Sidney Kugelmass was not a man of words, but a man of action. His actions, however, were not preceded by rational thought. From the moment he was born, Kugelmass’ life was controlled by his impulses.
It was these impulses that forced him to marry twice and end up suffocating from both alimony and child support. Impulse was what drove him to commit adultery with twelve sensuous young college students and one infamous fictional character. Like all those who were superstitious, Sidney Kugelmass knew that the number thirteen was a harbinger of his undoing.
“I don’t deserve this,” Kugelmass thought to himself as he stared out at the ancient Gotham infrastructure that was Manhattan. He was neither a college professor nor was he an adulterer. He was merely a stranger in a changing world. It was at this moment that he felt old. He felt very old.
It had been three months since he escaped from the remedial Spanish textbook and everyone in his life had either died or moved on. Both Flo and the Great Persky had been laid to rest years ago. Daphne was now a grandmother with four children and six grandchildren. Even his old nemesis Fivish Kopkind was gone, having taken his own life after being caught in bed with the Mayor’s secretary.
“I need to do something with my life,” the balding Jew screamed to the heavens. The question of what had been staring him in the face ever since he stole a dead man’s identity.
Suddenly, with frightening clarity, Kugelmass realized what he had to do. It was selfish. It was impulsive. It was the kind of thing he would have happily run away from. He had to use the cabinet.
In an instant, Kugelmass was standing in front of the bookcase that housed an endless amount of DVDs. He took one at random and managed a quick glance at the title.
Kugelmass then made his way into the bedroom and opened the doors to the object that made the last twenty-eight years of his life a living nightmare. He placed the DVD inside and squeezed into the cramped space. “Still a tight fit,” Kugelmass managed to say under his breath.
Just as the doors closed behind him, a deafening rumble of thunder caused the walls to ripple and dissolve into thin air. All Kugelmass could do was hope for the best as a vortex swirled up around him.
He was going to enjoy taking this trip.
In another world, in another time, Marge Gunderson stared at the tan Ciera parked just a few feet away. “Maybe I shouldn’t have called Detective Sibert,” she said aloud to her empty cruiser.
What started as a brutal triple homicide was becoming a three-ring circus with Jerry Lundegaard as the main attraction. The deeper she got, the darker the case became. Now she could tell all that hard work was going to pay off – just as long as the victory party did no harm to the baby.
“Chief, don’t go anywhere. I’m sending backup to your location,” said Lou over the dispatch radio.
“Yah, Lou. Copy that.” Marge slowly got out of the car, weapon in hand, and made her way down the short driveway towards the lakeside cabin. She stood in silence for a moment, listening to what sounded like the muffled roar of a lion. Then, with one arm supporting her swollen abdomen, she began to gingerly step through the deep snow. That was when she saw the gruesome scene.
A tall figure in a red plaid jacket and an Elmer Fudd hunting cap stood laboring over a large power tool, his hands pressing down a shod foot like it was the shaft of a butter churn. Marge silently made her way closer, noticing the power tool was spewing small wet chunks from the bottom. She saw the mutilated corpse and knew that he was the one Lundegaard hired.
“Police! Hands where I can see them!” The oaf turned, staring at her like a vulture after it found dinner. Conscious of the noise, Marge showed him the armpatch insignia with a twist of her shoulder. He took off in an instant.
She took careful aim and fired twice. The first grazed his ear. The second hit his leg. He let out a scream of agony before collapsing to the ground like a tree that had just fallen.
But she didn’t see the bald Jewish man accosting her prime suspect. Marge didn’t see it because she felt her water break.
Kugelmass didn’t care about what scene he was in. He never really cared about anyone but himself. But when he saw Marge Gunderson double over in the snow, he knew something had to be done.
“Sweet Jesus, make it stop!”
Kugelmass looked down to see Gaear Grimsrud screaming for all to hear, lying in his own blood. Rage began to course through his veins and, before he could restrain himself, Kugelmass knocked the giant oaf unconscious with a single punch to the face.
