As promised and, again, exclusively at FPC. Not a member? Then, join at www.freedompreppercommunity.com.
And a Pardon in a Pear Tree
London City Airport, Early Evening…
No one had explained a word about the sudden change in scenery. An outside NHS doctor spent over an hour assessing his general condition, at intervals consulting with nurses and his solitary handlers. He thought he’d asked for his attorney or his advocate, but he simply couldn’t remember. The flat American accents had tipped him off, and if he was honest, he had long suspected this day would come. They didn’t even ask him to sign anywhere, nor did they present him any writ or order. Four sturdy men in suits, in addition to the usual guards, had escorted him from the infirmary to the transfer bay. Two of these bespoke Yankees rode along with him in the back of an SUV. He thought he glimpsed unmarked police cars in a short procession, but he wasn’t sure.
Little of it, any of it, made sense. And he didn’t have much time to process what was happening. Nearly a decade of hiding, waiting, and suffering had crawled by him, only for this evening’s unexplained venture from Belmarsh, and the short, fast drive under the Thames (he guessed it was the Blackwall Tunnel), and now he was securely in the custody of – someone. Who were his new friends? The FBI? CIA? As the surprisingly well-appointed business jet began to swing around on its approach to the lone runway, he realized something. Whoever they were, they had not shackled him!
In fact, once on board, they had begun treating him rather well, more like a guest than a prisoner. Something in the cabin smelled sweet, familiar almost. He was seated in a comfortable leather chair and was just sipping from a bottle of Perrier when the pilot hastily announced their imminent departure. One of these agents, if that was the word, a large man seated across a small table from him, gestured for him to fasten his seatbelt. The gesture came with a smile, something to which he was no longer accustomed. No sooner than he had secured himself and turned to gaze out the window than the plane launched forward, soon climbing over the River, passing on the one side a sewage plant and, on the other, the sewer of a prison he’d of late called his home. In a few minutes, he realized they must have already been closing on the Delta, heading, he assumed, due east towards Antwerp. He couldn’t be exactly certain, but there came the feeling that the craft slowed in the air and subtly turned to the south – to what degree, he did not know.
And, just as he gave thought to another effervescent sip and perhaps a request for something solid to eat, another man kindly invited him forward to the flight deck. Entering through the open cockpit door, he beheld before and below him, shrouded in moving darkness, what he took for the Channel and, far ahead, the lights of the Continent. Two men sat under dim lights behind a sea of screens and controls. The younger one, on the right, was dressed in a similar if more understated fashion as the rest of the crew. He looked like the government issue. The other man, older, and obviously in charge of the flight, bore an altogether different look and demeanor. He was half slouched over to his left, with his arm resting near the window. His right hand lazily, casually held the yoke. His black hair, flecked with sprinkled salt, was shaggier than one would have assumed, as was his short, stubbly beard. He was chewing on a cigar and wore, over powerfully-built arms and shoulders, what could only be described as the tackiest of Christmas sweaters. Upon entering, he caught the end of a short conversation between the pilots.
The older casual man on the left was quipping in answer to something: ‘…Corona is a hoax, Biden didn’t win, and Gina didn’t kill herself. Eff- it!’
‘Yeah, right. Listen, RAF and the Bude are blowing up again about it, Tom,’ said the younger man on the right, ‘like it popped up out of nowhere.’
Unperturbed, the man of the left gave a dry response: ‘I know. Ninety-high and tracking our position perfectly?’
‘You know?’ the young man asked incredulously.
‘Yeah,’ the older man hummed, ‘or, I suspected. He’s with us. An escort.’
‘Then, who is he?’ asked the younger man.
He could no longer contain his bewilderment. ‘Whose plane is this?’ he asked, more to the older man.
The whimsical pilot immediately pivoted around and smiled sincerely. ‘My brother-in-law’s!’ he said happily. ‘Well, he bought it, as a tax write-off and so forth, but I get to fly her. Keep her down in Hickory. She’s not a lot of use most of the time, what with the price of fuel but, for this jaunt, Uncle Sucker is picking up the whole tab!’
‘Who are you?’ he asked, feeling even more bewildered than before.
‘I’m Tom,’ the pilot said, extending his hand (leaving the yoke floating momentarily), ‘and this is Freddy,’ he said nodding to the younger man who smiled slightly at the introduction. ‘May I call you Julian?’ Tom asked.
‘Yes, uh, yes, that’s me,’ was Julian’s answer, before he ventured another question: ‘Are you CIA?’
‘No,’ the pilot said flatly and proudly. ‘The guys in the back are Marshals, or Secret Service, or something or another. Freddy here is Company, but I’m not. Not anymore. I’m just a guy with some cheap time and a plane. Welcome aboard the White Hat Express!’
He stumbled through his more recent memories for a moment before uttering: ‘Tom? You’re the professor?’
‘At your service, pen pal!’ Tom replied with a smile.
‘You two have been corresponding?’ Freddie asked with sudden interest or alarm.
‘Yeah,’ Tom said dismissively. ‘Now, Julian, where to?’
‘What do you mean?’ Julian asked.
‘I mean where do you want me to take you?’ Tom asked. Then, he clumsily tapped at a few of the screens above the throttle. ‘I’ve got nine-thousand, or ninety-five-hundred kilometers worth of range. Can’t make Australia, directly, but, there’s … Sweden? No, maybe not. Paris is just over the horizon. You probably aren’t keen on the States just yet—’
‘They’re keen on him,’ Freddy added.
‘Well, not yet,’ Tom said. ‘You just think about it, Julian, and let me know. I can hold over the Channel if I need to. Try not to take too long. I have a mountain cabin full of women who are probably angry with me about this side trip. Missing Christmas and all that, you know.’
‘You’re not taking me to a prison in America?!’ Julian asked perplexedly.
‘No, why would I?’ Tom questioned. ‘You’re a free man. It’s in the— Wait, they didn’t tell you?!’
‘Tell me what?’ Julian was confused. ‘No.’
‘Well then, the honor is mine,’ Tom said proudly again, ‘You’re free! Full pardon. Freddy or one of them has the paperwork. And, not to burden you, but you are requested – at your convenience – for a special consultation on some more recent, pressing matters. The uh, the shitshow, you know? There’s a storm about to hit. Hard. Anyway, Merry Christmas, old man!’
Julian leaned on the door, feeling a lump moving up and through his throat. A pardon? He thought. For—
As if reading his new friend’s thoughts, Tom quietly added, ‘Not that you did anything wrong. But, all’s safe and legal now. And, I’m serious. Wherever you want. Got family somewhere? Or, friends? Why don’t you talk it over with her and get back to me.’
‘Talk to whom?’ Julian asked as tears filled his lower eyes. ‘Who is her, she?’
Tom looked sidelong at Freddy and almost growled, ‘You didn’t fucking tell him?! He hasn’t seen her yet? It’s a small plane!’
‘We had her scooch down in a rear seat, and she’s obviously still playing along,’ Freddy said defensively. ‘It was going to be part of the surprise, along with the pardon. Then, you had to take off like a wildman and—’
Tom cut Freddy’s explanation short. Holding the intercom button, he spoke out loudly and clearly, ‘Sweetheart, come on up here. He really needs you.’
Julian, utterly confused, wiped his sleeve over his eyes. But, she was already there. From behind him, a golden, sultry voice cooed over his shoulder, ‘Hello, beautiful.’
Turning, he looked into her eyes. His jaw dropped even as she moved in quickly to heartily embrace him. He exclaimed, ‘Pamela!’
*And now, this column [AT TPC] will enter into a short period of festive rest. I intend to return in the new year, not later than the invocation of the Insurrection Act or the commencement of President Trump’s second term. Merry Christmas to all and a very happy 2021! -Perrin
At seen, 12/22, at TPC!
Werewolves of Covington
The 2020 TPC Halloween Spooktacular
*Brought to you by Diet LIME CHIP! Soda
TPC Headquarters, Covington, Halloween 2020, as the sun sets…
A small host of costumed and MASKED children ambled lazily, listlessly, if cautiously incautious down the dark street. But, this year was different. The little ones were uncharacteristically quiet, in a near-silent way. One note of laughter – maniacal as could human voice might achieve – sounded from the shadows near the Confederate Monument. Laws, court orders, and history be damned! the Chairman thought, a sledgehammer in his sweaty hands. Outside, the wind blew a somber, haunting note through the barren trees. Inside, frantic last-minute preparations were underway.
‘Hand me another board,’ MB growled from atop the short ladder.
‘We’re running low,’ Bess said with a tremble as she passed up a roughly-hewn one-by-six. ‘A few more and we’ll be out. And to think about the children. The children—’
‘It’ll be enough,’ MB gritted through the nails in his teeth. ‘Got the lower windows. Just a few boards up here, per pane, should do it. They say these things are big – too big to pass through a couple of flimsy boards. It’s not like a tiny virus slipping through the relatively miles-wide gaps in a cloth facemask.’ He stopped to admire his handiwork.
