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Water-burn

 

We should have been galloping on horses, their hoofprints

Splashes of light, divots kicked out of the darkness,

Or hauling up lobster pots in a wake of sparks.  Where

Were the otters and seals?  Were the dolphins on fire?

Yes, we should have been doing more with our lives.

 

Michael Longly

 

 

 

 

 Forward

 

    Paige wants to die.  This idea, according to her, is neither here nor there.  No big deal really.  After all, people die everyday: cancer, heart-attacks, strokes, car-wrecks, murder.  Paige knows she’s going to die--not the way everything is going to die in the end –Paige is going to kill herself.  Still, that’s no big deal.  People are always killing

themselves…it’s not as if some oxford button-down, Corp worker who happens to swallow a bottle of Prozac is news--even if she chokes to death on her own vomit, and it takes a week before anyone notices she’s missing.  This sort of dying wouldn’t tell the whole truth, nor merit substantial media coverage.

     The medical profile would read text-book:  forty-something white female, no family, depressed, possible drug addiction.  Toss in Daddy didn’t pay her enough attention.  Toss in alcohol dependency.  No, that wouldn’t be Paige’s style.  Typically suicides aren’t graded for form, style, or creativity, yet there should be something akin to originality in the final work –when finality is all that’s left.  There is much more to Paige than that, at least she’d like to think so. 

Toss in compulsive neurotic. 

      Paige is an introvert, a shut-in of sorts.   For Paige this all begins with a secret.  Actually, there are plenty of secrets.  That’s what she most wants to show you.  The suicide, the act, the logistics are neither here nor there.  A note would be better.  Well, not so much a note as one thinks typically of a note.  A suicide note would be too cliché for Paige.  In addition, the idea suggests a sort of plea for help, a scribble, or prayer.  No…not quite accurate in Paige’s case.

     Her story starts in a time, but not long ago.  Her story starts right now, or if not right now, then in the not-so-distant future.  Depending on when you’re reading it, she may be telling her story from beyond the grave, yet why speculate at this early stage?  The point is that Paige’s story is your story, although you could argue this point, and probably make a strong case.  Still, Paige is what happens when you wake in the middle-of-the-night and you’ve got this idea stuck in your head.

Toss in sleep deprivation.

     This sort of thing happens to all of us at some point, although we usually fall back asleep and resume our rerun lives after the alarm clock screeches us back to life some hours later.  Not always, but usually.   Sometimes in those twilight hours things can suddenly take perfect shape--the clouds part and you can see all things at once.  It’s what enlightenment would look like if such a thing were possible, at least for us non-monk population.  So then an idea is born, but maybe for Paige, idea would be the wrong word.  Initiative would be much better.  Yes, initiative--and with any initiative, it begins with a question.  However, it’s her question to ask and this is her story.  Well, not so much a story.

 

-TNPC Resistance Soldier

    

    

     What would you do if you had one year to live?  Eleven months, 30 days and 23 hours ago, Paige was faced with that same question.  She wasn’t sick in the physical sense.  Her organs weren’t dying, she wasn’t terminally-ill, and cancer wasn’t eating her innards.  Still, in many ways she was already on her way to the place where all systems die.  The 18-year-old girl was gone, and the 40-something in the mirror reflected back a washed-out replica.  When she collapsed her life like a 55-story office building, she should have been devastated.  The implosion should have left her hair plaster-white--her skin ravaged with shards of glass. 

     Not that it was really a life; it’d stopped being that after the first 25 years, the corpse of which stumbled around for the next several years doing the best it could to imitate normalcy.  The point is, we’re creatures of routine, and it becomes expected that everything will fall into place.  It’s like a movie you’ve seen a too many times.  It shutters before your eyes in slow motion, only you’re the main character, and the supporting-cast are those other vessels drifting in and out of tired scenes.  For the most part everything goes as designed –Paige finishes college, lands a gravy gig with the Corporation.  She ends up in a great apartment, with a more than adequate savings; however, for the last two years she’s been hiding a secret. 

     I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, before I start dropping dimes, there’s more you should know.  For starters, there’re the dreams.  While all of us dream, the ones Paige had were alarming in their frequency and vividness.  The dreams are always the same: she finds herself all alone, standing in the middle of a canvas painted desert.  There’s a dry-heat, although no sun is visible --only a clear, featureless sky.  Her skin is grey, but otherwise smooth; her hair a tangle of red curls.  Her figure casts no shadow, and her breasts dart from her body like pink-tipped spheres. 

     She is perfect nakedness; exposed like the sun.  A man is knelt before her in a pose of worship, and it’s clear he’s starving; he is sketched, skin and bone.  His mouth moves, yet he makes no sound.  If he did it would be low and gravely --in a language Paige wouldn’t recognize, but still understand.  She hears him, but not with ears.  It’s a prayer.  His thin hair blows about, but there’s no wind.  He says,

 “As long as I have breath, I will seek you.”   Paige realizes he can’t see her, yet he’s not blind.  She wakes in the early dawn with the sound of birds outside her windows, and the rattle of a far away locus. 

