* * *
Scrap Paper Review
Issue #45
November, 1999

©1999 A.D. Sullivan
Joe Franklin
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Where you gone to, Joe?  Louis Markley
Joe Franklin Speaks  A.D. Sullivan
Without a Trace  Mark Levit
A meeting of minds  A.D. Sullivan
Tattoo in Mind  Travis Ray Cole
Circles and Mirrors  A.D. Sullivan

* * *

Where have you gone to, Joe?
(as if sung by Bob Marley)

Joe Franklin,
not Ben Franklin,
where have you gone to, man
I used to stay up late at night
to see who you'd have one
movie starts with starry tales
odd sots who gurgled,
muddled or lifted bar bells

Joe Franklin,
not Ben Franklin,
where have you gone to, man?
Your face was pasted to my parents' TV
they stayed tune to you the way
they did a church
each broadcast a sacrament
each guest, a saint.

Joe Franklin,
not Ben Franklin,
where have you gone to, man?
Your face the same face
we saw since we was teens
through 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s
through out teens, our teens' teens
and their teens, too.

Joe Franklin,
not Ben Franklin,
where have you gone to, man?
uncredited creator of tv talk show
who brought us Sinatra, Presley,
Lennon and more
who never got old fashioned
cause you was always old fashioned,
top fashioned, king of Nostalgia,
and what was.

Joe Franklin,
not Ben Franklin,
where have you gone?

by Louis Markley

Table of Contents* * *

Joe Franklin Speaks
by Al Sullivan

Although no longer regularly on TV, he still holds the world record.

Joe Franklin, the first and longest-running television talk show host, made a brief appearance in Hudson County last week, after a five-year hiatus.

Franklin made The Guinness Book of World Records for his 43-year non-stop television broadcasts that bridged two New York television station, interviewing in excess of 300,000 guests. Although rarely credited. Franklin was, in many ways, the pioneer of the modern TV talk show format, and has influenced everyone from Johnny Carson to Howard stern. Franklin is also considered one of the world's leading authorities on "Nostalgia."

Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand, Bill Cosby, and Liza Minnelli are among the many international stars who got first exposure on his show. Franklin was the first to put Elvis Presley on Television, and has featured talent that included everyone from Frank Sinatra and John Lennon to many, previously unknown acts.

Franklin has become somewhat of a cult figure on college campuses þ where he does about 12 speaking engagements a year -- thanks to comedian Billy Crystal who imitated him on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" for four years.

Franklin has also appeared on other TV shows, as well as numerous movies, and was honored by the Hudson County Sheriff's Department on Sept. 2, at a brief ceremony in Jersey City. He also unveiled the James Cagney stamp at the Secaucus Post Office, before moving onto Edison, where he made additional history by having his voice recorded on a wax cylinder as part of a promotion for the Thomas Edison museum.

Although he gave up his WOR television program in 1993, Franklin can still be heard Saturday nights broadcasting on WOR's "Memory Lane" (710 AM in NYC, 12 midnight) and daily on Bloomberg Radio's "Lifestyles" segment.

The Hudson Current caught up with Franklin in his legendary New York Times offices where he answered a few questions about his past and his future -- among which is the expected opening of Joe Franklin's Memory Lane Restaurant later this year.

Al Sullivan: How did you come up with the idea of a talk show for television?

Joe Franklin: They asked me what I wanted to do, and I suggested having a television show that played records and had kids dancing. They said say that wouldn't work. At few years later, Dick Clark made millions doing just that. Then I suggested an audience sing-along and they told me that wouldn't work either. A little later on, Mitch Miller can along. Then I said what about a talk show. They told me, are you crazy? This is television. You can't show people just talking. I said I wanted a show that showed people eyeball to eyeball and thatþs what I did.

AS: Of 300,000 guests you interviewed, did any of them awe you and were there any that were more special to you than the rest?

