(Six Tales of Immediate Importance)
EXCERPTS from Pleasure on the Run
“The Latest Deadlines”
“Fable of a Universe”
“Personal Slave” is visionary fiction in the best sense—the protagonists fall prey to the illusion that the ultimate conveniences help. The last stunning visuals leave one wanting to see a TV series based on it. “Fable of a Universe” ends surprisingly, but the surprise in retrospect strikes us as something we should have anticipated all along. Our thwarted expectation rings true, the reader’s ultimate satisfaction. “Ready Now” along with “Bloody Thighs” and “The Latest Deadlines” score even bigger hits with their uplifting portrayals of desperate people at the crossroads of life. They’re a delight to read more than once. Most significant, “Fine Love Garments” tears the heart with anguish and joy. Find out why. You will be a wiser and better person for the experience.
René Blanco reveals the deepest personal feeling and conflict with a crisp new writing style, significant plots and powerful language. This is the mark of one versatile and adventurous writer. Blanco has the courage to sink into the psyche of the characters, to explore their angels and their demons and help them find resolutions. He exhibits a rare sensitivity especially to the hidden corners of the human spirit under duress, making Pleasure on the Run the newest in a series of truly enlightening morsels for the mind by this bright author.
Dr. Charles Vernoff
Excerpt from PLEASURE ON THE RUN (ISBN # 0595223710)
John & Janey Dow acquire the ultimate conveniences
Watching TV in their living room, John and Janey Dow await a sales representative from Global Personal Services but they don’t look enthusiastic. John is thin with a small protruding belly, gaunt face and hook nose, while Janey is tall and has a wide round face, freckles and blue eyes.
The house begins to rumble and their two pre-teen children bounce down the stairs like basketballs, and roll into the living room.
“Melissa! John Junior!” Janey raises her voice. “Take it down a notch!”
“And no noise when the visitor is here,” adds John Sr., staring at TV news about viruses and fires.
“This slave does homework, too!” Melissa says. She tosses her strawberry-blond hair.
“As long as I’m around you’ll do your own homework, and your own housework, young lady,” answers her mother.
“It can’t do homework,” Junior tells his little sister.
“Yessir. Mickey’s parents got one last week. Mickey already made it learn his whole arithmetic book.”
“Shush,” says her brother.
Their father smiles, reminding them, “That won’t help Mickey with his tests.”
“Yessir,” contends Melissa. “They let slaves in school now. You can. I saw one.”
Freckle-faced Junior makes a scoffing face. “Can-not.”
“Yessir.” Melissa’s eyes are big and blue. She points to a personal slave commercial on TV. “There — are we getting that one?”
“That slave has everything,” her brother whispers in her ear. “You can even make it give sex.”
“Shut up. Stupid.” She giggles. “Can-not.”
An elder gentleman on TV says, “Come down to the Personal Slave Marketplace, now on Federal Highway! Who doesn’t dream about owning their own slave? Much more than a servant or protector, it’s a loyal companion! And, they do all the things you shouldn’t do—laundry, plumbing, cleaning. Delivered in the language and color of your choice!”
“Let’s get that one!” Melissa exclaims.
“The Slave Market uses guts that are made by another company,” John says.
“No fly-by-night clone jobs for us,” adds Janey.
“As long as it does homework!” Junior erupts in laughter.
“And gives sex too,” says the little girl.
Both parents react with quick scowls.
“What did you say, young lady?” asks Janey.
“Nothing.” Melissa’s voice is almost inaudible.
Junior and Melissa glance at each other without enthusiasm. “We should have our own slave,” mumbles Junior, and he ends by looking at his parents with a bold expression.
The commercial continues. “Call for free information! We give you this ironclad guarantee!” The man touches a folder like a bible. “Our slaves have smaller heads and streamlined bodies and are much faster than our competitors. Forget ‘Smart Houses’, and ‘Virtual Rooms’. A slave from Marvel World’s Personal Slave Marketplace is the ultimate! Buy or lease yours today!”
The doorbell rings.
“Upstairs, children,” says Janey.
“No, Mom, Dad, please?” says Junior, looking at his sister.
Janey gives them both a forceful glare. “We already discussed this. Upstairs, both of you. Now. Homework.”
The couple opens the door together. They greet the blond, tall and attractive woman salesperson in her late 20’s, Melinda.
“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Dow,” Melinda says, out of breath from wheeling the slave’s big container around. John studies the locks on the box with anticipation as he and Janey sit on the couch.
