Janet and Dr. Locust

8/8/2008

Lauren’s notes: This is a satire based on the writing of Julie Hetch, a novelist and New Yorker contributor, who is known for writing stream of consciousness. The unnamed character known as Isabella Wisch, but in this story I changed her name to Janet. Janet slowly begins to lose her mind and drifts into an imaginary world due to the rejection she felt from Dr. Locust (Dr. Loquesto) and the lack of connection she felt with her husband. In this world she is a secret agent, and later on she becomes a media rep because she feels she is too old to be a secret agent.  She tries to find meaning in her purposeless life, because she never had children and now she is too old to have children. Isabella Wisch often makes off handed comments about herself. She thinks that she is a wastrel, one who has wasted her life. The original title of this story was “Party Till the Money Runs Out.”

Party Till the Money Runs Out by Janet

janet on her bike
Janet Riding her Bicycle when she was young in the 70s

My name is Janet, and I am a writer of novels and I sometimes contribute fiction to magazines of the most exclusive nature. I hate being middle-aged. In the days in which I was recovering from my surgery in my rustic but cozy Nantucket home, I had much to think about. Bed rest and recuperation caused me to reflect upon people whom I was out of contact with, but I still wondered about.

I regretted that I had not had the opportunity to introduce Leslie to Rick. I was sure that they would have become soul mates. They both liked to talk nonstop. Their conversation was filled with their achievements which turned out to be mostly fabrications. I quickly became bored with this type of monologue. It was as if they believed the mere telling would make it true.

Leslie argued with such vigor. I had no idea what she really did for a living, until somebody told me she was a prostitute. It made perfect sense. The fact that she invited men she met on Craigslist to her apartment for a massage meant she must have been a hooker. It was not like I did not know any other women who did things like this for a living. It was more common than one might think.

Like Rick, Leslie was obsessed with wealthy people. She asked me many times if I knew any wealthy people. She was writing a pilot for a TV show, and she wanted funding to film it. I assured her many times everyone I knew was not well off. She would counter with she knew many wealthy people, but she was still waiting to get funding. Maybe if she said she knew wealthy people it would force me to go out and meet wealthy people out of shame? She also claimed to be a singer/songwriter. Rick claimed to be a musician/composer Why could they not meet and solve each other’s problems together?

Leslie plotted to corner people who might be wealthy at parties and suck them dry. Rick also chided me for not knowing any wealthy people. I imagined the wealthy people fending them off with umbrellas at cocktail parties. It was unclear if Leslie or Rick l had any friends.  Most likely they had driven any friends away with constant demands for funding. I imagined they would either become partners in crime or each would reject the other based on lack of funds. I also imagined Rick had been a male gigolo and hustler in his younger days.  They were clearly perfect for each other.

I imagined a scene in which Leslie would be singing free credit report dot com. They say a woman should dress up for the job she wants, so why am I dressed like an escort in this low rent apartment?  (notice: “want” rhymes with “apartment”)

I imagined they would go out on a date at the top of Hyatt Regency Hotel Embarcadero  Restaurant in San Francisco and tell each other stories while The City revolved below them. Each story would be fabricated, but they would not mind. The lies would cancel each other out. They would find happiness in each other’s arms and a child would be convinced.

Leslie certainly wanted to be attractive. Her hair was a bleached blond or red with dark roots. Rick had lost most of his blonde hair. They both worshiped blond people. Leslie looked as if she had a lot of facial reconstruction surgery. Maybe she had made her nose smaller? Her tiny upturned nose was pig like. She must have added cheek bones, at the time when cheek bones were in vogue. I imagined she would OD someday because she was no longer beautiful, had not found any rich people to sponge off, and could no longer work as a prostitute due to her age. Leslie was petite, and Rick was tall. I imagined they would not look good ballroom dancing. Leslie would wear the highest of platform shoes, but it would not be enough. If they were not too drunk, they might go dancing downstairs after dinner at the Hyatt nightly dance concert.

Rick was obsessed with being famous, but not in the same way Leslie wanted to be famous. Rick wanted to be a name brand star. Leslie wanted to accomplish something great that would make her wealthy.

In was winter in Nantucket, but I chose to stay there while business kept my husband in the Manhattan. I was almost 50, each time I walked past a mirror, I imagined my body was becoming more pancake shaped.

I listed to medical radio shows, and became interested in the idea of lap band surgery. No matter how hard I dieted I was sure to eat something wrong again later on. That last hamburger had made me feel queasy for days. I should give up meat. I should be a total vegan and practice yoga for hours a day once I recovered from my hysterectomy. I had my full bottle of Xanax which gave me comfort. I would take the pills and lie in bed dreaming of capers Leslie and Rick would pull off together, if they ever were introduced. But, it was not likely their paths would cross. How does one know if their soulmate is out there, and it is just a matter of attending the right party or having the right friend introduced you to someone?

“No one can keep weight off without this lap band surgery,” declared the doctor on medical radio. By 2038 we would all be fat. If the world did not come to an end in 2012. I was kind of hoping for the end of the world, so I would not have to diet anymore.

“No one can keep weight off,” said the radio doctor, “they just don’t do any follow up studies. ” The study participants are ashamed to admit they gained weight back. The doctor himself had undergone the surgery. I imagined a world in which I would only be slightly hungry and not starving all the time. Had they considered chemical solutions to weight loss before surgery?

