Of course I’m really very fond of Nancy: since Archie died she has been more like a mother to me than my own mother. I am particularly indebted to her for both her kindness and her extreme riches and her self-possession which is wonderfully inspiring and the fact that she has kept her 60s wardrobe intact for all of these years, so I get to go out dressed up like some fabulous Malibu Beach Barbie and sometimes people even stop me on the street and ask, “Are you dressed up as Lana Del Rey?” (No: FUCK OFF). Anyway cousin Francis, if he had been raised in the knowledge that he was her son, would no doubt have been a very great disappointment to her I’m sure.
While I waited to hear that familiar girlish-smoky gin-soaked voice creaking ‘Hello?’ on the other end of the line of my coral-pink telephone I couldn’t help but wish that our situation was reversed and that Frankie was Archie’s son and that I was Nancy’s daughter; I even considered a tactful blackmail angle, my own mother would doubtless be at no great pains to rush forward and claim me in the PUBLIC EYE, and Archie was, after all, supposed to be dead. At the very least the notoriety would mean the cuntish eternal Frank Sinatra Snr ‘TV and Variety Entertainers’ ban would be lifted from my lovely name and I could go on to make great pots of money modelling for Wheel of Fortune or something like that.
And so I learned all of the sad and sorry truth about Nancy. Perhaps it was my father’s delivery but it all sounded unbelievably trashy: ‘The Man I Love Won’t Marry Me’; Sinatra’s Fears about his Daughter and Dean Martin; The Awful Mistakes Sinatra Fears his Daughters Will Make (… Compatibility: Should you Know Before Marriage?); The Sinatras Barred From Gail Martin’s Wedding, (Dean’s Wife Fights a ‘wasting illness’), etc. etc. etc. The whole sad and sordid tale had been splashed across the block colour covers of TV STAR PARADE, and then Nancy had suffered from a mystery illness for ten or so months and gone off to live in the Bahamas while she recovered.
If my cousin Frankie ever found out… oh, but I hate to think. He might be upset and embarrassed that he was not Archie’s son after all those TV interviews, and then Nancy would have hell to pay if ‘the secret’ came out out after all these years… just like ‘In Other Desert Cities’, if you saw that play… Someone could make a lot of money writing that book, methinks. Well you see the permutations of the issue. I saved Archie, I mean, ‘Tom Jones’ from choking to death at the last minute as he was my only eyewitness and got him to call Nancy.
Now the time had come. I went to my father Tom Jones and said, “Papa, dear, darling sweetest papa, I think it’s time that the truth came out. You are Frankie’s father. The parallels are too obvious to ignore. If you weren’t so physically akin you could still tell because you are both delusional and sort of sad and lost and resorting to desperate tactics in order to fumble your way through this world with stubby fingers slick with grease from the carry out buckets of Mr. Chicken I’ve found hidden about the house.”
But more than that, I was sick to death of both of them. I envisioned a glorious future where those two half-wits clubbed together in the belief that they would make a single wit, then went off to live in a shack in the mountains having subscribed to the theory that a body can live by absorbing the minerals found naturally in air and rays of sunlight.
Then a very strange look came over Tom Jones; if I didn’t know any better I might have thought he was choking on a chicken bone that he’d swallowed when I came into the room so suddenly.
“Hell,” he said — with tears in his eyes. If I didn’t know any better I might have thought the bone was killing him. “Hell, Frankie ain’t my son. I wish he was…”
“Come now, father, enough lies,” said I.
Cough – cough -cough — a wishbone came flying out of his throat and pinged against the wall. O chicken, sweet, sad flightless bird, with your moronic gaze and absurd clucking, don’t you know that this is ‘the best of all possible worlds’ only because God is incapable of changing anything to improve it without simultaneously making it worse: bad and good are so delicately balanced, like the rainforest…
“But it’s true,” said my father. “I know it’s true because I know who Frankie’s real mother is — Nancy Sinatra.”
