Masty Hall was, by early afternoon, a sweatbox. Speaker after speaker had traipsed up and down the podium, hectoring delegates: asserting what bad things racism, high gas prices and recession were – drugs too (except legal… usually medicinal… pot), the Savings Tax, the U.N. occupation, terrorism, Confederate statues and the corrupt two-party system - and what a good thing the free enterprise spirit of America remained, nonetheless. Now, Glenn and Beedle sauntered the fringes of the convention hall periphery, chock-a-block with capitalism in action... hot dogs, booklets, souvenirs…










          "What's this stuff, boy?" the lawyer gestured to a novelty vendor...

          "This? Just a moment..." the vendor fumbled, "...yes, ma'am, eight dollars. Hold it, here's your change."

          He exchanged two small bills for one large from a fat roll in the pouch of his jogging suit.

          "Sorry. How can I help you gentlemen? Have children... how about finger puppets?" He held up a box of little Catfish finger puppets in politically correct shades of black, white, tan and yellow. "Or a T-shirt, we have twenty-two different logos..."

          "How about something like... oh... 'My parents went to the CNC convention and all they brought back was this lousy t-shirt'... something like that?" Glenn asked.

          "Yes, sir! It's somewhere... small, medium, large or extra..."

          "He was fuckin' with you," Beedle said abruptly. "Tom Beedle, I’m with the campaign.  Lemme see your license, Diego."

          "License plates? Uh... the company didn't give us a truck."

          "License. Vending license. Your license! Lemme see it!"


          "You have a license to sell this shit, Jose Jiminez?" The vendor nodded, finally understanding. "Well, let's see it! And your green card and Homeland Security papers, too, while we're at it! Too fucking much, right Glenn?" Beedle smirked as the vendor reached into his moneybelt. "Buttons! T-shirts! Programs! Inspirational tapes... all that crap churned out by foreign slave-children and sold to us by other damned Dreamer foreigners who flunked out of the colleges they were supposed to be going to?  Want some?"

          "Reminds me of the parking lot outside a Grateful Dead concert," Glenn sniffed.

          "Never saw those junkie faggots," the lawyer grunted. "Come on, Speedy Gonzalez, move it! Used to be more of a Beach Boys boy... gimme a board, a beer, a bunny, a bird in a bush. Two Bushes!  Too bad we didn’t make it three instead of that orange-haired putz.  Too old for them drugs anyway, not like some around here," Beedle winked upwards towards the huge posters of Parnell and Tillerman. The vendor finally displayed an already-crumbling little square of white cardboard. "Son of a fuckin' bitch... it's real! See, we were getting a shitload of unauthorized souvenirs. Fringe groups. There's millions in this stuff, ain't there Pancho? What's moving, buttons?"

          "Oh yes, yes sir! Cuffalinkas, very good. But not so much the puppets, señores..."

          "Figures! Like cufflinks, Glenn? Try these!" Beedle scooped up a fistful, then some buttons, tapping his nametag with his left finger.

          "Yes, Mr. Beedle!" the vendor wheedled. "Anything you take. Have a Cher. Madonna..."

          "Cher's still wearing the black for Hillary, last we heard," the lawyer winked, "but I got Tony working on her, on all those celebrities. Think Madonna's waiting on whether George Clooney makes up his mind to run for Governator out there in Loonyfornia! Hollywood liberals went all crazy with that recall shit, back in oh-three, so what do they get?  A Republican Terminator!  And then, a retard retread from the sixties with a whole posse of ham actors waiting in the wings.  Keep your green card," he advised the vendor, "just don't cheat our delegates too much!" And he guided Glenn back onto the vortex of the floor.

          "Work to do, Glennski! Money for the taking. That's where it's at, you know marketing! Some folks can't handle it... economic separatists. Assholes! Listen, you've done good, I want you with me in Los Angeles next March. That's where the boys get separated from the men... including a certain aging lady witch in pantsuits, two-time loser who couldn’t take dictation, know what I mean? That man with the speech defect and the Vice President with vampire teeth – the Mexican anna buncha new Senators and Governors from places that don't matter. Maybe Al Gore gets tired of polishing his Oscar, maybe a Kennedy or two... who knows? E-lesbian Warren?  Screamin’ Howard Dean?  Koo-sinish?  Retreads!" Beedle speculated, flexing his wrists. "That's where the deal goes down, where the money talks. Thank God for the Constitution, ex-Governator Ahrnold would wipe out this field with his pinky finger, either party. We hang in as far as California and the Vice-Presidency's locked up... we win the thing, see, then drop out and anoint some old Democratic nominee, maybe poor old Joe Biden..."

And he coughed, lifted a finger to point at the heavens and began to sing…

“Three old men! Kerry, Gore, Bidun!

  Sittin’ on a fence, thinkin’ should I run?

  They’d all run after Slick Willie’s wife…

  Whose polls have been sliced with a server’s knife

  Have you ever seen such hubris in your life

  As three old men.”

