Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who's Ronald?

Who's Ronald? That's the eternal question, isn't it? This is the last story concerning our previous president.

“A further conflict of interest involving rational behavior arises when the interests of the decision making elite in power clash with the interests of the rest of society. Especially if the elite can insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions, they are likely to do things that profit themselves, regardless of whether those actions hurt everybody else. Such clashes, flagrantly personified by the dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and the governing elite in Haiti, are becoming increasing frequent in the modern U.S., where rich people tend to live within their gated compounds and to drink bottled water.
-Jared Diamond, Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

During an awkward, low moment in a recent meeting of the Skid Row Garden Club, one of our members volunteered to show us pictures of his family reunion, taken from a vacation he had some two years previously. My usual enthusiasm to view photographs of people I don’t know, will probably never meet, and who themselves have no knowledge or interest in my existence, was somewhat lacking on this particular day. However, the unexpected lull in the conversation had caught me by surprise, and the five of us who were there, encouraged by the group’s nominal leader, agreed to wait for our fellow “gardener” to retrieve his photos from his room on the second floor of our hotel. I was trapped.
These meetings, I’m almost positive, are carefully designed by their creators to be therapeutic in some way, and are often vibrant and filled with the energy associated with the nurturing of new living organisms. Residents, such as myself, were given plants to look after and worry about. We were charged with the plants care and well-being. At our weekly get-togethers we discussed the issues and crisis’s our plants may be experiencing at any given moment, disseminated State-Of-The-Art, groundbreaking new developments in Plant Technology, and how best to implement said techniques and use them in an appropriate and timely manner. Sadly, we also had occasion to eulogize the flora which had left us for a better world in Plant Heaven.
As I’ve mentioned, on the day of the photos we had run out of things to talk about. The general health of the plants already allocated to us had previously been discussed, thorough plant inspections made and treatment strategies prescribed. No new members were there to initiate, haze, and give plants to, and during the previous week’s meeting, using paint pencils and little talent, we had decorated the pots our plants live in (with various degrees of success). So, when the aforementioned “Moment Of Awkward Silence” occurred, not one of us was brave enough, motivated enough, or had enough forward momentum to suggest the meeting end.
Accordantly, we waited patiently for our friend to return from upstairs with breathless anticipation. He soon made it back to the dining area, carrying with him several small plastic containers which held, what my imagination displayed to me, literally thousands and thousands of 4 by 5 glossy photographs, all of unknown people (to me), smiling benignly at the camera, and awaiting our cursory inspection. In actuality, the number of photos were only two hundred, or so. The presenter, rife with pride, dutifully began to share his treasures with the rest of us, the first photo being handed to one member for examination, then the next, in a circular arrangement, until, alas, it returned to its rightful owner to be reintegrated into his vast collection.
Oral descriptions of the the family link our friend had with the many subjects of the photographs were provided for each and every picture presented, and some type of comment, often laudatory, were expected from the rest of us. An example of this lively banter went something like this:
“This here is my Great Auntie Mabel, with her two cousin-in laws, Gladys and Justine. Gladys, she be retired now, and living in Minnesota.”
And we would respond with something like this:
“Oh, that’s nice,” or “She looks wonderful. Where does Justine live?” or, “They look very happy.”
Some of the subjects of the photographs were sitting. In other pictures, other people were standing. Sometimes, the people we had just seen sitting, in brand new photos, were now standing. The phenomena of locomotion was implied, but hardly commented upon, as far as I can remember. In almost all of the photographs the subjects were seen grinning, and smiling happily into the camera. Sometimes there was only one subject, in other photos there were many clustered together, or sitting next to each other, all smiling madly, as if they resided in some utopian, perfect world, free from war, pestilence, doubt, and worry. It of course had been explained to us that the event which had prompted the production of these pictures was one of a reunion of family members, so one could conclude from this virtually millions (if not billions) of possible combinations of aunties, uncles, cousins, moms and dads, nephews and nieces, step-fathers and brothers, on and on, sitting, kneeling, stooping, jumping, standing, or lying down taking a little nap. Our examination of these photos continued for perhaps 20 minutes, and just moments before I felt I would surely go insane, our friend discarded one photograph, stating he did not know who the person in the picture happened to be. He quickly moved on to the next photo of more familiar members of his large and ponderous kin.
Suddenly my interest was genuinely piqued. Of all the photographs our friend had thus far presented for inspection and appraisal he had provided some type of historical or biographical commentary and explanation, except this one! Why was this, I wondered. Being naturally inquisitive and suspicious concerning items and situations that were none of my business, I waited patiently for our friend to finish dolling out the remainder of the package of pictures he had been working through, then interrupted him before he could move on to the next.
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute,” I cried. I dug through the pile of pictures until reaching the one in question, and presented it to the group, imperiously demanding, “I want to know who this is!”
“I don’t know who he is,” our friend repeated. He picked up the picture, turning it over to read from the back. “Ronald,” he said, as if that answer were sufficient.
“Ronald? Who’s Ronald?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered again. I could tell he was anxious to move on to more familiar territory. “It’s Ronald.”
I could not let the matter rest.
“Ronald,” I muttered. I took the photograph from his grasp. “Who are you?”
The picture depicted an elderly, black gentleman, thin, almost gaunt. He was defined by handsome, distinguished features. Gray haired, and balding. He sported a short, white mustache, and was dressed in a simple brown suit that seemed a bit overly large on him, but not so much that it would draw attention. He sat quietly, it looked, at the extreme right end of a large, brown sofa, by himself, with what appeared to me a bemused, confident smile upon his face. No one else was in the picture with him, but it looked like “Ronald” was comfortable and having a good time, satisfied to observe the events transpiring around him. He was not looking at the camera at the time the picture was taken, but rather, upwards, and to the left. His eyes though were clearly discernable, hinting at hidden intelligence and a touch of delight.
I was strangely affected by the obsequious photograph, and could not stop myself from thinking about it. One had to assume that this man, Ronald, was known to the photographer well enough that the desire to preserve his image was evident. That only the use of his first name to identify him was further proof of this. The subject had been invited to a “family reunion” another proof that this gentleman was well known to said family, as well as the photographer, possibly an actual member of the family, but he was not known to my Garden Club friend.
Huuumm, I thought to myself. Very strange.
Then there was the matter of Ronald’s sitting alone in what must have been a fairly crowded room. Huuumm, I thought again. Was Ronald being avoided for some reason? Ostracized by the very family which had presumably invited him? A “Black Sheep” perhaps, currently out of favor for some ancient slight still held against him. Or was it that just at that particular moment chance had caught a solitary Ronald, to be locked for eternity in this picture, alone and friendless?
Clearly, too many questions were left unanswered. This issue had to be investigated, I thought, and since no one else in our group offered to do the job (quite sensibly, I grudgingly admit), the problem was left in my capable hands.
I sprang into action, asking our friend if I could borrow Ronald, or his picture at least, for a day or two. My friend was doubtful at first, but gave in after I had thoroughly explained my intentions and upon my sincere promise to return his property in mint condition.
After the Garden Club meeting adjourned (some, not me surely, might say “gratefully adjourned”) for yet another week, I carried the picture up to my own room, and placed on my desk for further examination later in the day.
