Testimony of Autotruck Driver, part I (translated from the French)

"Dangerous? The boy I am remembering? I hardly think so, or at the least, hardly was he seeming so, standing there on the wayside, in the sand, in the moonlight… very pale, this boy. Like a nightbloom in the headlights. Of dogs I saw none--that is, until I had halted my autotruck. Very dark, this dog, no? The boy…yes, that’s the one: slender, white, of features most delicate. To be frank—will you permit me to be frank, officer? Bon. Merci. Between the two of us, then I thought he was, how to put it, soliciting. Offering favors of affection for a small price. I invited him into the cab. The dog I did not invite. Nonetheless, he leaped up onto the floorboards.

"The boy rode in silence. I do not think he comprehended my overtures until I put it them most directly. How did he respond? Non, merci, he said. The only words he spoke for the duration of the ride. When he said this, I could see by the light of the dashboard that his teeth were mossy. I was puzzled by a contrast so striking between skin and tooth. But if, as you say, there had been at one time a physiognomic-reformulator, then perhaps he had found it difficult to insert a toothrag. Or perhaps he had none. The hygiene at these orphanages is terrible. Or so they say.

"May I smoke? Merci. Do not think me a monster, is what I told him. One gets, you understand, lonely out there in the desert, with only the vats of milk rattling in the truckbed for interlocutors.

"I let him go in the town of Chemin-du-fer, having forced a few franc notes into his clenched hand. Even with the toothmoss, you see, he was a lovely boy. The dog followed him in silence, but turned once, on the verge of the shadows, to flash his eyes at me. I had the impression that the dog would not have been pleased for me to pursue my little whim with the boy. Therefore, perhaps it was not the boy who caused the damage?"

In Which it is Revealed that the Narrator will give his fictional stand-in a jones for glossy magazines

I confess: I have an obsession with trash magazines. Sure, if you visit me at the Hot Face Chancery in DC, you’ll find on my coffee table the kind highbrow fare calculated to make you think me witty, urbane, and in-the-know: Harper’s, McSweeneys, the New York Review (oh ho! The New Yorker is beneath me), The Oxford American, Martha Stewart, that kind of crap. But I have to force myself to slog through Joan Didion’s think pieces. It’s trash I really crave: People, Newsweek, Rolling Stone. Sometimes, in waiting rooms or while visiting relatives who subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, I’ll digest five or six back issues in one sitting. Afterwards, I’ll find myself muddle-headed, with a woozy kind of sugar-high and trace amounts of guilt, as though I was still fifteen and had just come off a masturbation bender. I do not know the capital of Surinam, but boy, do I ever know about Demi Moore! And Roger Moore! And Dudley Moore! Ask me anything. Go on. I’m begging you. Please.

Side note: After the interestingly disastrous end to his film career, Hot Face will discover there’s much to love about living in a chancery. For one thing he’s not on U.S. soil (man without a country, get it?) and is free to make his own laws. I will accept suggestions from either of the people who read this as to what some of those laws should be. Some may be published. Winners get, oh…I don’t know…a monogrammed banana. Void where prohibited.


Several Reasons Why Hot Face's Dog Is Hotter Than Hot Face

I got a dog last week. I'm wondering when Tom Waits got his first dog; if I knew that, I would know whether having a dog should make me feel old and tied-down or drunk and restless. Anyway, this one seems to like me. I found him near a blue highway in West Virginia. Reasons why he's hotter than I am:

