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Pure Imagination - "Joan of Arc" Part 4

The following is part four of the story “Joan of Arc,” concerning the temporal displacement and inebriated escapades of a womanizing retirement community activities director. You can read parts one through three here.

Everyone makes mistakes. Even old Saint Joan of Arc. It’s just that folks like Joan make one or two every now and then and folks like me make them all the goddamn time.

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Pure Imagination - "Joan of Arc" Part 3

The following is part three of the story “Joan of Arc,” concerning the temporal displacement and inebriated escapades of a womanizing retirement community activities director. You can read parts one and two here.

Sun. April 22, 2012 — Chica Chica Boom Chic (Uma Noite no Rio)

Well you can better believe I drank myself senseless on Monday night, what with Anne Frank materializing out of who-knows-where with a salty mouth and a fake ID and Joan of Arc armed and armored and gunning her hog past Jimborooni’s and all. Who knows what all I drank, but the next morning I sure was in a bad way. I was seeing double and was bruised in strange places and to top it off my alarm clock hadn’t gone off and I’d woken up at noon, which meant the old folks had probably been clamoring for an hour for a canasta game that would never come.

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Pure Imagination - "Joan of Arc" Part 2

The following is part two of the story “Joan of Arc,” concerning the temporal displacement and inebriated escapades of a womanizing retirement community activities director. You can read part one here.

Mon. April 23, 2012 — Enhancement and Propriety

The weekend passed predictably—Saturday night soaked in bourbon, Sunday morning gel-coated in aspirin—and then it was Monday and I was up at dawn, cursing my alarm clock, petting Mr. Mittens, driving my rusted Methuselah of a Honda Civic to Foxwood Prairies. I’d been the activities director at Foxwood for a few years. The old folks there were really something. There were two different communities of old folks at Foxwood—independent living for those still sound of body and mind, and assisted living for those whose bodies and/or minds had become less sound—and I scheduled and managed recreational activities and outings for them all. It was all standard stuff—bingo, canasta, Go Fish, cross-stitching, trips to the Piggly Wiggly and the flea market. The monthly schedules pretty much wrote themselves. The old folks didn’t want their activities director thinking outside the box. They wanted him making sure the canasta decks weren’t missing any cards and clearly enunciating B17, N27, O40, G33.

The old folks sure could be a pain in my ass, but I liked them all okay. They were old enough to not give a damn about anything anymore, and I appreciated that. People my own age still gave way too much of a damn. What was the point? Everyone was going to get old and not give a damn anymore anyway, so why not not give a damn now and save yourself a hell of a lot of trouble? But people my age didn’t think like that. And, to be fair, not everyone was going to get old. This 17-year-old kid in my town just got himself squashed to death by a vending machine, for instance. I never trusted those things. They were always stealing my money, and now apparently they were out to murder me, too.

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Pure Imagination - "Joan of Arc" Part 1

The following is part one of the new story “Joan of Arc,” concerning the temporal displacement and inebriated escapades of a womanizing retirement community activities director.

Sat. April 21, 2012 — Petit Dejeuner

This morning I woke up in bed with Joan of Arc. Who knows how she got there. Who knows how I got there. The previous night was a highball/Heineken haze. I thought old Joan had been burned at the stake five or six hundred years ago—I had watched her die in a TV miniseries and two different History Channel reenactments—but there she was, sleeping beside me, hogging all the covers, her milk-white skin unclothed and uncharred, her tunic, sword, and plate mail on the floor with my jeans and lucky boxers. When she woke she was not excited to see me. She rubbed her eyes, muttered quietly in French, then got out of bed and quickly dressed herself. It was really something, how fast she could put on that plate mail. I asked her if she wanted any breakfast—I had some waffles and sausage links in my freezer—but she didn’t answer me. I think her English might not have been too good. Also, it turned out I didn’t actually have any waffles or sausage links left, just really cold empty boxes. Not that it mattered. By the time I remembered how to say breakfast in French, Saint Joan, the Maid of Orléans, was gone.

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Pure Imagination - "Minimum Security" Conclusion

The following is the sixth and final portion of the story Minimum Security, a tale concerning loneliness, insomnia, incarceration, Burmese Pythons, and Dadeland Mall. Previous episodes are here.

