In January we posted the first installment of Dan Kennard’s 642 Honeysuckle Street, “Textisode 1: The Pilot”. When Dan sent over “Textisode 2: The G.O.O.P. Campaign,” I was excited to post his work again. So, our Fiction Fixation #2 is also Dan Kennard with another story from his litcom, 642 Honeysuckle Street. In case you have no idea what a “litcom” is, here is what Dan has to say about it:
“An interest in classic and modern sitcoms like Seinfeld and Arrested Development, among others, lead to the creation called a “Litcom”, which is a new story form combining elements of literature and elements of a television sitcom. The goal of the project is to offer readers a uniquely modern reading experience, and like a television sitcom it only takes a half hour or less to experience. Just as the famous words of Virgil Island proclaim, “People will read again!”
If you want to checkout the first Textisode before reading part two, click here. Or just read this one. Either way, you should read them, they’re really clever and funny.
642 Honeysuckle Street
Textisode 2: The G.O.O.P Campaign
by: Dan Kennard
Barry Gazer sat down on the couch in front of his brand new entertainment system and nearly drooled. Before him stood the most powerful combination of audio and video ever assembled. A large ninety-seven and a half inch flat-screen television, and standing next to it, one on each side, were two six foot tall black speakers, wired for absolute sound. The remote itself had over four hundred specialized buttons, and when Barry finally pressed his stumpy finger onto the red power button at the top, he was nearly struck dumb by the loud kssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that came crashing through his coffin sized speakers. The cable was out.
“Oh my god, it’s so loud!” shouted Barry as he frantically searched for the volume down button. “I can’t find the volume button!” he shouted.
His wife, Liz Gazer, heard the awful noise, and heard her husband screaming, and came rushing from the upstairs bedroom to see what was happening. When she came down the stairs and looked into the living room, the television was a blinding mess of black and white specks that appeared, due to the high definition, to be killing Barry as he fumbled around with the remote.
“Jesus Barry,” she said as she rushed over, “give me the remote!” She grabbed it from Barry’s fat hands and quickly turned it off. “Why didn’t you just turn it off you meathead!” she shouted.
“I was trying to turn it down,” he said. “Why is the cable out?”
“How should I know? I didn’t touch anything.”
Barry stood from the couch and checked the cable cord. “Who unplugged this?”
“As much as it can be,” said Barry as he twisted the cable back onto the outlet. “Will you sit with me?” he asked, looking at his wife.
“What are you watching?”
“That show 642 Honeysuckle Street,” he said. “It starts in a few minutes. You’ve seen it before.”
“Over the summer. Remember the guy with the typewriter and the suit?”
“Oh that show,” said Liz, “they didn’t cancel that?”
“I read on the internet they changed a few things after the pilot. Supposed to be funny. I don’t know about you, but I trust the Internet.”
Liz sighed, and sat down next to Barry. “Fine,” she said. Barry turned on the TV just in time to hear the narrator begin.
If you looked at Honeysuckle Street from a helicopter you would see that it has the shape of a chicken bone. Or perhaps a very tiny dumbbell. Two cul-de-sacs, one at each end, separated by a long, straight, stretch of road.
“So wait?” said Liz. “What?” said Barry. “It’s just a street?” she asked. “What do you mean?” said Barry. “Like it doesn’t intersect with any other street?” said Liz. “I guess not,” said Barry. “How do they leave?” she asked. “Shh,” said Barry.
At one end of the street sat an old pawnshop, referred to by most citizens as simply Goldstine’s. The full name was Goldstine’s Pawnteria. It had been a fixture at the end of Honeysuckle Street for over fifty years, and its sign had been the same for all fifty. A big rectangular billboard that sat on top of the small one story pawnshop, the large sign almost overshadowing the fact that there was, in fact, a store underneath it. It had “Goldstine’s Pawnteria” written in big sweeping yellow letters, outlined in black. In an effort to attract customers due to slumping business, the sign had been equipped with a series of tiny white light bulbs that continuously pulsate and rotate around the border of the sign like a confused shooting star.
At the other end of the street, and the newest building to appear on Honeysuckle Street, was the Americana Saloon. A tall pole stuck up from the roof, and at the top an American flag hung at the whim of the wind, doing whatever the wind wanted it to do. Standing in front of the saloon and looking up at it, the flag seemed to glow, lit from behind by the soft yellow light of the sun.
