It was a crisp, clear night in Downtown Mobile New Year’s Eve, and I was still humming the final song of Collective Soul’s set as I watched the big MoonPie slide down the side of the Trustmark Building and harmless celebratory gunfire erupted across our fair city.
I walked out of the crowd and was soon alone on a side street, when an eerie green mist appeared. Initially I feared it might be the result of chemicals carelessly dumped into local waterways by a politically connected public utility, but then I remembered the tough, hawkish Public Service Commission that regulates them and breathed a sigh of relief.
No, the source of this mist was far more incomprehensible and otherworldly than even the most well-crafted Alabama Power press release.
A high-pitched motor whined, and out of the mists came Nostrildamus, the famed 16th Century seer, riding one of downtown’s new electric scooters, his heavy robes flapping in the breeze. Attempting to stop, he plowed the scooter into a parking meter, sending him sprawling onto the sidewalk. As Nostril is more than 400 years old, a shattered pelvis and at least three broken limbs were the best outcome I could hope for, but he quickly got to his knees, dusted off his robe, then used a parking meter to pull himself to his feet.
“Greetings Robert! It is I, Nostrildamus!!” He shouted.
“Yeah, I pretty much figured that out while you were imitating road pizza,” I replied. “You OK? That was a pretty rough entrance.”
“I am just fine. Trust me, traveling through time and various dimensions is waaaay harder than falling off a silly little scooter. Plus I just had about four Fireball shots at The Garage, so my body just went limp as I crashed.”
“Glad to hear it,” I said. “What brings you downtown? Usually you visit me at home. Aren’t you scared people will see you, or that you’ll get hit by a falling New Year’s Eve bullet?”
He laughed. “Have you taken a look at all the freaks wandering around here? No one’s looked at me twice. As for falling bullets, I made it through ‘The Black Death.’ A few stray pieces of metal falling from the sky don’t scare me,” he scoffed just as a bullet crashed through the windshield of the Smart car next to him. “I thought you might want to hear some of my amazing predictions for the upcoming year before your rag of a newspaper goes to press this week. Plus I’m a Collective Soul fan, so I showed up here.”
“I would’ve thought Collective Soul wasn’t lute-heavy enough for you, but yeah, I suppose I’d like to hear what you have to say so I can write about it in my ‘rag of a newspaper.’ Lay it on me. What’s the big local news in 2020?” I asked.
Nostril pulled a bottle of Fireball from his robes, unscrewed the top and took a healthy gulp. “Man this stuff burns!” he said, grimacing, then his eyes rolled back in his head and he began to speak in a strange monotone voice. “The tree chopper will once again look to reign o’er the land, but the frequent flyer and horse fighter block his way! Acrimony shall rise and a great clamoring from the west will grow deafening.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked.
Nostril rolled his eyes. “Man, I don’t even know why I bother speaking to you in mystic quatrains, you’d be confused by ‘Humpty Dumpty.’ It means Sandy Stimpson will run for mayor again and will face City Councilman Fred Richardson and Municipal Judge Karlos Finley. The campaign will really heat up towards the end of the year as there are fights over renewed requests for annexation in West Mobile.”
“OK … I see. Pretty good stuff there. Speaking of annexation, tell me what’s going to happen,” I said.
Nostril looked around and found an abandoned tennis shoe in the gutter. He placed it over his mouth and nose and inhaled deeply three times. He staggered a bit then began chanting: “A great fear shall rise in the west as the enforcers are removed, and bedlam will follow like a cat looking for a free meal. The easternmost denier will face the test of fire and grave consequences loom like moths when you’re trying to make s’mores around a campfire.”
“I’m trying to figure out what that has to do with annexation,” I said impatiently.
“It means when the City Council tries to do away with the Police Jurisdiction, people outside the city are going to freak out because they won’t have cops around. There are going to be more requests for annexation, and the councilors who denied the last votes are going to face even more heat, especially Council President Levon Manzie. But there will also be noise about the area incorporating on its own, which will seriously screw the city,” he explained.
“You got all that out of tennis shoe funk?” I asked.
“It really reeked,” he replied. “What else do you want to know?”
“Who’s going to win the U.S. Senate race?” I asked.
Nostril whipped a tube of modeling glue from his pocket, unscrewed the cap and inhaled deeply, almost falling off the curb. “Look for elven magic to lead the way until there are two. The pig skin professor shall rise then to grab the crown.”
“I think I’ve got this one!” I said. “You’re saying Jeff Sessions will win the primary but lose the runoff to Tommy Tuberville, who will then beat Doug Jones, right?”
“Bingo! You’re not as dumb as you look, I guess,” he said, still staggering from the glue sniffing. “Dude, I am HIGH! Not sure I can handle any more quatrains right now.”
“No need for all the showmanship, Nostril. Just answer in plain old English,” I said. “Not Old English! I mean plain English. What’s going to happen with Amtrak?” I asked.
“The city’s going to spend $3 million trying to get it to work, but Mobilians won’t support it unless they get half-priced drinks on board so they can pre-load for New Orleans,” he said.
“What’s going to happen in the District 1 Congressional race?” I asked.
“Way too close to call, even for a renowned seer like me. I’m expecting Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower in a runoff, but Chris Pringle isn’t out of the picture either. I’d have to huff a gallon of unleaded gasoline right now to give you a solid answer, and with these Fireballs on board I might spew,” he said.
“Let’s avoid that. OK, the big question is impeachment. Now that Trump’s been impeached, what’s going to happen?” I asked.
“Nothing. The Senate trial will be meaningless, everyone will vote along party lines and it’ll all be over … until he’s impeached again next summer,” he said. “As soon as he’s cleared, Trump will begin withholding foreign aid from any country not currently serving Trump Steaks at their state dinners, and will also demand 5 percent of any aid money be spent buying copies of his kids’ books.”
“What!!? That sounds crazy,” I said. “That shoe got you off your game.”
“I am feeling pretty queasy,” he said. “I gotta get out of here.” Before I could stop him, Nostril picked up the crashed scooter, fired it up and drove unsteadily into the mist. I heard him yell “Happy New Year!” followed by a loud crash as the mists cleared.
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