Night at the Apocalypse Saloon
Expanded from the 11-9-2003 Daily Sparks,
And the 11-13-2003 Comstock Chronicle
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
Pesty's white stallion still dripped with black drool from the River Styx as he galloped to a stop in front of the tavern.
Rusty hinges screamed like a thousand martyrs as he flung the heavy door open.
"We can begin our board meeting at last," boomed ruddy-faced War.
"Where in hell have you been, Pestilence old friend" softly growled The Proprietor as he poured dark bubbly into a tarnished mug.
"Riding off my frustrations, boss. I had something good going this year with the Mormon crickets, but they still died out. Can't you do something to speed up global warming so my critters can spread further?"
"All in good time, my son. You haven't read last Thursday's New York Times, have you?" said The Proprietor.
"Naw. I hate that liberal rag. I stick to Fox News on cable."
"If you'd been paying attention, you'd see that things are going our way rather nicely," gushed a fleshy Famine between gulps of meat.
"You've put on a lot of weight, Family Man," Pestilence growled. "Business must be pretty good."
"Hunger is reaching delightful new depths, even in the gut-busting U.S.A.," Famine burped.
"On the other hand, Disease hasn't had a new hit record since AIDS," Fat Famine added, offering Disease a drumstick.
"I'm feeling too sick to eat. Computer viruses aren't as much fun as the real thing and spam is such a bore. We had great hopes for SARS," Disease said with an infectious laugh, "but it petered out."
"Dizzy, please don't use the name Peter in here," The Proprietor cautioned.
"Sorry, boss. What was in the Times?"
"A demon's delight," The Proprietor gushed. "Wall to wall front page murder, mayhem and rape. Iraq tried to avoid war at the last minute and the Bushies ignored the appeal."
"Not my best bit of finesse, but a good one," harrumphed the Warrior.
"Look at this headline: ' Wary CIA Rebuffed Back Channel Proposal,' " The Proprietor gloated. "I love it. Reminds me of how we got the Ayatollah to keep the hostages through the 1980 election.
"And look here: '43,000 alerted for Duty in Iraq.' War, you're doing one helluva job up there."
"Thanks, boss. I just let humans ride the old warhorse in the direction it's already going."
"My colleagues have been making it easy for me to run up the score," Death stated with finality.
"And the way is paved for much more," said The Proprietor. "Look at this: 'Lawyers at EPA Say It Will Drop Pollution Cases; Looser Rules Will Apply; Shift May Affect Inquiries on Clean Air Violations by 50 Power Plants.' It means more disease and more death right around the corner, all in the name of deregulation. I can't wait till the guy who popularized that term gets here so I can thank him personally. I was looking forward to that movie about him, but CBS canceled it."
"Nobody's perfect but Mom, and she's no fun to go drinking with," War laughed.
"Speaking of Mom, where's that goody twoshoes brother of yours? He's late to pick up our report to the Old Lady," Famine slobbered between swigs of ale.
"Michael always runs a little late whenever we're scoring ahead in the game. He gets the Times, too. The only major front page story in last Thursday's edition not involving our pal Dubya the Dense was about the confession of the Green River Killer," said The Proprietor."It's got to be bugging him."
"That's my department," Pestilence asserted, but The Proprietor showed no amusement as he toasted a marshmallow on his fingernail.
Death had just warmed over a new pitcher of dark beer when a burst of bright light preceded Michael through the moaning front door.
"Evening, Bro," said The Proprietor. "Read last Thursday's Times? We're batting a thousand on you."
"How so?" said the winged adonis, grabbing the paper. "Look here, 'Bush Signs Ban on a Procedure For Abortions.' Not even Death can call that a win."
"Well, you've got to have a little comic relief, even in the Times," said The Proprietor.
"I don't get the joke," Michael groused, his feathers obviously ruffled.
"You never did have a sense of humor," Death pointedly stated as he sharpened his scythe. "How can these preachers think they're accomplishing anything by stopping a few abortions when all of them cop to the concept that every soul is immortal and Death doesn't exist. I'm personally insulted that my work is taken so lightly."
Michael clutched the smoking parchment which had appeared in his hand at a gesture from The Proprietor. "I'll submit your report to Mom, Boss. Just remember what your pal Voltaire said: 'Optimism is a mania for saying things are well when one is in hell.' "
With that, he flew out the door.
"See you next week, Mike," The Proprietor gleefully shouted.
"Be well. Raise hell."
Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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