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, 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 minister.  "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 reprogram 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 reprogrammed?" 

"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.

*****************************************************************
COMING UP:  ASPIRE!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some surprising secret plans!

The Heurich Society was not in the habit of supporting Democratic candidates, but, even with Dick Cheney at its helm, was now having a serious discussion about stopping Donald Trump from taking control of the White House.

"Nothing's more important than the money!"

"And the power!"

"And the freedom!"

"How can he criticize Hillary for something that Pence also did, and when confronted with the hypocrisy, say he doesn't care?!"

"Why don't his supporters care that he's a proud hypocrite?"

"Why do his supporters think he gives a shit about anything except aggrandizing his own DNA pool?"

"The man's a Nazi!"

"That's an insult to Nazis!"

"He'll freeze our assets!"

"We will lose decades of work building networks in OPEC countries!"

"Who will take care of my yard if he gets rid of the Mexicans?"

"Shut up!" hollered Cheney, massaging his wacko replacement heart muscles with his right hand.  "This is not the time to panic!  We have never put stock in democracy, anyway.  We've got dozens of key operatives in the military and intelligence branches.  We have 100% control of the Overseas Contingency Operations, for God's sake!"

"What are you suggesting?!"

"Let him win!  Then we blackmail the Hell out of him once he's in office.  If that doesn't work, he's out."

The upper floor conference room of the Brewmaster's Castle fell silent except for the Army colonel chewing ice and the international arms dealer scratching his stubble.  Several eyes looked to the speakerphone, but Condoleezza Rice was uncharacteristically quiet.

After several minutes, the international banker pushed back his chair and stood up.  "No."

"No?!" screamed Cheney, turning red in the face.

"No.  We've increased all our financial holdings under the Obama Administration and still retained tremendous influence in world affairs.  The conservative choice is Hillary Clinton."

"How the Hell can we project power in the world if that broad is wearing the pants in the family?  She's going to be sitting down with Russian and Chinese leaders while Bubba is holding tea parties in the Rose Garden?  We'll be the laughing stock of the world!  No offense, Condi."

"We'll be the laughing stock if we let a charlatan and his coterie of yes men and sluts take over the White House," said the international banker calmly.  "No offense, Condi.  And if you actually expect the Heurich Society to put its resources into electing Donald Trump, I will put our financial resources at the disposition of somebody else."

Three men jumped up and pulled their guns on the international banker, while another four pulled their guns on the first three.

"ORDER!  ORDER!" screamed Cheney, pounding his fist on the table until he had a heart attack and slumped in his chair.

The ghost of Henry Samuelson, appalled that he had suddenly found himself siding with his arch-enemy Cheney, held his spectral breath waiting to see if the man who had murdered his daughter was finally dead.

Condoleezza Rice, who had not seen the guns drawn and could not see that the current silence in the room was due to the men falling silent while a defibrillator was applied, finally spoke.  "What I want to know is, who fed the DNC documents to Wikileaks?  What exactly is their agenda?"

Their agenda, as it turned out, was to air the dirty laundry before the DNC convention so that it would be quickly subsumed, and not come to light in an untimely fashion in the fall.

"I've taken a big leap of faith on this one," Charles Wu said to Bridezilla, who was still serving as an occasional consultant to his SuperPAC.  "Nobody really wants to see how the sausage is made."

"People would rather eat bloody sausages than shit on a spatula," said the Prince and Prowling junior partner in a tone of bitterness he had never heard from her.

"I didn't know he was already married," said Wu honestly, switching to the topic they needed to address.

"But you did know he had a secret life in Singapore and plenty of other places," said Bridezilla.

"He said you liked the fact he was a mysterious foreigner."  Wu was uncomfortable with this sort of conversation and got up to feign interest in the blooming bougainvillea gracing the corner of her office.

"I didn't even know his real name!"

"Neither did I," said Wu, honestly.  He knew she was an intelligent woman about many things but not her own heart.  He gently touched the blossoms, keeping his back to her.

"What did you know about him?" she asked.

Wu suppressed a sigh and returned to the guest chair.  "He fed me intelligence about OPEC countries to help me make business decisions."  (This was true, though only a fraction of the truth.)  "I think he was in love with you, for what it's worth."

"Who do you really work for, Charles?"

"Myself and my daughter.  I'm a selfish man.  I have clients that I may or may not agree with, like your law firm."

Bridezilla bit her lip, realizing there was no moral high ground to take in response to such a statement.  She took a bonbon out of the expensive box of chocolates he had brought her and ate it while he got up to look at the bougainvillea again.  "You're right," she said at last.  "I did like the fact he was a mysterious foreigner.  Now I'm surrounded by strangers in my own country more mysterious to me than you or him.  People ready to vote Adolf Hitler into the White House.  My grandfather didn't die in Italy so that fascists could take over this country."  (And bigamists! she added to herself, with a newly found horror of men who take on a new wife every decade or two.)

