My books

Lonesome Travelers (Guide to City/Forest)

A comedic horror novel of ancient mythology and 20th century events converted to legend and song.

Lonesome Travelers

A teenage girl comes to read at a nursing home and is assigned to an elderly man no one ever visits. She doesn’t want to be here. It’s a court order. She interrupts him in his spartan room where he is staring out the window at a great bird in the smoky afternoon haze. Instead of her reading to him, he starts to tell her a story.

The story is about the trickster Rabbit, condemned by the Fates to act as the fourth incarnation of Fire. His twin Brother, his shadow, is jealous of him and locks him away in a special box where he burns alone, consuming himself.

The Rabbit’s best friend, Mister Love, is a great bird, a brood parasite, an orphan. He is forming an army of love to liberate his friend Rabbit, and to protect Rabbit’s heir. His duty is clear. He is to adopt lost souls, those capable of giving love even if they have never received it. He travels with his people, ghosts, artists, and revolutionaries.

Rabbit’s heir is a girl who lives alone, a refugee, in a land of perpetual darkness, in which she is the only burning light. She is visited only occasionally by her abusive father. But one night Mister Love visits with all of his interns, and they offer to be her chosen family, if she wants them.

Post-traumatic stress expressed as a grim fairy-tale, a ghost story, a tragic comedy. 

the spoiler summery of Lonesome Travelers

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Summary Judgement

The book is dedicated to a Dutch resistance fighter with the statement “Her aim was true.” She is an assassin. A declaration is made that this is a trauma narrative.

The book begins with “A Who’s Who so you know” as in the beginning of an absurdist play.

Chapter 1: judgment

Two angels argue about whether one of them has blown the vuvuzela horn. It is the vuvuzela horn of doom. It signifies the end of all things. It bothers one of the angels that because the horn cannot be blown without triggering consequence it is impossible to rehearse blowing the horn.

Chapter 2: fellow traveler

This is an introduction in the second person such as in a travel book. It promises the traveler to introduce those who came before and pleads for courtesy to those who will follow. It mentions three books which are in the traveler’s bag which may be consulted during down time. Like all chapters in the second person this is a message from the Rabbit to the traveler. It ends on a somewhat passive aggressive note.

Chapter 3: hymn of creation

This is a retelling of a Hindu creation myth. It shows how the universe began. In the beginning the Fire and the Warmth created each other. Then arose Love, Desire and the others. But the Fire is the only one who consumes itself. And must be replaced periodically. It is mentioned that later incarnations of Fire have tried to hide in the water, but were found and dragged away to burn anew. It asks the question if that which is must always be.

Chapter 4: doing time

An unnamed girl enters a nursing home to read to the elderly as part of community service. She does not want to be there. She is assigned to an old man no one ever visits. When she enters his room she finds him staring at a bird on the outside sill of his window who similarly looks back at him. She has three books to read which are similar to the books mentioned in the introduction. Instead of her reading to him he begins to tell her the story of the Rabbit, without even asking her name.

Chapter 5: curtains for you

An unnamed traveler is visiting friends overseas and is told a story about a suicidal man who, when things start to look up, dies accidentally. The chapter ends with a joke.

Chapter 6: Sisyphus has this attitude

Sisyphus has been condemned to roll a rock up a mountain until the end of time. He has decided to have a good attitude about this. It is a punishment for a crime unmentionable. A bird comes to peck his liver. He tells the bird it is his best friend. The bird reciprocates. And continues to peck his liver as he rolls the rock up the hill. Sisyphus laughs.

Chapter 7: the council meets

The long shadow comes of his own free will to the council chambers. He is there to answer for orchestrating the crime unmentionable. He tells them they have no quorum. And that he is the highest authority for can they not see in his face that he is the mirror image of the highest authority? He demands to know the whereabouts of the infernally squeaky Mr. Love. He is told Mr. Love is on a special mission, to take on interns, a mission which is pre-approved and cannot be revoked. The shadow says this does not matter anyway and abolishes the council.

Chapter 8: the first betrayal

Rabbit, exhausted from always burning the night away, is visited by Brother Rat who brings him a gift —an ornate box. A firebox. He traps Rabbit within this box.

Chapter 9: more troubling issuances

An unnamed traveler is trying to secure papers for travel. There are problems. There is a question about whether this traveler is who they claim.

Chapter 10: New York, 1969

A bellhop brings trays of food to the hotel room of the great one, Mr. Love. The bellhop listens through the door as Mr. Love has a conversation with Mr. Al Jolson and the Divine Miss Divine. They’re discussing the sad state of someone they refer to as “our father” who lies in observation diminishing. The bellhop swears he hears a thousand people sing a song: keep the home fires burning. The bellhop pulls open the door to see only the great one, alone, then he is gone.

