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The Dramatic Ode

Franklin Delano Benedict's head shot up from the cold, pillowless mattress of the bed. He was suddenly, acutely aware of his surroundings-- which were none too spacious. A cramped (extremely bare and smelling of antiseptic Pinesol) room in some local hospital, which looked to him more like a broom closet than a proper hospital room for an important person--with a view of the Capitol dome, and the Sound, and some nice golfing greens.

He threw off his single stiff white sheet, sat on the edge of the brick hard mattress for a moment, gathering his "smarts," as he liked to call his brains.

His head whirled even as he reached up and scratched it. Now what had happened to land him in the hospital like this? And where was everybody? Doctor, nurses, wife, family, friends, and the crowd that was always coming to suck up to him for this favor and that--where were they all anyway?

He shivered in his thin gown. The room was just too damn cold! And the light--it wasn't dark, but it wasn't light. No light overhead either--that explained it. All he had was the light through the single window. He went to it to look out--but to his surprise it faced a brick wall! What? He was disgusted. Who put him in such a crummy room anyway?

That reminded him of a previous thought. Why was in this dump of a hospital anyway?

What happened to put him there? His head hurt a bit, for he couldn't figure it out. He sat down on the edge of the brick bed, and tried to remember. Where was Dolly? At the club playing bridge and gossiping to her heart's content when she should be showing some loyalty and spousal gratitude for the way he had set her up in society, marrying her--a virtual nobody when he first saw her dancing in a Seattle club! Funny how strip club broads with tassles and sequins on their boobs and former hoofers like her could get the idea they were something better than their husbands--after they were married proper and first set foot in a nice house in an exclusive gated community, with a landscaped and walled rose garden, lawn service, pool, and condo on Maui near the Four Seasons Hotel's restaurants, and a country club in Lacey to run to back home, and women of VIP's he knew for her to hang with and play bridge! That included the DeBeers rocks on her fingers, and the designer clothes, and the manicures and hair salons and aromatherapist and all the rest of the claptrap she had to have to treat him right. Set up like that, they sure got funny ideas real quick, din't they? She was nothing but trash he had picked out of a Yesler Street gutter--on her way to doing dance gigs in a joint with men pawing at her as she leaned down to their tables. "And this is the gratitude she shows me! Doesn't even bother to show up to say as much as you poor darling, when I'm lying here in the hospital after a...after...?

Whatever happened--all he got for his racking his "smarts" was a headache and a fleeting impression of a steel railroad overpass girder painted a badly flaking, grafitti-embelished lime-green and his face rammed up against the windshield and then he was flying somewhere into the dark--he couldn't get a handle on it at the moment. Oh, well, he was a man of expedience--he had scanned "The Prince," hadn't he in high school--or was it the U of Dub? He had done a stint there, just to get the feel of the place and rub shoulders with high school mates and their hoity toity families, and after graduation (he managed to stick long enough with the academic life, pulling off an Associate of Arts Degree for all the little favors he did the Chancellor, standing in for him at the office when he came in "indisposed," a couple hours late every day). With his connections rubbed to a luster with whatever it took to do it--he had "done well for a second generation Irish immigrant and Teamster Union truck driving father" after that--hadn't he?

Sure he had! Nobody, but nobody, could stop Franklin Delano Benedict from getting what he had coming from life--he was just too smart to be put down or passed over like all the stupids and nobodies he had passed by in life on his way to the top--the top of society in the state capital, that is--and if not exactly the top--a tad or two below it anyway!

Feeling his self-esteem surging back along with the dynamo energy of an Irishman, he was determined to find his clothes, get dressed and leave the broom closet immediately--how dare the doctors shove him in a nasty hole like that! When he caught the little bastards, he was going to give them a piece of his mind! Any hospital staff worth their enormous rake-offs from the hopelessly broken Medicare-Medicaid system had a VIP room somewhere on the top floor for government bigshots--why wasn't he in it?

He ripped off his silly excuse of a gown that covered only the family jewels and exposed his big, blooming, freckled Irish buttocks to the world, and padded on bare, stone-cold feet to the door to peek out--and arrived dressed to the nines, as he dressed normally--his four hundred dollar suit from I. Magnin's in Seattle, and his soft and slick as satin custom leather shoes--Italian make from some town called Firenz or something--just like the Rosellinis'!

