"Juniper Coolbreeze, New Age Mechanic" by Jon Wesick
As I approached Lexington on the I-95, my Toyota dropped into first gear, sending the engine racing and red-lining the tachometer. I flipped on the emergency blinkers and limped to the exit onto Route 4. I wanted an auto mechanic who shared my values so I passed several garages while ignoring the honking horns and raised fists coming from the dozen or so pickup trucks and SUVs trapped behind me on the two-lane road. Then I saw a sign. “Juniper Coolbreeze, New-Age Mechanic.”
Unlike other garages with their cloying stink of poisonous petrochemicals, this garage greeted me with the sweet odors of burning sage and chamomile tea. As the owner comforted a customer, I examined the seasonal specials on the bulletin board behind the cash register. “Snow Tire Reflexology - $299. Penta Water Radiator Cleanse - $499.” Expensive but, no doubt, worth every penny.
“What seems to be the trouble?” Juniper asked me after ringing up the previous customer.
“It’s my Toyota. I think it’s the transmission.”
I looked him up and down from his denim overalls and chest-length beard to his eyes, the color of the berries he was named after. Here was a man who did not look down on others from the arrogant pinnacle of reductionism and determinism like those allopathic mechanics. Here was a man I could trust. I handed him my keys.
“Ah!” He gave a knowing nod. “Let me take a look.”
The sign by the door said customers weren’t allowed into the garage for insurance reasons so I watched through the window as Juniper Coolbreeze closed his eyes and ran his hands over my Toyota’s hood.
“Your Toyota’s ch’i is unbalanced,” he said on returning to the waiting room. “I recommend placing magnets on your car’s acupuncture points.”
“What will that cost?” I asked.
“$299 for the aftermarket version but I’d recommend going with the original equipment manufacturer. That way you get a twelve-month warranty.”
“Do it!” I handed him my credit card. “And why don’t you throw in a few healing crystals, too?”
I helped myself to a chamomile tea and read an article about vaginal steaming in one of the magazines on the coffee table. An hour later, Juniper Coolbreeze pulled my Toyota out of the garage. I got behind the wheel and turned left onto Route 4 but my car would still not shift out of first gear. I turned around in the parking lot of a math and reading center and took it right back to the garage.
“Do you know about the Law of Attraction?” Juniper Coolbreeze asked after I explained my problem. “The Universe responds to your thoughts. With you sending out all that negative energy, it’s no wonder your car doesn’t work.”
So, thinking positively, I set out once again. I promised to return the following week so Juniper Coolbreeze could install flat-earth software on my GPS receiver.
Lance Frinke, the first high-school student elected President Of The United States, leads the free world while struggling to keep up his algebra grades.
The President, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs huddled around the video feed from the lead Blackhawk helicopter as it maneuvered between the rocky slopes of the Hindu Kush. When he’d learned of Abdullah Benghazi’s probable location, President Lance had dispatched SEAL Team Six on a daring raid to capture or kill the world’s most wanted terrorist. Now, in just minutes, he’d know if he’d sent his brave men into an ambush.
“Time for bed, mister!” Gloria Frinke pushed past the Secret Service and turned off the monitor.
“But mom, we’re just about to eliminate America’s mortal enemy!”
“You and your friends will have plenty of time to play on the weekend but it’s a school night and you need your sleep.”
Conversations stopped as an overweight Asian with hair cut high and tight walked into Mrs. Drudge’s algebra class at Calvin Filmore High School.
“Isn’t that the leader of North Korea?”
“He’s too old to be here.”
“Class!” Mrs. Drudge slapped a yardstick on her desk to get the people’s attention. “I’d like to introduce a transfer student, Kim Jung-un. Please give him a warm, Calvin Filmore welcome.”
Kim Jung-un took a seat behind President Lance and scraped the linoleum as he positioned his chair close to his desk.
“How would you solve this equation?” After writing x2=log(x) on the chalkboard, Mrs. Drudge looked around the room. “Let’s see. Who haven’t I called on lately? How about you, Lance?”
