Too Fat To Go To The Moon

by Rob McCleary

The first time a ticket to outer space came up it was won by some guy from Cleveland. But it turned out he was one of those super fat people you see on daytime talk shows who are so huge they can’t even make it out of their own homes, let alone get crammed in a space capsule, so the guy from Cleveland had to auction off his ticket to Father and watch on television like everybody else as Father went to the Houston Astrodome on the moon and the orbiting Empire State Building and the orbiting Statue of Liberty and so on.

The newspapers all carried the story of the super fat guy from Cleveland with a headline that said “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON!”. It was a simple statement of fact, but people all over the world took it as a rallying cry against a planet on which only people who are really, really, REALLY good at something get to do it, and get paid tons of money, and the rest of us have to sit around like fried eggs and listen to them drone on and on about hitting home runs on the moon, or how no one understands how tough it is to be rich and famous and beautiful. Then people put “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON!” on T-shirts to express the way they felt about their shitty lives on a shitty planet. Kids bought the T-shirt, even skinny kids, to show they had had it to the teeth with their parents, and school, and it made them feel a little better about things. Then some famous people wore the T-shirt because they thought it was ironic and funny, even though it wasn’t supposed to be. But that’s just the sort of fucking assholes celebrities are.

 —

 The super fat guy from Cleveland was named Jimmy, and when the asshole news crews found out he was so fat he couldn’t even make it out of his house they descended on his home in Ohio and broadcast all sorts of embarrassing and humiliating details about his life. Like how he was so fat he couldn’t leave his own house, and how he had broken the toilet in his house simply by sitting on it with his enormous weight, and that afterwards he had to have a specially reinforced toilet made especially for him, and that all the doors leading to the toilet had to be widened so he could trundle his enormous girth through them without getting stuck, and so on. Then some jackass who had hit a home run in the World Series in the Houston Astrodome on the moon showed up out of nowhere and yammered on about how touching and inspirational Jimmy’s battle with his weight was. And how Jimmy had become a beacon of hope to all Americans, even those who weren’t technically American any more because China had bought their home state. It was all total bullshit, of course, but somebody who’s done something like hit a home run on the moon will just never shut the fuck up about it.

 —

 NASA held the lottery to go to space because they needed the cash. Like everybody else in America they were broke as a bunch of motherfuckers. To make their lottery appealing, they had even constructed an exact replica of the Apollo rocket that had taken Neil Armstrong to the moon. Which beat the shit out of being hoisted into space on the gravity elevator like a sack of potatoes in terms of raw sex appeal. They even made sure there was a small probability the rocket might would blow up on the launch pad, just like the original, which made it dangerous and unpredictable and exciting, like stock car racing. But they hadn’t counted on a morbidly obese guy from Cleveland winning the ticket. They had planned to simply stuff whichever random, more or less average sized person won the ticket in the rocket ship like ballast and shoot them up to visit everything America had already put up there: the orbiting Statue of Liberty and the orbiting Empire State Building, and the Houston Astrodome, which America had put on the moon to keep it out of the hands of the Chinese when they bought Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. But most of all our garbage, which orbited the earth like the rings of Saturn. Only instead of being made of rock and dirt and ice, our rings were made of compacted human excrement, busted television sets, rusted out car mufflers, and so on. That was the only industry America had left: putting our shit and piss and garbage into space.

 —

 Father could afford to outbid everyone for Jimmy’s ticket to outer space on account of he was one of the few people in America who was still filthy rich. Literally. He was the guy who put all of America’s shit and piss and garbage in orbit. Father was a garbage tycoon. He was also a midget. So when all the asshole reporters found out Father had bought Jimmy’s ticket to outer space, they made fun of him, and said that he would need a booster seat in the rocket, and made up an info graphic showing how many of Father it would take, by mass, to make up one Jimmy and so on. And when they asked Jimmy how he felt about Father buying his ticket Jimmy whispered softly, almost as if to himself, beyond the range of the television microphones: “motherfucker stole my ride”. So the reporters kept badgering him to repeat what he had just said until finally, in frustration, he screamed terrifyingly at the tops of his lungs as if in unbearable physical pain: “MOTHERFUCKER STOLE MY RIDE!”, and when people heard that they put it on T-shirts too, mainly to show that they were angry rather than sad about their lives and how rich people owned everything, and poor people had jack shit. It even crept into use as a common, everyday expression. Something “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON!” had never done.

 —

 Call me Ishmael. My real name, “Stanley Morgan Astor Jefferson Roosevelt Van Kruup III” is the name of a white rapper with late-stage Alzheimer’s. Even my Reader’s Digest Condensed Book name is ridiculous: “Stanley Van Kruup: the name of that kid who smells like old cheese in the second grade no one wants to sit behind in class. It is not the name of the sole heir to one of America’s largest fortunes. We are the Van Kruups. Of the Pennsylvania Van Kruups. Because the Pennsylvania Van Kruups are rich. Very rich. Heavy industry, coal mines, railroads and garbage rich. Richer than the Rockefellers. Richer than the Gettys and Kennedys combined. I met the Kennedys once. They made me jack off into an empty coca-cola bottle.

 —

 We are, or maybe more accurately were, the Van Kruups of Pennsylvania. Somerset County to be specific. Pontactico to be exact: a ten thousand acre estate of untouched forest in rural Pennsylvania. The Roosevelts had Hyde Park, on the Hudson River. The Astors had their townhouse mansions in midtown Manhattan. The Kennedys had their compound on Cape Cod. Pontactcio: ten thousand acres of mature, late-growth forest with a castle at its exact centre. A miniature, two-third scale, midget-sized castle, looking like a cross between a Scottish highland manor and one of Mad King Ludwig’s creations. Where I lived in total isolation for the first thirteen years of my life. With my big brother Jackson. Happy, more or less, in my isolation. Until Father decided I needed to see the outside world. Or more particularly the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod in the outside world. So I saw the Kennedys. I saw the outside world. And the outside world made me jack off into an empty coca-cola bottle.

 —

 Until Father pissed everybody off by buying the ticket to outer space from Jimmy, nobody really cared about any of it. It wasn’t a big deal. But people saw Father buying the ticket as just one more bored, rich asshole move, like jerkoff celebrities wearing “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON!” T-shirts. Putting one person into space, even if that person was just an average, everyday person, was not really front page news. By the time Jimmy won the ticket to outer space the discovery of Gravitational Amelioration had let us put the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building into orbit encased inside giant blocks of lucite. And put the Houston Astrodome on the moon, so the asshole that visited Jimmy could hit a home run in the World Series there. And you could take the gravity elevator there and watch a baseball game or a monster truck rally, even though the cheapest nosebleed tickets cost as much as a year’s wages for the average American. That’s of course if you had a job. And if you had a job more than likely it was with Father. And his garbage rockets. Loading them with shit and garbage. Or cleaning up the debris of one of his rockets that went of course and crashed back to earth on take off. Or collecting the blobs of flaming, molten garbage that occasionally came unstuck from orbit and came hurtling back to earth at terrifyingly random times and places. Or you were Chinese.

