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 ....

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memoria Mori

The wedding planner paced nervously around the Alexandria church--which was decorated flawlessly, but only 10% filled forty-five minutes before the ceremony.  In her experience, this meant that guest turnout was likely to hover around 60% at best.  Not that this was her fault!  The first set of wedding invitations had been for a picturesque white chapel down in the Tidewater region, but when it was impossible to find a reception hall and adequate overnight accommodations for D.C. guests, Bridezilla had given up on her dream of being married at home and conceded to her fiance's booking of the suburban Virginia fake mosque conference center for the reception.  Colonel Alexander Wolfbugler had made it clear to the wedding planner that most of his guests were routinely called away by national security emergencies (notwithstanding Obama's wish that the War on Terror were over!) and even "yes" RSVPs should be treated as "maybes", but the wedding planner had been hoping for more support from the bride's side.  She took one last look at her watch and then began texting the temps she sometimes hired to fill out empty ceremony seats--she would have to eat the cost herself, but the show must go on!

A mile away, Bridezilla sat and watched anxiously as her maid of honor held the blow dryer over Bridezilla's repainted fingernails, after the last-minute decision that the Cool Sangria was clashing with her Passion Fruit Pink lipstick.  Bridezilla stared at the drying layers of Pink Poodle, seized with anxiety that she had, again, made the wrong decision.  "Maybe I should have kept the Cool Sangria, and changed my lipstick instead?"

"No, hon," cooed the maid of honor, in her soothing Tidewater debutante voice, "the Passion Fruit is the perfect lipstick color for your face.  The lipstick is more important!"

"I know it's more important, but we should have tested more combinations!"

"There was no time, hon!  You needed your beauty sleep!" purred the maid of honor--a minor league Virginia beauty queen winner, like Bridezilla.  "Baggy eyes are enemy number one to a radiant bride!"

"Oh, why did I rush this?" wailed Bridezilla.

"'Cause Alexander could die fighting terrorists, and life is too short to wait!" replied the maid of honor (who didn't realize that the colonel was out of combat, and worked at a desk in the Defense Intelligence Agency).  "Remember, hon:  the marriage is more important than the wedding!  My wedding wasn't perfect, but look how happy I am!"  (Bridezilla looked dubiously at her maid of honor--who had been two months pregnant at the time she married a naval officer in a Newport News Holiday Inn, three days before he left for another six months on a nuclear submarine.)  "I didn't even have time to buy a dress!"  (Bridezilla remembered all too well the sight of Mrs. Sugarbarrel using needle and thread to alter her own wedding dress to fit her daughter, while bridesmaids emptied out their garment bags on the four-poster bed to see if they could cobble together three that looked at least vaguely like a matched set.)  "Well, I just couldn't be happier!" concluded the former Miss Sugarbarrel, laying down the blow dryer and patting her swelling belly with satisfaction.  "I think it's your big-city lawyerly ways that make you just fret and worry and find something a little tiny bit amiss in every situation."  (Bridezilla's eyes flew open wide in outrage.)  "Well, um," whispered the maid of honor, realizing her remark had been interpreted in the worst possible light, "what I mean is, perfectionism sometimes needs to be taken down just a teeny-tiny notch when you've got time pressures to worry about, right?"

Several miles to the east, Laura Moreno was walking dejectedly into Prince and Prowling to redo a perfectly fine research project that Bridezilla had rejected as not thorough enough just before she left the office at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.  She stopped by the new state-of-the-art document review room (one workstation per four square feet) to see how many contract attorneys had shown up so far, and found only one:  a 25-year-old from New York who was confiding in staff attorney Chloe Cleavage how terrified he was that his girlfriend might accidentally get pregnant.  Without turning away from the $6,800 painting she was examining on the east wall (the partners were simultaneously using the temps' sweatshop to exhibit fine art for sale--and claim a tax deduction through some arts patronage charity), Chloe Cleavage told the fellow nobody needed to worry about that with her because she had sold all her eggs to a fertility clinic for a million dollars!  "I'm rich AND baby-proof," she added, turning to wink at him.  "If I had a boyfriend, I could buy him this painting!"  Moreno silently left them (and the million dollars' worth of pretentious art) to head back to her workroom (which had no art on display except the GreenPeace calendar Moreno had hung over the hole in the wall which had mysteriously appeared above the step ladder one day).  (Moreno had her suspicions that late-night trysts were happening in the workroom now that the dead rodent smell had worn off, but it was none of her business.)  She sat down at the table with a sigh, opened the file folder marked "Project Elastic Plastic", and began reading Bridezilla's hand-written comments on the draft research report.

