Posts by Michael Gillis:
Ladies and gentlemen of the human resources department, as you sit here before me considering who will provide the entertainment at this year’s company picnic, I’m sure one question over all others is buzzing through your minds: What could The Quarter-Tones possibly offer us that other a cappella groups cannot? The answer is elegantly simple: We have a piano. They don’t.
Your employees aren’t buffoons. They know what a piano looks like, and it certainly isn’t twenty grown men in pink sports coats bopping up and down. It doesn’t wear a propeller hat or boast painfully ironic T-shirts. It is a machine of varnished wood and tempered high-carbon steel.
To be clear we’re on the same page, I’d like Pete, our roadie, to wheel in the Casio AD-220. Pete, put down the blue Slurpee for a moment and get it. Yes. There.
That is a piano.
Other groups might try to tell you that they “make the piano with their voices” or that their instruments are “entirely vocal.” These people are trying to swindle you. They’ll distract you with swag and audience engagement, and by the time you see through their charade they’ll be gone, leaving you moneyless and alone in a park somewhere, the mocking image of a piano softly vanishing from your eyes.
Don’t doubt that Harmony In Motion will do this to you. They’re all enormous dicks.
Taking these factors into consideration, I’d like to answer the one reservation you likely still have—Namely, who is the pianist capable of backing up The Quarter-Tones? Well, I’d like to direct your attention to the individual at the rear of the room balancing a blue Slurpee on his stomach. Seem familiar? That’s right, our roadie Pete also happens to be a magnificent musician.
Pete, why don’t you get up here and give the good people a taste of Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is”? Put the drink down for a moment and—Well, now you’ve spilled the Slurpee all over yourself.
Look, I’m not trying to argue we strike the best appearance. We don’t have the toned physique or the choreographed dance moves of Harmony In Motion. We don’t even really have costumes, as our current apparel of sweatpants and stained undershirts will attest to. One thing we do have, though? Passion.
Also, a fucking piano.
By now you might be wondering, when are we going to get the chance to meet the rest of the fabled Quarter-Tones? Well, it just so happens that between Pete, me and the piano, you’re looking at them! Sure, we don’t have the sheer numbers of other groups, but when you have a piano, you don’t really need a squad of members trying to emulate all its timbre and range. You just kind of sit down and push a bunch of keys at once.
Plus, think of the money you’ll save on food and lodging! Pete barely needs much more than a couple bucks for gas and snacks—and you don’t have to pay the piano at all. Did I mention that? This isn’t one of those old-timey player pianos that you put a sawbuck in to hear “Buffalo Girl.” Nope, all you’ll be hearing is Bruce Hornsby and—For God’s sake Pete, the Slurpee cup is empty. You spilled it all. That’s why you’re covered in blue sludge. Please stop trying to suck it off your gut with a straw.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit there are some who doubt our methods. They say we’re “confused about the way genres works.” That a two-person duo isn’t even “a cappella.” But these people are cowards, individuals frightened of pushing forward a musical form too long strangled by so-called “definitions” and “categories.”
Ask yourself: Did Bruce Hornsby compose his inspiring yet contemplative hits using a roomful of singers in wacky outfits? No. He didn’t. He just sat down and used a piano like any intelligent human being would—which is exactly what Pete and I will do when we cover his songs.
So The Quarter-Tones could sit around all day pretending pianos don’t exist like those assholes from Harmony In Motion. We could bring our clothes to a dry cleaner and I could take vocal lessons. But in the end, is it really necessary? For you see esteemed members of the human resources department, I’ve learned something today. An a cappella group’s greatness isn’t in the size of its members, or the number of novelty ties it has. No, it’s in something bigger. Namely, whether or not they have a piano. Which we assuredly do.
I believe I’ve made our case. Pete, clean yourself up and let’s roll out.
Dear Six Flags Advertising Executives,
You are likely already familiar with my work from prior portfolio submissions (I hope they weren’t lost in the mail) so I won’t waste time on pleasantries. Attached, you will see what I believe is unequivocally the next generation of Six Flags branding schemes. It evokes everything the public has come to expect from your cutting-edge amusement parks: Expertly crafted thrills, stomach-churning drops, a weekend getaway. It’s the sort of risk-taking almost engrained in the American character. But here you might see I’ve infused another sort of shock: Fine male sperm. Jizzum. To be blunt: Cum. I believe I’ve made my case.
