The Unknown: The Red Line.
  William stood in the dark beside the pool sadly. The strains of “Tequila” by the Champs drifted through the cool night air. Inside, through the gigantic window, he could see Scott and Dirk dancing with two women wearing haltertops, miniskirts, fishnet stockings and bunny ears. Hugh Hefner, clad in pink silk pajamas and white gloves, was too old and fat to do much more than shuffle, but he clearly was having a good time entertaining the Unknown. Scott was wearing somebody’s boxers on his head and everybody was laughing.

William sighed. The guys sure were having a good time. Maybe he should just relax for once, just for one night, what harm could it do . . . ? Then he thought about Naomi Wolf. And Susan Faludi. And Susan Jacoby. And he remembered Susan Brownmiller’s phrase: “Pornography is the distilled essence of anti-female propaganda.”

Another woman with bunny ears came outside with a tray of martinis and walked up to William to try again to get him to come inside and enjoy the gathering. William reluctantly accepted a martini. He looked at her and asked “what’s your name?”


“No it’s not, don’t be ridiculous. That’s so diminutive.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Besides, isn’t there another woman here named Bunny?”

“Yes. We’re all named Bunny. My full name is Bunny 12.”

William sighed. “Well, do you mind if I call you Catherine A. MacKinnon?”

“No. That’s fine.”

“Do you even know who that is?”

“Actually, I studied with her. I have a Ph.D. in women’s studies and I’m currently a second-year law student.”

“What? What are you doing here?”

“Making two hundred dollars an hour. Do you know how much it costs to take the Bar Exam? And tuition?”

“Wow. You’re much better educated than me! Wait, that sounds insulting, I mean, I thought . . . Have you read our work?”

“No. When I’m not studying the law, I read critical theory. I don’t have time for fiction. Anyway, from what I’ve heard of The Unknown, it sounds kind of silly.”

William watched her walk away, then forcibly averted his eyes. Inside the mansion, Dirk was attempting to limbo while wearing a lampshade on his head. The strains of “Wild Thing” by the Troggs floated across the pool. Scott was talking to two women who had their backs turned toward William, who turned away.

It was then that William noticed a man sitting alone on the edge of a fountain across the lawn. William tossed back his martini, set the glass down on the diving board, and walked across the lawn through the darkness and crickets and the smell of freshly-cut grass to introduce himself to the other wallflower.

The man looked up at William and smiled. He appeared to be in his sixties or seventies. He was wearing a suit with the trouser cuffs rolled up. He had big glasses and his hair was disheveled.

William stuck out hi hand: “Hi. I’m deeply offended by all of this. My name is William.”

The man laughed and returned the handshake. “Hi William, I’m Noam.”


“No. Noam. Chomsky.”

William stuttered. “Chomsky? The Noam Chomsky?”

“Is it a common name?”

“Wow. I’m astonished. You’re my favorite—um—dissident. I never thought I’d meet you.” William looked around in disbelief at the Playboy estate with its dramatically lit ornamental horticulture and statues of nude women.

“I don’t know why I come to these things.”

“Why do you come to these things?”

“Well, I felt I owed it to Hugh. I mean, it's so hard for me to get media attention in America. You know, I go overseas and the major television networks roll out the red carpet for me, I’m very much respected, but here?”

“Yeah. But isn’t Playboy, like, just as much a tool to manufacture consent as The New York Times? I mean, isn’t it worse?”

“They won’t publish my writing in the Times. Or any newspaper or magazine. In America. But Hugh is letting me run a three-parter on this absurd notion of the 'rogue state.' And Kosovo.”

“Wow. I, um, am here with the Unknown. Have you heard of us?”


William excitedly tried to explain to Noam Chomsky The Unknown, in all its majesty and scope, from the genesis of the idea in Cincinnati in 1998, all the way through the hypertext novel and the book tour. As he talked about the motion picture he noticed that Chomsky’s eyes had glazed over and he was staring at the pool. William trailed off.

After a moment, Chomsky said: “That sounds completely silly. I don’t know why I come to these things.”


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The Unknown at Spineless Books.