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 12/27/2014. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cuba Libre!

The Cuba Practices Group at Prince and Prowling was off to a spectacular start, and junior partner Bridezilla was quite pleased with herself.  She had already arranged a dozen visits to the island by potential business investors, and their clients had already purchased several investment options which could be activated immediately once the relevant government restrictions were removed.  She had arranged the major publicity stunt of Paris Hilton--the ultimate high-spending capitalism princess!--visiting Cuba.  She had made two semi-successful trips to Miami to network with the Cuban immigrants and their descendants who still harbored a burning hatred of the Castro regime, convincing at least a few that happiness--and smart business investments now!--were the best revenge.  She had dined privately with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban three times, and believed she had a good chance of convincing him that he had the personal branding opportunity of a lifetime right now if he played his cards right.

And now she was in John Boehner's bunker (man cave) trying to convince his secretly convened Cuba Caucus to stop hating President Obama long enough to embrace the historic opening.

"Imagine if you will, ladies and gentlemen, a world where the Cuba Libre again becomes the most popular drink on the island," said Bridezilla, hand-squeezing limes into the glasses of rum and Coke she was handing out.  "A world where Cuba imports a billion cases of Coca-Cola a year to stock the world-class hotels run by American companies:  Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, The Four Seasons.  A world where American tour companies take vacationers diving in pristine coral reefs and hiking through pristine jungles.  A world where American airlines run ten flights a day to Cuba.  A world where American tech companies bring high-speed Internet to--"

"Look, Missy, our American companies can do all that with the good ole U.S. Virgin Islands," protested a Representative from Oklahoma.  "Why should we be helping Cuba?  What did they ever do for us except give us Guantanamo?"

"The U.S. Virgin Islands are tiny," replied Bridezilla, "and most of the businesses there are owned by Augustus Bush's family.  There are investment opportunities now in Cuba, and if your constituents can't take advantage of them, we are just ceding all that business to Europe, Japan, China, and Brazil."

"But they're still Commies!" protested a Representative from Texas.

"So is China," said Bridezilla.

"That's different!" he retorted.

"How?" asked Bridezilla.  This stumped everybody, so she moved on.  "The Speaker of the House invited you here because he believes you are the political mavericks with enough business acumen to see what is possible here.  Don't you want to bring capitalism back to Cuba?"  She waited while they quietly finished their cocktails and started flushing in the face.  "Our law firm has set up three different political action committees dedicated to promoting Cuban-American trade, and I'm not supposed to be telling you this, but we are talking about millions of dollars already banked for the next election cycle."

"Well, why didn't you say so before?!" cried the Representative from Florida.  "That changes everything!"

Yes it does, thought a smiling Bridezilla.  Thank you, Supreme Court!

Meanwhile, Cedric, a former CIA agent and current resident of the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged, was decidedly in the anti-Cuba caucus.  For one thing, he had been taught to hate Cuba as a Soviet proxy.  For another thing, the ghost of Henry Samuelson had been making weekly visits to discuss the situation since Obama had announced the diplomatic breakthrough.

"I told you:  there's nothing I can do about it!" shouted Cedric, shaking Aloysius (his teddy bear) at Ghost Henry.  "You've already got the Ghost CIA stirring up trouble, and nobody is returning my phone calls!"

"Condoleezza Rice will, and she's in the Heurich Society!" exclaimed Ghost Henry, who knew that some of the founders' fortunes had been expropriated by Fidel Castro after the Revolution.  "I can give them insider information they can't get from anybody else."

"I thought you hated the Heurich Society?"

"Most of the time, but sometimes they serve my strategic purposes.  I know they want to derail this Cuba thing, but they need more ammo."

"Won't your daughter listen to you?" asked Cedric, referring to Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson, who was the current Chair of the Heurich Society.

"She can't hear me," sighed Ghost Henry.

"What about that witch girl?" asked Cedric, referring to Angela de la Paz.

"The Heurich Society kicked her out," sighed Ghost Henry.

"Well, maybe I could persuade Prudence to get Charles Wu involved," said Cedric, referring to the Chinese triple agent's governess, Mrs. Higgety-Cheshire.

"Charles Wu?!  Never!"

"I don't like him, either, but you said strategic alliances!"

"Never!  Bad alliances lead to things like the Vietnam War and Manuel Noriega!"

"I never thought Manny was so bad," said Cedric.  "Aloysius used to spend his winter vacation down there."

"That's a stuffed bear!" shouted Ghost Henry.

"Well, he's more real than you are!" exclaimed Cedric.

