April 23, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

The Tour Pro

By Peter Vilbig
Published: 2016-10-10

Pro: I use my monkey key. The door swings open. But instead of Jafe and some starlet, I find myself staring at a room entirely vacant, a bed whose coverlet is smooth as a young face, and there before the bed, like a second door or portal, a black-green screen like the deep ocean at the edge of last light, and only when I step on the lush (but still cheap I can tell) carpet, does it spring to life, the life of light pouring forth into its sex churn. The loop is beautiful, the actors beautiful in the loop, the loop beautiful in its standard production values, its intentional cheesiness in that mimicry of the true art of the early modern post colonial porn vid, perhaps Bitter Ikon's greatest invention. This is a better fuck, more removed from life, more purified, if you will, into its constituent elements. And yet truly someone produced that dream, so it's more than real. Just then my phone rings. Of course it's Itahl.

"Hey bro,' he says, "seen the ticker. Something craze in the index. Numbers wow. Ikons sellin' looks to me like. But the people ain't buyin'. The people ain't. Or somethin'."

"They ain't?' I says. I suddenly know what it's about. A set up. And I the fall guy."

"No, they ain't, bro."

"I feel amer," I says. "Bitter. It's the Ikons, man. Got new game for us sucks. The cracks don't even matter now."

And that's when the simplicity of the world's numbers comes clear, and my depression grows fierce as inelastic demand. And then I say what I know is true, though Itahl will hate me: "The Ikons sellin'," I says, "and we buyin' —the sellin'."

And then Itahl just scream. Cause he know just what it mean. 'Got to go,' I says. Hang up to his hammer-headed voice and turn and run, like I some kind of sailor on a ship of grievous sin, bound down the stairs, past the skeletal figment of the desk clerk who raises a bony clacking goodbye hand and into the street where against all creed and my sworn oath as a Tour Pro, I sweat those streets of the Lido under the now blithe blue-black intaglio of night, amid the gun twirlers and baton girls, and the many sequined dress rehearsals, and run, thinking that the true fictive's the only real, beyond all packages of three nights and four days, and all expenses paid, amid the gorgeous productions, and I had bummed it bad. And never a glimpse of my dear Nata, my sorrow, nor Jafe, nor Ms Brudge do I peep. And I just stare at them glitter streets and dark holed window hovels of my town all sorrowful, and the one thing I knows for sure: ain't nothin' can stop the Ikons sellin'. Ain't nothin' can stop us buyin'. And then I think: Sing it like the songs they sell us, man, sing it like we buy it, and that's when the old song that started it all came to my mind, the one by the Ikon's founder (they say Johnpaulringo was his name), wrote many generations back, a little fragment only come down to us which we sing for what comfort it bring us, and lord, do I belt it out at the top of my lungs, as though it will save me:

What's new pussycat, whoa, wo, whoa,

What's new pussycat, whoa, wo, whoa, wo.

Peter Vilbig is a writer based in New York City. A former journalist, his short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Shenandoah, 3:AM Magazine (Paris), Drunken Boat, Baltimore Review, The Linnet's Wings (Ireland), and Saranac Review, among other publications. This story is dedicated to Jérôme Cornette.

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