Consider this your daily link to Dave McKenna's "Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder," but here it is again for good measure. We'll post this mother until Dan Snyder's dumbass libel suit is frozen in amber so humans of the future can study the behavior of assholes in the 21st century. (For those of you keeping track, this is "We Are All Dave McKenna CLXXI.")
Today: the sixth installment of "The Snydering," our satirical, non-libelous Dan Snyder serial group fiction. For more about "The Snydering" and how to play, please read this explanation.
Part I: Our narrator arrives at Dan Snyder's mansion for a Spring Bacchanal and Cornhole Tournament and is greeted by Tony Wyllie.
Part II: The party password triggers a series of disturbing flashbacks for Dan Snyder, the last of which involves heavy man-on-man action with Tony Wyllie.
Part III: Our narrator, Cooke, descends into Snyder's fighting pit, where he encounters the terrifying Bligle, who, to Snyder's chagrin, prefers hors d'oeuvres to human flesh.
Part IV: Cooke and the Bligle escape from the "Flying Hogs" to the Potomac, where they fashion a raft and set sail as dawn breaks.
Part V: Our hero, Cooke, realizes his mission is paramount and, also, that it's bad to have the main character abscond. He returns to Snyder's mansion.
Part VI: Robot Surrogates and the Abyss, by Sharting:
"Something to drink?" Wyllie asks me. We're alone, sitting in the cavernous, dimly-lit foyer, on a silk-upholstered settee anchored against one of the towering stone walls; the sounds of mirth reach us as a breeze of soft echoes from the vast mansion beyond. My host has not appeared yet. One notes the apparent lack of reason for pausing in this room, and yet cannot help but feel as though the pause is planned — that this stop is a scripted part of the evening. One hesitates at the notion that perhaps this is the designated poisoning area. One does not let that stop one from partaking of free libations. One nods.
Wyllie flips a hand over his shoulder with practiced nonchalance; his pores, one imagines, are pulling the tricky double-duty of oozing smug self-satisfaction while also sagging open to soak in an impressed reaction which, sadly, they will not receive. I've been hosted by Elizabeth Taylor, who had our meals delivered to the table by cartwheeling bodybuilders dressed as Praetorian guards: the presence of an attentive household staff will not arouse my jaded eyebrows from their contentment. Somewhere behind us, a door slides open.
You glance around the enormous room: the ornate stone sconces holding tall candles, their firelight fanning feebly into the great, gloomy void; the vast tapered staircase clad in rich burgundy carpeting; the warm glow beckoning from between the massive opened double-doors atop the stairs. You imagine the small, beige, cylindrical crab-cakes all new-money men invariably serve at these sorts of things – how arrogantly they will shrug their slacker way to your stomach, coasting on the innate deliciousness of expensive crab; you imagine the studiedly casual yuppie bragging you will endure between and during and among bites: "Oh, it's so difficult to find a good yogalatae-bo class these days, what with my busy travel schedule and such other things as a person says when it is important to her that everyone be aware of her self-actualization." You become aware that the footfalls thudding their way across the gleaming hardwood floor toward you are accompanied by a growing mechanical whirr.
"May I prepare your drink, sir?"
What asks you this question, in the Queen's English no less, is not a man — or a human being at all. Rather, it is something that manages the feat of being simultaneously an abomination against the word "robot," and an abomination against the feat of evolution called "tiger": something that stands on four legs in front of you with acid green light beaming out of its titanium eye-sockets and the contents of a hotel mini-bar protruding from an open panel on its back. It turns its head toward you slowly, its metallic features fixed and yet somehow conveying the bottomless black despair of a being whose fluorescence-emitting eyeballs have gazed into the Abyss.
You notice that its front two legs stand on their own "paws" on the floor, and that its evidently non-functioning back feet have been duct-taped to skateboards. Because you cannot immediately determine whether what rises in your chest at this moment is born of pity, mercy, or disgust, you repress the urge to smash this failed thing to neutrinos. For now.
