Wendy came into the living room that next morning. She hadn’t slept. None of us had. Her parents, my brother and his wife, were lying awake at that sad hour, searching more tears, trying to crawl into one another. The sunrise was just a suggestion in the dark windows. She shook me and I pretended to wake. She asked me if I still carried a gun and I told her yes and showed her my ankle. She stared at it long enough I felt compelled to connect the two. I asked her if she wanted to hold it. I removed the magazine and cleared the chamber and placed it in her hands. I’ll never forget how it puzzled her as she searched it for the source of its power. She thought it was ugly. She asked me if I had ever killed anyone and I told her I never even removed my service weapon from the holster, had to unsnap it a few times but never drew. I had friends who did but I had a lot more friends who didn’t. I also knew cops who quit being cops because they could never find a reason to draw their weapons. She asked if I had talked to the cops who killed her sister’s murderer. I told her yes, I had. I told her they looked like hell. They had to shoot a kid that night, a child no older than Wendy. She asked me, if I had been there, would I have killed him? I told her I would have if he forced me. She told me she wished they hadn’t killed him. She wasn’t looking at me. She was looking at that kid. She was staring straight into his eyes again through the pleated smoke seeping from the barrel of the rifle. We sat for a long time at the edge of the cot as morning crept into the room and changed the color of the walls. She finally handed back the gun and asked me to show her how to use it.
It's like a hemorrhage. It's an artery bursting and the chemistry takes over. Just think about the chemistry and physics involved. All that smoke is carbon molecules bled from the fuel. Fuel like wood, petroleum. Oxidization is basically the loss of electrons. The very atoms of the burning material bleed essential parts and cease to exist. And then there's the more philosophical aspect of people's lives bleeding out. All those possessions gone. All those heirlooms, all those investments, those particles of what people call their lives bleeding from a wound.
I'm twelve and my father stops the car to watch a high-rise fire. I see the teamwork of the crew. I see men carrying axes walk through flames. I see rescues. Small children. Elderly folk wrapped in blankets by soot-faced titans. And they are huge when I'm twelve. They tower over everyone around them. There's no real consideration of the possibility that I might become one of them. I have no clue one could ever become a firefighter. These people are superhuman, born this way. But from this point on, unlike other boys who know about guns or cars or science fiction, I know firefighting.
FINDING ROMULUS’ ROME
by Skitz O’Fuel
This begins in a warm leather chair of a neurologist’s office in Odessa, Texas. Alex Randal is recalling the day he saw One-Armed Billy get his ass kicked behind the grocery store down the alley from his school. He never talked to One-Armed Billy before or after and he has often regretted it. His bloody eye and his fucked up nose and his bloody broken smile and how he laughed at Shawn Baker. Laughed at him. Alex was awestruck. Don’t feel defeated Alex, the neurologist tells him. He tells him there are smart people working on treatments and procedures, making progress. He reminds him of his youth. He lists medications designed to relieve any symptoms he might experience. He tells him to call his office the moment he feels any strange pressure or nausea or experiences any prolonged headaches. Randal begins explaining—again—that he hasn’t experienced any symptoms but he stops himself and instead conveys his respect for the doctor’s profession, his respect for science, interrupting the neurologist several times to clarify his point. So all that being said, doc, you understand what kind of shock this is to a person—to me—so I’m going to ask you one question: how long? I don’t have an answer for you. I could fall out of this chair right now, is that what yer saying? The doctor stares into Randal’s eyes past his threshold of confidence until he finally relents. I suppose that’s what I’m saying. I appreciate yer honesty, doc. Randal rises from the leather chair, noting the sound of it, like slingshot tubing gathering energy. The receptionist is a tall unobtainable beauty who projects an aloof air which dissolves the moment he approaches her. He is abrupt and far too direct for her taste but she indulges what she will later describe to a friend as his cold cordiality. She follows him from the office onto the stone floor of the main hallway and within minutes they are sweating and naked in a men’s restroom stall. He’s arrested within the hour. Randal won’t remember what initiated his encounter with the cop, only that he relished every second of it.
