EPISODE 6


          After horning Ratso, the tall, blond man in flip-flops drifted away from the confrontation and, after Andy had finished taking down the newscaster's name... just in case... he cornered the fellow and his companion; a short, slightly older woman with a buzzcut, too much turquoise costume jewelry and shell-earrings. "Stupid, Tom," Andy pointed out. "We had an agreement... no direct action until we get permits."








          Tom Jenks' lip and eye twitched maniacally as if tasered… an unfortunately repetitive event in his life that had, no doubt, aggravated whatever mental disabilities he’d been born with plus the effects of several IEDs during his tour in Baghdad and numerous police batons doing Keith Moons on his skull thereafter. "Fuck all, those people don't know me from the Catfish's behind. Besides, I been to the box, got your letter from the anti-nuke people..."

          "Yeah, but we got turned down by the NAACP. Creepy old Democratic Party Toms..." the woman swore in a tart, Oklahoma twang. “Hey, who were those media?"

          "Dunno," Andy said, "think it's the loser station. I'm serious, don't start anything, I mean anything until we get those permits. Chill! I don't even want to hear about spraypainting graffiti, understood Demian?" The woman muttered something under her breath. Andy led them out of the park to the sidewalk where honking cars were being directed to turn around by snarling cops, watched over by UN Peacekeepers whose turquoise-berets matched the baubles on her arm. His eyes darted from the Cosmopolitan Union to the shut-down department store perpendicular to it; a big Grove crane there, lifting wooden pallets from street to roof.

          "You know, man," warned Tom, "Marty's gonna bring up that same old crap about renting a place if we get turned down again."

          "When we get turned down," Demian corrected. "Fuckin' pigs! Hey man, gotta cigarette?"

          Andy gave her the smoke he'd rolled in the Ivona and rolled another for himself. City sidewalks were still unregulated territory; you could possess, or process... or, even, smoke... tobacco. Sometimes the Turks would stop you and press a leaflet about health into your paws, but they couldn't arrest you, couldn't even detain you for more than ten minutes, if you requested a lawyer. "Well, I was just telling you he's gonna bring it up, that's all," Tom complained. "Marty's always selling out."

          "Fuck that shit, man," Demian seconded. "We're supposed to be Communists, why pay some pig landlord rent for a place to express our First Amendment rights?"

          "Don't look at me!" Andy cupped the papers and tobacco with his hands to keep loose flakes from blowing away, lit up and let the smoke doctor his tired bronchials. "I’m an Anarchist.  Let Marty raise the money himself, if he's into that. Or go round panhandling from the tablers, most of whom are here for the money anyway. People know he's on his own, so what? It's not a factor."

          "It compromises our community," Demian wailed, as a tourist bus of what appeared to be Coalition delegates behind a stalled pickup truck piled high with scavenged cardboard sliding into the street struck up a recorded ragtime instrumental rendition of the "59th Street Bridge Song". Andy's mood darkened with the shadows boldly sweeping, now, across Dorritt Square. Just about everyone with credentials to enter the Cosmopolitan Union having done so, a makeshift stage of plastic milk cartons had risen facing the Federal Reserve bureaucrats behind their ivied walls.

          "There's Fil," Tom pointed. "Fil!"

          Meanwhile, a skinny boy with a sparse, blond beard had mounted the pyramid of milk cartons, raising a bullhorn.

          "Three days ago," he roared, a preternaturally deep voice, "Arthur Evans, a black man whom the jury sentenced to life with parole… which sentence was reversed to death by a notorious hanging judge… was executed at State Prison by the same racist regime that taxes the savings of working people to promote military genocide in Costa Rica..."

          Fil, a tall, thin Asian with drooping mustaches, waved them over as the crowd whooped and hollered; Andy and Demian lifted their cigarettes, pointing them at three United Nations Peacekeeping Squadron officers waiting on the sidewalk for someone to cross over into their nebulous zone of criminality.  Fil threw the Turks a one-fingered salute, sauntered over. A middle-aged man in Western dress followed, like a wooden duck on wheels.

          "If you care about three million American political prisoners," the thin boy exhorted, "if you believe putting your bodies on the line will prevent more unjust executions, join the May Seventh Coalition Saturday, when we march on the State Capitol. If you..."

