Career peak at the suitably virile age of forty-two. Past becoming. Don Coyote, The Star, had arrived.
The Star owned an apartment in The City. Plantman tended it year-round, entrusted with the key. When The Star was in The City, he and Plantman shared brandy, cigars, talk. As close to friendship as their relative stations would allow.
Epics of the Deep, Coyote’s first serious role not blasting trouble with an automatic, or bedding tough, winsome, wise-cracking femme fatales, might garner awards, he mused.
“Doing this movie changed my life,” said The Star, as Plantman plucked dead leaves from a Corn Plant. “I’m in love with the Missing Girl.”
“No, no. Of course not. She’s just an actress. I’m talking about the real thing. Person. Whoever she is. Where ever she is, IF she still is. During the ocean scenes, the scene on the boat where we’re supposed to talk to the fish — ”
“Whales,” said Plantman. “They’re mammals.”
“The Whales. When we were out there on the water I felt togetherness, conjunction. Not with Starlette Nova, through her. As if I were out there with The Missing Girl herself. It ran deep. Like I could understand her, though it wasn’t her, only Starlette, and through her, The Missing Girl, I understood what they, those creatures, the mammals, were thinking, or feeling, or whatever they do.”
“This is a reality for you. You believe The Missing Girl was with your character, ‘The Mad Cetologist?’” asked Plantman, genuinely curious.
“Starlette’s character, her ‘Missing Girl’ was with the The Mad Cetologist. The Missing Girl was — ”
“— with you.”
“And Starlette? Where was she?” asked Plantman.
“Nowhere, where she belongs.”
The Missing Girl, alive, would be thirty-six. The Star’s power and visibility were vast. Surely she would respond to his desire. Come to him.
“She must be dead,” said The Star. “Why would she stay hidden all this time? What is it, ten years, fifteen years?”
“Twenty years. Missing.”
The Star drank, smoked. Plantman worked.
“I want to show you something,” said The Star. “I’d prefer you do not speak of this. Though I assume you will. Maybe I want you to speak. Why else would I be showing this?”
They entered a study decorated with memorabilia of The Star’s career. On a glass table, in a large glass cylinder filled with fluid, was a brain.
“It’s genuine. The realPlantman’s discerningthing. Human,” said The Star, noticing Plantman’s discerning squint.
“I was drunk at a party thrown by some hot-shot neurologist. Uptown. I opened a closet, thinking it was the bathroom, and there was this brain, floating in a bucket of water. Or that’s what it looked like. Water. I grilled the good doctor about the gruesome thing. It was so ugly it was sexy. Like genitals. Totally turned me on.
“It was yanked from an unidentified cadaver years before. Might have been a woman, The Neurologist could not recall. Young. The person had been young. The Neurologist had used it as a prop to teach a course at The University Hospital, then forgot all about it. Fucking doctors. Imagine forgetting someone’s brain!
“I offered to buy it. The Neurologist gave it to me for free, me being The Star and all that. He even threw in the glass cylinder and preservative fluid.”
Puckered mound of meat. Sopping. Convoluted grayish-pink. Receptacle of mind. Once. Now? Plantman felt ill.
“Could this be the brain of The Missing Girl?” mused The Star. “Even if it isn’t, this brain holds thoughts and memories, memories of me, Don Coyote, The Star, when I myself was young and stumbling through my first lead roles. Images of me inside. The Brain went to the movies, how could it not have?
The Neurologist said it was young. The brain was perhaps one of the Missing Young. Why not The Missing Girl?”
The Star poured twoglasses of whiskey, and handed one quickly to Plantman, who gulped it down, then asked for another.
“You know, I sit and contemplate this brain for hours at a time. It teaches me,” said The Star.
He handed his glass for Plantman to refill. Plantman also poured another for himself.
“I’m different. Like I had been long ago. When I was young, hopeful Don Coyote, head full of dreams. It is possible that this is The Missing Girl. Not likely, but possible. What is a brain? What is a mind? If the mind is a physical thing, dependent entirely upon the physicality of the brain, then the thoughts and memories are still in there, just not animated. Information on a drive when the machine shuts down. No light, no spark, no access, but it’s still all there. If this is The Missing Girl, then I possess her mind. If it is an anonymous brain, the brain of Nobody-In-Particular, then at the very least it harbors memories and thoughts of me. Perhaps fantasies of intimacy. Not the ‘now’ me, but the ‘then’ me of my early films. Awkward in my skin, but on my way to Big. Innocent, eager, bright-eyed Don Coyote. Working, working, striving toward becoming. Striving for the adulation of the world…
“Possessing this, this organ—that’s all we are, aren’t we? Our much vaunted intellects no more valuable than the flesh they’re printed on — possessing this organ has introduced new possibilities into my life, a life where nothing was possible because everything had already been done. Imagine a life bereft of possibility, a life in which the Future offers nothing but the Past. The life of The Star. Do you understand?”
“It is not my business to understand,” said Plantman.
“But do you understand?”
“I’m not The Star,” said Plantman. “I’ve never experienced myself as Other.”