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Tornado Man: (A Short Story)
You know, Hubert Bascom was talking to this fella one time, who had complained of having wasted fifty-four years of his life.
Hubert asked the man's age.
The answer came back: fifty-four.
Beer was in the man's glass. But he consumed self-pity, at a downtown bar, where he had struck up a conversation with Hubert, and invited himself to join the latter's solitary booth.
People could be hard on themselves. Hubert loved the way people talk about having wasted 'x' years of their lives --- the same number of years old as they were at the present. They start from the Year Zero.
Take this guy, whining about what seemed to Hubert to be a pretty good life. What should he have done differently? And when?
What about when the guy had been a ten-year-old boy? Should he have been paying closer attention back then? As a ten-year-old boy should he have been paying closer attention to the arc and trajectory of his life and career?
Should he have spent more time doing that? And less time reading comic books and trading baseball cards, riding his bike, teasing his sister, horsing around with his friends, being a king of summer, and dreading the return of the school year?
And anyway, surely one doesn't begin actually wasting his life until he's reached the age of majority? Eighteen or so. If one goes to college, maybe twenty-two.
The man crying in his beer had been to college. He was exceptionally well educated, in fact. He was a professor of classics at a small liberal arts college.
That means PhD --- twenty-six. A couple of years of "postgraduate work" --- twenty-eight.
"If you look at it that way," Hubert said to the Professor, "then you only wasted twenty-six-to-twenty-eight years."
The Professor was neither amused nor heartened by this. He was determined to hold fast to his kamikaze "woe is me" course.
The cry baby's incessant caterwauling coalesced around a primary regret. And that regret was --- wait for it --- "the one that got away," the "true love of my life." You know, that crap.
Finger down throat. Say hello again to this morning's breakfast.
Hubert was disappointed, but not particularly surprised that a man of the Professor's years and education could be so naïve about love. How could a man so allegedly well versed in Greek literature, not realize the fallacy of expecting any single person to "make all of my dreams come true"? (Yes, he had uttered that gag-inducing phrase as well.)
The Professor was, of course, married with children and grandchildren. From his narrative Hubert gathered that his wife was a good, loving woman, both willing and able to put up with his considerable crap.
Hubert got the feeling that he was only seeing the tip of the tip of the iceberg of the Professor's neurotic, Woody Allenesque, schmaltzy, self-indulgent angst.
There were literally billions of people on this Earth who would gladly sell their souls to the Devil himself, to trade places with the Professor.
At least you're not an 'Untouchable,' condemned to clean the sewers of India, pal!
Hubert kept these thoughts to himself, as he maintained his face in a mask of comradely, commiserating sympathy.
How sad! How very sad! Ships passing in the night! Star-crossed lovers, you are!
Three billion people trying to get along on less than two dollars a day, and here the Professor was --- acting like someone had snatched his heart out and left a hole where his chest used to be.
F**k you, Doc. F**k you to Hell!
It was Hubert's experience that people did not like hearing the truth. They found it slightly more palatable wrapped in art; and this allowed him to make a comfortable living as a modern artist.
Hubert Bascom had endured the educator's drunken "Baby is teething" monologue in the 1990s, the era of the Clintons in the White House.
Also in the Nineties, there was some concern about the social phenomena of the over-scheduled children of the upper middle class.
You know... never a spare moment for themselves, those kids.
Being shuttled hither and yon, from school to karate lessons, piano lessons, ballet, scouts, computer camp, science camp, regular camp, "community service," an untold number of hours on standardized test prep with the kind of high-price tutors that only the upper middle class can afford.
The term helicopter parenting entered the lexicon.
Like Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, mark an 'H' on the chest of guilty adults.
The branded pleaded the innocence of deep parental love.
But they had been, more or less, convicted of vicarious ego gratification.
The two things had come together in Hubert's mind. Then he cranked things up to their most absurd extremity. This had given him the idea for one of his most inspired projects in his career as an artist.
He christened it: The None-Better Go-Getter.
The project: A sculpture of a woman's womb.
In that womb was a nine-month fetus ready to be born.
The male is dressed in a very smart, pinstripe suit and tie. He has a briefcase and a Smartphone glued to his ear. He was making calls, getting the ball rolling, building connections, striking while the iron was hot, getting after it, slaying the dragon, leaving no stone unturned---because time is money and money is time.
Unlike many of his contemporaries with less initiative, this future World CEO was certainly not wasting his time, doing nothing but floating in that amniotic fluid. He was ready to hit the ground running just as soon as the cord was cut.
The artist had also made a female fetus version. Since it was the Clinton era, the girl was outfitted in a Hilary-style pants suit.
The None-Better Go-Getter had been one of Hubert's best sellers.
He had the sculptures in his home. The cell phones worked.
Hubert lived for moments when someone asked to use his phone. He took the phone from one of the "wombs".
"Here you go," he'd say.
They would thank him and he would say, "Simple as taking cellular from a baby."
Get it? He said 'cellular' instead of 'candy.' Hubert Bascom had a corny sense of humor like that.
He was at his desk, in his study, drafting an idea for his latest project. He sang, "Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na, Tornado Maaaaan."
See what he did there? Instead of Batmaaaaan, he said Tornado Maaaaan.
Hubert Bascom was not a political artist, per se. But he was reasonably politically aware. Like most theoretical liberal-leftists, he accepted the reality of global warming --- "climate change" for the faint of heart. He accepted the notion that human, fossil fuel-burning, industrial activity was largely driving it.
He also took on board the idea that global warming, in turn, was intensifying other natural phenomena, such as storms, temperatures, and maybe earthquakes.
Directly combining man and a force of nature seemed obvious to his artistic imagination. His plans for the project contemplated a four-foot tall, spinning and rotating, robotic contraption, capable of bringing down a model town made of Lego blocks and plywood.
Hubert could handle the metal-shaping himself. But he would need help with the robotics. He would have to hire a small mechanical shop or something...
Three weeks and two days later, while he was organizing his garage, Hubert came across a magic lamp with a Genie living inside of it. The Genie granted him three wishes.
Hubert's first wish was granted: the manifestation of his Tornado Man. He pulled the ripcord, starting it up like a lawnmower, just as he had envisioned.
The contraption spun and rotated. Faster and faster. It soon busted loose from his garage and escaped into the community.
It would not stop. It built momentum and gathered force. Its potency grew evermore furious.
Windows were starting to rattle and shake.
People on the street started to lose their footing.
Flowers were being ripped out of their flower beds and small animals went flying through the air.
Moving vehicles started to slow down against the force of the wind. Stationary vehicles started to rock back and forth.
Now windows were being shattered and trees were being uprooted. Small children were flying through the air.
The passage of time found Hubert on the rooftop of a building a safe distance away. He was watching the destruction through a high-powered telescope.
His town was being ripped apart as if it were made of Lego blocks and plywood. Hubert pronounced what was happening GOOD. He felt like God, who had commanded a cleansing tornado to expunge the sins of a wicked place.
The Genie appeared. He was smug and smirking. For centuries he had delighted in perverting the wishes of all who dared rouse him from the lamp.
"How are you enjoying your first wish?" the Genie said.
"Well, I have to admit, it isn't what I expected," Hubert said.
A light is brightest just before it is extinguished.
"... but I am pleased. You see, I never liked this town anyway."
That killed the Genie's joy. All he could do was tersely remind Hubert that he had two wishes left.
Since Hubert Bascom wanted nothing to interfere with his Tornado Man, he wished for the existence of God and Santa Claus, respectively.