pastiche in three acts by Carol Harper
In her essay, "Coming or Going, Which Is It?", Charper (the author's
nom de plume), declared that others would follow anyone they could "in
manipulating a continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity
. . . It is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape
and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which
is contemporary history . . . It is, I seriously believe, a step toward
making the modern world possible to live in without antidepressants."1
Charper says of One Thousand Hearts itself that "Not only
the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of
the story were suggested by daydreams, hallucinogenic pharmaceutical experiences,
and just-plain-bad sit-comsósymbolism that even I don't understand.
It is ridiculous, and a complete waste of time, for the reader to grope
around in the dark looking for hidden meaning. Believe me, this is just
what I do for recreation (recreation here truly just meaning fun, not
some sort of rebirth or anything). If the reader hears any rumblings in
there let him look to his own digestive tract and take the necessary corrective
When asked what possessed her to write a musical, when musicals are clearly
not anywhere close to being considered high culture, Charper responded, ""Everyone likes to sing. Those who are lacking in rhythm become defensive
at the prospect of finding their foot inadvertently tapping out a tune
while they are all dressed up in their fancies and sitting in the theater.
I say, "Let go and let God." If God didn't want us to dance,
she wouldn't have given us feet."
About the notes, she later remarked, "I have sometimes thought of
getting rid of these notes, but now they are stuck to my story like Brer
Rabbit on the Tarbaby. They are almost as confusing as the story itself
and sometimes I get a kick out of watching young students chase their
Charper did ask the reader for forgiveness in cases of run-on, wordy,
awkward, overdone and/or corkscrew sentences, purely intended misspellings
as above, and other stylistic indulgences, but that is about it.
For Rooney, Biscuit, and Butter
The Great Unknown
The wooden name plaque, carved of cherry, sitting on her large, kidney-shaped
orange desk and given to her by her proud parents on the eve of the first
day of her first job out of law school, was last to be packed into the
cardboard box marked miscellaneous/ important.
Hope E. Turner, it read. Daughter of Nat and Camille Turner,
Hope was not only, in 1968, the first black woman to graduate from the
law school at UCMD (University of California, Mojave Desert), and first
in her class, no less, but a beauty of quiet dazzlement whose exotic mien
made her heritage difficult to pinpoint. The product of Native American
and African decent on her fathers side, and Jamaican on her mothers,
(with some Caucasian invading the family bloodline at some point), Hope
possessed a glow that was both striking and disturbing.
Landing the position of Chief Counsel at Koncudyne Corporation before
graduation was considered a plum by anyones standards, and the envy
of her self-absorbed, jealous classmates. And though Hope had heard stories
of Koncudynes heretofore all-male, all-white executive staff being
an exclusive club of tight-assed, right-wing pigs, she knew the most brilliant
minds in the country wound up at Koncudyne, and that The American People
looked to this hotbed of scientific discovery to take the country into
the space age and beyond. Besides that, Koncudynes mission statement
embodied everything Hope was about:
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
so lets start giving
Theres a choice were making
We're saving our own lives
Its true well make a better day
Just you and me.3
Hope E. Turner had visions of a future so bright she had to squint. On
her first day at Koncudyne she sat down in the big yellow vinyl chair
that complimented her desk and squished her eyes together so tight her
brow knit, and the whole of timehistory, present, future and eternityseemed
all at once at her feet. She knew that Koncudyne scientists were working
on engineering space stations, labor saving devices, polyester clothing
to preserve wildlife and put an end to cotton picking forever, and, in
a word, PLASTICS, facilitating world peace and saving the planetnot
just the whales. She would never be the butt of slimy lawyer jokes. Saving
Greenstamps had deep metaphoric meaning for Hope. And besides, sheíd
furnished her entire apartment with them.
As Hope packed up her last belongings in the spacious, modern office,
with avocado shag carpeting she had picked out herself, and not one, but
three lava lamps strategically placed around the room to create the maximum
effect of peace and thoughtful contemplation, she remembered her interview
with the Koncudyne Executive Committee two years earlier.
