Inauguration At The Apocalypse
“So here’s what I’m thinkin’,” Phillip began, eyeing his audience of two. (A certain pedestrian was missing.)
This is not how they had intended to spend the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. But it was good, cold and confined fun. And tenuous, for the tree limb fatalities and collapse of power lines, seemingly occurring everywhere but where the trio were. Massive generator explosions, vanishing electricity, and much chaos elsewise. Deaths, even, as at least they’d heard (somehow radio had survived).
Bruce Dvorak and Jon Daniel Pilgrim sat studying the empty coffee can. They’d heard from somewhere warmer that you could turn one into a space heater.
“Parker Farkus,” Phillip proposed.
“Naw, man,” said Jon Daniel Pilgrim.
Unimpressed. The gang had been playing their version of the name game since before the storm, but the stakes grew higher as names like Kurt Turley, or say,
“You can do better than that.”
Jondie gave up on the husbandry project and looked to Bruce for approval. Bruce caught these eyes and said,
“Meh. I don’t know, Boodgie. ‘Parker Fucking Farkus’? Pretty good.”
“Naw, guys, we can do better,” Jondie insisted.
“Well you fucking think of one, Boudreaux!” snapped Phillip.
“Game. The fuck. On, baby boy!” Jondie accepted. “Let’s see...” Jondie surveyed the items in the room. He swigged violent at a bottle of red wine, as if to prove something. With his forearm he wiped the drippings clear of him.
He screwed the lid back on.
“Rand. Fucking. Hammer,” he pitched.
“’I’m Rand Fucking Hammer, bitch’?” said Bruce, trying it out. “Naw, I think Parker Fuggin’ Farkus wins that round.” To meditate, he tossed the empty coffee can from one lanky hand to the other. The method had produced some decent monikers.
“But Brody!” Jondie said (to Bruce) as he depicted a small child. He reached, and yanked at one of Bruce’s curly locks, blond and shoulder length. “It’s the fucking hammer!”
“Damn it, Boudreaux,” Phil intervened on the Bruce’s behalf. He knew Dvorak was too kind a lion to swat flies. “Leave ol’ Brody alone. You’re bein’ a god damn Brendan,” he said. The name gave him pause. It gave Bruce pause.
It gave Jon Daniel Pilgrim an idea.
“Hey, what’s Brendan’s last name?” Jondie asked, thinking it might could make for a good round.
“Uh, Bruce?” said Phillip, “You’ve known Mount Saint Big Fella longer than either of us.”
“Turley,” said Bruce, looking up from his lap. His eyes had retreated there at first ‘Brendan.’ He squinted, as if the sun were in his eyes, and fidgeted into a ponytail his golden hair.
With a yank, Phillip revoked Jondie’s bottle priveleges.
He frothed deep and mild, “Way to ruin that snow day, Jondie.”
“What?” Jondie shot back. “It was you who asked him.”
“But you’re the one who actually said his name,” said Phillip sharply. He’d begun to overheat.
“Oh, dude! That was totally you who...”
“Fellas,” Bruce cut in. “Ladbros, gentleguys, come on noooow. It’s not like he’s dead.” He reminded them of this a bit singsongy, as if speaking patiently with a stranger’s errant children. “And even if he were,” Bruce continued, consistent with the pattern of dropping the last word’s pitch before pausing, “we’d still call his name.”
“I mean,” Jon Daniel Pilgrim explained, “all I said was ‘Brendan.’ Actually...” he said, pausing to make sure he was being truthful. “Actually it was Phil who said ‘Brendan.’ And that’s just his brother’s name anyway, not his own.”
“Half brother,” Bruce corrected.
“Oh for reals?” Pilgrim squeaked. “I thought they were full on bros. With a ‘z’.”
“No way, man,” answered Phillip. “Different Dads.”
“Oh, well they look just alike, don’t you think? Brendan and ol’ Junior?”
“They totally have Paquita’s face,” Phillip agreed. “You know, we might as well laugh about it,” he suggested. “If bestie-since-birth Brody doesn’t mind.”
“Naw, dude. Go for it,” Bruce accepted.
“James!” sang Jon Daniel Pilgrim in his constipated rock n roll voice. “I’m gonna say your name! But you got so many fuckin’ names! Like Mount Saint Big Fella and fuckin’ Junior,” he continued, drumming on his lap and passing the song to Phillip with a nod and goofy face.
