No. 3 - The Cold Beer War
The house was empty, queerly unoccupied. Early afternoon's sunlight lit stale tendrils of smoke, as flies cavorted around the ruined kitchen to a soundtrack of a rattling, buzzing fridge and a shrill squall from the answering machine. A tense, clipped voice, a woman's voice, stalked flatly through the desolate rooms.
The message ran:
"You see, what's been done here--and it's really quite clever--is that Thucydides has been dragged out of the Peloponnese and shoved roughly into the bodies of four dreary myths living out their lives behind the scenes of an ill-omened millineal nexus. City-states once were actors, bodies, bounded willful entities making decisions and taking action. Over time, the locus of intentionality, deliberative causality, has shifted (in)to individuals. This change is more apparent than real, however.
Real change is impossible.
Thucydides knew this when he sought to understand and explain the war between Athens and Sparta: He knew understanding of that war would be an understanding of future wars. Not all, perhaps, but some.
Later, Hegel claimed history repeats. Marx then said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The question posed by no one nonetheless remains: Is the tragic event the first event or the first repetition?
I leave this matter for the schoolmen and the brutal pedants.
What I require from you is the resolution of another element at sea here in this muffled syntax. Put most starkly, gentlemen, it is your charge to determine whether we live in tragic times, or farcical ones.
Good luck, four gentlemen. May the force prosper long."
Some hours later, an image e'en more startling than an empty house. In the bicycle graveyard, less rubble than normal. Mudman sat in a comfy chair, a light-blue sheet stretched and tacked upon the wall behind him, with a vague butterfly emblem in browns and reds. Candles flickered, shadows danced across Mudman's smoking jacket. Glints gleamed in his swirling wine.
Mudman's soliloquy: "Rob't Heinlein has one of his mouthpieces opine that all wars are the result of population pressure. Unconfused scholars and anybody with an actual feel for history will understand that there is no such
thing as population pressures. There is only, always and ever, always already, competition for resources."
Akka/Dekka stormed in from the kitchen and, predictably, ruined the spell by demanding "What the hell is a 'subscription'?"
Jerry, following, began an impossibly dull and lengthy exposition, moving Akka/Dekka and himself into the living room, so as to marshal his army of ambulatory, doll-sized furniture into a sort of three-dimensional Power Point presentation. Rig has been way out front on the trend of pedagogical puppetry.
Humidor, smoking again, remained in the kitchen, sighing heavily, over and over. Mudman heaved himself from the chair, and approached Humidor, speaking in his slow, nearly impeded way. Asked what goes on.
Humidor: "These dishes, they are covered in filth! Yet here they sit...upon the rack of drying! As though...as though to have been cleaned!!"
Mudman: "That's silt. Not...filth."
Humidor: "And...can you tell me what might be this swampy mess where I do remember one sink?"
Mudman: "I uh...I did...the dishes."
Humidor: "Mudman...may I ask of you an question?"
Humidor: "Is this puddle the result of you standing before the sink, on one mission of cleanliness?"
Mudman: "What puddle?"
Humidor: "The puddle in which I very stand!!"
Mudman: "Why are you standing in a puddle?"
Humidor: "DON'T DO THE DISHES!!"
Akka/Dekka and Rig have come into the kitchen.
Akka/Dekka: "Damnit! Dishes need to be done! Why not let the 'Man take care of it?"
Rig: "He's MADE of MUD, moron. Only two things argue against him cleaning things...
Rig: "HISTORY! And SCIENCE!"
As Dekka went into his pre-rant routine, equal parts pro-wrestling mugging for the audience and Dragon-Ball style charging for a special move, he was jarringly deflated by a Loud BEEP from somewhere in the bicycle graveyard.
Akka/Dekka: "What the hell was that?"
Akka/Dekka: "Oh. Answering machine message."
Humidor: "We have a phone?"
Rig: "We have an answering machine?"
Mudman: "We have a message?"
They decamped to what in a normal house would be the dining room. In this house, it's primarily a graveyard for bicycles. But it's where the phone jack is...and the beep certainly signaled a mystery of no small note.
Upon the message's emplayment, Rig tossed in a nigh-instantaneous "I don't get it," which met with grudging agreement. Standing around, the four, in a sort of motionless milling. Humidor, galvanized, ejaculated "That's Sarah!"
Much guilty shifting of feet, avoision of eye contact with a woman who wasn't even there.
The mood soured. Everybody grumpied up.
Rig (nastily): "Hey Kevin, got that fiver you owe me?"
Humidor: "I blush to confess that this...fiver of which you speak is as unknown to me as successful breeding must have been of your parents."
Rig: "I didn't give you five dollars. I loaned them to you. And I didn't do it to hear you flip me a load of smart talk!"
Humidor: "Nor did I take your money in order to be bullied, sir!"
Humidor: "Did I just admit to taking your money?"
Akka/Dekka, Rig (unison): "Yes."
Humidor: "Does that mean I owe you this money?"
Akka/Dekka, Rig (unison): "Yes."
Humidor, bafflingly, swiveled to face the empty living room, and began speaking, quite as loudly as normal. "A tactical error, to be sure...but perhaps not such a grave one as it may seem before the grim-jawed eyes of history. A brief alliance...this I require above all else!"
