"have you completed your assignment. jughead?" asked miss stanton, or maybe she was catherine de medici or anne bonney or emma goldman.
"aw gee, miss de medici, i forgot," jughead, or maybe he was gilgamesh or agammemnon or ishmael, slapped his forehead.
"this is the second time this week, gilgamesh," miss bonney looked at him sternly.
"i'm afraid you can't go home without finishing it. complete it in home room and pass it in to me before you leave."
"aw miss goldman," ag moaned. "i have ping pong practice. coach will be mad at me!"
"be that as it may," miss stanton insisted, 'i want that completed science fiction novel on my desk before five o'clock."
"aw, can't i at least make it a fantasy novel?"
"no, ishmael, you may not. fantasy novel was last week. as i recall, yours was more than acceptable, with a particularly exciting climax.
i see no reason why your science fiction novel should not be as just as good."
beside him betty, or maybe she was helen of troy or sappho or clara bow, whispered. "i'll help you, gil."
"gee thanks, helen," agammemnon whispered.
"no need to whisper," miss bonney told them. "i don't care how it gets done, as long as it gets done.
"we went through this last week with the fantasy novel, " sappho told ishmael as they strolled down the corridor to home room. "it's simple - you just take a novel that's already written, copy it and then change every word. what could be easier?"
"i guess," jughead agreed reluctantly. "do you have a scence fiction novel i can copy?"
"i sure do," clara told him. "i happen to have a copy of "dreadful sanctuary" by eric frank russell here with me. you are welcome to it."
"gee thanks betty, you're a pal. the world would be a good place if there were more people like you in it."
"if you get stuck, give me a holler. but you'll be ok. just remember, copy it and change every word." helen opened the door of home room and she entered, with agammemnon right behind her.
sappho took a seat in the middle of the room after waving hello to everyone already seated. ishmael sat down three seats to her left.
archie, or maybe he was beowulf or robin hood or john smith, was so intent on his own science fiction novel that he didn't notice when clara sat down beside him.
betty dropped one of her notebooks on the floor and beowulf picked it up and handed it to her without looking up from his own notebook.
"you look really serious," helen whispered to robin hood. "what are you copying? something you memorized?" john smith didn't have an open book in front of him.
"i'm doing this from scratch," archie told her.
"ooh, impressive!" sappho gave a low whistle.
miss anthony the home room teacher, or maybe she was agrippina or madame ch'ing or ethel rosenberg. rapped on her lectern with a ruler. "lower your votces please! some students are actually working."
clara rolled her eyes at beowulf.
"i'm using a pretty basic template," he whispered.
"you mean - ?"
"it is the year x, the universe is divided between the y's and the z's."
betty leaned back in her seat. "now i am not so impressed. but you know," helen went on. "maybe i should have told jughead about that."
she twisted around to look at gilgamesh but he was absorbed, head down, in his own notebook.
"sappho, if you don't have anything to do here, maybe you could go outside and run a few miles." agrippina announced from the front of the room.
clara turned her head down and opened her notebook. she took out a copy of the city and the stars by arthur c clarke and began copying it, changing every word.
endless termination, by jughead
the qualitative failure of the ninetieth world supercongress validated in one fell swoop the predictions of earl duje as to the basic incompatability of humans with other life forms, even those they had created themselves.
ultimately the openness of the totality beyond the chicken coop which was jealous of the terrible earthquakes had to be evaluated by twenty million bad guys released from the galactic dungeons on the seventh day of the celebration of thomas edison's birthday - so they said.
but the origins of the green fog were hidden by the nuclear contraction and destroyed the tunnels beneath the universe.
"you've done it again, earl, " guinea pig johnson, the ace reporter for the galactic gazette, expounded admiringly in the corridor of the supercongress as he was sending in his story. "i don't know why anyone goes up against you any more."
earl was holding court outside the main chamber where he had just demolished his opponents. as they had all slunk away, it was left to earl to talk to the reporters.
"earl, earl, over here, earl!" they vied with each other for his attention.
connie columbus, the glamorous ace reporter for the intergalactic inquirer, pushed forward. "earl, what do think the chances are for a ninety-first supercongress?"
"i wish i could answer that question, connie. i would like to think that this nonsense is behind us and that we can get on with serious business, but - what can i say, delusions die hard, and, unfortunately, plans for a ninety-first congress may be in the works even as we speak."
more excited clamoring from the reporters.
earl pointed to a reporter in the middle of the pack. "yes, rick."
rick jemadar,from the patriot, asked, "does this mean war?"
"i sincerely hope so. but again, we will have to wait and see."
the questions continued. earl answered them patiently. earl was the master of the universe. he had won the last war, and had spent all his time since then lobbying for and insisting on the need for another one. every human male in the universe wanted to be just like him, although an increasingly small number tried to pretend they didn't. and how did earl do with the chicks? you tell me.
"any more questions?"
for a moment it appeared that there were none, but then a voice came from the rear.
"i have one question."
earl looked over the other reporters to a tall thin man in the last row.