     Lying alone in bed, she wonders what God would look like.  Truthfully, she’d never bought into religion.  Freud would say that religion is a mass-defense mechanism, and that’s the best truth she could comprehend –a society-based instrument born out of fear, and a need to control the masses.  Truthfully, since the Corp took over, there’s been no need for God.  Modern man worships at the alter of Panasonic; Hewlett-Packard is its savior, and IBM its holy ghost.  Yet, in the rebirth of this new day, Paige felt God for the first time.  She also knew that in one year, she’d be dead. 

 

***

    

     Tuesday was the designated night of the poetry club, usually at the local pub, always over a couple pints.  There are the typical arguments the regulars have come to expect, and over time a bond has formed.  Out of this discussion and debate an idea is born --a question.  Can one person change the world?  If you could, how would you change it?  What would you change, and at what risk?  The Tuesday Night Poetry Club is what happens when three people emerge from the abyss of themselves, and realize they’re not alone--three people with one goal, and nothing left to lose.  For Chaz it began with an add in the back of a local poetry rag. 

     Chaz wondered who really reads poetry.  Of all the stimulation at the fingertips of modern man, who in their right mind would bother?  He dialed the number more out of curiosity than interest.  The voice that answered the phone was the softest he’d ever heard, soft like rain falling into thick grass.  He was instantly hooked, and would soon find that he wasn’t alone.  The number of TNPC members started at three, and through the first few months of meetings gradually rose to eight.  Since then the numbers have swelled quite unimaginably--pockets of resistance poets have formed across the far reaches of the Corp-State.

     Chaz contemplates metaphors for Paige as she reads poetry from a thick black anthology.  “Rain,” he thinks, “a soft pattering of words falling.” 

     Paige reads, “The times I’ve felt God, there was no bread and wine between us, only night, and the wind beating the grass.”  Paige is the best reader amongst the group, the opener and the closer of every meeting.  Paige, with her long red hair, and full build, a healthy weight that Chaz defines as a timeless voluptuousness—a Marylyn Monroe type.

     Paige is a workaholic, often at the expense of her personal needs.  She works in Human Resource for the Corp, and twice as hard as her male co-workers.  She’s got an optimistic outlook.  What she lacks in talent she makes up for in hard work.  She lives in a high rise apartment in the city; this is called Corp-Housing—where the rent is somewhat subsidized, yet not enough to upset the delicate balance of supply and demand.  She has read books on fung shui and how to make love to men.  For Paige, the answer to any of life’s questions can be found in a book--cook books, self-help, romance novels, literary fiction, etc. 

     Paige has always wanted a fire-place, but because of her small dwelling she settled for a fish-tank.  It fits nicely in her TV dinner life.  Over time she’s fallen in love with the tranquil blues and greens; the slow calm world behind smooth glass.  She has 6 fish and a fresh-water frog named Nick.  All of her fish have names, and at night she reads them Sylvia Plath.

     How her fish came to die is a mystery.  One at a time, she’d come home to find another bloated and lifeless fish floating on the surface.  Each death like a miniature tragedy –one more psychological drama, until there was only Nick--pink and energetic prancing around the watery graveyard.  Nick didn’t work for the Corp, and therefore suspect. 

     Every morning she trudges down the hall to the elevator.  She nods to the same faces she sees everyday.  Floor by floor the elevator eats more of these familiar, yet unknown neighbors.  The elevator sinks to the 1st floor and regurgitates them out into the lobby.  Through the turnstile, these neighbors spin out into the city streets, where they attend to the business of being them, whoever they are. 

     She wonders if some benevolent God watches for one to float, belly-up, to the surface.  Does he reset the PH balance with an indifferent smirk?  This is the fishbowl where Paige spends her life.

 Yet, all this was before the dreams started, before the real Paige took over.

 

***

 

     Legs has a way of cutting through the bull.  She enters the pub already engaged in conversation. 

     To her flip-phone she says, “No shit, try giving me an answer with just a small amount of relevance.”  She is a highly regarded exec of the Corp, and tenured.  She is cold calculation behind spec-rimed glasses and lipstick.  She regards the other members with an indifferent nod.  

     Her hair is light blonde with long curls that she keeps pulled back painfully against her scalp.  To her flip-phone she says, “I’m going to say this slow so that you can understand...”  Legs isn’t the kind of person who cares much what others think.  Shrewd and sarcastic, she is known, not quite affectionately, as the hatchet-lady.  This is the control she shows the world.

     The name ‘Legs’ comes from her knobby, often bruised or unshaven knees--coupled with her resolve to wear short skirts.  That she thinks it sprung from her ability to perform the tough “leg” work for the group, is just as well.  To the disapproving looks of others at the table, Legs rolls her eyes.  Inside her head, the gears are in constant motion; analyzing, probing, and measuring. 

