1. DOMINO VS TIARA
“I’m not an avocado,” said Tiara.
Domino pinned the bow over her derriere, smoothed the shimmering fabric, and admired the fit. “When I said you looked ripe, I meant like a fruit, not a vegetable.”
“I’m not a fruit.”
“You’re a flower, Tiara.”
“I’m not a flower, Dominodella.” He hated it when she fooled with his name. “I’m too rich to be a flower. I’m a castle.”
“You are a castle, yes. But this creation turns you into a revolution.”
“I adore revolutions. But this revolution looks too full over my butt.”
“It’s the line, dear. You cannot argue with the line. Even I, Domino, do not argue with the line. The line is my Mussolini.”
“All I see is butt city. If this is a revolution, it won’t overthrow a car pool.”
Tiara could be cranky, but this was a little over the top, Domino thought. Even if her precious butt was at stake. These rich society ladies were all the same; you had to stand over them with a whip to make them behave.
“May I remind you, Tiara dear, that this gown is a creation that sprang straight from my brain in Paris, where revolutions have been born for centuries.”
“May I suggest, Dominorini dearest, that you overnight your brain from Paris to this room in New York, where we eat revolutions for breakfast and spit them out before noon.”
“May I remind you, Tiara, my magnificent tulip, that I allowed you to jump the queue ahead of Alana, Taffeta and Urbana to wear this creation.”
“May I remind you, my dear sweet Dominobambi, that I was the first one who bought a dress from you when you were still whoring your way through the foothills of Tuscany.”
“May I remind you, Tiara, my glorious rhododendron, that you had the taste of a ski instructor before I took pity on you.”
“May I remind you, Dominobella baby, that I own this hotel, and that you might find yourself flung into the street in ten seconds.”
It was never clearly established who slapped whom. Later, lawyers for both parties claimed the other had initiated the violence. Privately, of course, Tiara told her friends that not only had she slapped the famed couturier, she had also kneed him in the groin, while Domino let it be known that he had smacked Tiara so hard her wig went flying, revealing the unflattering effect of her recent bout with chemotherapy.
To him fell the burden of repairing the rift.
Xavier was Domino’s ex-lover, factotum, and business partner. Among a select circle of cognoscenti, they were known as the Tristan and Isolde of fashion. Domino, sublime in matters of concept and taste, instinctively knew how to intimidate rich patrons. Xavier, the hard-nosed strategist, had the expertise to shuffle deals and finance with flinty-eyed brinkmanship. He’d miraculously engineered the House of Domino through three near-bankruptcies, and launched it into its current eminence, where the name Domino was synonymous with safely outrageous fashion, emblematized by Domino’s signature use of zippers in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles.
“I fertilize, you retain,” Domino was fond of saying. “I am the penis who spills. You are the anus who holds. Creativity and discipline. Our enterprise needs both.”
Their fragrance business, spearheaded by the fabulously successful DOA, was a textbook example of their teamwork. Domino came up with the concept, a twisted bottle adorned with blood-red splatters, while Xavier closed those lucrative contracts with Japan, Germany, and Argentina. The incredibly successful skin cream Sperma (“Every ounce contains a drop of the gift of life, gently harvested from young goatherds in the Urals”) wouldn’t have been profitable if Xavier hadn’t persuaded those Arab potentates to order it by the oil-tanker for their harems. Even the underwear business would never have taken off if Xavier hadn’t refined Domino’s concept. Admittedly, Domino was the one who wanted porn stars in his underwear ads (“They must be thick and juicy, I want that slut look that men have in America”), but Xavier came up with the master stroke of having the silhouettes of their organs appear dimly in shadow play. His was the bass to Domino’s tenor, the jug to Domino’s wine, the logos to Domino’s free-flowing eros.
“You went too far with that Tiara cow, Domino. I’ve sent her a roomful of flowers and a small Picasso, but she sent the Picasso back. Kept the flowers. Now what are we going to do?”
Domino knocked back his vodka, neat in a shot glass. He filled it again.
“Let her rot in her cancer. May it metastasize into facial disfigurement before finishing her off with months of pain no drug can relieve.”
“We can’t let her rot. She has the lease on the Fifth Avenue space where we have your fall collection coming up.”
“I shit on her.” Domino finished rolling a joint, and sucked half of it away in one long fluid breath.
“You can shit on her, but your excrement will fall on a loss of eight million dollars and ten years of goodwill with all the big department stores here.”
“I shit on eight million dollars and a century of goodwill.”
“Something tells me you need to get back to Milan to start work on your ready-to-wear spring collection.”
“I want to fuck. I have been here three days and who is there to fuck?”
“A beautiful boy from Kansas has arrived.”
“I fuck too many boys from Kansas. I am sick with Kansas.”
“I’ll talk to Gargosm.”
“Your New York art dealer. You bought the Henry Moore from him. And the boy from Mississippi.”
“You mean Gargoyle.”
“His name is Gargosm.”
“He likes them too thin. I want the solid meat. Steak, not fish.” Domino laid out two lines of cocaine, and after Xavier declined, snorted up both in the blink of an eyelid.
“I will find you a fish.”
“Not a fish. A steak.”
“I will find you a steak.”
“That cow has us over the barrel. What do we do about her?”
“She is the big sucker for Henry Moore.”
“Xavier, you want me to give up the Henry Moore piece for the vulgar cow on Central Park East?” Domino washed down four Quaaludes with a vodka.
“It will be an inferior piece.”
“She knows the difference. She sucked me dry like the lemon. What do you think of this piece, Domino? This is an important piece, isn’t it, Domino? Pulling my knowledge out of me like the tick gorging itself on the deer’s anus. I shit on her and her cancer.”
“A Henry Moore will soften her up.”
“By the way, which Picasso was it that you sent to her?” Domino stuck his nose in a piece of paper and sniffed out every last puff of heroin.
“A big drawing.”
Xavier, you are a fool. A slut like that, you have to stick canvas up her hole, not paper. You don’t know the first thing about my customers.” Domino swallowed the corner of a blotter of LSD.
“You don’t know the first thing about your business.”
“I have the instincts. You have the negotiating. I shit on the negotiating.”
“If it weren’t for my negotiating, you’d have no place to shit.”
Domino sighed. “Take the Henry Moore off the mantelpiece. I am filled with the pain. It is a key work, as they say in this country where the population is as tasteless as the food.”
“Thank you. Alfred’s been calling. He’s found another supermodel. Nobody asked him to find one, but you know Alfred. He is Alfred.”
“Supermodel. How boring. Another pretty funnel for the drugs.” Domino took a hit of angel dust, two capsules of Ecstasy, and swallowed three mushrooms without chewing. He followed it with two quick vodkas.
“Maybe we should consider this. We need a new face for your collection. A new angle for the press. And this one’s cheap. She’s also very different.”
“She’s a cripple, maybe? A beautiful cripple? We have overlooked them too long. Let us seize the hour for handicapped chic.”
“No. She’s six foot six and black. The most beautiful woman in the world. And she doesn’t even speak English.”
“What does she speak?” Suddenly worried that the drugs might slow him down a bit, Domino gulped a fistful of amphetamine pills. He jammed them into his mouth. Two or three fell on the floor but he hunted them down.
“Swavimbi. She’s from Ungungu.”
“Somewhere in Africa.”
“She’s bald, yes?”
“Just what we need. Another Michael Jordan with tits.”
2. ON THE DARK CONTINENT
Alfred came to fame with his hunger series. He’d photographed all the major eighties artists nude, had done portraits of all the Native American chiefs, all the sex workers in Washington and Hollywood, all the AIDS victims in New York, all the drag queens of Harlem, and all the midgets of Brooklyn, including a series of his mother’s double mastectomy and her subsequent death from Asian flu, but nothing had caused greater controversy than the hunger series. Milton Stummer called it “pornography of the soul.” Dieter Sheldull wrote that “Alfred Stereo confidently skirts the edge between pimp and parasite.” Musin Montag stigmatized it as “a puff of arriviste air from the bowels of post-modernism.” Arturo Dansca decried it as “the most compromised vision since Hitler’s watercolors.”
Domino immediately signed Alfred to an exclusive fashion contract, an unprecedented move on two counts. Number one, nobody had ever signed a photographer to an exclusive contract, and number two, Alfred wasn’t even a fashion photographer.
“Tell him we will educate her so she speaks English.”
Alfred, who’d once talked his way into the hospital room of a Newport heiress dying of anorexia, was having problems with Sokse’s father. Sokse was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He had already called Xavier about her.
“Her father says you can screw her here in the village. So why take her away across the water?” Alfred was sure the interpreter was twisting his words in translation, but what could he do?
“Tell him I don’t want to screw her, I want to photograph her.”
“He doesn’t understand.”
Alfred lifted his Nikon and clicked at the gigantic beauty. Her features broke his heart every time he pointed his lens at her.
“I want to do this with her.” Click, click.
“He doesn’t understand how you can screw in this way.”
“Tell him I don’t want to screw her, I’m a photographer.”
“He still doesn’t understand.”
Alfred sighed. “OK, tell him I want to screw her. And then tell him I want to screw her in New York because that’s where my bed is.”
The patriarch, surrounded by his four wives and twenty-seven children, smiled.
“Now he understands.”
“How much does he want?”
“He says the loss of his favorite daughter gives him a lot of pain that no money on earth can relieve.”
“Tell him I understand a father’s pain and in these circumstances money can be no compensation, but we have to start somewhere.”
“Two hundred dollars.”
