair to the actors and especially the writers. the writers always get shafted. not mine, i pay my writers a pretty penny (crowd laughs), i'm rich by the way, like really rich. i mean you look at Sesame Street, right? why can't they allow unbleeped shit and fuck, i mean parents say it all the time, it's natural to the children. they're allowing shit on tv now, so why not? i mean you go to deviantart, i don't cos i'm not a deviant but you go to deviantart and you see the most scandalous pics of these poor sesame puppets in all sorts of positions and you wonder what's going on with the human mind? on the one hand you have this innocent show that's on the other sparking all of this wild content, like can we please unite these two halves, America? (crowd cheers). i mean we're all thinking it and the characters on the show are all thinking it so why don't we say it? it doesn't do any good if it remains a thought. what's the difference between a thought and a spoken word? wouldn't it be cool if it all just became streamlined? let's cut the bullshit and make it happen. let's do it, i have the means. y'know sometimes a Big Bird's gotta slap a Snuffy right in the nose for actin' the fool. and that's okay to show. show, don't tell. with words i mean, words, i don't condone any violence of any kind. these are the issues America cares about. right, kids?
the three kids from Codrus's mothership are in the crowd. Stew's hair is brown. Mohd looks like a man. Angie points somewhere off far in the distance, like to an unknown sea, or maybe she's pointing at Bump, it's hard to tell in the driving rain.
Angie: mister, are you Batman?
Bump: no but i have the costume in my bedroom. kids love Bump. and y'know women love Bump. your mothers they all love me cos they see that i care for their care. i want them all to look healthy again. but still slim. words are just words, it's actions that activate. i'm here at this silly fair, isn't that proof? it's the shit we have to do, nobody likes it but it has to get done, and i am the man to do it. think of me not as a man but a superman. i mean look at these extra-long corndogs here, they're ridiculous.
Bump puts two very long corndogs into both his ears.
the press corps laughs. Bump can feel his breath in his nose it's so loud.
Bump: this is to keep you nasty unfair press corps out. hahahahahahahaha, but i heard you just now, i can hear you laughing at me.
on tv, Alex Trebek is resting comfortably in his hospital bed being interviewed.
Alex: i mean that shit is cold, but the nurse was hot, so y'know. yeah i'll probably vote for Bump, he's got the one thing that piques my interest: he's new. i don't have any friends but i have tons of followers. friendship is like lemon chicken, good for you but sour.
at her work station, Binny is starting to reconsider. she looks out her window pelted unviewable with droplets and types in her journal:
this will kill me. i can't do this anymore. these computers, all this tech has broken my humanity. i mean i'm working on this little ipad mini and i type in the thing at the top and wait for the blue line to go all the way around or it won't get to the next page. i swear that blue line is alive and mocking me. i mean it starts off great, gets halfway through, and fucking stops. then it just sits there laughing at me. and then the screen goes dark cos i've taken too long and i light up and light it up again and the internet connection is lost and i have to push the button on the side and start over. the keyboard is so small when i look up GATE i type GAFE so then i have to urbandictionary GAFE (and GAPH just to be sure). and i forget to look up GATE. something about scandal or something. oh and i try to type TRANSLATE but google offers up TRAP QUEEN instead before i have a say. i swear i've memorized that song and video when i never had any intention to. oh oh and words that could be words but you're not sure, like i misspell AGREE---or rather the tiny keyboard types AGREA, why did it have to be a maybe-word like AGREA and not certain gibberish?---and i'm like that can't be a word but i google translate it anyway and it means favor in Romanian? all this off a misspelling? wait, type another letter and it tells me it means another foreign word so i look up that foreign word. azedo? colocando? loco. everything i do is loco. i need to think back. i need time to think at all.
at the burger joint, the human is gone but the talking raccoon greets a visitor, a small duck. the raccoon waves his hand over the human's eyes.
Favor the raccoon: hello, anyone home? that's good but don't give up yet. don't be scared, we're here to help, we've traveled a long way. we have a customer. i'm Favor, emphasis on the vor. hey Rubber, how's kicks, how's kicks?
Rubber the duck: not good. i'm learning to rely more on my wings, i'll be flying soon. that's good.
Favor (on the phone): yes, ma'am, i believe i can grill up that egg burger for ya. how do you want the egg for your face, hard or easy? hard tastes better.
on the computer screen meant to take orders on the counter:
a girl in a red Elliott-from-E.T. hoodie is staring foward starting up her first video on her first youtube channel:
hello world! i'm shy but youtube makes me feel my worth. soon i hope to feel my oats. i don't know what to say. i don't know how i'll be different. but i have a lot of ideas. just not the tools to spread them. i'm different. i'm just like you. i guess what i'm presenting here is me. look at me. i'm only me. unique. i'm cute, i think. well you tell me. let's start the conversation. this is my tenth time uploading the same video, i don't know what i'm doing. sorry you can't see my face, probably should untie my ties on my hoodie less tight. who do i think i am, Bill Belichick? hahahahahahahah homan. see my eyes now? see my nose now? hear me breathing? see me breathing? i have to go now, to the bathroom. think of this as a pause in the conversation. i'm gonna get a drink.
the video is weeks old, the only one on her channel. it has 0 views, 0 comments, 0 likes, 0 dislikes, 0 subscribes.
the raccoon and the duck are glued to the screen, their mouths dripping drool, as the blue line of the video goes all the way to the right and stops and repeats again from the left and from the top over and over. the two creatures become especially still when the hoodie girl in the video breathes out her nose.