We knew your Ma, but that was in the old days. These days we couldn’t help you, no idea where she goes. She rose up past us, your Ma–least if you ask her, she did. Saved up to get rejuvenated when she was ninety or so, real class job: permanent tan, Tyler lips, Barbie platinum autogrow, the works. Me an’ Paolo’d been making do with worn-out whores for some time, so we figured for old time’s sake she might–but you don’t want to hear that, do ya? It’s yer Ma. Never mind. But she had a fine quality ass on that rejuve job, I’ll tell you that. Didn’t mind showing it, either.
What, not even stuff like that? You’re too easy to squick, I tell ya. Not like yer Ma.
Anyway, she got hired out a lot more after that rejuve: young-looking, classy, the kind of thing that makes us veteran shooters look shabby and cheap. We fell on hard times, me and Paolo, while she was pulling down the big jobs. You’d think she’d cut us in– subcontract, like, some of the time–but not yer Ma. No, she took one of those hovering apartments just outside the city limits, moved around all the time, started pretending like she didn’t know us, what gave her her start. One day her name came up, though, some guy whose boss she’d done for, and me an’ Paolo got the contract.
We went out there to the hovering apartments and tried to track her down, but by the time we found her spot, she’d already gotten wind of us. Did for Paolo with a grenade pellet to the throat, took two of my left legs off with a booby trap, so’s now I can barely hobble around. She oughta killed me, but she said “You shoulda stayed on the planet you came from” and just walked away. Left the apartment, all her stuff. Never seen her since.
Another thou note? That’s awfully generous of you. Now that you mention it, all of sudden a little more does come back to me. See, she had this tatooist she liked, always went to the same guy, and she was kind of a collector, your Ma. I’d bet you kilos to crap he knows where she is–she’s probably been in for new art.
No, none of my business what you want her for. ‘Cept I already heard rumor of it, so I guess I know even if it’s not any of my business.
Shoot her once for me too, will ya?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following consists of image descriptors copied from the Wembausch photographic archive in New Vienna

  1. Mayor Smyther entering Halifax hall the morning before the Western riots (Mellart, 1997)
  2. Graffiti slogans by street artist Elscape (Various, 1987 – 1997)
    1. Riese & Resist (sic. 1997)
    2. Ride or die (subway roof) (1995)
    3. You’re mom (sic.) (early work) (c. 1987)
    4. Remember the Shadows (1997)
  3. Street shiner with “See the light” sandwich board (Mellart, 1995)
  4. Mixeffellion theatre, northern facade (Shiner, 1963)
  5. Man fighting his own shadow (Anon., c. 1984-6)
  6. Man blinded through repeated shining of flashlight into own eyes (Dr. Oscar Lucrus, 1995)
  7. Tavern in the Hole (Anon., Date unkown)
    • CURATORIAL NOTE: Double check authenticity. Reflections are off.  Windows should reflect Straussberg plaza but  neoclassical architecture clearly apparent.  Possible misfiling?  Cross check with photomontage.  Possibly an early Mellart?
  8. “Street tomb” for Elscape 1979 – 1997 (Mellart 1998)
  9. Woman fighting her brother’s shadow (Anon., 1996)
  10. Straussberg plaza burning, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)
  11. Mixeffellion theatre burning, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)
  12. “Flashlights Sold Out,” Pennysaver (Aldark, 1997)
  13. Elscape wall mural, The Tear and the Shadows Beyond (Anon., 1996)
  14. Elscape, in full Street Shiner regalia, appearing in court accused of the murder of Mayor Smyther (Samuel Kennedy, 1998)
  15. Two men fighting shadow (Mellart. 1997)
    • CURATORIAL NOTE: Really a Mellart?  Misfiled?  Cross check with photo-manipulation.
  16. Grave of Mayor Smyther after vandalism attack (Thomas Veer, 1999)
  17. “Batteries for flashlights sold here” Pennysaver (Aldark, 1997)
  18. Graffiti erroneously credited to Elscape (Various 1998 – 2000)
    1. “Shine on” – Rubberchin (Rubberchin, 1998)
    2. “Burning in the light” – Devi8 (T. Lindeman, 1999)
    3. “Never dark. Always aflame.” – Squealpiggy (Underwell, 1998)
    4. “Solar powered savior” – Animan (Oscard, 1999)
    5. “My light still shines” – Rubberchin (J. Hutch, 2000)
  19. State troopers defending power switching stations (Mellart, 1997)
  20. “Shadows burn away” graffiti, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)
  21. Mayor Smyther re-election campain (Thomas Veer, 1994)
    • CURATORIAL NOTE: Misfiled? Shadows are all over the place. Check photo-manipulation.
  22. “Was it good for you?” – Group of Street Shiners skateboarding in the ashes of Mixeffellion theatre, police officers gagged, bound and surrounded by celebrants in background, Western Riot series (T. Lindeman, 1997)

I used to live under the ocean. I was there for about a week. The rent’s okay, the girls are cute even if they have fins, but there’s no coffee. I had gotten into that poem by T. S. Eliot, you know, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” So I moved. But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The thing about lobsters and other ragged claw types is, they’re not very intellectual. You’re better off talking to the starfish.

Wheel of Fortune went to commercial, my signal to head for the kitchen. Another beer in hand, I stepped back out to hear, “–your hair can look supermodel good.”

The latest 007 girl was sitting in one of the chairs at Sybil’s Salon. Sybil’s, which always looked dingy and empty when I passed while walking to the corner market. The actress looked airbrushed just sitting there. And the salon was huge, with bustling hair stylists and manicurists and a dozen happy-looking customers. How the hell could Sybil afford a television ad, much less one that looked this good? How could she afford an actress who only went by a single name?

The next commercial came on. “Dog walking by Carol,” said the announcer over a simple geometric background that morphed into a picture of my wife standing by a pair of Pomeranians. She’d never looked so luscious. The ad was Cleo-worthy. It was Superbowl-good. I spent most of the time looking at my wife instead of listening to the voice track.

A full orchestra backed Frank Sinatra as he extolled the virtues of the lemonade stand on the corner. “But seriously,” he said. “Kip and Kerry only use the freshest lemons and the purest sugar.” He was computer-generated, but to get that true to life they were using the latest Hollywood tech.

It went on. Million-dollar ads for the taco truck two blocks away, for the high-schooler across the street who mowed lawns, for the upcoming garage sale planned by the Hilliards two doors down. During prime time there were commercials for the same businesses, but these were different ads, just as impressive.

The phone rang. Somebody wanted Carol to walk her labs. Again, the snooty VanMasons asking if she could sit their pedigreed poodles over Labor Day. People paid more attention to the commercials than the prime-time shows.

Are the auto manufacturers gone? The insurers? The fast food franchises? All the other big businesses whose ads would normally be airing? I’m sure I have friends who work – or worked – for them, but I can’t think who just at the moment. I’ll have to check my address book.

But first, a lemonade from Kip and Kerry. Advertising works.

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