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, August 28, 2016

War of Attrition

Glenn Michael Beckmann was bitterly disappointed about the sudden demise of "Gary", the ventriloquist dummy, but while working out a new plan for undermining Donald Trump, he had discovered that Roger Ailes had been fired for sexually harassing several of Beckmann's favorite Fox News blonds.  "Nobody messes with my patriotic vixens!" he had shouted from his balcony to nobody in particular, followed by, "Vengeance will be mine!"  Now he was addressing a meeting of his militia followers, trying to rally them to kidnap Roger Ailes.

"The man is a menace to our goddesses!" cried Beckmann (who had reserved a room at Martin Luther King Memorial Library for this meeting).

"Don't blaspheme!"

"Huh?"

"There is only one God!"

"Ain't that what Muslims say?"

"Focus, people!" exclaimed Beckmann, pounding his fist on the table.  "Our beloved women, treated like garbage by men in suits!"

"Men in suits!"

"They're the worst!"

"We must kidnap him for punishment!" cried Beckmann.

 "But he's advising Donald Trump now!"

"Trump sucks!"

"Trump rocks!"

"Hillary's gonna take away our guns!"

"Trump's gonna take away our neighbors!"

"Do you like your neighbors?"

"Libertarian's the way to go!"

"Who's the Libertarian candidate?"

"Gary Bussey."

"No, the other Gary."

"That ventriloquist dummy?"

"Shut up!" screamed Beckmann, red in the face.  "Have I ever led you astray?!"

"Well--"

"Never!  The time has come for Ailes to face the reaper!"

"He already got sued.  Isn't that enough?"

Beckmann threw his hands up in disgust and stormed out to chase down Ailes on his own, bumping into an elderly black couple trying to find an anniversary lecture on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington.

"I have a dream!" cried Dick Cheney, a few miles away.  The other members of the Heurich Society looked at him in perplexity for a moment, saw the twinkle in his eye, and then burst out laughing.

"No, seriously!" laughed Cheney, mopping his brow with a pile of Au Bon Pain napkins.  (The elevator at the Brewmaster's Castle was out of service.)  "I have a dream of endless war in the Middle East until the population there returns to fourteenth century nomadic levels, the price of oil goes back to $200/barrel, and--"

"Fourteenth century nomadic levels?" crackled Condoleezza Rice over the speakerphone.  (She had recently gotten her Ancestry DNA test back and was still coping with the newly found knowledge that fifteen percent of her genes were Arab.)  "We have never discussed anything like that!  You're talking about gen--"

"Genuine clarity of vision, I know!" said Cheney (who was quickly getting hopped up on a sugary muffin, the likes of which his wife had not allowed in their house since Bill Clinton was President).  "Turks versus Kurds versus Syrians versus Iraqis versus Iranians versus Saudis versus Yemenis versus Houthis versus--"

"Slow down there, cowboy," said the international arms merchant.  "Endless war is one thing when collateral damage is local, but some of these players have nukes!"

"The situation is pretty volatile," said the international banker.  "And no matter how many people get killed, three times as many will be refugees streaming into Europe."

"Well, if Trump gets elected, we don't have to care about Europe anymore!" laughed an army colonel, in an unnaturally loud voice.  (Then he bit his lip.) 

"The State Department is working hard to stabilize our alliance with Turkey," crackled Rice over the speakerphone.  (Everybody in the upper floor conference room rolled their eyes.)  "There won't be endless war."  (Her genes also showed a large amount of Scotch-Irish; she tried to tell herself it was Hume- and Smith- like, but she knew deep in her heart it was cracker.)

"There's been war in the Middle East my entire life," said a 45-year-old Congressman.  "I really don't see what has changed."  He looked around the room expecting his statement to be shot down, but nobody had an answer.