Splitting the difference between Goldstine’s and the Americana Saloon was a dilapidated two-story house. In front of the house, scraped into the side of a rusty metal mailbox, in scrawled writing, was the number 642.
“Looks like a kid wrote it,” said Barry laughing.
This house was the home of four people. The top floor housed the two owners of the house, an overly amorous Greek couple, who were also overly enthusiastic about techno dance music. Living below them, and tolerating the combination of their landlords two interests, were Virgil Island and Leo Darwin. Virgil had rented the bottom floor from the Greeks, and had in turn, rented out a small screened in porch at the back of the house to Leo Darwin.
Virgil was sitting at the tiny living room table of his tiny bottom floor apartment, staring thoughtfully at the last sentence he had just typed into his massive typewriter. Above him was the faint, but rhythmic banging sound of his two upstairs landlords, banging. Standing behind him quietly eating a turkey sandwich and reading over his shoulder was his porchmate Leo Darwin. Virgil didn’t notice him until a small piece of turkey lunchmeat fell from his sandwich onto the shoulder of his chocolate brown suit. Then Leo, having read the line several times over Virgil’s shoulder, said:
“That’s the line you’re ending it with?”
What is he writing?” asked Liz. “He’s a writer remember?” said Barry. “I forget what he calls them. It’s something made up.” “Is that, like, the thing now? To be a writer?” “It’s as good a time as any,” said Barry.
“Are you eating another sandwich?” asked Virgil, noticing the sandwich in his hand. “You can’t eat another sandwich, you haven’t paid me for the other fourteen you’ve already eaten this week. My charity is being abused.”
In the last week Leo had eaten fourteen sandwiches and not paid Virgil for any of them. This also led to noticeable weight gain. Virgil felt the need to remind Leo of their agreement saying:
“You know the deal. Twenty dollars a month to live on the porch, and everything else is a la carte. You know this.”
“I’ve been living here a couple years now Virgil, I think I get it.”
“Well you still appear to be eating another sandwich.”
“I already took a bite.”
“You did that on purpose,” said Virgil.
Virgil turned and studied the emerging donut shape around Leo’s midsection and said:
“Ya know you’re putting on weight eating all those sandwiches? I can see a difference already.”
“I’ve been really hungry lately.”
“What’s that smell?” asked Virgil, sniffing the air around him.
“I don’t smell anything,” said Leo, taking another bite of his sandwich.
“Come here, let me smell you.”
Leo leaned in closer to Virgil. Virgil took a deep breath, coughed, choked, and then pushing Leo away said:
“When was the last time you showered?”
“Last week sometime.”
“You’re cheap,” said Virgil.
“You just want my money,” said Leo. “Capitalist.”
“You agreed to it. If you want to go Socialist you will be heavily taxed, but will pay for less. In the meantime, you should consider a shower.”
“I need to save my money. I got fired remember?”
“Well what you’re doing now, your mode of existence at present, is ridiculous. I don’t know if I can live with someone who smells like that.”
“Guess what comes out tomorrow?” asked Leo.
“I have no idea,” said Virgil. “I don’t follow pop culture.”
“Solar Larceny Six. SLS.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“You’ve never played Solar Larceny?”
“You control a spaceship and you fly from planet to planet destroying things. Stealing spaceships. Blowing things up. It’s awesome.”
“It doesn’t sound very realistic,” said Virgil.
“So is that the line you’re ending it with?” said Leo, nodding at the page still sitting in the typewriter.
“I think it’s a good line to end on,” said Virgil.
“Is it as inspirational as you hoped?”
“It is as inspirational as I could make a failed feast. I had to fictionalize quite a bit. For instance, the characters actually had food and no one gets hurt at the end.”
“So what’s next?”
“I haven’t decided yet Leo. I really want to inspire people with the next one. It has to be something really over the top. Something most people would be afraid to do until they read my story. I want to remove fear from the American people through my Fictspirationals Leo!”
“That’s what they’re called,” said Barry. “Fictspirationals.”
“What are people scared of?” asked Leo.
“Leo, that’s the question at the heart of my next experiment. I have to find something fearful and transform the fear into understanding. It would be for everyone’s benefit to fear a little less.”
“I’ll carry that question with me for the rest of the day Leo. When a good idea comes upon someone like myself it’s like being mugged. It sneaks up and surprises you and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s when I’ll know what to write about next.”
