DAVE BARRY'S SOUL
by Matt Taibbi
IN A COLD
NIGHT in Buffalo last
week, I stormed out of the house, marched down the street and banged
on the doors of First Presbyterian. In a flash everything was feathery—all
clouds and angels.
in the air was a secretary in a pillbox hat chewing on a pencil
eraser. I rushed past her.
wait," she said, standing up. "You can't go in there.
You don't have an appoint—"
I said. "I've been calling for an appointment every day for
the last three months. No dice. Always the same goddamned thing."
the doors open. The Man was in there, doing nothing as always, examining
one of his fingernails like Sherlock Holmes. When a guy really has
nothing to do, he'll stare at a fingernail, like he's going to find
something there that surprises him.
hell," he said. "What now? You still think it's my fault
you can't dance?"
I snorted. "You know what I'm here for."
took his feet down from the desk and swiveled around to face me.
"We're not going through this again," he said. "You
can't have Dave Barry's job."
why?" I moaned. "The guy isn't in the same time zone as
was never funny. It's not about being funny. It's about being
Dave Barry. And he's still pretty goddamned good at that."
"Yeah, I know. It's just—I can't do the politics thing anymore.
I just don't have it in me to care. I—I…just..."
down and wept. The Man leaned over and put his hands on my shoulder.
"There, there. What is it, my son?"
up. "I want to get paid boatloads of money to write about the
vagaries of the suburban experience!"
leaned back in his chair and sighed. "Well, I can see that,
I can. But, do you think you could do it?"
I do it? Are you kidding?" From my back pocket I pulled
out a crumpled piece of paper. "Look at this: 'Ten observations
about my refrigerator. I mean, what is freon, anyway? Is
there an unfreon? Is that what makes my stove hot?'" I stuffed
the paper back in my pocket. "Then I have this thing about
fridge magnets. I have one that's shaped like Cape Verde. I make
sure my Atlantic Salmon is right behind it...I can do this
shit! I just need a chance!"
sighed and tapped a finger on his desk. "Yeah," he said.
"Okay. Fine." He leaned forward and buried his head in
his hands. "You realize," he mumbled, "this would
be a Dorian Gray sort of thing. All wealth and vigor and
adulation on the outside; soul rotting and stinky on the inside.
Every day, you get into that new Chevy Tahoe, the first thing you're
thinking about is how to blow your fucking head off. Think you can
up my hands. "Can I handle it? Are you kidding? I'm
an American! That dream is in my DNA."
spend a lot of time with Carl Hiaasen. Photo ops with Ricky Williams,
sunny smiles through gritted teeth—that whole thing."
my hands together. "Bring it on, baby, bring it on!"
frowned and fiddled with something in his desk drawer. "Well,
stuck a British pound note in his nose and leaned over. Then he
picked up a mirror and handed it to me.
want to line up?"
the mirror were six fat rails.
man," I said. "That stuff makes me panicky. I start calling
people late at night."
this stuff," he said.
"All right," I said. I leaned over and honked one up.
He held out his hands.
he said. "Huh?"
I said. "That's good shit."
of silence passed. Exactly one second.
about those Lakers?"
Shaq is unbelievable," I said. "A monster. They can't
nine of 11 from the line in that last game," he said. "I
thought that was a nice touch."
was you?" I asked, licking my gums.
he said. "The line moved toward Minnesota late. So I was like,
Have some of this!"
I said, laughing. There was another brief silence. Suddenly I stopped
feeling good and started feeling scared. My knee started bouncing
up and down. "So, are you serious about that Dave Barry thing?
When do I start?"
I'm serious," he said. "You can start anytime. Good fucking
luck." And then he started laughing.
I asked, wiping my nose. "What? What's so funny?"
leaned over and hit the intercom on his desk. "Marcie,"
sir?" the box answered.
in Dave Barry's soul, will you? It's in the back, in the cooler..."
sir," the voice said.
turned to me and smiled. He snapped his fingers and was suddenly
holding a copy of the Miami Herald. A wave of paranoia shot
over me. I started breathing heavily. The vibe had suddenly turned
now and then,'" he began, "'on this crazy planet we call
"Earth," you come across a story so heartwarming that
you need to take a prescription antacid...' Oh, Marcie, good, come
entered, still wearing her pillbox hat. She was wearing green rubber
gloves and carrying something that looked like a lunch tray. And
see that?" the Man said. "You like it?"
I whispered. "Why is it steaming like that?"
don't know," he said. "It just started doing that by itself."
God," I said. "Are those...Are those maggots?"
kept reading. Marcie handed him the tray. Then, without missing
a beat, he tossed the maggot-covered thing on my lap. It
writhed and began crawling up my shirt. It had legs, like a horseshoe
"Get this thing off me!"
of Barbie,'" he read on, "'I assume you have heard she
is no longer with Ken. I'm serious. Mattel made an official announcement
about this, which was all over the news...'"
blob sprouted a face with too many eyes, like a spider's face, and
it raced up my shirt. A black tongue flicked in the direction of
he went on, "'apparently has taken up with a new doll named
"Blaine," an Australian surfer with one of those asymmetrical
looked up. "You like the way he throws that in? I mean, what
other kind of haircut would a surfer have, right?"
it off! Get it off!"
of those asymmetrical surfer-dude haircuts, so he looks as if the
various surfaces of his head were cut by various barbers with seriously
incompatible views on how long hair should be.'"
put down the paper. "You see what he's getting at? Do you?
The doll has a funny haircut!"
a fucking amateur," the Man said. "Do you really want
this job? Do you? Then kiss it. Kiss it like it was a beautiful
down at the black-tongued, maggot-covered mass. It stared up at
me and hissed. A pustule exploded on its back; it bled purple.
dear reader, I kissed it. I kissed its hideous face. As I wiped
the goo from my lips, the Man applauded.
to the big time," he said. "You'll hear from my people
in the morning."