The Adventures of Vernon Q. Public by Eric Suhem
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Collaborating with Angels Rob Lee’s photo-memoir
Coming Soon from SUBTOPIAN PRESS
Road Notes Law-Abiding Citizen Jeff Costello Page One Stuck on Repeat Boston Massacres & Symbolic Blood Arthur Brand Page Three The Parable of Whitney Amber Marshall Page Seven Paris ‘68 Steven D. Stark Page Eleven Storybook History Jenean McBrearty Page Twelve Cheerful Customer Service ALWAYS Jeff Shaffer Page Twenty-Five Dystopia Depart From Me, You Evil Doers Trevor D. Richardson Page Twenty-Seven
Dystopia The Logic of Conspiracy Theory David Renton Page Thirty-Five Utopia BOSTON: Everything the Human Condition Has to Offer Trevor D. Richardson Page Thirty-Nine Pearls for Swine Looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, walks like a duck, it must be a pencil. Kirby Light Page Thirty-Three Poetry by Robert A. Davies Page Forty-Seven The Critic’s Critic Les Miserable Tyler Fisk Page Fifty-One
Law Abiding Citizen To live outside the law you must be honest -- Bob Dylan I love a good man outside the law, just as much as I hate a bad man inside the law --- Woody Guthrie Send lawyers, guns and money, the shit has hit the fan. -- Warren Zevon
We h e a r a n a w f u l l o t o f t h e p h r a s e “ l a w a b i d i n g p e o p l e ” t h e s e d a y s , usually from the mouths of the NRA and kindred gun advocates. This and “second amendment rights” are their big buzzwords. Never mind that these are often right wing “anti-government” folks who nonetheless regard the second amendment as sacred because they think it supports their beliefs. Guns are a religion, it seems, with every bit as much attendant s e l f - r i g h t e o u s n e s s a s a n y o t h e r. A s i f l e g a l c o m p l i a n c e i n d i c a t e s l e s s likelihood of someone going off on a shooting spree, as if outside-thel a w p e o p l e a r e b y d e f a u l t c r a z y, s t u p i d a n d i r r e s p o n s i b l e . I’ve never known many gun people. But one, who identified himself as a hunter who always ate what he killed, came by with a couple of dead s q u i r r e l s o n e n i g h t . N o d e e r t h a t d a y. We h a d t o e a t t h e m w i t h h i m l e s t his pride be injured (another issue there, but...), and the tree rodents were pretty unpleasant eating. There are times when I could make a pretty 1
Ethan Loses g o oHis d cFriend a s e f o rAgain: being vegetarian.
Billy the hunter did t hDiary ave a license, and I’ve no idea where or how he Fromn oHis got his weapons. But despite his questionable taste in food, he was an honest man and as good as his word.
Is it true that living outside the law requires honesty? I ’ d s a y y e s , b u t t h a t m e a n s r e a l l y l i v i n g o u t s i d e t h e l a w, o t sof t r asimple y i n g f rjoys om it occasionally for convenience. And He wants anlife is it true therefore, that a law-abiding person does not free of the nspectator e e d t o bsport e h o nof e spolitics, t? Is it not a fact that legal processes d p r o tembrace ection can and often do cover many large and perhaps thea nscout’s small-scale sins, crimes, iniquities? It would seem
we knew ofs oa. brotherhood I n f a c t , tof h e innocents. more I hear the phrase “law-abiding s o - a n d - ssince o ” t r the u m pwar. eted, the less inclined I am to trust or And I had changed believe whoever is tooting the horn.
I’d say not much. But pretty much anything goes when one is chasing profit, and fudging a detail, or a little e xgood a g g e rwith a t i o men n here or there is just poetic license, Now he was right?
Is there, for instance, any honest advertising? 1950
and women, his heart not in it.
rea where utter compliance with the law is For me sexOisn eall afrustration. n e c e s s a r y,
Both of us mhate a n d camp a t o r y and i n s udrag rance a scam, a ripoff, a clear collusion
i n d uthe s t rlies. y and politicians? Of course it is. Unless giggles, buto fmost
you can manage with public transportation, the DMV
1960s and more to the point the highway patrol, have you by
the throat. What are licensing and insurance fees but payoffs in a protection racket? A crime when anyone He had kept e l my s e dmanuscript, oes it. But I make my payoffs, in the same spirit I ’ ddesk pay off Al Capone or my uncle Frank or the (bad poemst hina this Corleones. Police or Mafia? They’re all packing heat, kindly returned b u t t hby e aMsucceeding a f i a ’s r e p ueditor) tation for restraint in the matter of u n p lalive. ay is far better than that of the police. a sentimentg still We d o t h e b e s t w e c a n w i t h w h a t w e ’ v e g o t .
BOSTON MASSACRES I got my idea for this m o n t h ’s “ S t u c k o n R e p e a t ” while watching The Daily Show with John Stewart. After the Boston bombing he said, “I really hate the fact that I can cross-reference my thoughts to so many events that have occurred over the years of a similar ilk, so I’m not going to. I’m just going to say this to Boston, thank you. Thank you for, once again, in the face of gross inhumanity inspiring and solifying my belief in humanity
a n d t h e p e o p l e o f t h i s c o u n t r y, so thank you.” What interested me was the “cross-referencing” remark. It seems we barely have the time to recover from one tragedy before w e ’ r e b o m b a r d e d b y a n o t h e r. The Newtown shooting. The Batman movie theater shooting. Car bombs in the Middle East. Endless wars. Civil unrest. Riots in Brooklyn leading to s h u t d o w n a n d m a r t i a l l a w . Yo u can track it all back through time. Columbine. 9/11. The 33
Rachael Johnson, the founder and writer of this particular regular feature in Subtopian, has moved on to new challenges and has, to use a familiar comic book expression, hung up the cowl. But the mission continues and the search for a replacement will likely be long, difficult, and bittersweet. Her insight was as keen as her journalistic sense for story and it seems to me that if she were here writing today she would have something important to say about the recent shootings. I guess, like so many heroes hanging up the cape, the responsibility falls to the next in line, the one nearest by, someone fighting the fight beside them. The cowl goes to me until we can find a suitable replacement.
& SYMBOLIC BLOOD nuclear powerplant fallout in J a p a n . Ts u n a m i s . T h e b o m b i n g of the Olympics. The Oklahoma City bombing. Assassinations of presidents and public figures. U n j u s t w a r s l i k e Vi e t n a m . T h e B a y o f P i g s , C o l d Wa r , n u c l e a r threat, nuclear proliferation, H i r o s h i m a . H i t l e r. S t a l i n . Internment camps. Racism. Plague outbreak, yellow fever, influenza pandemic in the early 2 0 t h C e n t u r y. O u r h i s t o r y i s r e p l e t e w i t h t r a g e d y, i g n o r a n c e , hate, sickness, famine, natural
disaster, and death. Those were just a few of the big things that c a m e t o m i n d r i g h t a w a y, b u t there are so many more. And those are really just in the past hundred or so years, the farther back you look the more youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find. I got to thinking about the Boston Massacre in 1770, civilians gunned down for resisting British soldiers occupying their homes, and two things dawned on me: First, Boston, like nearly e v e r y o t h e r c i t y i n t h i s c o u n t r y, 44
regulars has had blood symbolic blood spilled. What I mean is, there is murder, destruction and t r a g e d y i n e v e r y t o w n ’s h i s t o r y, but there are certain towns, certain places where the deaths make a statement for some one, some force. The last symbolic blood spilled in Boston was one of the catalysts for the American Revolution. The blood of President Kennedy s p i l l e d i n D a l l a s , Te x a s , s p a r k e d the imaginations of conspiracy theorists, journalists and fiction writers alike and began an age of mistrust and paranoia where our government and institutions were concerned. The death o f M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g , J r. i n M e m p h i s , Te n n e s s e e , w a s a symbol of violent repression and a refusal to allow for change, enlightenment, or dignified e v o l u t i o n i n o u r s o c i e t y. P e o p l e s a w h i s d e a t h a s a t r a g e d y, t h e end of something, but also the b e g i n n i n g o f s o m e t h i n g n e w, a k i n d o f m a r t y r ’s s a c r f i c e t o show the kind of blind hate his people were up against. The death of John Lennon in New Yo r k C i t y h a d a s i m i l a r e f f e c t of the two combined, people saw that standing up for something like peace or understanding could get you killed, they became more paranoid, more mistrusting of the forces of “Old and Evil” as Thompson once put i t , a n d L e n n o n , s i m u l t a n e o u s l y, became a kind of folk hero for imagining a better future. I could go on and on, but the point is, symbolic blood is
spilled every so often and the question becomes, what will it mean for our history? 9/11 b e g a n A m e r i c a ’s f i r s t w a r o n a n idea, an ambiguous villain like “radical Islam” or terrorism. For good or ill, the symbolic blood spilled that day began something different in this country and this world. And t h e n t h e r e ’s B o s t o n , a n o t h e r m a s s a c r e i n o n e o f A m e r i c a ’s oldest cities. I have to ask myself if this will be similar t o N e w Yo r k . I f i t w i l l j u s t be used to continue to fuel our ambiguous war, to keep it going another decade, or if maybe, just maybe, it might lead to s o m e t h i n g e l s e e n t i r e l y. My second thought, on the topic of symbolism, was the symbolic violence of the b o m b i n g . I t w a s P a t r i o t ’s D a y in Boston and the bombing happened in one of the first cities built in the American colonies more than two hundred years ago. The death of civilians back then became a kind of battle cry for colonial soldiers and here we have the death of runners, competitors, average citizens enlisted in a battlefield of strength of b o d y, m i n d a n d c h a r a c t e r, b e i n g a t t a c k e d a s t o n e ’s t h r o w f r o m o l d t r a g e d y, o l d s c a r s , t h e g h o s t s o f o u r p r e d e c e s s o r s . I t ’s too much to be a coincidence. There is a kind of cynicism in this kind of an attack that s a y s , “ L e t ’s t a k e t h e h o p e a n d achievement and inspiration of a people and use it as a weapon 5
regulars against this kind of darkness. The revolution, the real battlefield, is not in the Middle East or some other distant desert, cave or jungle. It isn’t in the shady corners of sleeper c e l l s i n o u r c i t i e s , i t ’s i n t h e troubled hearts of those that see violence as the will of God. The end of this kind of war is in launching a spiritual revolution, healing, understanding, and communication. Asking our enemies why it is they wish to hurt us, what it is they want or n e e d o f u s . Yo u c a n d e f e a t a n enemy by killing him, but you’ll only earn ten more. The only way to end it for good is to turn an enemy into a friend. Other people have tried to start that revolution before and they tend to wind up dead. But doesn’t that mean something? Doesn’t that tell us that we are just as much to blame? The people who spoke out for h e a l i n g , j u s t i c e , d i g n i t y, a n d “giving peace a chance” have all wound up dead, while hatred rules, motivates, and lashes out across the globe. Perhaps Boston can finally be the symbol that launches the new revolution, the one that ends the reign of bloodthirsty gods and their followers and makes us all brothers.pp
to crush their spirits.” I don’t know how I feel about putting radical Islam up as a boogeyman for our people to revile, it feels wrong to me, but at the same time, if what we’re told is true, I can’t help but think, “This is what we’re up against, that someone would take our sacred dead, our heritage, and our spirit of revolution and use it as a way of breaking us.” I t ’s a t o u g h t h i n g , t h e w o r d s turn sour in my mind as I spin them in this text, but I can o n l y r e t u r n t o J o h n S t e w a r t ’s remark. I can cross-reference my thoughts in similar events through time and each time I have seen the strength and honor of our people, the survivors and the fallen, and I know that even this will become a moment of darkness the American spirit t u r n s t o l i g h t . We ’ r e a t o u r best in troubling times and always have been. I hate that this kind of emotional battery is “stuck on repeat.” I hate that I too can cross-reference other moments that look and smell and feel just like this one. I hate that there is so much hate. But more than any of that, I know that it is the responsibility of the survivors to take tragedy and turn it toward triumph. We c a n e i t h e r h a v e a s p i r i t o f vengeance or revolution, but you cannot have both. These things, at least in part, continue to happen because we allow each new event to cloud our memory of the past ones rather than to solidify them, to solidify us, 6
Whitney I want to tell you the story of Whitney. It’s a short story, but it could be longer if I didn’t spare you some of the gory details. It’s the story of why she died in that way that she died. You probably heard about it already, but I bet you don’t know why it happened. When Whitney was a little girl her mother, a single parent with a smoking habit and a tradition of reading only certain parts of the Bible to her baby girl, took her to church. Whitney went to Sunday school and she learned about Daniel and the lions den. It’s this thing where a king tries to kill a guy for not loving the same god as him, so he throws him in this pit with a bunch of lions. Only God protects Daniel and he doesn’t get eaten. Whitney, because her mom always said that it’s important to try to be close to God, learned about this story and tried to climb into the lion cage at the zoo when she was five years old. Her mother grabbed her by her little cardigan sweater and pulled her back to the ground with so much force that little Whitney cracked her head on the pavement. There was blood, tears, and the to-be-expected social services visits. But Whitney never forgot about wanting to shut the mouths of lions. The scar over her right eye was a reminder, but it wasn’t a bad one, not for her, and as she got older she took a kind of pride for being that crazy, that devoted as a child. Whitney turned nine and her Sunday school teacher told her that you weren’t supposed to take the Lord’s name in vain, so she would never say the name of God at all, but instead would only say “you” in her prayers, and wouldn’t say anything otherwise. She learned about not having any idols and burned her Barbie dolls and her toy ponies. And when she was taught the story of David and Goliath she got into her first fight with an older girl that was bullying her fourth grade class at recess. She pelted the girl with rocks and told her that in “Bible times” they called it stoning. Whitney grew older and learned about the way Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And she felt bad about that fight so much that it troubled her any time she thought about it for the rest of her life. In junior high Whitney was taught how Jesus had a preferred method of teaching. His lessons were called 7
