Return of Prankenstein

July 8, 2011

A freewheelin’ day with nothing to do but ride around the neighborhood and plan out my devious pranks.  Mom and Dad are having a party tonight and my mind is in overdrive.  I have some pretty good stuff planned, I just need time alone to line it all up.  I park my bike on the lawn and creep into the house from the back door.  I am startled to hear my name being intoned in an apparently serious discussion between Mom and Dad.  I duck behind the living room sofa and listen intently.

“So, if Sebastian thinks it’s so funny to catch us fooling around in his treehouse, does that mean I can skip the Birds and the Bees talk?”  My Dad sets his coffee down and sighs.

Mom takes a sip from her mug and sets it on the table next to Dad’s.  “I don’t think I can let you off the hook that easy, Sigismund.  But the talk we really need to have with him is about respecting people’s space and privacy.”

“We need to think about a punishment that fits the crime.  But frankly, I can’t think of anything until we get through the cookout tonight.  Tell me again, why are we hosting the annual meeting of the Homeowner’s Association?”  Dad sounds more annoyed than usual and it occurs to me that the punishment he has in store will only quadruple in size if I can pull off the major stunt I have in mind for the benefit of this evening’s guests.

They drink in unison and then make plans to do some shopping.  Perfect!  In their absence, I can get to work.

The plumbing is demanding  to be transformed into instant super-soakers in the guest bath.  It is a trick I have practiced on myself several times, trying to nail it down so the victim walks away in hopelessly soggy clothing.  I know Mom and Dad have no reason to use this bathroom so the fixtures should be poised to explode as soon as one of the neighbors uses them tonight.

Some jokes never go out of style and spending some simoleons at an online joke shop was a wise choice.

I could only afford three and it saddens me to think that the whoopie cushions will be confiscated upon discovery…

But the thrill I experience as I gently prop the inflated pieces of rubber on our living room chairs wipes away the thought of losing my mischievous toys in the future.  What matters is tonight!

By the time Mom and Dad return, I have the whole house rigged for non-stop hilarity–at least for me!  They find me in the backyard, innocently splashing around on the water slide we can’t get enough of.  Mom and Dad change into their swimsuits and join me and for an hour or so, we are a loving family, enjoying each other’s company.  But the entire time, in the back of my mind, I am counting off the minutes for the festivities to begin.

At last, the afternoon is waning into a warm summer twilight.  The guests are gathered, waiting for Dad to fire up the grill.  I have made the rounds per Mom’s request, saying hello to people that aren’t strangers, but aren’t friends either.  Then I spot my twin Aunts, Lyssandra and Hansu.  I have a moment of doubt–these two have always been very good to me, bringing me wonderful gifts when they would occasionally babysit for me.  I consider warning them but what if they rat me out?  I guess they will have to take their chances with everyone else.

Dad is keeping the Nectar flowing so most everyone is oblivious as I walk across the yard to my lair, what looks like our innocuous detached garage, but is in fact ground zero for a prank I’m about to pull that is unrivaled by anything I have done before.  It takes me a while to work up the nerve but then I am shedding my clothes down to my underpants and struggling to pull on the constricting satin and lace.  I balance the veiled hat precariously atop my head and take up my frilly wand, then carefully slide the fitted gloves over my hands.  Finally, I shove my feet in the plastic kitten heels and stumble about the concrete floor for a moment until I can walk right.

As I step onto the grass, the kitten heels sink in and I almost lose them as I try to move forward.  I am immediately aware that the summer heat and this polyester costume are not a pleasant combination.  I start sweating profusely and the damp material clings to my skin and itches like mad.  My heart is pounding so loud that my ears throb with every pulse.  I have never felt so conspicuous in my life.  Yet…no one seems to notice me.

No matter, I see my intended target.  Pop is having what I know is a torturous conversation with Nancy Landgrab–or Land-Hag as he refers to the President of our Homeowner’s Association when he is talking about her to Mom.  I start to walk towards them, struggling to keep the plastic princess shoes on my feet.  I can only take small, almost mincing steps and my hips sway back and forth in an exaggerated female fashion.

I’m a little taken aback when I realize the HOA Newsletter photographer is taking a picture of me but I decide to go with it and turn and give her the ‘elbow elbow wrist wrist’ wave and blow her a kiss.  The old man is so enrapt in his talk with the Hag, he hasn’t gotten a gander of the spectacle I’m making.  I’m getting a little impatient and I’m so hot, I feel like I’m going to pass out.  I decide to kick it up a notch.

I whip out my wand and begin shaking fairy dust over two people in the middle of a chess game and say in a high, wavering voice that by no accident is a spot-on imitation of Nancy’s snooty tone “My subjects of the Kingdom Notorious, I bestow my blessings upon you.”

That got Dad’s attention real quick.  Within seconds, I feel a rough hand encircling my gloved arm and I am being yanked through the open sliding glass door.  The air conditioner is sweet, cooling relief but the look on Pop’s face is even better.  I have never seen him look more discombobulated!

Out comes the finger of shame, pointing at me and pointing towards my room.

“I don’t know what you think you are doing but I can absolutely assure you, in case you have any doubt, that NO SON OF MINE WILL WEAR A DRESS AND SASHAY AROUND IN PUBLIC AND-”

The room fills with gasps, as all the guests have followed us inside and are standing around in a circle.

I look up into their faces and I see expressions of shock…



and Disapproval.  Only their expressions are not aimed at me.  Their eyes are all on Pop!

I seize the moment and start to wail.  Which sets the old man off even worse.  He starts laughing and says in a sing-song voice “Oh, did I make the little princess cry?  Poor widdle pwintheth, run off to your room now and cwy in your pillow!”

“Sigismund Notorious, that is enough!”  Jocasta Bachelor’s authoritative voice rings out over Dad’s mocking and the whole room falls silent.  “Just because a child chooses to experiment with gender roles is no reason for you to bully him.  It is behavior like yours that leads to distortion of identity and shame and self-loathing, something no parent should want to burden their child with.”  The crowd begins buzzing in unison, and the sentiment seems to be pro-Jocasta, anti-Dad.

Pop is absolutely flabbergasted.  Once upon a time, my old man was a very important person and though he is retired, people still walk on eggshells around him.  But this public chastisement, this humiliation in front of his peers, it is amazing!  I could have planned and planned and never come up with a better outcome than this one!  Slowly, Dad turns away from me.  He looks to the furious group around him and gives a lame chuckle.  He starts to speak, then stops, starts to shrug, then hangs his head.

“My…ummm, uh outburst…was, well, I see your point…ummm, and I ah, I should apologize…” As Dad’s stutters through this speech, he backs into the living room and sits down.  Oops.  The sound that emanates from the deflating whoopie cushion is monstrous.

Like the laughter that erupts from our neighbors!  They love it!  The break in the mood gives my mother the opportunity to call everyone back outside, where she has opened more bottles of nectar and lit the citronella candles to keep pesky mosquitoes away.

“Sigismund, let’s get the steaks on,” Mom says to Dad, the amusement in her voice not at all disguised.

“Huh?” he mumbles as he rises from the offending chair, so confused about these recent events.  But he dutifully follows his wife outside and gets to grilling.  Now…I am alone in the house, as all the guests have drifted back outside…and I could do the right thing and disable my trickery to save those potential victims that so quickly came to my defense.

But I am distracted by Nancy Landgrab.  She motions for me to join her and Jocasta Bachelor.

They proceed to ooh and ahh over my outfit, asking me if I sewed it myself and do I like to play with dolls and assuring me repeatedly that there was nothing wrong with my behavior.  Then they asked me where our bathroom was.  So being the charming little princess I had become, I took them by the hands and led them straight to the guest facilities.

Jocasta went in first.  I waited outside with Nancy, and we continued our little chat.  Then, from behind the bathroom door came a familiar flushing sound followed by a not-so-familiar shrieking.  Nancy pushed past me and opened the door to discover her friend being deluged by the toilet!  Some of the water splashed on Land-Hag and she turned to the sink, crying out “My makeup, my makeup!”

But her attempt to clean her face only resulted in another massive dose of spraying water.  Both ladies rushed out, straight to the living room, crying and wringing themselves out.  My mother rushed to them.  “Oh, I’ll get you some towels immediately, just have a seat and try to calm down, I’m so sorry!”  Mom thought she was sorry now, wait’ll they sit down.

First Nancy started to drop into a living room chair.

Simultaneously, Jocasta’s backside hit the seat.  The whoopie cushions exploded at the exact same time and the sounds were perfectly in synch and thunderous.  Both ladies shrieked again.

Dad was apoplectic.  “Do you see what I have to put up with?  Do you understand why I get so angry?”  And he was angry, so much so, he could barely get the words out.  By now, the ladies were rounding up their purses and their family members, tossing glares back at my mother and my father.  They and the other guests couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

Amid all the chaos of our neighbors stampeding towards the exit, Hansu and Lyssandra came towards me.

“We’ve arranged for you to stay at our house tonight,”  they whispered conspiratorially and whisked me out of the line of Pop’s fire.

Later that night, I was soaking in my aunties’ tub, reflecting on what a triumphant evening it was and feeling mighty proud of myself.  I knew things were going to be rough when I finally had to return to face my father’s wrath.  But for now, I just wanted to bask in my glory.

Had I known what Dad had in store for me upon my return, I might not have felt so glorious.



