David Diamond was propped up on the couch by the humongous Aiwa sound system. The Velvet Underground's distortion-driven masterpiece, "Sister Ray", blared at ear-splitting volume. He had cut his platinum hair himself so that he looked like an Auschwitz survivor. His eyes were sunken into their sockets and his cheeks were sallow as a corpse. His wraparound sunglasses hid the parchment yellow of his bloodshot eyes.
"Well, well, well,"
David croaked. "If it isn't the Bobbsey Twins. Brenda Starr and Basil St.
John in person."
"We had a great time out
there tonight," Debbie was enthusiastic. "There's so much to see and
do in this town. I don't think we'll be here long enough to see
"That's fine," David
grinned, reminding Mel of a Jolly Roger. "We're in the middle of the
desert. Everything stinks like sweat."
"May have something to do
with your friends," Debbie glanced around at the zombies shuffling around
the room. "I think you need a change of pace. We're taking you with us to
the bazaar tomorrow."
"You and what army?"
David began coughing, then hawked and spat green slime onto the carpet before
lighting a Camel.
"You look like
crap," she said cheerily. "We're taking you out for lunch."
"I don't think it'd hurt
you to skip a few meals," David gave her a once-over. "The show's a
week from now, y'know."
"Yeah, so?" she
patted her tummy. "This dress is size ten. You're the one who needs to get
"I think you weigh more
than I do," David smirked.
"My mother weighs
more than you do," Debbie retorted.
Munson," David peered at her over his shades, "is that you're getting
old. There's nothing you can do about that. I can go pig out and get healthy in
a week. You can't stop being old."
"What was that?" she
asked in disbelief.
"C'mon, Debbie, let's
go," Mel pleaded.
"No, wait, I didn't hear
what you just said," Debbie put her finger behind her ear. "Would you
Mel reached out and held her arm.
"Don't cross me,
Mel," she jerked away from him before turning to David. "What'd you just
"Go out and play with
your boyfriend," David sighed.
"Hey you!" Debbie
yelled over at the scarecrow by the stereo. "Turn that fucking shit
off!" The teen stared back uncomprehendingly. David was pouring himself a
shot of cognac as Debbie wrenched the bottle from his hand and fired it across
the room. It exploded against the Aiwa, and the room became still as the grave.
"Now," she loomed
over him. "I can hear you better."
"I said," David
sneered up at her, "you look like ten pounds of baloney in a five pound
"You come waddling in
here after eating five pounds of pitas, and expect to tell me how to
look?" he chuckled. "Face it, Munson, you're pop rock. I'm punk. You
don't have it anymore. You look like Britney Spears on steroids. You and the
rest of the band. You all look like you're at an office party on stage. I'm the
survivor here. The rest of you are a bunch of sellouts. Posers."
"You're calling me a
"Look at you, Munson. You
got the tits to go around dressed like that? You don't know whether you want to
pose for Playboy or Weight Watchers."
Mel cupped his forehead in
anticipation of a vicious migraine.
"Hey, you," she
said, then reached down and wrenched David's sunglasses off, flinging them
across the room. "Look at me. Fuck you!"
"Gee, Debbie Munson,
you're my hero," David narrowed his eyes.
"I'll go out and get a
gun off one of those ragheads in the hallway, and blow your balls up into your
teeth," she screamed in his face.
"I smell alcohol,"
problem," her lovely features were flushed with anger. "All you do is
sit around here with these hopheads and get fucked up all day. Why don't you go
out and get something to eat, you son of a bitch? You sick fuck, all you do is
talk about people, write your sick fucking songs about everybody else. The
reason why you're so miserable is because you're a no good, skinny-looking
miserable scumbag. Understand?"
"Do you know what a
brontosaurus is?" David turned to Mel.
"Leave him out of
this," Debbie warned him.
"It was an enormous
dinosaur that was so big, it had a brain in its head and a brain in its ass so
it could walk," David informed him.
"Okay," a vein stood
out in Debbie's temple as she started for the door. "You wait here. You
wait right here." The creepy crawlers began making a beeline towards the
door as well, blocking her path.
"I think she's going to
kill me," David sat up eagerly.
At once the door flew open,
and James Lincoln appeared along with six beefy black men and a crowd of
reporters from the Ha'aretz and other Israeli newspapers. They shrank
from the phalanx of the walking dead fleeing the suite, and eventually Lincoln
came in to confront the occupants.
"What in hell is
this?" he demanded. "This is a pig sty!"
"Not until you showed
up," David frowned.
It was at that moment that she
realized what was going on here. This was where David lived. Nearly twenty
years of cramped motel rooms, sleeping in cars, cheese and crackers. He had
done the college circuit as a self-parody, reciting his lyrics with the music
sucked out of them. It hit her in her tummy like a bowling ball. He had done
purgatory for all this time, and now that Lincoln had brought them here, it
wasn't any different. Not for him. He was just hanging on to see if it meant
"Listen to me,"
Lincoln said quietly, trying to remain calm, his $5,000 powder-gray suit giving
him a tentative air of authority. "We need to get a grip on this thing.
There are millions at stake here."
"Okay," she held the
sides of her head, trying to quell the torrent of blood raging through her
temples. "I'm cool, I'll deal with it. Mel?"
She held out her hand, and it
seemed as if he had no choice but to follow her out into the light, some
misplaced Joan of Arc sacrificing herself on the altar of the world press. He
turned to David before coming to her side.
"I won't let you use her
like that," he said tersely.
"If I were you, I
wouldn't either," David agreed.
Debbie Munson emerged into the
hallway as the Jews quietly gathered around. Her face shone as an angel of
light. She seemed translucent in the white dress as she fielded their questions
effortlessly, casually, as if there were nothing at all unusual or strange
about an Irish Catholic woman in her thirties preparing for a punk show in the
Valley of Megiddo under threat of death by militant Islamic groups.
"This'll make you rich
and it'll make me famous," David rose from the couch, an excruciating pain
shooting from his diseased bowels into his cranium.
"But it's not about
us. This story's about her." Lincoln smirked as David tottered to gain his
"We're so close, brother,
so close," Lincoln encouraged him. "Just one more week. Three hours up
there, in and out. The dream of a lifetime. I just need you to hold on,
brother. Hold on."
"It's out of my
hands," David shrugged. "Don't you read the papers? It's Hezbollah,
it's the party of God. And the party's already started."
"If only I'd met her -
met you people - five years ago," Lincoln stared wistfully at the doorway.
"God knows what we might've accomplished."
"Maybe God does
know what we might've done," David flicked his cigarette butt onto the
carpet. "Maybe that's why it's all right here, right now."
The countdown to Armageddon