Chapter 11: the lesser shadow

A short chapter narrated by a small demon who whispers terrible things. It has been sent to guard a girl. Over time it has begun to care for her and whisper kindly things. Out of concern it has called for help from a group he refers to as “THEM. The scum of the earth.” He declares that while he is a betrayer he is now confused about who he should betray.

Chapter 12: House party

A girl lives alone in a house in a land of perpetual darkness. She is visited, rarely, by her abusive father. One day she is visited by what looks like three people, though it is confusing. They introduce themselves as Larry Love, Mr. Al Jolson, and the Divine Miss Divine. When she allows them to enter they flow in like a trickle and then a faucet left to run. Her house is filled to the brim with souls. She is introduced to Millicent “Peg” Entwistle, magnificent star of the Broadway stage. She sings a song: I’m a lonesome little raindrop looking for a place to fall. They sing songs and celebrate the girl’s birthday. Her father comes and they hide. He is brutal. When he leaves they reappear and declare that they will be her new family if she desires it.

Lucky chapter 13: wonderful places I have been

An intrusion from one of the three books. A first person description of a road trip gone south.

Chapter 14: fly friendly skies

A traveler gets on an airplane and finds themselves seated next to a Rabbit. The traveler starts to read a children’s book to clear their head.

Introduction to chapter 15: hi! <insert customer name here>

An introduction to a children’s book which is personalized but the printer has screwed up the personalization. A poem describing how the Rabbit has abandoned its protagonist, and run haywire to the woods.

Chapter 15: the trials of Billy Bunny

In this chapter the Rabbit abandons its protagonist and runs haywire into the woods. Rabbit catches a train and begins reading a book he picked up at the station.

Chapter 16: Joe Hill

An intrusion from one of the three books and also the book Rabbit is reading on the train. It is the story of the folksinger Joe Hill told in the first person. He is sworn to protect the honorable lady whose name he will not disclose no matter how many times he is shot through the heart.

Interlude: if you wish to write me

A song from the Spanish Civil War.

Chapter 17: Amsterdam, 2008, Invictus

The traveler hears a story of heartbreak.

Chapter 18: Rabbit digs the hole

Rabbit is tunneling to escape. While he is sleeping in the tunnels he is tripped over by a blind mole. The mole is traveling with others, and shames rabbit for his inaction. They are traveling with a shrew named Vanja. They announce that they have lost the war and now they travel the underground appearing occasionally above to tell their story and then disappear. Vanja tells the song of the traveler. The traveler appears at a picnic, falling from above, sees a man hanging above the festivities, and asks “Who is this man? Why does he hang around here?” The crowd turns ugly.

Chapter 19: I’m just a cuckoo over you

The Rabbit runs haywire into the forest. His mission is the only thing on his mind. He must find the bird. Cuckoo. He finds him in the tree. They lament the state of things. The Rabbit tells the bird he must gather a new family for them. He must collect those who give love even if they have never received it. The bird accepts this position. The Rabbit renames the bird Mr. Love. They declare themselves to be brothers, chosen family.

Chapter 20: the 40 year anniversary picnic 1972

Peg is trapped within one half mile of the Holly-wood-land sign now only reading Hollywood. She’s been stuck there for 40 years. She has a picnic with a man named Ed Marsh behind the H. He does not understand she’s a ghost. The chapter tells of his struggle. Just after he meets Peg, and the picnic begins, the chapter is suddenly interrupted.

Chapter 21: talk to the wind

The muse Calliope stands at the chasm next to the dying tree accompanied by her friend Echo. They have come to present a declaration of war to the Wind, who serves the long shadow. The council has been accepted by the Fates as refugees and has reconvened in exile.

Chapter 21: Echo and Narcissus in the wood

A retelling of the story of Echo and Narcissus, the tragedy of our sister Echo.

Chapter 22: the hymn of night 1875

A man writes the poem Invictus while suffering great pain. The muse of tragedy holds his hand. She has set aside her dagger to do this.

Chapter 23: the Haber process

This chapter begins with the same line which finishes the previous chapter, “I am unafraid.” An inspector comes to the house of Mr. Haber. Mr. Haber’s wife has killed herself in the garden. The only witness was their son. There was a party going on at the time. To celebrate success at his work. He describes his work. He has invented gas warfare. While this is a tragedy he must get up in the morning to continue his work.

Chapter 24: if the clerk processes the paperwork

Upon retirement it is found that the clerk has not been processing the paperwork.

Chapter 25: let’s dance the night away

Musicians have been recruited by the propaganda ministry. As an insult to decency they are fed rabbit regularly. A joke is told about a god overhearing a gross indecency.

Chapter 26: Desert landings

Coyote narrates from afar as he watches two men and a woman come to the desert, form a crossroads with torches, and chant an incantation. The rush of wind garbles the name of the one they’re trying to raise. The coyote announces that the sacrifice has been accepted.

