"You people are cursed. All of you cursed. Cursed by love."
Pig Cupid holds court in a WEST HOLLYWOOD BAR, and that’s where I find him. Hirsute, chubby, sebaceous -- he’s sitting in a chair smoking a cigarette and drinking a cocktail. He wears nothing but a loincloth, a pair of tattered wings, and a quiver of arrows slung across his back.
He slurps his drink and says:
Pig Cupid’s round, tusky smile shines in the cigarette fog, and his oinky chuckle rises above the acid jazz and the Hammond B-3.
LATER, a cigarette with a long ash dangles precariously from Pig Cupid’s lips. He says:
Pig Cupid makes a face that expresses his displeasure. It fades, and he says, thoughtfully:
Pig Cupid grunts, shrugs, and sips his drink with a thoughtful frown.
LATER, Pig Cupid drinks deeply from his cocktail. Mid sip, he begins laughing suddenly and lowers the glass. Liquor and water drip out of his nose and run down his stubbly chin. Slightly intoxicated, he says:
Pig Cupid sets his drink down carelessly, tosses away his cigarette, and rises from the chair. Amidst a series of sexual acrobatics and profane genuflections, he says:
Exaggerating profession-of-love gestures, he says:
Pig Cupid collects himself and says, slightly out of breath:
Pig Cupid smiles, sits back down, and sips his cocktail. Crunching ice, he says:
He places a cloven hand over his heart:
Pig Cupid gaffaws and points up:
He tips his drink and smiles wryly:
LATER, Pig Cupid removes a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a greasy lighter from inside his loincloth. He lights a new cigarette and says:
Pig Cupid’s laugh releases a steam engine’s worth of exhaust from his nose, but he’s composed and earnest when he tells me:
LATER, Pig Cupid and I exit the bar and turn onto the sidewalk. He mocks me:
A tall man walks toward us and nods as he passes. Even though I’m the only one who can see him, Pig Cupid assumes the man was looking at him:
The tall man opens the door to the bar, but before he can enter, Pig Cupid raises his bow, sets an arrow, and fires. The arrow strikes the man in the rear-end, but he continues into the bar unawares. Pig Cupid seems pleased with his shot:
He nudges me and gestures to the quiver on his back:
Over Pig Cupid’s boisterous laugh, I say:
We continue down the sidewalk, and I say:
Pig Cupid laughs loudly and begins firing arrows indiscriminately into the night air. The arrows stream down on cars, buildings, yards, and houses and strike people and animals walking along the sidewalk. I hear bed springs squeak and see couples kiss. Animals hump one another and the legs of their masters, and various other professions of love and cries of ecstasy fill the air. Pig Cupid dances within the saccharine chaos unseen and roars:
AN HOUR LATER, AT ROSCOE’S, Pig Cupid and I sit in an isolated booth near the back of the mostly empty restaurant. A cigarette dangles from his lips, and he blows a thick cloud of smoke out of his nose as he dumps an enormous amount of syrup onto a plate filled with greens, grits, chicken, and bits of waffle.
After pouring the syrup, Pig Cupid uses his fork to mix the plate’s contents into an indiscriminate mass. I sip a cup of coffee and watch Pig Cupid woof down food. Smacking, he offers me some, but I shake my head, disgusted.
