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Evolution of a Story

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Chapter 1: Never Saw It Coming

On most occasions, Mike Deavers did not stand out in a crowd. He looked like most Washington D.C. staffers that one sees standing or sitting behind their Congressional representatives during hearings or testimony. His description was bland; short cropped brown hair, blue eyes, with an athletic build. Yet, though he would never be described as the life of a party, he drew people to him. He had an infectious smile and always had a complement ready for anyone he met. As most of his friends would describe, he was just someone that you instantly liked and wanted to be around.

Earlier that night Deavers and a group of staffers met at the Boundary Stone for drinks. It had been a long day of hearings in the Armed Services Committee and a few shots of high end whiskey appealed to the young men and women in the group. After three glasses of 16 year old Bushmill’s Deavers looked down at his watch and realized the time. It was just part two in the morning, and unlike the others in the group, Mike had to be back in his office early to help Senator Alan Clayton go over his questions for the second round of committee hearings.  On this day, Army General Hank Dillion, commander of all US forces in Afghanistan would be in the hot seat to explain his request for an additional 3,000 troops for a war most American’s had forgotten about, as well as two previous administrations.

At just past two-thirty on this early July morning, wearing a dark blue linen sports coat over a short sleeve canary yellow button up and a pair of khaki slacks, Mike Deavers walked alone. The Boundary Stone was eight blocks from the Victorian condo that he shared with another staffer, Carrie Milles, in Senator Clayton’s office. Earlier that day he had downloaded a compellation album of classic rock, and was listening to it through his Beats Studio earphones. He was just 26 years old, a graduate from Georgetown, and a quintessential millennial, who, on most occasions, would have ordered an Uber, but tonight he needed the fresh air.

Many in the group would later explain that Mike was acting a bit differently this night. The smile that was usually a permanent fixture on his young face was absent on this night. Though he joined in the conversations taking place around him, most found him hunched over, holding his glass, deep in thought. Carrie Mills, his roommate, was the only one in the group that asked what was wrong. Mike looked at her, smiled, and said, “Just enjoying the most expensive glass of Irish whiskey I have ever had in my life.”

When asked later, some of the staffers would mention Mike’s drink, if fact it was one of the first things they mentioned.  Most Senate staffers made just over $30,000, so it was strange to many in the group that Mike was ordering 16 year old Bushmill’s that cost $26 a glass. His family, compared to most in the small Colorado town of Berthoud, was wealthy. His father owned land that had been in their family for three generation, and with the housing market exploding over the past three years, he supplement his income as a teacher selling parcels to the highest bidders. His mother, ran a day care out of the basement of their home and Mike used to say, “I was an only child except for the 15 other kids in the house.”

Georgetown had always been Deavers’ dream school. When he was seven years old his father took him to a college basketball game between Georgetown and the University from Colorado. Instead of following the home team and a school less than 60 miles from his home, Deavers followed a school across the nation from him. He excelled in school, never playing a sport, but was involved in the debate club and mock trial team during high school. He applied and was accepted to Georgetown and his parents paid his way.

Deavers came to the intersection and could see his condo across the streets. During the early 2000’s Bloomingdale had gone through gentrification, and many of the old 18th and early 19th century Victorian homes had been bought and turned into high end homes for young families and, like Mike Deavers, those working within the bureaucracy of the United States government.

Mike and Carrie had been friends at Georgetown, with her being a year ahead of them. Both had interned in Senator Clayton’s office during their senior years. Carrie, who graduated a year before Mike was hired by Clayton’s office, she was the one who recommended Mike as an intern, and was helpful in him being hired on as a staffer. There was not a sexual relationship between the two. Though they had flirted on occasion as friends, Carrie had been in a long-term relationship with a man she met her freshman year at Georgetown. It was Carrie who offered the extra room in her condo to Mike to help relieve some money pressure so she could save for her upcoming fall wedding.

Bloomingdale, like most of the Washington D.C. suburbs, had its issues with crime, but it was sporadic at best. With more and more small families moving into the area, the police presence had increased, and incidents of robberies and assaults had decreased over the past three year. That is why, as Mike waited for the light to turn so he could cross the street, he paid little attention to the man walking towards him, especially this man. He wore a pair of jogging shorts and a long sleeve athletic pull over and looked as if he were cooling down after a run.

It wasn’t abnormal to see young professionals running at all hours of the night in and around Bloomingdale. Because many living there worked in various government offices, especially the Pentagon, and worked odd hours, it was normal to see someone on the street getting in a quick run before heading off to work.

A Mike waited for the light; he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out his phone, and switched the song. He turned and looked at the man, who had stopped and was stretching. The light giving him permission to cross turned, and Mike put his phone back in his pocket and started to make his way across the street. As the opening chorus of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” was starting, Mike stepped on to the curb. Just as he turned right to walk forty more feet to the entrance of his condo he felt someone behind him.

The jogging man saw Mike begin to cross the street, and straightened up. He began to slowly jog, and as Mike was about to step on to the curb his pace quickened. He reached into the pocket of his athletic shirt, pulled out a small automatic pistol equipped with a silencer. Just as Mike turned to make his way to his condo, the man reached out his right hand, had the muzzle of his silencer inches from the back of Mike’s head, and pulled the trigger. Blood sprayed on the bushes and across the sidewalk as Mike body dropped face first. The muffled noise of the two more shots the man put into Mike’s back echoed in the darkness.

The man quickly put the gun in his pocket and, making sure to avoid the streetlights, jogged into the darkness of the night as “Drift Away” could still be heard coming from the headphones next to Mike Deavers dead body.

 

It was just past six as Janet Carsis stepped out into the humid Georgetown humid evening. She was a small petite young woman with light brown hair pulled back into a pony tail with tortoise shell glasses hanging off the end of her nose. Though she had lived and worked in Washington D.C. for two years, she still could not get used to the summer heat and humidity. She was from Phoenix, Arizona where the heat could cook an egg on the sidewalk in July, but the air was dry, and, standing on her porch, she missed it more than ever on this night.

Two years ago, she had made the largest commitment of her life. She had just completed her Bachelor’s degree in English from Arizona State with honors and found herself questioning the rest of her life. When she entered Arizona State she knew she wanted to teach, but a different life seemed to be calling to her. She had grown-up in a Catholic home and was never absent from the pews of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church during college. Unlike most of her friends who took full advantage of the freedom college afforded them, including parties and men, Janet remained devoted to her faith and her studies. So, upon graduation, she told her parents, Lonny and Marie Crasis, she was going to join the convent.

She joined Our Lady of Solitude Monestary and committed herself to her new life. During her time of testing, known as the postulancy, Janet, now going by Sister Mary, used her English degree to teach English to local Mexican immigrant mothers. Her dedication caught the attention of the Nuns, and once she received her habit, she was encouraged to participate in a program that would allow her to teach in Catholic Schools.  She had taken her temporary vows and was offered an opportunity to leave Arizona and teach at St. Francis of the Mount Girls Prepratory School in Georgetown.

Though she enjoyed teaching in Arizona, Washington D.C. appealed to her. When she was younger, her parents had taken her and her younger sister on a road trip to the city and she was amazed by the grandur of the monuments and city. Besides that, St. Francis of the Mount allowed her to fulfill the dream she had when she entered college to teach at the high school level.

