Living in such a state taTestaTesTaTe etats a hcus ni gniviL of mind in which time sTATEsTAtEsTaTeStA emit hcihw ni dnim of does not pass, space STateSTaTeSTaTeStAtE ecaps ,ssap ton seod does not exist, and sTATeSt oFOfOfo dna ,tsixe ton seod idea is not there. STatEst ofoFOFo .ereht ton si aedi Stuck in a place staTEsT OfOFofo ecalp a ni kcutS where movements TATeSTa foFofoF stnemevom erehw are impossible fOFoFOf elbissopmi era in all forms, UsOFofO ,smrof lla ni physical and nbEifof dna lacisyhp or mental - uNBeInO - latnem ro your mind is UNbeinG si dnim rouy focusing on a unBEING a no gnisucof lone thing, or NBeINgu ro ,gniht enol a lone nothing. bEinGUn .gnihton enol a You are numb and EiNguNB dna bmun era ouY unaware to events stneve ot erawanu taking place - not -iSSuE- ton - ecalp gnikat knowing how or what TWENTY tahw ro woh gniwonk to think. You are in 11/30/95 ni era uoY .kniht ot a state of unbeing.... ....gniebnu fo etats a
Alright, well, it's after Thanksgiving, and we've got nothing to be thankful for. Actually, we're quite pissed off at a number of things, one of those being Clockwork's failure to courier some articles that he promised me two weeks ago that were already written. Now, we have to give him some leeway cuz his first drafts were stolen when his car was broken into down on Sixth Street in Austin, but that was like a month ago. On the upside, though, I got to ride on the Holy Towel that protects from the evil shards of glass that still reside in the passenger seat. Whoo hoo.
But that's okay. We're used to it by now. And we've got a bigger problem on our hands. Yes, that's right. We hate vampires. Vampires used to be cool until they become trendy, and now everybody wants to have fangs and live forever. Like I always say to total strangers, immortality is a sin, dig? Dressing up in leather jackets and pants, wearing dark sunglasses, and hiding in the shadows doesn't make you a vampire. It's especially not cool when you tell someone you're a vampire at high noon. The only way someone with a cross could harm you is if they beaned you with it. Jeezus. Get a damn life. If you're gonna do it right, you oughta dress up like the first depicted vampire -- Nosferatu. Then everyone would have really pale skin, be bald, have big pointy ears, and huge fingers. Now that's sexy.
As always, though, we at State of unBeing like to set the new trends. We're hip before you are, and frankly, we're proud of it. That's why we say screw this gang-fang thing and take our advice.
You heard me right. All you need is some gauze and you're good to go. And just think of the advantages. No more color coordinating. If you're going to a party, and wanna attract the desired sex, you can lift and tuck bandages to reveal the appropriate areas for maximal partner arousal. The mummy costume also works wonders for strippers, as they can tie the end of the bandage to the obligatory steel pole and just start spinning. Dizziness may be a problem, but practice will take care of everything. And the best part of all -- when you die, well, you don't have to go rent a tuxedo for the funeral, which can rack up some pretty high prices over the course of eternity.
Anyway, that's our tip. Next month is Christmas, and for gifts I expect beaucoup submissions. That's my Christmas list, and like, if you don't do it, I'll send Bobbi Sands to kidnap Santa, and we'll just see who gets all the presents in '96. Enjoy the issue, and we'll see ya next month.
I Wish My Name Were Nathan
Lares et Penates
Most of the population had stopped worrying about secretive government when the NewsNets uncovered the escapades of the CIA, NSA, and Secret Service. Long ago had government been opened to the average citizen through electronic methods, eliminating the more ridiculous measures proposed for legislation and sparking heated debates on the more controversial ones. Congressmen still had private lives to be locked away in deepest vaults, but their public actions, including acceptances of "contributions" from lobbyists, were quickly and efficiently made matters of general knowledge. All of this information drove the spooks underground, where they degenerated from a state of rational suspicion to total paranoia, with no exposure to the relative sanity of the bureaucracy. The extent to which they had receded into their own private world was quite a shock to all but the most mistrusting. Alienating themselves entirely from the people they served and erecting their own internal government with an intricacy comparable to its civilian counterpart and trained to a deadly competency, though unreliable, they made steady progress towards its chosen goal, a goal that was less and less based on the delusion of protecting "the American way" and more on "national security" which, in its eyes, translated to more power for itself.
Today, most people think that the threat of cloak-and-dagger types running amok is no more, feeling assured that the scandal ended it all. Some, however, know otherwise.
<--- The laws of physics guide all physical movement | All movement in the Universe can be predicted with complete | knowledge of physics | <--- The laws of chemistry guide all chemical reactions | Our brain is one big chemistry set | Everything we think, do and say can be predicted with the | knowledge of chemistry | | | \/ Everything that will happen and has ever happened is predictable by science | | ---> We have no control over anything, as the future is already defined | | ----> Science is God <--- After 10 years of being a non-smoker, the body is fully | rejuvenated from any effects smoking may have caused | <--- A very small amount of people die from smoking before the age of 45 | | | \/ Smoking to the age of 35 is not harmful to your health -----> | | ----> Bet $100 on red | | | ----> If you win, pocket $100 | | | ----> If you lose, continuously re-bet, doubling the money | | every time. When you do win, you will be even. <----- | <--- Emotions are illogical forces | <--- Life is a search to bring about positive emotion | | | | | \/ It is logical to be illogical <---- Life is the search for happiness | <---- With a simplistic mind, happiness comes from simple stimuli | <---- An intelligent mind sees inconsistencies more readily | and becomes dissatisfied with his/her environment | | | | \/ The dumber, the better <---- When sunscreen is used over periods of time, the skins | natural resistance to UV light is reduced significantly | <---- When going out in the sun with no natural protection or | sunscreen, much damage is done to the skin | <---- Many people use sunscreen sometimes | | | | \/ Sunscreen is the main cause of skin cancer in today's society <---- Reality needs to be perceived to exist | <---- Reality is individual perceptions of the same stimuli | <---- Everyone perceives things in a different way, occurring | to one's unique mind set | | | | \/ Everyone is living in a different reality | | ----> Each separate personal reality can be contradictory, without any being wrong | | ----> Nothing is true <--- Animals need to excrete waste at regular intervals | <--- If the animal is not motivated to excrete waste by positive | re-enforcement, i.e. if doing so does not feel good, | then the animal will cease excreting waste and consequently die | <--- To 'excrete waste' consists of a long cylindrical shape moving | though the anal canal | <--- Anal sex consists of a long cylindrical shape moving though the | anal canal | | | | \/ It is a genetic necessity for anal sex to be a pleasant experience <--- Everyone is living in a different reality | <---- Nobody can define what is right or wrong for anybody except | themselves | | | \/ There is no universal right and wrong. | | ----> If a person believes mass murder is right, it is 'right' for that person. The purpose of life must be available to all which is living | ----> The only main function of some microorganisms is reproduction | ----> Reproduction is the purpose of life <---- The Darwin philosophy states that the more likely an animal is | to survive, the more likely it is reproduce and spread it's | genes to the next generation. | <---- If there two off-springs of the same parent, and one has a slightly | higher will to live than the other, that one is more likely to | survive. | <---- Humans are the product of millions of generations of evolution. | | \/ One most basic urge to 'stay alive' is merely a inedible product of evolution. | | ----> We fear death only because of our genetic structure tells us to. | | ----> Death is nothing to be feared.