     She sees a pureness and cleanness in an organized life.  In her pent-house apartment there are files, foot-notes, sticky notes, labels.  The books in her library are alphabetically aligned.  In her under-garment drawer are perfect rows of panties folded in six inch squares.  In her refrigerator are containers labeled “Milk, OJ, Tea (unsweetened).   What Legs calls her brain, is a personal organizer that stands as a testament to systematic living.  Each hour of each day is dutifully accounted for.  In the square block for today is neatly penned, “Tuesday Night Poetry Club, 0700, East IBM Tavern.”  To her flip-phone she says, “This conversation is terminated,” and slaps it closed. 

     For Legs the dreams come every night; she’s back in school and can’t find a report that is suddenly due.  She knows it’s completed, but somehow misplaced.  Her fingers flip from file to file.  Suddenly, she’s late for class, and can’t remember the room number.  Then panic!  Her perfect world comes unraveled.  She’s running naked and vulnerable, down the school hallways, up and down stairs.  The control she shows the world, vanished. 

 

***

 

     Across the table Chaz recites William Carlos Williams from memory.  His words roll along with the nervous energy that drives him: 

     “At ten A.M. the young housewife moves about in negligee behind the wooden walls of her husband’s house,” he says, “I pass solitary in my car.”  Chaz is a third generation record-store keeper.  His mother willed him into business --one of the few loopholes to get around working for the Corp.  Under rules of agreement he can never upgrade, or alter his inventory in any way.  He’s stuck forever selling out-dated vinyl. 

     To his customers, he’s a trusted authority.  As he categorizes dusty album-covers they come seeking advice.  While Billy Holiday’s, Heart and Soul crackles over the stores sound system, Chaz is telling a business-man that he can’t do better than Coke for long term Corp. stocks.  Sweeping the floor, he’s telling a housewife that too many abstractions will kill her poetry.  He advises a teenage girl to not have sex with current boyfriend.  Into the faded antique store-phone he orders his broker to dump ten-thousand shares of Corp H.P stock, and advises him to switch to synthetic-oil once his Jag reaches 30,000 miles.  Standing near-by is a used-car salesman, whom he lectures on market clumsiness,

     “Dude, the trick,” he says, “is to stick and move, and whatever you do…don’t get caught up in the gears of the mechanism.”   Chaz’s considerable personal wealth is nothing he advertises.

 “Then again she comes to the curb to call the ice-man, fish-man, and stands shy, uncorseted, tucking in stray ends of hair, and I compare her to a fallen leaf.” 

     His house is small, and like Chaz, eclectic in what it portrays:  yard-sale art, books stacked on milk-crates --this is what Chaz shows the world.  Chaz doesn’t own a TV.     “Corp. advertisements,” he tells a brick mason, “kills creativity.”  He doesn’t own a car.  Sitting on a stack of pallets that functions as a coffee table is his hitchhiking journal: 

May 29, Raining-Dude looks like David Bowie, Dog-possible Shepard mix-tried to hump leg-advised unexpected flower delivery to his wife’s work-place to spice sex-life.

     Chaz lives in a world of thought and idea, chaotic images, and ramblings.

“The noiseless wheels of my car rush with a crackling sound over dried leaves as I bow and pass smiling.”  His mind is like a monkey constantly swinging from one tree to the next, vine after vine.  Caffeine, like blood, courses though his body, and only with exhaustion, does he surrender to sleep, and the dreams that always come. 

 

***

 

     In the dim light of the East IBM Tavern Paige nurses a white Russian.  The trio sits at a wooden table in a far corner of the tavern.  On the rough-cut floor boards are peanut shells and cigarette butts.  At the bar, only a spattering of people remain.  These are what’s known in the industry as ‘hard-drinkers’—the bread and butter of any tavern.  The bartender pours a line of vodka shots, and speaks to an intoxicated patron who leans into her words as if they’re the most important thing he’s ever heard.

     Framed above the bar is a long line of black and white pictures; a ring-of-fame of sorts, honoring a selection of time-tested alcoholics.  Call it a goal.  The bartender pulls her hair free, un-tucks her white shirt before ringing a bell that signifies last-call. In the backmost area of the tavern, a young punk band belts out the last in a long line of incoherent sets. 

     Paige looks across the table at Legs and Chaz.  She fingers at the small red straw that sticks from her drink.  “We’re getting near the point of no return with this thing,” she says, “If you’re having second thoughts…”

     Chaz says, “This may be the beer talking, but I crossed the point a long time ago.  Whatever lies ahead I’m committed.” 

     “You should be,” Legs says, “…committed that is.”  She pulls hard on her beer and knocks it down against the table with emphases, “I’m in--turns out I don’t have anything better to do with my time.” 

     “I guess busting my balls isn’t adequate emotional fulfillment,” Chaz says. 

     “Seriously,” says Paige, “What I’m asking of you is huge.  There’s a good chance none of us make it through this in one piece.” 

     “I’m in,” Legs says, “and screw you Chaz.” 