“Two hundred dollars!”
“Hundred and fifty dollars.”
“Deal.” Ever after Alfred would be plagued with the thought of how low Mr. Ntsohluvubuhu was prepared to go. Fifty bucks? Five? A quarter?
As a man burdened by a social conscience, Alfred arranged for a borehole driller to visit the hamlet of Ukululu to sink a well under the big tree, and spare the women the six-mile walk to the river. He debated about ruining the village aesthetic – the ladies looked so splendid with those calabashes on their heads – but decided that in this case, charity beat out beauty.
3. TIARA ON THE PHONE IN HER LAIR
Tiara fidgeted with the caviar on her plate as she cradled the phone. She was lying on mauve silk sheets in her big Versailles bed, propped up against giant pillows of Victorian lace. One resculpted breast peeked over the organdy frills of her nightdress by Armani.
“The little cocksucker sent me a Henry Moore. I’ve got him running scared.”
“Go easy on him, Tiara,” said Spriggy. “He’s the most talented fag of us all.”
“Talent is no excuse for temperament, sweetie.”
“But it is, Tiara. Look at you.”
“You can’t generalize from me. I’m the exception to all the rules.”
“Sometimes you and Domino are quite alike.”
“No way. I’ve never let anyone bonk me in the butt except my third husband, and that was six years ago.”
“Rumor has it that Domino is a top, not a bottom, my dear.”
“How would you know?” asked Tiara.
“I rest my case.”
“You did not.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Say it isn’t so, Spriggy.”
“It was a soufflé. Not an affair by any means. He was really very sweet. We flew to Bombay. The villa was full of my favorite flowers. There’s a tender side to him nobody knows.”
“Don’t try to soften my heart. I intend to punish him this time. I raised him from the gutter. I can send him back there.”
“You’re so Greek.”
“My spies tell me his empire is tottering again.”
“He is not without his resources,” said Spriggy.
“Let it be a duel to the finish then. My immune system could do with a good fight.”
“You’re serious about this, Tiara?”
“My God. I don’t believe it. This will be the biggest war the fashion business has ever seen.”
“And you, my sweet mahogany bottom, will help me.”
There was a pause whose pregnancy belied its infancy.
Spriggy broke the silence. Instantly he cast his mind back over years of competing loyalties. He had no more than a moment to weigh one of those existential decisions about his future in the business he loved (a business which had allowed him, an outcast from Mississippi, not only to apply his Nubian queenliness to great personal profit, but also to flaunt its portly charm across three continents), a decision on which he could spend not even a split second of hesitation – Tiara would judge even the slightest pause – a decision which he had to wear as lightly as pixie dust, and which sped him to the most crucial of crossroads: where his bread was buttered. His voice found the right words with the silken ease of the practiced acolyte.
“So what’s your first move, Empress?” Spriggy asked.
4. ALFRED AND HIS BEAUTIFUL MODEL FACE U.S. CUSTOMS
There were moments when Alfred wished America were as corrupt as other countries when it came to the picayune matters of everyday life. On the grand scale, of course, America was more corrupt and venal than all other industrial countries put together, with the greediest elite that ever sucked up a nation’s tax dollars. But when it came to the little nuisances of petty officialdom, things were different. You could never be sure, for example, how an immigration official would respond to the minor hint of one hundred dollars. (The one shining exception was the police. Only they had the true liberal attitude. No matter where they lived – New York, Tokyo, Paris or Mogadishu – they instinctively took to the amiable vernacular of graft.)
Alfred eyed the immigration officer’s greasy head. Back in Ungungu, Sokse’s documents had been stamped with not even a glance at their contents after the appropriate percentage had been slipped across. Her father, Mr. Ntsohluvubuhu, had not even quibbled about the price. But here in backward, primitive New York, the official was actually inspecting the contents of the documents. Even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with them. Alfred had made very sure of that. He had imported none other than Stanza Kroger, the famous feminist hyperrealist painter, to carry out the forgeries. Stanza, who was making more money out of this commission than she had ever made out of all her famous images in the eighties, might have reveled in this close perusal of her work by an appreciative audience of one, but Alfred did not. As much as he liked the forgeries (he’d agreed that they be shown in Domino’s art collection after Sokse’s naturalization), studying the documents was not this official’s job. Stamping them was. Looking was the job of gallery browsers, not immigration officers.
“So according to these documents, this woman is adopted,” Greasy Head said, lowering his glasses to inspect the towering Sokse.
“Yes, she’s been adopted by Monsieur Domino, the famous designer.”
“This Domino person, he is her father?”
“Monsieur Domino is her legal guardian and father.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s in New York. He maintains homes in Paris, Milan, Tuscany, Hamburg, London and New York, but at present he resides in New York.”
“Why is he not here with his ... er, daughter?”
“He’s preparing a collection in New York which will bring millions of dollars to our country and which will be covered by Vogue. He needs every minute to exercise his creative judgment.”
“He has to be here.”
Sokse spat into her left palm and rubbed her hand over her bald head. Framed by her magnificence, the gesture seemed perfectly natural.
“I cannot allow his ... er, daughter to enter the United States of America without a signature from him. The father has to be present. Rule 4a Specification 14 Sub-clause 85 anent.”
“But he cannot be disturbed. He’s in the midst of a fabulous collection with many beautiful models and lots of pins.”
“In that case, we have to detain the young lady, Sokse Ntsohluvubuhu, until such time as he presents himself. He has a grace period of forty-eight hours. If he doesn’t show up in that time, we’ll regrettably be forced to send her back to ... er, the place of her birth.”
“It says here Ukululu.”
“Ungungu is the country. Ukululu is the village.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Perhaps you could make an exception, owing to the great income accruing to New York from Monsieur Domino’s upcoming collection, which might lessen your and my tax burden.”
“There are no exceptions. Rule 4a is Rule 4a.”
Alfred looked at Sokse’s face – Picasso would’ve redesigned Mademoiselles d’Avignon for her – and sighed.
“I’ll have to make a call.”
He took out his cell phone, dialed, and began walking about, gesticulating wildly. At one point, he fell to his knees. When he put the cell phone back in his pocket, he was covered in sweat.
“You mean this Mister Domino, the putative father?”
“He’ll be here in ten minutes.”
“It’s impossible to get here in ten minutes.”
“He’s coming in his private helicopter.”
“This Mister Domino, he is rich?”
“He is the fourth richest man in Italy.”
“Is he richer than Bill Gates?”
“No, but he has more taste.”
“So he’s not richer than Bill Gates.”
“No, but he has a better collection of art.”
“But he’s not richer than Bill Gates.”
“No, but he can get a better table at most fine restaurants outside Seattle.”
“But he’s not richer than Bill Gates.”
“No, but his houses are more beautiful.”
“But he’s not richer.”
“No, but he lives better than Bill Gates.”
The official hesitated for a moment, and then continued.
“But he’s not richer.”
Alfred gave up. “No, he’s not richer than Bill Gates,” he conceded, and muttered to himself, “but he sleeps with better-looking people.” Standards, he thought, nobody believes in standards anymore. It’s only about money.
Alfred sensed Domino’s arrival before he actually saw his party. There was a bustle at one end, and then Xavier, Domino and two huge bodyguards in impeccably tailored Creativo suits (weeds growing out of Faberge eggs, Alfred thought) launched themselves across the tarmac towards them. The official steeled himself. Alfred suppressed a twinge of joy.
Domino ignored Alfred and cast a brief look at Sokse.
“I am Domino,” he said to the official. “Where do I sign?”
Xavier showed the official some more papers. The official nodded. Domino signed. The official stamped.
“Let us go,” said Domino, and the party walked off. Domino signaled Alfred to catch up with him. They emerged from the basement onto the ground floor. Domino pointed to a door where two limousines were waiting to take them to the helipad.
“What is her name?”
A slight black man in a shabby suit said something to Sokse.
“Who is this man?”
“He’s her interpreter,” said Alfred.
“Why is he wearing such a dreadful ensemble?”
“We will fix him up,” said Xavier.
“A gray plaid,” said Domino. “Good with the dark skin.”
“His name is Hlabla.”
“Gray plaid. She is extraordinary, Alfred. You have made the coup.”
Alfred glowed. “Thank you, Domino.”
“We will stun the media with this creature from ... where does she come from?”
Xavier checked a document. “It says here Ukululu.”
“Ukululu is the village. Ungungu is the country.”
“Where’s Ungungu?” asked Domino.
“Somewhere in Africa.”
“We will sell her to the entire world,” said Xavier.
“That too, yes. But first we must make her a history. Something for the tabloids. The fabulous myth. She was raised by the wolves, no?” Domino took a handful of pills. Alfred wasn’t sure whether they were LSD or psilocybin.
“They don’t have wolves in Africa,” Xavier pointed out.
“She was raised by monkeys.”
“We have options. Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans or bonobos.”
“Not orangutans.” Domino shuddered. “Who are bonobos?”
“They look like chimpanzees but their society is matriarchal. The lady bonobos have very deep friendships. They get together in groups of sisterhood. When any male causes trouble, they beat the crap out of him. Very peaceful society.”
“Perfect. She was raised by politically correct simians. But then we must have the tragedy.”
“This is America. There must be the pain. You cannot make the big impact in the media if you don’t confess to the great pain in your life. They don’t trust happy people here. Remember when I said I’d lost my little sister to heroin? They loved me.”
“Her idyllic existence was ruined by the intrusion of man,” said Alfred, to his own astonishment. He had no intention of adding anything to the venal myth but found himself swept along by its crudeness.
