[Saturday] - OK, so you know how some people believe that they have met Jesus on a bus, or at the laundromat? Well, I haven't had such an encounter, since I ain't tight with god. But I did run into the reincarnation of Stephen Douglas. At one of the food pantries.
This town likes to tout it's only claim to fame: it once held one of the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. In a downtown park, there is a bronze statue of them both debating. It is smaller than life-size. Stephen Douglas is standing, looking even smaller - and comical. His small frame is all puffed up to look grandiose, while his middle region protrudes so opulently, it seems it will pop the buttons off of his bronze vest. It mostly looked like Stephen Douglas was trying to sway people through the force of his gut. People who think, "I like what Lincoln is saying, but, um, omg the belly is from another universe!"
So, I get to the food pantry - my second in one day - I honestly have no room left in my giant fridge - speaking of bellies. There are a lot of people there, waiting. As is the fashion here, the system was dysfunctional and intended to remain that way. The handing of of numbers was spurious and unfair. Someone asked if they were handing out any more numbers, and one or two people said no. So some people got up to leave.
I was standing next to a sitting poor white girl with tattoos, who was somewhat cute but deathly pale. She had been fixing her hair and trying to attract me. She looked up at me and smilingly said, "They said there aren't any more numbers!" I was kinda frowning in dubious perplexity when I heard the news, remaining skeptical. So, when I looked down at her, I had this silly frown on my face and I think I might have scared her. Maybe she thought I was saying, "What? You talk to ME?! Ha ha ha! Do you realise all the work and hurt you would have to go through just to get past this illustrious frown of greatness?"
But the fact was that I had a huge headache, and wasn't thinking sharp-like, and my ears were filled with toilet paper, so I was functionally deaf... ("And all I could hear was shit!") And, I thought it was too soon and sheepish just to accept the gossip that no numbers were being given out. So I really didn't know what to say to her. I said nothing and she was out the door. Her plan was that we would leave together, until she saw my great gaping visage, and then she must kinda felt like running from it all. Low self-esteem. But, you know, the people here are so different from me, I would never have dated her. ANYWAY...
So, I now sit down on her seat. And, yes, it turns out that there will be more numbers available. (Why do people give up so easily? Was that girl ashamed to be there in the first place? Is it just a characteristic of poor people?) Now there are less people. Half of them, including me, do not yet have numbers. Then, in through the door comes the reincarnation of Stephen Douglas, preceded by his large, rotund belly.
He had a pregnant, stubby, forward gait; unkempt blond hair, and an impatient, sniveling nose. There was no indication of intelligence affixed to him. His main feature was his firm, global belly.
"What does that remind me of?" I thought to myself. "Where have I seen that belly before?"
This little guy commandeered his stomach to launch himself in particular directions, with arms, legs, feet and head, all splayed and trailing. It was like he was a small battleship. Or one of the bombs dropped on Japan. This stomach was, to him, something of great importance. Rather than seek to minimise it, this guy held it protrusive in front of him, like an irascible beach ball.
It even seemed that he used this primary appendage to pick a lock and open a door, for he simply creeped into the office wherein the main lady was getting info from one of the food applicants. Ahead of me, and of others, Stephan Douglas was trying to get himself a number.
Meanwhile, the man next to me was complaining that someone had gotten a number before he did, even though he had come earlier. So some giganticus man proclaims that one must push ahead of others or they will grab your number. And here along comes Stephan Douglas, basically doing just that. But he was evicted from the office.
He then began talking to people, in the same pushy manner by which he had inserted himself through the doorway. He asked me if I had my number, and where I was in line? I told him no, and that the guy next to me told me that I came in right after him. That means I was supposed to be before Stephan Douglas. He didn't want to hear this, but he did repeat to me, assuredly, "You can go before me." That was him asserting his big brother authority, pffft.
But at some point, he managed to get a number before me, parlaying his hypnotic protuberance. Never trust a politician.
One topic of general "conversation" was his quest to find a local place in which to swim. This seemed very strange to me, until I realised that he had brought his own beach ball. Many people added comments on where to swim. One free swimming hole was supposedly closed because it had been sprayed with pesticides. I, and my migraine, and suffocated ears, had nothing to add to this conversation.
But the guy next to me said that he himself could not swim:
"I can't swim. I swim like a rock."
"But some rocks skip," I said.
Stephan Douglas was delighted by the comment, and repeated it to the guy. "Some rocks skip!"
There was no other response, as these words were too obscurely profound. It was at this point that Stephan Douglas may have thought that I was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, or of Buddha, speaking humbly and succinctly in parabolic riddles. But, really, it was a miracle if I could just squeeze anything resembling sense out of my scorpion-infested head.
Even though I was a little ticked at this guy, having told the main lady that he was a, "pushy little guy," we somehow got into a conversation. It turns out that he was from Highland Park, near Chicago. I asked him why he had come to this town. He said he had come to study history.
The history of Stephan Douglas.
At some point, he learnt of my three-major college education at the UW, and that I worked at the WI State Historical Society, where I got to read old personal letters from Germany saying, "Hitler is great. He has high morals for our country!" And I asked Stephan Douglas if there was any agency for whom he was studying Stephan Douglas.
"No, just for the family, you know."
"Oh, are you related to him?"
"In what way are you related?"
He grabbed his belly and began swinging it around.
"My belly," he said.
It's true. This guy was related to Stephan Douglas.
And now I know how Lincoln felt.
So, we talked a little about the Republican Party, and the Confederacy, and all that. But, my time had come, and I had to sequester myself away into the office. In the office, I dealt with this older weird black lady who seems to have the hots for me, except when she is in a simmering rage. After that, I came back out with the number I had acquired number 23.
So I went up to Stephan Douglas and confidently invited him to switch numbers. He hemmed and hawed.
I began handing him my 23, slipping it into his hand, while trying to pull his 22 away from him.
"Well..." he said, "I don't really care..."
But, I got them switched, cuz I know what's real. Justice. Time. Biceps.
Then, I was called up by the higher powers, to go get my earthly foodage.
Then I returned to the main room. Stephan Douglas was now gushing over me. He said he was very glad to have talked with me, and all that. He rushed out to hold the front door open for me. But I said that I had to pack my bags inside first. And then he got called away by the powers that be, and that was the end of Stephan Douglas.
I have this uncanny habit of, by going my own natural way, reminding people what asses they are. And, if they are given enough time, they may come back respecting me. But many has been the time when they would sooner rush me as a mob. This is why I have chosen never to run for President.
That would be anathema.