- M. Gillis
Dear Taco Bell Advertising Executives,
Enclosed, please find my vision for the future of the Taco Bell image. I believe this one speaks for itself, but note how I combine the established zesty and exotic appeal of the brand with a vague and arousing hint of male ejaculate.
- M. Gillis
Dear Siemens Advertising Executives,
As you’ll see here, I’ve attempted to emphasize the—Well, well, well… It looks like you gentlemen already have yourselves covered with this one (ha ha). Seriously, though, get in touch with me if you need any further advice or help.
- M. Gillis
Anthony, Peter, comes closer. We’ve had a good run my boys, haven’t we? But it seems my time has come to its end. I don’t begrudge the Lord for taking me—He’s provided quite enough bounty for a lifetime. From my first job at the Vlasic jarring facility in Detroit to my current stint as CEO of this fine company, it’s been one hell of a ride. But now I’m destined for whatever comes after this earthly realm and so I have only one last request:
Pickle my remains.
No, no, Anthony, you heard me quite well. After I’m gone, I want you to put my body through the pickling process. You recoil! Why? Don’t you see this is the most natural end for me? I’ve pondered it through over these past months and it seems nearly self-evident now, as pure and obvious as fate itself.
I don’t understand… I thought you two would be happy that I found peace with my final resting place, and yet you seem horrified by the very prospect! Don’t you see I deserve this? Sons, I have run Vlasic too goddamn well for you not to pickle my remains. I won’t accept otherwise. It simply won’t do to be cremated or buried in a box like some ho-hum nobody who spent his life doing something besides pouring sweat, blood and passion into Vlasic.
No, there’s no way around it. For me, there’s only one option, and that’s the pickling of my corpse.
How would it even be done? I’m glad you asked Peter. Why, by putting into practice all of the knowledge, innovation and hard work that have come to define the Vlasic brand over the past seventy-five years. You two know better than anyone else that what a Vlasic man puts his mind to is always within reach. Why, Peter, wasn’t it just a decade ago that our competitors called the very idea of a hamburger-sized pickle unfathomable? Where are they now? Playing catch-up, I bet. They said the same about me when I first proposed I have my earthly remains submerged in a salty brine bath, seasoned with garlic and then placed in a large jar covered with cloth.
They’ll learn to regret those words.
And you, Anthony, what did our investors call you when we announced our plan to start producing relish? I’ll tell you what they called you, because it’s exactly what they labeled me when I wrote into my will that my cadaver be immersed in Kosher vinegar, spiced with dill and displayed in a glass case in the lobby of the Vlasic factory: They called us madmen.
Would they dare call us madmen now?
Now, boys, I’ll agree with you that my intentions are unorthodox. Hell, they might even sound downright odd if taken in the wrong light. But isn’t that in the very lifeblood of this company? The testing of eccentricities. The manifestation of whims. The fostering of wonders. Ah, I can see it in your eyes. You believe it too, don’t you? Now, come, be dreamers with me! Bring in the vat! Call for the white mustard seeds!! Quickly, boys—We have work to do!
Peter Chang, the world-renowned pianist, sits on stage beneath a glowing spotlight in the center of the Metropolitan Opera’s stage. It’s a sold-out crowd, and they’re all here for him. He smiles nervously, and tightens his tie. Behind him, an orchestra of the finest musicians in the world tune their instruments.
Francis Brazinni, the charismatic conductor, walks onto stage in his tuxedo to a thunderous applause. He grins, bows, and backs subtly over to Chang.
“Chang,” Brazini says leaning in, “Are you a-sure you’re ready for this? You’re not having that, uh, problem we discussed earlier? We can still call this thing off.”
“Uh—“ Chang responds. “Uh…uh” he bangs his fist on the top of the piano, bites his knuckle, hits himself in the head. “Yeah, fuck it. Fuck it. I am the great Peter Chang. I can handle it. We’re good.”
“Okay, you understand the entire orchestra is counting on you? You’re the cue to start, you know.”
Brazini takes a breath and raises his conducting baton to the orchestra. He nods and Chang starts playing an incredibly simple ascending C major scale. A large drop of sweat falls from his forehead and splatters on the keys.
He plays the wrong note.
People start whispering loudly from the audience.
“Heavens to Murgatroy! What is he doing?” a dandy sitting in the balcony hisses to his bored wife. “This is Bach! Not Piano Lessons for Dum-Dums!”
Chang breathes loudly into his piano’s microphone like a fat man who has just eaten a fistful of Cadbury eggs and is now choking to death on their nougat-y center. The sound fills the unbearable silence.
