Once there was a wily Old Fox, playing games of chance, eluding fate… but at some point, the Menace Vultures, the Collect Hawks, the Rhyme Jackals: they could smell it: time was up for Old Fox. Thus they lay in wait for such a time as when Old Fox would outfox himself. They circled him, rabid, fervent, Greed Faced-hyenas…
Old Fox lay in wait too—his blind gaze peering out through the eyes, not so much watching, as listening—
fissures in the ice, ears alerted to the crackle and hiss of scotch on the rocks transforming the life before him into precarious northern wastes.
An introduction to Fox and the nature of his tendencies
He enters growling, my appearance in the room startles him—
“What are you doing here?”
“If you’re looking for your stash, I already poured into your thermos.”
Suspiciously he edges for the flask and sniffs it for truth—
“You’re a wretched smartass, Parker. A smartass—“
“I’m not Parker.”
“Then who in God’s Name?”
“Your Personal Assistant—“
“Godsblood! —What’s you’re goddamn name?”
The decision to proceed on a no-name basis is a flogged issue.
The phone rings with some urgency, the sound is intolerable to him:
“Is someone going to get that?!”
I explain that someone from Esquire and another from Vanity Fair had already called this morning: the small matter of an overdue deadline.
“The asses in question have paid you a thirty thousand dollar advance. Maybe you’d like to put in some hours?”
“If you’re so concerned then why don’t you write the goddamn memoirs yourself?”
“Maybe I will,”
“That’ll be a hoot—“
“Here’s the rub of it Miss “No-Name”— You’re gonna have to tell them whatever your goddamn name is— “
I leave him to the contents of his thermos.
falling stars are shooting
answer’d owls are hooting
The fashion apparition glides past: the former Society Swan pays her father a visit— ripples of disdain in her wake. Her young saucer-eyed daughter is left in the outer office. The child with enormous eyes clings to some Fisher-Price accessory—
“What big eyes you have—“
The Eyes pretend not to see me: roaming the room searching out exits from pointless banter. She finds respite in her toy: a preschool counting aid, a Math Owl. Buttons prod, the Owl whoops,
I’m the Math Owl,
We’ll have fun fun fun
Interesting, the offspring of Old Fox is a Swan who in turn produces an Owlet,
An Owlet blinking amongst the eagles, her
The Owlet avoids me. Wise child.
From the Inner Sanctum, matters have reached a predictable head— as they concern the affairs of state: namely, Monty’s estate and the state of Monty’s mind. The Swan emerges, a parting shot—
“Keep it up and I’ll have you committed Monty—“
She scoops up her daughter and leaves.
Monty himself emerges, rage in full throttle—
“How do you like that, No-Name? I’m killing myself? No, she kills me! How did she get to be so goddamn skinny? Goddamn anorexic—just hurts looking at her—I used to make the best goddamn fried chicken in all of Christendom…”
Now that he has the attention of the entire room, he bellows to no one in particular:
“Have me put away indeed, well you’re welcome to try Letitia—” thunders the Great Writer,
“but I’d advise you to go eat something first!
You have about you
A lean and hungry look
And the law mistrusts skinny women—“
Not everyone agrees with this assessment. For some reason, the Math Owl has been left behind and by mysterious dint knocks over, crashing to the floor—
I’ve got your number
Monty frowns, affronted. A swig from the thermos and the Fox and other spirits are let out. He sniffs the air:
“What barbarous noises environ me
First a nest of vipers, and now a
A court for Owls?”
Can you tell the time?
Can you tell the time?
Can you count the Days?
Can you number hours?
Can you measure life
At its end
Too-Whoo, Too- Whoo
“To whom,” snarls Fox, “do you riddle with, little bird?
Are you aware of my immensity
and the proclivity
that birth’d a nation’s undercurrent
and sired your goddamn mother.
Come here, wretch Owlet
I’m hungry and I want my lunch“
He is talking to a Fisher-Price Toy. Fox teeth bared in something other than a smile.
The Math Owl says:
To whom do the bells toll?
Can you tell it’s time?
Can you tell it’s time?
