Monday, August 4, 2008

Off With His Head Update

Am I spending too much time on this machete thing? Well, lets face it, I'm a pretty quiet type of guy and nothing like this has ever happened to me. The very idea that I can generate this kind of passion in anyone is novel. Course, I could think of other people I'd rather be passionate with. In the meantime, a young Australian demi-mondaine has volunteered to lend me a pistol. "Oi," she said, "that pisser's loikely to be hayden' be'ind a bush..."

But here's the good part: Estranged Husband is in the slammer for violating the protective order. In Virginia, protective orders are signed by a county judge who is likely to take it unkindly to see his decision violated before the ink is dry. No bail. EH is in the pokey until he goes to trial for violating the first order.

The thing is that in Virginia, and particularly in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, violating probation is like crossing the river Styx. There is an army of cops, prosecutors, judges, case workers, counsellors, probation officers and other vigilant folks whose sole reason for living is to see that i's are dotted and t's crossed.

Consider the case of a friend of mine, a lovely and smart woman who can't stop drinking. She got a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) four years ago. She spent the night in jail, pleaded guilty, was fined and did some 50 hours of community service. A few months after this, the police find her sitting in her parked car listening to music and obviously drunk. The car is not running but the keys are in the ignition. Violation two. Three weeks in jail.

Eighteen months later, she is found sleeping on federal property near the CIA. She is not in her car, but the officers who arrest her surmise that since the car is also on Fed property, the woman was drunk when she drove it there. Three strikes, etc. License suspended, 70 days in jail.

Her sentence finished, the woman manages to string together a few alcohol-free months. But one night, depressed, she drinks and uses a key to break into the house of her former boyfriend who is out of town. BF returns, calls cops, who take her away. BF does not press charges, but since this is a violation of her probation, Young Woman ends up in a 90-day rehab.

Will it end there? Only if Young Woman exactly follows the directions of her PO. But her PO has a caseload of some 70 offenders and cannot really manage each case, so without a car or a license, living in the burbs, it's almost impossible for her to go to AA meetings and counseling. She is expected to find a place to live and a job, but she cannot drive. She's in Hell.

Here is installment 37 of Wasted Miracles.

So I should help you because you suspect I know people who traffic in drugs, and since the young woman was, is, a recovering drug addict, perhaps it’ll assuage my conscience.” Mamadou Dioh shook his head. “That’s quite un-American, Mr. Marsh, declaring a man guilty, basing it on assumptions and hearsay. Are you sure you’re not French? You seem to abide by the Napoleonic code.”
“In America, Mr. Dioh, we say that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...”
Colin’s wrist still hurt. Whatever anger he’d felt had been replaced by grudging admiration. He had told the Senegalese most of the story and the black man had listened impassively, asking questions now and again. When Colin was through talking, Mamadou had refilled both their mugs.
Now he smiled slightly. “Please. Spare me the Reaganisms. Or Bushisms. I am neither a duck nor a drug dealer. I’m a simple immigrant, I make my money quite legally, pay all my taxes and licensing fees.”
He stood, walked Colin to the door. “Let me think about