Hope was dressed to the Ts as usual, and looking about as good as a woman
could look in her Jackie K.-inspired powder-blue suit (a few years old,
but style is timeless), setting off her red-brown skin and the almost
radiational glow of her enticing green eyes. A touch of frosted pink to
the lips and Hope was a knockout.
With ten hungry young executives and eight well-seasoned executive-coots
seated in the conference room, its a wonder the 24-foot conference
table didn't levitate with executive appreciation of Hopes appearance
at the door. All 18 men rose instinctively at the sight of Hope, but quickly
regained their composure as she nodded for them to take their seats. Hope
sat down at the head of the table and began speaking without invitation.
Gentlemen, Im no ordinary princess, I was born in the cold
And my team is the Rockets.
Go team, it's a dangerous time.4
At this point, much to the astounded pleasure of the 18 attentive men,
Hope hopped right up onto the long conference table in her brand new,
with matching clutch, taupe pumps, and began singing slowly and soulfully,
making eye contact with each of the eyes which at first were glued to
her body, whose hips were beginning to make an almost imperceptible circular
motion, and now to the mesmerizing James Brown contortions through which
her face passed as she outlined her vision for the future:
And I dream of the moon and building lunar clone colonies.
And I build my peace with strength, thats the best weapon youve
Oh, I am the brainchild, I am the mortar,
With a plastic trophy and an eating disorder,
And vision as big as a great big wall,
And they tell me that Ill move forward for the good of us all,
And for the good of nuclear families all.5
No, Hope. No!
Hope nearly jumped out of her chair, as the present collided with her
still idyllic remembrance of past glories at Koncudyne, with the appearance
of Harvey Milquetost6, her friend and fellow
attorney. As it turned out, Harvey was one of few whom Hope still trusted
after the aborted legal battle with Koncudyne and her ensuing hospitalization.
She had been out of the hospital only a week, and Harvey had been there,
making dinner for her and watching over her, not asking too many questions
because Hope made it clear she couldnt talk. Hed driven her
in today to clean out her desk. And though he hadnt fought the fight
with her, Hope understood Harvey was a lover, not a fighter, and it just
wasnt in his makeup to get his panties in a wad.
Easy does it, Honey, Harvey cooed. Now you have just
got to stay calm. Theres nothing more to do here, do you hear me?
Youve got to look forward to a new life and forget this whole ugly
mess like it was just a big, bad nightmare. Have you taken your meds today?
And pu-lease donít tell me Gloria has been in touch with you again!
She needs to send back the tide and let you rest in peace. As if she hasnt
done enough harm already. Ill slap her if she's got you going again.
That big old dyke ought to know whos meant to move and whos
meant to stay in one place and follow the handbook. And Hope, sweetheart,
she pushed you right over the edge. Now its time to think of you,
Hope had let her hair go natural after meeting Gloria Sternum, and though
her afro caused quite a stir at Koncudyne, Gloria was surely an inspiration
to Hope, though definitely living the fast life. Gloria would periodically
beat on her chestnot in a Tarzan kind of way, though that would
have been perfectly fittingbut as a reflex to the extreme heartburn
she experienced, brought on by her penchant for pastrami subs with raw
onion, purchased from Anita Tumms, (the tough but good natured vendor
who always parked her pushcart on the street outside Glorias desolate
storefront office in Watts), her disposal toward drinking7,
and the extreme pressure she was under being founder and commander-in-chief
of The Movement, which insiders called the H.M.E.R. Society. Glorias
chest beating held great meaning for some H.M.E.R. members, who believed
that the incredibly loud and ferocious noise emanating from Glorias
mouth after one of these beatings was truly a roar of the Tiger, and not
simply the result of the effect of raw onions on a peptic ulcer.