A couple miles to the west, Dubious McGinty had a long list of things to do before commemorating Memorial Day tomorrow.  The Vietnam Veteran urinated over the guardrail of the drawbridge, spit down on Ardua of the Potomac for good measure, smiled at the blue sky, then sat down in the bridgeman's quarters with his well-worn copy of "Reader’s Digest How to do Just About Anything" (published in 1986).  He turned to the index to look up "x-ray photographs of coffins", but couldn't find it.  Then he tried "remember where you put your army photos", but couldn't find that.  Then he tried, "taking photographs from your photographic memory", but that was also not in the index.  He sighed in frustration:  usually this book helped him a lot (the "Mice as pests" and "Mice as pets" sections were invaluable for squatting in an abandoned control room above a river), but today he was having no luck.  "I'm gettin' old," he said to the mouse he thought was his pet, Cambodia, but which was actually the pest, Pol Pot.  "Sometimes I can see their faces, but sometimes I can't.  And they were the best buddies I ever had!"  (Pol Pot had turned some old photos into a nest last week, and scurried off with a guilty look on his face.)  "I know they're at peace now, but I still miss 'em!" he hollered at the retreating rodent.  Then he thought about the newer veterans, the ones that never had the empty, scared look in their eyes because they just buried it deep and made their eyes stare at their cellphones all day long--the magic boxes that distracted them by day but fell silent by night, when the darkness pressed in.  "Someday their magic box will go quiet," he said softly to himself, staring at the television which had mysteriously stopped working three weeks ago.  "Then they'll have to think about the damned death again."

Back in Alexandria, Bridezilla's stone-faced father took her firmly by the arm and started marching her up the church aisle as if this were not her wedding but the grim Vietnam War memorial service he would have to attend tomorrow.  He was sick to death of paying for these fiascoes and never getting a rich son-in-law in return.  Bridezilla tried to slow him down to the pace of the Bach piece being played on the harp, but he was determined to marry her off as quickly as possible this time.  (Fortunately, this battle with her father distracted her from noticing the large number of paid strangers in the pews--but, unfortunately, she did notice the absence of soldiers lined up with rifles arching over her head, since the minister had confiscated the rifles and hidden them behind the organ.)  Bridezilla's father plopped her unceremoniously next to the Colonel and took his seat quickly.  Bridezilla looked into her lover's face and saw a complete stranger:  the wedding planner had covered up his gray hairs with Grecian Formula, injected Botox into his forehead, waxed his face to a smooth sheen, and covered his pale lips with a manly wine-colored stain.  The Visine was wearing off, and his hungover eyes were slowly becoming bloodshot again.  "What did you do last night?" she whispered, completely ignoring the minister's opening words.

"Just a couple of beers at Fred's house--then we got paged and had to go back to the office."

"Am I to understand you were up late last night WORKING, the night before our wedding?" she hissed.

"Honey, that's my life!  You need to accept that!"

"You're supposed to be on vacation now!  We're flying to Europe tomorrow!  You didn't get paged at all, did you?  It was the others, and you just HAD to go along with them!"

"Now you're accusing me of lying?!" protested Colonel Wolfbugler.

"You have a problem!" she whined.  "You're an adrenaline junkie, aren't you?!"

"What?!"

"You heard me!"

At this point, the minister decided he was not going to marry these people, and tried to whisper this quietly to them, but they brushed him off.  However, Bridezilla's psychiatrist, Dr. Ermann Esse, had prepared for this possibility by bringing a blow dart tipped with a strong tranquilizer.  (Though the shrink strictly refused to prescribe psychotropic drugs to any of his patients, he was, in fact, always prepared for neurological necessities.)  The darted Bridezilla made a funny little noise, then slumped down into the arms of her quick-responding, adrenaline-juiced fiance.  The wedding photographer clicked her camera rapidly, hoping to capture a lot of hilarious shots for her unofficial Facebook page.  Bridezilla's angry father got up to shoo the photographer away, and her mother burst into tears.

Five pews back, the former chairman of the Heurich Society stood up in relief, excited he would be able to attend today's meeting after all.  (He couldn't wait to rub it in Button Samuelson's face that she had made a huge mistake getting rid of the Jack Diamond Morning Show on 107.3, and she deserved the buffoon that had replaced him on the air!)  On the other side of the aisle, former Senator Evermore Breadman was nudged awake by his wife, just in time to see the colonel carrying his comatose bride back down the aisle.  Nearby, Liv Cigemeier and her husband (another partner from Prince and Prowling), laughed silently into their hands.  Back in the front, Glenn Michael Beckmann capitalized on the sudden chaos to run behind the organ, grab three rifles, and run out the side door--forgetting he would lose his pay from the wedding planner.

Outside the church, a flock of laughing starlings flew off to see what amusements Ardua of the Potomac had in store for the rest of the day, while a concerned pink warbler followed Glenn Michael Beckmann from a distance.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The War on Error

"You got rid of the Jack Diamond Morning Show without consulting us!" protested the former chair of the Heurich Society.

"It's not my fault you missed the meeting!" retorted Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson, whose recent attempt to shift Heurich Society meetings to weekdays had met with mixed success.  "And what do you care about Mix 107.3, anyway?"  (She almost slipped and added "you old coot" at the end of the sentence.)  "I did it for Angela de la Paz--she couldn't stand one more day of him, and her boyfriend couldn't stand him, either!"

"We are the Heurich Society!" harrumphed the former chair, grape jelly-donut jelly dripping from his mouth.  "We don't sully ourselves by wasting our influence and resources on petty matters like radio programs!"

"Well, sometimes small measures can improve daily life in a big way," retorted Samuelson (who also happened to be making a large realtor's commission on the sale of Jack Diamond's house).  "You know, it's not all about money and power!"  (Stunned silence, many eyes staring out the window of the Brewmaster's Castle upper meeting room.)  "OK, moving right along, which one of you keeps feeding the media lies about Benghazi?  Really?"

"Really?" asked Congressman Herrmark, a few miles to the east.  "You don't think it will work?"

"The watchdogs are killing us," said Ann Bishis, his Chief of Staff.  "They were all over the water bill, and now they're all over the agriculture bill."

"I've whittled it down to twenty million dollars!" wailed Herrmark.  "I cannot believe we can't find a bill to slip that in!"

"It's Taxpayers for Common Sense and all these other bean-counters," replied Bishis.  "When dozens of legislators slip in their earmarks--"

"It's not an earmark!"

"--it adds up.  And the creative math tricks aren't flying under the radar anymore."

"How many times do I have to vote against Obamacare before John Bonehead does something for me and my polluted state?!"

"I wish I knew," sighed Bishis, who was thinking that, after all this time, perhaps the fracking chemicals which had blown up his parents' vacation home had now trickled downstream five-hundred miles away from their home state.  "Anything else?" she asked, nervous about the time because she was expecting another tourist couple paying $500 to have sex on a Congressman's desk--this was how she made ends meet with the tightened operational budget they had under the Sequester.

A few miles to the west, spy Charles Wu was discussing the State Department's Sequester budget issues with the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Hope (AKA "Point Person for Blunt Pragmatism").  "The thing is, Charles," said P.P. Blu-Prag, "the Secretary of State is rethinking your attempt to use the White House petition process as a cheap forum for fomenting Chinese subversiveness."

"It was his idea," replied the triple agent, defensively.

"Yes, yes, of course," said P.P. Blu-Prag, "but he thought you would do a few strategic petitions that would get the leadership's attention--"

"--I did."

"--and now everybody in China is airing their grievances on the White House website, and it's become an embarrassment for President Obama."

"Well, I can take down the ones I placed, but I can't take down the ones originated by others."

"Naturally," said P.P. Blu-Prag, who noticed he was sounding more and more like his stodgy old man every day.  "The Secretary is hoping you might actually be able to resolve a few of the grievances...through your contacts in Beijing."

"I'd be happy to," replied Wu, "but I'll need to give them something in return."

"Naturally, naturally," said P.P. Blu-Prag, putting his glasses back on to consult his notes.

"The Chinese would like support for their Middle East peace proposal," said Wu.  "I realize it might not be a very original proposal, but they believe they have the kind of neutrality to actually broker a deal."

"Then why ask for U.S. support?"

"They are asking for a very particular kind of support," said Wu.

"I'm listening," said P.P. Blu-Prag (who did not voice his suspicions about the alleged neutrality of China in the Middle East).