Maybe I hesitate for a beat too long in answering the wreck's question, or maybe my face betrays some fleeting glimpse of the complex mélange of emotions and digestive juices churning inside me — in either case, Wyllie senses my vertigo and his smirk spreads like a puddle of fresh diarrhea across his face. I compose myself. The heart, still reeling at this monstrosity playacting bartender and waiter before me, says lots and lots of scotch; the mind, wanting to keep its wits for the evening to come, says bitters and tonic; the mouth sees reason, and throws in a thank you.
Mechanical things happen, with mechanical sounds, while this facsimile of life's infinitely hopeless stare hangs on me, unmoving, and somehow a drink is produced, and I am taking it. Wyllie's face is a tapestry of smugness. I want to kick it off.
"Thank you, Ti-Gor," he says, and, after a pause, the wretched thing nods slightly and begins to tow its disgraceful ass-end back to whatever sad closet lately shat it into my presence. Wyllie turns to me. "Shall we adjourn to the great hall?" What passes before I smile and offer a confident-sounding reply of "Certainly!" can only be a mere fraction of a moment, but feels like a decade of careful consideration of that glowing doorway at the top of the staircase, and of what hypothetical cybernetic horrors may indeed have to be endured between and during and among bites of crab-cake.
And this can be the only reason for our stay in this room: to introduce me to the creation named "Ti-Gor" and blast away from me any expectations I had for the rest of this evening, like a heavy winter coat a host graciously removes before taking his guests into the warmer recesses of his home. Fine. Accepted. I may yet deliver a surprise of my own, or several.
Opposite me, at the rear of the warmly lit, extravagantly appointed great hall, giant two-story French doors sit wide open; the party overflows from this room out into the grounds beyond. Here are hundreds of Washington-area types, meticulously scrubbed and buffed and waxed and infused, militantly unfashionable in their power ties and cufflinks and little black dresses and a few scattered evening gowns. What's this they're doing? Networking? Interfacing? Have they invented a new word that means auditioning potential victims?
I can see no more Ti-Gors, no cybernetic atrocities at all in fact, and it occurs to me just how mundane, how normal, this party seems, and then I notice that Wyllie is very carefully closing the door behind me. Indeed, leaving aside the towering French doors at the far end of the room, this great hall contains three doors that appear to lead to the rest of the house, and now all of them are closed. Wyllie locks the door behind me. The implication is clear: the festivities have been very carefully contained here. Here, where Daniel M. Snyder is not.
Physically, Snyder certainly isn't a fellow who stands out in a large crowd, unless it's a large crowd of cats. He could, theoretically, be obscured by a cluster of partygoers, or an end-table, but still: he is not in this room, nor among the guests spilled out onto his spacious lawn, and I am certain of it.
A waiter — a real, live, human waiter, or at least one who convincingly appears so — proffers a tray of canapés and, you guessed it, small cylindrical crab-cakes. As I finish my finger-food, I see Wyllie staring at me with a strange, eager, intense expression. "More to eat?" he asks.
"No, thank you," I reply.
"Refill your drink?" he asks. I've barely touched it.
"Then may I suggest we move on?" he asks.
He moves closer — close enough that I can smell a strange plastic scent on his breath. He speaks in a low, conspiratorial murmur. "These people," he says, with a tiny jerk of his head toward the throng behind him, "are here for the Spring Bacchanal and Cornhole Tournament. They will be sated, many times over, and sent home. But we both know you're not here for suckling pig and beanbag-toss. You're here for the real game." He smiles knowingly. "Shall we?"
Who could decline? Not I. "Lead the way," I say, and Wyllie looks very pleased.
Wyllie heads off to my left; I follow. We snake our way through the crowd — "…we were going to send Isabelle to Sidwell Friends, but we decided to harvest her collagen-rich skin instead…" — to a door, which Wyllie unlocks and holds open for me, revealing a dark, carpeted corridor curving gently to the left. I pass through; he follows close behind; I hear the click of a latch, the thud of a bolt, and the sounds of the party are gone.
We are joined by a low, sickly green light, a sound like an idling refrigerator, and the stink of motor oil. Ti-Gor stands before us, every bit as dismal as before. For the first time, Wyllie looks a bit uncertain.
