Love in a Time of Cholera Scurvy Coronavirus:

A Bar Jester Chronicle;

or, A Tragi-Comedy in One Act

Dramatis Personae

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer (CEO), an RN
The Bar Jester (her husband), a derelict
Child
Doctor (Doc)
Insurance Man
Envoy from Columbia Pictures
Chorus

Setting:  The Midwest; Michigan; Ingham County; Dumb-Ass Acres

Scene 1:  One year ago.  Back deck.  The Bar Jester grills burgers and pulls on a large gin & tonic.  Warm sunshine.  Hens scratch in the yard.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

[Opens kitchen window.]

Stop drinking those gin and tonics!  They’re bad for you!  They’ve got quinine in them!

[Bar Jester turns, confused; doesn’t speak.]

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

What kind of example are you setting?  Don’t you ever think of the children?

[Bar Jester sets the drink down meekly.]

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Honestly!

[Closes window.  Exit.]

[Bar Jester raises glass; drains contents.]

Scene 2:  A Year Later (April 2020).  General quarantine.  Bar Jester’s kitchen.  The Bar Jester is stirring a glaze that thickens on the stove.  He adds a cube of frozen butter.  He coughs ominously.  Coughs again.  The Chief Eye-Roller hears and straightens. 

Child

[Staring at a pernicious hand-held mobile (de)vice]: 

Says here malaria treatments work on COVID-19.

Exit.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

[Twitches cheek and nose like Samantha on Bewitched; audience hears familiar sound indicating magic; a 44-oz. glass of tonic water appears in CEO’s hand; she extends it to the Bar Jester]: 

Here.  Drink this.  It’s good for you.

Bar Jester

But doesn’t it have qua—?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Don’t argue.

Bar Jester

Can I at least put gin in it?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

No!  Gin’s not good for you!  It’s got gin in it.

Scene 3:  Time:  The Future (April 2021) Breakfast nook at Dumb-Ass Acres. CEO reads aloud from the newspaper. 

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

[reading]:  Says here “scientists have discovered that gin can improve a man’s personality and increase his earning potential by ten-million dollars or more, depending on life-insurance.”

[Gets up.  Back to audience, but she appears to be making a drink.  Hands the Bar Jester a gin & tonic in a half-gallon jug]:

Drink this.  It’s good for me, I mean you.  You.

[The Bar Jester, puzzled, raises his coffee cup.]

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

 [Snatching the cup from him]: You can have coffee anytime!  Here’s your chaser.

[Sets down a quart jar, full, lime wedges visible.]

[Enter doctor for no reason that the dramatic unities can explain; wears a white lab coat; stares at a clipboard]: 

Doc

Wow.  This guy’s liver enzymes are off the charts.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

[Quietly, to the doc]:  Shut up, can’t you?  So might his income.  Do you think I like changing bedpans and wiping other people’s arses?

Exit Doc.  Enter Insurance Man, also inexplicably; he is dressed like a vacuum salesman; one eye covets the Bar Jester’s tractor, the other a shapely future rich widow.  He adjusts his crotch and speaks to her in a low voice]:

Insurance Man

You ain’t heard the best part.  [Holds up a policy.] If he dies, you’ll get even more money.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

[Repeats cheek-and-nose twitch, Bewitched style; audience hears the familiar sound of magic.  A gin & tonic in a three-gallon bucket appears on the floor.  With considerable effort she lifts it and sets it on the table]:

Drink this!  Do it for the children!  Think of the children for once in your life.

Bar Jester

[flummoxed]  You know . . . I could just tie a giant olive around my neck and jump into a big martini.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Fool!  Martinis don’t have quinine in them!  [falteringly] Quinine is good for you, I mean bad for you, I mean good for me, I mean … it’s good for something!  The point is to drink a lot of gin and quinine. 

[Bar Jester, still flummoxed, stares, mouth agape]

Trust me.  I’m a nurse.

Bar Jester

[Quaffs half-gallon and quart-size G&Ts; guzzles three-gallon bucket.  Steps outside, walks unsteadily toward the barn]: 

Whoa!  Those were some strong tin and jonnicks!

Chorus

[Members of the chorus first shake and then pour a 300-gallon martini into a stock tank near the barn]:

Double! Double, botanical trouble!

Drop of lillet, lemon twist!

Bar Jester

Well, I guess since you insist . . .

[Smiles, jumps canon-ball style into stock tank, then surfaces, gasping]

[gurgling noises]:  Too [gurgle] much [gurgle] vermouth!

[Takes deep breath, goes back under.  Dies slurping.]

Insurance Man

[Slicks his hair back]:  

Hot damn!

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Forget it, fella.  I am not breaking in another man!  Not in this life or the next.

[Walks away and rolls her eyes.  Enter envoy from Columbia Pictures.]

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

Is there a Bar Jester here?   We want to turn The Culinary Plagiarist into a movie.  Here’s a contract for ten million dollars.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

[Returning quickly]:

Give me that.

[Snatches contract.]

I’ll sign for him.  He’s soaking his goiter.  Who’s going to play me?

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

We were thinking of Lana Turner, like in The Postman Always Rings Twice or The Dancing Co-Ed, only sexier this time.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Isn’t she dead?

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

[pointing to watering trough]  Isn’t he?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

No.  He always looks like that in the morning.

