Chapter 12: THE FAIRY KING
Mina agreed to take the management job while she and Margaret were deciding what to eat. Now, at the end of their meal and in the middle of their light, get-acquainted chitchat, Mina made a startling discovery; she was enjoying herself.
Margaret was smart and funny and proudly irreverent. The liberal sprinkling of salt she used in her language covered any subject that arose and there didnt seem to be a subject in the world that she was afraid to bite into. She talked more than she listened but Mina hadnt known her long enough to determine whether her loquaciousness was a product of her personality or her mood. At the moment, she didnt care. As long as Margaret wanted to talk, Mina wanted to listen.
"...Your office is equipped to transform itself into a virtual reality environment at the touch of a button. Once you get body scanned so the system knows you, you can do damn near anything you can dream up once you get the feel of it. If you dont have an imaginationlike Hal Finleyyou might need somebody like Walter Judd to write the programs..."
Mina shrank at the mention of the creepy Walter Judd, but her eyes sparkled and it was easy for anybody to see that she was having a great time. It was also easy to see that Margaret was feeding on her pleasure.
"Its the perfect whorehouse," said Margaret. "Anybody you want. Anything you want. No complaints. No sexually transmitted diseases." Margaret leaned over and whispered confidentially, "Finley is gonna miss that." Then she lifted her eyebrows twice and grinned, "Youre gonna love it."
Minas jaw dropped and her eyes widened as she covered her mouth with her hand and tittered. "You dont mean that," laughed Mina, clearly hoping that she did.
Margaret batted her eyelashes and smiled slyly, "Well...."
That set off another round of snickering.
"Seriously," said Margaret, "Youll be amazed at what you can do in virtual reality. But you have to be careful about what you take with you into a VRSthe S can stand for, session or setting, by the way. Little things can make a big difference. Picking out a body for yourself is like picking out a suit of clothes. Actually, the clothes come with the body. So does the hair style, lipstick, perfumewhich reminds me. It was a lucky thing I was wearing Charmé when I caught up with you this afternoon. It gave me the leverage I needed to put Jerry Spurgin away before he could fuck things up with Easton and Piper."
"What is it with that guy?" said Mina.
"Who knows? Maybe he was born that way... Speaking of cocksuckers..."
"Did you hear the one about the fairy king?" asked Margaret
Minas eyes gleamed in anticipation of a raunchy joke. A fairy, she recalled, was not only a mythical sprite, but an old slang term for an effeminate male homosexual, a stereotypical deviate who flaunted it. "No," she said, "Tell me."
"OK," said Margaret just loud enough for her eager young companion to hear. "Once upon a time there lived a cruel fairy king. The humble peasants toiled for crumbs year in and year out. He taxed away everything they had of value and punished without mercy anyone foolish enough to complain. If they had nothing of value to give, they were imprisoned and tortured for refusing the just order of the king.
"Then he issued a decree that said everybody had to be a fairy.
"There was great upheaval.
"Huge swarms of peasants gathered around the castle, shouting epithets and jabbing crude weapons in the air. The king looked down upon the rabble and asked the commander of the guard what all the commotion was about.
"The commander cried, Pussy! Theyre starving for pussy!
"The king sneered, Let them eat cock."
Mina shrieked with laughter, not caring how many people turned to look. She liked Margaret. Listening to her made Mina feel like a little girl again, sharing naughty secrets with her best girlfriend and giggling their silly heads off. Being naughty was fun. It was an adventure, a hunt for the buried meaning of forbidden words and deeds.
Mina had forgotten the childhood thrill of exploring forbidden territory, of sharing the danger with a fellow explorer and discovering the carefully guarded secrets of the giants. Margaret brought all of those wonderful feelings back to her in a deluge of limitless expectations. There was no telling what she would say next and no limit to the forbidden thoughts and feelings that Margaret would undoubtedly delight in hearing from her.
The greatest tragedy of Minas adulthood was the tyranny of limited expectations imposed upon it by people and institutions she didnt agree withbut normal people were supposed to agree with.
That was Margarets greatest appeal; she wasnt normal. She was a woman with secrets who didnt like secrets, an actress who didnt like to pretend and a free spirit in a locked and guarded cage. Mina was not the free spirit she wished she could be. But she, too, was locked in the solitary confinement of corporate and government censorship, aching to tell someone who she really was and what she really thought.