He then ran across the frozen lake to the tree where Marge had positioned herself. Even though this woman was not meant to give birth in the middle of the woods, Kugelmass inhaled deeply and slung her arm over his shoulders for extra support, carefully lifting her into a standing position.
“I don’t know who ya are, but I really hope ya know what you’re doing.”
Kugelmass looked over at Marge and replied, “So do I.”
When they made it to the cabin, Kugelmass used his foot to kick open the door and helped Marge inside. She tightened her grip on his shirt as another contraction soared through her body.
Kugelmass was both disturbed and terrified. The last time he saw a woman go into labor, there was a professional octogenarian doing all the work. Now he was going to have to do it solo… without allowing himself to vomit profusely.
Louis Buchanan thought he was on the verge of a psychotic breakdown. He had attempted to contact Marge on the dispatch, but she wasn’t responding. A thousand possibilities were coursing through his brain and only one stood out above the rest. He kept praying Marge wasn’t dead, but something else said his best friend and boss was gone.
He broke from his train of thought the minute he saw her cruiser on the side of the road. “Lou, that’s ya friend Marge’s car, ain’t it?” an EMT said as he emerged from the ambulance parked a few feet away. “Yeah.” Lou replied sarcastically, “betcha it is Marge’s car. How did ya figure that out?”
Before the EMT could respond, a scream echoed across the woods. Lou whirled around to see a lakeside cabin, the front door wide open, and a tan Ciera parked in the driveway. “That’s the car,” Lou said to himself as he raced down the driveway. He made it to the front door only to reel in confusion at the chaotic scene that was taking place.
Marge was in one corner of the room, leaning against the wall, her face a ball of agony. A bald man with glasses stood at her side, clutching her hand like a vice. In the other corner was a lifeless corpse stripped naked and already swarming with maggots. His face registered appalled comprehension as he stared at what once was Mrs. Jerry Lundegaard before turning to face his boss.
“How’s it going, Marge?” Lou said in an attempt to sound cheerful.
“How do you think it’s going?” the Jewish man said in a clipped voice. “This woman is in labor here and I am trying to do something about it. If you don’t want to help, then screw you.”
“Who the hell is this creep?”
“Kugelmass is who I am. Now get your ass over here and find something to wrap the baby in. I’m starting to see the head. Or what looks like it.”
Lou started rummaging through a dresser in search of a blanket. Marge let out a final blood-curdling scream as she pushed, collapsing against the wall. Then he heard the most beautiful sound in the world. It was the piercing cry of a newborn baby. Her baby.
“It’s a girl,” Kugelmass exclaimed as he cut the umbilical cord. Lou pulled out a small blanket and threw it to the impatient man, who then carefully placed the infant girl in Marge’s arms. The woman looked up with a quiet smile, only to find that the man known as Kugelmass was gone.
Kugelmass was back in Manhattan. He felt like his heart was about to burst. Suddenly, a look of guilt became etched on his face. The last time he interrupted the life of a fictional character, the world almost came to a sudden end. He was torn between going back and leaving civilization to descend into chaos. A voice in the back of his head, however, told him to forget about the whole thing. So he resolved to experiment with another film.
He went back to his DVD collection, selecting another film at random. Kugelmass then went into the bedroom, replaced the case and squeezed inside. He instantly passed into the Beyman Center in Philadelphia, where the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show was already underway. Kugelmass then realized he was standing right behind the judges. After making sure they were all oblivious to his presence, he sat down and made himself comfortable.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the final seven contenders for the Best in Show title.” Applause filled the cavernous arena as seven trainers led their dogs onto the floor. There was a pointer, a bloodhound, a Siberian husky, a Norwich terrier, a Shih Tzu, a standard poodle and a Shetland sheepdog. Kugelmass reeled in confusion as he noticed the man handling the terrier had two left feet. That could only mean the man was Gerry Fleck. “Good God,” said Kugelmass. “I’m in Best in Show.