Back in Washington, business had slowed considerably at Fat John's Lake under Dupont Circle, what with the return of winter weather and the increasingly pungent smell emanating from the mystical waters.  But security guard Glenn Michael Beckmann liked the quieter atmosphere, and the semi-asphyxiated visitors (and more permanent residents of Dupont Down Under) were giving him very little trouble.  It gave him time to think about his failed attempt to hijack a boat to Cuba to mine the harbors there.  If I could just get back with the Heurich Society, he thought, they could buy me a boat to go do it!

Just then, Angela de la Paz arrived, straight off a vision about impending doom.  "Everybody out!" she shouted, which accomplished nothing since everybody was lethargic from the massive build-up of methane and carbon monoxide in the fetid air.

"Hey!" exclaimed Beckmann, pointing his gun at her.  (He had no idea she was the daughter of an illegal immigrant he had murdered years earlier.)  "I'm in charge here!"

"There's not going to be a here, here!" she exclaimed, telekinetically ripping the gun from his hand.  "Everybody out!" she repeated, this time with a concentration of psychic force which began shoving people like a gale force wind towards the exit.

A few minutes later, she had succeeded in herding everyone to the surface just before the methane ignited and Fat John's Lake exploded into a pond of fire.

"How did you do that?!" shouted Beckmann, eyeing Angela with the suspicion she was a Cuban terrorist spy.

"It was the methane that exploded," she said, eyeing Beckmann with the suspicion that this well-known loony would (a) not call 911 and (b) blame it all on a government conspiracy.  But there was no voice in her head telling her that anybody else needed help, so she left.

"All hail Wonder Woman!" cried Fearless Leader, and the Freaks repeated his cry with a salute to the departing Angela, while Beckmann continued to seethe.

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COMING UP:  Spring Dreams.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fat John's Lake

It was a mystical place that Glenn Michael Beckmann had seen in his dreams many times:  the lake from which his mother had risen to hand him Ex Calibur.  (In truth, Ex Calibur was the bloody axe he had lost in the Potomac to Ardua and then found later on Roosevelt Island, but he didn't remember it that way.)  It was a small, murky lake, covered in fog, with occasional shimmers of eerie green streaks of light.  It was the font of life for all of Washington, and it had chosen him.

And now he didn't know if he was awake or dreaming.

"It's a little slimy for swimming, on account of all the motor oil run-off and the river rats' pooping in it, but your skin do feel nice and soft afterwards," said the Fearless Leader of the Freaks of Dupont Down Under.  He pointed to a makeshift diving platform made out of a stack of three shopping carts.  "Louis likes to do back flips off of that.  Of course, there's not enough height for him to do a double."

Beckmann inhaled deeply of the subterranean humours and felt all tingly inside.  "How did you find it?"

"Well, between DC Water and the Secret Service, they've staked out almost every square mile under the city.  The Beaver built a dam to try to protect Dupont Down Under, and then after they dug out the final White House bunker, the dam collapsed and the water flowed into a huge sinkhole down here."

"What do you mean?" cried Beckmann.  "The lake was always here!  It's eternal!  It dates to the time of Robin Hood!  You said Little John found it!"

"No, it was Fat John," said Fearless Leader, pointing to a portly homeless man soaking his feet at the edge of the lake.  "He says it cures gout and Lyme disease.  We're getting totally overrun with sickly cripples visiting us now!  Can't keep 'em away. That's why we want to hire Beckmann's Bad Asses for crowd control.  We're charging $10 admission for a half-hour."

Beckmann knew in his heart that Fearless Leader was wrong:  this place was eternal, and meant only for valiant knights.  But he was also months behind in paying the rent.  "Alright," Beckmann said, sticking his hand out to shake on it.  The most important thing was to keep those government bureaucrats away!  And so the previous enemies, having completely forgotten their animosity from a few years earlier, struck a deal.

Two-hundred feet above Fat John's Lake, Felix Cigemeier was taking a break from Prince and Prowling for brunch with his wife and infant son at Scion.

"I really don't think International Development Machine has anything to worry about," the law partner said to his wife.  "They don't do any of the things that got International Relief and Development into trouble."

"How do we really know that?" asked Liv.

"Because you haven't been invited to boozy staff retreats at 5-star resorts!" Cigemeier exclaimed.

"But there are a lot of rumors about Augustus Bush," said Liv of IDM's president.  "Some say the orphanage we built in Afghanistan is just a front for a palatial mansion for opium kingpins, and that the leadership and educational programs in the U.S. Virgin Islands are just a front for teaching Afghans how to manage their drug business."