Startled into as much consciousness as she could experience under the
influence of 20 milligrams of Valium, Hope decided that Harvey Milquetost,
as her dearest friend, whom shed probably never see again, deserved
at the very least an explanation of how all this got started; of her H.M.E.R.
membership, her friendship with Gloria, her championing of the proletariat,
and most of all, her new do, which, in Harveys opinion, although
it was the new style, did not flatter the shape of her face.
up slowly but steadily from her yellow chair, looked at Harvey beseechingly
Harvey, once upon a time there was a nuclear family,
And we lived in a family time, wed unite in a family way.
And off the ancient mountain, they were splitting every nucleus
But they said Dont be alarmed, they said, Just
don't try this at home.
And they were the mystery that made the world run
And we had the power, cause they were the sun
And we called them our heroes, and the future had come
They said look at the light were giving you,
And the darkness that were saving you from, and
Soon they were bringing it into our showrooms,
And theyd unveil it, with its title,
Bring your family, bring your family, its the Great Unknown.
You can look, but you cant fathom, its the Great Unknown.
And they think I think I am important
I know I never was, I wasnt.
No I never, and how could I be? Its the Great Unknown.
Now weve built it, now its ticking, Its the Great Unknown.
And I am your children, and I am millions
And I wanted to sell out, I wanted to try,
But you know that the sky got too low, and the ocean got too high,
And I had to take God into my own hands
Am I too late, is it over,
Have I sacrificed my family to the Great Unknown?
Theres a war between my conscience and the Great Unknown.
So I walked out into the gamma fields, out in Mercury, Nevada
Where I stood in circle, and that circle started to pray.
And now the wind at the nuclear test site floats the data at the radiation
From the underground testing, cross the line, youll get arrested.
And we came from all over in a silent appeal
As the drill comes down like a presidential seal
And we stand for the living and we stand for the dead
And we look out to see your enemies,
and we see that youre looking
all at us instead, and
You think I am being disruptive,
But no Im running home, I'm running
Cause Im trying to put the atom back together. Its the Great
Im just trying to put the atom back together, its the Great
No, Hope! No! I had no idea youd been to Nevada. Did you hit
the slots? What was it you found out, honey, that made you go after Koncudyne
like the fool your mama never raised? What in the world could have been
so bad? This is a plastics company, for Chrisakes Hope, not some kind
of nuclear test site.
But that was something that Hope could never reveal to anyone. After doing
due diligence on a top-secret project Koncudyne had been working on for
well over a year, Hope found the connection that Harvey, in his precious
naivete, could never imagine. In horror, Hope dashed immediately down
the hall and brought her findings to the attention of Senior Vice President
and head of the legal department, her boss, Dante Trustim III, Esq. Dante
was a man of few words and, to Hopes keen instincts, questionable
ethics, with a twitch in one of his eyelids that almost looked like a
slimy wink, and seemed to Hope to be activated when he was thinking fast
and skating on thin ice. After blowing her off twice Hope finally became
furious and approached him for a third and fateful time.
I know about the widget, said Hope, and Im going
to the press. Im also going to sue Koncudyne for . . . for . . .
false advertising! Yes! Thats it! We Are The World my
ass! We are the warhead! Thats more like it! And I wont
stop until I see you and everyone involved in this project behind bars.
Ill get H.M.E.R. behind me . . . Ill, Ill, Ill
. . .
Miss Turner, Dante interupted, brows raised condescendingly
and an insidious smile curling his lips.
Thats Ms., returned Hope.
MIIIZZZ Turner, you have quite an imagination! I dont think
youíll want to go through all that. Why dont you take a night
and, lets say, sleep on it. Go on home. Have a drink, put your feet
up. Youve been looking tired lately and perhaps a bit confused.
I feel confident youll be thinking much more clearly in the morning.
Surely this was a nightmare. But this slimeball was a fortress. Hope wheeled
around on one heel and retreated to her office. She was shaking. Maybe
she was just stressed. No, this was the real thing, and she had to do
something. She grabbed the huge file marked New Utilities for Konkudyne
Energy Systems and quickly stuffed it in her briefcase. As she passed
the fountain outside Koncudynes beautifully landscaped grounds,
she knew things would never be the same.