      “I would take you up on that,” he says, “albeit I may be a tad too intoxicated.”  With that the trio raise there drinks, and clank in agreement. 

     Paige lights a cigarette and says, “Ok then, from here out we’re using real bullets.” 

 

***

 

     Even before the government crashed, Jon Payton had seen the writing on the wall.  Sitting in his high-rise office, Jon peers at a picture of a young soldier.  The one they call Anti-Christ, is a young Army recruit, age 18.  In the group of soldiers, he’s a faceless, nameless identity.  Too poor to attend college, he clawed his way out the only way he could, to save the only life he could save.  A trained air-craft mechanic, he touched down in Iraq prepared to do his job.  Instead, civilian contractors were repairing his planes, and making $160,000 a year to do a job he’d do for free.  This was when 160K was a lot of bones.  Instead of fixing planes, he spent 18 months patrolling a plot of desolate desert on the outskirts of Baghdad. 

     What Jon observed were American oil companies getting rich on the backs of the poor.  The recruiters had targeted Jon, and others who couldn’t afford to escape the economic wasteland.  For Jon, even community college wasn’t an option.  It seemed clear to him that those who control the resources are the ones with true wealth.  A penniless boy squatting on a ripped burlap sand-bag, watched the sun descend from a perfect sky, and had an epiphany.  In a handful of dust, he saw America as a malfunctioning corporation that only he could save. 

     He would find that even for the highly motivated, nothing in life is easy.  With his stint in the military over, Jon had drifted in and out of meaningless jobs.  He pushed himself through night-school, without doubt that one day his opportunity would come.  He landed an entry level position in a local stock-broker’s office.  It was in that dingy office late one evening that Jon found the gift that would eventually trigger the end of the world as he knew it –penny stocks. 

     The blue screen flashed numbers in front of his face that danced against the nicotine stained walls.  He watched snake-like as the ticker price streamed.  He moved the curser over the BUY button and let it hover in small circles like a blind mosquito.  With his trembling index finger he slowly pushed down until--click--his meager savings were riding on the hope of a broken company…a company the corporate-world had long since plundered.  John didn’t sleep that night.

    

***

 

     “How do you kill a living thing?” Chaz asks the gathering.  He swallows hard to keep his voice from cracking, “That’s what we’re up against in this revolution, if you can call it that,” A small smile forms on his lips, “Us poets, we vagabonds…”  In the back-room of the record shop tables are lined 3 across 4 deep-grey metal fold up chairs pushed tightly together, but no one is sitting.  “Dudes, in the coming days and weeks we will chop the head off the snake that strangles us!”  The crowd chants, “Off with its head! Off with its Head!”   A smallish woman with a tight black mini-skirt and knobby-knees works her way up to the podium.  Chad regards her with a quiet smile and takes a step to the rear. 

     Around the table nearest to the front are the Corp lottery winners, decked out in black Armani, and a quiet confidence behind their soft tinted glasses.  These so-called winners were issued lucky numbers by the TNPC hierarchy, and instructed on how much, and what they would spend their winnings.  They drive Lexus and BMWs –surround themselves with the typical merchandise the Corp would expect of ‘down and outs’ who suddenly come into money.  They were carefully selected for their militancy to the TNPC. 

     The Corp has nurtured the lottery --another way to exploit the mass heard.  They have calculated that the average lottery winner will go bankrupt within three years.  The TNPC trained their selected winners to spend with the intent of meeting Corp expectation.  Not raising suspicion is the key.  How members of the TNPC come into winning lottery numbers is a mystery, except to the founders.  Rumors persist about dreams and visions, but all anyone really knows is that they’re freedom fighters of the highest order, and that’s all that seems to matter. 

     Legs says, “The head of this snake is its production and communication systems.  It’s really that simple.  As you know, purchasing interest in the resources has been cut of for the past three decades.  Unfortunately, there is no civil-manner to eradicate the evil that prevails.  At the given time we will rip from our wrists the computer-chips that regulate our lives, which buy our groceries, and contain our bank balances.”  Her voice fades slightly as if considering the idea for the first time.

     “The buildings of production will be torched.  There will be casualties on both sides --many will die, make no mistake.  The International Army of the Corp. will be bribed, along with other key personnel.  Greed, ladies and gentleman, holds no loyalty.  Communication will be terminated, the enemy disorientated. His ability to organize resistance will be compromised.  We’ll have 24 hours,” she says, her lips tight, her voice sharp with intent, “If we don’t succeed, we loose the element of surprise, and the resistance will be crushed.”  With that silence fills the room.  Legs steps away from the podium. 

    

***

 

     Communication for TNPC is hand to hand transfer of poetry rags.  Within the prose and poetry are coded prophesies, black-light notes, Captain Crunch spy ink.  Within the conflicted verse of Sylvia Plath is Chaz’s reminder to “Damn, the Man!”  Electronic or phone communication is forbidden in the TNPC.  Members are screened prior to initiation, and all references are provided by word-of-mouth.  Hidden in the text of the Wallace Stevens poem, Thirteen ways to kill a Blackbird, are the applications for 10 new members. 

     Flying under the Corp radar is a constant struggle--all means of communication is Corp regulated: phone-lines, internet, Corp international postal networks.  In the name of international interest, privacy is exploited to its fullest extent.  Utter the wrong key words during a phone conversation and you’ll have a late night visit from men in black clothes and semi-automatic rifles.  Freedom of the press is of course, guaranteed --guaranteed to land you in a dark place without windows. 

     For the past 30 years the borders of the former United-States have been closed, local and state governments discontinued.  What remains of the former federal government is a plastic shell replica.  What natural-born citizens get is a substantial yearly payment from Corp gross profits, no taxes and free medical/dental.  Unemployment is all but non

existent since the Corp took power.  Education is funded by the corp.  Children learn to count with Campbell soup cans, administrators are Coke execs.

     Those living outside the empire are virtual slaves in their own lands, farmed like cows to support the Corp’s empire, milked for the meager resources they provide.  Think host/parasite relationship.  Think cattle farms.  The Corp-State extends throughout the Americas, Canada, most of Europe, and China.  Currently, the Corp is more pervasive than the Roman Empire at its height.  The Corp-State feeds like cancer--it’s absolute-power in a pre-wrapped package.   It’s take over was so smooth that you never felt it happening, it just did.  Those who control the resources make the rules, and the man who makes the rules is Jon Payton. 

 

***

 

     Killing the Government was Jon’s baby.  He viewed it as an unnecessary middle-man –another hurdle, another hand to pay off.  What Jon realized that no politician ever could was that the real power of the former US was the working-class.  His pledge was that every natural born American would get a yearly profit check in excess of 100K…quadruple social-security.

     He promised that every child would have universal health care, he promised education.  Jon delivered too.  In its acquisition of foreign lands, the Corp-State never fired a bullet.  The Corp appealed to a universal greed, and greed succeeded.  The Corp assumed control of the Fed and its banking infrastructure.  The Corp eradicated the IRS, and murdered its officers by way of midnight firing-squads. 

     When the market opened the next day Jon was waiting by his computer screen in a state of panic.  Perhaps he could sell off immediately with minimal loss.  Yes, he thought, minimize the loss and move on.  To his surprise his stock purchase has opened .10 cents higher.  He waited a little longer…15 cents, then .20.  Ten minutes before closing the stock had risen .50 cents.  In one day Jon had made over 12K. 

     That night before closing he’d placed another buy order.  At weeks end Jon had 43K sitting in his stock account.  Within a year he was a million-air, within ten years a billion-air, and a major blue-chip holder.  Think snowball effect.  Jon continued to live modestly—a modern day Thoreau with an agenda.  In the world of business he became known as a killer, a corporate mercenary.   Think Gordon Gekko.  Think, “Greed, ladies and gentlemen, for lack of a better word, is good.”  Jon’s hostile market takeover wouldn’t end until he was the majority holder in every market that mattered.    

 

***

 

     Paige’s job at the Corp allowed her certain inside information.  Her background in personnel allowed her top-notched methods of recruitment.  To Paige there was little doubt that God was speaking to her through the dreams.  Still, before she commenced with the business of crucifixion, there was a job to do.  A mission in the name of all that remains true, in a place where truth is irreverent.  The truth is that if all this seems hard to swallow--difficult to wrap your brain around—then yes, that much is apparent.  It seemed far fetched, even for Paige, until she found out about the gift.  Then it seemed completely absurd.

     Unable to sleep, she finds herself at one of those 24 hour convenient stores.  Even under the Corp-State these places are still somehow controlled by foreigners.  She’s about to buy a pack of menthol cigarettes, because she’s dying anyway.  She stands exposed under those flickering florescent lights, and finds herself unexpectedly asking the Indian fellow behind the register for a lottery-ticket.  The next day she’s chain-smoking and drinking coffee, reading a poetry anthology, when she decides to check her numbers.  Not only do my numbers match, but they’re in the right order.  She was a winner of fifty-million dollars, but the funny part is she’s not even surprised. 

     What does surprise her is that she’s able to repeat it.  The only problem with this apparent gift is she’s not able to claim any of the money.  Winners are carefully scrutinized by the Corp, and that’s business she can’t risk.  Her idea is to create a way to enlist others to accept this money, and carefully skim the funds required to wage war.  This money, created by greed, would be used to destroy its maker, and fund an underground revolution.  The revolution would count on the Corps ability to manufacture greed, to own, but never create -- to enslave but never make. 

     To carry out the mission she’d need free thinkers; however, in the year 2060 this is no easy task.  The Corp-State has systematically killed the need for individualism.  What happened was, one day she’s at the book-store perusing the magazine racks, when she comes across a local poetry magazine.  She thinks that any poet worth his/her salt should have compulsive thinking issues.  Like her, these would be tortured souls: blind mice in a maze.  She understands these poets will be her soldiers, and she places an add. 

