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 ....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cease and Desist

Economists Fen Do Ping and Luciano Talaverdi were hunkered down in the Federal Reserve Board Research Library, refusing to cease and desist no matter what Sarah Palin said. Ping had never celebrated a Thanksgiving, and he wasn't going to start now, when the Camelot Society needed him to rally for besieged Ben Bernanke. Talaverdi had gone to a few American Thanksgivings since moving to America, but the food appalled him and the endless drone of American football on television irritated him. Plus he had made a point of telling Obi Wan woman he had no plans for Thanksgiving and would be at the Fed, and he was desperately hoping she would show up, or invite him to her house. For weeks he had been adding sweet little sayings and funny little jokes to every email he sent her, trying to butter her up. (Surely she had become fond of him by now?) “Capital may be king, but liquidity is Robespierre.” (How could that not make her smile?!) “Slapped in the face by the invisible hand”. (A real zinger!) And attached to the latest Criticized Asset Report for the top 20 financial institutions, little cartoon assets talking trash to each other: "You're so ugly that your mother volunteered you for a hostile takeover by the Mafia." "Oh, yeah? Well, you're a 90-pound weakling, and after your mother gave you a haircut, you looked like a hairless chihuahua!" "Oh, yeah? Well, you're so stupid that you think OTTI* stands for a rebel leader in the Lord's Resistance Army!" (* OTTI stands for "other than temporarily impaired" assets--a fancy term for things you can actually sell.)

If only I could speak to her in Italian, the language of love! Talaverdi let out yet another sigh and went back to cross-referencing the tomes spread out in front of him on the round table. Ping shook his head at the embarrassing love sickness on display and went back to typing up his new economic theorem inspired by the sight of squirrels burying acorns in the hallowed grounds of the Federal Reserve Building.

Over at Southwest Plaza, Glenn Michael Beckmann was re-reading the restraining order former girlfriend Christine O'Donnell had taken out against him. Cease and desist, blah blah blah.... He opened up his gray filing cabinet covered with bumper stickers from the National Rifle Association and various militia groups and filed the court order in his "fascist overreaching" folder. If that bitch doesn't wanna get back together with me, she could at least have the guts to tell me to my face! What a hypocrite--running to the Nanny State to pamper and protect her. Sissy! And though he no longer had access to her Facebook page, he had ascertained from other sources where she was spending Thanksgiving and was going to confront her this afternoon--or confront the goons that had been running her life for the past six months. He strapped on his waist, shoulder, and ankle gun holsters and then loaded them up with the weapons he had purchased at the last gun show--not for her, for the goons. (Or any state troopers trying to stop him from exercising his God-given right to drive 90 miles per hour on the open road--because how else was he supposed to get anywhere now that the fly-fascists had taken over all the airports?) He grabbed the heat-n-serve rolls from the kitchen (he would never show up empty-handed--his mother had raised him right), then took one last look in the hallway mirror. Today you're gonna give thanks for remembering what a real man is, baby!

Over at Prince and Prowling, former Senator Evermore Breadman had fled the ennui of his suburban home under the pretext that he really had some urgent work to get done, and with a promise to be home in time to carve the turkey. Though he had thought decades earlier he had married into political royalty, it did not save him from a pill-popping shrew of a sister-in-law, a mother-in-law who spent each Thanksgiving morning vacuuming every inch of drapery and carpeting in their house with a mask over her face, a father-in-law who always brought a rifle and spent the morning shooting at squirrels in the backyard, a nephew who sported a goatee and Che Guevara t-shirt for every family photo-op, and a niece who liked to examine everybody's clothing labels and inform them what human rights abuses and environmental travesties were committed in the act of producing their chosen apparel. Breadman took a sip of his turkey-flavored soft drink and picked up the phone to call back former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay--who had just been convicted in Texas and faced a possible lifetime sentence for money laundering. Tom, Tom, Tom--there are so many ways to make and spend money legally in this country! You should have listened to me in 2002. He dialed the number and wrote down the start time of the call: he would send an invoice for anything over five minutes, even though he had never done criminal appellate work in his life.

Not far away, Laura Moreno was in the workroom trying to earn some extra cash to make up for the week she had been out sick. Years had come and gone, and still Prince and Prowling would not give her paid sick leave, paid holidays, paid health insurance, or paid vacation days. Her pay rate was the same, even though her responsibilities had grown steadily. They were never going to fire her and never going to hire her--she would be a contract attorney here until the day she died. (If only she knew why....) Chloe Cleavage was on a Caribbean cruise this week, and Moreno was doing her own job and Cleavage's, too--which included logging into Cleavage's email account, unbeknownst to Cleavage! (The senior partner had ordered the IT department to make the account accessible to Moreno, and here she was.) Cleavage had 5,000 emails in her Sent email folder because she was unaware that she was supposed to delete or move them. About 2,000 of them had the same Subject line: "stop sending so many emails", and these had gone to temps who asked too many questions about their work while Cleavage was trying to make bids on e-Bay or update her Facebook page. Another 2,000 were joke-forwarding emails, And somewhere in the remaining 1,000, Moreno had to search for clues to the work assignments that Cleavage had doled out over the past few months, because nothing the temps were doing made any sense. Moreno paused over an odd subject line: "you don't know me!". She pulled up the Sent email to see Cleavage's simple reply of "LOL", and then read the original email--which turned out to be somebody's asking Cleavage if she were in the witness protection program. Moreno sat back and pondered this because it would explain quite a lot.

Over in upper Georgetown, the guests had arrived at Judge Sowell Ame's house for the Sense of Entitlement Anonymous (D.C. Chapter) Thanksgiving potluck. Ame was thankful it was a potluck and he only had to cook one thing. Real estate tycoon Calico Johnson was thankful that Chloe Cleavage had gone on a full-week Caribbean cruise and would not be looking to him for a warm and fuzzy holiday (or any type of holiday). Bridezilla was thankful that she had an excuse to avoid all the weird food her Indian boyfriend's family and friends would be stinking up his apartment with today. And Dick Cheney was thankful that the Bush and Palin clans were tearing each other apart.

Out at National Airport, TSA agent 432 was making good use of the audiotape he had found while still employed as a White House security guard--an audiotape on the art of conversational hypnosis techniques (which somebody had left on a men's room shelf). So far he had subtly convinced at least two-dozen men that they should avoid the radiation of the full-body scanner and let him do the patdown instead. He had never been gay, and he could not explain the thrill he got from this, but he also could not deny this was the best Thanksgiving ever! Twenty feet away, reporter Perry Winkle was waving other passengers past him in the security line as he continued to take photographs of TSA agent 432. What a world.

Deep in the river, Ardua of the Potomac was not enjoying all the thankfulness floating around. She also sensed a threat coming to something she had thought would endure through the ages--the belovedly putrid and evil Mystery Mountain. But she could not fight an enemy that had not yet made his move....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sting

"Live from Prince George's County, this is Holly Gonightly." The cameraman stopped the camera feed and gave the reporter a thumb's up, but she asked him to play it back. He leaned back so that she could have a clear view of the small monitor as it played back her report on the unfolding corruption sting in P.G. County. He had worked with a bunch of reporters over the years, and he knew she was good--really good--and she had the diction and the face and the fashion sense to become an evening anchorwoman someday. But he also heard the whispers around the station: TFFT! (Too fat for television.) At 5'7" and 145 pounds, she looked like a perfectly normal, lovely woman when she walked down the street, but the camera adds ten pounds, which meant she was really thirty pounds overweight for television. She wore high heels, she dressed in black or vertical stripes, she used massive amounts of rouge to hollow out her cheekbones, she bleached her hair blond, and still the whispers persisted. She ran twenty miles a week and did weights and ate a nutritious diet, but it was the women who were smoking addicts and anorexics who got the most on-air time at her network. "I should have gotten this story before the Feds did," she said quietly. The cameraman reminded her that the investigation had been going on for years and involved a large number of people--nobody could expect a reporter to come up with a story like that. She looked him straight in the eye and said, "I will come up with a story like that! I will."

