“Given the number of religions that allow for one to ‘fall’ into evil ways, and attribute the evil in the world to a third-party malevolent force, you would think evil would be easier to achieve than this.” Cusper Lynn
The Occidental Ape
By Cusper Lynn
Absurd? Yes. But for reasons of either divine design or randomly assembled moral precepts, we must take a definitive action or step on our path towards evil.
Given the number of religions that allow for one to “fall”’ into evil ways, and attribute the evil in the world to a third-party malevolent force, you would think evil would be easier to achieve than this.
But it isn’t. Talmudic contemplations of random naked carpenters falling accidently from the roof and landing on random women so arranged as to achieve spontaneous familiarity do not conform to reality.
Or if they do, they give rise to claims of negligence—for being naked, being aroused and being too close to a roof’s edge—and claims of tort—for fractured pelvises, unanticipated encumbrances, pain and suffering and, ultimately, claims in family court. Simply put, naked carpenters are already halfway home on the path to evil.
So it was that when my morning began I was well on the way down my personal path to evil. I was dressed, I had an appointment, and I had intent. I believe, though, the sickening moment when I realized I was on the path to evil occurred when I called Matt Tomlinson.
“Tomlinson M, the M is for Marketing Magic,” the voice on the phone answered and I winced.
Ending one’s association with truly evil habits is much like giving up surreptitious nose-picking; you achieve it by incremental steps. I had ceased my association with Matt Tomlinson nearly ten years earlier by winding down a series of projects and not accepting any new assignments.
“Matt, it’s Cusper,” I said with the forced joviality of one trying to pass off a request for a loan as a light joke.
“Cusper!” Matt exclaimed. “How did that Artic thingy come out? You finish that up?”
I paused and racked my memory, “You mean the Artic Alvin Real Estate Challenge?”
“Yay, yay, that’s the one,” Matt said happily.
“Went well. Alvin signed up over 400 new members in two hours,” I said, accurately reporting the outcome of the Real Estate Challenge Artic Alvin had staged in Detroit in February ten years earlier. He bought a series of abandoned apartment buildings with no money and no credit then rented them out to Section 8 housing tenants. He did this within 72 hours.
“Oh, wow, that must have been, what, 200k he made that day?” Alvin whistled.
“Six hundred thousand,” I said, irritated at myself for having bothered to call Matt at all.
“Really? That is some real money!” Alvin hooted.
“Yes, and you are the one who got me involved in it,” I said, trying to remember exactly what the upside of calling Matt Tomlinson might be.
“You are right there. Put you onto a real winner,” Alvin said proudly.
“That was over nine years ago,” I pointed out.
“Was it? Time flies,” Alvin said, shocked.
“I was in for a 20 percent commission,” I said coldly.
“You were? That was a good day for you, then,” Alvin said sagely.
“Why is that?” Matt said, sounding genuinely perplexed.
“I never got paid,” I pointed out.
“Really? Why not?” Alvin sounded genuinely surprised.
“You never paid me,” I explained.
Silence. “I will call Alvin and get this sorted out right now.”
I groaned inwardly and said “You can’t.”
“Of course, I can,” Matt protested, “I will just get him on the phone.”
“He is dead,” I said calmly.
“He is? Yes, I think I heard something about that,” Matt said distractedly.
“Matt,” I said, in the tone of one speaking to a nearly deaf and entirely clueless driver at an intersection, “I was calling to see if there is anything going on. Any projects I can work on?”
“Cusper, of course there are. I have some great projects for you. Was just waiting for you to call after you finished up the Artic Alvin thing,” he said happily.
“Well, I am done with it,” I said with certainty.
“Great. Let’s get together,” Matt suggested.
So we set the appointment to meet at his Englewood office.
Driving from Sarasota down 41, I berated myself for going back into this world and berated myself even more for making my entry back into it by way of Matt Tolinson—the marketing genius with the attention span of a sand flea. To be fair, in the world of motivational speakers and wealth education publishers, Matt is far from unique. Except, he does not have a rap sheet. Well, at least not a long one.
Arriving at the Spanish Revival store front that faced out onto 41, I parked my car and made my way to Matt’s office. Letting myself in, I found there wasn’t a receptionist on duty. The large reception area was clean, well lit, and the walls were lined with both color and black & white photos of celebrities. Politicians, musicians, actors, directors, authors, artists, wrestlers, boxers and other athletes were to be seen staring out from custom frames. Posing next to each and every one of these people, with a smile that would make any experienced car shopper place a hand on his wallet: Matt Tomlinson.
