Georgia — "Emblem Black"

by David Cady

georgia-emblem_black.jpg (click can to enlarge)

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I know you'll think I'm making this up, but it's true. The second after I opened the can of Georgia "Emblem Black," as I was bringing it to my lips, it said something extremely rude to me.

"Unclefucker," it said in a well-modulated voice, uncanny in its likeness to my own.

I jerked my head back and frantically slapped my hand over the mouth of the gold and black monster. Moving only my eyes, I scanned the plaza where I stood, checking whether anyone else had heard. Men in suits ate curry at outdoor tables, women with brittle hair grimaced as they smoked under a row of young willow trees. No one, it seemed, had noticed. Slowly, I lifted my right hand from the top of the can, revealing a neat red circle pressed into the center of my sweaty palm. I'm drinking you, buddy, I whispered, readying my mouth for engagement.

"Ass bandit." That holier-than-thou tone again. I pursed my lips and exhaled through flared nostrils.

There were women around, so I suppressed a desire to weep and ran-walked away from the plaza, fingers strangling the steel cylinder that had decided to ruin my lunch break. It began to vibrate. Or maybe that was my ki at work. I had been attending seminars on how to tap my body's vital energy. I practiced this healing art at nights on my cat, The Meowsler, who loved my Asiatic massages.

But I think the vibrations were the can's doing, and that kind of undid me. Sprinting now, I traversed a major thoroughfare to much honking and sudden braking and made it to the outer garden of the Imperial Palace, a wide rectangle of trimmed grass dotted with dozens of evenly spaced pine trees. I squatted near a scabby trunk and had another good, hard look at the can. How, I don't know, but it smiled at me.

"Friends?" it asked, smugly enjoying its perch in the catbird seat. I wanted to rip its throat out for toying with me. This couldn't have come at a worse time. My coworkers — ex-coworkers, technically — had allied against me in retaliation for the bag-of-shit-on-the-desk debacle, which they couldn't prove was


me, although it was me. My wife had moved back in with her folks after finding those admittedly unconventional files I had downloaded for research purposes. And I had nearly been arrested the day before when I had tried with perhaps too much vigor to kiss the cashier at FamilyMart. As my dad once told me after a Little League game:

"You, my little horror, have reached a nadir," the can said.

No shit! I said. Screamed. A man selling baked yams from the back of a dented blue minitruck parked nearby glanced up at me. I held up the can and pointed at it, miming a "What are you gonna do?" look of amused exasperation. The yam vendor nodded back obligingly, but it was clear that he hated me. His thin lips were purple worms pressed together in a display of unity against me. I remember that much about him.

"I won't stop you," said the can.

What are you talking about? I shot back urgently, my mouth brushing the warm steel.

"You want to fuck up that yam guy, right? Well, go over there and teach him a thing or two."

Boom, I was on my feet and striding toward the leathery scarecrow, who must have been at least seventy. His life had been hard. Wife gone, kids gone, liver going. Oh, his heart leapt at the memory of his little boys. His beautiful sons with the chirpy voices and too-short pants. How could he have hit those glowing cheeks? Little arms a pathetic shield against clumsy fists. The stench of sake. The old man cried often. But not now. Now he was too busy feeling puzzled. He was watching a red-faced foreigner pace toward him. This gaijin looked angry. And he was holding a can, jabbering at it, laughing.

The gold metal caught the sun for a dazzling instant as it arced downward toward the yam vendor's head.

"Well, shit," the old man thought.

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