“I swear I never touched her. Frank Snr said he’d cut my dick off if I ever went near. Then he blacklisted me anyway, the cunt. His real father is that race-car driver who died under mysterious circumstances in 1974 –” Cough Cough Cough — Another bone; he must have swallowed the whole tiny chicken. He was turning really pink now. I watched him go on choking for a while.
My father had taken to improving himself physically and spiritually, if not materially: I was still living off funds that had been obtained by deception, deception of Nancy Sinatra to be specific. One evening I found Tom Jones queerly dressed — in flared nylon trousers and a relatively clean shirt; anyway you could not see the smears amongst the Hawaiian print. He said, “I am going to see a Spiritualist I heard of in Vegas, all of The Flamingo was raving about her when I left, she tells fortunes.”
I went along out of sarcastic spite — I think you know how I feel about vegan hippie shit. But the Spiritualist was not a fabulist but a fanatic. Though the programs were headlined ‘What does YOUR future hold?” her insight concerned itself mainly with the prospect of Eternal Damnation. Indeed the evening was sponsored by the Australian Liberal Party. At the back of the room a little man sat amidst a pile of boxes recording for the Christ at Home Channel and commentating throughout.
“Mrs Semple MacPherson-Kardashian says why bother looking Abroad for people to Save when there are so many heathens already in America? In California especially. She describes how it came to her…”
Then on the platform before us Mrs Semple MacPherson-Kardashian drew herself up on her shapely silken legs. She was wearing a dress of black jet, a long string of pearls, very ugly, expensive shoes with a large square buckle of semiprecious stones intended to strike a Puritan note. Though she was a short, slim woman, her feet must have been size 12. She said: “All at once my hands and arms began to tremble, gently at first, then more and more, until my whole body was atremble with the Power. Almost without notice my body slipped gently to the floor, and I was lying under the Power of God, but felt as though caught up and floating!”
“Gosh, isn’t she wonderful?” my father whispered. “She really holds the stage — like the epic ‘Twilight’ saga.”
The refreshment table presented a dispiritingly teetotal spread of small glazed cakes and the bad type of fruitcake that has inedible nuts in it.
“I thought you meant we were seeing a spirit medium, not an evangelist,” said I.
“Well, I did,” said my father, spitting the nuts discreetly onto the floor. “But Mrs Semple MacPherson-Kardashian was really just as good, don’t you think?”
“Did you really think that Mrs MacPherson-Kardashian was wonderful, or have you gone feeble in your old age, father?”
“Oh yes,” said he, with sincerity. “The way she said she felt – it is how I feel sometimes when I’m drunk. So light and floating and closer to God.”
Later on I met my cousin Frankie at the Sexty Sex Cocktail Lounge. He did not know that Tom Jones was alive so when I told him that I had just been to see Mrs Semple MacPherson-Kardashian he was confused.
“Is that something that interests you?”
“Your Spiritual Welfare.”
“I can’t say it does, cousin. Not terribly. In fact, not at all. ”
Now cousin Frankie looked at me with loathing. “As a matter of fact that is a topic that interests me very much,” he said.
“Yes, yes, very much. Perhaps you’ll say it is only the whim of a man, but I take Spiritual Welfare very seriously indeed. My maternal grandfather was a clergyman. A very learned and well respected man. He was a favoured advisor to Queen Victoria on all matters to do with Spiritual Welfare. And a great lover of children.”
“I’ve often heard it said, cousin.”
“Yes,” said Frankie. “My grandfather Lewis held that the purity of children is the closest– the closest we come to know God in this life. Such God-given innocence is something that must be cherished and protected. He was the first of the great Industrial Capitalists to give his black child slaves a break at midday so they’d have the time for laughter and prayer.”
“Are you feeling quite well, cousin?” I had to ask. “Have you been drinking alone here?”
“As a matter of fact, I am teetotal now,” said Frankie. “I am on a lemon and cayenne pepper detox, and only filling my body with things that are pure and natural.”
“Now really Frankie, in your natural state you’re as soaked as a fish. It’s never a good idea to quit drinking suddenly. That’s when you start to see pink elephants. Do you really think it wise?”
But cousin Frankie clutched his orange juice defiantly.
