While it lasted, though, the center of attention was the glint in Carly's eye, which was firing beams of freon into poor persecuted Wetzelstadt. Carl y had the upper hand, backed up as she was by the mob from _Frankenstein_, armed to the teeth with machetes, axes, scythes, and torches of raw fire, and feeling, if you'll pardon the expression, pissed.
Ensure, Depend, Geritol, Bengay and other stereotypes of old age would have had a field day with this day in the field, because Carly's mob was what's known as AARP-compatible. The American Association of Retired Persons could have helicoptered in a brash, go-getter sales lackey to hand out coupons and listen to stories about Karloff, Lugosi, Vincent Price, Jack Palance, and their less well remembered monster movie brethren. The lackey, if he had come out to this misleadingly drab and agricultural little mecca, probably would have been able to hit the bars on his way back to Willow Glen, and say 'Oh, I pull down about 70K.' He probably could even have bought his own helicopter. He probably could have bribed his way into a conference of marketing gurus and delivered a paper entitled 'Five Years Tops: Aspects of Selling to a Liquid Marketshare. ' (Alternate title: 'Your Grandmother, my Prospect.') but he had blown his chance for such helicopter jaunts by getting cute in the office, trying to satirize 'speech codes,' (he would have said, 'PC') by smirking and coining a term for his marketshare which ended in 'challenged.'
A huddle had formed around him, not unlike the huddle which Carly was now closing in on 'that bastard frm the BBB,' Wetzelstadt. Lackey's, though, had been armed with hole punches, coffeemate, curly fax paper, push pins, which could do just as much damage if the tempers were high. It was finally decided that death was too good for him - he was transferred to the AARP's multimedia division, where he sits to this day, universally despised, explaining CD-ROM to ninetysomethings and drawing 'flat, silver donuts' on dry erase boards.
Sure, Carly was feeling pretty secure right now, as she led the nap-needing mob through a chorus of 'What do we want? JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!' -- but it wasn't always such a cakewalk. Hours earlier, when she'd spotted Wetzelstadt playing "Jumpman" by "Epyx" on a "Commodore," whatever that meant, it had taken a minute for his face to register. As she realized what she was looking at, her amber, maternal features became very unhappy indeed, until she looked like Bob Dole morphed with a medical patient in a urethral .. uh ..procedure, where ... well, suffice it to say, take the Bob out of what she started to look like and you're left with someone who is having no fun at all.
She'd only even been in the Assisted Living farmhouse to clean the ashtrays. Cigarettes were gobbled down like ricepaper inthis communal halfway house, and Carly was Ashtray rep for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Go figure. Few careers in this world are as random and as desperate as the ashtray rep for ATF (multimedia consultant for the AARP comes close) but for Carly, it was no accident. Sometimes, you just open your eyes and find yourself on the tire swing of life. With an epistemological hangover suspending your disbelief even when you don't want it to, feeling like the Comedian in freefall, laughing tears, looking at the palms of your hands and trying to remember what they DO.
And it's at times like this that you find yourself more far out than you recognize - eyes all glazed, not even noticing that you're in a vinyl chair getting your ear pierced, your head shaved, and your back tattooed with a panorama of marine mammals under a prismatic sun, glowing like Jack Kirby inked by Piet Mondrian and emblazoned with the motto: FLEE THE WHALES.
You go for whole minutes without a single thought. You give away your entire wardrobe and leave the thrift store in the buff. You join the navy. You join the merchant marine. Even worse, you join that comedy/juggling troupe Flying Karamazov Bros. as the brother who never speaks. Your face is soon matted in beard, and your beard is touched by the mountain dew. You get letters from Selective Service and the AARP at the same time. Your career goals sound like they were written by 'Bob & Ray.'
This was the mentality of Carly. She felt as though she was in the epilogue to her own life. She could seemingly hear the laugh track. She had actually sought out this job at ATF because it fit the philosophy of life as a comedy of errors. (There had, incidentally, been a few grumblings about the erosion of civil liberties, having someone from the feds coming in your house every day but really the smokers were kind of grateful bcause they were too damn lazy to dump their own butts.)
"You're the one who made me lose my son!" she had screamed at Wetzelstadt.
"You're the bastard!"
Wetzelstadt had noticed by this time that Carly was reaching for something to throw, or something with which to lunge, and he had made a run for it. He began to sprint at a fair pace, but the signals told his brain "uh" as soon as he did. Carly was blocking the doorway, and given the hostility of the context, what happened next was a curious thing. Her eyebrows knelt quizzically as he slowed way down out of necessity , and like a Vespa crossing the grand canyon, aggression levels shot down a trough, varying inversely with weird, imperative stirrings, a totally unwanted magnetism. They could both feel their biological ducks, quacking.
Then it was gone, like a daydream that would make Jack Valenti's toes curl. She was huffing with rage, and he was down the whirring stairs (past the "OMEGA", by the way), and outside in a sprint til he was cowering in the tall grass.
Carly had bolted toward the field. Then she had realized that
reinforcements were in order. Through either a run of luck, or the divine
intervention of a god on coffee, the farmhouse was right next to a dusty
restaurant, known for its foosball, its fried breaded shrimp in a red
plastic basket, its check tablecloths and the soothing red-blue Pepsi
icon on an overhead menu of white clickable letters in slats. It was here t hat
the Hollywood Extras of '38 were holding their lunch reunion. Over a 7UP
was murmured the last days of Bert Lahr. Over a monster Heineken, the
revisionist history of Fatty Arbuckle. Over a geriatric reefer, out by
the dumpsters and cold concrete pillars (believe it or not.) curses were
spit upon the memory of Hume Cronyn. And then they alll crowded back in
to the greasy spoon and ordered a second dinner each.
"He's out there!" came the voice of Carly, with a gnashing of teeth and
involuntary shudders of despair. They didn' t recognize this young
woman, but in the fever dream of drug abuse she was crossing the doorway
for a good hour, like a slo-mo camera from _Gone With the Wind_, and
jukebox music which teased the diegesis, synchronizing with her every
"That man turned my son into a COMMUNIST!" cried Carly