“parables” and they were like stories that make a point. Whitney, from then on, would only answer questions in story format. Naturally, she did really well in English class, and tanked at math. But she didn’t care because, like the Apostle Paul wrote, she had “set her mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Whitney believed herself to be transcending when, in fact, she was failing out and not eating meals because she thought fasting would be a good thing to do. In the years to follow her skin became sallow, pale, and her body thin. Her hair hung in tendrils, greasy and sparse, and her clothes had not been updated for some time. People called her poor and ugly and other mean names and she would only responded by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” And then, one day, she read a passage in the book of Romans that she had never noticed before. It said, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” Whitney decided that she needed a pedicure if her feet were going to justify the beauty of the gospel. On the first day of school, sophomore year, a new Whitney arrived in an updated wardrobe, with clean hair cut to a fashionable length, and a little bit of makeup to boot. When boys hit on her or girls asked her what changed she only said, “Man looks at the outside of things, but God looks at the heart.” She got involved in her school and its activities, but she did not exactly become popular. She was judgmental, boorish, and rude. She told people what they were doing was wrong and when they told her a Christian was not supposed to judge she responded that Christ commanded that her people “go out to the nations of the world and spread the good news.” Whitney did what she had done all her life. She saw the result of the story and tried to make that a part of her life, rather than live the lesson. She focused on sin instead of love. She focused on doing because that 8
was something she could control. And one day, when someone confronted her and said she had no faith, that she was just going through the motions, she spit in that person’s faith and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” That person, I guess you should know, was me. I told her that there was a difference between morality and righteousness. Morality was a code of conduct that people could enforce and measure, righteousness was a gift of God that comes from following him. I told Whitney she was moral, but nothing else. That she had gotten everything backwards, she’d focused on the wrong part of all the stories. Whitney called me a false prophet and hit me with a rock. It was some time later that Whitney, my best friend, got her first boyfriend. They were together for some time, just holding hands, wearing each others clothes like you do, you know, like exchanging rings or wearing his jacket...carrying each other’s books and stuff. But the night of the homecoming dance, well, I found them out on the football field. Their hands were buried in each other’s clothes, his under all the layers of her dress and hers, well. When she saw me seeing her she began to cry. I never really knew what she was thinking, what she cried about – if it was getting caught and ruining her image, or if my being there was like a reality check, you know? Like I made her snap out of it and realize where she was and what she was doing. But she got just outside the light, where I could barely see her, and she threw up. I drove her home and left the boy with his thing out. I don’t know what he did, he was just on the field, kind of like that, burned into my memory that way forever. When I think about him, he’s still on that field. Whitney went into her house and I went home. I remember feeling sick, like that heavy feeling you get after you cried for hours or whatever. Only I wasn’t crying. I just felt like I had done something bad and didn’t know why. It was the next day at school when we heard the announcement. I got called out of class and was walking down the hall when the principal came on the loud speaker. He said that Whitney had killed herself and that there would be a vigil and services held later that night. We found out later, the way you find out things you aren’t supposed to know in a really short amount of time at high school, that she had cut her hand off with something like a cleaver or a big knife. The story was all mixed up. Some people said she had to saw for a long time to get it off, the amount of cutting changed too, like it was her whole arm or just her hand or whatever. Other people said it was one quick chop and her aim was bad, that she only got most of her hand, but the thumb was still there. No one knows for sure because they had put her back together for the funeral. I’m sorry if this all seems sort of harsh, I guess I’m still kind of in shock. I do 9
that, you know? Just state the facts and shut out the rest. I do that when I’m freaked out. Anyway, for days and days after people kept asking what it was all about. They kept saying it was a weird way to kill yourself, you know? To just chop and bleed out. But I got it. Whitney was always so literal, but always missed the point at the same time. Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin you should cut it off and cast it away from you. He said it would be better to live life maimed than to go to hell in one piece. Whitney touched that boy and thought it was a sin, so she cut off her hand. I bet she didn’t mean to die. I bet that part was an accident. I haven’t told anybody that because I haven’t told anyone about her and that boy out on the football field. Not until just now, anyway. But it’s okay because her name isn’t really Whitney and you don’t really know me. But I wanted to tell you this because, like Whitney did, this is a parable. She became a parable herself in a way. That if you live by the words instead of by the spirit of an idea you end up lost and don’t even know it. You hurt. You hurt people and yourself, and you do it all by the book. In the end, you wind up getting a pedicure because the Apostle Paul said something about the people telling the good news having beautiful feet. Only, that’s from Isaiah and it’s not even about that. I wish I could put a button on this the way Whitney could. I wish I could find the right words to make this a good parable. All I can say is, I’d rather have questions than think I had all the answers. pp ----Amber Marshall grew up in Oklahoma. The daughter of a Baptist pastor, Amber has since become what she calls a “peaceful atheist.” Her beliefs are not combative, but hopeful. She hopes that in living a life of compassion without the motivation of a threatening religion that she might show the potential of a world of peace and understanding without legalism or forced morality. She is a new writer. This is her first published story.
b y J e nean McBreart y
Every room was a camera lens. Even the bathroom. Toilets were enclosed in curtained off areas, and before people squat, they hit a timer installed above the commode, and made sure they concluded their business forthrightly. Men especially. Women, it was believed, needed twice the allotted time owing to peculiarities of their bodies. Still, they were expected to pay heed to the demands of the clock and pay homage to statesanctioned regularity: each clock had a slot for a quarter, like a parking meter. But unlike a parking meter, the clock chimed when the coin went clunk! and issued a reward in the form a digital receipt. Honoring time reaped a monthly dividend of points added to one’s P2IA—personal Integrity Inventory Account—and it was this P&L statement that, at the end of one’s life cycle, determined one’s fitness for heaven. Quarters were dispensed by the National Health Exchanges that, by law, were strategically located so that no citizen was more than two blocks away from a healthcare provider. Getting one’s allotment for the week by visiting the exchange where one was registered guaranteed that everyone’s health was religiously monitored by a trained professional. It also guaranteed that people did not move around, willy-nilly. If you didn’t want someone else to get your credits, you used your own bathroom or entered your P2IIA into the strange potty-box clock before depositing your quarter. “Ingenious, wouldn’t you say?” Senator Silvers said the day he introduced the newest health-care provision of the Affordable Care Act of 2009. “Coupling a universal daily biological function with money and spiritual worthiness strengthens the organic relationship of the citizen to the state. Sociology tells us it’s the basis of capitalism, why not make it work for social justice?” 12
A resounding hurrah drowned out the “harumph” from the back of the Senate Chamber. One lone official from the State of South Carolina, Senator Davis, voted no on a roll-call vote designed to ferret out future opposition. He would have been officially sanctioned if he hadn’t been 86 years old and dying of COPD suffocation. By 88, he’d begun to reflect on his mortality and question his own worthiness for heaven, and chose, appropriately, the P2IIA PIN of 6667&.
“I was told that when he was on his death-bed, Senator Davis tried to stuff his last quarter into the alarm clock on his nightstand in desperation, and uttered the words ‘thy will be done but not to me’ before he sank back into his pillows and expired.” Saucy Davis was staring into the deepest brown eyes she’d ever seen and felt love tug at her abdomen. “Did I tell you my not-so-great great uncle five times removed was Jefferson Davis?” Paul inhaled another hit of medical marijuana and wished he’d sat next to the redhead. “I don’t remember. Who’s Jefferson Davis?” “President of the Confederacy. You know, the Civil War guy.” He’d sat next to Saucy because the redhead had ordered fish and he knew it wasn’t safe to eat the fish at the San Diego State University Commons. His work-study position his freshman year was Food Delivery, meaning he worked the line and dished out questionable, albeit, free, nourishment. He’d also heard rumors that Saucy had the answer code for the Race, Gender, Class and Peace Studies final, the only class that required a final and a passing grade to graduate. Most people put off the requirement until their senior year, but Saucy was a senior this year and wouldn’t be around if he found himself unable to concentrate. He’d chosen chicken and Saucy to be on the safe side. “Which Civil War?” “We’ve only had one. 1860.” He didn’t remember that either. “What about the one in the 1960s?” Saucy accidentally nudged him with her toe when she crossed her legs under the table. “No, that was the social/sexual revolution.” “I’m impressed. People told me you were the go-to gal for information.They were right.” “You mean correct. Or accurate. Right is a political persuasion.” Paul saw her bat her slow-motion eyelashes. He might have to screw her to get that answer key, but that wouldn’t be too bad. She was attractive. He didn’t want to do it in public—well at least not in the cafeteria. Maybe in the quad or the unisex bathroom. “You ready for the final?” He knew the answer. People who ate tofu turkey and didn’t smoke dope were always ready. That’s why the professors trusted them with keys to their file cabinets. “You need some tutoring?” “I could use something about now.” He rubbed her leg with his shoe and managed a watery-eyes smile. Some women believed a smile meant ‘I like you’. He waited for her to return the smile with one of her own, but Saucy reached into her tote bag and brought out her #10 kindle. She must not have noticed him staring at the contraband he’d caught sight of: a book. Not a soul’s ledger or a traveler’s journal—nostalgic trinkets parents bought their prepubescent daughters and gay sons—but a book with a spine and a hard cover. A book that, if discovered, could get Saucy kicked out of school. A book that could be leveraged for an answer key. He looked at her empty desert bowl. She liked chocolate tofu ice cream. “The guy serving the ice cream is Rudy. Tell him Paul sent you, and he’ll give you a second helping of this.” He tapped the bowl with his spoon and it went ping, ping. “We’re pals, me and him.” It was true when it came to women. She finally smiled. “Really?” 13
“No quarter needed.” She left for the line and he maneuvered the tote nearer to him and dropped his napkin. He bent down to pick it up and confirmed his suspicion. It was a book with a “Property of SDSU” label. It meant she’d was one of the few students who had been to the catacombs. He’d screw her alright, and claim bragging rights to his fraternity brothers about a conquest of true forbidden fruit. The words Golden Fleece popped into his head.
“Kitty comes from good stock, but she’s not built for motherhood.” That’s what Max said at Horst’s bachelor drunk. Two pints of Veltins and he became an honest man. “She’s not a horse,” Horst reminded him. “She’s high strung. Willful. Dangerous traits in a woman,” Klaus said, and Max gave him a neck hug. “Listen to Klaus, my friend. Look who he’s shacked up with. A hot theater arts student who’s had two abortions already. “ Max waved to the waiter and held up three fingers. “So, Valerie’s talented and careless,” Horst said. “No, she’s just incredibly fertile,” Klaus said, “and I’m incredibly lucky.” “Here’s to fertile crescents,” Max toasted and frowned as the two women walked toward them. “Send them home,” he whispered. “They’re harpies.” “And you’re a pouf, but we don’t hold it against you,” Klaus said. “That’s because you know I’ll blow you when she has her monthly visitor.” Max planted a sloppy kiss on Klaus’ cheek. Valerie rolled her eyes and Klaus pulled her next to him. Kitty gave Horst a peck on the cheek and stole a sip of his beer. “You all look so guilty. Naughty boys. You too, Max. Where’s your boyfriend? The one who rides the motorcycle?” Max’s lips tensed to a pout. “Peter’s working. He’s turned into such a German. He’s no fun anymore.” Kitty was rubbing her hand up Horst’s thigh. Let his comrades tease him about her. He liked the way she let him know she thought he was sexy. He pressed his thighs together so she would feel the strength of his muscles, trapping her hand as it traveled to his crotch. “You should thank God he’s not pimping you out to the Hitlerjugend like your last one,” Valerie said. Her eyes were heavy with mascara and blue-glitter eye-shadow. She’d been practicing a revue number for her theater class while Kitty did an accounting assignment. “Go easy on him, girls. Max knows he’ll have to settle down like the rest of us. Peter’s a good bet. A Jewish mench who saves his money,” Horst said. “Hitler’s turned us all into bourgeoisie and I hate that. So, I’m going home.” Valerie grabbed her purse and hooked Klaus’ arm. The waiter had threaded through the crowd with a pitcher balanced on a tray above his head. Kitty was tugging at Horst’s hand. “But the beer...” Max said. “Bye all.” Horst said and let himself be dragged away from the table. “Ring me tomorrow, Love,” Valerie said as the happy couple headed to the door, but they didn’t look back. “Okay, we’ll finish the beer.”