[Bar Jester opens his eyes, gurgles, climbs out, shakes off]

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

I thought you were dead!

Bar Jester

I got better.

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

I’ve heard that gin’s a tonic.  Must be true.

Bar Jester

  Also cures malaria and coronavirus.

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

That’s the quinine, you idiot.  Hey!  Get back in there and wash behind your ears!

[Bar Jester climbs back in, slides under.  CEO pretends she’s helping him wash; holds his head under.]

Heh-heh!  I swear he’s like a child!  Sometimes I have to help him brush his teeth!  Will that ten million be cash, check, or direct deposit?

[Bar Jester goes still, dies a second time.]

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

I have the check right here.

[Holds it up.  CEO snatches it and bites into it.  It’s real.  Enter Child, staring at pernicious hand-held mobile (de)vice.]

Child

Where’s daddy?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Sweetheart, I have some good—I mean bad—news.

Child

Daddy’s dead?  Like you always said he would be?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

No, silly.  Remember that book?  We were hoping the movie rights would bring in 20 million.  They only brought in ten million. 

Child

[pointing at body floating face-down in stock tank]:  What’s that?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

That?  That’s just daddy.  He’s dead at the moment.  It was the drinking— [sotto voce]:  plus me holding his head underwater, er, ah, gin.

Child

You win some; you lose some.  So what’s for supper?

Chief Eye-Rolling Officer

Would you like to fly to Paris tonight for au bleu rump steak?

Child

I was hoping for daddy’s famous marinated tenderloin.

Envoy from Columbia Pictures

[Points to watering trough]:

I think it’s still marinating.

[Laughter.  Exeunt all.]

Chorus

It us befits to bear our hearts in grief,
And Dumb Ass Acres to be contracted
In one brow of woe.  For moderation
With petticoat government hath fought, and
We with wisest sorrow think on him that drowned:
By God, he sure as hell had it coming.

If we players have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have only passed out here
Like a Bar Jester in his beer.
Gentles, do not reprehend
Female cunning.  We can mend.
Ten million goes a long long way
When no one spends it on Bombay.
Give me your hands, if we be friends;
Money and quinine shall make amends.

Curtain.

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Previous articleLocal Culture Update, Bookshop, and Dvořák in Iowa
Next articleHere I Stand: Order and Beauty in a Time of Chaos
Jason Peters
Jason Peters professes English at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, where he teaches courses in Milton, the Catholic novel, Environmental literature, British Romanticism, and American literature prior to 1900.  While in Illinois he pines for the mysterious and musical tea-colored trout streams of his native Michigan, whither he is trying to repatriate full-time in order to raise cattle and chickens, make beer, and scourge the follies of higher ed.  (Read an attempt here.) His work has appeared in such places as the ­Sewanee Review, the South Atlantic Quarterly, English Language Notes, Explicator, American Notes and Queries, Christianity and Literature, Orion, First Principles, University Bookman, and the Journal of Religion and Society. He is also the editor of Wendell Berry: Life and Work (University Press of Kentucky 2007), Land! The Case for an Agrarian Economy, by John Crowe Ransom (University Press of Notre Dame, 2017), and co-editor of Localism in the Mass Age: A Front Porch Republic Manifesto (FPR Books, 2018). Currently he is building a fly rod and juggling just enough writing projects to prevent his completing any of them: an account of his repatriation efforts (tentatively titled Dispatches from Dumb-Ass Acres, by a Dumb Ass), another book on Wendell Berry, another on food (tentatively titled The Culinary Plagiarist: (Mis)Adventures of a Thieving Gourmand), and yet another on that neglected genius, Owen Barfield. He has tried to break life-long debilitating addictions to basketball and golf but has been woefully unsuccessful. Peters visits Rock Island on school days but otherwise lives in Williamston, Michigan, with his longsuffering wife, their three children, and his two arthritic knees.

6 COMMENTS

      • For a lower priced gin Seagrams is really not bad at all. I’m mostly a Beefeater guy, largely because that’s the baseline gin (they don’t really have “well” drinks) at my slightly uppity but very populist local, and I’ve grown accustomed to it.

  1. Excellent. Even though I seldom drink a G&T before Memorial Day, I find myself wanting one now, and a tall one at that, so well done, sir,

    Should I find myself wanting to scratch that itch, however, I shall have to cross the state line, as Pennsylvania’s liquor stores are closed and our supermarkets don’t sell spirits. Thankfully God in his wisdom was pleased to place Ohio less than half an hour away.

  2. The key takeaway in these moments of challenge is to understand the wisdom of the sages as it is offered, in humility, in grateful joy and as a form of redemption for prior feelings of prejudice cast against those less fortunate and whose habits had seemed alien in the extreme but are now a right and proper palliative prescribed by the highest authorities.

    It appears that from the august precinct of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that we have a Treatment Regime for the Covid -19 pandemic.

    It is old timey and a tad homespun and involves drunks jumping trains.
    1. Drink Hand Sanitizer in between tugs on the cheap swill normally administered.

    2. Sit for an extended period in a Boxcar superheated in the rail yard to a simmering 156 degrees and then, if you can manage it,

    3. get a colonic administered with a long UV lightbulb.

    Make America Hobo Again and pass the Juniper Berries, crushed, liquified and chilled.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here