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Chapter 15:
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The Buick Roadhog had lots of passenger room, but it's trunk was surprisingly small, "Not even big enough to hide a body," Gil once said.

That probably explained why the car never became popular with organize crime and went out of production after just one year.

So while there were only five of them in the eight passenger vehicle, they now shared the space with $1,465.12 worth of items from the Glypha's gift shop. As you might imagine, it was not a comfortable arrangement. Not particularly safe, either, as Gil couldn't see out of the back window.

"I doubt they ever intended to fool anyone, Dak," the Professor explained, holding a delicate set of souvenir demitasse cups on his lap. "It was probably just a kind of mock-up to test of out of Weiss' theories."

"I didn't think they could have not seen the copyright notice," Dak said, after explaining that the fragment had read, "© 1992 Forgery Factory,"

"And you surely did them a favor by breaking it," the Professor chuckled, "If word had gotten out they would have been the laughing stock of the antiquities establishment."

"It was all Dak's faul... idea" Arial said, moving to her left to prevent a bag of books from digging into her leg. Now the door handle dug into her side.

They'd been in the car for 15 minutes and were still only a block away from the Glypha. Rush hour traffic was the worst, especially after Gil insisted on turning off the air conditioning lest the car overheat.

"How about stopping at the Happy Sea Lion restaurant," Gil said, stomach growling, "they have a great view and..." he added.

"...terrible food," Dak interrupted. I got salmonella there as a kid. Threw up for two weeks. You can't be that hungry."

"That was years ago, they changed owners..." Gil suggested.

"Tourist trap. They serve frozen fish to busloads of European tourists who've never seen the Pacific ocean before," Dak replied, coldly.

"How about the Deep Bleu, Dak, that's supposed to be good," Arial said.

"Chi chi, run by that guy with the clothes store in Melrose," Dak responded, drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of every sit-down restaurant in the greater Los Angeles area.

Arial tried to argue, "But I hear the food's..."

"Overpriced and undercooked," Dak finished her sentence.

The Professor piped up, "Dak, I wrote about the Lonely Lobster's world famous crab toast last year, it's not far from..."

"...canned crab," Dak insisted, "and the service is terrible, everything arrives cold, except the vissicuois."

"The Ivy at the Beach," Arial said, and silence overcame the passengers, not even Dak able to find a complaint.

There was a pause, then "We'll never get reservations," Dak mumbled.

"But you're famous, Dak..." Paula said, innocently.

"Yes, he's famous, but not famous enough," Arial explained. Arial had written an article about this phenomenon for M magazine titled "Vertical Fame: the world famous people you've never heard of,"

"You see, Paula," Arial continued despite the fact that Dak started to pout, "fame has evolved into a multi-tiered system. There's international superstardom that comes with movies or being president of the United States. People like Fonda, Redford, Reagan (he gets both movies and presidency in the picture), Newman, Streisand, Schwarzenegger, and that one who sang in the Fabulous Baker Boys but I can't remember her name..."

"Kim Basinger?" Paula suggested

"I don't think so, " Arial wrinkled her forehead for a second, figured it didn't really matter, and continued, "but you're right, she's I-F (Internationally Famous). Then there's the next tier, N-F, national fame, which goes to politicians and TV celebrities. American N-F's can sometimes pass national boundaries, especially the TV people because American TV is seen all over the world. Still, the fame of these people is limited and locked into a particular character so they're often typecast and either die penniless or end up hawking toilet tissue on television. And non-American N-F's can be huge stars in their own countries, say, Japan or England, but to the rest of the world they might as well be proctologists."

Paula and the Professor were fascinated by this explanation. Dak was embarrassed because in LA it's considered an something of a personal transgression not to be famous enough.

"The next level is vertical fame, that's where Dak and the Professor fit in. These are people who are famous within their profession, even if it's a very narrow field, such as sheep sheering or waste disposal. The outside world will never have heard of them, but there are at least several thousand people who think they're are the greatest thing since the lanolin or the incinerator."

"What a lovely word picture you've painted for us, Arial," Dak said, sulking and sweating, the heat and exhaust fumes finally getting to him and his suit (it actually wrinkled).

"Finally, there's local fame," Arial said, winding down, "This category belongs to local politicians and TV anchor or weather people. You're a big fish in a very small pond. After that, all that's left is complete obscurity."

They paused to ponder this, then Paula proclaimed, "I just remembered, I bought some pasta salads at the café for the Professor's Pasta collection. Freddie, you wouldn't mind if we ate some of them, would you?"

"Certainly not, my dear," the professor said, seemingly unfazed at being placed in the vertical fame category Dak found so demeaning. "After all, in this heat they'll start to stink soon anyway--but then, so will we!"

Paula and the Professor chuckled. Dak brooded--if only he'd found the real McGuffin stone, then he might have been internationally famous and could have gotten a table at the Ivy any time, even a Friday night...

Arial leaned over and whispered into Dak's ear, "If you were any more famous you'd have people staring at you in restaurants. And I'd have to beat the women away with a baseball bat. You wouldn't want that, would you, pookie?"

Dak smiled, then kissed her hand. She was right--again. He leaned his head on her shoulder, felt better immediately, and took a nap.

This is what he dreamed:

A tropical island. Dancing Natives. A volcano. A high priest dressed in feathers carries the McGuffin above his head and throws it into the mouth of the volcano...

This evolves into a floorshow at Kelbo's, a tropical restaurant Dak used to like before they tore it down and replaced it with a RecordCity store that didn't contain a single record--just CD's and videos.

Dak and Arial are sharing a plate of Pookie, an incredibly sweet dish made from coconut butter, pineapple juice and pieces of papaya. He spoons the last bite into her mouth, then they go to the dance floor where they put on grass skirts and disco-hula together. They knock into a waiter who is carrying a large black stone tray with dishes on top. Everything falls to the floor and smashes into thousands of tiny pieces. Dak picks up a piece, the same one he picked up in the store room at the Glypha. It, too, says "© 1992 Forgery Factory," but upon closer inspection Dak notices that the words are just a decal, designed to keep thieves from stealing what they mistake as fake...

Dak wakes with a start at the same moment the car hits a pothole. The car radio is playing a slow Randy Neuman song.

"It was real," he announces, as the others look at him blankly, their mouths filled with tortalini filled with mahi-mahi in a white wine sauce.

He describes his dream to them. They chew on the pasta, and his theory.

"It's not outside the realm of possibility," the Professor announces, licking his plastic spork (half spoon, half fork), as they drive off into a sunset made especially beautiful by a stage 2 smog alert.

The song fades and a radio weatherman talks over the end of it, recommending that people in the LA basin stay home and breathe as little as possible...

The last chapter contains the secret. To read the last chapter, email me with your comments


Copyright © 2001 Daniel Will-Harris,

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[1: A plain brown bloodstained wrapper]
[Cunning Plans]
[Death takes a cruise]
[A little underwater music]
[International house of toast]
[Just loafing around]
[Just hanging around]
[Seeing things]
[Fish stories]
[Merman to Mermen]
[The scenic route]
[The value of nothing]
[Garbage out]
[All rights reserved]