Each morning he arrives at the Blue Plate Diner and tries to make sense of it all. The regulars are already there. Lydia Borkle lives in an old shoe in the tiny town of Tempe Work Only, Ariz., where the factory has just rusted away into a pile of gears and dust. The jobs were replaced by robots, not shipped overseas, but try telling Lydia that. (I did, very slowly and patiently, I thought, but she still became quite brusque.) Her one lifeline was an Obama-era jobs training program, but she says that she does not regret her vote for Trump and likes what he says about business. She makes a point of telling me that she is not racist, but I think she probably is, a little.
Next to her sits Linda Blarnik. Like the rusty hubcaps hanging on the wall behind her, she was made in America 50 years ago, back when this town made things, a time she still remembers fondly. She says she has had just enough of the “coastal elitist media who keep showing up to write mean things about my town and my life, like that thing just now where you said I was like a hubcap, yes you, stop writing I can see over your shoulder.” Mournfully a whistle blows behind her, the whistle of a train that does not stop in this America any longer.
Linda’s sister, Carla Blarnik is married to an undocumented immigrant yet voted for Trump, who has vowed an increase in deportations. Asked to explain this contradiction, she shrugs. “Do not tell Bert this,” she says, “but I have been trying to find an unobtrusive way to break up the marriage for years and this seemed like just the loophole I was waiting for.” Huh. Okay.
Their waiter is David Mattress, a sentient robot who will be shut down if Trump’s budget is put into practice. He loves Trump, insofar as love is possible for him. When asked “Don’t you realize the contradiction of this position?” the other regulars leap up and shout at me because the last time this question was posed to him, David short-circuited and emitted large quantities of smoke. “First that magazine writer,” Linda scolds me, gesturing to a table in the corner where six other journalists sit writing versions of this same article, “now you.”
Mark Hooglats lives inside Obamacare, don’t ask him how. He voted for Trump. He will vote for Trump again, maybe up to 10 times if he does the thing with the economy. He is excited that Trump has said “God” out loud for what he believes is the first time in the past eight years. (It isn’t.)
In the corner, under a picture of George Washington that is cracked and broken and stained with tobacco juice, lies Herm Slabornik. Herm is encased in a cryogenic tube which will be unplugged if Trump gets his way. According to a note on his cryotube, he knows what Trump said about unplugging tubes but he does not think Trump would unplug him personally. He will vote for Trump again in 2020, provided he is not unplugged. Also, he hates Obamacare.
Glom Pfeffernitz lives in a rusty kettle. Trump’s plan will definitely repossess his kettle, but he does not believe me when I tell him this. “I just don’t think he’d do that,” Glom repeats. Glom’s priority is filling the lakes with waste because he remembers when he was a kid and the lakes used to glow, and he wants to get back to those great days. He says his No. 1 priority is keeping telephones away from the undeserving poor. Is everyone here messing with me?
Claudia Barknappen, the owner of the diner, wipes her hands on her faded God Bless America Apron. She is taken aback to see that Trump’s budget would replace her home with a sinkhole, but she says that she is reserving judgment and likes how much he hates immigrants. “We’ve got to give him a chance,” she observes. She says that one time Trump showed up at her home and hit her dog with a broom, but in her mind this amounts to no more than one strike. She knows that she can change Trump with love, not that he needs to change at all. Behind her, an eagle falls out of a tree and dies.