The Age of Aquarius by Peter Angelinos

……I remember when Martin Luther King Jr. got shot. I was sleeping in my beat-up sedan off the side of a dirt road leading into a derelict plantation that faced the Mississippi River. I detuned the radio to one of those channels of endless static and cranked the volume to the maximum because if it wasn’t for the white noise I’d never catch a wink. But it happened to be some ham’s frequency, and he came on sometime in the evening, sobbing so loud it shook the car, wailing about the death of the Reverend, claiming the strike still had to go on, for Larry’s sake, for Echol’s sake, for Robert’s sake, and now for Dr. King’s sake. I hate being woken up that early.

……As I drove to Jackson I listened to the news and pieced together the whole thing. 6:01 pm: King stood on the balcony of Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel when a .30-06 Springfield bullet, fired from a rooming house across the street where prime suspect James Earl Ray was staying, tore through his right cheek, shattered his jaw, crushed his vertebrae, severed his jugular, and rested in his shoulder. His necktie was torn off by the sheer force of the round. No wonder. Ray used a Remington Model 760.

……The Remington Model 760. Now that’s a rifle. Simple. Elegant. It hunts big game. I took one out to Fairbanks one day and loaded it up with spitzers. By the time I was done sending the wildlife to fauna heaven I had killed so much elk, moose, and dall sheep that I figured the grizzlies were gonna starve. I loved that gun. Good on you, James, for choosing such a perfect instrument. Only a gun that powerful could rip a man’s necktie clean off the body.

……I wondered if I could get my hands on Ray’s Remington, but the Memphis Police had probably handed it over to Hoover and the boys, and I was already long gone from Memphis. By then, I had left behind Jackson in the west some hours ago. Besides, the high-beams were reflecting off the rear-view mirrors and blinding me. Soon, I got into Montgomery, and I kept a low profile as I prowled the streets for streetwalkers, looking for my ticket to Vegas.

……I remember the one that got away. I picked her up twenty miles west of Boise.

……“Are you going to Portland?” she asked me.

……“Of course I am,” I said, and she got in. I was excited about this one. I thought it would end beautifully. You have to be pretty desperate to step into a trucker’s cab in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night.

……“Could I change the radio station?” she asked. “Never,” I said.

……I shot down Interstate 84 trying to think of a place I hadn’t been to recently. I figured I couldn’t cross the state line in such a hot vehicle. So just before we reached Snake River I pulled off onto a state highway and drove north. She didn’t like it.

……“What the hell are you doing? Get back on the Interstate. You told me you were going to Portland.”

……“I am,” I said, “I’m just taking a short cut.”

……“What shortcut? All you have to do is follow the Interstate. It’s nearly midnight. There’s no one on the road. You could do a hundred if you wanted to.”

……“Trust me, I know this country like the back of my hand. I’ve seen it all. I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been to the Alabaman bayou, to the Appalachian heights, to the Alaskan wastes—everywhere. I know America. I know where we’re going.”

……“I don’t. Where the hell are you taking me?” “Portland.”

……“Then turn around and get back on the Interstate.” “Look in the glove compartment.”

……“What?”

……“I said, look in the glove compartment. I’ve got a map.” “I don’t see a map. It’s just full of scrap paper.” “That’s my research.”

……“I can’t read it.”

……“That’s because it’s in secret code.”

……I admit that my initial research was just a few inconsequential things I wrote up in cipher, but then I moved up to the one-time pad, until finally I simply used my own code, inspired, of course, by the Akkadians, and their divine astrological wisdom. They talked to me through the radio. They told me that the age of common sense was ending, and that the Democrats were working in secret to usher in a sick new age. Washington sold us out for power. Look what they’ve done in the name of progress. Women are men! Cats are dogs! Black is white! Any fool would know that we have to go back to the values that built this country. Anu can teach you what you already know. All you have to do is tune in to the radio static. Anu will find you. Then you could do research of your own.

……“Oh my god, oh my god,” she whispered, “what the hell is this?”

……“Some people find the later research unpalatable.” “Let me out.”

……“Why? I told you know I know a shortcut. There’s another one coming up, in fact. Didn’t I tell you that I know every inch of highway? Didn’t I tell you about the Alabaman Bayou—”

……By now the high-beams in the side-view were blinding me. I was travelling with only the feel of the road to guide me. But I wasn’t paying attention. Then I heard the distinctive click of a hammer. She had pulled a gun on me. It was a Walther PPK. Starter gun. Light rounds. Good for concealed carry. Not too much recoil. Initially issued to German police, they were infamously issued to German infantry in World War Two. It would be a terrible way to die. There’s not enough firepower in one of those to really tear through a man. It wouldn’t kill you like a carbine would. Oswald used a 6.5x52mm Carcano Model 91/38 to shoot JFK. It was a good shot. One bullet in the back of JFK’s skull and his whole head exploded. I saw the Zapruder stills in Life. What a fantastic way to go. But with the cheap handgun, you’d just collect slugs until you bled out. How unsatisfying. How undignified.

……“I don’t think you know how to use that,” I said, and I slammed down the accelerator. We were doing ninety, maybe even a hundred, outdriving the headlights, in two lanes at once. I call it the highway gambit.

……“Slow down.”

……“If you shoot me, we’ll crash and we’ll both die.”

……I had misread her the whole time though. I thought she’d cry. Instead, she shot at me. The bullet grazed my right shoulder. I was amazed. I slowed down to fifty.

……“Get back on the Interstate.” She was pressed up against the passenger seat as far away from me as possible. “And change the goddamn radio station.”

……I did what I was told. I moved the tuner dial to some local distributor of hippy garbage. By the time we reached the Interstate again, Jim Morrison was wailing about the highway, riding the highway west, riding the snake to the ancient lake, the snake is long, long, long, seven miles, because the west is the best…driver, where are you taking us?