Chapter 27: Hollywood landings taking off

Chapter 27 resumes chapter 20. The picnic behind the H. Ed Marsh offers Peg a role in a film in New York. He still does not know she is a ghost. She does not tell him, but gives her regrets. He leaves. She sit there and cries. Mr. Love sings to her from a tree. She asks Mr. Love to take her away from here. The Fates release her to Mr. Love, but he warns her she may not like it where they go. They leave.

Chapter 27: shockwaves

Short horror stories cycle rapidly. A cross burning. A fire. A seemingly happy man kills himself. A bear is an addict. He shows a visiter a forbidden room. He overdoses. A poem laments a trojan horse. A man, friend of the bear, helps another friend who then kills him. The survivors cannot get clean. An unspeakable act is spoken of. The traveler is addressed personally for the purpose of shaming.

Chapter 28: Mr. Haber is a stateless person by decree

Mr. Haber has come to the place by the river to speak to Mr. Hahn because Mr. Love has denied him. Mr. Hahn shows him sympathy but also refuses him, his punishment is fair. He offers him the mercy of wading in the water to forget. Mr. Haber refuses. He will wander in the wilderness forever.

Chapter 29: take them to the woods, show them what to do

A girl lures a boy into the dark forest. His mind is clouded with love. Eyes watch from the darkness. There are more girls. Rabbit is there. Rabbit directs that the boy be killed. Now. Mercy. The Warmth comes to argue with the Rabbit about intrusion in the affairs of mortals. A girl moves to kill the boy. The Warmth strikes the boy dead in an instant, to save the girl. She tells Rabbit she is angry with him. He says that he knows, but that “It is done.”

Interlude: fence

The fence has been constructed to surround the following chapter. A man on the radio describes the Hindenburg disaster. The announcer says he must go away now because he cannot look at it any longer. Flames everywhere. He stutters and cries.

Chapter 30: Blue who

The traveler visits a girl in a house. It is a forbidden place. It has been sealed off by the council. They are now in the underworld. The traveler has twisted around the rules to come here. The girl shoots at children from the window. The gun had been given to her by her father. A gift for him. When the traveler appears in the house she turns the gun on the traveler. They have a confrontation. The traveler is trying to help her. As she shoots at the traveler the traveler disappears to the next destination leaving the girl there.

Interlude: Poland 1945

The traveler falls from the sky and lands hard in a field. The field is full of emaciated men lying in flowers. One of the survivors says he understands why the traveler is here but does not understand why he is here. The survivor is Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist. The traveler speaks to him but the Rabbit tells the traveler what the traveler has said is stupid, and that the traveler should instead feed them. They sit and eat in silence. This was not the most unbelievable thing the men had seen. It was hardly memorable.

Chapter 31: why I will always remember Rachel Corrie

This chapter is an intrusion from one of the three books. It is about the sorrow of losing that which never was.

Chapter 32: fly right

A lengthy travelog. The traveler has a mostly pleasant trip, though there are some serious matters raised.

Chapter 33: Rabbit runs the race

Rabbit is running a relay race. A starting pistol has been fired. Someone is dead. Perhaps a part of Rabbit has been wounded and is angry. A girl interrupts the old man telling the story. She only likes true stories. He tells her that all stories are true, more or less. Rabbit has racing thoughts. He watches a couple who are looking at a turtle with concern. Rabbit stops running the race and sits on a rock. A bird sits beside him and complains that his extra weight is not fair to Sisyphus. Rabbit makes the rock immovable and releases Sisyphus from his bondage, which also frees the bird. Rabbit states that he does not care much for fate.

Chapter 34: two views of/from the freak show

In a dusty western town people come to see the freak show. Among them is a very old man. They’re shown the girl who was kept in the basement. She looks at them and they look at her. Which one is the show. The old man is the only one who is not in awe.

Chapter 35: Saint George’s Hill, 1649

The traveler lands in a dirty field and is met by a welcoming party. One of them tells a story about a dream of chasing a Rabbit into a bush which burst into flame. The man had been given a revelation. But he says that he sees the traveler has come too soon and must now leave.

Chapter 36: missed connections

Mr. Al Jolson and the Divine Miss sit on a bench on the sidewalk. They wait for the traveler who is not appearing. They discuss their own problems. Mr. Al Jolson admits that he does not trust Rabbit. The Divine Miss points out that there are some laughs in this tragedy. Mr. Al Jolson admits that there are. Some.

Chapter 37: hang a picture

A humorous story about finishing the work of another. This story is also a scene from a pornographic film though it contains nothing Prurient. This is a story being told by the old man to the attendant.

Chapter 38: triangle factory fire March 25, 1911

A bird the next building over watches people jump from a burning building.

This is also a story told to the attendant.

Interlude:

A Short excerpt from Dante’s Purgatorio.

Chapter 39: a thousand pardons

Mr. Al Jolson and the Divine Miss are on the bench waiting. Mr. Al Jolson complains about the names of the gods not matching their duties. The two of them discuss their own duties as interns of Mister Love. 