June 20, 2011

“Weeeeellllll, if it isn’t young Sebastian Notorious and look, you’re a little entrepreneuer.”

I look up from my bake sale table and spot Dad’s enemy number one, Nancy Landgraab, the Queen of the Homeowner’s Association.  Finally, a customer and all of the people to sell my wares too, it’s her!  The toasty aroma of fresh-out-of-the-oven muffins wafts on the spring morning breeze right under my nose and a loud, gurgling rumble emanates from my hungry stomach.

Nancy goes on in her snobby voice.  “What, pray tell, did you use to make this delightful confection?”

I glance skyward, acting as if I were in deep thought, contemplating the recipe.

In reality, I am having a fiendishly delightful flashback to the night before.  Waiting in the dark in my bedroom until I heard my father’s bear-like snores from his bedroom.  Sneaking into the kitchen to my SimmyBake Oven and quietly mixing all the ingredients including the extra-special, extra-secret one that only I would know about…until it was too late.  Ha!

“I guess I will just have to take them all, little man,” Nancy continues, her words dripping with money and stuck-up-ness, so patronizing, I want to pick up the plate and smash them in her over-made-up face.  But I will only have to wait a little while longer for my plan to go into effect.  Ideally, I will never know the results except in my imagination, I think as I watch her sashay away from the rickety bake sale table.  She turns to wave and I quickly and as innocently as I can muster, wave back.

Yesterday was such a great success, I decide to try to find another victim.  But as I am straightening my plate of baked goodies, a long, perfumed shadow falls across the table and I look up and for a moment I am frozen.

“You little monster!”  Nancy Landgraab shrieks and her lacquered, claw-like nails reach towards me.

Just then, good old Pop comes outside to check on me.  A good thing, or a bad thing…time will tell.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa…Nancy, what are you doing to my son?”  Dad’s voice is laced with genuine curiosity but I know underneath that is nothing but contempt.  How he dislikes this woman.

“The question, Sigismund, should be what has your son done to me?  And my family?  With his horrible trick!  You should be ashamed and disgusted of this boy.”

“Sheesh, Nancy, that is some pretty strong language.  What could he possibly have done to upset you so much?”  Dad was trying to be diplomatic but I could hear something else in his voice…dare I say it?  Was Pop fiendishly delighted to see his archnemesis so riled?

“That little brat put laxatives in those muffins!”  She half-shouted, half-wailed.

Oops, Dad wasn’t delighted at all.   I considered running back to the house but I saw no point, he would track me down.

“Nancy, I am shocked, shocked! to hear that my son would do this to you but I am sure it was not personal.  Please, give me some time to speak to him and I will send him to your house immediately to apologize to everyone and to share with you his punishment.”

She turns on her heel with a loud huffing noise and marches across the street to her mansion.  I do not look forward to following her over there and I brace myself for what is coming next.

First, good old ‘Pointy’ is in my face.  Jab, jab, jab, Pop’s index finger is his favorite weapon.

Along with the finger stabbing the air for emphasis, the lecture.  Blah blah blah “when I was your age” blah blah blah “don’t you know that you can put people in harm’s way” blah blah blah “that woman causes me enough grief already blah blah blah.

Finally, the punishment.  He did just what he promised old ugly Landgraab face, he sent me over to apologize and then he confiscated my bake sale table and my SimmyBake Oven.  Oh, well, the joke is over so what good would those things do my anymore.   I drag my heels all the way to the neighbor’s house but already, the wheels of mischief are turning and I’m wondering what will I do for my follow-up?

Pranks come pretty natural to me.  I was a trickster the minute I was conceived.  Mom and Dad had already sent my siblings, Mariposa and Vereen off to college and they were really looking forward to having their lives children-free.  Not so fast…here I am being born!

Mom says I was pretty difficult.  I think it was the lack of freedom to express myself in the way that would become my trademark–lowdown, dirty mischief!  But once I started walking, no one was safe.

I started at two and my first medium was glue.  Not that gooey, white paste that some of my peers think is delicious, oh, no.  I found the good stuff in Dad’s tool box and with my stepping-stool, I was able to make a mess of this dresser.

I never meant for Mom to be the receipient of my badness.  This time was the one and only time she had to suffer at the hands of her son.  From then on, I was very careful to make sure Dad was the target.

Wow, the look on Dad’s face when he realized the chess pieces were permantly affixed to the board.  But that was baby stuff.  I had much bigger and bolder plans…but how was to implement them?

Inspiration can come from surprising places and originally I was dreading our field trip to the Science Center.  How could I pull a prank in a place I was unfamiliar with.  I was not yet good on the fly, I needed lots of planning.  Another thing I hated about field trips is that I always had to sit with the chaperone.  I had quite the reputation for bad behavior.

I entered the building, passing the fountain that to me was absolutely lackluster because it wasn’t filled with suds.  To me, it was going to be another boring seminar and with a teacher or parent taking the seat besides me, what could I possibly get up to?

But I came out of the Science Center a changed young man…see, they had a gift shop…

I have the power!  No more baby pranks for me, I was taking it to the next level!

Inspiration is everything when it comes to pulling the most ingenious pranks.  One day, the old man called me into his bathroom to mop up a puddle that was never-ending, seeing Dad was having such a hard time fixing the shower.  Eventually, me managed to stop the leak.  But my mind was going a million devious miles a minute.

Some quality time in the laboratory, which Dad thankfully had set up in the detached garage for me, led to the discovery of a potion that would do just what I wanted it to do–humiliate my next victim–Pop, of course!

Now the tricky part, finding some time to get into the Master bath without my parents catching me.  I’m fast, lightening-fast–the stealth trickster!

I think I can actually make this work!  Mom doesn’t take showers, so she’ll be safe.  I just have to wait for Dad.  My only regret is that there is nowhere to hide in the bathroom so I won’t actually get to see my handiwork.  But I’ll know the scream of agony…it’ll be the thrilling sound of success!  I’ll put tape over the doorlatch so he can’t lock it and then I’ll bust in at the right moment!

“What the…what is dripping down my neck?”

(Looks in mirror)


“Ariane!  ARIANE, HELP!”

(tee hee)

Dad gets very quiet.  I am standing in the door, my hand over my mouth, but the the giggles are spilling out.  From the angle of the door I can see his head and shoulders in the mirror over the sink.  Oh, well, Pop, you know what they say…Blondes have more fun!

Through gritted teeth, comes the lecture…then the punishment.  But I don’t even hear what he is saying because Mom has joined me and we are roaring with laughter.

“Ariane, don’t encourage him,”  Dad pleads but she shakes her head.

“It’s funny, Sigismund.  Relax.  It’ll wash right out, won’t it honey?”

I shrug and wander away.  What next, what next?

Now you see them…

Now you don’t!

Get home early from school and this prank is just begging to happen!

I tip toe into the garage and shut the door, but I can hear everything from the open windows.

First I hear the Simmcuzzi jets die down, indicating that Dad is sufficiently pruned.  Then the sloshing sound of him pulling his beluga whale body out of the hot tub.  Then a pause…then


I can hear my mother laughing softly.  “Sigismund, if you want to parade around the backyard naked, we are going to have to build a privacy hedge or Nancy Landgraab will have you by the–”

“My lack of clothing is not my idea, it is your son’s.  Where is he?”  Dad sounds quietly furious.  I know what is coming next.

“I don’t know how to make him understand that he must respect me.  All I can do is punish him but nothing seems to sink in, it just seems to make him more insolent.  It is like a challenge to him, ” my father rants.

Moments later, I am being summoned.  I could pretend not to hear him but it does not good, he will always find me.

Dad’s in rare form tonight.  He jabs that finger in every direction, in the air, at me, and finally, the dreaded corner.

“C’mon, Pop.  I’m too big to stick my nose on the wall.  Can’t I just do chores or something?”

Dad nods.  “You’re right.  You are too big–for your britches.   Fine, the corner is out but I want the entire garage cleaned up by the end of this weekend.  Do you understand?”

I agree with some reluctance–I’ve made a pretty big mess inside my lab–but it beats being treated like a baby.

On my way outside, I pass through the den and I make an incredible discovery.  Dad has left out his precious digital video recorder!  Do I dare?

Oh, yeah.  You’re gonna be my new best friend!

I do spend most of the weekend cleaning up the garage.  Then I tell my folks I’m off to the Paige’s house to hang out.  I jump on my bike, ride around the corner, park it in the bushes near the entrance to our neighborhood and sneak back.  Just in time, too and I get some kind of footage on the video camera!  When I’m done, I set it back where I found it.  Now it is just a matter of time before the results of this prank are known.

“Ariane,” I hear my father call out Sunday evening.  He seems especially in a good mood because I did such a good job in the garage.

“It is still storytime, Sigismund,” Mom hollers back.  “I’m putting Sebastian to bed.”

“I want to see those home movies I took,” Dad responds impatiently.

Here’s the big moment, I think.

“We can stop here, Mom,”  I say in my sweetest voice.  “Thanks for reading to me.”

Mom leans over and kisses my forehead.  “Thanks for letting me, my angel,” she answers.

I don’t even feel a twinge of guilt.  Just excitement at what’s about to go down!

“Come on, Ariane.  Here you are in the garden!”  I hear Dad say excitedly.  What’s so exciting about Mom picking tomatos?

“Wait, Ariane…I, huh?  I don’t remember filming the treehouse?”


