Joe’s Place was on Pearl Street, just over the Brooklyn Bridge and almost invisible to the uninitiated. Joe ran a clean show proclaimed by the sign: NO PASSES WITHOUT PROVOCATION. His customers had few complaints. His drinks were not exorbitant, his sandwiches were well-packed. He provided a wine list and an exotic male dancer for Ladies’ Night every other month.
Joe had given the AG her job because he had loved her mother, sorry to realize it too late. She was, at first, just a faded blonde seamstress who came in for an occasional beer. Later, her solitude intrigued him. Joe would speculate outrageously — she was a runaway wife or an ex-convict, or any woman down on her luck with a love-child. She laughed at these, but in five years of shy friendship, he never learned her point of origin. He did become addicted to her soothing voice, which he fortified with red wine. Towards the end, she asked him home. Though he knew of her illness, he went out of love, little prepared for her thriving imagination.
The seamstress had transformed the apartment into a luxury liner equipped with brass quoit portholes, records of ocean noises, salt scent, and cool lace curtains. Yes, the seas had played a significant part in her life, she said, making love with the litany of the ship bound, “I will never see you again, and we barely know each other, just tonight.”
Most women had treated Joe as if he were a shortstop to somebody else they would eventually settle for. With the widow, he had eternity. He guessed correctly, then, that she was a refugee. No legitimate immigrant was as sentimental about the high seas.
In her memory, he was unquestioning to many who came for havens and stop-gap credit. But, the Anarchist! There he had made a mistake! Joe groaned internally every time he thought of the misfortune of his surrogate daughter, wondering if that maniac Anarchist treated her right. He would have liked someone else for the AG, but she was a dreamer, like her mother. A crazy, Bohemian girl, he thought fondly, remembering when she first showed up at the club wiping her red-rimmed eyes. Joe had said that he hoped she had not been crying too much.
“No, it’s trying to sew straight seams,” she had explained.
Yes, the AG’s seams curved. She had inherited her mother’s machine, but not her knack. Joe had offered her the go-go job, which paid better than waitressing. He watched over the rough spots when he could. The Anarchist was one that had escaped him.
Joe D’Angelo, half-Irish, half-Italian, didn’t think he had any prejudices towards refugees. Still, even he was dubious the night the Anarchist had appeared, drenched in his black suit.
“You looking for the Bowery?” he said, not really joking.
The Anarchist, still stunned from the cold water, was a red-skinned, glassy-eyed redhead barely standing upright.
“The Bowery? Beg pardon, man, just came from the bogs. Thought this was Brooklyn. I was told to go to Joe’s. That he’d take care of me.”
“Who told you that?”
“Guy at the dock said to ask for Belinda.”
“BELINDA.” A waitress turned. “Know him?”
“Luv ya, Joe. He’s the founder of Food for Vendettas!”
“Never heard of …”
“A cowardly lot if ever there was…”
The Anarchist’s temper had flared, “Horse’s ass.”
Joe liked his indignant attitude. Especially coming from someone who looked the way he did. He gave him a meal.
The AG had asked, “Who is that guy at the bar?”
”Never seen him before. Is he bothering you?”
“No. He just seems someone I might know.”
”You’re just like your mother.”
“What do you mean?”
“Whenever she said something was in her head, it was real.”
Looking out for the AG, Joe had started a conversation with the Anarchist about the waitresses. It was the wrong topic. The Anarchist said he’d seen hard-bitten women before. “Locals in the pubs, aye, women looking fifty at twenty with wailing kids and husbands blown sky-high, but they were women! America must be a harder country than I heard. No religion, but that’s not the problem. It needs more fruit and vegetables.”
”Pipe down, boy, you’ll never win ‘em with that line.”
“This couldn’t be anywhere but Brooklyn, right?”
“Sure, there’s joints like this all over.”
”Oh,” said the Anarchist, sounding depressed. “What variety there must be in such a huge country.”
Joe was almost sorry for the ingrate, when the AG, entering her cage, claimed his attention.
“Does she have a name?” the Anarchist asked.
“Are you her boyfriend or something?”
“Then she goes by…”
“I said she doesn’t have a name right now!”
“Hasn’t much identity, has she…” the Anarchist began.
“Go to hell! She’s a nonconformist. She’s crazy and doesn’t care about names!”
“Sorry,” the Anarchist said in some confusion. He watched the AG dance, mesmerized.
