like a detonation…

A Madhouse

It was this Charlton Heston thing.

The Romans are meeting at the Forum — more like the Colosseum — deciding the fate of the legions off at war; and somehow, I, a hero, am embroiled in the decision. But I find myself hiding in a clothes closet off to the side of the meeting. I have an oblique view of the stands where people are assembled hashing these issues out. I should be visible to some of the people at this convocation, but they can’t see me — and just in case they can, I move to a deeper hiding place among the many frocks in dry cleaning plastic bags.

And again, there’s this palpable feeling of the presence of Charlton Heston but no sight of him. Then it’s dark, and I’m in the catacombs and holding cells below the Colosseum. There are cells with bars, and some skeletal remains in theses cells propped up in poses. I’m looking out from behind the bars onto a ramp, and out of the gloaming comes Charlton Heston.

Charlie, friggin’, Heston!

Somehow, even though this is an early role for me I tell him he’d be surprised at what my favorite film of his was when I was five years old.

He instantly says, “Planet of the Apes.”

“Absolutely,” I say. “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!”

I challenge him to guess what my second favorite film of his was — to which he says, “Omega Man.”

Man! How does he do it!? How does he know?

He holds an open palm to my face and then up to the sky and says, “from my cold dead hands, Mr President. From my cold dead hands.”

I think, but don’t dare say, Wha’? Huh?! Then I go through the calculations… he said that during Clinton, right? Wasn’t he already dead by Obama? Whatever.

It doesn’t much matter. We’re fast friends now and heading to a combination bar and full service gas station atop the Los Angeles Colosseum, but it really seems to be the press box at the Daytona Race Track. Heston asks me about Soylent Green, and I tell him I didn’t see that until I was an adult 30 years later.

He says, “Ah! It was people you know? The green crackers… people!”

“Sure, whatever,” I say.

We’re getting familiar and there’s a hubbub behind the bar. Everyone around the square bar is clapping and cheering the muscular bleached blonde bartender who’s wearing a classic gas station attendant’s shirt — with the sleeves cut off and ripped jean shorts — he’s getting his trapezius muscles massaged by a waiter, and they’re both wearing Oakland Raiders caps backwards.

Charlton looks over to me and says, “everyone is an actor in LA.” He points at the TV and says, “every time one of the commercials or TV shows they appear play people take a moment to recognize them.” Another cheer and clapping is heard from the adjoining rooms as other staff memebers are seen on the dozens of televisions throughout the bar / gas station.

A couple of guys wearing cageless football helmets, modified to look like motorcycle helmets, are causing a ruckus at the edge of the bar and punches are thrown.

Heston says “let’s get out of here,” and we walk through the window and hover 80 feet in the air over the racetrack. In a flash we’re in the pits, but it’s really an old time gas station and Heston has disappeared — but the guys who were just causing the scene at the bar are in a car backing up, coming at me slowly.

I step out of the way on the passenger side and tap lightly on the trunk. It’s one of the troublemakers, in the cheap plastic helmet made to look intimidating, flexing his fist open and closed. They exit the car with ill intent. The smell of motor oil and cigarettes wafts out of the car.

We’re crunching on small beads of tempered glass as we make our way toward the rear of the car — it now appears as a hatchback made of thin, pliable tin. It’s broken and missing a section.

“Look at what you did,” the driver says in a menacing tone. I tell him I didn’t do that. “I lightly tapped the trunk. This wasn’t like this before. This car wasn’t even a hatchback!”

The one with the helmet says, “you did it, man!” and they pin me to the rear of the car. The glass below our feet is gone and I say, “see here, there’s no glass. This hatchback was already in this condition.”

Then I’m in my darkened apartment. But instead of being on the 16th floor in Boston. It’s on the 60th floor of a condo building at a crossroads in mid-Manhattan — something like a combination of Times Square, FDR drive somewhere near the UN, an open air version of Grand Central Station, and Columbus Circle all at once.

All the lights in the city are out, and it’s my duty to turn them on before my partner gets home with Charlton Heston. I’m feeling my way down the hall in the dark toward the fuse box to trip the switch, but I hear the refrigerator start to hum, and some light streams from the open refrigerator door.

I hear my partner at the door, and she gets to me just as I’m pulling the switch. We hear a earth shaking noise outside.

She says, “was that a car accident?”

“It didn’t sound like cars,” I say. “It sounded like a detonation of something large. I don’t know what it was,” I say.

We run to the balcony windows. Darkness. Then it dawns on me: “hey, where the hell is Charlton Heston?”

This is Fall, at 5:01 p.m., on 10/30/2020. Jamaica Plain, MA. (30/31)

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

— Virginia Woolf

About istsfor manity

i'm a truncated word-person looking for an assemblage of extracted teeth in a tent full of mosquitoes (and currently writing a novel without writing a novel word) and pulling nothing but the difficult out of the top hat while the bunny munches grass in the hallway. you might say: i’m thee asynchronous voice over in search of a film....
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