March 15, 2010

Time Wounds All Heels



            At the local airport transvestite gunmen swiveled large caliber machine guns mounted on black electric Humvees.  Cross-dressing snipers surveyed the ground from rooftops.  Bomb sniffing dogs with spiked collars strained against leashes.  The young President had never visited Concord, New Hampshire, before.  Transsexual soldiers lined the streets and guarded the hotel where he held his press conference.  Security was extra tight. 

            "What do you want to be when you grow up?" the President asked the young girl next to him.

            She answered in Spanish. 

            "What the hell did she say?" he looked blankly at the translator.

            The man flipped through his dictionary: "An assassin, sir.  Or more exactly: A paid assassin."

            It was a pornographic reenactment of the news.  The President had just flown in from the nation's capitol to save the little girl from a child molester -- played, despite his vigorous protest, by anchorman Michael Michaels. 

            No one, however, was really all that surprised by how quickly the news-anchor warmed to the villain role.  He took to it like a fish takes to water.  Best of all he liked hiding behind bushes and spying on little girls.  The setup was perfect.  Michael Michaels' character was a janitor at the local elementary school.  Across the parking lot was a recreation center complete with outdoor swimming pool.  He knew the little girl.  She almost always cut across the school grounds to get home.  It was much shorter than walking all the way around the block.  The sun was coming down.  A cool breeze blew out of the north, and the air was as clean and clear as the sharp chime of a silver bell.  It was just a matter of time before she would show up, so he made himself look busy by pretending to work on the sprinklers. 

            When she finally came listlessly ambling along the path with her heart-shaped sunglasses on Michael Michaels popped out from behind a tree and in the creepiest voice he could muster asked her if she wanted to get high. 

            At the edge of a sand trap off the 10th green of the public golf course they found a little secluded place to sit.  She was expecting the janitor to spark up a joint, but he popped the cork off a menacing looking brown bottle instead and poured some of the contents over a white rag.  "Hold it up to your nose," he instructed her.  She brought the soaked rag close to her face, like she was told, but snapped her head back with disgust as soon as she got a good whiff of the harsh chemical fumes. 

            "I tried to hand the rag back to him," she sheepishly told the President, still a little nauseous from having been drugged, "but he shoved the rag into my face and held his hand over it until I passed out.  I went in and out of consciousness.  The first time I woke up everything was hazy, but I remember my jeans were unzipped and he was pulling down my underpants.  The next time I came to, I don't know how much time had elapsed, but he was leaning over me, about to do something else to me, something awful, I'm sure.  Thank heavens you arrived when you did, Mr. President!  You showed up just in the nick of time!  I feel a great debt to my country.  Thank you so much, Mr. President!  How can I ever repay your kindness?"

            "If you are even half the patriot I think you are, little girl," the young President looked her deep in her eyes, "I think I know just how you can help the national cause." 

            The porn star's pubic hair was flocked white to make it appear more presidential.  The young girl did a fantastic job in her role.  She was supposed to look awestruck by the size of his Presidential member.  And so she did.  The idea was that his oversized organ was a challenge to her delicate womanhood, and the young sex worker clearly went about her job voraciously. 

            The administration wanted to make a show of force in New Hampshire.  Against the protests of the anchorman they insisted the network use a ringer for the lead role.  They were very clear about their conditions.  Basically, they had The Incredible Hulk in mind.  "We want a big green elephant dick," they demanded in no uncertain terms.  Their press people also insisted that the little girl look "virginal, fair skinned, and be a natural blonde."  President 'Marshall Law', as the media dubbed him, wanted the citizens of the "Live Free or Die" state to know how serious the Administration was. 

            All it would take to bring Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine back into the fold, administration insiders believed, was a little tough love from an angry superhero and who better than The Incredible Hulk?  

"A little roughhousing in the rumpus room," the President's Chief of Staff insinuated, "Get my meaning?" 

