Walking down Main Street: A Satire?

For legal reasons, I wrote this account in the voice of 21-year-old Sam Shaver.

Tyler Palicia

I woke up at roughly 10 a.m. on Nov. 4 surrounded by crumpled beer cans and solo cups replete with ash. 

At some indeterminate point that morning I had fallen asleep, and the two other people hanging out in my room had left. They were both right-wing political nerds, but the kind you could stand to be around at a party, as opposed to the “facts don’t care about your feelings” type that probably wear pleated khakis to the beach. I invited them there to tell me what the hell was going on. 

The moment I awoke, my initial reflex was to reach for my phone, but I restrained myself. Summoning all my strength, I slid off the mattress and shakily put my feet on the floor. Usually I would have spent the next few hours trying to roll over and stand up, but this morning was different. One might even say it was special.                                                                      

First I will take a leak, after that I will brush my teeth and then I will walk downstairs and drink two cups of water to soothe my throat, which was about as dry as the inside of an Egyptian sarcophagus after being buried in the desert for five thousand years. 

In the bathroom, I encountered one of the nerds from the previous night.

“No, don’t tell me!” I blurted at him.

I told him that I wanted to see if I could deduce the winner of the 2020 election on my own just by walking down Main Street in Lexington.

He nodded. His face was sallow and his eyes were drained of life. I failed to discern whether this was a reaction to the poll results or just a headache accompanied by mild nausea. 

When I went downstairs, the crackling murmur of conservative talk radio flooded into my ears from the kitchen. No good, a sure giveaway. I plugged my ears and ran past.

Outside, the cool valley air and warm sunshine immediately began to soothe the throbbing pain in between my ears. I only wished for the burning celestial orb above to be a few shades dimmer. Wish rejected; so be it. I crossed the front lawn outside my home with a gingerly stride —  Alea iacta est!

Along the first leg, I caught the odor of grilled burgers from Pure Eats and my abused stomach nearly revolted. I sped up until the breeze was no longer blowing the noxious scent in my direction.

God, I wish I hadn’t started at the bottom of the hill. Maybe I’ll yack again and feel better.

My mind returned to the night before, when I put myself in this sickly condition. The last thing I remembered before I knocked out was the election being up in the air between Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada. 

Trump was leading everywhere but Nevada; however, mail-in ballots would likely shift things in Biden’s favor once the states counted them. This is what my conservative friends (the nerds) told me, at least. 

Unlike most of the people in my midst, I wasn’t too invested in the outcome. As a progressive who rooted for Sanders in the primary, I felt that a Biden loss to Trump would be akin to dodging a bullet by stepping on a landmine.

Was I supposed to be thrilled about a guy who voted for the Iraq War and helped write the ‘94 Crime Bill?

However, Democratic-centrism is preferable to four more years of Trump — for me, at least. 

That’s why I gritted my teeth while voting for Biden (although, I was leaning on a write-in up until the last minute) and bet one-hundred-dollars on Trump. The latter decision being a preemptive antidepressant. 

The first notable thing I saw on my walk was a Bud Light truck rolling past, which conjured a terrible queasiness deep down in my gut. I suppose Lexington, like many towns across America, had drunk itself dry. This fresh truckload of beer reminded me of my father’s old saying: “Taking the hair of the dog, huh?”

I continued against the flow of traffic and passed by many of my favorite restaurants: Napa Thai, Macado’s, Taps and Haywoods. These places appeared to be sleeping after a long night. I remembered walking past such eateries the night before and noticing that they were particularly full for a Wednesday. 

The night before, I had dinner in Palms. Almost every adult was drinking (especially liquor) and each TV was set to the news. Most people were huddled around the bar, which made them look like sports fans watching the big game. But instead of shouting gleefully in support of their favorite team, these people silently thought about killing themselves.

Back to the morning after… 

I kept walking and eventually passed a parked Subaru with a Biden bumper sticker. A bearded hipster was sitting behind the wheel sipping a coffee. It was impossible to get a read on his facial expression through the tinted, bird-crap-splattered windshield. 

Close, but no cigar

My next stop was an ancient courtyard behind the war memorial. Three old men were sitting at one of the picnic tables talking. They seemed jolly and gave me friendly waves as I passed, but I couldn’t decipher any hint of partisanship. Their knowledge of the present eluded my own perception.