all this, Mr. Marsh. I’ll call you tomorrow. We’ll talk


Chapter 10

That evening the job with the minister and his party went as Mamadou expected, with one slight hitch. The girls wanted to be paid in advance; the minister balked and as the argument between the two parties grew more heated, the scent of the minister’s cologne in the closed confines of the limo almost overwhelmed Mamadou.
The girls, it seemed, had been stiffed a few weeks earlier by a party of Nigerians and the minister’s protest that he was not from that disreputable country had fallen on deaf ears. To the women, an African was an African. They wanted their money now or no partying, period. Mamadou finally interceded, something he did not really want to do, avoided doing whenever he could. But the evening was well on its way to a disastrous ending, no party for the minister, no tip for the driver and the likelihood of losing customers in the future.
So Mamadou said, “Your Excellency, you should not allow such a successful day to end this way. And arguing with ladies of the evening is far below your dignity and that of the office you hold. May I suggest that you pay three-quarters of the agreed upon fee now and the remainder later? This will give your escorts an incentive to be particularly inventive and attentive to your wishes.”
The minister thought about it for a moment, conferred with two of his minions and grudgingly accepted the deal. Later in the evening, when he and his countrymen were very drunk and happy, he quite forgot the argument and suggested Mamadou come to his country and work in the Ministry of Finance. Then he gave Mamadou a hundred dollars. Later, as Mamadou dropped his passengers off so they could continue their evening in more private surroundings, one of the girls had shoved a fifty in his hand and said, “We’re gonna fleece these assholes...” Which they undoubtedly had done.
It was three in the morning by the time Mamadou got home. His apartment near the Washington Marina overlooked the Potomac and for a few long moments he focused on the moon’s reflection playing on the water. The streets were empty and the only sound that reached him was the clinking of halyards against masts. He took off his shoes, jacket and shirt, went to the kitchen and poured himself a liberal amount of Wild Turkey over a few ice cubes, returned to the living room and collapsed in his favorite chair.
He didn’t like his apartment, had thought he would when he rented it and on that assumption, furnished it carefully with a mixture of inexpensive modern furniture and art from his homeland. But that had failed to make the place a home, so for a while he tried peopling it, inviting friends to stay a week or a month, but that had grown wearisome. Friends and acquaintances were not family, and family was what he missed. But the family was gone, dispersed in a most American fashion throughout the continent.
Moustapha, brother number two, was a chef in New Orleans. Macodou owned a flower shop in San Diego. Fatimatou, his middle sister, had married a wealthy entrepreneur from the Ivory Coast and lived in splendor in Montreal. Micheline, the eldest, taught French to privileged girls in a private school in Connecticut. And Amelie was... dead.
Mamadou swallowed the last of the Wild Turkey, wiped his lips with the back of his hand, went to the kitchen and fixed a second, larger drink.
He had managed to avoid thinking about Amelie for a few days, though that wasn’t precisely true. He always thought of her, she occupied a permanent hollow in his mind. Her death had been the greatest catastrophe in his life, the most mind-numbing tragedy of them all. Still, to this day, he could not comprehend how such a thing had happened, how he could have allowed it to happen because she had been his responsibility and he had failed her, had let her be first subverted, then ravaged, then destroyed. Sometimes he dreamed he’d actually been the one who had snuffed out her life.
Now there was an opportunity to atone--that was the right term, he remembered learning the word and the concept as a child from the Christian nuns who had set up a makeshift school in his district. Atonement had seemed absurd at first until he realized it was quite close to vengeance, almost the same thing in a more positive way.
Mamadou could feel the alcohol slipping through his body, loosening his thoughts.
The boy who’d come to see Amelie that night had brought flowers. Mamadou remembered that distinctly because the colors and shapes of the blossoms reminded him of the gardens back home. Amelie’s friend was an outwardly pleasant young man, soft-spoken, somewhat glib but that was typical of youth. He dressed strangely, overly large clothes, gaudy jewelry, sunglasses indoors. Mamadou was careful not to be too inquisitive, there’d been a row with Amelie just a week before when she accused him of scaring her friends away with his intrusive questions and forbidding looks.
So he’d hidden his misgivings, watched the baby of the family, the child entrusted to him, flounce away in a too-tight dress with a young man Mamadou did not entirely trust, though he couldn’t tell why. Mamadou had waited until their return, which had displeased Amelie hugely. The young man hadn’t seemed very happy either.
Three days later Amelie had been out when he came home from work, and this was unusual. Amelie was the family’s cook, supper was normally ready to be served by the time Mamadou returned. His brothers didn’t know where she was, remembered only that the same young man had appeared at their door--flowerless this time--and whisked her away hurriedly. Moustapha cooked the meal that evening and commented slyly that, had he been the eldest, he would not have allowed Amelie to go out wearing the minimal wardrobe she’d had on.
When Amelie came back that night she was drunk and disheveled. Mamadou was tired, exhausted from an extra shift at the restaurant where he washed dishes. He’d lost his patience, slapped her--he had never done that before, the blow had shocked him more than hurt her--and forced her fully dressed--what there was of a dress, for Moustapha had been right, it had been scanty at best--into the shower. She had screamed, wept, cursed using words Mamadou had only heard on the streets. She was sullen the next day and the day after that and though Mamadou tried to apologize to her, he knew his anger had perhaps permanently wounded something very dear and precious. In the two-bedroom apartment already crowded by the five of them, resentment became a sixth being that occupied far too much space.
And then Amelie was gone. No explanation, no note, no telephone call. Mamadou contacted the police, who said they couldn’t be involved until a missing person report was filed or a crime committed. The hospitals had not admitted anyone fitting her description. Her friends, the few Mamadou had met, provided no help. Mamadou took to driving the streets at night but that proved fruitless as well.
Ten days later she returned accompanied by the same young man who drew a gun from his waistband and aimed it at the family, telling them not to move. Amelie’s eyes were vacant. She went and retrieved her clothes and shoes from the bedroom closet, taking as well some items belonging to her sisters. Then she demanded that the brothers give her their watches, chains, rings. The brothers did so, speechless and astounded more than frightened. The young man with the gun nodded, pocketed the jewelry. He followed Amelie out, slammed the door as he left.
Moustapha’s legs buckled, he sat down hard on the floor muttering in Wolof and French. Macodou crossed himself. Mamadou rushed to the window just in time to see the young man’s car vanish around a corner.
Three days after that Amelie came home for the last time. Mamadou found her in the dingy lobby of the building where they all lived, and she was very close to dead. Her breathing was shallow, the pupils of her eyes like great black holes. She died on the way to the hospital where an uninterested white intern told Mamadou she’d overdosed on a lethal combination of cocaine and heroine, something called a speedball. She’d injected the mixture directly into the veins in her arm and it had killed her. The intern said that was happening a lot recently, there’d been three other cases just like Amelie, it had something to do with a new supply of high octane junk recently brought into the neighborhoods. He said he was sorry and hurried away to a more survivable emergency. Mamadou went home to explain the inconceivable to his brothers.


  1. You keep refering to the various women who enter your life dragging trouble and grief behind them like the wake of a great ship as both "beautiful" and "smart." (Sometimes as "lovely" and "intelligent.")

    Might you consider that they are in truth stupid and dangerous? I'd hate to have this conversation with your severed head.

  2. How dare you, Sir (or Madam), slight the women in my life? According to Creed in The Office, a severed head can carry on a conversation for hours after being separated from its host body. I've never personally seen this, but it begs further study.