What a Rush...
 

DITTOHEAD

by Jonathan Lowe
"What'll it be, bud?" the bartender asks me. 

"How 'bout a Bud ... Light," I say. 

I pick up the channel changer from the bar and tune the overhead TV from ladies mud wrestling to a local news report.  As I do so a big tattooed biker in a tank top slowly stands behind me. 

"Hey --" 

"Hey yourself," I say with a wink. 

"-- you!" 

The biker steps up behind me now, and I reach into my pocket and without looking back hold out a $20 bill.  He stops, stunned, and takes the money. I'm still staring at the screen, where a newscaster is saying that the final vote was ninety-eight to two against the line-item veto.  In other news, the EPA has just banned the latest CFC replacement, drawing fire from representatives in southwestern states already struggling for energy since the last ban. As a side note, the ceiling fan business is booming in Phoenix and El Paso, and it's hot even here, in Missouri. 

"It's worse than I thought," I say, now watching a commercial for Honkey Kong Condoms, followed by a phalanx of government promopops -- Department of Bankruptcy & Suicide, Immigration & Nationalization, and something called the Discrimination Bureau, specializing in all kinds of favoritism whether racial, sexual, verbal, animal, vegetable, or mineral. 

I give up and change the thing back to mud wrestling, drawing cheers from the bar's patrons.  The bartender sets a beer in front of me, which I sip and then spit out. 

"This is warm!" I complain. 

"What'd you expect?" 

I lay a $10 bill on the counter and turn away. 

"Hey, I can't accept this," the bartender says. 

"Why not?" 

"Well, it's too much.  I'm over my tip limit.  You want the IRS to throw me in the slammer?" 

"They wouldn't do that." 

"Wanna bet?  My wife's in prison right now.  Made way too much as a waitress ... fifteen thousand ... she's got big breasts.  I miss her." 

"I'll bet." 

"An' I'll bet you work for the IRS too ... ya got that evil eye." 

I shake my head.  "Can you keep a secret?"  I lift my wig to reveal that I'm bald.  "I'm the President of the United States." 

The bartender laughs.  He thinks that's funny.  Then his eyes narrow. "Hey, if you are him, whatta you doin' here?  You here for a drink on the House, or the Senate?"  He snickers, thinks that's funny too. 

I hold out my executive Gold Card and Presidential ID.  The bartender takes it, stares at the embossed photo of me seated in the Oval Office.  "I ran away this morning," I tell him.  "Came straight here.  But you'd never believe why." 

"Hey, that's you," the bartender says. 

"You're right, it is.  And I got me a stolen Harley belongs to some Congressman right outside ... and I'm on the lam." 

"No shit." 

"Yup.  I'm looking for a guy was once on the radio, name of Rush Limbaugh. Used to live in this town.   So you seen him in here, or what?" 

The bartender gives me his best cheese-eating grin, then a light bulb seems to turn on behind his eyes.  He lowers his voice to a whisper.  "Hey, if you're really the Prez, where's the Secret Service?" 

"Shhhhhh," I breathe, turning away.  "It's a secret."   Now I climb up on top of the nearest table.  It sways, and I regain my balance.  "Hey! Everybody!" I yell.  "Anybody seen Rush Limbaugh?  There's a reward if you can tell me when." 

"Last night?" one man guesses. 

"Last week?" says another. 

A hooker leans forward into a circle of light.   "Last Thursday, eight p.m.," she says, lighting up a cigarette as the other jealous patrons eye her long, white cancer stick.  "He stiffed me ... on my full fee." 

I step down and lead her outside, using a $50 bill as bait. 

"What did he say?" I say. 

"He said, 'ohhhhhhhh baaaby.' " 

"Besides that.  Did you find out where he lives?" 

She grins from the side of her mouth.  "Gruntsville ... it's somewhere in Moantana.  Know what I mean?" 

I shake my head.  "Come here often?" 

"He did -- for a little while." 

"And if you had to find him again, could you?" 

She grabs at my money, misses it by a hair.  "What kinda game you playin'? He owe you money too?"  I shake my head.  Her eyes turn even harder. "He's an evader, huh.  An' you a Fed." 

