I always left the computer on because the phone rang constantly every night otherwise. But I felt so good after writing Terry, I turned the computer off and opened the phone connection, so at forty rings past aggravation the phone still hadn’t found its’ way to a sweet Cab Calloway beat. It was an irritating haunting noise, but a problem that would have been better than what happened by my picking up the phone and hanging up and the ring continuing. Before the computer, Srilenko called every night, and, when there were no calls, his absence was the loudest. Customers were told anything done late had to be arranged. I had run out of ways to deal with the nuisance. His mumbling went straight through blankets and pillows and Malcolm adapted by sleeping at the furthest end of the garage.
I couldn’t hide with Malcolm and give up his position, and at that late hour wandering the hotel was an embarrassment. I don’t really mix well with the women’s guards, out at that hour, known as pimps in the criminal chain. Not really what safe is, is it? I felt no affinity for freedom’s parameters that a burglar might at 2:00 AM, when their gambling high is most likely brightest till the cold brutal awakening of punishment’s dawn. Criminals are used to life as something being thrown at them. Angry justice is the revenge our desperate come from and become. What’s to be done about that?
Anyway I felt so good anyway, after writing with Terry, that I succumbed to thinking I’d beat his rap. Zoomed from New York I yelled at the mouthpiece I slammed on the desk. “I’m home!” Then I hung up bam, and it rang and I let it go for a while then threw it on the floor and walked the garage. Submit, submit submit. When I returned and put the receiver on the table he chanted “Mr. Greenway” until I yelled shut up.
He said, “Good to hear your voice again.”
I said, “It’s not me.” And somehow he’d done something with both phone amplifiers because we were both clearly heard without my holding the phone.
He said, “You know your habits as well as I. You are alone. I have something to show you.”
I said, “Now?”
Srilenko joked he preferred to not be seen with me. “Politico.”
I said, “Not.”
He said, “But not discreet. You are politician. Dirty little capitalists always make a scene. Too pornographic for me to expose myself publicly to your outrageous behavior.”
“While pored over by you.”
“Da. Poor Mr. Greenway, dirty little capitalist martyr. As foreigner you can keep your opinion. But the state can’t tolerate your twisted motives behind your blinding public opinion. We have to discuss new themes for your show. There’s a car outside to bring you to me. I won’t hurt you. Come, maybe we both learn.”
Even during the rubdown Malcolm meowed nervously as we were both worried it was too late to out. Just a cat, he couldn’t theorize the ole KGB’s late night protection policy had remnants left. I opened his food bag and set extra water bowls, then made him stay in the locked office.
The car didn’t take me too far when the driver stopped and said, “Go. Third floor.” The neighborhood was lower-class residential and before going up, I listened downstairs to the silence for a while after the driver left. I assumed he went back to his post at the hotel. On the second floor I wished this was just another bad dream then I became nostalgic for the one where I fall down the perpetual pothole. Preferring nightmares to meeting Srilenko one on one, one more time. It was 3:00 AM, but like the big ego city I left, Srilenko’s obsessed revolution never slept. When I reached the doorway he faced me from the middle of the room. There was furniture, a table and chairs stacked in the kitchen, with just one seat of power throne in the center of the vacant living room. Some extremely abstract statement defending socialist austerity. He made sure I’d glimpsed the whole room before insisting I honor his attention. Imitating a logical person, giving calm, clear directions, he looked 213 behind him at what, at first, seemed like bundles in the far right corner. But was a small child huddled in a woman’s arms. He asked if I’d seen them before.
I said, “If so, never noticed.”
He called me “My friend,” and I winced, then he says “as usual you hide behind exact answers. We’ll remain with the truth. See that big bag there?” And he looked over his other shoulder, at the left
213corner, across from the woman and child. It was a huge, fifty pound black plastic Hefty garbage bag.
He said, “Belongs to woman’s husband.”
She blurted, “Nyet!”
And we both recoiled at his viciousness. Srilenko didn’t even look at me, and told her in Russian she’d know when she had permission to speak. Thereupon her stare remained as blank as his story contrived about her.
He said, “Her husband has been smuggling for last year. This family convinced themselves they couldn’t get proper identification papers to work. Many through their own fault, lived under that restriction, and were not so greedy. Our country gives what each deserves. This family profited destroying their nation’s health.”
My attention was on him. I said, “Citizens’ lives should never be reduced to ruthlessly cold politics. I’m useless to you, let me go and leave me alone. I want a lawyer if I have to listen to any more legal stuff.”
Srilenko said, “Come, come Greenway. I didn’t ask you here to fool around. This family’s claim to need money, to support their child, is still illegal activity. I brought you here, because it’s what your ground up commercial philosophy is about, isn’t it? What you can’t legitimately achieve at home, you want brought here. Why wouldn’t I stop you both? All nations respect the right to control clear thinking. Am I not right, Mr. Greenway?
I said, “Unfortunately, always close.”
He said, “We wait for judgment clouded husband. You can see by size, he wants a lot for himself?”
Now Srilenko’s pride of capture, finally directed my attention at his large bag in the corner and I understood it as my satisfied law enforcer’s fine opportunity. The smell. Before now it was difficult to even breathe oxygen, much less understand the room’s aroma. Now my nostrils had their subject marijuana, and it wasn’t the more easily acquired Afghani hashish. It reminded me, even before I saw it, of sun-drenched Colombian Gold we used to get in Florida back in the mid-nineteen seventies. Before everyone figured out how to only grow more potent females. Before cocaine became the quicker financial fix, there was so much sun in the Columbian mountains it was the best mass-produced pot ever grown and probably always should be. They didn’t need to doctor the sexes for that product to knock you on your ass as
214they say. The drama finally woke me to look from the bag to that twitching lip, and what my being in that room meant.
He said, “Checkmate.” Then before I could answer dragged a cardboard box of files out from under his chair. With his foot he knocked the box’s top off revealing the board and game pieces on top in disarray. He said, “Game makes our confrontations more friendly, less official. Your move.”
I couldn’t resist looking lost to gain even a second away from Srilenko’s beating me up mental ritual. I thought of one of those plastic cages hamsters adapt to. Only I ran in place on the big wheel that only he could stop. My throat seemed to choke on my basketball-sized Adam’s apple.
He said, “Don’t look so sad. Everyone knows Americans love to party.” Then from his shirt pocket he tossed a pack of rolling papers I let hit my arm and fall to the floor.
He said, “Pick it up.”
I said, “I’d prefer not to.”
He said, “But I don’t know how to roll. Go to big bag. We both know you’ll do a better job. Or move. You will have to set up the pieces this time. I don’t work for you. Now!”
The way he said ‘now,’ even in English, made the woman shudder again. Luckily he allowed the small child to sleep but, for what purpose and end, conjecture raised the worst possibilities. As was his obviously lowering the boom on me by packaging me off with a positive drug test, taped sealed and shut. He acted like I made him do everything, and came over to nudge me toward the bag. But I never let him touch me. A relationship without having even shaken each other’s hand. I never liked anyone being used as a pawn. But I wouldn’t allow myself to look lazy, so I grabbed a bud and walked back to my wall by the door and twisted the paper around the thick one.
He even let me go through the motions of lighting it, then said, “I’m not that stupid” and tossed another prop from the box. My copy of 1984 that I caught and its’ gist.
But he told me anyway. “Clean the bud on it. No seeds, no stems, make good one. You have plenty to feel free like the proles Orwell allowed anything in their territory where law and order was of no use.”
His face made an emotion of caring to ask, “You are not at home in this world, are you? You look terrible. Don’t feel so bad. Enjoy yourself before husband comes home.”
I said, “This is a home?”
He said, “It is dirty little capitalist philosopher.”
He ordered me to start, and I just picked apart the tight bud where there were no seeds. Then packed it in the paper and portrayed myself taking two puffs. I always had trouble inhaling and drawing the smoke in, habitually keeping too much in my mouth before release. I never concentrated on developing the ability to draw the smoke deep into my lungs, and now he thought I should practice. I thought about my cheaper days when I fascinated others with joints that with one toke were burnt in half. I was just rolling for myself so these weren’t my thin ones from the old days. It had been a long time, so I knew whatever went to my lungs was plenty.
He said, “Nyet” when I put the first one out on my shoe. “Smoke it all.”
I said, “Is that necessary?”
He said, “Mr. Greenway, we both know you can’t overdose. If that was my goal, it could be easily arranged. This is party, enjoy.”
I held the reefer out to him, and he thought that was funny, but not enough to change his rigid cruel expression he urged me on with. “Smoke!”
Then for drama’s sake, he rose slowly from his chair as if standing to receive a prize. Then grabbed a baseball-sized chunk of compressed buds and dropped it on 1984 while returning to his chair. The direct hit had virtually no collateral scattering, as it was packed so tight in bricks for transportation. What a coincidence. The closer you were to the brick state, the nearer you were to the source and this was that close. Definitely smuggled, again reminding me how the easier by weight white stuff had poked at the economic criminal mind, expanding the drug war’s disaster.
I said, “The criminal enterprise system becomes more desperate every year.”
He said, “Roll more. Relax. Think about your next move. Our game wasn’t meant to last all year. Pursuing your Warholian fifteen, you abused your ten. So no sense waiting anymore, let’s finish this game. You don’t have to smoke.”
I did as I was told and smoked. He denied my right to sit, though I was welcome to if I set up the game on the chess board. Every few minutes, my legs would alert me they were tired. But for the longest time, while he read quietly to himself from unlabeled folders, I rolled on one leg with the book on my knee. By the fourth rolled, I lit the third, after the first, because I’d realized to just use the thickest stickiest middle from the buds.
Whenever I wasn’t, he’d say, “You’re not smoking.” And once, “I want to see you hold it in. That’s it Greenway, so nothing much comes back out. Let it absorb you. You who believe the world can search out the correct path. Don’t you? You think a way might be found, but we aren’t looking. Wake up. Our world is smoothly run as it is. Those with potential have what we need. Common man is already common.”
He said, “Shut up. Your old man doesn’t protect you anymore. Dead eight months. If you ever had any, your immunity is rescinded.” He laughed. “Too young to be true hippie. Just weak pacifist. Ashamed of your country’s aggression, Mr. Greenway? But we respect power. Rest of nonsense from your country is weak. Peace? You never fought for peace, did you?”
“I will never fight to kill.”
He said, “You will never be party member. But, just this once, I want to call you comrade because you were brought here by Dr. Hammer who built his career on Lenin’s signed photo. You should have been enlightened as to how big games are played. But your belief in little town harmony should, a year in reality, have you understanding cities positioned for power is what it’s all about. Of course you realize that now. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You’d be square.” And he laughed having fun with feeling powerful. Then he said, “Look at yourself. Accident with multimillionaire, and all bright boy has is joint I put in your mouth. Powerless to change world, you are nothing.”
I said, “As irrelevant as devoted Comintern agents Stalin relegated to the dustbin of history. If I’m with them between the lines then I’m fine with it.”
“Mr. Greenway,” he said, again running my name in the ground. “Your file, here in my hand, is where you yourself write the elite disable the poor through inflation. Yet here you sit, emblem of the desire to have my country caught up in greed too. Money works for
217some of you, the people who don’t have to work. Your world of financial administration.”
I said, “Money is not a complete measurement.”
He said, “You are right, I can produce it any time.”
I said, “That’s inflation.”
Srilenko said, “Smoke and mirrors” and glared, caring nothing for what I thought. To him I was the predictably ‘immoral westerner,’ breathing in oxygen with the hallucinogenic smoke, remembering it can be harmful to my teeth and gums. I had to take the smoke in, even though I was done and satisfied just two tokes in. The pacified pacifist taking an extra-long drag, as if it mattered either way, because he made me chain smoke, and light the next one with the last, to parody parents punishing their tobacco smoking children by making them smoke a whole pack at one sitting, for punishment. The anti-ethical position amused him since he’d heard about it.