If Mina had known a purple joke that she could trust herself to tell, she would have shared it with Margaret, not only to reply in kind but to delay the inevitable downshift in mood. Margaret was not merely entertaining her, she was making herself increasingly vulnerable, skating farther and farther out on the ice of Minas tolerance for nonconformity to test its thickness. There had to be a compelling reason for that.
Then, in the dying moments of her laughter, she knew that "The Fairy King" was not merely a dirty joke with a dirty punch line, it was an ironic fairy tale with a moral. And Margaret wasnt merely being naughty in telling it. She was breaking the law.
"You know," said Mina, trying to sound only half-serious, "I could have you arrested for making me laugh like that."
"I know," said Margaret soberly. All you have to do is report me to the nearest police vice squad."
Minas pained face spoke for her again, begging forgiveness for her clumsy attempt at humor and telling Margaret that she would never betray her trust.
Margaret smiled reassuringly, "I know you wouldnt," she said. "The point is, you could. If you did, I wouldnt be able to do a thing about it. What goes on every day in our business with the programmers, supervisors, directors and whoever it is above us who must be running that goddamn X channelwhat they do to alleged morals offenders is so much worse than what the government does that somebody like me would be crazy to fight back. If you were willing to risk going to prison yourself to get me, the charges you make wouldnt even have to be true."
Mina looked incredulous. "I dont see how the government could do anything to you for telling an illegal joke if you didnt do it. The only way they could prove anything would be on a time trace. Assuming the police can get a court order for a trace on something as trivial as that, theyd be too limited in where they could look to give the X Channel much to work with."
"Youre wrong," said Margaret.
"No, no, no. I dont think so. Theyd have to look here, where the morals offense was allegedly committed. If they found out it wasnt true Id be the one in jail. Besides, nobody is going to take enough flashbacks of what happened in here to be sure to record the right track. And nobody could make an ELF of you doing anything that the X Channel watchers would want to see without damaging Duncans reputation at the same time. It would be like dropping a bomb on the Sistine Chapel to kill a heretic. Nobody would want that to happen. Thats one of the reasons people come to places like this to talk business. They can say whatever they want without worrying about it. Isnt that why we can talk like this now?"
Margaret shook her head. "You dont get it," she said. As long as were on the same side, neither of us can get hurt by anything we tell each other here. But what if you were a spy for somebody at Condor who wanted to take me out of the picture or an Afro kamikaze who wanted to sink a big honky ship?"
Mina recoiled at the suggestion of being a black bigot.
Margaret took the stunned reaction of her protégé as a natural result of her invidious supposition. "All youd have to do is say that it happened somewhere else, like my bedroom, for instance. I dont know about you, but I couldnt stand to have the highlights of my private sex life beamed to every home on the planet with a telewindow. Its worse than an invasion of privacy. Its a new kind of rape!
"I happen to be a real kinky broad. I mean real kinky. But how you or I or any other adult wants to have sex with another consenting adultif at allshouldnt involve anybody we didnt invite to the party. If freedom means anything, its gotta mean that."
Given her own unusual sex life, Mina had to agree.
She wasnt altogether sure what a broad was but the word "kinky" came before it often enough in her flashbacks of the twentieth century to know that the two words combined signified a woman with unusual sexual tastes. That could mean anything in the alphabet from analingus to zoophelia, with lesbianism, masturbation, miscegenation and necrophelia in the middle. It was usually something that struck the vast majority of people or the ruling minority at any given time or place, as revolting, unnatural or sick. And it was always grouped with something like pedophilia or cannibalism that was sure to be offensive to nearly everybody.
"Kinky broad? I dont know what that means," Mina lied.
Margaret blushed. It was one thing to talk in generalities or to avoid using the euphemisms that made other people more comfortable. It was another thing to specify what it was about yourself that was likely to make the person you were talking to think that you were revolting, unnatural or sick.
Mina knew what she was doing and she derived an admittedly sadistic charge out of putting the attractive, self-assured female exec on the hook. She had no intention of keeping her there for long and a good honest reason for being so devious. She was doing it because Margaret wanted her to.
"Come on, Mina. Thats not fair."
Mina smiled impishly, "You tell me yours and Ill tell you mine."