How he had a suit on so quickly, he had no idea. But he wasn't standing around questioning what was obviously the case. He was a pragmatist, a man of expedience! A man on the move! Full of get and go and push and shove and scratch my back and I'll scratch yours too, friend! If that wasn't enough, he had read "The Prince" by some great author of the Middle Ages--or was it the Renaissance?--and was educated too--right up there with the grads of the U of Dub! He could look down his nose at just about anybody in the state--unless they had more dough of course and that old, established family name and connections that meant everything if you wanted to enjoy a really good life in the grand old Evergreen State!

He found the corridor jammed with people--patients, nurses, doctors. But that meant nothing to him. Nobody, but nobody, was going to stop Franklin Delano Benedict! He moved down the corridor like a VIP who had everything in hand, smiling slightly and keeping to the center and stepping aside for noboby. When a gurney with an emergency patient came rushing at him, he stood his ground--until the angry nurses pushed it round him, as he laughed, giving them a parting shot, "My time is worth 30 grand an hour, ladies, I'll have you know! F. D. B. steps aside for nobody, but nobody!"

Tapping his cane in an elegant Englishman's manner like he had seen it done in some movie, for one had appeared in his hand somehow, he continued down to the entrance--let the hospital tally up his bill and sent it to him--he'd "file" it because of the shoddy service and the dumpy room they had given him--that'd show them he wasn't the type to take it, and they had better learn it late than never!

If they squawked, he'd slap a suit on them for big bucks (now that he remembered he had a lawyer)-- charging them with malpractice or something. His lawyer would figure out a nifty charge at the district court--he always came up with something, especially in plea bargainings, that managed to satisfy everybody.

With the way open and free to go, Foxy was free to live up to his name again. Buddies and his crowd at school soon tired "Eggs Benedict" considering his round head, nicknamed him Foxy instead for his reddish hair, squinty eyes, freckles, and pointy ears that had no lobes, as well as his way of getting the best for himself out of most every situation. Moving quickly for a large man with a large, low-slung undercarriage, he passed on out of the hospital through the entrance, letting an old man with a walker and a big bandage on his head hold the door for him.

Tipping his hat with old-fashioned gentility to the man's nurse, Foxy stepped down to get into his car, which the hospital was supposed to bring round for a departing VIP.

There was no customized classic Lincoln convertible with the leather seats and mini-bar and tv! Where was his car? He recalled now he was driving it last when he was heading for the freeway just the other side of the railroad overpass...

Upset, Foxy looked up and down the street, but the cars passed, and people went in and out of the entrance, and he couldn't stand there like that all day--it was embarrassing him--so he started walking. It wasn't far, he knew--his favorite Capitol lounge, where his crowd hung out between sessions and talked up prospective tax bills.

He had a phone brought to his table, and he usually made some calls for the day while sipping his double martini, he recalled now. But for the life of him, he couldn't recall where the joint was located. He came to a crosstreet, and paused as the traffic passed. The light turned green, and he still couldn't decide. Should he cross and continue, or should he turn left or right? He couldn't tell.

This was most irritating to a man who was known to make quick decisions and waste no time in lengthly deliberations when swift action was called for, if the deal was to be nailed down and the things done to shove it out of sight of the press or the various nobody rookie reporters always nosing around the Capitol for a lead on professional government politicoes engaging in pork barrel schemes and all kinds of business as usual, which they liked to describe as "corruption spun in the smoke-filled, back rooms of the capital," so they could spout it to the P.I.'s muck-raking Hearst editors and make a name for themselves!