Right then though, aaahhh, his chemical reactions ran distant to mine. I knew, but couldn’t think about the pain coming from just down the road when my head would desperately want sleep he denied, because he could.
He frowned at the box and said, “I want you to understand people need direction and thrive on it. But, I don’t intend to control everyone.” Then laughed like the joke wasn’t serious. Then said, “Lives should not be based on accidents. Capitalism is where fortunes are made by accident. To be effective, proper resource exploitation must be thoroughly planned. Not abandoned to the solution money is power my country tried abandoning long ago but yours ruthlessly stopped. Trillions America forced my country to waste on the cold war is my reason for being so thoroughly pissed off.
Then he spoke from out in the hall, to see over the railing, and came back to the door and said, “For instance your dead gone Dr. Hammer’s trail in these files. It, surprise, is missing where all the money went? When was the last time you checked your account? It is odd he left behind less than expected. Why wasn’t there a luxurious extensive hospital stay to prolong the long life of the rich man, who died at home? I suppose he could have brought every imaginable machine known to man home to wait out the end? But where did the money go? He couldn’t just give it away. He wasn’t that nice. Despite your Master Plan to spread the wealth. Bribery for everyone, eh Hank? If fortune can’t be found”
“In your partners’ pocket,” I interrupted. “And for the nth time, I could try to use a different name for our company. But this one embraces history even you don’t want destroyed.”
Srilenko yipped. “Ha!” Then he delightedly reopened the top folder from his stack on the floor. “Your motives aren’t so grand. Who doesn’t need rich man? Back in the beginning the Hammers charged the young Soviet Union exorbitant rates. Where has that investment gone?” Srilenko looked like he wanted to rip the answer out of me, and saw the joint and just nodded at it instead.
I said. “All plausible. The Russian Soviet Government Bureau’s Ludwig Martens was deported, so the Soviets used Hammer’s American citizenship to keep funds flowing. Who can’t put that together? So what? Let me tell you, there’s only one way Hammer got out of this country alive with Stalin’s money, and that was his autographed picture of Lenin to Comrade Hammer. That’s capitalism. Forget how many contacts you could add up, or turn down. Hammer had a pass go card. So what. Communism for some of us is capitalism’s flaw too.”
He alerted me, “Here” as the tossed file came at my head.
I caught the file and lowered my head through it line by line.
He said, “You cannot read Russian.”
I said, “Nemnoga, very little. But there can’t be much in here I don’t already realize. Hammer’s independence was useful for you, as much as it was for himself. Then after both wars, he had enough dough to survive communist witch hunts. Did Hammer ever lose his passport? I don’t know for sure, is that fact in this file? I know he survived in your country from 1921 to 1930. Then probably back in America he only had to sympathize with marginalizing the workers’ unions to affirm his faith in the inaffordability of American socialism. After sucking up to the Roosevelts when that was popular. No problem.”
Srilenko conceded, “That photo was dealmaker obligating his money’s use here. Exorbitant profits for himself, as you say, commerce among friends.”
I said, “If Hammer had the balls to be in the middle of all of that, why not? We’re all born with them, even girls more or less.”
“Greenway, have you any idea what you mean when you babble? My patience is thin. It is time for going forward. But, could it be, in that file you hold, that Dr. Hammer was in on the Mafia blackmailing of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, thereby protecting
219himself from that illustrious, openly secret cross-dressing policeman’s piercing public scrutiny for years? Hammer made real alcohol deals as well, and was at his own level, a real Joseph P. Kennedy if you asked me. Who else was in business but mob? You bought that tincture of ginger blarney? Dead, Hoover can’t hide either from his decades of exploiting Mafia is myth. Armand cannot either. Whose party townhouse you think Hoover and his boyfriend were secretly visiting in New York all those years? What do you think?”
As the prop in my hand, I looked at the joint and said, “I think you admitted you’re capitalist pig who can print your own money. I think your days are free to mess with whatever you want. I think KGB is a front that little people aren’t allowed behind. I think that everyone is bought and sold has twisted your ideological idea of what money is and played with your head.”
Srilenko said, “You are for sale, not me.”
I said, “Your price isn’t tallied. You’re waiting a season or so for your value to rise in the marketplace.”
He said, “Greed is your monster. I won’t leave my post for more money.”
So I said, “We’re back to your easy access whenever you need it. Kind of like capitalism except exactly.”
Then he pulled out this H & C notebook that had disappeared the day before. He said, “You know better. In this you write, ‘criminal opportunity is cultural, and ways of life not necessarily a crime. People are symptoms, not the problem.’ I see your connection. Your Third Revolution for American Independence is hippy dippy jargon. Dippy Hippies, doing nothing more than seceding from work.”
I said, “That revolution wasn’t just Americans descending from the Bohemian literary tradition that evolved over the centuries into the counterculture from the germ of an idea that we finally think for ourselves. Glasnost has taken centuries.”
Srilenko huffed and said, “Which brings us to American advertising assuming credit for progressive attitudes being destroyed. Speaking of which, tell me about your Uncle Sam?”
I smiled. “The symbolic old man caricature, designed from the initials U S?”
Then the next file spontaneously appeared, like a hymnal he sung from to inspire me. Srilenko said, “No, your Uncle Sam. Your uncle small town boy, who left home to become a big city university
220man but conspired in the creation of Florida’s version of California’s Love Incorporated. A hemp drug delivery network that spread out from your home state, in the height of the 1960s, where Uncle Sam now sits, broken down, paroled on a porch in the woods he rents from family friends, out of pity for his lifeless future.”
I said, “Not broken.”
I said, “He knew what the future held for conspiracies. He got out long before it was as desperate as now. In fact Uncle Sam still thinks of the government’s informer as a good friend for that period of time. They developed a chain of health food franchises.”
“Hippy dippy is all it ever was,” Srilenko said.
The topic felt nice for the condition I was in and I didn’t let his trying to confuse me stop me. I said, “What my uncle heard was a call that spread far and wide to get off and leave the uptight behind. Which the establishment was and still is, uptight. You stuffed-shirt hardasses hold yourselves up as different, and better, because you out-duel the rest of us as hardasses. How you’ve treated me since we met. We don’t question why there is a KGB. It just is and we’re all bound by your discretion. So if stretching the culture’s parameters is hippy-dippy, to be against the organized perversion of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ then I’m one too defying conforming with you.”
Srilenko would do what he would, so it didn’t matter if I enjoyed hearing myself. I said, “I loved Uncle Sam’s stories when I was young. He’d visit late at night after my parents were asleep and discuss the simple parable of why older generations are against the very young. But the punch line was always, how in God’s universe young is all any of us really are. Then as the times grew more serious, his tales were still fun because that much young people knew. Humankind had to at least become more about enjoying ourselves, and not just because there’s a market for it.” I raised my voice. “The fun loving kids screamed it was time to be past exploitation. Let’s go everyone, jump in, get wet, they found the water fine.”
Srilenko said, “Yes, truth is refreshing. But all elites are corrupt Mr. Greenway.”
I asked, “Counterculture advertising gone awry is worse than secret evil spies?”
He said, “Greenway, generations lived communist vision. This criminal generation knows nothing but what your country led it to understand.”
I said, “Screw it. I don’t listen to you either. So my parents were always asleep because Uncle Sam’s influence was trusted during that time till our small-town police had grilled him as among those responsible for a tiny club called The Yellow Submarine that opened and was shut down opening night for overcrowding the plaza parking lot when people came from everywhere in all the surrounding counties to the rented storefront in a disused plaza because flashier models popped up everywhere, culminating with the success of indoor malls that drew economies away from traditional small downtowns such as ours. Truly the age of successful conspiracies of individuals is at hand because”
“Story.” Srilenko interrupted.
“Our little town was near prosperous Orlando and, before the metropolis overwhelmed Florida’s center, my little area was a there then, and that vacant plaza an opportunity that drew counterculture customers from all over the area. My best friend took me there the next day and”
Srilenko laughed and made a note in my file.
I said, “He showed me the cleaned up aftermath the next day. The immediately shutdown event was a landmark to me, representing a modest bust by our cops. As swiftly and smoothly as switching off a light bulb, our city let free speech survive on its’ own without a showcase. A show was allowed to start to make a point, and shut down for the other overall reason order. Imagine this commercial idea coming from the messy streets of San Francisco, which made it obvious our town’s little startup was doomed. Plus it was too close to the National Guard Armory just down the street.
“My parents didn’t care what the town thought but, having lived through quite a few youth cultures in their lifetimes, they weren’t letting this new one become too closely associated with by me. I asked my mother who the freaks were, early on before Uncle Sam went to school. She had me take note they were 1920s incarnations of dandies and flappers living the high life on alcohol just for kicks. My parents’ ethics were very straight forward simple and I cherish them. I appreciate they weren’t letting me identify with even an insinuation the establishment could be dropped out of. Tune in, they could approve
222under narrowly consider ramifications, but turn on only after their bodies were dead. My mother made me promise to never gamble or do drugs, and so, as you’ve seen fit to prove, there’s no doubt I only kept half the promise, unless as a gamble you’ve proven Moscow isn’t a loophole. As big as I could ever take, right?”
I messed up asking, giving him an occasion to speak.
He said, “Good memories huh? Please go on, I want you to. I like hearing nonsense inspired by cultural patriot, Uncle Sam. But first, no listen to me. First smoke. Draw in more good ones before proceeding. Make believe you’re with band in parking lot, taking a break in the good old days, when sheriffs driving by couldn’t be bothered. I see in your notes ‘enforcement against subcultures that haven’t meant criminal harm.’ You just write on and on can’t you?”
I mumbled, “Who gets cash from this bag?”
He said, “Don’t stop, you are funny, your story or glory weed. Tell what you believe your smoke filled dreams have recently been about, and smoke.”
I ignored him but talked and said, “One time near the end, we stayed up all night and I had to drag myself out of the house to school before my parents saw me. I got the third degree when I punctually returned after school at the end of the next day.”
Then despite my intention to go on, Srilenko interrupted. “You smoked his pot all night?”
I said, “Of course we never did. I was a high school senior before I ever tried it, just to learn what the hippies did. I remember running out to my car for something, just to think by myself about my reasons for finally finding out. Because it’s one of those decisions you’re responsible for, for the rest of your life. That was my intention to just find out what they risked their independence for. My opinion is laws made to be broken have landed this world in a big mess.”
Srilenko smiled in a way I’d have rather not seen and said, “Yes. Obvious flaws play to your liberal views. But as we’ve discussed, control is the issue. Laws are suggestions police weigh every day.”
I asked, “That’s alright with you,” knowing his answer.
But he said, “Tell me more about this criminal you grew up with.”
I said, “Uncle Sam never brought Mary Jane to the house. Didn’t believe in that for the kids. The generation gap’s us versus them didn’t go that far for him. Children have to grow their physical brains
223before feeling the mythic concoctions. Develop their body and mind more fully, before stimulants that are known to physically deteriorate undermine the well meaning search for mental stimulation.”
He yelled, “Smoke! I am not your choir, or here to convince. There is nothing to think about in that state.”
I went on. “That particular night I left before breakfast, Uncle Sam told me he saw The Allman Brothers Band play an Orlando youth center. And what’s funny is they called themselves the Allman Joys then. No? Means nothing to you, I apologize. The place in the daytime was one of those single-floored indoor playgrounds for Ping-Pong and assorted games like Monopoly and checkers and tiddle-de-winks. You’d like Monopoly. Pure capitalism, social negotiation. But just a game, and your kind where a game is made of real life.”
He said, “My kind has job to enforce law.”
“Made up as you go along.”
“Elected governments define rules.”