After the successful conclusion of my normal Monday evening routine, consisting of: (1) Strenuous physical exercise (alternating sets of yoga positions, calisthenics, isometrics, crunches, sit ups, push ups, 32 count burpies) for almost an entire two minutes (almost), (2) Meditation (Tibetan), (3) A full and nourishing meal of Weenie-Tots and onion burritos, (4) Viewing of my favorite television programs (“Married With Children,” “Homework Hotline,” “The Charley Rose Show,” and “Huell Howser Visits California’s 5 Corners.” (Who knew we had five corners? Only Huell Howser, and he took us to each and every one of them!), (5) Reading a chapter or two from Eagle Hunting for Fools, by Antonin Scalia. Then I remembered Ronald, and picked up his picture, looking at it intently as I laid down on my nice, hard bed.
“I’ll find out who you are, my friend,” I softly vowed. “Don’t you worry. I’ll find out.”
I let the matter rest for the time being, placing the photograph on a chair conveniently located next to my bed for just such purposes, and then fell asleep.
Due to an unfortunate incident involving my electric stapler and some stale applesauce, I was unable to begin my investigation of Ronald’s photograph for two days. But what I lacked in immediacy I made up for in ferocious mendacity.
My first step, as always, was to utilize the enormous resources available to each and every citizen of this great nation, the local library. It so happens that the branch I most often frequent is the Los Angeles Central Library, the Big Daddy, if you will, of all the libraries within the county of Los Angeles, and from which all the other little libraries are born. Past and part-time home (and university) to such luminaries as Ray Bradbury and Charles Burkowski, I feel privileged to have such a distinguished institution so close at hand, with first-rate librarians just sitting around mumbling to themselves, and eager to do my bidding. For the type of project I had on my hands my best bet was to begin in the History Department, down in what I affectionately label “The Pit,” as the department is physically located on the very bottom floor, 4 levels below the street entrance. It is dark and murky down there, and legend has it that some patrons, wishing to penetrate the secrets of the past, have entered its cavernous interior only to disappear and never be seen again.
I began my search by looking through telephone books, electronic and print, for any reference to “Ronald” in and around the city and state my Garden Club friend claimed the photograph had originated, a small town in the large state of Florida. Granted, I did not have a great amount of data to go on. A first name and a picture. This could be, I reasoned, the main cause of my lack of success in finding any useful information which furthered my cause. The name “Ronald,” although unsightly, is a fairly common one, and I was soon to discover literally thousands and thousands of Ronald’s apportioned all over the place, especially in Florida. I was not deterred, however. Oh no. I continued my search diligently. Weeks turned into months. I noticed the change of seasons outside the libraries windows. The world turned and continued its elliptical orbit around its progenitor star. Events transpired around me and in the rest of the world. I took no notice. I used the libraries computers to illegally hack into government, and social aid agencies located in the south-eastern, hurricane prone states, in what seemed an endless supply of files, pictures, and printed information, each day hoping that this would be the day I came across some inkling, hint, or clue as to Ronald’s identity, but to no avail. I posted his picture on the World Wide Web; along with an ardent plea for the least scrap of information that could lead me to the fruitful conclusion of my “quest,” for my search could surely be called that by this time. A quest I continued to pursue for the next three and three-quarter years. I offered rewards. I made trips to Florida and its neighboring states on several occasions, with no success. I found Ronald’s everywhere. Fat Ronald’s, little Ronald’s, Ronald’s without hair. I found old Ronald’s, young baby Ronald’s. These were of no use to me. I found Asian Ronald’s, Samoan Ronald’s, southern, northern, and French Ronald’s, Ronald’s apparently without end. I even found 3 women named Ronald, 47 dogs, 28 cats, 2 lizards, and 1 chicken named Ronald (technically a rooster), but never, not in one instance, did I come across the right Ronald, the Ronald that would bring an end to all my labors and allow me to return to the promising life I had once enjoyed. A quiet life of self-reflection, characterized by an abiding search for truth and beauty. It seemed though this was not to be.
After the seventh year of my search it occurred to me that I may fail. I was tired, sick actually, at looking at Ronald’s. I’d had trouble sleeping, waking in the dark hours of the night with that infernal name issuing from my parched lips, my once strong and lithe body covered in cold sweat. I could not eat. I took no satisfaction from once pleasurable activities. I had no social life, no romantic interests and little hope of finding any. The librarians hated me, talking to each other in soft whispers whenever I came near. My caseworker at the Los Americas Hotel was beginning to suspect that something might be amiss.
Finally, after the eleventh year of constant searching, I came to the decision that it might not be worth the trouble to continue. Who cared who Ronald was, I asked myself. What was he to me that I should waste my life in such a manner? Nothing. Even if I should find Ronald one day, what would I do then? I had no idea. It dawned on me that I may have a spent a large fraction of my life in a useless pursuit. I became despondent, depressed. I was economically ruined.
I decided to end my search. I would from this point forward devote what remaining years I had left to the promotion of “goodness” throughout the world. I would go to medical school and become a cosmetic surgeon, and learn how to play the harpsichord. One thing I knew for sure, I would never willing become a lawyer. I had sunk low enough already, and there was only one direction left to me, and that was upward. I would thrust myself out of the gloom and into the the light of reason and prosperity.
I got up from my seat at the computer terminal and placed the now old, and dog-eared picture of my nemesis in my vest pocket, ready now to finally return it to its rightful owner who by this time had forgotten all about it.
If only I could do so, I lamented. If only I might still have a chance to live.
I said my goodbyes to the History Department’s faithful staff, informing them of my intention of never returning. It was the first time I had seen them smile in years. They actually spoke to me, saying goodbye, advising me to take care.
Before leaving I needed to use the restroom one last time. Its porcelain contours were well know to me. After all of these years I knew every corner, every stall, every sink and faucet intimately. There was nothing in this room I was not aware of, or that would cause me harm. So while washing my hands and noticing in the mirror a large man dressed in a new and shiny trench coat, it came as a complete surprise to register a curious pain near the rear portion of my shaggy head and suddenly lose consciousness. All I remember was a sense of falling, endlessly falling, toward whatever doom awaited me.

I have no idea how long I was out. When I came to, I felt my body lying in the horizontal, my swollen face pressed against cold, hard stone. I slowly opened my eyes to look upon a dimly lit room and thought briefly that I had simply fainted in the restroom at the very moment the libraries lights had failed. Instead, I sat up to find myself sitting on a cement bench, which protruded from a wall, which itself was made of the very same, cold, hard, material. My head ached, and my body was sore, with little stinging pains shooting throughout my back and arms.
Upon further examination I found myself in a cell-like enclosure, the bench I was sitting on the only apparent accommodation to human occupancy. No toilet. No window. A faint light rang down from a thin fluorescent strip embedded in the ceiling some ten feet above my throbbing head. A steel door faced me, about three feet from where I sat. I shook my head and ran my fingers through my hair, attempting to clear my blurry vision.
“Oh great,” I moaned to the listening silent walls. “The Library Cops got me.”
Damn! Library Cops! The worst kind. You don’t want to screw around with those bastards. They’re reputation for tenacity and ruthless violence while hunting down and prosecuting patrons with overdue library materials was legendary. They were more horrible than IRS agents and telemarketers. I tried hard to remember if I had any videos or books checked out, let alone overdue. I couldn’t think of any. Maybe they found me passed out in the restroom, thought I was drunk, and threw me in the Library Dungeon until I sobered up.