The Michigan secessionist movement would fall next as would those in the surrounding outlying states.  After the President saved the girl from the evil child molester, a feat of bravery that clearly made him out as the champion of the narrative, Federal government officials figured all it would take was a little hard green on white interracial anal sex to swing public opinion in their favor. 

"The dissident insurgents will see themselves as the perverted sexual deviant janitor," the Chief of Staff explained.  "The breakaway states will see themselves as the young white girl splayed on the floor pinned on her stomach under the weight of The Incredible Hulk."

In Version XXVIII of Drone Wars New Englanders would get the message that they were up against a giant green hammer of a dick in the White House, and after a little bit of unrelenting hard action, after several dozen enthusiastic, dynamic, and forceful thrusts, say, those states would grab their exposed pink sore asses and beg to be allowed back into The Union. 

            "Look at her go," the anchorman drooled enviously.  "Little Vaseline," he called her. 

            No one could blame the young sex worker for not doing her job.  Out on the set she was a little firecracker.  Even Michael Michaels commented how cute she looked in her pigtails and what a hard worker she was.  In fact, seeing her in action like that he began, all over again, to complain loudly about the decision by the network to cave to Administration demands and not to let him play President 'Marshall Law'.  Despite the young girl's care and attention, the green Commander-in-Chief, who bulged in every other regard, was struggling mightily under the hot spotlights with the 'task at hand'. 

"Could be me out there," Michael Michaels harangued his producer, "you know, good old Mr. Reliable in the sack.  Just paint my dick green," he protested. 

"I could be wrong, but somehow, even if the flaccid member does look environmentally friendly, I really don't think erectile dysfunction is the message the White House wants to put out there right now," Michael Michaels refused to relent. 

"And, furthermore, if I can speak my mind plainly, may I say," the anchorman reflected, "I think the Administration is in over their heads with this latest campaign.  They are sending so many mixed signals they might easily bungle the whole thing.  For starters take The Incredible Hulk as example.  He is such an odd choice for the protagonist.  As superheroes go, he's not much of a joiner.  He's more of a tortured loner.  Besides the fact that the guy the Administration insisted play the Commander-in-Chief doesn't even look like The Incredible Hulk.  He looks much more like The Jolly Green Giant, and, I ask you, who in their right mind wants to think of interracial anal sex when they eat their peas and corn?"


--Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2010

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March 12, 2010

Life Unkind



            Dinner talk was depressing.  At the top of the news the Missouri state legislature once again rejected Federal Government aid.  "The House Speaker said they would not accept any money from the 'crypto-fascist' Feds," his wife complained as she lay the table.  "Instead the state assembly voted to balance the budget by taking two dollars a month out of the Governor's paycheck to play on the lottery." 

To try and introduce some levity into the otherwise dower dinner conversation, he told her that Winston Churchill had once said: "The U.S. will do the right thing... after they have exhausted every other possibility." 

Despite his best efforts, however, the reference landed flat. 

All his wife said in return was: "Maybe before, maybe way back then the Federal Government could have been counted on to do the right thing.  I just don't know anymore.  Look at what they are doing to Iowa.  They've practically turned it into a police state."

            After all the personal hardship they had endured during their son's descent into madness, it was difficult for him to see his wife still in so much pain.  And now that the boy had gone missing (it was nine days since the child ran off) he could see how the 'not knowing' and fear of what might happen was eating away at her. 

When did it happen, he wondered?  When did Michael Michaels' otherwise very pleasant pornographic news reenactments first start to sting him with their falsity?  He tried to think back.  How long ago was it that the forecasts of slowing indicators of unemployment and the seemingly never-ending string of optimistic headlines of imminent recovery first started to sour?  When was it, he tried to remember, that he finally realized that the Federal Government's charges that Missouri was "meddling" with their neighbor Iowa's state affairs was nothing more than a sick joke, one perpetrated by the very folks who occupied Iowa.   

            The phone rang. 

"It was the sheriff's deputy," she told him after she hung up.  He and his wife locked eyes.  "Our boy's been arrested for a rape and murder three counties over," she said.  "They got him caged up in the insane asylum over there."