“Are they? Elections confirm the decisions of the ruling elites. True, false, or multiple-choice we elect conspiracies of individuals’ agendas. Any system makes what’s important, trivially routine.”
He said, “Oh I see. More story please after another drag.”
I didn’t bother and said, “Uncle Sam met many friends that night, you’d call contacts, and a group formed on the sidewalk till 2:00 AM. That’s how well your team operates. The government informant was there from the beginning to set it all up, really.”
“That’s your uncle’s version.”
I said, “That’s in the file? Only one theory, though, and Uncle Sam had a few. And always at this point in his story, he’d laugh at his own giggling. It’s really not hard to do. They had flooded Florida with competent product.” I paused then said, “From his porch, Uncle Sam would say government loves statistics. The government ran everything smooth on both ends until the time came to satisfy other data and they were taken down.”
Srilenko said, “Yes, a liberal can explain criminal entrapment. Lenient laws subvert enforcement.”
I said, “Who really provided this party’s pot?”
He said, “Your story is over? It is time we left.”
I said, “Uncle Sam just wasn’t a business. Mind expansion was a desired end, not necessarily calculated in dollars and cents.”
He said, “If it made more sense we wouldn’t have such a big drug problem today. Military styled cartels and ruined lives.”
I said, “Your team’s conspiracy. Not Uncle Sam’s. Addiction to narcotics is as pointless as law enforcement feeding on it. Uncle Sam’s people never carried guns. Anyone having one was asked to leave the group so it was easier to recruit well-intentioned lawyers. Then later, stakes what they were, more ruthless mouthpieces got more involved. And on and on, corruption evolved ruthlessly. But there you have it, what Uncle Sam was all about. Carrying Allen Ginsberg’s message of defiant enlightenment and peaceful revolution to the masses.”
“Ah yes, intoxicated beatnik.”
“Beat conspirator. This shouldn’t offend you either. When Sputnik was a popular subject, nik was a derogatory journalist’s reference to your Soviet establishment’s desire to undermine American values. Last thing you should want is association with the accusation the Soviet Union’s values are immature.”
“Good Greenway. Very good smoke and mirrors, spinning your web, smoke. Just smoke. That is all I need from you, and care less if you refuse to move ever again. I’ve given up teaching you. Believe me. The day has come when there’s no room for you. We are a great culture based on rejecting exploitation. Navigating competitive capitalism’s roadblocks, some bad adjustments were made.”
I said, “What are you talking about? Maybe money results in rotten things, but capitalism’s inherent mistakes are humanity’s pure nature. Or is tyranny what you really believe in?”
Snarling as if I was the robot, Srilenko said, “Soviet Union achieved to each and from each, but some took more. Decadence is profitable, and profit the bad system. Your lesson little historian, is centuries of exploitation were fought erroneously? No. Stalin nor I are cornered mad dogs. You must accommodate my point of view.”
“Ah come on,” I grunted. “You’re not watching. American socialists who designed social security were rich capitalists. Economics hasn’t been a real debate for decades. Look at the Chinese. Things have changed even since the plane. Srilenko, do you really want to know what my country tried to do? Decades ago Huey Long’s corruption started up backwater Louisiana, and embarrassed social insurance into existence for the entire country. Now for God’s sake, it’s a welfare state.”
Srilenko said, “You’re funny again, but corporate welfare only goes so far.”
I said, “Farther than your generals’ new suits every year?”
He said, “You are naïve. Capitalism is not socialism.”
So I asked, “You rely on your job?”
He gave a programmed laugh. “Ah, ha ha.” Then let his stare hang a little long.
Blank him. I wanted to have fun. I said, “In San Francisco The Diggers had a funeral for the Hippie because too many people were unable to take responsibility for dropping out by getting a job.”
Srilenko smirked and said, “Become more amusing.”
I told him he was high because there’d been enough smoke in the room for that to be possible. He told me to start blowing it out in the hall.
I said, “Dropouts evolved and faded back into the realization anyone can make money.”
Srilenko interrupted. “Mr. Greenway, know I’m not saying you. But your generation had to become more practical.”
I said, “Please call me Misted Greenway, I’m taken.”
He said, “What nonsense is that?”
“Women’s liberation,” I said. “The movement against men’s domination. Gloria Steinem named her magazine Ms. and came up with the idea of calling all women Ms. to have a better chance in the marketplace, as men had by keeping their marital status a Mr. mystery. My thought is, that by designating men married, that might be another way to less exaggerate society’s traditional labels. The planet’s caste system sucks.”
He said, “Your drug has a real hold now. Your ideas are all over.”
I said, “I’m not. We’re discussing when the hippie died in 1967 before the entire country was hip to what happened. Man, the San Francisco community’s funeral for the hippie was probably staged because a CBS documentary crew was in town and the event made that tape I even saw when originally telecast. The Diggers tried to symbolically put to rest a state of mind, whose intended result was miscast as just lazy. Dropping out wasn’t supposed to just be about being lazy and The Diggers who staged it were an acting troupe.”
“You went to funeral?”
“I was 10.”
“Why was I 10?”
“No, why besides playing games, did hippie capital give themselves funeral? Without philosophical embellishments.”
“So many dropped out their bodies littered the streets of San Francisco without realizing why, other than not bothering with the rat race. They incautiously didn’t develop anything else for themselves to do, while scavenging was rampant and sharing the wealth ground under by desperation.”
“The transient weren’t identifying with the poor, because the poor would do more for themselves with the same opportunities. The logic flower children fell victim to was that in rejecting society’s control, they lost their feeling for their own. Scavenging, they used each other capitalistically without the inherent dual benefits of actual capitalism.”
“Uh-hum.” Srilenko said in a way Russians don’t usually sound.
“Anyway Colonel. Free as the Digger Collective’s free food was, transients weren’t satisfied and The Diggers were burned by that bugaboo ungrateful charity. Can I be metaphorical?
“You can be whoever you want.”
I said, “Some might say The Diggers gave up. But the history is all there in black and white. They were actors and the audience lost interest in the show.”
Srilenko said, “They were probably like you with your stinking thinking all over the place mind. Drug addled brains couldn’t think through their own revolution. Meanwhile you accuse my thinking infeasible, that government is ultimately responsible for control.”
I said, “Few survive day to day in this era stealing food. That doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but what’s happened is the creation of the shrewdest criminal class in history. Responsibility must be taken for that. Not just playing cops and robbers games.”
Srilenko said. “Listen to me now. People with problems become criminal. To cut crime we need more officers per criminal. Respect for authority produces civility. Control is not a quandary for the civilized.”
I said, “Hippies took the disadvantaged’s struggle to heart, and were as proletarian as Marx who bummed off of Engels to feed his
227family. I’ve always understood Marx and Lenin as fitting successful ambitious images, as both were mostly seen wearing ties. Don’t fall to the myth Srilenko. There was never a Proletarian classless society and everyone does deserve to be bourgeoisie.”
“Yet Mr. Greenway, you want the American way here ending Communist principles. Balance will return.”
Again his hinting at something didn’t make exact sense.
I said, “So people who knew why they dropped out, knew the hippie was dead, and titled the funeral The Death of the Hippie. Diggers led parade.”
Srilenko interrupted. “Ah, I’m connecting this to America’s Third Revolution now, whose first wave of leadership were called Red Diaper Babies. Redeeming their poor parents’ persecution after The Great War. Here in your notebook you say, ‘It was illogical for government to enforce ideology.’ You criticize us, mentioning yours. Aaah you even say, ‘It’s in a sense wrong to assume the Soviet Union’s failures don’t likewise apply to America.’ You write that, ‘first wave of hippies were the most committed.’ Right Mr. Greenway? You believe that, don’t you? That your country tried to destroy the counterculture because they thought it was our opportunity to spread the revolution through the children whose parents believed in us? The establishment wanted to believe we had to be contained. I remember well. Youth believed in moving mountains then but you were a child. Why defend hippies? Here you say Dr. Evans suggested every Bolshevik was a cutthroat. Everything could have been just as disastrous without Stalin. But as anyone who knew anything about Stalin knows, he wasn’t going to lose. And here you wrote that counterculture Burroughs character says society defines their criminals’ level of desperation.”
“I quoted him?”
“You write insight can come from anyone, and think that Rush Limbaugh quack might know what the most accurate income tax rate should be. Whew, what you write, you’ve been getting marijuana behind my back?”
“Following me, you’d know better than I.”
He said, “You know J. Edgar Hoover accused our agents of giving capital support to the red diaper babies?”
“Loose with money that wasn’t yours, if you ask me.”
Srilenko said, “Industrious group, red diaper babies. Your police networks revealingly embellished they were as important as
228Lenin’s political cells. Egging on people who would have been better off remaining kids. Stalin robbed banks for Lenin. But in their era, red diapers could always buy a few pounds, and distribute a few ounces, so we only had to give them half as much as they wanted.”
“Do you hear yourself advocating capitalism?”
“Those weren’t my operations. I heard.”
“Trusted with information.”
“Yes I am privileged.”
“Capitalist. I’m sure you’re at the bottom of a lot of things.”
“Tell me, did Uncle Sam go to funeral for deadbeat hippie?”
I said, “Not the funeral, but he got around. The documentary was narrated by the future cynical 60 Minutes’ reporter, Morley Safer, before he became The Morley Safer, and it documented the generational aberration including that funeral clip used on the nightly news. Literally, Morley didn’t get it either. He saw something had happened to undermine their taking better care of themselves and surely dropping out wasn’t fixing anything. So eventually the supervising intelligentsia found its’ groove and designed keys to open that drew even the most brain washed addled minds back to commercial self-awareness. Slogans like, open up, be aware, yourself, let it all go baby and wear the best groovy clothes.”
“There you go Greenway, America.”
I said, “Admit it about my uncle’s file, Srilenko? This whole deal with me is you doing a Mark David Chapman on me, aren’t you? Doing a cultural hypnosis on me to believe I’ve failed my cause and to be patriotic you want me to take someone down?”
He said, “The world does need protection from counterculture antichrists. No?”
I said, “You know Morley’s major worry was having an acid trip slipped past his security into his coffee. Unfortunately dosed that way, the victim often wasn’t aware enough to embrace the glow and go with the flow. Too much being punks doing pranks around the emotional roller coaster tipping the drugged out over.”
Srilenko said, “Unfair foolishness I agree. That generation’s derangement undermined the revolution. You are right if you think our financing was wasted on the American left. Scary people getting high going unnecessary places. Dangerous stuff.”
“Dangerous people, dangerous stuff. But from Vietnam to the streets of San Francisco ‘what’s going on’ was stood up to.”
“You’ve rambled enough,” Srilenko said getting up. “My country was divided for yours sake. You know how they’re wrong. Page seventy-six, you write your ‘noble press has a habit of rooting out controversy to exploit issues, even if solutions come second or third.’ But you can’t be trusted with influence either.” He smacked his lips. “Besides an alarmist, anyone tell you you’re too complicated to understand.”
“Laboring cyclist, I think you wore yourself out. Still your move, or we are going now.”
Then Srilenko thought he heard a noise and went to look down the stairwell again and went down some steps enough to almost be out of sight. Then came back in and said, “Listen. Money was paid to Uncle Sam to make the scene. There’s a reason Uncle Sam went everywhere. Here look, Uncle Sam’s deep domestic cover goes way back. I had this translated into English for you.”
I wouldn’t read it so he said, “Your has-been fallen idol on the porch was planned. Like you, Uncle Sam worked for Uncle Sam. He could have been a competitor of mine, if he wasn’t a link in America’s underground criminal chain. You might phrase him, a regular Dr. Hammer playing both sides for himself.”
I said, “Yeah, I think he earned a piece of the health food chain.”
“You think? Ah, you look at me strange. Your guard is down, Misted. But smoke as long as we’re still here. We are leaving before daylight so light your next one now. Your last.”
I said, “Yes sir,” for no other reason than sarcasm.
He said, “Your family was upset you didn’t learn from your uncle’s mistakes. Dreamt your own mirage on a bicycle, up and down, up and down for little to nothing. To keep doing that day after day, you were a real nothing. Aren’t you?”
“For honoring the plight of the workingman? Damned ambitious if you ask me and I guess I asked. Next question?”
He said, “My country was founded on an answer,” and returned to this notebook. “A poem? ‘Inch by inch, step by step. Enforcement slowly wakes to corrupt adjustment.” Then he stared me down saying, “Say it?”
I wouldn’t but did when he went in the hall again. “Corruption for everybody.”
Back he said, “You don’t have to be so loud. According to your file, your plan was to smoke your way through university.”
Hm. I tried to see out the smudged window, as if I was allowed to think alone. Then I said, “Americans call it college. University for me was the luxury to follow my childhood goal of deciphering the Cold War. Biggest bunch of crap I ever saw, but real. What some call evil, I call stupid and, I figured out we had to get over ourselves.”
Either I talked, or he would take the floor. “The theme of my ambitious senior thesis that began in 1978, was waking the future up by opening Soviet history through the open discussion of the banned Leon Trotsky that could have renewed this country. Glasnost before I’d heard the word, and I can’t recall it coming up during the next year’s first year Russian language class, though it probably did.”
Srilenko interrupted. “Ah, your instructor, Dr. Barsch, whose German brother died in The Siege of Leningrad. Your avenging roots are sound, however your mission is over.”
I said, “My point was Leon Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’ is the key that life is constant change and revolution occurs till progress fits in.”
Srilenko said, “Sounds grandiose, college man.”
I said, “Whatever it is you know from then, understand I was young and change seemed virtually impossible. I saw so much without the tools. Until you’ve seen events take place over and over again, and even then it’s easy not to expect any change.”
“Don’t do that anymore.”
I looked at the big bag to add weight to what I said. “Ones with guns take advantage. You dress well enough Srilenko. You’re not bad off and one of them you claim your revolt is against.”
He got up and knocked the big spliff from my hand, that was so huge it created fireworks without even going out.
Sitting back down he said, “Stop volunteering so much. Enterprise propaganda is not free and I’m not paying for it. Stalin has been history since 1953, and the Soviet Union could have enforced economic justice if not for your country. Socialism was spent defending ourselves against you.”
Smiling I said, “Tell me your role in Gorbachev’s veer to the right?”
Looking in the notebook, he said, “Hindsight is wisdom, but not yours. Not even perspective.” Pause. “Ah, hum? You spent the summer intending to prepare your Trotsky paper in the larger Russian and Soviet section of the University of South Florida Library in Tampa. A moderate celebrity, Elton John’s synthesizer player, was among the friends you stayed with but you were supposed to get his room while he earned money that summer at home in Maryland. But you had to take the couch for two months for a fraternity brother you coincidentally turned down belonging to. Incidentally you could have also started the first fraternity at your young school. What a loser. They all thought it suspicious you never got a job and stopped going to class the week after you got there. Didn’t go to classes that you introduced yourself in as auditing. Your school file even notes they cited you for erratic behavior. The words are in quotes, people talked. Always a bad sign, because really in Tampa, the best you did was fall asleep in the obscure rear back corner of the top floor’s Russian stacks.”
I said, “Sure I’ll tell you what happened. Every professor cornered me for an explanation why I was there. And after talking with the last one in the hall after class, it turned out everyone was in on the joke. I remember the professor’s smile and goatee well. He basically told me careers were built teaching that glasnost was the answer by which the frozen Soviet Union would crack. Even at The University of South Florida, they knew too. It wasn’t just our class that knew a Gorbachev had to come. But glasnost wasn’t a word used around young punks from the sticks, even if they thought they’d figured it all out.”
“People spoiled you. You studied us to do what?”
I said, “ Verify the world is asleep and wake it up.”
“Some jump, Greenway. There might be hope if your chess game was capable.”
I said, “What is it? Why are you claiming this country will be controlled?”
He said, “Since we’re still here, you may smoke. Relight that cannon on the floor, while we talk about your toying with history.”
I asked, “My degree?” Which barreled him over. I said, “When I went to my embassy, they wouldn’t admit you existed. Wouldn’t tell me anything. They couldn’t get involved. You are free to roam. Independent contractor. Citizens are your pawns.
I said, “Six days ago, a week before our concert, my embassy called to tell me nothing could be found out about you. Why did they bother? They had told me that when I was there, and I didn’t ask again.”
Srilenko said, “Remember we know about your taxes? No one will help you. But slow down. Smoke your sedative. I thought you’d slow down by now. I’m going down the hall. Would you like water?”
I could have used a taste, if trusting Srilenko served any purpose. And he meant to give me some anyway? My tongue was excited by the possibility of a little on my lips as drugs are handled best with H2O. So I pitied my cells because I’d make no deal. But I was high. There was something not bad left of the good experience I started with. But so overexposed, I was slipping through the not entirely bad stoned peace, where lights out unconsciousness is the next best step. That state where we’d rather not have people driving under the influence. Maybe that was his plot to send me out?
Srilenko yelled from the bathroom for me to get up. So from one knee I prepared for his return, till I heard a step and thought any plan to stay was better than his.
So I leaned through the doorway and said, “Colonel, I have rights even in this country. I do not have to do business with you.”
“Nonsense,” he yelled from the bathroom. “You’re crazy.” Then in the doorway he rubbed his hands showing he was done, “Time to go.”
I said, “I am not your tool. Indirectly I came here because a student in my last Russian and Soviet History class asked Dr. Evans who he thought the future General Secretary might be who’d refuse to prop up the lie any longer. And I wanted to see the results of my anticipation.”
“So you say dropout.”
“Yes I’m a nobody who renounced my relationship with the privileged class.”
“I haven’t been?”
“Doing anything lazy bum. Puff the magic dragon. You’re just longwinded. You don’t have to finish. When this one goes out we leave.”
Good news, I get to finish. I wondered what his decision would be about a clip? But I said, “Efficient KGB operation. Maybe
233you have the secret to using marijuana as a truth serum. Manufactured public opinion works best when people like the pretty lies.”
Srilenko had no comment.
I’d rolled this last one really huge, using four papers spliced together, with just the stick-um from two more to reinforce holding it together better. It was huge because why should I smoke more paper than I had to? Lit I asked, “Srilenko, is your point police control drugs?”
He said, “You have no point, just disgusting. Your file says all you did was smoke in university.”
I said, “Soundly sourced material I’m sure. However answers I was after required more substance. After that summer’s slapping my face with the Soviet Union’s reality, back in my school for the fall term my anxiety erupted. As if my brain splattered. That file probably lists those that wanted to believe I lost it. But the truth is I found out.”
He said, “Funny dirty little capitalist detective.”
Ignoring that I said, “Those listed and unlisted personalities kept me out of school for probing. People who never understood me, anyway, claimed they had to understand. So what happened was with my time-frame shattered my Trotsky paper ended up mostly blabbering, and my other classes that term can be personified by my Medieval History test, I failed with a 64. If I just read a little I might have passed the multiple-choice test that was just about which principalities succeeded which before Europe became nation states. I never went to class as an experiment, but then that frivolous choice coincided with their probing they claimed wouldn’t affect my time in school. A case of ends justifying lying to me.”
Srilenko grinned and said, “He gave you an F to get your head out of the clouds and take a job for normal people. But you wouldn’t give up, would you dirty little capitalist failure?”
I said, “I asked to drop the class but he said take the test, it’ll teach me a lesson. After that I made A’s, which I wasn’t before. Except Russian language, which like chess, demands focus and concentration while my daydreaming mind couldn’t invest the time. But I was focused on answers for grades, not the where from why of it all with my passion gone. History is too serious a business for displaying senses of humor. Seems”
“Seems I embarrassed myself believing Rasputin’s daughter. In her book she thought her father was celibate while she lived in his house. I brought her book back from Tampa to our five-contestant thesis class and made myself a laughing stock. Since then though I learned gullible naiveté is preparation for discerning the truth behind facades that can come at any age.”
Srilenko said, “Your world view is too entirely sad.”
I even smiled and said, “See how we each listen for what we want to hear and ignore what the other actually says? That’s how it was back then. Adults pretending I was a child to put in my place for their convenience or, in one person’s case, trying to entrepreneurially separate me from my education fund. But that façade was my life’s office politics. Till I see differently I’d prefer you weren’t involved in all that. What I was confronting though, was this knowledge only celebrities matter. That’s why I snapped. Power corrupts the celebrity absolutely and I wanted none of that. In that very short period of time in the fall of ‘78,’ thinking of striving to be another one wore me down. As much as intellectuals knew the Cold War was relatively benign, the possibility really wasn’t testable among the masses. Both our governments blinded their populations with patriotic advertising and propaganda. I guess I took the idea of getting people to understand, all very hard. The file probably says pot, which made the most sense to outsiders. What egos right? That list could’ve minded their own business. But I was young and couldn’t fathom stopping being tossed around on others imaginations. I admit all of it. But you Srilenko, to track nuances from my personal life, how long have you followed me?”
“My zombie eyes out!”
But he’d been smart enough to create an incentive for me to keep the joint lit. I didn’t want him taking me anywhere or telling me what to do. This was nuts wanting to stop capitalism. And his hint at taking over our show.
Srilenko said, “Anything else interest only you?”
I said, “A year later after a warehouse job, and that non-conversational first year of Russian, a close friend invited me to see my favorite band in concert. So I drove twenty-two and-a-half straight hours to New York City, placing a partition in time between my past and future. I found veins of life in those constant streets that precisely fed every section of the city. As if it were a body and not just body of
235land. I had to live there. So back in Florida I drifted further until I took off back to New York. In a way I forgot New York made celebrities. I was just interested in something next. The common man bicycle theme almost seemed to happen by coincidence. But now I’m not sure if I didn’t result from your work. I never met Hammer’s Times Square chauffeur who hit me.”
He said, “You’re a loser that didn’t bother applying for your diploma.”
I said, “I paid undergraduate prices for graduate courses and have more than enough credits.”
“A decade later, still no diploma.”
“To graduate I owe them an essay to prove I can write. And”
“I’m just saying.”
“Then I can go? We’re just talking?”
This time he was more cautious going to the hall rail overlooking the steps.
I said, “At least I pursued being an individual.”
Back he said, “Uh huh,” then sat cross-legged. “Adrift in cosmopolitan marketplace, what job do you choose your second day?’
I did the eyebrow thing.
He said, “Assistant in basket warehouse.”
I said, “Rattan.”
He said, “Useless. After months working there you admitted to the owner you didn’t memorize prices. Or even know where products were stacked. You read paperbacks. An ambitionless bum company could do nothing with.”
What the heck, I said, “Then at the end of that first New York year, after reading that many leave the city and come back, I went home to say goodbye to Florida. I knew I would miss there and stayed three years before returning just another southern bum with an accent. I enjoy being a recluse, but messengers confront more people in a day than warehousemen do in a year. What I should have expected about the job was Yankees asking for translations of what I said or the opportunity to prepare for my accent.”
He said, “I see on floor you’ve rolled big ones with your radical mouth. As you said just a bum till Hammer.”
I answered, “Yes I can’t deny the voltage of that charge. Hammer was a lightning bolt, and I’d always cared about the Soviet Union.”
Srilenko said, “Your commercial values will say anything. Your corrupt capitalism is smoke and mirrors. Selfish nomenklatura gained capitalism’s foothold here. Look at me. Fine story you tell, though your file doesn’t need much elucidation. You’re still just a bum. Nothing, while Bozenikov was real special. He deserves being remembered as the greatest political tactician who ever lived. You will think this is funny but Machiavelli had to roll over to make room for him in his grave.”