"Liv--"

"And there are rumors that the Board of Directors meetings supposedly held in Denver are actually held at the Playboy Mansion, and--"

"Liv!"  (Liv looked at her husband in surprise.)  "Just rumors!  There's no point in worrying about rumors!  And the most important part is that you are working on private grant money right now, so the government can't touch you!"  But Cigemeier was worried about the rumors.  And he was only slightly comforted by the fact that his wife was working on private grant money from the untrustworthy Charles Wu--for God only knew where that money came from!  Cigemeier was desperate to make more income so that his wife could quit work altogether to look after Lucas, but that was not yet an option.  "Just keep documenting what you do with your time and how the money is disbursed in the Philippines.  Don't pay the slightest attention to what anybody else is doing in any of the other programs:  they're not your problem."

Liv smiled in gratitude, unaccustomed to receiving legal advice from her husband, but sometimes she wondered if he even cared at all about her passion for international development work.  How could he tell her so cavalierly not to care whether millions of dollars of aid money were actually doing any good?

A mile away, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was in the George Washington University Hospital emergency room, examining another homeless patient with bleeding ulcers on his legs.  "Have you been doing anything unusual lately?" asked Dr. Mohammad, gingerly removing dead skin with a scalpel.

"I got baptized in Fat John's Lake!" exclaimed the Iraq War veteran.  "Reverend Magpie did it, and he said it would take away the night shakes and everything."

"Where is this lake?" asked Dr. Mohammad, who had been hearing about it for days, but he knew he would get the same answer.

"It's a secret!" exclaimed the patient.  "Only the chosen can go there!"

"What if the lake did this to your legs?  Don't you want to know?"

"It's worth it, to cleanse my soul and stop the night shakes!"

Dr. Mohammad looked up at Nurse Arroyo, who shook her head in frustration.  They couldn't breach patient confidentiality, but they feared a serious public health threat was growing in the homeless community.  Somebody needed to find this lake.

Back at Fat John's Lake, Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle had just arrived after paying a source $20 to show him to the rumored underground water.  "Lake" was clearly a misnomer for the subterranean pond, but the descriptions of otherworldly smells and mysterious green lights were true.  He was panning his video camera slowly over the crowd of chattering bathers when he spotted a scuffle at the far end.  He heard somebody shout "Security!" and saw Beckmann--whom he immediately recognized from one of the most traumatic moments of his life--race over with a gun drawn.  It looked like...no!  It looked like a woman was trying to eat someone's arm!

"Let him go or I'll shoot you to Kingdom Come!" shouted Beckmann at the manic woman, who abruptly let go of her victim and dove for cover underwater.  The crowd screamed in panic, clambering out of the water and scrambling in all directions.  Winkle, loopy from the vapors, didn't even think to call 911; he simply continued watching the scene through his video camera as Beckmann waited for the assailant to come back to the surface.   But she didn't.

Several minutes went by, and Beckmann reholstered his gun.  "Fat John's Lake is closed until tomorrow!" he bellowed to the crowd.  "Everybody out!"

"No!" wailed Fearless Leader, lamenting all the lost Sunday afternoon income.

"I need to dredge the lake," said Beckmann, who had no idea how to do so but knew it involved getting a rowboat.

And then Winkle thought about calling 911, but he was starting to doubt himself.  Did the woman really try to eat that arm?  Was Beckmann the man he saw chop off that zombie's head a couple years ago?  He knew the vapors were affecting him, so he headed back to the surface to watch his videotape.

At the bottom of Fat John's Lake, the zombie woman had already disintegrated into hundreds of pieces, which the river rats were already eating.

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COMING UP:  Cuba libre!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Daylight has been saved!

...but that was of no use to Washington Water Woman, who had more vexing issues to deal with this past week.  After she finishes erasing all traces of Charles Wu's secret foreign policy emails, she hopes to get back to blogging later this week....

Friday, February 27, 2015

State (Department) of Confusion

"We just don't have the sex appeal to stay popular," lamented "C. Coe Phant" to triple agent Charles Wu.  "Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism--frankly, the U.S. public is bored with it."

"I'm not sure I would agree with that," said Wu to his State Department source over lunch at Froggy Bottom.  "Didn't Scott Walker just compare bullying union activists with fighting the Islamic State?"

"Ha, ha!  Yeah, that was a good one!  Let's elect Scott Walker so he can fight terrorists by killing their government pensions!"

"Charlie Hebdo got people fired up.  And now there's a martyr hacked to death in Bangladesh."