 —

 In fairness to the Kennedys, all they really wanted was to see my enormous cock, but things got out of hand (or into hand, as the case may be). Our family was famous for two things: our enormous fortune, and our colossal wangers. And not just huge relative to our size. Me and Father were extremely short. No, not midgets: miniature people. Perfectly proportioned in every way. Except for our cocks, of course. They would’ve looked big on even an average sized person. Which seemed to piss off everybody more than my family having so much money: being blessed with gigantic cocks as well. But we couldn’t help it. Enormous dicks were genetic. They ran in our family. Even our second cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was hung like a horse.

 —

 Then there was my big brother, Jackson. He represented the other side of our family’s genetic coin. He was normal sized. And also had an enormous cock. He was tall and athletic and handsome, and when he found the Kennedy’s making me jack off in an empty coca-cola bottle he knocked their heads together like Moe from the Three Stooges. Which was just one of the things which made Jackson my hero. Which is just another way of saying he was my big brother. I loved him. Girls loved him. Actively and often. In the Atomic Bomb Proof House built on the grounds on Pontactico. Before he ran away from home and got eaten by the Kwakiutl. God I loved my brother. God I hate the outside world.

 —

 The Chinese could go to a baseball game on the moon any time they wanted on account of they had purchased the rights to Gravitational Amelioration. And also they bought the Houston Astrodome when they bought Texas, along with New Mexico, Nevada, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin and everything in those states from America so we could settle our foreign debts with them. Not that they were assholes about it. They were content to let the residents of whatever state they had bought do pretty much whatever it was they were doing before they bought it. In most states, life was even arguably better after the Chinese bought it, as they let you take the gravity elevator to outer space for free. And the Chinese buying enormous swaths of North America didn’t come out of left field: they had already bought Canada as a sort of pilot project. And it wasn’t even to settle any outstanding debts, like with America. And it was Canada who had approached the Chinese with the idea of buying them. Partly because they figured it was going to happen eventually any way, and they hoped to get favourable terms, but mainly due to the fact that the were simply sick to the teeth of being Canada.

 —

 My big brother Jackson ran away from Pontactico when I was thirteen to visit, and study, and get eaten by the Kwakiutl, a fierce, powerful indigenous people who lived in the rainy cedar forests of the Canada’s west coast and were master sculptors and storytellers and carved magnificent totem poles and built inviting longhouses and performed secret rituals and dances all winter long. Jackson got the idea from those assholes the Rockefellers. In particular, Michael Rockefeller, who, many decades previously, had visited, and studied, and got eaten by the Asmat people of New Guinea. He did not want to spend the rest of his life on Pontactico. He knew his money and freak show family ensured he could never live a normal life outside Pontactico. Still, there had to have been something else he could’ve done. In particular something that didn’t involve me never seeing him again as an integral part of it. I blame the Kwakiutl. I blame Father. I blame the Rockefellers. When I’m really angry and miss him more than I can stand I blame Jackson.

 —

 If it was my choice, me and Jackson would still be living safely on Pontactico. And I would still be following him around, trying to be exactly like him. Never deterred in the least that Jackson was tall and handsome and could throw a football in a powerful, tight, spiral pass and couldn’t tie his shoes without getting laid, and that I was a chubby, asthmatic midget and compulsive masturbator who’s cheeks girls wanted to pinch while they bounced on their knees. High grade tail found Jackson even in the middle of ten thousand acres of untouched forest surrounded by a thirty foot wall. That’s how much women wanted to fuck him. Any time he got horny he would just hop on his motorbike and ride down to the small town at the base of the smallish mountain Pontactico was perched on. There he would find an array of girls who lived there, whom he called “Townies” he could bring back to fuck in the Atomic Bomb Proof House on Pontactico.

 —

 By the time Jackson got eaten by the Kwakiutl I had already seen enough of the outside world to know I wanted no part of it. At least the parts of it that were presented to me by Father. In particular the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. In addition to being a place where degenerate members of once powerful dynasties made me jack off into empty coca-cola bottles, the world outside Pontactico had become one enormous garbage dump. At least the parts that weren’t owned by rich people like my family and the Kennedys and the Roosevelts. Hyde Park, the Roosevelt estate on the Hudson River, was immaculate. The Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, while not immaculate, was nonetheless not fouled with industrial waste and chemical effluent that could make you have a baby that looked like a water bug. Everyone who didn’t have a ton of cash lived in mountainous piles of excrement and rusted out auto parts. Then Father came up with the idea of putting al our shit and crap into orbit. He put so much shit and crap into space that it orbited our planet in enormous belts, great swaths of busted jet-skis, kitchen appliances, and poo. There was so much of it that it was not unusual for pieces of it to come screaming terrifyingly back to earth in spectacular shit and garbage meteor showers. What didn’t come hurtling back as magma-hot projectiles, exploding violently on impact, killing and maiming hundreds, starting forest fires and crashing through people’s living room roofs as they sat watching television re-runs stayed in space. Presumably for all eternity. At least that was the understanding before the Chinese announced they were going to mine it.

 —

 Jackson fucked the Townies in the Atomic Bomb Proof House because they were too big to fit in the castle. Only in my family would that sentence make any sense. Pontactico, while a vast, ten thousand acre estate of hardwood and mature white pine forest, had at its centre an itsy-bitsy, two-third scale, theme park castle. Built by our midget patriarch. The man who made the original fortune upon which the fortunes of all subsequent generations would snowball: my great-great-great grandfather, Uwe Van Kruup. He was a tiny man with an enormous fortune, who built a perfectly-to-his-own-scale castle in the exact centre of an estate larger than some European principalities. Father, with the ambivalence towards wealth that only a man who was never truly broke can feel, always said that behind every fortune was a great crime: like the Kennedys with insider trading and bootlegging. But behind our great fortune was a piddling crime. In the truest sense of the word. Our family fortune was based on great-great-great grandad jacking off: Uwe was a public masturbator.

 —

 When you are super rich you do not have a job. You have “pursuits”, “interests”, and “projects”. Like running away from home to get eaten by the Kwakiutl. The economic laws of gravity do not apply to you. Jackson decided, in lieu of an an actual occupation, to become a cultural anthropologist. I decided I wanted to stay on Pontactico and jerk off. Which while not at that point a part of of overall business portfolio was, I believe, more attuned to our family’s true nature than cultural anthropology. Without masturbation, and in particular, plying it as a highly lucrative trade, great-great-great grandad Uwe would’ve been one more anonymously depressing name in a registry book on Ellis Island, forced in to some stifling, whirring factory to have his fingers chewed off in machinery or sent off to die of some wretched frontier disease on some wretched frontier homestead. And ranked among the rap sheet of crimes of America’s other great fortunes, I think public masturbation must sit near the bottom in terms of inflicted death, suffering, and despair. And so, like the Kwakiutl of whom Jackson was so enamoured, I believe my actions were simply a way of keeping the old ways and proud traditions alive.