Hope was not a drinking woman, though a glass of white wine with dinner
certainly took the edge off an intense, fourteen-hour day fighting Koncudynes
increasing legal battles. But today she stopped off at the liquor store
and bought a fifth of Tanqueray, a very small bottle of vermouth, and
a bottle of the most beautiful green olivesher favorite in a martini.
She got home about 5:30 and immediately stirred herself a dry one. She
looked in the junk drawer for a pizza coupon ordered pizzaonions,
hot peppers and sausage, and sat down to try and relax. Hope couldnt
remember ever being home from work at 5:30 and didnt know what to
do with herself, especially in light of what was dawning on her about
the widget, and she didnt want to believe. She munched on a piece
of divinity fudge left over from Christmas and flipped on the TV, hoping
for a comedy or something light to make her relaxmaybe this would
take her mind off things for a little while. Then she would start the
business of deciding what to do.
Hope sat back down and took a long sip of her icy martini as the set warmed
up. But her head jerked up as she heard screaming and sirens on the set
and saw one angry Gloria Sternum being handcuffed by five equally angry
policemen. Gloria was still yelling and kicking as they hauled her into
the paddy wagon, . . . and these corporations are supplying parts
to build these nuclear test sites right in our neighborhoods, and the
government isnt going to do anything to stop themit has to
be us, The People. And with that they slammed the door to the already
packed van shut.
Yes, I know they are, thought Hope, and Ive been
helping them. At that moment her reverence for Gloria and her pride
in being involved in H.M.E.R. soared to new heights. She could feel herself
tingling inside and had a warm feeling between her legs, which she attributed
to her deep faith in The Movement, but might have been caused by the martini.
She poured herself another and said allowed, I wanna be a woman
like you, I wanna be a woman like me.9 Hope could feel her anger bubbling up inside her. She jumped up onto the
couch, beat on her chest and yelled, Hear ME Roar!!!10
At that moment she was interrupted by some muffled sounds outside. She
got down off the couch. A light tap at the door startled her.
Pizza, lady, a deep voice announced.
Hope had been so engrossed in emotion she had forgotten about the pizza. Just a sec., she sung out as she fumbled through her purse
for her billfold. She was hungry and was looking forward to diving deep
down into a hot juicy pizza all by herself.
Hope opened the door and the first thing she saw was the gold front tooth
of one of the three men who were suddenly in her apartment. This one had
both her hands held behind her back with just one of his large, hairy
fists, while the other hand covered her mouth and part of her nose so
she could barely breathe. She knew she should have taken that karate class
Gloria recommended, but now it was too . . .
Hope! You are a very lovely senorita, now arent you? Now we
just came to have a little chat with you and to ask you a very few questions.
I am Sr. Plasti Sergion, but you may call me Serge if you like.
Hope took as deep a breath as she could and began recording in her minds
eye everything she could see. She knew Dante was at the bottom of thisthe
connection was all too easy to make. The three thugs were wearing identical
silk bowling jackets. Emblazoned on the back, in fiery red letters in
tacky script with flames around the edges was what Hope figured must have
been the name of their gang, El Clan Destindo.( Hope could
see that one of her tormentors was opening her pizzathat must have
been the pizza boys grunts she heard outside. Her instincts told
her to keep cool, but her anger, when the angle was just right, inspired
her to take a large and solid bite out of Serges fat palm.
Dog-pig! Hope hissed, a fine mist of Serges blood spraying
from her lips.
EEEOWWW!!! squealed Serge as he lost Hope and moved across
the room holding his bleeding hand between his thighs. You fucking
little whore! he screamed. Hope made for the door, but it was clear
she was overpowered by the evil sickness that had invaded her apartment.
One of the other goons grabbed her with one hand, a piece of pizza in
the other, and with oil running down his chin flipped Hope around and
held her from the back as Serge composed himself and came toward her.
He stood with his nose an inch from hers, and with breath that smelled
like a pulp plant just stood there staring at her for what seemed like
an eternity. Do you want to know how I got my name, mi hermosita?