            To see her so obviously distraught would have scared the crap out of anyone else, but when her husband came back into the dining room to clear the last of the dishes from the table and saw her hugging her knees to her chest sobbing, he knew better.  The boy was their oldest child.  Schizophrenia was no joke.  They had suffered close up and personally the boy's fall from "All American" athlete and summa cum laude academic student to wild-eyed animal.  What he saw in his wife that no one else could have understood was that those tears she shed were not tears of sorrow.  They were tears of relief.  If nothing else, he knew she could finally rest assured her boy couldn't harm himself or anybody else anymore. 

            Contrary to what one might think, to them the news called for a celebration.  He pulled out the best bottle of white wine they had. 

            Towards the climax of the boy's growing dementia, family life for them had become next to impossible.  The first inkling they had that their son was not quite right was when he plucked all the heads off his baby sister's dolls and drew mustaches on their faces with a permanent black marker.  He was fifteen.  Had they been more vigilant -- they struggled with the possibility -- they might have seen the signs in the decapitation and defacement of their daughter's collection of Barbies.  But what had they done in the ensuing four years?  Nothing.  They had not wanted to think the worst. 

            "Remember when he re-wrote the United States Constitution?" 

The two of them sat out in the backyard.  She topped their wine glasses off. 

            "The United 'Snakes' of American," he automatically replied.

            "The United 'Snakes' of Erotica," she corrected.

            However much tinged with sadness, her face lit up.  It was the first good laugh they had had together in quite some time.  A honeybee circled her glass of Chardonnay.  Together they watched the sun set over the flat horizon.

            "Most likely, the deputy said," she recounted the phone call, "the authorities will throw away the key."  She was assured the family would have unlimited visitation rights, but the boy, it was explained to her, would probably remain the ward of the state for the rest of his natural life.  It was the best thing for everyone.

So -- we can imagine their shock and disbelief when the doorbell rang only three weeks later and there stood the boy... with a box of chocolates, a bouquet of wild flowers, and the most awkward, posed smile you have ever seen on such an otherwise fresh face.

            Despite his emotional numbness at the sight of his kid, his wife's excitement more than made up for the pregnant silence that had passed between father and son after he opened the door -- her motherly instinct kicked right in.  Both he and his wife were overwhelmed by how strong, healthy, and well groomed their firstborn looked.  The only difference between the two of them was how quickly his wife was able to process what struck him as a rather irrational and improbable turn of events.  It was like they had got their original son back, not the sick one, but the "All American" one, and everything that had happened was nothing but a bad dream from which they had both unexpectedly awakened.  The kid who stood before them wore a fairly well tailored Government Issue gray suit and practically beamed with good spirits. 

            A cup of hot steaming coffee in his hand he recounted how the Federal recruiter came to the asylum for the criminally insane and picked him out from all the others for a scholarship to Fort College.  He told them how he leveled up in Version XXVII of Drone Wars and passed the "Rabelais Diagnostic Exam" with flying colors -- and how he was now a proud holder of a university degree. 

            "In only three weeks?" his father had a hard time repressing his disbelief. 

The searing look his wife shot him forced the man to back off.  He reluctantly conceded.  "That's great," he eventually praised the boy, and patted the kid on the shoulder despite his gnawing reservations. 

His father wasn't the only one who found the boy's story a little hard to swallow.  Everyone else in the neighborhood was equally skeptical of the total transformation.  The younger kids especially were hard-pressed to shake their earlier impressions.  When he walked out into the street and expressed an interest in tossing a football around with them their immediate reaction was to shrink back with fear, but all was somehow forgotten after he quarterbacked a couple of successful sure handed passes that lead to scores.  It was true everyone including the mailman visibly winced when they saw the boy was back home from the asylum, but his father was genuinely touched and astounded by how quickly his kid was able to win the rest of the neighborhood back with his newly reacquired positive outlook. 

