BY BUD SMITH
Life Expectancy Falling
10 Stars ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
I was nervous that I was going to have to live until 125 or some crazy shit. But just the other day some good news finally came in. Life expectancy is dropping according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Average life is now at 78.8 and as long as it doesn’t rise, stays flatlined, or falls(!) ... I’ll only have to put up with being alive for another 35-40ish years. How dope is that! Happy fucking birthday.
7 Stars ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩
Really nice day, of what I can recall. We got on a train in the morning and took the train up along the river to a town full of bars and restaurants and art galleries, where every person who lives there seems like a ghost.
My wife and I went alone to celebrate my birthday.
I’d give the day ten stars but 3/4 of the day I was black out drunk so I can’t remember what happened. I can’t ethically review anything that I do not remember. I am told I got laid sometime around 8pm but I can’t confirm that. I’m told I ate three meals at the retro 50s diner, juke box blaring rockabilly to my dismay. I’m told just before midnight I puked off the hotel balcony but I can’t confirm that either. The morning after my birthday there was some vomit on the hood of someone’s car parked below our motel’s balcony but I cannot ethically confirm whether it was my vomit, somebody else’s, or even the puke of some kind of giant bird or other wild life known to regular scientists or other than that, cryptozoologists.
The Sold Out Train
2 stars ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩
Like I was saying, in the morning we took a train to this river town. When we got on the train and showed the conductor our tickets. He said, “It’ll be hard to find a seat, we oversold this train.”
“It doesn’t have to be hard ...”
“You just stop selling tickets right before the train is full.”
“Yeah we didn’t do that. This train is fully over sold.”
“This one goes to 11,” I said to the conductor.
“Most train cars are full at 10 and where do you go from there? Nowhere. Well this one goes to 11.”
We look in all the cars but there were no seats. Plenty of people were standing. Some of them old. Some of them pregnant. All of them losers just like me and my wife.
All of us losers stood there in stony silence pretending the world is a beautiful place, while the temperature of the earth outside the window dropped lower than the temperature of the river and a haunted fog spread across our journey. Two stars.
The Reimagined Crack Motel
9 Stars ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩
There is fog all around, like everyone in the town is a spirit. We find a cabbie zonked in a taxi near the train station. The sleepy little town feels like snow, so he has the heat cranked up in his metal cocoon.
He opens one eye and looks at me when I get close to his window.
“Where to?” he says.
I tell him the name of the place we are staying and he scratches his head. “Must be new. Get in.”
Our hotel is a very hipster ‘lodge’ that’s very 2016 craft artisanal and according to the internet it’s not too much money and there’s no bed bugs or chances of being burnt alive by a fire while you sleep.
So the cabbie drives us around the river town and as he drove he began to talk about astrology he says he studies an astrology that has to do with the six planets beyond Pluto.
My wife says it’s my birthday and the cabbie starts to give me some kind of a horror scope but half way through it he gets distracted by himself because he is crazy and instead of giving me my horror scope he starts talking about himself, how a big part of his business had been driving people from the town’s “crack motel” to the methadone clinic up north, programs for rehab paid by the state, but the town’s crack motel had closed down. All his calls had dried up from his customers there, who live elsewhere now ... Anyways, as we were driving down main street to this craft artisanal lodge me and Rae are staying at, wouldn’t you know it, the cabbie started laughing, “Oh! Look at this! They redid the crack motel for city slickers! You should have seen this place a year ago!”
He let us off out front and we walked into the lobby where the clerk was playing a Radiohead record and doing some kind of trance dance behind the desk, sipping locally sourced hot cocoa with his eyes closed.
The Girl With the Green Ribbon
5 1/2 Stars ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✬ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩
We got breakfast at this shitty retro diner next to the reimagined crack motel, that has been remodeled to look retro like the whole world is a chrome toaster oven. The waitress was a spooky lady, who had a ribbon around her neck. And I’d just been looking out the window at the fog and so I said to Rae, did you ever hear the story about the girl with the green ribbon around her neck and Rae said she hadn’t.