Looking about the room, I saw a stack of books on a corner table. Examining them, I read the title “Reach Yourself For Your True Wealth,” By Fredrick Mistone. I picked up a copy and read the back cover. It was utter pap—a three-paragraph list of mindless mumbo jumbo and professional accolades for the author; another psychotherapist who had made good in a small market. The book screamed Vanity Press.
The door to the main office burst open and out strutted Matt, followed by a sweaty, balding and overweight fellow in his 30s though, to the world at large, he might have been anywhere up to 50 years old.
“So then you know what I did, Gene?” Matt asked, rushing over to the table and picking up a copy of the book I myself was holding.
“No idea, Mr. Tomlinson,” the balding man muttered.
“I said, ‘Freddie’—he hated it when I called him that, which is why I did it—I said ‘Freddie,’ no one gives a damn about touching themselves unless the book is a guide to jerking off. Tell ’em something they don’t already know how to do. Tell ‘em how to make money. So I rip up the dust jacket,” Matt said, proceeding to do so.
“Then I give him this,” he pulled a replacement dust jacket from the receptionist desk and put it on the naked hardback.
The bright green, red and white slick cover now read: “Neural Wealth: Think your Million Dollar Thought, Today!”
Above and below the text was the image of a brain with dollar signs, euros and other currency symbols surging about it along with long numbers.
“Um, but did the book have anything to do with money?” Gene, the portly thirty-something stammered.
“Hell no! First ten thousand print run featured holistic psycho crap and happiness garbage that left your dick limp. But, with the new cover, we moved all of those and fixed up the next edition with a new chapter title here and a few sexy things about being rich there. I am talking a genuine four months at the top of the best sellers list,” Matt gushed.
“Is that good?” Gene said dubiously.
“Good? Good? That is fan-freakin-tastic! Especially when you consider that Freddie was writing another piece of psycho babble to promote his hundred-dollar-a-head workshops. Gave him some real vision. Now, it’s $1500 to buy his introductory mental abundance CD set. You want to work with him directly? Thirty K and that’s for the four-day Sedona retreat with sweat lodge,” Matt smiled and threw an arm around the fat man’s shoulder.
The fat man tried to look impressed but only managed to look constipated.
“Cusper, what are you doing here?” Matt asked, taking notice of me for the first time.
“We have a meeting . . . to discuss a project,” I said, trying to help him recall. Damn evil was really taking more effort than I felt able to expend.
Matt stared at me blankly. Then, dawning recognition broke over his face. “Yes, that’s right. Perfect timing! My new friend Gene here is exactly the person I want you to meet.”
I smiled at Gene and knew that matters were only going to get significantly worse.
Twenty minutes later, I was driving north on 41 to Siesta Key. Gene, whose full name is Gene Jeremiah Fulsome of “Fulsome Documentaries,” was following behind me in his white panel van. Gene, Matt’s new friend, was a down-on-his-luck documentary maker who had put together a few investors—family, friends and a few other suckers—to finance a documentary he was going to do on Ken Burns. Gene had got the money, the equipment, and set out to make his documentary.
What he hadn’t actually bothered to do was secure access to his intended subject. The tenuous foundation upon which he had constructed his project comprised the fact that a former classmate of his had landed an internship with Ken Burns’ film group.
Having driven from New Hampshire to Georgia in search of his subject ,Gene had not only overestimated his stamina as a driver, he had also significantly overestimated the strength of his relationship with the former classmate.
The restraining order and subsequent three weeks of couch-surfing in the apartments of art and film students had taken him due south. He’d been in a holding pattern, crashing with students from New College and Ringling College in Sarasota, both campuses noted for their bohemian ambience, when even the addled and indulgent minds of his temporary hosts had finally found his presence objectionable.
So it was that he had washed up in a Bar in Nokomis, trying to decide if he should kill himself or call his mother.
It was then that he met Matt Tomlinson
It occurred to me that most stories involving motivational speakers start with failure, near-suicide, a bar, and a fortuitous meeting. Unfortunately, most work for motivational speakers also involves at least two of those elements.
Pulling up to a beach-front building that looked out on the gulf, I took a deep breath. I was certain there’d be no money in any of this and quite probably a great deal of personal risk involved. But, as I said, there are always at least two elements involved that are unpleasant when dealing with these sorts of projects.
“I’ve got about an hour on this battery,” Gene said, now panting as the midday sun poured down its on his shining pate.
“Are you rolling?” I asked.
“What? Oh . . . yes,” Gene said, and came waddling behind me.
We were at the home—or more likely “a” home—of Abraham Norman. Known to his fans, his detectors, and his growing list of ex-wives as Abby Norman the Wealthy Mormon. I shook my head again and considered the wages of sin.