"But people don't really care.  We have a new Secretary of Defense, and people don't really care.  We're negotiating with Iran, and people don't really care.  The Obama Administration has been authorized to go to war in Iraq again, and people don't really care.  Putin is still invading Ukraine, and people don't really care.  The Clinton Foundation took donations from foreign governments while Hillary was the Secretary of State, and people don't really care.  The frigging net neutrality rules are getting more chatter on Twitter!"

"I think it's a good thing for the State Department's foreign policy not to be shaped by Twitter," said a puzzled Wu.  "The more you can do out of the spotlight, the better."

"I don't think it works that way anymore," said Phant.  "Social media whips the Republicans into a frenzy, so they try to abolish Obamacare and force construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Social media whips Democrats into a frenzy, so they double down on Obamacare and Obama vetoes the Keystone XL bill.  We might be living in the most democratic age of all, where the loud voice of the people determines everything."

Wu was really starting to question whether Phant had recently lost some marbles.  "You realize that politicians mostly act in accordance with what their political donors want, don't you?  And half the stuff on Twitter is paid to be there?"

"Have you even heard of the United States Institute of Peace?" asked Phant.  "The U.S. media completely ignores it--its only chance is to host a Lady Gaga concert."

"Its only chance at what?"  Wu was starting to despair of getting any lucrative information out of Phant at all.  "Look, the most important international work is done behind closed doors--it's always been that way, and it always will.  China is very interested in these Iran negotiations--very interested."  Wu had already handed Phant a pile of cash stuffed into a ski cap placed on the table, but Phant hadn't even touched it.  "Politico had a cartoon about the Department of Foreign Entanglements--that was pretty funny, wasn't it?"  (Phant shrugged.)  You had Edward Snowden's hot girlfriend in a ballerina skirt and stilettos at the Oscars--nobody's looking that good in this Republican showdown over Homeland Security's budget!  Come on!  Nothing will ever be as sexy as a good spy story!  Am I right?"  And Wu flashed that charming Hong Kong smile that convinced everybody he was a debonair Englishman at heart, and Phant finally started spilling--much to the relief of Charles Wu, who would rather not have to go back to John Kerry's Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope if he didn't have to.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the Zombie Caucus was lunching on a couple of young interns when Congressman John Boehner's chief of staff got a phone call pressuring him to help the Republican whip round up more votes on the House bill to fund Homeland Security for three more weeks.  "Damn!" he exclaimed, wiping blood and brains off his lips with a napkin.  "I wish I could get a job at the State Department!"  The zombies didn't care whether Homeland Security was funded or not, but their votes were already in the bag, so he went off to make deals with Congressman Herrmark and Congressman Jacques Javert.

"This is truly disgusting," nodded the ghost of Russian diplomat Anatoly Malenkov, trapped under the white fur of a Samoyed.  He was hiding behind a stack of briefcases with the Gopper Ghost (an actual dog ghost), who had brought Ghost Anatoly here to see the zombies who had killed the Gopper.  "You are right:  this is a bigger problem than anything happening in the State Department."  And so was launched the first-ever ghost-dog pack united against repulsive influences in Congress.

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COMING UP:  Fat John's Lake.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Dark Side of Charles Wu

It always starts the same:  he is lying on a purple silk sheet on a Miami beach, water dripping from his red Speedo through the silk and down into the sand.  A beautiful woman in a bikini casts a shadow over his face.  He shakes his head laughing, wondering why he bothered to bring towels.  He reaches for her hand, and she takes him back into the water.  Then the Gulf Stream suddenly grabs him and he starts floating away from her--northeast, northeast, northeast.  The water is getting colder.  He is in British waters!  He starts eating everything in sight.  Now the currents are pulling him southward again--southeast, southeast, southeast.  The water is getting warmer as he floats closer to the Equator.  The food is all different here, but he starts eating everything in sight.  Now another current grabs him, and he's pulled towards the Caribbean--west, west, west.  Now he knows he is a sea turtle, and the ancient Atlantic Ocean has already cast the fate of his entire life.  He mates deep in the dark water, then follows his pregnant mate north on the Gulf Stream.  She is supposed to lay the eggs on the Florida sands, but something is wrong.  He follows her further north--north, north, north.  She lays the eggs on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  A demon lunges out of the water, kills his mate and starts devouring the eggs.  He is able to save only one:  little Delia.

Then he wakes up.

He has written it all down.  After dreaming it four times, he shared it with Lynnette Wong, but she said it was clearly because they had watched "Turtle:  The Incredible Journey" with Buffy Cordelia.  But he knew it was more than that.  He emailed it to his mother in Hong Kong, who said it meant that the Chinese New Year--Year of the Goat--was already wreaking havoc in his life.  She told him to wear nothing but red clothing for a week, and only red underwear the rest of the year.  The red clothing was not working--yet?  He started telling his father about the dream.

