Chapter 7: HEY, HEY MAN! WAKE UP!

Morty’s eyes rolled back and focused on a man standing over him.

“HEY MAN, YOU OK?”

Disoriented, Morty pulled himself to his feet and didn’t even notice the postcard blowing away in the wind.

“Hey, its good to see you’re Ok, man. The power lines is what do it. Its because the government has too much energy. You missed it, man! The cold war is over we’re running too high on the surplus of energy we needed to run the cold war machine.”

Morty noticed the man’s hands were lightly bandaged. He was wild-eyed, and disheveled, but not particularly smelly like most bums. He blinked twice quickly.

“That makes sense right? Do you understand?”

“I … I think so.”

“Yeah, well the Department of Energy, the DOE, they controlled the energy policy and got all the coal companies. They stock piled coal and everyone switched to nuclear energy in order to make the by products to make our bombs for the cold war. The cold war ended. And we had all this byproduct, thats when the DOE started building the pipes all over the country, but they decided to do it through local governments. That way they could burn all the extra energy in the pipes from the coal and nuclear energy they stock piled. Does that make sense? Are you getting what I’m saying?”

“Who?”

“Look, you see I was in an accident, I was doing some work, thats how I hurt my hands, but I was moving some bushes. I was moving the bushes out in the field. I saw it, there were power lines right over me. I look down and there’s a manhole, it says ‘New Jersey department of electricity,’ do you know where I was, can you tell me where I was?”

“…I..”

“I was just in Arizona, on the Arizona New Mexico border! Do you get it? It was from New Jersey! What was it doing in Arizona? It was the end of the pipe! But the pipes not long enough now, there’s still too much energy so they started running it through the phone lines. Makes you think weird thoughts, standing near phone lines. Everything has just been in overdrive higher and higher power just in the AIR! Just in the fucking air, man. I bet thats what happened to you, there was just to much energy running through the power lines. Those sons a bitches don’t care who they hurt. Do you get that? You OK, man, seemed like a bad fall. My name’s Dennis.”

“Elec… electrolysis?”

“Yeah…YEAH! I think you’re right. Electrolysis, isnt that where they make water from electricity and it leaves a radioactive byproduct. They just dont know when to stop. They probably want to start getting electricity into water because it conducts and they just can’t get rid of it all!”

“I … I have to do right, Mister.”

“You wanna do right you can do me a big favor and show me where the Jukebox is. I know its bad, just burning more electricity, just doing what the government wants, but … but we all gotta do what we gotta do. And right now you gotta take me to the closest Jukebox.”

Morty stood there, still stunned and reconciling the world with the void. His brain was slowly restarting, rebuilding almost from scratch through the memories of his tedious life. A time-lapse film of extraordinary routine, so completely uninteresting, that when anything beyond his routine happened, it barely phased him. As though he were simply unable to accommodate the things presented to him outside of his narrow understanding of the universe. Beyond a simple willing denial or sought ignorance, a complete incomprehension of what was put before him.

But he did know where a jukebox was.

The Sweltering Fish Boat was the local tavern around Morty’s apartment building. Since Morty was not a normal person he did not find it alcohol a soothing way to drown his sorrows, because he didn’t have any. His uncomprehending acceptance of what life had presented him had left him in a blissful, but unguided state. He had been by the tavern enough to have looked in the window and seen the Jukebox. He dully nodded and walked from the mailboxes out of the apartment building and down the street.

The tavern was open, and the morning clientele of wino’s were grumbling quietly amongst themselves or staring blankly at the prior days sports reports . Dennis fumbled in his jacket for some change and managed to find a dollar bill and a few quarters.

“This is great, man, this is good, hold on im getting to the jukebox there.”

The jukebox was standard dingy bar fair. It had been designed in the late 80′s when CD’s were gaining mass-market traction and had been made to look like a classic 50′s diner Jukebox, but with CD’s instead of 45′s. Like everything else from the 80′s it had been made with a tarnish of the era, stained by cheap materials and remnicint more of low budget imported crap than any actual style. The lights had been replaced many times over and hummed with a dingy green tint. The inside of the glass had accumulated a film from two decades of accumulated filth and smoke. The painted chrome dashboard had chipped and the number buttons were worn into smooth black nubs, the numbers no longer visible, and the rount dent of fingers contrasted by the faded white outline.

Dennis ran forward to the JukeBox and started frantically bouncing his focus from disc to disc, mashing on the page turn buttons.

“Is it here…the Jukebox has it?”

The bartender walked up to Dennis, he was also foreign: “Hello, are you having problems?”

Dennis jumped at the opportunity: “Hey, man, you notice how these lights are yellowing, seems like they should be bright. Hey, man this looks like a pretty old machine, strange with all the power they are pumping through the lines these days that these lights would be dim. Right? Do you understand?”

“Of course I understand?” the bartender nodded. I dont actually think that he did.

“Great, here help me out, see my hands, look I was in an accident in Arizona, it involved the department of energy and the cold war. Here, Ill tell you in a second, but I can get these dollars and coins in the machines. I want to hear the Jukebox, can you put these in? Does that make sense?”

The bartender started fumbling with Dennis to get the money and patiently fed it into the machine.

One of the winos broke away from drooling at the T.V.

“hey,” he said to Morty.

Morty, still largely catatonic, turned towards the wino.

“HEY! Yeah, you, c’mere kid!”

The wino beckoned. Someday we could all be so lucky as Morty.

Morty walked forward to the man.

“Hey, kid what’s your story?”

“I have to do right, Mister.”

“Ha, ha! Yeah I bet you do, If you did something to end up in this shithole on a Tuesday morning. I got a whole lifetime of that.”

In the background Dennis continued to rehash his theories on the cold war machine, and energy wasting.

“Christ, takes all kinds, im gonna rescue the bartender. Hey Yin! Gimme a couple Bud Lights, don’t worry kid, its on me!”

“I have to do right, Mister.”

“Damn it, you already said that, must have been bad, what’d ya do? Old lady throw you out? Then why you still smiling like that?”

“E…electrolysis.”

“Oh ho ho! You told her to get rid of the mustache once and for all. Shit, kid, no wonder you look like a neuter. Gonna be a lot of lonely nights till you talk your way out of that. Maybe its a good sign, maybe you should just cut your losses and look for greener lawns to mow. Eh, kid, what do you think about that?”

“…I…”

“Ah, shut up, you’re just stammering anyway, thats no good. Sit down, have this beer you can catch the end of the highlight roll-up.”

Obligingly, Morty pulled out the bar stool and sat down.

“Drink it kid, you’ll feel more like talking in a while. Next rounds on you. Quiet a sec, Im missing the show.”

Morty sipped at his beer and stared up at the TV.

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