Washington Horror Blog

SEMI-FICTIONAL CHRONICLE of the EVIL THAT INFECTS WASHINGTON, D.C. To read Prologue and Character Guide, please see www.washingtonhorrorblog.com, updated 12/26/2015. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Sunday, September 18, 2016

House of Dreams

Bridezilla was carefully reading Dana Milbank's Washington Post description of the furnishings in the cheapest (!) room for rent in the new Trump hotel:  Italian bed linens, French table linens, Chinese duvet, Korean TV, Indian towels, Japanese bone china, Italian cutlery, Malaysian telephones, Swiss refrigerator, German coffee cups, Canadian toiletries, and Chinese everything-else.  "Huh," said the Prince and Prowling junior partner to herself.  She shook her head.  It was all wrong!  Not just because of the 100% political hypocrisy involved in importing every manufactured product, but the choices were all wrong!  "It should be French bed linens, Irish table linens, Swiss duvet, Japanese TV, Egyptian towels, Chinese bone china, British cutlery, Korean telephones, German refrigerator, Italian coffee cups, and Norwegian toiletries!  Doesn't everybody know these things?"  She looked at Thelma and Louise--her conjoined Guinea pigs--and shook her head again.  "Don't worry!  Your home will be much classier!"

Over at Prince and Prowling, another junior partner also had Trump's new hotel on his mind:  Felix Cigemeier.  Tasked with developing the law firm's drone practice, he had built up a respectable reputation as Washington's legal expert on federal and common law relevant to drone enthusiasts.  But this had all been about sales contracts, rental contracts, and simple advice up until the day the American Civil Liberties Union had walked into his office and asked him to defend Glenn Michael Beckmann's free speech right to use a drone to dump protest pig shit on the hotel bell tower.  (The ACLU had first asked Goode Peepz law firm to do it, but they simply knew too little about drone law.)  Felix had tried to get out of it by pointing out to Prince and Prowling's managing attorney that he had never done a criminal defense case before, but Felix had been told in no uncertain terms that P&P's reputation as the nation's preeminent drone expert was at stake.  (What Felix did not know was that Prince and Prowling had already taken drastic action to avoid a New Jersey gangster's request that P&P set up a SuperPAC dedicated to defeating any Republican who had dissed Donald Trump.)

"I think you should consider the plea deal offered to you," said Felix to Beckmann, who was sitting in a guest chair sporting a Hunter and Gatherer Society hunting cap, a "Dump Trump" t-shirt featuring a stylized depiction of the pig manure vandalism, camouflage pants, and star-spangled suspenders.

"Mr. Cigemeier," began the ACLU attorney, sitting in the other guest chair [she had decided early on to treat this case with absolute seriousness, so it was always "Mr. Cigemeier" and "Mr. Beckmann"], "that seems premature."

"The federal authorities have been monitoring him continuously since he blogged about overthrowing the Federal Reserve Board--"

"His 'Serial Predator' piece was protected first speech," she retorted.

"Yes, but people have heard him bragging about [he paused to look fearfully at Beckmann] killing various people."

"Hearsay!"

"There is a pattern of behavior which does not incline the federal authorities to go easy, and it was a clearly illegal act."

"Protected free speech!"

"He used a drone, first of all, and he vandalized private property, second of all."

"I'm familiar with the facts."

"The drone was illegally operated," said Felix.

"We have put up a lot of money for this defense," said the ACLU attorney.  "Your managing partner assured me you would take it to trial if necessary."

"If necessary, yes, but I am advising you against it."

Beckmann finally spoke.  "That pig shit was the only made-in-America product you'll find in that den of thieves and harlots financed by Saudi petrodollars and Russian Bitcoin!  I did him a favor, big dumbass with the bimbos and expensive suits and conspiracy to murder more Supreme Court Justices!"  ("What?!")  "My daddy served in Vietnam while he was getting blow jobs in Times Square!  I served in Iraq while he was cheating hard-working Americans in his casinos!  He's a disgrace to real patriots, sir, and his hotel is an abomination!"

"Well, all that may be true," began Felix [not all of that was true, but some was], "but those are not the kinds of things that can be raised as defenses.  Can I get you some more coffee while you two discuss it?"

"Nothing to discuss!" Beckmann said.

"Mr. Beckmann will not take the deal," said the ACLU attorney.

Is this really happening? thought Felix as he walked the two out.

Is this really happening? thought Dubious McGinty, as he walked into the Southwest Plaza apartment a city social worker had talked him into taking.  The Vietnam Veteran had been living in the Bridgeman's Quarters of the 14th Street Bridge as long as he could remember, keeping watch over the demon Ardua, but she had been vanquished for a long time now.  The ducks and river rats were no longer infected with evil, ravens were nesting and raising babies, and the pink dolphins were frolicking freely.  He hadn't looked at a mirror in years, but his rheumatism was reminding him daily how old he had now become.  He had made a pretty cozy nest for himself over the years out over the water, but now that things had calmed down in the Potomac, he was no longer so averse to the idea of spending a winter in a heated indoor place.

"Most of this is from A Wider Circle," the social worker said, pointing around to the secondhand bed, recliner, TV stand, and kitchen table.  "We got some linens and kitchen things from GoodWill."  (She had insisted most of his things were too hygienically compromised to bring with him.)

"But what will I eat?" he asked in sincere perplexity after years spent making daily forays to raid public garbage cans and dumpsters.

"We've stocked some food to get you started, and we put in a standing Peapod order to deliver food a couple times a week until you decide on doing something different.  We talked about this--remember?  Your military pension and Social Security payments were piling up for awhile when you weren't claiming them, so you're in good financial shape."  (He looked at her dubiously.)  "Do you remember when we set up the bank account last week?  There are deposits in it now, and automatic debits for rent, electricity, and Peapod."

She was going over some other details about who had Power of Attorney over his money and social programs he could attend, but he was overwhelmed and no longer hearing anything she said.

"I'll phone you tomorrow, alright?  I've gotta go."

And then she was gone.  He had a vague recollection of somebody who was supposed to come visit him this evening, but now he wasn't sure.  He went into the kitchen to get a glass of water, saw a cockroach, and got an uneasy feeling about this place.

Out in Potomac Manors, real estate mogul Calico Johnson was finally letting go of the small but expensive menagerie he had acquired since he first developed a crush on former neighbor "Basia Karbusky".  He watched the show horse Ninja get loaded onto a horse trailer.  Originally purchased for $14,000, she and her accoutrements were departing for $10,000; he had probably lost the other $4,000 in supplies and veterinarian treatment, though he hoped to start recouping this after converting the heated barn into a rental apartment.  Of course, it had not been heated for Ninja but for the persnickety geriatric cow MegaMoo.  He had inherited the cow for free after Basia burnt down her estate and fled, but he had been paying for MegaMoo ever since in treatments for bovine narcolepsy, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and dissociative identity disorder--not to mention endless hay when MegaMoo did not feel like grazing on the acres of grass, which was 90% of the time.  He had almost sold her to a butcher but, ultimately, through an odd mixture of guilt and malice, had offered her to an animal sanctuary--where her legendarily thunderous mooing could wreak havoc on other people's bucolic lifestyles.  MegaMoo was still staring at him in disbelief as she worked her way into the trailer, and he turned away.  Donald Trump didn't put his stamp on the world through animal husbandry! he reminded himself.  I'm a real estate developer!