Back at the Heurich Society meeting, Button Samuelson finally arrived at the last item on the agenda.  "Gentlemen," she said (forgetting Condoleezza Rice was on the conference call via speakerphone), "it is time to move the paradigm beyond the War on Terror."  (Horrified gasps.)  "Our new mission will be the War on Error."  She paused for dramatic effect, and sipped her coffee.  (This was actually something dreamed up by Major Roddy Bruce, Angela's Australian boyfriend, but she wasn't going to tell the others that.)  "Incompetence is ruining our country and our future--we can only be strong and safe if we are smart and efficient."  ("Is this about the lightbulbs again?"  "Shut up!")  "This is about using our [pointing at her own head] instead of our [making a fist] to advance our best interests--and only that after we use our [pointing at her own head] to accurately ascertain our best interests."  ("Finally!  We're shifting our allegiance back to Iran!"  "Shut up!")  "I'm giving you all a homework assignment:  each of you has to write a one-paragraph essay naming three best interests."  ("Fossil fuels."  "Deregulated banks."  "Put the entire Pentagon staff under the direction of the CIA.")  "No!" Samuelson exclaimed.  "Not off the top of your heads!  Go home and think about it."

Two-hundred feet below them, Fearless Leader opened debate on whether the Dupont Down Under community should lend their support to Tommy Wells in his bid for Mayor of Washington, while Ardua's river rats watched quietly from the darkest shadows of the underground tunnels.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Motherhood and Fatherland

Glenn Michael Beckmann had just finished visiting Arlington Cemetery, where he had placed a bouquet of white roses on his mother's grave.  (That is to say, the grave his mistakenly believed was his mother's, since his childhood memories were a jumble of schizophrenia and self-medication.)  His Hunter-Gatherer Society lieutenant (for this month, anyway) picked him up, and they drove to the Virginia canoe launch where the others were waiting.  Today they were going to try spear-fishing in the Potomac--even though the experts said it couldn't be done! 

Several miles to the east, Charles Wu (whose mother was alive and well-remembered, but halfway around the world) was also trying something new.  He tried not to smirk at the absurdity of the tiny palm trees' surreal attempt to lend a touch of grace to the imposing facade of the 16th Street entrance to the assembly hall of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry--or, rather, Valley of Washington, Orient of the District of Columbia, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction.  Today was the spy's secret induction ceremony; his sponsor, former Senator Evermore Breadman.  (Though it was, in fact, a secret ceremony, Wu had been allowed to invite one non-Freemason guest, and he had sent the invitation to the U.K. for his father's amusement.  Surprisingly, his English father had not been amused, and had warned Wu strenuously about undertaking mysterious alliances for the sole aim of advancing his business pursuits--as if the Freemasons could possibly add an element of danger to his life of espionage!  The only tricky part was learning another secret handshake.)  Wu walked through the now-open front door and heard the familiarly somber thud of another imperialistic door shutting behind him.  Nothing in his life before Washington had prepared him for the multitude of would-be power centers in this town, and every time he thought he had finally gained adequate traction around the city, he would learn of yet another power center demanding his attention.  I really, really need to get some gentlemen working for me, he thought, as he smilingly submitted to being dressed up in fantasy robes and sashes by yet another self-important group of males.  Some jobs just cannot be delegated to Apricot Lily and Camisole Silk.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump down the street, a very female Angela de la Paz was, in fact, making a grand entrance at another D.C. power center of uncertain influence:  the Inter-American Defense Board.  Angela was there to help advance the Heurich Society's vaguely pro-Argentina agenda, as directed by the Society's president, Henrietta ("Button") Samuelson.  Using a code name as deliberately generic as the plastic surgery which had shaped the Salvadoran-American into a beautiful Latina with no obvious regional traits, Angela spoke English as much as possible to avoid drawing attention to her Spanish dialect.  She was here for the purpose her (deceased) mentor had originally shaped her for:  to seduce and disarm powerful men.  (In this case, the disarming would be metaphorical, as her mission was to gather information and spread rumors.)  She politely declined the politically charged offer of a "Cuba libra" cocktail and asked, instead, for a glass of champagne.  Very few women were at this event, and, even in a tastefully tailored suit of midnight blue silk, she stood out in the crowd like an opera soprano surrounded by a chorus of fat, balding baritones.  Hiding in plain sight, is what Charles Wu would call it (who would guess she had attended public school in the Salvadoran neighborhood on the other side of stately 16th Street?!), but her mentor would have said something about being as sly as a fox and as innocent as a lamb.  Another masquerade ball where old men in expensive suits played toy soldiers, scarcely cognizant of the brutal world inhabited by the grunts who actually delivered weaponry in the field and took fire for their fatherlands.  Or was she wrong:  did their appearances, like her own, belie their own experience in mortal combat?  Angela sipped her champagne and tried to listen, but her thoughts wandered, as they always did, to her own beloved soldier.