Margaret laughed. If there was one thing a hotshot programmer knew about, it was "kinky broads" and "kinky dudes" and sexual practices of every variety. They heard the words and saw the deeds throughout the ages. That was one of the reasons most people got into the profession; they were voyeurs at heartkinky broads and kinky dudes who got to see it all.
Mina had forced Margaret into doing what she had to do but didnt know how to. If Mina hadnt been so sexually appealing it would not have been a problem. As it was, the danger of having this all important meeting construed later on as an elaborate lesbian seduction was too great not to confront and put behind them.
"There are a couple of rumors going around about me," said Margaret. "And one of them is true."
She searched Minas face for her reaction and saw a mild case of disappointment which could have meant anything.
"Well?" said Margaret, "You promised to tell me yours if I told you mine."
Mina fidgeted in her seat, "Yours is a little unusual but not that unusualand I dont see whats so kinky about it."
"It sounds like youre trying to renege."
"No. I just dont think theres any comparison. There isnt even a name for what I am. I mean, what do you call a 28-year-old virgin with a strong sex drive who only has sex with her imagination and herself?"
The note of envy and shame in Minas voice told Margaret not to pursue it. Margaret had said what she needed to and felt the awful pain of Minas confession. The kind of trust they needed to work together with confidence could be forged only with that kind of shared pain.
"You know," said Margaret, "The Fairy King is what got Charm put in prison."
"Who?" asked Mina, giving her dinner companion a clean slate to write on.
"I cant believe that you havent heard of the woman who gave Charm its other meaning. The lesbian comedian with tits the size of your head? Well, every time she did a show shed work in a way to casually touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. Soon as she did that, everybody in the audience knew she was going to tell a story about butts and butt-holes."
Mina was pleasantly shocked by the unlawfully lewd suggestion and glad to see the fun and adventure return to Margarets eyes.
"I dont know where she got the nerve to do it," continued Margaret, "but it was funny stuff, I swear, and people would start laughing before she said a word. Shed tell her story with her tits hanging out like it was the most natural thing in the world to do and she was talking about the weather over a blind phone line to her best buddy. She went into every conceivable variation of oral sex except the kind only a woman can receive."
Mina noted Margarets shynessif thats what it wasabout referring by name to that particular act which a man or woman could perform on a woman.
The older woman continued, "She said, she didnt talk about that because she didnt want anybody to think she was normal."
"Yeah," said Margaret. It was funny and it was nasty but there was a serious point to what she was doing and more and more people were beginning to see it. She had about a dozen routines with different props and different jokes to keep them fresh. But she always started with her face in a censored swingers magazine with "uncensored" Margaret made a left to right motion with her hand as if to spread out a banner. "in bold letters on the cover. She'd pick out an ad and end up telling a story that didn't seem to have anything to do with it."
"Seemed to," nodded Mina, in a serious way that she hoped would say that she got the idea even if she couldn't recall a picture from memory.
"The stories she told about herself were always about trying to get ahead in a hypocritical, male-dominated, conformist society. Thats the real reason for her choice of material, apart from the fact that it was a trademark that made her a ton of money. Public humiliation is one of the biggest hammers people can hold over the heads of other people to influence the most intimate aspects of their lives. Charm was taking the weight out of that hammer with every performance. She went public with something other people were afraid to even think about and made a running joke of it. The Fairy King was too much for the cocksuckers running the show to handle."
"Ah," said Mina, "Now that you mention it, I have heard of Charm. But I thought that the joke she got put away for had something to do with lesbianism."
Mina thought about it and made a self-deprecating face at her remark. Of course it did. The angry peasants didnt all have to be men. "How did you find out about it."
"I watched it on cable TV. Now it looks like the bad guys erased it from time along with her. You cant find a tape or a DVD in anybodys archives. You cant even find a time track.
Margaret sighed. "I was a big fan of Charm in college. I dyed my hair strawberry blond, I wore her Bawdy-Red shade of lipstick and would have trippled my chest size if I could have afforded it."
Mina scowled, "The people who prosecuted her would have said they did it to save impressionable young girls like you from immoral women like her. Sounds like you just made their case."
Margaret came right back, "The reason I found her so attractive was because she was rebelling against people like them. Theyre the immoral ones. They always have been. She was fighting those bastards and she was winning. She was so wise and funny and comfortable with being what she was. I tried to be like her because she was what I wished I could beonly I couldnt get a descent job in television because of it."
