Offset sunlight flooded through the windows of the downtown bar. The windows acted as so many unintentional sundials, a reflection of time determined by the rotation of the sun. Most of the dark wood of the shelves and gray granite of the counter no longer cast shadows but were shadows.
Two people, neither particularly striking sat at the far end of the bar counter closest to the entrance. Closest to the exit. They sat next to each other with massive mugs of dark amber beer wet on their outside walls from humidity and spill. The light still flooded where they sat.
"It's sad, but I can't see it as anything other than true." one person said.
"What do you mean?" asked the other.
"It just seems like we really are getting dumber as a nation." one person said.
The other person took a sip of their beer.
"Are you talking about the United States?" the other asked.
"I said nation, so yes I am talking about the United States." one said.
"What? Yes. Our nation, of course." One responded.
A small smile returned to the face of the other. Both people sipped their beer in silence as the shafts of light slowly shifted upward becoming shorter and shorter with each passing moment.
"Take that Westboro Baptist guy. What's his name?" one person said. One person asked.
"Um. I don't remember. Shit, it's Fred something, right?" the other asked.
"Yeah. Yeah, that sounds right."
"I can look it up on my phone." The other said.
"No, no. That's not necessary." one person said. "It's really not necessary."
"Why not?" the other asked.
"Because his name doesn't matter. What matters is that he is stupid. What matters is he is proud to be stupid." one said.
"But if he's so stupid, why are we talking about him?" the other said.
"Exactly." one said. "That's why I think we're getting dumber as a nation. The way I see it, this Westboro Baptist guy sees himself as Hitler."
"What?" the other asked.
"What Hitler was for Germans in the thirties and forties, he is trying to be for dumb people in America, now." one said.
"You are comparing him to Hitler?" the other said.
"No no, I don't think I'm explaining myself the way I would like. I am not comparing him to Hitler. I am saying that he is comparing himself to Hitler in his mind." one said.
"I'm not really sure I follow." the other said
For a brief moment the sunlight completely faded from the bar leaving the entire place in darkness. The tract lighting faded up slowly giving the bar a dim fire lit glow.
"I'm saying that he thinks he's the new Hitler even though he is too dumb to be the new Hitler." one said. "In fact, he's too dumb to know that he's too dumb to be the new Hitler. He's mistaking pride and vanity for intelligence."
"Isn't that what Hitler did too?" the other said.
"I don't think so." one answered.
The other person took a sip of their beer.
"So you think Hitler was smart?" the other said.
"Of course he was."
"Do you think he was proud or vain?" the other said.
"Of course he was."
"Do you think he was right?" the other said.
One person swirled their stein in concentric circles watching the brown liquid eddy and foam.
"I knew you were going to ask that question." one said.
"No I don't think Hitler was right. It's more complex than that. What I do believe is at least Hitler was doing the wrong thing for the right reason." one person said and quickly took a drink of their beer.
"Hm." the other sighed.
The first wave of nighttime people stumbled into the bar. The music grew louder. Neither had noticed the music earlier.
"Look, this isn't about Hitler, this is about that Westboro Baptist guy. I wouldn't worry about any Hitler's popping up in America if the best scapegoat we can manage is homosexuals." one said, a little louder than before.
"So what exactly is your point?" the other said, slightly annoyed.
"Look, pride and vanity are inevitable, but stupidity is not. What I'm saying is that when American citizens start taking pride in their stupidity, there is definitely a problem."
"I just see that Westboro baptist guy as a clown." The other said.
"I know he's a clown, but why the hell should we have to put up with him at all much less give him media attention?" one said.
"Well the media pay attention to him because people want to see it. If that is what people are asking for that is what they have to cover?" the other responded.
"Well I sure as hell don't want to see it, where is the news that represents me?" one asked.
"What do you think the news should cover?" the other asked.
"The news should cover the news!" one said raising their voice. The music was louder. More people had entered the bar. Conversations began to overlap. Sounds drifted in and out with each other. "Things that are important. Things we need to know as citizens of the The United States of America. Things we need to know as citizens of the Earth. Hell, things we need to know as citizens of the universe." Different sounds different voices compared and contrasted in the air. Consonance dissonance and everything in between created a massive web of noise. More people. Louder music. In the dining room a band was setting up their drum set. Young sweaty people laughing and flirting and brooding. Expensive shoes, tight fitting pants, colorful dresses, tee shirts of other friend's bands, hat's advertising things the wearers had no interest in but still loved at first sight, stylish eye wear. "What's going on in here?" one asked with unease in their voice for the first time that day. That night.
"That flyer says there is a show tonight. It must be a local band. It says they're called Hank Denim." the other said.
"Oh great, local noise pretending to be music, again. Are you ready to get out of here?" One said
"You don't know, it might be good." the other said.
"No one is taking this serious around here, they're just bored kids pretending to be adults," one said. Through the web of noise the drummer hammered out a snare cadence. "They should probably be in college."
"Maybe some of them are?" the other said. The low E of the bass rumbled under everything giving everyone's voice an ominous tone. "Maybe some of them can't afford it?" A distorted open chord of all six strings of an electric guitar momentarily made everything static.
"Well whatever, it's not my problem." one said with a sigh.
"You were in a band once." the other said.
One finished the last of their beer. "Do you really want to go down this road again?" One said.
"I'm just saying, we could stay. We could watch them try." the other said.
"I don't think so." one said. "Some other time, but not tonight. Let's get out of here."
Outside the sidewalk was damp. Cracks in the sidewalk. Dirt and roots moved under the concrete while the city tried to remain stationary. Wheat pasted flash images flecked off a building.
"Wow, how about this for real news for you." the other said to one looking at their smartphone as they walked to the car. "Some local kid killed his mom last night over on Wabash avenue."
"Ugh. I try not to pay attention to local news. I'm way to busy to absorb that depression." one said. "Should I take Union or Columbia over the bridge?"
"We're closer to Columbia, but we'll have to drive through campus." the other said.
"I'll take Union. Man, I work there and I don't even like being on campus. That's depressing." one paused. "I wish they would open a place like the Sparrow, but in West Lafayette." One said.
"I'm sure their is something like it somewhere closer to where we live." the other said.
"Yeah, but its not the same." one said.
"Why do you like that place?" the other said.
"I don't know. There is just something about it. It seems more real." one said. In the car. One in the driver seat, the other in the passenger. "At least it use to be until those kids started hanging out there. It's just a shame." one said. The other looked out the window of the car and frowned.
Aaron C. Molden