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brad carrigan, american

In Persuasion Nation

Morning at the Carrigans'.

Minutes ago, Chief Wayne left with the giant stick of butter. Any minute now, Brad Carrigan expects, the doorbell will ring.

Just then the doorbell rings.

Chief Wayne stands scowling in the doorway, holding the giant stick of butter.

"Gosh, what's the matter, Wayne?" says Doris, the way she always does.

"I tried to butter my toast," says Chief Wayne. "At which time I discovered that this stick of butter was actually your dog, Buddy, wearing a costume-a costume of a stick of butter!"

"Oh Buddy," says Doris. "Don't you know that, if you want someone to like you, tricking them is the last thing you should do?"

"I guess I know that now," says Buddy sadly.

"Brad? Doris?" says Chief Wayne. "I guess I also learned something today. If a dog likes you, or even a person, you should try your best to like them in return. Buddy wouldn't have to hide in this costume if I'd simply accept his friendship."

"That's a good lesson, Wayne," says Doris. "One I guess we could all stand to learn."

"What I was hoping you'd learn, Wayne?" says Buddy. "Is that just because a person spends hours at a time in front of the house, licking his or her own butt, doesn't mean he or she has no feelings."

"Although technically, Buddy, you're not really a person," says Chief Wayne.

"And technically you don't have a butt," says Doris.

"All you have is that hole where Craig puts his hand in, to make you move," says Chief Wayne.

This hurts Buddy's feelings and he runs out the dog door. "Oh gosh," Doris says. "I hope nothing bad happens to Buddy."

"I'd feel awful if something happened to the Budster because we drove him outside with our taunts about him not having a butt," says Chief Wayne thoughtfully.

Brad, Doris, and Chief Wayne step into the yard to find Buddy hanging motionless on the clothesline, his severed genitals on the ground beneath him.

"Well, I guess we all learned something today," says Chief Wayne.

"What I learned?" says Doris. "Is you never know when someone precious to you may be snatched away."

"And therefore," says Chief Wayne, "we must show our love every day, in every way."

"That is so true," says Doris.

"Don't you think that's true, Brad?" says Chief Wayne.

"I guess so," says Brad, whose hands are shaking.

"You guess so?" says Chief Wayne. "Oh that's rich! You guess we must show our love every day, in every way?"

"As if there could be any argument about that whatsoever!" says Doris.

"Oh Brad," says Chief Wayne, with an affectionate shake of his headdress.

"Oh Brad," says Doris. "The people we know and love are all that matter in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that."

"The people we love-and the dogs we love!" says Chief Wayne.

"If you look deep in your heart, Brad," says Doris, "I just know that's what you feel."

What Brad feels is, he's trying his best here. Trying his best to stay cheerful and positive. About a month ago, Doris passed him a note regarding possible cancellation. It's coming, the note said. Our asses are grass, unless. Big changes req'd. Trust me on this. Grave crisis, no lie, love, ME.

How did Doris know about the impending possible cancellation? When he asked, she wouldn't say. She only shook her head fiercely, as if to indicate: We're not going to discuss this any further, we're just going to fix the problem.

So whenever something's changed around here, he's tried to stay upbeat. When they got Buddy he didn't question why Buddy was a puppet-dog and not a real dog. When Chief Wayne started coming around claiming to be his oldest friend in the world, he didn't question why a Native American had red hair. When their backyard started morphing, he didn't ask how it was physically possible.

Then things started getting dumber. Plus meaner. Now it's basically all mean talk and jokes about poop and butts. He and Doris used to talk about real issues, about them, their relationship, their future hopes and plans. Once she lost her engagement ring and bought a fake so he wouldn't notice. Once he became jealous when the butcher started giving her excellent cuts of meat.

And now violence. Poor Buddy. They've never had violence before. Once a tree branch conked Brad in the head. Once he fell off a chair and landed on a knitting needle.

But a murder/castration?

No, never, this is entirely unprecedented.

"Brad, hello?" says Doris. "Have you had a stroke? Is that why you're staring off into space as if taking a dump?"

"Did you take such a difficult dump it gave you a stroke?" says Chief Wayne.

Both Doris and Chief Wayne put on their faces the expression of someone taking a difficult dump, then having a stroke. Then we see from the way they start laughing warmly, smiling affectionately at Brad, and from the happy swell of the music, that they haven't really had strokes while taking dumps, they're just trying to keep things light, and also, that it's time for a commercial.

Back at the Carrigans', Brad has placed Buddy and his genitals on a card table, along with a photo of Buddy and some of his favorite squeakie toys.

"Would anyone like to say a few words about Buddy?" Brad says.

"Poor Buddy," says Chief Wayne. "Always shooting his mouth off. I'm sure that's what happened to him. He shot his mouth off to the wrong person, who then killed and castrated him."

"Not that you're saying he deserved it," says Doris.

"I'm not saying he deserved it exactly," says Chief Wayne. "But if a person is going to have so many negative opinions, and share them with the world, eventually somebody's going to get tired of it."

"Would anyone like to say a few, other, words about Buddy?" says Brad. " Doris?"

"Hey, wait a minute," says Doris, glancing up at the TV "Isn't this FinalTwist?"

"Oh, I love FinalTwist,"says Chief Wayne.

"Guys?" says Brad. "Aren't we remembering Buddy?"

"Brad, for heaven's sake," says Doris. "Calm down and watch some FinalTwist with us."

"Buddy's not exactly going anywhere, Bradster," says Chief Wayne.

Also new. Previously they never watched other shows on their show. Plus they have so many TVs now, two per room, plus a backyard TV, plus one at either end of the garage, so that, wherever they go, some portion of another show is always showing.

