Sunday, 15 March 2015

Frankie Gets into Hollywood

This story was born out of a piece of FridayPhrases micro-fiction on the theme of "Only human". (I love FridayPhrases and have gushed about it at length here).

This was the micro-fic that I initially came up with on Twitter:
 "Frankenstein,Dracula & TheMummy glared at the Bouncer who said "Only humans." He got a philosophical lecture abt being human & a thump."

This image tickled me enough that
I wanted to have a go at fleshing it out. And here it is:
Frankie Gets into Hollywood

Frankie was trying on his new Akubra hat. He'd been tilting it at different angles all afternoon, taking test selfies, and not to mention hogging the bathroom mirror because it had "better light".

"You know," he exited the bathroom at last, Akubra at a carefully rakish angle. "I think this hat really suits me!"

Lestat looked up from his Heidegger text patiently. As usual for a Friday afternoon, he had already changed into his Friday evening dressing gown. "It does a good job of lending you a dapper, je-ne-sais-quoi air." He said at last. 

Lestat was unwilling to pander to Frankie's sad insecurities about his appearance. But then again, Frankie was held together with nylon stitchings, a patchwork of mismatched skin tones and a few bolts. Lestat was, by contrast, preserved in the perfection of his youth, so it was only fair to throw the poor lad a bone from time to time. 

"Looks good. But it'll look great if you team it with some bandages." The Mummy's input was single-minded as always. 

"Very natty. A rugged cowboy effect." Drac drawled, looking up from his blood-red cocktail. 

"Really? You guys really think so?!" Frankie looked pathetically happy. He whirled around and ran out of the lounge room. 

"A rugged cowboy effect that would be well-appreciated on Oxford Street!" Drac completed his snarky assessment outside of Frankie's hearing with a snigger. 

"Just because you like to swing both ways, Dracula-Di-Dah, doesn't mean Frankie does!" Lestat shot back and was pleased to hear The Mummy give a phlegmy cackle as Drac's cocktail glass slapped on the table with an indignant huff. 

Before Drac could reply, Frankie reappeared with a flourish. He was, Lestat noted with a sense of foreboding, dressed up. 

New dark blue jeans showing off the slim legs Frankie had inherited, a shirt with the collar turned up to hide his neck bolts - all topped off with the Akubra hat which hid the forehead stitches. 

"You look great, Frankie." Lestat said it not because he wanted to, but because he knew Frankie wanted to hear it. "You're developing your own sense of style."

"Thanks Stat!" Frankie looked ridiculously delighted.  "Let's go out tonight! We never go out. We're not going to be in town for very long. Let's. Huh, huh? Please?"

"Yes. Let's." Drac agreed immediately, his voice smooth and malicious. 

Between Frankie's pathetic eagerness and Drac's smirking, none of the housemates were allowed to refuse. Not Lestat and not The Mummy. 

Although it must be said that The Mummy did his best to subvert proceedings - being as he was, a devoted disciple of only wearing bandages. They had to compromise with ripped jeans (through which his bandages were theoretically visible) and a paisley-patterned button-down that The Mummy kept trying to unbutton to show off his bandages. The Mummy wore Frankie's Fedora cheerfully enough, much to everyone's relief. 

They headed to the nightlife hub in the City. It was a criss-crossing network of streets filled with any combination of sombrely-lit restaurants with menus referencing European cuisines and languages and guaranteeing a two-course meal would cost a minimum of three figures; small, cheap eateries with windows framed in unblinking fluorescent light; old-fashioned pubs out of which poured the smell of yeast and the sounds of the pokies; and doors barricaded against repeated urgent rhythms of electronic music - doors guarded by large, unsmiling men dressed in black who assessed the sullen queues of prettily and scantily-dressed people before granting them entry. 

Lestat stuck a hand into the pocket of his double-breasted suit and ignored two girls who'd already had too much to drink and were calling out lewd suggestions to him in high-pitched shrieks. 

"Don't you feel tempted?" Drac sidled up to Lestat's ear, his cape hanging naturally down his back, mischief sparkling in his eyes, "just a quick bite and you get a fresh hit of blood, the girl gets a thrill, a story to tell, and a shock to calm her down".  His tone was so reasonable. 

"Alco-popped blood! No thanks!" Lestat sent the girls his first direct look of irritation - as much to shut them up as to get them away from Drac. Their cat-calls stopped abruptly and they grabbed each other and scurried off, their words echoing loudly in their wake, including "ohmuhgod", "weirdo" and "psycho". 

Drac watched them go longingly. 

"I want to go Hollywood!" Frankie announced happily, twitching the brim of his hat at a group of baby-faced teens trying to look tough. The teens might have sneered and mocked, but when faced with the eager and terse menace of Drac and Lestat (respectively) combined with the outright aggressive demeanour of The Mummy, the teens instead obediently, wisely crossed the street in a nervous huddle. 

Frankie was oblivious. "It's a difficult-to-get-into Club."

Lestat tried to remember the last time he had been in one of those clubs. The music used to be better. But besides that, normally if he wanted in - and it had been a while - he used the roof. The bouncers at these places usually enjoyed their work a bit too much. 

