With my post below on Iraq, I’m off for a while (spring break). See you all (metaphorically) back on these funny pages sometime next week. If you are bored beyond repair with all this free holiday time on your hands I give you an early gift for your Easter Basket (feel free to return it for something you really want. You’ll find below the preface and first chapter of a story I’ve been plugging at: a worrisome warning of a tale of what 21st century American politics could become subsequent to the next, even larger terrorist attack. I’ll post addiitional chapters down the pike subject to your interest or protests….
(And apologies for the line-breaks between paragraphs–can’t get WordPress to indent for me..)
And To The Republic
(A work in progress by Carl J. Luna.)
The bourbon was particularly good. He inhaled the smoky aroma, enjoying the glint of the amber liquid within the cut crystal, savoring the woodsy flavor, the taste of fiery peat, as it rolled across his tongue.
Thirty years old. Perfect. That the bourbon came out of the cellar of a man now dead, a man he despised and in whose death he took no small relish, only made the liquor all the more precious. That he had helped engineer the man’s death—he hadn’t pulled the trigger but he had most certainly done everything but cock the gun and place it in the poor bastard’s hand—only added to the moment. And that he had managed to buy the deceased’s entire wine and spirits cellar at fire sale prices—the desperate widow trying vainly to fend off the voracious creditors, the IRS first amongst these–completed the tour de force. All he had to do to achieve total victory over his vanquished foe would be to sleep with the wife.
But he wouldn’t do that. He was happily married. And he was a good Christian man. An agent of the Hand of God, indeed. God’s axe with which to hew and clear away the treacherous. And there were a lot more trees in that particular forest to fall.
He gazed out of his private office window down the steps of the Capitol and across the mall. There at the far end, past the World War II memorial, past the great testament to Washington, old Abe sat in his marble temple. He toasted the slain president.
Lincoln had been correct. Well, maybe not about violating the rights of states and, thereby, siring the power hungry whore that would become the Federal Government. But he was right that a house divided against itself could not stand. And the house of the United States had been divided for too long. Divided between the patriotic and the scurrilous, the god-fearing and the profane, the right and the wrong. It was time to put the house of the United States in order. The divine Hand had marked the United States as His chosen people, His most exceptional people. And he would be an agent of His Hand, clearing from the path those who would bring their own country low.
He would crush and destroy anyone who got in the way of his divine mission. For the greater good, of course. And for the power. The power to finally reshape America as it should be, to finally complete the revolution begun thirty years, four presidents and two terrorist attacks ago. And he would finish that revolution, vanquishing its foes for a hundred years – a hundred hundred years—thereby guaranteeing America’s exceptional role in the affairs of God and man in perpetuity. It was war. Jihad. And he would win it.
He took another long sip of the bourbon, allowing it to roll across his tongue, producing a most delightful burning sensation. He swallowed. That was enough. Just a finger of the delightful fluid. He put the glass back on the sideboard. Temperance in all things had always been his motto. All things but the accumulation of power, of course.
His private phone rang. He crossed over to his massive, hand carved desk and lifted the receiver.
“This is the White House operator. Please stand bye for the President of the United States.”
POTUS on the line for him. He smiled.
“Mister Speaker,” the receiver reverberated with the familiar, deep southern drawl of the current President of the United States.”
“Mister President, a pleasure,” he drawled back.
“I want to thank you for all you did today, Mikey. I always know I can depend on your, boy.”
“Anything I can do, Mister President. I am always at your service.”
“I’m flying down to the house this weekend. Want you and Belle to drop by.”
“That’s most kind of you, sir.” He would be flying south this weekend, anyway. Always had to work on the base, even as strong and resurgent as it was. Perhaps he would have time to drop in on the leader of the increasingly freer world. But business came before pleasure. And he had a significant piece of business to deal with this weekend. Perhaps not as pleasing as the business which had placed that particularly fine bourbon in his possession, but just as, if not more, important. “Belle and I will most certainly try and take you up on your kind offer.”
“Atta boy. Night, Mikey.” The phone disconnected. The Speaker of the House of the United States of America returned the phone to its cradle. He walked back to his window and looked out over the mall. He could just see a portion of the White House down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Maybe some day, he smiled. Hell, even with the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, the current holder of that office couldn’t hang on forever. And as he continued to gather more and more of the reins of real power, well, who would be the most natural heir to the mantle of the revolution they had been forging, despite the occasional interrruption over the last forty years?
He looked back over at the bourbon and briefly considered having one more small glass, but rejected the idea. Discipline in all things was another one of his mottos. It was discipline that had brought him to the heights of power. It would be discipline that would bring him to the absolute summit of power.
And God help anyone who got in his way.
“Please stop by an see me before you leave—Travis.”
I looked at the note for a long moment, the usual anger and nausea I felt whenever Travis invaded my life swelling from bowels to throat. I fought off the temptation to crumple the note into a wad and chuck it into the corner wastebasket even as my fingers, sensing their master’s mood, began to close in on the foul little missive. Travis would want to see the note—in tact—in my hand. A final confirmation that I was indeed doing his bidding, the summons alive and answered.
Travis. What a piece of work. He could just as easily have left me a voice mail or emailed me with his “request.” But taking the time to deliver hand-written notes to people’s mailboxes was just another of his many anal retentive—and effective—ways to monitor and control. We now were supposed to check our boxes twice a day, as opposed to the once in whenever the hell I got around to it of years past. Years long past, so they felt, even though they really weren’t. A lot can change in a man’s life in a short time.
Miss stopping by your box twice a day and you ran the risk of missing a message from the big T. Oh, it wasn’t like that would be the end of your career or anything. You certainly wouldn’t be bundled up and shipped off to Bismarck. But Travis would make note of it as he checked the boxes that night on his way out to be sure they were empty, their contents picked up by their owners. An orphaned note would be another tick against you. Just a little tick. Get enough, though, and you would be ticked out.
No, not to Bismarck. None of us were that important. Just to the unemployment line. Where, with the endless recession and all (or, as the Administration preferred to call the “R” word, “net positive economic growth”) a displaced academic could cool his heels for quite a long time. Not too long, of course, what with criminalization last year of long-term unemployment. They wouldn’t send you to Bismarck for that, either, of course. Just to county detention where you would be subcontracted to one of the manpower corps as part of your sentencing. Impressed pool cleaning in the tonier neighborhoods of town not being my particular thing, I had managed to get into the habit of checking my box the requisite twice a day.
I carefully folded the note and slipped it into the breast pocket of my Dockers. While the new dress codes—professors and staff now were expected to wear full business regalia to the campus, from shoes you couldn’t play sports in to the real deal jacket and tie combo– were both insulting and juvenile, they did mean I also had at least one pocket available at all times to tuck something into. Couldn’t do that so easily back in the T- or Polo-shirt wearing days. Change can do a man good.
I emptied the rest of the box’s contents – nothing but memos and other miscellaneous paperwork that could just as easily been emailed but, if they had been, would have left nothing to put into our boxes to justify the twice a day pick up requirement. One must always marvel of the self-reinforcing circular logic that marks a bureaucracy. Or a dictatorship.
As I left I carefully closed and locked the mailroom door with a swipe of my ID card– another protocol, to protect the memos and, more importantly, Travis’ notes from paper thieves, no doubt–and walked back towards my office on the other side of the building. Pulling my cell phone from yet another of those darned convenient jacket pockets, I checked the time. Four fifteen P.M. A brilliant piece of control, that. Schedule a face to face just after four-thirty to be sure the talent wasn’t skipping out of work a few minutes early. Not that any of us really could, any more. I slid my ID card through my office lock, resulting in an audible, mechanical “click.” The lock scanner not only read my card and opened the door, it also recorded my entry time. When I left I had to slide the card again – a ridiculous extra effort, as the door could just as easily been left in a default locked setting. But, then, they wouldn’t be able to gather the data on when I left. And Travis wouldn’t have all those files delivered to him weekly to pour over to be sure all the children had stayed in their rooms when they were supposed to. And anyone cutting out early would eventually be detected. And they would receive a tick.
But, in 2014, that was the lot of most people, college professors included. And I am a college professor. Or, at least, I was. An academic. An academic living in a dictatorship. At least a developing dictatorship. A developing dictatorship called the United States of America. Not that anyone actually called it that. Dictatorship, I mean. Developing or otherwise.
They would send you to Bismarck for that. Ask Streisand.