‘Did you remember the back door?’ Bess asked shakily. ‘No one has used it since the mob was here about Duke Marshula.’
‘I gotta chair up against it,’ MB replied. ‘Da used to make regular use of it. Anybody seen him lately?’
‘Not since the Braves washed out,’ Bess said, staring off into nothingness. ‘He put on his NBC suit and vanished. I hope … they haven’t got him too.’ She shuttered.
‘Nah, Da’s too tough for—’ MB broke short his contemplative ablations. He paused and gasped: ‘Was that a howl?!’
‘Oh, Lord, oh, Lord!’ Bess shouted hysterically, running in circles. ‘They’re here!’
‘Shotgun, Bess, shotgun!’ MB barked. There was, for the moment, no need.
‘Sorry, y’all!’ A friendly voice called out. It was Kayla. ‘That was my stomach growling. I need to review the new Chinese place. Need to get me a big dish of beef chow mein!’
‘God! Don’t do that,’ MB said, stepping off the desk where he’d jumped in a panic. ‘Have a Snicker, diva. Nobody eats out tonight. Maybe ever. Old Lee Ho picked the worst time to open a diner. I’d say he’s Fooked all-right.’
‘I’m afraid you’re correct,’ Bess said. ‘And, has anybody seen or heard from Ryan Ralston?’
‘Alas poor Ralston, I knew him well,’ Kayla whispered.
‘Not for an age,’ MB sighed. ‘First word of all this Amerikan, ginger-snapping, dog-soldiering, company of wolfen-man howling in Atlanta, and off he goes to confront ‘em. Carrying a Pop-Tart. Had those strange friends of his tagging along. You know? The duck and the cat or whatever? His grandfather told him not to, but yeah.’ He paused and then said with a grimace: ‘Pop-Tart. Cat. Chinese. Gettin’ a little hungry myself.’
‘Say, do you guys think Fred’s hungry?’ Bess asked with sudden maternalistic concern. ‘He’s been up there for three days. Only has a few two-liters of Diet Lime Chip.’
‘Fred?!’ MB called.
‘Door’s closed! I ain’t coming down! Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!’ Fred shouted through the ceiling.
The gang made their way beneath the attic door, sealed tight from above. ‘If you’re not hungry, then you got any news?’ Kayla ventured. ‘About them?’
‘Hang on!’ Fred echoed through the water-stained drywall. A humming noise emanated from his (poorly) jerry-rigged short-wave radio. ‘Coming in, now! Dr. Fauci’s speaking. He says the CDC in Atlanta has been overrun. Everyone’s dead or infected. Says the quote-unquote test they have is reliable, even if it’s never been tested and is not really a test. He’s predicting six trillion of us will be … converted or eaten unless more people start wearing plastic bags over their masks. Says the trouble is heading east rapidly.’
‘That’s our direction!’ Bess cried.
‘Do we have the silver bullet?’ Kayla asked alarmedly.
‘Yeah,’ MB answered, ‘got some Coors in the cooler.’
‘GSP had a sighting on Twenty, near Oxford, before their team vanished.’ Fred trailed off for a moment. ‘I’d say they must be on us by now. On you. You downstairs people are on your own!’ With that, he and his radio went silent.
‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no!’ Bess wailed, again circling the floor. ‘Children in C-Town! Won’t someone think of the werewolves?!’
‘I think those last kids on the street were just eaten alive,’ Kayla said ruefully. ‘Just a hunch, but I know this year we don’t need facts. I mean, if Dr. Fauci said they’re real, then they’re real.’
‘The wolf and the kid…’ Bess mumbled Aesopically.
‘Screw the kids!’ MB barked again, barkingly. ‘Uh, sorry, Bess. I mean bless those rugrats and whatnot. But, they’re on their own. They knew about the wolves. Same warning we all had. Now, I’ve got one last sash and three boards.’
‘Oh! The worst year,’ Bess said through tears. ‘First the economic coverup … I mean the virus. Then, the police state … I mean lockdown for safety. Next, we had all of the White Supremacy peaceful protests over the not-police killing of Cannon Hinnant. Russia planted that laptop for the Proud Boys – with the videos of everything except Big Floyd. And now, werewolves are coming. WEREWOLVES ARE COMING!’
‘We know they’re real because the deep state government and the totally-independent media that have both lied to us about everything ever say so,’ Kayla remarked.
‘They won’t get TPC!’ MB said defiantly while hammering a cigarette and trying to light a nail.
At that very moment, the sum of all their fears burst into violent reality. From down the stairs, there came a rattling sound, followed by a creaking and hoarse moaning.
‘Did anyone lock the front door?’ someone asked in vain.
‘Something’s snarling downstairs!’ Bess screamed.
‘It sounds hungry and crazy and overly curmudgeonly for its age! Kayla shrieked.
‘Tell me when it’s over!’ MB called down from his perch on the chandelier.
Bess leveled the double-barrel towards the blackness of the stairwell. Kayla stood by with the flashlight. MB swung pensively. In breathless terror, they waited. Heavy feet clomped up the steps. A shady, shaggy shadow crept forward out of the deeper darkness. There came the distinctive sound of a wild beast snapping, menacingly, nationalistically. At the last possible second, Kayla hit the light.
‘Get that out of my eyes!’ A perpetually-perturbed, none-too-local, and all-too-dialectic voice shouted. ‘Bess, put that blunderbuss away!’
A figure stumbled into the room.
‘Perrin!’ Bess cried. ‘We thought you’d been eaten by a werewolf!’
‘We thought you were a werewolf!’ Kayla chimed.
‘Little help up here,’ MB whispered from above.
‘Cheap soda socialists!’ came a rumor from the attic.
‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU NUTS GOING ON ABOUT?!’ Perrin demanded, demandingly.
‘Hello!’ Kayla hello’d. ‘Werewolves taking over? It’s all that’s on the news!’
‘They ate Da and Ryan and all the children,’ Bess said as she absent-mindedly ejected two previously fired shells from an ancient hammerless Nerf blaster.
‘Yeah, man. It’s like the pandemic, but completely more plausible,’ MB added before tumbling to the floor in a heap. ‘Go Dawgs…’ he muttered from behind the poorly-placed armoire.
‘Werewolves?!’ Perrin bellowed in typical cynicism. ‘That’s just another hoax! Won’t you people learn that everything everyone says at all times is a lie? That’s the truth, you know.’
‘But, even you said, It’s a monster! Grab the guns!’ MB remembered at the most or least opportune time. ‘Dude, like you’re even carrying a rifle, right now.’
‘I was talking about the ELECTION FALLOUT!’ Perrin boomed before wheezing pathetically, forced to lean on his newly, uh, appropriated .458 SOCOM for support. ‘The election! Civil War! Mass casualties! For the love of— For the last time – like fake, unisolated viral hoaxes, werewolves don’t exist!’
Whilst the office party evaded the eyes of the literary scion of Floyd, not one of them noticed the disheveled carcass of Da, who had, unseen, followed Perrin in, tromp to the top stair step, right behind Perrin, standing, glaring at the assembly with wicked yellow eyes, his wild hair matted like that of an unkempt wild wolf, his chest heaving, fangs protruding, growling, like a man who, bitten by some demented demon wilderness canine – as part of a sentence that just drags on and on and on and on … and you get the point, I think – had himself been turned into a hairy beast, more creature than man, intent on revenge and mayhem, poised to pounce, claws out, et cetera, et cetera, etc, and so forth; behind a semicolon, far, far, far beyond the help of a definitely terminable punctuation mark (of any kind), and now issued forth a GggggrrrrrrrRRRRR!!!! sound that indicated that he was most likely considering his former co-workers as a meal – notwithstanding Fred, who was still safe up in the attic (and, let’s face it: attic doors embedded in, let’s say a nine or ten-foot ceiling would be a little difficult for even a “War-Wilf!” to reach, because I’m going with the idea that Tolkien knew what he was talking about when he said something to the effect that not even the wild wargs could climb trees [although, even if a collapsing, spring-loaded attic door isn’t the same as a tree, we can all freely speculate] and therefore, moving on) and furthermore, okay, okay, OK, I’m losing my place now … they finally noticed that which they almost hated to think might really be Da!
Looking over his shoulder, Perrin got off the group’s final pointless words: ‘Da, what big ears you- gggahafffff!!!!!!!’
And, somewhere between the cold street and the high, full moon, a shuttering, bellowing HOWL pierced the night!
Away, over on 441, driving north, unaware of the unfolding calamity – perhaps shielded from it by some vague disturbance in the continuum, Thomas Becket wondered aloud: ‘How the hell did a nice French teacher like me get roped into this third-rate tripe? Ah, well, maybe there’s an old Warren Zevon song on. Or, at least a cheap ripoff…’
I saw a politician with a crumpled paper in its paw,
Staggering through the Esoteric South in pain.
It was looking for the place called T-P-C!
Gonna get its fill of something lame.
Raooooooooo… ah, yeah…
HAPPY HALLOWEEN This Holiday Canceled By Order of Dr. Fauci.