JF: I was always amazed by my guests. I never got over it. The main thing is never let other people search for the talent for me. I needed to feel pulse and chemistry to see if it would all work. Bing Crosby was an idol of mine, and I couldn't believe I was actually meeting him in the flesh and blood. It was an incredible moment for me.

AS:Is it true that you brought gambling to Atlantic City?

JF: I was the person who affixed the official seal to the Atlantic City document which allowed legal gambling to be approved in the city. The mayor appeared on my show. We agreed to change places for a day. He would do my show and I would be mayor when he returned to Atlantic City. He signed a proclamation declaring me deputy major for the day. That just happened to be the day the document declaring gambling legal in Atlantic City. I put the seal on the document.þ

AS: Is it true that New York City named a street after you?

JF: Yes, It's at the northeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street and called Joe Franklin's Memory Lane. I didn't ask them to do it, they just came to me and said they would like it.

AS: It is reported that you have a restaurant opening near that corner, is that true?

JF: I signed an agreement with the Riese Organization to open the World's First Joe Franklin's Memory Lane Restaurant. We're planing to make it a very nostalgic place, and hope to open it before the end of the year. It's located at West 45th and 8th Avenue. It feature exhibits of some of my collection of memorabilia and other things I've collected pictures of celebrities. Iþm supposed to do live broadcasts from there.

AS: Why did you quit television after so many successful years?

JF: I thought about quitting the same time as Johnny Carson. That would have really made late night television rock. But I held on a little longer. I was no longer as excited as I had been when I first started. I had interviewed more than 300,000 guests, and almost all of those who I had wanted to. In the end, I wasn't as taken with the stars of today. I didn't hunger to interview them they way I did in the past.

Table of Contents* * *

Without A Trace
Celebrities Missing in Action

by Mark Levitt

What ever happened to singer Eddie Fisher? In this era of endless career revivals, comebacks, and nostalgia tours, why has Eddie Fisher been curiously absent from the music scene? Can he be found lying face down, slobbering drunk on the porch of one-time love, Debbie Reynolds? Or, like the elusive sasquatch, does his bedraggled form stalk the wilds of the Pacific Northwest? Fisher could have reactivated his singing career by cashing in on his daughter, Carrie Fisher's (AKA "Princess Leia") success by releasing a Star Wars tribute album. However, to most of the world Eddie Fisher has vanished without a trace. Lost in a storm of negatively charged ions. It is not as if we had any great expectations for Fisher and thought he would launch a triumphant return to the limelight; charming the world with Rochmaninoff Arpeggios. But, a goofy oldies album would not be out of place.

Butch Patrick (AKA "Eddie Munster") starred as the only son of TV's ghouliest families, "The Munsters". After the shows cancellation, the actor disappeared from sight. Meanwhile, Patrick's co-star, "Grandpa" Al Lewis was busy founding an Italian Restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village. At least Butch Patrick could have tried to open a gyro shop in Spanish Harlem. Furthermore, Al Lewis also had the gall to run for political office. Yes, Lewis' candidacy was a joke.

The public would no sooner vote "Uncle Fester" into congress. But at least Al Lewis was keeping his name out there. At least Butch Patrick could have the courtesy to become a typical dysfunctional child star: develop a drug dependency, shoot his manager, or turn his car over on the highway. Patrick's life has seemingly passed without incident. If he does not do something of note soon, Patrick will be forever known as just "Eddie Munster", a bizarrely dressed kid with bad hair.

After the shows "Barney Miller" and "Fish" went off the air, actor Abe Vigoda made hardly another ripple in the stream of life. His whole life seemed to consist of denying rumors that he was already dead. After a while, Vigoda the actor should just have had his name legally changed to, "Abe Vigoda, dead yet?". To jump start his career, Vigoda could have stunned the world by doing one-armed push-ups on the Oscars like Jack Palance. Although, on second thought, it is quite likely that the exertion might have caused the aged Vigoda to experience a coronary and die right there on the stage. A better alternative would be if Vigoda would star in a sit-com based on the Golden Girls, called "The Golden Boys" with Ernest Borgnine and Don Knotts.

