Stand-Up Assassin

How's everybody feeling tonight?

How’s everybody feeling tonight?

Danny was an unorthodox comedian alright.  If by unorthodox you mean completely opposite of.

Instead of getting up on stage and making people laugh, he’d go up there and totally bum them out.  Not just by not being funny.  Anybody could do that.  But by bringing out the buried pain and fear in an audience.  By triggering some deep shit.

And none of it funny.  At all.

He’d stand in front of the room and psychically tap into what people in the crowd were going through.  Then just sort of…bring it up.

It was beyond awkward.  Some would cry with sorrow.  Others would rage with regret.  Pull out their hair.  Tear their garments.  A guy in Eire tried to jump to his death from the balcony.   Fractured both ankles to powder instead.  Paramedics carried him off while Danny tried to get the audience to sing rounds of Row Row Row Your Boat.

It’s was a hard act for an agent to sell.  A night of anguish and torment with Danny Dee.  Danny’s gave up trying.  He was now reduced to appearing at various open mikes throughout the country.  Traveling on his own dime.  Using up his savings.  Money made from investments in Mexico.

He didn’t give a fuck.  The way he saw it, if the Mex-adventure did nothing else but bank roll this chestnut, it was worth it.

An unsuspecting crowd of cheapskates, the kind that go to a comedy club for open mike night, would be eagerly anticipating a few cut-rate laffs.  Thrilled to have escaped the cover charge an evening of professionals would cost, the mood is light.  They’re not even chaffing at the two drink minimum.  Feeling uncharacteristically generous they are.  Tonight they’re ready to unwind.  Have a good laugh.

“Hey thank you, very nice.  Thank you, Phoenix Arizona!  Great to be here.  Compared to, say, on life support.  Like someone I know.”

Nervous laughter.  People still smiling.

“Anybody recently have to pull the plug on someone?”

Much less nervous laughter.  A sea of blank stares.

“Which statistically is how most of us are going to leave this earth.  With all those tubes and pumps attached to us.  Making our loved ones go broke by paying someone to wipe our ass.  Until someone finally says ‘Fuck it, they’re costing us too much.  Let them die.'”

No laughter.  Not even the nervous kind.  People turning to each other.

“Is this thing on?  Testing testing.  One-two.  Hot damn Vietnam.  Hey can I get a show of hands of people hiding a dark secret?  Something you would have to kill yourself over if it got out?  An affair?  A costly addiction?  An S.T.D.?  A criminal past?  An unwanted pregnancy?  Any sexual weirdness?  A really embarrassing kink?”

It's like he can read my mind.

It’s like he can read my mind.

No hands go up.  Lots of shifting around in seats.  Grumbling and groaning.

“How about a gnawing need, one that’s not being met by your present life situation?  Anybody have someone standing in the way of their happiness?  Feel like they’re about to lose their job?  Think their bad parenting drove their kids to drugs?  Anybody got a special somebody you suspect doesn’t really love you?  Maybe because you’ve broken their trust forever?  Anyone?”

Quiet.  Very.  Finally, a guy yelling out “Fuck you!”

“Thank you very much.  Put me on that list.”

Taking the mike off from its stand.

“No baby, just kidding.  Love you like a brother.”

Walking over to a pitcher of water.  Carefully pouring himself a glass.  Taking a small sip.  The catcalls starting to come from the dark.  He looks around. Puts the glass down on the stool.

“Hey how about that whole death of loved ones thing?  I guess the best thing about Fukushima is that it won’t be long now before we all join them. ”

Well, you can imagine.  People would get pissed.  Danny had to cut a length of heater hose, fill it with sand, cap the ends off, then wind the whole the thing up in black electrical tape.  He kept The Snake down his pant leg, tucked into his sock, along with his passport and thirty-five hundred dollars.  The improvised black-jack saved his ass in Newark, Ohio one night.  Those people were crazy.  Lot’s of dark secrets.  Lot’s of fear.  He was lucky to get out alive.

Why even do it?  He wasn’t sure.  Besides the obvious rush from standing in front of an angry mob, he figured he was reviving the cathartic tradition of Greek tragedy.  Allowing people to look inside their pain.  To stop running from it.  And instead of a bunch of degenerate Athenians rhyming stuff from behind masks on sticks, he was giving it to them straight.  Looking them in the eyes and telling them like it is.

With nothing but a length of plumping hose to back it up.

I say we kill the messenger.

I say we kill the messenger.