The show cut to a commercial. “This weekend at the Civic Arena downtown, literary titan Bin Gueax, will be reading the most exhilarating portions of his newest novel, Sandstorm in Antarctica, the searing post-apocalyptic thriller. Peter Michaels of Sundown News says “Sandstorm in Antarctica does for literature what Hulk Hogan did for professional wrestling, it’s that good,” and Lydia Hawkins of Bubble Gum Books has described it as “more like the end of the world than anyone could have imagined.” Tickets for this special event are on sale now, online, or at your local ticket office.”
“I wonder how much that is,” said Barry to himself.
“I’m getting a drink,” said Liz standing from the couch.
“Can you get me a beer?”
“You drink enough beer.”
“Please,” said Barry. “It’s a special occasion.”
“No it’s not.”
Liz went to the kitchen as the television showed previews for the rest of the week’s shows. Then Barry, sensing the show was about to return, shouted “Hurry up, I think it’s coming back in a minute.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”
A carbonated ‘pop’ came from the kitchen and Liz walked back with a glass of water for herself and a can of beer for Barry, and said, “You better love me.”
“I do,” he said.
She sat down next to him on the couch just as the show came back on.
Goldstine’s Pawnteria had been at the end of Honeysuckle Street for over fifty years and over those fifty years the shop had grown a considerable collection of items that no one else wanted. Outdated, dusty artifacts of the past were jammed into backroom storage and hidden away, and the few good things the store actually had were allowed to stay out front. This was how Virgil found the typewriter, and yes, that was one of the few good things on show. Considering that fact, it may now be easier to imagine what the backroom had stacked and stored away.
So when Virgil pushed open the front door of Goldstine’s he was surprised to find his new friend, and new owner of the shop, Tyrone, being held with his arms behind his back by two men with long beards, while two other men, also with long beards, were standing in front of him frustrated, but because they all had identical beards it was hard to follow which of the men was actually talking:
“We wasted days scouting this place out!”
“Ain’t shit in here worth any money,” sighed another one.
“Hahahaha” “Why are they talking like pirates?” asked Liz. “Cause its funny!” said Barry, “It makes everything they say funnier.” “This is a weird show,” said Liz.
Virgil, suddenly finding himself in what seemed like a dangerous situation, decided to quickly turn around and leave, but as he turned one of the men holding Tyrone noticed him and said:
“Hey! Who are you?”
“More importantly, where do you think you’re going?” asked another.
Virgil, feeling caught and scared, stopped, and slowly turned to face the four men. Giving a fake laugh he said:
“I walked into the wrong store. Can you believe it?”
“Well you’re a witness now. You walk out that door and we kill this guy, this…Ty-ro-ne,” said another man, awkwardly reading the embroidery on Tyrone’s shirt like his name was a newly invented noodle.
“Virgil!” shouted Tyrone, “don’t let ‘em kill me dog!”
“Wait,” said another man to Virgil, “you know this guy?”
“And you were just going to walk out like that?” said another.
Suddenly a flash of recognition swept over Virgil, his fear drained away, and as he looked at one of the four men he said:
“Wait. Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”
They all looked at each other, then looked back at Virgil who said:
“You. The one closest to me, holding Tyrone.”
The man pointed at himself and Virgil said:
“Yes you. I’ve seen you before. Have you been to a feast lately?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yea…that’s where I saw you,” said Virgil, becoming more confident. “You were sitting across from me, next to my neighbor. I remember you distinctly now. I remember you had quite the beard. Admirable I’d say. What are you doing here?” asked Virgil.
“We’re plundering the place,” said the man.
“Yeah, we’re plundering it good!” shouted another one.
“Gentlemen,” said Virgil taking a few steps closer, “there is nothing of value in this pawn shop. No offense Tyrone.”
“None taken,” he said, still being held tightly by the two men.
“What were you going to do with it?” asked Virgil.
“Well, after I saw all the stuff you had at the feast we thought there might be some valuable things here,” said the man. “I thought something like a broadsword would be worth quite a bit of money.”
“So you were there!” said Virgil.
“We were going to sell it,” said another man. “On eBay.”
“To buy food,” said another man.
“Hahaha” “What?” said Liz. “They’re stealing stuff so they can sell it on Ebay and buy food,” said Barry. “That’s ridiculous,” said Liz. “I think that’s the point,” said Barry.
“For food?” asked Virgil.
“We’re homeless,” another man said, “and we have resorted to thievery.”
This admission seemed to deflate and embarrass the four men, and the two men holding Tyrone let go of his arms as the man from the feast said:
“We just want food, that’s all. And yeah, I was at the feast, I admit it, but that’s just because I thought there would be food. I didn’t wanna steal. None of us wanted to steal,” he said as they all hung their heads in embarrassment.
