Wednesday, December 31, 2008
(U.S.S. Liberty, hull-down in the water from severe damage caused by Israeli air attack - June; 1967)
Two days ago, the Israeli Navy send three gunboats to disable a humanitarian vessel attempting to land in Gaza with medical supplies and food.While two of the gunboats held the attention of the captain and his two-man crew, the third gunboat rammed the unarmed boat from the front, causing severe damage.
As it turns out, this isn't the first time the Israelis have taken on vessels in international waters, or on humanitarian missions to the people the Israelis are busy subjugating.
Let's turn the Wayback Machine to 1967.
In early June of 1967, the Israeli military, beginning with a simultaneous aerial assault on key positions in Egypt and Syria, began what is popularly known as the Six-Day War. For over forty years, the Israeli position has been accepted by the world - that they were attacked first by Egypt and Syria, and that their overwhelming and immediate response could be attributed to having well-trained personnel and well-tested plans which were ready at a moment's notice.
The few military analysts who've bothered to challenge these statements over the years have been roundly shouted-down, mainly due to the success of the Israeli intelligence network throughout the world, and their ability to keep a lid on things internally.
However, the truth is always available - because as our own Benjamin Franklin once said, "A secret may be kept between two people as long as one of them is dead." This story involves everything from jailed pilots and dead American sailors - but first, the history:
The U.S., along with every other major power, have always maintained intelligence vessels. Thinly disguised as 'research ships', these former freighters have traveled the globe, analyzing broadcast information and 'sniffing' with hypersensitive radar. International law protects this practice, as long as the ships remain in international waters.
Such was the case of the U.S.S. Liberty, which was operating in international waters near the town of Arish in the Sinai on June 8th, 1967, during the height of the Six Day War.
Early on the morning of the 8th, Liberty was overflown by several Israeli aircraft, all at close range - Liberty was clearly marked, flying the American flag, and in international waters.At 2pm on the 8th, four Israeli front line fighters and three torpedo boats attacked Liberty without provocation. One torpedo hit the hull amidships; cannon-fire raked the center section, and one of the Israeli fighters hit Liberty with napalm.
The results were devastating. 34 American servicemen were killed, and 170 wounded, some severely. As to Liberty, she was out of action and required extensive repair by her crew to keep her afloat. Nonetheless, she was able to make it out of the area and back to Malta under American escort for interim repairs. She then returned to the U.S., where she was decommissioned nearly a year later - the damage being too severe to allow her return to active service.
Two Israeli pilots werejailed for 18 years for refusing the mission against Liberty. Israel maintains to this day that the attack on Liberty was an 'accident'. According to one survivor, "If this was an accident, it was the best-planned accident I've ever heard of."Most of the survivors, including the officers and intelligence specialists, agree that the attack was an attempt to destroy evidence that the Israelis had (1) started the war, and (2) were attempting a land-grab, to secure the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights (the last, from Syria).
(Captain McMonagle of Liberty was awarded the Medal of Honor in a private, non-publicized ceremony - the only time the Medal has been awarded in this fashion - for keeping his ship and his command afloat and operational under attack by overwhelming force.)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
(All right - maybe the panorama of Santa, sucked through the intake of a Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7 is a bit much - but when you get yourself all stoked up on some of the Christmas Toys What Failed (and some what succeeded), you'll understand why Christmastime is just one of my favorite seasons to skewer at the tip of my fountain-pen....)
They still sell 'em. They have the habit of causing the effect in the little fellow above; but no matter -- they were still considered 'cool' by any of us who never got them, courtesy of far-sighted parents.We never had any; my sister and I. Mom and Dad might have been born at night, but they weren't born the night before.
We had a lot of other things -- BB guns, for example (Dad insisted we use goggles if we were going to go into the woods and play 'war' - he figured that getting shot in the backside would build character, but he really DID raise us by the old motto, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye".
Herewith, and submitted for your approval is a romp down memory lane - some of the toys you might remember; some you may not; some you might have just HEARD of. I'm posting several videos here of ads that are going to make you scratch your heads and wonder.
So, what's on my list for Worst and Best Toys Ever?
First, here's my runner-up for Worst Toy of All Time (first-place honors are at the end of this piece); the Magnum-Opus of rank-stupidity, and the One Thing Guaranteed to warp a child for time-and-all-eternity: My Puppy Puddles.
Yes, it's a plastic dog. Yes; that's a water-dish in front of it. Yes; you squeeze its neck to make it drink, and yes; in the Fullness of Time, it pees on the newspaper behind it.
That's it. You don't put it on a leash for its four articulated legs to 'walk' behind you; it doesn't bark courtesy of either batteries or a pull-cord; it doesn't keep you warm (there's not even any fur on its hard-plastic exterior) - it drinks, and it pees. Period.
(This was voted Worst Toy of the Year by Parents' Magazine in 1981. I don't wonder why. Because of that, however, pristine examples - by 'pristine', I'm assuming 'enclosed newspaper unused' - sell for over $100 on Ebay. That there are people who collect these things also doesn't surprise me.)
Here's the first one on my "Best" list -- the Remco Flying Fox:
(Remco Flying Fox Airliner - ca. 1959-1961)
The Remco Flying Fox was one of the first interactive toys - it featured two steering wheels (ostensibly so children could learn that there was only ONE pilot, and could magically stop fighting over control of something long enough to get along); levers which actually started and advanced the speed of the four engines; plus a neat little lever to lower the landing gear on the model.
On the 'negative' side, the prop-jet engines not only made those hard-plastic props turn fast enough to saw lumber, but they sounded like - well; prop-jets. Two days of this, did, I'm sure, make my parents wonder not only (1) why they bought this damn thing, but (2) why they had kids at all.
This beast went through D-size batteries faster than - well; I was going to mention another type of toy, but I'm trying to keep this piece G-rated, so we'll let that slide. Needless to say, this was one of those things that kept me telling my Mom that I either needed more batteries, or stock in Ray-O-Vac.
(I've learned that a pristine example of a Flying Fox with all stickers, etc. in place and all the gizmos - including all four engines - operating will cost around $1,000 nowadays. Go figure....)
How about this next one:
(Odd Ogg - ca. 1962)
"It's Odd Ogg! Odd Ogg! Half Turtle- and Half-Frog!"
How many of you tortured your sainted parents with this piece of inanity until they ponied up the then-astronomical $30.00 to BUY this demented gizmo? I tried -- and got shut down in a hurry, when $30.00 bought a week's worth of groceries for a family of four.
