Listening to: Save Me, The Rigs
Drinking: Delator, Malbec, Argentina
There’s been a lull in the writing that started during the holidays. Not writer’s block—if I open enough documents I’m working on, I can find something to expand—but more like I don’t want to get on my computer to start. More like, I’d rather read Jennifer Egan or binge watch Fargo. My motivation to write has been zeroed out and, if it wasn’t for writers’ workshop, I’d be hardly working at all.
Same with queries. This publisher wants first 10, that agent wants first 50. A synopsis that’s a long paragraph of 1500 words. A bio, three recent authors I’m emulating, my marketing plan for the work I’m pitching, email or online form, it’s all so depressing. I’d rather read and get lost than deal with that shit.
This excerpt is at the end of chapter four, a dialog between two fascist white supremacists.
Since it was the business of Pogoners to know everyone else’s business, it was no secret the Colonel had succeeded in recruiting one soldier—Officer Randal Ossifer.
“What do you think of the hippie scum ruinin this town? Our criminal spick mayor? Faggots and communists ruinin everything?” Randal’s arm poked out of the window of his cruiser, a tube of ash drooping toward countless butts in the rocks below.
“And he deceives those who dwell on the earth,” the Colonel intoned, “by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.”
“Whatever you said. Now, are you going to answer my question?”
“Of course, it upsets me. As a heterosexual White male, as a Christian. But I’m thinking of the big picture, a real America where the sanctified rule over the subhumans who enrich them. You know, Adam Smith. The way Jesus meant it to be.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I think you think you’re going to take over the country. Good luck with that. Maybe you should start small, though. Consider starting with the town and work up from there.”
“Son, God wants the Holy Spirit at war, not messing with the sinful business of politics. Evil must be punished.” The Colonel had all the intensity of cold oatmeal. “‘Say to the land of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am against you, and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off both righteous and wicked from you.’ A war is coming and we’ll need brave Christian warriors, men not afraid to commit any act in the service of the Lord. Lie. Cheat. Fornicate. Shoot a man in the back, steal his water. “‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.’”
Randal sat with the Colonel’s words for a moment. Not so much because the message resonated but because it reminded him of why the preacher’s delivery had the effect of a tranquilizer dart. “I guess you know your Bible. I never had time to read much. And honestly, the Sword of God’s Mouth doesn’t make sense to me unless you’re saying he has a sharp tongue. Believe me, I know plenty of smartasses, deal with em every day. They’re punks. So what’s that?”
“A weapon that lays waste to everything, instant death and desolation. The spirit of God vomited to cut down his sinful creations. The Word in action.” Raising a finger as though preparing to spin a round of pizza dough, it was the only gesture the Colonel knew to tell others that yes, he was still talking, “Action.”
“Got it. But until you got God’s mouth-sword in your hands, you probably shouldn’t be lookin down at the US Government, at least not for your first stab at holy war. In case you missed Waco or Ruby Ridge, they got you outgunned by a factor of… how many attack helicopters do you have? Ships at sea? Jets in the air? Millions of guys not paying for a week in the woods and not lookin like they spend the rest of their time riding around in golf carts? None of them, but real soldiers? You know, the guys who do the train-to-kill thing twenty-four-seven? Because that’s what they get paid to do? Not fat-assed retards paying you to pretend they’re badasses.”
“I’m not following you, now. ‘For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,’ you see. Active, not passive.”
“Right.” The Colonel wasn’t the greatest company, but Randal decided his acquaintance was a holy man and someone he could esteem on some level. While there were plenty of Pogoners rabidly dedicated to law and order—most holding an “it-was-better-when-people-knew-their-place” attitude—Randal hadn’t formed bonds with any of them, mostly because he was uniformly disliked. At least the Colonel sat and talked with him, offered him a cup of coffee, a sandwich, some time to linger with and converse.