“Um, use the quadratic formula.”
Students laughed. Kim Jung-un raised his hand.
“Mrs. Drudge, at Dear Leader High in the glorious Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, my instructors taught me equations such as this are impossible to solve analytically. Therefore, I would plot y=x2 and y=log(x) and look for the point where the two curves intersect.” Kim Jung-un gave the save smug smile he used after misleading nuclear inspectors.
“Very good, Kim.”
Kim Jung-un used a rubber band to shoot President Lance in the back of the head with a spit wad.
“I hate that guy,” President Lance muttered as he hunched in his seat.
Tiffany Bell stopped at her locker. As she yawned, her cheerleader sweater stretched over her chest highlighting the outline of her ample breasts. It was now or never. Heart hammering like an SOS from a downed F-16 pilot from behind Taliban lines, President Lance approached.
“Um, Tiffany.” President Lance began to sweat under the bulletproof vest the Secret Service made him wear. “I’m having a state dinner for the Congolese ambassador on Saturday and I, uh, wonder if you’d like to come.”
“Would this be a date date?”
“No, it wouldn’t have to be a date or anything!”
“Did you say Saturday?” Tiffany looked at the calendar on her smart phone. “Lance, it’s really sweet of you to ask and all but I promised Kim Jung-un I’d go to the sock hop with him.”
Betsy Lunette watched the scene from behind her coke-bottle glasses and thought, “If only he’d asked me.”
President Lance paged through decade-old college brochures while waiting outside the guidance councilor’s office. The door opened and Betsy Lunette exited.
“Next!” came a voice from inside.
President Lance entered and sat across the desk from Mr. Vole, a tall man with a complexion to color of a fish’s belly.
“And you are?”
“Right!” Vole searched through a pile of papers. “Frinke. Frinke. Ah, here you are.” He read President Lance’s file. “Well, you extracurricular activities are first rate but you’ll never get into a good college with those math grades. Have you considered a career in automotive repair? There’s a great program at Bethesda Tech.”
“Lance, what’s this I hear about you drinking?”
“Dad, it was just a toast for the Congolese ambassador. I would have caused a diplomatic incident if I hadn’t joined in. Okay?”
“You know, I’m getting fed up with your attitude, mister! I’ve lectured you again and again about peer pressure but you just don’t listen. Well, you’re grounded.”
“But dad, the G7 summit is in Helsinki in two days!”
“You should have thought of that before. You may be the President of the United States but I’m still your father and as long as you live in my house, you’ll follow my rules.”
“But this isn’t your house.”
Once President Lance sat down, Principal Blore began.
“I’ve been getting a lot of complaints about you and Syria. Is it true you sent ammunition to the opposition?”
“Bashar al Assad uses nerve gas on his own people!”
“I won’t have Calvin Filmore students engaging in violence!” Blore pounded his desk. “You tell that Syrian opposition that it takes two to tango and if Bashar al Assad uses nerve gas on them, they should just ignore him. I’m giving you two week’s detention.”
President Lance gritted his teeth and made a mental note to ask the National Security Advisor if he could order a nuclear strike on Calvin Filmore High.
“Mr. President!” the Chief of Staff pounded on the bathroom door. “NORAD detected swarms of incoming missiles! We need your decision now!”
“Just a minute.” President Lance turned back to his reflection in the mirror and stared at a pimple the size of Chechnya on his forehead. Oh, why did this have to happen the day before the yearbook photo?
Stories for Misanthropes
The senior partner of Raider, Shakedown, and Troll followed the secretary into the conference room and took a legal pad out of his briefcase while sizing up TrivialCorp’s management team. The bearded engineers in golf shirts were clearly out of their depth.
“My client takes patent infringement very seriously but would consider settling out of court to avoid the inconvenience of a trial. In recognition of your company’s size, he feels a settlement of say,” Jack Raider twirled his eighteen-karat-gold pen, “two million dollars would suffice.”