Back at Bridezilla's apartment, she was lost in concentration on the enormous Tudor style dollhouse she had purchased to house Thelma and Louise.  (It was an idea borne from her recent visit to the dollhouse exhibit at the National Building Museum.)  She knew the conjoined twins would never be on the upper floors, so she was applying her finest and most delicate touches up there for the dollhouse's human occupants:  a beautiful, professional, accomplished and graceful mother of young twins.  (Her back story was that the children's father had been murdered by a coalition of his jilted lovers, but she had not yet settled on the manner of death.)  But Bridezilla also wanted her guinea pigs to sleep and frolic in style below, so the parlor had primrose wallpaper and plum velvet curtains above the cushioned cedar chip bed, and the kitchen had Italian marble bases under the stainless steel water and food bowls.  The side yard held an exercise wheel for the pig twins and a miniature swing set for the human twins.

"I finally have a dream house," Bridezilla sighed, going back to the Internet to look up miniature books to stock the mahogany bookcases with.

******************************************************************
COMING UP:  The Trump National Golf Club baby!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It all stinks!

Triple agent Charles Wu was in the back seat of the taxi, listening to his Ethiopian driver's latest intelligence on Somalia.  Wu was thinking two things:  (1) his clients were not interested in paying for this when much bigger balls were in play, and (2) he was not catching any of those balls.  Have I become incompetent?  He looked out the window as they drove past Embassy Row, fighting back his greatest fear:  that his little daughter had made him soft.  Plenty of people have children without becoming soft!  Why him?!  Or could it be worse than that?  Was he becoming old?  He was treating the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope to lunch at the Four Seasons--not to pump him for State Department secrets but to explain Wu's failure to deliver China success stories on President Obama's recent trip to Asia.  There was a time a State Department meeting meant buying secrets from C. Coe Phant in a Foggy Bottom dive bar, or even meeting directly with the Secretary of State to discuss Project R.O.D.H.A.M.; now it was he and the ADAfH commiserating over the tempestuous state of international affairs.  The driver pulled up to the Georgetown hotel and waited patiently for Wu's $200 tip.  Wu walked into the lobby and saw that the ADAfH was already waiting for him, having finished the annual trip to the Pentagon 9/11 remembrance ceremony.  They shook hands silently.

A few miles to the east, Congress was back in session, and so was the Bicameral Anti-Zombie Caucus.

"We have to reconsider that he might be a zombie!" exclaimed Congressman Herrmark.

"Just because Dick Cheney writes an op-ed about 9/11 that tries to shift blame for Iraq to Obama does not mean he's undead!" replied Senator Rand Paul.  "It's completely consistent with the attitudes he's always espoused!"

"The man should have keeled over from a heart attack years ago!" insisted Congressman Herrmark.  "I think he's still secretly running the Senate--through the Zombie Caucus!"

"We've never gotten close enough to Cheney to find out," said the Representative from Florida, "and we need to focus our energies on thwarting Zombie Caucus riders and getting Zika funding."

"Your theory that Hurricane Hermine has spread Zika all over Florida, and that Zika is going to create zombies, is just not supported by the facts," said a Representative from Connecticut.

"That's easy for you to say!" she retorted.  "All you have to worry about in Connecticut is Lyme disease, and we know that doesn't create zombies!"

"Ladies and gentlemen," interjected Congressman Herrmark's Chief of Staff, Ann Bishis, "if I could have your attention for a minute, the Zombie Caucus is a perennial concern whoever is leading it, and we need to step up our efforts to identify likely elected and staff members.  If you could direct your attention to the monitor, I'm going to pull up a live camera feed from one of our new spy drones."  ("Spy drones?!")  "Only the size of a fly, they can get close to almost anybody, even follow them into bathrooms and secret meeting places.  They can eavesdrop on conversations, take photos of documents and screenshots, and witness anybody removing makeup or clothing which covers rotten flesh."

"And people snickered at my earmark to get these built in Montana!" declared the Representative from the gold and silver state.

"They melted in the Iraqi heat," said an Indiana Representative.

"What if they get captured?" asked Senator Paul.

"If they get swatted, they crumple into parts so tiny that nobody realizes what they really are."

"But what if they get captured?" repeated Senator Paul.

Bishis cleared her throat, uneasy about challenging him.  "I don't think people try to capture flies."

"They do if they suspect spy drones!" insisted Senator Paul.  "And smart people always suspect spy drones!  Honestly, I'm not comfortable with this at all!  Once again we're being asked to give up civil liberties for questionable efforts to improve national security!"

"Senator!" exclaimed Congressman Herrmark.  "Zombies have no civil liberties!"

"People should be presumed innocent until proven Zombie!" declared Senator Rand.  "That's what America stands for!"

Downtown, Glenn Michael Beckmann was exercising (he would argue) a civil liberty of his own--and using a drone to do it.  This was no tiny insect-like drone, no:  this was a 100-pound drone winging its way rapidly from Beckmann's Southwest Plaza balcony to the Trump Plaza Hotel.  His militia members had tried to tell him that private drones were illegal in Washington (and sure suicide so close to the White House), but Beckmann would have none of it.  "The so-called 'man of the people' is charging $800/night to stay in this den of casino thieves and hotel harlots financed by Saudi petrodollars!" he had written in his blog leading up to the hotel's opening.  (He had actually written it in code on his fake lifestyle blog as "The so-called 'trumpet douche bags' are going for $800/case, even though you're rolling the dice and getting black crude as lubrication!")

Semi-satisfied that Gretchen Carlson had extracted a huge financial settlement from the Fox News suits, Beckmann had returned his focus to going after Donald Trump a few days ago.  "Fly, baby, fly!" he cried in delight as his drone receded in the distance.  A few of his followers were decamped near the monstrosity of capitalism run amok and would send Beckmann cellphone video as soon as they spotted the drone delivering its payload. "Here it comes!" said the text message on Beckmann's phone, and then a minute later, the triumphant moment:  forty pounds of pig manure sprayed all over the Old Post Office Pavilion bell tower.

"That's for stealing the people's 360-degree view of downtown Washington!" hollered Beckmann, shaking his fist in the direction of the Trump Plaza Hotel.  "And performing a lobotomy on Melania!" he added.  (He had recently blogged about this.)  "And spying for Russia!"  (He had not blogged about this because the lamestream media was already covering it!  Amazing!)  "And telling the 9/11 hijackers to crash into the World Trade Center instead of your tower!"  (He had recently blogged about this, though it was a little more speculative than his usual conspiracy theories.)  "And for giving a bad name to crazy people!  I don't need to be further stigmatized, you mental health bigot!"  At this point he realized there were some people in the parking lot looking up at him and taking cellphone videos, so he ran back into his apartment.

Over at Redskins headquarters, Golden Fawn was tilting at her own windmill--namely, the anachronistic existence of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.  After a period of resistance, the National Museum of the American Indian employee had accepted a seat on the Foundation this summer, and had quickly made waves.  She sat down in the conference room in her usual braids and traditional clothing, and waited patiently for the agenda item she had requested.  At long last, the Chairman let her speak.

"I cannot tell you how deeply disappointed I am that this Foundation refused to help the Standing Rock Sioux in their fight against the oil pipeline threatening their water and sacred sites," she began.

"As our attorney told you on the conference call, they have no rights to those sacred sites," said the Chairman.

"You mean federal courts have ruled against them, as they did from the beginning and now continue to do because traditional jurisprudence means repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again in the name of 'precedent.'"

"The Sioux already have their victory," said another member of the Foundation board, whom Golden Fawn quickly unnerved with her black-eyed stare.

"You think a temporary reprieve by President Obama--a reprieve I and others secured by vigorous lobbying--will keep their water and sacred sites safe from oil spills?  You're more naive than I thought."

"There is a process that needs to play out," said the Chairman.  "This Foundation is not about encouraging civil disobedience."

"If this Foundation is not about protecting water and sacred sites, it is not about protecting the life of any tribe in this country.  You really think handing out blankets is enough?"