What makes this one so cool - and scary, at the same time - is that it would actually Play Ball With You -- you rolled a ball (several were provided) toward Ogg's mouth, and if you 'made it' (shoved a colored-plastic ball down its throat), it would move either forward - or back - you never knew which, due to a glitch in the electronics - and puke the ball right back at you for another try.
If you missed, Ogg would stick its tongue out at you and take a couple of steps back, making a 'razzberry' sound. This little piece of dementia sold for two years only; first, because of the price, and secondly, because it was so darned fragile. It actually sported the first analog computer board in a mass produced toy - - and the fact that most batteries leaked after a while usually meant that Ogg didn't have a long lifespan. Ogg also lists for astronomical prices on Ebay and collectors' sites as a result.
How many of you remember the Reading Dashboard?
(Deluxe-Reading "Playmobil Dashboard" - ca. 1959-'63)
The Reading Dashboard was one of those interactive-toys that were so popular back in the '60's - (you can tell your kids that this is what those of us who were born shortly After The Earth Cooled did for entertainment when we were kids, if we had parents who indulged us with something other than bear-skins and clubs). It ran on the now-ubiquitous "D"-cell battery, and featured working turn signals, a working shift-lever, lights, windshield-wipers, and a HORN that made a perfectly-pitched electronic-strangle that was guaranteed to make even the most patient of parents repent its purchase.
Next up - Clackers!
(Clackers -- ca. 1980)
Remember these things?
Forget a Red Ryder BB-gun. These things gave "You'll put your eye out!" a whole new meaning.
Made from acrylic, they had the nasty habit of exploding into shards of glasslike shrapnel after about the 800th time their high-pitched sound assaulted a parent's ears. The designer is in hell now. I'm convinced of it. If not, there's no justice in the universe.
(Now, for a word from our sponsor - Remco Toys):
(Childhood in the '60's wasn't complete without something from Remco. These were the toys we wanted - plenty of small parts to choke on; a car wash to make a mess of the carpet - a helicopter with moving blades - a cannon that shot plastic-balls at our buddies. Eyes? Foreheads? Private parts? Who needed 'em?)
Now, who among us DIDN'T want a Thingmaker?
(Mattel Thingmaker - ca. 1964)
The Thingmaker was actually just one of the toys which Mattel created using Vacuform technology - they had a similar toy which cast hulls for little boats which you could sail (assumably someplace placid, after you'd burned the house down with the hot-plate that was included with the molds).
The guy who thought this one up is extra-crispy right now, sharing a hot-rock with the fellow who invented Clackers.
(Now, in keeping with our '60's theme and the fact that there were commercial-advertisements every two minutes in black and white -- here's another word from our sponsor - The Folks Who Made Slinky):
If you think you remember the song, you're either old, like me, or you remember the pseudo-advertisement for "Log" by "Spumco" on the Ren and Stimpy show....
Lastly, here's my pick for Worst Toy Of All Time:
(Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab; ca 1955)
This was marketed by the Gilbert Corporation, which manufactured "scientific toys" in the '50's and '60's. Quite a few of us had their chemistry-sets, and while Gilbert gave us all recipes for things that went 'boom', they really outdid themselves with this thing.
This had actual radioactive material in it - right along with a radioactive-cloud chamber where you could see the creation and decay of radioactive particles, just like real scientists!
What the Gilbert people didn't know - and what the government wouldn't tell us back then - was that ANY source of alpha-particles could cause everything from premature hair-loss to leukemia. Gilbert pulled this one after only one year of production, and with small wonder.
No, you can't find this one on Ebay.
(I know - I left out Ant Farms; Wham-O's boomerang, the iconic hula-hoop - there wasn't room or time, and I DO have a life, after all. I'll leave it to you to fill in the blanks in the comments section.)
Merry Yaksmas, everyone!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
It is twelve-hundred years in the future.
Ship Commander Ka’Am of the Star Cruiser Qu’thu was on a routine survey mission, having been sent to a star-cluster on the far ‘arm’ of the galaxy two negs before.
Surveys were usually boring work; they sought planets which were uninhabited, but which had similar atmospheres as their own. “Routine” was the operative word; usually, these surveys found very little in the way of habitable worlds, as such were rare; less still in the way of resources.
“Commander?”, said his first-officer, “There’s a planet that shows promise here.”
The Commander walked over to the spectro-scanner. These things weren’t perfect, but most of the time they –
“AH!”, shouted the first officer. “We’ve got what looks like the ruins of a city down there – and another one!”
“Atmosphere?”, said the Commander.
“Oxygen/Hydrogen mix. Not quite Ours, but this one sustains some form of carbon-based life, I’ll bet on it!”
“Ready the shuttle. I’ll take the shuttle crew plus three researchers.”
The shuttle touched down on a dry plain which showed evidence of dry watercourses. The Commander knew from the visuals on the way down that there was a river which ran most of the length of the continent; he knew from the briefing that there were four major continents; this area being among the driest of them. The senior research-scientist scanned some instruments before giving the go-ahead to open the shuttle hatch.
“Some background radiation, but nothing to cause alarm. Looks like these cities have been ruins for 1,000 negs or more.”, he said, half to himself.
“Is it safe, Sub-Commander?”, said Commander Ka’am.
“Oh, yes. Safe enough for jumpsuits, I’d say.” The Subcommander pressed the switch which opened the airlock; then the hatch. Eyes adjusting to the light, they stepped outside. Everywhere, they saw partial-walls and collapsed roofs, much like they would have seen in the aftermath of a volcano or other cataclysmic explosion. There were scorch-marks still visible on the walls which remained. Strange-looking glyphs covered the walls. “I’ve only seen this in transmitted form.”, said the Subcommander, again, half to himself. “I can make out some of it, but it’ll take a Linguist to get it all. This must be the planet which was the source of all that transmitted material from so long ago.”
“What can you make out, Subcommander?”, said Ka’am.
“It’s some form of painted wall-poster. ‘Victory Within Our Grasp – Hold On To The Last Man’, or something similar. Looks like we’re seeing the aftermath of a planetwide war.”
"Didn't we locate a penal colony hereabouts, about 10,000 negs ago?", said the Commander.
"I'd have to check the records on the ship, Commander," said Pa'tho, the Subcommander.
Commander Ka'am looked around. “Fan out.”, he said. “Rendezvous back here in a hundred qa'lons. Subcommander – you’re with me.”
