MÈRE BIMBO: Upstairs at the Empyrean

The next day Étienne read an article in a magazine.

Upstairs at the Empyrean, a notorious author goes missing, and a bimbo resurfaces.

On a recent afternoon, in the musty upper reaches of Rusty Seward’s Empyrean Bookstore, a cast of tens gathered to honor the 35th birthday of that hardworking little sex classic, Chantal: Story of a Woman. Present in the hallowed if somewhat allergenic confines of the Empyrean’s Rare Books Room were many of the expected luminaries—from Rusty himself to the preternaturally good-natured Pete Bash, official best friend and quondam legal counsel to author Brice Penney—with one notable exception and one unusual inclusion. The exception was Penney himself, who apparently had better things to do than receive yet more accolades for his best-known work. (Chantal, the author’s first novel, has never been out of print. By contrast, his brilliant picaresque trilogy—Narrative of my Travels, Further Travels to Difficult Lands and Sgt. Lovejoy’s Last Parade—has been unavailable since 1986.)

The unexpected inclusion was a space bunny. Not the white snuffly kind that NASA puts into orbit, but the tight-suit-wearing, laser-gun-toting, right-on-coordinates-Captain kind. If you know your defunct cult TV shows you will recognize the bunny in question as Mara Trotman, of the defunct cult TV show “Operation Wingspan.” If you don’t know your D.C.T.S., all we can say is it was only slightly less surprising to see Trotman at the Empyrean than it would have been to see Joyce Carol Oates at Hooters. On second thought, Oates would probably have been more at home in the latter establishment than Trotman was in the Rare Book Room. Looking uncustomarily chic in a simple linen dress, Trotman fidgeted throughout the tribute (which, somewhat dampened by the author’s absence, was largely restricted to anecdotes and libations) and confessed afterwards that she hadn’t read the whole book.

“I started it, though,” she said. “Morty got me into it.” Morty was her companion, entertainment agent Mordecai Levin, which encouraged the question: was the former Rachella Dar, Lt., here with more than strictly literary intentions? “I don’t know,” said Trotman. “Maybe.”

Is Trotman, in short, contemplating a sortie into the alien territory of film adaptation? This inquiry prompted the retired TV star, who has lived for the past ten years in France, to look to her date for inspiration. “It’s a possibility,” said that gentleman. “It might be a good match.”

Feeling confused, we sought the advice of Rusty, who by this time was helping his staff pick up plastic cups from the floor. Was Trotman-as-Chantal thinkable? “I don’t see why not,” said the redoubtable bookseller. “After all, nobody respected Chantal, either.”