     From this small add advertising a poetry discussion group, Paige receives a dozen phone calls.  Of all these replies there are two that stand out.  The first to get her attention is this quirky Corp-executive who insists on giving twelve different ways to organize a poetry group.  This lady, Legs, tells her that it’s important to have an agenda.  She tells her it’s important to take roll.  “If this thing’s worth doing,” she’s tells Paige, “it’s worth doing right.” 

     Then there’s Chaz, rambling on nervously --nearly incoherent, yet there’s this indescribable wisdom about him.  When he talks it seems as though Paige has known him for years, and she feels an overwhelming attraction that she can’t explain.  As time slips away, she finds herself asking his advice.  He tells her his mom was a clairvoyant who died during childbirth, and he never knew his father.  He tells her about his record-store and interest in investing.  His excitement grows noticeably when the subject of literature comes up. 

     “Poetry,” he’s telling Paige, “is the only pure form of expression left.  Any major sociological change that can occur will only occur through poetic expression.”  He advises her to hold the meetings in a casual atmosphere, a place where beer will be plentiful.  He’s tells her that if he ever has to listen to another teen-age angst poem, or housewife love poem --he’ll stab a fork into his eye-ball.  Through the phone line she feels his erratic heart-beat, and his pacing thought mechanism.  She tells Chaz where they’ll meet, she tells him, “See you there,” and narrowly stops herself from telling him, “I love you.”

 

***

 

     Of the three founders of the TNPC, Paige is the silent leader.  For Chaz, the dreams he’d had all his life, stop the day he meets her.  Whatever the dreams are telling him, he would find the answers through her.  Paige, the introverted figure who says she’s on a one year suicide mission to bring down the Corp.  The spiritual leader of a resistance, who says the path to truth, comes through living.  To Chaz--a very unlikely woman to fall in love with. 

     To the multitudes of TNPC members, the real message of Paige comes through Chaz and Legs.  To them, Paige takes on the persona of a biblical figure, while Chaz and Legs labor as prophets.  Through Chaz, they learn of the dreams, her ability to pick winning lottery numbers, and the philosophy of living.  In the musical rhythms of Poe, they read Paige’s hidden message to live your life like a poem…that every stanza should be distilled to its purest marrow.  They learn that the only true things in life are the events happening in the moment; that we are more than our job, more than the car we drive. 

     Through Legs, Paige outlines the destruction of mankind; the cool, efficient methods to bring an empire to its knees.  In the margins of, The Waking, by Theodore Roethke, they learn how to make home made explosive devices, magnesium bombs triggered by trip-wire, napalm.  Through the distilled beauty of poetry, they learn the brutal realities of war.  They learn that the time of revolution is upon them. 

 

***

 

     The morning the bombings start there is no coverage on the Corp controlled television networks.  What they show are the same sitcoms, with the same lovable characters, living within the Corp-State.  What they see are commercials that promote consumerism, an underlining message that life is so much sweeter with a hand held personal computer by IBM.  However, within the internet chat rooms, college campuses, neighborhoods, and office buildings, there’s a buzz.  There are rumors of buildings collapsing at Corp headquarters, communication networks failing, virus corruptions within Corp infrastructures. 

     By noon there’s some confirmation of activity.  The stories that stream in are increasingly fantastical.  The Federation Armies turn in on themselves, cities turn into war-zones.  Militias rise up out of the dust of the earth to imprison executives, take command of radio networks that broadcasted news of a revolution.  Clips of painted faced people begin appearing on high-jacked television reciting poetry and making demands of Corp elite.  One such soldier holds up the decapitated head of Corp officer and shouts, “Two paths diverged in the wood …this guy chose the wrong one!” 

     In a black armored SUV, Chaz and Legs travel through Corp City, the former home of the American government.  Through tinted windows they see panic and desperation: citizens run manic through the street, rioting, and looting.   In the sky above, military aircraft engage in aerial dog-fights; F-16’s bomb office buildings, bridges, and industrial barges.  “Eight hours and counting,” Legs says.  “Reports show that at least 75 percent of communication was severed in the first few hours.” 

     Across the seat Legs eyes Chaz.  While she normally represses feelings of physical attraction, she finds herself suddenly irresistibly aroused.  Not with his simplistic philosophies, or smart-assed wit, but the way conflict and confidence run through his thoughts like opposing poles of magnetism.  In an instant she knows what she must do, and what the dreams have been telling her.  Chaz is her missing assignment, her lost classroom down unknown corridors. 

     To Chaz she says, “Have you ever had to do something, even though there’s nothing logical in the action?” 

Chaz considers the question, but before he can finish Legs moves across the seat and pushes her mouth to his.  Her small body presses him against the back of his seat.  Her knees, the pale white sheen of death, part around him like bruised vice-grips.  The hot breath in his ear says,

      “You’re going to do this for me...”  The hot wetness of her tongue slides inside his ear.  He wants to pull away, but can’t.  The breath says, “Surrender.”