From PLEASURE ON THE RUN (ISBN # 0595223710)
READ THE REST OF “PERSONAL SLAVE ” AND GET YOUR PERSONALIZED BOOK HERE!
“THE LATEST DEADLINES”
Mary suffers from a worsening illness and will lose her job unless she makes 15 sales by noontime
Mary knows she must sell at least 15 newspapers by noon today or lose her job. While she gulps down the morning doses of medicines which keep her angry thoughts and emotions from raging, she thinks about her boss at the News Dealer’s office, Mr. McCracken, and starts feeling the horrible shakes of an anxiety attack.
Yesterday, Mr. McCracken tried to talk to her as she was leaving the office very dejected. “You know, Mary…” he began.
Instantly her look of sadness changed to terror, like he was going to deal a fatal blow to her. Then, she flashed her bloodshot eyes and went on the offensive first. “Wha-at!” she barked at him.
McCracken’s small head snapped back, and his oval specs sat crooked. “Mary, you didn’t sell any papers today,” he said in a soft tone. His blond eyebrows converged in a troubled look. “You only sold four papers this week.”
“I know.” Mary changed demeanor again, and began to pout. Her double-chin hung lower than usual. “I’m sorry.”
“Mary, I’m trying to help, but I…don’t know.”
Mary recalled what took place that day. She was resting on her favorite sidewalk bench when a man stopped his car and called out to her for a newspaper, but she gave him one with saliva hanging off a corner. He didn’t buy any papers, and for some reason Mary believed Mr. McCracken must have found out.
“I know, you’re nice to me,” she said with a childlike innocence. “I can’t help it. They won’t buy the papers from me.” Her eyes pleaded. “They see me, and look away.”
Mary smacked and licked her lips, an involuntary side effect of her medicines. She was mentally ill, 41, short and overweight with rumpled clothing, whitish foam collecting in one corner of her mouth and bulging blue eyes gazing sorrowfully at him.
“You have to let me go?” Mary began to choke up. “I know I’m hurting your business. I know what you’re saying…but, I’m sor-ry!” she suddenly blurted out. “I’m sorry….” She wept. “I have to get everyone something for Christmas. I really need the money!”
Her shoulder-length hair was messily arranged, held by barrettes and streaked with grays sticking out. A fine mustache fuzz was highlighted by her large trembling mouth.
He looked flustered, wanting to comfort her somehow, not wanting to drive her over the edge where she would explode in rage or nose-dive into despair. There was little room in between with Mary.
McCracken pushed his glasses straight back on the bridge of his nose. “Mary.” He sounded reassuring.
“Yes, Mr. McCracken?” She hesitated to sound hopeful.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” he said. “Sell 15 papers tomorrow―”
“Then can I keep my job?”
“Let’s see. Start early, give yourself lots of time. Maybe wear something bright.” He had an encouraging smile.
“You think it’s what I wear?” she raised her voice accusingly.
He seemed to weigh any response. No one knew how she was going to react at any moment, and he chose to say nothing except, “No, Mary. It’s probably not what you wear.”
Mary called her mother. “Ma-aa! It’s Mary.”
“Hi, Honey,” replied her mother’s frail voice.
“Ma-ah, I’m getting fired tomorrow because I can’t sell any papers.”
“But, you sold some before.”
“Yay-ah,” she said in a twisted voice. “But I can’t now!” She cried. “I’m getting so sick. It’s all my fault.” Mary sobbed into the phone. Her eyes were puffy and her chin flesh quivered. “It’s all these deadlines! Nothing but deadlines!” she sobbed into the phone.
Her mother waited out these terrible spots of grief and hopelessness. It was like Mary suffered from a never-ending fatal sickness. “What exactly did Mr. McCracken say?”
“Agh….” Mary stuttered in tears, pouting and pursing her lips. “I gotta sell 15 papers by noon. Or I’m dead!”
“What will happen if you don’t?”
Mary became hysterical. “I just said, I’m dea-a-haaid!”
Then, Mary called her Psychiatric Case Manager appointed by the State. Judy often understood these huge problems and was able to help somehow.
“Judy, it’s Mary. Mr. McCracken is going to fire me because I can’t sell any papers.”
“How do you know?”
“He told me!” she answered in a nasty indignant tone. “Would I say he’s going fire me if he wasn’t? You think I’m just Crazy Mary. Just Crazy Mary, what does she know!” She fumbled with the phone cord, huffing and puffing her breaths.