Wu returned to the guest chair, and she offered him a bonbon.  The crisis in their working relationship was over.  "So let's talk about what we will spend money on in Philly," said Wu.

"Hillary must win," said Bridezilla quietly, thinking with sadness about the era which now seemed eons ago--the era when she worked closely with John Boehner.  "And Tim Kaine," she added, though she had never voted for him before.

Out at Trump National Golf Course in Virginia, Nazi descendants Barbara Hellmeister and Ernest Ironman were dealing with their own angst about the upcoming Presidential election.

"But your grandfather would have wanted Trump!" exclaimed Barbara.

"No, not Adolf Eichmann!" argued Ernest, who was fed up that his pregnant lover was too fat and tired now to satisfy his needs.

"Trump has Hitler DNA!" retorted an exasperated Barbara.  "I've run the biological analysis four times!"  She was amazed she had ever thought she could bring out the Aryan greatness in this hillbilly.

"His blood is too impure!"

"So was Hitler's!"

"Trump has recklessly bred with Eastern European scum!" exclaimed Ernest (who had some suspicious West Virginian ancestry of his own).  "He has a daughter named 'Ivanka' dying her hair blond to try to pretend she is an Aryan, and yet she married a Jew!"

"All this screaming is not good for the baby!" pouted Barbara, showing a rare maternal streak.  "I am going out to soak my feet!"

It was too hot for members to come golf today, so she was able to leave their underground bunker freely and head to the pond where Ardua was currently residing.  Ardua had regained her strength feeding on the fascist energy of Trump's club, but was not yet ready to slither her way back into larger waters.  Ardua sucked affectionately on the wicked toes of Barbara Hellmeister, but was undecided what to do about the sudden rift between the couple she had been hoping to inspire for a major killing spree in Virginia.  And what about Tim Kaine?  Was Ernest onto something?  Perhaps further down the line, Ardua could actually have more influence over a Virginian!

Back in Washington, conspiracy blogger Glenn Michael Beckmann was stoked on cannabis purchased at the housing project across the street, and the lovely interaction it made with the prescription psychotropics already circulating in his brain.  He was rewatching the most recent video of the day put on by the popular YouTube channel, "Larry and Gary".  Larry, as usual, had filmed the video in front of the shared computer at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged (while nobody else was in the room).  And, as usual, the video began with typical comedian banter between Larry (an exceedingly bad ventriloquist) and Gary (an exceedingly bad dummy).  Then, as usual, they ended up in a big argument (this time it was about immigration policy as it would be applied to ventriloquist acts from terrorism-compromised countries), followed by Gary's putting his little dummy hands around Larry's neck.  Then, as usual, somebody (this time it was Theresa) interrupted the fight, pulled the dummy off Larry's neck, and threw it on the floor.  Gary's mouth continued to move by itself for another minute.

Beckmann had been convinced for weeks that Gary was truly evil (maybe even as bad as that zombie chief of staff he had beheaded some years back) but had been undecided what to do about it.  Today, he finally realized what he needed to:  kidnap the dummy so that he could unleash it on unsuspecting enemies.  (The enemy list--subject to daily revisions--was kept on a dry erase board next to the television.  Top of the list?  Ivanka Trump's husband.)  He pulled up his conspiracy blog (disguised as a lifestyle blog) and typed in code a call upon his followers to locate where Larry and Gary were to be found.

Over in Cleveland Park, Marcos Vazquez's mother made the difficult decision to give destiny a hand by slipping secret herbs to Golden Fawn to get her pregnant, but the herbs would do much more than that.

********************************************************************
COMING UP:  The veil.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A legend in his own mind, a hero in his own heart!

A lot of people were upset about the Brexit vote, but not Cedric, a resident of the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged.  "Rule, Brittania!" he had been exclaiming repeatedly for weeks.  Despite several heated conversations about it with the ghost of deceased CIA officer Henry Samuelson, Cedric was so certain that (despite the lack of slavery-powered colonies which had previously built the Empire) Britain was again taking its rightful place as an independent Superpower, he had regressed to again believing he was a British spy.  He had sneaked out to ride a bus, Metro train, and another bus to arrive at the door of Charles Wu's Cleveland Park house and make another rescue attempt on behalf of Cordelia Buffy's English nanny, Mrs. Prudence Higgety-Cheshire.

"Oh, bother!" cried the nanny when she saw Cedric enter the backyard. Mrs. H-C was wearing a matronly swimsuit, sitting in a most undignified manner in the kiddie pool, and aiming the hose at little Delia and Delia's visiting friend while they dashed about the yard giggling.  "You can't just show up here unannounced!"

