Greg Sullivan

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.