Trust Me The Finale

January 26, 2011

I don’t know how long I laid in the office lobby.  I regained consciousness and found myself looking up at the janitor and the security guard.

“Mr. Notorious, we were just about to call an ambulance,” the security guard said with relief in his voice.

“I’m fine, no need to call the EMTs,”  I said, my voice a raspy croak.  I headed home and gratefull climbed into bed.  That was six weeks ago.Occasionally, I rise from the grimy, rumpled sheets to join my family in the dining room.  I sit at the head of the table, unwashed and unshaven, making eye contact with no one, mostly staring into space.  Ariane diligently sets a plate in front of me and I proceed to absentmindedly push the food around on the plate, rarely putting anything in my mouth.

During one of these meals, my eldest child, Mariposa, looks up at me quizzically and in an innocent voice asks

“What is wrong with Daddy?”“Yes, Daddy,”  Ariane says in a cold, disdainful voice.  “What is wrong with you?”I want to say that everything is fine, that tomorrow I will leap out of bed with my old vigor and take one of the hot baths I love so, and storm into the talent agency with a fresh and exciting agenda.  But the thought of doing any of those things is terrifying to me.  I feel helpless.  Dropping my head into hands, I begin to sniffle, then to cry.Mariposa begins to cry as well.  I can see how frightened she is by my erractic behavior but I can do nothing to stop the flow of tears.

“Darling, go to your room, Mommy will be right behind you,” Ariane says, her voice now quiet and soothing.  The child leaves and my wife turns to me.  “Get a hold of youself, Sigismund,” she snaps.“I…I can’t, I can’t” I sob, overwhelmed with hysteria.  “Ariane, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I don’t want to feel like such a loser, to be dirty and smell and wear the same clothes everyday and sleep all the time.  I want to snap out of it.  But I don’t know how because I don’t know why…” the words die away in choking noises, my shoulders heave and I cover my face in shame.Ariane sighs but is otherwise silent, letting me cry myself out.  She does not move to take my hand or put her arms around me, both of which I long for:  any connection with another human to let me know I am a viable being.

“Sigismund.  I have two options for you.  Get professional help.  Or get out of this house.”  Her words ring with finality.Just to show Ariane I am not completely hopeless, I shuffle back into my dark bedroom.  I will myself to get into a steaming shower and shave my bearded face, and change into a fresh set of pajamas.  Then I slowly make my way to my elderly mother’s room.  She is surprised to see me and even more shocked when I collapse in her arms.“Mother, I am such a wretchedly horrible man,”  I say, starting to weep again.

Little by little I tell her the whole story.  My connection to Brandy Lookingglass, Brandy’s tale of the abandoned baby, how I attempted to seduce her, my anger at her rejection and then…I freeze, I simply cannot get the words out without the sensations from before, the racing heart, my forehead beaded with sweat, the surety that I am going to black out.“I did a terrible thing, Mother,”  I continue, finally finding the courage to tell her the rest.  “I exposed Brandy.  I told the whole story to the SimQuirer.  I deliberately ruined her life because I had the power to do it.  I wanted her to suffer.  Why?  Why am I this kind of person?”

Mother began to cry as well.  “Because I married a Notorious.  I should have known better.  Sigismund, I am so sorry.”I was speechless.  Did my mother’s words of sorrow indicate that there was no way to help me?  I wander through the house, lost in thought until I come to Mariposa’s room.  She is sleeping  fitfully and making little noises of distress.  This thing, this evilness that my father had passed to me, have I passed it to her as well?Next, I creep into the nursery.  Ariane has put Vereen down, but she is still awake in another part of the house.  I look closely at my son, looking for some sign of what is to come in his life.  Is the Notorious family destined to carry on this way, wreaking havoc, ruining reputations, destroying whole lives?  I don’t know but Ariane is right…I must get help.I see my doctor and he refers me to a hospital where I will be treated for nervous exhaustion.  I am calmed by prescribed medications, and I am a little better about taking care of myself.  But an unshakeable sense of doom permeates my every thought because I know in my dark heart that I cannot change my nature.The medications keep me sedate and often I find myself drifting in and out of a twilight.  When she appeared at my bedside, I thought surely I was dreaming, some wonderful dream where Brandy comes back to me and gives me the chance I long for…the chance to explain to her that everything was beyond my control, I couldn’t help myself.“Sigismund, oh Sigismund, what has happened to you?”  The drawl, slow and sweet as honey,  is unmistakable.

Leaping out of bed in shock and then realizing how revealing my hospital gown can be, I back away from her.  “What are you doing here?” I demand.  I am absolutely mortified that she is seeing me in this state and in this place.“I’m here because your mother asked me to come here.  Please relax, I didn’t mean to get you riled up,”  she says with a little trepidation.

“Riled up?  What are you implying?”  She must know what kind of hospital we are in.  Is she afraid of me?

As if reading my mind, she smiles warmly.  “Sigismund, I came here as your friend.  We need to talk.  I have something to tell you.”Friend?  Why would she want to be friends with me after what I had done?  Surely she knew it was me that exposed her secret.  Before I lost my mind, I had read all the tabloids and the stories were fierce, calling her every name in the book.  The music company I had negotiated with wouldn’t even release her record.  She was a pariah.  But I desperately want to hear what she has to say.“Sigismund, you saved my life.”

I look at her, dumbfounded.

“Last week…I did something so miraculous, so wonderful and it never would have happened if it wasn’t for you.”“For the second time in my life, I got to hold my son in my arms, ” she continues, breathlessly.  “Because of the news stories, Nick was able to find me and I was able to find him.  I begged his Mama and Daddy to bring him to meet me and they were happy to do it.”“We spent hours together, learning all about each other.  Oh, Sigismund, just looking into his precious face is like looking in a mirror!  He is so handsome and smart as a whip.”“Nick brought pictures from his childhood.  He was an adorable baby and he got adopted right away.”“As a child, he got everything he needed and wanted:  a loving home, a good education, a safe environment to grow up in…all the things I would never have been able to give him.”“I knew I had to tell him the truth about what happened, about the awful choice I made.  It was the hardest words I ever spoke and I couldn’t say I was sorry enough times.  But he said he understood.  Nick is exactly the age now that I was when I gave him up.  He said he wouldn’t be able to raise a baby and he could see how I felt the same way.”“So you came here…you came here, why?  I don’t understand why you are telling me this story, Brandy.  You should hate me.”

She clasps my hands.  “But I don’t, Sigismund, that is why I am here.  Your mother said you were tore up about what you did, and I came here to let you know it all turned out for the best for me and for Nick.”I gaze at her warily for a long time.

“So…” I start, and some old part of me reawakens for a moment, I can hear it in my voice, a certain wicked, all-knowing tone.  “You came here to thank me.  I did you a favor, Brandy Lookingglass.  Is that what you are trying to tell me?”It is her turn to back away and her countenance is sad.

“Your Mama said you were sick and that I could help you.  I thought my story would…and if you want to believe that you ‘did me a favor’ than so be it.  But if you are ever going to be really better, Mr. Notorious, I suggest you think, and I mean really think about the people you care about.  What are you going to do for them to show them you love them?”I never answered Brandy that day.  She turned and left the hospital without saying good-bye.  It was clear she had nothing more to say to me.  I was released with the promise to my treatment team that I would find some way to lead a less stressful life.  I sold the talent agency to my little sisters, and found a relaxing hobby.Every weekend, I grab my surfboard……pack it in the car……head to the beach and catch some waves.When I am alone with the ocean I think of Brandy’s final words to me.  How can I be good to the people who love me when I am so hopelessly unloveable?  But my wife and my children have stuck by me and  I am grateful.Time passes and I get grayer and fatter…but wiser?  I’m not sure.  Then one day at the beach, something unexpected happens.  I am coming up from the shore when someone calls my name.

“Mr. Notorious, Mr. Notorious.”  I look up and see a teenage girl standing in front of me.“I’m so sorry to bother you but…but I just need a minute of your time, please.  I have my guitar here and I want–“I cut her off immediately.  “I’m not in show business anymore.  And shouldn’t you be in school?  How’d you find me here, anyway?”

She is so wound up she can barely speak.  “I’ve been following you here and its Saturday and if you could just listen for five minutes and tell me what you think, do I have a chance?”  Her words tumble out in an excited rush.

I sigh deeply and then nod my head.  What’s five minutes?She begins to strum nervously and then warbles a little bit.  But as she gains confidence, her voice becomes fuller and her playing better.  After a minute I realize she is quite good and has the potential to be great.  But something troubles me, it is the song…then it hits me.  The song is Brandy’s song from so long ago in that nightclub.  The song of love…of loss…of regret.I hold up my hand to indicate to this enthusiastic young lady that I have heard enough.

“Well?” She gushes, putting her guitar aside,  “What do you think?”

I look into her eyes and I see Brandy all over again.  “I think you should go home to the people you love and forget about fame.”Naturally the girl is crestfallen.  She assumes I am telling her that she is no good, that her chances of succeeding are nil.  I know she has an excellent chance and that if I were to represent her, she would go straight to the top.  But I don’t owe her that.  I don’t anyone anything.

But I owe it to myself to once and for all tell Brandy I’m sorry.  Maybe someday I will.