"flint - i am surprised you are here. i would have thought you would have gone with ambassador adams to hold his handkerchief." most of the reporters laughed.
flint frabshaw, the ace - and only - reporter for the peacekeeper, looked down at his notepad. "i just have one question."
tom sawyer and huck finn, or maybe they were verlaine and rimbaud, or nero and petronius, or babe ruth and lou gehrig, were sitting in a niche in a cliff face looking over the mojave(?) sinai (?) desert.
"he's not coming."
"let's give him some more time", said huck/arthur/pete/lou.
the sun sunk a little lower.
"let me tell you a story about this guy", said tom/paul/nero/babe.
"no. man, i don't like stories."
'you might like this story."
"no. i don't like any stories. stories are bourgeois."
"everybody likes stories."
huck picked up a little rock and started drawing pictures in the thin sand with it. "you know, when i was in jail last time - "
'"after that job with bill and jerry, or maybe the cole brothers - "
"yaeh, after they left me out to dry, anyway, this guy in jail gave me some books to read - "
"what was this guy's name?"
"i don't know, bob or jake or mike jones or something - "
"mike fink maybe?"
"yeah it could have been mike fink - "
"see you're telling me a story now - this is a story."
"as i was saying," arthur went on, "this guy mike jones or mike fink or whoever, he gave me these books - bukosski, burroughs, kerouac, celine, genet - "
"oh man you don't want to be reading that stuff, there a bunch of sissies and girlymen, you shouldn't tell people you read that stuff they'll think your one too."
"and leclezio, he was the best - "
"never heard of him but he sounds like a girl"
night had fallen. the guy paul was going to tell the story about hadn't shown up. nero started telling his story:
the man who never showed up
frank had just gotten out of jail for something he didn't even do. this guy al had given him a number to call when he got out and he called it after looking for a pay phone for half a day.
the guy he was supposed to call was mosely marcus. mosely marcus was a hero, a good guy, and he dedicated his life to proving innocent people didn't do the things they didn't even do. he'd been on tv. al said he'd been on oprah and montel williams but bennie said no, he'd only been on some local shows.
frank didn't care. he just wanted to clear his name so he could settle down and be a good citizen and find a nice girl. and help people. he wanted to help people.
frank left a message and said he would be standing right beside the pay phone - the only pay phone in town so it shouldn't be that hard to find - but after a while he got tired of standing and went across the street and sat on a bench.
marcus mosely didn't show up but after a while somebody else did.
whoa! look at this! she looked a little stuck up but was hot, hot, totally hot. and she was standing by the pay phone and looking around like she was looking for someone.
frank stood up and walked over.
"are you frank?" she asked him.
"yeah, i'm sorry i wasn't right by the phone." frank's heart was pounding but he was determined to be totally cool. just because he was was talking to the hottest female on the planet he wasn't going to act like a chimpanzee just let out of his cage. he was going to be cool, cooler than strawberry ice cream at the north pole.
"i'm sherry. marcus couldn't make it so he asked me to meet you."
"that's - that's ok - "
"you don't have to act cool, baby. i know how hot i am ."
frank just stared at her.
"why don't we forget about marcus and talk about us. you know, my boy friend just left me -"
"that's hard to believe."
"believe it. my car is just around the corner - "
"that's enough of that -"
"but i was just getting to the good part."
"i can believe that. "
"so what's the problem?"
"the problem is nobody is interested in your pathetic jailbird fantasies."
"oh really? i'm pathetic, am i?'
""i'm sorry. i might have been a little harsh there."
"it doesn't matter because look who just showed up."
a jeep had pulled up in the sand below them. marcus mosely, or maybe he was the prophet ezekiel or robin hood or che guevara, got out.
"you boys better come down here because i ain't crawling up there in my nice white suit!"
it looked to babe like he was wearing a blue suit, and to pete like he was wearing a red suit, but they didn't argue and scrambled down the cliff face.
"do you boys smoke?" was the first thing marcus/zeke/robin/che asked them.
"a little weed now and then," said tom.
"nothing wrong with a little weed," huck backed him up.
"tobacco, i'm talking about tobacco," said zeke.
"no", paul answered. "it's too much trouble, so i gave it."
"me too." said arthur.
"excellent. you've passed the first test. there might be some hope for you after all."
"can we get in the jeep?" nero asked. "sure, in the back."
"it looks kind of tight. what about our packs?" asked pete.
"just hold them in your laps," robin told him. "but hold up a while. much a i respect modern civilizations decision to abolish the evil of murderous tobacco, i am going to take advantage of the opportunity to stand in these acres of clear air to fire up a fine havana given to me by none other than - " the name of the generous patron(s) was obscured by the loud crack of his wooden match against the fender of the jeep - "aaaah! that's good!"
"hypocrite." mumbled lou.
"what was that?" che roared with laughter. "son, didn't all those years in jail teach you anything at all?"
"we learned a lot, sir," babe assured him. "but we want to learn more. we are willing to learn. honest."
marcus didn't answer. he stood in the gathering dusk finishing his cigar with a twinkle in his eye.
finally zeke finished and tossed the stub into the sand. "get in the jeep," robin told the two jailbirds. they hurriedly complied.