“TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”
Earl hadn’t expected the alarm call, but then he hadn’t expected to wake up in the gutter of Hetsaw’s historic Main Street either. Life was full of surprises.
“TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”
Peeling his face off of the road Earl dragged his body round to sit on the sidewalk, a hand running over his face to check whether the dull throbbing pain in his head was just the hangover of the result of some hideous wound. No blood, so it was just the drink, which wasn’t exactly a relief but you took what you could get.
“TRUMP! TRUMP! TRUMP!”
The shouting was coming from a group of perhaps fifty people, flags flying and banners waving as they made their way down the street towards him, blocking off midday traffic and earning irritable glares from local storekeepers. Earl didn’t dabble in politics, living largely outside the boundaries of the law and often on a higher plain of existence. The price of gas or who was busy being corrupt up in Washington weren’t really matters that bothered him. The closest he’d come had been a brief and unintentional stint with some militia guys who’d wanted to invade Mexico and set up a new country. That had been nothing more than a night out that had gotten out of hand but they had, for a couple of days, managed to run the entire town of Tijuana as a feudal state. That said anything, or anyone, that stirred him from a comfortable roadside doze though had to be wrong in some way.
Jimmy was nowhere to be seen, which was no surprise. The last thing Earl could remember was watching his brother climbing up the side of the town hall trailing electric cables and ranting about time travel. Chances were he was still up in the clock tower, sleeping one off, but then he might just have gone backwards, or forwards, in time. In which case he’d just have to deal with his own hangover as best he could.
The morning was a clear one, humid but with blue skies and an imposing sun already hanging overhead asserting the realities of the day. Never something to be welcomed, in Earl’s experience, not when there were other far more enjoyable realities to be found at least.
The marching crowd was drawing parallel now, their disjointed wall of sound breaking up from it’s organised battle cry into a confusion of angry, laughing and tired voices. Bleary eyed Earl surveyed the mass of people, looking out for local faces and trying to suppress the vague urge to lash out at the nearest person for sending bolts of pain through his chemically damaged brain. Donald Trump, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, build the wall, the chants meant nothing to him although Earl had met the man once on a rare trip to New York. Him, Jimmy, their father ET and Uncle Waco had been there on family business, a forceful negotiation with some men in bad suits who all had nicknames like ‘Fat Sal’ and ‘Even Fatter Tony’. That wasn’t why they’d run into Trump though, that had been pure coincidence.
As well as the more routine, criminal side of the family business they’d been running an errand for Ma, checking out some occult goings on that she suspected might need kicking into submission by the McCarrick clan. It had come to nothing, unfortunately. Waco and Jimmy had been disappointed seeing as they’d managed to pick up a barrel of napalm in Brooklyn that they’d been eager to experiment with. What was meant to be a dark cabal messing with the fabric of reality turned out to be nothing more than a club for old men, doing lines of coke and wearing lots of black. Teenage Goth stuff re-purposed for bored millionaires. At least one heart attack had been caused when they’d burst into the penthouse suite, a gaudy hotel room elaborately decorated in black velvet and garish gold candle holders. The buffet had been great though and, while ET and Waco generally disapproved, the mountains of cocaine hadn’t gone down too badly. They didn’t have much time to thank their hosts though, not once they’d tied them up and finished making fun of their XXL robes and bullshit notions about black candles and sacrificing goats.
Trump had been one of the men present, although it was only after a few slaps to the reality TV star’s face that Earl realised it. None of the McCarrick’s were big TV watchers and besides, without the wig you’d never have recognised him, especially with the elaborate Zodiac tattoo that covered his bald head. Symbols of power, really great power, the best power, the irritable politician-to-be had told them, although Ma had later said that the most dangerous thing about them was the risk of infection. Either way Earl hadn’t thought much of the encounter until now.
The man was President of the USA, apparently. A nation that no one in the family really thought of as including the Free State of McCarrick but it never hurt to keep an eye on the neighbours. No one who incited people to go out marching when he was hungover should be allowed near power Earl thought, it was just asking for trouble. It was a thought that made him tense his fists, not out of anger, he seldom felt that, but for the sheer sake of doing something. Ma had always warned him against getting involved in this sort of thing, she’d been dead set against politics ever since Cousin Bennett had had the idea to blow up JFK’s head with his psychic powers. It was best, she said, to be philosophical about these things, besides, there was business to do and the bars would be opening soon.
The crowd had mostly passed Earl now, heading off towards the town hall at the top of the street to shout at somebody for some reason he didn’t much care about. He stood up, shaking the cobwebs out of his head and feeling some of his usual serenity seep back in, the universe once again starting to make blissful sense, from his own unique angle. He even smiled a little when, with a sudden streak of flame, Jimmy appeared at one end of the street in a DeLorean and, swerving to keep the car under control, ploughed into the back of the group of protesters, taking half a dozen of them out as he went. Chances were it wasn’t intentional but then Jimmy, unlike his older brother, had recently bucked family tradition and taken an interest in politics. All politics, which was why so far that month alone he’d cycled through Anarchism, Communism, Primitivism, Tribalism, Libertarianism, Feudalism and – for some reason known only to himself – Will Smith Supremacy, a very niche spin off from the Black Supremacist movement. Earl wasn’t exactly sure what he was on today, although as he pulled a neat 180 hand break turn in the middle of the road he did hear Jimmy screaming ‘MAKE HETSAW GREAT AGAIN’.
All things considered it looked like it’d be another beautiful day.
Earl, Jimmy and the McCarrick clan also feature in the novel Crashed America – available in all good realities.