For Neil Simon
Every few weeks, when he could scrape together the money for a venue and a few kegs
of Peacemaker IPA, Tate Green would rent a stage and host a variety show. That is where we saw our first monkey knife fight. It ended badly, like Hamlet. There was no clear victor. Tate Green wept on stage after, crying “O God what have we done?” It was a think piece.
Tate’s penectomy took place on a Saturday night in late March. It was still cold enough that we stayed indoors during intermission. A jazz quartet played and people mingled around the kegs of beer. Cory Sharp ran in from the back exit, screaming and sobbing. The whole affair was caught on film:
Stop the music. Goddamn you, stop the music. Will you stop, goddammit? I’m sorry. I’m sorry, everyone. Something horrible has transpired that will change the course of this evening and doubtlessly all of our lives. I regret to tell you that our beloved master of ceremonies Tate Green is dead. He was murdered in the parking lot by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, while he was enjoying a cigarette and a cup of coffee laced with only a casual amount of bourbon. Tate did not want to be sloppy drunk, because he was a professional. They mutilated him and fled with most of his corpse. I’ll never again see his shining eyes or hear his fabled laughter. This . . . this is all I have left of him.
Cory removed what I’m fairly sure was kielbasa from his pocket. Whatever it was
matched Tate’s fair complexion. Then Cory made a great show of composing himself by
straightening his tie and reapplying his foundation.
Tate’s death, while tragic, can ensure the show’s fiduciary stability. I know in my
heart of hearts that he would have wanted us to raffle off his severed penis and make
the most of his torture and death.
At this point, Olivia and Grace, both friends of the show, began moving through the
crowd like carnival barkers, offering raffle tickets for sale. Sarah the Widow was openly
flirtatious with the men and women. She even caressed my wife’s face, repeating the phrase, “Now I am free to love.” Many of us bought raffle tickets. From the magician’s top hat, Cory drew and announced the winning number, the square root of two, which is irrational. When no one claimed Tate’s penis, Cory produced from his blazer a jar of mustard, a butter knife, a pretzel bun, and a monogrammed handkerchief to wear as a bib. Then Cory ate the penis as Sarah struggled to recover it from his impish hands and mouth.
After the show everyone usually went to a bar, and I would buy Tate Green a beer and a shot. It was my own modest way of supporting the arts. But after this particular show, as it happens the very last show, Tate was nowhere to be found. We laughed at his dedication to this bit about the IRA. A couple of days passed and no one had seen Tate. Again, I chuckled.
They held a memorial service three weeks after the penectomy. We all attended thinking,
at last, this travesty will come to an end and Tate will leap out from behind a divan or bookcase with his penis very much intact and somehow decorated, with the last of the spring azaleas or some blue eyeshadow. Tate’s mother was there and she fainted twice. I was asked to give a eulogy so I thought I might provoke Tate from wherever he had stowed himself away. Might he be reclining on the roof, listening through the open flue and drinking a cold beer?
“Tate Green was a self-loathing Jew, who willed all of his money to the American Nazi
Party and Hezbollah. Tate Green had a lousy jump shot. Tate Green could not understand the concept of false moral equivalence. Tate Green has been banned from every petting zoo in Texas.” I kept on like this for a good five minutes before I shrugged and went to refill my whiskey glass.
For Sarah’s 30th birthday my wife performed oral sex on her. In the months since Tate’s
penectomy they had gotten close. One afternoon she and Sarah were folding sheets and a kiss suggested itself. Then a sleepover. Then a long liaison during the summer months. Sarah Emily Green (née Medina), naked save for a silk kimono, watched as my wife held her son up while he strafed lightning bugs in the wild and green June solstice. Or something like that. Half the week my wife played the breeches role in Sarah’s house. I accepted this arrangement as simply a part of modern life.