"You never expected to be in Washington so long," said his father, visiting from England.  "You are a Pacific creature, but now your business interests have brought you to the Atlantic.  You are wondering how much of this was random chance, how much was destiny, how much was free will."  Charles Wilkinson Montgomery continued building a Cinderella castle out of Lego blocks, with a little help from his adorable granddaughter.

"It's more than that," said Wu.  "What if there really is a demon in the Chesapeake?" he whispered so that Delia would not hear him.

"What?!" exclaimed his father, who had been secretly summoned here by Wu's estranged friend/agent/bodyguard, Angela de la Paz, to deal with the growing darkness in his son's soul.  (Nobody said anything about psychosis?!)

"What if it's true?" repeated Wu.

"There's no such thing as a d-e-m-o-n!" exclaimed Montgomery, who was choosing his words carefully because Delia was three now, and had an excellent vocabulary.  "Now tell me what's really bothering you!"

Charles Wu had quietly bought up a third of the businesses in Chinatown to launder money for his espionage business.  He was a prominent leader now in the business community there, even though many of the Taiwanese families were not entirely comfortable with his Chinese citizenship.  (He was supposed to be downtown right now for the parade, but he had begged off, lying that his daughter had the sniffles.)  He had started his own secret Political Action Committee last year.  His power, wealth, and influence had never been higher, but he couldn't shake the feeling something was stalking him and his daughter.

"Something's wrong," he said quietly.

"What?!" pushed his father, who waited a few more moments, but Wu said nothing.  "Look, I know about Delia's m-o-t-h-e-r," said Montgomery, smiling at Delia, who had looked up at the sound of her name.  "Angela told me everything.  You have to let it go."  Wu jumped up, instantly understanding now that Angela was behind his father's sudden desire to take a winter vacation in Washington.  "Sit down!" barked his father, startling Delia.

"It's okay," said Wu, sitting back down to take his frowning daughter into his lap.  "We can't talk about this now," he said to his father, helping Delia put together a few pieces in her lap."

"Look, I know your mother is a bit superstitious and used to say she saw g-h-o-s-t-s, but--"

"I have, too," said Wu.

"You were very impressionable--you were just a child!" protested Montgomery.

"As an adult, too," replied Wu.

"She believed your brother was a m-o-n-s-t-e-r, switched at birth.  You know this now.  Clearly, her hysterical beliefs had an influence on you.  But the British Secret Service is 90% responsible for the d-e-a-t-h of the child's m-o-t-h-e-r."

"And they need to pay for it," said Wu quietly.

"No, they don't!" argued his father.  "That won't solve anything!  That won't give her a m-o-t-h-e-r!  All that will do is give her a homicidal f-a-t-h-e-r!  You're losing your grip, Charles!  Only love can conquer hate!"

Wu burst out laughing at this, which prompted a peal of laughter from little Delia, who kissed her father, then ran across the room to gather some little people to put in her fairy castle.  "There's so much darkness in my life," whispered Wu, suddenly fighting back tears.

"Well, welcome to the human race!  There's darkness in everybody's life!  Did you think you were immune because you were so handsome and clever and funny and charismatic?  You could find affection, admiration and respect everywhere you went.  Well, I didn't!  Your mother was the only woman that ever loved me, and she had a breakdown after the birth of your brother, and another after his death.  Life and death, hatred and love!  This is the ying and yang of the universe, Charles!  You can't escape it!  You have a million blessings in your life and choose to nurse a hatred over this one tragedy?  It's absurd!  It's childish!  Of course there's evil out there, but it's not d-e-m-o-n-s!  We're all bloody bastards but for the grace of God!"

Wu blinked back the tears.  He had never heard his father speaking like this.

"Snap out of it, Charles!" Montgomery exclaimed, and he took his son by the shoulders and shook him.  "Snap out of it!"

Delia skipped back to their corner of the room with two handfuls of little play people and farm animals to move into the Lego creation.   "Here's your pretty castle!" she told the little creatures, sitting down on the rug to arrange them.

"You have love in your life, son," said Montgomery.  "That's a lot more than many people have."

And for a few minutes, Wu forgot about all the spying and womanizing and drinking, the thrills and spills, the ups and downs, the calculated undernourishment of his conscience, the constant lies and betrayals.  For a few minutes, he thought only of his father and daughter, and how absurd he was to wear red clothing when he owed them so much more.  For a few minutes, this was enough, and it was good.