“Okay, you can do this buddy,” Chang says to himself.
Brazini backs over to Chang.
“Chang, a-buddy. Everyone can hear you when you’re a-talking to yourself, you know that, no?”
“I know,” he says. “I just don’t want ‘it’ to happen again. Give me time damnit.”
Brazini backs off and Chang restarts playing the scale, gets halfway through and then flubs another note.
Brazini crosses his arms and looks at Chang disapprovingly.
“What the fuck is he doing?” someone whispers loudly from the audience.
“Shut up you imbecile! What do you know about true art?” Chang shouts at the audience. The spotlight shifts to the heckler to reveal she is a paraplegic servicewoman in an electric wheelchair with a little American flag coming from it. The crowd boos. “Oh…sorry,” Chang mumbles.
He begins humming a major scale to himself, but screws this up halfway.
“You got this Chang,” he says to himself. His voice resounds through the auditorium.
“Do you seriously not know how to play a major scale? You fucking hack!” a heckler shouts.
Chang stands up.
“You are a cyst on the face of the musical world!” he shouts at the darkened audience. The spotlight shifts to reveal the same woman in a wheelchair, now giving him the finger. “And I’m not sorry this time you disabled whore!”
The audience begins booing.
Brazini who has gone as pale as a ghost, tries to salvage things by grinning apologetically at the audience. “Folks, heh heh, this is all one big a-misunderstanding.”
They only boo louder.
“Alright, alright Changy…Come on. You didn’t play in the goddamn White House to screw this up,” Chang says, his eyes welling up with tears. He wipes the tears away.
With one hunt-and-peck finger, he plays the first note of the scale. It’s right. He smiles to himself and nods. A few seconds of searching on the keys later, he puts his finger on the next. It’s good. He seems to be ignoring the crowd now, in the hypnotizing groove of playing something most children know how to do. He finds the next, and the next, all without a mistake. Brazini, spotting this, holds his hands up to the audience, who hush in anticipation of Chang’s next retarded mistake. But it never comes. In thirty seconds, he gets to the halfway point, then starts descending, in note after note of perfect major scale-age. Finally, he raises his finger to hit the last note.
“Yipee!” he whispers to himself as he pushes the key down. At this point an exceptional fart escapes his asshole and he shits himself in the key of C, precisely the note he intended to play, and the sound of his rupturing asshole washes out into the crowd, resounding louder than any sound yet heard in the Metropolitan Opera, rumbling through the wood walls and shaking the audience members in their seats thanks to the construction of the chamber, made to resonant with loud, flatulent Cs. A man’s eardrum bursts with the transcendent explosions issuing from Chang’s anus as his pants fill with stew-bowls of shit. Blood spurts out of the audience member’s ears. The servicewoman’s head explodes in a rain of skull and brain.
In a moment, the tumult has calmed down, and the rapturous applause begins. Chang steps to the front of the stage, his own feces trailing down his pant’s leg like a lumpy garden snake as he take a bow below a shower of audience-cast confetti and roses. Behind him, the swelling orchestra sets in playing the most heart-achingly poignant rendition of Bach’s Opus 73 ever heard by human ears.
In the fall of 2011, Dartmouth College hosted the prospective Republican Party
candidates and attendees for a nationally televised debate. The Jack-O-Lantern had the privilege of interviewing three of the candidates. The following transcript of the footage, as yet untelevised because of contractual obligation from Bloomberg Television, shows the results.
Interviewer #1: First of all, like me thank everyone in attendance on behalf of our publication. It’s an honor to be in the presence of so many political luminaries.
The candidates nod.
Interviewer #1: The first question we have is addressed to Speaker of the House John Boner.
Cut to John Boehner, confused. Text on screen identifying him as John Boehner, Speaker of the House.
Interviewer #1: Now, Mr. Boner, some have indicated these debates perpetuate partisan politics. The Washington Post editorial page recently read “John Boner reiter—
Boehner: Sorry. If I could interrupt.
Interviewer #1: Of course.
Boehner: I believe you’re mispronouncing my name slightly.
Interviewer #1: I don’t understand.
Boehner: My name is pronounced Boehner.
The interviewers look at each other in embarrassment.
Interviewer #1: Oh my God. This is quite embarrassing. I’m incredibly sorry Mr—
Interviewer #1 (in disbelief): Really? That’s your name? Boehner? Well, it takes all kinds. (clearing his throat). Well, Mr. Boehner, I have to apologize, but because of time constraints we’ll need to move on to the next politician.
