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Goodbye Randy Lovelock


Harry Buschman

Stanley Schnitzel was obsessed with writing. He read very little but he wrote constantly - wherever and whenever he could. He slept fitfully at night and plots skittered through his restless mind, characters begged him for development and fanciful story variations denied him the restful sleep that normal men enjoy. His indulgent wife, Sheila, would wake to find him, glasses riding down his nose, scribbling next to her in bed. "Give it a rest Stannie" she would turn over and mumble ... he would pay no attention whatsoever.

Sheila often noticed a far away look in her husband's eye when she related the events of her day ... he would seem to look past her, somewhere over her left ear, listening to the voice of someone who wasn't there. She wasn't jealous but she did realize that there was a part of Stanley she could not reach and she came to accept the fact that, while he was a faithful husband and a fair provider, he was a voyager in an imaginary world of his own creation where he was better off left alone.

He was a good man ... he ran the doughnut shop out on the Post Road, got up early, got home early, didn't gamble. Sheila was thankful for that. What else can you expect from a husband? Sheila Schnitzel and her neighborhood friends had much in common, they were the mistresses of their kitchen floors and their sparkling china and their husbands, for better or worse, were a necessary requirement; if there was a better way, none of them dared risk it.

But Stanley was not like other husbands she knew. His lawn was not a consuming passion, he didn't play golf and he never stopped at the Happy Frog Bar and Grill. Money was not a problem with the Schnitzels, it was something that passed from the doughnut shop through Stanley's hands to Sheila to do with as she saw fit.

He couldn't dance worth a damn and he sat in a corner with that far away look in his eye on the rare occasions when friends came to call. They often thought he was a victim of mental or financial depression, but Sheila knew better, he was slogging his way through a self created morass of plot development or extricating a hero and heroine from a nasty situation.

Stanley's particular branch of literature was purple prose. It is a genre composed of equal parts of 'romance' and 'love', with enough porn thrown in to keep the pot boiling. His attraction to this often sleazy form of literature fulfilled much of what he lacked in his relationship with Sheila. Neither Sheila nor Stanley were physically attracted to the other but together they formed a workable union. Sheila was not unattractive, she still had a figure kept firm, if not supple, by means of a weekly work-out at the local spa. She was childless -- always a plus for keeping a figure. Her hair, which had been blond was now a mixture of pink and silver and was rather striking in artificial light. Occasionally, when walking past the Happy Frog Bar and Grill on her way to the spa, a plaintive whistle or two would greet her from the open door. She was not wholly displeased -- what woman would be?

Stanley, however, had let himself go to pot. From years in the doughnut shop his midriff was carried above his belt line and even the pants of his good suit were wrinkled and ruffled at the ankles. His face had grown quite red from the hot fat fryer which may or may not account for his lack of eyebrows and a receding hairline. He had tried, with mixed success to grow a mustache. It, too, fought a losing battle with the hot fat fryer and seemed to cringe like a frightened thing under his upturned nose. In all frankness, he resembled Oliver Hardy, and sad to say, he knew it.

Stanley's output in the realm of purple prose consisted of 34 volumes. None had been published. All of them had been turned down by major and minor publishers and many were not even returned to him although he had carefully submitted each of them with return postage included. He came to think that a title, such as "Dierdre's Awakening" (one of his favorites) lost a great deal of its bite when the publisher read the author's name "by Stanley Schnitzel", and since most best sellers contain a picture of the author on their dust jackets, he feared his Oliver Hardy appearance might be a drawback. Through no fault of his own he had been cursed with a face and body of a stand up comedian and a name that would give an editor heartburn. The soul of Romeo imprisoned in the body of Oliver Hardy.

Stanley figured a pen name would certainly help, so would a few month's vigorous running and stretching with Sheila at the spa. Perhaps a poetic toupee with dark and flowing hair in the style of Alfred Lord Tennyson. But first of all ... his name.

"Sheila -- how do you like the name Randy Lovelock?"

Sheila, marking her place in her cookbook answered, "Why, is he coming for dinner? I wish you'd tell me these things Stannie I can't throw something together at a moment's notice every time you feel like bringing somebody home with you." Sheila was pragmatic, she always looked at things from the side she saw them on.

"I'm thinking of adopting a pen name Sheila." Sheila was about to say something unkind about him changing his pen face as well, but checked herself and returned to the chicken croquette recipe she planned for the evening.

"I can't think of you as Randy Lovelock Stannie -- what's the matter with Stanley Schnitzel? I'd rather be a Sheila Schnitzel than a Sheila Lovelock."

"It's just a pen name Sheila, not a real name. I think Schnitzel is one of the reasons I can't get anything published. People can't believe ... listen to this," he quoted, "Their mounting passion, their unfulfilled longing for each other erupted in a blinding embrace ended only by their mutual release -- they lay quietly, each marveling at the other" Stanley paused for breath. "Now I ask you Sheila, could such a thing come from Stanley Schnitzel?"

"No ... certainly not from the Stanley Schnitzel I know" Sheila sighed.

Stanley ignored the innuendo and went on about changing his physical persona including the flowing toupee and the routine at the spa.

"Well, do you want chicken croquettes or not?" Her patience was growing thin. It was one thing to have him gaze blankly past her left ear and scribbling in bed in the dead of night -- but here he was trying to be somebody he wasn't. Why couldn't he be satisfied making the best doughnuts in town and mowing his damn lawn like every other man she knew, and what was all this about 'mutual release' and 'blinding embrace'? He had to be spending too much time at the fat fryer ... perhaps the time had come to put her foot down!"

She did so. She said, "You can be Randy Lovelock if you want to be, but don't expect me to call you Randy when you're not, and so far as 'Lovelock' goes, you're not getting me into any of your purple prose."

