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BLACK HELICOPTERS

EPISODE 28

FRIDAY the SEVENTH - 8:41 PM

          The temperature had dropped twenty degrees since dusk; in the Jefferson Street Sanctuary nearly a score of chilled Coalition for a New Consensus skeptics huddled on dumpster chairs and milk crates round a rickety, cash-strewn card table... Andy, Tom Jenks, Demian, Fredrika, Marty Lesh, Rael, Fil, Richard Reid… a few others and out-of-towners. Arguing and posturing with intensity that imbued even the most bedraggled, peripheral ephemera with apocalyptic urgency. Words crashed mightily over the equally vibrant despair of homeless people slinking in through the shelter doors, alone or in packs of three, or four, or six, taking furtive sips from bottles and cans, gazing questioningly at the influx of demo-dazzled interlopers or enviously at the paper bag of lucre abruptly bestowed upon the Sanctuary by Mayor Pinhead Potter.

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          All the scavenged mattresses had been doled out; still more strangers from Chicago, Pittsburgh, even Memphis, manifested and Andy had had to get up several times to marshal expeditionary forces out to the dumpsters for cardboard, rags and newspapers for blankets and use a large, borrowed Sharpie to make a sign:”No loaded guns on premises!”  The saved rolled over, tuned out the increasingly harsh voices emanating from the group around the card table like acrid auditory steam rising from a pie, and curled into fetal question marks, trying to sleep. Others nodded their heads and swayed to the rhythm of the sitcom one-liners and canned laughter bleeding out of the ancient, pictureless television mounted above Eddie's desk... returned to its place by shadowy hands which had groped into equally shadowy places.

          When Andy and two assistants came in from the alley with armfuls of thick, top-of-the-line refrigerator cardboard from the appliance store, a gum-chewing, middle-aged black woman from back East, Florence Croup, was appealing for her slice of the money on the table. "I didn't say the man himself was sending a letter, I said the Reverend James Shutts from Providence would come to personally convey a blessing, sort of a good-luck welcome to get things off right with God on Sunday morning... what do they call them prayers in Congress...”

          "The benedictions," answered David Soames, still in black, still jauntily positive even after two days' worth of meetings with frazzled, chemically-poisoned and one-legged veterans waiting on the lazy clinicians in Cap City to renew their Medicaid prescription vouchers authorized by the once again-leaderless V.A.

          "That's it!" Florence agreed, popping a pink bubble to emphasize her point.

          "If we provide his transportation, a room at the Ivona and a... what would it be, the benediction fee?" Fil asked.

          "The Reverend's a man of God, a man of all the people. He ain’t no Joel Osteen… don't have much money..."

          "We have even less," replied Marty Lesh, which answer outraged one of the socialists down from the U., the very pale, very thin Herb Clark... incongruous in his security guard's uniform, passing time before he had to be downtown for his midnight shift at the bank.

          "He has all that money from the City!" Clark pointed an accusing finger from the table to Andy, as he dumped the cardboard into a corner where a line had already begun forming.

          "Which is just about kaput," Marty added, looking nervously at the line of newcomers. "Uh, Andy, if you'd... again…"

          "OK," he said, making his way through the bodies on the cold, stained concrete, "OK... this is what it's about. Out of the original three thousand, three hundred went to our legal defense."

          A glassy eyed man slumped on a milk carton in the second row slavered: "Kill all the lawyers!"

          "Yeah, and you'd all have rotted in jail until the world turned round a couple dozen times and the Conks finished with their dirty business," Andy lost his temper, mentally kicking himself as he did for responding to a nut. "OK, a little more than seven hundred went back to the people who put up bail for certain persons, some of whom are in this den of conspiracy tonight.  Now this is not exactly lost... means we can tap them again. It's even possible we'll have to go to them again before this is over," Andy grimaced, "they're our reserve. Our human resources..."

          "Reverend Shutts is more human resource than any rich white liberals," Florence Croup interrupted. "He is a black man, a black man!... and he fights for the people!"

          "Right on, sister!" exclaimed Richard Reid, giving the old power salute with a clenched right fist. His feet twitched and something on the floor fell over with a glassy clink and began to roll backwards, away from the card table, down the slightly tilted tiles of the Sanctuary, spewing liquid as it did. Several of the disheveled men already sleeping on mattresses or cardboard sat up as it passed; meerkats sniffing instinctively in the close, musty air, one even straining to read the label.

          "Restina? Whas 'dat?"

          "We'll deal with arrests when and if they happen," Andy hastened along. "Two hundred more went back to some others who've put money up for us..."

          "What people?" Reid demanded.

          "Thurman. The Korean ministry. Some of the nuclear weapons people..."

          "Fuck 'em! Sneaky slant eyes peekin' over money box store-eya... pop a piece in yer mouth, blow you soul back to ol’ See-yole!" Richard Reid began to rap, standing up, swaying, smirking at Florence Croup as if expecting her to join in, "...fuck all the virus gooks! And fuckin' liberals... they don't deserve a dime!"

          "They're getting back one for three," Andy pointed out. "That is, they provided us with over five hundred in stamps, phones and stuff, gas... even lent us personal cars... all the shit we had to do when Disson turned our permits down."

          Herb Clark stood up. "Which turned out to be all a hoax, except for you and the other cowards who panicked and spent all that money telling people not to come!"

          "You wrecked the demo, not Permits," Reid chimed in. "Let me sit in jail while you cut your own private deal with Disson's nigger... oughta take you outside now, beat your ass! Nobody ever put you in charge of the rest of us..."

          He spat a great, green gob of goo that brushed Andy's chin and dripped down to the table, soiling a few of the bills resting there like proceeds of a long, mean poker game. Before Andy could reach him, Demian thrust herself between them, knocking a couple of foreign-looking bystanders out of the way.

          "We're supposed to be fighting the system, not each other," she complained. "I think we should all stop, hold hands and take a few deep breaths..."

          One of those kicked aside, a crosseyed, middle-aged woman who... for some obscure, European reason... had arrived with a nametag sticker "Ketti Graul" over her left breast… quickly agreed. "Intercommunal violence serves the purpose of our enemies," she said in mostly correct, though heavily-accented English. "It is the province of Americans with or without assistance from the Russian backsliders. But I still condemn the process by which these decisions make. I am not American, I cannot regard for you processes. But this denial of consensus is violence against the process..."

          "Hey, lady," Marty sneered back, "you don't like us here, why don't you slither back home to Berlin, hunker in the bunker with the rest of your gay Nazi skinhead symps..."

          "Not German!" Ketti objected, "Austrian!  Anti-the-Haider..." she added, nose uplifted, proudly, in the reeking Sanctuary air. "Death to the arrlt-right!  Long live Commandante Cuatro!"

          "Well now you're in America! We don't have time for consensus... we have this convention beginning and our permits that take effect, like... tomorrow!" Andy emphasized, picking up a stack of papers from the card table, waving them for emphasis. "Some of these people still want space and mike time... they don't even say who they are, some, just these initials like MPRL, UBA, INTMI, nobody knows who they are or what they'll be saying and we gotta decide who gets stage time and how much of it..."

          "Well, I'm decided," rallied Florence Croup, "...when do I get my money? For the Reverend..."

          "I'm going to finish with the money," Andy cut her off, "I don't want any more of this shit coming up again until each one of you's been told exactly where we stand, whether you listen and remember or not," Andy warned.

          "You're right, it's shit, you're all shit..." Reid raved, beginning to stagger side to side as drool spattered those to either side of him, Fil and another distressed-looking European, “and shit gets shot.”

          "Chill, Mistah David Duke," Florence rebuked him, to his evident surprise and displeasure; Reid having already forgotten his estimation of Sylvester. "You are getting on my nerves!" she added, and popped the gum in her mouth again.

          Reid opened his mouth to object but vomited thinly, instead, then sank back down into his folding chair wiping his chin. "OK," Andy continued, "we're down to eighteen hundred. Three is going for this and that... printing, postage, signs. Bradley Printing... union, minority owned, said they'll be open tomorrow until noon but, on the other hand, we can save thirty, maybe forty bucks by going to CopyQuik, fifty with the Krishna chain. Anybody want to take the cheap road or do we support community, labor-friendly businesses? Going once, going twice..."

          Fil shook his head, using the opportunity to push his milk crate as far away as possible from the puddle of puke while Reid, slumped in the chair in his incongruous Hawaiian shirt, hummed an old Three Dog Night tune. "We shouldn't have to pay for supplies. They ought to be liberated."

          "If you or anybody else wants to do so, that's fine. But... we can't afford the time or bail if you're busted. Fred and Lee will make their van and truck available all day tomorrow, Sunday and Monday... since we'll have to clean up... fifty bucks gas money each. Fair? OK... this is the big one, five hundred to Youthquake for security; that runs to something like twenty-five, thirty dollars each kid for two ten-hour days."

          "Oughta be more," said Florence, but softly.

          "I think so, too. The office, by the way, is taking nothing off the top. Which knocks us down to nine hundred. Music... we've contacted three bands. Kitschfire, Girlie Boys and Kajunga.  Hundred each for their time and they provide equipment. Two solos. Mark Kavanowski and Leota Brand, they get fifty."

          "Why?" objected Ketti Graul.

          "Why?" Andy scratched his neck. Something was beginning to rise up angry there, the beginnings of a jail-induced chancre. "For performing?"

          Ketti waved a beringed hand disdainfully. "In Salzburg, artists... they are grateful to play for the people. They perform for nozzing!"

          "In Salzburg," Marty sniped back, "they don't have to get paid because they're already leeching off the state, like Mozart did.  Or a King, if that’s what you still have. We here rip off artists and musicians enough, as it is."

          Florence had been reduced to simmering during the Youthquake decision, but now she boiled over again. "Who's all these people. What they do to get all of this money? What about colored folk?"

          "Maybe you don't know, back in Providence," Demian tossed her head, "but Leota has done more for the black or the African-American community in this city than everyone in this room combined. And Kajunga... they're bloods too, Brazilians, Cubans..."

