“Temperatures will be moderate today and unemployment numbers are improving,” the newscaster said with a parenthetical of relief in her voice. “Thank God,” I thought, “Finally this heat wave is done.”
“But the big news breaking overnight, the President and First Lady…,” click. I turned the radio off – I wanted it to be a good news day.
I pulled into a spot near my favorite coffee shop and got out of the car feeling a little more upbeat than I had in a long time, “Maybe the heat is done, maybe COVID is coming to an end, maybe….”
“Hey Clark!” the shrill but muffled voice of my longtime friend Tina belted from behind her industrial grade shield and mask, ‘Where’s your mask?”
“Oh! Got it right here in my pocket!” I said, having for a brief moment forgotten we were in a bizarre re-make of the Andromeda Strain.
“Well put it on! You don’t want to end up like you-know-who!” She yelled as she shook her finger at me causing her Biden-Harris button to shake violently on her collar, “It’s so good to see you! It’s been ages!”
“Yeah crazy times, isn’t it?” I said, honestly glad to see her. She was really a fun, smart and cool friend.
“Well with that orange-headed idiot running things what do you expect? He got his Karma didn’t he?”
I had no idea what she was talking about and didn’t care to. “How is Bill? Where is he?” I asked. Bill was her longtime significant other – they had been together for so long they may have been the first “significant other” couple that ever was.
“He’s inside having some argument about writing with a moron who thinks he knows something about writing. It’s all bull shit, I tell him ‘Bill, it’s all bullshit why do you bother?’ But does he listen?... First act this, crisis climax that… God if I hear the term character arc again in my lifetime…”
“I see,” I said noting that Tina had stopped and was looking at the bumper of my car.
“What?” I asked.
“Huh?” she said.
“What are you looking at? Did someone hit my car?”
“Oh no I just noticed you don’t have your Biden bumper sticker on yet – you know this election is no joke we have to get the vote out. I have an extra in my car, if you want, I can get it for you.”
“Oh no that’s OK, I’m just going to go grab my coffee. Don’t bother.”
“You don’t want a Biden sticker for your car?”
“Well… I… it’s just…”
“Clark! You aren’t voting for Trump, are you?” she queried, her eyes wide and the only part of her face I could see behind the shield and mask… or wait …two masks! She was double covered. And yet her voice was still being felt in spots on my spine which I haven’t been able to reach since I was 17.
“Oh, no I don’t think so.” I said trying to inch away to what I really wanted, my coffee.
“You don’t think so?! That is not an answer! That’s not good enough!” she belted at me as if she were auditioning for The View. “We have to get rid of that asshole! He’s a fucking idiot! A moron! A liar!”
“You ‘don’t think so’? Clark! Are you a Republican?...”
“…One of these hidden racist, gun toting Nazis who let Hilary down last time? Need I remind you we are standing south of Ventura Blvd?”
“No… no…,” I said thinking it was none of her business but not daring to say it. “Look I’m a moderate, right in the middle and I really don’t like talking about politics… I… I… didn’t vote for him last time.” I finally conceded breaking my rule of not talking about my politics but hoping it would appease her.
“Did you vote for Hillary?”
“No…. but I live in a state she carried...” I offered hoping I’d be let off the hook.
“OH MY FUCKING GOD! You are! You are a right-wing prick! You are the problem!!!”
“I am?” I said, having never considered being in the middle and always desperately trying to be accommodating and even minded as the problem.
“You sure as hell are! Oh god, oh god oh god….” She repeated as if we had been married 30 years and I had just told her I liked men – no - that’s not right - THAT she would have probably accepted. Suddenly she turned, grabbed me by the arms, “SILENCE IS VIOLENCE!!!” she screamed as she shook me so hard, I felt a filling loosen.
“So is breaking my neck! Look Tina, I think Biden seems like a fine guy… but he has been in politics for 45 years and not the strongest choice they could have put forward, but if he wins, he’ll be my President just like Trump is now and Obama was. And that will be OK, we will all get through it.”
If her mask wasn’t acting as a mouth-bra, her jaw would have hit the pavement. “Did you just say ‘Trump is your President’???? You right wing Nazi prick! You support him as your president?
“Well, he is the President – I support the office, I don’t know that I would say I support him. I think he has done some awful things; I don’t like his personality much – he’s an egotist, pompous and should keep his mouth shut. But there are a couple of things he’s done – stood up to China, re-negotiated some bad trade deals. He’s ending wars, bringing troops home. We are all still alive – we will be OK. I DIDN’T VOTE FOR HIM… I just don’t think…”
“Right! Exactly right! You don’t think! Unbelievable that’s what you are! I had no idea what a fucking idiot you are! To think I liked you and respected you!... So, you are in favor of Police killing innocent people and immigrant babies dying in captivity?” she screamed, her head shaking as if it were reaching critical mass.
“No, of course not. Tina, I’m an independent. I just think things would be better if all the noise were turned down and we tried to get along and thought about the whole picture without being so extreme. You know, compromise and reason.”
“You can’t reason, compromise or get along with a hater Clark!” she bellowed as her hand hit the trunk of her Mercedes with a thud and crows flew off high voltage wires above, “How can you like a hater? He is a fucking hater and I hate him! And I hate you if you even think that hater has done anything right! He’s got to be fucking removed and someone with love, care, and compassion needs to be in that office – that’s what we stand for! Reason, logic, love and compassion. We are trying to be inclusive! Everybody has a place with us! And there is no room in our movement for people like you who don’t get it and don’t denounce him outright!!!!"
