Excerpt from "Dawn of the Donald"
From "The Unimaginable" by D. Michael Hardy
The weekend before Christmas, Ray called.
He asked if I wanted to meet him at Red Star Rock Bar for a drink. He sounded tense, his voice a hoarse reflection of what I was used to. I hadn’t seen him since the night of the party, so I agreed. When I arrived, Ray was already seated at the bar, staring into his beer as Highly Suspect’s “My Name is Human” blared from the speakers. His right leg bounced steadily on the barstool and a lit cigarette, ash a mile long, rested between his fingers, his nails chewed down to the nub. I took a seat next to him, ordered a whiskey sour.
“Hey man, where the hell have you been?” I shouted, slapping him on the shoulder.
“Ah, around, you know,” he said, waving his hand in a circular motion.
“Yeah,” I said, as if I did. “Well you could at least return my calls, asshole.”
He turned toward me but his leg never stopped bouncing. Dark rings hung beneath his bloodshot eyes. His complexion was paler than I remembered, his face gaunt. His usual mischievous grin was absent. He looked at me for a moment as if he barely recognized me, then turned away.
“Jesus. Sleep much lately?”
“Are you alright?” I asked, leaning closer. I was genuinely worried. He didn’t look good.
“Yeah man,” he snapped, causing me to recoil reflexively. “I’ve just been too busy to sleep. Sorry.”
“Busy? Doing what?”
He sighed, flicked ash into the ashtray. “Thinking.”
“O-kay,” I said, drawing the word out. “About?”
I cocked my head, confused. “What about your name?”
Ray didn’t say anything for a few minutes, and I just sat there, waiting. I was beginning to wonder why he called. My eyes shifted from his disheveled frame to the guitars hanging above the bar, then to the cute bartender in his tight jeans and Deftones t-shirt, and back to Ray again. He stopped bouncing his leg, sat up straight, lifted the beer mug to his chapped lips and drank.
When Ray finally turned to me, he had this bizarre grin on his face and a wild look in his eyes that I’d never seen before. “Ever wonder why assassins are always referred to by their full names?”
I coughed. “What?”
“Think about it, man. Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, Mark David Chapman. All famous because they killed some other famous person, and all remembered forever by their full name. Why the hell is that?”
“I…have no idea. What’s this got to do with your name? I mean, you’re not thinking of…” I paused, leaned in and whispered, “…killing someone…are you?”
“That’s how history files them,” he continued, ignoring me, “but I’ve never much cared for my name, not my middle name anyway.” He sucked on his cigarette.
“Raymond Chandler Rudnick,” he stated, the smoke spewing from his mouth. “You think that sounds like an assassin?”
“Ray, c’mon. Stop fucking around.”
The bizarre smile faded then, and he resumed bouncing his leg on the bar stool. “He can’t be allowed to run this country, man. He’s done enough damage already and he hasn’t even been fucking sworn in yet! I mean, you’ve seen the kind of horrible people he wants in his cabinet. Can you image what shit he’ll brew over the next four years? Or fucking eight? Christ!” He slammed his fist on the bar top, stubbed his cigarette and lit another. “The sonuvabitch is gonna drag us into World War III, or start it with his inflated fucking ego!”
“You can’t be serious,” I said, placing my hand on his shoulder, but he shrugged me off.
“Serious? Fuck yeah, someone’s gotta do it man! Hell, someone’s gonna do it, sooner or later, and whoever that is, they’ll be famous for it! People’ll write books about ‘em, movies’ll be made. Might as well be me, I sure as shit got nothing else going for me.”
“That’s…not true,” I heard myself say.
“Really,” Ray said, more like a statement than a question.
I tried to think of something else to say, but words failed me. I believed Ray meant what he was saying, and while a part of me thought maybe I should dissuade him from his absurd idea, or tell Lauren or Samir or hell, the police, another part of me, a part of me I wasn’t sure I was willing to acknowledge, wanted him to go through with it.