“Wonder what she thinks of up there?”
“Who can tell?”
Afterwards, he approached her and said, ”Hi, my name is…well, let’s just say…I’m the Anarchist.” He said it with a wretched mixture of shame and pride.
“I’m the Anarchist’s Girlfriend, I guess…would you like to see the river? It’s pretty at night. Manhattan is all lit up.”
The Anarchist walked out, her tiny hand electric in his, wondering what they would do. They went to the river. The Anarchist slept alone at Joe’s Place, though only for that night.
Joe hoped for the best, now. The Anarchist was not a bad guy, just a fool. Besides, she was at the club on a daily basis. If she came in soon, he’d have a chance to make sure everything was all right. A short conversation would be enough. The AG didn’t know how to lie.
The walls of Joe’s Place were lined with gold-framed mirrors and painted a flat black. The seats were red vinyl. Square Formica tables were bolted into concrete stands. A revolving strobe hung over a narrow stage. Still, it was the cages of Joe’s Place that stood out. They were homemade half-circles on either side of the stage. Joe had drilled holes five inches apart for the whittled dowel sticks. These cages were not slick, but functional. They even had blowers to relieve the warm spotlights.
The AG came in at about seven o’clock. Joe ordered her a bowl of tortellini in brodo, (broth to the non-Italians who dared to ask). It was a good, nourishing meal before dancing.
”So, how’s the fashion business?”
“Fine,” the AG said, pulling her mending and some acetate thread from her bag.
”Lots of production and no sales?”
She nodded, threading a needle.
“Are you even trying?”
The AG began to stitch. ”I’m not discouraging it.”
“What about that boyfriend of yours, the freckle-faced madman?”
“Oh, you shouldn’t talk about him like that. You know you like him.”
“Well, kid, I’d like to know if you’re okay. Is he taking care of you? When are you
gonna tie the knot?”
“Gee, I don’t know,” the AG said, looking at the torn fringe, knowing it was hopeless to stitch it. “Joe, do you have any glue?”
“Yeah, by the juke,” Joe said, walking across the club, where his ’50s record machine stood. It was tinny, but it worked, Joe thought, glancing with pride at his boyhood stock of Frank Sinatra. Yes, the juke was representative of the kind of ethnic, homey atmosphere he liked in his club, he thought, watching approvingly as Belinda brought the AG her soup. He was pleased to see her eat. He was also pleased she lived with a lady-friend, since she was short on common sense. She needed someone to watch out for her besides the Anarchist!
An early customer nodded, and a new one, too. Joe paid attention to the latter, there weren’t too many of these. He saw a boy in his early twenties with dark blonde hair and eyes too sharp for Joe’s taste, especially when he looked at the AG. He even gave her a slight wave. Did she know the guy, or was he just being friendly? Damned if he didn’t look like the press gone slumming. Joe dropped the glue on the AG’s table and made his way to the bar. The guy was definitely dressed wise-guy, not the style of his club.
“What can I get you?”
GIN AND TONIC, Wayne wrote on his pad.
PERMANENT. I’M A DEAF-MUTE.
Joe washed a glass, perplexed. An occasional Manhattanite would stumble onto his place, but he’d be damned if he knew how word had travelled to Wayne’s corner of the population.
Wayne was not in the mood for conversation. Pearl Street had been a dark stop. In one direction, a vacant lot was defined by a broken chain fence, and beyond that loomed the Brooklyn Bridge. The other direction had offered nothing but closed warehouses. Nothing moved but him. Wayne wished he had a street number and a flashlight. He got lucky. Two blocks down the slope toward the warehouses he saw the sign, JOE’S PLACE, shining in a freak streetlight. At the bar, now, Wayne noted for himself:
A BIT SCARY ON PEARL. GOT HERE AT EIGHT. ONE GUY AT A TABLE AND THE AG EATING.
Joe brought the glass, trying to read over his shoulder. “You’re not from the Voice, doing some kind of folksy article on a Brooklyn bar?”
”You look like a reporter.”
Wayne, in his St. Mark’s get-up, was almost flattered. Still, he wondered what would make the bartender think a deaf-mute, looking like he did, would be a journalist? Nutcase, Wayne decided, thinks every stranger wants to invade his turf.
“Manhattan spells death to a place like this. People there think everything outside is quaint, know what I mean? No one’s making my place into a mausoleum of ‘quaintness’.”
