The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchives Issue 17
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The novel winds down in a flurry of parodies and allusions a bit like the chapter schema of  J. Joyce’s Ulysses.  This specimen is a comic rendition of an early pornographic film—the classic “blue movie” known to generations of stag parties, union meetings and other gatherings of lonely, horny males.  The novel is more in the vein of Ross Lockridge’s Raintree County, Thomas Wolfe’s prentice work or other pop-culture sentimental romances, but this episode is merely a jeu d’esprit by way of exit.

Bartleby de Scrivener

De Scrivener in silhouette in front of files

What medium?—the movies, the silver screen, Hollywood’s opium dreams.  Specifically, what better than a silent film, the common romantic coin of Roger’s youth?  The whole fable could be compressed into one reel of tears, fleers and jeers, a celluloid cream of a dream run off to the tinkle of the pit piano with an obbligato of crinkling popcorn sacks.  Hoots and hollers from peanut heaven, children running in the aisles, holding hands before the flickering projector beam to invent shadowgraphic rabbit ears and butterflies on the giant screen.  Ordering another cup of poison, Jerry let his mind run loose, images uncoiling and evaporating like old mist cleared by new sun.  It would make a fine flickery one-reel epic.

The cinema hushes as the lights dim, the single bulb over the piano in the orchestra pit making a feeble corona of brightness at the bottom periphery of vision.  Then a pulse of life on the screen, a jerky splash of shadow and light.  Credits whirl by to the pawky tin thrashing of the piano, an overture grinding on, rude crashing of machinery now transmogrified into music of the spheres:

The Poet/Peasant and the Working Girl


Rodney Bent, as
The Priapic Beast

Ida Dorrit, as
The Chased Maiden

Ula Loom, as
The Wronged Woman

Yukon Kigme, as
The Singing Cuckold

Claire Voiante, as
The Flapper Wife

Script by the New Socko Team of
Percy Sheets & Johnny Kelly

Directed & Produced by
Gustaf von Zeitgeist

The blurred, grainy film explodes into a long shot of Main Street, Milton, ca. 1920, full of bustling pedestrians, horse-and-buggy rigs, trolley cars, scattered T-model Fords, all  frantically moving, whizzing past the grinding camera, a movement as ceaseless and random as the Brownian Motion. Hold for ten long seconds.  Music:  “How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?”  Title:  “Such is life in Milton—busy and heedless.  But beyond these scenes, private tragedies unfold.”

Cut to close-up of Our Hero (the Priapic Beast) in a pensive mood, dandling a daisy and fluttering his built-up lashes to express Anguish.  Iris shot of the Flapper Wife in similar pose.  Open to reveal her husband, the Singing Cuckold, behind her, reading hysterically from a limp-leather volume.  Music:  “My Blue Heaven.”  Title:  “The would-be lovers separated by distance and implacable forces of social convention.”

Wipe to the Wronged Woman in fubsy milieu, ironing in a dank kitchen with two grubby but angelic urchins clinging to her long, unbecoming skirts.  Tears spurt from her eyes and spatter the nightshirt she mangles.  Close-up of boy urchin also tearful.  Music:  “The Curse of an Aching Heart.”  Title:  “Where is my Daddy today?” 

Cut to Mama, accelerated weeping and gesticulating.  Cut to Hero in torrid embrace with Flapper Wife in back seat of T-model Ford.  A cardboard moon tracks jerkily across a wrinkled velvet backdrop.  The lovers writhe and mug to express Sexual Desire.  Close-up of Hero’s fingers creeping wormily up Flapper’s thigh under the fringed hem of her shockingly brief skirt.  Flash of frillies as she jiggles under his tickling.  Close-up of Flapper’s face, eyeballs whirling like wheels, lips bowed to read “Oh! You kid!”  Music:  “Pretty Baby.”