Though St. Francis of the Mount was a Catholic school, the teaching staff was a mix between nuns and civilians. Upon arrival, Sister Mary found herself teaching Medieval Literature and, because she had played soccer in high school, she was made the assistant coach of the soccer team. Her students immediately feel in love with her. She was closer to her age than most of the Sisters who taught classes, and because she joined the convent later in life, she had life experiences that she could share with the girls. She became one of the most popular teachers at the school and it showed when she started an afterschool poetry club and over thirty girls arrived for the first meeting. The number only grew as her first year went along.

Her only discomfort with St. Francis came in the form of the Dean, Father Craig O’Neil. He was in his early fifties, balding, yet lifted weights every morning in the school’s gym to keep a muscular build. He walked though the school with a riding crop for no other purpose than to carry it and slap it on his thigh which echoed through the halls letting students know he was ever present.

He was a stern man who wasted no time in handing out punishment for even the smallest infractions. Most punishments came in the form of sitting in his office writing out the sins that led a student on to his radar. The worst punishment came in the form of expulsion. St. Francis was considered one of the most elite schools for young women and expulsion usually meant the student finding themselves in one of the local public schools. And because Father O’Neil held the power to remove girls from the school, he was a man the girls feared. At least that is what Sister Mary believed.

Many of the girls confided in her their fear of Father O’Neil, and considering his demeanor and penchant for rules, Sister Mary believed that is what generated the fear. That was until she befriend a Junior, Lisa Bowen.

Lisa had grown up in a strict Catholic home. Her father, who was a ground keeper for the Capital Building, made sure his family, especially his two daughters, were in church every Sunday. Lisa was an excellent student and it was no surprise to her mother and father when her application to St. Francis had been accepted. Through her Freshman and the first semester of her sophomore year, Lisa excelled in school. She was a straight “A” student, made the varsity soccer team, and also participated in student government. Things changed though after the first semester of her sophomore year.

Her friend Cathy Brands, who was more rebellious than most girls, talked her into skipping class. The two went out past the soccer field to small grove of trees where a drainage ditch flowed passed. Cathy pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Lisa remained strong, but succumbed to peer pressure and decided to try one. She was in the midst of taking her first and only drag when she saw the look of shock on Cathy’s face and a felt a strong hand on her shoulder. She turned around with the cigarette hanging from her lip and before he stood Father O’Neil. Because Cathy had seen him approaching she had tossed her cigarette in the ditch and dropped the pack on the ground at Lisa’s feet. Cathy was told to go to class and Lisa followed Father O’Neil to his office.

In most schools, being caught skipping and smoking on school ground would lead to detention, or a worst, suspension. Not in Father O’Neil’s St. Francis though. From the moment they entered his office the word “expulsion” dripped off Father O’Neil’s thin lips. Lisa broke down in tears. She had worked so hard to be accept into St. Francis and knew her father’s wrath would be severe. She begged Father O’Neil to give her another chance. Father O’Neil sat down in his desk, looked her up and down, and then opened the top drawer, pulled out a sheet of paper and pen, and pushed it across his desk. Lisa would not be expelled, her punishment would be a weekly meeting in his office to write her sins.

Soon Lisa’s grade began to drop, as did her involvement in school. She quit student government, and though she continued to play soccer her sophomore year, she informed the had coach she would not return her junior year.

It was during her junior year when Sister Mary arrived. Lisa joined her after school poetry club and knew her only as the young girl who sat in the back of the room and did not seem to have many friends at the school. Lisa was hard to approach at first. She was always the last on in the room when the club started and the first one out when the meetings were over. The club consisted of a topic for the day and the students writing about the topic and sharing their poems with the class. Even though Sister Mary saw Lisa writing, she never shared her poems. Finally, Sister Mary, more curious about Lisa’s writing than what the other students had written, required the girls to turn in their poems. The topic was friendship and the poem caught Sister Mary off guard.

Considering the topic was friendship, Lisa’s poem was dark and sad. In it she spoke of how she had once had so many friends and shared so many happy moments with them. Now her life was in chaos, her friendships were gone, and she felt as though she were spiraling down into darkness.

Sister Mary spent the night re-reading Lisa’s poem trying to think of a way to connect with the young  girl. At first she wanted to talk to her about the poem and the chaos in her life, but she was afraid that pressing her would cause her to retreat and stop attending the club. So, instead, she decided that she would make it a point to talk to her. And that is what she did. Every day, during the meetings, Sister Mary found a way of talking to her. It might be by mentioning how nice she looked or how well her penmanship was. After a while, it seemed that the wall Lisa had built around herself seemed to come down little by little. She began sharing some of her poems and before long she would stay after the meeting helping Sister Mary clean up.

Two weeks before the school year ended, Sister Mary was walking to the teacher’s lounge between classes and heard an announcement over the schools public address system for Lisa to report to Father O’Neil’s office. Lisa had told Sister Mary about the smoking incident the year before and that she had weekly meetings with Father O’Neil to write out her sins as punishment; and she assumed this was one of those meetings.

About a half hour had passed and Sister Mary was making her way back to her classroom when she saw Lisa walking towards her with tears streaming out of her face. Concerned, Sister Mary quickly ran over and wrapped her arms around her asking if everything was ok? Over Lisa’s shoulder saw Father O’Neil standing in the hall with his riding crop slapping his thigh. Before Lisa could say word, the class bell rang and Father O’Neil sternly informed both Lisa and Sister Mary to get to their classes.

Through her last class of the day, Sister Mary could not help but think of Lisa. Part of her wanted to leave her class to make sure she was ok, but strict rules prohibited teachers from leaving students unattended. She would wait until poetry club to speak to Lisa, but Lisa did not come to the meeting. Concerned, Sister Mary walked the halls trying to find Lisa and was informed by her last hour physics teacher that she had left her class not feeling well and went home.

After the poetry club ended, Sister Mary drove home. She shared a two bedroom apartment with a fellow nun, Sister Alice. Both were part of a pilot program where nuns were asked to live in the neighborhood where they taught. The idea behind it was that by living in the neighborhood they would have a better idea of where many of the students came from. By doing so, it would help them to build relationships with the girls and a level of trust. Seeing a nun walking through the halls in their habits could be intimidating for many of the girls, but seeing them in the same neighborhood would make them more approachable both in and outside of school.

As Sister Mary was getting out of her car, she saw Lisa walking towards her. Before she could say a word, Lisa again broke down in tears. Holding her tightly, Sister Mary listened as Lisa told her about the chaos on in life and why she, and other girls feared Father O’Neil. In shock, Sister Mary could feel her muscles tightening and anger taking over her emotions.

 

As Janet Carsis was no longer Sister Mary. Her faith had been tested and she walked away from her calling. She was still living in Georgetown, sharing an apartment with Sister Alice, but was planning to move back to Arizona before the end of July. Over the past three weeks her life had taken so many different turns and all she wanted to do was go back home and find solitude with her family, especially her little sister, who was getting married in September.

It was the announcement of her sister’s engagement that Janet Carsis found herself driving through the streets of Georgetown on this night. She was on her way to a jewelry store ten miles from her apartment. Two days ago she had purchased a bracelet as a gift for her sisters to celebrate her engagement, and has received a call from the jeweler letting her know the engraving was finished.

She opened the box and smiled with delight at the work the jeweler had done. It was a sterling silver bracelet and inside was engraved, “Happiness Is The Joy You Bring To Others.” She thanked the old man behind the counter, and walked out to her car. The sun was starting to set in the West, and Janet decided instead of going home to cook a meal, she would drive to the supermarket and pick up something quick to eat. As she walked through the Safeway, five miles from her apartment, she felt as though she were being watched. The hair on the back of her neck stood up as the man waiting in line at the next cash register looked like the man she had seen driving behind her, and was definatley the man who was staring at her in the produce aisle.

She paid for the pre-made salad she had decided would be her dinner and wanted to leave the store before the man was finished purchasing his groceries. He made her feel uncomfortable by the way he would quickly turn away when she looked up at him. It wasn’t the way he looked. Though he was wearing a pair of worn jeans and a faded bomber jacket, he was clean cut with short cropped brown hair and glasses that made him look studious.

It was now dark outside and Janet regretted parking so far way from the front of the store. Her and Sister Alice had both purchased devices that track the steps a person takes in a day. They were in competition with each other to see who could get the most, and in doing do, Janet tended to park further away so that she could get in her steps. Now though, with it being dark out, and having parked so far away, her car was just visible under the store’s parking lot lights.

She had her keys ready, and just as she put the key into the slot of the driver’s side door, a crashing blow to the left side of her head sent her to the ground. Her vision was blurred and could barely make out the figure standing above her. And then darkness enveloped her.

She wasn’t sure what it was, but some sort of bump woke her up. A stabbing pain echoed though her head as she opened her eyes only to find herself in darkness.  Her whole head felt damp and she could taste blood and she licked her lips. She tried to move, but both her hands and feel were tied together. Another bump and she realized that she was in the trunk of a car, and by the sound, they whoever was driving was taking her down a gravel road. She started to scream and pound the metal above her with her hands and kick the side with her feet. Suddenly the car came to a jarring stop. She slid forward and her head hit something hard. The car started to move again. She began pounding once more, and again the driver slammed on the brakes, but Janet braced herself and did not slide forward this time or the other two times the driver repeated the maneuver.

The car stopped. Janet could hear voices, both male, coming from the front of the car. Fear gripped her as she her two car doors open and footsteps in the gravel moving towards the back of the car and the trunk. Her defenses took hold of her as she began to debate what she would do when the trunk opened. Whoever it was obviously had bad intentions. Why else would they have hit her? Why else would they have tied her and put her in the trunk of a car? She tried to maneuver her body so that she was on her back and her feet facing towards the latch. She hoped to kick whoever opened the trunk, and with any luck, disorient him enough so she could jump out and either escape or scream and get someone’s attention. The only problem was that the space was too tight. Finally, she decided her only chance was to talk to these men and hope that whatever their plans were, this part was the worst of it.

She heard the key enter the lock of the trunk, and suddenly it flipped open. The bright light of a flash light dazed her for a second. Janet brought her tied hands to her face and wiped her eyes, as she brought them down she realized the dampness she felt had been her blood. She looked up and saw the bispectaled man from Safeway staring back at her. Just as she was about to speak the man stepped back, raised his hand, and fired two shots into the trunk. The first two slammed into Janet’s chest and immediately she felt the air leaving her lungs. She coughed, and blood spurt from her mouth. The man, slowly raised the gun a little higher, and with the barrel pointing at Janet’s face, pulled the trigger.

Chapter 2

 

Senator Alan Clayton still had a hard time seeing the image that stared back at him in the mirror. It was exactly twenty-one years ago when he first looked in the mirror outside the Oval office. Then he was one of the youngest to have been elected to the United States Senate. In fact he was the sixth youngest, entering office just two months after turning thirty. It was an inside joke between him and Senator Joe Biden, who had entered office six weeks after turning thirty.

It had been his only liability when he ran for the Michigan open seat. He graduated from the Naval Academy 10th in his class and quickly made a name for himself as a hard charging Marine Corps officer. During Operation Desert Shield, Clayton, achieving the rank of 1st Lieutenant,  was attached to Alpha company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, which was one of the first companies that crossed the Saudi/Kuwait Border. He considered making the military a career, but civilian life was calling him back home.

He had grown up in a devotedly Republican household, but after the Gulf War, he became dissolutioned with the party. The break came with the recession of 1992. He saw the hardships of those living in his state and believed the government could to better to help those in need. So it was that when Bill Clinton ran, Clayton worked in Clinton’s Detroit campaign office. His work caught the attention of then mayor, Coleman Young, and was hired on as a staffer. When Young announced to the staff that he would not seek reelection because of health issues, Clayton offered his services to the election campaign of Dennis Archer. Upon election, Archer made Clayton the head of his communications team.

In 1996, just before his 30th birthday, Clayton decided to take a chance and put his name in for Michigan’s open Senate seat. It was his service in the military and his father’s long years of working in Michigan’s steel mills that helped him gain enough support for the state Democratic party that led him to win the primary in a near landslide. His youth was the only thing his Republican, Norm Howard, could attack him on. Unlike Howard, who avoided the Vietnam era draft with a college deferment, Clayton served with distinction in what had been, up to that date, as America’s military resurgence on the globe. In the end he won the seat with 54% of the vote.

It had been a long twenty-one years, but Clayton had become one of the most respected members of the Senate. He was known by many in Washington D.C. who did not let his party affiliation stand in this way of doing what was right for the country, often times siding with Republicans on legislation he believed would benefit the people of the nation. It was why, even though the Republican’s currently controlled the Senate, the Senate Majority Leader looked past Clayton’s party affiliation and made him the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Outside of the Capital he and his wife, Mary Claire, were actively involved in various charities, especially those involving children. Mary Claire learned early in their marriage that she could not bare children, so the couple devoted their lives to helping the children they could never have. And even though polls showed national disitisfication with Congress, Senator Alan Clayton’s number rarely if ever in his twenty-one years in the Senate dipped below 60%. It was because of this, that Clayton wielded a certain power that few members of Congress attain. He was a Senator the media clamored to interview, and a Senator few in Washington D.C. refused to listen to when he spoke, including the three presidents who resided in the Oval office over his years in the Senate.

Now, the man staring back at him looked older. His blonde hair, which first made Mary Claire notice him at a Democratic fundraiser nineteen years ago, was white. And though the sparkle many commented on was still there in his ice blue eyes, the wrinkles at times hid it. He seemed to have aged beyond most men his age; which he blamed on the stress of the office he held and the many challenges the nation had faced over the past two decades. And though he was one of the first ones in the Capital gym in the morning, the bones creaked and the joints didn’t move as they once did.

“Senator Clayton,” a female voice said. He turned and smiled at Harriet Monk, President Downs’ White House Chief of Staff. “The president will see you now.”

Alan Clayton fixed his tie, buttoned the top button of his grey suit, and thanked the secretary as he stepped into the Oval Office.

President Charles Downs was no different than his predessors when it came to putting his personal touch on the Oval office. Being from Arizona, he had a desert and Native American motif surrounding him. Clayton personally hated it. Not because he found everything about it cliché, but he liked the reserved modern atmosphere of the previous president, and this reminded him of the the previous Republican’s Texas style and look.

Charles Emory Down’s was an unlikely president. He joined the US Senate two years prior to Clayton during a special election, when the Senator he replaced was tapped by the president elect to be his Sec. of Treasury. At first Clayton could not stand Downs when he first met him. It wasn’t because Downs was a right wing Christian conservative. He could accept that. What he considered laughable about Downs was that he looked like a caricature of what Clayton expected from a Texan. His ill fitting suits, the bolo tie, the large white Stetson that adorned his head even during sit down press interviews, and of course the charcoal and white cowboy boots.

