by Heide Arbitter
Dr. Perkins signed up immediately. It was in the desert, after all, his favorite vacation spot. Not many other dermatologists approved of these desert landscapes, which made the days there more precious. Dr. Perkins was always interested in Star Wars, and when his wife, Fifi, left him for not only a Wookiee impersonator, but an impersonator of Chewbacca, the greatest Wookiee of all, he figured that he would have time alone, to not only think and imagine, but actually try out something he had only dreamed of before. Dr. Perkins would attend a science fiction convention by himself.
Dr. Perkins and Fifi did have that in common. Of course, he attended these conventions only to listen and learn, she because of her love of costumes. Her favorite character was Lady Godiva, which authorized her to unbraid her long blonde hair and let it flow down her naked body. Dr. Perkins and Fifi fought about that, but in the end the pleasure of simply travelling with her always won.
But, Fifi was travelling without him now, first throughout Australia, and then onto New Zealand, where her Wookiee lover, Jeb, owned land. Well, that would not be a deterrent. Dr. Perkins was a grown man. He owned a condo. He would triumph by himself.
Still, the idea of going alone made Dr. Perkins nervous. He closed his practice. He wanted time to research and prepare. His e-mail flooded with recommendations from acquaintances and invitations from conventioneers. Some suggested he try the “Firefly” convention, held yearly at some insect ranch. That did not sound right. Others beckoned him to “The Enterprise”, but with this warning: “Their replicators are offline which means you have to eat whatever awful food they throw at you. Conventioneers will have to do daily shifts in the kitchens as evidence that they are complying with the laws of gravity on a constructed, stationary space complex, where unity is the theme and monogamy to the crew encouraged”. Dr. Perkins decided against that one, as he had already had seventeen years of monogamy and not one of them was unified.
Then, there was the desert. The e-vite said “Sci-Fi Convention 99 – All Welcomed” Did that mean it had met yearly for 99 years? If so, this suggested stability. The thought thrilled and intrigued him, as was the idea of a multi-character convention, not one driven by theme, and, yes, even fanaticism. Dr. Perkins threw his luggage into his car and set off.
But, the instant Dr. Perkins pulled up in the dusty parking lot a mile away from the Convention Center which was, as he could see from this distance, a lime green motel, he had a sense of dread. His was the only car in the lot. Dr. Perkins got out of his car, and stared at the desert. He looked at his watch. 7 A.M. Wasn’t that when registration began? Dr. Perkins looked up at the sun. All he saw were flocks of birds overhead. Vultures, his favorites, were circling rather close. Fifi called these birds bottom feeders, but he knew their, yes, horrible dietary cravings, but intelligent and gentle natures set them apart as royalty.
Dr. Perkins was about to get back into his car, when Dr. Strange, his adornments magnificent, pulled up next to him. “In costume already?” Dr. Perkins asked. “Where’s yours?” snarled the conventioneer, as he turned off his ignition and got out. “I’ll park over there,” said Dr. Perkins as he got into his car and rode over to the only shady spot near an enormous cactus.
For a while, Dr. Perkins sat in his car, thinking. He knew he was was not a handsome man. His bald head and thick glasses implied old age, even though he was in his prime. After a few years of marriage, style conscious Fifi had given up on his sci-fi costumes and simply focused on trying to modernize his daily sense of fashion. But Dr. Perkins refused, suspecting she would make him look worse, not better. Still, he thought, the frayed Armani suit he was wearing and the fact he had purchased it at Housing Works, should give him some leverage.
Sitting in his car, Dr. Perkins thought about how he should introduce himself. It was bad enough that embarrassment followed whenever he spoke of his profession. “A dermatologist, huh?” was the usual response. Then, the inevitable pulling down of pants or unbuttoning of the shirt. “Into skin? Well, doc, look at this. Did you ever see a blob like this?” Amazingly, this happened everywhere he went, museums, the laundry room, even the florist where he yearly bought Fifi daisies for her birthday. Of course, he could always outright lie and when asked about his job, shrug and say he was unemployed, but the looks that he would get from that kind of response would be more than his delicate sense of self could handle.
With a sigh, Dr. Perkins snapped into the present. The sun was setting. The parking lot was full. Maybe, the fun was about to begin. Dr. Perkins pulled himself from his car and attempted to hold his head high as he walked into the building.
In retrospect, perhaps a multi-character convention was not a mature choice. While standing in line to register, despite the all characters welcomed motto, the place was still overwhelmed with the usual standards, young women and even men costumed as Katniss Everdeen, Wonder Woman, Klingons, the always favorite, Yoda, Spock and Data, of course, Wolverine, Bat Man, the always despised Jar-Jar Binks and much to his horror, not a few, but a plethora of Wookiees. It was as though they were summoned there to torment him. Dr. Perkins grabbed his name tag and ran shrieking from registration. Those standing behind him jeered.