Madhouse / O Holy Night

It was Christmas Eve, and Dadeland Mall was a madhouse. Procrastinating shoppers were sprinting from store to store and lugging their own weight in gift-wrapped Macadamia nuts and waiting refugee-faced in endless, serpentine checkout lines. At noon we commenced the Dadeland Holiday Minimum-Security Spectacular, a thrice-convicted cockfight impresario singing “Little Drummer Boy” in a sweet falsetto, but no one stopped to listen. Everyone had somewhere to be. No one had time for a spectacular.

The warden didn’t seem to care that no one was paying attention to us, though. He was enthralled. He was clapping his hands and jumping around and sucking on his grapefruits like no one’s business. We reenacted the Nativity and sang Handel’s “Messiah” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and danced to “Santa Baby” in a chorus line and performed pivotal scenes of Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life. For the Spectacular’s grand finale, each of the inmates lit a white candle and sang “O Holy Night” as a compulsive public masturbator in swaddling clothes placed a glittering gold star on the top of an artificial Douglas fir. Boy did the warden get a big ’ol kick out of the grand finale. He was crying like a baby. The gold star glinting and gleaming on the tree, we finished off the final chorus of “O Holy Night” and then the prison guards retrieved all of our costumes and choir robes and extinguished and collected our candles. Some of us were in for arson. You never could be too careful.

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Pure Imagination - "Minimum Security" Part 5

The following is the fifth portion of the story Minimum Security, a tale concerning loneliness, insomnia, incarceration, Burmese Pythons, and Dadeland Mall. Previous episodes are here.

Finals Week

It was finals week for all of us enrolled in educational courses in the food court. Prison lecturers sipped on celebratory mocachinos and Johnny Rockets milkshakes and TAs passed out number two pencils, teacher evaluations, and ominously heavy stapled exams. I had been hoping that somehow my survey of post-war Soviet literature final would be in English rather than Russian, but of course it was in Russian. A guy like me couldn’t catch a break. As my classmates diligently tackled post-war Soviet literature’s most pressing questions, I scribbled my favorite Cyrillic symbols in the white spaces of my exam, handed my test to my professor, and shook his hand. He stared at me warily. Who knows what I had been writing on all my tests and papers. Not me. That was for sure.

I had never been a particularly good test taker. In high school that’s what all the dumb kids would say when they didn’t want to say they were dumb—I’m just not a good test taker—but in my case I really wasn’t all that dumb. I was just absolute shit at taking tests. Lots of times I knew the right answer, but I’d bubble in the wrong oval, or I’d second-guess myself, or I’d accidentally skip a page and leave a quarter of the test questions blank. It was really something. I must have been the worst test taker of all time. School wouldn’t have been so bad if all you had to do was learn stuff, but of course they had to go and make school one big competition. People were always doing that, ruining perfectly nice things by making them competitions. They were always telling me, Why can’t you dress as good as so-and-so or cook as well as so-and-so or smell as nice as so-and-so? Boy did that make me feel lousy. My whole life I was constantly losing competitions I didn’t even know I’d entered.

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Pure Imagination - "Minimum Security" Part 4

The following is the third portion of the story Minimum Security, a tale concerning loneliness, insomnia, incarceration, Burmese Pythons, and Dadeland Mall. Previous episodes are here.

December / Die Hard / Lexus

December came to Dadeland, and on a special weekend detail my fellow inmates and I decorated the mall with fake Douglas firs, artificial mistletoe, and tinsel in preparation for the imminent holidays. It was going to be my first Christmas in prison. The thought made me a little sad, but most of my thoughts made me a little sad. At least this year there would be no guesswork on which column contained my name on Santa’s list.

The warden, in addition to being a clothes hound and a grapefruit and Häagen-Dazs enthusiast, was an aficionado of all things Christmas. He strolled the tiled floors of Dadeland in December with a carol ever on his lips and an extra bounce in his step. Every year the warden organized an extravagant Christmas show in the open area near Michael Kors and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. It was called the Dadeland Holiday Minimum-Security Spectacular. Inmates reenacted the Nativity and sang Handel’s “Messiah” and performed selected scenes from A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, and Die Hard.

