Daniel Keys Moran

"When I woke up this morning," said Doctor Death, "I real- ized that I was completely and totally perfect." It is midnight on the Boulevard of Dreams. The streets are empty, and the buildings are burning, blaz- ing, and nobody seems to notice. Motorpigs tear up and down the Boulevard on chopped Harleys, screaming insults at one another and watching the buildings glow. Sitting at the curb in front of the Hotel Paradise, in a drop-top metallic blue '67 Mustang with the engine running are Doctor Death and Trent the Uncatchable. A portly, middle-aged man wearing a ponytail and a loud sports jacket is standing in front of the Hotel Paradise's en- trance, screaming at the top of his lungs at a tall, incredibly gorgeous heavy-metal musician. "Do you have any idea how lucky you are? You're in Heaven——now——but you fuck up like this again and I'm sending you back to the Hell where I found you——to New York," he shrieks, "where they made you ride the subways!" It's all too tedious, Doctor Death has heard it too many times before. Doctor Death is somewhere in her late twenties, with long black hair, wearing a black leather miniskirt and a black leather vest, black calf-high boots and a white silk bra. She tunes it out, staring through her mirrored sunglasses at the burning Boulevard of Dreams, the Motorpigs, and the news crews who are filming it all for Channel Two Action News. The burning buildings a reflected in Doctor Death's sunglasses, movie miniatures in reverse. "Totally perfect," says Doctor Death softly. "Except that I was still going to die. I was perfect and I was going to die. I felt——" "Fucked over by the Karma Gods." Doctor Death begins rolling a joint with great care, looking down into her lap. "Exactly. So I went driving. At sunrise. Kick the stereo in, blow the speakers right off the doors. Loud mu- sic, Hendrix, Van Halen, stuff with properly handled guitars. I hit one-twenty in the mist going down Pacific Coast Highway." Trent nods. "Truly a perfect moment." Doctor Death gestures at the joint, sitting like a sacrifice on the alter of her lap. "And this is a perfect joint. Want a hit?" "Sure." Doctor Death hands him the joint and Trent lights it, tokes once and hands it back. Doctor Death takes one mighty hit, sucking the joint halfway down with one monstrous toke, and tosses it out the window. She puts the Mustang into first, still holding the clutch down, holding her breath, revving the en- gine until the sound becomes one immense shriek of power. She screams, marijuana smoke obscuring her face, "I hate this godless culture!" and then pops the clutch, and the Mustang screams away from the curb in a cloud of rubber and smoke. They zoom westward down the Boulevard of Dreams, to- ward the ocean, weaving in and out among the gangs of Motorpigs. Doctor Death has to raise her voice to be heard. "Before I dropped out of high school I had a history instructor who tried to tell us what a great tragedy it was that the Greeks got con- quered by the Romans. Because the Greeks were so much more civilized, they were artists." Doctor Death turns to her right, stares at Trent, not watching the road and says intensely, "Fuck art. The Romans built roads. They were the first ones. They didn't build roads to service the empire; they had an em- pire because they built roads, leveled and graded, laid gravel and then stone atop the gravel. And the roads made it possible for people to go places, to meet other people and other kinds of people. It fostered the exchange of information and the development of personal freedom." Trent smiles. "Belinda, information is overrated." Doctor Death nods. "Information is not knowledge. Knowl- edge is not understanding. Understanding is not wisdom. Wis- dom is not truth. Truth is not beauty and beauty is not love and love is not music. Music is the best." "Whose is that?" "Um. Frank Zappa." Trent shakes his head. "Never heard of him." "I always wanted to be a musician," Doctor Death says sud- denly. "It's all I ever really wanted. But I can't sing." "Bummer." There is a pause, a fragrant, burning-building, smoke-filled sort of pause. A fifteen-story high-rise is crum- bling off to their right, and the sight is spectacular. "let's go," says Trent, "and drive down the freeways at unreasonable speeds." "Deal." Doctor Death whips off down a side street, onto a freeway ramp, and then onto the freeway itself. "I was up in San Francisco once, " Doctor Death says broodingly, "and they had a double looping reverse overpass U-turn freeway onramp. I've been sick with jealousy ever since." They weave in and out of traffic, zooming down the freeway at unreasonable speeds, the wind whipping Doctor Death's long black hair away from her. She has to shout to be heard above the sound of the wind. "Did I tell you that when I woke up this morning I realized that I was completely and to- tally perfect?" "You did," Trent says. Doctor Death nods, says in an entirely different voice, "I thought so." Fade to black.

This is from The Last Dancer a novel by Daniel Keys Moran. It can be found on page 257 of the paperback version.
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