“OK, Mary. But, you won’t lose your apartment. Or your benefits, you know.”
“I know. But why can’t I do it? Plus, I’m using the money…” she added in her childish tone, “for my extra things, like my greeting cards, and going to the Dunkin’ Donuts once a week…and extra Juicy Juice.” At the end she breathed fast with several involuntary mouth movements.
“I know. It’s nice to have that little extra money. What do you think is wrong?”
“Howda I know! Whadda I know? If I knew I’d fix it up all up all right!” Then she became quiet again. “I’ll fix it…get a gun, and I’d fix it.”
“Tell me everything?” Judy said at length, putting aside Mary’s threat.
Mary related the whole matter to Judy.
“Would you buy the papers from me if I can’t sell them?” Mary asked.
“I’m not sure that would be right. What do you think?”
“I know, it’s not right. I gotta sell these papers!” She seemed to beg. “Prove to Mr. McCracken, and you, and my mother I can do it.”
“And, who’s the most important one to prove it to, Mary?”
A pause lengthened into uncomfortable silence.
“Who else is there?” demanded Mary, verging on hostility.
“Isn’t the most important person the person who has to sell the papers and keep her job?”
“Oh. I see.” She became agreeable. “I have to prove to myself, right?”
“OK. And, if you just figure out how to sell 15, maybe you can do the same thing every day.”
“Yeah, I never knew what I did before that I was selling the papers. You think it’s how I look?”
Mary makes sure she is awake in plenty of time for work. She wears a yellow terrycloth pullover with a tiny tomato sauce stain from last week’s pizza. She sees it in the mirror. “That don’t matter,” she mutters to herself. “They’ll think it’s a button. Oh, we’re so late. Very late.”
She prepares two greeting cards, signing and addressing them in unexpectedly graceful handwriting, and puts on the postage.
Finally she leaves her tiny apartment provided by the Department of Housing for the Disabled, and she walks three blocks to the busy News Dealer’s office, arriving a half-hour late.
She is brooding as she picks up her stack of 30 newspapers. She avoids any conversation or eye contact with Mr. McCracken, who also looks down while she walks by.
“Good morning, Mary.”
“Good morning,” she replies coldly.
“How are you feeling today?” McCracken asks.
“Lousy. I’m try-ing. I had this huge anxiety attack.” She is close to sobbing, unable to glance at her boss. “I had all these scary thoughts about running in front of buses.”
“Oh, Mary,” says a woman with in a kind voice. “Your blouse, I think there’s a spot¾”
Mary’s face whips around. “I know! I didn’t have time to clean it! Or I would’ve cleaned it.” She turns back to Mr. McCracken. “And you told me that I had to wear something bright. And, then, I also had to write a birthday card to my old counselor, too…” she says like he should know something important happened. “And, a get-well card for my mother’s friend, she went in for a cataract, you know.”
After a moment’s pause, he smiles. “No problem. Good luck.”
“Yes, good luck, Mary,” says the woman with the kind voice.
“Good luck today, Mary…” another person says.
“Go get ‘em,” says someone else nearby.
Holding the stack of papers against her hip, Mary lifts her head around to see the faces are all friendly and sincere. She begins crying in an unusual way for her, mixing tears of gratitude with shame at her own behavior. She gets a few pats on the back on leaving. A final suggestion crosses Mr. McCracken’s mind—that she wipe the foam from the corner of her mouth. He keeps it to himself.
All morning Mary only sells six newspapers. She is huddled on her favorite bench with the unsold pile on the ground, and the chaos of street noises and the crowds of people numbing her. It is almost noon, and she makes pleading faces at cars whose passengers don’t seem to see her or look away. She wants to give up but has to try until the end.
Without thinking she walks off the curbside, between cars, something she never does because of her fear of wanting to get run over and die. She looks right into the heart of her fear, right into the faces of all the people she senses hate her, that wish she’d just go away, disappear, die, who wouldn’t mind her getting run over.
“Get out of the way!” a driver screams from one side.
“Hey, you crazy or something?” another calls out.
More drivers yell and honk, causing her to jump and turn in different directions. Mary’s short arms flail about. Some teenagers see her grave suffering and torture her with their horn, laughing and making fun of her jerking movements.
She shakes in terror, overcome by a severe panic attack and unable to move or breathe, stuck there between the lines of moving cars, dizzy from exhaust fumes blowing in her face.
“Have to breathe, Mary!” she yells at herself.
