The One Hundred Fifty Million Dollar Sock (Part 2)

Michael Colhaze

 Solemn DoSS Inauguration in New York’s fabled  MoMA

I have learned the worst lesson that life can teach – that it makes no sense.
Philip Roth

The shyster’s name was Bernie Goldshtick, and he resided in an opulent office overlooking Central Park. Big in REPHAM (Reparations for mentally disturbed Third Degree Cousins of H. Victims and their suffering Hamsters), he rarely bothered with other assignments anymore. But this case was different. This case, he exclaimed, enraptured after Norman had said his piece and shown the exhibit, dealt with a grandiose landmark of our collective cultural inheritance. A historical watershed, so to say, the very moment when three thousand years of fusty, oppressive, pompous European narrative had met its Waterloo. As he enlarged upon the theme, his pebble eyes misted over with emotion, and he envisaged a room all by itself in the greatest sanctuary of Modern Art, New York’s fabled MoMA. Where a large, diamond-studded frame from massive gold should hold the exhibit, hung against walls of pink velvet, with multi-coloured stroboscope reflectors illuminating the scenery and Rap or Techno Rock  preparing the visitors metaphysically for the great extravagance. Plus, not to forget, some artificially created odour once the original one had faded out.

Continuing in this vein for a while, he began to look visibly exhausted and treated himself, though not his guests, to a line from his office silver salver. Which revived him sufficiently to consider practicalities. Like his slice of the cake, for example. Before they could advance a decent suggestion, he decreed with a hilarious giggle that it had to be fifty percent or nothing, which they found markedly exaggerated. Particularly the Prof, whose idea it had been. This led to a puzzled frown on Bernie’s part. With a cunning expression he wanted to know how much exactly was on their minds as to the enterprise in its entirety. Well, they said, something in the region of five zeros, perhaps even six. And mentioned Damien Hirst’s Rotting Old Shark, commissioned by Charles Saatchi, auctioned by that modern-art-pimp Christie’s for ten million bucks minus VAT, and presently residing in the aforementioned sanctuary, courtesy of Steven A. Cohen.

Whereupon the shyster laughed heartily. And told them that this stunt was mere peanuts if compared to the one he himself had pulled off with his buddy Steven Goldshpiel, a shifty Tinseltown producer who derided the worn-out WASP wops and their withering White World with his obnoxious propaganda movies, while pocketing mountains of dollars for the pleasure. Bernie and Steven and the latter’s elusive mega-buck backers had cooked up the one hundred forty million dollar tag for Drip, Jackson Bollocks’ giant action-art canvas, now properly framed and parked in the MoMa as well. It was, according to Wikipigs, the highest price ever paid in human history for a painting, and this with the sole intent to confound once and for all any traditional notion of artistic value.


The Prof wanted to ask if Bernie had made fifty percent on that one as well, but thought better of it when the other declared grandly that their stunt contained infinitely superior ingredients. Because, as he explained with a lopsided smirk on his feisty face, an oversized splotch-and-blotch chunk by a drunk Methodist punk like Jackson Bollocks was mere dirt under your fingernail if compared to a reeking old sock worn by our greatest literary genius during his most formative years! Therefore, he added with a deep and contented sigh, one hundred fifty million bucks and not a cent less.

When the words had sunk in, old Norman croaked a dumbfounded Oy vey, while the Prof, dazed and speechless, could only nod. Whereupon Bernie cautioned their enthusiasm by demanding a reasonably reliable authentication. After regaining some presence of mind, they assured him sincerely that this particular problem had been thoroughly considered and would be solved without delay.

At the door old Norman touched en passant on the scheme’s staggering expenditure and asked if it might merit a petite participation on Bernie’s part. To which, after earnest introspection with much frowning and mouth-pursing, the shyster finally agreed. He gave them twenty undeclared dollars against thirty percent interest, but this only because a goyim was involved who seemed dumb enough to be honest.

Their spirits unbroken, they set to work on the authentication.

