Apr 10

Bingo

“B-13!” Mercy Mia sounded off at the head of the room. Ellie looked up at her friend, Mercury Martin. His lips were a dark red tonight with an edge of gloss with liner to bring out the shape. He had shadowed eyes that added sultry to the girl next door, and his cheeks brushed with enough color for the added drama. He had on his favorite sequenced form fitting dress. Also red. And she knew underneath the table he had on a pair of five-inch heeled shoes by one of his favorite designers, Manolo Blahnik. His breasts were hiked up and sitting proud. She wished she had that much cleavage. Add the bigger than Everest hair, and you had the perfect drag queen. Ellie couldn’t help but smile.

Ellie snickered as Merc told another dick joke in between number calling and Merc’s boyfriend, sitting next to her, snorted every time Merc looked over. They’d recently moved in together. They were adorable.

“Unlucky,” Ellie shouted at her friend and frowned. She blotted the letter/number on her bingo sheet.

“Suck it up, sister!” Merc yelled back.

Ellie smiled at her friend again. She stuck her tongue out at him. Mercury was one of her best friends and forced her to come out to drag queen bingo. She’d been hiding too long for his taste he’d told her.

She sighed. Her apartment was like a living dirge swallowing her up like a grave, and she was starting to resemble a vampire.

“G-7,” Mercy Mia called out.

Ellie slammed the blotter on the empty space on her card. She’d sat an hour already, and she was no closer to getting bingo.

“Honey,” Merc’s significant other Jackson said, “I don’t think your game board can take any more.”

She looked over at him. “Serves it right for not giving me any winning squares.” She looked at her board. Empty. Like her life.

Jackson was the total opposite of Merc. He was short and fit, muscular in all the right places. Though five foot ten wasn’t considered short to her, it just was short compared to Merc’s six foot four. Jackson wore a tailored suit of dark blue and a pair of trousers that fit and held him just right as they tapered down to his ankles. He’d just taken off his jacket, and the light azure shirt hugged his chest like it was a breast plate. How did he get it to look like that she wondered? He looked scrumptious.

Too bad he was of the man-loving-honey-bunches-of-oats-kind and wasn’t single. She would totally try for some of him. Though lately, she wasn’t of the man-loving-honey-bunches-of-oats-kind either. With each relationship tried, she felt something missing. There were orgasms, but they lacked that wow factor that all her other friends talked about. At 25 she’d think she’d have had an earth-shattering sex partner. A little voice seemed to be knocking at her subconscious more and more, letting her know she had to stop denying the truth about her sexuality. It was getting harder and harder to ignore.

She set down her blotter when the next letter-number was called out. She didn’t want to play anymore. Ellie wanted to go straight back to bed and bury herself under the covers like she’d done all week and enjoy some mint chocolate chip ice cream and then enjoy even more her B.O.B. battery operated boyfriend. If she couldn’t find someone to interest her tonight, she would do just that.

Ellie got up. “I’m going to get a drink.” And it would be a hard one, not the soft ones served on the bingo side of the building.

The venue for drag queen bingo was a renovated church, from saints to sinners. Its space was adjacent to the main part of the church, or the nave, and could fit enough tables to hold a banquet. There was a bar in the back that served only juice concoctions. But what was great about the place, it was lit up like a dance club. There was a disco ball that flashed different lights, sections that had high tables along with a glammed up wait staff that rivaled Mercy Mia’s in the bling department. The bar did up the drinks like guests were on a tropical island, and held several contests throughout the night.

The best part, though, the nave next door was an actual nightclub that catered to all kinds. Gay, straight, lesbian, transgender; name it, it was here. No judging anyone’s preference. It just was. Ellie loved the place and had often come until her last break up. Hidden under all the sheen that was Justin, was a prick in a suit, who, once she peeled away his outer layer had been the biggest judging asshole she’d ever met. She’d brought her to an event that Merc and Jackson were hosting and all he’d contributed was disdain for her friends.

She crossed over the threshold into Club One and got blasted with base and the image of gyrating bodies. She easily picked up the beat with her hips as she walked into the space, the sound hitting her body, and rippling over her skin. Ellie loved to dance and decided she would stay awhile and see if she couldn’t find someone to rub up against. Merc was right, she needed to stop moping around her apartment and join the living again.

Sidling up to the bar leaning her elbows on the smooth mahogany surface she waited for the bartender’s attention to turn her way. She relaxed into the sultry techno number that had just transitioned from the heavy base and let the beat take her as she waited, knowing that the bartender would come over as soon as she could.

