Old habits die hard. On the morning Irony plans to commit suicide, he puts a ridiculously upbeat polka record on the crank-up gramophone that shares a bedside table with bottle of multi-vitamins and a half-liter of Jameson’s. As always, he rattles two of the tablets into his palm, pops them in his mouth, uncorks the adjacent bottle of Jameson’s, takes a slug, and washes the vitamins down – all to the oom-pah of manic tubas, trombones, trumpets, and accordions.
The décor of his windowless room: an eclectic mixture of elegance and shabbiness. Maxwell Parrish’s Daybreak hangs on the one wall not lined with bookshelves. Hanging next to the Parish poster a black-and-white photograph of a pyramid of human skulls courtesy of Pol Pot. Both clash with the overly florid Victorian wallpaper. A chandelier hangs from the vaulted ceiling; a lava lamp pulsates atop one of the bookshelves.
Irony remembers an old New Yorker cartoon featuring a firing squad posed to shoot a prisoner who refuses the offer of one last cigarette. The caption: “No thanks, I’m trying to quit.”
The needle of the gramophone slides across the 78 record’s end.
Thump thump, thump thump.
He carefully lifts the tone arm of the gramophone, gently replaces it in its cradle, removes the record, using two hands, careful not to smear the shellac resin with his finger prints. He slides the disc into its plastic sleeve and then into the cardboard cover. He removes a lighter from the pocket of his bathrobe and tries to light the corner of the album cover. It doesn’t ignite, so he places the record back into its rightful place in the rack.
He shuffles out onto the hall to retrieve the paper, its headline announcing the President’s bestowing Medals of Freedom to David Allan Coe, David Duke, Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, Steven Segal, and Vladimir Putin.
In dressing for his suicide, Irony’s as meticulous as Quentin Compson, though, of course, Irony is no gentleman, far from it. He prepares his own shaving lather, applies it with a brush, and whips out his straight razor.
Why not just end it right here with one deft swipe across the jugular? No, too melodramatic. Plus, he’s already bought the rope. That would be a waste. Instead, he applies his pancake makeup and then riffles through his costumes.
Irony lives in the Tower of Song, and although he’s been around for a long time (he can count Aristophanes and Voltaire as fans), nothing lasts forever. Nowadays, when he goes out on the boulevard, even in his polka-dotted shirt and checkered pants, virtually no one recognizes him. He’s a has been. When General Petraeus is confirmed as Secretary of State via unanimous Republican support, including Representative Trey Gowdy and the rest of the Benghazi committee, it’s time to call it a career.
He pulls out a suitcase from underneath his four-poster canopied bed, heaves it up on the mattress, and snaps it open. The rope he retrieves from the wardrobe, the noose already fashioned. Even though it’s not uncommon now to see pedestrians with assault rifles slung over their shoulders or with holstered six-shooters dangling from their hips, Irony doesn’t want to be seen on the sidewalk carrying a rope. After placing it in the suitcase, he gently closes the lid, snaps it shut.
The elevator man in the Tower of Song is Eddie Rochester Anderson.
“How you doin’ today, Mr. Irony,” he says as Irony steps into the elevator.
“Fine and dandy — except I’ve lost the will to live.”
Rochester cackles. “You sure are a card. Yes sir-ree. Looks like you headed on a trip. Where you goin’?
Staring up at the descending lighted numbers of floors, Irony says, “I’m headed to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.”
“Sounds like a real vacation.”
The elevator clunks to a stop, and Rochester slides open the cage before the big door opens up into the lobby.
“Catch you on the flip side,” he says. “Bon voyage.”
Irony is displeased to discover that the day is not bright and sunny; rather, it looks as if Ingmar Bergman might have had a hand in casting the weather – a dark, miasmic day beneath leaden skies guaranteeing rain.
He hails a cab, gives the driver the address of Big Dick’s Halfway Inn, Home of the Original Minnow Shot. Looking out of the window, he sees a bus of about-to-be deported immigrants thundering past.
Irony removes his IOS device, inserts his ear buds, scans iTunes for the “Up With People” theme song, and hits play.