Come September there was still no sign of Tate Green. He had tenure at the local
performing arts high school and his students regularly left flowers and lingerie in his assigned parking space. At the beginning of the semester they held yet another candle light vigil for Tate. I only went to catch a glimpse of my wife with her lover. During the vigil a heavily pregnant girl approached Sarah and whispered in her ear. Sarah then smiled and hugged the girl and this is how the world learned that Tate had fathered a second child up on a catwalk, during a weekday matinée of Pagliacci.
I once approached Cory Sharp at the bar and asked if they ever recovered the body,
hoping that if I played along he would disclose the ruse and bring me to Tate’s hiding place, a cavern somewhere among the aquifer that he had stocked with beef jerky and beer. But Cory rested his hands on my shoulder and told me that Interpol had failed us.
More than a year has passed since Tate’s Penectomy. Sarah takes their son to the park.
She weeps openly as she pushes his stroller. She continues to wear a black armband in mourning.
On the actual anniversary we gathered at the venue where Tate was supposedly assassinated. My wife was on Sarah’s arm and I begrudgingly rode with Cory Sharp to the event. I admit now I drank too much that night.
“It’s all gone a bit stale, hasn’t it?” I said. I conceded that the pregnant teenager was a
nice escalation but that had been six months ago. “What’s next?” I demanded to know. What’s next you avant-garde motherfuckers? I thought about drunkenly pleading with my wife to come home, but that’s what Tate would have wanted. So I calmed myself with a valium and went in search of a gyro.
Cory called me the next morning and asked if I was okay and whether I could feed his
cats and check his mail. He was going away on business. I said fine. About a week later, I
received word that Cory Sharp had been arrested in Belfast, for murdering a former deputy-chief of the IRA. Apparently, Cory had shot him twice, at point blank range, outside a café on the Lower Malone Road. “I did it for Tate,” is the only statement Cory has ever given to the police or the press. When I read that in the newspaper my first thought was “Bravo.” Since they are putting Cory in an insane hospital overseas, the least I can do is continue looking after his cats.
Just yesterday my wife finally served me with divorce papers.
“This is a joke,” I said, but what a feeble observation that was. The joke, of course, is still
pending. Anyways, I signed the papers and relinquished her dowry: fifty vinyl records and a cheap bottle of amaretto we used, not very often, to spike our vanilla ice cream. Maybe that’s why the marriage failed.
Now that she’s gone to live with Sarah on a permanent basis, I am preparing the house for Tate’s return. I assume he will stay with me and I have gotten rid of all the non-essential furniture so that Tate can practice his gymnastic routine. A man is coming tomorrow to install humidifiers. Another man is coming the day after to put vanity lights in the master bath, so that Tate feels like a star. Have I mentioned his aquiline nose?
You may have seen Tate. He is of medium height and build. He smokes cheap cigars and
likes to talk to himself. There is a scar under his left eye from a childhood diving accident. He is fluent in Italian, and I have alerted the embassy in Rome and the consulate general in Florence.
Tate Green is a serious student of art history, having majored in the subject at Texas State
I know that if he exists in this world, he is likely eating a burrito, to hell with the
consequences. Tate used to screen movies at his house, and he would always pour me his best single malt scotch. Now I imagine that he must resort to making shadow puppets with firelight. I hope he’s okay. What I saw was clearly kielbasa. The madman lives. He persists. He is that harlequin in the woods. The Franciscans are harboring him. I’m sure of it. As they dine in their great hall, Tate is dancing and singing for them. Their Father Abbot protests: will you please be quiet. We offer you shelter because you are a living human being. We don’t expect any singing or dancing or mimicry or savaging of today’s political figures. But Tate is a born showman and eventually the Franciscans stoop to violence. Tate is beaten with a serving ladle and scalded with the soup of the day. But hopefully they don’t sew his lips shut. Otherwise, how can he cry shouts of bigamy when Sarah eventually remarries, or later still, give the most gracious and forgiving of wedding toasts.
Avee Chaudhuri is from Wichita, Kansas. He holds a doctorate from the North Korean School of Semiotics. His recent fiction has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Necessary Fiction and X-R-A-Y.
CTION BY AVEE CHAUDHURI