          "Gusanos!" sneered Herb Clark...

          "...I mean we are talking nine people, and all their equipment," Demian continued, ignoring him. "The talent money is more of a courtesy than a payment..."

          "Girlie's a gay group," Rael added, "...at least three quarters gay... I think..."

          "So who the fuck cares about that?" slurred Richard Reid, returning, for a moment, from the twilight zone. He stood up, looked around, blinked, and sat down again, smearing more puke over the heel of his Nike.

          "That is the fuck, you homophobe!" Frederika retorted.

          "OK, I happen to believe that everyone's underpaid. Well, so are we!" Andy explained. "Ours is never a perfect world. At least we're doing something, plenty of other people are volunteering. So we're down to five now..."

          "Six!" Herb Clark corrected.

          "Six?" Andy started down at the money on the table, reviewing his calculations. "Oh, yeah!  Right on!  We need more mattresses for the shelter. Lee's going to make a dumpster run tomorrow, but we'll probably need at least twenty for the people coming here with nothing... no pack, no bedroll. They'll do it!" he commented sardonically. "He'll get a hundred dollar budget... hit the Salvation Army and Goodwills, then there's that veterans' place David heard about in Weslington that hauls them off from the motels and charges twenty, they might go down to fifteen or, even, ten in bulk. Blankets, too..."

          "I would block this corruption," Ketti declared. "One, maybe two nights people coming to protest fascism use these second-hand infested and infected mattresses and blankets the way your colonialists killed off Native Americans and those immigrant children in cages, and then you keep them for yourself?  Such arrangement would not be tolerated where I come from."

          "Some of these people are coming from Germany," pointed out Tom Jenks.  “These are fuckin’ motel mattresses, lady, probably not diseased, but with motel stains all over that you don’t want to know about… it’s not like we’re shopping for Beautyrests…”

          "I would not know, I am Austrian. Germans can sleep on this floor. They are strong... it will not kill their backs. I call it to question."

          "Fine. Just fine," Andy said. "Comment noted. Let's finish, first. Tom here has been working on the revenue end, contacting food booth vendors the way we used to do back in the last Millennium. We're getting... we hope we're getting, fees from some of the vendors or a part of their profits on food sales from the ones we can trust, as well as smaller fees from the others... jewelry, leather goods, art stuff. Tom thinks investing two hundred in a booth of our own can get us back, what... five hundred? Tom, you said you could get three helpers from the University, working for free?"

          "Yeah, that's about it. This is, like, revolutionary capitalism... big shit," he smirked, "we'll have sodas, beer under the table depending on our police situation, salad, brown rice, hot dogs..."

          "No meat!" Rael was up and shouting, face red as an organic tomato. "I thought I made that clear, we're not financing this demo on speciest violence." And she angrily tossed her cigarette into a trashbox stuffed with outdated propaganda.

          "Rael," Jenks frowned, "I don't think Fastway hotdogs even qualify as meat..."

          "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" Her screaming rose louder, louder and desperate enough that the weary homeless looked up from their mattresses or cardboard, muttering. "Animal rights are not a matter for jokes... I won't be part of any process that makes money off of cruelty. Leather goods! Oppression!"

          "There is no process here!" Ketti objected, also rising to face Rael across the table of booth applications and snot-soiled cash. "Your leather goods are not prohibited because of bourgeois animal sentimentality but because they are the shady gray code... triggers for sadistic sexual violence, intolerance against the woman.  Justice Kavanaugh!  O. J.!  Harvey Weinstein!  Now... this has become illegal discussion. You must declare this conference a void and reconvene tomorrow under proper regulations..."

          "I don't care about regulations, or any more of your Nazi, speciest procedural power plays," Rael blew up. "We are talking about saving the lives of animals..." but an enormous pop from Florence's gum shocked her into silence.

          Sheetrock flakes, not to mention asbestos, wafted downwards from the ceiling, more urban snow.

          "Girl, you talking bull shit! If you was hungry, really hungry for one day in your sick, white middle-class life, you'd eat a roach! Rats! You full of bull shit... all of you. What you need... save your soul... is some of the Reverend Shutts' fine Bar-B-Que. No sick hot dogs, full of wood shavings and dead dog... which is true, by the way, white folks taking dead dogs from the ASPCA and grind them into hotdogs for lil' black children to grow up sick on with the 'nemia. Cats too! Lil' black children eating cat and their grandmothers who bring them up eatin' cat food! Look at your history, four hundred years!  Black revenge matters!"

          Tom Jenks was first to recognize an opening for accommodation. "Ma'am, if you or somebody wants to set up a Bar-B-Que booth, I'm the man to talk to. We’d only want a little, hunnerd fifty bucks, maybe, even less if it's one of those ventures for the people..."

          "You want?" thundered Florence Croup. "You should pay people who be bringing healthy food... fried chicken, bar-b-que, greens n'beans. Gots to have plenty of beans!" she added, the phrase setting Andy to thinking... as all the animal righters and their adversaries from the women's regiment united in howls and whistles... where, exactly, had he heard this before? 

 

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