In late 2004 and the early winter of 2005, Richard Cooley left approximately 100 voicemails on the answering machine of Patrick and Nancy Boson as the depraved dog groomer Rory Thibodeaux. Despite a majority of these voicemails being left in a state of glowing intoxication, they create a cohesive, thrilling narrative about one man’s lonely quest to wash, trim, and masturbate Henry, the Bosons’ fey and cowardly Papillon. Cooley has known the Bosons for years.
The normally unassuming Cooley, who is a high school music teacher in Lake Charles, found solace and refuge in Rory Thibodeaux, a caricature of savagery and lust, perversity and contempt, gleeful amoralism, and a nostalgic entrepreneurial spirit.
These selected voicemails have been transcribed by Mr. Cooley’s close friends in order to preserve a doubtlessly unique era in his life. With the resolve of a new year, he has decided to quit drinking “once and for all.” Naturally, this means the death of Rory Thibodeaux, who will be mourned, most of all by the Bosons. They looked forward to each new chapter of what would become a transnational, then transglobal, epic, often shooting tequila or sharing a marijuana cigarette as the recordings played back. For both the reticent Cooley and the more sociable Bosons, Thibodeaux’s misadventures served as a singular distraction from the anxieties of modern American life.
NOTE ON THE TRANSCRIPTION: Rory Thibodeaux affects the accent of a drunken Southern dandy continually aghast at the state of the world. Two additional characters make their debuts in these voicemails: Clarence Kilgore and Detective Harold Malabar. Kilgore is essentially a poor impersonation of Peter Lorre. Malabar’s characterization, and in particular his adamant cadence, is based on the testimony offered by Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator, when he was first tried for genocide by a special tribunal.
October 19, 23:14
Hey folks, Rory Thibodeaux from Petco here. Just wanted to call our select customers and let them know we got a grooming special on. I took the liberty of making an appointment for Henry at 5:00 this Saturday. Now the grooming special does involve manual stimulation, which shocks some people, but I saw you two walking around the store last week and I thought, “Now they look like progressive, open-minded folks.” The top veterinarian researchers all agree that manual stimulation is good for the dogs. It’s very safe and has been written about in all the best, peer-reviewed pet care journals. I’ll be taking care of Henry personally. I’ve been reading up on Papillons and their cute little batons of pleasure. Now I just want to clarify, because you wouldn’t frankly believe the idiots who come in here and ask me this, but yes I am going to masturbate Henry first, then shampoo him. I mean, isn’t that just common sense? What has the world come to?
October 24, 17:34
Well hello. It’s Rory Thibodeaux here. From Petco, goddammit. I’m just trying to go above and beyond for you folks, because you’ve been such good customers. I was under the impression you loved Henry, but maybe I was wrong. I might just be a simple dog groomer who escaped a life of prostitution and debauchery in Acadiana, but I know this: even dogs need to get off. Henry needs me to masturbate him, desperately, and whether or not I in turn become aroused is completely irrelevant. This isn’t about me, which is difficult for me to admit since I am in love with myself, according to my mother. It’s about Henry’s health and well-being. All I have to say is shame on you both. I guess you folks were too busy with your quinoa and your craft beer to take the time to bring Henry in today for his salvation at literally my hand.
October 26, 10:31
Ah yes, this is a message for Patrick and Nancy Boson. My name is Clarence Kilgore, I’m the general manager at the Petco here in Lake Charles. I’m calling to apologize about the behavior of one of our former employees, Rory Thibodeaux. As you probably know by now, Mr. Thibodeaux is a very disturbed and deranged individual. I’m deeply sorry that he’s been harassing you for the last several days. We terminated him as soon as we became aware of the situation. I also want to assure you that Mr. Thibodeaux’s claim that Petco encourages its groomers to sexually stimulate dogs is completely false. I feel very bad about the whole situation and would like to take you folks out to a nice dinner, so we can put this unrest behind us. We’ll have a couple of bottles of red wine and see where the evening takes us. You have been described by those in my employ as an attractive couple. I look forward to dining with you both, though I surely favor the male humor and organ. If you are worried about social fallout, I should let you know I live on a boat and can take us far into the Gulf of Mexico or even the Southern Hemisphere, where our lovemaking will not be judged. Mrs. Boson, may I take the liberty of assuming you can operate a video camera and will serve as a faithful documentarian of your husband’s coy ingestion of my member?
November 1, 01:05
Hey folks, Rory Thibodeaux here. No longer of Petco. Listen, I know the last time we spoke I lost my temper. I apologize. I’ve been under a lot of pressure. The management has been on my ass about masturbating dogs. They don’t care that I have science on my side. I can’t stand the lack of reason. I’m happy to let you know I’m striking out on my own. So come on down to Pappy’s Bar and Grill around 3:00 next Saturday afternoon. You’ll find me out back in the parking lot. I’ve got a little grooming station set up in my Volkswagen Type 2. Rory Thibodeaux is a small business owner!
