December 9, 2010
“Mr. Buffet,” a voice called from down the hall. The administrative assistant at Sony Records popped her head out from around the corner. Her tight pony-tail brushed the side of the wall. “They’re ready for you down in conference room A-22.” She licked her left eyeball with her lizard tongue.
“Thanks,” Jimmy Buffet replied. “It’s Brittany, right?” He tucked his copy of Phillip K. Dick’s Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep? into his knapsack. She nodded.
The office lobby was nice in a clichéd way. Large glass doors, fake mahogany tables with sailing magazines on them. The mescaline tab he popped seven hours ago had taken effect. His pupils flooded open, allowing the liquid brightness to enter. Buffet adjusted his black horn-rimmed glasses and stood up with a grunt. This place always seemed to weigh on him. The importance of it all. On the wall, platinum records hung like frozen stars in the fluorescent light. Each plaque affixed with the artists name told a different story from a different era. It was like looking into a timeline of shared human emotion. Conformity, Carelessness, Outrage, Aimlessness, Apathy were all represented in a collection of decades.
Brittany led him down the hallway. The eggshell white walls boiled and bubbled. His hand grazed the chair-rail and he felt the anger in this place. The hot, steaming repression.
“You’re not at all how I pictured you,” Brittany said, opening the door to yet another hallway. “I thought you’d be wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals.”
Buffet looked at his black shoes, black slacks and black turtleneck. He shrugged, “I very well could be wearing those things in another reality. In a dimension where the only law is that all pre-conceived notions are abided by with no deviation. If that were the case, you would be a bit shorter in this new world and would have black hair. That’s how I pictured you prior to meeting you.”
Brittany scrunched her face in confusion. The folds of her forehead skin shifted into rectangular plates. “They’re waiting for you in there, Mr. Buffet,” she said as she opened the door. In the conference room sat two studio Executives.
“Jimmy!” one of the Execs exclaimed as he rose from his plush chair. His face was amorphous. It had no distinct shape or form. It constantly melted into indescribable characters. His counterpart was the same. Their faces betrayed nothing. “Sit down. Sit down.” They both gestured simultaneously. The unison was beautiful and frightening at the same time. “Such synchronization…” Buffet muttered to himself. “Fractal Geometry.”
“What?” asked the one Exec that had caught the comment. Their suits were alternating grey and yellow, little dots kaleidoscoping into one another.
“Well, Jimmy. You called us to this meeting. Tell us, what is on your mind?” A whispering echo of implied words bounced lightly off of the walls and into Buffet’s ears.
“Yes.” “Tell us.”
“Tell us.” “Yes.”
“Tell us what is on your mind.”
“We want to eat your mind.”
He shook his head gently to try and snap him out of his psychadelic state. “I want to talk to you about my career direction,” Buffet said. “I want to do some more important things.”
“Jimmy! What’s more important than what you’re doing now?” A section of the Exec’s face fell into his grey lap. It rippled like a pebble thrown into a birdbath.
“People keep misinterpreting me,” Buffet replied. “I’m singing about the universal truths as I see them. But they only seem to hear the surface music and take none of the lyrics for any deeper meaning.” He couldn’t look them in the face. It made him uncomfortable. Was it the drugs mutating his vision or was he seeing clearly? Were these two men, with families and bank accounts and wristwatches, simply vague-looking confederates of a conscious world?
“But Cheeseburger in Paradise was such a hit,” said an Exec. “How can you say people didn’t relate to that?” The words left its mouth and immediately turned an intense shade orange that grew hotter and hotter. As the silence developed, Buffet could see the words in the distance. They had already grown old and fragile.
“They related to it in the wrong way,” said the aging singer. “That song is about the destruction of the ego. It’s an indictment on our own perceptions,” he trailed off. “It’s not about me eating a cheeseburger. I am the cheeseburger.”
“Jimmy! You’re making me nervous,” voices called out. He wasn’t sure if it was them or the building that spoke. “Jimmy. Jimmy. Jimmy Jimmy. Jimmy. Nervous clouds. Nervous clouds. Jealous clowns. Faded shrouds. Jimmy.”
“We need you to continue your path here. It’s a cash cow,” said one, or both, of the Execs. “Don’t you understand what you are? What we’ve made you?”
“I am only molecules and math. I can be manipulated into anything,” Buffet breathed out in acceptance.
“That’s right. What we have made you is an avatar, an amalgamation of all the repressed Bacchanalian energy of the mass of people. You are the focus of a light-hearted debauchery. You are a God. And as a God you have become irrefutable, incontrovertible. Your existence cannot be proved wrong or else it will cease to exist. The only way to ensure your own destruction is to not accept what you are,” they said. He could see that these were no studio Executives; they were oracles.
“If you truly want to cast down your scepter, cast down your crown,” the one Exec spoke and thoughtfully paused. The burbur carpet frayed and twisted under Jimmy Buffet’s feet; fibers stretched toward the ceiling. The Execs faces began to take shape. Jawbones and lips became visible through their fleshy bulbs. “Then you will expire.”
Buffet was silent as he processed the information. His feet had ossified and became gravestones etched with indistinguishable epitaphs.
“OK. I’ll continue on then. If it means the cessation of my consciousness…” Buffet adjusted his black horn-rimmed glasses. He grunted as he rose.
“Brittany will show you out. We look forward to your next hit!”
The door closed. Jimmy Buffet was faced with a desolation that wrung his spine. He was a God with no inspiration. He could no longer turn out sing-songy records that comforted the masses.
But he must. He must. Maybe one more mega-hit would quench their thirst.
Brittany came bouncing down the hallway. “Mr. Buffet! This way out.” The voice echoed off a thousand mirrors, crystallizing the meaning: This way out. This way out. There is a way out.
“Is there?” he asked.
“Is there what?”
“Is there a way out?”
She laughed. “I get a little bogged down in this office too.” Her lizard tongue dangled from her mouth. “But 5 o’clock is almost here.”
“But it’s not 5 0’clock yet,” Buffet replied. “You are still trapped…like me.”
“Yes, but it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”
Jimmy looked at his watch and the dials spun to infinity. The second hand spewed a brilliant light that went on forever, into the distance, into the future. Forever and ever. He smiled.
“So it is.”