On FinalTwist, five college friends take a sixth to an expensive Italian restaurant, supposedly to introduce him to a hot girl, actually to break the news that his mother is dead. This is the InitialTwist. During dessert they are told that, in fact, all of their mothers are dead. This is the SecondTwist. The ThirdTwist is, not only are all their mothers dead, the show paid to have them killed, and the fourth and FinalTwist is, the kids have just eaten their own grilled mothers.

"What a riot," says Doris.

" Doris, come on," says Brad. "These are real people, people with thoughts and hopes and dreams."

"Well, nobody got hurt," says Chief Wayne.

"Except those kids who unknowingly ate their own mothers," says Brad.

"Well, they signed the releases," says Chief Wayne.

"Releases or not, Wayne, come on," says Brad. "They killed people. They tricked people into eating their own mothers."

"I don't know that I'm all that interested in the moral ins and outs of it," says Chief Wayne. "I guess I'm just saying I enjoyed it."

"It's interesting, that's the thing," says Doris. "The expectations, the reversals, the timeless human emotions."

"Who wouldn't want to watch that?" says Chief Wayne.

"Interesting is good, Brad," says Doris. "Surprising is good."

Just then Buddy hops sheepishly off the card table, bearing his own genitals in his mouth.

"Buddy, you're alive!" says Doris.

"But I see you're still castrated?" says Chief Wayne.

"Yes, well," says Buddy, blushing.

"Maybe you could tell us who did it, Buddy," says Doris.

"Oh Doris," says Buddy, and starts to cry. "I did it myself."

"You castrated yourself?" says Doris.

"I guess you could say it was a cry for help," says Buddy.

"I'll say," says Chief Wayne.

"I just get so tired of everyone constantly making jokes about the fact that I need a certain kind of 'assistance' in order to move," Buddy says.

"You mean a hand up your keister?" says Doris.

"A fist up your poop chute?" says Chief Wayne.

"A paw up your exit ramp?" says Doris.

"You're still doing it!" barks Buddy, and runs out the dog door.

"Somebody's grumpy," says Doris.

"He'll be a lot less grumpy once we get those genitals of his sewed back on," says Chief Wayne.

Chief Wayne steps outside.

"Uh-oh, guys!" he says. "Looks like, in addition to a persnickety dog, you've got yourself another little problem. Your darn backyard has morphed again!"

Then we hear the familiar music that indicates the back yard has morphed again, and see that the familiar Carrigan back yard is now a vast field of charred human remains.

"Carrigan, I've about had it with this nonsense!" shouts their neighbor, Mr. Winston. "Last week my grumpy boss, Mr. Taylor, came for dinner, and right in the middle of dessert your yard morphed into ancient Egypt, and a crocodile came over and ate Mr. Taylor's toupee!"

"And when my elderly parents came to visit?" says Mrs. Winston. "Your yard morphed into some sort of nineteenth-century brothel, and a prostitute insulted my mother over the fence!"

"Oh come on, Brad," says Doris. "Let's go find Buddy."

Brad, Doris, and Chief Wayne set out across the yard.

"Jeez, where is that crazy dog?" says Chief Wayne.

"Look for the one thing not smoldering in this vast expanse of carnage," says Doris, stepping gingerly over several charred corpses in the former horseshoe pit.

From the abandoned farmhouse comes an agonized scream.

From behind a charred tree darts Buddy.

"Let's corner him by that contaminated well!" says Doris, and she and Chief Wayne rush off.

"My God," mumbles Brad. "Who were these people?"

"We're Belstonians," says one of the corpses, lying on its back, hands held out defensively, as if it died fending off a series of blows. "Our nation is composed of three main socio-ethnic groups: The religious Arszani of the north, who live in small traditional agrarian communities in the mountainous northern regions; the more secular, worldly Arszani of the south, who mix freely with their Tazdit neighbors; and the Tazdit themselves, who, though superior to the southern Arszani in numbers, have always lagged behind economically. Lately this course of affairs has been exacerbated by several consecutive years of drought."

"Don't forget the complicated system of tariffs, designed to favor the southern, secular Arszani, emphasizing, as it does, the industrially driven sectors of the economy, in which the southern Arszani, along with certain more ecumenical Tazdit factions, invested heavily during the post-earthquake years," says a second corpse, whose chest cavity has been torn open, and who is missing an arm.

"Which spelled doom for us mountainous devout northern Arszani once gold was discovered in a region ostensibly under our control but legally owned by a cartel of military/industrial leaders from the south," says a third corpse, a woman, legs spread wide, mouth open in an expression of horror.

"That was our group," says the corpse missing an arm. " Northern Arszani."

"Wow," says Brad. "That's so complicated."

"Not that complicated," says the corpse who died fending off blows.

"It might seem complicated, if the person trying to understand it had lived in total plenty all his life, ignoring the rest of the world," says the corpse missing an arm, as a butterfly flits from his chest wound to his head wound.

"I agree," says the corpse who died fending off blows. "We know all about his country. I know who Casey Stengel was. I can quote at length from Thomas Paine."

"Who?" says Brad.

"Now, Bliorg, be fair," says the woman corpse. "Their nation occupies a larger place on the world stage. English is the lingua franca of most of the world."

"The what?" says Brad.

"I'm just saying that occupying oneself with the genitals of a puppet, given the brutal, nightmarish things going on around the world this very instant, I find that unacceptably trivial," says the one-armed corpse.

"I miss life," says the woman corpse.

"Remember our farm?" says the corpse who died fending off blows. "Remember how delicious vorella tasted eaten directly from the traditional heated cubern?"

"How the air smelled in the Kizhdan Pass after a rain?" says the woman corpse.

