Tag Archives: Altered States of America
Edgar Fink never cared for button-down shirts or pleated pants. He preferred a T-shirt with a pocket and a sensible pair of heavily-starched trousers. “Comfort,” Edgar often said, “is for women and babies.” No amount of coaxing could convince the stubborn 64-year-old bricklayer that men were permitted to wear shorts, let alone a shirt with a floral pattern. “Children air out their legs,” he would say, “men sweat.”
According to the plaque on Freedom Fountain, Dead Ted’s legacy was greater than his infamous takedown by the vice squad in the bathroom at Ray’s Meat Shack, or his notorious knife fight with Egon the Pimp in 1983 would lead one to believe.
When cow #3716892 was designated for shipment to Udder Joy, Fishkill County’s largest organic grocery store chain, her eyes widened with fear. As the handlers at Slaughterhouse IV attempted to guide her out of the facility’s massive holding pen, she broke loose and scrambled for the kill floor, hoping to fall into a giant bone grinder or perhaps lose her head somewhere in the chop room.
At the Workaday Trouser Co., lunch breaks were forbidden and 18-hour shifts were the norm. When CEO Terrance Blandings announced a prohibition on color (except, of course, for use in the company’s wildly popular Roy G. Biv line of trousers) the town transformed overnight from a glowing Technicolor mini-metropolis to a gray quarter of dead buildings.
Last time Fritz and Toto squared off both men left in ambulances. Fritz with a broken jaw, shattered clavicle, and internal bleeding, Toto with his right ear chewed off and a unicycle pedal lodged in his rectum. In the police report, one eyewitness described the confrontation as “deeply disturbing,” while another characterized the men’s behavior as “animal-like and vulgar, borderline homicidal.” Since neither Fritz nor Toto agreed to cooperate with the criminal investigation that followed, the case languished before eventually falling apart.
“Yo! Yo! Give the money to the monkey, not to me,” Muggs said, rolling his eyes in disbelief. The young man with an outstretched hand full of crumpled bills lowered his head in embarrassment and shuffled over to Pedro, who handed him a DVD.
No item was off limits for Chan. Whether it was an unflushed toilet left at the curb, or a half-eaten hot dog pulled from the dumpster at the Pop-N-Stop, he tossed it all into the bed of his pickup truck and worried about what to do with it later. That’s what set him apart from other junk men, his total lack of judgment.
It was awkward being three stories tall, but Judy had become accustomed to life at towering heights. As an adult, she learned to avoid telephone wires and traffic lights, two obstacles that caused much grief during her clumsier, adolescent years. She also knew better than to ever wear a dress, as it was known to send the camera-draped tourists into a frenzy.
What worried Hank most about his trip to Choke City Park had nothing to do with the elderly streakers in trench coats or feral dogs that the park had become known for in recent years. No, it was the derelict children roaming in sugar-shocked herds, glazed expressions slapped across their faces. The media referred to them as “The Candy Kids,” and Hank’s growing fascination had led him to investigate.
It happened once before, the night Cheat City Heat won the Tri-Boro Intramural Classic. Maynard’s beloved Vespa had gone missing around midnight, during what many claimed was “the bloodiest sports riot since Pistol Pete’s Mayday Massacre,” leaving the young man sick with grief over the well-being of his motor scooter.
When the store-bought hand sanitizers finally stopped working, a city-wide panic erupted. Hands started falling off at a frightening rate. Home-brewed sanitizers, like those cooked up at Lee’s in Oriental Village, were overpriced and unproven. But there were few alternatives for those affected, and signs of the epidemic were visible all over town.
The 24-karat-gold invitation was hand-delivered to Glenn’s apartment by a butler wearing limited-edition, hazard yellow G-Boats. When Glenn opened his door, the butler knelt down on one knee and bowed his head as he raised up the coveted invite on a silken pillow embroidered with the Fresh Feet logo. The color drained from Glenn’s face and sweat bubbled up on his forehead as his eyes zeroed in on the envelope, which read: “Glenn Kilowatt, Sneaker Aficionado.”
Where family therapy had failed, taxidermy succeeded. It had been years since the Gores recalled such peaceful living conditions in the house. Gerald and Genevieve had stopped fist fighting in front of the kids, and were even talking about sharing the same bedroom again. Ginny, the Gore’s teenage daughter, no longer extinguished cigarettes on her father’s forehead, or called her mother a “trifling hoe” each time they passed in the hall. And Galen, the couple’s 10-year-old son, had given up on cutting himself to get attention.
A child in the East Treehouse cranked the alarm when she saw the truancy officer approaching on foot. The sound of a Klaxon horn rang through the valley and children fled into The Burrows and watchtowers, the Far Caves and Deep Forest. Some of the young children weren’t fast enough, so the officer preyed on them first. He tossed them over his shoulder like balled-up pieces of paper, their small bodies landing hard in the great rolling cage that he towed behind.
An adventure on the high seas was exactly what Alexander needed. No more nights spent playing backgammon alone in the library at Burnshire, the all-boys preparatory school his parents insisted he attend. No, that solitude would soon be a fading memory. He imagined himself standing on the deck of a majestic ship, staring out at the open sea before him. It would be a journey to usher him into manhood.
Maybe I’ve said this before, that mother warned me life would be filled with disappointment. As a toddler, of course, the lesson was lost on me. But when I entered primary school at Our Lady of Misery it became clear: Nobody around me knew what they were doing. That’s when I realized why I found no joy in the company of others, especially classmates. Those people were mouth breathers with no set goals in life! All that appealed to me at that school were the rules I discovered in the student handbook.
Susie had been sitting in a wet diaper for nearly two hours when her parents finally took note. “Look dear, she must want a cigarette.” Susie’s eye widened as her mother walked toward her, cigarette in hand. She spit out the smoking butt and sobbed. “I just don’t understand this child!” her mother screamed, storming off. Susie’s face turned red and then purple. She snorted and tried to catch her breath. Spit dribbled from her mouth and splashed across her cheek.
Each time his parents took him to Squalor Park, Chester slipped away to the public restroom. Nobody missed him. His mother kept busy sorting stems from the bags of weed she had for sale, and his father was preoccupied robbing the homeless. That afforded the young man hours of time to drift into elaborate fantasy worlds.
Early each morning the delivery truck from Slumville Juvenile Detention Center backed up to the loading dock at the Pop-N-Stop. Cigarette smoke poured from the cab as the driver kept his good eye fixed on the side view mirror, waiting for the back door to open. As the old truck idled it spit black clouds of diesel smoke that clung to the air like dog shit on tube socks. Turk, owner of the Pop-N-Stop, greeted the driver with a middle finger salute.
The letters first appeared on restaurant windows just hours after The Coup. Air raid sirens wailed as men dressed in checkerboard pants and chef’s coats haphazardly painted A’s and B’s on windows throughout Heart Attack Alley. Shopkeepers attempted to shoo the men away, but they spilled into the streets by the hundreds. It’d been hours since the mayor disappeared, and citizens feared that Enzo Carrada, Culinary Czar, had seized power.