Friday, June 18, 2010

The Second Part to The Drunkard's Tale

He pulled the car around to a nearby fast food joint and kept it running. I snuck around behind the station through the woods in the back. In my right hand, I had a half-full bottle of everclear. I took an old rag from my trunk and jammed it into the bottleneck so that part of it was bobbing around in the liquid. In my left hand, I held a lighter.
Now, the point of what I was about to do was not to cause major property damage. As much as I loathed BP and its abhorrent business practices, I didn’t want to harm the workers inside. No, the goal was shock and awe. Tossing the Molotov anywhere near the gas pumps would surely cause a massive explosion that would take Cloyd and Emily along with the station, so my options were severly limited.
I looked down at the bottle of liquor in my hand and realized that I had probably gone about this in the worst way possible. I shrugged. Once you start something like this, you have to see it out. I touched the lighter to the tip of the rag, watched for a second as the flame engulfed the tip, and heaved the incendiary to my left, onto the cement, and booked it through the woods to where Cloyd parked the car.
By the time I got there, Cloyd was standing outside with the black ski mask on, just as I told him to do. “Good,” I said. “Now, any second there will be a mass—”
A massive explosion rocked the ground on which we stood. I blanched, turned around, and thanked God that the pumps were still intact. That said, it looked like my Molotov had caught something nasty in the Dumpster on fire.
“And now someone will run out of the store, fire extinguisher in hand.”
A man with a ridiculous handlebar mustache, black pants, and the green polo of the BP family dashed out of the front doors carrying a large fire extinguisher.
“Go Cloyd!” I shouted. “Get your water bottles! Get plenty!”
Cloyd displayed such speed I didn’t think humans capable of. The distance from our car to the front of the BP couldn’t have been more than thirty yards, but to see someone clear that in a second flat was, to me at least, astounding. My group of friends at CRU was made up of those sorts of people who gathered around tables and played things like Risk and D&D for fun—needless to say, sports weren’t generally in our skill sets. So, seeing that, I’d expected Cloyd to be back in about five seconds, round trip including getting the water bottle. Of course, what I didn’t expect was that Cloyd had some severe mental deficiencies—or something—that kept him in there for a good five minutes.
At the five minute mark, sweat started pouring down my forehead. What happened to him in there? Should I go in, get him, and run back? Or should I chance it on the highway in my drunken, manic state? Handlebar came from around the side, shaking his head. In his right hand, he held the blackened remains of my bottle of everclear, and I hoped that I had stayed out of sight of the cameras. Handlebar reached the front door just as Cloyd stepped outside cradling ten one liter bottles in his arms.
I just wished that Cloyd wouldn’t be friendly and introduce himself, but thankfully, Handlebar took a swipe with the fire extinguisher and Cloyd ran away screaming. He reached the car in about two seconds, I dashed in the passenger’s seat, Cloyd jumped in the driver’s, and we pulled out.
Laughter’s a contagious thing. It bonds people together—especially when they’ve just commited a low form of arson. “Gosh!” Cloyd shouted, swerving in the road and nearly running a VW Beetle off the road. “That was fun! I reckon that the man what had the green shirt weren’t too happy with me, on account of the way he started screamin at me like Mr. Gamble when he been drinkin out of his green bottle. That smells kinda like what you got in your bottle back there—you don’t know Mr. Gamble, does you? I wouldn’t want Mr. Gamble to come lookin for me on account of he do—”
“Watch out, you inbred imbecile!” I yelled. Cloyd, while going on his rant about this man Gamble, had slowly been drifting towards oncoming traffic.
He spun the wheel just before a semi-truck smashed into the front of our car, and we careened back into our proper lane—once again, nearly running the same blue VW Beetle off the road. Whoever was driving was probably taking down my license plate and calling the police. However, I had realized that driving while inebriated would have a negative effect on my usually pristine motoring skills, so, before I left Eldritch, I stole my editor’s license plate and took mine off. If the cops managed to track the car before we pulled over and put mine on, then... well, to be honest, I hadn’t thought all of that through.
“Cloyd,” I said.
“Yeah, Mr. Yudavitch? Gosh, that’s a strange name, that is. Where you from. I met someone from Bos—”
“Shut up. You’re going to make me throw up.” The moment passed. “Okay. Drive a while more—at least until we lose that VW behind us, and then pull into another gas station. I need to take care of something.”
“Please don’t make another bottle go kerblooey,” Cloyd said. “That upset my ears somethin fierce, and I don’t know if that guy back there liked us doing that.”
“I won’t. Just—” I checked the rearview. The VW switched on its indicator and turned into one of the turning lanes to go onto I-24 West. “Good. Pull in.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The First Part of The Drunkard's Second Tale

Murfreesboro is koyaaniqatsi. It’s a Hopi phrase that means, among other things, “life out of balance.” Generally speaking, people know it because of a film in the 80s that stuck together a string of scenes from modern American life, set to a soundtrack by Philip Glass. The thesis of the film is that American life is out of balance with spirituality, nature, and itself.
Murfreesboro is one of those places where cement has taken the place of green grass and, at some point in its rapid expansion from a farming community, the city council decided that having cement everywhere makes citizens want to move somewhere a bit greener. So, they widened the roads and stuck some grass and a few trees in the medians. The largest park in the area is a Civil War battlefield, and right next to that is a used car dealership. I-24 runs through Murfreesboro after leaving Nashville and going on its way to Chattanooga—so if you’re in the main shopping area (Murfreesboro will never have a proper downtown) you’re consistently aware of traffic.
Throughout the city are liquor stores, adult video stores, and places that could easily be strip clubs. Porn is widely available in bookstores, gas stations, and via any WiFi network provided by any one of the chain stores that infest the city. In a subconscious effort to offset the thirst and lust of the populace, a slew of Southern Baptist and Methodist and Church of Christ churches can be seen anywhere. Like everywhere else in the Bible belt, an outside observer would assume that the market for religion has been saturated—you might have a chapel-sized church next to a gargantuan, 1,500-seater, gymnasium- and theater-equipped, television-broadasting behemoth and yet the people of Murfreesboro can’t seem to get enough of the white, Southern-bred, biscuit-eating, pass-the-gravy Jesus plastered everywhere in these places.
And it was in this atmosphere that the sub-human piece of sewer filth called Bob Hackem, good ole boy and lately mayor, was visiting on his run for the governor’s mansion in Nashville. If he wound up winning, I was fully prepared to take up arms and make a change in this state—just as my grandma would have wanted me to do, may she rest in peace—but, even though I was willing to do a lot of stuff others would have considered unethical, murder wasn’t one of them. Hackem campaigned on his status as a God-fearing Christian and—well, here’s a transcript from one of his campaign commercials:

[Bob stands in a field on a sunny day. He’s wearing blue jeans and a denim shirt, unbuttoned at the top, showing a white undershirt. His straw-blonde hair waves in the wind, and his blue eyes sparkle. He starts walking.]
Hi, neighbor. I’m Bob Hackem, and I’m a Christian.
[Cut to the interior of a church. Bob and his equally WASPy family sit in the pews. Bob has a voice-over.]
Have been since I was born. And then, cause I liked it so much, I went and got born-again about twenty years ago, after I met my wife.
[Cut to a baseball diamond. Bob’s in a Little League coach’s uniform. He celebrates with a team after a victory.]
We’ve got two boys, eight and eleven, that mean the world to us. They’re Christian, too. You ask me, there’s not much else in the world more important than family—except God, that is.
[Return cut to Hackem in the field.]
But there’s some folks up in Washington who don’t think that way. Way they see it, ain’t much room in today’s 21st century for good, Southern, Christian values. And that don’t much fly with me, and I’m willing to bet that it don’t much fly with you.
That’s why I’m running for governor of Tennessee. After having been disappointed by the man we elected and put our faith in, I’m saying, “Enough is enough.” You want a man who’ll stick it to The Man, then you vote for me. I’ll work with our Senators and Congressmen to ensure that Tennessee’s voice is a leading voice. Way it should be.
Remember: a vote for Hackem is a vote for values.

If you’re a decent person at all, then you should be retching right about now. When I saw the ad, I threw a book at the T.V. So, taking a page from Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, I decided I’d make the guy into a laughingstock on national TV and, maybe at the same time, loosen him up and get him to see the light of reason. And, if it backfired... well, any politician who’s gone on record ranting about the inherent vice and sin of homosexuality probably has a thing for Filipino pool boys with muscular bods, and I hate hypocrisy with a burning passion.
“Say, Mr. Yudavitch,” said the guy in the driver’s seat. That was Cloyd. He was standing at the side of the road about ten, fifteen miles back, and I, feeling compelled to be both a good Samaritan and stop driving before hallucinating and driving both myself and Emily—the car—off the side of the road in a blaze of glory, picked him up. Cloyd was was a pretty ugly guy with a nice haircut. But there was something about the guy. A trusting nature that I thought was refreshing. After dealing with the editorial staff at the paper, it was good to find someone who’d probably done enough drugs to send their mind reeling back to the age of four.
“What’s that, my friend?” I asked. By this time in the trip, I was leaning with my head planted as far back in the seat as I could get it. I didn’t dare open my eyes because, about two, three minutes beforehand, I’d drunk some pretty powerful absinthe and followed it with some Jack—which I fully intended to be my version of water for the trip. My liver could complain all it wanted, but, damn it, I would turn it into a man. “If you’re going to tell me that you see some police, just hold it in and slam on the brakes—might be enough to freak em out.”
“Gosh no,” Cloyd said. “I was just gonna ask you if I could have some a that water you got in that red bottle down by your foot. I ain’t had much to drink for a day er so—just about since I found that pond by the side of the road and then a frog tried to swim into my mouth.”
I opened my eyes, battered away the cartoon clownfish swimming in front of my head, and looked down. He was talking about a bottle of Smirnoff. “As much as I would love to oblige, I don’t think that giving you some of that water would be a smart idea.” We passed by a blue marker indicating there was a gas staion up ahead. “Take the next turnoff and go get some water. None of what I have in here is good for you, my friend.”
“I ain’t got any money, Mr. Yudavitch.”
I scratched my chin. I could spare a couple dollars and buy Cloyd a bottle of water, but I refused to give those companies a dime. At least with liquor, the distillers and brewers knew what was in their product, admitted it, and encouraged you to have fun. Coke and Pepsi dredged their water from the municipal supplies of taxpayers and tried to pass it off as coming from some pristine source straight from the mountains or some hidden-away, clear-water river. No, there had to be another way of going about this.
Cloyd must have realized I was thinking about what to do. He turned up the Creedence and started howling along again. (That’s the only way to describe what he was doing. He clearly didn’t know the words to the sons, and possessed no singing talent.) As we pulled onto the offramp, the solution hit me.
I told Cloyd my plan, and headed towards the BP station.