How he despised that tribe! They were loathsome, low-paid suck-ups. He knew them by the smell--the reek of a newspaper's printshop and the presses' ink was on them, along with stale cheap cigars--ugh! He himself liked a first-grade cigar now and then--but the P.I.'s stodgies--they were the worst rotgut tobacco, from some Cuban fishmonger who ran a tobacco shop with slave labor rolling his cigars recruited from Castro's "re-education centers." But, of course, even reporters could be useful at times--a leak or two to them about somebody important in the Legislature who was not coming through with payola that was due him--and the check usually arrived in the mail the day after the reporter's article appeared on the editor's desk! He wouldn't leak on his golfing buddies, of course-- nor the really important people--for that would mean the cut off of his bread and butter "jobs" of course--the ceremonial positions, such as "Public Relations Assistant Director" for the Washington State Printing Department, which he currently held--no work, just show up once or twice a week, draw your pay check, and don't interfere in the day to day operation, which was none of his business anyway. Escort an important person to the club occasionally, whenever the Printing Department had such sticking his or her nose into government business, wine and dine him and the wifie if he had one, or call up a nice girlie for him from the local mostly government patronized girlie pool if he was open to it-- that was about it. He was the expert at this game--everybody could call on him for his services, and he wouldn't say one thing amiss, that would get back to whomever hired him or was having him do a favor. Foxy, everybody knew, always held his tongue in check, when at the business of doing everybody's business for them--and it paid him well, in return favors--such as this cushy position at the Printing Department.

Just then a big sheet of thick blue paper blew up against him, wrapping round his right leg. He grabbed it and looked, as he caught the name "Benedict" on the playbill, for that was what it turned out to be.

He couldn't believe what he was seeing! A "Dramatic Life Series Presentation" was being staged at the "Capitol Performing Arts Theatre" by "Stuart Maxwell Hawkins, Esquire," featuring Franklin Delano Benedict in a "dramatic ode" modeled on the Odes of Pindar, performed by the "Distinguished Resident Olympia Author in Authentic Vaudeville Costume." Furthermore, "First Private Showing at Matinee, 2 pm, with Doors Closed at 2:30 pm."

What was this? Foxy burst out. Was this some kind of celebrity roast or satire? How dare this Cavendish-Hawkins dude plaster his good Irish name on playbills and spread them around the town! What did this guy think he was anyway?

Foxy was furious, and would have ripped the playbill to shreds, but he checked for the date, and seeing there wasn't any, his rage turned to frustration in his beet-red Irish face--as he was more than curious to see what a local poet and raconteur (for he had heard a certain Skip Cavendish being spoken of occasionally by his golfing buddies at the club since he took to writing and publishing under a nom de plume) could come up with about him. Maybe it was complimentary--and he needed to know what he was saying. Why should he miss that? He didn't get compliments often enough--and had to make up himself--for he was his own best public relations, as he knew from long dealings in the favor-passing, back-scratching business of the Capitol.

Still holding the playbill, Foxy turned toward the Capitol. After all, that was the location, according to the playbill. And it was just now 2:15, as he checked his platinum and diamond-encrusted Rollex, a gift from one of his "patrons" for a favor done nicely and discreetly (money deposited in Foxy's bank account from some anonymous government fund, probably DSHS or the Highway Department or Education some other such boondoggle of a department of a tax and spend government, which he then transferred to a prearranged account at another bank under a name that was given him by the contact person).

He sorely missed his classic, all-leather-interior Lincoln, as he walked fast toward the Dome, hoping nobody would see him hoofing it there like a common working class stiff.

Funny! he thought. He couldn't remember a "Capitol Performing Arts Theatre" ever being located anywhere near the Captol! Olympia was all about tax and spend, rake off the cream, let the skim milk go to the poor and disadvantaged, not watching Shakespearean plays or the high brow likes of Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, and Archibald MacLeish. Was it in a tent theater in the street, like some local drama club's neighborhood presentations? That seemed likely, and he kept moving toward the target, moving swiftly for a man of his size belly and stumpy legs.

As he neared the Capitol, he was thinking some last minute thoughts. What was he supposed to be doing, and where--? He vaguely remembered some things on his desk calendar--and hoped he wasn't standing up some VIP for lunch-- or had mnissed the lunch date completely!

Where was the Printing Department anyway? He should have walked right by it by now, as he headed in a southerly direction down to the Capitol. He stopped, almost falling forward, as he came to the street where the Printing Department should have stood, taking in most of a city block--but where was it? Was he mistaken? All he saw was an empty lot full of daisies and dandelions and piles of playbills. It looked like the Department had printed nothing but playbills just before the presses were shut down--and had moved--leaving thousands behind in tall stacks that the wind was now spreading over the whole lot and half of the neighborhood! Playbills!

He went and snatched one up. It looked identical to the one in his hand. He couldn't believe it. The same playbill--which reminded him, he had only a few minutes to get to the theatre featuring a "This is your life, Franklin Delano Benedict!" sort of show--so he had no time to waste, and he hurried off.