“Excellent,” said Domino. “She was captured by a band of raiders and sold to the vicious warlord who, in an ancient ritual to guarantee the well-being of his tribe, kept her locked up in a cave and raped her every month under the full moon.”
“At the age of twelve.”
“Thirteen is the best age for rape. Very hideous, but not as monstrous as twelve.”
“You people are appalling.” Alfred’s lips quivered with outrage.
“Oh, don’t be such a naive little artist, my dear Alfred. We’re not appalling. We’re realistic. This is the realpolitik of public relations imposed on everyone by the media.”
“What is her name?” asked Xavier, already bored by Alfred’s conscience.
“The name of a waterbug. I shudder.” Domino laced a big joint with angel dust before he lit up. His head was enveloped in a lethal cloud. Alfred starting coughing.
“We have two options. Anglo like Kate or Christie, or pretentious like Amber or Chantal.”
“She’s very different. Her name must be very different. We must invent a new category of name.”
“Good, but that’s still a name.”
“You are being silly. It must have the ring. And it must have the shock of the novelty.”
“Like the ca-ca? Not bad. But not right.”
“I have it.” Domino’s eyes shone as though he had just spotted a boy in from Corsica. He finished stuffing his opium pipe, lit the bowl and looked at Xavier.
“This is it. Listen. We will call her Slave. Her name will be Slave.”
Xavier nodded. Alfred sighed. Im the only real artist here, he thought. So how come I can’t think up something as sick, twisted and fabulous as that?
5. DOMINO WANTS SLAVE
Domino sat with Slave in the helicopter, Xavier and Alfred in front of him. The bodyguards and Hlabla, the interpreter, had been dispatched by car to Brooks Brothers to get the interpreter a good suit until Domino’s personal tailor could stitch up a few ensembles for him. Domino picked up Slave’s hand and showed it to the others.
“Even her hands. Look at her hands. They’re flawless. Look at the thumb. Have you ever seen a more beautiful thumb?” He smiled at Slave. She flashed a demure smile back at him.
“My god, we won’t even have to fix her teeth.”
“I told you,” said Alfred.
“Generations of genes have conspired to produce the perfect human specimen.”
“We will be able to make her famous in three months flat. Just in time for your show.”
“We must teach her English, too.”
“We have a choice of two accents. Upper-class British or French.”
“Upper-class British,” said Domino. “A French accent sounds too coquettish and cheap. We want the hauteur of the British. It will make Slave more exotic and aloof. Dignified like the goddess.”
“The hauteur of the oppressor combined with the name of the oppressed, all in one being.”
“Exactly, my sweet cherub. And we will also need someone to fuck her. A frustrated beauty is the most dangerous thing on the earth.”
“Some giant macho hero from the world of sports.”
“No, we must find a male model. Someone we can control with a big penis. Who has a big penis?”
“I don’t like that boy. He simpers.” Domino finished the last quarter in the vodka bottle and toked long and hard on his opium pipe.
“He does not simper.”
“He is too stupid.”
“That makes him easier to control.”
“He is too stupid even to control.”
“They say his penis is quite clever.”
“I shit on his penis.”
“They say he likes that too.”
“I wish you to find someone else. Who is there?”
“No, he’s too ...
“Yes, he’s too ...
“There is nobody.”
“There must be somebody.”
“Enough of this indecision. I will fuck Slave.”
“You? Domino, are you out of your Tuscany mind?”
“She is the most beautiful woman in the world. I am the man with the most taste in the world. It is the fuck made in heaven.”
“It’s the fuck made in your stupid fantasies.”
“Xavier, you know nothing about my fantasies.” Domino stirred a drug cocktail of LSD, horse tranquilizer, and MSG.
“I live in them all the time.”
“Not in my sexual fantasies.”
“You never stop telling me about them.”
“Well, you are about to experience a new one.”
“Guys, I could sleep with her if you can’t find anyone else.” Alfred tried hard to inflect some nonchalance into his voice.
“What do you guys mean, ‘please’?”
“You are an artist, silly boy. This is fashion. You do not know how to fuck in our world.”
“He’s an artist. He doesn’t know how to fuck in any world.”
“Wait a minute, guys, I slept with three semi-famous models last year.”
“And you should hear what they say about you.”
“I, Domino, will fuck her. It has been decided.”
“All of a sudden you think you can find a use for your big penis outside Kansas.”
“My big penis is not as important as my aesthetic compatibility with this genetic miracle.”
“By all means give yourself permission to bullshit me, sweet cherub, but don’t try to bullshit yourself.”
“What is this word ‘permission’? American therapy has destroyed your mind.”
“You have no mind left to destroy.”
“You used to have the character. Now your humanity has been edited out, and all you have left is the dumbfuckery of the MTV video.”
Xavier’s eyebrows quivered. “You left your humanity in your mother’s uterus.”
Domino smiled. “I have something better than humanity,” he said. “I have talent.” He opened a box of crackers and sprinkled heroin on them.
“Fucking this creature will screw up everything.”
“When has my fucking ever affected anything?”
“When has it not? What about the time with Marcello?”
“But I was doing designs in my head while I was screwing him.”
“Domino, you were gone for two weeks. Not even I knew where you were. This is no time to start screwing the most beautiful woman in the world when Tiara is out to ruin you and it’s just before your big show. I warn you, sweet cherub, you will screw up everything.”
“And I warn you, Xavier, your control of my penis stopped many years ago,” said Domino, as he inspected Slave’s perfect ears.
“We are about to land,” interjected Alfred.
“You two will take the car,” said Domino. “Slave and I will stay in the helicopter and take a flight over Manhattan. She is the virgin in Manhattan. She needs the tour.”
As the helicopter flew off, Alfred turned to Xavier. “Maybe she won’t want him.”
Xavier sighed. “I can’t decide what’ll be worse – if she doesn’t want him, or if she does. Either way, we are in for the grand disaster. You will help me try to clean up afterwards, won’t you, little artist?”
“I’ll do what I can,” said Alfred, as they watched the helicopter soar away towards the World Trade Center.
6. TIARA’S CHARITY BALL
Within a week the news was all over town. Spriggy told Viviana who told Uwa who told Evaka who told Cantata who told Tosca who told Liz who told the world. At one point someone even told a publicist, although that was hardly necessary given the circles in which Spriggy moved.
Tiara Blaine’s latest extravaganza was going to be the biggest, most amazing and chic-est Charity Ball ever. The premise was simple. All the ladies who were going to attend were told to wear their most expensive evening outfits. Then, at the ball, their gowns were to be auctioned off. Since they’d have no clothes to wear after the auction, they would change in the Big Tent of Many Cubicles, where each could bring their own dresser to fashion an outfit on the spot from a simple piece of cloth woven by Ungungu women.
The name of the Charity Ball was The Ungungu Refugee Gala. It was rumored that the Met had agreed to a special exhibition of all the Ungungu Refugee Gala Garments later in the year, complete with the name-tags of their former and current owners. The money expected to be raised, conservatively estimated in the tens of millions, was to be donated to the Ungungu Refugee Relief Fund. As everyone knew, things had turned dreadful in Ungungu, what with children starving to death by the thousands since the Ungungu Civil War started with the genocide of the Tattas by the Humus – or was it the other way around?
What’s more, Tiara Blaine had pulled off the impossible. She was going to get the reclusive Dr. Banga, he whose tribe was being massacred in Ungungu, to talk at the illustrious gathering. When Dr. Banga fled the prisons of the dictator Dr. Mabuta, and forded all those rivers and climbed all those mountains, chased by a gang of murderers, he had, on his arrival in New York in a dinghy, given a brief press conference, providing details of his own torture and the suffering of his people, and then gone incommunicado, allowing himself only some visits to the United Nations. Even though the press conference had lasted no more than a few minutes, it had reverberated through the culture. For fifty-five seconds, Dr. Banga spoke off the cuff with moving intensity. Hardened reporters sat with tears in their eyes. And while everybody was too awed to mention it out loud, it had not escaped anyone for a single moment that this epitome of statesmanship, grace and intensity, this extraordinary man who had suffered the tortures of death many times over, was gorgeous. He had the sexiest lips anyone had ever seen. Later the rumor started about his affair in the highlands of Ungungu with a European princess. This was the man whom Tiara had corralled, and everyone wanted to hear what he had to say next.
There was no doubt that the Gala combination – great cause, fun event, great man – would yield record-breaking checks. Since Tiara Blaine was the organizer, and was known to have an ego bigger than Genghis Khan, it was understood that the size of any check would bear a very direct relationship to certain rare introductions to the chairmanships of various august bodies where influence could be wielded like nine dimensions in a theory of everything.
The date, too, was auspicious. Friday, August 1st, the day on which Ungungu first became independent, also happened to be the day on which Tiara had lost her virginity to her uncle.
And it also happened to fall on the day of Domino’s opening.
7. DOMINO AND SLAVE
“I do not care. I am having the most grand weird fuck with the most beautiful woman in the world, and I will not be distracted by the little nonsense.”
Domino took a cursory lick out of a mound of cocaine lying on the coffee table in front of him, and ran his tongue over his gums. Xavier frowned. Try as he might, he could not stop his voice from rising in pitch.
“Your show is going to be a disaster. Nobody will be there. No media, no buyers, no society. They’ll all be at the Ungungu Gala.”
“But we have the real Ungungu in our show.”
“Our show is dead.”
“You are dead.”
“Domino and Partners cannot stand another disaster.
“What do you mean?”