"How hard we worked in the garden that final spring?" says the corpse who died fending off blows. "How suddenly it all came upon us? How unprepared we were when suddenly the militia, including some of our southern Arszani brethren, swept into our village-"

"With what violence they rended you, dear, while you were still alive," the woman corpse says, looking tenderly at the corpse who died fending off blows.

"How the men encircled you, taunting you as they" The corpse who died fending off blows trails off, remembering the day the secular Arszani/southern Tazdit militia dragged his wife into the muddy yard of their shack, then held him down, forcing him to watch what followed for what might have been ten minutes and might have been three hours, after which they encircled him, bayonets mounted, and he attempted, briefly, to fend off their blows, before they eviscerated him while he was still alive, as his wife, also still alive, lifted and dropped her left arm repeatedly, for what might have been ten thousand years.

Just then Doris rushes by, bearing the re-genitaled and softly whimpering Buddy in her arms.

"Brad, honestly," she hisses. "Thanks for the help."

"Not!" says Chief Wayne.

We see from the way the corpses, devastated by memory, collapse back into the dust of the familiar Carrigan back yard, and from the sad tragic Eastern European swell of the music, that it's time for a commercial.

Back at the Carrigans', Doris and Chief Wayne come back inside to find hundreds of ears of corn growing out of the furniture, floors, and ceiling.

"What the-?" says Doris, setting Buddy down.

"I believe this is what's called a 'bumper crop,'" says Chief Wayne.

"I'll say," says Doris. "It's going to 'bump' us right out of this room if it keeps up!"

"My balls hurt so much," says Buddy.

Brad comes in, eyes moist with tears, and sits on the couch. "What gives, Mr. Gloomy?" says Doris.

"Still moping about the corpses in the yard?" says Chief Wayne.

"Give it time, hon," says Doris. "It'll morph into something more cheerful."

"It always does," says Chief Wayne.

"Things always comes out right in the end, don't they?" says Doris. "As long as you believe in your dreams?"

"And accentuate the positive," says Chief Wayne.

Just then from the TV comes the brash martial music that indicates an UrgentUpdateNewsMinute.

In California, a fad has broken out of regular people having facial surgery to look like their favorite celebrities. Sometimes they end up looking like hideous monsters. Celebrities have taken to paying surprise compassionate visits to the hideous monsters. One hideous monster, whose face looks like the face of a lion roasted in a fire, says the surprise celebrity visit made the whole ordeal worthwhile. In the Philippines, a garbage dump has exploded due to buildup of natural gas emitted by rotting garbage, killing dozens of children digging in the dump for food.

"Wait a minute," says Brad. "That gives me an idea."

"Uh-oh," says Chief Wayne. "I don't like the sound of that."

"I hope it's better than your idea about installing heat sensors in old people's underwear," says Doris.

"I also hope it's better than your idea about putting a radio transmitter on Buddy while you guys were away on vacation, which then short-circuited, causing Buddy to be continually electrocuted for two straight weeks," says Chief Wayne.

"And the Winstons thought Buddy had been taking tap lessons?" says Doris. "Oh gosh."

"So what's your idea, pal?" says Chief Wayne.

"Never mind," says Brad, blushing.

"Come on, Mr. Mopey!" says Doris. "Share it! I'm sure it's terrific."

"Well," says Brad. "My idea is, why do we need all this corn? Isn't it sort of wasteful? My idea is, let's pick this corn and send it to that village in the Philippines where the kids have to eat garbage to live. Our house gets back to normal, the kids don't have to eat trash, everybody's happy."

There is an awkward silence.

"Brad, have you finally gone totally insane?" Doris says.

"I have to say, the heat-sensor-in-the-underwear-of-theelderly idea is starting to look pretty viable," says Chief Wayne.

"I just want to do something," says Brad, blushing again. "There's so much suffering. We have so much, and others have so little. So I was just thinking that, you know, if we took a tiny portion of what we have, which we don't really need, and sent it to the people who need it"

Doris has tears in her eyes.

"Doris, what is it?" says Chief Wayne. "Tell Brad what you're feeling."

"I don't see why you always have to be such a downer, Brad," she says. "First you start weeping in our yard, then you start disparaging our indoor corn?"

"Brad, to tell the truth, there are plenty of houses with lots more indoor corn than this," says Chief Wayne. "This, relative to a lot of houses I've seen, is some very modest indoor vegetable growth."

"You probably see it as you make your rounds," says Doris. "Some people probably even have tomatoes and zucchini growing out of their furniture."

"Oh sure," says Chief Wayne. "Even watermelons."

"So this very modest amount of corn that we have, in your opinion, is nothing to feel guilty about?" says Doris.

"His 'rounds'?" says Brad. "What do you mean his 'rounds'?"

"His raids, his rounds, whatever," says Doris. "Please don't change the subject, Brad. I think we've been very fortunate, but not so fortunate that we can afford to start giving away everything we've worked so hard for. Why can't our stuff, such as corn, be our stuff? Why do you have to make everything so complicated? We aren't exactly made out of money, Brad!"

"Look Brad," says Chief Wayne. "Maybe you should start thinking about Doris instead of some Philippians you don't even know."

"You really get me, Wayne," says Doris.

"You're easy to get, Doris," says Chief Wayne.

Just then the doorbell rings.

On the lawn stands a delegation of deathly-pale Filipino children dressed in bloodstained white smocks.

"We've come for the corn?" says the tallest child, who has a large growth above one eyebrow.

"Brad," Doris says in a pitiful voice. "I can't believe you called these people."

"I didn't," Brad says.

And he didn't. Although he can't say he's unhappy they're here.

"Look, what's the big deal?" says Brad. "We pick the corn, give it to these kids, problem solved. If you guys would help me out, we could have all this corn picked in ten minutes."

"Brad, I've suddenly got a terrible headache," says Doris. "Would you go get me a Tylenol?"

"Brad, jeez, nice," says Chief Wayne. "Don't just stand there with your mouth hanging open when your wife is in pain."

Brad goes into the kitchen, gets Doris a Tylenol.

Buddy follows him in, hops up on a kitchen chair.

"Uh, Brad?" Buddy whispers. "I want you to know something. I've always liked you. I've consistently advocated for you. To me, you seem extremely workable, and I've said so many-"

"Buddy, no, bad dog!" Doris shouts from the living room.

"Yikes," says Buddy, and hops down from the chair, and skids out of the kitchen.

What the heck is up with Buddy? Brad wonders. He's "advocated" for Brad? He finds Brad "workable"?

Possibly the self-castration has made Buddy a little mental.

Brad returns to the living room. Doris, on the love seat, wearing the black lace bustier Brad bought her last Christmas, is straddling Chief Wayne, who, pants around his ankles, is kissing Doris's neck.

"Doris, my God!" shouts Brad.

Doris and Chief Wayne? It makes no sense. Chief Wayne is at least ten years older than they are, and is overweight and has red hair all over his back and growing out of his ears.

"Doris," Brad says. "I don't understand."

"I can explain, Bradster!" Chief Wayne says. "You've just been TotallyFukked!"

"And so have I!" says Doris. "No, just kidding! Brad, lighten up! See, look here! We kept a thin layer of protective cellophane between us at all times!"

"Come on, pal, what did you think?" says Chief Wayne. "Did you honestly think I'd let your beautiful wife straddle and pump me right here, in your living room, wearing the bustier you bought her last Christmas, without using a thin layer of protective cellophane?"

It's true. There's a thin layer of protective cellophane draped over Chief Wayne's legs, chest, and huge swollen member. A TotallyFukked cameraman steps out from behind a potted plant, with a release form, which Doris signs on Brad's behalf.

"Gosh, honey, the look on your face!" Doris says.

"He sure takes things serious," says Chief Wayne.

"Too serious," says Doris.

"Is he crying?" says Chief Wayne.

"Brad, honestly, lighten up!" says Doris. "Things are finally starting to get fun around here."

"Brad, please don't go all earnest on us," says Chief Wayne.

"Yes, don't go all earnest on us, Brad," says Doris. "Or next time we TotallyFukk you, we'll remove that thin sheet of protective cellophane."

"And wouldn't that be a relief," says Chief Wayne.

"Well yes and no," says Doris. "I love Brad."

"You love Brad but you're hot for me," says Chief Wayne.

"Well, I'm hot for Brad too," says Doris. "If only he wasn't so earnest all the time."

Brad looks at Doris. All he's ever wanted is to make her happy. But he never really has, not yet. Not when he bought her six hats, not when he covered the bedroom floor with rose petals, not when he tried to cook her favorite dish and nearly burned the house down.

What right does he have to be worrying about the problems of the world when he can't even make his own wife happy? How arrogant is that? Maybe a man's first responsibility is to make a viable home. If everybody made a viable home, the world would be a connected network of viable homes. Maybe he's been mistaken, worrying about the Belstonians and the Filipinos, when he should have been worrying about his own wife.

He thinks he knows what he has to do.

The tallest Filipino child graciously accepts Brad's apology, then leads the rest of the Filipinos away, down Eiderdown Path, across Leaping Fawn Way, Bullfrog Terrace, and Waddling Gosling Place.

Brad asks Chief Wayne to leave.

Chief Wayne leaves.

Doris stands in the middle of the corn-filled living room, looking gorgeous.

"Oh, you really do love me, don't you?" she says, and kisses Brad while sliding his hands up to her full hot breasts.

We see from the way Doris tosses her bustier over Buddy, so Buddy won't see what she and Brad are about to do, and the way Buddy winces, because the bustier has landed on his genital stitches, that Buddy is in for a very long night, as is Brad, and also, that it's time for a commercial.

Back at the Carrigans', Doris's family is over for the usual Sunday dinner of prime rib, Carolina ham, roast beef, Alaskan salmon, mashed potatoes, fresh-baked rolls, and asparagus `a la Monterey.

"What a meal," says Grandpa Kirk, Doris's father.

"We are so lucky," says Grandma Sally, Doris's mother.

Brad feels incredibly lucky. Last night they did it in the living room, then in the bathroom, then twice more in the bedroom. Doris admitted she wasn't hot for Chief Wayne, exactly, just bored, plus she admired Wayne's direct and positive way of dealing with life, so untainted by neurotic doubts and fears.

"I guess I just want some fun," she'd said. "Maybe that's how I'd put it."

"I know," Brad had said. "I get that now."

"I just want to take life as we find it and enjoy its richness," Doris had said. "I don't want to waste my life worrying worrying worrying."

"I totally agree with you," Brad had said.

Then Doris disappeared beneath the covers and took him in her mouth for the third time that night. Remembering last night, Brad starts to get what Doris calls a Twinkie, and to counteract his mild growing Twinkie, imagines the Winstons' boxer, Mr. Maggs, being hit by a car.

"This meal we just ate?" says Aunt Lydia. "In many countries, this sort of meal would only be eaten by royalty."

"There are countries where people could live one year on what we throw out in one week," says Grandpa Kirk.

"I thought it was they could live one year on what we throw out in one day," says Grandma Sally.

"I thought it was they could live ten years on what we throw out in one minute," says Uncle Gus.

"Well anyway," says Doris. "We are very lucky."

"I like what you kids have done with the place," says Aunt Lydia. "The corn and all?"

"Very autumnal," says Grandpa Kirk.