……“See that sign? It says there’s a motel five miles down from here. Let me out there.” “I could have let you out at any time.”

……“I’m not taking my eyes off you for a second unless there are people around. If you try to follow me out of the cab, I’ll shoot in the air and wake everybody up.”

……So I took the ramp off the Interstate and into the parking lot of the motel. This was my only chance left. The last train for Vegas was about to leave, and the afterimage of the high-beams was still burning in my eyes. I’d catch her off-guard once she got out of the cab. But, once she stepped out, she fired in the air and screamed, so I drove out of there as fast as I could, and when I got back on the Interstate I headed back east away from state lines. I slammed my fist into the horn. She was the one who got away. I’ll never forget her.

……I remember when Bobby Kennedy was shot. I was driving a red 1965 Plymouth Valiant up to New York and I picked up a hitchhiker with a beautiful Rolex on I-95 just an hour northeast of Baltimore. He loved to talk.

……“The thing that these kids will never understand is personal responsibility. Oh, it’s all free love, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll now, but once their parents are sick of paying for their depravity, it’s all going to change. As if the world is all fun and games. They’re just the spoiled kids of rich idiots who voted Democrat because Nancy from the country club told them to. All that Great Society talk. It sounds so good until you realize what it means. It means blue-collar America has to pay out the nose. Again. It means they’re gonna let the communists take over and run the

……Hollywood propaganda machine. Again. It means miscegenation. Never. We can’t’ let that happen. We have to keep our white communities pure. Haven’t you read the Federalist Papers? The Fourteen Words are all but present. You just have to know where to look.”

……I had the radio set to the news so I could pick up bits and pieces of murder reports. You get a lot of those out here. That’s why I love driving through Jersey. Around three-thirty in the morning the radio was broadcasting breaking news: Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.

……“They killed Bobby Kennedy too?” said the hitchhiker. “Oh god, I’ve never been happier.

……There’s another Kennedy bastard who doesn’t know how to put in a good day’s work. Have you ever heard of a Kennedy doing honest, American, labor? Of course not. They get rich smuggling booze in and out of the country and then they come home to Washington to roost and get fat off the pork barrel.”

……“Shut up a bit, will you? I’m trying to hear how they shot him. I bet it was a real big gun.

……Maybe it was a .308 Winchester or something. That thing could tear out your heart. What a beautiful way to go.”

……“Who cares how he died? We killed him, didn’t we? Finally, we’ve killed all the perverts.

……We got JFK. We got MLK. We got RFK. And soon we’ll get LBJ too. You ever notice that these scumbags barely even have names? They hide behind their initials as they shove civil rights down our throats. The Dems used to be my party, but once they got taken over by the progressive elites I switched to the Republicans. I voted for Goldwater. I barely believe it myself. My dad nearly gave his life to the union, and here I am voting against the party of the working class. But that’s what the Dems get for sacrificing white America on the altar of guilt. I’m glad we’ve killed them all. It’s time we went back to the old ways. Nixon is running again. You remember him? Ike’s VP. Good guy. He’ll set us straight again.”

……I slowly turned up the radio louder and louder, but the hitchhiker just kept raising his voice. I strained to hear more about the assassination. I just wanted to know how they killed him. The high-beams were blinding me again. I was on the plateau now. All I needed was a little push to reach the peak. I was hoping the assassin was a real monster, something like Charles Bronson crossed with Paul Bunyan. But no, it was a little man named Sirhan Sirhan. Worst of all, he did it with a measly .22 revolver. I was disgusted, but the high-beams were still burning, and I had to finish somehow. So I pulled off onto a state highway and then a deserted country road. The hitchhiker didn’t notice. He was too busy talking. I stopped the car, walked around to the passenger seat, pulled him out by the collar, and tossed him into the ditch.

……This is where the real fun begins. This is my favourite part. This is the thing that makes me feel like I’m driving into Vegas in a Mustang Convertible with Marilyn Monroe hanging off my arm. I’m doing a hundred flat and the Nevada troopers know not to stop me, because I’m the biggest, baddest, high roller there ever was. I walk into the Flamingo and the crowd gasps. I hit the poker table. Nick the Greek himself sits at my right hand, hoping to catch scraps from my table, while I kick back with my feet up and puff my cigar like I was Saint Rockefeller himself.

……Read ‘em and weep, boys. Royal flush.

……I hit the craps table and roll sevens every time. I put all my money on black at roulette and I double up. The blackjack dealer breaks down, because I hit on a twenty and I get an ace. The one arm bandit is taunting me, so I pull down so hard I tear off the handle. Lucky sevens!

……I’m on a roll.

……But the best game in Vegas is the burlesque show. I’ve never seen legs kick so high. And the final act is a real showstopper. Here it is now. There, in the pink Chanel suit, it’s Betty Boop, riding in the saddle of the atom bomb. She has it gripped by the ponytail, and with her other hand she waves around her pillbox like a cowboy hat. She’s cresting the rainbow now, and for one perfect second she seems to float in the air, until she falls and the missile tip hits the leprechaun right between the eyes. The pot of gold explodes, and one doubloon lands right next to me, so I stand up on the table and give it a quick bite. It’s real! The crowd goes wild.

……But you can’t stay in Vegas forever. I was back in the Plymouth somewhere in Jersey again. I had a fancy new watch. I wiped my hands on the wheel and got back to driving. The high-beams were in full force. I couldn’t see a thing. I loved it. It made me feel like God himself, blinded by the strength of my own will, off to some new Gomorrah, with my wicked seraphim in tow.

 

 

PETER ANGELINOS is a student of mathematics at the University of Toronto. He is an avid guitar player and has recently been learning how to play piano. He is approximately 60% water, by weight.