Raymond Burr, the actor who played Perry Mason, buys an island in the Republic of Fiji and calls it Nowheresville Inc.
On his island, Raymond Burr, the actor who played Ironside, raises orchids, cattle and Space Food Sticks.
Raymond Burr, whose scenes in the 1956 motion picture “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” were inserted after the movie had been completed, talks about his island — My island, there’s nobody there, nobody but me, he says — on the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.
There was an unencumbered fork in the road, and I took it, Raymond Burr says to McLean Stevenson, who’s filling in for the vacationing Johnny. I took it to Nowheresville.
How do you get to Nowheresville? McLean Stevenson asks.
Raymond Burr, who grows the prettiest orchids this side of Libertyville, Illinois, unwraps a Space Food Stick, pretends to light it like the Marlboro Man might, turns to the camera and exhales what sounds like a thousand exhales.
How do you get to Nowheresville? Raymond Burr asks. Make ’em an offer. You’ll get to ’em every time.
He is watching Raymond Burr on The Tonight Show from his place. She is watching from her place.
Entertaining notion of freedom, this, he says to her via Facebook Messenger.
Very entertaining, she messages back.
He built a business case for change management at Citizens for Socially Responsible Fence-Building & Distancing L.L.C. in Gleaming Crucifix, New Mexico.
She invites him to Serious Freedom™ to share a socially distanced bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats®.
Well would you look at this, he says, wearing his “I’d Rather Be Implementing Change Management Strategies” t‑shirt. This closeness, this house on stilts — it’s everything.
Is it? she asks.
It is, he says.
The house on stilts — which had fallen asleep to the sound of cereal plinking into the Lemongrass Fiestaware® — dreams it’s the most famous of all the Niagara Falls funambulists.
All you do is put one foot in the front of the other, the dreaming, tightrope-walking house says, teetering in the freewheeling wind.
On the jetway, a boy in line six feet behind her practices the alphabet.
When the boy — he is 3, maybe 4 — gets to the letter “I”, he sings: I got a gal in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo .… oh, wait, I think it’s Kokomo.
Six feet in front of her, but lurching closer, lurching too close, a man in fashionable personal protective equipment — the man is 25, maybe 30 — says, to her: Is that boy singing, like, a song?
She says — not in her voice, but in a Valley Girl voice, not totally, but sort of totally — It’s not, like, a song, dude. What the boy is singing is like a galaxy, man.
Free as a gull, the boy’s voice fills the jetway, swelling and swaying, a hot-air balloon without sandbags. It floats up, up, up.
He attends a virtual speed-networking event and learns how to free himself from fear, from worry. From responsibility. Even the imagined kind.
I learned something today, honey, he calls to tell her.
You did? she asks.
Yes, he says. I think, now, we can make this work.
You do? she asks.
I do, he says.
The confident, sing-song quality in his tone reminds her of the voice-over Gas Station TV (GSTVTM) guy she heard a few hours earlier while filling up her Datsun with premium.
We aim to give you an engagingly entertaining experience during this break in your day, this mellifluous moment in your suis generis journey, the voice-over guy said to her out of a speaker at the pump, his promise a free-form jazz improvisation. We’re excited about the high-wire-act that is the road ahead. We can’t wait for you to join us.
She rewinds voice-over guy’s words. They spin like Spring.
She fast-forwards to her Freedom Man’s message. It skips like Summer.
What is it we were working on again? she asks.
They’re saying they’ve waited long enough.
That they’ve given this “social distancing experiment” more than enough time.
They’ve sacrificed enough of their personal freedoms for the “greater good.”
We’re going to end this thing, they’re saying.
We’re gonna go where we wanna go, do what we wanna do, they’re saying.
It’s our inalienable right to get closer, they’re saying.
Survival of the fucking fittest, they’re saying.
Distancing Darwinism, man, they’re saying.
This world is our world, too, they’re saying.
Love it or leave it, they’re saying.
While they’re saying these things, the sun sinks into a safe-haven sea, the bedspread that is the sky unfolds, and a chorus of gila monsters, jackalopes, collared peccaries and Gojira interrupts their song to make a citizens’ arrest.
You say the end is nigh — we say your end is a lie, Gojira tells them. “End” is just another word for Woody Herman without the Thundering Herd. Come along, Distancing Darwinists! Entertain THIS notion of freedom.
Pulling the sky up under its chin, the sea settles in for the night.
Good night, Gojira, the sea says. Good night, gila monsters. Good night, notions. Good night, sign o’ the times. We see you, in the distance.
Masked, he is watching the scene unfold from his front yard. Unmasked and under the covers, she is watching it unfold on her phone, from her place.
Entertaining, he says to her, narrating the scene via video phone.
Very, she says, imagining him, her Freedom Man, in the distance. She imagines herself under the unshackled sky, masked and anonymous and nowhere, centering her weight directly over one foot, then the other, on the swaying wire, the freewheeling wind close at her back but not too close, a hummingbird’s heart beating like butterfly kisses.
[Serious Freedom™ is a trademark of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
The “Serious Freedom” advertising campaign was introduced in 1997.]
Pat Foran was something of a tightrope walker for a local business newspaper/livery stable. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Bad Pony, New Flash Fiction Review and elsewhere. Find him at http://neutralspaces.co/your_patforan/ and on Twitter at @pdforan.