The Entelechy Kid: His Life and Times (An Epic in Progressively Polysyllabic Prose... Or Maybe Just Another Bad Novel)
by John Harris
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Juan de Dios has been fighting most of his thirty years for the insurgent Heredistas against a Central American tyrant... well, sort of. The truth is that he and his few rag-tag followers are in the business of staying alive. The rumors about Juan's daring raids and dashing escapes are so rife that his stats are among the highest on the new outlaw trading cards (printed for the government by an American firm). But no idyll lasts forever. Shortly after Juan rescues the Yanqui diplomat Jamie from the sadistic turncoat Roberto Grillo, an attempted assassination of the president which was never intended to succeed accidentally accomplishes its end.
The ensuing general amnesty leaves Juan thoroughly confused. He has never known peace in his life, and he mistrusts it. Quite possibly, he reasons, it is an illusion designed to ferret him out. So instead of stepping forward for his pardon, he joins an itinerant baseball team under an alias and proceeds to attract the notice of all the dollar-dangling Yanqui scouts. Having secured a sweet deal with Boston, Juan at last believes that he is untouchable: no one would risk antagonizing the U.S. by executing the next Rookie of the Year. Yet when he presents himself to Jamie, he finds himself unable to explain his elaborate subterfuge to her: she sees it, instead, as a lack of commitment to the stable life which she wants for herself.
Devastated by the loss of his life's great love, Juan walks out on the Red Sox (causing them to plummet from a lofty first place at mid-season) and heads south again. He emerges some months later as the brains behind a computer-assisted dating service. Only his own sense of honesty and decency prevents this venture from making him stinking rich... but such is Juan de Dios. He retires with what savings he has to a rancho equipped with Internet hook-up from which he continues to pursue his modest dream of a family--this time without bothering about a wife. With the aid of a surrogate mother, he hopes to acquire children without having to dance the "Ken and Barbie do Cancun" number (for Juan's honor is even dearer to him than his honesty).
This venture, alas, also goes awry. He finds Internet surrogates to be even more dollar- hungry than the groupies who used to follow his ball club, and he fears blackmail should he in fact adopt a baby without a wife. As insurance against the latter, he enters the local hospital and approaches Dr. Montoya about paying the medical bills of any respectable young woman who will become his wife on paper... but he does much better than that, in the end. In his own words, "I should have been looking in all the holes and corners where life deposits all the bits and pieces of broken people.... If you want to meet a nice person, go somewhere where people suffer."
And a very happy ending to you, too!
"I wish I could be helpful, but I can’t. Requests to look at or relay a manuscript are frequent, and there is nothing I have ever been able to do to help out." William F. Buckley, Jr., founder and editor-at-large of The National Review.
"For a book of its kind, it is quite adequate, though it will probably be over the head of anyone who believes what is written on the back covers of books. My chief objections are to the author’s florid style and to his characterization of my adventures as fictional." Juan de Dios, fictional protagonist of The Entelechy Kid.
From Chapter Ten: In Which the Author Makes His Appearance as a Major Character Endowed with Wit, Wile, and Something Sometimes Approaching Moral Probity
I have found with brutal regularity that a sense of honesty doesn’t play well with women. During the first months of my acquaintance with Juan de Dios, I was in fact busily scribbling away on a little self-help manual for single males interested in settling down and starting a family. The profit-motive was strong in my mind, for the rugged American individualist is ever eager to shower cash upon some idiot guru who promises him the secret of living without gurus; but I also wished to vent a vaguely humanitarian compassion through the exercise, for I regarded my own failures in The Great Game as so numerous and massive that I truly believed them pregnant with instructive potential. Upon this Loser’s Bible I had decided to bestow the supremely simple title, The Code. As the work evolved, I began to share bits and pieces of it with Juan. For instance, I remember reciting Item Eleven to him: you must abruptly inform your date, not ask her, about the evening’s dining arrangements and the film with which you propose to regale her afterward. Better yet, don’t inform her on either account if at all possible. Merely whisk her off to the Indigo Pagoda or Luigi’s as if it would never have occurred to you that your prerogative in arbitrating such matters might be challenged.
Or take Item Sixteen, having to do with your girlfriend’s discovery of a second woman in your life: you must on no account show yourself flustered by her indignation. Do not wring your hands, hang your head, break into tears, or drop down to your knees and swear that she alone is the mistress of your heart. Instead, show yourself utterly mystified and mildly amused that she should question your right to explore the greenness of other grasses. After all, the two of you are not married yet: you’re not even engaged--the topic of permanent union has never been mentioned. You’re simply shopping around, like any red-blooded capitalist, for that special being who seems most to idolize you as you are--and her hysterics at this moment (you observe haughtily) would scarcely appear to indicate your life’s predestined partner. A brief rupture in the relationship will probably ensue--but far briefer, in all likelihood, than you would imagine. Afterward, your lady will find you absolutely irresistible, since she dwells hourly in the terror that another may cull you for an empty spot on a rival mantelpiece; and she will find in your lordly poise and command that paternal authority which all dysfunctional women (among whose ranks may safely be numbered most women who have dated for years) desire to uncover in the Rhett Butler of their sick dreams.