And so Charles Wu returned to his balanced perch, poised between good and evil.  Like so many Washingtonians, he would do what was best for himself, without deliberately wishing harm on others and yet not exactly lifting a finger to stop those who do.  His underdeveloped soul was at peace behind his massive wall of chi.

Out in the Chesapeake, the demon aborted another attempt to become Ardua of the Atlantic, and slithered back to the familiar waters of the Potomac.  I need to grow bigger, she thought, noticing that the break-up of river ice had brought the ducks back.  A lost sea turtle shuddered as Ardua went by, then continued his return to the Atlantic.  A flock of starlings landed on the west bank to tell Ardua about the Arlington National Cemetery funeral for the sniper who had become famous on YouTube for urinating on slain Taliban corpses.  Another flock of starlings landed on the east bank to tell the demon that Charles Wu had slipped out of the darkness and back to the line.

And the Washington media was too busy reporting on nutrition guidelines and Giuliani's definition of love for (the One Percent of) America to report on how the NSA hacked into a European sim card manufacturer, enabling it to spy on hundreds of thousands of cellphones without a court order--not even a "Get Out of Jail Free" card from FISA!

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COMING UP:  State (Department) of Confusion.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yellentine's Day

Helen Yellen was walking up the aisle of St. Matthew's Cathedral, a beautiful church with enough Italian marble and devotional artwork to please her future mother-in-law.  The housesitter was on the arm of one of her favorite clients, Jon Bon Jovi, who was reluctantly giving her away even though he knew this meant she was unlikely to be able to keep a watchful eye on his New Jersey mansion ever again.  Bon Jovi knew he had been selected out of all her clients (rock star or otherwise) because of his Italian name, so it was a shame that Mrs. Talaverdi had told him at the rehearsal dinner that she didn't believe blondes were true Italians--his ancestors were clearly Swiss who had snuck over the Alps!  And Bon Jovi had promised to sing only Tony Bennett and Perry Como songs at the wedding reception, but he smiled to himself because he had a surprise planned anyway!

One way or another, nobody has the whole story walking up the aisle--that's what Maggie Smith had said on "Downtown Abbey"!  And as Helen walked towards the altar in a white velvet dress with Italian gloves and an Italian lace veil, she knew she probably should have told her groom that she believed their pot-bellied pig had ESP, but she would tell him that later.  She smiled at the guests in the pews--a motley assortment of hippies, punks, goths, international entrepreneurs, musicians, and actresses on her side, and a sea of somber business-attired types on his (including most of the members of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous, D.C. Chapter).  She recognized Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve Board, sitting in the second row, just behind the groom's mother; Helen Yellen didn't know the entire courtship had been all about the other Yellen.

FRB economist Luciano Talaverdi watched his bride float up the aisle, a winter fairy queen vision.  He had never told her that his interest in her had stemmed from the mistaken belief she was related to his boss, and that Helen was supposed to be the marital magic to boost his career.  But after discovering the truth about Helen's tragic childhood abroad and possession of the name "Yellen" only by adoption, he had stuck with her out of a mix of stubbornness, dating fatigue, and affection.  A lot of relationships start for the wrong reasons, he told himself, and she didn't need to know!  He took her arm with a smile, nodded appreciatively at Bon Jovi, and turned to face the priest.

Two hours later, the reception was under way in the central foyer of the Federal Reserve Board building.  Though Talaverdi had been on the cheaper side about quantitative easing, he and Bon Jovi had spent lavishly to drown the cold marble in a sea of Italian lights and roses.  Fifty table cloths had been dyed pink for the wedding guests, and a cupid ice sculpture greeted the guests as they arrived--except for Dick Cheney, who had been stopped at the entrance when the dogs smelled traces of explosives on his sleeves.  ("I just took in a little target practice in my basement shooting range this morning!"  "Sorry, sir, you can't come in."  "I'm the Vice-President of the United States!"  "No, that's Joe Biden."  "Don't you recognize me?!"  "No, sir, please step back and put your hands in the air.")

It was all very lovely.  Bon Jovi dutifully sang other people's mellow ballads for an hour until he was satisfied that the elder Mrs. Talaverdi had downed sufficient champagne, and then he signaled for Petro Pig to be escorted in riding a model red Ferrari.  "This is a toy version of the car I bought you, Helen and Luciano!  Happy Yellentine's Day!"  And then Bon Jovi launched into a raucous version of "I'll Be There For You".  The pot-bellied pig, however, was being harassed by Pippin, the ghost of Condoleezza Rice's cat, and pulled a "fainting goat".  Helen screamed and ran over to check on Petro Pig while Talaverdi was absorbing the fact that he now owned a red Ferrari!  He grabbed a glass of water to splash in the pig's face and knelt by his bride's side.

