This rtf file, the complete unabridged text of he walked among us, originally published in 2002 by eBooks and copyright © 2002 by Norman Spinrad, is shareware




НазваниеThis rtf file, the complete unabridged text of he walked among us, originally published in 2002 by eBooks and copyright © 2002 by Norman Spinrad, is shareware
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Sailor Sal's special witha side order of smack!" she called out, plenty loud enough for fuckin' Mario to hear at the register.

Mario gave her a look woulda turned piss to vinegar, fuck him, nobody gives shit to th' White Tornado, what's he gonna do, calla cops, hee, hee, hee!

The Hell's Angel sweathog seemed to be kinda pissed off too for some stupid fuckin' reason. "Shut your stupid fuckin' face you crackhead deadbrain you wanna get us all busted?" she shouted.

"Keep it down yourself, you dumb cunt!" Mario shouted back across the sit-down tables, where three more a Cory's scurvy junkies anna couple a meth monsters were waitin' to score.

"Who you calling a dumb cunt, you dickhead wop bastid?"

"You, that's who!" Mario told her.

Hey, this was gettin' kinda funny, like onea those shows y' see onna tv, where this great fight starts up an' they trash the whole fuckin' saloon!

The Hell's Angel momma took a step and a half towards Mario, an' the creeps at the sit-downs tried to scramble inta the corners like the roaches onna stove when ya turn the lights on.

Mario grabbed up his baseball bat, lifted it about level with his chest, and she froze.

"Hey, lighten up, Mario, doncha know that bashin' the brains outa diesel dykes all over the furniture's bad for business!" Loxy called out, hee, hee, hee.

"Who you callin' a dyke, sister?" the Hell's Angel sweathog screamed, north of a hundred and fifty pounds of raw biker meat whirling around gnashin' and droolin' to take it all out on her.

Whoops!

But on the other hand....

Loxy whipped up the all-purpose knife y'hadda use for bread an' onions an' cheese too 'cause Mario was too cheap t'spring for another, a great big fuckin' ugly old thing was cleaned only last month you really wouldn't want shoved in your gut now would you, and things started gettin' to be fun again.

"Don't you go sisterin' me, Momma, I'm a drug-crazed fuckin' maniac, an' I'm liable t'carve an improvement an' send you the bill for it, hee, hee, hee!" Loxy said inna slasher flic voice, waving the dirty knife under her chin.

The Hell's Angel momma froze again. Purple veins stood out so far on her flaming red temples it looked like her head was gonna explode.

Far fuckin' out!

"Hey, whatsa matter, don't you believe me?" Loxy gabbled, rolling her eyes, sticking her tongue out, wagging it around, and doing her best to drool.

Ha! Ha! Ha! The dumb bitch looked like she was gonna shit! Great big fuckin' biker chick looked like she cracked coconuts with her twat and Loxy had her scared!

Too fuckin' much!

Loxy sidled out from behind the counter, waving the knife. "Slice your tits off like salami," she cackled as she brought the tip up to face height, still making like Freddy Kruger. "Shove it up your nose!"

The biker chick started backing towards the door.

What a trip!

"Put it down Loxy!" Mario wheezed at her from across the room.

Loxy felt the power.

"You gonna make me, Mario?" she shouted back at him. "You still got the balls left to try, you dried up old fart?"

Mario hefted his bat and took a step forward.

Loxy burned. White hot waves blasted off her skin. Crappy flickering fluorescents turned her inta a rock star. Knife made her strong. Just gettin' off so fine on letting herself play stark staring nuts made the world shit in its pants.

Whoo-eee!

Mario gave her a real careful look, ducked back behind the cash register booth. "Get the fuck out of here," he whined in this stupid angry old voice.

"Get the fuck out of here, get the fuck out of here, get the fuck out of here," Loxy mimicked back at him.

Mario pulled the pistol from underneath the register stand and pointed it across the room at her. Three of Cory's customers actually crawled under the tables!

It was so fuckin' funny, Loxy started laughing, really laughing, rockin' sockin' great big ones fit ta bust a gut--

-- an' all ofa sudden, the fuckin' stupid biker dyke is reachin' for her knife--

"Hey, get your fuckin' paw off my knife!" Loxy screamed, pulling her wrist out of the biker's grab and the knife with it, slashin' a neat line of blood across the bitch's cheek inna process, hee, hee, hee--

--stupid cunt screams like a cat with its tail caught inna hamburger grinder an' throws a fuckin' punch right at her head--

--Loxy ducks, catches just a little edge of it cross her cheek, fallin' forward, strikin' back, and the knife goes three or four inches inta the biker momma's big fat thigh--

"BA-DOOM!"

Like someone put a garbage can over her head and dropped a fuckin' safe on it! Snow-flakes fallin' on her face!

Slow-mo instant replay time.

Mario had fired the .44 Magnum with a blast Loxy felt likea fist as the slug slammed inta the wall about three feet from her head an' plaster exploded all over her.