Of Supremacy And Arms
This column is a combination of two separate items. The first part is a short revision of something I just came up with in regards to the stupidest part of the stupidest political discussion in modern history. The second part is short fiction(!) that I’ve been sitting on for a while and which underwent numerous revisions for … reasons. If one tries hard enough, one can make any two issues compatible. Or not, your choice.
White Supremacy? Really?
Something caught my eye while I skimmed through last week’s pointless “debate” between Tweets and Mike Wallace’s son. Russia(!), the Hoax, and … White supremacy? DHS is “officially” worried about the threat, but then again, we know what DHS is, who runs it, and whom it was created to serve.
It’s not White supremacists burning, looting, and destroying [insert any American city].
It’s not White supremacists committing 56% of all murders.
It’s not White supremacists transferring ever more power from the criminal government in DC to a criminal government abroad.
It’s not White supremacists behind all of America’s idiotic wars in the Middle East.
It’s not White supremacists telling us what music we can’t listen to.
It’s not White supremacists demanding we dishonor our God and rename our parks to suit their fickle whims.
There is a ton of supremacy on display in this dying country, none of it “White” in nature. But, I will condemn it. I hereby condemn all anti-Christian, anti-White, anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-civilizational supremacy! It is becoming harder to just “stand back” and “stand by.” Yet, ever in high trust and good faith, we do, and we will until we do not.
To that end, Dr. Ironsides has a colorful story of the semi-direct action variety that he relays, for no apparent purpose, at a wedding. Let’s check-in, shall we?
Up In Arms
A Tom Ironsides Tale
A Wedding Reception, More or Less Present Day, Kind of Late…
Having finally corralled his brother, his nephews, and his son, Tom fired up a Diamond Crown Maximus, savoring the smooth, full-flavored Corona smoke for a moment. Larry, Larry’s oldest boy, Larry, Jr., and Trey followed suit. Trey slipped Bert a beer wrapped up in a cloth napkin.
‘A toast,’ Tom said, without the slightest hint of gesture, ‘to Mister and Misses … Todd…’
‘To your daughter and son-in-law, Tom.’ Larry added with a faint tip of his cigar.
‘And to BEER!’ Bert exclaimed a little too loudly.
‘Shuddup, idiot…’ Trey growled as he kicked his young cousin’s shin.
‘So, uncle Tommy,’ Lawrence, Jr. said, ‘Now, do we hear about the clandestine armament methods of the…’
‘Ah, yes!’ Tom said, settling back in his chair. ‘Hang on a second…’
They waited until a group of chattering young women in rather suggestive dresses – all carefully if quietly studied by the younger men – made their noisy way back towards the center of the fun. The men again alone, Tom began,
‘So. This is just a story, true enough, but totally not suggestive of any recommendation. In the preface, I note that there are plenty of these – these stores scattered around the country. Mind you, just about every town has at least one Guard Armory. Not that that matters. Okay, it was around Christmas back in…’
A Kaolinite Quarry in Georgia, Sunday, December 26, 2010, 0745 Hours…
Immediately after the last drone landed on the F350’s hood, it was picked up and stowed by a trainee. Having commanded complete radio silence, Tom had a junior officer flag the team to move out. One by one, a short line of trucks turned North onto US 221. In his mirror, Tom observed the spotter jump in the bed of the last vehicle in the convoy. He accelerated to the speed limit.
‘If this goes south?’ the younger officer to Tom’s left asked.
‘Then, I’ll really wish…’
The Reception, Again, One Minute Later…
‘No. Hang on. Before that, juzz bufforp. Sorbrey.’ Tom held his cigar in his mouth while pouring a round of Ben Nevis’s MacDonalds Ten Year Single Malt. ‘Burthf… pff… Birch sent this bottle from his Scott’s vaca. From the highest peak to the lowest fen! Mmmm. Nice. No. It was just before, the part I’m almost comfortable with reciting. Gotta tell this in a grand jury-friendly manner. Ahem, it was…’
Hickory, NC, Friday, December 24, 2010, 1025 Hours…
Tom drove the bucket truck down the ramp off I-40, with the other vehicles following. A few loops later, his small convoy was parked in the truck and camper section of the lot at Cracker Barrel. Out in the cold air, Tom lit a cigar and motioned the entire team together under the shade of a large tree.
‘Alright, boys. A quick tutorial before Sunday’s main event.’
‘Are we going in to eat?’ asked a trainee.
‘No, son. Bathroom break, yes. Eating … well maybe. But, first a story.’
‘Is it about why we didn’t fly straight to Augusta?’ asked a young agent, newly transferred into the SAD.
‘Children, please!’ Tom puffed. ‘My mission, my methods. If I’m wasting another Christmas playing Goddamn Army C-I-D!, of all idiotic things, then I’ll make a road trip out of it. Easy to get the trucks if we’re already in them. Anyway,
‘Gordon, like Jackson, Lejune, et cetera, is a bigger job. Not impossible, you’ll see, but a little more … complicated. What we need is a little training exercise before the real exercise. Something easy – so easy a meth-head could pull it off. And, mind you, this is just a story, from the news – you can look it up – really happened. Not like we’re about to head north, just as soon as we get Larson his pancakes in a damned minute, immediately upon leaving this place, to a mile up the road and repeat it or anything…
‘Every town. Any town in America. Ten thousand people or more and there’s at least one Guard Armory. Small arms. Vehicles. Supplies. Usually a gen back but in decent order. Ready to go, so to speak. For the taking. And, that’s just what this fool down in South Carolina did.’
‘That the druggie that broke into the Armory and made off with the M-16s?’ Larson questioned.
‘The very one! Anyone can read about it. Army Times. J.D. Simkins’s article. The dude’s name was Brad, uh… Brandon. Brandon Shane Polston. Army National Guard Post in Lancaster, South Carolina. Thanksgiving of 2017.’
Larson thought he knew the calendar: ‘Wait. Isn’t that anachronistic? 2017, I mean? It’s just…’
‘Interrupt me again!’ Tom barked, moving into the younger man’s face, imparting a generous quantity of smoke. ‘And, I’ll have your ass up in public relations, lying to school kids, old people, and Congress-Critters!’ Larson coughed then remained otherwise quiet and attentive.
‘The Armories are physically, logistically almost all identical. Flat brick building. Set just off the road. Semi-residential or light industrial areas. Parking lot. Grass yard. Chain-link fence. The one down in Lancaster was, is no different.
‘So, Brad or whoever was walking passed the building and noticed a low spot in the fence. With nothing better to do, he hopped it. A short time later, he found a door that opened straight into the secure weapons storage. He was evidently the only soul in the building, so he just helped himself. Got some M-16s. A SAW or two. M-203. Et cetera. Nice little haul. I assume they had a shopping cart for his convenience.
‘Still totally alone and completely un-surveilled – no guards, no cameras, nothing – Bradley made his way outside. He stashed the arms and came back with a car and two idiot friends. They loaded up and went off to see the local deal-ah for some quick cash or a hit or God-knows-what. Would’ve got away scot-free but for a broken taillight and an observant local cop.
‘Ha! And, later, when the detectives toured the Armory, they also found it unlocked, unguarded, and open for business. Dollar to a grenade launcher it’s in the exact same shape as I speak. The one right up the street here too. The moral is: make sure your equipment is in good order. Traffic laws and so forth. Any questions?’
‘Didn’t the same thing happen at Gordon around the same time?’ Agent Tindal asked.
‘It did. Let’s not get into dates and confuse young Larson. But… Old uniform, an expired ID, and a smile, and they’ll help you load your car full. But, that was the up-front small-arms depot. The big one is in the pine woods off of 221. No fences, cameras, gates there. Only two, four, possibly six MPs on a holiday weekend. Wishing they were anywhere else doing anything else. The telephone company truck ruse… And, it’s much bigger. Bigger items. Hence, the trucks and the forklift. Trucks with working tail lights!’
‘Not even a chain-link? With a lock?’ Larson unwisely put in.
‘Nope, time-traveler.’ Tom smirked. ‘They only reserve those for going around MIM-104 batteries. Those, one can sometimes find – otherwise unguarded – in remote areas overlooking nuclear plants and other high-value assets. Hmmm. Bolt-cutters… Shame we don’t have a flatbed with a big tarp or just a semi-tractor. Maybe some Raytheon codes. Ah, well. And, hey, my new tag-a-long wingman, Freddie D, can tell you about some concerns the Air Force has – or should have – about the wings at Barksdale and Minot. You’se kids can go shopping again after I retire.’
‘Grab n’ go. We turn this stuff over to real C-I-D, or…’ someone began to ask.
‘I was thinking black budget counter arms. For the enemies of our ene… Well, we’ll see. Yeah. A country breakfast is starting to sound good, now. Checkers, anyone?’