The next few months found Stanley sweating and straining at the spa and eating nothing but fruit and green leaves. He mowed the lawn daily, his long flowing jet black toupee often dangled damp and seductively to his shoulders. Even his mustache blossomed.

To many people in the neighborhood it appeared that Sheila had remarried. He was still Stanley to Sheila and the name "Schnitzel" still hung on the mail box, but somehow the musky aura of 'Lovelock" spread its carnal wings over the tiny town. Stanley changed. He was no longer the pot bellied doughnut maker he was a few months ago. He no longer looked like Oliver Hardy, and the perfumed pink haired ladies in the town of Needle Pines responded to the change like forest does in rut. They were quick to pass the time of day with Stanley as he mowed his already manicured lawn.

It wasn't long before "Dierdre's Awakening" received its first acceptance by a major publisher. His portrait, three quarter profile, adorned the back cover. It was the spitting image of Lord Byron. Two hundred and fifty thousand copies were planned and Stanley was asked to appear at a book signing at Barnes and Noble in a neighboring town.

"You can't come with me" Stanley informed Sheila with unaccustomed firmness. Sheila's response was as always, noncommittal and limited to the vast chasm that existed between them.

"Just as well, don't expect me to sit there while you're signing your dirty books. What will people think! I'm a decent Christian woman, I don't have any truck with those sluts in your purple prose." Stanley would have preferred Sheila to be there if, by some stretch of the imagination, she could have passed as a transfigured Dierdre, but she was no longer the type. Dierdre was a virgin teetering on the brink of discovery and Randy was a knight in shining armor. Sheila would have given the game away.

The day finally arrived. Stanley wore a new pair of polyester slacks, a silk shirt, a tan safari jacket and a paisley ascot. He carried a crocodile Dundee bush hat to finish off the out-doorsy look. It was a little tight and he was afraid of what might happen to his toupee if he were forced to remove it quickly so he carried it under his arm. His hours were ten to five and Sheila dutifully drove him to Barnes and Noble in the old Biscayne. Taking a deep breath, he walked in and introduced himself to the store manager who had been through book signings many times before.

"Every two hours, take a break -- you know, if you have to take a leak or something. Try to hold the noise down, remember people come in here to buy books, not to see you."

Stanley was escorted to a bridge table near the front door. There was a line of elderly ladies already standing there waiting for him. Each of them had a copy of "Dierdre's Awakening" ready for signing. There was the cloying scent of lavender in the air and although Stanley was ready for almost any eventuality in the dream world of his purple prose, the physical presence of his adoring fans was frightening.

He eased himself into a folding chair at the table and smiled his first smile of the day.

"Oh! Mr. Lovelock, I did so enjoy the book ... the passage ... let me see, it went ... 'Oh Neville, you are the bow ... I am the cello, together our music will be the melody of love ... ' you certainly know the way to a woman's heart, please write "for you, Agatha, and our time together."

Gawdamighty! thought Stanley, is it going to be like this all day ... is this my audience?

With a shaky hand he penned the words Agatha requested and flustered as he was, started to sign his name Stanley Schnitzel, but caught himself after the first "S", changed it to an "R" and carefully wrote "Randy Lovelock." It looked as though it had been written by a six year old child, but as the day wore on and the line of ladies tottered past him, each with a personal request, his hand grew steadier. He had lunch at the nearby Burger King where (thank God) no one recognized him. The burger didn't sit well and as the afternoon wore on his stomach churned and he was forced to use the men's room almost hourly.

What would happen, he wondered, if this parade of old biddies is still here at five o'clock -- maybe I should write faster he thought. But try as he might, the faster he wrote the faster the old ladies appeared. He was reminded of the endless line of ducks in a shooting gallery, they just keep coming -- all the ammunition in the world can't stop them.

Five o'clock finally came and the store manager came over to break it up. "Randy's had enough ladies ... wasn't it nice of him to take the time to ... "

It has been said that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and I firmly believe it is an understatement. The manager's normally bland expression turned to one of alarm as the unsatisfied ladies gathered menacingly around the two men.

"Whaddya mean, he's had enough! He ain't signed my book yet -- I paid twenty two fifty for this here Dierdre thing and by Jesus he's gonna sign it!"

"You just sit right there Randy -- you ain't gettin' outta here until you write your name and "with undyin' affection" right there on the first page!"

Other, more unprintable comments were hurled, hissed and snarled at them and Stanley cringed behind the shaky bridge table holding the folding chair in front of him for protection much like a tamer who has suddenly lost control of his performing lions. The lavender scent was gone now and the raw smell of physical contact was in the air. The manager's aplomb melted quickly -- he tried stern ... that didn't work either. He was brushed out of the way along with the bridge table. The folding chair was wrested from Stanley's grip and the old ladies wrestled him to the floor. They weren't going to leave without a piece of Randy Lovelock to take home with them.

If it hadn't been for Sheila, who at that precise moment arrived to take him home, there might have been little left of Stanley. But Sheila was magnificent! Her training at the spa had prepared her for just such an emergency and she waded in like a bowling ball scattering the old ladies right and left. There lay Stanley, his toupee gone and his crocodile Dundee bush hat pulled askew. Even his polyester pants were pulled down to his knees.

"What the Hell have you been up to Stanley Schnitzel? Pull yourself together you old fool ... you're coming home with me right now! ... supper's on the stove." There were no sweeter words in the world, Stanley thought. They were the very words Stanley was hoping to hear.

They had chicken croquettes that night, the most delicious he'd ever tasted. He slept the sleep of an innocent babe through the night, waking only once to share the sweetest 'mutual release' he'd ever had with Sheila.

1996 Harry Buschman

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