When he was young, Bob Chikos held the title of World’s Youngest Senior Citizen. He was an avid fan of Roger Whittaker, admired his grandfather’s 1977 Chrysler Brougham, and thought it would be a dream to be able to watch game shows all day long. As he ages, he’s getting less mature every day. He’s starting to develop a bad habit of telling jokes based on bodily functions. In addition to the twenty-six stories he’s published, he teaches special education at Crystal Lake Central High School (Go Tigers!) and lives in Cary, IL with his spouse Aileen and son Martin.
The Communist Menace
The Five Freedoms, a band of post-high schoolers, hung out in a garage, drinking generic soft drinks when Charlie America, their leader, dashed in, panting.
“Hey guys, sorry I’m late. My grandma fell down the stairs again and I had to bandage her up.”
“That’s OK,” Millie said, “We needed some practice on our own, anyway.”
Ralph, who made a striking comparison to “Moose” from Archie comics, interjected, “Yeah, and we had to plan your surprise birthday party, too.”
The others groaned in disappointment, “Oh Ralph!”
“D-uh! That was supposed to be secret, wasn’t it?” Ralph said.
Al piped in, “Hey, we also came up with a little tune here about being late. Wanna hear it?”
“Sure,” said Charlie.
“It goes a little like this,” Al said.
Al turned to the rest of the Five Freedoms, waved his index fingers conductor-style while tapping his loafer. “And a-one and a-two and a-”
The band played out of tune. Charlie winced; his face looked as if he’s removing a Band-Aid off a deeply sunburned body.
Al screeched out lyrics,
Late late, always late
No time to meditate
So late I missed my date
Kansas is The Sunflower State
Charlie cut him off as the band trailed off their music. “I think it needs some work, but I like the idea. I’ll work on it tonight after work. No, after I put my little sister to bed. No, after I give my grandma her medicine. No, after I- oh, I’ll find some time somewhere.”
Al looked down and shook his head, “We’re a bunch of failures!”
Millie teared up, “Now my mascara’s going to run.”
Charlie stood tall. “Now, now guys, we can’t give up.”
“Why not?” Millie asked, sniffing her watery nose.
“Well, because,” Charlie said.
Everything went wavy as Charlie imagined a conversation he had with his grandpa on his grandpa’s deathbed. Although it didn’t happen at the time, Charlie heard a dirge playing in the background as he recalled the incident.
“Charlie, come over here,” said Grandpa.
“Charlie, there’s something I have to tell you. Remember all that time I spent in the basement?”
“Sure, you wanted to get away from us, right?”
“No, I was trying to become a musician. I had this dream to make songs that make America sing.”
“How come you never told us?”
“I was too embarrassed. Besides, I was never any good.” Grandpa unfolded a red bandana and wiped tears from his eyes. “Oh Charlie, my life is over but yours is just beginning. Grant me my wish so I can die in peace.”
Grandpa pulled out a Flying V guitar from under the covers and handed it to Charlie. “Take my guitar and make songs-”
Charlie ended his sentence, “-that make America sing.”
Tears streamed down Charlie’s face. “I will, Grandpa. I will.”
Charlie hugged Grandpa, and the guitar screeched stray notes as it rubbed between the two. The heart monitor flatlined.
Charlie jolted out of the flashback and back to the present. “Well we’ll never get anywhere unless we practice, practice, practice!”
Scanning across the world in Moscow, was the office of Vladimir Nokitov. Vladimir was of indeterminate age but had youthful skin, a receding hairline, black hair, and a goatee. He wore black pants and a black turtleneck. Vladimir’s superior, a portly older bald man in a suit, entered his office.
“Comrade Nokitov,” the superior began, “We are impressed with your work. You will certainly be most efficient in continuing the struggle for communism. Be sure that the biggest missing piece to our empire is America. Their freedoms stand to ruin the whole future of communism. Tell me, Vladimir, how do you plan to spread communism to America?”
