Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Colloquy from A Mighty Fortress

Cody got out of the Cadillac, reached back in and pulled the Makarov out of the holster of his web belt, and stuck it into his belt behind his back. “One of you bring my belt, will you? I don’t want whoever answers the door to see me wearing it if they look out first.” He took his AK from Jack and went up the front walk to the door. He leaned his rifle against the corner of the door frame, out of sight. Then he rang the doorbell.

After a short delay Doctor Ed Shipman opened the door, dressed casually in shorts and a knit shirt and sandals. He looked distracted. “Oh, hello, Cody,” he said. “I didn’t know you were coming over. If you had a date or something with Kelly, she forgot to mention it. Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but this isn’t a good time. Not only is there apparently all kinds of rioting and shooting going on all over town, but we’ve got a bit of a family crisis on our hands, and I…”

“I’m not here to see Kelly, Doctor Shipman,” Cody said politely. “I’m here to see you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, I’m afraid we need your help. Medical help.”

“Who’s we?” asked Kelly’s father. Suddenly Shipman looked up as the three other Volunteers appeared behind Cody. The bare-chested Brown was able to stumble along, but he was leaning on Jack, and the bandages his hand were starting to drip red. Nightshade stood beside them with the M-16 on her hip, Cody’s web belt over her shoulder, rolled balaclava on her head, looking very revolutionary and determined. Cody reached down and took up his own Kalashnikov. He didn’t point it. “Our friend has been shot. He needs your help,” he told the flabbergasted Shipman.

“Oh my God,” he breathed. “You’re one of them?”

“So I’ve been told.”

“But you’ve been a guest in my house!” babbled Shipman in a daze. “You’ve been out with my daughter! You…”

“We need to come in, sir,” said Cody politely but firmly. “If we’re seen standing out here and one of your neighbors makes a phone call, then you might end up having some visitors who are even more unwelcome than we are.” As if to give point to his remarks, there was another sudden burst of machinegun fire, spluttering rifles, and several explosions possibly a half a mile away.

“What are you going to do if I refuse, son?” demanded Shipman. “Are you going to shoot me?”

Cody ignored the question. “We’re wasting time, Doctor Shipman,” he said.

“Oh, Christ!” sighed Shipman, accepting the inevitable. “The whole damned world has gone insane! Bring him in!” They half-carried Brown into the house, down a hallway, and into Doctor Shipman’s medical office. Shipman opened a folding partition into a room glass cabinets and a paper-covered examination table. “Lie down there, Mister…what’s your name anyway? Or do I really want to know?”

“They call me Farmer Brown.”

“What happened?” asked Shipman.

“What the hell do you think happened?” growled Brown. “A political gangster with a Federal badge shot me.”

“That’s his job!” snapped Shipman. “Shooting political gangsters without badges.”

“Yeah, well, this is the last job he’ll ever do,” said Brown. Shipman turned pale.

“Dear God, we see this on television, and sometimes we forget it’s all real,” he moaned. He turned to Cody. “What the hell have you been doing tonight? Are you people trying to take over the city or something? Why all this shooting and bombing?”

“Uh, you didn’t see the President on TV tonight, sir?” asked Cody.

“No, I was going to watch but something came up, a family matter, and…why, what did she say?”

“Well, I don’t quite know how to tell you this, Doctor Shipman, but the Americans have surrendered,” said Cody. “We’re going to get our Republic, and you’re standing in the middle of it.”

“What?” shouted Shipman. “What the hell do you mean the Americans have surrendered? You’re an American yourself!”

“Just because I was born in a sty, that doesn’t make me a pig,” replied Cody evenly.

Shipman shuddered. “Okay, look, I’m not even going to try to wrap my mind around what you just said. I’ll do what I can for this man and then it would be nice if all of you would leave, and it would be even nicer if you’d leave without murdering anyone in this house.” He went to a drawer, drew out some stainless steel scissors, and cut the bandages away. “What did you do to him thus far?” he demanded, studying the wound.

“Sterilized it with alcohol,” said Brown.

“He’s had two oxycodones,” spoke up Emily.

