Auntie Pillowski talks to the Friends at the virtual Hullahoo Bar. The Friends now communicate via Skype, drinking home-delivered beer, as Jason, the bartender has set up a carry-out and delivery service. The Friends asked Auntie Pillowski to come online to clarify pending corona questions and surprisingly, Auntie Pillowski accepted. The Friends arranged to talk by “tour de role,” talking by turn as agreed. As is custom, moderator Frank starts.
Frank: “Dear Auntie, this is Frank. We are so pleased that you take part in our drinks. We regret we can’t send you a beer online, but we know you have lots of your own brand within reach. One burning question: Why did you fly in a hurry from San Francisco to Washington to block the CARES bill?”
Auntie Pillowski: “The Senate bill was for the rich. The House has a better use for the people’s money. Democrats are for the poor unemployed worker, not for the wealthy CEOs.”
Frank: “But Auntie, the troubled small businesses and unemployed had to wait a long week for you to approve the Senate bill because you wanted to add money for the Kennedy Center. Do you ever go there?”
Auntie: “I work day and night for the American People. When I have time I put on a CD. We added critical improvements to the Bill.”
Melissa: “Auntie, this is Melissa, a true supporter of your party. You look so beautiful and your hair is so wonderful. How do you do that? My hairdresser is closed and my hair feels like a mop as you can see.”
Auntie: “Bernie Sanders proposes a Free Haircare Solution run by the Government and Joe Biden will follow suit. If you vote Democratic, you only have to push a button on your computer and a hairdresser paid for by the government will be at your doorstep in no time to make you beautiful again.”
Maria: “This is Maria, Auntie, an independent leaning Democrat. If re-elected, would you also vote for Bernie’s Free Gas Bill?”
Auntie: ” In The Green New Deal farmers must collect gas from all cows through tubes that will be fed into the distribution system for free, so soon you will have free government gas. Uncooperative farmers will pay a penalty tax under the Pillowski Gas Care Act that will supplement your gas bill.”
Cindy: “This is Cindy, Auntie. I am an independent leaning Republican. Why do the Democrats always obstruct sensible proposals by the Party in power?”
Auntie: “The power is with the American People and the Democratic Party has the popular vote. That means that our party has the power in the House, not the Republican Party, and surely not its dysfunctional president who in collusion with Russia stole Hillary’s votes. We know better.”
Cindy: “But Auntie, did the Mueller Report not say there was no collusion?”
Auntie: “The President was impeached, wasn’t he? Impeached forever.”
Fred: “This is Fred. I am a staunch Republican and MAGA man and take auntiedepressants after I listen to your speeches. Why are you always harping on Trump? So far you’ve lost all your cases against him and wasted millions of our painfully earned tax dollars for nops.”
Auntie: “Mr. Fred, don’t mess with me. Mute me next time and take another beer. I and my colleagues do the same when Trump does his rants. I represent half of America. That half believes the president is against gun control, against the Dreamers, against everything the Democrats stand for. Your half is un-American. We are for the Constitution, and President Trump is unconstitutional.”
Tom: “This is Tom, I’m like Fred. You and your Democrat Party are so adversarial. If you are so American, why can’t you guys simply agree to a rational extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP, as proposed? Why do you need to keep it hostage by adding stuff that won’t help the unemployed but only satisfies the exuberance of your auntiequated base?”
Auntie: “If the Republicans spend our tax dollars, we want to make sure that they’re spent for things we stand for. Spending is a bicameral process, though soon we will have the majority in both. You’ll see. That’ll make things easier.”
Ted: “This is Ted, I am a Libertarian. Not a Liberal. I’m a bread-and-butter fiscal conservative and appalled by the loss of wealth due to COVID-19 and the money needed to keep us afloat. The Democrats always add waste to the spending bill. Obama doubled the national debt. Our grandkids will pay the brunt. Would you do that with your own money?”
Auntie: “My husband takes care of our money, you’ll have to ask him. As a Democrat in the House, I spend the people’s money. If we run out, we just print more. My husband can’t do that. That’s why I like my job better.”
Caithlyn: “Auntie, this is Caithlyn. I’m the last one in the line. I am an independent too but a rational one. I vote for rational politicians and not irrational ones. In my view you’re irrational. You say you want proper oversight but all you do is undermining the administration with useless investigations. For rational people, this is an utter waste of time and money. Now again you want to start a probe into what the President knew and when on corona, while you and your consorts were impeaching him when it was starting, and calling him a racist and xenophobe when he shut off planes coming from China to stop COVID from getting worse.”
Auntie: “The American People should know what was done wrong and who is accountable. The president was fiddling – like Nero when Rome was burning – while people were dying.”
Frank: “Auntie, that’s so wrong and you know it. It sounds like another groundless witch hunt bound to fail. Are you still praying for the president during Easter?”
Auntie’s screen went blank.
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The Friends are gathered at the Hullahoo Bar for drinks, having beer or sodas while lifting their masks. They are all sitting at one side of the counter opposite to visiting Mr. Corona, a wormlike figure with a party hat on, who sits alone, looking defiant. He is speaking Chinese through a Made in China Google Translate device.
Frank: “Mr. Corona, why you are intent on making us all sick? You know we don’t have a vaccine yet to fight you.”
Corona: First off, I and my coworker viruses want to keep you, humans, on your toes. You people get too complacent living your luxury life. What better time to shake you up than in an election year?”
Maria: “But soon they’ll be closing the school where I’m teaching and then I lose my job. I won’t ever have a chance to pay off my gas bill. I’ll be sitting in the cold and get the virus.”
Melissa: “And my favorite senator Bernie won’t get a debate audience to preach his Chinese social democracy.”
Corona: “Miss Maria, don’t you worry. Spring is coming. If they shut off your gas you’ll soon be warm enough. Anyway, I’ll be going on Spring Break to give you guys a break.”
Tom: “But they don’t want you in Cancun, Mr. Corona.”
Corona: “The young don’t bother with me, they sneeze me off. And Miss Melissa, the young don’t need Bernie’s debate to be revolutionary. They are in their habitual sturm und drang period, you know, being permanently stressed out.”
Fred: “Who made you and who sent you here?”
Corona: “‘Made in China.’ Like printed on the Amazon, Walmart or Home Depot boxes you get at the shop. China sent me here in revenge for the anti-China U.S. tariff policies and property theft measures, but something happened along the way.”
Ted: “Say it, what happened?”
Corona: “They didn’t package me and my comrades well enough. Some of them fell out in Wuhan and infested a chicken market. That’s how it all started.”
Cindy: “That’s like playing with Chinese gun powder at a Chinese fireworks factory. Now we have this worldwide mess.”
Corona: “China was left with no choice but to disrupt the world in the face of the American assault on its economy.”
Cindy: “China already assaulted the world with the bird flue in 1997. The SARS flue, also a coronavirus, in 2003, and now again with you, a new flue version. Aren’t you feeling guilty about deaths in China and the world?”
Corona: China will barely notice the unintended consequences of the escape of my comrades in Wuhan. It has 1.5 billion people. A few thousands gone is a drop on a hot plate. Our Corona team has more impact in other places, such as Europe and here. That’s our goal. Submit Europe and the USA. China will win this battle and leave you breathless.”
Caithlyn: “But your panic destroys everybody’s livelihood, so China will suffer too.”
Corona: “For centuries we have lived in abject poverty, and we survived many population crises, thanks to the Chinese Communist Party. We will survive this one too, but the West, and in particular the U.S. won’t. Already you’re crumbling in your political cabal. Democracies are suicidal.”
Melissa: “The good thing is that Trump can’t have his MAGA rallies anymore. Biden won’t need a rally to make gaffes, so Bernie will win.”
Frank: “How will people go to the voting booths in November? They must postpone the elections.”
Tom: “So what are your plans, Mr. Corona, after you come back from spring break?”
Corona: “I come back in the fall with new vigor in a mutated shape, immune to your vaccine whenever you get one. Meanwhile, my teammates will continue to roam around, upsetting everybody. We love panics, like your democrats and your hysterical media. Your flue shots won’t affect us viruses.”
Cindy: “But China needs our market to make a living. You are a two-edged sword, Mr. Corona. You in China should have been more careful of what you wished for.”
