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BLACK HELICOPTERS

          EPISODE 3

WEDNESDAY the FIFTH - 5:55 PM

          "Maybe the nanny government has a point," Andy winked, as they stacked up in the lone cashier's line behind six portly, middle-aged conventioneers, one of whom was wearing a blue sash with gold lettering "Grafex". "Up at the U. the Bloombergs, the live-forever lobby… they’ve all been picketing the Student Union. No coffee, no meat... no ooey-gooeys," he pointed. "No chocolate in the vending machines."

          Glenn fingered the edge of a dripping cinnamon bun, then sucked that finger. "You were the one, I recall, whining about how student activism’s gone out of fashion. So what else do they picket in this Latter Day paradise besides coffee, Costa Ricans and the Catfish?"

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          "Well, recommissioning Fort Marston does imply only one of two things... more interventions, somewhere which, along with a draft to produce boots on the ground to march through Costa Rica to Panama, then Colombia and Venezuela, that’s what you radical centrists believe... hnph!..." Andy winced as the cashier rang up their orders.  “And higher property values, meaning higher rents, higher retail prices and more people sleeping in the shelters or on the streets…”

          "Don't worry, it's on the Conks," Glenn said, slipping the cashier one of those new Belgian debit cards, some factor beyond platinum… titanium, maybe... or petroleum... and pressing his thumb to the laserpad. "What else in this brave new world of the five dollar cuppa do they say?"

          "Well... the usual talk about concentration camps. Not so usual, actually, it sort went away for awhile at the end of the last century before nine-eleven brought it back. Gitmo. Of course, only for Arabs.  At first.  Then, Koreans... North or South, they all look the same... and Iranians, Mexicans and, of course, the French.  Then the NSA, peeking at blogs.  Terroristic threat prosecutions up two hundred forty nine percent last year.  Costa Ricans, now and with all those drones in the air, up there..."

          "Sir!" the cashier challenged Andy. He looked up, she pointed to the thumbpad.

          "He's buying!" Andy objected.

          "You're drinking," she countered, waiting for him to comply. "Otherwise nobody gets the ten percent Convention discount."

          "Forget the discount," Glenn decided, picking up his tray. "God, I remember the Repression, now. Those were the good old days! Sons and daughters of the light against their dark elders... not some insurance clearinghouse monitoring caffeine and sugar and angry minimum-wage security guards at airports fondling your junk.  And now it’s another go-to issue for the radical right.  Forgot though... was neo-Stalinism lite supposed to come just before the Revolution or after?"

          "Speaking of dark elders authorizing concentration camps," Anne persisted, once they'd squeezed into nasty little black formica chairs dandied up to look like wrought iron by busy, little Asian fingers, "when was the last time you went to Masty Hall? I've only seen blueprints and pictures... how long since it went up, five years ago? Six? Looks tres dreary... very Rem Koolhaus..."

          "Koolhaas!" Glenn snapped.

          Andy shrugged. "I'm not the one to ask. Waldemar Enseñada concerts and gun shows ain't my idea of entertainment. Both too expensive, and crawling with cops and Turks… and the basketball team still sucks. They keep talking about bringing back football… Division Two… but the anti-pedophile, anti-concussion lobby swats that down.  In case you haven't noticed, people don't go out often since they lowered the drunk driving limit to zero point four statewide, oh two at the discretion of the officer, so there isn't that much to protest except for safety itself. You get the occasional riot at most universities only when the home team wins."

          "Come the Revolution," Glenn predicted, "Masty Hall will get all the Interpol conventions it can handle. Those weapons scanners they've put in… Tom showed me… they blow right through a woman's clothing. Got perverts lined up round the corner for security positions, hired away from airports. Rancid coffee, this!" he added.

          The corner window next to which they were seated afforded a view of the City's streets which, over the few short blocks they could see, rapidly degraded from gleaming office buildings, hotels and theatres to the grimier tenements and warhouses of Glenn and Anne's memory. "Is that a soup line?" he now pointed.

          "Cat'lics," Andy informed her. "Religion's gotten a big head, ever since the Twenty-Ninth Amendment and all that faith-based jazz... lotta people chow down there; more, really, than at the Hellfire Club. You remember Reverend Owens, always on TV..."

          "Wasn't he the one we marched for to get out of jail when he had those money problems?" Anne remembered.

          "That's him. Cut a deal, found Jesus and Adam Smith... food ain't bad, but the sermons you have to sit through first, they're like... corrosive. Make you feel like shit for having been born. Oh... there's still the Hare Krishnas, over by University, there it's the food gives you the runs."

          "They've got vegetarian bums?'

          "Hey, this is a college town, blue dot driftin’ on the great red tide. Still cranks out wannabe teachers and social workers – end up clerks for the Motor Vehicles Departments. People of virtue, conscience; got to watch your language. The harmless community here, they call our clients the homeless community I think, that or... what's that word the Catfish uses... the dispossessed.  As in even Satan don’t want them anymore.?"

          "As in lacking possessions," Glenn corrected.

          "Yeah. Or the ones on spiritual paths."

          "I suspect the only spirits at the end of their rainbows are the vapors from white port, Thunderbird or vodka.  Generic.   Or the white lightning and mouthwash, since they raised the taxes.  Surplus people... you can house them in jails or in shelters, and churches can feed them, but to what end?" Glenn leaned forward. "Only the dignity and purpose of a mass political movement can begin the process that would get them permanently off the streets. Of course that might cut into your client base..."

          Andy scowled. "Something I forgot to tell you. Jefferson Street Sanctuary? Defunded! Going on six months... building and the people still there, of course, but Pinhead cut off our money, soon as he won his second term. Got some kind of real estate scam cooking, I hear, but they'd rather let us fade away than have to call in the police or Turks and do a Waco, or that place in Philadelphia, back in the day. Building's still in litigation, could be for years. Burned up all our assets, though, keeping it warm with space heaters over last winter, courtesy of the Texans and Saudis and the Venezuelans; next winter finishes us."

          "Then how do you get by?" Anne worried. "Personally..."

          "Me?" Andy tapped his cup. "Deal. Steal. Get up at five in the morning, wait in line at the day labor when circumstances permit, then check out the dumpsters.  Stab lab Tuesdays and Fridays. Exploit the kindness of strangers. Until the Coalition wins, of course, forces everybody out of Jefferson and into concentration camps... or what's that Catfish-speak, labor environments? Something like that. Planting trees and picking grapes so we don't miss all the Mexicans getting shipped back or electrocuted at the border… you hold their welfare checks and they have to attend re-education and re-doctrination meetings all night after work. Best of all, the nice people don't have to look at us any more because we're not there anymore. Then Pinhead and his developer cronies lean on the courts to settle and demolish, put up the next phase of condos for gene splicers, all up and down Jefferson... this isn't so bad," he said, swishing a mouthful of coffee. "Not worth four eighty five, though."

          Glen put down his cup, wiped his fingers studiously on the Coffee Shoppe's white and pink napkin. His gray eyes, peering through lightly-tinted pink glasses, were suddenly cold, focused. "Our programs have been instituted in three states, fifteen major municipalities and over eighty independent counties over the last three years, and they work. As do our clients. You will see rebooted people at the Convention... or would, if you'd attend. I offered to cover your membership fee back in August, remember?  And they would not reside in concentration camps, either! That's abusive language... as reprehensible as Tillerman's people calling the UN monitors Fascists."

          "Why who'd ever have thunk of that?" Andy slapped his forehead. "My old pals, shills for Tillerman’s re-jackbooting corps! You signed consent forms for those little body implants yet?"

          "It's not that way, Andy, and you know it!" Anne reproached. "The Coalition for a New Consensus is still an evolving organism, a magnet for the dispossessed no matter their former ideological bias or how much or little money they may have – a Trump for the good people, the way that blog calls it. We're the big tent people, this year, and we’re not going to make the mistake of factioning off, like the Reforms did before they got their roots established... or being taken over by Wall Street, like the Democrats, or the televangelists, like the Tea Party… we're not just a bunch of burnt-out Sanderistas, we’re getting plenty of new faces coming over the fence to us too, from the Perot, Buchanan and Ventura tendencies, as well as from Republicans of principle. Jack and Rayna have meetings arranged with both Nader and Barr..."

          "Roseanne?" Andy rolled his eyes.

          "Bob Barr.  The Libertarian… and after him, we start in on Ron Paul.  Rand, probably not.  Even brother Ross and the Mind are talking differently about us these days, you never know what might happen!  Michael Avenitti and the Mooch from that show!  Like Catfish says, it's a matter of discrimination... a word sorely abused and often misunderstood in the Wallace… George Wallace… sense. Jack's not promoting bigotry," Glenn tried to clarify, "rather, we're looking at situations as they are, not what we wish or may imagine them to be. Our people in labor environments are volunteers... any of them who don't want to follow the rules, live between the lines and quit fucking each other and themselves up can go back to sleeping in cardboard boxes, or their separate communities... when we win, and if Congress finally opts out of the war on drugs. Or in your unheated warehouses, until then... as long as they don't violate state or local laws. Trespassing on public property, weed… now that the Feds overrode state and local prerogatives and cracked heads in California and Colorado… there’s a lot to be said for vagrancy laws.  We, unlike the Democrats and the Republicans, the social work bureaucracy or most churches, are the real pro-choice party, we offer those who can't compete in the New Age Economy a little dignity and comfort. Some may even regain the confidence to re-enter the private sector."

          "I'm sure!" Andy smirked. "They go out with a resume with this big blank space while they've been living in Jack’s Happy Camp, what do they tell employers, if they can find any... they've been selling Rayna's Modes door to door the past few years? I'd rather hire a burned-out home caregiver, or some thug out of jail! So they get work on the Congressional training minimum, four thirty-five an hour before taxes which, with fifty cents, will buy you this cup of coffee,” he pointed downwards, “and a bum hotelroom's up to one seventy a week here."

          "We’re not eliminating social security and food stamps, in fact, the Catfish is working on rent and utility stamps once we repeal Trump’s tax cuts for the rich. If enough people just give him a chance..."

          Andy leaned back and sighed. Looking out the window, towards the intersection, he saw several conventioneers begin crossing the street until four Turks converged on them, two from either direction, escorting them back to the curb. Two looked white under their light blue berets, Scandinavians or Canadians, there was an Asian and an African so black he seemed almost dark blue. He could see the identity papers being checked and the mouth of the leader moving, pointing to the traffic box into which pedestrians were supposed to swipe their ID plastic and input thumbprints before crossing. Apparently they'd come from some place not yet under U.N. peacekeeping dictates, so they'd be let off with warnings... tickets being poison for the hospitality industry.

          "And what happens to kids... the ones whose parents can't feed them so they kick them out and we get them at the Sanctuary?" Andy's desire to bait his old friends increased with every sip of their charity coffee. "You Conks want to rent them out to foster farms, like the chickens, or reunite them with families that have been beating and abusing them since the first time they fell... quote, unquote... out of the cradle.  Not to mention the parents who get old and use up all their assets in the nursing home… wheel ‘em out on the street in their IV cables and Depends an’ we get plenty of them, too…"

          "The sixties are over," Glenn said, with a mournful wink at Anne.  “We’re working on it.”

          "That they were, and when I was two years old.  So are the '70s, 80’s and '90s." Andy removed his papers from his hip pocket with a pouch and began to sprinkle tobacco. "And the nothings and, soon enough, the teens!"

          "For Christ's sake, man!" Glenn erupted, "don't let anybody see you! That security guard's passed twice, looking in, since we sat down!" 

         

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