No, Hope didnt want to know, but she was sure he was going to tell
her. She stood there waiting, trying not to shake, and though she had
never seen one in person, she knew what it was when she heard the distinctive
switch sound coming from Serges right hand. The knife blade was
indeed shiny and sharp. She could see that because Serge slowly pulled
it downward right in front of her eye, and landed the tip of it on her
beautiful cheek. But Hope still had the fight in her, and if she got out
of this alive, she would go through with her plan to expose Koncudyne.
Serge could see this, and immediately upped the stakes. You are
beautiful like your mamasita, Hope. And your papa is quite a man, too.
Hopes heart froze up and the fire was extinguished. Fear crossed
her eyes and Serge knew he had made his mark without drawing bloodnot
Hopes at least. Do you love your mama and papa? Serge
said, smiling again. He withdrew the blade and Hope nodded yes. I
think you are in the wrong line of work, nina. Dont you? Hope
nodded yes again. I think a little vacation and then a move, maybe,
might be good for your nerves. I hear the paperwork is all ready for you.
And then, your beautiful mama and papa will still be there for you to
Serge and the boys then smashed a few lamps and overturned Hopes
antique china cabinet for punctuation, smeared the rest of the pizza down
the front of her blouse and slipped out the door, leaving Hope so stunned
she couldnt even cry.
Hope? Honey what did they do to you at that place? Are you in there? Harvey Milquetost was beside himself, but had seen Hope slip into these
silent spaces often since her return from the hospital. He knew that all
he could do was wait as Hope became lost again in what memories she had
Hope had awakened the morning after El Clan Destindoís visit in
silence and paralysis. As she drove in to Koncudyne to resign, she had
no illusion of speed or freedom, even amongst all these commuters feeding
into what seemed to Hopelike a mainline thoroughfare in a colony of ants
bringing nourishment to their queen which was Koncudyne, only Koncudyne
was of course a king, protecting it and all its evil from pain, or whatever
passes for pain with a huge corporation. But Koncudyne's safety would
be assured, not threatened, by her departure.12
When Hope entered the great doors of Koncudyne, she was silently whisked
into a conference room by one of Dantes underlings, Askisser Yessmon.
Wordlessly he shoved the resignation papers in front of Hope, along with
a gag agreement, and Hope signed them quickly without reading a word.
As she got up to leave, the underling placed his hand on the doorknob.
Mr. Trustim has arranged for you to take a little vacation to give
you a chance to rest after your ordeal. He pulled out of the stack
one of the sheets Hope had signed. She skimmed it and realized she had
committed herself for one month to a psychiatric facilityDreamquest
Pergatorium. She stammered something almost inaudible, but before she
could formulate a single word, Hope found herself in the back of a long,
black limousine. As he closed the door, Askisser said simply, Your
bag is in the trunk. You won't need much.
No indeed, Hope didnt need much at Dreamquest. She was given several
white gowns that looked like everyone elses white gown. In her suitcase
there were a few of her belongings. No razor, nothing sharp, that was
for sure. There must have been a thousand people in the hospital. For
a while Hope could not respond to whatever it was they were trying to
teach her at Dreamquest. But after shock therapy, Hope began to see how
self-centered she must have been. Group therapy helped her gain a concern
and for and commitment to others, which apparently she had been lacking
before. They convinced her that the anarchy of her life was a result of
her failure to live up to her responsibilities or her outright abuse of
those responsibilities. Her daily medication allowed her to remain calm
and she guessed she must be a lot happier than she had been before.
Harvey took Hope to her apartment with the few boxes of personal things
she had pulled out of her desk. Everything else had been removed, of course.
Her briefcase containing the N.U.K.E.S. file she had brought home that
day from the office had been removed from her apartment, as well as any
trace of Dantes thugs. Harvey gave her a great big hug as tears
dripped down his cheeks. Hope still couldnt feel much of anything
but tried to hug him back.
