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, December 28, 2006

Tonics for Ardua

Arborist Devi Rajatala was working in the Friendship Garden at the National Arboretum. Teenagers on winter vacation were taking shredded hardwood leaves and pine needles from the groves and using them to mulch their flower and vegetable gardens. "Pinch back those blooming daffodils," Dr. Raj called out to nobody in particular. Angela de la Paz walked over to the confused daffodils and pinched them back. "Thank you, Angela." Angela asked why they had come up so early. "Well, we had a stretch of cold weather, then we had very warm weather again, so they thought winter was over." Angela asked about the blooming cherry trees and got a similar answer.

"Is it global warming?" Angela asked. "They said on the news that the polar bears were just listed as threatened."

"Well," said Dr. Raj, "it might be, but sometimes you just have autumns like this."

"But it's real, the global warming?"

"Yes, it's real," replied Dr. Raj. "The climate will change everywhere, not just in the North Pole."

"So maybe the pink warblers I saw aren't in your book because they came from somewhere else, because of global warming?"

Dr. Raj hesitated. "I really think you were just seeing another bird in a funny light. There are no pink warblers listed anywhere."

"Maybe they mutated from the global warming?"

"Well," conceded Dr. Raj, "mutation is always possible." Dr. Raj didn't know that Angela was now seeing pink warblers on a daily basis, and they had nothing to do with global warming.

Over at the National Museum of the American Indian, Golden Fawn finished up her work on the leadership conference, then stopped at the Shoshone Bird Woman exhibit on her way out to study again the young girl's amazing adventure with Lewis and Clark. Golden Fawn's grandmother had told her that the pink warbler of her dreams was a spiritual sign, but nobody but Golden Fawn herself would be able to decipher what the sign meant. Still, grandmother was certain it had something to do with fighting Ardua. What use is that? So she saw a pink warbler in her dreams--so what? All it did was aggravate her now. Sacagawea changed the history of America simply by leading a few white men around, but Golden Fawn didn't have anybody to lead. She had no clue what she was supposed to be doing about Ardua.

Over on the drawbridge, Dubious McGinty was pouring kerosene into the Potomac, trying to blind Ardua. Nothing seemed to work, but he couldn't give up. He emptied the cannister and returned to the abandoned watchman's quarters to turn on NPR. They were talking about the death of Gerald Ford. Gerald Ford? That name sounded familiar. Oh, yeah: he was President when Saigon fell. Dubious vaguely remembered hating the guy, but couldn't be bothered with it now. Dubious knew now it was Ardua that was doing all this crap in Washington.

Over in Chinatown, former Senator Evermore Breadman was rushing out of Lynnette Wong's shop with his colon herbs, on his way to meet the party planners for the Gerald Ford bash. It was all good to him--he could make money on anything in this town, even a Presidential funeral. Lynnette's secret attempts to flush Ardua's influence out of his system were failing. She frowned, realizing that she needed to make another trip to the river banks to study Ardua some more. Breadman absolutely reeked of Ardua.

A new customer walked into Lynnette's shop. "Charles Wu," he introduced himself. This was no country bumpkin flown in to construct the new Chinese embassy in Washington: his English was of the Hong Kong variety--as was his silk suit, linen shirt, argyle socks, and patent leather shoes. He absolutely reeked of Ardua. "I need a ginseng tonic," he announced. She nodded silently, then turned her back on him to mix up the tonic. She threw in the anti-Ardua herbs, even though she had no faith in them: they would have to do for now. She turned back to Wu and handed him the bottle.

"First bottle always on the house," she told him. He smiled broadly, thanked her, and departed. Wu was a Chinese-British double-agent. He was very happy about his new assignment in Washington, where the river banks did not reek of chicken shit, diesel fuel, and rotting haddock. After nine years of being a double agent, Wu still hadn't decided whose side he preferred, but he felt invigorated in this city. He opened the bottle and swallowed the contents in one swill, then carefully placed the bottle in his attache case until he could find a recycling bin. He knew it was superstitious to keep taking the herbs his grandmother had taught him, but he convinced himself that it was merely a ploy he would use to infiltrate the Chinese dissidents in Chinatown. When a man announced colon trouble, nobody ever suspected him of lying, even if his father had been an Englishman.