Chapter 40: New York New York

The traveler arrives in New York. The traveler is taken in by Marsha P. Johnson, who runs an organization called the Angels of Light. They go to a safe house, the temple of Aphrodite at Acrocorinth, a place paid for by prostitution. A commune for abandoned souls. Marsha tells her story. She was arrested by pigs for hustling. She told the judge she would blow all their exclusionary houses the hell down. She takes the traveler to a wedding. It is revealed that the traveler was killed in the underworld by Blue and hung on a hook as a show of power. The Fates stepped in and demanded an alternate time line, a joining. Demons fill the street outside that night and Marsha goes out in the street to fight them. The traveler heads to the door to help but instead ends up in the Collyer House in Harlem. The Collyer Brothers are cordial to the traveler and tell their story of extreme hoarding and their fears of the outside world and its changing complexion around them. Then they ask to be left alone in the dark.

The traveler is met by Joe Hill. They go to a cavernous performance space. The moles and shrew from the earlier chapter (Rabbit digs a hole) are there asking for donations and telling their story. Someone says every text is a work of intertextuality. Joe Hill sings a song. Someone says, “I killed a drag queen named Marsha and threw her in the river.”

Chapter 41: don’t put down that rebellion

The story of the Kronstadt rebellion 1921. Includes a parable about a man and a goat based on an old joke.

Chapter 42: gate of heavenly peace Tiananmen

A western journalist is situated in a hotel room where he can see the Tiananmen Square massacre from above as it unfolds. He describes what he saw. Including a man dancing on the street with a partner cold as steel. After he is evacuated from Beijing an old woman tells him in a far province of the student’s last gambit. In the end, no hope, they sent runners into the forest in every direction. They were to appear suddenly in far provinces, tell their story, then disappear, to be believed or not. This is how they would raise the struggle from the ashes.

This is a story being told to the attendant. The attendant asks how long this has been going on. The old man says he is surprised the attendant has not heard that this is still going on now. Have you not heard?

Chapter 43: Banana split

Three unnamed revolutionaries sit trying to eat a banana split. It is inequitable. They bicker. There is a three-way schism.

This chapter is written as a stage play.

Chapter 44: the assassination of Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton tells the story of his life and his struggle to feed the children. Within it he tells the story of old John Brown and Nat Turner. He is then betrayed by the Judas goat.

This is an intrusion from one of the three books which are now rapidly bleeding into the main text.

Chapter 45: don’t let’s be beastly tea party

The girl is a refugee alone in the house. She is suddenly visited by the three Fates who emerge from the closet. They ask if she knows where the story is going and that it is all leading up to a fiery cataclysm orchestrated by the Rabbit and the Bird. This ending is to be subverted. Though the Fates suspect the Rabbit is tricking them to get exactly what he wants, as he is a “Fuzzy ol’ trickster.” They offer to accept her as a fourth Fate and also as the new Fire, replacing Rabbit, who never wanted the job.

She will leave by wading across the water, though it is clear by context she will forget herself after.

Chapter 46: Prick up thine ears to hear

The old man tells the attendant a terrible truth about his past, but will say no more.

Interlude

A short poem about the descent of the Babylonian god Innana to the underworld. A demand that the door be opened, or I shall begin to raise the dead.

Chapter 47: Ground Zero, Amsterdam, that auld triangle

Peg meets the traveler at the airport. The intrusions are starting to cycle rapidly. The parable of Mao’s mangoes and the good farmer are interspersed with other scenes. There is also travelog. They go to a street market and then the Anne Frank House. After, the traveler raises Peg from the dead and she walks dazed down the street.

The traveler wanders alone, meets Hannie Schaft, who the book is dedicated to, who is stuck in a loop, and raises her from the dead, freeing her, though she does not realize this immediately.

Rabbit and the traveler begin quarreling over narrative control.

The traveler meets Fred Hampton at a sidewalk cafe. He tells the story of the Tulip Panic and the beginnings of the slave trade. They walk to the red light district where Chairman Fred chastises a young man for not respecting the prostitutes with his words. The traveler moves to resurrect Chairman Fred but he refuses this (don’t you dare), stating that he is needed in the larger struggle.

Marsha P. Johnson appears and opens a door. The traveler is transported to a weigh station where Mr. Hahn waits.

Interlude

The Last Will of Joe Hill

Chapter 48: Raft of the Meduse

The old man tells the story of the life of physicist Richard Feynman and the wreck of the Meduse, the shame of the sea. The great bird appears in the man’s room, the man addresses the bird as “Old Mister Death.” The bird tells him he prefers his chosen name. The man tells the bird he is his best friend and the bird says likewise. The man requests that the bird listen to the end of the story and he requests that the bird sing him a song. The bird sings, “I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.”