I had mixed feelings about Christmas. I liked all the colored lights people strung on their houses and around ficus and palm trees, but I didn’t like the presents. I had never gotten anything good for Christmas, and had never given anyone anything good for Christmas. On TV around Christmastime I’d always see these commercials where a man blindfolds his wife, walks her out to the garage, and then pulls off the blindfold to reveal a shiny new Lexus with a big red bow. Boy those commercials made me feel lousy. What could I possibly buy my sweet Maria that could compete with a shiny new Lexus with a big red bow? Usually I bought her bath soap. I bet those disgraced corporate executives had bought a shiny new Lexus for a girl or two on Christmas, though. One of the executives was going to be Joseph in the mall Nativity reenactment, and another was going to be the Virgin Mary. No one was surprised. Those disgraced executives were always pulling strings.

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Pure Imagination - "Minimum Security" Part 3

The following is the third portion of the story Minimum Security, a tale concerning loneliness, insomnia, incarceration, Burmese Pythons, and Dadeland Mall. Previous episodes are here.

Hierarchy / Pájaro Libre / Julian(n)a

Even after four months at Dadeland I still wasn’t sure where I fit into the prison hierarchy. At a maximum-security prison the social pyramid would have been clearly delineated: the bank robbers and drug kingpins were on top and the rapists and child molesters were fending off shank attacks at the bottom, but we didn’t have any drug lords or pedophiles, no sex offenders of any kind, and the closest thing we had to a bank robber was Cedar Rapids Brinkley, who blew out the engine of his mom’s Oldsmobile Cutlass dragging an ATM down Kendall Drive.

At Johnny Rockets my position in the doo-wop singing hierarchy was better established. I was the bass, by virtue of my being the only one on staff who could hit the low E flat on “Blue Moon.” The eldest of the hedge fund-embezzling tenors sang lead, but you could tell the younger hedge fund-embezzling tenor wasn’t happy about it. His harmonies were always spiteful. The codeine-trafficking baritone, on the other hand, was a consummate professional. He had sung backup vocals in an all-Cuban Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band before the Feds caught wind of his improprieties with cough syrup. His band was called Pájaro Libre. They were planning on doing a reunion show when the baritone got out of prison and their original Ronnie Van Zant look-alike recovered from injuries suffered in a mango tree-climbing accident. Possible venues included a quinceañera, a corporate awards dinner, and a middle school dance.

For incarcerated felons, the embezzlers, the codeine-trafficker, and I were pretty decent doo-woppers. We sang all the standards: “Sh-Boom,” “Book of Love,” “Earth Angel,” “Duke of Earl.” But we also did originals—the younger embezzler, when not managing or mismanaging hedge funds, had been a quite prolific composer. All of his songs were about girls who had spurned his advances in high school, in alphabetical order. He was currently writing “Juliana.” “Julianna” was next.

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Pure Imagination - "Minimum Security" Part 2

The following is the second portion of the story Minimum Security, a tale concerning loneliness, insomnia, incarceration, Burmese Pythons, and Dadeland Mall. Part one is here.

Doo-wop / The Yard / Optimistic

At Dadeland our days were highly regimented. We showered at the same time every day, ate our meals at the same time every day, worked and shaved and Bible studied at the same time every day, became puppets of the ticking hands of Macy’s wall clocks and designer wristwatches …

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Pure Imagination - "Minimum Security" Part 1

The following is the first portion of his story Minimum Security, a tale concerning loneliness, insomnia, incarceration, Burmese Pythons, and Dadeland Mall.

Dying Art / The Boys of Summer

Everyone kept telling me mail fraud was a dying art. Who the hell reads their mail anymore? they said. All the real suckers are on Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo!, Tumblr, OkCupid, Chatroulette. But I didn’t listen. I hated computers, and I liked licking stamps. Teach a man to phish and you feed him for a lifetime, they said. But still I didn’t listen.

Next thing I knew, I was emptying my pockets and being tested for TB and venereal disease during intake at the Federal Prison Camp at Dadeland Mall.

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