Vol 24, Nos. 1 & 2 Summer-Fall 2008
Wall Street: Capitalism Shaking
By Tim Slowinski
Editorial: Before and after the Election
For Real Change, the Working Class Needs its Own Movement!
The November election is fast approaching. The media, giving the view- point of the rich, presents elections as the only way for the working people to change society. We are offered two candidates, both of whose campaigns are largely paid for by the wealthy. As the financial structure of capitalism totters, both political parties are offering hundreds of billions of workers' tax dollars to bail out the rich, who are the cause of the crisis in the first place..
John McCain, the Republican, openly stands for more of the Bush program of war and plunder abroad, repression and plunder of the workers and poor at home. Barack Obama, the Democrat, rides in as the new knight in shining armor, promising change, a new beginning. As the first African American to be nominated for President by one of the two major parties, he has aroused a lot of excitement among the people, who are sick and tired of the Bush nightmare and of the endemic racism of American society. The long struggle of Blacks and other progressive people against racism has created a situation where an African American can be the favored candidate for President.
But, sadly, Obama too stands for the same service to the wealthy, the same disregard for the interests and needs of the working people, including Blacks, as Bush and McCain. The only changes Obama actually offers are a Black man in the highest office and a slight adjustment in tactics in foreign policy to combine more diplomacy with active military force within an explicitly imperialist program of American domination of the world. Such changes as the working class needs in this time of aggressive war abroad and, at home, mortgage foreclosures, lay-offs and plant closings, wage-slashing, wholesale deportations of immigrant workers, brutal police killings of Blacks and other minorities, etc., are not offered by either of these capitalist candidates.
For any real, significant change, the working class desperately needs its own independent movement, one that breaks with both capitalist political parties, with the opportunist minority leaders and sold-out union bureaucrats, and battles the rich on every front. Only such a movement would deserve the name change. There are hints of the potential for such a movement in the anger at the financial bail-out, in the anti-war protests, the bitter American Axle auto workers strike, the Black protests against the murders of Sean Bell and others, the protests against the brutalization of the immigrants, and elsewhere. We understand that many progressive people will vote for Obama with high hopes, but Struggle calls on activists to look carefully at the bourgeois nature of the two candidates programs and to build active protests and struggles of the masses.
Heres what the candidates offer in foreign policy:
Both McCain and Obama plan long-term American troop presence in Iraq. McCain babbled about one hundred years, while Obama betrayed his withdrawal promises by declaring to keep at least 50,000 American troops in Iraq indefinitely. Both are committed to a long-term major presence there in pursuit of Iraqs abundant oil and as a base for big-power imperialist rivalry.
Both McCain and Obama would escalate the war in Afghanistan. They would sacrifice American and Afghan working peoples lives to further the world-domination goals of American big business.
McCain and Obama, trying to deny to others the weapons possessed by the U.S and Israel, agree that force could be used to stop Iranian nuclear development. Obama would talk first but emphasizes that he will not take military action off the table.
Both McCain and Obama side with the apartheid-like Israeli regime that has dispossessed the Palestinians and is mercilessly squeezing them in the West Bank and Gaza. Heavily armed by the U.S., the Israeli regime is a sword held over the heads of the peoples of the Middle East. Obama, on a visit to Israel, buddied up to the Zionist leaders, encouraged their desire to annex all of Jerusalem and denounced a Palestinian protester as a terrorist
Thus McCain and Obama agree to continue the imperialist drive for U.S. world domination. Obama would bring a slight shift towards diplomacy and cooperation with other big powers, but the aim would be the same. He assured the wealthy corporation executives in a 2007 article in Foreign Affairs: I will not hesitate to use force, military if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests, whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened. Far from protecting the American people, either candidate would be an imperialist President, squandering the lives of workers at home and abroad in wars and adventures to gain the highest profits for the capitalists (these are the vital interests -- of the rich!)..
Heres what the candidates offer in domestic affairs:
On the economy, both McCain and Obama have relied in vain on the blind forces of the market to solve problems, but now each is supporting the use of workers' tax money for a gigantic bail-out for the rich financiers, with no regard for the working people. Both support some degree of cuts in corporate taxes. With respect to job losses, McCain recites the standard Republican mantra of investment, while Obama promises spending on public works but could easily claim that that is politically impossible, given the expense of the financial bail-out, escalation in Afghanistan and maintenance of a large military force in Iraq. Neither one has any program to alleviate the impact of soaring gas and food prices on the working people.
Both McCain and Obama support measures denying the democratic rights of the masses. They approve allowing the telecommunications companies to help the government to spy on the people and they approve the extension of the Patriot Act. Of dubious effectiveness against actual terrorists, these measures are already being used against legitimate dissent and protest.
With respect to racism, McCain supports the standard Republican denial of the African American struggle for equality. Election of Obama would be a symbol of anti-racism, but Obamas actual program here is general proclamations, Republican-style lectures to the Black masses about responsibility and ignoring the protests of Blacks and other people of color against police murders and brutality. Although the civil rights movement opened the door for Obama, he abandons its tradition of combating the brutalization of minorities.
With respect to working-class struggles, neither McCain nor Obama lifted a finger last Spring to help the striking American Axle auto workers, who lost a three-month strike against a profitable corporation which cut their pay in half. Obama later came to Detroit and hobnobbed with the auto capitalists while offereing no support to the working masses, in an ironic foreshadowing of his later trip to Israel. The United Auto Workers leadership, which helped the capitalists slash workers pay at American Axle, the Big Three and Delphi, is going all-out for Obama, as are most other union hacks.
On the matter of the dire situation of immigrant workers, who are being arrested, having their families broken up and are suffering prison sentences before deportation, both candidates offer these hard-working members of the American working class expulsion and the militarization of the Mexican border. Neither candidate offers a clear path to citizenship. McCain has backed away from even the nearly impossible route to legality he offered in the 2005 McCain-Kennedy Act. Immigrant workers are abandoned to the repressive ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the xenophobic anti-immigrant fanatics.
With respect to the environment and global warming, McCain follows Bush in putting his head in the sand and pretending that clean coal, nuclear power and drilling scores of offshore oil wells will be progress. Obama's basic orientation is toward market-based "solutions" such as cap-and-trade, which are failing to achieve their goals under Kyoto (see the environmental articles at www.communistvoice.org for a detailed refutation of this approach). Both candidates talk about alternative energy sources but support Bush-backed frauds like corn ethanol and "clean" coal. What is really required is overall economic planning which imposes environmental measures on big business. Here the need for an independent workers' movement will become painfully obvious, to fight to prevent the capitalists from using government planning to award themselves big subsidies and place the burden of the environmental crisis on the workers. The workers will need to build their own environmental movement, not rely on the promises of government bureaucrats or capitalist politicians such as McCain or Obama.
In short, all across the board, beneath the hype the actual programs of McCain and Obama are shockingly similar. Both candidates are in fact running for Bushs third term. There is no new beginning; this is just another Republican-Democrat contest, in which the interests of the workers and the poor of all ethnicities are being trampled underfoot. This sad truth will become more and more evident after one of them is elected. But this truth demands, ever more strongly, that the workers and poor build our own movement, in our own interests, independent from and against the two capitalist political parties and their defenders among the working people.
By Tim Hall
I'm a working man
I'm a working man
making more money
for my boss
and getting paid
10.50 per hour
wasn't my plan.
I must work
in the rain
to stay alive
while I slowly drink
my pain away
in my lonely
I'm a working man
paying for the boss's
cars and vacations
while I struggle
from day to day.
By Keith Wesley Combs
I have to get up.
In a sense I have to get up at least. No one is here physically forcing me out of bed, but the taskmaster is omnipresent. I have a choice, and yet no choice at all. Thats what makes this guise so disgraceful, the guise of freedom. Its just a means to an end, another means of control.
I could sleep more, I want to sleep a lot more, and God knows Im tired, but I have to get up, I have to get ready, I have to go to work for the master. Im a slave.
What is it I really work for: a plantation, an estate? It doesnt matter what you call it, but if I had to pick a name, I would call it a kingdom. It really is a kingdom in the old sense of the word, despite what people want to believe. There is a ruler, an emperor, a king. They make us think we have a choice in how he is chosen, but its been proven time and time again that we really dont. Our vote is taken, but it doesnt really count. A higher social classs vote is what matters, and their votes are usually bought and paid for.
When you think of a kingdom, and you think of the hierarchy, you expect more than the simple three classes we have here. At the top is our king, below him, the nobles. There is no middle class, despite popular belief. If you arent the king, and you arent a noble, youre a slave.
The rich get richer and the poor stay the same.
Its probably the only form of slavery where there is no physical bondage, and definitely the only form of slavery where at any given moment, you are free to go. Thats what makes it worse: the psychological torture. Knowing that if at any moment you had the guts, you could release yourself. But thats not really an option.
Were born into slavery because were born into a state of need, a state of disgusting pampering, even for the slaves. There is no real wilderness any more, where one can scratch out a living off the land. You have to live in a kingdom to survive. Weve all been domesticated, like dogs.
A lot of people dont even know whats really going on. Most of the slaves think the kingdom really has everyones best interest in mind. Most people think theyre actually citizens, that they have a choice. It only appears that way, because of the state of other kingdoms out there.
Every day when I walk to my work, I pass by the gardens of the city I live in. The nobles can enjoy the gardens all day long, idle away the hours there, relaxing. They can enjoy themselves in the theaters I pass as well. Im not so lucky.
Many people pass me as I walk, being carried by easier modes of transportation. It doesnt matter to me what you call them, chariots, coaches, carriages for all I care. I dont own one, although many slaves do. Slaves think these are necessary for them to get around. They think it makes life easier, but its just another form of control. Once you own a carriage, you have to pay for its constant upkeep, not to mention the ridiculous money you pay every year just in case you were to one day crash it. And should you actually have an accident, those fees go up drastically. I dont need that trouble; walking is harder, but cheaper.
I spend most of my waking hours building, building like the slaves of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. I lay brick after brick after brick in exchange for a meager pittance. Yeah, the slaves in this kingdom are paid, like in ancient Rome; and, like in ancient Rome, theoretically, a slave can earn enough to buy his freedom. But again like in Rome, the price of freedom is so steep, that a slave can work his whole life and never earn enough.
My lunch each day I prepare myself: bread, with some kind of meat and cheese. Its meager I could afford more, but I dont waste money. I make a fair enough living by most of the slaves standards, but shit happens. You never know when youll need to dip into those savings. Every day, when I sit here eating like I am now, I think how this job was my choice. Slaves all have to work, but they can choose their jobs. Most slaves nowadays go about it a different way. Theres the option to take special training for more of the fancy jobs serving the nobles directly. If you get enough schooling, you can take documents, work for the press, in some cases even become a performer. There are many higher-level jobs that require such training, and all of those higher-level jobs pay much better. However, the training costs a lot of money. Some of the nobles have formed companies that will front the slaves the money, but in exchange, the slaves spend the first ten to fifteen years of their glorious employment working practically for nothing. One could get that schooling for free if they serve a term in the army. But theres a war going on now; theres almost always a war going on. So, out of all the options, I chose to work right away.
One downside to being a builder is in the winter it can get very cold outside. I get sick a lot in cold weather. Luckily Im permitted to go to the infirmary since my master pays my medical dues. Thats another reason slaves have to work: if they dont, they would have to pay the medical dues themselves, or the infirmary wont admit them. These days medical treatment is great, but the physicians dont care about your sickness or injuries; they only care when theyre getting paid, and the payment is ridiculously expensive.
Whenever I get a cold, working outside in this weather, I think about my mother and what happened to her. My mother was wealthier than I am, although still a slave. She had been working her entire life and accumulated enough of an estate to retire happily. She intended to pass it all down to me, to make my life better, and perhaps let me buy my freedom. Then she got sick, not only sick, but feeble. When that happened, I couldnt take care of her.
Luckily, this kingdom provides many facilities for the elderly. These places take complete care of the old ones when their children cannot take care of them any more, but these places cost an arm and a leg. It drained my mothers entire estate away, and I was left with nothing.
In the end, the place didnt help her get better, and she died. Dying God forbid you die in this kingdom even that costs money. I had to dig deep into my own pocket to pay for her send-off. I had her body burned, as was her choice. Its a good thing you dont have to put two coins on the eyes for the boatman anymore; I couldnt have afforded it at the time.
If I had inherited that money from my mother, I think I would have used it to tour the world. They say you are free to choose where you live; maybe thats so for the rich. For the poor, youre stuck where youre born. Its not like the old days, where you make your way from place to place. It costs money to travel, lots of it. If I had my mothers money, I would have gone from kingdom to kingdom, sampling them all, seeing if despite the rumors, there might be a better one out there for me. But thats a dream long gone.
As I lay brick after brick, I think how I want to sleep, I want to go home, I want to go somewhere far away. It would only take walking, getting up and going to make that all a reality, but I dare not do it, even for freedom.
Ive been counting the minutes until the sun went down, when Im permitted to go back to my domicile. I dont know why, theres nothing to really go home to. Thats not true. There is the one thing, my one other chance of freedom.
Every night at the end of the day, I treat myself to hope, hope that when I squeeze my finger, Ill be free. Ive played the game a long time, five chambers lead me right back to bondage, one chamber leads me to freedom. Ive had really good luck by some peoples standards, to have played the game so many times, but not by mine.
I play the game again, and I dare to hope as I spin. When it clicks, I squeeze. I hear my own breath still, and feel my invisible chains.
Not tonight, I say aloud as I put it down on the counter. Im tired, but I dont want to sleep yet, so I grab the remote and turn on the television.
By James P. Wagner
Fuck the economy -- I don't care
If the NASDAQ is rising and unemployment is down
So are my wages -- so what
The stock market is up - - my ass
It's good for me -- somehow
My kids must eat -- today
My son is sick of ingesting poisonous streets
Prison space -- my hometown wasted
On drugs -- my wife working overtime
Eroding beauty of the Nile
Flooding with blood before my eyes
Let my people go -- you demons
Teaching the black plague of slavery
Taught void of blame or dignity -- my babies
Insured against health and social mobility
Stoned -- for blasphemy is my free speech
Hollering to God drown in sirens
Police at my door guns drawn
To protect and serve -- who motherfuckers
You trying to fool -- me -- a slave
Shackled and taken away to rot
POW my soul fueling the economy
Behind bars -- bending over for now
It's my fault the rich ain't got enough
I'm responsible for all that's gone wrong
With society -- I've never been involved
But here I am -- another nigger
Doing time at cost equal to college education
Never mind -- another zero multiplied into the system
Taxing my sanity divided into oblivion
I cry, spit, kill and beg for respect
Inside I can't survive your hell -- your cells
White soldiers patrolling social veins
And I'm a virus spreading madness -- frothing
Rabid dog eat dog culture of fear
Look out motherfuckers here I come on parole
Booming my voice transcending bullshit markets
I'm in the black -- my skin crawling
Free from sin -- you can't hold me down
Forever up I will rise again and again
Tides of debt -- caught in the red
Sea drowning in karma -- you owe me
Equality -- apart from your ignorance and token opportunity
I will sever your pig sweaty grip
Steal your whip and lash vengeance
Rolling from my tongue -- independence
Expectations for emancipation brothers -- I've had enough
Fuck the economy -- I ain't no commodity
No human stock to trade
Where is my dream -- my education
My inheritance of a welcome home
The truth has sold out to insanity
Past an ethnocentric white fantasy
Of the good old days
Of good old boys -- gone to hell
With the wind -- blown away
Cause this ain't Kansas any more
I'm locked in a maximum-security city
Dying spirit in the hole -- my neighborhood
Isolated in darkness -- watching the news
Between commercials for a society
Free of morality -- traded in points
Dollars washing hands -- spuming bloody lather
Filthy rich until ... the walls fall
Atop your mansion -- me and all my friends
Exercising our rights to bare arms
Amended -- your privilege unwritten will of God
Bless America -- seizing liberty and justice for all
By Shawn Crawford
Trapped Coal Miners on TV
Before global climate change
Sends us all to hell,
Before World War II
Both of my grandfathers
Worked at the coal mines
Of southeastern Ohio.
My mother's father was a blacksmith
And a carpenter.
My father's father was underground.
They worked at the Youghiogheny and Ohio Coal Co.
In Barton, Ohio.
In those days Barton was a boom town.
Today it is a shell.
They never saw a day of vacation
Until John L. Lewis and
The United Mine Workers
Fought and won it
Some of those men could
Cough and spit out
Pieces of their black lungs.
My grandfathers were relatively lucky.
Miners often find fossils,
Memories of plants and animals.
From the first day of the
A day in the life
Of a coal miner included:
This could be the last time,
And no goodbyes,
They went down the hole.
Two ways to die:
Fast or slow.
Would it be better either way?
Don't answer that.
A dead miner
At the collapsed
Sago Mine in West Virginia
Left a note for his family:
"It wasn't that bad. I just went to sleep."
A billion tons of coal
To create electricity
Follows the conveyor belts
Every year in America,
From Appalachian mountain-top removals,
To the water-table-destroying long walls,
And the hungry, ugly strip mines.
Coal miners have battery-powered lamps.
Decade ago they had carbide lamps,
A little fire on their heads.
The first time
Cold, damp, chilly, wet.
But mostly dark.
