09/22/2021

Meg Pokrass & Aimee Parkison ~ New Frontier

Inspired by New Frontier by Donald Fagen

My dad he’s crazy, but he’s smart, and he’s built a bunker to keep the plague, the reds, and the ram­pant fires away. We’re gonna have a shindig in here, he says, lug­ging in car­tons of beer, danc­ing with the dog. The dog and he are a spe­cial pair since Mom dis­ap­peared, they’re always hav­ing a wingding togeth­er. Dancing around with lots of beer.

Today he’s excit­ed about our first vis­i­tor. Dad’s been try­ing to get me to find some­one to live here with us. Someone to make us less lone­ly, to bring in some light. This has been my project for life on the new fron­tier. The one I found, I met her at Hooters when I stopped in for tacos. She seemed nice, and bored, and agreed to stop by lat­er to see this place if I paid her for her time.

I’m a sum­mer smok­er, hope that’s okay, the girl said when I told her how hap­py I was that she’d vis­it our bunker.

I only smoke when I’m feel­ing too hot, she says, as if I was the kind of per­son to judge a per­son. Her breasts were large and angry look­ing. She made me feel so many things, but all I could say was, that makes sense to me!

Well, let’s not get too excit­ed, Dad says. Let’s get to know her first.

I think we’ll all hit it off, I say.

It’s great to see him danc­ing. He’s usu­al­ly sit­ting down in the same spot, drink­ing beer, remem­ber­ing Mom, his eyes all misty. His eyes appear ready for the bombs to fall, they are American eyes, but they are not of this world. I’m pre­pared to meet the chal­lenge of the new fron­tier, I say, and I’m look­ing at him as if I’m flow­ing with the flow.

She’d bet­ter have a face like Tuesday Weld if she’s real hope for the future, Dad says. Your grand­moth­er had that kind of face.

Tuesday Weld, I think. Now that’s some name. A lot bet­ter than Wednesday Crap, a lot bet­ter than the peo­ple who say we don’t all need to find our­selves a new fron­tier. Dad pre­tends to smile. The cor­ners of his lips fan out.  I remind myself that I’m going to move to New York when things get nor­mal again, that I’m going to find a life in the the­atre. I’ll have an apart­ment. This is a tem­po­rary condition.

~

Summer Smoker laughs.  She doesn’t have a face like Tuesday Weld.  Her face is more like Norma Jean before Norma Jean sum­moned Marilyn in her mirror.

I keep telling myself if Doomsday comes Dad will be danc­ing with Summer Smoker.  We all need a lit­tle Doomsday just to give us a chance to move on from the plague of life.

I keep ask­ing my dad what it will feel like when they drop the bomb.  He grabs Summer Smoker, kiss­ing her with his tongue like it’s the end of the world, and tells me, Like this.

In the bunker, I play the key­board as Summer Smoker and Dad dance the cha-cha.  They dance the lindy hop and announce their inten­tion to enter the All-Star Lindy Hop Finals, once this whole Doomsday phase blows over.

The dog and I sip domes­tic beer as we lis­ten to the radio.

How long will we be down here?” I ask.

Dads says, “Until we run out of beer.”

In the bunker, there are more than 99 bot­tles of beer on every wall.

Summer Smoker moves into the bunker with 137 car­tons of cigarettes.

Even though it’s now the dead of win­ter, Summer Smoker smokes when she wakes and she smokes when she sleeps.  She smokes when she eats, and she smokes after she eats and again when she gets hungry.

Living with a smok­er in a bunker is hell.  The bunker is like a giant cig­ar we’re all smok­ing by breath­ing.  So, yeah, I’m a smok­er now, just not by choice.  I have the gall to tell Summer Smoker this, and she cor­rects me by say­ing, Cigarette smoke is inhaled deeply into the lungs, but cig­ar smoke is left in the mouth. 

If she’s right, this bunker is more like a cig­a­rette shared by all who live here, than a com­mu­nal cig­ar.  Or maybe it’s like a big old cigarillo?

You don’t inhale cig­a­r­il­los, either, she tells me.

Then, why do peo­ple smoke cig­ars? I ask.

Because they love doing it, she says.  Didn’t you ever do any­thing because you loved it?

I don’t answer.

At night, Summer Smoker is awake smok­ing her cig­a­rettes.  During the day, she falls asleep with a lit cig­a­rette dan­gling from her lips or fin­gers.  I just stand here, wait­ing and watch­ing, ready for the cig­a­rette to fall.

~

Meg Pokrass is the author of five flash fic­tion col­lec­tions and a book of prose poet­ry, Cellulose Pajamas, for which she received the Blue Light Book Award. Her work has been wide­ly inter­na­tion­al­ly anthol­o­gized, most recent­ly in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018), Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton & Co., 2015) and The Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019. She serves as Founding Co-Editor of Best Microfiction 2020 and teach­es flash fic­tion online and in per­son. Find out more at megpokrass.com.

Aimee Parkison is the author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, win­ner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her new book, Girl Zoo, co-authored with Carol Guess, was pub­lished in 2019. Her oth­er works include Woman with Dark Horses, The Innocent Party, and The Petals of Your Eyes. Parkison teach­es at Oklahoma State University, where she is an Associate Professor of Fiction Writing and the Director of the Creative Writing Program.