Over at the Watergate, Condaleeza Rice was sitting in her red leather recliner, sipping her ginseng/gingko/sesame/celery/anise smoothie and adding lies to her draft memo on Iran. She looked out at the darkening water and did not realize that she was smiling.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

All That Glitters

The radio was playing another jewelry store ad. Angela de la Paz hummed along as she formed pupusas in her grandmother's Adams Morgan kitchen. Angela was wearing hoop earrings left behind by her dead mother. Abuela was lying down again, still tired from yesterday's dialysis. Abuela was wearing a rosary like a necklace. Dad was at work, and that was a good thing. Dad was wearing a ruby ring he had found in a parking lot. It was going to be a good Christmas, Angela thought--maybe even a couple of new presents this year. Maybe abuela would feel well enough to go to church. Maybe dad would go, too. She smiled out the window at the pink warbler sitting in the bare tree branches near the window.

Over at George Washington University Hospital, Dr. Khalid Mohammad was looking in on John Doe, the brain-damaged amnesiac with temporal lobe epilepsy. John was doing somewhat better, but they still hadn't identified him. John was listening to holiday music and doing some tai-chi he had learned from a nurse. The station went to commercial, and the Jared jewelry jingle began, throwing John into an epileptic trance. His spirit broke free and roamed. Dr. Mohammad turned off the irritating song and led John back to bed, where he sat down weightlessly, fingering his hospital ID bracelet. Dr. Mohammad fiddled nervously with his watch, still not understanding these were the best moments of John's life.

Several miles east, Golden Fawn was packing for her holiday trip. She knew she needed to tell her grandmother about the pink warbler dreams--it was time. She packed some ceremonial necklaces from the gift shop at the Museum of the American Indian as the radio played another jewelery store ad.

Over at the White House, butler Clio was baking cookies with her twins, Reggie and Fergie. "Every kiss begins with--" Clio abruptly changed the radio station, sick to death of jewelry store jingles. Her plain wedding band was sticky with dough. She didn't even know why she still wore it anymore. Her husband had left because he thought the twins were possessed. Good Lord! Reggie and Fergie were chattering to each other in their secret twin language. Fergie knew mommie had an evil bug in her stomach, but Reggie said it would be OK. Clio still couldn't understand a word they said. Clio felt nauseous.

Up in Tenleytown, the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness was trying to give a diamond ring to his girlfriend, Eva Brown, but she was interrogating him about whether it was a blood diamond. He had no idea what she was talking about. Eva went on to lambast him about Condaleeza Rice's announcement that she wouldn't talk to Syria or Iran. "She wants Iran to drop a nuclear bomb on Iraq, doesn't she?!" He tried again to ask her to marry him, but she didn't notice--she was already lecturing him about how stupid USAID was in Afghanistan that they didn't even know solar cookers worked, and the people were completely deforesting the mountains for firewood, and the Taliban was coming back to power, and all the women there were screwed. The Assistant Deputy Administrator for Anti-Fecklessness put the ring back in the box.

Over at Prince and Prowling, Laura Moreno was listening to a self-rightous South African talking on the radio about how his family never sells blood diamonds. The South African had, in fact, sold $66,000 worth of diamonds to employees of Prince and Prowling in the past week alone. Laura--the temporary attorney--was putting in time and a half to try to put together enough dollars to buy gifts for her nieces and nephews. Laura's hands were adorned with gloves and wrist braces. Jewelry was for people like Chloe Cleavage and Bridezilla, not her.

Over in Georgetown, Dubious McGinty was heading back to the drawbridge after another unsuccesful attempt to find the missing Rolex watch--the one for which the owner had posted a reward. He didn't know that the flyer had been posted on behalf of Donald Rumsfeld, who had gotten the Rolex as a gift from Dick Cheney, who had called Rummy the "best Secretary of Defense" ever. Rummy sometimes lost things--even expensive, glittery things. Rummy was incensed that he would have to buy himself a Rolex before he saw Dick again, because there was no way he was telling Dick it was lost. Dubious climbed up to the abandoned office where he lived, and sat down to listen to the radio for a couple of hours before "The Sound of Music" came on. A radio ad told him the best place to buy jewelry, and he wrote it down in his journal because it sounded like an important clue.

Deep in the Potomac beneath him, Ardua was satisfied with her progress in turning holydays into holidaze, with mad Washingtonians scurrying all over the place to buy cursed baubles for their loved ones. How easy it was to prey on fools at this time of year. She was especially pleased with where she had placed that Rolex--handled by Cheney and Rummy both! That watch would be a curse for a long time to come.

Ross Simons

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Scandinavian Dreams

Donald Rumsfeld was being strapped to a small, wooden boat. The warriors poured seal blubber over him, then touched him with the lit torch. They pushed him out to sea, and he burst into flames. They wailed and chanted the Viking funeral goodbye.

Rumsfeld sat up screaming. His sleeping aides awoke completely disoriented and tried to jump out of their airplane seats only to be yanked back by their lap belts. "It's OK," said the personal assistant. "He just had a nightmare." His nightmares were always about himself--never about anybody else. The whole time he was in Iraq, he kept wondering if one of the soldiers would try to kill him. One more week....One more week....

Back in Washington, Bob Gates was sneering at a report from Oslo on the Nobel peace prize ceremony, where the Grameen Bank founder had said that eradicating poverty was the only way to combat terrorism. Yeah, dream on, Gandhi.

Over at the Watergate, Condoleezza Rice was lying back in her red leather chair, sipping her gingko genius smoothie, listening to the Norwegian jazz CD she had picked up from her in cognito visit to the Kennedy Center Thursday night. She stared at the photo of the haunted pianist, Tord Gustavsen. Something about him reminded her of....She got up and walked over to the piano. She lifted the smooth lid, polished on Friday by her maid Juanita. She began stroking the keys, trying to accompany what she was listening to. She closed her eyes as her fingers sought the right keys. She was remembering a warm spring night in college, junior year...that pianist....

Nearby, Ardua seethed in the frigid waters of the Potomac. She did not like what she was feeling from the Watergate. She called upon Thor to bring down the hammer. The phone rang in Rice's apartment, interrupting her reverie. It was former Senator Evermore Breadman: they needed to talk about Rumsfeld's exit. Rice closed the piano back up, turned off the CD player, and headed back to the red leather chair, the phone cradled under her ear as she picked up her nearby pad. She always liked talking to Breadman--he never let her down, and he knew she was in charge. Ardua smiled.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Cold Day at Prince & Prowling

Laura Moreno was at her desk at Prince and Prowling, redacting. She thought she had found a new job--a real job--but it had fallen through. It had been 2-1/2 years since the partners had told her they wanted to hire her, but she was still a temp. Seated in one of the swankest law firms in town, a hop-skip-jump from the White House, she had survived the bouts with two dead rats in her ventilation system, the broken chair, the person spying on her during her lunch break, the accusation that she had lost her own keycard and stolen somebody else's, the failure to mention to her that the water in the ladies room was going to be shut off, the failure to invite her to dozens of firm parties, the order to stop writing permanent notes and only put her notes on post-it notes. She still sat in a smelly, dusty workroom, even though there were empty offices all over the firm. No sick days, no health insurance, no holidays, no vacation days. She was redacting. Was this really any better than being a potato farmer? All the volunteer work, all the networking, all the nonprofits, all the overseas work--how had it all added up to this?

Downstairs in her swanky office, Bridezilla was padding her billable hours. She did this by glancing at a legal memo on her desk while answering telephone calls from the wedding entourage, wedding planners, and, oh yes, her fiance Wince. It was another glorious day in her six-figure-income life at Prince and Prowling. Her office was full of light and flowers and a framed diploma from a law school ranked by U.S. News and World Report as 10% better than Laura Moreno's law school. Every now and then Bridezilla would have a nightmare that somebody would find out about the plagiarism she had done as editor of the law review, but she would just knock back a shot of vodka and go back to sleep. She got every prize she set her eyes on. She was born and bred in Alexandria, a stone's throw from the Potomac. Bridezilla was a real darling of Ardua's because Bridezilla had no idea how she fit into the bigger picture. She would quietly lie, steal, and cheat her way through life without ever realizing that's what she was. She thought she was a success--and a good person because she had given a dollar to Dizzy.

Outside Bridezilla's office, her secretary was making photocopies, dragged in on a Saturday because of the "big case". Funny how the case notes she was copying seemed interspersed with internet printouts on South Pacific islands, lingerie, wedding favors, wedding bands, groomsmen gifts, and living room furniture. Saturday morning with her sons was her favorite time of week, and she was missing it.

Back up on Laura Moreno's floor, Chloe Cleavage was fruitlessly flirting with former Senator Evermore Breadman, but he had not come in on a Saturday for such a trifling diversion as that. He hurried past her to get to his office: Breadman needed to look through some files and figure out a good job for Donald Rumsfeld to land in. Coming and going--that was Breadman's motto. There was an opportunity in everything. Chloe Cleavage went back to her Blackberry, padding her billable hours with an occasional dab of the redaction pen on the stack of documents next to her. Funny how some people had nothing worth hiding except their Social Security Number. Cleavage and Breadman drove to work over the Potomac every day, and Ardua adored them.

Ardua was getting larger and larger. Although she could choose to spread past Mount Vernon now, she had decided instead to try to spread through the D.C. sewer systems. Ardua was, after all, not as smart as she was evil. Alas, her attempt earlier in the week had only resulted in another sewer's exploding in Georgetown, but she was going to get it right one of these days. In the meantime, there were more rats breeding at her bosom, and all the other animals dripping with her touch. She just had more fun when she got to do things herself.