"Well, you never take my phone calls!" Cedric protested, sitting down on a patio chair and wiping a handkerchief across his sweaty brow.

"How many times must I tell you that I am not interested in your well-intended advances!"  She stopped shooting the hose as the two young girls ran over to examine Cedric and the stuffed bear he had placed on the seat beside him.

"That's Aloysius," said Cedric, and the girls giggled.  "He doesn't like being laughed at!"

"Cedric, they're four years old!  They giggle fourteen hours a day."

"My name is--" began Delia's friend.

"Don't tell him your name!" interrupted the nanny.  She was fairly certain Cedric was harmless, but there was no need to throw precaution to the wind.  "He likes to play a game of trying to guess your name."

Cedric did not like children at all, and barked at them to leave him alone, whereupon Charles Wu emerged from the house with a drugged bottle of cold beer to offer the annoying former member of the Heurich Society.  (Charles would call one of his Pakistani taxi driver contacts to take him away later.)

"Thank you, Charles!" Cedric said, suddenly forgetting he was supposed to be rescuing Prudence from this dangerous spy (who had done something now completely slipping Cedric's mind).

Charles sent the girls inside with the nanny to eat lunch, and sat down to tell Cedric he had switched sides.

Down at the White House, Ghost Dennis was arguing with members of the Shackled about the outcome of the summit on police and race relations.

"I told President Obama it would lead to nothing, and it hasn't!" said Ghost Dennis.

The Shackled disagreed.  They had been around for centuries, and argued that progress was slow but definitely happening.

"This country is descending into madness!" exclaimed Ghost Dennis.  "He can't keep doing the same things and expecting different results."

"It's not like before," said a member of the Shackled.  "Africans were lynched with impunity.  Now there is accountability."

"It's just a dog and pony show, and then the cops always get acquitted," protested Ghost Dennis.  "Can't you see the President needs to shift course?  If only he would sit still long enough to hear my five-point proposal.  He always brushes me away like a fly!"

Over on Capitol Hill, Congressman Herrmark was holding a meeting of the Bicameral Anti-Zombie Caucus.  "Are they zombies?" was the question on everybody's lips, but nobody was really certain whether the names touted as Vice-Presidential candidates were undead or not.

"They are probably safe for now," said Herrmark's Chief of Staff, Ann Bishis, who was passing around a plate of lemon squares and a stack of memos outlining Herrmark's plan to monitor Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates for signs of brain rot.  "You really can't beat Secret Service protection."

"We still believe that the zombie pandemic has been contained to the legislative branch," added Herrmark, "but, of course, we take nothing for granted.  Personally, I think Trump is probably immune--I don't think any zombie would find his brains palatable enough to eat.  We do need watch the others."  Herrmark knew that what he was doing was more important for democracy than anything a Vice-President could do, and so did not feel the sting of envy so many other politicians were experiencing right now.

Over at the FBI headquarters, self-professed autistic shaman "John Doe" was again being interviewed about blog posts he had recently written, predicting a police massacre in Texas, a killer bus in France, and a bloody Ottoman insurrection.  "That's not my name," the total amnesiac said, again refusing to acknowledge incontrovertible proof of his identity.  The FBI had verified the massive gang-related brain trauma which had caused the insomnia and temporal lobe epilepsy, but he was definitely not autistic.  But who could have such accurate visions?  He made everybody nervous.  "They just come to me," John said, again.  "Ghost Henry's been trying for a long time to force them, because he says my visions always come too late to be of any use."  (The FBI was still trying to confirm whether a "Henry Samuelson" ever worked for the CIA; the interrogators never discussed whether they believed he was currently a ghost or not.)  "And I think he's right.  I post my visions in my blog, but I can never get wide readership.  I tried doing YouTube videos.  CNN and Fox are always interviewing so-called experts who make predictions that never come true, but mine do!  It would be nice if somebody put me on TV to warn people!  I mean, I don't care about the money, because I'm a shaman, of course."  (All his bills were paid by the relatives he refused to acknowledge were actually his.) 

"Tell us about the driver of the bus in Nice," the lead investigator said doggedly, pointing to a photo.  "When did you first learn about him?"

"I told you," he repeated.  "I fell down in a fit and saw the fiery truck.  I never saw him."  He had waited until the cup of decaf coffee had cooled down, and started drinking it now, but he had mistakenly received the real stuff.  "A prophet is never welcome in his own time, they say.  But then, what's the point of being a prophet?"  (The lead investigator sighed; it was like this every time.)  "I struggle with that sometime.  I wrote an essay about it once for Reader's Digest, but they never printed it."

"You must have seen the driver!"

