“Let me give ya a little backstory,” said Frank.
He realized that his cigarette had burnt down almost to his fingertips, and he dropped the butt into an ashtray.
“Back on Swampoodle --”
He paused, looking at Daphne, waiting to see if she would laugh again, but she merely rolled her eyes and turned to look at Johnnie Ray on the stage, who was in the middle of singing “Cry”.
“Back on our home planet we already got pretty much all we could possibly want. I mean nobody’s really gotta work. We got robots do most of the work. Everybody on the planet’s got a beautiful home, plus a lovely vacation home. We all got several cars, Winnebagos, whatever; we got private jets, yachts, speedboats, six-seven TV sets, hi-fi’s in every room, what-the-hell, lots of robot servants to heed our every beck and call. We all got it all and so therefore we got no need to run around killing and looting and raping all the time like you humans do. Plus we have virtually mastered what you earthlings call ‘death’. We have completely obliterated the aging process, and as for our medical skills, you saw what the Sailor was able to do with those nine-mil gunshot wounds which Mr. Ridpath and Harvey shall we say incurred.”
“Yeah,” said Dick. “That was definitely something, but -- I was wondering, why was the Sailor not able to -- to heal his own wounds --”
“Physician heal thyself?” said Frank. “Hey, we’re good, we are very good, and the Sailor was one of the best, but, Mr. Ridpath, we are not that good. We have the power to use our life force to heal nearly any wound short of having your brains blown out, but, unfortunately, this life force can only be directed outward, to another creature but not inward to one’s own self. The Sailor had holes in both his brains and in all three of his hearts. He had cashed his chips.”
“Bit the big one,” said Dean.
“Bought the farm and the mortgage,” said Joey.
“He was one cool cat and I’ll miss him,” said Sammy.
“Sayonara, Sailor,” said Richard Conte, raising his double Gilbey’s on the rocks.
“'He played his string right up to the end,'” said Peter Lawford, raising his quadruple Haig & Haig.
“Salut,” said Frank, raising his Manhattan.
Dick, Daphne and Harvey exchanged glances and then raised their glasses along with everyone else.
“So,” said Frank, putting down his glass, “Shit happens, but, by and large, we hardly ever croak. So -- what do we do with all this free time? Well, in the words of young Harvey’s generation, we ‘groove with the flow’. And we’ve been grooving with the flow for a goddam long time. But there’s just one little problem with, with all this -- this perfection if you will: we get bored. I mean, trust me on this, try grooving with the flow for a coupla thousand years and see if you don’t get a little itchy. And that’s where you earthlings come in.”
“A laugh a minute,” said Dick.
“Exactly, my friend,” said Frank. “An entertainment bonanza. ‘Cause my people -- we just eat up this earthling shit. Eat it up. I mean everything earthling -- we love your shit. Ya see, Dick, this is just one reason our saucers gotta actually visit your planet, you know, they’re scouting for good material, whatever, the very latest of books, of movies, music -- Harvey, you want an advance pressing of the new Beatles album? I can get it for you. No charge --”
“Uh --” said Harvey. He had been spacing out, slightly.
“TV shows,” said Frank, moving right on. “Dean --”
Dean, who had been leaning backward, watching a cigarette girl go by, said: “Yes, O mighty one.”
“What’s your show rated -- back home I mean?”
Dean held up eight fingers.
“Number eight,” said Frank. “Whereas on earth it’s only what? Seventeen?”
Dean shrugged, saying, “Fourteen.”
“Go figure,” said Frank. “Now, would you believe that Hee Haw is currently the seventh top rated TV show in our world?”
“Uh --” said Dick.
“I would,” said Daphne.
“But --” said Frank, “we do not only and merely enjoy these fabulous artistic creations -- what we are really crazy about is the actual, real, like cinéma verité wacky shenanigans of you crazy earthlings. I mean we never know what you birds are gonna come up with next. And so, through this very casino’s control room we monitor your activities, then beam ‘em back to our world for round-the-clock entertainment.”
Arnold Stang and Wally Cox had returned to the table, Arnold carrying two magnums of Dom Perignon champagne and Wally with two handfuls of flute glasses.
“What’s this?” said Frank. “We didn’t order --”
“It’s on Mr. Ray,” said Wally, tossing his head toward the stage, where Johnnie was hanging onto the mike stand, grinning in Frank’s direction, and bowing with a sweep of his arm.
“Fuckin’ Johnnie!” said Frank. “You bum!” he called. “Sing another song. Sing ‘The Little White Cloud That Cried’!”
“Will do, Frank,” said Johnnie, leaning into the microphone. ‘Little Cloud’, boys -- hit it!”
As Arnold and Wally popped the champagne and poured it all around, Frank went on:
“So, with our state-of-the-art hi-fi stereophonic high-definition holographic three-dimensional television cameras and microphones we pick up all the good stuff -- wars, pogroms, riots, you know, the real mass-appeal stuff -- all the way down to the boisterous barroom brawls to those sneaky little back-alley murders -- and, for the intelligentsia, we got the dramatic intense late-night relationship discussions over the kitchen table and a bottle of Four Roses, dig it, ‘Oh, honey, I’m sorry, I been schtupping your goddam brother --’ whatnot -- and, hey, leave us not forget the hardcore bedroom stuff --”
“The boom boom,” drawled Dean.
“The hiding of the salami,” said Joey.
“The beast with two backs,” said Sammy.
“Slam bam,” said Richard Conte.
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Peter Lawford.
“Ya see,” said Frank, “our race -- thank fucking Christ -- evolved past sex three-and-a-half billion years ago, so for us it’s kinda exotic fun watching you humans do the old slap-and-tickle, speaking of which -- Mr. Ridpath, how about that one you slipped the missus this afternoon? I mean, what was that about after four years of marriage?”
Frank made a punching gesture with his right fist.
“And this was not the first one of the day, either!” said Frank, smiling.
“I’ve said it before,” said Sammy. “Mister Ridpath is one lucky gentleman.”
Daphne, who had just emptied her flute glass in one good gulp, rose from her seat and reached down the table to grab one of the big bottles of champagne.
“I cannot wait to see the ratings for today!” said Frank.
Daphne refilled her champagne glass and put the magnum back down with a thump.
“This day had everything,” Frank went on. “Sex -- intrigue -- mystery -- and you wanta talk high adventure? What about that Thorndyke family episode? Up there on the butte or the mesa or whatever you fucking call it. Harvey, you were so fucking cool under fire. You know, you reminded me of nothing so much as my very good friend the very talented Mr. Steve McQueen when I gave him his first big break in Never So Few --”
Daphne, who had been taking a healthy sip or two of champagne through this, clapped her glass back down to the table.
“So in other words,” she said, “what you’re saying is you yourselves have no lives of your own, and so you live vicariously through us.”
(Click here for our next enthralling chapter. And kindly refer to the right hand side of this page for an exhaustive listing of links to all other extant chapters of A Town Called Disdain™ by Larry Winchester, the man Harold Bloom called “perhaps the only American author worthy to be mentioned in the same breath with Arnold Schnabel”. Please feel free to check out our listings of many of the classic films of Larry Winchester, most of them now available on budget-priced DVD and Blueray from Ha! Karate Home Entertainment of Yokohama.)
We will now turn the microphone over to Dusty Springfield: