Sunday, August 26, 2018

439. Honor

“From things I’ve seen and learned, it’s what many of your species don’t understand about politics,” he said.

“Oh?” We were sitting under my favorite oak contemplating the death of a famous American, C.W. and I. He had, for the occasion enphased (as he calls it) into the shape of the young American soldier from West Virginia, the one who had been killed on his 19th birthday, 14 days before this draft term ended.

“And honor,” he said.

I looked toward him.

“And duty,” he said.

“Want to explain?”

“I shouldn’t have to,” he said. “Was I honorable?”

“They didn’t think so then,” I said. “Maybe some do now.”

“Did I do my duty?”

“I would say to the ultimate limit.”

“Would it change your mind to know that I was once ordered to open fire, when I was an M-60 machine gunner in an infantry platoon, on a sleeping village?”

“On orders you say?”

“On orders.”


“I blew the hell out of everything in sight … men, women, children, dogs, rats, water buffaloes, Viet Cong, you name it.”

He paused and sniffed. “Was I doing my duty?”

I avoided the question. “How exactly,” I said, “did you, … did it end for you?”

“It was later,” he said, “two days after the attack on the first village. In the next one, they were waiting for us, had set up the perfect ambush: rice paddies to the right, gun emplacements to the front and left. We had no place to go. The Lieutenant was from the Academy. He thought all was copacetic, as he phrased it, but we all thought things were way too quiet. “Don’t argue,” he said as he sent us forward with the squad to set up an emplacement. My crew and I had peeled off, using the rice paddies as a buffer, and set up as the rest of the squad did an oblique to the left and moved forward.”


“It broke loose. Interlocking fire. The point man and two others fell, both dead. Two others were wounded. The rest were flat on the ground. I opened fire.”

“What happened then?’

“Troops came out of the village in perfect order, firing at us. I looked back and the Lieutenant was running toward the rear of the company, motioning it back. We were stranded.”

I waited.

“The survivors of the squad began pulling their wounded back. The three of us with the M-60 kept firing.”

“What then?”

“The others pulled back to our rear and ultimately reached the company with their wounded. We managed to slow the assault until they were safe.”

“And you?”

“We stayed and kept firing until they reached us. By the time we died, the company had formed a defensive line and was driving the enemy back. My last memory was of a mortar dropping in front of us into a mass of men. Then the rest were on us.”

We sat in silence.

“And this,” I said at last, “has what to do with our mourning an American hero today?”

“What was he doing when the ground fire hit his plane?” he said.

“Flying a mission?”

“To do what?”

“Bomb the enemy?”

“Men, women, children, dogs, rats, water buffaloes?”

“And specified targets. On orders,” I said.

“Fulfilling his duty?”

“As he saw it. As his country defined it.”

“Duty, then,” he said, “may require us to do things we ordinarily wouldn’t do?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“After capture,” he said, “how did our deceased hero perform?”

“As honorably, bravely, and magnificently as any American ever has, under the worst of conditions, for five-and-a-half years, without medical care for his broken body.”

“Withstood it all?”

“Without question.” I thought for a moment. “Did you know that, partway through his imprisonment, they offered to release him?”


“Yes, he was the son of an admiral, and the publicity would have been significant.”

“What happened?”

“He pretty much told them to stick the offer in their scuppers.”



“Even though he dishonored your country by being captured?”

“That’s the opinion of only one man.”

“No,” he said. “That’s the opinion of an entire political party.”

“Do you think so?”

“Of course,” he said. “Silence and inaction can carry honor or dishonor with equal ease. Political opportunity can determine which course people or parties choose.”

“But,” I said, “the party sends out campaign ads telling how much they love our military and what great patriots they are.”

“I can,” he said sadly, “call myself a retired veteran of a foreign war enjoying a yard full of grandchildren, but that doesn’t make it so.”

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

438: School

Late yesterday, I walked into the living room at our East Little Rock condo and found a character I call “Ronald Charles, the National Merit Scholar,” sprawled on the couch studying the view of Little Rock’s skyline. Of course, it was C.W., and I usually enjoy him in this shape.

Today he seemed a bit down.

“What’s up?” I said.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, using the most common response a teenager uses when something is truly bugging him.

“Share,” I said.

“Can I have a beer?”

“It’s ‘may I have a beer’ and, no, you’re too young.”

“I’m 647 years old in your time,” he said.

“Then choose another form. What’s bugging you?”

“The schools,” he said. “Those things called ‘charter schools.’ I visited one yesterday.”

“How did you do that?”

He looked at me as if I had just asked how he managed to tie his shoes this morning.

I changed tactics. “What did you find out?”

“It was weird,” he said.