I ignored that and said, “It’s hard is it? To get out from under the baggage? I was right about Trotsky. The national mentality needed totalitarianism opened up. Maybe before we met, if a bigger deal had been made out of Trotsky that could have changed your mind about control. But Gorbachev went with Bukharin to highlight the Bolshevik rehabilitation. As great and deserving of redemption as Bukharin was, it was only a half step toward cutting Stalin’s anti-profit chord the country was still bound tight by. It was a missed opportunity not publicizing the opportunist, Leon Trotsky. History should be an open book. You and Bozenikov don’t just get to write your own chapter.
Srilenko said, “Your Trotsky poster was confiscated.”
I said, “Some got out.”
But he said, “How would you know? You’ve been here with me. But clever that one with Stalin’s mustache on Trotsky’s face.
I said, “Guilty as charged,” and pointed. “Hey do you want to finish the game? Are we leaving it here?”
He said, “Your move, set it up.”
To avoid it I said, “Glasnost and perestroika were orgasmic for my ears. I was content history was moving, then off guard allowing that accident to bring me to you.”
Srilenko said, “Accidents are opportunity in capitalism. Insurance afforded by the upper class. Where would economic satisfaction be without that financial funnel? Huh Greenway? Face it. The illusion is egalitarian capitalism.”
I said, “No it’s not.”
He said, “Prove it.”
So I said, “Evil is not capitalism’s fault.”
Srilenko heard enough and flipped his hand at me to shut up. He read a while longer while we were silent, because he didn’t want to say anything more to me. I sat so I could smoke without falling down. He ignored me and left me alone. If I could have overdosed, I would
237have. I’d rolled and finished six in three hours, of which the last four were huge and have taken a hose to put out. I’d estimate each lasted well over forty-five minutes. Sounds stupid, right? Columbian Gold and if it wasn’t, close enough.
Twenty minutes later he leered, and pushed the chessboard toward me with his toe, or I thought he did. Another time while I pretended to have to huff to revive the flame, he got up to look out the window from up close. He, like all of us, was waiting for the light. Back on his throne, each folder received a friendly entry before he stacked them back in the box.
Then Srilenko said, “Hey, look at me” and held up an unopened file and cracked it, flipping pages at me that I noticed had the Hammer Freedom of Information Act slide show black magic marker Rorschach Test look. I recognized one blotch formation from Mr. Treynor’s e-mail. Was it just a decoy for me to think he couldn’t get the actual complete file?
Anyway, Srilenko enforced my smoking past desire. At a certain point I would have been higher with just oxygen. A really bad time to remember to love my enemies, but I did, and stared at the book on the floor he’d taken away when I tried to read. 1984 is an amazing book about political control’s dead end, yet we’re still living through it I thought as he reopened another file with my name on it.
I am not saying I thought more of Hank than anyone else. But who was he kidding? Men rarely know their own minds and I had to know. After our last shy picnic, he had to make a choice. So I went to the underground garage late after the lovebirds should have been off the computer. I knocked and knew Hank wasn’t there, because Malcolm meowed and the door didn’t open. Knowing he might still be walking, I stole Mikhail’s key to wait inside and noticed Malcolm’s big bag of open food, and full water bowls, that meant Hank didn’t know when he’d be back. My mind really flashed throughout the city, wondering where he might have gone. Then the two women showed, realizing the same thing that Hank should have been there with the cat. Because it was Malcolm’s anniversary and the four of them celebrated the occasion weekly at their home this time of night. Malcolm went to his
238carrying bag, ready to go, and the women, of course didn’t know of a problem, but took Malcolm home. I rode home as fast as I could to wake up Mikhail, because Hank’s not answering his beeper broke a bylaw.
Then, returning to the hotel, we grabbed two guys on the way and spoke through our worried faces. At the Mezhdunarodnaya, Mikhail stopped and pointed out the car with a man inside that was usually parked on the street.
Mikhail said, “Car always follows him. Car is explanation. Tatyana you better leave.”
Or at least I know he began saying something like that while I escaped Leonid’s permission to paw me before I walked out in the open toward the car.
My sister left us behind the corner, and we heard him get out and smelled his cigarette. Beyond his bad habit of always following us, we’d always thought of him as a fairly decent nameless bastard.
Our tail said in Russian, “You are Mikhail’s sister.”
Tatyana said, “I am my own sister, come Smiley,” and taunted him walking backwards toward the garage ramp. Luring him to feel as if they were all alone, giggling at 3:00 AM. Her eyes were probably very convincing that he might be the new guy and it looked like too much fun for my sister to have in front of me.
She said, “We’ll get in your car after I show you this.”
He stopped at the entrance with no idea we were behind the wall as she playfully put her finger in his chest. I grabbed his shoulders pulling him back over Leonid and Nikita came down hard on his chest and stomach with both fists. A quick violent capture and Nikita prepared for his moment by bringing rope.
We threw soldier boy in the backseat, between Leonid and Nikita, and Tatyana drove. I stopped Leonid’s fist before it hit our prisoner’s jaw, as he’d been through enough and I wanted his brain left alone. I wanted to talk and look my double agent in eyes that could look back. I told Leonid, “Don’t break automaton. Maybe he can be reprogrammed.
I said, “Gdye?” (Where is Greenway?)
He pretended to spit, “Ya ne zniayoo.” (I don’t know.)
I said, “You don’t know? Ridiculous, you always know. He’s your job. Tatyana take us to Kremlin. Soldier, my American partner may treat this as game, but we are Russians. We know serious. Gorbachev would not want Hammer’s star to disappear as communist dream has.”
I believed at such a critical time, the elite had no business being on vacation. I didn’t know Gorbachev was at his second home by the Black Sea. Anyway, soldier boy happened to know Gorbachev wasn’t returning to the Kremlin for a secret Politburo meeting. I didn’t know what I was making up, was made up. He got calmer, but feeling I meant it, his eyes grew wide when I told him, “Take care of you. Otherwise you’re going to a community of desperate criminals in Siberia’s farthest north, and we won’t have to personally lift a finger. I must have meant what I said, but he obviously feared Srilenko more. So I made it easier by catching hot and cold directions from his eyes, while Tatyana drove. He could at least tell Srilenko he didn’t say anything. With his gagged mouth for cover, his eyes couldn’t help but tell me where to go, and a gulped throat cued us to creep up to a building in the middle of an ancient block with the engine off and our prisoner’s eyes closed. We tied him thoroughly with both feet and hands to the backdoors, though I was sure we could be back in time before he miraculously escaped.
I told Tatyana, “Anything wrong, don’t be a hero. Get a head start and run.”
Then my fellow general secretaries’ namesakes and I went in. Leonid took pride in following orders precisely, including his apology for pawing Tatyana. Since Leonid cut down his alcohol, he started enjoying it and life more. Tatyana snarled a smile, knowing it wouldn’t happen again, unless, of course, it was her idea and she winked at him.
Then we took long periods of waiting, just to make sure we quietly got to the floor below the third. Hearing Hank made me less anxious, because he was alive. But the smell was confusing, though Soviets were used to being led by confusion.
I thought we had numbers, but couldn’t count on any advantage of surprise. Four to one if Hank wasn’t tied and Srilenko really alone. I only heard both their power trips. Out of eyesight on the lower floor, we could feel Srilenko come to the banister to try and listen for us. But we didn’t flinch and he never let Hank out of his sight.
Hank’s southern drawl was even slower than usual and it wasn’t long before we were waiting for both of them to shut up. Their game was most tiring, especially when they didn’t speak and only clouds of smoke drifted down. So we spent a long time wishing they’d say anything to give us something to do. Until the event found momentum when Srilenko returned from the bathroom and handcuffed Hank to the banister, where Hank was informed of the woman and child’s precarious fate. Hank told me later Srilenko whispered in his ear, ‘Tell them anything. Does not matter for you three. Don’t believe I’ll lose you in criminal justice system. You are not arrested and hardly exist until your contract with me is fulfilled.”
Hank said, “I never signed.” And Srilenko said, “Shut up. Anything is arranged.”
Then Srilenko almost reached the second floor but returned and uncuffed Hank and pushed him further in the room on the floor, then gloated from the doorway over his captive long enough to become Leonid’s bull’s eye he’d followed right behind. It was good he practiced earlier as Leonid flew all the way from the second step in a dead center lunge that bounced Srilenko’s face off the floor. Brutally harder than the tackle the soldier suffered, from a two full men more. As Nikita had been prepared, thinking of bringing rope on his own, Leonid seized his revenge. But Hank didn’t share our smiles, and his sympathy for the victim made us uncomfortable. Srilenko out cold, bled profusely, and we had to wait while Hank wiped up enough blood so he wouldn’t suffocate.
I told Hank, “He’ll never appreciate the gesture, especially from you.”
Hank said, “To walk away from the living is dead already. It’s not just a doctor’s oath.”
I insisted we cuff Srilenko pretzel legged through the opposite arms of the chair to a kitchen cabinet. We took the key and Leonid carried both the woman and child as there was no way to camouflage them and we were in too much of a hurry.
I’ve always wondered if that was my time to take charge? Hadn’t he gotten himself kidnapped? But crowded too full in the car as Soviets always have, after a block Hank chuckled, “We’re going back” and I didn’t argue.
Tatyana said, “Schto? What? No!”
He said, “I’m the boss” and she let it go.
Hank turned in the front seat to face the assistant. “Nice car. I could only be happier heading to the beach. Thanks. Convenience is delightful, isn’t it? Automobiles offer a magic carpet ride, but nonetheless wasteful don’t you think? Can’t you concede this is not as efficient compared to train travel to within walking and biking distance?” Hank laughed giving the soldier a second to think to himself while Tatyana parked.
Hank said, “If I were you I’d let him lie there. If he wakes and sees you, run. He’s never pleasant to be around. I can’t believe anyone willingly works with him. You should get away. But please remember what I’m saying, and someday you’ll understand if you choose to take this assignment. Roll them less than medium sized, but large enough so the fragrance overwhelms the draw. Tell people there’s nothing like quality. Tell them you knew a man in the KGB who insisted everybody must get stoned.”
Then though he’d told us to leave everything there, Hank held up a joint and said, “See this pencil thin example. Make them smooth like this without bulges so as much as possible is left available to get around. Don’t be wasteful, be patient. Give them out a couple at a time, and tell people to try to share. Teach them one might last a beginner for months. Don’t carry a gun. What’s the point if you can’t defend yourself peacefully? You’ve heard the word stealth? Go stealthily and you will be our friend Anonymous, the Johnny Abbie Appleseed Hoffman of the Union of Sovereign States. Gorbachev will need all the help he can get after tomorrow’s signing. Don’t look at me like that! I haven’t lost it. Johnny Appleseed is an American myth of a man, who planted apple trees seeds while traversing our country mainly in the Ohio Valley. You can’t stop a myth, and Abbie Hoffman mailed sticks like this through the New York City mail, based on the usual phonebook polling method. I’m telling you, their stories and yours are together a work of art.
“You are rolling them because I want you to collect and save all the seeds and be patient. Next Spring find places safe to plant in the South, and be cautious. Don’t worry discovering who is for or against you in your travels. Andropov traveled wide as a young man, let’s hope his hopeful spirit of moral purpose can carry you.”
What was going on? First we must purify the economic cycle and separate from political red tape. It’s obvious what stick and
242conspiracy meant. He’s encouraging criminal enterprise? Drugs, come on Hank wasn’t my country unhealthy enough?
Then Hank was staring me straight in my eyes.
Hank said, “Mikhail, do you want to know why I’m smiling? Right, we have to go.”