Wayne wrote: COLLEGE STUDENT.
”That’s why I was suspicious. You’re what I’d call a borderline.” Joe pointed to the pad, ”No journalist was ever that closemouthed.”
Wayne and Joe stopped their exchange to watch the AG and a large girl in a raincoat disappear behind the curtain leading to the stage.
“Is the AG a friend of yours?”
“What did you say you wanted?”
GIN AND TONIC, Wayne wrote, tearing off the page and handing it to Joe.
“I knew her mother.”
WAS SHE LIKE THE AG?
“Yeah, I looked out for both of them…” Joe’s hand hit the bar, face-down. Wayne wished he had a drink, so he’d have something to slam too. He tested a stool further away. It seemed the safer course. Joe was a burly man — a mountain getting hostile.
YOU HAVE A NICE PLACE, Wayne wrote, CUSTOM JOB?
“I built it myself, just like Regines, but without the celebrities.”
IS GO-GO STILL BIG IN THE SUBURBS?
“Since when is Brooklyn the suburbs!” Joe’s knuckles rapped the wooden surface of the bar. Wayne, feeling nervous, turned the stool and noted the restaurant interior.
The walls were luminous around the edges. Day-glo under black. The cages were a real eyesore.
Wayne felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and closed the book, expecting the rest of the arm to do some violence.
“You know that bum, the Anarchist?”
”You’re an improvement over that one.”
Joe finally mixed the gin and tonic, wondering how the AG had met the amiable deaf-mute.
The walls of the dressing room, where the AG and Rhonda made up, were layered with jars of makeup and cold cream thrown in fits of tension. Go-go was rigorous. The job required emotional self-control, mental detachment, and good muscle tone.
Rhonda was a pro. Mental preparedness and physical abandonment were her strengths. She steeled herself by cleaning her mirror, layering her face, and imagining a glamorous Rhonda who sang mezzo for the Met. She had always wanted to. She knew lots of arias by heart. But she had no voice. Besides, after years in the cage, she was honest with herself, she craved admiration more than song. The act might be a 1960s relic, but it filled the bill more than singles’ bars with their complicated status systems. Did her looks measure up–her job–her age? She had to be smart, look pretty, and play quiet with good jokes to be appealing. At these places, she initiated many conversations. Many men walked away to a distant drink or a phony visit to a men’s room. Later, she’d see the same guy talking to someone else, looking through her attempts at additional eye contact.
Now, she didn’t care about the steady boyfriend she had once wanted. The cages were sufficient. Rhonda felt like a cliché. That was one reason why she worked at Joe’s Place. It could be anywhere, and she could be anyone. Lately, though, the music got on her nerves. This month’s tape seemed unusually repetitive. One of the songs scared her. The rhythm was too violent, like some suicidal mating urge. Rhonda knew her shrink would disapprove of her choice in music. She put on her costume, not questioning her motivations. It seemed the easier course.
With a green pencil, the AG emphasized the up tilt of her eyes. She also thought of her first night with the Anarchist.
“Where do you live?”
“Sure, that’s where I’m headed,” he said dourly, “from what I’ve heard…”
“I know you’ll live there. I can read minds sometimes.”
The Anarchist was superstitious. Even after Joe’s corroboration, he had remained whitely afraid.
The AG filled in her lips with bright pink, deciding it looked okay as she recalled her explanation about the ”sometimes.”
“That’s the problem with ESP,” she had said, “how to know what is genuine and what is imagined. It’s a matter of ‘feeling’ the difference and knowing when it should be acted on.”
She acted intuitively, having long ago accepted the impossibility of analysis. If only the Anarchist could trust himself as well! Then, Sandy would be no threat. Even now, while putting the top on her lipstick, the AG could sense her moving between them. The AG muted the painful sensation.
She peeked out of the wings, pleased to see Wayne, her new friend. He was smart, high-strung, and sensibly self-confident. He had suffered into maturity earlier than most and it was this hypersensitivity that was his real handicap. All this the AG saw in side glances. Still, it remained for her to guess what he was noting on his pad.
Wayne was holding his pencil stub and thinking about sex. Oh, for the delusion of a simple Madonna-whore complex. If he could just project guilt onto one woman he would be more considerate of all women. Custom-made satisfaction, his particular obsession, was an addictive item. When a woman realized he had other things to do, the hurt was worse than it should be. He was responsible. He was the flagrant. Thursday, with her carefully delineated affair, had made him feel like an honest man. But, since meeting the AG, he had neglected her windshield. Notes probably whirled all over the street. He felt awful, but he just couldn’t meet her. The AG occupied him completely.