He was gasping for breath, but he made it to the Ionic Revival-style theatre, just as a doorman was pulling the glass doors shut. Surprised to find it located in the courtyard behind the Capitol and the entrance to the State Supreme Court's Greek-columned Temple of Truth, he had no time to wonder about it, except that he hit the steps first with his cane, and they weren't papier mache but real marble. Rapping hard with his cane, shoving the playbill into the man's view, Foxy shouted, "Hey you, open up! I'm the man that's being honored tonight!--I'm the man, don't you understand! Open this door up at once, I'm coming in!"

Nobody, but nobody, was going to stand in Foxy Benedict's way! He was going in, door or no door!

He would have pushed it in if he had to, but the doorman opened. "This is a private showing, sir, may I have your name, so I can check it on my list?"

"Nonsense, you idiot!" Foxy shouted. "I'm the man this f---king presentation is all about--can't you read?" He shoved the playbill in the doorman's face, then without another word stalked off, leaving the playbill, and headed for his private box in the balcony.

But as he took a few steps, he realized there was no staircase in sight in the circular building, and probably no balcony. He would have to sit with the audience and give up the idea of a private box with a bucket of ice and champagne and caviar.

The doorman was trying to catch him, so he opened the door and went in--and found the theater packed to the gills--it was so small--with a group of the rich and fashionable in dinner jackets and gowns and jewels--all hoity toits, as he called the very important people of the State and the upper crust of Olympia and Seattle's best communities--the sort who lived in Bellevue, Mercer Island, Capitol Hill, and Magnolia, naturally--so he looked discreetly as he could for a seat, meanwhile appearing urbane and amused at the whole affair of him being featured by a local poet in a dramatic presentation of some sort.

A violinist, flutist, and cellist from an Evergreen University student ensemble were playing some classical music by Mozart or Beethoven or somebody like that, which normally bored Foxy stiff at concerts he felt obliged to attend in the company of his wife who had to be seen going to hear classical music by her upscale friends at the club. He looked everywhere, but could not find one open seat--and the theater, he estimated, must have had seating for about 150-200, being so small and select.

As Foxy searched in vain for a seat, the Requiem in D Minor by Vivaldi ended and the audience erupted in applause as the impresario, the Author himself, outfitted in an 18th century Parisian demimonde's full ballroom dress, stepped out of a curtained dressing booth set up on the center stage as elegantly as if she (rather he) had just stepped into a drawing room for a ball at the Palace of Versailles. Bowing and fluttering her ornate fan repeatedly, the powder-wigged lady, with pearls the size of golf balls hanging all the way from her neck to the floor, announced the matine's program. With the most incredible accent, mincing every word, the countess, or such she claimed to be, did her piece, then retired most elegantly as she had come, with many bows and flourishes of her jeweled fan, into the dressing booth.

A moment later the Distinguished Author himself stepped out, amazingly enough, since he was again fully dressed, in complete and authentic vaudeville costume, and a head piece that included a two or three foot long horn of what looked like pomaded or glued hair sticking out of the top of his sleek head.

Now Foxy had seen some strange and exotic things in his varied life--having done a stint in the Navy visiting the steamy ports, disco clubs and brothels of Southeast Asia, besides putting his hand and "smarts" to a few odd things to fill in between cushy patronage positions in return for anonymous favors he did various Olympia lawmakers--even selling used cars at a Centralia Volkswagen dealer during one particularly low point of his rather checkered career--but this was the strangest sight he had yet encountered--a horned man in green tights and long, medieval-type sleeves, carrying a big hand mirror. But the audience loved it--applauding madly, giving the Author a standing ovation which forced Foxy to join in half-heartedly, since the whole affair was supposed to be in his honor, wasn't it?

Then the audience sat down, and the performance began with no more fanfare, as the Author, holding the elgant French mirror out as he made a wide sweep and panned the audience and declaimed his ode commemorating the last not so smart moves of Foxy Benedict.

Even Foxy forgot he was still standing as he got caught up in the dramatic story of himself as the vaudevillian performer and poet acted it out with grotesque grimaces, gestures, winks and all the rest of his amusing mannerisms and melodramatic repetoire of attention-holding gimmicks.


