Another short story.

*So, you were expecting reviews of new comics, eh? Well listen here, buster, I’ve been chasing these new comics around with my butterfly net all afternoon, and I’ve had no luck at all. Tomorrow! I’ll need something to distract me from my navigation of Our Nation’s Highways tomorrow, and new comics will prove to be just the thing.

*An exceptionally ridiculous early evening here. I decided that I wanted to go to McDonald’s after work, but I knew from driving in that the roads were being blocked off for something. So I just parked at my building and got changed and set out on foot. I thought that maybe there was going to be some kind of unexpected carnival, kind of like Ethnicity Fest (which also happened to occur on Free Comic Book Day) where they parked that Viking boat on the street and everyone pulled out booths and sold snacks and trinkets. Maybe I’d find a booth cheap enough to feed myself at.

Unfortunately, I soon realized that the street was actually being blocked off for a parade. And it was apparently about to start, as everyone was lined up on the sidewalk. I guess I like parades, but I can’t stand still for more than a few minutes at a time under the best of circumstances, and certainly not when all I have to distract me are shiny red fire trucks and the Boro’s new police cruiser (now with additional flashing lights!). Usually in these situations I try to recall the wisdom of that friendly old classic of American film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, in which it is revealed that you can spot a deaf baby by checking to see that they don’t react to loud fire truck noises during parades. I think other tings happened in the film too, but that’s what I took out of it. So I usually wind up walking up and down through the crowd playing ‘Spot the Deaf Babies.’ If I score above a 5, I treat myself to more expensive coffee than usual.

However, I decided that I wasn’t interested in enjoying the parade this time. Something about that curious dream the other night involving my eye being gouged out by an errant Tootsie Roll. So I decided that I needed to cross the street. By this point, though, I was already too close to the Official Parade Bandstand, and they were starting to warm up, with a local radio DJ tossing out some truly amazing jokes, like how he and the mayor should sing a duet to the tune of a local news station’s theme music; I’d repeat the rest of the jokes but they’re so mirthful that you’d all probably die.

I didn’t want the DJ to spot me crossing the street, thus making me the target of one of his hilarious japes, so I tried turning the corner and heading away from the main route, with the intention of crossing the street farther down, safe from prying eyes and jocular lips. I was mostly successful, evading police dogs and tiny children as I crossed over. Now all I had to do was make my way back toward the main parade route and continue on my way to becoming another of the 99 billion served. How do they count those?

Ah, but no matter what side of the street I was on, drawing close to the bandstand was like entering restricted airspace; I was stopped in my tracks once again, this time by Our National Anthem. I mean, come on. I can’t go strolling along the main parade route while Our National Anthem plays. The assembled veterans would pull out their antique sidearms and blast away. So I stood around and sort of mouthed the words like I was in church, while some little child wrestled with a balloon and his father (I presume) looked on with pride. His father also happened to have about half of his face badly scarred from some sort of burn injury, and watching him beam at his little son brutalizing a balloon as Our National Anthem played proved to be a curious moment of serenity in the whole droll affair. As the song ended, I tried to get moving, but then a local priest stood up to offer a patriotic benediction. Now I definitely couldn’t move. The Knights of Columbus would draw their swords and cut me down.

Minutes later, having been duly reassured that Jesus loves America in general and myself in particular, I was finally able to get moving. It was time to round the corner and get hopping over to McDonald’s. But once again, once again my friends, I was blocked, this time by an entire battalion of Revolutionary War soldiers in wigs and coats and pants made to look like stockings. They took up the whole corner. I wondered what I could do. I couldn’t cross the street again. I didn’t want to turn around, as that would cause me to turn to salt. I wondered if I could just barrel through them. It was a pretty tight formation, but I was willing to bet that their guns weren’t real, or at least that they hadn’t had sufficient training in loading black powder. I readied myself to charge.

And lo! Salvation arrived with a mighty crash as some elderly woman came tumbling out of some nearby bushes, dragging a lawn chair and much of her clan behind her. I hadn’t thought of jumping through the bushes! What a big idea! So I waited for that heroic old woman, the national hero of my heart, to finish navigating her extended family through the hedges, and then I leapt in myself. And just as if I had entered a portal to a brand-new paradise, I was free and mostly alone and on my way toward wolfing down dirt cheap food in a plastic restaurant all by myself! Settling down with my filet of fish in my sunny corner seat, eyeing a silent old couple off across the room, the only other people seated, I tried to listen to the parade going by from far out at the borders of discernment as my eyes wandered out the window.

99 billion served. How do they count those?