It is going on 2:30 in the morning. Morris Crimpanfortis has had a positively horrendous day in this little backwater coal town that time has long since forgotten. At least he is able to square things away with the electric company and get the TV station back on the air. It is pretty embarrassing though, going dark at the start of your local midnight newscast because you didn’t pay your electric bill. Who is to blame for that? Morris realizes that there is going to be one of those calls to Chicago in the morning that will find Morris, yet again, pleading for additional funds to cover the essentials – like power and toilet paper in order to keep the station on the air. At least his landlady, Madame LoZelle, is sympathetic to his plight. She is the only sane descendent of a famous shirt manufacturing family and has been able to retain possession of the world-famous mansion. But on her tight budget, she can’t afford for Morris to be late with his rent check again . . .

Winding Down After Heavy Air Turbulence

An After-party Following the After-party Following Another After-party . . . 

My days at this two-bit coal town are so hectic, so rife with mayhem, it makes my stay in Burbank seem tame by comparison.

As usual, we hold our Silt Ridge Midnight News after-party in the snow-covered parking lot in back of the Graphite County Opera House. Bruce Shellerdahl serves up his world-famous haddock tacos.

After being overcome with nerves and getting sick to my stomach when we lost power, I start to perk up and actually have a little fun at the party. Everybody lightens up and brushes off the mistakes. I try not to think about having to get back up and doing this all over again in only a few short hours.

Belinda Bessemer makes a triumphant exit in her Mercedes stretch limo and heads over to the Grilled Canary Gentlemen’s Club for her last set of the night – though we are well into the morning hours. I still don’t know what goes on in that sort of sordid establishment – AND NEVER WILL; It is something I definitely don’t intend to investigate.

Francesca LoZelle: An Heiress Smooth as Silk

Me and the shirt heiress, Francesca LoZelle, watch a lot of satellite TV together. That is, of course, when the satellites are working.

Madame LoZelle is older than me, but I don’t know by how much. We never discuss her age. But you can see when the light is just right that she must have been some kind of looker in her earlier days.

Forgive me: I know I’m not supposed to notice stuff like that.

When we watch satellite TV, on those nights when it’s working, we wear matching red-and-white striped pajamas made of the finest silk money can buy. Silk nightwear used to be one of the staples of the LoZelle garment empire, when it was running strong. So much has changed since the Great Sunspot Dilemmas (both iterations) tore the economy apart.

When I get home from the after-party, we watch my sister Noreen on the satellite doing a press conference from the Chicago Loop earlier in the day. She announces a whole new campaign for Kentucky Power Glide. They are a consumer lawn mower manufacturer and one of Daddy’s biggest clients. They are launching a major outdoor display above the Jersey Turnpike at the Alexander Hamilton service plaza. A few thousand eager and enthusiastic reporters were at the press conference earlier today when my sister announced this new and daring campaign.

My After-Party Bedtime Rituals

Getting ready for bed, I brush my teeth four times, use mint-flavored floss, and then power down some ultra-potent mint mouthwash. I wear a pair of red-and-white striped silk pajamas and three sets of midnight green low-rider briefs. I wear one of my 2,648 hand-painted silk ties around my neck to complete my ensemble and then gear up for some vivid, haddock-inspired dreams.

Francesca LoZelle clears glasses and plates and prepares to retire to her quarters on the second floor when I reenter the bedroom. I sleep with Buttons, her toy poodle. “Those were good cookies you got in BIG Allentown today,” I tell her. I flip back the silk sheets and Buttons eagerly hops in. I hope he stays in one place tonight. Sometimes when he moves around, it keeps me up.

“You need some power sleep if you expect to be fresh in the morning,” she says.

“I guess so,” I chuckle good-naturedly.

No Schmaltzy Stuff

Francesca LoZelle tucks me in, but she doesn’t bend down and kiss me on the cheek or any kid stuff like that. “Tell me something,” she says, standing beside the bed, wobbling tiredly in her imported bunny slippers.

“Yeah, what’s that?” I feel myself drifting off.

“Doesn’t it bug you to see your sister getting all the attention, and you’re stuck here?”

My eyes snap wide open. Why did she have to pose that question at this hour? “I don’t know,” I say. “I haven’t given it much thought.” That was an all-out lie. It bugged me to no end, and now I won’t be able to get any sleep in the short amount of time that’s left before I have to get up and do it all over again. I swear, I’m going to pass out in the loge seats of the opera house before noon tomorrow.

Madame LoZelle leaves the room. I roll over and watch the snow gently falling out the window of the fourth-floor garden apartment.

I realize that there’s only one thing I can do; there’s only one way to get out of this mess. I have to start pitching up a storm, and getting a slew of shows produced so I can move back to Burbank and put this sorry gloomy chapter in my life behind me.

But that still doesn’t mean I’ll be able to go to sleep.