Joey sank back on his bum, onto his plush leather couch and flicked on the tv. An interview seemed to be about to start and knowing what other daytime programming usually had to offer, he decided to stay here for now.
He reached over to grab the potato chips and farted. Shoving a handful in his mouth, he upped the volume and watched.
“Welcome everybody. We have here today with us, two men who couldn’t be more opposite. Perhaps in times like these that is a good thing. On my left is Paul Freesy, journalist extraordinaire, proponent of the liberal world order and I daresay, a proud cosmopolitan elite of the highest order.”
The suave, handsome, slightly effeminate, well dressed, tall, thin, tanned, bald young man with the designer glasses, inclined his head an inch and allowed his thick, perked lips a slight smile. He smiled easily enough, but underneath the smile a tension was present, as palpable as the expensive clothes he was wearing.
“The last of a dying breed.” Joey belched.
“In the other corner, on my right, fittingly enough, is John Gunther. He is an economist, a proud nationalist, traditionalist, isolationist and white American?” The host, a short fat bald man with big round glasses giving him an owl or turtle kind of look, glanced to the man on his right who gave a slight nod. John Gunther was also rather short and fat but had a cool, perpetual, almost malevolent smile on his wide mouth. A large broad nose reached out and off his face like it was trying to grab something. He wore in contrast a simple army green blazer over a black polo shirt and a pair of plain grey trousers.
“So gentlemen. We are here to discuss that new book by that famed though controversial economist, Arnold Goldman. You snigger, Mr. Gunther. Why is that?”
“Oh, I just finished reading the book and I laugh that he calls himself an economist.”
“But surely that is beyond debate, Mr. Gunther. He has degrees from Harvard and Oxford. He has government experience from the U.S Federal Reserve, as well as consultancies for the IMF and the E.U. How can his qualifications be beyond doubt?”
“Because they are. I see my journalist friend is smirking. Well we’ll see about that. Truthfully, this man, this Goldman is no economist at all, no matter his impressive resume. He is a danger to our country and has played around with all of our pensions, him and his friends on Wall Street. Trust me, he is no economist.”
“So then what is an economist to you Mr. Gunther?” The journalist shot in, a certain upper class drawl in his voice, which was perhaps unconscious. “If a man so qualified is not an economist, then please tell me what is. And do not blame Wall Street for everything. We need more regulation, certainly, but Wall Street is an integral part of our economy, there can be no doubt about that.”
Joey leaned over as it got heated before it even began.
“Tell me, sir,” The economist leaned forward. His face had a reptilian look to it, or perhaps a particularly malevolent frog. “Tell me, what is your accent? I can detect the homosexual inflection, but is that an American accent?”
“Transatlantic.” The journalist colored a bit.
“My point exactly.” Gunther’s grin broadened like he had just scored a point. “It is people like you and Goldman, you elites who come from abroad and silently steal all of our hard earned money. Well not for much longer. The people have woken up.”
“This is our economic system! It is the best that humanity has devised. Success based on talent, irrespective of background.”
“Ok gentlemen,” The host tried to intervene. He looked annoyed and kept glancing down to his notes as if wondering where in the script this was. “We are bound by time constraints here, so allow me to proceed with the questions. Mr. Freesey. You are a proponent of free market capitalism with regulation. So where do you stand on Mr. Goldman? Do you agree with his ideas, disagree? Did you enjoy his book?”
“We agree on the basic principles of a free market in the liberal tradition, but within that common ground, there is much disagreement. For instance, I believe that a healthy economy requires periodic injections of government aid in certain core industries, as well as the need for regulations in nearly all industries. My colleague Mr. Gunther here and I have one thing in common. We both seek prosperity for the American people. We differ though, on the bridge to reach that destination, and that unfortunately is a vast gap. I believe that the American economy and indeed people, can greatly benefit from the productivity and low prices of foreign labor. He would have us be limited by an American labor pool to which our businesses would have to pay higher expenditure thanks to our high standard of living. That is not conducive to a growing economy which needs efficiency and highest productivity for the lowest cost.”
“You would have our country populated by foreigners!” Gunther’s nostrils flared as he gave an ugly smile. He had a prominent mole by the side of his nose, which came into greater relief, the closer he leaned. “My ancestors fought the revolution. They drove the British out of here. They didn’t do that for foreigners to inherit their children’s birthright.”
“Excuse me, but isn’t Gunther German? Perhaps you’ve mistaken the war your ancestor’s fought in.”
The smile widened. “I did not. I have German ancestry, true enough, but my ancestor’s were also here in 1776. I wonder if you can say the same. It is hard to judge from your name or skin tone. Not Arab or Latin. Perhaps eastern European? Like Goldman?”
“I am not Jewish, as you are clearly hinting.”
“Oh, I’m not saying anything! I am merely speculating. But then, what is your background? Surely you must know and be proud of it.”
“I am a man of the 21st century. That means my ancestry is mixed. There is Middle Eastern, British, French, Native American and probably a whole host of others if I took a DNA test.” The journalist gave a little chuckle and glanced humorously at the host.
“That is funny! So you have no idea where you come from? Did your French ancestors fight in the French Revolution?”
“I have no idea. I look towards the future rather than the past. If I want to read about the French Revolution I’ll open a history book.”
The journalist gave a smug smile as if he scored a point of his own and shifted his crossed legs, one to the other.
The host held his notes out and glanced over his glasses from one to the other as if asking sarcastically if that would be all. Then he cleared his throat and tried to retake control.
“So now that we’ve established-”
“What perfume are you wearing, Mr. Freesey?” Gunther interrupted. “You smell stronger than my wife.”
Freesey blushed again. He gave a sour pucker with his mouth like he was sucking a lemon. “It’s called having style, Mr. Gunther. Something you wouldn’t know.”
“That’s the elitist dog whistle.” Gunther sat up in his chair with a triumphant smile. “It is the language of the transnational, liberal elitist who screws over the little guy, flies from New York to Paris on his jet, and shops at the Champs d’Elysse, buying the newest Italian suits and French fragrances, all while crying fake tears over the poor.” He pointed a pudgy accusatory finger. “You are a liar and a hypocrite, Mr. Freesey. And we want your kind out of our country.”
Joey leaned closer to the flat screen, carefully shoveling another handful of potato chips in his mouth.
“I’m warning you, there’s something coming, and when it does, we’re coming for you!”
The screen then halved and showed Gunther on one side, face leaning in with a menacing grin like some dinosaur and on the other Freesey pale and staring intently with his puckered lips and slim arms folded across his blue designer suit jacket.
“What is he babbling about, do you know?” The journalist turned to the host with a confused look on his face.
“I don’t know but I think we are almost out of t-”
Joey flicked the TV off and gave a yawn, stretching and scattering crumbs all over.
The doorbell rang.
Oh gawd, she’s here already.
He got up slowly, wiping the remaining crumbs off of his bunched up t-shirt caught in the folds of his belly fat. He let out a loud belch and trudged over to the front door, massaging a sore spot on his leg which had woken up with his sudden rising.
He held the door open watching as his young son zoomed past him into the house and his ex wife stood in the doorway, wrinkling her nose, wearing sunglasses, her long dark hair coiffed up like she just came from the stylist. She stared at him, her mouth turned down, tapping her iPhone incessantly against her tight black knee length skirt.
“Hello Michelle.” he said, smiling.
“Joey. I could smell rotting food and dirty clothes from here. Don’t you care what son is exposed to?”
“What? I just washed the dishes. And I’m waiting for the wash to finish before I could put in the next load. Anyways the world’s going half to hell anyway, isn’t it?”
“Right.” She looked at her phone, as if not hearing anything he said. “Johnny is waiting for me, so I gotta run. You’re able to handle everything till I get back, right?”
He leaned his shoulder against the door post, resting the burden of his recently gained weight for a few minutes. “What a guy you landed yourself, huh? A world traveler. Why Mexico though?”
“Don’t be jealous. We worked hard for this vacation.”
“Yes, and why can’t I go on vacation? Something to do with me having to get another place to live and send most of my earnings to you?”
“You chose to get me pregnant and have a son.” She jabbed a finger in his face. “Take some responsibility.”
“Ha. What a joke. We both share equal responsibility but you get my house and my money. Go figure.”
“Yeah, go figure all you want. Just take care of your son.” She rolled her eyes and with one last scathing look inside his place, stalked away, iPhone hitting her hip as she walked.
Joey watched the rhythmic swaying of her retreating bum for a while, then turned back into the house and closed the door.
I saw that naked.
He walked to the den, where the kid was splayed in front of the flat screen, Play Station on and eyes riveted to the colorful characters on the screen.
“Hey buddy, you want to order pizza?”
“Sure.” The kid said without moving his eyes from the screen.
He scratched his head and watched his son curiously. At that age, he had clear memories being exactly the same, glued to the screen. Funny how like father like son. Only he isn’t going to grow up in the same world I grew up in. Not at all.
“What game is that?” he said.
He chuckled and turned to leave the room. “Never mind. I’m going to order the pizza.”
This generation doesn’t know what it’s in for. I almost regret bringing him into the world for all he’s gonna have to live through.
Joey pressed the pizza app which was pre-programmed with his favorites and linked to his credit card. The green check mark flashed across the screen and the delivery estimate of 20 minutes underneath it.
He gave a laugh as the same thought crossed his mind again.
This is definitely not the generation I grew up in.