What kind of threat can bring our divided America together again?
Rats! Giant rats! Millions of giant rats!
The Duck n’ Fishes
The proprietor and bartender, Shannon was a good listener, up to a point. She had her limits. Her ‘limit’ on this Friday was when Al Nichol wanted to show off his new gun while he was drinking inside her quiet bar.
“I know that clown!” said war vet and helicopter pilot, Al Nichol, who was looking across the bar at the front page of Ken’s newspaper. “Wishy-washy stupid jerk!” Ken was a ponytailed old hippie who demonstrated against the same war.
“The Umberto Vaguerro that I know is a straight-up guy,” said old hippie, Ken.
“It says that Umberto is a painter,” said Ken Robby who had spread the Los Angeles News out upon the bar. “Sorry, pal,” said Al. “Umberto sounds kinda Artsy-fartsy? What does he paint? Protest posters, I bet … when he’s not busy raising crab lice over at Spahn Ranch with Timothy Leary and the Manson girls.”
Ken looked suspiciously at loudmouth Al and quietly shook his head. “No. Umberto paints houses, shrapnel brain.”
“I’m sorry, did I disturb your happening?” said Al. “Go ahead, look out the window. It’s a real love-in on the street today. All of that traffic and nobody seems to be upset. Why aren’t they honking? Those people out there are like lambs on their way to slaughter. THIS is a bigger problem than the incense shortage in Haight-Ashbury! Look at all of them. PITA people!”
“The animal rights group PETA?”
“No! The initials are P-I-T-A, for Pains In The Ass! Have you noticed how many show up on Fridays? They’ve got a plan.”
“I haven’t heard anyone mention Timothy Leary since 1969. What’s the ‘plan?’”
“Wanna see my new toy? Check this out. I’ve got a .44 Magnum, the most powerful…”
Shannon sprang into action and pounded the bar in front of Al’s face. “Put that damned thing away!” She froze him with her ice blue eyes, finally saying, “I think that you need to stand in the corner and think about what you just did.”
“Sorry, ma’am. I’ll never bring it in here again. But you never know when you’ll need one.” Ken let out a sigh of relief as he watched Al slip the gun back into his jacket pocket.
Both men lived around the corner from the Duck n’ Fishes.
Shannon, was scrappy enough to take on any shenanigans that might happen on her watch. Shannon was on edge trying to give up her lifelong smoking habit.
A line cars had been at a stand still in front of the Duck ‘n Fishes for over a half hour.
“Listen.” Al said to Ken. “We’re both Americans. I know we don’t agree on much, but I believe that we are all in great danger. I think that you know what I know and information like that puts us right at the top of their hit list.”
Ken asked, “Who’s hit list?” emphasizing the syllable ‘belch.’ Ken was trying to steady his nerves with a beer and the newspaper after having sat, for over two hours, in the same Los Angeles traffic Hell outside the bar’s door. He noticed the lack of traffic noise outside. The quiet was … odd.
“Liberal sheep,” said Al. “ I’ve seen you stuck out there on the 405 on Fridays. Sure. I’ve seen your VW van from the air. The rolling pot bordello with the peace sign on the Kremlin-red roof.”
“My mother used to call it my ‘whore house on wheels.’Mr. Nichol, I agree with you — about there being some kind of organized group behind the phenominomin.. phenomenum.”
“You’re not supposed to agree with me, long hair. What are you getting at?”
“Normally, I’d call you a paranoid redneck, but I’ve seen them too. The extra cars. The vermin,” Ken said while pointing to the solid lines of cars outside, “I’ve seen them coming out of their lairs. It seems that we’ve got giant rats, of all things, running an upholstery shop in Tijuana. And I do think that it’s odd that the News put the ‘tar’ story right under the ‘rat’ story. Tar may be the reason that they’ve been driven out of the tunnels.”
“Let me see that.” Al took the paper from Ken’s hand and read the headline. “Now, THIS is a freaky groove, man. Maybe the rats are being forced out of their hiding places.”
Headline: La Brea Tar Spilling into LA River
La Brea, Los Angeles, 6 a.m. December 12, 2012
Tar is appearing in the Los Angeles River channel from the area near the La Brea tar pits. Large black streams have traveled downstream between Marvin and La Cienega. There are a tangle of drains, with overflows built into them … A few very large drains have an outlet at Fairfax and La Cienega, bringing in flows from as far north as West Hollywood. There are still active oil wells in this zone, so it is fair to speculate that there…
“It seems like thousands of them lie in wait in the tunnels until Friday morning arrives,” said Al.
“You may think that I have granola for brains, sir, but the reason I mentioned the tunnels was, one morning, when I couldn’t sleep…”
“I had you pegged for snotty muesli,” replied Al.
Ken continued: “Ha ha…So I went out for an early breakfast and as I drove by the river bed near La Brea, I saw cars pouring out of the portal near Slauson. This was at 4 a.m. I thought that I was still hallucin…dreaming.”
Ken worked from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., six days a week as a security guard for Worldwide Awake Security. He drove from Santa Monica to Downtown and back nearly every day.
“You live over on Cowan, right?” asked Al.
“Yeah. The green house,” said Ken.
“I’ll tell you a little story. You’ll probably think that my head is full of shrapnel. It’s possible. I was a pilot in Iraq, and now I pilot a traffic helicopter. They want to replace me with a drone.”
Al was employed as a pilot for KHLA Traffic Helicopter Watch, though was now on administrative leave because of his alcoholism and violent tendencies. Last month Al had been filmed by police below dropping beer bottles on cars near Pasadena at sunup.
“It wasn’t like I was dropping bottles on real people. I felt as though I was dropping them on the silly rodents that I’ve seen scurrying out of the tunnels in the river bed. These Friday commuters are like rats.”
Ken slid over one barstool next to Al so that his old ears could hear the pilot better.
Al still had some gumption unlike Ken whose only exercise these days was pressing his right foot into the gas pedal. Ken relaxed at the Duck n’ Fishes every afternoon. He would sit for hours looking and dreaming over the blue-eyed owner, Shannon, behind the bar.
“I used to fly over this mess nearly every day,” said Al.
A sharp jolt shook the bar. They all felt the earthquake though no one flinched. Just a typical day in LA.
The two old men never really spoke about their mutual experience with the extra ‘PITA’ (Pains-In-The-Ass) people before today. Though at politically opposite poles, they both had a similar gut feeling about Fridays, that others would seem irrational. The scope of the problem would go far beyond their political disagreements. Al Nichol felt it was time to befriend Ken Rodby because he felt that their great city and all their lives were in grave danger. Ken’s blood pressure was sky high. He was the kind of personality that held it in. Always held it in.
The PITAs came from beneath the Freeways and waited for the clueless humans to reach their ‘bursting point’ while stuck in traffic. The Pitas wanted them to have coronaries. Afterward, shielded from view within the immobile parking lot called the 405, they would gnaw on the human corpses as Friday night descended.