A few miles to the north, Liv Cigemeier was also preparing to enter a heretofore closed society:  the landowner class.  Her husband beamed at the look on her face when she fell in love at first sight of the tree-shaded Tudor-style house.  "Are you sure we can afford this?" she asked, before even daring to follow realtor Button Samuelson's quick march to the front door.

"Honey," said her husband, "the signing bonus when you joined International Development Nerds would probably have been enough with my raise this year, but now with this talk show deal?!"  (He was referring to the production deal she had just signed to do ten "Girl Hurl" segments for Oprah.)  "We can definitely afford this," he cooed into her ear.

"But what if we want to adopt?" she asked, suddenly broaching the topic they had strenuously avoided since their discovery they would never be able to have a baby of their own.

"Then we'll need more bedrooms and a backyard," he answered, confident that he would have another hefty Prince and Prowling raise long before any slow-moving adoption process came to fruition.  "So Happy Mother's Day!"

Next door, nanny Mia was taking Buffy Cordelia Wu out to see Lynnette Wong for a motherless, Mother's Day, "Girl Hurl" sort of celebration at Wong's Chinatown herb shop.  "Oh, look, Delia!  A young couple is checking out the house next door!  Maybe they will have a little girl you can play with!"

Back on the Potomac, the Hunter-Gatherer Society had yet to spear a fish when their leader, Glenn Michael Beckmann, had a sudden fit, dropped his oar in the water, stood up in the canoe, and started calling out, "Mommy! Mommy!"  His lieutenant deftly grabbed Beckmann by the ankles and pulled him down hard, before he could capsize the canoe.  "The lady in the lake!" Beckmann exclaimed, turning to his lieutenant.  "I had a vision of the lady in the lake!  And it was my mom!"  His lieutenant--who did not remember the King Arthur story very well--looked around nervously, expecting a corpse to float up to the surface.  "My sword!  It's there!  She's handing it to me because it's my destiny!"  Beckmann pointed to Roosevelt Island, and his lieutenant began paddling in that direction.  "I will pull it out of the stone--I am the only one who can!"  His lieutenant nodded and continued paddling until reaching the landing point Beckmann signaled.  "This is it!"  Other canoes from the flotilla started making their way to Roosevelt Island, bored with the spear-fishing and hoping this meant they were moving on to land game.  "There!"  Beckmann jumped out of the canoe while it was still being beached, fell down, got up again, and ran into the brush.  "There!"  He ran to where the axe he once owned was gleaming in mid-day sunshine, its burial spot recently washed away by heavy rains.  "You are mine, Ex Calibur!"  With that, he pulled the axe out of the mud and held it up triumphantly to his followers (though most were still too far away to see it).  "The sword of destiny!"  ("That's an axe."  "Shut up!")

A concerned raven flew off to warn Golden Fawn, while Ardua of the Potomac laughed in delight beneath the canoe flotilla.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

You have to be cruel to be kind.

"The damned bridge was closed!" exclaimed Bridezilla, rushing into her psychiatrist's office.  "Oh, no!  I cursed on a Sunday!"

"God understands your cursing, and I understand your tardiness," replied Dr. Ermann Esse.  "Please relax and make yourself comfortable.  Did you know they are filming bridge shots for a Captain America movie?  Imagine that!  I read Captain America when I was a boy."

"Dr., please!  Aren't we here to talk about me?"

"Of course, my dear!  I was just giving you a chance to catch your breath and sip your drink."

"I had the craziest dream last night!  Thank goodness the colonel was out with the groomsmen getting tuxes when I woke up, and he didn't catch me screaming."

"You refer to your fiance as 'the colonel'?"

"I've just gotten in the habit, while planning this wedding," said Bridezilla.  "You get much faster service when you say 'the colonel' than when you say 'Alex' or even 'Alexander'.  And people offer you military discounts!  I got 20% off the tiramisu wedding cake, and they threw in the dry ice for free.  Plus they said they'll give me 10% off a lemon or strawberry cake if I want to do that on the side--because they said some people don't like tiramisu, but I never met anybody who didn't like tiramisu?!"

