Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Deer Hunting with Jesus-A Parrothead Book Review

By the late and great Joe Bageant.

Several years ago while reading the inscrutable and always cantankerous Fred Reed’s column I was introduced to a curious aberration of the American South, Mr. Joe Bageant who passed away a few months ago. I call him an aberration only in the sense that after reading his columns I realize I had found a kindred soul in this self-described “Redneck Socialist.” In a land where Jesus, guns, and NASCAR all qualify as religions in one sense or another it was mind blowing to finally discover I was not completely alone or crazy in my own liberal political viewpoint without rejecting the good parts of my southern upbringing.

Mr. Bageant was no friend to corporations or their high-paid sycophants who regularly broadcast propaganda over a particular cable “news channel” and numerous talk radio shows, but neither was he a stereotypical warm and fuzzy liberal/progressive out to eat tofu all day while puzzling over their horoscope. He stayed connected to his roots and kept a strong affection for the place he was raised and the customs he learned from his kinfolk. Yes, that meant he hunted, fished, and did other things that often send pretentious and sanctimonious left-wingers into seizures. Some liberals will turn up their noses at that last remark figuring they could never taint themselves by associating with bigoted and idiotic, nose-picking, republican voting fools not just in the south but across the country but they do that to their own detriment.

This is where Bageant’s book “Deer Hunting with Jesus” comes into play. After living in other parts of the world for many years, he and his wife returned to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia to find it greatly changed. Like much of small town America, he found the residents of Winchester becoming part of a new permanent underclass unable to break out of a cycle of growing poverty and ignorance.

Yes, the blame for this situation at least partly rests on the shoulders of those clinging to their guns, god, and glorious ignorance. However, the liberal establishment should also earn some culpability for their willful abandonment of a whole segment of the American people. I offer this review of “Deer Hunting with Jesus” not as some attempt to absolve poor ignorant whites from blame but as a strategic assessment as to why they vote against their own best interests and how liberals might be able to crack that voting bloc forcing the republican party to move more to the center.

Liberals have a hard time accepting it and many will even go to great lengths to deny it but they have one huge Achilles heel, their view of poor white people is hopelessly flawed and self-defeating. This is a godsend for conservative media and their corporate puppet masters, while liberals rightfully champion every oppressed group and cause through inattention or outright contempt poor whites are often cast aside leaving them out in the cold.

Why does this matter in the greater scheme of things? Because of the 33 million Americans living at the poverty line or below Bageant’s book states 19 million of them are poor whites. I checked into this figure and after digging around enough census data to make me dizzy I found the figure to be 15.3 million as of 2001. Since his book was written in 2007, I have to believe his figure is more accurate. Bageant also mentions those who consider themselves “middle class” but who finance their lifestyle with credit cards as working semi-poor so that number could be far larger.

Conservative media and their owners make full use of this population who vote far more than other groups. This gives the likes of Fox Noise and its allies a huge advantage in every election cycle. Poor and semi-poor whites are not completely stupid, they see their economic positions declining with the gap between them and the rich growing wider. Conservative media conveniently comes floating in taking this insecurity and with ever-increasing fearmongering neatly uses it to secure a permanent, large, and very dependable voting bloc.

It is so very easy for some liberal urban dwelling intellectual to look down their noses at folks who actually go out to hunt for their food. Never mind that as recently as the 1960’s here in the poor rural south and many poorer parts of the north that was how some families put meat on the table. That they hunt now is viewed by these same intellectuals as a barbaric redneck practice even though they would regard it a natural part of the culture of people native to the African bush or the Aboriginals of Australia. This maybe too simple for many to understand but for many Americans hunting is just as much a part of their culture as it is for other native peoples around the world. And as you might expect other native peoples to react, criticizing a person's culture will normally result in a very bad reaction, especially when what they do does not affect you. If you're wondering, yes I have hunted Bambi in the past and we still chow down on the forest prince when venison is served.

Even worse for some calling themselves intellectual and out to liberate the dumb masses is how some people dare to cling to a spiritual side of life and believe in God. Many liberals will find this hard to believe but most Christians have no desire to overthrow the United States Constitution and establish a theocracy. The vast majority are actually quite decent folks who want nothing more than to be left alone and in many cases do their best to help someone in need.

Yes, Joe Bageant does mention the subset of radical Christians that make the Taliban look like a peaceful civic society. Bageant also mentions that this subset has grown darker and ominous in recent years using terms that would make H.P. Lovecraft cringe in fear.

The most tragic and depressing part of this book was the story Bageant related about the business relationship between a huge manufacturing factory in his hometown and the inhuman but huge national retailer where “Always Low Prices” are proudly proclaimed on the outside of every building. This manufacturing plant for years provided good pay and benefits to its employees until the retail company came in and said that the manufacturer was going to have to greatly lower the price for the product or they would take their business to companies who made the same type products outside the United States.

The decent enough manufacturing company was forced to slash pay and benefits for its employees just to keep some business. While the retailer may portray itself on the national media as a happy place looking after its customers in my opinion it is actually slowly killing them.

Long story short Bageant ‘s basic point is, and speaking from my own vast experience, your average redneck while dumber than dirt is for the most part a honorable individual caught up in massive forces changing the world he or she do not comprehend. At the same time, they feel abandoned and looked down upon by the groups who claim to defend the poor. This leaves them open to slick propaganda and political candidates who promise to return America to its glory when Ozzie and Harriet and other aspects of 1950’s lifestyle were the epitome of the American dream.

That is why conservative leaders know a real education beyond the basics of wiring, carpentry, and advanced lawn care procedures have a liberalizing effect on the population. It is also why they go to such great lengths to demonize anyone with enough education to know the moisture falling down on them is not rain but the rich pissing on the unwashed masses. The point I will conclude with is that Mr. Bageant writes that if liberals had not looked down upon the growing blue-collar angst as unenlightened “Archie Bunkerism” and instead offered up some gutsy, comprehensive, and practical solutions we might have blunted much of the damage this conservative era we live in has caused.

This is a fantastic and very enlightening book with far more detailed information about poor white folks than I can mention. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to know why largely decent people can believe idiotic things.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pocelain Inspired Worship and Confessions

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
Ernest Hemingway

It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can't remember if it's the thirteenth or the fourteenth.
George Burns

You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.
Dean Martin

 Seeking the cool and forgiving refuge of the porcelain god early this morning I stumbled into the bathroom wondering how in the world I could get lost in my own house. Feeling like Odysseus on his epic journey home my alcohol soaked brain twisted time and space into a pretzel like loop that somehow kept guiding me into the walk-in closet. Even in my inebriated state I realized if I caused any possible damage to my wife's clothes while lost my life would not be worth the boiling nuclear mass I felt inside my stomach.  

