Left Behind

By John Warner


So, I was watching the television, one of those news shows with a number in the title, hosted by a woman whose face looks young, stretched smooth as a grape, yet whose neck has the texture and pallor of wrinkled tissue, and they were talking about the newest sensation, the latest thing they said, and this thing had a name, "frustration," they called it.

Indeed, they told us, we are a nation of the thwarted, the disillusioned and the sad. We are mad as hell and having a hard time taking it anymore. They showed video of citizens lashing out, smashing each otherís autos with nine-irons, throwing bricks through televisions, knocking heads at sporting matches.

Frustration, I thought. What is this? Since my wealth and power have safely dispatched with most of the vicissitudes that could give rise to such a reaction that commoners such as yourselves must negotiate day to day, I had only the vaguest notion of what I was being told. While most of you are worrying about the worth of your 401 K, or the nutritional content of "Wonder" bread, I am being constantly renewed and kept spiritually whole through my regimen of tantric yoga, a diet of fruits exclusively from the fig family, novels from the "Left Behind" series and, most importantly, transfusions of whole blood monkey plasma.

Sure, there are some minor annoyances: the likelihood that I will never read the Bible in its original Hebrew, the films of Ron Howard, Andy Rooney, but none of these (not even Andy Rooney) are sufficient to cause actual "frustration." I wondered what I was missing. It worried me.

I summoned my major domo, Jens, to see if he could help me.

"Jens," I said, "What, if anything, causes me frustration?"

Jens looked at the floor as he spoke, which I hate (though not to the point of frustration), and said, "Well, sir, as you know, you are blessed with an uncommonly even and civil disposition, and tastes of such refinement not seen since the rise of the Medici's, but if you put a gun to my head (which I did, actually, so he'd get to the point), umm I'd say that you do, on occasion, not that often, but sometimes (here I thumb the hammer back) suffer from a bout of stomach upset due to your addiction to Percodan which seems to cause a form of ill-humor that one 'not me' could possibly characterize as frustration."

First, I would use the word, "fondness" over "addiction." Second, what Jens said is true, as far as it goes, but it is a problem easily solved with a mix of Xanax and Pepcid AC dissolved in a gimlet, first shaken, then stirred, then gently stroked and whispered to in French, so I could hardly see how this qualified. I had no choice but to drive Jens from the room with a hail of small arms fire at his feet.

Next, I summoned my manservant, Lars, and asked him the same question.

"Lars," I said, "Do you value your life, and if so, can you please tell me one thing that pierces the nearly impregnable armor of my preternaturally calm demeanor, thus causing me frustration?"

Lars tried to hide behind one of the columns supporting the arching roof of my main hall, but some well placed volleys from my water cannon brought him back into the open. Finally, soaked and shivering, he said, "I suppose, sir, there is Uma Thurmanís repeated refusal to join you as your concubine."

Interesting, I thought. Ms. Thurman's work in Gattaca is sublime, the classical proportions of her aquiline features are to kill for, and my lawyers have confidence in their abilities to quash the restraining order to boot, but in the final wash, that which has been touched by Ethan Hawke, shall not be touched by mineself.

It was a nice attempt by Lars, so I let him go with a light flaying, for which he thanked me. When his thanks became overbearing, I had Lars taken away, slathered with a butter substitute and buried up to his neck in a termite hill.

Next, I called my mother, but when she didnít answer after forty-seven rings, I remembered that I'd had her exiled for selling my baby photos to a tabloid, which made me sad, remembering how she betrayed me and all, but certainly not frustrated.

Mildly irritated, but not overly so, I kept pondering through the day, into the evening. I watched the monkey plasma drip drip drip into my veins, and chanted from the lotus position while finishing Left Behind #8, The Mark: The Beast Rules the World, and noted that the series seemed to be getting formulaic, which was, for sure disappointing, but still I proved unflappable.

But then the IV ran out, and I realized that I had nibbled the last of the figs.

My shouts for fruit and blood echoed throughout the manse. "Fruit!" I yelled. "Blood!" I felt a yearning for an unread post-apocalyptic novel. My palms grew moist. I pounded my fists against my throne and screamed for someone, anyone. My forehead flushed, my temples pulsed and there was a ringing in my ears -- oh, the noise, the blinding pain! -- and I realized that my greatest source of frustration, perhaps my only true source of frustration, is how difficult it can be to find reliable help.

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