Alone in his room that night, Dr. Perkins read over the next day’s schedule only to discover it was Wookiee friendly, complete with a Wookiee parade and a Wookiee panel. One panel caught his eye. “Wookiee Women: Where are they?” This might answer his questions. Were they hiding? Afraid? Were they modest? He, himself, had designed garments that would hide their furry Wookiee nakedness, but he was too timid to publicize them, even here. In his secret heart, Dr. Perkins hoped that a Wookiee woman would approach him and perhaps help him market his creations, or more.
The next morning, Dr. Perkins, still wearing his Armani suit, strode into the panel. He looked around to see the room was already packed with Wookiee impersonators, but not one of them, as far as he could tell, was a Wookiee woman. Dr. Perkins took his seat in the audience and said to the Wookiee on his right, “Where are the girls?” “Can’t you tell?” the Wookiee snapped. “No wonder they have to scoop away our wives,” Dr. Perkins said to the Wookiee at his left. The Wookiee growled, “How come you’re not in costume?” “I am in costume. I come as an observer and a recorder of experience.” “Kind of like an Away Team?” the Wookiee asked. “Sure,” Dr. Perkins answered.
The boring panel ran over three hours. As the Wookiee emcee droned on about equality and fur is fantastic, Dr. Perkins drifted off into his own world in which he found a Wookiee woman to call his own. In their bedroom, as night, he examined beneath the fur, touching her skin and feeling it for boils and blemishes. Much to his delight, she met with his approval. His Wookiee woman had perfect skin, subtle and smooth.
That’s how Dr. Perkins met Fifi. She came to his office with something so minor, he almost sent her to his associate down the hall. But when, at his request, she opened her hospital gown from the neck down, he gasped. Her skin was like satin. Pure and shiny and devoid of stretch marks and scars. It was as though she had never been touched by human hands or crumpled up as she passed through her mother’s birth canal, so flawless was her skin. She was perfection. She wanted to know about a tiny pore on her nose. “It just appeared out of nowhere”, she said. He gazed at the perfect skin on her perfectly porcelain face and was speechless. Under his magnifying glass, the tiny pore, barely visible became his focus. He stared and stared and suddenly he felt himself standing in the largest crater on the moon, looking up at millions of brilliant stars, realizing he was one of them and delirious at his weightlessness. This was love. This was splendor.
The Wookiee to his right wiggled closer to make space for the new Wookiee pal now joining him.
“How do you guys tell each other apart?” asked Dr. Perkins. The Wookiees around him chuckled.
“Where are your women?” screamed Dr. Perkins. “As if we’d tell you,” the Wookiee to his left said.
Perkins shouted. Suddenly, all of the Wookiees in the room joined in. “Get your own women. Get your own!” they cried. The Wookiee uproar reached a crescendo. Covering his ears, Dr. Perkins ran from the room and down the hall, banging into popcorn stands, knocking over whirling pink cotton candy vats, and crashing head long into the caramel apple stands.
His face covered with these snacks, Dr. Perkins raced to the lobby, past a bunch of Wookiees shouting excitedly, pointing at him and laughing. Where could he go? Where could he find her?
Fifi. He loved her. He missed her. Was she here? Did she leave her Wookiee lover alone, in New Zealand, to frolic with his sheep, so she could return to the doctor, her husband, and reinvent the true meaning of science fiction?
Dr. Perkins stopped and tried to catch his breath. Next to him, a Wookiee was talking up a Wonder Woman. Her robust skin glowed under the fluorescent lights. She whispered something and opened her mouth revealing newly installed veneers. Saliva drooling down his chin, the Wookiee moved in for a kiss.
But the dermatologist was too fast. He lunged at the Wookiee, and ripped off the Wookiee’s head, revealing the bumpy, fissured face of a middle-aged man with adult acne. The Wonder Woman screamed and hid behind a chair. The dermatologist wrestled the man to the floor and climbed on top of him. The man screeched, but Dr. Perkins did not hear, as he pummeled the man’s face into a bloody mess that no amount of dermabrasion could remedy.
About the Author:
Heide Arbitter‘s plays have been produced in New York City and regionally. Some of these productions include a one-act, HAND WASHED, LINE DRIED, which was produced at the Public Theatre; a full-length, FROGS FROM THE MOON at the American Theatre of Actors; and a one-act, TILL WE MEET, at Unboxed Voices. Smith & Kraus and Excalibur have published JILLY ROSE, SHARON and POPPY. Heide was recently interviewed on the radio, WFUV.