"I don't know anything about the driver!"  With that, the caffeine hit John's nervous system like an electric shock, and he went into an epileptic trance that nobody could snap him out of for ten minutes.  When he came to, the first thing he said was, "The dogs, too?"

Down in Southwest, conspiracy theorist Glenn Michael Beckmann's nervous system was having an overload of its own.  Beckmann had failed to assassinate Donald Trump before he got Secret Service protection, failed to fly to Alaska to make a paternity claim on his love child with Bristol Palin (how could they put a patriot like him on the No-Fly List?!), failed to get Sarah Palin arrested for assassinating Antonin Scalia, failed to discover Darja's killer, and failed to formulate a plan to protect America's police forces from retaliation.  He took a deep toke of reefer and closed his eyes to recall past glories when he was serving in Iraq [in his imagination], killing illegal aliens and terrorists [partially true], planting bombs against ___ [can't remember, but they deserved it!], invading Cuba [not even close], and leading the Hunter-Gatherer Society in its successful eradication of germ warfare [not] monkeys [only one] from Kingman Island.  "I will rise again!" he cried to the mouse scurrying across the floor, and picked up a book on Attila the Hun to throw at it.  And then the mouse reminded him of vermin in general, and he realized what he needed to do next.

The mouse ran out to the open balcony, where it was quickly attacked by the feline ghost pack run by Condoleezza's deceased pet, Pippin, and plunged to its death on the sidewalk below.

**************************************************************
COMING UP:  Some surprising secret plans!

Prince and Prowling's women on the verge of a nervous breakdown!

Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam!

Bridezilla pulled off her goggles as the gun range target sheet flew towards her for review.

"You hit all the vital organs again, ma'am," said her shooting instructor.  "Why don't you take a break?"  She had been there for ten hours on Saturday, and had shown up promptly at 11:30 this morning (after church services) ready to go again.

"What?" protested the Prince and Prowling junior partner.  "I just got here!"

The shooting instructor knew that the gun range owner was going to come in on Monday, see the massively depleted inventory of bullets and target sheets, and seriously reconsider his unlimited target practice membership plan.

"We could try blindfolded shooting," suggested the instructor, trying to slow her down.  "It's good practice for shooting in the dark."

"Blindfolded shooting?" exclaimed Bridezilla, incredulously.  "I'm an attorney!  I'm not going to shoot at somebody I can't see!"  She tore off the target sheet and reloaded her gun for the next one.

The shooters this morning were mostly white people preparing for the spread of the deadly race war engulfing America, though there were also a few people subconsciously preparing to shoot up Muslims, politicians, gays, bosses, or ex-wives.   Bridezilla was uncharacteristically apolitical this week, picturing only one face on the hundreds of targets she had shot up:  husband Marco Pel.  "Don't even know his real name!" she muttered again.

The instructor had tried in vain to figure out if she was really going to gun down her husband or was just blowing off steam:  after several protests about invading her privacy, she had finally told him she had no husband, it was all a sham, and she would get an annulment as soon as all the damned vacationing Virginia judges would get back to their dockets!  The instructor had seen these skinny Virginia belle types before, but usually only for a couple hours the weekend after a husband had purchased them a small handgun for their designer purse.  He had never seen this type of behavior, and was writing up a report for his boss even though he knew nothing would come of it.

Another target sheet flew towards them, with the genitals blown to bits, and he sipped from his water bottle instead of commenting.

Further down the legal totem pole of Prince and Prowling, staff attorney Chloe Cleavage was also becoming increasingly unhinged.  She was sunbathing on her condo building roof with cousin Chloris Cleavage, an actress who had stopped by for a visit after completing a bit part as "Waitress Number Two" in a movie filming outside Baltimore.

"I guess I should take the train up on Monday to New York, to prepare for the audition," Chloris was saying for the tenth time, even though the audition for an antiperspirant commercial was not scheduled until Thursday.  "I could stay with Mitch or Michael, I suppose."  Chloris was always referring to a score of men just dying to pin her down, and Chloe was silently rolling her eyes again.  "Michael is definitely a better cook, tee hee!  But Mitch, well--"

"Whatever!" cried out an exasperated Chloe, who had now forgotten all the gratitude previously felt for the period Chloris had come to stay with her after the broken arm.  "You know how many guys have me on speed dial?!  Two dozen, at least!"

"Well, that's great!" said Chloris.  "What are you hollerin' at me for?  Which one do you like the best?  Wait, two-dozen?!"

Chloe grabbed her thermos to sip from the frozen margarita and stall.  "Well...."  She took another sip, suddenly overcome with bitterness that a prince had never arrived on a white horse for her.  (Well, not a handsome rich one, like she wanted.)  "Devon, I suppose," which was the name of a firm client, and the princeliest name she could come up with.

