the helicopters over Tacoma

by dm gillis

Her name was Thelma, which wasn’t her fault — her parents were Scientologists. We’d met on Cougarpit.com, a web-based dating service for women of a certain age playing the field, the ones too young to be called geriatric, but too old for the hot sweaty hyena sex they’d once enjoyed in their youth.

And when they say opposites attract, I guess they’re right. She was American and a Republican. I was Canadian, and believed politics of any kind was just a Falangist confidence trick played on the willfully stupid. But there was still something about her that attracted me. I was a dope.

She lived in an American Beauty doublewide trailer, on a lot just outside of Tacoma – a bedroom community of stormy boudoir secrets and pitiless drivers. To her the doublewide wasn’t just a trailer, though. To her it was a tastefully appointed manufactured home. Never mind the molded plastic textures and the Gestetner Cyclographed wood grains.

She lived there with her dog, George W Bush. Thelma thought her pet’s namesake had been the greatest president in American history. George W Bush, the dog, however, was a clinically depressed Chihuahua, with massive, spherical brown eyes, far too large for his face. They made him look like a deep sea submersible, something Jacques Cousteau would take down to the bottom of the mid oceanic ridge. And though I’m not a fan of the breed, I at first had empathy for the mutt.

He’d been bought during a six month period a few years previously when Chihuahuas were considered chic. When women went shopping with them poking out of their Louis Vuitton bags. It was never cute or glamorous, however. It was an obvious form of animal cruelty. PETA should have been mobilised. And who knew what small surprises the little critters were leaving behind in their mistress’s designer bags.

Now George W Bush was out of fashion and ripe to be euthanized. He spent his days despondently sniffing at his food and biting his toe nails.

It wasn’t long after we exchanged email addresses that Thelma and I began making border crossings to further our liaison. I’m still not sure what I saw in her. She had a great ass, sure, and these crazy little Cyndi Lauper breasts. But a forensic psychiatrist once described me as lugubriously self-destructive. Maybe that’s what it came down to. And really, wasn’t that what every woman was looking for in a man?

In time, the relationship arrived at that special place where all romantic relationships end up. There I was, a 47 year old widely published award winning writer, doing her monkey work – carrying her multiple Saturday afternoon shopping mall purchases, repairing broken pieces of her shoddily finished manufactured home and taking her Lexus in for extended warranty mandated servicing.

This should have been a warning for me to stay home in Canada, to obliterate all history of my presence on the internet and hide deep in some abandoned basement. But I didn’t. I just grotesquely tripped along like some sucker for love.

In 2014, the Texas Republican State Convention was held in Fort Worth from June 5-7. Thelma had a perverse appetite for travelling to different Republican state conventions every year, and Texas was her choice for 2014. The real W was going to be there. This made her a little too excited to contain.

At first, when she informed me of this, I had nightmarish visions of a southern American city filled with right-wing nut bars. I witnessed, in my mind’s eye, the demented but good natured hijinks of Republican conventioneers, the violent imposition of temporary open-carry laws and the instigation of a three day long race war within the precincts of Fort Worth. Then I thought of all of the working girls and rent boys they’d have to fly in, all of the erotic rosé enemas. And then I decided I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Then one evening, I received a text –

I need you to take care of George W Bush, Thelma’s message read.

W? I thumbed. Why?

Don’t call him W. I hate that.

Okay, but what’s up?

I arranged the final details of my trip to Fort Worth today, Thelma texted. I leave the day after tomorrow. Finding someone to take care of George W Bush is the last detail.

Okay, I typed back. Send him up, UPS prepaid. I have a Studebaker up on blocks in the backyard. He can stay in there. I’ll let him out occasionally to question the foundations of his K-9 existence.

LOL, Thelma texted back. No, you’ll have to come down here.

(I hate LOL. She obviously doubted my sincerity.)