"That is uncalled for!" exclaimed a Cherokee member from Oklahoma, who had gotten a huge cash payment and business incentives to sit on this board.  "This is a charitable foundation, not a political action coalition."

"This Foundation is a spiritual failure," Golden Fawn said, but nobody replied to her.  She looked at the Chairman to see if he would expel her, but he simply opened the next item of business on the agenda.

Back at the Four Seasons, Charles Wu was trying to explain how his plane to Beijing had arrived late, and there were mix-ups about meeting times, and he had not had the usual amount of time to smooth a path for visiting Americans, and there was really nothing he could do about the man-made islands....And then came the ice pick.

"What have you done for us, lately?" asked the exasperated Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope.  "I'm a very busy man.  I'm supposed to be pulling Turkey back into NATO's orbit, for God's sake!  Turkey, who thinks making peace with Russia is a better idea than making peace with the Kurds!  Russia, in case you haven't noticed, has returned our country to a Cold War footing.  Oh, and I have a permanent headache about the damned Clinton email server.   And Iraq and Syria are Hell on Earth, and somehow the U.S. gets the blame.  And what are you doing for us in Asia, exactly?  Because, Obama's visit was not very good."

Charles Wu felt a rumble in his intestines he had not felt since the surge of puberty testosterone had turned him into a virile young man.  It was true, he knew!  He had done nothing for the U.S. lately!  He had juggled Beijing, Hong Kong, and Britain for years, but somewhere along the line, instead of selling secrets about his current home, the United States, he had become somebody expected to deliver for the United States.  He couldn't just tell the State Department secrets about Beijing if they were bad news, no!  Wu was supposed to fix things!

"Well," Wu began, a little desperate, "I do have intelligence for you about recent communications between China and Pakistan."

"Great!  That's great," said the ADAfH sarcastically, reaching for the bread basket.  "Can't wait to hear it!"

A couple miles away at Adams Morgan Day, Angela de la Paz was licking ice cream and telling Dulles Samuelson she had no memory of 9/11.  (She had still been a young child at that time.)

Dulles replied, "my dad was never the same after that.  He was one of the ones scapegoated and forced into retirement from the CIA--and that's actually when he told us for the first time he had been in the CIA."

Angela shook her head in sympathy--not for Henry Samuelson's career but for the effect on his kids.  "People didn't talk about it much where I grew up.  They had other things to worry about getting killed by--they still do."  She suddenly remembered saving somebody in a Columbia Heights alley, and meeting the man who would become the father of the baby she later gave away after his death.  "It all stinks," she said.

"I got accepted into the FBI," Dulles said suddenly, and then he searched her face for a reaction, but got the same sad smile he usually did.

******************************************************************
COMING UP:  House of Dreams!

Monday, September 05, 2016

Mind Games

Psychiatrist Ermann Esse was still being blackmailed into working for the CIA at their secret facility deep below the Washington Times headquarters.  His plan to get fired for a prescription pain killer addiction had backfired badly, and now they were holding that over him as well their knowledge of the suspicious death (murder) of one of his patients.  His professional and personal life were in a state of catastrophe.  How could things possibly get worse?

"We have a new assignment for you," said one of his handlers, entering his office.

"Great," said the shrink, swallowing hard.

Meanwhile, the Seekers were meeting in a Georgetown classroom for their first attempt at deprogramming a Trump supporter from the cult of Donald Trump.

"What's happening?" asked the self-proclaimed "hockey mom with lipstick" from Frederick, who had been tricked into coming here by her husband's lie that Trumpists were meeting there to boycott a professor's lecture on President Obama's historic place in African-American history.

"These people are here to help, honey," said the desperate husband, who had brought his own custom-designed duct tape with foam cushioning to strap her into a chair.  "I'm gonna put your feet up to make you more comfortable."

"You're kidnapping me!?" she screamed before he tied a chocolate-flavored bandana around her mouth.

"This is for your own good, sweetie," he said, kissing her on the forehead.  "Even the kids are worried about you.  They don't want Russia hacking the election."

The Buddhist monk and Unitarian Universalist looked at each other nervously, but the rest of the group seemed eager to press forward.

"The Trump family name is really 'Drumpf,'" began the Jesuit, sitting directly in front of her.  "They changed it in America as their very first act of phoniness.  Ow!"  He jumped back in pain because she had kicked him in the shin.

"Thus began a long history of feeding misinformation to advance their own purpose," continued the Muslim cleric, sitting down next to the Jesuit.  (The woman's eyes grew wide with terror at the sight of him.)  "That purpose was amassing obscene amounts of wealth for their own benefit."

"It's okay, honey," said the husband, patting her hand.  "He's an American Muslim.  He just joined my Fantasy Football league!"

"We are going to start showing you categorically all the lies being told to you on this campaign," said the Jewish rabbi, opening up a laptop computer for her to see.  "We will be here all night if we have to."

A few miles to the east, Sebastian L'Arche had persuaded Angela de la Paz to sneak into the Rhode Island Avenue Metro tunnels to hunt for demons causing the roof destruction.

"Sometimes it's not demons," said Angela, who had received no visions about this place.  "Lynnette says the system has been underfunded for years, and way behind in infrastructure maintenance."

"I'm telling you, it was a demon!" insisted L'Arche.  The Gipper (a gifted rat terrier and spirit-hunter) whined in agreement.

"I do believe you," said Angela, "but it might have just been hiding out.  It's not necessarily proof that demons are causing all the Metro problems."

The Gipper abruptly turned into a side tunnel.  "He said it's here," whispered L'Arche.

"You can really read dogs' minds?" she asked, still unaware of any supernatural presence.

"Sh," he cautioned her, and they walked slowly forward.  Suddenly the Gipper stopped, and all his hair stood on end.  The Dog Whisperer turned on his high-beam flashlight and aimed it at the ceiling thirty feet in front of them, where a demon was now hissing at them.

Angela ran forward, raised her hand, and telekinetically knocked it to the ground.  Before she could kill it, the Gipper ran forward to attack, but the demon knocked it violently away.  Then Angela exploded the demon into a fireball, which quickly collapsed on itself to leave nothing but a pile of ashes.

"Oh, God!" cried reporter Perry Winkle, who had followed them into the tunnels.  "I really am insane!"  And then he fainted.

Back at the secret CIA facility, Dr. Esse had just been briefed about recent intelligence investigations into whether Russia was trying to mess with the U.S. elections, and it was very disturbing.  The CIA had also just told him that NSA eavesdropping on Trump campaign staff had revealed specific plans which would weaken NATO, strengthen Russia, and possibly even result in several nuclear weapon strikes in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. 

"I share your concerns," said the psychiatrist, "but I don't see what I can do about it.  If you're thinking of sending me to be an agent in Russia--"

"Don't be absurd," said the woman.  "The threat is already here.  We need you to go undercover as a Trump supporter and start hypnotizing your way to the top."

Out at Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, the demon Ardua was playing mind games of her own, but it was increasingly difficult to get the bickering Nazi lovers living in a hidden bunker to listen to her.

******************************************************************
COMING UP:  
Charles Wu's work is cut out for him after he and Obama return from China!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

War of Attrition

Glenn Michael Beckmann was bitterly disappointed about the sudden demise of "Gary", the ventriloquist dummy, but while working out a new plan for undermining Donald Trump, he had discovered that Roger Ailes had been fired for sexually harassing several of Beckmann's favorite Fox News blonds.  "Nobody messes with my patriotic vixens!" he had shouted from his balcony to nobody in particular, followed by, "Vengeance will be mine!"  Now he was addressing a meeting of his militia followers, trying to rally them to kidnap Roger Ailes.