A few miles away, Atticus Hawk was pushing the grocery cart for fiancee Jai Alai when the question came out of nowhere, just after she grabbed the nutmeg for the sweet potato pie. First Jai Alai sent her son two aisles back to pick up peanut butter, then she said, "This book by President Bush--it talks about the CIA waterboarding and how he okayed it." ("Uhh-huh.") "Isn't there a Justice Department investigation of the CIA for illegal torture?" She was now perusing the pie crust options. ("Uhh-huh.") "So is he trying to say that he authorized the torture, so nothing the CIA did was illegal?" Hawk drummed his fingers rapidly on the grocery cart handle. Until now, she had always honored his request that she not ask about his work at Justice...but she was not actually asking him directly about his work because she should not (could not!?) have known that he was in charge of the Justice Department inquiry into CIA misconduct. She looked over her shopping list again, then finally looked him right in the eye, awaiting his answer.

Hawk cleared his throat. The carefully constructed, convoluted logic of the draft memo analyzing possible CIA misconduct had been months in the making when his boss had waved Bush's memoirs in Hawk's face and ordered him back to the drawing board. Now, instead of finding that the CIA did not intentionally violate any domestic or international laws against torture, the Justice Department's torture expert needed to find that the CIA did exactly what POTUS told them to do--or did he? Hawk was not entirely certain where his inquiry was supposed to go now, and he was deathly afraid of asking his boss. Jai Alai was holding the cart with two hands and staring at him, and Hawk realized the cart was not going anywhere. "Well, the Justice Department is doing a CIA inquiry, but you know I can't say anything about that."

"I didn't ask you to say anything about that," she said quietly. "I asked if Bush is trying to claim that since he authorized it, the waterboarding was legal."

"Bush..." he started slowly. "I don't know what Bush is trying to do. He could have said that while he was in the Oval Office and ended the public debate on it. He was still trying to pretend he's a compassionate conservative. And he didn't want the military turning against him." The words just came flying out of his mouth, after all this time: he had spent years of his life writing mind-boggling legal memos to justify Guantanamo and secret renditions and CIA black ops and torture, and here was Bush, just shouting like a 10-year-old on top of the monkey bars that he had been the decider.

"Didn't the Geneva Convention--"

"Well, that only applies to prisoners of war," interjected Hawk.

"Well, my cousin's nephew was captured by the Taliban in the Khyber Pass. Is he a prisoner of war protected by the Geneva Convention?"

"The Taliban doesn't honor the Geneva Convention."

"Does anybody?"

Jai Alai's son returned with the peanut butter, and the conversation ended.

Over at the National Arboretum, Dr. Devi Rajatala chewed on her peanut butter sandwich and read the lab report just faxed in from her biologist colleague at the University of Maryland: the bee was definitely a GMO--genetically modified organism. Dr. Rajatala's heart skipped a beat, and she glanced again at the swollen site of the bee sting on her left hand. At first she had thought bees active in November were clearly a sign of global warming, but now she had something else to worry about. She was just an arborist, and it was getting harder and harder to maintain a handle on what was going on around here. She picked up the phone to ask him where he thought the GMO had come from, but the man just laughed. "Your guess is as good as mine! Military research, USDA, a university lab." "Is this bee stronger? Will it prevent more honeybee colonies from collapsing?" "Your guess is as good as mine," the biologist said again. Dr. Rajatala looked out the window at Rani (the donkey) who was flicking her tail at flies that also should not be active in November. "Thanks," she said, and got off the phone because she needed to prepare for the arrival of the kids who would be volunteering in the Friendship Garden today.

Several miles away at the residence of Golden Fawn and Marcos Vazquez, District officials had completed their sting operation and were serving citations for the illegal renting of condominium units without inspections, rental business licenses, or income tax filings. The sting busted 75% of the owners, and amazed the Vazquez's, who suspected more and more that, even though Golden Fawn had detected no real estate demon in this building, buying their first home here might have been a mistake.

Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Perry Winkle was treating his "pupils" to a pizza lunch after completing their most recent urban guerrilla field trip--an insider's look at the recent burglarization of the Chillum Post Office. Dozens of packages had been rifled through, and the items the thieves chose not to steal included: an inexpensive ladies Casio wristwatch, a teal cardigan sweater from jcp.com, brown suede boots from Newport News, a Love at First Sit "Nada Chair", a bin of Popcorn Factory treats, and the book "Guns, Germs and Steel". The items missing on the examined invoices included: an expensive Seiko watch, a champagne cardigan sweater from Anne Klein, black leather boots from Giorgio Armani, a "Biaxial Powermag" from Nikken, Lady Godiva chocolate truffles, and the book 'Curious George--the Complete Collection'. "These guys were good," the postal worker had told them, "really good. Except for "Curious George"--hard to imagine that has much street value." The kids were still discussing the field trip, and Winkle was observing them carefully, trying to decipher what their take-away was. (Their take-away last week from visiting the city morgue had been that morgue workers are the happiest people on Earth because they go home every day thankful to be alive. The kids never walked away with the lesson he expected of them.)

"What's next?" a young girl suddenly asked, turning to Winkle with an excited smile.

Winkle's eyes started sparkling, and he leaned across the table to draw them all in for his whisper: "Mystery Mountain!"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Secret Lives of Squirrels and Millipedes

Deep in the bowels of the condo building now occupied by Golden Fawn and her husband Marcos Vazquez, a mama millipede kicked her children out of the nest and told them they were on their own. She ran up into the pipe casings ("free at last!"), and they tried to follow her, but she was too fast for them. The youngest turned off at the first whiff of fresh air and found herself behind a second-floor toilet, where she sat and debated what to do next. The eldest turned off on the third floor and also found himself behind a toilet. And so it went, until the middle child turned off at the sixth floor, where he was certain he had detected his mother's scent. He struggled and wriggled to get around a heavily rusted coupling, then landed behind a toilet, next to a kitty litter box. The resident kitten owner was in the process of bringing her in for another attempt at litter box training when she saw the hideous red millipede pass a foot from her feet, screamed loudly, and inadvertently tossed her kitten into the sink. She picked up the litter box and slammed it down on the invader--which appeared to be engorged with somebody's blood!--and then jumped up and down in a major freak out. It was the most evil insect she had ever seen. (If she had waited a minute, her kitten would have killed it, but she did not yet understand that her sweet little kitten was programmed to kill.)

Several miles to the south, another millipede was about to become prey.

"GO, GO, GO!"

Five juvenile squirrels sprung into action, chasing down the millipede that mama squirrel had just ordered them to attack. The millipede tried to burrow into the dirt behind the bush in front of the law library's mezzanine window, but the eldest swatted it out with her left paw. The millipede tried again, but the middle child swatted it out, and so it continued until at last the millipede was finally crushed against the west wall of the Federal Reserve Board building. The juveniles shuddered at the sight because they were not used to killing anything and had never hunted for their supper, but mama squirrel assured them they did not have to eat it. "Why did we have to kill it?" asked the youngest.

"You didn't kill it," she said quietly as she dug up some hidden acorns for them. "It was never alive."

A few miles to the north, another mama squirrel was training her litter behind the bush on the east side of the Church of Scientology building. "This is OPEN HOUSE night," she said. "You can tell because they put out those big purple dancing things." (She was referring to the balloons festively swaying in the breeze at the entrance.) "Troublemakers often show up after the balloons come out, and sometimes they throw things and smash things--it's best to burrow into a safe place and go to sleep early." With that, she turned around three times in the nest, then lay down. The juveniles all followed suit, except for the youngest, who poked his head out to see what would happen. A few minutes later, he saw Dubious McGinty escorted forcibly out of the building, shouting about how he knew the Moonies were responsible for hunting Randy Quaid and someday they would get theirs.

"These are scientologists," Charles Wu offered helpfully as McGinty was shoved past him, "not Moonies." The scientologists who had just escorted McGinty out of the building did not thank Wu for the intercession, nor was Wu encouraged by their saccharine smiles.

"Can I help you?" the younger man asked, though his fists looked clenched.