Boehner: Completely alright.
Interviewer #2: Okay. This next question goes to… Senator Michelle Ticklefarts, I think it is? Senator Ticklefarts—
Cut to Michelle Bachman next to the text Michele Ticklefarts, Presidential Candidate
Interviewer: Senator Ticklefarts, some have called you an outsider cand—
Bachman: I’m sorry, I’ll have to interrupt also.
Interviewer #2: Pardon me? I don’t understand why.
Boehner (to the interviewer): Come on, man…
Interviewer #2: I don’t…
Boehner: That wasn’t even close to her name!
Interviewer #1 checks legal pad. Points to it for interviewer #2 to see.
Interviewer #2 (incredulously to Interviewer #1): Really? Okay… (to Bachman) Again, my most sincere apologies.
Bachman: Fine, fine. Let’s just try to move on.
Interviewer #2: Agreed. Caveman Ticklefarts, where do you stand on a woman’s right to—
Show Michelle crossed out, and Caveman Ticklefarts next to it.
Boehner (shaking his head): Outrageous. Really outrageous.
Bachman: This is unbelievable. I’m leaving. (gets up to go, takes off microphone).
Interviewer #2: Wait. Sit down, all of you. Please.
Looks to interviewer #1
Interviewer #2: We need to tell them.
Interviewer #1 nods. Sentimental music starts playing
Interviewer #1: Look, we know we’ve been…well we’ve been making a big mess of this interview. Mucking up your names. Offending you for reasons we can’t understand. The truth is… we… we don’t know how to read. We can’t help it. So when I call you John Boner, know I just mean you, respected Speaker of the House.
Interviewer #2: And when I call you Senator Caveman Ticklefarts, just know what I really mean is, the honorable Representative from Minnesota.
Interviewer #1: And look, we get it. It’s hard to get over. If you want to leave, go on and leave…
Interviewer #2: But I guess what we’re trying to say is, we wish you’d stay.
The politicians look at each other before reluctantly nodding.
Bachman: Okay, we’ll stay, just for one last question.
Interviewer #1 squints at the legal pad for awhile.
Interviewer #1: Well, I have no fucking clue out to pronounce this next name, so I’m just going to call you Butterscotch McTinyDick!
Boehner: Oh for Christ’s sake!
Interviewer #1 (looking mortified): What? What did I do now?
Bachman (taking off her microphone): You people should be ashamed of yourselves.
As they leave, pan to a charmingly dressed dandy with an oiled mustache twice the size of a regular man’s.
McTinyDick: That’s Baronet Butterscotch McTinyDick, to you m’boy, but no use worrying about it now. (He chuckles annoyingly to himself, looking down. He’s suddenly startled.)Sink me, gentlemen! My cravat seems to have fallen into a dish of my favorite toothsome concoction: Butterscotch! Tasty as the dickens and twice as deadly! Terrible scrumptious stuff! I hope it isn’t such a terrible strain on the eyes.
Interviewer #1: No not at all I—What are you doing now?
Baronet McTinyDick has pulled out the waistband of the enormous stretchy, golden pants he’s wearing and peered into them.
Baronet McTinyDick: Hellfire and consternation, my penis really is quite tiny! Damnably small, really. Look at it, sticking out like a pin from a cushion!
His hat flies up into the air, gets suspended there for a moment, and does a little dance while his cravat spins around in circles.
Baronet McTinyDick: But no time for all that! Now’s the time for jubilee and delight!
He produces a small butterscotch-colored gramophone decorated with very small penises and begins playing a version of “Putting on the Ritz” by Irving Berlin. Then he gets up and tap dances around the room, revolving luxuriously through the chambers.
Baronet McTinyDick: Ha-ha! Look at me, I’m laughing! Hoo-hoo! Hee-hee! Come dance along with me!
Interviewer #1: Uh…
Interviewer #2 mouths “What… the… fuck?”
Baronet McTinyDick: Come dance with me I say!
He does a tap-dancing flourish and then a backflip. Meanwhile Interviewers #1 and #2 sneak slowly out of the backdoor.
Baronet McTinyDick: What fun we’re having!
I Manage the War Horse
Coming out of War Horse, one of the finest classic Hollywood epics ever, I was almost unnaturally excited about the horse who played Joey. Long story short, I now own him and I hardly intend to allow his talent to go to waste. Attached are a few of the letters from my extensive letter-writing campaign to major studio executives.