However, he found commonality with Downs. The father of four, like Clayton, Downs was considered about the well being of children; though he approached it from a Christian stance. During their first meeting and casual conversation Clayton mentioned that he was going to be attending a charity ball to raise money for a half way house for abused women. Downs asked to join, wrote a personal check for $5,000 at the end of the night, and the two found a common cause.

Though they drastically differed on many issues over the years, the two worked together to help push legislation where common ground could be found. Before long the other members of the Senate knew if they wanted to get Downs on board with a piece of legislation they could go through Clayton and visa-versa. The friendship was strained however when Downs announced his intention to run for president three years ago. It wasn’t that fact that he was running that strained the friendship, in fact, Downs had been hinting at the idea when the Democrat had been re-elected four years prior.

What caused friction were Downs’ attacks on the Democrat’s first female party nominee and a close friend of Clayton’s. At first the attacks were solely based on policy, but at the polls tightened the last two months of the general election, Downs’ campaign made it more personal. What finally did it for Clayton was when a PAC supporting Downs aired a series of commercials calling into question the character of the Democratic nominee by pointing to her daughter’s long history of drug and alcohol abuse, starting when she was in high school. In a fit of rage, her daughter had written a book where she attacked her mother, who she felt put her own personal approval ratings before her daughter. Though she would apologize and recant much of what was written years later, the PAC used the book and clips from interviews he daughter had done to promote the book against her. Clayton personally called on Downs to condemn the attacks, and though he did, Clayton felt it shouldn’t have taken a phone call from a former friend and ally to do so.

Though the tension remained, Clayton remained the Senator, by-passing the Minority Leader, whom Downs turned to when he needed support for legislation. It didn’t always come. Downs’ abrasive tone towards the Democrats in Congress had alienated him from most, and Clayton was no different. He always knew Downs was a Christian Conservative, but Downs’ closeness with the evangelical church, especially its far right wing branches, created undone stress especially among homosexuals and abortion advocates in the nation. Clayton was never one to throw his full support behind those two groups and their agendas, but he felt the president’s rhetoric was more hurtful than constructive.

Since becoming president, Downs had nixed the bolo and adopted a more traditional tie, though it he always wore of varying colors of red. The one thing that struck Clayton, as most people, when he first met Charles Downs was how much of an imposing figure he was. He stood 6’4”, was a wall of a man with broad shoulders and the chest of an NFL middle linebacker, and his salt and pepper hair gave off a tone of maturity and sophistication. His Texas drawl could be smoothing while at the same time intimidating depending on the situation.

“Alan,” President Downs said, then crossed the room and grasp Clayton’s hand while at the same time patting him on the shoulder.

“Mr. President,” Clayton said as he gently put space between himself and the president.

“Come now,” Downs said still gripping Clayton’s hand, “Charles is fine.”

“In deference to the office, I feel it’s right to keep this formal.”

“I can appreciate that,” Downs said finally letting go of Clayton’s hand. “Have a seat,” he said gesturing to the couch in the middle of the room. “Drink?”

“Yes, sir,” Clayton said as he eased into the couch. He paid no attention while Downs worked behind him at a roll away bar that Downs would have on hand during personal meetings.

President Downs walked over with two glasses, handed one to Clayton, and sat down in a cushioned seat across from him. “I hope you’re still a bourbon man.”

“I am,” Clayton said as rotated the glass in his hand.

“Well, you’ll appreciate this,” Downs said and leaned back in his seat. “I was down in Kentucky for the Derby last year and some rich sumabitch gave me a bottle of this. Swore it was the best damn bottle of bourbon ever distilled.”

Clayton took a sip. He couldn’t argue with whoever the man was, it was one of the smoothest drink of bourbon he had ever taken. “It’s very good.”

“Well, if it has the approval of Senator Alan Clayton, then it must be,” Downs said and took a sip of his own drink. “How is Mary Claire? I heard she was on her way to Zimbabwe?”

“Malawi,” Clayton correct the president. “She’s going a part of a human rights group to bring attention to sexual violence there.”

Downs smiled, “I swear, if Mary Claire would convert, the Catholic Church would have to Saint her.”

Clayton could not help but laugh at the thought of his wife converting to Catholicism or any church for that matter. “Well, thank you.” Clayton adjusted himself and crossed his legs. “With all do respect Mr. President, I’m sure you did ask me here to discuss bourbon and my wife.”

Clayton could tell by the expression on the President’s face that he was somewhat taken aback by the abruptness in his tone. “Well, ok then,” the president said and bent forward to place his glass on the coffee table that separated the two. He leaned back and loosened his tie. “You have General Hank Dillion before the Armed Services Committee this afternoon?”

“I do,” Clayton said after finishing his bourbon. He wasn’t surprised that this was the reason the President had requested this meeting. Since the Secretary of Defense, Paul LaMont, had announced his intention to request additional troops, the President had been hinting at his personal approval of the idea though he boxed himself into a corner by announcing publicly he would waited to hear the Armed Services Committee’s recommendation.

“Well, word around the water cooler is that you plan on going on the attack,” Down said and leaned forward. “That you are going to piss all over the idea?”

Clayton could feel in the tension in the room building. He looked down at his empty glass and wished it were full. He could use a little liquid encouragement at this moment. “I think that is an overstatement of the facts.”

“Then you approve of the increase?” Downs asked with a grin.

“No, I don’t,” Clayton blurted out.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the room as the President stared at Clayton. He stood up and began to pace. “Well, damn it Clayton, that is where I am confused.” The President walked to the Resolute desk and leaned against it. “I recall you being in the room with the Sectary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, and Congressional leadership and I could have swore you expressed support for the increase.”

And here it was, the moment that he was expecting. He knew, from the moment his secretary had told him that the President had requested a meeting with him that he would sooner or later attempt to box him in a corner. For the past twenty-four hours he had been asking himself how he would react and if today was the day to put all of his cards on the table. He twirled the ice cube in his glass and then set it down on the table. “With all do…”

“Oh cut the ‘With all do” horseshit and spit it out,” Downs said as he gripped the edge of the desk.

“Fine,” Clayton said and took a deep breath. “I’m not going to give you this one.”

“What in the hell is that supposed to mean?” Downs said then pushed off his desk. “You aren’t giving me a damn thing. You are giving General Dillion what he needs to execute the mission.”

“I don’t see it that way,” Clayton said hoping that he had set the right trap.

“How in the hell do you see it?” The President had walked into the snare.

Alan Clayton stood up and was determined to stand his ground. “I’m not giving you this hammer to use for your re-election bid. You have done jack shit about Afghanistan for the past three years. You haven’t mentioned this war except when you’re addressing the academies or our troops. For the past three years the Pentagon has been hinting at a troop increase and every goddamn time it’s about to drop, suddenly the Secretary of Defense balks. I know damn well, as chairman of the Armed Services Committee he’s done so because you’ve pressured him to demure. So let’s not pretend that this is suddenly a national emergency when we both know this is a quiver in your re-election campaign.”

It came as a surprise to Clayton when the President didn’t lash back. Instead a large smile appeared on his face. He crossed his arms, lowered his head, and started laughing. “I get it now,” Downs said and looked up. “This has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with you.” Downs slowly walked around the Resolute desk and sat down in his seat. “I’ve been wondering who would be the first Democrat to announce their intention to challenge me next year. Here he stands before me, a Judas.”

“Excuse me?” Clayton said. He could feel the blood pressure rising and took a deep breath to calm himself.