This interaction reminded me of Rip Van Winkle emerging from his twenty year long nap to discover that he had awoken in a different time —  a different country.

At any moment, I expected to hear Rod Serling’s champagne smooth voice: “You walk this street at your own risk, because it leads to the future. This is not a new world. It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. A case to be filed under ‘O’ for ‘Outcome,’ in The Twilight Zone.”

Around the corner, I walked by Hess and Co. Jewelers. A radio on the front stoop was playing some American Rock and Roll. Lookin’ Out My Backdoor by Creedence Clearwater Revival, if I’m not mistaken. 

As I made my way, I passed an old Ford parked alongside the street. There was a Trump sticker on the bumper next to a much more faded sticker that read: “The Land of the Free thanks to the Brave.” I also noticed a ticket from the City of Lexington stuck to the windshield.

If I could just get a look at the driver, then I might know. Should I wait around? Nah, he’ll be pissed off either way because of the ticket.

I progressed several paces and passed the formerly known Robert E. Lee Hotel. I caught one glimpse of my haggard reflection in the glass of the revolving door and realized that I looked like a vile miscreant. My hair was a mess, I was wearing the same wrinkled clothing which reeked of alcohol from the night before, and I needed to shave.

Further up, I crossed to the other side at the intersection of Main and Nelson and proceeded up South Main Street. The grade was leveling out.

In front of the Wells Fargo, I saw a fragile old man sitting in a chair next to a rack of local newspapers that he was selling.  I loomed over him to get a look at the headlines, but it was just something about VMI being racist. I was tempted to demand what he knew in a violent interrogation, but I ultimately refrained.

Moments later, I ran into two girls I knew. They were coming out of Subway. We spoke briefly, and I asked for them not to give me any hints as to who won. They both seemed delighted with life. 

I figure they lean left, so maybe… nah, they’re getting Subway before noon, so they must be deranged. They most likely went mad after hearing the result.

Pride flags fluttered in the wind outside of Heliotrope, and across the street I saw Biden signs lining the top-story windows of the Sheridan building. It was no mystery who won in Lexington, but there wasn’t a shred of evidence to suggest who went home with the big prize. Somehow I still had faith as I embarked upon the final stretch of sidewalk. 

Two old ladies were sitting in the rocking chairs in front of Trinity United Methodist Church as I passed. I must have looked funny to them, my neck turning on a swivel and my eyes watching everything except for what was right in front of me. I was grasping for any sign, but to everyone else I must have seemed drunk. And perhaps I still was.

“Slow down,” one of the old ladies remarked in jest. I just waved and chuckled. Once again, I resisted the urge to ask a stranger about the election. I then pushed on, making my way across the intersection of Main and Preston.

I was sure I had my answer the moment I spotted the Republican field office, next to Buck’s Barber Shop. I approached the window cautiously (as all liberals should), but all I saw was a collection of signs with slogans like “Keep America Great,” “Women for Trump,” “Blacks for Trump” and “Diabetic Cat People for Trump.” I wondered if the best advertisement translated to the best candidate.

I crossed again. The day was warming, so I removed my jacket and carried it over my shoulder. I had reached the large clock at the end of South Main. It was 10:25 a.m., according to the hands slowly gliding across the clock face’s numerals. 

I decided to continue the journey one extra block up to Oak Grove Cemetery, formerly known as Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. I felt a calm wave wash over me as I passed through the uneven rows of moss-covered headstones, each settling with time. Many of their epitaphs were too worn to even read. Many belong to Confederate soldiers and some were even older. 

My last stop was Jackson’s statue. I looked up at him for a while, proudly standing in his military uniform with a stoic gaze directed towards the clear blue sky. He seemed to be lording over the dead. His last command, perhaps.

Someone had even left lemons at the base of his grave to pay their respects. Lemons were his favorite food, after all. No disrespect to the man, but what kind of psychopath chooses lemons as their favorite food? 

I thought about hopping over the fence to take one —  maybe to throw at one of my friends, or squeeze into my drink during breakfast —  until I remembered the honor code.

As I was about to leave, I caught sight of Jimbo Boone (an alleged descendant of Daniel) strolling in my direction. Jimbo is a kind-hearted mountain man whom I’ve come to cherish. Apparently, he only ever comes down from the hills once in a blue moon to visit the denizens of Lexington and purchase supplies. I’d only ever seen him while hiking the trails and he looked out of place in town. 

He still wore his trademark coonskin cap but had exchanged his Kentucky long-rifle for a much more modern device.

“Fancy seein’ you here on this fine day, Sam.” Jimbo said, halting to lean on his oak cane.

“My Lord, you are a sight for sore eyes, Jimbo. Now just what in the heck are you doing with that grappling hook gun and those suction cup shoes?”

“Nothin’ much Sam, just gonna be placin’ this MAGA hat on General Jackson’s head in celebration of our beautiful republic.”

“Oh, well do you need me to boost you up over the fence?”

“It’s fine Sam, I brought myself a tunnelin’ shovel.”

“Okay, but let me know if you need any help. Good luck, Jimbo!”

“Thankya, Sam!”

“And be careful up there, old timer. I heard his shoulders get a bit slippery.”

“That’s why I got these suction cups on my boots,” he said with a sly wink.

I looked on as Jimbo burrowed under the fence and popped out through the manicured grass on the other side. He then proceeded to fire his grappling hook. “Good shot, Jimbo!” I called out as a length of paracord tethered around Jackson’s neck and the sharp steel prongs latched onto his beard with a metallic clink. He then suction-walked up the front of the statue with exceptional grace for an 87-year-old man.

Reaching the top, he sat piggy-back on the general’s shoulders and removed a crisp red MAGA hat from his buckskin satchel.

“Drumroll please,” Jimbo said. I gave him a drumroll and as it ceased, he placed the hat on Jackson’s head.

“Well done, Jimbo!” 

“It is what I do. Ain’t it, Sam?”

“It sure is. You reckon you’ll be comin’ down from there anytime soon?”

“In a little while I will. But not yet,” he said. Jimbo seemed content atop Jackson’s bronze shoulders, scanning across the rows of tombstones. “You know Sam, many of the folk buried out here I’ve known one time or another in my life.” He rolled a cigarette, struck a match on Jackson’s left earlobe and began to smoke. 

It warmed my soul to see old Jimbo Boone perched up there. He grinned from ear to ear and chuckled to himself as a sweet-smelling cloud formed above his head. The sunlight gleamed in his one good eye (a patch covered the other). I’d never seen an old man so pleased with so little.

“Hey Jimbo, do you know who won?”

“Won what?”

“The presidential election, of course.”

“Oh, I ain’t been down from the mountains for about six years. So, I wouldn’t know. I only ever talk to people when they come up my way on their hikes. And on such rare occasions, I don’t like to spoil the moment with talk of politics. I’m sorry, Sam.”

“It’s fine, at least you have a good excuse for not knowing… Hey, but what about the hat then?”

“I just found it one day, floatin’ down my stream… I thought it was nice, so I took it back to my cabin and cleaned it up. ‘Make America Great Again…” I like it a lot…it sounds so nice. What does it mean, Sam?” His eyes lit up as I puzzled in thought. He was expecting an answer that I knew I couldn’t give him. 

“It doesn’t mean anything, Jimbo. Nothing at all.” 

“Oh…” he said. That simply wasn’t what he wanted to hear. His face grew solemn until his expression became colder than the statue’s. He blunted out his cigarette on its nose. “I feel sort of foolish now.”

“Please don’t let it ruin your visit.” For the first time in a while, I felt ashamed. Should I have just made something up? 

“No, the visit is over. I guess I should just cut out this nonsense and head back up into the hills where I belong… before I embarrass myself again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It ain’t your fault, Sam. I guess I just ain’t meant for towns no more.”As I left the graveyard, I noticed a sign in the window of one of the houses across the street that read: “Defend the Police.” Another nearby house had a sign that advertised: “Republicans for Biden.”

All drivel.  

Despite its wealth of political iconography, it appeared that this sober little town would withhold the answer I sought. I doubt if the same would have been true if I had been back home walking through Richmond, which, like most large cities, is a far less subtle place.

During my descent down Main Street, I ignored the symbols and instead focused on the autumnal mountains, a shade darker than the season before, looming beyond the fortress walls of the Virginia Military Institute.

Right now, I’m sitting in my bedroom finishing up this account. The sweet odor of lunch fills the house, and my appetite happens to be restored.

I suppose I’ll check the results in a moment, once I finish these last few sentences… 

I can already hear my roommates shouting at each other over their plates. Not everyone agrees in this house, especially regarding politics.

Soon enough I will join them.