Life in soapland

Russell Baker

September 25, 1991|By Russell Baker

TODAY'S soap summaries:

"Moby Dick": Ishmael finally persuades Captain Ahab's widow to go to the beach with him. His courtship suffers a setback, however, when they come upon Starbuck's distraught nephew Sunbuck building a sand castle. Sunbuck accuses Ishmael of inventing the story of the Pequod's destruction-by-whale out of the whole cloth for sinister purposes. Ahab and Stubb, still at the bottom of the well where Ishmael put them, make up after Stubb promises to quit telling peg-leg jokes. A mysterious whale beaches itself in Nantucket harbor. Queequeg, searching for Mrs. Ahab's house to warn her against Ishmael, is seized by immigration authorities and faces deportation.

"Anna Karenina": Anna's husband comes to the hospital to identify Anna's body and has coffee and a heart-to-heart chat with Nurse Olga. Count Vronsky and Anna, making love in a rental dacha, are interrupted by a blackmailer threatening to tell Count Tolstoy that Anna pushed her identical twin sister under a train. Anna's husband has another cup of coffee and tells Nurse Olga he has loved her ever since the first cup. Doctors prepare to drain fluid from the brain of Vronsky's twin brother, Count Fronsky, in an effort to cure his stutter.

"Huckleberry Finn": The strange infection contracted by Tom and Huck while using a dead cat to remove their warts produces dramatic personality changes. They plot to sell Becky Thatcher into white slavery. Aunt Polly's midnight rendezvous with Jim on Jackson's Island gets complicated when she finds herself, instead, embracing Injun Joe's twin brother, Injun Jack. Judge Thatcher tells Mrs. Thatcher he is gay.

"Dracula": The jury finds Dr. Van Helsing guilty of driving a stake through the heart of a dead count. Mrs. Van Helsing faints and is taken to the hospital. She wakens to find herself having coffee with a Count Fronsky, who has just had his brain fluid drained. In Transylvania, Count Dracula's long-dead twin brother Count Malcula stirs to life when a prearranged signal -- bat wings flapping against his crypt -- brings news that his brother is done for. Serving three to seven years for grave desecration, Van Helsing gets word through a werewolf howl that Count Malcula is and about, and plots to escape prison by disguising himself as a pizza delivery man.

"Ulysses": Molly sends a note to Stephen asking him to bring her a lamb kidney. Stephen summons the spirit of his dead mother to ask what the note means. Blazes Boylan overhears the conversation and confronts Molly in a jealous rage. They make love, and she tells Blazes she now loves only Stephen. Boylan collapses in deep amnesia. Leopold Bloom, having whipped his impotence problem with years of therapy, buys Gertie McDowell a Rolls-Royce to show all Ireland who the Mister Moneybags of Dublin advertising is. Gertie stalls the Rolls on a railroad track and wrecks the Dublin express. Two guards taking a man to prison are killed. Their prisoner walks unhurt from the wreckage. He is Leopold Bloom's evil twin, Marcellus Bloom.

"A Tale of Two Cities": Coup de Cheveux, the executioner who took a bribe to use the foam rubber blade on Sidney Carton, arrives at London General Hospital suffering amnesia. Robespierre bursts into the amnesia room and accuses Count Fronsky of hiding a traitor. Mrs. Charles Darnay answers a knock at her bedroom door expecting her regular afternoon caller, the reformed drunk Dr. Sidney Carton. Things get complicated when she finds she is embracing, instead, Injun Jack. Back at the hospital Dr. Carton is preparing to drain more fluid from Count Fronsky's brain, hoping it may persuade him to go home. Since Robespierre bears a startling resemblance to the count, things get complicated when the top Jacobin finds himself strapped to the operating table and the brain-draining machines starting to hum.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock": It is J. Alfred's annual beach stroll in celebration of the therapy which gave him the courage not only to eat a peach but to walk upon the beach. He meets a youth named Sunbuck who pleads for help get Captain Ahab out of a well. Assuming Sunbuck has amnesia, Alfred takes him to the hospital. In a room where women come and go the putative Widow Ahab agrees to meet Ishmael behind the arras. Things get complicated when she finds herself, instead,

embracing Injun Jack.

Russell Baker is a columnist for the New York Times.

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