Trust Me Retaliation

January 15, 2011

Dawn breaks.  I return to the empty apartment.  Brandy has fled.  I need to immediately sever all connections with her.  My anger has beensimmering.  Now it flares into white hot metal, ready to sear its imprint on anything it comes into contact with.  I reach for the phone.
I gaze over the massive bridge linking this city to the rest of the world.  I imagine Brandy in a taxicab, crying to the driver and then to anyone else who will listen that I, Sigismund Notorious, am a lacivious creature, preying on unsuspecting talent, demanding romantic favors in exchange for fame.  I cannot prevent this scenario from playing out but I can do my best to control the damage.

The first call I make is to my attorney.  I weigh the consequences of telling him the whole truth.  He is my lawyer and it is best to be honest with him but my lack of sleep and my ever-growing fury make it impossible  for me to relay the story.  I promise to give him full details later but for now I tell him to terminate the contract between Notorious Talent and Brandy Lookingglass due to irreconcilable differences.
I am toying with my next move.  It has to be a surgical strike of pure and utter retaliation and I cannot have any regrets.  I enter the shower and breathe in the clouds of steam.  My muscles do not relax under the rivulets of hot water, but become more tense as I rehearse in my mind what I am about to say.
I wander into Brandy’s now-abandoned bedroom.  In my mind for the millionth time I witness her rejection, her face a mask of repulsion as I reach to embrace her.  Bile rises up in my throat at the thought that she, or anyone might think they are better than me.  I swallow the bitterness and yet again, reach for the phone, my weapon of choice.
The phone rings and then an automated message picks up:  “Hello, you have reached the voicemail of Dina Nieves and I am very happy to hear your news and gossip!  For life announcements, such as births and deaths, press one.  For nominations and awards, press two” and the list drones on.  I wait and then hang up.  Maybe I shouldn’t give Dina the scoop.  She may not run the story.
I need a press outlet that will guarantee pain, suffering and career annihilation.  I dial again.

“Hello, SimQuirer?”

At last I return home.  I have never been so happy to be in my house and to see my wife and children.  Everything is intact.  I was expecting Ariane to be standing at the door with divorce papers in her hands, the kids packed and ready to move.  Actually, changing the locks would be more Ariane’s style.  But she is oblivious.  She takes my hands and gushes over me like we are teenagers again.
I pull Ariane into a tight embrace, and over my shoulder I see my wedding band.  The eternal reminder of what I am connected to, what should matter most to me.  Was I really so willing to throw it all away?  My actions the night before seem like a dream now…something someone else did, not me.  The same with that final phone call…did I really call that tabloid?
I climb the stairs to the nursery, a trip I was so loathe to make in the past because the sounds of bickering children and the smell of soiled diapers would send me into a funk.  But I am taking the steps two at a time and the closer I get, the closer the voices of Mariposa and Vereen become.  My heart leaps when I see them and I joyfully crowd them into my arms.
“Watch this, Daddy!”  Mariposa begins a game of peek-a-boo with her brother and he giggles and then covers his eyes and says something back to her, not really words but very close to words.  “Say ‘Daddy’ Vereen!  Say ‘Daddy,’ I know you can say it,” she implores.

“Sigismund.”  Vereen chimes in and grins up at me.

I am a little taken aback.  Vereen speaks my name clear as a bell, no baby lisp or fumbling of the syllables.  I am not sure if I should be proud or offended.

“I’m Daddy,” I say, ruffling the little guy’s hair.

Ariane has been standing in the doorway watching us.  “You’ve been gone so long, it is a wonder he even knows who you are,” she points out.
“Ariane, I have a surprise for you,” I announce, in an attempt to assuage any ill feelings that may be lingering over my absence.  “I’ll stay with the kids so you can go to the Sharma Day Spa…I bought the Soothing Salvation package for you, I know you’ve earned it.”

Without even a thank-you, she prepares to leave, headed to her home away from home.  “Leftovers are in the fridge!” she shouts over her shoulder.

After several hours, I receive a call from Ariane.  “I’m out doing some shopping, could you put the kids to bed?” She sounds distracted and in the background, I can hear a someone calling her name.  Probably a saleswoman pressing my wife to spend more of my money.  Oh, well.  At this moment I am so thrilled to have a wife, I don’t care if she spends every cent.
I wash up and change into my pajamas, enter the living room and encourage my daughter to do the same.

“I’m reading my Chess Challenge manual, can I please stay up?” she begs.  Seeing as Vereen is still finishing his dinner, I give Mariposa a little while longer.  As I leave for the kitchen, she calls out to me.

“Daddy, I missed you so much, ” she says, climbing off the couch and coming towards me.  “But I really miss Brandy Lookingglass.  When is she coming back?”

Anger engulfs me for a moment but I hold steady.  “Who is Brandy Lookingglass?”  I ask, trying to sound confused.

Mariposa giggles.  “Oh, Daddy, now you are being silly.  The lady who lives with us…the lady you made famous.”

I sigh.  No getting out of this one.

“She isn’t famous anymore, honey.  She-she did a very bad thing and when everyone found out, they didn’t want her to buy her records.”

I hurry into the kitchen.  My heart is racing, pounding, filling my ears with the whoosh of madly circulating blood.  Saying those words aloud to Mariposa drives home the reality that my simple phone call could have made.  A world of unhappiness for Brandy, a world where she is a pariah, a woman who would scorn her own child.  She never should have crossed me.
At last I hustle the kids off to bed and then drift off myself.  I am shocked to wake up and find my wife in our bed.  “Hello, stranger,” she coos and we are both overwhelmed by my pent-up passion.  I fall back asleep but only for a few moments.  The sounds of Vereen float down from the nursery and startle me back awake; I run up the nursery steps to him.

I reach into the crib and lift him out.  As I lean over to set him on the ground, I feel short of breath and my heart seems to be beating at an unnaturally high rate of speed.  I clutch my chest and collapse.
Slowly my eyes open.  I am gasping for breath and my heart feels as if someone has reached inside me and squeezed it with a superhuman force.  I can hear my son chattering to himself.  Weakness engulfs my entire body.  After a few minutes, I can breathe again and the pressure in my chest loosens.  Feeling wobbly, I rise to my feet.  “Ariane,” I call but my voice is a choked whisper.
At last I am standing upright and steady.  I feel for my phone and I wonder if I had better call my doctor.  But I seem okay now, maybe it was just running up the stairs too fast and leaning over twice, first to lift Vereen out of the crib, then to place him on the floor.  I just blacked out.  Nothing to get excited about.  Besides, I need to be in my office today before I have a mutiny on my hands.The office seems to be running smoothly despite my being away for so long.  I am pleased with my little sisters, they are coming into their own.  They had better not try to break off into their own agency, I think and then chastise myself.  Since this…ugliness with…that woman, I seem only able to see the worst in others.  Yet I remain coolly detached from my own evil desire as I call the SimQuirer again.
I have a brief conversation with the same reporter, referring to myself only as Deep Sim.  I replay the pregnancy, the abandonment, the confession.  “You do see what kind of woman she is?”  I whisper into the phone.  “It was the love of the crowd she wanted…not the love of that poor little infant.”  The reporter assures me a private detective has been dispatched and the sordid details will be published soon.
I hang up.  My breathing becomes rapid, shallow.  Again, in my ears, I hear the sound of pounding blood as my heart beats a crazed tatoo.  Rising inside me is a need to laugh maniacally at what I have done, to shout to the heavens that no one can defy a Notorious.  But I would only be a cliche, a caricature then.  All I want is to get my stride back, to stop feeling like I was played.  I leave the office and enter the elevator.
But when the doors slide open at the bottom floor, I slump forward and down.  I’m on the ground and the sliding doors just keep opening and closing, not quite hitting my knees.  I hear this repetitive jerking sound of the doors, I feel a dullness in all of my limbs, my ears are ringing, my throat is dry, my mouth tastes metallic…and I cannot move.
Whose life have I destroyed? I wonder and then the world fades slowly to black.

Trust Me…Who Do You Think You Are?

January 7, 2011

The comeback concert of Brandy Lookingglass has come to an end.  Thanks to me, she is back on top with a bullet.  Thanks to her, my heart is filled with cupidity, my brain is bubbling with romantic notions.  She quietly dallies on the piano, wholly unaware I am watching her with a desirous gaze.“What did you think,” I ask the bartender after I place my order.

He stands transfixed, his eyes on Brandy.  I know exactly how he feels.My mind turns inward and I mentally prepare myself for how the night will unfold.  I am enjoying my fantasy very much, especially knowing that it will soon become a reality.We return to the apartment and Brandy enters her bedroom.  I follow right behind her.

“Aren’t you glad we are finally home?” I ask, my voice low and sensuous.“Sigismund!”  She whirls around in surprise.  “What are you doing in here?”

“I’m doing exactly what you want me to do, beautiful Brandy.”  I sound as smooth as I feel.I reach towards her, my face flushed.  “Come to me,” I whisper, my voice hoarse with fervor.

But she pushes away.  “What are you doing?” she demands.

“Now you’re just being coy,” I growl.  “I like it!”“Sigismund, stop!”  Her sugarcoated drawl seems more pronounced and her face is contorted with confusion.  “Why are you acting like…like you are acting, like I’m your…woman?”“We’re adults.  We don’t need to control our impulses anymore,” I placate her in a soothing voice.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Brandy responds.

“The song…the words you spoke about the man you can’t have.  I’m that man, Brandy, I’m that man!”  I declare wildly.Her face softens with utter sadness and she reaches out and grasps my shoulder.  I thrill to the electricity of her touch and I am not sure I can restrain myself much longer.

“No, no.  That was not a song about love…it is a song about loss.  It is about my son!”  She drops her hand and shakes her head. “I’m sorry.”“I don’t understand.  You sang those words to me.”  Now it is my turn to be confused.

“I was looking at you because you are the only other person who knows my secret,” she says quietly.I don’t care what she is saying now.  I know what I want.”Brandy, I am prepared to do whatever it takes, I am prepared to give up whatever I have to so you can be mine,” I practically shout and I lunge for her again but she roughly pushes me off.The look on her face is undeniable.  I am taken aback by how revolted she is.  It cuts me to my inner core.“Am I repulsive to you?” I hiss, pulling back.  “After everything I have done for you, when no one else was interested in you, I took you by the hand and guided you every step of the way.  You repay me how?  By toying with my affections?”“Now look here, you can’t talk to my like that!”  She points her finger accusingly in my face.  “You knew how much you had to gain by representing me.  What right do you have to say I’m supposed to climb in your bed and be all ‘Thank you, Mr. Notorious.’  That thought is disgusting to me, and you should be ashamed.  Who do you think you are?”She flies around the room in a fury, throwing clothing into a small suitcase.  “If you think I’m going to stay one more night in this place, being subjected to your juvenile…asinine behavoir, well, you’ve got another thing coming!”  Her voice sputters out, she is so angry she cannot speak.  I stand still, watching her, not believing what is happening.  What was I thinking?  Who did I think I was?  The door slams and Brandy is gone.In a daze, I slowly remove my Simmani tuxedo and don my pajamas.  My first inclination is to communicate with my wife, even though it is late.  I need to reach out to Ariane, to know that she is waiting patiently for me at home, to know my daughter, Mariposa is waiting and my little boy, Vereen.But a revelation of shame rises up and shatters over me.  Suddenly I know that Ariane knows, has known all along what I was too blind to realize.  My behavior has been juvenile.  I have fawned all over this woman, catered to her every need.  My parents must know as well, maybe even my children recognize how differently I acted towards that washed-up, nectar-drinking hack.  A sob of despair escapes my throat.I lay down but sleep eludes my racing mind.  I taunt and deprecate myself, replaying the scene in Brandy’s bedroom over and over.  At last I rise from the bed and go upstairs to the rooftop Simmcuzzi.  A hot, steaming soak will ease my agony and clear my rabid brain.  But as I sit, the shame dissipates and is replaced by my old, oh-so-familiar anger.  Who do I think I am?  I am Sigismund Notorious and no one plays me for a fool.

Trust Me In the City

December 18, 2010

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Brandy Lookingglass is reviving her stumbling career.  Well…I’m reviving it.  But she is doing exactly as I say, which is the way it must be.  Our long days together are divided between the rehearsal hall and the recording studio.Brandy agrees to using my sister’s exquisite illustration for the album cover.  It depicts a beautiful maiden surrounded by swirling flames standing on a craggy rock.  The title of her comeback record is ‘Baptism By Fire.’  My idea and naturally, it is perfect.We’ve had some tough moments in the house.  I caught her at the bar more than once, helping herself.  I reminded her sternly, like a father to a child, that she was not helping herself in any way.But at last she rises up, proud and strong, to defeat her nectar-drinking problem once and for all.  Her voice rings out clearly.  She deftly strums her instrument, delighting the twins and my young daughter with impromptu performances when my wife is not around.Ariane would be furious to find out about Brandy’s propensity to burst into my bedroom unannounced, trembling with insecurity.

“Mr. Notorious, I just don’t think I can make all this work,” she cries out, her thick Southern drawl dripping with honey and anxiety.I quickly get up out of my bed, a little embarrassed to be caught in my pajamas and a strange thought flits across my brain.  Did she watch me while I was sleeping?  I feel vulnerable, a sensation that was foreign to me.One of my habits has changed since Brandy Lookingglass arrived in my home.  I work out constantly.  I have always liked to be fit but now for some reason, I am particularly conscientious about it.  Today I find the only place I can work out is in front of the TV in Brandy’s basement room.  The twins are in my home gym and Mariposa is playing video games on the living room television.Normally I become enraged if I am interrupted during my exercise routine.  Yet I am able to keep my cool when Brandy sashays in, and I actually stop what I am doing.

“Mr. Notorious,” she begins.“Please, please–I would prefer that you call me Sigismund.  And I will call you Brandy,” I declare.  “We are going to be in very close quarters when we get to Bridgeport.  Let’s drop the formalities.”

“All right, Sigismund,” she says, giggling a little.  I feel a little out of sorts.  Why does she find my name amusing and why does it bother me?We are indeed headed to Bridgeport.  To reintroduce Brandy to her adoring but skeptical fan base, I have scheduled a series of concerts in the city.  I procure the use of a highrise apartment that belongs to one of my clients and I make the executive decision to stay with Brandy.  I fear if she stays alone, she will fall back into her old, bad habitsAgain our days are filled with non-stop rehearsals.  It never ceases to amaze me how the public perceives her.  Everywhere we go, she is recognized and fawned over, something she can’t seem to make peace with.One morning, after a leisurely breakfast, I approach her about her obvious discomfort.  She drops her head for a moment and her shoulders lift and fall as she sighs heavily.

“I don’t deserve to be loved,” she replies and when she looks at me I see tiny tears like diamonds sparkling in her eyes.

“Why would you say that?” I am completely bewildered.“People do love you and you do deserve it!  Your voice is so pure and sweet, your songs are incredible, and the way you play the guitar is magic.”  I am not one to gush but I cannot have my superstar client be down on herself.

“No, no, none of that matters,” she responds with a flatness in her voice.  “My secret–if I tell you, you will understand why I am such an awful person.”“Tell me, Brandy.  Let me be the judge.”  I have been waiting for this moment.  I believe knowledge is power and I know that when Brandy makes this revelation to me, and I am the guardian of her secret, it will give me even more leverage over her.  I wait, my eyes gleaming in anticipation.“When I was 15, I got pregnant–”  I quickly interrupt her.

“Brandy, plenty of women get pregnant when they are young and unmarried,” I point out.  “Half of us wouldn’t be here if it weren’t true.”  I’m a little disappointed that her secret is in fact quite mundane.

“It is not just that I was a teenage mama with no husband,” she goes on.  I am quickly re-engaged, moving literally to the edge of my seat.

“I had the baby in a hospital very far from where I lived.  I never gave them my real name because I knew…” she falters, her voice fading to a whisper.

I place my hand on her arm.  “It is alright,” I say.  “I’m not just your agent, I’m your friend.”

“I loved that baby so much.” She is crying now.  “But I knew what I wanted in life even then.  I knew I wanted to be a big star.  I…I knew my journey to fame could not include a tiny baby.  So I walked out.  I waited until no one was around and I just…left.  I abandoned my son and I never looked back.”

The room is filled with Brandy’s sobs.

“I see,” I say quietly.

I get up and I walk to the window and I gaze out upon the full moon.  It has always drawn me, so cold and devoid of life.  I do not feel bad that it is a reflection of myself.  But as heartless as I am, even I recognize the gravity of what she has done.If the truth were ever to come to light, it would destroy her career for good.  It might even have legal repercussions.  I return to her and place my hands firmly on her shoulders.”You must promise never to tell another soul,”  I say.  I attempt to smile reassuringly.  “Your secret will always be safe with me.”The next day, Brandy makes a request.  She wants to return to her roots and jam in a public park.  It is not the way I want to present her to the world but I relent.Few people are lucky enough to witness this rare performance.  But the ones that are there stand transfixed, watching and whispering her name in awe.  I too cannot take my eyes off of her as she turns out some of her big hits from years past.On the way to the soundcheck, we pass a taco truck.  “Mmmmm, junk food,”  Brandy says, happy at the prospect of a greasy meal.

“I would never put that garbage into my body and neither should you,” I admonish her.

“Oh, come on, Sigismund.  Relax, live a little,” she teases.  Again, I give in to her whim.At last the night of her comeback concert arrives.  The venue I have selected is an elegant nightclub and I have chosen a gorgeous gown that clings to every one of Brandy’s ample curves.  I stride to the elevator, feeling almost cocky.  Behind me, Brandy is a bundle of nerves, muttering to herself and biting her nails.It is going to be a tough crowd.  I have only invited well-known celebrities and hard-nosed critics.

I’m not sure if the audience is there in hopes of seeing her triumph or to get perverse pleasure watching her fall flat on her face.But as soon as Brandy begins to play, I can see the crowd is enrapt.  I smirk to myself.  After tonight, I will be the most sought-after talent agent in show business.  And decidedly the richest.“I want to say a little something about my last song,” Brandy coos and the room grows silent.  “I know you all know what it is to want something that you can’t get.  Well, this song is about the man I love but can never have.”I settle back, preparing for her finale.  The song begins and I am surprised to realize it is neither a song I have heard in rehearsal or that was recorded for the record.  I listen closely to the lyrics, intrigued.Her voice is rich and sultry.  It rises into a wail and lowers into a sob.  She is a chantreuse full of hurt and desire, singing of unrequited love.I notice that Brandy is not shifting her gaze from one member of the audience to another.  She seems to be looking at me, and only at me.She shakes her tousled chestnut hair and her stunning eyes of topaz lock directly into mine.  I am mesmerized as her voice ascends with sadness and passion and then I realize…I am the man.