“We are on the last legs.”
“The last legs?”
“The last legs.”
“Yes, but this time the last legs are worse than the last legs before. This time we are keeping up the body of the big corporation. This time, if we fall, we fall with the big thud which we will feel to the end of our days.”
“You are being the drama queen, which is my job, not yours.”
“I am being the businessman with the hard nose.”
“You are not being the paranoid with the spooky vibes?”
“No. Not at all.”
“Damn. I didn’t have the realization.”
“This time our shares pass into the hands of others, and we are owned by financial accountant lawyer-type people who have no imagination.”
“I shit on financial accountant lawyer-type people who have no imagination.”
“We become slave employees who work for wages instead of the big deal.”
“This is the big horror.”
“Tiara Blaine strikes again.”
“Why doesn’t the cancer kill her! For my next design project I want to design her tombstone.”
“The Henry Moore was not enough. You will have to go down on your hands and knees.”
“I have never gone down on my hands and knees to anybody unless they had the beautiful cock, and Tiara does not have the beautiful cock. I doubt she even has the beautiful vagina.”
“Well, this may have to be your first time, unless you can come up with a plan.”
“We’ll start the show at six, then people can come early and go to the Ungungu Gala afterwards.”
“Domino, you are trying to shrivel my balls. You know the ladies will be preparing themselves until the last moment for the gala. They’ll be at their hairdressers and designers all week. Also, the publicity about the gala will swamp our show. We won’t get a mention anywhere.”
“We will move to another day.”
“Everything is booked. The place, the models, the lighting, the music, the food, everything. It will cost millions to get out of it. Millions like poo-poo down the drain.”
“You are irritating me with your bad news.”
“You are the one who made the bad news with your stupid temper.”
“I should’ve done the O.J. and cut off her head with my big scissors, and just said I wasn’t there. Blood on my hands, and said I wasn’t there. No, your honor, I was at the house, not the office. The man who left the office with blood on his hands wasn’t me. Impossible. Your honor, I will spend millions to find the man who really killed my dear friend Tiara.”
“It is too late now. We are faced with the disaster of our lives.”
“We will find an enemy.”
“She has many enemies, but they can do nothing. She is too rich.”
“We must try to suck up to her and get her to change the date of the Ungungu Gala, but we must also find a way to put the big stick up her behind and twist it many times.”
“You have four options. To negotiate in private. To apologize in public. To beg in private. Or to humiliate yourself in as many ways as you can think of.”
Domino pondered the grisly options in silence. Then he spoke.
“We will start with the private negotiation.”
“We will send her twelve evening gowns from your twelve years of brilliant designs specially tailored to her measurements.”
“Brilliant, Xavier, brilliant. You are the master of the negotiating.”
“Where are you going?”
“I must return to the grand weird fuck.”
“This is no time for the grand weird fuck. We have many decisions to make.”
“You make the many decisions. I must concentrate on the one grand weird fuck.” Domino walked towards the door.
“Domino! Come back.”
“I trust you with the many decisions, cherub.”
“Domino, come back, now!”
“Do not waste the energy on shouting, my sweet cherub, you need your strength for the many decisions.” The door closed behind Domino with a sardonic thud.
8. ALFRED SHOOTS SLAVE
Alfred enjoyed photographing Slave. She was a natural. Actually, she wasn’t, but Alfred enjoyed her awkwardness. It suited his eye and his style. And he knew the awkwardness would not last. Spooked by the pernicious example of all the other models, Slave would soon enough cotton to the professional forward-thrusting of the hips they all picked up from the men who taught them to carry their pelvises up and away from their bodies, like urine specimens. But meanwhile Slave was unspoiled – a fin de siecle anomaly – and he could indulge himself in capturing the clumsy perfection of her huge limbs and sublime features. She could not speak English, so they communicated in gestures, although he also added words for her, just in case it helped her to pick up a few phrases.
“Throw your head back.”
“Put your leg out.”
“Stick your hip out that way.”
“Square your shoulders.”
“Hold your arms up.”
“Throw your pussy at me.”
After an hour’s work, which got more and more physical, they were both sweaty. He fancied he could smell the odor of her continent coming off her, a smoky, musty, dusty smell – the same continent in which, according to a small item he had read on the back page of some newspaper somewhere, Dr. Mabuta had successfully fought off the latest challenge to his power, and was now systematically executing his opponents. Alfred was glad that Slave’s family lived in a remote village. With any luck, Mr. Ntsohluvubuhu could breed more daughters in peace as the war passed him by. Alfred wondered how the little village of Ukululu was making out now that they had a well, and if Mr. Ntsohluvubuhu still had his little fortune of one hundred and fifty dollars, and what he was planning to spend it on. Alfred handed Slave a towel, and looked at her as she rubbed her naked body. She chuckled at his erection, and he chuckled back. She pulled him inside her and they had a very pleasant fuck, but there was something strange about her. After a few thrusts, her body went still. Not limp, not rigid, simply still. He stared at her magnificence and got harder than he ever had before, stiff in the face of her body’s indifference. In the end, he had to summon every ounce of his will to pull out and release himself over her perfect belly. He had never come inside anybody in his life. Only once before, a long time ago, and the trouble it caused him stopped him from ever doing it again.
Slave grinned when he was finished. Hlabla, the interpreter, sulked in a corner. Alfred tried to kiss her but she slapped him. His ears rang.
Weird, Alfred thought. Weird chick, weird fuck.
9. TIARA GETS TWELVE DRESSES
Tiara fidgeted with the quail eggs on her plate as she cradled the phone. She was lying on organdy silk sheets in her big Windsor bed, propped up against giant pillows of Ming lace. One resculpted breast peeked over the sky-blue frills of her night-dress by Prada.
“The little cocksucker sent me twelve dresses.”
“How charming. You’ve really got him running scared. Will you relent now?”
“I wouldn’t relent if God promised me total remission.”
“So Greek. Your grandmother wasn’t perhaps called Elektra?”
“My grandmother was called Savannah and she rose from the swamps to marry a drunk who had a Cadillac which was more wealth than she had ever seen in her life. I’m a self-made woman.”
“You and that Huff-and-Puffington creature who writes the awful books.”
“I didn’t fuck provosts at Oxford. I did it the hard way. I worked for my boss.”
“And what’s so hard about that?”
“Every society lady in the world threw her daughters at him. Did you know how many mergers he passed up to marry me?”
“How did you prevail?”
“An excellent strategy.”
“I knew that was the one thing I was good at. I fucked him like he’d never been fucked before. He wanted me to be his mistress, but I refused. Richard, I said, if you want to fuck me again, you’ll have to marry me. Poor man, he got erections at board meetings. Of course, afterwards I discovered I had a head for business, too, and I made him richer than any of those mergers would’ve done.”
“You’re a force of nature, Empress.”
“Spriggy, sometimes you suck up to me in such an obvious way.”
“If you’re trying to hurt my feelings, Empress, I want you to know you’re succeeding.”
“You have no feelings to hurt, Spriggy dear.”
“I am a cesspool of feelings, Empress. You have wounded me.”
“Let me tell you what I’m going to do with the twelve Domino dresses. Maybe it’ll put some salve on that pretend wound of yours.”
“Lead on, Empress.”
10. DOMINO ASKS ROGER TO SCREW SLAVE
“Roger, you are the man who has seduced more women in the world than that Beatty person before he married that woman with the funny legs.” Domino cleared the table and put a bag of dope on it, along with a second bag that was full of pills in many colors, shapes and sizes.
Roger Bordeaux stroked back a hair on his silver gray temples. Years ago, when his distinguished looks and connections could’ve launched him on a career as a matinee idol, he decided that although stardom would bring countless women to his feet, the art of acting, besides being unduly frivolous, would take up too much time, and that he should instead devote every minute of his life to women and women alone, which he did with stunning success. There wasn’t a single international beauty with a working vagina that he hadn’t bedded.
“I don’t seduce women, my dear Domino, they seduce me.”
“Whatever you say, Roger. I have a new challenge for you. Her name is Slave. She is totally faithful to me, but I give her to you for one night only, because I want you to tell me something afterwards.”
“A gentleman never tells.”
“I don’t want to hear about your gentleman bullshit. I want you to tell me what you think about her. There’s something strange about the way she behaves in bed.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know what I mean. That is why I turn to you, the expert on fucking the women. I know everything about fucking the young boys, but I am not the expert on the women. You must tell me.”
“Can’t you give me a clue?”
“You will see. Just tell me afterwards. You must promise to fuck her only once.”
“I can’t promise anything. In matters of the heart and the bed, I never promise anybody anything.”
“You must promise to fuck her only once or I will send a certain Sicilian person to cut off the instrument of your seduction with a piece of glass.”
“For you, Domino, I can always make a promise.”
“Thank you. You are a true gentleman. You will see her tonight and tell me tomorrow.”