"If you'll pardon me, Ti-Gor will be your escort from here." He glances at his watch, glances from side to side, shuffles his feet nervously: a lackey forced to improvise beyond his capacity. "My presence is required at… erm, I have to, um… well," he says, and abruptly takes off running down the corridor, more than a little frantically. Ti-Gor and I watch him dwindle into the gloom, his footfalls muffled by the carpet. He rounds out of sight; we hear a door open and then shut.
"If you'll follow me please, sir," says my mechanical guide. His left eye flickers erratically, like the world's most dispirited wink, as he turns and heads down the hall. The skateboards prop his rear-end up above his front, and at least two wheels are wobbling badly: we make slow progress, and the corridor is very long. After a while, I notice that his front legs have begun to creak: he seems to be laboring to continue.
"Are you, um, quite alright?" I ask.
The beast exhales a bone-deep sigh of despair. "In the jungles of my youth, I frolicked in a meadow, chasing dragonflies. At night I curled up in the warm, downy softness of my mother's tummy, and dreamt of hunting water buffalo with my brothers. How I miss the gentle caress of her serrated, meat-scented fangs."
The man himself. Maybe not quite as I expected him.
He sits Indian-style on a large gold-colored satin divan, in a circle of light at the center of a very large, dark room, dressed in what can only be described as the gold-and-brick-colored kāsāya of a Tibetan monk, his eyes hidden behind impenetrably black Ray Ban wayfarers, oozing serenity: Daniel M. Snyder, perhaps the most loathed man in all of professional sports.
Wyllie comes shuffling into the room, huffing and sweating and dragging another large, satin-covered divan, which he parks a few feet in front of Snyder, who gestures with an extended palm for me to sit. Ti-Gor looks up at me, as best he can look up, which is to say he looks straight ahead and I hear motors whirring and I imagine that he is trying to look up at me. Perhaps to implore me to leave this place. I cross to Snyder and sit. Wyllie watches us for a moment, breathing heavily, hands on hips, then turns and trudges out of sight again.
"WELCOME TO MY HOUSE," my host intones.
"Thank you," I reply.
"I TRUST YOU HAVE HAD ENOUGH TO EAT AND DRINK," he says.
"Thank you, I have."
Wyllie comes back, carrying a small three-legged table and a flat, square-shaped object roughly the size of a slim briefcase. He sets the table down between Snyder and me and places the object — a chessboard — on top of it. From a felt bag he produces the pieces, and begins to setup the board: white on my side, black on Snyder's.
"Is this ‘the real game'?"
"WE SHALL SEE."
Wyllie has completed the setup; he trudges off into the shadows. The pieces are ornately carved, deep black obsidian for him and pure white ivory for me. Snyder gestures; I begin: pawn to e4, the standard opener. Snyder, unreadable behind those pitch-black shades, contemplates the board; he stares (or blinks, or sleeps) for thirty seconds, then moves his king's pawn to d5. It is an illegal move, but more to the point, it is a very, very stupid illegal move. Momentarily I weigh fealty to the rules against the obligations of a courteous houseguest, then take his pawn.
He smiles. "YOU HAVE QUESTIONS."
I can't resist. "Yes. Mostly about that very stupid move just now."
He looks over my shoulder; the smile broadens without remotely conveying any actual mirth. "AH. DARLING."
There is the clopping sound of high-heeled shoes, or hooves; I turn; I forget about Ti-Gor, chess, hope for the future. Tottering toward me on spike heels, face frozen in a nightmare Joker grin, bloodshot eyes ablaze with manic glee or terror or both, is Tanya Snyder.
Her every feature is a taut, shiny monument to advancements in the field of cosmetic surgery: lips so stuffed with collagen that the upper dangles over her teeth and the lower flaps down onto her chin; chin and cheekbones protruding hideously, as though coated in silly putty; nose pointy enough to cut diamonds; the skin around her jawbone and beneath her ears and along her forehead stretched nearly to translucence. Her insanely augmented breasts, straining against the confines of a form-fitting cashmere V-neck, are weirdly flattened along the bottom, where two rods or spokes protrude from her shirt-front… are they some kind of metal?—
Her tits are cantilevered.
