EPISODE 4


          Glenn bitched so vociferously at this that Andy finally agreed to roll, but not smoke, in the Ivona Coffee Shoppe. "Tobacco's still legal in this state n’ county if you’re over twenty-five," he pointed out. "Plenty more things against the law too; nobody gives a fuck, ‘less you’re on somebody’s list.  Wearing a mask – if you’re black.  Fraud's illegal, but not the 900 line Catfish maintains. How much are you charging?" he asked.

          "Seventeen seventy-six," Anne replied. "Rayna's idea." 

          "A minute?"









          "No, for the whole message - and that sometimes runs up to five minutes," Glenn added, proudly. "Updated every week!  And it's not a 900 line, it's a 776 line; this special Morty worked out with the campaign consultants to both parties, the Libertarians, too. One - 776. For seventeen seventy-six... and then the local number.  It’s like a podcast, it’s… uh, uh… it’s a paycast!"

          "Long live the Revolution, whatever! Killing people's against the law, too, but there have been five homeless bashings already, hereabouts, fourteen last year. Your buddy Pinhead and his cronies want to upgrade Jefferson Street and somehow people keep getting discovered dead in dumpsters with their heads caved in," Andy scowled. "Message transmitted. Scabbing's legal, however many crocodile tears Catfish cries all over about the poor workers in his Urinal columns, but it was Conk volunteers bused into Indiana…"

          Glenn leaned back, sourly. "That was an exceptional case. You had transit workers, public employees, walking off their jobs without notice, and in violation of a written contract, and the Federal Government was paralyzed – afraid to stir up Penceland. This created a public danger, a potential for vastly increased automobile usage, and ours was a green response. It's not the same as providing strikebreakers in private disputes; as a matter of fact, Jack draws a clear distinction in the Renaissance chapters, especially 42. So please, reread his book..."

          "The Coming Killoff?  That Don Jones crap, or his new little red book? The President’s an asshole, OK, we all agree on that, damaged as he is, but he’s on the money about fake news.  There are enough lies... his and Pinhead's and the rest... in the Urinal..."

          "Boys, boys..." Anne interrupted, "I have to unpack. Andy, we have a conference to endure but, after hours, we're depending on you to show us around town. CNC’s paying, it’s community relations.  It's been years!"

          "Whasammatter, suddenly you don't trust Ratso?"

          "Don't be snide," she admonished, standing. And then, as if to prove she was not as tired and angry as she seemed, she pecked him on the cheek – Andy smelt one of those scents from the perfume ads on the shelter’s voiceless TV. "Now I have to go upstairs and unpack."

          "Great buns, huh?" Glenn leered as she passed through the door. "After all these years?"

 "Kasabian-class!" Andy agreed and Glenn scowled…

"You really ought to pay more attention to your culture… banal as it is.  You meant Kardashian-class.  Kasabian was one of those Manson women…"

          "Whatever!  I don’t read the Internet, don’t Twit. You ever gonna make a married woman out of her?"

          "Dunno," Glenn sighed. "Gee, this coffee sucks! It's complicated. She doesn't want to bring a child into the world unless Jack's elected and, as she says, hope begins again. I thought people gave up on Hope when some of us busted our balls, putting that hillbilly over and he winds up just as bad as the Georges, not to mention foisting that insufferable Tammy Wynette-witch of his as the alternative to Obama, first, then Trump!  Truth be told, I actually registered with the donkeys so as to vote for the Bern, whose stupidity has a sort of nobility about it.  And now this… this…” his lip curled, “but, without children, face it: what's the point of marriage? The way we're configured, we'd lose thousands on taxes. On the other hand," he added, "time's running out."

          Andy shook his head. "Everytime I think I've cornered the nihilism market, somebody surprises me."

          "Thing is, my friend, our Coalition is the world's last hope. I mean it... the last!... and it really pisses me off when people with brains and balls to make a difference... guys like you!... sit on the sidelines, whining. I never agreed with much of what Cal Thomas wrote, understand, but he got that first Bush Junior election right... we, the people, were to blame for insisting on our own individual autonomies. Which we expressed by marching around banging tin pans and protesting – protesting the tax cuts, microaggressions and killer policemen like failed little old ladies, too scared ever to look behind the apparent circumstances, roll their sleeves up and get involved and all the while the Tea Party was registering voters, raising money and being too busy to realize they were being hijacked by the televangelists and Wall Street.  Oh…  and Occupy Wall Street – anybody with an IQ over seventy knew it would end up like People’s Park did in Berkeley or those so-called liberated… or was it autonomous zones, a crash pad for bums, druggies and crazies that melted away with the first winter snow in the first case, and at the first whiff of gas in Seattle,  Oh yeah, then 2020 arrives and we go out and vote for the quote unquote outsiders in those two sad-ass parties, outsiders who usually just show themselves to be insiders with a gimmick except for the few… including the Joe on top… who are more oblivious than innovative…"

          Andy snapped his fingers. "Guess if we'd had a king, like William… or Jack Parnell… we wouldn't have any of those problems. Reminds me - there's a demo in about an hour starting up against the latest Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Maybe the kitchen will loan me some tin pans."

