BROKEN NEWS

They broke The News with “breaking news,”

Trying to give us some breaking blues.

Trying to give us our just desserts.

And turning our children into perverts.

 

This just in: a black cat’s stuck in a tree,

and why it’s his fault will be on at three.

And come three o’clock, you know what they said?

That all black cats have it wrong in the head.

 

The clock strikes ten on Tuesday at the bar,

and the TV asks where my children are.

Me, who spent his pay on Satan’s water.

Prob’ly good that I don’t have a daughter.

 

Then again, there’s a fat man two seats down,

red cheeked because his daughter “dates a brown.”

He’s been drunk since that program on the cat,

and applauded when it fell in a splat.

 

But nowadays, that’s a good Christian man:

Claiming that he knows the depth of God’s plans.

——

 

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THE FLAG-BEARER

The streets filled with the thunder of footsteps as we marched down to the capital. Thousands of us had heard the imperial message of our leader, reminding us of the tentative balance that democracy constantly hung in. Unlike the indecisive nations of the world, however, we were unafraid of our government. Our revolution had been different. Main Street—the street we now trampled on—had been the site of our reincarnation. It had been a bloody debacle, in which many lost their lives on both sides. In the end, however, we had claimed victory, though the red from the blood baths had permanently stained the street a faded red.

I was the flag-bearer—holding the large steel pole to display the symbol of our nationalism. The fabric was a vibrant red, with a gash of heavy crimson through the center, to symbolize the scars of our nation’s beginning. I was near the front, pushed off to the right so that the heads of the masses could approach first. The front-runner was a man dressed in a black leather robe, with a dull silver lining around the edges. On his head sat a matching hat, and he had donned a pair of intimidating shades, despite the overcast weather. He walked with a terrifying air of power.

Since the revolution, he had been named the Enforcer. The role of the Enforcer was just what it sounded like…to enforce the law. He had rescinded his name the day he had been given the role, twenty years ago. His strength of youth had left him, and his stark black hair had been speckled with the salt and pepper of age, yet he walked with an air of resilience. Each of his large strides (for he was nearly six-foot five-inches tall) seemed to rise above the clatter of boots behind him, and each step seemed to shake the Earth itself.

Around his waist were the only two guns in the whole of our nation. After the bloodbath of Main Street, even the most remote villagers could not argue with the destructive force that these weapons were capable of. Only the Enforcer, the final level of judgment, was allowed to bear arms. He was a zealot, but not an unrestricted or careless man in his demeanor. The only zeal he defended in his life was the just treatment of things in life. Hence why he alone could wield the twin pistols with the power to take life in an instant.

But it with the strength of power that men become the most susceptible to corruption. While the Enforcer was a great man—and in many ways still is—he himself has failed his own duties. Perhaps that is why at the capital building there stood a legion of men in all red. They stood atop the stairs, looking down on us, and we halted at the base. The white marble steps contrasted the red of the street stunningly, the way a pillar of light cuts through the darkness around it.

Yet as we stood there, the crimes of the Enforcer paled in comparison to those of our ruler. Broken promises, violent language, and irresponsible behaviors. The minor follies of the average man beg the forgiveness of his peers. I, myself, struggle with my sexism. Even now, I refer to men and mankind, rather than the humanity we live in. Yet in the end, is it our struggles, or whether we overcome them, that should be judged? Do we mock the single stray bullet, or praise the steady hand that has time and again liberated us?

These questions I pondered, with the cool steel of the flagpole in my hand, in the moments before we tore down the regime of anarchy, cut down the battalion before us, and restored order to the people. After, I returned to my lonely desk job, the Enforcer went back to his building, where he drank his nights away, and I assume the rest of the crowd dispersed back to their usual lives…but that one day, the moment we chose to overthrow tyranny and return the power to the people…that’s what makes living worth it. That’s what makes our country great.

——

 

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THE MORNING AFTER

I awoke up that morning aching and groggy. My eyes squinted against the morning sunlight. It was bright out, and likely hot—though the air conditioning of the apartment seemed to be doing its job. For once. I rolled over and stuck and arm out to turn on my lamp. My arm connected with an unknown object, which crashed onto the ground and shattered. The bottles. My eyes fluttered all the way open, and I sat up. The headache surged through my body, like a wave crashing on a beach. I had to furrow my brow to keep my eyes open. I steadied the remaining bottles on the nightstand, then carefully turned the lamp on. The dim light flooded the room. I had bought this lamp specifically because the light was soft enough to not blind me in a drunk stupor. I leaned over the side of the bed to look at the mess I had made

The bottle had shattered on the floor. The translucent brown pieces of glass glistened against the light. There were dozens of tiny pieces, and a few larger ones strewn about on the floor. Beneath them there was the slight residue of liquid from inside the bottle. I reached down, and picked up a small shard of glass no larger than my fingernail. I held it nimbly between my thumb and index finger, rolling it with the slightest pressure. How interesting that this shard could do so much damage to me, yet I held it at a knife’s edge between my fingers without the slightest fear.