I stood, or tried to. I was pretty shaky, my legs weak and uncertain. I must have hit the floor hard in the restroom, I thought. Great, just what I needed to begin my “Ronald Free” life- a bright and sparkling major concussion. I took the two steps necessary to reach the door and pounded on it, hoping to alert my capturers that I was now awake. Nothing came of it though, and I sat back down, exhausted from the meager effort. I felt depressed and weepy, my head hanging down between my legs.
It was a few moments later that I heard the footsteps approaching from outside. A small window in the door slid open and I could see a pair of cold, hard eyes checking me out. I smiled lamely.
“Hi,” I said.
“You awake?” a male voice inquired.
The window closed, and I heard the sound of bolts being slid open. The thick door opened with a loud creak. It was dark out beyond and I could not make out any movement from the open doorway.
“I’m not drunk,” I said. “I must have fainted, or…”
A large pail-full of ice-cold water hit me hard, right between the eyes! I gasped, a pain like four inch steal spikes rammed into my eyeballs reverberated from the bottom of my spine, to the last strand of hair on my head, then back down again. I felt like I’d been hit by a ten-ton truck!
“I said I was awake!” I sputtered, trying unsuccessfully to catch my breath.
A man and woman walked in and stood before me, looking down at my gasping, soaking wet visage. Both were dressed in long, black trench coats. The man, darkly handsome. The female, cool, redheaded, and beautiful.
“Just making sure, Mr. Joyce,” the man said.
“Who are you guys!?” I rasped.
Both pulled from their coats small black billfolds, which they flipped open for me to inspect. Badges.
“Mr. Joyce,” the woman said, “we’re from the F.B.I..” She leaned forward to get a better look at me. “We’d like to have a little chat.”

I was taken down a short hallway and into a small dark interrogation room, and asked to sit down behind a long wooden table. Soft lights hung from the ceiling, illuminating the table, myself, and the pair of supposed F.B.I. agents, but not much else. The corners of the room were shrouded in shadow. My captures declined to sit, preferring to stand before me, looking down. The man poured water from a pitcher into a glass and placed it near me, then spoke.
“Mr. Joyce, I’m Agent Boulder, and this is Agent Tully. We’d like to ask you some questions.”
“Where am I? Am I under arrest? What’s this all about? I don’t have any videos overdue.”
“You’re in a safe place,” Boulder answered, “and no, you’re not under arrest.”
“Yet,” Tully enjoined.
“We’re going to tell you right now what this is about, and we have no interest in your videos, overdue or not.”
“You don’t care?”
“You don’t work with the Library Cops?”
“No. We stopped working with them in ninety-nine.”
“Whew, for a minute there I thought I was in trouble.”
Getting to the point, Tully asked, “Mr. Joyce, do you know this man?” She placed a photograph from a manila envelope she had been holding before me.
“Ronald!” I exclaimed. Indeed, it was Ronald, but not the picture I had come to know, the picture which had tormented me throughout the years. In this photo, the only other I had ever seen of Ronald, he was wearing along with the same brown suit, a Mexican sombrero and serape, and seemed to be engaged in some strange type of ceremony. A Hat Dance I recognized after a moment. He was arm in arm with several attractive Hispanic men and women. It looked like quite a party, all those in the photo enjoying a wild, exuberant celebration. “It’s Ronald,” I continued. “Where did you get this?”
“So you do know him?” She didn’t seem surprised.
“Know him? I know of him. I’ve been searching for him for over 11 years now. But I haven’t been successful,” I added, sadly. “I failed. I’ve been looking, and looking, and looking, but nothing! Nothing, until you showed me this. Please, tell me who he is and where you got this! You’ve got to tell me!”
“Why have you been searching for him, Mr. Joyce,” Tully asked. “Why is it so important to you?”
“Well, I… I don’t really know,” I admitted.
“You’ve been looking for this man for 11 years and you don’t know why? Do you really expect us to believe that?” Boulder asked.
Now that he had put it into words, I felt kind of stupid.
“It’s true,” I said defensively. “At first, I was just kind of curious, then it grew into an obsession, I guess you could call it that. I couldn’t stop.”
“But you know nothing else about him other than his name is Ronald?”
“That’s right, I don’t. Who the hell is he?”
The two agents briefly looked at each other. Tully sighed, and nodded her head, as if giving her partner permission to continue. Now, for the first time, I noticed the presence of another person in the room with us. I could just make him out, tucked away in the dark shadows, a darker silhouette of a man, seated in a small alcove, silent, looking on, and smoking a cigarette. As he quietly sat watching the proceedings I noticed the soft, red glow of its burning embers each time he brought it to his lips to inhale. The smoke emptied from the room via a small vent in the ceiling overhead.
I drew my attention away from the dark man as Boulder continued.
“Mr. Joyce, we’ve been able to match by retina scan the man in the photograph that was in your possession, to the man you see before you…”
“That makes sense. They look exactly alike. Of course they’re the same guy. It’s Ronald for sure.”
“It doesn’t matter what he looks like, Mr. Joyce. We can’t even be positive with the scan!”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is, this is not a man.”
“Then it’s the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen,” I exclaimed. “Of course it’s a man. His name’s Ronald, for God’s sake!”
“I’m saying this is not a human being.”
I looked at them both thoughtfully, then busted out laughing.
“Is this some kind of joke?” I managed through fits of laughter. “Where’s it hidden? I must be on Candid Camera. Who put you up to this? My hotel manager, Phil? He’s such a joker. Or was it the history librarians?”
“We are perfectly serious, Mr. Joyce,” Said Tully.
“Perfectly, deadly serious,” added Boulder.
They both looked serious. There wasn’t a hint of smile, or a wrinkle of jovial mirth between them. I slowly settled down and caught my breath.
“What… what the hell’s going on,” I asked.
“Mr. Joyce. What we are about to tell you is classified information. Top Secret! Do you understand? This cannot be revealed to anybody.”
“Even my caseworker?”
“’Anybody,’ would include your caseworker, yes.”
“Gee, alright… yeah, I guess.”
“Mr. Joyce,” Boulder stressed, “if you do tell this to anyone you would be placing them and yourself into the utmost danger. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“Yes, yes. I understand… I think.”
“Mr. Joyce…”
“Please… call me Rick.”
“Mr. Joyce, the entity you’ve been pursuing for all these years is someone we’ve been looking for as well.”
“Yes, really. It goes by many names, but for the sake of our conversation today, we’ll stick to Ronald. Actually, Ronald J. Bosworth McCreedy, as he’s known in many circles.”
“J. Bosworth McCreedy?”
“Yes, but his name is unimportant. It’s probably best if we start from the beginning.”
“Some of us at the Bureau became suspicious when plans to invade Iraq were seriously being contemplated by the present administration in 2001, and 2002. A campaign to sell the idea to the American public, the United Nations, and the rest of the world, based on the assumption that Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, had strong ties to the Islamic fundamentalist splinter group which was responsible for the attacks upon the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, in September of 2001, and also, that said regime had stockpiled biological, chemical, and the precursor equipment and supplies to manufacture nuclear weapons to be used against the United States, was vigorous and adamant, but didn’t make any sense. Then when we actually invaded that country in March of 2003, our suspicions were justified.”
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute! What are you saying? That we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq? How about the War on Terror, and bringing democracy to the Middle East? Are you saying we were wrong to do that? Can’t you see how happy the Iraqi’s are now? And what were you so sure of?”
Boulder stood silent for a moment, looking down at me, as was Tully. He turned to her, saying, “You better check him out.”