“Yes, sir.”, replied the Subcommander. “Just keep your Lazrupter handy, if you wouldn’t mind, sir. I’ve only got an Analyzer.”
“Let’s go.”, said Ka’am. They walked what had been a large boulevard; the late-afternoon yellow light casting dust-shadows on the far walls; it was a warm afternoon, and soon both men were warm themselves, although not uncomfortably so. “Feels good to get some fresh air, even if it is like this.”, said Ka’am.
“I could walk old cities forever – you know that, sir.”, said the Subcommander.
“Subcommander Pa’tho, I’m counting on you to find us something we can report.”, said Commander Ka’am. He didn’t have long to wait.
“Over here!’, shouted Subcommander Pa’tho, waving to the Commander. Pa’tho had strayed just long enough to find what he was looking for – either a library or a repository of records. Commander Ka’am walked quickly to the location of Subcommander Pa’tho; they both walked up a short staircase to the entrance of a large stone building which had remained largely undamaged. While the doors had long since rotted away, the stone building had preserved much of what was inside.The cruel trick about a dry climate is that it preserves things - even when those who had created them had long since gone back to dust. They walked in; the first creatures on two legs to do so in over 1,000 negs.
They were in a library.
“Oh, my!”, said Subcommander Pa’tho. “I was right.”
“And?”, said Ka’am, impatiently.
“There was a war.”, said Pa’tho, gently holding up a periodical; blowing the dust off to reveal a photograph of soldiers and weaponry and what looked like a great tracked-vehicle with twin-guns. Pa’tho laid the magazine back down. “Look!”, said Pa’tho, pointing yet again to another periodical, held open by a falling piece of masonry – it had been open to that page for a long time. “With the help of our – American – allies – we will emerge victorious”, Pa’tho read, haltingly. “This appears to be a government publication of some sort. It’s produced by the – Pa’tho had to slow down to read it to Commander Ka’am, almost syllable-by-syllable – “the ‘Israeli Self-Defense Force’. This must have been the armed force of the people living here.”
“Commander – if you can give me a few qa’lons here, I think I can piece some things together.”, said Pa’tho. Commander Ka’am took the hint, and wandered off, out the door, toward the sound of the surf. Twenty qa’lons later, Ka’am returned.
“What did you find, Subcommander?”, said Ka’am.
“Could make out a lot of it. Fragments of news reports; hard to tell what was propaganda and what was truth. A lot of talk about – if I got it right – these people called ‘Israelis’ – some sort of religious thing, I’d wager – and the cause of the war; it was the displacement of the people who originally lived here. Looks like we had the fortune to land right here in the middle of what was their biggest city.”
“Go on,”, said Ka’am. “Anyhow, looks like they fought this war right on the tail of the last one – fifty or sixty negs later, anyhow. First one brought down a bad-guy; last one was fought over what to do with some refugees, near as I can figure – these ‘Israelis’. Started here, then involved everyone else.”
“So, who’s left?”, said Commander Ka’am.
“Looks like no one. Background radiation is almost negligible after this length of time, but it suggests that toward the end, they used atomics. That would explain the dry watercourses we saw on the plain, plus the huge river which had not been there before – they likely suffered the weather disruptions whicht follow the indiscriminate use of atomics. Snow fell, and when it melted, those courses were formed. Never happened since, so there they sit. The river remained right where it was when the weather cleared up.”
“No survivors at all?”, said Ka’am, impatiently. Their time was running out; the shuttle would be ready soon, and they’d have to be in position to make the jump to the next survey-point. “Well, if what I read on the walls was right, there were a few. Mainly trading insults via graffiti. Wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing didn’t end with cutting-instruments, sticks, and whatever else they had. Looks like the last survivors died off a couple of negs after the war.”
Commander Ka’am pressed a button on his transceiver; activating navigation mode. “No point in prolonging this. It’ll take the Linguists, Historians, and others nearly ten years to figure this one out – but we know all we need to know right now. Signal the others. We’re going back.” Ka'am pressed another button on his transceiver. “Qu’thu! Qu’thu! We are four for the ship – planet is liveable, but nothing else here but ruins. Any word on your end?”
Commander Ka’am’s transceiver came alive. “This is Qu’thu. Read you 5X5. No, Commander, nothing here. No transmissions of any kind. We see no sign of life on any of the other continents. Appears that the original inhabitants really DID have themselves a war.”
"Qu'thu – coordinates are da’an-bu’ra-ke’tho; relative. There’s an open space just to the north of us. Land the shuttle there.”
“This is Qu’thu. Understood; and will comply. Over and out.”
“Subcommander?”, said Ka’am.“What, sir?”
“What do you suppose prompts an entire race to kill each other?”
“I don’t know, sir. I’ve studied things like this for negs, and I still don’t know.” Glancing at Ka’am, he added, “What have you got there, sir?”
Ka'am said, “While I was on my walk, I watched the sun starting to set. Beautiful. I wondered if the people who lived here thought it was as beautiful as I did. I found this.”, he said, holding up a fragment of the past.
It was a blue tile.
“Oh, my!”, said Subcommander Pa’tho. “So old – yet it looks like it was made yesterday! Almost three dimensional in the light.”
“Yes.”, said Commander Ka’am, putting the tile back in his pocket. “It almost looks like the ocean.”, he said, as the shuttle landed, ready to take them back to the ship, and on to another world.
(Elegy for a dead planet -- the discovery of which is a footnote in the log of an expedition on the way to Nowhere Special from Somewhere Else. No marker; no monument -- just the living -- and the dead....)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Meanwhile, the people of Northland raised soldiers of their own. They began building ships, and Great Airships Which Dropped People, and Great People Movers With Weapons.
They gave some to the people of Southland and Bigland, saying, “There are too few of us to use all of these Wondrous Things. Use them with us – and let’s make Badland a Goodland, minus its Leader!!”
Time passed. Soon, the Badland Leader was no more. Badland was renamed Wasteland, because there was nothing left. No more chefs. No more music. No more Badlanders, either, as they had all been killed by the weapons.
By ones and twos, the Green-Nosed People came out of the Very Bad Places, and out of places where they had hidden during the Bad Times. (The Bad Times was what the rest of the population of Otherworld called the time when the Badland Leader tried to take over Otherworld.)
Most of the Green-Nosed People lived in Badland or Bigland. Bigland had suffered greatly, along with the peoples of Smalland, where a lot of Green-Nosed People had lived, also. The people of Northland and Southland felt very, very badly, indeed, for the Green-Nosed People.