Back in the days when petroleum was $200/barrel, one of the companies that had amassed a large fortune was Chevron.  Income was not as good these days (wind farms!), but Chevron was still sitting on $9 billion in financial assets and $189 billion in capital assets--even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on legal fees fighting a $8.6 billion judgment levied against the company twenty-three years earlier in Ecuador.  Chevron had won round after round after round, refusing to pay a single dollar to clean up the well-documented pollution its predecessor had left in the rainforest.  And the latest victory for Chevron was in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. 

"They used to ride around in a circuit," said a very drunken D.C. attorney who had done hundreds of hours of pro bono work on the case over the years.  "The judge would get on his horse and ride from one state to another to hear appeals."  She nodded solemnly to emphasize the import of this fact.  (Everybody at the bar was watching the game; only the bartender was paying the slightest attention to her.)  "A circuit," she repeated, drawing a circle on the smooth wood in front of her.  "Maybe New Jersey in April, and Connecticut in May, and New York in--"  (She paused, stumped.)

"June," said the bartender.  (His father was from Brazil; he knew all about sticking it to the indigenous in the Amazon.)

"June!" agreed the attorney.  "Or was it July?  Anyway, the man on the high horse stuck it to the little people again!"  (The bartender nodded, refilling some beer pitchers for some rowdy football fans.)  "But we can appeal to the Supreme Court, yeah!" she cried, sarcastically.  She raised her next pisco sour shot in the air.  "They deserve it!  Half of them are dying of cancer, but Chevron has proven that hundreds of millions of dollars can buy your way out of the tar pit of the Amazon!  How do we explain the Second Circuit to them?"

"Who?" asked the bartender.

"The people of Lago Agrio!" she screamed, looking wildly around at the crowd.  "Why don't any of you care?!  You don't even know their names!"

"Settle down!" the bartender said, grabbing both her wrists gently but firmly.

"Money always wins," she said softly, starting to cry, and the bartender let go of her wrists.  "I've wasted my life on this."  She suddenly smashed her shot glass down, took a jagged edge, and slashed her wrist.

"There's too much evil," said Angela de la Paz, a couple of miles away in Chinatown, sipping herbal tea specially prepared by Lynnette Wong.  "It's an endless war, a war without end."

"You're telling me this," smiled Wong.  "My people have legends going back thousands of years!"

"Why do I even have these powers if I can never win?" sighed Angela.

"You have these powers so that Evil can never win," said Wong.

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COMING UP:  Dr. Esse's new assignment at the CIA!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cults


Out at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged, burglar Glenn Michael Beckmann had been caught red-handed trying to steal a ventriloquist dummy from resident Larry.  During several minutes of increasingly peculiar conversation about his plans for "Gary", the various residents had streamed into Larry's bedroom, followed by social worker Hue Nguyen.

"So you actually live by yourself?" social worker Hue Nguyen asked again, dumbfounded.  (She had already texted psychologist Leo Schwartz to rush over and make an assessment on the manic Beckmann, but hadn't heard back from him yet.)

"Of course," said Beckmann, a man who was always a danger to himself and others but somehow continued living in Section 8 housing with occasional psychotropic prescriptions and sporadic assessments.  "The FBI can't touch me because I have too many followers."

"Uh-huh," Nguyen said.

"But I like Donald Trump," said Larry, getting back to the important topic.  "I don't want you to use Gary to kill him."

"What?!" exclaimed Nguyen.

"Lots of people like Trump!" Larry cried, indignantly.

"I'm not going to kill Trump," said Beckmann.  "Gary is going to tell Donald Trump, Junior, to do it."

"Oh, goody, goody, goody!" exclaimed Theresa, clapping her hands.  (She was a big fan of both Hillary and the ventriloquist dummy.)

"I don't know," said Melinda.  "I don't think you should get children involved."

"That's no child!" hollered Cedric, waving his teddy bear Aloysius in the air.  (He knew all about Ghost Henry's desire to assassinate Trump.)

"It's a demon child!" exclaimed Theresa.

