Poon

Mut fell off a mountain.

Not even a real one, thanks: a mountain in a Parkade. What an embarrassing way to go, busting your guts in front of a class picnic. With one false step, Mut had turned himself into an unusually graphic object lesson, gasping from the center of the puddle of his waning life and looking unappetizingly like some kind of pizza-human hybrid. Like something coming out of the ground as opposed to something that had hit it: Homo Pepperoni. The next wave from GeniTek, a man who can eat himself. Why not? They can do anything now.

But not for this feller Mut. Not in his final state of mortal extremity, because Mut had refused the emergency care. Said no… thanks anyway… as they were unpacking and assembling their Trauma Kits, so smart in their hot pink jumpsuits, so practiced with their grumpy flourishes of efficiency, their ho-hum power of God. It’s the law: you’re free to say no to it. They just have to establish your sanity/clarity at the scene. Make you count to ten and then backwards to one and then repeat the refusal. There’s even a simple six-step yes-no version if your vocal cords are for some reason useless.

I want to see a Sho about Paris, thought Max, as his mind wandered. Something naughty about pastry. But then he flashed on Mut again. Mut was much on his mind, along with diffuse thoughts on mortality.

Max tried to remember the connection; the link; to this Mut. Ah. He’d been a friend of Mori’s, of course. Poor Mori! Mut had come from Back East to be with Mori, in fact… to dine with him, long term. He’d come West from Back East by way of the Wild Wild Middle. Thought of himself as some kind of explorer. Mori was definitely the passive one in that combo. Mori was the throat and Mut was the stuffer.

And now Mori was gone, too, his ticket out having been a canister of metalized hydrogen in the nuke. Obvious suicide (grief about Mut) except for the coffee canister they later found screwed to the intake on Mori’s cloud bike. Now there’s a hefty lawsuit in the making. The cans are nearly identical, especially to a guy who was woozy on grief candy! He thinks he’s heating his morning coffee and gets a mushroom cloud instead. Idiots. Mori had left behind no shortage of Uncles and Brothers and Nephews to litigate vengefully on his behalf. Daddi still around too. And they were Jues. With a name like Mori? With a name like Mori Izreel? Hollywood Jues. Sho klan.

Mori had cleverly left behind a veritable tribe of litigants when he checked out, as bright as the Hindenburg, as bright as the Sun, fusing with the walls of his kitchen. Unlike this Mut, who, as far as Max knew, had taken his mortal bow with livid Wasp austerity, leaving not so much as a single mourner, or creditor, or even some disaffected progeny in his wake. Which in turn rendered the residual gossip about his accident depressingly juiceless. Just some poor dead lonely neo-Californer and his empty house full of well-kept toys. There would be a State Auction Back East which Max made a mental note to keep an eye-out for, with his nose for bargains and fixer-uppers and unexpected treasures. He said ‘Sho,’ and a screen came creaking down from the ceiling. Max said, ‘Oops, I mean, Fone,’ and the screen went creaking back up and House said, ‘Who, please?’

‘…van Boyn.’

‘Don or Ronni?’

‘Which is which?’

“Ronni’s the Daddi.’

‘Not the Daddi.’

‘Is this a Lookifone call?’

‘Nah. Don’t really feel like being seen, do I?  Or seeing anyone else, for that matter. Just…’

House understood. ‘Placing the call,’ it said, preempting further explanation, without a trace of judgment implied. House made a mental note, in fact, to stop offering the Lookifone option. Max could request it when he felt up to it again, one day. Max was biting a fingernail while House foned Don van Boyn’s House and asked it to locate the master, please, on property. Then the two Houses exchanged gossip equivalent in volume to half the content of the fabled Library of Alexandria, in less than a micro-second.

He’d been fully conscious right up until the moment he’d flickered out, this Mut guy, refusing the medical attention but toothlessly asking for morphine (mmorpeen). There was even a rumour that he’d been assassinated by Napa Valley Royalists but Max knew for a fact that this was lurid inaccurate bullshit. A theatrical embellishment from the minds of a generation of gossips reared on tooth-rotting Snack Operas. But, seriously, what do you think his last thoughts were? What was it like? To suddenly know that you were really finally done with everything? A relief, maybe. Or an insult, like being laid off. Max had a friend named Toynee who was a Link Operator for 91111, and though Toynee hadn’t handled the call himself, he’d been on-shift with the guy who…

‘Max?’

