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BLACK HELICOPTERS

EPISODE 44

SUNDAY the NINTH - 2:23 PM

          Outside on the second-tier stage, Fredrika squirmed with rage even as she read her prepared speech to scattered strollers headed to the steel and salsa band cooking at the other end of the plaza. Her speech!... the speech she’d rehearsed and massaged dozens... hundreds of times in the cold, dark flat she shared with the actor and the vegetarian and the med student who paid most of their bills with his parents’ allowance. Cold tendrils of wind tugged at pages as she intoned, freezing her fingers. A tablecloth blew off the table of the East German revanchist booth and flapped past the stage; a great, white, unclean bat.

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          "What are we doing here?" she assailed the curious few. "Trying to communicate with CNC? Are they even listening - glancing behind them occasionally while they fixate on joining, joining… as opposed to replacing… the institutional parties stuck in the swamp all around them? Of course not! Oh... once they might have, maybe, but that was before the money and greed plugged in. Hollywood and Wall Street and the real estate developers and cosmetics queen, surveillance cameras on every corner and drones and secret agencies collaborating with Chinese germ warfare labs, paying off allegedly-dead terrorists like Tim McVeigh, Jeffrey Epstein, Saddam and Osama and those Russians, give them new identities in Monte Carlo and plastic surgery... and use the terror to distract people from the World Bank and rip up the Constitution while President-in-exile Trump plots doubling down on the cuts in billionaires’ personal tax rates, down to twenty-one percent? While Democrats and celebrities just hang out, rubbing-up against the ankles of powerful and evil men and institutions like old cats while Steyer and Bloomberg shoot their jizz, hoping for crumbs of reflected influence? It's a sham. And it all needs to be torn down!"

          Marty Lesh inhaled the wind and words at the hot dog stand beside Herb Clark who, in his uniform... only slightly rumpled from all-night "security" duty... had proven a surprisingly dedicated if somewhat cheerless Socialist salesman. "Fuckin' Thriftway ought to be torn down. These dogs don't plump, they shrivel! Look like worms."

          Herb poked his head over the bubbling pot, steam fogging his glasses. "A truly democratic Socialist state… there have never been any, but Venezuela and Iceland come closest… they would never allow such inferior sausages to be marketed..."

          "Yeah. But at least we Americans cut 'em with something substantial," Marty sniffed, "like cat, sawdust or cloned potatoes. We're gonna end up with lots of leftovers! Shouldn'a let the Free Food people in here, this time. Beans! Fuck!" He lifted a half-liter can of ABM, took a slug and began shouting: "Hey!! get your red hots! All proceeds benefit the demo." Finally, a pair of curious European students placed their order for one frankfurter to be divided between them. An elderly man in a blue and white seersucker blazer lingered by the stand...

          "Hot dog?" Herb ventured, hopefully.

          "I kill tortillas!" he retorted. "Mrs. Lincoln Gorbachev in phone booth..." and a stream of obscenities followed, ending in "Unitey Nations" and, satiated, the crazy wandered south towards an AIDS prevention table.

          "Shit!" Marty pointed, "here comes Rael!"

          Flanked by an anachronistic entourage of skinhead punkers, Rael waved her minions on to surround the booth, making animal noises and vampire crosses at a handful of potential consumers who fled with accusations of "Murder!" ringing in their tender, young Old World ears.

          "That PETA shit is so twenty-eighteen!  It’s twenty-three… skidoo!... so why don't you assholes just get lost?" Marty suggested.

          "Never!" Rael screamed back. "There's nowhere to go, mother-fuckers, no place left to hide. This will be a cruelty-free demo no matter what you capitalists think!" And, at this, one of the skinheads kicked the table, which collapsed, overturning the pot and dumping its cargo of scalding, hot water and wormy hot dogs over Herb Clark's uniformed shinbones.

          "Justice for chimpanzees and laboratory rats!" Rael addressed the gawkers as Herb shrieked.  "Fair play for fish!"