Really? I wrote. That’s awkward. I’m just in the middle of writing an opinion piece for Guns & Ammo, and I’m getting into the crux of it now – how the gun lobby resembles too many evil clowns in too small of a car, each of them farting with the windows up. I may be at it for another week. I can’t just stop to look after a suicidal Chihuahua.

You’re not writing anything for Guns & Ammo. (She was right.) And don’t call George W Bush a suicidal Chihuahua. You just don’t understand him.

She was right again, in so many ways.

So I crossed the border once more, headed for Tacoma. The US Customs and Border Protection boys and girls were getting to know me by now. They no longer saw my dilapidated ‘69 VW Bus as an excuse to search my body cavities. That saved a lot of time.

Later, it was just me and George W Bush in Thelma’s Lexus, after driving her to the airport. He sat shotgun most of the way home, staring at the radio’s glowing LCD, and occasionally sighing very deeply. I stroked his head once, and he escaped into the backseat. There were some gagging noises back there, and at a red light I turned round to make sure he was still alive. He was, lying next to a lumpy wad of dog puke. He seemed to smile.

“That’s just wrong, W,” I said.

He looked away with an elegant distain which for any other dog would have been impossible, especially lying next to a heap of regurgitated Alpo.

I took him inside when we arrived back at the American Beauty, and he disappeared. That was fine by me. He was starting to have microwave oven written all over him.

I took off my boots, the way Thelma had always insisted, and then I texted her –

George W Bush just puked in your Lexus.

On the leather? she replied.

And all over the distinctive synthetic Berber.

Don’t make fun, she texted. He suffers from separation anxiety.

I’m not cleaning up Bush’s mess, I texted back.

Someone has to.

I’ll hire a professional. There must be someone out there who’ll mop up after dirty little ex-presidents.

I ended it there.

Shortly after, I noticed a light flashing through the kitchen window. I looked out and saw a dark SUV stop, and the pull away. It was odd. But America was the land of the strange. So, I thought nothing more about it.

In the den Thelma had a seizure inducing 102 inch 4K screen, hooked up to a satellite box. It was an Orwellian monstrosity that made Geraldo Rivera look like a mustachioed Nicolae Ceaușescu denouncing the intelligentsia. Thelma called it a TV.

After surfing a while, I was able to find a channel showing a panel discussion with Noam Chomsky discussing Stephen Harper’s abhorrent attraction to kittens. It was the sort of lefty chatter that sucked the life out of the viewer, and made any socialistic alternative to the proto-fascist Government of Canada seem hideously unappealing.

I changed the channel to an all Mexican professional wrestling station, and for a while, watched muscular masked men simulate consensual anal sex.

At 7pm, I called a Tacoma dealer I knew named Dicky. Dicky’s shit was always better than the commercially available stuff, and he made house calls for a nominal fee. He split after he’d sold me a bag and we’d smoked a fatty. Then I poked around for some booze. Thelma was a Jack Daniels fan. Maybe that’s what I liked about her. But all I found was a massive jug of Baileys Irish Cream, the stuff that hangovers are made of. It was in the broom closet behind a large blue bottle of something called Febreze Pet Odor Eliminator. It smelled like an offshoot of counter-Iraqi chemical weapons research. I replaced it gingerly back on the shelf after I snagged the booze.

The Baileys would work just fine, in lieu of anything else. Besides, Dicky had fronted me some microdot on a trial basis. I hoped it might take the edge off of the gummy effect of the petroleum based liqueur.

I sat down in front of the large screen in the den and began to watch topless women’s roller derby. It was the Puyallup Pugilists against the Wenatchee Steamroller. I had mocked and done without television for a couple of decades. Maybe I was wrong.

About 9:00pm, the acid began to kick in, and I was beginning to have a new appreciation of the 4K screen. The 2160p resolution was reaching out to me like the guiding hand of a personal saviour. The colours were pure spectral mysticism and the moving images, God-like.