Corona: “Thanks to your technology transfers, willingly or unwillingly, China, as a nation of 1.5 billion, is self-sufficient now. We don’t need your stuff anymore and can live happily without you, making it ourselves. We are the number one producer of anti-biotics and make all your medicines. We will survive, you won’t.”
Frank: “By the way, Mr. Corona, shouldn’t you be wearing a mask?”
At this moment, Jason, the bartender, enters holding a Lysol spray can in a shooting position, but Mr. Corona was gone already, leaving the Friends speechless, sucking their beer-stained masks.
Once you reach a certain age, the heliphone starts ringing. It always does around or a while after midnight. Nowadays, it rings more often. Past loves are calling in from the afterlife. The other night it was Amalia.
“I didn’t see you at my funeral. Why didn’t you come? Why not bring me any flowers? After all, we spent some good times together.”
“Oh, dearest Amalia! Your voice sounds just like before. Australia was a bit far for me. Where are you now?”
“Much farther than Australia. You remember that day in the dunes?”
“Wonderful. I often dream of it.”
“So how come you didn’t marry me?”
“Blame it on my immaturity. I didn’t realize how good you would’ve been for me.”
“That figures; you were proposing all over the place after you left me. Are you any happier now?”
“It would’ve been nice to share our lives. If I’d had more than one, I would’ve done it.”
“I’ll keep a seat reserved for you here then. Till soon.”
The heliphone broke off. That “soon” gave me the shivers. I got up and made myself a stiff Martini. What did she know?
Earlier this week, I got another call from Irene.
“Nobody came to my funeral. Only Cindy, you remember, our bridesmaid, and that bloody husband of mine who’d left me alone most of the time. Why did you divorce me? “
“Probably for the same reason your second husband left you alone.”
“We had so much fun together, don’t you remember that sofa?”
“I do, delightful, but you embezzled my money.”
“Come on. All that paper’s just monopoly money. You can’t take it over here.”
“Where’s over here?”
“The purgatory. I don’t know why they put me here. It’s always cold. I spent time enough in jail.”
“Terrible. It surprised me you got married again.”
“I got him the same way I got you.”
“By pretending he’d made me pregnant.”
“Yeah, I remember that. I think purgatory is fine for you.”
The line broke off. I shivered again and took another Lorazepam. Was I lucky I got rid of her. She took all my money and still keeps calling me. That heliphone is a nightmare.
Mid-week wasn’t any better. It was Marilou, the fat girl from Switzerland, who I heard via the grapephone had suddenly passed away.
“I got heart trouble because I was overweight.”
“I’m so sorry, Marilou. I guess you’ve got plenty to eat now and can’t die anymore.”
“I still hate you. You only made love to me in the Alps because you got high rubbing my big boobs. You were a pervert.”
“I remember you telling me that. I broke my back, lifting you all the time because you couldn’t stay up on your skis.”
“I offered you my millions of Swiss Francs, but you only wobbled in between my boobs, said ‘Ahhh,’ and left me.”
“You told me the Swiss tycoon you married did it for your boobs too.”
“He was supposed to go before me. Now he’s got all my money and married an ultra-slim pin-up from Vanity Fair.”
“Are you calling him too?”
“His phone is off the hook. I hate Vanity Fair.”
The heliphone died away. Marilou was one of those sad moments in life you want to forget but keep being reminded of. How did she get my number?
Last night was the worst ever. It was Anita from Norway, my biggest regret in love life.
“I wish I’d married you,” Anita said.
“A bit late to tell me that now. What happened?”
“My husband murdered me.”
“Oh, no! Why?”
“Because I kept dreaming aloud at night mentioning your name, saying that I loved you.”
“I hope they put him on death row.”
“Death row does not exist in my country. But hell does here.”
“Awful. You think I could do anything?”
“Go to his prison and poison him. I want him in hell right now where they’ll knife him with red-burning forks every second.”
“But they’d catch me and put me in prison as well.”
“Don’t worry. I’m told we have our ways up here and I’ll protect you.”
“But I won’t get you back, Anita. What’s the point?”
“You’ll be here soon enough, darling, and we’ll live happily ever after.”
That was enough to whip me into a frenzy, and I swallowed two Lorazepams, but I stayed awake all night, shivering.
* * *
I’m on my way to Oslo now with a dose of cyanide wrapped in foil paper and my heliphone in my pocket to get word where that prison is.
Sitting cramped in my window seat, I wondered why the moon had this mocking smile on his face. My heliphone didn’t ring. Maybe because of secret regulations between Heaven and air traffic control?
I still didn’t know the whereabouts of Anita’s husband’s prison. I stumbled through customs on arrival at dawn. A voice told me that the cab driver would know. “Oslo fengsel,” he confirmed. After going through town, he turned into a long driveway lined by leafless trees and snow-covered grounds, ending at a somber red-stone building. “You wait,” I said and went in. The guards watched me, quizzically. I’d dressed as a priest, my faith-inspiring white-collar shining trustingly behind the white scarf around my neck. I didn’t speak a word of Norwegian but had many times mumbled Anita’s husband’s name, Wilhelm Lassen, that bloody Viking.
I sat in the bare visiting room when Wilhelm Lassen entered, accompanied by a guard, and took the only other seat across the steel table, his face one question mark. The guard left and shut the door. I gazed at Lassen’s hands. As I’d suspected, he didn’t wear rings in prison. I hoped he spoke a bit of English.
“My name’s Father John,” I said. “I’m bringing you a final word from Anita.”
The man’s face grew grey; his lips tightened; his eyes squinted. “Anita dead,” he said with a rolling accent. “I did do nothing. She suffered breath shortage. Who are you?”
“Her confessor when she lived with you in Geneva. She left this small package with me to hand you in case she’d die before you.” I pulled a blue jewelry box from my pocket and handed it to him. In it was a golden ring I’d dipped with a tweezer into a small base with liquid cyanide in the airplane toilet a short while before landing. A friend at a chemical factory gave me the deadly stuff, believing I’d use it to kill persistent mice in my basement. If Wilhelm slid the ring on his finger, his skin would absorb the cyanide, and death would follow soon.
Wilhelm opened the box and stared at it. “My wedding ring?” he asked. “I thought I’d lost it. Rar,” (‘strange’) he muttered. Then he shifted it onto his ring finger, looking sad.
The guard came in and warned me my time was up. I stood, said farewell to Wilhelm, and left as fast as I could. The cab driver took me rapidly to the airport, and I grabbed the first flight out to Amsterdam to erase my footsteps, hopefully having left pandemonium at the Oslo fensel. In Amsterdam, I got the last seat in a crowded United flight to Washington; mission accomplished, I reckoned.
Back home at night, the heliphone rang. It was Anita.
“Thank you, Johnnyboy. He’s nicely burning in Hell, screaming his lungs out.”
“But won’t I be punished?”
“No, you’ll be rewarded in Heaven when you get here in a while. Can’t wait.” Her heavenly voice drifted away.
“Crime pays in the afterlife,” I whispered and fell asleep, uncomfortable about Anita’s eagerness of my forthcoming passing.
Wilhelm’s death was reported as a suicide.
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The Swamp Mars Man
Mars Man is invited by the FRIENDS at the Hullahoo Bar to discuss America and The Swamp.
Frank: “Welcome Mars. Great you could join our Hullahoo drinks. It’s good to hear your first name is where you come from and your family name means humankind. Interesting! Have a beer! I understand you drink the same stuff we do when you are in your earthly frame.”
Mars: “Yes, I do. Thanks for inviting me. Mars Man is my local ID. Katherine, my earthly wife from Nebraska, carries the same last name, and so do our two mixed-race boys who live here.”
Frank: “Exciting! Mars, all our friends here tonight are dying to have your views of current America. It has been an upsetting period for us all. How do you guys on Mars look at it?”
Mars Man: “As you know, Mars is a few light years ahead of Mother Earth so we do not connect all that well with your squabbles. They’re sort of Medieval to us, in your terms. Katherine and I consider your current state of affairs in dire straits, politically speaking. An oncoming trainwreck. An ominous debacle, like a meteor hitting you to smithereens, unless you cut the crap, using your language.”
Melissa: “Mars, how did you get here, are you an illegal Alien?”