Hope had decided to take her savings and the few belongings she had left
and leave town. Leave the state. Leave this part of the country that could
fall off tomorrow in an earthquake. She packed up her Malibu, and all
she could fit was a prayer.13 She didn't
know where she was going but she did know she wanted out of Southern California,
and headed East beginning a kind of drifters life, going from town
to town, accumulating nothing, working for a while as a checkout girl
here, a waitress there, and staying in cheap motels and hostels along
the way. Her memory, much of which had been lost due to the shock therapy,
slowly began to return in fits and spurts, though it was as if she had
never been to law schoolthat entire body of knowledge seemed lost
to her now, and all that she considered to be her self was gone somewhereleft
Gradual return of memory led to depression and depression led to alcohol
and other mood-altering substances. Anything to be somewhere besides in
her own skin. The years droned on like this as Hopes youth was wasted
in this living hell she seemed to be condemned to. Hope missed the disco
era entirely except what she could hear from the kitchen of a discotheque
where she washed dishes for several months. She decided that was ok with
herthe sound gave her the Hebee-Geebies, and right now she was mostly
interested in just stayin alive.14
The 70s gave way to the 80s, and Hope was stuck in the same
place. Her beauty had faded quickly as she lost faith. Her skin developed
a dull grayness where once the color had been deep and rich. Her teeth
were bad and her hair had grown long and dreadful looking. Things finally
came to a head one bright morning in September of 1985. Hope was sleeping
peacefully in the Malibu, which she now fondly referred to as The Palace,
when she was startled awake by the sound of an engine and a crane. She
jerked up, hitting her head on the rear-view mirror and catching her earring
on the piney Christmas tree air freshener hanging from it, to see a sleazy
looking man staring at her through the windshield. She unrolled the window
slightly, and immediately the mans large face was squeezing through
the crack, Buenos dias, senorita! Mi llamo Carloss Gonzwheeles.
So nice to see you. Well, well, well! You are some chica rapida. You sure
have been hard to find! Ive been looking for you for 15 years! Did
you know, chica, that you are behind on your payments? Carloss let
out a bellow of a laugh and was gone.
As she watched The Palace trail off behind the tow truck, Hope thought
she heard Carloss shout, Gracias, Senorita Hope. See you at the
Hope knew she was some place in Western New York, but she had no idea
where. She just started walking. With blisters on her feet and a coat
of dirt and sweat everywhere else, Hope finally came upon a crumbling
mill town that looked like it was a booming mill town in its day.16 She had lost everything now and was almost delirious with hunger. She
came upon a street sign and figured she must be seeing things. The sign
read, Hope, Faith, Charity Lane, and had three arrows pointing
up the hill. She saw some people standing in the street at the top of
the hill in front of a storefront. A sign swung on three rusty nails and
read, Mortal City Soup. All You Can Eat. A soup kitchen! Is
this where Hope was to end up? But she knew she needed food badly. She
stood in line for what seemed like an eternity, until finally it was her
turn at the window. The soup smelled intoxicating, and she began to feel
as if she had entered another world.
You need food. Heres a big bowl, a soft voice said.
Hope looked up gratefully, and to her astonishment and elation saw Gloria
Sternum staring down at her with kind eyes. Hope felt her knees buckle
under her, and vivid colors, then darkness, was all she could see.
Hope awakened to the sight of Gloria kicking the radiator in a tiny rundown
apartment. Hope, youre awake! Ive got soup for you.
You must eat now. Look at you. Where have you been all these years? You
look like a dog, Hope!
Hope gave Gloria a quick recount of the last 15 years between sips of
hot chicken soup. And you, Gloria? The last time I saw you was on
TV, when you were arrested for protesting the nuclear test sites.
Yes, Hope, I finally spent one too many nights in the slammer. They
drained it out of me slowly but surely. I finally decided I had to get
out of LA and go grass roots. Ive been living in Mortal City for
the last ten years, running the soup kitchen and taking in strays . .
. like you.
But what does it mean? What good does feeding a few hungry people
do when the world is burning? Ive seen so much horror in the last
15 years. Im lost. Im lost and I dont think Im
coming back. I dont think theres anywhere to come back to.
Hope, you don't know this yet, and you probably wont
know it for a while. But those were the Blessings. Ten years ago I had
the blessings—when nobodys there, nobodys home, yeah, the
Blessings, at the moment I was most alone and aimless as a fulltime fool,
the joke was on me, I got all those birds flying off of that tree, and
thats a Blessing.17
What? said Hope.
Gloria helped Hope get back on her feet. After a few weeks Hope got a
job at Free Law, a law office offering pro bono services to those in need.
She got an apartment in a building near Glorias. But she continued
to search for an answer, for some meaning in her life. Sometimes she thought
she was going deaf, the city seemed so silent.
One cold icy night Hope sat alone brooding.
Except for the pelting ice everything felt silentsilent and hollow.
She never should have rented this apartment in the Mortal City.
The cold came through every crack she put her hand up to.
The radiator was broken, so she had to use electric heat.
And tonight was the first date with the brother of the guy she worked
His name was Larry.
He lived a couple streets away. He listened, he had things to say.
She asked him up for dinner sometime. Sometime was tonight.
The radio gave updates on the ice storm while she made the dinner.
They said, from all the talk, you shouldnt drive or even walk.
And this just inwere asking everyone to turn off their
They need it at the hospital.
She ran around pulling plugs, then she called him up.
Maybe now they shouldnt meet. He said that he would brave the streets.
Hope met him at the door with a blanket and a candle, saying,
I heard it on the radio, I had to turn my power off.
Larry said, Youre not the only one, the streets were dark
It was like another century, with dim lamps and candles
lighting up the icy trees and the clouds and a covered moon.
Hope said, What kind of people make a city where you cant
see the sky
and you cant feel the ground?
I tell you something, I have this feeling that this citys dying.
Its not dying. Its the people who are dying," Larry said.
Yes, yes I think the people are dying and nobody cares.
We had all this technologyour dreams were bold and vague.
And then one city got bad planners. One city got the plague.
Why did you move here?
And Hope couldnt tell him the story, she just couldnt.
She said, For the job. For the job, and Ive been so lonely
here, so lonely.
Theres no one I can talk to, you know I dont even know your
Larry smiled and said, Sometimes at night I walk out by the river.
The citys one big town, the water turns it upside down.
People found this city because they love other people.
They want their secretaries, they want their power lunches.
And think about tonight, I heard the same newscast you did.
I unplugged everything. I looked out the window and I think the city heard.
I watched as one by one the lights went off
so they could give their power to the hospital.
They ate in silence while she thought this over.
They sat together in a dark room in the Mortal City,
shifting in their blankets so they wouldn't get spaghetti on them.
Then came the awkward moment after dinner, what to do.
The ice was still falling. The streets were still dangerous.
The cabs were not running and this neighborhood was not the greatest.
They both looked at the space where a couch wouldve been.
She felt her stomach sink. She felt like she could hardly think.
Hope said, I never should have rented this apartment in the Mortal
The cold comes through every crack I put my hand up to.
The radiator doesnt work. I have to use electric heat.
That settled it, they would both sleep in her bed. It was a matter of
She brought out teeshirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, socks, hats.
If there was ever any thought of what would happen in that bed tonight,
there was no question nowthey could barely move.
They were wrapped up like ornaments waiting for another season.
They lay in bed. They listened to the pelting ice.
Larry said, My brothers not a bad guy. Hes just quiet.
I wish you liked this city.
Hope said, Maybe I do. I think I have a special kind of hearing
I hear the neighbors upstairs. I hear my heart beating.
I hear one thousand hearts beating at the hospital.
And one thousand hearts by their bedsides waiting,
saying, Thats my love in the white gown.
We are not lost in the Mortal City. We are not lost in the Mortal City.18
And Hope fell asleep. She dreamed that she and a group of friends started
a city, which, in all its essential elements, worked harmoniously. The
city was a connecting point, connecting them to themselves, to each other,
and to the earth and the heavens. They designed the city by going out and
putting a stake in the ground, just like the beginning of the universe. Then
they built the stake into a man. There was nothing there, then there was
a singularity in space. And from that point they surveyed every street.