"We need to change our name legally to be the same thing," Talaverdi blurted out to his bride.  "We're a family now!  Let's both take the name 'Talaverdi Yellen', okay?"

Helen, of course, thought he meant a hyphenated "Talaverdi-Yellen", and happily agreed, but Talaverdi was ready to become a Yellen.  In the FRB directory, he would be "Luciano T. Yellen", right after "Janet L. Yellen".  When people started typing emails to her, they would have his name pop up in the address field!  It was all so exciting, he could hardly contain himself!

"I love you, Helen! I am ecstaticified!" he exclaimed, suddenly faltering in his English.

"I love you, too," murmured Helen, her head resting on Petro Pig's chest, listening to the racing heartbeat.  But something's wrong, she thought.

Ghost Pippin raced up into the FRB offices in an unsuccessful attempt to rip Charles Wu's listening devices out of the carpeting and crush his robotic millipedes, hatred burning in her little spectral heart.

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COMING UP:  The dark side of Charles Wu.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday the 13th nightmares Valentine-style.

It was one day before Luciano Talaverdi's Valentine's Day wedding with Helen Yellen, and he was in his shrink's office, recounting last night's nightmare.

"My mother rips my heart out.  I am very alarmed, but she says it has to grow back periodically.  I suddenly remember that she had already ripped out my stomach, saying the same thing."

"Hm," said psychiatrist Ermann Esse.

"Well?" asked the Federal Reserve Board economist.

Dr. Esse continued to write notes while he thought about this.  His patient was a classic mama's boy, but well within the acceptable bounds of Italian culture.  In fact, his patient had left Italy to live and work in the United States for several years.  Nonetheless, his pending nuptials were clearly stirring the pot.  "Your mother is here for the wedding?"

"Yes, she's been here for a week."

"How is she getting along with your fiancée?"

"She thinks Helen is a terrible cook, has hips so narrow she will die in childbirth, and talks to the pet pig too much."

"That's not so bad--I've heard worse," said Dr. Esse.

"I think when we have a child, she will want to come live with us."

"Many grandparents do."

"But that would be impossible!" exclaimed Talaverdi.

"Of course, but you could get her a nearby apartment.  Sometimes it is a challenge to find the right balance, but having a grandparent around is usually a good thing for most families."

"She will see."

"See what?" asked the shrink.

Talaverdi hesitated.  "I don't love Helen very much.  I love her enough, but not very much."

Dr. Esse frowned.  "Do you want to get married tomorrow?"

"Very much!" said Talaverdi truthfully.  "I just wonder, what if I meet somebody later that I like better?"

"You'll come talk to me about it," said Dr. Esse, determined to see one of his patients actually make it to the altar.

Several minutes later, Dr. Esse's next patient was on the couch:  U.S. Attorney Atticus Hawk.

"Well, I'm kind of glad she's back in my life, but it's really weird," said the Justice Department lawyer, who had no idea that Barbie Bucephalus (real name Barbara Hellmeister) was drugging him to feel good about her.  "She's still pretty evasive about how her farm burned down and why she was on the run for awhile.  She's working at the CIA, so she did pass their security clearance."

"Humph," said the shrink.  (Most of the CIA agents he knew were routine law-breakers.)

"Humph?"

"Go on, please."  (He was fully booked, what with it being Friday the 13th AND the day before Valentine's Day.)

"So last night, I had this crazy dream about her.  We're in Miami, and I'm dressed as 'Pepe', a Mexican organ grinder, but really I'm from the Dominican Republic.  Barbie tells me she hid cocaine in my accordion, and we start arguing about it.  Next thing I know, she's hammering long nails into my legs--she says it's acupuncture and won't hurt at all."

"Does it hurt?" asks Dr. Esse.

"No, but it's scary--I can see blood dribbling out of my legs.  I ask her to open the hotel window for some air, and this decapitated but living human head floats through the window to attack me.  Barbie tosses me a plastic fork to defend myself but the fork goes right in my eye.  Then I wake up."

"Wow," said Dr. Esse.

"Wow?" repeated Hawk.

"Several of my patients have been reporting zombie nightmares lately."

"I didn't say there was a zombie," said Hawk.

"Didn't you?"

"No."

"Well, there are some similarities.  When she left you before, she ended up on the FBI Most Wanted List, and your life was turned upside down for a long time.  Why do you think things are different now?"

"I don't," said the Justice Department attorney.  "I just feel like I need her, but I don't know why.  Tomorrow's Valentine's Day.  What am I supposed to say to her?"