The agent named Tully walked around to my side of the table while fitting plastic surgical gloves onto her delicate hands. Taking a small penlight from the breast pocket of her trench coat, she asked me to relax.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” she said, then proceeded to hurt me by shinning the bright light directly into my eyes. My head was still throbbing, and my eyes began to tear.
“What? Are you some kind of doctor, too?”
“As a matter of fact… I am. Say aaahhhh.”
“Aaahhh,” I complied. She grabbed my poor, defenseless tongue and gave it a good, hard yank, checking out where my tonsils used to be.
“No sign of infection, Boulder.” She released my tongue and returned to the other side of the table, standing next to Boulder.
“Not infected?” I asked. “Infected with what?”
“A virus, Mr. Joyce,” Tully answered. “An alien virus. A particularly nasty one.”
“Alien virus? You mean like the Asian Bird Flu? I haven’t even been sick,” I assured them.
“No we do not mean like the Asian Bird Flu! We mean a virus of extraterrestrial origin,” Boulder stated, somewhat testily. “The Black Oil.”
“Extraterrestrial? You’re kidding, right?”
“The F.B.I. never kids, Mr. Joyce. We’re very serious. Very, very serious.”
They both looked very serious again. I looked at the man who had continued to sit silently in the shadows, his features indiscernible. He was lighting up a fresh cigarette, using the remnants of the one he’d just finished. I turned my attention back to the two agents before me.
“What the hell’s going on?” I asked. “I can’t believe there’s some alien virus epidemic, or how it could possibly have anything to do with the War on Terror. We rightfully invaded Iraq because we thought they had weapons of mass destruction that they were going to use against us, and… and because Saddam Hussein was a ruthless, power mad dictator, who tortured and killed thousands of his own people…”
The both looked down at me with sad, pitying expressions.
“You’ve been propagandized, Mr. Joyce,” Boulder explained. “Snap out of it! Wake up! Do you seriously believe that Iraq could possibly harm the United States in anyway? Do you? The United States had pulverized its army 12 years previously, and had placed the country under constant surveillance, with strict sanctions during those 12 years. Of Course it couldn’t, even if it wanted to, which it didn’t. At the same time the real perpetrators of the September attacks were and are still at large and free to operate, while countries like North Korea and Iran were virtually given license to pursue their own nuclear programs and manufacture real weapons of mass destruction. Further, do you believe that Saddam would do anything further to threaten the sweet deal he had going on in his own country, by associating himself with known organizations hostile to the very nation which had him constantly under its thumb? Do you honestly believe that, even for a minute?! No sane person would come to those conclusions, Mr. Joyce. No sane person… no sane president would put our soldiers in harms way based on the selective, inconclusive evidence advanced by Secretary of State, Colin Powell, to the United Nations, or by the National Security Advisor, Condaliza Rice, to Congress, and the American people, all at the direction of the president. This isn’t very complicated, Mr. Joyce. A five year old child with a learning disorder could figure out something strange was going on.”
I had his argument beat. “But Saddam had the intent to harm us.”
He looked at me as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “With what?! Be Be Guns and Pea Shooters! The sanctions had worked! Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction to turn over or inspect; which means, by the way, we basically invaded a helpless country which had no way to defend itself, as was readily apparent at the time of invasion.” Boulder took a deep breath before continuing. “Three quarters of the world probably has the intent to harm us and would like to see the United States taken down a notch or two. The only countries who like us just the way we are, are China and Japan, who continue to prop up our bankrupt economy with daily infusions of cash so we can keep on buying their cheaper goods. The rest of the world hates us. Should we go to war with every country that doesn’t love us unconditionally, or agree fundamentally with all of our policies, which are specifically designed to further our own interests, Mr. Joyce? Should we annihilate all who refuse to bow down to our every whim and command? Should we invade every country that doesn’t believe we’re the greatest gift to humanity since the Quarter Pounder, that doesn’t think we’re the best thing that’s happened since mom and apple pie!? Should we!?”
“Our president seems to think so.”
“Exactly my point, Mr. Joyce. Exactly my point.” Boulder straightened up, comporting himself.
“I think it’s time you told me exactly what’s going on, Agent Boulder,” I said, surprised at my own boldness. “What do you and Agent Tully believe is happening?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “An invasion, Mr. Joyce. The Earth has been quietly and systematically invaded by powerful and cunning beings from another world.”
“I can’t believe that,” I said. “What evidence do you have?”
“My own sister was abducted by these forces,” Boulder stated flatly, his voice low and somber. “My sister was taken.”
“Your sister! My God!”
“I hope your god can help us, Mr. Joyce. We’re going to need all the help we can get. The human species faces nothing less than total enslavement and subjugation if we are unable to counter this threat.”
“Okay, you’ve got my attention.” I thought a moment. “Where does Ronald come into all this?”
Boulder glanced in the direction of the man sitting in the shadows, who nodded his approval, and the agent turned his attention back to me.
“What I’ve just related is obvious and irrefutable. What is less so, and what alerted us to the possible infiltration at the highest levels of our government, was when we began to speculate on what the real reasons were for this war, and how it was so easy to manipulate the Congress, press, and American public, into believing the invasion was necessary. So, some of us in the Bureau began a covert review of all aspects of the current administration.”
“You mean, without the president’s knowledge?”
Boulder sighed. “’Covert,’ would mean ‘secret,’ which in turn would mean without the knowledge of the subject being investigated, yes.”
“Isn’t that unethical, or something?”
“Not in this case, Mr. Joyce,” Tully jumped in. “Not when we suspect the security of the nation is at stake.”
“We’ll never get anywhere if you keep interrupting. All of your questions will be answered, I assure you.”
I sat back and gave the Agents my full attention.
Boulder went on. “Our investigation soon bore fruit. We began to notice Ronald as a frequent guest to the White House and the Oval Office. Tully…”
Agent Tully took some glossy photographs from a folder in front of her and presented several to me. What I saw amazed me.
“Ronald,” I sighed.
“Yes… Ronald. Of course, at the time we had no idea who this man was, or who he worked for. The White House staff would provide no information, which further aroused our suspicions.”
The picture depicted a ‘photo op’ of the president and several senior advisors within the Oval Office. All were smiling and shaking hands, all happy about something. Then there was Ronald, my nemesis, my adversary, right in the middle of them all, jovial and effusive. One picture displayed him standing slightly behind the president himself, holding up two fingers behind our leaders head in what is commonly known as the ‘Devils Sign,’ while both beamed for the camera.
“The investigation focused on this person, but we could find nothing. Nothing! That, in and of itself was literally astounding. The Bureau’s records of personal information on America’s citizens are exceptionably complete. With just a fingerprint, or telephone number, we can tell what a person had for breakfast for the last two weeks, and if their bowels are moving regularly. But with this man we found nothing. So, we began a thorough review, backwards, to see what we could learn.”
Tully took over. “We found evidence of Bosworth’s… Ronald’s association with the Bush administration going back to when the president was still Governor of Texas.” She placed more photographs before me, all of them with Ronald in the periphery, trying not to be the focus of attention. There were pictures of Ronald dancing behind Condaliza Rice, Karl Rove, and Donald Rumsfield, in the Rose Garden, all wearing grass skirts, leis, and Hawaiian shirts. Photos of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Karen Hughes, mugging for the cameras, tooting on party favors and holding half empty champagne bottles, while a blithe Ronald looked on appreciatively in the background. One picture taken on what appeared to be the ranch in Crawford, depicted Ronald and the Bush twins, sharing a homemade cigarette of some sort, between them.
