“Please come down to my office right now, I really need to talk with you.”
     There was a pause while the other party thought it over.
     “You’re not lying on the floor naked are you, Cass?”
     “Geez Joy, of course not,” he said irritably in the direction of the speakerphone.  “But actually, what do you care? You are my mistress,” he added winningly.
     “Not on the carpet in your office, I’m not,” said Joy.
     His Enormity, Mayor Cass Tamberlaine, was in the throes of an idea and desperately desired a second opinion.  It was three a.m.—the hour at which Cass invariably got his best ideas.  It was not, unfortunately, the hour at which Joy Pommery felt best disposed to listen to them.
     “Very well,” she told him wearily.  “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
     Cass switched off the phone and paced the deep-pile sea on which, at one end of the room, his desk sat marooned like a derelict freighter.  He went to the window to look out at the grimy city, sparkling, in what he always felt was an over-compensatory way, with twinkling lights.  Lights going wink wink wink all night long. 
     The lights always irritated him.  In burning through the darkness, in so effortlessly rising above it, they always seemed to possess some kind of secret and superior knowledge—as if they were little twinkling minds.  Maddening sprights of light—the city’s fireflies.  A million little pinpricks of conscience.
     “Alright,” he muttered out loud to himself, turning away from the window, “so I smoke too much and eat too much and am okay a little bit heavier than I should to be and, yes, am grateful once in a while for the artificial liftoff certain chemical compounds provide, surely that’s not enough to piss off the public, is it?  Beyond Reality TV shows and fried foods, people don’t know what the hell they what anyhow!”
     He went over to the mirror on the bathroom door and took another look.  Of course he didn’t like what he saw there.  He never liked what he saw.  He was indisputably a mountain of a man—a mountain that was soft and tumbledown, billowed, not a mountain that was hard and craggy.  He looked as if he were melting.
     “I’ve got to get in shape,” he said to his always unsympathetic reflection, a reflection that, he felt, invariably sneered back at him whenever he talked to it.  There was no help anywhere.
     Except that Joy was coming.
     “Godammit where is she anyhow?” he asked his empty office, and, receiving no reply beyond the disgruntled conch-shell roar of the shadowy, unused spaces through which he sluggishly paced, day after day, night after night, like a caged hippo, he threw himself disconsolately onto the floor.
     Lying there, bereft of comfort, unsustained by ideas or insight, Cass felt three quite different things all at the same time.  First, he felt, once again, like taking all his clothes off.   Second, he felt like having a big bucket of white chocolate ice cream.  And third, he wanted to feel the cool hand of Joy Pommery gently wiping his copiously perspiring forehead with his pocket handkerchief and whispering to him that all would be well.
      How could all—or anything at all—be well?  Someone one was, after all, trying to kill him.  He thought again about the horrible, beautifully painted death threats that had been sent to him—and were now stacked in one of his desk drawers.  To tell the truth, he couldn’t decide whether to give them to the police or have them framed and hung on the walls.
     But he did have this one idea, and he wanted to see what Joy felt about it.  If she ever turned up.
     Happily, at just that exact moment, there was a dainty knock—or maybe it was a weary knock—at the office door, after which Joy let herself in.
     “Joy!  Thank God!”
     “Glad to see me, are you?” she smiled at him.  “I sort of half expected to find you lying naked on the floor with a hopeless erection!”
     “Well, it almost came to that,” he told her. 
     “You said you had an idea you wanted to run past me.”
     “That’s right,” he told her. “Look at these.”
      He went to his desk and came back with three or four glossy-looking pamphlets.
     “What do you think of these?”
     Joy glanced at them.
     “Isolation tanks?” she asked.
     “Flotation tanks.  I think to float sounds more appealing than to be isolated.
     “What do you want with one of these?” Joy asked him.  “They’re sensory deprivation tanks.  They’re filled with warm water and Epsom salts and you get into the tank nude and somebody closes the lid and you float face-up in the dark and you can’t see anything, or hear anything or smell anything or feel anything.  Cass, you’d go mad in three minutes!  You’d be clawing and scratching to get out, screaming a dead, echoless scream like some overweight version of one of those Edgar Allan Poe buried-alive stories!”
     Cass looked crestfallen.
     “I thought it’d be good for my nerves,” he told her.
     “It’d probably introduce you to nerves you didn’t even know you had!” said Joy.
     “Well I’ve got a lot on my mind, Joy,” said Cass, “and I need some relief.  I need to calm down.  These things are supposed to help.”
     “I just can’t see one working for you, Cass.”
     “Well, anyway I want to give it a shot.”
     “Where are you going to put the damned thing?”
     “I thought right here in my office.”
     “You’re going to have to smuggle it in.  And it’s going to be as big as a Volkswagen!
     “Why will I have to smuggle it in?”
     “Because,” Joy told him patiently, marvelling once again at his lack of political savvy, “it isn’t a good idea for the already beleaguered citizens of Toronto to picture their mayor, naked, floating heavily like an iceberg in a closed, black, coffin-like box, whiling away his mayoralty time dreaming ancient dreams of nothingness in the dark.”
    “Okay so they don‘t have to know.”
    “Much better they shouldn’t,” said Joy.