Chapter 49: The Rabbit, he rests

The traveler meets Mr. Hahn at the bridge. Rabbit’s cage lies at the top of the bridge. The traveler is ushered into the cage to meet Rabbit. Rabbit has only survived so long because of the cage. He is old and weak. He has gone somewhat mad. He gives the traveler a letter transferring his power to the traveler, who is the girl from the house, but warns her not to read the letter twice. She is both a Fate and the new Fire. She can never burn out. She blinks, thus looking twice. Because of this Rabbit will always be with her.

The girl goes to the door to leave. Rabbit requests the door be left open. When his shadow, his brother, his other half comes he says he will “Help him out.” He does not know what he will say when the Warmth comes, though he hopes she does come.

The narrative voice shifts to the girl.

Chapter 50: Re-Creational Music

The two angels bicker about whether one of them has played the primordial theremin. No one knows what it will do.

Afterward

Rabbit, no longer the Fire, plays mind games in the new Fire’s head.

Coffee gives gas the musical

The day you could no longer buy leaded gasoline was the saddest day for every waiter in America who was dependent upon the “leaded” or “unleaded” joke whenever approaching a table to offer caffeinated or decaf coffee.

Now the coffee service was a hollow gesture. A mechanistic gruel.

But Broadway beckoned. And

“Leaded or unleaded the musical”

opened to pour box office. Which, trivially, was a joke in the first act.


During the intermission, the songwriter,

he used to be a waiter,

but that was back in the days when a man could get a cup of Joe,

without a lot of song and dance,

and brother that was a long time ago, he was jittery. Caffeinated. Like.


His name was Joe. Joe the waiter. Now Joe the songbird. And the play was full of double entendres and tongue twisters and, to tell you the truth, it was a little risqué. Which is French for right dirty, sister. So it did boffo box office.

BOFFO
“Insert two bits for a cup of Joe” was the third song in the first act.

The bits in question were old vaudeville sets, Marked up.
It hasn’t aged well.
For one thing young people today don’t understand they used to put lead in gasoline. To knock out the knocks, if one can believe.

Bildungsroman re-piped

“It is my sad duty to inform you that the …president… was shot twenty-five minutes ago and has been transported to the hospital.” The children in Frank’s class cheered. It was not an uncommon occurrence. It happened in other classes. The teacher’s face fell. He scowled at the children and started angrily berating them. “That is the president of these United States!” he said.

person holding a sign
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The lack of unity amongst the children for these United States flustered him. It was unacceptable. Would not be given toleration. When you lose the youth, your society declines. Freedom to choose is the promise of these United States. That was sacred. Could not be deviated from. Not an inch. The flag. Worth defending. The children quieted down, but a certain giddiness remained through-out the day.


The president was not popular in the eighth grade circle. And the breaking up of the monotony of the everyday was not without its part in the festive, circus-like atmosphere. At least the class clowns were respectful; silent, all in the same car. But there were sporadic lectures resulting throughout the day. As a corrective, drained of all meaning. A dark ritual.

Lunch.


But there was one class, and what I tell you now has passed into legend, where, after a stern lecture from the teacher began, a single student, unnamed, but it was a female student, said, “How do you know the cheering was for the shooting of the president and not his transport to a regional hospital?”

burning pink candle against gray background
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

And the teacher was struck dumb for answers.
And the girl broke the silence again, “Frankly I’m offended you didn’t ask. The judgmental attitude you hold toward innocent youths is disturbing. I should report you.” And with that she physically moved her desk around to face away from him. A rejection of status. Emboldened, the other students did the same. Anarchy! Rules turned on heads. Silence reigned until the bell.

Rang.

There was a bathroom in the lower hall where there were no stalls. People didn’t linger. There was no stalling.

Three toilets in a row with no walls. Communal commodes. It is crazy how close the toilets seem without stalls. An illusion. Once Frank sat there with another boy and he didn’t remember who spoke first. They spent an afternoon there, because who wanted to go back to class. But he didn’t catch the other truant’s name, and even if he had seen him in the hall later they would not have made eye contact. Sometimes people drift apart, even when they bonded quite closely initially. Because circumstances change.


And there was also no mirror in that bathroom, being that there was no time for self reflection. Where there had been a place for a mirror, on the far wall, there was a framed piece of plywood. Like it was meant to be a mirror but was going against the grain. On this flat surface people scribbled messages like throwing a bottle into a polluted sea. “I live near campus and I have a waterbed.” (One is identified by what one owns.) “For a good time call #######” but the numbers were cross hatched out. (Mysteries are enticing to the inquisitive mind.)


Sometimes people squinted at the dull polished metal of the paper towel dispenser to see how they looked. A clown funhouse reflection on demand. You don’t need to know what people’s hair looks like. Einstein hardly used his comb. Maybe he never found one to his liking.