Table of Contents* * *

A Meeting Of Minds
by A.D. Sullivan

Sept. 3, 1999

I knew the stalled car in the Lincoln spelled trouble as soon as the bus passed it and I saw the hood open. The break down had apparently just happened, and I thanked fate for fortune from having happen now instead of earlier. I was close to being late, for the second time in two weeks, and I didn't want to miss this meeting again.

A week earlier gushing rain had stopped me, or at least the aftermath of the storm, as truck after truck of water vacuum trucks clogged the narrow streets of Hoboken struggling to suck out what mother nature had dumped into countless basement apartments. Each street had at least one, and most had two or three so traveling from my 14th street office to the ramp up from Observer highway became like a maze, with me struggling to figure out which street was the right one to get me to my destination.

But instead of cheese waiting at the far end, Joe Franklin was, one of those figures in history that went largely undetected through the 1960s -- thought of as too "uncool" to fit the LSD and heroin generation, and yet someone who continued to act as a viaduct for a parade of celebrities, stretching back in time to the beginning of the motion picture age and the ageof recorded music.

Something tickled in the back of my head, one of those odd thoughts that hit me from time to time suggesting that I needed to meet this man, to see what he was like in the flesh, after spending so many sleepless overnights from childhood with his image on my TV. Franklin came on television one year before I was born, his program growing up with me like another uncle, one of those shows that made up the background music in almost every one of my extended family's homes.

I was greatly disappointed to have arrived too late at the Hudson County Sheriff's office where he had received a badge and become an honorary deputy sheriff. I missed him again at the Secaucus Post Office where he helped unveil a new James Cagney stamp, and again, a little while later when he stopped at a candy store in the Mill Creek Mall in Secaucus. I knew he was to head for Edison after that, to record his voice on a was cynical as part of an effort to promote the Thomas Edison Museum, but I could not chase him that far, and so gave up.

Fortune smiled on me when a day later, Franklin agreed to have me come to his office in Manhattan to interview him -- as he might put it -- eyeball to eyeball.

Although I was the reporter for Secaucus in 1993 when Franklin shocked the world by retiring from his show after 43 years, I had just come on the beat and missed the opportunity to interview him, to find out why he picked that moment in time to call it quits. Was something in the air that made him suddenly shift gears and seek out a new life?

While I would never go so far as to call Franklin a hero, I connected with the man in an important way. He was one of those people who seemed to rise out of nowhere, a man of amazingly little talent in music or acting, yet somehow managed to put himself into the middle of the careers of the most talented people of our century. He had a vision, and he stuck to it, riding the roller coaster of popularity, accepting those moments of success with grace, and enduring those moments when he seemed out of touch with the current scene. I have felt that way often, struggling as a writer with only a vision that at sometime in the future, my talents would be realized. I wanted to find out his secret, and vowed not to be late again.

Out of the cold and into the office
For most of his career, Joe Franklin has maintained his offices in or around Times Square, shifting his bulk of collectibles from place to place only when circumstances forced him to. He moved to his current West 43rd Street location after renovation for his 42nd Street office pushed him out, part of the amazing change Disney has brought to the core of the Big Apple. Once off the bus, I headed uptown on 8th Avenue, and walked a block the wrong way on West 43rd, realizing my error only when I saw the offices for the New York Times.

A local merchant -- next to Show World -- had brokered a deal for the new office, a simply glass door marked the entrance from the street, where a building employee acted as doorman.

"Oh sure, we know Joe," the black man said. "Everybody knows Joe. He's good people."

Franklin, it seemed, got along with everyone from cab drivers to deli clerks, and seemed not to discriminate against anyone. When his show put the first black performer on the air, he didn't even realize it, saying that he simply wanted to find the best talent. It wasn't until much later when a hulking black man approached him, grinned and expressed how much black people like him for putting on tv people like Sammy Davis, Bill Cosby others, that Franklin caught on. Even then, few understood just how radical Franklin was, how over the years, he provided a venture for new talent that defied understanding, while also managing to obtain top talent of the time from Frank Sinatra and John Lennon to the New Kids on the Block.