“How so?”

“For one thing, the entire first hour of class was devoted to what they called ‘dialogue training’ and it was most odd.”

“How so?”

The kids were divided into groups and were being made to memorize and deliver standard bits of dialogue.”

“Like what?”

“One group was being made to stand as the teacher walked up and say, ‘Good morning. Welcome to ‘Betsy DeVoss High School.’ Each student had to practice it until the teacher was satisfied.”

“Anything else?”

“Another group was doing the same thing, only with a different dialogue.”

“Which was?”

“How are you folks doing today?”

“I see. Any others?”

“Some were practicing giving directions, like ‘yes sir, or ma’am, it’s right down on Aisle Five’ over and over.”

“I see. Then they held classes?”

“Not until they assembled in the auditorium and did a few school cheers. This included a final arm salute to someone named Saint Sam.”

“And then?”

“They went to their classes, but they weren’t classes like any I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh really?”

“No. I snitched a schedule that one student left lying on a bench.” He produced a sheet of wrinkled paper, smoothed it and said. “Listen to these.” He took a breath and read, “Proving Science Wrong 108.”


“You heard me. I stood outside the door and heard the teacher say, ‘It is a well-known historical fact that Charles Darwin accepted Christ as his personal savior on his deathbed and recanted his entire body of work. Now that’s false science for you.’ She then told them the assignment for the next day was to read the chapter called ‘Paul’s Travels as the Basis of Modern Geographic Systems.’”

“That’s not true about Darwin. I can’t believe you actually heard that.”

My Falloonian Elders don't
understand your concept
of flexible truth. - C. W.
“I don’t think ‘true’ was a measurement of accuracy in that class,” he said. “There’s more. You should have listened in on the one called ‘Flexible Mathematics: The Limitations of Numbers 107.’”

“You’re not serious.”

“Seems one no longer needs to learn things that the machines will do for you anyway.”

“You’re making me nauseated.”

“It gets worse.”


He read from the list. “Obsolete Teachings 101: History.”


He ignored me and continued. “Obsolete Teachings 102: Public Administration.”

I waited. He read, “Obsolete Teachings 103: Moral Imperatives in Modern America.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.”

He said, “No, it gets better. Standing outside the class on business administration, I heard a lecture called, ‘The Use of Tag-Team Matches in Conflict Resolution.’ It was the most interesting of call.”

“I can imagine. What did you do next?”

“I stood outside the Religion 104 class and heard a lecture called, ‘The Beatitudes as False Doctrine.’ It required the students to rise on cue and give a salute to that Saint Sam person.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.”

“Wait,” he said, “I haven’t even told you about the classes they were holding in the Athletic Wing. Well,” he said, “they called them classes anyway.”

“I think,” I said, “that you can have that beer now if I can join you.” 

See also:

Enjoy these at all? If so, order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw PressAmazon, or other book sellers. It will make him so happy. Also, click on an ad. It earns him a little and costs the advertiser, sort of a win-win.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

437 Service

C.W. has gone missing. I can’t find him anywhere. The last time I saw him, he had assumed the shape of a long-haul trucker with a MAGA hat. He was nervous and puffing on a big cigar.

He said he was “going to join the Space Force.”

“But,” I said before he broke in.

“No buts,” he said. “They’ll need experienced men and I’m their guy.”

“Uh,” I began.

“Listen,” he said. “They have no idea what they are getting into. They won’t know a Phistupunarsigan from a Beetanisilliagan. You can’t send brave men to fight Galactic invaders without experienced warriors, and three heads are better than one. He grinned and exhibited several missing teeth. “You’d better listen to me.”

“No. You listen to me.”


“I have something to tell you.”

“Better make it quick. I’ve already heard that some Hierdaruckians have landed and are assuming the disguise of a wedding party. Our forces need some guidance and they need it fast. I can provide them exact coordinates.”

“Shut up,” I offered.


“Are you listening?”

“I always listen. That’s one of my strengths.”

Letting that pass, I snapped a finger in front of his face.” He looked, and I assumed his other two heads were listening as well.

“Repeat after me,” I said. I waited a couple of seconds until he focused. “There is no Space Force.”

“There is no … what the hell are ya’ll talking about?”

“There is no Space Force.”


“There is no Space Force, nor will there be.”

“But the President said ….”

“The President tends to make things up. That’s one of his privileges, or at least one he has assumed.”

“Why would he?”

“It’s in his nature,” I said. “He uses prevarication like some people use a paint brush.”

“But why tell us a lie about a Space Force?”

“Distraction,” I said.


“Don’t you remember how much you like to watch magicians do their tricks?”