The Reception, Even Later…
Tom continued to hit the bottle and the tobacco, regaling his audience with operational details. The more he drank, the harder it was to follow (or believe) everything he was slurring. Big Larry casually tapped away at his phone, finally exclaiming: ‘Holy Shit! It’s true. Just looked up those stories, those articles. Anyone of them is like a how-to guide for anyone with even a room-temperature IQ. This kind of thing really happens? And, doesn’t require a paramilitary strike-team to pull off?’
‘No. Of course not. Literally, any druggie or loon can arm up, easily, and for free. Let ‘em ban the B-guns. The good stuff will always be around. Especially, if or when other things start happening. You’ll see. How do you think the martial underdog arms up initially?’
‘Kind of makes me feel silly about burying that vault you sent up.’ Larry, Jr. said.
‘Nah. Always have a backup for the backup.’ Tom rejoined. ‘Like this bottle. Dammit, but Birch should have sent two!’
‘Well,’ Said Trey, standing up. ‘I’m going to go see if Romona is still giggling about catching the bouquet.’
‘Careful, boy,’ Larry admonished. ‘That’s a really dangerous business.’
Tom laughed and then turned away and spoke to no-one in particular, almost like he was giving a public service announcement right through digital paper to some unseen reader:
‘Friends, what you’ve just heard is two things. One, it’s plain, old-fashioned fiction about some family men at a wedding party. Two, it was just some old news stories about very real events that have already really happened, multiple times, and as reported in the government’s pet media. It’s like what Aquinas wrote: Unjust law is no law at all. Despite the examples, there is no lesson to learn here. Except, maybe, that’s it is always a good idea to check your taillights, along with your oil level, and tire pressure. Safe motoring. I’m Tom Ironsides, and I approve this ninety-two-proof whisky.’
Hello. I’ve ranted and raved about Tweetsie Railroad before. And I’ve told you the sad tale of losing my pocket knife there. Last month, much too late and in my typical procrastinating style, I contacted them in re the lost and found department. Fifteen or so years, of course, is just too long. No such luck. I also roundaboutly found out they’ve had a rough season because of the hysteria over the common cold. The latter problem, I cannot remedy. However, and I am so happy to report this(!), I think I know what may have happened to the knife. I emailed the following story to Meghan – who I can’t thank enough for everything. See what you think:
Et Pisces Cultro
Perrin Lovett, 2020
‘One of you will finally catch him one of these days,’ Will said, not quite to himself, as he sat on the rear cargo deck of his SUV, looking down at something. ‘And, maybe they’ll promote you guys to a full eight cents.’ He laughed softly as he started digging around in a large bag with one hand. His other hand held a pocket knife. Rather, it held his pocket knife, a marvelous little folding device without, in his mind, rival or equal. He considered it the finest knife in the world, a tool of elegant, simplistic utility with a manly, if subdued, artfulness. It was unique.
It was a smaller design: slim, light, and made for unobtrusively resting in pants of any caliber – rugged denim or stylish wool. The construction was solid steel, with a simple hinge, and a locking release nestled at the end of the handle. Compared to other two-and-a-half inch knives, it was as functional, practical, and reliable as any. The handle set Will’s apart. For embedded under clear resin were three green-tinted postage stamps, set fringe to fringe in a row. Each bore the image of a brown trout leaping from the water in pursuit of an elusive dragonfly. Each boasted the nominal price of 7 ½ cents, as marked years earlier in the distant nation of New Zealand. In a way, he had always credited the fish (and the knife) for his long-ago visit to that far southerly land, his own On The Beach moment while en route to employment somewhere colder. The knife had accompanied him even then. Now, it was ready again for lacerative work.
From the bag, Will, at last, fished what he was looking for. That very evening, less than two hours hence, he and his lovely Wendy would take their little daughters, Willow and Wynter, for a night of spooky fun, courtesy of the Ghost Train and Tweetsie Railroad. With Halloween closing in and a chill in the air, warmer clothes were in order. That afternoon, following a day of ordinary, daytime mountain railway excitement, he’d purchased a little pink “No. 12” fleece pullover for Wynter. He’d only to remove the tags and triumphantly present it to her up in the room. He clicked open the knife and could not overlook, momentarily, the significance of the act.
Like the garment, his perfect pocket knife had also come from magical Tweetsie, though not from any gift shop. Many years before, when he was a boy, he’d been wandering around the Country Fair area, Dippin’ Dots in hand. Then, he had noticed a man with a rake, laboriously cleaning years of dust, dirt, and debris from beneath a ride. On the ground were a pile of grime, leaves, bubble gum wrappers, and other dingy trash, awaiting deposit into a rubber waste can. In the pile, little Will caught the gleam of shiny metal, something to naturally attract the attention of a ten-year-old boy. Oblivious of the encompassing filth, he’d simply reached down and lifted the object for inspection. Seeing no one else around, and adhering to the ancient law of Finders, Keepers, he dusted it off on his jeans and, after admiring it, placed it in his pocket. Later, at home, he’d polished the knife and oiled its mechanisms. Despite lying buried for who knows how long, it was sharp when he found it. He kept it finely honed to razor perfection, a feat he’d always found remarkably easy. It was as if this little blade wanted to remain keen of its own silent accord. As such, now he knew it would make short work of his project.
Retailers relish labelings. He pulled back a sticker, then another. He deftly sliced through two plastic tabs. The final challenge was a long nylon stem binding the price tag to a sleeve. With the fleece garment on his knee, he stretched the tag taut with his left hand, two fingers wound around the top of the stem. He placed the sharp blade and prepared to cut. Just then, a passing truck blew its raspy horn. He jerked. The stem snapped clean. But he felt the passing of cold steel across his curled digits.
‘Oh, wow,’ he exclaimed as that hot ripple down the spine that we all feel in such tenuous moments caused him to lurch again. He examined his fingers cautiously, surprised to find only the faintest, superficial lines of indentation that, even as he watched, receded to nothing. He tucked the sweater under his arm and closed the knife. ‘Woo. That was close.’
‘But we never harm our owner!’ said a small voice, the speaking of which caused Will to drop both coat and knife on the deck.
‘Who said that?!’ he asked with a start.
‘We did,’ answered the little voice; ‘and please don’t discard us so roughly.’
Will’s hand slowly, almost unconsciously inched towards the knife. He picked it up gingerly and, turning it in his hand, gazed at the three diminutive trout. ‘Was that you?’ he asked in disbelief.
His eyes went wide and his head reeled as the report came in: the first little fish turned its attention and its head away from the fly and straight to Will, and spoke! ‘Of course, it was us,’ said the fish.
‘You can talk?!’
‘The same as you, if more selectively,’ replied the second trout. ‘Well, except for him.’ – he nodded to the third fish – ‘He stays quiet. Missing his tail, you know.’ Will observed, for the first time he could remember, that the last trout in the line was creased-over the end of the hilt pommel with its tail obscured or deleted. He had never, in all those years, noticed. And he had never, in all his life, expected a conversation with at least two fish on a knife. (Honestly, he had never envisioned discourse with any fish, bladed or otherwise).
‘How do you— How do you two fish speak? Is it possible?’ he stammered.
‘Not possible; probable,’ said the first fish.
‘Not probable,’ said the second, ‘definitive.’
‘Oh,’ said the first, ‘and we are not two, but one. I am the knife of two voices though of one mind.’
‘You just called each other us,’ Will correctly noted.
‘There is no explanation for that. Is this better?’ they both answered at once.
‘That is— This is just a little odd,’ Will admitted.
‘We always expected mild confusion,’ the first fish said.
‘Why haven’t you spoken before?’
‘We have never spoken before,’ said the second, ‘except to each other. Long discussions we had beneath the Tilt-a-Whirl, our home for an age of fish.’
‘Ha!’ Will exclaimed. ‘So, you remember when I found you? When we first met?’
‘We do,’ said the first, ‘and many thanks for your rescue and kind treatment.’
‘How long were you down there?’ Will asked. ‘Or, better, start from the beginning. What’s behind a talking knife?’
‘The long or the short of it?’ asked the second. ‘Better to finish faster, eh?’
‘Indeed, time is wasting,’ said the first. ‘I’ll explain a little: Will, you yourself have noted, more than once, that we are marked Japan, rather than China or USA like so many common blades. We are the work of an old katana master, sold through a trading company to a certain menswear shop.
‘What was it? Thirty years gone by? We were acquired by a man who treated us well enough. He visited your favorite amusement park – and more than once. It happened that, upon a time, he and his daughter ventured onto the Tilt. We were if we can remember it, already dangling close to the edge of the pocket, so to speak. Sir Newton was right about motion. Once we started moving, started flying, we didn’t stop until we rolled, slid, and came to rest on the metal decking near the outside rail of the amusement. He could have found us, we suppose, if not for the vibrations. When the machine slowed down, the motor shuttered, the floor shook and we fell through the cracks – and not as a matter of mere saying. Lonely and forgotten—’
‘He never forgot us,’ added the second trout.
‘No, but he was most late in thinking of us when he finally did. And too slow to finally act,’ said the first. ‘For about a year we lay amid the crud and smut until you came along. And, thank our maker, that you did.’