“You and I both know the Republican’s are going to lose the Senate this election,” Downs said learning forward in his seat. “I also know damn well that the minority leader is retiring which puts you and Senator Hassleman in the running for the Leadership position. That’s not what you want though…no, it’s this seat that you want” Downs said and slapped the arm rests of his chair. “Well, let me ask you something Alan,” the President said with a smirk, “If this troop increase is my hammer, isn’t your move against it the nail?”

Clayton smiled, “Mr. President, I will put my years of service to this nation and my support for our military up against yours any day of the week,” Clayton said moving closer to the door.

“You think for one second that you walking into the committee today and attacking a distinguished general requesting more troops to support our men and women in midst of combat is going to win you the support of our military? In what world do you and the Democrats live in?”

“The one that knows that the original request was for 10,000 troops and you paired it down to 3,000 because you were afraid of the numbers and what it would do to your polls,” Clayton said and smiled. “And when I bring this up today and force General Dillion to testify to that, my next line of questioning will be about how 10,000 more troops would be more effective to the outcome compared to the 3,000 the President forced him, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs to accept. He will either balk or talk, but either way, considering all the networks will be covering the hearing today, the message will be loud and clear as to who supports our efforts and our young men and women fighting a war you’ve done a hella of trying to ignore.”

Clayton could see that the color in the President’s face was gone. He had fired a salvo at Downs and he had hit everyone of his targets. For the past three years one of the biggest criticisms of President Downs’ was his weakness on foreign policy and today Senator Alan Clayton was going to expose that to the nation. Whatever hopes that Downs had and a close but ultimately successful reelection bid were fading right before him.

“You play this card, Alan, you had better be prepared for an all out fight,” Downs said. He turned in his seat and looked out the window. “If you somehow win the Democratic nomination, I promise every piece of dirt I have on you will be thrown until I find something that sticks. And once I do, I will shove so far up your ass until the smell of your breath will make you gag.”

“You should have known this day was coming,” Clayton said as he stepped to the door. “I warned you that allowing that PAC to use Lynn Keller’s daughter against her would be your downfall.”

“Get out,” Downs said without looking at his old friend.

 

Senator Alan Clayton sat in the back of his Lincoln Town Car as the driver maneuvered his way out of the White House grounds and onto Pennsylvania Avenue. He poured reached into his coat pocket, pulled out the flask he had received from his troops upon their return to the states after the Gulf War, and took a long drink. From the moment he learned of the Pentagon’s intentions to ask for a troop increase he had been planning this moment. For days and weeks he had been mentally playing out how it would go and surprisingly it had gone exactly had he had expected. He was sure, when the request for 3,000 troops came filtering out that the number made no sense. Considering the objectives laid out by General Dillion when he was named overall command of allied forces in Afghanistan, the numbers didn’t meet the objectives. Using his sources, Clayton learned he was correct. In fact the number had originally been a massive troop surge of 20,000, but it was Dillion himself who quashed those numbers out of concern that pushing that number might mean he wouldn’t get any. The 10,000 number was workable, especially after Great Britain and Germany had promised to increase their presence by 2,000 respectfully. With the fall coming the allies could make a huge push in key areas, hold the enemy to respectably small areas though the winter, and then make a final push in the Spring. The 3,000 would never accomplish those goals, at least in the way Dillion had presented them.

Clayton picked up the car phone and quickly dialed number. The female of his secretary, Alice Verdon, quickly picked up the other end. “How goes everything?”

“I confirmed with Senator Hassleman’s secretary that General Dillion accepted his breakfast invitation.”

“Ok,” Clayton said and looked at his watch. “Make sure my questions are ready.”

“Printed and bound as you asked,” Alice said cheerfully.

“You’re a sweetheart,” Clayton said then ended the call. He quickly dialed another set of number. A man voice answered. “Are they still together?”

Kevin De La Rosa, sitting at the bar of restaurant looked across the room and saw Senator Hassleman and General Dillion talking over drinks. “Yes, Senator Clayton.”

“No phones?”

Kevin looked down at the two phones in front of him, “The general wasn’t too happy about the idea, but he agreed that a break from them would be a, and I quote, ‘a welcomed break,’” De La Rosa said while making air quotes with his fingers.

“Great,” Clayton said then looked at his watch. “It’s three more hours until the hearings begin. Try to get them to delay as long as possible. I know Downs will get speak to him before the hearings, but the less time he has to prepare the better it will be.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Senator Clayton leaned back in his seat and took about long drink from his flask. Everything seemed to be coming together perfectly.

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download (1)I have, and I am sure many others have as well, heard that sports is a microcosm of life. That whatever you see in politics, social undertakings, etc., will eventually be seen in the sports that we love. You can pretend to hide from the realities of politics of social issues by watching sports, but sooner or later the thing you are hiding from will find it’s way into the very escape you are seeking.

I love sports, but I am also a political and history wonk. I can honestly say, that since summer vacation has started, because I am no longer making the drive to work every morning, I have replaced it by watching Mike and Mike and other sports related talk shows (I have to say one of my favorites is “Undisputed” with Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless because Sharpe is one of the funniest people in sports media) all morning long. Yet, at night I am watching the news to keep up on current events.

I have friend, don’t want to name him just in case he takes offense to it, that spends all of his time following sports, especially basketball. He can name every player who has played for his favorite team’s since his inception, follows them from combines, draft day, to the end of the regular season, and into play-offs (if his teams are lucky enough to make it). I sometimes make fun of him because whenever a conversation about current events arises he is lost. He blank stares it, except when he can relate it to sports. And the funny thing is, he’s not that far off, in fact, his compare and contrast 7/10 fits with the conversation because, as I mentioned before, sports can and is a microcosm of what is taking place socially and politically.

Though I understand the microcosm aspect, I don’t like the extent that politics and social issues is dominating sports. For me, and for so many others, sports is my escape. When I sit and watch a baseball, basketball, or football game I want to get lost in the game and not be reminded what is taking place outside that stadium. For 3 hours I just want to root for my team, enjoy every aspect of the game, and cheer if my team wins or boo if it looses. However, it has been increasingly more difficult to escape. I turn on a baseball game and some social or political issue suddenly comes up in the conversation of the play by play guys, I turn on Sports Center and the political and social commentary makes its way into the conversation, or players choose to make political statements. A couple of years ago, during a Sunday Night Football game, Bob Costas decided to devote his 10 minutes of commentary to the gun debate. All last year I had to watch as more and more players took a knee during the national anthem. And, during the NBA Finals, I had to listen to a conversation about the possibility of the Warriors not going to the White House.

I am a self admitted conservative (not Republican) and of course, based on the conversations of late, the discussions during my escape do piss me off. They don’t speak to me, and to be honest with you, because I am a political and history wonk, I sit there more pissed because of where I know they are either getting it wrong or not telling the whole story. Though I have not had the experience yet, because most of those who talk about these issues come at it from the political left of this country, I will freely admit that if it were a more conservative commentator, I would be equally pissed. Seriously, if I am watching a San Francisco Giants game and the play by play guys start talking about the virtues of Trump’s tax plan for some odd reason, I’d be pissed. Proof of this is Curt Schilling. Though his comments came in the form of a Tweet, which is his own business, it still annoyed the shit out of me.

I am in no way suggesting that players need to keep their traps shut and just play sports. No, far from it. Through-out history our sports figures have been in the forefront of political and social issues. From supporting candidates, sports hero’s volunteering their names/faces/voices to the war effort, or addressing social issues, players have stood up and made a difference. Of course there was Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, but other players like Willie Mays (whose biography I read last year) also challenged baseball racial norms. Or there is Muhammad Ali and his refusal to participate in the draft during the Vietnam war.

Which brings me to Colin Kaepernick. No other player, in my life time, has been more controversial than Kaepernick. Agree or disagree with him, his stance last year became a line of division for much of this country. Without rehashing last year, Kaepernick, who was released from the 49ers going into the off-season, is in limbo. No team has showed interest in him, and the one team that did, the Seahawks, walked very far away from him. Today, while watching Undisputed, one of the topics they spoke about was how Kaepernick is being “black balled” because of his protests last year. This was not the first time I have heard this, but it set me off and led to me writing this. Why? Because the conversation was about Kaepernick the PROTESTER, not Kaepernick the FOOTBALL PLAYER. This is FOX SPORTS 1 and not FOX NEWS, but the conversation seemed like the latter and not the former and it pissed me off because in all their conversation about his protest and the legitimacy of it, never once did they talk about the sport he played.

I am a 49ers fan and listening to Sharpe and Bayless talk, it was if they were talking about a totally different player.  Maybe, just maybe Kaepernick is being “black balled” because of last year, however the reality that Sharpe and Bayless failed to mention was….KAEPERNICK SUCKS!!!

He had one good year, carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl, and yeah, I even own a Kaepernick jersey. There is also a reality that so many people forget about that season. Alex Smith was kicking ASS that season. Until he got injured he was on his way to having one of the best seasons in his career. Kaepernick came in, had speed and agility, not to mention a rocket for an arm, and yes, giving credit where it is due, led the 49ers to the Super Bowl (and lost). However, as any 49ers fan will tell you…that team was stacked. The O-line was massive, the defense was a wall, and the receiving core hands were glue. Yes, Kaepernick had a great season that year, but any quarterback with skill could have carried that team.

Look what happened the next year. Injuries plagued the team, they lost key members, there was infighting between the coach and management, and Kaepernick looked like shit. The 49ers didn’t even make the play-offs the following year, the head coach was let go, the key players on that team left, and then we had a chance to see what Kaepernick was really made of. Unfortunately for 49ers fans, it wasn’t much to look at. He got flustered to easily, broke out of the pocket too quickly, threw interception after interception, and when he wasn’t throwing it to the other team, he was throwing it in the dirt. Even on simple out routes he was throwing it YARDS not inches or feet in front of receivers. The following year he was injured and didn’t play, however last year he was brought in for the last handful of games and picked up where he left off…sucking ass.

But not once was that mentioned in the the conversation. Instead it was about Kaepernick the protester of last year. And that is where politics and social issues fail when they are talked about in the setting of sports.

It was the same thing about news about questions if the Warriors going to the White House (as per tradition). Honestly, that is a news story, not a sports story. If you want to mention it, fine. However, today they spent 20 minutes not talking about the team or their actual reasons, but the host’s personal feelings about the president. If some or all of the Warrior’s don’t want to go to the White House that’s fine, that’s their choice. I personally think it is stupid. It a chance that few teams get, and no matter who resides in the office, it should not be missed. Going there does not in anyway signify one’s support for the president. You shake hands, smile, take a tour, have lunch, and move on. However if players choose not to go, so be it.

Last year the rating for the NFL dropped. The excuse was that it was about the length of games, but most people understood the real reason…it was a reaction by many of Kaepernick’s and other players protest. The fact is, though the NFL is by far the most popular sport in the nation, the majority of fans do make up the working class and veterans. Some were ok with it and moved on, but some took offense to it. The NFL ignored those who took offense and make excuses.

Over the past year ESPN has downsized. Their excuse for doing so was because of “internet” and competition for FOX SPORTS 1, NBC SPORTS CHANNEL, and the NBA/NFL/MLB Networks. However, internal and external polls showed that viewers were tired of being lectured to about politics and social issues and were finding their escape from other places. ESPN, after laying off 100 staff members two months ago, came out and admitted that it needed to get away from politics and social issues in their reporting and needed to stick to sports.

As mentioned before, sports is a microcosm of this nation and there is no way to separate what is happening on the field from what is happening outside the stadiums. However, the reality is that most people turn to sports as an escape and the more the lines of sports and politics get blurred by commentators and players, fans will turn away. I watched San Francisco Giants game to escape and not the be lectured to and once the joy of escape is gone…so to will I.

2017-06-14t15-41-26-666z-1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600-998x645Two days ago I wrote a post about the book “Shattered” and what I took from it was a narrative and rhetoric, that continues post election, of hatred. Today, as we also saw with the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, we have seen what inflammatory rhetoric can lead.

Since the election of Donald Trump, it has been apparent that hatred towards him and the Republican party has been blindly accepted. We have news reporters rolling their eyes, mocking spokesmen, and tweeting personal attacks. We have comedians using the most fowl language, sexual innuendo, and yes, disturbing imagery to mock and voice their hatred for this president. We have celebrities talking about “blowing up the White House,” wanting to “punch” the president, and attacking his family. We have members of the US congress and other politicians using the most insane rhetoric when describing their displeasure of policies (Gov. Brown and Rep. Pelosi saying that if Trumpcare passes “CHILDREN WILL DIE. PEOPLE WILL DIE.”) And, let us not forget the violence that has been perpetrated by protests since the election of Trump.

It is hard to write about this because it makes it sound as if I am blaming innocent people for what this man did. That is not my intention. I understand politics and understand that members of Congress and politicians will say some ridiculous things in order to garner support for their positions. It has been this way from the start of this nation, and I am in no way suggesting that it should or will end after the events of today. I also know that comedians make a living mocking those in power. However, I am saying, that since the election of Trump is has been ratcheted up to a level I have never witnessed before.

Never in my lifetime have I ever seen a news reporter out right mock someone they are interviewing. Never have I seen reporters, not commentators, but reporters, actually stop mid report to give their personal opinions about a president’s policy. Never in my life have I heard a reporter, while interviewing the president spokesperson stop mid sentence and say, “Oh please, you would defend this guy if he got up on this desk and took a poop.” Never in my life, especially with the horrific images we have seen since 9/11, have I seen a comedian even think it was ok to hold up a mock severed head of a sitting president. Never in my life, have I seen a late night talk show host go on his own personal rant about a sitting president and say that he was the “Cock Holster” for another man.

 

In 2011, Gabrielle Giffords was at a meet and greet in Tucson, Arizona. A sick POS walked up to her, pulled out a gun and shot her in the head. It is a miracle that she survived, but she did, and just last week a US Navy ship baring her name was launched into service.

After that attack the left and Democrats went ape shit and condemned the rhetoric from the right. I agreed. I agreed because at the time nothing was getting accomplished in this country and I wanted, with my whole being, for Congress to stop with the infighting and get to work for this country. However, what the left and Democrats portrayed as “hateful rhetoric” was questionable at best. They replayed Mitch McConnell saying, “We will block everything this president wants” over and over again. By far, the worst image they could come up with to support the narrative that the Republicans are fermenting hatred was a picture on Sarah Palin’s website of a target over different states (including Arizona) that the Republicans had to focus on for the upcoming elections.

The point is, what was displayed as “hateful rhetoric” by the right does not in any way compare to what we have seen since the election of Donald Trump. It is pure hatred that we are seeing. It is not only rhetoric this time around, it is images and it is actual violence on the streets. I have seen many talking heads and media actually blame it on Trump because of the way he talks and the language he uses. I will agree, he is one of the most divisive presidents that we have had in my life time, but that DOES NOT EXCUSE the hatred and violence we have been witnessing.