Leslie and Rick would never need the stomach surgery. They were too busy chasing money and fame to gain any weight. They would go to Vegas together maybe to get married or maybe just to look for high rollers to rob. They would swim at the Bellagio Hotel and stroll in the indoor gardens. Leslie would look perfectly slim in her one piece suit, in spite of her age. They would play blackjack until the money ran out.

It was about that time that I started to disappear, and began my life as a non-entity. Compared to Rick and Leslie my life was so boring. I envied them and held them in contempt at the same time.

What follows is a scenario I wrote about what could have happened Leslie and Rick had met.

Leslie heard a knock at the door. She opened the door to her hotel room at the Bellagio and screwed her face up in the sunlight. Leslie had been up before Rick. He was still lying in bed, still exhausted after hours of love making.  She heard the voices say  “We are aliens and we want to come in.”

Leslie quickly shut the door. Her hangover was a bad one, but she forgot in her excitement. “It’s aliens,” she announced to Rick, “and they want to come in.”

“Don’t let them in,” said Rick, “They will be nothing but trouble.”

But, it was too late, they felt an entity sweep into the room, and they found themselves paralyzed and then everything faded to blackness.

Back in Nantucket, I was lying in bed doing my rehabilitation exercises I began to think of how I would get osteoporosis and arthritis like my mother and my grandmother. As I lay there, I could feel the sound of my bones decalcifying and become porous. I could feel spine was bending over into a hump, and then I would take more calcium, although my mother assured me that calcium would not help. Can’t medical science do something? I emailed my doctor again, but he was years behind current research. When I was in elevators alone I would align my back to the wall, as my ballet teacher had instructed during my first and only childhood ballet lesson. She scolded me for not being able to get rid of the curve in my lower back. Now I was looking for a newly formed curve in my upper. After the hysterectomy, I knew I was doomed, and hormones caused heart disease and stroke.

I went to bake a potato and noticed something inside the oven, mice poops. They were baked because I had preheated. How did mice get into the oven? Why don’t my lazy cats do something about this? My husband and I did not believe in anything like poisons or cruel spring traps. I looked in the back of the oven and saw there was an opening from which the mice could enter from the back. I felt ill, and I had to lie down on the couch again in front of the TV.  I was watching news programs obsessively when the phone rang. It was Leslie. “You must come down to Las Vegas at once”, she screamed. “I’m having an alien baby!”

“I have a situation here,” I told her, thinking of the mice.

“But, I need you,” Leslie begged. “You are the only one who can get me in with the famous reproductive surgeon, Dr. Locust.”

“Now, is not a good time,” I said, “I am not feeling well.”

But, the chance to see Dr. Locust pulled at my gloom. I would try to find some pills and pull myself together for the trip to Vegas.

After examining Leslie, Dr. Locust confided in me, “She is crazy. This is not an alien baby.”

“Must you be so blunt?” I whined. “Don’t tell her, if you force her to face reality it will surely push her over the edge.”

“She asked me for funding,” he complained.

“Just ignore that. She does that to everyone. Did she make you listen to her Demo CD?”

“Yes, it was horrible, she can’t sing at all.”

“No one who can’t sing knows they can’t sing. They are supported by their friends (if they have friends) who tell them they can sing, and they inflict their singing on their friends from time to time. The friends are too polite to tell them the truth. This is why so many poor singers are constantly serenading us.”

“I will give her placebo pills to make her feel better. Once the baby is born she will see the baby is not an alien, and she can begin suing the father for support.”

“But Rick has no money. He has not worked in years.”

“You will have to take her in and support her. I am completely tapped out with ex-wives.”

“But, I don’t work either, and my husband is very cheap.” I didn’t really work since I had not come up with any new ideas for stories. I just took care of the house. I had tried hiring maids, but they all kept asking me for money to send to their relations in third world countries. Everything with possible with money, but without money nothing was possible.

“Sell the alien baby story to the tabloids and then and asked for donations. I really must be going, I have a very busy schedule.” Dr. Locust interrupted my thoughts.

“Well, Ok,” I said. “Can’t we at least have lunch, before you go? What about just a coffee at Starbucks?”

But, it never happened. If Leslie and Rick had ever met, they probably would have picked away at any perceived faults in each other until they had nothing.

I never got to have lunch with Dr. Locust. I stayed inside most of the day. I watched exercises DVDs, but was never motivated enough to try them. I knew I could not do any of the exercises as they were all too difficult.  I would be lucky to avoid using a walker in the future. I would never be fit, and slowly fade away to nothingness.

Notes: I can’t find the name Isabella Wisch online anymore, but I got the name from the New Yorker Story listed below.

The New Yorker, May 29, 1989 P. 34
Perfect Vision
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1989/05/29/perfect-vision
Short story about a thirty-nine year old woman photographer who writes to an estranged friend in Manhattan to warn her about a German optician whom she suspects is a former Nazi.

That was a Lovely Day by Julie Hecht
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1991/05/13/a-lovely-day
She meets Dr. Loquesto for the first time The New Yorker, May 13, 1991 P. 35
Short story about a woman photographer who travels to New England to photograph a world-renowned reproductive surgeon with his dog.

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