It never ceases to amaze me — the rapidity with which my father can make everything turn to shit. He’d been living in Shitsville Ranch only a few weeks but thought to update it with a few mod cons, and redecorate with an eye more accustomed to the luxe of Vegas. Also the Robomaid had been unable to stem the tides of filth; instead she had made tracks through it, like paths stamped through the jungle, and then back and forth she buzzed along the same narrow lines, doomed like Sisyphus to repeat that useless task for eternity.
At the least Tom Jones had improved himself — a little. From being a burger king he was now almost starved to death, indeed he stood before the mirror every day (squinting through the grime) repeating “I must – I must be thinner. A new me. The best me I can be!” It was his motivating mantra. That day when he was thin, he said, would be the day when all of his other life’s achievements would pale in comparison. Every woman he passed on the street would be attracted to his long, lean figure, and come panting after him; men would doff their hats as a sign of respect for his ability to attract high class crumpet. Or so I gather. “Well, what do you think?” he asked, as he postured before me, in yoga clothes. He was very pale, so it looked like he’d been worn down after years of being handled in the College of Surgeons as the specimen of average manhood.
Quoth I, “It is comic that a mentally disordered man picks up any piece of granite and carries it around because he thinks it is money, and in the same way it is comic that Don Juan has 1,003 mistresses, for the number simply indicates that they have no value.”
“You are only saying that because you are FAT,” he said. “Anyway, I didn’t fight the war and beat the Nips so that you would come here spouting that ‘Confucius-say’ crap.”
Naturally it occurred to me that I could tell cousin Francis the truth and make him look absurd… moreso… on the Morning Show. I can’t see that low grade TV celebrity does him many favours. His face looks too wide and his eyes proportionately smaller, as though they have retracted on their stalks away from the bright studio lights and the rank stench of whoring yourself to Channel 7. Anyway never mind that. Instead of sitting on a murderous rage like I have done before, I went to see my psychotherapist. She is a very wise and learned woman who looks like Helen Mirren. I found her quite by chance when looking through the phone book because she practices in a place called ‘Rambling Rose Cottage’ and the lovely name struck a pleasant chord with me and my poetic soul. It is a doctor’s surgery like any other, just with a few more lavender bags and scented soap bars stuck around for good measure. But Dr Mirren sits on one of those transparent plastic ghost chairs, which makes her look like she is levitating, and radiates reticence and expensive perfumes in the honeyed sunlight, like all good psychologists should.
I had expected her to tell me that I was repressing a great fear that my cousin was usurping my rightful place but instead she waved all that aside, pointing out that it didn’t seem as though I liked my father very much when it came down to it. “But really,” she said at last, “this paranoid delusion you have that Frank Sinatra is the cause of your failure in life is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard in my career, and I have met seventeen Jesus’s and twelve Napoleons. Most people will only get as far as imagining that they are being persecuted by the government or the CIA, which might after all in fact be the case in this political clime. But Frank Sinatra was a charming man of prodigious talent. When you accuse him of blacklisting you, you only sound like an embittered TV and Variety entertainer.”
“It’s not a paranoid delusion if it’s the truth, it’s just a sad fact,” I sniffed. “Nancy Sinatra told me herself when she was signing the cheque; she said, ‘I’ve added an extra zero to make up for what my father did to you.'”
Dr. Mirren took a long time writing this down. It had never struck me that she might be an old blue eyes fan. You can never tell by looking. I sniffed again.
Finally we agreed upon a course of strong blue pills and she advised me that it would be best if I simply found Love and Welcomed Frankie into the family… moreso. Now that he’s found a masculine ideal to graft himself onto he is looking less wet than usual, I must admit, even if his face has got wider there is a bloom to it.
So I hightailed it up to Shitsville Ranch, to settle the matter one way or the other. The woods were filled with sweet birdsong, peonies and gentian larkspur were in blossom, a radiant light suffused the glen and all around was the pleasant hum of honeybees. I went in and found my father Tom Jones in the kitchen making another lemon and cayenne pepper slimming brew.