Slowly and mechanically, without really seeing anything, I leafed through the pages of a big fat, silky Ladymag. My mind barely ticking over.
I leafed on, one small corner of my inner being carrying on its continual battle with the imps of hell which keep raging down there, begging me to get started on my true, career as a firebomb terrorist or a graffiti scrawler. Now, I'm not the kind who spends much time looking over gurleymags of the Cosmo stripe, although I find their banner headlines on the cover-page more than slightly great: "Forty-Nine New Exciting Orgasms, A Smashing Color feature!" Or: "Fifty-Three Famous Women Reveal Their Top Secrets For Sensuality!" Or, a real chiller, blunt and to the point: "What To Do When He Won't Marry You." Holy Gloria Steinem, I breathed, hurrying faster through the steaming pages filled with quivering, Jello-y gurleyprose. I skimmed through. "What You Can Learn From French Girls," which was a hell of a letdown since it yammered on about how to dress, when actually the best thing anyone can learn from French girls is how to undress with style. "The Complete Guide To Encounter Groups" held me for a second or two. Complete Guide, I thought, what the hell is a Complete Guide. Some of the best Encounter Groups I've ever known in my life happened like spontaneous combustion in the back seat of a Pontiac, and you sure as hell won't find them listed in the Complete Guide. Oh well. My mind takes these evil turns when I'm squatting nervously in my dentist's waiting room which is where I infrequently have my torrid encounters with the world of Rona Jaffe and Helen Gurley Brown. The dog-eared National Geographic had long since palled, and I find the Orthodontist's Quarterly curiously unrefreshing. In the next room, the arena, I heard muffled moans and occasional subdued thumpings, punctuated by a curious rattling, phlegmy gurgle of the sort Japanese soldiers make while being bayoneted through the gizzard on late late movies set on festering Pacific islands. Some other poor devil was on the rack and it soon would be my turn.
The thin whistling whirr of the high speed drill mingled with the soft tones of Muzak as I tried to concentrate. I flipped another page.
Without warning .it got me full between the eyes-ZONK! "VARROOOMMM! New excitement in the bedroom! The now look in groovy exciting varoomm-y beddytime Fun! Made of high-impact top grade vinyl, this authentic copy of a real racing Ferrari will add the excitement and speed of Monte Carlo, Sebring and Le Mans to your nocturnal hours. Available in Italian Racing Red, British Racing Green and Chaparral White. At better stores everywhere."
The quivering copy undulated across a spectacular four color double page spread. It showed a bedroom displaying obvious signs of being inhabited by someone exceedingly well-heeled and spectacularly hedonistic. The decor was conventional, standard, Department-Store-Mod except for that varoomy exception. There in this haven of rest, in the spot where the bed used to be in the good old days, was what looked like; at first glance, a brilliant, blood-red, Ferrari roadster.
Mama Mia! I muttered as l so often do these days after being forever influenced by an Alka-Selzer commercial. Mama mia a Ferrari in the bedroom! I examined the ad closely. Sure enough, there it was. It was not a vagrant hallucination. A bed shaped almost exactly like an old Testa Rossa Ferrari. It even had vinyl wheels with vinyl knock-off hubs; STP and Castrol decals plastered all over it. I instantly knew what I was seeing. (l have this way of instantly knowing these things.) I was ,looking at a true masterwork of Slob Art, fully worthy to stand beside the concrete 'Mexicans; the Seven Dwarf lawn sprinklers and the Praying Hands day-glo, reading lamp in the pantheon of true Slob Art . . . I was interrupted by a sudden ringing shout of pain from the next room as my fellow victim became forcibly aware that he had a nervous system and it was sensitive as hell. We've got this thing about making stuff to look like other things. Second-rate restaurants disguised as derbies, radios disguised as three hole bowling balls, ballpoint pens sneakily passing as cigars. Some psychologist could do a hell of a paper on this subtle undercurrent in American life. But the Ferrari in the bedroom: Now dat'sa spicy meat-a-ball-a!
Immediately my monster intelligence, which was influenced-in infancy by William Inge and Captain Billy's Whiz Bang, conjured up a scene. The dentist's waiting room with its forty-nine new exciting orgasms and its limp water colors faded and I found myself magically peering into an analyst's inner sanctum of the future:
A distraught citizen lies writhing on the couch. The analyst of the future, his hair hanging in great waves to the floor, wearing blue isinglass shades, squats like Buddha behind his mother-of-pearl desk. The dialogue begins:
ANALYST (hereafter referred to as . ''A"): Come, come, Witherspoon, you've been here every day at three for seven years and I for one, am getting damn tired of it. You just babble on and on and never get to the point. What is it? You just like to talk or something? Well, I can tell you; Witherspoon, this is damned expensive chitchat.
DISTRAUGHT PATIENT (hereafter. referred to as DP): I know, Doctor, but . . . but . . . but . . . (He hurls himself to the floor where he lies kicking off his shoes in a muffled tantrum.)
A: Look, Witherspoon, I know it is unprofessional of me to tell you to get on the stick, but for godsakes, man, if I can use the expression, I didn't spend fifteen years in training to listen to you snivel and whine. There must be some reason why you have a blind, insensate, totally destructive hate and fear of all Italian cars. Never Mustangs or Volvos or even Buick Electras, which I sure as hell could understand, but it's always Italian cars. Why? Why Italian?