Her tits are cantilevered through her chest.
Her tits are cantilevered through her chest and there are steel I-beams sticking out of her front and back and there is no God.
I am standing; I am stumbling backward; I am pointing at her chest in horror and the sound that comes out of me is desperate and pleading and outraged: "Wha-what did you-why?"
Snyder is placid, smiling, his face upturned toward mine. His surrealistic travesty of a wife does not seem to have noticed me at all: she stares at her husband with slavish devotion, unblinking. "PLEASE SIT," he says, gesturing again to the divan opposite his. "ALL YOUR QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED."
I see that Mrs. Snyder is drooling.
"B-buh-but-wha-how-y-you…" It's all I can muster. He gestures again.
"PLEASE. LET US CONTINUE. ALL WILL BE MADE KNOWN TO YOU."
I retake my seat, instinctively arching my torso away from the teetering woman as I do so; for her part, she stands, and stares, and does not move. Ti-Gor ambles up beside me and stands, watching.
Snyder's attention has returned to the board. He looks at it for a long minute, brow slightly furrowed, then moves his king's rook to c6: another illegal, impossible, utterly retarded move, placing his rook directly in the line of attack for my advancing pawn. Beside me, Ti-Gor shares in my puzzlement, or that is how I choose to interpret the trickle of warm transmission fluid that erupts from between his paralyzed rear legs.
"Why?" I ask, and then outrage floods through me and I keep going, my voice rising with each word. "Why that? What the hell is that? Why in God's name would anyone do that?" I am not concerned for Tanya Snyder's feelings. I am quite sure she does not possess any.
"TO MAKE HER MINE." He nods to the board: "YOU MAY MAKE YOUR MOVE."
Humoring that sad rook at the mercy of my pawn, I continue with my Italian Game: king's knight to f3. "To make her yours? What does that mean?"
He moves his queen's pawn sideways, to e7.
"NOTHING UNCHANGED BY MY WILL CAN BELONG TO ME. WEALTH DOES NOT BELONG TO ITS HOLDER UNTIL SPENDING TRANSFORMS IT INTO THE INSTRUMENT OF HIS WILL; OBJECTS DO NOT BECOME POSSESSIONS UNTIL THEY ARE INDWELT AND MARKED BY THE WILL OF THEIR MASTER. GRILLED CHEESE?"
He extends a hand, which holds a tinfoil pouch emblazoned with the logo of regional gas station/convenience store chain Sheetz. Oh, hell no.
"No, thank you."
"I'LL HAVE ONE, IF YOU DON'T MIND."
"Not at all."
He holds the pouch higher, and suddenly Wyllie is there again. He takes the pouch from Snyder's outstretched hand and ferries it behind my back, around the woman-thing, to where Ti-Gor is standing. Ti-Gor turns his hopeless flickering gaze toward me and holds it. There is a smooth mechanical sound; a narrow slot opens on the top of his cranium, revealing a slow-moving conveyor belt and several glowing heating elements. His head is a toaster oven.
Wyllie places the Sheetz pouch in Ti-Gor's head-slot and steps smartly back around to Snyder's side. One wonders where that grilled cheese sandwich will exit. Ti-Gor holds his gaze on me for several more seconds, as though trying to communicate something deeper than the mild sensation of heat radiating out of the top of his head, then looks away.
"IT IS YOUR MOVE."
King's bishop to c4. "So you turned your wife into… you did that to your wife, so that you could own her? Couldn't you have stopped at a round of Botox?"
He picks up his king and queen, swaps their positions, and puts them back on the board. "YOU FAIL TO COMPREHEND. THERE IS NO STOPPING: THERE IS ONLY THE MONEY, AND THE SPENDING. IN BRINGING THE MONEY AND MY WIFE TOGETHER, I MAKE BOTH OF THEM MINE."
"Part of me is a Nintendo," Ti-Gor interjects.
"So that's what all the capricious spending is about?" I take the rook. This places my pawn in position to be taken, but it's a trade I'm happy to make.
