I know you like your pop stars to be exciting, but I’m afraid I simply can’t be bothered right now. I’ve been on sabbatical, you see-I’m not doing anything remotely interesting at the moment, so I don’t want anyone getting the wrong ideas-but it seemed as if everyone was getting on well enough without me. False prophets choked the life from already-poisonous atmospheres, vile succubi debased humanity’s collective sanity, mendacious tyrants clashed over dust-strewn deserts, and the New York Yankees have been restored to their proper royal status. Ah me, what’s a happy cad to do under such joyous circumstances?
Take a holiday, of course-and that’s precisely what I did, old chums. I felt a great need for some intense ultraviolet radiation, and that was that-hence my journey to the balmy climes of Gomorrah-By-The-Sea to let it all hang out below the gaudy parapets of the Laguna Ritz-Carlton. So refreshing, so luxurious-and such a change from what I was used to. Indeed-it’s so very cold where I come from, ladies and gentlemen. Not many people knew that until a vulgar Italian blew the lid off, and the place I hang my hat has been a proverbial punch line ever since. Disgraceful, really-and not exactly a prime venue for my usual workshop.
So imagine my utter and complete contentment when, one scorching afternoon there at the shore, my calm repose was pleasantly broken by the musical titterings of two ever so lovely young ladies. ‘What ho,’ I thought, ‘that magical number has blessed me again, just like young Brian always promised!’ And blessed I was, my children-not to mention tanned, rested and ready for just about anything.
“Hey there, mister!” crowed the first charming young thing. “What’s with all the gold sequins? Don’cha know it’s about 99 degrees out here? You don’t even have an um-brella!”
“Ho ho,” I chortled, “but young miss, I thrive on the heat. A healthy pink glow nicely augments my naturally devilish demeanor, and I always enjoy the feeling of Vitamin D on my red-horned head.”
She cocked her head stupidly at that last remark, and I feared I’d overstepped the bounds of appropriate discourse. “Please don’t take that the wrong way,” I said. “All I seek is perfectly innocent conversation.”
They both laughed. “I’m not afraid of you,” she giggled. “Real devils don’t wear horns.”
“Quite right, my dear,” I nodded. “Astute observation, that. Keep your head about you and you’ll go far.”
“Oh, you betcha, mister!” she said, glowing. The other one could barely contain herself-a dazzling smile appeared perpetually ready to explode at any minute off her luscious, tarty little face-and I hastened to remind myself that I was, in fact, a disproportionately old man. Nevertheless, my fabulous Persian rug stretched wide across the sand, with plenty of room for both to take a minute to repose-and so they did. Their names, it transpired, were Sarah (the loud one) and Shelley (the smiley one), but I must confess I nearly forgot both over the course of the next half-hour.
We ordered mai tais from the brown servants and spoke of the day’s events-or rather, I did, for they were both teetotal-and their periodic explosions of incredulous, ignorant innocence were ever so quaint. I sought to impress them with my considerable knowledge of everyone and everything in Creation, expounding upon all things war and peace, salvation and sin, and other such frivolous concerns-eventually meandering around to discussing, of all things, the President of the United States and his many manifold challenges. To my surprise, they both wrinkled their noses, as if some unpleasant animal had slithered across the beach.
“Oh, he’s just icky,” said Shelley, making a vulgar gagging motion. “My daddy says he’s not even really the President-that he’s just a dictator, like Hitler, or Castro, or…or Steinbrenner.”
‘What envious innocence,’ I thought, but concluded that it would be best to remove a few illusions from her pretty head. “Oh, I don’t think so. Young Barry is too tall to be a despot,” I said, “but by all means, watch him closely.”
Shelley’s face fell; she was clearly shaken by my rebuttal. Sarah, however, was quite undaunted. “No no, mister-it’s true! He’s not just any old face-ist dictator, he’s the Anti-christ! Honest to goodness!”
“I say!” Such enthusiasm made me nearly spit out my drink. “My dear lady,” I sputtered with not inconsiderable surprise, “if he were indeed such a creature, I would be well aware of it, and on that you can trust me implicitly.”
Sarah appeared confused, as if her beautiful mind were unable to reconcile two monumentally disparate problems. “But, but…” she stuttered, “he is the Anti-christ, mister. I just know it-I mean, I’d know it even if my boyfriend hadn’t told me just a year ago!”
Now, I neither knew nor cared which hideous ape had said what to this lovely girl, but clearly her daft little soul was protected from On High. However, I could not let a fabrication of this magnitude stand. “See here, Miss Sarah,” I said, briskly jabbing her perfect breast with my gnarled, sun-reddened finger, “that Goldman-crippled stick of a man is nothing more than the President! Isn’t that bad in itself? Won’t he be punished enough for his past sins?”
She shrieked with surprise. “Ow! Jimminy Christmas, mister, that hurt!” A tiny drop of gloriously red blood appeared exactly between her bikini line and Adam’s apple, itself a far, far more beautiful vision than the shocked disappointment pouring out of those doe-like orbs she called eyes. “And how can you say something like that? Everyone but everyone knows there’s only three more years ’til none of it matters anyway.”
“Like, totally!” squawked Shelly, apropros of nothing. “Mr. Lahaye wasn’t kidding, Gramps. Anti-christ or not, we’ll be long gone by the time the dictator does his worst damage. I’m soooo looking forward to it-it’ll be like, the ultimate awesome sleepover, you know? I mean wow, man-the Rapture!”
“What?” I gasped, incredulous. “My dear, unless your Mr. Lahaye is a terribly ancient Mayan savage, I’m afraid he has no idea whatsoever about when the End Times will occur. “I must insist that-”
“Must nothin’,” interrupted Sarah, the little beast. “Shelley, I don’t think this guy knows what he’s talkin’ about at all.” She rubbed her punctured chest tenderly. “We better go. I promised Todd I’d meet him at the five-and-dime soda fountain before supper, and look-it’s almost three!”
“Oh, okay,” nodded her bubbly friend. “Well mister, it’s been fun, but we gotta skedaddle, mmkay?” The false confidence in her voice broke only once, and I smelled a luscious hint of Fear. It was like a quick nip of cognac, or the salty tears of Judas-and I admit, it was difficult to restrain myself. Discipline is hard-forgotten, though-and I held firm, watching in silence as both lithe, supple young bodies got up and backed away slowly toward the stinking asphalt behind us. I refrained from watching them go, and it wasn’t long before the distinctive rattling of a Cabriolet betrayed their hasty retreat, back to some stucco-padded, red-tile-roofed palace in a securely gated Niguel neighborhood.
I resolved to return to peaceful repose, but it didn’t take long for the wind to pick up and bite my exposed heels with its foul sting. Idyllic nonexistence was turning out to be a frightfully difficult endeavor indeed-let alone the greatest trick I never pulled. So much for a sabbatical, what? I wandered back toward the lifeguard tower, but the shade was even worse there, and the attractive idiot in red trunks was little help as he stared down from his perch.
“Hey dude, are you all right? You look a little baked, man.”
“Thank you, my boy,” I called back, capable of only a half-hearted leer instead of a smile. “I’m quite all right.”
“Okay,” he replied, “you just seemed kinda tired, that’s all. Can I, like, help you out or anything?”
“No no. Don’t go to any trouble.” I shuffled over to the pay phone, out of earshot. “I’m just going to call a taxi to take me home.” And so I did, meditating on the eternal verities all the way. Off with the horns, on with the show.