"Just came to see what this is all about!" lied Wu, with a dazzlingly handsome smile that almost (but not quite) turned the man a little gay, and both of the strong men wondered if this was a Hollywood celebrity they were not quite recognizing. Wu was actually not trying to pick up anybody tonight (one of the strangest nights of his life had been spent with a scientologist starlet from New York)--he was here because he had received an amazing tip from Che Gordo and Che Flaco that he would find a European prime minister in here tonight (using the fake name "Magnolia"). "Brilliant!" Wu exclaimed at the sight of the artwork in the front foyer, which was the most hideous thing he had seen since his last visit to the newly decorated Prince and Prowling lobby. He bent over to tie his shoe and release the spy robot millipedes from his socks, not knowing they would soon be sucked into the magnetized cove bay and collected with all the other dozens of spy robots coming in every month based on rumors and hearsay about which Washington power players might be scientologists. (Fortunately for Wu, the engineering in his spybots was too sophisticated for them to track him down, and he had already hacked into the Scientologists' surveillance camera system to make sure the recording function was not working tonight.) A beautiful woman in a red sweater dress and black snakeskin boots approached Wu because she had come tonight after hearing the rumors and hearsay about what a great place Scientology Open House night was for meeting rich guys, and Wu was an exotically handsome man in a very expensive silk suit. Wu struggled to stay focused on his quest for a prime minister, but her Chanel Number Five was already wafting into his nostrils. "Do you know Magnolia?" asked Wu before he lost focus, but she thought he was alluding to a sex scene from a movie and nodded yes for all the wrong reasons.

"I only feel safe here!" Bridezilla was protesting, as her boyfriend tried to coax her from the (surprisingly repulsive) Prince and Prowling lobby into the elevator. "There's no millipedes, and I don't have to touch anything in the bathroom here! I'm not going home until the motion sensor-activated toilet and faucets are all installed!" He told her again that this was not a reasonable option as they had not even been delivered yet. "But the millipedes!" She shuddered violently, and he silently cursed the millipede that had found its way into her home and destroyed whatever OCD grip she still had left. He couldn't get her to stay at his place because his Indian spices smelled too weird for her, so unless he wanted her coworkers to figure out she had really flipped out, there was only one option left.

"I'll take you to a hotel--ANY hotel in the city. You name it."

"They're all full of germs--and bed bugs! Don't you know there's a bed bug epidemic in this country?!"

He knew there were some outbreaks in other regions of the country, and that this girl had no idea what an epidemic really is. "We'll go to the Mandarin Oriental," he said. She wrinkled her nose at the word "Oriental", and he brushed aside her latent racism since it was really about Asian germs, not people. "The Gaylord at National Harbor?! It's very new! And I have that ultraviolet wand that you can wave over everything to kill any germ that might possibly be there." (This was a lie, but he was certain he could use his Star Wars light saber and she wouldn't know the difference.)

She bit her lip and swayed her head, pondering the offer. The holiday displays and ice rink might be up already. He smiled at her. He was wearing the olive green sweater she had bought him as a Diwali gift, and his pectoral muscles looked really good in it. How does he have the time to work out so much AND run his own business? "Do you think they have silk sheets?"

"We'll stop at Target and buy fresh sheets and blankets, OK?" She made a face at the name "Target", but he reminded her that it would probably be the only store still open, and she finally acquiesced to the plan. He was spending about five-thousand dollars a month on her, and he had not even purchased any jewelry yet--but she was like a fascinating mystery novel he could not put down.

Back at the Vazquez condo building, Vazquez's mother had just stepped into the bathtub to take a shower when the gigantic mama millipede stepped out from behind the shower curtain. Teresa let out a blood-curdling scream, then started beating at the beast with the back scrubber. Her son and daughter-in-law barged in to see the poor woman trembling at the sight of the millipede shattered into a hundred pieces all over the tub--all of the pieces still twitching with electrical impulses. Her son turned away from his naked mother, and Golden Fawn whispered that she would handle it. She helped Teresa out of the tub, then turned on the shower to wash the horror scene down the drain. "It's an evil creature," whispered Teresa, and for the first time in a long time, Golden Fawn was in complete agreement with her mother-in-law.

Over at the White House, papa squirrel was having trouble sleeping outside the West Wing--it made him nervous when warm days were followed by cold, cold nights. He looked at his fast-growing litter and wondered about the future.

Coming up in the weeks ahead: GMOs invade the National Arboretum, Bush's memoirs complicate Atticus Hawk's life, Glenn Michael Beckmann tries to give Christine O'Donnell a new reason to live, and Federal Reserve Board economists tell corny jokes.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Kuh-niggets of the Round Table

(The "secret lives of millipedes and squirrels" has been postponed until next week....)

The November meeting of the D.C. Chapter of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous was underway at the Potomac Manors mansion of real estate tycoon Calico Johnson. He was still smiling smugly at the oohs and ahs he had heard when his guests arrived to find his dining room remodeled with medieval tapestries on the walls, candle sconces made from buck antlers, English oak floor paneling, and a giant round table carved entirely from an extremely rare one-ton block of Welsh prismatic quartz. He told them (just before ladling mead out of his silver punch bowl into the gold-plated goblets) that it was important to sit at a round table so that nobody would appear more important at S.E.A. than anybody else in attendance. Bridezilla was tapping her foot nervously, wondering what kind of germs could have been breeding for a thousand years in the jute and wool yarns draped around her, and she was certain the gold-plated goblets had never been sanitized properly in the scalding heat of a dishwasher. (And she wouldn't be caught dead drinking mead unless Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in a King Henry VIII costume was serving it, but that was beside the point.) "My boyfriend is trying to get me to use Go Flushless in the toilet," she began, while others were busy sipping their mead. "He said I flush the toilet too much, that I'm wasting at least a hundred gallons of potable water a week. He said if I just pee, he wants me to spray this Go Flushless jazz into the toilet, and it will neutralize the urine odor with citrus scents and special enzymes. He said I should only be flushing for, well, you know, number two." Several goblets were now hovering in mid-air as stunned members of S.E.A. realized she was actually discussing excrement. "He grew up in India, and he said we take too many things for granted here. But I'm entitled to protect myself from germs, aren't I?" (She actually flushed toilets multiple times before during and after anything she did in them or near them, but she didn't get into that level of detail.) Dick Cheney rolled his eyes, used the mead to swallow down his heart pills, then told Bridezilla her boyfriend was probably a terrorist and he could look into it if she wrote down the exact spelling of the man's name and date of birth. She glared silently at him across the table in a manner she would never have used with President Bush, then a Congressman just defeated by a Tea Party candidate asked if they could now discuss something that actually mattered--politics.

Several miles south, the Heurich Society was also enjoying the effects of a brand new round table in the upstairs meeting room of the Brewmaster's Castle. Henry Samuelson, who had personally purchased the table and had it delivered as a gift on Thursday, was reveling in the fact that the Chair could no longer sit at the head of the table. It was a bloodless little rebellion not lost on anybody, and though they let the Chair call the meeting to order and set the agenda, there was now greater freedom to amend the agenda and move back and forth between related topics. The Chair--who had thought he would curry great favor by bringing in espresso bean Georgetown Cupcakes--had been completely shocked at the sight of the round table in the meeting space, and a smiling Henry Samuelson sitting in the spot with the best view out the window. (Was he planning a vote of no confidence? Or is it just a table?) Before the Chair could begin discussing how to deal with fallout from the Wikileak revelations that 15,000 civilians had died in the U.S. invasion of Iraq or with former President Bush's admission that he had personally and happily authorized waterboarding torture during his Administration, Samuelson summarily announced that the purpose of their society was not public relations damage control for failed Presidents and they had more important things to discuss.

With that, he moved that the agenda be amended to begin with a discussion of China's decision to help Pakistan build two nuclear reactors. "We have LOST central Asia!" he thundered, pounding his fist on the brand new table (which he knew could take it). "Goddammed Osama Bin Laden is still out there! NATO is letting the Russkies back into Afghanistan to deal with the heroin trade! The Obamas dancing a Diwali jig in New Delhi while China joins forces with Pakistan against India?! We are getting dangerously close to World War III wargames scenarios, gentlemen!" He pulled a file out of his satchel labeled "World War III Wargames Scenarios" (written in alternating red and black magic marker letters by Cedric just before he wrote the Moon Township Plan, then had his nervous breakdown and ended up in the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged). "We are talking about Scenario Number Five!" Samuelson exclaimed, with another thump on the table. The chair tried to protest that it was far too early to call central Asia lost, and Samuelson yelled at him, "Wake up and smell the coffee in your goddammed cupcake! Our resources are stretched to the limit, the Tea Party is going to paralyze Congressional spending, the Fed is out of control--" He looked around the table suddenly, confused because nobody was sitting where they customarily sat. "Where's our Governor?" The Chair said the Governor was at an annual Fed meeting in Jekyll Island. "They already waved their magic wand and shot another $600 billion out of their unicorn horn!" exclaimed Samuelson. "What more could they possibly have left to do?!"