Just then from the TV comes the brash martial music that indicates an UrgentUpdateNewsMinute.

Americans are eating more quail. Special quail farms capable of producing ten thousand quail a day are being built along the Brazos River. The bad news is, Americans are eating less pig. The upside is, the excess pigs are being slaughtered for feed for the quail. The additional upside is, ground-up quail beaks make excellent filler for the new national trend of butt implants, far superior to the traditional butt-implant filler of ground-up dog spines. Also, there has been a shocking upturn in the number of African AIDS babies. Fifteen hundred are now dying each day. Previously, only four hundred a day were dying. An emaciated baby covered with flies is shown, lying in a kind of trough.

"We are so lucky," says Aunt Lydia.

"There is no country in the history of the world as lucky as us," says Grandpa Kirk. "No country where people lived as long or as well, with as much dignity and freedom. Not the Romans. Not the Grecos."

"Not to mention infant mortality," says Uncle Gus.

"That's what I'm saying," says Grandpa Kirk. "In other countries, you go to a graveyard, you see tons of baby graves. Here, you don't see hardly any."

"Unless there was a car accident," says Uncle Gus.

"A car accident involving a daycare van," says Grandpa Kirk.

"Or if someone fell down the steps holding infant twins," suggests Grandma Sally.

Some additional babies covered with flies are shown in additional troughs, along with several grieving mothers, also covered with flies.

"That is so sad," says Aunt Lydia. "I can hardly stand to watch it."

"I can't stand to watch it," says Uncle Gus, turning away.

"So why not change it?" says Grandma Sally.

Doris changes it.

On TV six women in prison shirts move around a filthy house.

"Oh I know this one," says Grandma Sally. "This is Kill the Ho."

"Isn't it Kill Which Ho?" says Aunt Lydia.

"Isn't it Which Ho Should We Kill?" says Grandpa Kirk.

"All six are loose, poor, and irresponsible!" the announcer says. "But which Ho do you hate the most? Which should die? America decides, America votes, coming this fall, on Kill the Ho!"

"Told you," says Grandma Sally. "Told you it was Kill the Ho."

"They don't actually kill them though," says Grandpa Kirk. "They just do it on computers."

"They show how it would look if they killed that particular Ho," says Uncle Gus.

Then it starts to rain, and from the backyard comes a horrible scream. Brad tenses. He waits for someone to say: What the hell is that screaming?

But nobody seems to hear it. Everyone just keeps on eating.

We see from the concerned look on Brad's face, and the way he throws back his chair, and the concerned look Doris shoots him for throwing back his chair in the middle of dinner, that it's time for a commercial.

Back at the Carrigans', Brad is struggling through a downpour in the familiar Carrigan backyard.

"What is it?" Brad shouts. "Why are you screaming?"

"It's the rain," screams the corpse who died fending off blows. "We find it unbearably painful. The dead do. Especially the dead not at peace at the time of their deaths."

"I never heard that before," says Brad.

"Trust me," says the corpse who died fending off blows.

The corpses, on their backs, are doing the weirdest craziest writhing dance. They do it ceaselessly, hands opening and closing, feet bending and straightening. With all that motion, their dried hides are developing surficial cracks.

"What can I do?" says Brad.

"Get us inside," gasps the woman corpse.

Brad drags the corpses inside. Because the house is a ranch house and has no basement, he puts the corpses in the back entry, near a bag of grass seed and a sled.

"Is that better?" Brad says.

"We can't even begin to tell you," says the corpse who died fending off blows.

Brad goes back to the dining room, where Doris is serving apple pie, peach pie, raspberry pie, sherbet, sorbet, coffee, and tea.

"Anything wrong, hon?" says Doris. "We're just having second dessert. Say, what's that on your shirt?"

On Brad's shirt is a black stain, which looks like charcoal but is actually corpse mud.

"Go change, silly," says Doris. "You're soaked to the bone. I can see your nipples."

Doris gives him a double-raise of her eyebrows, to indicate that the sight of his nipples has put her in mind of last night.

Brad goes into the bedroom, puts on a new button-down. Then he hears something heavy crashing to the floor and rushes out to find Doris sprawled in the back entry, staring in horror at the charred corpses.

"Bradley, how could you?" she hisses. "Is this your idea of a joke? Is this you getting revenge on me in a passive-aggressive way because I wouldn't let you waste our corn?"

"The rain hurts them," Brad says.

"Having my entry full of dead corpses hurts me, Brad," Doris says. "Did you ever think of that?"

"No, I mean it physically hurts them," says Brad.

"After all we shared last night, you pull this stunt?" Doris says. "Oh, you break my heart. Why does everything have to be so sad to you? Why do you have so many negative opinions about things you don't know about, like foreign countries and diseases and everything? Why can't you be more like Chief Wayne? He has zero opinions. He's just upbeat."

"Doris, I-" says Brad.

"I want them out," Doris says. "I want them out now, dumbass, and I want you to mop this entry, and then I want you to mop it again, shake out the rug, and also I may have you repaint that wall. Why do I have to live like this? The Elliots don't have corpses in their yard. Millie doesn't. Kate Ronston doesn't. The Winstons don't have any Filipinos trying to plunder their indoor vegetables. Only us. Only me. It's like I'm living the wrong life."

Doris storms back to the kitchen, high heels clicking sexily on the linoleum.

Dumbass? Brad thinks.

Doris has never spoken so harshly to him, not even when he accidentally threw her favorite skirt in the garbage and had to dig it out by flashlight and a racoon came and looked at him quizzically.

Brad remembers when old Mrs. Giannelli got Lou Gehrig's disease and began losing the use of her muscles, and Doris organized over three hundred people from the community to provide round-the-clock care. He remembers when the little neighborhood retarded boy, Roger, was being excluded from ball games, and Doris herself volunteered to be captain and picked Roger first.

