The Thane of Polyurethane hunched under a freeway bridge, urinating in the face of Progress. Up on her elbows the ogress propped herself. Spluttered, spitting piss and baby toenails, “This a new development?”
“No. This…,” the Thane dribbled to a halt, shook…, “and similar symptoms, were presenting even…,” flopped back in, zipped…, “before the Greeks staked their children out to be devoured.”
The Thane of Polyurethane lit a Chesterfield king. Flicked embers at the upturned pupils of Progress. “That asparagus last night a swell idea. Think I’ll chug some beer, hustle back. Don’t go anywhere, hear, Progress?”
I won’t budge, she thought to say, but held her tongue, the Thane already disappeared inside a nearby bar.
The Thane soon returned, bringing in tow the Queen of Visquine, having at the bar picked her slick butt up, boasting he knew a new newer way to piss away the day.
The Queen liked what she saw. Hiked her slicker. Squatted over the mouth of Progress. “Say AH!” she squealed, releasing the results of half-a-dozen pitchers of draft.
Progress, dreaming she floated on laughing gas at the dentist, opened wide as Suez. By the time the Queen’s flow at last, spurt after one last spurt, ceased, Progress – choking, giggling, thrashing – ceased to exist. The Queen flipped around, confused at developments. Engaged in a spate of mouth-to-mouth.
A cop, in the drizzle on the far side of the overpass, seemed to be taking an interest in the hullaballoo brewing in the shadows under the interstate’s whoosh and roar. The Thane frowned. Looked now like thought called for. He hated when Progress demanded thought.
As the officer neared, eyes glued to the concrete, to avoid stepping in any homeless shit, the Thane grabbed the Queen, who was using a found dollar to wipe her labia with Washington’s face. Wrapped the body head to toe in visquine.
He considered planting on the corpse a plastic flower with an app that blatted into her fresh-dead ears the latest and most progressive rap. But the Law was already far too close for comfort.
Officer Styrofoam, undesirous of holding up Progress, however, simply floated down the gutter, ignoring utterly the Thane of Polyurethane. So the Thane proceeded to urinate on the visquine outlining the remains of Progress; vociferous cascading scaring up under the abutment each and every last single solitary rat.
Downtown into the drizzle Officer Styrofoam drifted.
The Thane hunched at a formica table near the front window of a downtown soup kitchen, watching on the Queen’s smart phone reruns of the day man first stepped like a bug on the moon.
“There we go!” the Ghost of Progress spoke, gawking over her son’s shoulder. “On our way to infect the stars!”
The audio garbled the moon voice – across the quarter-million-miles, over the decades, through the rectangle of the mass-produced electronic angels the Thane’s apelike palm gripped. But sounded like the now-dead astronaut was saying:
“That’s one small step for greed… SCRITCH!... one giant leap for real estate!”
As the spaceman plodded through lunar dust, the Thane thought back to the pyramids. The tallest at best less than one five-hundred-thousandth as high as where Armstrong had just planted his big fat feet. What a journey! And to think, today we have even shot toys clean out of the solar system. Shame if, any minute now, we lose the race.
Of course, maybe, as certain futurists have classically implied, aliens built the pyramids. Then reprogrammed our noggins to develop to this point, where our activities alert the aliens Earth is ripe for the plucking. Maybe the ET’s erected thousands of mind-changing pyramids on hundreds of planets in the Orion Arm of our galaxy alone. When the inhabitants on one of these planets inevitably start launching probes that escape their own star’s gravity, lights flash, buzzers buzz, redflags raise. Harvesters the size of comets swoop down to collect the gizmos the aliens had originally programmed the unfortunate creatures to manufacture.
Maybe they covet these very smart phones. Perhaps smart phones essential to the alien diet. And they don’t want the waste cyber manufacture creates to gunk up their own planet. No wonder, even when sitting around with a full belly doing nothing, a human still feels somehow like a slave. At best an upper-deck rower on the galley of apathy. Maybe boredom the self-regulating switch to get back to work assisting the race – at least through the butterfly effect – to produce more, and smarter, tastier, smart phones.
The Queen, tucking her peach polyester blouse into her lilac rayon slacks, emerged from the restroom. Twisted through the empty tables over to the window. Occupied – in defiance of the Exclusion Principle – the identical space as the Ghost of Progress. Lay a liver-spotted hand between the scapulae of his gibbous back.
“You still letting that moonshot hoax misguide your misled butt? NASA’s under the wing, you know, of them Satanists in the Pentagon.”
“Naw.” He stayed glued to the dinky screen. He preferred saying Naw to Nope or Uh-uh, because the word aped the maggots he felt 24/7 gnaw his cortex. Which brainworms hopefully – he opined optimism more moral than mere pessimism – would mature into either honeycomb moths or Indian mealmoths, as certain scientists have practically proven that the larvae of these bugs eagerly devour, respectively, styrofoam and polyethylene. The Thane craved, to the brink of psychosis, to protect the future; especially if such prophylaxis did not require him to rise from the orange plastic chair he currently occupied. “Naw. I don’t buy any of this bull. Just hoping the video, if I replay the tape enough, will trigger a memory of how I shot that day – almost two millenia after the birth of the Great Rabbi – to hell. I mean, while this clown bunny-hopped in the phony stardust, was I shooting the breeze under a bridge, shooting buckets in the park, shooting pool at a tavern, chugging beer with shooters, shooting speed…?”
Prius Johnson, a self-ordained minister of the First Church of the Tarantula Nebula, ambled over to the last two slackers yet lingering a good fifteen minutes after the end of the free lunch. He leaned over the opposite end of the table. Loudly cleared his throat. Removed the towel from around his neck. Set to wiping the ketchup-splotched, coffee-stained, salt-peppered formica surface.
Suddenly the Thane remembered, fist striking tabletop, “Superworms!”
“C’mon. This poor sucker’s got a job to do. Let’s blow. Hop around the corner, beg for change.”
“Change! That’s what I’m saying!” the Thane leaped to his feet, clattering the polyurethane chair to the floor. “You see, the larvae of black beetles, travelling under the name SUPERWORMS, also eat styrofoam.”
“Right. So, c’mon. Soon’s we get enough change, we stop begging for change, run down the block, get a couple Red Rocket pints.”
The Thane’s jaw dropped, thunderstruck: “ENOUGH change? There is never enough change. Our job here on this planet is to keep changing change. Why, if change stopped changing, the whole race would stop.”
“Stop what?” The Queen grabbed the wildeyed derelict’s elbow, herded him toward the exit.
“Stop changing, of course. How are we to evolve if we don’t keep changing change to keep changing? The meek shall inherit the media. The future, be it howsoever shallow, shall hammer the very depths of constantly changing change!”
When the Queen gave another doorward tug, the Thane shoved her against the storefront window. The glass waved with a wobble worthy of a belly-growl from a maggot colossal as the Smith Tower. But the glass did miraculously not break.
Up and down on the olefin welcome mat the Thane bounced: “Superworms, Indian mealmoths, honeycomb moths – these spineless creeps constitute the FUTURE!”
“OUT!” Prius exploded. “It’s twenty minutes after closing, twenty minutes after one in the afternoon, and you winos is 86-ed! Now OUT!”
“Now out?” the Thane strode – momentarily amazingly sober – scratching his head in puzzlement – out the glass door onto the bustling sidewalk of Second Avenue. “How could now be out? Did we, somewhere between the hotdog and the jello, lose the race?”
Willie Smith is the author of several collections of poetry and short fiction and one novel. He lives in Seattle next to the intersection of two Interstates.