Chapter Thirty-three

   I came to, raised my head off the glass and looked around. Maureen and the cop were both staring at me, open-jawed, like I was weird or something. And then I saw Abe Lincoln, and he, too, seemed concerned.
   "Say, young man, why are you hiding back there?" Abe asked.
   I ducked back down behind the machine, I'm not sure why. Meanwhile, the cop resumed his conversation with Maureen, sort of.
   "We just want to ask him a few questions, maybe rough him up a little, that's all. We have reason to believe that this Reynolds fellow has no identity. He needs an identity, ma'am."
   "I don't get it."
   "In order for us to identify him."
   "He needs proper identification."
   "Proper papers?"
   "It means that he shouldn't be here, or at least not without the proper papers."
   "What does that mean?"
   "We have reason to believe that Mr. Reynolds is here under false pretenses."
   "Uh, well, what's this about, officer?"
   "Have you seen him recently, ma'am? Aha."
   "Oh, I didn't mean to say he'd never worked here, I just said I didn't really 'know' him, in the sense that he's so damn unpredictable."
   "So you're telling me you don't know anyone named James M. Reynolds? He's never worked here?"
   "James M. Reynolds?"
   "Excuse me, ma'am, but do you know a man named James M. Reynolds?"
   "Thanks. And what can I do for you today, officer?"
   "Nice store, very nice store."
   Strange. Apparently, when I stuck my head in the Xerox machine, everything reversed and we were suddenly going -- backwards!
   "Hello," Maureen said to the cop.
   "Hello," the cop replied, walking out the door backwards and continuing to walk down the street, backwards. So much for him, I thought. But things wouldn't be quite that simple, because another customer entered, a new customer, and he wasn't walking backwards, he was walking forwards, and he was different in other ways, too. This was a no-nonsense kind of character, a cut-to-the-chase type of a guy, someone with no patience for my little games, someone with no patience for the kind of peekaboo-I-see-you crap I'd been dishing out, someone who wouldn't take any more of it, someone who liked his prose straight ahead, with none of the self-serving self-referential inwardly-turning psychoanalytical bibbledy-babbledy gobbledygook.
   "Reynolds?" he said, directly. "I'm pulling the plug on you, pal. Game's over. You're going to Spain."
   "Look, "I countered, "I'm not going anywhere."
   "Oh yes you are."
   "Oh no I'm not."
   I'm in Spain. I don't know how I got here, but I am now in Spain. I can't believe it. Spain. Spain! Spain! No, no, I'm not in Spain, I'm not in Spain. Mayday, Mayday...
   What, Maureen?
   "Why Spain?"
   I don't know. I really don't.
   "Well, it's pretty fuzzy territory you've entered into, pretty fuzzy. You know, you can only keep the reader's attention for so long. Breaking through these conceptual barriers without providing a solid underfooting of character and story could lead one to lose interest -- look, I'm one of the characters and I'm losing interest! Get a grip on yourself, Jim, get a grip, that's what I'm saying. Otherwise there's chaos, and chaos is, well, chaotic, and who needs chaos when, with the click of a few keys you can have serenity, happiness, or lots of money. It's your choice. These are your ideas, your words. I can't think them for you."
   Want to go to Spain?
   "No, not particularly."
   Well, what do you want to do?
   "I'd like to go fishing with Ben and Farley and Sonny and Greg."
   You would?
   "Yes! Let's go!"
   Okay. Let's take a canoe down the Snake River in Idaho, or Wyoming. Besides you and me, there's Ben, and Greg, and Farley, and Sonny, and we're all in that canoe, all of us, hurtling down the rapids of the mighty Snake River, and we're hangin' on for dear life as there's -- how many of us? -- six of us? -- all packed into that tiny two-man canoe. I mean, this was crazy, misguided -- Dancing Cloud must be doubled over in laughter right now just thinking about the stupidity of all these dumb white folks packed into a tiny canoe, bouncing along on top of those thunderous rapids! (We're laughing up here, too! -- Ed.)
   Anyway, maybe now -- and then -- I should have realized that more thinking could have gone into this fishing trip. A little more planning might have saved some lives. (Not to scare you or anything -- I haven't decided what the outcome will be yet -- it's just an expression.)
   Then, as we passed under it, Farley, Sonny, Ben and Greg all grabbed onto a large tree branch that was hanging over the river and lifted themselves out of the canoe, leaving Maureen and me alone to float down what soon became a very calm, smooth, and pleasant trip through the scenic canyons lining the beautiful Snake River. Maureen took out her fishing pole, and I opened up my Pocket Fisherman, $19.95, from Popeil.
   What a romantic spot this was, so serene and glorious, and yet, lurking in the shadows, lying in wait in the background, something unknown, something unimagined, something, well, maybe nothing, we'll see.
   "Pass the bait," Maureen asked, but I was too busy taking in all the beauty to respond. And then -- and to this day I'm not sure why -- I suddenly found myself in Pittsburgh, in the office of one Carter P. Mayfield III, an attorney and legal counsel for the H.J. Heinz Corporation.
   "Mr. Reynolds, for the following deposition I am going to ask some questions which I expect you to answer with candor and honesty, and, hopefully, some wit. Do you have any questions before I begin?"
   "No." And I didn't.
   "All right, first, Mr. Reynolds, what is your present occupation?"
   "You mean, this second?"
   "Well, currently."
   "Currently, I am employed as a... drum majorette on Mars."
   "'Drum majorette on Mars'... " he repeated, writing down my responses. "And what, Mr. Reynolds, is your goal in life?"
   "My goal is to be God, but to have the summers off."
   "'... have the summers off'... And what is your political affiliation, Mr. Reynolds?"
   "I am a Conservative Republican -- an extremely Conservative Republican -- maybe the most Conservative Republican."
   "And what brand of Ketchup do you use?"
   "I use Heinz, the ketchup that's worth waiting for."
   "Heinz... the ketchup... that's... worth... waiting... for."
   "And... cut! That's a keeper! Let's take a break!"
   "We're on a five!"
   "We're on a five!"

(This ends Chapter Thirty-three, and still not an ounce of continuity, or context, or anything!)

Chapter Thirty-four