Chapter Twenty-three

   "How can you walk on a rainbow?" asked the friendly little dinosaur.
   "I don't know," answered the maggot-covered gorgon as he swallowed the friendly little dinosaur whole, in one bite.
   "Arggh!" screamed the friendly little dinosaur, as he was being digested by the maggot-covered gorgon.
   "Urp!" burped the maggot-covered gorgon, who then moved on to a family of pink unicorns.
   (Editor's Note: We've had another meeting, and, although it wasn't absolutely unanimous, it was clearly the sense of the majority to terminate our relationship with the author, who continues this dizzy fantasy trip to nowhere, which, quite frankly, is falling on deaf ears, or blind eyes. Believe me, we're not listening, we're not reading, we're not interested.)
   "I think you blew it, Jim."
   Maureen! I'm glad you're here.
   "You went too far, Jim. They think you're certifiably nuts."
   All I've done is lower their expectations. You see, they think I'm one of those crazy artists who flips out, loses his mind, blows all his money on powerful psychedelic drugs -- like the peyote used by the Powloo back in the Eleventh Century, peyote which allowed Powloo warriors to travel great distances without ever leaving their cliff dwellings. Peyote powerful enough to transport a Powloo warrior through time, into the future, many centuries into the future, almost all the way up to the present time -- almost -- but not quite. Dancing Cloud just missed. He only made it as far as 1942. But, if he could just get his hands on some more peyote he could travel that last fifty years, or, go back to his tribe in the Eleventh Century, or, maybe, Paris or Berlin of the Twenties.
   Dawn broke on the Joseph P. Kennedy estate in Hyannisport. Hiding in the bushes, Dancing Cloud was certain that if he could just find a Native American like himself he could score some peyote. Of course, this was 1942 and all of the Native Americans in Eastern Massachusetts were living in a single cold water flat in South Boston. Plus, peyote, a cactus, was hardly indigenous to the northeast. So, it would seem that Dancing Cloud had his work cut out for him. (Meanwhile, on the West Coast, almost exactly the same scene, except it's the Howard Hughes estate.)
   Dancing Cloud crossed the old Boston Post Road, the main route from New York to Boston in those days, and headed off into a nearby woods. It was getting light enough for him to do some foraging and -- what! -- lo and behold! Before he'd taken three steps, there they were, magic mushrooms! A decent enough alternative to peyote he thought. And they were growing everywhere! He merely had to reach down, pull up a handful, pop 'em in his mouth, and -- fasten your seat belt!
   1943, 1944, 1945... The first atomic bomb... 1946, 1947, 1948... Years floated by, one at a time, one year for each mushroom... 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954... The Army-McCarthy hearings -- Dancing Cloud had no idea what they meant... 1959, 1960, 1961... Maris breaks Ruth's record -- Dancing Cloud doesn't know about Maris, doesn't know about Ruth, or Dimaggio, or the infield fly rule... 1965, 1966, 1967... The Summer of Love -- he almost stops here... 1971, 1972, 1973... For some reason, Dancing Cloud stops here, on March 21, 1973, the "cancer on the presidency" meeting at the White House, the "smoking gun" that proved President Richard M. Nixon knew, and had orchestrated, the Watergate cover-up.
   "Sir," John Dean began, "there is a cancer on the presidency."
   Nixon just stared at Dean, understanding exactly what he meant. Hiding behind the heavy Oval Office drapes, Dancing Cloud could sense the tension in that room, even though he couldn't understand a word of English and was hallucinating and had a stomach ache that was killing him. Magic mushrooms will do that to you.
   "Ugggh!" He was unable to control himself but, before he could even throw up, he was hustled out of the Oval Office by Secret Service agents. Under the tightest security, he was dragged off to a police wagon and driven away.
   The next day it was a front page story all over town. The Washington Post, over a photo of Dancing Cloud in handcuffs, ran the headline, "NEAR-NAKED MAN SNEAKS INTO WHITE HOUSE." But, when they shoved it under the nose of the brave Powloo warrior, he could only shrug.
   Flash forward twenty-five years. While waiting to be formally charged with criminal trespassing, Dancing Cloud eats twenty-five more magic mushrooms he'd hidden in his pouch (Nice pouch!) and suddenly it's 1998. The Powloo warrior has landed in the year 1998. 1998, 1998... Now, what do I know about 1998? Nothing. I know nothing about 1998. Yet.