The phone rang at seven o’clock. Kitty elbowed Horst, but he mumbled, “They’ll call back”, and rolled over. She reached over him and grabbed the receiver. “What? Slow down, Valerie.” She crawled over Horst and slid to the floor, groping for paper and pen. “Yes, I have it. I’ll call.” “What is it?” Kitty was rifling through her drawer for clean underwear. “The Gestapo came by Klaus’ this morning. Thank God Valerie was in bed with him or they would have arrested him too.” Horst was awake now, fishing for clean clothes too. “Arrest him for what? He’s a university student who drinks and studies sometimes.” Kitty snapped their towels from a hook on the back of the closet door. “For being a homosexual. They’ve taken Max. Valerie can’t reach Peter, so...” “That’s ridiculous.” “That’s the Nuremberg Laws. Peter’s a Jew. The Nazis are rounding up homosexuals and people suspected of having Jewish and communist sympathies.” “Well, that qualifies Peter and Max.” Horst followed her to the shower. They were each allowed one a day; doubling up meant they could go to bed clean. They lathered and rinsed quickly and ran shivering down the hall, foregoing a morning screw. A half hour later they were sitting with Klaus and Valerie at Le Chat waiting on coffee and croissants. Valerie was still shaking. “Mostly they wanted to know if Max had ever attended political meetings. Of course he has. He writes for the university newspaper. And Peter? Max is right. He supports Hitler 100%.” “His father fought for the Kaiser in the Ardennes,” Klaus added. Kitty held her finger to her lips to silence them. “Let’s not talk here.” Horst laughed gently. “Can the drama, ladies. We’ll all go down to Gestapo headquarters and explain they’ve made a mistake and take Peter and Max to lunch.” Kitty shot him a warning glare, and he shrugged his shoulders. “Or not.” “Kitty’s right,” Valerie said. “The Gestapo aren’t the police. Tell them they’ve made a mistake and they’ll shoot you or send you to a camp. I’ve heard about those places.” “From whom?” Horst said. “From the families of the Jewish art students, that’s who. They say those camps are terrible.” “What do you think, Klaus?” Horst said. A black-coated man seated himself at a the table next to theirs. Klaus shifted his gaze to him and then back to Horst. “Things change when you think they’re going to take you. It was all I could do not to shit my pajamas.” Outnumbered, Horst paid the tab. For the first time in his life, he’d felt afraid to walk the streets of Berlin, but dismissed his fear as hysteria contamination when they were safely inside a university study room.
“This is the basement of old Love Library.” Saucy led him through the new underground Drake Library to a door marked Staff and Faculty Only. “You can’t smoke in here. The fire sensors are 20th century sensitive.” She separated one key from the five on a ring, and unlocked the door. “Not all the books were destroyed in the purge.” Paul gasped at the ceiling to floor book cases that filled the room, their shelves stuffed tight with volumes 15
of all sizes and colors. “I thought all books were digitized and burned to save the trees.” “That’s what everybody thinks but some of these texts are worth a fortune and President Drake knows it. She put a large edition of Art of the Renaissance on a wooden table and opened the cover. “Go ahead, look through it.” “It’s safe to touch it?” “Of course. How else are you going to turn the pages?” She disappeared, the brown-covered book in hand. He paid her no mind, becoming engrossed in the full-color plates. It was almost like having the canvasses in front of him. “You might want to read this,” Saucy said, and put a paperback volume in front of him. He set aside the art book and opened the cover of Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. “It’s not scholarly, but it’s close enough to scare the hell out of you.” “It’s a horror story?” “One of the best.” Had an hour passed, or five? Paul wasn’t sure, but Saucy was back at the table with a red book she’d traded for the brown one in her tote. “Did this stuff really happen?? “That’s why it’s called history.” “But how did it happen? Why did it happen? I’ve never heard about death camps or Hitler’s bodyguards. I didn’t know the war was so big and took so long.” He closed the cover. “I know why. It’s all so sad. This whole room is nothing but one long sad story. He saw astonishment in her eyes. “What?” “Nothing. I guess you missed the part about the book burning. Let’s go.” He took Shirer’s book to the shelf and chose one at random and slid it into Saucy’s tote. She hadn’t directly challenged him, but his buzz was gone and so was his desire for a quick screw. He ought to read one book in his life just to prove he was as smart as she was, though obviously he wasn’t.
Kitty and Horst got married two weeks after Kitty’s pregnancy was confirmed. “Herr Hitler will be pleased to know you’re doing your part to prepare for his war,” Doctor Meier had told her. “Hope for a healthy boy.” When she said I do, she was acknowledging more than her willingness to be a good wife. A loyal citizen, she had promised to serve her Fuhrer as all good Aryan wives had done for the past five years. Max and Peter, she convinced herself, were doing the same thing in their own way. Max at Buchenwald and Peter...no one was really sure where he or his parents had been sent. Klaus believed they’d been murdered. His determined distrust of Nazi propaganda made him unpopular and dangerous. So much so that Valerie threatened to leave him. “Wait till after the wedding,” Kitty pleaded, but Valerie said she wasn’t going to risk arrest for anybody’s big day. “Horst, talk to him,” Kitty said in desperation. “He’s traumatized is all. ” “You women make a mountain out of every dirt clod,” he’d said. “Things are better in Germany than they’ve been in years. Six months ago I was an unemployed engineering graduate student and today I’m working in munitions design and make enough money for marriage and a family. Thank-you Herr Hitler. Maybe Klaus did have a thing for Max, the way he mopes over him.” Valerie winced. “I’ll talk to him,’ Kitty said and went round his flat. Klaus was listening to the radio and drinking beer in a shuttered room. “If you really believe the Nazi’s are wolves in black uniforms, why piss them off? Keep your mouth shut. That’s all Valerie’s asking for. A little caution until this Czech problem gets solved.” 16
Klaus went to the closet and brought back a shoebox filled with photos of the six of them on holiday in Bavaria. “You recognize these people? I don’t. They were friends.” He was sweating and needed a shave. “This Valerie, who is she? She was here the morning they came pounding on the door. They asked me questions about Max—had I ever seen his privates? What kind of question is that? Obscene. Okay, he’s a pouf, but harmless and doesn’t deserve to be jammed into a truck like an animal and carted off to a relocation center.” “Is that what’s bothering you? The men we saw being loaded on the truck?” “Did you see their clothes. There’s a mark on everything. Yellow star for Jew. Pink triangle for Homosexual. I’m a Lutheran. What’ll I wind up with a blue octagon? Maybe your baby will wear a red circle.” “That’s a frightful thing to say. No mother wants to hear that.” Kitty wrapped her arms around her swollen belly. “You’re a cruel man, Klaus.” “I’m sure Peter’s mother felt the same way when they dragged her boy off to a death camp. God, why didn’t we go to the Gestapo and tell them Max wasn’t queer? We might have convinced them. Since when do loyal citizens have to be afraid of the police? ” But his words had stung. “Why didn’t you go? Because Valerie said no? Because Horst had to study for an exam and I was going to meet my mother at the florist?” She shoved the beer bottles off the table with a sweep of her arm, and they collided like ten-pins before crashing to the floor. Only one broke. Klaus covered his face and sobbed into his hands. “Because I’m a coward. A dirty coward. I hate myself and I hate all of you. If we’d gone together we wouldn’t have been afraid. If they’d arrested me, would any of you would have vouched for me?” Kitty struggled to her feet. “Then stay here with your guilt and your fear. I guarantee you, they’ll come and arrest you if you don’t shut up about death camps and stop defending deviants.” She left him alone and told Valerie she was right to leave him. She told Horst to find another best man because Klaus wasn’t even a good man.
Paul dropped a quarter into the clock, dropped his pants, and hit the timer. No one over the age of ten and under sixty thought much about the spiritual side of the practice of time worship any more than they gave credence to the health warnings on the side of everything from apples to zucchini. If the government wanted to limit unproductive time, it was alright by most people because so few people had a job. People mostly hung-out in government-run cafeterias—espresso bars being expensive and unsanitary. He was already on Chapter 5 of his contraband. Saucy told him to use a bookmarker, a fallen leaf or a piece of cloth, to keep his place rather than fold down the corner of the page. “Don’t let me catch you dog-earring one of these treasures! or you’ll never see another,” she’d said before she turned out the lights and checked to see if anyone was near the Staff and Faculty door. “And don’t go shootin’ off your mouth like some big gun or you’ll get us both in trouble.” He’d never heard a woman hiss like that. She didn’t say, “Okay?” at the end of her sentences. He’d chosen a coffee cup with a clown riding a bicycle printed on the side, tore around the picture and slipped the disk between the pages. The next morning, he’d hidden the book between his mattress and boxspring after removing the bookmark to show to Saucy. It was evidence he’d taken her ‘books are treasures’ lecture seriously and that was important. He didn’t know why. He suspected he wanted her approval. That thought scared the hell out of him and he didn’t know why about that either. Someone knocked on the door and he heard Rudy yell, “Come on, Paul. Quit beatin’ your meat. There’s a guy downstairs who wants to talk to you.” “Yeah, yeah, I’m comin’. Can’t a guy have a hangover in peace?” He hauled up his drawers and stuck the book in the bed before heading downstairs. 17
“I’m from the Student Support Office.” The business card the man in the ‘I’m a Vegan’ tee-shirt handed him identified him as Clifford “Biff” Belmont. “Thought you might need some help with the final.” He sat down on the navy blue sofa that had occupied the Theta Chi Alpha House for a hundred years. On the very cushion Rudy had thrown up on during First-year Rush. “You TCA?” “No. Phi Sigma...but I won’t let your inferior status interfere with my services.” It didn’t sound like a joke. He looked like a used car salesman, except he wore sandals. He unzipped a leather case and flipped through a file. “Got a call from Student Health that you missed your appointment yesterday.” “That was quick.” “They look after their medical marijuana patients. They know a graded test can overwhelm an already stressed person. So what happened?” Paul scratched his unshaven chin. “Uhh. I thought the lady said they’d deliver my meds. Guess I heard wrong.” Biff gave him a disbelieving smirk, then nodded a knowing nod. “It’s always the quiet ones, ain’t it? I saw you with Saucy Davis yesterday.” Words could sound like a wagging finger from the right mouth. “Yeah, she’s a real pistol once you get passed the egg head and into the yolk.” Biff wanted some kind of reassurance that sex was the only reason a guy would schmooze a woman who didn’t smoke, drink, or demonstrate. “I won’t even ask if she gives head.” “Good because I’m not one to shoot my mouth off like a big gun.” “What?” “You know,” Paul said, “ a smile’s as good as a simile. I learned that in English Lit.” “Sure. Okay. There’s a study group that meets on Sundays around noon. You down with that?” He was already penciling in Paul’s name on an activities flyer. “You can hang this in a convenient place to remind you. On your door, so you’ll see it when you leave.” “I’ll do that.” Biff wanted praise. “Great idea.” Maybe he’d leave now. But Biff balked. “Anything else?” “This is a bit delicate. Your budding friendship with Saucy Davis? Better to nip it there future-wise. She’s the last TA old Tipton’s gonn’a have. He retires this year. And with the budget cuts, she’s the last retro-Christian that’ll be admitted to Sate. Education funding has strings attached, if you get my drift.” Now he wanted confirmation, but Paul blinked purposefully ignorant eyes. “No. I don’t get your drift.” “No more history department or funding for students who aren’t intellectually capable. Them’s the new guidelines. How smart can people be if they still believe in bullshit, right?” “Oh, now I catch your drift.” Biff handed him a white sack with U.S. Health & Human Services printed on it. “I brought your prescription. Make sure you show up next Friday, though. Okay?” “No problem. Thanks.” He took the sack and shook Biff’s hand. Rudy passed him on the way to the door. “You in trouble?” he said as they watched Biff mount his Schwinn and ride off. Paul tossed him the sack. “No.” The free weed didn’t seem cool anymore. Being able to con doctors into believing he had an overwhelming anxiety disorder didn’t seem like a triumph anymore. He bounded back to his room and texted Saucy: Meet. Arbor. Noon.”