Other than that, he didn’t really know why.  He had learned it was better not to attach too many expectations to any project, be they monetary or philosophical.  That’s the best way to stay motivated, and stave off any disappointment.  Besides, these things seem to have a life of their own.

Like the motivational speaker caper before this.

He had hit the paid speaker circuit with some schtick he had crafted in a motel room one night.  It started with the usual keys to managerial success.  See-learn-grow stuff.  Basic common sense, presented in bullet-points.  After underlining all kinds of nouns and adjectives on a dry-erase, he’d abruptly stop and drop the pen on the carpet.  Then step on it.

“Who are we kidding?  This is all bullshit!” he’d announce, “This is common sense.  And common sense, my friends, has failed us like a traitorous whore.”  That would wake them up.  Just in time to drop some quasi-esoteric pronouncements.  Nothing particularly spell-binding.  Just cryptic and creepy enough to create a strange vibe in the room.

“My friends, the vulture Maat, has come to feed on the carrion of our folly.  Saturn’s scythe is reaping it’s reward.  A Judas and a Jezebel sit among us.”

Having weirded the air, he’d present The Blonde Beast Plan– a full-on Nietzsche National Socialist boot-stomping call to destroy the competition.  Completely over-the-top shit.  Especially for a bunch of fast-food franchise managers.   Which made it all the better really.

He would work them.  Just to see if his oratory chops could coax out the closet fascist.  The one hidden deep inside these sad corporate serfs.  He wanted to see if he could demagog them.

We will no longer tolerate an aggressive Poland.

We will no longer tolerate an aggressive Poland.

First tap into some smoldering resentments.  The stabbed in the back by November Criminals bit.

“Let’s be truthful.  As managers of a Clown in the Box, you receive very little respect.  From society.  From your parents.  From your peers.  Some of your own children ridicule you.  They prefer to tell their friends you’re currently unemployed.  The hours of soul-deadening drudgery keeping them I-podded and padded, repaid with what?  Disrespect?  Dismissal?  Disdain?  It’s disgraceful!”

Clench a fist.  Seethe.  Hiss it out.

“Thisssssssss has become…unacceptable!”

Throw the fist and fling it open.  Like you’re throwing away the Treaty of Versailles.

“Now our competitors-through better customer service and reasonable pricing-are trying to strangle us out of even this meager existence!  To add starvation to our shame!  Not content to piss on our piñatas, they want to ANNIHILATE US!”

Wave hands around wildly.  Okay.  That’s enough.  Calmly place them back on the podium.  Let them sit there like two spiders while you peer around.  Lock eyes with somebody.  Nod at him.  Smile.

“Well they are in for a surprise, aren’t they?”  Big stage wink.  “We have a little clown in the box for them, don’t we?”

Hand spiders jump up.  Start to strangle an imaginary throat.

“When we arise from our ashes!  And smite them with the hammer of our righteous wrath!  When we see the fear in their eyes.  When we laugh at their pleas for mercy! ”

Check to see if anybody is buying it.  Lots of head-nodding.  Okay, good.  Bring it home.

“Your sales will be gargantuan!  Their might will make the gods and Death tremble!  The people of the Earth will realize what a terrifying beast a non-salaried manager can be.  Backs will bend in awe as you pass.  Garlands.  Accolades.  Sweet gentle kisses will peck upon your victorious feet…”

Pause.  Hold it.  A little longer.  Not yet.  Now!  “As they trample on the bones of your vanquished foes!”

Hold fists out and up like Gigantor.

Bigger than big. Taller than tall. Quicker than Quick. Stronger than strong. Redundant as fuck.

Bigger than big. Taller than tall. Quicker than quick. Stronger than strong. Redundant as fuck. Gigantor!

Let the cheering die down a little.  Now quietly.  Measured.

“We are the destroyers.  And we have come to do our will…”

Look down.  Then up.

“And we have come…to destroy!”

Drop into a front horse stance.  Throw two stiff punches.   Strip mall Tae Kwon Do style.  Hold out last punch and await response.

Tick-tick.  Blam!

Pandemonium.  Dudes kicking over banquet chairs.  Tearing off the bunting from the tables.  Throwing the Hydrangea centerpieces across the room.  Howling like Vikings.

They ate this shit up.  It was ridiculous to witness.  The madness.  The blood-lust gurgling up in a bunch of shift managers.  Danny would look at them and think “What the fuck is wrong with you people?  What’s gotten into you?”

Yeah, the whole gag backfired.  Sales actually went up.  He started to get re-invited.  Even the franchise owners wanted to take the course.  It took on a life of it’s own.  He was even starting to make some decent money.  Staying at Embassy Suites instead of Travel Lodge.  Hitting some corporate milf action here and there.  Everything would’ve been groovy, sans the moral dilemma.