Cigars went all around.  It was like a full-grown man was born into the world.  For the longest time he had blamed all his bad luck on the Christian God -- "The God of Suffering," he called him.  At the darkest moments of his self-doubt he seriously wondered if his fortunes might change by simply disavowing the tortured godhead, and yet here he was finally witness to a miracle of kindness.  Neither he nor his wife had dared to believe that in the material world anything of the kind was possible, yet here it was, presented to them plain as the day is light and the night is dark -- his boy was somehow made whole again.

Well almost, anyway.  Little things, the kind you could easily disregard, caught his father's attention.  Like something about the look in the boy's eyes that scared him when they took out the garbage that night.  There was nothing to suggest the boy was in any danger of slipping back into his former schizophrenic psychosis.  And for that they were grateful.  His new public personality didn't concern them too much either.  After the first couple of days they finally came to think of it more as an immovable object than anything else.  But as much as he was the son they always wished they had, bright eyed and gregarious as far as all their friends and neighbors knew, at home he wasn't quite their son anymore. 

Out of the public eye he was a different person altogether, hollow, empty, like there was something more to the Fort College curriculum he had not told them about.  He didn't sleep, his father noted, not at night anyway, and there was his latest habit, neither of them could ignore, of rearranging everything in the house.  "Try and get some shut-eye, dear," his mother sweetly entreated.  She could hear him hard at work on the bathroom medicine cabinet when she closed the bedroom door. 


-- Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2010

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March 01, 2010

Crack of Doom



            Early the next morning she stood behind him while he chopped wood.  It was cold enough in the mountains to make her breath visible when she spoke.  He had every right to be angry with her.  Up 'till that point she hadn't been entirely truthful with him.  There was no longer any point in trying to deny it.  She told him she never wanted to hurt his feelings.  The younger girl wasn't really her daughter.  They hadn't set out to deceive him exactly, but now he had caught them together in flagrante delicto there was no point in pretending otherwise anymore, the other girl was really her lover and best friend. 

Chopping wood he was clearly upset.  He pretended to ignore her as he stood the next log on the stump and split it in two with a single swing of his ax. 

If he wanted to kick them back to the curb, that was his prerogative she told him.  She would understand but she wanted him to see it from her point of view.  She tried to make her case why he shouldn't toss them out.  He had to appreciate that in their own way she and her partner really did love him.  They might have deceived him about some things like their own relationship but when it came to their affection for him, she insisted that part was genuine and heartfelt in a way no one could fake. 

But she could tell he had already made up his mind.  Maybe he didn't know what exactly to do next, but the game was over.  As he grabbed another log off the woodpile he was so upset with her he couldn't even look her in the eye. 

When she leveled the pistol to the back of his head and dropped him like he was nothing but a sack of potatoes she tried to remind herself it wasn't because he called her and her lover "dirty girls" but because she was a government trained intelligence woman and he was a suspected dissident.  It wasn't her fault he had caught the attention of the Internal Revenue Service.  It was his fault.  He had brought suspicion on himself by waving around a fat wad of bills and bragging to everyone in town how rich he was.  She and her partner had only done their job by inserting themselves into his personal life.  Their mission was to locate the source of his funds, and they had. 

"We ran a full diagnostic exam before she shot him," the software engineer told Senator Loudan Rich.  "Her secret phrase is the capitol of Wyoming.  When she responded 'Cheyenne' the home office gave her the go-ahead."

The government was holding hearings on Capitol Hill about the use of schizophrenics in the service of national security. 

"She described how the blood spurted out of the back of his head after she shot him," the Senator beat his gavel for quiet.  "She graphically recounted how she dismembered his body with a rusty chainsaw she found under the cabin, how heavy his decapitated head was when she hurled it over the mountainside and watched it roll down to the bottom.  Didn't any of that raise red flags?"

"Writing code isn't perfect," the Drone Wars software engineer responded.  "We write hundreds and thousands of lines of code.  For every program we write there are bound to be some minor glitches, especially in a game as complicated as this one."