Not realizing she had closed her eyes and was swaying, Ellie was startled by the bright and cheerful voice that greeted her. “What can I get you?”

Ellie stared at the girl in front of her, the drink she wanted to order on the edge of her tongue.

The woman smiled, and Ellie stumbled over her drink order. “A cos-cosmopolitan,” she said. Stunning was not a word she would use when describing a woman, but this one had made something light up inside Ellie tingling across her sex like a sparkler anxiously waiting for its lighting. Flashing a smile, the woman walked away backward to make her drink, and Ellie’s eyes couldn’t help but follow the woman’s hips. Tight fitting, low-rise jeans hugged the bartender’s ass as the curves of her waist moved gracefully up to just under her breasts, her shirt short enough to allow a peek of pale freckled skin. And then she turned away. Ellie licked her lips and then sucked in a breath that sent an unsure quiver up her spine.

What was she doing ogling the woman? She liked men. But as soon as the thought entered her mind she knew it was time to stop denying what she’d known a long time. Her head fell back, and she focused on the cathedral ceiling, blew out a slow controlled breath trying to sort out her thoughts.

In college, she had sometimes looked at some of the girls in her classes wondering, what if, but nothing ever made her body react giving her a nice buzz like this bartender. But neither had the guys she’d met or dated for that matter. What was it about this woman?

Ellie watched her work. Her delicate fingers, polished in a black glaze, plucked the bottles she needed off the back bar as her hips swayed to the rhythm that was shaking the walls of the old church. She twirled, poured, and flipped the liter bottles with aplomb to the delight of the crowd, the stream of liquor entering the shot glasses. The ice was next in the shaker and then she put the lid on, did her thing, next pouring the alcohol mixture into a martini glass. Her head turned, and the woman’s eyes flashed over at Ellie and Ellie’s nipples got hard. Ellie leaned forward trying to get closer, waiting, her breasts aching as they pressed against the bar.

The bartender didn’t take her locked gaze off Ellie as she came closer and set the drink down in front of her. She waited. Ellie didn’t dare move. She didn’t want to break the connection, but the woman moved her hand toward the drink and traced a bead of moisture down the stem of the glass and slid it closer to Ellie, and said one word. “Drink.”

With an unsteady hand, Ellie reached for the drink, her fingers brushing the bartenders. Time seemed to slow and then stop as skin met skin.  Her breaths roared in her ears, and her chest hurt with each short puff like she’d just run a marathon. She was so turned on by this woman, never experiencing anything like the energy that their contact caused. And it went straight to all her delicate places. And then things started to move again, the woman smiling and walking away to make another drink.

Ellie sat and watched the bartender, nervous and confused, her knee tapping irregular rhythms as it bounced. She would catch the woman glance at her, making sure Ellie was still there. At least that’s what Ellie imagined. Or hoped. Would she come back over and talk to her? What would Ellie say?

She was looking down at her now empty glass when her eyes snapped up at being addressed. “What’s your name?” The bartender asked.

Suddenly her mouth went dry, and it was hard to speak. She picked up her glass and put it back down realizing again that she’d drank it all. She licked her dry lips.

“Ellie,” she said. But it was so soft the bartender had to lean in to hear, which brought her even closer, so close that their lips were almost touching.

“My names Sabrina.”

Ellie blinked and nodded, the woman’s minty breath dancing across her lips making Ellie’s insides quiver and her need grow even more. Did she have the courage to ask this woman to spend time with her after her shift?

As she was contemplating what she would say, Sabrina came back and set another drink in front of her. “This one is on the house.” Before she moved away, Sabrina reached out and touched her fingers that had the stem of the glass in a death grip. Ellie opened her mouth to say something, anything to keep her close but Sabrina moved away before she could.

The night grew later, and Ellie kept herself seated. She saw Merc and Jackson come in. They waved and went straight to the dance floor. Merc had changed and was now in a nice pair of denim and a t-shirt, always more casual than Jackson. She turned to watch them for a while. She was happy for Mercury, and desperately wanted to find what he had with Jackson.

Ellie turned back around and saw Sabrina talking to another woman at the end of the bar, leaning in, reaching out to touch the woman’s hand, and Ellie frowned. Did Sabrina do this to every woman that came to the bar? Was Sabrina even interested in Ellie? And then she saw Sabrina kiss the woman’s cheek. Ellie’s shoulders slumped, and she pushed her empty drink away.

