I wrote the story below 10 years ago and submitted it to a prominent music zine that had a fiction section. Some of you undoubtedly know the one I'm talking about. It was never published, and I've never shown it to anyone till now.
Having gone through the whole 9/11 experience in New York, it was impossible for all conversations there, even those of the young art crowd, not to be shot through with details of the aftermath: the memorial lights, the unannounced anthrax searches of the subway, the seemingly permanent street closures downtown. One time on a bus, a guy I knew — the singer for a popular band — handed me literature detailing how I should build my case as a conscientious objector ahead of the re-institution of the draft. "Prepare yourself, man," he told me while fixing his hair.
I was relieved to find the echoes of all this very distant when I moved to Chicago. Nothing had happened here. There were no soldiers with assault rifles walking around. No mailmen wearing rubber gloves. And the young people were more relaxed. Their dance parties were carefree, not underscored with the knowledge that a lot of people had very recently died nearby.
Despite this, the local TV media seemed to desperately want "something" to happen that it could heroically cover. Throughout 2002 there were a lot of cut-ins during daytime programming for fires in the Loop. Was it a bomb? A dirty bomb? I felt bad for the real journalists and photographers I worked with who had to be sent on these wild goose chases, just in case.
On the national scale, the infamous color-coded terror level was raised ahead of all major holidays, and Tom Ridge became a familiar face in most American homes. The fear — manipulated for a few years by the Bush administration — was that the other shoe had not yet dropped on a domestic attack.
And what was more frightening, we were told, than the splinter cell? The deeply embedded terrorist group that would be activated on some historically significant date to wreak havoc. The way Homeland Security spun it, this fanatic cadre could be anywhere, even in a place like Orland Park, where I lived in July 2002.
I had a hard time believing this. Orland Park: home of Fox's Restaurant, Rainbow Cone and the under-21 dance club, Energy. What could terrorists possibly be doing there — renting movies at the Blockbuster on Wolf Road? And so went the inspiration for my story. For such a long windup, I can't promise it'll be any good, but here it is anyway. ...
Support Your Local Cell
Dear Brother Maxime,
Hail to the glorious and perpetual revolution of the common fellow! Death to all opponents of our most justifiable cause: those chain-gang bosses of the hydra-headed corpora-jailhouses! And, a special greeting to you, Brother, on this the second anniversary of Operation Dustbuster, of which I am overjoyed to be a humble part.
In accordance with Directive 339r-87, I have replaced the Chicago White Sox flag with the new Winnie the Pooh flag to signal cell liaisons from the Committee on Persuasive Intelligence.
If I may be frank, Brother, my reason for this communiqué goes beyond my immesurable zeal on this, the dawn of another year of our most righteous penetration into the enemy’s flabby stomach region. I am at a great impasse regarding my cell-comrade, Brother Willoughby.
I remained silent as long as I could on the subject of Brother Willoughby, wishing to preserve the unity that kept us operating during last month’s police sweeps.
Let me begin with Brother Willoughby’s behavior during the above-mentioned police reprisals. I first overheard him discussing his involvement in a “super-secret organization” with a female non-operative civilian in a local pub. When I took him aside to remind him of the delicate nature of our mission, he told me to “Relax. She’s just an exotic dancer. Have another drink.”
The next incident occurred as I walked back to my base of operations one evening after checking the cell’s P.O. box. A white “stretch” Lincoln Navigator drove up with Brother Willoughby in the back. He pulled me inside and introduced me to three of his female “friends” from McGee’s Sports Bar. Brother Willoughby and his guests then took turns spitting tequila into each other’s mouths.
I cite Directive 484k-44 regarding the management of “human longing.” Personally, I follow the Committee’s orders and “relieve urges manually.” Sadly, I cannot say the same of Brother Willoughby.
The incident that finally prompted this report happened last Tuesday. Brother Willoughby came to my base of operations at 4 a.m. with two suitcases. He claimed his landlord evicted him for not paying his rent. When I inquired about his Committee income disbursement, he told me he had “lost it all at the dog track.” Brother Willoughby then asked if he could “crash here for awhile.”
The next day, I returned from making my anonymous morning bomb threats, and found Brother Willoughby in my living room with three “old frat brothers,” one of whom was using my binoculars to watch a step-aerobics class across the street at the YWCA.
My anger got the best of me. I called Brother Willoughby a “fifth columnist boob.” He told me to “have a drag off this reefer and cool out.”
I would’ve written sooner had not Brother Willoughby thrown a party that evening. I came back after cutting the cords on some pay phones to find my living room full of strangers. These included Chicago police officers whom Brother Willoughby introduced as his “poker buddies.” Someone had filled my VCR with vanilla pudding and used my computer as a urinal.
Again, I called out Brother Willoughby on his gross disregard for Committee-dictated operational policy. I told him to take his uninvited guests and leave immediately. He replied that he was tired of me “riding his ass” and “bumming everybody out.” I said he should stop dragging our cause through the dirt. He told me to “stop being such a prick.” I threatened to report him to the Disciplinary Council.
Brother Willoughby then physically escorted me through a second-floor window to the rose bushes below. When I returned from the hospital, he had changed all of my locks.
I am writing you now, most honorable Brother, from the Orland Park public library. Brother Willoughby refuses to return my calls. I have spent the last four nights in our glorious Aerostar. I understand that we must sometimes suffer for our great cause, but I will not believe that you promoted Brother Willoughby to Director of Regional Operations.
Long live the glorious conspiracy against the soulless drones of the death contraption! May my way down the shining path be forever lined with the flowers of righteousness!
Yours in Struggle,
Brother Bill Kippy