Pink, blonde and blue-eyed Fanny O’Nelly, apparently as pure and spotless as a freshly broken Kleenex, was in fact the model paradigm of Philip Roth’s contaminated angel. Recently the honey of a well-planned honey trap that cruelly caught Senator Eliot Goldspitz with his pinstriped underpants down, her reputation had not suffered at all, but improved in such a way that she could ask by now twice as much as before. Which made her a tricky ingredient of the scheme. But, to the plotters’ great relief, it took only ten minutes to explain the matter, and she accepted not only a twenty percent share in the enterprise, but also offered one thousand dollars as a first contribution without being asked. This, she said, because it would be a great pleasure to pull the old skunk with his nose through the mud. The remark seemed inspired by personal reminiscences, but she refused to enlarge on the matter. As for the scheme as such, her many contacts among the Bagel’s demimonde and its high-powered clientele made her a particularly valuable asset, so much so that it took only a week’s preparation before she could be launched.

Scene of the assault was the sumptuous dwelling of another Hollywood huckster named Stanley Goldbrick, director of unwholesome blockbusters like Flatfoot Banana or Zips wide open. Situated in the lofty part of a skyscraper, with the main hall three floors high and a huge marble staircase leading up to further lodgings, it resembled the saccharine interior of a Walt Disney fairytale castle, though only when unpopulated. Because here elaborate Black Masses were regularly celebrated, complete with a horned High Priest who solemnly ordered a posse of voluptuous virgins to denude themselves in slow motion and then suffer semi-sacrificial subjugation by way of feverish fornication in every possible position, while numerous masked worshippers dressed into hilarious carnival robes looked on in varying stages of salivation.

Their culprit, the Prof and Norman learned with a jubilant heart, was known to never miss a session. When they inquired how Fanny could pinpoint him in the general melee, particularly as everyone wore masks, she told them not to worry. Because her costume would be the perfect temptation, an irresistible bait as it were, and one he could and would not decline. This simply because the mere possibility of an uncontaminated angelic presence continued to haunt him like a ghastly nightmare, no matter if sleeping or awake. Propelled by an obsessive and probably inherited urge, he had to pollute and thus annihilate it, in this way assuring the world and himself that his most significant maxim was still valid.

On the eve of Fanny’s assignment they hired a minibus wide and high enough to safeguard her large golden wings, a delicate halo and the celestial white dress of gossamer fabric which intentionally permitted a hint of tantalizing curves. After arriving at the huckster’s lodgings, they delivered her in the gilded entrance hall to a cheekily grinning Mexican bellhop in a pink g-string, then hunkered nervously for three hours in a plush bar nearby while sipping drinks at prices that could have kept any hardworking drudge afloat for two months.

Finally she came. And even though without halo and one wing badly crumpled and the other missing completely, and her gossamer dress torn to shreds and stained with splashes of 1958 Mouton Rothschild, she seemed in great spirits. Holding a closed hand in front of their astonished eyes, she opened it slowly and revealed a longish sprig of greasy grey-and-black hair. After due consideration, though decidedly less enthusiastic, they finally took heart and asked about… well, the other substance.

Alas, she sighed, no way! Too much jerking upon years long past had left the once steely schmuck as limp as a dead snail, and that without the faintest chance of resurrection, Viagra included. When they looked crestfallen, she told them to cheer up, since DNA was after all DNA, and never mind where it had been prospected.

To be on the safe side, all scientific comparisons were done in three independent laboratories, and the results tallied gloriously and flawlessly, just as she had predicted. They phoned Bernie and delivered the great good news, and he told them with a trembling voice to bring the items and their certificates, then lay low for a few days and leave everything to him.

After a week he called. Back at his opulent office, they learned to their astonishment that the scheme was nearing completion. Bernie had made a deal with the mystified and highly suspicious Larry Goldstein, to the effect that whatever frayed doormats, worn rags, frazzled underpants and dirty old socks the condemned building might divulge, were now his property and that of his associates. As can be imagined, the cost for this transaction was minimal, and when Larry finally found out the terrible truth, he suffered a stroke that impaired his left leg for the rest of his criminal life. Which gave him the air of a much wrinkled Beelzebub with a well-concealed clubfoot, and deservedly so. That apart, and far more important, Bernie and Steven had passed the word to their highly elusive mega-buck sponsors. As expected, all were thrilled by the idea to knock another platinum nail into our coffin for their hated Christian-European heritage. After agreeing rather nonchalantly to cough up the demanded sum, they immediately began to prepare a sensational public hubbub that would be broadcast to the farthest corners of the world.