Throughout his life, Randal had made a concerted effort to be utterly despicable. The kid who everyone agreed smelled like pee, got off on tattling, a toddling schadenfreude indulged gleefully and with feral malice. At first, the teachers at Pogo Springs Elementary (actually, K-12) thought Randal was just a child who ratted out other kids in order to please adults. They soon learned he was just as inclined to turn around and tell on the teacher he’d just tattled to. “It’s the same vodka my dad drinks. I saw the bottle in the drawer where she put Kenya Sunshine’s stuffed Snoopy.” By the time he entered Pogo Springs High School (actually, K-12), the entire town knew him for a sneak and a snake and someone unaware of his own urine odor.
“Mr. Ossifer.” Principal Bill Angstrom stared down his nose at Randal as though his beak were ready to pick up a mouse and crush it. Randal had come to him about an English teacher smoking pot out in the parking lot, and Bill was having none of it. “You’re a snitch and everyone knows it. And while information is power, I don’t need anyone shining a flashlight up my ass or giving my staff the same kind of proctological exam. You have anything to tell me? Write it down and stick it in the suggestion box outside the office along with all the ‘fuck you’ and ‘suck my balls’ love letters I get. I’ll get to read your misguided missive, along with the secretary and every student assistant in the office. Don’t sign your name, just write, ‘Chickenshit’ and everyone will know who wrote it.” And then Principal Angstrom leaned into Randal with every imposing six-foot-four inches of himself. “And, if you let anyone know we talked? I’ll roast your nuts in a toaster.”
When Randal told the school board about the threat and “Chickenshit” and the image of stuffing a flashlight up his principal’s ass, everyone laughed. “Well, hells bells boy, that’s just Bill,” the superintendent responded while the rest of the board nodded and chuckled. “He’s done more for this school for longer than you’ve been alive. What have you done, you little sneak? You might want to reconsider what you want in life while you still got skin to live in.”
Randal was livid, teenage hormonal rage rattling him that justice had not been served. “Sneak?!? Another threat! I’m reporting all of this to the state board! They’ll hear every word of this so-called proceeding!”
“We went into Executive Session the moment you leveled unsubstantiated allegations against a district employee. There’s no recording.” Board members’ heads bobbed, grins of agreement cut into their faces.
“Executive Session? No one told me about that!”
“Those are the rules, Mr. Ossifer. Whether you like em or not.”
From an early age, Randal had learned to like rules from a mother terrorized by a husband who held jobs as poorly as his liquor. “Your father was supposed to be home by one,” his mother would say as he stood next to her bed, wanting to snuggle but knowing it was forbidden. “It’s three.”
“He gone be n trubba.”
“Yes. But not as much trouble as we’ll be in if he finds us awake. Go back to bed. Get to sleep. And don’t get up, no matter what you hear. Stay in your bed. Don’t get out of it until I say you can. Those are the rules.”
Shouts, screams, things pounded, all with mommy’s next morning black eye, puffy face, and cut lip made Randall wonder what rules she must have broken.
After completing a state law-enforcement course through the mail, Randal handed his certificate and application to the Pogo Springs Police Department. As the secretary processed his paperwork, she giggled thinking at how Bunny would react. With one cop down—after the senile and incontinent 92-year-old Bear Barnstable unexpectedly submitted his resignation—the mayor’s nuts were in a vice and Randal held the grip. Faced with a significant loss of state and federal grant money for want of a cop, Bunny had no choice but to hire the twerp.
Randal used his newfound authority to compound the universal dislike and distrust of him. Within weeks after Randal was hired, the mayor’s office was swamped with complaints about being ticketed for laundry that blew off the line, fined for being in the park after the posted hours, cited for having mud on a license plate.
“Get that weasel punk-ass bitch in here!” Bunny screamed one morning after a delivery-truck driver was written up for imperfect parking or something. “I want him in my office now! I know that little rat-fucker’s at work because he followed my bike the entire way here!”
The mayor’s secretary/town clerk, a cousin by his crazy Aunt Terri, made a call to PSPD to let her sister at the cop shop know Bunny wasn’t prone to forget a new asshole for Randal was past due. Within minutes, Randal was standing in the mayor’s office, looking at the various pictures of people on, near, or completely apart from motorcycles.
“Listen, numbnuts. People in this town get along because we don’t stick our noses up each other’s ass.” Bunny let his long, black hair drape over beefy, tattooed arms.