‘You said it was an age,’ countered Will.
‘Yes, for us,’ said the second; ‘time passes differently for trout on a dagger.’
‘Oh,’ remarked the first, ‘and time is running away here and now. We can explain a little more at the park tonight. Does not someone need a certain pink cloak?’
‘Wow. Yeah. Thanks,’ Will said, then venturing to inquire: ‘What are your— What’s your name?’
‘Piscis Gladius, at your service as always,’ the knife answered as one.
Enlightened, and still amazed, Will stowed his new friend and former tool in his pocket, handled the pullover, and made off for room 414 at the Holiday Inn, Boone.
Wynter, aged three, was enthralled with her new outerwear. Donning it she became a fashionable sight to match her sister, two years her senior. Clad against the night airs and the threat of fog or drizzle, the happy family soon meandered down US 321 towards Blowing Rock.
On the short drive, as the girls chattered away in their car seats, Will asked Wendy: ‘Did you ever read The Children of Hurin?’
‘What’s that?’ Wendy remarked. ‘Is that a kid’s book?’
‘No, it’s Tolkien. One of his posthumous books, a tragedy.’ Will said.
‘No, I haven’t,’ she said. ‘Is there anything Halloween spooky in it?’
‘Kind of. It’s about Hurin’s son, mostly. He, among many adventures, found a talking sword.’ Will let the words fall out slowly, his mind somewhere else and his eyes on the road.
‘Well, no tragedy tonight. We’re out for spooky fun with the Ghost Train, right girls?’ Wendy said and asked, more to the back seat than to Will. Then she turned to the radio. ‘Let’s see if there’s some macabre music on!’
There was not, as it turned out, though the girls (and Wendy) had fun with a kid’s sing-a-long CD about a black cat and a jack-o’-lantern. Will kept thinking about his new fishy acquaintances. Fifteen minutes later, he did the honorable thing and, seeing a chance, dropped the ladies off nearer to the main entrance, himself resolved to seek out a parking space. For some reason, he parked as far away as he could, and as far as the attendants would allow. On his slow walk up the hill to the ticket office and gates, he checked to make sure no one was close or watching and he pulled out the knife.
‘Okay, now. What’s the real story behind a talking pocket knife, my postal friends?’ he asked.
‘Ah, yes,’ said the first trout. ‘We, as we said, were crafted by a great master in Seki. His skill, and perhaps something greater, lives on in us. We always knew we were smart – uh, smarter than your average knife – but we could never bring ourselves to speak out loud. That is, to anyone else or even to ourselves.’
‘We kind of thought together, if that makes sense,’ added the second fish.
‘Indeed, indeed,’ rejoined the first.
‘You never spoke to the first owner? The man with the loose pocket?’ Will inquired.
‘No, sadly,’ said the first. ‘He was a good enough fellow, and he took us on all sorts of adventures.’
‘We went to the World Trade Center, and to some, well, mysterious meetings in Washington, along with many other exciting places!’ the second said happily.
‘And, then you graciously took us to the home of our philatelic ancestors. And the frigid extremes of the Pole,’ said the first. ‘Exhilarating, if cold enough to freeze the fish off a steel blade.’
‘We’ve a mind to see our true home of origin, where the stamps met the metal, in Japan, someday. If it can be arranged. Perhaps this visit to Tweetsie can help us along,’ said the second, whimsical.
‘The Tweetsie magic, yes!’ said the first. ‘It’s probably not magic, per se – more of Divine Providence. But, it was here, in this blessed little realm, under the Tilt-a-Whirl, that we first spoke. To ourselves, of course. And it might just be proximity, tonight, that prompted our speech to you, dear William.’
‘You guys think there’s more of that magic ahead?’ Will asked.
‘We do, now that we see more clearly,’ said the second.
‘You talked about traveling. And you want to get back to Japan. You think there’s any chance I could help with that tonight?’ Will asked.
‘Possibly, if not probably or definitely,’ replied the second.
‘What can I do, if or when the time is right?’ Will wanted to know.
‘Cast me away,’ said the first trout, flatly.
‘Where? Like into a lake or something?’ Will asked with mild trepidation.
‘Oh, no! Nothing like that, Will,’ soothed the first fish. ‘Let’s just say, if and when the time is right, you will know him when you see him.’
‘I’ll just know him when— Oh, hey, people and the ticket office, guys! Back in the pocket, we go,’ Will said with a wink.
In a jiffy, he passed through the turnstile and into the true happiest place in the world. He was as awed as ever as he walked past the stroller rentals and the ironically-juxtaposed jail and began scouting for his family on Main Street. It was always the same at Tweetsie, regardless of the year, the season, or the time. The little park was (or is) the one place that is always exactly the same as one remembers it from childhood.
Will noticed a sign near the Cowboy Cantina. In a few days, the final day of the season, a concert was to be held at the Hacienda. Will reckoned they would have to miss that fun, even though he knew the band and wanted to sing along.
‘Dandy and the Bass Slayers! Boy!’ he said out loud.
‘Vee herb dap!’ came a watery call from his pocket.
‘Sorry guys. But it’s bass, not trout,’ Will explained. ‘They’re a rockabilly band from… Hello, baby girls!’ He had found his loved ones.
‘Daddy!’ Wynter practically screamed as she jumped up into his arms.
‘It’s me!’ he said before pecking her on the forehead.
‘Daddy! We should have worn our Halloween costumes!’ said Willow, excitedly if somewhat ruefully.
‘Well, now, let’s see,’ said Will; ‘I think we’re costumed enough. You two and mommy are obviously princesses.’ It was a kindly remark, true in a familial sense, pleasing to young daughters and it generated a smile from an appreciative wife.
‘So, daddy?’ began Wendy; ‘Just what are you? Our prince?’
‘No,’ he answered. ‘I’m just a greens manager enjoying a long weekend.’
‘That’s not a costume!’ Willow sang while pulling back and forth on Will’s hand.
‘Everyone else is making up for it! Look at all these characters around us! Now, what are we going to do?’ He placated.
They did just about everything, and some things more than once. The Ghost Train waited while the family had dinner in the Cantina. Then, there was a small matter of more shopping at the very same stores that they’d visited earlier that day. Some pictures were taken. Then! Then, they rode the Train, with frights, thrills, and chills aplenty. They found themselves in a delightfully dark haunted wonderland. There was so much to take in! Ghouls, ghosts, goblins, and more lurked around every laughing corner. The family found out that they call it a Freaky Forest for a reason. And, who knew candy corn worked so well in a funnel cake?! After seeing a spooktacular show at the Palace, they ventured up to Miner’s Mountain for more shows, more rides, more pictures, and more fun. For added measure, just to be safe, they even had some additional fun. On the way back down, via the chair lifts, Will had to ride by himself, a car behind the ladies. He listened to them sing and shout and yell Hello, spiders! to the giant, illuminated spiders down on the hillside. After a moment, he pulled the knife out once again.
‘Hey, guys. I’ve been looking for whomever this is supposed to be, and I haven’t really seen him yet,’ he said.
‘No, you wouldn’t,’ said the second trout; ‘not yet.’
‘You’ll know him when you see him, not before,’ said the first.
‘So, he wasn’t that tall, intelligent but dangerous-looking man with the very attractive woman at his side?’
‘It’s not the last owner, is it?’
‘No. We’re going forward, not backward.’
‘Is he anything like me?’
‘Like you, perhaps, as you were.’
The conversation ended at the lower lift station. The knife was again concealed and, roundabout, Wendy, Will, and the girls ran, skipped, and frolicked their way over to the Country Fair. There, the falls were free, the tornado was gusty, the turnpike was cruising, and the arcade was refreshing. Will and Willow even braved a car on the Tilt, while Wendy and Wynter dared to occupy another. Will almost assumed that the knife would once again fly off, literally, on a further escapade. But in the end, when he checked, it was still in his pocket. At last, as the evening drew towards its closing, the ladies wanted one final thrill. Space limits dictated that only they could ride the Ferris Wheel, so Will contented himself to sit and watch.
He had taken to a bench near the Tilt and was watching (and listening) as the women of his life circled high above. He knew that after the very next revolution, they would exit and this particular Tweetsie visit would come to an end. He didn’t know that he had inadvertently taken out the knife, nor that he was gently turning it in his hand. He had just realized what he was doing and was examining the stamps as they turned upwards to his face, kindled by the carnival lights all around him. Suddenly, a voice spoke – and it was not aquatically-accented…
‘That’s a nice knife you have, mister.’ Will looked up and observed a boy of about ten, who was keenly looking at the little folder. Without thinking any more about it, Will stood up and held out the knife to the lad insistently. After a second of hesitation, the boy took it.
‘That’s a nice knife you have,’ Will said with a smile.
‘Gee. Thank you, sir,’ said the boy.
‘Don’t thank me,’ said Will, ‘thank the fish.’ With that, he simply walked away, almost immediately running into the giggling womenfolk.