 —

 But while the Gettys opened museums and the Carnegies built public libraries to smoke screen the crimes that had built their fortunes, the Van Kruups seemed content to allow the miasma of our family’s original entrepreneurial venture linger in the air, generation after generation. There are no Van Kruup libraries. There are no Van Kruup wings of hospitals or Van Kruup collections at the Museum of Modern Art. But even if we had undertaken the sort of public relations building projects of the other families, I’m not sure it would’ve mattered. One of America’s richest and most powerful dynasties having their genesis in public masturbation, like the guy from Cleveland who was too fat to get out of his house, was just too enormous a target for the media to pass up. And while the memory of the strike-breaking and price fixing and general skull cracking antics of the Rockefellers and Carnegies would eventually evaporate, we were never allowed to forget Uwe, and what he had done. Which, after the initial shock of discovery, didn’t bother me in the least. Uwe didn’t hurt anybody with his choice of profession. And he wasn’t some seedy street corner flasher. I know because I found his mobile command centre in the dusty attic above the coach house: a sort of steamer trunk affair on wheels, combination office, stage, and wardrobe. It even had its own miniature printing press to crank out handbills advertising who he was, and what he did, and where and when he was going to do it. And costumes. Good costumes. Expensive costumes: Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Julius Caesar, Henry the Eighth, all perfectly miniaturely tailored and proportioned and detailed to fit someone exactly our size. He had, I’m presuming after his arrival in America, even added an Abraham Lincoln costume complete with stovepipe hat and fake beard. There were even scripts for his performances: Shakespeare, The Gettysburg Address, poems by Longfellow and arias by Mozart. No, Uwe was not some run-of-the-mill, back alley, cross-eyed jerk off geek. Uwe was an artiste.

 The trunk and its contents are, to my knowledge, the only hard evidence that Uwe even existed. Like me, he was a determined recluse once he had established a fortune large enough to fund his seclusion inside a two-third scale castle, at the exact centre of ten thousand acres of forest with a thirty foot tall wall around it all. Before that, as the contents of the trunk attested, he built his fortune charging people to look at him play with his enormous cock. Uwe arrived in America in the decade after the horrors of the Civil War, when America was eager for distraction. I imagine Uwe wading confidently into crowds of working men streaming out of New England factories after their shifts, perhaps dressed as Napoleon, swinging his semi-erect penis in slow, lazy circles as a rich man might meditatively swing an expensive pocket watch. Maybe catching the attention of a drunken Baltimore ballroom, dressed as Henry the Eighth by challenging the assembled to hang things on his rock-hard cock: top hats, empty beer growlers. Perhaps even taking side wagers as each item was added against the point of failure. Whatever he did, he managed, in an astonishingly short time, to amass the nest egg that would send him on the beginning of his economic ascent to the possessor of one of America’s largest fortunes. Then Father lost it all in the Great Funk Crash.

 —

 Masturbation, heavy industry, garbage, and Funk: these, in order, were the things upon which our family fortune was based on. And while the original crimes behind the original fortunes of the rest of the founders of the great American kleptocracy were erased by time and public bribery, the Van Kruups were never allowed to forget our humble, if essentially honest origins in the midget-masturbator-for-hire field. Which doesn’t exactly come as a shocker. There is simply no template for us in the public “bootstraps” mythology. Jacking off as a source of a vast fortune just didn’t fit the same “Luck and Pluck” formula of Andrew Carnegie rising from simple messenger boy to founder of US Steel. And if Horatio Alger ever detailed the ascension of a public masturbator to financial greatness in one of his excretory “Risen From the Ranks” novels, there was no copy of it in the library at Pontactico. Which is not to say our family grew rich from jacking off alone. That was simply the honest part of our fortune. Uwe was a quick study, apparently, and rapidly graduated to the only workable large-scale American business model of outright theft, extortion, and racketeering. Uwe, backstopped my his small masturbation-based nest egg, stole land from the Indians. Then he stole the oil from under the land he stole from the Indians. Then he built railroads with the money from the oil he had stolen from the Indians. Then Father lost it all in the Great Funk Crash. Funk, of course, was stolen by white people from black people. Then black people decided they had had enough of white people’s bullshit, and stole it back.

 —

 I think all of Jackson’s journeys of exploration on his motorbike into the town below Pontactico to find Townies to fuck gave him a false sense of security about his ability to function in the outside world. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and Jackson learned just enough about the world outside Pontactico to get himself into real trouble. He deluded himself into thinking he could escape the black hole of our family’s weirdness and infamy. He began to believe, like those asshole Rockefellers, he could at least present a facade of normalcy. The Rockefellers had managed to pull off this exact feat with their public allegiance to all the head-achingly boring middle class values of early to bed early to rise, public service, philanthropy bullshit. I’m not saying the Rockefellers had a freezer full of human heads or anything. It’s just I could not, for one second believe (using our own colossal aberration of a family as litmus test) that any family with that much money could be that normal. Which made me think Jackson was simply emulating a phantasm, a carefully crafted work of public fiction released for mass consumption. That the Rockefellers had simply become masters of public relations and that if Jackson wanted the real deal on how fortunes so enormous they were almost beyond reckoning warped the moral and psychological time-space of your existence, you had only to look at the Gettys: drug addicted, suicidal sociopaths. Jackson had even told me the story of how the founder, John Paul Getty, had left his grandson with kidnappers, refusing to pay ransom to the point where the desperate and enraged captors had sliced off the grandson’s ear. Jackson tossed me this nugget about the dangers of the outside world after I had been bothering him to take me with him on one of his motorbike trips to the town below Pontactico. He told it to me late at night, and in graphic detail, and it had definitely cooled my desire to leave Pontactico. Which was, in retrospect a real asshole move. All he wanted, I think, was to stop me from badgering him about taking me with him off Pontactico. Not that I think even my presence could really hurt his chances of finding a willing Townie to blow him, but Jackson wasn’t taking any chances.

 —

 Funk: the indefinable essence of all that is awesome, almost invariably created by black people, and almost invariably stolen by white people and used to turn vast profits, like jazz, rock and roll,the written alphabet, the concept of “zero”, the fundamental building blocks of all western thought and philosophy. And Gravitational Amelioration, of course, which was discovered by a female undergraduate at Howard University in Washington D.C. by combining non-equilibrium thermodynamics, Derrida’s theory of post-structuralism, and Go-Go music. She used it to levitate the White House, then the Washington Monument, then the Pentagon, something not even those filthy fucking hippies had managed to do. Of course no one believed her when she said she had done it, as she was young, and black, and female. It also didn’t help her case that when she told the newspapers she did it she was wearing a “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON” T-shirt. So she sold Gravitational Amelioration to the Chinese instead, and we had to pay them to put the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building in orbit, and the Houston Astrodome on the moon.