“Hahaha, look at these guys,” said Barry.
“Gentlemen,” said Virgil. “If food is all you crave, I believe I can help you.”
“Oh, here we go,” sighed Liz.
They all looked up quickly, their beards hiding their mouths, and one of them said:
“You have food for us?”
“Shelter?” asked another.
“Neither,” said Virgil. “But I believe I have just thought of something that will provide those things in time. I just have one question for you.”
Expecting some sort of rhetorical, motivational question, the men perked up, and even Tyrone looked on in anticipation. Then Virgil said inquisitively:
“If you’re homeless, how do you sell things on eBay?”
“Library down the street,” said the men in chorus.
“Interesting,” said Virgil, pulling his pipe from his coat pocket. “Interesting indeed. Hold on a second boys while I light this pipe.”
“What’s with the pipe?” asked Liz. “I don’t know,” said Barry. “What year is this supposed to take place?” asked Liz. “I don’t know,” said Barry. “Well you’re practically worthless then aren’t you?” said Liz. “Suppose so,” said Barry.
Virgil stuffed it with tobacco and struck a match. He began rhythmically inhaling on the pipe while everyone stood there and watched him. Virgil snapped his wrist and extinguished the flame. Then smoke began drifting up from the pipe in a tight spiral and one of the men said:
“So what’s that have to do with your idea?”
“Nothing actually,” said Virgil. “Once you said you were selling things on eBay I just put two and two together. It’s all water under the bridge now.”
“So then what is the plan?” asked one of them.
They all looked at Virgil standing in his chocolate brown suit, the sweet smell of pipe tobacco spreading through the pawnshop. Then speaking from behind a dramatic puff of smoke he said:
“We shall grow our own food, we shall eat only what’s needed, and all of the excess will be sold from the side of the street for profit. When the world comes to an end my friends, those who can survive on the land alone are the only ones who will stand a chance. I’m here to prepare you for that.”
“Oh god,” said Liz.
One of the men was skeptical and said:
“And what if your idea doesn’t work?”
“Yeah! What if it doesn’t?” shouted another.
“Then you can come back here and carry out whatever thievery it was you were planning. Although in my opinion it’s all wasted energy,” said Virgil dryly.
“What the hell Virgil?” said Tyrone as the men loosened their grip on his arms. “Why would you say that?”
“Because I’m that confident Tyrone. All we need now are a few shovels, and energy, for a little hard work. What do you say boys?” asked Virgil.
“I’m interested,” said one.
“You’re inspired!” said Virgil. “Who else is with me?”
“I’m in,” said another.”
“That a boy!” said Virgil.
“So where are we doing this?” asked another one.
“At 642 Honeysuckle Street. Tomorrow your life changes gentlemen, and there’s a good chance it changes for the better. Only the future can prove us wrong now!”
The show cut to commercial and Barry said, “Hahaha. Only the future can prove us wrong, that’s good.”
“I don’t know if I like this show,” said Liz, “It seems stupid.”
“I think that’s why I like it,” said Barry.
They both sat silently on the couch and watched a commercial for Flingys, in which a chaos of children are running around an empty room, with handfuls of Flingys, as the song shouts, “you can stretch it, you can pull it, you can yank it, you can wrench it! Flingys! The candy all kids love, and everyone else hates.”
“That commercial is why I don’t want kids,” said Liz. “They’ll be flinging their shit all over the place.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” said Barry as the next commercial came on.
“Newly hired college graduate, turned office drone Frank Constantine has already become restless. Fearing his best days are already behind him he sets out on a cross-country odyssey in a search for happiness and truth, and comes face to face with the reality of the modern day American Dream. Find your place this weekend, at the end of Dream Road.”
“I would see that,” said Barry.
“See now that’s why I think you’re an –”
“Shh! It’s back,” said Barry.
Having gathered several shovels, of all shapes and sizes, and having bought several packets of seeds, Virgil greeted the hungry homeless men just as the sun broke the horizon of Honeysuckle Street saying:
“Gentlemen, with the new light of day comes a new hope! With the amount of food I plan to grow, we, that we plan to grow, we could see fortune beyond our wildest dreams.”
“Yeah!” shouted one of the men.
“That’s why I made a call to Channel Four News, and asked them to cover this experiment from beginning to end!”
“Yeah!” shouted another.
