The Two Dipshits of Corona

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“Even the churches were ugly around there. We didn’t want to waste our prayers on such small things. So the gurney-scared among us kept focused on staying out of the moment, because, after all, all we are is what we remember as we stay caught up in the relativity of then.”

“Imagine yourself forty years from now looking back at a picture of yourself taken 20 years from now, thinking, ‘How young I was, then.’”

“Do you ever think back to back then?”

“Sometimes. Like when a dresser drawer gets stuck, and I’ve got to yank the metal handle to pull that screechy son of a bitch open. Happens mostly in the early part of mornings, mostly too when rain’s expected soon.”

“Soon will soon be past.”

“Always is…or was, that is.”

“Stuck in the traffic of your life’s one-way street.”

“We’re just memorizing names of American rivers here. That’s all. Susquehanna. Cumberland. Potomac. Chattahoochee. Wilmette. Hudson. Rio Grande. Shenandoah.”

“That job will kill you, if you’re not careful.”

“Sure. And so I go, ‘Let’s have some flesh for our trouble.’ And then, get this, he goes, ‘Gopher tamales, then. And we’ll wash the refrigerator out after.’”

“The sayings we never get around to saying.”

“And you’d find yourself, or will, or would, cross-legged on the floor, eating Chinese takeout from oyster pails while watching Marx Brothers movies. And your chopsticks are moving in a perfect rhythm with the universe, as you see it.”

“Blanched!”

“Perhaps. And that’s the sadness we never get around to having. Too many kept bloodroot petals at my feet. Now they grow wings of mold.”

“You better get punched right through your soul. Listen. Listen. Listen…The day was blowing its nose through a handkerchief of leaves. I was watching things happen from a fire escape, grumpy and scratching at my scalp. Undernourished and overdrunk. I am hesitant to clap along with the things other people do. Trinkets of ageless miniature saboteurs go sleepily on to broken promises and pickle-jar dreams. I grow used to things. My form exceeds all expectations and my doses are all too much. Broken down elevators to purgatory fill with fish. I memorize the memorial names of freeways while leafing through old magazines in search of photographs of fire-damaged houses, bested by the mistakes of mildewed rooms, culling the nifty from whatever is claiming to be classy today. Ever after from here on out it is all palatial suites in spruced suits. Tag along with me. It is a dare that roughs up toughs and hangs up on everyone.”

“It’s a blessing’s last curse, and it’s here to stay, and you better bet you’ll never pray it away.”

“And then it’s burglar bars on the windows and breakfast at five in the evening. I’d bet a getaway is planned for, here.”

“Let’s just say that I won’t be celebrating the anniversary of any of this.”

“Except you don’t expect excess with your defect.”

“Any put’s proper place. Okay. I’m fine with deals that are never going to be undone, death’s door and all that, but who’s got the keys to it?”

“Not such sufferers as you and I.”

“That’s for sure.”

“A highway’s two tales: red taillights one way and white headlights going the other. No stars out to speak of. What pleases us is sometimes just a drift of consciousness.”

“Well, you can’t just go around being inspired all the time, can you? It’d wear you out something atrocious.”

“So says the Poet Laurette of the New York Steam Cleaners Union.”

“So he does. So. Ahem: So, there goes my everything. She’s got a punched-out packet of Microgestin in one hand and a can of motor oil in the other, and she’s on her way to another cross against the light. And soon she’s screaming like she’s teething. Hammered and lumpy like some boozy Bohemian, stumbling about, lit up like a slot machine.”

“No. Not that. How about this? The hearses go by slow as arks. Rain’s just not coming along like it should. We’re all renting here with no option to buy as the headlights gleam in the first signs of mist. This place is all trembling light fixtures and beveled smiles. Withheld sentiments on layaway, per our conversation. Firewood’s too wet to do anything but smoke. Ship me out, gushing and beer drunk. And all the takers are gone from the field, here. I could sit around low and feckless, estimate the cost of losing her all day, and the price of going through it would still be worth it.”

“No. That’s no good. That’s deplorable at best.”

“It’s like writing songs that nobody will ever sing. By the way, if a song is never sung does it really exist? I don’t not never know now. Maybe the oodles of know-it-all retorts jammed-up in my head need to be cleared out. I could have a going-out-of-business sale of memories and little-known facts, useless nonsense, names of 20th century baseball players and suffragettes and mob bosses during Prohibition. My emotions are always so grammatically incorrect.”

“Palaver, all of this. Speaking of futility. It’s like teaching yourself how to breathe.”

“Like back when Elvis Presley was just pulling wire for Crown Electric and driving truck. A Schlitz mirror on the wall behind the band, a gift-of-god-voiced singer and a bass player with a glass eye, and all of Shreveport on its feet. A ’54 Caddy for your daydreams. A can of pomade for all the troubles on your head. Working the lower part of your anatomy off in search of that wild geography of song. No peace in the valley of his heart, ever. Learning everyone else’s lines. A land of grace alone. Drafted when there wasn’t even a war on. Even Elvis had his bad-hair days too, you know.”