Do I ride this gravy train for a little while longer?  Buy myself some concrete bunkered compound in Belize.  See if I can’t get more women involved.  Build a sex cult.  Create a tax-free enchanted kingdom.  Maybe treat myself to some narco bling.  Like a solid gold Kalashnikov encrusted with rubies.  My birth stone.  So pretty.

But at what cost?  A rather generous pie slice of personal integrity and self-respect.  The only two things you can ever really earn or keep.

Shit.

He really tossed the motel sheets over that one.  Finally, one morning, on his way to his complementary breakfast, he made his decision.  He pulled the plug.  Let it die.

Cooked up this comedy bit instead.  There was no way this thing would succeed.  He’d never be tempted to sell out.  Because nobody would ever buy.   It was fail-safe to fail.

The only thing was, that lately, he was starting to see some of the same faces in the audience.  And they all had a weird look in their eyes.

He suspected that would happen.  With his luck.

We love the pain.

We love the pain.

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15 responses to “Stand-Up Assassin

  1. I will stand up in court and testify “I knew this man when he walked on the light side. Before he went postal.” If that doesn’t work, I will be breaking you out of the prison van, dressed as a clown. An ice-cream truck for the getaway. Brace yourself for impact when you hear bell-strangled ‘yankee-doodle-dandy’ klaxon wailing. Will we make it to the border as cool as popsicles? Or will the heat of depleted uranium melt our skulls? The body armour will be made from layers of stale wafers – I think we’re gonna win. Unless we have to stop near the border,in the poor neighbourhood for a child with drooling tongue and a crumpled buck… and get pinched as we linger too long giving away all the ices for free. No check that. We’ll fake our own deaths by blowing up the van and let the kids marvel at the burning ice creams falling around them like lucky-sticky napalm.

    • I appreciate you testifying on my behalf, Carney. I sure do. It’s just the mouthpiece don’t think it’s so great an idea. You know, with all the paper you carry. But we are green light for any jail break. Regardless of what my lawyer thinks. And since I appreciate you risking prison to break me out and all, it’s kinda hard to ask anything extra. Like maybe not wearing a clown costume. Anything else. A vampire. A sports mascot. King Neptune. I could give a fuck. I just have this thing. With clowns. Scare me more than the devil. Okay, that’s not saying much. More than…Margret Thatcher. Get it? It’s not something I want to pay a shrink to get to the bottom of, so I just try to avoid them as best I can.
      Not stopping to give poor kids ice cream during our run would be another nice extra. That’s one thing about you, Carn. You get magnanimous at all the wrong fucking times. Cops on our ass and you suddenly want to buy pencils from the blind guy. It’s sort of irritating. Can you try not be nice when we’re hanging out? That’s all.
      Really. We’re square.
      Oh, “klaxon wailing”??? Where do you guys come up with words like that? I swear man, you British speak a really weird version of English, the language America invented.
      By the way, where were you in World War Two? Va fan culo!
      Anyway, Johnny it’s good to hear from you. I hope the sea is consistently washing away your sins. Whatever paltry altar boy sins those might be. I visit you every full moon in my ghost body. Look for me. I’ll try to knock over some toast. If that ever happens, it was totally fucking me, dude. Okay?
      Okay.
      Love.
      Marius

  2. What an interesting, interesting piece. Really like it, Marius. I was fascinated from the very beginning. Really good writing, too: simple.

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It is a simple piece, from a simple man. A somewhat barbaric attempt at creative writing. It was a departure from the blog format, but I wanted to stretch my webbed wings with a little fiction. Grateful to have been indulged I will now return to our daily gruel.
      Ok, groovy girl. Keep fighting the good fight. My bookie says you’re the favorite. You’ll be glad to know I didn’t take the points. Betting the bank on you.
      Marius

    • Dude, I agree. I only saw one video a few years ago, but he was great. Hey. Fuck Artuso. He’s funny every second of his life. It’s no big deal for him to just move himself to some stage and continue being himself. Same with you, Shab. “Oh Jeff was sooooo funny!” Yeah, no shit, I say, You don’t get it. It’s EASY for him. That’s called “talent.” If we’re going to give Mad Dog a medal let’s give it for something that’s hard for him. Like parking legally.
      As for me, old boy, stand-up comedy is a terrifying prospect. I think I’d rather storm a pill box. One loaded with Ativan that is.
      Okay Eyecolor. Talk at you later.
      Wuv,
      Marius

  3. So really – this little scam of yours isn’t fooling me, Gustaitis. This whole “write kick ass nouns and verbs and make them dance and string them together like popcorn on Christmas in the Pioneer Village and hope no one really notices” shtick is getting old. War of the Roses kind of old.