Ironically, now that Palestine is moving toward home rule, the British are at least pretending to move out of occupied Ireland, and the Soviet terrorist underground is shut down, terrorism is once more in the news. Ironically, also, this talk of terrorism is being spurred not by attacks in the Third World or against some banana republic dictator, but by attacks in the United States against the United States, specifically the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomer, and various other suspected terrorist attacks across the country. True, terrorism was never entirely out of the news. Wherever there is a liberation force attacking an established nation, terrorism can be found. Nonetheless, the concept has been driven home to the American people in a way it hadn't been for twenty years.
This project -- a guide to terrorism -- has been in the works for some time. It originally had the unfortunate projection of being run here in State of unBeing as a one shot article explaining the use of terrorism in a guerrilla war, as an adjunct to Captain Moonlight's excellent series "Blood in the Streets", right around the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. Subsequently, it has been delayed and expanded. This issue will contain an introduction to what terrorism means and how it can be justified. Projected are an essay on how terrorism can be carried out in the abstract, and another essay on how it can specifically be used to aid in the winning of a guerrilla war. This series will not be a directory to or a history of terrorist groups past and present. If you are looking for a history essay, this isn't it. Try "A Terrible Beauty is Born". If you want a guide to existing and historic terrorist movements, try the Terrorist Profile Weekly series. If you are looking for an intelligent discussion of terrorist philosophy and tactics, hopefully you will find it here.
I have a rather high opinion of State of unBeing readers. I will assume that anyone reading this is capable, at least for the purposes of discussion, of getting past the media induced mantra "Terrorism Is Evil." If you choose to believe so after you have fairly considered the topic, then by all means do so. If you are unable to accept that terrorism might be a tool, and a tool that may be used, as may any other tool, for good or for evil, then perhaps you ought not read this. It may be too much of a shock to your delicate worldview.
Finally, and I'm sure I need not mention this, I have not written this article as a call to arms. If anyone chooses to use this essay as a guide or justification for their own actions, they are just that: their own actions. This essay is not here to recommend for or against terrorism, but simply to study it dispassionately as a potential tool. I, the author, bear no responsibility for other people's actions, and neither do the editor nor the distributors.
What is terrorism? This is a question whose answer few people agree upon, primarily due to the media-myth "Terrorism is Evil." If terrorism, as a class, has been defined as evil, then of course any cause to which we are sympathetic cannot be terroristic. People we consider to be good, rather than being terrorists must be "Freedom Fighters" or "Revolutionaries" or "Policemen" or whatever term makes us feel safe, both in our homes and in our prejudices.
For the purposes of this paper, I will be ignoring the "Terrorism is Evil" paper tiger, and will deal with what I hope to be an objective definition. At its broadest, then, terrorism could be defined as the use of terror -- threat of force or other retribution -- to "inspire" the behavior patterns the terrorist desires. At this broadest definition, "terrorism" would include not only traditional revolutionary terrorists -- such as the UDA, the IRA, or the PLO -- but any entity not above using force to cause behavior it judges to be correct, including any nation's justice system. This definition, though, is unworkably broad for the purposes of this paper. For this paper, "terrorism" is going to presuppose a third party.
For this definition of terrorism, the person in whom the behavior is intended is not necessarily the direct target of the terrorist's act. The target could be one of those in whom the behavior is desired, but is not the only one. For example, a policeman may be assassinated by a revolutionary cell, not only to eliminate the policeman -- this could be construed as simply an act of war and not also one of terror -- but to discourage persons from becoming policemen or supporting policemen, or to make people feel their police force cannot protect them. For another example, a terrorist may bomb an airplane not to kill the people on board, who likely are simply travelers, but to make the people and governments of hostile states feel the forces of law and order cannot protect the people from danger, thus enabling the terrorist force to blackmail the government through the people's terror. (And "blackmail" here should not be viewed as a condemnatory term. This "blackmail" can mean anything from threatening more retribution to using such action to cause support at the polls.) More will be said on motive later, but as can be seen here, the terror is broader than simply the direct target. Thus, a government that arrests a person or executes a criminal to make an example of them, the so-called deterrent factor, would be engaging in terrorism, but a government which simply punishes or tries to keep criminals segregated from the populace would not be. Nonetheless, the general assumption in this paper is on revolutionary terrorists rather than state terrorists. Examples will be used of state terrorism as well as revolutionary terrorism, and the methods of justification are equally applicable, but where "terrorist" is used "revolutionary terrorist" may generally be assumed.
A note ought to be made here, before leaving the definition of terrorism, to note that terrorism need not have a human victim. Rather, a terrorist act need not have a human target. The threat of having a building burned down or a factory sabotaged can also inspire these feelings of terror and thus lead to changing behavior patterns. Acts of terror that do not directly intend a human victim are generally called "sabotage" and not always "terrorism." Nonetheless, they are terrorist acts.
Here, two methods will be presented for the justification of terrorism, the so-called "deterrent factor" and as a means of using small forces to achieve something larger forces would generally be needed to do.
As has been stated above, governments sometimes use terrorism, in a broad sense of the word, as a method for inspiring in their populace appropriate behavior. The justification for this is generally an appeal to the deterrent factor. Under this theory, if the people are afraid of being punished, they will not break the laws. Whether or not this is effective has been hotly debated, and the answer is probably more subtle than a "yes it does / no it does not" answer. Nonetheless, it is used as justification, both of state terrorism and of revolutionary terrorism.
An example of the way a government might use the deterrent factor and expand on its terroristic impact is by making an example of those who have been punished or by widely publicizing its laws. In today's more "civilized" world, this takes the form of education, publicity, etc., although more barbaric methods are still used in other parts of the world -- such as the Peruvian government's treatment of the leader of the Shining Path -- or on smaller scales.
A terrorist's use of this philosophy would be similar, although they would be hamstrung by the fact they have lesser access to traditional media outlets. Because of this fact, terrorist groups, to achieve the public impact the government can get simply by default, have to resort either to a continuous wave of terror, enough terroristic actions to impact on a significant percentage of their target group (directly or through word of mouth), or to actions large enough to attract the attention of the press, or at least of the target group. With terrorists acting under this philosophy, governments frequently encourage media blackouts of terrorist acts. This works to an extent, but also artificially increases the odds. In a society where small terrorist strikes don't have a noticeable impact on the people, either by virtue of media blackouts or desensitization, larger terrorist strikes must be carried out for an equivalent impact. As the adage goes, "Violence works, and more violence works faster."
So much for description. How is this justified? Essentially, this is a practical use of the concept of cost-benefit analysis. If a product or an action is too "expensive" in relation to the "benefit" -- in whatever terms are important to those purchasing the product or hiring the action -- then it will not be worth obtaining. As in an earlier example, a terrorist group that assassinates policemen do not do so because they hope to kill every policeman. Terrorist groups generally recognize that policemen are workers too, and would rather have them fighting for the struggle rather than against it. A terrorist group, though, can hope to deter people from becoming policemen or encourage people to no longer be policemen by making the being of a policeman too expensive. Any policeman, like any terrorist, must accept that he may die, and a policeman, like a terrorist, believes that what he fights for (law, order, and the state) is worth the risk to his personal life. Using the deterrent factor, a terrorist group hopes to make the risk higher, and thus make it less worth it. Like a policeman, a terrorist has high "overhead." If he gets caught he will have to pay a large price for the strike he carried out. In this case, he too has to believe what he is fighting for to be worth the risk.