A few miles to the south, the second meeting of the Camelot Society was nearly underway at the Federal Reserve Board. Italian economist Luciano Talaverdi walked down the central stairs of the Research Library, wrinkling his nose at the faint but omnipresent smell of mouse urine that had long ago permeated the carpeting in the stacks. He took a seat at the enormous round table next to Chinese economist Fen Do Ping, who was already scrolling through data tables on his laptop. Three members of the Board of Governors were represented by staff members, including the chair of today's Camelot Society meeting--who was wearing beige leggings tucked into tall brown boots and an oversized belted beige cocoon sweater on top, which made her appear extremely chic to the fashion-savvy Italian, but more like Obi Wan Kenobi to the puzzled Chinese man. "The numbers don't add up," she announced without emotion, and nobody needed a written agenda or explanatory note because they all knew what they had come here to discuss--the data which had first been fed into the Fed by spy Charles Wu. "Somebody made a mistake in calculating the $600 billion announced this week." She didn't mean a mathematical mistake--she meant, of course, a mistake in the forecast data. The problem was, nobody could verify the data that went into the $600 billion announcement, even though a large number of economists had joined the school of thought insisting it was right. "We need to get this right," she said quietly, without emotion, and Talaverdi was suddenly overcome with desire for this mousy little strategist who thought like an economist and spoke like a bank examiner, yet dared to dress like a supermodel from Milan.

"I won't rest until you are satisfied!" Talaverdi exclaimed passionately, suddenly picturing himself laying her down behind the far stacks, pulling off her Jedi boots, and nibbling on her ankles. The woman gave him a funny look, he did a mental check on his English, then quickly added, "with the data--satisfied with the data !" Several Camelot Society members nodded in appreciation (or relief), and resumed taking their yellow highlighters to the papers spread out on the round table.

A couple miles away, yet another Washington society was convening around a round table--this one in a seldom used conference room nestled in the Woodstock Theological Center near Georgetown University. "Welcome back to Seekers," said the Jesuit whose family history included a dozen priests who had been expelled from countries all over the world during the past 200 years. "We have a simple mission statement: Simplify the search for God. We have all seen libraries full of books analyzing prophecies and scriptures, psalms and proverbs, histories and biographies. The people around this table alone have probably published two-dozen books and hundreds of journal articles, as well as delivering a thousand sermons and lectures." He saw several nods of agreement from the Episcopalian theology professor, the two Islamic mullahs, the Sikh, the three rabbis, the evangelical Baptist university professor, and the four tribal elders from across North America. "But what do people believe? What do they understand? People are more confused than ever. The harder we work at this, the greater the forces of darkness which rise up to obfuscate the message of God. We must come together, for the sake of all."

A thousand yards away, Ardua of the Potomac marveled at the never-ending human impulse to join forces and conquer their fears. Would they never surrender to the chaos, destruction, and dark matter of this existence? They grasped at a thousand straws when all they had to do was reach out and believe in her.... Ardua reached up to a motorist passing on a bridge above her, grabbed the cancerous cells lurking in his lymphatic system, and stretched them out to wrap around the man's kidneys and intestines. The pink dolphins realized too late what was happening, leaping only soon enough to block Ardua from taking the cancer all the way to the liver. The motorist slowed down as he saw the "Welcome to Virginia" sign, wondering where his sudden nausea and dizziness had come from. Ardua tried to slap the pink dolphins, but she would never catch them.

Next week: the secret lives of millipedes and squirrels.