Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Train

Moving city to city in the darkness.  Quiet night, only the sleeping fellow passengers.  A few others stayed up late, casting pools of yellow light from the overhead lamp.  They don't concern me.  Only the darkness between towns.  Every now and then, glimpses of humanity flash past in the darkness, every now and then a small town is passed through - a lonely constellation of blue and yellow lights marking the tiny miracles of life.

Soon we pass through the big city.  Graffiti and garbage line the track and hide in the shadows of fluorescent light cast by the platforms.  The train waits for its lonely cargo and a few lost souls leave the train and shuffle off to the beating heart of the city.

And the train moves again.  The city is left behind, like a sunset of crystal spires to be engulfed in darkness in stars.  I leave the window and move to the dining car.  Here, old coffee, stale cigarettes and broken souls haunt the yellow-lit car.  No one speaks.  Some do talk - noises shaped like words about the weather and the next destination - but no one is trying to make a connection.

Morning comes with the next great metropolis.  There's time to leave for a while.  The track gleams dully in the dawn while the city finally sleeps.  I see mountains in the distance and stare blankly as the wind blows my hair.  Old memories, real or a dream, are what I see.

Back to the train, to sleep.  While moving from city to city, in darkness.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

For Memorial Day, A Picture My Dad Took In Vietnam

Friday, May 22, 2015

No Sanction

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

George Washington

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Fantasy

Dolan Orlaff was new to The Goldenwood.  He'd heard about it - who hadn't?  It was where King Baden kept his throne thanks to both the spirits and Goldenwood Keep.  Orlaff himself came from the rolling plains of the north.  He had a typical north plains countenance, tall and blonde, and an atypical north plains ambition.  He'd studied for, and passed, the trials to join His Majesty's Guard at the Goldenwood Keep itself and was on his way to report for his new post.

Travelling on the main road, he saw a group of mages off in woods nearby, casting their magics in what Orlaff thought might be some spell to grow trees or some such.  He'd never been at ease with spellcrafters of any sort and never put much thought into what they did.  The physical world mattered more than dreams and enchantments could to him.  And it mattered all the more when he realized how late it was getting.  He picked up his pace and hoped to make it soon to Addington, the town below the Keep. 

Just as the sun began to set he came upon the outskirts of the town.  It was different than Gideon's Hitch, the largest plains-town.  The were comparable in size, but Addington seemed richer somehow.  Of course, you fool, Orlaff swore silently it is where those who seek the King out would go.  He prayed to the spirits that he wouldn't miss the obvious that badly again.  Especially where others could hear.

He passed through the town and made his way to the Keep, stopping only briefly to reflect - well, here I am, one journey ended and a new one begun.  He approached the gate and was stopped.

"Halt!  State your business"  said the guard.

"I am Dolan Orlaff and I am here to join the guards."

"And your proof of this?"  The guard asked in a manner indicating that he needed to ask this often and was bracing for the worst.

Orlaff produced the seal he'd been given by the recruiting officer in North Plains.  The guard examined it closely and handed it back.  With a gesture, he summoned an underling.  "Logis, take a message to the Guard Captain that - what was your name?"

"Dolan Orlaff, sir"

"- Dolan Orloff is here to report."  He turned back to Orlaff and stayed silent, as if waiting to strike.  The messenger returned with a strip of parchment and another seal.  The guard read it and dismissed the messenger.

"May I enter, sir?"

"Not tonight.  There has been some difficulty and the Guards can't take you in tonight.  I am to give you this"  he handed over the seal "use this at the Red Dwarf Inn, in town for food and lodging - keep it reasonable, mind - and report here at midday."

Death of A Patriot

"Well, we found it."  Miles said.

"Excellent!"  Bob said.  He'd settled into his hotel room as Miles,  Mac and Ursula, accompanied by a select team of engineers armed with ground penetrating radar and picks found The Box, which Miles placed on the mirror desk.

"Now we go home?"  Miles asked hopefully.

