Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chapter 8

"Aw Christ, it's the creepy fuck," muttered the Worker who apparently doesn't deserve a name. He was sitting in the cafeteria of Braggart Big Damn Rail when Edguy Dithers happened to walk up, looking like he wanted to exposit again.

"...made me a VP. VP, can you believe it? I'm in charge of Operations now, whatever that means. I remember last time I came down here, just after getting promoted, everyone was looking at me. It felt weird..." Dithers had been learning from Daffy the skill of blathering pointlessly about himself to strangers.

"But it's all worth it to be near Daffy," Dithers said, getting all dreamy again. "Or it would be if I ever saw her anymore. She must be really busy. She moved me to her old office though, so I get her chair..." And his eyes took on a far-off look of perversity.

He had more to say of course. So much more with so little point but it's not like anyone cares about Edguy Dithers.

So let's get back to Daffy! She sat in her new office, admiring it's barrenness as reflective of her inner life. She'd set it up for no sensible reason to personally head the new Jon Gort Line - previously known as the Rio Norte.

Tim and Daffy had a minor tiff over that name. Was that in the last chapter? No, it was cut for pacing and sanity purposes. Bad sign this thing is turning meta and we're not even a third of the way through...

Anyway, Daffy was interrupted from feeling all pleased with herself by the post-it note reminding her to get her solipsistic ass to the airport. She had to fly back out to Colorado, where the Gort Line actually was. Still, she took her sweet goddamn time as it allowed her some navel-gazing concerning her own transparent fetishism of trains steaming through tunnels.

In her limited mind, she liked to dress up this fixation of hers in high-minded baloney. Liked to view her love of big, thrusting metal things and her love of that love and how she loved to love that love was all together the height of Man's consciousness - even though she was a woman. So clearly she needed a man to play engineer, if ya catch my drift. Not Franky - for entirely philosophical and platonic reasons, not his obvious disinterest - and surprisingly not Spank Rearend though Daffy wouldn't mind taking a ride on his Gort Line.

No, her ideal man was so ideal he didn't exist! She bravely displayed all the romantic discernment of a middle-aged virgin jacking off to Wonder Woman in his mom's basement.

And then some guy almost knocked on the front door - which she could somehow see from her office. The incident isn't quite as long here because I'm not gratuitously padding the narrative like Alisa Rosenbaum.

*    *    *

"Hey! I'm back!"

Snarkin, so help me...

"And I get a mine! Well, I still think of it as your mine, Spank. We're friends like that."

"No!" Spank said. "Either I own something or I don't!"

Poor Spank Rearend was too depressed to think in anything but the most didactic terms. Well, he really couldn't think any other way even at the best of times but now he was being a goddamn baby about it.

"Stupid government, telling me what I can and can't own..." he grumbled.

"Be fair, Spank," Snarkin said gently. "You couldn't expect to hold onto it with all those safety violations."

"But they weren't violations! Not until that mean law got passed!"

"I don't think you understand how laws work..."

It was no use of course. Spank was determined to sulk over his slap on the wrist, despite the poor condition of the mine and his years of skimping on the most basic safety standards. Really, it wasn't worth half of what Snarkin paid for it in the mandated deal.

"Wait, what!?"

And, though it's certainly common practice, Spank Rearend was far too densely literal-minded to contrive some "silent partner" arrangement with Saul Snarkin. He could only repeat in dull whine, "Either I own something or I don't..."

"You know, I'm having second thoughts about this whole thing. I mean, from what I read in the report and what the narrator is saying, this is looking like a real stinker of a deal."

Not that Spank was listening. He was remembering a preacher talking about how altruism is good and Spank dumbly associated that with what he was experiencing now. Therefore, altruism was actually bad and God is a jerk.

"How does that even work?"

Snarkin, one more fourth wall breach and I'll stick you with the d'Ano mine too.

"Alright! Jesus!"

"I just can't stand the thought of anyone over me," Spank blathered on with ridiculous self-absorption. "Being overpowered, dominated, tied up and whipped - I just can't stomach it! At least on the receiving end..."

"Spank, I don't particularly want to know why you'd use those specific terms," Snarkin said, "but you're blowing this way out of proportion. I own the mine now, sure, but I'm not going to cut you off or anything."

"I wish I could believe that," Spank said with ponderous seriousness. "But I cannot hold to the mere words of friends. Just facts."

"You sound like the villain in a Dickens novel."

And Spank sold a coal mine to some other guy with mostly the same dithering back and forth which has been cut here because it blows more than usual.

Rearend felt very emo about all of this, crying into his expensive scotch and cursing the evils of the world that would strip him of ownership of something he'd never paid much attention to anyway. At least he had the Jon Gort Line with its shiny green and blue girders - yes, that was the color - shining with their shininess in the Colorado sun. So this lead him naturally to call up Edguy Dithers and ask him to breakfast!

Borges couldn't make sense of this plot...

