20 – The Baptism of Mikel Serone

Washington D.C.,
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery,
United States

“Duke, honey, let’s all just go home. I bet Terry is worried sick about us,” said Stacy, finally managing enough courage to say something to a man who was clearly losing his mind. 

“Stacy… Knudson was right, and you know it,” said Dasher. “We’re not cut out for this world; we’re too pure and too virtuous. But it can be reshaped! Reformed to fit us. Burned down completely and built from the ground up with our bare hands! A man-made rapture to cleanse the earth!” screamed Dasher.

“Stop right there, Serone!” he continued, noticing Serone’s attempted exit. “I’m going to need a right-hand man pal…if you were to consider that baptism we were talking about…I could see you making a heck of a Vice President,” said Dasher, jocularly pointing a gun directly at him. His tone switched immediately. “You could be purged of original sin in the divine waters of a men’s room urinal! Confess your sins to a stranger through an extremely worn glory hole!” 

Serone wondered if Dasher was indeed this mad. The years of blind faith, rabid intolerance, and unchecked bloodlust had finally spoiled his brain. Maybe he was a hero at some point in his life, then again, maybe not.

Somehow, being offered salvation by way of a men’s room urinal didn’t even crack the top hundred insane things that had happened the last several days.

“What do you say Serone? You and me! Taking over the country and using this clone army to impose our will on the population. One more time, for old time’s sake pal,” said Dasher, using the same eerily joking tone. Serone considered objecting to the prospect that this scenario had somehow been a previously enjoyable endeavor the two had engaged in, but instead, he agreed to the bathroom baptism, knowing his other option was being shot in the stomach and left to bleed out.

“Splendid! You are not going to regret this Serone! I find that forced converts actually end up loving the faith even more than people born into it!” said Dasher. 

“Stacy, go pick up Terry. He should be here for this,” Dasher said tossing her the keys to the Dodge Charger still parked out front.

Serone wondered why a six-year-old would need to see a grown man baptized against his will in the urinal of a poorly run, Celtic-themed restaurant bathroom by someone who definitely was not a priest. Maybe to teach him that most of life, at its best, is just a series of escalating compromises. An endless narrative of shortcomings that pulverize your spine into nothing. Eventually, the will to fight dwindles with each increasingly ordinary interaction and the absence of a spine becomes a cherished luxury. Maybe if you’re fortunate enough, the rest of your tired bones melt away too, liquefied after years of enduring the keep warm setting in a shared office crockpot. Later lapped up, digested and expelled by some drooling manager barely capable of wiping their own ass. Your existence is an obedient, beige sidewalk puddle, waiting for the next shit-filled treads of an UGG boot to smother your toothless face as another piece of you mercifully evaporates into nothingness. Something as malleable as a puddle in a hole does not feel or desire to feel. It has no desire at all. It does not know comfort and it is neither happy nor unhappy. It pays no mind to the absence of bones or personality. It simply is until it is not. 

Serone continued onwards down the rabbit hole of discontent, considering the insanity of Dasher’s demand. Of everything that had transpired that afternoon, forcing Terry to witness this charade of a baptism somehow seemed like the most insane. In some ways, Serone had begun to grasp the madness of Duke Dasher, but not his desire to subject his child to this.  Maybe it was to prove the prospect that we are in a perpetual state of submission. Maybe it was a display of the humiliation we feel from recurring daily losses that is comparable to being outsmarted by a skid marked, masturbating salesmen in your hometown. Being swindled into buying a rotting ground beef goat from a dilapidated yard sale from a bumbling lunatic. The stupidity of wanting the inedible sculpture in the first place, multiplied by being financially outmaneuvered by a pathetic loser who, for one reason or another, never left. Maybe demonstrating that love and aging have opposite trajectories during our persisting demise. More than likely, however, it was merely a man who thought he was saving someone’s soul and his desire to impart that hallucination on the son he could barely tolerate.

Serone shuffled in front of Dasher on his way to redemption. They both heard a loud screeching noise from the Dodge Charger outside. Stacy had clearly gotten out of there as fast as she could. “She’s as excited for this as I am Serone!” said Dasher, patting Serone’s forehead with the nose of the pistol. Not realizing that he had likely seen Stacy for the very last time. Maybe he was projecting, but Serone could sense a certain sadness in Dasher’s voice. A realization that after the events today, he would never see his wife and kid again. Enslaving a country with an army of clones was the last straw for a woman who had already endured so much. It was a wonder to Serone that Stacy’s abandonment of Dasher required this level of excess. He questioned how people’s acceptance of escalating pain and suffering often surpassed their aspiration for happiness. 

“Ladies first,” said Dasher, opening the bathroom door for Serone. A bathroom attendant stood at attention as they entered, inexplicably unaware of the chaos that had ensued over the last several hours in the restaurant.

“Evening gentlemen. Stall four has a glory hole to die for! Let me know if you need any mints or Stacker 2 diet pills. I’ll be right over here if you have any questions,” said the attendant, smiling politely.

Dasher grabbed the man’s throat and crushed his larynx. Altoids sprayed from his mouth like a winning slot machine. His tiny body folded, knocking over an empty tip jar. “Gas station attendants are worse than prostitutes in the Lord’s eyes. I did him a favor,” said Dasher, not even looking at the deflated attendant on the floor.