11. XAVIER WONDERS ABOUT THINGS
Xavier wondered whether he should tell Domino about the Performance Art Event of the Year. His partner was so taken up with Slave and the designing of his collection that he might never hear about it. It was going to take place at Gargosm’s gallery, and it was going to feature twelve evening gowns donated by Domino. It was called the Twelve Sins of Capitalism. Xavier knew three things off the bat. Number one, the event was going to be earnest and didactic, with that lofty sense of self-importance the avant-garde shared with politicians and evangelists. Number two, it would probably entail blood being thrown at the audience. And number three, Tiara Blaine was paying for it, and most certainly had orchestrated the whole thing with the connivance of some anus-surfing artist. Xavier saw on the invitation that the event was sponsored by the Butterchurn Emerging Artists Foundation, and spotted Tiara’s hand. The Butterchurn Emerging Artists Foundation was known as Rachel Sprockpissen’s baby. Rachel Sprockpissen was a woman with whom Tiara had had a fling in her beginning collection days (before she paid a critic to collect for her), and whose discretion Tiara had purchased with the Butterchurn Emerging Artists Foundation. Butterchurn was known for the leading-edge, taboo-breaking work it presented. Many gays, lesbian and African-American artists went there to be shocked by their own daring. Many white male artists who were brave enough to show up at its events had been thrown out for displaying “reactionary iconic visage aspects.”
He and Domino were safe, Xavier figured. Their visages were not reactionary, even though they themselves were far from revolutionary, alternative, or subversive. All they really had to do to pass inspection, was flounce a wrist or two. Still, these days one could not rely on even such innocent details as flouncing, what with all the self-righteously butch queers around. There was going to come a time, Xavier speculated, when all the hets looked soft and sensitive, and the homos looked like weight-lifters.
In the end, Xavier decided not to tell Domino. His colleague had enough on his hands what with designing his Fall Collection and screwing Slave. The Twelve Sins of Capitalism would only upset him. He did not need any upsets. In fact, Xavier thought, Domino was lucky. At least he could throw himself into his work, while he, Xavier, had already lost eight pounds worrying about how to engineer a rapprochement with Tiara before doomsday arrived and wiped out Domino and Partners. Chances are, by the final weeks of the show, he would weigh absolutely nothing. Perhaps that was something to look forward to. He would just float away, weightless, absorbed by the ozone layer.
12. TIARA HAS A CRUSH
Tiara fidgeted with the pate on her plate as she cradled the phone. She was lying on azure silk sheets in her big Tibetan bed, propped up against giant pillows of Savannah lace. One resculpted breast peeked over the creamy gray frills of her night-dress by Donna Karan.
“Spriggy, what are you reading?”
“Just another long, boring article about Michael Ovitz.”
“Is he the one that does kung fu?”
“No, that’s Erich Segal.”
“Who knows. They’re all crazy out there. They give each other enemas all the time. Rectal obsessives.”
“Got to clear out the Evian in their bodies.”
“It says here he has a wife. Have you met her?”
“Probably. I don’t like these Hollywood people too much. They have less breeding than me.”
“That’s saying something.”
“I invested in a movie once, Spriggy. A total waste. If I contribute to the campaign of a politician, I can at least count on him to throw out a law that might hurt my business. I get results.” Tiara tucked the loose breast back into her robe. “In Hollywood the only result is you go to a party with Jack Nicholson. Please.”
“Empress, forgive me for changing the subject, but why did you call me?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. What’s all this Hollywood stuff in lieu of?”
“Spriggy, do you think I should fuck Dr. Banga?”
“Don’t make me jealous.”
“You want him, Spriggy?”
“He’s a dream.”
“I worry maybe he’s too serious. He has suffered a lot. Maybe he has no room for a twinkle.”
“He has a twinkle. I saw a twinkle.”
“You did? When?”
“Remember, at the press conference, when he said, I feel safe in New York, and everyone laughed.”
“That was rather grim. You call that a twinkle?” Tiara put her plate down on the elephant-foot table with its gold-embossed glass top.
“He was sort of smiling when he said it. There’s a twinkle in hiding. Maybe you can bring it out.”
“I don’t like fucking people who don’t have a twinkle. What happens? You fuck, you have your orgasm, and then there’s no twinkle. Suddenly your orgasm feels like it has no purpose. It’s just physical. No twinkle to enhance the glow. It’s like someone put a raw fish on your plate without cutting it up first. No refinement. A man without a twinkle, even if he is a good man, is like a pair of really ugly pajamas. What can you do with them? You can’t even give them to the maid.”
“Tiara, you’re rambling.”
“Oh. Sorry, dear.”
“What’s going on with you? Are you in love?”
“Spriggy, what are you saying?”
“Hank was nothing. Hank was just a body.”
“After the breakup you spent a week in my humble apartment ordering in snails and crying your heart out, remember?”
“I was upset about that fucking Dr. Chop who screwed up my left breast.”
“No, that was the year before. Your memory is failing you. You’re going senile.”
“I may be going senile, darling, but you’re getting fat.”
“I am not fat.”
“I am not a piglet. And you are in love. Admit it.”
“I have a teensy-weensy crush, that’s all.”
“Tiara, I can tell that you’re dreaming about the highlands of Ungungu with a certain gorgeous doctor of economic development by your side. The crackling of a fire, a cozy tent, and a magnificent rhino horn glistening in the flickering flames.”
“Don’t forget those beautiful safari clothes.”
“Domino did a great collection two years ago.”
“A last gasp from a dying talent.”
“I love it when you get so cold.”
“Domino defied me. He broke ranks. He goes the way of that pesky dwarf.”
“Yes. These people don’t get it. Pets have no privileges. They have access, but no privileges.”
Spriggy said nothing. He thought about his beautiful six-room apartment, garnished with priceless pieces from various royal homes, and the international life he led, and the beautiful people he counted as his friends, and the various influential personages who had helped him rise to the top, and who kept him there, firmly ensconced, and smiled. Tiara’s wasn’t the only dick he had sucked to get where he was. And it wouldn’t be the last.
13. ROGER REPORTS TO DOMINO ABOUT SLAVE
“Slave is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever had a liaison with.”
“You didn’t have the liaison, Roger. You had the one-night stand.”
“Be that as it may, Domino, I commend you on your taste. Her skin ...”
“Do not tell me about her aesthetic appeal, Roger. I, the master aesthete, do not need the view of a roué.”
“Well then, her womanliness ...”
“Yes, give me your narrow hetero view of her womanliness.”
“My view is broader than yours. You queers are all woman-haters.”
“You hets are bigger woman-haters than we are. At least I worship women with my glorious designs which are devoted to their sublime beauty.”
“You are devoted to making them objects, Domino. I am devoted to making them have wonderful orgasms in beautiful surroundings after they’ve eaten magnificent food. There is a huge difference.”
“You want to make them come so you don’t have to fall in love with them.”
“I’m surprised at you. This is the kind of thing people say who’ve lived in New York too long. Your brain is going soft, my friend.”
“Tell me, Roger, when was the last time you were in love with a woman?”
“Last week. Every week I am in love with a woman. Some weeks I am in love with five women at the same time.”
“Have you gone without food for a week because someone has left you, the terrible thing that happened to me when Marcello ran off with that slut from Rio who never took a bath?”
“You have never been in love, my friend.”
“I was in love with my wife.”
“Why did you get divorced?”
“I started having the greatest sex of my life with another.”
“Sex is not the same as love. You had sex with Slave, are you in love?”
“If it were not for you being my close friend, I could be in love with Slave.”
“You could never be in love with Slave.”
“Domino, you could never be in love with Slave.”
“I am sensitive to her already.”
“You are sensitive to her beauty, to her exoticness, to the continent she comes from. She is big and beautiful and black, and this makes your perverse queer dick hard.”
They started laughing.
“Mark my words,” Roger said, “as soon as she can speak English, you will drop her like Picasso dropping a model.”
“Are you trying to put the jinx on Slave and me?”
“Are you serious about this woman, Domino?”
“I wish you not to ask me that question.”
“Ooh la la.”
“I wish you not to ooh la la. Tell me more about her womanliness.”
“She has the body of a giant and the soul of a child. She is both ancient and innocent. She is Cleopatra and Lolita. I felt like I was sleeping with the ages as well as being a pedophile. Extraordinary.”
“It gives me the frightening erection when you talk like that.”
“You are falling in love?”
“Please, Roger. Let us not go there, as they say in this country of psychobabbleshit.”
“My dear Domino, I’m very happy for you.”
“I wish you to tell me about sleeping with her.”
“It was like sleeping with a fabulous party and sleeping with an empty room. It was wonderful but also frustrating. I could not get through to her essence.”
“You felt the same?”
“Absolutely. It is the great mystery to me. She keeps me, Domino, on the outside. How can anyone be that strong? How can anyone dare such a thing? I am Domino, and she keeps me out. Who the fuck does she think she is? It drives me into the craziness.”
“It’s not her fault.”
“It is my fault?”
“No, it is nobody’s fault. It is the fault of her tradition.”
“I do not understand you.”
“You have been too long with boys, you don’t understand women.”
“I am surrounded by the little bitches all my life. I understand them only too well.”
“Listen. Have you gone down on Slave?”
“What do you mean?”
“Have you licked her between her legs?”
“I tried, but she moved me away.”
“A little bit. She does not seem to require it.”
“I went down on her, even though she didn’t want me too.”
“There is a strange thing.”
“What is the strange thing?”
“She has been damaged.”
“What do you mean?”
“She is not like other women.”
“What do you mean, Roger? Do not be mysterious with me.”
“Her clitoris has been removed.”
“I believe it’s called genital mutilation.”
“No anesthetic. They hold the young girl down and cut it out with a knife or a dirty piece of glass or something. Blood all over. Infection. Horrible.”
“The most sensitive part of her has been removed. She will always be a magnificent fuck, because she’s a magnificent creature, but she’s been decaffeinated. Your ideal creation has been deprived of sexual pleasure. The most beautiful woman on earth doesn’t have a clit.”
“This is fantastic.”
“The ugliest woman in America has more privilege, and more joy, than her.”