"The man is a menace to our goddesses!" cried Beckmann (who had reserved a room at Martin Luther King Memorial Library for this meeting).

"Don't blaspheme!"

"Huh?"

"There is only one God!"

"Ain't that what Muslims say?"

"Focus, people!" exclaimed Beckmann, pounding his fist on the table.  "Our beloved women, treated like garbage by men in suits!"

"Men in suits!"

"They're the worst!"

"We must kidnap him for punishment!" cried Beckmann.

 "But he's advising Donald Trump now!"

"Trump sucks!"

"Trump rocks!"

"Hillary's gonna take away our guns!"

"Trump's gonna take away our neighbors!"

"Do you like your neighbors?"

"Libertarian's the way to go!"

"Who's the Libertarian candidate?"

"Gary Bussey."

"No, the other Gary."

"That ventriloquist dummy?"

"Shut up!" screamed Beckmann, red in the face.  "Have I ever led you astray?!"

"Well--"

"Never!  The time has come for Ailes to face the reaper!"

"He already got sued.  Isn't that enough?"

Beckmann threw his hands up in disgust and stormed out to chase down Ailes on his own, bumping into an elderly black couple trying to find an anniversary lecture on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington.

"I have a dream!" cried Dick Cheney, a few miles away.  The other members of the Heurich Society looked at him in perplexity for a moment, saw the twinkle in his eye, and then burst out laughing.

"No, seriously!" laughed Cheney, mopping his brow with a pile of Au Bon Pain napkins.  (The elevator at the Brewmaster's Castle was out of service.)  "I have a dream of endless war in the Middle East until the population there returns to fourteenth century nomadic levels, the price of oil goes back to $200/barrel, and--"

"Fourteenth century nomadic levels?" crackled Condoleezza Rice over the speakerphone.  (She had recently gotten her Ancestry DNA test back and was still coping with the newly found knowledge that fifteen percent of her genes were Arab.)  "We have never discussed anything like that!  You're talking about gen--"

"Genuine clarity of vision, I know!" said Cheney (who was quickly getting hopped up on a sugary muffin, the likes of which his wife had not allowed in their house since Bill Clinton was President).  "Turks versus Kurds versus Syrians versus Iraqis versus Iranians versus Saudis versus Yemenis versus Houthis versus--"

"Slow down there, cowboy," said the international arms merchant.  "Endless war is one thing when collateral damage is local, but some of these players have nukes!"

"The situation is pretty volatile," said the international banker.  "And no matter how many people get killed, three times as many will be refugees streaming into Europe."

"Well, if Trump gets elected, we don't have to care about Europe anymore!" laughed an army colonel, in an unnaturally loud voice.  (Then he bit his lip.) 

"The State Department is working hard to stabilize our alliance with Turkey," crackled Rice over the speakerphone.  (Everybody in the upper floor conference room rolled their eyes.)  "There won't be endless war."  (Her genes also showed a large amount of Scotch-Irish; she tried to tell herself it was Hume- and Smith- like, but she knew deep in her heart it was cracker.)

"There's been war in the Middle East my entire life," said a 45-year-old Congressman.  "I really don't see what has changed."  He looked around the room expecting his statement to be shot down, but nobody had an answer.

Back in the days when petroleum was $200/barrel, one of the companies that had amassed a large fortune was Chevron.  Income was not as good these days (wind farms!), but Chevron was still sitting on $9 billion in financial assets and $189 billion in capital assets--even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on legal fees fighting a $8.6 billion judgment levied against the company twenty-three years earlier in Ecuador.  Chevron had won round after round after round, refusing to pay a single dollar to clean up the well-documented pollution its predecessor had left in the rainforest.  And the latest victory for Chevron was in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. 

"They used to ride around in a circuit," said a very drunken D.C. attorney who had done hundreds of hours of pro bono work on the case over the years.  "The judge would get on his horse and ride from one state to another to hear appeals."  She nodded solemnly to emphasize the import of this fact.  (Everybody at the bar was watching the game; only the bartender was paying the slightest attention to her.)  "A circuit," she repeated, drawing a circle on the smooth wood in front of her.  "Maybe New Jersey in April, and Connecticut in May, and New York in--"  (She paused, stumped.)

"June," said the bartender.  (His father was from Brazil; he knew all about sticking it to the indigenous in the Amazon.)

"June!" agreed the attorney.  "Or was it July?  Anyway, the man on the high horse stuck it to the little people again!"  (The bartender nodded, refilling some beer pitchers for some rowdy football fans.)  "But we can appeal to the Supreme Court, yeah!" she cried, sarcastically.  She raised her next pisco sour shot in the air.  "They deserve it!  Half of them are dying of cancer, but Chevron has proven that hundreds of millions of dollars can buy your way out of the tar pit of the Amazon!  How do we explain the Second Circuit to them?"

"Who?" asked the bartender.

"The people of Lago Agrio!" she screamed, looking wildly around at the crowd.  "Why don't any of you care?!  You don't even know their names!"

"Settle down!" the bartender said, grabbing both her wrists gently but firmly.

"Money always wins," she said softly, starting to cry, and the bartender let go of her wrists.  "I've wasted my life on this."  She suddenly smashed her shot glass down, took a jagged edge, and slashed her wrist.

"There's too much evil," said Angela de la Paz, a couple of miles away in Chinatown, sipping herbal tea specially prepared by Lynnette Wong.  "It's an endless war, a war without end."

"You're telling me this," smiled Wong.  "My people have legends going back thousands of years!"

"Why do I even have these powers if I can never win?" sighed Angela.

"You have these powers so that Evil can never win," said Wong.

******************************************************************
COMING UP:  Dr. Esse's new assignment at the CIA!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cults


Out at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged, burglar Glenn Michael Beckmann had been caught red-handed trying to steal a ventriloquist dummy from resident Larry.  During several minutes of increasingly peculiar conversation about his plans for "Gary", the various residents had streamed into Larry's bedroom, followed by social worker Hue Nguyen.

"So you actually live by yourself?" social worker Hue Nguyen asked again, dumbfounded.  (She had already texted psychologist Leo Schwartz to rush over and make an assessment on the manic Beckmann, but hadn't heard back from him yet.)

"Of course," said Beckmann, a man who was always a danger to himself and others but somehow continued living in Section 8 housing with occasional psychotropic prescriptions and sporadic assessments.  "The FBI can't touch me because I have too many followers."

"Uh-huh," Nguyen said.

"But I like Donald Trump," said Larry, getting back to the important topic.  "I don't want you to use Gary to kill him."

"What?!" exclaimed Nguyen.

"Lots of people like Trump!" Larry cried, indignantly.

"I'm not going to kill Trump," said Beckmann.  "Gary is going to tell Donald Trump, Junior, to do it."

"Oh, goody, goody, goody!" exclaimed Theresa, clapping her hands.  (She was a big fan of both Hillary and the ventriloquist dummy.)

"I don't know," said Melinda.  "I don't think you should get children involved."

"That's no child!" hollered Cedric, waving his teddy bear Aloysius in the air.  (He knew all about Ghost Henry's desire to assassinate Trump.)

"It's a demon child!" exclaimed Theresa.

"Well, if a demon child kills Trump, then Trump is a good guy, like I said," declared Larry, though he was getting confused.

"The child is wild with mild guile," said Freddy Ritchings (AKA Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement).  "The demon of the semen leaves us all believin'!  The dummy is crummy, but God's wrath is yummy!"

"He's not a kid!" said Beckmann.  "He's a grown man!  All I need to do is get him to watch one of your evil YouTube ventriloquist videos."

"My YouTube videos aren't evil!" protested Larry, even though he ended up getting choked by the dummy at the end of every one.