Finally at some point I backed up and while concentrating so hard I actually believe I hurt something instead of moving forward I drifted off to the left and found my destination. The cool altar welcomes my troubled forehead and I imagined, or at least I hope that is the case, it told me to reveal all my troubles. That is when I explained how my family and I had attended a party at my cousin's house with me enjoying myself far too much. It was a totally awesome get together with spectacular food and the best company and conversation in the world.

The Corona supply was unlimited and even as my lovely wife advised me to slow my intake I popped the tops on more beer I had drank in a long time. Never one to stop when I very much need too when we returned home I found the movie "Inception" about to come on one of the movie channels and wondered how I would perceive it while drinking margaritas...heavy on the tequila. It was freaking even more mind blowing!!!!

Of course at some point I had to pay for my sins and it was there kneeling before porcelain god that I confessed every sin I had committed and a few I only wished I had done. Thank God there was no recording device nearby. The only problem is that through it all Spock the Cat joined me and calmly stared at me as I paid my remittance. Cats being inscrutable I have no idea if he was there to support me or just silently laugh at my ass.  I'm not through paying for my sins yet, while my stomach has finished its meltdown my head hurts and Miss Wiggles wants to go to a local pet shelter and "volunteer" to help. Dear God have mercy on my poor soul.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What goes around always comes around

“The office is cleared and secure, the judge can come up whenever he is ready.” The chief goon said into the microphone clipped inside the right sleeve of his sports coat. Just moments before he and his subordinate, now standing guard just outside in the deserted hallway, had stormed into my office unannounced, the apparent security for the mystery man who was my seven o’clock in the morning appointment.

The goons had caught me off guard while I was in the small adjoining bathroom trying to clean out the sour residue of last night’s tequila in my mouth with an entire tube of toothpaste. The office door was unlocked and both charged in like bulls in a china shop with pistols drawn sweeping the room as if they expected to find a terrorist slumber party. I immediately pegged both of them as poorly trained bodyguards and instinctively knew not to make any sudden moves knowing they were overeager to shoot something. Given the times, whatever lawyer their employer had on retainer would easily take care of any legal mess they created had they blown me away after I made a suicidal rush towards my own weapon.

“Morning fellas, you must work for my new client, I almost didn't hear you come in, you sounded as soft and gentle as the rain outside.” I said, slowly turning back to the sink to finish my morning routine while I listen to them rifle through the drawers in my desk and the cushions of my couch. The metallic clicks I heard behind me told me one of the goons had found my Sig Sauer P226 and removed the magazine then cleared the bullet from the chamber.

Still moving slowly I walked over to my desk and sat down to wait for what must be either a very important person or a paranoid asshole with large egotistical delusions about him or herself. It did not take long to learn I was right on both counts.

From the window behind me lightning flashed, flooding my office with an eerie blue glow with the loud clap of thunder soon following adding a heavy dose of foreboding that even disturbed the robot nature of the bodyguard watching over me. After declaring the office safe, he returned his pistol to his high-tech shoulder holster under his sports coat but kept his arms positioned in such a way that he could remove it in a couple of second. To see him flinch at lightning was funny but I stifled any laugh when I saw two figures out in the hallway reach the top of the stairs.

I immediately recognized the very important person as the former governor of Georgia, Ben Franklin Wright, former actor and unless something bad happened the next president of the United States. The other guy I knew by general reputation, his tailored sports cost was emblazed with the coat of arms of Gilead Military Protection Services, one of the biggest private military contracting companies in the country making him a slightly higher order of lifeform than most viruses. Being a former Marine officer I was of course bias in my opinion, where as many in service still held to a form of honor and duty, private military contractors only answered to who paid the most.

“You must be Evan Connors, the renowned private investigator,” the governor said while grabbing one of the office chairs visitors use while the high paid mercenary stood behind him closing the umbrella that he used to protect his well-heeled boss from the rain. The mercenary had special ops written all over him, the governor must be paying him well for such a degrading job.

“Well, your boys seem certain with them rushing in my office unannounced with weapons drawn. It would have been real funny had they gone into the wrong office and shot some unsuspecting fool.” I say looking at the goon in my office who seemed even less life-like now.

“Excuse my men.” The governor chuckled good naturedly, “it’s one of my promises to the American people; see I won’t use taxpayer’s dollars for protection until I’m elected president.

“November is a long time away governor,” I said. While I detest all politicians in general, seeing Wright in my office he seethed with an extreme arrogance that he tried his best to hide under a good-old country boy’s affable personality.

From the late 80’s to the early 90’s the man made his fame on television as Judge Marcus Tiberius Howard, a modern cross between television’s wise and peaceful Sheriff Andy Taylor and Rambo. During his four years on television, he offered up sage advice to the peace loving citizens of a fictional Georgia county. For criminals and any other person daring to disturb the tranquility of his territory they usually received several loads of buckshot from his Remington pump shotgun named “Gracie.”

After the series was cancelled, he moved to Georgia and parlayed his celebrity into a seat in congress and later the governorship. As the presidential campaign heated up, he had came out of nowhere blowing away the entire collection of lackluster freaks already running for his party’s nomination. With the convention two months away and the economy still in a coma, polls suggested he would crush the current president in a landslide.

The governor gave me a hard look suggesting he did not care for me questioning his near certain November victory. “That’s what brings me here Connor,” he said,” I need your talents in locating my oldest daughter, Rebecca Wright. She has always been a troubled child and a little over six months ago, she finally ran away. I’ve hired other investigators but they could not find her. I’m friends with one of your former clients and he said you are the best at finding missing people and that you are discreet and a person who asks no questions.”

“That is true,” I said, “but did my former client also say a person with my talents and discreet traits is also very expensive.” While I was a private investigator, I considered myself more of an urban tracker, specializing in finding the spoiled and destructive offspring of the rich and famous without the press finding out.

“I’m all for the capitalist system my friend, you will be paid anything you want as long as you have my daughter back home before the convention in Tampa.” The governor said crossing his arms. It was clear he was disturbed at my lack of fawning over his presence. “Just how much is it going to cost to have my daughter back?”

“Since you can afford such high quality protection,” I said motioning to the mercenary standing behind him, “one million dollars cash, in small bills and the press will never know your daughter left home. I just need a detailed biography on Rebecca, currents pictures, and a list of her acquaintances.” My talent at winning friends and impressing people showed itself again with the mercenary now glaring at me as if he wanted to slit my throat. Given how I feel about mercenaries, any other time I would have handed him a knife and dared him to jump.

The good governor, whose demeanor when entering my office was close to the friendly country boy he liked to display in public, was now closer to an evil sorcerer about to curse some errant soul. My instincts told me this was his true personality.

“Fine, I’ll make sure Charles here gets what you need by tonight,” he said motioning to the mercenary behind him. “But I warn you boy, don’t cross me, it will be the last thing you ever do.” With that, he got up and walked out of my office gesturing all three of his flunkies to leave with him. The mercenary was still glaring at me as he closely followed the good governor out the door. Just for shits and giggles, I blew him a kiss to show my affection. That is when the memories came flooding back.


The images of those dark days in Iraq will be burned in my brain until the day I die. Hell, they may even haunt me after that as my punishment. For weeks after the events, I tried to ignore the scenes as they played through my mind, it was war and like old Sherman said a long time ago it’s a mother fucking hell on wheels.

After realizing the memories would never go away, the next step was justification. I told myself the Iraqi locals had it coming, people in their shit hole neighborhood had fired several RPG’s on an American convoy killing six and burning three others so badly that it would have been far better if their buddies had shot them. Years of painful operations, skin grafts, and therapy just to live out your days in a VA hospital without any arms or legs with even your aging parents unable to look at what remains of your burnt face, now that would be worse than hell for me. So in a way I guess I’m lucky, all I have to deal with are the mental scars.

But I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes sit at my desk with my pistol, a round in the chamber, inches from my hand and a bottle of tequila next it trying to find the courage to put the barrel to my head and pull the trigger. But I don’t, the memories are my special punishment for the things I have done and let other people do.

That evening after the ambush, a search of our sector was hastily organizes with the entire brigade out for vengeance. We fanned out into the neighborhoods busting down doors and tearing apart the meager possessions of terrified women and children who huddled in dark corners while husbands and young men stared at us, their hate so intense they almost glowed.

It was a long, awful night with both Americans and Iraqis bathed in the darkest of human emotions. As the night progressed and each house turned up empty our frustrations only grew and barring a firefight we all wondered how things could get worse. For my platoon the answer to that question was the arrival of three armored vans loaded with army intelligence types, assorted spooks, and heavily armed military contractors wearing Kevlar helmets adorned with the snazzy logo of Gilead Military Protection Services.

They rounded up over twenty civilians, including children, with the clear intent of hauling them off for “questioning”, which my platoon and I knew was a joke even in our bloody quest for revenge. It was when one of the mercenaries went after a young, attractive Iraqi woman with military intelligence gathering the last thing on his mind that my head cleared and I tackled the guy landing several blows from the butt of my M-4 carbine on his head. The next thing I know I was thrown off the mercenary by several of his buddies, then found myself facing the business ends of their rifles.

My platoon responded immediately pointing their weapons at the hired thugs, spooks, and army pencil pushers with a fire fight between us a real possibility. At least the mercenary I tackled and beat the hell out of was still on the ground.

“Stand down you motherfuckers!” An army colonel yelled running toward us taking a position between the two units. My gunnery sergeant and another Marine from my platoon pulled me away from the Gilead people and I whipped out my sidearm taking dead aim at the mercenary in charge, had that colonel not pushed me back I would have blown the bastard away.

“Don’t do it lieutenant,” the colonel yelled at me, “I know these bastards are thugs but you and your men will lose if you go against them, they have friends in high places. Stand down, I’ll do my best to protect these civilians.”

With that I did stand down watching the mercenaries gather up scared people innocent of everything but being born in a poor third-world shithole that had some significance in the geo-political game played by governments and corporations.

The high-paid thug I had beat was back up, again going after the young woman he had taken an interest in. “What goes around bitch comes around,” I heard him say as he threw the woman up into the back of a cargo truck. I did my duty the best I could for the rest of my tour in Iraq, after returning home I served out the remainder of my enlistment and left the service after that.


Three weeks after my meeting with Governor Wright, I’m sitting in my rental car outside a seedy Los Angeles diner in a very bad neighborhood reviewing the information I had on his daughter. Finding Rebecca was easy, the girl had disappeared from her father’s house on Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia without a trace leaving all forms of identification, credit cards, and possessions behind. The trick at finding Rebecca was determining her best friend was a girl named Jennifer McDonald who lived several houses down on the same seaside street. After that, everything opened up like a cracked egg.

It didn’t take long to discover that an illegal from El Salvador working in the McDonald household had contacts with people who made forged identification. Putting a little squeeze on the poor guy got me the name of the forger, applying significant pressure him got me the name Rebecca was working under, but not the location. For that, I had to watch Jennifer McDonald and wait for her to make a move.

The other investigator’s Governor Wright hired had of course thought of bugging the Jennifer’s home phone and tracking the wireless communication of her cell and laptop but that got them nothing, what they did not check was the local library and her using the internet there. It took over a week of discreet observation and stealthy shadowing but I eventually collected enough information from her that after breaking into the room the library kept the internet server I was able to hack into Jennifer’s secret email account. I only had to read three emails from Rebecca before I discovered her location.

That’s when things fell apart, Rebecca was not acting like the usual self-destructive brat. Instead of living on the street, doing drugs and prostitution she had taken a job as a waitress and was living a quiet life in a rundown apartment complex a few miles down the road. Needing more information, I hacked back into the email exchanges between her and Jennifer. While they did not say anything in the open, it was clear they shared some dark secret. I wanted more time to understand what was going on but I had mistakenly told the governor I had found his daughter and he was demanding I bring her home immediately. Going against my usual habits, I broke into her apartment while she was at work looking for some insight into her reasons for running away.