The grand gala inauguration of the DoSS, or Dirty Old Sock Shrine, as this particular sanctum in the MoMA came to be known, happened as a strictly tribal affair. Not even the servile spongers of the New York Times were on hand, and that with good reason. Because this was an arcane investiture for the illuminated, and not a public gathering with the usual sanctimonious blather to confuse the indoctrinated masses. Here, between the pink velvet walls and under flickering strobes, no alien intruders were permitted. A grandiose party thus, with mountains of caviar, a veritable deluge of champagne and cocaine, and torrents of uncensored chatter peppered with enough malevolent derision to make the wallabies weep.

Of the conspirators none had been invited, not even Norman Goldschmuck. Goyim were out of bounds, naturally, and a bleary old geezer with cheap vodka on his breath would have clearly upset the massive display of moneyed sophistication. As it is, the victims of this cold-hearted attitude couldn’t have cared less. After securing the truly magnificent booty, all three grabbed their loved ones and fled the Big Bagel as if the devil himself was snapping at their heels.

The grand gala evolved according to plan, and it would be futile to dwell upon any particular Goldberg, Goldbloom, Goldfein, Goldfinger, Goldnose, Golddick, or whatever Gold might come to mind. Those present were simply the crème-de-la-crème, tremendously rich, and nothing else. With one exception, namely the fabled potboiler himself. To tell the truth, Bernie Goldshtick and Steven Goldshpiel had been in two minds as to inviting him. The erratic old crank might see the whole thing as a terrible insult to his celebrated literary drivel, and never grasp the wonderfully subversive aspect of it all. Yet after tentatively contacting him, they learned to their surprise that he accepted the invitation, was furthermore prepared to consider the stint as a tangible tribute, and for the rest told them that they mustn’t forget to invite a few contaminated angels whom he could contaminate some more while swallowing caviar and Mouton Rothschild until both were seeping out of his ears.

Thus it came to pass, and once the major investment bankers, the major media moguls and the Mayor himself had said their piece, that he took the rostrum. It had been strategically placed under the near mythical exhibit in its diamond-studded golden frame, and after beholding it for a moment nostalgically, he cleared his throat and opened the discourse with two of his legendary aphorisms.

Life is just a short period of time in which you are alive! Anything can happen to anyone, but it usually doesn’t, except when it does. He held in for a moment with a frown as if trying to recall what exactly could happen, then managed to remember essentials and continued with renewed fervour. Like it happened to me. Because I became a writer instead of a waiter! Even a literary genius, according to the New York Times. And though they never gave me that blasted Nobel shtick, I got at least the Bookers International from those barking mad Brits. He frowned again, shook his head as if still perplexed by this weird and much ridiculed award, and continued his homily slightly less spirited. Now I ask you, why did they give it to me? Everybody looked blank or expectantly; he smirked mischievously and told them. Not because I am a new Dante or Goethe or Melville, so help me God and whoever He may be. No!  They gave it to me because of this!

He pulled a tattered and much dog-eared paperback out of his pocket and held it up. As could be expected, the entire audience stood and applauded frantically. Old Rebecca Singer-Sulzberger, granny to some of the foremost presidential sponsors, went down with the vapours and was carried outside. Another banker-cum-sponsor’s teenage son, high on crack, ecstasy, downers and Pepsi Light, succumbed to a laughing attack and had to be carried outside as well. And an emotionally unstable movie actor and celebrated poof nearly fainted with adoration, but somehow managed to walk to the loo all by himself.

After some more caviar and a few sips of Mouton Rothschild, the great literator put on a pair of Louis Buittón platinum bifocals, opened the worn paperback and read them its most daring, historically most acclaimed and emotionally most moving section.