He looked at the soldier. “Sir, leave them spread with information, and in each town make friends before you start. But leave if there are none, which I doubt will happen, but be ready just in case. Don’t do this where you’re uncomfortable. Spread the knowledge opiate addiction is a null and void drift. And remember a party for everyone was this country’s goal once. Everyone endured terrible mistakes so it’s time to enjoy.”
Then Hank told Tatyana to go to the hotel and to the soldier said, “Take this assignment? Take precautions. Get it done then go on with your life. Please, whatever you choose have a future. And for caution’s sake don’t assume theatrical people are more liberal. They love to talk, and make deals for their careers. Betrayal is the vogue in the current social climate. Think back to your first friend in life, and see what those friends suggest. Right now it’s hard trusting police or criminals, when their motivations are the same. So divide and hide and move accordingly.” Then Hank scanned all the windows. “But if you accept this mission, it’s just one misunderstood element of capitalism for everyone, so you must give it away. Money isn’t the only thing.”
Actors talk, I knew. But it sounded like he was taking care of this guy he’d never even talked to before. Giving it away, where was this leading? I thought money was for spreading around, not for disrespecting the law.
Hank said, “Comrade, time for us to move. There is a challenge in this opportunity, and when done maybe you can go back and sell everyone shoes. Think utilitarian. Spring here is more than half a year away so go to your hometown first to be cautious. There’s already a tradition there of talking about you so get used to that and try to relax with the paranoia. It’s a big bag. You should split it up so you don’t carry much at a time. Ah, but you’re a cop, why would you bother? I wouldn’t be good at this, I’m not a people person so much.”
Then Hank shook the man’s hand and said, “Be careful” as our more or less confused comrade was gone. But how could Hank hook him into an adventure that fast? He’d done a similar thing with us, except give us kilos worth thousands of actual dollars? Never gave us
243anything but lip. But if he wasn’t willing to give it to us, it was something he wouldn’t do himself. Or apparently, induced delirium set in so I kept an eye on it and tried to get Hank to talk about that smell. But he acted as if the topic was boring and he was already on something else.
Tatyana hit the gas when Nikita alerted us by laughing that the soldier ran back out with the big bag over his shoulder going the other way.
Hank said, “Sacrificing for the motherland, wish him well. Absurd criminal sainthood until the world figures itself out. We have to hurry.”
For all his talk of using all the political puzzle’s pieces, he appeared to have forgotten law and order.
Tatyana found cover in early morning traffic, and at the hotel Hank sent her home with Nikita. Hank also had us hide in the manager’s office to “keep an eye on the other Rook.” And I wondered when was the last time Hank smoked, as he ran to the basement saying something about Mother Nature calling and, “Nice rain, huh man?”
It actually rained three days and Stalin’s Management Office is where Leonid and I first saw our nation take a sudden sharp turn toward the past on television. The Committee for the State of the Emergency clumsily entered our lives, foolishly thumping their chests in a half-hearted revival of their dead dream for the common man. For themselves they couldn’t let go without embarrassment. After the announcement, the propaganda machine broadcast Stravinsky for two days. They didn’t know what else to do. But once it was clear what the press conference was, Joseph looked at me and said, “What’s new?” Then reached for a glass to celebrate with a customary Cuban victory cigar. A moment had been reached, and he no longer cared if his affiliation was an open secret.
My abduction was shattering and made relief all I could think of. At the hotel I put myself in another place. Unaware the anxiously long awaited coup finally happened, I locked the office and kept my first date, I’ll always remember, with the love of my life. Alone in a machine. Despite everything, the memory has kept me upbeat in this attic. I started by ringing her doorbell.
E-MAIL EXCHANGE RESUMED
>H - Buzz. Buzz.
>T - Yes. Who is it?
>H - Hank, Terry. I’m coming up or you down?
>T - In a second.
>H - One thousand one.
>T - Okay, now it’s many more minutes. No call, no nothing. You just show up!
>H - We made a date last night. I’m on time, happily waiting.
>T - It’s morning there? Only by accident I’m online. Mr. Treynor is out of town waiting on a fax here.
>H - Come on, we’re going out.
>T – (Downstairs) Hello Hank. A long time.
>H – Wonderful seeing you again.
>T - Could be.
>H - Terry I’ve missed you so much. I slowly move toward your cheek.
>T – As my head slightly turns so you miss entirely.
>H - And electricity from our proximity, quakes through my body shaking me to six point six.
>T - Stop exaggerating.
>H - Six-five.
>T - Good grief, Charlie Brown.
>H - Te he he. You always make me feel like a kid.
>T – Who are you kidding? You are ALWAYS childlike.
>H - Yes I’m kidding? How about Indian food?
>T - Phil and I have had Indian many times. Maybe somewhere else?
>H - Phil and I? Wrong guy show?
>T - Cut it out. Let’s go somewhere nice uptown? Maybe some place we can’t afford and pretend there are no more poor anymore.
>H - Lutece on 50? The Plaza? The Four Seasons?
>T - Should we take get bicycles?
>H – No, tonight we should walk. I want you so close we frequently touch.
>T - Slap.
>H - I was fresh?
>T - Forward. This is a first date.
>H - Oh. So we can’t linger, stop and direct our eyes into each other’s and draw our lips softly together?
>T - Nicer. Let’s walk up First Avenue. Less crowded than Third, and Second so I can hear your voice with less automobile background noise.
>H - Only in the closet in Manhattan are you completely alone.
>T - Your logic is flawed. There’s only us.
>H - Terry I’ve been thinking we should go swimming on Saturday.
>T - No.
>H - Why?
>T - I’m busy. But more to the point, no you may not ogle me in a bikini this weekend.
>H - Nothing on this planet I want to do more. I’ve learned how to receive pictures. Inside these boxes is like the 21st Century is dawning before the 20th ends.
>T - I’m not interested in the beach this weekend.
>H - Women.
>T - Our group is not responsible for chauvinism. Be yourself and forget nonsense about not knowing how to handle women. Men should get over strategizing control. People living for themselves are open to any thought. Male chauvinism cuts deep. Men thinking they can determine what women have the right to believe. Where have you been? The Soviet Union?
>H - As a matter of fact.
>T - I thought what’s in your head matters more than your environment?
>H - No. That train of thought is for getting prisoners and jailers through captivity.
>T - Thank you, I guess. Are you opening the door?
>H - My hand sizzles guiding your waist past Lutece’s owner, who’s opening the door for us. After he says, “Ah, The messenger I met, you won’t need a reservation,” and I say, “I’ve always wanted to eat here since delivering envelopes paying for corporate lunches before 1987’s financial bust. He replies, “Ah yes, the events. You never mentioned being bothered?” So I tell him, “I don’t begrudge money spent. It’s when it sits and doesn’t care that bothers me.” Then the owner smiles and says, “Henri?” And to us, “We rarely accommodate when we are completely full, but this is obviously an important occasion. Henri yes. Could you make room for a table in that corner for this couple? Good. Thank you. Henri will take care of everything. Thank you very much.”
>T - “Yes thank you, we appreciate this.”
>H - Henri is more fashionable than I am. How did we ever get in?
>T - Your magnetism Hank. Your aspiring fragility is impossible to refuse.
>H - Tonight!
>T - Men are idiots.
>H - Sunk again by group politics.
>T – My picturing of you is becoming hazy as a celebrity appears at the front door.
>H - Terry, I thought there were no poor anymore? Isn’t everyone a celebrity? How could you tell the difference?
>T –There is none.
>H - Henri asks, “Will you have wine with your water?” I say, “Of course water and your cheapest,” which I could never afford before. Then he says, “A waiter will be by when you are ready. We are in no hurry for you two.” The water is graciously poured by a young upstanding, first generation, immigrant who nods before leaving while I’m so lost in your eyes.
>T - Hank?
>H - Yes?
>T - What are you avoiding? You sound more anxious than usual. Why the fairy tale? What soap are you feeding me?
>H – Anxious about the happiest night of my life so far? I’m memorizing this forever. How your brown eyes sparkle so that everything around us glows.
>T - Oooo
>H - Your vowels are long notes nirvanically holding my mind’s consonants together deep inside your captivating eyes.
>T - Exactly, come back here. As long as we’re treating ourselves, pay attention. Enjoy. Don’t make up things about me. You’re twittering about like a bearing-less lost hummingbird afraid of other flowers. Romantic delusions will not help this relationship.
>H - All the nektar I’d ever want is the flower I’m with now, my rose. I especially like that there are no more poor anymore, so we only have to think of each other.
>T - Exactly what I don’t want. Do you see any interesting men in here?
>H - Absolutely back to reality. This is where the elite meet to eat. Eligibility’s bull’s-eye. Hooked up henchmen stoking political intrigue’s fires. Pragmatic to a fault, the leadership class is seen with fabulously famous models on their arms, while the most beautiful woman here seems more accessible, natural. Notice society for the most part is an intrusion on privacy?
>T – See, making stuff up, it’s obvious you’re bothered and my lipstick is so thick a chunk just fell in my soup. The rouge you wish I’d never put on, in the first place, just slid back out of my extra-shiny slick purse. Ah darn it, I have to go to the Ladies Room to adjust my spiked eyelids, maybe then I’ll be able to see myself the way you want.
>H - I’ll wait for your beautiful return.
>T - Like a politician claiming credit for others work, why don’t you spill wine on your shirt to cover yourself with a political stain.
>H - On your return, I’m so sharp I see and chisel off a layer left of that painting your face turned out to be.
>T - Maybe.
>H - Hopefully not. I’ve seen the real Mona Lisa. You vibrate like she does.
>T - As fantasy wanders my mind further, our hero steps off his deluded cliff.
>H - Which I reach back for and grab pulling myself up by my bootstraps. Nothing too surreal to be a big deal, I’ll compete for you. You deserve better than the power brokers in here consumed by kicking others off the ladder.
>T - So you peel me off the ladder before I can take my first successful step? What did I already say about men thinking for women?
>H - What about vice-versa.
>T - It’s always vice-versa with you guys.
>H - But I do bring you down from the ladder softly in my arms, unharmed.
>T - Good Hank. A stable ladder is better imagination. But we must be careful, I’ve been wanting for you to hold me for a long time now, so this must mean something, being held in your arms. Words are emotion.
>H - I’ve wanted to feel you a long time too.
>T - Sweet.
>H - My ears are filled with Terry jam.
>T - Goofball. I move to get up from the table
>H – But I present my lips wishing the kiss lasts forever.
>T – Forever Kiss.
>H - And it’s good.
>T – So since you’re in a good mood, I take the moment to mention the ample Ladies Room, which, no matter how far in the future we are, hardly feels adequately sized since only yesterday men controlled the lack of interest in women’s quality of life. If men want to be a help in case their minds ever get off their own asses, they could all get contractor’s licenses and get to work building adequate facilities.
>H - I will gladly take up this burden for you.
>T – Still hearing bull, I have to make a public scene and insist you sit after again missing my entire face, catching air, several times. You’re the selfish elitist you pretend so hard not to be. Goofily your fish mouth out of water desperately opens and closes gasping for air. You’re out of it, but I’m with you no matter how much fun I make of you.
>H - Thanks. But now is a good time to remove the knife you inadvertently left in my chest when that paragraph reached full steam.
>T - Here’s a napkin for the hole. Finish dinner and try to not bleed on the beautiful tablecloth before we get you to a hospital.
>H - Socialized?
>T - Take your own medicine, hospitals like everything else are just mathematics.
>H - Right, no more poor. We added our way up out of that mess.
>T – Yes, or maybe for you they’ll have one of their miracle hundred dollar Band-Aids left that hospital care is so famous for.
>H - Fix me right up.
>T - Wait. Your ambivalent attitude can’t heal your wound.
>H - Nor negate my overly emotional heart.