"Yeah," I say.  "I'm a Fed, all right.  Ever since last night.  But I'm also a Dittohead." 

"A what?" 

"A Limbaugh fan.  A faithful listener to his radio show ... biggest in the country ... hell, in the world.  I read every book he wrote, watched his TV show, bought his gold-signature coffee mug, his videos, his newsletter. The works." 

"Sure," she says.  "Sure you did."  She holds out her hand.  "Name's Bambi." 

I take her hand, not sure what to do with it other than check the cool, damp palm.  "Bambi.  Can you help me or what?" 

We walk over to my motorcycle below a billboard that reads: EQUALITY FOR ALL -- EVEN YOU.  In small print below the big print it reads:  Paid for by Your Generous Tax Contributions. 

Bambi says, "Nobody can help you, man." 

"What if ... you'd be helping your country?"  She laughs, so I hold up a $100 bill.  And she stops laughing.  "Or are you over your limit too?" I ask her. 

Getting on the back of my Harley, she snatches the money and says:  "Tell ya a little secret.  I don't report everything." 

I gun the engine, then lift my wig for her.  "Neither do I," I say.     

When she puts her hand into my hip pocket and starts pinching me, I slow down.  Then she points up toward an overpass where a row of huge cardboard boxes is wedged between the road and the concrete grade.  And I stop. 

"His house is third from the left," she tells me.  I look at her and she shrugs.  "Used to do charity work." 

As we walk to the top, several shelter residents peer out from behind the sheets covering their cardboard homes.   One old man points a gun at my crotch. 

"Oh," he says, seeing Bambi.  "It's sweet cheeks ..." 

Bambi lowers her hands.  "Is that thing real?" 

The old man examines his "weapon," smiling through his rotting teeth. "Wouldn't be livin' here if it was, would I?" 

We go to residence number three.   It has a big #3 over the makeshift cardboard lintel in grease pencil.  Bambi knocks.   "Hello ... Rush?" 

A voice booms from inside.  "Go away, I gave at the office."  The flap opens. At the sight of us, he shuts the flap, then opens it again slowly.   In shock, he mutters,  "Who ..." 

"It's a wig," I say.  "Rush, we need to talk." 

                                                * * * 

We're sitting on spotted cushions made of torn blue vinyl.  With light from the raised flap above us I can see that the walls are decorated with old Time magazine covers ... Reagan, Bush, Clinton, then me.  There are no bumper stickers reading Dittohead Until I'm Dead or Rush Rules, but on the shopping cart in the corner a plaque reads:  Just Say No To Government Waste. 

"Look," I say, "it's not what you think." 

"So what do you think?" Rush asks fearfully. 

"I think you're a little thin," I say.  "Must be your diet lately." 

"What diet is that?" Rush asks me. 

I shake my head and briefly close my eyes.  I can almost see the old Rush at his desk ... the rotund Rush -- brazen, fat, and sassy -- delivering his diatribes with a lusty and humorous elan.  The Rush that sits before me now is emaciated and nervous, reduced to trudging the city in search of beer cans, taking in laundry, and investing in a diversified portfolio of Uncle Sam's lottery tickets and food coupons.  It is a Rush that didn't exist until I came along, and the guilt I feel is heavy. 

"It's worse than I thought," I confess.  "If it weren't for me you'd be a star right now, smoking imported cigars and dining at places like Brennan's and The Four Seasons." 

"What kinda joke --" 

"No joke.  You should be up there on the cover of Time, not me." 

Bambi starts to get up.  "Hey, this is too kinky for me," she says. 

I grab her arm.  "Let me explain." 

"You do that." 

I tell them about the UFO, and how it landed in a field right next to my house in Cape Gerardo the previous night.  They sit there staring at me like I'm a wacko, except they can't get away from the fact that I'm also President of the United States. 

"That's it," says Bambi, reaching her threshold.  She hands me my embossed ID back.  "I'm outta here." 

"No, wait!  I didn't mean that.  It's not what you think." 