And the Hell's Angel sweathog is screaming and falling with Loxy's knife still in her thigh, an' Loxy still attached to the knife, an' ain't that a siren already out there somewhere---

--Loxy yanked the knife out an' stood there lookin' at the ripe red blood, the biker momma rollin' on the floor clutchin' at her bleedin' leg with both hands and blubberin', no fuckin' class at all--

And Mario had scuttled out from behind the register, come halfway across the room, and was pointin' the gun at the tip of her nose from maybe eight feet away, lookin' like maybe he was kinda pissed off at the way things was workin' out, like his eyes was poppin' out of his head, an' she could hear his fuckin' teeth gnashin' and he was sorta breathin' funny like he might have a heart attack or somethin', hee, hee, hee--

"You got about five seconds to get your ass out of here, you crackhead piece of shit before I blow your goddamn head off!"

"Hey, common, Mario, ain't you got--"

"One!"

"--no sense a humor?"

"Two!"

A zillion years old an' lookin' like ready to croak, but not before he pullsa trigger, look on Mario's face told her, hey, this guy would do it, 'cause he fuckin' well had done it more'n a few times before.

"Three!"

Siren up the avenue! Biker momma pissin' and moanin' and rollin' around inna puddle a blood onna dirty floor! Lights flickerin'! Roaches pourin' outa all the corners like Cory's scumbag customers running out the door! Not such a cool scene--

"Four!"

Fuckin'.44 Magnum shakin' in Mario's hand as he makes t'pull back the hammer with his greasy ol' thumb--

"Hey if ya gonna be that way about it, y'can take this job and shove it!" Loxy shouted at him, giving him the finger with the bloody knife, and bugalooing out into the street.

#

"Hey Ralf, what's your sign?"

"Moby the Dick, Monkey Girl, hey what's yours? Sure don't look like Virgo the Virgin to me, I'd bet on the sign of the Crabs."

Oy.

Time oozed on in agony as Texas Jimmy Balaban stood in the wings watching his boy bomb.

Ralf had come out from behind the spaceship control room flat again to the very front of the stage, as close to the brink as he could get.

In more ways than one.

"Yeah, you over there, the guy with the Bart Bites the Big One T-shirt, hey, that's kinda bright, maybe about 20 watts worth, what are you, a nuclear physicist in a pickle factory...."

After forty minutes of bouncing lame lines off this dead meat, Ralf's anger at the audience was developing a dangerous razor edge.

Insult humor that showed a comic's contempt for the audience before which he was bombing, had never, in Texas Jimmy's considered professional opinion, been a way to win laughs and influence rednecks.

"Hey, Monkey People, you better show some signs of life soon, or they're gonna declare you dead and freeze your heads, and when you wake up a hundred years from now, you're gonna find your brains installed as the voices of talking elevators or the automatic transmissions in garbage trucks!"

Jimmy had seen it all too many times before. The comic began to forget that the purpose of the zingers was to make the audience laugh and slid into a zone where the reason for insulting the audience became because they weren't.

Maybe you could get away with it for a while with an audience of hard core show-biz wannabees in a downtown club in New York, but this audience seemed to be a cross-section of what passed through your average shopping plaza parking lot on the way from the Thrifty's to K-Mart--Valley mall rats, the six-pack polyester crowd from Orange County, the barrio boom-box set.

Not exactly the sort of folks with a healthy sense of humor for insults aimed at them, especially when too many shots started coming in below the belt line.

Once it dawned on the likes of them that you really weren't trying to be funny anymore, you'd better get off stage fast before the bottles started to fly.

Not that Jimmy could entirely blame Ralf for what was happening. Okay, maybe he wasn't a genius ad-libber, but he had a right to expect more laughs than this. Jimmy had to own up to the fact that he himself had seriously screwed up. The guy had the timing and the moves to work off an audience and make something like Lampkin's Lenny Bruce from the Future number work.

But not with this audience.

"Yeah, lady, the good news is that they will find a cure for cancer, but the bad news is that it's gonna turn you into a four hundred pound lesbian communist hamster...."

Texas Jimmy's previous experience with rounding up studio audiences had been limited to the occasional low-grade live variety hour, where the main thing was that you should be able to do audience reaction shots without showing empty seats, and any deficiency in the comic reflexes of whatever you managed to fill them with could be made up with laugh tracks. If you piled enough handbills on checkout counters, you shouldn't have any problem.

It would seem though, that the biz held new mysteries even for an old dog like Texas Jimmy Balaban who thought he knew all the tricks. He could see that he had missed one this time, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was.

"This isn't working at all," Dexter Lampkin whined sourly somewhere left rear.

Jimmy didn't bother to turn. "I'm not planning on sending out for caviar and champagne, Lampkin, if that's what you mean," he said over his shoulder.