"Ooh, what's he like?"

Chloe thought about the first time she had accidentally run into an attorney visiting from Devon.  Staff attorneys at P&P were never supposed to mix with clients, but when he saw her silicone enhancements and figured out she was working on his case, he had stopped by her office on the way out.  One thing had led to another, and then he had left her with a fifty-dollar bill on her desk.  Somehow, this had now happened with attorneys visiting from three other clients, none of whom objected when she also billed the time to their employers.  Then she had started getting cellphone calls from other men they knew, and she now had a guy visiting her apartment almost every night of the week!  She had raised her price to $300, but this had led to even more phone calls as her reputation as a "high-priced call girl" spread.  And she turned away ugly guys, which made the guys reaching her bedroom (or office chair) crow about their experiences even more! 

Am I really the sort of girl a man will never want to marry?  She had anguished to herself over and over again.  My cousin is at least out there pursuing her dream!  I can't even remember why I went to law school!  What have I become?

"Chloe?  Hey, slow down on the margarita, girl!"

Chloe put the thermos down beside her.  "Devon is...well, he's hard to describe.  He makes me feel...wanted."

"Goodness, that is not enough, Chloe!  Trust me!  Guys are always wanting, wanting, wanting.  But what are they giving?  You gotta find somebody who will help your dreams come true!"

I don't have a dream, Chloe thought.

Downtown, further down the P&P totem pole, long-time contract attorney Laura Moreno was putting in the repeated weekend overtime hours she needed to pay her health insurance premium, but she was in an uncharacteristically good mood because tonight was another meeting of ASPIRE:  Attorneys Serving Public Interest Radicals Everywhere.  It had been years since her drudgery work at Prince and Prowling made her too exhausted to do pro bono work or look for better job opportunities, but ASPIRE made her feel energized!  The leader--who only went by the name "Max" to avoid harassment from reactionary trolls--was the most charismatic man she had ever met!  She really felt she could move mountains for him!  Though most of the members were attorneys, he had also attracted paralegals, legal assistants, secretaries, accountants, political activists, and scores of other professionals united behind his vision of shifting the intellectual energy of the nation's legal sector away from serving corporate America and towards serving common America.  What neither Laura nor anybody else in the young organization knew was that Max was really serving Evil.

Closer to the bottom of the Prince and Prowling totem pole than she felt she (even though a non-employee) should be, the wife of former Senator Evermore Breadman had followed him to work to spy on him, incredulous that he would pass up a yacht excursion on a gorgeous day like this simply because "it's an election year, dear!"  She was aware of his occasional philandering, and had cheated on him in revenge a few times, but she felt they were both getting too old for that nonsense and needed to get closer to the dignity she saw in others of their age--who were learning to play bridge and taking grandchildren to baseball games.  She had gotten Laura what's-her-name to let her in under false pretenses, and was creeping around on her husband's floor.  Every time she got near his office, she could hear his voice on the phone in what sounded like legitimate calls (though she had never before heard him refer to Donald Trump as a "sperm whale with diarrhea", President Obama as "the Wizard of Clods", and Hillary Clinton as "living proof that voodoo dolls work").  Still uneasy, she poked through his secretary's desk and his legal assistant's files.  She poked through forgotten food in the kitchen fridge and forgotten output in the central printer tray.  She went downstairs to the firm library and upstairs to the penthouse.  Then she accidentally stumbled across the office of Chloe Cleavage--a name she had heard whispered every year at the firm holiday party.  She rummaged through everything until she found the smoking gun:  four boxes of condoms!  "What kind of slut keeps four boxes of condoms in her office!"  [Chloe had ordered a crate of them from Amazon because she had run out of nearby drugstores she was willing to buy more at.]  She grabbed all of them and raced to her husband's office.

"What kind of woman is this?!" she shouted to her shocked husband, throwing the condom boxes on his desk.

"I need to call you back, Mr. Speaker," he said quickly, hanging up the phone.  "What on Earth?"

"Is that what they're called these days?  [Air quotes--]  Staff attorney?"

"Um--"

"Don't 'um' me!"

"Are those from Roderick's office?" Breadman asked, though he doubted it.

"Chloe Cleavage!  How often do you sleep with her?  Are you crazy?  She could blackmail you!"

Chloe had already blackmailed him, but he wasn't responsible for this quantity of condoms, and a surge of testosterone-fueled jealousy rose in him even as he struggled to calm down his wife.

"I don't know what all those are for!" he said honestly.  "I don't have time for that!  Believe me:  I wish I did!"  He regretted that last part as soon as it was out of his mouth.

"Well, maybe I can give you a quickie before you call back Mr. Ryan!" she screamed.

"Um, alright," Breadman said, relieved.

