| Old Jokes From The New Testament: Chapter One || may 31 2005, 02:04 pm |
| submitted by: normal mc |
NOTE: Here is a final going away present for all of you, chapter one of my novel... please enjoy!
No one has ever made the mistake of considering Key West and it’s surrounding locales ‘conformist’, but this was just way too odd to ignore. It was a different breed down here at the ass-end of Florida. Cigarette boats and military surplus jeeps were the norm. You had your run-of-the-mill eclectic mix of chippy, character-filled townies and weekend warriors, leather-skinned boatpeople and college dropout, self-styled S. Thompsons. Trends came and went. Styles ebbed and flowed like, well, the tide.
But to say that the recent neo-Goth movement had taken Key West High by storm would be an understatement. Over the course of the last few months, the kids across the island had become noticeably more pale, started dressing primarily in black and became less approachable than they had been... which is to say completely unapproachable. The pharmacies couldn’t keep enough sun block SPF45, fishnet nylons or black hair dye in stock. Gone were the days of the sunburned noses, sun-bleached hair, khaki shorts and whitecaps, they’d been replaced with black shirts, fishnet sleeves, Doc Martens and clove cigarettes. At a school with no subculture in a town with one season on land that was sinking, the few and far between graveyards were suddenly all the rage.
Kids were cutting class more often yet the beaches were bare, save for your odd tourist or Parrot-head local. At the beginning of the school year you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a half-high senior on his or her lunch hour, the lots full of rag-top jeeps blaring Jay-Z or something equally unbearable to their parents. Girls in bikini tops and cut offs (maybe a tattoo of a butterfly on the small of their back), would group-up in semi-circles sharing a Marlboro light watching bare-chested boys with Kanji on the back of their calves play ‘ultimate frisbee’. But that was then.
Key West High was a different place lately. The ‘quad’ had changed. Normally seniors would harass the underclassmen, warning them to ‘stay off the brick’ as the various other mini-cliques staked out claims to ‘their’ territory. ‘The Brick’, a winding pathway made of, well, bricks circled around the flagpole/lamppost in the middle and shot out like arteries into the adjacent classroom buildings. ‘The Brick’ filtered all the buildings back to the center. The kids used to have their lunch out here, they used to hack and sneak a cigarette or joint in the alcoves out of teacher-sight. An old world style bazaar, full of life and energy, kids jumping on picnic tables, yelling, laughing, etc. The kids are still there, but they aren’t as fun anymore. There used to be John Mayer, now there is nothing but Bauhaus.
There was a kegger at Sean’s, now there’s nothing but incense.
They had become wan, uninspired and they had lost any faith they once had.
And when the locals wake up on Good Friday, they’d know why
Edmundston, New Brunswick was hardly the place a supreme being would imagine Himself in during His most holiest of weeks. Aptly named, of course, ‘Holy Week’.
A few short minutes ago, He enjoyed bottomless pasta bowls at the Olive Garden with the leftovers of an office party comprised mostly of secretaries and transcriptionists who worked at Edmundston Forge & Foundry. It was supposed to be a business lunch, but it quickly spiraled out of control. They were half-smashed on house wine and drunk with the freedom away from their bosses, husbands and kids. Here they were, letting some crusty old guy booze them up, listening to stories that couldn’t possibly be validated or verified, not worrying about tomorrow or the next. And He enjoyed every moment, sacrilege be damned.
Even though He was a divine entity, He really did admire these women and their freedom. Of course He was responsible for their freedom, much more responsible than say any half-assed ‘women’s suffrage’ movement. The glass ceiling wasn’t his idea, though He had toyed with a glass floor… imagine the view?
God - that dirty flirt.
Two of them invited Him to continue the party at a different bar, one with more local ‘Canadian’ flavor. He politely declined, explaining his impending road trip. They were a bit disappointed (one of them had an ‘out of town husband’) but not as disappointed as He thought they should be. Then He remembered that they didn’t know he was God – they knew him as Carl. Just an average Joe (or Carl, I guess) who had just treated 12 ladies to dinner and drinks in exchange for their company. It was a good deal for all because Carl had been lonely lately.
The vague yet eerie similarities between Carl’s meal with the secretaries and His son’s last ‘supper’ were hard to ignore. 12… check. Bread, wine… check. Was one of these women about to betray him? He didn’t think so. Even if one of them did, so what? Not like they’d die on a cross for anyone’s sins. Carl knew that one would wind up dying in a car accident, their body flung from the car, winding up in a pose vaguely reminiscent of his son’s final moments, though. Sandy. She had three kids and no husband, and this was going to happen soon. He should of told her, he thought. But that would mess with the fabric of blahblahblah or something…
So it goes.
Then he thought ‘who’s going to feel sorry for God anyway’? Who has it in them to feel sympathy for a supreme being? All his life – and by ‘life’ we mean ‘since the beginning of time’ – there has only been one person who knew what Carl was going through. And He’d be damned (by himself) if he’d embark on this all-important road trip without his favorite sounding board. But a journey of this importance could not be partaken without supplies.