"...knew I might have some trouble with the natives, seeing as how they thought Beavis and Butt-Head was heavy mental rock and cast a chimpanzee's straight-man as the Prez...."

"Is that all you have to say about it?" Lampkin muttered indignantly. "It sucks!"

Jimmy shrugged, still not bothering to turn around.

"If I slit my wrists every time I watched one of my clients die, I'da gone broke on the band-aid bill a long time ago," he said.

Which, upon sour reflection, was a better one-liner than most of the crap Ralf was burping up out there now.

Lampkin, though, didn't even grant him a snicker.

"How can you be so calm about it?" he demanded.

Jimmy finally turned to confront the face behind the voice. Lampkin's expression was so tragic, it was funny. He looked like a teenage kid whose pecker had wilted the first time he had a chance to prong it into the Hollywood High homecoming queen.

Perversely enough, Lampkin's amateur opening night panic had a calming effect on Texas Jimmy's jangled professional nerves.

"Lighten up, will you, Dex?" he said.

"Lighten up!" Lampkin exclaimed. "Can't you see what's happening out there?"

"Sure I can, Dex," Jimmy told him avuncularly. "Ralf is a flat as last week's tortillas, the folks out there don't appreciate it, and--"

"Well--"

"Look, will you relax, we've got a thirteen-week guarantee written in stone, and this is only show one of week one," he reminded Lampkin and thereby himself. "Okay, so Ralf isn't breaking out of the starting gate like a Triple Crown winner, and the format needs serious rethinking, but--"

"The format! Is that what you--"

"Hey, come on, Lampkin, relax, I'm not pissed off at you 'cause your format turned out not to be perfect," Jimmy said, favoring him with a magnanimous smile and a brotherly pat on the shoulder. "Madden bought it, didn't he, so who am I to contradict the Boy Genius?"

Lampkin gave him a peculiar look, halfway between a dumb stare and a scowl. "Meaning what?" he said suspiciously.

"Meaning we got time to fix it," Jimmy told him in the reassuring manner of a sophisticated lady explaining that one wilted hard-on was not the end of the world.

Archie Madden, after all, had committed the Gold Network to the full half season no matter what, so even if he soured on the show early, he would have no percentage in admitting it until he had to, namely at pick-up time. He wouldn't jump to any quick negative decisions, he'd wait as long as he could and hope that a last minute miracle would prove his own brilliance.

"--don't believe you're from the future at all, man, you're just some pathetic dude from like New Jersey or someplace like that trying to shine us all on, I mean how dumb do you think we are?"

#

"That's some kinda trick question, now ain't it, Monkey Boy? If I try to be polite, my nose will grow two feet, and if I tell the truth, you're gonna try and punch me out."

Mistaken or not, Dexter had to admire the way Balaban was taking things. One moment he had been pissed off at Jimmy for stupidly scooping up this dim audience out of random shopping malls and blaming the resultant fiasco on his format, and the next Balaban had disarmed his ire by reassuring him that there were no hard feelings about it.

And after all, Jimmy was at least partially right. We do have time to fix it.

We?

Could it be, Lampkin, that the thought of the money to be made on a second thirteen-week pick-up is beginning to draw your serious attention?

And perhaps a second season, and a season after that, and a large custom-built estate on Mulholland Drive with a cherry antique Bugatti in the garage to admire and a Ferrarri to run around town in? And total creative freedom for the rest of your life to pursue whatever star you choose with blithe disregard for the economic consequences?

Naw, of course not, it was only money, vast carload lots of it to be sure, but hardly a temptation for a seriously committed novelist like his own highly-evolved self to get bent out of shape over.

Uh-huh.

Sure.

"Yeah, that guy over there, the one with all the buttons on his T-shirt that weighs about three hundred pounds!"

Oh shit!

There, captured in the magic circle of the spotlight for the delectation of the Nielsen masses, was Oscar Karel.

Oscar Karel was a familiar figure at Californian science fiction conventions. If he didn't really weigh in at three hundred pounds, he came close. With his massive paunch flowing seamlessly into his enormous ass without benefit of a waistline and his narrow shoulders and chicken-chest, Oscar Karel was shaped like a giant overweight penguin.

In his natural habitat, namely a science fiction convention, his outr‚ physical appearance would have hardly been noticed, since this was a dominant fannish genotype, and many of these pear-shaped fans also had vaguely unfocused eyes made even weirder by the magnification of thick glasses, and favored tent-like T-shirts and baggy black chinos no one else knew where to buy.

Nor was it uncommon for them to festoon their vast shirt-fronts with name badges from their last dozen conventions and elaborately illumined buttons bearing such bon mots as "Fans Are Slans," "I Grok Mr. Spock," and "Frodo Lives."

But here, cruelly pinned like a bug on a microscope slide by the spotlight, the spectacle he presented had the visual impact of a terminal wino beamed down into happy hour at the Polo Lounge.

Dexter's visceral reaction was instant mortification.
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