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Slippery Id: Chapter Four
My silence was bought, they kicked my wage up from $350 a feature to $600 plus expenses.
I wasn't in a position of authority to prevent Knuckles from meeting his "accidental" demise. I saw what any Blind Bitch could probably see: that an organization with the power to make someone lose their grip on the mortal coil was an organization that could deal swiftly with any bottom-feeding hack with a sour word of dissent. If I valued my stupid life swimming in semi-circles in their little scumpond, I'd better keep my trap shut and my eyes on their offensive press releases. Otherwise my pond would brim with Ricin instead of Rum & Pepsi. And I needed the lettuce (my credit card bills were due); I wasn't yet ready for a palate of pure poison.
My silence was bought, they kicked my wage up from $350 a feature to $600 plus expenses. More assignments fell into my lap. Suddenly I wasn't supplementing my income with trips to pawn shops or pit bull fights. And, to my astonishment, the interest rates on the plastic in my currency sheath dropped faster than a blowjob queen in a bourgeois brothel.
But any spike in my "demand" or surge in mammon couldn't numb the feeling that I was being a treacherous bastard for standing by and keeping quiet. A braver man would have challenged the corruption or, at least, attempted to persuade another paper to run the scandal, thereby revealing their malfeasance and casting such scrutiny on them that they wouldn't be able to snuff Knuckles out. A braver man still would have tracked and trounced Knuckles' killers, even if it fated him to die in the muck right beside the hairy pervert. At best this would have meant Knuckles wouldn't have had to die alone.
He had died alone, though, unless you count the company of gloved murderers with syringes full of untraceable toxins among what now passes as companionship. Alone, shit-scared, heart bulging with fear that could choke a boa constrictor, and droors brimming with the hardened stool of a man whose meth-and-marshmallow-encrusted bowels had been loosed by the advanced knowledge of his imminent and premature death.
If this all sounds a tad dramatic, like it's the overly-wrought work of a colorful hack-journalist finding ways to sensationalize the grisly death of a former-colleague, I'll point you to this quote from a foot note article that ran in the Bedlam Beacon: "Walsh's body was caked in fecal matter, a thick layer of anal evacuation staining his work pants despite hours of soaking in the murky ravine of the city's sump."
"It is believed that the victim lost control of his bowels upon realizing he had misjudged his step," said Officer Labute, one of the two members of local law enforcement who were first dispatched to the scene. "A stool sample yielded trace amounts of crystal meth and other illicit substances. A coroner's report is pending, to determine if drug use was the root cause of this accident."
So Knuckles died in a terrified state, utterly lonely but for his dispatchers, and I hadn't issued a single goddamn word of protest. I couldn't fight it. I couldn't bring him back. All I could do to feel human was leave.
For years I had promised friends and colleagues, of which Knuckles was one, that my departure from the mag would be a grand spectacle of anarchic fun, a day when I would sprint into the Word Slasher's office, jump up on his desk, yank off a pair of break-away pants and defecate unabashedly, nay, gleefully, on his ledger. Having done my animal business and illustrated my opinion of the man and his employ, I would back-hand him like an abusive pimp, set fire to his name plate and jog around the building, flinging Molotov cocktails at shameless kiss-ups and promising the filing clerks that I'd be back to rape and maim their loved ones.
My real exit was far less theatrical. I pinned a concise Post-It to the Hacker's mail slot, one of fifty, which told him I'd return for my severance. I asked that the check be made payable to "$$$" then loped out of the building having one of my mid-morning smoker's coughing fits, and went home to sleep irresponsibly for more hours than it takes the muscles to atrophy.
When I emerged from my Rum & Halcyon hibernation I emailed thirty websites before scoring an interview for "temp-to-perm freelance position" with ImpishScribbles.com. Imp Scrib, as it was often called, specialized in delivering stale second-hand celebrity news and serpentine digs on subjects too rich to care what filth the site had to say about them. Their Current Affairs page consisted of a stoner college student barfing up misconstrued wisdom left to resonate in his brain for three days, until it had time to mingle with his prurient male fantasies.
The mainstream press could report a young starlet's D.U.I. bust on a Monday and, by Thursday, Imp Scrib would have a feature up where an "Inside Source" (presumably someone hiding in the celebutard's trunk) had reported that the accident was caused by a lesbian scissor session that resulted in the celeb losing control of their steering wheel.
They didn't make money for being a tabloid, though. Imp Scrib's revenue came from partnerships and cross-promotional strategies with several adult film companies, sex toy manufacturers, paraphernalia purveyors and bondage shops. I naturally assumed they had pegged me to take over the porn page, since my work under the Word Slasher fell most comfortably into that category. When I arrived at headquarters, however, they illuminated on just what the temp-to-perm position would really consist of.
Their main building was a dilapidated brownstone in the heart of the Red Light District, a place populated not just by low-end concubines with facial lesions but every form of lurching, loping and leprous louse one of God's oversights could produce. The brownstone had once been a halfway house to the City's famous or notorious literati—Norman Mailer had gone three rounds with Henry Miller here, before suffering a kidney attack brought on by ingestion of decayed cork matter from a fifty-year old bottle of Rye; William S. Burroughs had kicked one of several habits during a brief pre-relapse/pre-cut-and-paste sojourn to the East Coast; Lenny Bruce had roomed with Ginsberg, of all people, while here on "vacation," and he had written an anti-Everything manifesto during his stay...but Abbie Hoffman found it while on GHB and proceeded to eat the bulk of its pages for brunch.
Now the poetry and profundity of prose were gone from its walls, but much of its muck remained. Indeed, when the Editor-in-Chief and his Publisher moved into the rent-controlled abode they had lifted nary a finger to try and remodel their new dwellings. Aside from wallpapering its hallways and foyers with cheap pulp banners that read, "Imb Scrib," everything else was just as the Bohemian "healing home" had left it. A bone shard from Mailer's knuckle was still lodged in the corridor's sheet rock, a curl of Miller's hair glued to a crack in the wood paneling by a now ruby red clot of dried blood, Bruce's jaundiced semen forming a snail trail nimbus around a set of matching heroin needles nailed to a couch cushion in what was now the Custodial Lounge, and Burroughs' curious perfume of cat piss and Methadone still pungent on the drapes in the Copy Writer's office. Consequently the Copy Writer did most of his work from his tax-deductible suite at the Econo-Lodge up the road.
I saw or smelled most all of this as I was lead by an anachronistically skinny assistant into the big man's digs. No matter where you go, save for a personal blog or a website run by illiterates (of which there are many), the Word Slasher is there. He may look different than you remember. Maybe his bald, flaky scalp is now covered in feathery down with blond surfer streaks. Maybe his nose is smaller and less rosy than it once was. And he can go by a different surname entirely. But I assure you, it is the same man.
"Rob Sayville!" the man behind the big mahogany desk barked.
"And you're the Word Slasher, I take it?"
"No, no," he said mock-heartily, a big ersatz smile concealing a sneer. "There's none of that here, none of that. I'm simply the adjudicator. Name's Dick Tripman."
"No, your name's the Word Slasher." I patted him on the back with one hand and rifled through his mini-fridge with the other. "It's all right, that's your job. Someone's gotta do it."
I snatched up a can of Killa Swill, the latest taurine-and-guarana-infused energy beverage on the market, cracked the top and drained the contents while clutching my right man-mammary. Then I settled into the large leather swivel chair behind the Word Slasher's desk. Best to assert my status at the gate, so he'd know who he was dealing with.
"So where do we start?" I said. "What do ya got for me?"
"We start with you getting your lard ass out of my seat. You sit there." He gestured broadly to the opposite side of the desk where I could faintly make out two Pleather-cushioned foot stools that must have made his every visitor feel like a five-year old child playing messenger to the brute of the beanstalk.
"I think I'll stand," I replied unsure.
"Suit yourself." He went on to fill me in on how Brent Vanderbilt, the college drop-out who had managed the Current Affairs desk, was viciously mutilated by a stampede of spooked shutterbugs outside the Hanoi Hilton after rumor had spread to the paparazzi that Nic Cage was naked and greased up on the penthouse patio, supposedly face-fucking his seventeen-year old female co-star from the new action flick Hanoi Serious.
Vanderbilt's funeral was underway as we spoke and I could see a hint of sadness in the Word Slasher's eyes. More, in fact, than I had seen from World Slasher Numero Uno after Knuckles was reported dead. Maybe Imp Scrib would be a nice new home after all.
This sentimental and idealistic thought was promptly squashed when I learned that World Slasher Deux was, in fact, experiencing a broken blood vessel resulting from a wicked case of heart burn and bad gas. His tears were no more for Brent than they were for his fierce urge to fart. What he was really sad about, if anything, was that he might have to fold their most popular news page if I didn't work out.
"So wait," I said. "You want me to write straight gossip?"
"We want you to revitalize the section. Brent was our Man on Campus. He brought in the 18-23 crowd. We know, from reviewing your portfolio, that you have a far more expansive audience. Everybody likes smut."
"Rrriiight. So you want me for porn reviews then."
"No. We want you to be..." The imaginary drum roll sounded. "...the Sleazy Sleuth!"