The rows of cars come to a slow stop around her, as the traffic light turns to red. Then, a strange fright of crossing the white lines on the street hits her. She pushes over the fear and manages to get her trembling body back to the curbside, while onlookers gawk with curiosity and disbelief. The involuntary smacking of her mouth and lips is rapid as she gropes for breath. Nobody helps. She falls over the stack of newspapers, and realizes she didn’t even take any with her to sell when she went into the street. Oh, God, what was she thinking? She cries for herself inside. She imagines the passers-by are giving her their looks of hate or disgust. Having survived the cars, she can’t catch a breath. Why does everything happen to her? she implores to no one.
After shutting his portable phone, a man stopped at the red light looks around desperately until he spots Mary. “Hey, excuse me! You selling any papers?” he calls out from his car. Mary looks at her empty hands and sees her own body lying beside the stack of papers. “You should hold one up, so people can see,” he says. “Can I get one of those?”
Seeing that Mary’s not going to respond as fast as he wants, he pops out of the car, a heavy figure with a phone clipped to his belt and two beepers. While observing Mary’s distress, he takes a newspaper and whips through it to reach some specific pages.
“Are you going to be alright?” he asks her.
“Yes…all right, yes.” She pants.
“What do you know—they put the article in!” He taps the paper with his finger. “A nice big feature about my family.”
“Why don’t you buy a paper for each of your family? As a special memory.” She looks innocent while struggling to talk.
“That’s fine. I only need one or two. I can always make copies.”
“But, copies aren’t the same. They should be originals.” Mary’s words cause him to pause. “Ahm….” She wants to add something but hesitates.
He makes an interested expression with his eyes. “What were you going to say? Go right ahead.”
“Your mother will want two or three papers. You can sign these, too. For each person. Like a special thing.”
He holds a hand to his chin for a moment, pondering Mary, or what she is saying. “You may have something there. I have a lot of relatives, though.” He points down to the stack of unsold papers, and grins. “Have you been saving those for me all day?”
The light changes and cars begin honking again for the man to get back in and go. More yelling occurs.
“Here. I’ll take these.” The man places a bill in Mary’s hand and grabs a handful of eight or nine papers, leaving the rest behind. “That should take care of everyone. You sure you’re alright?”
“Yes. Alright, thank you.”
Mary watches him throw the papers in his car and drive away with a pleased look and a wave. “Get a big sign!” are his last words. Then she thinks of looking at the money he gave her. It’s much more than the papers cost! Her mouth opens in a gasp.
My God, her imagination climbs, maybe anything’s possible, selling 15 papers each day like Judy said. Maybe someday without these terrible anxiety attacks or all the scary thoughts. A new treatment, it’s not impossible.
Mary lies on the sidewalk, partially propped up by her two hands and still breathing hard, but only a trace of white shadow in the corner of her mouth, and her lips not moving anymore.
She gathers the remaining pile of newspapers and stands up. Next, she does something else that she’s never done, holding the papers high over her head, and walking back and forth among the throngs of pedestrians until she manages to say in a far, lost voice, “Get all the latest deadlines—I mean, get all the latest head-lines…here. Latest headlines, right here.”
As Mary makes more announcements and booms away with her voice, she is surprised that people begin buying the extra newspapers right out of her hands, and before long she doesn’t have a single one left for the first time on the job. She finds that she’s a natural at yelling out loud for sales!
…from the PREFACE, by Albert Wachtel, Ph.D.
René Blanco’s writing has the immediacy and power of an event. He not only presents us with unforgettable lives, he graces them with the informing vision of a gifted and sympathetic mind.
In “Personal Slave” the protagonists fall prey to the illusion that the ultimate convenience will help them. The last stunning visuals leave one wanting to see a TV series based on it. “Fable of a Universe” ends surprisingly, but the surprise in retrospect strikes us as something we should have anticipated all along. Our thwarted expectation rings true, the reader’s ultimate satisfaction. “Ready Now”, “Bloody Thighs” and “The Latest Deadlines” score even bigger hits with their uplifting portrayals of desperate people at the crossroads of life. They’re a delight to read more than once. Perhaps the most significant, “Fine Love Garments” tears the heart with anguish and joy. Find out why. You will be a wiser and better person for the experience.
Dr. Wachtel is the author of James Joyce & the Nightmare of History and has written for many national publications. He is a renowned Joyce scholar and Head of the English Department at Pitzer College in Claremont, California