Are you drinking the water or the wave?
The midget, whose name was Markoff Chaney, was no relative of the famous Chaneys of Hollywood, but people did keep making jokes about that. It was bad enough to be, by the standards of the gigantic and stupid majority, a freak; much worse to be so named as to remind those big oversized clods of cinema's two most famous portrayers of monster-freaks. By the time the midget was fifteen, he had built up a detestation for ordinary mankind that dwarfed (he hated the word) the relative misanthropies of Paul of Tarsus, Clement of Alexandria or Swift of Dublin. Revenge for sure, he would have. He would have revenge.
His father had been a stockholder in Blue Sky Inc., long regarded as the worst turkey on the Big Board. (It produced devices to be used in making rocket landings on low-gravity planets. ) When John F. Kennedy had announced in 1960 that the U. S. would put a man on the moon by the end of that decade, profits had soared. Markoff Chaney now had a guaranteed annuity amounting to $3600 per year, $300 per month. It was enough for his purposes. Revenge, in good measure, he would have. He would have revenge.
Living in Spartan fashion, dining often on a tin of sardines and a pint of milk from a machine, traveling always by Greyhound bus, the midget criss-crossed the country constantly, raising all the hell he could in each location and vanishing inconspicuously. Born with a real gift for electronics, his original inspiration had been connected with the WALK and DONT WALK signs in large cities. It was easy for him to rewire them so that the WALK sign lit up when the light was red and DONT WALK when the light was green. This afforded him much amusement, but he soon discovered that people in New York, Chicago, Denver and such metropolises were quite accustomed to nothing ever working properly; they darted across the streets whenever there was a break in the traffic and ignored the idiotic doublebind in the traffic signals.
Markoff Chaney branched out. His new inspiration occurred while strolling through Norton's Emporium, a glorified five and dime store in San Francisco. A sigh caught his eye:
NO SALES PERSON MAY LEAVE THE FLOOR WITHOUT PERMISSION OF A SUPERIOR —THE MGT.
What? he thought. Are the poor girls supposed to pee in their panties if they can't find the superior? Then he reflected further. Mathematics, of course. It was part of the great plot by the statistical majority to streamline everyone and everything, to reduce even biological functions to predictable lines that could be drawn on graphs. Give the corporations another hundred years, he thought bitterly, and they'll have everybody peeing at exactly 11 a. m. every morning. This was just another part of his anarchistic and lonely struggle: the midget versus the digits.
The next Saturday he was back in Norton's and had himself safely hidden in a coffee urn at closing time. When he crept out the back door in the darkness, the sign was down and in its place an improved surrealist version concocted by himself:
NO SALES PERSON MAY LEAVE THE FLOOR OR LOOK OUT THE DOOR WITHOUT PERMISSION OF A SUPERIOR-THE MGT.
Markoff Chaney returned to the store several times in the next few weeks testing out his experiment. It was as he expected: the sign remained. Nothing signed "THE MGT. " would ever be challenged in modern America; the midget could always pass himself off as the management. Better yet: there was a faint tone of irritation permeating the building now. His interpolated phrase—with its pointlessness and its emphasizing of the awkward internal rhyme in the original bothered everybody, but in a subliminal way not open to conscious reflection. Sales, he guessed correctly, were falling off.
This was far better than, the WALK/DON'T WALK fuck-up. Not for nothing had he once spent a semester in Professor "Sheets" Kelly's intensive seminar on modern poetry at Antioch College. Poetry was the answer to the statisticians and averagers: poetry in reverse. The awkward, the unexpected, the idiotic. He wrote in his diary the motto of his future efforts: Insanity is the only viable alternative.
His journeys continued, and his surrealist signs were left behind wherever he stopped. Men paid large fees to enter exclusive clubs where the waiters were carefully trained to be almost as snobbish as the clientele, then felt subtly insulted by signs warning them
WATCH YOUR HAT AND COAT!
WE CANNOT REPLACE STOLEN
PROPERTY !-THE MGT.
In Dallas, he found entry to the most WASPish and expensive hobby shop in the world and left behind a terse NO SMOKING, NO SPITTING-THE MGT. The clientele, who didn't like to be considered the types who might spit on somebody's floor, fumed, but none of the employees dared to remove a sign authorized by THE MGT.
A slowly rising wave of anarchy followed in Markoff Chaney's wake. Riots erupted in Watts, Philadelphia, Rochester, a flaming picnic blanket crossed the sixties; students, infuriated by memos they could not understand, seized college offices; older folk, driven by the same sense that there was insanity at the helm of the nation, drifted into organizations like the John Birch Society or the Minutemen. By 1970, a senate committee announced that there had been over 3000 terrorist bombings in the United States in a single year. Still Markoff Chaney was not satisfied. Everybody taller than a hobbit was on his shit list, and they would all, by God, eat turd before he died.