 —

 White people had no business messing with the raw, uncut Funk. It was just too powerful for us. Which is not to say white people didn’t, at times, completely by accident in a “million monkeys on a million typewriters” sort of way, create some Funk. But the last truly funky thing white people had done was put a man on the moon. And they had not even intended for this to be funky. On top of that it was the only funky thing white people had done that they hadn’t simply stolen outright from black people and watered down for mass market consumption. Which really came out of left field for black people, as the vast majority of them had zero interest in going to outer space. They figured the entire thing was some kind of bizarre running joke perpetrated by white people, like country music and ice hockey. They could not, for the life of them, figure out whey anybody would want to pack themselves into a tiny capsule on top of a million pounds of high explosives, then ignite the explosives and hurtle into outer space, a place without oxygen where if something went wrong you could instantaneously freeze to death while watching your blood boil in your veins. Jimmy, the super fat guy from Cleveland was one of the few exceptions to this rule. Jimmy was black, but he wanted to go to space like a motherfucker.

 —

 That, incidentally, was the first line of the article under the headline “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON!”: “Jimmy, as a small boy growing up in Cleveland, always wanted to go to space like a motherfucker.” And then the article detailed how when he was growing up he had idolized the astronauts, even though every single one was white, and how he had watched old re-runs of The Six Million Dollar Man constantly, even though technically Steve Austin was a test pilot, not an astronaut, but he felt that was close enough as many of the original Apollo astronauts had started out as test pilots. It also told about how crushed he had been when he realized everyone just assumed no black people wanted to go to outer space. And that his favourite Six Million Dollar Man episode was the one where Steve Austin takes on Sasquatch, but the robot Sasquatch, not the one where some jackass local dresses himself up as Sasquatch, even though that too was a pretty good episode. Then as the years went by, as his dreams got further and further away, he started eating and eating to dull the pain and got fatter and fatter. Then, when he found out he had purchased the winning lottery ticket to outer space, the assholes at NASA told him he was too fat.
“That hurt like a motherfucker,” Jimmy said when he heard the news.

 —

 Jimmy could say “motherfucker” and the newspapers could print it because mostly nobody gave a shit anymore about swearing. People had bigger problems. Like our entire planet being turned into a garbage pile incapable of supporting human life. And the Chinese mining our garbage. When Father started his business putting garbage in space it was all just old, worn out stuff or things that had gone painfully out of fashion. Like avocado colored stoves and refrigerators or bald tires. But then it became a status symbol for bored, rich, assholes to put brand new things in outer space just to show how rich they were: brand new cars, Rolex watches and Gucci handbags. So when the Chinese saw all that brand new stuff orbiting the earth along with all the garbage, they figured it made sense to go up there and bring it back. They surmised we were done with it all anyway, otherwise why would we just shoot it up into space, so what was the harm? Besides, unlike America, they were still making things and desperately needed the raw materials like steel, plastic and aluminum. America’s entire economy had been reduced to launching shit into space and watching assholes hit home runs on the moon. And even that wasn’t exactly going gangbusters. Most people in America were so poor almost everything they owned was already old and worn out and could’ve been classified as garbage anyway. Sure, bored rich assholes tried to set a good example by purchasing all sorts of mint condition consumer products and then launching them into space in an attempt to shame poor people into buying more useless crap in order to keep the economy afloat, but mostly everybody was sick to the teeth of buying useless crap on credit, and wearing that useless crap out in short order, or discovering on television their useless crap was now out-of-fashion useless crap and having to get rid of it and buy new useless crap so their friends and neighbors and in-lawns didn’t make fun of them. Then came the Great Funk Crash.

 —

 The upside of Jackson getting eaten by the Kwakiutl was that he was not around to see our family’s financial face plant. When he escaped Pontactico the Van Kruups were, on paper at least, still solvent, despite the fact that Father was pissing away the last bit of our fortune on his garbage in space business. But the writing was on the wall: Father was following the larger overall American trend of totally abandoning the very concept of producing anything of value. America’s entire economy revolved around assholes selling useless crap to idiots, or idiots watching jock assholes hit home runs on the moon. Everyone who used the sense God gave them had already started putting their money in the Funk market, which was controlled almost entirely by black people like Jimmy, the super fat guy from Cleveland. Jimmy was super fat, but he was also super funky, and after the whole “TOO FAT TO GO TO THE MOON!” thing, people had taken notice of him a a potential investment opportunity. People wanted to plaster “MOTHERFUCKER STOLE MY RIDE” on all sorts of useless crap, and then sell that useless crap to idiots, and then, once that useless crap had worn out or gone out of fashion, Father could charge those idiots to put it all into outer space.

 —

 The only people who weren’t black, but could bring the Funk full time were the Kwakiutl. Their lands were the only part of Canada that didn’t get sold to the Chinese. Which was a tremendous blow to the Chinese. They wanted desperately to live in Kwakiutl’s magnificent long houses, and take part in their Winter Dance Ceremonies where they could don their intricately carved masks and commune with the Kwakiutl’s supernatural guardians and ancestors, like Sisiutl, the two-headed underwater sea serpent. Or Thunderbird, a flying creature so huge it swept out of the sky to snatch entire whales out of the ocean to eat and who’s eyes flashed lightening and who’s wings beat thunder. And the Chinese even offered the Kwakiutl a signing bonus, above and beyond what they offered the rest of Canada. But the Kwakiutl patiently explained that no amount of money could replace their connection to their land that extended beyond simple, rational human understanding of space and time. Then they presented the Chinese with a handsome button blanket and gave them the right to perform one of their Winter Dances once a year, an honour they had never before extended to a non-Kwakiutl. Which made the Chinese feel a little better. And when Canada found out the Chinese offered the Kwakiutl extra money to join them, they were at first deeply offended, but then, of course, they remembered they were Canada, and just let it slide.

 —

 The problem with America’s economy was that white people had become deluded into thinking they could steal the Funk from black people any time they wanted, using lawyers. White people had stolen jazz and the concept of “zero”, but when they showed up trying to steal Gravitational Amelioration after the Chinese bought it from the D.C. undergrad, black America collectively lost their shit and imposed the Great Funk Embargo. Which black people only lifted when white America agreed to cut every black person in America a monthly royalty cheque every time they used a zero, or said “motherfucker stole my ride”, or listened to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”.