Cut to dim study with old oil lamp flickering creepily:  the Singing Cuckold, in velvet smoking gown and silken kneebreeches is rapidly pacing the floor, quill pen to lips, wooing the Muse.  Scrolls of foolscap litter the foreground.  He stops before a clock, registers Surprise and tears his hair in Despair.  Music:   “Pilgrim’s Chorus from Tannhäuser.”  Title:  “Woe is me!  The fickle Muse has deserted me, and my wife is on the loose again!”

Wipe to front porch swing, the Priapic Beast and the Flapper Wife in full sexual congress, buttocks flying to the moon.  Enter the Wronged Woman, children in tow. She recoils in horror, eyeballs rolling up into her head.  Music:  “Everybody Loves My Baby.”  Title:  “Horrors!  In flagrante delicto!  Arse bare to the very eye of heaven!” 

Wronged Woman collapses in a stupor as the united couple continues their vigorous exercise.  The urchins ogle round-eyed.  Enter the Singing Cuckold, wringing his hands, velvet gown and marcelled hair askew with Passion.  Spying the country copulatives, he recoils extravagantly.  Music:  “Der Erlkoenig.”  Title: “Ah. Me!—my worst suspicions cruelly confirmed!”  Close-up of his eyes in fine frenzy rolling.  Teeth gnashing.   Fingers knotting.  He spies the unconscious Wronged Woman, lifts her tenderly and staggers away, urchins clinging to the belt of his gown.  Iris out on his retreating form.  Music:  “The Sheik of Araby (with ‘Lena from Palesteena’ interpolated).”  Title:  “Time has passed, and Our Hero’s footloose fancy has turned from the woman he so vilely seduced to another yet unspoiled.”

Close-up of Our Hero now sporting a Kaiser Bill mustache (which he twiddles rakishly), a skimmer and a bowtie.  He chuckles wickedly into the lens.  Wipe to long shot of Chased Maiden in Mack Sennett bathing dress, walking through a rose garden, twirling a parasol on her bare shoulder.  Iris in to her heart-shaped face and pale, innocent eyes.  Music:  “Sweet Violets.”  Title:  “A flower yet unplucked in the Garden of Love.”  She smiles coyly into the camera, goo-goo eyes winking vampishly yet with Sunday School naivete.

Cut to Our Hero stalking the Chased Maiden, dodging through shrubs and flowers.  She pauses, throws him a shy glance from beneath her bumbershoot then dashes knock-kneed from sight, arse wiggling playfully, the Priapic Beast in slavering pursuit.  Music:  “Heebie Jeebies.”  Title:  “Cupid’s bow is restrung, Our Hero’s heart transfixed by the Mighty Cherub’s dart.”  Cut to boudoir, Our Hero and Chased Maiden smothered in bedclothes atop a monstrous, decadent brass bed, all baroque swirls and squiggles of phallic metal. Our Hero puffs a long stogie and swills swinishly from a bourbon flask, while the Chased Maiden giggles girlishly and kicks her endlessly long blackstockinged legs in the air in a cyclone of lacy knickers.  Music:  “Hearts and Flowers.”  Title:  “Down the perfumed primrose path—from airy Garden to fetid Hothouse!”  Cut to door, which bursts open. Admitting the Wronged Woman with attendant urchins, a Kadre of Keystone Kops, the Flapper Wife and the Singing Cuckold.  After a mad chase around the bed, Our Hero exits via a window, sans trousers, with Kops in merry pursuit.  Close-up of Wronged Woman weeping and orating simultaneously.  Music:  “Light Cavalry Overture.”  Title:  “Oh!  You have wronged me again!  Worse, you have robbed my Angels of a true Father!”  Cut to grubby faces of bawling urchins.

Cut to long shot down a palmetto-lined boulevard:  Our Hero, harried by Kops, dodges through traffic with many hairsbreadth 'scapes, swinging from trolley lines, ducking under moving trucks, etc.  Plenty of impromptu spills and chills.  Iris out on pack of leaping Kops hounding Our Hero over the horizon.

Cut to Chased Maiden, clad in provocative black corset, black stockings and stiletto heels, displayed before the leering Singing Cuckold and the weeping Woman.  Wringing and twisting of all hands.  Music:  “In a Persian Marketplace.”  Title:  “An exotic blossom unfolded before the goggling eyes of the vulgar.”  Cut to the Singing Cuckold’s face close-up—symptoms of Prurience:  slavering lips, with concomitant dilation of the eyes.  Cut to close-up of Wronged Woman and Flapper Wife, whose faces writhe with disgust.  Title:  “Their hearts are unstring by Envy and Scorn.”

Cut to Our Hero, who creeps back into the boudoir, now empty except for the Chased Maiden, who sits in irresistible déshabille, combing her long tresses.  The Priapic Beast springs upon her, flings her onto her back and strips away the fettering corset to reveal her ample, ivoried charms.  He ogles.  Music:  “Venusberg theme from Tannhäuser.”  Title:  “So his Lust is slaked in her cooling charms.”  Fade out on coupled bodies, her long legs kicking ecstatically.

Iris in on Chased Maiden sitting in Dejection at a writing desk.  Before her is a tintype portrait of the Priapic Beast and next to it an enormous silver pistol.  She struggles to compose a letter.  Enter behind her the Scarlet Harlot and Ole Rastus, who envelope her in a gunny sack and carry her struggling into the night.  Music:  “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5.”  Title:  “So Purity once defiled is cast into the charnel house of Unrestrained Lust.”  Cut to Chased Maiden, wearing a sleazy housecoat, smoking a cigarette and twirling a champagne glass, in a gaudy brothel parlor. Enter the Priapic Beast, with his usual leer, sailing his straw skimmer aside (it ringers onto the antler of a gawping moosehead), pinching the Chased Maiden rudely on her enticing buttocks.  Music:  “Black Bottom.”  Title:  “She is now his Wanton Toy.”  Cut to their enthusiastic and complex coupling on the parlor settee.  The Scarlet Harlot and Ole Rastus watch approvingly with frequent applause.  Fade to black.

Cut to the Chased Maiden waving her giant horse-pistol in frenzy.  The Scarlet Harlot and Old Rastus cringe in the background.  Music:  “Frankie and Johnny.”  Title:  “He done her wrong!  Her dormant Conscience has wakened at last!”  Cut to the Priapic Beast blithely approaching the house.  He enters, stops in confusion.  The Chased Maiden overshadows him with the monstrous, phallic killing-engine.  Title:  “Oh! Spare me, please spare me!  I shall make amends and quit my wicked ways.  I have a wife and kiddies!”  Cut to the imperious Chased Maiden, who throws off her kimono to stand statuesquely nude, the Archangel Michael dominating the cringing Serpent.  She shoots him repeatedly between the eyes, and the Beast withers in a miasma of gunsmoke.  Iris in to the Chased Maiden’s face, now transfigured by triumph, like Joan of Arc in ascension.  Music:  “Dead March from Saul.”  Title:  “Free at last!  Justice at last!”  Fade to black.

Cut to triumphal procession of Kops, bearing the supple and nude Chased Maiden on their massed shoulders, a bouquet of American Beauty roses clutched in her arms.  She flings blossoms to all sides in gracious victory.  Following in ceremonial order are all principals except the Priapic Beast.  Music:  “Grand March from Aida.”  Title:  “Thus ever for Lechers!  Womanhood is once again vindicated, and Truth, Beauty and Justice forever served.  MORAL:  DON’T PLAY WITH LOADED WOMEN!!!” 

Final iris to the beatified face of the Chased Maiden, with a single white rose on a stem clenched in her perfect white smile.  She winks majestically at the lens as THE SCENE FADES OUT.


jptARCHIVE Issue 17
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