The Haber Process, 1915

Fritz Haber stood in the garden across from the inspector. Surrounded by the summer bloom. The aroma. The night after the day after Mayday.

“I came right over,” said the inspector. “My partner is otherwise occupied. Another matter.”

“It is just, you see, my wife,” said Haber.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

“Is there a party going on in the house?” said the inspector.

“Yes, just something about work.”

“At the University?”

“At the front,” said Haber.

At their feet lay the body of Mrs. Haber, Mr. Haber’s better half.

“Are there witnesses?” said the inspector.

“My son,” said Haber. “Heard the shots.”

“Shot,” said the inspector, “through the heart.”

“He is upstairs,” said Haber.

“Alone?”

“Now. Yes.”

It was the precipice of a great victory. We… We all stand on that precipice. Together.

I went to the generals. They held themselves high, in their uniforms of office. They were blind to the times. I moved upon them as a ghost of the future passing by. They had plans, you see. Based on the learning of past wars. But I brought to them the future. And they were not prepared to see that future. And they said, “That is not the way of war. No war which we know. You are unschooled in this matter. War is a game of inches. Hard-fought. There are rules and you don’t even know them.”

And they sent me away.

“So, you threw a party?” said the inspector.

“No. The party was going on when… It happened.”

“Mm,” said the inspector. “Back story.”

I rolled into the encampment of the men on the ground with my equipment in tow. They didn’t understand it, but the trucks were official and these men were trained to follow orders, not give them. And that can be handy when one just wants to get something done. When time is the matter most pressing. Always shortening here and elongating there. And, as a scientist, I seek to control the elements in conflict. To understand. To set the conditions. To examine the data of the response.

And we set up the equipment. Field conditions. Safety equipment first. And at the crack of dawn we released the experiment which was more successful than I had supposed. The gas, released from its confines, spread forward toward the line. It changed the color of the sunlight. As it rolled over the grass and plants they turned gray at its touch, draining all color out in an instant. It was a sight to behold, as we did. Directed by a reliable Wind it crossed territory. It killed any living thing it came across. We could hear the struggle for breath, unforthcoming, in the near distance. We were right there. Right there.

In it.

“I had an accomplishment at work,” said Haber. “And while all this is unfortunate, I must, in the morning, return to my work. Work through the mourning.”

“Of course,” said the inspector. “Sometimes our work is all we have to sustain meaning in this crazy world.”

Trigger Warning: Gate of Heavenly Peace, Tiananmen

6/4/89 is the Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. As this is being posted the whole of the USA is engulfed in violence as police have been called out and they have acted to brutally suppress peaceful protests against endemic police violence.

They just piss away their revolutionary history. Blank stares. Red Haikou. Hope of the world. Revolutionaries came from all over the world to the bustling streets. But if you ask about it today they look at you with blank eyes. They don’t understand it anymore. Their own history. Gone. In the wind.

Or it’s become so garbled as a memory it is now meaningless. “Foreign advisers on matters industrial.”

Thanks to Hennie Stander for sharing their work on Unsplash. (photo)

I came here only because they are evacuating foreigners from Beijing. It was by chance I was where I was, in a hotel across from Tiananmen Square, with the window looking straight down. A western journalist specializing in the history and economics of the communist systems. My name is Harrison E. Salisbury.

When I left for China, I said that the People’s Army was different than any other in the world. They were of the people. And would not strike out at the people. But I later learned that the army had been forbidden to read or listen to news broadcasts from months before. For pain of court-martial. I said they would not but they did. I saw it from the window. I heard the shots, repeating. Excessive. Terror shooting. They will obey orders to kill their own children. Gun them down in the street. Roll tanks over them. Officially they’re saying a few soldiers have been hurt. Some equipment damaged.

An announcer on the radio shouted thousands had died and was then immediately yanked off the air.

They refer to the students as “bandits,” what Chiang Kaishek used to call Mao’s forces. But what is there to steal in the public square? What is there that is not open to all? A common treasury. Fought over.

The students were supporters, like the sailors of Kronstadt, of a democratic communism. The Square encampments were festooned with red flags waving in the breeze.

But they are gone now. I saw the last I shall ever see, walk dignified toward some men in fine attire, speak to them in a dignified manner to no response, as if he were invisible, and then he turned and walked away with his head high. I do not know what became of him. He slid between cars and was gone in the heat.

I talked to some locals. They saw the military coming, guns, tanks. They shouted at them not to go to the Square. Not to harm their own people. These were the residents, out in the night, smoking, talking. Bullets rain down on them. The Emergency services came quickly to get the wounded. They did not have room for the dead. They had been told to give no aid, to let the protesters die, but they came anyway. But they had no room for the dead. And the Hospitals were overflowing. The dead must care for their own.

