The Tale of "The Trimalchio of Pebble Beach" and His Little Black Notebook
It was Trimalchio Tusk, one of the American Elect who could honestly claim to be 1/10th of a trillionaire, who stood before what a perspicacious passerby would assume was a replica of The Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. This wondrous spectacle of Hollywood memorabilia, stuck in the white sands of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s beach, featured a small troop of baboons, sheltering within a sliver of shade cast by this sun-transformed sundial scaling 20 feet into the sky.
The baboons were stand-ins for the hominids in the movie classic that launched countless explorations of inner space via the vehicle of LSD. An audience of presumably evolved homo sapiens crowded the parking lot overlooking the beach at the end of Ocean Ave. The baboons contented themselves in mutual grooming, mostly, while most of the people watched the goings-on through their smartphones.
If the passerby were permitted a closer look by the cops and private guards who cordoned off beach space dominated by The Elect from the hoi polloi in the parking lot, she’d realize The Monolith resembled something more pedestrian, but fantastic, still. The dawning of her consciousness would be triggered by the words “Little Black Notebook” embossed on its gargantuan cover. For this was Tusk Enterprises’ new rocket, ready to take its first public test flight. Such spectacles boosted the company's stock price.
One of the publicity gimmicks was to collect memories and aspirations written into small black notebooks distributed to Monterey Bay area residents, and load them into the unmanned rocket, fated to travel many miles over the sea before falling into and being entombed by the Pacific Ocean. No one raised the issue of the absurdity of using it as a time capsule, not even the press, for it was a remarkably marketable idea, the brainstorm of novelist Julia Marlborough, Tusk’s neighbor in Pebble Beach.
A wave of the Elect's hand brought Oscar-winning screenwriter Jerry Grenville to Tusk’s side. Jerry was another friend and Pebble Beach neighbor.
“Julia didn’t come?” he asked. Jerry nodded affirmative. Tusk handed him a manila envelope addressed to Julia and turned his back.
Jerry’s hands kneaded the envelope addressed to his wife all 100 of the feet he walked uphill to take his place with the crowd. The package bulged with two thick but supple bricks, both dollar bill-sized.
From up in the parking lot, people looked down upon the Trimalchio of Pebble Beach and his Little Black Book, the first in a new series of rocket-propelled “personal travel pods.” The ESOV (Extreme Suborbital Vehicle) was seven meters high and two meters thick at the “belt line.” The magic of trompe l’oeil painting hid the “bubble” accommodating a future pilot’s head and shoulders, creating the illusion that the rocket was as flatly angular as, well, a notebook.
As Jerry’s hands worried the package, he remembered the night when the ESOV was launched in Tusk’s mind. The three of them—husband, wife and friend—were drinking claret under the stars on Jerry’s deck when she had challenged Tusk.
“Rock It Boy!” she said. “Why don’t you make a rocket, boy, for commuters?”.
It was his Julia who sparked her Rock It Boy's idea of making a spaceship for the multitude of their multi-multimillionaire neighbors, so they wouldn’t have to rely on old fashioned tech like helicopters to hop over traffic jams between the Monterey Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Tusk sketched ideas in Jerry’s little black notebook, which sat on the outdoors table as Jerry had been working up screenplay dialogue before he surrendered his attentions to the wine and the conversation between wife and friend.
“What will it look like?” Tusk asked Julia as she grabbed the notebook from him.
“The press says you can make anything fly!” She stood up, cocking her arm behind her head. “Make this fly!” The notebook’s flight path terminated in the pine trees near the driveway.
That was the genesis of the Little Black Book. Tusk turned his ESOV into a little black notebook to make it fly. For Julia.
Jerry had written Tusk’s speech, which was to end with him pointing to the sky and saying his rocket would travel “20,000 leagues into the ‘C’.”
‘C’ was Tusk’s trademarked word for ”Cosmos.”
Jerry loved Disney’s 1950s movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Like all screenwriters, he paid homage to Hollywood’s past by ripping it off. Tusk had offered to pay Jerry $20,000 for the spiel, but Jerry didn’t accept. Julia wasn’t there at Carmel Beach as angry words were spoken between husband and wife when she’d heard what he’d refused.
“What about my fee?” she said.
Julia had moved out of their bedroom and into the media room. That morning, she shouted in response to Jerry’s knock on the door, “Go take a flying fuck at the ‘C’!”
On the beach, all that remained was for Tusk to finish with Jerry’s “20,000 leagues….” Richard Strauss’ Thus Spake Zarathustra, the theme from 2001, had queued on the sound system, giving Tusk less than two minutes to trot to the parking lot before blast-off. He was to turn and launch the vehicle with the joystick controller he carried in one hand.
The animal wranglers weren’t using restraints on the baboons. An electronic “fence” kept them corralled near the rocket. An insurance investigator would later fault the wranglers for failing to forecast the effects the low bass opening of Strauss’s symphonic piece would have on the simian nervous system.
As the first note of Zarathustra rumbled, people were buzzing at the sight of two male baboons masturbating each other. A man offered to cover bets on which would come off first, the “purple assed monkeys,” or the "Big Black Notebook."
Below them, Tusk had his head back, looking up at the 'C' as he said his exit line. He didn’t see one of the baboon jerk-offs bite the other after crossing the finish line first. The wounded primate jumped, transcribing a vertical arc that would do any of Tusk’s space vehicles proud.