“This is the best thing.”
“What are you saying? It is a great tragedy in a woman so beautiful who was created for great fucking.”
“It is not the great tragedy. It is the great opportunity. This is the best thing that could ever have happened.”
“Domino, I think I’m going to hit you.”
“Listen, Roger, I can make the great publicity for my show. This is the big issue the media will love. Slave is more perfect than I ever imagined.”
“Domino, you are appalling.”
“Roger, a man has to have at least one redeeming quality, don’t you think?”
14. THE TWELVE SINS OF CAPITALISM
Usually the gallery was pristine and church-like, with huge canvases hanging like devotional tapestries against the vast whiteness of the high walls. Today, for “The Twelve Sins of Capitalism” by Messie Blithers, the lesbian African-American artist who had won a Guggenheim for her piece “Slaveship,” in which she built a luxury yacht called the “Jemima” out of planks impregnated with copies of the Constitution spun from Mississippi cotton, the Gargosm gallery resembled a Turkish bazaar.
Against one wall was a row of washing machines and dryers. Against another wall stood a row of snarling lesbians flanked by a row of cowering WASP men. Against another wall stood a row of simpering blond women flanked by a row of posturing gay body-builders. Against the fourth wall was a row of cages with goats in them. A ramp came round a corner and ended in the middle of the floor. The floor was strewn with cow patties. The audience sat in two cattle pens.
Morte Gargosm (he pronounced his name Mor-TAY, not MOR-tee) had that tanned, silver-gray look affected by L.A. men in cold weather. He was dressed in black. Black turtleneck, black jacket, black trousers, black shoes, black eyes. He stood talking to Rachel Sprockpissen of the Butterchurn Emerging Artists Foundation, the producer of the event. Rachel wore a dark green smock with pink leggings and cowboy boots. She looked like a chic witch in a Wild West pastiche.
“I didn’t expect to find you here,” Xavier said to Domino.
“I would never overlook the opportunity to see my garments celebrated.”
“Same thing. As long as they are the stars of the show.”
“I like the goats, don’t you?”
“Yes. Who are all these ugly people? They all look deformed.”
“They are artists.”
“Why are they so ugly?”
“That’s why they become artists. To create the beauty they do not have.”
“Some of them are more hideous than others.”
“They are the Grant People. They live on grants. They go to poor countries, talk to the natives, take photographs, return here and give a talk. Then they get more money.”
“It sounds like a good business.”
“It keeps a lot of untalented people busy in foreign countries so they don’t bother us too much in New York.”
“We must contribute to some grant foundations. Perhaps, if we give enough of this grant money away, we can send all the untalented people out of New York.”
“There’s Tiara. Shall we say hello to her?”
“By all means.”
They walked over to where Tiara was engaged in conversation with Morte and Rachel.
“Good afternoon, my dearest Tiara,” said Domino.
“Dominorini baby,” she replied. “Have you met Morte?”
“We know each other from the Venice Biennale twelve years ago,” replied Domino.
“This is Rachel.”
“Your fame has preceded you,” said Xavier.
“I am Domino,” said Domino.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Domino,” said Rachel.
“Call me Domino. No mister.”
“I am flattered by the Butterball’s interest in fashion,” said Domino.
“Butterchurn,” said Rachel.
“Tiara, you look marvelous in that dress. Lacroix?”
“Of course, darling Dominobella. He is good for the afternoon, don’t you think?”
“Yes, for the afternoon. For the evening he is vulgar, and for the day he is dull, but for the afternoon, he is quite acceptable.”
“I adore your jacket, Dominobomba. Is that Galliano?”
“No, it’s one of my own.”
“So that’s why it suits you. The line hides your belly.”
“Tiara, what have you done to your hair?”
“It’s new. It’s my ‘Versailles in disarray’ look.”
“The disarray goes with your eyes.”
“When was the last time you had your eyes done?”
“I’ve never had my eyes done, Dominobamba. Only my tits.”
There was a cough from a microphone.
“Please be seated.” It was the artist talking. Messie Blithers was short and stocky. She had her hair shaved in triangular vaginal shapes, and she wore rings through her nose, her eyebrows and her lips, with a scar tattooed across her forehead, but she still could not obliterate the fact that she was conventionally pretty.
“Welcome to The Twelve Sins of Capitalism,” said Messie. “I want to thank Rachel for producing this piece, and Morte for having us here in the heart of capitalism.”
Chuckles. Messie did not smile.
“I have here in my hand a slave bell.”
She struck the bell. The twelve lesbians walked out of the door, snarling. The WASP men stopped their cowering and went through the motions of raping the simpering white women. Then the posturing gay men walked over to the WASPS, who fell to their knees before them in begging postures. The gay men took their penises out and the WASPS fellated them. The gay men slapped the WASPS. The WASPS stopped fellating and fell over on their sides. The gay men stood on them and postured with their penises half-erect. The lesbian women reappeared at the end of the ramp, dressed in Domino’s evening garments. Like models, they walked down the ramp to the tune of “I Will Survive,” all the while snarling.
Messie and three others read from a script.
“The first sin of capitalism. Racism.”
“The second sin of capitalism. Homophobia.”
“The third sin of capitalism. Misogyny.”
“The fourth sin of capitalism. Sexual harassment.”
“The fifth sin of capitalism. Corruption.”
“The sixth sin of capitalism. Greed.”
“The seventh sin of capitalism. Child abuse.”
“The eighth sin of capitalism. Rape.”
“The ninth sin of capitalism. Murder.”
“The tenth sin of capitalism. War.”
“The eleventh sin of capitalism. Oppression.”
“The twelfth sin of capitalism. Government.”
The lesbians walked over to the washing machines, took their couture dresses off, and flung them in the washing machines. They poured sugar into the machines and turned them on.
Xavier could feel Domino tense beside him.
“This will destroy the line,” Domino whispered between clenched teeth.
Now followed a series of dance tableaux, presumably to illustrate “The Twelve Sins of Capitalism.” A WASP chained a black man, another beat a gay man with a plank, another leered at a woman, two WASPS strangled each other, and so on.
The machines stopped their washing cycle and the naked lesbians took the dresses out of the machines and flung them in the dryers.
Xavier felt Domino flinch beside him.
“This will destroy everything,” he said.
The tableaux continued, and ended with the gay men rising up and stuffing the WASPS in the machines. Then they poured black powder into the machines, but did not switch them on.
When the dryers full of dresses stopped spinning, the naked lesbians took the dry dresses out, danced with them for a minute, and then flung them into the cages of the goats who started gnawing the sugar-coated garments immediately.
Xavier felt Domino shudder beside him.
“Easy, my friend,” Xavier cautioned.
“I am getting the seizure,” said Domino.
Messie looked at the audience.
“Thank you,” she said. The gallery lights glinted off the rings in her nose, eyebrows and lips. Still she did not smile.
Tiara began to clap, and everyone joined her, rising to their feet. Domino walked over to Tiara.
“Please take it easy,” Xavier said, trying to hold on to his friend.
“You have gone too far, Tiara dearest,” Domino snarled.
“I’m only getting started, Dominodimba,” she replied.
Domino screamed and ran into one of the cages. He seized a startled goat and carried it out. He lifted the animal high and flung it at Tiara. She ducked and it landed crashing against a washing machine, which turned itself on. A stupefied WASP began spinning inside the machine. The audience clapped hands again as Morte Gargosm wrenched at the washing machine, the prospect of a lawsuit dancing before his black eyes. Messie Blithers cradled the scared animal, who bit her hand.
“Let’s go,” said Xavier.
“I haven’t killed her yet.”
“It is too late, she is surrounded.”
It was true. Tiara Blaine, capitalist extraordinaire, stood surrounded by a squad of twelve naked lesbians, all snarling at Domino.
He stormed out.
“I have to buy a machinegun immediately,” he said.
“No, sweet cherub. We’ll get a kilo of Durban Poison marijuana and your troubles will float away in the blue cloud.”
“A kilo is not enough. Two kilos. And a bag of Ecstasy. Not the red ones. The black ones.”
“Whatever you say.”
15. ALFRED AND SLAVE
Alfred heard her say the words. They were halting but they were unmistakable.
“Let’s make love.”
Slave giggled. He looked at the interpreter. Hlabla shrugged.
“How many other words does she know?”
“How many other words do you know, Slave?”
“Kiss me. Hold me. Squeeze my ass. Bite my neck. Let’s make love.”
“Aren’t these strange words for her to learn? How will this help her order food in a restaurant?”
“These are the words she wanted to learn first.”
Alfred looked at Slave. Her eyes fluttered. There was a hint of her father’s coloring in her eyes. Mr. Ntsohluvubuhu wasn’t a bad-looking man himself, Alfred recalled. Slave’s eyes fluttered again. I guess she likes me, he thought.
16. XAVIER TELLS DOMINO TO APOLOGIZE
“After your performance at the The Twelve Sins of Capitalism,” said Xavier, “I got a call from Aborta Vodka. They are withdrawing their support for the show.”
“We will find another sponsor.”
“They have supported us for twelve years. We will never find anyone as loyal as they were.”
“How loyal are they if they pull out when we need them the most?”
“Domino, you flung a goat at Tiara Blaine in front of New York’s entire demimonde.”
“I wish they had the large cows instead of the little goats. Why did I miss?”
“If you had struck her, we would’ve been ruined for all time.”
“What do you call this thing we’re having now – the temporary setback?” Domino took a hit of Ecstasy and then dipped three psychedelic mushrooms in olive oil before he wolfed them down.