They wanted me to become a glorified mudslinger, a gossip-monger with a cheap nickname. In short, they wanted me to be the heterosexual but no less flamboyant Perez Hilton of Ink Scrib. And they wanted me to bring the prestige but not the typos of the New York Post to their signature brand of silly celebrity smears. But first...they wanted me to prove myself...
MY DATE WITH A FOX
Sources have told me that Megan Fox was being a naughty minx the other day. Her jeans were shredded, her eyes were wild and her feet were bare as she raced into an eatery on Sunset Boulevard and trounced a pimply kid in a paper hat. My source said she hissed at the poor boy before dry humping him and hollering about her desire to make out with every young actress in Hollywood.
"Lesbian chic rocks!" she allegedly cried.
It got more scandalous when she disembarked from the eatery and deliberately flipped over a friend's SUV during a game of chicken with an antagonistic fire hydrant. The owner of the vehicle, one of Megan's long-time coke buddies from her out of control grade school days, was none other than Ashley Tisdale, who couldn't be reached for comment because she was across town mainlining heroin at an elementary school screening of Post-Grad Rehabilitation Center Musical.
After getting stitched up at the Robert Downey, Jr. Clinic on Crenshaw, the sultry starlet met up with a very unkempt Shia LeBouef at a corner bistro in Montebello, where the young gypsy actor was launching silverware at all the "boring, normal" patrons while growling monosyllabic monologues from the pages of his top secret copy of the script to Transformers 12: Vengeance of the Rock Em Sock Em Robots. They dragged the wait staff out to the curb and forced them to watch as they downed bottles of pure ginseng extract and murdered a man with a pair of thinning shears.
The sources mentioned above were really me. I saw the whole thing. I even have proof! There's three missing buttons that Megan Fox bit off the bowling shirt gifted to me by Charlie Sheen, who showed up for our afternoon celeb spree just long enough to impregnate two street hookers and call his ex-wife a "thoughtless c**t."
Fun in the sun is what it was, but the real party didn't start until a certain tomboy dee-jay ushered us into a night spot where we were all told to wear baseball caps low over our eyes, to conceal our true identities. I felt like Clark Kent as Tobey Maguire and I grinded on two college freshmen and considered giving an eager hostess a donkey punch after she watered down our Rocket Fuels. Instead, we just ordered eight hundred dollars worth of drinks and stiffed her on the tip.
Sienna Miller was swaying back and forth against the restroom wall, drunk out of her mind. It reminded me of my Uncle Chris and how he would get on egg nogs during the holidays or how my ex-girlfriend got during her short college career or how all my friends get on any given weekend. Plenty of us had taken our pants down or thrown up on a bar stool. But nobody ever took pictures of us. Usually we were just dragged by the scruff of our necks and kicked outside by some husky bouncer. Then we would sleep it off in the car. Sometimes we didn't wear underwear. Nobody ever seemed to notice.
So there we are, the modern day Brat Pack, hissing at hormonal Frat persons and demanding free bottles of champagne, when a pair of hirsute and hostile patrolmen responded to a noise complaint and decided to club me in my front teeth for making furtive movements and not being famous. They let me go with a warning and some bloody gums, but Tobey and Shia were ripped out the doors for public intoxication after they refused to sign glossy 8 x 12's that the piggies' children had conveniently left in the backseat of their squad car.
Fortunately The Fox was still on hand and, thanks to an eagerness to be equally press-able, so was Mischa Barton, who was dressed like an owl and shrieking in a long dead language to try and attract attention. Sadly, everyone's cameras weren't working because of interference from some strange lightning storm whose bolts were the colors of CGI blitzkrieg. Then we realized it wasn't blitzkrieg at all but Jerry Bruckheimer farting in the Men's Room. We all laughed and danced naked on the bar, drinking freely from paying customers' glasses.
Megan still had the pair of crusty scissors in her hand, but nobody seemed to give a rip. They were paying more attention to a blemish over her right eye. How is this possible? Everyone knows Megan Fox is made of heavenbroth, honeysuckle and porcelain. How does something like this happen?!
Paris Hilton sidled by and one of her chihuahuas bit into Megan's forehead, showering Paris's neck in puss. She seemed unfazed, but that was probably due to the effluence of Bruckheimer's flatulence.
Now all eyes were on Megan's lips which looked particularly succulent as she sunk them into a Fat Burger on the floor by the bar. I scooped her up and flung her over Mischa's frail shoulders and the three of us scurried out of the club, after first snatching two viking helmets off of Flavor Flav and Gary Busey.
We retired to a five-star hotel. This is where the paparazzi found us at 10 AM the following morning, wearing unforgivable bathing suits and looking too human to deserve our privacy.