Dear Jerry Bruckheimer,
I know you’re a busy man so I’ll cut to the chase. I am now the proud owner of Peanut Butter, the horse you might better know as Joey from Steven Spielberg’s epic War Horse. I heard you were shooting a fifth in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and thought my Peanut Butter would be fantastic for a cameo. Far be it from me to meddle with your genius, Mr. Bruckheimer, but let me give you the pitch.
As you’ll agree Peanut Butter is no stranger to war-scenes and stormy-weather, so he would absolutely shine in an epic battle between Johnny Depp’s buccaneers and the nefarious English Armada. I should note here however that, because of Peanut Butter’s heart condition, he will not be performing any stunts or dangerous scenes whatsoever. That means no jumping off of ships to deliver weapons, no acrobatics in which he fakes being shot, and no loud noises at all in his general vicinity.
You might be thinking: How could I possibly incorporate Peanut Butter into a stormy battle scene under these conditions? Well, just picture this: As the fight comes to a climax, the two sides battling it out and Johnny Depp spouting swashbuckling one-liners, we can alternately cut to Peanut Butter lying down in a comfortable pose in a warm barn filled with hay. He could even be eating carrots, and occasionally whinnying. I can shoot this all from my house.
Also I love fucking horses.
Cecil R. Oswalt
Agent and Owner of Peanut Butter, the “War Horse”
Dear CEO of Pixar John Lasseter,
I’ll keep this brief. I, Cecil R. Oswalt, manage Peanut Butter, aka the “War Horse”. I read about your recent film Brave on IMDB and realized it was the perfect vehicle for my Peanut Butter. Obviously, you are likely done with the film itself. Fine. However, like all of the Pixar classics, I’m sure Brave will feature an animated short lead-in. This is where Peanut Butter comes in.
I imagine it like this: We begin in the Scottish Highlands in the misty dawn. Suddenly, we hear the thunderous pounding of hoofs as a horse races past the camera. After following it for several minutes, horse comes to a skidding stop at the end of a hill and looks out from the cliff side, its horse eyes wide in awe.
The camera pans to reveal the animated horse is not Peanut Butter, at all! Instead, it is looking out over the cliff at a giant Jumbotron video screen, maybe 5000 feet wide, featuring the live-action face of Peanut Butter. Peanut Butter lies in a warm barn somewhere, whinnying and eating hay and maybe carrots. Peanut Butter looks down profoundly at the animated horse, suddenly tiny and insignificant in comparison.
Fade out to black. On the screen, the following text appears: “Follow your dreams – A Message from Peanut Butter.”
I could fuck those horses right now. Give me the word and I’ll do it. The animated one and the real one.
Cecil R. Oswalt
Agent and Owner of Peanut Butter, the “War Horse”
Dear Mr. David Milch,
Please don’t throw this letter out. My name is Cecil R. Oswalt. Because of unexpected legal costs, I am currently homeless. But I’m a huge fan of your HBO series! Outside of this, I am also the present owner and agent of Peanut Butter, aka the “War Horse”, aka a future star of a Pixar short and Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Peanut Butter’s Super-silly Aquatic Adventure.
Naturally, then, when I heard of your upcoming HBO horseracing series Luck, I knew I had to be involved. Not only does it have the potential to be a poignant evocation of the human spirit, like so many of your projects, but I would also love to have sex with your horses. Preferably, I would like to have sex with all of them, but if necessary I could limit myself to five, three, or even two horses.
Let me make this clear, Mr. Milch, in case I risk being misinterpreted: I want to fuck your horses. A lot. This message is very important to me, so I hope you understand it. Whether it is on-camera or not is really of no critical value to me. Maybe you want to have me off-screen fucking a horse while Dustin Hoffman delivers one of your legendary Shakespearean monologues, in order to heighten the intensity of the scene, or maybe you would prefer me to have sex with the horses between shoots. So be it. As long as I am having sex with a horse, I will be satisfied.
Peanut Butter has absolutely no bearing on this transaction. To be completely honest, he was taken away from me unlawfully by so-called “animal welfare activists” and “the police.”
As. Fucking. If.
Cecil R. Oswalt
Former Agent and Owner of Peanut Butter, the “War Horse”
John: Okay Siri, I’m going to play the role of Dr. Heywood R. Floyd and I want you to play—
Siri: I know, HAL 9000. Okay, John, sounds—
John: What? No. I want you to pretend to be Daniel Richter, the guy in the ape suit at the beginning. Who the fuck is Hal 9000?
