Fessay So Myself

You are witnessing the invention of a new literary form, the fessay. This is a fictional essay. It takes a news item, writes a column-length (750-900 words) response, but uses a fictional format. The name "fessay" is my copyright and requires permission for use.

Monday, March 21, 2005

ASHES OF THE PHOENIX by Jay D. Homnick (Fessay #3)

(NEWS ITEM: A trucker from Waterbury, Connecticut, disappeared, leaving his cash and his driver's license in his truck. He was found wandering around Miami, suffering from amnesia and complaining of legs aching from walking.)

There was something wet and slimy on my face, and a voice in my head was telling me that I had to get up. Yet I could not muster the strength. It felt as if I had no control over my body. I was desperately trying to open my eyes, to cry out, to wake up, anything, anything but this muck. My body slept on.
Then I heard voices murmuring behind me, one concerned, one disdainful. The first mentioned something about "hurt", the second derisively said "drunk". Then two men were lifting me and putting me on a cushion of some sort. I awoke in the police car.
"What's your name, buddy?", one of the cops was asking.
"I don't know," I answered in a croak that sounded like it hadn't been used as a voice in some time.
"Aw, gimme a break," the other cop muttered. But I really did not know, nor did they find any identification in my pockets at the station. It was a very scary feeling, to be obviously healthy and coherent, but totally amnesiac.
Days, weeks, went by, in the hospital and then out, eventually finding work as an office assistant, but quickly working up to positions of greater income and authority. Nine months passed by without a clue. My picture ran in the area newspapers but elicited no response.
Ironically, my best friend through this was Al Cooper, the originally surly cop, who had become very apologetic when I tested sober. We had begun meeting for lunch a couple of times a week, sharing confidences, although I had none older than nine months.
One day, Al came up with the idea of putting my picture on the TV show, Unsolved Mysteries, which would be seen nationwide. The episode aired but produced no serious leads.

Then, one night, there was a knock on the door of my apartment. I opened to see a stunningly beautiful young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, who leaped into my arms and began kissing me passionately.
"Oh, Greg," she said, when we came up for air. "This is so clever what you did. This way, if your witch of a wife ever finds us, you'll have a perfect excuse."
"I'm sorry, my name is Jeff," I said. "Or at least that's what I've been calling myself since my amnesia. Why did you call me Greg?"
"You mean this is for real? I thought this was just a scam you were running so that you and I could be together."
"So you actually know me?" I asked.
"Of course, and you and I are very much in love. But that rotten wife of yours, who moved out on you first, is contesting the divorce and putting up roadblocks to your happiness. Our happiness."
"Then please tell me my real name," I implored.
"It's Greg Lo…," she began, then stopped short. "Wait, why should I tell you? It will just put us back in the same mess."
Nothing that I could say would budge her. Yet in every other way she was wonderful. We began to date and I fell in love, apparently for the second time to the same woman.
Another half-year passed, my job situation kept improving, but still no word about my identity from any other source. I knew that Kim, my old/new girlfriend, came from Phoenix, but nothing more. Finally, she pressed me to make a commitment.
I could have gone ahead and married her with perfect legality. My strange legal status meant that no judge could prevent me from marriage.
But my heart knows, my conscience knows. I still have a commitment to an unknown, unseen person, who by all accounts didn't put much honor into her corresponding obligation. I told myself all of these things, and then I told them to Kim.
She said that she had to leave, and I agreed with a heart full of pain. We kissed and she cried, and we kissed and I cried, and I was walking her to the top of the stairs, kissing and crying, when I lost my footing and fell down the stairs, hitting my head.

Hi, I'm Greg Lomax. I come from Phoenix, Arizona. Where the Heck am I?

CROSSOVER HIT by Jay D. Homnick (Fessay #2)

(NEWS ITEM: Michael Schiavo finally gets a court to allow him to kill his brain-damaged wife, Terri. Schiavo, who has two children by his live-in lover, rails at those who wish to save Terri for invading the sanctity of his marriage.)

It probably never is a good idea, much less an ethical one, to get involved with a married woman. But that Valerie was a real knockout, she lived just down the hall, and her husband was some kind of salesman on the road two weeks of every month. To top it off, she was always flashing me smiles in the hallway that were dripping with invitation.
The old I'm-out-of-coffee rap worked a little too easily. Clearly it wasn't the adroitness of my advances that overcame her inhibitions.
That became our routine. Two weeks a month I got to borrow coffee every day, and the rest of the month I still had to buy my own.
Well, one day old Rudy got back a little early and paid a surprise visit to our coffee klatsch. Suddenly he was standing in the doorway waving a gun. I carry some Mace in my pocket, which wasn't handy at that moment.
"I won't kill you now," he said. "That would be too easy. Instead, I will kill you sometime in the next thirty days, when you least expect it."
I ran out, not terribly afraid, but feeling like a fool. A few hours later there was a knock at my door. Through the peephole I saw Valerie, alone. I opened the door.
"You don't understand," she told me. "He's not a salesman. He's a hitman. He does this for a living, filling contracts all over the country. You must run and change your identity or something." It looked like discretion should have been the better part of Valerie, and now I was on the run.

