Art: White Christmas
I. The Second Coming
His return was heralded by the tiniest red-tailed hawk. It circled on air currents inside my throat, feathers lightly brushing uvula and throat walls. Dry cough after dry cough wracked my body until I was a helmetless astronaut choking in stars.
I downed glasses of water, but the hawk must have built an aerie in my sinuses.
When I slept, I dreamt I was William Butler Yeats making love to Maude Gonne on the astral plane. Her body poured over mine like warm butter. When we came, I woke not to moans but the screeches of a hawk, an invisible straitjacket tight around my chest.
I got up, each exhalation a hunting cry, and rummaged through a junk drawer until I found an inhaler. It was so old, white encrustations had formed inside. Picking it out with a needle, I could smell the metallic wasting. It took several sprays before anything came out. Without ceremony, I wrapped my lips on the plastic and fired. It tasted like it smelled — like rotting medicine — but the cries stopped heralding his return. All was silent, except for a slight television crackle when I breathed.
I went back to bed, a rough beast, whose hour had set, slouching towards sleep to be born.
II. Cage an Elephant
I woke with a heaviness. I could feel it even before attempting to get up. Gravity had doubled overnight. What was once flowing mucus had turned to sludge and stagnated. It tasted awful. I could see greens and yellows in my head before even blowing my nose.
“Hey up there… Satchel-Ass. Giddy on up. Daylight’s a-burnin.”
The voice was a little muffled, but dulcet, warm, familiar.
“A little birdie, half-stack. Take the cotton out your ears and drop the Who’s on First.”
I felt a sharp pain in my chest.
“Feel that, butter-butt? It’s America’s good ol’ friend, Bingo.”
It was Bing Crosby. The singer, the actor, the behind-closed-doors asshole. He wasn’t dead. He lived inside my chest. He liked the acoustics. He planned on recording a record in there. It was all part of his grand comeback.
“You can’t keep a good man down, me boyo. We entertainers age like fine wines.”
Bing tasted like fine shit. I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t. Couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He tasted half-rotted, enbalmed in phlegm. Thirty-nine years of death can do that to you.
Death also must’ve created a thousand mile snarl up of small talk or Bing tongue-kissed the Blarney stone and gained the gift of gab, because when Bing started, he never stopped. I lay still, struggling to breathe, while ol’ Bingo was reminiscing about fucking the Andrews Sisters. All of them. Each one came the same way, he claimed, but said he’d hold onto that little trade secret until he hit the talk show circuit.
I wanted to say, ‘The world has changed, Bing. The music industry is dead. The film industry is dead. Most everyone that loved you in life are dead. You are a ghost talking about ghosts. Nobody cares. You should’ve stayed in the grave.’
Instead, I politely listened to his bottled memories of names erased by time and weathered his insults.
Yet every so often his mouth slowed, and after a brief silence he began to sing. His voice vibrated inside me like concert speakers. Every cell shook, then shimmered. His vocal wavelength was a yellow brick road to happiness. My brain skipped down its path, becoming entrained, releasing endorphins, a smile escaping my face like a sunbreak, inspiring me to drag myself out of bed to haul ol’ Bingo wherever ol’ Bingo wanted to go, in spite of now having a barrel chest that could cage an elephant.
III. Mere Anarchy
After stiff shots of whiskey (at Bingo‘s insistence), we hit the road without Bob Hope or Dorothy Lamour. I realized I hadn’t called in to work, contacted my girlfriend, fed my cat or rolled my garbage to the curbside. Everything was going to shit since Bingo entered my life.
He didn’t care. He cracked the whip, spurred my insides, as if I were one of his dead horses that never won a Derby. I told him I couldn’t see the speedometer over my chest, and he said I also couldn’t see my dick, but it was still there, wasn’t it? I didn’t know what to say to that. Or if there was anything to say to that. It made no sense. What did the visibility of a dick have to do with knowing how fast we were going?
No sooner had I thought it that a highway patrolman hit his flashers, signaling for us to pull over. Bingo said to hit the gas, that we needed to sneak in eighteen at Pebble Beach, before our liquid lunch, shiatsu massage and blowjob. I told Bing to go fuck himself, started to decelerate and pulled over. I told him he was fucking nuts if he thought we could outrun a cop in a Ford Tempo.
As the patrolman exited his cruiser, walking up the freeway shoulder, rubberneckers gawking, Bing flew into a rage. He started sucker punching my alveoli, screaming that he had more number one hits than Elvis and The Beatles combined; that who the fuck was I to tell him what or what not to do? That he was Bing-fucking-Crosby and that I should never forget it.
When the patrolman motioned for me to roll down the window, I must’ve been a sight. My oversized chest spasming, air wheezing in and out of me as if through a straw, the patrolman’s face dropped and immediately tried to open my driver’s side door, when Bing belted out an angry, punklike version of ‘The Little Drummer Boy,’ inspiring my right foot to slam on the accelerator and tear off into traffic. I sideswiped a Prius, forced an eighteen-wheeler to veer, while in the rearview I saw the patrolman run back towards his cruiser, before an SUV plowed into him head-on.
“Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!” is all I could scream between gasps.
“Bah rump-a-pum-pum! Me and my drum!” Followed by Bingo‘s right cross, left jab, uppercut, uppercut.
The punch sequence reminded me of playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out as a kid and gave me an idea — I began to scream-hum Little Mac’s training montage music as loud as possible, until it mixed and washed out Bing’s voice.
Regaining control of parts of my body, I yanked the steering wheel back to the right, sparks flying up off the steel guardrail. I mashed down the accelerator until my Tempo tilted and momentarily climbed into the air, ignoring the improbability of the physics involved, hopping the rail, then landing and tearing ass down a grass embankment, nosediving into an empty detention pond. The impact of collision deployed the airbags, crushing my barrel chest like an accordian, before the safety glass of my windshield spiderwebbed under my forehead.
Blood drowning my face, I slithered out of the wreckage, climbed the opposite embankment of the detention pond, up past a cluster of goldenrod, into a stand of evergreens.
I lay on my back, gurgling when I breathed, staring into the blueness of sky. Bing coughed, gagged, spit. His breathing matched mine. Overhead, a red-tailed hawk circled the freeway, ever waiting for some movement that would satisfy its hunger, when a traffic helicopter bisected its circle, driving the hawk off, hovering, camera lens zooming in on my prone body.
Inside, Bingo rasped, “Camera’s on us now, kiddo. Make us look good,” before whispering, “When Irish eyes are smiling…”
His fading voice falling like a light drizzle on the rooftops of my broken body’s cells, a small smile escaped my bloody mask like a sunbreak. No control of my arms, Bing reached up toward the camera, waiting for the world to hug him back.
Ron Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in New South Journal, Jellyfish Review, Whiskeypaper, Easy Street, Noble / Gas Quarterly, Harpoon Review, The Airgonaut, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, The Vignette Review, Cease Cows, etc. & forthcoming at Cheap Pop, Spelk Fiction, Rain Party Disaster Society and apt. @sirabsurd