Page 44 - Vol. VII #8
P. 44

 “What kind of name? It’s my name.”
Give Me That Old Time Religion
“Brian Lehr?” the clerk said. “What kind of name is Brian Lehr?”
needed more, so now Henry owned the world, in a kind of metaphorical time share, with everyone else at the parties. Henry was hell bent to save the world, piece by piece—paper, plastic, glass, all in separate bins. Wind farms were a big thing with Henry Peter- son. Solar panels across roof tops or stuffed into acres of arable land, they were big with Henry too. Every- one at the parties saw things the way Henry saw them, which made everyone feel good about every- one, except anyone who wasn’t there. Such collective concern justified flights to Bermuda or the Bahamas or to the thatched cottages of Maui.
“I’m sorry, Sir,” the clerk said. “All I meant was, I’ve never seen it spelled that way. Is it German? It sounds German to me. I’m very interested in genealogy. Ev- eryone should know where they come from, wouldn’t you agree? Anyway, Mr. Lehr, congratulations. This phone puts you in touch with the world.”
“Sell it to me then,” Brian Lehr said. “The world’s a big place.”
Henry Peterson was a good person. One could tell that right off by listening to Henry. Myrna Malloy, she was a good person too, as were The Meriwethers, Tom and Marlene Condon, Peter Albright, who was chas- ing around now with Ellen Gilchrist after Ellen’s nasty divorce, George Costa and his wife Bernice, and Jerry Brownlow and his wife Shirley. All of them were good persons, in agreement about evil, which received no invitation to any party. Nested, with cocktails and bean dip, petted by soft violins and muted horns from the the Bose woofers and tweeters beneath a heavily draped window, they swept the dust away and spoke about a dreamed-of, cleaner world, where vile men, who liked Ronald Reagan, were not in charge, and there was no need for gossipy intolerance.
“Yessir,” the clerk replied.
The man behind him peered over Brian Lehr’s shoul- der and frowned. Others were in line, all with the face that happens when you think about nothing and nothing thinks about you.
“There,” the clerk said. “The paper work is done, and here’s your copy. Mr. Lehr, you now own the most ad- vanced personal communications device on the planet.”
The phone was flat, shiny-smooth and jet black, a pretty thing, the size of a four-by-six card or an open wallet. It cost eleven hundred, without the insurance. He considered the perverse pleasure of dropping it. He put the phone into his pocket and stepped away. The line bumped forward one life.
Henry Peterson was a good man, but not morally so, to Brian Lehr’s thinking, because Henry was permis- sive about everything and judgmental only when it came to the sanctity of the earth. Henry had faith in the ground he stood upon and the air he breathed.
He sorted refuse. He was a member of the Sierra
Club. But he was still Henry Peterson, standing by the piano, humorless, like the others, unless they laughed at someone who wasn’t there. Henry saw the irony in nothing he believed in, because Henry did not see the irony of believing in anything. And what was he, Brian Lehr, anyway, but an irony in his own mind? They wanted to make him Republican, so they could know what to think, but he was no Republican, or Indepen- dent, or anything, politically, and allowed as much, which confused Henry and the rest, because there was no bin to put him in.
Outside, the air was brisk, the sky was clear, the fore- cast for rain, misguided, as usual. If they couldn’t pre- dict with certainty tomorrow’s weather, how could they predict how much warmer the world would be ten years from now, or cooler, for that matter? No one knows anything about tomorrow, he thought, so why get exercised when tomorrow isn’t what you expect.
It was Saturday. And that meant one of those hateful cocktail parties Barbara dragged him to, at Myrna Malloy’s apartment, or anyone else’s apartment. He almost came to blows last weekend at Myrna’s with Henry Peterson, of Peterson, Peterson and Putz—he called the third partner, Frank Parker, Putz, because Frank Parker was a putz. Henry was a Global Warmer. Henry owned a silver Tesla. Henry had his suits made at Melchior’s on West Montgomery. Henry owned
Brian Lehr wondered and wondered. More or less they were assholes—it was the only word, he couldn’t help using it—but good assholes, in their own minds, who were not to be confused with real assholes, who
an expensive townhouse and a summer home at the Lake. There was no need to own more, but Henry
RichaRD Dokey

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