Maybe it was just Ellie that nobody was interested in. Her mint chocolate chip ice cream was looking a whole lot better. She pulled out some money from her pocket and threw it on the bar. Before Sabrina looked this way, Ellie made her way over to her friends and said goodbye. She was tired of trying so hard trying to find what the universe was putting out there for her.

“I’m going to go home,” she yelled in Merc’s ear.

“Okay,” he said, his eyes narrowing and his lips pinching. She could tell he was worrying, but there was nothing Ellie could do to ease his concern. Ellie just needed more time to come to terms with her unlucky life.

“Don’t forget, Jackson and I will be at your house tomorrow at eleven.” He gave her a hug and kissed her on the lips.

Jackson turned to her and caressed her cheek in an unexpected gesture. He got close enough that she could feel his lips on her cheek and whispered right in her ear, “Everything will be okay.”

Will it? She wondered, waved, and walked away. She looked one more time over to the bar and unexpectedly caught Sabrina’s eyes. She turned away from the woman’s look of confusion toward the door and decided she would just ride out the storm that was brewing inside her. Things were going to have to change if she was going to find her happy. But she would think about that tomorrow.

When she woke up to the banging on her front door, she curled her head under her pillow and yelled, “Go away!” Of course, she knew it was Merc at the door, and he wouldn’t wait for her to get up. And sure, enough he didn’t.

“Rise and shine sleepy head,” he said from the front room after he used the key she’d given him.

She grumbled and started moving when the bed bounced up and down with Mercury’s weight.

“Give me a minute asshole.”

He laughed.

“I’ll make coffee, pumpkin.”

“Don’t call me pumpkin, jerk!”

He laughed some more, and she heard him talking to Jackson.

She moved sloth-like toward the bathroom and finally felt human again after a quick clean up in the bathroom. She put on a pair of her favorite skinny jeans that were so soft they felt like leggings, rolled them up a little at the bottom and then got out a bohemian flowy top to go with it. It was a bluish red color that highlighted her brown wavy hair. The keyhole at the collar showed off what cleavage she, which she knew could be more, but she wasn’t willing to go under the knife to get it. She grabbed her most comfortable wedges because she didn’t feel like looking like she’d woken up from a binge on mint chocolate chip ice cream, which she had, or the marathon of Game of Thrones she watched because she needed the violence to get her mind off romance. To finish off her look, she grabbed some bangle bracelets and lip gloss and called it done.

When she walked into the kitchen, she caught Merc and Jackson in the most romantic clutch and couldn’t help her envious thoughts. She shook her head to remind herself she’d decided the previous night, while downing more ice cream, she’d leave her lot up to destiny and asked, “So, what’s the plan? Where are we going?”

“We’re heading up the coast to check out a wine tour at a converted Monastery.”

“Well, that sounds fun. Wine, sun, monks.” She laughed.

“No monks, but definitely wine. We’re determined to get you out of your funk.”

“Okay, I’m ready.” She was unsure another outing would get her out of her funk, but she would let Merc and Jackson try.

When they got to the monastery, now called The Monk Monastery Winery, the beauty of the place floored her. The campus the monastery sat on was huge, the grounds were lush with flowers, and it was so peaceful she wanted to stay forever.

They walked into the main entrance, and the man at the front desk nodded and said for them to proceed to the right.

“Gorgeous.” She couldn’t stop looking around.

The architecture was right out of something you’d find in Spain. High ceilings like Club One, stone walls, gorgeous wood carvings and a stone floor that made her feel like she’d just stepped into another world. She took another step, and her foot landed wrong in her wedge. She heard Jackson call out and try to grab her hand, but it was too late. Ellie took a header right done a set of stairs grabbing the rail causing her ankle to twist in the wrong direction. Her last thought before her head hit the floor was at least in was only a set of three stairs.

Groaning filled her ears and then she figured out it was her pained voice she was hearing. She lifted her hand to feel her head and winced with the pain. Ellie noticed she wasn’t on the floor anymore and there was a floral scent that surrounded her. They must be near one of the pretty gardens. Christ her head hurt.

She shifted to sit up.

“Go slow, baby girl,” Merc said. Hands helped her sit up, but they weren’t Mercury’s or Jackson’s. And they weren’t the man’s she saw at the entrance.

“Ellie, are you okay?”

She turned slowly afraid she heard things that weren’t real because she hit her head so hard. The hands that had helped her sit up didn’t let go. They held her firm but gentle all at the same time.

“Sabrina.”