   (Make up something! -- Maureen)
   Maureen? What are you doing in there? Did you get your job back?
   (No. Ed.'s taking me out to lunch -- Maureen)
   Lunch? What's going on?
   (Nothing's going on. Ed.'s a friend. It's not his fault you're in such hot water -- Maureen)
   I know, I know. But it could have been worse. If it weren't for Abe I'd probably be in jail right now.
   (You owe him. Where is he? -- Maureen)
   I don't know. He could be anywhere. How do you trace currency?
   (Do you know his serial number? -- Maureen)
   Sure. J31856085A. I can't remember my own name half the time, but I remember Abe's serial number. J31856085A. It falls trippingly off the tongue, doesn't it?
   (Well, if I were you, I'd put up posters, or ask your readers, or do something to try and get Abe back, because, I'll be quite honest with you, they think there's a very strong class action suit here, and they're thinking of filing it in Superior Court -- Maureen)
   What makes them so superior?
   (This is no time for bad jokes, Jim. Ed. tells me they plan to file on behalf of all the big publishing houses against every artist, writer, cartoonist, even fictional characters. Even fictional, surrealistic, cartoon characters! -- Maureen)
   For what? What can they sue us for?
   (For being such a big bunch of immature, irresponsible wise guys, I guess -- Maureen)
   Hmm. Well, they have a case, but we can beat them. If we have Abe.
   (Abe -- Maureen)
   "Abe," said someone new.
   Abe. Wait, who just said "Abe?"
   "I did. I couldn't help overhearing, and I have sympathy for your cause."
   You do?
   "Yes, I do. I respect and support the arts and, while I don't really consider you a major artist by any stretch of your imagination, there are some good ones in there when you lump the whole lot of you together like you just did."
   Well, thank you, thank you. And on behalf of all those other, better artists, I thank you. Now, what can you do to help us find Abe?
   (I can see you're busy, Jim, so I'm going to go to lunch with Ed. -- Maureen) (How's it goin', Jim? -- Ed.)
   Fine, thanks. You two have a good lunch. And use Heinz Ketchup. Heinz, it's worth waiting for. Now, my friend, and I use the word "friend" loosely, let's return to you.
   "Mr. Reynolds, I'm a patron of the arts, and I run a foundation that helps struggling artists financially through the lean years, allowing them the time to develop their craft and find acceptance."
   Oh, so you hand out money to poor schleps like me.
   "Well, in fact, your name is on our short list, and that's why I'm here."
   Really? Wow. Are you serious?
   "I am perfectly serious."
   Wow. So? How much do I get?
   "Well, you see, it's not the amount of the honorarium, really, it's the incentive that it builds in the artist, incentive to do greater work, unencumbered by -- "
   How much? In dollars.
   "How much? How much money? Oh, it comes to about, oh, five thousand dollars... "
   Five thousand?
   "Yes, about five thousand, when you add it all up over the entire period of payment."
   Period of payment?
   "It's paid out over a period of... thirty years."
   Thirty years! So, that's like -- a hundred and fifty dollars a year?!
   "Well, it's actually one hundred and sixty-seven sixty-seven, or one sixty-eight when you round it off."
   That's about fourteen dollars a month. Or, about three dollars a week.
   Okay. What you're saying is you're willing to endow me for an amount about equal to what I spend on parking meters each week. I'm, I'm... I'm really depressed by this news. Where are the MacArthurs when you need them!
   "Look, I'm sorry, but some artists get more, some get less."
   Oh? Who gets more?
   "Let's see... Have you heard of Laurie Anderson, the performance artist?"
   "She gets about four dollars and fifty cents a week from the foundation."
   You pay Laurie Anderson four-fifty a week? She must be thrilled. Who else?
   "Uh, let's see... have you ever heard of Midori, the violin prodigy? We pay her six dollars a week. We think it's pretty amazing she was able to play the violin when she was so young, so we want to contribute in some small way."
   And you do. By the way, what do you call this foundation?
   "We call it The Foundation for the Advancement of, uh, of... come on -- the Foundation for the Advancement of -- what? Come on, come on, what are you doing? Are you just going to leave me here, hanging, dangling helplessly, a run-on sentence trying to resolve itself? Thank you. Now, what is it? What's the name of the foundation?"
   I'm sorry, please excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back. 'Bye.

(This ends Chapter Twenty-three.)

Chapter Twenty-four