Someone in Northland said, “Let’s give the Green-Nosed People a Place, where they can all be Green-Nosed together!” The Southlanders said, “This is a wonderful idea!”
“This is a wonderful idea, echoed some – but where will you put them? They cannot live in Wasteland!”
The Smallanders said, “This may, indeed, be a good idea - - but don’t put them all here! We have no room in Smalland!”
Then, the Northlanders said, “We have an idea!”They convened a meeting of the other Lands – and they brought out a map of Otherworld.“
In all of Otherworld, there’s only one place where we can put the Green-Nosed People. Here!”, pointed the Northland Leader, to the continent of Outland. And all the other Leaders said, “Wonderful!”
Now, they hadn’t stopped to think that there were already people living on Outland (they were called “Outlanders”, if you remember) – and hadn’t stopped to ask if the Outlanders even wanted visitors, let alone permanent residents. The Outlanders had stayed out of the Bad Times, content to eke out a living from their land on the plain, and hunt the game in the mountains where no one could live. They had enough water, and enough food. They noticed during the Bad Times that they got more for their surplus produce, but had no use for Great Weaponed People Movers in trade, so they traded less and stayed at home more.
Then, the representatives of Northland, Southland, Bigland and Smalland came to Outland.
The Northland representative, who had been selected to speak for all, said: “From now on, you will have people living here with Green Noses.” The Outlanders looked bewildered. “From now on”, the representative continued, “all the land south of the river will belong to the Green Nosed Peoples.” The Outlanders looked incredulous. One of them spoke. “But – but – that is the land we farm! We cannot feed ourselves if this is done!”
Another Outlander spoke. “This is land on which I have ten generations buried. Who will tend the burial places of my ancestors?” Another Outlander spoke. “And what of our homes? We cannot move them to the mountains! No one can even LIVE in the mountains! There is no water – no farmland – ....“ His voice trailed off. The Northlanders had come with many Great People Movers, many Great Airships, and many Warships. The Outlanders had none.
Silently, the Outlanders moved to the mountains. They left their homes. The women wailed, and the men shed silent tears. The Great Trek to the mountains even became a remembrance date to the Outlanders. The Green-Nosed Peoples wasted no time in setting up shop. They built even bigger homes, and even factories, with help from the Northlanders and the Southlanders. They farmed, and made the farms more productive with Northlander help and equipment. “See what we have done!”, they told the other Lands. “We have taken this place, and made it wonderful!” All the leaders of the other Lands said, “It is wonderful!” - and all the while the Outlanders starved in the mountains.
Some of the Outlanders were allowed in the new Green-Nosed People-Cities to tend gardens, clean houses, and do other chores. They took what the Green-Nosed Peoples gave them as payment, and went back across the Great River to the mountains at the end of the day. This lasted a short while. Then, some of the Outlanders began to say, “This is wrong. Two wrongs don’t make anything right – and this is wrong, what the Northlanders and the other Lands did to us.” Other Outlanders agreed. They couldn’t, however, agree as to what could be done.
Again, time passed. One generation became the next, and as much as the Outlanders tried to pass the memories of What Once Was to their Young Ones, there was little which the Old Ones could do. It was hard to pass only memories of tiled roofs, patios, and jeweled cities to those who had never seen them. After the passage of much time, one wise Outlander said, “We will go to the Northlanders, and ask them to help us. After creating this problem, surely they will see they have to fix it.”
Meanwhile, the Green-Nosed People began to build a wall to keep the Outlanders from crossing the river, unless they had something called a ‘pass.’ The Outlanders at first wouldn’t carry this ‘pass’ - - they’d never needed to do so when they were allowed to live on the far side of the river, and they weren’t going to do so now. They learned quickly that they wouldn’t be allowed to clean houses, work in factories, and do similar jobs without it. Some Outlanders starved as a result – with no farms and no work, they could do little else. As to the Northlanders, they said, “We have put the Green-Nosed People among you. You will have to learn to live with them, as we didn’t stop the Badlanders from sending them to Very Bad Places during the Bad Times.”
The wise Outlander, having traveled at great expense the far distance to Northland, said, “But, don’t you see? The Green-Nosed People are putting us in their very own version of the Bad Places. Don’t you see? We are now as they were.” The Northlanders didn’t understand. In fact, their patience grew thin. The Northland leader said, “We have given the Green-Nosed People many of our Great Airships, Warships, and Weaponed People Movers. They will punish you if you do not behave. Go home!” The wise Outlander went home, very, very sad. He met with his people, who were now ragged and starving. Their small cities, which had been gaily painted and shone like jewels on the sea were now abandoned or leveled so the Green-Nosed People could build their own. He said, with a heavy heart, “The Northlanders will not help us. In fact, they told us that they would let the Green-Nosed people punish us with their soldiers and weapons if we do not ‘behave’.”
Now, the concept of ‘behaving’ had never been necessary - - they had never had an Overlord.“ Did you not explain to the Northlanders that we are now in Very Bad Places, much as the Green-Nosed People were?” “Yes,” replied the wise Outlander. “I did so. Their response was the same. To them, it makes no difference.” Some of the younger Outlanders said, “We may have no weapons. We may have no training. But we have spirit. We should fight these Green-Nosed People until they are either no more, or go Someplace Else.” This left the wise Outlander with a conundrum. Should he fight, or should he accept what was thrust upon them as ‘fate’? The wise Outlander said, “Before we do such a thing as fight, let us speak to the Green-Nosed People, and see if there is a way out of this.”
The wise Outlander took several other Outlanders to meet with the leader of the Green-Nosed People. He asked, “ Why have you come among us to cause us such pain? In the mountains, we only starve, where on the plain, we lived in harmony in our small, well-ordered cities without the need for weapons, flags, or soldiers. We are sorry for what happened to you, but what you are doing to us is just as wrong. We want our homes back.” The leader of the Green-Nosed People would not hear of this. He said, “We now own this half of Outland. In the mists of time, it was once said that Outland belonged to us. We claim it again, now – and we will use our friends, the Northlanders, to help us keep it.” The wise Outlander said, “This will not have a good end. My people are starving, and desperate. We have no weapons. We never needed them. What will you do for us.?” The leader of the Green-Nosed People said, “See that!”, as he pointed to a flagpole. “That is our flag! We are now a nation, just like the Northlanders! Now, WE are important – and better than anyone else!”
