At FARGO PARADISO

Written by Tony Fragale and Jack McCoy

 

I’m not tired.

 

Been three days.

 

At Fargo Paradiso again counting the glasses on the bar.

 

Anti-smoking laws don't matter here. It drifts up and around, swirling through the air like the lack of laughter. Just drunken moaning.

 

Guy gets in a fight with the bartender twenty feet away from me. Guy yells about his mortgage. Bartender knocks him out with one. Drags him out back. Pours water on his face. Laughs. Pours me Jameson. Never drank before. Thought I should start before I became an alcoholic. It’s inevitable, right?

 

I have a separate set of goals with life. Most people dream, I just try my best to accept the inevitable.

 

Stocks are up.

 

Suppose I shouldn’t be so pessimistic.

 

Global warming’s still there. Don’t like that. Nope. Not very much.

 

TV ads show robots. They’re inevitable too.

 

I watched the Terminator with my brother when I was five.

 

Dad thought it was possible. Not inevitable. Skynet.

 

He read The Pale Horse fifteen times over the course of the next fifteen years. Then cardiac arrest.

 

I was arrested a year ago for speeding. 110 in a 25.

 

Here it’s out of the ordinary to get pulled over in a school zone.

 

But there I was, sitting in the car as all the fuckin’ preteens walked by and pointed. The officer asked me if I knew I was speeding. Instead of owning up to it and taking whatever fine he was going to give me I just spit at him.

 

I  wasn’t  angry, but I felt that if you go 110 in a school zone you know what you’re doing. He asked if I was drunk. I said someone was.

 

“Are you, officer, intoxicated right now? Do you know your civil liberties?”

 

He said he did. Three days in the can. License taken away, and not even a phone call allowed.

 

When I was out my brother picked me up. Hadn’t seen him in awhile. Haven’t seen him since. Still chasing the crash.

 

It is my first week back. Haven’t seen him yet. Hoping he sticks his neck out by Paradise.

 

It’s a Wednesday. Thought it was a Tuesday.

 

Spent three days looking for him here. Checked under every floorboard, behind every stall of every bathroom. There’s two.

 

Bartender’s name is Dylan. Had a brother named Chet who was arrested for a DUI. It’s DUI county here. But there really isn’t much… it’s just the way everything flows around. You get in trouble, get arrested, get out in 3-5. His brother was out last week, in this week. It’s a cycle.

 

Wish I got to see Chet. He told me a story once about a dead cat I thought was funny. Maybe it wasn’t funny.

 

Maybe this mundane is just purgatory.

 

It’s always so strange to me. It doesn’t  matter how far you branch out, or what someone does with their lives. They will forever be tied to the typical. To everything they once knew.

 

I think I’m drunk.

 

Come out West and see

The best it’ll ever be

I know you won’t stay permanently

But come out West and see


 

I like beer.

 

A guy walks in. Twenty, twenty-five. I ask if he’s my brother.

 

“I could be. I could be your brother all night long.”

 

I don’t know what this means. I ask him if he has an Oldsmobile. He says he doesn’t, only a hot rod.

 

I’d say we chat but we don’t. He just talks. There are  words flowing through the air like the smoke, except only one gives cancer.

 

“Never been here on a Wednesday, sugar, just strollin’ through. I don’t know much about these parts of town, or any part of town. All I saw was Fargo Paradiso. I don’t know much about anything, but, when it comes to Paradise, you can’t trust the billboards. Paradise. Let’s find Paradise, sugar, is that what you’re lookin’ for? Paradise? Is that why you’re here? Or you just chasing the crash? Hey, hey Dylan! You have Paradise on draft? I think that’s what we need right now.”

 

I lost the ideal of Paradise. Nothing falls anymore. Just see light nowhere. Everything’s dark.

 

Jukebox. Just found it. Took three days. Only consists of ‘60s folk and Lucinda Williams.


“Bob Dylan, sugar. You put quarters in, you get Bob Dylan out.”

 

Climb up on a rock

And stretch out in the sun

And close my eyes and let my imagination run

 

Outside, by the dumpster.  Dylan swings. When you hear a fight it sounds comical. When you see one it does, up until it doesn’t. They circle around each other, fists raised, like some playtime joke. But Dylan swings first, and it’s no joke. He flies forward and then the toll of fist on flesh. It sounds like the butcher beating some meat. It is.

 

He loses teeth. Never seen someone have teeth fly out of them.

 

Dylan looks out for me.

 

“Way I see it, gotta look out for the prettiest one, no matter what. Everyone’s a predator, predating all the prey, and you’re prey, girl, you’re prey. Ya keep standing, people keep starin’.”

 

I ask what Paradise is, and Dylan sits in silence.

 

Fuzzy, feel fuzzy. I drink water. Helps.

 

Where to go next. I don’t know where my brother is. Ask Dylan. Silence.

 

I’m tracing your initials in the shining sand

I’m counting out the days till I see you again

 

I try to think of a funny joke. For some reason, each time I tell one to Dylan, they’re less funny out loud than they were in my head. I laugh anyways. I’m not sure it’s Wednesday anymore. Funny. Funny, funny, funny. Ha-ha!

 

I leave Paradiso. It’s cold outside. Snow flows down. I get a cigarette off the guy who’s by the window. Newport. Never had a Newport. It’s horrible. Wish I had a red fur coat.

 

I walk out into the street and look both ways.

 

I stumble.

I don’t know where I’m going.

 

Left right left right left right halt.

 

I should’ve joined the military like my brother. He seems happy. Fast planes and big guns.

 

Killing’s alright as long as no one gets hurt.

 

I don’t think I’m alright.

 

I think I’m going West.

 

Who knows what the future holds.

 

I pass out on Broadway. An officer picks me up and put me in the drunk tank for a night. I ask if my brother is still in. He said he hasn’t seen him in a good year.

 

Neither have I.

 

I look off in the distance

Blow a kiss and wave

A thousand miles between us

Disappear some day

 

 

Fragale, Tony and McCoy, Jack went to every McDonald’s, church, and synagogue in the Midwest in search of the American Dream. These are the stories from their travels. Contact Tony by email at tonyfragale4@gmail.com, or Jack by email at john.mccoy@loop.colum.edu