Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Part Thirty, Chapter Four - Gris' Lost Week

Throughout Mission Earth, Gris has been oscillating between his roles as a character in the story and its narrator, without really succeeding as either.  In this chapter he goes full narrator and for a time ceases to exist in any other respects.

After sending Bury on his way to the zoo, Gris calls to check on Madison and learns that he's made a remarkable recovery, and is ready to get back to work at making Heller (in)famous.  Gris presses for specifics, but all Madison will say is that they've moved past the first two C's of Confidence and Coverage, and now it's time for "CONTROVERSY!"  He advises Gris to keep an eye on the front page before hanging up.  Gris is annoyed at the non-answer, but checks the newspaper the next morning all the same.

Sure enough, the headline is "WHIZ KID ACCUSED OF FRAUD," with details about how his vehicle was impounded and the Whiz Kid's refusal to sit for an interview.  Gris checks the HellerVision to find the "real" Whiz Kid confused, asking "what in the name of blastguns is this all about?"  Izzy reminds him about that ticket to South America, where there's no press and the only thing to worry about are the army ants.

Tuesday's headlines are about a gas line discovered in the Whiz Kid's car, and on Wednesday a story breaks about a racing official bribed by the Whiz Kid.  Thursday covers an angry mob hunting down the Whiz Kid, civil unrest that is wholly absent when Gris looks out his window.  And afternoon edition announces "MAYOR CALLS CITY-WIDE EMERGENCY," and Gris wonders how Madison can keep things up for the Friday.  But the next day there's an article about the discovery of the Whiz Kid's secret hideout, and the day after that the papers and airways are abuzz over how a mob "ten thousand strong" bombed the crap out of the Whiz Kid's bolt-hole.

Which is all an extremely interesting and entertaining bit of satire about corrupt journalism, but what was Gris doing during all this?

Gris reports on each headline, and maybe says a sentence or two about how he's impressed but doubts Madison can keep it up.  But what else is he doing during that week?  Is he trying to salvage his "relationship' with Utanc?  Meeting with Bury?  Checking in with his stupid mobster hospital project?  Grabbing lunch somewhere?  Wondering if Raht and Terb are slacking off?  Visiting the zoo?  Having nightmares about the assassin threatening to kill him unless he gets to work?  Watching HellerVision?

Nope.  He's just reporting what the reporters are saying.  He's scanning the front page of the morning newspaper and then switching himself off, sitting in his hotel room staring at a wall, waiting for the next day and the next day's paper to come.

On Sunday Gris finally does something, for a given value of "does."  After sharing how there are two front-page stories about the Whiz Kid, centered around a newspaper contest to guess his secret formula that was cancelled after the Whiz Kid tried to win the cash prize (the secret fuel was Octopus brand gasoline), Gris chuckles at Madison's "howling genius" and turns on the HellerVision.  He finds Heller at his nature appreciation class, listening to the replacement teacher's lecture while the rest of the class goofs off, looking at least in Gris' opinion kinda dejected.  This of course makes Gris quite cheerful.

The Monday headline is about Octopus Oil officials denying involvement in the anti-Whiz Kid riots and decrying his plot to besmirch the name of decent energy cartels.  A Tuesday story mentions that Heller is now forbidden to drive, since after all he's only seventeen, but it only makes page three.  When Gris calls him Madison is apologetic, but Gris is in good spirits.  He checks the HellerVision to find Heller at a library reading that Hakluyt book about a sixteenth-century explorer getting hacked apart by angry natives, and spending a lot of time staring off into space.  This is called symbolism, children.

An assistant librarian, gathering up some books, said, "You look kind of lost.  Can I help you?"

Heller said, "No.  I don't think anybody can.  Somewhere I went wrong.  And for the life of me, I can't spot where."

Let me help!  It was when you decided to go along with a sudden and suspicious offer of free media promotion and a hastily-arranged, highly-suspicious car race.  I mean, people were hired to kidnap you!  There were snipers involved!  That was not a legit arrangement, that was a trap, Mr. Decorated Fleet Commando.

And what was your original plan, anyway?  It certainly wasn't the car race, since that wasn't even your idea, so what was Plan A and why has it been derailed by Plan B?  Or can you not think of a way to introduce your alien carburetor that doesn't involve a racetrack?

"Just go see the student psychiatrist," the assistant librarian said cheerfully.

"Just because I'm lost is no reason to make two mistakes," said Heller and went back to studying Hakluyt.

Remember, when you're lost and brooding, continue to be lost and brood instead of seeking help. 

But oh, was I cheerful.  My life felt like a song.

Bless Bury.  Bless Madison.  Heller was stopped cold!

I'm reluctant to agree, but the dope can't seem to come up with his own plans, so it looks that way.

Now taking suggestions for exactly which song most accurately depicts Gris' life.  Something with kazoos and huge stretches of nothing happening, obviously.

Back to Chapter Three

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