“Where are they?” asked another. “Are we waiting for them?”
“I don’t know where they are, and yes, we are waiting for them. I told them we would be starting at the break of dawn. They should be here any minute,” said Virgil.
After standing around for a few awkward minutes with the four homeless gentlemen, the Channel Four News van came screeching to a halt in front of Virgil’s house, and Virgil said:
“Just as I promised my friends! Channel Four News is here!”
“Wow, that is the rustiest van I’ve ever seen,” said Barry.
As soon as the van came to a stop, a young man jumped out, frantic, and with the cameraman close behind him, he quickly made his way over to Virgil who said:
“You’re a bit late.”
“I know, I know, I’m sorry. Did we miss the sunrise?”
“By several minutes,” said Virgil. “Are you some sort of novice reporter, sent as a joke?”
“No sir, but this is my first field assignment. I’m a little nervous.”
“No need to fear the homeless,” said Virgil. “They won’t hurt you.”
“No, they didn’t have anyth-”
“What do you say we get on with this,” said Virgil. “Are the cameras ready?”
“Are we ready?” asked the reporter to the cameraman.
“We’re rolling,” he said, as he focused the camera on Virgil and the reporter, with the four homeless men in the background, slightly out of focus.
“How about you start by telling us a little bit about what you’re doing,” said the reporter, holding the mic up to Virgil’s mouth.
“Hang on a second. I think I should be smoking my pipe. Better for the, uh, look and feel of the thing.”
Virgil hastily stuffed his pipe and lit it, then said:
“Okay, lets start that over again. Say what you just said.”
“How about you start by telling us a little bit about what you’re doing,” said the reporter again.
“First, I would like to thank Channel Four News for coming down this early in the morning, I know it’s tough to get up this early. But I assure you we’re here for a good cause, and those of you out in TV land watching this live right now-”
“-Actually, we’re not live,” said the reporter.
“Well, those of you who see this-”
“That’s better, we’ll just edit that other part out. And this. Sorry. Keep going.”
“As I was saying, those of you who will eventually, at some point, see this video, don’t look away! Instead ask yourself why you’re turning away. Is it because of the homeless men behind me?” said Virgil, as they walked over to the four homeless men, standing in a row. “I hope it’s not, because there is no reason to fear the homeless, in fact, these four gentlemen before me, with your help,” said Virgil, looking into the camera, “are going to grow their way out of poverty, by growing their own food over the next several months, and selling it to you, the faithful viewer, and supporter, of Channel Four News.”
“Who would buy food from homeless people?” said Liz. “I would, if it was good,” said Barry. “Why? You wouldn’t?” “What if they did something to it?” said Liz. “What could they have done to it? Honestly?” asked Barry. “You could probably get it cheap too, I mean if they’re homeless they’ll take any money they can get, right?”
“So how long do you estimate this project to last?”
“And the plan is to sell the food?”
“These men will keep only what they need, they will be models of food consumption. The rest, as you said, will be sold, to the public,” said Virgil, smoke coiling up from his pipe.
“Today is the first day?” asked the reporter.
“Yes. Today these men take the first steps towards turning their failing lives around. Today we will literally be planting the seeds of these men’s futures. These men will grow out of poverty, before everyone’s eyes.”
“And do you have a name for this?” asked the reporter.
“It’s called the G.O.O.P. Campaign,” started Virgil proudly, then looking into the camera said, “and I thank Channel Four News for covering this important story the next several months.”
Later that day, after Virgil and the four homeless men had planted the seeds of their future, and the news crew had long left, Leo went down to Proton’s Electronics Superstore to purchase Solar Larceny Six. Virgil was just about to fall asleep on the couch when Leo pulled open the front door and said:
“I got it! Wake up you human antique and see the future! Solar Larceny Six!”
“I wish you would shut up!” said Virgil. “I’ve been up since dawn and you owe me money for sandwiches.”
“What’s with the homeless guys outside?” asked Leo. “They’re just sleeping in the yard.”
“We were all up very early,” said Virgil, “and I wish you would just let us sleep. Did you wake them up too?”
“No, I was afraid to.”
“Don’t be afraid of them, but don’t wake them up. Just let them be.”
“I’m playing my game.”
“Have fun with that,” said Virgil.