The students had held a vote the night before, to stay or go. A minority voted to stay. So everyone stayed. Many were weak from hunger, and it is easy to imagine they did not move as the tanks came in the night, bodies wrapped in sleeping bags, they knew death was coming. Defeat. They were on a train with no more stops, on a crash-course with no possible exit. Their only hope is that their remembrance will one day…

There can be no peaceful transition. Of Power.

They just used bullets to prove they were nothing to be laughed at. In desperation.

In the morning a man danced in the street, one-on-one, his partner cold as steel. He led the tank, back-and-forth. A dance on the street with heavy arms. Confusion. He climbed onto his dance partner. To have a conversation. To whisper in an ear receptive. He left. I do not know what happened to him. He looked like anyone. Out of place. Like he did not belong here. And then he left.

Quickly news spread like a wildFire. Here is how:

In the end, no hope, runners split up in all directions. They walked far away. They went to places where they were not known. Better to not be traced. They appeared in front of strangers. Mysterious. They told their story. Like ghosts. To be believed or not. Then they disappeared. Repeat. In this way sparks branch out across the countryside, starting many brushFires, left wild to burn, unstoppable. It is as Mao wrote in his Little Red Book.

This was explained to me by a woman I met in a province who told me of the student’s gambit. A tactical move meant to keep their idea going as long as it was required, until they would raise the struggle from the ashes.

🔥

“That was a long time ago,” says the attendant.

“It depends on how you measure time,” says the Griot. “I take a long view, myself.”

“How long did this go on, these sparks?”

“Comrade! It is still happening now. Have you not heard? Have you not heard?”

Trigger Warning: The Assassination of Fred Hampton

It was not about the guns. We had them. They were a necessity. And a defense. That was the necessity. That’s why the full name of our organization was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Self-defense and the defense of others. Defense of the wider community.

I died in my sleep. I was twenty-one years old.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

I had done more by twenty-one than the government would allow. 

I died for the people.

The most important task of the Panthers was political education. To these ends our most important programs were our services to the community. The people. Why don’t you live for the people? The free breakfast for children program. Free medical and legal clinics.

We serve the brothers and sisters who came on the same boat. Or another boat. Or, it does not matter which boat you came on, but only that you are here and you are in need. Why don’t you fight for the people?

They poisoned the first store of food when we were starting the program. Like poisoning the food in a dumpster so poor people cannot eat. Like poisoning the blankets handed out to the Indians, for convenience. Like poisoning alcohol during Prohibition, for ideology. A display of power. Hung up for all to see. You don’t think I know these things? I have studied the Man. Brutality. Greed. And I have dared to imagine a better world than this, not in some hereafter, but Here. Now.

We all know there will be no peaceful transition of power, though that is what we most desire. We only hope it will be as peaceful as possible under such brutal conditions. Letting things go on as they have is not an acceptable option. People were already dying in the streets. Ignored. Before the resistance arose. The resistance rose because of the brutality. A response. In Self-Defense. And defense of others. Do not step on the fallen. Offer aid to the weak. Do not think you are above it all, buy in-to that system. The brutality has lasted so long it gives the illusion it is the only way. That it is normal. Right. If you are not a member of the resistance you are an accomplice. Let them lay down their weapons. Then we will all have peace.

But we all know they will not fade away quietly. They will fight to retain power over others. Insidiously, they will poison minds. Young and old. They will turn brother against brother, sister against sister, brother against sister, sister against brother. An un-civil war. For what? Scraps? They have to do this. If they don’t turn us against each other the system will fail. It has no authority. People would see it for what it is: A sham. A scheme. A disgrace.

If you are of the underclass they will have you think your position is some fault of your own. A moral failing. A genetic inferiority. The other. The outsiders. Lies. Lies prosper.

Lies make money.

Money is the root of all evil.

There is such a thing.

Evil.

The answer to a lie is a truth.

Do not be afraid to speak the truth.

Fear is a great enemy.

Old John Brown. He made Kansas bleed and Virginia quake. In 1837 a pro-slavery mob attacked a warehouse and printing press and killed the abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy. “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!” said John Brown. He attended speeches by Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. He helped to make an entire city one of the safest stops on the underground railroad. He led many battles, the last being an attack on Harpers Ferry armory in Virginia, 1859. He planned to use the oppressor’s own weapons against them, traveling and freeing slaves, arming them, but fighting only in self-defense. He planned to start an army of emancipation, consulting with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, whom he referred to as “General Tubman.” But the masses did not rise up, they were afraid. And John Brown was executed by the government for treason, the first person convicted of this, for trying to end the institution of slavery. Which robbed many to enrich few. An abomination. But historians agree these were the first shots Fired in the US Civil War, which formally started a year later.

The war had already been going on, a shooting war, for decades. It was an imaginary line that divided traitor from patriot, terrorist from just soldier. A matter of perspective. Positioning.

But why does it have to come to war?

“Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.”

– Victor Hugo, letter to the London News.

“Whenever commenced, I cannot but wish success to all slave insurrections.”