‘Will Ferrum, did I just see you give your favorite knife to that little boy?!’ Wendy asked perplexedly.
‘You did,’ Will said. ‘Somebody has to get them to Japan.’
While both the gift and the remark potentially begged a few questions, she asked him no more about it, and he explained no further. Instead, they all four wound their way back, past the Spice Ghouls, past the prize pumpkins, and past spills and chills galore, to the exit on Main. As they were departing – and maybe they didn’t hear it – thus began the melody of Pet Sematary by the Ramones. And a pale, strange man in a cape and a top hat, seated across the cowcatcher of Old Number 12, began to laugh.
Consider steel, as cold as night,
Allocution of the angled;
Find the sword a cordial sight,
So keeper be embrangled.
While looking through the drafts for items to delete, I came across an idea I had based on something that happened many years ago. It was only a title, and I converted it into this post. It turns out that the subject matter has already, recently, been converted into a short story! That, you may get to see one of these days.
As it turns out, I have another short work of fiction which you’ll get to read on October 1st – also based, very loosely, on a true story. It was written for a dedicated audience and was well received as “fun and refreshing.” In fact, those same words have been used by multiple advance reviewers. You’ll know it when you see it.
Also: Dr. Ironsides and the rest of the cast – those you know and those you’ve never heard of – have not been idle…
Noo Yawkas and Congress-critters are telling each other to “shut the f-ck up,” and the police are hunting out-of-staters in RI, FL, and TX. But, let’s take a look at the lighter side, if any, of the current panic:
A Social Distance
Steubenville, Ohio, Saint Patrick’s Day 2020, 6 PM…
A woman was screaming at the top of her lungs. The words were incoherent but her tone and demeanor left no doubt as to her murderous intentions. Another woman, a little older and quieter, had just connected with the emergency operator and frantically pleaded for help. On the floor, two men rolled and wrestled violently. Neither trained or experienced for the encounter, they flailed and tugged; each unsure whether to grapple or strike, they did both with inartful abandon. Nearby, a larger man began shoving several teenagers towards a wall, cursing and spluttering as he did so. It had come to this so rapidly. And it would surely get worse as night fell. Part of the large crowd pressed in closer, jostling with each other – to avail themselves of a better view of the mayhem or, possibly, to join it. Others, having no desire for brutality, began to depart the scene.
Seeing his chance, he darted through the madness and ran a short distance. He quickly glanced over his shoulder. Someone, maybe another irate woman, yelled something about “go ahead and run!” He didn’t care so long as he was temporarily free. He had a job to do. Turning away he again scanned the environment. It wasn’t his usual neighborhood and he would have been out of place on a good day. Just then, as he started to recover his wits, a crazed man in a medical mask rushed by in a frenzy. Rammed almost to the ground, he jumped up. He resisted the urge to say anything and kept moving. He was also resisting the calls of his own better judgment: “Just get out of there, you fool!” He’d never in his life been in war nor any serious criminal altercation. As he ducked and dodged forward, he wondered if his luck would run out. He fully expected gunfire to ring out at any moment.
Then, when from behind the shouting, screaming, and sounds of physical objects being broken reached a frantic peak, he came to a corner. Turning it, he beheld utter devastation. It was like the views of some third-world country in the midst of a civil war that one sometimes sees on the evening news: he was about to enter an area of desolation and despair. He did so at a run, fast enough (he thought) not to become a target, but slow enough (he hoped) to allow his senses to process the survivors – if there were any left.
Foot by torturous foot, he made his way – as quickly though carefully as possible – through a sea of destruction, down a veritable bombed-out street. He knew it had been quaint and civilized just hours earlier. The thoughts, augmented by the whirling fury around him, made him sick. What has become of us! he asked himself. Portions of a lunch too hastily consumed ventured to the back of his mouth. He fought the urge to vomit. He fought the stronger urge to make a break for safety. To say things were looking black would have been an understatement. Here, here of all places where it should have been, he found only chaos and the crumpled remains of civilization. Only when he was about to give in to all his urges, to abandon his desperate quest, did a ray of hope shine in like the sun through dark clouds: he saw something! No, it wasn’t what he’d come for, what he expected, or even what he thought might be useful. But, damn it, it was all he had now. Figuring any alternative would make do under the circumstances, he reached out his free hand and grabbed it. He grabbed it and ran! Now! Now, he pursued a speed he had not known since his days in college and that failed tryout for the varsity track team. This time around, his prize might well be his life. He knew that and made use of all his cascading fears and all his remaining energy.
A moment later he was rewarded. This thing, made so precious by the insanity of his fallen world, along with the other odd bits and pieces of things he’d found in a pinch, was finally and truly his. The monetary price, small though it was, did not matter. Ten times the value he would have paid and happily. The extra plastic bags he snagged, almost as an afterthought, were the icing on the sour cake. He had made it through the gauntlet of death! Phone in hand, he collapsed into the comfort of his waiting SUV, somewhere out there in the vast Kroger parking lot.
‘Honey! Honey,’ he cried into the small, flat glass screen, ‘I found some! They were all out of toilet paper, but I got a box of Kleenex. The last one. It’s a small square one, but it’s better than nothing. I love you, baby, I love you!’
‘Todd,’ Claire asked with mild annoyance in her voice, ‘where are you?’
‘Kroger. Steubenville,’ Todd gasped as another police car screeched to a stop nearby. ‘On my way back, I tried everywhere. The Kroger and the Shop ‘n Save in Weirton. Even Walmart. All I could find was a little four-pack. A roll of paper towels. Some canned tuna. No… No hand sanitizer anywhere. It’s a wasteland out-’
‘Todd Vispoli!’ Claire said, the annoyance crystal clear now; ‘It’s time you came home. I’m cooking supper and Bryson wants to toss the football around. Ruthie wants to play cheerleader. And Lizzy has a question about something. I need my husband and the kids need their father. Quit playing soldier and come home!’
‘Okay, okay, baby,’ he panted as he watched more police cars and a firetruck enter the lot. ‘But, it’s going to get rough. We need toilet paper. Basics. Tom Ironsides, my new friend, said it’s going to get really ugly. Already is. I just saw people trying to kill each other for grits and bacon. Not a loaf of bread left in the store-’
‘Todd, my dear,’ Claire said with a bit more understanding in her voice, ‘we know that. It’s all on the news – all that’s on. You didn’t need a CIA spook to tell you. I asked you not to go to Pittsburgh in the first place. Remember?’
Todd thought back to the weekend and her advice that the conference would probably be cut short even if it was allowed to commence. As he watched an officer retrieve a rifle from the trunk of a Dodge Charger, he shifted into reverse and prepared to depart. ‘You were right, you were right,’ he said. ‘We were wrapping up a panel discussion when the cops and the health inspector shut it down. Tom and I went to a bar – you’d remember it, Marv’s place on the river – for beer and sandwiches. But, we’d just started eating when the police came in and ordered everyone out. I was a little afraid we’d get arrested or something. They had many harsh words for Marv.
‘Anyway, as we were walking out the front door, these two FBI agents approached and wanted to talk to Tom. “Colonel,” they said, “we’ve got some really bad news. Need your input on some things,” they said. He talked with them for a few minutes, half of it in whispers. He seemed almost amused and kept telling them, “I just don’t care.” Then, they said something that got his attention, something about it backfiring and the Omega Section, whatever that is. All of a sudden, Tom got really serious. Before he left with the G-men, he told me to head straight home but to maybe stock up before I got to the house. He said there was about to be panic – but not for the right reasons – and that things like toilet paper would be in short supply. He said we might be locked down for a while. Said it might turn into martial law – or worse. I’ve been looking for tee-pee since I left Pittsburgh. Tough luck out here.’
‘Well,’ she said, ‘I did my big monthly shopping a few days ago, while you were packing. Then, this morning, based on the ordinary news reports, I decided to do a follow-up. Riesbeck’s in Anytown had plenty of toilet paper, paper towels and everything else. We’re set for a good three months, maybe longer. I’m a prepper if you recall.’
‘And, thank God, baby!’ he said with relief as he pulled onto the highway, passing an ambulance and more police cars, all with sirens blaring and lights flashing. ‘I’ll be home in thirty minutes. Tell Bryce to be ready.’ He thought for a second and then asked, ‘Hey, in all your prepper readings and so forth, did you ever hear anything about this Omega whatever?’
‘We’ll all be ready when you arrive, dear,’ she said. ‘Omega? No, sweetie. Sounds like a big hoax to me.’
Warriors’ Respect: An Acquaintance Remembered
[Current Events Fiction]CLICK4PDF]
Six Pence Pub, Blowing Rock, NC, Tuesday, January 7, 2020, Evening…
He sat at the bar, almost wincing as the fool next to him ignorantly pontificated. What had started as a friendly “how ya’ doing, fella?” had morphed into a boring diatribe about brine and snow. Now, the geo-political malarkey deepened.
