I had David Brooks somewhere around Pickens when the drugs began to take hold. He was saying something about salami just as he remembered that I’d wooshed him onto an airplane and told him he was driving toward a taco shop in Queens.
Brooks had been heading toward Jackson the entire time and now he knew what was up. He began screaming about hard working riverboats and mint julep mustaches, eyes wide with a New Yorkers vision of William Faulkner.
“Goddamnit, Brooks!” I shouted, throwing a salt shaker of cocaine in his face. “Look! Look at this travesty!” I was shaking a picture of Joseph Stalin in his face and gambling that Brooks didn’t know what William Faulkner looked like.
“STALIN?” David Brooks asked. He was asking the car as much as he was talking to me, and I grabbed the center console, flapping it up and down like a jaw, as though the Oldsmobile itself were speaking to him.
“David, they’ve put statues of this man all over Jackson Mississippi!” I said, trying to sound like a car.
“I’m pretty sure those are of William Faulkner.” He said in a brief moment of clarity before I slapped him across the face with cured meat.
“Soppressata!” He cried, and I assumed he was right about the goddamn tube of pork.
“Bullshit! They’re of Joseph Stalin!” I shouted. “And Jackson has monuments to Stalin all over the city!”
“They fired all the copy editors! None now know truth!” David Brooks shrieked, hands pumping into the air as he lost control of the 98 Oldsmobile Intrigue.
The photographic “evidence” had lit the fire in the New York pundit. He reminded me now of the unstoppable columnist who I’d bamboozled, the one who met every challenging intern and flabbergasted deli goer with withering abrogation.
“I’m doing this for you! You, working car!” He said, petting the console. Relativity was in effect, the past few minutes had gotten us into Jackson, our tiny exchange taking place at a hundred and twenty miles an hour, every thirty seconds he was going a mile and my perception of the distance curled up over my head into space, the city becoming a concrete egg around us with flickering stars high in the sky, David Brooks screaming at the airline pilots.
“You’re fools! Real fools! You ask your bosses to pay you when your work is it’s own reward! You matter! If you didn’t do what you do, someone would notice! Someone would notice!”
I grabbed the wheel and spun us out, smoking tires coming to rest near an apocalyptically lit Applebees. Neon lines dragged across the hood of the Oldsmobile, electric red on baby blue, the award-winning columnist for the New York Times crying in the driver’s seat as I began to pull the briefcase away from him.
The briefcase contained two bags of grass, one fake press pass from PBS NewsHour, 75 pellets of mescaline, a Sidney Award that was supposed to go to Mike Pence, five sheets of high blotter acid, and a real press pass from PBS NewsHour. Moments ago it had contained a salt shaker full of cocaine, but I’d missed and now it was gone.
“They have real values!” He screamed as I wrapped my fingers around his throat. “Applebees is a common workhouse, the place where real America is… isss.”
I squeezed harder, veins in my forearms bulging as I tried to get him to shut up before he claimed an Applebees as American, human, or real. I knew that it was none of those things.
“Stop it!” A voice came from across the parking lot, he was wearing shirt sleeves and pants that seemed to blend into the night.
“Zuckerberg. Mark Fucking Zuckerberg.” I dropped Brooks to the ground. “He can’t prepare them. No one can prepare them.”
“I’ve been in the midwest all day.” Zuckerberg said, casting his gaze toward the sky. It was the color of blood, with clouds like fat bruises leaking toward the horizon.
“Zuck. No.” I said, grabbing my PBS NewsHour press pass from the briefcase.
“I’ve seen what the humans do. What they believe. What they say and see.” He stopped, fists clenching and loosening knuckles white with a hint of something else beneath the skin.
“They don’t understand. You see what happened when you told them the truth.” I indicated the spasming form of David Brooks. “For fuck’s sake, Zuck, look at what you did to the Dilbert guy.”
“THERE IS NO ANSWER TO THE CUBE. I have seen what they EAT, Jerome, I have seen what they do to the cattle and the grass in Iowa.”
It was then I knew that I could flee and live, or send this, my last message. I hope it reaches you in time.