“Then our hidden cameras caught this.” She handed me three photographs of the president taken during a meeting with his Cabinet. The members were seated around the conference table as usual. What was unusual was the way they were holding each others hands in a full circle, as if participating in a séance, and their expressionless faces, slack and lifeless. The tongues sticking straight outwards from their open mouths was a bit disconcerting as well.
“Look at their eyes, Mr. Joyce. Look very closely.”
I looked, but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, my attention drawn to the stoic, dead looking faces, which made the president and cabinet members look like they were caught in some kind of trance, or coma. Then…
“They have no eyes,” I said.
Tully offered me a small magnifying glass. “Look closer.”
I did look closer. What had appeared at first as a total vacancy, was in fact a “blackness” engulfing the orbit and pupil. The entire eyeball was dark black, like obsidian stone.
“They’re infected,” Boulder explained.
“Infected? Infected with what?”
“A virus. The Black Oil we call it. An intelligent virus. An extraterrestrial virus. This virus…”
Boulder took from his jacket pocket an hermetically sealed test tube, and placed it before me on the table. Within was a liquid substance that looked like ordinary motor oil. 30 weight, I’d say. I reached out to examine it more closely.
“Don’t touch it!” Boulder admonished. “It gets excited when around those who are not immune.”
“And you’re immune?”
“Yes. Finally, painfully so.” He looked at Tully, as if they shared some horrid memory in the past.
As I watched, the dark viscous liquid did begin to get excited, moving around its container, undulating slowly at first, searching for a way out, reaching up and around the tubes perimeter in defiance of gravity. This was no ordinary motor oil!
“Good god!” I exclaimed.
“Yes.” He returned the tube to his pocket.
“Is this some kind of trick?”
“Unfortunately no, it is not. After these pictures were taken, we stepped up surveillance on the president and those around him. We began to accumulate and document more and more bizarre evidence, and noticed an alarming spread of the phenomenon. Connections to the media and its various outlets were noticed and scrutinized. We could not explain certain anomalies, and considering the illogical developments with regards to the administrations foreign policy initiatives, many, many, questions arose.”
“What anomalies? What questions?”
“We couldn’t explain, for example, how the administration was able to so successfully divert from itself responsibility for any number of obvious mistakes it had made. For instance, we couldn’t figure out how the president and his lackey’s got away with making FEMA overpayments to areas like Dade County, and Miami, highly Republican areas that were least affected by three recent hurricanes, when there were many other sections of the state much more deserving, all just before the last Presidential election. Or, obvious plants in the White House Press Corps, specifically placed there to divert attention from real issues and avoid tough questioning from the legitimate press, and VNRs, paid public relation spots promoting current administration policies, disguised as real news stories. Or Op/Ed journalists promoting these same policies without disclosing they were being paid by departments of the United States government. Constant manipulation of the English language itself, designed to further the president’s agenda, were left unchecked. Like, “The Clean Air Act,” which actually allowed industry to continue to pour pollutants into the atmosphere, or “The Patriot Act,” which subverted hard fought for freedoms and civil liberties. Oh, yes, and “personal accounts,” used to forward the dismantling of the nation’s Social Security system, and a sop to the investment industry. Cutting veteran’s benefits in a time of war. Selected leaking of information used to punish critics of the president and his polices, such as the illegal disclosure of the real name of certain CIA operatives to the press. Rigged, Bush friendly, “audiences” at the president’s public appearances, designed to feign mass support for his policies when none existed. Election abnormalities. Budget manipulation, such as leaving 84 billion for war costs out of it, requesting this money as a separate issue so Bush’s overall budget didn’t look so bad while still inflating the national deficit. Using federal taxpayer money to fund faith based initiatives, which are clearly violations of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, separating Church and State. Failure to assess the threat posed by terrorist organizations before the September eleventh attack, despite frequent and repeated warnings. The war itself. Nominating a blatant propagandist as Secretary of State, a Pro-torture advocate as Attorney General, a neoconservative who’s historically been hostile to the United Nations as our Ambassador to the U.N., a pathological liar as Under Secretary of Public Affairs and Diplomacy, and a complete incompetent, someone who’s been wrong on every count concerning the events leading to the war in Iraq, and directly responsible for the needless thousands of deaths of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens, along with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, as President of The World Bank.”
“Then there’s Tom Delay,” Tully added helpfully.
“… I could go on and on. Everyday this administration gets caught trying to get away with one dirty trick after another, yet the public and press haven’t taken them to task. And they get away with it, each and everyday. George Bush makes the ‘Teflon Don’ look like a Brillo Pad.”
This was all too much. I had to interrupt.
“Wait a minute! So what are you saying? That every politician is infected with this Black Oil alien virus, and it makes them do things? Bad things? Stupid things? Things that are harming the nation?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” Boulder answered. “What other answer could there be, the abundant evidence not withstanding?”
“Not all are infected,” Tully interjected.
“That’s right,” Boulder continued. “A small percentage of humans seem to have a natural immunity to the virus.”
“Do you know who they are?”
“Some. We think Senator Joe Biden is infection free, despite his yea vote on the Personal Bankruptcy Bill. Ted Kennedy, Mario Cuomo. Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Sherrod Brown, and Henry Waxman. Senator Barbara Boxer and Reid. Al Frankin, David Brock, Jon Stewart, Mark Shields, Eleanor Clift, Ian Masters, Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, and Maureen Dowd, from the media. Senator Hillary Clinton…”
“We’re not too sure about Bill,” Tully flatly stated.
“All Democrats,” I observed.
“There are some Republicans. But it’s true, the virus does seem to have an affinity with, and taken root inside the GOP.”
“Which is now in power.”
“Which is now very much in power,” Boulder confirmed.
“And the public and press? They’re infected? And Ronald? Where does he come into this? And what’s this virus want? What’s its purpose? Where does it come from? And why are you telling me this?”
“One thing at a time,” Boulder admonished.
“We know this is a lot to take in,” Tully soothed. “Frankly, it took a long time for me to become convinced. Would you like some aspirin?”
“What I’d like are several shots of tequila in rapid succession,” I told her. “But unfortunately I quit drinking.”
Tully sort of smiled. Boulder did not. The smoking man remained silent and kept smoking.
“Alright,” Boulder continued, “first the public and press. As I’ve explained, the virus seems to have a propensity toward infecting victims who display a natural inclination for greed and self-interest, a tendency for maintaining the status-quo, a basic inability to employ innovation in problem solving, constant use of denial in accepting responsibility, a consistent shallowness in regard to self-expression, an inherent inability to empathize with those less fortunate than themselves, and a total disregard for morals and ethics…”
“Which brings us back to the Republicans…”
“Of course! However, we’re not certain if ‘effect’ precedes ‘cause,’ or vica versa. Now, as far as we can ascertain, the only attempts to spread the virus to the population at large, so far, have taken place in California and Ohio. We believe this was an attempt to influence the last presidential election. It appears the aliens had more success in Ohio, although they were able to infect certain sectors and one of the most influential power brokers within California’s entertainment industry.”
“Let me guess…”
“That’s right,” Boulder confirmed.
“Brittany Spears!” All three of us exclaimed.
“We’ve discovered a massive and long standing attempt by the infected media to manipulate public opinion, going back decades. Have you ever heard of Edith Efron?”
“She was a writer who began working for T.V. Guide back in the sixties. We checked through the records and first noticed signs of abnormalities when Efron began to make certain assertions regarding ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’”
“’The Andy Griffith Show?’”