          "Tom," Glenn admitted, shaking his head, "you’re incredible. You're already assuming Jack goes back to the party, loses and cuts a deal with the gerontocracy. What if we win the nomination and the election?  What if Oprah changes her mind?" 

          "Then we're screwed! Because what we’ve been going through the last eight… hell, sixteen… double hell fifty… years is just preliminary… the economy is finally going to explode on whomever’s next watch.  Not like that present little bump in the road or the one back in oh-eight, but the real deal!  It's already dead, but still walking around like one of them zombies on TV, rotting from the inside... would you want to be in charge when it falls over, all bugs and liquid and bank failures and foreclosures oozing out, and the peasants coming after you with pickaxes and torches when the FDIC runs out of money? How many hamster/lemur hybrids can Genotech export to Korea? Whereas, being Vice-President, Jack gets to spend all his time on the phone, raking in the bucks… like that momzer from the Yukon wanted to do… so when he has to get round to sticking the President in her back, his back, whomever's back it is, well, for the interests of this great country, he'll say, going misty like he does over his dogs and kids, his old American truck... nobody can blame anything on us, because he's just the Vice-President. One of youse guys, that humility thing. Goin' to funerals for dead dictators, doin' his job! Speakin' out about getting America back on track again. Meanwhile the country's falling apart so Congress will do anything he wants them to, presuming that Austin's got some of his people into the GOP and they take out Jeb.  The fat guy’s got outed as the Second Coming of Nixon, ‘Pubs will never get behind that Cuban in Florida, the Texican or that Indian fellow in Louisiana or all those tea-party eggheads talking their economics.  Ron Paul could be scary if he weren’t so old… Rand Paul?  Not!  Hair’s too curly.  But that depends on this convention coming out just right... not too hot, not too cold and fer Chrissake, nobody nominating a real American like Kucinich or Tom Tancredo or even Sheriff Joe, old as he’s getting... so let the majors set us up for another dynastic rehash – mano a mano with the Donald.  What's important, here, is how we take care of these protest people."

          "What protests?" Glenn objected. "All those people were in jail before the marching and the chanting even started. By the way, how was that handled?" he asked, pretending disinterest. "By Rayna?  Henri started to tell me something, but never got around to the details..."

          "Oh, that was good," Beedle chuckled, "real good. He had it wired with that old fart at the dinner, Claymore."

          "Claymore? He's a Republican, he'd be for Tillerman, if any of us!"

          "Oh, you know him? Think you do... listen to me, they're out doing exactly what we are, except on their side, and both of us have to worry about Glenn Beck and what’s-his-name, that Internet billionaire who hit thirty-five last month.  Not the one in the movie, the other one. Where and if... other than that, it's already been worked out, you'll see! Those whiskers of the Catfish... well, those of his father’s that he can still exploit… they reach strange and deeply down into Washington’s muddy riverbottoms, my friend... strange and deep! Henri knew he'd be on the bench, on rotation so... now this gets cute... they find this weird state law that conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor's a felony. Ain't been used since the labor riots in 1913 so… ain't it a bitch?  You eighty-six the whole protest shebang without even having to turn Austin’s skinheads loose the way Trump did, beating up and tasering those journalists during that press conference back in December and getting got as a consequence."

          "Actually," Glenn objected, "they tried using it a lot when I was here at the U. On Mark Cobb, on the anti-Vietnam people before that... the Supreme Court kept throwing their cases out."

          "Really?" Beedle pretended surprise. "Well, that would have been then… before the assassinations and those vacancies that got the Supremes as tied up and dysfunctional as Congress… and this is now!  We’re serious people, under fire from serious enemies.   Three bloods on the corner, talking jive, spitting on the sidewalk or maybe jaywalking, get the Unapissers in... on our side... bam! Five years, no bail, no probation! Piece of cake! Hey... it's what everybody wants, even the pieceniks," the lawyer chuckled. "It's their protesting personalities... see, going to jail as martyrs lets them go on believing that they're better than the rest of us, making a difference in the world, as if anybody cared... keeps 'em off the street at the same time.  Like that ninety-something nun getting a nickel for pouring blood on some military sidewalk or them assholes as went to Trump rallies, made pests of themselves and got killed as a consequence but dragged down the President’s poll numbers with them..  Or, you want the religious right, that lady down in Kentucky, quashing the gay weddings, going to jail as a martyr and now she’s writing a book… well, having one ghostwritten, more likely.  Won’t make her a billionaire, but she should clear a couple million, almost as good as Hillary’s scribbling. Some kinda mental illness, sorta... none of these people had healthy childhoods, trust me on this. So even if the Supremes let 'em walk after a year or so, everybody wins!  Us – most of all!  Hey... get a load of that place, c'mon!" Beedle tugged at Glenn. "It's my treat!"

          So Glenn, for his duty and loyalty, was presented with a free catfish-on-a-stick, all chocolate-covered frozen yogurt... which immediately began dripping over his shoes as he lifted his cellphone to his ear with his left hand, trying to keep up with the results now scuttling out of the Human Rights Caucus, downstairs.









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