SLIM JIM: James Comey at the Grocery Store
The man is without coordinates, a wet-faced lost, with soggy fat goblin bags under his eyes. He has no job now except late at night on talk shows making feeble prognostications about America and Liberty. America = Invincible; Liberty = Cool. He says this and the audience applauds but not a rambunctious horny applause, a dutiful applause, like when your son presents his science project and it’s not great, honestly, someone has to say it, but look at him up there, look at him go, that’s his volcano. He exists only to Professionally Sigh at the black-smoke tailspin this Great Nation finds itself in and to stand as the rickety avatar of Centrist Mediocrity, the floppy slice of whole wheat with the crust cut off, the wincing Ichabod Crane with shit smeared on his ass, drinking pinot noir out of a paper cup on the plane home after they fired him, thinking about Jesus and George Stephanopoulos and the incorruptible purity of John Adams.
Trump calls him an eel and cackles at his pathetic maneuvers; on Twitter he makes tepid admonishments of socialism and the left dunks his face in a toilet. There is no refuge for you, Turd Emeritus, Neutered Gilligan, not even On Line, land of sculpted and resurrected personal brands and a million obedient choruses.
Where does he go? What does he do? I cannot confirm but here is what I imagine. He wanders grocery stores, his wife sent him with strict orders, he’s through the doors and standing between the florist and the discounted raspberries and he realizes he’s left his wallet at home. He decides to walk around anyway, he’s not sure why, he’s already holding this basket, the lights are very bright and he loves Doritos, above the aisle says CHIPS/SNACKS and the existence of such a thing gives him a wild juvenile thrill. Snacks! What appetites we have for garbage. He was a boy once and the boy ate snacks and they were salty and disgusting and perfect, now he’s this crumpled idiot in a tucked-in polo, he can’t go back home because he doesn’t have any food; he’s a man so he should have food and his children are hungry. He’s up and down the frozen aisle and the bread aisle and the pasta sauce aisle. “I can’t believe how many pasta sauce brands there are,” he thinks. “I would eat any sauce, doesn’t matter, they all taste the same to me. My friend Joey was Italian, he was a kid I knew growing up, there were lots of Italians in Yonkers. One time I saw Joey’s older brother take off his own shoe and hit a man across the face with it. I’ve never bought pasta sauce before. I wonder if Joey is still alive.”
A woman asks him if he’s alright, is something wrong, she’s reaching for box of rigatoni but he’s in the way, this tilted scarecrow with bird shit all over him, “yes sorry yes my mistake, ma’am” and his head is shaking like a busted washing machine. There’s one single onion in his basket and it’s rolling around banging against the sides. His shoelaces are touching the ground. He has the virility of an orthodontist. His dick is made of corduroy.
This is where he is now. He recites dusty quotes from Crusty White Men and he speaks with the synthetic profundity of someone who dreams of being quoted one day himself, in yearbooks or at the beginning of movies about firefighters or thwarted espionage.
For the Ferguson riots he blamed not the Twinkie-jowl GI Joes who kill innocent young men in plain sight but YouTube and the civilian journalists filming atrocities on their phones. “Far more people are being killed in many American cities, many of them people of color, and it’s not the cops doing the killing. Part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through law enforcement over the last year, and that wind is surely changing behavior.” A chill wind; it feels sharp and hefty and biblical and he likes this line, he likes slamming the gavel, he likes the backdoor pass and synchronized-outfit family photos for the Christmas card. In college he considered himself a communist but pivoted to Reagan. Asked once who his literary hero was, he said Atticus Finch. He is lame but seems magnificently impressed with this lameness, with his righteous crusades and with his moral impeccability, he loves it deeply, it is the sarcophagus he wants to be buried inside, but it’s gotten him nothing, because they won’t play by your rules Jimmy and you couldn’t stomach playing by theirs.
Here he is, America’s stepfather, removed and in the other room, desperately impartial but still a Disciplinarian, god dammit, when you’re under my roof. No one buys it. They all hate him. You didn’t bring home dinner. You’re not my real dad.