Later that evening, Virgil went to the porch to check on Leo and found him deep into outer space, committing violent acts of video game larceny. It was completely dark, and the air was filled with the sounds of exploding planets, and the fading screams of aliens. Leo was so engrossed in the game that he hadn’t left the porch since he had returned with the game, and hadn’t even noticed Virgil, or heard the door he had opened, and had no idea Virgil was even there, until Virgil said:
“I’m about to be on the news, you should come watch.”
“Do you know how big space is?” asked Leo.
“Damn big,” said Virgil. “The G.O.O.P. Campaign is finally getting some air time Leo, there will be cameras all over this place the next couple of weeks.”
“Were you talking to me?” said Leo, as he shot a laser into a spacebus that exploded loudly from the small TV speakers.
“Yes Leo! The G.O.O.P. Campaign is going to be on the news.”
“Honestly Virgil, I don’t care about any of that right now.”
“Well there’s a chance you could be on TV Leo, and we all know that once you get on TV, the sky is the limit!”
“I don’t want to be on TV,” said Leo.
“Well suit yourself my friend, but I don’t think you have a choice. Tyrone sold me some special fertilizer for the garden, and I’m going to continue to fertilize it everyday, until that thing turns into a wild vegetable jungle! You’ll need a machete to get from one end to the other! The news won’t know what to make of it.”
“They don’t have machetes in space,” said Leo, his eyes still locked on the small TV screen.
“What are you talking about?” said Virgil.
“What are you talking about?” said Leo.
“That game is going to kill you one day,” said Virgil, pulling the door closed.
“I’ll never die,” said Leo, “I know the code for everlasting life.”
“Ha! Everlasting life,” said Barry. “So many layers in this show.”
Virgil went back to the living room and sat back down on the couch, just as the news came back from commercial. The two anchors, one man and one woman, shuffled their papers as the camera moved in closer, then, with a small rectangle appearing over the male anchor’s shoulder, showing a picture of a cucumber, he began his report saying:
“A curious campaign is developing down at 642 Honeysuckle Street. This morning, local resident Virgil Island, along with four homeless men, planted a garden in an effort to help these homeless men grow out of poverty. He calls it the G.O.O.P. Campaign, and Max Hardy was on the scene this morning, at the break of dawn, to talk with Virgil Island.”
Virgil watched the rest of the report, yawned, and stood from the couch. He walked to the window, and moved the silk curtains out of the way to look upon his newly planted garden, and was surprised to see, as he squinted out the window, that there were already green stems curling up from the ground, and standing with his face pressed into the window, he said, well, nothing. He didn’t know what to say.
As the show cut to commercial Barry said, “Ya know, we have all that space in the backyard, we could probably have a garden.”
“And whose gonna take care of it Barry? Me?”
“I would help,” said Barry. “Hey look at this,” he said pointing at the TV, “this is that car I was talking about.”
“Toyanda is proud to present the Jetstream, a modern car for a modern driver,” said the commercial as it slowly panned over a sleek, shiny, black car in the shape of a tube.
“Isn’t that badass looking?” said Barry.
“With its aerodynamic space shuttle design, it can get up to four hundred miles per gallon on the highway, and over three hundred around town, guaranteed. The Jetstream has already won every major award for efficiency in its class, and is coming to a dealer near you,” finished the commercial as it showed the Jetstream speeding through a wide-open desert.
“What do you think?” asked Barry. “We need a new car.”
“Do you really expect me to drive that around?”
“It looks like an old Airstream trailer, it looks ridiculous!” said Liz.
“The shows coming back,” said Barry.
“God, this show isn’t over yet?”
“You don’t like it?” said Barry. “I thought you would like it.”
“It’s okay,” she said.
“I’ve seen you laugh a few times.”
“That doesn’t make it good,” said Liz.
When Virgil woke up the next morning it was still dark. And as he pulled on his chocolate brown pants, and prepared to meet the day, there was a vicious banging on the front door. He hurriedly put on his green shirt, and rushed through the house to answer it. Standing at the door were the four homeless men, all in a line, and the one in the front said:
“Virgil! You damn genius! Come out and look at the garden!”
The sun was on the rise, and had just crept above the horizon; it’s light flowing down Honeysuckle Street. Then Virgil, standing in front of the four men, saw what all the excitement was about.
The seeds they had planted the morning before had grown to astounding heights. The tomatoes looked like juicy red basketballs, the cucumbers were bright green, and were the size of a rolled up yoga mat. The orange and yellow peppers hung like piñatas, and the few pumpkin seeds they had planted, in preparation for Halloween, had grown pumpkins the size of a mini fridge that were an unnatural, neon orange. Looking at the garden, and seeing the monstrous growth of one night he said:
“I should call Channel Four.”
