Stare down at ye navels, all
And heed ye navel’s call
Stare ye down there all the day
And soon ye life ye’ve sat away
LOW-HEAD CLARENCE AND HIS PARENTS, Tim and Florence, lived in Torrance, where they sat all day. They sat on a beat-up couch on their front porch, with their T-shirts hiked up over their bellies, gazing at their navels while Lomita Turner, Clarence’s grandmother, worked the video camera, the computer and the lights.
Low-head Clarence had been born with a significant birth defect. His shoulders were permanently shrugged, scapulae fused behind his neck so that his head, which faced only down, appeared to jut from the sternum of a neckless body.
The defect wasn’t organic; it was created by HealthyKareT Consolidated Health Prevention Systems, Incorporated. Florence Turner’s long labor with baby Clarence required more investment than the Turner family’s insurance policy allowed. As mandated in the policy, if “the preallocated duration” expires prior to birth, the obstetrician must extract the infant with a yellow toy crane — model number 7201Y, manufactured by United Extraction & Novelty, Inc. When properly administered, the Crane of Life® procedure unfortunately crushes the infant’s shoulder blades together behind the spine.
Now almost 20 years old, Clarence was one of almost 10 million “low-heads,” so designated by HealthyKareT Consolidated Health Prevention Systems, Inc., the company that mandated the Crane of Life® procedure responsible for the condition. HealthyKareT also required all human workers born via Crane of Life® to use the term Low-head as their legal first name.
Two decades of neurologists, osteopaths, endocrinologists, chiropractors, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, respiratory therapists . . . all told, the Turner family was close to $50 million in debt.
When Low-head Clarence turned 18, he came up with what he thought was a big moneymaking idea: low-head porn. He’d help pay off his debt by creating the first all-low-head pornography. But after a few days of tepid responses to his online ads, his grandmother came up with what turned out to be a much better idea.
IN EARLY 2009, HEALTHYKARET Consolidated Health Prevention Systems, Inc., the monopoly created by the merger of all major international health-maintenance and health-insurance companies, terminated coverage of all “umbilically related inconveniences,” a term that their attorneys successfully defined to include virtually every known ailment, illness and condition. Thus, HealthyKareT became the first health-prevention conglomerate to achieve the primary goal of every Earthly insurance company since the late 20th century: to collect enormous sums of money from the needy to do absolutely nothing at all.
“You got it, P.T.”
“I’m on it, P.T.”
“Yes, sir — right away.”
“Consider it done.”
P. Trenton Fallgrave, CEO of HealthyKareT, was a tall, thin, almost translucent man. A man with a desk, in an office with a view. Fallgrave went to work in the morning and returned at night. In between, he shook hands, he signed papers, he spoke. And for this he was paid $50 million annually in salary, plus another $100 million or more in dividends.
HealthyKareT was America’s most profitable health-prevention corporation.
“You got it, F.M.”
“I’m on it, F.M.”
“Yes, ma’am — right away.”
“Consider it done.”
F. Morgana Nadir (a.k.a. Mrs. P. Trenton Fallgrave), CEO of United Extraction & Novelty, Inc., was a tall, thin, almost translucent woman. A woman with a desk, in an office with a view. Nadir went to work in the morning and returned at night. In between, she shook hands, she signed papers, she spoke. And for this she was paid $50 million annually in salary, plus another $100 million or more in dividends.
United Extraction & Novelty, Inc., was America’s most profitable manufacturer of yellow toy cranes/surgical equipment.
“WELL, I WOULDN’T USE THAT TERM,” Lomita Turner tells Blake Wiltmore, the tall, thin, almost translucent intrepid Headline News reporter whose crew has been shooting the Turners on their porch for the past 20 minutes. “ ‘Family-friendly porn,’ as you say, is still porn. This is just our bellybuttons. It’s not meant to be sexually stimulating.”
“Interesting!” says Wiltmore.
“It was a simple idea, really,” Grandma Turner tells the camera. It’s high noon; difficult not to squint. “We Turners all like gazing at our navels. We figured maybe some other folks might like it, too. I had no idea it would ever be this popular.”
“What was it like in the beginning?” says Wiltmore.
“At first, only Clarence sat on the porch gazing at his navel, which is what he tends to do. I’d just shoot that for 10 or 12 hours a day, hooked up to our Web site. After about six months, the UmbiliCamT subscriptions picked up, to the point that Tim and Florence quit their jobs at Oil Church Mall.”
“And came to work full time on the family business?” says Wiltmore.
“That’s right,” says Grandma Turner. “And since I started shooting all three of them sitting on the porch all day, we can hardly keep up with the demand. Right now, the UmbiliCamT’s taking in about $50,000 a month. So less the interest, we should be debt-free in just about 1,000 months. How many years is that, again, Timmy? Ninety-three?”
“Eighty-three and change,” says Tim Turner, who can think of little else.
“Eighty-three,” his mother nods at the camera.
“Terrific!” says Wiltmore. And the camera follows as he turns his attention to Low-head Clarence. “Low-head Clarence! You must be awfully pleased with how things have turned out!”
IN HIS LAP, SOMBER LOW-HEAD Clarence holds a mirror that enables him to make easier eye contact with the reporter and the camera. He tilts it now to see Wiltmore. “Navels are created at the point of departure,” says Clarence evenly. “Everyone born in an American hospital had their umbilical cords cut before they were done using them, for budgetary reasons.”
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“Is that a fact?” says Wiltmore.
“Yes,” says Clarence. “There’s a natural process by which we make the transition out of umbilical-style oxygen and into lung-style oxygen, and by cutting the umbilical cord before allowing this process to run its natural course, we make asphyxiation our first conscious sensation. That’s what makes us Americans.”
“Interesting,” says Wiltmore. “And where did you learn that?”
Clarence carefully tilts the mirror so that the blazing noonday sun pierces the camera’s lens. “From gazing at my navel.”