“Abby is retooling,” Matt had said, “and he needs the Cusper Lynn magic. You know, where you sort out the products, freshen the titles.”
I had nodded my head. It was very likely I would have done better to go out and take a position delivering pizza. There, when people rob you, they at least don’t try to engage your enthusiasm.
“Gene, you go along and film it. It will be golden,” Matt said.
So I found myself standing at the door of Abby Norman’s Siesta Key home, getting the first whiff of the red tide and swearing at myself for being there at all.
I knocked. The door came slightly ajar and a folded notice landed at my feet. I picked it up. It was a notice from the electric company informing the occupant or residents that electric service had been terminated for non-payment.
Pushing the door open farther, I was greeted by a pile of similar notices and a few thick, stapled legal notices.
“Do you think we should go in?” Gene asked.
“No,” I said and went in.
Ascending the stairs, I was considering the scenarios that were likely to present themselves. Best case, I figured was Abby Norman was dead of natural causes and his body was currently bloating in one of the upstairs rooms. Worst case? He had sprayed his brains across one of the walls in the same upstairs rooms.
“Mr. Lynn, do you think we will get paid?” Gene asked.
“I am certain,” I said, taking care to not specify that my certainty was that we would not be getting paid.
“Who the hell are you?” a voice bellowed, followed by a horrible explosion.
The scenarios I had considered (dead of natural causes; dead by suicide) had not encompassed the present circumstances: dead drunk, armed, and quite possibly on medications. The sound of gunfire is, under field conditions, disruptive to one’s hearing. At a distance of less than 30 feet, inside a building with plate glass windows and a cathedral ceiling, it is deafening.
Fortunately, unlike Gene, I did not have the sound further amplified by way of earphones to verify sound levels while recording. The fat man was crouched on the stairs, tears of pain streaming down his face.
“Who the hell are you?!” the voice repeated, this time a bit more restrained, likely due to the fact that he had also suffered from the stunning impact of the sound of his gun discharging.
I put my hands up and said, “Cusper Lynn. Matt sent me over to help you with a project.”
“Cusper Lynn?” Abby asked, scratching his stubbled chin.
A terrible moment of anticipation passed. My name is far from universally known in the world of motivational speakers and publishers.
“Didn’t you do that Detroit thingy with Artic Alvin?” he muttered, lowering the gun.
Damn. “Yes, that was me,” I said, keeping my hands in the air.
“Shit, that was one hell of a stunt!” Abby laughed, setting the gun down.
I took in the room as I waited for the ringing in my ears to clear. The current furnishings could be described as Hobo Camp Chic, with camp grill, propane lamps, paper plate, stained and crumpled napkin, plastic utensils and a collection of empty bottles; booze and pills. Abby, in keeping with his reputation for sartorial splendor, was dressed to match his surroundings. Were you to transport him to any intersection in Tampa and give him a reflective vest, passing traffic would toss change at him. Then, to my horror, I noticed the buckets.
“How is old Artic doing these days?” Abby asked.
“Pretty much the way he has been for the last few years,” I answered honestly.
“I know how that goes,” Abby said, hooding his eyes and nodding his head understandingly.
In the intervening moment of peace, Gene had managed work his way backward through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and arrived at the question: “Are we going to die?”
I shot Gene a murderous glance and then looked to Abby, “Where do you stand on the whole killing thing?”
“Hmm?” Abby said, slightly confused by the question.
“Abby, Gene and I are here to do a documentary for your next project,” I explained, slowly lowering my hands.
“Project?” Abby asked, rousing from his stupor.
“Matt Tomlinson sent us,” Gene said, standing up and unnecessarily reintroducing the subject of Matt into the conversation.
In a flash, the gun was back up and pointing in our direction.
“You are here for that leech?!?” Abby barked, his eyes now clear and his face a bright red.
“Abby, I understand and share your feelings about Matt,” I said, with absolute sincerity. If I got ahold of that gun I had every intention of pointing it at Matt in much the same manner as it was presently being pointed at me.
“But, we are not here for Matt. We are here for you. My understanding was that you were going to be rebuilding your company,” I said, leaving my hands at my sides.
“What company?” Abby asked lowering the gun.
“The Abby Norman the Wealthy Mormon Company. ‘The’ brand, the millionaire pile with the billionaire style,” I said easily.
“That last bit; that isn’t mine,” Abby grumbled.
“No, it isn’t. It was something I was thinking about on the drive over here,” I admitted.
Yes. I really had been working on catch phrases and new product profiles on the drive over. If you are going to hell you might as well go whole hog.