"Good mornin', Ed! I'm in a hurry so ya mind if I talk while eating?" Spank didn't wait for a response. Just started shoveling food into his mouth.

Dithers might have said something if he weren't feeling irrationally guilty for Spank's current woes. Though it was lessened somewhat upon experiencing the Greatness that was sitting across from Spank Rearend. It was saw awe inspiring and triumphant, Dithers didn't realize Rearend had stolen his omelet.

"So how's Braggart Big Damn Rail doing?" Spank asked, spitting egg and cheese about.

"Well, not too good. Issues with our payroll and such..." Dithers politely didn't mention people just wouldn't buy tickets to ride on some untested hoodoo metal.

"And you know your payment for my spankmeum is due next month?"


"Well, how about a moratorsis or whatever? I agree to extend the payment date until, say, six months after the Gort Line opens?"

"Golly Mr. Rearend, that would be swell!"

And it would be the same sort of friendly gentleman's agreement proposed to Spank just a few paragraphs ago but that was different because someone else suggested it. When you're Spank Rearend, morality is all about your personal preference. Because that's the objective way to do it.

"Excellent! I'll send the new papers on over once their drawn up," Spank said before snatching up Edguy's coffee. "You've got the makings of a good businessman, Ed, because you do what I say."

"We really owe you, Mr. Rearend."

"No you don't! I'm just being rationally selfish - if I collect now, you'll go under and I'll lose my only buyer!"

"But wouldn't that be the natural outcome in a free market?" Edguy asked, displaying uncharacteristic critical thought.

"Of course not!"

"Well, that's all I needed!"

Rearend had more to say - like how it wasn't charity because he was making money he didn't want - but it's so nonsensical and self-parodying on its own that I have nothing to work with.

Meanwhiles, people were talking smack about the new spankmeum railroad because, seriously, blue and green! It looked like the hull of a hundred year old shipwreck! Add in the fact that even Rearend's own R&D people were coming forward and admitting they had no idea if this alloy was appropriate for railroads and people were understandably put off.

Through all this, Tim Braggart tried to affect some control over the impending ruin of his family business but found Daffy had stonewalled him at every turn. When a rumor cropped up that a spankmeum bridge had collapsed, he got the runaround from his own employees out in Colorado - said they "Can't afford to get on Miss Braggart's bad side!" - before finally giving up and calling the local police. They confirmed three people had died but couldn't divulge their names yet, procedure and all.

It was another week until Tim did learn ho they were - Charles Geertz, Adam Curren, and Henry Taylor. He personally wrote letters to each family, expressing his sorrow for their loss and assurance that all life insurance policies through the company would be honored.

The way Daffy was taking things, he feared he'd be making that promise to more and more people...

Daffy herself was having trouble finding clients, let alone engineers, for her vanity project. A representative from the Local 317 even came by her office to express as politely as possible that no engineer worth his coveralls would go anywhere near the Gort Line.

"Get out! You're fired!" Daffy shouted back at him.

"Ma'am, I don't work for you."

"Well get out all the same! I won't have you telling me what I can and can't do!"

"I'm not doing that at all, ma'am. I'm just informing you our members have no interest in operating the Gort Line."

"Put it in writing!"

"Excuse me?"

"You want to control other people and control me by controlling people! You want me to create jobs but you want to forbid me from making those jobs require any -"

"Look, we're not forbidding you anything. There's no legal way we could do such a thing, even if we wanted to. I'm just here to tell you that if you want to run any trains on this Gort Line, you're running them without the 317."

Daffy had more circular logic to screech at him but the gentleman took his leave, having no patience for her crap.

Of course, Daffy soon found that not being able to draw from the largest engineers union in the country meant she had exactly zero people to run her trains. "Well screw those commie bastards! I'll just ask for volunteers!"

Nobody wanted to volunteer. Daffy could have gotten some by offering substantially more compensation for what everyone and their dog viewed as a needlessly risky venture but she had a pathological aversion to "wasting good money on the lice."

Fortunately, America still had plenty of undocumented workers who would take dangerous jobs for insultingly substandard pay. Sure they had no proper training or experience in such a vocation but Daffy found if she shouted "La migra!" at the right times they could learn awful fast.

And on the eve of the opening of the Jon Gort Line, Daffy gave a press conference to assuage the justified fears of the public - and maybe finally get enough people buying tickets to justify the huge investment. Her opening speech consisted of opining on the awesomeness and shininess of spankmeum and how it was totally better than all that collectivist steel and iron. Daffy assumed this would be sufficient for people because she was very stupid.

"But what about the tensile strength of the alloy?"

"What about the documented deaths during construction?"

"What about rumors you couldn't find real engineers and hired illegal immigrants you found in a back lot?"

"Shut up! You're all fired!" Daffy cried. She ran away before anyone could point out they didn't work for her.