"Ga, you're disgusting!  You think I'm going to do it on a sticky leather chair!  Satin sheets!  Satin sheets!  Satin sheets!  Dignity!"  She kicked over both his guest chairs, then dumped a potted plant onto his couch for good measure.  "Act your age!"

Back at the gun range, a sudden migraine had finally put an end to Bridezilla's personal blitzkrieg across the stack of target sheets.  "Sometimes pets can help with extreme stress," the instructor said to her, surprising even himself.

She looked at him suspiciously.  "Some men are scared of strong women!" she declared, marching off in a snit, determined to find a female shooting instructor, even though she was good enough to be a psycho sniper now.

Nonetheless, an hour later, she was returning home with miniature Siamese-twin guinea pigs, little conjoined freaks she had adopted from the local animal shelter.  "I'll call you Thelma and Louise," she told them.  (In time, she would change their names to "Flower Girl" and "Maid of Honor".)

Outside her window, a catbird wondered whose side they were on. 

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COMING UP:  
A legend in his own mind, a hero in his own heart!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Longing for Freedom (but freedom from what?)

Calico Johnson had come home early from Atlantic City because of the lousy weather.  Megamoo, as expected, was huddled in her outdoor pagoda, refusing to graze.  "Come on!  This is ridiculous!  You need to graze now before it really starts raining!"  Megamoo, as expected, let out a loud bellow but refused to budge.  I've got acres and acres of grass here!  I'm tired of buying hay for you!"  There was a time he used to invite friends, colleagues, hot women, and real estate clients out to his Potomac Manors estate, but the two horses and one (very loud cow) made it a little too farm-like and not enough party-like.  He tried to push Megamoo (who had been cured of bovine narcolepsy, but was currently being treated for arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and [Johnson had some doubts about this one] dissociative identity disorder), but she simply let out another loud moo.  Johnson had recently sold a pricey (but haunted!) home to the Obamas, and the astonishing political rise of Donald Trump had reminded him that he was a major player himself and should not be wasting his time in animal husbandry.  "I only took you in for Basia's sake!" he grumbled to the geriatric cow, recalling bitterly his infatuation with the neighbor who had--according to the FBI--burnt down her own home.  "And it's obvious she's never coming back!  I have no qualms about turning you into hamburger!"  Megamoo lay down on the concrete in protest.

President Obama, meanwhile, was at the White House preparing for another USO event to honor military families.  He and his wife had signed the real estate contract (for a haunted house!) the same day he had signed the law opening up more records to Freedom of Information Act requests.  (They would still be answered too slowly to affect anything he was doing in office.)  But he knew his legacy was in jeopardy.  So many advisors had told him that Donald Trump's Republican nomination would guarantee Hillary Clinton's election in November, but why is this FBI investigation dragging on so long?  And how could my Attorney General have been stupid enough to talk to Bill Clinton at an airport?  Sometimes it seems like--

"Don't worry," the familiar voice whispered in his ear.

It was Ghost Dennis, but Obama still did not know that, and his skin crawled.  Sometimes it seems like there is a conspiracy of evil to destroy everything, and--

"I know," the familiar voice whispered in his ear.  "But I'm playing the long game."  (Ghost Dennis had been there since dying in an "accident" during the Nixon Administration.)

The President plugged his ears.  "I will never surrender to evil!" he said out loud, not understanding that evil doesn't need a formal surrender.

Over at the CIA's secret underground facility, beneath the Washington Times headquarters, Dr. Ermann Esse had tried without success to free himself from bondage to the CIA's secret enhanced interrogation program by addicting himself to prescription pain killers in order to fail the random drug tests they made everybody take.  However, instead of firing the psychiatrist, the CIA had placed him in lockdown for a rapid and painful cold-turkey withdrawal.  The shrink who had made a career of not prescribing psychotropics for his patients was now a poster child for "this is your brain on drugs"--writhing in agony on the floor, pulling his hair out, scratching his forearms, banging his forehead against the cinderblock wall, and periodically crying out to anybody who might hear him to take pity and give him a pill.  How had it all gone so horribly wrong?! (Dr. Esse had a lot of memory loss surrounding the period in which he had been wearing the cursed Rolex.)

The cursed Rolex was currently adorning the wrist of previously average and normal Kevin "Monkey" Mundy, a DC water employee now obsessed with panning for gold and diamonds in the Potomac River and its tributaries.  The Nazi-descendant couple, Barbara Hellmeister and Ernest Ironman, had invited him out for an ironic 4th of July celebration in their secret bunker at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.  Ernest was insecure about Monkey's friendship with the couple, even though Barbara was due to give birth to his child in late September.  Therefore, Ernest, who had been raised in obscurity in West Virginia, had decided to surprise Monkey with a young bride of his own--whom Ernest had picked out after several trips to Northern Virginia's shopping malls and bus stations.

