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, April 25, 2010

The Montgomery Destiny

Charles Wu was spot-checking the emails and recordings taped from hundreds of bugged high-end PDAs briefly exported from Hong Kong for the Hanukkah and Christmas gift season. So far he had gained no marketable intelligence from the scattershot attempt at random espionage--though, if he were a different sort of man, he certainly might have made some money through blackmail schemes or selling recordings to the tabloids. Still, when his schedule was light and neither weather nor local events tempted him out of his apartment, he would glance at the search results from the scans being run on these bugs to see if anything interesting had turned up. Lately, the search results had included some exchanges about the National Football League draft, the stranding of irate millionaires in European airports, and the SEC decision to charge Goldman Sachs with securities fraud--but nothing particularly revelatory or useful. Then he examined the recent search results on his own name, and was shocked to see an email pop up with the signature "Charles Wilkinson Montgomery". He leaned back in his chair and exhaled slowly at the sight of his father's name. He could have been in touch with his father at any time, but had chosen to take the man's college tuition payments and other financial gifts with no strings attached. But this was different: it was an email his father had written mentioning his name. He could see his name highlighted in yellow, and his father's name signed at the bottom, and his eyes refused to look at any of the words in-between. But he also could not will his eyes to look at anything else, and his stare went blank as he sank beneath the weight of reminiscences (not even memories) of his long absent father.

Several miles to the south, Charles Wilkinson Montgomery sat beside his comatose son in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital, unaware that his other son lived in Washington. He had long ago given up on trying to communicate to Charles, and had stopped sending money after it became apparent his son Charles had become quite rich. But now things were different: his younger son needed a bone marrow transplant, and Montgomery's marrow had proven medically inadequate for technical reasons he could barely comprehend. "Dearest Charles" he slowly typed in a draft email on his PDA, still unsure if he would ever send the email, but certain he could track down an email address for his eldest son if need be. "I have wanted to tell you this story for a very long time, but I promised your mother I would you spare you this tragedy. It was the last promise she asked of me, and I wanted to keep it. But surely she would not have meant for me to keep you unaware of your younger brother if your awareness might actually save his life?" He reread the opening sentences and fretted that they had a British detachment and stiffness that would ring hollow and mask the depth of agony stirring through his veins. "It is a terrible, terrible thing to bring this tragedy to you now, after depriving you the comforts of love and family you might at least have expected as partial compensation for bearing such tragedy, but time is of the essence now, and I must plead for your forbearance at this juncture, while allowing you a full and complete expanse of rage at a later time." He looked up to make sure no medical personnel were in sight and stole another swig from the scotch flask in his briefcase. "I always loved you, Charles, though you may never have believed that and may still not believe that. I have no right to ask for your help, but I will at least give you the whole story so you may make an informed decision." He stared at his younger son for a couple of minutes, then continued writing.

"You have a younger brother named Phillip. You were only two when he was born, and hence you have no conscious memory of him. Everything was different before he was born. I was a British naval attache, sailing frequently between Commonwealth nations in the Pacific for years before I met your mother. Never much for small talk or poker games, I kept to myself during much of the voyages. My only sentimental indulgence was that I took up bird-watching and actually became quite good at it. I later submitted several naturalist articles on migratory patterns in the Asian/Pacific region, and eventually became a well-known author, which you may or may not already know, though this point is merely tangential to the purpose of this narrative." He paused to take another swallow of scotch and reread his draft email, which was already too long and too verbose, he knew. "My impression at the time of our divorce was that your mother was probably not going to say much about me to you, but the truth is, I loved her very much, and we were ridiculously happy the first few years. I was able to reduce my travels and remain stationed in Hong Kong most of the time. I got on well with her family, and your birth brought us enormous joy. Unfortunately, tragically, your brother's birth seemed to represent a 180-degree spin on the wheel of fate. With no indications of problems during the pregnancy, we were shocked when Phillip was born with only one eye and severe spinal deformities--and those were only the visible problems, as we soon discovered. Your mother became hysterical, convinced that Phillip was not her son and had been switched with another baby in the hospital. Despite several attempts at medication and psychiatric care, she persisted in this hysterical delusion. It did not help matters that you were so astonishingly beautiful, intellectually gifted, instinctively athletic, and naturally gregarious. You were, in short, the perfect little boy, and in your mother's eyes, Phillip was a monster spawned by someone else. Desperate, I decided to take Phillip back to England to seek advanced medical care, and any and all surgeries which might make him healthier and less disabled. You were nearly three when I returned to Hong Kong with Phillip, who, though still severely disabled, now had a much better chance of a healthy and happy life."