"They are a little creepy," said Melinda.  "Even Cedric said so."

"No, I didn't!" lied Cedric.

"You tied Aloysius's hands behind his back for weeks until you were sure he didn't want to choke you," retorted Melinda.

"Let's have ice cream," the social worker suddenly interjected.  (She really wanted to call the police on Beckmann and get him hauled away, but she was desperately hoping Schwartz could come soon, make a proper diagnosis, and get the troubled man the help he needed.)  "Mr. Beckmann, you're welcome to join us for ice cream, but no more talk about Gary or Donald Trump."

"Who do you think you are, talking to me like that, girlie girlie!?  It's a free country!  I can talk about anything I want to talk about!"

"Not in my house!" hollered Nguyen in a voice nobody had ever heard from her.

"I'm calling the police!" said Larry.  "I don't want him to steal Gary!"

"Just let him take the dummy!" exclaimed Cedric.  "We all hate it!"

"Not me!" retorted Theresa.

"I have 30,000 followers on my 'Larry and Gary' YouTube channel!  That's more than Freddy has in his Church of Twitter!"

"Your followers are a cult!" exclaimed Beckmann.  "I just need to get Junior into it!"

Meanwhile, the Seekers were gathered in a small Georgetown University classroom to have a rather different conversation about Donald Trump.  Coming from varied theological, philosophical, and demographic backgrounds, they had nonetheless been determined to leave no question unasked, no topic undiscussed, and no theory unexplored in their ecumenical quest to learn the spiritual meaning of everything.  Today's topic was new territory for the Seekers:  Trumpism.

"Are we really calling it 'Trumpism?'" asked the Baptist minister.

"We have nothing else to call it," said the Jewish rabbi.

"But it's not a theology," said the Jesuit priest.

"Is it even a philosophy?" asked the Muslim cleric.

"Certainly not that," said the Buddhist monk.  "He does not love knowledge!"

They had a good laugh over that one, then grew silent for a few minutes.

"It's a cult," said the Pentecostal minister.  "And I say that as somebody whose religion was once called a cult.  The man has gone to evangelical leaders and asked them to organize voters so that he can go to Heaven!"

"He doesn't care about getting anybody else into Heaven," added the Jesuit.

"But we are the ones under attack," said the Pentecostal minister.  "Evangelicals!"

"I respectfully disagree with that," said the Lutheran minister.  "We have members in my own congregation who suddenly think Supreme Court nominations are a crusade for Christ--and, actually, the most important crusade for Christ.  Well, that's very simple, isn't it?  Say you've nominated a good Christian, and nothing else you do matters!"

"And he's a good Christian?" asked the Muslim cleric, shaking his head.

"Only God knows what's in his heart," said the Baptist minister.

"He's already admitted he's not a good Christian!" exclaimed the Buddhist.  "He said Supreme Court nominations might be the only way he gets into Heaven!  This man is seriously perverse!"

"He's not a Christian at all, as far as I can see," said the Jesuit priest.  "He worships money and his own family.  He is spreading an idea that we discredited centuries ago:  that you can buy your way into Heaven through a grand gesture."

"Yes," said the Pentecostal minister, "and he is leading people astray.  He is telling vulnerable, ignorant people that he has all the answers, that you can be as greedy and cruel--"

"--and racist," interjected the Hindu cleric.

"--and sexist," added the Lutheran minister.

"--as you want, and none of that matters if you do some grand gesture to get into Heaven," concluded the Pentecostal minister.

"I'm a firm believer in grand gestures," said the Buddhist monk.  "The issue is how he has defined it."

"Well, how is anybody else going to get into Heaven if that's the way?" asked the Rabbi.  "The rest of us don't make Supreme Court nominations.  We have got to hit back on this!"

"It's a cult," said the Sikh cleric, scratching anxiously under his turban.  "How do we deprogram the cult followers?"

Across town, the same question was being asked by TFFT (too fat for television) reporter Holly Gonightly, gesturing to a group of dazed attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants huddled on the lawn of their leader's Brookland row house.  "How will these cult members be deprogrammed?"

"We're not cult members!" shouted an angry young man, shaking his fist at the pretty but plump journalist.  "We were gonna save the world!"

"You heard it, ladies and gentlemen," she said to the camera focused on her.  (The producer pointed to the rain starting to fall and gestured to Gonightly to speed it up.)  "They believed a madman who told him they were going to save the world!"

"It's not cool to call mentally ill people names!" said a crying woman.  "And he's a great man!"  (She was one of three women who had spent the night with him in an orgy of meth and sex she could barely recall.)  "He had a vision!"

"He had a vision," Gonightly echoed in her most serious voice.  "The vision was about repurposing the DC legal community away from corporate clients and onto public interest work.  But the reality was more about collecting dues, funneling the money into a Cayman Islands bank account, and seducing scores of young women to have sex with him."

"That's a lie!" cried several members in unison, but the crowd was dwindling as most of the members realized they did not want to be seen on camera during an FBI sting.  (They were going to have to return to the law firms tomorrow.)

"It was all lies," said Gonightly.  "And here he comes now!"  The cameraman turned to film "Max" being led out of the house in handcuffs, his face down.  "This ASPIRE organization--Attorneys Serving Public Interest Radicals Everywhere--was a pyramid of lies foisted on vulnerable, idealistic young professionals searching for a more meaningful life."

"It's not a lie to believe in the public interest!" cried a young woman, trying to wipe rainwater out of her eyes.

"Today the public interest means locking up a fraud.  This is Holly Gonightly."

Inside the house, several FBI officers were still gathering evidence, and Prince and Prowling contract attorney Laura Moreno sadly handed over the hidden wire she had been wearing for the FBI.  Down in the basement, the real estate demon who had easily possessed and controlled "Max" hid himself deep in the crawl space to await the next occupant.

Back at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged, enormous brown helping dog Millie had heard enough.  She had already known that Gary was a bad influence, but things were clearly getting out of hand.  She grabbed Gary out of Larry's arms, ran into the next room and started tearing the ventriloquist dummy to pieces with her teeth, shaking it in fury.  If there had not been so many gasps from the residents, as well as the wail of dismay from Larry, they might have heard the hiss of a demon fleeing the fury of Millie's mouth and diving for the exit.  Beckmann ran into the room, clutched his head in anguish, and shouted, "now what?!" while staring at the ceiling.  But he could not see Ghost Henry and would have to return home to await a visit from medium John Doe.

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COMING UP:  War of attrition!

The freaked-out diary of Brittani.


Dear Diary ** !! ** !!

Married life is not what I expected.  Sometimes I think about my friends still in high school and I'm jealous I can't go to dances or football games or anything, but I HAD TO RUN AWAY!  My stepfather was the PITS!  I hate him SO MUCH!  He ruined everything.  If Bobby had stayed my boyfriend and taken me to New York City like he promised I would be SO HAPPY!!!!!!

Monkey is pretty weird.  (Kelli STILL thinks it's a stupid name, but I don't care!)  I thought he'd be pretty into me, but he loves his ROLEX more than me!  Sometimes he whispers to it!!!!!  How weird is that?  He sleeps with it, which is INSANE!  He even wears it in the shower!!  I don't think it's even waterproof!  The time on it always says 12:00!

He is NEVER EVER romantic except he did take me out to Fauquier County to a really dark place without lights so that we could watch the Perseid meteor shower.  Well, I THOUGHT it was to be romantic, but he barely even touched me.  At first I thought he was whispering romantic things, and I snuggled him and said stuff to him, but then I realized he was whispering stuff like "cosmos" and "fairy dust" and "Lucifer's sparkle"!  How weird is that?!?!?!  