"I never went after anyone," Franklin told me later upstairs. "They always came to me."

When Bob O'Brien, who arranged the interview, did not show up, one of Joe's employees brought me up the elevator, another black man who chatted on and on about how great Franklin was. Franklin always had people to help, people who stopped in, and stayed for a time, helping him out, wandering through the maze of artifacts that made his office an archeological treasure chest of 20th century memorabilia. Some of the people became minor legends in the franklin mythology, others simply came seeking help in their careers. Over the years, Franklin has helped thousands, some of whom actually went on to achieve lasting fame, like Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and others., Frankly's how was the first to have Elvis Presley, and others, although a history of the era seemed to pass over him, because of the perception he was not cool.

But Franklin -- the apparent icon of American Middle Class values was a lot more radical than hippies ever gave him credit. He like me hated the Army when inducted. He like me had found a small comfort in the military hospital when a medical condition put us there. He like me vowed not to allow his own child to serve in a war like Vietnam.

When we got upstairs and Franklin's assistant opened the door, I stood stunned. I had heard tales about his legendary office. Indeed, O'Brien had warned me to expect a shock, but the place shocked me anyway, two huge rooms (that I could see) filled floor to ceiling with records, sheet music, newspaper clippings, CDs and an assortment of other collectibles with a value I could not even guess at, treated as nonchalantly as I retreated my stacks of books at home.

"Outsiders gawk and gap at my office quarters, my home away from home," Franklin wrote in his book: "I'm a person who doesn't like change, my offices have reflected that. They are loaded from floor to ceiling -- every crevice, every cranny -- with souvenirs, memorabilia, newspapers, records, compact disks, books, empty coffee cups and about 350,000 other things you could probably think of."

So crowded was the room that the only space in the first room was near the door, and that was no longer than a telephone booth. Franklin himself sat in the next room, just through a door left of the entrance, his deck half buried in memorabilia, with just enough space for two telephones, one black, one white, both ringing nearly constantly, with either him or one of his assistants answering them.

"I got good news for you," he told the party on the other end, "But you'll have to call me later."

Sometimes, he named a time, mostly he didn't.

Although I had prepared a list of questions for the man, none of them nearly covered the complexity of the man. I might have spent a year or a decade researching him, and not come up with what made him tick. It was the hardest interview I ever did. I couldn't read him, couldn't feel the pulse of what was under his skin, as if what was before me was all I could expect to take away. I kept scribbling notes, hoping later I would come up with a quote or something that would define him better, most of which I later learned could have aseasily been found in his book.

Although he was excited about a new restaurant opening in a couple of months, he wasn't overly enthusiastic about promoting it.

"They came to me with the idea," he said, talking about the business people who had put of the capital for the venture. "I thought it was a good idea to have a restaurant with a nostalgic theme. They seem to think it can be a model for places just like it around the country."

His assistants kept handing me paperwork, news clippings and press releases, most of which said pretty much the same thing about him, how he had conducted 300,000 interviews over the course of his 43 years, how he had managed to introduce many famous people. Some eve hinted at hi background,growing up in the Bronx, which recently honored him, his book which I borrowedsince it was his last copy -- talked more fully about how ashamed he felt, the son of a successful newspaperman and merchant living in decent housing when all his friends were poor, and how he had pleaded with his father to move into a cold water flat so he could be like them.

What about the past?
Franklin talked more openly about his best friend at the time, a boy who would later grow up and become Tony Curtis, the movie star, and how they both used to go to the movies every day, sneaking there when they had to.

"Tony -- then known as Bernie -- loved Cary Grant," Franklin told me. "I went along with that. But I really liked the old timers like Eddie Cantor and Al Joelson."

Franklin used to sneak into Burlesque houses, too, not for the strip-tease acts, but for the comedians.

