Luckily, there was a hidden spot I knew behind the visibly listing building, where the vinyl siding was pulled away by that whining mutt they used to keep chained up back there. I wedged my bulk down between the busted AC unit and the reeking foundation, and peeked through the water-damaged plywood by the old coal chute.
Damned if it didn’t look like a genuine backwoods, old-style camp meeting. The cigar boxes were lined up like dominoes, and luminous pocket pen lights covered the walls. Kids were roasting Lucky Charms over a Sterno blaze in back, and the way the light came peeping through the cracks from weathered linoleum covering the barroom floor upstairs looked like stars twinkling.
A battered Realistic cassette tape player with green plastic on top and a “Kentucky Colonels – ABA Champs” decal was being frantically clicked by a wee DJ, crackling out agitated protest songs of despair, fury, hope and salvation … and occasionally, to placate the one-chord councilman, the latest Fats Domino chart topper. The crowd was edgy and excited.
The little plastic cocktail olive spears doubling as pitchforks were a nice touch, I thought.
Then I heard unsteady foot steps, and cautiously rolled over to scan the vacant lot behind me. It was just Winkin and Blinkin – no Nod, as he’d been keeping a low profile since he got caught planting those Tricky Dicky signs on the front lawn at IU Southeast. They looked to be sharing a bag of double cheese sliders with peach schapps chasers.
Like I said, Winkin, at least Steve Price has those family values. That’s why he had to vote against safe new police cars. It’s a matter of fiscal priorities, by Gawd. You just can’t go opening those Pandora’s boxes if you want to keep grandmaw’s cookie jar right there by the cart where the horse oughta be, right?
Blinkin, you’re preachin’ to the choir, dude. Cop cars? Hell, that adds up to a couple of bucks a year each one of us taxpayers has to pay, and what for? We still can’t legally drag race on Spring Street or smoke pot in public. Now they wanna go and inspect rental properties? How ya gonna make money off guys even dumber and smaller than we are if you go to doin’ that? Price’ll put a stop to that one, too.
Regress over politics, Blinkin, that’s what I’ve always said. You know what really soils my trousers? That whole Scribner Place thing. It’s just gotta go. Can you imagine the type of people who’d pay to be healthy? Bunch of leftist sissies. Might as well give ‘em one of them tax abutments while you’re at it – Con-Dem says they’re nasty, nasty bad.
(CLINK – A peachy dead soldier hits the ground)
It’ll be okay, Winkin. It’s definitely the final nail in Jimmy’s political career, all right. Same thing with Commander Buzzed Lightyear – like I told him, you do not own this City’s right-of-ways, the citizens do. All us taxpayers pay for IUS’s grass – why can’t ol’ Nod put a few of humble Dick’s signs there?
Blinkin, it’s simple. The disrespect shown to Council and to the Citizens by the Mayor and his Administration can no longer be tolerated. I’m votin’ for that chick, Valli Villa Anna – she’s married to that councilman Schmidt, right?
Could be. Maybe they’re just one big family. Winkin, you know what really rings my dinger? Blacks, Jews, and gays – God, what’s next?
You the man, Blinkin. The NBA definitely just hasn’t been the same since Larry Legend retired …
(THUNK – there went dessert)
After a quick tandem whiz by the oozing fire hydrant, the intruders went back inside for a few tasty ice-cold Lite beers, and I turned back to the crawl space to find the little people’s revival in full swing.
“We will overcome Jimmy G some day, some day,” concluded the chorus of singers, and as a mouth organ hummed solemnly, the caped Grand Trogmentator stepped to the milk crate, leaned into the pink Mr. Microphone, and intoned:
“Some sweet day, Lawd, and not a moment too soon, we will overcome Jimmy G. and the pergessives.”
“Jimmy G, you work for me,” yelled a gaunt man on a fixed income. His “Big Johnson” tee was tattered but clean.
“Some sweet day, there’s gonna come a great big bubble through these overpriced and undersized sewage pipes of ours, and you know what this great big bubble is gonna be?”
“Whassit gonna be?”
“I’ll tell you, sister. It’s gonna be the instrument of our salvation, it’s gonna be the great big bubble that sets us free from these chains – it gonna be that Federal agent in a mighty wrathful sewer submarine!”
“F-Man in a mad sub!”
“Them pergessives’ll never think to look down there – tee hee!”
“Yes, long suffering children of the anti-Garner downtrodden masses, we’ve endured this overarching prog conspiracy for years. I say God knows we’ve tried on our own to break the soul-crushing chains, but we’re just little people and those nasty Garnerites retaliate by making us sign our names ‘n’ other shit.”
“Boo — anything but that,” screamed a lady, who then fainted dead away into the arms of Jethro.
“Lawd, we need help, and that gleaming white-robed Federal agent – he will be coming here to New Albany to help little old us! He will be coming here to New Albany to incarcerate that uppity Jimmy G., and throw away the key!”
“Praise the F-Man!”
“Praise the F-Man!”
“Yes, little people, He will be coming to usher in a new age of justice, wisdom and lower bills for the salt of the earth, and what’s best about it is that we need only to wish … and wishing will make it so!
“Jimmy G, you work for me!”
“Jimmy G, you work for me!”
So began the chant. It grew and grew, and the Luddite Bar & Grill seemed almost to levitate above the slumlord properties all around the neighborhood, although it might have been the fat guy singing “Tequila Sunrise” at weekly karaoke in the public barroom upstairs.
No matter. The little people were rolling on the dirt, speaking in strange tongues (“Mein Fuhrer, I kann valk!”) and fondling terrified little newts and salamanders, and all of a sudden it dawned on me that I’d passed through a sewer line myself. When I came out the other side, I was no longer in New Albany – instead, it was a big Bosch painting, and the darkest triptych panel was far behind me, and unnoticed by the patrons of the Prado in Madrid, I was climbing down the garden’s other side.
I stood up and dusted off my clothes, exited the crowded museum to the north, strolled onto the Calle de felipe IV, and stopped for espresso at a clean and well lighted café on the way to the nice park I remember from ’89. It was too early for tapas, so I bought a creamy chocolate treat at the counter.
New Albany’s little people seemed very, very far away.
In point of fact … they are.