The phone rang in the Georgetown brownstone. It was the old style ring, the Speaker preferred it to the modern whirring buzzing. Only this night the sound was not welcome at all. He stood up and walked across the creaking boards of the old plank floor. He picked up the receiver and as he did he refilled his glass of scotch from the decanter on the table beside the phone.
“Hello” he said in a ragged scornful voice worn thin from years of blubbering on the house floor and smoking. “It’s late”, he protested in a defeated way.
He listened intently to the voice at the other end. His demeanor dropped. Reaching in his robe pocket he produced a pack of parliament cigarettes. His zippo lighter lit a dirty flame as he inhaled deeply.
“Well they haven’t’ gotten me yet” he said chuckling but his chuckle turned into a hard cough.
“What’s this all about?”
He pressed the receiver into his ear as if he was talking to someone far away. As he listened his face became flushed. He put the cigarette down in a ridiculous floorstand ashtray that looked out of the nineteen twenties. It was in fact an antique from the decade before the great crash. He creaked again to the scotch on the table. The phone was a land line which he had always believed were more secure. While he avoided stepping on the cord his face became engorged with blood and with his spray tan his face became a hideous shade of burnt sienna.
“How did you get this number?”
Miles away in a plantation house the Baron sat in a wicker chair smiling obscenely as he spoke softly to the Speaker of the House. His voice resonated musically above the sounds of the night time tropical forest. He twirled a fine cigar in his fingers. Seated next to him at the table on the veranda sat a beautiful woman with a tarot deck. Carefully she placed a card in front of the Baron. It was the image of the Fool. The Baron smiled and winked at Solitaire. Pouring himself some rum he continued to speak into the antique phone made of bakelite. The candles flickered on the table casting an eerie light on his skeletal features. Even Solitaire could not make out what he was saying. To her his voice was like the ethereal music of the night.
The Speaker looked like he was going to pass out. “No I wont pay the piper whoever you are!” Now he was shouting. “Stop with that stupid mumbo jumbo.” A Secret service agent appeared at the door to the parlor. He shook his head at the dark suited man and waved him away with a dismissive gesture. The Speaker slammed the phone down in irritation. “Just a Goddamned looney tune Bobby. Pay no attention. Don’t know how he got my Goddamned number!”
The Baron silently replaced the receiver down and hung up. With careful precision he extinguished his cigar on the face of the Fool card and nodded, smiling at Solitaire. She drew another card from the deck and as she did a tropical sea breeze caused the wind chime to play a dolorous song. The card was the Magician. The Baron held up his crystal glass to the candle. The flames grew.
The Speaker now collapsed into his chair. He was muttering to himself. He reached up to loosen his collar. Wiping his face with a handkerchief he was shaking his head. He wondered how he had suddenly gotten a fever. He felt faint. He was drained. Drifting off he snored the troubled snore of a man who owed too much.
In New Orleans that night Madame Jubal sat in her shop. The candles before her flickered and even crackled. “The Baron stirs tonight” she said. The clock on the wall chimed three times.
“Any fool can condemn criticize and complain – and most fools do.” — Benjamin Franklin
“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory” — Bruce Lee
Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween