Billboard

(originally published in Pink-Eye Punchade)

In June 1974, Wallace found himself in the barren, open plains of the Mojave Desert.  A tumbleweed blew past as he lit up a cigarette.  He was underneath a billboard, the only sign of civilization within many miles.  The billboard depicted a young upwardly mobile couple, the man lighting a tiparillo cigar pressed between the lips of the woman.  In the background of the billboard was the Marlboro Man, a cigarette dangling down from the cancerous lower lip of his grizzled face, riding his horse into the sunset.  Wallace sat down under a cactus, and stared at the billboard, starting to feel sleepy.  He desperately wanted to be like the man in the billboard lighting the tiparillo, or even better, the Marlboro Man, instead of the strange person that he was.  Wallace had always been different.  Perhaps it was because of the 1300 candy canes that had been attached to his body by a rare, exotic adhesive.

“He’s like a Christmas tree,” they cooed as the candy canes mysteriously flew out of the air, attaching to Wallace’s passive carcass, in what was later termed as a freak weather occurrence during a childhood Christmas.  In those days, multitudes would approach Wallace, tongues outstretched, attempting to lick the candy canes.  A number of years later, he had the candy canes removed by an oxy-acetylene blowtorch specialist, but the scars still remained.

Wallace looked up through the blurring waves of heat and imagined himself as the Marlboro Man.  Was he hallucinating?  No, he really was the man on the horse riding into the sunset, suddenly dismounting, walking toward the upwardly mobile couple, pushing them out of the way, and knocking their tiparillo to the ground.  He continued to the front of the billboard, and stepped out of it, into the real world.

The man walks out of the billboard, vivid red, vivid black, vivid white.  He is a completed entity, and expects to be treated with compliance.  The man does not know where he is from, he just knows that he is meant to make an impression, and he does not want to be ignored!  Various weasels gather in the dim afternoon under the billboard as the man stomps at them in his new leather boots.  “Away! Be away!” he declares as the weasels scurry about.  The man looks about in a confused manner.  “I need to go to Sears to obtain a more efficient stomping boot!” he finally exclaims excitedly.

He finds the highway, hitchhikes to the bus terminal and grabs the shoulder of the nearest passerby.  “I’m here, please understand that!” he declares as the walker struggles to free himself from the grasp.  The man looks across the highway to see white-clad health technicians selling candy out of the back of an ambulance.  The siren blares on as the children gather around.  Tongue depressors with gum taped on, and gauze-covered chewies are dispensed in the oncoming twilight. As the man looks down the streets, the buildings grow darker. He glances at the children near the ambulance, who stare back with gleaming eyes.  The weasels continue to congregate.  The man looks for his billboard, but can no longer find it.

Wallace stirred as a freak thunderstorm approached and a bolt of lightning hit a nearby cactus.  In a sudden epiphany, Wallace decided to “own his candy canedness,” and not imitate the Marlboro Man and billboard yuppies, with their tiparillos and such.  Wallace eventually made his way out of the desert, and back to the city, where he had the candy canes reattached to his body, with the rare, exotic adhesive.  He found employment at department stores in the holiday season as a human Christmas tree, enjoying his cigarette breaks, and becoming very popular with the children, causing much jealousy and resentment among the department store Santas.