“We already did,” said one of them.
“How did you do that without a phone?” asked Virgil.
“There’s a payphone,” said one.
“Down at the library,” said another.
“I’m impressed by your MacGyver-like survival skills,” said Virgil, packing his pipe with tobacco, and looking proudly at the garden.
The news van pulled up a few minutes later, and again came to a screeching halt.
[ “I love the news van,” said Barry, laughing. ]
The reporter, Max Hardy, and his faithful cameraman, climbed out of their van slowly, awestruck by the incredible size of the garden. Then Virgil said:
“Welcome back Max Hardy, and feast your eyes on the most incredible spectacle in botany that humankind has ever seen!”
“Are we rolling?” said Max to his cameraman.
“We’re rolling,” he said, as he adjusted the large camera on his shoulder.
“Good. Make sure you get all of this,” said Max.
The cameraman focused in on Virgil, as Max stuck the mic into Virgil’s face and said:
“How do you explain this?”
“I don’t Max.”
“But you must have done something to cause everything to grow this fast. Whatever you did could revolutionize farming across the world. Do you realize how significant this is?”
“Significant to who? To me? To these men here?” said Virgil, gesturing at the men standing behind him. “It’s significant for the G.O.O.P. Campaign, everything else you’re saying is mere speculation.”
“You don’t see how this can change the world?”
“Oh I do,” said Virgil. “When I look at this garden, what I see is a bunch of colorful, healthy, and unusually large opportunities for these men to not only sustain themselves nutritionally, but economically as well. So we’re all very excited about this unusual turn of events. Does that answer your question?”
“What’s the next step for the G.O.O.P. Campaign?” asked Max, holding the mic close to Virgil’s mouth.
“We sell out.”
That afternoon, the homeless men set out to pick all of the vegetables from the garden, and were told by Virgil to begin organizing them at the side of the road. Meanwhile, Virgil went down to Goldstine’s to find out what was in the fertilizer Tyrone had given him. He pushed open the front door and saw Tyrone sitting at the counter, reading a magazine, and said:
“So that fertilizer you gave me the other day really got things moving.”
“Yea man, you like that shit?”
“What’s in it?”
“All kinds of shit man, it’s stacked with plant steroids and amphetamines. Catalysts of all kinds man. I know a few radical botanists I could hook you up with if you want.”
“Thanks but no thanks,” said Virgil. “I’m a writer, not a gardener. This is all just fodder for my next Fictspirational.”
“So wait?” said Liz. “What?” “Is what we’re watching, supposed to be what happened?” asked Liz. “I don’t get what you’re saying,” said Barry. “Like, is this show showing us what he writes about?” “I think the show shows us what he eventually writes about, if that makes sense.” “So the show isn’t based on what he wrote?” “No, cause nothing he does is actually inspirational. We’re seeing all of his experiments, which he then fictionalizes so that they become inspirational. Get it?” “No,” said Liz.
“I saw you on the news last night with those four men who almost mugged me, what’s up with that?”
“Well they won’t be mugging you again, they have more vegetables to eat and sell than they know what to do with. It’s the complete opposite of a famine,” said Virgil.
“I think I kind of get it now,” said Liz.
Later that afternoon, Virgil, waking from another midday nap, was surprised to find a large crowd had gathered at the side of the street. There were several camera crews, and flash photography, as the four homeless men stood proudly around the massive pile of vegetables they had assembled at the side of the road. Virgil hastily pulled himself together and went outside. Virgil pushed his way through the crowd to the four men and said:
“What’s going on here? You have a lot more vegetables to bring to the road. You’re not done yet.”
Then a reporter interrupted Virgil, saying:
“Are you the supervisor of this garden?”
“I am,” said Virgil, as flash bulbs began popping in his eyes and a crowd of reporters tightened around him with microphones and cameras.
“Are these men being paid for their work?”
“They are being paid in self-esteem and knowledge. I am for these men what the Native Americans were for our country’s first settlers. With the knowledge I have instilled in them, they will never go hungry again. As far as money goes, all of these vegetables are for sale, and all proceeds will go directly to them.”
“Are you worried at all about the extent of that analogy? In other words, are you nervous at all about these men, perhaps, turning around and killing you?” asked another reporter.
“I won’t answer that,” said Virgil.
“Mr. Island, do you really think people are going to buy any of these freak vegetables from four homeless men? From the side of the street?”
