Connor Pope, Collector

Connor Pope collected failure.
      Mostly it was movies, but he had a good number of television pilots, sophomore records, sports memorabilia, one shot books and distressing consumer goods in there as well.  Connor was keen on the fiascos, the box office sinkers, the turds, the crud, the cultural flotsam and the consumerist offal.  The Adventures of Pluto Nash.  OK Soda.  "The Chevy Chase show."  The American Football Women's League.  Vanity projects that sunk studios, sequels that ruined careers.  Sophomore slumps that resulted in self-immolation.  Calamities that tarnished.
      The films, Beta cassettes, records and books crowded the shelves of his apartment.  Some sat on little wooden altars or in plastic display cases; others were stacked industrially.  Regardless of positioning, they were dusted regularly and the collection always looked spotless.  Connor never loaned out his collection — individual pieces never drifted from under his fatherly gaze.  They were dangerous.  "Too much juju," he would say.  As if the essence of failure was something tangible, something that oozed from the sprockets of a faded film as it slowly turned to vinegar inside its canister.  "I want it all here," he would say.  "I want it all here."
      Connor collected failed friends, too.  Wasted people.
      Jennifer was a junkie who did a risqué snake dance in a shifty strip club.  She'd cry the whole time and appalled customers would often complain.  Audrey was an overweight receptionist who cut herself and had her hands swathed in bandages.  Jim was an indigent alcoholic who harbored a wriggling family of parasitic worms in his bowels.  Bill was a fire starter.  Max put small objects up his ass.  Gail trepanned herself.
      Connor's friends couldn't take their place on the little altars in his apartment.  But he showed them off nonetheless.  He'd appear at the club with Jennifer, looking bruised and high.  At the bistro across from his apartment with a twitching Jim.  On the subway with Gail and the raw hole in her forehead.  He'd smile and introduce them, this failed lot, and he'd laugh and wink.  Jennifer would half-smile, all gums and rotting teeth.  Jim would vomit up a string of worm eggs.  And Gail would just stare, straight ahead, guided by the light of the pineal eye.
      Connor carried photos of his friends in his wallet; little thumbnail prints that made them seem all the more remote.  "Quite a specimen, isn't he?" he'd ask, pointing to the tiny photo of Bill besides a burning home.  Max with a goldfish.  Gail at a hardware store.
      Connor Pope collected failure and waste and when Jennifer found him dead in his apartment with a big fat grin on his face she assumed he'd died of a drug overdose.  But for Jennifer that was the only way that people died.  They tipped over, slumped into sleep with a needle bouncing on their arm.  Or they spasmed and groaned and fell to the floor as the big music played and the disco ball shattered light across them.
      Connor's funeral was solemn.  Audrey came dressed in gore.  Max pulled a stone from his ass and put it on the headstone.  They buried Connor with ABC's "Turn-On" and MC Hammer's gangsta rap comeback, The Funky Headhunter.  Jim, face covered in snot and choking on Ma worm, died during the ceremony.  Bill torched Jim's body and Gail tipped the smoking corpse into the grave.  No one spoke, but Audrey giggled.  Then they shoveled in the dirt and went home.  
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