‘Don!’

‘What’s round?’

‘Oh, you know, the usual. What’s round on you?’

Just hearing Don’s humdrum voice made Max regret having called him. But you had to call someone, or people started calling you a recluse. Which was really what all of Mut’s friends, and everyone else from his generation and class, were. They were hermits from birth, but had spent most of their lives trying not to seem so. And what kind of life is that, thought Max, in parallel to the grunts of assent and whinnies of flabbergast that he was dispensing robotically into Don’s stream of consciousness small talk… what kind of life is that? Where you put more effort into trying to seem that you weren’t what you clearly were than in simply being yourself and enjoying it?

Max and his friends were congenital hermits; hermits who ordered out for love with the casual presumption of unspectacular satisfaction with which their Way Back forbearers had rung out for pizza. Which brought Max’s mind back to Mut. And Toynee. Toynee who knew the guy who had handled the 91111 call about Mut falling off a mountain. Though Toynee hadn’t handled the call himself, he’d been on-shift with the guy who had. The actual guy who’d routed the call. And the stats as Toynee had dutifully gossiped them were grimly free of drama. And as follows:

Middle-aged guy of ninety or so, interesting looking (before and after), careless. Probably thinking ahead to dinner; dinner with someone hot and hungry and new; or thinking how great the day’s bowel movement had been… or maybe he’d seen a fucking sea gull and panicked. Took a step without looking. Off a two hundred foot fiberglass mountain.

Splutch.

What was he doing up there in the first place? What was he trying to prove? That he was different? That he wasn’t agoraphobic like all upper class folks plainly are? Even Don…

Ooops! It was happening to Max more and more these days: he would suddenly realize that a fone call was over, long after the fact, with no recollection of how he’d ended it. What he couldn’t know was that Don van Boyn was standing in his own dressing room and touching his own face, at that very moment, with the same kind of amused horror about his identical lapse in short-term memory. Oh well.

The one interesting detail about Mut’s death was the thing about his ‘last words’. Or word. Syllable. The last thing he’d said before winking out, apparently…but remember, this was how Toynee Diaz had repeated it… the last word(s) of Mut Kin on the occasion of his own extinction were (was) reported to have been: ‘Poon.’ Where did that come from? Was it supposed to mean something?

Poon.

Max squinted at himself in the vanity. He just couldn’t seem to keep his weight on. What was he now, under 350? He was afraid to weigh himself. Every day, nowadays, it seemed to him, he could make out a little more of the outline of the durably primitive skull that lurked under the loosening sock of his upper class face. As though death was a low-rent hustler that he harboured within himself. Pretty morbid thought for a man of seventy.

But then: Max’s dear old Daddi had only lived to be a hundred and sixty, hadn’t he? So there was always that. But you know what Max also says? He doesn’t say it but he thinks it… he remembers hearing it once and what an impression it made on his then-young mind. Some quote from some Smart Guy from the Way Back.

He who lives too long is doomed to forget everything, as though he had never lived.

And it wasn’t just a quote: it really happened that way. Max had watched, for example, that Sho about that guy in San Fran Angeles who had lived to be nearly 400. Sounds great, doesn’t it, but what was the old thing but a bent-over babbler, brown as sap, repulsively skinny, disoriented and reeking of camphor? No: I mean, yes: better to die with one’s fat, and one’s memories, intact.

Dinner tonight with Sye. This thought was a welcome intrusion. Sye was as fun as a Japanese toymaker. This would be the first time that Max and Sye had ever eaten together; that one guilty night of Fone Snacks last month didn’t count. Max had been snacking lightly alone for half a year now… six sad months like an adolescent… he was ready to eat a horse with somebody… and just the thought of stuffing his mouth, or having his mouth stuffed… was enough to make him want to run upstairs to the pantry and gorge. It took all of his will power to resist the urge. Save it for tonight. Save it for Sye. Hot little lower-class cherub-faced big-wristed Sye.