Rats can live in coal mines
When miners leave food behind.
Miners often find fossils,
Memories of plants and animals.
Today in 2007,
There were no earthquakes
At the Crandall Canyon coal mine
Near Huntington, Utah.
But the mine operator,
Robert E. Murray, said there were ...
On national TV.
Miners often find fossils.
Memories of plants and animals.
Rats can live in coal mines
When miners leave food behind.
Some called the mine
Like it was mentally ill.
Some said it was
The mine collapsed.
Six men were trapped at the bottom,
Around 1,500 feet below the ground.
How much weight can one man's shoulders hold?
Friends and family pray
And cry and not sleep.
They plead for a rescue capsule.
They asked for a bigger hole.
They lowered microphones into
What had been the mine.
There could be an air pocket.
How much weight can one man's shoulders hold,
When the mine has collapsed?
Air samples were inconclusive.
Levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Were measured again.
They drilled a diagonal hole
1,414 feet and found a pocket.
They ran a wire to the pocket
With a light and a camera.
On day 11
Three rescuers died in a cave-in.
Six others were hurt.
People started talking about
172 coal miners were trapped
By a roof fall and an underground flood.
Whatever happened to them?
In America and Japan,
Progress continues on better and better
At least one robot has gone to Mars.
Work 24/7 without unions or benefits or
They say the mines will run like a video game.
Profits will be maximized.
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill.
I owe my soul to the company store.
Mr. Peabody's coal train done hauled it away.
Was it black water
Or was it blood
Dripping down the hole?
Or was it money?
The last drop of clear
Water from their aluminum buckets,
The last Little Debbie snack cake,
The last dip of Skoal,
The last memory,
And the last breath.
The nightmares of their families and friends:
How long can hope endure
Before the long sleep of not-forgetfulness begins,
Before they collapse
Into the blackness,
They didn't give up until 25 days.
The families did not give up.
The mine owner gave up.
The federal mine inspectors gave up.
There was no union at the Crandall Canyon mine.
Questions without answers
The last movie?
The last motorcycle ride?
The last fuck?
The last kiss?
The last vacation?
The last talk?
The last dream?
The last breath?
You're the reason God made Utah.
You're the reason I dream.
Don't waste time crying over me.
I was a coal miner.
I made a choice.
I shuffled the cards and rolled the dice.
I made a living, a good living.
Cry for yourself
But don't cry over me.
I forbid it.
Let's drink to the hard working coal miners.
Let's drink to the last shift on Earth.
By Joseph Lampert
The girl is burned by napalm.
her back on fire.
A snapshot from a war.
November 11, 1996,
she forgives us.
In 1966 we dont know how to stop a war
and they say there is no war.
They will tell us the girl is burning
only so they may save her.
And we will demonstrate.
Walk down a street
trying to stop some traffic.
Me feeling foolish
As if this little move could really work.
As if this tiny sound could be heard.
But not knowing what else to do,
just going along,
just in case.
And we bring ice.
It's a hot day in Berkeley.
We have a notion
that ice helps against tear gas.
instead of inhaling.
We've got our red bandanas
with black paisley patterns.
We stay on the fringes
and run from the canisters.
The police have covered their faces
so they will look like insects.
We feel their hatred.
Maybe because she is naked
and we can see
her little girl sex
in the middle of that picture
the old arguments
start to sound a bit hollow.
A girl on fire.
We dont see how
Or how many decorations
we owe our veterans
as if that could honor
for not seeing.
they too feel robbed
of a good war
and they hate me
for not protecting
She forgives us this year.
The girl did grow up.
outran the snapshot.
It is so hot that day
I dont think our protest will work.
I rub the ice
on my face slowly.
I know someone is being beaten.
Some people run past us coughing from gas.
I stay near the outside.
They've told us there is no war
and that it is all for our own good.
It doesnt really take all that long
to learn not to trust anyone.
They are preparing
to turn on the fire hoses.
They want to see order.
Soon the napalm will drop.
She will catch fire.
Running like that
her voice will reach me.
I too can reach for the soldier's
when thirty years later
he falls over in the classroom.
But when he first returns,
I cannot pat him on the back.
I cannot say, "Good job."
The police push us back each time.
A few are hurt,
a few killed.
The day is hot.
None of it seems real.
Our throats go dry.
We run a bit closer.
We try to breathe.
We turn away.
By Skaidrite Steltzer
Me, Still Crying
In response to events on and after 9/11/2001
Me, still crying.
Me, burnt, blown visions of ash-covered corpses.
Scared for my life --- for once!
A blunted building?
No this IS reality ... or is it?
The reality is:
Black on Black
Brown on Brown
Blue on Blue
You shooting her
Me shooting you
Drugs shooting us all up.
Kids playing in backgrounds which consist of the streets
Learning to be Big 'N Bad
Me, being taught that to be Nuyorican is to be living in the ghettos, inhaling asbestos.
My people crying for something better
Me, Still Crying.
Hundreds of celebrities join to gather in mourning for the thousands who have passed on
to the third stage, while millions of our people continue to suffer.
Thousands of humans unexpectedly torn but millions expected to tear before they
have even drawn in their first breath.
And meanwhile ... me, still crying.
If he is such a realist then he should play his part.
Don't leave them to suffer in the barren streets of America while revenge is sought.
Innocents dying, me still crying
My people continue to be bombed
The storms never calmed.
I'm an American regardless of color
My citizenship not null
or second class.
The world stopped for Amenca when its vision was broken
But never stopped when mothers had nothing to feed their broken families
My brothers and sisters started to sell
When I was spat on
When me, still crying.
No pity, I'm not asking for that
I'm asking that the rest of the heroes stand up
because these people have been terrorized since birth.
And me, my flag still yet waves
Me, still crying.
By Ysabel Y. Gonzalez
A Small Beginning
The people gathered in the bowels of the Glen Canyon Darn. They had overpowered the guards at midnight, duct-taping them to their watch chairs, treating them as implements of the government. But the people quickly realized their error and released the guards, understanding that they too were the people. The people were yellow jumpsuited electrical workers, 8000 miles from West African grandparents, orange suited mechanics, five hundred miles from squat adobes in Sonora, blue suited custodians, 9000 miles from old relatives in Norway, and green suited maintenance workers, five hundred miles from the Cochise Stronghold of their past.
The people hummed the national anthem of the Edward Abbey nation, calling phrases such as, "Let them be eaten by bears," and, "Black thumb to all greenhouses." It was an Abbey heyday, and the ghost of Benjamin Franklin was found in cahoots, whispering in the comer, "He that is secure is not safe."
The people were drinking, but not too much, reveling in the moderation that politicians have long since declared impossible. They were dancing, as there is a time to dance and a time to cry. No one spoke of the crying, but the tears rolled down like heavy waters leading to a forty-day flood. The action was symbolic and a premonition, much too much literature for the people, and so they drank and danced and cried like an underbellied, smooth, dripping demonstration, letting the dam begin its rest in peace before the final explosion, the sending of 592,000 tons of cement to Valhalla.
Someone read The Sermon on the Mount aloud, and "blessed be's kissed the heads of the people, skipping like stones across the pated water. A man named Elijah, dressed in orange coveralls, fresh off catching a tabby mouser cat, announced that the people would no longer be willing to bow down to the electrical Sadducees and power Pharisees who paid the workers eleven dollars an hour for the hydroelectric poison running through the veins of Las Vegas and Angeles. The people would no longer serve those two high priests, and he, Elijah with the cat, would not allow a regeneration of the cowering spirit.
The fumes from the technological fire became toxic then, burning ipods, laptops, and cell phones in the enclosed corridors of management. A elderly-aged woman dressed only in undergarments did a rain dance around the plastic fire, chanting, as a man leaned against the wall and passed out.
Elijah with the cat asked no one in particular if it could all begin, then waited because he was only a prophet, and not a Moses. No one buried a dead man in the sand or stood up and led a multitude out of slavery. No one divided the waters of the sea or the palate of C4, and so the revolution was slow coming, under the neon lights of the floodgate control room.
The riders of the Apocalypse self-selected, the four men who would ride forth on Navajo Paints to call out warning to those who lived downstream from the dam. The riders left at 2:00 AM, pushed up the metal stairway by the shouts of the people.
Jorge Luis stood on a desk then, mumbling incoherencies, but sometimes, perhaps, it is the incoherencies that we need to hear. The crowd surged around him, the people in all their jumpsuited glory, the mixed colors of a new flag. They chanted the phrases that had been chanted before in such a situation, but it was the singing that was original. The singing was begun in Spanish by the youngest woman there, Maria de la Concepción, a seventeen-year-old illegal from Nogales, and the crowd took up her song as if singing could truly change a nation. Those who could not speak Spanish quickly learned, as well as Apache, Haitian French, Navajo, and Low German. Languages were sewn together like a patch quilt.
When the radio crackled in the early morning, in the still dark, and the horsemen signaled the completion of their careful task, the room became quiet. There would not be much water and danger was not an issue. Evaporation and mismanagement had seen to that. But the coordinated effort still needed to be completed, so the people lined up and shuttled C4 hand-to-hand, technicians on the end, packing the plastics as the engineers had instructed. Caps and fuses and remotes were placed and accounted for, before the systematic evacuation. Runners checked every hallway, office, bathroom, cubby, closet, and engineering room. They discovered only a jackrabbit in an aluminum cage, an animal happily liberated. Then everyone proceeded up the stairs. Those carrying the remotes were last off the floor.
The crowd watched from the roof of the ranger station. There were no fireworks and the explosions could not be seen from above. Instead, a sound like a sudden earthquake erupted, and the dam shook at a magnitude of 10.0. Then the structure imploded, dropping fifty feet at first, heaving down before dust and darkness hid the final destruction.
The people did not cheer. They knew that they had not done a good thing, but only what was necessary for a small beginning. They packed private cars and trucks, and began driving in a caravan towards the first of the cities. Two million people awaited them in homes, supermarkets, apartments, casinos, clubs, fast food joints, motels, malls, gas stations, and shelters. They knew people were living in cars, while others were held hostage by the Internet. Video games had reduced young people to mush. Drug companies were waiting to diagnose and treat obesity or ADD, any man-made infirmity, and it was up to the people to cut the drug companies off like severing thieves' hands with an axe. It was up to the people to redirect the hordes entering the false lighting of well-stocked Wal-Marts and the genetically engineered greasy floors of McDonalds. It was up to the people to put clocks in the Circus Circus, as a symbol of intervention, then burn it down.
It was up to the people. It was up to the people.
And the people were ready.
By Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Give Me Your Tired...
Give me your tired
and I will show you
how the beggar's hand
becomes a fist of steel
for the working classes.
Those who plot/rise/survive
in the face of fear and futility.
(By the way, will the real lady liberty please stand up?)
And pass me that torch you fickle flirt!
I'm an arsonist for the revolution.
I have more questions than ready-made solutions,
but one thing I know for sure:
will always strain against the fetters.
cannot break the bonds
We'll burn down the master's house
the elephant runs before the mouse
And the tired,
the poor and huddled masses,
will be free at last,
you can bet your asses!
By Daniel Klawitter
It Doesn't Need a Title
And the revolution will start one day
And you will be wholly unprepared for it
But instead life
And armies of what should be will march forth
And finally be at peace
The glasses will come in sets of all
The demons will bow and dance only on their knees
We will drive no vehicles
For our destination will already have been reached
And then we'll make music
And then we'll make love
So please pour a cup of tea
And let us be what we should be ... truly free
By Mic McKenzie Linden
In Memory Of Eugene V. Debs
They say of Debs:
"He was a big rough flower of a man."
Many men have principles
which they sell for riches
in the market place
Some high-priced, some real cheap
There are men like flowers of the field
who cannot be brought or sold
& yet they cover the whole earth
with their glory
The seeds of the Great Ones
rest in our Hearts,
We nurture them or we sell out,
We listen to our heart's song
or we comfort the lord body
with worldly possessions
To live an ideal
that's not for sale
is to live in eternity,
One foot on earth, one in limitless sky
There are men like flowers of the field
who cannot be bought or sold
& yet they cover the whole earth
with their glory
By Steve Moore
Just a Piece of the Pie
"I just want a piece of the pie!" George Gentry shouted into his cellphone. "I'm not really interested in your difficulties as my broker; I'm paying you to look after my interests as your client!" Then he took another swallow of his champagne-laced, freshly-squeezed orange juice as the frail black kitchen maid placed his special breakfast before him: braised sirloin filets and chocolate chip waffles heavily ladled with strawberries in syrup and smothered in nutmeg-dusted whipped cream.
"Ah, that looks wonderful!" exclaimed George as he reached for his knife and fork. "I dream about this scrumptious Saturday treat all during my busy work week."
"Try to avoid seconds on the waffles, George," said his wife Sunny, who had been served, as had their children, Tubby Thomas and Porky Penelope, before he had. "The high-protein filets will do you more good."
"Oh, come on, Sunny! Today is Self Satisfaction Saturday for us upscale citizens of This Great Nation (TGN). It's our civic duty to enjoy ourselves to the full; the nation's prosperity depends on it."
"Dad, can I have thirds on the waffles?" Porky Penelope asked, her lips smeared with whipped cream and strawberry syrup.
"Now, honey, that would be overdoing it!" said George and wagged a finger at his rotund daughter. "Your gymnastic coach is already complaining about your weight."
"Ah, Dad, it's Self Satisfaction Saturday; all good citizens are supposed to consume like crazy in this twenty-four-hour period, and that includes eating to our heart's content!"
"Well," George hesitated for a moment, "we also have to give some thought to our health." Then he jammed a fork full of waffles into his mouth.
"Okay, okay!" George relented. "No more waffles but we'll stop at LuciousCream Doughnuts on the way to your gymnastic class and you can pick up a couple of those mocha cream- and-almond-filled doughnuts you like so much."
"How about a four-pack?" Porky Penelope pleaded, but before her father could reply, Tubby Thomas mumbled through a mouth full of waffles.
"Ah, gee, Penelope gets to ride in the gold Jaguar convertible again!" Then he loudly sipped his pineapple and guava smoothie through an extra fat straw.
"Ja-gu-ar, Thomas, my boy!" George corrected his sulking son. "It's an English car so should be pronounced in three syllables.
"Listen, George," Sunny suddenly interrupted. "I forgot to tell you," then she glanced toward the closed door that led to the kitchen and lowered her voice to a whisper, "our new gardener, Fidel What's-his-name, expects us to contribute to his social security fund; can you imagine?"
"The hell with him!" George snapped at her. "If he wants socialism, let him go back to the banana republic he came from!"
"Shh, not so loud!" said Sunny as she held a finger to her lips. "The kitchen staff may hear you and they're already upset by the cut in wages we just implemented."
George shook a fist at the kitchen door and went on eating.
After their sumptious breakfast had been finished, everybody belched several times "to clear the gas from the upper digestive tract," a practice Sunny thought especially important before beginning on the between-meals snacks they would all enjoy throughout another celebration of Self Satisfaction Saturday. That was followed by a formal inspection before the small family would deign to leave their mansion, with George playing the role of inspecting officer. He sharply snapped to attention and barked:
"Everybody dressed in the latest designer casual clothes, credit cards and cellphones at the ready?"
"Check!" the other three shouted in unison.
"Okay," George continued, "Tubby Thomas rides with Mom in her silver Mercedes-Benz sedan and Porky Penelope accompanies me in the gold Ja-gu-ar convertible."
"Check!" the three "soldiers" dutifully responded.
"Then," George raised his voice an octave, off we are off to the Multiorgasm Municipal Mall (MMM), TGN's largest and best-stocked shopping center!"
"Let no appetite be unsatisfied!" the three repeated MMM's slogan in unison.
"From this point on we'll keep in close touch via our state-of-the-art cellphones!" George announced.
"Beware of mall terrorists in whatever disguises intent on assaulting patriotic consumers like us! Remember, behind the outstretched hands seeking alms, could be the daggers of their discontent!"
"Then off we go into another SELF SATISFACTION SATURDAY!"
Before actually entering MMM's vast parking lot, an ugly area that had once been a luxuriant citrus grove, George through the Great Southern Gate to the section of male delights and Sunny through the Great Northern Gate to the female equivalent, they had stopped along the way for refreshments. George had purchased a basket of specially-roasted crab legs and pickled yams, and a triple latté coffee, while Porky Penelope got that four-pack of mocha cream-and almond-filled doughnuts she had been promised and a Big Apple cream soda. Sunny had picked up an order of spicy shrimp sushi and green tea flavored with honey, while Tubby Thomas chose a bacon cheeseburger with freedom fries and a banana and date smoothie. These snacks were necessary because finding a space in MMM's parking lot could be an extended endeavor. After all, Self Satisfaction Saturday was fast becoming TGN's favorite patriotic holiday, while MMM was the premier consumer center.
Actually, neither George nor Sunny was able to get the cars into the MMM parking lot until mid-morning and they still hadn't found spaces as lunch time approached.
"They need another giant parking structure on the premises," Sunny complained through her cellphone.
"I should have gotten a side order of sesame cucumbers to go with the shrimp."
"Be patient, honey," George encouraged her. "Did you drop off Tubby Thomas at his karate class all right?"
"Yeah, yeah!" said Sunny impatiently. "Though I wasn't able to get close enough to his favorite frozen yogurt stand, and he was really pouting when he got out of the car."