"Well, if a demon child kills Trump, then Trump is a good guy, like I said," declared Larry, though he was getting confused.

"The child is wild with mild guile," said Freddy Ritchings (AKA Brother Divine of the International Peace Movement).  "The demon of the semen leaves us all believin'!  The dummy is crummy, but God's wrath is yummy!"

"He's not a kid!" said Beckmann.  "He's a grown man!  All I need to do is get him to watch one of your evil YouTube ventriloquist videos."

"My YouTube videos aren't evil!" protested Larry, even though he ended up getting choked by the dummy at the end of every one.

"They are a little creepy," said Melinda.  "Even Cedric said so."

"No, I didn't!" lied Cedric.

"You tied Aloysius's hands behind his back for weeks until you were sure he didn't want to choke you," retorted Melinda.

"Let's have ice cream," the social worker suddenly interjected.  (She really wanted to call the police on Beckmann and get him hauled away, but she was desperately hoping Schwartz could come soon, make a proper diagnosis, and get the troubled man the help he needed.)  "Mr. Beckmann, you're welcome to join us for ice cream, but no more talk about Gary or Donald Trump."

"Who do you think you are, talking to me like that, girlie girlie!?  It's a free country!  I can talk about anything I want to talk about!"

"Not in my house!" hollered Nguyen in a voice nobody had ever heard from her.

"I'm calling the police!" said Larry.  "I don't want him to steal Gary!"

"Just let him take the dummy!" exclaimed Cedric.  "We all hate it!"

"Not me!" retorted Theresa.

"I have 30,000 followers on my 'Larry and Gary' YouTube channel!  That's more than Freddy has in his Church of Twitter!"

"Your followers are a cult!" exclaimed Beckmann.  "I just need to get Junior into it!"

Meanwhile, the Seekers were gathered in a small Georgetown University classroom to have a rather different conversation about Donald Trump.  Coming from varied theological, philosophical, and demographic backgrounds, they had nonetheless been determined to leave no question unasked, no topic undiscussed, and no theory unexplored in their ecumenical quest to learn the spiritual meaning of everything.  Today's topic was new territory for the Seekers:  Trumpism.

"Are we really calling it 'Trumpism?'" asked the Baptist minister.

"We have nothing else to call it," said the Jewish rabbi.

"But it's not a theology," said the Jesuit priest.

"Is it even a philosophy?" asked the Muslim cleric.

"Certainly not that," said the Buddhist monk.  "He does not love knowledge!"

They had a good laugh over that one, then grew silent for a few minutes.

"It's a cult," said the Pentecostal minister.  "And I say that as somebody whose religion was once called a cult.  The man has gone to evangelical leaders and asked them to organize voters so that he can go to Heaven!"

"He doesn't care about getting anybody else into Heaven," added the Jesuit.

"But we are the ones under attack," said the Pentecostal minister.  "Evangelicals!"

"I respectfully disagree with that," said the Lutheran minister.  "We have members in my own congregation who suddenly think Supreme Court nominations are a crusade for Christ--and, actually, the most important crusade for Christ.  Well, that's very simple, isn't it?  Say you've nominated a good Christian, and nothing else you do matters!"

"And he's a good Christian?" asked the Muslim cleric, shaking his head.

"Only God knows what's in his heart," said the Baptist minister.

"He's already admitted he's not a good Christian!" exclaimed the Buddhist.  "He said Supreme Court nominations might be the only way he gets into Heaven!  This man is seriously perverse!"

"He's not a Christian at all, as far as I can see," said the Jesuit priest.  "He worships money and his own family.  He is spreading an idea that we discredited centuries ago:  that you can buy your way into Heaven through a grand gesture."

"Yes," said the Pentecostal minister, "and he is leading people astray.  He is telling vulnerable, ignorant people that he has all the answers, that you can be as greedy and cruel--"

"--and racist," interjected the Hindu cleric.

"--and sexist," added the Lutheran minister.