“That’s an outrage! Those patents are so general that they could apply to any software.”
“Nevertheless, two million is a bargain compared to all you could lose if this went to court.”
Raider savored his success during the elevator ride to the lobby. He specialized in shaking down small companies that couldn’t afford expensive attorneys but today’s victory was easier than expected. He even had time for lunch at Sardi’s. Raider smiled at the receptionist on the way out.
After a martini and medium-rare steak, Jack Raider retrieved his Bentley from the lot and set off toward his next meeting. Traffic on Michigan Avenue was heavier than expected. After a half hour of stop and go, he was treated to a view of a semi’s rear end. “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you,” a sticker said to which someone had added, “Wash me,” written in the grime.
“Come on! Come on!” Raider took out his cell phone to inform the office he was running late.
In his rush, he followed the truck onto a railroad crossing before waiting for it to clear and then the damn thing stopped, trapping his car on the tracks.
Chip Driver indulged his Internet porn addiction from the helm of a Wooburn and Northern locomotive, alternating glances of German gangbang videos on his smart phone with views of the track ahead. An exhilarating cry of joy caught his interest. When he returned his attention, the train was barreling down on a Bentley trapped on the tracks.
The freight train plowed into Jack Raider’s car like, well, a freight train, crumpling sheet metal and smashing the senior partner of Raider, Shakedown, and Troll into meat paste. His partner, Martin Troll, would suffer a stroke during the closed-casket funeral, leaving him drooling, incontinent, and bed-ridden. The remaining partner, Arthur Shakedown, continued to run the business until a deadly box jellyfish stung him during a vacation in Darwin, Australia. Witnesses said you could hear his dying screams all the way in Antarctica.
Brock Hartman removed his hand from Karen something’s thigh to maneuver his Land Cruiser around the switchbacks. She was one of an army of dewy-eyed interns whose career strategy included spending weekend getaways with the boss. Brock took them backpacking in the Cascades because nothing makes a woman remover her panties faster than a demonstration of masculine self-reliance, a trait Brock prided himself on in both his personal and professional life.
While the SUV’s tires slid and caught on the loose gravel, sometimes only inches from a hundred-foot drop, Brock contemplated the loss of the pioneer spirit. As with all social problems, Brock blamed this on the nanny state for allowing lesser humans to avoid personal responsibility. The men who built this great nation didn’t have Social Security and welfare. Brock silently vowed to bring those days back.
“Here we are.” Brock stopped at a deserted lot by the trailhead and set the parking brake. “We have five hours of daylight left. Should give us plenty of time to hike to the campsite.”
He opened the rear hatch and handed Karen the backpack he’d chosen for her. Since she was a novice, he’d kept her load light, packing only dry goods and a sleeping bag. Even though he carried the heavier items, his pack was a lot lighter than in the old days due to modern materials such as carbon fiber. They cost a lot but he could afford it due to the business model he’d implemented at MonoPharmopoly. It was quite simple. His company cornered the market on life-saving drugs and then jacked up the price by a factor of ten.
After a snack, they set off. Soon the trail became a steep climb, gaining two-thousand feet in just two miles. Brock worked up a sweat but the space-age fibers in his shirt wicked the moisture away from his body. Periodically he looked back at the intern. Though struggling with the roots and boulders in the path, she kept up due to her eagerness to please her superior. It was a beautiful afternoon. The air smelled of Christmas trees. The customary rain and overcast had left for their summer vacation, leaving cedar and hemlock under the care of the blue sky. A chipmunk scampered across the trail and a scrub jay swooped like a kamikaze before landing on a Douglas fir’s branch. After three hours, they arrived at a spot by a stream.
“We’ll camp here.” Brock set down his pack.
He had the tent up in minutes. Through years of practice, he’d perfected the process of assembling aluminum tubes, threading fiberglass rods through nylon, and staking the tent firmly in place. Then he stripped off his clothes and waded into the stream.
“Come on in. Water’s great.”