– William Lloyd Garrison

His bones and those of some of his comrades are buried at the John Brown Farm, a national historic site in New York.

And let us be clear. The destination of the underground railroad was not the free north of a United States, for there was no such place. Even non-slave states had laws making it illegal not to return a person who has escaped bondage back to that very same bondage. Even the United States of to-day has not outlawed slavery, making exceptions in prisons, and thus building one of the largest prison systems in the world. A strange point of pride for a supposed free people.

No one knows what became of the bones of Nat Turner, like those of Thomas Paine.

Nat Turner was a visionary. That is, he had visions, prophetic. They started early, as a boy, bright but constrained, grew up into a man not wanted for brightness. He ministered to others about his visions, like Joan of Arc. And he developed followers. Even a white man, who it is said that Turner convinced to renounce his previous wickedness.

He determined that only a cataclysmic act of violence could prove to the oppressors violence begets only violence. It was 1831.

They needed a way to communicate with themselves, without giving themselves away.

They communicated through code, in song.

He recruited seventy free and slave men. They went door-to-door in the night killing everyone inside each fine house. They only passed over the houses of poorer whites known to not consider others beneath them.

They were captured. Nat Turner was beheaded by the US government. His body was dumped, anonymous and unmarked. Headless.

The State made it illegal to educate blacks. It restricted our right to assemble and bear arms, it denied free blacks right to trial by jury, denied them the right to vote, and made it possible to enslave them through the courts. They eventually outlawed slavery but made an exception for prisoners. Thus they have filled the prisons to profit by slave labor, legally, while giving lip service to civil rights. Even when freed they continued to restrict our rights either through law or tradition. A way of life. Defended.

In 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy, was murdered in Money Mississippi, for the false testimony he whistled at a white woman. He was beaten, unrecognizable, shot in the head, and dumped in the river. His mother defiantly left the coffin open. “Let people see what they did to my boy. Let them see.” This stark picture of brutality gave Fire to the fight for freedom.

After Martin Luther King was assassinated a pig came up on the street and said, “You’re next!”

I was having a dream.

The Judas goat is a trained goat. Trained to lead a flock to slaughter. A traitor. It sells out the community for self-benefit.

We need to bring all people together. We formed a Rainbow Coalition. Along with feeding the hungry, organizing across racial lines was what made us a threat to the establishment. Read their own words on the matter.

We joined with street gangs, asking, “Why aren’t  you fighting for the people? Help us feed the children. You are needed. You can make a difference.”

We joined the churches, unbelievers. We sat in their pews. Because there were people there. “Why aren’t you fighting for the people? Help us feed the children. You are needed. You can make a difference.”

We joined with the Young Patriots, young men immigrated to the city from the rural South. White men raised in prejudice. Confederate flag bandannas on their heads. But they saw with us our common humanity, and they put their counterfeit beliefs aside. And joined with us in our greater shared struggle. Our Rainbow Coalition. Because they were us, and we, them. Links on the chain. Scarred. Our brothers and sisters. We came on different boats, but now we are all here. Together.

“How will we do it? Guns?” they asked.

Don’t get hung up on that. Help us serve the people to make this a better world. Soon. Now.

After Martin Luther King was assassinated a pig came up on the street and said, “You’re next!”

And I was.

I was having a dream. It was not this dream.

The Judas goat. The silent betrayer.

One of our own. Our brother.

Like this: The state takes a man. A crime, real or planted. A threat. But if you help us, they say, you go free. You must only betray. Betray the people.

And so my trusted bodyguard was a police infiltrator. A puppet. And he drugged me. And gave the police the layout and the schedule.

I did not even get a kiss.

Knock knock. 4:45 in the morning. Who’s there? “Tommy Gun,” they said. Who? Terror shooting.

Bullets tear through the door and walls. Ninety percent  aimed at the location I lay sleeping, drugged.

My woman rolled over and tried to shield me, heavy with child. She didn’t know what she was doing. Screaming everywhere, underwater. Fuzzy. She lifted my head from the bloody mattress. Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.

People scream, “There is a pregnant sister in here!” More shooting. Assassin’s bullets. Only one shot went the other direction, shot by brother Mark Clark, after he himself was shot in the heart.

They rush in.

“Is he dead?” “Barely alive. He’ll make it.”

Shooting resumes. Point blank.

“He’s good and dead now.”

They were talking about me. I never woke up.

I was having a dream. Not this one.

Mark Clark was shot in the heart. He lay in a pool of blood. Dead.

The Judas goat went on. Thrived. To see many future holidays.

But you cannot kill a revolution by killing a revolutionary. Though it is often tried. In time, events do not look the same as they did in the heat of the moment. People come to see things previously thought unbelievable.

After, the government was forced to set up free breakfast and lunch programs in schools.

But the slave labor in prisons only got worse.

Someday, my friend, we will be together.

All power to all people.