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BLACK HELICOPTERS

EPISODE 14

THURSDAY the SIXTH - 8:58 AM

Andy Morrison departed his East 27th Street hotel at quarter past eight and, after checking out Reg and Karin... who'd reported a crowded, but peaceful night... left the Jefferson Street Sanctuary once Eddie arrived for the day shift. He figured his odds on getting the morning's missions accomplished at about fifty-fifty... half a block down the block was a Journal rack with pictures from the demo on the right and Ratso on the left, over the headline "CNC'S MAN IN THE CITY - BEYOND THE VIOLENCE!" Dug into his pockets, found a dime, nickel and three pennies… kept walking.

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          At the corner of Jefferson and East 18th he pressed the button installed by UN peacekeepers, entered one of the false Social Security numbers he'd obtained for pedestrian transit, looked down to avoid the digital cameras, smudged a finger over the printpad for nominal compliance to prevent the alarm from sounding as he crossed the street and... while waiting for the light to change... pulled a Urinal out of the trash. There was some pink goo on the paper that he wiped against the side of the metal basket before proceeding three blocks further into a sort of no man's land between Skid Row and the low-rent end of the City's compact Chinatown. Finally, he entered a diner in the middle of the block, as distinct from the Coffee Shoppe at the Ivona as were the sleek Conks from the wretched activist crew still at liberty following the demo in Dorritt Square. As he muscled into their midst, a pickup truck passed, loudspeaker blaring...

          "Register Now, for the 'Runnin' Catfish Ten-K Run', sponsored by the Journal, WIXI-Radio, Venable Real Estate, Tom Tolbert Insurance and the Coalition for a New Consensus. Free t-shirt to all entries," the old truck promised, "all proceeds to Malik House, help for the homeless. Call 854-WIXI to register. Register now for the 'Runnin' Catfish Ten-K Run'..." it began to repeat, then faded.

          The people's advocates snatched at Andy's dirty paper like a cage of monkeys pulling apart fresh bananas. Marty Lesh scowled under his mask of filth and dark stubble; red-headed Rael, from jail, sat next to him, talking and smoking furiously despite the UN warnings posted both in English and Cantonese. Her mooching companion, thankfully, was absent; the other five included David Soames, a studious-looking young man in black... a slummer, one of those perpetual students at the U. with degrees in chemistry and comparative religion, now attending law school... and Richard Reid, an aging, wild-haired cop fighter in camouflage who, briefly, reminded Andy about the incident with Paulie and his militia buddy at the shelter the other night. The interloper couldn't have been Reid; Eddie knew Richard, knew his story... he'd been eighty-sixed from Jefferson Street for dealing kat and picking fights with winos and, presumably, was squatting one of the burned-out buildings on the South Side until the weather turned cold.

          Reid, in fact, had fresh bruises still showing on his cheeks and under one eye. Andy's eyes wandered down the newsprint of the Journal, noticed the headlines: "SUPREME COURT TO SETTLE EXXON-KELLOGG'S TIGER WARS!"... "DOCTORS IN BUCHAREST GRAFT HUMAN DNA ONTO PIG EMBRYOS; BOWEL TRANSPLANT BENEFITS SEEN!" They're already cloning assholes, as if we needed more, he thought to himself.

          The rest of Andy’s gang included Walker, a taciturn old man with a long grey beard and spotted, tweed vest, Timothy Webb, another aging hippie with an expression of detached, drugged amusement, and Fredrika, a short, owlish med student with closely cropped hair... something about her he just wasn't able to remember…

          The second string, Andy conceded to himself. Scrubs!

          Soames seemed of a similar conclusion. "Andy, I think they got us," he spread his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I talked to the ACLU, Goldman's on his way here, but they're not letting anybody out. Talk is they might even send some to Guantanamo..."

          "They're not fuckin' Arabs - have to charge them sooner or later, and hold hearings, even under the R.P.A. It's the law," Andy insisted, but with a good deal less confidence than he projected.

          "The law?" snarled Richard Reid. "Man, those pigs are so far beyond the law, they’ll have drones blowing up our squats here any day now and taking potshots at people, like that kid up in Chicago. The only thing America understands is force. I laid out two of the muthafuckers last night, but we should've been better prepared."

          Andy gave him a questioning look and handed over his last eighteen cents to Marty, who was holding eight pennies in his own palm. "Looks like you're due for a refill."

          As Marty gestured to the Chinese working at the griddle, Andy turned to Soames who was texting or twittering something or other. "When's Goldman coming?"

          "Any minute now, he says."

          "Good," said Reid, who'd appropriated the editorial section of the Journal. "Somebody better pay for breakfast. Look at these lying pissants!" he added, shaking the text... "Protestors surrounded and assaulted passers-by, including members of the Cosmopolitan Union and visiting conventioneers from the Coalition for a New Consensus. What lying shit! It was the pigs who started the riot."

          'Will you ever stop referring to the police as pigs?" Rael started in. She had a voice like a West Texas oil rig drilling into dry, dry bedrock, and all that Andy could make of it, this early in the morning, was that, at least, her smug outrage wasn't aimed at him. "I'm as tired of your sexist and speciest language as I am with your patriarchal love of violence. Nobody should compare the cops to innocent animals... pigs, dogs, any sentient creature, not even a rat!"

          Mouses briefly scampered through Andy's memory and then were gone.

          Richard Reid snorted derisively and a small nugget of dried blood and snot bounced across the formica counter before he raised the Journal up to cover his face, presenting Andy and all beyond him with a photograph of the new Fed chief, Pettigrew, next to the headline, "DOW SOARS PAST 30,000; GENOTECH, OIL, SAVINGS TAX DRIVE SUSTAINED ECONOMIC RECOVERY!" Marty slid his refill beneath the paper to Andy under the heavy-lidded stare of the proprietor; at the far end of the counter, an old woman in a stained tan raincoat and no earplugs began muttering to herself.

          "Like... did you see when all these empty buses showed up and just stopped in the street, you know?" recalled Tim Webb. "People had to go around the police lines just to cross the street! The lines at the ID swipes and crotch gropes were so long, they didn't even care about the cameras. Commander Cuatro could've snuck in with a bomb around his waist..."

          "The Costa Ricans aren't suicide bombers," Soames began to correct him...

          "Well they don't come up around here, except to the parking lot at the paint store, so what?" Marty challenged. "So fuckin' what? Take it to UNAPIS... our question is what to do next!"

          "Listen to this!" read Reid. "Reverend Malik Owen called a press conference after the anti-Federal Reserve demonstration, about his plan to use his church people... that means sheeple," he added, with a malicious nod towards Rael, "as monitors, promoting... quote, unquote... love and truth against those who intend to stir up hate. They'll assist the Turks, but have different colored berets. Remember that group back in the nothings, split off from the Guardian Angels to run round beatin' up people they felt didn't belong fifteen years ago... what color hats did they wear?"

          "Don't remember," Andy said, "and, anyway, everybody knows Malik's irrelevant. He burned all his credibility busing his people up to the capitol to support cutting welfare, overturning rent control and making it a felony to eat out of the dumpsters. Cut into his soup for sermons racket. What we have to do is draft our own statement... make it clear we're not for or against the Conks, as a group, we don't care what they do at their convention or whether the protestors have influence, or not. We just want the City to acknowledge everybody's First Amendment rights and not come down beating on local people because they get caught up in the middle until, finally, the bigshots go away.  I mean...who could complain about that? Not even the UN..."

          "But we can't," objected Webb. "Too many of us are not here to provide input... what about process?"

          "Well, then, our statement should also be about why people are still being kept in jail on those ridiculous charges. That shouldn't be so hard to consense on!"

          And Andy snatched a napkin from the container, withdrawing a pencil stub and glaring at the rest of the conspirators.

