(To begin at the beginning, please come this way.)
The Drive from Oxford, Mississippi, to Grand Bay, Alabama, Continues
Donald Trump Has Not Been President For Long
After I went to the bookstore yesterday I stopped in at, uh, St. Leo, a pizza place, and ordered Anastasia, uh, some pizza for dinner [lip smack] and… you know, in keeping with my new idea of being on the wagon, I thought… and, you know, they have a very well-stocked bar that’s very… you know, it’s like The Shining. [Laughter.] Uh… uh, anything you could… anything Jack Torrance, uh, could ever desire.
I ordered a hot tea, which also was a mistake, because I’m susceptible, for whatever reason, especially to the caffeine in tea [throat clearing. Lip smack]… hot tea, or so it seems.
Errrrruh, and the night before a trip, I shouldn’t have been sipping hot tea.
I have a delicate constitution.
Oh, that was me… [coughing] uh, grunting as I adjusted myself in my seat.
Dear hearts and gentle people. Wasn’t that what was written on a scrap of paper in Stephen Foster’s pocket when they found him? Dead in a gutter? I assume he was in a gutter. I can’t remember where he died. I’m gonna say it was a gutter.
Oh, yeah. As I sat there sipping my hot tea…
Hot tea and pizza. It’s a combo that can’t be beat!
There was a guy who, maybe… I don’t know if he was drunk or not! He was maybe—he had had a few drinks, probably. And he was boisterously, uh, enumerating the… advantages of city living—he was a real civic booster. He was like a guy out of, uh, Babbitt. Not really. He was a—he wasn’t a middle-aged, uh… He wasn’t a paunchy chamber-of-commerce type. He was a young fellow and a teacher by trade, as I know from his lengthy monologue, which he addressed to a—mmmm—I’m gonna say they were bemused. An older couple who were, uh, in town visiting, and who had visited several times before. And yet that did not stop him from… extolling… the virtues of the town they already knew so well. In a loud and cheerful voice. He was jabbering is the way I would put it. About his relationship with his wife, which seems somewhat fraught with complication, as she is a lawyer and doesn’t get the same kind of, uh, free time that he gets as a high-school teacher.
And, d-uh, oh, how aggravated she gets when she calls and says, “What are you doing?” And [throat clearing] he says, “Well, I’m just, uh… I’m just, uhhhhhh… here at happy hour.”
Oh! There goes a guy. He’s in a hurry to get somewhere.
Buncha crates. Stacked up in a field.
Well, I already have to pee, sort of.
We are now entering… the Holly Springs National Forest.
Doesn’t look like Donald Trump is taking very good care of this national forest!
I’m gonna blame Donald Trump for the sorry state of these trees.
When it’s really God I have a problem with.
[Road roar. Long pause. Very long pause. Road roar. Long pause. Very long pause.]
What’s going on in my mind in these long pauses?
That’s a good question.
I, I wanna say “nothing.” I think nothing… is going on.
So that’s interesting to discover!
[Road roars and whistles.]
Wowsy wow! People are passin’ me like I’m standin’ still! I’m going the speed limit, man!
Nobody has to go the speed limit now that Trump is president!
Man, there’s nothin’… there’s nothin’ on Highway… there’s nothin’ on I-55.
Well, except the occasional crepe myrtle in bloom.
A sign of the coming spring!
I don’t even know if those are crape myrtles.
As far as you know they are.
Oh, the jabbering boy.
Loudly—the loud… civic-minded young teacher who likes to drink and have a good time. I was sitting there thinking I’m not drinking anymore, and… gosh I wish I were! [Laughter.] I mean, first of all, if I had a—look. And I could have…
I enjoy being a loudmouth and a… you know. A hail fellow well met. I like clappin’ Frankie Gun on the back and sayin’, “This little chatterbox hasn’t shut up all night!” As I believe I said last… time.
There’s a bush by the side of the road and it looked like a little person.
You know, th—the joke being that Frankie is not a chatterbox. He’s a quiet, contemplative drinker. And thinker. Well, well, well.
So anyway, I’m sitting there at the bar drinking my hot tea waiting for Anastasia’s pizza to come out and…
Little jabber man is just jabberin’ to his captive audience of… two old people who just came in for a quiet drink. Not a jabber session! And I was really thinkin’: I would rather be him than me right now.
I would rather be the person annoying the two old people [laughter] with my cheerful, really pleasant, if, if… if unstoppable stream of meaningless patriotic jabbering! I wanna be that guy! I, I don’t wanna be the sober victim! Who’s not even the recipient! Who’s only the, uhhhhhhh, s—what do you call that? An innocent bystander being sprayed with bullets of civic pride. [Laughter.]
“And I like talkin’ to pe—I like talkin’ to people!” This is the guy. “I like to talk to newcomers about our town. And also to people who have been here before! And people who come here sometimes!”
He had f—and then he, then he listed every permutation of person. You know, that includes every person in the universe, the people you just described. Uh…
And then he left and there was a moment of, you know, blessed… blessed quietness, and… uhh…
Then the old man said, “Nice young man.”
And then the wife made a… not a grunt, but a… a melodious [laughter]… I don’t know. She… kind of… “Hnhh.” In agreement. Sort of a… a, a pleasant… noise issued from her. [Laughter.] From her mouth. I’ll, I’ll hasten to add.
You know, I can’t interpret those… that old couple’s thoughts. Maybe that is really what they… thought. Maybe that was, uh, the sum total of their impression of that guy: “Nice young man.”
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.