The clerk at the Bloomsday Town airport bookstore is sympathetic. “Unable to choose? You know, I find the best authors are the ones that transport you to other places and other times.”
This is a tale of a meeting of two boring, fat old white men on a planet which was heading for entropic doom.
One of them was a science-fiction writer named Murgatroyd Blenny. He was a nobody at the time, and he supposed his life was over. He was mistaken. The man he met was a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, a urologist named Wally Dyson. Wally Dyson was on the brink of going insane.
La di dah.
And happed that, allone as he was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
By verray force, with verray speed,
With verray myght he grabbed and shooke,
And publick displaye of affectioun took,
For which oppressioun was swich clamour
And swich pursute unto the kyng Arthour,
That dampned was this knyght for to be deed,
By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed.
Let light-emitting diodes twinkle overhead
Flashing in the sky the message He is Dead.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like dealing any one,” he told me, “just remember that ‘Base Year Compensation’ means an amount used to calculate the Exception that results from the trade of certain Player Contracts, as determined in accordance with Article VII.”
A chair, a table, a lamp. Above, on the white ceiling, a relief ornament in the shape of a seven-headed cobra. There must have been a chandelier once. They’ve removed anything you could tie a rope to.
Think of it as being in an army, said General Field Marshal Cinque. The Symbionese Liberation Army.
We learned to whisper almost without sound. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed:
Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. Patty.
I am going to pack my two shirts with my other socks and my best suit in the little Vichy flag my mother used to wave outside the house, and I am going from the Valley to join the Groupes mobiles de réserve.
Now I’ve done it! Now I’ve ruined everything! If I’d stood even a ghost of chance, it vanished when I took a cigarette in front of the Psychmasters. What will they do to me now? Arrest me? Execute me? Send me for more rounds of cognitive behavioral therapy, so I can become docile and bartend for the future tributes of Polyen? What was I thinking, smoking in the faces of the Psychmasters? Of course, I wasn’t, I was having that cigarette because I was so angry at being ignored.
3 NOVEMBER — YEAR OF THE MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE GAME
Rm. 204, Subdormitory B: Jack Spaeth, age thirteen, hometown Scranton PA, Everquest shaman barbarian Guillame DuPlessis, level 70, has respawned. Again.
“So it is!” cried Laurie, who was playing chess in a corner with Jo, recreating a position from the day before that they’d scribbled in Forsyth-Edwards notation.
December, darkness of my life, bleakness of my soul. My bane, my conquerer. De-cem-ber: the tip of the tongue targeting teeth, teeth touching to sussurate sibiliance, lips loosing breathy burst. De. Cem. Ber.
It was Yule, plain Yule, for the Anglo-Saxons, combining sixty days in one month. It was Frimaire for the French. It was the tenth month for the Romans. But for me, in my bouts of seasonal affective disorder, it was always bleak, bleak December.
The Office of Homeland Security — OffHo, in JargonFresh — was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was a long rectangular structure of dull red brick, squatting across several acres of suburban land. From where Tom Ridge stood it was just possible to read, beyond the dark iron fence along Nebraska Avenue, the three slogans of the Office:
STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
WE WILL SAFEGUARD OUR HOMELAND, OUR PEOPLE AND OUR VALUES
IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING
Now, I don’t like craft beer, which you might say is one of the factors that got us involved with this old guy we nicknamed the Pork Dude. Actually, I hate craft beer, but then again most of the time I hate everything.
I used to really hate craft beer when I first started at Meadhall, which everyone can recognize is a problem. Other bartenders got labeled Best Pour, or Most Likely To Sell Buffalo Wings, but I got nicknamed the Milwaukee Mauler. They called me that because I used to tell customers we were all out of everything except Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I must have done this 23,000 times before I didn’t feel like doing it anymore.
I don’t recall how long I stayed there just watching, squatting on the shore of the black lake, as the winter sun began to set. I heard a roar of music, like the noise made by a high wind. Listening carefully, I was able to detect a track from the first Creedence Clearwater Revival album, a composite of high-pitched sounds, human voices, accompanied by a deep bass drum. I focused all my attention on the melody, and again noticed that the systole and diastole of my heart coincided with the sound of the bass drum, and with the pattern of the music. I turned around to look for don Juan, but he had vanished.