"Ah, poor kid!" said George. "He really likes that frozen yogurt!"
"What about Porky Penelope?" Sunny asked. "She was late for her gymnastic class last Saturday."
"Well, she got there in plenty of time today," said George, and was able to pick up a double-sized chocolate bar!"
"Good for you, George! She can be a real hellion when she hasn't had enough to eat!"
"So, what's on your shopping list today?" George asked his wife.
"Well, there's a sale on rhinestone dog collars that I just can't pass up.
"We don't even have a dog, Sunny!" George quickly protested. "Our precious St. Bernard, Dagwood, choked on a leftover spare rib two weeks ago today, remember?"
"I know that, George, but the kids really want a dog! Besides, everybody on our block has a pure bred canine. Do you want us to be the only family without one?"
Well ... I don't know..." George stammered. "What kind of pure breed do you have in mind this time?"
"I thought we'd get a Great Dane and call him Baskerville! Wouldn't that be cute?"
"A Great Dane! Are you kidding me? That sterling silver pooper scooper we own wasn't big enough for what Dagwood dumped during his thrice-daily walks!"
"George, the kids already have their eyes on a Great Dane puppy in MMM's best kennel!"
"All right, all right!" George relented. "What else have you got in mind?"
"Ah... let's see..." Sunny hesitated a moment as she scanned her shopping list. "Tasteful Lavatory Accessories has a good price on silver fox toilet seat covers ....
"What's wrong with the mink ones we have now?" George interrupted as he swerved his car to miss a pedestrian loaded down with packages.
"Everybody has mink toilet seat covers nowadays, honey! Let's one-up them by being the first silver fox family in our fashionable neighborhood; besides, they will match the tile patterns we have in our six bathrooms."
"Okay, you win!" sighed George. "What else tickles your fancy on another Self Satisfaction Saturday?"
"Well, George, I saw an advertisement for knee-length maroon suede boots lined with ermine that I simply can't resist at any price!"
When her husband only groaned through his cellphone, Sunny exclaimed firmly, "Come on, George, it's Self Satisfaction Saturday! Be patriotic, will you?"
"Okay, go for it!" he said with a fake cheeriness. "Though you hardly need fur-lined boots in the Mediterranean climate of the Quaker State!"
"What about you?" Sunny asked while pointedly avoiding his comment about the state's mild climate.
"What's your pleasure on this weekly celebration of our country's greatness?"
"Right now," George responded immediately, a note of urgency ringing in his voice, "I'm looking for a short line into the food section. It's past the time for my lunch break and I have a man-sized appetite for a deluxe pizza with everything on it."
"Anchovies too?" Sunny asked.
"Maybe if our cars happen to pass each other, you can hand me a slice through the window?"
"Sure, Sunny, why not?"
"Ah, that's all right, you big lug; I was just checking to see if you still love me! You can have the pizza all to yourself!"
"You can have a slice; I'll even get extra anchovies."
"Naw, that's okay! I'm really in the mood for a spinach, tofu and onion knish and a big drink of carrot and tangerine nectar."
"That sounds healthy, anyway," said George, "but I'm going to stick with the pizza and wash it down with a giant diet cola."
"Now that we've settled what we're having for lunch, tell me what you're shopping for!"
"Im doing Army surplus this week at the Big Guy's Bang Emporium. They have World War II-vintage fifty caliber water-cooled machine guns complete with ammunition belts, and at bargain prices!"
"Oh, God, you and your war toys!"
"I'll mount one on our front balcony pointed directly at that Communist bastard across Hosannah Boulevard from us and....
"Oh, George, for heaven's sake!" Sunny interrupted. "He's not a Communist!"
"What're you talking about? He always votes for the Lesser of Two Evils political party, doesn't he?"
"The LTE is certainly not Communist; they just oppose slashing taxes as deeply as the Low Wages party wants to!"
"Come on, will you, Sunny! LTE is soft on welfare. Aren't they asking for ten dollars more a month for blind people over seventy-five years old?"
"Just so they can feed their guide dogs!"
"Aw, nuts to that! They'll spend the handout on cheap wine and the poor dogs will eat scraps!"
"Oh, Jeez!" sighed Sunny, then whispered urgently. "I hate it when you talk like a neocon; after all, George, we're with the moderate wing of the Low Wages party. Did you forget?"
"You're an LW moderate, Sunny; I am definitely not one of those! George Gentry is a conservative moderate and don't you forget it!"
"I thought we agreed, when we did our New Year's resolutions, that we were moderate conservatives?"
"No, no no!" George raised his voice an octave but rolled up his car windows at the same time.
"Conservative moderate is our stand; let's be clear on that! Otherwise, they'll think we're with the neocons!"
"All right, George, now I understand your position; nevertheless, I see myself as more of a moderate centrist. I mean, when you come right down to it."
"Okay, Sunny, that's your prerogative; you don't have to be the same as me.
"So, let's get back to the all-important shopping on this very special day," Sunny continued her questioning. "You're actually going to buy a fifty-caliber machine gun for the front balcony?"
"And one for the back yard," said George.
"You mean for the kids to play with?"
"Of course, Sunny; you know how they love to play at war!"
"With ammunition belts too?" Sunny asked.
"It's not live ammunition, Sunny; the bullets are blanks that will make noise but not hurt anyone."
"Okay, George, our children's war games will be very realistic with an actual machine gun as a prop, but do we need one on the front balcony? I mean, how will anybody see it behind the balustrade?"
"I'll shove the barrel of the machine gun through one of the heart-shaped openings in the balustrade."
"George, the heart is a symbol of love! You're going to stick a weapon through one of the hearts on our balcony?"
"Pointed right at that Commie son-of-a-bitch polluting our upscale neighborhood, you bet your sweet ass I am!"
Sunny only sighed.
"So, it's a dog collar, ermine-lined boots and toilet seat covers this Saturday?" George asked as he swerved his car to miss an elderly pedestrian reeling from the carbon monoxide blanketing the gigantic MMM parking lot.
"Well, George!" Sunny suddenly whispered. "I thought I'd pop into All Ye Pleasures Sex Shoppe for a triple-headed vibrator they have on sale today."
"Three vibrating heads?" George asked. "What the hell's the idea?"
"Oh, George, use your imagination!"
"Give me a hint, will you?"
Sunny dropped her voice to a whisper again, "Clitoris, G-spot and anus!"
"Oh, that's interesting," was all George could say but he was thinking, Jeez-Louise, women have all the fun!
As if sensing what her husband was thinking, Sunny continued to praise this new "brilliant invention" of TGN's great engineers.
"The advertisements claim that the Zephyr Playmate gave an orgasm to a woman who had been pronounced dead six hours before it was affixed to her private parts!"
"Oh, I don't believe that!" George exclaimed vehemently. "Don't be taken in by false advertising! That woman must have been still alive!"
"Well, maybe," said Sunny, "but I'm going to get one anyway, for those times when you're away on a business trip."
"Suit yourself, sweetheart; it's Self Satisfaction Saturday!"
"What about you, George; what else besides the machine guns, I mean?"
"Well, let's see, Big Guy's Bang Emporium is letting go of some Armed Personnel Carriers that are no longer resistant to the weapons of international terrorism."
"Yeah, the Defense Department has really been pushing hard for a new model to protect us from those mad fiends!"
"That's right, Sunny, and they're giving a tax write-off this year to those of us willing to buy the obsolete models."
"Then get one, George; you'll be serving our country!"
"Yeah, it's a good deal all around and there'll be room for it in our eight-car garage; that is, if you'd be willing to move your collection of antique chamber pots from the eighth spot."
"Oh, gee whiz, George, where would I move them to?"'
"Up above," said George with no hesitation.
"Up above?" Sunny asked.
"Yes, Sunny, it's time to build onto the garage, a second story as a storage area for our precious possessions."
Around and around George and Sunny drove their expensive cars in search of parking spaces, but to no avail. On this Self Satisfaction Saturday the Multiorgasm Municipal Mall was crowded to the breaking point with shoppers, while the sound system blared ditties to encourage their efforts
Buy, buy, buy!
You really have to try!
Why, why, why?
To keep prosperity high!
"I think it being a presidential election year has a lot to do with the size of the crowd today," said Sunny as she licked a licorice cone purchased from MMM's circulating ice cream truck.
"Yeah, you're probably right," George quickly agreed. "Nothing brings out supporting the TGN way of life as a presidential election does."
"Oh, damn! said Sunny as she jammed on her brakes. "Some elderly shopper just collapsed right in front of my car!"
"Were you rear-ended?" George asked and set aside his hot fudge sundae.
"No, luckily I wasn't," said Sunny, "but now I won't be able to move at all until they remove his body."
"Is he dead?"
"I can't really tell; he hasn't moved a muscle since he hit the ground!"
"Jeez, these seniors should know enough not to come to MM on a day like today! The carbon monoxide is as thick as a fog!"
"Some people have no consideration, George; you should know that by now. Damn, I'll be stuck here forever!"
"Don't let the delay bother you, Sunny, or you'll be involved in a fender-bender before you know it!"
"Yeah, I..." then Sunny interrupted herself. "Oh, here come the Girl Scouts to the rescue; they'll take care of the situation!"
"Good we bought their cookies last time they were around!" said George.
"They've revived him! How's that for a good deed?" Sunny fairly shouted through her cellphone. "He's starting to get up. Hallelujah, I'll be able to move my car!"
By four o'clock in the afternoon these two avid celebrants of Self Satisfaction Saturday still had not found parking spaces,, even as they were able to spend plenty of money at the more accessible MMM food concessions and could take care of their bodily needs. Sunny's car had a built in chamber pot in the driver's seat of her Mercedes-Benz, while George had urinated in the giant cup that had held his diet cola. So, late as it was but having had all the food and drink they wanted as they repeatedly circled the sprawling parking lot, they were still game to do some shopping.
"Let's try the border section between the guys' and gals' sides of the lot," George suggested to his wife. "It might be easier to park where the early-departing seniors leave their cars."
"Good idea, George; I'm heading south on this next turn I make."
George was already moving northward.
"There's a spot!" he suddenly shouted with glee. "I've found one!"
"Believe it or not, so have I!"
Chief-Inspector F.F. "Feisty" Fosdick and his trusted assistant, A.A. "Ace" Yokum dropped from the hovering security helicopter onto the parking lot and quickly took charge of the accident investigation.
"What have we got here, officer?" Feisty asked as he scrutinized the scene with his famous steely-eyed stare.
"Another space battle, I'm afraid," the officer replied. "The silver Mercedes turned left for the empty slot at precisely the same moment as the gold Jaguar turned right."
"A typical accident by the mad Saturday shoppers!" exclaimed Ace as he shook his head and grimaced in disgust. "It happens a lot this late in the shopping day."
"Yeah, but don't be too hard on them," said the fatherly sounding Feisty. "Such people as these two are the salt of the earth! They are the eager shoppers who make the good old TGN what it is, and don't you forget it, Ace!"
"Yeah, I know, Inspector, but they've got to be more careful; at least, drive slower in a parking lot."
"Well, maybe, maybe so," said Feisty as he pursed his lips thoughtfully... "but you've got to admire their drive to consume."
"No pun intended?" quipped Ace, then laughed aloud.
"Now, now, Ace, quit kidding around! We've got work to do!"
"Right you are, Chief; whenever you're ready!"
"Is it a double fatality?"
"Well, the woman in the silver Mercedes swallowed a double-grande ice cream cone on impact and choked to death before anybody could help her."
"What flavor ... uh.... What about the one in the gold Jaguar?"
"He's still breathing but he doesn't look so good. Keeps mumbling something about his automobile."
"Let me get my practiced ear close to him," said Feisty then moved closer to the wreckage. "Poor guy, he just wanted a piece of the pie!"
George Gentry looked up expectantly from the gurney he was strapped to, as though Chief-Inspector Fosdick could save his life.
"Didn't the Jaguar brakes hold well?" Feisty asked, more to see if the injured man was conscious enough to speak.
George mumbled something unintelligible so the Chief-Inspector got down on his hands and knees in order to hear better.
"What's that you say?" he asked.
It my ... good ... man..." George began haltingly, obviously in great pain "my beautiful... automobile... should be ... pronounced... the English way ... Ja ... gu... aaaah." Then his head rolled slowly onto his shoulder and a blank stare came to his eyes.
By Anthony Garavente
Scarlet crushed velvet, silver in a heart-shaped mold
Or brilliantly carved gold, for which you would give your soul
Or what would you do, for a dozen of roses
Perhaps nude poses, what is your valuable thing
It is platinum, and all sort of rich apparel
That you would risk your life, staring down a barrel
Is there not anything, you won't do for your valuable thing
I've seen how you lied, and sold people impossible drams
Thing has taken over your life, family and friends, will pay the price
So you put thing on high, thing says worship no other
Soon this thing has taken the place, of your mother
Greed is how it all started, there's no turning back, your life has departed
By Curtis Cook
Its going to hit 45 today. Abu overheard a guard say as he pushed his way through the crowd towards the fence on the west side of the prison camp. It was not easy; everyone wanted to get next to the fence to put their arms out of the large square metal fence to keep their bodies cooler. Abu pushed hard until he saw his friend Khader. He found Khader alone with an extraordinary amount of free space around him. As he approached Khader a strong pungent smell hit Abu.
I just cant face that latrine, Abu, they wont even give us the tools and soaps to clean up after ourselves. Because of Khaders excrement there were more flies than usual and Abu didnt bother to try and swat them from his face, it was pointless; there were hundreds.
I have heard some things, just rumors you understand, rumors at this point.
About my family?
Yes, Abu, its Mahmound, your son.
I am sorry Abu, there are rumors that he has been shot.
No, not my boy, he is only 14. There must be a mistake. Before they brought me here I had trained him well. No, not Mahmound.
I dont know Abu, some news in the international papers, boy shot with weapon in his hand.
Yes, well you know the soldiers, gun, cocktails, rocks, they all look the same to them.
No, its a rumor, they always get the names wrong in the press. Their only source is the people that do the shooting, and how are they supposed to know names? Before they brought me here I had trained him well. Not Mahmound.
Maybe youre right Abu. Ill keep checking, dont worry.
Thanks Khader, tell me if you hear anything more certain.
Abu walked through the crowd away from Khader, he did not want to speak with him any longer. Mahmound was smart. But they had taken Abu in the night, before he had a chance to say any last words to his family. He slowly pushed himself through the crowd, away from the cooler side of the prison yard, not really thinking about moving in any direction.
He then watched as the crowd, normally so tight, started to part with ease. Abu saw two guards coming through the crowd with batons in their hands. He immediately walked in the opposite direction to avoid them but the crowd seemed to open in a way that directed the guards straight to him. The guards grabbed him and whacked his legs with the truncheons to ensure compliance.
Come with us and walk straight, the guard said as he pushed him forward.
They took him to a dark room with one light over the chair where he was seated. In front of him were two men sitting behind a table. The two guards stood on either side.
State your name.
Abu Ali Asideyi.
No fixed abode.
Are you refusing to answer the question Mr. Asideyi?
No, it is the truth, your bulldozers knocked down my house one year ago, dont you remember?
We dont keep records.
Where did you used to live.
What did you do to make a living?
I was a shopkeeper.
So, you must know a great deal about the people in the neighborhood?
I was just a shopkeeper before you brought me here.
But you will know about the terrorist actions yesterday?
No, what actions? I have been in here over a year.
Come now, you must know something
Do you know Mazzine Ali Khalifai, he is from your neighborhood.
No. Can you tell me how my son is, Mohmaund and my wife, Reema, my daughter, Raiyshai?
We ask the questions here, do you understand?
Youve kept me here for a year, I have done nothing wrong, you can at least tell me your information about my son?
Have you developed hearing problems Mr. Asideyi? We ask the questions around here. One of the two guards stepped forward with his baton.
Ok. No. I know nothing of this Mazzine.
Well, then I suppose this interview is over.
If I did know something I would tell you, I am only a shopkeeper, I dont get involved, please tell me about my family, Mazzine means nothing to me, I would tell you if I knew what to tell you. Please, how is my family?
Abu was frantic.
Guards, take him out into the compound, he is no use to us.
Why do you hold me? I have done nothing wrong Abu screamed as the guards pulled him up.
Guards. Said the man behind the desk. With this command both guards hit Abu hard in the kidneys and back with their truncheons and pulled him back into the crowded yard.
The sunlight blinded him momentarily as the flies assailed his sweating face with the heat of the yard.
He staggered through the bodies packed closely together. The sun blazed down on his bald head. Abu pushed slowly through the crowd in an absent-minded state, talking out loud:
Not my son, I trained him and my family well. If we hear a helicopter, get under the stairs, safest place if a bomb hits, we drilled, the whole family. Bulldozers, back door. Bulldozers, back door, it was the fastest and safest. I told Mahmound, a rock is a rifle, a rock -- a rifle, how could he have forgotten these things in one year, he is only 14 but still a smart boy. My wife and daughter should be ok, they are living near the settlement.
Settlement! A man standing next to him repeated loudly. Settlement! They have got you using the media language like the rest of the world! Can you not see this brother?
Abu looked at the man, he had thick curly hair standing very high. As he stared at the man a slight breeze came through the camp. The breeze made Abu imagine the mans hair was a nest of flies as it moved with the wind.