Siri: It’s the computer later on in—
John: No, screw that shit. Just pretend you’re that ape. Okay let’s start. [Putting on Dr. Floyd voice] Well hello ape. I just came back in my kick-ass time machine from the future to ape time. Yeah, no big deal. Wanna bang?
Siri: John, I don’t think—
John: Shut the fuck up Siri. I want to pretend I’m banging a dude in an ape suit.
Siri: John why don’t I just play HAL 9—
John: SHUT THE FUCK UP SIRI! Alright [Dr. Floyd voice again]. So, like I was saying…
Doug Feltz, food critic, sits in the dining room of La Vida, a Mexican-Armenian gourmet bistro, visibly shaken. He is wiping copious amount of his flopsweat on the tablecloth. He tries to take out his pad of paper to write notes on the décor, but his hands are shaking too much. He belches.
“Oh, you idiot,” Feltz mutters to himself. “Why did you have to eat before—?“
“Buenas noches, Monsieur,” says the waiter, popping up out of nowhere and startling Feltz. He is the same Frenchman from two weeks prior, although he now just happens to be wearing a sombrero and poncho. “The menu tonight is a series of amuse-bouche hors d’oeuvres with ‘salsa picante’ and ‘caliente chipotle sauce,’ whatever that is, in a—“
“Look, I’m sorry to be rude,” Feltz interrupts. “But aren’t you the same waiter from two weeks ago?“
“Monsi—Señor?” the Frenchman says. “No, of course not señor.”
“Look, you’re speaking in a French accent and—yes, I can see your double tuxedo under that poncho,” Feltz says. “You clearly are the exact same French waiter from before.”
“Uh—“ the Frenchman stumbles. “No, I believe you’re mistaken monsieur.”
“Well, look, whatever,” Feltz says. “I happened to eat some Chinese food before coming over and I—I have to go. I can’t have that whole incident happening again.”
“Incident, ‘mi amigo’?” the very clearly French waiter, says.
“I vomited all over your face for at least ten minutes,” Feltz says.
The French waiter looks perplexed.
“You really don’t remember?” Feltz says.
The French waiter shakes his head.
“Well, okay,” Feltz says. “Either way, I’m leaving.”
“Nonsense. Monsieur, me and my ‘amigos’” the waiter says, gesturing to the wait staff, “will be bringing out brioche chèvre ‘tortillas’ in just a moment.”
The waiter then claps and begins dancing in a very poor, French rendition of a Mexican hat dance, which distracts Feltz until the tortillas arrive. Feltz sits at his table, alone for the moment, trembling nervously and talking to himself.
“Why did you have to eat the Chinese food? You fucking idiot…” he says, absentmindedly grabbing a tortilla and dabbing his flopsweat with it. “Okay,” he says, composing himself. “Just don’t eat. You don’t have to. So don’t.” Thoughtlessly, he rips off a piece of the tortilla and tosses it into his mouth.
“Oh no,” Feltz says to himself. The wait staff emerges from the kitchen just in time for Feltz to begin vomiting roughly a ten-gallon hat worth of puke into their general vicinity. His vomit fills the room and begins flooding out into the nearby street, splattering on cars, whose drivers begin vomiting all over themselves and out of their windows, causing passersby to slip onto the vomit-slick ground, where they too begin vomiting upon themselves. Those walking dogs vomit into their dogs mouth, who begin vomiting back into their owners mouth, in a sort of spectacular game of vomit tag.
The head waiter comes out to an exhausted and shriveled food critic crawling through his own river of puke, and shouts:
“Fuck you, Doug Feltz!”
Part III: A few hours later
Doug Feltz, food critic, weeps openly into his tablecloth. He is pounding his head repeatedly onto the table where he is seated in the dining room of Oshiri, a Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant.
“God-damnit! What the fuck?” Feltz shouts. “Why would I eat a hoagie before coming—“
“Monsieur-san,” the waiter, who is very clearly still the same Frenchman, just now wearing a kimono, interrupts. “I—“
But Feltz has had enough.
“Stop it! Stop it!” he shouts. “I won’t be part of this cruel joke any longer! What did I do to deserve this? Really. I’m not even sure who I am anymore. I mean, apparently I have a wife and family, but I barely remember them. If I’m a food critic, then I’m an awful one, because I don’t remember ever going to a restaurant where I wasn’t completely full before the first course. And why do you keep showing up to these restaurants?” He points accusingly at the waiter. “I feel like I was just invented for some sick man’s amusement. Now stop this at onc—”
Someone stuffs a rigatoni sushi roll into his mouth and both of Feltz’s eyeballs shoot out of his eyes. Vomit rockets out of the empty sockets. And his ears. And his asshole.