 

Making white people pay every time they used a zero, or got high and pretended to understand the lyrics to “Mercy Mercy Me”, unlocked a vast store of capital for black people. And they had been burned by white people enough to realize they had to re-invest it back in businesses based in the African-American community. One of the people that benefited from the enormous investment fund was Jimmy, who had begun a business out of his home inventing exciting and spiritually meaningful new names for people who were bored with their regular names like “Alice”, and “Frank” and so on. It wasn’t totally his invention, of course. Black people had been giving themselves new names for decades, as a way of staying focused on the pursuit of vast new spiritual awarenesses, and powers of expanded social consciousness. “Lew Alcindor” was the name of the kid with pimples on his neck who delivered your Sunday paper. “Kareem Abdul Jabbar” was the name of a Sultan and a warrior with a thousand palaces and the power to send his enemies fleeing before him like wheat chaff in a stiff wind. “Cassius Clay” was not the name of a man who would enter prison in the prime of his boxing career to protest an unjust war. It was the guy who worked for the parks department you called when you needed a pothole in front of your house filled in. “Muhammad Ali” was a man who would inspire peoples of every race to protest violence, ignorance and tyranny with his unbreakable spirit and humour. Only white people were stupid enough to go through their entire lives, with all its vagaries, evolutions, and personal tectonic shifts with names like “Stanley” or “Jeff”. But Jimmy was about to change all that, and become fabulously rich in the process.

 —

  So Jimmy was getting rich, and we were getting poor. Father had spent most of his life labouring under the delusion he was a “business man”, never once concerned by the reality that every single business idea he had was unremittingly terrible. Like the Atomic Bomb Proof House where Jackson fucked the Townies: that was one of Father’s brainstorms. It had been built on Pontactico by the Allegheny Cement Association as a prototype to show Father what they had in mind before the next step of moving to mass marketing it. It was a squat, concrete bungalow that looked like something Frank Lloyd Wright might’ve designed if he had been incarnated in an alternate universe where he was head of the Soviet Central Housing Collective. The idea for a concrete house that could withstand a ten to fifteen megaton atomic blast was dreamed up at the height of the Cold War, when everyone thought the Soviet Union was going to rain down nuclear missiles at a moment’s notice. But Father had revived it as an ironic tip-of-the-hat to “duck and cover” America. But it was only after Father had gone in to full production that he discovered no one wanted to live permanently inside a sterile, humourless bunker. They sold like explosive diaharea, and Father was on the hook for millions of tons of surplus concrete production. Irony, of course, was white people’s version of Funk, minus the fun, inspiration, soul, depth of consciousness, understanding of universal spiritual solidarity, blazing positivity, and empathy.

 —

 Father had terrible, ironic business ideas and no one around to tell him they were terrible business ideas. He had no friends, only flunkies and employees. And they all told him every terrible idea he had was solid gold because win, loose, or draw, they still drew a paycheque, and there was really no profit in telling Father the facts. I was physically isolated on Pontactico, but Father carried a bubble of total isolation around with him wherever he went because he was rich, and people were constantly fawning over him. He hadn’t the slightest how ordinary people lived. I don’t think he knew what a utility bill was. When he started his garbage in space business he decided to wear a space suit everywhere he went as a sort of promotional tool. And not just a normal space suit, but a customized one with sequins and spangles. Sort of a cross between Evil Kneivel and Elvis in his Vegas period. Like something Liberace would’ve come up with if he had found himself suddenly drafted into the early Apollo moon missions. Which he wore everywhere. To make it look like he had just been in outer space on some dangerous, and very possibly deadly mission. Like people in the 1920’s wore tennis outfits and carried tennis rackets around to make it look like they’d just arrived at your party after an invigorating game on the courts. And not a single person had the guts to tell Father that he did not, in point of fact, look daring or active. He looked like someone who belonged in a space exploration-themed drag review.

 —

 Terrible business and investment ideas, and terrible advice: our family fortune had been steadily dwindling away for generations like a sugar cube left outside in a light drizzle. Then Jackson ran away to get eaten by the Kwakiutl, and the Great Funk Crash wiped us out for good. I can’t say if the two are related. Maybe Jackson knew what was coming down the track and decided anything was preferable than spending his youth watching Father piss away the last of our vast masturbation, heavy industry, garbage in space, and Funk based fortune. I don’t know if Father would’ve listened to Jackson had he even bothered to ask for his advice. If I could put two and two together, Jackson was certainly old enough to fully grasp how dumb Father was. And since he was regularly visiting the outside world on his motorbike, he must’ve heard rumours about how our fortune was getting beaten with a sock full of quarters with every terrible business idea Father came up with. He certainly wasn’t interested in listening to a thirteen-year-old me. Which was too bad. If he had taken my advice, and invested a chunk of it in Jimmy, the super fat guy from Cleveland, we would still at least be rich. Not as rich as Jimmy, who became a Funk Baron, and had so much cash he bought the Houston Astrodome on the moon and sent it hurtling into the sun simply to shut up that asshole baseball player who kept showing up at Jimmy’s house. But comfortably well-off at the very least.

 —

 By the time Jackson got eaten by the Kwakiutl, the Funk was the only thing America produced that anybody outside America wanted. Chinese factories made everything else. From consumer goods to rocket ships. From clones to pharmaceutical drugs. And all that was left of America was a lot less than before the Chinese had bought Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. And then they started mining our garbage. Although only a few people at the time realized it, we did have the beginnings of a multi-billion dollar Funk-based pool of black entrepreneurs, like Jimmy, who had begun a small business directly out of his home in Cleveland thinking up new names for people for a fee. African Americans and First Nations peoples like the Kwakiutl had been changing their names for centuries to reflect a widening of psychological horizons, and to leave behind old ways of relating to the world. Jimmy then combined this with the Funk, and borrowed from rich, pompously self-important white people the habit of giving themselves preposterously long names that included the names of anyone in their ancestry who was even remotely rich or well known. People like me and Jackson had names longer than some organic molecules and contained every American in our family tree that had ever cracked the “Who’s Who”. Jimmy discovered that people were sick to the teeth of going through their entire lives with boring names like “Ted” or “Sylvia”. Names that had nothing to do with who they were as human beings, or reflected the unceasing striving of the human spirit for truth, spiritual liberation and respect. Or their basic, unanswerable questions about if there was a God, an if so, why had He, She, or It put them on an overpopulated, garbage-covered planet inhabited by a bunch of assholes who made fun of people like Jimmy for being so fat they couldn’t make it out of their own homes, and used their wealth to put brand new consumer goods into orbit instead of helping the poor and less fortunate.

 —

 Father got reamed on the Atomic Bomb Proof Houses, and was in the process of getting reamed putting garbage into space, even though no one had the guts to tell him. Then Father came up with the idea of cloning assassinated President John Kennedy from a DNA sample taken from the shirt he was wearing the day he was shot in Dallas. Which is what brought us to the Kennedy compound in Cape Cod, and which led to me jacking off into an empty coca-cola bottle. The idea was to clone hundreds of JFKs, and then rent them out at parties and private functions as entertainment. But Father had to buy the rights to JFK’s name and DNA from his heirs. The sheer ghoulishness of the endeavour aside, it was a terrible business idea in that, once created, it was pretty quickly determined the JFK clones were under no real obligation to Father, legally or ethically, and so simply went out into the world in their hundreds, confused at why they were even there, and why their incarnation took the form of a murdered President, and who the fuck even had the right to clone them in the first place. Then somebody else got the idea to clone a whack of Lee Harvey Oswalds and, through some miracle of genetic memory, the cloned Oswalds were positively compelled to murder the cloned JKFs. Which led to cloned Oswalds blowing the top off cloned Kennedys’ heads at supermarket opening, bar mitzvahs, and private corporate events across the United States and Canada. Which understandably traumatized everyone present, who understandably sued Father, and that was pretty much the end of our family fortune.