Bambi sighs.  "Was it a UFO or wasn't it?" 

"Yes and no.  Well, yes ... but maybe not."  Rush is examining my ID now. "Look, I don't know what the hell it was.  It didn't come down from the sky, it just appeared.  Opened up, like from another dimension or something." 

She laughs.  "So what happened, some little green men --" 

"No, no, see, it was more like a crystal, a light, and a feeling." 

"A feeling?" Rush asks me.  “A feeeeeeling.” 

"Power.  It gave me a power." 

"What kind of power?" 

"Random power.  Over everything.  Like God.  It focused on me, and flowed into me.  Then it vanished.  Like a singularity, a black hole." 

Rush nods thoughtfully, a gleam of jealousy in his right eye.  "So what happened?" 

"I ... ah ... I felt powerful.  And I wished I was President.  I know it's hard to believe.  Kinda like a White House press briefing." 

"Who?"  Bambi clucks, then adds:  "You're as nutty as I am, 'cause I voted for you."  She puts both hands to her head.  "What got into me?" 

"I did," I say,  "evidently.  I became President, and the power was used up. Or almost used up." 

Rush leans forward.  "What do you mean, almost?" 

Bambi clucks again.  "This is nuts." 

"No, it's not ... not to me, don't you see?  I changed history in that instant for everyone but me.  I remember it because at that instant I thought it might be nice to be able to look back at myself too, dumb workin' stiff that I was, and remember how I once was."  I spread my hands.  "It was just a stupid wish.  Step on a crack." 

Rush is aghast now.  "My mother, she had a fall.  Broke her back." 

"Like I said, the power isn't all used up.  I couldn't help it.  Ever heard of Elvis Presley?" 

I watch them stare, then shake their heads in ignorance. 

"See?"  I say. 

"See what?" replies the ghastly thin and mousy Rush. 

"I did away with rap music too, and, I'm sorry to say, Mozart." 

"Who?" 

"But I think it's okay now.  The power is mostly gone, and if there's any left I'd have to really concentrate to use it." 

"What'd ya call it?" Bambi asks.  "A ... singu ..." 

"Singularity.   Something known science can't explain.  Like black holes." I cross my fingers.  "Now comes the unbelievable part." 

They look at each other, then back at me.   I try to smile. 

Of course they didn't see anything wrong with the signs carried by the homeless, either.  They didn't see the humor in WILL WORK FOR VEGETARIAN FOOD, or AMNESTY FOR SERIAL KILLERS, or SAVE CAVIAR, or even the long one: STRANDED IN TOWN, WIFE RUN OVER BY BUS, AM DYING OF AIDS VACCINE -- AND TODAY IS ONLY TUESDAY.  Come to think of it, I don't see the humor much myself.  Not anymore. 

I tried to explain that it wasn't like this in the sane world I remember.  I told Rush how I used to listen to him on the radio, and how because of that the next President will be from the communist party, with no more elections. And how they're patterning it after the old Soviet Union, all because of me. 

"You?" says Rush, dumbfounded. 

"I listened to you too much, see?  I was a dittohead, labeled a wacko. And I wasn’t even a member of the N.R.A. or a militia.  No sacks of fertilizer in my garage.  No AK-47s and year's supply of K rations.  But I had an imagination, though, see.  And now my worst fears have come true.  So apparently the next Congress will be a Politburo, and this morning when I found out how insignificant I am to stop it, I came to find you for help." 

Bambi rubs her eyebrows.  "Les' see if I got this right, now.  Ya were like God, and now yer the President, and this fool here was yer hero, and so now you wanna change the world back to the way it used ta be before ya changed it to begin with ... and nobody but you knows any of this is true.   Have I got it?" 

She waits for my response.  I nod.  She hangs her head. 

"So what do we do?" asks Rush.  "And may I call you Bubba?" 

                                                * * * 

They follow me down to the Harley, where I rummage in the saddlebag for a cellular phone.  "You could go on living like this," I warn as I dial. "That's the alternative."   Into the phone I say:  "Need a cab at the Grant Road overpass."   Then I put the phone away and hand Bambi more slush fund cash.  "When you get home I want you to try finding those people I mentioned." 