“Yes. She claimed Andy Taylor was having an incestuous relationship with Aunt Bea, and that Opie was their love child.”
“Your Kidding!”
“Do you believe that, Mr. Joyce?”
“No, of course not… although I never did trust Barney…”
“Be that as it may, Ms. Efron soon became a columnist for the New York Post, and the author of several books that propounded odd, counter-productive positions regarding the media and ecological subjects. For instance, she wrote what her pundits have labeled as, I quote, ‘a devastating antithesis,’ unquote, to Rachel Carlson’s, Silent Spring.”
“Have you ever heard of Silent Spring, Mr. Joyce?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Have you ever heard of The Apocalyptics?”
“Enough said.”
“So this lady was infected?”
“Actually,” Tully explained, “we don’t believe so.”
“We think she was actually a real, live, true alien. An exterritorial being disguised as a human female. One of their covert agents, sent to Earth to further the alien’s objectives.”
“Unbelievable,” I gasped.
“This alien disguised as Efron was one of the first to purport that there existed a liberal conspiracy embedded within the mainstream media which supported disproportionate left-wing views. This of course was a fabrication. No concerted leftist bias in the media existed then, nor does it exist today, nor was there ever any empirical evidence that it ever had existed. Historically, liberal factions have always been too busy promoting their own parochial ideologies to mount a concerted propaganda movement of their own. The whole idea of control of television, radio, and the print news by a leftist-elite, was always a scare tactic used by the aliens to further their own interests.”
Tully picked up the conversation. “The aliens were able to infect and infiltrate substantial American business interests, some of the most prominent being Richard Mellon Scaife, of the banking and oil industry, The Coors family of the brewing empire, the Kock and Bradley family foundations, of the oil and natural gas, and the automotive parts industries, respectively. Collectively known as the “Four Sisters,” these interests either wittingly or unwittingly, helped finance the formation of a nation wide network of alien ‘think tanks,’ like the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, which were designed as front organizations to further legitimize the alien agenda.”
Boulder continued. “Lewis Powell, before ascending to the Supreme Court, helped organize these, and other business interests in the media. Infected authors like Robert and Linda Lichter, founders of The Center for Media and Public Affairs, kept alive the myth of liberal bias, labeling environmental issues, equal rights for minorities, rights for women, gays, and sexual liberty, as ‘un-American,’ and ‘non-mainstream.’ Alien promoter Phyllis Schlafly extolled the virtues of the German National Socialist Movement and the Ku Klux Klan, through news columns, radio programs, and CNN, while lauding anti-gay, anti-intellectual, and anti-feminist ideals. President Reagan appointed Mark Fowler as chairman of the FCC, infected in 1978, he worked tirelessly to de-regulate the broadcast industry, which infected Michael Powell has continued. Fowler also initiated a concerted effort to eliminate the ‘Fairness Doctrine,’ which was put into place to insure fair and equal viewing of opinions from both sides of the political spectrum. This effort succeeded in 1987. Do you know what you have when fairness is eliminated from broadcasting standards, Mr. Joyce?”
“Ah…,gee, let’s see…”
“You have a big bunch of alien unfairness, that’s what you have!”
“Deregulation continued,” Tully informed. “Today three companies own and control over half of the radio stations in the country…”
“In the publishing industry,” Boulder went on, “any crackpot, conservative, alien author who’s work would normally be considered unpublishable by any refutable publishing house, can find a home at the alien backed Regnery Publishing House, thereafter these ‘authors,’ are provided free access to hundreds of infiltrated radio programs and cable news shows. Speaking of which, Roger Ailes, the first head of the fledgling Fox News Channel, turned it into the first cable network entirely devoted to the alien cause, hypnotizing its vast audience with biased, alien misinformation and propaganda disguised as objective journalism. Right now alien control of a huge portion of the available media outlets allows infectees, like, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, G. Gordon Liddy, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Roy Masters, Tony Blankly, William Kristol, Grover Norquist, Armstrong Williams, Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, Charles Krauthammer, Neil Cavuto, George Will, Lew Dobbs, Chris Mathews, Peggy Noonan, Joe Scarborough, and Frank Luntz, to name just a few, to spew alien ideologies, lies, and non-sensical commentary, claiming anti-union, anti-feminist, anti-civil rights, anti-welfare, anti-semantic, anti-European, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-United Nations, anti-AIDS research, pro-tobacco, pro-minimum wage, pro-excessive pay for management, pro-deficit spending, and creationism as standard American mainstream ideals, when no evidence for that supposition exists. Hell, Mr. Joyce, when they run out of actual news events they can spin and distort, they just make things up!”
“Good god!” I exclaimed. “My head is reeling! No wonder Bush got reelected and the country is so divided. How about Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Rielly? They’ve got to be involved in this.”
“Limbaugh? Actually no, he is not. Even the aliens didn’t want anything to do with the pudgy little pill-popper.”
“And O’Rielly?”
“Our sources informed us that Bill O’Rielly volunteered to be infected and was rejected. The aliens told him to go back to Belfast, or wherever it was he came from.”
“They can’t be that way on they’re own,” I protested.
“As hard as it is to believe, I’m afraid that’s the case. Oh, they’re also paid millions to spread their lies, which may be a motivating factor.”
“So is that the alien’s purpose? To divide the country, and, excuse the pun, alienate the United States from the rest of the world?”
Boulder took a deep breath and looked at Tully.
“That’s the problem, Mr. Joyce,” coming back to me. “We’re not absolutely, 100% certain what the true purpose of the alien invasion is.”
“A pattern of behavior does exist,” Tully pointed out, “yet no discernable or rational goal can be ascertained from the available evidence.”
“No,” Boulder said. “Other than the obvious furthering of the interests of Big Business at the expense of the national economy and global environment, and manipulative pandering to the religious right to retain power, the only observable conclusion for all these years of alien meddling in the Earth’s, and the United States affairs is to create a state of chaos and anarchy.”
“Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that an advanced alien civilization, capable of interstellar space flight, with the power, cunning, technical ability and resources to destroy our entire civilization at will, is… is what? Just toying with us? Watching to see what we’ll do when screw things up?”
“That’s what we want you to help us with, Mr. Joyce. That is why we’ve brought you here and told you this.”
“Me! What can I do? I’m just a lowly street urchin, harmless and pure. I don’t know anything about all this.”
“Your friend, Ronald,” Boulder said, “you know him.”
“I don’t know him, or anything about him! Who is he?”
“I should say, he knows you. And he is, we’re fairly certain, the real and true alien in charge of the whole alien conspiracy.”
“Ronald’s an alien!? The lead alien? The boss?”
“Yes, Mr. Joyce. The boss, as you put it. And he knows you’ve been searching for him.”
“He does?”
“Yes, he, or it rather, does. We told him! We made certain of it after we ourselves discovered your efforts to locate him.”
“How did you know I was looking for him? It was the history librarians, wasn’t it? Those sons-of…”
“The aliens own invention, the so-called ‘Patriot Act,’ allows us certain leeway in examining library records and uses. A small amount of irony presents itself, don’t you think?”
“You set me up!?”
“I wouldn’t put it so crudely. Let’s say we exposed you to a certain end, all in the interests of national security.”
“You set me up?”
“Our analysts estimate they are at least 37 more pressing domestic and foreign affair issues than Social Security reform that doesn’t even reform Social Security, that are not being acted upon at all, and which need to be acted upon immediately, in order to head off an imminent global economic, social, and environmental collapse. We need your help Mr. Joyce. The country needs your help… and fast!”
“You set me up!”
“If you insist.”
“How do you know Ronald’s the boss? What’s his purpose? What’s he going to do to me?”
“We believe he’s the ‘Big Alien,’ because of certain events that have occurred which were initiated at his request.”
“I don’t get it. What events?”
“The current war in Iraq is one example.”
“The war? What do you mean?”
“It was Ronald who started it, or steered the Bush administration into starting it. It all amounts to the same thing.”
“Ronald caused the war in Iraq? That’s incredible. What evidence do you have? Do you know why?”
Again, both agents looked at each other, seemingly slightly embarrassed.
“All these photographs we’ve shown you,” Tully said. “What do they have in common?”
I looked at them lying before me. “I don’t know. He likes brown, ill-fitting suits?”
“No. In each of these pictures, in fact in every photograph we have of McReedy, he is engaged in some type of celebratory activity.”
I thought about that for a moment.
“A party? He likes to go to parties? Is that what your getting at?”
“So what? Who doesn’t?”
“Ronald likes parties a lot.”
“Again, so what?”
“He likes them a whole, whole lot, Mr. Joyce. So much so, that while in Iraq in 2000, he tried to crash one at the palace of Saddam Hussein.”
“That’s his M.O. He always crashes the parties he attends,” Tully interjected. “As far as we know he’s never been invited to any of them.”
Boulder continued, “Only at this one, Saddam caught him before he could sneak in and infect everybody. Saddam booted him out of the country, and Ronald never forgave him.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You’re telling me that this alien being Ronald, head of a huge alien conspiracy, coming from an advanced civilization in another solar system, caused President Bush to invade a foreign, sovereign nation, thereby disrupting the entire Middle East and causing the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens and American soldiers, just because Hussein wouldn’t let him in to some party!?”
“Not just any party. It was Uday’s birthday.”
I stared at both agents. “This is insane! What advanced civilization would allow this?”
“An alien one,” Boulder said.
“Yes, but that’s not all. We suspect that because of similar circumstances transpiring right here in the U.S….”
“You mean getting thrown out of parties?”
“Yes, because of similar circumstances, Ronald has engineered the current effort undermine the Social Security system.”
“What? Did the AARP kick him out of their annual convention,” I joked.
“How did you know,” Boulder asked, looking very serious indeed.
I starred at both of them some more. I couldn’t believe all this.
“Next week,” Tully said, “the President is going to announce the rising of the retirement age to 93.”
“Oh, come on!” I shouted. “You’ve got to be putting me on!”
“No, Mr. Joyce. We are not. And that’s not all. Look at these…”
Boulder placed some more photographs of Ronald before me. In them Ronald was dancing with several young and very attractive girls, in what looked like an old-fashioned discotique or nightclub.
“Now look at these.” He placed more pictures before me. In these, all of the young nubile ladies had taken off their blouses, and were prancing around Ronald, and flashing for the camera. Questioningly, I returned my gaze to Tully and Boulder.
“These women are all infected. These photos were all taken, transposed from, a popular commercial video series. Have you ever heard of ‘Girls Gone Wild?’”
“Uh, no… of course not…” I don’t think Boulder believed me.
“In any case,” he continued, “the series focuses on drunken female college students during their Spring break vacations, who are induced to strip for a video compilation…” I looked back down at the pictures. “Certain information has come to our attention that would indicate that the aliens, that Ronald…”
“Hey, wait a second,” I said. “Isn’t that Ann Coulter, the insane T.V. commentator and hack?” I pointed to one topless blonde rubbing up against a very serene looking Ronald.
Boulder used the magnifying glass to examine the photo. “Why yes, I believe it is,” he said, while putting the picture in his jacket pocket. “This will require further investigation. As I was saying, we think Ronald is about to make a major move.”
“Such as?”
“Infecting the entire female population and having them all go completely and utterly WILD!”
“Absolutely bug nuts.”
“No! You’re kidding!?”
“I only wish I were. Can you imagine it? Millions… billions of women, suddenly and inexplicably going completely, irrevocably, totally wild, all at the same time? Imagine it, Mr. Joyce. Just try to imagine it.”
“Okay, I’m trying.”
“Are you trying hard?”
I closed my eyes and lost myself in the effort. “Yes, I’m trying hard.”
“I’ll try too,” Boulder said.
“We’ll both try.”
“Do you see it, Mr. Joyce?”
“Yeah. Wait a minute. Okay, yeah, I’ve got it. Have you got it?”
“Oh yes. I imagine it all the time. Millions and billions of beautiful, lush young girls, wild Mr. Joyce, without inhibitions of any kind… billions…”
“How awful,” I said. I was grinning.
Boulder had closed his eyes, and leaned toward me with his hands on the table. “Billions and billions, completely and utterly wild, throwing off their clothes, billions…”
“AHEM!” Tully coughed. “Alright you two, snap out of it! Some of those women would include your own mothers, Joan Rivers, and Karen Hughes.”
“Oh my God!” I cried. “That’s just wrong! Ronald’s got to be stopped! What can I do to help? I’ll do anything!”
They told me, and I agreed.
“One item bothers me a little bit, Agent Boulder,” I said.
“What’s that?”
“Your sister. You said she had been abducted. If you don’t mind my asking, what happened?” I was a twidge worried about being abducted myself.
"I don't mind you asking."
I waited a moment, "Okay, what happened?
“That, Mr. Joyce, is a long and involved story worthy of its own television show on Fox.”
“If Rupert Murdock weren’t an alien,” Tully pointed out.
“Rupert Murdock! Really? An Aussie alien. Amazing.”
“Are you ready to go, Mr.… are you ready Rick?”
I could tell Boulder was warming up to me.
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I stood up.
“Alright, let’s do it.”
A dry cough emanated from the dark alcove. In all the excitement I had forgotten about the smoking man.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Boulder said. He took the few steps necessary to reach the alcove, and the dark man finally stood and stepped into the light. A thin, gaunt man, with hawkish features, in his late 50s, was revealed, sporting short, graying thin brown hair, and adorned in a crisp, expensive looking, conservative business suit. His gaze was intense and fell on me like a sledgehammer.
“Richard Joyce,” Boulder said, “I’d like to introduce you to…”
I swallowed heavily and took a deep breath. “Yes…”
“This is…”
“Yes, yes…”
“Uncle Waldo. He’s visiting for the weekend… from Cleveland.”
“Gosh,” Uncle Waldo said. “Glade to meet you, Rick.” The stylish older gentleman smiled and offered me his hand. Relieved, I shook it heartily. “Crazy about these aliens, huh?”
“Yeah, it sure is.”
“Thanks for helping out.” Waldo cut himself off due to a prolonged coughing fit, which doubled him over. Boulder stepped up and pounded him on the back until the man finally recovered.
“Are you alright, Uncle Waldo?” Tully asked, clearly concerned.
“Yeah… yes… oh my, I’ve really got to give these things up,” referring to the smoking cigarette he was still holding.
“Yes, you certainly do,” she admonished.
“We’ll drop you off on the way, Uncle,” Boulder said.
“Thanks Skunk. Gee it’s been good to see you.”
We all filed out of the room.
“Skunk!” I said. “Your name is Skunk?”
“Yes,” Boulder tiredly admitted. “It’s another long story, Mr. Joyce.”
"Who would name their child after a smelly rodent?
“Rick,” I reminded.
“You should hear his sister’s name,” Tully broke in.
“Please,” Boulder… Skunk, entreated. “Lets just get out of here and get to work. Okay!?”
And off we went. Finally, after all these years, Ronald was within my grasp.

Within 48 hours I found myself in a window seat of a 747 headed for Washington D.C. Agents Tully and Boulder sat directly to my right, Boulder absorbed in the in-flight movie, “Alien VS Predator.” Tully sitting next to me, recounted her own story of abduction and escape from the enemy now menacing our planet. Ronald’s forces.
“Did you meet him? Ronald? Was he involved?” I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she answered. “I don’t remember much about the experience, except that I was terrified.”
“They didn’t do anything, ah… weird, to you did they?”
“Other than having a microchip implanted in the back of my neck that later caused me cancer, no… no, I wouldn’t say they did anything you could call weird, exactly.” She thought a moment. “Of course, I’m not right handed anymore… Oh, and I wasn’t pregnant before they kidnapped me…”
This did nothing to ease my anxiety, although I had been assured I would be under constant surveillance during my hoped for confrontation with Ronald at a White House press conference where he had been spotted lately, posing as a reporter from Playboy. Previous attempts to capture the leader of the alien invasion had failed miserably, his miraculous escapes constantly aided by Scott McClellan and the Secret Service.
“I guess I don’t have to worry about that,” I told Tully.
“I certainly hope not, although these are extraterrestrials… but of course we’ll be there watching you every minute,” she was quick to re-assure. “This time we’re hoping Ronald will sense your presence. He should…”
Tully had stopped speaking in mid-sentence.
“What’s the matter, Janna,” I asked her. She did not reply. She didn’t even move. I looked more closely and noticed she wasn’t even breathing.
That’s decidedly odd, I thought to myself.
“Agent Boulder, Skunk… Agent Tully seems to be frozen.”
He did not reply either. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he, and every other passenger and crewmember were frozen as well.
“What the…” I had no time to finish my exclamation, the main reason being that a large hole had explosively opened on the planes fuselage just to my left and I was sucked unceremoniously out of the jet.
“DAMN!” I shouted, but no one could hear me. I lost consciousness while wondering how much I could sue American Airlines for, and if I could still get Frequent Flyer Miles.

I couldn’t move, that’s the first thing I realized. Not a muscle. A blinding white light had woken me, and it took a moment for my vision to clear. I was lying prone in what looked like an operating room, but it was impossible to see beyond my peripheral vision, as I could neither turn my head to the left or right. I could not speak. I could open my eyes and move my eyeballs about, but that was all. Directly above my head, next to the large spotlight shinning onto my face, was an apparatus that resembled a machinery drill press, emanating from a white, translucent ceiling. This device was positioned directly above my face, and looked to have interchangeable parts that could rotate. I could see something that resembled pincers, a rotating saw, several long and sharp needles, and a clear plastic straw-like tube from which three hoses were connected. A sense of complete utter dread overwhelmed me, and I could feel my heart racing as if it were about to explode within my chest.
“Richard Joyce,” I heard someone say. “I’m told you’ve been looking for me.”
A male voice, deep and resonate, yet strangely filled with vigor, spoke to me. The speaker’s head suddenly came within my field of vision, as he looked down, examining me. Ronald, at last! Despite the passage of time he looked exactly as he had done in the first picture I had seen of him. He looked to be in his sixties, the whites of his eyes no longer white, but a sickly yellow. He smiled, no actually, he grinned down at me as I laid helpless and at his mercy. Oddly, he wore a child’s conical birthday party hat.
“Well…, here I am! What is it I can do for you I wonder? Come, come, don’t be shy. Not talking, huh? Cat got your tongue?” Ronald J. Bosworth McCreedy continued to look into my paralyzed face, and then his grin disappeared. I could make out in his yellow eyes nothing that was human. No compassion, no pity, no mercy.
“Well don’t you worry, my boy,” he continued. “If you don’t have any questions, I certainly do, and soon you’ll be answering all of them, and be glad to do it. Because I’d kind of like to know what those two nasty F.B.I. agents have been up to. Oh, I know what your thinking. Why don’t I simply ask them? I could do that, quite easily, as you can see. But it’s important to let them continue in a somewhat autonomous fashion, for the time being at least. Of course, your sudden disappearance will be a disappointment to their plans, whatever they are, but I’m sure they’ll soon get over it. So now, since you were kind enough to drop in, I’ll talk to you! Or rather,” his grin appeared once more, “You’ll talk to me.”
Then he laughed, laud and insane. A manic laugh filled with alien glee.
“’Okie Dokie,’ as your Hannibal Lector so ably put it. And as Pink once told me, ‘let’s get this party started!’”
The device above my face began to hum ominously, the instruments rotating until the clear glass tube was pointing down directly above my nose.
“Do you like movies, Rick?” Ronald asked. “You don’t mind if I call you Rick, do you? I thought not.” He starred at me, eyes overflowing with mirth, as the glass tube began to descend. “I like movies too. And here’s another quote, this time from a character once played by Al Pacino,” he winked, “a personal friend of mine.” Ronald looked at the tube, as did I. It began to fill with a black, throbbing liquid. The Black Oil! “Mr. Joyce! Rick! Please, ‘say hello to my little friend!’” And he laughed, and did not stop laughing as the oil, the alien virus began to pour from the tube’s end, spurting onto my immobilized face, and finding, crawling its way into my open mouth as I tried to scream, into my nose, eyes, and ears. I was unable to breath, choking helplessly, Ronald’s laughter drowned out now, replaced by a steady roar, like a jet engine. I knew certainly I was experiencing my last moments. My vision blurred, my body racked with spasms, then, then…

Then suddenly I was able to scream. And scream I did, which is what woke me up. It was either the screaming that did it, or the falling out of bed, I’m not quite sure. In any case I was awake, drenched in sweat and gasping, convulsing for breath. I picked my self up and flopped back down on my bed, my chest heaving, heart pounding, my whole being vibrating like a cheap guitar. When I finally caught my breath, I wiped my hands over my moist face to clear my head. “I’ve got to stop taking that Wilburton!”
A dream! It had all been a dream. Thank goodness, I thought, filled with relief. When I was physically able, after calming down a bit, I rose from my bed and staggered to the sink to wash my face. I looked deeply into the mirror.
“That was quite a dream you had there, big fellow,” I said to myself. “No more onion burritos, either.” I placed my hand to the back of my neck where I felt an odd, prickly sensation, then returned to my bed to rest.
“A dream,” I said. “No Boulder. No Tully. No aliens.” I looked over at the chair next to my bed. “No picture of Ronald.”
I sat up like a shot. “No picture of Ronald!” I got up and looked around my room, under the chair, under my bed. I looked everywhere the picture could have gotten to, but it was gone. Vanished. Adiosed.
“What the…” I laid back down, unable for the moment to cope with the development. My mind, however, could not leave it.
It had been there last night, I was sure of it. I got up again and checked my Odalys Garcia Calendaro. Yup, sure enough, it was just yesterday that Garden Club had met. A dream, it had to have been a dream.
But Ronald’s picture was gone.
I sat on my bed and thought, scratching my neck. Then I made a decision. I got up, showered and dressed, then started out for the library.
I’d get to the bottom of this, no matter how long it took.

No comments:

Post a Comment