Friday, May 9, 2014

The Good American

Picture a sweating fat man, baseball cap and remote, tossing in a fitful sleep on his Barcalounger. Call him Jake. He is groaning and slapping at imaginary terrors. Something is obviously bothering him, but what could it be?

He is woken by a kind but somewhat bland man in a bland suit. Jake is startled. He gulps and gasps with apnea, lets go of his balls, and has to rub the goo out of his eyes before he is fully composed. A flash of recognition crosses his bleary face. His visitor speaks:

“Hi, Jake. I’m sorry to bother you.”

“No worries,” Jake replies. “It’s all good.”

“But, you see, we need your cooperation again.”

“Why’s that?”

“I know you care about America.”

“I do.”

“You were there for us when we needed to defend ourselves against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.”

“Better to fight the terrorists over there than over here.”

“Our thoughts exactly,” the visitor says. “And you were realistic when we didn’t find any weapons.“

“Stuff happens,” Jake says.

“Yes,” the visitor replies. “Stuff happens.” The visitor comes closer, his knee touching the arm of Jake’s Barcalounger. “And you understood when we had to take, uh, extra measures against terrorists and other people of interest?”

“After nine eleven the gloves had to come off.”

“Our thoughts exactly.” At this point, the visitor leans forward and assumes a very chummy, very intimate air with Jake. He speaks in a low voice: “You know, you didn’t even mind all that much when every American had to pitch in and save the economy. You know what I’m talking about, right?”

“Well, I didn’t really understand all that.”

“Of course not. No normal people did. That’s what makes you normal, you didn’t understand! Let’s just say mistakes were made. Stuff happens, as you and the man say. But it’s okay. The appropriate parties have taken full responsibility, and now they’re back on the job and as good as new. That’s one of the things I love about America. You can learn from your mistakes and move forward. We don’t dwell on the past. We always look ahead. Don’t you love that about America, Jake?”

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“The important thing is that the country banded together and helped out our job creators. You do believe in creating jobs, don’t you, Jake?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Of course you do. You know, it’s the common sense of everyday Americans that keeps this country going strong. We see eye to eye on so much, I sometimes wonder why I bother talking to them at all.”

Jake drifts back to sleep. His visitor goes on talking about the “lone superpower,” “maintaining credibility” and “moral responsibilities,” but by then it’s all a blur. Jake has other concerns. He is still uncomfortable. Something just isn’t right. There is a nagging pain that won’t leave him alone. It is a neck-grabbing existential torment that has kept him tossing and turning all night. What the hell is it?

Suddenly Jake discovers the problem: He is sitting on his iPhone, which has left a painful welt on his ass. He removes it from his butt cheek, places it on the coffee table, and sleeps soundly through the rest of the night. He forgets his dreams.

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