So today (Wednesday the 3rd of this brave new world of 2018) I had a mental healthcare appointment to keep (no emergencies — in fact, I’ve been feeling better than I have for the past 3 or 4 years). I first set up these appointments when the family car was working, but because I am a prescient prophet capable of seeing that driving 20 year old cheap beater cars means we’ll be carless from time to time when one dies, I chose a practice in walking distance.
And of course it’s winter when the car chooses to die, the jerky little bastard. And of course the Earth’s hat of cold air has lately slipped rakishly to the side and we’re under all that fine polar air right now while the precious icecap continues melting in frickin January.
But the walk isn’t so bad because it’s over freezing unlike the walk I had to take for yesterday’s appointment, and the legacy of a Wisconsin childhood is knowing how to dress for cold. Only my cane hand gets truly cold, and maybe my nose.
My appointment was on one side of a rectangular route with one of the two grocery stores in walking distance on the other side of it on the way home, so instead of taking the shorter route back home I figured I’d stop by the store as long as I was already walking and pick up a few odds and ends like some apples and pears for the children who, I am very happy to report, can chow fresh fruit like champions and do at every opportunity. Yay, nutrition!
I wasn’t planning on picking up enough things to justify taking along the collapsible cart I recently bought thanks to my Patreon patrons, so I brought an empty backpack. All good. Planning ahead.
But what I did not plan on — and I should have known better given my past experience as a manager in the grocery biz — was the forecast of 8-12 inches of snow in the forecast for tonight (there’s a bit less than an inch on the ground as I type this, and the snow is beginning to come down again after taking a break for nightfall) and what it would mean for my mission.
In Norfolk, Virginia where close proximity to the ocean gentles the temperatures, this is a MASSIVE BLIZZARD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE OH GOD.
The grocery store was clotted with swarms of half-crazed customers. Like, a no shopping carts available, I got one of the last 6 or 7 handbaskets swarm of shoppers — and at that point, not a single snowflake had fallen yet.
Ew, a handbasket. I don’t like using them anymore, because they unbalance me due to my limp and bone-on-bone hip, and I already limp heavily enough even with the cane thankyouverymuch.
I almost decided to say screw it and head home. But, the kids want apples. And the wife’s upset tummy craves full-sugar Coca Cola (which horrifies me; as my grandma’s good little boy I cleave to her teaching that 7-Up is the magic tonic that soothes all ills).
So I shop.
Weather panics are weird.
Some of it is predictable. Half the bread aisle is blown out, as it always is when bad weather threatens. Apparently there’s something about blizzards and hurricanes and nor’easters that makes people crave sandwiches and toast.
The bottled water is also half blown out. Because if anything is scarce during a blizzard, it’s water which is LAYING ALL OVER THE GROUND A FOOT THICK JUST SHOVEL A FEW DRINKS INTO A BUCKET AND BRING IT IN TO THAW FER CRISSAKE. Also, since when does a blizzard knock out the water supply? Your pipes shouldn’t be freezing, because you should be running your water if it’s that damn cold. And the snow will insulate the crawlspace under your home. It’ll actually be warmer under there than it has the last 3 or 4 nights with the cold snap.
And, this is the one that really gets me, and I’ve seen it before (and it’s weirder than anything else I’ve seen in a storm except the guy who bought a whole cart full of frozen dinners because he was afraid the hurricane would knock out his electricity, or the woman who bought two dozen (!!) gallons of milk, also in the teeth of an approaching hurricane. WTF!) — the meat case is also half blown out. The hamburger is GONE. And three customers are standing next to the empty hamburger shelf asking each other if there’s any more hamburger anywhere else and when will the butcher bring out more hamburger?
People, if the blizzard comes and knocks out your power, I assume some of you have gas stoves. But not all of you! Are you planning on crouching in your dark living room gnawing a pack of raw hamburger like Gollum gnawing a fish? Do you figure hamburger will cook itself up if you toss it into one of the snowdrifts in your front yard?
Is there something about a snowstorm that demands you start a cookout?
Is there some theory I’ve never heard of that says you can save yourself from freezing to death if your home is heatless by covering yourself with ground beef?
People are weird.
This is part 2 of 3 — if you just arrived and would like to read this story from the beginning, click HERE.
“Election night 2020… never thought it would come to this,” Trump said behind his hand, not realizing he’d spoken aloud until the aides on either side of him turned their heads a notch, caught themselves, and swiveled their heads back to look as far from him as possible.
He’d been slipping out of character more often in the last year. The White House chef had asked him after New Years’ just what on earth one man could be doing with half a pound of powdered tumeric a week. “Mind your goddamn business and don’t run out,” Trump had snapped, and the chef had looked at him… looked at him…
…like his supporters looked at him at rallies. Wide eyes. Half-open mouth. High color on the cheeks—the chef’s of puzzlement and embarrassment, the supporters of excitement, the smell of blood. How they’d looked at him after Tehran, after the bombing run, long-range stealth bombers in the night raining bunker busters and incendiaries on the head of their Supreme Leader and President. Gnashing teeth, howling mouths, demanding the same for Mexico City who still hadn’t coughed up a single thin peso for the tall cinderblock and razor wire wall that stretched from Gulf to Pacific or for the maintenance of the army divisions patrolling it.
Nobody on the right had dared to challenge his nomination for a second term except for a handful of real far-outers, flat-earth-conspiracy-theorists and fluoride-chemtrail-Illuminatists and people who thought Ayn Rand was a bleeding heart leftist lib. Out of that handful, three had been found dead, two in rivers tied to heavy objects and one in a swampy ditch with a skunk stuffed down his pants and the pants held shut with zip ties.
The skunk would have gotten out if the paranoid hadn’t been in the habit of wearing kevlar clothes. The left—the Democrats floated a throwaway candidate, angling for 2024, if it came. And the rest of that wing, well, after Bernie nobody quite had the heart to give it a real try again. At least his followers kept the hate verbal to that side of the political fence; old habits die hard; the worst violence usually comes from inside the house. Nobody on the left had their nether regions clawed off by a skunk, thank goodness.
The non-emergency secure line rang. Trump nodded at the aide on his right, who got up and answered.
“Comedy Central is calling it,” the aide said after listening for a moment.
“Yeah? Sun’s not even down. Not surprised, not with the polls,” Trump said, voice flat and slow. Because of that flatness, rumors had been going around for months: the President is fighting chronic fatigue, maybe it’s cancer and it’s being kept secret, Trump’s old and pushing too hard, not delegating enough. The rumors hadn’t scared off any votes.
“Sixty-three percent of the popular vote, they’re projecting. Bigger even than FDR and LBJ. Biggest win in the history of the country, sir,” the aide said, awe creeping into her voice.
Trump was dead tired of awe. “Thanks, Ysabel,” he said. “Why don’t you two hand off and go downstairs, grab a bite? I’ll call down to the chef, tell him to give you my surf and turf.”
“You okay, Mister President?” Ysabel asked, hesitating.
“Just not hungry. Tired. Knew this would happen anyway, it’s no surprise. Gonna get a full night if I can, have to be up for the cameras tomorrow. You know. Night,” he said, and turned his back, locked himself in his private bedroom, crawled into bed shoes and all.
“Don’t know what the hell I’m going to do now,” he whispered to the ceiling, and closed his eyes.
Part 3 will be posted Friday (and this notice will become a link to it) — see you then!
It has been quite a while since I posted anything in serial form here. So here’s something new.
I wrote this one with three scenes, so I will post it in three parts: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The entirety is about 2500 words, so each installment should be a nice little read fit for a coffee break.
Update, Saturday — Now that all 3 parts are posted, LINKS TO THE EBOOK VERSION ARE POSTED ON PART 3. Go straight there if you’d like the ebook, or just go ahead and read through here, THEN get the ebook. Your choice!
Please — enjoy.
The Last Trump
(A Farce of Politics)
Act 1 of 3
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:26
King James Bible
The candidate, after looking back, forth, back to ensure no cameras were pointed in his direction (here, there never were, but he always looked even so), fidgeted. With a sterling fork he pushed an uneaten bite of his midnight snack around the plate. The plate was plain white, catering standard. He frowned at it. Too plain. With a jerk of his fingers, he shoved the blob of lobster he’d been torturing over. Fat black caviar grains and an autumnal cascade of gold flake spilled from the top. He set the fork down on the table, click, and crushed a salty fish egg into a smear of oil with a fingertip, which he licked.
“She should have seceded by now,” he misspoke. Nobody corrected him. “She’s a loser, a weak baby loser feee-male. Should have given up the second I was nominated. Ha. Ha.” His head glided side to side like the eye of an old-school Cylon, sweeping the campaign war room full of red eyes, half-unknotted ties, crumpled napkins, and five o’clock shadow. Where his gaze fell, heads nodded, lips smiled, throats pushed up a boil of plastic laughs.
He went back to torturing the lobster bite. His team went back to paying attention to the bank of televisions on the far wall, each displaying a different news channel. At the front of the room, a couple of interns clicked mice, refreshing news sites over and over. Trump’s fork clicked his plate. Click. The interns clicked mice. Click-click—clickclick. Somewhere a toe tapped a scuffed vibram sole on the leg of a folding table. Tap, tap. A round generic clock high up on the wall counted seconds. Tick-tick-tick. Time passed.
“CNN!” one of the mouseclicking interns shouted, and the clicking-tapping-ticking disappeared. Someone cranked the volume on the CNN TV.
“…again, calling California for Donald Trump, who we project will be the 45th President of the United States of America…”
Whoops and applause drowned out the audio. Smiling, nodding, not speaking, knowing he couldn’t be heard over the celebration, Trump retreated to his quiet room, a refurbished walk-in supply closet. He flicked the lights-fan switch, closed the heavy steel door, ignored the overstuffed chair and facepalmed.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he mumbled. Fished in his pocket, pulled out a bottle of tumeric capsules, cracked one open on the table. He made a thin yellowy-brown line of it on the little laptop table beside the chair with a black AmEx and tooted it in one fell snort through a rolled Benjamin. “Whuhh,” he said, shaking his head as the—for him—drug opened his eyes and detached his reality from the world just enough for him to set his shaken persona firmly back in place.
“The show must go on,” he mouthed to himself, and opened the door. The cheers had died down to backslaps and energized chatter. On CNN a pair of announcers, now ignored, were finding out how many different ways they could re-hash “Trump won.”
“What did I tell you? I’m YUUGE! President Trump! America! Did someone order the letters? I want my name right dead up the middle of the Washington Monument the second I get my hands on a pen. Gold! With lights! Rename it. George Washington is old news, I like my monuments to be about TODAY’S President. I got some executive orders to write, starting with that one. Maybe the second one will be that wall around Mexico I promised. Trump keeps his promises! But first—I promised everyone champagne, who’s got the bubbles?”
After making the rounds for a couple of hours shaking hands, knowing the party, once started, would persist on its own inertia until the sun was well and truly up on Trump’s USA, Trump chose his moment and retreated to his quiet room again. He bolted it, dimmed the lights, loosened his tie, kicked off his shoes, and reclined in the baby-soft leather recliner.
“What a bunch of idiots there are on this podunk rock,” he said to the ceiling, closed his eyes, and was asleep in seconds.
END PART 1
Our perceptions are WAY more dependent on our expectations and preconceptions than we like to think.
Do you think, perhaps, that this extends beyond food to our social and political worlds? I’m wondering, too, how it has colored my perception of short stories and novels I’ve liked or disliked in the past.
This is a fun little story about a very strange event that happens in the middle of the night in rural Florida, on a long drive. There is no banjo music involved — get your mind out of the Deliverance gutter. No, this is something different, something entirely beyond human control and maybe beyond human understanding.
The title reference… well, I’d rather not explain it until someone gets it. Guesses are welcome in the comments. 🙂
You can pick up a copy at Smashwords. It will be available from other retailers in the right sidebar in 1-2 weeks. Maybe faster; distribution has gotten smoother lately.
Today, one of the bigger Twitter flaps… and apparently a flap in general among USA right-political-wing conservative types of the blogosphere… has been that today, on Easter, Google has an image of Cesar Chavez in honor of Cesar Chavez Day (March 31) instead of something Easter-y in favor of Easter. So there has been a great cry for conservatives to shun Google and flock to the proud conservative banner of Bing, which page is displaying an array of Easter eggs today.
Which makes me chuckle. Here’s why:
One: this flap is partially religious in nature, and although Cesar Chavez was definitely politically left and therefore conservatives in general aren’t big fans of him, he was quite the religious sort and worked closely with his fellow Christians who did agree with his politics and stated time and time again that his inspiration in activism was Jesus Christ. Now, I’m not a religious guy at all and I don’t share the beliefs that Cesar Chavez held, but I have great respect for what he did with his religious beliefs. He said he believed in a figure who told his followers to respect and care for the less fortunate, and to act with love and peace, and he walked the walk; he didn’t just talk a good game. He lived it. I respect his self-honesty and I respect his attempt to be good to other humans—he seems to have done a pretty good job at it. So here we have the spectacle of Christians on Twitter talking trash about a guy who tried to live his Christianity, over politics. That’s a nice start.
Two: Bing is displaying Easter eggs. Well, those are a pagan symbol of fertility associated with the pagan festival of Eostre. Yep, that symbol, along with the fertile bunny, got carried along with the Christian Easter holiday. But it’s certainly not Christian. While the right wing of Twitter is complaining that Google doesn’t have a Christian display today, well, Bing doesn’t either.
Three: Bing is a Microsoft company. Bill Gates is the founder and current chairman of Microsoft. Bill Gates is an atheist and both he and Microsoft have made donations in support of campaigns to gain legal recognition for gay marriages—notoriously a cause that conservative US Christians are opposed to.
So Bing it up, guys. You make me laugh so hard.
- While Google honors Cesar Chavez, Bing delivers Easter eggs (twitchy.com)
- Glenn Beck angry at Google for Chavez Doodle instead of Easter (news.cnet.com)
- Cesar Chavez Google doodle has some saying, “What about Easter?” (nbclatino.com)
- Angry Twitterers Are Threatening To Switch To Bing After Google Honors Labor Leader Cesar Chavez On Easter (embargozone.com)
- Google’s Doodle Features American Labor Leader Cesar Chavez On Easter Sunday, Users Retaliate On Twitter (techcrunch.com)
- Google’s Cesar Chavez Logo Insults Christians On Easter (seroundtable.com)
- It’s Cesar Chavez, You Idiots! Not Hugo! (lolwutpolitics.wordpress.com)
- 15 People Who Think Google Is Honoring Hugo Chávez (buzzfeed.com)