With her hair piled on her head like a sticky pink cotton candy beehive, Timmy Kelly’s sister, Shannon, painted her toenails cranberry red and sipped a strawberry wine cooler straight from the bottle. Wearing a headset and baby doll pajamas she took the first call of the day.
When Shannon started her home business making psychic telephone connections at the beginning of the pandemic she hit the motherlode. Making personal contact with long dead Irish relatives in the great beyond became her greatest talent for snaring the typically stupid Irish-American wives of typically stupider Irish-American husbands who craved a link to the old sod but never thought to leave Scranton on a AAA tour.
On this call Shannon breathed into the phone between sips of warm cooler and said, your great-great-great-great-great granny’s coming through loud and clear.
Oh, my God, what’s she saying?
That she’s so proud of you getting elected as president of the Irish Women’s Society.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, how does she know?
The angels gossip, Shannon said.
Does granny see me from heaven?
Yes, yes, she says you look just like her when she was young and beautiful and living in Scranton’s sister city Ballina in County Mayo where Joe Biden’s people come from.
Mother of God, she didn’t say I’m beautiful, did she?
Can I call her back next week?
I’ll see what I can do to get you a discount, Shannon said.
Shannon hung up struggling to keep from laughing and spitting cooler across the room.
The next call came immediately.
Goddammit, get off the phone and get your skinny ass over here fast. We got a problem, Judge Dombroski said.
Don’t you talk to me like that you fat tub of shit, Shannon said.
Harry Davies is trying to blackmail us.
What do you mean us?
He’s threatening to tell my wife we’re having an affair.
That’s your problem.
It’s yours too if he posts them pictures I took of you on parade day that shows you wearing nothing but a green pointed St. Patrick’s Day hat doing the Riverdance while I played the accordion.
Shannon dropped her voice several octaves, lower than the guttural howls of an alley cat coupling in sweltering summer street heat.
I’m seeing a holy vision, Shannon said.
Frazzled, the judge took the bait.
What? What do you see?
I already posted the pictures on Facebook, Stash. They got more likes and shares than the video of my dog saluting during the national anthem at Trump’s inauguration. What I’m seeing is your wife weeping in divorce court and you losing your re-election bid. I’m seeing your million dollar ten-year-term salary flying out the courthouse window. I’m seeing me getting national publicity as a centerfold poster girl for an alt-right psychic militia and telling my story on CNN.
Pretty please with Irish Mist on top?
We’re going to have to kill Harry.
No, with a car bomb.
At that very moment while deeply pondering his existence, Casey Weatherhogg stared at the vanilla peppermint candle he lit five minutes earlier for his daily meditation. A voice in his head told him Zen is knowing you’re alive and doing something about it. Zen is doing nothing that’s sometimes doing something. Zen is doing something that’s sometimes doing nothing.
Doing his best to find peace of mind, Casey worried he might hurt somebody if he dosed the Scranton reservoir drinking water supply with a whole batch of basement-brewed LSD. Casey wanted to help, not hurt. Maybe he could find a way to just get the acid into the water fountains at the county courthouse where the mind-blower would at least add points to the sheriff’s office staff IQ. Or put it in the bishop’s aspergillum he uses to sprinkle holy water on the faithful with the words in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Jerry Garcia.
Casey asked himself a serious question upon which his whole existence was based: How far do you want to take this mission of mercy?
Further, he said.