"Let's see ... Bill Bennett and Gordon Liddy and ..." 

"Newt.  As in eye of newt." 

I get on the bike.  Rush climbs on the back.  Bambi sticks the money in her cleavage as I start up. 

"What if that guy Buckley isn't at the work farm anymore?" she asks. 

"Cross your fingers," I say.   "We'll be in touch ..." 

Rush grins as I gun the engine.  "What's the plan?" he shouts in my ear. 

"Who knows," I reply.  "We gotta find Bill Buckley, he'll know what to do. Maybe get him to come back to Washington, help me do my State of the Union speech.  It's the only thing that might save us from all this." 

"Oh, okay," he replies, patting my saddlebag.  "I go where the money is."      

Traffic is light.  A sign on the highway says gas is ahead, $5.50 a gallon. Rush rubs my skull like a genie's bottle and yells in my ear to pull over. 

"Gimme a ten for snacks," he insists.   "You wanna save the world, I can't do it on an empty stomach." 

I pull in for a fill up.  When Rush is inside I ask the attendant: "You ever heard of the Brady Work Farm?   They tell me William F. Buckley Jr. is there." The attendant points at my wig.  "Kinda crooked," he says, then: "Yeah, it's two hundred miles east, give or take.  Who's William F. Buckley Jr.?" 

"Dissident." 

"Oh yeah, right.  That guy had a magazine before the non-recyclable paper ban.  What was the name of it?  Wackos Illustrated?"  The attendant stares down at the wad of bills I take out of my pocket.  "Reckon you need a sidecar for your friend?  Got one out back, and it's for sale if the money is right." 

"I should need it," I said, "but I don't.  Thanks anyway." 

Rush comes back out, frowning.  "They're outta snacks," he says.  "What do we do now -- hunt for rabbit?   Dog?" 

                                                * * * 

Three hours later I run over a cattle crossing, brake hard, and almost hit a bull.  It wakes Rush up, and he points to the sign just ahead:  BRADY WORK FARM -- Environmental Sensitivity Permit #107AX4. 

When I see the brand on some of the cows the bull is protecting, I tell Rush it's worse than I thought. 

"What did it say?" he asks. 

"Beware of methane gas." 

We pass under an arch with another sign on it next to the Brady mailbox: WORK MAKES FREE.  Then a guard house.  A man with an AK-48 steps out. 

"Which way to the work farm?" I ask him. 

He points with his assault rifle.  "Straight ahead one mile, hang a left at the Farm Aid stage.  And keep it under twenty or else." 

We pass along a dirt road through a field of corn.  A sign on the right reads:  DESIGNATED FOR RUSSIAN COMMONWEALTH.  On the left the sign reads:  FOR JAPAN.  And when we come to a barren field the sign is:  SET ASIDE AS HABITAT FOR THE ENDANGERED WHITE FLY. 

"I can't believe this," I say. 

"Well," Rush replies, "at least there's something you can't believe." 

We pass a muddy field with a sign reading ENDANGERED WETLANDS SEIZED BY ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS.  Next to the muddy field is a corral where a band of listless people are milling about like zombies.  Several of the people are drinking water from a trough.  A sign on the adjacent barn reads: FEDERAL HOMELESS ECO-SHELTER.  And the building next to it is a NASA INTELLIGENT LIFE RESEARCH FACILITY.  I get off the bike, taking the saddlebags with me. 

"You can't be serious," says Rush. 

"Ask not what your country can do for you," I reply. 

A dinner gong sounds as we enter the corral, and Rush rushes to get in line. A fat cook hands us rusted metal trays.  "No talking," he says. 

"Why no talking?" I whisper to the couple in front of us.  She points to the cook's tee shirt.  On the back it reads:  COMPLAINTS TO THE COOK CAN GET YOU DRAWN AND QUARTERED. 

At the front of the line a glob of green goo is slapped on our trays. 

"Excuse me," I say, boldly.  "What's this?" 