Doug Feltz, food critic, wipes the flop sweat from his forehead. He is sitting in the dining room of Le Gaz, a French-Vietnamese molecular gastronomy cafeteria he has come here to review. The wait staff revolves around him.
“Now—now, wait a second,” Feltz says nervously. “Maybe we should call this off, I ate before I—“
A waiter in a double tuxedo vest pulls a satin handkerchief around Feltz’s neck. Feltz reaches up to loosen it, but another waiter stops him and arranges Feltz’s hands on the table.
“Monsieur,” the head waiter says. “The menu d’jour is, of course, table d’hôte. We are operating exclusively using crème fraiche, and the wine of the day has currents of boysenberry laced with absinthe. Now the first course—“
“Wait! I have to clear something up,” Feltz says, dabbing his head with his napkin. “I stopped at a Philadelphia cheesesteak cart before I came here! I know, I know, stupid me. But I’m really stuffed. I couldn’t eat a bite. Now,” Feltz begins to get up. “I really should be getting home to my—“
An assistant waiter pushes Feltz back into his chair and stuffs a knife and fork his hands, which immediately begin trembling.
“No! You’re not listening! Look, I’m sorry but, I—“
The classical quartet in the corner has begun playing a waltz.
“Monsieur,” the head waiter says, not listening. “This is Chopin’s Waltz in C major. It was written in 1852 and—“
“Why are you telling me this?” Feltz says, shaking visibly. “I really don’t care. I’m going now.“
But two of the assistant waiters hold him down before he can get up.
“Ah monsieur!” the head waiter says. “Here comes our first dish!”
Feltz’s eyes widen as he sees three waiters carrying out a platter. Strawberries and crème fraiche!” the waiter announces. “With chilled asparagus soup, pink peppercorn, and crème fraiche. Also a side of crème fraiche.”
“Gentlemen, it looks delightful, but I really couldn’t eat a bite—that Philadelphia cheesesteak has really done a—” Feltz says.
But in unison the wait staff have already raised five individual spoons of strawberries, asparagus soup, and crème fraiche to Feltz’s mouth.
“Here, why don’t we call this off and I’ll give your restaurant two and a half stars—“ The spoons all jump closer to Feltz’s mouth. “I’m sorry,” Feltz says, correcting himself. “I’m sorry. Not two and a half. I meant three stars! Three Michelin stars! Now, that’s a perfect score. You couldn’t ask for anything more. Just please, gentlemen, I can’t eat a thing.”’
Suddenly, all five spoons pop into Feltz’s open mouth. Without thinking he swallows. The restaurant pauses, the waltz stops playing, and the entire wait staff stares in anticipation at Feltz.
“Huh,” Feltz says, slowly chewing. “Not bad.” He smiles. A moment passes. The waiters all look at each other happily. Feltz continues: “Yeah, not bad at—“
He then begins vomiting, continuously, in an extravagant fountain, on the entirety of the restaurant. He vomits on the head waiter, the woman in pearls, and the lovers kissing in the corner. He vomits on the classical quartet playing Vivaldi. He vomits on himself and onto the priceless abstract paintings hanging in the corner. He vomits into salad bowls, the bread baskets, and the flower vases. He vomits into his own cupped hands, which simply makes the vomit overflow, spring up and hit him in the face in a very silly looking way. After eighteen continuous minutes of vomiting, mostly into the head waiter’s face, Feltz shakes vomit out of his bowler hat and leans onto his vomit-laden hands.
“Okay,” Feltz says, getting up to leave. “I’m never doing that again.”
James Joyce sat at his mahogany desk, his forehead furrowed, his chin perched upon his thumb and forefinger.
“’Once upon a time, and a very good time it was there was’—Amanuensis, are you taking this down?” he said to the malnourished Irish boy he kept chained to his mahogany desk.
“My name is Stephen, sir,” the boy replied timidly.
“I will call you what I wish!” James Joyce exploded, jumping to his feet and facing in the absolutely wrong direction.
“I’m over here sir,” the boy said.
“Ah, yes. I’m essentially blind you know,” James Joyce admitted, turning around.
“It’s always a wonder to me that I caught you and chained you up considering that I can’t see.”
“Yes, I agree,” the boy agreed.