Pig Cupid wipes his mouth with his forearm and says:
Pig Cupid chuckles:
I suggest that’s why we call them the fairer sex, and Pig Cupid agrees:
Pig Cupid continues smoking and eating noisily as he interrogates me:
I smile. Pig Cupid mocks me again:
Pig Cupid scoffs:
Pig Cupid tries to cheer me up:
I shrug sadly. Pig Cupid asks:
I smile as Pig Cupid resumes shoveling enormous bites of food into his mouth. He never stops talking:
Disbelieving, I have to interrupt:
Pig Cupid finishes his meal, leans back, and belches. After liberating entire meals from between his teeth and lighting a new cigarette off the last, he tells me the story Thalia told him:
FLORENCE, ITALY - FEBRUARY 16, 1915
It’s late afternoon, and Carnival revelers crowd the street. Mina Loy sits outside the Caffè delle Giubbe Rosse with a dozen friends. Filippo Marinetti sits at the center of the group, sipping a glass of wine and speaking loudly above the chaos:
A boisterous group of Carnival revelers crash into the caffè patrons and then continue on. In their wake, they leave chairs and tables overturned, dishes broken, and patrons on the ground. Mina rises and dusts herself off as do others in the group. Smiling, she says:
to Mina pointedly
Marinetti shouts over the group’s laughter:
Mina continues her assault over the group’s laughter:
Marinetti is incensed:
Mina reaches into the nearby handbag of her friend Vita Moreno and pulls out a rubber phallus. Shaking it at Marinetti, Mina says:
The group laughs wildly as Mina returns the phallus to Vita’s bag. Enraged, Marinetti responds:
As Mina and Vita take their leave and enter the Carnival crowd, Mina waves Filippo off:
LATER, Mina and Vita make their way south along the Via de’ Brunelleschi. Vita asks:
Vita and Mina turn left onto a quiet Via delle Terme and stop in front of a poster plastered to a nearby wall. It bears a picture of Giovanno Papini and advertises an upcoming lecture he’s scheduled to deliver. Fingering the word “Stroncatore,” Mina says:
Vita and Mina turn south onto the Via Por Santa Maria. There, they encounter a parade filled with floats, costumed revelers, and acrobats. Mina says:
Vita and Mina watch the parade, and Vita spots a handsome young man handing out trinkets to the crowd. Mina notices Vita watching him:
Vita blushes and looks away from the young man. Mina continues:
A young girl, who favors Mina, approaches the women and offers them Carnival trinkets. Vita and Mina take the trinkets and smile at the girl as she runs off. Mina says, wistfully:
Mina and Vita continue south along the Via Por Santa Maria, moving through a group of boisterous children. Mina continues:
When Mina and Vita reach the Ponte Vecchio, they make their way across the Arno. Half way across, the women stop and gaze out at the river, watching the boats move along it. Mina paraphrases lines she’ll later incorporate into Songs to Joannes:
She grabs an apple from a passing cart and continues:
Mina takes a bite of the apple, chews for a moment and, growing despondent, tosses it into the river. Watching the splash and then the concentric ripples, she continues:
After watching the river for a few moments more, Mina and Vita turn and continue crossing the Ponte Vecchio. Vita asks:
Mina smiles thoughtfully as she and Vita turn east onto the Via de’ Bardi and wander amongst the crowd. Vita breaks the silence:
Vita loops her arm around Mina’s as they turn south onto the Costa de’ Magnoli. Vita continues:
Mina and Vita bear east onto Costa San Giorgio and approach a door marked “54.” Vita asks:
Before they can enter the building, a boisterous, flamboyantly dressed Gordon Craig calls out to them. As he approaches, Mina remarks:
Gordon greets the two women and says:
Playfully, Vita offers:
Gordon removes a notebook and begins writing in it:
Gordon stows the notebook and asks:
He notices the shadows growing long at his feet:
Gordon turns to leave and says, over his shoulder:
Mina and Vita gaze up at a faint moon that’s appeared above Florence. Mina quotes Jules Laforgue:
HOURS LATER, AT THE ARENA GOLDONI, Mina and Vita enter the open-air theatre. It’s filled to capacity, and Gordon sits in the front row, enthralled with the stage. Lit with colored light from above, the stage is set with symbolic, mobile, non-representational screens typical of Craig’s scenography.
Onstage, already in mid conversation, masked actors playing Il Capitano and Pantalone face one another. Il Capitano says:
Vita and Mina work their way into a group of patrons standing near the stage. Onstage, Pantalone hands Il Capitano five coins:
Pantalone thinks better of his generosity and takes one of the coins back:
Pantalone and Il Capitano bow to one another, and the former shuffles offstage. Il Capitano watches Pantalone leave, puts the coins in his vest, and cries:
A masked actor playing Arlecchino tumbles onstage. Il Capitano swaggers over to him:
Arlecchino swoons and says:
He thinks for a moment and continues despondently:
Arlecchino considers his limitations with a frown:
Arlecchino scratches his head for a moment and tries marching around the stage. He gradually finds his cadence, and Il Capitano cries out:
Il Capitano scans the stage. Pulcinella walks into view, and Il Capitano calls him over:
Pulcinella squeaks his way over to Il Capitano who continues:
Pulcinella squeaks and nods his head. Il Capitano removes a coin from his purse and says:
Pulcinella takes the coin, nods, and squeaks his way offstage. Arlecchino says:
Il Capitano replies uncertainly:
Pulcinella reappears on stage carrying a wooden sword, a motley cape, a large hat, and a second Il Capitano mask. Pulcinella deposits these items at Il Capitano’s feet and looks up at him, eager for approval. Il Capitano looks over the items and says, unenthusiastically:
Pulcinella smiles and squeaks excitedly as he makes his way into the wings. Il Capitano considers the pile at his feet:
As Il Capitano helps Arlecchino put on the uniform, Pulcinella makes his way back onstage carrying a gigantic salami, a towering cone of gelato, and leading a horrific looking whore by the arm. Neither Il Capitano nor Arlecchino see him, but the audience laughs as Pulcinella squeaks his way across the stage and disappears.