That was Doris.

This woman, he doesn't know who she is.

"Your wife has a temper," says the corpse who died fending off blows. "I mean, no offense."

"She is pretty, though," says the one-armed corpse.

"The way they say it here?" says the woman corpse. "They say: 'She is hot."'

"Your wife is hot," says the one-armed corpse.

"Are you really going to put us back out there, Brad?" says the woman corpse, her voice breaking.

It seems to be raining even harder.

Once, back in Brad's childhood, Brad knows, from one of his eight Childhood Flashbacks, his grizzled grandfather, Old Rex, took him to the zoo on the Fourth of July. Near the bear cage they found a sparrow with its foot stuck in a melted marshmallow. When Old Rex stopped to pull the sparrow out, Brad felt embarrassed. Everyone was watching. Hitching up his belt, Old Rex said: Come on, pardner, we're free, we're healthy, we've got the time who's gonna save this little dude, if not us?

Then Old Rex used his pocketknife to gently scrape away the residual marshmallow. Then Old Rex took the sparrow to a fountain and rinsed off its foot, and put it safely on a high branch. Then Old Rex lifted little Brad onto his shoulders and some fireworks went off and they went to watch the dolphins.

Now that was a man, Brad thinks.

Maybe the problem with their show is, it's too smallhearted. It's all just rolling up hoses and filling the birdfeeder and making smart remarks about other people's defects and having big meals while making poop jokes and sex jokes. For all its charms, it's basically a selfish show. Maybe what's needed is an enlargement of the heart of their show. What would that look like? How would one go about making that kind of show?

Well, he can think of one way right now.

He goes into the shed, finds a tarp and, using the laundry line and the tarp, makes a kind of tent. Then, using an umbrella, he carries the corpses out.

"Easy, easy," says the one-armed corpse. "Don't break my leg off by hitting it on that banister."

Just then the back door flies violently open.

"Bradley!" Doris shouts from inside. "Did I say build the ghouls a playhouse or put the ghouls in the yard?"

"The ghouls?" says the one-armed corpse.

"That isn't very nice," says the woman corpse. "We don't call her names."

Brad looks apologetically at the corpses. Apparently it's time for a little marital diplomacy, time to go inside and have a frank heart-to-heart with Doris.

Look, Doris, he'll say. What's happened to you, where has your generosity gone? Our house is huge, honey, our refrigerator is continually full. However much money we need, we automatically have that much in the bank, and neither of us even works outside of the home. There doesn't seem to be any physical limit to what we can have or get. Why not spread some of that luck around? What if that was the point of our show, sweetie, the radical spreading-around of our good fortune? What if we had, say, a special helicopter? And special black jumpsuits? And code names? And huge stores of food and medicine, and a team of expert consultants, and wherever there was need, there they would be, working to bring to bear on the problem whatever resources would be exactly most helpful?

Talk about positive. Talk about entertaining.

Who wouldn't want to watch that?

Brad has goose bumps. His face is suddenly hot. What an incredible idea. Will Doris get it? Of course she will. This is Doris, his Doris, the love of this life.

He can't wait to tell her.

Brad tries the door, finds it locked.

We see from the sheepish look on Brad's face, and the sudden comic wah-wah of the music, that convincing Doris may turn out to be a little harder than he thought, and also, that it's time for a commercial.

Back at the Carrigans', Grandpa Kirk, Grandma Sally, Uncle Gus, and Aunt Lydia, suddenly in formalwear, have been joined by Dr. and Mrs. Ryan, the Menendezes, the Johnsons, and Mrs. Diem, also in formalwear.

Just then the doorbell rings.

Doris, in a skimpy white Dior dress and gold spike heels, hands Grandma Sally a plate of meatballs and walks briskly toward the door.

At the door is Brad.

"Somehow I got locked out," he says.

"Hi Brad," says Doris. "Here to borrow butter?"

"Very funny," says Brad. "Hey, is that a new dress? Did you just now change dresses?"

Then Brad notices that Chief Wayne is over, and Dr. and Mrs. Ryan, the Menendezes, the Johnsons, and Mrs. Diem are over, and everyone is dressed up.

"What's all this?" he says.

"Things are kind of crazy around here at the moment, Brad," says Chief Wayne. "You could say we're in a state of transition."

"Doris, can we talk?" says Brad. "In private?"

"I'm afraid we aren't in any shape to be talking about anything in private, Bradster," says Chief Wayne. "As I said, we're in a state of transition."

"We've been so busy lately, things are so topsy-turvy lately, hardly a minute to think," Doris says. "Who knows what to think about what, you know?"

"The way I'd say it?" says Chief Wayne. "We're in a state of transition. Let's leave it at that, babe."

Brad notices that Chief Wayne is not wearing his headdress or deerskin leggings, but a pair of tight Gucci slacks and a tight Armani shirt.

Just then, from the place near the china cabinet from which their theme song and the occasional voiceover comes, comes a deep-voiced voiceover.

"Through a script error!" it says, "turns out that Chief Wayne is actually, and has actually been all along, not Chief Wayne, but Chaz Wayne, an epileptic pornographer with a taste for the high life and nightmarish memories of Vietnam!"

A tattooed young man Brad has never seen before steps out of the broom closet.

"I'm Whitey, Chaz Wayne's son from a disastrous previous marriage, who recently served time for killing a crooked cop with a prominent head goiter," he says.

"And I'm Buddy, their dog," says Buddy, who, Brad notices, is wearing a tiny pantless tuxedo. "I have recurring rabies and associated depression issues."

Then Chaz Wayne puts his arm around Doris.