“And now, judging our contenders… Sidney Kugelmass.” He rose to his feet, striding onto the floor with confidence. Kugelmass took his time, inspecting each dog once over before instructing the trainer to go around the area. He thought Fleck recognized him, but everything went without a hitch.
After a final debate with Laura Millbank and Graham Chissolm, he walked back onto the floor and motioned to Gerry Fleck as he announced, “The Best in Show title goes to… the Norwich terrier.” When the confetti started to rain down from the ceiling, Kugelmass slipped away into the chaos only to bump into a woman holding a plush toy. The woman, who he knew as Meg Swan, stood in front of a man holding a grey Weimaraner on a leash.
“You’re gonna pay for what you and your friends did!”
“All she wanted was her Busy Bee — ”
“This is your fault, you stupid Jew!”
“What did you call me, you fat hypocrite?” Everything stopped. There was silence. All cameras were on him. But Kugelmass didn’t care. “You dare insult me after abusing your poor dog and passing it off as love? You both disgust me. God will not be pleased with you. And you will burn in Hell.” The press surged towards the mysterious Jewish man, but there was no one there. He had disappeared into thin air.
Kugelmass reentered his apartment in a breathless state. He had altered the course of two motion pictures, and the burden was growing. “I’ll go through one more time,” he said to himself, “and then that’s that. But this time, I want a book.”
Since there was no chance in hell that he would reunite with Emma Bovary, Kugelmass chose something simplistic. He picked a collection of James Thurber’s short stories and placed it in the cabinet before squeezing inside. In an instant, he found himself in Times Square. But this was not the intersection he was accustomed too. This was Times Square in the year 1935.
“You and your daydreams, I can’t stand it anymore!” The shrill voice belonged to a thin woman in a tweed suit, who was berating a short mustached gentleman. “This has gone far enough, Walter. Either you pull yourself together or I’ll make you.” With that, the woman headed into a local drug store and left the man alone. Kugelmass’ eyes widened as he realized where he was. He was in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Kugelmass restrained himself from screaming aloud and walked right over to where Mitty stood. “You, my good man, need to grow a pair,” he said in a voice that nearly caused Mitty to soil himself. Kugelmass realized his error before smiling in return.
“Who are you, Sir?” Mitty asked in a hesitant voice. “Do I know you?”
“Name’s Sidney. But that is not important. I want to help you stand up for yourself. Everyone walks over you and treats you like dirt because you want to do great things. I’m willing to help you… but only after you tell your wife to stick it.”
It was in that moment that Mrs. Mitty exited the drug store with a cigarette in her mouth. “Walter,” she said to him in a condescending voice, “stop fidgeting like a bat and get the car. I have to be at bridge and…”
“No.” Mitty was staring at the egotistical woman he served for the last twenty-five years
“No? What do you mean no?” Mrs. Mitty screeched in anger.
“I mean I am sick and tired of letting you ignore me,” Mitty said with a newfound confidence. “When you do notice my presence, you start slapping my hand about everything I do. And I want you to know that you should go stick it. Goodbye.”
Mrs. Mitty fell to the ground in a dead faint, prompting Kugelmass to grab Mitty’s arm and haul him away. The two men emerged into the loft one second later. Mitty was about to speak when the doorbell rang. Kugelmass opened it to see a curvaceous woman in a trenchcoat.
“This can’t be good,” he said to himself. He knew this woman, and she was about to kill him.
“Like what you see?” the young woman said as she flashed her breasts from beneath her white trenchcoat. Kugelmass looked over at his companion to see a bright light appear in his eyes. “Very much,” Mitty said in a low whisper that only Kugelmass could hear.
“Who are you, sweetheart?” Kugelmass asked in an attempt to keep their relationship a secret.
“Sara,” the woman replied. “And I know you’re bullshitting me.”
