The Larks

A Political Satire

     The little girl ran; her breathing came in hard labored gasps. They were coming. They were coming! The Larks were almost here. Her brain raced as fast as her small feet. She needed to warn them all. She sped into her front yard and up the stairs; her eyes wide with fear.
     "Mama, Mama!" Her small voice screeched through the quiet house. She pounded up the stairs to her mother’s bedroom where her mother was performing the daily rituals of bed making and room cleaning. "Mama," she stammered, "Mama, the . . . th . . . the . . . la . . . la . . . Larks!"
     "Karly, catch your breath and calm down. Try again, baby. Who’s coming?"
     "The Larks, Mama!"
     "Oh my God! Where did you see them? Where are they now? Karly, are you sure?"
     "Yes Mama! Oh yes!" Karly had seen them on the edge of town by the water tower, their gray heads shooting shards of light into the day. The parachute cloth second skins a blood red contrast to the black pavement beneath their scooter wheels. False teeth flashing wildly above gaily colored scarves tied round their necks. As Karly related this dire vision to her mother, her mother began to prepare for the onslaught.
     "Karly, get my purse. Where were they headed?" Her mother spoke with the ferocity of those in battle, a dark rasp to her usually gentle voice.
     Karly’s small voice caught as she realized the peril of the situation. She spoke in terrified tones. "The two-for-one sale at Drugs Be Us, Mama! The drugstore! Oh, Mama! Poor Giantburger is having a buy-one-Giantburger-get-three! What do we do?"
     "We don’t have a moment to lose. Get on the phone and call Aunt Kelly. I’m taking my Maestrocard and I’ll try to head them off. Go, girl!"
     Karly dashed to the phone, grasped the receiver, and dialed as her mother threw open the door. As it swung wide they could hear the deafening purr of the Larks as they rolled into town, dentures clacking maniacally. "Forget it, Karly. They’re too close. Get in the van!"
     Karly and her mother ran for the minivan; they jumped in and sped towards the Drugs Be Us on the corner. As they pulled into the parking lot they could see that they were too late. The last of the Larks had ripped free of the lot and was careening down the turning lane into on coming traffic, cackling wildly.
     "Quickly, sweetie, we have to go in and help."
     "But, Mama, remember the last time? What if the one with the extendo hand that dropped the cookies is there? She scared me bad!"
     "I know, baby. Listen to me, darling . . . until the government creates a workable national health care system that includes prescription medicine, these scenes of violent consumerism will occur. The Larks can’t afford their medicines, when there’s a sale, they descend like locusts. We must check inside to see if we can help."
     Karly and her mother stepped cautiously toward the door of Drugs Be Us, the door swished open, the cold air rushed out chilling their souls. The normally vibrant store echoed emptily. They found the clerk squatting, back to the register, babbling to herself.
     "Aspirins on aisle one, Arthrorub’s the same. Milk’s in the cooler . . . milk’s in the cooler!"
     Karly’s mom shot her a reassuring smile. "It’s okay, honey. She’s in shock, but she’ll recover. We have to check on Mr. Jones, the pharmacist." They walked the empty aisles to the back of the store, jumping when a bag of Reliables, left hanging on the shelf edge, smacked to the tile.
     "Here, Karly, here!"
     Her mother had found the pharmacist face-down behind the desk. She gently rolled him over, checking his pulse and respiration. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed the emergency line for the FDA. The stunned pharmacist began to awake as she spoke to the tech on the line.
     "Oh, no! All my digitalis, my laxatives! Gone! Gone! Oh! God in heaven! What will I do? I don’t get another shipment for two weeks," the druggist howled in agony. The FDA tech told her to let him speak to the pharmacist and she obligingly handed him her phone. She would return later for the cell, but for now, they were needed at Giantburger.
     She pulled out her Maestrocard and handed it to Karly as they gunned the minivan the three blocks to the burger joint. "Now remember, act quickly. Order and shove the card in the window."
     "Yes, Mama. I’ll try." The tires screeched eerily as they made a hard left into the drive-thru. Karly’s mom began to sob. They were too late. Giantburger had sold out. The clerks wandered zombie-like through the parking lot, the tables were littered with the remains of special meal boxes and bags, empty cups dropped to the ground and wafting on the breeze through the road.
     "The carnage! Oh God, how could they be so cruel? Not a hot strip chicken meal left!" Karly’s mom’s voice rang into the sunny day.
     Karly spoke through the mist of her tears, "Is there no end, Mama? Is there no solution?"
     "Yes, dear, there is. It is so hard, though. Regulating big insurance, national health care, and prescription coverage would all stop the insanity. Oh God, send us one who can help."
     Karly and her mother drove homewards through the deadly quiet streets, wondering when it would happen again, this devastation of drugstores and burger joints. They retrieved the cell phone from the grasp of the pharmacist as the FDA emergency worker loaded him into the station wagon.
     "Don’t worry, ma’am, we have round-the-clock Lark barrage counselors. He’ll be fine. Your quick thinking saved him from a six week stint in the Bayer Clinic for Disheveled Druggists."
     "The Teethodent! None! Gone, I tell you," shouted the pixilated pill person.
     "Take it easy fella, we’ll restock. We have digitalis, laxatives, and denture adhesive. And you, ma’am, thank you," said the agent.
     "No problem, no problem, sir." Karly and her mother went home and locked their doors, their supply of Fibrocel safe in the upstairs bath, their epiphany complete.
     "Do we pray for the Larks, Mama?"
     "Yes dear, and for the Medicine Messiah to come."
     "Who is that, Mama? Who?"
     "A presidential candidate who actually keeps his promises."
     "Do they exist, Mama? I thought that was a baby story."
     "Somewhere, someday, somehow, they will come . . . someone will come . . ."

Heather Jones -- 2004