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The Flashback

for Dan O'Neill

Dreamed 1985/11/28 by Chris Wayan

Frankenstein working in a shopping mall.

I'm a monster working in a shopping mall in Stockton, California. Not that I'm unusual. All us shitworkers here are monsters--Frankenstein, Wolf Girl, the Hunchback. They like hiring misfits and losers. We don't quit so fast.

One day, there's a commotion at the far end of the mall. Far off, someone yells "FIRE!"

Wolf Girl pricks up her ears and says, "Yes, I smell smoke!"

Frankenstein moans "Smoke... baaaad!"

So the Hunchback calls the fire department. But we decide we'd better hunt for the smoke-source ourselves and put out the fire if we can, before it grows. The scent's quite strong now. But even Wolf Girl can't trace it--seems to come from everywhere. Weird.

A growing murmur of voices... Then around the fountain comes a crowd, yelling, carrying axes and torches! Frankenstein roars, and I scream in panic "THE VILLAGERS!"

We start to run... but just as the dream wobbles on the brink of nightmare, Wolf Girl and I look back and realize... they're the Volunteer Fire Brigade! Of COURSE they have axes! Calm down... just a little flashback.

You can see why I settle for retail work in the Stockton Mall. It's better than back home. Maybe the wage scale burns us, but at least our neighbors don't.

Refugee mentality? Damn right! I'm not running away screaming--I figure that's an achievement.

Now we have enough firefighters, so we break into teams and scour the mall. I race ahead with my team, down the steps of a vast theater, across the stage, backstage. We find ourselves hunting along the wooden back fences of suburban lots. Hear a roaring and chop through a fence and find the fire! Now it's up to us: me, Becky Long-Face in her miniskirt, and the Hunchback. But what to do?

I think "I must search great works of literature for the answer!" There's a handy bookshelf by the fire. I think Winnie the Pooh has the solution... or maybe the dark Nordic angst of Pippi Longstocking...
A dream: a one-eyed, one-fanged dog in a wheelchair, who agitates for Ugly Rights.

Instead I come up with a Beatrix Potter story: The Tale of the One-Eyed Dog. One eye, one fang, a sort of horn or tusk in fact, dominating his twisted face. He's crippled too, so he rolls around in a wheelchair.

We take him to the capital to lobby for more research on curing UMS (Ugly Mutt Syndrome). Push him up the Capitol steps. People react with disgust. He's an eyesore, and they want him gone. And gone equals death. Their faces shout it--even one eye can see.

One suit says it aloud: "Such a poor maimed creature should be put to sleep--why make it suffer such a life?" Loathing masked as empathy.

Poor One-Eye can't answer, so I speak up: "Ugly mutts don't want to die--we want to be treated equally, get what we can out of life!"

More ugly creatures lobby Congress: octopi occupy the House floor, squelching around, jetting up to the balcony, blurping clouds of ink on the Congressional Record.

Warthogs occupy the Senate, too. But, of course, who can tell?

Still, it's a mess. I shout "This looks like a job for the Hard-Boiled Detective!" He's like most superheroes--all it takes to summon him is a plot device and a bit actor saying his name...

I talk with Becky Long-Face as we wait for him. "Story of my life," she says, "waiting for a man. I never find real love." I dunno, I think she wants a perfect romantic imaginary man to masturbate over, rather than finding someone flawed and real. She spills it all to me, and I'm not sure I want to hear it. "I go for unavailable men... Though now and then I get taken over briefly by tough guys who TAKE, who act without asking. It humiliates me, but turns me on, too; so I take it. From my early childhood I've accepted ANYTHING. I can't help it, my background's Film Noir."

The Hard-Boiled Detective walks in behind her. She turns, hearing the door, and their eyes meet--and SLAP! He hits her in the face. Not hard, but a shock. Rather than getting mad, she bends away from him, half curling up--hiding. She was telling the truth! He grabs her hips and reaches under her miniskirt and starts masturbating her from behind, like he's fondling an animal. And she responds, body shaking with a mixture of rage, shame and excitement that's creepy to see. So abused as a kid that she gets hot from humiliation, even when she doesn't want to.

Suddenly he stops as if bored, slaps her on the ass and back in a mild friendly way, as if it was all just saying hello... He walks over to me. WHAM! He slaps ME in the face!

Hardboil growls "See? I told ya I got worse--I slap EVERYONE hello now." He means it. As senators swarm around him, he slaps them all, even though he KNOWS the guards will arrest him for it. But he can't NOT hit us! Over the border from sanity, and though he sees it, he can't get back.

The One-Eyed Mutt is an ugly cripple. I'm a shit-job monster with flashbacks. Becky Long-Face is a sucker for bad boys. But him? Now he's got problems!

I mean, film noir's an exciting place to visit, but... live there? And he can't get out.



LISTS AND LINKS: monsters - shopping malls - dream humor - fires - nightmares - hunted! - deformity and disability - a bit too butch and femme - frustration - healing from abuse - what the flashbacks were about: my Uncle Hugh

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