     “I think you’ve finally slipped over the edge,” he mumbles.  She holds him rigid as her petite body moves with an increasing momentum.  In her rhythms is the intensity of a scared girl--with each kiss, another confession--each current raging, another sin washes away.  Chaz unclips her hair; watches it fall in whispery piles.  He runs his hands up her back and weaves his fingers into the long blonde strands.  He pulls down, exposing her pale white neck—kissing her hard as she collapses against him. The breath in his ear says, “Thank you.”

     “Whatever,” he says, but holds her delicate weight to him, kisses the damp crease of her collar-bone.

     The SUV makes its way through shell-pocked craters where roads used to be.  In front of the SUV runs a man with a replica of Van Gogh’s Self Portrait.  Chaz realizes that it’s no replica.  For the past several hours the museums have stood unguarded; vulnerable to looting, and indiscriminate pyromania.  Ahead and behind their SUV is a twisting convoy of TNPC resistance warriors.  To the encrypted radio Chaz pants, “We’re about five minutes out, depending on traffic,” and chuckles despite himself.  The future from here is the former White House, and the final confrontation with its leader, Jon Payton. 

 

***

 

     On the morning of March 29th 2060 Jon wakes to the sound of a cruise-missile.  Within seconds there’s an earth shaking explosion that he would later find out was the west end of the Corp Compound facility.  Within seconds his bodyguards and staff drag him down into the far underworld of the former White house.  He’s ushered into a cramped control room where he’s briefed on the attacks against the Corp-State.  What he isn’t expecting is the depth of the penetration. 

     In the boardroom of his underground bunker they tell him that communication has been severed.  From the Head of Intelligence, he learns that his intelligence office was able to decipher some enemy transmissions.

“Sir, the enemy, using the code name, Tuesday Night Poetry Club, is working out of East IBM territories.  The leader of the resistance is some nut-job named Paige.  Apparently she’s a personnel director out of Corps eastern branch. We have her in custody and transferring her for interrogation.” 

     The intelligence officer tells Jon that China territories are largely untouched, and offensive measures have been initiated.  “Troops are being mobilized and support will come in the way of Stealth gun-ships, cargo-aircraft packed with soldiers, and of course, logistic support.”  What’s bothering Jon is how these self-described poets were able to move about and organize under his nose.  Why hadn’t his monitoring systems detected a large build up of weaponry and communication that it would take to arrange such an offensive?  What Jon understands is that the prophesies of his dreams are becoming reality. 

 

***

 

     As planned, the Corp finds her first.  Paige sits at her coffee table watching a DVD of an old television program called Gilligan’s Island.  She had watched the entire first season and smoked two packs of Salem cigarettes when they burst through the door.  As expected the men wear black fatigues, riot gear, M16 assault riffles.  “All this for little me,” is what she says. 

     From her television set the Skipper says, “Little buddy, what have you done?  Now we’ll never be rescued.”  This is what’s going through her mind as they push her against the wall, frisk their way up the insides of her thighs, check her bra for weaponry. 

     As they’re pushing her into an unmarked Corp van, one of the men in black says, “You’re in a lot of trouble!”  To this Paige can’t help but laugh.  She stops when a dull blow to the side of her temple knocks her unconscious.  As the men in black rush her towards the heart of former District of Columbia, what they don’t know is that there is a latex push-button sown into the sleeve of her blouse--that weaved into the fabric of Paige’s shirt is enough micro-fiber explosive to incinerate three city blocks. 

 

***

 

     The building previously known as the White house is surrounded two city blocks deep with men in riot gear and automatic weapons.  Legs watches them from a closed network on the wide screen TV mounted in the back of the SUV.  Into the hand radio she says, “On my command…”  She pauses, squints at the television set as if waiting for just the right moment.  To Chaz the men below look like a swarm of bees, a moving mass forming one creature. 

     “In the name of all the beauty in the world,” he whispers. 

     “Now,” Legs says without detectable emotion.  From over a mile away mortars are loaded and release with a dull thud.  Within seconds the perimeters of the Corp building is a graveyard.  Those who survive wish they hadn’t.  The convoy arrives unmolested and Chaz steps out of the SUV.  The air smells like gun-powder and burning flesh. 

     “So, this is what Armageddon feels like,” he says in a low voice to Legs. 

     “Stay on your guard,” Legs spits through her teeth, and then winks as she marches past him toward the steps. 

     A young resistance soldier says, “It’s ok Sir, today we become Americans for the first time.”  Chaz looks up at the burning relic of the White House and walks towards the destiny of his dreams. 

 

***

 

     Chaz’s shoes click against the stone-polished surface of the East hallway.  Up ahead is Legs, clad in a tight cammo halter-top and black mini-skirt--a submachine gun strapped around her back.  There are more shots fired as she commands the troops like a seasoned General.  Outside the control-room the inner circle of Jon Payton’s Corp-State are waiting, and predictably they offer no resistance.  Legs and Chaz descend the stairs into the secret war room where Jon Payton waits. 

