Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Part Seventeen, Chapter Four - Heller Reads Magazines and Threatens to Murder Someone

After taking a short break due to the static coming over the HellerVision, a "dreadful fascination" - ha! - brings Gris back to watch when it sounds like the interference is over.  He's just in time to see Heller leave the lobby's elevator, which throws him a bit.  It was only ten minutes ago that a hooker was about to demonstrate to Heller "how it's done in Harlem," but here he is fully dressed and headed out the door.

Let's see.  It would have taken him a few minutes to dress.  Say a minute to come down in the elevator . . .

Well, let's say he was awfully fast.

I must admit to being curious about what happened during the static.  Sure, Hubbard is messing with us, but I'm interested whether he thinks it's appropriate for his perfect superheroic Heller to have a little fling with some alien prostitutes despite his relationship with the Countess Krak.  My gut says no, that Heller is remaining faithful and that everything involving the scantily-clad women was just a hilarious misunderstanding.  Because really, if Gris thinks one thing is happening, you can bet that the opposite is going on.  Always remember that everything in this story exists to spite Gris.

But this begs the question of exactly what happened to get the women all cuddled up in bed around Heller while gossiping about their sex lives.  It's a very "post-sex" outcome, but since sex probably wasn't involved, what did they do to get there?

Despite earlier mention that business is slow and the girls are all man-starved, not to mention Gris noting that the UN isn't in session, the hotel lobby is nevertheless full of both Western businessmen and "Prosperous looking, debonair men about town from deserts and mountains and villages on stilts - the typical UN crowd."  And now Heller's here to sit down and look tough in case of trouble.  A hotel worker drops off a stack of magazines for Heller to flip through while he's on "duty," and oh goodness they're all racing periodicals about stock cars and hot rods and now I have a hunch how Hubbard's going to stretch this out over eight more books.

Once he's done speed-reading thanks to his superior Voltarian mind, Heller watches the crowded, full lobby, which is nevertheless "not much of a throng" because again, the UN isn't actually in session.  As Heller moves from racing rags to the Wall Street Journal, another lobby guard warns him to watch out for one diplomat from Maysabongo (it borders Bullcrapastan and Fictitioustania), who packs a kris up his sleeve.  Heller has no reaction besides yawning, which Gris puts down to stress thanks to his understanding of psychology.

Of human psychology.  Hmm.  Perhaps his erroneous conclusions are due to fundamental differences in the workings of human and Voltarian minds?  Naaaaaah, psychology's just a load of crap.

I'm sorry I'm getting distracted, but this is a very boring chapter.  Heller reads the real estate notices, then tries to make sense of the stock listings.  A turbaned man notices the "new face," prompting Vantagio to explain that Heller is the son of a Moslem who must live here while he goes to school.  Mr. Turban uses his understanding of the "Mohammedan" religion to announce that it is only proper for a young man to be raised in the harem.  He tries to great Heller in his native tongue but uses "Aliekoom sala'am" to do so, which I'm pretty sure is incorrect - since he's initiating the greeting he should use as-salāmu ʿalaykum, to which Heller would respond with wa `alaykum as-salām.  But I only know this because I took a semester of Arabic and can be bothered to look things up, which sets me apart from a hugely successful science-fiction author like Hubbard.

All that aside, Heller evades the issue of not speaking Arabic by politely informing Mr. Turban that he's forbidden to speak Arabic while in America.  Which would presumably make saying his prayers a little difficult, but Mr. Turban buys it and Heller's secret remains safe and I wish the Voltarian invasion fleet would hurry up already.

Eventually, something close to excitement happens.  That deputy delegate from Madeupia - Hubbard is fine with insulting the UN as a group, but not its individual member states - bursts into the room in a fury with his kris drawn, demanding to see a "Capitalist warmonger" named Stuffumo, who he is sure is in bed with his favorite hooker, Harlotta.

Folks, don't name your kid Harlotta.  Or Slutia, or Sleepsaroundina, or Promiscuna for that matter.

Crazy Kris Guy spots Stuffumo, and we get half a page of Hubbard Action as Heller effortlessly grabs the attacker's arm and puts his thumb in the right spot to make him drop the knife... the right spot was on the back of his hand.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  Upon taking the attacker's knife, Heller asks what room Harlotta is in, so that he can murder her.  You see, she's at the heart of a conflict that nearly led one man to kill another diplomat, so the only logical course of action is to cut her throat.

He's bluffing, of course, in a variation of the ol' Judgment of Solomon.  Societies with a history of "honor killings," however, consider this a perfectly valid course of action.

So Vengeful Knife-Wielding Man From a Made-Up Country and Stuffumo are both appalled and beg for Heller to reconsider murdering an innocent-ish bystander (while no one, including the whorehouse's actual staff, jump in to stop Heller or otherwise react to what he's suggesting).  The two diplomats settle things diplomatically, with a "conference."  The punchline is a treaty of "bilateral occupation" on alternating days, with the diplomats reluctantly spending time with their families on Sundays.  And I guess a more talented or inspired author could try to work this into an actual metaphor for how the Global South must prostitute itself to more developed nations in order to survive, or the exploitation and inequalities inherent in the United Nations, but nothing doing.

The incident resolved, one of the hotel staffers compliments Heller for his handling of the situation (in which he announced his intentions to murder someone).  He explains that the likes of vengeful Knife-Wielding Man From a Made-Up Country have diplomatic immunity, making them untouchable, while "law-abiding Americans like you and me" are more vulnerable.  And those are my quotes, not Hubbard's.  I don't think the mobster is being ironic.  Stupid, perhaps, but not ironic.

And the chapter ends with Heller going up to his room now that his "shift" is over, only to be spotted by another beautiful, eager woman with her robes untied, who declares despite all the evidence to the contrary that "business is too slack tonight," but she hears that Heller has "something beautifully new" to show her.  And of course before she can tell us what she plans to do with him there's another burst of static, presumably emanating from Heller's nether regions.

Gris ponders the significance of Heller's interest in a wilderness retreat and racecars.  I ponder why, if that's the only thing that happens in this chapter that will could have an affect on the plot, this section nevertheless went on for seven and a half pages.

Back to Chapter Three

1 comment:

  1. "puts his thumb in the right spot to make him drop the knife... the right spot was on the back of his hand. "

    I don't want to nitpick, but unless my karate classes were misleading, the right stop to make someone drop something they're holding is the front of the wrist, not the back of the hand.