          His face and bullhorn disappeared abruptly with the apparent collapse of the milk cartons. In the absence of any message, the demonstrators crowding the side of the park facing the CU intensified their chanting... "Hey hey! Ho ho! The Savings Tax has got to Go! Hey hey! Ho ho! This dreadful Fed has got to Go!"

          "This is fucked up, man," Tom observed. "None of us are losing any money. Like I got nine dollars, all in my pocket..."

          "Gimme!" Demian reached for him...

          "... it ought be the cops and middle class protesting. They're the sheeple sitting back, getting sheared, we're trying to save their butt and they hate us for it."

          "The public will come around," Andy predicted, but without conviction.

          "Like hell. They're all mesmerized into waiting for Jesus, or for Trump to do as he promised, or for the fuckin' Conks to get elected and keep their promises!"

          Fil arrived with a piece of paper - thick, beige streaks of fiber running through it, radiating vibes of influence and wealth. "Here's the letter from fourteen Associate Professors of Psychology, Diversity, Belief Studies and Theology." He offered a hand for Andy to slap, which he did, though not enthusiastically.

          "Big fuckin' deal," Demian sneered.

          "Well at least some Profs followed through. And if we do get turned down," Andy predicted, "Disson's got some explaining to do to his anger management therapist."

          The tower of milk cartons had been reconstructed, allowing a different head and voice to address the crowd. "Yeah. Yeah. Uhh... there's lots of agitators here, there's lots of Nazi skinheads and Tea Party vigilantes, and I want to know what are we doing to defend ourselves? There are people coming down from Idaho with Austin Tillerman because of this convention, and we have to do something to let them know they're not welcome. No Nazis! No more shockbelts for the women on chain gangs!  Black Lives Matter!  Justice for Arthur Evans.  I’ve heard rumors that the candidate will be introduced by George Zimmerman!  No CNC! I think there's something we..."

          The voice and head disappeared, again, in front of a phalanx of policemen who'd crossed the street (without checking in) to knock over the tower of milk cartons - a Lieutenant in dress blues leading the charge.

          "Who's in charge here?" the City cop demanded to know, loudly enough for Andy and the rest to hear without amplification. "Where are your leaders? If your leaders don't have loudspeaker permits, this has to be an illegal assembly."

          The predictable torrent of replies was laced with spurious answers... "Catfish in charge!" "the banks are in charge!" Most of what else arose was obscene.

          The UN Peacekeepers stopped conversing among themselves and approached Andy and the other four, the palest of them addressing them in a clipped, accented English of Australia or a damper place, more probably New Zealand.

          "We're asking that you peaceably disperse, citizens. Kindly do not do anything to antagonize the police."

          "I think we were this close with the Teamsters," Fil pointed out, conspicuously ignoring the Peacekeeper who had removed his blue beret to twist it between thin, pre-melanoma-spotted fingers. "You know... if it were up to the Local, they'd have been with us. Really, really pissed at the oil companies..."

          The backwash of those less inclined to fight the pigs had left them surrounded on three sides. Traffic was stopped completely now as two darkskinned men piled the cardboard back onto their truck, giving a merry wave to the tour bus playing "Raindrops Falling on My Head". An old man in a dirty gray Old Testament cloak trotted back up the street with a hand-lettered sign, "CNC spawn of Satan" and some tourists from the bus applauded. Several of these had stepped out to catch some air... a few, in Bermuda shorts owing to the freakishly warm weather, lifted red plastic cups and taunted the cops. Others, elderly women in the crowd, retreating... but slowly... shouted something about their vanished IRAs over their shoulders at the CU, as if the old building was, itself, an indifferent bank officer.

          "I'm Larry," the man in cowboy clothes now introduced himself, sticking out his hand. Andy shook it, uncomprehending.

          Somehow the bullhorn had escaped confiscation by the police... passed from hand to hand, it resurfaced from the opposite side of Dorritt Square. "No two, four, ten, twelve-hour day!" it thundered. "Make the banks and government and corporations pay!"

          "Here comes the State pork," Demian warned, "back from San Jose and Iraq Three, and pissed."