"--as you want, and none of that matters if you do some grand gesture to get into Heaven," concluded the Pentecostal minister.

"I'm a firm believer in grand gestures," said the Buddhist monk.  "The issue is how he has defined it."

"Well, how is anybody else going to get into Heaven if that's the way?" asked the Rabbi.  "The rest of us don't make Supreme Court nominations.  We have got to hit back on this!"

"It's a cult," said the Sikh cleric, scratching anxiously under his turban.  "How do we deprogram the cult followers?"

Across town, the same question was being asked by TFFT (too fat for television) reporter Holly Gonightly, gesturing to a group of dazed attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants huddled on the lawn of their leader's Brookland row house.  "How will these cult members be deprogrammed?"

"We're not cult members!" shouted an angry young man, shaking his fist at the pretty but plump journalist.  "We were gonna save the world!"

"You heard it, ladies and gentlemen," she said to the camera focused on her.  (The producer pointed to the rain starting to fall and gestured to Gonightly to speed it up.)  "They believed a madman who told him they were going to save the world!"

"It's not cool to call mentally ill people names!" said a crying woman.  "And he's a great man!"  (She was one of three women who had spent the night with him in an orgy of meth and sex she could barely recall.)  "He had a vision!"

"He had a vision," Gonightly echoed in her most serious voice.  "The vision was about repurposing the DC legal community away from corporate clients and onto public interest work.  But the reality was more about collecting dues, funneling the money into a Cayman Islands bank account, and seducing scores of young women to have sex with him."

"That's a lie!" cried several members in unison, but the crowd was dwindling as most of the members realized they did not want to be seen on camera during an FBI sting.  (They were going to have to return to the law firms tomorrow.)

"It was all lies," said Gonightly.  "And here he comes now!"  The cameraman turned to film "Max" being led out of the house in handcuffs, his face down.  "This ASPIRE organization--Attorneys Serving Public Interest Radicals Everywhere--was a pyramid of lies foisted on vulnerable, idealistic young professionals searching for a more meaningful life."

"It's not a lie to believe in the public interest!" cried a young woman, trying to wipe rainwater out of her eyes.

"Today the public interest means locking up a fraud.  This is Holly Gonightly."

Inside the house, several FBI officers were still gathering evidence, and Prince and Prowling contract attorney Laura Moreno sadly handed over the hidden wire she had been wearing for the FBI.  Down in the basement, the real estate demon who had easily possessed and controlled "Max" hid himself deep in the crawl space to await the next occupant.

Back at the Arlington Group Home for the Mentally Challenged, enormous brown helping dog Millie had heard enough.  She had already known that Gary was a bad influence, but things were clearly getting out of hand.  She grabbed Gary out of Larry's arms, ran into the next room and started tearing the ventriloquist dummy to pieces with her teeth, shaking it in fury.  If there had not been so many gasps from the residents, as well as the wail of dismay from Larry, they might have heard the hiss of a demon fleeing the fury of Millie's mouth and diving for the exit.  Beckmann ran into the room, clutched his head in anguish, and shouted, "now what?!" while staring at the ceiling.  But he could not see Ghost Henry and would have to return home to await a visit from medium John Doe.

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COMING UP:  War of attrition!

The freaked-out diary of Brittani.


Dear Diary ** !! ** !!

Married life is not what I expected.  Sometimes I think about my friends still in high school and I'm jealous I can't go to dances or football games or anything, but I HAD TO RUN AWAY!  My stepfather was the PITS!  I hate him SO MUCH!  He ruined everything.  If Bobby had stayed my boyfriend and taken me to New York City like he promised I would be SO HAPPY!!!!!!

Monkey is pretty weird.  (Kelli STILL thinks it's a stupid name, but I don't care!)  I thought he'd be pretty into me, but he loves his ROLEX more than me!  Sometimes he whispers to it!!!!!  How weird is that?  He sleeps with it, which is INSANE!  He even wears it in the shower!!  I don't think it's even waterproof!  The time on it always says 12:00!

