MISC/ACRA: Guttertrash #25 (2/4): A Suicide in Destiny City

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 12 18:14:45 PST 2005

Part II:  The Cowboy Graveyard

"Well, Pilgrims, have you made up your minds?  Or am I going to have to
come back here a second damn time?"  The voice came from a dead ringer
for John Wayne who was holding a notebook and a pencil.

"I think," Charlie Hiroshima said as he looked at his menu, "I'll have
the Manicotti that Shot Liberty Valance.  Make the steak medium rare."

"Soup, or salad?"

"What type of soup?"

"Well, let's see here -- we've got your Magnificent Seven Bean Soup; and

we've got some Good, the Bad, and the Onion Soup."

"I'll take the bean soup."

"And how bout you, li'l lady?  See something you like?"

"Sure do.  I'll have the Wild Bunch Omelet, hold the ants; and a Blazing

Salad with Ponderosa Ranch Dressing.

"Well," the John Wayne look-a-like said wiping some sweat off his brow,
"I reckon you folks know what you're getting into.  So I'll be off."
With that said, John Wayne swaggered away.

Alice Queen glanced around the saloon like restaurant.  Various
characters from westerns were waiting tables.  "Oh!  We could have
gotten Paul Newman."

"The hell with Paul Newman.  We could have gotten Yosemite Sam."

"Yosemite -- oh, I see him!  He looks just like the cartoon.  You know,
I can't believe you of all people would be caught dead in a place like
this.  You've certainly changed, Charlie.  I remember back in the early
days you were so pretentious and uptight.  You'd quote Hegel and Yeats
while battling supervillains."

"Hey!  I'm still pretentious and uptight.  Guess I just have a soft spot

in my heart for those old westerns.  Sometimes in life, you just have to

wear a cowboy hat and swig some beer," Charlie said as he swigged his
bottle of Desperadoville Ale while wearing a cowboy hat.  "So -- how are

the kids and husband?"

"Oh, they're fine.  Rick's still playing professional basketball.  The
Clippers have a real shot of making the play-offs this year.  We don't
get to see much of each other, but -- Rick's enjoying himself.  I go to
the home games, but -- well, you know.  And the kids -- the kids are
really growing up.  Marcia's a teenager.  And she's at that age where
everything's about boys.  I think she's also embarrassed by me.  She
never brings any of her friends over or -- I don't know."

"Well, you know teenagers," Charlie said taking another swig from his

"Yeah, I'm quite aware.  But she used to be so proud of me when she was
a little girl.  She'd always want me to come and talk to her class and
It's just a phase.  And Greg wants to play Grue Zone all the time."

"Grue Zone?"

"Oh, it's some VR-World where people become warriors and wizards -- and
they fight dragons, trolls, slobbering grues, and whatever.  That's all
he wants to do.  His grades are suffering at school.  He doesn't
understand the importance of school.  He asks me, 'Why do I have to go
to school, Mom?  No one works anymore.  No one has to know anything
anymore.  We've got robots and nanobots to do everything we need to do.'

And you know, I don't have the answer."

"The answer is, Alice, because it's not going to last.  Sooner or later,

everything is going to go to hell.  And it's going to be the people who
understand science, mathematics, and history who are going to survive
when it does."

"You're still a sunny-side optimist, I see."

"I'm a realist, Alice.  Anything is possible.  And we can see some small

cracks beginning to form.  This Mary McCloud thing.  She wanted to
commit suicide.  And she wasn't satisfied with an illusion.  She wanted
the real thing.  How long do you think it's going to take for some
serial killer, or rapist -- or child molester -- or megalomaniac to want

the real thing instead of some VR-fantasy?  The supervillains are going
to come back.  The question is will we be ready for -- umm -- Look,
sorry.  This really isn't the place for this."

"No need to apologize, Charlie.  You're probably right.  I wonder too --

How long this can last..."

John Wayne returned with their soups and salads.

"So how's your life, Charlie.  Found anyone special yet?"

"No, unless you count my virtual harem."

"Oh, come on, Charlie.  It's about time you settled down and had a few

"You make it sound so damn simple."  Charlie squeezed his bottle

"You're like the number one eligible bachelor on Earth.  There are
probably a million cute single girls who would love to be Mrs.
Hiroshima.  Being a former member of the Destiny Patrol is like being a

"Yeah, I get tons of mail, pornographic VR-simulations, and what not.  I

could probably start my own sex cult.  I just -- I dunno."  Charlie
looked at his soup and gave a sigh.  "Look.  Let's talk about something

"Sorry.  I just hate seeing a friend of mine -- You're right.  It's your

life.  Let's talk about something else.  So what _have_ you been up to?"

"Oh, you know -- wasting away.  Been learning VR-programming, and I've
been working a bit on my memoirs.  About the early years in the Destiny

"The early years?  Sounds interesting.  Anything I should be worried
about when it gets published?"

"Oh, I'm pretty easy on you.  Although -- I do mention how during the
first year of the Destiny Patrol you were a Raving Jesus Freak."

"You didn't!"  Alice Queen shook her head while laughing.  "Raving Jesus

Freak?  A Raving Jesus Freak?  I swear, Charlie.  I was Not a 'Raving
Jesus Freak'!"

"Hey!  All I know is that you would open meetings with the Lord's
Prayer.  And when anyone sneezed..."

"Normal people say, 'God Bless You,' when people sneeze.  Yes, Charlie.
Normal people.  Normal people!"

"And there was the time you thought you were the Virgin Mary..."

"That -- That doesn't count, Charlie!" Alice Queen said getting up from
her chair and shaking her finger.  "That doesn't count.  I was being
mind-controlled by a supervillain!  Mind-control doesn't count!"

"Okay -- okay."  Charlie grinned to himself.  "Settle down, Alice.
You're right -- mind-control doesn't count."  The two of them laughed
for a few seconds.  "So, you still go to church?"

"Yeah.  I'm not quite the 'Raving Jesus Freak' I once was, but I still
go every Sunday.  Jesus is still important to me."

"That's good.  I'm glad you still go.  I sometimes envy people who can
believe in something."

"There's nothing stopping you, Charlie.  Belief is easy.  And you can
start anytime."

"No -- I can't.  I'm too damn cynical, Alice.  Nihilism and scotch are
the only belief systems I can handle."  John Wayne returned, taking away

their soups and salads, replacing them with the lunches they ordered.
"So, do you ever think about Heaven, Alice?"

"Hmm?  Heaven?  What about Heaven?"

"I mean the fact that you're going to live forever.  And that you're
never going to see Heaven because of that."

Alice took a bite from her omelet.  "It occasionally has crossed my
mind.  There was a moment during the Time of the Second Hand that I
thought Judgement Day had finally arrived.  Who knows?  Maybe I was
right.  Maybe the world did end fifteen years ago, and this is Paradise
on Earth."

"There's a problem with that theory," Charlie said leaning back in his
chair, "If it were true, I'd be skinny-dipping right now in a lake made
out of fire."

Alice shook her head.  "You're wrong.  You're a good person.  You've
done more good things for people than most people in the world have.
God's not some evil tyrant who sends people to Hell just because they
don't believe in him, or worship him.  God's love, mercy, and sense of
justice is greater that your pride, Charlie.  If you ever die, you're
going to Heaven whether you like it, or not."

"There are a lot of Christians that would disagree with you."

"And I would disagree with them.  I once met this writer type; he was
doing a book on the Destiny Patrol and was interviewing me.  I remember
this one conversation we had -- it was about God.  His view of what God
was.  He told me that he thought that God was this giant cosmic mirror.
And when we died, we would gaze into it; and all the rotten stuff and
good stuff we did would reflect right back at us.  I don't quite agree
with that, but -- it's an interesting notion."

"Karma."  Charlie took another swig from his bottle, only to be
disappointed that it was empty.  "I don't believe in that either."

"Guess I'm going to have to give you a big set of beliefs this year for
Christmas then, eh?"  Alice gave a little wink.

"Yeah, do that.  And I've got this big basket of cynicism that I can
give you.  You like your cynicism with a big pink, or red bow?"

"Go with the pink."

"Right.  So, what about suicide victims?  They go to Heaven too?"

The cheer in Alice's face slipped away.  "I -- I don't know.  I guess it

would depend on why they committed suicide.  And on how good a person
they were.  Can't really say."

"So is this Heaven?"

"It -- It's too flawed.  Maybe ten years from now, it could be.  There's

a lot more work to be done."

After that there were a few minutes of silence as the two of them ate
their lunches.  As they worked on their plates, a couple of strangers
approached their table.  They were a middle-aged couple.

"Oh.  My.  God!  You -- You -- You're..." said the woman pointing her
finger straight at Alice Queen.

"Yes.  I am."  Alice nodded while smiling.

"I told you, Carl.  I told you!  Oh, my god!  You're like an inspiration

to me.  I've followed your whole career!  Do you remember that time when

you defeated the Truthsayer by wearing the Midas Touch's costume?!"

"Umm, yeah," Alice slightly blushed. "I remember that."

"How did you ever come up with that?"

"Umm.  I guess I just thought it up?" Alice replied hoping that was the
answer the woman was looking for.

"She thought it up!  Did you hear that, Carl?  She thought it up!  My
god, she's amazing!  I just want you to know, Mrs. Mirror, that you're a

living legend and don't ever let anyone ever tell you differently!"

"Ah -- well thanks.  That means a lot to me.  Really."

"And you!" said the woman's husband, "You're..."

Charlie nodded his head while he chewed on his steak and gave a grunt of


"I just want to tell you one thing," the man said looking Charlie
straight in the eye.  "I admire the hell out of your salad dressing!"

Charlie didn't reply.  He just put his fork down on his plate and stared

at the man with one of his patented 'What the Fuck are you talking
about?' facial expressions.

"I don't really care for salads.  I'd rather not eat them.  But when I'm

put in the position of having to eat a salad, I use your brand of salad
dressing.  I especially like your Thousand's Island.  It's like pouring
a little heaven on your salad."

Charlie glanced at Alice who was trying to repress her urge to roll on
the floor in a fit of giggles and then looked back at the man.  "I have
no brand of salad dressing.  You're confusing me with someone else.
Perhaps you're thinking of the Midas Touch.  I think he might have had a

brand of salad dressings."

"Oh!  That's right!  You're right!  I always get you two mixed-up for
some reason.  Say!  If you ever run into him, tell him what I said.
Okay?  That his salad dressing is the greatest salad dressing that ever

"Sure.  If I ever run into him, I'll try to remember that."  And after
some hand shaking, autograph signing, and an arm wrestling contest; the
strange couple managed to finally leave the former Destiny Patrol
members' table.

Charlie gave a sigh of relief.  "Some day they'll invent a cure for

"Oh come on!  Admit it.  Part of you still gets a kick out of it."

"No.  I really don't.  Maybe the first month or so when I was a hero, it

was some what tolerable; but now..."

"So -- Have you spoken to Frisco lately?"

"No.  You know that."

Alice gave a disappointed look to Charlie.  "He's opening a new
amusement park on Mars."

"That's wonderful.  Just what Mars needs.  More rollercoasters."

"Are you two ever going to speak to each other again?"

"No.  Probably not," Charlie said in a nonchalant manner.

"God."  There was a frustrated look on Alice's face.  "What on earth
happened between you two?  You were best friends!  You were practically
blood brothers!  What the hell happened!?"

"Why don't you ask Frisco?"

"I have.  He's like you.  He won't talk about it.  God.  This is so
childish!  What could possibly be so horrible that you two are prepared
to never speak to each other again for the rest of your lives?  Just
tell me!"

"I don't want to talk about this, Alice.  I don't want to hear the name
Frisco Vegas.  I don't want to hear the name Midas Touch.  I want to
forget these names.  Just leave it, Alice.  There's nothing you can do."

"Fine.  I won't talk about it."  There was a sad look on Alice's face as

she said those words.  "How about RESULT-O?  Have you talked to him

"Yeah."  Charlie's face lifted up a little.  "I gave a few speeches for
him when he was running for office.  Heh -- Senator RESULT-O.  I never
thought I'd see the day a wise cracking robot was in the Halls of

"Heh.  Yeah -- it's funny.  But -- I guess it's not too surprising.  He
always was the most popular member of the Destiny Patrol -- although he
was running against Eminem.  I'm a bit surprised you campaigned for him.

You weren't concerned about what he might do as a congressman?"

"Oh, I don't think it really matters anymore.  The idea of government
has become obsolete.  We're living in a world where no one can hurt
anyone and pretty much everything you could possibly want is free.
Rules start to become meaningless in such a state.  And besides -- it
was between him and Eminem.  Better the idiot you know."

They finished up their lunches.  After that they signed autographs for
the people in the restaurant who wanted them, which was everyone.  And
finally, they made their way out of the restaurant.

"I wish you and Frisco would just talk.  It would be nice to see
everybody back together again.  It would be nice to see all the members
of The Destiny Patrol in the same room again."

"It's not going to happen, Alice.  Wendy's dead.  The Destiny Patrol is
dead.  It's history.  There's no need for it anymore.  The world doesn't

need it anymore.  The world has moved on."

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