Abu turned and started to move away from the man with the wild hair but the man followed him.
Settlements! They got that word from their American friends from the 1850s Indian land. 1850s, America them there settlements for the white folk. The man said in good English. White man helped by friendly Indians like you, like the TV show Tonto the white mans friend.
Come here Tonto Kee-mo-sabee, come here Tonto, the man said in faded tones as Abu moved away from him.
Abu frantically made his way back to the fence to find his friend Khader. He lost the man with the hair and found Khader still standing next to the shit he made near the edge of the fence. Khader put his arm around Abus shoulder.
I am afraid it keeps coming in, they found Mahmound on the road with a hole in his forehead. Apparently, he had a rock in his hand.
Abu just stared, as if he hadnt heard what Khader had just said.
They cant keep us in this prison for our thoughts, can they, only for our behavior, actions, not our thoughts?
Ah, Abu my friend, my old friend. Why do you think it is so crowded here? Are we all terrorist? No, too many of us here for that, it is not what we have done, but what we might do. They have the technology from their American friends, and from many other parts of the world. They can do as they like! They have many nuclear missiles. Look at the secret service; they have got the whole world under surveillance. They can go everywhere, get anybody. And us? Were fucked, complete control tanks, helicopters, towers every-where, satellite dishes, listening to all our conversations, land lines, mobile phones tapped, the works all the best American technology.
No, it cant be, they cant see our thoughts, yes we hate them, we hate our lack of power, our inability to fight back, but they cant read our minds, they can only imprison us for what we do, right? Dont we even have that basic right. Ive done nothing wrong!
Are you sure? They have the technology. Something you said on the phone, maybe in the street? Remember, they have complete control.
Maybe, Khader, but can they read our minds?
Excuse me Abu, I have diarrhea and I want to at least try the latrine this time. Sorry to rush.
Abu watched as Khader hurried through the crowd. Abu backed into the fence and slid slowly down the side of the fence ending up next to Khaders shit. The flies moved momentarily and then landed back on the feces, some landing on Abus face. He didnt move and stared into the crowded prison yard.
While staring at the crowd he saw the man with the flies for hair move toward him. He wanted to get up and run and run, but he didnt move. Run where? What was the point, where would he go? He had no power, there was nothing he could do, it was pointless, everything, hopeless.
The man came quickly toward Abu, pretending to be galloping on a horse. Old Silver thought Abu, or was it Quick Silver, Abu could not remember exactly from the old American black and white TV series broadcast from across the border.
Hey Tonto. The man said in English.
Tonto, fetch my horse. Kee-Mo-Sabee. Lets ride to the settlements, Kee-Mo-Sabee. The man twirled around as if dancing on the horse, kicking dust and dirt into Abus face. The mans hair flopped and swayed,
Hee-Hah, were off to the settlements. He kicked the dust up higher.
Abu stared at the man, at the rising dust cloud. He was trying hard not to think, to clear his mind. As he tried, he slowly, in a circle fashion, rubbed the center of his forehead.
By Tom Harper
An Out of Work Cadaver
My Daddy was fat, and I want to be fat like Daddy. My hero was an eight hundred pound protoplasmic blob,. an apoplectic mass of hair and teeth ready to explode. He had one lung and a paper bag full of coal smoke; cotton mouth and a thirst for high octane; an Ivy League education and only eight fingers. I never had a mother, my Daddy was asexual; he was all I had. He died two weeks ago. A can of dog food laced with rat poison killed him.
My Daddy was a hard-working man. He made his money selling rifles without firing pins, serving as a district court judge and adjusting insurance claims. Also, he always held a second job as a boot black; some say he gave the best spit shine a quarter could buy. After he retired on a cache of sweatshop shares he sold cheap, my Daddy dabbled in philanthropy: he donated his semen to science, he sponsored stock car racing, he re-located the poor, and erected a high-income, high-interest, high impact high rise. He reformed young pickpockets by appointing them to top seats on the chamber of commerce. 'They're good kids," he said 'but they lack direction.' On the lecture circuit, my Daddy addressed the ten-grand per head masses with his motivational speech, titled "How to Succeed with a Trust Fund and an Ultra-Rich Family Heritage.'
My Daddy and I are direct descendants from the inventor of the wheel. Our family tree includes the founder of fast food, the dirt farmer who hand-crafted the mountains and the man who discovered oil, refined it and thought to bottle and sell the concoction with a few ounces of sugar and the effervescence of carbonation. My great, great, greater Grandaddy, Adam, came across the ocean in a bark canoe and became mayor of Detroit. He arrived with nothing but the shoes on his feet, the gold bricks in his pockets, the whip at his hip, the army of indentured servants over his shoulder and the gunpowder in their firearms.
My Daddy was a brave man. He killed men, indirectly and at will. When I was younger, my Daddy and I went to the Mega-Plex to see a western in which a son watched as his father was gunned down at high noon in the town square. In the end, the boy exacted a remorseless revenge. "That's how it is," he told me. "You look out for your own." As we left the theater, a skinny man grabbed my Daddy by the arm and said that a lot of people were worried about losing work when the widget factory closed.
"Contract's up,' my Daddy told him, then spat on the man's shoes and challenged him to a shoot-out.
"Get a job, cadaver," my Daddy growled. I never saw the man again.
My Daddy wrote a series of letters to the editor pleading to the Good Lord for a winnable war. He prayed for a high definition cannonball that he could record and watch over and over. With the television on twenty-four hours a day; he watched the children shrivel with starvation; he felt the heat from the burning homes; he wrung the hearts of the widows, ruined the water, poisoned the earth and killed the wildlife; he left the enemy to roam the desolate land in rags with a news crew in tow. The war went on and on, but it wasn't enough. No one was winning, and it never ended. That's when my Daddy lost hope, chewed off his thumbs and moved into a cave, claiming he was destined to bring democracy to the animal kingdom.
On the day my Daddy died, I visited him. He sat at the head of a solid mahogany table in a chair made of leather, stapling butterflies to sheets of yellow legal paper and feeding them through the fax machine. The walls of the cave were lined with bags of cat food, cans of Kibble, cattle prods, bird seed and diamond encrusted dog collars. A stuffed panda bear guarded the mouth of the cave. Outside, the woods were silent.
"Son, I'm sorry I ever taught you to talk," he said. 'It's a poor way to get your point across. Either you live or you die; kill or be killed." Then he took a swing at me. I understood. I grabbed a can and bludgeoned him with steel and horsemeat.
By L. Burrow
To know pain
means to know its source
the way it flows
learn its depths
feel its tears
falling like rain
like waters that run
flowing as it pleases
By Danny Ingraham #452956
D2106 Box 7171
South Bay, FL 33493
Pain is the paranoia of being right. I've been wrong many times in my life, but this wasn't one of them. I'll have to admit that I knew what I was doing was wrong and that's why I did it. As much as I could blame him for the abuse, the torment, the psychoses that I would enter for the next two years of my life, I had anticipated such. After all, the first time that he told me that he loved me came only days before the first time he beat me. The solidification of his love before the solidification of his fist led me to believe that with love comes pain. I can't be sure that if it had happened in the opposite order that I would have left.
That humid-stricken evening, as he towered over me, his body so close to mine, I inhaled his cologne. The very cologne that had first seemed so innocuous, actually pleasing, now strangled me, filled my lungs with its toxicity. I avoided meeting his penetrating eyes as he whispered fiercely, "You know that I own you."
The norepinephrine in my body surged as if someone had jumped out at me, sending me into the fight-or-flight mode. The difference was that I didn't fight and I certain as hell did not flight. I stayed, I cowered, I said nothing. The temperature of the black granite kitchen counter against the small of my back, seeped through my light-weight cotton top, sending chills down my spine. At that moment, I knew.
Earlier, having gone out for a drink with a friend, he wanted me to meet him afterwards. And as always, I did what he wanted. When I tried to hug him hello, the touch of his leather coat was only slightly colder than his mood. He was obviously drunk. He told me not to fucking touch him and not to kiss him with that mouth. My mind was racing. What was wrong with my mouth? Was my lipstick too dark? too light?
Grabbing my wrist, he said that he just wanted to go home.
I walked to my car, knowing what was waiting for me.
He drunkenly sped off in his midnight blue Mercedes, beating me home by minutes.
I instinctively punched in the security code that was designed to protect me from the outside world. I needed it from the inside. I let out a short sigh of anticipation, before pressing the Enter button with my ring finger. My wedding ring reassured me that this was my choice.
"Garage door open," the personified male voice announced my entrance.
He was already in the kitchen, pouring himself a drink.
Rage made his voice quake slightly, as he asked, "What the fuck is all over your eyes?"
I didn't answer; although, I guess I could have said, Emerald Lightning, the newest Maybelline shade of metallic green eyeliner. As always, his question was rhetorical. He didn't want to hear that I had seen a beauty segment on tv about how women with green eyes can accent them with emerald liner and a violet shadow.
What was I thinking? Did I want to look like a whore?
"Don't even think about kissing me with that fucking mouth of yours. I know that you had it all over some other guy's dick."
"Who is it? Tell me whose cock you are sucking."
"Did you like it? I bet you liked it, you fucking snatch."
The questions were coming too quickly. I couldn't process. How was I going to get out of this? He wouldn't let me answer; wouldn't let me tell him that I couldn't even think about sucking someone else's dick for no more than the simple reason that I knew he would kill me. Sometimes, I could calm him from his rage. This time it was too late. The empty tumbler of rum was now on the table; teetering precariously on the edge. I would later pick up the shattered shards that had scattered across the kitchen floor.
I didn't even bother to make a run for it when he lunged at me. His left hand flew towards my face, but I was caught off guard by the fact that he didn't hit me. Instead, he grabbed the dirty blonde ponytail that sat high atop of my head. Tightly gripping my hair close to the elastic, he brought me in to him.
With his drunken, hot breathy mouth close to my ear, he whispered, "You fucking snatch. You know you're a fucking snatch."
I told him that I was sorry; to forgive me; to please forgive me. Neediness didn't get me as far that night as it did others. Using my updo against me, he whipped me away from him and towards the floor. Spinning awkwardly, my green lace-up stilettos (which I had coordinated so carefully with my new eyeliner) failed to hold me. I crashed into the kitchen table, knocking the empty tumbler to the floor. My tailbone cracked as it hit the bulky, masculine mahogany table before I crookedly fell, cutting my elbow against the side of a chair. Next, the acrid taste of blood pooled in my mouth before I realized I had bit my tongue.
There's always a decision to be made when you're down and out. As I laid on the large, 12x 12 porcelain tiles, I knew I had to make a decision. It came down to three choices: get up and run, get up and fight, or lay there and cower. The choice was obvious. The only safe choice, the sure thing was to lay there and cower. I gained comfort from the fact that he had never hit me once I was down.
The cold tile became my solace, my comfort, my security, my warmth. My thought process reverted back to that of a five-year-old: If I can't see him, he can't see me. So, with that, I closed my eyes, hoping to become invisible. While I no longer saw him, I felt him. The heat and anger radiating off of his body. With his $1,200 Gucci shoes, he nudged my ribcage and asked me if I knew what I was going to do with my green eyeshadow.
It's not eyeshadow, it's eyeliner.
I kept that to myself and chose to murmur a quick mhmmm loud enough for him to hear. I didn't open my eyes, but heard the clicking of his shoes on the tile change tone when they hit the hardwood floor of the living room and then I heard nothing as he must have reached the carpeted stairs. Silence for the seventeen stairs to the second floor (a number I had had the privilege of counting a prior night as he dragged me up them).
I heard the shower upstairs turn on. That was his thing. I knew that it was over once he got in the shower. In my mind, he was Lady MacBeth; trying to cleanse himself Out damn spot, but no amount of water would ever cleanse him of those bloodied hands.
I knew he would be pissed, but I did it anyway. The depravity of self-respect was obvious. My mental state had deteriorated to the extent that I was now asking for it. Sometimes I was caught off guard by his abuse, but sometimes I purposely provoked it as if to validate my position. A means to have control.
We planned to meet for drinks and dinner after work. We didn't make it to dinner. As I entered the nearly-empty martini bar, I knew that he was going to be angry. Having refused to wear a skirt and no panties because it was late December, I knew the night was damned before it started. My two-toned jeans and black V-neck sweater were going to be unacceptable, but I wore them anyway. It would turn out that my clothes would be the least of his complaints that night.
I had arrived first. While I had initially sat by myself, it wasn't too long before two men seated themselves next to me. Despite the fact that I had no sexual interest in either one of them, I knew that he would think I did. With a Malibu and pineapple juice in hand, I made the mistake of laughing a little too loudly when the scrappy looking construction worker told me that they were celebrating their unemployment.
As he entered, he heard me laughing. He didn't say hello. He didn't sit down. He firmly wrapped his fingers around my fragile, bony wrist and told me that we were leaving. I told him to sit, that I had just ordered a drink. With his free hand, he picked up my drink and in a single gulp, swallowed down the whole sweet, tropical glassful.
I knew that we were leaving; there was no changing his mind. For a second, I thought that I should stay, let him go, stay with these two men, that they would save me, but then I knew that they could only save me for an hour, maybe two. Even if I stayed, later that night or the next I would have to own up to what I had done. I would have to answer to him and now was probably wiser than later. After all, isn't the motto: Why put off til tomorrow what can be done today? Does that not apply to wife-beating?
I could feel the two men staring at us. As I stood, he turned to them and thanked them for keeping me entertained during his absence. I knew better than to look, but as I put on my jacket, I caught the eye of one of them. I think he knew. I think he knew that I had tucked up and chosen to live in ownership.
As we ascended the basement bar's staircase to the outside, he coldly and loudly asked, "Why do you have to have every fucking guy's cock inside of you?"
I tried to explain that they had sat next to me, that I was waiting for him, that I only wanted to be with him.
He wasn't buying what I was trying to sell. He wanted to know why I wanted to embarrass him; make him feel like a cuckold. I didn't want that, honestly.
As we exited, the bitter December air hit my eyes, drying up all viscosity. Perhaps this would be good because I wouldn't cry when he said and did to me what he was going to. He told me that I could go back into the bar and tell them that I liked the way that his cock tasted and that I was a dirty slut. I contemplated it because I thought it might save me, but then I knew that I was fucked no matter what I did.
As we turned the comer block, I felt the bruises forming on my upper arm as his grasp tightened. Some would be new bruises, some would just be a deepening of his old purple finger marks that hadn't healed yet. His identity claiming me through the dark violet fingerprints left all over my body.
As we turned the corner, he grabbed me tightly and pushed me up against the building wall. He released his grasp from my arm and pressed his now freed hand against the top of my sternum. Obsessed with his body, he was strong, much stronger than me. With his palm spread out, each finger rested in a groove of my upper ribcage. His index finger rested firmly against my collarbone while his thumb firmly pressed against my windpipe. I could feel each gritty bump of the concrete on my scalp as I leaned my head back against the building wall.
He told me to kiss him.
"Kiss me like you have some fucking emotion for me," he demanded.
I tried, but when you're scared, it's difficult to be passionate.
He kept his mouth on mine. Neither one of ours moving. I felt the coldness of his other hand against the flesh of my lower stomach. His body shifted slightly, but neither hand abandoned its location.
I stopped breathing. His mouth was suffocating me. His right hand was stifling my lungs from expanding. His other hand was freezing me. I knew that not breathing was better than trying to move. I would breathe when he wanted me to.
When I felt his hand move towards the top of my jeans, I knew that I wasn't going to be beaten that night. Right there, on the city street, he unbuttoned and then unzipped my trendy low-rise jeans. He reached his hands under my panties until I felt his cold fingers reach between me. He pressed his body closer and pulled his lips away from mine.
"This sweet little cunt is mine. I'd know if some other cock was in it. It stays nice and tight for me."
I nodded my head in agreement, realizing that I had gotten out of a beating because he was horny. We left my car there and drove home together. He kept his hand inside of my jeans for most of the ride home. As long as he didn't take his hand off, it was his.
He orgasmed really hard that night. I faked it. Not only had I become used to faking it, I had become good at it. One would think that he wouldn't care if I ever had an orgasm, but he cared. I learned that faking multiple orgasms was the trick. Not only was he good enough to make me come once, but he was so fantastic that I came three, four, five times. Any more than that and I worried that he might not believe it.
Doing whatever he wanted applied to every aspect of life including the bedroom. If he wanted me to give him oral sex, I did. If he wanted me to be on top, on the bottom, on my side, on my stomach, on the chair, on the couch, on the floor, on the car, on the kitchen counter; he got it and I made sure that I enjoyed it.
I enjoyed it so much that night.
He turned from the trunk without any groceries when he heard the rings come to a quick end. I saw his empty arms. No groceries for him to put down, not an added moment for me to secure my safety, no barrier between the two of us.
"Who was that?" his suspicion quickly aroused by my choice to silence the phone.
I'm not sure if lying was the best choice, but at the time, it seemed like the only one.
"Liz. You know, the one from college?" Please believe me, please believe me.
He didn't believe me. Hours seemed to pass from the moment he grabbed the phone out of my hand to the moment that he pressed the recently received calls button.
"Kevin!" he shouted as he shoved the open phone to show me the evidence (as if I was the one who needed proof).
