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 6/6//2017. Follow Washington Water Woman on Twitter @HorrorDC ....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Figure It Out

Charles Wu entered the Chinatown shop quietly, having a feeling that Lynnette Wong was going to be in a bad mood, and he was right. She had been up half the night reading and distributing emails about the Chinese crackdown in Tibet, and he could see the dark circles under her eyes. He had already phoned in his order, so she simply nodded to him and reached down to the shelf below her to find his bag of herbs. He knew her family had come from Taiwan, and she knew he had grown up in Hong Kong; they rarely discussed mainland China. He took the bag, handed over fifty dollars more than he needed to, then dropped a folded piece of paper on the counter. He said goodbye in Cantonese and turned to go without another word. Seeing the shop was empty, she opened up the sheet to find a printed email from a mid-level Chinese military officer discussing tactical plans for suppressing the uprising in Tibet. She looked up in surprise, but he was already across the street and turning the corner. She tore off the portions of the email with officer names and shredded them with the device she used for shredding herb leaves; the rest of the email was in her pocket.

Wu got off the escalator and headed to the Metro platform. He knew it was not a coincidence that Admiral Keating had been in China buttering up the Chinese military scarcely a day before the Tibet crackdown, and encouraging the Chinese military brass to call him whenever they wanted to talk. And yet there was Condoleezza Rice only a day later issuing a condemnation of the heavy-handedness of Beijing's response in Tibet. He was accustomed to seeing the U.S. military and diplomats send conflicting messages, but the stark contrast between these words and actions left him uneasy. The Tibet situation was escalating quickly, hundreds of reporters were being expelled from Tibet and western Chinese provinces after reporting fatalities, Russia was voicing support for Beijing, and Rice was making an absurd call for the Chinese to engage the Dalai Lama-- who was not, according to her--a separatist. He bit his lip, uncomfortable with the voices inside him that shifted their balance of influence every time the balance of Chinese and Western power shifted in Asia. Why can't China see that it would gain so much more by freeing Tibet? He stepped onto the train, wondering what C. Coe Phant had left for him at today's drop point.

A few miles west, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was giving a final proofread to his five-page memo printed out on crisp State Department letterhead. It was not about Tibet, but, rather, about the March 11th resignation of the top U.S. military commander for the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon--specifically, about his rumored resistance to the Administration's Iran policy. He knew Rice was pleased with the resignation, but he had, nonetheless, been careful to write a balanced analysis and report on how Fallon's replacement was expected to bring about a shift in Middle Eastern military tactics. He drummed his fingers on the scratched-up maple wood beneath his memo, wondering why, after all this time, he could still not figure out what the Secretary of State really wanted for Iran--or, for that matter, Israel, or Lebanon, or Syria, or even for Iraq.

About a mile east, former Senator Evermore Breadman was sitting in his Prince and Prowling office, fielding another congratulatory phone call on the E.P.A.'s weak response to the recently released national dirty air report. He hung up the phone feeling silly--it was like taking candy from a baby to be paid to lobby the E.P.A. these days. He clutched his groaning abdomen and headed past his Wall of Me photographs to the restroom, pausing only a moment to straighten out the photo of himself with the Dalai Lama. A few minutes later, a couple of young associates hustled quickly out of the men's room, wrinkling their nose at the odor--which was actually coming from the Chinese herbal detoxification pads that Breadman had just peeled off the soles of his feet.

A mile north, Liv Cigemeier was reading internet news reports on the crackdown in Tibet. International Development Machine had an informal policy of excluding human rights considerations from its projects, and sometimes Liv wished she were back in Ecuador doing simple and miniscule rural projects instead of being involved in the highly politicized world of Washington foreign aid money. Sometimes she wondered at the large number of Peace Corps alumni running these nonprofits, and the statistical probability that at least some of them had actually been undercover C.I.A. The ringing phone interrupted her thoughts: it was her husband telling her laughingly of the stink bomb assault in the Prince and Prowling men's room. She knew he was so bored with his work that he would use any excuse to call her, and this made her feel useful to him. She told him about the latest news reports from Tibet, and he told her he had to get back to work.

A mile south, the White House butler was having lunch with her twins. Clio was lecturing them on the upcoming Easter Egg Roll, and how she did not want a repeat of last year's incident. She looked at them sternly: "We're lucky they didn't ban us from returning!" Ferguson started giggling, and Regina pinched him under the table. "It wasn't funny, Fergie! Sticking eggs in babies' mouths is not funny! I'll just take Reggie this time if you don't promise to behave!" Ferguson promised he would not stick eggs in any mouths, even if they were crying babies without pacifiers. "You're not going to touch anybody, or anything, except eggs and baskets! Do you understand?" They both nodded their heads solemnly. "I need to get back to work now." She dropped them off in the laundry room, since they had been expelled from another nursery school. They seemed immune to any punishment, and uninterested in any rewards she could give them. And most of the time they're good! The truth was, her AIDS was getting serious, and she was too tired to do much with them after work; some days, they got more parenting from the White House ghosts than from her. I know something's wrong....Why can't I figure it out?

A half a mile away, a White House staffer was sitting in Ermann Esse's office, and the psychiatrist was thinking to himself, I know somethings's wrong....Why can't I figure it out?


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