“It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.”
“Never mind. Domino, it is time for you to apologize publicly. Remember, there are four steps. Private negotiating. Public apology. Private begging. And finally, outright humiliation in whatever way necessary. We’ve tried the private negotiating. Now we must go on to the next step – a public apology.”
“I want to strangle Tiara within the inch of her life for three days and then take away all her medications so I can watch her organs slowly eaten by the cancer for six months.”
“That is not the option.”
“I’ll settle for the quick death by hacking her limbs off with the handsaw.”
“You must apologize in print.”
“You are asking me to fry my soul like the egg.” Domino lifted a bottle of vodka. He swallowed it in one gulp.
“Your soul will be the strips of Beef Stroganoff if you don’t write a public apology and send it to the editors of all the fashion magazines.”
Domino slammed the bottle on the desk. “You are not the cherub of mine. You are the monster. You are the perverse Marquis. I will call you cherub no more.”
“A small price to pay to avert our imminent ruin.”
Domino popped the top of a second bottle. “No price can make up for what I saw happen to my creations.”
“I am deeply sorry for the suffering you have brought on your own head.”
“I wish you to go and fuck the frog.”
“I gave up frogs a long time ago.”
“You’re telling me I should be the whore now so I won’t have to be the slut later.”
“One apology does not make you the whore.”
“When all this is over, I will kill somebody.”
“Good. When I find someone you can afford to kill, I’ll let you know.”
17. TIARA SUCKS UP AN APOLOGY
Tiara pursued the marinated Portabello mushrooms on her plate with a silver fork as she cradled the phone. She was lying on gilded silk sheets in her big Egyptian bed, propped up against giant pillows of Moravian lace. One resculpted breast peeked over the off-pink frills of her night-dress by John Galliano for Dior.
“Read it to me, Spriggy.”
“First the headline says, ‘DOMINO PITCHES GOAT AT TIARA.’ Then there’s the bit in the gossip column.”
“Is it the lead bit?”
“Of course. It goes like this, and I quote. ‘Some news requires no commentary. What follows is a written apology from Italian designer Domino, whose much-awaited show is due this fall. For those readers who live in a cave, there has been a rumored feud between Domino and supreme hostess Tiara Blaine, whose Ungungu Gala will be the event of the season. The feud broke dramatically into public view last night, when Domino picked up a goat in the hip downtown space, the Morte Gargosm Gallery, and hefted the surprised animal at an even more surprised Tiara. We have had this handwritten note from Monsieur Domino for immediate publication. It speaks for itself:
“‘I, Domino, am filled with the big melancholy, because I, Domino, have insulted my good friend and patroness Tiara Blaine like the silly boy. I am sorry I, Domino, threw the little goat at her. It was caused by the temporary insanity on my behalf, because I, Domino, wasn’t thinking straight at the time.
“‘I wish for it to be known that Tiara Blaine is the star of my universe, and has been a loyal supporter during my fabulous career, for which I, Domino, am grateful for the eternity.
“‘Tiara Blaine is a woman of the fundamental taste, style and beauty, and I bow at her perfect feet in the deepest remorse and sorrow.
“‘Please forgive me, Tiara. I am inconsolable at my gauche behavior. You deserve a grand apology, and I, Domino, give it you from my heart and place it before you with the big tears of humility. Your eternal servant, Domino.’”
Tiara sighed with pleasure.
“What do you think, Empress?”
“Humble pie is such a fine dish.”
“I like the part about your perfect feet.”
“Will you forgive him now?”
“He apologized in print.”
“You weren’t there when the goat came flying through the air towards me.”
“He missed. And he sounds genuinely appalled.”
“He’s genuinely appalled that his show will be bumped from the media by the coverage they’re going to give my Ungungu Gala.”
“When someone apologizes, especially someone as headstrong as Domino, you have to take it seriously.”
“I don’t want his apology. I want his destruction.”
“But Empress, what did he do that was so very, very bad?”
“He defied me. I will not be defied.”
“But Empress, you can’t go around destroying people just because they’re a little headstrong.”
“I have, I can and I will.”
“How will you reject his apology?”
“In some devastating way. I’m still thinking about it. The ancient Greeks have nothing on me. I keep a grudge through seven reincarnations.”
“Which reincarnation are you on now?”
“I must remember not to return in the next lifetime.”
“Why? You have nothing to fear.”
“Because, my dear Spriggy, you will never defy me.”
18. DOMINO AND SLAVE FUCK
She was so beautiful. So very beautiful. Light of my life. Fire of my loins. Rose of my heart. He held the back of her head hard, the way she liked it. He stared into her perfect almond-shaped eyes. Her perfect nose sloped down between the perfect shapes. Her wonderful lips, which took fullness to the point of near-parody, lay wet and round and limp under her eyes, the upper lip curving out and up in an insouciant peak, like a footnote larger than the page it referenced. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever fucked – man, woman or boy.
He thought he felt her hips lift. Yes, they did lift. They lifted again. He got so excited he had to hang on to his sperm like an adder choking back venom.
He raised himself on his elbows to look at her breasts. Full enough to suckle an army, yet shapely enough to flatter the sheerest dress. Everything about her was perfect. From the ebony of her skin to the symmetry of her shoulders. And the most perfect thing about her was that she made his penis feel so perfect.
Her hips lifted again. Was she fucking him back? He had become used to fucking her without a reciprocal response. What was happening? He felt something more than a suggestion and less than a notion build inside him. It was not physical. It started somewhere deep, maybe inside the reptile area of his psyche, the place where crocodiles, snakes and dinosaurs flicked their tongues. With every lift of her hips, the feeling grew stronger. He saw it in her eyes too. There was something going to and fro, a flow of neurons. A telekinesis of Madame Blavatsky-like mysteriousness. He wanted to give it a name, but then decided no, never, it should be nameless, it should be known – if that – as the anonymous thing that happened between Domino and Slave during some of their fucks. He waited for the nameless feeling to wash over and out of him, but it stayed inside, contained, there. The what-it-was of it was, well, whatever, but the thereness was unmistakable. Fuck this feeling, he thought, who told it to come round for a visit? Go away. I, Domino, have to come, I have a show to do, I have to force myself to be gracious to that cow Tiara; let me come in peace with this most beautiful creature who makes my dick as hard as it was with Marcello the time we were stuck in the bathroom at that club in Munich when the neo-Nazis wanted to beat us up and we fucked all night long in the toilet with the smell of pee in our hair.
She was saying something in an African tongue. Where was Hlabla? Where was that damn interpreter when you needed him? What was she saying?
“What are you saying?” he asked, his voice raspy with exertion.
“Kiss me. Hold me. Squeeze my ass. Bite my neck. Let’s make love.”
He almost came with excitement.
Her hips lifted again. He bit her neck. The muscles of her vagina clenched tight, and he felt as if his penis would never shrink back to normal again.
“Darling,” he said.
“Kiss me. Hold me. Squeeze my ass. Bite my neck. Let’s make love.”
He bit her neck again. She shouted something. He shouted back. She grabbed him and squeezed him so hard, he lost his breath. He could contain himself no longer. With a long, sharp, shattering release, his seed rushed out of his shaft like cavalry charging down a mountain into a hapless valley.
Her hips lifted him right off the bed and she bellowed like an ox. Then she collapsed. They lay in each other’s arms. He found himself saying the thing he had never said before, and had promised himself never to say, because he had never felt like saying it, because he had never said it, and, being who he was, because there was no reason for him to ever say it.
“I love you.”
She looked at him and smiled, a soft, raunchy, still-in-a-dream smile, a warmth that flowed up to her perfect eyes and sauntered briskly over her bald head.
“I love you, too,” she said.
Damn, he thought, she’s been watching too much TV.
“Slave, what am I going to do with you?”
“Kiss me. Hold me. Squeeze my ass. Bite my neck. Let’s make love.”
They laughed so hard they fell off the bed. It was hours before he could get around to summon Hlabla so he could discuss his idea with Slave – about the responsibility she bore to her gender, and about the great opportunity her imminent fame as a model would afford her to speak out on behalf of all her sisters in Africa and elsewhere who had suffered the pain, distress and indignity of genital mutilation.
19. TIARA LUSTS AFTER DR. BANGA
Tiara was beside herself. Dr. Banga had agreed to a date. Well, not exactly a date, but he was going to accompany her to the annual Literary Lions dinner at the New York Library presided over by the charismatic Dr. Gregonzo. Dr. Banga and Dr. Gregonzo. There was a certain synergy of sound, she thought.
At the New York Library, theirs was the most illustrious and literate table. They had Don Upchuck, the famous writer who had set himself the challenge of discerning the entire human condition in one round of golf; Job Carrott Grits, who had written more celebrated novels than all her peers combined; and Josey Diddleon, who had written fewer novels than any one of her peers but was celebrated for the limpid minimalism of her prose which said very little, but which said more in what it did not say than others said in what they did say. There was also an irritating little man in a white suit who should have been a waiter but was masquerading as a writer. He was one of those empty people who took the correct labeling of things – the way a waiter names and describes specials – to be thoughts. Tiara thought of hiring him to write a vast tome about the new Siberia to get him out of the way for a few years. There was also a professor of philosophy (Tiara had no idea they still existed) whose beat was consciousness.
“Dr. Banga,” asked Professor Skinnerkopf, “do you think a dog feels pain?”
“When you step on a dog’s foot,” Dr. Banga replied, “it yelps.”