"Soon.  First, sit down, have a drink."  Bob said.  It was only after Miles sat and had a glass (Wild Turkey, what else?) that he came down from his natural frustration at dealing with German bureaucrats that he noticed something...off about Bob.  Furthermore, he noticed just how much booze was gone.

"Everything okay Bob?"  Miles asked.

"Did I ever tell you about how I got into this business, Miles?"

"Not once, Bob."  Miles said, dreading the dreary, maudlin flag-waving he saw coming but seeing no polite way to avoid it.  Bob never spoke of his past, parents or any possible siblings.  It was almost as if he came into the world from nothing.

"I bet you think I was born rich, don't you?"  He asked, pointing a shaky finger at Miles.  "The right family, the right place, the right schools and so on...right?"

"Kind of..."

"That's bullshit.  My parents were poor, my Dad was a goddamned drunk and Mom was a nutcase.  When I was 10, the bastard bought an enormous TV, real fancy for the time.  And then, when he sobered up and got drunk again he beat mom for 'making him' waste his money and left.  Gone!  Never saw him again and the bastard wasn't missed.

Mom lost it after that.  My older brother had to drop out of school and I almost did too.  I did odd-jobs even so but Dave - my brother - demanded that I stay in.  So I did, but whenever I could spare the time I'd watch that TV.  There was the world I wanted, everyone believed, everyone was honest - I could count on them and I wanted to be like that instead of what people in real life were. 

But it was the government that attracted me the most.  Don't look at me like that Miles.  Whenever they were on TV or in the movies...well, you could count on them!  They were all neat and clean and people looked up to them.  I saw what was happening to Dave - he was slowly turning into my dad.  I could see it starting and at that I swore I would never be like that.  And becoming a G-Man was, I thought, my only alternative.  So, that's the path I took.  I read everything I could get my hands on about how they looked and how to emulate that look about what I needed to join the FBI before I decided on getting into the CIA instead.

But something happened along the way, Miles.  I started to believe.  I believed everything the US stood for, I believed that the US of A, that the government, was right, that it was something to sacrifice for, hell, I started to believe that the country and the government were the same thing.  Then, the sixties and the seventies and even the eighties happened.  The personal ideal was an evil, it was the enemy.  There was a brief respite during the early 80's, of course.  By the 90's?  I was a relic, irrelevant.  Seen as a specter of some twisted ideal of lawful evil by some, laughed at as a reactionary leftover by everyone else."

"Bob, what's in the box?"  Miles asked, hoping to focus Bob on the here and now.

"Do you really want to know?"  Bob asked in return.

"No, not really."  Miles said slowly.  "I'm sorry Bob, but I really don't care at all.  After 30 years, I don't know why anyone would.  I'm only here because you forced me over here.  I never cared very much at all.  Oh, I though we were the good guys and the Russians were the bad guys but it never hit me as deep as it did you.  It was just a job.  So, whatever's in that box has no meaning for me.  I don't care if it's Brezhnev's personal recipe for borsch Reagan wanted swiped, and, considering how well the world has gone on without it, I don't think anyone else cares either.

Shit, Bob, you know as well as I do that by that time the Cold War was some bullshit game between Us and Them.  So was what we did.  We were spying on them and they were spying on us, both sides knew about the other.  It was, on our level, a game."

Bob was silent for a while.  "Miles," he said at last "come back here tomorrow and I'll give you the next briefing on where we go from here - and where you go."

"Now wait just a damn-"

"Calm down, this involves you going back to the states and then leaving this all behind, so don't panic."  Bob said placatingly, "You know the government never moves fast.  Get some sleep and be back here at 11."

At breakfast, while Miles wondered how old he'd gotten to feel so bad after only a few drinks Ursula walked past, waving and giving a smile that looked somewhere between seduction and revulsion.  He knew that what happened last night both men would take to their graves.

Only Bob wouldn't need to wait long.  Ursula dashed back down and called for the police.  The Patriot was no more.