Terrorists fight, then, for concerns more important than the life of an individual, such as freedom for a people or economic justice. The high price non-state terrorism carries means that a terrorist must really believe in what he struggles for. As a parenthetical note, the next time your television reports a suicide bomber in the middle east or a similar act where a terrorist lost his life, think for a moment not that he was foolish for losing his own life, but that he was dedicated enough that the cause for which he fought he saw as more important than life itself. A terrorist fights not because he hopes to gain from it or because he loves the notoriety, but because he hopes that the sacrifice of his life will mean a better life for his people and his children.
The second philosophical justification, although it may seem odd to those who have been suffused with the media myth that terrorism is evil, is that terrorists do not believe "might makes right." The terrorist acts in on behalf of a small group, and believes that this small group has the capability and the right to influence the populace into acting in the way that is just.
Ironically -- there is a lot of irony in terrorism -- this is the saddest type of terrorism. This form of terrorism requires a certain amount of dehumanization, and the victims of this form of terrorism are of necessity seen as objects, both by the terrorist and by the force which the terrorist opposes. In this philosophy of terrorism, there is also always an innocent party.
In the first justification, members of an enemy group are usually -- though not always -- the ones targeted and intended to be terrorized, operating on the concept that if there is no army there can be no war. In this form of terrorism, other targets are also seen as permissible.
This is the philosophy for the technique used to "create the revolution." The terrorist group will use methods against the population in general to increase a feeling of tension among the people not so much to cause the people to make a conscious decision to change something or begin to oppose the government as much as to make the people aware that there is a problem to be remedied. This technique is often used when the people are considered to be able to see the reasons the terrorists have so long as the message can reach them, and this method is used to make the people receptive to the message and willing to seek it.
This philosophy of terrorism sees that the opposing group, usually the state, has most of the power. The existing power structure controls and influences much of what exists, and change, at least as radical change as the terrorist group desires, cannot be carried out by a group as small or relatively powerless as the terrorist group. This can be because the existing power structure has locked them out, as with the Palestinians; because the number of people who realize the need for this change are not numerically significant, either through non-support, fear of the existing power structure, or simple ignorance; or because the existing techniques of change would delay too long or result in too much hardship for the people or the group. As Chairman Mao expressed it (quoted by Stuart Schram):
If we use peaceful means to attain the goal of Communism, when will we finally achieve it? Let us assume that a century will be required, a century marked by the unceasing groans of the proletariat.... If we assume that the proletariat constitutes two-thirds of humanity, then one billion of the earth's one billion five hundred million inhabitants are proletarians ... who during this century will be cruelly exploited by the remaining third of capitalists. How can we bear this?This is the explanation; what is the justification? The terrorist group feels that the existing power structure is not right. Just as the terrorist believes that the cause for which he fights is more important than his own life and the life of his enemy, so too must he see, in this case, the life of those who do not directly oppose him as less important than the cause. Even if he believes, with Malatesta, "There are no innocent bourgeoisie," he still must target those who do not actively or consciously work against him to achieve the power necessary to change what needs changing. Because might does not make right, those without the might must be willing to use whatever resources and whatever techniques available to him to achieve what must be achieved.
These two justifications pretty much cover why terrorism is seen as an acceptable tool. The most simple explanation is simply because it works. "Violence works, and more violence works faster." These justifications though cover why terrorism would be considered acceptable and preferable to other techniques of change, so long as the terrorist group is not caught up in the myth "Terrorism is Evil." To that, the terrorist must simply reply, "Perhaps so, but not so much as the State."
"The poets? They stink. They write badly. They're idiots you see, because the strong people don't write poetry.... They become hitmen for the Mafia. The good people do the serious jobs."
What's the buzzword
on your little corner in America?
How many more do you take
to kill the pain
when you come down?
The forces of the legion of hypocrisy
scream bout impending doom
to fill their coffers
on you street, too?
How many forms has greed assumed
to creep its way into your pocketbook?
How many boat-children does your neighbor have
locked up in his basement
to mow his lawn?
Can the warmth of nostalgia
overcome that sinking feeling
when you've got blood on your hands?
I wonder how many houses there are on Pine St. and Elm,
where two bored misfits sit and fondle their guns,
just looking for a target.
I'd really like to see the look in your eyes
when you realize you're it.
And what happens when
that card game junky in Las Vegas
doesn't even really have to feel
those sweaty, green dollars,
slipping away in between his fingertips,
and he can just finally
E-mail his entire bank account
to the robber-barons at all the hotels?
Drunk in the street, you wonder,
was it all really worth it?
Walking in a strobe-lit haze, filled with dim forms on the horizon in which I can see every nightmare of my former glory, I smell the Technicolor rain flying out the door sideways, stirring up rich, lemon-yellow sulfur dust that grips my lungs like some ephemeral clawed hand ripping at my insides. I just wonder how long it would take to become assimilated into this half-dream of partial existence and get used to the dead place that feels like a hunk of lead protruding rusty nails where my heart used to be. Somewhere along the way I lost my spirit and I guess that a soul can only take so much wearing away before it corrodes away like a muddy river bank in the swollen spring river of eternity. So while the cobblestones under my feet fade into shifting desert sands, I sink in and resolve to keep going down until the grains congregate and form jagged pieces of glass that dig in so far and paint sunsets for me on the surface. If I ever get to heaven, I'll know just when all the sad songwriters and poets that ever lived bidded on my imaginary lifetime to use as the canvas for their unhappy tales and never paid me the royalties. It's a melancholy numb that chills my bones and my mind, like an opal spire reaching up to the sky in prayer, is dragged around like tumbleweed by the winds of change that spin the fog around in iridescent little vortexes that wrap around and pin me in this straightjacket that begs me to be good and grasp at whatever flitting purple suns emanate from within golden-tinged pastures filled with metallic-enameled robotic cows. Out of nowhere I remember the smell of the old church where walls and pews conspired to induce sleep in a well-dressed audience, and I watch as venerable old dignitaries pretend to yawn and smile secretly and dump chamberpots out of high windows on oblivious Christmas carolers below. How sheepishly my shadow creeps up my back and whispers sweet nothings in my failing ears and kisses the nape of my neck like a drowsy autumn day under the overarching arms of a grandfatherly tree! Awakened, by a cackle, I wish upon a swarm of bright falling stars that burn my skin and make me writhe in pain across an expanse of avocado-green shag carpet that wraps around this globe, strode unrelentingly by a pantheon of restless thinkers absorbed in their abstractions; they step over me if need be. A gaping smile fills the face of the man in the moon as he leads a miles-long parade around the mobius strip of corrugated iron stretching across the ticker-tape sky. When this dead consciousness fades its uncertain way back in, a path lined with Japanese lanterns light the way to my rainbow-colored chemistry set in which all of the neatly-arranged empty test tubes are meticulously labeled "Drink Me." It strikes an odd chord when the good doctor invites me in and can't find his brass keys after he locks the door, so we sit at the table all night and metamorphisize into jungle animals and beheaded baby-dolls to the strains of the newly-recorded music of the celestial spheres playing silently in the background composed and conducted by the old man himself. When I awake to find my companion as a slain cricket besieged by ferocious helmet-wearing ants, I step outside into the soft light of the suffocating hanging vines and give him a proper burial replete with fresh flowers. As the bespectacled tax-auditors swarm over his abandoned dwelling, I make my exit into barren radioactive ice fields just as the northern lights begin to worry at the face of the rising Venus.
A cold wind was blowing, almost Gothic in its fearfulness. Ned noticed the fearful wind and immediately became defensive on account of all the satanic implications of such a wind. He looked up at the dying limbs of the weakening trees falling all over themselves around him and felt sad, an emotion unconsciously triggered by his brain in reaction to its secret knowledge that his arms were riddled with cancer.
Ned didn't know this, though, and continued to walk up the narrow, spiralling walkway up to the house to which he had to deliver a pizza in thirty minutes. He now took a moment to regret the pizza place's new slogan, "If you don't get your pizza in thirty minutes, your delivery boy's prolly dead."
He had a feeling of a grotesque murder happening to him beyond the reach of the moat, the drawbridge, and the fifty-foot door. His honor to his employer and his paycheck prodded him blindly on, though, a stubbornness which had many times before nearly led him to gruesome deaths. From those deaths, however, he had escaped.
"Damn," thought Ned to himself, "this pizza smells good. I think I'll have a slice." Ned sat down on a gargoyle and opened the pizza box on his lap. He saw with no uncertain surprise that the cheese was boiling and the tomato sauce was gurgling and flowing like blood, which seemed inappropriate, so he felt obligated to expose it to the cool, deathly-still wind.
He pulled a slice of the pizza off and it screamed out and moaned in agony. Ned pulled his fingers away, repulsed. "New toppings," he surmised. Then, like a bolt of lightning, only you couldn't see it, he had an epiphany and realized how evil it was to eat living creatures, such as pizza. He had never considered the pizza's feelings before. He decided to become a vegetarian.
Carefully pressing the nearly-amputated slice of pizza back into place to staunch the bleeding, Ned breathed a sigh of relief, said a short prayer, closed the lid, stood up, looked around, scratched himself, continued on, and headed for the edge of the moat.
At the edge of the moat was a nicely labeled button to ring for assistance. He primly pressed his finger into the button and waited for the drawbridge to come down. As it lowered, it emitted a mournful, squealing cry, and immediately Ned also swore to stop eating drawbridges.
The drawbridge slammed down near his feet, and huge clumps of rock and mud shattered from the ground under the weight of it. At sporadic moments, the drawbridge shifted even further, sending pieces of earth flying into the moat, and falling into it with deep splashes.
Finally, the drawbridge appeared to settle, so Ned jumped down on it. The stress of his weight and that of the pizza even more upset the precarious balance of the bridge, causing the rusty chains holding it up to strain and creak. Ned had no intention of failing to deliver the pizza and took an ambitious run across the length of the bridge, at which time the chain supports snapped, one after the other. There were two of them. Ned tried to jump the rest of the distance and grabbed a thick wooden plank of the drawbridge with both hands. He carefully held the pizza in his other hand so as not to crush it. The bridge fell in an arc and slammed down against the inside wall of the moat.
Ned looked down and saw some evil red-skinned creatures with opposable thumbs emerge from the gooey sickness of the moat and climb the fallen drawbridge beneath him. "This pizza is reserved for Mr. Cthulhu!" Ned yelled. The imps obviously didn't understand his central Texas accent and kept
climbing. He couldn't take the time to enunciate more clearly; his thirty minutes was almost up. Heaving and grunting, Ned climbed up the drawbridge, nervously checking his watch. In between steps, Ned took deep wooden breaths. The howling, satanic wind tried to blow his body away from the comfort and ease of the bridge of the vertical persuasion, but Ned held his grip until he had scaled up to the very top.
The hinges had broken, so he had a surface to grab onto. When he finally maneuvered the pizza onto the tiny ledge, Ned felt the scraping claws of the red-skinned evil hissing misunderstood imps at his shoes. Ned had indeed walked a long way this day, so he obliged them for a minute, checked his watch with a gasp, and hurled his body onto the ledge.
When he stood up, he noticed a nice silver-tinged doorbell with intercom and primly pressed it with his finger. A nice chime resounded inside the behemoth castle. Ned spoke politely into the speaker, "I've got you a pizza, Mr. Cthulhu." He checked his watch. Thirty seconds to spare!
There was no response. "He must he in the lavatory," Ned surmised. He tapped his toes for a few seconds, and then his twiddled his thumbs some. Upon checking his watch again, he saw there was fifteen seconds left. He peered into the spyhole of the door. In it, he could suddenly see the breadth of the entire universe in a tiny disc of light. His mind was overwhelmed with awe and scientific enquiry. But none of this pushed his delivery out of his mind. He rang again.
"Your pizza, Mr. Cthulhu," he repeated into the speaker, with seconds to go. Still no response. Ding! The thirty minutes had passed; Ned wouldn't be collecting this time. Suddenly the door opened with a swishy whoosh.
"Yeeeeesss?" the unspeakable evil said, shielding his face out of kindness. "What is it?"
"Your pizza, sir," Ned said, with a hint of exasperation in his voice. He knew, of course, that this was coming out of his salary.
"Oh, is it now?" Mr. Cthulhu said. "Why, boy, it looks like you're a few seconds late."
"Actually, sir, I was here at least thirty seconds ago."
"Well, why didn't you ring the bell? Or even use the intercom? That's what they're there for."
"Um, I did, sir; thirty seconds ago."
The unspeakable evil expelled a belly laugh. It went on for an unconscionable amount of time.
"I know, boy. And just how often do you think the unspeakable evil pays for a pizza?"
Ned grinned, slowly understanding Mr. Cthulhu's boyish sense of humor. "Very good, sir. Oh well, here's your free pizza." Mr. Cthulhu took the pizza and slammed the door.
"Gee whiz," Ned said, and died, of aggravated arm cancer, and imp thrashings, and embarrassment, from having been fooled so.
There is a special charge one gets from a terrorist act. I don't mean especially the idea of killing someone or anything like that. Many people swear they get a rush from that, and in some terrorist strikes there is a certain amount of gunplay or whatever. Those who get a rush from killing, though, generally get it from the personal aspect of the kill, which is why the knife is so much more erotic a weapon than, say, the gun. In a terrorist raid, though, the kill is not a matter of much consideration while it is going on. Placing a bomb or squeezing off a few rounds to cover an escape are not erotic, and the charge one gets from a terrorist strike comes from a different angle.
I can't say for certain what causes it. Some of it, no doubt, comes from the heightened awareness, the knowledge not so much that you might kill than that you might die. Some of it comes from the anticipation: the time taken in preparation, the dressing and equipping, waiting for the exact moment and then carrying out the mission. A lot of it comes from the ecstatic release of seeing something you've worked for so long and so hard coming to fruition, not unlike putting on a show or a rally you've been working on or releasing a story you've written. Between all of this, any and every raid seems to have a rush connected with it that drugs and sex can't seem to approach.