"I thought it was time for you to get married," said Ernest, as Monkey walked in.  Much to his surprise, Monkey saw a girl dressed in a red, white and blue sundress, rubbing her bare arms against the cold and damp.  "Her name is Brittani spelled with two i's.  She's already pregnant, so if you say you're the father, you can marry her--but you should do it right away, because the stupid government just raised the age of marriage in Virginia."  Brittani was only fourteen.  She was not actually pregnant, but she had already run away from home to be with a boyfriend who had subsequently dumped her for another girl.  She was a little chubby, so when Ernest had asked if she was pregnant, she had impulsively said yes in a ploy for sympathy, food, and/or money.

Barbara, who believed their own baby would be an example of Aryan greatness, did not at all approve of encouraging these two genetic mutts to marry each other and produce any offspring (hers, his, or theirs), but she knew that Ernest was jealous about Monkey, so she had not stood in the way.  She handed Brittani a sweater, now that Monkey had already gotten a look at the girl's cleavage.

"Hi!" cried out Brittani, who occasionally felt special and excited about all that was happening, and thought Monkey was kinda cute.  "I made potato salad!  I can cook all kinds of things.  I made chocolate chip cookies, too, but those are for later."

Monkey had not dated since having his heart broken by his college girlfriend.  He had first poured himself into a local government career, and then, lately, all his passion had flowed towards finding the secret treasurers hidden in the water.  But now he felt his pulse quicken at the sight of this girl and the sound of her voice.  Maybe the Taliban and ISIS are right about child brides?!  All his (corrupted) instincts were saying yes!

"Just call in sick tomorrow," said Ernest, seeing the lust in Monkey's eyes.  He handed Monkey a cold beer, and took the bag of chips, brownies, and fireworks from him.  "Spend the night here, and we'll all go to the Courthouse first thing in the morning!  She already has a white dress ready."

"Sure, why not?" Monkey found himself saying, momentarily forgetting his obsession with gold and diamonds.  (But it would return.)

Back in Washington, British special agents Nigel Blackthorne (code name "Prickly") and Richard Mollington (code name "The Third") were trying to enjoy local lifestyle guru Giuliana Sunstream's 4th of July party, but the marijuana-and-cinnamon lemonade was not enough to cut the gloom cast from the gray, damp skies.  Giuliana had most of her guests now engaged indoors in a patriotic game she had invented (Hamilton hip-hop charades), but Prickly and The Third were still sitting on the balcony, commiserating about the Brexit vote.  The main Brexit problem, of course, was that special agents would all lose easy access to every country in the European Union, and the easy access that in turn gave to entering Russia or the Middle East.  The secondary problem was that too many people in England were unable to accept that their country was a declining world power:  without a string of colonies to prop it up, England was going to be just another small European country.  A nuclear arsenal could do nothing about the narrow economy (which the security establishment had been lamenting for years).  Haiti and Somalia had freedom from excessive government bureaucracy, and what had it gotten them?  The strongest economies in the world all had strong governments.

"Come on, you sourpusses!" exclaimed Giuliana as she opened the balcony door to summon them inside.  "I know you didn't come to my Freedom Fest to sit out here by yourself staring at the drizzle!"  She squeezed both of them on the shoulder at the same time, bending over to let them smell the perfume she had hand-crafted herself at a Scents-Your-Purpose event she had hosted the previous weekend.  "Come in and join the fun!"

A flock of starlings quickly descended to take over the now empty balcony, chattering away about how easy it was to crush the human spirit.

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COMING UP:  Prince and Prowling's women
on the verge of a nervous breakdown!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Singapore Surprise

Angela de la Paz, as it turned out, was having a harder time with Father's Day than with Mother's Day.  She was thinking about the late Aussie commando who had been father to the son she had given up for adoption.  She had seen him a couple times in the Dreamtime and knew he was at peace, but it seemed wrong that he never got a chance to see his son on Earth.

"What do you think?" smiled Dulles Samuelson (who wast not at all thinking about his adoptive father, or the Argentine father he had never known).  Dulles showed off the cleaned-up houseboat, Singapore Surprise, which he had just moved into.  "See, I got some hammocks, petunias, tomato plants.  I took out that navy plaid in the interior and replaced it with turquoise."  (He had noticed she wore turquoise a lot.)  "I know sometimes you go out of town for work, but you could stay here whenever you want."  He was hoping that would be all the time, but he didn't want to push his luck.  "Roommates," he added, though he was pretty sure she knew he was hoping for more than that down the road.

