SUNDAY the NINTH - 11:06 AM

          A disforecasted, disforgiving wind began to stir as Sunday dawned and, by opening gavel on the CNC convention’s final day, whipped through trees in the plaza opposite Masty Hall with mean, devilish intent. The sky flashed alternately bright and mottled gray with ever-more-menacing purple clouds chasing each other hastily as Coalition delegates inside were summoned to prayer by famed Militia Minister Tim Baseline of Kalispell, Montana. The Reverend Tim praised Jesus, blasted the shoepolish folks for moving a local plant to Barbados, and then... to balance the ticket... Jafar Hinan al-Musra (the former Leotis Wyvern, who’d split with Farrakhan to start his own movement) offered up his conventional benedictions grounded somewhere in that nebulous DMZ between Islam and Orthodox Christianity.











          By the time the rabbi, lama, Jesuit and Wiccan within finished broadcasting their invocations over a campus radio station booming from a dozen boomboxes forthwards, leaflets without had gone blowing in the wind; banners flapped frumiously and coiffures disintegrated into anarchy.  An environmental spectre in full moose costume tumbled through the growing throng of Conk protestors... captive to the gusts tugging and taunting his styrofoam antlers.        

          Ecumenicism blown away, angry speeches soon ripped through the air, amplified over conventional invocations by the city's sound system... denunciations of meat, money and microaggressions, accusations that CNC vigilantes were intimidating Asian, Mexican and East Indian professionals with legal credentials in the name of saving American jobs. A phalanx of city cops in full combat regalia and plastic shields held the street between the plaza and Masty Hall secure, causing an angry backup of delegates passing through the checkpoint just to get across the street.  Turquoise-hatted UN monitors wandered back and forth at intersections, waiting for something to happen but, huddling at the perimeter of the park where, at a red, white and blue booth whose bunting... marked ASSIGNMENTS... had already begun to unravel, a horde of angry, desperate exhibitors berated Marty Lesh and Tom Jenks.

          "Ten minutes man, that's all I'm asking," Jorge Gamba pleaded. "A tiny, insignificant ten minutes for the Arias memorial tape from Madrid. Is this unreasonable? Are efforts to stop the fighting in Costa Rica unreasonable? I think not..."

          "Georgio..." Tom tried to steer him down, "it's in Spanish!"

          "So? You have a problem with that?  You trumpin me?"

          "Look around, man," Marty motioned. "Like... this ain't exactly East Los Angeles. If ten percent of these people knew ten percent of what was going on from that speech, I'd be fuckin' astonished."

          "Plus it's really what... twelve minutes? Fifteen?" Tom guessed. "Countin' after you have to explain what the guy is saying, right?"

          "Just a few little minutes from a man trying to do right by the people. You'd deny us this..."

          "I... hey Andy, hey... hey, get over here!" waved Marty, giving up the can and kicking the ghost.

          Andy Morrison put down the little Catfish pendant being shown him by the vendor, Ace, who'd somehow slipped out of jail during the exodus of politicals.  Ace wore a sandwich board of Coalition buttons and had spread his cheap but legitimately licensed Catfish merch out over a card table.

          "Don't cover my ass they can shove their licenses," he kept repeating as Andy nodded, walking backwards toward ASSIGNMENTS and rationalizing that the dude was so dangerously out-of-luck peddling Parnell crap out here that it’d be overkill to jack him for a fee.  His knuckles still hurt from the previous evening’s beatdown.

          "Hey man, we missed you last night!" Marty complained. "You fucked us up!"


          "Things got sort of out of control. There were a lot of bad votes."

          "Bad votes?" Tom interrupted. "Hell, these outside people ran off their mouths for hours until everybody local, almost, quit and went home to catch up on Z's. That was about three in the morning, when they put in all these new regulations..."

          Jorge motioned for attention once more. "Andy, my friend, my old, old friend... a miniscule, humble ten minutes for our Arias tape..." but, at this, he was interrupted by a tall man in a baby blue suit, wielding a clipboard.

          "Your request is denied. Costa Rica's environmental record was terrible when that madman was in power, even though their marine mammal policy has only grown worse since the coup."

          "Yeah... and who the fuck are you?" Andy challenged.

          "Dan Merkl." The man extended a hand, which Andy stared at distastefully. "I'm the Events vice-chairman."

          "No, dude, who are you in real life?"

          "Uhh... I'm with the Sea-Watch? We flew in last evening from Cape May, that's in New Jersey," Merkl added, with a sigh of patience.  Realizing that his hand wasn't to be accepted, he proffered a fist to bump, then a business card, at which Andy also stared stonily before responding.

          "I talked to your people two weeks ago, when it looked like we weren't going to get permits and told you that if you wanted to be here, you'd be accepting some risk of arrest, or worse. Your office said that you weren't coming."

          And then he shrugged.  "Well, someone called my girl on Friday morning and said the matter had been settled... come on down!” Merkl protested.  “They faxed us information, and said to look for this Andy Morrison, but he wasn't at the organizational meeting last night when those present recognized and approved my credentials. Do you know where I can find him?"

          Inquiry... cold inquiry... dwelt in Tom and Marty's faces.

          "This started up last night," Tom finally declared. "It's been going on all morning. Where the hell were you, and what the hell were you doing, authorizing all of these people?"

          "Give me that fax!" Merkl hesitantly handed over several papers, which Andy glanced at dispassionately. "You got this on Friday morning?" he looked up.

          "I was out. My office did... they faxed their acceptance immediately. Of course I would have called... if there was a return number... frankly, sir, you really should have twittered…"

          "Sure!" He turned to Tom. "How many people have asked for mike time?"

          "Twice as many as we can handle. Oh... this bunch that came in late last night threw some of them off, only they didn't tell ‘em... so they're hanging around, talking about storming the stage with baseball bats 'n crap like that."

          "The Europeans voted... consensed... to cut out the music if there were conflicts," Marty added.

          "Well, that's one way of solving the problem. Nobody's gonna hang out listening to eight solid hours of speeches. Where was this fucking meeting anyway?"

          Marty looked down. "Malik's," he finally said, barely above a whisper. "Now you see why we were all anxious to get out of there..."

          Jorge cut in. "Man, you better know what you've been doing! People be saying serious shit about you..."

          "There ain't a fax machine in jail..." Andy objected.  “Or just about anywhere, anymore!”

          "But Disson's office has one. That's where you would have made the calls and faxes from, after they took you away from the others." Marty snatched one of Merkl's faxes, drew a line with his thumb under one of the numbers at the top.

          "Who says this?"

          Tom scratched his ear. "Bunch of people busted Wednesday, at the Dorritt," he finally said.

          "Bring them here!" Andy shot back.

          Merkl made a waving gesture as if to recover his faxes. "Look, I don't know about your internal processes... frankly, I don't care. We were contacted and I was under the impressions that this was a responsible outfit, and I was appointed..."

          "So how 'bout it man?" Jorge cut him off. "Ten minutes..."

          "Is Fred here?" Andy asked Tom, while Marty was being collared by yet another angry exhibitor.

          "I guess. I saw him over by the stage. He the one who does a lot of work for people in the bands?"

          "OK, we're going to set up a second stage. Over there!" he pointed, "on the northwest side of the park. The band shit stays here, but two of the surplus speaker sets move over. I'll make just a little equipment disappear so as to set up a primitive PA system..."

          "What do we do for a stage?" Tom asked.

          "Fred and Terri will round up some milk cartons from the Sanctuary and we'll cover them with some of the extra planks."

          "No! I refuse!" Merkl protested. "We have twelve thousand dues-paying members… responsible people!... and not one of them is to be humiliated by having me have to address the planet on a second-rate stage built out of scrap boards and pirated toxic plastic milk cartons!"

          "Fine!" said Andy, "more time for you, Jorge." He shook the faxes out of his hand and the wind snatched them away. "You're not needed here anymore," he told Merkl, "so haul your green ass back to Jersey!  Tillerman man, right... straight outta Buffalo?  You have my sympathy about Sandy…" he added, “…and Christie…”

          He started walking away as a lady Futurist who'd been badgering Marty realized he was the Andy Morrison...

          "Come back!" Merkl shrieked. "My faxes!"

          "Don't run from us!" the woman chimed in. "We're the Chicago chapter of the Futurian Society, Mr. Morrison, and we have three attorneys on staff..."






SUNDAY the NINTH - 11:21 AM


          On the floor of Masty Hall, a strangely choreographed debate had broken out between two delegates on short, twin podiums with a moderator caught between. Glenn, Anne, Tom Beedle and a cadaverous labor boss, Carlos Uriz from Delano, California, glanced at the proceedings from time to time with the jaundiced eyes of gamblers assessing a rigged cockfight.

          The Eleven-at-Eleven cameraman panned past them to hordes of hung-over Conks, waving from the galleries like drunken MMA fans.

          "Thank you, you've been terrific!" said the talking head on the left. "The majority platform seeks only fair reform; we're not throwing babies out with bathwater. We realize that some... some who have their share and perhaps a little more, besides, given the President’s capitulation on tax cuts for the affluent, have their concerns about Jack’s rent stamp program. Our reforms, we feel, address major abuses in the system. Decent housing for all is not a privilege, it is a right... and the CNC is proud to be advancing these reasonable reforms."

          Beedle leaned over Anne, towards Uriz. "Jack and Rayna must be having shit fits... how about it? What do our labor people say?"

          Uriz was a man of few words, each with its price. "They say… you pay."

          "Ain't that sweet?" Beedle stepped back, braying towards Anne and Glenn, a malted Highland fog wafting past their noses. "Ain't he a regular Jesse fuckin' Jimenez? I love it!"

          He slapped Carlos, who was a good eight inches taller, on a Brioni-cloaked kidney.

          The moderator smiled, fetchingly. "Thank you. Roger Washburn, Coalition for Housing and New York delegate. And now, with the minority platform, Donna Bateson of the California Tenants' Council."

          "Thank you, too!" Bateson reciprocated. "Although it would appear that the matter has been settled in private, secretly, I appreciate your warm response. I can only hope that, at some date in the future, this Coalition will give very close scrutiny to the effect of the platform that Mr. Washburn outlines. Frankly, one just cannot continue to enrich wealthy property owners; developers like the Trump family and financial institutions keeping thousands of homes vacant, converting homes for working people into massively overpriced air b&bs and continuing to house the poor in costly, but crime-infested by-the-hour-motels without assuming more massive quantities of debt that can only be paid by taxing the middle class into extinction. If we should vote to rejoin the Democratic Party, we must be mindful not to fall into the trap of accommodating their failed policies... just as Congressman Parnell warns in "Entropy and Renaissance"! The role of government should not be to rob the middle class to pay the rich to subsidize the poor... we need a coherent, long-range housing policy and, if that involves Catfish-based Federal intervention in local zoning issues where Federal money has been designated, mortgage interest quotas or even Federal rent and price controls, as once were implemented by President Nixon… God save us all!… let us pick up that flag and plant it atop Capitol Hill. At a minimum, we cannot afford to endorse any candidates who do not favor immediate repeal of State and Federal prohibitions on local rent controls. Mr. Washburn... the people will be watching! And thank you for your attention."

          "Even if we rejoin..." groaned Beedle, clapping index fingers together contemptuously, "...what the hell chemistry gets into a broad? Anne? The matter's fixed... we need the property owners’ and development money and hell, what business has this bitch in hanging our bloody lingerie out in public for the Republicans to sniff. President Nixon! No offense, Anne, but do we have a real estate reality problem here, or what?" He snickered, took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. "Or maybe just a female problem?"

          "And thank you Ms. Bateson," concluded the perky moderator. "The motion has been made and approved; all in favor of the majority platform say "Aye!" A desultory howl rose from both the floor and galleries... some elements of which distinctly differed from "Aye!"… but the moderator banged her gavel anyway. "The motion carries."

          "I don't like this," Anne cast a fish-eye on the podium.

          "You don't?" Beedle did a double-take. "What is the problem with Her Highness?" he asked Glenn.  “Still on the rag about Jack’s telling the folks on… Kimmel, was it?  That other Jimmie?  Saying that he was a Satanist… he was just making a joke, being sarcastic…”

          “Like the President promising a square deal for the women in Afghanistan and Iran or the one before him telling people to drink bleach…” Glenn began… but Anne persisted…

          "Tom, this is a dogshit special interest resolution that could seriously fuck us up in the property tax committee. It's going to get the balanced-budget people seriously pushing for Federal property taxes with real teeth, not just a white bread anti-savings tax proposition. And that will kill us with the Democrats..."

          Beedle suddenly took her cheeks in both hands and planted a wet, lip-smacking and communicable kiss as Glenn stared, glowering.

          "Kid! Kid! It's the price we pay for having Watson Morrow on board. And his money!  And every goddam banker and developer drowning in empty, vandalized McMansions since the plague meltdown.  And... don't forget... the construction unions!  Well… at least the white guys.  Don't worry! Trust us! We'll kill 'em... dead, like roaches." He made a pistol of his right finger and thumb, shot her between the breasts. "Ka-pow!"

          “Kill who, Prince Andrew?” Anne snapped before pushing him away and storming off into the crowd.  “Andrew Cuomo?  Go back to the comedy club,” she retorted over a shoulder.

          "Anne! Hey... Anne!" Failing to even make her look back, Beedle turned on Glenn, savagely. "Shit! You doing your midnight duties? Ka-pow!" he grinned wickedly. "Hey, no, tell me, she’s blowin’ me like a Donald Trumpet... seriously... what the fuck's gotten into her?" 

          Glenn shrugged, miserably.

          “Queasy qualms ‘bout money?” Beedle needled.  “Have to admit, Rayna’s got the art of the deal wrapped up three ways tighter than that poor dupe in the White House ever conceived – given that his own Vice used to do the nasty with the thirstiest landlord and developer sock puppets among California Democrats - Senator Feinstein excepted, of course.  Maybe.  Devil alone knows the price they paid for having her rope our cocaine cowboy into the running, figuring he’d peel off just enough votes from the radical young people and… uh… the creatures of color from the Democratic Party.  And then, to bolster the perception of her being a fair and balanced provocateur, she raised up good ol’ Austin from his David Dukedom as a candidate for the Ecobordering greenies; drawing votes away from the challenger for the incumbent’s benefit, and for the whities, dividing the Republican turnout.  And taking money from both sides.  What a genius… no matter who wins, she’s got the Secretary of the Treasury stuffed down her chest.  Poor ol’ Minooch!... not to mention the Warren witch.  You did know, didn’t you?” the suddenly solicitous fixer raised an eyebrow…

          “Sort of,” Glenn replied, even more miserably.   “With our doddering donkey President blowing this way and that way on retiring and that herd of elephants stampeding through the swamp, who knows what might occur…”









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