"I think it is best in this situation to say nothing.  She is clearly in control of the relationship--you can only react."

"What kind of advice is that?!" exclaimed Hawk, angrily.

"The best I can give you," said the shrink, who was hoping the toxic girlfriend would dump him tomorrow after a lackluster Valentine's Day performance from Hawk.

Dr. Esse's next patient was Bridezilla.

"I dreamed I was walking up the aisle to marry Wince, when suddenly everybody and everything in the church turned into a circus!  There were elephants trumpeting and trapeze artists flying through the air and everything.  I got to Wince, and he looked very handsome.  He reached out his arm for me, and then he suddenly turned into clay.  Then the clay hardened, and he was a statue."

"Hm," said the shrink.

"Hm?"

"What do you think the dream means?" asked Dr. Esse.

"Every time I plan a wedding, it turns into a circus," said Bridezilla.

"Yes," said Dr Esse, pointing his pen at her, "but is this because of you or the groom?"

"Neither!" she cried.  "A crazy shooter showed up at my last wedding!"

"But the other weddings were not called off because of a crazy shooter."

"Okay!" exclaimed Bridezilla.  "I have issues--that's why I'm here!"

"Do you want to marry this man?  You called off the wedding the first time because he picked Croatia for a honeymoon spot."

"He said it was ten times more affordable than the Riviera!"

"And if you had married him then, you would now have that extra money in the bank, or in a house, or paying for your children's food and clothing."

"But Croatia!"

"Where will your honeymoon be this time?"

"He hasn't told me yet."

"Ah," said Dr. Esse.  "This is your parachute again, then."

"What does that mean?" she wailed.

"I think you know," he said.

After that, he was surprised to see Helen Yellen show up at his office.

"I know my fiancé is seeing you," she said to the psychiatrist.  "I'm not going to ask you what you talk about, but I'm having a little anxiety about this wedding tomorrow."

"When did the anxiety start?"

"After his mother arrived from Italy."

"Ah," said Dr. Esse.  "Go on."

"She doesn't like me."

"Many brides think their mothers-in-law are too harsh in the beginning, but over time this generally resolves itself."

"Last night I had this incredibly vivid dream.  I'm in China circa 1945 to attend the wedding of Superman to an American socialite who's been living in China teaching children.  We are at a pre-wedding party, and about 200 people are swimming in a huge pool.  One of the party guests suddenly starts walking on water:  she runs across the surface of the pool, then back again.  I ask her how she did it, and she says, 'It's easy!  Just make the top half of your body hotter than the bottom, and you'll float upwards.'  To make the top half hotter, she says I should flutter my arms rapidly to build up friction.  I try it and, much to my surprise, rise rapidly out of the water.  I get scared, though, and let myself drop back in.  Now other people ask me how to do it.  Suddenly someone tells me that they have evidence that Superman's fiancée is marrying him under false pretenses, and we have to warn him.  I suddenly realize it must be true because he's supposed to marry Lois Lane!  I see a vision of Superman and Lois Lane in the future:  first they are giving out food with Mother Theresa in India, then they are working on an Indian reservation in Arizona.  In my vision they look like Jesus and Mother Mary."

Dr. Esse continued writing notes for another minute, then looked carefully at Yellen.  "What do you think this means?"

"I'm not good enough for him--I'm not the one that's supposed to be in his story."

"Maybe he's not the one that's supposed to be in your story, but what I really think is it's not about who's good enough.  Maybe you are both in the right story, but your mother-in-law is giving you unfounded doubts.  You want to marry him, and you had no doubts until she showed up.  This is very common, and you can rise above it."

Yellen smiled at the psychiatrist, feeling a little bit better.

A little later, Dr. Esse was taking a 15-minute break to wolf down a microwave burrito when Didymus interrupted him.  (Didymus was actually the ghost of Robert McNamara.)

"I told Carter not to take the job, but he didn't listen to me!" said the former Secretary of Defense.  "War authorization in the Levant!  It's Vietnam all over again!"

"It is certainly not Vietnam," protested Dr. Esse, secretly relieved he finally had a non-Valentine-emergency patient.

"The U.S. can never win there!"

"But now the U.S. has peaceful relations with Vietnam!" said the psychiatrist.

"But that's not because we won the war!"

"Exactly!" cried the shrink, patting the ghost on the head.  "History repeating itself is not our greatest fear!"

"Yes, it is!" argued Didymus.

Outside his window, a catbird laughed at the sight, but another blast of frigid wind sent him scurrying from the ledge to look for shelter elsewhere.

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TOMORROW:  Luciano Talaverdi marries Helen Yellen to boost his career!