It could get weirder — Pavlov’s colon


Paolo leaned lightly on the copper covered bar watching the comm screen above the bottles and tracking Grace in the mirror as she moved between the tables and the kitchen door. It was time for the sports report and he took off his sunglasses in anticipation. He was vaguely interested. He had stopped in to chat with Grace but she was too busy right now for his flirting. On screen the news reader looked momentarily flustered, distracted by something she was hearing through her private feed, and as she began introducing the breaking story an alert message scrolled across the bottom of the monitor: Moments ago President Lester Cleland was taken by Our lord in a rapturous ascent from the White House Rose Garden. Stay tuned.

The news reader looked at the camera with concealed shock flushing below her blond competence. “While details are only just now coming in, Comm2 has exclusive video feed of what appears to be the miraculous rapture of President Lester Cleland only minutes ago. Let’s watch and pray.”

A spoon dropped in the bar sink rattling against a glass as the room fell silent and Paolo watched with everyone else as a new feed filled the screen. With no preamble or introduction the crystal clear image of Cleland stepped out from behind a large rhododendron stark naked, looking first with a peaceful smile into the camera and then up to the sky. His body began to shake seeming to resist some great force but the smile of calm remained on his face even as the building g-force pulled at his pallid skin, shaking his drooping breasts and vibrating his large earlobes. Suddenly he lifted off from the manicured lawn with an initial lurch and, as the camera followed with a steady frame on his head and chest, Lester began to accelerate rapidly upwards. His eyes seemed to swell in their sockets and the skin around his mouth began to pull back into his jowls deforming the rapturous smile into a grimace.

Speechless, fifteen patrons and a handful of the Westin staff watched as the President pulled away from the camera’s range and disappeared into the clouds above Washington.

The Comm2 news team could be seen anxiously assembling in the background as the news reader played the feed over and over treading water while promising more details to come. After four rapid replays Paolo stood, laid five dollars on the bar, and walked out into the hotel lobby. Life was still going on out there, temporarily oblivious to the craziness that was about to come down. Only one older man seemed to be in on the cosmic joke. He sat in a lobby chair near the fountain staring at his tablet screen, his face flushed red above his crisp white collar. As Paolo walked past the man he looked up, not really at but through Paolo. There was an ecstatic glint in his eyes, a look of righteousness and defiant expectation.

Stepping out onto the street Paolo tried to imagine how it had been accomplished and what might happen next. Deciding that there was nothing to be done beyond simply observing things as they unfolded, he headed south towards the Metro Center which was his evening stage. He would be early for their show, but he would be entertained watching the agitated behavior of the early commuters disoriented by the breaking news and glued to their device screens as they headed for the long escalators and the clatter and rumble of the trains far below.

Leaning against the poster-covered wall, his pan pipes at his feet in the half-opened backpack, he staked out the evening’s performance space waiting for Sousa and the other members of his street band to arrive. He wondered if this would be good or bad for business.

This is the first chapter of Pavlov’s colon, a tale of a time just beyond now, where democracy has rotted out and capitalism has reached a logical end-state. But things are looking up…..