 —

 With the benefit of hindsight, I realize now that Jimmy’s fortune, and our fortune, were locked in a direct, inverse relationship: the more successful Jimmy was at making people feel better about themselves with their new names, the less urge they felt to buy whatever useless crap Father and the rest of corporate America had on offer. And Jimmy was great at what he did. And so we were screwed. Jimmy’s business idea worked because he understood how it felt like to get treated like something someone had tracked in on the bottom of their shoe simply because they weren’t astonishingly beautiful or hit a home run on the moon. The new names Jimmy gave them let them remember that they still had a right to basic human dignity and respect, and a right to seek spiritual fulfilment and the pursuit of the realization of the essential mystery of their present incarnation, instead of spending their candle flame lives borrowing money to buy crap they didn’t need, and then seeing that useless crap become out of fashion useless crap, and sending it into space, and then hoping it didn’t crash back down on them on earth as they were sitting watching television in their living rooms. Most people wanted a simple acknowledgment that dealing with the simple, daily grind of shitty jobs and difficult relationships and constant money worries without going postal was at least as worthy of praise as some jock asshole hitting a home run on the moon.

 —

 Jimmy charged for his renaming on a sliding scale. If you didn’t have much money, or none at all, he did it for free. If you were rich, like me and Father, and wanted to increase your funkification, you’d pay plenty. As a general rule, poor people tended to go for quantity over quality. Eventually people’s names became so long that the phone books of small cities like Pittsburgh, ran to nineteen thick volumes, crammed with names like “Invincible Genius Galactic Rajah Overlord Excelsior Greatbigdick” of 232 Evergreen Terrace. The names seemed to reflect people’s strangled life aspirations, and reading the phone books provided a compelling mixture of personal ad, confessions, and a chronicle of youthful dreams ground into dust beneath the heels of their corporate overlords. People needed their stories heard, even if they didn’t have cameras and microphones pointed at them all the time like rock stars or jock assholes, and they began to figure that seeing their names published in the phone book was the way to go.

 —

 Father really should’ve done his homework. The Kennedys he was trying to pry money out of weren’t even real Kennedys. They were all cousins and distant nephews and so on, a sort of skeezy, off-brand collection of Kennedys with pot bellies and pencil legs and acne. Jackson thought the Kennedys he was going to meet would be like the real, famous Kennedy’s he had seen in old magazines and television footage: fit, white toothed, and, ideally, engaged in vigorous games of touch football where Jackson could show off his running skills and his tight spiral pass. Despite his trips into the town below Pontactico, he had yet to find a group of friends that would accept him. The Townies found out eventually that he was a Van Kruup, and in their minds that made his attempts to fit in and act like them a sort of dishonest subterfuge, and they rejected him. So Jackson was starting over again with the Kennedys. He had put great care into his attire: I had seen him modelling a number of outfits in the Atomic Bomb Proof House like a teenage girl about to go on her first big date. I had even caught him miming various actions like throwing a ghost football and practicing leaning against a wall with both hands in his pockets in an attempt to look low key and relaxed. After many wardrobe changes he had settled on khakis and a polo shirt: clean and presentable, flattering to his wide shoulders and back, but with enough freedom of movement that he could spontaneously join in if a trademark Kennedy nauseatingly wholesome game of touch football broke out.

 —

 It didn’t take long after our arrival in Cape Cod to realize that we had found ourselves in a sort of alternate Kennedy universe. The Kennedys weren’t real Kennedys, and the compound that had once been the majestic, seaside backdrop for so many athletic, piano-toothed Kennedy boys had been turned into something resembling a cross between a hobo jungle and the backdrop for a movie set made to represent a seaside Massachusetts village several years after a worldwide pandemic. In which the only survivors were, bizarrely, the distant, bandy-legged, backwaters-of-the-gene-pool Kennedys. The Kennedys we found in Hyannis Port weren’t athletic and sexy. They looked like they couldn’t walk up a set of stairs without getting winded, let along play touch football. And when they saw how good looking and athletic Jackson was they immediately took on a snide, bitchy tone, insinuating he had bought his clothes at JCPenny, which in their minds at least seemed to be the ultimate put down. Faced with this wall of indifference Jackson then broke down and fit in the only way he could think of: by joining the Kennedys in making fun of me. Not actively. He just didn’t say anything when they turned their snooty gazes at me and began to remark on my clothes, and how short I was, and so on. Which brought out the flip side of my admiration and love, in a way that only a younger brother can truly understand: resentment; jealousy; and a desire to unseat him from his coveted position of Big Brother. For him to be the one who came to me for help and advice, and for me to be the one to give the advice, but only after letting him know how dumb he was for even asking. Jackson had never before openly made fun of me, but he had never exactly bent over backwards to help me either. He never once took me into town with him on his motorbike to find me a friend. And I knew better than to ask. I knew he thought my presence would only hurt his chances of fitting into a new peer group. Which I could not argue against. So, with my cheeks not and red, holding back tears, attempting to emulate one of the nonchalant. hands-in-pockets poses I had seen Jackson practice at Pontactico, I walked down towards the ocean and the boathouse.

 —

 I wanted to make it to the boathouse before the tears came. And I had just managed to stifle them when I came to the boathouse and the then unfamiliar reek of marijuana smoke, which made me realize a few of the dented-can Kennedy’s were inside. The boathouse was huge, with a storage space on a second floor, above where the boats hung in slings, hauled out of the ocean. Only there were no boats, of course. The ocean had long ago become unnavigable with shit and garbage. Before Father came up with the idea of putting our garbage in space, everyone else had come up with the idea of putting it in the ocean. An abandoned washing machine bobbed helplessly in the surf surrounded by a nauseating flotsam of dead sea life, empty beer cans, and tampon applicators. Camelot indeed. I could hear voices up in the storage area, and climbing the stairs and peering in through a screen door that had long ago rotted off its hinges, realized I had discovered the Kennedy equivalent of Jackson’s Atomic Bomb Proof fuck-palace. But due to the fact the Kennedys weren’t even in Jackson’s league physically, and smelled like pot smoke and b.o., they were getting nowhere with their Townies. And even with Jackson as my only reference I could tell they had no game: their big idea for getting the Townies to have sex with them was to get them high, talk outrageously about blow-jobs, and generally paw amateurishly at them. And it was only after all these A-list moves had failed to produce the desired result that they brought out their show-stopper: a pack of ironically vintage, pornographic playing cards. And it was only as one of them was fanning them open like a magician about to perform some sort of sleight of hand, which they realized I was standing in the doorway watching them. And it was also at this time I realized that all the sex talk and Townies in tight T-shirts had given me a rock hard erection. And when I got an erection, it could definitely lead off the eleven o’clock news.

 —

 I don’t know if Jackson came down to the boathouse out of concern for my well-being, or if he too sensed the Kennedy boathouse was the premier destination for a young man in the market for a functional hand job. My gut tells me he heard the hand clapping, in unison, growing progressively faster and faster, in time to my determined stroking of my erect member, as I stood in the centre of the storage room above the boathouse, backdropped by mouldy life jackets, and salt corroded oar locks and anchors. And since I was facing the screen door, and the Townies and the Kennedys were in a semi-circle facing me, they didn’t notice Jackson, silhouetted on the other side of the screen door, until I stopped my performance, locked eyes with Jackson, registered forever the mixture of shock, horror and shame on his face as he stood looking at me with my dick in one hand, and empty coca-cola bottle in the other. Then, craning their pimply necks around to see what had stopped the show, the Kennedys saw Jackson, and after a moment of silence also saw the look on Jackson’s face, and began laughing hysterically. To which Jackson, perhaps finally realizing what I had known full well for a long time, that we would never be fully accepted by anyone even remotely normal, did the only thing he could think of at the time: he took the two Kennedys closest to him, and knocked their heads together like Moe from the Three Stooges, and stormed down the stairs, and I never saw him again.

 —

 Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. All I can tell you is that once the Kennedys saw my enormous wanger, and encouraged me to display it to them in a friendly and open manner, and helpfully provided an empty coca-cola bottle to jack off into, I became, for once in my life the centre of attention, in command of a room, I knew instantly I had found my true calling, and that great-great-great grandad Uwe would be proud. Public masturbation was my metier, my muse, my creative outlet, the thing most people spend their entire lives searching fruitlessly for, and I had found it among the corroded marine hardware of the Kennedy boat house. And I think Jackson saw, in that moment, the truth that I had, despite my physical uniqueness and social failings, found a home, a supportive community, among the greasy-haired, pimple-necked clan of Kennedy flotsam. I think it was more than Jackson could handle. It was something he had worked and worked and worked pursuing, and it had fallen into my lap: acceptance by a group of people for exactly what I was. And what I was, was the premier public masturbator and general purpose degenerate auteur of our time.

Like I said before, Jackson had experience functioning and moving about in the world outside Pontactico, so he caught a bus from Cape Cod to Boston, and then on to Cambridge. A trip that, to me, without any experience in the real world, would’ve been on a par with riding a unicycle on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He had been accepted the previous spring at Harvard, where he planned to study anthropology. And do his fieldwork among the Kwakiutl. And (presumably) get eaten by them. I assume he was still looking for love and acceptance throughout his first year at Harvard, before he took his trip to British Columbia, and I assume there was always someone there to remind him of his family, and how much money we had, and how our Father wore a space suit, and how our fortune had been founded by a masturbating midget. As for me, from the moment one of the Kennedys handed me an empty coca-cola bottle to jack off into, I knew, with a visceral intensity, that I was home. I knew, like Jackson, that I would never return to Pontactico. I sent for Uwe’s trunk, with its costumes and printing press, and in no time me and the Kennedys were touring around New England, from Washington DC to Bangor, Maine. The Muse beckoned, and I followed. I can only hope I did Uwe proud. I even added a couple new costumes of my own: Uncle Sam for patriotic appearances like Super Bowl halftime shows and, I think purely to piss off Father, a space suit. And not something that looked like it was designed by a mentally challenged Vegas show girl. A real, one hundred percent accurate reproduction of the ones worn by the Apollo astronauts for their mission to the moon. Except for the easy-to-open, velcro secured flap at the groin, of course. Because in the final analysis I believe the problem was we had, to use Father’s hackneyed business-speak, strayed from our “core competency”: jacking off. Everything else was just running the clock. So like the Kwakiutl who ate Jackson, I decided my destiny was to stop coming up with stupid new business ideas, and instead honour, and keep alive the ways of the past and my ancestors.

 —

 And as I found my stride, Father’s business interests came apart like a cheap suit. An Oswald clone blew the top of Kennedy clone’s head clean off in front of a horrified all-ages crowd at the opening of the Indianapolis 500, and Father was flooded with lawsuits alleging extreme emotional trauma. Father, in turn, tried to sue the Chinese for mining the garbage he had put in space. He claimed it was their mining which was making the garbage come unstuck, not the fact that he had skimped on fuel to save cash and put them into a dangerously low, prone to crash orbit. But nobody bought it. If anything, the Chinese were doing us a favour by mining our crap. The only real problem was they just couldn’t keep up with it all, even with their new Bethune-class garbage harvesting space ship The Chairman Mao working at full capacity, twenty-four-seven.

 —

 So Father was ruined, and the IRS even took his ticket to outer space as part of the bankruptcy settlement, which struck even those who thought Father was a complete asshole as vindictive. They tried to auction it off again, but America was even broker than the first time NASA had tried that trick, and no one even met the minimum bid. Finally Jimmy simply bought it off them for a low ball offer and sent one of the Kennedy clones to space, which sort of made sense in a roundabout sort of way. Still, Jimmy managed to make a pile of money off the television and merchandising, so it more or less worked out.

The success or Jimmy and Father’s businesses were, through some universal law, locked in a direct, inverse relationship. So while Jimmy became a Funk Baron, and bought Pontactico and everything on it like the Chinese had bought Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, Father was ruined. I was filling in as the fat part of the bell curve: I was doing comfortably well off, mainly because Jimmy had seen the potential of my business. Everyday Jimmy was making money from renaming people and coming up with new phrases like “MOTHERFUCKER STOLE MY RIDE!” and, through uncanny business savvy, had stitched up all the merchandizing and subsidiary rights: T-shirts, movie rights, song lyric publishing. He gradually began to do the same thing with my business: parcelling off the rights, franchising the idea into a chain of “Lil’ Jackoff’s Bar and Grill” taverns and nightclubs. He gave me a new name, too: Stanley Jackson Rocketship Superstar Galaxy Gramaphone Van Kruup. He folded in Jackson’s name as a memorial to him, and kept the “Stanley Van Kruup” part in case Jackson wasn’t dead to make it easy to find me, which made sense. Then he gave me free tickets to the last baseball game in the Houston Astrodome on the moon before he sent it hurtling into the incendiary nuclear fireball of the sun. It was a very exclusive event. So exclusive Father couldn’t even attend. And what made it even better was that Jimmy had paid all the jock asshole baseball players to play the entire game with their pants around their ankles: running the bases, going for pop flies, and so on. It was the first time I had ever enjoyed myself watching sports of any kind. And it turned out I wasn’t the only one. Soon Jimmy had parlayed it into an entire alternate league where players were paid to compete under ridiculous circumstances and conditions. He made the New York Jets play the Super Bowl in fully functioning jet packs under the threat that if he didn’t he would buy their stadium and toss it into the sun like he had done with the Houston Astrodome. He then founded had an entire professional basketball league where all the players had to play in complete drag, down to high heel shoes and feather boas. Ratings for his broadcasts were through the roof. Everything Jimmy touched turned to gold. So Father was effectively ruined.