“Now, as I was saying.” James Joyce sat down. “Amanuensis—“
“Please call me Stephen. I don’t know what the word ‘amanuensis’ means, sir. I was educated in a hovel.”
“…I need to get this first sentence on my semi-autobiographical novel done before we leave today.” James Joyce considered this and scratched his chin. “Did you say a hovel?”
“Did you say you were educated in a hovel?”
“Well yes, I was.”
“How did that work out for you?”
“Not terribly well. I was caught and chained up by a blind modernist writer.”
“Well I can see how that isn’t the most encouraging milestone in one’s life,” James Joyce quipped. They fell into a silence again as James Joyce considered something.
“What precisely defines a hovel?” he asked.
“I believe it’s a small, poorly built cottage or hut,” Stephen said. “As taken from the proto-Germanic hufan.”
“Ah, yes. Of course,” Joyce agreed. “Well, let’s just go with that first line. ‘Once upon a time, and a very good time it was there was a moo-cow…’”
IN WHICH James Joyce tries to remedy his chronic eyesight problems for good
“AH! I can’t take this bloody eyesight anymore!” James Joyce shouted as he jumped onto the pinewood table to which he had chained the amanuensis. “Every day is a torture of conjunctivitis, and glaucoma, and cataracts. I mean, look at me. I’m the greatest writer in the western world and I have to be led around by the hand of some amanuensis whose name I don’t even know.”
“Stephen,” Stephen said.
“That’s it! I can’t stand these blurry eyes!” James Joyce said, ignoring Stephen. He raised a hammer to his teeth. “I’m done with it! Once and for all!” He pulled the hammer back to strike a blow and knock out all of his teeth, fixing his vision for good.
“Wait! Wait!” Stephen shouted. “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing?”
“Well, it’s only logical. If I get rid of my teeth, then it will fix my vision. ‘Ineluctable modality of the visible’ and all that crap.”
“Sir, I really don’t think that’s what you meant by that phrase,” Stephen said.
“Oh really? And what did I mean, Amanuensis?”
“I thought it had to do with the sort of inevitable commingling of the senses with reason and consciousness. A sort of Miltonian modeling of mental phenomena.”
“Huh,” James Joyce said, as he stood on the pinewood table. “I never considered it that way. I always thought about it as the whole… the whole breaking out all your teeth to cure your eyesight thing…”
James Joyce stared at the large, blunt hammer in his hand.
“I actually feel sort of silly now.” He laughed. He laughed so hard his stupid white eye-patch fell off.
“On the other hand,” Stephen mentioned. “You can always take the reader’s response into account.”
“Oh, you’re right!”
And with that, James Joyce knocked out all of his teeth with a hammer, which didn’t cure his eyesight, but did give him a chance to get a set of those rad, wooden teeth Samuel Beckett had always admired.
IN WHICH Finnegan’s Wake continues to be written
James Joyce was hiding. He was crouched beneath the rosewood table to which he had chained the amanuensis.
“Hey amanuensis,” he said. “Amanuensis. Hey. Amanuensis. Hey. Hey, I’m down here.”
“Yes. I know you’re down there, Sir Joyce,” Stephen said.
“Look down here.”
“I have to ghostwrite five-hundred more pages of Finnegan’s Wake before the morning, and, begging your pardon, but I can’t do that if you keep distracting me.”
“Oh,” James Joyce said.
“Thank you.” Stephen started writing again on the typewriter.
“Hey…Hey, look down here,” James Joyce repeated.
Stephen stopped mid-clack on the typewriter and looked down.
James Joyce was pointing enthusiastically to the black eye-patch covering his left eye. He was wearing a papier mache parrot on his left shoulder. “Arrrr, I’m a pirate!” James Joyce yelled.
“Why did I have to see this?” Stephen asked.
James Joyce seemed to consider this.
“Shiver me timbers matey!” he said.
“It is two in the morning,” Stephen said, collapsing onto the typewriter. “I can’t deal with this.”
“Put that in there,” James Joyce said, becoming suddenly very serious.
“Put ‘what’ in there?” Stephen asked
“Have someone saying stuff like ‘Shiver me timbers matey!’”
“But that has nothing to do with—No, you know what? Fine, we’ll put someone saying, ‘Arrr, I’m a pirate’ in. Right in the middle. Just some random appearance of a pirate with a parrot and a peg-leg. No one is going to fucking read this anyway.”
“Hurray!” James Joyce exclaimed, and then he knocked out his wooden teeth with a hammer.