"We don't talk. I don't know why he called. Honestly, I haven't spoken to him in months," my words pleaded for him not to hit me.
"You lying bitch. You fucking talk to him on this fucking phone?! The same fucking phone you tell me that you fucking love me on?! You fucking bitch. I deserve better than you. I tell you I love you. I give you everything and you fucking talk to some other prick on the phone you tell me you love me on."
He emphasized all of the loves and phones as if those words were in a foreign language that I didn't understand.
"No baby. I only love you. I only talk to you on it. I don't talk to him," I pleaded as fear stifled my chest, straining my voice and hyperventilating my words.
Rage in his voice rose mirroring his hand as he screamed, "You aren't going to tell me that you love me on this fucking phone again."
With his hand above his head, I thought he was going to hit me with the phone, but instead he threw it on the ground. I watched as the phone broke in two, then as he stepped on it and twisted his ankle as if putting out a cigarette. The shattered pieces of my phone were the least of my worries. Now that the phone was destroyed, I knew that I was next.
I would be the phone.
Angrily, he grabbed the rest of the groceries from the trunk. And as he stormed into the house, I submissively followed like a geisha walking two feet behind her master.
Leaving the groceries sitting on the kitchen counter, the living room became the punishment room.
"You fucking whore. Do you love him?" his voice sounded more disappointed in me than angry.
"No. I love you. I, I ... I love you," truthfully I spoke to him. I did love him and nobody else. I didn't have to lie.
Forcefully, he put the bottom of the palm of his hand to my right temple and pushed. With my head jerking to the side, I almost lost my balance. As I was replanting both feet on the ground, he grabbed the neck of my shirt, crumpling the material inside of his fist, and pulled me into him.
"You're going to leave me? Go make nice. Play house. Play wifey to him? Huh? That what you want?" he questioned violently.
"...no" straining, I managed to get out.
"Go. You fucking bitch. Go if you want to. Tell me that you want to go!" his voice escalated with each demand.
It was in the middle of his last sentence that he began to shake me like a ragdoll. Quickly, he pushed and pulled me back and forth. The little slack in my shirt material allowed me enough room to still breathe, but a pounding every time he pulled me back towards him. Repeatedly, he punched me in the sternum.
Everything in life is just a matter of time. 1 Push. 1 Pull. 2 Push. 2 Pull. 3 Push. 3 Pull. 4 Push. 4 Pull. 5 Push. 5 Pull. Until I lost count.
Finally, he let go and I went flying.
"Get the fuck up!" His irritation was evident. He wasn't so much mad at this point as he was annoyed. A distinction that should be made.
Barely up on my feet, he backhanded me across the face with four of his five knuckles spreading diagonally from my cheekbone to the comer of my lip. The blood from my cracked lip trickled down my chin quickly spilling onto my now-crumpled shirt. I went through clothes quickly. If they weren't bespattered with blood, tears, or dirt, I associated them with unfortunate events and couldn't bring myself to wear them again. I would add this baby blue, cap-sleeve shirt to the pile.
He continued to scream at me. Asking rhetorical questions about my loyalty (or in his eyes lack thereof). I stopped hearing him. This happened often. He became a muted television screen. The viewer got the gist, but not the exact words. The gist: he was a raging lunatic.
He hit me again in the face and I was back on the floor. Instinctively, I put my hands up to prevent him from kicking in my teeth.
The next stage after muteness is out-of-bodyness. As I often did, I entered this altered stage. I was more watching than feeling him as he beat me. I watched myself fight back as much as I could. At the moment, he was merely a character on television angry at his wife.
Since I no longer heard him nor did I feel like I was really a part of this any more, I can only assume that he asked me to take my hands down from my face. I did not comply with his wishes. Before I knew it, he was grabbing my wrists and prying my hands away from my face. Now, flat on my back, he was straddled over top of me, pinning my upper arms with his knees. My arms weren't in a perfect T, but rather sloping slightly upward. For a moment I thought about Jesus. Strange, yes. But I thought that I just might die in the same physical formation as Jesus. How nice.
I squirmed as he began to choke me. His fingers wrapped around my throat, squeezing tightly, choking the life out of me. With much of his body weight fully pushing down on my upper arms, I had no hope of moving my hands. There was little hope that my legs would be able to kick up far enough to dismount him. I squirmed my shoulders and my head as much as I could, but it only seemed to encourage him to tighten his grip. The evidence of his body's coordination greatly contrasted that of mine. All ten of his fingers doing their job. Working together towards the common goal of my asphyxiation.
After only a few moments, I gave up trying to scream and I stopped squirming, my eyes desperately searching for a solution. I stared at him, trying to come to peace with what was happening. This was going to be the last sight I saw on Earth. Him. Him killing me because my phone rang. It was in that moment that his eyes met mine. The windows to each others' souls now open. His grasp loosened and the weight of his knees lightened from my upper arms, but his eyes never left mine. He climbed off to the left side of me, took me by my forearms and slowly pulled me up towards him.
Wrapping his arms around me, he whispered, "I'm sorry, baby, I'm sorry. The thought of losing you makes me crazy. That's not me. That's not me."
"I know, baby," I quickly squawked through what felt like a crushed windpipe.
Putting away the groceries that had sat witness to a near murder became our first joint chore after the incident. He had hugged me and caressed the side of my face for what I'm sure Emily Post would approve of as the appropriate length of time. And in his mind, it was over. Hours later, in my mind, it wasn't.
Hours later, as I slid into bed next to him, I knew I couldn't do it any more. So, I waited. His slow, deep breath steadied, falling into a distinct pattern. I lay there until I knew it was safe. Slowly, I skirted towards the side of the bed, disentangling myself from the comforter until I reached the very edge. The coldness of the open air stung my bare flesh. I sat up and swung my legs over until I felt the hardwood floor on the bottom of my feet. The sateen sheets pulled a little as I stood up, but I didn't turn around to see if he had stirred. The house was relatively new, so I knew that the hardware floors wouldn't creak. Exiting out the master bedroom's french doors, I turned to the left and quickly descended seventeen carpeted stairs.
I made it down to the kitchen with my new bruises swelling on my upper arms and the finger marks on my neck as gross reminders of just who I had become. Admittedly, my plan wasn't that well-developed. After all, I was still naked, not willing to risk him waking up to me dressing. I had clothes in the car; if I could just make it there.
As my toes hit the cold kitchen tile, my mind was frantically trying to decide whether I should pick up my whole purse or just take my keys. Still open from when I got out some chapstick to apply to my split lip, my purse sat on the counter. The purse still being there might confuse him, give me a little more time to get to safety. I decided that I would leave my purse, open just as it was, minus my keys; however, first I had to deactivate the alarm system.
Okay, okay, okay. I had to deactivate the burglar alarm and the door alarms. If either one went off, it would be over. I dialed 8-8-7-4, then hit the alarm off button. Good. Now, all I had to do was turn off the door alarms so it would not announce "front door open" when I went for it. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember if it beeped when it was activated it or deactivated. If it beeped, I knew that he would hear it, not leaving me enough time to get out.
As fear rose, I dialed 8-8-7-4 again and hit the alarm doors button and redialed 8-8-7-4.
No beep. Relief set in and hope began to flourish.
Almost there. I turned and walked back towards the counter where my car keys were waiting for me. I was more than halfway there when I knew that tonight would not be the night.
His fingertips rested on my exposed hipbone before I even knew he was in the room. I hadn't heard him. My face squinched, my eyes closed tightly for just a moment in anticipation of the unknown. I didn't turn, but stood with my back to him. He crawled his fingertips across my stomach, pulling my cold body into his warm, bulky frame until my back was full against his chest. His arm wrapped completely around my small waistline. Whiskers scratched my face as he kissed my bruised neck.
"Mmm. Why are you leaving me alone?" he whispered as if there were others in the room that he was keeping a secret from.
"I came down for some water. I wasn't leaving you alone," I replied with an innocent tone so perfected that I almost believed it.
"I don't ever wanna be in that bed without you. It's our bed. You. Me. Together. Okay? Tell me okay."
The staccato rhythm to his words made it easy to detect the desperation in his voice.
Of course, baby. Okay," I said quickly enough so I wouldn't doubt it either.
I surrendered, relaxed my body and sank into him as I exhaled. Reaching across with my right hand, I pried his arm off of my waist and for a moment I thought of running, but I chose immediate safety. I pried away his arm just far enough to allow me to turn towards him and I wrapped my arms around him. He pulled me in real tight. And in that moment, I knew it wasn't paranoia: he was never going to let me go.
By K. Ellis
Its going to snow like mad again, Sarah groaned glimpsing the digital clock on the car dash. It glowed an orange eleven oclock that December night. Boy he sure picked one hell of a night to pull this again, she whispered to herself peering into the starless sky.
Knuckles white bone through flesh, she gripped the steering wheel. As the car sped along, she listened to the musical groan of the wipers seeming to keep beat with the soft hum of the engine. Relaxing little by little, her gaze wandered as she began to notice the snow-capped trees drifting by, sheltering the houses and businesses dark for the night. Slowly, she exhaled a sigh of relief, realizing that she was getting farther and farther away from the scene where it had taken place. Away from the man who took enjoyment, it seemed, in destroying her life.
The argument had started over nothing it seemed; it was difficult to recall what set it off now. Then it progressed, as usual, so quickly. He was screaming brutal accusations she was a whore. But in truth she hadnt left the house without him in more than two months. She couldnt. She had forgotten how to face the world, how to converse with strangers. Besides, she wasnt good enough. People didnt like her. He had told her so for years.
She adjusted the rear-view mirror and switched on the interior light. In the soft illumination she watched her daughter, Sam, sleep for a moment or two. The child rested so peacefully Sarah couldnt help smiling at her tranquil, angelic face. Curls of rose gold hair were untidily draped along side the childs small nose. A casual observer would never have guessed she had witnessed a horrific act of violence less than an hour ago.
Sarah had always accepted his insults, allowing them to roll over her, through her. But not tonight, tonight something was different, tonight something inside her snapped. She couldnt take his cruelty any more. She was finished being a receptacle for his abuse. She was furious and for the first time she fought back. She began screaming as well, her face contorted with years of internalized battering. His voice became fierce, his green eyes flashed a warning; those eyes that once engendered trust. If you dont shut your fucking mouth Ill smash your face in, he threatened. She knew he meant what he said, but she was beyond caring; she had lost control. The room was spinning, her adrenalin rushed. She held onto the wicker chair beneath her for balance. If you lay a hand on me, Ill make sure you go to jail, she warned.
She saw it coming then. She buried her face in her arms she couldnt bear to be hit in the face. Her mind reeled in sudden panic .CRACK .a blow to the head. She felt only wet tears soak her arms and face, pasting her long dark blonde hair to her eye, across her cheek. Im sorry, she begged .CRACK .then she heard noise in the distance, but was too confused to comprehend what it was: the T.V., his yelling, humming in her head, maybe everything .CRACK ..she fell off the chair and down onto the thick plush carpet, arms over her head shielding herself from the onslaught of blows. Please stop hitting me, she pleaded. Did he hear me? Did I even make a sound? She wondered now. It stopped. She scrambled to her hands and knees. She crawled through the hallway; her knees inching over an old coffee stain, her grasping fingers separating the carpet nap as she half-pulled herself along into the tiny bedroom and up onto their bed.
Her face slid reluctantly over the ridges in her grandmothers quilt, its fabric mopping her tears as she pulled her body toward the head of the bed. She had just washed the quilt that afternoon; looking forward to climbing into a freshly made bed. Inhaling the scent of detergent, she buried her face into its crisp material. She heard the noise again and realized it was crying, hysterical crying. Her confusion lessening, she recognized the sound as Samantha. Her little girl had been watching everything. But she couldnt go to Sam. She couldnt stand. She couldnt lift her head. It throbbed so badly she thought she might pass out. She could taste the sickening salt of blood on her lip.
I could kill you, she heard him say from the doorway, there would be nothing to it. No one would care. He was in the bedroom with her now; over her, entwining his fingers in her mousy hair. He pressed his knee into her back as he kneeled on the bed behind her. The weight of his body bearing down on hers insisted her compliance. His hands resting in front of her face; their every detail now fixed eternally in her minds eye: knuckles calloused from years of hard labor, a nail still cracked down the middle from an old work injury, the cuticles long and some torn, dirt under his nails, a pinky splayed oddly to the side having improperly healed since he didnt believe in health care or doctors. Seeing a doctor was a sign of weakness.
Please not again, she prayed. Please, David, Im sorry. I should rip your fucking head off. Dont make another sound, his breath, warm and damp, the tinny stale smell of old beer wafted against her cheek. There she lay, silent and still, praying wordlessly for him to get up, to get off, to leave. Sam was still screaming. She knew she couldnt to go to her. She knew Sams crying was evidence of his insanity. Comforting Sam would be seen as an accusation. Sarah continued to lie quiet, frozen like the old childhood game, Freeze Tag, only tonight no touch could unfreeze her and any movement might provoke another raging attack.
She replayed the scene over and over as she drove toward safety. She wondered if their escape would be successful. If Sam would be okay. If shed be able to build a new life. She had no job, no money she was mom to a small child with nowhere to live. As she pulled onto the long gravelly drive of the safe house, she glanced at the clock one last time; it was eleven thirty-three.
The next morning couldnt come quick enough. Finally the sun broke through the darkness. It hadnt been a dream, just another waking nightmare. Sarahs body ached, her hands shook, and her head felt thick, like it was ten pounds too heavy. Yet she was ready to go on, to go forward, and to get back onto the road in their journey toward freedom.
She sat up, tried to focus on the strange objects in the strange room around them. Childrens toys, childrens belongings: a childs room in a childs home. Things she realized Sam didnt have any more. Things they never truly had at all. Now they owned nothing except what Sarah was able to pack quickly into trash bags before they left.
Their home was to be a series of motel rooms far away from everything and everyone they knew; and if they were lucky theyd be eligible for some space in a transitional shelter the safe house owner spoke of.
She leaned over and kissed a sleeping Sam. Sam opened her eyes, looked into hers and smiled. Sarah had to believe that they would survive --- alone together.
By Julianne Taylor
and it hurts all over ... in the bathroom stall...
at the mall ... she vomits her hell ... 2 beef burritos
from taco bell ... and a pepsi diet ... guilt is kept
quiet ... do you hear the riot in her soul...
2 fingers in ... her throat ... she can be thin
and float ... away...
she walks the corridor of screams
in her dreams ... billboard beauty queens...
she has a friend ... in vogue magazine...
and it hurts all over ..
she can't fill it ... you can't feel it ... it's too
deep ... she can't curb it ... she can purge it
she's not weak ... you say hold it hold it
how many secrets can she keep she weeps
diet tears no one can see ... and hides in
corners ... she calls privacy her waistline
disappears with each flush there is a rush...
there is a relief .. she is a thief .. stealing
2 fingers in ... her throat ... she can be thin
and float ... away ... and america ... won't know...
By Louise A. Hammonds
The August Insomniac
Sheets grow damp and the early dark
goes limp in the swamp of the bodys heat.
The night becomes drugged
the mind cramps like a womb
the bed becoming a lake of blood.
Figures writhe within frames on walls.
A fawn-skinned spider grips a ceiling
crawling with waterspots (its eyes black pearls)
(The spider inches near,
the kind that falls like a hand
on the shoulder, tangles in hair.)
The body rises, fluid-sheathed and steaming,
the cat emerges as a fur-edged shadow.
Swift and liquid shadow
with silver tipped feet slipping
over a carpet quivering like cilia.
Moving through the blue and black rooms
until linoleum shimmers like a lake surface,
or a moon-watered mirror, or a woman
cloaked in her reflective smoke
summoned from the semi-dark.
Out where the blunt shark bodies of cars
slide past, their wind-warped music is swelling
and receding. The endless headlights are skidding
across the night-tiled sides of homes
and the ceaseless, wavering roads.
Tonight the skys bruised dark goes deep
into the bones of the soul.
By Lisa Dawn Hilliker
Four Questions for Sarah Palin
Elizabeth has a third baby on the way,
It was conceived in the trailer home where she stays.
She couldnt afford to feed another little one,
So she chose to have an abortion.
Should her baby be aborted?
Crystal was seventeen when she got knocked up,
Under the influence of the heroin that she shot up.
Should her baby be aborted?
A medical condition plagues a woman named Sky,
Before the end of her problematic pregnancy, she will die.
Should her baby be aborted?
Tristen was a twelve-year-old daughter,
Who had been raped by her own father.
Should her baby be aborted?
Some preach, Abortion is an abomination!
They teach primal instincts are malicious temptation.
They say each new child is a precious miracle,
They forget that life is not that simple.
By Tracy Luker
An Abandoned School
Immersed in sunlight, the playground waits.
Pool-blue plastic swing seats wait on rusting chains.
Painted horses gape into the slides blank metal face.
In the density of a hedge, there waits the spiders nest,
Big as a fist,
And the shadow of the flag becomes a man
Shuddering like wind.
Beyond the playground, the schoolhouse waits.
The offices voiceless. The classroom invaded
By wind and insects. Slivers of glass
Are spilled across the name-scarred faces of desks;
The stained and faded shoe-scuffed floors.
The obscure murmurs in the empty hall
Are like flocks of voices spinning down a well..
