"Rome wasn't built in a day, but several Wet Shoelaces CDs were..." - Confucius
Wet Shoelaces in “The Name of Number
Libretto by Stephen J. Gregory
Scene One: He
Died With a Handful of Soulfire Nobody Understood
Lt. Klein pulls up to the scene in his unmarked cruiser and takes a quick sip of his piping hot coffee, burning his tongue. "Shit!" he says under his breath, as he crushes out his cigarette and glances at the clock. It is 3:58 am, and the city has just played host to another anonymous homicide.
Scene Two: Try
It Again, Now
It is 6:45 am. Most people wouldn't be able to sleep after what Lt. Klein has just seen, but Klein has been on the force for 35 years, and there isn't much that rattles him anymore. Christ, he worked the Crummins case a few years back, and that was bad enough. But Klein also has another ability, one that depends on sleep. As he starts to drift off, he hears voices in his head chanting, mocking: "try it again now, white boy!" Soon he finds himself deep in the jungle amidst the sound of beating drums and chanting savages. Strangely, the leaves of the trees are all brown, and seem to drip like a Salvadore Dali painting.
Scene Three: Dirty
He walks through the jungle, on some sort of a footpath, and soon comes to a clearing. Here there is a giant stone idol, apelike in appearance, smeared with excrement. The smell is overpowering. The base of the idol is carved with the words "God's gift to glory." But there is little chance to ruminate on it's meaning, for the floor of the jungle begins to shake with what at first seems to be an earthquake but is soon revealed to be a stampede.
Scene Four: Elephants
Suddenly, Klein is on the ground covering his head, while all around him stampede elephants. Because it is, after all, a dream, and a psychic dream at that, Klein avoids being trampled. He wonders what the elephants are running from. But they don't seem to be running from anything. He can hear nothing from the direction in which they came; in fact, they seem to be heading for the chanting savages. Soon he can hear their cries of terror, and he runs in the direction of the elephants. Not far up ahead, he sees the normally herbivorous creatures trampling and devouring the natives. This would be strange enough, but the appearance of the savages is even stranger. They are all Caucasian, wearing fine silk loincloths with designer labels. Most of them wear a symbol they call a “swooshtika” somewhere on their persons, and what appears at first to be bones through their noses turns out to be, on closer inspection, gold fountain pens.
Scene Five: Suburbia
at its Best
Klein awakens to the neighbors' kids' band practicing next door. It is 11:46 am, Saturday. He wonders what these kids must be thinking. "I want to make the most annoying sound possible, I want to bother you" seems to be their manifesto. Still, after his stint in the city last night, followed by his dream of the jungle, he is glad to be back in good old suburbia. "Yep," he thinks, "balloons, barbecues, it's all out there."
Scene Six: Serendipity,
After solving the Stanley Crummins case a few years back, Lt. Klein was trying to tie up some loose ends. He interviewed Crummins, a serial killer with multiple personalities, many times at the insane asylum. (For more on Stanley, please listen to and read Wet Shoelaces’ first work “Stanley Crummins”) Most of it was undecipherable ranting. But there was some stuff about a so-called "shit monkey." Klein wonders if the giant stone idol in his dream has anything to do with Stanley’s monkey. He decides to visit Stanley again. At first, Stanley just babbles incoherently in a language that sometimes sounds like it might be related to Italian. Klein wonders if this might be the "Chocolate Forest Language" that Stanley had spoken of before. Then it hits him: that's why the leaves in his dream were brown and dripping. Klein had just had a vision of the Chocolate Forest.
Scene Seven: Engage the Vile-X Cannister, Lt. Klein
The lieutenant was just beginning to think that this chance insight was the only thing he was going to get out of Stanley, when suddenly Stanley begins speaking in English. "When I was in the Forest, I bore witness to the trumpeting and the braying of the Ones on the Chocolate Altar. When you encounter them too, engage the vile-x cannister, Lt. Klein."
Scene Eight: What
Do We Call This Little Contraption?