DP: I know, Doctor, but ( rising to his feet, his eyes hollow, staring) . . .
A: No buts. Let's can the crap. What's bugging you, Jack? (It is obvious that A is a practicing representative of the emerging school of Guts Psychiatry which has recently discovered that a kick in the ass is worth ten thousand hours logged on the soft down of the couch.)
DP: All right, dammit, I've got to get it out sometime! (He screams incoherently, beating his fists on the wall.)
A: Watch it, Witherspoon. (A squirts DP with a plastic fire-extinguisher.) You've been seeing too many Jules Feiffer movies. Now cool it.
DP (his voice low, tremulous, breast heaving): All right. I'll tell you what's eating at my very soul.
A: It's about time, Witherspoon. You can't go around forever chopping up Fiats and Maseratis on the streets with a fire axe and escape the booby hatch.
DP: I know, I know! I try to control myself, but just the sight of one of those red devils with all them STP stickers all over 'em drives me out of my mind. Everything goes black and I . . . I . . .
A: You don't have to tell me what you do. I had to bail you out three times last month alone. And those guys from Allstate Insurance are starting to get nasty.
DP: Doc, do you remember Clara?
A (caught off guard): Clara? What's she got to do with Maseratis?
A (affably lighting up a joint): Aha! So, just as I thought. I knew sex was behind it somewhere. Go on. Spill it.
DP: You remember me telling you about how much I loved her, how from the first time I saw her that afternoon in the rain at the Chock full o'Nuts, eating a brownie, that I had to have her? You remember me telling you about that? Do You?
A: Of course. I have it in my notes. You never did tell me how that all came out.
DP (stifling a sob): That's just it, Doctor. I haven't been able to face it 'til now. Clara is the only girl I've ever loved. Her eyes! Her skin! The way she smiled in that mysterious way, like the girl in the Unscented Arid commercial on TV. My God,, she's a goddess, a real goddess! I plotted night and day to get near her, to caress her, to fondle her, to whisper sweet nothings into her alabaster ear, to lay my life down for her, to . . . . to . . . . (he breaks off, choked with emotion)
A: There, there, Witherspoon. Here, have a drag on my joint.
DP (unhearing, lost in his own world): Six months went by and then it finally happened. All my dreams were about to come true. I had wined her and dined her, taken her to every rotten musical for miles around, and then, one night, with the moon shining in her eyes I asked her to come up to my pad. She had never been there before. I was afraid to ask her. She said in that beautiful deep voice, like Candy Bergen's, "Why, yes, Clarence."
A (leaning forward, savoring the story): That must have made you feel good, eh, Witherspoon? What happened then?
DP: I bought wine, flowers; burned incense. Got the pre-amp on my stereo fixed. And then, that night after dinner, which I prepared from my Julia Child TV Cookbook, I swept her off her feet in the candlelight and carried her into my bedroom. I could feel her lithe pulsing body underneath the shimmering gossamer she wore that night.
A: Yes, yes. Go on, man!
DP: I slipped out of my H.I.S. bells. I saw a brief flash of alabaster flesh in the faint shimmering moonlight, and then, and then everything blew up in my face. All that I had ever hoped for, dreamed about, exploded before me!
A (breathing heavily in excitement): What happened?
DP: She laughed . . . LAUGHED! My God, it was terrible. Have you ever had a girl laugh at you in your own bedroom? It was terrible. At first I couldn't believe my ears. That insane laughter in the dark. I asked her "What's wrong? Why are you laughing?" And then ... then ... she said it! (his voice trails off in sobs)
A: Said what?
DP: She said "What the hell's that cockamamie thing?" I answered "It's my Varrooommm Ferrari Bed. It adds new zest and exhilaration to beddy-by time. And . . . "She said "A plastic Ferrari? With pillows? And STP stickers? Jeez! I've seen some nutty scenes in my time . . . But lemme out of here. I don't want nothin' to do with any plastic kiddy-cars. What kind of nut do you think I am?" And then, Doctor, she hit me in the mouth with my Howdy Doody FM radio and ran out. I never saw her again. And ever since that night I have this uncontrollable urge, every time I see an Italian car, to . . .
A: That's enough, Witherspoon. I've heard enough. I've listened to sick stories in my time myself, and you're damn lucky I don't have you tied up right here and carted off. Don't bother to come back. We don't need your sort around here.
DP: I understand, Doctor. Please forgive me. I ....
A: Get out of here, you bum. If there's anything I can't stand it's your kind of Sickies. And anyway, your 55 minutes are up.
(The scene ends with DP skulking out into the night, carrying an axe, hunting for a helpless Fiat 850 fastback.)
For a long moment I sat watching in the fetid, chewing-gum-laden theater of my mind the scurrying departing figure of DP as he took a final drag on his roach and prepared to greet his next patient.
"You're next. And how's that little old wisdom tooth this week?"
"Varoommm!" I blurted out involuntarily.
"What was that?" My dentist, a hardened customer thickly calloused by the tartar of Life, eyed 'me narrowly.
"Uh . . . bruummfl I was just clearing my throat."
"I thought you said 'Varoom'."
''Why no, Doctor, that's silly. Why would I say varnom?"
"Search me, Jack. Now, let's get down to that wisdom tooth."
I bravely marched in to the torture chamber, ready to take the worst he could give me.