The woman from the bar.

Ellie blinked. Was she in a dream?

She looked at her friends. They didn’t say much, but watched her as she couldn’t form words. Ellie looked back at Sabrina.

“Hi, Ellie. Are you okay? You hit your head pretty hard.” Sabrina moved her hand off Ellie’s arm and gently touched the side of Ellie’s head. Her delicate fingers Ellie watched make drinks the night before made her skin tingle again as they danced across her temple.

“I’m, I’m fine,” she said with a nervous but giddy feeling in her stomach as she smiled so big it made her wince again. Ellie didn’t know what the universe was trying to tell her, but she sure as hell liked what had landed in her lap. Or should she say who’s lap she landed in.

Mercury and Jackson kept glancing over while they whispered to each other and smiled like the devil’s she knew they could be.

“What are you doing here?” Ellie asked.

“Second job,” Sabrina said and shrugged. “Why’d you disappear last night,” she said but too quickly closed her mouth and looked away. Where was the confident seductress she’d seen at the bar last night?

Ellie didn’t know what to say since she’d never been interested in a woman before, so she kept quiet.

Sabrina turned back to her, and that heat that Ellie had experienced at the club came rushing back. She could see the same flare go up in Sabrina too, but neither of them responded to the other. They both jumped as if guilty of something when Merc and Jackson came back over.

“You okay to still do the tour?” Merc asked her.  Ellie nodded noting there wasn’t as much pain gripping her head anymore. “You hit your head, but you didn’t black out, so I don’t think we need to cart you off to the emergency room or anything.”

Jackson frowned at Merc, but Ellie reaffirmed she was okay.

“Okay then,” Sabrina said. “Come with me.” As she stood up, she took hold of Ellie’s arms and helped her up. They were so close front to front that if she leaned in just enough their lips would touch and she’d get the first taste of a woman she’d ever had. Her mind went to all kinds of places with the image and as their chests bumped they nearly fell onto the small settee that she’d evidently been laid out on after she fell. As they stumbled and then righted themselves, Ellie took a step back and smiled.

“Lead the way,” she said and motioned with her arm to Sabrina. Sabrina smiled at her and Ellie returned it with one of her own. Ellie was looking forward to the tour, and she had a feeling she was really, really going to like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 08

 Battle Cry of An Anti-Hero

A new protagonist, wedged between hero and villain, is America’s favorite son – the anti-hero. Bad attitude, morally challenged and dark disposition replaces the patriotic, courageous and life-sacrificing hero. The anti-hero is usually male, might be the lesser of two evils and happens to be fighting for the right side – but for all the wrong reasons. In the end, either the anti-hero discovers his or her inner hero or meets a tragic end.

copyright 2017VintageASK

Functioning on a sliding scale of barely bad to entirely evil, the anti-hero is in mini-series, comic books, literature, video games and film. Perhaps the rise of the anti-hero reflects growing disappointment with public leaders who fall short of expectations. As school children train for active shooter drills and terrorism knows no regional boundaries, societal norms are shifting. The anti-hero, while fulfilling self-ambitions, can also be a rebellious vigilante, quelling corruption, inequity and prejudice. Villainous, dark and beholden to no law or moral code, this new protagonist challenges status quo values keeping evil in check. The darkness that exists in a main character provides awareness to the potential for evil in all humans, races and religions.

Yet, the anti-hero endures and rallies to the darkness in the world. Examples of popular anti-heroes are listed below:

1) Television Series

Breaking Bad – Walter White

House of Cards – Frank Underwood

The Sopranos – Tony Soprano

2) Comic Books

Deadpool

Wolverine

John Constantine

3) Literature

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Humbert Humbert

The Master and Margarita  by Mikhail Bulgakov – Woland

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Jay Gatsby

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – Gollum

Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello by Shakespeare

4) Gaming

Dead Red Redemption – John Marston

Deadpool – Wade Winston Wilson

Grand Theft Auto – Tommy Vercetti

5) Films

Despicable Me – Gru

A Fistful of Dollars – the man with no name (or any Clint Eastwood film)

John Wick – John Wick

Do you have a favorite anti-hero or one you love to hate? Add to my list, but I do have to warn you. After researching and sorting my list of anti-heroes, I needed a dose of hero to brighten my day. If you need a hero fix, search for one of these music videos.  