Lt. Klein feels more confused than ever. The Vile-X cannister? What the fuck is a Vile-X cannister? He drives back to his suburban home to relax and process this information. The neighbors' kids are still at it. As he drifts off to sleep in his easy chair, the various amateurish noises all seem to repeat and blend in his head. As conciousness slips further and further away, the random noises make more and more sense, until a voice speaks out from its chaos: "OK, this is Allen Bailey's attempt at top 40, what can I say?" The dream is cut short as his wife returns home, finding a strange item on the kitchen table. "Honey," she calls out to him, "what do we call this little contraption?"
Scene Nine: Window
Lt. Klein gets up from the couch and goes to the kitchen to examine the object of his wife's curiosity. There is some sort of atomizer on the table. He is sure it wasn't there when he got home. "You didn't put it there?" he asks. She shakes her head. He is not really surprised to find the word Vile-X emblazoned on the side like a brand name. He takes the atomizer into his study to begin examining it. As he shuts the door, he accidentally squeezes the bulb. A fine yet foul-smelling mist spritzes from the end of it, and Klein begins to feel dizzy. He goes to the window to open it, but finds that the window no longer leads out to the backyard, but now seems to look in on an alternate universe. His study is replicated in this universe, right down to the Chinese red paint and the computer on the desk. He would think this room to be a mirror image of his own, except for a few details. All of the forensics equipment that usually occupies the main table in the room has been replaced with recording equipment and drug paraphernalia. The room is swarming with humanoid beings, but only two seem to be human. The rest are only about three feet high, with long pointy teeth and pointed elf-like ears. Klein's cat growls and arches her back at the apparitions in the alternate universe. One of the humans, a ponytailed man, turns to the window and recites a strange speech:
Overtly nihilistic thought patterns, formerly contained in the arrogant personification of mystery.
Didactic amphibian! Smoking maple syrup beside a dictionary full of home runs
Scored by fiendish little elves wearing april showers like may flowers.
And what do may flowers bring? I'm not really quite sure...
Asthma...lead poisoning...huge corporate profits...
Gold-embossed jelly rolls...
What in God's name were they thinking?
Driving their beat up chevy through boston market...
Have an eggplant to go! Going where?
Going south, where lavender pastures roll out into opium daydreams...
Poppies...muppet-fuckers...insanity addicts...fortune tellers...
Scheming little men with beady eyes,
And snouts like elephant trunks.
What did the stranger come here for, I wonder?
To learn...to breathe...or perhaps just to die?
Taboo...the untouchable, the unknowable...
The stranger knew what the natives could not...
Accelerating pall-bearers never once entered the frat-house.
So many nights wasted by a Screaming Mantra
(Out the window!
out the window!
out the window!)
I used to hear it in my dreams...
Floating around like a caribbean ceaser...
"Et tu, Captain Steubing? Where the hell'dya get that tubing?"
He looked ponderous for a moment...closed his eyes...
And produced Three Apples from his hidden coat pocket.
"Here, take these," he said, "and bring them to Norway.
You can't miss it, its right down the hall to the left...
Past your sister's room...down past the room where your brother sleeps...
Past the masks in the ancient hallway...
Look out for the umbrefs, now..."
So anyway I was saying all this to my friend Allen here, and he was looking at me like I was a little strange.
Then he just shrugged his shoulders and said,
(Allen:) "Out the window! Out the window! Out the window!"
So I did.
I mean, what else can I do when a guy's, y'know, that emphatic?
A bald man, meanwhile, scribbles furiously on a studio logbook sheet, labeled "Attempt at Top 40," only pausing towards the end of the other man's tirade to yell "out the window" three times. At this, the ponytailed man pulls the lieutenant through the window, but as soon as Klein is through, the study/studio evaporates, and Klein finds himself falling through space, landing in a dark, murky marsh.
Scene Ten: Big
It is not long before Klein realizes why the marsh is so dark and murky. "Back in the Chocolate Forest, I guess," he says to himself, licking some chocolate marsh mud off of his fingers. Soon he hears the natives, chanting about a giant ape they call Big Boy King. He follows the sound of their chanting and soon comes to the clearing where he originally came upon the shit-monkey. There he finds the savages prostrating themselves before the giant stone idol, and singing a hymn to it:
King Kong never was a traitor!
King Kong never told a lie!
Big Boy King, he always cared enough
To make my potatoes fry!
King Kong opened up a taco
Stand in the middle of July!
Big Boy King sure loved to sing and dance
And give pretty girls the eye!
Kong! King Kong!