"Minor glitches?  What about the fact that she and her partner drained the man's bank accounts and ultimately burned his cabin down to the ground to try and cash in on the insurance?" the New Mexico representative did not sound satisfied with the software engineer's answers. 

Next up before the Senate panel was her Fort College instructor.

"Office hours are always a strain," the instructor testified.  "I never feel more like I'm herding cattle, and it is hard for me to distinguish the kid with a blank smile who sits in front of me at any given time from the last student with a blank smile who has left only minutes ago."

            His standard question with all the new recruits, he explained to the Senate panel, was on the topic of Rabelais. 

            "The 'vinegar butt' passage is one of my favs," was how the young girl had answered.

            He admitted the answer had troubled him, but after a brief pause the instructor said he decided to change the subject to Beckett. 

            The only thing the young student knew about Beckett was that he supposedly drove Andre the Giant to school.  "It is one of those persistent if somewhat improbable legends," the intelligence instructor explained to the panel, "the kind everyone wants to believe even though it most likely isn't true." 

            "Only what I don't get is how Andre the Giant fit into the car?" the young schizophrenic intelligence recruit had asked.

            "You have to keep in mind," the instructor played along, "he was only a student at the time."

            The young woman had grinned. "Funny.  Wonder what they talked about?" 

            "Maybe Gargantua and Pantagruel?" the instructor stiffened slightly when he said it. 

            "The 'vinegar butt' passage is one of my favs," the young intelligence student tossed her hair back and mechanically reiterated. 

            "What about Gargantua and Pantagruel?" the instructor leaned forward and grabbed the armrests of his chair afraid of what he knew would come next. 

            "The 'vinegar butt' passage..." the woman sounded like a skipping record, "Is one of my favs." 

            "Clearly there was something wrong with her code," the instructor conceded.

            "So you had your suspicions about the intelligence recruit all along?" the Senator squinted his eyes at the instructor. 

            "Definitely," the instructor answered.  "The 'Rabelais Test' is just about the only accurate means of product control we have with these schizophrenic agents.  If it shorts out in a newly trained intelligence recruit, the only recourse almost always is to send them back for reprogramming.  To my knowledge there are no quick fixes."

            "And you, Doc," the Senator turned to the man who sat next to the instructor.  "What's your expert opinion?"

            "Two distinct groups of humanoids exist -- water and alcohol based," the doctor replied.  "I believe the young woman was misdiagnosed as an alcohol based humanoid.  A misdiagnosis like that can have very serious consequences.  Alcohol based humanoids have severe negative reactions to the consumption of water.  And the opposite is true.  Water based humanoids should not drink alcohol."

            "Are you saying she was drunk?" the Senator interrupted. 

            "To use the vernacular," the doctor came back, "she was in all likelihood 'shitfaced' when she committed the crime, yes."

            "Disturbing evidence has come to the fore in this case," the Senator went on, "that the young schizophrenic woman is suspected in her brother's death a number of years back and there is circumstantial evidence she was the student who sent the pipe-bombs to various Fort College senior faculty the semester before last.  Were you aware of these suspicions?"

            "No.  None of that information was ever forwarded to my desk," the doctor sat rigid.  "In fact I only ever interviewed the intelligence woman once.  In our brief discussion she was almost robotic in her answers.  Like she was trying to hide something, or mask some aspect of her personality.  It didn't strike me as anything so serious to indicate she needed reprogramming."

            "Alright," the New Mexico Senator leaned back to receive a note from his aid.  "We are going to have to wrap things up for today and adjourn the panel until first thing tomorrow morning.  After a brief recess we will reconvene for the Version XXVI hearing on Drone War atrocities."

            The chamber was already starting to fill up with toddler gamers accused of all kinds of terrible crimes.  Some infants came with their parents.  Others had obtained lawyers to speak on their behalf. 

            "It's a sad day," Loudan Rich muttered from the podium, "when the real world is a shabby version of its own satire."


--Daniel Mendel-Black, copyright 2010

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