Fusion in Rocket City, Alabama
The locals understood Jimmy’s vision pretty well. Well, most of them did. They just didn’t think the food was that great and they thought that the white chick on the billboard outside the NASA building trying to eat an overflowing taco with a pair of chopsticks was confusing. The goose barnacles, a Basque dish, also seemed misplaced on the tops of Jimmy’s red plastic tablecloths with their distinctive, Chinese calligraphy. No one around understood Jimmy’s insistence on being on the cutting edge of things when the best trends in anything, they say, are the ones that tend to circle back around every so often. That’s why folks insist sometimes to never throw out your old clothes.
The food at Wok y Bilbao was set out each night before a live Asian string quintet that played Led Zeppelin covers for those eating in the dim main dining room, adding extra ambience and swirling up an atmosphere in the eating area, quite unlike the method of how the ice cream levers over at the Ryan’s buffet achieved the same feat mechanically by pressing standard vanilla together with chocolate, which the people of Huntsville were used to. Despite an ideal location within the city’s revitalizing downtown area, Jimmy’s place folded within three months.
Jimmy, then, was a failure as a restaurateur as well. He’d failed at numerous ventures periodically in the past. He had a friend, who was also an enemy, who should have been even worse off, according to standard rules governing business strategy. The friend (and enemy) opened restaurants in one part of town and named them after neighborhoods in other parts, neighborhoods that were usually considered rivals. For some reason, this friend and enemy of Jimmy’s was a wild success with his offbeat branding technique, so Jimmy, who was extremely jealous, committed a not-so-surprising suicide, swallowing poison that he’d whipped up himself with an egg beater. Not so surprising, that is, if you knew Jimmy, who’d been irrationally beating himself up for years in such a sad way, even going so far as to distrust the merits of capitalism.
Jimmy’s funeral was filled with eccentrics, most of them losers but whose hearts were in the right place, which, goddammit, should count for something, right? Jimmy’s son, Jimmy Jr., or JJ, continued playing youth ice hockey, for the time being at least. Losing a father so early, of course, can take a big toll on anyone. The boy, like his now-widowed mother, was still in what you might call an emotional holding pattern, somewhere between the initial shock of his father’s unfortunate suicide and the reality of a new life settling in. Ice hockey was still, of course, unusually big in Huntsville due to generations of transplant workers coming down from the North to construct rockets and, thus, procreating in northern Alabama and leaving the area with all kinds of little insider-outsider children. The rest of Jimmy Jr.’s hockey team one night not long after his father’s suicide left the arena to go home and sleep and Jimmy Jr., by himself, skated in mostly big, slow circles, meandering ones as it got really late. The boy’s coach, not knowing what to do for him, made him his very own key since life must go on somehow. That way, when he was ready to go, all he had to do was shut out the lights. The world would be ready for him whenever, spinning as rapidly as it had always done, dragging with it all the animals and, far more distantly, the moon.
Greg Sullivan’s fiction has appeared in The Collagist, Drunken Boat, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. He currently serves as editor for Cooper Street.