Joe leaned over Wayne’s blank pad and said, “You know, I’m well-known in some circles, but I never want to become a popular interest spot–no matter how much business it would bring in. After the noise died down, the guys I care about, the ones who helped me get started, would snub this place–talking about how great it used to be. You understand?”
Wayne curled his index finger and thumb to form something between an A-Okay and an imperfect zero.
About ten o’clock, the AG felt a little nervous. She wondered what Wayne would think of her. He would note the truth of what he saw, and what, she asked herself, would that be?
Joe went to the front of the stage and raised an eyebrow to silence the crowd. Clapping ensued when he held up two fingers and said, “Ladies!”
The AG and Rhonda entered in pink mini Comanche outfits. Wayne thought the AG looked a ridiculous punk Pocahontas, until she struck what he noted as a:
REMINGTON POSE. SHE ARCHES HER BACK, RAISES HER HAND RIGIDLY.
HER FACE IS MEDITATIVE. ”BRAVE COMMUNING WITH THE MOON BEFORE
Wayne was astounded. He had seen a girl in a G-string perform a one-handed upside down split on a poodle’s perch. He had seen another girl bathe in a champagne glass. He had witnessed a bubble-gum competition involving two participants in a simulated sex act. Wayne could determine the AG’s was not a commercial sex act. It certainly wasn’t Go-Go, that job traditionally reserved for women with low I.Q.’s and matching self-esteem. The thing about the AG was that the syndrome didn’t apply. She didn’t seem to take her role very seriously. In fact, she didn’t seem to be aware of it at all!
SHE IS NOT MENTALLY IN THE CLUB. SHE INDICATES A FOREST WITH
TREES…SHE KNEELS, CLASPING BOTH HANDS TO HER BREAST BEFORE REACHING OUT TO THE SKY. SHE SEEMS TO TELL A STORY OF STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. HAWAIIAN INTERPRETIVE (Wayne crossed this out.) NO. HORSE-OPERA KABUKI, IF SUCH A FORM EXISTS.
Rhonda, he noted, was a conventional contrast — a large-boned girl with huge breasts, long legs, and flat feet. Wayne focused on these. The veins were enlarged and purplish. The toes were bent under from years of high heels. These would be the part her lover should concentrate on, Wayne decided. He also noted how dull her eyes were. He couldn’t tell much else.
Neither could Rhonda, who was about to unleash some suppressed emotion. After a teenage abortion, Rhonda had groggily signed a sterilization paper. Originally, she blamed herself for naiveté about sex. Later, she blamed the procedures of welfare doctors. Subconsciously she raged at society’s sexual hypocrisy. Rhonda danced vengeance because she was impotent. Usually this drive made her a professional, purposeful tease. Tonight she was exceptional — the bitch of all jilting girlfriends, untouchable poster fold-outs, newsworthy princesses in bikinis, and manipulative soap opera queens. Rhonda provoked a male malice. Her body was an arrogant thing they could want to abuse. She asked for it. Wayne wrote: SIREN.
The AG was towards the end of her tale, where the lovers part in a snowstorm. She was physically following the beat of a computer-refined tune. The climax was not strong enough, so she detached her vision, careful to practice imaginative control coming out of it. Slowly, Rhonda’s cage took shape. The tables below it formed, and the bar in the back became unblurred and distinct. The AG was overly aware of Rhonda’s kewpie-doll outfit. She felt her own body dressed the same, but imagined, instead, a black Victorian dress. It had a set-in waist, mildly puffed shoulders, and a high, white collar. She thought it was too long but didn’t want to shorten it. She felt unexposed.
The crowd was rough and red-faced with too much alcohol in it. Wayne, nervous, wondered where the tension would erupt, until he noticed Joe mixing a whiskey sour unperturbed. Wayne relaxed. This was obviously a nightly saga.
The AG registered individual faces. This guy loved his wife, but not as much as he’d expected when he first married. That one was left in the lurch. Another was paying through the nose. The AG felt they wanted to get theirs, get some, get through it all somehow. She was a pretty girl they had in fantasy as they drank. It was all very human. They were all very tired, with long weeks of work behind them.
A new tune — the AG was a spineless, single-celled organism swimming upstream. She eerily reflected a brainless vacuum, feeling peaceful until she heard the dowel stick CRACK! Imaginative control was lost. She snapped back, instantly, to her surroundings.
The new tune was the one Rhonda feared — the one with the voice near orgasmic death. The cage became the operating table she would be obliterated on. Rhonda smashed through the cage, spraining her arm. She leapt into the aisle, goading the besotted crowd until the first man dropped his belt.
Wayne could not swallow his drink and didn’t know what to do but scribble:
GO-GO GIRL GOES BERSERK!
The headline simplified. The story was about a “train” that had to be stopped. Wayne remembered high school tales of girls who pulled gang bangs.
NOT ABLE TO RECORD, NONRECORDO (he wrote) AG!!! DON’T LEAVE YOUR CAGE!
The AG stood center stage, the strobe whirling confusedly over her. She closed her eyes in order to sense what to do. Hands clapped insistently. Wayne stood on a stool holding his notebook horizontally. It said: SING!! It meant diversion.
The AG had never sung before. “Do I have to?” she asked Wayne, without speaking.
Wayne nodded, folding his arms and swaying to indicate something soothing.
LULLABY! He thought the word.
The AG declined. Belinda went downstairs for Joe, who was looking for some missing bottles of Gin.
DO IT!! Wayne thought.
The AG, unexpectedly, began to warble. Wayne could hear in his mind’s eye a narrative about a place where a mountain stream ran. A bird shrieked about an avalanche — sorrowing among the rubble for its buried mate. No one understood this narrative but Wayne. Still, the men in line paused because the performance was strangely insistent and sad enough to quell any bloodlust.
Rhonda sat up and drew her legs to her knees, wanting to believe that she had died. But the pain in her arm was too real. She let Belinda take her home as the AG finished her song. The dead mate ascended with the unborn birds and the dust finally settled over the mountain.
The crowd clapped, and the AG realized she was out of her cage. She was not sure what it was that she had sung. She thought, perhaps, it was not the usual. Joe put his arm around her, furious at his clientele.
”Okay, you animals, I’m closing! AG, what happened to Rhonda?”
“She broke down to her components,”
“She had a breakdown,” the AG said, watching Joe’s crowd depart with. His fear signaled the end of Joe’s Place. Yet she knew he did not really want to retire.
“Joe,” she said, “I want to conciliate…I really do.”
Joe did not understand her, but he could not prevent her from returning to her cage. There was no music, but her own rhythm as she danced about women — women followed on dark streets; unloved wives, besieged secretaries, an off-balance barmaid shifting her tray from hip to hip. The AG did not dance ideology, but conciliation and pain. She also danced the Bowery — of men with fired brains and wasted bodies searching for a means out; hating, avoiding, not being able to avoid a final hand-out.
Wayne caught the gist, but the crowd did not know or care. They liked watching the pretty girl. She was soothing. The AG was in no real danger. Mostly, Joe’s Place attracted a moral crowd. They only wanted to defile what was already defiled.
Wayne wrote a word he’d last seen stamped on a soap package: PURITY
Once he’d broached the subject to the Llama, who said, “Aspiration, that’s its function.”
“Does it exist outside of that?”
The Llama looked long, “In relation to the impure.”
Wayne had felt it was precarious to press him. Fragmentation would be the charge. Sometimes Denotation caused its own disease, Wayne thought heretically, scribbling another word: INTEGRAL = INTEGRITY.
The AG absorbed the crowd and their pent-up passion. She improvised a song of a leopard’s desire. It was bizarre, incoherent, and erotic. Wayne recorded the sequence as he ”heard” it, knowing he might doubt his own veracity later.
SHE’S SINGING IN A WIDE RANGE OF GROWLS. THE LEOPARD’S MUSCLES ARE WELL-OILED, HIS SINEWS LOCK. HE LEAPS THE CLIFFS UNTIL HE SPOTS HIS FEMALE. THE SPACE BETWEEN THEM IS HUGE. HE SPRINGS INTO THE AIR, LANDING ON PADDED PAWS. SHE SHIES AWAY. THEY CIRCLE TENSELY. HE MOUNTS HER. THEY MESH IN PLEASURE, REACHING ORGASM–HERS A BIT AFTER. FOR A SECOND THEY CANNOT SEPARATE. A TRACE OF FEAR ENTERS HIM, SHE PURRS AND RELAXES. HE EASES OUT, NUZZLING HER UNTIL HE PERCEIVES AN ANIMAL ON THE PLAIN BELOW. HE LEAPS AFTER AN ANTEATER, RETURNING WITH THIS LATE-NIGHT SNACK. ANIMAL ORDERS NEED NO ABSOLUTIONS: ANTHROPOMORPHIC?