    You see, ever since I happenstanced upon your blogosaurus here, I have been telling you over and over how dastardly invigorating and heart blustering your work is. But you feign humility, illness of the haunches, a second-hand lightening strike in the base of your lizard brain section. Deflect and minimize. But that jig is up soon. Look at that last post of yours – got more tongues wagging than a T-Bone truck overturned by the kennel. And then you got picked up at another cool joint and you’re on your way again. Then THIS.

    Laughable to think that you’re pulling the wool.

    Listen, you spin great yarn, M. Cashmere type stuff. Gossamer threads lined with chicken wire and salty dog dander. And just like your man Danny there, you have us going one way, then boom, out go the lights. Pull the Persian right underneath us. in a grand way. Is this satire? Semi-auto biographical stuff? Pulp fiction? A groovy cautionary tale? Not sure, but whatever it is, it sizzled my steak. Hand spiders just floored me – loved that.

    You’re showing more of those grand peacock feathers there, Cali Boy. And what plumage. Keep revealing. We’re the better for it.

    Just do me a favour and write something cool in your inscription to me when I get my hardcover copy of your book sent down to the United States of America.

    Top drawer work. Capital, ol’ bean.

    Hugs,
    Paul

    P.S I always thought that a young, on edge Gene Hackman would play the role of you in a bio-epic drama. Just sayin’

    • No. The old, now Gene Hackman. (If he’s not already dead) Playing me from high school on. Oh yeah. Epic. Now that would enshrine the DVD in the stoner cult classic Hall of Fame. 93 minutes of pure wrong. To watch while you bong.
      Okay, we have that market covered. Now what? I can’t really think of any other favorable demographics.
      It’s still to early to do the Whatever Happened To? thing yet. Since nothing happened.
      That’s where I need a P.R. team. Someone to make people think something happened. Can’t be a has-been if you’ve never been.
      Okay. Tomorrow, unless I need a nap, hire a P.R. team. Done.
      Now, Pauly, since you’re a fellow word-typer, and you know the secret handshake, kiss, and blood oath–I’m going to let you into my workshop. Show you around. Hold on. I can’t fucking find the key. “Lori! Can you pray to St. Anthony for me? Yeah. I did!” Here it is. “Tell him nevermind!” Okay. Here we go. Just step over all the dangling participles. I need to sweep those up.
      The previous piece was pure fiction I carved out over here. Surrounded by those empty cans of Hansen’s Diet Ginger Ale, you’ll find a keyboard. Trust me. It’s there. Anyway, I wanted to take a little joyride away from the usual format, broad as that might be. To flap around free with a little fiction. I actually have this Danny character’s back story around here somewhere. Under all those unopened bills. I think. Anyway, I plan on dribbling it out here and there as I continue his saga. As we follow his supposed evolution. Tricky thing is that he’s one of those altered-egos of mine, so if I don’t evolve, he’s screwed too. Right now, he’s just at the poking- at-the-hornet’s-nest-for-something-to-do phase. Maybe I’ll have him experience a momentary feeling of oneness. Watch things go crazy from there. Like after he gets a high-paying straight job. I don’t know. All the pieces are scattered all over the place. I really need to get organized. De-clutter. Garage sale some of these skull candle holders. He’s not going to drink or drug though. I don’t want any of his antics done under anesthesia. I can tell you that much. Without my notes. Which are…”Lori!”
      Let’s get out of here. Head over to my garage. I want to show you my jet-ski. Yeah, I figured that since this book thing was a done deal, I’d max out my, and one of Lori’s, cards out and splurge on something I’ll never use. Look. Purple flake. So pretty.
      You’re pretty too. Pretty amazing dude. Thanks for stopping by and doing some awesome literary skateboard tricks. You fucking shred, Pauly.
      Your fan,
      Marius

      • Perhaps a leaner Mark Hamill would also punch that Hollywood ticket for you. We’ll see what the casting agent gets in her back pocket before she taps Hal Linden or Ted Danson to start warming up their hamming chops.