"Is that how you got into telewindows?"
"Pretty much. Telewindows were nothing back then; they didn't even know what to call it. The industry was having a tough time getting people who could do what I could to help them compete with television, so"
Mina did her version of snapping her fingers, which was far more visual than auditory. "Television," she said. "Televisions, VCRs and DVD's went hand-in-hand."
"Sure," said Margaret. "A lot of people must have recorded the Fairy King on their DVD players but, as far as I know, none of them survived."
"The people or the DVDs?" asked Mina.
"Thats what Id like to know."
It was a frightening thought.
"What ever happened to her?"
"Nobody knows what happens to anybody who gets convicted of contaminating the public airwaves. Thats a class D felony, you know, the same as non-capital murder one. Ive been trying to find out about Charm for the past twenty years. But with no parole and no visitation rights its like she went to prison and vanished there. I've heard rumors from time to time, but..."
"What kind of rumors?"
"Well, there was one about the prison doctor performing an unnecessary appendectomy without anesthesia. There was another one about a guard who smashed her wrist with a baton and a bunch of stuff about the staff not letting it heal on purpose."
Mina frowned. "But why?"
"As I understand it, she was sent to a private prison that wasn't supervised all that well. If it happened, it could have been on the level of one sadistic guard with a lot of friends willing to look the other way. But then there was another rumor that her mistreatment was some part of a mind control experiment that softened her up to the point that she didn't know who she was anymore."
"Do you believe that?"
"No. What would be the point? I guess people have to say something to fill in the gaps. What we know is bad enough. We know that a shit-load of people vanished in prison on a class D. And the people who stood up to defend them got X-channeled or channeled into disposal zones or both. The only place you can hear about them now is on your sisters program, God. Im surprised its still on the air."
"Im surprised so many people know about it."
"You shouldnt be. Hector Clay is one of the most influential men in North America. A lot of men think he is God and a lot of women would sell their souls for the privilege of kissing his beautiful ass. He does have a beautiful ass, you know. I saw it last night on the X Channel. He has a nice Johnson, too." Margaret laughed. "They thought they were hurting him, but they made him human. And theres something about him with or without his clothes onan irresistible sexual energy. And that voice. Oooo, he makes me so wet!"
Minas eyes narrowed. "I thought you said you were a lesbian."
Margaret shrugged. "I could never make up my mind about that. My current lover is a lesbian. Well always be friends, but if she could find someone as perverted as I am who was strictly a womans woman shed dump me as a lover in a minute. And she knows that Id be saying my good-buys to her if I could find a nice man as perverted as she is to take her place. But I have to be touched and Iwell, I have other needs. And for now, I dont know what Id do without her." She smiled lasciviously and added, "but I know what Id like to do with Hector Clay."
Mina picked up on the little stop-action in Margaret's delivery that showed how uncomfortable it had made her to come as close as she had to saying the words "Doing without." It was the name of a book which championed the most barbaric surgical procedure imaginable for sexually deviant men. Mina had so little interest in the issue that it came and went from her thoughts in the blink of an eye.
She forced a smile at Margaret's lewd remark about Hector Clay. The image of the white woman and the black man in any sexual contact struck her as utterly revolting. Of all the things they talked about and hinted at that was the only thing she reacted to in that way. God help me, she thought, I am bigot! It was going to take more than an hour of pleasant conversation with an atypical member of the offending race to change it.
Mina cursed her memory as the awful admission involuntarily cued up the words of Hector Clay: "The worst bigots are always ready to concede an obvious exception to the rule. Thats why they can see themselves as rational, fair-minded people without ever having to reevaluate the rule. They are not imbeciles. They are simply passionate defenders of a faith that strokes their egos or protects them from frightening ideas about other people or other peoples ideas. They are intellectual cowards...."
There was more, but she dismissed it as "rhetoric" and tried to think of how to move the conversation back to a less troubling path. The technological phenomenon that Margaret called "a new kind of rape" was one way to go. What she saw that morning as a new kind of genocide was another. It was clear that the two polluted tributaries flowed from the same source and emptied into the same lake. It was good that she and Margaret got together. Maybe there was something they could do about it.
She decided to tell Margaret everything she knew about Shag Man and Jimmyand to say as little as possible about Rick Tyler.Back to top
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Contact the author: Jasper Garrison