          "But you miss the point," Reid objected, laying the dirty paper down. "It's not enough. The CNC's coming here to try and fool people into thinking that joining them is an act of resistance against the war machine. We have to take a stand against the draft and the intervention in Costa Rica..."

          "And the savings tax," added Soames.

          "Well, then, that's for us to decide now," Andy said. "Are we going to bring in Costa Rica or, for that matter, the savings tax or UN occupation, all these outside issues, however worthy, or are we going to stick to getting our First Amendment permits and the prisoners out, or one, or neither..."

          A ragged wino with clothes the color of time stumbled through the door; weaved towards the counter. "Is dere an' Andy here?" he declared. "Andy Morphussine?"

          A round, stale Sanctuary pastry tumbled from his belt, rolling down the length of the diner and wobbling to rest.

          "That's me."

          "I'm f-f-from the Sanctuary? Eddie... Eddie sent me to tell you c-c-cops come in, took Paulie with this TV he was holdin'. Took him to j-jail..."

          "Fuck..." was all Andy could say.

          "He s-says this crazy guy comes, then, wants Paulie out of jail or he's d-do something. He's g-got a g-g-gun..."

          "OK, Andy determined, tapping his fork against the coffee cup, "go back and tell Eddie I'll look into it when I get down to the Hall of Justice, later today. Tell him also that if the guy's a problem, go ahead and call the cops. Ask for Grove, he's part human being. Not Taney and not Menendez.  Don't let Turks come around either... they see somebody with a gun and they freak."

          "I g-got, I got it!" the wino said, pondering his next move. "Hey, c-could anybody help me with a quarter? I'm twenty-one cents short, can someone help me?"

          Soames finally tossed him a dime and, with a morose expression, Eddie's messenger shuffled back out into the morning.

          "I don't think we should waste time drafting statements," Webb resumed. "What we need is a candlelight vigil… we have to show the world that we empathize with the victim that dwells in all of us, the victim in the soul of every living creature..."

          "What about the pigs?" Reid shot back. "They're not victims..."

          "Will you stop misrepresenting animals?" Rael appealed. Richard Reid responded with a few choice obscenities, crumpling the pink-stained newspaper, but, before he could form a coherent reply, Walker stood up, placing his hands together, then thrusting them outwards - like Charlton Heston, parting troubled waters.

          "We have forgotten God in our arrogance, God and the Earth. We cry for men and animals, but what about the Earth? What of grass trodden under by feet of wickedness, trees brutalized by people at your demonstrations grasping for weapons, or for higher elevation. Walk softly, fear God and..."

          He was cut short by screams and curses from the old woman and snickers from the rest of the tired, defeated patrons at the counter and in the booths. The proprietress deserted her post at the diner's cash register, picking up a spatula she wielded like a flyswatter.

          "Enough! You go now. Out, all out... goodbye, you!  But pay first…"

          Before somebody at the counter could get brained, David Soames took out his wallet. "We're almost finished, honest. Listen, gimme three coffees to go, some of that fake cream and sugar on the side... and one of those sticky things," he pointed. "Guess Mister ACLU's a no-show," he added for those at the counter, "again!"

          The sight of his open wallet and its contents mollified, somewhat, the angry businesslady... Walker glanced from left to right, bestowed upon her a celestial nod worthy of Joaquin Phoenix, and sat down stiffly.

          "Even if we drafted a statement, how would it get published?" Soames asked, once the cashier had departed with his money. "The last I looked we were running on fumes, and that was before yesterday's busts. Whatever happened to all those benefits that were supposed to happen? That party with comedians who wanted to help out? It was happening..."

          "Fucked," Marty said. "It was just drifting and it drifted until the anti-nuke people stepped in and took over and then they negotiated it out the window because these sorority girls said that the comedians were miss… miss, oh whatever it is.  Things keep getting delayed because our people doing them keep getting busted and sent to jail for crap and, when there is money, it just goes back to the system to bail them out for a while..."

          "Well," interrupted Tim Webb, "maybe we should just consider not cooperating with the system's violence and refuse their provocations. Go on strike, like the doctors in Florida and Denver..."

