Two Degrees from Hell on the Old 49 Highway by S. Vargo

Samuel Vargo writes for progressive, liberal, online magazines that headline daily and have national readerships. He also writes for a few comedy and satire mags that headline daily and have national and/or international readerships. Mr. Vargo has written poetry and short stories for print and online literary magazines, university journals and a few commercial magazines. Mr. Vargo worked most of his adult life as a newspaper reporter. He has a BA in Political Science and an MA in English (both degrees were awarded by Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, USA). Vargo was fiction editor of Pig Iron Press, Youngstown, Ohio, for 12 years. A book-length collection of Vargo’s short stories, titled Electric Onion Head and the Rotating Cyclops of the Month, was published by Literary Road and had a web presence for five years. He has been previously featured on IP.

Two degrees from nowhere on the Old 49 Highway we met for tea and crumpets. You brought along your little dog, Yellow, and for the life of me, I don’t understand why you named it that misleading name since Yellow’s really, really black. As black as a piece of coal, in fact. And that little varmint snaps at my toes while he snarls at my face. So we talked and talked and talked while we drank wine from a bucket. You complained of your significant mother’s mother, who moved in with you and Gerry last week. It’s all I can do but keep from crying, you told me, boo-hooing into your Kleenex. And now three degrees from hell on the Old 49 Highway you sobbed and sobbed. She never takes a shit, you said of the Old Girl, and then you proclaimed that she wanted Gerry all to herself again, like she had Gerry captured when her daughter was a little kid, and that you and Gerry would never, ever, enjoy any sexual experiences again. Big Mama is always watching, you griped.

Four degrees from nowhere on the Old 49 Highway we met under a tree and sat on a rickety old wooden bench donated to the Willow Creek Park by Saint Gabriel the Archangel Roman Catholic Church. You griped that you always wanted a tattoo but that you didn’t want to go through the pain of having a black and grey nightmare of hues etched and sketched on your sensitive skin. My God, you shouted, It must hurt like the holy dickens to have one of those hideous and ugly pieces of body artistry strewn on my body. I then informed you that I knew of a drug dealer who sold Oxy and Hydro and that for sixty bucks a pill, I could get you enough of these super-atomic aspirins to get you through the hiatus it takes to recover from tattoo surgery. You just laughed and snorted Forgetaboutit. When the bucket of wine was gone, it was the end of our party. So we shook hands and parted. I would’ve kissed you but I don’t kiss men. I’m no drag queen, brother. And no, I have nothing against the LGBT community, in fact, some of my best friends are gay, but I don’t need you to anoint me as one of them. So give me my “space” – besides, you’re a very married man.

Five degrees from nowhere near the Old 49 Highway, but not actually “on it,” we communicate through transcendental meditation. We’ve known one another so long and hard that we don’t need to “be there” to be there. You spoke, in my daydream, of polar bears and ice. You also spoke of your wife, Gerry, and how she never shaves her legs these days. She always did this while you were dating, you complained, and now, when you find yourself on top of her she feels like a Brillo Pad. Gerry’s gotten so slovenly, you said, not only to leave out the brazen fact that she’s a devout Southern Baptist (Or is she Pentecostal? – You can’t recall). Can’t she see that she’s infirmed with the mortal sin of sloth, which her God will be more than happy to throw her away into hell with when she dies? You screamed this in my daydream and it was pontificated so loudly and harshly that I got a headache, which lasted well into the night. When I got home from work from the iced tea stand and I could do whatever I damned well wanted to do, I got my bucket of wine and inebriated myself to the point that my head no longer pounded in pain. No, far from it, it buzzed like a lost airplane.

Six degrees from nowhere on the Old 49 Highway we meet for corn chips and soda. It is a white soda of some variety and I think it’s ginger ale, but I can’t say for certain. It can be cream soda for all I know. I try not to drink dark sodas because my doctor told me there’s an outside chance that such fizzy juice can give me cancer. Our conversation this time is focused in on why camels and horses are required for mankind’s future existence. They’re a lot more fun to ride around on than cars, you say, but cars can get you to a place like lickity split, especially if you’re situated behind the wheel of a high-horse-powered muscle car like a 1970’s vintage GTO or Mustang. I agree with you, saying that camels and horses have their own unique personalities, are loveable creatures that hardly ever complain, and they normally comply with whatever they’re told to do. When a horse or a camel complains or protests, it could kick you with its hind legs, which isn’t the best thing to happen to someone in their cowboy days. In fact, such an act of egregious and insidious criminality by a horse or camel can put someone in the emergency room, maybe even the morgue, so you laugh and laugh, we finish our bucket of wine and this is going to be the last time that I see you until New Year’s Eve. It’s the day before Christmas today, or as the faithful call it, “Christmas Eve”. But for us, my friend, it’s just some “other day”. We’ll meet again soon and enjoy hamburgers, French fries, and sodas at a fast food joint. And we plan to do this on New Year’s Eve. We won’t be able to drink from our bucket of wine since drinking wine out of a bucket is considered unlawfulness in the eyes of most fast food joint managers. Not to leave out Johnny Law, who’s always watching.

(This submitted material has been previously published in IP Vol. 4:2)

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