Alpha, part one of my serial novel River of Blood is completed and posted. This first section of the novel describes the year leading to a tragic event that changes young Sean Tower's life forever. Along the way, details of the Tower family and their traditions in religion and law enforcement is laid out along with their murky beginnings in the twisted tale of Sean's great grandfather Fox Tower. Atheism, anarchism and the complicated web of family loyalties bait young Sean to a conclusion which catapults him into the wilderness.
Episodes of Beta, part two, begin tomorrow.
I'm accelerating the episodes for two reasons: Tis the season for giving and I miscounted at some point and posted that there are fewer episodes left than I thought. This week I will post a new episode every two days plus next Sunday when I will post the first episode of to part two "Beta."
Here's Episode 30 and here's the full episode list
As the first face of American fascism in the 21st, I mention Donald Trump only in passing. If we peer back down the arrow of time, we find the invention of fascism as a political movement in Italy, 1921. Benito Mussolini drew from ancient Greek philosophers and others to justify the economics and discrimination of his “new” political party. His three principles: order, discipline, hierarchy. Anarchism rejects all three of these as the essence of authoritarianism and as we relax our gaze, death and waste blossom as the fruits of fascism’s promise of protection and prosperity.
Normally I stay away from quotes unless the quote itself is the subject of the piece but this bit from Emma Goldman carries us in many ways to the ultimate point.
“Anarchism stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion and liberation of the human body from the coercion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. It stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals…” ― Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays
At an intersection in a shady part of town where dark immigrants and refugees of foreign disturbances crept in weird tracery among the long sunset shadows, a popular family owned phô joint named the Flyin’ Bowl recently found itself with new competition. Just over the bridge that spanned a tight bundle of Santa Fe railroad tracks, this rival had the same menu, the same recipes, even the same name (the Fly in Bowl) and members of the same family steering the enterprise. Tommy Ruangsawat’s sister had manipulated the matriarch of the family into giving her blessing to an expanded operation of sorts. The remainder of the family wrote the sister off in disgust. She kept a tighter ship, a cleaner ship, and that’s why Delilah chose the Fly in over the Flyin’. And it’s usually less crowded, she said as they sat down at a table that soon revealed an unruly short leg, and Tommy has a bit of a crush on me.
Delilah’s five feet of dark hair and Asian lips settled and her eyes finally met his and he became acutely cognizance of his very precarious position. She’s way smarter than you, Poole had told him, she’s the smartest person in any room she walks into. That’s a reason not to try? isn’t that the very reason to try? Poole had given him a comic gesture of disregard.
You fuckin with the phô? she asked him with a spasm of Groucho brow and her perfect grin.
And there are some things I won't tell you, she whispered, her eyes releasing their tethers and wandering from his face. Like what? It won't be that easy, dude. It's been that easy so far. I decide how easy it is. A rush of regret rattled him and he sighed before he could stop himself. He reclined against the broken springs in the couch and wished he'd never heard her voice, touched her neck, tasted the inside of her ear. When she found him again, the shine in his eyes had fizzled and she left him sitting in the boiling mix of smoke and conversation. The tonnage of jeunesse dorée began gelling and coagulating, growing thicker, expanding through the doorways and creeping under the furniture, replacing the air, devouring his focus. Afraid one of these punks had drugged his whiskey, he set the tumbler on the cluttered table that had been pestering his knees and he stood straight into the invisible ooze and he breathed it deeply and a malevolent rush traversed him like a closing zipper. He even heard it. An ascending metallic rip punching through the top of his skull. A large vase fell and shattered in his wake through the ooze and the gleam, the shapes of young breasts under logos on T-shirts, yards of inconceivably clean teeth. He discovered himself gripping a balcony rail. A crisp breeze was dragging the ocean air through the streets where the traffic roared. The harsh halogen beams strafed his perch as they peaked the hill in the distance below him, chilling him with each direct hit. He closed his eyes and dropped his head forward to the rail. A low dull vibration massaged the cold steel against his forehead then faded, soothing his vertigo as it went. She was standing behind him when he realized he had no clue how long he had been on the balcony. How did you think this was going to work? He rocked his brow temple to temple on the metal. I don’t know, he told her. How old are you again? You know how old I am. Well, you’re acting like a child, dude. I’m fine. We both got laid. Yeah, we did. We might get laid again. Okay. And your wife might not find out. Uh-huh. Chill the fuck out. She went silent. And then she was gone. The thought of her skin against his or the freshness of her breath or the heat he had fingered between her young buttocks never crossed his mind as he gathered a deep breath and shook off the remaining globs of ooze and swung each of his legs in turn over the rail and jumped the distance from the balcony to the roof of her BMW which belched concave as he landed, his ankle curling and popping beneath him then he limped into the night pleading with the gods of minor injuries that his joint wasn’t broken.