Sometimes I think he's a total freak, but he's my husband and he thinks I'm pregnant and married me anyway, which is the MOST AWESOME thing anybody ever did for me in my WHOLE LIFE!!!!  But he's pretty weird.  

Yesterday we went back out to Trump National Golf Course so that he could pan for gold AGAIN (!!!!!!!!!!!), and it was SOOOO HOT!!!!!  I thought I was gonna die!  I just lay at the edge of that pond trying to stay cool, half underwater, but the water felt like a bath!  And I kept feeling something nibble my toes and fingers, which was a TOTAL FREAKOUT, but Barbara said it was these little fish that eat dead skin cells, and people pay a lot of money for them in beauty salons because it's the best pedicure and manicure EVER!  How weird is that??!!  But it still freaked me out, and I was SOOOO HOT!!!!  Ernest kept saying it's too hot and pregnant women (me and Barbara!) should be in the underground bunker, but Barbara loves that pond, and I'm not really pregnant.  Plus I'm trying to show Monkey that I will stand by his side no matter what because sooner or later he's gonna figure out I'm not pregnant, and maybe he'll be mad?  But maybe I'll get pregnant with HIS baby.

He always wants to go when it's too hot to golf so that nobody else is there, but last week somebody went to the ninth green and carved swastikas in the grass because lots of people hate Trump and say he's a Nazi.  Monkey said it was probably Petro Pig:  he's this famous pot-bellied pig in DC always showing up for political protests and stunts.  A few weeks ago he was photographed taking a dump in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy!  His owner was sitting in a golf cart with a sign that said:  "Let your women drive so we can burn more oil!"  Pretty funny, but hogs have no interest in eating grass!  I mean, they'll eat anything, but if they're hungry enough to eat grass, they'll just mow through it fast!  It had to be a goat on a leash to get those nice lines.  But Monkey doesn't know anything about animals.

Ernest and Barbara argue about whether Trump is a Nazi all the time!  "He's a Nazi!"  "No, he's not a Nazi!"  It's weird, though--sometimes it sounds like they WANT him to be a Nazi!!!  I dropped out before European history class, but I've seen a couple World War II movies and I think the Nazis were the BAD guys and swastikas were bad.  Barbara said to me once that Eichmann DNA is not as good as she had expected for the baby, and I just nodded like I understood, but what????  Who's Eichmann????  She said Ernest has no respect for Hitler DNA!  Huh????  They have weird arguments.  But she told me the important thing was to have an Aryan baby, and was really glad when I told her that Bobby was blond and had blue eyes.  I didn't tell her I also had sex with a Puerto Rican boy, because what does it matter?  I'm not really pregnant!  Secret!!!!

I asked Monkey why Ernest and Barbara were arguing about Trump and Nazis, and he was like "WHO CARES?!", which is how he always is whenever I ask him ANYTHING except when I ask him what he wants to eat.  I make him all his meals.  He didn't even know about fried okra or cornbread!  He grew up in Boston.  I asked him if we'll go see his family for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and he said he has too much work to do.  If he doesn't find gold or diamonds soon, I think he might go out of his mind!!

At first I thought it was cool, panning for gold and diamonds, but I'm SO BORED WITH IT!  I once told him he could at least try some new places--why keep going back to the same places?--and he got all red in the face and yelled, "I go where I'm told to go!"  WHAT???!!!  I think he thinks the Rolex is talking to him!!!!  And he definitely talks to that stupid pond.  "Come on, baby!  Show me the gold!  Show me the bling!  Come on, Ardua!"  I don't know why he calls the pond Ardua.  Barbara doesn't know what he's whispering, but I've heard it all.  

Barbara is too busy whispering to her baby, who's due in late September, but she whispers in German (or Austrian?), so I don't know what she's saying.  Ernest doesn't know much German, but yesterday he said :  "Trump is with Russia, who's with turkey now!  This is not German!"  And then she said:  "Germany did the non-aggression pact with Russia!"  And then he said:  "Never with turkey!  Not the ottomans!"  (We had a couple ottomans in the living room--I don't know why he hates turkey and ottomans.)  And then she said all the arguing was not good for the baby--that's how she ends every argument.

Today Monkey wants to go back to Rock Creek.  He said we could wait until 4, but it will still be super hot!!!!!  And the water is even warmer than Trump Pond.  I'll just lie there half passed-out, except I can never fall asleep because there are always weird birds there, I SWEAR, sitting there and WATCHING him pan for gold and diamonds!!!  He said they're starlings and understand people better than we understand ourselves.  HUH???!!!  They ARE very PRETTY and SHIMMER--he said they have magical feathers!  He's a water scientist, but he believes in magic!  But whenever he tells me stuff like that, then he tells me not to tell anybody else because they wouldn't understand.

He's ALREADY got money in the bank and could buy me a diamond ring, but he never has!  I just have a gold wedding band.  I wish he would just buy me a diamond ring, and then take me to the movies or NASCAR on the weekend.  Once I asked if we could go to the beach, and he was like, "that's the WORSE place to pan," and I said, "but we could swim," and he looked at me like I was the crazy one!  Then he looked at his Rolex! 

Kelli said her parents used to think the Apocalypse was coming, but now they said Trump is going to fix everything.  I don't know.  I don't think he can fix my husband.

love always and forever (keep my secrets!!!)

Brittani (Mrs. Kevin Mundy!)


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COMING UP:  The Seekers discuss Trump theology!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

ASPIRE!

Congressman Paul Ryan was supposed to be in Wisconsin campaigning to win his primary against a Republican challenger, but he just could not get on a plane until he had worked out the week's kinks with his Thai masseuse.  He grunted with satisfaction as she dug her knees into his cramped butt muscles and dug her thumbs under his shoulder blades.  "Gah!"  He wanted to push Donald Trump out a very high window.  "It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends!  That's what they told Harry Potter!"

"Harry Potter," the masseuse repeated, pulling his right arm halfway out of its socket.

"Holy mother!"  He sucked in his breath, and she told him to exhale.  "I couldn't let him attack a military family whose son had died in Iraq!"

"No," she agreed, pulling his left arm halfway out of its socket.

"Jiminy Crickets!"  She flipped him over like a hamburger, having learned there was no need to be gentle with the Speaker of the House.  "He won't endorse me!  But that's fine.  Who cares?  The last thing I need is a certifiable lunatic endorsing me.  Oof!"

"Lunatic," she repeated.  (Her English was a lot better than he suspected, and she always thought it was better to keep it that way with male clients.  Usually this was for the purpose of pretending she did not understand sexual innuendo, but she also found that politicians and national security officials liked to sound off on a lot of sensitive topics here while she was realigning their joints.)

"Trump's in a total free fall--he doesn't give a damn about anything except hearing the sound of his own voice and paying himself and his cronies to fight losing Twitter wars."

"Twitter wars," she affirmed, pushing his right leg up to stretch out his hamstring, then rotating his hip joint.

"Ah!  And tossing the baby!  Tossing the baby!  CIA directors denounce him, and the moron is tossing babies from his rallies!"

"Crybaby," she said, pushing his left leg up to stretch out his hamstring, then rotating his hip joint.

"Wa!  Honest to God, people have spoken to me about offering amnesty to the Secret Service if they take him out!"

She was seated behind him, pressing her feet into his shoulders while pulling his head away from his body.  "Secret Service take him out," she said.  Ryan opened his eyes and looked at her upside down.

Half a mile away, Charles Wu was back in the Prince and Prowling office of junior partner, Bridezilla.

"Thanks again for taking me to the Singapore state dinner!" she said, stroking the conjoined guinea pigs sitting in her lap.  (Very few things unnerved Wu, but Thelma and Louise were on the list.)