Breaking in was child’s play but once again I found she went completely against the grain of the usual self-destructive rich kid. Her apartment was clean and well organized with no drugs or alcohol anywhere to be found. The answers came from her handwritten journal I found on the small desk in her bedroom. It chronicled her life from the death of her mother, the governor’s first wife, and then years of sexual abuse by her father. More bone chilling was how Rebecca wrote that the governor’s entourage, namely his personal Gilead bodyguard, Charles, covered up her abuse. The reoccurring theme through all of this was how all she wanted was to be free of her father and to have a normal life. However, the saddest part was reading of how powerless she felt in the face of what Governor Wright was doing to her and how no one would believe her if she went to the police.

Four hours later the keys jiggling outside the door warned me Rebecca was home. After reading everything, I found myself unable to move, much less leave her apartment. Both she and I were too entangled with her ambitious and deranged father to ever be set free, we were both dangerous loose ends that could be fatal to his plans on becoming the next president. That left only one real option and unfortunately Rebecca would have to bear the brunt of my plan.

The door opened and Rebecca froze like a deer caught in the headlights of an onrushing car seeing me inside her apartment. Before she could scream or move I slammed the door shut and placed my hand over her mouth. It was vital I gain her trust as quickly as possible so I had to choose my words carefully. “Rebecca, I know what your father has done to you for years. I have a plan that will mean a normal life for you free of your father and his flunkies. But it is dangerous and very dirty. Do you want to hear it?”

The young lady silently looked at me for several seconds, in her I mind I suspect she weighed the chances of some strange man she did not know appearing out of nowhere and having good intentions. But after reading about her nearly twenty years of torture I guess she was ready to grasp at any chance for help that might come her way. “Yes, I will do anything you want if it gets my father out of my life.” She said after I moved my hand away.

Sometime the next morning her father and his chief protector and ass kisser, Charles, were to arrive at a private airport outside Los Angeles so things had to move fast if my plan was going to work. I sat Rebecca down on her worn couch and removed the .357 derringer I kept hidden in an ankle holster and after removing the four bullets inside handed it to her. Rebecca looked like she was about to panic handling the small weapon but I began explaining what she had to do and she slowly calmed down. Everything depended on whether Rebecca could conceal the derringer and keep it very close until her father made his usual moves.

The next morning Rebecca and I were waiting at the private airport as Governor Wright’s private jet arrived. After the door to the small plane was opened, Rebecca wordlessly walked over from my car to her father and Charles and climbed abroad the aircraft never acknowledging their presence. The good governor at least had the grace to hand me the duffel bag full of cash before re-boarding himself and leaving. As the jet disappeared into the California sky, I said a small prayer to an inattentive god that Rebecca might soon be free.


 Several days passed after Rebecca returned home with no news coming out of the Wright household except the usual stuff about the certainty of his upcoming presidential nomination. I almost began to worry that something had gone wrong or that Rebecca had become to frightened to act.

Then suddenly the American press goes ballistic with word that the former governor was murdered in his Tybee Island mansion. Days passed with wild speculation ranging from a terrorist attack to political skullduggery by the other party. Things got even crazier as word leaked out that his oldest daughter was claiming her father, the near certain next president of the United States, had raped her and that there was DNA evidence to prove it.

The usual media suspects claimed it was all a grand conspiracy but the level of law enforcement that had been called in prevented any of the tragic truth from being covered up. Soon after that various people on the former governor’s staff came forward with statements that they had known something was wrong but could never exactly figure out the problem or issue. The key figure law enforcement wanted to talk with was the former governor’s personal bodyguard, a Charles Bakker, but he had apparently fled the country. A month later I am in Panama taking refuge from the heat in a seaside bar after tracking down Charles to a resort area just outside the capitol. 

After checking my watch I paid what I owed to Miguel the bartender and walked out into the steamy Panamanian night. I did not have far to walk, the lights of the nightclub with its glamorous people was worlds apart from that horrible night back in Iraq with rage and fear creating a Hell-like atmosphere.

I was strangely calm and felt no need to rush the night so I took a seat on a bench across the street and waited, truthfully after all my years of finding rich brats I had more than enough money for the rest of my life and had decided to make Panama my home. Enjoying a  late night breeze and planning my future I just sat there, eventually the nightclub closed with a few stranglers stumbling out. I had watched my target for days and as usual, he and the attractive lady he was living with were the last to come out and began walking up the street towards their apartment.

After that it all happened quickly, seeing them come out I rushed ahead several blocks and was waiting in the proverbial dark alley. It’s terrible when a former special operations soldier gets so lazy in observing his surroundings he becomes a joke, but who am I to look a gifted horse in the mouth.

Charles was so drunk he never felt the impact of my blows. Two guys I hired grabbed the woman with him and after placing a bag over her head to conceal our identities took her away to safety. Charles eventually sobered up enough to know the trouble he was in but by that time, my Sig P226 was an inch from his chest. I must admit at feeling unnaturally happy when he recognized me. A smile appeared on his face and I could see his muscles tensing as he made ready to counter attack.

I tried to think of something witty to say but only one thing came to mind. “What goes around bitch, comes around.” I then shot him twice in the heart and watched him die. I walked out of that alley with a clear conscious and actually looking forward to the rest of my life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bed and Breakfast Weekend

The very fact that my lovely wife would even suggest an unplanned weekend getaway should have sent me to DEFON-1 and running off to some undisclosed location. It was a typical Thursday night last week with the kids watching South Park upstairs and me dozing on the couch counting down the minutes until the time I had to leave for work. I’m not sure what Dragonwife was watching on television but it was sufficiently boring that I was caught up in my usual fantasies of dark-skinned ladies wearing skimpy bikinis on a white sandy beach next multiple coolers filled with ice cold beer as equally hot ladies wearing Hooters “uniforms” watching over tables loaded with food.

“How about we go away this weekend?” Dragonwife asked suddenly as a raven-haired beauty and I cavorted under a palm tree with beer, chips, salsa, and a bottle of edible sun block.

“What about the kids?” I asked back figuring that would derail any possible marital adventure.

“My mom has agreed to watch Wiggles at her house and Spoilboy can stay home alone.” She responded strangely certain as if this were not some futile exercise in wishful thinking. My wife simply does not come out with impromptu plans; she and her kinfolk are just not genetically capable of being spontaneous. All events and vacations have to be planned down to the second, any deviation and they melt down in puddles of molten metal and electronic circuits.

“Sure,” I say playing along, “where are we going?”

“Some place I am sure you will enjoy.” She said with me, as expected, thinking the coast.