Wayne underlined the last word, thinking it might be a key to the AG, wondering that she had touched his imagination so he did more than record. Maybe he had taken a genuine leap into creative conjecture.
As Joe found the disco controls, the AG, exhausted, trudged backstage. The crowd ordered no drinks. They could do nothing but talk about the pale-haired girl. In truth, there had never been an act like hers.
The AG, changing in the dressing room, hoped some help could be found for Rhonda. But, unfortunately, psychiatry had its gaps. She would visit Rhonda soon. Tonight, she wanted to talk to Wayne. It might be a good time for confidences since the moon was three-quarters.
Wayne guessed that she would not be in the mood for his fake interview. Neither was he, so when she walked over to the bar, he simply wrote on his pad: CAN I TAKE THE D TRAIN W’ITH YOU — YOU ARE A REAL SWEET SINGER.
The AG blushed, “I’m not a singer.”
“No, a go-go girl.”
DID YOU EVER HEAR OF THE AMERICAN LLAMA? he asked her on the D-train. The AG said no and showed polite interest, but did not understand the purpose of the Denotational Church or what a disciple did. Wayne used the word “follower,” but it only added to the confusion. The AG said she hoped Wayne liked being one and slept on the train.
Wayne moved a stray hair from her eyes as the lids rose and fell in an optical heave. Amazing, Wayne thought, after the whole evening he still did not know any specifics about her. Who were her folks? How old was she? When had she developed her ESP?
This last boggled him. What was the extent of it? How was it used and controlled? Did she communicate with everyone in the way she had with him? An exclusive communication was one of his deepest wishes. His pad was a nuisance at best. His voice was an unused humiliation. If she understood him, perhaps he also had ESP?
Suddenly aware that she was leaning defenselessly against him, Wayne fiercely glanced around the car at the only other passenger, a prone drunk. Relieved, he returned to her face. Her features were cookie-cutter clean. He tried to tap into her dream, but had to resign himself. It was definitely a one-sided affair.
Wayne tried to imagine what it would be like to be different in some profound way. Maybe the Llama understood how such a person could exist. Hell, he was just a confused kid. Wayne woke her at Astor Place and walked her to the loft.
“How long have you been following me?”
“What do you know, now?” the AG asked, opening her eyelashes widely.
EXTERIOR HABIT AND INTERIOR POTENTIAL.
“Have you seen the Anarchist and Sandy?”
“Can you let me know if you find anything unusual in his routine? I think Sandy means us harm.”
Wayne was surprised. How could she not know anything more concrete? It seemed that she was a medium who was strangely insulated from her immediate environment.
“I trust you, Wayne,” the AG said with quiet intensity, “I know you will tell me true things.”
Wayne did not want to think of the Anarchist’s seduction. He was afraid the AG would tap in. He wanted to think of anything else.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT FOOD FOR VENDETTAS?
“It’s the name of the Anarchist’s food co-op. I’m afraid his lack of success has made him very bitter.”
Wayne did not ask further. Her eyes were darkening with tears. At the garage door, he was ecstatic when she smiled.
“Will you be following me tomorrow?”
Wayne said he thought he would, unsure what the Llama would make of his report.
The AG kissed him on the forehead and said, “What he likes, I guess.”
Wayne had not verbalized the question, he realized, back in his room. He hadn’t even noticed. It had seemed so ordinary.
SURVEILLANCE REPORT ON THE BLONDE GIRL KNOWN AS THE AG:
I have been following the Anarchist’s Girlfriend for a week, as of this date, and can determine few facts except that she is on the scene of various emergencies and manages to “save the day.” In the time I’ve followed her, she arranged aid for an epileptic on a major highway and stopped a self-destructive go-go girl from a “gangbang” by singing a weird spell-binding lullaby. Adding the ”Pigeon Drop” incident to these, one could safely say the AG has internal antennae for such situations. This ability, however, doesn’t extend to her own immediate problems. She seems totally unaware her roommate has seduced her lover. Her surrogate father, who owns the club she’s employed in, has her interests at heart, but is uninvolved in her home life. She could use some help in this area.