The day came and both Daffy Braggart and Spank Rearend were among the first - and only - to board the very first train on the Jon Gort Line. They spent far too much time making googley eyes at each other, Daffy thinking about how only a person thoroughly absorbed in their own Greatness could be worthy of such Greatness and Spank thinking about pie. As the train steamed out of the station and onto the alien-looking hoodoo alloy, they smiled at each other, seeing only themselves reflected back... and died in screaming, fiery agony because you can't just build everything out of a single type of metal that you think is neat.

Or they would have if there was anything logical about this story. No, the lucky idiots made it from one end of the line to the other without incident, even across the bridge that had already claim the lives of so many too-poor-to-be-important people.

Another batch of reporters was waiting to meet the ditzy duo when the disembarked. There were many questions but one in particular stood out - "So are you going to allow a thorough scientific study of spankmeum?"

"Why would I ever do that?" Spank Rearend asked incredulously. "You saw it yourself - the rail held!"

"But for how long? What about environmental stresses?"

"The man who taught people to make a printing press," said Rearend, "how did he know it?"

"What the hell does that even mean!?"

All through the commotion, Daffy stared longingly at Spank. And Edguy - he appeared somehow! - stared longingly at Daffy. And the narrator stared longingly at a revolver. And Spank would've stared longingly at himself if there were a mirror handy.

His metal worked! Her Gort Line worked! Happy days all around! And there were the investors in the Gort Line - other rich idiots in expensive suits who paid people to do the real work.

From among them came Enis Buyit, "Great job, the two of you! Because it's not like all the foundry workers and railroad engineers had anything to do with it."

"Of course not!" Daffy and Spank replied in sickening harmony.

"You two should crash at my place tonight since the nearest town is two hours away."

And the new line ended there, in the middle of fucking nowhere.

"Wait'll you see my new process for extracting oil from shale!" Buyit babbled to them on the trip to his house, like a kid wanting to show off his Lego robot.

Not that Spank and Daffy were really paying attention. Their minds were elsewhere though curiously both on Spank. Once they were stowed in one of Buyit's guest rooms, Spank turned to Daffy and said all sexily, "Drop your socks and touch your toes. I'm gonna show you where the wild goose goes!"

And they had the sort of rough, clothes-ripping sex that would excite someone with a rape fetish. I am not describing it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chapter 7

Daffy Braggart stood atop an ill-defined structure, looking down on the Buyit oil fields. In the distance the sun hit a spot of metal, making it look like a lit torch - which if it were would have horrifying and hilarious consequences. Because, you know, oil!

Far down below her - where they belonged! - were the faceless laborers laying the tracks and switches of newly delivered spankmeum. That's why McNam had quit by the way. He'd taken one look at the shiny new metal and said, "Are you fucking kidding me!?"

So Daffy had been forced to hire another contractor. An older, squishier gentleman she didn't want to ride like a pony who protested a little - "Are you sure this is durable enough for trains?" - but still agreed to do the job when Daffy offered three times the going rate. Tim's groans had been audible from neighboring buildings back at the Braggart office.

But even getting three times his requested pay, this new contractor - this Niels guy - just couldn't meet Daffy's ridiculously overblown expectations. "Why has construction stopped?" she demanded when construction had stopped.

"Sorry, Miss Braggart, but drill heads wear out fast. Especially in this rock."

Why there's such deep-drilling going on for a frickin' railroad is because they had to build a bridge. Why rail layers are pulling double duty building a bridge is because Daffy was too stupid to take all these things into account. But, again, let's just go with it...

"That is unacceptable!" Daffy had said to Niels with all her haughty idiocy. "You're just not trying hard enough!"

"Uh, ma'am, the success of an engineering endeavor is not wholly dependent on elbow grease."

As she stared blankly at him, he clarified, "The drill heads are shot and I can't move forward until new ones arrive."

"It's taking too long," Daffy said dismissively. "Use the spankmeum."

"Use the -!? Miss Braggart, even if we weren't already laying the spankmeum as rail - making it all spoken for, as it were - we are not in any way equipped out here to cast new drill heads!"

"Then we'll order them from Spank himself!" declared Daffy.

"Okay, let me see if I understand what you're asking... You want us to go faster, so we should order brand new, un-cast drill heads from this Rearend guy - from across the country - and wait for that to be delivered rather than use the drill heads already on order which - even factoring in shipping delays - would still arrive sooner?"

"I'm paying for the track so I'll pay for the new drill heads!"

Niels had been in this business thirty years. He didn't much care to strap some rich idiots vanity alloy to his equipment but with how much this Braggart nutjob was paying, he reasoned it would be an affordable risk. The customer is always right after all - even when they're pants-crappingly wrong.

And he really wanted to avoid another lecture from Daffy on the wonders of spankmeum. That line she always finished with - "...And a spankmeum butt-plug is like having white-hot joy itself embedded in your anus!" - had given him nightmares for a week.

So construction ground on - and the original drill heads did arrive before the spankmeum. Niels quietly continued to use those, rather than subject his own business to some loopy science experiment. Still, he fared batter than the other engineers Daffy began bringing in to design this project. Halfway through it's completion.

Apparently time doesn't exist if you're an Objectivist...

