The sky’d been falling slowly for several months. We didn’t need the chicken to confirm it. Every day another 50 or 80 feet closer and darker, bubbling with hot oil. If you had any jump left in you, soon you’d be able to kiss it, though I doubt you’d want to.
Most of the day was night now. I stood there, feet on the ground, head between the sky and the empty parking lot — empty of cars, empty of people, empty of everything but what appeared from a distance to be a recently discarded cigarette, still glowing orange.
I’m an optimist, so I saw the parking lot as full — full of parking spaces and the ghosts of assholes fighting over them. A century of motherfucker versus motherfucker, empty fists passing through empty faces, now over what I at first guessed was a dying ember from a cigarette, but which, as I got closer, revealed itself as a baby human, glowing orange, eyes shut tight and projectile-crying, mouth open wide, screaming without a sound. Wearing only the long red necktie of a salesman, the mad orange baby rose slowly from the asphalt on an expanding pile of excrement.
I called 911 and was put on hold, giving me the mandatory opportunity to re-experience an ancient allergic reaction to a song called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” as I continued my cautious approach.
Hello. You’ve reached 1973, featuring Tony Orlando and Dawn. Your patience is appreciated. Please hold for the next available negligent homicide.
For the past 13 years I’ve lived in a converted two-car garage. Since my beloved kitty died at age 23 in 2018, I’m the only mammal in the whole palace. It’s really tiny — 255 square feet — so I call it the POF, short for Palace of Failure, because huh-huh-huh-huh-huh: funny! When I moved here in 2007, I still had a job as a newspaper columnist. My old place was being sold, and I’d sent out emails to everyone I knew, looking for a guest house somewhere. I’m hypersensitive to vibrating apartment buildings, or any living situations where walls or ceilings serve as amplifiers for neighbors’ entertainment audio. Fortunately, someone I barely knew knew someone else who barely knew someone with an affordable palace of failure at the top of their driveway.
This POF and I have been together for longer than I’ve been with any other structure. Next longest was nine years, my childhood home in Illinois.
It’s small, but it’s enough. My landlords and I have become trusted friends. We figured out several years back that the rent I’d paid so far had paid for one year of college and living expenses for one of their two children. There’s a backyard with a small gazebo and a table in the sun where I can draw and paint. Our neighbors wear friendly masks, except for the loud people of faith next door.
It always pisses me off when people describe themselves as “people of faith” when they mean the opposite: They have no faith, because instead they have beliefs, which they brandish like flags, like weapons.
Soon their skies will be blue and clear, because smiley emoji.
Tie a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree
It’s been three long years, do you still want me?
If I don’t see a ribbon ’round the ole oak tree
I'll stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me
If I don’t see a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree
Now less than three parking spaces away, I could see that the baby was unmasked and armed with a smartphone. His eyes were still closed, for optimal silent shriekage, so he could not see my advance. But I could see his Twitter app was open, his fingers tapping wildly at the screen, his shit pile rising, rising, lifting him closer and closer to the boiling sky.