The wise Outlander could see that the time had come and gone to peacefully solve this problem. The Green-Nosed People could not see that because the Outlanders did not have a flag, or an army, or other such things, that they were Just As Good as the Green-Nosed People. The leader of the Green-Nosed People continued. “If you try to do anything, we will come and punish you in the mountains with many weapons, and use the resources of the Northlanders, which are many and great and inexhaustible!” The wise Outlander and his friends were very, very sad indeed. The old, wise Outlander remembered things. Things like the fired-tiles his grandfather made for the floor of their patio from which they watched the sun go down; tiles that looked like the ocean. He remembered the crops they grew, and the times when they were all prosperous. Now, there were Young Ones who remembered none of these things. They only knew squalor and poverty. They left the meeting with the Green-Nosed People, and went back to the mountains across the river.
Later, they met with their people, and said, “The Green-Nosed People have told us that they are better than anyone now that they are here, and have a flag, and weapons, and friends in the Northlanders.” He paused, dreading what he must say, and knowing all the while that he must say it. “People!”, he said. “We must either become soldiers, or starve.”
“What will happen?”, said one of the other leaders. The wise Outlander paused again, dreading again what he must say, and knowing all the while he must say it, as he owed his people The Truth.
"War will happen”, he said….
(Portrait of another world; busying itself with the destruction of Everything That Was Good, and in writing the first stanzas of its own personal “Götterdämmerung”. There are no crystalline beaches; no sunsets; no warm breezes; no happy ending – only the twin concepts of Right, and Wrong, and the certain knowledge that Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right – on Otherworld, or here on Planet Earth.)
(Submitted for your approval, the notion that truth is stranger than fiction, and fact is stranger than fantasy….)
Somewhere beyond the shores of Northland, but before the Blue Horizon, there was the continent of Outland.
Outland was a peaceful enough place, if you counted the fact that the Outlanders had, since time unremembered, tilled their dry land and managed to extract a living from its meager resources. Geographically, Outland was half-mountainous and half-plain, with a river running more or less the whole length of the place (the only source of water, as no jet-stream made landfall on Outland to bring clouds or rain – storms were infrequent, but were enough to keep the river full, and the irrigation working).
Outlanders made and sold products to the people in Northland and Southland (the two other major continents), as well as to the peoples of Everland (made up of the small countries of Smalland, Bigland, and Badland.)
Peoples in Northland and Southland were blessed with a large country; well-timbered and watered, with many other resources besides. The peoples of Everland were more in number, and had fewer resources, but were well-off. The peoples of Outland were the only ones who had to scratch a living.
For all that, the Outlanders sold their produce, bought some things in trade, and considered themselves well-off. They didn’t give much thought to the things the Northlanders made (flying machines; great factories; things that moved people from place to place in a hurry). Instead, the Outlanders had built small cities which were gaily painted, clean, orderly, and which shone like small jewels upon the sea. They had houses with red-tiled roofs; on their expansive patios they would watch the sun go down after a hard day’s work. They were, on balance, very, very content.
Now, the people who lived in Badland were not ‘bad’ – but they had a history of not doing things in half-measures; they either wrote music that was considered very, very good – or very, very bad. Their chefs created cuisines that were either very, very good – or very, very bad. On balance, their land could and should have been called ‘Extremeland”, but the name “Badland” was applied to them longer-ago than anyone could remember – so the name stuck.
Through all the lands, regardless of their separate beliefs, there was a group of people who dyed their noses green.
The Green-Noses were of a different belief – harmless; but whoever accepted the belief had to dye his or her nose green. They stood out – and were accepted by everyone through the history of Otherworld (the planet on which they lived), as being of a different Belief – but the same as everyone else.
It was said that many of the ancestors of the Green-Noses had once hailed from Outland – but no one paid much mind to this; in the mists of time, many things had been accepted as ‘fact’ which were later proven not to be – contrariwise, there were things which had been dismissed which had later been proven to be ‘true’. Either way, no one much considered this, one way, or another.
Then, the people of Badland did a very, very bad thing indeed.
Along with their music and their cuisine, Badland had a habit of producing leaders which were either very, very good, or very, very bad. They produced a very, very bad leader – perhaps the worst of those which Badland had ever produced – and he set about telling the people Things Which They Wanted To Hear.
“People!”, he said, “You are better than everyone! To this, the people of Badland cheered.
“People!”, he said, “Because you are better than everyone else, I will lead you to a greater glory than you have seen before!” To this, the people of Badland also cheered.
The Badland Leader set about doing what he had promised (this is a good thing in any leader, but a Bad Thing Indeed if the intended result is also Bad).
He conscripted labor, and built large roads for the people of Badland to use. Because they had nothing to drive upon the roads, he had People Movers built, along the lines of those which had been in use in Northland and Southland for many years.
He built homes, and factories, and great airships which moved people and goods from Badland to Northland and Southland and the other countries of Everland.
Then, he began to think. True to his nature, his thoughts were bad. He thought, “It is not enough.” “We must”, he continued with his Bad Thoughts, “TRULY be better than anyone else.”
He gave orders to his factory-owners – who owed their existence to his orders – to build people movers which could hurt other people. He gave orders to other factory-owners to build great airships which could hurt people and destroy cities. He then gave orders that every other person above the Age of Reason but below the Age of Ease should be placed in special camps to train as soldiers.
Now, no one in Badland had ever heard of a soldier. In fact, the concept was strange, even to the Badlanders - -but since the Badland Leader had said it was a Good Thing, they enthusiastically agreed.
The Badland Leader even dressed these soldiers all the same – it was, he said, so they could recognize each other. The dressings looked impressive – soon, everyone above the Age of Reason – and many below that age – wanted to look just like one of the Badland Leader’s soldiers.
They trained – calisthenics; marching together (it was fun to march together) – and they also learned how to use the new People Movers with weapons (another word they’d never heard before, but one they learned to like, because weapons went with the new dressings, and everyone wanted to look like a soldier.
They learned how to jump out of some of the Great Airships – the Badland Leader had ordered his Chief Artificers to work very hard on things that would enable his soldiers to do great things – and they had invented something which billowed out above a soldier as he jumped from a Great Airship – several of the soldiers began shouting “Weee!” as they jumped, or other things – and this wondrous device allowed them to land, light as a feather on the ground, miles from where they started!
The Badland Leader built many ships – some with weapons which worked on top of the water, and some which worked below – all of them were wondrous.
Soon, anyone above the Age of Reason could join the Badland Leader’s new group of soldiers. Everyone Believed.
