D. Harlan Wilson
Copyright © 2002 All Rights
"The ultimate condition of production
The audience consists of movie stars that have slipped off their skin, turned the skin inside out and put it back on. The smell of the undersides of all these skins is tantamount to and as unbearable as the innards of a dump truck yet nobody seems to recognize it. Not even the professional entertainer.
is the reproduction of the conditions of production."
-Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses"
On stage Jackson Donne, the professional entertainer, is in the middle of his routine. There is a candystriped pillar rising out of the stage and Jackson Donne is playing hide and seek with himself. One moment he will hide behind the pillar so that nobody can see him-curiously, the pillar is thin as a flagpole and everybody can see him-the next he will hop out into the open. Turning to the pillar and pointing behind it, he'll say, "Ah ha!" Nobody's there, of course, so he says, "Damnit!" and hides behind the pillar again, and jumps out into the open again. "Ah ha!" he says, then, "Damnit!" and then he hides behind the pillar and starts over, determined to catch himself in the act of hiding. This part of the routine goes on for over thirty minutes. Then Jackson Donne gets tired and frustrated and at last suicidal.
Well. Move on to the next part of the routine.
But what is the next part of his routine? He can't remember. Because he has stagefright? No, he doesn't get stagefright. Does he? He can't remember. Probably because he has stagefright. Then again, maybe him not remembering he has stagefright because he has stagefright is part of the routine. He decides to ask a member of the audience.
"Do I have stagefright? I'm asking you, sir."
With cold eyes and pointing index finger he is addressing a male in the front row who might be Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or Mel Gibson or Sean Penn or Antonio Banderas or any other short slight movie star-everybody looks more or less the same when their skin is on backwards, after all. But whoever it is being subtly yet effectively molested by the female-Gwenyth Paltrow? Sandra Bullock? Winona Ryder?-sitting next to him and he doesn't respond to Jackson Donne with so much as a nod or a headshake let alone a polite yes or no. He doesn't even screw up his hideous face.
"Asshole!" says Jackson Donne as his hairtrigger temper detonates and he stagedives onto the movie star and begins pounding in his moist red head. Eventually the head pops off and each member of the audience's mouth crinkles into a pensive anus shape. Jackson Donne takes a loud bow. Then he does a highflying backflip back onto the stage and takes another bow as frantic waiters appear out of nowhere passing out hors d'oeuvres and martinis and little sandwich bags full of Bannisteria caapit and when they run out of things to pass out they are assimilated into the gaping flesh of the audience with screams that fade into whimpers that fade into . . .
Sound of chirping crickets and frogs. Then silence.
"The monstrous silence of modernity!" yowls Jackson Donne and pretends a mosquito lands on his cheek and starts sucking on him. He nails himself in the face with a ham fist. He hits the stage like a block of concrete, legs in the air. He gets up and bows . . . and remembers the next part of his routine: bow, deeply, over and over again, until he passes out.
. . . like a block of concrete . . .
When Jackson Donne wakes up he keeps his eyes closed and his body still. Only pretending to be passed out now. He listens to the audience's throat-clearings and nose-blowings and wonders, number one, if Al Pacino is in the audience, and number two, if Al Pacino is flexing his jaw at him. Then he pretends to be jarred awake from a nightmare. His scream is so loud and powerful that his Adam's apple flies out of his throat and brains a movie star in the third row. After hopping off the stage and retrieving the Adam's apple, and swallowing it back into place, Jackson Donne hops back on stage and faces the audience. Positioning his left heel against the left flank of his right foot, throwing back his shoulders, throwing up his chin, he proceeds to stare at the audience, with eyes that are frowning and bulging at the same time, for two hours. During this period a few small, relatively tame orgies materialize here and there but none of them last very long and for the most part the audience members are still, silent, and staring back at him. Then a terribly obese movie star that is in all likelihood Marlon Brando stands and drops his pants and starts pissing in the aisle. He sighs like dull thunder.
Jackson Donne blurts, "Knock that shit off, you!" and the movie star, stiffening up, nervously pinches his fleshy, blood-covered penis and sits back down with a great squeak of chair. "Can't you see I'm busy up here?"
The routine resumes. Jackson Donne reads the first volume of Karl Marx's Capital aloud, then reads the fragmented entirety of Walter Benjamin's Passagen-Werk to himself. Then he plucks out every single hair in his left nostril without sneezing once. "OUCH!" he exclaims with each horrible pluck. Then he says, "And now I shall read you an erotic poem. The poem is called 'Erotic Poem' and reads:
|The vast genital
from the ceiling
falls on my head
like a chandelier
in the wet moonlight."
This said, Jackson Donne lifts up his shirt and exposes two screaming assholes where his nipples are supposed to be. Then he juggles a flock of screaming shrunken heads. Then he oils up and flexes his tricep muscles. Then he stuffs his fingers in his mouth, whistles, and a jungle stampede of circus freaks scurries on and off stage, executing ungainly dance moves. Then he pulls the grinning skeleton of James Dean out of a hat and crucifies it on a rotten wooden cross that he also pulls out of the hat. Then he vomits a small child into a paper cup. Then he murders the first two rows of the audience, one movie star at a time, with select martial arts weapons. Then, tired, frustrated cramped up, overheated, sweaty, dirty, livid, and bored mindless-Jackson Donne throws in the towel. As usual, his routine has generated few if any emotional responses in the audience and so, as usual, he strips naked and waves his bleached white underwear back and forth over his head, saying, "I surrender you sunzabitches. I give up!" But even saying this doesn't generate a response. If, in their pathological apathy, they're not caressing or fucking one another, the members of the audience remain seated, and still, and silent, and staring at him, and finally Jackson Donne, nodding in dark understanding, is compelled to do that which he is compelled to do at the end of every night: slip off his skin . . . turn the skin inside out . . . put the skin back on . . .
"Only thing keeps you bastards coming back for more!" he booms, extends his arms as the standing ovation escalates in intensity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
D. Harlan Wilson's fiction has appeared in a number of American, British and Australian magazines, among them Doorknobs & BodyPaint, Redsine, Eclectica, Samsara Quarterly, The Café Irreal, The Dream Zone, Fables, Locus Novus, Thunder Sandwich
and 3am Magazine
. His first full-length book, a collection of forty-four stories called The Kafka Effekt
, was published in 2001; and his next book, Inoperative Communities
, another collection of stories, is scheduled to be published at the end of 2002. Wilson holds two M.A. degrees, one in English Literature (University of Massachusetts-Boston), the other in Science Fiction Studies (University of Liverpool). Currently he is working on his Ph.D. in Twentieth Century American Literature and Theory at Michigan State University. (D. Harlan Wilson's official website