Long story short ... the waitress probably had her head secured to her neck with the ribbon and if anyone ever pulled the ribbon her head would fall off because she’s really a ghost who has been dead for over a hundred years. This is the person who brought us sausage and over easy eggs and three cups of coffee: dead over a hundred years.
Bourbon and Mexican Coke
10 Stars ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Made my birthday simultaneously one I will never forget and also one I can’t quite remember.
The Night of My Birthday
? … Our Findings Are Inconclusive
The $13 Liverwurst Sandwich
4 stars✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩
The next morning, we went back to the 50s retro toaster diner again and I have a headache and my wife is laughing at the menu. “What?”
“You were so wasted the last night and you did the weirdest thing ...”
She slaps my menu and points at an item on the menu.
“You actually ordered that $13 liverwurst sandwich.”
“I didn’t do that,” I said. “That’s ridiculous.”
“You definitely did.”
The waitress walks over. It’s the same waitress with the ribbon tied around her neck, and she’s still probably dead, and she has been for one hundred years and one day now.
“Hi,” my wife says. “We were in here yesterday ... I don’t know if you remember us.”
“Yup, I do.” Ghost Waitress points at me. “He was trashed.”
“It was his birthday.”
“Yup, he kept saying that.”
“Do you remember what he ordered?” Rae asks.
“Yup. The liverwurst sandwich. I’ve never seen anyone else order that. You ordered it though it and kept yelling to everyone in the restaurant that you gave the liverwurst sandwich four stars.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I needed to know that for a thing for the Internet. Very important work I am conducting. Saving the whole human race.”
“Life expectancy is down and we are all excited about it but don’t know why.”
The Painting Wrapped in Tissue Paper
1 star ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩
Right before we left town we bought a painting of a lady with 3 eyes making a phone call. If you come to my house you’ll have to stare at her when we eat dinner or play cards or just sit at the table laughing
The painting was my birthday present and probably my Christmas present too. The person at the gallery wrapped it up for us while we got money from an ATM machine, but they didn’t do a good job. Just tissue paper and two pieces of scotch tape even though we said we had to take the painting back on a sold out train and would probably be standing because life sucks.
We left the gallery and walked to the drug store next door and talked to the stock boy and had him give us some cardboard and some bubble wrap and tape and wallllllllah we were good, boo.
The stock boy looked kind of like the butler from Rocky Horror and the Rocky Horror stock boy was really chill, commenting on how usually the boxes are crushed up immediately by the day crew but earlier the day crew got wasted and didn’t do anything so it worked out.
All hail gettin’ wasted day crews, Rocky Horror stock boys and 3 eyed oil painted ladies making phone calls. All hail refurbished crack motels, ghost waitresses and bourbon and Mexican Coca-Cola.
The Six Planets Beyond Pluto
6 stars ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩
Before we checked out of the reimagined crack motel, I called the taxi cab dispatcher on the phone so we could get a ride to the train station.
The same cabbie came from the foggy day. As we drove, I asked him about the six planets beyond Pluto, if any of them were possible places to go live.
“Yeh had enough of earth have ya?”
“Just about,” I said.
I asked him about the six planets beyond Pluto and he said, “Ice planets. Cold and dark. Only orbiting the sun once every 15,000 years. Magic places though, because you don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullshit.”
“Well you’d freeze to death instantly though ...”
“Wouldn’t have to put up with your own bullshit for very long either then. A win for all.” The cabbie looked confused at this point. “I’m sorry, where did you say you were going?”
“Drive us an hour north to the methadone clinic. We’ll get New York State to pay for it.”
He smiled, “Love you city slickers when you show up, love you best when you leave.”
Bud Smith reports from Jersey City, NJ. Twitter: @bud_smith www.budsmithwrites.com. He wrote F250, Calm Face, and Dustbunny City, among others. He works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ.