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whimper, not a scream
the year visited
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)
12.28.09
humor


The bar countertop is dented, sticky, choked with tar and cheap whiskey. Tattered clothes hang below forlorn faces, all reflected in a milky mirror littered with stacked bottles. The air is thick with smoke and desperation while the jukebox plays a slightly warped medley of Michael Jackson "Thriller" tunes.

2010 enters, preppy pastel collar turned up, tortoise-shell sunglasses resting on the back of his neck. He scans the bar, squinting, hands tucked into the front pockets of his Tom Ford jeans. The bartender looks up from his want ads and nods to the far barstool closest to the restroom door.

2009 hangs over the bar, flipping up shots of no-name bourbon and chasing them with cans of Hamm's. His shoulders are hunched beneath worn leather, the thighs of his jeans frayed from the constant rubbing. He draws on a non-filtered Camel not once but twice before spewing smoke in a snakelike coil.

"Hey, kid. Take a seat." 2009 hacks and points to the stool next to him.

"Wow, 2009, dude, this is such an honor. I mean, you're legendary."

"Whatever. Let's get this over with."

"Seriously, dude, you have no idea how they talk about you."

2009 cocks his head slightly, then pulls on his cigarette again. "Oh, I think I do."

2010 leans over the bar. "Bartender? Can I have a caramel macchiato? Grande, no whip." The bartender flips one eye over his paper, shakes his head, and walks away.

"So here's what I'm thinking. We go viral with the Eve. We set up a force posting Twitpics in all the major cities. Moscow. London. Greater Mumbai. Frankfort. Sydney. Dubui. New York. Chicago. Vancouver. L.A. We blast this thing, man! We have Lady Gaga come down from the Space Station on the shuttle and buzz all these cities, then crash into the ball in the Times, man! I've got an app that will synch everyones' cells to the atomic clock, and when the countdown begins, the Twitpics stream to everyone. Global! Totally global!"

2009 tosses back a shot and flicks his ashes under the bar. "Then what, kid?"

"What do you mean, then what? This is the future, dude! We are connected. We have everything we need right here, right now."

2009 picks at the cracks in the bar counter with a lazy finger. "So that's what you think. It's a flick of a switch and everything is hunky-fricken-dory. Recession-gone. Wall St. corruption-gone. War in some Middle Eastern country-gone. 200,000 homeless in L.A. alone, kid. Detroit is eating itself from the inside out. Drug battles in Mexico. Tsunamis in the Philippines. Still fricken civil war in most of the African sub-continent. Got an app to fix any of that?"

2010 blinks a few times and looks at his feet.

"The new U.S. president smell is wearing off. States are going bankrupt. Unemployment is consistently above 10% across America. The media says the swine flu is the mythical Captain Trips come to life. Walter Cronkite died on my watch, kid. And Jackson....you know, I really loved 'I'll Be There', damn it. So we lose them and what do we get instead? Glittering vampires, Glenn Beck, and Miley Cyrus. Frak me."

2010 snaps on his best Ephron grin and pulls up the barstool. "Okay, okay, it's not like I don't hear what you're saying. You had a rough tumble. Could've happened to anyone, dude, seriously. But we can bounce from this! I already have almost a million fans of '2010 Will Suck Less Than 2009' on Facebook! The people are in full support!"

2009 straightens on his stool and locks on 2010. His watery eyes sink low into his cheeks, eyelids heavy. "Listen, kid, I know you've got the whole new decade thing going on. It's like a slick suit, and it looks good on you. But, what you do on the cloud is not full-blown reality. People out of work for a year, that's real. Vipers in the financial sector, that's real. Dissention along political lines--it's worse, kid, worse than it's ever been, and it doesn't solve the big problems."

2010 slicks his hair back and looks down the bar. He still wants the macchiato, but the bartender is chatting up some dingy blonde at the other end of the counter. No dice. He starts twirling 2009's Camel pack and flares up a bit. "I hear you," he says. "But the new decade--it's not going to be like that. Okay, sure, we had to work out the code, find the bugs, run the simulations. That's done now. The new decade will be more of what we thought it would be when we were growing up, what we thought a new century would be like, man! No more war or poverty, a multi-platform democracy, entertainment as life--the possibilities are brimming over the edge, dude! I've got hope."