Kong! King Kong!
Big Boy King!
King Kong drove an El Dorado
Leased from a dealer by the bay!
Big Boy King sure loved to drive his caddy
But only in the light of day!
Because King Kong never was a traitor!
King Kong never told a lie!
Big Boy King, he always cared enough
To make my potatoes fry!
Kong! King Kong!
Kong! King Kong!
Big Boy King!
Scene Eleven: Big
A priestess soon approaches the idol with an offering, one big black dildo. At this, the stone idol comes alive, singing "a big black dildo, I wonder what it would feel like....feels good....." The priestess moves to the back of the idol, and there is a slot that seems to be carved just to accept the phallus. As she inserts it, the base of the idol comes open, and reveals a courtroom.
Scene Twelve: The Ballad of John and You
The courtroom is presided over by a judge who resembles Pat Robertson, only with chocolate horns and tail. In the middle of the courtroom is an altar. Two hugely fat businessmen are seated at it like a dinner table; strapped to the altar is John Lennon. One of the businessmen is seated so that his back is to Lt. Klein; he can see clearly that the other has the trunk and tusks of an elephant. As he sharpens his carving knife, he berates John Lennon with questions about his lyrics, which John answers as patiently as he can. After John pleads his case, he is pronounced guilty. Just as the elephant is about to eat John Lennon, Lt. Klein remembers the cannister.
Scene Thirteen: Chronosynclastic Infundibulation
Lt. Klein rushes the table, spritzing madly. Soon everyone is falling into a swoon. Klein finds himself unstuck in time and space, flying and holding hands with John Lennon. At this point, Klein gets very confused. John Lennon looks at Lt. Klein and offers him three pieces of advice: "First of all, this is a Wet Shoelaces record, so don't try to make too much sense out of it. There can only be five top forty hits anymore and these fools will never get one if you people don't stop taking everything so fucking seriously!”
“Wait a minute,” interrupts Klein, “five top forty hits?”
“Are you listening to a thing I’m saying? Secondly, you'll never find out who committed last night's murder until you figure out the Name of Number Four. And thirdly, everybody's got one!"
As Lt. Klein flies along he notices that his surroundings
are seeming much more familiar. Beneath
him and John, he starts to notice the familiar residential structures of his
comfortable suburban existence. Soon
he is back in bed. As he awakens,
he is sure the whole episode is a dream, until he finds the Vile-X cannister on
the bed next to him. Suddenly,
inspiration strikes. Grabbing the
Vile-X, he jumps from the bed and goes into his study.
Flinging open a filing cabinet, he combs madly through it until he pulls
out a file marked "Stanley Crummins." For some reason he has decorated this file with a picture of
a pair of shoes, with the laces dangling in puddles. Quickly, he finds what he's looking for.
Yes, "shit monkey" is what Stanley claimed to have called
Michael to defeat him. Does this
mean that the shit monkey in Klein’s dream is symbolic of Michael?
Scene Fifteen: A Kind of Silent Explosion
Lt. Klein knows what he has to do. He braces himself, and spritzes some more Vile-X into his face. His world completely disintegrates in a kind of silent explosion.
Scene Sixteen: The Blind Ambition of the Lonely Shit Monkey
Klein suddenly finds himself at another shit monkey rite. The conservative tribal elders have rounded up some of the more rebellious, bohemian young people from the tribe and are sacrificing them at the base of the idol. At this, the idol comes alive again and begins masturbating furiously.
Scene Seventeen: Licky Knee
As their bizarre ritual continues, the savages each approach the idol to lick blood and excrement off of its knees.
Scene Eighteen: I Don’t Know Yet
The act of licking the knees of the idol causes it to open again. Once again we can see the altar. The anthropomorphic elephant and his companion, who we can now see is an anthropomorphic jackass, are chanting in a foreign (perhaps forest) language. Their chanting magically calls Stanley to appear out of thin air onto the altar. He asks Klein if he’s solved the case. Klein replies, “I don’t know yet.”
