Illustration by Jeffrey Vallance

Latrice Boole met Blurry Donald long ago, before Donald became famous. They hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in nearly 40 years, not since Latrice worked with Donald’s mother, Betty, at the local Steak n Shake™. Even after Donald moved to Vancouver, Latrice continued to clip and save all the newspaper and magazine articles about Donald and his work, but after a decade out of contact, she lost interest. One recent article, though, a cover story in Time, had inspired her to find the box in the attic containing their early correspondence.

Latrice had been under a lot of stress recently. Maybe a little rummaging in the attic might be therapeutic.

She found the box marked Blurry Donald on the dusty floor beside an ancient IKEA torchère. Opened it and found, right on top, the first manuscript Donald had sent her, to get her last-minute opinion before sending it to the publisher. Beneath the manuscript was all their other correspondence and the news clippings. Latrice dragged the box six feet to the rocking chair by the tiny window and, feeling a bit stronger, settled in.

At the age of 18, Donald’s father had saved up enough to buy himself a sex-change operation, which was performed the day after his final deposit in the local sperm bank. A year later, she impregnated herself via gamete intra-fallopian transfer, using a Motorola-chipped semicybernetic utero-fallopian implant cloned from a baboon at the Brookfield Zoo. Big news at the time.

Six months later, Blurry Donald was born on the countertop at the fast food restaurant where his mother worked. As a small boy he was inordinately bright and athletic — Little League pitcher, quarterback of his 3rd-grade football team, a smattering of B’s and lots of A’s — which helped keep the teasing (“Hey, Baboon Boy!! Wanna banana?!”) to a minimum. It wasn’t until he entered adolescence that he began to exhibit what would remain throughout his life his only apparent baboonish trait: Under the stress of sexual excitement, Donald’s rear end would grow ferociously bright red and swell to twice its normal size.

Donald’s mother managed a Steak n Shake™ in Lancaster, a small desert town north of Los Angeles where first-time buyers could move into a $7 million house with a $275 down payment. Every day after school, Donald would walk the mile-and-a-half to the Steak n Shake™ and sit at the counter, studying or goofing off, waiting for his mother’s shift to end. It was here, at the same counter upon which Donald had entered the world, that he first met Latrice.

A new series of Supreme Sandwiches had been added to the menu. Donald didn’t understand how a sandwich could be supreme.

“What’s supreme mean, Tom?” Donald asked a new worker he’d never met but whose uniform was embroidered with Tom.

“I’m not Tom, I’m Latrice,” said Latrice. “I don’t have my own uniform yet because I’m new.”

“Oh. Sorry. I’m Donald. I’m Betty’s son. What, exactly, does supreme mean?”

“Supreme? Supreme means the ultimate, the utmost, the highest, the greatest.”

“No, yeah, no. I mean, what does it mean when it’s a sandwich?”

Latrice wasn’t much older than Donald, and she found his curiosity kind of cute, almost charming. So rather than answer the little shit, she brought Donald the new Double Bacon Sourdough Chicken-Fried Cheeseburger Supreme™ — whichever waitress sold the most Supreme Sandwiches each month got a free order of French fries — and soon the two of them began to talk supreme this, supreme that, even about the Supreme Court, which had been an important part of the government’s judicial branch until the turn of the century.

A man came in, sat at the counter and ordered only coffee. After his first taste, he remarked, “Damn! That’s some strong-ass coffee!” He stayed only five minutes or so, saying nothing until, as he stood to leave, he looked at Donald and said, “Damn! They sure do serve some strong-ass coffee here!”

After the man left, Latrice and Donald began giggling about strong-ass coffee, comparing it to supreme-ass coffee; and remarking on how funny and nasty it would be to move the hyphen to the space between the second and third words, as in strong ass-coffee.

“Strongly supreme ass-coffee — even better,” said Donald. And as their eyes met over the ensuing sigh, the inseam of Donald’s blue jeans burst, audibly, like a bat breaking on a fastball.

Latrice and Donald had never met anyones like Donald and Latrice. Every day after school, the two of them would play word games and laugh and talk about stuff that no
one else seemed interested in talking about. The pair began
to spend more and more time together, especially night
time, and Donald began to record their conversations in his notebook.

“The Unreasonable man is the reasonable man behaving unreasonably,” said Donald.

“Almost,” said Latrice. “The Unreasonable man is the reasonable man paid to behave unreasonably.”

In the early ’20s, Murdoch Worldwide published The Negative Space of Circumstantiality, which contained Donald’s seminal theory of SNACS (Simultaneous Non-Activities). Based on one of his mother’s favorite aphorisms — “If you can’t decide what you are going to do, you do what you are not going to do” — the theory stated, essentially, that if less quantitative energy is expended on a superficial primary activity than on subliminal maintenance of its corresponding secondary and/or tertiary inactivities, the amalgamated inactivities in fact become the primary activity. In explaining the theory, Donald leaned heavily on the parallel evolution of the terms burrito supreme and Supreme Court.

Donald made a lot of money from sales of Negative Space and moved (without properly saying goodbye or even thank-you to certain people without whom he wouldn’t have made a dime or had an orgasm) to Vancouver, where he made tons of cash rehashing the same half-baked rubbish for Murdoch Worldwide to publish in 60 languages over the next four decades.

The end. Latrice tossed the last letter back into the box and shoved it in the general direction whence it came, knocking over the lamp, yes, but who gives a fuck.

She sat back in the rocking chair and appeared to look out the window at the neighbor’s crack emporium across the street. What a disappointment the charming young boy with the bright red ass had become.

Rocking. A lot of stress. Some days Latrice felt 70, others 17, but rarely anything in between. The mirrors must be kidding. Saturday night senior-citizen discounts at the movie theater; Sunday mornings carded for a fifth of Scotch at Trader Joe’s. It just seemed to happen, every few years, for no reason: Everything would start moving too fast or too slow, feel too bland or too dire. Foul memories would haunt her simplest comforts for a month or two, then suddenly disappear. Ungrateful baboon-ass cracker.


Steak n Shake History and Wallpaper

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