EPISODE 5


          South of the Ivona, the city’s streets had rapidly swelled with tourists, conventioneers, anti-conventioneers; students, bankrupts and hangers-on, local police and the omnipresent Turks - the center of density being Dorritt Square, opposite the shambling, ivy-soaked Cosmopolitan Union. Andy, strolling into the Square, found his way obstructed by antifa vandals and multicultured vendors at tables displaying pro- and anti- CNC buttons, pamphlets, programs and books, and couldn't help picking up a paperbound copy of Jack Parnell's ubiquitous "Entropy and Renaissance".









"Buy a button, bro? Dollar each, six for five..."

          Andy thumbed through the Catfish book while the chanting and police sirens swelled in frequency and volume. "No Tax! No Way!" a knot of University students started up, appropriating cadences Andy recognized from years past and causes lost. "Make Banks and Wall Street Termites Pay!" He parted the pages two thirds of the way through, lingering on the statement "...the responsibility for prudent societies to rid themselves of people who are not sufficiently productive..."

          "Free button with every book over five dollars..." the vendor suggested, hopefully...

          Andy smiled, replacing the book on a pyramid prominently situated at the center of a rainbow-altar of alt-left  and trans-right tomes... illegal Canadian prescription drugs – now discounted, a revisionist hagiography of Sismondi, manuals for homemade ammunition... and continued towards the CU; a squat, stone fortress, six-stories high, with an underground parking lot into which Lincolns and limousines were directed, safe from the crowd behind barricades at the edge of the Square. Boys in black adjusted their checkered Palestinian masks.  Spontaneous cheers erupted as a police horse dropped a road apple. Itinerant leafleteers pressed propaganda into the hands of the unwary while a young woman with a Walkman skated down the street through the small DMZ between the cops and barricades.

          "Stop the Zionists behind the Savings Tax, man?" queried a pimply white boy in a red and white kefiyah, handing Andy a dark blue leaflet of the Jonny Walker Brigade, festooned with white Arabic writing that he probably couldn’t read.  "Support the Gaza intifada! Down with FRET!"

          Collecting a few more papers and returning a few vague smiles, Andy trolled through the motley assembly, looking for a face he could trust.  A lot of strangers, already, and... "Where are these people going to sleep tonight?" he asked himself. As a lone beer can arced up from the depths of the park towards the mounted police, bouncing and fizzing in the street, Andy recognized Jorge Gamba of the Latino caucus.

          "Yo, Georgie!"

          "Whassup, man?" Gamba's shirt hung open and sweaty. They slapped hands. "Lose your life savings in one of those banks, all that dough you been squirrelin' away for old age?'

          "If only!" Andy replied. "Hey, do I get your letter for the permit people? We're supposed to go in tomorrow."

          "Shit man, I don't know," Jorge backed off. "To tell you the truth, my community is just not interested in protesting the Conks, except for Tillerman an’ that caca ‘bout electrifying or mining Trump’s border wall. Nothing else makes any difference to them and, I got to tell you, some of the viejos don't want to cross Pinhead..." he squinched a thumb and forefinger together and rubbed them with incendiary earnestness "…Seńor Trump’s got the Feds dangling lots of private prison money and Costa Rican war surplus toys in front of cities ready to go the sweeps and roadblocks route to round up brownskins, legal or not.  Like those robots with bombs to blow up the people?  Catfish, he’s just another gringo politician, so what? Talking about secret jails to hide people in, one mistake and you're on the bus back to Tijuana, even if you got your green card. Like when Governor Seagal and Senator Joe kicked Geraldo out down in Yuma - took nearly a week for Fox to get him back home..."

          "It does make a difference," Andy tried to explain. "No permit, no tabling, no stage to talk about what the Conks have in mind for the South End or Costa Rica. You really want to, say it's Tillerman you're against in your letter; I'm hearing little birds twittering that Pinhead's in the pocket of Catfish Jack..."

          "In the pocket of that fat bitch with the money is where he is," Jorge smiled and wiggled his hips, Elvis-like. "Tells Pinhead she gonna put up a lipstick factory here, one of these days, as if she… or anyone… would ever pay American wages until the dollar drops another fifty percent against the peso and the rupee or whatever they use for money there, in China, now. Andy, I can't get you anything out of the Organization. They gotta go through meetings, through committee. See, we been signing this and that, you know, and people have started asking questions. Not like it was before Nine Eleven, plague and the so-called Recession One and now Recession Two - back when folks had money and nobody paid attention... now they’re afraid for their jobs, so we have to follow processes. You know? Like the government says, watch what you say or we’ll Acorn you, citizen or not. They're scared. I could sign your letter personally though, not using my title."

          "Well that would help... you could sign it for information only. FOIO = Government talk. They're stupid man, don't know anything. A letter would be better."

          "Now? Turn around, I'll write it on your back." Jorge removed a pen with the name of a local insurance company on it... one which no longer existed, having been eaten by a bank three months ago. There were a lot of bargains in obsolete, corporate merchandise in the dollar stores, even more in the dumpsters. "Uh... you got something to write on, man? Flyer should do."

