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BLACK HELICOPTERS

          EPISODE 11

SUNDAY the NINTH - 8:12 PM

          "Well, Dannie?" the station manager challenged. "Coalition for a New Consensus! Where’s my dirt on 'em... ready to go?"

          The kid swallowed whatever quip he was thinking of making, Nelson's cigar having drawn an invisible demarcation between Here and Too Far. "Uh... just speeches, you know. The usual, locals. Tillerman and the Catfish, from this morning's briefing. Shit about Mayor Potter in the last election, using Conk volunteers to get the East End vote out."

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          "Manuzzo?"

          "Nothing," Dannie looked down.

          "Screw Tony, then, that runnin’ cop is runnin’ on the other network. Crisp!" he bellowed to the old man at the studio's editing console, "cut me thirty on Catfish. Fuck Tillerman... he's nuttier than Trump, even, threatening to kill anyone different from the usual suspects? No? Then, while we're waiting for Bill, go down to Archives, kid, bring me up some old riot footage. Bill no-shows, we'll use Omaha or... I don't know, St. Louis? But not that fuckin' Arch, something dark and noisy... breaking glass and Turks standing round, no recognizable faces or buildings. Choppers and drones, above. Niggers with bricks!  Machetes!  Fire!  I'm calling Ted..."

          He picked up the phone, dialed, waited for the beep. "Ted! Yeah... great, but no Bill. Still! Look, Jack told me there was some sort of security shakedown inside Masty Hall 'bout a couple hours ago, but it's wrapped tight. Pinhead went in, didn't come out. Cockroach motel!... yeah, I wish! Cops and Turks know nada, Conks won't say, except what a wonderful platform they have, wonderful hosts we are, dada dada... yeah, it smells. Smells! Something's gonna break, I know, probably at 10:59. Bill! Hangs around to get footage, then forgets to bring it back before airtime. Moron! Yeah, talk to 'em." He hung up, glared at Dannie. "What the fuck are you looking at? Take your hand out of your pocket and whip your ass on down to Archives!

          "Fuckin' kid," the editor swore to himself when Dannie was gone. "Fuckin' Bill!" The studio editing console was old; it held only four screens. Old surplus equipment, old staff or else snotty kids... castoff talent and morons.  Third-rate station in a third-rate city.  And rules... if he ran the station, Nelson would have canned Marla and put in Tom Lavin, but the affirmative action people would have that killed and the horny old CEO in Dallas would’ve had their back. Corporate stiffs were all over management to move the colored guy from sports to news and hire a Puerto Rican or Chinese. Maybe another woman, if he could find someone cute, but smart... like that Asian chick on the morning shit-chat-show... but she would cost, and some big market would steal her away within months.  Weeks! "Crisp... speed it up. More sound!" The pictures on the screens jerked and whirred, Donald Duck voices gabbled: "Cool and Clearing!" "Food prices up!"  "Bradashian press conference at Chilean earthquake site." "Community activists protest project demolitions!" "Helen," barked Nelson, "cut out another spot on Baby Claire. Thirty seconds. Fuck you!" he jabbed his cigar at the ceiling, encompassing Corporate and Marketing, the Turks' black helicopters and, maybe, God. A denatured God of the evening news... trivia and banter, dreams degraded, archangels busted for DUIs, Papal divorces... sheep defending, unto death, the sanctity of their delusions. And less than three hours, now, until "Eleven at Eleven"!

 

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THURSDAY the SIXTH - 8:05 AM

 

          Glenn Savitt nimbly tweaked open the little envelope, more like plastic than paper... a sort of plasma, really... Anne and the pink-cheeked, three-piece-suited doll, Ralph Laird, still talking at him. His concentration was wholly, utterly, on the morning's ritual. Small white flakes, dropping into the cup of rancid black java, dissolved in tiny, galactic whorls. Glenn stirred the liquid... black coffee and white processed dairy substitute becoming a light, tan-colored compromise. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  Obamology!  The essence of any political dispute resolution – too damn bad, he scowled, that Washington couldn’t be more like a cup of bad hotel coffee.

          Anne's voice still wafted through the steam.

          "I don't think the Budget Caucus safe, by any means. Maybe there isn't a concerted presence of a single competitive force, the way Tillerman's engineered elsewhere... Ethnicicity comes to mind, of course... but, maybe, the very confusion engendered by this may lead to negative conclusions being drawn…"

          Laird, a younger fellow, hovering near to one side or the other of that trustworthy frontier of thirty, always carried this little black notebook; he looked at it now for comfort and assurance, pretending he hadn’t heard her Spoonerism before replying. "I hardly think our friends from the universities and labor are so bewitched by philosophy that they can't count votes. Offering pilot programs is realistic. As long as we don't have anything to give away yet, what's wrong with promising the moon and balancing the budget?  Go full-out Bern… free college, free medical care, free uh… ponies? And, on the same general topic, why not divert more attention to Environment, make Tillerman defend his base. After all, our demographics skew higher income, higher education groupings... more favorably disposed to trust professional studies than the rest of the delegates. I've got people, you know, making calls to that actress in California who sits in trees… those people have trouble with some of Austin's positions, but don't like the petro-Democrats, either."

          "Oh?" Glenn recovered, willing his attention drawn outward from the cup to the Ivona Coffee Shoppe, its surroundings and clatter and the omnipresent Polynesian sentinel lurking outside, to the people at his table, to their words, the situation and solutions... further, to the aether of ideas and Machiavellian considerations. Caffeine steam and the Judas kiss. "It's a lost cause. Forget it! The best we can do is load up the shoot-to-kill border resolutions with chaff about helping those shithole republics manage their gang problems, so that the opposition doesn't have the rope to hang us with without risking offense to the Hispanic community. Whereas Tillerman's shitcanned with almost all minorities, except a few Cubans in Miami who think that Marco Rubio is too young and too slick to mount a primary challenge and a few nwords, as Jack would say, too right-wing for even the Herman McCain-Ben Carson Republicans.  Meanwhile, we play up black-Latino hostilities over jobs and perks… crack that Sanders-Warren split wide open… keep running the softer, more inclusive Americas-with-an-S-first line. Like Jack says: their culture of contempt, not ours. With Obama lollygagging in Hawaii and pondering his book deals, now, the black vote still counts for more, except in California which the Dems have locked up and Texas, the GOP’s bitch, even if voting population's supposed to shift any day now, what is it..."

          "By November, according to Demographics," Laird nodded, thumbing through his little black book. "Registered, potentially, mind you, not actually voting. By opposition, did you mean Tillerman?  There’s talk about the Donald slipping him a little bit of Russian money…" the operative’s voice dropping down to a whisper…

          "No," Anne snorted, "he means the others, the Republicans and Democrats, anyone who's against the Coalition as an entity, not just factionally. Glenn's been attending too many caucuses with Homeland Security... he's glommed all their police-state lingo. It's like the Army versus Navy or FBI and CIA. To each other, they're competition. Opposition is the KGB, or used to be, I don't know now, it's... it's..."

          "The terrorists!" Glenn snapped. "Never forget... anybody asks the reason for anything we're doing, it's for the terrorists.  Against the terrorists… check that… and for the children. The terrorists' fuckin' children that we send the drones in to obliterate.  On the other hand..."

          "Oh..." Laird replied hesitantly, saved from further inquiries by the arrival of the waitress with plates of breakfast... pancakes and sausages for Laird, cold cereal for Anne, bacon and eggs for Glenn.

          "My God those look fantastic!" Anne said, drinking in the contents of Glenn's plate. "I've never seen such a shade of yellow before... are they real?" she asked, looking up at the waitress, "or are they some of those ones that the biotech company's been engineering, genetically, with jellyfish enzymes and saffron? Wait... I've got to take a picture!"

          "Don't bother," Glenn began, cutting into the GMO eggs and lifting a morsel to his mouth, but she'd ripped open her purse and dug out the smart flashphone, startling him with the snap, a small rivulet of the irradiated, bioengineered yellow yolk dribbling down his lip. A picture to hold, and to remember. "Anne!" He daubed himself clean with punctured dignity, she lay down the phone and took a crunching spoonful of healthy granola.

          "Right, then," Laird stammered, pretending not to have noticed. "At least we should be working more directly with Geiger. It may come down to the Catfish having to tell them it's for their own good. I think Foreign Affairs a more hopeless case than Environment, but it's equally hopeless trying to get that point over. What do your buddies in the Homeland Security Caucus call the ones who disagree on what to do about the competition?"

          "You mean… losers? Sorry," Glenn waved his yellow-bloodied napkin, "but it's a given. Take away Tillerman's white power and militia support and the rest of the Environmental Caucus would be more at home outside with this guy Anne and I used to know here. Professional protestors," he winked.

          "You did used to live here, didn't you?" remembered Laird, snidely.

          Glenn nodded. "Anne was born in Weslington, just over the river, and I did undergraduate work here. Back at the ass-end of the eighties," he added. "George Bush... read my lips… the first.  Big hair, punk rock, disco and diseases; AIDS and, as ever, Iran.  And, then, the immaculate Clintonian conception…"

          "Well, it sounds like some people you must have known never grew out of that time. My parents warned me about them... out to make trouble and occupy, I dunno, places? I read in the Journal they stuck nails in their protest signs yesterday, nails to stab the police. The editorial called it the work of anarcho-terrorists who seek suicide and murder as valid political ends. Not means, ends! Like Arabs!  The police are supposed to have confiscated two black flags!"

          "Imagine!" Anne wondered, the sound of her crunching cereal seeming to grow louder in the ensuing, silent interval.

          "The Journal's a lying, reactionary rag, same as it was decades ago," Glenn finally clued Ralph in. "We used to call it the Urinal, suppose kids still do. Anyway we've been warned... they threw a shit fit when Pinhead won, an even bigger one when he quit the Democratic Party... Anne, didn't you say he leaned Reform back around the Y2K?"

          "Always wanted T. Boone's money... or Perot's, during that phase," she rolled her eyes, between crunches.

          "Then they hit the ceiling when the Coalition accepted his invitation to bring the Convention here. Good move, I'd have said, if it wasn't for the protests. Nobody knows about this place except the people who hate it from all the jokes on Colbert and those Jimmies... God, I miss Nightline, even Letterman and Leno!... even if things turned out as bad as the World Trade riots up in Seattle, or Minneapolis, last year, Pinhead needs the publicity. Poor alcoholic fuck!... everything he touches turns to shit. Always has. But nobody's interested in the seventies and the eighties anymore, let alone the sixties, right?" he challenged Laird. "Ralph's part of the sensible generation. Except for those Occupational losers, still out spraypainting banks and post offices with slogans ‘cause there’s nothing worth occupying here, Andy and his gang..."

          Anne brightened. "Andy's Gang?" Ralph looked puzzled, Glenn annoyed.

          "And, really, nobody remembers the fifties. Or wants to! All you'll do is make people think you're older than your parents," he warned, eyes focusing on motion in the lobby, the way a rodent instinctively detects predators, "then there isn't anything in Rayna's little bag of cosmetic tricks that'll save you. Now sober up. Here comes the Archbishop!"

         

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