Montgomery paused to grab a tissue from the table and and dab at his moist eyes. He rested his hand on Phillip's head for a moment, then continued writing. "Your mother refused to acknowledge Phillip as her son. I could not abandon him, so I chose to abandon your mother and you. She gave me little choice. It was she that chose to file for divorce when I told her I would not give Phillip up, and the rest you know: I returned to England but continued to provide financial support from afar. I was overjoyed when you chose to study at Oxford, and, with great disappointment, respected your decision not to see me while you were in England. I have followed your career from afar, to the extent I can, though there are some spots which remain vague to me. If you have followed my career from afar, you may know that I left government service to become an ornithologist. I am considered by some to be a drunk, though others call me merely eccentric. I have a house in Sussex overrun with nesting birds of all types, and though not the most hygienic environment to raise a sickly child, the home was always full of endless amusements for your brother. Though hindered in so many ways, Phillip was determined to make a career for himself, which I will gladly tell you all about if you decide to answer this communication. But to bring this missive to a necessarily prompt conclusion, I will tell you that he recently took a business trip to Washington, D.C., whereupon he fell ill and was diagnosed with a very serious cancer. They say his only chance is a bone marrow transplant, and their tests on my marrow were unsatisfactory. And so, my dear boy, after keeping my promise to your mother for decades, I now break it to tell you that you do, in fact, have a brother, and right now, you are probably his only hope." Montgomery tapped the Save icon, then put the PDA on the table. He wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and went to the restroom to wash his hands. He looked in the mirror at his puffy eyes, wishing Charles could remember him when he was still a young and handsome Englishman in Hong Kong instead of a pathetic old academic from Sussex. Of course, he might not want to see me, even if he does agree to give bone marrow. He walked back to Phillip's bed, picked up his hand, and chatted with him for a quarter hour about the birds he had seen on his walk around the block. Then he read out loud some of the gift cards that had arrived.

He picked up the PDA to reread the email draft. He was dissatisfied with it, but he could not afford to delay it any further, and merely added a sentence at the end about how none of this should be construed as a criticism of Montgomery's ex-wife who, to this day, probably believes her second child was switched at birth. "You have a brother," Montgomery whispered to Phillip. "I'm going to see about arranging a visit with him. Wouldn't that be lovely?" He then set about the task of finding a current email address for his eldest son.

Over in the Potomac River, Ardua trembled at the spiritual drama unfolding at Phillip's bedside, knowing that Charles Wu's enormous potential for evil was hanging in the balance. She quickly dispatched a flock of starlings to spy on Wu, even as she continued to struggle with how she could get directly at Montgomery.

Back in Wu's apartment, Wu's hand was hovering over the Delete button, willing himself not to read whatever his father had written about him--to some mysterious person going by the email moniker chickadeefreak. Then a beep told him he had an incoming email on his other computer, and he turned to find that it was from his father. He jumped up quickly, wishing this wasn't happening. Several starlings landed noisily on his balcony, and he looked at them in surprise. Then he looked out to see that the morning's clouds had given way to blue skies. He locked down all his computers and went outside for a walk.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Breath of Life

Charles Wu was carrying candy from the George Washington University Hospital gift shop when he entered the patient's room. The man was less recognizable today, with his long brown hair shaven off where Dr. Khalid Mohammad had operated. Nurse Consuela Arroyo finished checking the patient's IV, then gave Wu a funny look. "He's on intravenous feeding," she said. Wu put the candy down and told the nurse it was for later. (He had never bought flowers or stuffed animals for a man, and it hadn't seemed right.) "Only family members are allowed in here." He told her he was a cousin and the only family he had in Washington, then gave her the deep and meaningful brown-eyed stare that never failed. The stare did not work on Nurse Arroyo, but she did recall that the patient had no health insurance and his chart had something on it about a cousin paying his bills. Gay lover, she thought, and she was going to tell him that President Obama had just issued a decree that gay partners could not be barred from hospital visits, but she decided to say nothing, and just nodded on her way out. Wu sat down in the visitor chair, not sure what to do; he knew that sometimes coma patients could hear things said to them, but he didn't know the guy and didn't know what to say. Wu thought back to when he was young and had long hair and dressed like a rock star and rode his bicycle around Hong Kong without a helmet: it could just as easily have been him that collided with a taxi carrying an important businessman in the back seat who was so engaged in a cellphone conversation that he had not even noticed whether the cyclist or his taxi driver were at fault. (In fact, nobody at the nearby bus stop or walking down the busy city street had witnessed the collision, either.) He pulled out his Utne Reader and selected an article to read out loud to the patient.