One day in 1972, the midget was in Chicago, hiding in a coffee urn in the tenth floor editorial offices of Pussycat magazine. He had an improved vacation-schedule memo with him, to be run off on the office Xerox and distributed to each editor's desk. It was sure to provoke a nervous breakdown in anyone who tried to follow the bureaucratic jargon and actually fill out a vacation request in accordance with its provisions. He was happy and quite impatient for the staff to leave so he could set about his cheerful task for the night.
Two editors passed, talking.
"Who's the Pussycat interview for next month?" one asked.
"It's Roger Prong. You know, from Orgasm Research. "
The midget had heard of Orgasm Research before and it was, of course, on his shit list. More statistics and averages, more of the modern search for the norm that he could never be. And now the bastard who headed it, Roger Prong, would be interviewed by Pussycat—and probably would get to ball all the gorgeous Pussiettes in the local Pussycat Club. The midget fumed. Orgasm Research moved from the middle of his shit list to the top, replacing his arch enemy Bell Telephone.
The thought of Dr. Prong remained with him all night, as he ground out his nihilist vacation memo on the office Xerox. He was still fuming when he returned to his pantry-size room at the YMCA and slipped the bolt (installed by himself) against the wandering and prehensile faggots who infested the halls. Dr. Roger Prong, supervisor of orgasms, and now ready to dive headfirst into a barrel of Pussiettes. The midget suffered at the thought.
Savagely, he took out his deck of pornographic Tarot cards and prepared to masturbate. The one shame of his life was his continuing virginity, for which he could see no remedy. Women of his own stature turned him off entirely (there was something i****tuous about even approaching them). The giant, so-called "normal" women were the Holy Grail to him—especially the foldouts in
Pussycat—but he was afraid to approach them.
Every time he saw a Women's Lib graffito saying STAMP OUT SEXISM, he changed the last word to SIZE-ISM; but that only temporarily relieved his emotions. His only solace was his raunchy Tarot.
He laid out a Cabalastic Tree of Life and beamed at the results: Ten of Pentacles, the Fool, the Five of Wands, the Hanged Man, Death, the Seven of Swords, the Three of Pentacles, the Eight of Cups, the High Priestess, and the Wheel of Fortune. A delightful tableau for his masturbation fantasies, especially the orgy vividly presented in the Eight of Cups. He always wondered who was supposed to receive that third guy's whang.
For a while the midget's hand was busy, busy, busy, and so was his mind. Then he shifted attention to the High Priestess, who looked much as she does in a Waite deck, except that kneeling before her was a dwarf, his tongue very busy at her crotch. Markoff Chaney became the dwarf for a while, as the Priestess became Marilyn Monroe—the idol of his youth—and his hand was, again, busy, busy, busy.
Finally, the midget was quite happy.
But when he crawled into bed and tossed around waiting for sl**p, his sour mood returned. Roger Prong: I must do something about that bastard, he thought.
He turned on the light and crept out of bed to hunt in his bogus-letterhead file. Here were an assortment of official-looking stationeries, some intended to deceive the recipient, others frankly aimed only at blowing the mind.
WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D. C. said one.
TRANSYLVANIAN CONSUL, OFFICE OF THE CULTURAL EXCHANGE, said another. (He used that only to ask people to report any unusually large bats in their neighborhood. )
A third, especially tasteful, proclaimed nothing less than THE PARATHEO-ANAMETAMYSTIK- HOOD OF OMNIA ESOTERICA (POOE), HOUSE OF APOSTLES OF NULLES, BUREAU OF THE DIVISION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF MISCELLANEOUS PROJECTS.
A fourth represented FRIENDS OF THE
VANISHING MALERIA MOSQUITO
(COMMITTEE TO BAN D. D. T. ).
A fifth, embossed with a handsome African sculpture of a three-eyed goddess, claimed to be THE CULT OF THE BLACK MOTHER, THUGGEE SOCIETY, DIVISION OF HASHISH IMPORT AND AFRO-GENEOLOGY; this was used only on prominent white racists, informing them that Afro-geneological records indicated that their great-great-grandfather was black and they were therefore eligible for membership in the cult. A vivid submachine gun on the bottom of the page bore the suggestive slogan, "The bullet is mightier than the ballot. "
Finally, the midget selected what he wanted: CHRISTIANS AND ATHEISTS UNITED AGAINST CREEPING AGNOSTICISM, A Nonprophet Organization, Reverend Billy Graham, President; Chou En-Lai, Chairman of the Board. "Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make Ye Free. "
In a few moments he produced a letter calculated to short a few circuits in Dr. Prong's computeroid cortex:
Dear Doctor Prong:
When you are up to your armpits in alligators it's hard to remember that you started out to drain the swamp.
