FRIDAY the SEVENTH - (time uncertain)

          When the deputies finally retrieved Andy Morrison from his isolation cell he was docile; a big, shambling bag of blood and suet that came when called for, moved towards any light while wearing, as one deputy testified after the real shit would go down, a slightly bemused yet vacant gaze. His next destination was another holding cell, smaller, without furniture or mattresses, but with fluorescent lighting, at least, and a television mounted to the wall, silent... off. Among four other occupants... all in varying stages of seated and defeated dishevelment... Andy vaguely recognized Rael.










          "Andy! What gives? You got him on something?" she shouted at the retreating deputies.

          All he could do was stare at her with the weariness of centuries, before finding a place to slump on the floor, back against one of the concrete-block walls. But, no sooner had he begun digging fingernails into the crumbling mortar between two cinderblocks... for support, and in, perhaps, a mindless fantasy of escape... than a tall, bewarted, bewhiskered, toothless, hairy troll in a reeking tweed jacket with a "poets for peace" button shoved his face and finger into Andy's field of perception.

          "Look, man, I gotta get out of here. Got a reading tonight! Andy... you gotta help me!" His voice escalated in pitch and volume towards something approaching the pleasantness and intensity of an auto-burglar alarm. "What are you looking for?"

          "Bullet holes," Andy sneered, flashing a grin for the grim quartet (inspired to give the impression that he had, indeed, left his mind behind in the black room). "Like when the torture lady from the CIA took those Venezuelans and the Costa Ricans into basements and massacred 'em while Congress played games and the UN hung around writing resolutions; I don't think I see bullet holes… but that wouldn't mean that they're not here!"

          "Man, don't lay that trip on me," the street poet howled, turning his maskless halitosis away. "Too much pressure, I need a drink! My reading!"

          "Victor?" Andy recognized. "I thought we bailed you out last night, me and Leo and... dammit, we paid to get you out, so who..."

          But the ordeal was only beginning. An intense young stranger in a tan suit and wire-rimmed glasses, squatting uncomfortably next to a short, stout black man in a pink polo shirt (a little holey, but clean) and neatly pressed jeans, flip-flops and shades, took up the interrogation, like a wrestler receiving the tag rope from his partner. "They took us to a stadium last night... all night we were there, freezing, just like in one of those stadiums they take Costa Rican dissidents to before execution."

          "It was at the U.," Rael interrupted, scratching her neck. "The football field – macho sons of humans! We must have been hundreds of us there... they kept bringing people in, taking them out, driving everyone around, they had the searchlights on us all night and marching oompah-band music, so nobody could talk or sleep. Just like Germany!"

          "They had lists!" Victor wailed. "After I got out, I go to Mihrdad's for coffee and these goons sweep in, holding everybody... checking names against their list and loading people into UN trucks. I told 'em it was double jeopardy but, some Swiss goon said, not with Interpol. I wrote poetry supporting the Smoal Act, it was supposed to be for stopping police shootings in America's inner cities, but they're using it against us."

          His after-the-fact outrage brought an old Gomer Pyle episode bubbling up through the cottage cheese Andy's mind had become. "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" he said, in his best Jim Nabors drawl.

          "Sir, your cynical line of comedic ripostes is neither humorous, inspiring, nor relevant. If you haven't anything positive to say," the suit scolded, primly, "why don't you keep your utterances to yourself."

          "Gomer says Hey!" Andy's eyes narrowed. "Sure, man. Like... and who the fuck are you? From Tillerman's underground, maybe, and your pal over there's a former Secretary-General of the UN?"

          He stood up, towering over the strangers, drawing a foot back as if to kick them but the tan-suited scold stood his ground, and actually pressed his nose closer to Andy's shin.

          "My name is Charles Udell, and I am the northwestern district assistant manager of the Children's Crusade for Peace. This other man," Udell wrinkled his nose, "he's not with us; he's a common criminal. A political naive..."

          "What you mean, naive, punk? Uh, sorry man, I'm Ace." The black man extended a hand upward, which Andy merely glared at. "I seen you round. Them mother-fuckers busted me for selling Catfish buttons, you know? I'm a member, man, dues-paying Conk! I got a card... I'da shown it to you if the pigs didn't take it away... oh, sorry lady, I meant the po-lice!"

          He nodded in Rael's direction, dropping his voice. "She got this thing 'bout animals..."

          "I was an innocent bystander," Udell stated in the same priggish tone, "exercising my Constitutional right to petition for grievance on behalf of those without voices or votes. Just looking..."

          "Peep, peep, peep..." chided Rael, throwing Andy a glance as if to say: "Snitch!"

          "Those Conks turned out to be real greedy sons of bitches," Ace continued, “typical liberals, no better’n Joe My Ass Biden, his Oreo Vice an’ his pig-lipstickin’ jive. First thing I do when I get out... resigning! Burn my card and get back with the Rev’rend Al's new party!  Or, if that fails to lift off, Kanye’s.  That dude got money…" his said, voice dropping into a confidential undertone.

          "If you want respect, you have to have respect for life, all life,” Rael interrupted, “which means you don't compare the Conks to sons of bitches, and you don’t make light of cosmetics that are tested on innocent laboratory animals in Reyna Finch’s concentration camps. Compassion means protesting the exploitation of all living beings; and dogs and pigs have more admirable qualities than most people..."

          "See?" Ace replied. "Just like that Catfish, always goin' on 'bout dogs in that book and in his newspapers, then screwin' round African- 'mericans tryin' to make a living under the rules he set up!"

          "Instead of arguing with each other, why don't you express yourselves through poetry?" suggested Victor. "I did! I wrote my prison poem... my Reading Gaol… shall I read it?"

          "Not again, Victor..." Rael responded with a ferocity that implied she did not include bad poets among the victims of specieism.

          "I may be the outsider here," Udell allowed, with a discreet but professional cough, "but the actions of your authorities are as bewildering as they are illegal. I would have thought your City would support, even participate in, a peaceful demonstration of the free exchange of ideas outside the CNC convention."

          "Yeah... well, all of us make mistakes, sometimes," Andy said, examining the filth under his nails. "The only free exchange these motherfuckers understand is that of legal tender changing hands for favors rendered."

          "But where did it all go wrong? Our people in Spokane wanted to send a children's delegation with me, would they have been locked up in the stadium too?  In cages?  I saw children in that stadium there... infants shuddering with the cold like in those cages like in Russia, or like that former President and ICE set up in Texas... I always thought the CNC movement was about free speech, human rights, not police, guns, money, concentration camps and cheap souvenirs."

          "What you mean, cheap?" Ace protested. "That was quality shit that the... the po-lice... took away for themselves. Made in America, too, says so right in the Conk catalog!'

          And then Victor proposed a theory: "I think that they were threatened by our idealism. Not even two years old and they've lost theirs already... nothing remains of the Coalition but its ambition and lust for power. We could have revitalized their helpless lives and hopeless cause, so they hated us for it!"

          "Well, look at the sunny side..." Andy suggested to Rael, "...we don't have to worry about scheduling the pro and anti-abortionists, the Costa Ricans and people who want to save Mudd Mountain... and so on, back and forth. Just kick back, eat fine, government grub, watch some of this high class, quality TV and let everything slide down into mayhem and murder and nobody winning. Old world keeps spinnin' along, without us."

          "Yeah, for white people," Ace snorted, "but if I don't get my merchandise back I lose my room, get to be spinnin' in that falling-down slab of shit you n' yours call the Sanctuary.”

          Andy reached up and turned on a jail television (where both sound and video worked!), finding... of all things... the new MicroTime ad, with children and ponies, puffy clouds and a gauzy chorale:


If we could shape the world

We'd draw a sky!

Mountains and rivers too...

No need to cry!

We'd draw a rainbow of tomorrows,

Economies of rhyme...

A world communicating...


“That’s so,” volunteered an enraptured Victor, “dope!”

And, following, the inevitably steely attorney reading such statement as had been handed down in Pledary versus Cook, the merger affirmed by the Supreme Court during Justice Ginsburg’s last session the previous October after the assassination of her two colleagues on, as Andy remembered, a five-to-two vote:


"MicroTimeTM is the trademark of the Micro-Time Corporation... Seattle, New York, Atlanta... use of any MicroTime® trademark by voice, print or electronic medium or any intellectual property claimed by MicroTimeTM or any of its affiliates, including but not limited to Micromerica, Micromerica Online®, Life, Windows, Charisma Communications, Warner Brothers, Concast Cable, Corner®, the National Broadcasting Corporation or the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Kentucky franchises of Extreme Arena Golf without written permission is prohibited by law." 

Then, back came an imported cartoon of the Masters-of-the-Universe genre with indistinguishably good or evil robots growling incomprehensible robot growls; pummeling each others' robot heads and arms and burning holes in the screen that lit up the dim cell with flashing beams of their death-rays between the babbling pop-ups for Kiwi-key lime soda, antihistamines and automobiles. Ace, disgusted, pulled a worn paperback of "Entropy and Renaissance" from his pocket once the legitimate commercials arrived, and, as Andy stared blankly at the latest spot for an quirkily-named and celebrity-sponsored anti-depressant whose patents, like those of most prescription drugs, had recently been extended eighteen more years by the FDA, began reading...

          "Says the Catfish... 'rather like the medicalization of social problems by laying off cops and hiring more psychologists to tranquilize the have-nots with nor... rataline blockers, asp... aspertonics... and some of the rest of that mouse-chromosome soup...' Damn! if I'm gonna chop up some Mickey Mouse brains and eat ‘em, even if I can get high offinit! Dude's fuckin' psycho himself!"

          He closed the book as a telattorney droned on, urging viewers to sign up for a class action suit against the makers of the previously pitched pills, stuffed it into the pockets of his jeans. "Bull shit!"

          "If you..." Rael began...

          "Yeah, yeah..." said Ace as robot eyes flashed, death-rays sizzled and metal feet stomped humans and buildings in a town, probably in Japan or, more likely, China, "...cows and mice be God's chosen creatures nobody can talk against. Like whatever in them sandwiches brought by for lunch... weren't no part come out of no animal I ever seen!" 









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