By Lisa Dawn Hilliker
Experts testify that woman was on knees when Lima officer fired gun
July 31, 2008 10:45AM
Lima, Ohio -- A woman shot and killed by a police officer during a drug raid was likely on her knees and complying with a SWAT team's orders to get down when she was hit in the neck and chest, two experts testified Wednesday at the officer's trial.
A forensic pathologist and firearms expert each said that bullet wounds indicate that Tarika Wilson, 26, wasn't standing.
Sgt. Joseph Chavalia has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide and negligent assault. He faces up to eight months in jail if convicted of both counts.
Prosecutors rested their case Wednesday. Defense testimony will begin today.
The shooting during a drug raid in January set off protests and debate about race relations in the city, where one in four residents is black.
Wilson, who was black, was unarmed and holding her 1-year-old son when she was shot. The boy also was hit and had a finger amputated.
She was partially behind a door in an upstairs bedroom with her five other children when officers downstairs began shooting at two pit bulls.
Chavalia, who is white, told another officer that he thought the shots were coming from the bedroom.
"I said, 'Joe, what happened?' " testified Lt. Chip Protsman, the commander of the SWAT team. "He said, 'They were firing at me from the bedroom, and I shot back.' "
Notes to Malcolms Mother in (or from) the Madhouse
(to Malcolm X's mother in honor of his 82nd birthday)
The towers of the asylum are still seen from the highway
that separates it from a state university.
I sent a young man there once
because he had gone so far inside himself he
began to find puerile drinks in open blank visions
that threatened to shut down his torn apart heart. Still
the corridors were tiled in ice-picked brains and insulin visions
and even the finest nurses with the most modern
medicines sat inside the grated gates counting pills
while he paced, almost blind, the ill-lit circle of halls.
Malcolms Mom? I knew your ghost was there,
even before I knew it was your hands
that smeared the links to your murdered husband
your Marcus Garvey preacher your
house fire and train track son of a fine Black man
across the bleached and shocked icy tub drains,
against the strain of leather straps and above
the chink of keys.
I knew I heard you on that visit,
though I didnt hear your name
and so I never sent another one to
I wonder still if that young man
outlived the cuts to whatever help he could get;
cuts that came after the republicans
and the sniveling democrats
and Fat King John arrived: cuts that financed
their tax robbery religion.
There was a Blackwoman who had two children
and she had eyes that emptied into the Euphrates
they went so deep and dark and far, they might have divined
these thousand-year wars for oil if I would have let them.
One day she stood outside my office
and told me she would cut me she would cut me
she said if I did anything to her children if
I took her children if I took
her from her children she would cut me.
Later, she actually let me into her home again.
The generosity of the damned is all seven of the wonders of
The towers of the asylum were never pulled down.
And the most unsedate-able inmates
have been dispersed to kennels in the country
surrounded by razor wire and the ruin of the schools and roads,
trains and the rising of the lucrative prisons
and the mercenary warriors like the Hessians
who kill whole villages for the highest bidder,
they tie uppity men to the railroad tracks, they send
widows to their doom in the torture of the insanity
of the bereft for the benefit of the wealthy
who can empty and store the skins over pissed-on floors
and ignore them as they weep from false pregnancies
and are sedated far
far from where the finest white people of Michigan
can stay blind to how their seeping schizotypical process
spreads the insanity of the asylum
down and around their county roads: all the for sale signs
on all the fine homes and all the ignorant misers in the capitals
They are barking now, the damned. The roads
are peeling off the baking earth, the animals have
the bloody bald spots of mange
the trees die from their crowns
and there is no money for cigarettes any more
the lakes are shrinking.
There are still plenty of big cars.
Could Malcolms Mother sing would she
sing now? In the empty corridors of the lunatic bins
in Kalamazoo State Hospital any voice
not a moan or yelp or warble of anguish
is a song of the gods: what an acoustics of the void
or a opera of grim ghosts of the forgotten
brought out into the sun to be slammed
shut again in their Seroquel-addled faces.
So much of Malcolms hands
had his mothers love in them: light dance
in the air of what he said must be done to be free
from the clocks of the white mans manifest
des-tinny. Gone now gone now
all together gone now Malcolms blood
on the stage of the Audubon, his mamas eyes
closing, his mama lifting up the freedom oh
his song his song his song
rockets down the corridors of the asylum
these fat white devils built around us all
Malcolms mothers song
in your hands
in your hands
in your hands
will set you free.
By Bob Vance
On one hot and sticky summer night, I was lying down arms out like wings and legs together. Slowly I closed my eyes and relaxed into a deep coma sleep. When opened them, I rose up on the sand near the ocean while the water washed it up.
Without any fear, the water formed into an agitated tidal wave, swept me into the ocean with my arms out like wings and toes pointed downward. As I was on top while lying on my back, I saw the beautiful clouds they looked like no birds or planes flown through. Unexpectedly, it dropped me into the ocean with my body folded like a fetus thats inside of a womb. I swam to the top but it swept me back onto the sand, face down, rolled over, sat up, and watched the wave went back to water as normal. With my arms behind me, I looked down at my breast through the white silk camisole dress, then at my naval, and last my genital. While I was getting up I woke up and heard the commotions of the hood outside of my opened window: Ah man you got some blow, hey miss you got a quarter to spare so I can get on the bus. I saw cars passed by blowing their horns in the early hours to cars in front of them who werent driving fast enough. Then I watched a homeless person looked into the garbage for whatever they could find while the tidal wave was still on my mind.
By Francee Bouvenir
A Play in One Act
RAMBO, a half-naked, mythical warrior who existed only on the silver screen in the year 1985, as well as in the fantasies of the American ruling class.
A PLATOON OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN VIET NAM, circa 1967, including:
JEFFERSON, a young Black worker, often the point man
TJ, a young white worker, close friend of JEFFERSON
DIETER, a replacement, fresh from boot camp
"LOONY", the lieutenant and commanding officer
A YOUNG VIETNAMESE BOY
6 or 7 NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT SOLDIERS ("VIET CONG")
Alternates between scenes of the heroic exploits of the mythical Rambo and scenes of the actual war in Vietnam.
(The stage is in semi-darkness, eerily illuminated by wavering red and blue lights. Set up at various angles are large and small cardboard cutouts of Vietnamese guerrilla fighters and peasants including men, women and children. Some are large with weapons or farming implements in their hands; others are small and unarmed. At the rear of the stage left there is a line of very small Vietnamese figures set up in a row on a bench like a shooting gallery. Muffled explosions are heard, accompanied by flashes of white light.
(Before RAMBO enters we hear, slowly growing louder, the rock song "We Will Rock You."
(Enter RAMBO from left. He moves to the rhythm of the song, naked to the waist, his muscles oiled, a bandolier around his body, a headband around his head. On the rear pocket of his jeans is a sign: "Viet Cong Hunting Club." An American flag is on the other rear pocket. He carries a large, realistic plastic submachine gun, which makes a loud noise when fired.
(RAMBO springs about the stage in time with the music, frequently assuming a martial arts stance. He stalks the cutouts, starting with the largest of them and annihilates them one by one with shots and blows as the music reaches a crescendo, together with his chanting. White lights flash in keeping with the crescendo. Then, as he finishes off the shooting-gallery row, the music and chanting dies down and RAMBO is left on stage alone in a combat pose as the red and blue lights die out.)
(JEFF and TJ are seated on boxes at the side of the stage, in front of a tent. Like RAMBO, they, too, are stripped to the waist and wear headbands. Their rifles stand nearby. Dialog between the two is slow-paced. TJ is whittling with his knife. JEFF is throwing his into the dirt before his feet. A helicopter can be heard distantly. Someone off stage is practicing a Lightnin Hopkins blues solo on an acoustic guitar, starting and stopping.
(JEFF removes his headband, mops his head with a handkerchief, and puts it back on again.)
JEFF: Well, mellow, if I'd a knew it was gon' be this hot in Viet Nam, I woulda told that draft board, "No, thank you! I don't fight no wars without air conditioning! Just leave me back here on the South Side of Chicago where it's nice and cool in the summertime."
TJ: (Laughs.) Yeah, Jeff, you should have. You missed your big chance. But you know what they would have said, don't you? (Mimics an old biddy voice.) "We're sorry, Mr. Jefferson, but our President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, has just issued Executive Order Number 69, which states, and I quote, 'Any colored boy who claims that the South Side of Chicago is cool in the summertime is hereby certified crazy and is therefore to be considered prime combat material.'"
(JEFF and TJ laugh and slap hands. Pause.)
JEFF: Yeah -- "colored boy!" That sounds just like that sweet-tongued old cracker bastard!
TJ: (Continues to mimic.) "Now this nice young white fellow here, Mr. T.J. Rypniak from Warren, Michigan, is a horse of a different color."
JEFF: You don't say.
TJ: "We are going to send Mr. Rypniak to Vietnam with an air conditioner on his back."
JEFF: (Laughs again.) TJ -- you're a nut! But where's your fuckin' air conditioner?
TJ: (Dryly.) Well, you know politicians, Jeff -- promises, promises .... (Mops his forehead. Pause. Looks at his hands.) Man, look at these calluses!
JEFF: Yeah, I got 'em too. Reminds me of my Granddaddy back down in Georgia. His hands was so callused from rasslin' a plow they shined like glass -- like big, shiny pieces of glass! You ever seen anything like that?
TJ: Naw, but my old man's hands are chewed up by metal slivers and filled with grease. He can't even wash it out.
JEFF: Well, that's the wukkin' class for you -- we does all the wuhk an' what we get fuh it? More wuhk! It's the same here in the Army, ain't it?
TJ: Yeah .... (Pause.) You know, one thing I noticed since I been over here -- half my graduating class is over here. Everywhere I turn I run across somebody I know. It's pathetic.
JEFF: Shit, half my graduating class ain't only over here, they over here and dead already! I knew I wasn't gonna like this place the minute I got off the plane. You know what the first thing was I seen and smelled when I got off the plane?
JEFF: Burning garbage. This gigantic garbage dump and little kids and grown people swarmin' over it like ants, lookin' for food. I know you seen it.
TJ: Yeah. We all seen it.
JEFF: An' I couldn't help thinkin': "Is this the kind of freedom we done brought to this country? A big garbage dump to feed the people the leftovers from our officers' mess?" I will say this, though. It did remind me of home.
(They laugh. Pause.)
TJ: Well, we're here to fight communism, so they say.
JEFF: Shit! "Communism, communism!" -- that's all I ever hear! What did these people over here ever do to me? They poor an' colored just like me! If they want to be communist, let 'em be communist! That's they business, not ours. They ain't invaded the United States. Let 'em alone, I say. We got too many problems right at home in the United States to be stickin' our noses into other people's countries an' tellin' 'em what to do. If you ask me. we ain't got no business over here. As a matter of fact, I agree with them protesters back home. (Raises voice.) "Bring the Boys Home! Bring the Boys Home!" I like the sound of that! TJ, let's have a march, let's have a demonstration! (TJ is grinning.) Let's march on the CO's cabin yellin', "Bring the Boys Home! Bring the Boys Home!" (He gets up, stalks around with his fist up muttering the slogan.)
TJ: (Grinning.) I'm for that. Let's talk to the fellows right away.
JEFF: Yeah, then we can all spen' the night in the stockade for sure!
(Laughs, throws his knife into the ground several times.)
TJ: But you know, Jeff, this stuff you've been tellin' me makes a lot of sense. I always did hate these rich bastards. They run around screaming about "communism, this" and "patriotism, that" and then they get their kids out of the Draft by sending them to college or paying a doctor to find something wrong with them.
JEFF: Yeah. Let's you an' him fight.
TJ: My old man has 30 years in at GM. He ain't too far from retirement. But you know, when I graduated I told him I didn't want to go to Vietnam an' would you believe, he agreed with me? (TJ gets up and paces.) The first time we agreed in years. But what was I gonna do? I asked around, I talked to some of these draft counselors an' stuff, hell, I was serious. I was thinking of goin' to Canada. Well, we're all pretty close over there in Warren an' somehow it got back to the shop where my dad worked that I was thinkin' of goin' to Canada. So the company put a lot of pressure on my Dad an' when he went to the union about it they told him not to rock the boat, he was almost retired and all that bullshit. He said, "I thought the UAW was supposed to be against the War," an' they said, "Yeah, but the law is the law an' you gotta go along with it." My old man got mad and told 'em right then and there where they could stick their law. He says, "I fought in Korea an' this war stinks worse'n that one did!" He really told 'em that! It made me laugh to hear about it. An' he said, "What about Karpinsky's kid?" Karpinsky is the General Foreman. His kid got a medical excuse an' there wasn't a damn thing wrong with him. The hotshot played three sports and fucked everything in sight, but he got out of the Draft, all right. "What about him?" my old man said. "He's management," they said, "we can't do anything about that." That made my old man really hot. When he gets ahold of a subject an' gets mad, he's like a pit bull -- he just won't let go. "So you're tellin' me," he says to the committeeman, "so you're tellin' me there are two laws, one for the workin' man and one for management! So my kid has got to go and get killed while Karpinsky's kid can go to college and get drunk at fraternity parties! Well, screw you! I'm goin' over your head," he says. But when he talked to the local president he got the same runaround. He even went down to Solidarity House, that's the headquarters of the international union, and they wouldn't even talk to him. He got so mad I think if I saw him today he'd still be cussin.' (TJ smiles and pauses.) So my old man says to me, "You see, it's just like I said. There's one law for the workers and another law for the bosses. We're the peons and we've got to do the fighting for the big shots. I don't like it one bit!" So he told me that even if it did get him in trouble, lose his job, whatever, I could still go to Canada or to jail if I wanted to. But when I saw what it would mean for my family -- I mean they would probably lose the house and my old man would lose his pension -- well, then I just couldn't do it. So I told him I would go under protest and try to make it through. So here I am. So that's what I mean when I say I hate these flag-wavers that always want the workin' man to do their dirty work for them. Always peddlin' these jackets with the flag on the shoulder but they don't want to lift a finger....
JEFF: My old man passed some years ago, but I do remember him sayin", "Why should we fight for a country that won't recognize us as human beings?" But you know, I always thought you guys, you white guys, had it so much better than we did. But I see now that there really ain't that much difference.
TJ: Yeah, well, but don't forget, my family ain't got much money. The ones that do would spit on both of us. Well, when are gonna talk to the fellows?
JEFF: Right now. I been in the field too long. (Pause as JEFF still throws his knife.) Woops, here comes Loony.
(Enter LOONY, the lieutenant who commands the platoon. He is a scrawny, timid-looking specimen. He wears no insignia on his shoulders.)
JEFF: Hello, Loony.
LOONY: Hello, boys, seen Sarge?
TJ: He went to the latrine, Loony, said it would take him about two hours to unload. As a matter of fact, he looked full of it. That's just a layman's medical opinion, though. I'm no expert.
LOONY: (Slapping his knee exagerratedly.) That's a good one, TJ. Always a card, always a card.
JEFF: How's the battle for the Free World shapin' up this afternoon, Loony?
TJ: Yeah, which way is the domino gonna fall?
LOONY: (looking puzzled) Yeah, a bunch of cards. (Laughs in a strained way.) Well, we got patrol this evening, boys. Also, some replacements are coming in. We should get one or two of 'em to replace Harding and Schmidt.
JEFF: Yeah, rotated back to "freedom" the hard way -- in a bag.
LOONY: Hold it, boys, here they come. (Exits right.)
JEFF: I hope they're as cool as Harding and Schmidt. Those were two good dudes ....
TJ: Well, if they ain't, we'll just have to cool them off ourselves, that's all.
JEFF: What a lousy shame! Those were two of the most righteous white brothers you could ever meet. Blowed away for no good reason that I can see. Just to make some general look good in the eyes of the Pentagon .... Those guys would give your their last dry sock. And Schmidt with that feather in his headband and his long hair and Indian warpaint on, claiming he was part Cherokee and he was gonna smoke a peace pipe with Charlie! Beautiful, beautiful .... TJ, how come I hadda come 6000 miles to this here stinkin' jungle war to find guys like them? How come we can't get along like that back home?
TJ: It's a hell of a reflection on the United States today, ain't it? "Black Man Travels 6000 Miles, Braves Enemy Gunfire, To Have Friendship with Peer Group Whites." Ha-ha! That's how they talk in sociology -- gobbledygook. I guess combat brings out the best in us, Jeff.
JEFF: It don't bring out the best in Loony. He didn't have the guts to lie to HQ and avoid that engagement, and so we got ambushed and Harding and Schmidt got killed. Well, I'll tell you one thing I learned out of it all. I learned how to fight this war.
TJ: Yeah, or how not to fight it, you might say.... Woops, what's this?
(DIETER enters from right. He is a solid, blond, fratty-looking type in a dress uniform, everything polished and perfect. He halts halfway across the stage, snaps to attention and salutes.)
DIETER: Sir! Private Richard E. Dieter reporting for duty, sir!
TJ: (With sarcasm.) That's very nice, "sir." But we're not officers, "sir."
DIETER: I couldn't find anyone in the immediate area with stripes on, sir!
JEFF: (Turning to TJ.) If it moves, salute it. Goes by the book, don't he?
(They slap hands.)
(Enter LOONY from right.)