Paul saw her walking across the patio toward the tables that were shaded by pepper trees donated by alumni memorializing the victory of 2018—the year the Aztecs became the Arborists, and the school logo changed from a warrior to Johnny Appleseed—and decided she was beautiful in an old-timey way. “I take it this isn’t a date. What’s wrong?” She carried a cotton sack from Good Earth Foods and sat it on the table. Inside was a container of strawberries and melon balls and one of dipping yogurt. She handed him a fork. He handed her a bottle of iced tea. She’d worn a dress, probably for him, and a necklace made of tiny cloisonné roses that laid against her chest. He tried not to stare but her skin was soft looking. “I went to the attic last night to read. It’s the only quiet place in the house. You know what I found? Old yearbooks. Pictures of Theta Chis wearing red hoodies with the emblem of feather-headdressed guy with a big nose. Pictures of the guys painting the house and mowing the lawn. Pictures of guys wearing togas performing Julius Caesar at the Open Air Theater.” “My grandfather told me his dad took him there to see a guitar player named Santana. In the late 80’s it was called The OAT. Little known historical fact.” He harpooned a strawberry and dragged it through the yogurt before popping it into his mouth. “You know what else the Theta Chis used to do? Sell hotdogs to raise money for their sports equipment. Now we submit a request to Student Activities and get a check in the mail. Hot dogs and fun versus cafeterias and checks.” He pointed to her like the sportscaster on the TV show Instant Replay. “You make the call.” Saucy scrounged up a wad of napkins. “I got a letter from Tipton today. He’s retiring but there’s no Emeritus for him.” “I heard.” Paul started in on the melon. With any luck, she’d read his mind and he wouldn’t have to tell her about Biff. But she sighed and reached into her sack, pulled out two apricots and handed one to him. He rubbed the furry-feeling peel on his cheek and wanted to nuzzle her cleavage. She had to want him as much as he wanted her. “How about we go to the library?”
Through a morphine haze Kitty heard someone calling her—a familiar voice originating from a white blur bending over her. “Kitty. Kitty listen and remember. He’s alive.” He kissed her cheek and the hand stroked her hair. Then he was gone and she drifted off into a dream filled with whispers. “She’ll sleep, and it’s the best thing for her,” Doctor Meier said. “I can’t leave her.” But Horst was already following Meier out the door to a comfortable room, more a parlor than a hospital office, and collapsed into a chair by the fireplace. “Lord, what do I tell her?” “The nurses will take good care of her.. As for the Lord. I’ve been practicing medicine for thirty years and he’s never responded, my friend. You have to decide what to do.” Meier stroked the coals and laid a log on the glowing embers. Satisfied a fire was underway, he went to a tea cart where a decanter of dark brandy rested on a tray. He poured them each a glass and handed one to his distraught guest. “You love her and want to do what’s best for her. The question is, what’s best in the long run. A baby is physically manageable, but his body is going to keep growing even if his mind isn’t. Who changes his diapers when he’s fifteen? Twenty? Maybe you’ll be lucky and the National Health will pay for a caretaker when you’re exhausted from taking turns feeding him for forty years. And what happens when he outlives you?” Horst took a healthy swig of the warm liquid courage. “You’re sure there’s brain damage?” “There’s no doubt. Portions of the umbilical cord were necrotized. The fetus has suffered oxygen deprivation. It’s been over ten hours and all he’s done is breathe and eat. Kitty shouldn’t have continued the 19
pregnancy.” “But you examined her.” Meier sighed. “I told her it was risky. She isn’t built to carry a grapefruit let alone a full-term fetus. I assumed she told you I offered her—an alternative.’ “Damn it!” Horst slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. “Damn her too!” He went to the cart and filled his glass. “It’s my fault for telling her how happy I was—how perfect our life was. Why did she believe me?” “So, you would have agreed to spare her then, but not now?” “I...I don’t know. Maybe.” He’d barely slept in three days. A few hours in the chapel when he was supposed to be praying. Another hour when he went home for a quick shower and a shave. “I’ve known Kitty since she was ten. She’s lovable but hard to deal with. Strong as steel. She’ll get over this.” Meier opened his desk drawer and removed a packet of forms. “I think you know I have to report the birth to the physician’s committee. They’ll make a quality of life determination, but they’ll support my conclusions. As for Kitty. She should never get pregnant again. There’s a humane, painless way to resolve this without an unpleasant delay of the inevitable.” By signing the consent form, Horst knew he was agreeing to two mortal sins: involuntary sterilization and euthanasia. But they were the right thing to do. Meier could leave out the details. She’d delivered a stillborn and complications made a hysterectomy essential. End of story. In a few days, this would all be behind them.
Hysterectomies, however, weren’t out-patient surgeries. “She’ll need help during recovery,” Dr. Meier told him before they went into her room. Kitty was sitting up, vomiting into a pan resting on her lap. “It’s the aftereffects of the anesthesia. She’ll be woozy for the next few days. And the dressing will have to be kept clean. It’s normal for the incision to ooze a little, but if it starts to bleed or the ooze turns yellow...” Horst was shaking so hard, Meier steadied him as he sank into a chair at her bedside. She was pale and her eyes swollen red patches pasted on her forehead. “Is she going to die?” he blurted. “I’ll be alright,” she said weakly. “Maybe Valerie can come by during the day.” Valerie moved into the room that was to be a nursery. She cleaned and cooked for the grieving couple, and cooed soothing words of comfort when she helped Kitty in and out of the bathtub, and offered expert advice when Kitty’s ignorant body made sure she had enough milk for two babies. She wrapped a towel tightly around Kitty’s swollen breasts and told her not to pump out the fluid. “It’ll only stimulate production. And you should walk about as soon as you’re able.” Horst praised her to the neighbors, offered her money, and escaped into work. Six weeks later, she returned to her job with the Ministry of Propaganda and life returned to normal. Until the night he came home and found Kitty sitting, cross-legged, on the floor with the box of baby clothes he’d stored in the cellar—and forgotten about after he gave away the cradle and the dressing table. Who’d brought it up stairs for her? He hung his coat in the closet and walked past her to the kitchen pretending not to notice. He couldn’t bear to see the tiny blue sweaters and yellow saques or the satin-trimmed blankets with the appliquéd bunnies . “Come sit beside me,” she said when he sat his beer bottle on the dining table. Her voice was sweet but her eyes were icy. She was sewing. His gaze traveled to the white lacy baptismal gown and cap draped on the sofa cushion—pristine except for the large red circle sewn over its tiny pearl-adorned doves—and then to a vase of white roses, a dozen at least, on the table behind the sofa. “Who was here? Valerie?” She snipped the thread with a pair of small scissors and held up a little blue shirt. It too had a red circle. 20
“Klaus. He came to say good-bye. He’s leaving his job at the hospital. “ Horst wiped sweat beads from his forehead. “So he traded journalism for medicine?” He went to the flowers and found the card. Condolences and Love was all it said. “He worked as an orderly long enough to buy tickets to America. And he found Max—who managed to convince the guards he was a good Nazi and there’d been a terrible mistake. It turns out he was a better actor than Valerie.” Dr. Meier said kitty might have problems. Fluctuating hormones take time to stabilize. But her voice sounded programmed, like she was reading from a script from a Riefenstahl film. And her face. Only her lips moved. Her eyes were ember-like, glowing with cold fire. “When I get to heaven, I’m going to tell the angels I can’t be happy until I have my son with me. Go to Limbo and bring him to me, I’ll tell them.” She gave him a vacant, child-like smile. “Do you think they will do that for me? Because he can’t go to heaven. Klaus says they don’t baptize the infants. They throw them into bags and burn the bags when they’re full. ” She handed him an opened letter. “You’ve been called up.” He approached her warily. Klaus and Max were always digging around for stores. Investigative journalism they called it. It was pulp fiction, stories of alleged Nazi atrocities against the mentally incompetent and the old published to scare the hell out of people—like the Nazi propaganda films of alleged Czech atrocities everyone knew were fake to scare the hell into people. Valerie told him. Dr. Meier told him. Maybe Kitty believed Klaus’ stories. He skimmed the letter, searching for the words Deferment Application or Critical Industry. He’d make the case he could serve Hitler better in the munitions factories than on the battlefield. If the Wehrmacht didn’t believe him, it would certainly believe Dr. Meier. Married men with children were temporarily excused. He looked down at Kitty, whose stone face was now animated with delight. “Why, you’re a s pale as a ghost. Come, sit beside me and I will comfort you, frightened child.” He touched her outstretched hand and it was icy. The room was cold. She tugged at his hand. “Klaus brought me a present. Would you like to see it?” He shook off her hand. “No. Where are they—Klaus and Max—where are they? Tell me!” From under her knitted shawl, she withdrew a red vial about an inch long attached to a silver chain. She held it before her eyes and it dangled in the light. “My son’s blood. Poor, helpless baby who never felt his mother’s touch.” Horst grabbed the vial and threw it in the fire. Gasping a sob, he sank into a chair. The vial popped, and there was a instant sputter as the blood evaporated, then only the soft crackle of the wood. “Where are they?” he demanded again. “Bastards, I’ll kill them both.” He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “I ought to kill you. If you’d listened to Meier, you could’ve spared us.” But Kitty was said nothing. She gathered the christening layette and went to the bedroom where a halfpacked Samsonite lay on the bed. She added the folded layette to her sweaters and underwear and a gray wool business suit, and put everything in the suitcase. “Horst, come here and help me,” she said. He came to the door. “I can’t fasten the lock...” “Kitty, where are you going?” He came closer and opened his arms to her in supplication. She reached under the pillow for the pistol Klaus had given her. She fired three times through the feathers and Horst fell to the floor. She knelt beside him, and tried to push his body under the bed, cursing her body’s weakness. She sat back, braced herself self with her arms and used her feet. He wouldn’t be missed until Monday. She’d be in the Tyrol by then. She closed the suitcase, wiggled into her coat, and grabbed her purse. Klaus was waiting for her at the train station.
Saucy heard the knock-signal and opened the door. Two weeks, Prof. Tipton had told her, and the remaining book holdings would be euthanized at the burn dump. Take what you want. We put up a hell’uva good fight. A paper fight, she’d confided to him. Even in the dimness he could see her eyes were red. “That why you’re sneakin’ books out?” “And sneakin’ food and water in so I can stay overnight,” she said, “I’m reviewing the collection. Leaving the out-of-date references like the almanacs and the Britannica’s. Taking the best of the duplicates.“ “Where you takin’ them?” “I rented a storage unit. Tipton may think it’s a lost cause, but I’m not giving up just because I can save them all.” “What about this book?” he said, handing her the worn green volume. “Is there another copy of this? The last three chapters are missing.” She laid in on the table and opened it carefully. The spine had separated, the cover held on by one glued page front and back. “The Confession...by Tonio Slavold. Let me check.” She booted up her laptop and scanned through the listing she’d made. “Where did you find this?” “On the history shelf beside Shirer’s book.” “I don’t have it listed. It must be good, if you want to finish it.” She was smiling now. “I hit every story-teller site—Kindle, E-Story, SDSU fiction holdings. Would you ask Tipton about it?” She almost said, ask him yourself, but he couldn’t do it. It was dangerous enough for him to be seen with her. “Tell me the story so far,” she said and brought out sandwiches and fruit from a Styrofoam cooler. Between bites he told her about the six friends the war divided. How each one came to realize the unthinkable was real. How difficult it was to know what was happening, what was the right thing to do, and how love didn’t conquer all. “Tell me how you want it to end.” “I want Kitty and Klaus to escape.” “And live happily ever after? “ She gathered up the used napkins and put them in the trash. He produced two cans of flavored mineral water and gave one to her. “Why not?” “By 1938, it was too late. It was fight or die. More like fight and die anyway.” She loaded her backpack with books she took from a shelf labeled SAVE. “You think I’m stupid, don’t you?” “I think you want life to be easy and hard at the same time. You’d sell hot-dogs to raise money but if you fail, you’d want the government to write a check for the difference. Courage only counts when there’s no guarantee of the outcome. ” She checked the clock. “You gott’a go. They’ll be locking the doors. “The sleeping bag looks big enough for two.” “The Frat house will report you missing to Student Services. You’ll freak out and tell them about the ghosts.” “Ghosts?” “That’s what Tipton calls his books. Whoever Slavold was, he’s dead now. The war’s been over a hundred years. “ She wrapped a rubber band around The Confession. “I’ll show this to Tipton.” “Give me the key to the storage unit—it’s U-Store It isn’t it?” “Yes, but...” “But I’ll take this load over and you fill up my backpack.” He loaded more books into hers. “It’ll go quicker if I do the heavy lifting.” She gave him the key to Row C-21. He kissed her cheek. “You’ll be safe 22
here?” “They don’t ask about me. I’m a nobody. But you...they’ll throw you out of school and into jail.” Paul was already turning the door knob. He blew her a kiss and slipped out.
