By Burt Kempner
“The Evil Mr. What’s-His-Name”
“I am sick of being an accomplice of sorts.” Burt Kempner
Note: When I wrote this back in July, I had no illusions that it would be the last word on the subject.
I am making a concerted effort not to commit the name of the Aurora gunman to memory. As gestures go, this is pretty feeble. It will not restore twelve missing lives, nor make the lot of the wounded easier to bear. But I am sick of being an accomplice of sorts.
I know the names of Charles Whitman and Richard Speck, mass murderers who haunted the 60s. I vividly remember Mark David Chapman, Cho Seung-hui and Anders Bering Breivik. Enough. If I can’t help the victims of the sick, twisted, to-me-anonymous soul who opened fire in a crowded movie theater, the least I can do is deny him the fame he treasured more than life.
“The Tyrant Comes to Town: Mind Games”
“As was his custom, the Generalissimo brought up the rear of the procession on horseback. He sat his horse ramrod straight and gave only the slightest of nods. He had no illusion that he was loved.” Burt Kempner
The President for Life stood up as his motorcade made its way through the main street of the town. The townspeople lined either side of the street, cheering, holding up their children and waving their hats. It was his first visit here. He’d heard strange, unsettling things about the place, but it appeared no different from the other stops he’d made on his tour. Here, as everywhere, his people loved him, even if he often had occasion to be a stern father with them. He was content. He shouldn’t have been.
Here is what the men, women and children in the town were thinking behind their smiles: “Wave, you old fool! Good. Now touch your fingers to the bill of your cap and give us a nice salute. Listen, You Blockhead. Order your driver to stop so you can accept the bouquet from the little girl. Would it kill you to smile? Pay attention now, Oaf. The Generalissimo is plotting a coup against you. You must act quickly and decisively. Tomorrow morning, instruct your Special Guard to take care of the problem. Tomorrow morning at 9:00, understand? Now drive on, you steaming pile of manure.”
The Vice-President for Life preferred to remain seated in the back seat of his car. He waved to the crowd, but he looked as though he were drying his manicure rather than conveying affection. He was a good actor, he told himself. He prayed that the dust of the road wouldn’t soil his white suit, and that none of these people would want to shake his hand. He gave them the smile he’d spent hours in front of his mirror cultivating.
This is what the crowd beamed at him as one: “Your hour of deliverance is at hand, You Cold Fish. The President suspects nothing, but the idiot won’t remain in the dark forever. You must strike swiftly. Tomorrow morning at 9:00, send two of your best men to the old man’s private chapel at the palace. He pretends to pray but he actually just naps. You cannot squander this opportunity, You Cowardly Fop!”
As was his custom, the Generalissimo brought up the rear of the procession on horseback. He sat his horse ramrod straight and gave only the slightest of nods. He had no illusion that he was loved.
The concentrated thoughts of the town’s citizens washed over him: “What a sight this is! We’ve never before seen a peacock with horns. You did know that the Vice-President has been sleeping with your wife, didn’t you? You drill the troops and he drills your woman. Is there a man behind all those medals? Does your sacred honor mean nothing to you? He arrives at your wife’s bedchambers every morning at precisely 9 o’clock. But tomorrow, when he rolls back the covers, he will not find the woman who inflames him, but your aide-de-camp, armed with a pistol. Can you imagine the look on his face? Ride on, Old Cuckold. You have work to do.”
The motorcade departed from the town. The music died off and the dust settled back on the main street. The happy townspeople made their way back to their homes. They would spend much of tomorrow locked indoors but, that night, there would be much feasting and telling of tales, both bawdy and heroic.
“The Intersection: A Crossroads at the Shallow End of the Pool”
“There is an intersection where extreme narcissism meets extreme gullibility.” Burt Kempner
There is an intersection where extreme narcissism meets extreme gullibility. It is not located in the Twilight Zone. It’s here in your city, your town, your village, your house, your tent. Like many mass movements, it started off with good intentions and promptly turned into a racket. The hawkers at this intersection cry out: “Here’s your salvation, Ladies and Gents! Cheap, fast and guaran-freaking-teed!” The intersection is teeming with pedestrians, but they never collide, amazing since each walker is holding up a mirror before his or her face. Each day, hundreds are run down because when the street sign changes to “Do not cross,” they have it on solid authority that the sign is lying and that they, and only they, know the real crossing story. There is talk of another, even better, intersection somewhere, but despite paying a fortune for books, DVDs and workshops, no one’s ever found it.
It is a desolate place with not a single thought perturbing its pretty mind, this intersection.
Let’s not meet there, My Love.