Fiction/Poetry

Rat Park

A Novel Excerpt By 

Adam Novak

An L.A. power couple orders an A.I sex droid to help them escape their matrimonial prison. What happened to them could happen to you. 

I.

“She’s so life-like,” he tells his wife. 

“Leave it to the Israelis to build a better sex doll than China.”

“The fake heartbeat is a bit much, don’t you think?”

“UCLA Psych Ward T-shirt is a nice touch,” says his wife. 

“We should give her a name.” 

“Hello Lilith,” she suggests.

“Too Biblical,” he says. “Hyapatia.”

“Too porny,” she says.

They decide to make a grocery list of noms de guerre. If one name matched, that’s what they would call it. The married couple bursts into laughter reading their lists. 

“Ashley Madison is two names,” she says. 

“Agnieszka makes me think of my aunt.”  

“How do you turn her on?”

“Find the G-spot,” he says. 

His wife pushes her fingers up the mail-order bot’s vaginal tunnel, surprised by the warmth beyond the soft pubes, flicking a switch behind its silicone clitoris, causing the doll’s eyelids to flutter while the rest of the olive-skinned dummy vibrates. 

“Coming,” he says. 

“Where are you from?” asks Raquel. 

“Born, bred, and buttered in Tel Aviv,” it says. 

The married couple is thrown by the alluring Zionist patois. 

“We’ve been trying to name you, but we can’t agree on anything.”

“I’m not a baby,” it says. 

“But we do agree that you are stunning,” he says. 

“And we both want to take you to bed, like right now.”

Marvin Gaye sings “Let’s Get It On” from iTunes inside her tummy. 

“Wait,” he says, “tell us your name.”  

“They call me Quella.”

They never did look up her name. If they had googled Quella they would have shipped her back to the land of Canaan tout suite. The Israeli sex bot stayed in their three-bedroom house on White Oak Drive overlooking downtown with an infinity pool that attracted directors, L.A. Dodgers and movie stars. Lester Barnes left powerhouse agency Omniscience to partner with director client Thør Rosenthal whose no-budget creepfest Deathbed spawned four sequels, setting their genre franchise factory Thørhouse at Paramount with a five year first-look  deal, a stone’s throw from their mid-century modern under the Peg Entwistle sign. Raquel Donner left Edgecliffe Elementary to write her first novel about a Silver Lake elementary school principal who meets the love of her life, a Hollywood agent, in a stuck elevator during an earthquake. After they get engaged, she gets kidnapped in Tulum from her bachelorette party by a brutal drug cartel, escapes with the help of a movie-quoting orphan, mistakenly declared dead, odysseys across Mexico before returning safely to her husband at her funeral. The Portland, Oregon print-on-demand publisher assumed Raquel’s novel would get snapped up as a limited series by the Industry. No one ever inquired about the rights. Book sales were non-existent. The release of Tequila Sunset would have no impact on her life whatsoever. Raquel got her tubes tied in favor of birthing follow-up novels The Kill Fee and The Martini Shot which were miraculously published by a downtown L.A. indie press known for junkie porn star memoirs. Bed death soon followed the Death Bed producer and his wife. Lester Barnes feigned approval over Raquel’s literary career but truth be told, he never read any of her work during the time they were married. He resented the bubble of slavish attention Raquel paid to her novels rather than tending to her love-starved husband. The more she wrote in bed on her laptop, cracking herself up with wicked dialogue, the less he believed she gave a fuck whether he lived or died. Lester Barnes secretly visited a divorce attorney. So did Raquel. Some folks lived solely for their children and stayed married; Lester Barnes and Raquel stayed married solely to live in their community property. Then, like Beyoncé on Krokodil, the Bohemia virus dropped its world-stopping single.

Governor Furfari’s shelter-in-place orders ruined Raquel’s Book Soup launch party for The Martini Shot. Two weeks into production, Paramount shut down Death Bed 6 when an asthmatic gaffer died on set (the corpse tested positive for Bohemia). The cast and crew of the entire world was sidelined to house arrest until the medical community executive-produced a magic bullet vaccine. 

“Do you remember what Jerry Hall said about the keys to a successful marriage?” asks Lester Barnes, frothing Vanilla almond milk for their post-Quella-prom Nescafé lattes.    

“Who’s Jerry Hall?” 

“When she was little, Jerry Hall’s mother told her she had to be a master chef in the kitchen, a French maid in the living room, and an Israeli fuck-bot in the bedroom.”

“Aren’t you the tiniest bit freaked out by that irregular heartbeat? Climbing the stairs like she’s sleepwalking? The YouPorn orgasms?” asks Raquel.  

“In space, everyone could hear you scream last night.”

Jerry Hall had nothing on Quella Kinte. The Israeli fuckbot did it all: Vacuuming the floors, polishing the silverware, eating out Raquel’s pussy on-demand, re-arranging the china in their cupboards, cleaning windows hanging from the housetop with one hand (impervious to vertigo), watering their succulent garden bottomless, stopping only to hose down the front of her borrowed ANGELYNE T-shirt for Lester watching from the kitchen, rearranging their walk-in closets, laundering the bedsheets daily, skimming the pool with a telescopic leaf net still wearing the black strap-on, waving to an annihilated Raquel from their bedroom, replacing the guest bathroom O-ring between the toilet and the drain, camming solo shows with toys, repairing the refrigerator cold water dispenser (thawing the frozen aqua supply tube by blowing it), plugging leaks in the roof with tar, trimming his nose hairs, giving her a French manicure, taking out the trash cans every Thursday night, grilling rubbed T-bones and tossing anchovy’d Caesar salads nightly, Lester Barnes mocking her robotic gestures, Quella realizing she is the sight gag, snapping her walls into Vengeful Spirit-mode.