Like a child confronted with a plate of boiled spinach, Karen regarded Brock’s gray pubic hair and sagging belly. She forced a smile, began a reluctant strip tease, and stepped into the cold water. Brock kissed her and led her to a pool behind a granite boulder. There, he enjoyed the feel of her wet, seal-like body next to his as the white water rushed past and a marmot watched from shore.
The sex was disappointing so Brock downed the bourbon in his hip flask to fall asleep early and thus avoid awkward conversation. A stabbing pain in his belly woke him in the darkness. At first, he didn’t know where he was but the smell of nylon and the intern’s dozing form clued him in. God, it hurt! Must have been the freeze-dried chili. When he got back to the office, he’d have his lawyers sue the bastards. In the meantime, he had to breathe through the pain and try to relax. His plan lasted only seconds. The only way to lessen his agony was to lie curled in a ball on his side. The intern rolled into a pool of Brock’s vomit and woke. To her credit, her first concern was for him.
“Are you okay?” Karen shook her boss but the motion only caused him more pain. She took out her cell phone and stared impotently at the notice saying there was no coverage. For the first time in her life, Karen didn’t know what to do.
Brock Hartman was not okay. He had a ruptured appendix, a condition easily cured by simple surgery. Alone in the wilderness except for the company of a helpless girl, the man who’d denied medicine to thousands died in agony for want of a doctor.
For anyone wanting a career in K-pop, having Park Hon-gul as your agent was gold. Kyongju Records signed bands like Bulgogi Boys and Hapkido and Rice on the strength of his name alone. Given his reputation, aspiring musicians would do anything for him to sign them. Anything. One such singer was Sunny Kim.
“Stop!” Park held up a hand to stop Sunny Kin in the middle of a ballad. “I’m late for a meeting. Perhaps we can finish your audition later tonight at my Gangnam penthouse, say around 10:30.”
Park could have had his way with Sunny Kim right there on his office couch but he preferred anticipating the degradations he’d put her through later that night. For him, sex wasn’t about intimacy but power. He liked to see how much humiliation his girls would subject themselves to and then film the results.
Unknown to Park, the impulsive ninny, the ignorant American public had elected as its leader, had finally had enough of North Korea’s adolescent despot and had ordered a “surgical” strike to take out that nation’s nuclear stockpile. In his final moments, North Korea’s leader ordered a massive retaliation, sending dozens of nuclear bombs south of the DMZ. Millions died but relatives of the dead can take some small solace in the fact that Park was one of them.
Awakened by seismic rumblings, the giant reptile rose from his lair at the bottom of Suruga Bay. On breaking the surface, he tossed around fishing boats and Japanese Defense Force destroyers like zucchini at one of those fall festivals where everyone wastes overabundant vegetables in new and creative ways.
“Gojira! Gojira!” tattooed gangsters from Shizuoka’s notorious Yakuza District scattered like, well, people running from a skyscraper-tall reptile. Those who weren’t fast on their feet shared the same fate as the unfortunate deer in Marv Newland’s “Bambi Meets Godzilla.”
The giant reptile rampaged throughout the Yakuza District, skipping rope with bullet trains, stomping brothels and gambling dens, and swatting jet fighters out of the sky. After subduing dozens of crime families, he tore the tank off a water tower, placed it atop a burning warehouse, and added bushels of green tea. Once he brewed his beverage, the giant reptile sat resting his back against Mount Kuno to enjoy the sunset in peace.
Host of San Diego’s Gelato Poetry Series and a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual, Jon Wesick has published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Metal Scratches, Pearl, Slipstream, Space and Time, Tales of the Talisman, and Zahir. The editors of Knot Magazine nominated his story “The Visitor” for a Pushcart Prize. His poem “Meditation Instruction” won the Editor’s Choice Award in the 2016 Spirit First Contest. Another poem “Bread and Circuses” won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest. Jon is author of the poetry collection Words of Power Dances of Freedom as well as several novels.