Trust Me, The Return

November 21, 2010

Have you ever stood at the crossroads?  The consequences of your choice can change your whole future.  I stand at those crossroads now.  The choice is clear.  I don’t give a toss about the consequences.  I want what I want and nothing will stop me.I’ve got my eye on the prize and there she is, ripe for the taking.My day had started out in a rather remarkable way.  My wife wanted some romance before I left for the office which was highly unusual.  It is difficult for me to feel passionate towards Ariane since our children were born.  It seems she never changes out of that bathrobe anymore.  But we managed to reignite our flame.After our encounter, I was feeling especially confident.  I rehearsed my speech I give to clients who are getting the boot.  I was putting ten non-earners out to pasture today–heartbreaking for them but a relief to me.  Stars get old or fall out of fashion and they are no use to me anymore.  How can I book gigs for someone know one cares about?I took a few moments to oversee my daughter’s progress on her homework.  I made it quite clear to Mariposa that waiting until the last minute to finish is unacceptable.  Our discussion is marred by the tempermental shrieks of my son.  “Ariane,” I called to my wife.  “Your child seems to want your attention.”  I know better than to try to help.  Since the day we met at the hospital, Vereen and I have had an unspoken agreement to stay clear of one another.  My son is a carbon-copy of me, and for some reason that I cannot explain, he makes me very unsettled.Driving Mariposa to school, I continue my lecture on responsibility.  My daughter nods a few times but otherwise is silent.  I don’t take the time to worry whether or not she loves me.  I provide for her.  All I ask in return is respect.  And I get it.Another big surprise to my day was that upon arriving at the office, I found my baby sisters hard at work, not kicking back with lattes and gossip.  I employed them right out of high school and it has worked out very well for all of us.  They don’t take my rants and rages personally, and they do exactly what I ask without questioning me.  This morning, Hansu is burning through press releases.
Lyssandra, I have discovered, has an incredible talent as a stylist.  She can spend hours sketching out the ideal looks for our clients, guaranteeing them maximum face time on any red carpet.The day is a long series of phone calls and meetings.  The girls stay late to finish up some business and then finally tell me good night.  They remind me to get home as quickly as I can because Ariane is hosting a birthday party for our half-brother, TiNing.  I force a smile to my face and affirm I will be there but inside, I feel a rage start to brew.  No one consulted me about a party for that dolt.As I am packing my briefcase, I hear the chime that signals someone is entering the front door.  Silently, I curse my baby sisters for not locking the door on their way out.  All kinds of loonies wait for just this kind of moment to enter my office and foist their ‘talent’ on me.  I turn quickly on my heel, ready to chase away whoever has dared to come in uninvited.  I am shocked to see Brandy Lookingglass standing in my foyer.She approaches me tentatively.  Initially, she was wearing a big grin, but as she gets closer to me, it literally slides off her face and she stumbles and falls towards me.  I reach out to steady her and catch a strong whiff of nectar.  Sooooo, the rumours I had been hearing about America’s Sweetheart were true!  But what was she doing here?I have many star clients but no one on the scale of Brandy Lookingglass.  She probably uses her gold records for dinner plates, she has so many of them.  But there had been whispers…her song-writing was drying up…she was spending time with rough trade…she had lost her voice to an uncontrollable urge to drink nectar…so much negativity swirled around her.“Miss Lookingglass…I am absolutely honored to have you here.”  I leaned in and held my breath, the nectar was so strong, it was overpowering. “But I’m a little concerned.  Are you alright?  You don’t seem well.”She staggered towards me with an incredibly sad look on her face.“Mr. Notorious, you’re my last hope,” she slurred, her face melting into an ugly mask of despair.  “I am in trouble and I need help.  I just know you can help me,” she whispered in a thick drawl.Suddenly she collapsed against my chest and began sobbing, deep, racking pitiful sobs.  I was flabbergasted.  I am not a person who enjoys the experience of human touch–with the exception of my wife and even that is not easy for me.  Now here was this random woman enfolded in my arms begging for my assistance.She cried for awhile and I let her, I didn’t know what else to do.Brandy abruptly pulled away from me and raised her hand in the air.  “Can I get a witness?” She shouted wildly.  I shrank back, confused.  “With your help, Mr. Notorious, I am going to get off the nectar and get myself back on stage!”I turned away from her for a moment because my nose was starting to get a familiar twinge…I smelled money and lots of it.  But what did I know about rehabilitating someone?  I knew this much:  if the press could confirm she had a nectar problem, it would destroy what was left of her career.  I couldn’t check her into the Betty Sim clinic.  I would have to take care of the problem myself.“Miss Lookingglass, please come sit down,”  I said, leading her further into my lair.  I sat and patted the sofa across from me and she half-sat, half-fell against it.  For awhile I listened while she rambled on.  It was the nectar speaking and little of what she said made any sense.  But I did gather that her manager had canned her and that is why she decided to come to me.It seemed to require all of Brandy’s strength and will to sit up straight.  She sputtered and stammered on and often I would have to redirect the conversation as she nodded off.But eventually she could no longer sit upright and slowly, slowly, she slid into a sleeping position.  After a couple of more mutterings and sighs, she passed out.I got up and paced the floor, trying to decide what to do next.  But the solution was clear, there was only one place I could take her.I picked Brandy up and found she was surprisingly light.  I imagined if this nectar problem had been going on for awhile, she was probably not eating much.  I wondered just how ill she was.  But I felt I had no choice than to put her in my car and take her home.  I was about to land the biggest Superstar of my career and I needed to handle this situation with utmost caution and delicacy.I managed to wake Brandy up long enough to get her into one of Ariane’s nightgowns.  I led her to the couch in my den and she promptly passed out again.  Then I remembered the party!  Ariane would be outraged to discover this woman so I locked Brandy in, assuming she would just sleep.  I went into the kitchen and discovered my house was full of happy strangers, none of whom I wanted to entertain at the moment.Then I saw him, TiNing, my half-brother.  The simmering rage that I had carried with me throughout the day started to erupt.The interloper stood in my house, in my kitchen in front of a cake bought with my money, soaking up the doting attentions of MY MOTHER.  He was despicable to me mostly because he had the nerve to be born first and to have had all that time alone with her.  To this day, I cannot bear the thought of her dividing her affection between TiNing and me.When the candles were blown out I saw with great pleasure that TiNing was now an old man while I was still young and virile!Ariane waved me over away from the guests.  “Why must you be so hateful towards TiNing?” she asked, reading my mind.”What difference does it make, it looks like he won’t be around much longer,” I smirked.  “I have to tell you something, Ariane.  I’ve…I’ve brought home a client.  She’s in trouble and she is going to be staying here for awhile.”  Ariane rolled her eyes and stormed off back to the party.I should have guessed Ariane would not like my plan.  But it is my house and I have the final say.  I went outside to find my sisters, knowing exaclty where they would be.  “Getting comfortable, you spoiled brats,” I teased.  “Listen, I need to know everything you know about Brandy Lookingglass.”Hansu leaned back with a knowing look on her face.  “I told you that was her,” she said to Lyssandra.  “We saw her sitting outside the office and she was crying and then laughing, back and forth, real crazy.”Lyssandra nodded.  “I’ve read a lot of rumors about her going off the deep end.”“I love her music, though.  She’s got the sweetest voice ever and her songs always break me up,” Lyssandra closed her eyes and began humming a meloncholy tune.Hansu peered up at me.  “Are you going to sign her?”  I shrugged and went back into the house.When I returned to the kitchen I was pleased to see all the party guests had dispersed.  I ate my dinner alone.  My mind wandered back and forth over my good fortune.  Was it good?  Or had this woman come to the end of her usefulness?  Could she be helped?  If anyone could help her, it would be me.  I considered what I had to gain from trying…dollar signs pinwheeled in front of my eyes and I knew I was going to give it a shot.I went into my bedroom and discovered Ariane in her ubiquitous bathrobe.  She was angry.  We argued for awhile, our voices raising in register as the fighting took on a more and more personal tone.  Finally, I told her who the woman was that was sleeping in my den.  Ariane gasped.”Brandy Lookingglass?  She’s you client.”  I nodded…not quite the truth but I believed by tomorrow it would be so.Ariane was impressed but she wasn’t mollified.  Our morning’s passion was now ancient history.  I turned down the bed alone.It was not the first night in my marriage I had slept without my wife.She had put a bed in the nursery and since the birth of Mariposa had spent virtually all her nights sleeping away from me.I had never had trouble sleeping until that night.  What was I going to do about Brandy?  How long would it take to get her back on the straight path and even if I could manage it, would her voice still be strong and vibrant?  I tossed and turned and finally dozed off.  I awoke to a wonderful smell of delicious pancakes and was shocked to find Brandy in the kitchen, sober and cooking!I stood in the hallway, out of sight and watched my normally stone-faced daughter chattering away with much animation.Brandy answered back in her heavy drawl but I could clearly make out what she was saying, in contrast to her slurred speech yesterday.  Surely she couldn’t be rehabilitated this quickly?I got ready to go to work when I heard a loud jangling of blues guitars.  I rushed back to the kitchen and discovered my elderly father had retrieved his battered electric guitar from the back of his closet, and also found an accoustic one for Brandy.  Initially I was angry, I do not like my father to intrude in my life in anyway.  But Brandy looked happy.Ariane was not.”How long is this little arrangement going to go on for?”  She asked me as she got her breakfast.  “I want her in the guest room in the basement, not mingling with my family.”She set her plate at the table and lifted Vereen out of his high chair.  “You have a commiment to this family first and foremost, Sigismund and don’t you forget it.”I was speechless.  It was not like Ariane to talk to me like that but I acquiesced and hustled Brandy downstairs.The acoustics seemed to suit her down there and she could play to her heart’s content without disturbing my wife.  I did not stay at work long that day but returned to see how Brandy was getting along.  She seemed to be angry or in pain and she wailed on her guitar with fury.  I imagined that going cold turkey from nectar was not suiting her well.“Do you have faith in me, Mr. Notorious?” she asked, looking up at me with great sadness.  The song she had just finished had even penetrated my heart of stone, it was so full of emotion.”Do you have faith in yourself?” I asked her.  She bowed her head.“My heart was broken when I was 15 years old and I don’t think it can ever be mended.  I have a terrible secret and it eats away at me everyday.  But I truly believe you can help me,” she cried.”I’m here for you, Miss Lookingglass,”  I said in the most sincerely kind voice I could muster.  I’m here for those millions, I thought.