The slight smile returns. "A MAN MAKES HIS OWN WHATEVER HIS WILL CHANGES. SIX FLAGS IS MINE BECAUSE I WILLED IT TO HAVE AN OFFICIAL MATTRESS. THE FEDERALLY PROTECTED LAND THAT ABUTS THIS HOUSE IS MINE BECAUSE I CHOPPED DOWN ITS TREES FOR A BETTER VIEW OF THE C&O CANAL. THE WATERS OF THE CANAL ARE MINE BECAUSE I POOP IN THEM IN THE MOONLIGHT." He moves his queen — illegally — to f1, immediately next to my king. "CHECK."
"Sometimes I can play Excitebike in my head," Ti-Gor offers. "I lose on purpose. So that I can know what freedom feels like."
I take his queen. He seems not to notice. "And what about Albert Haynesworth?"
After a minute of concentration, he picks up a pawn, waves it in a large circular pattern over the board, places it back in its original location, and sits back, satisfied. "MY WILL MADE HIM FAT AND BORED. HE BELONGS TO ME."
"Seems like an awful lot of money to have paid for the privilege."
His serene expression does not change. "YOU JOKE, BUT DO NOT UNDERSTAND. MONEY IS NOTHING. ONLY THE USE OF IT HAS VALUE. A FOOL PAYS ONE DOLLAR FOR A SNICKERS BAR WHEN HE CAN HAVE THE SAME SNICKERS BAR FOR A MILLION. YOUR MOVE."
A single, discordantly happy DING! sound emerges from somewhere inside Ti-Gor at my side; there is the smooth sound of another slot opening toward the back of his body. A tinfoil pouch rockets out of his rear-end and sails into the darkness of the rest of the room, trailing smoke behind it. Looking over my shoulder, I see it smack into a distant wall and plop to rest on a pile of similar-looking tinfoil pouches, each adorned with the Sheetz logo. This pile is ringed by dozens upon dozens of dead flies.
"Your sandwich is ready, sir," intones Ti-Gor.
I move my second knight into play.
Mrs. Snyder, I notice, has roused from her stillness and begun rocking from foot to foot in a manner that suggests impatience. Likewise, Tony Wyllie is quickly bending and unbending his knees at Snyder's side, his upper body bopping up and down, like a two-year-old who needs to pee. Snyder lifts both his king and his remaining rook and, very calmly and with an air of imperturbable assurance, places them on the floor beneath the table.
With a sproinnng! that echoes around the room, Ti-Gor's right eye ejects its lightbulb. He lowers his head. "I could have had a better fate," he says. "I could have been a throw rug."
This cannot go on much longer.
"YOU ARE HERE TO JUDGE ME," Snyder says, quite matter-of-factly.
I say nothing. It is pointless to deny.
"ALLOW ME TO SHOW YOU MY BENEFICENCE."
He nods in a beckoning sort of way, and within moments, both Wyllie and Mrs. Snyder are on their knees, one on either side of him, pawing at his legs like dogs, gazing up at him adoringly. Their worshipfulness; their childlike devotion: I want to drown them in a toilet. He smiles at them.
"ARE YOU HUNGRY, MY PETS?"
They whimper like animals. Snyder reaches into the recesses of his robe; when he pulls his hand back out, it is clenched around something small and rectangular. Their pawing becomes more frantic. Wyllie is panting; the horrible woman-thing is drooling copiously. Snyder opens his hand: it is full of credit cards. He holds them up over his two supplicants and lets go, allowing the cards to rain down on their heads.
Here are two adult human beings, composed (mostly) of flesh and blood, grabbing up fistfuls of plastic credit cards and wedging them into their mouths. Here they are, chewing frantically on them, making grateful-sounding little grunts and moans as they gnaw. See how they grab up new fistfuls of cards and jam them into their still-full maws. Don't you want to kill them? I do.
The cantilevered travesty of a woman turns toward me; tears are streaming out of her eyes — pain and ecstasy, insanity and gratitude. Through the mouthful of firm plastic, she tries to speak.
"EHCKS GEHGLIGHUSH!" she gargles. Flames erupt from Ti-Gor's empty eyesocket.