          As the last remnants of Fredrika's audience turned towards the screamings arising from the ruined hot dog booth, the wind snatched up her speech... her speech!... right from her hands!  Blowing the document, with deadly, malicious accuracy, straight towards Masty Hall, over the head of a wrathful security guard who, failing to snatch a fluttering page on which the words “We, the People…” had been printed in large, boldface type, drew his revolver and fired several fruitless shots at it.

 

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SUNDAY the NINTH - 2:45 PM

 

          A pause had settled over the convention floor, enabling Leo, Anne and Andy to wash down their Polish Pups with sugary soda.

          Anne gulped too much and coughed in mid-speech, "...so Ratso didn't know... akkh hukh!, excuse me... didn't know that support for the host delegation was coming from other sources. He had this idea that The People... whoof!scuse me!... that they'd look at him as someone who had votes to throw around, and all the while he didn't even think enough to get control of the selection. That was beneath him. He'd assumed..."

          "Just like he'd always done?" Andy said, offering her a napkin. "Hey, I should have warned you about Emil! He's a sleazeball, but I didn't think..."

          "Forget it! It was my fault, and no harm done..."

          "OK. Hey, I ever tell you about the one day that I worked for Ratso?"

          "You did?" Anne looked up.

          "Last summer! Hey, I needed money, quick," Andy explained, "and you know how your people advertise but don't say who you are? Well, I show up and Ratso never recognizes me, sent me out into the burbs begging door-to-door, using that script of yours, lying through my remaining teeth. I was good at it. Signed up four new Conks and got a bunch of donations besides.  Sold plenty of lipstick and bath oil, too – women of a certain age find me roguishly charming,” he smirked.  “Bring the loot back home to Rome, to Ratso, even all the cash... my mistake... also a list of some questions people kept asking me, like now that they're members, how do they go about participating in this fine new organization. He laughed at me. Shouldn't have... I could have brought in a lot of money. And then he stiffs me."

          "How did he do that?" Leo inquired.

          "Says the first week out is training week, the Conks keep all the money.  We’re independent contractors, so you don't pay a dime out in commissions, let alone the twenty percent they promised. Then he even goes into this riff as to how he should be charging me for this quote unquote valuable training, but as I'm obviously some kind of bum as who can't help asking questions he shouldn't, I'm just to get gone before he calls the cops. So the joke was on me awhile but now, according to what you say, it's on Ratso."

          "I don't think that's a legal worker-relations conduct," Leo obsessed. "Was there a contract? The Supremes upheld Martinson v. Pflueger five to four... before Gorsuch and Beer Man and the Church Lady, and the Breyer vacancy, to be sure, but it's still the law. Your streetworkers could have grounds for a class action..." but Glenn's arrival put a prompt end to the speculations. His tie was loose and shirt undone, exposing a sweaty patch of chest hair... his eyes blaring red, as if he'd just walked through ten miles of burning California forest and his tongue was so swollen he barely could spit out a skein of toxic, ethanolic curses.

          "You've ruined us all, you fuckin' whore!"

          He shook his head, side to side, as nervous delegates and other hangers-on sidled away; the Pup vendor even shut the plexiglass orb over his verminous, simmering sausages as if to protect them from Glenn's germy venom.

          "What the fuck did you think you were doing? Fishing for a medal from the Colorado Mafia? There's not a metal cheap enough to cast it in! You've blown it... you and Rayna... killed us! Now the Nazis will take over, and it's all your fault. I don't believe what you've done!"

          "Glenn, on the simple matter of principle..." Anne began.

          "Principle?" And, oddly, he looked towards Andy.

          "Glenn, you know, I've wanted to thank you for getting me out of jail, but I..."

          "Getting you what?" Glenn laughed, harshly. "I didn't do jack! If you did the crime, bro’, you'd better damn well be prepared to do the time!"

          "But that was it, I didn't! There was no crime, no assault..."

          "I'm innocent!" Glenn scoffed in a falsetto, looking up at the rafters. "Look," he added, grabbing Leo around the shoulders, "the ACLU lawyer even says so! Andy, boy, you're paranoid! Innocent people never get locked up, not white people, not in America... the land of the free, even Don fuckin’ Jones says so… why the fuck am I wasting my time, here!" He turned back to Anne.

          "You're the one who pulls his strings... tell him, you cunt!"

          "Glenn, I'm not listening to any more of this! Clearly we have to reconsider our relationship... we'll get down to details when this is over and we're back in Alexandria.”

          She turned, delving into the crowd before Glenn could reach out to stop her. Seeing him tremble with rage, Leo excused himself with a mumble and scuttled off in the opposite direction.

          "Go on!" Glenn railed. "Go back to him!" Realizing Andy hadn't left, he shook a cigarette from its box and sneered. "Got me hooked now! You know how she's always been with men... she's having an affair." Andy coughed into his fist but Glenn kept ranting. "Rinker! You must have seen the weasel... Austin Tillerman's little lap dog? Morty the Militian in his little Brooks Brothers' suit? She's been punching that clockroach behind my back for months, I know... came in last night with his stink all over her. I can smell when I'm being lied to."

          "Glenn," Andy said warily, making a bulge of his own tongue against his aching teeth, "I don't believe you're making sense. You're the golden couple everyone’s almost admired... you made it out of here! She loves you!"

          "Does she?" Glenn asked, almost laughing. "What would you know about love? Hey... you want to play grown-up? Get down in the mud pile where the big boys and girls rassle?" He reached out and snatched the guest credentials from Andy's neck and shoved his own with its gleaming holographs into his hand. "Here! Go on, put ‘em on. Play at bein’ a big shot! This'll let you walk downstairs without a chaperón, anywhere you want... open doors, walk on in, see America being sold by the quarter pound! Oh, excuse me Lincoln Chafee... kilogram! Or go up on the podium... get your front row seat at the corruption of the last great hope America had of pulling herself out of the sewer. Take it! It's yours, now! Yours!"

          And, brushing away what seemed almost tears, to Andy, Glenn barged into the crowd, making towards the door, at which he turned, shouting obscenities at the video screens, replaying highlights from Catfish campaigns past and present... Jack Parnell with McCain and one of the Baldwin brothers… not the movie set killer, another one… with the four Jesses, black pere et fils, the white former rasslin’ Governor and dead white right-wing former Senator, grinning for a little girl in a wheelchair, looking serious with a drought-struck rancher in New Mexico...

          "Fuck you! Fuck you all!"

          The few delegates who heard him waved and cheered; still holding Andy's credentials, Glenn shoved his way out of Masty Hall, dangled them briefly so the security guard could read their zebrae with his little red beam, then fled... without noticing that the guard, observing a flashing warning gray message on his monitor behind a background blue as a UNAPISSER's beret, was picking up his red phone.

          "Hello?" said the guard. "Yes, Mr. Morrison has just left the convention. Yes, he's about six feet, slender to medium build, light hair, he's wearing a gray suit and white shirt open at the collar. No tie. Your earlier information must have been in error. Yes, I got a good look at his credentials and the machine vetted them, sir, these machines don't make mistakes. Yes, sir! And another thing, he was very excited, his face was all red as if he'd been shouting or crying. Drugs... that would be a possibility, yes.  I didn’t smell alcohol, but that, too.  Yes, I see he's approaching the outer checkpoint. Yes sir!"

          Somewhere beneath Masty Hall, a hand held up a cell phone and the voice connected to it thanked the guard. A second number was quickly dialed. "Legionnaire? Come in..."

          "Roger!" Legionnaire replied through heavy static, probably occasioned by all the electronic junk humming and simmering in and near Masty Hall.

          "Target approaching outer checkpoint. Six feet, normal, light hair... gray suit, white shirt. Disturbed expression..."

          "Target sighted!" confirmed Legionnaire.

          "Maintain surveillance. And await instructions."

          "Roger!"  

 

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