Trust Me, I’m Your Talent Agent

November 12, 2010

Fatima Dahab, one of the most gorgeous women I have the good fortune to know.

Helen Goldwin, so beautiful, it nearly breaks my heart to look at her.

You might think a supermodel’s nights are filled with excitement:  celebrity-filled parties and dancing in nightclubs until dawn.

But my girls are headed back to their hotel after an early dinner.  I am a firm believer in beauty sleep, and I am adamant about a curfew.Maybe the girls wish they could stay out and party, but when they have to get up at five am, I know they are grateful they went to bed at a reasonable hour.Fatima is not a morning person at all–so she has told me.  I know what you’re thinking but I can assure you, I am only at my gallant best around these two women.But I’m no fool.  I know thousands of men would kill to wake up with these lovely faces.The shooting day gets underway.  The girls are posing for the yearly swimsuit issue of Sims Illustrated.  Helen chooses a peacock blue two-piece suit that flatters her entrancing blue eyes.Fatima selects a stunning black bikini that shows off her exotic skin tone.The shoot is supposed to be playful.  The girls are photographed engaged in a lively game of Magic Gnubb.Their looks of serious concentration accentuate their flawless features.But something goes terribly wrong and Fatima suffers a hard blow to her pretty head.Too late, Helen realizes her mistake.  She is quite shocked at what she has done.I should mention a couple of things at this point.  Firstly, Fatima and Helen are only as good of friends as you would expect two supermodels to be who are in constant competition with each other.Secondly, tensions are already running high on this particular shoot because one of these beautiful women–and only one–will make the cover of the magazine.Maybe that honor is worth fighting over.It did turn out to be a brutal brawl.In fact, it became a catfight of epic proportions.  Why no one from the crew steps in to stop it is puzzling.But I’m so grateful the calamitous quarrel went on and on and that the photographer captured the entire thing on film.Because I collected more cash selling those photos to the Sims Enquirer than any other deal I have ever made.  I’m sure the girls didn’t want to make the cover of that particular magazine.But I’m Sigismund Notorious, their talent agent.  I know what’s best.  Trust me.I have a tremendous responsibility to my clients to see to it they get as much exposure as possible.  My job is endlessly demanding.My day is crazy busy.  It usually starts and ends with meetings.  I have my morning dish with gossip columnist Dina Nieves.  She helps me keep the talent front and center in the public’s mind.Then there are all my meetings with the clients themselves.  You may recognize many of the famous athletes I represent.Also, you will know the names of all the film and television stars who look to me for guidance.I also set aside a portion of my day to audition wannabe protoges.  Many people leave my office with their dreams shattered.  But I don’t make any money off of schmucks with no potential so I have to be honest–often cruelly so.I’m not an easy man to please.  I’m a perfectionist with a desire to be surrounded by beauty and creativity.  Occasionally someone is hired to work for me who, quite frankly insults my aesthetic ideal.  Believe me, she’ll be fired by the end of the day.I work unbelieveably long hours and I am relentless about booking jobs and earning money.Sometimes my need to control every aspect of my life causes me some strife.  I have little tolerance for things breaking down, or employees slacking off and being impertinent.For instance, my long-time maintenance woman made a rather crass remark when she came to my office to repair the computers.  She said something about disgruntled workers committing sabatoge.I suppose she meant it as some sort of lame joke but I simply will not permit insubordination of any kind.  I dismissed her immediately.I am partcularly strict with my baby sisters.  When I get home, I grill them about their day.  I have to make sure they have done their homework and kept up with their exercise regimen.  I also want to be certain they are spending time with the right people, not losers.My evening soak is the best part of my routine.  The hot water and sultry steam wash away the grime and tension of a hard day’s work and is very pleasurable to me.  It is also one of the rare moments I get to be alone with my thoughts–mostly evil ones, I am a Notorious, after all.But this evening’s bath is ruined when the plumbing goes awry.  The spurting hiss of water mocks me and I almost regret getting rid of my repairwoman.  But I am fairly self-sufficient and I am able to tackle the problem and fix it.  Besides, I believe I do anything better than anyone else.No point in waiting for the maid to clean this mess up.I fired her before I left for work this morning.  The twit had the nerve to dust my sleek furniture…And move one of my tropical palms out of place.  I absolutely will not humor a lack of attention to detail.Here is something else I have no patience for:  geriatric public displays of affection!  My parents are lucky I take care of them in their old age and put up with their disgraceful behavior.You are probably thinking I suffered from a serious lack of love and attention when I was growing up.  Why else would I be so mean?But nothing could be farther from the truth.  My mother showered me with affection and slavishly bent to my every whim.

I just enjoy being a heartless, ruthless man.

Sigismund’s story will continue and I apologize for taking so long to get to this update.

I have some acknowledgements:

My thanks to Vacakmorgo for the beautiful supermodels. Their studio link:

Also, to BlueMurder for the exquisite patterns.  Their studio link:

Finally to IgZig, my faithful reader for gifting me the set that decorates Sigismund’s office and bedroom.