TJ: Here's your CO, Dieter or Peter or whatever your name is. Loony, tell Sigma Chi here to uncork his asshole and pull the ramrod out. He ain't in boot camp any more -- he's in a war now.... And make sure you tell this snotnose gladiator not to salute you when we're out on patrol. He already noticed that we don't wear no stripes around here. And put some mud on your shoulders tonight to cover up the spot where your stripes were.
DIETER: (Mouth open in amazement, murmurs.) No stripes, no saluting, privates giving orders! What?...
TJ: What happened to your old man, Dieter, got caught with the doctor's wife so you couldn't get an excuse? Or did he molest the Draft Board chairman's daughter in the basement of the country club?
DIETER: I volunteered.
JEFF: You volunteered!
TJ: God-damn! Call the Special Forces, we got a live one here! I suppose you play John Phillip Sousa on the harmonica while spitting pumpkin seeds at Ho Chi Minh, too!
DIETER: I volunteered. (Turning to LOONY.) Sir, I don't understand. These men must be joking, sir. They're talking like traitors, sir.
LOONY: Yeah, like I say, TJ and Jeff, two real cards. Uh-huh! huh! huh! (Slaps knee.)
JEFF: "Traitors"! I'll give you "traitors", man! My old man got shot by a white cop when he argued about a traffic ticket the cop was givin' him! An' then he bled to death on the street 'cause they took their time callin' an ambulance. An' my Mama supported us kids by slavin' in a rich white man's kitchen all these years and fed us on left-overs she snuck out under her coat. The only time you notice Black folk is when you got a war to fight or you got some garbage to pick up. In other words, do your dirty work for you. An' now you want us to come over here an' kill poor colored people just like us so's you kin live in luxury. An' if we get intelligent, like Malcolm says, an' don't go along with your program, you got the nerve to call us "traitors"! Man, our people built the goddamn country, an' what did we get for it? Nothin'! (Rises belligerently and starts toward DIETER.) Man, fuck you with that "traitor" shit! I ought to kick your motherfuckin' ass!
DIETER: Sir, these men are crazy, sir. (But doesn't back off.)
TJ: Jeff, Jeff -- cool it. Charlie'll get him. Anyone as ignorant as this won't last a week over here.
(JEFF stands glaring at DIETER.)
DIETER: I know what I'm doing. I've had jungle warfare experience.
TJ: (Amazed.) Where?
DIETER: I went to Ranger School.
TJ: Ranger School!? What are you doing here?
DIETER: I -- I... busted.
TJ: He busted? Oh, that's good! Busted Ranger School and he's gonna tell us how to wage jungle warfare! Tell me, "Ranger," why did you bust Ranger School?
DIETER: That's -- that's personal. But I passed the jungle course with flying colors.
TJ: I'll bet you did -- flying asshole colors! (Makes motion of the flying asshole.) Well, put down your shit an' tell us, Private Peter, what did you learn in Ranger School about jungle warfare?
DIETER: Are you serious?
TJ: Yeah, come on, Peter, maybe we got something to learn about this delicate and touchy subject.
(DIETER looks at LOONY for support but LOONY only shrugs. JEFF stares sullenly at DIETER.)
TJ: Come on, Ranger, tell us a few things you learned in school.
JEFF: Yeah, let's hear it, man. We're all ears.
(DIETER puts down his duffle bag and pack.)
DIETER: Well, for one thing, we learned don't get close to any civilians. Don't let 'em near you. Not even a little kid. They might be carrying bombs.
JEFF: (Aside.) Ain't that a hell of a thing!? Sounds familiar to me.
TJ: And what are you gonna do if one of them approaches you, hot shot?
DIETER: Blow them away.
JEFF: That's what I thought he would say.
DIETER: They're the enemy, aren't they?
JEFF: Hell, no! They ain't the enemy! They just poor folks that don't want us tellin' 'em how to run they country, man, that's all.
TJ: What about HQ? They get their laundry done by civilians, they get their garbage taken out by civilians. What are you gonna do, blow them all away?
DIETER: They might be spies.
TJ: Goddamn right they might be spies. I don't doubt it one minute. So blow 'em away, huh? It's beginning to sound like you consider the entire civilian population of South Vietnam to be the enemy. Don't you think that Charlie would have a hard time hiding if the civilian population didn't support him?
DIETER: The VC use intimidation, torture and murder.
JEFF: (In disgust.) Look who's talkin'!
TJ: Think of what you're saying, man! Think of it! You're saying we're fighting against the whole population of Vietnam.
DIETER: Well, there's ARVN and the government.
JEFF: Who wouldn't think of using "intimidation, torture and murder"!
TJ: OK, 90% then, we're fighting 90% of the population, then, according to you. Think of what that means, man, think! It means the whole thing is a lie! You can't fight for democracy and be against 90% of the people! So what are we really fighting for, man? Tell me that!
DIETER: To stop communism.
(TJ and JEFF turn to each other and roll their eyes in disgust.)
TJ and JEFF: Oh, Jesus!
JEFF: You mean to tell me that to fight communism we got to fight 90% of the population? Now don't that look kind of funny to you? Here's what-you-call capitalism, the Free World, with 10% and communism with 90% -- and you admit it -- and here we are linin' up with the 10& against the 90%. Like I said, if these people want to be communist, let 'em! It's they business, not ours!
DIETER: But all of Asia might fall!
JEFF: "Fall"?! These people so low they can't "fall!" They look like they comin' up to me! Any time a people is fightin' for they rights, they comin' up, they ain't "fallin"! Yeah, let Asia "fall" if Asia want to. Who the hell are we to tell Asia what to do?
DIETER: Then you will have it in San Francisco.
JEFF: (In disbelief.) What?
DIETER: Communism. In San Francisco.
JEFF: (Looking at Dieter sideways like he was insane.) Well, Frisco always was a hip town. I think if they was communism there I'd like to go an' take a look at it, just sample a little.
(TJ and JEFF laugh. DIETER is stone-faced.)
DIETER: Sir, they're talking treason again. Sir? (Looks around. LOONY is sitting down writing a letter.)
JEFF: Man, there you go again with that treason shit. Now, me an' TJ just blowed your arguments all to hell an' all you can do is talk about "treason"! Well, you just judge things over here like that and you gon' get mighty uncomfortable, I'm tellin' you. TJ, this man is lucky he didn't meet Harding an' Schmidt before they got wasted. This "patriotic" brain of yours woulda blowed a fuse for sure. Wow, Harding had the sweetest little Vietnamese fraulein I ever did see. Even had a hooch of they own that he used to sneak off to when he was sposed to be on duty. She would warn him when the VC was gonna attack. Wow, "Ranger, I'm tellin' you, what you don't know would fill a motherfuckin' encyclopedia, man. Whooh -- you're a trip! You halfway make me want to be a communist, just listenin' to you.
TJ: OK, so "Ranger" learned that the civilians are his enemy and that we're not fighting for democracy, we're fighting communism. What else did you learn, "Ranger"?
(DIETER looks to LOONY for support but he is still laboriously writing a letter.)
DIETER: Well, uh, we learned a lot of tactics.
JEFF: (Aside.) This oughta be good.
TJ: What tactics?
DIETER: Well, we learned how to carry out secret missions.
TJ: (In mock awe.) Secret missions! Did you hear that, Jeff? He said "secret missions"!
JEFF: (Similarly.) Ooooh!
DIETER: (Eagerly, getting into a subject that inspires him.) Well, what they told us was this: we were going to go into VC areas, sneak in at night, and assassinate village chiefs. This was to break up the VC structure and demoralize them. I'm talking about VC strongholds, where our troops had never been.
TJ: (Skeptically.) Well, how were you supposed to carry out these miracle missions, "Ranger"?
DIETER: Well, they told us this is how you did it. (Takes off his hat.) You've got to get barefoot. Americans don't go barefoot in the jungle but you got to do it to look like a Cong. (Takes off his boots.) And you walk like a cat, like you know where you're going and what you're doing in the jungle. You got to walk like a VC, move like a VC, think like a VC. (Takes a few graceful, alert steps on the balls of his feet.) You would paint your face black. (Motions over face.)
JEFF: No problem so far.
DIETER: And you would wear a black pajama top and one of those wide, round hats.
TJ: Just like a VC?
DIETER: Just like a VC.
TJ: Goin' to assassinate a village chief an' lookin' just like a VC! You smell anything funny in this, Jeff?
JEFF: Yeah, a little good ol' "intimidation, torture and murder," looks like to me!
TJ: Naw, it's more that that, Jeff. Do they want the people to think the VC did the assassination, "Ranger"?
DIETER: Yeah, they said that would discredit the VC in the eyes of the population.
JEFF: Whew! (Mops face.) This stuff is gettin' deep!
TJ: See, then they could talk about "VC atrocities"!! Son-of-a-bitch! (Turns to DIETER with increased interest.) Go on "Ranger." this is getting really interesting.
DIETER: Well, we would be dropped off in a VC area that was very dangerous and we would have to make our way through the jungle to the village. We would have VC weapons, AK-47's. (DIETER begins stalking slowly about the stage. TJ and JEFF are paying rapt attention.) We would have full air support. The pilots had to be in their planes and on our frequencies -- we would scramble them that quickly. That's very high-level support.
JEFF: Yeah, just a fair fight, only you'd have a few jets in your hip pocket.
(DIETER stalks further around the stage, becoming more absorbed in his pantomime. His motions more and more resemble those of RAMBO in Scene 1.)
DIETER: This is how this Navy SEAL told us: so we would crawl through that jungle to the village. (DIETER pantomimes these actions.) It might be a stormy night. They wouldn't expect Americans on a stormy night, so they would be feeling real secure. So one of us would go right into the head man's hooch. (Pantomimes.) He would stand there listening to them sleep, listening to their breathing. If there was any change in their breathing he'd be ready to blow them away. There would be a whole family sleeping in this room -- women, little kids and all, and the man you're after in there, and you standing in the midst of it all.
JEFF: (Ironically.) Sacred family life ....
DIETER: You would wear a triangular bandage around your head. You would take it off and tie a couple of knots in the center and walk over to the bed where the head man was sleeping. We would only go into villages where we had perfect intelligence from an informer, so you would know just what bed the man was sleeping in. You would carry a very sharp knife. You would go over to the person and hold their nose shut so they'd take a breath with their mouth and then you'd take and cram the knotted-up part of the rag down their throat so it would get in the larynx and the same time bring the knife up under their neck so if they moved they would be cutting their own throat.
(DIETER pantomimes these actions. TJ and JEFF watch intently. Even LOONY is watching.)
DIETER: So the person would freeze. Then you would take the gag, grab it from behind and actually pick them up by the head. (He abruptly makes these motions and TJ and JEFF start nervously.) They're little people. You'd just pick them up and carry them out of the hooch. You'd have a Vietnamese scout with you and if anyone woke up he'd start talking to them quietly and tell them all to lie down. And you would have the head man outside and tied up and you'd pass him to the prisoner-handler.
DIETER: It would be all rehearsed, it would only take a couple of minutes. The scout would tell the people that there would be someone at the door who would kill anyone who moved. The group would start to pull back. You would sit by the hooch for about five minutes. You would pull the pin of a grenade and hook it up by the door so if anyone opened it it would blow. You would sit by the door very, very quiet and then if they started moving you would make a little sound to let them know you were still there. Then you would leave and hoof it back to the unit.
TJ: What about the grenade?
DIETER: If they came out, you could hear it a mile away.
TJ: I mean, what about the kids, the women?
DIETER: Well, they said that's just part of war, that's all.
TJ: I thought the Geneva Convention said something about that.
JEFF: (Sarcastically.) All's fair in love and war, man, don't you know that?
DIETER: Then the prisoner-handler would work the prisoner for information.
JEFF: Torture him.
DIETER: And after you got it, or if you didn't, you would cut his throat just the way the VC does to informers and leave him in the middle of a path where they would find him the next day.
TJ: Just another "VC atrocity."
DIETER: (Not listening.) But sometimes, before you get out of the village, they come up on you. A VC unit comes back while you are carrying out your mission and you just jump up and come out shooting. (Jumps, levels submachine gun.) Pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow! You blast everything! (Springs around the stage shooting at imaginary VC, like RAMBO in Scene 1.) They're running this way! Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bam! You mow 'em down! (Red, white and blue lights begin to flash and glow, as in Scene 1.) They're attacking here! Budda, budda, budda, budda! You let 'em have it! Beeow! Beeow! Bodies are flying in all directions! Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Behind that hooch! Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh! You pull a grenade! Ba-woom!
DIETER: You save your buddy! (Hoists imaginary body.) Charlie on the flank! Charlie on the flank! (Spins around and "fires" in JEFF's direction.)
JEFF: Hey, you stupid bastard! Don't get in that habit!
TJ: "Ranger!" Cool off! (Grabs DIETER's arm. Dieter lunges, can't get free.) Cool off, man! (DIETER subsides.) You're a fucking maniac, man! You ain't gonna do that shit around here!
DIETER: (Frantically.) I'm going to fight the commies! I'm going to fight the commies! You puny liberal cowards are not going to stop me!
JEFF: (Looks at TJ, aside to him.) We got a real nut case here.
TJ: Cool it, "Ranger," you'll get your taste of combat. We got a mission tonight.
DIETER: A mission tonight? You said a mission tonight? Hot dog! (Breaks free from TJ, bends over and picks up his gear, turns to LOONY.) Lieutenant, where do I bunk?
LOONY: That tent over there. (Points off stage right.)
DIETER: (Rushing off.) A mission tonight! Hot dog!
TJ: (Watching him leave, along with JEFF.) I think I said the wrong thing.
JEFF: Wow, this is all we need! A fucking gung-ho maniac! He's gonna get us all killed!
(TJ and JEFF, wearing shirts, sitting in the same spot, smoking weed, passing the joint back and forth. Time -- evening, light down a bit.)
JEFF: Like I say, this crazy bastard is gonna get us all in trouble just to live out his dreams of glory.
TJ: We've just got to set him straight, that's all. Who's going?
JEFF: Just you, me, Loony and a few of the boys.
TJ: Well, it's for sure Loony won't give any leadership. He just goes the way the wind blows. Look at how we order him around.
JEFF: That's cause we're in battle an' there's nothin' more equalizin' than a M-16 in your back in the middle of a firefight when no one could prove you shot him deliberately. Loony ain't crazy. He just don't want to get fragged, that's all.
TJ: Well, it's up to me an' you to set this thing straight once and for all. Hey, what happened to our anti-war march, eh?
JEFF: Well, first things first, I guess.
(They finish joint. Enter DIETER, stripped to the waist, barefoot, wearing a headband, carrying his M-16.)
TJ: Well, who the fuck do you think you are -- a Navy SEAL?
DIETER: My brother showed me this. He's in the Special Forces.
TJ: If your brother is in the Special Forces I'll kiss LBJ's fat ass. What are you, a family of maniacs? What are you going to do about the mosquitoes?
DIETER: I can take it.
TJ: (Under his breath.) Yeah, you can take it in the ear.
JEFF: (With irony.) A real fighting machine, eh?
DIETER: (Sincerely.) That's right.
(TJ gives JEFF a sidelong look. LOONY enters from right.)
TJ: Well, go get a shirt on. And some boots. Everybody who pulls that superman shit over here is dead as far as I can see.
DIETER: (Turns and appeals to LOONY.) Sir?
(LOONY nods. DIETER trots off toward his tent.)
JEFF: How come we goin' out tonight, Loony? It's gon' be a full moon.
LOONY: We got to keep the pressure on Charlie.
JEFF: Pressure? It ain't no pressure on Charlie for us to go out an' blunder around in the jungle at night. It's pressure on us!
LOONY: Well, that's the orders.
TJ: Yeah, "ours not to reason why, ours just to do or die." Well, Loony, we don't want that gung-ho maniac takin' us all down with him. You understand?
LOONY: He's just a rookie.
JEFF: Yeah, but one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. We don't want him pullin' us into no unnecessary engagements, you got it?
LOONY: Yeah, OK boys, no unnecessary engagements.
JEFF: (Aside.) All these engagements is unnecessary as far as I'm concerned!
(Enter DIETER, wearing a shirt and boots.)
TJ: OK, "Ranger," but wear this helmet. (Throws him a helmet.) We don't want to see your brain shortage get any worse.
DIETER: Lieutenant, let me be the point man!
(TJ and JEFF are shocked. They look at DIETER as if he had just announced he was Napoleon Bonaparte.)
LOONY: Well ....
JEFF: I'm the point man, mister.
TJ: Look, Peter or Dieter or whatever your name is, you're starting to get on my nerves. You just got off the plane, you ain't had shit for experience, and now you want to be point man. Jeff is our point man.
DIETER: Why? Don't you want a white man to lead?
JEFF: (Rolling his eyes to the sky as he turns away.) I tol' you he wasn't no good!