I made sure not to use my credit cards. I sold my car. I traveled only by Greyhound bus and taxi, anything that did not require ID. I called friends only briefly, from pay phones, using phone cards.
Despite my advanced computer training, I took odd jobs, claiming to be an illegal alien from Canada, taking payment only in cash and being awfully underpaid in the process.
This went on for some months. I had moved cities a few times and finally settled in Oklahoma City. Clearly I had shaken his pursuit, but it had come at the price of any hope for sanity and normalcy.
Then I met Myra, my sweet savior. Neither of us had ever been so totally in love before and we were close to marriage. Finally, I broke down and shared with her the secret of my forced exile.
"You're living in fear and you're responding to fear," she chided. "And it's rooted in your guilt, because a part of you feels that you deserve this."
"How do I break this cycle?" I asked.
"Turn it around," she said. "Sure you had no right to hurt him, but your penance for that is done. Now look at him and forget about yourself for a moment. He's out there. He's a killer. You know that but you can't prove it. You can escape him but he will go on killing."
"You're right," I said.
"Now you need to decide on a course of action," she prompted.

She was right. I was better than him. I don't go around killing people, but I can make an exception, just this once. The hunted became the hunter.
I went back to his place, picked the lock and entered the bedroom. Ironically, he was in the act of conducting his own coffee klatsch; well, he had a right to, I thought, she is his wife. I shot him, knowing that Valerie could not identify me under the ski mask I was wearing.
A perfect shot. He fell off her, dead. She lay there screaming, and I turned to leave feeling better than I had thought that I would.
"Goodbye, honey," I said on the way out, almost with a chuckle. She was not Valerie.

FEE LINES by Jay D. Homnick (Fessay #1)

(NEWS ITEM: Michael Schiavo petitions court to remove his wife’s feeding tube, against her parent’s wishes. Earlier, he had her two cats put to sleep rather than give them to her parents or siblings.)

“Hello, sir, and welcome to Kool Your Kat, where we offer a wide variety of options for assisting your special kitty in the transition to the great Beyond. I’m Herbert Watson. How can I help you today, Mr. ….?”
“My name is Doe. John Doe.”
“Oh, we have serviced members of your family before. Many Does have come here, Smiths too, although they can hardly keep up with the Joneses.”
“You folks put cats down, am I right?”
“Oh, no, Mr. Doe. We never put cats down at all; in fact, everything we do here shows them the utmost respect and dignity in their final passage into the Infinite. But we do offer a range of Feline Eternalization packages.”
“Okay, what’s the most reasonable?”
“Well, Mr. Doe, one man’s reasonable is another man’s treasonable. When you think of all the years of loyalty that your kitty provided, it may not be the moment to be economical.”
“What have you got?”
“We like to recommend our special Family Love package, which includes the symbolic gold dust sprinkled on the maw and paw. This goes for Thirty-nine ninety-nine.”
“Forty bucks. Fine, I’ll take it.”
“Three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine, Mr. Doe.”
“Oh, no, nothing steep like that. Give me bare bones.”
“Mr. Doe, please. We do not provide deboning here at KYK.”
“Your best price….”
“That would be our Kat’s Got Your Tungsten package, where the somatic evacuation segment is performed with a Tiger Woods signature golf club. Only four hundred and ninety-nine dollars.”
“Rats. Wait a second, can’t I make some money back by selling the fur for a coat or something?”
“Sorry, Mr. Doe, the only use for cat fur in fashion is in the millinery division of DeGatto in Milan, where they make that lovely Hat-In-The-Kat design, but unfortunately they will not accept the fur off American cats. Wound too tight, they say.”
“How about selling the guts to the violin people? Aren’t those strings made from catgut?”
“Fascinating. We get that question a lot from members of your family. Unfortunately, catgut is made from sheep intestine.”
“Come on, are you trying to pull the wool over my eyes? This is ridiculous. How about for catsup?”
“No, since Heinz has dominated the industry with ketchup, I’m afraid the catsup people are playing catch-up.”
“Well, don’t they need them for CAT scans?”
“Perhaps periodically, but lately it’s been catch as catch can. I’m afraid that the procedure for entrails involves traditional interment or cremation.”
“Is cremation any less expensive?”
“Well, the process is theoretically less costly but the receptacle for the ashes is more ornate, so although there might be a penny saved at first, eventually it’s a penny urned.”
“Can’t you design some sort of custom package for me? Also, I have two cats, so shouldn’t I receive a volume discount?”
“Two cats at once? I don’t think that we have ever performed a twin killing here before, you should excuse the expression. What kind?”
“You’re purgin’ them?”
“Persian cats, very annoying.”
“The problem, Mr. Doe, is that our costs are a constant and there is simply very little that we can do to alter the level of our outlay, which in turn does not allow us the opportunity to offer any discount.”
“What is so costly for you?”
“The most expensive item is the fee for the eternalizer.”
“Why is that?”
“Because very few people can bring themselves to… er, dispatch the little kitties to their reward. Many people try the field but the dropout rate is a national tragedy. It’s gotten to the point where we simply won’t hire anyone without a criminal record.”
“Well, how about if you don’t use any manpower at all? Why don’t you just not give them anything to eat or drink and within two or three weeks they would be gone?”
“Surely you don’t mean to starve them?”
“Oh, nothing nasty like that. You don’t kill them, you eternalize them, right?”
“Yes, Mr. Doe.”
“And the owners thank you for a mystical, euphemistical experience, right?”
“Er, yes, Mr. Doe.”
“Good, so then there is no need to starve them literally, you can do it euphemistically. You simply let them transcend nutriment.”
“And what about drinking, Mr. Doe?”
“Alimentary, my dear Watson? That can be eclipsed.”
“My goodness.”
“So is it a deal? We transcend nutriment and eclipse aliment until they self-eternalize, and I’ll pay you fifty bucks.”
“Oh no, that would be impossible, Mr. Doe.”
“Why so? What’s the problem?”
“To starve a cat, Mr. Doe. Why, that would be illegal.”