“Thought I’d stop by and check in on you.” Biff was back, his toothy smile reminding Paul of the skull mask Rudy wore to the Halloween beer bash. “I thought I’d give studying a try. Maybe I can pass that test without help.” “We all need help, you know. No shame in admitting that. Go-it-aloners suffer from all kinds of ailments. Loneliness, ulcers, bad health habits.” Paul thought of Kitty and Klaus and mutual reliance. “That’s true.” “Is that the reason you spent the whole SoCal day in the library when you could have been volleyballing at the beach?” Biff was talking past him, looking at the backpack he’d just emptied in the attic. If Biff had followed him, he knew it had once bulged with something that made it impossible for him to sprint back to Theta Chi House. “I’m no go-it-aloner. I brought back goodies from the gedunks in the library study hall.” “Oh, so that’s where you disappeared to.” “Yep. Fresh fruit. Granola bars.” Anything he could think of stored in the frat house kitchen in case Biff wanted to verify. “We’ll see you tomorrow?” “Sure. But right now, I need to use a quarter...” He’d staved off further intrusion with an appeal to hygiene. Peeking around the attic window curtains, he surveyed the yard, and caught sight of Biff on his bike speeding to another spy gig. You had to give it to ‘ol Biff, he was buff. He squatted by a box of old clothes where the contraband was hidden, and perused the titles Saucy thought worth saving: Darkness at Noon, The Gulag Archipelago, Collected Works of Kafka, Atlas Shrugged, My Name is Ivan, The Execution of Private Slovak....
Klaus showed their tickets to the man behind the counter, who stamped them with a dater and scrawled his initials underneath. “Platform nine,” he said, and directed their attention to the signs posted over the doors leading outside. “Plenty of time, don’t hurry,” he cautioned. They moved to the newspaper kiosk and bought a copy of Goebbels’ Der Angriff before exiting. On the platform, a man in a gray uniform led them downstairs to the tracks, and through a door under the platform. “Be quiet,” he said. “Someone will fetch you.” Another two flight of stairs took them to the basement where five other people waited, huddled against the cold. A woman handed Kitty a piece of chocolate-covered marzipan she took from a heart-shaped box. Kitty nodded a thank-you. She lost track of time, but not the number of train whistles she heard coming and going into the station. Fifty. Finally, it was quiet, except for the soft thuds of boots on the stairs. She look up and saw a man dressed in black and carrying a rifle. “I’m Tonio Slavold,” he said. “You can get on a train that will take you south, or you can follow me and fight. Either way there’s no turning back. “Without a word, Klaus stood up and walked to him. “Leave your luggage,” Slavold said. 23
Kitty left her suitcase and stood next to Klaus. She heard a boy whisper, “Good-bye Mama. Papa,” before joining them. He waved to his brother and sister....
At four AM Saucy finished The Confession, put her sleeping bag on the table, turned out the light, and snuggled in. “Don’t sleep on the floor,” Tipton had warned. “Mice.” It was foolish to think Paul was helping because he loved her. Still...to know that her eyes saw what his had read seemed fateful, like a kind of marriage to all the other eyes that read Slavold’s words. How many hands had turned the pages over a century, perhaps set the book on a table beside their bed, or carried it to the park? How many ghost-readers had become lovers or fighters too? She scolded herself. It was a war story, not a love story....then again, neither of them knew how it ended. Happily ever after wasn’t real, but happy for a while was here and now.
The sirens and the smell of ashy air awakened Paul. He’d fallen asleep in the attic, book in hand, wrapped in a cotton bedspread folded in half, and had to unwind from a plaid prison before crawling to the window. “What’s going on?” he yelled to Rudy who was sitting on the top slat of the fence that separated the Theta Chi yard from Delta Nu’s. “The old library’s burning. Can you see it from up there?” He could now. The windows were red with dancing flames as, one by one, rooms sealed for decades lost the last of their oxygen. With shaking fingers, he texted Saucy: Out? Alive? Tell me! But got no response. “Where’d it start?” he yelled to Rudy—it a question his racing pulse and watery eyes already knew the answer to. He wanted to run to the scene. To demand to know if anyone had been pulled from the building. To search for Saucy. To tell her he’d taken the books to storage. He wanted to be a Klaus and not a Horst but he was afraid. So damnably afraid. He gathered the books, took them to the trash can, and started a fire of his own.
----Jenean McBrearty is a proud graduate of San Diego State University, and former community college instructor (Political Science and Sociology), who proves that those who can, do, those that can’t, teach, and those who no longer teach, write. She received the Eastern Kentucky University English Department’s Award for Graduate Non-fiction (Mexicali Mamas published in bioStories) in 2011, and has been published in Mad Swirl, Scout and Engineer, Relief and Glasschord, among a slew of others. Her Novel, Raphael Redcloak was serialized by Jukepop, and her detective novel, The 9th Circle will be published by Barbarian Books. She has self-published three books—Tales of the German Mind, Helmut Wolf, and Deathly Short Stories—available on Amazon. She resides in Kentucky, and writes full time. 24
Jeff Shaffer Hi there, and thanks for shopping at Total-Mart. How’s the day going? Cranial surgery? Wow, hope it’s nothing serious. But you know, I can’t even tell anything happened with that hat on. Do I want to see? Well, I guess so if it’s not—HOLY BLEEDING JESUS! Hat back on! Hat back on! Wow, wow, dude that was really gnarly. Visual TMI. Is it normal to have your brain just sitting there covered in Saran Wrap? Oh, it’s just the first stage. Sounds good. Say, do you want paper or plastic? Sure, double plastic, you got it. Did you find everything you were looking for? Umm, I don’t think we carry rolls of gauze. No one’s ever asked me that. It might be seasonal. Gauze. I always liked the sound of that word. Got any big plans for the weekend? Just staying alive—hey, I hear ya. So how long did you have to stay in the hospital? ONE DAY? Oh, no insurance. Yeah, it’s tight everywhere. Did you check out our specials? Two for one today on all shampoo and skin care products. Oh, right, you don’t really need shampoo. My bad. That’s a really nice sweater, where’d you get it? You’re kidding. The dumpster behind our loading dock? Now THAT’S a bargain. Man, I’m gonna have to start checking out that dumpster myself. I always say we have the smartest customers at Total-Mart. These Barky Boy treats are really getting popular. What’s your dog’s name? They’re for YOU? Hey, that’s cool. Better than scarfing down cheese puffs all day. Salty snacks of doom, that’s what I say. They just make people fat. Barky Boys are probably way healthier. Do you have a rewards card? You know what that is? Just fill out the application and then each time you shop here we scan the card and every three months you get a coupon in the mail that’s just like cash. No mailing address? You don’t get mail? Well, then, I guess we’re all done here. Yeah, coins are fine, you want me to just take the baggie and count them out? No problem at all. Boy, your hands are really shaking, are you okay? Do you need help out to your car? You don’t have a car? Hey, good for you. Way to fight the global warming. Is your house nearby? You live in the old brewery? Seriously? Do you know Joey Stetson? He’s my best friend and his band practices in the brewery. Bones of Moses. Isn’t that a bomb name? They’ve got their stuff set up in one of those big tanks, he says it’s like being in a studio. Thanks for coming in. Hey—something just fell out of your mouth! On the floor, right there, do you see? Is that a TOOTH? Wait--you don’t want it back? Are you sure? Yeah, I’ll take care of it. No worries. And you have a super great day! pp
When will it be enough? It’s one thing to have an almost monthly violent attack – the Newtown school shooting, the cop killer Christopher Dorner, the riots of Brooklyn resulting in martial law, the threat of nuclear war coming down from North Korea, and now the Boston Bombing... just to name a few – but to have these events followed up by the hate speech of the Westboro Baptist Church and those like them is just an outright abomination. These people prey on the victims of gun violence and terrorism, they use it to fuel their backward agenda and they ride the wave of tragedy and death the way advertisers ride fashion trends or tabloids ride celebrity faux pas. It’s disgusting. Not only are they making a bad situation worse, not only are they adding misery to the suffering of the victimized, but they are doing all of that to further their own hateful message – they are parasites, the worst kind of human scum, traffickers in pain, narrow mindedness and cultural stagnation. There are not enough words in this or any other language to even approach how I feel about them but, as I said in a recent podcast, the closest I can come is “this is the worst thing there is” and “they are dangerous.” When will it be enough? When will we realize that these people are not just eccentric evangelicals, overzealous disciples of a dying philosophy, or a bunch of hillbilly kooks? When will we realize that they are no different than the terrorists? They are emotional terrorists, spiritual mad bombers, the worst kind of filth. They are an immovable wall that can neither be spoken to nor reasoned with and they are proud of it. They consider their hate mongering, their absent reason a point of religious devotion, a merit badge of the pure faith. And what’s worse, they use the freedoms our nation affords them to abuse those enjoying the same freedoms. As freedom of religion protects them from being silenced they shout death wishes and borderline death threats against the masses that enjoy a freedom of choice, a freedom of speech, and yes, even a freedom of religion to live and die and marry and eat and drink and make families as they see fit. What bigger irony could there be? Even as Westboro’s freedom enables them to puke vengeance and enmity over the corpses of
the fallen and tweet the vile words of a hateful, angry and imagined god across Twitter (right, like God Twitters) they saber rattle their religious beliefs at those who have made choices in opposition to their views under the protection of the exact same freedoms! But wait, there’s more. Perhaps the one larger irony than even that is the fact that they sport the same mentalities and small-mindedness as the terrorists who claim to be at war with their religion, savior and Lord. Extremist followers of Mohammed are supposed to be attacking us because they oppose our lifestyle choices, government, and religion. So they will kill us. The Westboro People and their leaders, the Phelps family, oppose our lifestyle choices in America, our government, and our opposing views on religion. So they say their God will kill us, and they claim credit for any number of hate crimes and terrorist attacks in his name. They say that God is acting through the terrorists, that the hatred the terrorists have toward us and the hatred God has toward us are one and the same. Another irony considering their God and Allah couldn’t feel the same things because Christians are always insisting that their God and Allah are not the same. But, to hear WBC tell it, their vengeance is the same and so is their call to violent action, punishment and killing. There’s some talk out there that the Phelps family and their church mongers are actually just big scam artists, that all of this hate speech is just a big set up for lucrative lawsuits. People say that because several of them are high-ranking lawyers in Kansas government who have been known to sue for big sums whenever their rights were being infringed upon that, in fact, their whole plot is to go out there, press people’s buttons hard and mean until someone attacks or slanderizes them and then hit them up for all they’re worth. It makes sense and the evidence to this fact is significant. I mean, the simple fact that, like I have already mentioned, they seem to be locked and loaded at any given moment, ready to spew their hate all over any given tragedy in the same way fashionistas chase trends or personal injury lawyers chase ambulances means 29
you can definitely see a kind of opportunism there. Whether that opportunism, that agenda, is religiously motivated, financially motivated, or both is irrelevant. I don’t care if they’re only in it for the money. I don’t care if they’re in it because they’re wacko God told them to. And, I don’t care if they are pursuing a vengeful God and found a way to get rich doing it (everyone else does, why shouldn’t they?) All of it’s wrong. All of it is emotional parasitism feeding off of the open wounds of a nation and, like so many parasites of their kind, spreading disease and infection as they do it. Maybe this is a scam, and it might even be a good one, but it doesn’t change the fact that a religious nut job or a con artist doesn’t explain away the fact that they wave picket signs that say things like “Fag Marriage Dooms Nations” or “God Sent the Bombs” or that they thought of these words and put them out into the world: “The federal government is classifying the bombs as a terrorist attack, but say it’s unclear if it’s of a domestic or foreign nature, Here’s a hint — GOD SENT THE BOMBS! How many more terrifying ways will you have the LORD injure and kill your fellow countrymen because you insist on nation-dooming filthy fag marriage?! “Christ Jesus said that same-sex marriage would prevail just before the time that He returns in power and glory, taking vengeance on the disobedient (Luke 17; 2 Thes. 1). Massachusetts invited this special wrath from God Almighty when it was the FIRST STATE to pass same-sex marriage on May 17, 2004. As a direct and immediate result of that first step down the slippery slope to nationwide fag marriage, God sent the devastating bombs to the Boston Marathon.” Okay, so first of all. No he didn’t. Christ didn’t predict anything about gay marriage and the end
times. Now, without opening a can of worms better suited to a completely different article, I want to say a couple of things about said Gay Marriage. First, as I already pointed out in my podcast, the nature of marriage has been changed and continues to change almost annually, there was a time when it was a strictly religious institution, now it is run by the state, there was a time when it was a grossly sexist arrangement denying the liberties and opinions of the women involved and functioned on a par with sex slave trading or prostitution. The fact that it’s changing again is not a descent into hell, it is an evolution toward embracing human dignity, freedom of choice, and diversity. Next, the selections from scripture they have used here do not, in any way, relate to same sex marriage. They relate to the second coming of Christ and how it will be sudden, unexpected, and fast as lightning. These verses make mention of people living their lives, “eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage.” And then Christ comes and takes people away. The point isn’t that there is a punishment for eating, drinking or marrying, it’s a poetic way of saying “living life,” things will be business as usual and then God will appear like a crack of lightning and the world will change. That’s the idea in these gospels. Luke 27 makes mention of Sodom and Gomorrah. But that is not to say (as implied by the WBC) that things will be like Sodom and Gomorrah again in the sense of homoerotic orgies in the streets or whatever it is Christians these days are told Sodom and Gomorrah was like. The focus, people, is actually on the story of Lot and his wife. For those who don’t know, in the myth God smites Sodom and Gomorrah for being a place of sin. He rains fire from heaven and destroys it, the only survivors are a man named Lot, his wife and his daughters. As they leave the city they are told to not look back, but Lot’s wife looks back anyway. Her body is transformed into “a pillar of salt” and she is, of course, dead. Christ, in referencing this story, is actually telling people that when it comes to following God you can’t look back. You can’t be like Lot’s wife. You have to leave everything where it is, drop it all, abandon your 30
life, and follow God. These verses are about a kind of wild abandon that Christ required of his followers. It is foolish to focus on the debaucherous reputation of Sodom and Gomorrah when the lesson here has nothing to do with homosexuality and everything, instead, to being ready for the call of heaven and to be willing to commit, fully, to the cause even at the cost of your own life. This is the real message of Christ and this is why it is a foolish reference in the hateful remarks of the WBC in regard to Boston and “fag marriage.”
that line “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind,” but that’s not the cliché I want to reference here. These so-called followers of Christ, that spout “an eye for an eye” in the same breath as the name “Jesus” seem to have forgotten that Jesus was the guy that coined “turn the other cheek.” And do you know the context of “turn the other cheek?” The dude was talking about how “an eye for an eye” was wrong. He’s telling his disciples not to seek revenge, not to seek an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth, he says, instead, that when someone strikes your cheek you should offer them the other. That’s right, not only was Christ a pacifist, but he was the guy who freaking invented the concept of “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Yeah. So when someone references that kind of vengeance and refers to themselves as a Christian you can be pretty damn sure they don’t know their Bible half as well as they think they do.
In addition to the fact that government shouldn’t really have a say or involvement in what marriage is defined as at all, I’d like to add what is becoming a familiar concept in this article. In restricting lifestyle choices, freedom to live, love, and marry as we see fit, we are enforcing an attitude of old time legalism that we typically apply to our enemy overseas. The talking points out there, the media drivel on the topic of Muslim jihad and how they “hate our freedom” is based on Islam’s position of traditional morals in regard to God and sex. In restricting things like the right to marriage or the right to openly serve in the military as a homosexual we are acting in direct defiance of the very freedoms that this pseudo religious war is all about. We’re behaving with the same attitude and antiquated religious perspectives as the terrorists who oppose us. We are no different from the terrorists themselves and, in all seriousness, despite the obvious joke, you could say that if we don’t approve gay marriage in America then “the terrorists have already won.”
The WBC likes to claim that God is a vengeful God smiting his enemies and sending invaders and marauders to punish us for our disobedience. First of all, this is an Old Testament attitude that any true Christian should know went out of style with the first appearance of Christ. He said none of that stuff mattered anymore because he was changing the rules and blah, blah if you want to know more go read the Bible, I shouldn’t have to do all the work for you. But what you may have missed is that he said the world would know his followers by their love, that they shouldn’t speak hatefully or vengefully and, these words are cool, dude:
Now that that’s out of the way, there are a few things I’d like to air out in regard to WBC. I have just a few careful observations about their behavior and how it measures up with the document they like to flout like a weapon, The Holy Bible:
“All who draw the sword shall die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
1) When I think about this kind of religion, this backward take on the scriptures that brandishes “an eye for an eye” like a flaming sword, I get really uptight about it. Everybody always says 31
This does not mean that anyone who fights will be struck down by God. It means that violence begets violence. If you pick up weapons to fight you can be sure that you will be killed by those same weapons sooner or later. The words here are simple, create a climate of violence and you will be destroyed by violence. And yet, in direct contradiction of their own holy scriptures, the WBC encourage a climate of vengeance, death, mayhem and punishment and are only asking for that climate to come crashing through their church rafters sooner or later. This isn’t a threat, this isn’t an observation, this is merely a restatement of the claims in their own holy book.
any religion, not in favor of one over or another, or in favor of none at all. It simply can’t get involved. Ironically (there’s that word again) the exact right that has granted these people the liberty to wave signs around like a bunch of assholes is the same right they are looking to overturn by demanding a religiously motivated stance on legislation. Think about it. But there’s another side to this separation of church and state thing. In the Bible some religious dudes were trying to trick Jesus into speaking out against Caesar so that the Romans could bring the hammer down on him and the religious dudes wouldn’t have to worry about all the trouble he’d been causing. They basically say, “Hey, Jesus, what do you think about the church paying money to the Roman Empire?”
2) WBC likes to bad mouth our president, waving signs around with slogans like “Bloody Obama” or “Antichrist Obama” they call him the devil, fag-lover, any number of things, and outright detest the government at large as a tool of the devil and an evil institution. You might wonder what the Bible has to say on the subject. Well, here’s your answer, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” Romans 13:1-2
Jesus was supposed to say something about how Rome sucks and we should all be focused on God or whatever, but instead he just goes, “Let me see one of them coins.” They give him a coin and he goes, “Whose picture is that on there?” And the religious dudes go, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:21
In other words, oppose government, you oppose God, and he’ll punish you. Furthermore, the WBC attempts to control the policies and legislation of government by quoting from scriptures and speaking for God. However, in this country we have separation of church and state. For those who don’t know what that means, it means that the government cannot limit the practice of
You see what happened there? Jesus, all the way back in Bible days, suggested the concept of separation of church and state. In balking at a secular state in favor of religiously motivated government you’re not just turning your nose up at the dream of America or the Constitution and the founding 32 32
fathers, you’re shaking your fist at the philosophies of the Messiah himself. Dude.
building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4: 29
3) Next, the WBC is now famous for their hate speech, they say things like “God Hates Fags” or they talk about “fags” burning in hell or how our choices are dooming the nation. After the Sikh Temple shootings in Wisconisn in August 2012 they tweeted “God sent another shooter?” and “beautiful work from an angry God...” They picketed the funerals at Newtown after the Sandy Hook shooting “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” After the Boston bombing they even went so far as to compose a song that goes:
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1 19-20 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? ...” (in other words, it’s easy to love nice people, but only a follower of God can love an asshole) Matthew 5 43-48
“Your fall all began in Massachusetts Where the wedding fags first found a home Now God’s light has gone out in Massachusetts And the whole nation reaps just what you have sown” And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of everything that has been said by these animals over the course of the past decade relating to nearly every tragedy, our fallen soldiers, AIDS victims and more. These people have turned a so-called religion of peace and neighborly love into a machine of bilious propaganda and rage, again, in much the same way a handful of fringe Islamic radicals turned a socalled religion of peace into a globally renowned cult of violence. It’s no different.
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:11 Keep something in mind, folks. These are the words of King Solomon, scripture’s “wisest man who ever lived,” the words of the Apostle Paul, the most prolific missionary in the Bible, James, the brother of Christ, and of course, the
But, once more, what does their Bible say? “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for 33
Big Kahuna Jesus Christ himself. These words span hundreds of years and the whole history of the Bible from Old to New Testament. I feel it’s safe to say that if there is one consistent truth of Christianity it’s “don’t say mean shit.”
this stuff started happening again. I’m tired of it and I want to share this with the world. Just to squash any rumors now, I am not religious, not anymore, I hate religion and what it does to my world. I hate that one religion wants to kill me for not agreeing with it, I hate that another wants to limit freedom because of some ambiguous concept of morality, I hate that science and reason have been stunted for thousands of years by the fear of an invisible God. I want to see a bigger world, broader change, I want to see my world throw off the shackles of the old world and its superstitions and traverse the stars. And no, that is not a metaphor. So, speaking as someone who does not wish to be called a Christian or an atheist, but rather, if a label must be chosen as a humanist, a futurist, and a Trekkie, I’ll end on one final scripture:
4) And finally, how about “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7 I have written this to say one thing and to make it as clear as I possibly can. The Westboro Baptist Church and its followers are not Christians. You heard me right. They might claim to know Christ, they might call themselves his followers, but they are not Christians and that is evidenced in the multitudes of violations and deferments from the tenants of their claimed religion. They are a cult, a gang of con man and emotional terrorists, they are a plague on this nation and they should be treated with the same limitations and restraints we put on NeoNazis and KKK members, not those afforded to legitimate followers of a faith. I don’t see how they deserve any religious protection, tax relief, or respect when they are nothing more than a gang of bullies hiding behind their right to practice “religion.” I don’t care if this comes across as biased, I don’t care if this is bad journalism or bad writing. It’s two in the morning and I’ve been up late for days ever since
Matthew 7: 21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ pp
Trevor D. Richardson is the author of American Bastards and the upcoming novel Dystopia Boy. He is the founder and editor of The Subtopian Magazine and a firm believer in the possibility of Utopia and the power of human invention. Creativity is the answer and Trevor wants to find more creative people to fill the community that is Subtopian. Sources: Bachner, Wolff. “Westboro Baptist Church Members Work For Kansas State Govt. With Extensive Protection Against Firing.”
