Dine-in days are over. No more stopping to languish in an airport newsstand or a highway McDonald’s. I knew I’d face a dicey situation at Penn Station on Wednesday, so I wore a hazmat suit to soften the blow of my arrival. Whenever I’m on assignment with the birds, they do something with the universe to make every encounter on my way to them miserable, perhaps so they seem rather favorable in comparison. No: these are monstrous creatures. Besides the fact that they can talk, live for hundreds of years, learn complicated skills and infiltrate societies in a matter of days, they’re always rather surly. Never taking the time to ask how you’re doing, how’s Russ, how’s Booker, no, none of that—if they’re not strung out on forest opium or New England nitrous, they’re grumpy. The birds are often grumpy. It’s my duty to work with them and to record the phenomenon of their existence.
On Wednesday night, when the death toll in the United States from COVID-19 shot above 47,000, I talked to Rooster and asked him what he thought could be done about the crisis.
Splice Today: What can President Trump do right now to fix this mess?
Rooster Quibbits: Immediate ban on assault rifles. We need more free ice cream in schools, an end to recess and a return to the home for lunch. These are important things to consider when taking into account the economic effects of the crisis. My mother always—let’s not talk about my mother.
ST: What about coronavirus? I was talking about that.
RQ: Oh, right. Well if the novel coronavirus approached me on the street or tried to enter my home I’d simply ask it to leave. Pretty simple. I don’t see what everyone’s problem is with avoiding it. I see pictures of the hospitals, and it’s unbelievable. Seems like maybe they didn’t need that ship in Manhattan, but my goodness what an image. What an image. And Cuomo, I think he’s done a terrible job, but who’s done well? Gavin Newsom? I saw something about a big spike today.
Monica was telling me about some friends of hers in Los Angeles who were not social distancing…hey Mon, you wanna come in and tell Nick about it?
Monica Quibbits: Hi Nicky!
ST: Hello Monica.
MQ: They told me the situation in Los Angeles is very strange. The rules a little more strict, you have to wear a mask outside at all times and have a reason for being outside… I don’t think Maryland is there yet. I don’t know about our state Massachusetts but then again we haven’t left the property in a few months so who even knows? Bennington’s in the back, maybe he’ll want to talk to you.
ST: I doubt it.
MQ: What? After last time?
ST: He called me a “whore.” He called me an “ink pimp.” Told me “all journalists are scum.” You agree with that, Monica?
MQ: No. But then again, I haven’t been treated particularly well by any of them, either.
RQ: Well, I think we’re getting off topic. Nick was asking—
MQ: —Me about the novel coronavirus, I know, Rooster. Don’t be fresh. As I was saying, we need surprise initiatives like the kind your governor Larry Hogan and his wife Yumi showed this week. WOOOOOOOO, I do love Yumi. What a coup! You can’t blame them for that, everyone wins: Maryland gets the best tests in the world, you get fair treatment from Trump for being a Republican, and Hogan isn’t an idiot like Brian Kemp or… what’s his name, Dan Patrick in Texas. “There are more important things than living,” he said that right? I mean, incredible. You can’t believe it. Beyond disgusting.
Bennington Quibbits: Who invited the faggot?
Their cousin walked in. I wasn’t expecting this, and I didn’t like it. He was wearing nothing but a thong and a colander. Usually when I come over, the birds dress up for me, like people. I never asked for it of course, but they did it nonetheless, and it always made me so sad. They didn’t feel comfortable, but felt ashamed for being as they were in my presence. I’m not greater than the birds by virtue of my biology. I don’t judge them. I love them, and that means never turning a blind eye. I’ve always been the first to insist on rehab programs and harsh stops to laziness and drug abuse in the family and it’s made me primary pariah with at least one of them for as long as I can remember. Bennington seems to have gotten me on his bad side.
RQ: Ben, we told you you can “retard” again, but not that.
BQ: Get over here.
MQ: BENNINGTON! I WILL NOT HAVE ANY MORE VIOLENCE IN MY HOUSE!
BQ: Yeah? Change your mind since last night? Rooster was still crying at breakfast.
RQ: She didn’t hurt me! I was tardy.
MQ: HE WAS TARDY!
RQ: In my special way…
MQ: In his special way… oh… oh, Roo…
Suddenly, as if waking life skipped a few frames, the birds were embracing, crying and hugging and loving and laughing and smiling and mewling in joy together. I watched them and cried, too—then realized how little social distancing was going on and how much spit and shit I had on me, so I put on my hazmat suit and snuck out of the shack and back onto the Amtrak before dusk. I had a Coca-Cola on the train, my first in years. Not even one from a can, a Mexi Coke I lifted from the Quibbits refrigerator (legendary amongst visitors and spectators for its ice cream and “never weapons” made of ice). Let me tell you that it got me. That soda spoke to me. On the train in my hazmat suit drinking Mexican Coke alone—I felt free.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith
—Follow Rooster Quibbits on Twitter: @RoosterQuibbits
—Follow Monica Quibbits on Twitter: @MonicaQuibbits
—Follow BenningtonQuibbits on Twitter: @BenningtonQuibb