Course laughter from the other end of the bar weaves through the room while "P.Y.T." skips a few revolutions. Someone finally slaps the machine, and the song continues. 2009 traces ruts in the countertop again and nods. "I get that, and you know what? Hope is exactly what you should have. I had some back in the day, and let me tell you, I wouldn't be sitting here now without it. But you've got to understand something: the flash and dash isn't going to get us out of this mess. Are you ready for the fight? I'm talking a knuckle-draggin', hard-pumpin', fist-in-the-throat bring on. And it's not all brawn, kid--there has to be some brain with it, too. 'Cause when it's all over, and you're where I am--well, that's all I'm saying."

2010 checks the bartender one more time, sighs, then reaches for 2009's last bourbon shot. He slams it back, shuddering as the burn coats his throat. He turns off the stool, whips on his shades, and starts for the door. He folds down his collar with one hand as he flashes a peace sign over his shoulder with the other.

2009 crushes his cigarette onto the counter and stands, knocking his boots against the barstool rail. His knee gives just a little bit, and he catches himself on the counter's edge. He half-grins at the figure walking away. "That's the spirit, kid. Good luck with that."


ABOUT TRACEY L. KELLEY

Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley

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COMMENTS

sloan bayles
12.28.09 @ 3:29p

Love the concept! We're all in hopes the new decade will bring positive changes for everyone. One of the first changes needs to be attitude, which I think you pretty well nailed here.

jeff miller
12.29.09 @ 8:28p

This is philthy and gritty and I love it. In particular, I love how it exposes my own career in social media as a marginalization of everything I stand for. THANK YOU. That's the kinda reality check I can cash, baby.

tracey kelley
12.30.09 @ 7:15a

You're still my favorite "Mad Man", Jeff.

russ carr
12.30.09 @ 2:38p

Heh. It's funny 'cuz it's Joe.

tim lockwood
12.30.09 @ 6:47p

2009 crushes his cigarette onto the counter and stands, knocking his boots against the barstool rail. His knee gives just a little bit, and he catches himself on the counter's edge. He half-grins at the figure walking away. "That's the spirit, kid. Good luck with that."

The bartender, alerted by the noise, gives a hard squint in 2009's direction. 2009 gazes back with booze-bleary eyes, and that's when the bartender realizes deep in his gut that this guy is gonna stiff on his tab. With a nod of his head, the bartender summons forth the bouncer, who grabs hold of 2009 by his worn leather collar and shoves him out the front door into a nearby snowbank.

"Out youse go, loser, and don't youse darken our doorway again, got it?" says the bouncer with a gravelly Bronx accent.

And that's when 2009 finally understands that he has long overstayed his welcome. He dusts most of the snow off his jeans, fires up another Camel, and checks his watch. Only a little more than a day left. Just as well, he muses. Not enough time to really get anything else done, anyway.

As 2010 pulls out of the parking lot and onto the highway with a loud screech in his shiny fire-engine red Camaro, 2009 stumbles to his dusty, road-salt-crusted Pontiac Grand Prix. The engine fires up on the first try, giving off a throaty growl. 2009 chuckles softly. "They don't make 'em like that anymore," he says aloud, to no one in particular.

tracey kelley
12.30.09 @ 7:02p

TIM! You cheeky monkey! Fantastic!

JOE - NOW can we do the Intrepid Media serial novel? I think I have the proof, right here, that it can be done and done well.

tim lockwood
12.30.09 @ 11:02p

I'm game if you are. Tracey, check your email, por favor.

juli mccarthy
1.6.10 @ 11:04a

Tim, you're not going to share the Rooster saga, are you?

tim lockwood
1.7.10 @ 7:12p

Bahahahahaaaa! No, I can't find my old Buzzsaw CD any more. And I wouldn't send the Rooster stories to anyone unless they expressed a GENUINE interest in it. Oddly enough, that was exactly what I was thinking when Tracey suggested it. Of course, I fully expected you to know that.

And I really am up for the challenge if Tracey, or anyone else, is interested. I haven't written anything that was totally fun to write like that in ages.



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