He swung back around, with his least ingratiating smile rolling queasily across his chiseled features. "Akka/Dekka, my ancient comrade, do you recall the thrilling days of our shared youth?"
He was met with a flat, clear stare.
Humidor cleared his throat, rallied for a second effort: "Long and profitable has been our partnership, has it not?"
Dekka left to grab a beer from the fridge.
Humidor, nearing desperation with Rig grinning menacingly, "Ah, look. Is it true that I owe you a five dollars as well, Akka/Dekka?"
Akka/Dekka, somewhat distracted upon his return. "Yes. Yes it is."
Humidor: "Is it conceivable to you that I might not have this five in dollars?"
Akka/Dekka: "Yes. Yes it is."
Humidor: "Aha! Then cash sing goddess, O Muse of rhetoric, of wretched posey, and pray help me persuade the most noble and notable Akka/Dekka that by the fortune of fate I do I do I do have five dollars!"
Humidor: "And! Dekka! Don't ya get it man, I can't pay you...unless..."
Rig: "Wait a minute."
Humidor: "Yes! Jury the Rig has seen thru to the core of the crux of the nub of the thrust of my very gist! I propose, Akka/Dekka, to pay you!! And not him! Help me, please! Take my money to you, and protect me, for they are my only and last five of dollars!"
Rig: "This is bullshit."
Akka/Dekka (evenly): "I might have known you'd say that, Jerry."
Rig (aggressive): "Because it's the truth."
Akka/Dekka: "Oh? Is it really the bullshit truth, Jerry?"
Akka/Dekka: "Or is it just the latest coverup? The latest distraction from what's really important?"
Rig: "What are you talking about?"
Akka/Dekka fired an empty beer can at Rig's head. It went wide, clattered to the floor. "Does this look familiar?
Rig picked it up, held it before his face, made a show of inspecting it with all his sciencegeneering acument and equipment.
Rig (dripping sarcasm): "Well, speaking scientifically, I'd have to identify this as an empty beer can. Of course, I shall have to postpone any firm committment until the results come back from the lab, but--"
Akka/Dekka: "That was the last beer, Jerry! Last night, you had the last beer. You took it upon yourself to drink the ultimate beer, the final beer, the beer after which would come no more beers." Nobody heard the door open, close.
Akka/Dekka: "And now, as for the fridge, there are no beers at all. No Pabst. No Hamm's. Not even a single breakfast Oly, and this...this was your doing. A conscious act. An adult decision."
Akka/Dekka: "Jerry, we had a pact. We had a league, we had an alliance. Very simple it was between us, between all four of us. He who takes the last beer, it is he who shall cause to be placed in the refrigerator not less than one sixpack of tallboys and preferably one full half-rack of twelve-ouncers!"
Akka/Dekka: "It is he, Jerry, and he is you and I am that that I am and what I am is a man who has no beer and the fault lies with you, man, with you!"
Rig: "It was four in the morning. There was no more beer to be had, for fu--"
Akka/Dekka: "I have no interest in your excuses, nor your lies. Our alliance lies on the barren earth, rent asunder by your late-night piracy. You have made a sham of our pact and you have made an enemy of me in the process. Humidor?"
Humidor: "El Humidor, yes?"
Akka/Dekka held out his hand to Humidor without taking his steely eyes from the fidgety Rig. "Give me my money. Jerry won't be bothering you any more. You see, Jerry, you're not dealing with El Loseador here any more. You're dealing with me now. And there's nothing in this world you can force me to do."
Akka/Dekka: "Have a nice life, Jerry. You'll never see these five dollars."
Rig: "Then it seems you've left me no choice."
Akka/Dekka: "Perhaps not. Perhaps I've left you as much choice as you've left me beer."
A lengthy pause, a tense standoff.
Rig: "I'm calling Sarah. She'll make you pay me. She can make you both pay me. Then you'll be sorry! You two think you're so strong? Well, when Sarah's on my side then I guess we'll be in charge!"
Akka/Dekka: "But why would she side with you? She could as well side with me, you know. I did her a favor once. Helped her kick out a bad housemate. Kinda...reminds me of somebody. You know?"
Rig: "She'll side with me because I have a job! Because I can help pay bills! What can you do?"
Akka/Dekka: "Well, for starters...I can do this."
Akka/Dekka picked up a tiny armoire, and as it squealed horribly, ripped it to shreds. As the remainder of the ambulatory robots fled for the relative safety of the basement, where nobody ever really goes, Rig used the point of a compass to puncture tires all over the graveyard. As Humidor stuffed a shred of his shirt into a fuming bottle and fumbled with his Zippo, Mudman reentered the house, with a full case of beer.
"Oh...hey, 'Man," muttered Akka. The crisis passed, a silent consensus was reached, to quit the graveyard, and speak no more of five dollars or of robots murdered or bike tires popped. Smackdown! became watched, it was learnt that Mudman had been rehearsing the introduction to his cable access presentation of Galaxy of Terror, and no little time passed.
Somewhere around four, a careful observer would have noted one beer, standing alone in the fridge. Humidor reached into the fridge, and his hand closed 'round the coveted cylinder.
Words by C. Collision, drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes