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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/04/2006 Archived Entry: "J LHLS 9: Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow"

Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow
By Kitty Johnson

"Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow" is a chapter from "Promised Land", a work-in-progress fictive biography of Bill Clinton set in the twenty-four hours before he has tell Hillary about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

(Christmas 1998)

President of the United States of America and yet he couldn't weasel out of this one. It was just like Elvis. Elvis may have been King, but he had been reduced to removing his OWN TEETH FILLINGS just for a little codeine.

And, while she already knew all about it, they were still going to have to go through the confession process, familiar as a pulse to both of them. After all, if he didn't confess, then he wouldn't be able to attempt the aftermath weaseling. The Jesuits at Georgetown had taught him that.

Of course, she knew. She knew everything; that's why he'd married her. She had a kind of hard blue glow made other women fuzzy, unfocused. With other women he always found himself having to explain things, which he didn't much mind because he was a natural born teacher and politician and sweet talker but once in a while it was nice not to have to explain the animal facts of life, which always boiled down to: he was out of there.

Well, the bright side to all this was she was so damned smart she always forgave him; she could see the big picture.

And it wasn't as if he regretted Monica, her round flesh as lovely as the sight of the moon, changeable in the differing lights, but still mysteriously there. Now how was he supposed to say he didn't notice the moon? A man like him didn't get where he was by ignoring the obvious (like how in ecstasy Monica's pretty feet had curled like Florida around the Gulf).

And the whole thing with that woman had been generated by obvious truths: like a) nobody lived forever. And b) he wasn't making love to any Monica, he was merely satisfying the appetites of the billion-legged American dream, which ability of his, dammit, had got them right far in life if she'd remember that in her raging.

He looked out the darkened window of the limousine which was carrying him to his double date with destiny.

No one knew how this one was going to roll out.

But he was going to bet that America would forgive him, because he was it and it was he.

Like now, here they were speeding over one of America's great and tragic and ironic overpasses. Oh, which of these little American houses with their asbestos siding, their rusted metal canopies, contained the most misery?

Was it the little shotgun house with its single string of Christmas lights glowing haphazardly?

Or was it that belligerently unlandscaped ranch house, where parking her SUV right this moment was some two-hundred pound twat who thought the opposite of right was wrong.

Or perhaps the saddest house was that one whose canopied windows seemed like drooping eyes: with his mind, he tracked through the front door reddened with peeling paint to see standing in the hallway the hulking serial killer suspended in the active dust of the moment, Mom's scalp already in a skillet back in the kitchen.

And yet he felt that he, Bill, was a charioted comet passing by their misery. Not unsympathetic, only too sympathetic, that's why he could see into their sadness. He felt so much. Maybe it was just the surfeit of off-menu pussy had kept him from boiling over and becoming the killer in the kitchen.

But would she forgive him? She had to forgive him. For one thing, it was Christmas time, and so he always had the brutal hillbilly hope of Christmas in his heart. That he and Mother and everybody would awaken to a miracle of un-labored-for prosperity. Barbara Bush didn't have to hope for a un-labored-for prosperity because that was her world already, but her world was hardly America.

He looked away from the homes. Thirty years ago all these homes would have bristled like bugs with antennae. He remembered those sweet choice-free days. Every Saturday he would be fascinated by the only two channels they got. No cartoons round the clock for his deprived yet pampered generation. And, if the cartoon melted in its grey way to "Industry on Parade", then he got up from the metallic fabric sofa and walked over and felt the satisfying little thunk of the channel changer as he looked at what else was on. Maybe it would "The Big Picture." Or a murky grey baseball games. And on some Saturdays, it was all country music: gangs of tall husky men in impressively tailored suits who would take turns making husky yet high pitched pleas to the Lord or the ladies, the pleas to each identical. Trouble. Train so long. Two by two. Take this hammer. Captain.

He gave a little private smile for the preposterous cardboard fireplaces they stood in front of, and likewise the illusion of shotguns over the cardboard fireplace. Then there were the lush square-dancing women skipping by in their fluffy little skirts: his appetite had been refined by those visions.

Of course, his appetite was his joke, her joke, their joke, America's joke. But he felt sure most everybody enjoyed his appetite because it was real. Only the same people who were IMPEACHING him, IMPEACHING him for his appetite were the same ones who were always afraid of appetite and biology. They were afraid of Elvis, they were afraid of Negroes, and they were afraid of him. They were afraid of all those terrible glands lurking under their carefully applied cloth.

Fair enough. He didn't understand glands either, the same way he didn't understand exactly how mud was made. Except exceptional glands were what he stood accused of, oh hell, that was what American stood accused of, its vibrant New-World glands driving it from the city on the hill to Memphis to Hollywood. It took exceptional glands to make it to the Promised Land, which was exactly what he and Elvis and the Negroes intuitively understood.

Impeach him, just go ahead and impeach him. Impeach him and Elvis and Negroes and America and all mud everywhere.

He didn't give a damn what the impeachers said.

But he still dreaded having to tell her. Would she fix those strangely motionless blueblue eyes on him and say, Bill, this is it, tell your maw, tell your paw, I'm going to send you back to Antarticaw.

Well, he couldn't take that. That would be too much hillbilly for even him.

That first time he knew he loved her. They had been doing some little old rat campaign in the Arkansas boonie-de-la-boonie and they weren't even married and they drove up to a scene worth more than all the paintings and portraits in the world.

A white poodle, obviously dead, but still cute in death.

A hysterically sobbing old white woman in a shantung pants suit and expensive open-toed sandals, her elderly manicured toes just peeking out.

A black man, his jaw working furiously, sweating in his dirty tee-shirt, a worn little cap on his shaggy hair, his coal truck parked by the side of the road, its engine still rumbling in the driving rain.

"Oh, look, there's America," Hillary had said, and his heart fell forever into her cool lemon-scented hand at that very moment.

Kitty Johnson teaches art at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her review of President Clinton's autobiography appeared at J LHLS Reviews in September 2004.

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