November 24, 14:24
Well, hello. Hello, Pat. Hello, Nance. Sorry to be so informal but I am rather drunk. Drunk and gloriously naked. I’m on the top floor of The Roosevelt Hotel. It’s a cold Manhattan evening but it’s terribly warm in this penthouse, so I’ve stripped down to nothing and have cooled myself down by rubbing my genitals against the window, like a lizard or sultry turtle. I’m in New York all week taking meetings with various venture capitalists. My dog grooming business has become quite profitable and all the captains of finance want me as a dance partner, proverbially and otherwise. I feel that were it not for our relationship and your noble, if misguided, refusal to let me masturbate Henry, I would not be as driven as I was to make a name for myself, to prove to you both how simpleminded you truly are. All this champagne and caviar, my private chalet in the Swiss Alps, my cattle ranch in Montana, all my helipads inlaid with marble and gold and diamonds smuggled to civilization in the small intestines of African slave-children, I owe it all to you.
Cooley, a reserved and polite man in public, could only access Thibodeaux’s hedonism after consuming a liter of whiskey and a dozen raw oysters. This process caused a series of hangovers and stomach problems which left Cooley suicidal and incontinent on most mornings. By late November Cooley had grown totally disillusioned with his Cajun alter ego.
Realizing he had no other recourse but to kill Thibodeaux, Cooley conceived of a final act which brings to bear his most arresting symbolism and sexually frank imagery. Orgies are described at length: the parade of painted human genitals, the unholy conscription of animals. At Cooley’s insistence, the accounts of these orgies have not been transcribed. Still, they exist on the master tapes, held and enjoyed by the Family Boson.
The voicemail from January 14 establishes the canonical demise of Endeavour “Rory” Thibodeaux.
December 27, 8:01
I am calling you from a sizable, sovereign, privately owned, titanium-hulled, floating island in the Caribbean. When I sold my pet grooming business to J.P. Morgan, I was made fabulously wealthy, with enough money to become a nation unto myself. As the salt air fills my lungs, so too will it be exhaled by a God and King. But as I look out upon my stockades and mangroves, with flocks of wild, colorful birds as far as the eye can see, as I look in every direction and see young men and women copulating for my amusement in silk hammocks slung from rubber trees, I do not feel the sublime. There is an impurity in this place. My sense of awe is corrupted by a powerful sliver of remorse: that for all I have conquered and all I have mastered, I still have not felt Henry’s member in the throbbing palm of my hand. Omnipotence and wealth, to live forever in the gilded memory of my concubines, I would trade all of this immeasurable glory for Henry and his impertinent half-smile.
January 7, 17:01
This is Rory Thibodeaux. A deadly venereal disease has stricken my island harem. Hundreds have perished. They say that through my misrule and self-indulgence I have brought this plague upon them, and that I am a false god. From among their number has emerged a preacher who calls himself Ezra Brooks and he claims that he is the Messiah and that he is the representative of God’s vengeance on Earth. He has told his followers that the human race can only be saved if I am impaled and flung into the sea. It is not enough for me to abdicate my throne and proclaim myself a fraud. He has vowed to hunt me to the ends of the earth, as if I were Eichmann or Bugs Bunny. Knowing I have only a little time to live, I must return to Lake Charles to finally hold Henry in my arms, and at last know real triumph. I will be at your doorstep in a week’s time.
January 14, 00:00
Good morning, this is Detective Harold Malabar of the Lake Charles Police. I regret to inform you that Rory Thibodeaux was found in a drainage ditch, garroted. Mr. Thibodeaux had your phone number tattooed on his lower back. He has no next of kin. In fact, I am having a difficult time finding any proof that Mr. Thibodeaux existed in this world, beyond his corpse in the city morgue and a Blockbuster membership card in his name. I will need to interview both of you as part of my investigation. Since he did not know anyone else in town, I am obliged to suspect that one or both of you are somehow involved in his murder, and frankly, I commend your stylish method. I have not encountered a garroted body in decades, not since my time in Rio when I used piano wire rather liberally as an agent of the Brazilian Board of Tourism. The irony of the world coming full circle is not lost on me. I will thank you in advance for your cooperation and surrender, though I must know your motive, or there can be no justice. Thibodeaux, with no history of violence, with a peaceful countenance in death, seemed like an innocent human being. Rest assured, I will discover why you extinguished his flame. Or perhaps there is no sane explanation you can offer for your crimes. Being one in a professional capacity, I am of course no stranger to psychopaths.
And so concludes the tragic story of Rory Thibodeaux. Cooley is at work, finally, on a concerto for violin. His sheet music is stained with tobacco and black coffee, and he rarely drinks anymore. Still, there is the perfectly preserved Thibodeaux Cycle. The Bosons play it at major gatherings. Cooley doesn’t mind and as he gets cautiously tipsy on cherry liqueur, near the end of the evening he shouts along with Thibodeaux’s most popular refrain to everyone’s delight: “Henry, Henry, my love, rise from your low animal station and pick up the phone!”
The Rory Thibodeaux Society
Lake Charles, March 2005