“That’s good, because otherwise he’d be screaming in agony and going into shock,” said Shipman. “I suppose a hospital is out of the question? Silly me.” He examined the wound with a probe light on an odoscope. “Good clean wound, at least. Okay, the alcohol was a good move. It partially cauterized the injury and hopefully stopped any immediate infection. You had a stroke of luck in that it was through and through, and also that it seems to have missed the bone, although I’m going to have to X-ray it and make sure. There are no major arteries in the palm, although there’s sure to be nerve damage and I can’t promise you that you’ll have much use of the hand, not yet. I am going to apply a local anesthetic, do the X-ray, and then depending on what I see there I’ll pack it with antibiotic foam and put on a better dressing. I’ll give you an antibiotic as well. The packing will hurt like hell but we can’t leave that hole open. The oxycodone will do for a while, but they’re addictive as the devil. You need to take it down to Darvon or something lighter as soon as you can. Do you know your blood type?”

“A-negative,” said Brown.

“You’re sure? I’ll need to top you up and I don’t want you going into shock.”

“I’m sure.”

“Believe it or not, you’re not the first person to come in here with a gunshot wound they want treated with discretion, although usually it’s some eminent person who doesn’t want the world to know what games he’s been playing with sex and drugs and rock and roll.” He took a phial out of the drug cabinet and tore open the paper wrapping of a syringe.

“Ed, what’s going on?” spoke up his wife Marty fearfully from the doorway. “Who are these people? Cody?”

“Hey, Mrs. Shipman,” said Cody. “I’m really sorry about this, but we need your husband’s help. We don’t want to be here any more than you want us here, and we’ll be gone as soon as our friend has been seen to.”

“Guns!” she said, shrinking. “Oh, Cody, I always thought you were one of the good and decent ones!”

“He is, ma’am,” said Brown from the table. “That’s why he’s carrying a gun tonight.”

“I don’t understand. Which side are you on?” asked Marty, confused and upset.

“Oh, they’ve got us working for the other side tonight, marm,” Jack Flash told her cheerily.

Shipman injected the wounded area several times, making Brown wince. “Lie back. We’ll give that a minute or to take effect.” He pulled a big wad of gauze off a roll and cut it with the scissors, then folded it up in a smaller roll. “All right, one of you needs to put down your weapon, come here and hold this down into the hand, while I set up the X-ray machine. Don’t worry, none of us will snatch up your gun and do a Bruce Willis. None of us would no what to do with one anyway.”

“I never would allow guns in my house,” said Marty.

“I’ll do it, Dad,” said Kelly Shipman, calmly walking into the room. She was barefooted and wearing gym shorts and a sweat shirt, and her long blonde hair was down her back and wet, as if she had just stepped out of the shower, which she had. She had been in the shower for almost two hours and finally accepted that she would never again be clean.

“Kelly, I think you need to go back upstairs,” said Ed. “I’ll take care of this.”

“I’ve helped you before, and I don’t think any of our guests has had the hospital CNA course I went through,” said Kelly. She did not look at Cody. “I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of anything any more.” She walked to the head of the table and took the roll of gauze from her father, and molded it gently and firmly into Farmer Brown’s gunshot wound to absorb the oozing blood and lymphatic fluid. Shipman went to his cabinet and began pulling out X-ray plates. Then she finally looked up, at Jack Flash. “I know Cody and Emily, but you I’ve never seen before,” she said. “You don’t go to Hillside High, do you?”

“No, I got my A levels some time ago, in the U. K.,” said Jack.

“We call him Jumping Jack Flash,” said Cody. “The man you’re working on is Farmer Brown. I know you won’t believe this of any of us, but he’s a good man and worthy of your help.”

“I’m glad. I could do with meeting a good man today,” she said quietly.

“You know, in view of this evening’s developments, it strikes me that we really have no further need for a nom de guerre,” said Jack. “My name is Nigel Moore, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Shipman.”

“That’s your real name?” asked Nightshade.

“It’s the name I’m wanted under in Britain, yes,” said Jack with a David Niven-ish smile.

“What did you do in Britain?” asked Marty fearfully. “Did you kill someone?”

“Actually, I was a columnist for a student newspaper at Oxford, and one night after a bit of a fracas with a West Indian policeman I came back to the Quad quite bottled, got onto my laptop, and wrote an article which carried ten years’ penal servitude under the Race Relations Act. I hit send, and staggered into bed to sleep it off. I was awakened the next morning by the Special Branch dragging me out of bed and kicking me with steel-toed shoes. In view of the fact that my copybook was now permanently blotted, I decided to come to this country where the racial resistance has taken on a more robust form.”

“He drinks tea, too!” Emily informed them. “With his pinky extended!”

“You couldn’t murder black people in your own country so you came here to do it?” snapped Doctor Shipman. “Is that it? So you can take over and lord it over us here in Washington?”