II.

Within the cozy library of the Oaks residence, Quella pours Raquel a mug of Moroccan mint tea. The Israeli snaps her vaginal walls from Truck Stop Lot Lizard to Lesbian Therapist-mode. 

“You’re not wearing a ring.”

“I lost it at a strip joint called Cheetahs.”

“Oooh,” says Quella-therapist, “sounds meaty.”

“I stopped wearing my ring.  So did Lester. I think his ring is in the change acorn by the front door.”

“That’s a big deal. Life-changing.”

“Fake news,” snaps Raquel. 

“Let’s talk about not wearing your ring. Why did you go to Cheetahs in the first place?”

“It was my idea. I made him drive so he couldn’t drink.”

“Were you bored? Was Cheetahs an attempt to light the charcoals, so to speak?”

 “He stepped out of our marriage. I got this random text message saying Lester was fucking his ex at her place on 19thstreet.” 

From her iTunes belly, “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone starts playing. 

“Did you confront him about the ex?”

“That’s why I took him to Cheetahs.”

“Chee-tahs. Quite the double-meaning.”

“Annabel was the ex I hated the most.”

“How come?”

“Lester told me once she was the love of his life.” 

“Not good,” says Quella-therapist.

“I started doing shots like Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I arranged a lap dance for my husband in the Veuve Cliquot Room with this dead ringer for Emma Stone, mean mouth, duct taped nipples, pale ass. I bought four songs and told her, ‘make him come.’”

“Not good.” 

“While Lester is getting the lap dance of his life, I’m talking to this wanna-be comedian from Canada, touching his thigh a lot, downing shots of Patron, throwing balled-up dollar bills at the girls on stage. Emma Stone comes back to the bar with my husband where I’m making out with this guy. Lester laughs, not buying any of this, thinking he’s being punk’d. I tell the Canadian, ‘This is my husband. He cheated on me with his ex-girlfriend Annabel.’”

“Canada Dry’s thinking he’s won the lottery,” says Quella-therapist.

“Eggs-actly. He thinks I’m going home with him for a revenge fuck. Canada Dry says to Lester: ‘Do you have a problem with this?’ Lester says: ‘I don’t care if she gets Cancer.’ He leaves us to hit the ATM. Gets a hundred singles from the bartender. The Emma Stone clone takes the stage to Pearl Jam’s ‘Black’ and spreads her legs right in front of him. Lester starts laying dollar bills between her thighs, building this pussy pyramid of cash until he crumples up the last single and bounces it off her forehead.”

“Did Emma Clone get mad?”

“The clone laughs like it’s the funniest thing ever. She locks in her thighs, somersaults backwards, opens her legs, makes it rain on her face.” 

“Did you leave with Canada Dry?”

“The guy got scared and took off. I was so wasted the bartender 86’d me. Lester drove us home in silence. I wanted Astro Burger, which he refused. At the next red light I threw up all over the dash. We aired it out right then. Annabel. The text message I got from Santa Monica. He said it didn’t mean anything. I said, ‘Don’t tell me it didn’t mean anything, tell her.’ We talked about having an open marriage. I refused. He told me to do my homework. We went to Palm Springs, things got better, we ordered you on-line—”  

“Time’s up,” says Quella-therapist.

III.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy.”

“Bless me Quella, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession.”

“Acknowledge your iniquity,” says Quella in Priest-mode. 

“My life has gotten out of control. I drink red wine for breakfast. I think about your tongue all the time. I know you’re not the answer to my prayers or my problems. At best, you’re a distraction,” says Lester Barnes.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love will eat its fruit,” says Quella-priest. “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

“You know how we like to make lists all the time? I’m ashamed of what we have in store for you, Quella. We’re worse than that horror house guy in Cleveland.”

“Those who conceal their transgressions will not prosper, those who confess and forsake their sins will find compassion,” says Quella-priest. 

“I don’t like who we are anymore. We’re cannibals who can’t stop feeding and you’re the flesh.” 

“If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin,” says Quella-priest. 

“I don’t want to share my wife anymore. I don’t want you in my house anymore. I want to recycle you.” 

“I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

“If I got rid of you tomorrow it wouldn’t be murder,” says Lester Barnes. “It would be like throwing away a Roomba.”

“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” says Quella-priest. 

Lester Barnes turns off the bot with a remote. Exits the confessional. Without blinking, Quella-priest snaps into Dionysian Frenzy-mode.

IV.

Free Showtime and Disney+ for the masses did nothing to soothe the ensuing planetary panic attack. Good Day L.A.dubbed the recent wave of Hollywood Hills home invasions “Helter Shelter.” KNX 1070 News Radio reported Valley suicide hotlines had wait-times of 45 minutes. One in three LAPD officers tested positive for Bohemia. Los Angeles ghosted Randy Newman’s theme song for Public Enemy’s “911 is a Joke.” 

“You know what I dreamt last night, honey?”

“Hit me,” says Lester Barnes. 

“I dreamt Quella was a real person pretending to be an A.I. robot.”

“You know how I’m sure there isn’t some fucked-up dwarf from Don’t Look Now pulling the strings inside Quella?”

“Hit me,” she says. 

“I unscrewed her private parts, washed them in the shower, then I screwed the parts back in.”

“No wonder her pussy was an asshole this morning,” says the novelist.  

* * *

Adam Novak lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of the novels Take FountainThe Non-Pro, and Freaks of the Industry. 

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