The topless roller derby was over and the Women’s World Championship Finals of Mud Wrestling had begun. I poured a ceramic Venti Starbucks cup full of Baileys, lit a joint and began to realise just what a paradise American suburban life, with all of its crappy, mind numbing accoutrements, could be.

About 9:45pm, I noticed the lights flashing in through the windows in the den. I looked out and saw another couple of dark SUVs. They paused for a moment and then drove away. I figured it was schools kids.

Around 10:15pm, I remembered George W Bush. By now he must have needed to get out for a whiz. When I found the little varmint, he was in Thelma’s bedroom, chewing on my boots. My classic $400 Dayton Black Beauty boots, made in east Vancouver, a few blocks away from where I’d grown up. Not only that, but he had shit on the Gucci bedspread Thelma had bought in the Tijuana duty-free.

Again, he seemed to smile.

I pick the little shit up and tossed him out the front door.

“Don’t get eaten by coyotes,” I said, and shut him out.

Then I texted Thelma again –

I’m going to kill George W Bush.

It took her a minute to get back to me.

Why, she replied. What’s wrong?

He’s a depraved abomination, I thumbed. The drugs and booze were enhancing my already profuse eloquence. He’s a curse on the world. A hound of hellDeath I say. Death to George W Bush!!!

Just calm down, honey, Thelma texted back.

I won’t. I’m on a mission. He will not survive the night!

I threw my iPhone into the sink. The challenge now would be finding my inner Chihuahua-slayer. I began to experience self-doubt. The animal needed to die, that much was certain. But maybe I wasn’t the one to do it.

I picked up a butcher knife from out of the sink, and stared at it. Maybe there was a vet in town, a Chihuahua Dr Kevorkian running a clinic of no return for little Gucci crapping, Dayton chewing curs. I’d wait until tomorrow to find out. It was probably as easy as taking a number and waiting with W on my lap, while we listened to dreadful Mariah Carey tunes over a speaker in the ceiling.

Then there were more lights flashing through the windows and the sound of many helicopters. I looked out a window and was immediately blinded. Then there was a megaphone announcement —

“To the occupants of the trailer. Come out with your hands up. This is the FBI.”

The FBI? Surely the FBI would know it was a manufactured home, not a trailer.

I heard my iPhone ring in the sink, and I answered.

“Hello?”

“Mr Meeks?”

Meeks. That was me. “Yes?”

“This is Special Agent Wilma Flint.”

“Wilma Flint? Is this for real?”

“I know, I know,” said Special Agent Wilma Flint. “Just try to stay with me on this. I have someone on the line who’d like to talk to you.”

“Hello?” It was Thelma. “Reggie, is that you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“They think you’re going to kill George W Bush, Reggie. They’ve been monitoring everyone’s phone calls and texts at the convention. I tried to explain, but they won’t understand.”

“No!” I said. “I’m not going to kill him, after all. I’ve discovered I don’t have have the stomach for it.”

“Well that’s good,” Thelma said. “Just tell them.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve decided to have a vet snuff the fucker.”

“A veteran?” Wilma Flint cut in.

“No, a veterinarian. Someone in Tacoma.”

“You’re going to have a veterinarian assassinate President Bush?”

Just then the door came crashing in, and I was wrestled to the ground by a herd of muscular masked men who I’d hoped, in my stoned sate, knew that any simulated anal sex would not be consensual.

The rest was a blur of knees, fists and handcuffs.

When I awoke the next day in the detention camp on foreign soil, I was informed that I wouldn’t have my day in court and that I would probably die there of old age. But the pleasant accommodation and lack of Mariah Carey tunes eventually made up for the inconvenience, and the discomfort of the enhanced interrogation techniques. And there were sing-a-longs in the cafeteria of Friday nights.

I understood Thelma had been placed on the women’s side. But George W Bush, the dog, had been placed with some happy family by a rescue agency. I hoped he didn’t choke on a milk-bone.

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