‘That thar boy was a murderous thug! He was a-plannin’ mo’ of them em-i-nent attacks. He alreddy dun kilt that thar ‘Murican soldiers and attacked our embassy with his militias. Cain’t have no more hostages from them Irans! Trump had to kill that boy and we dun did it! Ain’t nothing them tarrists can a do bout it now. Ha! But I’d love to see ‘em try. Wouldn’t you, buddy? We whoop they azz-’ His new friend, some fat, balding boomer, allegedly in town to sell the city road salt, babbled incessantly while pointing to the television news, featuring a dull rehash about a Tweet about the assassination.
‘Excuse me,’ Tom politely interjected, ‘But you’re a fucking idiot. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Please keep your profound stupidity to yourself. Thanks, buddy.’
‘I dun seen it all on tha news! Hannity, and Limbaugh, and good ole Binny Shapiru!’ The man exclaimed, taken aback as indignation strove against his copious alcohol consumption.
‘Everything you’ve heard, I won’t say read, is a lie,’ Tom instructed. ‘Everything you just blathered out, while it would certainly please the ears of your controllers, is utter horseshit. You wouldn’t know a terrorist from a Saint. Please, do shut up.’
The obese man sat stunned before his belligerence overcame his shock. ‘You- Well, fuck you, mister! You’se a liberal! I knew it! I sits down and sez to muhself, “I hope this feller ain’t no faggot.” But, shore as the Pope worships Mary, you is! You talks to me like that again and I whoop yo azz, fag! I dun served in Vietnam. The jungle! You probably a draft dodger or somethin’. Lemme tell you whut we dun did to-’
Tom listened for a minute more, grinning and quietly flipping through his phone. When bubba paused to gasp for air, Tom turned and showed him a picture of Carmyn licking his face at a party. ‘That’s my girlfriend. She’s an actress. You probably used to jack off to her. You know, back when it still worked, I guess.’
The tubby retard, still gasping and now red in the face, turned it up a notch. He most unwisely grabbed Tom’s free arm near the wrist and pulled in closer, imparting some of his beer and garlic-scented breath. ‘Smart azz, huh?! I’m bout reddy ta hit yo purdy mouth, boy!’
Without breaking his concentration on his phone, Tom quickly reversed gripped the man’s flabby forearm and wrenched hard, cranking his elbow into a painfully awkward wrong-way bend. The man’s squeal was met with a “shhhh” as Tom rolled to another, older picture. He held it up to his buddy’s face. ‘And, this is me and General Soleimani, uh, the murderous thug. Back in 2001, in Afghanistan, when we were fighting the Taliban together, excuse me, fighting them thar tarrists.’ Releasing his grip and still being mostly polite, he tried to explain just a little of the unkind world to the loud drunk.
Hotel Romandy, Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, September 23, 2001, Late…
A somber, sinister group of men walked through the terrace seating area outside the conference room, headed towards the bar. Two tarried behind the others, the two most dangerous-looking characters of the company. It was the admittedly tenuous beginning of a delicate working relationship. On that occasion, without any coordination, they were attired in understated fashion rather than suits or uniforms, both happened to be wearing black leather jackets. Tom thought of some way to soften the mood. He got an idea from glancing at the mountains surrounding the city, now illuminated beautifully by the waxing moon.
‘I’d really like to visit your country properly, General,’ he began slowly. ‘I’d love to ski up north of Tehran. Maybe Darband or Abali, isn’t it?’
Qasem Soleimani was as gracious as he was deadly. ‘I myself am more fond of the area even further north, around Alvares, which you may know, is also near to the Caspian. Of course, if all goes – I won’t call it well – you and I could cross the border back into Persia and visit Shirbad. It’s just west of Herat, where we may have some … business. Wonderful snows.
‘I know this must feel a little off, Colonel. You’ve been to Iran previously. We have a rather extensive dossier on you. Kill on sight orders, in fact. Uh, those I have, of course, belayed for the time being. You know, we missed each other a few years ago. These are, I must admit, better circumstances.’
‘Have you ever skied in America, General?’ Tom asked while thinking about, almost rueing his last vicious visit to Iran.
‘The White Mountains. Ages ago, before the revolution. It was, for me at the time, the chance getaway of a lifetime. My family had so little money; it was a great luxury.’ The man laughed at the faded memory. ‘If I remember right, that’s your, what you call, neck of the woods, no?’
‘Well, we might have missed each other then too.’ Tom said and chuckled at the smallness of the world. ‘Maybe some things are best left on the powder.’
‘Undoubtedly, they are. Now, soon our men will need to- Oh, we’re stopping again.’
Following a few perfunctory words with Crocker and the departing team from State, the lethal pair eased up to the bar, alone for the first time.
‘You’ll need to help me, Mister Ironsides, but Glen-mor-angie – the Scottish is always a jaw-breaker for me.’ The General studied the bottles on the shelf behind the bar, pointing to one.
‘Well, I didn’t know you guys partook of the single malt! Excellent choice though.’ Tom said.
‘Social settings and good company sometimes require good liquor. Allah is merciful, most forgiving at times and of good causes.’ The General studied a bottle closer.
‘And an interesting choice of words. Jawbreaker is our callsign for the initial operation.’ Tom said while trying to read a label.
‘I know. We’re not so completely in the dark.’ Soleimani said with a smirk.
‘Well then, know that we’ll be inserting, likely on Wednesday night. I’ll be there with the SADs and the Deltas. Who can I expect from your Quds? Maybe someone else willing to overlook past indiscretions, I’d hope.’ Tom did look a little hopeful.
‘I should be able to join you and our men later. For now, immediately, look for my-’
The men talked and drank deep into the night. Plans were made, logistics explored. Soleimani was, as promised, a walking encyclopedia of the terrain, the local tendencies, and the ways of the enemy. They shared multiple strategies and a few misgivings. They talked about Hammurabi, Solon, and Caesar. They spoke of family relationships, of children, spouses, and parents. On matters of state and religion, they agreed and they agreed to disagree. A tedious friendship was born. Respect flowed haltingly with a burn like the whiskey. They did, in fact, meet again twice – once soon after in the hills of Afghanistan and once years later in Baghdad during a meeting that Washington denied ever happened. However, they never did rendezvous on the slopes. Even after his retirement, Tom followed the general’s quest to defeat ISIS in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. A worthy defender of his nation and people, he thought Soleimani. He’d cursed the administration aloud the week before when he’d heard the news of what he considered plain murder and a despicable war crime.
Back in Blowing Rock, another bar…
‘So, just shut up about it, already,’ Tom said at last. He was finished with his unheeded educational lecture and was now checking his email and something else. His new friend still didn’t grasp any of what he’d heard.
‘All that thar tells me is that you’se one a them tarrists! And, whut do you know, you lying shit?!’ The dim visitor demanded.
‘I know the shit is already hitting the fan,’ Tom said as he again presented his phone. ‘Watch this.’
‘Whut in tha hell that is?!’
‘That is live satellite feed from over Iraq, over Ain al-Asad Air Base. You said you’d love to see them try. Well, they’re trying right now. The news up there will have it in an hour or so once Langley puts the right spin on it. Watch now if you’d like the uncensored version.’
‘Whut am I a watchin’??’ The tubby man growled as he squinted at the little screen.
‘Those flashes are missile impacts. Probably Qiams or Fateh-one-tens. Latest generation guidance. Extremely accurate. Pinpoint, I’d say. Right now, every time one flashes, they’re hitting our hardware. I’d guess they’re knocking out the drone hangers, the smaller ones clumped here and there, center. That base is where the strike last week came from. Makes sense. What I would do.’
‘Whut you’d do?! I know you. You’se a Democrat or something! Love nuthin’ better than helpin’ yo tarrists friends, huh? Stand up! I’m bout to beat some sense into yo liberal azz!’
‘No, you’re not.’ Tom said, looking down at his glass.
‘I’m a-gonna do it!’
‘No. You can’t. Sorry.’
‘And, YOU’RE DONE, sir!’ yelled the pretty bartender at the heavy, sweaty, woefully-overmatched moron. ‘You don’t know what you’re messing with, with this one.’ She gave Tom, who was unconcernedly addressing his Oban, a wink. To the fat drunk, she instructed: ‘Before you get yourself killed, get out! Don’t come back. Now!’
Tubby mumbled something about a town full of queers and sympathizers and shuffled angrily out into the light evening snow.
‘That fat bastard didn’t even leave a tip!’ The barmaid announced with a hint of regret.
‘I got it. Mine too, in a minute,’ Tom replied.
‘So, professor, is this World War Three?’ The young woman asked with slight concern in her voice.
‘No. Don’t be too alarmed, darling. It’ll all blow over, for now,’ Tom reassured. ‘It’s not world war, unless something utterly stupid gives way between now and morning. This was, is a very measured response. Making a point or two. They’ll be done in a few minutes, although CENTCOM just registered something odd on domestic air radar around Tehran – probably nothing. The missiles are a show of force, directed at our equipment, not our men. Neither has any business being in-country anyway. Maybe this is the beginning of a withdrawal. Hell, I’ll have my last toast to that. That, and Qasem. Maybe not the best man – none of us were – but maybe the one his people needed. Salute!’