Moore replied with cool courtesy, “In point of fact, doctor, my reason for joining the NVA and helping to establish the Republic here is rather similar to the motivations of most foreign Volunteers. We want help to go back to our own countries and fight against the same kind of Zionist régimes as those which broke my ribs with those steel-toed boots, and put the bullet in that man on your table.”

“And what about you?” Kelly asked Emily. “I thought you were kidnapped and brutalized by these gentry a few weeks ago? You must have one hell of a case of Stockholm syndrome.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” said Emily. “My code name is Patty Hearst. Death to the Zionist insect!”

“Well, congratulations are in order, I suppose,” said Kelly with a faint smile. “I had the TV on when I was upstairs drying off. Everybody’s going batshit over the President’s speech tonight. Looks like we’re going to be living in the Fourth Reich soon, Dad. Better start learning how to click your heels, and I suppose I’d better quit calling you guys spuckies.”

“That’s Mister Spucky from now on!” said Cody.

“What? You were serious?” said Shipman, staring incredulously. “The President and the Congress are actually going to hand us over to—you people?”

“It’s not that simple, and there’s a lot that has to happen still, but the process has begun, yes,” said Brown. “That’s what all the street fighting is about tonight. There are those who can’t handle the idea and they’re refusing to go along.”

“Then you can still be stopped!” said Shipman desperately.

“Check the news from Eastgate Mall,” said Brown. “That was where I got this. It was we who stopped them tonight. Barely armed kids and blue collar rednecks like me, the people you rich guys have spent your whole lives looking through like we didn’t exist, until you needed us to fix your cars and your air conditioners and your toys. Outnumbered three to one, and we beat the best America could put up. We wiped them out. We’ll stop them again tomorrow, and as long as we have to, until every American soldier leaves our land and that goddamned red, white, and blue Masonic dishrag comes down forever in the Northwest.”

“As Victor Hugo said, ‘Mightier than the tread of marching armies is the power of an idea whose time has come.’” put in Jack

“We’ll leave,” muttered Shipman. “We’ll get the hell out. We’ll all go to California with Kelly.”

“I hope not, sir,” said Cody. “The Republic is going to need you. All of you.”

Shipman sighed. “Now’s not the time or the place.” He turned on the overhead light. “Right, let’s get you under that X-ray machine over there.”

It took almost an hour for Shipman to perform the best repair job he could on Farmer Brown’s bullet wound and transfuse him with a pint of whole blood and a pint of saline. “As reluctant as I am to entertain you people in my home for any longer than necessary, he needs to rest for a couple of hours so I can monitor his condition, make sure he doesn’t go into shock, and he can recover some of his strength. After that you can move him, but I really would recommend he get to a legitimate hospital as soon as he can, if that’s possible. God knows what will be possible after tonight.”

Cody had spent the past fifteen minutes talking with Joe Dortmunder on his cell. “It may be more possible than you think, Doctor Shipman,” he said after hanging up.

“What the hell’s happening out there?” demanded Farmer Brown, lying on the table in his still wet cast.

“There’s still a lot of fighting going on, and there have been a lot of casualties, including some of ours,” Cody told him soberly. “But the FATPO seem to be pulling in their horns, and they’re scuttling back to their barracks. Apparently they honestly never expected we’d come out and face them, like that bunch tonight at the mall. Brigade is waiting on orders from the Army Council as to whether we start dropping mortar rounds and rockets on the barracks and stations, or whether that would be too much of a ceasefire violation. Anyway, after we left to come here, the captain got an idea. Instead of taking those Fattie guns and vehicles off somewhere, he went back in and more or less took over Eastgate Mall himself, and one of our guys who knows electronics was able to fix that WKPR-FM radio hookup so that it could broadcast again. He called the station and said if they didn’t transmit what he was saying they’d be getting a visit from the NVA, and they got the message and put Bells on the air. He told the audience who were listening who he was, and where he was, and what happened earlier tonight to those Fatties who’d been ranting and raving on the air, and he said ‘We got a lot of guns down here and those Fatties ain’t gonna need ‘em any more, so anyone who wants to join the NVA, come on down to Eastgate Mall.’ And guess what? Already we’ve signed on a hundred new Volunteers, even if it is almost midnight. We always had to recruit in secret before, but now that people know where to find us, looks like we’ll have more than enough Volunteers to create a genuine national army.”

“Civil war instead of mere terrorism,” moaned Shipman. “Beautiful! I suppose you have some justification for all this, something about not being able to make an omelette without breaking eggs? What’s the term you Brits came up with? I used to see it all the time on all the war monuments when I went to England. Dulcy something Latin?”

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” corrected Jack Flash. “How sweet and good it is to die for your country, which of course is a load of bollocks. Death is never sweet or good. And yes, with regard to those two pointless and stupid wars against our racial cousins in Germany, it was the old school lie. But sometimes, doctor, worthwhile things can come of death. I happen to believe that this is worthwhile, because I have seen what came of listening to the lies of the people who have sent Englishmen to die everywhere from the Somme to Anzio to Basra, always for the benefit of same alien race of thieves and liars. This time we are killing and dying for our own blood and a Homeland for all of us, sir. To me, that makes a difference, and I am willing.”

“God, I love that accent,” said Kelly with a smile.

“You should hear me emote Shakespeare, Miss Shipman. ‘How now, you black and midnight hags, what is’t you do?’”

“Look, I suppose I might as well make us all some supper,” said Marty wanly. “I promise none of us will run away or try to call the police. God knows I don’t want this fighting to come to our house.”

“I’ll stay with Mr. Brown,” said Shipman. “You three go on and have something to eat, and Marty, could you bring in some soup for our patient? Kelly…” he said turning to his daughter.

“I’m all right, Dad, as all right as I’ll ever be,” she told him. “Actually this has been a therapeutic distraction for me. Besides, it can’t hurt to get in good with the new régime.”

“You have, you know,” said Cody. “You too, Doctor Shipman. We won’t forget this. I really do hope you’ll reconsider leaving the Republic. It’s to be a home for all of us, like Jack, er, Nigel said.”

After they left the surgery Shipman stared after them. “My God, they’re just children! Even that English kid! He ought to be out sculling on the Serpentine or in some pub drinking warm beer and talking drunken undergraduate bullshit, not coming to a foreign country to commit murder, and maybe die when he runs into someone who’s a better shot than the one who plugged you. As to the others—high school? How can you lead boys like Cody to their death?” demanded Shipman roughly. “Or that skinny little girl who thinks she’s Patty Hearst and it’s all some kind of giggly game? How can you live with yourself, knowing that you’re destroying the lives of children? White children, since I know you don’t care about black or brown ones.”

Brown sighed. “I got nothing against black or brown children, any more than I have anything against rabbits or mice. But you can’t let rabbits or mice run loose in your fields, or they’ll destroy your crops and devour your grain while giving nothing in return, and then nobody eats. And Cody isn’t a boy. He became a man the day he stood up and took on a man’s work in life by striking a blow at the enemies who destroyed his family, no matter what you think of his choice. There’s nothing wrong with becoming a man at sixteen. That’s the way it used to be for many thousands of years before we got so damned civilized, and that’s the way it needs to be again. But if you think we just use kids like Cody and Emily for cannon fodder, well, you’re wrong. I’m not going to argue with you, but you’re wrong.” He was quiet for a time. “They call me Farmer Brown because I used to have a farm once, seven hundred acres of prime wheat and sorghum and soybean in Latah, just outside Spokane. I had a son, too.”

“What happened?” asked Shipman.

“The bank took my farm and Iraq took my boy. And yeah, every day I collect a little on that debt from the pigs in human form who did that to me, and I enjoy every minute of it. That pleasure’s the only one I’ve got left in life. I could get the farm back after we win the Republic, but what would be the point? No one to leave it to. But it’s not just revenge. Revenge all on its own is nothing but a black hole you can never fill up, and I’m not so dumb or full of hate that I don’t understand that. I’m a Volunteer to make sure it never happens again. Do you think for one minute that after having buried my own son, I would ever lead Cody or anyone else into danger of death by gunfire unless there was no other way to make things right with the world? I tried your way. I even ran for office before 10/22. None of the local television stations or newspapers would take my advertising, my campaign manager was beaten by hired goons, I was arrested on a phony charge of embezzling campaign funds, and I still won, so my opponent simply went scuttling to a Jewish Federal judge and had the result thrown out. We use bullets now, not ballots. Bullets work. Ballots don’t, unless you count ‘em yourself.”

“You can’t order the future all nice and neat with a gun!” said Shipman.

“Yeah, I know that too. But I can try. I can do what little I can, and if enough of us just do what little I can, well, maybe we can’t make sure everybody gets a winning hand a hundred and two hundred years from now, but at least we can re-shuffle the deck.”

Shipman sighed and slumped into a chair. After a while Brown said, “By the way, thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Shipman.

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