"Gloup," the server tells me, glancing fearfully back at the cook. "Creamed wheat and recycled soup.  Gloup.  Got a complaint?" 

We shake our heads and move on, following the elderly couple into a far corner of the corral.  "You're new here," the man whispers. 

"We can't leave," the woman adds. 

"What?"    I hold my hand over Rush's mouth, and smile in the direction of the cook.  I notice he packs a 9mm with a silencer. 

"We're the Bradys," the man says without moving his lips.  "This is our farm." 

"Was, dear," the woman says, mimicking her husband.  "Until they passed the beef ban and caught us marketing to a fast food restaurant.  Remember McDonald's?" 

"How long ago was this?" I ask. 

"Last one to survive the boycotts got burned last month, day after the ban went into effect.  Owners were still inside." 

"Geez ..."  I spit out my bite of Gloup, and stare in the silence. 

An announcer over a hidden loudspeaker says:  "Attention!  Anyone accepting a meal will be required to work two hours in the fields tomorrow. That is all." 

"Now they tell us," I say. 

"I'm outta here," says Rush.  He turns toward the gate, but the guard with the assault rifle is there, smiling.  Rush sits next to me in the mud. 

At the risk of repeating myself, I say:  "It's worse than I thought." 

"Dittos on that one," says Rush.  And he smiles like he's pleased by his own words.    , 

Unable to find Bill Buckley yet, we sleep on Army cots in the barn. Cow moos and farts punctuate the silence as we stare up through a skylight high above. 

"How did it come to this?" I ask Rush. 

"Didn't happen overnight," Rush explains.  "Took years of passin' the buck, an' spendin' it.  Deficit reached twenty trillion an' bammo -- the Fed knew they'd never pay off the debt.  So they print the new money ... a Jackson's still worth fifty, but now it's got Jesse's mugshot on it.  An' your savings bonds, T-bills, CDs?  Suppose you could burn 'em to keep warm.  Too many folks cryin' Uncle, I guess our Uncle had to get him a gun." 

"And all because of me.  And some damn singularity that ..." 

"Hey!" Rush cries.  "Here's your chance to prove what you're saying is true. Get us outta here with some of that power you got left." 

I shake my head.  "Don't wanna waste it; may need it later.  I just wish there was enough to set things right, but there's not.  Not totally, anyway. Why didn't I just make everybody happy and wealthy when I had the chance?  Why didn't I do away with crime and overcrowding and pollution?  There could be a hundred million people on earth, all of us living like kings." 

"You mean you'd kill everybody else?" 

"No ... don't you see, they would have never existed.  I was God for a moment there, and now I'm not even Superman."  Two men in lab jackets suddenly appear in the skylight above us, peering down.  "What are they doing up there?" I whisper. 

"Seen them before," Rush replies.   "Looking for intelligent life, I imagine. On a government grant." 

Tired of talking, we close our eyes and cut some z's.  In my dreams I imagine the American flag being lifted over Capitol Hill with a hammer and sickle in place of the stars. 

                                                * * * 

In the morning they let several bulls into the barn to wake everyone. I look up and see a two guys with AK-48s grinning madly.  During some rather difficult work with a shovel, we run into William F. Buckley Jr.  He's caked in mud and sticking his head repeatedly in the water trough.  We sidle over and I show him my Presidential ID. 

"You'd never believe what I'm going to tell you," I tell him.  Then I tell him everything. 

"You were right," he says.  "I fail to believe it.  The more logical explanation is that you are mad, is it not?  Wacko, shall we say.  Three forks, two spoons, and a salad bowl short of a full place setting.  One maraschino cherry shy of a perfect romantic tryst." 

"But if what I told you was true, what would you do about it?" 

Buckley cocks his head, water still dripping from his chin, considering it. Now he looks like an aging Alfred E. Newman.  "Well, first I would gather as many ... as many conservatives as possible ..." 

"We're doing that.  This is Rush Limbaugh, for one." 

"Who?" 

"Limbaugh.  He's ..."  I pause, and look at Rush's hayseed, meet-me-at-the-morgue face.  "Nothing in this world is what I expected." 