"I once thought I wanted to be a gag writer, he said. "I used to follow Al Jolson around as a kid and would stare at him through windows." Franklin said he wanted to start at the top, and wrote letters to Eddie Cantor, Kate Smith, Jack Benny Fred Allen and others. He haunted their offices, and eventually sold a joke or two to the Eddie Cantor show and others.

Franklin held several jobs when he was a kid. One was in a store where he was supposed to collect receipts, but spent so much time in the recorddepartment spinning discs that he got fired. He also took up a job for a celebrity service at which he was supposed to locate various stars,a job that groomed him for his later career on Radio and TV.

Radio legend Martin Block, the voice behind the "Make-Believe Ballroom" radio program, gave Franklin his first break. Franklin handled the records, and eventually dealt with various stars who became guests on the program.

"They all awed me," he said. "I think I still get awed when I meet someone like that. But I learned how to deal with them."

He eventually worked with some of the people he idolized like Eddie Cantor.

"My biggest thrill of all time was when I produced the Eddie Cantor Show at Carnegie Hall," he said.

Indeed, his experiences here, led him later to handle booking for his TV show, rather than leaving it up to some assistant.

"I could feel the pulse and knew whether the chemistry would go well," he said, though admits that sometimes, special guests awed him more than others. While he had no special feeling for the Beatles, he was stunned when meeting Bing Crosby for the first tim.

"Bing Crosby was my idol and meeting him for the first time in flesh and blood was an incredible moment for me," Franklin said.

Franklin's father didn't approve on his fascination with movies and entertainment, calling him Cracky or Crackpot but after Franklin became a fixture on television, his father came around, becoming -- fore a few years before his death -- Franklin's biggest fan.

Franklin eventually got his own slot on the radio, and excelled because had studied the industry on the job, listening to how other radio personalities sounded, and making sure he sounded as good.

Franklin followed in what he called Block's "Voice steps."

"I studied his voice, how to talk on the radio and sound natural," Franklin said. This including Block's talent at making commercials sound good as well.

While Franklin said drama was his best class in high school, he avoided the stage for fear that he would forget his lines. He never did homework in school, yet still graduated.

"I was a good faker," he said.

Franklin was living out a fantasy, by playing the music he loved.

"I made a career out of my hobby," he said.

Signs of radio's decline appeared just after World War Two, most notably the appearance of television. Franklin came to TV early. While in the minority at the time, he believed fervently that it was the future, and although the set cost him $1,200 in the later 1940s, he went and purchased one. But he also made up his mind that he was going to have a show on television.

Television people agreed, partly because they had no one to cover daytime hours, a time period though unprofitable at the time.

"They asked me what I wanted to do, and I suggested having a television show that played records and had kids dancing," Franklin said. "They said say that wouldn't work. At few years later, Dick Clark made millions doing justthat. Then I suggested an audience sing-along and they told me that wouldn't work either. A little later on, Mitch Miller can along. Then I saw what about a talk show. They told me, are you crazy? This is television. You can't show people just talking. I said I wanted a show that showed people eyeball to eyeball and that's what I did."

From then on, the rest is history, a documented career of bringing talent to TV that either no one else would have on, or before anyone else realized just what stars these acts would become..

For a time, Joe employed Bette Midler and her accompanist Barry Manilow as his in-house singer. Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand, Bill Cosby, and Liza Minnelli are among the world's great talents who got their first exposure on The Joe Franklin from Bing Crosby to the Ramones.

The list reads like a Who's Who of modern media, although Franklin said he has also been labeled as the host who brought on kooks.

"That was Billy Crystal's doing," Franklin said. "When he did the mock of me of Saturday Night Live, I became a cult figure, but I also fixed in many people's minds as the person who put kooks on my show."

Over the years, Joe has appeared regularly with Conan O'Brien. He's also seen on "The David Letterman Show," "Live With Regis and Kathy Lee," and has been mentioned several times on the hit cartoon series "The Simpsons." Joe played himself in the films "Manhattan," "Ghostbusters," "Twenty Ninth Street," "Broadway Danny Rose," and has been featured in The New York Times, Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and The Village Voice. He was recently honored by The Museum of Television and Radio.

