You have to dismantle Brad Pitt’s butt cheeks before replacing them. Donald knows that too well. Twice monthly he finds himself on a small stool, like a milkmaid, in front of Brad. This is Fight Club Brad, shirtless, and his jeans have a hidden zipper that runs down the seam of each leg. Donald, in white gloves, unzips the jeans.
He doesn’t say anything to Brad, unlike some of the other employees. You start talking and things get weird. It’s just a wax model, after all. Donald has the dual job of night watchman and “Evening Sprucer” over Brad and the others in Sir Blingly’s Wax Emporium.
Patrons pose with Brad for photos. Here, they can feel the excitement of celebrity proximity without any shame over the inability to control themselves. One outcome of this phenomenon is a surprising number of patrons, who, when posing with Brad, reach around and pinch his bottom.
Enough pinching results in a pocked, uneven wax derriere. Armed with a putty knife and a hair dryer, the Evening Sprucer rights such wears and tears and alerts the Wax Master to larger maintenance.
According to Todd, who is Wax Master and Donald’s boss, the last thing you want to do is rip people from their fantasy. For one moment these workaday folk are on equal terms with celebrities, casual enough to throw an arm around them or pinch their bottoms. A furrowed rump, however, disrupts the illusion of egalitarian brotherhood the emporium temporarily provides.
So Todd had the idea of installing rubber foam pads in Brad. He excavated the wax hindquarters (rumor has it they are still in his office somewhere) and replaced them with foam. Now Todd can look over the floor from his upstairs office and see adventurous patrons rewarded. Of course they know the figures are wax, but the unexpected gluteal suppleness generates a flash of doubt visible from across the museum. Like seeing people believe in a miracle. It lasts for only an instant, but Todd lives for this moment.
But even the foam wears out. A vigorous pinch can pluck out a nugget. And if you shuffle Brad’s pants, it falls by his ankle. Then, when it catches on that you can “get a piece of ass” from Brad Pitt, the response is piranhaian.
So Donald exchanges used butt pads for fresh ones. Donald, a still-single Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy, bows before Brad for rump maintenance. Donald, a real-life philosopher, already bald and bearded, sees women swoon over a mound of wax and ignore him entirely. Donald, whose 416-page dissertation-in-progress considers the political detriment of American consumerism, takes a dual job at SB’s just to sustain himself in his kimchi-stained, one-room apartment.
But it’s all ok. Donald doesn’t mind tonight as he rezips Brad’s pants and trashes the mangled foam buttocks. It’s all ok because that morning, Donald had received the first glimmer of real progress after eight years of labor: an email from a publisher telling him that he was “in for a treat.” To be looking for it in the mail.
The mail came and Donald only allowed himself to see the return address from the major publishing house. They don’t send hefty packets for rejection letters.
You see, Donald wanted to be more than an obscure scholar. He wanted to be the thinker that obscure scholars devoted themselves to. He knew that to have a lasting impact on the populace, you had to put things in terms they understand.
So Donald wrote what was to be the first in a string of scathingly dark satires, designed to skewer American consumerist ignorance so immaculately that there could be no resistance.
His first piece, “The Little Duck,” improves Eric Voegelin’s concept of sociopolitical history, the Orders of Being. This Donald portrays by describing American fowl behavior.
The gods of the Greeks and Romans inhabited the natural world — the trees, rivers, atop a particular mountain. Everything divine is in human, worldly terms. This, to Voegelin, marks the Compact Order of Being:
In the big blue pond, the little duck sings.
In the big blue pond, he sees many things.
But for the Israelites, God was unfathomable. No longer in Nature. Outside of all. They had made a “leap in being” from the Compact Order to the Differentiated Order:
In the big blue pond, the little duck was kept.
Out of the big blue pond, the little duck leapt.
Outside the pond, there was more to see!
Outside the pond, there was more to be!
But Donald himself sees a second leap in being — so long in the Differentiated Order and we create our own evil God, capitalism:
The little duck found a pretty dime.
The pretty dime had a lovely shine.
The pretty dime caught a hunter’s eye.
The hunter aimed his gun at the little guy.
The little duck leaps and leaps some more.
Boom! The little duck is no more.
Finally, someone in the publishing world had recognized Donald’s vision. And so, tonight, Donald does not dawdle as Evening Sprucer. He wants time to read the contents of the hefty packet without distraction:
Mr. Donald Dubeneffer,
We are very pleased to offer publication of your groundbreaking book, THE LITTLE DUCK. We even have Una Lentutti, top-tier illustrator, interested in collaborating with you. We included samples of her work.
“Fancy that!” Donald says.
Please complete the attached contract and royalty negotiation and return in the enclosed envelope. Our editors will be in touch.
We are thrilled to publish your work, Mr. Dubeneffer. We believe it is the perfect addition to our new WORKS FOR “WIDDLE WEEDERS” series. Shooting from the hip here, but how would you feel about a pen name? Something punchy, so the kids won’t stumble over so many syllables — think “Brad Pitt.”
Gerard Albertson IV
Albertson, Albertson, Albertson, and Albertson, Publishers, Inc.
Una Lentutti — whose e-cigarette has interchangeable lights to match her outfit, whose perpetually damp hair looks jetted by an alarmed squid — was so powerful in the children’s publishing division of QuadAl that she was allowed to choose a book every year to “make.” Known for once depicting all characters in a book on table manners as nude and anatomically exaggerated, her drawings captivated young readers, evoking a profitable je ne sais quoi in lackluster subgenres. The book was banned in some countries.
Una was not to be inspired by a story; on the contrary, the story was not to get in her way. So every year, she scavenged the most innocuous submission from the slush pile.
When she had read Donald’s piece, she had recalled a species of Amazonian duck with a penis twice as long as its body. She could draw that. It’s not being crude, she thought. It’s real. Just try to censor it!
At the Wax Emporium, Brad Pitt and Donald climb to the top floor, where Todd’s office overlooks the figures. Brad Pitt has foam bottoms pinned all over him. The two stand atop the guardrail.
Brad Pitt leaps in being. He leaps and is no more.
WM. SAMUEL BRADFORD teaches high school English in Atlanta, Ga. He is currently working on a novel. His stories have appeared in the New Yorker, which is to say that he staples them in the back of the copy at the public library.