Mars: “No Miss, I carry a green card. Katherine who you may know from Omaha TV owns a cornfield near Omaha, where I land with Mars Scooter One, but there is no border post.”
Mary: “How did you meet Katherine?”
Mars: “In the cornfield where I land. When I stepped out of Mars Scooter One, she was there, picking corn for dinner. As I changed into my human costume it was love at first sight.”
Mary: “Oh! That’s a wonderful love story!”
Frank: “So Mars, what crap do we have to cut?”
Mars: “To begin with, stop shooting yourself in the foot all the time. As soon as the U.S. elects its president, you start doing everything possible to make it impossible for that president to govern.”
Melissa: “And whose fault is that?”
Mars: “Your Swamp’s.”
Mary: “Forgive me, Mars, but can you help me with my gas bill?”
Fred: “Come on, Mary, ask your boyfriend or get the gas from the Swamp. You can smell it miles away. It’s gassing whole D.C. How do you define our Swamp, Mars?”
Mars: “Those who mind the store in the U.S. and want to stay in power, whether Democrats or NTs.”
Mars: “Never Trumpers. One is from Utah.”
Cindy: Will we ever get rid of the Swamp?”
Mars: “No. The Swamp has become a fixed part of the American scene. It’s there to stay. They are those who live behind your steep fences, thick oak doors, in luxury highrises, fashionable quarters of D.C., New York, L.A., and San Francisco.”
Melissa: “What do people on Mars think of our politics?”
Mars: “We don’t like that your politicians want to invade Mars. When you do, we’ll have a Made in China Virus waiting for you free of charge.”
Ted: “You wouldn’t welcome us? We just paid you a beer.”
Mars: “If you find a Martian wife, she may manage to sneak you in. But we have different bodies and use electrodes for sex, so to make one pregnant may not be easy for you.”
Caithlyn: “So what’s the trainwreck, Mars?”
Mars: “Bernie Sanders will be elected President because he gives everybody a free lunch, and when the money is up, you guys have to pay all that back and live on a basic salary that won’t be enough to have a beer.”
Melissa: “That just seems fine to me. I like socialism. Everybody in the same boat, no jealousy of the Jones’s. Why is that a trainwreck?”
Mars: Because everybody will be miserable, except those in power, and everyone who protests against the government will be imprisoned in gulags or retraining camps.”
Caithlyn: “But that is Marxist. Communist. Americans are not like that.”
Mars: “Bernie is, and many voting Americans think he’s the greatest mind who’s ever set foot on Earth.”
Frank: “A horrible prediction, Mars. How can you be so sure?”
Mars: “It’s been written on the wall. Bloomberg will be Bernie’s vassal because he couldn’t get elected. In compensation, Bloomberg will combine and lead State, Treasury, and Defense all together, like his company, and join hands with China where he got all his money. No trade wars anymore, and China will take over your market with Bloomberg owning a main share. This way they will outmaneuver Russia, Bernie’s former buddies. Bernie wouldn’t need money for Tomahawks anymore, and can spend it all on free university and Medicare for All.”
Frank: “Why would Bernie do that? He went to Moscow on honeymoon.”
Mars: “Putin double-crossed him with a cyber attack on his FeelTheBern. com site after Bernie scolded Putin for meddling in the US elections to support Hillary and accused Putin of over the top militarism.”
Tom: “And what happens to us?”
Mars: “You’ll all be equal, eat kale, cauliflower, spinach, or some stale Chinese carry-outs, drink no beer and only small sodas. Cable news is gone as all news will be democrat state news, which is not much different from today. All former anchors and TV prima donnas will be sent to retraining camps and their overpaid salaries confiscated to pay for the student debt.”
Mary: “But what would you do with Katherine and the boys?”
Mars: “We have an undisclosed location in the Caribbean where only I can land. Katherine and the boys will be self-sufficient there, even if Mother Earth goes to pot.”
Jason enters with a platter of new beers. “Hi everyone, this is offered for free by Bernie Sanders. But you must vote for him. Any takers?”
Melissa: “I’ll have one, thanks.”
Mary: “Me too, I take anything that’s free.”
Jason: “But you must sign your name on this ballot. Any more?”
Frank: “We’ll pay for them, Jason, as long as we can.”