Again, I am not blaming innocent people for what this man does, but when the rhetoric gets to the level it is at today, it does trigger sick f*cks like this. This man made no quams about who he is or what he was planning today. He was a Bernie Sanders supporter who worked for him. He was a long time Democrat. His posts made it very clear how much he hated Trump and the Republicans. And according to reports, he asked before firing if it was Republicans on that field. This man was sick, but he was also pushed over the edge with the rhetoric of hate that seems to have been accepted by too many.

I can honestly say that since this election it has damaged relationships in my life. Good friends, people whom I respect, who I have been there for and have been there for me suddenly are no longer friends on my Facebook list because of what? They disagree with my stance on issues, pointed out where incorrect or their position on issues, or simply asked a question? 10-15 year friendships ending because of that? Back in the day it would lead to a discussion, the ability to understand opposing sides, and still  be friends. Not anymore.

It needs to come to an end and it needs to end on both sides. We as a nation need to come to an agreement that hatred and violence, even if it against the party you disagree with, is not right. Leaders and citizens need to stand up when they see it and condemn it.

Harsh Reality

downloadOver the past couple of weeks I have been reading “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen. It is an extremely fascinating book. For those of you who actually believe in the “Russian” conspiracy this book figuratively and literally blows the lid off of that. First of all, when you read this book, there is no one in this world who could argue that Clinton’s loss was generated from a variety of things, but broken down it came down to one…HER. Secondly, it is interesting that all the media who have slobbered over this “Russian” story fail to mention the origins of this theory? It actually came from within the Clinton Campaign. In fact, the media is consistently referring to an analysis of Russian involvement, not done by the US government or any US agency (that came later), but from within the Clinton campaign and created by a Ukrainian company (you know the country Russia invaded two years ago).

The most interesting aspect, and I think one that is seriously lost on the media today is the Clinton campaign strategy and what it says about today. The strategy for Clinton, to win the nomination, was to rack up delegates. Because of 2008, Clinton’s team came into 2016 with one mission, gain as many delegates as possible so that any challenge to her would be a moot point. And how did they go about doing this? They focused on two groups: Hispanics and African-Americans. By doing so, even in states where they lost, they could generate delegates because they came from areas of states with large numbers of those two groups. So, for instance, even though Clinton lost Michigan, she actually acquired a nice chunk of delegates from that state because of cities like Detroit.

So, the Clinton campaign generated their message around Hispanic and African-American needs. For Hispanics it was all about immigration, protecting DACA, and once elected, Clinton would streamline immigration with a veiled message of amnesty. For African-Americans it was about the criminal justice system, prison sentences, BLM, and how the system was against blacks in America (i.e. Flint, Michigan and the water scandal).

There was a major problem with this though, because her message was so focused on those two groups, she left out uneducated/working class whites, white working class men, and college age students. So while her strategy was successful and she was able to rack up delegates to win, she allowed Bernie Sanders to remain in the race. Bernie spoke to the groups Clinton was virtually ignoring, and by doing so, continued to gain attention and supporters. The problem for Clinton was that it also allowed for Bernie to keep attacking her, especially on her ties to big business, trade, and a one sided economic plan.

As we know, Clinton did win the nomination, and through the Wikileaks exposure of the DNC, that was never really in question. The system was rigged in her favor, the DNC did everything to help her, and of course, the leaks also revealed how the media was working with the Clinton Campaign. Yet, very quickly they realized they had a problem going into the general election. With the help of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s message for white working class was hollow, and made even more hollow with her gaffes, especially the coal mining one.

Why was this a problem? Because going into the general, Clinton had to rely on African-Americans, Hispanics, and women to carry her over the finish line. However there was a problem with that strategy, it was based on the Obama model. Obama, being African-American, had a leg up on Clinton. Yes, she would get the majority of the black vote no matter what, but the problem was, would they come out in the same numbers as they did for Obama? The same problem existed with Hispanics, yes she would have the majority, but would the numbers be there? And yes, she would get the majority of the female vote, but would she get the women who did not vote for her in the primaries, white educated and working class?

So, how do you get those people to come out and vote for you? Well, you can appeal to them, but appealing to them would merely get you the majority, not the numbers. You needed them to get to the polls, you needed them in the booths, you needed them to vote. And the best way to do that…FEAR. If you can paint the opposing side as racist and misogynist, then out of fear, you will get them out there.

Now, of course, it was made easier for the Clinton campaign with the Republican nomination of Trump. He had come out hard on immigration from day one and on top of that, he had said some pretty disrespectful things about women during the Republican primaries. He was tailor made for the Clinton strategy. There was one problem, there was not a single piece of Trump history that made him racist. In fact, based on the awards and recognition from various African-American groups in his past, his record was pretty damn clean. So how do you get around this? Trump calls for a “Muslim” ban, and through that, the narrative of racist was set (even though religion is not a race).

The big question is why? Why create a campaign of fear when you should campaign on promises? As mentioned, Clinton had a problem going into the general election…she had alienated the white working class during the primaries, had no real message for them, and because of her own gaffes, they didn’t trust that she cared about them. She went into the general needing minorities to come out in large number because Trump appealed to the population she could not reach.

And so that is how the narrative of the 2016 presidential race played out, and the media was more than happy to play along. Trump was painted as a racist misogynist, even though his record actually proved otherwise. Trump hired Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, and women, with many of them actually holding executive positions in his organization. His “Muslim Ban” and “Mexico sends…” comments were replayed over and over again by the media and talking heads, however what they failed to do was actually play the whole statements. The “Muslim Ban” was actually an attack on the current US vetting system. The “Mexico sends…” was actually an attack on the criminal element streaming across the border and not the working families (as Trump reference 4 times in that same speech).

This is not a defense of Trump. He hurt himself because of his big mouth. I could not stand him during the primaries because, as I mentioned many, many times, he played to the lowest base and was full of talking points with not single strategy of making any of his promises a reality. I didn’t vote for him or Hillary. I never trusted Trump to actually follow through on his promises, and Hillary for me was a POS and I felt from day one that the Democrats should have pushed Biden to run (not saying I would have voted for him, but he had less baggage and higher approvals than Clinton did).

However, this is not a defense of Trump or an attack on Hillary. It is pointing out what needs to be said. Because of the strategy of the Clinton campaign, the media and her surrogates played a very fowl game. They painted everyone who supported Trump as redneck, Hillbilly, racists pukes. In supporting this, they consistently used any image or story to support this narrative. Anytime they saw a man/woman wearing a hat or shirt with the Confederate flag they were always featured in any story involving a Trump rally. The media consistently referred to David Duke, the former Klan member, and his support for Trump as if this was proof of the racism associated with any supporter of Trump. This became the narrative, the image, and idea of Trump.

Now, this can be expected in a campaign. Every election pits the Republican as the racist who wants to do everything they can to do away with women’s rights. However, 2016, took it to a new level because it was purposely done to help a candidate. All the media and Clinton campaign needed was to create fear and get minorities in droves to the polls. And in order to do that, they painted not only the candidate (which he helped them with with his own statements and the NBC “grab them” video), but also everyone who supported him with the same misogynistic/racist brush.

In past elections, even when the Republican candidate won, the rhetoric would die out. The reason why was because, even though the narrative was used, it was used as a building block of resistance to the candidate, not the whole foundation as it was in 2016. Yes commercials, talking heads, media, and candidates themselves used the “fear” factor, but they used it as only one tool, while focusing the rest of their attention on their campaign’s ideas and hopes once elected.