He is NEVER EVER romantic except he did take me out to Fauquier County to a really dark place without lights so that we could watch the Perseid meteor shower.  Well, I THOUGHT it was to be romantic, but he barely even touched me.  At first I thought he was whispering romantic things, and I snuggled him and said stuff to him, but then I realized he was whispering stuff like "cosmos" and "fairy dust" and "Lucifer's sparkle"!  How weird is that?!?!?!  

Sometimes I think he's a total freak, but he's my husband and he thinks I'm pregnant and married me anyway, which is the MOST AWESOME thing anybody ever did for me in my WHOLE LIFE!!!!  But he's pretty weird.  

Yesterday we went back out to Trump National Golf Course so that he could pan for gold AGAIN (!!!!!!!!!!!), and it was SOOOO HOT!!!!!  I thought I was gonna die!  I just lay at the edge of that pond trying to stay cool, half underwater, but the water felt like a bath!  And I kept feeling something nibble my toes and fingers, which was a TOTAL FREAKOUT, but Barbara said it was these little fish that eat dead skin cells, and people pay a lot of money for them in beauty salons because it's the best pedicure and manicure EVER!  How weird is that??!!  But it still freaked me out, and I was SOOOO HOT!!!!  Ernest kept saying it's too hot and pregnant women (me and Barbara!) should be in the underground bunker, but Barbara loves that pond, and I'm not really pregnant.  Plus I'm trying to show Monkey that I will stand by his side no matter what because sooner or later he's gonna figure out I'm not pregnant, and maybe he'll be mad?  But maybe I'll get pregnant with HIS baby.

He always wants to go when it's too hot to golf so that nobody else is there, but last week somebody went to the ninth green and carved swastikas in the grass because lots of people hate Trump and say he's a Nazi.  Monkey said it was probably Petro Pig:  he's this famous pot-bellied pig in DC always showing up for political protests and stunts.  A few weeks ago he was photographed taking a dump in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy!  His owner was sitting in a golf cart with a sign that said:  "Let your women drive so we can burn more oil!"  Pretty funny, but hogs have no interest in eating grass!  I mean, they'll eat anything, but if they're hungry enough to eat grass, they'll just mow through it fast!  It had to be a goat on a leash to get those nice lines.  But Monkey doesn't know anything about animals.

Ernest and Barbara argue about whether Trump is a Nazi all the time!  "He's a Nazi!"  "No, he's not a Nazi!"  It's weird, though--sometimes it sounds like they WANT him to be a Nazi!!!  I dropped out before European history class, but I've seen a couple World War II movies and I think the Nazis were the BAD guys and swastikas were bad.  Barbara said to me once that Eichmann DNA is not as good as she had expected for the baby, and I just nodded like I understood, but what????  Who's Eichmann????  She said Ernest has no respect for Hitler DNA!  Huh????  They have weird arguments.  But she told me the important thing was to have an Aryan baby, and was really glad when I told her that Bobby was blond and had blue eyes.  I didn't tell her I also had sex with a Puerto Rican boy, because what does it matter?  I'm not really pregnant!  Secret!!!!

I asked Monkey why Ernest and Barbara were arguing about Trump and Nazis, and he was like "WHO CARES?!", which is how he always is whenever I ask him ANYTHING except when I ask him what he wants to eat.  I make him all his meals.  He didn't even know about fried okra or cornbread!  He grew up in Boston.  I asked him if we'll go see his family for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and he said he has too much work to do.  If he doesn't find gold or diamonds soon, I think he might go out of his mind!!

At first I thought it was cool, panning for gold and diamonds, but I'm SO BORED WITH IT!  I once told him he could at least try some new places--why keep going back to the same places?--and he got all red in the face and yelled, "I go where I'm told to go!"  WHAT???!!!  I think he thinks the Rolex is talking to him!!!!  And he definitely talks to that stupid pond.  "Come on, baby!  Show me the gold!  Show me the bling!  Come on, Ardua!"  I don't know why he calls the pond Ardua.  Barbara doesn't know what he's whispering, but I've heard it all.  