Hindsight being what it is I now realize her wording of our exact destination for a fun weekend was excessively vague. So early Friday afternoon we "took care" of the kids sending one with her grandmother and stocking the refrigerator for the other hoping the food supply lasted out the day. We are talking a teenage boy here and figuring all four frozen pizzas, three bottle of sodas, and about twenty microwaveable meals could be gone by Saturday night we left a twenty for pizza money but only to be used in case of an emergency.  Earlier that morning after work I had run a bunch of errands getting stuff ready so I was very tired and was frankly a danger if I tried to drive. After some final wrangling over what we would listen to on the radio Dragonwife drove away from the house with me not so slowly dozing off with me wondered what we would do on the beach that evening.

Needless to say, I was very surprised to find myself nowhere near the ocean after waking up. However, it turned it turned out to be a great weekend, except for a visit to a certain unnamed art museum.

Our real destination was the Magnolia Inn bead and breakfast located in Chester, South Carolina. The house was originally built in 1903 during the heyday of the textile industry in the south. If I remember correctly a doctor and his family bought the house in 1911 after spending time in China as missionaries. Both he and later his son practiced medicine in that house up until 1977. After that I have forgotten but the current owners bought it sometime around 2005 and converted it to its current use. 

In the old days people spent most of their time socializing with their neighbors sipping lemonade and eating homemade ice cream on porches like this. Upon arrival we were greeted with two glasses of wine, which I needed since I had slept the entire way to Chester and was still shaking the cob webs out of my brain trying to figure out why I was not drinking a margarita. It only took a few minutes of relaxation before any disappointment at where I found myself had disappeared. The town of Chester is somewhat lost in a timewarp in the sense that most major employers closed up shop decades ago. Because of that you can sit on that beautiful porch and sort of lose yourself to another time since the surrounding homes are all from the same era.      

The formal sitting room where folks entertained without benefit of electronics. Being a person raised in the era of television and later such things as video games, stereos, computers, and other items of modern home entertainment I was somewhat concerned at having to carry on a decent conversation for any length of time with the other guests and our hosts. It is a forgone conclusion that intelligent conversation is at best a dying art but the atmosphere of the house was so comfortable we all fell back into habits long thought extinct.    

This is the room Dragonwife and I stayed in, the early twentieth century decor was undisturbed except for the forty inch television mounted over the fireplace. 

The breakfasts served Saturday and Sunday morning were out of this world. Saturday was French Toast served with fruit and thick cut bacon. My only regret was that I was unable to steal Dragonwife's two slices.  Sunday was grits and eggs and for anyone not luck enough to know the taste of finely ground grits I feel sorry for you. All told it was great food and company and if you are in the Chester area I very highly recommend you stay at Magnolia Inn.

Now Dragonwife did not come up with this trip strictly out the goodness of her heart. The spouse of one of her friends is an artist and a couple of his pieces have been added to the collection at a certain museum up in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Magnolian Inn is only about forty minutes away from that museum which will go unnamed. I would have pictures of that museum except that I was warned going in that they prohibited photography of many of the items on display. I was a good redneck up until I saw a few other people take out their cameras, figuring it must be okay I tried to take a couple of shots myself but was immediately intercepted by this burly security lady with arms bigger than my legs. Sure that I was about to be physically upended and possibly eaten by said security lady I quickly put my camera away.          

Click on this photo to enlarge it and you will see that the guy in the upper portion of the statue is pouring something on the guy below him. A curious work of art to be mounted in the middle of Charlotte. After the museum was over and I was safely away from the scary mutant working security Dragonwife and I enjoyed the Taste of Charlotte.

The Taste of Charlotte featured at least one-hundred of the local restaurants, I spent way too much money on the food to the point we had to make a ATM run after our cash went dry. The best items for me was the Mexican and French food offered but I also sampled good old fish and chips and plenty of all American hot dogs. I got kind of toasted as well since the beer, while not flowing freely, was at least plentiful and cheap.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Combat Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping in general is a form of utter torture for me and something my wife nearly has to hold a gun to my head in order to force me to leave the house and go do. Because of this, it is my usual habit when I cannot avoid making a run to buy whatever food items we need to do it either very late at night or very early in the morning. Now this brings up a whole other world of trouble like the time I thought I was being very shrewd and left the house to go shopping at two o’clock in the morning.

Being that I live in what I call a cancerous suburban tumor during the usual times to shop every grocery store is a madhouse of self-righteous assholes running around grabbing stuff off shelves, while talking on a cell phone, and believing they are ordained by God to have the right of way in everything. Trying to avoid as many of these suburbanite animals as possible I decided one day to do the shopping when I thought all God’s children would be home in bed, that way I could zip in and find the stuff I need and be out without any hassle. Instead, I was introduced to a whole other world of crazy featuring one fellow carrying on conversations about basketball with the stack of cantaloupes in the fruit section.

Strictly speaking, I only heard one side of the discussion but from what I could understand, the cantaloupes were making more sense with the gentleman asking me my opinion as I walked by. After hearing my opinion he was so distraught at me taking the side of the fruit that since then I have slightly tempered my desire at solitude while shopping with the need come home to my family alive.

Unfortunately, when the desperate need of some missing ingredient for one of my wife’s culinary creations arrives she is more than ready to force me to make a grocery run during the crowded daytime hours. Such was the case a couple of weeks ago and after a certain amount of screeching from her and gnashing of teeth by me, I dutifully hopped in my car and drove to the grocery store. It was late Saturday afternoon and as expected it was full of good citizens returning from a day of rest and recreation.

This particular grocery store can be called “upper scale” on the consumerist pecking order with the one benefit for me at having scores of hot suburban moms and or female professionals shopping there so they can easily obtain the organically grown veggies, freshly made sushi, and gourmet bottled water. Instead, with it being a very hot and sunny spring day it was crawling with people returning from boating on a nearby man-made lake called Lake Murray. This had the effect of increasing everyone’s frazzled nature and making my mission more complicated.

Part of the problem is always my fault, see even with a list I cannot just run into the store and buy what I need. The items written down never correspond to how the aisles are organized, I have to walk every lane picking up what I need and then crossing it off the list. That way I do not lose track and miss something on the list only to discover this fact after returning home. Never a good experience since the missing items usually is the linchpin in whatever my wife is cooking that day.

Exacerbating my shopping woes are my fellow customers who somehow instinctively know to block the exact section of an aisle I need to get at something. The other problem is my own ignorance, which gets in the way as I block sections myself trying to read my wife’s handwriting and decipher which size, brand, and variety of an item she wants. This issue is so bad at times that once I ran into one of my wife’s friends and asked her to read the list; she looked at it for several seconds, stifled a giggled, and handed the piece of paper back telling me good luck.

Somehow, I made do but not before dragging the grocery store staff into my tribulations when things get very bad. One trip had me searching for baking chocolate with me finding seven varieties but not the one written down on the list, not having a cell phone I borrowed the store phone and called my wife to get clarification. With further information, I dragged some hapless teenage stocker and eventually an equally unfortunate assistant manager into my epic search. Even the stockroom in back was explored and all three of us came to believe that form of baking chocolate simply did not exist. I thanked my new friends and walked away remembering the army gives campaign awards for similar efforts.

Getting back to my recent Saturday excursion, I flew through the aisles dodging the various customers like tumbling asteroids or alien space ships. In my head, I was imagining myself as some fighter jock blasting them with photon torpedoes and phasers if they got too close to my ship. For those blocking a section of a shelf where I needed to grab a particular can or bag I approached them like you would an unknown dog. I slowly came in from their front moving cautiously, while reaching for the product I wanted, with no sudden movements allowing time for me to penetrate their limited awareness. My main reason for this is my size and stature I have been likened several times to the old James Bond villain “Jaws” played by Richard Kiel. It is an unflattering comparison, to say the least, but I often think of those I live amongst as well-off proles so I just call it even.

As my task was drawing to a close, I had one last item on the list and it was simple, sour cream, this meant no long searches looking for it or debate about which type, it was going to be a quick flyby in the dairy aisle and I was gone. Doing warp speed down the rear of the grocery store, I honed in on the section where all the sour cream was stocked but immediately spotted a problem.

Being at least somewhat observant of those around me, I have discerned more than one type of customer who blocks sections of a grocery store aisle. The most common being the person on a cell phone who gets caught up in a conversation openly revealing intimate details of their lives while somehow becoming transfixed in time and space believing they are back home. Disturbing such people will get you an odd, surprised look or for those completely braindead a, “Do you mind, I’m on the phone,” response. Of course, I’m the type who is desperately trying to find an item but at least I’m conscious of those around me and do my best to limit the obstruction and even help someone like me.

The final species of aisle blocker is the type who literally seems overwhelmed with the choices they face. Such was the case with the lady blocking not only the sour cream but the cream cheese and cottage cheese sections of the dairy aisle. She was pushing one fully loaded shopping cart and pulling another, and as I approached, she was literally just staring off into space between the two.

It was beyond eerie, almost like she was a Stepford wife whose robot brain needed a reboot. After watching her for about a minute, I decided against trying to either disturb her fugue state or reach around her, the sour cream being smack in the middle of where she stood. The absolute last thing I needed was her returning to consciousness thinking I was trying to cop a feel. I drifted over to the magazine section and leafed through Scientific America, Popular Science, and the latest edition of Cosmopolitan since it had an article exclaiming “79 great positions guys want during sex but are afraid to ask.” Just FYI ladies, positions 9, 16, and 25 will pretty much keep us guys happy and positions 55 and 62 are just best left for the young with strong backs, us older guys cannot handle them.

I returned to the dairy section about five minutes later and saw that Stepford lady had moved a few feet but was now fixated on the brands of cheddar cheese. Not wanting to stay any longer, especially with a new wave of arriving customers flowing through the sliding doors I ventured closer knowing I would have to disturb the lady so I could pay for my stuff and leave. Shades of cantaloupe guy flashed through my head as I caught the lady mumbling about the various brands of cheddar. All told, I have to admit there were about twenty brands of cheddar cheese and I have to ask do we really need so many brands of freaking mild cheddar cheese? The same goes with shampoo, dog food, mouth wash, deodorant, and a thousand other brands of crap Madison Avenue has brainwashed us into believing add something special to our lives.

After snatching a container of generic sour cream, I rushed to the check out and left figuring I will return to late night shopping. Having to deal with the roving bands of consumerist drones is just too much for me, I would rather have the company of some loner talking basketball scores to the fruit, Hell I would rather talk with the fruit if you want to know the truth, they are probably more intelligent.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sudden Weekend Escape

Hauling ass for an unplanned weekend getaway, taking the laptop but do not know if if they have free WiFi and since I'm still paying off the internet access from the Disney cruise will be out of touch until Sunday if they don't.

Later people!

Yes, where I am going there is an ocean, warm sand, and beer!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 34) The Alien Pogo Stick Caper

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: Write a story using the words banana, iguana, elbow, flaming, pogostick .
Genre: Any
Word Count: 1000 words

Author's note: Excuse the typos, again, I'm sick and feel like iguana poo.

Finding a tuxedo-wearing, Jewish iguana in my apartment and sitting on my couch did not surprise or upset me in the least, in these crazy times of the late 22nd century all sorts of insanity is the norm. That he was smoking his nasty peanut butter flavored cigarettes in my living room did highly piss me off though. Fingering the plasma blaster in my sports coat, it would have been so easy forcibly end his bad habit, the only problem with that solution was that he was sort of a friend.

“Avrum Cohen you scaly bastard,” I yelled out, “what have I told you about smelling up my apartment! What are you doing on Earth anyway; I thought you had made citizenship on the new Israeli orbital habitat? ”

“Easy Eddie,” Avrum chuckled in his deep southern drawl using one of my many names, “I’m here to give you a lead on your next case, which could be very profitable for you.”

“What case Avrum?” I asked after walking over and opening the patio doors facing the Atlanta skyline. “Anyway, I do not need work right now I just got back from London after finishing up a nasty adultery investigation. I have plenty of cash and a full stomach.” I said thinking of the enhanced intelligence squid that I had been hired to assassinate. The cephalopod was having an affair with a New York socialite whose husband wanted him dispatched with imagination. I pan-fried the eight-armed adulterer in a flaming wok with white wine and father beans, after adding a banana sauce the smell was so enticing the squid’s human lover joined me in the meal.

Do you remember when we first met Eddie?” Avrum asked. The last thing I wanted to do after a long, exhausting trip was walk down memory lane with an irritating alien iguana of the Jewish faith but I did remember.

It was a one hundred-fifty years ago and I was working the now defunct “Men in Black” organization trying to stop the illegal export of peanut butter off the Earth. It‘s old and disturbing news now but peanut butter in raw form is the most addicting and toxic substance in the galaxy reducing the most intelligent and sophisticated species to slobbering primitives.