The first engineer presented what he felt to be his finest work to Daffy Braggart. She sneered at it. "I expected some new means of construction to properly honor this new metal!"

"But engineering doesn't work like that," the first engineer tried to explain. "You go with what works best, and this does. It's got a nearly perfect history, it's stable but basic enough -"


It had been hard work, dismissing all those professionals. "I want it to last five years longer!"

"Well, if we reinforce with steel -"

"No! Spankmeum!"

"But that won't-"

"You're fired!"

So many who couldn't grasp the Greatness of Spank's new metal. So many concerned with swishy collectivist ideas like "physics."

"Miss, I think we'll need a different alloy for -"

"The hell we do! More spankmeum! More and more spaknmeum!"

Only by sheer force of personality - meaning an extended tantrum - did Daffy get her way. It was a unique skill she'd developed in kindergarten to make others give her their juice boxes.

And it was paying off. Down below her was the furious work of third-rate sheister engineers, employing hordes of underpayed illegals to make the dream of one Daffy Braggart come true!

Which promptly collapsed because structural engineering requires more than self-importance.



...Hah! Just kidding! We're not getting out of this mess that easy!

As the author wept at his unending torment, Ennis Buyit happened to appear to engage Daffy in a pointless conversation for the purpose of bitching about Niels. After Buyit left, Niels showed up to bitch about Buyit. Then Daffy went back to her trailer so she could BAWWWWW! all over her Livejournal like the spoiled pinhead she is. And when she was finished, who should be outside to meet her than the one and only Spank Rearend!

Rearend had driven all that unspecified distance to see Daffy of course. Driven in his long, sleek convertible that was definitely not compensating for anything. As always, he was heroically absorbed in his own Greatness and didn't notice Daffy's approach.

"Spank?" she asked... Not like that.

With Heroic Willpower! the other rich idiot tore himself away from himself to address Daffy. "Well, I wondered if I would run into you here," he said with poorly feigned nonchalance.

Daffy felt all a flutter like the silly bimbo she is. "No one told me you were here. I'll have to fire someone later..."

"Oh, I was just coming out to see how my new metal's doing," Spank explained. "Not to see you of course. I haven't been, like, out here to Colorado six times in secret because I'm stalking you or anything. I just care about metal."

Daffy found it so sexy when a man didn't care about her, just hard rigid alloy jutting into the air. "I was just discussing ordering more spankmeum. At some point in the past."

"It'll cost you more," Spank said. "I'm not doing you any special favors just because you're the only one in the world buying my shiny new metal."

"Oh, I wouldn't expect you to," Daffy said. His disdain exhilarated her! "But will it get here in time?"

"I'll work my minions to death to ensure it does," reassured Spank.

"You know, I have my own ideas on how to build your bridge. Want to see my etchings?"


So he showed her his etchings. Yes, they're both that dumb.

They mooned over each other some more, all the passion of a moldy sock. "But is there any other reason you came all this way?" Daffy asked hoping for Spank to sexily rebuff her again.

He didn't disappoint. "I'm taking a look at a copper mine out here too. Because those are still a profitable venture in 21st century America."

"Why don't you get copper from Franky's - I mean, the d'Ano mine?"

Spank looked uncomfortable for the first time. "I don't know... That guy makes me feel funny..."

"I know what you mean," Daffy said, turning away to hide her spreading grin.

"But when I buy it, I might need a branch line," he said.

"Oh Spank! I'd be happy to lay one for you!" Daffy just got more and more turned on the less he displayed any interest for her beyond the utilitarian. Almost as much as impersonal business transactions. "I love being out here, you know. So much building and mining and drilling goes on..."

"I know what you mean," agreed Spank. "It's a welcome change from the rest of the country."

And that made Daffy sad. "Spank, what's wrong with the world? Why can't things be Great anymore?"

"I learned in school it's because the sun is slowly going out, so everything grows cold and stops." Spank Rearend smoked ALOT of pot all through school so his recollections were fuzzy at best. "But I always figured we could make a new sun."

"Really? Me too!"

Smiling, Spank pointed out to a distant column of smoke from the Buyit oil fields. "And there it is being made!"

Though how petroleum would supplant the gigaton-scale fusion reactor of the sun wasn't something either bothered to think abou -

Wait. Column of smoke? Oil fields!?

Rather than address the potential oil fire, Daffy asked Spank about his car. "Is that a Hamhock Motors, uh, thing?"

"Why yes. Yes it is," Spank replied, always happy to show off his things. "I'm not actually driving back to wherever I live. It's being shipped and I'm taking my own plane."

Daffy was enthralled with his conspicuous display of disposable income.

"And I'm actually not going home just yet," Spank continued. "I'm going to Minnesota."

Daffy scrunched up her nose the way whiny airheads do when they're confused. "Minnesota? But it's full of lice!"

"Holy crap, it is!?"

"Well, not lice lice but, like, poor people and stuff."

"Oh. Well, I guess that's bearable."

