Atalan: i stand here on the precipice, on this podium but i don't know why. is it of my own volition? or am i just a cog? am i the good guys? yes i feel that i am, i feel it deep inside, that's my only criteria, the only one i need. but what's the point? if only we could live inside. but we live in the external world that's rigged. i knew that answer. and that one. but he'll always ring in first. it's destiny that Yayraj and Codrus will win. it's a long time coming. we are all desperate for change. real change. but will will they bring?
Alex: YES! he's done it, folks! say hello to everyone's little friend, your new second-in-command...whatever your name is! i'm too old for this shit. he didn't need to play Final Jeopardy but he did it anyway and bet everything and was correct! pandiculation! spelled correctly? well i can't read your handwriting but let's just say it is!
Yayraj takes out a bottle of cerveza he'd been keeping chilled behind his stand and pours it over Ata's head and all over his station.
Yayray: no disrespect, bro, just tradition.
Yay jumps around the studio like a little kid, stretching and yawning at the same time. Alex Trebek tries to pandiculate but hurts his back and is taken out of the studio in a stretcher. but he gives the thumbs-up sign before and the studio audience gasps a sigh of collective relief.
Alex: am i getting older or is the shit getting shittier?
none of this was televised. the drones are malfunctioning.
Codrus (exasperated): this is a travesty! how dare that wannabe from Murica upstage me! does he know who he is? Yatta, start making up for what you did right now, call the drone garage.
Kenyatta: my hand instinctively went for my phone
BUT I FORGOT THAT IT'S BROKEN, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK.
y'know i actually have no idea how i would help you without my phone. how would that work, contacting other people and other offices and agencies to help you? without a phone. like, smoke signals or something? speaking of, i need a vape.
Codrus: why is it that technology breaks down at exactly the wrong moment?
at the ranch, Erneste slowly helps Cotard up from the floor.
Erneste: my brother brother, how do you feel? in the sleep of sleep, what dreams may not come as the sign that you had a good night's rest.
Cotard: i'm laggy but energized. i don't languish, i relish.
Erneste: not for long, mang. we need you to keep thinking of your mom.
Cotard: oh dear. well. when i was having my mental problems it was all a haze. i would lie to make myself seem sicker for sympathy. but then one day i woke up and i was as sick as i had been purporting. for real. the psychiatrists told me i had a lying problem, that if it wasn't nipped in the bud now it could become pathological. i told them i was just an artist. which was a lie. then. now i fancy myself quite the skilled painter. and i love listening to music so that makes me an artist. i would sit the poor woman down on the table/pool table and explain in excruciating detail what i was going through: that i was crazy all the time, had no friends ever, my future was a farce, and there was no hope. i kept repeating this over and over again for one to convince myself but more importantly to have a built-in excuse why NOTHING would ever work, i was the special case that would be immune to all pills and therapy. my mom learned what to do after awhile. she would just sit there quietly, never saying a word, until i was done with my spiel, fifteen minutes to an hour depending on how much energy i had that day. most of the time i was my standard low-energy. then she would leave. she had heard it all before and realized anything she offered as a suggestion would be immediately shot down by my passion, so it was this eternal standstill. infuriating. made more infuriating by the fact that i clear-eyed and knowingly was orchestrating the whole thing.
Erneste: ah. as the rains come down this is the perfect time to segue to that thing you were talking to me about in the bug. your crying or something?
Cotard: thanks Baba Wawa, this is gonna make me cry. i was at my lowest point. all i would do all day was play the video game Zelda. it was fun. i would lug the two large speakers in the living room over to my cramped bedroom to get maximum sound whenever i slashed my sword or solved a riddle and that riddle-solved jingle would sound. brains and brawn. had to feed my ego loudly cos i sure wasn't feeding myself loudly on campus with those bottom-ramen noodles that always tasted just past the expiration date. this is what i looked forward to whenever i knew i was going home for a weekend from college, not getting married or anything mind you. i continued the tradition after i quit college. or college quit me. the one thing that's always been there for me is imaginary worlds. Link's been a bro.
Erneste: it's better than drowning in beer. or is it? libation doesn't improve hand-eye coordination.
Cotard: but libation is a holy act. when you pour beer over the dead, that's the greatest honor one can receive. the amber of the beer is the color of the sun. video games are the things of the devil's Player 2.
Erneste: my bro, are you still mentally ill?
Cotard: of course but i'm a monk now, it's all been swallowed up with the religion so it's fine.
Ata (thinking so hard it almost comes out out loud): yes, painting, i always wanted to pursue painting, it seems harder than the rest, takes real skill and real patience, can't just be bullshitted with photoshop the way writing can. i was gonna start taking lessons with Cotard before everything blowed up, most depressingly twitter. i believe there are two tracks of knowledge: memorizing wikipedia and a deep internal experience with things that you can't learn with your nose in a tablet. reading is useless, feeling is the final frontier. i'm seeing red on the canvas, i know it's red but it's not red to me until i feel the red dripping through my fingers, until i squeeze the tube and it crusts and hardens before i have time to splash it on my picture of an apple. this is the real instagram. insta is not better just faster. i wish i would have used the red paint more artistically before it dried. is virtual red still red? i knew that answer of that obscure painting by that Master who was actually van Gogh's pet pigeon in disguise. just wasn't fast enough, Yayray clicked the light first and i still maintain he totally guessed it and it was the luckiest guess in the world. you could tell from his voice and the street slang he used. he don't know. i'm seeing red at this whole Jeopardy! process. but i'm remaining calm. nobody can hear me think, right? nobody knows what i'm really thinking, only i do. and my creator obviously. i'm thinking right now, right? not speaking? it's always calm inside my head, nothing can hurt you when you think, there are no damaging thoughts, it's all just voices in the wilderness. my safe place where i can go forever.
at the burger joint next to The Store. raccoons have been keeping the neighborhood awake all night with their rummaging the large trash bins out back. nobody complains cos this is the only fast-food burger joint in the entire hoity-toity area. Zavier now works the fry station while one of the raccoons takes orders at the register. Zavier once played pro football but something happened at camp. but then who likes camp anyway?
raccoon (with Kenyatta on the other end of the phone): no ma'am, i'm afraid we don't serve the The Thing Burger here. try Denny's.
Kenyatta: thank you. just trying something out. too bad there's no Denny'ss anymore. thanks Codrus.
raccoon (slipping his cute paperboat fast-food hat off to reveal his unusually long handsome springy ears): you okay, my only man? you have the raccoon eyes, i'd recognize them anywhere.
Zavier (drooling): i used to be called Big Z but now the New York papers call me Big Zero. it was an accident. i didn't mean to punch him but i did punch him and doing always gets more press than thinking. should be the other way around. he instigated it but i shouldn't have instigated it. it takes two to tango but more courage to walk away and become the alone wallflower. if it's any consolation my jaw hurts worse. but that's cos i don't brush my teeth nearly as thoroughly as i should. my dentists tell me this all the time but i never listen cos it's too expensive to listen. this is why i'm drooling right now, it's not that i'm stoned and have no future and hate my job here at Burgers "R" Us or whatever this place is called. i wish i were Stoned.
the white drool empties from Big Z's mouth into his paper cup of half soda. he looks to see how the ice is but the ice has turned into crystal clear space ice still contained in the small cup.
it's the lunch rush. the joint is empty.
raccoon: ah, the Milky Way, i'd recognize it anywhere.