The Cult of the Indigo Llama

September 12, 2010

An innocent instrument–absolutely harmless, silent.  Until placed in the hands of a madman…And the mystical, hypnotic sounds unleashed on some rock-crazed women!I am Handler Notorious and I am here to assure the residents of Sunset Valley that the Cult of the Indigo Llama does not exist.  Well, not anymore.So many years ago, my father, Xander Clavell Notorious, bought an electric guitar.  He loved playing it and I loved watching him.  Noticing my keen interest, he signed my up for guitar lessons.My first attempts at playing music were not successful.  All I could produce was loud screeching noises.  But I persevered and eventually I mastered the instrument.Within my home a debate was raging.  My parents were very concerned about my future.  They knew I had inherited an evil streak from my mother, Baby Notorious.  She thought the Notorious Gang was the natural place for me to land.Dad was dead-set against that plan.  He was still an active participant in the Gang and he knew how dangerous it was.  He had done some time and his worst fear was that I would end up in prison.I probably should have paid more attention to their heated discussions but I had discovered how to make my own money and I felt like my future was set.  I had started playing my guitar in Central Park.Everyday, I went to the park and righteously riffed on the dozen or so compositions I had learned.  The citizens of Sunset Valley generously rewarded my talent, avidly throwing coins and bills into my open guitar case.My parents never fully embraced my ‘career’ as a street musician.  But they didn’t hold a grudge either, because when they passed on, I inherited the Notorious Estate.Aside from all the money my parents had made through their illicit activities, my mother held a patent on her invention, an evil robotic fish that could be programmed to do all kinds of terrible things.  I could expect to live in style for many years to come.My brother Dodger lived with me.  Whether or not he had an opinion about my music was unknown to me.  We got along fine, but Dodger was very focused on his career in the Air Force.  I continued to jam in the park on a daily basis.  The money I earned was a sweet bonus and an affirmation that I was a gifted musician.  But I didn’t have to depend on it to live, I simply played because I loved it.One afternoon I finished a set near the fountain in Central Park.  After my last song was done, a lovely young woman approached me shyly.  She spent several minutes gushing over me and my music.I look back on that day, meeting Rose and I wonder…what if I had brushed her off?  What if I completely ignored her?  But I didn’t.  I had noticed her watching me several times.  She always seemed to know where and when I would be playing.  I loved the idea of a devoted fan and I didn’t care if she was some kind of stalker.The next week, I saw Rose again and she was with another woman.  While I was playing, they welcomed a third lady and this trio started showing up everyday, every time I set out to play.  They cheered me on and even called out requests of their favorite songs.One day, one of these three women showed up dressed in flowing blue robes and bare feet.  It was an unusual outfit.What made it even more unusual was when the other women showed up wearing the exact same clothes.  Long, dark-blue flowing robes and bare feet.  I got a little distracted from my playing, watching my ‘groupies’ as they danced and sang in their remarkable fashions.By now, a fourth woman had joined the original three, and this woman came towards me holding a neatly-folded pile of dark blue clothing.  She encouraged me to go into the bathroom and change into these clothes.  I was a little uncertain but I didn’t want to alienate them so I figured why not?As soon as I put on the dark blue shirt and pants, I felt a surge of pride.  My fans and I were sharing a true sense of solidarity and I discovered my performance was incredible.I was pleasantly surprised one afternoon when the girls approached me holding a picnic basket.  They fed me a delicious lunch and told me in excited, bubbling voices that my music was their life.  The other three told me their names–Selma, Janice and Merrilee.  Rose leaned towards me and said in a hushed voice that they were prepared to do anything to make me happy.I’m not the most fortunate-looking guy in the world so when I discovered what they meant by ‘anything’ I was very proud of myself.  I don’t want to be explicit, so let’s just say my bed was never empty.I was very happy with these new ladies in my life and I asked them all to move in with me.  I really liked the idea of our little family.  The girls took turns cooking and cleaning and everyone got along incredibly well.We lived in our own special world of music, my music!  Every afternoon our little band would descend on the park and the girls sang and danced like whirling dervishes.  It was a wild scene and we attracted bigger crowds everyday.Me and my ladies became very well-known in Sunset Valley.  It never ceased to amaze me when I would be out doing some random errand and a fan would introduce herself and tell me how much she loved my music.Men would come up to me out of nowhere and shake my hand, telling me that I was a lucky guy.  It seems that the alternative lifestyle I was living with my beautiful ladies was common knowledge.The more conservative people of the town did not like the life we were leading and I found out the hard way what the negative price of fame could be.  The newspaper published a story calling us the Cult of the Indigo Llama.  The story listed all kinds of outlandish things that we did and blamed us for happenings in Sunset Valley that had nothing to do with us.The negative publicity was so unfair.  No one had ever interviewed any of us, the reporter simply made up a bunch of lies to damage us.  We weren’t a cult of any kind and to compare us to llamas was the ultimate insult.There were some things that came to light to me after I read the article.  I had no idea that Selma and Rose had abandoned their husbands and children to follow me.   They always seemed so happy…I didn’t know they had left some very sad people in their wake.I didn’t know that Rose had been fired from her very prominent position as Director of the Sunset Valley Institute of Art because she insisted on wearing her blue robes and bare feet to work everyday.  It just never occurred to me that these women had any problems because of their association with me.After that muckraking article, everything changed for us.  People in the town began to treat us very differently.  I would be out doing some mundane chore, minding my own business.  I would walk by a group of people…Their heads would be bent together and they would be whispering and I could hear the words ‘indigo’ and ‘llama’ and my face would get hot and I would start to shake.Then as I passed them, I would hear them laughing.  It was cruel, mocking laughter.I knew me and my girls had become a laughingstock and I did my very best to shield my ladies from the embarrassment.  I tried to do all the shopping and when we went to the park, I tried to find a clearing away from other where we could play in peace.Bu we soon discovered we were no longer welcome in the park.  A police officer went up to Rose and asked to see her identification.  He asked the same of the other girls and myself.  Then he asked to see our permit to perform.We had no such thing and the cop informed us that we were banned from not only playing music in the park, but even from congregating there.  We would be arrested for disturbing the peace if we did not get a move on immediately.The girls and I discussed the idea of taking our little show on the road.  The next morning I got up and decided to do a little practicing but I made a horrible discovery.  No matter how hard I tried, the only sounds I could make come out of my instrument were terrible squeaks and squawks.  It was if I had completely forgotten how to play.Dodger, dressed in his own dark blue uniform, ignored the horrible sounds coming from my room.  During this whole experience, he had kept to himself, never expressing an opinion about my music or my ladies.But he was also suffering the consequences of my infamy.  He had worked so hard to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut only to now have members of the community protesting his right to that honor, saying he, too was a member of our maniacal cult.The women were unsure of what to do with themselves now that I was no longer able to play.  They went to the park in spite of the ban and tried to raise support for me but they were quickly run off by the police.They continued with their normal routines around the house but I began to notice squabbling where before their had been peace and unity.  I also realized my bed had been empty for some time.One night, the women had a conference in their communal room without me. The girls decided as a united collective that they no longer wanted to live as a family.  They chose to abandon me since it was now so clear that my talent was all washed up.A final horrible story on the news had made them realize that they were wrong to follow me.  As I stood by, watching despondently and feeling completely helpless, they each left the house we had once so happily shared.The girls were silent as they each walked past me, just as silent as my now useless guitar.  There were no goodbyes, no hugs, no tears.I watched the last one leave and my heart felt like it would shatter into a million pieces.For a very long time, I lived in the gloomy world of deep depression.  I missed my girls, I missed the fame and I didn’t know what to do with my life.But eventually I had to move on.  I had to somehow find a way to live a normal life…well, as normal a life as a Notorious can lead.  I did meet a woman who knew nothing of my past and she agreed to marry me.We raised a family of three children.  We had a son, Sigismund and twin daughters, Hansu and Lyssandra.  I tried to give them the best life possible and I hoped sincerely they would never find out about what had happened when I was a younger man.But secretly, sometimes I wished I could have it all back.  One day, I got out my guitar and I walked down to a private beach where no one could hear me or see me.  In the still ocean air, I was able to play perfectly again and the sweet sounds of my guitar made my spirits soar.I remembered with much joy what it felt like to be the center of attention back when I played for the citizens of Sunset Valley and I longed to return to the park and jam.  But those are the dreams of a foolish old man.But this morning, for old time’s sake, I rummaged around in my drawers and I found some clothes I had carefully packed away.  My heart soared when I unfolded them and laid them on the bed.  What memories they evoked!I changed into the dark blue pants and shirt and I stood in front of the mirror for a long time, admiring myself.  I could faintly hear the cries of my ladies as they sang and danced and called out requests for their favorite songs.  I could hear the crowd clapping in unison.  I smiled just a little and then I picked up my old battered guitar and I made my way slowly to the private beach.I played and played to an audience of no one, only me and the setting full moon.  I played every song in my repertoire and every song sounded better than the last.  No one will ever know but for one final performance, the Cult of the Indigo Llama lived on!

Goodbye To You

August 12, 2010

Xander and I found our life as elders to be quite peaceful.  Often we shared conversations about our past, and what the future held.  Our sons were very resourceful teenagers but we wanted to be sure they would be taken care of when we gone, so we started to discuss our sizable estate.Shortly after we had drawn up a will, Xander left this world.  We had been spending a pleasant day in the park, having a picnic and catching up on our chess.  Without any warning, Xander became a ghost.Death appeared and It looked exactly as I remembered from my dreams.  I was frightened but Xander was good-natured about the whole thing.  He waved goodbye to me, and willingly followed the dark, eerie figure.I had a difficult time breaking the sad news to our boys.  Handler was especially close to his father.  His grief was overwhelming.  I allowed him to stay home from school until he could pull himself together.Dodger was far more stoic than his older brother.  He  was sorry his father was gone.  But he continued to work diligently on his studies.  I was unsure what to do with myself without my beloved husband.  I sometimes wandered into the boys’ old nursery and idly played with their forgotten toys.  I continued to visit with Freya and Lorcus and Grand, and I even made a special trip to Twinbrook to see Junior.Handler and Dodger suggested I do something unique so I took a vacation to China, a place I had always wanted to see.  My old partner in crime, Sing Xhou, had returned to his homeland, and he welcomed me and showed me around.It was a magical place filled with history and new cultural experiences.  I particularly liked the authentic Chinese food and fishing for exotic Koi.Every morning before I set out to see more sights, I took the time to check up on my sons.  I was amazed at how independent they were,  and I got to thinking about how far they–and I–had come in this life.I thought of my dear old friend Pater Notorious with great fondness.  I was so lucky that he had spent so much time with me, teaching me valuable life lessons, and giving me excellent opportunities.I remembered all the heists and criminal antics I participated in with Grand and Junior.  We were often up to no good but we always had each other’s backs.The parties the Notorious Gang had were the best and they went on for days.  We were a very tight group and we had so much fun.My closest friend was Freya and I thought of all the encouragement she had provided me over our many years as confidantes.Her husband, Lorcus, was also a good friend, and over the years he had passed on much wisdom to me.  So many times he had put my mind at ease.The sweetest memories of my life were those of my husband.  I will never forget how my heart raced when Xander and I were first getting to know each other.Our love had grown so incredibly strong over these many years.  I learned I could depend on him and that he would take care of me no matter what.He wasn’t perfect by any means and we had our share of differences.
But truly, I could not have asked for a better husband.  He was an incredible father as well.I gratefully returned home to my boys but the loneliness I felt without my dear Xander was nearly unbearable.Maybe it was pure fantasy but one morning as I was about to get dressed, I had a vision of Xander.  It was his ghost but he spoke to me.Xander:  “Baby, you have led a long and prosperous life but we all must leave this world someday.  When you are ready to join me,  will be waiting for you.  Then we will be together for all eternity.”As Xander’s ghost evaporated into mist, I had a flashback to the night I had spent in Sunset Valley cemetary.  I recalled the many hours I had spent listening to the spectral beings talk of their lives and deaths.  They had promised me happiness and I realized that promised had been fulfilled.Baby:  “Xander, I am ready to join you.”

The transformation from mortality to immortality was surprisingly painless.  I felt my flesh tingling, and then it was if a great weight had lifted from me and I was as light as air.  I told my sons goodbye.  Slowly, I felt myself drifting skyward.  I could see Xander above, waving at me and with utter peace and fulfillment, I took his hand and was led to the Afterlife.