"I don't care for it," said Dr. Esse.

"Oh, no!  I forgot your wedding invitation!  But I'll put it in the mail tomorrow."  (Dr. Esse was not concerned--his expert opinion was that the wedding was not going to happen, anyway.)  "But this nightmare!  Oh, my God!"  (Dr. Esse nodded encouragingly.)  "I was in this party bus for crazy horror movie fans, and the driver was going like 90 miles per hour--which was bad enough out in Maryland, but then he kept going that fast even as we approached Georgetown!"

"Why were you going to Georgetown?"

"I don't know!  Some sort of horror bookstore event they wanted to attend.  But I managed to jump out of the bus, which seemed less scary than waiting for the bus to crash in the narrow streets of Georgetown.  And then I went straight over to see the President of the United States, but it wasn't at the White House, and it wasn't Obama--it was a Bush daughter, except she was a secret Bush daughter that nobody had known about.  She had just captured all these prisoners and was making them wash their hair with hand soap and showering them off in a large room like concentration camp people, but then she wasn't so cruel because she did let me hand out hair conditioner."  (Dr. Esse stopped taking notes after jotting down the word "cruel".)  "Then I finally got in to see this President Bush, and she was consulting a talking doll--it was one of her advisers!  It was the creepiest thing I've ever seen!  I had a doll that looked like that when I was young, but it didn't talk, and I certainly never asked it for advice!  (I only asked my teddy bear for advice.)  So then President Bush was talking about their efforts to capture and airlift an orca, but the plane wasn't strong enough, so they were going to put a hook in the orca's eye and drag it across land, and I thought that was the cruellest, most disgusting plan ever--bad enough they were going to put a hook in its eye, but how could it survive out of water for so long?"  (Dr. Esse underlined the word "cruel" twice.)  "She was finally ready to listen to me, and I told her about the speeding bus in Georgetown, and she thought local law enforcement could probably handle it, but she would send some federal troops in just to be on the safe side.  Then all of the sudden I was back in Georgetown, and the horror bus people were trying to get revenge on me for ratting them out!  Then I woke up just as they were trying to grab my ankles and drag me down into the Canal."  She shuddered and looked up at the shrink for his answer.

"What I hear you talking about is cruelty," said Dr. Esse.  ("Huh?")  "Cruelty," repeated the shrink.  "That is what is gnawing at your subconscious:  cruelty to the prisoners, cruelty to the killer whale, and then cruelty to you.  Who are the prisoners?  Who is the killer whale?"  Dr. Esse felt that the prisoners were the invited wedding guests, and the orca was Colonel Alexander Wolfbugler, but he waited patiently for Bridezilla to reach this conclusion on her own.

"What about the secret Bush daughter president and her talking doll?  The whole thing was about unnatural horror and creepiness!"

"Those elements accentuate the feeling of fear in the dream, but the ultimate cause of the uneasiness is the presence of cruelty."  (Bridezilla just stared at him in perplexity.)  "I believe the cruelty was not caused by supernatural phenomena but by very natural, very human phenomena."  (Still no response from Bridezilla.)  "Search your feelings.  Let's start with the orca--a killer whale.  This is a large, fierce animal that inspires fear in most people, but you wanted to protect it in the dream from a most unusual fate.  Who in your life is like a large, fierce animal that inspires fear in most people but concern in your heart over his unusual fate?"

"Wayne La Pierre?"

Dr. Esse frowned, fearing that Bridezilla might not be psychologically ready to get the colonel off the hook until she literally saw him floundering up to the wedding alter.  But by that point, it would be too late for Dr. Esse to protect her from the revenge of the wedding guests!  He sighed, and made a quick note to himself to bring some chloroform to the wedding in case he had to induce a fainting spell for her own good.