"And this is my wife Doris, a former stripper with an imploded breast implant," says Chaz Wayne.

"I'd like to propose a toast," says Grandpa Kirk. "To the newlyweds!"

"To Doris and Chaz," says Uncle Gus.

"To Doris and Chaz!" everyone says together.

"Now wait just a minute," says Brad.

"Brad, honestly," Doris hisses. "Haven't you caused enough trouble already?"

"Here's your butter, Carrigan," says Grandma Sally, handing Brad a stick of butter. "Skedaddle on home."

Brad can't seem to breathe. It was love at first sight, he knows from their First Love Montage, when he saw Doris in a summer dress on the far side of a picket fence. On their first date, the ice cream fell off his cone. On their honeymoon, they kissed under a waterfall.

What should he do? Beg Doris's forgiveness? Punch Wayne? Start rapidly making poop jokes?

Just then the doorbell rings.

It's the Winstons.

At least Brad thinks it's the Winstons. But Mr. Winston has an arm coming out of his forehead, and impressive breasts, a vagina has been implanted in his forehead, and also he seems to have grown an additional leg. Mrs. Winston, short a leg, also with impressive breasts, has a penis growing out of her shoulder and what looks like a totally redone mouth of shining white teeth.

"May? John?" Brad says. "What happened to you?"

"Extreme Surgery," says Mrs. Winston.

"Extreme Surgery happened to us," says Mr. Winston, sweat running down his forehead-arm and into his cleavage.

"Not that we mind," says Mrs. Winston tersely. "We're just happy to be, you know, interesting."

"It's wonderful to see everyone doing their part," says Chaz Wayne.

"Nearly everyone," says Uncle Gus, frowning at Brad.

Just then from the living room comes the sound of hysterical barking.

Everyone rushes in to find Buddy staring down in terror at a naked emaciated black baby covered with open sores.

"It just magically appeared," says Buddy.

From the tribal cloth which is serving as a diaper, and the open lesions on its legs, face, and chest, Dr. Ryan concludes that the baby is an HIV-positive baby from sub-Saharan Africa.

"What should we name him?" says Buddy. "Or her?"

"Him," says Dr. Ryan, after a quick look under the tribal cloth.

"Can we name him Doug?" says Buddy.

"Don't name him anything," says Doris.

"Buddy," says Chaz Wayne. "Tell us again how this baby got in here?"

"It just magically appeared," says Buddy.

"Could you be more specific, Buddy?" says Chaz Wayne.

"It like fell in through the ceiling?" says Buddy.

"Well, that suggests an obvious solution," says Chaz Wayne. "Why not simply put it back on the roof where it came from?"

"Sounds fair to me," says Mr. Winston.

"Although that roof's got quite a pitch to it," says Grandpa Kirk. "Poor thing might roll right off."

"Maybe we could rig up a kind of mini-platform?" says Uncle Gus.

"Then duct-tape the baby in place?" suggests Mrs. Diem.

"What do you say, Brad?" says Chaz Wayne. "Would you do the honors? After all, we didn't ask for this baby, we don't know this baby, we didn't make this baby sick, we had nothing to do with the deeply unfortunate occurrence that occurred to this baby back wherever its crude regressive culture is located."

"How about it, Carrigan?" says Grandpa Kirk.

Brad looks into the baby's face. It's a beautiful face. Except for the open lesions. How did this beautiful little baby come to be here? He has no idea. But here the baby is.

"Come on, guys," says Brad. "He'll starve to death up there. Plus he'll get sunburned."

"Well, Brad," says Aunt Lydia. "He was starving to death when he got here. We didn't do it."

"Plus he's an African, Brad," says Grandma Sally. "The Africans have special pigments."

"I'm not putting any baby on any roof," Brad says.

A strange silence falls on the room.

Then we hear the familiar music that indicates the backyard has morphed again, and see that the familiar Carrigan backyard is now a bleak desert landscape full of rooting feral pigs, ferociously feeding on the corpses.

"Brad!" yells the corpse who died fending off blows. "Brad, please help us!"

"Pigs are eating us!" yells the one-armed corpse.

"A pig is eating my hip!" shouts the corpse who died fending off blows.

"Don't, Brad," says Doris. "Do not."

"Think about what you're doing, Bradster," says Chaz Wayne.

"Listen to me carefully, Brad," says Doris. "Go up onto the roof, install the roof platform, duct-tape the AIDS baby to the roof platform, then come directly down, borrow your butter, and go home."

"Or else," says Chaz Wayne.

From the yard comes the sound of sobbing.

Sobbing and grunting.

Or else? thinks Brad.

Brad remembers when Old Rex was sent to the old folks' home against his will and said: Little pardner, sometimes a man has to take a stand, if he wants to go on being a man at all. The next day Old Rex vanished, taking Brad's backpack, and years later they found out he'd spent the last months of his life hitchhiking around the West, involved with a series of waitresses.

What would Old Rex do in this situation? Brad wonders.

Then he knows.

Brad races outside, picks up a handful of decorative lava stones, and pelts the pigs until they flee to a bone-dry watering hole, with vultures, toward the rear of the yard.

Then he loads the corpses into the wheelbarrow, races around the side of the house, past the air-conditioning unit and the papier-m^ach'e clown head from the episode when Doris was turning thirty and he tried to cheer her up, and loads the corpses into the back of the Suburban, after first removing the spare tire and Doris's gym bag.

Then he races back inside, grabs Doug, races out, tucks Doug between the woman corpse and the corpse who died fending off blows, and gets behind the wheel.