But Hollywood it was. Which, they quickly saw, had a relatively small queue. And they soon saw why. The Hollywood bouncers were indeed enjoying their work - with a fervour that made them stand out in a street full of bouncers. They were being very nasty gatekeepers. Pretty people were getting turned away from the club doors for the most spurious - and ego-bruising - of reasons.
A leggy brunette was allowed in; her identically-dressed, equally leggy blonde companion wasn't. The bouncers informed her with relish, that her shade of blonde hair was too cheap and would bring "the tone of Hollywood down". She was then ushered to the side as tears fought their way over the top of her mascara-dammed eyes. 

There were several more very quick and very brutal rejections to reduce the length of the queue quite quickly, with the rejects joining the Blonde in what the Bouncers were loudly calling 'Criers' Corner'. 

The Bouncers, in the best tradition of stereotypes, were apparently from the same school of Bouncering. They all had bulbous, hair-free heads, no necks, puffed bullfrog chests, small eyes made of stones which squinted above permanent sneers. They all seemed to be in a competition to see whose stomachs could billow out the furthest over their belts without sagging. 

One of the three Bouncers stepped forward towards Frankie and crossed his arms. His colleagues stood behind like loyal henchmen, waiting expectantly. 

"Only humans allowed in." He announced, his sneer widening. On cue, his companions burst into sniggers. 

"Noooooooo!" The groan poured out of Frankie, Drac and The Mummy simultaneously. 

It was not the reaction the Bouncers were expecting - no crushed egos. No offence. Not even aggro. It was most unusual. And unnerving. Their wheezing laughter stopped. The stones in their eyes hardened. 

"Get him, Drac!" Frankie cried, but it was too late. Drac's manicured fingernails clutched at empty air where Lestat had been standing. Lestat had moved forward, faster than shadows, a silent elegant figure, and now stood behind the Bouncers. 

"Allow me to tell you, gents," he smiled. 

The bouncers spun heavily around with the sort of precision timing that choreographers dreamed of, one of the bouncers emitting a strangled squawk of shock. 

"Humanity - the question of who or what is human, can be human, and the associated questions of humanism - are complex questions; ones which have preoccupied our esteemed philosophers for centuries. Even Jean-Jacques Rousseau - you gents know of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, don't you? A case could be made for the argument that he was referencing such noble gents as yourselves as part of his magnificent discourse on our natural states of being - even Rousseau dabbled in the philosophical question of 'what is human?'"

Lestat paused and smiled. And continued. "Leaving aside the tired hair-splitting between secular and religious forms of humanism, which IMHO, is a boring circular and unproductive discussion, and we just move straight to the meat of your..."

He paused for effect. 

"...'address' towards us. If we account for orthodox bodily organs, albeit unorthodox-ly applied, versus those who have removed such organs as they no longer need but who are, as a result, missing key facets of what constitute orthodox understanding of humanity, then this is a complex question indeed. And yet, before I respond to it, I must also include a somewhat dubious category of those beings who - although in possession of full organs and uniformity of corporeal design - nevertheless choose to conduct themselves in such ways as to run deliberately counter to the accepted standard practices of western protocol. You gents will know of course that I am referring to your Rousseau-ian levels of nobility - whereby you, in hiding behind the licences provided by your current offices, are demonstrating traits of behaviour which could easily be classed as 'inhumane' particularly from an ethical or even the more tired moralistic framework. And I would suggest that this category, in our current circumstances, constitutes the more pressing matter that we ought to be addressing first. Hmmmm? What say you?"

Three pudgy faces stared uncomprehendingly at Lestat, who smiled serenely. "Oh! I'll take your silence as tacit agreement and acknowledgements of your inherent faults! Have a good evening!" Lestat turned towards the entrance. 

One of the bouncers stepped forward, grabbing a few of his wits. "No. You don't."

Lestat stopped and sighed. 

"Humans only." 

Lestat turned around and sighed again. "You really shouldn't have, you know. I know you're just trying to regain some ego and lost ground, but really, such obtuseness isn't attractive."

Lestat's hand flew out and delivered a hard, smart jab to the bouncer's jaw, whose head then snapped back with surprising speed, demonstrating that there was in fact a neck somewhere within the bulbousness. The bouncer then slithered to the ground, eyes closed and meek. 

The other two bouncers watched him fall and stepped towards Lestat, confused. Drac delivered what looked like a hand squeeze to the fat folds on the back of where the neck should be on one bouncer, who fell obediently like a stone.

The Mummy reached out and hugged the remaining bouncer near his armpit; the bouncer flailed helplessly, eyes wide in desperation before closing as he too slumped silently to join his prone colleagues. 

"You know, we could just get to the point without your 'discourses', don't you?" Drac glared at Lestat.

Lestat shrugged an elegant shoulder. "They needed to hear some home truths." He opened the door and the loud, frenetic music fell out. Lestat hid his wince and grandly gestured for Frankie to enter. 

Everyone in Criers' Corner dried their eyes and rushed to follow The Mummy inside, stepping carefully over the sleeping huddle of bouncers' bodies. 

Frankie got into Hollywood that night, and was a very happy chappie, crediting his Akubra for a fabulous night of dancing and flirting and acceptance from a cool and gorgeous bunch of people. 

Drac hooked up with a sulky, silky androgynous couple, both of whose genders remained indeterminate for the entire length of the relationship. 

The Mummy got to unbutton his shirt, show off his bandages and lurch around in a few faux "Mummy"-type moves, which had the girls around him screaming in apparent appreciation. 

Lestat leant against the bar, thinking moodily of his Heidegger text, nursing a whisky, until he heard a couple of girls refer to him as 'Edward'. On reflection, he decided, that was taking things too far. He'd rather be called un-human.

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