The bathroom walls were covered in decades of old boogers, which raised off the beige paint job, making it look like the many hemorrhoid ridden, skin tagged asses, which had expelled nutrient-deprived bowel movements into the ill-repaired toilets. Serone’s stomach heaved, but there was nothing left to donate to the tiles that were already wealthy with indescribable fluids. He noticed one of the stalls covered in scratch marks, something either trying to get in or out. He saw a poster advertising a Hairbangers Ball residency starting next Saturday and wondered if anyone in attendance would notice or care about the dead bodies.  

“This is it huh, Duke? Once I’m baptized and saved, you type the code Popov gave you into the computer kill switch, activate the clone army and rule the country under a fourth grade understanding of the Bible?” asked Serone, who had been swaddled in a white table cloth by Dasher, a traditional baptismal garb generally reserved for actual babies.

Dasher was now dragging Serone across the sopping wet tile of the bathroom on the way to what he claimed to be the urinal where many great men had been baptized before him.

“We, Serone, we. You are my oldest friend and confidant after all! We’ll cancel woke culture. We’ll make women illegal. We’ll make My Sacrifice by Creed the national anthem. Any carnal urges will be punishable by death. We’ll demolish the White House and turn it into a golden calf. If people look at it, that is also punishable by death! The snowflakes will melt again Serone. The glory of God will penetrate this country once more and shakily thrust until it climaxes its seed of redemption all over the sinners!” Dasher said, his head cocked and turning towards Serone who lay helplessly on the floor.

“Some of the most important Americans in history have been baptized in this urinal Serone! You’ll join a pedigree of fine men and soon you’ll be leading a modern-day crusade with me and you’ll have guaranteed entry into heaven! George W. Bush was saved by this same purifying waterfall!” continued Dasher, wrestling with Serone’s body as he attempted to get it in line with the urinal from which the holy waters would cleanse his scalp.

Serone wasn’t familiar with Christianity or traditional baptisms, but his rudimentary knowledge lead him to believe that his head would be facing upwards with the water washing over his forehead. Instead, his head was shoved into the asparagus pit of the urinal, his mouth pressing firmly against the urinal cake, which the attendant seemed to have forgotten to replace for the last decade. He heard the sound of Dasher’s hand aggressively pulling the creaking toilet handle multiple times. Scalding hot rust water blasted over the back of his head. Serone yelled out in pain, but Dasher could not hear him. He was singing at the top of his lungs in jubilation, “Our God is an awesome God! He reigns…from heaven above!” Each time the word rain was sung, another blast of water christened Serone’s scalp. The sound of Dasher’s voice suggested a genuine happiness for what he was doing, a sincere compassion for the only friend he had ever had and his quest to save that friend from eternal damnation. After what seemed like hours, Dasher turned Serone over, apparently appeased with the scientific number of urinal flushes it took for a proper cleansing baptism.

“You did it pal. You are saved. You were so brave,” Dasher said to Serone, whose eyes had closed. His face wrinkled even further from the onslaught of water. Dasher was elated at his stillness; oftentimes, the ceremony was so peaceful that the baby or unwilling adult would fall asleep, dreaming of heaven. He laid Serone on the floor once more.

“Hey Serone, wake up, you ole dog, we’ve got millions of others to save!” said Dasher hopefully. He walked over to the sink and filled a cup full of water, splashing it on Serone’s unmoving face.

“Alright Serone, that’s enough. I’m starting to get pissed and you will not like me when I’m pissed,” continued Dasher. Dasher walked over to the body and booted it; the ribs collapsed instantly. He bent down and hastily tried to pop them back out, fumbling around Serone’s denim jacket.

“Not you too Serone,” Dasher said calmly. He walked over to the counter again and retrieved a handful of Stacker 2 diet pills. He shoved them into Serone’s slackened mouth and grabbed the bottom of his jaw, pushing it up and down in an attempt to chew the pills. The pills remained in his mouth, but some of the soggy bits spilled out onto the tile floor.

“How could you abandon me too Serone?” whispered Dasher.

“I forgive you Serone. Some people just weren’t cut out for this life. I’ll see you up there buddy,” said Dasher as he pointed towards the ceiling.

Dasher considered how lucky Serone was to have been baptized. If he hadn’t, and had drowned in a similar fashion, he would be rotting in hell. Dasher walked back out to the main floor. He grabbed the computer kill switch and a bottle of liquor and walked back into the bathroom with a bottle of Bacardi 151. He dumped the entirety of the bottle on the swaddled corpse of Serone. He lit a match and tossed it on, setting the body ablaze. Dasher sat on the floor next to the fire with the computer in his hands. The quest that started in an effort to save the country, had morphed into something entirely different, something almost indescribable. It was not a personal journey of self-discovery, as there was absolutely no internal reflection or change. It was undoubtedly not a redemption story, as redemption stories require something worth redeeming. A revenge story perhaps, but even revenge has some realm of limitations. It may have been a holy mission dictated by some omnipotent force that only Dasher could interpret. More than likely, it was simply a man of little consequence who had lost everything and now demanded more than his perceived fair share back.

Absurdist exploration into our agreeable descent to madness.

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