“Indeed,” said Professor Skinnerkopf, “but does that mean the dog experiences pain the way we do?”
“No, like the dog does. But it’s still pain.”
“Does a dog feel rejection?” put in the waiter person.
“Does a dog get rejection slips?” asked Don Upchuck.
Job Carrott Grits perked up. “Boxers tell me they feel no pain until the fight is over.”
Josey Diddleon spoke up. “So dogs and boxers have something in common.”
“Do boxers come when you call them?” It was the waiter again.
Tiara fidgeted. The intellectual frou-frou got too much for her. She wanted to get the conversation back to something substantial like fashion or genocide.
“What do you think, Miss Blaine?” asked Professor Skinnerkopf. “Do dogs feel pain?”
“I hear skirts are coming down for fall,” Tiara replied. “Both men and dogs may feel some pain about that.”
The women laughed. The men looked puzzled. Dr. Banga smiled.
“I was wondering about something else,” Tiara said. “Do dogs forgive?”
“Dogs only love,” said Dr. Banga. “There is no necessity for them to forgive, because all they do is love.”
“But is it love the way we feel it?” Professor Skinnerkopf was relentless. “I take the position that dogs react to people who supply them with food in a way we interpret as love, but which to them is just a way to guarantee their food supply. It’s a tactic of survival, not love.”
“Your logic doesn’t go far enough, professor,” replied Tiara. “Women react to men in a way we interpret as love, but to us women it’s just a way of guaranteeing a supply of jewels.”
The table roared.
“People love, dogs love, cats love, we all love,” said Dr. Banga. “I take the position that we all love, and we all hate. A dog will hate a stranger, when there’s no question of guaranteeing any food supply. People will hate one another just because of an idea in their head, just because of something they heard that happened to their forebears a century ago. And people will love each other because of a look, because of a touch, because of a certain swing of the head, or the way hair falls across the eyes, or teeth shine between lips.”
Dr. Banga addressed the whole table, but looked at Tiara as he came to the end of his speech. She felt something happening to her that hadn’t happened since she was a teenager. She blushed.
“We have all loved,” said Job Carrott Grits, “but how many of us have truly hated? And how many of us can live with the consequences of our hate?”
“Good lovers are good haters,” said Don Upchuck.
“The dictator in my country, Dr. Mabuta, has never lost a minute’s sleep over the consequences of his contempt for his fellow citizens. He’s constitutionally incapable of living with the consequences of his evil.”
“The idea in his head is stronger than any feeling in his heart. He believes he is entitled to all the wealth of his country, and the people are not.”
“Why aren’t they entitled?”
“It would be wasted on them, he believes. He knows how to spend it. It is the divine shopping right of kings.”
They chuckled again. Tiara readjusted her seat. She watched the other two women regard Dr. Banga with a mixture of awe and desire, as though he were the last piece of sumptuous cheesecake left on a plate they were too polite to touch. But he was sitting next to her, not to them. She felt a surge of royalty in her proximity to this man. He was sitting next to her, and they were sitting next to Don Upchuck, Professor Skinnerkopf, and the waiter person. When he spoke, he looked at her, not at them. When he leaned over, he leaned over to her, not to them. And when he slid his finger up her leg and under her panties, he pressed her wet center, not theirs.
20. ALFRED PHOTOGRAPHS IN A PRISON
Alfred was in his element. He had achieved the impossible. Here they were in the maximum security section of the toughest Texas jail on earth, shooting with nothing but the harsh available light of prison, and he had the most beautiful woman on earth in his lens, as well as the cold, hard eyes of serial killers, rapists, spree killers and child murderers, which bulged at Slave with undisguised longing, and whose engorged penises plumped cute tents between their legs. It was almost spiritual, like his hunger series. Only one thing could match this: to take Slave back to Ungungu and photograph her in the detritus of that war-stricken country’s devastation, which had now ratcheted itself up to another notch of terror, because Dr. Mabuta’s enemies had seized a border village, and vowed to hack their way to the capital forthwith. Alfred could see the images dance in front of him. Sleek Slave and broken Ungungu. A wonderfully uneasy combination of esthetics and social comment. For no apparent reason, an image of Mr. Ntsohluvubuhu popped into his mind. The man was laughing. What for? Alfred shook his head and looked at Slave, perfectly slouched in a brilliant pose.
The warden regarded the scene with a big smile. “Everything all right?” he shouted at Alfred.
“Everything’s great!” Alfred shouted back. Click, click. “It’s a privilege shooting here!”
“We’re mighty honored by the presence of you and the young lady!” the warden returned graciously.
“You’re very kind!” Alfred shouted back.
“You’re very welcome!” replied the warden with a bow.
The warden turned to the deputy beside him. “I never knew a black woman could be so beautiful,” he said.
“We should let the boys have her.”
“They’d know what to do with her.”
“Mad Dog Doom, he’d really know.”
Mad Dog Doom had gone on a spree killing, collecting the heads of his family and the employees of one package store, three Taco Bell outlets, and two Gaps, after raping all the women many times. He had kept the heads in the back of his refrigerated meat truck, and eventually planted them on parking meters around a square in Roanoke. He was awaiting execution, but proceedings were held up because of his insistence on being executed by machete. He wanted it to be done by a surviving cousin of his whom he had molested as a youth.
Alfred changed a roll of film. In circumstances like these, he liked to work without an assistant. It added to the spontaneous, monk-like spirituality of the occasion. He experienced a pure connection with reality he didn’t feel when he was surrounded by assistants. In some strange way, he felt it prepared him for the millennium. He came up to the warden.
“I know it might sound ironic, warden, but I feel a great sense of freedom working in your prison.”
“Why, thank you, Alfred. We try to create an illusion of air and light even though these fellas are locked down so tight their shit takes a week to get to their assholes. Hah, hah, hah.”
“Hah, hah, hah.”
“That sure is a pretty girl you got with you.”
Slave was changing inside a loose smock she had brought along for that purpose.
“Yes, she is pretty.”
“Is she famous?”
“Not yet. But after these photos, she will be.”
“Maybe my jail will be famous, too.”
“It will, warden, it will. We need a few shots with you and the deputy too. By the way, who is that big guy with the scar across his nose? He’s very photogenic. He looks like he killed his mother.”
“He killed his sister first. She happened to be in the room when he went postal. If his mother had been there instead, she would’ve been first. He doesn’t much discriminate, know what I mean?”
“What’s his name?”
“Mad Dog Doom. Killed thirty-nine people in three days. Fastest killer in Texas.”
“I’d love a shot of him and Slave together, where she wears the evening dress. The contrast between the formality of fashion and the spontaneity of murder.”
“As long as we get him chained down first.”
“Let’s do it. Slave!”
Slave looked up at him.
“We’re going to do the evening dress.”
Slave shrugged and picked out the evening dress. The smock went over her head and she changed. Alfred smiled. He liked working with Slave. She had no attitude; it only came out in her pictures. Best of all, she never needed a hair person.
“Where do you want Mad Dog Doom?”
“Behind the bars. I want Slave there too, interacting with him.”
“What do you mean, interact?”
“She knows what to do. You’ll see.”
“Now Mad Dog Doom, take it easy. We got three snipers on you. You make one wrong move, and you lose your chance to be executed by a machete forever.”
“Suck the dick of a seagull, warden, how can I make a move if I got chains all over me?”
“Just take it easy.”
“Is everybody ready? Right. Close the door.”
“Mad Dog Doom, you’re cool?”
“I’m cool like an Eskimo’s stool.”
“Mister Stereo, they’re all yours.”
“Thank you. Slave, stand in front of him. Yes, yes. Closer. Yes. Now turn away. Ass out. Shoulders back. A little to the side. Turn. More. That’s right.”
By now they had worked together long enough for Slave to understand his instructions instantly.
“Drop your left shoulder. Great. Mad Dog Doom, lean your head forward. Right. Stand side by side. Good. Lean back against his shoulder. Good. Mad Dog Doom, hold the chain more in front of her. Good. Hold her shoulder. Let go of her neck. Mad Dog Doom, let go of her neck. Can you hear me? Let go of her neck! It spoils the composition.”
“No!” shouted Alfred. Click, click.
“Shoot the motherfucker!”
Alfred wanted them to shoot, because he’d get great shots that way, but he also needed a few more seconds to cover Slave’s terror and Mad Dog Doom’s brilliant intensity. There were some very interesting veins popping up in her smooth forehead. They added a whole new dimension to her beauty. Click, click. Slave reached down with her right hand. Mad Dog Doom was squeezing her neck like a fluffy bun. Alfred kept clicking away. This might be the shoot of his life. Suddenly the pressure on Slave’s neck decreased.
A smile spread over Mad Dog Doom’s face. The warden could not remember Mad Dog Doom ever smiling before. Slave’s hand worked away until Mad Dog Doom’s arms fell down limp in their chains.
“You can come out now, lady. We’ve got him covered.”
But Slave did not stop. She kept rubbing Mad Dog Doom. And Alfred kept clicking. He looked at Slave though his camera. This was too good for fashion. This was art. She had managed to turn a fashion shoot into an aesthetic experience of the highest order. She stood there covered in sweat, more beautiful and more excruciatingly regal than ever. Her skin glistened under the harsh available light. Nothing became her more than the stunning evening dress by Domino, its beadwork studded with dark patches of rich perspiration. Her perfect hand moved up and down, as the sweat ran down her perfect features. Suddenly she smiled, and Mad Dog Doom sank to the ground with a sigh. Click, click. At that moment, Alfred fell in love with her.