This is it, this is the moment. Daniel M. Snyder, you have trashed business ventures large and small; you have antagonized the powerful and the weak; you have disgraced the most powerful organization in the sports world; you have turned a noble jungle cat into a skateboard-riding, oil-shitting derelict. I am your judge, and you are guilty. You must die.
I stand and draw the pistol from my jacket. There is a deafening roar from the deep shadows behind me, so loud and so sudden that I reflexively turn to look.
It comes lurching out of the darkness toward me, Snyder's ultimate protector, his final trump card. Its torso is a flailing mass of limbs, dozens upon dozens of them, flapping and wriggling in every direction. It skitters forward hideously on eight legs. At the end of an impossibly long, telescoping neck, bowed beneath the fifteen-foot ceilings of the enormous room, with blood-red light pouring out of its eyes, is the head of what used to be — what may still be — Vinnie Cerrato. As I watch, agape, the face splits open down the middle and the two halves pull apart; white fluid spews from the space between them. It roars again, and charges at me.
I have dropped my gun. I may have dropped my bowels as well.
A recurrent squeaking sound catches my attention: Ti-Gor is very slowly wheeling himself into the space between me and this oncoming atrocity. Is this a sacrifice on my behalf? Or a desperate grasp at sweet, sweet death? He raises his smoking, melting head and yells the answer: "HOT BLOODED! CHECK IT AND SEE! GOT A FEVER OF FOURTEEN HUNDRED DEGREES CENTIGRADE!" His entire body bursts into flames.
Unfortunately, Ti-Gor's time as a kamikaze incendiary bomb is short-lived and ill-fated: as the Cerrato-monster charges, Ti-Gor, still burning quite festively, rolls right past it and bumps into the same door through which I entered this room, pushing it open. I like to think that he may have distracted the beast for a split second: with a great crashing sound, Cerrato's head smashes into the hanging chandelier, scattering crystal shards all across the room. Its legs — all eight of them, including, I now notice, three that are affixed to Rollerblades — go flying out from under it, and the monster goes down.
The room is quite silent, except for the hearty crackling sound of Ti-Gor's burning husk. I turn back around to see Snyder still seated calmly on his divan. Wyllie and the woman are still chewing away at their meal, now with their mouths bleeding profusely. One of Mrs. Snyder's breasts is spraying a fine stream of silicone gel onto the floor in front of her.
It appears that, during the last few moments, I managed to take both of Snyder's bishops and three of his pawns while not even seated at the table. Even with his dark glasses on, Snyder's smile is unmistakably one of triumph. "IT APPEARS I'VE WON OUR LITTLE GAME," he says. The Cerrato-monster stirs noisily. Fine. Sounds good. Maybe I don't exactly run out of the room, but I certainly don't saunter, either.
Back up the curving corridor. Through the door at the end, into the brightly-lit great hall, still teeming with partygoers totally unaware of the goings-on elsewhere in the house. Through the crowd as calmly as I can proceed — "…I had to sell the house in Bethesda: it really just didn't have enough rooms for all of my indentured Haitians…" — to another door. Back up the hallway to the great staircase. Down the stairs two at a time. Across the foyer. Out the front door. Down the driveway. Up the dark street toward the main road.
I hail a cab; he pulls to the curb. My mind races on the ride back to the hotel. What happened tonight? What did it mean? Most importantly, what will I tell my employers tomorrow? That a fifteen-foot-tall robo-Cerrato attacked me and I lost my nerve? That I was saved by a Nintendo on wheels?
Twenty minutes later, we pull up in front of the hotel. Climbing out of the car, I shudder at the sudden certainty that back there, in that madhouse, Wyllie and Mrs. Snyder are still chewing their plastic dinner; the thing that was once Vinnie Cerrato has dragged itself to its many feet and skittered back into some black recess to mewl and hunt for cockroaches; Snyder has more money to spend, more of the world to transfigure into the stuff of his personal slime-trail. Ti-Gor's titanium body is still searingly hot to the touch. I hope he's dead. Deader, I should say.
I reach for my back pocket to pay the driver. Why was I allowed deep inside Snyder's home if he knew why I was there? What was he trying to get from—
Wait. My wallet is gone.
That son of a bitch.