“She and I know each other from… around,” Kugelmass explained to Mitty briefly. They had met a week after he became a new man and they hit it off instantly. But a month later, he grew bored. “Sara, this is my good friend Walter Mitty. He’s from out of town. How would you like to show him a good time?”
Sara turned to face him, a small smile curling the corner of her lips. “It would be my pleasure,” she whispered in his ear before raising her hand and slapping him across the face.
“What the hell was that for?” Kugelmass yelled.
Sara gave an innocent shrug as she replied, “You never called me back.”
She pulled off her cheap high-heels and made a dash for the elevator, Mitty close behind. Kugelmass watched them make it to the end of hall before closing the door and allowing them to enter the abyss that was Manhattan. It was all over. The cabinet was no longer weighing down on his conscience. He was content.
Kugelmass heaved a sigh of relief as he sank into a chair. “I learned my lesson this time. I’ll never use that thing again. Too bad other people can’t hear about this…”
Suddenly, an idea came into his mind. An idea that was too perfect to not consider. “If I can’t talk about it,” he said aloud, “maybe I can write about it.” Writing a novel was the perfect way to tell the world about his adventures. He wasn’t going to waste time. He was going to start right this minute.
Kugelmass pulled out his MacBook Pro and opened a blank Word file. He began to type. Within minutes, he was oblivious to everything but his fingers on the keyboard and the words on the screen.
By Sidney Kugelmass
“I remember that day like it was only yesterday. She walked into my life and nothing’s been the same since…”
THREE MONTHS LATER
Kugelmass filled his mug with the last remains of the coffeepot. “Look at me. I’m a shell of a man,” he said aloud. “I write a book and people treat me like I’m an engorged tick.”
Four days after its initial release, Gateway went on to become a commercial flop. Critics from Maine to Washington panned the novel, criticizing everything about it; the plot was cluttered, the characters were shallow and the villain was weak. It was one of the most hated novels in the history of literature. All copies were then removed from bookstores and taken to either second-hand thrift shops or the recycling center, except for five that Kugelmass managed to procure from a flirtatious clerk at Barnes and Noble.
The sound of breaking glass caused him to lose his train of thought. Kugelmass looked up to see a shadowy figure coming in from the fire escape. Startled, he dropped the mug and let it shatter as he raced out of the kitchen. His thoughts instantly focused on going to the last place anyone would look. He was going to the cabinet.
He made it into the bedroom and squeezed inside; making sure the intruder didn’t hear a peep. The rumble of thunder sounded as the doors closed behind him.
Suddenly, the walls began to come apart. Black smoke filled the space. Images began to pass before him, images of other worlds. Emma Bovary’s estate was rising out of the remedial Spanish wasteland as Minnesota’s snow-covered landscapes consumed the Beyman Center. They were all folding in on one another.
Kugelmass felt like he could no longer breathe. His life was literally flashing before his eyes. His heart was beating faster with every passing second.
Then the world went dark.
One week later, Ruth Goldberg – an 80-year-old woman who lived with her cats Padme, Dahlia, and Hudson – called 9-1-1 after noticing her neighbor’s front door was ajar. When a uniform arrived to investigate, he found nothing of interest. Until he saw what was in the bedroom.
A red-lacquered Chinese cabinet stood against the wall, its doors wide open and its interior filled with several copies of a hardcover novel. Noticing that the top one was open to the cover page, the uniform leaned in closer. That was when he saw the lone sentence written in black ink.
Sidney Kugelmass Is Dead
Sidney Kugelmass – and all other plot lines and characters related to The Kugelmass Episode – are property of Woody Allen.
Marge Gunderson and Gaer Grimsrud – and all other plot lines and characters related to Fargo – are property of the Coen Brothers and Gramercy Pictures.
Gerry Fleck and Meg Swan – and all other plot lines and characters related to Best in Show – are property of Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment and Christopher Guest.
Walter Mitty – and all other plot lines and characters related to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – are property of James Thurber.
All characters and plot lines are not my own.