“I do, and I do not, too. But back when I knew Penelope, well, the way she wrote, she really swung those predicates on viciously subjective dangling corners, and then stuck the adjectival landing with a modifier on a dime. It was something worth beholding. Surly sentences botched into the plurality of paragraph-less objectives, run-on seamlessness through the page-bound coffers. The sort of stuff that’d make you just about tear up on the outside, and melt to sappy slips on the inside. Now it’s 48 and falling on nobody’s best seller list, and the dogs have all been walked back home for the night. And I can’t even justify using a first person-pronoun with her anymore.”

“The Dead-Ball Era of socioeconomic romance.”

“Swing your net worth round and round.”

“A blockchain for your soul. Sort of.”

“No. A guy carrying flowers, running full tilt down Broadway, probably grinning or something akin to it. Fancying himself some Drummer Boy of Chickamauga. The rot’s off the core, you see, and we’re all stuffed up with worry and discontent. We need blacker coffee and lighter sentences.”

“We need loftier funeral ideas.”

“I’ve heard it told that there was a sadness about you. Maybe when you were experimenting with broadband and your most refined and frail network failed, and then the banks never did, and instead grew bulkier and more omnipresent. The picket line was never there to cross or to bear; and instead the pickets thrived, white and unnaturally clean, in borders around isolated and tidy homes. The outmoded ranchers grew heavy with progress’s perspiration. Their flea-market pride no good anymore.”

“And now? Now they don’t make cowgirls like that anymore. Satin pegged pants and boots of Peruvian pleather. A quarter-gallon hat covered with felt badges and dangerous pins.”

“Nailed it.”

“A perfunctory calm ensues, of course, and we needle and pine in the jabbed recourse of history’s party bailing. And an outcast recalcitrant attaches his curved sopranino sax to his bike handles, checking the street for signs of bus or cop, and wobblingly rides the glitches and shardy bumps of the scandalous terrain, stunted and stumped and agitated and trouble-in-mind. An abandoned upright piano outside the mildewed umber curtains of a burnt-out building with a sign hung from the keys reading, ‘Do Not Touch.’ A perfect picture ruined by the wrong kind of sunlight at just the wrong angle and time. We need saved things, things to keep, to make us content with who we are, which is always also who we were.”

“Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Still, nobody likes me like they should.”

“As if it ever were just a trade-off. Sometimes this city makes my knees weak with somber joy, the bow and bend of apartments in the radiant humdrum of eleven-o’clock wonder as I stroll stop-and-go lucky in the bathed refreshment of old-west side panels and scaling paint jobs and recessed windows that won’t completely close; others it enervates my will to even cross the street. We’re clingers to the closet prefab sign of safety. All of our wants are mismanaged by the glitchy strip-and-rip of the most common slogan. But the movement’s not for me. Besides, I don’t relish shooting mice with elephant guns.”

“So we bumble from cliché to trope, deaf to the old and new universals colliding as the mulch of it all refines into the customary babble of a convenience-addicted generation. Answers just become more questions waiting to be asked…but they never will. We don’t need inquisitiveness anymore; we’ve got apps to control our course through the world’s widest dragnets.”

“Crushing.”

“No. Just clamped vises of our most vindictive means. Forgiveness plants its own territorial mercy, ulterior and kind, too. And so we all end up losers who perpetually feel like we’re just on the verge of a win. This is the way we strut towards death: goal-bound in a scoreless plight.”

“Oh, there we so misfortunately go, batteries just a few percent away from zero, into that terrible squash of evening’s pull towards night’s tenebrous rumble seat.”

“And so all’s ill that begins well?”

“Shuffled the deck of your head for too long, there. Now the thoughts, they’re not coming through. Saving yourself has never been more impossible or hard to ignore. Classifying us as chip readers, I guess. Insert your information in the slot. We’ll soak it up in a second, and you won’t ever get any change again.”

“Same. Same. Same. That’s all there ever was, just variegated in multifarious ways now. A million items to do the same thing, each priced higher and higher as a lure to sap you of your ability to recognize quality.”

“And the mercy we don’t strain?”

“Guzzled out to poison the world with meanness and bitter rage.”

“Don’t you point that thing this a way…”

“Get your hands up, Prissy. We’re all taking a liking to this self-serving routine. Any last asides?”

“I was one who pondered more than acted, I guess. At war with peace. Glancing instead of delving into. Faulty plumbing in the depths. No water pressure in the faucet of my survival. I have strolled through supermarkets at dawn and seen multitudes of vegetables glowing on display in the spotless aisles. Days spent passing through shopping malls and airports and box stores, gleaning what the situation lent to my bothered queries for something more lovely and profound than electronic gizmos and new clothes. And the idiots all elect a giant idiot to lord over them, again and again. And so goes the world to the ways of antiquity, the duped masses believing they’re acting on their own behalf when they cast their ballot for some greedy rich hoax who ends up screwing them out of their inheritance, and demolishing their rights, and plundering the earth’s bounty pretty good too; and all for the sake of hording away more millions of lousy smackers for himself and his progeny. Ah, let’s quit the jabber-jawing and get to it already. I’m late to my own demise.”

“It takes a moron to make more morons. Well. Here goes one last something. Bam! Bam! You’re dead.”

“Finally. Thank you for that.”

“No trouble. No trouble at all.”

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