Arlecchino places the Il Capitano mask over his own as Il Capitano steps back to review him:
Arlecchino is frightened:
Several audience members yell:
Mina looks at Vita:
Onstage, Il Capitano adopts the posture of a drill sergeant:
Arlecchino answers tentatively:
Male audience members shout their approval, and lines she’ll incorporate into Songs to Joannes begin running through Mina’s mind:
Onstage, Il Capitano continues drilling Arlecchino:
In the audience, Mina’s eyes widen:
Onstage, Il Capitano’s nose fences with Arlecchino’s:
Mina’s brainstorm continues:
Il Capitano continues drilling Arlecchino:
Patrons stomp their feet and laugh. Lines continue running through Mina’s mind:
Onstage, a masked actor playing Columbine appears. Il Capitano whispers to Arlecchino:
Arlecchino nods confidently and marches over to Columbine. Il Capitano retreats to the wings, and Columbine greets Arlecchino:
Arlecchino’s oversized hat almost falls off as he nods eagerly:
In the audience, Mina paraphrases Laforgue:
Onstage, Arlecchino tries to grab Columbine and throw her over his shoulder. He cries out:
Columbine resists, and she and Arlecchino tumble on stage for a few beats. Columbine says:
The crowd roars its approval as Arlecchino dives toward Columbine’s legs:
The audience explodes, and Mina closes her eyes, enraptured:
IN ARCADIA, Infant Cupid seizes in mid-air and falls toward the ground. He lands on a thick patch of grass and begins struggling as his violent metamorphosis begins.
MINUTES LATER, Pig Cupid drags himself toward a nearby pond where he inspects his reflection in the water. As his image resolves, he screams.
MINUTES LATER, Pig Cupid rises to his new height. Standing naked in Arcadia, his old loincloth, bow, and quiver lie tattered at his feet. Dozens of cherubs fly down from the sky and flutter around him. Two wrap a new loincloth around his waist, and another hands him a new bow and affixes a new quiver of arrows to his back. A final cherub places a cigarette between Pig Cupid’s lips and lights it.
Looking off into Acadia with a new look of confidence, Pig Cupid inhales deeply, smiles devilishly, and blows smoke out of his nostrils like an incensed bull.
MINUTES LATER, Pig Cupid runs wildly through Arcadia, squealing and agitating the Arcadians with a smile on his face. He takes one turn too sharply and bumps into a marble statue of a classical Cupid. As Pug Cupid continues on his way, it falls to the ground where it breaks in half.
IN THE THEATRE, Mina rises to leave. Vita reaches for her, but Mina waves her off, smiling. Confused, Vita watches Mina make her way through the crowd and exit the theatre.
SECONDS LATER, OUTSIDE, a beaming Mina Loy makes her way home determinedly.
ON VENICE BEACH, AN HOUR LATER, Pig Cupid finishes his story. He and I sit in the sand smoking a joint and sharing a bottle of tequila. Starlight glints on gossamer saliva strings as Pig Cupid lowers the bottle reluctantly:
Pig Cupid laughs:
Pig Cupid and I smoke and drink and stare out at the ocean. Mixing hot, sweet smoke with cool, maritime brume, Pig Cupid breaks the silence:
Frowning thoughtfully, Pig Cupid drives the empty tequila bottle into the sand:
I frown and crush our joint’s happy ember into the sand. Pig Cupid lies back and says:
Following his lead, I fall backwards and look up at the sky. The Pleiades, several constellations, and the moon shine there, and Pig Cupid continues softly:
Pig Cupid exhales sadly:
Sagitta sparkles in the sky bordered by Vulpecula, Hercules, Aquila and Delphinus. Pig Cupid names them all with the fluency of an astronomer:
Pig Cupid smiles:
We watch the sky as stars begin shooting toward the moon. They try to wriggle inside it like spermatozoa as Pig Cupid sings lines from Mina’s poem:
A single star-spermatozoa enters the lunar ovum, and the moon blossoms like a flower, grows a stamen, and begins spilling pollen into the sky. Pig Cupid finishes his song --
-- and we both fall asleep as the pollen rains down on us and the rest of Venice Beach.
Pig Cupid (the text) began its life as a feature-length "spec" screenplay. However, for reasons that must be obvious to the contemporary writer and cinéaste, this particular vehicle ensured it would experience little more than an uninteresting, static life in an overlooked corner of the cloud. Somehow, this seemed like a less-than-appropriate end for the text's eponymous character. Pig Cupid (the character) doesn't do well out of sight and, despite my best abilities, refuses to be ignored for long.