Then, the Badland Leader did some more thinking. His thoughts this time were very, very bad indeed.
He thought, “I have built greatness. I have no where to use it. Why should we be forever confined to the smallness of Badland?” Then, he thought, “Ah! I have the answer! Smalland! We shall Take Over Smalland!”
Meanwhile, the people of Northland and Southland, and the peoples of Smalland and Bigland, were oblivious to the Badland Leader’s Great Works. The people of Smalland were a bit nervous, seeing all these big machines on their border, but for so many years, there’d hardly been a need for a border – they’d lived peacefully with the Badlanders for a Very Long Time.
One night, the Badland Leader told his Oversoldiers, “The time has come. Take over Smalland.” The Oversoldiers had planned, and fretted, and gotten everything Just So – and, in the middle of that night, they sent all their soldiers with their Great Airships and their Jumping Devices and their Weaponed People Movers over the borders of Smalland, and by the next day, without firing nearly a shot from their weapons, the soldiers of Badland had taken over Smalland.
Now the leaders of Northland and Southland, plus the leader of Bigland, were very, very distressed.
They realized that in ignoring a problem, they hadn’t made it Go Away.
This was very, very bad indeed for everyone. In order to restore peace to the lands of Otherworld, now, the peoples of Northland, Southland, and Bigland had to work together. They had to fight the soldiers of Badland, and keep them from doing this to anyone else. It was, of course, too late.
The Badland Leader launched his ships against Northland and Southland, and sent his army clear across Smalland and across the border of Bigland. He was even planning to send ships full of soldiers to Northland to take it over, too. All of a sudden, Otherworld was too small – the Badland Leader wanted it all.
Everywhere, people troubled the Badland Leader. Many people in Badland started to think, “We always get called names because of our food and our music – but we’ve never been THIS bad before. Should we do something?”
These people were rounded up and put in Bad Places. Others said, “We are always called names because of our food and our music! We’ll show EVERYONE this time!”
These people were given positions of authority.
Then, there were the Green-Nosed People. They refused to take a stand. Their Belief prevented them from doing so. They preferred to dye their noses green, and continue the Way Things Were.
The Badland Leader treated these people Very Badly Indeed – probably the worst of all. He rounded up as many as he could. He put them all in Very Bad Places. He rounded them ALL up in Badland – and rounded up as many as he could in Smalland and Bigland, as well. He had plans to round them up all over Otherworld, if he could conquer it....
The dance continued. Creation; destruction; creation. The sea conceals the Original Fact – the beginnings and the endings.
On land, the comings and goings of the small creatures continue….
December 31st, 2011 – New Year’s Eve:
When the electricity was cut, it only took a few days to see the effects.
Regardless of the cause – and the fact that putting down the refugee’s ‘rebellion’ did much to correct the cause - people died. They died from no heat; others died because their supply of insulin was no longer refrigerated; others died because they fell off unlit porches, tried to drive and ran off the road – any one of a hundred small, mundane things which electricity, artificial light, refrigeration and heat, or yet-another byproduct of available power made possible and suddenly deprived.
After the fight, Mike and I had set a personal goal of dragooning other neighbors into our ‘firewood brigade, and obtaining at least two cords of firewood per home. As a result, we began using those magnificent old midcentury-fireplaces again for everything from heat to cooking.
We all lost weight. This winter will be a better regimen of exercise and responsible eating than any of us could have imagined – we’ll all be healthier by spring as an ironic result of this disaster.
In bits and pieces, the Federal government has begun to reassert control over the region. Much has been made by the media of the ‘hardy Oregonians’ who’ve done so much with so little – to us, at least here, there simply wasn’t any other option.
There have been problems, certainly. Large sections of north and east Portland, always economically marginalized, turned on each other collectively with a fury – our own skirmish at the roadblock was tame by comparison to what happened in some areas. That there was conflict, too was predictable – those sections were and are home to the economically-marginalized and those who viewed working together as something to be feared rather than embraced. Within a week of the disaster, rival gangs had all but closed the area east of 39th Street, looted most businesses and homes – the picturesque enclaves of upper-end homes in Laurelhurst were abandoned by their owners; some died in place trying to defend them, just as the unnamed-woman who died beside me had done, defending hers. With no bridges passable from the east to the west-side, the natural barrier of the river largely prevented this behavior from spreading westward. Those areas which have done well are where people are more inclined to work together. I suppose that’s always been the case, anywhere.
In our case, we watched it all unfold on CNN, or the one local station which began broadcasting shortly after the quake; we were disconnected, in the end, from the greater urban disaster, and felt fortunate that the only problem we had wasn’t more costly. Most of us felt that way, anyway.
The FEMA folks have promised us at least intermittent power by spring, and on-demand electricity by summertime. In the meantime, we had the Mother of All Barbecues, grilling, smoking, and preserving everyone’s frozen goods and getting them ready for winter.
The power didn’t go away – it was eventually diverted to high-value operations such as the water supply, hospitals, public-safety, and other uses. Most neighborhood electricity was eliminated temporarily (each area is getting a few hours each week; it helps with communications, laundry, and other chores – my writing and posting is done during this time).
We’ve all gotten used to living off a winter-garden, augmented by what canned, dried, and smoked foods we have in our pantries; beans and winter cabbage are, while rather monotonous, also nutritious. Martha has reminded us all that boiled cabbage should be consumed whole, complete with the liquid, which contains plenty of vitamins – something, no doubt, which our ancestors knew – but which we ignored as vitamin supplements became the norm in the later 20th century.
My battery-powered shortwave has made me a popular fellow hereabouts; it’s the AM stations which have the most value, though, as regular emergency and news broadcasts keep us informed in the absence of local travel.
Over 180,000 people died during the immediate aftermath of the November 11th Earthquake; about 15% of those were ‘secondaries’, mainly after the failure of the electrical grid and the destruction in some parts of town. The National Guard shot some looters – and, as we learned first-hand, the application of force, while distasteful, was necessary.
There are plenty of construction jobs around – and plenty of need for suppliers and personnel to support those industries. Many people I know have reinvented themselves along those lines; I imagine some will do rather well with it. Portland will be rebuilt, although not ‘replaced’ – there will be many buildings which will vanish, to be replaced by yet-others; some land will be converted to other use. A field-day for the urban-renewal practitioners, on balance.