“I have studied America,” Vladimir said. “I have learned that their teenagers are addicted to rock music.”
“Ah yes,” the superior added, “We invented rock and roll to spread communism and godlessness to the West.”
“Yes, and now we must organize and control it so we can subvert the people.”
“But how do you subvert everybody?”
“We convince the youngsters, through rock music, to become communists. Then, once the element has entered the house, it is only time before their parents, too, become communist.”
“So,” the superior countered, “how do you plan to control a band? The big American stars like Elvis and Bananarama are too capitalistic to fall for such a scheme.”
“I will go to a small town, where people are simple and easy to manipulate. I will find a stooge and seduce him into signing a recording contract.”
“But surely you can’t convince a whole group of musicians.”
“That is why I am going to recruit just one member from a small town, where the brains are small, and the rest from an American university, where the brains are even smaller. The backup band will already be Commies. I just need a wholesome American kid to be the front.”
“Excellent plan, Vladimir. Of course, you understand that you may not return until your plan has succeeded.”
“So where are you off to now, to find this musician?”
“Freedom, Kansas. When I destroy Freedom, I will destroy America!”
The two men laughed, signaling the end of the conversation.
The Five Freedoms played their last notes of a performance in a local coffee shop, which served stale coffee in small white Styrofoam cups, and hot dogs. Audience members, with mouths stuffed full, and ketchup lining the sides of their lips, applauded fervently. Small children waved miniature American flags.
Pepe, a 50-ish mustachioed, thin farmhand who wore a cowboy hat, boots, checkered shirt, jeans, and a silver belt buckle festooned with a bronco, approached Charlie.
“Hey Pepe, did you like the show?”
“Very much! This truly is the land of opportunity. You practice very hard and make big star for yourself. Your friends, too.”
“When I first came to America, I see a shiny coin in street. In America, people can throw away money. Not so where I come from.”
“And where do you come from?”
“El Salv-” Pepe’s eyes darted about the room as if he feared for his safety. “Uh, Slovenia.”
Pepe continued, “Charlie, let me tell you something. I don’t have much but I have my truck. If any of Five Freedoms need ride, please let me know.”
“Oh, that’s sweet. You’ve always been so good to us, Pepe. When Dad died, you gave us all those vegetables from your garden. And when Grandma needed to order gas medicine from that pharmacy in Mexico, you made the call for us.”
“You’re welcome, Charlie.”
Pepe left, as Peggy Rumpert, in black horn-rimmed glasses, a heavy pink sweater, and an ankle-length plaid skirt, slid to Charlie’s side.
“Hi Charlie,” Peggy giggled, as she twisted the faux pearls around her neck.
“Oh, hi Peggy,” Charlie squirmed.
“I really liked your show. I really liked that song when you said, ‘I’ve got a secret crush on the gal who has a secret crush on me.’ Did you have someone in mind when you wrote that?”
Charlie thought quickly, “Uh, no, I think Fred came up with that line.”
“Well,” Peggy said, as she lowered her glasses to squint at Charlie, “I’ve got a secret crush on someone.”
“I hope it works out,” Charlie said. Then he stammered, “Ah, er, that’s if the crush guy wants it to work out.”
“Say, Charlie, maybe we could play together sometime. I play the sackbut.”
“I know, Peggy. We’ve been in music class together since fourth grade. But you know that Fred is our sackbut player.”
“Well how about a backup, in case something happens to him. Or you could have two sackbutists. Or, maybe I could be one of those band managers who gets stuff for the band and helps them out.”
“I don’t think so, Peggy.”
Peggy lowered her gaze to her feet, then whimpered, “OK, I understand.”
“Well, you can be our number one fan.”
Peggy’s eyes burst open, mouth agape. “Really?!”
“Oh Charlie, you’ve made me the happiest girl in Freedom. You won’t be disappointed. I’ll be the best number one fan the world’s ever seen!”
Peggy walked away, head cock-eyed, as she stared into the distance. She met a throng of giggling, squealing friends, dressed in full-length dresses and white gloves. “Tell us all about it!” they demanded.