        Fiction away, kind sir. Many truths come out in the handiwork of wordsmiths like yourself. Needn’t be the confessional kind, but through allegory, metaphor and the occasional car chase scene. You have me thinking, as usual. I have been tiring of my one trick pony at my blogateria over there. What is was like, what happened and what it’s like today – a format I read on the back of a cereal box, methinks. You have the whole damned circus (minus the clowns of course). I am not sure how to expand. Perhaps you can Yoda me, or something. Maybe stretch into some Korean scat singing translating. Or Amish Porn (“churn my butter, Abe”). Maybe dabble in the dark art of journaling about my being a human guinea pig at the local Wal Mart test lab. Flights of fancy, but with a seatbelt and proper beverage service. Who knows in this knee-in-the-nuts kind of world, Marius.

        But here’s the thing – you can dance on the keyboard, and amongst those Hansen’s, you got the character percolating. He’s talking to you through the Dietness of your cans there, and is telling ya “tell my story, dude!” And you’ve listened to the muse, and have started something that you can sink your teeth into. Not sure if you do writerly things like character studies or outlines, but Danny boy has some oomph in him. Play him as he needs to be played. Don’t get in the way of him being him. (I too read that off the back of a Honeycomb box – crazy the information they put there now.)

        Finally, Marius, and this too is something I have been telling you for some time now. Anyone can take a writing class, hammer out a few nice tales about growing up by the Dairy Queen in Wisconsin or how they met their future acupuncturist at a Phish concert, but to have a *voice*. That’s different. That shit can’t be taught. You have it or you don’t have it. It’s like a singing voice – it’s there or it’s not there. You can coach it, sure, but you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken turds. And you, Mr. G, have a *voice*. That’s the difference between “cool! he’s posted again!” to “I’m washing the dog. I’ll read it later.”

        I have to wash my cat now.

        Blessings,
        Paul

      • Wow. Thanks dude. You write such nice things. And more often than not, I find myself struggling to let them in. You know how I’m into minimizing and all. Don’t want to get too full of myself, and not be funny anymore. But in the spirit of graciously receiving a beautiful and generously delivered gift, I will accept it. Thank you, again.
        Now about your blog chafe, I get it. Easy enough to wriggle from. Without having to get all Houdini about it either. I mean this whole juggernaut started out as just a bunch of old stories about drinking days. Well, eventually you run out of those. Especially if you stop drinking. So I had to add some stuff about life today. Just reporting on the weirdness inherent in everyday life. But generally from the point-of-view of someone in recovery. That’s enough to put some english on the cue ball. Then just record some of the magical twinkly things happening around you. Note any helpful insights along the way. And for fun, celebrate the hilariously delightful way it all gets processed through your individual tortured psyche. Time to let any particular quirkiness you’ve kept roped in while in polite society, out. To run in wide open fields. To celebrate your weirdness. If only for a little while. I tell you, young man, it’s a tonic!
        Here’s the best part of employing this plan, Pauly boy–You’re already doing it. Hate to disappoint you. But you’re right on track.
        You are already breaking out. Maybe you haven’t seen it because your up on stage. But I can see it from here, and these are cheap seats. Your work is an expert blend of poignant insights and giddy fun. The shit is seamless. I watch how you pace and transition, my friend. The work stands. As is. Thanks to gobs of God-given talent, you can carry the message and fly your freak flag high, Pirate Paul. Pretty sweet deal you’ve plundered there, pal.
        Whatever swelling you might be feeling in your sails these days is bound to blow into future work. It will naturally expand as you do.
        Shit dude. You can throw in a little fiction if you want. Tie it a little closer to the 12-Step world. If that would suit your inclination. But not as any fix-it. Only if you feel like it. Hell, you never DON’T have something interesting, important, or funny to say/write. Keep doing that, and the rest will shape itself. As it will. And people will still keep reading. I know I’m going to keep reading. So there’s one.
        I hope that helps. It helped me telling you all that. (winkity-blinkity)
        This all goes along with everything you’re going through these days. Needing some leg room. A place for your elbows. Maybe because this is the year in your sobriety you can loosen your tie a bit, Pauly. Don’t worry. You’ll be okay. Just don’t forget Who is letting you relax.
        Besides me.
        Love you dude,
        Marius

  4. You’re such a gifted writer and this is my favorite piece to date. It probably would not surprise you to hear you hit a nerve, or that I’ll indeed be back for more.

    • Funny thing was, I hit some of my own nerves with this one. That’s when I knew I was on to something. I am such a scaredy cat when it comes to facing my shit. I’ll spend weeks trying to run from it, but when I actually sit down and face it, the discomfort dissolves in a few minutes. Go figure.
      Thanks for liking my work. Love yours.
      Marius

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