“Yes mayor, sir. But there are laws.”
“Yeah, and you know em all. Codes, ordinances… all that shit. And that makes it a huge pain in the ass for everyone.” The mayor raised his head and narrowed his eyes as he burrowed his gaze into the cop standing before him. “Which makes you a huge pain in the ass for me. And, if I gotta deal with a pain in my ass, I sure as shit don’t want it to be because of some bitch weasel snitch I had to hire.”
Randal’s diffidence did nothing to quell Bunny’s rage. “I’m just doing my job, Mayor.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. Look, you’re a pig. And I don’t like pigs. Or you. And just when I’d decided I couldn’t like you less, you turned in an application with some bullshit certificate and became a pig and the biggest asshole in Swinger County.” The mayor cracked open his Zippo and lit a cigarette, took a hard pull on the butt then blew a huge cloud into Randall’s face.
“Can I get one of those?” Randall’s voice gave no indication he’d heard the mayor’s rant.
In return, Bunny ignored Randall’s request and instead growled, “You’re fuckin up and fuckin with the wrong people.”
“Wrong people?” Randal’s eyes widened as his posture improved.
Bunny walked around his desk to get right up in Randal’s grill, lifted the cop by his police-uniform shirt and onto his toes, so he could look him straight in the eyes. “Get this. The last person in the world you want to fuck with is me. Or my brothers.”
“Brothers? I heard you were an only child.” Randal’s expression was grim but fearless.
“The Bandaleeros, dipshit. My men. Affiliates, too. Goddammit, just any scooter trash. If he’s bad news, I’ll take care of it. And shove your ticket book up your ass. Leave people in town alone. The hippies say you’re constantly in their shit and a lot of em are friends of mine. Quit bein a dickhead.” With the first indication of a blubbering appeal, he tossed Randal out of his office with force enough to send the pig stumbling past his cousin’s desk and spilling into the hallway.
Pretty much banned from conducting law-enforcement duties in town, Randal had taken to parking his cruiser in the Colonel’s driveway, a well-groomed strip of gravel facing the frontage road running along 144 and beneath the overpass. There, Randall found plenty of reasons to pull people over, search a car and, at the very least, write a ticket. Given the Colonel’s reputation as a religious lunatic who kept strange company and greeted people with a shower of lead, Randal was surprised that several weeks passed before the land’s owner paid him a visit. When the Colonel finally appeared, he told Randal it was all about the cop’s direction.
“I knew your business wasn’t with me but with that road down yonder. I’m glad for your service.” The bald, lank Colonel kept his hands folded behind his back as he leaned into the cop cruiser’s open window.
“And I heard you met everyone with your guns a-blazin. Why not me?”
The Colonel took a deep breath before mumbling his answer. “As I said, I could see your business was not with me but with them.”
“Why would my business be with you? Whatcha done?”
Over the next two hours, Randal missed two speeders and a truck with a broken taillight but began an odd relationship with the crazed, white-supremacist preacher.
Raised by a pair of Jack Mormons, Randal had never attended church much less claimed to be a believer. He felt if there was any truth to it, there shouldn’t be a lot of mysteries shrouding the explanation for how it all worked, that religion should be more forthcoming and less furtive. What relationship he developed with the Colonel had less to do with his own skepticism and desire to be a shit waffle than the Colonel’s courtesy of not judging him but actually listening to and giving him some respect.
However, after Randal returned from Delaware, the dialog took on a new dynamic and it was Randal who mostly directed the conversation’s trajectory. While Whisper’s post-Powerball Thanksgiving soiree was in full swing, the Colonel got an earful of what Randal’s new status wrought. “If what you’re preaching about comes down to a personal relationship with Jesus, God, all that, let him into your heart and you’re done, then I don’t understand why I gotta go somewhere every Sunday and hear everyone else yappin about their relationship with God. I couldn’t give two shits about someone else’s relationship with God. It’s personal, right?”
Stiff as the posts holding up his roof’s overhang, the Colonel moaned out his reply. “It’s about The Word, son. Sharing the light. Fellowship in tongues.”
“See? I don’t know what any of that means. So why would I want to go somewhere every Sunday to hear a buncha that shit when I could be out bustin some hippie faggot for sellin drugs? We all serve The Lord in our own way, Colonel.”
Nearly a mile away across the valley, the two could hear the revelers at Whisper’s Thanksgiving party, their whoops and hollers and hearty laughs, their joyous appreciation of the moment with each other. Standing on the porch of the Colonel’s modest cabin, the two drank black coffee and stared across the cleft in the mountain, both grim-faced and sour.
“Do you hear that bullshit?” Randal spat, took a cigarette from his pack and lit it. “If I was to go over there to start writin noise tickets? Check for drugs? Bunny would have my ass ground into burger. Pounded by his criminal biker buddies because those filthy hippies makin that racket are his customers. See what I’m dealing with, here?”
“Son,” the Colonel’s voice taking on no more emotion than a dry-cleaning ticket. “There’s evil everywhere, but this is a trifle compared to what the Devil is using to pervert the purity of our race. Weaken us and set the stage for war with demon aliens. These are mostly White people up here. Race-traitors, every one of them, but they’ll see the light in The Word. Leave them alone.”
Randal took a long draw from his smoke, its glow lighting a face that was pinched and puckered. “I can’t. They’re snotty, smart-mouthed perverts. They should all be locked up.”
“And they will be, one day. In camps where they can be watched and preached to and made to work. But you’re putting the cart before the horse, son.” The Colonel’s intonation had all the range of a Jew’s harp. “The Lord has bigger plans for you, for us… for the money He gave you. You’re rich. Glorify His name who gave you such bounty.”
“I got plans for this money, if that’s what you’re sayin. And it includes you and what you’re doin up here. We got some differences of opinion on some things but the important stuff? On target. In fact, there’s something I wanted to run by you. Which is I why I’m here. I saw your lights on, that you was up, while I was on patrol.”
“Why do you do that, son? Stay on patrol. With all that money you got, why don’t you quit the law-enforcement business?”
“Because they’re all numbnuts down there in my shop and if I quit, there’d be no one with the gumption or wits to arrest folks. This town would become a goddamned drug orgy the moment I turned in my badge. Filthy fuckin hippies,” pulling the cigarette from his lips, Randal pushed a billow of smoke from his lungs to give himself enough space for the emphasis of spitting. “And, I like being a cop.”
“You like the authority? Upholding the law? Seeing bad people brought to justice? Whatever justice means in this sinful country of ours. And ensuring the safety of our White citizens?”
“Yeah. Plus seeing the stupid look on faces when they don’t know the rules and gettin fucked for not knowin em. All that. I’m gonna stay a cop and I’m even thinkin about using some money to make upgrades to our department. But that’s not what my money is for.” Randall sipped his coffee and then puckered his words. “And that’s what I came here for, to talk about.”
“And what’s that, son?”
“I’m gonna buy you out.”
Randal sat satisfied with his announcement and waited for the Colonel to respond, certain that the preacher would ask what buy you out meant or argue the sovereignty of ownership and rights and God’s plan. Instead, the Colonel was taciturn, a null cipher of expression. Unable to wait the Colonel out, Randal broke back in, “You rent from me. And I get a huge tax break from it. You go from payin whatever you’re payin now to a dollar a month and I write you off. We both win.”
“But it’s my land. I own it.”
“No you don’t. The bank owns it. Aliens and Jews, whatever. You’re always just a step ahead of foreclosure on this place. I know because I learned how to find things out. I’m not just a cop, I’m a detective.” The corners of Randall’s smirk lowered and mirrored the dispassionate moon of the Colonel’s face. “Now, I’ll own it. And you can do what you want with the money you’re not giving the Jews and aliens.”
The Colonel responded as though he’d just been told that socks are nice, a good cushion between the shoe and foot, sweat absorbent. “Why, son?”
Randal couldn’t contain his fire, his blazing desire to burn the town down. “A mystery, Colonel, my mystery. I got enough money now. And I just might start playing God.”