Bad Monkey

Anyway, life went on.  Danny went to lunch on Wednesday with Sven, at the usual place on Ventura.  Sven was a screenwriter, and not a very good one.  He was a total hack who never sold anything to anyone, and was always drunk because of it.  He'd been at it for years, and all he'd ever sold was a third-rate action flick that had dropped straight from the face of the earth shortly upon release.  Sven was waiting at the table when he got there, he had nothing better to do these days.  Sometimes Danny wonder why he bothered with him.

"Do you believe he actually won?" Danny asked him.

"Yeah, the world is fucked up," Sven replied absentmindedly, taking another sip of his drink.  He was on his third vodka tonic and the food hadn't even arrived yet.  He was nervous and distracted, even more so than usual.

"Hey listen, remember that thing I was working on the other day, the one about the guy who wins the lottery?  Well, I think it's a real winner.  This is the one, I can feel it."

Danny felt himself grimacing.  Sven said that about everything he wrote, he'd been hearing the same line every month for the past five years.  "Yeah?" he said, trying to sound noncommittal.

"No, I'm serious.  It's the best thing I've ever done, by far.  I finished it off over the weekend, I was really on fire.  You've gotta read it.  It's got that something special, that je ne sais quoi, you know.  Come by on Saturday and I'll let you read it."

Danny agreed that he would.  When they got up and left, it was about half past one - still time to get a jog in before going back.  Danny paid the bill, as he always did.  Sven never paid for shit.

So the asshole was President.  At first it was a shock to everyone, but they all got used to it surprisingly quickly.  It was business as usual, it was just the new normal to have a monster in the White House.  The guy was a wrecking ball, he started right in, ripping out the furniture and making off with anything that wasn't bolted down.  He dismantled the safety nets, packed the courts with religious nuts, started rolling everything back to the Dark Ages, handed all the money over to his rich bigwig buddies and didn't care who saw.  Tax breaks and loopholes, subsidies and snowjobs, smoke and mirrors, swiss cheese, a free-for-all, a bacchanalian orgy of greed and theft.  He went after the press, ramped up the attacks on the environment, unplugged from the rest of the world, unplugged from sanity.  It was worse than the lunatics taking over the asylum, this was putting the gangsters in charge.  They said he was selling secrets to the Russians, right in broad daylight; it sounded too crazy to be true.  But it was a brave new world, where cult of personality trumped all else, where reality show became reality.  'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,' sayeth Mr. Crowley.  The law no longer held sway: if you broke the law, you just lied like hell about it and the kangaroo courts bailed you out.  Like the Wild West, 'Law don't go round here no more.'  It was the law of the jungle, might makes right, victory by any means, power at all costs.  You did what you felt like, made it up as you went along, you grabbed 'em by the pussy, you felt up your own daughter, you got away with murder on Fifth Avenue and no one even noticed.  You bathed in dough and came out clean on the other side, every single time.  Everything for sale, everything bought and sold, the new priesthood at their altars of green.  Profit or death, your money or your life, you got sick and you went bankrupt, you got eddicated and they put you in shackles, you went to jail and the suits got new houses at the beach.  It was the Age of the Corporation, the Age of the Machine, the Age of Soulless Living Death.  Soon there'd be no people, only corporations; a world full of empty board rooms sitting around all day long, endlessly watching each other's commercials.

And over the top of it all, he just lied and lied and lied.  The man seemed almost incapable of telling the truth, it was like some sort of allergic reaction, even if it benefitted him he seemed to resist the idea.  Black was white and up was down, it had all just gone to the dogs, we weren't concerned about that shit anymore.  Back in the day, it used to be that they'd throw your ass out of office for lying about a blowjob; now you could lie all day long about anything you wanted and it didn't even register.  Nero fiddled, Machiavelli capered with glee, Orwell rolled over in his grave at least five times a day.

Danny's life remained remarkably unchanged, but he was permanently distracted now, hypnotized by the whole affair.  He was still turning it over in his head, it kept him up nights. 

He couldn't believe this was the way things were, but the evidence was sitting there staring him in the face, it couldn't really be denied.  If the rules had all changed, then that meant the game had, as well.  There were opportunities here, opportunities for the common man, they just hadn't made themselves known yet.  The gloves were off, there was money to be burned, gold in the streets just waiting to be scooped up and Danny wasn't going to be left out, he wasn't about to be the last man without a chair when the music stopped.  He was going to get his, just like the Great Leader had done.  He considered his next moves carefully, stooping like a vulture, eyes peeled for prey in distress.

After lunch on Saturday, Danny dropped the kids off at soccer practice and then went over to Sven's place.  At least he always kept the liquor cabinet stocked, it was the one thing he could be counted on for.  Danny waded through the mess.

"I don't know how you can stand this.  You live like a pig," he said, pouring himself a Scotch.

"You don't even notice it after awhile.  It all has a mad sort of logic to it, if you stand back far enough," yelled Sven from the other room.  He was rummaging around in there; apparently he kept his screenplays in the kitchen drawers.

"Aha," he said finally, and came scampering out like a proud parent.  "Get a load of this."

Danny looked at the title.  'That's the Ticket', the title page read.  Sounded as stupid as all the other shit.  He sighed and sat down in the armchair, resigned to an hour or more of tedium.

But to his surprise, it held his interest.  Sven was right for once, it was actually pretty good.  In fact, it was better than good, it was outstanding.  Danny bit his tongue, at first out of general spite and then out of a dawning consideration, an inchoate plot hatching in his head.

"Nah, that's crap," Danny said, dumping the script on the coffee table.  "That's never gonna sell."

Sven looked crushed, Danny's opinion was one he valued highly.  He dove into the bottom of his drink.  Now Danny felt a bit bad.

"Sorry man, just tellin' it like it is.  There's always the next one."

Sven remained glum.  "Yeah, I suppose."




Scott Taylor hails from Raleigh, North Carolina.  He is a writer and a musician, and an avid world traveler.  His short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Ghost City Review, Snakeskin, Oddball, Angel Rust and Swifts and Slows.  His debut novel Chasing Your Tail has recently been released with Silver Bow Publishing, and his novellas 'Freak' and 'Ernie and the Golden Egg' are slated for inclusion in an upcoming anthology with Running Wild Press.  He graduated from Cornell University and was also a computer programmer in a past life.  Scott recommends the Humane Society.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, June 3, 2024 - 21:00