The Last Tailgater – a short story

When he said “let’s make the impossible possible”, it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t an idle threat, either. He’d been making the impossible possible all too frequently those days. It was an out-an-out freak show at times. He was the one who’d turned the balloon animal into a real animal, after all. Had you ever seen magic like that? The stupid giraffe was even bright red! He would make you see things, not just imagine that you saw them but you really did, right there in front of your face. Hayley saw her long-dead mother. Brittany saw her favorite movie star, and got her autograph, even, and sold it online while she was at it. Haruki was the Truth and what did he use it for? For nothing. Trifles. A sideshow at best.

When they asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he smiled and beamed into the camera. He said, “I don’t worry about that. I will never grow up”. The world in its entirety lost its shit over that. What could he possibly mean? Would he literally remain a nine year old boy forever? Who, after all, had ever seen his baby pictures. He’d come onto the scene in a flash. He looked the same that day as he had when his first video went wild, the one where he turned the water into orange soda, and the orange soda into seventeen cantaloupes, and then the melons into robots that could recite the pledge of allegiance backwards.

Maybe he meant that although he would age like a normal person, he would keep that same childlike wondrous spirit, those big brown eyes, that shock of black bangs falling halfway across his face. Of course that’s what he meant, not that he would die and be reborn, again, exactly the same, over and over again, like he did.

Was he even a person? When they cut him, he did bleed. When they hit him, he bruised. And they did cut, and they did hit. Not at first, of course. It took a while for the audience to turn against him, to change utterly from devoted followers to unstoppable stalkers. He taunted them at that.

“Come on,” he teased in that half-African accent that maybe was part of his routine, being at first full Japanese, and then choosing countries at random around the world in which to reincarnate, returning whole and in the flesh no matter how or where they’d executed the little brat. He was not insensitive to pain. Oh no, he suffered. That was certain. When they burned him alive in Singapore they first attached electrodes to his skull to measure the pain response. It was literally off the charts. And when they whipped him to death in Saudi Arabia you could hear the wailing from clear across the planet.

He overdid it like that. Kind of a show-off, he was. What he liked best was making the impossible possible and the audience could never resist. He had his own TV show whenever he wanted, at a moment’s notice, location spurious and spontaneous. You never knew when he was going to be doing it, or what he was going to do. When he raised an entire army out of the desert, twenty thousand mostly young men, Iraqis and Iranians who had died in the midst of murdering each other, and he had them wordlessly set about burying one another alive until the very last one was forced to do it to himself. Meanwhile Haruki narrated, and he told us exactly what he thought of every one of us. Phonies and fakers. Liars and takers. He enjoyed most of all telling us how God preferred the thinnest, weakest blade of grass to the best and most beautiful of humans. God had had enough of us long since, he said. We didn’t like that.

Or maybe it was the time he turned all the pretty young girl into ugly old hags and guaranteed that was their future. He didn’t spare the boys at that. He added fifty pounds right around their waists, and peeled off most of the hair on their heads. He did all this while chortling his trademark hysterical hyena-like laugh. How we hated the sound of his voice. How we despised those big brown eyes. He never did grow old but stuck around to torment us forever. He transformed the music of the world, detuning our ears so it all sounded awful. He modified our taste buds so we loathed all food. He re-arranged the colors we could see. Making the impossible possible indeed.

He took requests, and laughed at them. We only wanted him to leave us alone. With all that power, with all the initial hope evaporated, we only wanted him to stop, to change things back to the way they were, to change us back, to let us be. He said evolution couldn’t wait. It had to get rid of us once and for all, for the sake of all other living things. We begged him to do it, then, if that was the only way we could be free of that petty, horrifying miracle worker and all his crimes.

“Tell you what,” he challenged us. “Ignore me. Go ahead. I dare you. It’s the only thing that can save you from me. Pay me no attention. Don’t watch my TV specials. Don’t look at my videos. Don’t read about me in your articles and books. Ignore me completely and then I’ll go away. I’ll declare un-victory. I’ll rewind time and you can have it all back, just like you say you want, but you have to ignore me completely for one year. That’s all.”

We couldn’t do it. Not even one of us. Of all the nine billion people left standing on the planet, not a single one was able to avoid Haruki for even a month. Forget about a year. He was the only thing on anybody’s mind and every day, it was all we thought and all we said, and we knew it was our doom and there was nothing we could do.

He’s supposed to be on again tonight at ten. That’s what I heard. He’d been hacked to pieces by racist coal miners in Pennsylvania, and popped right back up again in the Argentinian pampas, where he promised to show us something truly remarkable, something amazing. We don’t have to worry about what channel he’ll be on. He will be on all the channels, all the television, all the radio, all the social networks, all the chat rooms. He will be in all the movie theaters, broadcast live on all the subways, all the airplanes, all the buses. You can see him on your smart watch. You can see him on your phone. You don’t have to wait in line. You have a front row seat. He is everywhere,right in front of you and beside you, in your car, and in the car ahead of you, and in the one that’s creeping up behind. What’s he going to do next? I hope he makes us all feel special. We only live for him.


(I apologize for this. Donald Trump made me do it!)


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