“Hmmm. But what does it mean,” Abby asked.
“Well now, Abby, that is something we have to talk about. You do know that a million dollars today just isn’t a million dollars anymore,” I said stepping toward him.
“You got that right,” he agreed wholeheartedly.
“Mind if I sit down?” I asked. “It’s been a long morning.”
“Sure, pull up some rug,” he offered generously.
I sat down next to the international author, corporate consultant, and political gadfly. While I will admit he was a bit gamey smelling, it was nowhere near as bad as I had expected.
“Like I was saying,” I picked up my thread, “a million is just not a million anymore and being a millionaire just isn’t that exciting. I want you to think about the Weimar Republic. I am talking massive inflation.”
“You mean that bit between the wars?” Abby said, with interest.
“Yes. Gene, are you rolling?” I asked.
“Huh? Yes, it’s still on,” the cowering cameraman said, now finding his footing at the top of the stairs.
“Please make sure you get all of this,” I said to Gene.
“So, a million ain’t a million. So what?” Abby said, laying the gun down.
“So, people need to see that not only can they achieve the millions but they can live like they have the billions,” I explained. “It is the unique selling proposition.”
“Bullshit. I’m broke and broken,” Abby grumped.
“That’s perfect!” I said, edging toward him, moving the bottles and the gun away from us. “Are you getting this, Gene?”
“Yes?” Gene said.
“What?” Abby asked.
“Say it again, just like you did. Gene, get this in a close-up,” I said.
“Say what?” Abby was completely confused.
“Look into that camera and say, ‘Bullshit. I’m broke and broken!”
“Bullshit. I’m broke and broken,” Abby said dully.
I swept more bottles, pills and booze—and the gun—even farther from us. “Damn it, Abby, you are broke, you have nothing, you are despondent! Give me all of that,” I directed.
“Bullshit! I’m broke and broken!” Abby snapped.
“Abby, where is your wife,” I asked.
“She went off with my company’s CFO,” he growled.
“OK, now say it again,” I instructed him.
“Bullshit! I’m broke and broken!!” Abby snarled.
“What happened to your business and your property?!” I egged him on.
“That piece of shit CFO Barry screwed me!” He was now raging.
“How?” I asked.
“He and the wife moved the accounts.” His face was beat red.
I knew that what he really meant was that he had questionable offshore accounts and they had hijacked them but I did not want that on tape.
“OK, one last time. Say it,” I yelled.
“BULLSHIT! I’M BROKE AND BROKEN!” he bellowed and came up to his feet, hands clenched, eyes watering and mouth nearly foaming.
I was praying that Gene wasn’t as much of a putz as I thought he was and that he was actually getting even part of this on tape.
“Good. Now we rebuild,” I said, and retrieved the gun from the floor.
“How,” Abby asked, shaken from his incandescent rage by my calm demeanor.
“Simple,” I said.
Then I went off to the bedroom. I returned a few minutes later with a change of clothing and a bag.
“What is that?” Abby asked, having lapsed back into his befuddled state.
“A clean suit and a shaving kit,” I said, and pressed them on Abby.
“I can’t put these on,” Abby said, looking down at himself.
“Yes you can. Gene is going to drive you down to the beach showers and he is going to film you before and after. Hell! Maybe even during. Then, I am going to meet you back in town. We have work to do,” I instructed.
Abby looked at the clothing and me. “You think I can do this?”
“Think PT Barnum and the Jerome Clock Company,” I said, recalling to Abby’s mind the great financial disaster from which PT Barnum rebounded after losing his entire fortune.
“I can’t,” his face clouded.
“Why?” I was now concerned.
“This is the wrong suit,” Abby said, and went off to pick out his own clothes.
I looked about the room and considered what if anything to do with the place, when Gene interrupted my thoughts.
“Mr. Lynn,” he said.
I turned to find that he had lowered the camera.
“What you just did for him . . . I don’t understand. Why aren’t you a motivational speaker?” Gene asked, clearly moved by the fact that he was not going to be shot and was instead going to be filming a scruffy sixty-year old man taking a shower at the beach.
“It’s the difference between lawyers and politicians,” I said and turned back to thinking about what was to be done with the place.
“How’s that?” Gene asked, uncomprehendingly.
“There are some things even lawyers won’t do,” I said, then stepped over to the sliding glass door that opened onto the balcony.
Stepping out to the balcony I took in a deep breath and shut the door behind me. We had our hard luck story on video, we had our transformation to do, and I had a gun to shoot Matt Tomlinson with.
I was back in the heart of evil and red tide had never smelled better.
Note: Illustration by Jason Rogers.