I was fascinated to note that Item Sixteen visibly upset Juan de Dios. Only after long minutes of surly silence, and a great many more minutes of coaxing from me, did he tell the story of Jamie and Magdalena. (I thought it best, by the way, not to burden his conscience with the confession that I, too, had seen the beautiful Maggie of PBS discussion-panel fame and had felt myself succumb to her manner of dropping her eyelashes with a slight blush, a slight lisp, as she referred to the indelicate habits of her unprincipled detractors.) He asked me with alarming earnestness if I really thought he might have won Jamie’s heart by pretending that she had a rival--a flesh and blood rival who was, unlike Magdalena, not married.
His frankness was so infectious that I at once confessed my belief in his question’s irrelevance. "Men such as we," I said, "could never run a bluff if our lives depended on it... so there’s really no point in discussing whether we should or shouldn’t deceive. The hard fact is that we just can’t lace our tongues through the kinds of lies that people tell routinely in the dating game."
"But... your book!" he protested. "All those rules!"
I drained my glass at one gulp, as I recall.
"The Code, my friend, has been carefully calculated to make me a bundle of money. It exhorts liars to go ahead and tell lies if they wish to succeed--and ventures such as that are always profitable. But, between the two of us, I would like to encode secretly one last item on the book’s final page. It would read something like, ‘In conclusion, once you have read and mastered all these rules, kindly stay away from their author, for he holds people of your kind in the utmost repugnance.’"
"And yet, what you will tell them will be the truth, will it not? For is it not true that a man must tell a woman lies to succeed with her?"
I quickly poured myself another drink, as I recall.
"Women, of course, always say that they just want to meet a man who will be honest with them—"
"But that, of course, is a lie. They hate honest men. All of them do."
"Yes, but... they don’t know that they do. So in that sense, they’re telling the truth."
"No, what you’re saying is that they’re lying to themselves as well as to others."
"But, Juan... when you’re lying to yourself, you can’t really be held responsible for telling the same lie to another--because, as far as you know, the lie is the truth. Since you’ve lied to yourself about it, I mean... but back to your question about women," I said with a wave of the hand (for I saw that I had not convinced him, and I was beginning to doubt my own logic). "It’s not quite as simple as telling lies. What they like is, they like for men to be in control. They don’t necessarily want men to exert control--not over them, anyway--but they like a man who has control over himself and his fate--"
"No they don’t. They want him groping at all their zippers."
"Just let me finish. They... what was I saying? Control, yes. The kind of control they expect from a man is not physiological, it’s psychological. I can’t tell you why, exactly. Maybe Mr. Freud was right--maybe it’s a ‘father’ thing. Or maybe they just don’t want to be saddled with a grown child. There are a lot of women who don’t care for children, you know, grown or otherwise. But at least a baby has an excuse. Why let a man into your life who’s full of self-doubt and needs constant reassurance, indulgence, sympathy--all the things that today’s woman, who is in search of herself, doesn’t have time to dish out to someone else? She’s the one who demands reassurance, indulgence, sympathy—she’s the one who has been traditionally oppressed and silenced and whatever and has to figure out her new role in the new order. She doesn’t like it when men turn out to be in the same pickle. In showbiz, they call that upstaging."
"No, they call it being a prima donna. So what you’re saying is not that women admire liars per se, but that they admire.…" And he opened his palm toward me, as if the sentence were mine to finish.
I was taken aback for a moment, and then the answer flashed across my mind. I communicated it with a shrug, because it all suddenly seemed so obvious.
"Jerks. They admire pompous jerks."
"Yes... yes..." sighed Juan, shutting his eyes and nodding in exquisite approval. "Yes, you are precisely right."
"Now, this is not all women we’re talking about, you understand," I hastened to add. "The Code is being written for men who date a lot, and the women in their lives will also have dated a lot, ipso facto. But people who have somehow reached adulthood without being sullied by the rituals of dating--as a result of lying in a coma for several years, for instance, or growing up in a military household with postings to Tenerife and the Aleutians--those people, I suspect, can still be approached and treated as normal human beings. Take your Miriam: she seems quite a nice girl, from what you say. Salt of the earth, says what she thinks, does what she feels like doing, doesn’t draw her thoughts or feelings from the idiot box... being brought up without TV, now, could be considered a significant redeeming characteristic for anyone. I must make a note of that--for the sequel, you know. But your Miriam, it sounds like she keeps her bargains, sticks by her friends, hates her enemies, and curries her horse before she kicks her boots off. You know, if I could meet a girl like that.…"
And I stopped myself abruptly, alarmed that Juan de Dios might possibly suspect me of having sought Miriam for myself throughout my various data bases (a bit of foul play which occurred to me only at this instant). Most of the thousands of stories I had heard about my companion agreed that he was capable of sudden and violent jealousy.
