Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Country

He looked across the street at the headquarters of the magazine. A music magazine, yes, but so much more. He found himself wishing they'd never moved from San Francisco to New York. It always seemed easier to get away with things in San Francisco.

It was foolish for him to stand in one place for so long, disguise or no, but he kept peering toward the building. If he made it through the front door, they wouldn't kill him, but they would arrest him. For starters. If they were there.

He felt his pants sagging, and cinched his belt buckle a notch. He guessed that he was down to about ten percent body fat, the lowest since college two decades earlier. The silver lining of life on the run.

Although he'd spent three years in the field before taking a higher position with the agency, he knew that his ability to evade capture or death was more a matter of dumb luck than knowledge or skill. His field missions were mainly low-risk, ticket-punching endeavors to retain credibility later, when perhaps he would be in a position to have people jump when he told them to move. It worked that way when your dad was a high-level agency type.

He thought of his dad's friend and mentor Al, who'd been a staff member under Eisenhower, both during his time as a five-star and as president. He remembered standing by Al's death bed, and how Al focused on him after his dad went to the restroom.

"David, all of them are true."
"All of what, Uncle Al?"
"All of those conspiracy theories."

Al mentioned one name, a mid-level type in the agency, and fell silent.

The woman told him. Indeed, most of those conspiracy theories were true. He already knew about the big-money plot to overthrow FDR in 1930; it was well-documented, if largely ignored. So too the JFK assassination. But the other revelations left him reeling: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, RFK, the take-down of Nixon by the CIA via the Watergate scandal, The Jonestown Massacre, the stolen elections, and the plan to end democracy.

David willed his feet to move, but they wouldn't. Strangely, he felt less afraid of death than the possibility that he wouldn't be taken seriously. It didn't help that he'd spent a half-hour wedged between a wall and a dumpster, waiting for his senses to stop rattling.

He walked across the street, and through the door. A journalist he recognized--only his beard and hair were longer than in his magazine photo--was walking out.

David met his eyes. The journalist stopped.

"Say man, it looks like you've been on the lam."
"I have," David said.
The journalist looked him up and down. "If I had to guess, I'd say you were an agency type gone to seed."
"You'd be right."

They walked to the elevator. Once inside, he held his hand out to David. "Name's Stan," he said.

"I know. Stan, did you ever play 'connect the dots' as a kid?"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Demise

He idled at the side of the road, looking at the revival tent. He shut off the engine. He imagined running into the tent and screaming at all those people to get away from that used-car salesman who offered them packaged hope and contrived conditions for reaching heaven. He didn't, because he also imagined getting hauled off in cuffs by a sheriff's deputy.
Funny thing. He believed in God, now more than ever. But he was angry at God. Very angry.
He started the car, and drove to the supermarket to restock his empty refrigerator. He stopped at the booze aisle and pondered the numbness promised by a bottle of V.O. "No thanks," he said to the bottle, and walked on. He stopped by the beer coolers. "No thanks," he said to the cases of brew. He saw his reflection in the glass door. "You look like crap," he said to the reflection. 
He drove home, put the groceries away, and looked at the calendar. Ten more days of what he used to think of as his real life. Ten more days, and then he would drive away from the Houston suburb to a dock in Louisiana, where he would spend twenty-eight days captaining an offshore work boat, taking supplies to offshore oil rigs. His stint on the vessel felt like his real life now, since she left the earth.
He looked out the kitchen window in time to see her husband and son arrive across the street. It was Thursday, and normally, the eight year-old Bobby would be knocking on his door, telling him that his mom and dad were inviting him to dinner.
That was before Bobby's mom was taken from them by a drunk driver. She was coming home from a PTA meeting with an ice cream cake in the back seat.
He would never tell Bobby or his dad how much he loved her. There was nothing sneaky or underhanded about her, and never had there been more than a hug between them, but those hugs nourished his soul. He would never tell her husband and son that either.
He hadn't talked to Bobby or his dad since the funeral, but tomorrow, he would ask them to dinner. He would try to get them to talk. He would do his best to fill just a little of the vacuum in their lives. He would look in Bobby's eyes, those eyes so much like her's, and try not to cry.

Three Word Wednesday