26 Second Childhood
“It’s pretty big”
“Yeah, it’s big.”
“It’s not too big, is it?”
“No, baby, it’s just right.”
“With your place as a guest house, we can have people visit but nobody’s going to get the idea they can move in with us.”
“No, we wouldn’t want that. But Molly will have her own room in the big house.”
“Josh and Ella can use your place when they come.”
“That would be a good idea.” Roberta said.
Ace looked at the house being built log by log at the head of the meadow above the bend of the river. Good fishing right there. Neither he nor Roberta wanted a McLog McMansion. But it was going to be pretty nice, with a big stone fireplace and a mud room for the dogs and all that. And all paid for.
Best deal I ever made, thought Ace. Half the publishing on Same Old Shirt for Greg’s forty acres right next to Roberta’s two acres on the Little Fork. Sheila had gotten half of that publishing share, which made her happy. Ace knew that Greg would administer the song in a far more efficient manner than Ace could. Greg felt that he had more than paid Ace off for saving his life, which allowed him to operate in a slightly less guilt-encumbered way as he went about the rest of his barracuda-like business. Greg and Sheila had been having a long-distance, very adult love affair, which suited both of them fine. Molly had taken to calling Roberta Sissy, a sort-of southern sounding term that wasn’t either mommy or auntie.
Josh’s record had come out in the fall and was an instant internet smash. Josh Jones and the Apostates opened for the Hashemites and that became the Tour of the Year. Garbage and Josh made the cover of the Rolling Stone together as macho man and dweeb hero, respectively. Jas and Ella both made the move to New York and got an apartment on the upper west side. Ella started taking some history classes at NYU. Josh gave her books on Stalin, Hittite mythology, and the Punic Wars. Jas and Garbage were the night-time kings of Manhattan. Ella soon moved in with Josh.
Joey’s dick finally exploded one night in HuicaHuica, where he had taken Charlene to see his new retreat. He nearly bled to death in a Mexican clinic, but survived due to the expert ministrations of Dr. Jonas Arkavarian, himself now a resident of HuicaHuica, who found he had not only to remove the implant, but tidy up the mess with a surgery that left the rock star with a rather shortened member. Charlene told Joey she didn’t care how big it was and then promptly left for L.A., where she married Dr. Dong Wang. Joey experienced a spiritual conversion at this time and took up the study of Native American religion. He moved to the Fort Hall, Idaho, Indian Reservation, where he bought into the casino and had the house band, Joey and the Scalpers. The Native Americans, with their usual good sense of humor, renamed him Joey Littlehorn.
Harry and Fumiko were arrested for selling internet porn without a license, but beat the rap when Fumiko’s show, Nudes, Lovers, and Harry, opened at MoMA. Harry invested a small amount in a rare wines shop on the upper west side, where he could be found most days testing the new product.
The funeral for Charles Frank was a quiet affair, attended by a few friends, including some of the members of Childhood. He died when Joey’s amps fell on him during the Quake. Flowers arrived from many anonymous members of congress and from equally unidentified big cheeses of the corporate universe, but few actual people decided to show up. The press was there in force looking to get photos of the men who had made Xeonosis’ rapid rise possible. The Company itself was sold off to pay off part of the class action suit filed on behalf of forty-three thousand injured and very unhappy implant survivors. Over three thousand men had died during sex. Jerry Wopstein, the defense attorney for Xeonosis, said of the victims: what a way to go!
Dr. Richard, “ Fightin’ Dickie” York left the Presidency in disgrace with three hundred thousand of our country’s finest still pinned down in the Wattah-Fukhup Mountains of Farukuistan by fifteen snipers, all sworn followers of the radical cleric Iman-A-Zohl, who signed a major book deal with Faux Books for his life story.
It would take years for the Northern Rockies to recover from the Great ‘Quake of ‘07. Thirty-one thousand people died in the 9.7 quake, flash flooding, and landslides that followed. Over half a million people were displaced. The Canadian government built a fence seven hundred miles long to stop the flow of refugees from the ravaged south. There were some good side-effects, however. Photographers had to shoot the Teton Range all over again without the peak of Grand Teton for a gazillion calendars and postcards. Over time, the Yellowstone Crater became a huge attraction, a bubbling mud pot twenty-six mile across, known for its medicinal powers. Thousands of miles of recreation shoreline were created by the dozen new giant lakes formed when mountains fell into river valleys and dammed them. Salt Lake City had to be largely abandoned. Many Mormons picked and moved to Bolivia, where they took up chewing and growing coca and became very happy indeed; freed of the silly polygamy laws they themselves had been forced to pass during their union with an unsympathetic United States of America.