The Inquisitr. 19 April 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
“Westboro Baptist Church says they’ll picket Boston Marathon victims’ funerals.” (2012). Retrieved April 19, 2013, from http://rt.com/usa/ westboro-picket-boston-funerals-951/
The Logic of Conspiracy Theory
by david renton
Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories... -- George W. Bush
Conspiracy theory. Let’s take a look at this for a minute and really think. There is an attitude in this country that a conspiracy theorist is a nut. A crank. An oddball. Mentally divergent. Dangerous. When you hear those words you immediately hear other words in your head: Roswell, JFK, assassination, cover up, UFOs, 9/11 was an inside job, X-Files...whatever. The power of fiction, the influence of propaganda, and the comfort of the American Dream are powerful agents in controlling the mind. A person can think they are having their own opinions, thoughts or revelations, but those thoughts are never far removed from these influences. If I say “God” you think “Jesus.” If I say “liberty” you picture the Constitution or the big statue in New York. If I say “socialism” a voice inside you tells you to react negatively, or apologetically, and you don’t even know why. Matter of fact, socialism is a really interesting example of this phenomenon. When you think about it, you might find you even agree with the philosophies, but when you talk about them you qualify them with “I know it doesn’t work, but...” You do all of these things, yet you think your mind is your own. It isn’t, not entirely. When I say “conspiracy theory,” you think “bull shit.” And, perhaps, rightfully so. Maybe the ideas are thin, ridiculous, and overreaching. Maybe some are and some aren’t. Maybe some of the theories are dead on. There is an old saying that was created by a wellknown dictator, “hearts and minds,” controlling people by force isn’t enough, you have to make them love you. Our society, our nation, and our way of life is built on concepts, ideologies, principles, and talking points. They are a part of us as a people. For good or ill, these things control us, as much as our nature or environment, the national philosophy dictates how we think. And how we think dictates how we choose. Within that system of thought our “hearts and minds” are held in check, perhaps comfortably, perhaps joyfully, but still, they are held down. For some it is a prison of frustration, helplessness and fervent indignation. For others it is a blind indulgence, the faithful, unquestioning certainty that what we are doing is right, that we will prevail, and we deserve to do so. Both of these are prisons, but one is more visible than the other. My point is this: the conspiracy theorist is the one that feels trapped by the hive mind culture of his homeland, who disagrees with it, but sees no way out. The conspiracy theorist looks for truth, corruption, lies, fact versus fiction, and hidden agendas where others might simply busy themselves with the frivolities of their every day lives. Yes, that person is a little bit crazy, however, I submit, that their craziness is not represented by their belief in improbabilities, but in their acute awareness of not being the only keeper of their mind. Let’s be clear. I do not necessarily believe all of these conspiracies are out there. But I do believe in the possibility of authoritarian corruption, tyrannical motivation, greedy desire, or 35
corporate media as a mask. I am open to these concepts and I too feel like I am not the only person in my head affecting my opinions and decisionmaking. Like the conspiracy theorist, I can hear the voice of the hive mind telling me to fall in line, obey, and be silent. I can feel the yoke of law around my throat like a fist and I can see the darkness in the white marble of my nation’s monuments. I can see the possibilities and even probabilities of dishonesty when looking at the official stories of any number of tragedies. There are famed titles for conspiracy theories now, “Magic Bullet Theory,” “Controlled Demolition Theory,” and “Faked Lunar Landing” come to mind, and these titles have the adverse side effect of sounding like works of fiction. Put a clever title on something and suddenly it sounds like a book or an episode of television – such is the nature of our minds and our culture. However, despite the tone of fantasy resonating off of such concepts, I can see the possibility, the potential for lies and shrouds. When someone says “9/11 was an inside job” my first thought is, “Well, yeah, probably, but that doesn’t mean it was who you think it was.” You know? I’m saying, just because you suspect foul play doesn’t mean you have the right guy for the crime. In typical allegorical fashion, we throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s either a 100% accurate theory or the cover story is right. Never mind the possibility that the motivation for suspecting conspiracy was right with the possibility of a few missed points. But we allow for no middle ground. You’re either right or you’re insane. Now, with that in mind, there are already conspiracy theories swirling around the recent bombing of the Boston Marathon. And again I find myself thinking, maybe it isn’t as simple as what we’re being told, but that doesn’t mean it’s this massive conspiracy running up to the heights of Washington. I have seen the inconsistent data, the inaccurate descriptions and confused photographs. I see the reason for suspecting some kind of shady dealings, but I also don’t know that the specifics of any conspiracy theory are correct because they are based in circumstantial evidence and conjecture. However, for the sake of clarity, I do accept that the photographs of the bombers prior to the explosions show them carrying backpacks that are different colors than the backpacks shown to have been used in the bombing. I have heard the reports of the first suspect being taken down in one piece and then showing up dead, maimed and bloodied later. I even saw a sideby-side comparison of one of the victims from Boston with the principal of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and they appear to be the same lady with different names. These things raise eyebrows. But, as a reasonable person, I make no radical leaps to “the FBI staged the whole thing” or “Obama did it to effect legislation.” All of this was very well documented on imgur.com (http://imgur.com/a/ Nx8EU ) and is worth a look. But, as a man of reason, I have to admit that some of it could just be simple errors in reporting. Somebody pasted the wrong image into the story or somebody got their facts turned around. I understand that in the desire to be the first to report a new fact during such a tragedy it is easy to rush things and get something wrong. However, I am interested in the idea of the FBI being less than forthcoming in these events. I have seen some internet images comparing the discarded remains of the backpack bomb with the backpacks of some of the FBI agents on the scene and they appear to be identical. For example. But more than that, I do 36
not see the FBI as some pristine, trustworthy guardian of law and order. There has always been a thread of evil running through that organization, even from its inception. When J. Edgar Hoover brought the first officers of the law under the banner of the FBI to root out organized crime in America the men empowered were every bit as violent, boorish and dangerous as the gangsters they investigated. J. Edgar Hoover himself was known for conniving, twisting the truth, and doing whatever it took to get his man. This thread has carried through history, through the Protest Era and the illegal tapping of phones, through the silencing of eyewitnesses and even the falsification of data, but perhaps more important than any of that is a recent event in Portland, Oregon. I am referring to the attempted bombing of a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square by what you could call an “aspiring jihadist,” Mohamed Osman Mohamud, in 2010. The FBI been monitoring Mohamud as a potential Islamic terrorist living in Portland. He expressed sympathy for the jihadist beliefs and their plight and, while going through some stuff in his personal life, began to pursue a means of getting involved in their jihadist terrorism. In June 2010, he found a handler who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent posing as terrorist. This man groomed the kid, trained him, pushed him toward violence. Prior to the event in December, the men drove a car out to a remote location and tested a bomb hidden inside a backpack. On the day of the event he was sent in a white van to detonate the bomb near the thousands of people gathered at the lighting ceremony in downtown Portland. When he arrived on the scene he attempted to detonate the bomb by dialing a mobile phone. When it did not explode he was instructed to get out of the vehicle for better reception at which point he was apprehended by FBI agents. Now because the bomb was a dummy no one was in any real danger. But the response to these events was tumultuous. I remember. The people of Portland were outraged. Questions were asked repeatedly, like, “Why didn’t they help this kid instead of point him toward violence? What did this accomplish? Weren’t they just taking advantage of a troubled young man?” And yes, they were. To hear Mohamud’s father tell it, the FBI “brainwashed” his son. Now it’s come to light that the mother of the two Boston bombers claimed the FBI had been in contact with them as many as two years prior to the bombing. I found this shocking and the conspiracy theorist in me saw red flags. Another backpack bomb. Another young Islamic kid (couple of kids). FBI involvement. Massive public event. It’s too similar. I find myself wondering. What would we stand to gain from such an exercise? Would someone actually choose to let something like this happen if it accomplished some larger goal? What would that goal be? And the thing I keep coming back to, the one question that sticks in my proverbial craw, is “What does America gain from terrorism?” There could be many answers. A reason to stay at war and maintain a presence overseas despite the assassination of Bin Laden. An endless war to drive up the deficit, increase inflation, increase the need to borrow money, and make the few richer and the common more strained. And, of course, hearts and minds. If someone is attacking America because they “hate our freedom” then we stay united, resolved, as a people to win. It becomes a moral issue. A matter of principal, patriotism and pride. On a similar note, while we were all distracted by the media storm of the Boston Marathon bombing, Congress passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which allows for the sharing of Internet information between our government and the people that maintain 37
the Internet like Google, Facebook, internet service providers, other search engines, manufacturers, etc. It’s supposed to be able to further the government’s ability to investigate against internet crimes, attacks, whatever, but there are those saying that it is just going to be used to tighten the proverbial fist, infringe on rights, and invade privacy even more than before. I can’t argue with that. Every time there is a terrorist attack there is a subsequent law that passes right under the radar, unnoticed in the drama by most media, our metaphorical conspiracy theorist is right in suspecting ulterior motives, shady dealings and the shadow of Big Brother. I’m not declaring that I believe there was some kind of inside job. I’m simply saying that I don’t blame people for thinking something smells funny. It’s been said at this magazine before and I’ll say it again. We should never be so proud, scared or deluded to ask ourselves if America is the bad guy. My conspiracy theory, and you’ll see why this applies, is simple. There’s one thing we should all be wary of in this country: debt. More than war, more than storm trooper soldiers marching the streets, more than any other threat, debt has been used throughout time to subjugate the labor class. If you owe someone, in typical mobster fashion, you’re in their pocket. They own you. And in America we are all in debt, even if you have good credit or low monthly bills, you are in debt by owing annual taxes. You are in debt because it is not free to live here, not for anyone. And debt is created, even multiplied, by the national deficit increasing. The bigger the government’s debt the more we need to print or borrow money. The more debt we create as every new dollar comes with more implied debt. The more it becomes necessary to tax the common to pay for that debt. And so it goes, as we work harder only to owe more, the rich, the powerful, gain steam, grow in strength, and plot the next phase of their nationwide corporate takeover. It’s the way of our world. Finally, so long as we are at war there will be increased spending and increased debt. So long as we are at war we will all be prisoners, slaves, in our own homes. The bogeyman of terrorism does not only represent a war of ideology or religion. It is a war of mind games, posturing, lies, and manipulation against the citizens on both sides of the engagement. We are not free and, ironically, we are less free the harder we fight to protect it. Think about that next time someone says “conspiracy theory.” pp
“CISPA is Big Brother’s Friend”. The New American. Retrieved 05 April 2013. Boston: The Truth Revealed. http://imgur.com/a/Nx8EU
Retrieved 22 April 2013.
Mother Of Boston Bombing Suspects Says FBI Was In Contact With Her Son Grace Wyler. Business Insider.
April 19 2013.
Retrieved April 22 2013.
Everything the Human Condition Has to Offer
by Trevor D. Richardson 4014
First up, the Marathon bombing was a disgusting blight on our history. Tragedy doesn’t sum it up. It was a mar., a horrible scar down the already mottled backside of our once proud nation. It hurts all of us and that is no mere cliché. But I don’t need to rehash all the eulogies of this and every other global catastrophe, we know the words, we know the meaning and the intent. What I want to look at is how people respond in the aftermath. Blame will swirl around like a fickle tornado and there will be scapegoats, culprits, and liars just like there always have been. But there are those who move to the front of the herd, voices that stand out from the clamor, that say something unique, memorable, good or evil. By now you’ve probably seen the quote from comedian Patton Oswalt. The thing went viral in what seemed like less than an hour. However, in case you haven’t, I’d like to share it here. This was posted on his Facebook page on April 15, 2013:
the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness. But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil: We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago. So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
There has always been a thread of hope in every tragedy. What’s more, these threads shine brighter in darkness than they do on an average, ordinary day.
Boston. Fucking horrible. I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.” But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in a while, the wiring of a tiny sliver of
Subtopian is the concept of being in-between paradise and Armageddon – utopia and dystopia – and I think there’s a reason why the subtopian world has held for so long: it’s simple math. For every point you could tack on in favor of Dystopia there’s a point for Utopia to counter it. We stay at zero, or at least close to it. Sure there was a bombing. Sure there are people saying the FBI was in on it. Sure those Westboro creeps turned this into a chance to promote their own corrupt philosophies. But. A comedian used the internet and five simple paragraphs to speak to the hearts of the wounded, the minds of the witnesses, and the truth of our time. And then there’s what Stephen Colbert had to say: When those bombs went off, there were runners who, after finishing a marathon, kept running for another two miles to the hospital to donate blood. So here’s what I know. These maniacs may have tried to make 41
utopia life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good those people are.
reminding him that people show their true spirit in hardship and danger and that, I think, is all the proof we need to know exactly who and what we are.
That’s right, those people just ran twenty-six miles and they just kept running. What could be more Utopian than that? What could be a stronger symbol of the good in the hearts of a people than a tired, scared, hopelessly worn competitor banding together with the men and women he ran his race with to save the lives of the trampled? In trying to break us, in trying to create mayhem, death, and fear, these plotters of destruction gave us the first true marathon since the man from the myth ran the distance from that battlefield to the heart of Rome to deliver his message. It happened again. The runners, in the presence of carnage, dug deep, found the strength to go another step, and another, and finally two more miles than they had trained or planned for, and they got there to give the blood in their veins to save lives – that same boiling, adrenaline-soaked, winded, thin, tired runner’s blood. And the people of a corrupt church would have us believe that mankind is inherently evil. Bull shit. There’s no other way to say it.
The truth is that our lifestyle in this country makes us devalue each other more often than it should. We see each other as obstacles, we callously joke about their being too many of us, and we feel that we don’t really need one another at all. However, when a little bit of chaos creeps in and breaks the monotony of daily American life, when the routine and rhythms of work and sleep and bills and transportation gets interrupted and society gets reduced down to its simplest elements – help or flee, live or die – we see that in that moment of need, that moment where an average person is required to be a hero, there are more heroes in this world than cowards. That, I think, is all I have to say about Utopia this month. Boston showed us everything the human condition has to offer and when you add up all the variables the math is clear: good guys win. pp
----What I love about Patton Oswalt’s quote is the simplicity of it. It’s science versus religion in its most raw, undiluted, and indisputable form. It’s like he’s saying, “Oh, yeah? Your religion says humanity is broken? Well, the math disagrees. Logic dictates that if society was so dark that it would have been crushed under its own weight long ago. And the numbers, the sheer numbers of innocent bystanders rushing toward the wreckage, not knowing what they were running into, far outnumbered the handful of men behind this zealot’s march toward chaos.”
P.S. As you can see, I wrote two pieces for this month’s issue. You know what that means? I need more writers. We get plenty of fiction, but very little journalistic pieces that work for the premise of this magazine. If you’re interested in writing for us maybe consider a piece that could be consider “Utopian or Dystopian News.”
More than that, I love the humility, the honesty, of admitting that he had since lapsed in his faith in his people, but a friend had brought him out of it, 42
L o oks like a duck, sounds like a duck, wa l k s l i k e a d u ck, it mu st be a pen cil. I k e e p h e aring the word mature t h e se d a y s and adult. A nd in c o n t i n u i n g to hear them I am fo r c e d t o t h ink about them and to b e h o n e s t I don’t really know wh at m a t u r e i s o r what it means to be a n a d u l t . I t ’s something I don’t g e n e r a l l y c onsider.
bills and taking care of yourse l f ? I f that is the case what of the el d e r l y who live in nursing homes? If t h e y cannot take care of themselve s does that mean that they are n o longer adults? And what of so m a n y people who don’t only take ca r e o f themselves and sometimes nee d t o be taken care of, should they s t a r t a new venture in their life, an d the ir spouse must ta ke ove r oth e r
D o e s b e i n g an adult mean living o n y o u r o w n and paying your own 43 33
re s p o n s i b i l ities? What about F. S c o t t F i t z g erald? He moved back i n t o h i s p a r ent’s house when he re s u m e d w ork on his novel this s ide o f p a r a d i s e . Was he not an adult b e c a u se h e moved back in w ith his p a r e n t s?
often find that when a person s a y s they hate liars they turn out to b e f e r ve nt lia r s the mse lve s. I of t e n spend my time telling people n o t t o be afraid and to just do the th i n g s they want to do, but in truth I a m of te n a f r a id a nd ha ve a ha r d time doing a s oppose d to a spir ing.
