Johnny Faa – Lambrusco

For the next few months, David would see Faa occasionally all around Keokuk. Stocking shelves, at the post office, raking leaves outside the courthouse, and so on. He seemed to look a little different every time: David lost track of how many times he had shaved his head, or his beard, or grown something back to varying lengths, all in that rich, dark color. As someone who was already finding the odd gray hair in the mirror, David had to admit he was a little jealous. Faa never spoke to him after that night in the grocery store, and even when David attempted a dialogue there was no response. Still, David had spent so much time in such close quarters that he always knew it was him. The eyes, dark and nearly bottomless, full of too many stories to tell, wary of everyone yet so desperate for anyone… they reminded David of a dog that had lived too long… and that had been beaten too much.
Finally, a janitor swept a conspicuously large piece of paper under a bathroom stall in the local Burger King. Unfolding it, David saw an address and a time.
“Where you going?”  General Tate asked with surprise as he saw David leaving the complex.
“I’m heading out early tonight.”
“You don’t head out early,” the General mused, “You don’t head out… usually. At all.”
“I’ve, uh…” David said, trying to hide a smile, “I’ve got a place to be tonight.”
“Really?” Tate cocked an eyebrow.
“You’ve got my cell,” David continued, pulling on a jacket, “if anything happens, you know I have to answer.”
“I guess,” the general shrugged, “I’m just surprised you’re not sleeping here. The couch in the break room basically has your name on it.”
“Well, maybe I have a reason to go out tonight.”
“I see. Well,” Tate pushed away from the wall he was leaning on, “Do me a favor and don’t get all loaded up on cheap Lambrusco with your… friend. We still need you to work tomorrow.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me,” David was still smiling as he head out the door. Tate watched him go, his powerful arms crossed in front of his muscular chest.
“I don’t, David…” Tate replied, watching for some time as David showed all his necessary identification to the guards and made his way out through the massive elevator. Turning back to the compound, he inspected a few of his nails absent-mindedly, musing to himself.
“I don’t… usually.”
About an hour later, David was standing in front of a nondescript apartment door, not unlike his own. He knocked a few times and, when he heard no response, knocked again.
“Please,” a familiar voice came from the other side of the door, “Make some more noise, please. Nothing says clandestine like some dumb cluck wailing on my door.”
“Sorry,” David responded quietly. After the rattling of a few locks, the door opened and Faa was there with short, buzzed hair and a goatee. He wore a shirt that advertised a local arena football team and cutoff jeans, even though it was well into October. He jerked his head quickly and David stepped into a comfortable, and surprisingly spotless, studio apartment.
“Wow, it’s so clean,” David remarked as he was shown to a sofa.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Faa replied quickly, sitting down in an easy chair, “it’s my home.”
“You didn’t used to be this clean with your stuff–”
“That wasn’t my home.” He said that clearly, and it cut like a knife.
“Oh,” David said, looking down at the floor. He caught sight of his own hands and remembered.
“Oh! Yeah! I brought something!” He held up a paper bag proudly. “Lambrusco. Figured we could toast to a successful mission.”
“With a bottle of wine that was probably five bucks?” Faa snatched the bag out of David’s hand and inspected the bottle, “Sheesh, I was there when the stuff was invented and I don’t think it was this cheap.”
“Ah, shut up,” David replied with a laugh, “Or I’ll drink the whole thing myself.”
They spent a good part of the night (once the delivery pizza arrived) doing some of the strangest reminiscing David had ever recalled.
“Marie Antoinette? Who didn’t?”
“What about the legend, then? About the champagne glasses being in the shape of her…?”
“Ha!” Faa scoffed around a plastic cup of wine, “She wishes!”
A few more sips of wine, a few more pieces of Hawaiian pizza.
“So, what was it like being the only human being on Earth?”
Faa leaned back and gave a little belch.
“As much as it’ll be, I suppose, when all of you guys are dead.”
“Oh, Jeez,” David winced, “sounds lonely.”
“Eh, you find ways to get by. You know that song, “Who Wants to Live Forever?” Everyone always makes eternal life out to be boring or sad or tragic, and sometimes it is, no doubt about that. I steered clear of every war I could find, not like last time around. Figured I’d let other me get shot, stabbed, quartered all to hell… heh heh…”
He took a long drink.
“You shoulda seen the folks in Salem lose their shit when I crawled out of that lake.”
“So what you’re saying is, immortality isn’t a curse… as long as you’re as deranged as, well… you.”
Faa leaned forward, lamenting his empty cup.
“How do you know, Bergie… that living this long isn’t what made me deranged?”
He was smiling, but… those eyes, thought David, those eyes! What was in there? Was it just the wine, or was the watery quality he saw… he swore he saw…
“Ahhhh!” Faa waved him off, giggling, “Bull, total bull. I’ve been like this all my life. My own mother called me a, well, it’s a word that no one really understands anymore, but believe me!”
He stood up from the easy chair a little too quickly.
“We’re out of wine. Whiskey time!”
David saw him walk to the tiny galley kitchen that seemed only a few feet away, and return with what looked like an earthenware pot.
“That is whiskey?”
“That’s what Alex said,” Faa laughed, sitting down and doling out two golden rations into their cheap plastic vessels.
“Who… or what… is Alex? Was Alex? Used to be Alex?”
Faa put up a hand to stop him, then handed him his cup.
“Alex was the name of the Cro-Magnon I befriended.”
“You named a caveman Alex?”
“He seemed to like it.” the Gypsy King took a drink, “He seemed to like the whiskey, too.”
“How did you know he was a Cro-Magnon?” David asked, thinking back to the Triceratops blunder.
“Well, I always hear people call guys with big foreheads Neaderthals, and this guy didn’t have anywhere near as big of a forehead as the guys before him, so I guessed he was a Cro-Magnon. They came after, right? Also, I might be Prometheus with the whole ‘fire’ thing. Whiskey ain’t gonna boil itself.”
David put his head in his hands.
“Your logic is impeccable,” his muffled voice replied, “And I suppose all of our training and warnings about messing with past events didn’t mean anything to you?”
“Not really. In fact, I left you guys clues all over the place about me. You guys should really read Cracked.”
“Cracked? We’re a top secret government research facility with access to some of the most powerful secrets discovered by mankind…”
“And you should all read Cracked. That’s where I get my news.”
“Ugh,” David leaned back, taking a long pull of the whiskey. It was endlessly smooth and buttery rich, most likely the result of literally millenia of distillation.
“So is there any other irreparable damage to time and space I should be notified of and/or worried about?”
“Maybe,” Faa shrugged, “But this is pretty much the world I left, so I think I did the right things when I did. By the way, you should be lucky I fixed the election for Hayes. Tilden was fuckin’ scary.”
“Please,
I don’t want to hear anymore,” David groaned.
“Don’t worry,” Faa giggled, “It’s all on Cracked.”
By the time he finished his whiskey, David was feeling partially tipsy but mostly a little sickened from everything he’d learned. Suffice to say, he’d have his work cut out for him tomorrow, studying as many history documents as he could find, measuring scientific data spanning eons, trying to see just what Johnny Faa had been up to living through time… again.
Or, he thought to himself as he crawled into bed, he could just bum around on Cracked for a while.

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