I need not have worried, however. He was shaking his head impatiently, and he took advantage of my pause to break in.
"You don’t understand. Miriam is by no means the love of my life, or anything like that. On the contrary, for me Miriam would be very safe. I have promised myself that I will never have my heart broken again. Life with Miriam would not be complicated by love. As you say, she’s steady, dependable, strong... she’ll bear healthy children, and she’ll make a good mother. I don’t want the rest of it--I don’t want it cluttering up my life. What they call romantic love... I think it must be the state of damned souls in hell for eternity. Such unendurable and pointless pain--who would choose to let such ruin into his life? A marriage should be a bargain between two people who basically respect each other and want to have children. The rest, maestro, is a bunch of crap."
"You know, Juan," I remarked (or words to that effect), "it strikes me that I’m listening to something very wholesome here. You’re a man of the people, a man who has been raised on rice and beans and tortillas. For all this poor country’s purges and coups and civil wars, most of you still haven’t had to deal with the issues of sex and television, or sex and the automobile, or sex and the Internet, or sex and touched-up glossies on supermarket counters featuring sexy people having sex wherever the bullets aren’t flying and the pirañas aren’t biting. It does me great good to hear you speak. In fact, to be quite honest, I marvel that you should ever have approached me with this project of seeking out Miriam among all the data about pardoned rebels, released prisoners, rural voter registration, unpaid parking tickets, subscribers to Equestrian, patrons of Home Depot... I mean, if you had been really, really attached to her... but you say she’s not the love of your life. So... pardon me for asking, but why do you keep paying me good money to run all these searches for you? There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of other girls like Miriam. Why is she so important?"
As well as I recall, this is the point when Juan de Dios decided to stake his first claim upon the bottle of Port between us. He sat staring into his filled glass for a long time before he took a sip, however; and after the sip, he sat sucking on the taste for even longer. Finally, he drew a deep breath and responded.
"In the first place, I have a kind of an understanding with Miriam. That is to say, I once exchanged what some might consider promises with her--and I always try to keep my promises whenever I possibly can."
Then he emptied the glass at one swallow and allowed it to smack upon the table.
"In the second place, she was very nice to look at."
"Ah!" I nodded.
"Not beautiful, you understand--no Magdalena... but--a handsome filly, as you Americans would say. In the third place... in the third place, my friend, I... I must confess to you that I am not very good at meeting women. You say there must be hundreds or thousands. Of this I know nothing. Perhaps if I were younger... but I have passed my thirtieth birthday by several years, and most of these wholesome peasant wenches you talk about are spoken for by the time they are twenty. So you’re left with the ones who look more like fillies than any human being ought to--or else with the ones who have held out for something more because they have acquired an education. And that brings me to my fourth point.…"
"You’re not going to tell me, I hope, that these educated ‘I must find my true self’ types are on the rise even here.…"
"That is exactly my fourth point. The world, alas, is becoming a very small place. In villages where people still share one-room huts with chickens, there is nonetheless a color TV in the corner--probably why egg production has fallen off. On lonely, winding mountain roads where a burro could scarcely pass, you increasingly must yield the right of way to a land rover or some damned four-wheeler bike. And with all these things come new ideas. Some people have the new things, too: many do not. But everyone is exposed to the ideas. Even women who cannot read and write have decided that they must have liposuction or lie in a tanning bed. And who can blame them for wanting something more... but this! Is this more, then? More money in the pockets of the filthy rich, more stupidity in the minds of people who were only poor and ignorant before... they all want to be some damned Barbie Doll, with all the accessories. Or Julia Roberts, or Xena, or Mrs. Clinton--they want to be all of them at once. And they expect you to play all the male leads that smart off back and forth with all their different characters."
"This," I declared solemnly, "is what I feared." I beckoned the boy for another bottle. "Yes, I recognize all the symptoms. It’s happening. my friend: you’re being invaded by McCulture--by a monstrous life form which feeds concurrently on a hundred different channels transmitted via satellite. Brainwashing by commercialist slogan and inane melodramatic formula, programming through insipid jingle and relentless open-mike confessional, lobotomizing by sit-com saturation and reiterative re-run regurgitation... This is very grave... very grave, indeed. There must surely be some way to turn a profit from it."