Sandy was buried alongside her son Jesse and her father, in the cemetery next to the LDS church in Mud Lake. There was no way of knowing whether the gunshot wound that ended her life was self-inflicted or happened by accident when a plaster angel fell on her from the ceiling of the Spud Palace. Roberta and Ace, his shoulder still in a sling, were among the few attendees at her laying to rest. Enrique put some plastic flowers on her headstone. He’d keep the Tesoro station open in her honor. He had been named heir in her father’s will, though Tesoro’s attorney claimed the addition looked like it was in Sandy’s handwriting.
The bullet from Sandy’s .38 had passed right through Ace’s shoulder without doing any permanent damage, though the sucker would be sore for the rest of his life. Joey had even come to visit Ace in the hospital.” You saved my life, man.” I’m Sick and Tired of the Same Old Shirt was named Country Song of the Year. Tracy Boggs then re-recorded I can Read Your Mind Some of the Time, which also went to number one. Ace tossed his answering machine into the dumpster when he moved his stuff out of Nashville.
Marco quit music to become a hairdresser in L.A. He soon had a string of Marco’s across the southwest. He was shot by a jealous husband while doing a client’s hair at three AM when she thought her husband was out of town.
Boomer kept making good investments and kept his mouth shut until he died, a quiet multi-millionaire.
The cowboys, even the ones not from Texas, went back to the Lone Star State and swore never to return to God-forsaken Idaho again.
Lightnin’Johnny the DJ forgot his name on the air and was promoted to station manager. Lightnin’ Willie died of decaf poisoning.
Stone’s face finally fell from behind his ears. He wasn’t fazed, however. He made a world promotional tour as the world’s most wrinkled man. His book, How Do You Like Me Now, Assholes? sold over three million copies.
Tony Riggs ended up buying fourteen thousand acres of western Montana. His third wife left him when she discovered he had re-created a full-on western whorehouse on a remote parcel. He was later hit by lighting while trying to subdue a huge brown trout he called Moby.
Ace and Roberta pretty much stayed up the Little Fork at their place, unless they were traveling to the southwest, their favorite road trip. They were always happy to see old friends, and younger ones Like Richie and Jas, and Josh and Ella and their two kids, Aristotle and Athena. The Jones got more dogs and cats as they grew older. They acquired a semi-pet moose they called Manuel, who liked to hang out with their horses behind the house and was fond of Cheetos. They both slowly went gray and then white. Roberta kept chopping wood, since Ace couldn’t swing an axe with his now arthritic shoulder.
Greg and Sheila got married and then divorced, with Sheila coming away with the hacienda in HuicaHuica in the settlement. When Molly left home to go to the University of Montana, Sheila went to Mexico, where she and Charles’ ex-mistress Svetlana made quite a pair of stunning redheads in their declining years every time they went out for lunch at one of the trendy restaurants by Lake Chupa.
Ace and Roberta walked down the mercifully never-improved rough trail along the river. He used his hand-worn walking stick; she held on to his other arm and supported him. Aristotle was fly-fishing out on the good bend. Ace watched him land a nice cutthroat.” Good fish, Ari!’ he called. The seventeen –year- old waved back. He was a beautiful young man, standing up to his thighs in the rushing water with the sun shining behind him.
“It’s kind of strange, “Ace said, as he lowered himself onto his favorite stump with Roberta’s help.
“What’s strange, baby?”
“Being the last one left.”
“Harry had been sick for along time. It’s a blessing.” She leaned gently on his back, holding him steady with her body. He’d been falling a bit of late.
“Yeah.” He said.
The afternoon light ricocheted off the quivering cottonwood leaves.
“But that’s not what’s strange.”
“No secrets, right Ace? So what’s strange, then?”
“What’s strange is that I still feel like a kid.”