“Wealthy People Benefit; The Poor Much Less So” declared a banner headline in the newspaper the other day, which caused me to erupt in an unexpected fit of laughter. I laughed, not because I am one of these heartless idolaters who believes that the wealthy are beyond good and evil, that the poor are guilty of their own circumstance, and that the pursuit of the filthy lucre is the one and only noble goal. I laughed because, while the article was referring to the new health care law, it could’ve been used for any article, written about any society, in the history of everything. It could’ve been written about global warming, tax laws, life expectancy, zoning, market volatility, technology, war, fine dining, vacation destinations, crime, hell even the weather. I decided to keep an eye out for the headline, “Poor People Get the Upper Hand; Wealthy People are Screwed” in any news source other than The Onion.
I had been having some trouble squeezing any amusement out of the news, as of late. Whether my attitude has shifted or the news itself has gotten weird and standoffish, I can’t say. This new administration is a scrappy one, and they have left the Fourth Estate licking its wounds. It’s like when two alley cats go at it for reasons of turf and table scraps. The noise is horrendous and can be heard blocks away and when it is all over there is little to joke about. The screeching lingers in the brain. Even the thought of Kim Jong-Un and Rodrigo Duterte snickering from the White House lawn was doing little to brighten my day.
Luckily I had to go to the liquor store. Sometimes all a person needs is a fragment of a phrase to get that spark of inspiration. And there is was. On a placard. Plain as day. I had pulled my car in front of the big metal refrigerator where the bagged ice is kept. There was a sign atop the container that said, “Our Ice is Lab Tested.” I sat for a good long while reading it over and over. Like that lab tested ice, my frozen mind began to drip from the sudden heat. I saw it with such clarity, serious men and women standing around in lab coats with clipboards, writing furiously, as an array of ice cubes slowly turned into water. At the end of the day they could turn in their reports to the director of the study, Dr. Kool-Aid.
“Sir we’ve noticed that there is a direct correlation between heat and deliquescence.”
“Sir, we’ve made a breakthrough. More ice in a glass will keep a drink colder, longer.”
“Sir, the more ice that melts in a beverage, the more watery the beverage will taste.”
“Sir, our test subjects report that the ice turns the tongue numb and causes a headache between the eyes.”
“Sir, repeated exposure of the ice cubes to the song, ‘Ice, Ice, Baby’ by Vanilla Ice does little to slow the rate of liquefaction.”
“Sir, if we rub the cubes on our nipples it seems to both hasten the melting process and our sense of arousal.”
I sat for so long I forgot what it was I had gone there for. The thought of a big, red anthropomorphic pitcher of Kool-Aid in a giant lab coat heartily agreeing with a team of eggheads had completely turned my day around. I ended up buying a bag of ice (their marketing scheme worked) and bringing it home. I plucked one cube out of the bag, got my own ice cube from the tray in my freezer, set them both out and hovered over them, officiating to see which one could hold its shape longest. It was no small coincidence that it was Kentucky Derby day. In fact, I could hear the derby announcer’s voice superimposed over my little ice competition.
“And…THEY’RE OFF! It’s Home Froze off to a fast start, and Lab Tested not showing any signs of drip. Home Froze is shrinking fast. Lab Tested holding steady. Like a glacier. Now it is Lab Tested with an emerging bead. Home Froze is sweating like a whore in church. Visible shrinkage from Home Froze. Lab Tested a great and mighty pillar of ice. Now in the home stretch, Home Froze more liquid than solid, no chance for Home Froze, and it’s Lab Tested by a landslide!”
Son of a bitch, I thought, what are they putting in this stuff? My mind went to the book Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, a satire in which a scientist develops an ice derivative called Ice-9 that freezes at room temperature, which hastens the end of the world. Of course that was a joke, of sorts, right? That could never happen in real life. I stared at the laboratory cube. It stared back, in a way. I was sweating more than the ice cube was. At the very least I’m sure anybody who invented Ice-9 would also develop a neutralizing agent that counteracts the solid molecular structure, turning it back into precious water. They could sell it to Ice-9 victims for $19.99. I could see the headline:
“Wealthy People Benefit; The Poor Much Less So.”
More Alembics to come