Barbara is too busy whispering to her baby, who's due in late September, but she whispers in German (or Austrian?), so I don't know what she's saying.  Ernest doesn't know much German, but yesterday he said :  "Trump is with Russia, who's with turkey now!  This is not German!"  And then she said:  "Germany did the non-aggression pact with Russia!"  And then he said:  "Never with turkey!  Not the ottomans!"  (We had a couple ottomans in the living room--I don't know why he hates turkey and ottomans.)  And then she said all the arguing was not good for the baby--that's how she ends every argument.

Today Monkey wants to go back to Rock Creek.  He said we could wait until 4, but it will still be super hot!!!!!  And the water is even warmer than Trump Pond.  I'll just lie there half passed-out, except I can never fall asleep because there are always weird birds there, I SWEAR, sitting there and WATCHING him pan for gold and diamonds!!!  He said they're starlings and understand people better than we understand ourselves.  HUH???!!!  They ARE very PRETTY and SHIMMER--he said they have magical feathers!  He's a water scientist, but he believes in magic!  But whenever he tells me stuff like that, then he tells me not to tell anybody else because they wouldn't understand.

He's ALREADY got money in the bank and could buy me a diamond ring, but he never has!  I just have a gold wedding band.  I wish he would just buy me a diamond ring, and then take me to the movies or NASCAR on the weekend.  Once I asked if we could go to the beach, and he was like, "that's the WORSE place to pan," and I said, "but we could swim," and he looked at me like I was the crazy one!  Then he looked at his Rolex! 

Kelli said her parents used to think the Apocalypse was coming, but now they said Trump is going to fix everything.  I don't know.  I don't think he can fix my husband.

love always and forever (keep my secrets!!!)

Brittani (Mrs. Kevin Mundy!)


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COMING UP:  The Seekers discuss Trump theology!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

ASPIRE!

Congressman Paul Ryan was supposed to be in Wisconsin campaigning to win his primary against a Republican challenger, but he just could not get on a plane until he had worked out the week's kinks with his Thai masseuse.  He grunted with satisfaction as she dug her knees into his cramped butt muscles and dug her thumbs under his shoulder blades.  "Gah!"  He wanted to push Donald Trump out a very high window.  "It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends!  That's what they told Harry Potter!"

"Harry Potter," the masseuse repeated, pulling his right arm halfway out of its socket.

"Holy mother!"  He sucked in his breath, and she told him to exhale.  "I couldn't let him attack a military family whose son had died in Iraq!"

"No," she agreed, pulling his left arm halfway out of its socket.

"Jiminy Crickets!"  She flipped him over like a hamburger, having learned there was no need to be gentle with the Speaker of the House.  "He won't endorse me!  But that's fine.  Who cares?  The last thing I need is a certifiable lunatic endorsing me.  Oof!"

"Lunatic," she repeated.  (Her English was a lot better than he suspected, and she always thought it was better to keep it that way with male clients.  Usually this was for the purpose of pretending she did not understand sexual innuendo, but she also found that politicians and national security officials liked to sound off on a lot of sensitive topics here while she was realigning their joints.)

"Trump's in a total free fall--he doesn't give a damn about anything except hearing the sound of his own voice and paying himself and his cronies to fight losing Twitter wars."

"Twitter wars," she affirmed, pushing his right leg up to stretch out his hamstring, then rotating his hip joint.

"Ah!  And tossing the baby!  Tossing the baby!  CIA directors denounce him, and the moron is tossing babies from his rallies!"

"Crybaby," she said, pushing his left leg up to stretch out his hamstring, then rotating his hip joint.