Outside Dr. Esse's office, Glenn Michael Beckmann also had Wayne La Pierre on his mind, and was writing a lengthy blog post about him on his laptop in McPherson Square.  "Yeah, I purchased Army surplus assault rifles from Blue Sky Productions!" wrote Beckmann.  "All good patriots did!  Only traitors would pay Russians for Kalashnakovs!"  He stopped, thoughtful for a moment.  "The Uzis were a special case, of course--buying those, you were supporting Israel.  So, yeah, buy American when you can, and then buy Uzis when you can't.  Now, of course, if you steal a Kalashnakov off a commie, then you're entitled to keep it--that's a completely different situation.  But this Washington Post article slamming Blue Sky Productions and Wayne La Pierre is a disgrace!  (That's my main point.)  Now, did I know anything about that plane crash during the Grand Jury inquiry?  Well, gee, that was a long time ago--I might have known something about it, but I can't remember now!  ;-) .  But you know, even the best gun can't protect you from a plane crash, LOL!  But, seriously, we all need assault rifles because the worst way to die would be from tyranny that you could have prevented.  Yeah, maybe a woman is more likely to be murdered by a man she knows that by anybody else--especially if she's pregnant--but whose fault is that?  She should buy a gun of her own!  If I had a baby on board, I would be packing heat all the time!  Actually, I am packing heat all the time, ha ha ha!"  He looked up and saw a white pigeon dove staring at him strangely.  "Oh, yeah, and HAPPY ORTHODOX EASTER to all you Christians holding down the fort in Jerusalem!  Righteous!  Thanks for bombing Syria, I think--actually, that whole situation is getting kind of confusing for me, but I'm sure y'all know what you're doing!"

"That whole situation is getting kind of confusing for me," said John Doe to the ghost of Henry Samuelson, on a park bench on the other side of McPherson Square.  "Israel is bombing Syria because of Lebanon?  I thought Lebanon was the Switzerland of the Middle East."

"That's beside the point!" said Ghost Henry to the temporal lobe epileptic.  "These wars started centuries ago--they just have better weapons now."

"Righteousness is the best weapon," said Doe.

"And righteousness with a neutron bomb is even better, but does anybody listen to me?" asked Ghost Henry.

"My vision of the new Palestine definitely did not have a neutron bomb!  Well, gosh, Henry!  If your Ghost CIA does something like that, what's the point?  Then you'll have millions and millions of angry ghosts in the Middle East.  I don't think Switzerland is like that at all!  How is that an improvement?"

Over in Virginia, Bridezilla was returning home from her secret shrink appointment.  She had already forgotten about Dr. Esse's advice because she had been listening intently to NPR on the car radio--trying to understand the Middle East at a level in which she could have an intelligent conversation with her fiance--Colonel Alexander Wolfbugler!  But it was exhausting, because he would always have a thousand times more salient information than she had!  "Hi, honey!" she called out.

"You accidentally dropped two hairbrushes into the washing machine," he said.

"Oh, that wasn't an accident!  That's how I clean them."

"That's gross!" he said.  "There's hair all over the towels!"

"Most of it comes off in the dryer."

"Well, it didn't," said Wolfbugler.

"Well, I could put them in the dishwasher, but then there might be hair caught on the silverware."

"The silverware?!  You can't put a hairbrush in the dishwasher!  The hair will clog up the strainer!"

Bridezilla wasn't sure what strainer he was talking about, and she was desperate to change the topic of conversation.  "It's such a pity about Hezbollah, isn't it?" she said, gently removing the basket of partially folded (slightly hairy) towels from his reach.  (He loves touching my hair!  I don't know why seeing a little of it on the towels is such a big deal!)

"What?  Yeah, Hezbollah," he said cautiously, with a hello kiss that he suddenly remembered he owed her.  "Oh, did you see the Washington Post before you left?  The "Sunday Style" section is about weddings!"

"You think I should take wedding advice from the Washington Post?!"  (She said the name of the newspaper like it was the National Enquirer.)  "My wedding plan is already finalized!"  (She pointed him to the 5-inch wedding binder on the coffee table--which currently had only seven "URGENT" flags still affixed to its pages.)  "Are the tuxes taken care of?"  (Wolfbugler nodded yes.)  She picked up the binder and turned to the tuxedo page:  "You didn't remove the flag," she said.

"I thought you liked to remove the flags yourself," he said, his pulse racing.

"Oh, you're so thoughtful!" she gushed, suddenly in love with him again.  "You really do get me!"  With that, she started pulling his clothes off, but then remembered she still hadn't taken that flag off the tuxedo page....

Out on their apartment balcony, a bluebird of happiness signaled to her mate that this was no place to lay her eggs, and they flew off in search of a safer environment.  Nearby, a flock of starlings laughed in the trees, and some sparrows waited on the ground for another wedding cake to come crashing down.