After paying off his tab and leaving two tips, Tom mosied outside. From the sidewalk on Main, he heard the old jungle fighter yelling incoherently from down the street. Gotta give that one credit for persistence, Tom thought as he raised a one-fingered salute over his shoulder. Next, he heard a city police officer ordering the old drunk off. He slowly walked on towards his little rental flat. It was getting cold. His phone rang. Carmyn was watching the breaking news. He soothed her nerves and thanked her for a lick while requesting another at her earliest convenience. Just before he reached his door, Vicky called. He was calming her fears as he walked into the living room, where Ari and Maddie were waiting with the television blaring. Upon hanging up, he directed his placidity to them, first asking them to turn off the tube.
‘Uncle Tommy, do you know what’s going on?’ Ari pressed.
‘Yes. That foolishness on the talking screen is only more propaganda bullshit. Some ancient Greek once said, “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.” Some say it was Euripides, though I’m not so sure. Anyway, watch that stuff and you will go as mad as your President and the Iranians. What it’s designed for. Maybe Qasem was mad to go in like he did, to keep this up for so long. No, we’ve all of us got enough madness.’
‘What are you talking about, Tom?’ Maddie asked as she turned off the set. ‘We know you have to know A LOT about what’s behind all this.’
Tom was tired and tried to move towards his room, several wistful thoughts plaguing his mind. ‘Goodnight, girls. Of the business behind it all, I know more than I care to repeat this evening. Respect for the dead.’
It was on this day back in 1965 that Mr. and Mrs. Ironsides welcomed their second little bundle of joy.
Happy 55th birthday to Tom Ironsides!
(I imagine he’s still shunning the AARP card)
Soon, and very soon, he gets his second and then third major literary outings. FOR NOW! Here’s a special birthday short just for the old blog!
ALSO IN PDF:Drive Fifty-Five
Carmyn Larck’s Quiet Little House, Highlands, NC, Thursday, January 2, 2020…
The slamming of the front door woke him up. The giggling and the expeditious girl talk got his attention. The loud banging sound and the laughter prompted him from the sheets. While he yawned and fumbled his way into some old USMC sweats, he heard the patter of feet and furtive whispers. He thought something was crinkling. About the time he reached the bedroom door, the house became altogether silent. He looked down the hall and then slowly proceeded towards the front of the quaint 1930’s bungalow. A clinking drew him into the kitchen. Something in the living room almost caught his eye, but it had been a blurry New Year’s season already. He walked into the galley and found Carmen’s daughter standing by the Keurig machine, facing him, waiting.
‘Good morning, Tom!’ the young woman said as she extended a large mug his way. ‘Coffee, just the way you like it!’
‘Thanks, Jessica, morning,’ he said while squinting. ‘Need some. Uh, what was that fuss a minute ago? Where’s your mom?’
‘What fuss?’ Jessica immediately deflected with a sweet, if slightly deceptive up-speaking. ‘I didn’t hear anything. Anyway, Mom had to run out for a second. Said she’d be right back. Some party last night, huh?’
‘Urm, yeb,’ Tom slurred as he sipped a near-scalding mouthful of strong, black café français. The girl (and the K-machine) knew coffee. And, she was right about the party. He was then aware that he’d skipped his morning dose of Advil. ‘So, uh yeah, happy new year, again.’
‘Happy, happy!’ she sang oddly. ‘Hey! Let’s go sit on the sofa and chat until mom gets back.’ Without waiting, she grabbed his arm and started tugging. He had little choice but to move along, carefully balancing the hot liquid as they jostled through the rooms. He was still concentrating on the drink when she shouted, ‘TA-DA!!’
Tom glanced at her wide-eyed and then settled his gaze on the enormous gift box sitting on the living room rug, the coffee table and a chair pushed aside to make room for it. It looked to be a cube with roughly six-foot sides. It was covered in a hodge-podge of birthday (and Christmas) paper. A huge bow sat neatly on the top. A large label, which might have been cut from a pizza box, hung prominently on the front. It simply read: “TOM.” He was about to say something – anything – when Jessica carefully took the cup out of his hand and set it a safe distance away from them. Then, she nudged him towards the giant present. She made sure to usher him in front of the oversized couch, seemingly checking as if to measure distance. She turned and checked twice as he mumbled incoherently about “a big-” or another. Putting her arm around his shoulders, she turned to face the massive favor. She kind of squeaked while bouncing up and down once and said, ‘Go, girls!’
Tom gasped as out of the front of the box, through the mismatched paper, burst a foursome of now babbling and chortling women. He saw more than heard the collective roar of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” before they were on him. Vicky hit him high and left, while Carmyn went low and right. Ariana and Maddie completed the vicious gang tackle, driving from behind the other two and forcing them all onto the readied sofa. Jessica piled on the heap for good measure.
The hugs, kisses, squeezes, hair- tussing, poking, and a pinch(!), accompanied by various calls of “happy birthday,” “daddy,” “Tommy,” “lover,” and “old man,” gave way to a jumbled silliness, with sighing chuckles and obligatory head-patting. No man anywhere was fonder of the opposite sex, but given the sheer mass and weight of the situation, he could only manage a rather muffled and labored ‘thankfs.’ Mercifully, the top three girls removed their addition to the burden, as if peeled back by referees after a heroic goal-line stand. His girlfriend and his daughter weren’t quite as courteous, still latched tightly.
Forcibly twisting and turning, he gained the pivotal advantage and wrested his way upright, carrying the armloads of fun with him. Following another minute of fussing and teasing, they parted and clung one to each of his sides. The others pressed in from the outside. Aright and once again breathing properly, he saw two large balloon number fives attempting to float on ribbon strings from the remains of the box. The women repeated the praise of his birth. Jessica returned to him his java.
‘Wow, girls, wow!’ he exclaimed upon partaking of another healthy swig. ‘What a way to start a new year. Love you all!’
More hugs and congratulatory talk followed. Ariana and Maddie explained how they raced over to Charlotte, picked up Vicky, and hightailed it to Highlands in the dark. A partial, if confused, explanation of the box was provided. The ribbing about someone getting older was generous. Contrary to reality, Tom felt more like five than fifty-five. But that ominously repeating number was the subject of jokes aplenty. One of the lovelies, probably Ariana, mocked, ‘Now he’s gotta drive fifty-five.’ The rest found in mightily amusing if plausibly unrealistic.
Presently, along with a few gifts of ordinary stature and some more coffee (which one of the vixens saw fit to adulterate with Bailey’s), a short stack of birthday cards was given to the man of the morning. They opened each one and presented it to him. At last, there was but one left – one that none of his gift-wrapped captors could properly identify. Ari delved into its origins: ‘This came to you in the mail the other day in Blowing Rock. Knowing what we had planned, we thought to hide it until now. So, dear OLD Uncle Tommy, who’s Velina??’
‘Velina?’ Tom replied with mild confusion. ‘Huh?’
‘Well – hope this isn’t another special someone – let’s just see,’ Carmyn said, taking the card. ‘Velina Walker, Sealy, Texas! So, he’s got him a cowgirl!’
Through their snickers, Tom uttered, ‘Oh! Sealy. That’s got to be-’
‘Hush, boy,’ Maddie said. ‘Please continue, sweet Adrestia.’
Carmyn opened the card and read its short message aloud: ‘Dear Tom – DEAR Tom! – Thank you so very much and we welcome our partnership. Ooo, so formal, girls. As you know, this will be our first … new … mid-engine Z(?) … and we are beyond excited that it will be yours. I spoke to Mr. Hennessey and he assures you and I that twelve-hundred horsepower … will not be a problem, in fact, likely being the lower bound of what’s possible. What tha?? The CIA-connected armorer has already been in touch regarding those special modifications you mentioned. Oh, Lord. We now only await your shipment from Chevrolet. Huh? You’re going to be very pleased. So, Happy Birthday, Tom! Sincerely, Velina Walker, Hennessey Performance Corvettes.’
With blank faces and open mouths, the women passed the card around amongst themselves, along with the enclosed 2020/1 Corvette mini brochure previously enclosed. And the purchase order from Chevy marked “pre-paid.” Several mumbled either ‘oh my’ or, possibly, ‘oh shit.’
Drinking deep of the Irish-French concoction, Tom smirked, ‘Yeah. Happy birthday, me! This old man don’t drive fifty-five.’ He really don’t.
A very happy birthday to Dr. Thomas “Fast Tom” Ironsides!
It’s a little old short story, a legend of sorts.
A Short Story Teaser
Once upon a time, and it was a time very long ago, there lived a Little Old Man. It was more like fifty – sixty years ago, if that makes it a long time. Anyway the Little Old Man lived way down South. South as in down where Georgia and Florida sort of melt together in a big, steamy, pinetree-ridden swamp…
So, it was long ago and deep in the South.
The Little Old Man lived in the not-so-unpleasant little old woods near the Big Water.
More to come, here, a little later today.