Max pictured himself stuffing Sye’s mouth with brown or purple or gold… getting his fingers all the way in there to fuss and snatch with that fat Polish tongue (fuck the rubber glove! He wasn’t wearing a rubber glove! He knew he was clean)… and working his arm down Sye’s clutching esophagus, elbow deep (it’s even hotter without the gag-suppressors or esophageal dilators; ever try it?)… and he thought: come on. Ooooh. Just. Just a little snack. Just a little something to hold me over until…

He padded out of the bathroom gripping the towel supporting his dense white belly in its sling. He was as beautiful and white as a powdered doughnut. He was his own exquisitely unwieldy luggage. He headed upstairs with restrained haste; waddled upstairs in search of the thousand little drawers of his velvet-walled pantry with a sophisticated sneer on his face. There were men out there who still considered solo snacking some kind of weakness, some kind of sin. Like you’d go blind from it or something. Like it was antisocial.

Max let loose a bark of laughter that made Caesar and Brutus his Toy Collies (very expensive, each the size of a tea pot) jump as he switched his hips through the incense-blue sunbeams of the atrium, letting the towel fall, concentrating on his reflection as it rippled over the bruise-blue pool, arms paddling. A bark of laughter as he remembered with affectionate hilarity how his own Daddi (an educated man! A Senator!) had warned him in stentorian tones that uncontrolled solo snacking causes… acne. That’s what they thought back then, thought Max, with a compassionate nod.

When he finally emerged from his pantry with one porcelain saucer bearing one rich brown dollop, his hand, the one carrying the saucer, was trembling. The free hand scooped up a stained and smeary magazine enroute to the chaise longue. Not a cinemag or chewbaiter or something… nothing about food: no, a scholarly old thing called a National Geographic.

He paged to a well-thumbed and paste-crusted page. A black humanite… a black female humanite… Max tried to remember his High School biology. Female? Before Mankind had fully seized the reins of His own procreation, back in the Way Back, offspring was… seeded? How did that line go? Offspring was seeded in a kind of living receptacle on legs called a ‘female.’ A freak inferior version of a man not only designed to be ‘fertilized’ with a literal kind of ‘seed’ but also equipped to dispense food, post-parturition, to offspring. Like some kind of mammalian vending machine!

Science, thought Max. Science is so… incredible.

Even more incredible to think that Mankind’s Way Back Past was still very much a Present in certain savage zones of the planet. Supposedly. Max peered closely at the photo in the old mag (he was a collector) and clucked his tongue at the humanite, who was barely dressed, standing with a casually brandished machete in front of a dumb old wooden house in the clearing of a forest… a real forest… and smiling, of all things. Max smiled back and shuddered: that black smile was a promise of bloody murder. The caption claimed the image was taken from deep within the middle territories of the Federated States of Chicargo. The Wild Wild Middle. That savage, landlocked country.

Now, if you saw the subject of the photo as some version of impressively well-developed animal… as Max had been trained all of his life to see it… no problem. The photo wasn’t freakish, but merely of interest. In fact he imagined the phrase in the voice of some masterfully reserved 21st century British naturalist, passing him a specimen and pronouncing it thus: of interest.

But if you shifted your mind just that hair’s width along the catastrophe-articulated curve of biosemantics and saw this photograph as some awful example of a degenerate version of a…

Wow.

But there were those… this supposedly growing movement… a queer minority that Max had only the scantest incidental knowledge of, thank goodness. In fact he’d heard dark gossip along those lines about that Mut guy, and Mori too. Anarchists who were proposing to believe just that, that these primitive black things… I know it sounds ridiculous… these ‘females’ with their wild hair and grotesquely large pendulous breasts and pathetically fragile jawlines and knobless throats… these penis-less shit-skinned monsters with broad hips and big nipples and hollow insides, for godsakes, were… were actually hu…

Did you say something? asked House and Max frowned.

He honestly couldn’t remember.

-May 2003

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