MIB had traced the supply line to a small island off the coast of South Carolina and I found Avrum playing the pet of a deranged astrophysicist who daily dressed up as Carmen Miranda. Avrum was the linchpin of the operation getting the illegal peanut butter off planet from his ship he hid just off the beach underwater. After cornering the little bastard and tricking him to confessing so it would clear Earth, I let him slip away only so the battle cruiser from his home planet in orbit above Earth could snag him.

He spent close to an Earth century in prison back home and in that time became a born-again Jew, where he eventually moved back to Earth to be closer to his adopted homeland. While walking the straight and narrow now, Avrum still had friends on the other side of the law, friends that occasionally needs high priced errands done.

“So what is the case Avrum?” I asked after slumping down in my easy chair fighting off a growing bout of indigestion.

Avrum took a deep draw off his cigarette and smiled something that did not mean the same thing to his species as it did to humans. “It’s simple really, I need you to retrieve something.”


“Avrum you slimy bastard,” I whispered to myself after stepping through the wormhole into the facility where an item he needed was being stored. It was the old MIB North American headquarters deep inside Wyoming, a place supposedly abandoned in 2025 after one of the grey-skinned, big eyes aliens of all the old UFO abduction stories finally put down in some place other than a redneck trailer park. After crash landing outside a vegan restaurant, the real story got out and the ensuing scandal exposed MIB and ruined its reputation.

These aliens, called the Yuppies, had heard about the Colonel’s fried chicken with its secret recipe of twenty-one spices and had spent decades searching for the elusive Colonel and his magnificent food. The whole anal probing and microchip up the nose thing was just a gross misunderstanding of Yuppie customs.

The passageway lights were on and the sound of conversations coming from behind many of the closed doors actually surprised me. I knew this particular area of the complex well but my progress was slowed by my need to stay hidden. My curiosity was building as to who was using the place now but that was quickly answered when one of the doors to a conference room slid open and out walked twenty of the most powerful zombies in American politics.

It made sense now, right after Yuppie first contact the Zombie Uprising occurred a year later with the aging political elites using the zombie virus as a method to stay in power. It was time for the Republican political convention with scuttlebutt saying Zombie Bob Dole would finally get his chance at being President. I gripped my plasma blaster tighter wanting nothing more than to blow each and every one of them into subatomic particles. But, I had made my promise to Avrum and I was honor bound to fulfill it. Still though, some revenge came my way as I recognized a strangler stumbling out of the room, it was a perpetually fat and balding radio show host who irritated the living shit out of me. With little struggle I quietly shoved him down a trash chute that leads straight to the facility’s ten-thousand degree furnace.

The zombie elite never even knew I was in their secret lair, I found the correct storage room, the right container, and triggered the opening of the return wormhole. Stepping through I was back on Avrum’s estate in Cuba. My iguana friend elbowed me out of the way and took the containers placing it on a table surrounded by the royal court of his home planet.

With a reverence unheard of these days on Earth the lizard Crown Prince opened the box and removed the item I had been sent to repossess. It was their most precious historical item, the ancient battle Pogo stick that every king used as a symbol of authority since their history began. In my over two-thousand years of life it was one of my proudest moments to return it to them.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Open Letter to the President

Hey Barrack buddy I'm doing fine but...

Dear Mr. President,

Before I dive straight into what I consider is the despicable practice of armchair quarterbacking I will be upfront and write that I totally understand that the very minute you became president on January 20, 2009 you inherited a massive shit storm of unparalleled proportions. During the previous administration the economy was utterly wrecked, the national deficit doubled, and the federal response to the disaster resulting from Hurricane Katrina was a tragic comedy of errors.

Your predecessor did not stop there, with the country brutally attacked on September 11, 2001, he justifiably went to war targeting the terrorist organization responsible and the government of Afghanistan that was providing a safe haven and assistance. Had Bush left it there things more or less would probably have worked out fine. Instead, like some spoiled brat wanting to show up his eternally disgruntled father he and his ever-ready corporate cronies manufactured a crisis cajoling the American people into going to war with a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on September 11.

As if driving the United States into an unnecessary, and possibly illegal, war in Iraq was not enough the men and women of the armed forces had to deal with Bush, his Vice President and Secretary of Defense pushing them into conflict done on the cheap with nowhere near enough personnel to secure the country. Because of their mismanagement, this unnecessary war quickly dissolved into a hellish quagmire where tens of thousands of American and Iraqi lives were ruined and hundreds of billions of American taxpayer dollars disappearing into some black hole.

I do not completely blame the Bush Administration, while the 2000 election is “questionable” the American people clearly sent them back to the White House in 2004 and to be honest President Obama many in your own party did absolutely nothing to oppose their behavior. Long story short sir, I understand the problems you are still facing but I have to be honest and say you are dropping the ball on one problem that could cost you the White House in 2012.

Yesterday, “dismal job data” was released showing only 54,000 jobs were created with the unemployment rate ticking back up to 9.1%. Now throw in the real unemployment rate with millions having given up and others making do with underemployment and the genuine percentage of those without a job are pushing 20%, and that may be a gross underestimate.

Listen Barrack, I’m not some right-wing wacko out to bust your chops questioning where you were born, I’m a guy who had openly supported you while living in a blood red county of the chief red state in the nation. The best analogy I can offer is that I truly feel what Daniel had to go through after thrown into a room full of hungry lions. However, the simple fact that I see almost nightly on the television news friendly to you is that your response to the millions of Americans without a job ain’t cutting it sir.

Yeah I know you are the president with duties and responsibilities that keep you jumping, but like it has been mentioned many times you often seen detached and unemotional. Paul Klugman put it best back in March with this column:

So one-sixth of America’s workers — all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job — have, in effect, been abandoned. It might not be so bad if the jobless could expect to find new employment fairly soon. But unemployment has become a trap, one that’s very difficult to escape. There are almost five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record. In short, we’re well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless. Why doesn’t Washington care?

Now he does not single you out but dude, you are the president and for better or worse you get the blame and like someone else I heard on the news tell you once I am getting very tired defending you. Lately you have been buoyed from knocking off that bastard Bin Laden and having him fed to the fishes, which was a nice touch, but unlike a number of liberal pundits who think your reelection is assured his death will not mean a thing on Election Day in 2012 to the jobless.