“I hope your,” Phillip sang, strumming vigorous on an open E major, “cell has a fuckin’ computer!”
“Oh well,” sang Bruce, “even if you are in jail, won’t you...”
“Protect that tail,” Phillip completed the line for him. It allowed Bruce to join the laughter. “Stay away from the big, black cock!”
“And if’n ya knocked Grace up,” continued Jondie, the gold standard in theatrical, cock-rock voicings, “well I hope that it was worth it for your cock, yeah I...” he trailed off, losing the flow. “Fuck, what rhymes with cock? Cell block? Soap in a sock? No...” he said, stumped.
Phillip was strumming still the most recent chord, waiting though for someone to complete the verse before returning the guitar to a rockin’ volume. He looked to Bruce. Bruce simply turned his palms upward. He said, “I don’t know - hope you enjoyed the walk?”
“To Little Rock!” Jondie and Phillip belted in unison.
“Man, I don’t think I have a chorus in me,” said Pilgrim, reaching under his coat to pull a Parliament from the fresh pack in his dress shirt’s breast pocket. Noticing the despondent gazes that suddenly surrounded him, he put the cigarette in his mouth and removed two more. He opened the two remaining oversized bottles of wine. Jondie placed one in front of Phillip and one in front of Bruce. He handed them also each a cigarette. He tapped his own smoke on the bulging shaft of his giant green bottle, the elegance and spoon-clank imagined; experienced regardless.
Jon Daniel Pilgrim cleared his throat.
“All right, guys,” he said. “I wanna make a toast now, to the man we’re all thinkin’ about. He’s got a tough road ahead of him, a lotta challenges to face. Y’all know who I’m talkin’ ‘bout,” he said, nodding at the others. “’Lotta mountains to climb,” he continued. “Buncha damn mountains. And it ain’t gonna be easy. Cimbin’ ‘em sucker’s is a bitch. So fuck mountains. But you know what?” he asked rhetorically, and taking his eyes off of Bruce and Phillip at last to gaze blankly, as if in a despondent trance of his own - a sudden smile. Punctuating the grin was a short burst of breath from his nose, like a nasal sigh. Gratitude. With both hands he hoisted the bottle into the center of the circle.
“Aw fuck!” as the lit cigarette fell into his lap.
He attempted to dance himself free.
With both of Jon Daniel Pilgrim’s hands enlisted by the bottle, Bruce plucked with care the cigarette from the toaster’s lap. He returned it in jest and dainty precision to the lips of a persevering Jon Daniel Pilgrim, Pilgrim the undeterred.
“Fuck it,” Pilgrim said through the cigarette. “To Barack Hussein Obama. Black is beautiful, y’all.” And he shot up to his feet.
A fricative laugh from Phillip, looking up at Jon Daniel Pilgrim and then into the wine, which he drank as if it were leaving him in the morning. He stood and brushed off the legs of his acid-washed denim.
“That’s the spirit,” said Jondie, mistaking this for ovation. “Come on, Brody.”
“Here, here,” Bruce replied, referring to the book of matches.
Phillip tossed them underhand. Bruce, with labor on his face, began to punish one into flame. Thinking the angry path to ignition doomed to failure, Jon Daniel Pilgrim volunteered his purple Bic. Good will, aloft too late, as Bruce was sighing out a steady stream of smoke through rounded lips. Phillip bent himself at the waist, in a reach for bare toes still damp from their poorly shod walk. Half an hour ago, through the ten inches of snow that had appeared over night, they’d trudged to Washed Out, Washington Street’s shack of a liquor store. Joining the aerobics, Jondie himself stretched one slender arm with the other.
Through recessed filter he asked whether the gang was ready yet to fuck some shit up.
“In honor of Mount Saint Big Fella!”
Phillip blew out another stream of fricative laughter, replied that he’d rather sit some shit up, get himself some fucked up - before moving on to the frigid, slippery dangers out there in Tundratown. Jon Daniel Pilgrim attempted to explain the enormity, the unique nature, and the once in a lifetime-ness of the fun they could be having, romping out there in the frozen grid, which their city had become.
“Still, I’d rather get me some fucked up than mess with the apocalypse goin’ on out there.”
“Ya gotta take care a yerself first,” Bruce explained.
Classic Dvorak - wise as ever, in the face of the apocalypse.