What he'll do is drive down Eiderdown Path, across Leaping Fawn Way, Bullfrog Terrace, and Waddling Gosling Place, and drop Doug off at the EmergiClinic, which is located in the Western Slope Mini-Mall, between PetGalaxy and House of Perms. Then he'll go live in Chief Wayne's former apartment. He'll clean out the garage for the corpses. He'll convert Chief Wayne's guest room into a nursery for Doug. He'll care for Doug and the corpses, and come over here once a day to borrow his butter, trying to catch Doris's eye, trying to persuade her to leave Chaz Wayne and join him in his important work.

Suddenly Brad's eyes are full of tears.

Oh Doris, he thinks. Did I ever really know you?

Just then a gray van screeches into the driveway and six cops jump out.

"Is this him?" says a cop.

"I'm afraid so," says Doris, from the porch.

"This is the guy who had questionable contacts with foreign Filipinos and was seen perversely loading deceased corpses into his personal vehicle for his own sick and nefarious purposes?" says another cop.

"I'm afraid so," says Chaz Wayne.

"Well, I guess we all learned something from this," says Grandma Sally.

"What I learned?" says Doris. "Is praise God we're now free to raise our future children in a hopeful atmosphere, where the predominant mode is gratitude, gratitude for all the blessings we've been given, free of neuroses and self-flagellation."

"You can say that again," says Uncle Gus.

"Actually, I'm not sure I can!" says Doris.

"Well, if you're not going to be using that hot mouth of yours, how about I use it?" says Chaz Wayne, and gives Doris an aggressive tongue kiss while sliding his hands up to Doris's full hot breasts.

This is the last thing Brad sees as the cops wrestle him into the van.

As the van doors start to close, Brad suddenly realizes that the instant the doors close completely, the van interior will become the terrifying bland gray space he's heard about all his life, the place one goes when one has been Written Out.

The van doors close completely.

The van interior becomes the bland gray space.

From the front yard TV comes the brash martial music that indicates an UrgentUpdateNewsMinute.

Animal-rights activists have expressed concern over the recent trend of spraying live Canadian geese with a styrene coating which instantaneously kills them while leaving them extremely malleable, so it then becomes easy to shape them into comical positions and write funny sayings on DryErase cartoon balloons emanating from their beaks, which, apparently, is the new trend for outdoor summer parties. The inventor of FunGeese! has agreed to begin medicating the geese with a knockout drug prior to the styrene-spray step. Also, the Pentagon has confirmed the inadvertent bombing of a tribal wedding in Taluchistan. Six bundled corpses are shown adjacent to six shallow graves dug into some impossibly dry-looking soil near a scary gnarled-looking dead tree.

"We've simply got to get some of those FunGeese!" says Doris.

"Plus a grill, and some marination trays," says Chaz Wayne. "That way, I can have some of my slutty porn stars cook something funky for our summer party while wearing next to nothing."

"And meanwhile I'll think of some funny things to write in those thingies," says Doris.

"I hope I can invite some of my dog friends?" says Buddy.

"Do your dog friends have butts?" says Chaz Wayne.

"Does it matter?" says Buddy. "Can I only invite them if they have butts?"

"I'm just wondering in terms of what I should cook," says Chaz Wayne. "If they have no butts, I'll make something more easily digestible."

"Some of them have butts, yes, says Buddy in a hurt but resigned tone.

Then we hear the familiar music that indicates the backyard has morphed, and see that the familiar Carrigan backyard is now the familiar Carrigan backyard again, only better. The lawn is lush and green, the garden thick with roses, adjacent to the oil pit for Orgy Night is a swimming pool with a floating wet bar, adjacent to the pool is an attractive grouping of FunGeese! with tantalizingly blank DryErase cartoon balloons.

We see from the joyful way Doris and Chaz Wayne lead the other guests into the yard, and from the happy summerparty swell of the music, that this party is just beginning, and also, that it's time for a commercial.

Back at the Carrigans', Brad floats weightlessly in the bland gray space.

Floating nearby is Wampum, Chief Wayne's former horse. Brad remembers Wampum from the episode where, while they were all inside playing cards, Wampum tried to sit in the hammock and brought it crashing down.

"He used to ride me up and down the prairie," mumbles Wampum. "Digging his bare feet into my side, praising my loyalty."

Brad knows this is too complicated. He knows that if Wampum insists on thinking in such complicated terms, he will soon devolve into a shapeless blob, and will, if he ever gets another chance, come back as someone other than Wampum. One must, Brad knows, struggle single-mindedly to retain one's memory of one's former identity throughout the long period in the gray space, if one wants to come back as oneself.

"Brad brad brad," says Brad.

"I used to eat hay, I believe," says Wampum. "Hay or corn. Or beans? Some sort of grain product, possibly? At least I think I did. Oh darn. Oh jeez."

Wampum falls silent, gradually assuming a less horselike form. Soon he is just a horse-sized blob. Then he is a ponysized blob, then an inert dog-sized blob incapable of speech.

"Brad brad brad," says Brad.

Then his mind drifts. He can't help it. He thinks of the Belstonians, how frightened they must be, sealed in large plastic bags at the police station. He thinks of poor little Doug, probably even now starving to death sunburned on the familiar Carrigan roof.

The poor things, he thinks. The poor, poor things. I should have done more. I should have started earlier. I could have seen it all as part of me.

Brad looks down. His feet are now two mini-blobs attached to two rod-shaped blobs that seconds ago were his legs, in his khakis.

He is going, he realizes.

He is going, and will not be coming back as Brad.

He must try at least to retain this feeling of pity. If he can, whoever he becomes will inherit this feeling, and be driven to act on it, and will not, as Brad now sees he has done, waste his life on accumulation, trivia, self-protection, and vanity.

He tries to say his name, but has, apparently, forgotten his name.

"Poor things," he says, because these are now the only words he knows.

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