Then came adolescence — half my waking life spent locked behind the bathroom door, firing my wad down the toilet bowl, or into the soiled clothes in the laundry hamper, or splat up against the medicine-chest mirror, before which I stood in my dropped drawers so I could see how it looked coming out. Or else I was doubled over my flying fist, eyes pressed closed but mouth wide open, to take that sticky sauce of buttermilk and Clorox on my own tongue and teeth – though not infrequently, in my blindness and ecstasy, I got it all in the pompadour, like a blast of Wildroot Cream Oil. Through a world of matted handkerchiefs and crumpled Kleenex and stained pajamas, I moved my raw and swollen penis, perpetually in dread that my loathsomeness would be discovered by someone stealing upon me just as I was in the frenzy of dropping my load. Nevertheless, I was wholly incapable of keeping my paws from my dong once it started the climb up my belly. In the middle of a class I would raise a hand to be excused, rush down the corridor to the lavatory, and with ten or fifteen savage strokes, beat off standing up into a urinal. At the Saturday afternoon movie I would leave my friends to go off to the candy machine – and wind up in a distant balcony seat, squirting my seed into the empty wrapper from a Mounds bar. On an outing of our family association, I once cored an apple, saw to my astonishment (and with the aid of my obsession) what it looked like, and ran off into the woods to fall upon the orifice of the fruit, pretending that the cool and mealy hole was actually between the legs of that mythical being who always called me Big Boy when she pleaded for what no girl in all recorded history had ever had. Oh shove it in me, Big Boy, cried the cored apple that I banged silly on that picnic. Big Boy, Big Boy, oh give me all you’ve got, begged the empty milk bottle that I kept hidden in our storage bin in the basement, to drive wild after school with my vaselined upright. Come, Big Boy, come, screamed the maddened piece of liver that, in my own insanity, I bought one afternoon at a butcher shop and, believe it or not, violated behind a billboard on the way to a bar mitzvah lesson.

As could be expected, this magnificent example of intellectual audacity caused even more enthusiastic applause. People laughed, cried or simply clapped their hands hysterically. Visibly moved, the great man concluded his touching discourse with a few elucidations as to the practical intent and impact of his fabled oeuvre.

Anyone who has looked through my literary output knows that it is about as smutty and smelly as this old sock and as profound as its frazzled hole! He gestured wistfully at the fabulous exhibit. My genius is not to be found in a breathtakingly elegant turn of phrase, or the magnitude of my philosophical penetration, or my sense of social responsibility, or my humaneness in general, or any such highfalutin nonsense. Screw them all, says I, because I haven’t got any and never will. And how could I, with my background and upbringing! Nope! My genius is to have brought about, by way of an utterly obscene and deeply offensive literary assault, a fundamental change in the fusty and oppressive Western moral concepts designed to safeguard traditional sexual constraints. Forget three thousand years of European literature and its grovelling and snivelling adoration for the Angelic White Female! Fuck the Aphrodites, Lauras, Beatrices, Juliets and Ophelias to kingdom come! Rape them whenever you like, jerk off whenever you like, do whatever you like! Be a porn hog unto yourself and the world, and make sure your kids learn it as well early on! Which, needless to say and only between you and me, is the best thing that could ever happen to us particularly! Haw haw!

Riotous applause branded through the newly established sanctuary, Champagne corks cracked lustily, and more caviar was shovelled on silver slavers.

A young heiress with large hams and unsteady eyes brought a bouquet of Amazonian fly-eating orchids, but the great man only yawned and merely managed a tired gesture of his once flying fist. He washed down another pound of caviar with ample Mouton Rothschild directly from the bottle, then muttered, mouth still full, a few words of wisdom that were hardly audible.

Writing turns you into somebody who’s always wrong. The illusion that you may get it right someday is the perversity that draws you on.

When a peroxide blonde in rivers of sapphires and a blue mink stared at him with a shocked expression, he lifted a foot and kicked the rostrum while breaking air noisily. Burping raucously, he wagged a raised middle finger at her and added cantankerously: Old age isn’t a battle, old age is a massacre!

And after a last and rather horrified glance at the dirty old sock, his gaze turned inward and he added an aphorism that was generally interpreted, once he had fortunately decided to cease writing forever, as his personal and particularly brilliant epitaph.

He was no more, freed from being, entering into nowhere without even knowing it. Just as he had feared from the start…

Brilliant perhaps, you may say, yet also demarcating a rather trivial final curtain. Because what it implies is that behind all the smutty, inept and utterly banal scribble hid a deeply rooted fear of entering into nowhere that must have given him plenty of stomach ache during his long and hauntingly vacant life. Not to mention his silent horror at the possibility that there might exist indeed the uncontaminated Angel of Christian – European credence… pure and beautiful and innocent as the freshly driven snow.

Michael Colhaze’s website:

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