Out of nowhere, Vladimir Notitov appeared.
“Charlie,” Vladimir said smoothly.
Charlie, startled, faced Vladimir. “Oh, hi there.”
“Charlie, my name is Vladimir Nokitov. I am honored to meet such a talent as yourself.”
Charlie, embarrassed, said, “Well, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“I can see why this coffee shop is filled with people. They appreciate pure talent when they see it.”
“Charlie, I am a talent scout for a major recording label. I was on my way from New York to Los Angeles when I happened to pop into this coffee shop. I am grateful to have been treated to an evening of fine music.”
“You’re a talent scout?”
“Yes, Charlie! And if I weren’t absolutely sure that you were already signed to a label, I’d snatch you up in a second! So, what label are you with?”
“We’re actually not signed to any label.”
“Don’t tease me like this!”
“No, really, we’re not signed.”
Vladimir stroked his goatee with his right hand. “You know, Charlie, I could sign you right now on the spot.”
“If only you make a few teensy-weensy little changes.”
“Well, they’re hardly changes, really. More like adaptations.”
“Well, you know, the standard adaptations in the music business, like-” Vladimir listed the following in quick succession, “your-name-some-lyrics-and-the-band-members. You know, standard stuff.”
Charlie’s face flattened. “But I can’t change my name. That’s from my dad, who died in a horrible barbed wire incident. And I can’t change my lyrics – that’s my soul singing. And my friends, well I can’t turn my back on them.”
“Charlie, this is a standard practice in this industry. Maybe it’s good that you found out from me instead of some slick Hollywood-type. But I’m telling you, Charlie, you’ll go far – very far,” Vladimir held a pen in his right hand and dangled it, pendulum-style, in front of Charlie’s eyes, “if you just sign with me.”
Charlie’s eyes followed the rhythmic motion of the pen, then snapped to attention. “No, I really can’t.”
“I understand. Here’s my business card if you change your mind.” Vladimir handed Charlie a card. As Charlie read it, Vladimir extended his right hand for a shake. Charlie, too engrossed in the business card, didn’t reciprocate.
“Comrade?” Vladimir said into the thick black phone, “This is Vladimir. I have found my stooge. His name is Charlie America. I just have to wait for the tiniest incident to occur which will upset him into signing a contract.” Vladimir nodded along to what he heard through the receiver. “Yes, in fact, I’m going to Boston right now to find the backup group in one of those mind-numbing institutions.”
The Five Freedoms stood with their instruments in a garage, strewn with old jelly jars filled with nuts and bolts, paint cans, a push lawn mower, and a sign affixed to a wall that read, “Wall Drug of South Dakota.” Ralph and Al attacked each other with a half-inflated duct-taped beach ball.
“Come on guys,” Charlie said, “Let’s get serious.”
“Aw, we’re just having fun,” Fred said.
“Fun?” Charlie said, “You think this is fun? I’m 19 and going nowhere with my life. I work in a mom-and-pop store to support my family. I should be a rock and roll star by now. I don’t want to be a nobody my whole life.”
The scene went back into a wavy state as Charlie recalled a scene from his day:
Charlie’s boss, Maw, sat on a chair, reading a magazine titled, Gossip and eating a bon-bon. Without looking up, she said, “That freezer fixed yet, Charlie?”
Charlie, lying on his side in a puddle of water, oil all over his clothes and face, said, “No ma’am. I’m working on it.”
Charlie snapped out of his flashback and exhorted the band. “We’re never going to get anywhere unless we practice, practice, practice!”
At home, Charlie was in the process of making dinner when Susie, his elementary-aged sister with long braided brown hair, entered the kitchen.
“How come you’re making supper, Charlie?”
“’Cause Grandma can’t get out of bed.”
From an adjoining room, Grandma shouted, “Charlie! I need you to git in here an’ rub my back!”
Charlie cringed, then answered with a yell, “Just a minute, Grandma!”
Charlie’s mom, shoulders slumped with quivering lips, entered the kitchen.
“Hi mom,” Charlie said, “What’s wrong?”
“I have some bad news,” she said, sitting on a chair missing a caster. “The bank is going to foreclose on our house unless we can magically come up with $3,000 by the end of the month.”
“What will we do?”
“I don’t know,” Mom sniffled.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll take care of everything. I don’t know how yet, but I will.”
“Oh Charlie, you’re the best son a mother could have.” She hugged Charlie and accidentally passed some of her slobber onto his shirt.
In Boston, Vladimir stood in a room of four unkempt college-age young men. Their instruments included a drum set, a Hammond organ, a bass guitar, and a sackbut. On the walls were posters of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Lenin, Mao, and Lucille Ball.
Vladimir’s watch rang and he pressed a button to speak into it. “Hello? Oh, hi Charlie. You do? You did? You will? That’s great! Welcome aboard!” Vladimir beeped his watch to end the call, then turned to the band, “Good news guys, I have the lead man that we need!”
Within days, Vladimir, Charlie, and the rest of the new band were in a fallout shelter-converted-to-studio on the outskirts of Freedom. The room contained analog tape on large spools, a microphone suspended from the ceiling, a record player with half-peeled-off stickers affixed to it, bongo drums, and an old-timey bicycle horn.
Charlie, with rumpled stacks of sheet music tucked under his right arm, scanned the room in amazement. “So, this is what an actual recording studio looks like, eh?”
“Yep,” Vladimir said. “Say, Charlie, can I take a look at some of those songs you wrote?”
Charlie handed Vladimir the stack and Vladimir looked at some of the pages. “Hmmm. Very good. I can tell that you have been schooled in the fine art of songwriting.”
Charlie blushed, “Gee, thanks.”
“Of course,” Vladimir continued, “we’ll have to alter a few of these lyrics.”
Charlie resigned himself to the issue, “Yeah, I know.”
“And the name. Did you know that Engelbert Humperdinck’s real name is Arnold Dorsey? Everyone knows and loves Englebert Humperdinck, but who’d listen to a guy named Arnold Dorsey?”
“I guess nobody.”
“That’s right, nobody. I’ve given your stage name a lot of thought.” Vladimir stood beside Charlie, put his left hand on Charlie’s shoulder and, with his right, panned it across the air as if conjuring the image on a marquee. “Charlie RedHammer and The Sickles.”
“Charlie RedHammer and The Sickles? How in the world did you come up with that name?”
“It’s social commentary and it’s artistic. You are an artist, aren’t you?”
“Well sure, but I don’t underst-”
“It’ll make sense later on. Let me show you the studio.”
Vladimir proudly showed Charlie the dilapidated record player, “This is our audio playback machine.” He showed him the microphone, held together with electrical tape. “This is our hi-tech sound channeling system.” He showed him the headphones, with the band that attaches the two earpieces missing, “This is our instant feedback monitor.” He patted the switchboard, which was missing half of its switches. “And the beauty of it is that we were given this free by Mother Russia, who takes care of her own.”
“Sure Charlie. You are able to make great music and, therefore, you are given equipment according to your needs. Isn’t that a good philosophy?”
“That’s the whole basis for communism, Charlie. I bet they didn’t teach that in your school, did they?”
“No. They said that communism was evil and oppressive.”
Vladimir, appalled, spat out, “Evil?! Oppressive?! Is giving you the chance of a lifetime evil?”
“Is making dreams come true oppressive?”
“Sounds like you’ve had some bad teachers.”
“I don’t know. The Reverend Rich Moneybags warned me against communism.”
Charlie’s thoughts flashed to a time when he sat in a pew at the First Capitalist Church of Money with Interest. A preacher, in a short-sleeve button-down white shirt with tie, thick black glasses, black trousers, white socks, and loafers held a well-worn and open copy of Atlas Shrugged.
The preacher yelled, “…we’d all do well to heed the words of the great prophet Milton Friedman, ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch.’ That’s right, the Commies would like you to believe every lunch is free. But I’m here to tell you that communism is the way to financial hell!”
Charlie snapped out of his trance.
“And where is Reverend Rich now?” Vladimir asked. “Will Reverend Rich save your house from the bank? Will Reverend Rich make you a star?”
“I guess not.”
“Yes. Well, why don’t you get acquainted with your new bandmates while I look over these fine lyrics.”
Vladimir left the room with Charlie’s sheet music. He entered an adjoining room, closed the door, and sat at a desk. Pen in hand, he scanned the pages. “’Baa Baa Black Sheep?’ Ha! ‘Baa Baa Red Sheep’ now!” He rubbed his hands frantically, then scrawled edits onto the pages. “’My Home Town’? ‘Our Home Town’ now! Ha ha ha! ‘The Soaring Eagle’? Nope, now it’s ‘The Galloping Bear’”
Charlie and The Sickles were set to record.
Vladimir said “An’ a-one, an’ a-two” and pointed to the band.
The Sickles instruments made a cacophony as Charlie sang:
Baa Baa Red Sheep
Have you any wool?
Yes comrade, yes comrade
Equal amounts for everyone!
When the song finished, Vladimir switched off the recorder. “Very good job, boys. This’ll be a hit! I’m taking it to radio stations right now to get it some airtime.”
Charlie entered his kitchen. His mom sat on the crooked chair.
“Mom, I’ve got some great news. I’ve come to save the day.” He pulled a long scroll from his pocket and unfurled it.
“I can’t see so well without my reading glasses.”
“It’s a recording contract. It’s all set up. I can save the house!”
“Where on Earth did you find someone who’d sign you?”
“This guy named Vladimir Nokitov came into the local coffee shop one night and said he wanted to sign me to be a star. Oh, by the way, my name is now Charlie RedHammer and I sing communist songs.”
“I said that at the coffee shop-”
“I heard that part. Did you say you changed your name?”
“Yeah, it’s a business thing.”
Charlie’s mom looked at him forlornly. “Charlie, that’s the only thing you have left of Dad’s.”
“But Mom, if I didn’t change it, I couldn’t record and we’d be evicted. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
“Mom, communism isn’t so bad. It’s the wave of the future! It’s also the only way to get out of our troubles.”
“Well, you are the man of the house now that your father has passed away. I trust you to do what’s right, but I still think communism is evil.”
“Mother, trust me on this one.”
Charlie entered the practice garage of the Five Freedoms.
Millie ran up to Charlie and hugged him. “Oh Charlie, we missed you so much.
“We talked it over,” Al said. “And you’re right. We were goofing around too much and we need to get serious.”
“Thanks, but I’m not the same Charlie I used to be. No more coffee shops for me. From now, it’s going to be stadiums and arenas.”
“How do you figure?” Fred asked.
“I signed a contract with a label. I’m now Charlie RedHammer and I play with The Sickles. I’m also a communist now.”
“D-uh! Does that mean you write articles in da newspaper?” Ralph asked, furrowing his brow.
“That’s columnist. I said I’m a communist. It means I don’t like oppression anymore. From now on I believe in everything for each’s needs and, uh, needing needs for each’s own, and all that.”
“Well if you ever come back to Freedom,” Millie said, “let us know. We’ll be here for you.”
“Yeah, right,” Charlie sneered.
At home, Charlie received a call from Vladimir.
“Good news, Charlie. Baa Baa Red Sheep just hit number one on the college radio charts and I got us booked on a national tour that begins immediately. The first performance is this Friday at the University of Wisconsin. I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”
As Charlie hung up the phone, the doorbell rang. Charlie opened the door to see Reverend Rich Moneybags.
“Charlie, I came over as soon as I heard. Is it true?’
“Is what true?”
“Is it true that’s you’re a communist and that you’re planning to spread it throughout the nation?”
