Gawking at the cracked dressing room mirror, combing a dangling strand of thin hair while trying to figure out where the plugs would be if he really was Joe Biden and had hair plugs, Timmy Kelly prepared for his debut at Club Pocono.
Located as the landfill gull flies about three miles west of the Mt. Airy Casino resort and spa, Club Pocono smelled like a urinal deodorizer and drew a rowdy bus trip clientele mostly from the Bronx, New York. Kelly worried the mostly Black Rikers Island prison guards and transit police officers in the audience might take offense at his Corn Pop imitation, but fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. Squaring his shoulders he tried to reassure himself.
I can do this, he said.
Hooking the stems of smudged aviator glasses behind his ears, he prepared to take the stage as America’s only Joe Biden impersonator from Joe Biden’s birthplace. For all Timmy Kelly knew, he might be America’s only Joe Biden impersonator anywhere. If his nightclub act worked out, God willing, as Joe would say, he might one day land a month-long gig at Mt. Airy where he dreamed of headlining for a better breed of riffraff during the summer vacation season. Mt. Airy wasn’t Atlantic City but it was close enough to Scranton for all the guys from his Minooka neighborhood to come up whatever night they wanted and drive home drunk without worrying about falling asleep, crashing and killing themselves on the four-hour trip back from AC. If the guys killed themselves, then who could he count on to come see his show?
Staring intently into the mirror Timmy Kelly practiced one last time.
Here’s the deal, man, he said.
That’s no malarkey, he said.
C’mon, man, he said.
Then with the widest Green Ridge lace-curtain Irish grin he could paste on his puss he charged through the parted stained velvet curtain to the beat of the three-piece Scranton Values Band he assembled from the Alcoholics Anonymous group he used to attend. The combo kicked into “Hail to the Chief” that sounded more the football fight song at Scranton High, but there was no turning back now. Timmy bounded onstage in that herky-jerky, elbows-pumping jog Joe Biden uses when he wants to impress people with his alleged youthful virility.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I’m Joe Biden, he said.
One look at gangly Caucasian Timmy Kelly under the flickering blue spotlight and the all-Black crowd fell out laughing, pounding thick fists and beefy forearms on the tables. But the laughter stopped by the end of his first bad joke. Nobody applauded after his second one-liner. By the time he reached his fifth gag, he was ready for the clincher.
Timmy Kelly launched into his Corn Pop imitation in an exaggerated Black dialect.
The first full Miller High Life bottle came from the front row. A chair slammed against his hip. The Scranton Values Band threw down their instruments and ran for their lives as three weight-lifter corrections officers stormed the stage. The show did not go on.
At that very moment WNEP-TV Channel 16 broke into their normal Easter Sunday programming with news about Harry Davies when the bald anchor solemnly said, “He is not risen.”
The former Scranton mayor keeled over dead that evening when he fell into a garbage compactor at the county jail. Scranton Times Tribune reporters scrambled to write about the deceased longtime public servant while the editorial board unanimously agreed Harry Davies was the best mayor Scranton ever had, thanking him on the front page for his service.
Gino never saw the news report.
After renting a one-bedroom apartment near the ocean north of Myrtle Beach, Gino met a woman at the fishing pier. Standing beside a hand-lettered sign that read “I Have Worms,” she smiled a drunken smile that never left her face as she sold cheap bait and jelly jars of moonshine she made in the bathtub at her mobile home.
Gino quickly fell in love. Mustering all his courage, he asked the first question that popped into his thick skull.
You come here often, ma’am?
Immediately interested, Priscella (misspelled but named for Elvis’ wife) asked her own question.
What’s your sign?
Uh, the bull.
Priscella outlined his astrological traits.
Taurus is known for a love of worldly pleasures. You are down-to-earth, practical, hardworking and meticulous in everything you do. You work at your own pace and do not like to be bossed over.
Yep, that’s me, he said.