1. His fur is black, but with this reddish patina. Absorbs heat.
2. He might have scabies. How many dogs can say that?
3. He's got me really excited for when he shits. I get this visceral thrill out of watching him drop a Funk Bomb on someone's yard, and when I say "good boy," he knows I mean it.
4. He's got me talking to him in front of the neighbors. You're supposed to choose a special word that means "take a shit," and then to repeat that word each time they take a shit, so they'll make the association. My word is "gick," because that's what they say in Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha, and I never use it otherwise. So late at night, you might catch me standing with the dog in a patch of grass, going, "Gick. Gick. Gick," but with this urgency in my voice because I'm drunk and want to go to bed. I sure get some funny looks.
5. He likes to thrash his toy Octopus about to break its neck, just in case it's developed vertebrae since the last time he played with it.
6. Every Quixote needs a Sancho Panza. I'm not sure which of us is which in this relationship.
7. His name is Milo and he likes to jump on people. I suppose it's bad manners, but I'm going to encourage it. Maybe it will come in handy on our journey to Hollywood.
8. There's a whole secret society of dog people, especially in Mt. Pleasant. If you don't believe me, get a dog. I think I'm relatively cute, yet I labor in obscurity, while Milo has but to show his face to attain instant celebrity. And I'm his wing man. Suddenly, neighbors who never said "Hi" want to talk to me, but I know they're just using me to get close to Milo, because every time I try to change the subject to non-canine issues, they get that glassy look in their eyes that I get when people try to talk to me about Richard Rorty. So don't, okay? I don't care about Richard Rorty. Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes: I've lived next to James Canty for over a year now, and not once has he acknowledged my existence: not when Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were staying over; not when I saw him in the video store with Brendan's kids; not when I positioned myself on my stoop with my guitar and sang that "Cars" song by Gary Numan, hoping that he would invite me to join his band--never. And then, yesterday, we're on our stoops, him with Lily's dog Rerun, and me with Milo, and he's all, "Oh, hey, Man!" Uh-uh, girlfriend. I've been through that with Svenonious already! On second thought, I'll take it where I can get it.

One of the Stories I've Heard About the Origins of Hot Face

In the sordid maternity wing of a hospital deep in unmapped Algeria, a young mother-to-be prayed for the Lord to mark her child with some gift--make this child a great leader of the people, she murmured, wincing from pain. Give this child, O Lord, great courage, intelligence, or strength. If, in your infinite wisdom, you see fit, make this child invincible. At least, grant this child, O Lord, a better life than mine. Perhaps it is true that God does not speak French, for when, after two days of labor, an heir was placed in her dying arms, his only distinction was the complete lack of sweat glands in his face.

Growing up at the orphanage, the boy wore on his head a fishbowl--tinted a deep rose to block the heat--through which he apprehended the world only dimly, and vice versa. The children pelted him with sand, for there was a shortage of rocks, and with taunts of Visage Chaud--Hot Face.

In the hot desert nights, when all the other orphans on the ward were asleep, their cruel mouths sucking on phantom lollipops, Hot Face stared into the dark recesses of the vaulted ceiling and imagined himself in America, that country where they made the moving pictures that the nuns sometimes projected onto the brick wall of the courtyard, "to shut the brats up for a couple of hours." He imagined himself the star of one of those "movies," a hero in black and white, his eloquence enshrined in the panels of letters that appeared between the scenes. He imagined himself holding in his arms a woman whose name made your mouth say "oh," like Jean Harlow or Greta Garbo. Behind his glass, at these times, Hot Face smiled to himself.

By his twenty-fourth year, Hot Face had witnessed two generations of orphans leave with their new foster families via the oxidized iron gates. He himself was never adopted, for in that country it was said that to invite hace into your house was to bring disaster on your children and your children's children. On the day of the Summer Solstice--the hottest day of the year, in fact--a letter arrived for young Hot Face, and somehow slipped through the draconian machinery of the orphanage's censor. He sat on his rusty cot, trying in vain through his fishbowl to discern some evidence of the letter's provenance, but the postmark was hopelessly blurred. Nor could he read the spidery script of the letter inside through his breath-fogged, deep-tinted bubble. He looked around. He was alone. All of the warders and orphans were in the courtyard, at the annual solstice festival, a meager affair featuring platters of soup bones and an unbreakable pinata (Oh, brutal economics of the orphanage!) He could hear the children's squeals of delight rising through the open window.
Dear Son, the letter began. Hot Face read it through to its conclusion, rose, and strode out of the building.

No one recognized him as he crossed the courtyard, for no one had seen his face. A few of the more senior matrons of the orphanage wondered whether the pale but oddly handsome stranger striding out through the gates was a potential foster parent or an inspector from the colonial government. Only when they returned to the ward to find an empty cot, and the shards of broken glass on the floor beside it, did they reach the inevitable conclusion.

Achtung, children! The Hot Face is abroad tonight!