“Oh that. Yeah, it’s true.”
“Charlie, do you know what communism teaches? It teaches that money is bad. Why, without money, how would we know wealth? And without wealth, how would we be happy?”
“Reverend, I’ve been going to your sermons for years and I’m neither wealthy nor famous. It’s time for a change.”
“No, Charlie, don’t do it.”
Despite the two men standing within a few feet of the front door, Charlie said, “You’ll see yourself out.”
“Charlie, if you ever need me, I’m here for you.”
As Reverend Rich exited and closed the door, Charlie ran upstairs. Within seconds, the doorbell rang. His mother opened the door to see Peggy Rumpert.
“Charlie!” his mother yelled, “Yer girl-friend Peggy’s here!”
Charlie ran down the stairs and shouted at his mother. “She’s not my girlfriend!”
Charlie’s mom exited, leaving the two in the vestibule.
“Hi, Charlie. I heard you’re a communist now.”
“Boy, news does travel fast in this stupid town, doesn’t it?”
“Well Charlie, I always knew you’d become a star.” She looked downward at her foot, bashfully tracing from side to side. “Of course, I never thought it’d be as a communist.”
“Say, Charlie, could I go with you on tour? Maybe as a gofer or something?”
Peggy’s shoulders slumped. “I understand.” She sniffed. “Well, you take good care of yourself and when you come back, I’ll bake the biggest welcome back cake you’ve ever seen!”
“Really?!” Charlie was struck by Peggy’s gesture but quickly regained his composure. “Well, I don’t really care, but I guess that’d be cool.”
“Good-bye Charlie.” Peggy quickly kissed Charlie on the cheek, then ran out the door, sobbing.
Charlie shook his head to no one in particular.
Vladimir met the band in the green room in Madison. The echoes of the crowd chanting, “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” grew louder until Vladimir had to yell to be heard.
“And for the finale, douse the stage with lighter fluid and burn these thousand copies of The Wall Street Journal,” Vladimir said, patting a stack of rolled-up newspapers, bound by string.
“Now remember Charlie,” Vladimir continued, “The Sickles play the first song solo, then you come out when introduced. After the first song, you give the speech I – I mean, we wrote, praising communism.”
“Do you have it memorized?”
“OK guys,” Vladimir said to The Sickles, motioning for them to leave, “let’s give him some privacy. We’re on in ten minutes.”
Vladimir and The Sickles exited through a door marked, “To Stage.” Charlie, alone, looked at his script, then silently tried to repeat what he’d just read.
Charlie heard a knock from a door marked “To Entrance”, then yelled, “Come in.”
Pepe walked in, wringing his hands.
“Pepe, what are you doing here?!”
“Charlie, why are you doing this? Why are you communist?”
“Leave me alone, Pepe.”
“I remember when you were struggling capitalist. But now you’re just a-” he spat out the next word, “communist. I came to America in hopes of marrying rich American and living under beautiful capitalism. But now I see that dream is collapsing. Soon, you will change this country and make it communist. Then there will never be any rich Americans for me to marry! I’m going to find a bridge and I don’t know what I’ll do after that.”
Pepe stuck out his lower lip and kicked the floor before leaving.
On stage, the Sickles lowered the American flag from a flagpole and raised the Soviet flag. As it rose, they played the Soviet anthem. The frenzied crowd, unable to sing the Russian lyrics, screamed in support.
After the anthem, the sackbut player approached the microphone. “Comrades, it is good to see all of you in attendance tonight. And now, straight from the gulag, the Master of Comrade Rock, Charlie RedHammer!”
Charlie ran onstage with his grandfather’s guitar. The Sickles played a metal version to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as Charlie sang:
O-ver throw the boat
That holds the cap’t-list swine
Make ‘em drown in their own greed
And everything’ll turn out fine.
Bonfires spontaneously erupted in the crowd as bottles of alcohol flew through the air.
At the conclusion of the song, Charlie waited for the crowd to quiet before he gave his speech.
Pepe fought his way through the crowd to get to the front. His cowboy hat fell off as miscreants punched him several times. At the front, while restrained by security guards, Pepe yelled, “Charlie! Charlie! Don’t do it! For me, please, don’t do it!”
Charlie began his speech, “Comrades. I was once a capitalist.”
“No Charlie, don’t do it!” Pepe screamed, as he took a miniature American flag out of his pocket and waved it in the air. A crowd-goer snatched it out of Pepe’s hand and threw it in a bonfire.
“Hey!” Charlie yelled into the crowd, “Give him his flag back!”
Vladimir saw Charlie wavering. “Forget it, Charlie. Just start the next song.”
Pepe removed an American flag lapel pin and held it in his left hand. He placed his right hand on his heart and began to recite, “I pledge allegiance to the flag.”
“Play it! Play it” Vladimir demanded.
“Of the United States of America,” Pepe continued.
“I can’t take it anymore!” Charlie screamed. He played The Stars and Stripes Forever as Vladimir and The Sickles stood, paralyzed with shock.
“Yay! Yay!” Pepe yelled.
“Stop it right now,” Vladimir demanded while storming toward Charlie.
Pepe muscled his way past security and climbed onto the stage, where he sparred with Vladimir.
As Charlie finished The Stars and Stripes Forever, Charlie steadied himself to speak. Vladimir tried to lunge past Pepe, but Pepe punched him in the nose. “Let my American friend speak,” he said.
Charlie cleared his throat, “Communism is not the answer. I was drawn into it until I found the horrible consequences. My good friend Pepe – come here, Pepe.” Pepe walked to Charlie, as Charlie put his free arm around him. “Pepe came all the way from El Salslovenia to chase his dream of marrying a rich American and I almost ruined that for him. I don’t know what I’m going to do now, but whatever it is, I’ll do it as a capitalist. Now I’m going back to Freedom!”
As Charlie and Pepe exited the stage, arm in arm, Vladimir picked up a tambourine, then slammed it on the ground and said, “Nyet!”
Back in Freedom, Pepe’s sputtering, antiquated truck pulled into the driveway of the rehearsal garage. Charlie jumped out of the passenger seat and ran into the garage, decorated with streamers and balloons. On a table, lined with a plastic green tablecloth, was an enormous cake with, “Welcome Home Charlie” written in frosting.
“Golly fellas, this is the best,” Charlie said. “Can you ever forgive me?”
“How could we not?” Fred said. “You’re our friend and friends look out for each other.”
“Say,” Charlie said, “on my way back from Madison, I wrote a new song in Pepe’s truck. It’s called, ‘I’ll Never do That Again.’ Charlie handed out copies of the sheet music to the band. “Let’s give it a try.”
Vladimir spoke into his phone. “I’m sorry. I promise it will never happen again. It’s just a minor setback.” He held up a piece of paper, “You know sir, I still have his name on the contract!” Vladimir laughed his sinister laugh.
At home, Charlie’s mom said, “While you were gone, Reverend Rich was able to secure us an adjustable rate mortgage so we’ll never have to worry about our mortgage ever again!”
The Five Freedoms played their new song at a country-western style restaurant, as patrons tossed peanut shells on the wooden floor. Customers bobbed their heads up and down to the music and glad-handed each other, thankful that one more soul had been saved from the perils of communism.
From the Editor:
We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.
Founded in late 2011, In Parentheses prides itself upon analysis of the current condition of intelligence in the minds of these young people, and building a hypothesis for one looming question: what comes after Post-Modernism?
The idea for this magazine stems from a simple conversation regarding the aforementioned question, which drew out the need to identify our generation’s place in literary history.
To view the types of work we typically publish, preview or purchase our past issues.
Please join our community on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram at @inparenth.
By In Parentheses in IP Volume 7
32 pages, published 1/15/2022
By In Parentheses in Volume 6
80 pages, published 10/15/2020