By John F. Di Leo -
Introduction: Imagine, if you will, an alternate universe in which a confused old man – Joe Buckstop – stumbles into the presidency, and spends his entire term in his basement. Each evening, an aide walks downstairs and serves him his evening snack, and engages him in conversation about current events, in a losing effort to keep the old man's mind somewhat sound. Tonight's episode is an excerpt from the ongoing series, "Evening Soup with Basement Joe," by John F. Di Leo, a fictional chronicle of the events of 2021, a political satire available in paperback or eBook from Amazon.
"Good evening, sir… may I come in?"
"Who wants to know?"
"Jackson Van Buren, sir."
"I have your ice cream, sir."
"Come on, man! How dare you take my ice cream!"
"I didn't TAKE it, sir. Your cook asked me to bring it down for her, sir. Remember how this works, sir?"
"No. Should I?"
"The more we talk about it, sir, the more quickly it'll melt. May I come in?"
"Huh? Oh. Right. Stop wasting time."
"Me? Oh brother… Here we go, sir, I'm on my way. Let's see now…. here it is."
"Mmmm… what's this?"
"Peppermint sundae, sir. Peppermint stick ice cream, chocolate sauce, peppermint stick candy… man… you're gonna send your dentist's kids to college if you keep eating like this, sir."
"College? College should be free!"
"And sausage/pepperoni pan pizza should have zero calories, sir. Both ideas are true in fantasyland, sir."
"Huh? What's that?"
"Oh, never mind, sir. Having a good day, sir?"
"Sure, sure… feeling a little run down. Kind of a tiring week. Been working hard."
"Have you now, sir. Well, this sundae should give you some energy, sir. There's enough sugar in here to power a Brazilian car."
"How man cars are a brazilian? I always lose track after a million. Let's see… million, billion, brazilian?"
"You're, umm… you're kidding me, sir, right?"
"Mmmm… this is good. Tasty ice cream. It's like… uhhh… it's like those candies on the Christmas tree."
"When I was a boy in Scranton… don't know if you knew this, but I'm from Scranton. Scranton boy. Grew up in Scranton. Long time ago now…"
"Nothing, sir. You were talking."
"About Scranton, sir."
"What about Scranton?"
"I assume you were going to say that this sundae reminds you of the candy you had at Christmastime in your youth, sir."
"In Scranton, sir?"
"Right! That's right! how'd you know? Are you from Scranton too?"
"No, sir. I'm from here. Grew up in Delaware, been building fences here all my life, sir. Chain link, wood blank, picket, wrought iron, all kinds of fences, sir."
"Well, I'm proud of my work, sir."
"I put in my 8 hours every day and I look back at what I've done, and know that I've accomplished something, sir. A lot to be said for that, sir. Tangible, you know?"
"Oh. If you say so. Must be tiring."
"Not necessarily, sir. Except when things go wrong. A couple times this fall, we've been working on the weekend… one time here, on this job… your fence… and we ran out of fuel for the equipment, and had to drive all over town for fuel because they were out."
"Out of what?"
"Out of fuel, sir. On weekends, sometimes, we find we have to drive around more – or call around more – these days, to find a station that has what we need."
"Energy, sir. Some of our equipment runs on diesel fuel, some machines run on propane, it depends on the equipment, sir."
"The equipment we use to do our work, sir."
"To do our job, sir."
"You lying dog faced pony soldier! You don't need any of that to do this job! You just walk down the stairs with a dish of ice cream! You don't need diesel fuel or propane to do that!"
"That's not my job, sir. I'm installing a fence outside your house, sir. I just bring down your ice cream to help out your cook. Her knee hurts, remember?"
"Yes, sir. I'm here all day working on your fence, Digging post holes, installing posts and panels, running the wire for the electricity…"
"Electricity? You're putting in an electrified fence? Cool!"
"No, sir, it's not for electrocuting trespassers, sir. It's for surveillance systems, things like that, sir. That requires the installation of wiring, of sensors, of cameras, things like that, sir."
"Oh. This is good ice cream. I could get used to this."
"Don't get too used to it, sir, it requires refrigeration. And with your policies, you'll be sharing the same rolling blackouts as the rest of us soon."
"Don't you talk like that around me!"
