Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I am officially confused. The American public--or whoever that tiny minority is that actually cares who gets elected--has spoken, and we now have a young, inexperienced man running for the presidential office. Countering him is an older gent who will soon be 73. A war hero who spent years in solitary in Vietnam, his heart ain't too good and his opinions are occasionally antediluvian.

Where's the choice? Why are we stuck with two guys who are both very scary for different reasons.

Inexperience on the world stage is frightening. There are some nasty people out there, with nasty dispositions and nasty weapons. Many of them have the US in their sights and will immediately challenge whoever is elected. Obama may be a young Kennedy, but no Kennedy ever had to face the prospect of US-based terrorism. McCain has been in politics more than 20 years, but I have visions of him trying to light the White House Christmas tree, hitting the wrong switch and sending nukes into the Middle East. Or maybe simply getting pissed off and having flashbacks to nights in a Vietnamese prison cage. Can anyone come out of such an experience fully sane? I'll tell you, something like that happens to me and I will harbor a murderous resentment for the rest of my days. And if there were ever to be an opportunity to push the guy who did me bad off a cliff, I'll do it. Luckily, I am not running for office.

Which leads me to the present administration. Impeachment proceedings against Dubya failed because were they to succeed, the VP, Lon Chaney, would become president. I am tempted to believe that Mr. Bush is a hell-of-a-lot smarter than anyone has given him credit for. Imagine, managing to plan a thing like that so far ahead!

Here's installment 29 of Wasted Miracles.

When she came out of it she did so slowly. She knew immediately what had happened. She’d done crack before just to see what it was like and of course she hadn’t gotten hooked, that was a suburban bullshit belief that one time got you addicted. But it had felt the same, a great lightness suffusing her body, an absence of anxiety, a feeling that things were as they should be everywhere but especially within herself. Except that the roof of her mouth was so dry she thought it would peel off, and her eyes felt gritty. That was the same too.
Josie looked around, not so much frightened as curious. A windowless room, cheap fake pine paneling on the walls, dim light above. She was in a beanbag chair, black, not leather, maybe plastic or the stuff they made car seatcovers from. She wondered why Johnny D had left in such a hurry, why he’d taken her to this place; he was gay, it wouldn’t be a sex thing so there had to be another reason. She didn’t know what time it was.
Johnny D had called her, told her he needed to see her. In retrospect, he’d sounded kind of weird but with someone like Johnny D, weird was just a word, the guy was off the scale dawn to dusk. In the car he was hyper, more so than usual, grinning like an idiot, not at all cool, she hadn’t paid much attention to it. The fact that Herbie was truly, truly gone was finally edging into her reality. She’d never known anyone who’d been killed, not if you didn’t count a couple of druggies and a friend in the fifth grade who died with her parents in a car accident. She wasn’t paying much attention to where Johnny D was driving either, but it seemed to take a long time and after awhile they were in a part of town she’d never seen, on a wide, dirty avenue with boarded up storefronts. She asked, “Where are we?”
Johnny D kept his eyes on the road. She’d noticed that whenever they were about to hit a red light, Johnny started slowing the car a long time before the intersection so he never had to come to a full stop.
“Anacostia,” he said. “Man, I don’t like it here. Not at all. Look at this,” he pointed to the side. “Can’t even fix the goddamned streetlights, and then they wonder about crime and shit.” The street was dark and almost shadowless. “Bunch of assholes...”
She nodded. She wasn’t focusing, life had thrown her one bad curve, Herbie’d been offed, that’s how they said it in the police novels. Offed.
She was half-listening to reggae on the car radio, UB-40 or someone like that, when Johnny D came to a full stop, jumped out, opened her door and hurried her up the front steps of a clapboard house. She had no idea where she was, the notion flashed by that maybe he’d taken her to a party to raise her spirits, but that went away fast when she saw two black guys step out of the house. Johnny said, “Here she is,” turned and sprinted back to the car. The tires screamed in his hurry to get away.
She got scared, pee-in-your-pants scared, the two black guys didn’t look threatening, but they weren’t that friendly either. She clutched at her purse, fingers nervously working the clasp.
There was a tall one and a round one, the tall one was older and had kinder eyes. Together they reminded her of early morning Laurel and Hardy cartoons, except the cartoon guys were white and these guys weren’t.
The round one nodded to the tall one. The tall one nodded to her, opened the door to the house. “Come in. Please. You won’t be harmed.”
Not much choice there. The living room was kind of dingy but with lots of leather, which she immediately thought as tacky. Not that long ago but before Herbie, Josie had spent a single night with a man who had a leather couch. She thought he was kind of cool until she saw his furniture but by then it was too late to back out, would maybe have created problems, the guy was pretty insistent. So they’d screwed on the leather couch, it had been mercifully quick but her back and butt had stuck there and made her feel all clammy. And then the guy had complained that she’d left stains on the leather, and that was just about all she remembered about that particular gomer, his sticky couch.
She sensed this wouldn’t be about screwing and it made her more nervous. Screwing she could handle, had been doing so since she was 15.
She hesitated a second and the round black guy said, “Comfort never lies, Miss Stilwell. Please do come in. You’ll be quite safe.”
So she did. The round black guy said, “I would have invited your friend Johnny to join us, but he seemed in a hurry. Have you noticed gay people always seem to be in a hurry? As if their perversions leave them no time? No?” He seemed both pleased by his own observation and disappointed in her lack of response.
“At any rate, I’m glad we have a mutual friend. It makes things much easier. Now,” he gestured her toward the couch, “all I need is a bit of information from you, and then Comfort will see you home. Door-to-door service, I promise.”
Josie looked at the couch, sat on it with misgivings. She said, “This is about Herbie, isn’t it?” Her voice came out squeaky, not at all as she wanted it to. She cleared her throat, tried again. “Herbie’s dead, you know.”
She noticed that the tall black man was starring at his shoes. The round black man nodded. “Sadly, I do know. A tragedy, but not an uncommon one for men in his line of work.” He moved to sit next to her. She squirmed to one end of the couch. He looked slightly offended.
“You, on the other hand, are alive, Miss Stilwell. For which I’m eternally thankful, I might add.” He smiled. Josie noticed he had very white teeth. She saw his eyes weren’t smiling, as if the man’s face was made up of two entirely different parts that only matched haphazardly. She said, “I really don’t know anything about that.”
The man’s smile remained fixed. “Of course you do, Miss Stilwell. The detective you spoke to, Mr. Robinson, isn’t it? He told you what the unfortunate Herbie did for a living. Or maybe he didn’t offer the necessary details. Herbie, you see, worked for me.”

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