>T - Let’s try being real for a while.
>H - I love shrimp. Good idea ordering scallops as another appetizer too. I like them. I’m afraid no one in the sea has any special reason to really like us back.
>T - Pity greed Hank. The world belongs to humans, pity us. But don’t go Soylent Green on me. Have some corn so we may sin again. Life may just be too predatory for your infinite pacifism to work. Your tastes aren’t so perfect. You can’t hate the rich when you’re one of them. Shrimps, Scallops and Lobster too!
>H - Privilege is its’ own reward. I wish everyone’s normal meal equaled a celebration. Let’s remember a doggy bag in case someone forgot themselves on the street on our way home.
>T - I thought there were no poor anymore?
>H - We are all poor in God’s eyes. When the street is your home, it’s your mind that’s given up. It’s not exactly about being poor. Humankind has evolved systems for the poor to feel less so but home makes the real difference. I imagine some may still be left in a personal fantasy that home is only inside them and they’re just running from some other place.
>T - Okay Hank. Never forget them. Maybe we could plant money trees on the way home?
>H - Buy them the Taj Mahal to stay in. Purchase Mother Nature’s orchard to feed them.
>T - Charity monger.
>H - Real businessman.
>T - Real businessman? Greenway? You’re a delusional social scientist. Stop swinging from the tree’s highest limbs. Hank, come down here. Civilization isn’t even near solution yet.
>H - It’s been utopia already for a long time. Even you can’t explain the difference to me. And if some of us live there, we’re there.
>T - Uh huh. Oh geez. Hear the band? They’re as loud as you, and the choir is a deathly roar.
>H - Really loud! But there’s no band in Lutece.
>T – We’re outside. A grand parade of lifeless packaging just marched by. That’s all, it’s over. I believe we can be together Hank, but you can’t fix the world.
>H - That keeps failing forward until ...
>T – Till it’s nice with you on top of the world.
>H – Where I’ve been since the night I found out there was a you in it. Happiness would be a warm gum now.
>T - Oh Hank. That would be gross if sentiment weren’t attached.
>H - It conveys how close I want us to be.
>T - Beautiful man.
>H - Beautiful woman.
>T - Maybe we’ll have dessert, elsewhere? Let’s walk?
>H - Nice night.
>T - Yes it is. Hold my hand?
>H - And never let it go?
>T - Please.
>H - Done.
>T - Alone.
>H - Alone together, back at your place.
>T - My place already?
>H - I was just asking if it was okay.
>T - Funny way to ask without a question mark. Maybe.
>H - I think you’ll like our walk back on Park Avenue. The median makes the corridor more spacious as an experience and stage for my affections.
>T - Our hands make perfect sense.
>H - Don’t they?
>T - How do we get around this monster Pan-Am building in the middle?
>H - After Park’s parallel synchronicity at forty-seven or forty-six we’ll go right a half block, to the short street Vanderbilt between Park and Madison to 42nd Street. Then left a quarter block and right again up the hill down Park’s next stretch of a little older generation of structures through the mixed uses to Union Square.
>T - I thought those mixed were mostly business.
>H - Explaining might mess up my flow. Change. If any one word describes this city, it is change. I’ll bet mixed described that area even a long time ago.
>T - So, Florida, miss it much?
>H - I lived an entire life of twenty-eight years there. Who wouldn’t miss Frisbee, waves and soft sand, and the Sun’s glow energizing your life with all the nuclear energy necessary.
>T - Really?
>H - Don’t know exactly what the business of science has figured out.
>T - Hank Greenway’s unrealistic reputation as a critic remains sound.
>H - Amazing leaps lives take. Let’s get to Union Square to honor the absurd reality that internationalism was reduced to some futile communist quest. Downplaying thousands who assembled for May Day celebrations. Party headquarters was there for a short time. While today a lifeish-sized Gandhi walks north from the southwestern corner toward us. I need to see him for another good-bye smile, because he has to stay.
>T - You are a piece of work Greenway. Inanimate objects.
>H - A brilliant idea is not inanimate.
>T - Let’s go home.
>H - Dessert?
>T - Home.
>H - Never thought that way before about Third Street between Second and Third Avenue.
>T - Neither had I till recently. But it’s true as long as the lease decides.
>H - Without prodding, you acquiesce in my desire at your door to hold each other up till we fall on the couch. I’m tickled you’re blowing in my ear.
>T - I just want it too darn much.
>H - Yours are interesting too and I repeat what you told me in the hall. No? Yeah Terry, you were pretty clear.
>T - But do you remember?
>H - I know you meant trust and love.
>T - Hank, I’m disappointed. You asked what I remembered most about our first night together, because you dream about us that time, all the time.
>H - I may have very little time.
>T - To whisper in my ear, while my bed awaits, because we don’t have to lie about anything to each other ever again.
>H - This is all the time in the world I’ll ever need.
>T - Right now Hank. What haven’t you told me?
>H - That your breast is nicest in my hand. I’m so satisfied.
>T - And I slide further up your chest to clean out both ears again, so you understand. What’s up?
>H - Well now you’ve done it.
>T - Hank.
>H - Don’t hide your heart girl.
>T - Hank.
>H - What is that in your sock? A joint. What the hell is a joint doing in your sock?
>T - It’s there to remember publicist Rona Barrett’s career for trying to embarrass her friend Warren Betty, by mentioning over the national airwaves that’s where he carried his while making the Hollywood scene back in the 1970s.
>H - Some image you got going there. Continue it.
>T - Uh oh, hold on that’s my shirt’s button.
>H - Your bra is off and I’m out of my mind. I want
>T - Closer than just pressing against me? I love you Hank. The first time doesn’t scare me at all.
>H - Skin. I’ve remembered a spot I want to look closer at.
>T - So why is your hand under my skirt?
>H - Doesn’t take a scholar dear heart. We’ve drawn ourselves quite a picture.
>T - Of bound hearts?
>H - Please.
>T - Is the couch too small?
>H - Making it just right.
>T - Together as if we’ll never part.
>H - And critical mass reaches our explosive rolling on the floor.
>T - Luckily I cleaned the rug.
>H - I care? My concentration is devoted to lifting you over me, just right where I know your eyes are meant to be inside mine.
>T – As our lips cling desperately, as if apart there’s no air.
>H - My feet caress yours, as my hands dutifully linger over portions you’d not want me to miss.
>T - A moment at a time, I’m getting there. You know your big guy is rather impulsive.
>H - Geez. Amazing how much that means in print.
>T - They’re all nice instruments. Get over yourself.
>H - How? Pay homage to your garden?
>T - And in amazement our eyes agree all the pleasure with our clothes on is so very worth it. Beautiful. Oh Hank. Lust. I grab your hair in one hand. And
>H - you navigate me where I soak up more pleasure than I’d ever dreamed. Sharing life’s richness. Then …
Is our business, and with both doors locked no one bothered to disturb us for a while.
I knew why Hank ordered me home with Nikita. Why he had no guts, those last months, to talk about the other woman. His kindness couldn’t overcome the idea of breaking my heart. So I wrote the following letter Mikhail delivered to the attic.
I apologize for reading your mail, but you were missing so I looked on the computer for clues. She addresses your letters as everyone does but there is real feeling between you, so don’t worry. My heart is already broken. Now I understand you should have been told. Mikhail especially feels bad. He insisted I kept it from you, but you should have talked too.
They took him away from me when we were fourteen and returned him broken at twenty-two, having failed again to create their perfect American spy culturally adapted to your country’s high school way of life. Who needs to adopt a well behaved, devoted to school, balanced teenager? Anyone. They could have planted him anywhere in your country’s skin.
I loved Chekhov by his middle name, not his American one I unfortunately didn’t repeat more to make him smile. Fred Newman. Chekhov said he was raised in the Soviet Union, but grew up in America. Their mistake was beyond their capacity to train against. He learned to love your country. His handler couldn’t stop his experiencing individualism and “finding keys to understanding expansive thought” he told me. “Not just war craftsmanship took root in America. But the most independent minded British turned America’s enlightenment into the cause of the age of liberty. Tatyana, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Paris Commune Manifesto would have been born in the Dark Ages if Americas’ Declaration of Independence never happened.” His breath in my ear wakes me every morning. “Propaganda lies,” he said.
Under cover in America, Chekhov found out what our authoritarians didn’t want taught. That American Socialists advocated nuts and bolts capitalism paying for socialism. Despite yourselves, your
254country, Hank Greenway, is the world’s largest socialist state. Imagine for me on first hearing? How hard it was to understand? As children we were taught how evil predatory capitalism is. That Chekhov said was at least half wrong. He said, “We’re idiots. Nothing is free. Free is ridiculous and impossible under our ruthless autocracy.” But also said, “Our ineptness” was your “country’s excuse. They’re spoiled to be that upset to ruin lives over politics. Same different nonsense we’ve had here.”
Shriveled from beatings, his eyes still had passion. “What America did right Tatyana,” he said. “Is charity feeds the poor, while we make believe communism is free. Our future never started beholden to this awkward control of individual rights they called the road to communism. Socialism In One Country is Stalin’s Leninist claptrap.” Having his voice with me again, I was so enthralled. It took time before I found out that claptrap meant gibberish jargon and not vacuous applause.
Chekhov discovered the Cold War was a commercial enterprise for both sides. When he was told where he’d be sent, he wanted to find out for himself what really happened. The security police’s mistake, that took root in university, was his opportunity to nail down the melodrama. He developed a secret life. Another self who wrote a clandestine paper they found on a semi-routine search of his apartment. Devious himself, his handler was always suspicious and finally took the stove apart to find Chekhov’s secret paper. Chekhov’s real thesis. Not the plug along get along knowledge he was sent to acquire to infiltrate the technical class. His gig up, he was hunted but had prepared not to return to his apartment. Chekhov called during the break-in, as he’d often done, checking up. And it was how his handler politely shaded his words on the phone that sounded as if they wanted him caught. So Chekhov slept in the woods. Disheveled, he said he attended the last Russian and Soviet History class in the library basement, where he thought he’d briefly hidden because his alias wasn’t registered for that class. A marked man is why he decided to try to set off fireworks. So at the end of this, the final class, when the professor opened the floor to a broad discussion of any subject, as he made it a point to say it’s the only time he’d address questions about anything he wasn’t paid to answer. Chekhov asked stone cold after the first question, who the professor thought the future General Secretary would be who’d dismantle the Soviet farce. Chekhov said, “It’s obvious
255as that’s how the system is organized. Whatever happens will begin from the top.” The professor at first slightly smiled at what the class figured out. Then recognized Chekhov as that odd guy, Newman, who wasn’t in his roll book. Chekhov said I could believe him. He hadn’t asked anything the entire class didn’t already know and he said the professor said, ‘I don’t want to jinx it.’
The hopeful future Chekhov had seen wasn’t the bleak and despondent one his life had become. He knew what he thought didn’t matter and his life as a pawn was over. “Conservative America was right,” he said. Our mothering society had made us beggars and thieves. “The mothers just won’t let go,” Chekhov would mumble. I think you understand he wasn’t referring to real mothers. Nothing could be done with a system designed to distrust independent thought. Having thought about anything, Chekhov felt the difference. After class he walked to the pool on the south side of campus where he stared at the clear water as others might appreciate the luscious green of a golf course. He loved Florida’s blonde blue sky.
