The Pretender (Daily Planet email #866)

I am walking down the street holding one of those novelty dog leashes, the one with the fixed empty collar as if the dog I am walking is invisible. To go along with it, I am wearing my tuxedo-patterned t-shirt. In my pocket is a cardboard phone from an Ikea home office layout and my shoes are bootlegs from the Cheep-O-Rama, they are Pooma brand. My pants are real, but they’re ironic. My mustache is fake of course, and my belt is a rope made of all-natural fibers, like the kind George Washington used to use. They call me a pretender, but I am not pretending. I am this way for real.

On my way to work, which is pretend or temp or virtual or ersatz or something, I stop and sway to the sound of the street musicians. I am not alone in this, a small child twirls as well, her eyes closed. She is not blinded with joy, no in fact, she is made more sighted. In my rapture, a chill goes through me, my flesh leaves my ribs and the crows fly off, casting me to the sky. The city gives to those with ears to take it.

In the meantime, I’ve written an opera. I’ve never heard an opera, not entirely a one, so I know for sure mine will be original. I am generally aware that an opera includes singing, and loudly too, and I’m certain there will be music, lots of it, with great comport and import. I also know there needs to be tragedy and in this case, the tragedy is that I’ve written an opera. See, I am not so delusional that I don’t know my place in the universe. If comedy is tragedy plus time, then my seven-hours-long opera should be mighty funny indeed.

Even if the work is fake, the hunger is real. I go to Panda Express despite having been told, emphatically and quite often, both verbally and through court order, that they serve zero-percent panda. No pangolin or bat or civet either. I really enjoy their sweet-n-sour whatever it is though, and I close my eyes and imagine that it is panda. Is it only dogs who dream in black and white? I don’t think so.

From the CVS, I order my buttermilk to go, then sit and stare at the sun. I am not actually looking at the sun, I am using its light through my lashes to study the floaties in my eyes, a swirling universe of infinite and dependable beauty. The buttermilk serves several purposes. Obviously it refreshes! It also helps my phlegm, since I am in a Tom Waits cover band on Thursdays. And finally, I know that when it starts to taste sour, I have been out in the sun too long. It’s nature’s wonderfood.

Sometimes in the afternoon I will get myself arrested, not all the time, but just enough to keep me honest. I mean, what could you possibly learn from hanging out with people who agree with you? I’ve had some very educational discussions with cops, and it seems the feeling is mutual because they are certainly interested in my business. Eventually, I am released with a warning, and though I don’t remember what it is, it certainly seemed important enough to them… so I figure they’ll remember.

I go to sleep in my own home, wherever that is, on a bed of newsprint, conjecture and unicorns. There’s an old saying my Grandpa used to say: “For the last time, I’m not your Grandfather, now will you please stop coming around here.” Funny old man, I learned a lot from that guy. Can’t remember right now what, it was so much.

The falling anvil development team. The proportions of a pleasing error. Did we do it for money? Heavens, no. We did not.