Several miles to the east, Dr. Devi Rajatala was enjoying the morning's Friendship Garden volunteer session at the National Arboretum. She knew for some of these kids, the pollen-laden (male) city trees had been causing rampant hay fever and asthma attacks, but the air was cleaner here at the Arboretum--where seed-laden (female) trees were favored to provide more food for insects and songbirds. The children and adolescents had paused several times during their weeding and planting chores to point out cardinals, robins, chickadees, vireos, and bluebirds. She had never seen Angela de la Paz happier, and knew it was because her mother was back in her life, working a steady job with the U.S. Census, and looking for an apartment where she and Angela could live. From a distance, The Warrior hacked invasive vines with a long knife and wondered if this would be the year The Prophecy would be fulfilled. From the corner of his eye, he suddenly noticed the arrival of another man on the far side of the Friendship Garden, and recognized him as the one who had followed Angela's mother around. Horrified upon realizing the man had figured out where Angela and her mother were living, he began walking quietly around the perimeter of the Friendship Garden to confront the man.

Glenn Michael Beckmann had, in fact, figured out where Angela's mother was living and was full of outrage. It was bad enough that taxpayers were subsidizing trees, bushes, and silly gardens at this place, but illegal aliens!? It was too much for him. Dissatisfied that Tea Party protests, spitting on Congressmen, and sending death threats to U.S. Census workers were not giving him any sense of satisfaction, he was determined to pull the plug on at least one communist, socialist, totalitarian waste of taxpayer money and threat to national security. Out of nowhere, Rani the donkey came around a bush and bit Beckmann in the buttocks, causing the militia member to squeal like a stuck pig. He whipped out his gun and turned to face his attacker, but Rani had already positioned herself to kick out with her hind legs, and he was knocked on the ground before he knew it. The shot he did fire (semi-accidentally) fatally tore through a squirrel and lodged itself into an oak tree. Beckmann writhed in pain as all the city kids instinctively ran away from the sound of the gunshot. After being satisfied that the children were out of danger, Dr. Rajatala cautiously approached the area from whence the gunshot had emanated, then saw Rani braying and baring her teeth at a man on the ground. "Rani!" she called out, but Rani stood her ground until The Warrior approached, knife raised, to deal with the man, and for a moment, Dr. Rajatala thought The Warrior was actually going to kill him. The Warrior kicked the gun away from Beckmann, then visually inspected the wounds. "He needs an ambulance," he said quietly to Dr. Rajatala, who could now perceive that the wounds were serious but not urgently life-threatening. "You're lucky," The Warrior then said to Beckmann, but the hard, angry look in his eyes and still raised knife implied the exact opposite.

A couple miles to the west, Sebastian L'Arche arrived at the White House, called back for additional therapy with Bo after Bo's diagnosis of canine narcolepsy. L'Arche had protested that there were no known cures for canine narcolepsy, but the staff had been adamant that they really wanted him to try. Clio (the butler) ushered the now familiar dog whisperer down to a sparsely furnished basement room, where Bo was gnawing contentedly on a chew toy while the Rahm Emmanuel wannabe stared at his PDA screen, scrolling through his emails. He looked up at the arrival of L'Arche and put his PDA away. "Hi, Seb. Good to see you again." L'Arche didn't like being called "Seb", but it was a minor annoyance to the Iraqi war veteran--who was all too aware that another vet had just committed suicide in Ohio. He shook the man's hands and again protested that there were no known cures for canine narcolepsy. "I'm sure it's more than that, Seb," the wannabe said, "and we can't afford to have this dog distracting POTUS in any way." Bo was already nuzzling his old friend, L'Arche, and telling him how stressful it was to live in this place. L'Arche whispered in Bo's ear, and Bo sat expectantly on his haunches. "We brought him down here because he seems to do better with less stimuli." L'Arche nodded, despite his certainty that this analysis was rather off target. The wannabe left, and Clio started to leave, then paused for a moment to confess to L'Arche that her twin pre-schoolers were sometimes responsible for provoking the Portuguese water dog.

"It's not them," he assured her. It's the White House ghosts using your children for their own purposes. He started to say something, then changed his mind. He knew she had HIV, and was only doing fair-to-middling on the medications. "A less stressful environment might be good for your kids, too." Since Regina and Ferguson had been born in the White House in the middle of a security lockdown, nobody had ever suggested to her that the kids live anywhere else--living here was their reward! She went off to ponder this, leaving L'Arche alone with Bo. "I know, I know," whispered L'Arche, as the dog explained to him that things sometimes got overwhelming here, and he would just pass out from the anxiety. "Some people focus more sharply when they're under a lot of pressure, Bo. Others simply pop. But I'm proud of you! You have a lot to deal with here." The two lay down on the carpet and began their relaxation breathing exercises.

A mile to the east, Perry Winkle was at The Washington Post headquarters, working on his article about Mayor Fenty's proposed budget. "BOR-ing!" a coworker called out to him one last time, laughing on his way out the door. It's NOT boring! Winkle sighed, and drained the last swallow from his coffee cup. He knew it was a sign of confidence from his "Metro" editor that he had gotten this important story, but it was, well, a little boring. He had been secretly writing a series of articles about his urban guerrilla field trips for D.C. adolescents, but had been procrastinating pitching the series to his editor. For one thing, it was not independent reporting. For another, some of the activities had involved misleading parental waiver slips, and although nobody had gotten hurt, he could not be certain that parents would not be horrified to read all the details of what their children had been taken to see around the city. He tried to re-focus on the Mayor's budget details--get beyond the hype and hysterical pronouncements from city council members ("disturbing"), human service agencies ("heartless"), and environmental watchdogs ("we haven't seen this kind of willy nilly fund-shifting since Marion Barry was mayor"). He had contacted the Tea Party to see if they would speak out in support of the budget as one elected official's attempt to keep spending low in the face of revenue shortfalls, but all he ended up with was a quote about the outrageousness of President Obama's statement in support of full voting rights for residents of the District of Columbia. Winkle's cellphone buzzed, and he saw an incoming slideshow from Dubious McGinty entitled "pink dolphins in the Potomac", but when Winkle opened the photos, all he saw was the river. Someday I will find a way to prove all that, my friend, he thought, then turned back to finish up this article so he could get back out into the city.

Back at GWU Hospital, Wu patted the comatose patient gently on the shoulder, then left. In the room next door, the brother Wu never knew he had also lay comatose, in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Outside the patient's window, a raven felt it--the faint ripple in the pond of destiny--and sensed something big was coming. Deep in the nearby Potomac, Ardua sensed it, too...and she didn't like it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At S.E.A.

"My name is Sowell, and I have a sense of entitlement." ("Hi, Sowell!") It was the inaugural meeting of the D.C. Chapter of Sense of Entitlement Anonymous. Judge Sowell Lame was presiding over the meeting because he had founded the D.C. Chapter of S.E.A., offered his own living room for the first gathering, and felt entitled to run it. "I have had a sense of entitlement for 26 years. When I don't receive something I feel entitled to, I become irritable and sometimes even nasty. My sense of entitlement has caused distress in many of my relationships." He leaned back in his chair, very pleased with his opening remarks, and picked up a Lady Godiva chocolate chip cookie from the china plate in his lap. "Who would like to go next?"

Several miles to the north, Angela de la Paz handed her mother a water bottle and a snack, gave her a kiss and a hug, and watched proudly as her mother headed out again in her job as a U.S. Census bilingual enumerator. It was the first time in as long as she could remember that her mother had a real job, even if it had only been a few weeks, and might only be another month or two. If all went well, her mother would be applying to rent an apartment of her own soon, and Angela could emerge from hiding at the National Arboretum--then her foster care family couldn't lay a hand on her, and her uncle couldn't lay a hand on her, and nobody could lay a hand on her. She went back inside her grandmother's apartment to clean the bathroom and prepare lunch before rushing out again (she never stayed here more than an hour or two, even though she hated the thought of abuela lying in bed here all alone with nobody to take care of her). Outside the Adams Morgan apartment building, the Warrior quietly stood guard in the shadows, briefly pausing to watch the girl's mother walk briskly down the block; for a split second, he thought he saw somebody following the woman, but then decided it must be his imagination.

Back at S.E.A., the introductions continued. "My name is Cal, and I have a sense of entitlement." ("Hi, Cal!") "When I was ten, my older sister died in a homecoming parade float accident." Calico Johnson looked around to blank stares. "She was the homecoming queen." He saw a few nods at that point. "A gust of wind took off her tiara, and she leaned out to grab it, then fell off the float and landed on her head, cracking her skull." He was pleased with the gasps of horror. "After that, my parents started spending all their money on me. Mostly they bought me real estate because they said it was the only thing that lasted, and even then, only if you bought it in a lot of different places--otherwise you could be wiped out by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires, riots, nuclear meltdowns, crashing airplanes, gas explosions, landslides, lightning--" ("Ahem.") "Anyway, you would be surprised how many things are not covered by homeowner's insurance. Ever since then, I've felt entitled to buy up real estate any and every way I could." He turned to the host of the meeting and gestured expansively at the tastefully furnished sitting room of the upper Georgetown Romanesque townhouse. "By the way, the market is better than people realize--I'd have no trouble finding a cash buyer for this place if you want to sell it. Heck, I'd buy it myself!" Justice Sowell Lame tried to disguise his abhorrence, and moved on with the meeting.

Down at the Federal Reserve Board, Charles Wu was seated on the balcony with an Italian economist, watching the Cherry Blossom parade from a distance. Several of their ideas had indirectly found their way into Chairman Ben Bernanke's Thursday speech at the 43rd Annual Alexander Hamilton Awards Dinner at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. (The economist had, in fact, obtained an invitation for Wu to see Bernanke get the Hamilton award, but Wu had, instead, been in Beijing for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan.) "It's exhausting to keep the world's money flowing, no?!" The economist--who had never succeeded in obtaining paid employment in his home country--raised a wine glass to toast this amazing partnership and marvel at his own good fortune. Wu laughed, amazed that, even now, so few Americans had any idea of the amount of power wielded by the ultimate financial insiders.

Back at S.E.A., Dick Cheney took a quiet breath, desperately hoping nobody would recognize him in his fake mustache and Ralph Lauren track suit. "My name is Richard, and I have a sense of entitlement." There were so few personal comments he could make that would not give himself away, but his wife had pleaded with him to get help, distraught that retirement had not given him a shred of relaxation. "I retired about a year ago, but my wife can't get me to take up any hobbies because I can't stop following all the news in Washington. She's been trying to get me to move away, but there are still meetings I want to attend, and people I need to talk to, and I know there are still people interested in my opinion, and as long as a voice for sanity is lacking in this town, I feel a duty to give back, and I know I'm the man that needs to be doing this because I understand things nobody else understands, and I've been in charge of--" he paused to catch his breath and wait for his pacemaker to get his pulse back down. "I mean, I can't just sit around and do nothing! Look at this crazy nuclear deal Obama just signed with Russia! Do you think people are going to respect what Sarah Palin has to say about it? The cameras love her, and the militia creeps with their sexy librarian fantasies love her, and the sound bite chasers love her, but she's all style and no substance--COME ON!" The room was silent, not really sure where this was going. "See, the thing is, I KNOW stuff that nobody else knows, so I feel like I have to voice my opinion and tell people how to do things right. But my wife tells me that other people know stuff that I don't know! Which I don't think is true, but she said that's why I needed to come to this meeting, and she was going to stop cooking for me if I didn't come to this meeting, and since I'm on a strict low-salt diet, if she doesn't cook for me, then I have to eat, like, celery and frozen tuna steaks every day. Once when she was mad at me, I had a nightmare that she gave me canned tuna, and I had a heart attack! You know--because it's packed with oil and salt." The room was still silent, though some of the attendees were feeling the indescribable aural ripples caused by the hovering house ghosts laughing their heads off near the ceiling. The former Vice President of the United States almost brought up his failure to get reinstated in the Heurich Society, but realized there was no anonymous way to talk about that. "My wife says I've infected our daughter with this, and now our daughter is spouting off on all this political stuff, and she's never even worked in government, but she feels entitled, and she doesn't know the difference between ideology and public policy, and that's my fault, because I've imbued her with a sense of entitlement to control everything." He paused again, irritated with the blank stares. "So that's why I'm here."

Several miles to the east, Chloe Cleavage was in her Prince and Prowling office eating carry-out steak for lunch, waiting for Calico Johnson to phone her about their evening plans. It was actually Cleavage who had anonymously mailed to Johnson the information about Sense of Entitlement Anonymous, though it had never occurred to her she might benefit from attending herself. She was secretly annoyed with him for putting her in the penthouse apartment at Southwest Plaza, which she had decided was a yucky place to live, and she believed that he was really greedy about his wealth, and actually stingy about spending money on people like her (who had to work hard for everything they had). She read another email posted anonymously from the group email address that had been set up for all the sweat shop contract attorneys to use: "I tripped on a cord by accident, and it unplugged somebody's computer, and they screamed at me, 'What the hell are you doing?!', and nobody should have to work in this hostile workplace environment!" Cleavage exhaled deeply, fed up with the current crew of combustible personalities making her life disagreeable. She read another anonymous email that popped up: "I made a joke about the Cracken, which is a monster in the movie 'Clash of the Titans', and this guy thought I called him a 'cracker', and so he called me a nigger. He needs to be fired, or I'm filing a hostile workplace claim." Cleavage put down her fork, appalled--and it took quite a lot to make her appalled--but it was anonymous, and the complainant had failed to name the alleged offender. She reluctantly headed out to check on the sweat shop, arriving a couple minutes later at the nearby hallway, where she decided to sit and eavesdrop for awhile. "Women are not really attractive after age 30....That's the best one I ever had....I love that! Excuse me, but you don't even know what we're talking about....I'll bet you twenty dollars that he's NOT indicted for rape, because that bitch is lying!" Chloe Cleavage turned the corner to walk in on the group, only to see Laura Moreno paused motionless on the other side of doorway, looking like she was going to throw up, obviously reluctant to enter the room. The two attorneys shared an extremely rare look of mutual understanding, and Moreno waited to see what Cleavage would do, knowing that Cleavage had been barred from direct supervisory contact since the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against her. The seconds ticked by. "What is that smell? Somebody in here has stinky feet! Maybe it's your damned cheese!"

Cleavage walked into the sweat shop rapidly, and dead silence ensued. She looked around the room, trying to commit to memory whose voices sounded like what. "We need to shut down the database for some unexpected maintenance. Log out immediately, bill to one p.m., and I will contact you at home when the database is ready." With that, she turned around, headed out to where Moreno was still standing unseen outside the door, grabbed her by the elbow, and pulled her out of earshot of the room. "Just stay here and make notes about anything people say that I should know about before they leave." She walked off abruptly, before Moreno could ask any questions. ("I'm billing to five p.m., and that bitch had better sign off on it!') Moreno's pulse started racing and she wondered if it was actually possible there were a sociopath or two about to storm angrily out into the hallway.

Back at S.E.A., Bridezilla prepared to make her speech about entitlement. It was the first Saturday in a long time when she had not gone into Prince and Prowling to bill some extra hours. Part of her felt entitled to claim that money, and part of her felt entitled to take a beautiful spring day off to enjoy some flowers, and this confused her, because both feelings seemed to be about entitlement. And she felt entitled to marry her fiance in May, and she didn't know if this meant it was true love or something else. She was confused about a lot of things these days. The person next to her stopped talking, and all eyes turned to her, and she liked it.

A few miles away, Ardua let out a demon burp--another delicious day at the Cherry Blossom Festival, where Ardua felt entitled to chew on every stray soul that fell her way.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Good Fight?

It was Easter Sunday, and Glenn Michael Beckmann was celebrating it the same way he did every year: posting hateful website rants about Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, feminists, environmentalists, the handgun control lobby, the Department of Education, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations, the American Dental Association, the American Society for Microbiology, the Carlyle Group, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Lulu, North Korea, Iran, and Leonardo DiCaprio. This year he was also ranting about the iPad (though that particular rant was harder to connect to Easter), and he was ranting about the militia arrests in Michigan and the attempted eviction of a woman who innocently hung a Peeps sculpture on her apartment door for the Easter season--both were attacks on Jesus Christ's army, and he was filled with rage. He took a break to go out on his Southwest Plaza balcony and jump up and down on the pigeon dove nest he found in the corner, laughing at the horrified squawks of the parents watching their eggs smashed to bits. Then he went back to his computer.

On a balcony nearby, Golden Fawn was nibbling chocolate Easter eggs and trying to read the newspaper when a sense of unease descended upon her. She closed her eyes to pinpoint the source, then chanted for the birds to come to her. The pigeon doves alit on her railing and began telling her their tale of woe. She put down the paper, distraught, and whispered to them the only words of comfort she could think of--start again, build a new nest here, life goes on--but they were not ready to forget their children. She stretched out her arm, which they flew to, and the three sat in silence for a long time. Her mind wandered to her husband--whom she would be meeting later for an Easter picnic after he finished his Coast Guard shift at the Cherry Blossom Festival--and she gently eased the birds off her arm so she could pick up the paper and turn to the real estate section to continue searching for their new home.

Over at the White House, the Rahm Emanuel wannabe was experiencing his own sense of unease, but this was nothing new. What was new was that he was stuck watching Bo while the First Family and 90% of the staff were out at Easter morning services. The dog completely freaked him out: one minute he would be gnawing contentedly on a chew toy, then he would start barking like mad at some imaginary enemy, then he would pass out on the rug for five minutes. The veterinarian had diagnosed Bo with canine narcolepsy--which, as in human narcolepsy, meant that high levels of excitement resulted in a rapid change of histamine levels in the genetically mutated hypocretin/orexin receptors, followed by immediate transition to muscle-paralyzed sleep. But the wannabe (and many others working in the White House) simply thought the dog was nuts. Right now, Bo was awake again, and the wannabe cautiously dialed the phone number of the Virginia Congressman he needed to speak to. Emanuel had already warned the wannabe that the dog had passed out three times in the Oval Office during Emanuel's discussion of offshore oil drilling with President Obama, and whatever the wannabe said, he had to avoid using the words "offshore oil drilling". "Happy Easter, Congressman! I understand you have some additional questions about the environmental impact [Bo jerked his head up attentively] of, umm, President Obama's announcement [Bo pointed his ears towards the wannabe], umm, of--". ("The offshore drilling?") "Yes!" the wannabe answered in relief. "That! The E.P.A. [Bo cocked his head suspiciously], uh, has some studies on the newer technologies, which, umm--" The White House ghost in the corner started chanting DRILL, BABY, DRILL in the high pitch only Bo could hear consciously, and the Portuguese water dog leapt to his feet to shout the ghost down. ("What is all that commotion?!") "Sorry, Congressman, Bo is barking at something." Then Bo passed out, and the wannabe exhaled deeply.

Several miles to the north, Charles Wu was sitting on his sunny balcony, analyzing intelligence on the crumbling American alliance with Afghanistan's President Karzai. He had a crick in his neck from sleeping on top of a folded towel, having destroyed his pillow at the Washington Monument on Saturday during the local celebration of International Pillow Fight Day. He smiled at the thought of the redhead he had picked up and bedded last night (Washington had an endless variety of social gatherings for him to meet new women!), then frowned as he got deeper into the analysis of security risks in the region. The Hill Tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan had been shifting allegiances before the British came, before the Soviets came, and before the Americans came. China would never give up Tibet or the other western provinces that served as a buffer against the powderkeg that stretched from Tajikistan to Kashmir. This is never going to change. But he couldn't make money selling analyses like that, so he dug in to draw some more nuanced conclusions. The region offered an unending supply of opportunities for troops to gain combat experience--something every major military power needed its officers to get--so he had to help them hone and refine their goals for committing more firepower and manpower to the region. It was too easy to point to Afghanistan (or Iraq, for that matter) and conclude there was no point. If you don't act, it will get worse. The catbird that had been sitting silently on his balcony railing suddenly gave out a shout that sounded like a vacuum cleaner revving up, then flew off to report to Ardua of the Potomac that Wu was still hanging in the balance.

Over at the Potomac, Ardua was enthralled with the crowds swarming the Tidal Basin. The demon did not know the difference between Easter and Passover and the Cherry Blossom Festival--all human celebrations seemed similarly pointless and clueless to her--but she loved the mobs of fragile people searching for inspiration from delicate flowers. She inhaled their humanity deeply, and exhaled wickedness all over them. Enraged, the pink dolphins did their best to torment the beast, but she was growing stronger now and swatted them away gleefully. On the shore, Lynnette Wong ignored the blossoms and ignored the crowds, completely focused on the demon lurking in the water. She reached into her bag to pull out her amulets and renew the fight.