Buckley nods grimly, takes out his teeth, and proceeds to clean them. "The impropriety of your situation, of course, would demand that you use your influence to get a bill returning freedoms like private-property rights put before Congress." 

"You think I could?" 

He keeps nodding.  "Then I think ... I think you should use whatever Godlike power you have left to change the vote from no to, shall we say ... yes?" 

I slap his back.  His teeth go flying.  "Yes!  It might work!" 

He slaps my back back.  My hairpiece flies off, and I tell the two men with AK-48s approaching us that they're doing a great job, keep it up. 

After pardoning Buckley, we all leave in a jeep to a 21-gun salute that's just a little too low for my liking.  We drive for hours as Rush sits in back drinking beer and hanging on Buckley's every articulate phrase. At the outskirts of Washington I call Bambi and get the addresses of Newt the parking attendant, Liddy the bookie, and Bennett the pharmacist.  Dole was in a nursing home and couldn't help.  The next morning we set up shop at an abandoned car dealership with the intention to lobby members of Congress, using what money I may be able to siphon away from Outcome Based Education's petty cash fund, which is used to buy kids their condoms, bulletproof vests, and stun guns.  I leave them there around 11 a.m. to begin cleaning up the condemned building when Bambi arrives with Oliver North the Roto-Rooter man.     

Wearing full Marine dress, a guard opens the door for me.  He salutes. I step into the White House foyer.  The butler takes my muddy jacket. 

"Good morning, sir," he says, winking.  "Did you have a nice holiday?" 

"Where's the bathroom?" I ask, and am attacked by a fox terrier with a wicked set of rat-like teeth.  After using the facilities, I'm handed my clothes. 

"Sorry you're not better yet, sir," says the butler.  "Unfortunately for us you have a conference." 

"What's the plan?" I ask, remembering that I'd told Jenkins two days ago that I was suffering from amnesia and needed a rest. 

"Jenkins, sir.  Remember?" 

"I guess.  What do I do, Jenkins?" 

"Well, sir, as little as possible.  Except at your luncheon you feign illness. 

"I ... illness?" 

"Stomach cramps, sir.  The chef will be blamed.  But he's such a pompous ass, sir." 

"Two birds with one stone, eh, Jenkins?" 

The butler smiles.  "Will there be a problem, sir?" 

I smile back.  "No problemo.  You mind if I eat my fill first?  And maybe a little action ... girls ..." 

"You think," asks Jenkins, "that the White House is a whorehouse?" He pauses.  "I believe something can be arranged later, sir.  At taxpayer expense, of course."  He dusts my collar.  "Just please don't spoil it for me, sir.  I'd never make it on the outside." 

                                                * * * 

Five men are seated in the conference room in the East Wing when I enter. Two of them are studying papers.  Two are playing backgammon.  One is asleep. 

"It's about time," the fat one with the beer mutters.  "Okay, we've got some things for you to sign.  Nothing important.  Just put your John Hancock here and here for starters." 

I scan the papers shoved me.  Twenty cents additional tax on gasoline, and a ban on all roach pesticides. 

"I can't sign this," I say.  "Have you ever had one of them big buggers slip into your mouth while you're snoring?  You kinda crunch down on it, like a reflex, and it doesn't quite taste like chicken, either." 

More sheets are paper-airplaned in my direction.  Across-the-board pay hikes for all the People's Congress of Deputies.  Double time for overtime, five-month paid vacation at overtime rates.  And unlimited chauffeured service including space shuttle service to Tahiti.  A quickly penned codicil to the final death of freedom is activation of Camp Concentration just outside Fargo, North Dakota. 

"What's this?" I ask.  "Another camp where dissidents and political prisoners play Scrabble and Jeopardy?" 

Mingled giggles.  "The final solution," says the one with a spoon up one nostril. 

"Sorry," I say.  "Have to veto that one.  Can't.  Sorry." 

The man with the french fries and chocolate mustache presses a buzzer and a kid comes in.  "Run this over to Congress for a quick override," he commands. "You can just make it before they break for cocktails." 