"Well, you deserved it!" he said.  (She had correctly predicted that releasing the DNC emails before the convention would ensure that they were quickly choked out of the news cycle, unable to return.  At the end of the day, it turned out there was nothing that surprising in them--certainly not for an electorate this jaded.)  But he had also wanted to give her a boost out of the bitterness she had sunken into pending the annulment.

"I had a lovely time," she said, in a softer Virginia drawl than he normally heard from her often harpy-like voice.

"You turned a lot of heads in that Vera Wang gown," he added.

"You exaggerate!" she said, but she was still smiling.  "You were very kind to buy it for me.  But now we need to get down to business.  What's next for your SuperPAC?"

"You tell me!" he said.  "But whatever it is, let's sort it out quickly--I'm flying my little girl down to Rio tonight to watch some gymnastics!"

A few miles away, Liv and Felix Cigemeier were packing up for the chartered flight they were taking with Charles Wu down to the Olympics.  (The grant Wu had paid for Liv's International Development Machine reconstruction work in the Philippines had been the perfect cover to set up a very effective spy base in that country, and he was indirectly thanking her with this trip.)  Felix usually paid for their vacations, but this time he was thanking his wife for the trip.  "I guess all that 'Girl Up' work you have been doing has finally paid off for me!" he teased her, but she didn't rise to the bait.  "Now my little boy will see women gymnastics and be truly inspired!"

"He's a baby!" she laughed.

"He's two!  These are formative years!"

"He will see women excelling at something which takes a lot of hard work.  He will grow up to be somebody who cheers on strong women, just like his father!" 

"Bam!" shouted Lucas, rushing into the bedroom to attack a half-packed suitcase with his light saber.

"He's a boy!" laughed Felix.

Several miles away, Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle was also trying to inspire youth--in his case, by leading another Urban Guerrilla Field Trip for adolescents.  He had bribed a Metro engineer to take them into a red line tunnel to see for themselves what was really being done to repair the tracks.  The kids were talking about all the disasters they had heard about--the crashes, fires, deaths, and most recent derailment--but he cautioned them to be quiet as they came up to a junction where they might run into workers.  When they quieted down, that's when he heard the growling.

"What's that?" someone cried.

"Sh!"  Winkle motioned them to stay back as he tiptoed up to look into the side tunnel.  What he saw was famed Dog Whisperer Sebastian L'Arche squatting next to famed rat terrier "The Gipper"--who was softly growling at something in the shadows.  Then it jumped out of the shadows, and Winkle's mouth flew open at the sight of what appeared to be an eight-foot lizard standing on two legs, swiping its front feet (hands?) around like it was fending off an attack of something.  "Run!" shouted Winkle, losing all faith in the anti-psychotic medication he had now been taking for a long time.  "Run!" he repeated, turning around to shoo the kids in the opposite direction.

L'Arche turned around in surprise, but Winkle was already out of sight.  He turned back to see Ghost Anatoly (a Samoyed specter) and the Gopper Ghost (previously sired by The Gipper) try to take down the demon with the help of the rest of the canine ghost pack.  The Gipper smelled real blood in the beast and wanted to join the attack, but L'Arche was holding on tight to the dog collar, knowing The Gopper had died from similar heroics.  But the canine ghost pack could do no more than annoy the demon, which finally threw them off to whimper while it crawled up the tunnel wall to run away on the ceiling.  L'Arche shivered, realizing his long simmering fear was real:  the Metro system was truly cursed.  He watched the canine ghost pack lick their ephemeral wounds, some still growling with desire to give chase, but Gopper Ghost was counseling them that it was time to leave.  They trotted past L'Arche quickly, a little embarrassed.  L'Arche stood up and sighed deeply, knowing that Angela de la Paz was leaving with her employer for Rio tonight just when L'Arche needed to get the anti-Ardua coalition back together.

A couple miles away, the ASPIRE coalition was back together, meeting for an all-day workshop in the Brookland row house of their charismatic leader, Max.  The rain had pulled them from his backyard, and the large SRO crowd stretched up his staircase and back into his kitchen.

"Attorneys Serving Public Interest Radicals Everywhere is unlike any organization you have ever joined in your life," Max said.  "Nobody is more appalled by Donald Trump than I am, but he's right about one thing."  ("No!  Boo!")  "Wait, wait!  He is!  The system is rigged!  It's actually rigged in his favor--that's the funny part!"  (Lots of laughter.)  "But seriously, how do we take down the system when we're all obsessed with earning our daily bread?  Can we start a revolution?  Can we demonstrate in the streets?  Can we litigate our way to a better society?'  ("Yes!  No!")  "That's right:  yes and no.  The system is rigged.  But you know what's not rigged?  Our hearts.  That's right!  You--" he said, pointing at an attractive young paralegal in a red strapless sundress.  "Come up here."  She jumped up, goose bumps on her bare arms.  He grabbed her hand to pull her closer, then put his arm around her waist.  "Does your boss praise your work?"  She shook her head.  "Does he or she--"

"He."

"--does he tell you that what you're doing is advancing humanity?"  She shook her head.  "Does he ask you for your opinion on how best to serve the client?"  She shook her head again.  "What does he say to you at the end of the day?"

"He asks for my metrics."

"METRICS!" Max shouted at the crowd--mostly unemployed attorneys and people working at the most menial legal tasks in the city.  "Metrics," he repeated, more softly, then kissed her on the cheek.  "This is what's wrong with the world of lawyers, my friends!"  ("Amen!")  "We're supposed to be working for people, not numbers."  He pulled her face around and kissed her on the mouth to more than a few gasps.  "What?" he asked, turning back to the crowd.  "You're shocked that I have expressed affection to this lovely human being?  My heart," he said, pressing it with his left hand while his right arm was still wrapped around her waist, "is not rigged to fit into the cold marble floors, steel filing cabinets, beige hallways, uncomfortable chairs, and billables departments they want us all to fit into."  ("Amen!")  "My heart is free of all that."  He kissed her again on the cheek and motioned her to rejoin the crowd.  She felt like the most special woman in the house, even though he had never asked her name.

"Now, you will be asked to volunteer for political campaigns, donate your time to pro bono cases, work long hours on weekends and holidays--and will society be better off for any of it?"  He looked around at the silent and confused crowd.  "No!  Others will ask you to take more strident and radical measures, get arrested in the streets, occupy Wall Street, blow whistles.  There are even rumors flying around town that anybody who assassinates Donald Trump will get political asylum in Mexico, Turkey, or China."  (Low whistles.)  "No!  I'm serious!  Lots of rumors out there!  The man has a bounty on his head.  But will any of that build a better society?"  He looked around again at the silently enthralled crowd.  "It's in here," he said, pressing his heart with both hands.  "The public interest is in here.  Now I want everybody to forget about law for a few minutes, turn to the person next to you, man or woman, whatever color skin they have, and kiss 'em."

Somewhere behind the dining room table, a man grabbed a very surprised Laura Moreno and started kissing the contract attorney like his life depended on it.  Outside the dining room window, a catbird sheltering from the rain stared at the humans and started imitating the sound of thunder claps.

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COMING UP:  The freaked-out diary of Brittani!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Veil

Dr. Khalid Mohammad was sitting on a chair next to his wife, Yasmin, at the local swimming pool.  Though she seemed more comfortable at home, and had not put a veil back on since their wedding, she was still wearing a head scarf in public.  He had purchased her a very modest swim suit with a skirt, but she was still wrapped up in a terry cloth robe.

"You see how they are," Khalid said, gesturing to the swimmers.  "Once you are in the pool, nobody sees the legs.  You can have a swim cap on your hair, and the swimming is good exercise."