There is something more, too, in some cases. With me, those some cases are the times I am with Bobbi. With her, I get that rush just in that preparation stage. As all the pieces fall into place, I wait with the anticipation a child waits for Christmas morning to see her getting ready.
She always looks beautiful; I've said as much a thousand times in writing and in speech. There is something, though, about seeing her in the outfit she wears for a raid, especially a nighttime infiltration raid, that really gets to me. To see her in a black bodysuit, adhering itself to her body above the waist and with the knowledge it does the same under the camouflage pants she wears; to see her tie back her hair and fit it into the ski mask to keep it out of her face; to watch her face emerge as the mask goes on, eyes and lips alone in a sea of black. Something in the vision she becomes as an avenger in the night makes her more beautiful, if such a thing is possible, than even the high fashion outfits or the nights nude beside me.
I can see her now, on the other side of the desk, preparing for such a raid. I can see her blue, her deep blue eyes peering out from her flawless skin, or as much of that skin as can be seen through the eyeholes in the mask. And her lips, similarly isolated, crying out to be kissed and caressed. I know how she would react if I tried, though. She is preparing for a mission, and is of one mind. And that is as it should be. Who was it that said in order for the enemy to defeat you, you must first defeat yourself, and that is why it is important to be of one mind? Was that Chairman Mao? Sun Tzu? I don't remember, but that is as it should be. On a raid, it is not only your life that is on the line, not only your life that would be lost if you defeat yourself. On a raid, you also have to defend your comrades, and, more importantly, the mission.
In some cases, when I'd tried to tear off the mask while she was getting ready, to caress her cheek and pull her against me, she has laughed and played along for a moment. Other times she has been angered and resisted me. Tonight she is in the playful mood; I can tell that from here. Tonight she is happy, not morbid. That bodes well. It means she is confident of the mission. I'm not going on this one, I've got hold down the fort duty, and so I don't know the details. If she is confident, though, it bodes well and can set my own mind at ease. If time were not so important, I might try to get her to play along for a moment, to pull back the mask and see her naked face smiling at me with just a few wisps of hair, escaped from the ties, framing her visage. But no. Not tonight. Time is too important, and I will have to satisfy myself with a brief kiss as her unit heads out the door.
Right now, I have the charge, that rush. Right now, I can share in it. In a moment, when she leaves, I'll go through the crash that comes after a mission, and that I go through just seeing her off. If the rush almost makes the danger of the raid and the life of no safety worth it, the crash afterwards almost makes it not so. This, too, is like the crash that comes from any adrenalin drop, like after a rally or a show. While it is happening, the rush is there, but afterwards the relative drop, past the rush and past normal all the way down to the depths is quite a crash. I can only enjoy the rush now, for a few moments, before I see her off.
And for me it is an extra crash, because I am not with her. True, she seems confident, and true, that means she is likely to come home in one piece and with no more holes in her than she left with. Nonetheless, when you are with a person, on a raid, you know how safe they are at all times. When you are hanging out back home, you have not only the crash of having your part done, but you also have the anxiety of neither knowing how she is nor of being able to do anything about it, as well as, in my case, the strain of having to be alert enough to protect the safe house in their absence. I'm going to be up anyway -- I couldn't sleep with her out like this -- and so why should someone else pull guard duty? I'll sit up, do some writing, and be ready to greet her when she comes again.
That way, her crash won't be so bad. Not that it ever seems to be, for her. She's lived with this all her life. The crash doesn't get her down. Or seem to, I suppose is a more realistic assessment. The crash gets to everyone. We just express it differently.
Coming home to waiting arms, though, makes it easier. When we are on a raid, we can come down from it together in each others' arms. The adrenalin comedown blends well into a few hours in bed. Together, riding what is left of the afterglow and descending into the relaxation of sleep, a pair can come off feeling rather good about it. She, then, won't have to suffer a comedown.
But I must now prepare for my own, as I see she is ready. In a moment, a brief touch of lips and tongues before she enters the night, and I wait for her. So, before I descend into my crash, I'll close this account with the final warm visions of the night to come, when she will return to me.
"Thanks, son, it's about time. You almost didn't get any presents this year."
After reading the list over, and generally finding acceptance with it, my dad hollered out, "'Sweet death'? What the hell is that? Is that some new rock band or something?"
"Oh, yes, Dad, of course," I replied.
"CD or cassette?" he asked.
"Whichever," I said.
I've always thought the most interesting thing about him was his stories. He started writing them in junior-high -- yeah, I know about junior-high writers, but Philip's, they were good.
Like the last one he wrote. It was this pretty long story about this kid and this teenager, and they were running away from home. Where they were, was on the side of a rural highway at night, sitting around a fire they had built. I guess they were hitchhiking or something, although the story didn't say, but it was really surreal. I couldn't've told you where in this city or this country even where they could've been. The setting was timeless. I mean, the highway they were camped out next to. There wasn't even any traffic on it. I guess that some places in the country it's like that, but I've never seen it before. The road was devoid of people. It was just these two guys, one young and one older, sitting around a campfire. The opening was the longest part of the story, too, and the guys were just sitting there, as the narrator described the scenery. Where they were sitting was out in the open next to the road. Only after reading through the intro, you really have this gut feeling that they're safe, and comfortable, in an enclosed, civilized place. But there aren't even any trees. It's just nighttime, a deserted road, nighttime, and the guys with their fire.
After all this buildup, they start talking. I think their names were Jack and Nicholas. Jack said, out of thin air, how he wished he could be a kid again, but still have all his current knowledge. Of course, Nicholas doesn't get it, because he's only fourteen and basically still a kid anyway. But Jack says some really deep things. One of the things Jack sees, is that nothing would go over his head anymore. You ever think of that, though? I mean, when I think back, I can remember hundreds of times when someone made a joke, and I just nodded along, or when you missed the point of a whole speech just because of one word, or some historical context that slipped by. I guess at the time it wasn't really very frustrating, and that's what Jack sees too. But what gets him is that now, at nineteen, he realizes all the stuff he missed, and gets really upset. He feels deprived of those chances to have understood what was going on. It's really sort of screwed up, because he was only a kid at the time. I mean, what does it matter if he misses some stuff? But he says he wished he hadn't ever learned about politics. And then he goes on this whole diatribe about the bed he slept in as a kid, and frankly I got sort of bored with it, because he's just talking about this bed and his house and the ritual of going to sleep every night... geez, it gets tiring, it made me want to go to bed! If they're out there sitting on the side of a highway, I'm thinking he might as well just get home and stop babbling so much.