Angela sat in the hammock, giving him a smile but no promises.  She loved the feel of the rocking boat and the swaying hammock above the demon-free river.  (She knew the Warrior had located Ardua of the Potomac out in a pond at Trump National Golf Course, but that felt like a thousand miles away.)  "This is a perfect day," she said, which was a lie, but she did feel really good in the sunshine looking at the unexpected sweetness which was Dulles.  (Neither of them had any clue what was still hidden on the boat by the previous owner, a Navy admiral going to prison for corruption.)

"That's the one," said Marcos Vazquez, pointing to Singapore Surprise as they sailed past it in the catamaran they had rented for Father's Day.  "When the Admiral was in town, he always stayed there--never bought a house anywhere."

"Or that's what he told them," said Golden Fawn, smiling.

"He had to cough up plenty of that bribe money," said Vazquez.

"Sure, just not the money he already spent."

"Well, he never had the reward of the true love of a good woman!" exclaimed Vazquez, leaning over for a kiss and accidentally pulling the sail the wrong way.

"Dad!" cried Joey Bent Oak from the other side, where he had been letting his step-grandmother use the binoculars, but the sail was quickly righted.

A few miles away, that was not the case.  "How am I going to get this ship righted?" asked Congressman Paul Ryan, who had taken to talking out loud to his Thaitastic masseuse because she barely understood English.

"Yes," she said, as always.  (She did not let him distract her from the hard work of realigning his joints and ligaments.)

"Two GOP governors' saying they won't vote for Trump.  Surely Lindsay Graham and John Cain will start a #NeverTrump movement in the Senate!  And then what?"

"Yes."

"Oof!  I mean, I don't think his foreign policy is going to be totally nuts when he has actual national security professionals giving him daily briefings, right?"

"Yes."

"Nobody respects me.  Could you believe those Democrats revolting about gun control, throwing a hissy fit in the House after that moment of silence for Orlando?"

"Yes."

"Oh!  Maybe Hillary would be alright on foreign policy, but she'll never sign any of our domestic bills!"

"Yes."

"Gaaa!  Honestly, considering how much people hate both of them, you would think more dirt would have been dug up on both of them!"

"Yes."

"Well, at least that socialist didn't win the Democratic nomination.  Oof!"

"Socialist, yes."

The Speaker of the House looked up in surprise.  Why does she know that word?  Maybe she's not Thai at all?  Maybe she's Chinese?  "Ah!"

"Yes," said the woman, who had been born in Singapore.

Not far away, Charles Wu had not yet returned home to the Father's Day surprises he knew the English nanny had helped his daughter prepare.  Right now, he was still stuck at Froggy Bottom trying to redirect "C. Coe Phant's" China advocacy at the State Department.

"When the economy stalls, the government--"

"You mean the Communist Party," interrupted C. Coe Phant.

Wu did not like being interrupted, particularly by somebody he had paid plenty of money to over the years.

"The rulers of China have a stalled economy, and whenever citizens feel financially pinched, they complain more.  This leads to more government reaction."

"Like making Hong Kong booksellers disappear into black hole prison sites?"

"Yes!" said Wu, who had grown up in Hong Kong and had spent many years carefully balancing his work for Hong Kong against his work for mainland China.  "Things are not going well domestically, so the government is cracking down on opposition and seeking to score nationalist victories by expanding naval power."

"In international waters," said C. Coe Phant.

Was was about to ask "whose side are you on?" when the triple agent remembered how much he dreaded that question himself.  "I know this is not an easy time to advocate for Beijing.  I'm only asking you to keep hammering the intelligence analysis that the government is anxious about domestic economic grumbling.  Any increase in human rights diplomacy would be counter-productive at this time."

"I suppose they're upset that Obama met with the Dalai Lama?"

"That is the least of their concerns--the average Chinese doesn't even know it happened."

"But what about Singapore?" whispered C. Coe Phant.  "Forbes calls it Asia's most influential city, and some are saying that Beijing hackers are trying to undermine it.  Is it true?"

"Of course not," said Wu, but he wasn't going to tell him what was really going on there.

A few miles away, U.S Attorney Atticus Hawk was in his Justice Department office, ignoring the beautiful June day to make more progress in the Panama Papers investigation.  He was following a thread that seemed to wind its way back and forth around the globe several times, linked to a man with several aliases.  Then he pulled up Facebook on his phone to check something about his old pal Wince's former fiancee--the name of her husband.  "Marco Pel!"  He looked back at his computer.  "You have been a very bad boy."  He hesitated a couple minutes, then decided to text Wince a link to a public registry.  "Don't ask me how I stumbled across this, but Bridezilla's husband, using a different name, has a wife in Singapore."

Back on Singapore Surprise, Angela smiled at the pink dolphins splashing nearby, pushing out of her mind the battles still to come.

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COMING UP:  Washington Water Woman is heading out of town, so please be patient in waiting for her next post!