Say it ain't so, Joe
In 1993, Joe Franklin shocked the world when he quit his television show in 1993. After more than 40 years on the airwaves and 21,425 shows, it was hard for anyone to imagine him leaving.

Known as "The King of Nostalgia" and "The Wizard of Was," Franklin had even in The Guinness Book of World Records!

The President of Chriscraft Industries, the company that owned WWOR in Secaucus, called Franklin personally to ask him to stay.

"I told him I couldn't," Franklin said this week in an interview at his New York City office. "It just wasn't the same to me. I needed to do something else." Quitting the show after 43 years was hard, franklin said. But he had sensed a change in television since the 1970s when Donahue first emerged as a new force, and felt that his own kind of television was rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Then in the late 1980s, WOR -- a station on which Franklin had broadcast since the mid-1960s -- moved to Secaucus, causing transportation difficulties for many of his guests, some of whom had tight schedules and needed to get back to various mid-town Manhattan locations quickly.

But more importantly, was the way Franklin said he felt.

"I was no longer as excited as I had been when I first started," he said. "I had interviewed thousands of guests, and almost all of those who I had wanted to. In the end, I wasn't as taken with the stars of today. I didn't hunger to interview them they way I did in the past."

Although many stars maintained contact with Franklin over the years, one of the recurrent themes of his carer involved people who once he helped them, never returned.

"At first I was confused, disappointed," he wrote in is autobiographical account. "But today I sympathize with them. They don't want to remember the days when they were struggling."

While he felt guilty about leaving the television waves because he didn't see another venue that would allow young talent exposure, he knew it was time to move on, and he did, shocking viewer and management when he made his announcement.

"I thought about quitting the same time as Johnny Carson," Franklin said. "That would have really made late night television rock. But I held on a little longer."

But Franklin had just about talked to everyone and done everything, and in some ways had come full circle, ending up as he had started, playing old time records on the radio, although he still works side by side with some of the more outrageous media people. For a time at the Secaucus TV facility, he worked across the hall from Howard Stern, now he works down the hall from Bob Grant.

He still takes occasional trips outside of New York City, such as the one to Hudson County in August, touring campuses where college kids seemed to have built him up to a cult figure. He also does numerous charity events, seeking to help those in need, from disease victims to the homeless. But he mostly spends his time in Manhattan, either answering telephones at his office, or at one of the two radio station where he can currently be heard. He does a daily segment on Bloomberg radio, a Two-minute nostalgia segment which he records and is repeated throughout the day. He also has n early sunday morning radio slot on Wor Am. radio where he plays old records like he did before he got onto TV. Oddly enough, his broadcasts on Bloomberg radio is on the same frequency as his original show.

His TV career has slipped into that magical land of nostalgia for which he has expressed so much love, and though he made again take up TV in the future it won't be the same. He boasts of having seen more than 300 talk show hosts come and go during his time on TV.

"I think one of the reasons I lasted in those days was because I was never bold, I never got cocky," Franklin said. "The Joe Franklin Show as also unique because it was a two or three-man operation. I also didn't see myself as a star. The other people were starts. I put myself in the background and let them shine."

Table of Contents* * *

Tattoo in Mind

Ink or die bleed again color not fade away,mine
an image thought art
ink it in, rip it in, burn and rip, dig,that art
be it bleed it need it tear it feel it see it
a picture in my mind
ink it in your face my skin
an image in my mind,
until the sun tries to take what's mine.
my thoughts paid my eyes are saying
think again about the only real art the only real way
a song of love/hate a reason to change,inspiration.
your all over my mind. ink it in both sides left and right
love your art and way,see your face every day
pain of your beauty going in
forever right there in my skin
sun take tries to take away
The ink that will not fade
with me until I die
love that won't wash away
cant take back or change!
I feel the only thing you said for goodbye
left in blood and skin your in my mind

by Travis Ray Cole

Table of Contents* * *

Circles and Mirrors
by A.D. Sullivan

Well, here was it again. A stabbing pain. A cough. A single thought that singed within me like third degree burns. A wound that would not bleed, emphasizing emptiness.