He signed with some convincing-looking Chinese characters. That should make the bastard wonder a bit, he thought with satisfaction, stuffing the mysterious letter in an envelope and addressing it.
When he returned to bed, he slept like a log.
The next morning he packed and headed for the Greyhound Station, following his own Relativity Principle. ("If you move fast enough, they don't see you. ") As he posted the letter to Orgasm Research, he had another inspiration. Thoughtfully, he stepped into a luncheonette to consider it over a cup of hot Java. The project would require staying in Chicago for two or three weeks, but it really seemed worthwhile. Ever since he had discovered Fernando p*o it had been on his mind, waiting only the perfect target. Who would be better than a doctor who measured orgasms?
Fernando p*o was an island in the Bight of Biafra, off the coast of Africa. It was occupied by two tribes known, unbelievably, as the Fang and the Bubi (pronounced Boobie. ) The midget knew nothing more about it than that—which he had gleaned from the National Geographic—but the c***dishly obscene sound of the name appealed to him, and he had long speculated on the results of making one typical American urgently, even obsessively, aware of Fernando p*o, "The Freudian implications are tremendous, " he philosophized to himself, over the coffee. "An island that sounds like a k**'s bathroom humor, and a scientist who graphs sexual spasms. Norman O. Brown would love it. Hail Eris. "
Eris, the ancient Greek goddess of Discord and Chaos, was his favorite deity. One of his letterheads, in fact, was for an imaginary organization called Erisian Liberation Front (ELF), with the motto "Power to the Little People!"
"Got a phone?" he asked the counterman.
"Booth back there" was the ungrammatical answer.
The phone booth in the back of the shop bore a sticker saying THIS PHONE BOOTH RESERVED FOR CLARK KENT. The midget smiled and made a note to order some similar stickers and distribute them widely. Easing himself onto the seat and lowering the phone to his level, he dialed information for the number of Orgasm Research. As he waited, he wondered absently how the Empire State Building would look adorned with a placard saying THIS SKYSC****R RESERVED FOR KING KONG.
"This is the White House, " he said soberly when he finally reached Dr. Prong's secretary. "The President is waiting on another phone. He wishes to talk to Dr. Prong at once. "
"I—I'll connect you to Laboratory three, " the flustered young lady replied. He listened to the ring.
"King K—I mean, Roger Prong, " a desperate voice stammered. Probably jacking off while watching an orgasm, the midget thought savagely. Still, that "King Kong" slip was an interesting coincidence.
"This is Ezra Pound of the Fair Play for Fernando p*o Committee, " the midget said, shifting his story now that he had the victim on the phone. "Your name has been given to us as one of the leaders of the American Scientific Community and, quite frankly, we are looking for all the distinguished support we can get for our next full-page ad in the Sunday Times. I assume you're aware of the plight of Fernando p*o, " he said significantly, bluffing of course (but with some assurance, since every place in the world had one plight or another).
"Oh, yes, of course, " Dr. Prong said evasively. "Why don't you send me your literature and 111 give it a careful reading. "
"Doctor, " the midget said sternly, "if you were living on Fernando p*o, wouldn't you want Action Now?"
"Well, undoubtedly. Now if you'll just send me your literature—"
("Oh, Ace, darling, darling, " a female voice near the phone said distinctly. )
There was a startled pause; the midget deliberately let it drag out until the doctor spoke again.
"Er, mark the envelope to my personal attention. You can be sure that the Fernando p*o crisis has been very much on my mind. Terrible, simply terrible. But, ah, now I must be back to my business—"
("Fuck my cunt, Ace! Oh, fuck my cunt!!!")
"Doctor, " the midget said sternly, "are you balling while you're talking to me? Is that your answer, sir, to the desperate people of Fernando p*o?"
("Now! Now!" the voice screeched, "Jesus Christ, now!!!!!")
Beautiful, the midget thought, I couldn't have called at a better time. "Doctor Prong, " he said stiffly, "I don't think you are really the sort of man who will add stature to the Fair Play for Fernando p*o Committee. " He hung up jarringly.
Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
He set off for the public library and stage two of his campaign, smiling all the way—except once when he encountered one of the giant women, walking her enormous Saint Bernard, and he prudently crossed the street.