I wasn’t used to the sunlight. The business I attend to usually takes place at night, in the corners of society so tightly packed with shade that you’d swear they were populated entirely by toxic-tongued drag queens. I sought out my clients at the midnight hour, in the basements of the world, while the good, decent members of society slept above me.
It was a special kind of case that got me out into the fresh air so soon after mister sun painted us a new day with his golden brush. Maybe not “special,” so much as “cheap” – like a down-on-her-luck prostitute, it was a hell of a lot cheaper to get your dirty business done in the daytime hours. That’s what I was here for, a cheap thrill. I didn’t like admitting it, but I’d gone down this path before, and it was a good time. A guilty one, maybe, but one I had no problem with shelling out the Hamilton for a ticket to.
I found a place near the front of the room – I wanted to make sure this was a sawbuck well spent, especially if it was going to pop right out the screen at me. The screen before me blazed in fits and starts of pop culture ephemera and incidental irony – a segment instructing viewers to turn off their phones set forth the notice that a movie theater was no place for technology, projected digitally though measures our projectionist forefathers would sneer at. Anthropomorphic chocolate oddities took the form of a similar instructional tease in the guise of an attraction for a work of art that would, in fact, never arrive, the chocolate-admiring youth hungry to see their heroes in action forever left wanting for the full story.
At last, the main event arrived. Her legs murmured through the curtains even before you could see them, the black and white gams of a damsel whose relationship to danger what often unknown but never taken for granted peeking through the starkly-lit opening credits and directly onto my lap through the magic of technology. When she finally stepped out of the shadows, her outfit was something to behold – a skin-tight, studded leather bathrobe with red satin flourishes, as though Edith Head had joined the Hell’s Angels in the middle of the night and woke up with her curlers stuck in a motorcycle helmet. You could tell she was a bad girl the second she looked into your eyes – and it always seemed like she was looking into your eyes. But what kind of bad girl was she? Was she “Bad,” like a Michael Jackson album? Or “Bad,” like a later Michael Jackson album?
“You got a good look,” I shot at her, never turning away for a second. Sure, it was a theater, but no mass-produced candy confection is going to tell me what to do. “You got a good name?”
“Sure,” she whispered, “I’m SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR.”
“So you don’t have a good name,” I said. I would say, “I deadpanned,” but that’s a given in our world. We don’t have time to stop for a laugh track or snicker at our own jokes. Our world is one where the most brilliant gag ever told was met only with a single caustic, ironic guffaw. The jokester was then shot. It’s like living in an “Arrested Development” episode, except that they knocked out 75% of the lights, the music has all been replaced by crazy jazz and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and everyone talks like Will Arnett.
“I’ve got a good body,” she purred like Will Arnett. (It was not attractive.) “Here, let me show you.”
She gently moved her left hand to the steel oval at her sternum, the only thing keeping the cavalcade of sex and violence from spilling out into the teeming masses that plopped down their hard-earned bucks to see a little skin and bloodshed. (And by “teeming masses,” I mean the half-dozen vaguely interested soulless creatures that populated the room in staggered seats, often alone, their eyes hidden behind dark glasses as though ashamed to be spending their afternoon on a two-buck peepshow.) The clasp made a loud “snapping” sound and the palace exploded in an orgy of well-orchestrated nudity and carnage, featuring a cast of characters that wouldn’t leave an Otto Preminger opus wanting for star talent.
It was a two-hour thrill ride, her sultry wares dominating our bodies like a jackhammer pounds the sidewalk in the summer heat. Gravel-voiced violent tough guys that we were set up to like and acted like the goddamn Batman fended off gravel-voiced violent tough guys that we were set up to hate with the fury of a thousand exploding suns. Dames cavorted across the screen, their undulations made to seem alluring by the skin they revealed – and even more alluring by the tears that ran down the inside of their eyes, concealed from the audience they were paid to entertain, but not by the one who paid to watch her on screen. “The lap dance is better when the stripper is crying,” a wise scribbler once claimed, and nowhere is that adage more applied that the world that was before us, the world created to pay homage to grit in the slickest package available.
And slick it certainly was. The dame’s creator was an adept mastermind of stylish bloodshed, crafting each frame with an eye that the Ancient Egyptians would have worshipped had they stuck around long enough to enjoy a good flick. Sure, it didn’t always make a whole lot of sense – scars randomly changed from white to black, or even red depending on whose visage they were amending and what shot was being used, and sunglasses depicted as white for unknown reasons in a look that’s more distracting than a panhandler in a whorehouse. But it looked nice, and had the prerequisite batch of nihilistic sex and violence to please the hoi poilloi, and save for a few performances so bad that the Academy is rumored to be asking them for an Oscar, everyone involved seemed to be having a gay old time.
Especially Powers Boothe. God bless Powers Boothe.
But this was a dog doing a trick we’d all seen before. A decade ago, we’d all oooed and aahed at this puppy playing catch and jumping through hoops and fetching our gloriously black and white paper in a way that we’d never seen before. He was a good pup, and we loved him.
We’ve all gotten older. We’ve been sucker punched and spirited away too many times by similar tricks by so many other dogs. Then this dog comes back and shows us exactly the same tricks that they showed up before, only with the baby Brolin instead of the one-time croupier. Then she expects us to applaud just because she can roll over, like a therapist visiting the old-folks home and feigning pride in the fact that the geezer can make it across the room without assistance.
Her credits roll and she looks at me, expectantly. I’m supposed to say “Good job,” like I’m a therapist at an old-folks home, proud that she was able to move across the room on her own. She tries to remain physically strong, her hand balanced delicately on her hip in an attempt at a seductive pose. The solidity of her body doesn’t match the quivering in her eyes. She’s a goner, and she knows it.
“You’re not a bad mesh of flesh and pheromone,” I tell her, using my most consoling gravelly voice, like Lionel Stander telling a child that Santa isn’t real. “You can still take people on a hell of a ride, and you’re still a good time in the sack. And hell, Powers Boothe! God bless Powers Boothe.”
Her left heel collapses under her increasingly shaky figure, and she steadies herself, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“But baby, we’ve been here before,” my words slap her in the face, as though I’m waking her from a bout of hysteria, “We know the drill. You’re too simple-minded to even be called misogynistic, so I’ll give it to you straight. You’re black and white in more ways than one – it’s all cops and robbers to you, and inverting the sides doesn’t make them any less ordinary. And we’ve done this when we were here last time. You can’t just give us the same time we had a decade ago. The world’s changing, babe, and you’ve got to move on.”
I’d said my peace. I got out of my chair, lumbering towards the exit. Her eyes suddenly exploded in a storm of tears so huge that the weather service sent out a warning, interrupting the day’s televised sporting events. She fell to her knees, arms outstretched in my direction.
“Come back! What do you want from me?” she gasped, every other word cut off by the snot running down her nose. “I can make another MACHETE sequel!”
I left the auditorium, my empty can of smuggled-in Fanta making more of an impact in the trash can than her dreams.
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