Ezekiel Kroft leads not a life of quiet desperation, but one of dim awareness. For instance, when dining out, he concentrates intently on the mashing of the butter into the baked potato. When the waiter approaches from Kroft’s left and asks if everything is satisfactory, Kroft jerks his head to the right and mumbles, ‘Bancroft’. He then resumes butter mashing. Furthermore, when Kroft slides two dollars through the window at the race track and says ‘Number 4′, his response to the hurried ‘Win, place, or show?’ is ‘Why not?’ or a vague smile. And lastly, how many times has Kroft left the dentist’s office, the pharmacy, the opera house, the car wash, the Tower of London, oh so many places, pursued by someone shouting ‘You forgot your shoes!’? Frightfully often.
The robot doctor really disliked that mustache.
In this photo, the robot doctor has just informed the patient:
a. that the first thing to do was rip that stupid mustache off his face.
b. that dinner was about to be served, and he was it.
c. that the invasive thoracic surgery would be done without anesthesia.
d. that a teeming mass of plague rats were gathering outside to visit.
On meeting Remington, wear a grey suit and no hat, or you might set him off. And believe me, whatever you do, you don’t want to set him off. Approach Remington from in front and toward his right side. Do not smile. Let me emphasize this. DO NOT SMILE. Instead, a quick nod will suffice. If he smiles, which he probably will, you might experience an involuntary need to shudder. To prevent this occurring, give yourself at least three hours before the meeting to quietly recite the mantra ‘Do not shudder’. When Remington dismisses you, back away slowly, staring down at your shoes. Oh, that reminds me. Shoes. A tasseled brown loafer on your left foot, a Converse high top on your right. I think that just about covers it. I’m pretty sure I haven’t forgotten anything. If I have, you’ll soon find out. ha ha ha. Kidding. Just kidding.
The rhyme is in the reason, and the reason’s in the rhyme. – Sartre’s bodyguard
It’s like the rat said. The abandoned storage building is a concrete cube with a zigzag fire escape running up one side. You know from your firm interview with the sweating rat that a hatch located up there on the cube’s roof opens onto a secret stairwell winding down to the subterranean hideout. You flick your cigarette to the asphalt and grind it dead with your shoe. You ankle to the fire escape and climb. When you reach the top floor you transfer to the narrow ladder leading to the roof. On the roof, you eyeball the hatch, its chain, and its combination padlock. You withdraw from your coat pocket the scrap of paper with the combination scrawled on it by the rat. A few turns, a click, and you toss the padlock aside. The chain rattles as you slide it through the latch loop. You open the hatch. Creamy walls, dirty brown handrails, and a crummy carpet stretch away down flights of stairs. Down and down you go until at last you see the door at the bottom of a final flight of stairs. Taking one more lung grab at extra oxygen, you advance. The door opens easily, and in you go.
There she is. You die.
In later years, Mae was reluctant to discuss her youthful adventure with The Shadow in South America studying tarantulas.
Around the time this photo was taken, young Mae:
a. was tending bar in Medicine Hat.
b. was playing trombone in a house band at some dive on the Barbary Coast of San Francisco.
c. was a typewriting instructor in Boston.
d. was on her way to South America to study tarantulas with a man known only as The Shadow.