A n d w h a t is this thing called m a t u r i t y ? I t has been insinuated t h a t I a m n o t m ature, but w hat is i t ? I h a v e never thought of myself a s n e i t h e r mature nor im m ature. I h a v e n ’t c o ntemplated much about t h e s t a t e o f my maturity, until it w a s p o i n t e d out to me, by a female, o f c o u r s e . I like to think I have a g o o d se n se of hum or and a playful p e r s o n a l i t y. Is that immaturity? W h a t i s m a turity? Is it not finding s i l l y t h i n g s funny? Is it taking c a r e o f r e s ponsibilities? What is a p e r so n ’s r e sponsibility w hen they g e t o l d e r, a ren’t they different fo r e v e r y o n e? Does being mature m e a n n o t f i nding humor is things w h i c h a r e n ’t meant to be funny? I d o n ’t t h i n k I w ant to be the type o f p e r so n who doesn’t giggle w hen so m e o n e u s es the w ord “duty.”
I don’t know what maturity i s . I like to think that maturity is the capacity to understand and recognize and how one respon d s to e ve nts a nd pe ople in the wo r ld around them. That’s what I lik e to think maturity is, the abilit y t o understand that your friend w h o snaps at you may have someth i n g on their mind or may be upset about something entirely diffe r e n t and may not just be an asshol e . I remember once when I snapp e d at a friend, someone with who m I am rarely angry. Most other pe ople would ha ve told me to f u c k off , but inste a d he a ske d me wh a t had been bothering me, he sai d that I had seemed agitated and ir r ita ble a ll night a nd only up o n asking did I realize that there h a d been something bothering me. S o I talked about my little proble m and afterward felt better. May b e ma tur ity is r e a lly unde r sta ndin g . Maybe maturity is knowing w h e n to remain calm but also knowi n g when to get irate. Maturity eq u a l s experience perhaps? No, passi o n will a lwa ys be a t e xpe r ie nc e .
I h a v e h e ard people use the w o r d “ m a t u r e ” w hich has made me think m o r e a b o u t it and in thinking about i t , I h o n e st ly don’t know w hat it i s . I d o k n o w that the people I h e a r w h o u se the word “mature” I w o u l d n e v e r describe as such, were I p r e sse d t o do so. It seems that p e o p l e w h o often say things, like c o m m e n t i n g on a person’s maturity, a r e n ’t t h o s e things. Like when a p e r s o n s a y s that they hate liars, I
And wha t of be ing a n a dult? Does acting like an adult mea n y o u a r e a n a dult? But how is a n a d u lt 44
s u p p o s e t o act? What is the job re q u i r e m e n ts? D oes acting like an a d u l t m a k e you an adult? A dog c a n s w i m b ut that does not make i t a f i s h . D oesn’t saying you’re an a d u l t n e g a t e the adultness? Doesn’t s a y i n g y o u ’re mature negate the maturity?
the bigge st ba da ss sinc e Sa m Ja c kson.
I h a v e n e ver really thought about m y m a t u r i t y or thought of myself a s a n a d u l t , but I have also never t h o u g h t o f myself as immature or a c h i l d ( e x c e pt, of course, when I was a c h i l d ) . A nd I think there in lies t h e r e a l a n sw er to w hat those tw o t h i n g s r e a l ly are. It is as it shoul d b e . I s h o u l dn’t really be thinking a b o u t e i t h e r one of those things or s t r i v i n g t o be them. I am too busy si m p l y t r y i ng to be as opposed to t r y i n g t o b e something.
I don’t think of myse lf in ter ms of words, too much. I mean I d o , but tr y ha r d not to. I gue ss it’s something that you can’t esca p e . I suppose I’d say I’m shy and awkward, in the social sense, likely a little psychotic (but is n ’t psyc hotic r e a lly just a diff e r e n t point of view? Overly passion a t e i s a much better word than psych o t i c . Yeah, I like that a lot better, overly passionate). Out of all t h e things I think I am, all the wo r d s I use to summarize myself, I’d s a y storyteller would be the first o n e , writer the second, businessma n the third, often friend, someti m e s love r, usua lly f or me r love r. I ’v e never thought of myself as “so n ” o r “brother.” But I am certainly t h o s e things. And those words are ju s t like names, or other words, lik e maturity and adult. Just more w o r d s and labels and titles and thing s meant to summarize an infinit e se r ie s of sta te me nts.
La be ls, tha t’s a ll the y a r e . A n d each one of these names could ha ve millions of othe r sta te me n ts attached to them beyond just w h a t I put he r e .
T h a t sh i t w ill come in tim e. B u t w h a t are these things, really, m a t u r i t y a n d adulthood? Just a se r i e s o f l e tters strung together t o f o r m a w ord that summarizes a se r i e s o f i n finite statem ents. T h a t ’s w hat a name is, if you d i d n ’t k n o w. A person’s name is m e a n t t o s u mmarize the whole of t h e m i n t o a simple recognizable s o u n d . J o s h: the guy who always s t i c k s h i s n eck out for me when I’ m i n t r o u ble. Abby: the girl who d o e s m y t a ttoos. K aine: my forme r ro o m m a t e a nd friend. Chris: Jacob’s b o y f r i e n d . Leslie: the friend I go o n w a l k s w ith. Trevor: m y editor. N i k k i : a p a stor ’s daughter. Kirby:
Brother, someone related to y o u by blood or marriage, or “in a r m s , ” a s I ’ ve some time s he a r d. Br oth e r : the one pe r son tha t doe sn’t ju d g e you. Brother: the person that w i l l always love you no matter wh a t . Br othe r : the pe r son tha t be st c a n 45 45 35
s e e t h e w o r ld from your point of v i e w, b e c a use he’s been to so ma ny p l a c e s y o u ’ve been. Brother: the p e r so n t h a t w ill drive you to the d o c t o r ’s o ffice if you’re sick and d o n ’t h a v e anyone else to take you. B r o t h e r : t h e one person that won’t a b a n d o n y o u if you’re in need. B r o t h e r : t h e one person that w ill u n d e r st a n d if you need to abandon them. Wo r d s , l abels, titles, so so many t h i n g s m e a nt to summarize things t h a t r e a l l y can’t be summarized, s o m e n a m e s, some just titles meant a s a n a t t e m pt to solidify amorphous i d e a s t h a t often lead people to c h a s e t h i n g s that don’t really exist o r a r e t o o l arge to become fully or t o o v a r i e d t o become or to chase w h a t t h e y b elieve to be those t h i n g s , l i k e being mature or an a d u l t , b u t not knowing what either o n e o f t h o s e things really are, m a i n l y b e c ause they can’t know w h a t t h e y a re, they can only know w h a t t h e y d efine those things to b e , w h i c h can easily be changed, b e c a u s e i t ’s just a point of view. C h a n g e t h e lighting and you can go fr o m a f u l l moon to a half moon to a c r e s c e n t moon. It’s like chasing sh a d o w s.
Despite popular misconception, Kirby Light isn’t real. He’s an illusion. He’s been published in various online and offline magazines and you can find his ebooks “Cheap Thrills and Night Terrors” and “No Solace for the Innocent” on the Kindle store
Wo r d s , j ust words, meaningless m e a n i n g l e ss w ords. T he w ords d o n ’t m a t t e r. What m atters is all t h e i n f i n i t e things that those wor ds su m m a r i z e . L e t m e p ut it to you this way: st u p i d i s a s stupid does. pp 46 37
Robert A. Davies
Ethan Loses His Friend Again: From His Diary
1940s He wants a life of simple joys free of the spectator sport of politics, perhaps the scoutâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s embrace we knew of a brotherhood of innocents. And I had changed since the war.
Now he was good with men and women, his heart not in it. For me sex is all frustration. Both of us hate camp and drag giggles, but most the lies.
He had kept my manuscript, (bad poems in his desk kindly returned by a succeeding editor) a sentiment still alive.
I looked up my friend on the internet. My friend killed in an automobile accident age 55 London, 1987 soul letters gone forever burning red hair
The land facing the creek actually the Nehalem River rises in stages/shelves vases, dishes, glasses flashlight, light bulbs. How did I get here? Such metaphors take us to a domestic scene out of the woods and this acre altogether. Meanwhile back at my acre/the ranch you can see where the river has made a new channel recently washed up silt and rock to this side willow, alder and fir cropping up figwort, bouncing-bet, trail marker, foxglove. Fifty feet farther from the river osier, cascara and snowberry hold up the first narrow rise. Then we are in the woods huge firs, vine maple, huckleberry a more slanted rise to a large flat fifty feet by crow alone puff puff Even here the soil covers rocks rocks carried for miles when an ancient lake in Montana broke and flooded the valley all the way to the ocean. The history of these rises of the little dell that Timber sits in has not included humans for long. Perhaps an occasional Indian came through. On this side of the river an early settler built a house. Early in Timber was probably 20thcentury. An old Indian woman lived in a building on my neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lot. In 1964 Mrs. Wilcox moved into an old house there. A road was built up the big hill above in the 1960s. 49 49
I can hardly believe it happened. Marching down Main Street a man dressed like an American colonial carried a flag and banner. In no time some children followed in a line ever bigger. Our own Pied Piper. The banner read GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH. Of course the children didn’t understand. For them it was a fun parade. Some of us on the sidewalk remembered his name from elementary school Well, it’s a free country and watched. Others tight lipped. Where are the authorities! I don’t know what happened next to marchers and onlookers both. We were quickly picked up like logs thrown into waiting trucks. Why was I one of the lucky? roughed up a little and let go. Nobody has seen the children or Patrick Henry again.
Robert A. Davies lives in Portland, Oregon. I have published widely in the Little magazines and more recently in CounterPunch.com, Windfall and Poetrymagazine.com. I was co-editor of Mr. Cogito magazine for more than 20 years. I have published TRACKS IN OREGON (a finalist for the Oregon Literary Award), TIMBER, SOMETIMES SUBVERSIVE and MELONS and MENDELSSOHN.
The Critic’s Critic
Les Miserable by Tyler Fisk
I just want to speak plainly. The reviews on
Lane from The New Yorker, “Fans of the original
this one were appropriately mixed, everybody
production, no doubt, will eat the movie up, and
was down on Russell Crowe (but I still feel the
good luck to them. I screamed a scream as time
criticism was pulling its punches, his singing
sounded like a yawning bear with a hernia and
It was agonizing, an endless marathon,
pulled me out of every scene), everyone was all
unpleasant to experience and more physically
for Jackman and Hathaway, while many were
draining than emotional. The simple fact that no
hard on the director saying the movie succeeded
one could commit all the way to “Yay or Nay”
in spite of him.
says it all. But I think every critic missed one
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine
glaring issue with Les Miserables. It’s a movie
said, “Besides being a feast for the eyes and
musical adapted from a Broadway show adapted
ears, ‘Les Miserables’ overflows with humor,
from a novel written by a melancholy, deranged
heartbreak, rousing action and ravishing
Frenchman. When you’ve run anything through
romance. Damn the imperfections, it’s perfectly
that many filters it’s going to suck. You can
maybe get one adaptation, a book into a movie,
Variety critic Justin Chang said, “For all its
and it’s going to suck a little, but this many
expected highs, the adaptation has been managed
alterations is just begging to fail and, ultimately,
with more gusto than grace; at the end of the day,
get parodied. When an artist creates something it
this impassioned epic too often topples beneath
is created in the medium best suited to its content,
the weight of its own grandiosity.”
to alter that medium is to alter the work and
And Jason Best of Movie Talk said, “Even
to lose its purpose in the process. This is why
if you’re no fan of the show and think the lyrics
everyone insists “the book is better,” and this is
doggerel and the music dreary, it’s hard not to be
why it should go without saying that the book is
bowled over by the barnstorming gusto shown by
better than the movie based on the musical based
director Tom Hooper and his cast.”
on the play based on the novel based on the emo
The point of my sharing all of these different
tribulations of a depressive dead man. pp
reviews is this: no matter how praising or ----Tyler Fisk is an art student at PSU and an amateur juggler. He likes his dog and wishes he could carry on Gonzo Journalism but also knows it probably died with Thompson. He likes art but doesn’t like talking about it.
criticising the review, everyone was somehow backpedaling or double talking. “It was good, but it wasn’t” seems the general consensus. And with that kind of reception I was shocked that the thing was an Oscar contender. My feeling was more on a par with the words of Anthony 51