Foxy benedict had a nightmare

In his dream he went to Hell

To indescribable horror

Foxy was surprised at the dream

Because he believed in neither Heaven or Hell

But here it was

And he was there

In panic stricken fright

But Foxy was smart

Even in his dreams

He had always been smart

No one had ever bested old Foxy Benedict

Shrewd cunning conniving

He sent for his lawyer

I'll beat this rap

He said

Plead extenuating circumstances

He told his barrister

There aren't any

Then plead innocent by reasons of insanity

He ordered


Find a loophole Foxy declared

There are none his lawyer said...

By his time Foxy, the butt of the whole piece, was tugging at his collar and glancing uneasily around to see if anyone had spotted him standing there at the back.

But he couldn't leave now--he had to risk embarrassment to see how the thing ended--even if he hated what he was hearing so far.

Without missing a beat, or a jab at Foxy's sensitive skin--which was thinner than most Irishmen's--Stuart Maxwell Hawkins the One-Horned, continued.

Then pray for me Foxy pleaded getting religious

But you don't have a prayer the lawyer said

And faded away

In his place was Satan

So Foxy got foxy with the devil

Oh well he sighed

There is really no such place as this

This is just a dream

Soon I shall waken

And be about as usual

The Devil smiled

Yes he replied you are right

This is just a dream

With one difference

A dream is forever

Until you waken from it

You have wakened from many nightmares

But you shall not waken

From this one

This was your last dream

and it will remain forever

Because you really died last night

in your sleep

Sweat was pouring down Foxy's face, cold as ice. Din't he say I died in my sleep? He's lying! He can't call me dead on my feet and get away with it--I'll--"

The audience erupted at that moment as the Author and Dramatist bowed low, and flowers were presented to him by two elegant little girls in 18th century French style gowns, and he turned, holding his finger out and pointing to the back where Foxy was standing. Every eye turned toward him, he was the cynosure of the whole performance now, but Foxy was melting in icy sweat and sinking, or felt he was sinking, into the floor!

He wanted more than anything to jump on the Author, pull out his horn of hair, knock out a few front teeth, and throw him out the back door for the outrageous way he had humiliated him start to finish of his ridiculous tribute ode! But that was impossible! He couldn't get to the Author through the crowd of admirers, it was too late. The applauding audience had stopped to stare at him in dead silence.

Suddenly, a voice burst out of him, protesting in a high, squealing voice, "No, no, it's a f--king lie, I tell you! I'm not dead! And I didn't die in my sleep and go to hell. I'm right here, as alive as any of you--you bunch of uppity, lemon-sucking hypocrites--and this whole presentation is nothing but a total scam, a farce, a con-artist's attack on my reputation and--"

"Throw the low life out!" someone said. "Yes, we know what he is now, a man of utterly no morals, who will take advantage any way he can of people, and so he's the true fraud, not the Author of this most excellent dramatic ode! Mr. Hawkins did us all a great favor, as he described this sneaking hyena and parasite exactly like he is, now that the shameless masquerade is over and his mask is torn completely off!"

As the doorman, removing his gloves, approached him together with several other grim-faced men, Foxy knew that he had more than even a red-blooded, feisty Irishman who had enjoyed his share of fistfights at bars in Navy ports would care to tangle with, having gone to seed a bit, you might say, and so he backed away, running when he saw an exit door was left unguarded and no theatergoers blocking his path.

He burst through the door and paused in the court. He briefly glanced at a governor's statue, with the woman who would usurp the position portrayed as Peter Pan, which the sculptor had rather grandiloquently entitled: "The Approach of the Future." He had no time to consider the irony, however, if that was the intent.

Which way to go? What was that? he wondered, aghast. A stream of what looked like fresh blood was running down the entrance steps of the Temple of Truth, along with clouds of bats, and across the court the same thing was happening at the Capitol building--the same river of blood and the flood of bats!

But he had no time to stand there and gawk at the hideous sight of blood and bats gushing out of the main Capitol buildings. He had to move while he still had the chance. A whole group of men and even some of the women were pursuing him, he saw, glancing back. He was soon out of breath--but he kept running. Suddenly, his exhausted body could not go a step further and froze instantly into a cement like statue--but his head had more fight, and with a violent wrench, it broke off above the neck and kept going, bounding away down the street like a big, round ball, until it vanished into the darkness--the same darkness into which the hordes of bats fled after him.

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