He lives on the far side of my right shoulder, just beyond my peripheral vision where I must turn my head to see. From this perch, He speaks to me a little every day, and, unlike looking at him, hearing Him takes no special effort. My ear is always, unavoidably available.
This is both fortunate and unfortunate, entertaining and distracting, depending on the circumstances.
Most of the time -- when the opportunity for a less-than-tasteful joke presents itself, for example, or one of life's more destructive pastimes appear before us -- I choose to keep staring straight ahead, cool and ignorant like a horse-in-blinders trotting before a sulky. But other times -- when we notice a wayward skirt in the breeze or spot an untended bottle of scotch or hear the Neon motherland singing on the far side of the San Gabriels -- I turn my head and acknowledge Him with winks and nods that build to smiles and snickers and great, gasping guffaws.
Then, we set about our mischief.
We're very much of one mind in these moments, and this amuses Him to no end.
On one such an occasion, not too long ago, He presented an idea to me, in his own particular way:
"There are other things you can do with that text, you know? With my text? Don't act like you haven't thought of them. If they've occurred to me, they've occurred to you. So what's the hold up? 'We have one sap and one root - Let there be commerce between us!'"
Pig Cupid knows I'm a sucker for poetry, just like Harley. And when He wants to drive home a grand point, He quotes and quotes and quotes like a schizophrenic parrot with a PhD. Then, He starts in on the ego and the long view of history:
"We're not communicating with scrolls and smoke signals and passenger pigeons anymore, for chrissakes. You can bend the greatest communication system ever devised by man to your will. Why not try something new? Where's the harm in pushing a bit, in kneading the dough?"
History and ego, poetry and disruption -- these get me every time. And as is often the case, Pig Cupid's right, as uncomfortable and inconvenient as it usually is.
Like Job, I know it all too well: cloven-hoofed devils are master rhetoricians, and master rhetoricians know their audiences better than they know themselves. They spoon-feed intelligence into willing mouths, clarify ambiguity, and check ambient insanity with confident, intuitive, overwhelming logic. And so Pig Cupid knows He's won before He even opens his mouth. Speaking is just a formality, a feathered cap extended graciously downward in supplicant cascades.
And so I nod. He winks. We smile. He laughs. He has me. We're one again, and off we go making mischief once again.
In addition to wrangling tutelary, anthropomorphic swine (among other assorted shoulder angels), I have an acute interest in “readerly” dramatic literature and the contemporary post-genre narrative landscape. The suspect value of Pig Cupid (the script) as a traditional movie-making tool attests to the first, this site to the second.
As Pig Cupid (the character) suggested, it had occurred to me that it would be interesting to hybridize: (a) the comfortable, paragraph-based flow of the traditional short story and (b) the airy directness, stark scene divisions, and active, present tense verb structure of the screenplay. In so doing, one might be able to engineer a textual bridge that would connect production spaces and readers' armchairs. As single-sitting, three act, character-driven genres, the short story and screenplay seem to reach toward conjunction anyway, even outside the context of this particular expression. And since I live and work in Southern California, and since the screenplay is effectively the region's native literary art form, any indigenous form of short fiction might very well look like I've presented it here. (It's "pretty to think so," anyway.)
Pushing this formal exercise one step further, over time, I'll be replacing some of the textual dialogue and scene descriptions above with filmed, produced versions. This will pull visual storytelling into the mix, reframing what we might presently call a "script story" into something we might call a "production story." (This patchwork text/film hybrid would be a good example of what my friend Nick Roth has christened "potential cinema.")
In this way, Pig Cupid is a living, evolving text, and I'm at peace knowing I'll inevitably die with pieces of the clay still misshapen and unfired. This is the nature of writing for the web, outside the context of legacy media, beyond leather binding and hard pages and ink stains. This is the nature of all work, really, and its brief intersections with mortal life. And when I'm haunting the hall of my ancestors, fearlessly trading life stories with mothers and fathers I'm reuniting with, and those I'm meeting for the first time, Pig Cupid may very well be someone else's companion.
He's an eternal spirit haunting mortal shoulders, and for the moment, and for a few years more, those shoulders belong to me.
The two of us have our peace, and we have our chaos. We have Apollo. We have Dionysus. We have moments of confusion and moments of great clarity. We have our war and our struggle. We have dominance and submission. We have hooves and hands and mischief and infinite laughs. We make monsters, elegant and inelegant, and we read and write and talk endlessly about everything.
He's a happy burden, but he isn't mine alone.
Not if you've read this far.