4Q By peter nolan smith

Coming back to America was a shock after a long absence in Asia.

I was thin in comparison to the tubby NYU students waddling down St. Mark’s Place. They all had food in their mouth. My lower jaw hung slack in shock. This expression of disgust was bound to attract the wrong attention and a familiar voice said, “Pretty damn amazing, isn’t it? How fat everyone is?”

Jamie Parker was looking prosperous in his lightweight Italian suit and also surprisingly fit for a fifty year-old, considering his hard years on the road. Our association went back to the 1970s and shook hands with a warmth reserved for friends who think the other might be dead.

“No one was this fat when we were young.”

“I just watched the Rolling Stones’ GIMME SHELTER. The only fat people at the Altamount concert were a naked girl, a Hell’s Angel, and the fat guy that gets stabbed by the bikers.” He spoke like he might have attended the infamous Stones’ show. “Everyone was skinny back then.”

“When did this obesity thing happen?” I couldn’t pinpoint exact moment, but suspected the trend began with the 1968 Moon landing.

“Over a long time, though the religious right considers obesity a deterrent to teen sex.”

“Another preemptive strike.” The War in Iraq was going well for the president, especially since he only read his own press releases.

“Welcome back to the good ole USA.” Jamie had been at my going-away party two years ago. “Looks like it has been treating you well.”

“Oh, I get by.” Jamie explained how he had made a small fortune as an Internet wunderkind after providing scientific proof to the GOP that global warming was due to the planet passing through a warmer section of outer space. “How was Thailand?”

“I’m having a baby with my girlfriend.” “Not bad for a fifty year-old well-unknown poet.” He slapped my back and then lowered his voice as if his conservative supporters might have sicced the FBI on him. “You’re not bringing her back here? I mean America isn’t really America anymore. More like the Land of the Fat and Stupid for picking this president and eating 1000 kinds of potato chips.”

24% of the voting public had elected George Bush and potato chips went good with Velveeta. “People get what they deserve.”

“You know why he got elected in the first place?”

“He was GW One’s son?” My patience for a full-blown LSD-flashback rant was limited.

“You got three minutes?” Jamie clasped my arm like a Twinkie-hungry bear.

“Not really, I have a hair appointment.”

“Yeah, you always had a good head of hair.” He had been balding when I met him twenty-five years ago. “More money is spent on the cure to baldness than AIDS.”

“I thought this was about George Bush.”

“Okay, okay, you know I went to Yale. Got a scholarship for hockey. 1967. Met George Junior a bunch of times. Drank beer, smoked pot, and did some fine CIA cocaine. Anyway I dropped out, enlisted into the military, bounced around Asia, then came back to the States.”

“Jamie, I’ve heard this before.”

“But not this.” He dragged me into the corner newsstand and scurried to the stroke mag section. “You remember Iran-Contra. Well, I knew people in Washington. Knew people in Columbia. The CIA was bringing arms to Honduras and deadheading the empty planes to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, until someone gets the bright idea that they can finance the entire operation by trans-shipping cocaine. It was all fine and good, but those Spooks had never put their noses to the silver plate and they were getting beat by the Cali Cartel. They needed someone to test it and GB One I volunteered GW to sacrifice his nose for the cause of Liberty. Well, needless to say, snorting coke isn’t fun alone, so old Hoovermatic called in a few friends.”


“Yep,” Jamie nodded with a twinkle of an old junkie’s recollection for what had been the ‘good times’. “I did ounces of zoot and should have gotten a Purple Heart for fucking my nose with GWII and Bill Clinton. Yeah, Slick Willy was the governor of Arkansas. Couldn’t keep him away from the stuff. I could have screwed them both, but kept my mouth shut. I actually thought George W would be better than Al Gore. I mean he knew all about Weapons of Mass Destruction?”

“I always thought they were a cover-up for our having sold Saddam the poisons to kill the Iranians. I mean even Donald Rumsfeld never thought they would be used against his own people.”

“Yeah, right, the Iraqis never built shit.” Jamie made a face like I was stupider than some chubby white male who bought an SUV to make himself look thinner. “WMDs were a drink, which took a little of the steam off the Bolivian flake; tequila, cognac, and Moet champagne. A concoction the CIA dreamed up, when they were dealing heroin out of Laos.”

“You’re fucking mad.” Americans hated the French. They had been nice enough to hire me as the physionomiste of the Bains-Douche. I had treated them like dogs and they had loved me for it. I loved France too, but not as much as pizza or America or the baby growing in my girlfriend’s belly. “Jamie, no one cares anymore about what anyone does.”

“You’re right. I’m 4Qed, but what is everyone else’s excuse?” He yelled. “Answer me that. What’s everyone else’s excuse?”

I rushed onto the street and was immediately swarmed by giggling college students, rushing across 3rd Avenue. They were living their dreams. Life was good and the sky was clear. Everyone seemed happy to not question anything and so I ignored Jamie’s last question, because in the Land of the Free and the Brave, the pursuit of happiness trumped all other desires no matter what the bible-thumpers promised the wicked in this life and the next.

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