It’s Getting Hot In Here

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!”

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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

Alexandria (Burning Man 11)

Blankly she stared at the traffic below rushing away on 395 even though it was almost 3 am. The news had hit her hard and was totally unexpected. She had listened to the recorded message from the Paris hospital three times. She truly regretted never giving her father her cell phone number and now he was gone. A stroke had taken his life. Never again would she be able to defend her politics to the expat.

Margaret’s father was a veteran of the Korean war. He had been in the United States Air Force. He was a lieutenant and had served as a B-29 navigator in many bombing missions during the conflict. He was a stubborn man with strong political convictions. When she was young she loved to listen to his rambling stories of the decent republican president, good old ‘Ike’ Eisenhower. Her Father had worked as a defense contractor when he returned. A civilian consultant for the defense industry. Plenty of work fighting the cold war in those days. Lots of money to be had for the military industrial complex as it was known around their house in McLean Virginia.

Shortly after Margaret had been born the Watergate scandal occurred. This and maybe all the antiwar protests had changed her Father for good. When she was four she remembered her Mother and Father having world war three in the parlor. It was sadly one of her earliest memories and as far as she was concerned the beginning of the end of her parents’ marriage even though her Father had stuck it out until she was thirteen. Their political battles were never ending. Her Mother ever increasingly Republican and her Father a liberal Independent. Not surprising in fact because her mother had come from old southern money and her Father had come from a New Hampshire farm.

In 1982 her Father had moved to Paris to work for UNESCO. It was a change of pace for him but something he truly believed in. She had stayed behind in McLean. After graduating high school she had been accepted at Georgetown. In fact although she had traveled extensively her home had always been in the nation’s capitol. She knew the city well. K street was her domain. The American Petroleum Institute payed her grandly. Her Mother was very proud, but her Father had disagreed with her decision from the very beginning. She had turned down an offer from the CIA.

She reached down for the bottle of Pinot on the glass table and refilled her tumbler. The pack of Benson & Hedges was half gone already. The first cigarette had tasted okay and took the edge off the bad news but now she was smoking and trying hard not to think about the pain that was building inside her. It was her first cigarette in seven years. The first time she had listened to the message she had run downstairs to the Korean market at the base of the apartment building and bought wine and cigarettes. The owner, whom she had know for years knew this was not the regular Margaret. The wine was relatively normal but the cigarettes meant something was wrong. He had sensed the pain in Margaret’s face but he had kept his silence in the intuitive fashion of the orient.

She wondered about the funeral arrangements. Since her Father was a veteran would he be buried at Arlington? She wasn’t sure he would’ve gone for it. She had remembered one time when he came to visit he befriended the store owner downstairs. Despite the fact his Korean wasn’t very good he still managed to have a decent conversation making friends for life in the process. That was her father. He could make friends standing on the platform at the train station. He was too friendly for DC. She wiped a tear from her eye. So much to do now. She dreaded the call she would make to her Mother. Had she heard already? She just wasn’t sure.

She closed the sliding glass door to the balcony and sat down on the couch carefully placing the bottle and glass on the coffee table. She had left the cigarettes outside. She might be smoking but she detested the smell of smoke inside. The big screen TV blared the endless news of the day. Something about the missing plane, maybe it had been found. Tomorrow she would make plans to fly to Paris. She had the name of her Father’s attorney on her cell phone. She scrolled through her extensive address list. There it was, Marcel Lemieux Avocat. She began to sob gently. She still couldn’t believe she hadn’t given her father her cell number but here she had his attorney’s number at the ready.

Australian authorities had maybe located the plane. The blaring TV had jolted her out of a half sleep. She grabbed the remote and turned it off. Her mind drifted. Australia, just the name stirred something inside her. She didn’t know why. Tomorrow was another day. She fell asleep on the couch. A siren wailed down 395.

“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.”                 — Geronimo

Get off the cell phone and Drive! — Jake Shween

It’s Getting Hot In Here

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!”

image

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