So there He was, in all of His splendor, a quarter past seven P.M. on Holy Thursday, buying gas, knock-off brand Dr. Pepper and three cartons of Vantage-brand cigarettes at the Sunoco, readying for a road trip that might – just might – decide the fate of modern civilization as we know it.
Sure, He’s been through shit like this before – World War II, The Crusades, The War on Terror – but this? This was different. He was headed to a town where faith had died. See, no one claimed they were Him (or His Son), no one had falsified any type of alignment with Him, no one had started a war in His name. All that happened was that some questions were asked, and He knew they deserved answers.
The doorchime pinged, it slammed behind him. He heard a voice.
“Can I help you?”
“You guys sell cassette tapes here?”
From behind the counter, with his back turned as he stocked smokes in the display behind him, he answered.
“We have a few blank tapes over by the cleaning supplies.”
This was one of those ‘all-in-one’ gas stops. Very bright lights, tile everywhere, booths to sit in, a walk in freezer and a 24-7 ‘Tim Horton’s Express’ mini-bakery/coffee-teria. They had everything, He thought.
“I mean music. Tapes with music already on them.”
“No, just some CD’s, over by the magazines, man.”
He knew He should’ve gotten a new stereo before the trip started. Too late now. He’d have to make do with the three mix tapes some Christian teens had given Him a few months ago in
Back in Winnipeg, God was checking out the local church scene to see what was being attributed to His Glory nowadays. He wondered what passed for worship and praise in Canada and thought Winnipeg a good place to start. He had never gotten over the Jets trading Selanne and then moving to Phoenix of all places. Phoenix! That was when He stepped in and cursed the National Hockey League with lower than normal ratings, lockouts and general fan apathy. Only an expansion team in Winnipeg would end this curse.
Anyway, after a spirited Sunday service at one local church, God walked around looking for a place to relax. There He sat on a park bench at The Forks, sipping on a cup of Horton’s when two teenage girls approached Him.
“Are you homeless?” the blonde one asked.
“In a way.”
“What do you mean ‘in a way’?” said the redhead. She reminded Him of a young Laura Leighton, but with bigger tits.
“I saw you at the church, do you need food?” The blonde was definitely in charge here. She looked at him with a weird almost pitiful look. He was looking back, but she couldn’t tell with his sunglasses.
“No thank you.”
Sure, he looked a bit haggard. Wrinkled khaki’s and an old navy parka, but did he look like he was panhandling? Didn’t she notice the specks and crumbs of Belgian waffle clinging for dear life in his beard? She was almost staring now.
“Well, we work for the Greater Winnipeg Youth Faith Initiative, and we can help if you need any…”
“Do you live in Winnipeg?” The redhead sat down next to Him. “We work The Forks every weekend and we’ve never seen you before.”
“I’m just passing through actually.” It was true, he was.
“On foot? In the winter?” The blonde now looked worried.
“No, I have a car. Just spending a few days in lovely Winnipeg, lamenting the loss of my beloved Jets, trying to catch up with society.”
The redhead pulled out a cigarette. He pulled out one of His own and lit them both with a zippo he had found in Vancouver a week ago.
“Jessica! You smoke?”
“Jessica! Smoking is bad for you!” He admonished, pulling in a healthy dose of smoke. They chuckled.
“So how long are you staying?” She dragged, he dragged. He thought about this one for a minute.
“Where are you headed?” The blonde now sat down, a full space away from Jessica, who didn’t try at all to keep the smoke from blowing in her friend’s face.
“Not sure. Just road tripping.”
The redhead perked up. “Like Kerouac. That such a romantic lifestyle, are you searching for the ‘Canadian Dream’?”
“Who is Kerouac, Jess?”
God And Jessica rolled their eyes.
“There’s a ‘Canadian Dream’?” He hadn’t heard this one before.
“Well if there’s an ‘American Dream’…”
“My dream is to do something like that. Drive coast to coast, meet strange characters, fall in and out of love, find the meaning of life.”
“Well Jessica, I don’t think you’ll find it in Canada.”
“You’re not Canadian are you?” The blonde asked with a hint of anger in her voice. With that, she went to her purse, grabbed a few tapes and handed them to Jessica, to pass along to God. She looked ready to go.
“Where will I find that?”
“Warm weather climes. Think Florida, specifically Key West. That is truly God’s Country.” He smiled a bit.
“We’re late, Jessica. Here are some tapes though for your trip. You do have a tape player in your car?”
Jessica passed them along. They were home-made, with calligraphic J-card inserts.
“Yeah. Thanks, I love good mix tapes. I really appreciate it.”
With that he got up. Then Jessica and the blonde followed.
Jessica and God stood there for a minute, taking one last puff.
“Our website address is on the cover there, drop us a note and let us know how the search is going.” Jessica than stamped out her smoke.
“I’ll try, but I don’t know if I’ll be near the internet anytime soon.”
“Well, promise to try, at least!”
“Sure. I’m on my way now, it was great meeting you ladies. Good luck with the Youth Faith thing.”
“Go with God!” The blonde offered as he walked away.
“I always do.”
Jessica and the blonde stood there in the cold for a long minute.
“Go with God? Who says that anymore? Really Allison, that’s just retarded…”
“I wasn’t the one trying to hit on a homeless man!”
“He wasn’t homeless and I wasn’t hitting on him!”
”Credit or debit?” The voices sometimes congealed into one in His head into one faceless, timeless experience. He had to snap back to the present. He looked at the name badge.
“How did you know my name was Dave?”
He stood undecided for a moment peeking at the name badge, wondering if the obvious should be pointed out or not.
“I know everything.”
Dave looked puzzled. “What’s with the sunglasses, guy? You on a mission from God?”
“Something like that.”
“Do you wanna donate a dollar for cystic fibrosis research? Easter Seals maybe?”
“I gave at the office.”
But this trip had nothing to do with Dave. Or Jessica and Allison for that matter. This was all about Key West High. He knew it was coming, after all he was God. He knew when, too. A group of highschoolers all coming of age at the same time, almost as if they had a central spirit, turning on a dime from America’s future to harbingers of the end of the world. In a fit of inspired artistic expression, three specific seniors will – in about 10 minutes from then, EST - decide to celebrate Flag Day two months early, calling into question the existence of, well, everything.
Meanwhile, in Eastport, Maine, a poker game was about to get out of hand, which would almost guarantee Carl’s road trip’s success.
The Fat Clam was the right mix of local neighborhood eatery and dive bar. The townies with kids could drop in and get burgers and fries and chicken fingers for the kids, maybe a pop or two. The house special ‘The Fat Clam Platter’ was sampled by many passers-through, but the locals steered very clear. Then when the lazy housewife business died down a bit after 8pm most nights, the grill closed, the jukebox whirred and the ‘other’ townies took control. Billiards and darts, maybe a poker game or two. It was a relatively clean place until the second shift showed, whereupon any trace of ‘family fun eatery’ was quickly replaced by four letter words, limited buy-backs, half-drunk Buds and half-drunk loggers.
Thursdays were slow, they always had been. There was this newer sports bar up 190 in Perry, ‘McDowell’s’. Every Thursday they’d trot up a New England sports hero of lore for a meet and greet, followed by extremely bad karaoke. This week it was Spike Owen, former Red Sox shortstop. After a buffet and short Q&A, Owen led the crowd in a sing-along version of Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’. It sucked. Eastporters were now making the trek up there weekly to partake. This was fine with the Thursday poker club.
“You tell Marcos he can suck my white ass if he thinks he’s gonna get dime one of what I supposedly owe him.”
“Tell him yourself, he’s on his way over right now,” he handed the deck to Eric and added, “your deal.”
“Shit, I told you fucks I don’t shuffle. He’s on his way now?” He passed the deck to his left, to Terry.
“I can’t shuffle for dick either.”
“Shuffle, damn you.” Eric lit a cigarette and took his shot of whiskey. It had been sitting in front of him for almost five whole minutes.
“About time you drank that you puss.” He handed the deck back to him, shuffled and ready to go.
The jukebox whirred and clicked, the faint scratch of a needle on vinyl ripped through the air. It was just past midnight and Thursday night’s weekly Hold ‘Em had turned into early Friday morning ugliness. And it wasn’t just the madras shirts.
Phil Collins came on the speakers. ‘Tonight’.
The bartender bellowed from behind the walk-up. “Last call, fuckshops.”
“Now, Jay? It’s fuckin quarter of you haji!” Eric was upset. Normal, Jayaval Sandruppanda, owner and bartender, kept the Fat Clam open until at least an hour past legal ‘last call’. The Fat Clam being the hangout of choice for scumbags in the greater Eastport region.
“I don’t need the hassle, not tonight Eric. Tomorrow is Good Friday, I take family to church early, have big picnic lunch at park. I need to get some sleep Eric.”
“You’re from India, yes?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be Hindu, or Hindi… Bindi, whatever?” Eric looked around at the poker players for approval. They snickered, he smiled.
“I converted you asshole.”
“Jesus Eric, are you gonna deal?”
“Panda-man, couple more hands for us? One round, on me for the table?” Eric was made of money yet no one ever saw him work.
“Alright, alright. Ready gents?” Eric started to deal to the rest of the table.
Terry got up to walk to the bar. There were four Heinekens waiting. Terry stood there, he nodded at Panda then pointed back to the table, pointing at Eric’s back…
“Two shots of Cuervo too, Panda.” He didn’t even have to turn around to acknowledge.
“Who’s tab is it tonight, friend?”
“Depends on who wins this hand.” Eric started dealing. Terry returned, passed out the round and sat down. He watched as Eric dealt and felt very unlucky all of the sudden.
Playing poker with the Devil as the Dealer could do that to you.
comment no. 1
how will I ever find out what happens next? damn it.
comment no. 2
I hope to Carl you finish this!