But later on, Jack finally shuts up and Nicholas starts talking, and I got interested again. It was like a big flashback. Nicholas had been in the eighth grade for a while previously, and the stuff he did, I can really relate to. Like, this girl Jennifer who Nicholas wanted to go out with. He pretty much followed her around, and she just ignored him, or, when her friends were around, insulted him and made him feel bad. But Nicholas was cool; he wrote notes to her, and called her up at home, trying to hook up on a date. And after all these weeks of pestering her, she finally agrees. And, oh man, it's a disaster! Some of Nicholas' friends show up at the restaurant they ate at, and fucked around with 'em, trying to make him mad. They like badger him and make him look like he's a fag or something. I really felt for him there, because you know the worst thing that can happen to you is for someone to think you're gay. Nick's friends were just jealous of Jennifer, of course. And he has to ask her for ten dollars for the bill, and then that night he's feeling her up and discovers she stuffs her bra. Good God, I was laughing and crying as I read it. Of course, he dumps her, and I don't blame him. Yup, that was the stuff that being a kid was about, and at least Nicholas knew it.
Jack, though, just complained a lot. Actually, yeah, after Nicholas tells about Jennifer, Jack starts up and suddenly says he wishes he didn't know anything at all. "Ignorance is bliss," he says. Sure, I guess so. I think Jack was tripping or something. Philip didn't make a point of explaining it too much. Like even where they were going. The story just ended right there. I guess they were going home, since Jack liked to talk about it so much. That makes sense. But it didn't say, though.
Yeah, Philip had a lot of good stories. Nearly half of them were these depressing ones, but I obediently trudged through them, because you know I was his friend. Never went too much for the story, but some of the sentences were really well-written. Some of them read like poetry, but without sounding rhymey. The stories I liked the most were the humorous ones. He's always written those. Like ones where people are just in wacky situations that don't make sense. I mean, those are funny because you wouldn't have thought of it before on your own. In one of them, this guy Dave and his friend Burt come across this remote control something-or-other in the hallway at school, and it turns out the remote control can make the lights go off and on. And during class, they wreak havoc with the teachers. I dunno, you just had to read it to get the full humor. Oh yeah, and the one about the bird that keeps on shitting on this nerd's head, and then they finally find out it was his shampoo that attracted the bird. That one cracks me up, still, even though I first read it six years ago. Yeah, I guess those stories were actually the junior-high type stories people rag on so much, but that particular kind, he stopped writing by high school. The other funny stories he wrote after that were different. They weren't really that wacky. They were more satire. And then it sort of degenerated into stories about people trapped in unpleasant situations they couldn't control, which were funny in a way, but really got to you afterwards if you thought about it long enough. I guess I can't really endure those as much.
Yeah, truthfully, I haven't wholeheartedly sucked up all his stories in the past few years. That unfunny humor and those other way-too-serious ones sort of ruined them for me. But I always liked the early stuff, and still respect the new ones, because of the sentence structure and stuff. Some of the words he picked to go in there, they were good too. You had to look twice sometimes.
I guess I could go on forever about his stories, but it's sort of a closed subject now, after all. Oh, well.
Have any of you talked to his parents yet? Yeah, I did. Not fun at all. Just be gentle. And, shit, don't smile or anything; it says all the wrong things.
Oh, you talked to 'em? Yeah, I know. Hell, how'd you feel about your kid falling three stories? What, you didn't know? I was sure you'd heard a hundred times. Yeah, fell from the third floor, broke his neck, and died, that's all I know. I can't be too specific, since I don't know the place. It was at his college, and I never went inside it too much... Yes, of course it was! The railing was way too low and the rug must have been slippery, what with the rain on his shoes.
Yeah... Yeah, I know it's sad, tears me up inside, but that's just the way it goes I guess. I'm gonna miss all those stories.
Sometimes I watch people. I'll pretend I've got my head buried in a magazine and listen to their conversations. Usually it's a drab and boring pasttime, but it does pass the time, and every now and then some people come along who are quite interesting.
Last Wednesday I was sitting on a bench at one of the local colleges, reading Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence of the Past when two girls walked over and sat on the bench beside me. They looked no older than 18 or 19 -- probably freshmen. One had short red hair and was wearing a brown bomber jacket and black leggings. The other had short brown hair and was wearing a sweater and, surprise, surprise, white leggings.
"Do you want a cigarette, Courtney?" asked the redhead, holding up a Marlboro Light.
Courtney shook her head. "No, Andrea, I'm not going to smoke until after I go to class. That way I'll go to class and not sit out here and smoke all day long."
"Are you sure?" Andrea asked again, waving the cigarette temptingly in front of Courtney's face.
"No. I'm not going to smoke now."
"Are you positive?"
"Fuck you, Andrea," Courtney said as she grabbed the cigarette out of Andrea's hand and lighting it. "I'm trying to cut down, and you're not helping."
"Mylanta, girl! You can't quit." Andrea pulled out what looked to be a 1937 brass vintage Zippo lighter (I own one, so that's how I know what they look like) and lit her cigarette. "I had a boyfriend back in high school who quit like every couple of weeks. He'd tell all of us he was gonna quit for good and two days later he'd be behind the gym smoking."
"Oh, wasn't that the Brian guy, the one who--"
Andrea nodded. "Yup, the one who got suspended for coming to school on acid. He was doing real good until the words in his history book kinda melted away."
"Bummer," Courtney exhaled. "But I know I can quit. I went for a whole day last week without smoking."
"And you gave me four cigarettes last night," Andrea added. "A real addict wouldn't have given cigs away."
Courtney's face brightened up. She took a drag and blew a smoke ring. "You know, Andrea, you're right. I'm not addicted."
"Oh, yeah. Speaking of those cigarettes, you won't believe what I did last night. Before I went to that party last night, I came out here to smoke. I lit one up, took about two puffs and then put it out for no reason at all! Isn't that crazy?"
"You did what?"
"I wasted a whole cigarette," Andrea laughed, slapping her knee. "I just stubbed it right out. A whole cigarette."
Courtney didn't look too happy. "You just threw away a cigarette I gave you? Why'd you ask for them if you weren't gonna smoke them? I don't eat lunch everyday so I can buy a pack of cigarettes, and you're just throwing them away."
"I'm sorry, Courtney. Here, I'll give you a cigarette to make up for it, okay?"
"Those are the cigarettes I gave you yesterday. Just forget it."
Andrea looked away and puffed on her cigarette for a bit. Oh, I love a good catfight, but over a friggin' cigarette? C'mon, let's at least make it something worth more than ten cents.
Courtney's voice broke the silence. "Ewww, looks like someone puked over there." She was pointing towards a patch of concrete by a streetlamp.
"Oh, that would have been me," Andrea said. "That party was pretty wild."
"I know. I was there. I just got there around 11:30, and I think you had left by then."
"Yeah. You know, I didn't even know those guys' last names."
"Neither did I. Isn't that weird?"
"Very. 'Where was I? Oh, at Bob's and Tom's and Jim's and Ahmed's apartment."
They both cackled at that witty quip.
"Were those even their names?" Courtney asked.
"I dunno. Listen, I got sooo drunk too. I had had about five beers when Gretchen throws me another beer. I took about five sips and realized I was about to puke. So, I thought to myself, 'I'll just sit here for awhile until I feel better.' Well, five minutes later, everybody is going outside to run around and play games. All I remember is puking in a barbecue grill."
"Shit, Andrea. So, when did you throw up over here?"
"Well, Jimmy and Rachel and me came back over here, and they had bought a bottle of Heaven Hill vodka. I drank way too much then, puked, and passed out. They had to carry me back to my dorm room."
"Sounds like you had a wonderful night."