          "The fuck there is!" Glenn started with genuine surprise.

          "Oh... something your inside source forgot to tell all you outsiders there? Yeah... funny how things go, you schedule this Conk convention and the Cosmopolitan Union invites this new Chairman Pettigrew to town.  Another Biden weasel plucked out of the Goldman/Sachs herb garden!  Why don't you tell the Catfish to let his dogs out? All those pale little Conks, cutting deals in smoke-free rooms... little street action outside in the sun by white people in leisure suits'll do 'em good."

          "The fuck we will! They set this up... Republicans and Democrats in the C.U. They hate Pin… I mean Mayor Potter.  Pettigrew has nothing to offer beyond the Savings Tax and more credit deregulation, but the deep staters know bringing him to town will get all your pierced-eyeball anarchist bums from both the Antifa and MAGA rioting in the street and the Administration an excuse to invoke their R.P.A. Giving us a black eye on television."

          "Why?" wondered Andy. "You already said that Catfish supported the Revised Patriot Act, well, most of it, as an alternative to the Insurrection Act after January twenty-one.  And he disapproves of spontaneous destructive street action, as opposed to peaceful First Amendment speech - he's the ultimate arbiter of parameters."

          "Discipline changes minds, noise only hardens them," Glenn retorted. "But we've conditioned our people not to respond to provocations except when under strict protocols, Tillerman hasn't. Smoke that, Andy, your demo's about to be co-opted by his Proud Boys, Kluxxers and militia gun nuts. By flying saucer kooks, Creationists, Earth Firsters, Elvis impersonators, nostalgic Tea Partiers and alt-alt-righters even Marco Rubio and Fox News want nothing to do with.  Not to mention the conspiracy cranks from all over the spectrum."

          "Well, we didn't invite 'em," Andy protested, "nor Pettigrew! Go ask Pinhead. You're already boasting he's a Conk in all but filling out his registration card."

          "The only good part of this," Glenn mused, "is that maybe the pigs will sweep all of you up... both your kids and enough Tillerman people, including delegates... and keep 'em behind bars long enough on the R.P.A. to swing some of the dicey caucuses. Anne oughta..." and he yanked his cellphone out, started to dial and looked up. "What's the number of this place?"

          Andy spread his hands. "Sorry, Glenn, I don't hang here.  Follow the bouncing balls…" Glenn shoved the phone back in his pocket with a short obscenity and Andy pointed out the window. Over the past few minutes, the street had grown busier... young people in berets and fatigues and checkered intifada masks with bedsheets wrapped around broomsticks, wild old men in disheveled, mismatched dumpster duds. Several Turks were keeping intersections clear, though one geezer kept stepping off the curb, making impolite gestures, then stepping back to the sidewalk when the Turks advanced.

          Andy tapped the window with his unlit cigarette and pointed. "Kerry Donovan, remember? Got to be eighty, by now.  Goes back even before us, all the way back to the Vietnam protests.  I think he even used to go on freedom marches, down south… that far back."

          "Pathetic," Glenn scoffed.  "How does God and the plague allow someone like that to remain alive?"

          "Does drink some," Andy acknowledged. "But he keeps the faith. Get him to sign up with the Conks," he said, finishing his coffee and rising, "and I'll reconsider your goddam convention. Otherwise, we'll see you outside."

          "You'll never get permits!" Glenn predicted.

          "That ever matter?" Andy almost laughed. "You've burned enough people that they'll be streaming in from all over the country to take a bite out of the Coalition. Whether we, here, want them or not. And I don't! Situation here's already critical, no way hundreds of outside agitators... make that thousands, maybe... help the situation. They'll have nowhere to sleep, so Pinhead will make up some excuse to shut down the shelters, all but Malik's. Things are already tense between the pigs and Turks, and there are people I have no control over inviting more lambs into town to get their chops choppered... remember those stories Donovan told us 'bout Chicago?" he added, standing and brushing both real and imaginary lint from the reeking corduroy.

          "Don't bother Anne for bail," Glenn taunted, but Andy brushed past him, through the door, through the lobby... past the sullen Hawaiian rent-a-cop, still squeezing and fondling his stick. Glenn watched him go, then jerked his glance savagely towards the window. The protestors were still obeying the pedestrian controls policed by United Nations monitors in their khaki fatigues and pale blue berets, but a few had unfurled signs... one of which had detourned the Coalition's emblem to read CORROSION to the NEW CORRUPTION. In the middle of the street, Donovan was arguing with a Turk, waving what Glenn knew to be a copy of the Constitution, a little green book issued by one of the out-of-town anti-police organizations; the Turk was thumbing through a much thicker manual, probably containing United Nations Peacekeeping Squadron protocols. "Assholes!" he cursed them, one and all, finishing the Ivona's lousy coffee, which cemented his lips into a frown of permanent disgust and, perhaps inadvertently, he summoned the long-waxed ghost of Vladimir Lenin... "Infantile, left-wing assholes!"









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