And so Spank drove off, having not really advanced the plot and Daffy drove herself to the other airport or something while thinking about how wicked hot Spank was but she couldn't get a flight back home because Tim had been there and gotten the last ticket. Despite that not really being how airports work.

"Curse him!" she said. "He's not even in this part of the narrative!"

"Yes I am!" Tim corrected her.

Because they were now both back in New York. In car. And in a hurry to get somewhere.

"Damn, who needs transitions when you can warp time and space?"

Now don't you start!

Their car was blocked at seemingly every intersection due to the copious construction products, repairing the old streets.

"This wouldn't happen if they'd just let someone with vision build roads," Daffy said petulantly.

"Daffs, I could explain - again - how no single individual has the time or money to maintain something so necessary to everyone as the friggin' roads but seeing as you ignore me anyway how about some exposition? Like what you're going to tell them about your precious magic metal?"

"It's not mine!" Daffy said defensively. "It's Spank's metal!"

"Which makes me wonder why they don't ask him about the damn thing..."

A dreamy look in her eyes, Daffy curtly explained, "Because he couldn't be bothered with the concerns of others."

"He sounds like such a lovely sociopath."

They were on their way to see the National Metals Committee - one of those smaller federal bodies dedicated to regulation. And one of the few that actually did their jobs.

And they were mighty cheesed off at Braggart Big Damn Rail laying track with a new and completely untested alloy.

"Do you want to bury this company? Forgive me for asking but I really wonder sometimes."

"And why are you so scared, Tim," Daffy asked because she thought it sounded clever.

"Oh gee, let me think - because the feds could fine us somewhere in the tens of millions, because we could get sued by every single customer for reckless endangerment, because if this while thing goes 'tits up' as Boyle has so eloquently put it we'll be out not just what we wasted on this vanity project of Rearend's but any possible damage to our existing equipment!"

Daffy found her brother so tiring. He didn't understand rules only applied to other people... Of course, from her perspective he was a other. So did that mean the rules did apply to him.

"Ouch, philosophy hurts my head," Daffy said. "I'm going to get a cup of coffee."

"But we're in a moving car!"

Fortunately, Daffy Braggart is immune to logic.

She found her way into a diner. "Bring me coffee, manservant!"

"A spat-in cup a' joe it is," said the waitress.

Now settled with her coffee and self-importance - just like back in college! - she looked around at the other patrons. Old, greasy, and oh so poor.

"So this guy, he's goin' on about 'What is the porpoise of life?'"

"The porpoise? Ain't that a fish?"

"Somethin' like that. I didn't get it either."

"Wasn't that same guy goin' on about Gort was it?"

That got her attention. And the attentions of someone else.

"I know that Gort feller!" declared a harmless lunatic. "Saw him fly to the Moon, I did! He brought back the infinity cheese!"

Daffy found this to be very significant...

But enough of that. We've got an awfully long and just plain awful chapter to finish.

Spank Rearend was sitting in his office wondering if he should invest in some transitions when some big nosed freak came in.

"Mr. Rearend?" asked the freak. "I'm Dr. Rowling from DOI."

Only with Great and Heroic Effort did Spank recall this was the guy coming by from the government. "I suppose you're here to tell me how to run my business?"

Dr. Rowling sighed. Apparently Rearend was one of those types. "No, not in so many words... Mr. Rearend, may I sit?"


"...Okay. My concern isn't how you run your business but that you follow existing regulations. There are standards for massive public works as this Rio Norte line and these bridges -"

"There's nothing public about it!" snapped Rearend testily.

"It's public enough. It crosses public land and our citizens will naturally use it once construction is complete. My concern, that is my department's concern is that your new, uh, alloy..."

"Spankmeum!" Spank declared proudly.

"Um, yes... That it's suitable for these purposes."

"I don't need other people telling what I can and can't do with my own metal!"

"You do if public safety is related. And it's very related on a railroad."


"But for god's sake man! There's not even any evidence it can support a train!"

"No! No! No!" Spank plugged his ears. "My metal is shiny and it'll work because it's shiny! You're fired!"

"But I don't work for you..."

*    *    *

Daffy was sulking because her contractors had reneged on the switch and signal orders. Just because she called them lice and threw peanuts at them was no excuse to be walking out on her, Daffy Braggart!

Of course that wasn't the only excuse. "I refuse to work with that crap!" said Lester Moen.

"What, the switches?"

"No, that 'spankmeum' stuff. It's a damned nightmare. I mean, it turns green when it gets cold! What the hell sorta metal turns green!?"

"An awesome metal," said Daffy with snotty superiority.

"Yeah, well you can keep it 'cause I'm done."

Daffy didn't understand. Why would anyone turn down an opportunity to work with Spank's glorious spankmeum? It couldn't be anything wrong with the metal itself... no, it had to be something wrong with Moen. He was just too scared of Great new things - like spankmeum! - and was running away.

"Well fine," she snapped. "You just can't handle spankmeum!"

But Moen had already left.