 Hero – Music/Video

1949-1957 The Lone Ranger Opening Theme Song

1980 Flash – Queen

1984 Holding Out for a Hero – Bonnie Tyler

1990 Heros and Friends – Randy Travis

1998 My Hero – Foo Fighters

2001 Superman (It’s Not Easy) – Five for Fighting

2006 Everyday hero – Smash Mouth

2011 Kill All Your Heroes – AWOLNATION

 

Apr 06

Living Life

“Life outside your craft is just as important as practicing it, if not more.” Smart Blogger

When my date, Roger, saw my map with magnets of the twelve states I visited, he said, “We’ll have to fill in the rest.”

This man is a keeper, I thought. He likes to travel as much as I do. I removed most of the magnets and only retained magnets of the three states we visited together. The map would reflect our life together.

We married less than a year after our first date and have traveled to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, and 48 of the 50 states collecting magnets along the way. We plan to visit the last two states on our list, Wyoming and South Dakota, within the next year or two. Some of our travels to the southern states gave me an opportunity to collect important data for my historical story-in-progress.

We enjoy learning about the history, culture, and way of life in the places we visit. I took notes every day on our trip to Australia and New Zealand and wrote a blog series for Deadwoodwriters.org about that wonderful experience.

Sampling the dishes common to places we visit is a special treat. Eating fresh pineapples in Hawaii, lobster in California, beignets in Louisiana, salmon in Alaska, crabs in Florida, and crocodile meat in Australia thrilled our taste buds. Crocodile meat tastes like chicken – tough chicken. Roger even devoured delicious green-lipped mussels in New Zealand.

Our grandchildren receive colorful postcards from us describing our adventures. From the time our granddaughter was six, she saved her postcards in an album. At age five, our grandson requested a map for Christmas so that he could put a tiny sticker on the places we traveled.

We collect magnets of the places we visit as well as data for future stories I may write.

I’ve learned to live life to the fullest giving me exciting things to write about. Are you living your best life?

Apr 05

The Sims Experience

When I was much younger, I used to love seeing the stories I wrote come to life.  This usually entailed using my collection of My Little Ponies to act out the story, each of them representing a certain character therein.  Sometime during my teenage years, I obtained an obscure PC game that let the user create simulated stage plays.  I can’t even recall the title of it now, but it served as another way to bring my stories to life.  Nevertheless, my options were limited, and the stage play game even crashed when I made the dialogue for the characters too complicated.

Hearing news of a game called The Sims way back in 1999 seemed to be a dream come true.  It would allow the player to create a household of up to eight people and have full control over their actions.  While the original Sims game contained elements that its successors didn’t – such as children who remained perpetually young – it still allowed me to create physical representations of story characters I’d dreamed up over the years.

While each expansion pack released for The Sims enhanced the experience in some way, the limitations of the game would have made me tired of it sooner or later.  The announcement of its first successor, The Sims 2, solved this problem and got me even more excited to continue my forays into this world.

The Sims 2 surpassed the original game in many ways:  you could now have your starting family build a dynasty over generations, as Sims could now grow up and eventually die.  The game was more three-dimensional, and you were given more options of shaping a character’s look.  And what’s better, children would inherit their looks from their parents rather than not resemble them in the slightest.

When The Sims 2 was released in 2004, I fell in love with it so much that I gave up entirely on the original game and got rid of my collection.  This new versatility gave my imagination a workout.  Over time, I even formulated a couple stories through The Sims 2 that I may one day craft into a fiction story of my own.  And the option to create more realistic representations of my story characters added to my appreciation for The Sims 2.  So much so that I thought I would never tire of it.

As with the original game, each expansion pack released for The Sims 2 made the experience all the more enjoyable.  The option to send teenagers off to the college and follow their adventures there, allow families to adopt pets or start their own business at home, and to allow Sims to dabble in magic made it seem like there were no limits to where you could go with this.

I can’t recall why The Sims 3 – released in 2009 – seemed so much more appealing than its predecessor, but my addiction to The Sims 2 fell by the wayside once the newer game came along.  In retrospect, my decision to get rid of my Sims 2 collection is one I regret.  I was dazzled by The Sims 3 for the first few years, but my love for the series eventually soured.

The number of game glitches for The Sims 3 seemed to grow exponentially with each new expansion pack.  The one I detested the most occurred when I would play as a single family through several generations.  Whenever I tried to send one or more of the family members off on vacation or to college, the game would just freeze up.  This particular glitch demanded I delete whatever family I was playing as and start a brand new one from scratch.

I eventually got so frustrated and jaded that I stopped playing The Sims 3 and sold off the whole lot of it.  After more than a decade, I decided I was done with this life/family simulation game and thought I’d never look back.

Sometime late in 2015, I changed my tune when I purchased a copy of The Sims 4 that had been released a year prior.   At first, it was fun.  The Sims seemed more realistic than ever and their relationships and how they interacted with others could now be determined by their emotional states.  For instance, it is somewhat difficult to get a loner Sim and an outgoing Sim interested enough in each other that a romance blossoms.

I had created three different characters for the Sims 4, moved them into different houses, and began playing the game in earnest.  I had married each of them off and got to the point where each had a child.  Out of nowhere, all my saved data for The Sims 4 up and vanished.  I lost the three families I’d put some work into over several weeks and would have to start over from scratch.  I don’t have any explanation for what happened, but I was agitated enough to give up on the series once more.

Part of me wonders if the problems I experienced with The Sims 3 & 4 might not have been an issue if I’d had a high-end PC computer that would have made the glitches less prevalent.  But I may never bother to find out.  One thought that I’ve had percolating for some time is to repurchase The Sims 2 and its expansion packs since I never encountered any major issues with them.

I’ve been around video games enough to know that bigger and flashier games are not necessarily better than what’s come before.  My experience with the overall Sims series definitely proves this.

To sum it up:  Never discount the value of old-school video games.  They may hold more worth than something that looks like the best thing ever on the surface.

Mar 23

You Are the Shadow

For his ongoing project "I’m Not There," Barcelona-based photographer Pol Úbeda Hervàs creates composite photographs from multiple exposures.The invitation arrived only a week ago: ‘The Presence of your company is graciously requested,’ it began. Arriving by registered mail, it included three, one-hundred-dollar bills for ancillary expenses and one round trip airfare. Now, with the Sun about to rise, you are walking through a metal detector, about to board a bus with dozens of other people from your flight, complete strangers who, like you, are dressed for this special occasion. The bus is almost full. A woman wearing a too-large, fluffy blue gown has her dress spread across the two seats on either side of her. She looks at you with a discouraging frown as you approach. Her high heels are blue, too, and so tight they look like they are frowning as well. A man in a turban looks at you stone-faced as you walk to the back. You take a seat next to a pregnant woman. She wishes you good morning as the bus starts to leave. You reply the same, but, like everyone else, you and she ride in otherwise silence through the dim, quiet streets of Washington D.C. The bus is joined by other buses as you pass through the gates to the White House. Cellphones come out, and a few hasty pictures of the Sun rising over this iconic building are taken, by others. The buses drive around to the back of the White House.

Clutching a claim ticket for your cellphone, you and the others are escorted past sniffing dogs and through still more metal detectors, then into a theater. There must be two thousand people or more. Different ages, different skins, and very different ideas on how to dress for a meeting with the President. Two rows in front of you sit a young man in a hoodie next to a woman in a hijab. Off to the left is a lady with a flowery derby hat, and not far away is a short man in a ten-gallon hat. There are women wearing scarves and men wearing skullcaps. Hair styles are a mishmash of everything from ponytails to buzzcuts, and just as colorful as the hats. In the din, you hear Yiddish, Spanish, Southern drawls, New England twangs and other tongues you do not recognize. All, with light laughter and calm expressions. A virtual vegetable soup of people sits anxiously in this theater with you, awaiting the President. Your invitation did not say what the occasion was, did not say you would be meeting with so many others. You ask around you, but no one knows why they are here.

‘Thank you,’ President Trump says as he walks on stage. There is no applause. He is dressed in dark pants, white polo shirt, and his traditional red golf cap. He looks older and heavier in person. There is no podium. He stands on stage with the microphone in his hand and begins, ‘I want to thank all of you for being here today on such short, and vague, notice. For those of you who called, I’m sorry we could not give you any more information until now. It’s important, as you’ll see. But first, I want you to look around and see who else is here today. And as you do, let me explain why you are here.

‘Look around, and you’ll see some others who look like you, but you’ll see a lot more people you don’t have much in common with. In fact, as far as I know, you all have only three things in common, and it’s got nothing to do with politics or religion or what neighborhood you live in. First, you are all American citizens who have not had their voting privileges revoked. Second, you have all been living in your community for at least one year, and third, you all own smartphones.’

As the President speaks, ushers walk the aisles and distribute small, white boxes about the size of a pack of cigarettes. Embossed on the cover is an outline of the White House, the only color is the tiny American flag on top of it. ‘I’ve asked you here at this ungodly hour of seven a.m. because it’s the only way to avoid the press these days. They think I’m playing an early round of golf. I’ll tell them after I’ve told you.’

‘Here it is.

‘I am asking each of you to volunteer for one year of public service to your country, to your President. I’m calling it, “Volunteers of America.” Great name. Perfect name for this program.

‘Specifically, I am asking you to use the app that is being distributed now to shadow your congressmen and senators. On this app, you will be able to see what bills are coming up, and with it, you will be able to vote on those bills just like your representatives do. They won’t be able to escape their shadow now!

‘There are thirty-three people here from each state and territory of the United States. Each one of you represents three percent of your state’s population. At the end of each vote, the way you cast your vote will be compared to how your congressmen voted, and those results we will give to the media and everyone on Capitol Hill. Now, I know you have a hundred questions, but I already know what they are. Believe me, I thought this through. I thought it through more than any other program I thought through so far. Volunteers of America. Great name, isn’t it?’

The person next to you raises her hand and asks, ‘Isn’t that name already taken? The VoA has…’

‘We’re talking to them,’ Trump interrupts. ‘We’re talking to them. They may change their name to the Original Volunteers, or the Old Volunteers. You know, they’ve been around for over a hundred years. Great organization, does great things.’

But in your mind, you’re hearing Jefferson Airplane’s song Volunteers. The lyrics, their meaning, Woodstock, the trembling times of fifty years ago. You look around and see much apprehension on others, too. You open your box. In it is a flash drive and you are almost afraid to touch it. There is also a business card-size note signed by the President that reads, Thanks for volunteering to make America great again! Grace Slick wails in your mind, Look what’s happening out in the street.

The P.O.T.U.S. continues, ‘Your votes will not count towards the passing of any bills. That’s not legal. Your votes are not binding, but your lawmakers are going to see where they are out of sync with your votes, and you, and the world, are going to see where they are not in step with how they should be behaving on your behalf. You, the Volunteers, will have the results of both Volunteers’ vote and your representatives’ – in-real-time! As it happens, folks, so the media cannot fake the results. Not to you, anyway. If they report something different, you’re gonna report that. This is so beautiful, because not only are we going to hold Congress accountable, but the press, too!

‘You know, I once had an accountant tell me he could add up a column of numbers to say whatever I wanted it to say. I fired him, folks. I told him I don’t need a cook in the accounting office and fired him on the spot. That’s what they do! They add the column of numbers to say what they want! We gotta stop that. You, the Volunteers of America, are gonna stop that.’

Trump continues, but your mind drifted back to those bold headlines fifty years ago; Johnson, Nixon, party didn’t matter. You think, Slick had it right; This generation got no destination to hold.

Trump says, ‘This is so beautiful. Isn’t this beautiful? Actually, I didn’t think it up on my own, I had a little help from Ivanka and Jared. Isn’t she great? What a great daughter. Have you seen her Summer Collection? Great son-in-law, too. But back on script. Actually, as you can see, I’m not using a script. No teleprompter needed for this one. I’ve been ready for this one for a long, long time.

‘Remember, I promised to drain the swamp? Well, you are going to help me. With your help, we can force Congress to listen to your voices over the lobbyists. And then they are going to have to decide if they want to keep their jobs or continue to fill their pockets with…. Do you know; every single senator and congressman is a millionaire? Every single one! That’s why they want to keep their jobs – they want to be the Sous Chef of the accounting office!’

He shifts the mic to his other hand and continues in a calmer voice, ‘Now, this is strictly voluntary. You can leave here today and never download the app. That’s fine, too. You know why? Because there are millions of Americans just like you who don’t vote. And just as their silence goes without representation, so will three percent of your neighbors’ if you don’t. And that’s fine. That’s the American way, too.

‘Here’s what you won’t get, that your representatives do get. You will not get paid-in-full health insurance for you and your family for life. You will not get a $175,000 salary. In fact, you are not getting paid a dime. You don’t get an office with a dozen staff members, or a car or any travel reimbursement. You are not going to be invited to lavish dinner parties, or receive box seat tickets anonymously in the mail. But, like your senators and congressmen, you will only have to work 22 weeks a year. I guess that’s a perk. I’ve never taken that much time off from work. Ever. Hard to imagine any company staying in business if every employee took off six and half months a year. At $175,000 each. Just imagine. But that’s another story. Another problem I gotta fix. But not now.’

A man on the other side of the room asks, ‘Is this legal?’

Trump assures him it is. ‘Absolutely legal. One hundred percent legal. One hundred and ten percent!’

The man wearing the ten-gallon hat raises his hand and asks if their names and addresses will be published.

‘That’s nevva-gonna-happen, amigo,’ Trump shakes his head. ‘The only way anyone is going to know that you are a Volunteer of America is if you tell them. Which you are entitled to do. But WE are not going to reveal to the press or anyone else who you are. Even if you were to swear on a stack of bibles that you are part of this program, we will never admit it, or deny it. And one year from now, when your service is up, the app will be removed and someone else will have taken your place. The one thing you absolutely cannot do, the one thing that will get you booted out of the Volunteers in a heartbeat, is if you have any contact with any lobbyists while serving your country.’

The pregnant woman who sat next to you on the bus asks, ‘Are we going to be able to vote on what you do, too?’

The President hesitates. ‘That’s a good question.’ He covers the mic and consults with someone offstage. ‘No,’ the President says. ‘But that’s a good idea.’ He turns back to stage-left and says into the microphone, ‘Jared, make a note to include that in version-two.’

Someone in the audience shouts, ‘Supreme Court, too.’ A few applaud.

‘That’s good. That’s great, but no applause, please. There are no news cameras rolling. But this is great, folks. This is just what we want. Anybody else got any other good ideas?’

The woman whose gown took up two additional seats on the bus gets up and says very loudly, ‘I’m not gonna sit here and listen to any more of this man’s bull crap!’ She looks from the President to the others in the room. ‘Who’s with me?’ She takes a step to leave as others rise and choirs their agreement. The President says, ‘That’s fine. Walk out. But you’ll take millions of voters out with you.’

‘I never voted for you! I was one of the millions who protested against you!’ she shouts. ‘Get someone else to be your crony.’

‘No one in here asked to be here. No one! No one asks to be on jury duty, either, but if you’re called you must appear. It’s your constitutional duty. Think of this as jury duty. Now, all of you, sit down and hear me out. If not for yourself, then for the millions of protestors you will be abandoning! Or, don’t they deserve your vote?’

She stares long and hard at Trump, then sits back down and crosses her arms. Mumbled conversations creep throughout the theater until someone asks, ‘Why can’t we talk to lobbyists? Congressmen and Senators do all the time.’

‘Because that’s the swamp, my friend. Because that’s the swamp. If the Volunteers of America are going to have any value in the end, then you need to abide by that one rule. Just one rule. That’s all. If you choose to bring in other people, other voices, to help you decide, that’s up to you. Or not. It’s your call all the way.’ Trump asks stage-left for a chair so he can sit down.

After Jared brings it and he sits down, Trump continues in what sounds strangely like your father’s voice.

‘You see, you and me, we’re cut from the same cloth. We’re both above reproach because I love this country as much as you do. No lobbyist is going to bribe me! With what? A million dollars? Free golf for life? I’m untouchable. And so are you, as long as they don’t know who you are. What you are going to do – and what this program is going to do for years after you’ve helped pioneer it, with me –  what this is going to do is make congress great again. If only because they are under a glaring spotlight.’

Someone calls out, ‘Are you going to listen, too, Mr. President? Are you going to let that glaring spotlight shine on you?’

He doesn’t say anything at first, but his face turns as red as his hat. He says flatly, ‘I already answered that. Like I said; version two. But I’m not the problem. I’m above reproach, and everybody knows that. This program is run by you and run by you only. Vote, don’t vote; it all counts. And you want to know why this is so good? Why this is so great, actually? It’s great because everyone thinks the Electoral College is a bad idea. Maybe someday this will replace it. Think about this…. Just take a minute and think about this.’ He draws imaginary quotes over his head and says, ‘Volunteers of America Replaces Electoral College -Whadda headline that would make! Wouldn’t that make a great headline?’

Mumbled conversations fill the theater again. The person sitting next to you leans over and says, ‘Wow. This is a lot of responsibility. A lot of responsibility to walk away from, too. What are you going to do?’

You look at the embossed house on the box, the flag on top. Jefferson Airplane plays in your head, and you say…

 

What would you do?

  1. Would you believe the President? Or, would you be afraid of what’s really on the app?
  2. Would you walk away, knowing no one will ever know it was you who took away their voice?
  3. Would you volunteer? And if so, would you consult with your neighbors before voting, or would you just vote your conscience? Again, knowing no one will know who you are. It’s only for one year.

LMK, pls

-P

 

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