Four men smile at me as they leave.  The man who's still asleep just sits there, snoring.  So I search the executive washroom, then the kitchen, and then the executive pantry, and ... and finally return with a half-dead cockroach, which I drop in his open mouth on the inhale. 

At luncheon I entertain some visiting dignitaries seeking money.  They wear strange costumes and ask me strange questions.  In reply, and right on cue, I hold my stomach. 

"Are you all right, sir?" Jenkins asks me. 

"I feel ill," I reply. 

Jenkins glares at the chef, a tall slender man with a hawkish nose. 

An Arab pulls out a gun.  "Bad food?  Bad food?" 

"No ... no, please," the chef pleads. 

A Secret Service man takes the gun, staring at it numbly.  It goes off accidentally.  Everyone recoils in shock, drawing their own guns and pointing them at each other. 

"See that they get dessert," I tell the chef on my way out.  Then, in the hallway, I turn to Jenkins.  "Order me a helicopter.  I'm going to play golf. And make sure my friends are on board." 

"Friends, sir?" 

"Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, and Jack Daniels, you ninny."      

I tell the helicopter pilot to detour and land on the roof of a car dealership.  The two Secret Service agents beside me are already drunk. As the pilot begins to circle the dealership, which now has a giant target painted on top, I notice that the tip of the pilot's nose has a dimple of white powder on it.  He grins madly and slumps forward.  The helicopter tilts and begins to fall.  One of the Secret Service men tries to gain control, but is having difficulty seeing straight.  He succeeds in killing the helicopter's engine and putting us into a dive. 

I do my best Spock imitation, closing my eyes and concentrating. 

There is a blinding flash of purple light. 

I open my eyes and now I'm seated at the bar in Cape Gerardo, Missouri. The bartender sets a beer in front of me.  I taste it. 

It's ... cold. 

Reaching for the remote, I change the channel on the overhead television, and there's Rush -- loud, fat, and sassy.  He's attacking Gore and talking about the Republicans winning the next elections.  I smile, albeit nervously. A biker stands up behind me.  "Whadda you ..." he asks, "a dittohead?" 

I nod.  He slaps my back, grins, and sits down again.  He ends up buying me three more beers and inviting me to a survivalist meeting at his uncle’s corn liquor still "out in the boonies."  When I finally leave, half drunk myself, I find that there's no Harley in the lot, just my old Ford pickup ... the one I used to drive when I was just Randy Johnson the lawnmower repair man. 

"Hey, ya shouldn't be drivin' like that," someone says to me. 

I turn.  It's Bambi.  "Hey, yourself," I say.  "You ... know me?" 

"Well, I could, honey ... if the price was right." 

"Can't afford it," I tell her.  "Not anymore, thank God.  It appears everything's gone the other way now ... guess I had enough power left, after all." 

She puts a hand on her hip.  "Ya mean ya don't like girls?" 

I shake my head.  "You don't understand.  I was God for a while, see, but it looks like I set everything right again, and now I'm just plain me.  I don't understand life, the universe, or politics any more than I ever did.” 

She offers to drive me to her place until I sober up.  I agree.  Along the road I see a lot more traffic, and the gas signs once again indicate a reasonable price -- $1.37 a gallon.  But as we pull off onto a dirt road I get a scare because it looks a lot like the area where the Brady farm once existed in my alternate world nightmare.  I try to calm myself by reading the signs we pass, which now indicate Private Property, Keep Out, and OPEN RANGE. Yet as we approach her farmhouse an odd feeling of dread begins to grow in me. 

"Ever heard of Mozart?" I ask her, as a kind of test. 

"I like country music myself," she tells me.  "That an' rock." 

I breathe a sigh of relief.   "So you know Elvis too, then," I say. 

"Presley?"   She nods, and then cocks her head at me.  "Sure ...  Ya wanna meet him?   * 
 

Story copyright ©1998 by Jonathan Lowe <JonFLowe@aol.com>  
<http://www.mirror.org/commerce/hmspress/lowe.html 

Illustration copyright ©1998 by Romeo Esparrago <romedome@aol.com> 

 
 

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