Returning to her office - because that didn't happen in her office - she encountered Edguy Dithers again looking like he had horrible news.

"Horrible news, Daffy." Hey! I was right! "The National Metallurgical Institute just put out a warning against using spankmeum! They say it's not safe for construction or manufacturing or even being near in a light rain."

"Well they can't get away with that! I'll go yell some sense into them right now! Teleport!"

And with a burst of brimstone, Daffy Braggart appeared at the Institutes new Hampshire office to pester some more people who have real jobs. Striding through the front door, she let loose - "Do you realize what it says in your statement? Do you know the unfounded claims you're making against Spank's spankmeum?"

"I'm just the receptionist, ma'am," replied the lady at the front desk. "If you'd like to meet with someone, I could call to see if they're taking visitors."

Daffy wouldn't wait of course. Spotting someone she recognized, she shot  off - "Dr. Stieg!"

Dr. Stieg recognized her. Unfortunately. "Oh, Ms... Braggart, is it?"

"Why did you publish this slander against spankmeum?"

"Ms. Braggart, slander is spoken. In print it's libel. And what we published was neither because it's true."

"But you said spankmeum -"

Weary, having just gotten off the phone with the man himself, "Mr. Rearend's alloy is unstable and would make for poor structures of any sort. That's the science of it. I'm sorry Ms. Braggart but these things don't take personal feelings into account. Good day."

And he was gone before this could devolve into another repetitive back and forth about a made up metal.

Daffy was confused - as usual - but soon angered. All these people with their fancy degrees, they were just jealous of Spank! He'd done something great and they just couldn't wait to tear him down! How typical of these lesser classes! "I'll show them! I'll build every new line of Braggart Big Damn Rail with spankmeum! I'll tear up the old lines just to lay more spankmeum! And I'm renaming the Rio Norte the Jon Gort Line!"

Distantly, Tim Braggart was getting one hell of an ulcer.

And so am I. Let's finish it now before I have to type spankmeum any more tonight.

"Don't I have another scene in this chapter?"

Tim, do you really want to argue with your sister again about spankmeum? And get the same result as everyone else?

"...I'll see you next week."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chapter 6

Spank Rearend sulked before the mirror, wishing he could find some way to turn off his Great Mind. He put so much into wishing it that it did in fact happen quite easily - but he was too preoccupied on thinking about not thinking to notice.

Tonight, he faced the long-dreaded anniversary party with his wife Lily. Accursed woman! How could she expect him to be concerned with her after so many long days of watching other people work? He already bought her things and... well, bought her things. Now she expected he ignore his own Greatness for a whole evening just because they'd sworn to have and hold each other until death and stuff.

She could be so selfish sometimes...

But Rearend was used to such disregards of his Greatness. At least he told himself as much - that he understood how lesser minds looked up to him in envy, how the whole world wanted him to be ashamed for making a fortune with his Great Ideas - especially his own "family," whatever that was. His mother would yell at him for pausing in the middle of a conversation to think about his stock options or Lily would interrupt his thoughts on shiny metals to ask if he "like" what she did with the furniture over here or Bill would pester him again with what he "promised" to do nearly a year ago. Couldn't they all leave him alone in his Greatness while also politely appreciating it and praising him?

It's not that he had anything but his Great Ideas... and heaps of money... and invitations to all the best parties... and ridiculous influence in Washington thanks to politicians who fell over each other to coddle his business... but none of that got to the important thing - Spank Rearend's inherent Greatness, driven by the great Ideas he paid other people to carry out.

And now they - the big scary They of jealously not-Great types -  wanted to limit it! He'd briefly glanced at some newspaper article going over new industrial regulations being mulled over by Congress. Loads of lazy, non-Great nonsense like "limiting environmental damage" and "preventing worker dismemberment" - as if a Great Man such as Rearend could still be Great under such restrictions. It's like they didn't even want his shiny new Spankmeum! Like they couldn't appreciate its shinyness! Like they -

"Mister Rearend?"

Spank jumped up, almost striking his head on the fancy, low-hanging light fixtures above the mirror - pure spankmeum of course! - "Miguel! Why are you interrupting me!?"

Miguel, one of the many lowly non-Greats to whom Spank granted the privilege of upkeep in his home, replied, "Your wife asked me to check on you. She's worried 'cause you still haven't come down for the party."

With Great solemnity, Rearend brushed past the lesser creature, saying, "Oh Miguel, I don't expect a simple Mexican to understand what is being asked of me."

Miguel waited until his employer was safely out of earshot before muttering, "I'm Honduran you stupid culero..."

At the foot of the stairs stood Lily, smiling in that sweetly submissive way of hers. Spank was disappointed to see she wasn't wearing the chain but then again, probably better to keep such things private. For now.

She wordlessly lead him back to the party where a throng had gathered around some pencil-neck - "...To measure space coordinates and instants of time, rigid measuring rods and clocks are required. On the other hand, to measure momenta and energies, devices are necessary with movable parts to absorb the impact of the test object and to indicate the size of its momentum..."

Dammit! Lily had gone and invited another insufferable know-it-all!

"But then how do we know what's true?" someone asked the know-it-all.

"Well, that all depends on what you mean by 'true,'" he explained. "How concrete an explanation are you looking for? Because there's only so much that can be said with certainty. And that's still just observation - if you mean 'true' in the more nebulous sense of 'Truth' then that's more a subject for philosophy than quantum mechanics."

It was that awful Professor Pritchard. Spank never could understand why Lily liked having him around - he always looked so shabby, always munched away on the horse derv's like they were there to be eaten, always had some fancy flim-flam full of math he was trying to push on people.

"It sounds like you're saying nothing can be known," someone said to Pritchard. "Like it's all relative."

Pritchard politely finished chewing a canape before answering, "Sort of. But I'd only say so in regards to particles - and then only because our understanding of such things is still in it's infancy. That was the whole point of Schrodinger's thought experiment with the cat being dead and not-dead simultaneously. It's supposed to sound counterintuitve because our models are still incomplete. Kind of like missing links in evolution, which is still a big 'T' Theory because so much evidence exists in support. Funny thing - evolution is the harder to observe but is better understood than gravity!" And to illustrate, Pritchard tossed a grape into the air and caught it in his mouth. "Hey, that finally worked!"

Everyone had a good chuckle at the good professor's antics - except Spank Rearend. He couldn't get into the jovial social mood, couldn't see what was so cute about Pritchard's relativism, couldn't relate to anyone as a person really but only as an intrusion on or reflector of his own Greatness. He was a solipsistic moron like that.

Rearend turned away from the sickening display - all those people happy and enjoying themselves with something not directly involving him - and went out to the veranda. He liked that little spot because it was outside the house, Lily's house. She picked it out and did all the decorating. Spank would've been happy with just a shiny little fort to play in. Or an office, since he had a pathological fixation on the drudgery of administrative work.

Jesus this is bad... Okay, enough scene setting. He bumps into Daffy Braggart.

"Whoa! Hi there!"

"Where did I come from?"

"I guess my wife invited you."

"Why would she do that? And where exactly are our respective homes in relation to one another?"

"That's a very good question but I'm getting word from the author that we're displaying too much self-awareness and lucidity so MY METAL IS AWESOME!"

"Ooh, me love you long time!"

Anyway, back to the party.

Daffy was there with her brother Tim - whom Lily did invite. Tim would've liked to avoid the whole fiasco but felt it necessary to at least get a look at the man he'd been forced into business with. So far, Mrs. Rearend was pleasant and engaging.

"Where is your husband?" asked Tim. "I've been dying to meet him."

Lily's smile became a little strained. "He was here just a moment ago -"

And he was back, feeling refreshed after a good ego-stroking.

No, not like that! That comes later...

"Mister Rearend, on behalf of Braggart Big Damn Rail allow me to wish you and your wife a happy anniversary."

"Is that what this is all about?" asked Spank, genuinely perplexed because he could never remember anything not having to do with his shiny spankmeum for more than five minutes like an autistic man-child.

"Yes dear," Lily explained with the patience of a saint. "We've been over this..."

"Spank!" shouted a drunken voice, causing all in attendance to wince - especially Lily.

Bursting into the previous awkward conversation was Ralph Banks, a third-string journo who'd once written a book on the American metal industry. Spank always remembered that - with spite - because Banks had so little to say about Rearend Metals. Why, it only got a measly chapter!

"Great party, you two!" Ralph said. "Here's to the both of ya, and many happy -"

"Excuse me," Spank cut in icily. "But what about me?"


"You're toasting the two of us, but Lily's never done anything. Why aren't you just toasting me?"

Lily stared at the floor, flush with embarrassment. Tim Braggart stared on in shock and disgust - and also wondering how he would ever rescue his company from this narcissistic blowhard. That "spankmeum" crap was probably made of butter!

"Y'know what? Just get out!" Spank had devolved into full tantrum mode. "Get out of my house!"

Because now he considered it his house. Because it was convenient.

Ralph staggered away. Some other guests had taken note of Spank's outburst but were now politely - and pointedly - ignoring the couple. All save for one guest who was all too amused at the proceedings...

Francisco Domingo Carlo Banana Fana bo Binko d'Ano The Third! And no, I never get tired of that name.

Franky meandered into the clutch of people still surrounding Professor Pritchard. "So what's his superposition?" he asked. He thought it was clever.

"Oh, that all depends on the variables," Pritchard said. Raising his glass, "Namely booze!" and laughed good naturedly. Because genuinely smart people are gregarious and well-adjusted. Awkward loners just have overly-complicated masturbation rituals.

And yes, that was directed at you.

Franky laughed along with everyone, in a sneeringly superior way. "I couldn't help overhearing you earlier - you really believe nothing can be determined?"

"Well, like I said, as relating to quantu -"

"'Cause I happen to be an alum of your current employer and I was taught something awfully different. I was taught that things can be determined with certainty."