TJ: Listen, you prejudiced bastard, in this unit we stick together! I know it's just gonna break your country-club heart, but we don't put no one race ahead of another. You do that an' you cut your own throat. We stick together. You start this kinda shit you're talking about an you cut your own throat. You never know when you're gonna need a buddy. He might save your life, you might save his. But as a matter of fact, Einstein, we don't want a white man to lead the patrol, and I'll tell you why, but you ain't gonna like the reason. See, when Charlie sees our point man is Black, most of the time he just lets us pass. See Charlie sympathizes with Black people's struggle in the United States. He doesn't really want to kill Blacks and he'll avoid it if he can. So Jeff is our point man. Besides, the VC units around here have gotten to know us. They realize we ain't enthusiastic to get blowed away to buy some Grosse Pointe stock broker a summer home on Mackinac (pronounced Mac-in-aw) Island. So they let us pass. If we go out there with you as our point man, they might not recognize us and we'll have a firefight on our hands.
DIETER: So you admit you don't want to fight the VC.
TJ: Hell no, I had to be drafted, man.
JEFF: Hell, don't nobody want to fight him but a few fools! The majority voted for LBJ cause they thought he was against the war -- an' look what he did! (Aside.) I always did say the Democrats is just as big a crackers as the Republicans!
DIETER: (Turning to LOONY) Sir, aren't you going to discipline these men?
TJ: An' furthermore, "Ranger," if you use your brains and think about it, you'll see Charlie don't want to fight you, either. Look at Loony. He don't wear no stripes, does he? That's cause Charlie likes to kill officers and let the troops go. He wants the brass, not us. And I ain't afraid to say that I like that myself. Loony don't want to get killed, neither. That's why he's got plain shoulders. So get some sense, "Ranger," and figure out how you're gonna survive this tour of duty.... You know, Jeff, Charlie is really kind of hip. If there wasn't a war on, I'd like to meet a few of them.
DIETER: That's treason! You're not fighting for your country!
TJ: The way we look at it, we ain't fighting for our country when we pull these fucking triggers. We're only fighting for LBJ and some right-wing flag-wavers who don't know what it's all about.
DIETER: (To LOONY) Sir, what are you going to do about this?
LOONY: Well, I got to keep my platoon happy, soldier.
DIETER: So you are not going to take action against them?
LOONY: They is my best men, soldier, my best men.
DIETER: (Tight-lipped.) All right, I'll go in the rear. But it's only under protest. I want that clear.
TJ: (Aside.) Where have I heard that before? I protest that I have to go to Vietnam and kill Vietnamese. He protests that he can't just go out and slaughter them. That's what I call unity!
JEFF: (To DIETER.) Watch your mouth, paleface, your views ain't too popular with the colored majority of this here planet!
(They pick up their weapons and exit left, JEFF in the lead, followed by TJ, LOONY and DIETER.)
(The light is a bit dimmer, it is beginning to be evening. In the jungle. Enter JEFF from right, followed at a distance by TJ, LOONY and DIETER. JEFF walks cautiously across the stage, stops and signals the platoon to halt. They talk in low voices.)
(JEFF turns to the right, walks toward the rear of the stage, stops, turns around, drops his pack and sits down. Others follow and do likewise, except for DIETER, who remains standing.)
TJ: Come on, "Ranger," break-time!
DIETER: But we haven't come any more than half a mile.
TJ: Sit down, "Peter"! (He sits.) We ain't gonna go no long distance, either. Not in VC territory at sundown.
DIETER: But we haven't seen any VC yet!
JEFF: You better pray you don't see 'em, paleface. They might scalp you. Wait a minute, I forgot! The white man is doing the scalping in this here war. Man, some of these All-American soldiers is sick in the head. They got necklaces made of VC ears -- look like a bunch of little dried apricots. (Brings out paper and rolls a joint.) TJ, did I ever tell you about the Navy SEAL I met who had a whole string of eyeballs? An' the bastard said he had to go and get a fresh batch -- the ones he had were dryin' out an' shrivelin' up. Man, I almost lost my lunch over that one! Some of these soldiers -- an' I'm ashamed to say, some of my people, too -- have turned into real animals over here. (Lights joint, passes it to TJ.)
TJ: (Hits joint, passes it to LOONY.) Want some, "Ranger"?
DIETER: That's marijuana!
TJ: The best this side of Telegraph Avenue.
DIETER: But, but, lieutenant... you're smoking it, too! This is a breach of discipline!
JEFF: A "war crime", fuh sho!
(JEFF and TJ laugh merrily.)
TJ: So, court martial us, "Ranger." Or take a hit. This stuff is your passport to a peaceful tour of duty in sunny Vietnam.
DIETER: But the enemy will smell it!
TJ: Yeah, he will smell it and I hope to hell he does. Cause Charlie knows that any platoon that's smoking dope ain't out for a fight and he'll just pass on by. See, they know the difference between "friendlies" and "unfriendlies", "Ranger."
JEFF: Yeah, that's what Schmidt meant when he said he wanted to smoke a peace pipe with Charlie. He tol' me one time he was down at his hooch with his chick an' they was fucked up they was so high an' along come a VC patrol. Schmidt had his uniform on an' all, but all they did was give him the peace sign (gives the sign, a V with index and second finger) and passed on by. Yeah, that Schmidt -- he knew how to live! (To DIETER.) An' now he's dead because of some brass-ass bastard that was gung-ho just like you, "Ranger"!
DIETER: (Ignores JEFF. To LOONY.) Sir, I can see it does no good whatsoever to appeal to your military professionalism. But I want it noted that I protest the behavior of these troops and of you, sir, and I demand that we go into combat with the enemy!
TJ: Relax, soldier, we are in combat. A bullet could flatten you any second .... (Whispers.) Shhh! Freeze! (All freeze except JEFF who places his rifle in DIETER's back as a National Liberation Front patrol passes silently through on the path the American soldiers have just left, walking from left to right, dressed in black pajamas and conical hats, carrying AK-47's. They do not notice the Americans.)
JEFF: (Low, so only DIETER hears him.) One move, hot shot, an' you won't have no spine no more!
(The NLF patrol passes, the American soldiers relax except for DIETER.)
DIETER: (Excitedly.) Lieutenant, that was VC! That was VC, lieutenant!
LOONY: I can see, soldier.
DIETER: Let's pursue them, lieutenant! We must pursue them!
TJ: Leave 'em alone, "Ranger." They ain't fucked with us. I got no quarrel with them.
DIETER: Sir, these men are collaborating with the enemy! This man here (indicates JEFF) stuck his rifle in my back while the VC went by!
JEFF: I told him to keep his mouth shut.
LOONY: He's got a point there, soldier. No use provoking no unnecessary engagements.
DIETER: Sir, I demand we go into action! I demand that I be made point man!
LOONY: Well, I'll think about it.
DIETER: Sir, you are also obstructing the conduct of the war. I warn you that you will be in trouble with your superiors if we don't take action.
LOONY: Soldier, they ain't gon' believe you. You're just a rookie an' ain't been here but about two days. These is experienced soldiers you is talkin' to, boy.
JEFF: Tell 'im, Loony!
DIETER: Sir, I will not hesitate to go over your head! I will use my influence in Washington, sir, if I am forced to.
(DIETER reaches into his pack.)
TJ: What influence in Washington, "Ranger"? You're the biggest blowhard to come down the pike!
DIETER: This influence, mister! (Pulls out a photograph.) This is a picture of my father and I with Senator Glenn of Ohio. My father was in the Air Force with him.
(Hands the photo to LOONY, who looks at it and gets uncomfortable.)
LOONY: It's the real thing, TJ.
TJ: (Takes photo.) Yup, looks like it. Big shots stick together.... Well, Loony, are you gonna cave in again like you did when Schmidt and Harding got killed? Or are you gonna take a stand against these big shots who want you to do their dyin' for them?
LOONY: TJ, I don't know.
JEFF: Aw, fuck you Loony! You know good an' well them rich folks don't give a good goddamn for your scrawny hillbilly ass! You wouldn't get in the gate of their country club 'less you was carryin' a mop! They'll shake your hand at election time an' call you po' white trash for the next four years!
LOONY: Yeah, but I got my career to think of.
JEFF: You ain't gonna have no life to wrap a career aroun' if you back down now, Loony. (Menacingly.) Dead lieutenants is a dime a dozen in this war.
DIETER: It won't be just your career, lieutenant. You'll spend some time in the stockade if my old man has anything to say about it. He doesn't like officers who are cowards.
LOONY: I ain't no coward, soldier! I....
TJ: Don't listen to him, Loony. Do what's right for one time in your miserable life!
LOONY: TJ, I know it's wrong, but I got kids at home.
TJ: So does Jeff. So do a lot of guys. So does Charlie, for that matter.
LOONY: I'll get him transferred out of the platoon, fellas. But I can't take that kind a chance. (Stands up.) Get up! "Peter", or whatever they call you, take point!
DIETER: Hot dog! Let's go, men!
(They get up, shoulder their packs.)
TJ: Loony, you dirty son-of-a-bitch! This is the last time you'll do this to us! This is the last time you'll fuck us! This is the last time...!
JEFF: Take it easy, TJ. I seen it coming. They got the power on us, that's all.
(Platoon stalks off to the left, led by DIETER, whose swagger recalls RAMBO in the opening scene.)
(Platoon enters from right, led by DIETER, who is well in the lead, followed by LOONY, TJ and JEFF. DIETER walks with a RAMBO swagger, occasionally making a few RAMBO moves as music of "We Will Rock You" is faintly heard. In the distance are red, white and blue flashes and sounds of gunfire. DIETER has an eager, rapturous look on his face and walks with cat-like motions. The rest of the platoon marches to an entirely different rhythm. LOONY looks scared, constantly swiveling his head around. TJ and JEFF walk carefully, warily looking around, with the ease of veterans but they are obviously very reluctant participants. No one speaks; after a few pauses they exit left past a dilapidated, decrepit hut.)
(Small Vietnamese boy enters from the left, gathering firewood. Same dilapidated hut is seen here. Flashes and gunfire continue in distance. The boy moves toward center stage picking up twigs, always looking around warily, somewhat frightened. Suddenly DIETER leaps onto the stage from center rear, in a crouch, gun pointing at the child. Music from "We Will Rock You" rises. Child drops twigs and stands frozen, back to the audience. DIETER's face first shows surprise, then fear, then, after a glance around shows the child to be alone, sneering hatred. He raises his gun to his hip and blasts away. The child is knocked over backwards toward the audience, blood streaming from his belly and chest as the rest of the platoon enters from the rear.)
DIETER: Fucking gookI!
TJ: What the hell are you doing, soldier?
(TJ and JEFF quickly look around, see nothing, return attention to DIETER.)
JEFF: Man, you didn't have to waste him! You could see he was only collecting firewood.
TJ: Now you've alerted the Cong from here to Saigon, you idiot!
DIETER: (Momentarily dismayed, looks around, then regains his arrogance.) He had something in his hand. I thought it was a gun. Besides, he's only a "gook" anyway.
JEFF: Only a "gook"! I spose if I got hit I'm "only a nigger" an' you kin leave me behind! You scumbag! An' to think that low-life rotten scum like you can claim to be the master race an' have the right to rule the world!
(While they are talking a black-pajama-clad NLF figure creeps behind the deserted hut and watches them. They do not see him.)
TJ: Jeff, we ain't got time to talk. Charlie is looking for us already an' when he sees the kid he'll be out for blood.
DIETER: We can hide the body.
TJ: Fuck you, you mercenary bastard! Don't you touch him or I swear I'll fucking blow you away! Loony, make Jeff point man an' get us back to camp!
LOONY: Dieter is still our point man, TJ.
DIETER: (Shaken.) I know the way.
JEFF: We all know the way, you son-of-a-bitch. Get your ass moving!
(They exit hastily to the right, in the same order as before. DIETER this time is scared, as is LOONY. TJ and JEFF are not panicked but are even more wary than before. TJ takes a last look at the boy. JEFF does also, then, as he leaves, he whispers:)
JEFF: Little brother, we ain't fightin' you. We aint fightin' you.
(After the platoon leaves, the NLF figure leaves the shelter of the rear of the hut and moves silently, stealthily, along the rear of the stage to the right, exiting about two-thirds of the way across the stage towards the right, in the same direction as the platoon.)
(It is almost dark. Small groups of three NLF fighters can be seen hiding, one group on the right and one on the left of the stage, behind bushes, near the front of the stage. Colored flashes and distant gunfire are seen and heard. Enter DIETER from middle rear, along a path. He has regained a little of his RAMBO swagger. As soon as he appears, the faint sound of "We Will Rock You" is heard. One-half of the way to the front of the stage he glimpses the NLF fighters. He stops in his tracks, frozen with fear, drops his weapon just as LOONY, TJ and JEFF enter from the rear. The music stops abruptly at this point, as do the red, white and blue flashes. LOONY, TJ and JEFF quickly register what has happened but the NLF opens fire. DIETER is riddled, left sprawling. LOONY is killed, blown off to the side. JEFF is hit in the chest and falls as he tries to take cover. TJ drops to the ground face down and lies totally still. NLF fires a few more bursts, pauses, then dashes away in two directions.
(TJ lies absolutely still for several long moments. The only sound is JEFF breathing with a gurgling sound.)
TJ: (Whispers.) Jeff! Jeff! You hit? Jeff?!
JEFF: (Hoarsely.) TJ, I cain't...
TJ: Jeff! Jeff!
(TJ slowly lifts his head, slowly looks around, remains motionless for a moment. Then he slowly gets up to a crouch, locates JEFF and crawls to him.)
TJ: Jeff! Oh, God damn, Jeff!
JEFF: TJ, I cain't talk good. I....
TJ: Don't talk, Jeff! (Tears JEFF's shirt back, claps his hand to his head.) Jeff, Jeff! Don't talk, buddy! Just hold on, Jeff. Hold on!
(Almost in a panic, he tears his own shirt off, pulls a cord out of his pack, wads the shirt up and presses it over JEFF's wound and ties it in place.)
JEFF: TJ, tell Tanya I love her.
TJ: Don't talk, Jeff, don't talk! Just hold on, my man!
JEFF: (Breath gurgling, voice gasping.) Tell "Ranger" that me an' Charlie, me an' Charlie .... (Collapses and dies.)
(TJ looks at JEFF with a horrified expression on his face, then falls onto his chest crying out:)
TJ: Oh, Jeff, Goddammit, oh Goddammit, don't die! Don't die, Jeff, oh Goddammit, don't die! Oh Jesus Christ, for God's sake, don't die, Jeff! Jeff, Jeff, my man! (Takes JEFF's wrist, feels for his pulse.) Oh no, Jeff, don't do that!! No! No! No-o-o-o! Goddammit! (Voice rising, he beats on the ground.) Goddammit! Goddammit! Oh, no! (He wails, looking at the sky.) No-o-o! Goddamn this fucking war! Goddamn this fucking war! (Gets up.) Sent us over here for nothing! For nothing! Not a goddamn thing! (Raising fists, cursing.) God-damn! God-damn! (Turns to DIETER's body'.) God-damn you, you son-of-a-bitch! You dirty, rotten, stinkin' son-of-a-bitch! (Kicks the body repeatedly.) I'll kill you bastards, you stinkin' rotten son-of-a-bitch! You gutless bastard! You stinkin' rich boy! You're the reason for this! You an' all the other bastards like you! I swear to God someday I'll wipe you out!
(As TJ is cursing, the NLF unit appears from left and stands watching silently, their weapons pointing at TJ, who does not see them.)
TJ: You fucking bastard! Gung-ho! Gung-ho! Look where it's got you! You got what you deserved, you stinkin' bastard! (Kicks him again. Approaches LOONY's body.) And you, you lily-livered son-of-a-bitch! (Gives him one kick.) Too goddamned yellow to stand up to the rich boy. Look where it got you -- dead as a fuckin' doornail! (Turns back to JEFF. Drops to his knees beside the body.) Jeff, I swear to God I'm gonna do somethin' about this! I swear to God you ain't gonna die for nothin'! I swear to God I'm gonna fight these rich, country-club bastards! I swear it! It's me or them, Jeff! I'm stickin' with you, Jeff, I'm stickin' with colored people, poor people, workin' people! I ain't fightin' for the rich man no more! I'm fightin' for us!
(TJ lifts up JEFF's body. NLF unit members take a step in his direction, but he still doesn't see them. Their commander raises his hand and restrains them as TJ marches off stage to the right, carrying JEFF, unaware of the NLF unit.)
(As in Scene 1, stage is in semi-darkness, illuminated by wavering red and blue lights. Cut-outs and figures as before. Muffled explosions; flashes of white light.
(Music as before. Enter RAMBO, who begins his routine of slaughter. But before he is half-finished, revolutionary Vietnamese music is heard and a unit of NLF fighters enters from center rear with a choreographed stalking motion approaching RAMBO, who is at the left front of the stage. They are firing their AK-47's, which belch sparks. RAMBO goes into a panic, ducking, dodging and hiding. Before they have approached very far onto the stage the Vietnamese music is interrupted (NLF halts) by a chant by many voices which rises from offstage right, at first faint, then growing stronger: "Hell No, Nobody Goes! Stop the War Now!" When it becomes loud, enter a group of American anti-war demonstrators, with TJ at the forefront, wearing his Army fatigues. Near him is a young black woman [Tanya]. Some of the demonstrators are wearing helmets and some are carrying shields which have their slogans written on them in red. One or two of the demonstrators are bloody or have bandages on their heads. They march toward RAMBO, their fists raised, chanting militantly, extremely bold and defiant. The NLF unit opens fire again and also advances. RAMBO is quavering with fear as the lights go out.)
By Tim Hall