Cutaway Angel

My world is small, around 1300 square feet on most days. Sometimes it expands to cover the distance to and from Walgreens or the local taco truck, but I usually restrict my movements to the confines of the apartment. Between the time when Becca goes to work and when she comes home, I’ll keep the door locked and don’t talk to anyone unless there is a booze delivery and I need to show my ID.

I did not used to be like this. Not that long ago, I would start feeling the walls closing in and I had to escape. During the day, this usually meant fleeing to a cafe. In the evening, the destination was invariably a bar. Then I got older and saw the city I loved transform into a hellscape of fentanyl and bipping. I learned to enjoy being inside and the walls closing in became a reassuring hug.

So here I am day in and day out. Part of my time is spent either making my novel suck less or doing physical therapy exercises so I don’t walk as funny. For the rest, I ponder the nature of the world. It’s not like the ponderings when I worked full time. Then my approach was utilitarian. I would think about reality as a mechanism with buttons to push and dials to turn to provide me with means for my continued survival. Now that I am in a position where I can run out the clock in modest comfort, my interest is more academic.

Or would be, if I had the academic chops to back it up. The truth is that I am far less cultured than I like to let on. I have no faith to draw upon and most of my knowledge about philosophers is what I’ve gleaned from that Monty Python drinking song. In theory, I could educate myself. I spend a lot of time falling down various Wikipedia rabbit holes but retain next to nothing. My recent endeavor of learning and promptly forgetting the political parties in Liechtenstein was typical of how I do things.

Of course, I could look to science as a source of wisdom. It does have a better track record than holy men or navel gazers. The only problem is that I’m too dumb to have much of it sink in. Sure, I have a layperson’s grasp of how stuff works. For example, I get how planets orbit in our solar system as long as I ignore Mercury and stick to what Isaac Newton explained. If you get into smart-people physics, I’m a lost cause. You might as well try teaching the subject to a chimp.

So what’s left? Trash mostly. Of all the information that goes into my head, most of what I retain is punk rock, horror movies, underground comic books, or cartoons. One such cartoon is “Family Guy.” The overall quality of the show has waned in recent seasons, but I have a weird fascination with their cutaway gags.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s when someone on the show makes a remark then the next scene is related to that remark but nothing else in the story. The cutaway scene doesn’t last long and is never referenced again once it’s over.

The reason this resonates is that was how I wanted my dreams to be when I was a child. I didn’t have a launching remark but thought I could pick what dream I wanted to be in and head down to Slumber International Airport to catch my flight. It was a wonderful idea except that it did not work. I never got a dream of my choosing. Instead of being transported to a magical world where I could fly and didn’t suck at sports, I’d get sent to a version of my school where the substitute teacher was a werewolf and I wasn’t wearing any pants.

Manipulating the real world doesn’t work either unless you are gifted with a godlike power of delusion. Your imagination may be able to conjure a world of your liking, but only a fool believes it to be anything other than a flight of fancy. Reality isn’t like that, but then it dawned on me that maybe I was looking at it upside down. Maybe we don’t live in a world where cutaways are spawned, but inside a a cutaway itself.

This is all three bong-hit bullshit to be sure, but I could not absolutely prove that it was false. It is highly unlikely, but so is the world as we accept it. The idea that natural selection drew a straight line between primordial ooze and us as the dominant species on the planet is absurd, and yet it happened. Maybe it is possible that the Big Bang itself was instigated by a throwaway line by an extradimensional Peter Griffin. Hard to believe? Sure, but let’s not forget that Christianity has its own Peter working as a bouncer at the Pearly Gates and a lot of people believe that.

I still had questions. Was our reality created to facilitate one gag and we have since been cut adrift to fend for ourselves, or are the gags visited upon us as countless as they are varied? I leaned toward the latter because I had seen nothing around me to indicate our world exists with any single purpose in mind.

My other questions were whether all gags can be attributed to a single entity or were there multiple gagsters at work, and were the people (or whatever) behind the gags active participants, or did they just set up the situations? Having no answer of my own, I watched some “Family Guy” cutaway compilations on YouTube. The answers I got were that there were multiple characters initiating the cutaways and they were directly involved in the scene sometimes but not always. I also learned that while a cutaway inside an episode provides an amusing digression, they’re not nearly as much fun when you watch a bunch of them at once.

And how does any of this pertain to the world I live in? It doesn’t. What I should be looking at are occurrences that seem to come out of nowhere. There are plenty of those, usually random acts of violence, that I read about as news stories, yet I have decided to invent my own. The event I am about to describe may not have happened, but it or something much like it probably will eventually because that is the kind of world we live in. My reason for making it up is that if I manufacture the details, I can control the narrative. I don’t want a bunch of fact-checkers hijacking the story.

Just for fun, let’s make this act of violence against a woman. This sort of thing happens often enough that I won’t run into any plausibility issues and usually elicits some strong reactions. Most people don’t like women to be attacked and those that do are often doing the attacking.

I’ll start with the victim: She’s smart as hell, very pretty, and has oodles of charm. After being disfigured by multiple lashes to the face with a bicycle chain, she still has two of those three qualities.

Now for the possible motives: If I saw this in a news story, there would be a lot of conjecture but no real answers based on the assault alone. It could be someone obeying the voices in his/her/their head, a jilted ex, or some incel who felt he was doing his fellow men a favor by taking her down a peg.

I can assure you it was none of these things and I know this because I control the narrative. Do you see what I’m doing here? I have provided an act of brutality with a ripple effect of confusion because none of it makes a lick of sense. Only the instigator of the cutaway knows the real motive and that person isn’t talking.

No matter, I’ll fill you in. The real reason the attack took place is that the assailant saw the victim’s good looks as an impediment to fulfilling her potential. How could she possibly be expected to cure cancer, inspire a generation, etc. with throngs of horny young men fawning over her every moment of the day. The bicycle chain would give her life focus.

Except that it didn’t. There was still no shortage of male attention. One could cite Rule 34, that porn exists for everything, as the reason. Having her jaw wired shut and the sucking sounds she makes breathing though the gaping wound and broken teeth on the side of her face would make her a hot celebrity in the world of disfigurement porn.

If only that were so. Her recent gentleman callers are more predatory than mere fetishists. They know how her self esteem was also damaged in the attack and they jockey for position to be the one who truly appreciates her inner beauty and her pain, the one who will say “There, there” while moving his hand up her thigh.

Off in the reality that created this one, the attacker who never stuck around for the aftermath says “You’re welcome” with a satisfied smile.

And that is how the world works. Prove me wrong.