CONCLUSION: The AG is an unusually perceptive, but otherwise simple young woman. Much might be gained by a first-hand study of her paranormal abilities, but that would take a lot of patience. Potentially, she might become a valued addition to our congregation.
PLEASE ADVISE FURTHER SURVEILLANCE PROCEDURE–WAYNE NIEBOLD
It was clear to the Llama that Wayne was backing off from revealing information about the Anarchist’s Girlfriend. He had tried to denigrate her gifts to coincidence and emphasize her “simplicity,” a sure clue that he was getting personally involved. Once that happened, his usefulness would be negligible.
Wayne, in his editorial cluster, was fiddling idly with his pencil. His concentration was not good. He had only attempted to deceive the Llama once before, during the Pigeon Drop incident. His lapse about Thursday had been indulged, but he might be less fortunate if the Llama saw through to his real feelings about the AG. Wayne felt eyes on his back. He turned to see the Llama waving him into his office.
“Have you had any direct contact with the subject?”
“No,” Wayne signed, “It’s hard to get any specific information.. Can I drop this cloak and dagger bit?”
“It’s idiotic! I can learn more if I tell her I’m a reporter. She’ll be flattered.”
Wayne’s hands got tangled with his emotion. He reached for his pad and carefully lettered: PARDON, I’M A BIT NERVOUS — TOO MUCH COFFEE.
The Llama a waved the pad aside and smiled with warmth.
“I can tell from your reports she’s very charming, so I hate to refuse, but she might recognize you from the garage and become frightened.”
Wayne twisted his hands, frustrated. “Maybe it would help! Maybe I’d know, if I could talk to her, what I’m looking for!”
The Llama faced the window. “That is for you to discover by the means given. Wayne, you’re on the right track with her paranormal ability, but I’m afraid for you. You’re a soft-hearted man. If you get involved you’ll lose your budding objectivity.”
”Not if I tried!” Wayne said, his fingers pointing like knives.
“I would have to filter through your change of attitude. I’m sorry, no direct contact, or you’re off the case. That would be distressing. I know how hard it’s been for you to develop yourself, and I do have an interest in clairvoyance.”
Wayne knew the interview was over, because the Llama faced him impassively. The benign smile and outstretched hand were not reassuring. Wayne knew the usual warmth was in the offering, but he felt skepticism. He tried to think of the Llama as a man with motivations and could not. Wayne passed from the office to his desk. He put his undeveloped “Helpful Hints” (he hadn’t been able to concentrate on his column), in a drawer and took out the hidden carbon of his report to reread on the way home.
The report was distanced enough, maybe too much…oh hell, it was a direct giveaway. As Wayne neared his mailbox, he knew he would continue to disobey the Llama. He didn’t like the idea, but appreciated the necessity. He would pad his reports with details of time and place, trivia about her outfits, with enough hints of the paranormal to maintain the Llama’s interest. Eventually, he could announce that she had discovered her tracker. It was inevitable. By that time, he could introduce her to the Llama and expect a favorable reception. Still, he worried about the strain a lengthy deception would place on his relations with the Church. Oh, well, he thought.
Wayne took from his pocket a small key, like the kind that carne with a kid’s jewelry box. Opening his mailbox, he felt a sort of child-like excitement. What treasure would he find beneath the circulars and bills? There were never too many of these, as Wayne lived minimally and wasn’t on too many mailing lists. Today, in fact, he found five pieces of mail: two ads for discount drugstores just opening, one bill for electricity, a schedule of journalism classes offered by the Denotational Center, and yes…the unexpected treasure. A postcard. It was, though Wayne didn’t recognize it as such, from the Anarchist’s shop. He looked at cartoon frames of World War I pilots and didn’t get the humor. The message, on the other side was equally ambiguous.
OPENING: THE PHOENIX
A Non-Conceptual Event– “Movement in Action”
Contact: Sandy at Ad-A-Live for this Food for Vendettas meeting and party.
How, Wayne wondered, had Sandy gotten his address or even know of his existence? Was she also clairvoyant, or had the AG engineered the invitation? It wasn’t until his fourth flight of stairs that he remembered his name might have been on the old co-op’s mailing list. Wayne entered his apartment with a new resolution. He would go to this meeting, permission for direct involvement or not. In fact, he wouldn’t miss it for the (printed) world.