Scene Nineteen: The
Name of Number Four
Stanley laughs at this, and beckons a priest and priestess to his altar. They begin a strange three-way chant:
Gorgeous leather, streaked like sunset with pink, creamy flesh... never again, she said, they're going to waltz down to magnetic boulevard, and then they're gonna take it lower... a garden-variety earthly delight, sweet as Jesus, or ripe muskmelon... take off the mask, it's 4:30 on wednesday, for God's sake take off the mask... unmask me, Dark Mother, feed unto me the meat of the sacred lamb... here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, a sacred lamb... but how tranquil can it be, Mary?... Andover was nice at that time of year, they say... I like the nightlife, I like to boogie... remember, remember, remember that time? Bring out the hook, bring it out... they say the pen it mightier than the sword, but I say fuck the pen, cuz you can die by the sword... isn't it so sad?... human interaction, who can avoid it, try not to speak, you may get annoyed... gender-conflict meltdown, emotional atrophy, no wonder it's all about to blow... once upon a time I had to learn to... wait! He's nothing, she's nothing, there's absolutely nothing to gain, from laughing about who knows what like some stupid game... story of my life: I sit, I smoke, I eat peaches... ah, go, go, go... yeah, yeah, once a peach always a peach... oh my God yes Stan, y'wanna?... the big peach is a peach of a sunday afternoon... and they called it the fad that wouldn't go away... oceans of delight feed on the beaches where the starfish reaches its five fingers like symbols of ancient wounds... I fell down laughing... everything is flavored water once you boil it down... in the year of 1963, I was committed to a mental institution again... it wouldn't be so bad here if they just did something with the windows... having a butler kicks ass... when in doubt I whip it out, I got me a rock 'n' roll band, it's a free-for-all... all the little children are being sucked into the sausage factory... and the highway was littered with stars, burning out on their way to awareness... melting velvet kisses on dewy lips... what a way to go... disappearing behind a rogue moon... chanting in a forest language, perfect vicious circles, neat-o fellows, a CD labeler!
As they chant, Klein begins thinking about what John Lennon said about the name of number four. Here are three, Stanley, and his priest and priestess, babbling incoherently like Stanley at the asylum, going through his personalities: Stanley, Billy, Sam, Stanley, Billy, Sam. All these groups of threes. Who the fuck is number four?
Scene Twenty: The Check Republic
The end of the chant seems to be a signal to the natives, who open their designer briefcases and purses to remove their checkbooks. They pull their pens from their noses and begin scribbling furiously. At this, Stanley begins cackling with malicious glee. Klein suddenly realizes that this doesn’t seem like Stanley at all. It is then that he recognizes Stanley for who he really is, Michael. “Of course,” he thinks, “Stanley, Billy, and Sam make three. Michael is number four. He speaks to Michael thusly:
To take mental shrinking cuts me.
Violence begins. Reluctant sparring.
Black-plagued corrective agendas,
Charged in technology we trust
Prompt higher regimes to devour us.
You should ask why
Before some gifts
At this, he pulls his gun and fires, killing Michael.
Scene Twenty-One: Exit
“Very good,” says a voice from behind Klein. He jumps. He turns around to find John Lennon standing there, holding a sign that says “exit ramp.”
“You’ve earned your passage back to the so-called real world. Just click your heels three times”
Scene Twenty-Two: Elevator Shoes
Lt. Klein clicks his heels three times, and finds his shoes to contain inspector-gadget-like elevation devices that carry him far up into the stratosphere. The air gets thinner and thinner, and he eventually passes out.
Scene Twenty-Three: Figure It Out Later
Klein awakens in a hospital room. His captain is there. “Congratulations. We would have preferred to take him alive, but the public will be a lot safer without Michael Crummins on the loose.”
“But Captain,” protests Lt. Klein, “Stanley has been in the asylum this whole time. How could he have been the killer?”
“Not Stanley, Lieutenant. Michael.”
“But Michael is just one of his personalities. How did he manage to detach and become a separate individual?”
“For Christ sakes, Klein, I told you, this is a fucking Wet Shoelaces record.” It is then that Lt. Klein notices for the first time his captain’s striking resemblance to John Lennon. “If there’s anything that doesn’t make sense on this CD, I’m sure Steve and Allen will figure it out later.”
Scene Twenty-Four: Until Next Time
The entire cast, including John Lennon, Pat Robertson, the elephants, the jackass, the priests, the natives, Allen, Steve, Stanley, and the umbrefs come out on stage for an elaborate dance number. The credits roll.