|Illustration by Mitch Handsone|
HATTIE AND I HAD BEEN walking together for many years and now
found ourselves ascending a steep and foggy one-lane mountain road through the
dark and incognizant Ozarks. It was another disgusting time to be alive, a repulsive
landscape through which to cross. Hattie and I were getting tired of living
by the rules of the evil fucking morons from hell: X attacked Y, so Y attacked
Z. The government blew up its own cities of Blue, for its cities of Red had
fewer juicy targets. In every dying tree a scarlet ashcroft cawed. Hopeless
veins rejoiced as Afghanistan’s opium poppies bloomed brighter than ever. Taco
Bell, Coors, Burger King, NASCAR and R.J. Reynolds scrambled for images to embellish
the presidential-reinauguration halftime ceremonies. And the fighters and bombers
flew ever overhead, menacingly low, and the arrogant hillbilly ground crews
scrawled random Bible verses on the rockets and bombs, to aid their phony savior
in sorting out the limbs of the enlightened, the subversives who had insulted
God by reading more than one Book and voting against the incumbent messiah.
The Supreme Court spread its robes and huddled in stall number 3, measuring
its dick with a $100 bill. Everything was normal.
“You all right?” said Hattie.
“No,” I said. “But thanks for asking.”
Way back in the distance behind us, from the canyon below, some
kind of sound broke through the fog. There weren’t many sounds in these parts
that traveled that far, and we were having a hard time identifying this one.
Hattie thought it sounded more human, I thought more machine. It seemed to be
traveling quickly toward us.
“A party through a megaphone?” Hattie guessed.
“Bigger, I think,” I said.
No. I knew this sound, but couldn’t quite . . . hooting,
that’s what it was, in part. And not only hooting, but hollering. And revving.
Hooting and hollering and revving.
But Hattie was right — there was something festive about it, too.
Closer and closer the sound came, but still nothing visible. So we figured we’d
keep walking and hope that when whatever it was caught up, we could scrunch
our bodies against the mountainside and allow it to pass.
Then we saw it. It must’ve been 50 feet high. Looked like something
drawn by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. At the top, it was twice as wide as
the road, tapering down cartoonily to the bottom so that its enormous jet-airplane
tires just filled the road. We’d seen the ads on television, but this was the
first one we’d witnessed in person: the new General Motors Macho Boogie-Hoot
Power Studwagon Five-Story Deluxe Freedom Bruiser, fully equipped with the 48-cylinder
192-valve 24-liter Turbo-Apocalypse engine and room in back for the entire platoon.
And on the front was the biggest hood ornament ever — a bowsprit
of some kind, 8 or 10 feet long, and not shiny. The attack cruiser pulled closer
now, and we could see that the hood ornament was a life-size crucifix, with
a longhaired, rail-thin, semi-naked, bearded hippie freak attached to it with
rope and nails.
“FUCK!” howled the tortured man on the ornament, spotting
us. “HELP!! GET ME DOWN!! THESE MOTHERFUCKERS ARE CRAZY!!”
The attack wagon had dark tinted windows — even the windshield
— so we couldn’t see how many people were inside, or how heavily armed they
The Freedom Bruiser was closing in on us fast. Hattie and I were
just about to scamper up the mountainside when the sunroof opened, and out popped
Reverend General William Zanzinger, M.O.G., wearing a homemade ground-squirrel
tuxedo and pointing several automatic laser-guided weapons our way. Hattie and
I knew the reverend general from television.
“Clear the road, civilians!” Zanzinger barked, shooting
a series of warning shots into the air just above our heads. “The Lord’s
work is coming through!”
“HELP!!” yelled the bowsprit. “CALL THE POLICE!!”
“We are the police, moron!” Zanzinger snarled
Hattie and I scampered up the mountainside then, just clear of
the Freedom Bruiser’s side-mounted gun turrets. As the monster passed, we could
see the five-story tailgate was down, revealing the enormous theater inside,
lined with stained-glass portholes. On the ground floor sat hundreds of soldiers,
each with an automatic weapon across his lap and an official United States
Bible Picture Book open between his hands. Four layers of balconies, with
more soldiers, lined the sides to the top, where a chaplain in a gondola was
preaching through a megaphone.
“Yeeee-hah!” barked the chaplain.
“Yeee-hah!” the soldiers thundered back.
AND THEN THEY WERE GONE. Hattie and I got back on the road
and continued our walk. We didn’t talk so much anymore. We knew each other pretty
well. Just listened to each other breathe and to the dirt and twigs and gravel
scrunching underfoot. Two or three quiet hours passed.
As night fell, we reached the top of the mountain and came to
a vast clearing. The Freedom Bruiser was pulled off to one side, guarded by
a dozen sentries. The hood ornament, we noticed, was no longer in place. Beside
the vehicle, embers still glowed beneath an enormous makeshift rotisserie long
since scraped clean of its carcass.
And beyond the rotisserie, the soldiers had made camp. Lanterns
had been hung, and the platoon seemed to be finishing dinner.
Reverend General Zanzinger spotted us and waved us over.
“Hungry?” Zanzinger said — smiling, we thought. “The
“We’re fine,” Hattie replied, as the two of us scanned
the rows of dining soldiers, desperately searching, now, for signs of the missing
“Thank you, no,” said I. “Awfully kind of you to
“Nonsense!” the reverend general barked. “Corporal!
Plates for our guests! Stack ’em high!” Then he turned back to Hattie and
me, and again, we thought, smiled. “Cold night.”
“Sure is,” Hattie replied, as the young, proud corporal
approached with two plates of sad, stringy flesh, roasted black.
We stared at the charred remains and fell silent. I reached into
my back pocket, found two clean rags and handed one to Hattie; we raised them
to our eyes and mouths and looked for a way out.