When I went to the grocery store I didn’t come for biscuits. In the aisle near the door, there was biscuit on the floor. And all over his mother screamed, Removing her face mask come what hell brings. “Biscuit!” she shouted out loud Sputtering her sputum into that hot crowd. “Biscuit!“ she did shout again Because repetition to her was no grievous sin. “Mama!” Biscuit shouted in return He ran through the store Like a fever does burn. I’m sorry I don’t know how This story ends, But I hope I survive To come again.
When I was young I learned about life from watching television. I thought when I grew up I would have an affair with my secretary. This is the grown-up thing to do. So much a part of socially accepted society, it becomes a popular in-joke around the office and at home. Almost always this results in a positive audience response.
I assume this situation is because something is lacking at home. Though on the surface it is hard to say what. It is a loving family, though my children don’t respect me, always trying to get the last word; and my wife seems to like nothing better than to milk any minor conflict for comedic purposes. Whenever I hurt myself, falling over an ottoman or walking into a glass door, people laugh. I smile to hide my hurt. Embarrassed and ashamed.
My affair becomes a running gag. This is why I keep bringing it up, and when I do people take a drink. A matter of small talk which comes up again and again. But I blame this on the fact that it is socially acceptable to say any outrageous thing these days, as long as the audience approves, and thus this behavior is reinforced through a complex social conditioning. This is why my kids crack wise. This is why no one respects me. This is why I am a laughing stock. Held up to ridicule. Robbed of my dignity.
And even my secretary. Always pestering me about my wife. When will I leave her? Don’t I know my wife doesn’t respect me? My children mock me behind my back, and worse? But now she sounds just like my wife.
And even my wife. Always pestering me about my secretary. When will I leave her? Don’t I know my secretary doesn’t respect me? My subordinates mock me behind my back, and worse? But now she sounds just like my secretary. Like bringing work home with you. So tiring.
And maybe it’s because we have separate beds. I never understood this. At night I read the latest issue of Playboy while she studies up on witchcraft and we make smalltalk about the Mars probe. That’s as intimate as we get. And I feel lucky when I can get it.
My secretary I never get out of her nightgown. And it is often the same one. There is no color to it, maybe it is different, but I only experience color in my dreams. Like anyone.
My best friend is named Harry and he is a pilot. He attracts women like a magnet. I go out drinking with him and he always makes me look weak. It’s like he has this whole other existence which I suspect is better than mine and in which I am a bit player. Someone they laugh about while in the cockpit.
It’s that laughter which rings in my ears. I know they are laughing at me. The situations I get into and fail to get into. Even the circumstance. The situational setup. Existence itself. A misunderstanding. An artifice.
After a few years, things will become routine. One can get used to anything. They say I am behind the times. A social artifact. Little do they know I always was. I know what I am. A social artifact. This is when Harry invites me to a beach to “Jump the shark.” There is a falling off of quality after that. The end will finally come, long after I long for it. I will be cancelled. People will say, is that still a thing? No. Please, change the channel. I beg you.
Let me tell you all a story ‘bout a man name Trump a simple minded bumpkin with a head full of fluff, he wouldn’t wear a mask now the Twitter corps says you can’t wish him ill because he is our fascist Prez.
The Naval base doctors gather around his sickness bed to determine if he is in or out of his head, it’s a difficult thing for a military doctor to declare because it all depends on the meaning of the word there.
He is well. He’s well. In fact he’s doing so gosh darn swell. He’s a pigheaded sturdy son of a gun that’s why we’ve had to put him on oxygen.
He’s well. He’s well. In fact he’s rather gosh darned swell. We’ve started him on steroids to correct his old hemorrhoids, it’s a comorbid condition as well.
Now when we said the president he would pull through, we said that because we’re messengers of his corporate crew, but to give the man the free will that is every man’s due we’re not absolutely entirely sure that’s completely true.
He’s well. He is well. In fact he’s extraordinarily swell. So we’ve upped the F’ing steroids which is a term we use in relation to how we administer them, And he’s doing extremely extraordinarily and fashionably well!
I am ahead of my time, she said. How can I get ahead of my time, he said. Never mind, she said. The time has passed. Luckily, she said, we left it behind. I am behind you, he said. But I never look back, she said. I can only look forward, he said. You cannot talk back, she said. You are very forward, he said. I have to be, she said. To get anywhere all alone.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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?”