          Some thirty National Guardsmen, by Andy's estimation, had erupted from the shadows of the building under renovation, goosestepping their way across the crowded street in front of the line of mounted City cops in full combat gear with plastic shields, rifles for firing (presumably rubber) bullets and the ubiquitous nightsticks.  (Andy noted Confederate flag patches sewn onto the shoulders of at least two of their flak jackets.) At the curb, one of the Guardsmen stumbled over his own jackboots, baton clattering to the sidewalk. The taunting of the crowd gave way to laughter and a high school student sneaked under the rail, offering a carrot to one of the police horses whose rider, prudently, pretended not to notice. But, within moments, another bottle arced over the crowd and smashed into the intersection between the cops in front of the CU and the Guardsmen in the street; whistles pierced the air, sirens following, and scuffles began breaking out within Dorritt Square.

          "Undercover pigs!" Demian pointed. "Undercover pigs!"

          The cry was taken up, joined with whistles, screams and curses. Through a frieze of pushing bodies, Andy saw the police charge the park, hooves and batons flying, while the Guardsmen fanned out, attacking the flank, clubs not swinging but jabbing, like Phalangist picadors, at a running of the bulls. They swept past Andy, cutting him off from the rest, except for the stranger, Larry, who yawned, stretched, and said "...suggest we be going thataway," pointing towards the back end of the Square.

          "Sounds good," Andy concurred. "Forgot my shooting irons."

          "Not that I'm averse to fighting cops," Larry apologised, "but Pettigrew’s only the Acting Chairman, like all those other actors in Trump’s cabinet and there's this matter of a few warrants out of New Mexico." As if protected by their bubble of advanced age, they walked briskly but calmly along the fringe of the park with Turks passing on the sidewalk; looking back, Andy saw that the police and Guardsman had corralled an unruly cluster composed, as it seemed, mainly of elderly bank protestors, Teamsters and a few of the Conk tourists who'd strayed too far from their bus. Those who’d run were being ridden down and rodneyed by mounted police or tackled by undercovers chased, in turn, by the UN Peacekeepers impotently shrieking "Nonviolence! Nonviolence!" and flinging their little blue business cards about, the ones beginning: "What to do when you are detained by the authorities!" "See anything?" Larry squinted. Since their corner of the Square seemed largely ignored – the crowd focused on three policemen choking out a black man as he rasped “I can’t breathe!”, Andy hopped onto a concrete trashcan, the better to see one of the screeching Turks cut down by a Guardsman's baton, blood spurting from his scalp, his blue beret cartwheeling over the dead grass and dried dogshit.

          "Yeah. They clubbed a Unapisser!"

          "Justice in this old world, after all," Larry grinned, showing a mouthful of sawed off, decaying teeth. "Hey, wanna crash a party for the Oklahoma Catfish people tonight? I know a way to get badges... food, open bar, plenty of hot, fishy pussy..."

          "Maybe. First, though, I'd better get over to the Hall of Justice and see exactly how much of the counter-convention we'll have to bail out."

          "I hear you," said Larry, raising an imaginary glass, or bottle.

          "Who did you say you were with?" Andy inquired, suspiciously.

          "Me? Independent Truckers' Association. What I was telling that Chinese fellow; don't count on cow patootitties from the Teamsters. They'll play everybody. Dumbocrats. Publicans. Reform, the Conks and anybody else, tell you what you want to hear but, in the end, they'll go with whatever side they see winning. Meaning the Saudi-Iranian axis, after Iraq and, now that the terrorists are spiking our pipelines, Chavez Junior cut off Venezuelan oil over solidarity with Costa Rica and the Saudis and Russkies kissed and made up, oil prices are back up too, all those as kiss raghead asses..."

          "Well that ain't us," Andy said, crouching on the trash container and scanning the mess one last time... a body lying in the park in a widening pool of blood, the trapped bus stuck replaying "Raindrops", cops and Guardsmen beginning to squabble over who had custody of which prisoners... the ashen-faced TV journalist spitting out babble comprehensible as Islamic prayers with the cameraman trailing behind getting everything down on tape that, Andy knew, would never be aired for the mob, except a few severely edited portions. Only the last of his reveries were audible as Andy dismounted and blended into the twilight.

          "This is Tom Lavin, action reporter for Eleven at Eleven, coming to you from Dorritt Square where the situation has been tense."  









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