“Well, yeah,”

“And remember my telling you how they work them?”

A light dawned. “They fool you with one hand while the other does the trick.”


“But why would the President want to distract us?”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, they are on his ass pretty bad.”


“Some folks say he has been a little careless in the way he acts.”

“A little careless?”

“Maybe more than a little.”

“So, you see the need for some harmless distraction.”

“Who would he think might believe him about a fake Space Force?”

“The same people who believe a strong man can slam a metal folding chair down on another man’s head, have the poor guy hauled away to the emergency room bleeding, and have him back entertaining them the very next night.”

“But the Vice-President is setting the Space Force up, and he’s a Reckinarellerain.”

The threat is real.The President
 says this is an actual photo. - C.W.
“The best and the brightest?”

He thought. “Not exactly. They are the ones who transpermiated mosquito DNA on your planet. Some jokester on Falloonia told them it was a species of orchid. He’s been banished to Alabama, the jokester has, and they sent the perpetrator to Washington.” The fog lifted a bit. “As a matter of fact, …”

“So you see the subterfuge?”

“I don’t believe you,” he said. “I’m going to Little Rock.”

“For what?”

“Those folks up there at the Capitol respect our President. If he says we need a Space Force, they’ll be the first ones to join, probably already have. Just wait, you’ll see. If they don’t, I’ll raise almighty hell about it.” 

With that, he took off. I haven’t seen him since.

See also:
Enjoy these at all? If so, order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw PressAmazon, or other book sellers. It will make him so happy. Also, click on an ad. It earns him a little and costs the advertiser, sort of a win-win.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

436. Prophecy

It was abnormally quiet in the house. I had come in from working outdoors and my wife was away for the day. I thought I’d better check on C.W. Did I mention that it was abnormally quiet? That’s when it’s a good idea to check on C.W.

But, uncharacteristically, I found him in my favorite easy chair reading a book. At least I assumed it was he, the shape was that of a middle-aged man of scholarly demeanor. He had a long, hawkish, face beset by wrinkles and accentuated by a thin mustache. His eyes flashed beneath a crop of dark, unruly hair.

He looked vaguely familiar but I let it pass. “What’s up? I said.

“The Elders are pissed,” he said, closing the book.

“Oh?” It was then that I notice what book he was reading. It was Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“And why are they pissed this time?”

“Don’t you think they have a right to be?” He said gruffly.

“I don’t know.”

“Listen,” he said. I noticed scads of yellow stickers protruding from the book. He turned to them, one after another, and read.

“War is peace.”

“Freedom is slavery.”

“Ignorance is strength.”

He closed the book. “Sound familiar? Maybe a little like last night’s newscast?”

Before I could answer, he turned to another marker and read, “One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” He looked up at me and smiled, then said, “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”

“Is this going somewhere?”

“Be still and learn,” he said. He didn’t say it in a friendly way. I’d never seen him like this before. He quickly turned to another page and read. “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'”

I just stood there, thinking of our Secretary of Education. “Are you,” he said, “proud of your country now? How do you like being a fulfillment of prophecy? Not the mythical kind where you read a prediction and then go make it happen, but when it happens on its own and you say, ‘So and So saw that coming?’”

As I pondered this, he continued, pointing at another section. He read, “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” He stopped. “Say, for example, you have a twice-divorced adulterer being worshiped as a religious icon by a third of your population. He flashed a half-smile for the first time. If you think the Elders are pissed, you ought to talk to the Galilean. See?”

Trying to make sense of it all, I tried to answer. I could only say, “Yes.”

Do I have to draw you a picture? - C.W.
He snapped. “Is any of this really beginning to make sense? Does any of it sound familiar at all?”

“Yes,” I said. “I first read the book in high school and then several more times since.”

“Idiot,” he snapped. “I’m talking about 2018, not some journey into your past.”

This was the strangest C.W. I had encountered ever. “What is with you?” I said.

“Don’t you watch the news?” he said. “The Elders certainly do.”

“And why are they so upset?”

“You have no idea?”

“Maybe a slight idea. Could it be …?”

“Shut up,” he said. “Listen.” He turned to another marker and looked at me, his dark eyes piercing the farthest corner of my mind. “Listen,” he said, “and learn. Then you may know why the Elders are pissed.

This time he read gravely, “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m beginning to see you point. America today is starting to sound exactly—and I’ll admit it’s scary as hell—like the state described in Orwell’s book.” I paused, “But what has the Elders so upset?”

“Orwell!” he screamed. “Orwell … what has the Elders so pissed about Orwell, his prophecies, and modern America?”

“Yes,” I said, “yes … what?”

“Only,” he said, “that they sent me here in 1947 to warn you.”