          "Easy for you to say," Fredrika spoke up and Andy found himself trying to remember which tendencies she belonged to... something militant, he recollected. "Sure, let the government rob the poor to give tax breaks to the rich and speculators, let the war machine grind on in Costa Rica so the shoe companies can keep six year old kids working eighty hour weeks! Tillerman's eco-Nazis are marching up one side of the street, religious bigots and clinic bombers and gay bashers down the other side, pretending they're opposed to one another while all the cowardly politicians in the middle keep their heads in the sand and faces in the slops bucket. I wish the UN really would take over, not just march around observing the police and handing out parking an' jaywalking tickets, collecting names. We'd be better off having a Canadian or a Norwegian dictator. This system's sick, and it doesn't need to be reformed, like the Conks keep saying, it's got to be destroyed..."

          Webb wasn't finished, quite. "But if we responded with love and thoughtful... thinking, we uh..."

          "Hey, lawyerman!" Marty Lesh greeted Leo Goldman as he bustled through the door with his customary harried look and armful of bulging files.

          Goldman waved Rael from her place, sat down and, as the cashier returned with coffee-and to go, gave her a Lincoln, ordering the full three-dollar special American breakfast, and immediately took control of the meeting. "Disson's expecting us," he said. "I told him there would be no more than four of you, so we've got to sort things out."

          "We can't meet with so many of us still in jail," Tim Webb objected.

          "Hey... you want to keep jacking 'round with Sylvester or deal with the man himself? Conks open up shop tomorrow. He turns us down now," Leo grinned, "and I think I can get a motion filed this afternoon. Disson made a mistake that he doesn't know about yet. If he'd waited ‘til tomorrow, or the day after, the process couldn't have been started in time. For what it's worth," he added, sucking at diner coffee, hot and nasty, from the thick, chipped cup, "I'd say it's now or never. So... who's coming?"

          "Well, hold on," Andy recoiled, "...just hold on! There's other shit we have to deal with. Somebody should go to the hotels where out-of-town media gomers are staying; some of them have to be fairer about yesterday's busts than the Urinal. Someone has to follow up with the veterans' groups. And, really, someone ought to pay a visit to the Blue Hotel..."

          By this he meant a bankrupt Journey's Inn, commandeered by United Nations peacekeepers for barracks and offices, duly re-painted the same repulsive shade of turquoise as their berets.

          "I'll do the veterans and UNAPIS," Soames volunteered.

          "I'll take care of the media," said Tim Webb. "Mr. Disson sounds like a man with a negative potential aura. Maybe some of these reporters, on the other hand, can be convinced of what we can achieve with love, and..."

          "I'll go with Tim," Fredrika added, earning Andy's instant gratitude. He reached into his pockets, sorting through notes and addresses scrawled on the back of yesterday's demo flyers.

          "Uh, uh... sure, the two of you do that! The columnist from Milwaukee seemed interested. Here's some of these other people I found out about," he added, handing over the back of a "UN OUT of AMERICA, NOW!" leaflet with a half dozen names scribbled above the endorsement list. "Haven't talked to any of them, yet, but they're mostly staying in that Hyatt, by the U..."

          "Don't forget the people from the new Voice, even if it does lean sorta libertarian," suggested Soames, almost reverently. "Very important! That's in New York..."

          "And Stormy’s Secrets..." added Richard Reid...

          "Yeah," Goldman seconded. So... that leaves..."

          "Me n' Marty... Rael..." Andy's voice trailed off.

          Walker stood up again. "It is easier for camels to pass through needles' eyes than that the unrighteous man be turned away from his sin." He crossed himself, then made an undecipherable benediction over the counter. A cook in his bacon-spattered bib raised a spatula of warning to the cashier, who pointed to the loony, first, then waved to encompass the rest of the contingent, even Goldman... furiously sopping up eggyolk with his toast and shoveling half a slice into his mouth...

          "All you go, now!"

          "... and Richard," Andy determined.  "Yeah!"   

 

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