"I can do the treadmill at home," she said.  She did not like arguing with her husband, but it had been an exceedingly difficult psychological journey to recover from her radicalized father's beatings for "dishonor"--the last one of which had cracked her skull and nearly killed her.

"Swimming uses all the muscles of the body better, and is the best thing to keep a strong back," said Khalid (again).  He was secretly hoping she would also find it a very liberating feeling to glide through water again--something she had not done since before puberty.

"I've been doing the yoga," she said (again).  She really did not like arguing with him, especially now, after their recent return from the sad funeral in Jordan for his cousin--murdered in her own country by an extremist Iraqi refugee for not wearing a hijab in public.

"Yes, I know you have."  He squeezed her hand affectionately.  "You can wear the robe to the edge of the pool and then hand it to me."  It had taken weeks of heat for Khalid to just get her to the pool at all, so he was feeling fairly optimistic.  Her father was back in Turkey, finally abandoning his ties with the CIA for good and joining Erdogan's regime to crack down on dissenters.  Khalid was fairly certain that his father-in-law would never be allowed back inside the U.S.

"Maybe," said Yasmin, who knew that Khalid wanted her to be able to take their future children swimming.  Khalid and Yasmin had watched television together a few days ago as Khizr Khan spoke to the DNC Convention about his son, Humayun--a Muslim who was born in the United Arab Emirates but grew up in Maryland and died a hero saving fellow American soldiers in Iraq from a suicide bombing.  Yasmin had been trying to imagine raising a son here, seeing him go to college, seeing him be a quiet Muslim like her husband.

"Okay," said Khalid.  "I'm going to swim a bit; then I'll come back."  It had bothered Khalid tremendously that Mrs. Khan had stood silently next to her husband with a head scarf on while he did all the talking about their deceased son, but at least some of her hair had been showing and there was no veil.  Khalid knew he was being slightly cruel, but he thought Yasmin would rather come into the pool then sit alone.  He felt somewhat hypocritical pushing her to be a certain way, and yet just letting her be would mean letting her keep the habits which had been beaten into her, rather than help liberate the woman she really was.  He loved that she had enough self-confidence not to do whatever he asked of her, but he also knew this particular type of resistance came from her father's brainwashing.  He got up and walked a few steps, then heard her call for him to wait.

Several miles away, former Senator Evermore Breadman was sipping from another glass of bourbon on the rocks, staring across his Prince and Prowling desk in amazement at the calm demeanor of junior partner Bridezilla.  "The veil has come off," he repeated.  "Not just for the DNC.  You understand this, right?"

"Of course," said Bridezilla, who was calmly petting Thelma and Louise, the conjoined guinea pigs sitting in her lap.

"Donors are clowns, sure, but you can't say that!  What if somebody hacks into our SuperPACs?"

"They won't."

"Of course a political party has a vested interest in the outcome of the parties!" Breadman exclaimed.

"Of course."

"But the SuperPACs?  Lord Almighty, what if our SuperPACs get hacked?"

"They won't," replied Bridezilla, annoyed that he took the Lord's name in vain.

"What makes you so sure?"

"Our PACs are too secret," said Bridezilla.  "And most of the files are paper, or stored on memory cards.  We don't have email servers."

"Right, right, no email," said Breadman, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his temples.  He had not been this nervous since his final reelection campaign--run during a time when you had private dinners with millionaires' cutting checks, and only your chief of staff knew what was promised and what was snickered about later.  "But what about the Russians?"

"They want the embarrassing emails," said Bridezilla.  "They're not even looking for SuperPACs."  (She knew this because Charles Wu had asked the Tarantula to set out several honey pots to see if hackers were looking for SuperPACs, but nothing happened.)

"But the Dems have always been better with technology.  Why haven't the Republicans been hacked?"

"I think they probably have," said Bridezilla, "but it will be released strategically."

"Strategically?!" cried Breadman, rifling his hands through his thinning hair.  "What the Hell is the Wikileaks agenda, anyway?"

"Julian Assange is a misogynist masquerading as mankind's savior," said Bridezilla.  "Smart people know better."

Breadman suddenly realized he had no idea what Bridezilla was talking about.  Is it possible I'm not as smart as I thought I was?  I don't know better!

"I don't know," said the Tarantula (again), tapping on the keyboard and staring at his computer screen while Charles Wu paced nervously behind him in the hacker's NoMa loft apartment.  "I did try to make the first one look like a Russian hack, but then other things happened."

"If Donald Trump is colluding with Russia--"

"There's no evidence of that!"

"He owes money to the Russian mob," said Wu, sitting back down beside his prized hacker.

"It's not the same thing."

"I know it's not the same thing!" cried Wu.

"Don't yell at me, dude!"

"Sorry."

"Look, there's a lot at stake in this election.  Trump doesn't even want to be President!  His son told Kasich that he could be in charge of domestic and international policy if he joined the ticket as Vice-President!  How wacky is that?  Trump literally wants to be a figurehead!  It doesn't matter how many veils are pulled away from this phony--he still has supporters!  Freakin' Nazis!"

"Please tell me something I don't already know," pleaded Wu.  His contacts in Beijing were apoplectic about the idea of Russia's swaying the U.S. election.

"I need more time."

There was also high anxiety in the Southwest Plaza apartment of conspiracy blogger and militiaman Glenn Michael Beckmann.  "I need more time!" he shouted at temporal lobe epileptic "John Doe", who was relaying messages with the ghost of Henry Samuelson--who had swung back into the anti-Trump camp after the Donald invited Russia to hack American computers.

"He must be assassinated!" cried John, trying to gesticulate in the same way that the ghost did.  "He's a Russian mole!  Or the Manchurian Candidate!"

"That's China," said Beckmann (who was confused about a lot of things but did know that China was a different commie menace).

"That's not the point!" exclaimed John, who was normally very adverse to Ghost Henry's violent tendencies but feared that Donald Trump would institute Nazi eugenics and kill all the disabled people in the country.  "Trump cannot be trusted with the nukes!  And the Ghost CIA can only do so much!"

"What about the real CIA?" asked Beckmann.  "They have plenty of assassins."

"Not against the Secret Service!" cried John.  "Their assassins have to stay behind the veil!  They can only kill overseas."

"Likely story!  Well, I have to capture that dummy first.  I think with the dummy--"

"Forget about the dummy!" cried John, expressing Ghost Henry's frustration with Beckmann's insistence that a satanic dummy living somewhere in YouTube land needed to be found before any action could be taken against Trump.

"Find me the dummy!" retorted Beckmann, red in the face.

"Fine!  The dummy is in the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged."

Beckmann's jaw dropped.  "You knew all along!  You knew I wanted that dummy!"

"You can't assassinate Trump with a satanic dummy!"

"No, but it can talk that dweeb Donald Trump, Jr., into killing his father!"

John Doe was speechless, waiting for Ghost Henry's reply, but Ghost Henry's spectral jaw had dropped.

Back at the pool, Khalid had returned to the side of his wife, who had pulled her robe halfway off.  She was thinking about Khizr Khan.  ("You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”)   She was proud of her husband, a doctor who had saved her life and the lives of many others.  She wondered if their children would ever be proud of her.  A good Muslim woman would raise her son to be like Khan's son--fearless, selfless, serving others.  What could she do behind a veil?  Nothing.  And she did not want to raise a son who would scorn women who did not wear veils--even kill them!  She looked around, but nobody was paying attention or looking at her bare arms.  Some people had stared at her head scarf, but now that she had the bathing cap on (which covered all her hair), nobody was staring.  She took the robe off, and Khalid watched her as she looked around to see who was staring--nobody.

"We'll run and jump in fast!" said Khalid, smiling, and she smiled back.  He took her hand, they got up, ran to the pool, and jumped.

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COMING UP:  ASPIRE!