"Wa!  Honest to God, people have spoken to me about offering amnesty to the Secret Service if they take him out!"

She was seated behind him, pressing her feet into his shoulders while pulling his head away from his body.  "Secret Service take him out," she said.  Ryan opened his eyes and looked at her upside down.

Half a mile away, Charles Wu was back in the Prince and Prowling office of junior partner, Bridezilla.

"Thanks again for taking me to the Singapore state dinner!" she said, stroking the conjoined guinea pigs sitting in her lap.  (Very few things unnerved Wu, but Thelma and Louise were on the list.)

"Well, you deserved it!" he said.  (She had correctly predicted that releasing the DNC emails before the convention would ensure that they were quickly choked out of the news cycle, unable to return.  At the end of the day, it turned out there was nothing that surprising in them--certainly not for an electorate this jaded.)  But he had also wanted to give her a boost out of the bitterness she had sunken into pending the annulment.

"I had a lovely time," she said, in a softer Virginia drawl than he normally heard from her often harpy-like voice.

"You turned a lot of heads in that Vera Wang gown," he added.

"You exaggerate!" she said, but she was still smiling.  "You were very kind to buy it for me.  But now we need to get down to business.  What's next for your SuperPAC?"

"You tell me!" he said.  "But whatever it is, let's sort it out quickly--I'm flying my little girl down to Rio tonight to watch some gymnastics!"

A few miles away, Liv and Felix Cigemeier were packing up for the chartered flight they were taking with Charles Wu down to the Olympics.  (The grant Wu had paid for Liv's International Development Machine reconstruction work in the Philippines had been the perfect cover to set up a very effective spy base in that country, and he was indirectly thanking her with this trip.)  Felix usually paid for their vacations, but this time he was thanking his wife for the trip.  "I guess all that 'Girl Up' work you have been doing has finally paid off for me!" he teased her, but she didn't rise to the bait.  "Now my little boy will see women gymnastics and be truly inspired!"

"He's a baby!" she laughed.

"He's two!  These are formative years!"

"He will see women excelling at something which takes a lot of hard work.  He will grow up to be somebody who cheers on strong women, just like his father!" 

"Bam!" shouted Lucas, rushing into the bedroom to attack a half-packed suitcase with his light saber.

"He's a boy!" laughed Felix.

Several miles away, Washington Post "Metro" reporter Perry Winkle was also trying to inspire youth--in his case, by leading another Urban Guerrilla Field Trip for adolescents.  He had bribed a Metro engineer to take them into a red line tunnel to see for themselves what was really being done to repair the tracks.  The kids were talking about all the disasters they had heard about--the crashes, fires, deaths, and most recent derailment--but he cautioned them to be quiet as they came up to a junction where they might run into workers.  When they quieted down, that's when he heard the growling.

"What's that?" someone cried.

"Sh!"  Winkle motioned them to stay back as he tiptoed up to look into the side tunnel.  What he saw was famed Dog Whisperer Sebastian L'Arche squatting next to famed rat terrier "The Gipper"--who was softly growling at something in the shadows.  Then it jumped out of the shadows, and Winkle's mouth flew open at the sight of what appeared to be an eight-foot lizard standing on two legs, swiping its front feet (hands?) around like it was fending off an attack of something.  "Run!" shouted Winkle, losing all faith in the anti-psychotic medication he had now been taking for a long time.  "Run!" he repeated, turning around to shoo the kids in the opposite direction.

L'Arche turned around in surprise, but Winkle was already out of sight.  He turned back to see Ghost Anatoly (a Samoyed specter) and the Gopper Ghost (previously sired by The Gipper) try to take down the demon with the help of the rest of the canine ghost pack.  The Gipper smelled real blood in the beast and wanted to join the attack, but L'Arche was holding on tight to the dog collar, knowing The Gopper had died from similar heroics.  But the canine ghost pack could do no more than annoy the demon, which finally threw them off to whimper while it crawled up the tunnel wall to run away on the ceiling.  L'Arche shivered, realizing his long simmering fear was real:  the Metro system was truly cursed.  He watched the canine ghost pack lick their ephemeral wounds, some still growling with desire to give chase, but Gopper Ghost was counseling them that it was time to leave.  They trotted past L'Arche quickly, a little embarrassed.  L'Arche stood up and sighed deeply, knowing that Angela de la Paz was leaving with her employer for Rio tonight just when L'Arche needed to get the anti-Ardua coalition back together.

A couple miles away, the ASPIRE coalition was back together, meeting for an all-day workshop in the Brookland row house of their charismatic leader, Max.  The rain had pulled them from his backyard, and the large SRO crowd stretched up his staircase and back into his kitchen.

"Attorneys Serving Public Interest Radicals Everywhere is unlike any organization you have ever joined in your life," Max said.  "Nobody is more appalled by Donald Trump than I am, but he's right about one thing."  ("No!  Boo!")  "Wait, wait!  He is!  The system is rigged!  It's actually rigged in his favor--that's the funny part!"  (Lots of laughter.)  "But seriously, how do we take down the system when we're all obsessed with earning our daily bread?  Can we start a revolution?  Can we demonstrate in the streets?  Can we litigate our way to a better society?'  ("Yes!  No!")  "That's right:  yes and no.  The system is rigged.  But you know what's not rigged?  Our hearts.  That's right!  You--" he said, pointing at an attractive young paralegal in a red strapless sundress.  "Come up here."  She jumped up, goose bumps on her bare arms.  He grabbed her hand to pull her closer, then put his arm around her waist.  "Does your boss praise your work?"  She shook her head.  "Does he or she--"

"He."

"--does he tell you that what you're doing is advancing humanity?"  She shook her head.  "Does he ask you for your opinion on how best to serve the client?"  She shook her head again.  "What does he say to you at the end of the day?"

"He asks for my metrics."

"METRICS!" Max shouted at the crowd--mostly unemployed attorneys and people working at the most menial legal tasks in the city.  "Metrics," he repeated, more softly, then kissed her on the cheek.  "This is what's wrong with the world of lawyers, my friends!"  ("Amen!")  "We're supposed to be working for people, not numbers."  He pulled her face around and kissed her on the mouth to more than a few gasps.  "What?" he asked, turning back to the crowd.  "You're shocked that I have expressed affection to this lovely human being?  My heart," he said, pressing it with his left hand while his right arm was still wrapped around her waist, "is not rigged to fit into the cold marble floors, steel filing cabinets, beige hallways, uncomfortable chairs, and billables departments they want us all to fit into."  ("Amen!")  "My heart is free of all that."  He kissed her again on the cheek and motioned her to rejoin the crowd.  She felt like the most special woman in the house, even though he had never asked her name.

"Now, you will be asked to volunteer for political campaigns, donate your time to pro bono cases, work long hours on weekends and holidays--and will society be better off for any of it?"  He looked around at the silent and confused crowd.  "No!  Others will ask you to take more strident and radical measures, get arrested in the streets, occupy Wall Street, blow whistles.  There are even rumors flying around town that anybody who assassinates Donald Trump will get political asylum in Mexico, Turkey, or China."  (Low whistles.)  "No!  I'm serious!  Lots of rumors out there!  The man has a bounty on his head.  But will any of that build a better society?"  He looked around again at the silently enthralled crowd.  "It's in here," he said, pressing his heart with both hands.  "The public interest is in here.  Now I want everybody to forget about law for a few minutes, turn to the person next to you, man or woman, whatever color skin they have, and kiss 'em."

Somewhere behind the dining room table, a man grabbed a very surprised Laura Moreno and started kissing the contract attorney like his life depended on it.  Outside the dining room window, a catbird sheltering from the rain stared at the humans and started imitating the sound of thunder claps.

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COMING UP:  The freaked-out diary of Brittani!