Time to go-o!
Time to go-o!
Time to go but the Math Owl is jammed and will not quiet. The Great American rams the accursed bird against the wall: but the prophecies are stacking up into a collision course of folly. Fox falls upon the toy with some vengeance. Swan and Owlet have returned to recoup the missing toy, only to be arrested by the sight of The Great American as he destroys the Owl—flying into a thousand plastic shards.
The Math Owl is still hooting.
In forkfuls of truffle and
crayfish swimming in bitch-brew
innards of a
Bianca makes a surprise cameo. The legendary beauty comes bearing lunch—a trolley of exquisite flower arrangements and hidden promise beneath ornate silverware. She herself is all pearls and cleavage in vintage Norma Kamali—
She reveals a deluxe nest of silver, ice and parsley sprigs, “Beluga Malossol, Alaskan white truffle, soupe d’écrevisses—“
Monty’s having none of it, “Thank ye very kindly Bianca, but I’m not hungry—“
She thrusts her hip: perfection curves attenuated…
“Not now Bianca —I am pressed upon by these vultures of the publishing realm I have certain obligations. Just ask No-Name who bears witness to the perpetual torment. No-Name, how would you best describe to my wife the nature of these predators—“
It is true he has deadlines.
“Would you not describe them as most vicious?”
They press most heavily upon the gentleman.
“They prevail upon my talents—“
Articles are due.
The calls being endless…
“They are ingrates through and through—“
I suppose they’d like their money’s worth—
“As if I have not given them my life’s blood! Rendered them my soul…”
Yes everything, save the finished product.
“Infernal parasites!” he cries,
Bianca is unimpressed, she shows him another trick.
“Doesn’t work that way around these parts, Bianca. See all these nice things—seafood, pearls, silverware, beautiful wife— they all get funded by these so-called obligations, so no-thank you ma’am, I will not be lunching with you or anyone else today—“
Bedevilments unsprung, the legendary beauty’s visage grows dark and poisonous: impossible to look at, she hisses and leaves.
All things in moderation,
“A pox on the fairer sex!”
“It serves you to eat something, sometime—“
“In case you hadn’t noticed, No-Name, I’m off the solids. Why is that woman constantly haranguing me with this lunch business—“
“It is the nature of wives—“
“You’d think she was trying to kill me!”
“Poison truffles? You would be so lucky—that would be dying with dignity,”
“And where’s the distinction in that?”
“The Emperor Claudius succumbed. He feasted on poison mushrooms and later his wife saw to it that he was immortalized as a god. I imagine Letitia would do the same for you. It’s better than her having you put away—“
“I might be an old drunk, but just watch me outlive my progeny No-Name!“
“Your death would be ultimately more interesting: imagine Monty, imagine the maelstrom that follows your passing: the media coverage—you defining your century: the anthologies released, old works reissued, the correspondence volumed; the PBS special—“
“Sons of PBS bitches—“
“Your likeness on a stamp Monty—“
“God bless the American Postal service! They can start now—”
“And then the memoirs of the Personal Assistant —a rare intimate account of the last days of a Literary Great—and the women who provide him daily torment—“
Monty broods for a minute. Perhaps I have gone too far.
“Have I lived so long, No Name, that I have expended my usefulness?”
“It is your life and your legend, Monty; spend it wisely—“
“Are you going to tell me your name?”
“Didn’t think so.”
“In your estimation, No Name, have I lived too long?”
“All things in moderation. Nothing in excess.”
“Very well —bring it on…”
Dutifully I fetch a fresh bottle of Scotch.
“Have a drink with me—“
The phone rings, “I should get that—“
“No let it ring. Let ‘em salivate:
This Old Fox’s not dead yet, you bastards! You hear!
Where’s the ice?”
The phone rings with some urgency all afternoon. Darkness and snow fall outside, ice clatters in tumblers: divine pronouncements. Scotch pours on with steamy hiss; a very wary, very still Fox crosses a frozen lake—the phone is ringing but his ears are alert to the cracking ice; and the voicemail picks up and the lake is a frosted lake—an icy pond of brittle bone dreams.