"And how is that?"

"Lookin'." And d'Ano smiled with palpable smugness.

"Exactly right," Pritchard replied, unruffled. "But how are you observing?"


"Well, I can certainly look at you and say, 'This is Franky d'Ano,' but I can't say anything about your wave function. It's not like I can see subatomic particles with just my eyeballs."

"Well then how do you know they're even there?" asked d'Ano snootily.

"Good question," Pritchard said. "And it sure is fun finding out!"

Franky scoffed, excusing himself haughtily and sashaying up to the Rearends and Braggarts. "Honestly, I don't know why you invite such gauche folks," he said to no one in particular.

It took considerable effort for Tim Braggart to keep himself in control. After the report on d'Ano's mine came out, Tim had been preparing legal action against the reckless fop to salvage a little of what Braggart Big Damn Rail had sunk into that fraud. He didn't care to give d'Ano any ammunition for when it all went to trial.

"Aw, what's the matter, darling?" d'Ano asked Tim. "Not happy to see me?"

"Not particularly, no." And to Lily, "If you'll excuse me..." He stalked off to the clutch of people surrounding Pritchard.

Franky pouted, "He just can't take a joke."

"He does have reason though," Lily said timidly. "I mean, your actions... that is..."

"Sweety, if I bothered to think about how my actions affect people I'd never have any fun," Franky said flippantly.

Meanwhiles, Daffy had been idling on the wings of the action wondering just why she was in this scene. So I passed her the cue card - To see Spank, you idiot!

"Of course! I'm here to Spank!"

No, for Spank. This time.

Daffy couldn't help admiring Rearend's heroic disregard for others. Truly it was a Great man who could fuss around about only himself like some myopic toddler. Daffy could see so much of herself in Spank, which was of course the only metric by which she cared to measure other people. But that's all the plot she gets - back to Franky and Spanky!

Because Spank was having a similar reaction to d'Ano. He felt his heart - and other parts of his anatomy - swell with affection for the swishy Mexican as he nattered on -

"...just can't be bothered with it. I mean, like, I have enough to do just taking care of myself so why should anyone else matter? What makes them so much more special than me?"

It was a philosophy Rearend could get behind, since he assumed himself to be very special.

There was more, something about the "wip hand" that made Spank smile more and Lily look very nervous but that's the jist of it - yay me, boo you. The guiding ethic of a four-year-old, dressed up in fancy rationalizations thanks to an expensive education paid for by family wealth.

As Franky took his fabulousness elsewhere and Spank waddled off to do some more self-indulgent navel-gazing, Daffy came stumbling up to him, babbling, "That Pritchard sure is an ass. He talks like a looter."

She wasn't sure why she said this but fortunately for her it flattered Spank to hear someone else repeat his own thoughts - even if "looter" had never occurred to him in the narrative but fuck it, let's go with it. "Yes, he does. But Lily invited him, not me."

"Oh, I would never assume you would make such a mistake!"

"Good. Because I totally wouldn't make a mistake."

And they stared vacantly into each other's eyes while the guests were talking about pirates. Yes, pirates!

"I heard another food shipment was attacked."

"It was that guy, what's his name..."

"Rancor. Rancor Dumassjerk."

"It's an appropriate name. Can you imagine? Sinking ships carrying food?"

"Does he think people want to suffer? That it's good for them?"

"Maybe he's really that Jon Gort fellow?"

That name got Daffy to look away from Spank's dreamy eyes. "What was that!?"

The guest, an old woman, turned to Daffy. "Gort? Oh, some rich fool. Claimed he was going off to find Atlantis on his yacht and just disappeared."

"Now that's just silly," said Pritchard. "Mythology isn't my discipline and even I know the Greeks never thought of Atlantis as an actual place. It was a thought experiment, just like Schrodinger's Cat."


"Well, not just like it. Schrodinger was illustrating existing unknowns while I believe the point of Atlantis was as a hypothetical perfect polity tha -"

"Aw that tears it!" bellowed Rearend. Storming up to Pritchard, he let loose a volley. "I've been listening to you flip-flop all night and I've got some things to say! For starters, I know where things are 'cause I can see them and existence totally exists! A is A, jerkface!"

"And a tautology is a tautology," Pritchard replied calmly.

Daffy was all a tingle at seeing Spank yell at someone - and at the story of this Jon Gort. Just pretend he's been mentioned before in the narrative.

She thought only a Great man would have the Greatness to go seeking something as Great as Atlantis. Especially if it involved the total disregard for such collectivist nonsense as "history" and "scientific reality." She remembered a cartoon from childhood that said Atlantis was the home of hero-spirits and as the thought filled her with the comforting warmth of nostalgia she reasoned it had to be absolutely true. It might be worth it to find this Gort...

But she could settle for Spank in the meantime. He'd walked back across the room from telling Pritchard what was. "Say, you wanna get together and bang sometime?"

"Okey dokey!"