My mind wandered as I spun the glass shard. The night before had been long and full of pain. I had started drinking as soon as I had gotten home. That morning—yesterday morning—I had woken up to an empty bed and a note on my dresser. “Goodbye Terrance” it read. I guess she had finally had it with me. The arguments rung in my head like church bells at noon.

“I didn’t fuck her!”

“You piece of shit you fucked her and you know it! Don’t fucking touch me!”

“You’re acting crazy again. If I’m being such an asshole maybe you should just leave!”

“Fine! Maybe I will!”

She had dug her nails into my arm that night till I bled. I spun the glass harder and harder against my skin as I thought about it. I had thrown her off of my, locked myself in our room, and gone to sleep. When she left, I went to work dazed and confused. The phone calls, the paper work, even the conversation with Lucy, the woman we had fought over, were all a blur. Her voice danced against my ears, the flirtatious whisper haunting me. I could still feel the sticky sweet vibrations against my ears; the scent of pink cotton candy perfume in the air.

But come nightfall only solitude was there to comfort me. I turned back to face the lamp on the other end of my bed. Dozens of bottles were stacked haphazardly on the table. I absentmindedly squeezed the glass shard harder as I looked over that side of the bed. More bottles, caught in stasis on their sides, as if they had rolled for miles to stop as they were. A wave of anger passed through my chest. This was all her fault, I thought to myself. Then pain erupted in my hand. I had squeezed the glass shard to tight, and it had burst through my skin. I dropped the piece in my other palm. The brown hue of the glass was stained against the heavy crimson of my blood. I looked back to my fingers, and watched as the pool of blood dripped down into my palm. I carefully removed myself from the bed, taking care not to step on the glass, and went to the bathroom to clean up my life.

——

 

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ANOTHER ONE

“Another one,” I said.

“I think you’ve had enough,” the bartender was cleaning a glass, looking at the television screen nonchalantly.

“Five beers isn’t enough,” I exclaimed with a smile. The bartender turned away from the screen and sighed.

“Look. I really like you. You seem like a nice guy. But you’re wasting your money. You’ve been here six days a week, every week, for the last month and a half. And I appreciate the business you’ve given us. But you’re wasting your life away here. You need to-“

“If you’re going to talk my ear off, at least let me wash it down with another blonde.” I said. The bartender let out another long sigh. He stopped cleaning his glass, and walked over to the tap. He took a deep breath, and put a glass to the tap. The liquid bubbled slightly as it splashed into the glass. It foamed beautifully, like a graceful wave crashing over the beach.

“Look, I don’t want to be rude, but you’re life is more valuable than this. Why don’t we talk about you?” The bartender closed the tap and walked the beer over to me. It had a perfect froth, the kind one can only do after pouring thousands of glasses.

“What about me?” I said with indifference.

“Why don’t we start with why you’re here.”

“I’ve already told you why I was here. My girl—”

“I’ve heard your bullshit story about your girl that you’ve told half the people who have walked in here before,” the bartender brought both hands down on the counter with a look of annoyance, “Besides, even if the girl was really important to you, 6 weeks is quite a while to drink yourself through your tears.”

“What would you know?” I looked down, drawing circles in the wood countertop.

“Well, I know that break ups suck. But I also know that one girl doesn’t ruin a person.” I looked up at the bartender. He had a warm smile.

“You didn’t have a girl like this.” I took a long drink from my glass. It was cool and crisp, with a light flavor that reminded me of hike through the mountains in June.

“Maybe not. What else is wrong in your life?” The bartender pulled up his own stool and eyed me with curiosity.

“I don’t know.”

“Now come on, spit it out. Did you lose your job?”

“Yeah.”

“Well see, there’s your problem. You’re stuck. You lost your job. You lost your girl. You’re probably feeling like the world has ended. And because of that, you’re letting yourself be consumed by self-hatred. But you have nothing to hate about yourself. You’ve just—”

“Look, I appreciate your time,” I stood up sharply “but I didn’t come here to be lectured.” I downed my glass and threw a few bills on the counter, then turned and walked through the doors. The look on his face was surprised. As I passed through the doors I sighed. Maybe he’s right. I felt my shoulders slump. But if I can’t even take advice from a nice guy like that, what kind of piece of shit am I? My eyes glazed over. Eventually, I came to a sign that read The Boar’s Head Tavern. I looked around. The tavern looked warm and inviting. And I could hear the friendly sounds of glasses clinking together. I pulled the door open and walked in.