"I thought it was pretty fun. Hey, when you got there, did you meet Tom?"
"Tom? Uh, the chubby one?"
Andrea smiled. "But he's so adorable. He's the 'nice kind' of chubby. Wouldn't you go out with him?"
"Erm, I dunno..."
"I slept with him last night," Andrea revealed, flicking her cigarette butt out into the street. "After I puked in the barbeque grill, he took me into one of the bedrooms to clean me up."
Courtney slapped a hand over her face. "Ohmigod, that's awful!"
"No, no, no," Andrea said reassuringly, "it's not like that. I wanted to have sex. I was drunk, but I was horny too."
Courtney stood up. "I can't believe this. I cannot fucking believe this."
"What? I had sex. You know I have sex. You've walked in on me having sex. Me and Tom fucked, no big deal. He used a condom, I was in control. It's nothing to get excited about."
"Bullshit, Andrea. Tom fucked me last night too. I'm gonna kick that fat bastard in the balls. Chubby? Hell, the guy weighs as much as an elephant. He's got the hairiest back, too. Goddammit!"
"If he was so bad, why did you sleep with him?"
"Why'd you sleep with him?"
"Cause I was drunk."
"Just a minute ago you said you knew what you were doing."
"Well, I lied. I was drunk as hell, and didn't know what I was doing. You think I'd sleep with Tom if I were sober? So, why did you sleep with him?"
"Cause, uh, I was drunk too," Courtney stammered. I don't think she was telling the truth.
Andrea got up and the girls left, mumbling something about rape and pressing charges. I watched them until they passed behind a building, and then they were gone.
I told you you'd meet some interesting people. Well, maybe tomorrow. Probably not. Interesting people are hard to come by. That's why most writers make them up. But, in their own special way, Andrea and Courtney show us how meaningless conversation can provide for a few minutes of entertainment. They also show us that I have no life. Who is worse off? That is for you to decide.
An ugly white car was speeding along the road. An early 80's relic Ford Fairmont, granny-carriage, gas-guzzler, eyesore car. It was nudging the speed limit all the way down the curving two-lane avenue, though it could have been going much faster, as it was three in the morning. There were no other cars on the road as far as you could tell; the only lights were from the occasional streetlight and the needlessly lit-up Little League stadium. It was summer, and the only condolence for the still uncomfortable nighttime temperature was the nighttime sky, cloudless and sparkling. You could almost forgive the people around for keeping the lights on, because the concentrated disc of sky not washed out by the haze was just small enough to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Along the road in the crunchy dry grass walked a young man named Ethan. As he trudged forward after three days of walking, he was considering the reasons his parents had given him such an oddly British-sounding name, since they had grown up middle-class in Central Texas. He pondered its stuffy feel ("ee-thun"), and how the lack of suitable nicknames ("Eeth? Than? Ann?!") forced people to refer to him with this falsely stodgy name and never anything less formal. Ethan also wondered if the fact that he had failed to live up to the promise of pompous perfection implied in his name made it that much easier for his parents to throw him out of the house. In realizing the banal stray tracks his mind had travelled onto, he laughed bitterly to himself, but in the interest of self-protection maintained a perfectly uninterested expression on his stubble-scarred face.
Ethan heard the car approaching. When it cleared the bend, he mistook the sudden increase in volume as a sudden increase in acceleration and turned around, startled, facing the car. The driver of the car mistook this as a request for a ride, and pulled over onto the side of the road. Ethan sighed. He didn't want any more rides. Lest he look suspicious and run away, he considered the offer. The old granny car most certainly carried an old granny who would understand. As he walked closer, he realized it wasn't an old granny, but another guy. Another fucking guy. He stopped short and stared at the stars.
"Fuck it," he muttered, glancing at the long road ahead, and walked up and pulled the door handle. It was locked.
Ethan's mouth dropped open in disgust. Fucking prankster. "Oh shit, sorry," the guy said, lunging toward the door to unlock it. "No electric locks," he explained. Ethan considered walking away anyway but wondered if this incident would start getting him paranoid again in the darkness. God knows he hadn't gotten over it yet. "I sincerely apologize," the guy said. Ethan could see the guy's head inching toward the door to catch a glimpse of his face. Ethan hadn't yet bent down to look into the car but was still standing beside it, staring hard into the distance, deliberating.
The car lurched a bit, the red brakelights flickering for a brief moment. Ethan sprang and opened the door. He climbed in, keeping his eyes on the driver's hands. The driver's hands were clamped to the steering wheel. Ethan glanced around and saw nothing odd around him, and nothing in the back seat, which he surveyed while reaching for the seatbelt. He leaned back stiffly and glanced at the driver's face. The driver was about twenty but looked as nervous as a little kid. A forced smile manifested itself as a grimace on his face.
"I'm not dangerous," the hitchhiker said.
"Oh, oh-oh oh no, I didn't think so," Jake said, suddenly realizing he'd never considered the possibility, wondering if he should have. His smile turned wan.
Jake glanced at the road and the speedometer and turned on his left blinker. Glancing again at the road, he put the gearshift in reverse and released the brake. "No-no-no," he hissed, hitting the brake, and put the gearshift in drive and released the brake. All these actions made the car shake madly for a second until it started wobbling along the road. A hundred feet or so later, Jake turned off his blinker and said casually, "I'm not dangerous either, unless I'm driving."
Jake started laughing nervously, and Ethan smiled politely.
"So," Jake started, "what's your name?"
His passenger replied, "Ethan."
"Aaaah, cool. I like that name," Jake said, smiling.
Ethan grimaced and stared out his window for a while. He saw a 35 mph sign whiz by and turned his eyes toward the dashboard, which read a stunning fifty miles per hour. He instinctively checked the give of the seatbelt. Turning his head back toward the driver, he saw the gruesomely nervous smile again.
"Hey, slow down," Ethan said.
"Jake. Slow down, Jake," the driver corrected, releasing the accelerator. "Sorry about that. Forgot what I was doing for a moment there. Geeez, I'm nervous."
"I'm not dangerous," Ethan repeated.
"I know, I know. I've just never, uh, picked up a hitchhiker before."
Ethan decided not to tell him that he hadn't been looking for a ride. But even if this guy was creepy, a car could take him along much faster than walking. "Yeah, I guess so. Uh, where are we going?"
"Aw shit!" Jake cried, hitting the brakes in the middle of the road. "Where are you headed? I never asked."
"Jesus CHRIST you're a jumpy sonofabitch!" Ethan yelled. "I'll just get out here, all right, seeing as we're stopped!" Ethan reached for the lock, cracked the door open, and felt a hand grab his shoulder.
"No, no, please, stay. Once we get somewhere, I won't be driving anymore, and it'll be all right."
Ethan's eyes grew wide for a moment, and then he shut them tightly. With a careful tone, he asked, "What the HELL do you mean by that?"
Jake fell silent for a moment. Ethan cautiously looked at him, staring hard at the windshield with a blank expression on his face. His mouth fell open and closed again a few times, making him look like a fish out of water. He was pitiful.
"Well, I'm just guessing, but I don't think you've had a good meal in days. I was gonna get you something to eat."
Ethan nodded solemnly and muttered, "Sure."