The KGB did not immediately eliminate their dream candidate for the perfect American spy. Thanks to the dirty taste for death Stalin left in everyone’s mouth. The reason they pampered Khrushchev the rest of his life. And Hank, I didn’t know this before but I hear Czechoslovakia’s Dubcek still lives in Moscow too. That sucker Stalin left a long lasting distaste for death, huh? Otherwise Chekhov would have been shot that night it was confirmed he had his own point of view. His paper was simple, but touched many subjects. The Soviet Union did not circulate money. We lived in rooms instead of apartments, while our rich were rewarded with private summer dachas. The revolution failed because we lost our proletarian morals and it was too much effort to be more efficient. Our society stopped requiring quality from each other. However darkly, within itself our black market private enterprise worked. Our reputation for free education was just training camp. Discipline substituted for an economy. Chekhov said, “American schools require tuition as an investment of their own sweat. Their country votes they want to be smarter with their livelihoods. While our country’s ambition is worthless morality, when no one can calculate anything’s actual cost. Our culture drinks to forget instead of learning our limits.”
Chekhov told me how he practiced your social science his first year in university. At Friday night parties, he chugged with
256everyone else, except he had his own tradition. Exactly one container of alcohol, then he’d slip out to walk because he felt really special thinking alone by himself. He said the delirious drinkers who stayed at the parties had no idea of the pleasure from a “manageable buzz.” One night in his chemical euphoria he found a, seldom used, dirt road in the woods that appeared to be just off campus belonging to the school. Back in the woods was a little lake. He’d asked people and most thought it was just woods. But there was a small white sandy beach with a sign it’s verboten after sundown when Chekhov would go. He walked and never ran, to not provoke and take campus patrols for granted. Though his spot was isolated, there’d sometimes be an officer that let his little lake habit slide, unless the boss was on duty too and they couldn’t risk their positions. Sounds like what motivates authority here?
Alone Chekhov would stretch on the sand listening to the backbeat of crickets and gaze at the cosmos appreciating how lucky he was to be a professional student. His duty had been to be a student. Any student’s dream, but under their scrutiny he had to formally reject his first appointed faculty advisor, because, to them, that professor’s office walls eulogized the American Indian Holocaust. That liberal professor wasn’t trusted. Chekhov’s controller’s masterstroke was his signing with the French History professor who went on Sabbatical after that term. Effectively eliminating intellectual oversight by the university. Chekhov laughed how everything in America works fine as long as the tuition check doesn’t bounce. That paper can do that made me laugh too.
Hank, I feel he’d want you to know how much Florida meant to him too. Chekhov loved his cheap garage sale bicycle, and found a lot of good parts tossed away by owners who lost interest in the hobby when they couldn’t keep their bike running right and enjoyable. “Laziness,” Chekhov said, “when for their cars, the idea of finding a cheap mechanic excites them. But for their bikes nothing is cheap enough. First capitalism teaches them to have the best, then reminds them its best at someone else’s expense.” Hence cars’ convenience, and few safe affordable alternatives for those who can’t give up driving drunk and impaired. Propaganda barely intrudes on the party. Chekhov learned not to idolize either country. He told me Americans weren’t as solitary and independent as they claim, when their lives were determined by who introduces them. Exactly as the Soviet hierarchy
257performs. Free enterprise is a marvelous creation, but Americans don’t care it’s really just a conglomeration of socialist cells. Chekhov had become too sophisticated. Debilitated by the spy crap, in the parking lot by the pool, at the school he’d come to love, he knew he had to, and planned to, get away. Because when his head rose, from a particularly humbling moment staring at asphalt, he looked across the campus and saw his handler’s hand slip inside the Engineering Building where he’d never seen that hand before. After the hand he went cautiously the other way between the cars, back behind the student center, past the temporary office trailers, where the school newspaper was, into the forest. After a mile of woods he reached Highway 50 and his head start travel bag buried behind a tree near a convenience store’s outdoor phone. He’d planned to keep traveling in the woods near the highway, but the surfing dude from his apartment complex conveniently pulled in and asked him ‘if he needed a ride.’ Every Sunday after surfing, the surfing dude threw a bikini carwash party for his women friends who’d all raise their brews when Chekhov passed on his bike coming back from the library. So he “hitchhiked Highway 50 straight east then 520 diagonally through Cocoa to Cocoa Beach,” he said and even recalled how, in the heat, that day how the road’s lines seemed to melded with the ones on his skin.
On the beach he sat watching the ocean’s horizon with the sun behind his back, thinking his life was set. He said, even there, especially then, gazing at limitless distance, he already really missed his special spread flat Friday nights by the little lake, blending in with the musical experience of thousands of crickets, clicking their fantastically loud little grasshopper legs in an endless constant, ee ee ee … .
Learning to think like an American, he’d been culturally poisoned. Become an enemy of the people. His crack in class at the end, about a benevolent General Secretary would make no difference. So he tried to do the one thing he should. Preserve himself. He figured on heading south following the beach, as north were capes Kennedy and Canaveral, controlled by the government, making that a long walk around, when he didn’t want to be seen finding rides. His survival bag could have kept him alive for years on flat dried meat (jerky), and just in case three thousand in cash to face destiny with.
Chekhov liked I was jealous that this cute southern accent asked if he could help her northern cousins find a natural springs to
258wash off the salt water the right way, before returning to ‘Ar-lan-da’ he’d just run from. She recognized the surfer but knew he’d stay in the water a couple hours and they had to go. Chekhov realized certain springs could get him north toward Daytona Beach, and more of open America to hide in, than if he continued south with as little land left as the string of Florida Keys. He’d visited, and imagined his last stand, on the last dock, at land’s end, at sunset. So he “finagled” his way north and got the kids back to Orlando on Interstate 4 long before dark so questions might not be asked. He sold himself as a ride with directions that could save gas money, so they could see Blue Springs on the St. John’s River where he’d heard Jacques and Phillipe Cousteau observed manatees swimming south for the winter.
Of course I asked about the three thousand. Chekhov said he broke the first hundred spending ten dollars on drinks, snacks and gas from a convenience store. Then he threw up his hands. “Tatyana,” he said, “the name convenience store, they’re everywhere, common. Everywhere for them would be a miracle for us, even if it was only one.” How did KGB expect him not to notice? Chekhov said he didn’t care they overcharged. He’d “build a monument to one in Red Square.”
Yes the KGB’s cultivated plant inside the United States, was a bad plan all along from their point of view. But my American historian, Chekhov, wasn’t so pure I didn’t have to ask about the bikini. I told Chekhov, the girl wouldn’t care if he met her parents. I joked his embarrassment was probably funny to her. Because all that mattered was his finally being with me.
Problem was Chekhov had examined facts, instead of validating the comrades’ thesis that politically conservative business interests were killing American liberalism for money. He diagnosed our country as the most ruthlessly ruled, oppressive one company capitalist regime in the world. Chekhov read more, beyond becoming their perfect spy. His handler obviously knew American culture could poison anyone. But his operator was patient with his experiment to, at least, find out how to program the next attempt. A toy as long as he performed high test scores proving he could have value left where he was.
KGB were always on top of everything. Chekhov said they had calculated socialism’s failures for years. They knew the numbers. Chekhov said there were secret reports no one knows about. The fix was in for the country. Just as it was for me when Chekhov disappeared
259at fourteen so a KGB cell could manufacture a convincing American better than just rote memory. He wasn’t made for stealing military secrets, because in the capitalist tradition, the desperate, troubled and arrogant are already for sale. Chekhov was to have been a cleverer enterprise.
Liberals Never Prosper: The Great American Beauty Contest Election was his ignored paper, left on his desk, that just had a title page and one hundred blanks. While the one taped in plastic inside a panel in the stove officially revealed his mission had gone astray. He wrote the complete thesis to, if by some miracle, complete his own degree. His real paper was titled: Could America’s Agrarian Social Idealism Have Complimented Soviet Egalitarianism If Big Business Had Not Condemned The Nineteenth Century’s Midwestern Social Agrarian Political Point Of View To The Dustbin Of History? Conclusion: Only If Bolsheviks Were Really Nice People.
The topic challenged him, but a broad platform depicting history’s sad parts was a giant hole too deep for the KGB’s grumpy sense of humor. How else wake the public without shattering idols? Though his paper ruined him, Chekhov could still recite his masterpiece to me by heart. His paper began with what really bothered him. He found out Americans wrote after Marx, and imagined expanding socialism more than the Soviets ever tried. He learned capitalists had supported socialism’s merits. He cited this cute little novel, from the year 1888, that was essentially a political treatise wound in a light romance to broaden appeal. The introduction to his copy of Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy, was written generations later in the 1930s. The essay told how the novel was very popular in its’ era and highly esteemed by educators more than a half century later. Chekhov read it while the television generation had no idea what their historians knew.
The book opened his mind and is of course where my restaurant got its’ name. Chekhov told me in the Nineteenth Century, a cult based on this book grew in America. Clubs were formed that had picnics the way socialists were organizing on the East Coast and Europe at that same time. Hank, you know, you read that’s how Armand Hammer’s parents alleged they met. But this political cult was from the American imagination of the newspaper editor Edward Bellamy, who envisioned pure socialism evolving by the year 2000. The book describes how the year 2000 reached contentment and
260everyone was thoroughly happy, except for the narrator who’d survived from 1888, having slept in a trance for a century to wake in the future suffering from remembering capitalism’s flaws. He’d slept in his underground chamber, under his burned down house, from the Nineteenth to the beginning of the Twenty-first Century. When everyone ate communally in restaurant cafeterias. To Chekhov the reality of America’s many restaurants, where everyone can eat any time just for money, meant the country made it. He said Bellamy imagined the service occupations filled by the young, doing whatever civic needed done, until they retired to their own interests at age forty-five. Apparently the competition for money and territory was solved by humanity finally coming to maturity.
Then Chekhov’s paper isolated Stalin’s shenanigans as a noose around the necks of American liberals. But in the end whatever Chekhov had to say, goes on without him. He was caught in Santa Monica, taking in that famous ocean view, where I think he was just waited for, for months. Then after finally home for six weeks, one day here, a car picked him up and I watched him be driven off all over again. The car went off a mountain at 120 kph, and an impossible accident since Chekhov never drove and he was alone. There you have it, expected to ignore both possible and impossible. Chekhov would have been my Edward Bellamy’s Family’s Restaurant’s first waiter. I wish I’d told you more sooner about how my restaurant’s name came about. Hank, we both wasted time thinking the other needed romance.
Chekhov was wonderful. He preached to me to feed our neighbors, and eventually the world would be fed. After his death I studied, and knew illegal markets were expensive, but my primary concern was buying from as far around as possible, to avoid notice as a regular customer. As you know, like a school cafeteria is how I still run my enterprise. Every day’s menu is always the same different one for everyone. As you said, “Not a fish on Fridays type deal, because you never know when they’re allowed to swim by.”
Before reform Edward Bellamy’s Family’s Restaurant had been each member’s home in turn, where customers were guests unable to arrive on time for the party other friends had to leave early. I was ready when Interior Ministry police finally dissolved a front door and broke in on my lawyer and I sitting alone with so many signed permits on the table their eyes flapped like shuffling papers. I was told in that strong authoritarian voice, that the literature could not sufficiently
261explain my enterprise. Until my lawyer insisted the new head of ideology, Yakovlev, would answer their call because his office had informed us of the raid. The captain did not fear Gorbachev’s Canadian Prince Yakovlev, so much, as not being there to defend himself when the issue rose above him. My on the spot acquittal came with a warning I was on file, and could expect others to interfere. The officer said he couldn’t close the case, because the police operated in units, so innocence had to be perpetually proven. Okay I made that up, but he may as well have said it.
Eventually though cooperative private enterprise allowed me to buy that building so my life would look like a happy ending if Chekhov hadn’t horrendously died illustrating “organizations are in no position to give up power.” So by the time you arrived, I had chefs and assistants and in a stroke of McDonald’s brilliance, didn’t change the one meal menu Chekhov laughed about when advising, “Ford and McDonald’s secret to success was their simplicity.”
Sometimes the simplest answers are the only thing that can work. Take a load off Hank. My heart is still already broken.