          "Let me see." Andy dug into his pocket, scanned the fistful of literature he'd pulled out. One showed the President of the United States... naked and hairy in a cave, insane eyes glaring out under a brutish, apelike brow - something about Gandhi's collaboration with South African Apartheid, displayed in big, blue letters: "You cannot guilt trip maniacs. Violent revolution NOW!” Another called for reparations for those blinded by Eye-Spy's retina checking devices or sterilized by the airport bodyscan scandals; another, from the student body chapter of White Armed Resistance, decried Tillerman as a sellout, calling the Convention a product of "social engineering" and concluded, "we've undertaken to thin out the ranks of those who gather for no purpose - habitual criminals and drunks and panhandlers, illegal aliens and crap-rockers - and to convince them that this is not a hospitable nor healthy place to be. Human beings shouldn't be allowed to sit on the sidewalks, doing nothing." Instead, Andy passed over the blank, apolitical side of a cents-off burger coupon offering the discount to conventioneers with ID. "Make it out to Disson... Donald Disson, Board of Permits and Special Projects. Man gets off on his title, so I’ve heard." He turned and Jorge began writing on the flier on his back, Andy thought fleetingly of Kafka's punishment engine while a television crew began making its way through the Square, escorted by police. "Fuck!" he said, voice trailing off into a frown. "Ratso!"

          "Him too?"

          "No, just Disson, make it the Honorable Donald Disson, stroke his ego. I just saw our local King Conk... you remember Henri Ratzelkreuz, from Pinhead's campaign? Got this jones for television cameras."

          "Yeah, I know that pendéjo," Jorge said, still writing on Andy's back. "Testified for Reverend Malik back in the day when the State was still doling out money in block grants, six years ago. Malik got himself that new Beemer; we got caca. How's this?"

          Andy turned, took the statement. "Fine. Stop Tillerman... just fine. Thanks man. I'll let you know, tomorrow, how it turns out."

          "De nada," Jorge waved. Andy sauntered towards Ratso's blind side until he was able to pick up snatches of his dialog with the announcer from Eleven at Eleven.

          "...the renewal of our economy in the sensible sectors." Ratso had wavy blond hair; he wore a blue blazer with a crimson handkerchief stuffed in his breast pocket like he'd just returned from a sail on the dismal, polluted river meandering through the north end of town. Andy suspected that he’d seldom, if ever, had to expectorate into that handkerchief or press it into duty as a mask. Ratso's hands moved this way and that in the air, as if massaging imaginary Federal dollars into real pockets.

          The newscaster was one Andy hadn't seen on the relatively few times the shelter television was tuned to Eleven at Eleven before the sound blew out; an earnest, young fellow with the hungry need for approval that goes with certain actors who fail to survive the first reel in cheap horror flicks. Andy instinctively pulled out a worn book of local media contacts to jot down his name and station as the newsboy prompted Ratso: "But the Administration's position is that, in addition to generating revenues enough to bail out troubled institutions, the savings surtax would have the effect of stimulating consumer spending, so that more money would enter circulation?"

          Ratso smiled indulgently. "Yes,” he waved, "but the question remains: who is to be the ultimate beneficiary... real Americans, or the export cartel of runaway corporations and financiers? And an increase in the money supply does mean that domestic, high-ticket items; housing mainly, but some automobiles, boats and larget ticket items who took a hit in the tariff wars would..." He turned, scowling… a tall, blond man with a twitchy tic on the side of his face had raised two fingers in the sign of the horns over his head.

          "Uhh... can we begin again?" interrupted the young reporter. "Officer," he appealed to one of the policemen, "could you ask those people to keep back and lower those signs? We're not against the First Amendment... obviously... but words or gestures like that can't be used on a family news broadcast." And, as the cops muscled back some anti-Fed protestors, he motioned his cameraman to start again. "Sir... Mr. Ratzelkreuz... speculation centers on whether former Congressman Jack Parnell, the Catfish, and/or environmentalist Austin Tillerman will announce their candidacies for the Presidency and whether as Democrats, Republicans or… other. Is this going to happen here?"

          Ratso pretended to straighten his tie. "Well, as you know, over eleven hundred regular and alternate delegates from all over the country will be discussing options and if, such a consensus arises, I'm sure the Congressman will do the right thing."

          "But what about Mr.Tillerman?"

          "Well I'm not as close to Austin, personally, but I'm sure that he will do the right thing too..."

          And, at this, another shirtless street person broke through the City police and pushed Ratso out of the way. "Killer man always do the right tight white wing, chicken bling thing!" he screamed. "Fuck de media. Fuck Johnny Carson Daly, fuck my bed, your car, your all-white Oscar nominations… put me on TV, racist motherfuckers!" and he began making faces and dancing with stumbling steps.

          "This probably isn't the best location for a detailed interview," Ratso suggested, slipping the newscaster his card. "If you call this number after nine, either myself or someone else from the staff can arrange to meet you at the studio. That's from the Catfish end, you'll have to make your own arrangements with Tillerman, ask for a Mr. Rinker."

          "Naturally. Eddie..." he motioned the cameraman again... "this is Tim Lavin, Eleven at Eleven action reporter coming to you from the Cosmopolitan Union…” Andy quickly scribbling the name down on the back of the South African flyer… “where Jared Pettigrew of the Federal Reserve’s Emergency Taskforce and Acting Chairman is speaking on the current economic crisis while, here in the streets outside, the situation grows tense." 









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