A WHOOSH! exhaled from the crowd as the ape leaped a good 15 feet high, propelling him up towards Tusk’s ‘C.’ The distance its launch achieved was remarkable, at least 25 feet by dead reckoning. The baboon was still rising when he hooked his arms around Tusk’s head, performing “Ring around the Rosie” with Tusk’s neck as the maypole.
The baboon went round and round and around once more, a full three revolutions before….it….began…dropping…. Time slowed as the crowd sucked that WHOOSH! back, knowing what was coming…. The baboon, one arm clutching Tusk’s neck, jerked Tusk’s joystick with its free hand.
The Little Black Notebook ejaculated into the ‘C’ from a crucible of fire, scorched sand billowing out from the launch crater like gravel kicked up by car tires. Jerry’s screenwriter-mind imagined a minor god, banished to earth by Zeus, condemned to serve mere mortals as an undocumented yard boy equipped with a massive leaf blower.
The rocket rose and then peeled off over the Pacific. Before the contrail evaporated in the sky, the crowd made a quicksilver transformation into a greedy mob, milling over the scorched beach sand, looking for bits and pieces of Tusk for souvenirs.
It dawned on them that 1/10 of a trillionaire had been atomized, but they would not be denied. Some began pulling at the beach sand fused-into-glass, tearing off the nails and skin of their fingers as they tried to break it up and make mementoes to sell on eBay.
Jerry watched a Carmel cop walk over to a surviving baboon perched on a CURB YOUR DOG sign and say “Shoo!” The beast jumped off. Animal control was far from the cop’s mind. He was yanking at the baboon doo-besmirched sign when other "mobsters" joined him.
The group pulled it up, still attached to the cement base that had rooted it in the ground. The cement proved effective as a battering ram for shattering the fused-sand glass before it, too, shattered. Success spawns imitation, and all available street signs were torn up to hack at the glass.
Jerry’s hands had worked the envelope open and there it was, two stacks of cash. Two bricks of 100 hundred dollar bills. Julia had been paid her fee. The $20,000 he’d refused.
It was all over, he mourned. For her and Tusk. For her and him. It was if he’d written “The End” on a screenplay's last page. It was a truth that, unlike the envelope, couldn’t be resealed.
A chunk of freshly mined beach glass hit Jerry in the head, drawing blood. Shaking off his shock, he saw his assailant was a baboon, screeching at him and shaking its arms. When the ape turned around to display its ass, Jerry picked up the projectile to throw back at the baboon. He hesitated, as his own blood smeared on the irregular orb made it difficult to grip.
The baboon leapt up at him. Jerry twisted his trunk so that the beast’s body missed him, mostly, but his shirt and chest were ripped by its toenails as the baboon propelled itself off of Jerry with its feet. The purple-assed demon ran up Ocean Ave., the envelope with Tusk’s $20,000 clutched against its chest. Jerry took off after him.
The baboon wheeled left, heading into Pebble Beach, the ultimate in gated communities. Jerry ran between the gatehouse and an idling car, startling the guards in their Smokey the Bear uniforms. Jerry ran and ran and ran until he couldn’t. The hairy bastard darted off the road and onto the rocky beach below.
Jerry couldn’t navigate rocks slippery with seawater. He moved to the middle of the road, wondering whether to walk home or go back to get his Cadillac Escalade before collapsing. Two guards found him passed out in the middle of 17 Mile Drive, clutching a roundish ball of glass in his fingers, tight to his chest. They couldn’t release Jerry’s hold on it, and stopped trying when they determined he hadn’t had a heart attack and wouldn’t need a heart massage.
They hustled Jerry into their patrol car and drove him home, where he refused to get out even though the driver had opened the back door to help him. The guard riding shotgun went up to the house and came back with Julia.
Julia stuck her head into the car. “You have something for me.” It was a statement, not a question. Jerry scooched his ass across the upholstery, away from her, until he was stopped by the other door.
“He gave you an envelope,” she said.
Jerry stared into the pines, the chunk of glass held to his chest. Julia eased her knees down onto the back seat, leaned in towards Jerry, and when her hooked hands gained purchase on the glass, she wrested it away from him. After she was back in the house, Jerry accepted the shotgun’s aid when unassing the vehicle. Driving off, the rearview mirror displayed the spectacle of Jerry lying down on the driveway gravel, hands still clutched over his heart.
“Mr. Grenville looks like one of them painted saints on the candles,” the driver said, “my wife buys at the bodega.”
“Fuck Mr. Grenville,” said the shotgun.
Julia put the tchotchke on eBay that night. Her $20,000 price was met within an hour. For weeks afterwards she rued acting so hastily. The price of other pieces of “Tusk Glass,” both real and counterfeit, blasted off into the ‘C.’ But the $20K provided the retainer for her to hire the attorney who had handled Rock It Boy’s divorce.
Later, when Julia heard about homeless people coming out of the woods clutching $100 bills, she accepted the social media meme of an eccentric Pebble Beach moneybags making like a philanthropic Johnny Appleseed among the pines. She never suspected the legend was created by Jerry, recuperating at the Salinas veterans hospital. Julia didn’t know he’d regained the use of his arms.