"What's wrong with you?" Dave asked as I sat on the stoop beside him like a wino, a short white cigarette threatening to attack my fingers, its long grey ash debating its own downfall.

"Nothin'," I told him and he looked at me queer.

His smug expression only underlined his manufactured image, an eighties boy in love with the 1950s, wearing his short hair slicked back like a greaser. He insisted on watching the Joe Franklin Show in order to clue him in on old trends, but got bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.

"You look sick," he said. "Like you wanna puke your guts out at somebody."

Was I that easy to read? I felt like puking it all out into his hands, cleaning every bit of her out of me, removing the last vestiges of her tainted touch.

"No, no," I said. "I'm all right."

Dave sighs and takes one of those long breathes of his, sucking in enough air to put up with the diatribe he intends to begin, his gaze studying the sidewalk on both sides of the street, where chalk quotations of the bible serve as inspiration. Maybe it's just that he's heard so much already. Everyone he knows is wound up with some web another, whether romance like mine or economic, or just the lack of status people figure they ought to have.

He has his own problems, too, like the idea that he should be great, some aspect of immortality that people around him should appreciate. Sometimes I think he is the genius he thinks he is, always able to read me and what I'm about an any given moment. But other times, I see him as a petty little fly, floating in and out of other people's business, making a career out of other people's misery.

"She isn't worth all this, you know," he says finally, as I realize his made me his project for the day. Then I want him to go away, find some new victim who might appreciate his visions better. I flip my cigarette into the gutter, ashes and all and watch the sparks spread and die.

"I know," I said, and sagged a little more, something in my shoulders shifting with a dull cracking sound, not painful, but odd-- as rejecting the pose. "But I can't help the way I feel."

"How do you feel?"

"Like she wanted me to be someone else."

Dave nodded and fished an unfiltered cigarette from his pocket, offering me one, which I took-- despite my distaste for the brand, letting him light it for me, watching him light his own and the glow of the flame in his eyes, rising, then fading, as he sucked in the smoke.

"Maybe she's been porking somebody on the side," he said.


"It happens."

"Not with her," I said.

"All gals, and guys, too. Even when they don't act on it, they're thinking it. That's just as bad."

There was something too accurate in this and I wanted to tell him so, but his smug expression seemed to refute argument. She wasn't looking for another man. She was looking for herself, trying to figure out her place in the world of men -- seeing in me only more of what she had seen for years with other men. Maybe she picked me in the beginning because I was just like every other man, comfort in the familiar, and then rejected me when it became clear I was exactly what she'd wanted. Or wasn't what she'd thought I'd turn into with a little help from her. I just wasn't part of the answer to her riddle of life.

"Why don't you come down to the brook with me and toss some rocks at the cats," Dave said.

He meant catfish. It was one of his favorite pastimes. One we both shared as kids. I hadn't done it in years. Not because I thought it hurt the fish who vanished with the impact, but because it didn't accomplish anything. I needed things to have a purpose. Every process needed to produce something.

"That's okay, you go ahead," I told him.

I knew he wouldn't. I was his for eternity or at least until he found a cure for what ailed me.

"I'll bet you there is another man," he said, tossing his half smoked cigarette to where the ruins of my first lay, its sparks more spectacular than mine, spreading across bits of paper trash, threatening to set them ablaze. "I bet you she's out with him right now."

She was. She had told me as much. Said we both ought to see other people. It would strengthen our relationship. It would define what we felt. But her new man is a mirror image of me, as I am of the man before me, and he a reflection of the dozen men leading up to him. She needed to learn, not me. All I felt was jealous.

"Let's go throw some rocks at the cats," I said and leaped to my feet. Maybe there was something there after all, besides the endless circles.

Table of Contents* * *

Copyright ©1999 A.D. Sullivan

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