“If we don’t sell these vegetables, these men will continue their tin-can lifestyle and that’s on your conscience,” said Virgil, looking sternly into a television camera, “not mine.”
“This question is for the homeless men. Have you been mistreated at all by Mr. Island? There was a report that you had been sleeping in the yard, is that true?”
“It’s true,” said one of them.
“They don’t have a home,” said Virgil. “I was happy to provide a well manicured lawn for them to sleep in.”
“Mr. Island,” said a reporter, “there have been accusations that you’re some sort of gardening tyrant, and that you abuse the people in your company. How do you respond to that?”
“I think those accusations are preposterous, farcical, and ridiculous. These men were worse off before they met me. The G.O.O.P. Campaign was designed to help these men grow out of poverty, and it appears to be working. They are healthier and more industrious than ever before. These men are no longer the black eye on our street they once were, that’s a fact that no one can argue with, and that’s a result of the hard work put in by the G.O.O.P. Campaign.”
“So these men sleep in your yard, work for you, and don’t get paid? Do you think that’s ethical treatment?” asked another reporter.
“I think you’re all missing the point. Like I’ve already said, these men are homeless. It’s important to look at where they came from, compared to where they are now. As you can see they have made significant progress, and that’s what the G.O.O.P. Campaign is all about. Progress.”
“What do you know about the man on the porch?” asked another reporter.
“That man lives with me,” said Virgil.
“He was found unconscious this morning, on your porch,” said the reporter.
“I don’t know anything about that,” said Virgil.
“When they were finally able to wake him up, just an hour ago, he said he hadn’t eaten in several days.”
“That sounds like his problem,” said Virgil.
“He said you refused to let him eat.”
“We have a special arrangement,” said Virgil. “He chose Capitalism. I have offered a more Socialist arrangement, and he has always refused.”
“You realize, Mr. Island, that you could be in some real legal trouble if any of these allegations turn out to be true?”
“Mr. Island!” shouted another reporter. “There have also been accusations that you’re only doing this for a story, for your own benefit. How do you respond to that? Do you actually care about these men and their futures? Is the G.O.O.P. Campaign real?”
Just as that question was asked, and the crowd of people moved in closer around Virgil, a Honeysuckle Street police officer pulled up behind the crowd of people, then pushed his way through the crowd shouting:
“I’m looking for a Virgil Island!”
“I’m Virgil Island,” said Virgil as the police officer nestled up close to him in front of a crowd of reporters and cameras.
“Mr. Island, you’re under arrest for employee abuse, and landlord neglect, in the case of Leo Darwin, and one count of TBA.”
“TBA?” asked Virgil.
“Well, we know you didn’t grow these plants naturally, but we don’t know what you did just yet. That’s still pending department investigation. It’s TBA, and you’ll be charged for it once we know what it is,” said the officer.
Then in an effort to disperse the crowd, the officer shouted:
“There’s nothing else to see here!” as he dragged Virgil through the crowd to his car. “Nothing else to see here!”
Sitting in his cell that night, watching the Channel Four News, the same news reporter, with a small picture of a rotten apple over his shoulder instead of the cucumber began his report by saying:
“In other news today, the G.O.O.P. Campaign that we reported on last night was a little too curious to be legal. Campaign leader, Virgil Island, was arrested earlier today on counts of employee abuse and landlord neglect, and is awaiting further charges of soil contamination due to what police are calling, ‘some sort of super-advanced fertilizer.’ The vegetables, which were grown over night, and the soil they were grown from have been moved to the science department of Haggerty University for further study. Virgil Island is currently at Honeysuckle Street Prison, awaiting further questioning.”
Meanwhile, Leo sat watching the report from the comfort of Virgil’s couch, and upon finishing his first sandwich in three full days, he stood from the couch, turned the TV off with a smile, and went back to his room on the porch to play Solar Larceny Six until the next morning, when he had told himself he would go clear Virgil of all the charges he knew weren’t true.
“Hahaha” “Can I change the channel yet?” asked Liz. “No hang on, I want to see what happens next week,” said Barry.
IN THE NEXT TEXTISODE OF 642 HONEYSUCKLE STREET:
After Leo gets in a drunken fight and is challenged to an old-fashioned duel in the streets, Virgil sees another opportunity for a story, and Leo begins training for his life or death duel against the man known only as “Savage Gary”.
“That looks funny,” said Barry. “Can I change it now?” asked Liz. “Yea, I guess so,” said Barry.