 —

 The last time I ever saw Jackson was when he slammed a couple Kennedy heads together like Moe from the Three Stooges after assuming they were making me jack off into an empty coca-cola bottle and stormed off to university. His getting eaten by the Kwakiutl was big news to all the asshole reporters. Father’s reaction to the news was strange, considering he manifested no desire to spend time with either Jackson or me while we were living on Pontactico. He was debilitated with grief, maybe out of guilt at the fact that he never bothered to spend any time with Jackson while he was alive. In any case, The Great Funk Crash followed quickly after Jackson’s death, and Father, without any money, was downgraded from “eccentric” to just plain “nuts”. Jimmy, who owned one of the companies that not only survived, but thrived during The Great Funk Crash, ended up buying Pontactico, as it was one of the few places left in the continental United States that would allow him enough privacy from reporters and people who wanted to take pictures of him and ridicule him. Construction workers demolished a wall of his Cleveland house to get him out, and flew Jimmy to Pontactico in an enormous sling suspended beneath a Sikorsky sky crane helicopter.

 Father, Jackson, and me all parted ways that day at the Kennedy compound, and none of us seem particularly motivated to stay in touch. The next I heard of Father he had, despite the fact that he no longer owned it, snuck back onto Pontactico and was living in the Atomic Bomb Proof House. Jimmy didn’t make a big deal out of it, I think because Father looked so battered and broken. When I dropped by Pontactico to discuss our growing businesses with Jimmy I saw him, briefly, like an apparition in a filthy spacesuit with huge pit stains, standing in the sliding door of the concrete blast proof house looking like a bewildered Cold War suburbanite waiting for the Commies to drop The Big One. For a second our gazes met, and I raised my hand in silent greeting, but Father simply faded slowly back into the shadows of the bungalow, as if an automaton secured on rails being withdrawn from public display at the conclusion of some pre-recorded presentation. Jimmy told me that when he sent one of his staff to check on him the next day, Father was gone, and all he left behind was a note saying “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves”. Which I took as an allusion to our family’s fortunes going from poor to rich, and then back to poor. Which was true only for him. Jackson had gotten eaten. I was comfortably well off, with Jimmy making me richer and richer every day.

 —

 The last anyone heard of Father’s whereabouts was when he was discovered, still wearing his filthy spacesuit, working as a cleaning orderly on the Chinese garbage ship Chairman Mao. When news crews caught up with him on leave in a seedy bar in Cocoa Beach, he refused to acknowledge who he was, and insisted, quite emphatically and with the reassured calm of one speaking the truth that he was “The King of the Astronauts”. God knows where he got that one, and how he jibed it with supporting himself as a cleaning orderly on a Chinese garbage ship. Nonetheless, he seemed happier than I had ever seen him, or maybe just crazier. And the news crews that found him figured out he wasn’t being a general issue asshole anymore, but had actually broken his brain in some way, they took pity on him and played along, calling him “Your Majesty” and “Your Highness” and so on. And when the Chinese figured out who he was they promoted him to a sort of good will ambassador for their space garbage mining business, and even gave him a fancy crown to go with his space suit, which they gave a much needed dry cleaning. Father seemed happy travelling around the continental United States with a sort of information revue show about the Chinese, and how they were trying to clean up the garbage in space, and how they were using the garbage to make new, environmentally friendly products that could be re-used, or re-cycled, and wouldn’t just end up back in outer space or dumped in the ocean. Which was a good thing, as Congress had finally realized what a truly insane idea putting all our shit in space was, and made it illegal.

 

I saw one of Father’s shows, hidden in the back of a theatre. In Cleveland. Which Jimmy had bought and turned into a sort of human game preserve for everyone who was strange or odd or just didin’t fit in anywhere and wanted a place to live where people wouldn’t make fun of them for being too fat, or too short, or had incurable dandruff or were of Lee Harvey Oswald clones. It was freak central, and it was awesome. The freaks ruled, and if you were a jock asshole who wanted to make fun of them you could count on being frog marched onto the first bus out of town. Father’s show was somewhere between a high school musical and something written and performed to introduce a new product line at a linoleum salesforce convention. It even had a short film presentation with file footage of him back when he ran his business putting all the shit and crap into space in rockets, even though afterwards he claimed to have no clue who the guy in the film even was, which the crowd found disorienting at first, but then largely gamely played along.

 —

 Father seemed happy in his new gig, and seemed happy enough with Cleveland to buy a modest ranch-style bungalow there where he could live during breaks in his touring schedule. I was happy for him. The only thing harder than being yourself is finding a group of people who accept that self. For most people it’s a quest that begins a lifetime’s futile search for acceptance in a world of celebrities and jock assholes telling us what to say and what to wear and what to think about a bunch of bullshit we could care less about in the first place. I was happy travelling around with my touring company, which, with Jimmy’s help I had turned into a massive, Vegas-style affair complete with my own chorus of cloned JFKs and Lee Harvey Oswalds and sets that reflected each of my costumes: Revolutionary France for Napoleon; Classical Rome for Caesar, and so on. And in what became a tasteless, running joke, Jackson became a sort of Elvis figure: people began sighting him all over the world, doing the oddest things imaginable: playing blackjack while wearing an eye patch in Monaco; working as a lounge singer dressed in a purple velour tuxedo in Saskatoon; seen climbing into the cab of an eighteen wheeler in a truck stop outside St. Petersburg. I received countless phones calls and letters, each detailing his whereabouts, and demanding a reward for the information. And even though I knew they were all hoaxes, I read every one, and followed up every lead that seemed even halfway credible, but in the end I had to assume that if he were alive, he must’ve had his own reason for not contacting us. And in fairness, us being us was probably more than enough reason. But I couldn’t give up and I couldn’t stop hoping I would see him again. I even hoped he would suddenly appear out of the audience at the end of one of my shows or appear at my dressing room door, and I could show him how successful I was, and how much people loved my shows. In short, to show him I was more than just the little brother he was unable to feel anything but a sort of restrained pity for. But eventually even this hope faded, and I was left with an empty hole in the place where I imagined, a million times, Jackson finally admitting I was okay, and maybe even wanting to be my friend, and in my wildest flights of fancy grudgingly admiring me, and then all that remained was a sort of lump in my chest every time I thought about him.

 

  —

  Rob McCleary has written for such television shows as Jacob Two Two, The Moville Mysteries, Pecola, and Chilly Beach. His short fiction “Nixon In Space” is currently in the Brooklyn journal “Recommended Reading” as selected by Jonathan Lethem
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4 thoughts on “Too Fat To Go To The Moon

  1. Pingback: Fiction | Rob McCleary

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