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
"We're not trying to keep the blacks out on my watch!"
"Uhh… rolling blackouts, sir. Rolling blackouts. It means the electric grid is unable to supply an area because the power supply is insufficient for demand, sir."
"Come on, man! Speak English!"
"It means that everybody needs energy, and there isn't as much available as we need, sir."
"You may as well be speaking Chinese."
"If we were speaking Chinese, sir, we wouldn't be shutting down our coal plants and creating unnecessary blackouts, sir."
"The regime's policy, sir, is to shut down energy production, bit by bit, month by month, sir. What do you think that does? When you shut down pipelines, shut down drilling, regulate coal plants out of existence, there's not going to be any power left, sir!"
"Sir, you know those little outlets in the wall? In the rectangular boxes?"
"Don't talk to me like I'm an idiot, you pony soldier you! I know what a power outlet is! That's where the electricity comes from!"
"Well, sir, that's the thing… it's NOT where the electricity comes from. It's where it's sent, from a power station, from a power plant, far away, sir. The electricity comes FROM somewhere, sir. It can't be in your outlet, for your computer or floor lamp or radio to use, unless it's produced, sir."
"I know that!"
"Well, sir, then … why do you keep shutting down power sources?"
"We're replacing them, we're not shutting them down! We're building windmills! We're installing solar panels!"
"Do you know how many windmills and solar panels it takes to produce the energy that it took to make, deliver, install and operate those very same windmills and solar panels?"
"It's actually a trick question, sir. It can't be answered, because the vast majority of the windmills and solar panels we have in America will never produce as much energy as was expended in their production, delivery, and installation, sir."
"I don't understand."
"It's really very simple, sir. The more you move America away from petroleum, natural gas, coal, and nuclear, the more blackouts we will have, sir."
"It's a technical term, sir. It has nothing to do with race. A blackout is a technical term."
"Well, then, what does it mean?"
"Well, basically, sir, it means that Democrats have gotten control of the regulatory apparatus, sir."
"Come on, man!"
"You can word it any way you want, sir, but that's the upshot of it, sir. We have shortages of oil and oil products because you keep writing executive orders taking pipelines out of service and banning oil exploration and drilling, sir."
"I do not! I did no such thing!"
"Sir, I don't mean to be disrespectful, but those EOs you keep signing are causing fuel prices to skyrocket and availability to plummet, sir."
"I did not!"
"Sir, I saw you on TV at the signing ceremony for the one about Keystone, sir, and…"
"I only signed them! You said I wrote them! Don't blame me! I don't write these things!"
"Ummm…. then… why do you sign them, sir?"
"I only sign what the boss says to sign!"
"Shouldn't you be the boss, sir?"
"Come on, man!"
"Oh. Well, sir, look… I'm just a construction worker… I guess I don't speak the language of the Beltway, sir… all I know is, it's going to be a very cold winter, and a lot of businesses are probably going to fail, and lot of people are going to be miserable, because of these policies, sir."
"Your policies, sir."
"Oh, I don't have a policy anymore."
"I beg your pardon, sir? We've just been discussing…"
"No, I used to have a policy, but it expired, and now I'm too old to qualify for one."
"Umm, sir, I wasn't talking about life insurance policies, sir…"
"Yeah, the last time I tried to buy one… oh, it was years ago now… the insurance salesman just laughed, and laughed, and laughed…."
…end of transmission…
John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based transportation and trade compliance professional, writer and actor. A one-time political activist and former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, his columns have been published by Illinois Review since 2009.
John's first book, a collection of his short stories about voting fraud originally run in Illinois Review, is available on Amazon under the title "The Tales of Little Pavel."
Also available on Amazon is the first volume of his new fiction series from Free State West Publishing, "Evening Soup with Basement Joe," a political satire, set in a parallel universe not quite identical to the Earth of 2021… in which a confused, crooked old man becomes president, and a young aide brings down his nightly bowl of soup and engages him in conversation, in a losing battle to restrain the onset of dementia. Volume One covers the first ninety days of this strange new world. Stay tuned for Volumes Two and Three, coming soon!
Don't miss an article! Use the free tool in the margin to sign up for Illinois Review's free email notification service, so you always know when Illinois Review publishes new content!