Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

All Aboard the Choomwagon! (II)

All Aboard the Choomwagon! (II)

Editor’s note: This post is part XI of the Etch A President Saga, a satirical series on the 2012 Election campaign.

“A self-selected group of boys at Punahou School who loved basketball and good times called themselves the Choom Gang.”

—David Maraniss, “Barack Obama: The Story”

Mitt Romney’s eyes flutter as the human cyborg accesses the global brain of data drives and memory banks from computers, gadgets, and gizmos dating back to 1978. His RAM goes into hyperdrive as it pieces together bits from digital cameras, emails, and online archives to create a picture of Barack Obama’s teenage years in the capital of Hawaii. An image begins to form.

“I see an Afro,” says Romney. “It’s atop a tall lanky kid on the basketball court of Punahou School. He dribbles the ball, his Afro bobs up and down, he shoots, he scores!”

Mitt starts reenacting the scene, mimicking the voices of the kids on the court.

“Nice shot, Barry!” says Tom Topolinski, a Chinese-looking kid with a Polish name, as they walk off the court and outside to the parking lot.

“Thanks, Topo,” says Barry. “Let’s bug out: All aboard the Choomwagon for some Gutt Waddin’ and good times.”

Back in 2012 at the presidential campaign headquarters in Boston, Mormon Church President Thomas Monson whispers to Bain Capital co-founder Joshua Bekenstein: “What’s a Choomwagon?”

“Choom is a verb, meaning to smoke marijuana,” says Bekenstein. “And wagon refers to a classic VW van popular for chooming inside.”

The Choom Gang climbs in and books to the local burger joint, where they scarf down burgers containing carrots, celery, onions, teriyaki sauce, and wheat germ. Then they boogie to their favorite hangout, a place called Pumping Stations, a lush hideaway off an unmarked, roughly paved road partway up Mount Tantalus. They park on the grassy edge and turn up the stereo to Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, and Stevie Wonder.

“What’ll it be today, guys?” says Ray the Dealer, a long-haired haole hippie who lived in a dilapidated bus in an abandoned warehouse. “We got Maui Wowie, Kauai Electric, Puna Bud, Kona Gold, and other local variations of pakololo.”

“Let’s go Electric, like Dylan,” says Mark Bendix, who owned the VW bus.

“Bitchin,” says Ray.

As the bud is passed around, the gang cracks open some “green bottle brews” of Heineken, Becks, and St. Pauli Girl, the gang’s preferred flavors.

“Intercepted!” exclaims Barry, grabbing the roach out of turn.

“Dude, you stole my hit!” says Topo. “Quit being a Bogart on the bud.”

“Topo, I caught you exhaling some of our precious pakalolo on the previous round—you lost your hit fair and square.”

“I would not feel so all alone,” croons Ray the Dealer, “everybody must get stoned.”

“Ray scored us some quality weed,” says Barry, “and wasting it shall not be tolerated in the Choomwagon.”

“Barry, Barry,” says Romney, speaking through the speakers of the VW.

The Choom Gang goes silent.

“Who said that?” says Ray.

“I did,” says Romney.

They stare at the VW.

“It’s alive,” says Topo.

“What do you want with us?” says Barry.

“I’m from the future,” says Romey. “I just wanted to ask you, Barry, what are you doing with your life? Where is your ambition? You’re about to graduate high school with no awards and no record of leadership. Some people—I’m thinking of Bill Clinton, who is about 15 years older than you—has had his eyes set on the presidency since he was nine years old. In you I see no such ambition. From your convoluted family history to these aimless high school years, I simply cannot discern a motivation or direction. I mean you’re hanging out with Ray the dealer, who everyone says is pretty freakin’ scary, even if he can score quality weed. This is a guy who will in several years be killed with a ball-pen hammer by a scorned gay lover. This is a guy who you’ll give thanks to in your yearbook ‘for all the good times,’ even when you can’t acknowledge your own mother.”

“Ray’s gay?” asks Mike.

“Ray, why is your van talking?” asks Topo.

“Good weed,” says Ray.”

“I don’t know how you learned to talk,” says Barry to the van, “but you’ve got to lighten up, quit being such a drag. Roof hits!”

Barry and the gang roll up the windows and the VW quickly fills with smoke. They tilt their heads back and suck in the last bit of sweet-sticky Hawaiian bud smoke from the ceiling. Romney is suddenly feeling a bit light-headed himself.

“You dig that, Mr. VW?” asks Barry. “You getting a taste of this good stuff?”

“Groovy,” says Romney.

Back in the presidential campaign headquarters, Monson whispers to top political strategist Eric Fehrnstrom: “What’s Mitt doing?”

“He’s gone off the rails, we’ve got to bring him back.”

Ferhnstrom grips Romney by the scruff and shakes, which allows the top political adviser to reset the robot’s memory and restart the Etch A Sketch program all over again.

“Mitt, are you with us?”

Romney doesn’t answer.


Romney looks up and says: “Mitt doesn’t want to come back. Mitt is having too much fun in Hawaii. Mitt feels accepted and alive with the Choom Gang. Here in Honolulu, marijuana flourishes up in the hills, out in the countryside, in covert greenhouses everywhere. It is sold and smoked right there in front of your nose. Maybe Barry O is right. Maybe we do just need to lighten up.”

But it’s too late. Fehrnstrom has already leaked the information to the Taiwanese media, which has made an awesome anime-inspired video of Obama traveling back in time to smoke with his old pals Mike and Ray the Dealer in Oahu.