The farmer’s markets will open tomorrow – that’s quite early this year – and I imagine they’ll become the place people will go to find information as well as trade for things. Basic services are returning – but it’ll be at least fifty years before this part of the world is back to anywhere near normal.Refugees have left for relatives in other parts of the country – and I imagine that, while I don’t have relatives anywhere, I’ll at least look at all options for starting over.
Then again, I might not. I’ve lived here all my life….
Martha, her son, Mike and Susan, Abu and his wife – they were all sitting outside on my rooftop deck, ready to ring in the New Year. We’d just toasted the end of one year and the beginning of another, with some fervent hopes that life would get rapidly back to normal.
We’d heard enough gunfire – both close-up, and in the distance - to last us a lifetime; while the whole area was under martial-law, the Authorities didn’t come up here. We didn’t ask for anything; in response they left us alone. Thankfully, after the Battle, so did anyone of an unsavory nature. Abu’s shoulder was knitting-up well; this being his first outing after being shot; John and Abu, while fervent practitioners of differing religions, held this in common: They didn’t drink alcohol. John was happy with a soda; Abu introduced us all to a uniquely Muslim concept – drinking coffee at all hours. He and his wife liked theirs strong, in small cups, and I was glad to oblige.
He did, however, indulge in a cigar with me; one of the reasons why we were outside. Although it was another uncharacteristically dry and clear day, it was also getting rather cold. Bundled up, we didn’t seem to mind – and the champagne stayed cold that way, also.
Due to the lack of light-pollution, I’d never seen the night-sky so clearly. That was one good thing about no electricity.
“You know a lot about this stuff, right?”
“Well – it’s a hobby, Susan,” I replied.
“What’s that cluster right there – with the stars in a row?”
“That’s Orion,” I said. “And that row is his ‘belt’.”
“Oh! I’d never noticed that,” said Mike.
“We have different names for them in Pakistan,” said Abu. “But the stories are similar.”
“The bright star – there – is Betelgeuse,” I went on. I pronounced it “Bey-tel-geeze”, which is how I’d been taught so long ago. I ended by saying, “Some folks pronounce it “Beetlejuice.”
They all laughed. Laughter, of late, was a short commodity. I looked at the dark sky a moment longer. “Pitchblende,” I said, half to myself. Martha whirled. “That’s not a word I hear every day!” “What is it?”, asked Mike.
“It’s a composite mineral – containing unrefined uranium. The Curies used it in their experiments when Marie discovered radium,” I said. “It was a metaphor for disaster in a song by Jefferson Airplane – they referred to ‘wooden ships, sailing through the pitchblende night.’ That was a line they left out of the recorded version.”
“Don’t play ‘Trivial Pursuits’ with this guy, Martha – unless he’s on your side,” said Mike. We all laughed again. “Any more champagne?” I asked. “We might as well drink this stuff. I chilled three bottles on the deck for you fine folks!”
“No; I think we’re going home,” said Martha. The others stood, also. Tomorrow would be another day after a dark night, with, thankfully, many more to follow.
We’d seen to that.
The events described are probably tame by comparison to the aftermath of a disaster of this magnitude.
I wrote this story as an experiment in first-person-narrative; in order to achieve my goal of focusing on recovery, I used the microcosm of my own neighborhood and those around me as the lens through which the reader could view that effort.
This story is personal – while I’ve changed the names, the locations exist; the personages are real – they are my friends; my neighbors; my fellow Oregonians. While it’s my hope we’ll never have to test our friendship and cooperation in this manner, I’ve no doubt they’d behave pretty much as I’ve described them.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tale of eventual triumph over adversity.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Marine creatures died in great numbers now.The seamount grew; the sulphur boiled with abandon.Thus it had been in the beginning.
Beginnings from endings; endings from beginnings – a cycle, of sorts.
“And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.”
-- Revelation; 6:4
Beginnings from endings; endings from beginnings – a cycle, of sorts.
“And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.”
-- Revelation; 6:4
November 25th, 2011 – 7:15AM
Mike and I caravaned up to the spot we’d picked along with another fellow named Jim, who lived at the end of the dead-end road we all called ‘home’.
We carried two truckloads of very scared men, women, and two boys – one was Chris, John’s son, who’d never shot anything past what was in a videogame.
I’d issued the two STEN’s to Mike and John – John had shot skeet for years; I figured it was as good training as anything – and deployed them and a couple of others on either side of the road in good cover. The rest of us either took cover in the bed of the truck (not much good if hit with anything over a .22), or under the vehicles.
I raised the hood of my truck, set up my G3 over a fender, then closed the hood to block my profile.We watched – and waited.
I encouraged everyone to settle down – the less noise they made, the more they could hear. I’d expected to spend a day, two, or more up at the roadblock, being bored stiff and watching for trouble.I expected a recon-probe – or two – before we had any real trouble. However, about four hours later I heard something which chilled my blood and made my palms sweat.
The sound of a diesel engine.
A National Guard truck rounded the corner before the junction and our roadblock.The driver was plainly a civilian; so was the man riding ‘shotgun’ and carrying an M16 – as were the men in the bed, who were all armed.The driver saw; comprehended – his vehicle responded in kind with a change in the engine-sound as he pressed the accelerator to the floor. He was going to blow through our roadblock.
Several yelled at me for guidance. I was busy lining up the driver in the G3’s scope. Accelerating directly at our roadblock was aggression enough – I wasn’t going to wait for niceties.I squeezed the trigger.Two inches of flame shot from the muzzle about a half second before the windshield of the oncoming truck exploded.
The truck hesitated, then swerved toward the gully on the downward-slope of the road.It bounced down the steep hill, coming to a stop in a cloud of steam and cursing. One of our number fired twice, and the men in the truck bed, some already injured, fell over like cartoon characters. The man in the passenger-seat tried to open the door; he screamed, then fell back inside. I had to tell everyone but Mike and the man he was with to get back to their positions.
“Everyone in this truck is dead, Will, except for this one guy,” Mike said. “I think his leg is broken.”
“Find out what he knows.”
Minutes later, Chris and Mike had set the man’s leg and improvised a splint from two tree branchlets. They carried him back to the roadblock and put him in the bed of Mike’s pickup. The man made it clear that the intent was to drive through our roadblock; punch a hole for the main group up the road. He looked thin; underfed; homeless. His English bespoke little education, and lots of bravado.Through his pain, he said that they’d been promised all the loot they could carry and all the women they could ‘take’ if they’d go on a ‘recon mission’.
“Listen to me”, I said. “I have food, a warm bed, clean clothes, and medical care in the rear. To get it, you have to tell me the truth. How many are coming down that road?”
“Over two hundred.”
“Thank you,” I said.
I had eighteen men, four women, and two boys to defend the roadblock.
“When do I get the stuff?”, he said.
“Shortly after we win,” I said.“If we don’t, your people can have you back. If you’re lying, I’ll shoot you myself.”
He grabbed my arm. “There’s maybe fifty. One more truck, and some on foot.”
I grinned. Thank you for the truth,” I said.
November 25th; 2011 – (Noon):
I can see why some armies just shoot the wounded.
The man’s groaning kept us from hearing the road – when the second truck appeared, there was little-enough warning. What saved us, in retrospect, was the fact that the truck was moving at walking-speed to accommodate the people behind it. They stopped, well in front of our roadblock. I’d deployed four others on either side of the road – it was apparent that I’d have to try a “Cannae tactic” to deal with even fifty. We were fortunate – in rooting-around in the back of that deuce-and-a-half, we found six M16’s – and they’d use the same ammunition as my Ruger Mini’s. I hadn’t wasted any time issuing them, to the effect that several men from down the hill had M16’s rather than revolvers. Mike had some experience thanks to two years in the Army; he showed the newcomers how to lock, load, and fire them.
About a tenth of a mile in front, the driver got out of the truck, and pulled out a piece of white cloth. He began walking toward our roadblock.
The driver handed me a handwritten note. It read, “if you quite now we wont kill you.Rais a whit flage and we will lett you go. Generel J.W. Morely, Peoples Army of the Republic”
I read the note twice – and, probably from complete fear than anything else, I started laughing.
“What’re you laughin’ at?”, said the ‘envoy’.
“Nothing.Tell your ‘commander’ that he’s to turn around and go back where he came from. Tell him if he does that, he’ll live. Any attempt to unload that truck or spread out will be considered a hostile act, and will be met with immediate fire. Do you understand?”
“Yeah,” the man half-spat. “Good. Now go. He’s got precisely until you get back into that truck to comply.”
The man got back to the truck – and delivered the response through the open window. The reaction was immediate – men began to pile out of the open back of the truck.
“Open fire!”, I bellowed. Leading by example, I set the crosshairs on the ‘leader’ of the group who was sitting in the passenger seat of the two-and-a-half ton truck – and squeezed the trigger of my G3, twice.The windshield exploded, and his headless body fell out the unlocked passenger door. Mike, John and their respective teams opened up with the STEN’s and the captured M16’s at the group which was now trying to spread out on both sides of the road.
Untrained, the men behind the truck and those recently-deployed from it presented perfect silhouettes on the flat, north side as they fanned-out – on the steep south side they just fell on top of each other as they tried to spread out down the hill. Several, however, crawled under the deuce-and-a-half and began firing. I dropped the selector switch to ‘full’ and squeezed the trigger, stitching fifteen or so rounds into the truck from the radiator-on-back.
Abu screamed next to me, falling to one side with a round in his shoulder. A woman – I didn’t know her name – let out a grunt as a round slammed into her chest and she fell back to the pavement. Mike, seeing what was happening, pointed under the truck. Three bursts from a STEN and two M16’s, and the opposing fire stopped completely. It was all over in less than two minutes.
“Help’s on the way.Hang on, Hon.” The husband of the woman who’d been wounded, a man I’d only seen in the greater neighborhood once or twice, was holding her hand. She was wide-eyed; beyond tears, and just trying to breathe. The sound was like a drain trying to clear itself. Sucking chest wound. Not good at all. Two other men I also barely knew had applied some rough first-aid to Abu’s shoulder-wound.
A second sound filled my ears gradually – a helicopter. It set down in the field to the north of the road; several N.G. deployed from it and headed our way. They motioned Mike and his men to put their weapons on the ground. Not needing an ‘invitation’, I did so ahead of their arrival, and told everyone else to do the same. A moment later, a National Guard captain walked up to the roadblock.
“Who’s in charge here?”, he said, looking around. John absent-mindedly pointed to me. “You cause this?”
“No.You people did,” I said. “When you failed to guard that camp. When you let that mob take off with your trucks, your weapons, and your ammunition.”
“The guy you’re looking for is over there. You won’t find him much company – I blew his head off about five minutes ago. Called himself a “general”, and his outfit was the “People’s Army of the Republic.”
The captain – in retrospect, a fellow somewhere less than thirty years old – said, “I’m Captain Adams; O.N.G. We saw this from the air. Been keeping tabs on that camp; just getting enough people together to go back in and restore order has been a chore. We have people on the ground at the camp now. They won’t be any more trouble to you.” His medics were working on the woman in the road, but I could see it was a lost cause.
“I can’t die,” she half-gurgled. Can’t die”. Then, holding her husband’s hand and lying in the middle of the roadway, she took one more half-breath, and died. I motioned to her husband. “Tell him that story. I’m sure he’ll find it great comfort.”
Medics were already evacuating the man whose leg had been broken; Abu; and a couple of others; minor injuries. Other Guardsmen were already getting the trucks out of the road – this included mine, which had absorbed enough rounds to render it a ‘total’ by nearly any measure. I surveyed the damage from the center of the junction. Tendrils of smoke rose from all three vehicles; I counted at least ten on the ground on the other side.The smell of blood and shit was pervasive.
"A battlefield," I thought. "This is a battlefield. Sure ‘nough".
“Need help with that?,” Captain Adams said, pointing to my shoulder. My coat's leather shell was neatly cut, and insulation was sticking out. I reached under, and brought back a clean hand. Whatever had been fired at me had just opened-up my coat-sleeve; nothing more. I was lucky.
“Doesn’t look like it,” I said. I continued, “Look.I’m sorry I snapped at you. Thank you for the help. Those people” – I pointed up the road – “weren’t bad. They were cold, tired, hungry – and misled. Now, they’re dead. If you want something to do, put this place back together again. You’ll have my thanks – and everyone in the state, for that matter.”
The “Battle of the Hilltop” will never make it into any history books. One dead; one wounded – and every one of us who participated with a lifetime of nightmares. We killed fifteen of “General Morely’s” band, and wounded nearly all the rest.
Now, I know.
I know why my father would never watch war-movies. I know why he’d never buy me toy-soldiers – because soldiers aren’t toys. I know the motivation behind some who’ve ‘seen the elephant’, and who’ll never kill another living thing again with conscious effort; not even insects.
In my own case, I’ll never be able to look at that woman’s husband again.
I hope I can stay sane.