Every time they walked down a street, the wooden man was at the end of
the street. So to find out where you were, you had to find out where the
wooden man was, like a giant night-light out there. Then Hope and her
friends set fire to the man. And the ritual made them one.19
Hope woke up and felt a new peace about her. She felt a warmth in her
chest, as if the ice storm had melted. She saw Larry sleeping beside her
and shook him gently, and he looked straight into her eyes as if he had
been dreaming the same dream. Larry, said Hope. Im
going back to Nevada this summerback to the desert. Theres
something Ive got to do there.20
Larry smiled broadly, as bright sunshine crossed the bed piled high with
blankets. Im coming with you, Hope.
1. Harold Blum all over
2. T.S. Elliot, The Wasteland
3. We Are The World, (1984, lyrics by Lionel Richie, music by
Michael Jackson, produced by Quincy Jones, performed after the 1984 Grammy
Awards ceremony by anyone in the place who could carry a tune, including
Dan Akroyd, who before, after, and should have always stuck to the blues.
4. The Great Unknown, lyrics
and music by Dar Williams, from Dar Williams The Honesty Room (1994
Burning Field Music (ASCAP, administered by Bug Music).
6. It was 18 years ago that San Francisco
Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were fatally gunned down
by Dan White, the ex-policeman who only days before had announced his
resignation from the board of supervisors. Infuriated by the rising tide
of gay activism that was taking hold in his beloved city under Milks
advocacythe first openly gay elected official in San Francisco historyWhite
felt it necessary to take the law into his own hands. Review by
Philip Collins of Stewart Wallaces and Michael Kories opera
Harvey Milk,© 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc., from the November 21-27,
1996 issue of Metro. It is clear that Mr. Milquetost would never have
the balls Milk did.
7. Four Mirrors, lyrics and music
by Loudon Wainwright III., from Loudon Wainwright IIIs Little Ship,
1997 Snowden Music, Inc., . . .with a penchant for white wine,
a disposal toward drinking, though it is clear white wine was sody
pop compared to the sauce Gloria consumed on a daily basis.
8. Op Cit., The Great Unknown
9. Georgia O, lyrics and music
by Nerissa Nields, from The Nields Play, 1998 Zoe Records.
10. Helens Reddy
11. The Blessings, lyrics and
music by Dar Williams, from Dar Williams Mortal City, 1996 Razor
& Tie Entertainment, L.L.C. And the blessings were like poets
that we never find time to know, But when time stopped I found the place
where the poets go.
12. Lifted freely from Thomas Phynchons The
Crying of Lot 49.
13. Southern California Wants to be Western
New York, lyrics and music by Dar Williams, from Dar Williams Mortal
City, 1996 Razor & Tie Entertainment, L.L.C. Ok, ok . . . so its
a Miata in the songthey didnt have Miatas in the 60s.
14. The Bee Gees were a super disco group
in the 70s, most famous for Saturday Night Fever, the movie starring
John Travolta, and most recently celebrating, in 1998, the world premier
of the musical stage version at Londons Palladium Theatre. And then
there was Abba . . .
15. Repo Man, ©1983, released by Universal
Studios. This was a long haul for Repo Man, but diligence pays off, and
Carloss caught her before Hope dashed.
16. Op cit., Southern California Wants
to be Western New York Southern California, land of Hopes, and Dreams,
and Mickey Mouse.
17. Op cit., The Blessings. One
must go through the fires to get to the ice cream.
18. Mortal City, lyrics and music
by Dar Williams, from Dar Williams Mortal City, 1996 Razor &
Tie Entertainment, L.L.C. Lifted unabashedly and with Dars subsequent
knowledge and blessings, with minor changes made for sense.
19. Burning Man can be found in Black Rock
Desert, Nevada every summer, or on the web now and any time, at www.burningman.com.
20. Beauty Hope E. Turner traveling from
luner clone colonies to the Mortal City searching for . . .