She grabbed her phone and fumbled with it.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m unfriending you! If Facebook had a hate icon I’d be sending it your way.”
“Look,” she said adjusting her 50 pound purse on her shoulder like a gunfighter straightening his holster for the draw. “Once Biden is in Office and that fucking idiot is gone and we run the White House and Congress, then this country can heal and be unified – because the stupid asshole fucking republicans will be out and reasonable people will be leading - but not till then!”
I stared at her, dumbfounded and also feeling so bad things had come to this. “Tina, I’m sorry…” I said, not sure why I was apologizing, I guess I just didn’t like to think that I could have anything to do with making her upset.
“Don’t, Clark,” she said holding up her hand and walking away, “And don’t you dare show up at the house next week for our party – you are not welcome until you can be inclusive and loving. Knowing what an idiot you are you probably got COVID like he did, and you deserve it!”
I stood for a long time dazed, stunned and sad. What a world we have evolved into. And the President has COVID? Wow, that’s just what we needed – the election period was feeling sort of boring and uneventful! I decided to avoid my favorite coffee shop and walk down the street to the other option – not as good, but probably no one I knew was there and that was rapidly becoming my desire these days – avoid everyone!
As I approached, I saw a long-time friend, Daryl standing on the corner wearing a red MAGA ball cap. “That takes balls,” I thought, “Geez, he’s on Ventura Blvd in Studio City…”
He turned and saw me, a quizzical look on his face. “Hey Clark! Don’t tell me you’ve bought into this whole COVID media bullshit.”
“What?” I asked.
“That mask! You aren’t one of those ‘Oh god we’re all going to die’ types, are you?”
“Oh, no. No. It the law so I wear it….. Wait. I just heard that Trump has COVID.”
“And you believe that? What are you stupid? It’s the old rope a dope buddy – Ali versus Foreman – Trump pretends he has COVID – kicks back in the hospital, everybody feels for him, he’s about to die…but wait! A week before the election. BOOM! He’s back like Rocky Balboa in the 15th – swinging and hittin’… he’s James Brown thrownin’ off the cape… he’s…."
“Michael Meyers in the third act? Never dead and always dangerous?” I inserted.
Daryl smiled and pointed at me. “Michael Fucking Meyers! That’s perfect! It will scare the shit out of the lefties. Fucking asswipes with their COVID panic. It’s pathetic isn’t it?” He looked at me and sneered again at my face, “Take off the mask, Clark, show some sack, man. Before you know it, you’ll be wearing a dress and joining Transgenders for Biden.”
“That’s hilarious.” I offered, not thinking it was hilarious at all, “Good to see you, Daryl. I’m just going to go in and get coffee.”
“Hey, Trump is coming for a rally in Orange County at the end of the month, you want to go see Rocky Balboa – Michael Fucking Meyers??”
“Come on, man we have to show support. Somebody has to save California from the Newsome nightmare. If you just stay silent you are part of the problem.”
“Yeah I’ve heard that.”
“More people like us got to stand up. We can’t let Creepy Joe win.”
“What makes you think I’m voting for Trump?” I asked.
“Wait, you aren’t a fucking lefty, are you?”
“I always thought you were one of us.”
"One of what?”
“A true American.”
"I am an American, yes.”
“Oh, thank God, for a minute you scared me I thought how can a guy who looks like this be a fucking socialist.”
“Excuse me? Looks like what?”
“Like you! Tall, white, blue eyes…”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
He looked at me as if he were seeing me for the first time.
“Don’t tell me you are voting for Biden! Clark, really? You own a German Shepard for Christ-sake.”
“So, Biden has a German Shepard. And by the way James Brown wasn’t white. Or Ali for that matter”
“Jesus… oh my god, you are! You are a fucking liber-tard. You limp dicked asshole. Do you really want the socialists to take over? You know who supports Biden? The fucking socialists and the anarchists. Seen them riots? – They are coming for us – You won’t have a pot to piss in if Biden wins.”
“Well Trump hasn’t exactly been the greatest role model as President.”
“Listen to you! A fucking left wing commie – after all these years – let me guess – oh boo-hoo the cops are mean – boo-hoo the immigrants won’t get to take all our services that we pay for if mean old Trump is in office. What the fuck is wrong with you? Don’t you support the police and military?"
“Yeah – I think the good police are great. But..”
“Don’t you believe in America?”
“Yes, but Daryl…”
"But nothin! End of story – Get out of my face you left wing asswipe. You probably jack off watching Don Lemon on CNN. Mark my words, the libertards will take your guns!”
“I don’t have guns.”
“Jesus this just gets better and better, well when Kamala becomes President when Creepy Joe dies, don’t come running to me to buy a gun cuz my 50 are not for sale.”
“Fucking left-wing idiot – You know, Clark, I can’t believe I liked and respected you all these years. Had I known what a radical you were I’d never let you in my house. How can you line yourself up with those haters? They hate everything – they hate me, you and America – and the fucking media is all about them and their agenda. If Biden wins there will be no safe place – they will crush us – and destroy the country. Our only chance is to get Trump re-elected and then we can heal and unite because people with brains will be in control.”
So, there was my Tuesday – life as a moderate in today’s world. My friends on the right think I’m a socialist and my friends on the left think I’m a Nazi – so I have no friends. And I’m beginning to like it that way.
Donald Biden is an annoymous writer living at the center.