J. G. Parisi
Johnny Fabulous stood at the white glossy podium, stationed at the front of The Garbage Dump Veteran Museum and Gallery. He was dressed in all white. The gallery was a mammoth warehouse painted in shiny black paint. Everything reflected off everything. Lining the walls, were garbage dumpsters with lids in various states. Some opened. Some closed. “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey played from the Super-Fi speakers in the gallery, echoing off the mirror-like walls.
Today was Friday, June 13th 2042, one day before Halloween that year. Several buyers were stopping by that afternoon, which was why Johnny Fabulous had adjusted the calendar to accommodate the myriad of eclectic characters. An artist. A marketer. A president. A senator. A cause. Johnny Fabulous, a weary 62-year-old, waited patiently as the buyers filtered in.
“Keeping them half-dead keeps them palatable.”
“I need a veteran for the plot of my next novel,” the beret said.
Johnny Fabulous stepped to the side and held out his arm to the left side of the gallery.
The beret stroked his goatee. “I want him to be strong.”
“Don’t we all.”
“And broken. Pensive. Rage.” The beret took out his mole-skin notebook.
“I’ve got just the one.” Johnny opened the lid of the closest dumpster.
Inside, rested a set of wiry bones—twisted in circles. The veteran was alone. Afraid.
“He’s perfect!” The beret scribbled something. “Here’s an IOU. When I get rich, I’ll give back to the veterans.” The beret loaded the wiry bones into an alligator-leather side-satchel, next to his $10,000 laptop.
The dumpster was empty now. The lid was left open. Striding back to the front, Johnny Fabulous checked the sold-box on his clipboard. He was a shooting star through deep space. A white paint drop on a black canvas. A white dot in a hall of black mirrors.
“Good day, sir,” A woman with a cell phone said. “I need a commercial veteran.”
Johnny Fabulous flipped through sheets of paper. “For commercials?”
The cell-phone-woman punched buttons. “For, and mass-society acceptable.”
“Those are rare. Veterans are the worst.” Johnny led her to a dark corner in the back.
A shiver caught the cell-phone-woman. “It’s so cold back here.”
“Has to be. Keeping them half-dead makes them palatable.” Johnny Fabulous brushed back his wavy black hair and put on a pair of mirrored Ray-Ban sunglasses.
The cell-phone-woman saw herself staring back at herself. “I see.”
“Here she is.” Johnny lifted the lid.
A veteran sold for someone else’s cause, Johnny Fabulous thought, as he checked another box.
Lying in the fetal position, a woman trembled. She was fighter-pilot sized.
The cell-phone-woman gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. She shook her head.
“Bring in the billboard,” she said into her cell phone.
Four people ran in. The fighter-pilot-sized veteran was laid upon the billboard like a wounded warrior being placed on a stretcher. She was carried out.
The dumpster lid was left open. A veteran sold for someone else’s cause, Johnny Fabulous thought, as he checked another box. Back at the front, he waited for the politicians. They always came in groups. Retrieving a lint roller from under the podium, he ran the sticky tape over his white three-piece suit while he waited. The son of a Sicilian chess champion and French Olympian, he had made a name for himself as a showman on the stamp collecting circuit. He had been introduced to the world in 1980 when his mother heard the breaking news that Reinhold Messner of Italy had solo climbed Mt. Everest in three days, ending her eighteen hours in labor. He listened to Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” playing in the gallery.
The president, senator, congressperson, governor, and Super-Pac all arrived at the same time. “Give us a story,” they said in unison.
“We’ve got many veteran stories. What kind?” Johnny adjusted his sunglasses.
The politicians saw themselves staring back at themselves. “No. Not a story story.”
“I must have misunderstood. You don’t want a book about a veteran.”
“Why would anyone want that?” The politicians rubbed their heads.
“And not a book written by a veteran.” Johnny Fabulous took off his mirrored sunglasses.
The politicians became rowdy. “Who would read that?”
Johnny Fabulous stared at them with his abalone-shell eyes that shimmered in the dark-light like kaleidoscopes. “Even if it was fiction?”
“Even if it was fiction?” The politicians punched each other in the shoulders. “Especially if it was fiction!” The rowdy rancorous representatives roared in uncontrollable heaves. “A veteran writing fiction!” Everyone guffawed.
Britney Spears “Till the World Ends (Twister Remix)” played in the gallery.
Johnny Fabulous straightened out his all-white three-piece suit. “You want a veteran with a backstory.” He led the politicians to the rear, past the ice-cold dark corner, came to an elephant-sized bank vault, turned the silver dial this way, turned the dial that way, yanked the titanium door when the safe clicked, entered, held it open for the politicians to follow him through, let the door close as they followed the hovering bomber-group of lightning bugs that lit the path forward into a cement tunnel, dust crunched under rubber soles, trudging forward the tunnel-diameter shrank gradually, and lightning bugs grew bigger in size. The light grew brighter. Sitting cross-legged in the back, eyes closed, dreaming in color, was the rarest of veterans: an Omaha Beach H-Hour D-Day Veteran, a captain in the army—the greatest generation. A velvet sunflower.