Let’s talk about something that I’ve found many anarchists are reluctant to engage. Compromise. In the pie-in-the-sky circles of political anarchism, compromise strikes many as a bowing down, resignation. Destruction of the state is non-negotiable. Laws of any kind are non-negotiable. Authority is non-negotiable. This is a fault. To proclaim a moral prohibition of negotiation is to ignore the complexity of morality all together. I argue that negotiation and compromise are the only way to reach consensus on modern morality. Compromise is the fruit of empathy. Compromise is the path to the truth.
I am a pragmatic idealist in that I know that compromise is the road to agreement. I have more faith in anarchism as a personal philosophy than most Christians or Jews or Muslims do in their respective ideologies. I know that in the future, the clear-headed practicality of individuals will win over the dogmatism of religion, capitalism, and statism. But this is not the future. We do not yet live in an age when deep critical thinking is the foundation of individual points-of-view. Cultural and historical biases cloud certain truths. For instance, as I’ve said before, I firmly believe that society has virtually no need for municipal armies but I recognize others' opinion that we do. I would compromise with a model of smaller, highly paid, highly trained, demilitarized police forces. I am not so ignorant of other peoples’ fears and concerns that I forbid police presence on our streets. As with any compromise, it would be a step toward the ultimate goal of removing them all together.
What is a single Texan’s life worth? Or a Louisianan? What is the value of a Floridian’s life? A Tennessean?
Monetary values are always the goto measurement but it’s always a stupid, clumsy measurement. One thing the monetary system does well is it establishes a standard. For a long time now the US dollar has been the preferred currency for international transactions (because it’s generally stable) and you can measure other currency values against it. Let’s try it with lives…
Is a Texan’s life worth more or more valuable than a Californian’s? Is a Floridian’s life more valuable than an Alaskan’s? Is this working? Maybe if we went by region. Is a Southern life less valuable than a New Englander’s? Are the lives of people on the west coast more precious than those of the Mid-West?
This still isn’t working. Fuck it. Let’s see if we can standardize the value of a human life by the same stick we use to value currency. With its record of stability following the Civil War, i.e. WWI, WWII, the Cold War, U.S. lives might work as a standard, right? Are U.S. lives worth more than German lives? Are U.S. lives more or less valuable than Liberian lives? Spaniards? Ukrainians?
Here’s why the question “whose life matters more?” does (and doesn’t) matter. Two dozen U.S. governors are refusing to allow Syrian refugees through their borders. Let’s leave the fact that U.S. law (both through legislation and judicial precedent) forbids this sort of refusal. As an anarchist, I hate arguing on the side of law, especially if there’s no need. These politician/reality stars are amplifying the death rattle of the Tea Party Conservative, the last host of the parasitic Christian Right. They have effectively told their constituents that it’s okay to say that Western lives hold more value than Syrian lives. In fact, if we roll with the conservative U.S. governors’ implied exchange rate and Obama’s pledge number for asylum, 126 Western lives equal 10,000 Syrian lives. Unfavorable, to say the least.
It gets worse.
Buy Skitz O'Fuel's novel That Night Filled Mountain
available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle.
Short stories like Finding Romulus' Rome, The Blood, & The Weapon are FREE in the Books section.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.