     On the far side of the room is Paige, with a large bruise on the side of her face.  She sits with her face held in her hand, her bright green eyes sparkling.  She takes a long drag of her cigarette, stamps it out, and smiles at Chaz. 

     “It’s good to see you,” he says.  Paige gives him a quiet nod, and a raises her eyebrows fractionally.  Earlier, the Corp intelligence experts verified her claims that she’s a walking time bomb.  In effect, Jon Payton and the inner circle of the Corp have become Paige’s hostages.  Jon Payton’s eyes are narrow like two bloody slits. 

     “Blow us up if you want,” he says, “The Chinese Block is untouched, and within hours it’ll crush you.” 

      “Dude, you honestly believe we didn’t plan for that?” Chaz says with a wry smile.

      “Things aren’t always what they seem.  Like you, young man, there is more than meets the eye.  Who would believe that you, Chaz, are the quietest multi-million-air in the East-Block?  Who, besides me, could know that you have the gift?” 

      “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Chaz replies.

      “I’ve expected this day to come.  When you can write your own check, well now, there isn’t a whole lot you can’t accomplish.  My question to you is –what took you so long?” 

      “How do you know these things?”  Chaz feels his face redden.

      “I’ve known all along, and I could have had you killed, had I not thought you’re worth the trouble.  You see, this is all about destiny.  I know these things Chaz, cause I have the same gift.  I know this because you’re my son.”  With that Chaz staggers back.  The voices in his head, vie for reason.  Because he doesn’t know what else to do, Chaz pulls the 9mm tucked into the back of his pants, and presses it to Jon’s temple. 

     Jon laughs deep, “In a big way, I created your little poetry club.  Understand Chaz, that all this is predetermined.”  Behind the steel blue eyes of Jon Payton, there is no trace of emotion.  “Rather you like it or not --you’ll eventually rule this empire, the son who killed the father.  I know this Chaz, because you know this, because the dreams told us so.”

Because Chaz doesn’t know what else to do, he pulls the trigger.

 

***

 

     The hatchet-lady has her finger on the button, doing what she knew has to be done.  It was then that Chaz’s words from earlier ring in her head,

      “In the name of all the beauty in the world.”  She knows these words from a poem by Dennis O’Driscoll that Chaz had recited at the first meeting of TNPC. 

      “When I must kill a piglet,” she whispers, “I hesitate a while.  For about five or six seconds.  In the name of all the beauty in the world.  In the name of all the sadness of the world.  What’s keeping you, someone bursts in then. 

Or I burst in on myself.”

With that Legs pushes the button that incinerates China.  The TNPC had left China out of their offensive plans, because the sheer number of bodies would have overcome the resistance within days.  One hundred years after the Korean War, Legs has just accomplished General Macarthur’s plan of sending China into nuclear holocaust.   Outside the skies are quiet, and on the war-torn wreckage of the Whitehouse lawn the founding members of the TNPC do what no person has done for 30 years.  They raise an American flag. 

        

 ***

 

     Across the table Legs watches Chaz with a look of bemused anxiety.  Within her tiny body, his son is already growing.  He knows this because Legs knows this, and the dreams have told them as much.  Jammed into the bar are other members of the TNPC who’ve been celebrating their freedom for the better part of the week.  Yet like a wind-damaged ant farm, the world has already begun to rebuild itself.  A new democratic government is already being implemented into the reformed United States.  The first American President of the new age will be a woman, as Legs is the uncontested front runner to assume interim duties of the office. 

     As for Chaz, he stands at the forefront of a crumbled empire that the prophesies have determined he’ll one day rule.  What he’ll likely do is move out to the woods, and live the life of a simple man.  He’ll write his Walden and cliché’ riddled poetry about the woman he loves.  According to Chaz, in freedom there is wealth, and in wealth there is peace.  Only one at peace can express true love.  This was something his father could never understand, yet understood that limitation.  In the end, Chaz believes, it’s possible that Jon Payton understood everything perfectly well. 

     A hush falls through the pub as a national broadcast is starting.  Live from the Oval Office is the woman he loves. 

      “What would you do if you had one year to live.  Eleven months 29 days and 23 hours ago I was faced with that same question.  For the moment,” she says, “I sit as queen of a broken State…a State of greed that was destined to end in abandonment.  Today is the rebirth of a brave new world.  Rest assured that in the millenniums that follow, I’ll be with you in heart to revel in your success –to weep at your misfortune. 

     I challenge you, in the course of your thin blue days, to not forget to live.  When in the end, living is all that matters.”  She ends with a quote from the Canadian poet, Alden Nowlan.

“This is what I wanted to

 sign off with.  Bend

 closer, listen, I love you.” 

With that Paige takes a deep drag on her cigarette, runs her fingers through her hair then pushes the button sown to the inside of her jacket.  The screen fades to black. 

FW Morris