Jake stopped the car at a Whataburger. It was probably the only place open that late at night. Ethan stepped out of the Ford and looked around at the cars, scowling.
"What are you looking for?" Jake asked.
"Why? What have you done?"
Jake's brow furrowed. "Is that illegal?"
Ethan rolled his eyes. "You wouldn't believe."
Jake frowned and the two headed into the Whataburger. Ethan walked up to the counter and stared at the menu with his arms crossed, remembering sourly how high the prices were. He glanced over at Jake checking his wallet.
"Don't worry," Jake said with a touch of embarrassment, "You're covered."
Ethan ordered his food and a large cup of water and headed to the table where Jake was sitting.
"This is so weird," Jake started. "I've never done anything like this."
His guest nodded and twirled a french fry in a splotch of ketchup. "It's not so hard."
Jake nodded. "Only five bucks."
Ethan smirked briefly and started eating. He ate quickly. After a few seconds he glanced up. Jake was grinning at him. Ethan became self- conscious and turned red. He stared at his plate while chewing. A few seconds later he became angry. He wrenched his eyes shut and started eating faster.
He was done eating in about five minutes, after which he got up, saying, "I gotta pee." Jake sat back in his chair and waited, not sure what to think. It was all very strange, really. Not the usual thing to do on a Thursday night. He grinned to himself, proud of his unprovoked display of humanitarianism. He wondered what to do next.
Seeing a shift in the light, he looked up and saw Ethan walking by outside. Jake blinked and bolted from his seat and his hitchhiker started walking faster. He ran outside and caught up.
"Hey, where you going?" he asked sorely, walking beside Ethan as he continued to walk.
"I'm going on. Thanks for the food and all. I didn't really want a ride. I wish I could offer something in return, but I'm broke," he explained, glancing defensively at Jake.
"Oh," Jake said, stopping. "No problem," he lied. He saw himself quickly losing control, and blurted out, "You'll just get arrested again!"
Ethan halted in his tracks, mortified. He took a halting step, then turned his head and said, "Fuck off." He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked on.
"If that's the way you want it," Jake said.
"That's the way it is. Sorry. Fuck off."
Ethan's feet crunched in the gravel along the side of the road. After checking back a few times, he felt assured that Jake had given up.
"You'll just get arrested again," Jake's pleading voice echoed in his mind. How true. Ethan decided not to worry about it anymore. Jail was safer. You got free food and a place to sleep. "You'll just get arrested again." Baiting him with fear to make him come back. After his naive mindset had been shattered, Ethan no longer fretted about his permanent record. However much he tried to suppress it, though, he had to agree with Jake's words. He probably would get arrested again if he didn't watch out. Tonight had been one of the few nights in recent memory that he hadn't stolen something to eat. This whole episode had been annoying and stupid, and all for some overpriced fast food.
Ethan remembered his first arrest. He had been staying on a street called the Drag in Austin. Some passersby had suggested it was a safe place, being right next to the university. There are special people here, they said; this is a mecca of altruism. Ethan was later rousted from his sleep early in the morning by a tall and bulky police officer, asking him if he was homeless. He said yes, his wits not yet about him, and he was ordered to go away. He returned twice because the youth shelter was closed and found himself stepping into the back of a police car. His parents hadn't provided him with any bail money when they threw him out, and he didn't want to deal with them. So he refused to identify himself and got to spend a few days in jail.
The jail time wasn't half bad; he was relieved to find that the pampered-criminal rhetoric was at least part true. He was able to catch up on recent periodicals, not having to worry any more about being thrown out of the public library. He read up on Mayor Todd's altruistic homeless-street- sweeping policy, the rumors about which he had shrugged off, and was about to become very angry, when he got bailed out.
Ethan had no idea who this man was. It was this preppy-looking guy who chewed Red Man, and he called himself Steve. He explained that he had seen Ethan on the street a few times before, not looking too well at that. And after the Drag suddenly became deserted, he became concerned and started asking around for him. The tidbits of information led him here, and he decided out of the goodness of his heart to pay for Ethan's bail. Steve considered himself a libertarian, and he detested the changes going on in the city. And he was actually doing something about it.
School had started while Ethan was in jail. Steve didn't bug him to attend school, but since Ethan was still a minor, he explained, he'd be subject to the teen curfew too. Life's a bitch, he said, and offered to house him for a few hours until it was legal for him to be on the streets. Ethan agreed, impressed with the man's generosity.
Steve had a really bitchin' Atari Jaguar with a 19-inch television in his apartment, and let Ethan use it to wile the hours away and forget about this bad shit for a while. The hours passed quickly, and when it was time for school to let out, Steve came in and offered to let him stay for a few days, until he could contact some friends. Ethan politely refused, feeling empowered now to take his fight for homeless rights to the streets, knowing he had people on his side. Steve nodded and gave him twenty dollars for food. Good luck out there, he said, and say, I figured that after all I've done for you, the least you could do is suck my dick. He locked the door behind him. Life's a bitch, he said. Ethan was back on the street ten minutes later.
Ethan continued to trudge onward in the darkness, although he needed sleep. He figured a rest stop would be ahead and he could steal some rest on a bench there. The food in his stomach would go to good use. It was only
five miles to the rest stop. Ethan had become used to walking. He was humming an Alice in Chains tune, keeping beat with his steps.
Of all the cars that passed by, only one decided to pull off to the shoulder ahead of him. It was the Ford Fairmont again. Ethan stopped and his eyes widened but his mouth drew a thin line across his face.
Jake jumped out of the car and walked up to him, saying, "Dammit! I couldn't just let you go on like that. It's just wrong. It's not safe. You hafta have somewhere to stay at least, and I..."
Ethan swung his fist into Jake's face and pushed him to the ground. He kicked him several times between the legs, eyes glaring, mouth not saying a word. He walked up to Jake's face, saw the fear in his eyes, and kicked his head. Jake went to sleep.
It was only five miles until the rest stop. Ethan looked ahead along the road, which drew far into the distance, never-ending. He glanced at the car, and at Jake. He reached down and removed his wallet. Yes, walking is a good thing, he mused. A nice, repetitive, comfortable activity. It calms the mind, soothes the soul, and it helps you forget. Walking helps you forget. He walked on.
--SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-- State of unBeing is copyrighted (c) 1995 by Kilgore Trout and Apocalypse Culture Publications. All rights are reserved to cover, format, editorials, and all incidental material. All individual items are copyrighted (c) 1995 by the individual author, unless otherwise stated. This file may be disseminated without restriction for nonprofit purposes so long as it is preserved complete and unmodified. Quotes and ideas not already in the public domain may be freely used so long as due recognition is provided. State of unBeing is available at the following places: iSiS UNVEiLED 512.TMP.DOWN 14.4 (Home of SoB) CYBERVERSE 512.255.5728 14.4 THE LiONS' DEN 512.259.9546 24oo TEENAGE RiOt 418.833.4213 14.4 NUP: COSMIC_JOKE GOAT BLOWERS ANONYMOUS 215.750.0392 14.4 ftp to io.com /pub/SoB World Wide Web http://www.io.com/~hagbard/sob.html Submissions may also be sent to Kilgore Trout at <email@example.com>. Thank you. --SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB-SoB--