Johnny America


Un­re­cov­er­able Sit­u­a­tions (pt. 1)


First Op­er­a­tor Bal­so Snow pushed back from his desk, watched the in­cen­di­ary plume puff out from the ware­house halfway ’round the world, then scratched an­oth­er bul­let-point on­to his shop­ping list: Jiffy Pop pop­corn. He laid his head­set over the yel­low joy­stick and am­bled to the break room, where of course Cap­tain Fuck­face sat scrap­ing a bead of mus­tard on­to a rusty crack­er like the fuck­face he was.

“Hey, cool killer, how’s tricks?” asked Fuck­face, whose name was Jones, whose ranked had been ad­vanced last week to Major.

Bal­so cursed the slight tremor in his hands as he pawed open a sec­ond pack­et of ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­er and shook it in­to the foam cup.

“Fine, fine,” he said, stretch­ing to read the up­side-down let­ter­ing of Ma­jor Fuckface’s mid-morn­ing Lunch­able, a Ham & Swiss Val-U-Pak, “We just took down two units; my In­di­an fig­ures eigh­teen points min­i­mum.” Bal­so caught him­self think­ing, if he is what he eats then this fuck­face is a year’s rec­om­mend­ed al­lowance of cured ham prod­uct and processed cheese food. Then he checked back in. “All in all, a high­ly ac­tu­al­ized morn­ing, sir. And we’re just gear­ing up for this afternoon.”

Jones popped a crack­er wafer and de­clared over his chomps, “Rings like Grade‑A Work, Bal­so; keep the dead ’a rolling.”

It was the plane dream, again, and Bal­so couldn’t shake the hee­bie-jee­bies. He’d wok­en on the fu­ton sweat­ed with anx­i­ety, with vi­sions of 767s snaking through his child­hood neigh­bor­hood: fuse­lages torquing through al­ley­ways, over the low shin­gled roofs of air­plane bun­ga­lows, then twist­ing in on them­selves like a Gor­dian knot be­fore ex­plod­ing them­selves in­to fire.

Bal­so switched on the an­tique ta­ble lamp and the flu­o­res­cent tube shook to life as he scratched his testes.

“Ho­tel,” he spoke to the room in gen­er­al, not re­mem­ber­ing where the mi­cro­phones were in this flop or if he’d even both­ered to look, “Ho­tel, I would like to or­der room ser­vice. Amer­i­can Break­fast, eggs scram­bled, wheat toast, ba­con or sausage — whichever’s bet­ter here.” 

For a mo­ment he won­dered if he’d set the room to Sleep mode, then the lilt­ing voice of the Mo­tel Roache an­nounced: “Pro­cess­ing, pro­cess­ing. Mr. Snow, a charge of twen­ty-four dol­lars will be billed to your ac­count. Would you care to or­der a beverage?”

Bal­so glanced at the in-room cof­fee mak­er and tried to tal­ly the times he’d run scald­ing wa­ter through that shit­ty di­a­per of grounds and paper. 

“Yes, Ho­tel, Yes. A pot of hot cof­fee, please, then switch on the TV and tune to head­line news and pornog­ra­phy. As smut­ty as you’ve got.”

Bal­so sur­veyed the wreck­age from the night be­fore: emp­ty bot­tles bal­anced head-down on the desk in the cor­ner; an im­pos­si­ble num­ber of for­tune cook­ie wrap­pers crum­pled in­to a cel­lo­phane-wrapped guest glass from the ho­tel. The TV snapped awake, and Bal­so re­turned to sleep.

Filed under Fiction & Serial on October 25th, 2019

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