Yeah, your hands are tied in many ways but I am just not seeing you or Biden out pressing the flesh and “feeling the pain.” I remember you in London, on yet another overseas trip, blowing the toast to Queen Elizabeth and Vice President Biden is nowhere to be seen.

What would I have you do? For one be screaming at the top of your lungs every time a video camera get pointed your way that the Republicans are playing games with the debt limit and charging at windmills on a whole host of stupid issues. One Republican criticism that I am actually beginning to think is hitting the mark is your love of celebrity, while this comment may be unjustified you may need to skip the a few meetings with athletes and movie stars and go into a few unemployment offices across the United States and talk with the people there.

Mr. President I apologize if this post is off the mark, I know you are a busy man but the collection of Republican misfits vying for your job are weirder than the aliens from the cantina scene in Episode Four of Star Wars. The idea of them representing the party of Lincoln, Teddy, and Ike much less being elected is very depressing. Dude, I've heard it repeated many times you do not like drama, but something off-the-wall, out of the box, and radical is very much needed to address unemployment, unless that is done or something monumental that shows you clearly recognize the situation you will more than likely find yourself out of work in early 2013.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday (Cycle 33) The Unseen Frontier

Flash Fiction Friday Prompt: Write a story based on a common conspiracy theory
Genre: Any
Word Count: 1000 words
Deadline: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 4:30 pm EST

(Author's note: Excuse the typos, I couldn't sleep this morning and did this after working all night.) 

The minute I saw Admiral Hank Wallace, the US military’s 21st century version of General Leslie Groves of Manhattan Project fame, step onto the stage with three other major league theoretical physicists I should have immediately walked out the auditorium. That the Secretaries of the Navy and Defense were present and already seated only added to the seriousness of the classified briefing about to begin and whatever dangers were associated with Wallace’s latest classified high tech adventure.

My major during my Naval Academy days was physics with an emphasis in quantum mechanics but there was little use for it after graduation. The fickle lady called Fate pushed me into guided missile destroyers as a career path and as the years passed, I worked my way up to the ranks to navy captain commanding several of the most advanced ships in the fleet. Still, my curiosity never strayed far from my original studies and I did my best to keep up with the latest research, just the idea of working with those physicists on stage was the main reason I did not leave.

“Welcome everyone,” the admiral said after nodding to the Secretary of Defense, “you may be wondering why you were personally selected for this briefing. Each of you have talents that will be very useful should you choose to participate in an upcoming experiment that will shake the foundations of science and reality itself.”

While grander words have been said about far lesser plans, watching Wallace on stage there was a look in his eyes suggesting to me that he was not overstating the matter. Nevertheless, an unbelieving murmur rippled through the room, enough that I began to look around at the others in the audience. I noticed immediately I was the senior officer with the highest ranking after that being a female Commander who I knew designed nuclear reactors but whose degree was in high-energy physics. I also recognized several others as being the best in their navy professions covering all aspects of running a ship.

Admiral Wallace was clearly enjoying the stir he created but eventually raising his right hand, signaling everyone to quiet down. “Simply put, he began again, “the best way to introduce the subject is to ask how many of you have ever heard of something called the ‘The Philadelphia experiment’?” My jaw nearly fell to the floor but over the course of several hours we were briefed that long laughed at conspiratorial myth, spoken of these days on insane late night radio talk shows actually happened and that while the results were disastrous navy scientists had spent decades trying to figure out what happened.

During the Second World War a collection of Allied scientists were playing around with various theories trying to make a test vessel, the USS Eldridge, invisible both on radar and visually. While a very long shot, the War Department back then liked the idea of cloaked warships and freighters on the high seas invisible to German and Japanese submarines.

As the briefing continued, with Wallace giving up the stage to the civilian scientists, we all learned that while the crew of the Eldridge suffered greatly with many horrible causalities the ship did in fact disappear, only to reappear hundreds of miles away. After decades of research into what happened, the consensus was now that the Eldridge slipped into another Earth in a parallel universe and its uncontrolled return was the actual cause of the horrendous effects on the crew.  Making matters more interesting, the chief scientists told us the experiment had recently been repeated with no ill effects on the small patrol craft and crew sent across.

Wallace returned to the stage saying that he had won approval to send a larger ship across with far greater range to begin exploration of whatever Earth lay on the other side. Wallace’s reputation was only whispered about and none of it was good, but my initial reservations be damned, this was an unbelievable dream come true for me and I was ready to do anything it took to command that ship going into the unknown.


A year later I am sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the USS Pathfinder, a guided missile destroyer armed with the latest weapons, looking out the windows watching the very fabric of reality twist. The Pathfinder sat in the middle of a circle of fifty buoys each with a powerful electromagnetic generator pulsing in a complex rhythm that would drop us into the parallel Earth it was our mission to explore. For a while, I did not believe the experiment was working until I noticed the buoys and support ships that surrounded us had disappeared leaving us alone in open ocean.

“Transition complete Captain Matthews,” my executive officer Commander Maggie Oliver said after reviewing the data on a computer, “we have reached normalcy.”

It was the understatement of all of human history but I let it go and began ordering all hands to inspect the ship and equipment. Most importantly, we dropped the locator buoy, which would mark the exact spot we would need to be when the Wallace reversed the pulses to bring us back home in thirty days. Until then we were completely on our own.

We were soon underway after using the stars to fix our position heading towards whatever existed on this Earth’s North American continent. My hope was a healthy and welcoming version of the United States for which we had elaborate documents from our president hoping for good relations. However, scanning the radio frequencies we heard only distorted voices, mostly in Russian, that raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

Two days later our worst fears were conformed as we sailed into what remained of New York harbor, the city was blasted with Lady Liberty a melted pile of slag. Instead of being totally boxed in I launched the helicopter for a more detailed reconnaissance, of immediate concern were the radiation levels, which were slightly elevated suggesting whatever war had been fought was long over.

“Captain,” the radar officer screamed suddenly, “I have two targets just coming into view near Montauk. Sorry sir, it must be the radiation playing hell with the radar.”

“This is new to all of us,” I said growing more concerned by the second, “helmsman lay in an intercept course, full speed.”

An hour later, the two ships came into view, both were designs unknown to us but the red flag bearing the hammer and sickle was easily recognized. “General quarters,” I yelled, “all hands battle stations.” We had twenty-eight days left before Wallace called us back; I prayed my ship and crew survived that long.