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   Friday 5th October

My factotum has returned from visiting every retail store within a 500-mile radius and come up empty: no American flag. None! The neighbors look askance at me as though I were no better than a soy-poisoned hippie. The wretch! I do the only thing one can do in these troublous times, with Death snarling from every doorway, and put him on a plane to Kabul, where there are apparently stacks of flags for the taking in the public squares, beside the pile of marinating effigies. The camera does not lie.

The phone never stopped ringing today, reporters from the big papers asking for my recollection of the ghastly, vomitous bin Laden, who was a client of mine back in the 70's when I was a theatrical agent. I only got him one movie, The In-Laws, (where he delighted audiences with his kissy-kissy hand routine), but his long conversations between takes with Peter Falk seem to have driven him batty, and he subsequently left the business. I only heard from him twice after: a fax asking me whether I believed Mena Suvari's forehead had been cosmetically enhanced, and another wondering rhetorically whether Tom Wolfe's recurrent use of the word "arteriosclerotic" in his early pieces had been intended as some kind of apocalyptic call-to-arms addressed to dispossessed people in the future. I asked him, via return fax, to kindly direct his questions to the helpful people at calltrace@nsa.gov and he troubled me no more. I expect he got the answers he was looking for there.




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