Situation Room

by Gary Percesepe

Two men in blue serge suits sat roasting at the station. Overhead, an enormous fan turned slowly beneath a constellated sky. Edgar was newly retired from the physics department at the New School. He smoked a briarwood pipe and blew smoke rings through the air, obsessed with a new geometry supple enough to spread malaise evenly through the universe. Brother Allyoop surveyed the passing crowd, pausing to admire portraits of presidents mounted in the Beaux Arts lobby. People and luggage moved swiftly through the station, with the occasional dog. A needle-nosed man in a stovepipe hat gestured up at Orion's belt and remarked, This is America! Content with a progressive tax code and cars with chrome wings, each citizen a locker room of numbskull ideas like perfume in a toothpaste cap. Edgar nodded at the topper and worked his math. Mayonnaise spread like the silent prayer of a Buddhist. From Alleyoop not a bang nor a whimper, more a slow leak of fluid. Alleyoop saluted the stiffening substance dripping from the door hinge of the stationmaster. His cell phone buzzed. It was the president, wanting to speak with Edgar. Have you noticed the mayo, the president said. Edgar allowed as how, well,  yes he had. Just act like nothing's going on, the president said. Edgar handed me the phone. The president repeated, Nothing is happening, you see? Yes, Mr. President, I said. My tongue was flecked with mayo. It roamed north of my lips, and I extended my tongue to capture what I could while holding the phone to my head and nodding to Edgar. The sun travels all day then falls down, Alleyoop whispered in my wet ear. I won't let on, I told the president, even if they torture me. I immediately regretted the word torture, but it was too late for a quick edit. Edgar giggled. A crowd gathered. Allyoop stood to his feet, applauding. Someone started singing Elvira. Edgar supplied the oom poppa, oom poppa, banging his pipe on his shoe. The sudden pressure to act normal never seemed harder. I thought fondly of my washer, a Kenmore newly installed in my basement, beside the dryer. Both of them sporting normal buttons. That helped. We will get through this, I said to the phone.