That was not the case in 2016. Rarely did we actually hear how Clinton would make the country better.  The entire narrative was attack Trump on how he would hurt minorities because of his innate racism and how he would “turn back the clock to the 1950’s” for women. Even in debates, with every answer she gave, she would pivot back to the racist/misogynist narrative. In other words, that was the whole and sole basis of her campaign. And because out of innate hatred from Trump (and trust his own mouth helped generate that) or the long standing reality that the mainstream media is liberal, the media continued to pounce on this narrative.

So, unlike previous campaigns, where the narrative would subside, except in some circles, post 2016 it hasn’t. That is why anyone who supports Trump to this day is painted with the “hates” mantra. Any time there is a rally in support of Trump or his agenda, the media continue to refer to the members of those rallies the “Hard” or “Alt” right of this country. It is why, not matter what idea or policy Trump proposes it is painted with the “racism” or “misogynistic” brush. Examples:

Health care: When know that Obamacare is crumbling and it is actually hurting millions of people. Since 2010, Republicans have taken control and held the House and took control of the Senate. Why? Because, they ran on the problems of Obamacare, and people, who are feeling it and seeing it, voted for them. However, since the election of Trump, suddenly the reports on Obamacare by the media are glowing (even though insurance companies are bailing out of the exchanges, even though premiums are sky rocketing, even though some parts of the country are literally without and insurance company in the exchanges). More importantly though, they point to one singular aspect of Obamacare, not the downsides that are hurting, yep, working class whites, but the medicare side, which is made up by a majority of minorities.

Tax Reform: Anyone who pays any attention and actually has to do their taxes knows that the system in place sucks. It has been a mantra of both Republicans and Democrats from the past 3 decades. However, Trump proposed a plan last month, and the whole media narrative was how it would “hurt minorities,” I personally find this interesting because, even though I do not agree with all the proposed reforms, one of the growing class of small businesses in the US are actually minority owned, but when the media refers to business, they one focus on corporations or large scale white owned small businesses.

What is most shocking about this is the fact that Democrats are actually realizing the problem. Bernie Sanders spoke out on this just today. The problem is that the Democratic party, and it’s surrogates, have continued with the Clinton campaign strategy, even post election, and it isn’t doing them any favors with working class whites in this country. Last week, I heard a commentator, a Democratic Strategist, on CNN who actually said, “We need to stop painting Trump supporters as racists, because the reality is, those same people where the ones the Democratic party has been the champion of and relied on for generations. If we continue down this path, the Democratic party will move them into the Republican tent and that is where they will remain for generations to come.”

In essence, what smart Democrats are saying, is that the Clinton message was flawed and it’s why she lost and why Democrats have been losing for the past 8 years. The message was high jacked and the Democrats need to get away from it and get back to their roots as the party of the working man. And the reality is, they will never do that as long as the continue to paint them as racists.

Again, this is not a defense of Trump, it is pointing out realities that are seriously being lost on too many people, especially in the media. If the media continues with the “Russia” conspiracy theory instead of doing a real examination of their party and a change of course, they will have issues going forward. For all those who say to themselves, “Don’t support anything Trump does, even if it actually helps. Continue on the message of “Hate Trump,” I have a question for you…how did that work out in 2016? That was the narrative and message and who won the election.

In 2012, after Romney lost the election, the Republican party did a self examination. It sent out two different survey’s asking registered Republicans a variety of questions. They took that information and restructured the message of the party. They had no idea it would be Trump that would be the 2016 candidate to carry the message, but that’s the way it turned out. What was the message: How is the economy been helping you? How are your ideas and values represented in this country? How can we help you get a job, buy a home, live the American dream? As mentioned, Trump pumped a lot of meth into the message and took it in his own direction, but the fact is, the message was still there and directed as the working class of this country.

That is, as many Democrats are saying now, what the Democratic party needs to do. It needs to break with the failed strategy of Clinton and get back to a positive message and ideas that will help the working class in this country. Because the harsh reality is, the working class are not white, black, Hispanic, women, men, etc., they are American’s.

I really hope people who read this pick up “Shattered” and see it for themselves. I’ll freely admit that I hated Clinton, but this book opened my eyes to so much more about this woman. I had a lot of friends who were Hillary supporters. I had one friend (not anymore) who posted after the election, that her daughter was crying. Even though I was glad Hillary lost, I felt bad for her and all the Clinton supporters because losing sucks. However, after reading this book, I feel even worse for them. They put all their hopes and dreams into a woman who ran one of the most egotistical and flawed campaigns in American history. She became the self imposed representative of women, even though, by her own campaigns admission, they took for granted those very women.

They spent a BILLION dollars in 2016 only to lose to a fowl mouthed jerk, but that fowl mouthed jerk did one thing right, he spent his money on understanding and listening the working class in this country and structured his message and campaign for them, while Clinton simply expected votes because of the fears they had. The problem with that though, more people had fear of losing their job, losing their house, losing the ability to put food on the table, and they out numbered those who feared being deported or being put in prison. That may sound harsh, but there has to be an acceptance of reality when reading that statement. Though you can have sympathy for illegal immigrants, they made a choice. Though you can blame the system, people chose to commit crimes. However, you losing your job because your company moved to China is not your choice. You losing your health care because an insurer left an exchange is not your choice. You house being foreclosed on because you chose to feed your kids is not a choice Americans should have to make. And in the end, like him or hate him, Trump spoke to those choices, while Clinton spoke to the others

Ode to Momma

Oh how I love her-

Sunken eyes,

Bruised, Hepatitis B yellow skin,

Jumpy movements because the rock she smoked is

Finally kicking in

 

Where is she?

Where is Momma?

 

Waiting for her dealer on the corner

Making a Lincoln on the side

Sucking cock on Colfax for a line

Trading stamps for a rock

“Just a hit

one hit baby to make

momma feel good.”

 

 

When they shoot their guns outside our home

When the bullets enter the bodies of the

Young and old,

Weak and strong

Drug rich and welfare poor

 

When my little sister

Look at me with empty stomach eyes

Asking when dinner will come

When will we eat again?

 

When my brother leaves

With his 9mm in hand

When I’m never sure if he’ll

Be there when I wake-up

Or when I’m ready to learn

How to be a man

 

When the ghetto bird flies high

Exploring the streets with its one bright eye

Illuminating my room like a stage

Casting shadows upon the nothingness

That surrounds me

 

 

 

When I hold the blade to my wrist

Wanting to cut deep

To end this ghetto life

To just fucking sleep

 

Where is she?

Who fucking cares?

It’s bed time-

Bitch is never here.

Sleeping Mind

Sleeping Mind

Waves of white are a blanket to this night.

Two lives unraveling in one mind.

The coldness embraces the truth,

And the warmth blocks out the lies.

Waves of white are a blanket to this night.

A broken mystery of time to this

Mind whose story a spirit can not find.

Waves of white are a blanket to this night.

A body of fear possesses a darkness that

No damp death could ever reach.

Waves of white are a blanket to this night,

And this sickness is a shield to this mind.

Stephanie Mattson

 

Jack Holloway stood on the deck and looked out across his yard.  His body swayed back and forth; something he learned in the in the Marines.  Don’t lock your knees or you’ll pass out, Devil Dog.  The Marines taught him so many things that seemed to stay with him.  They would come out at odd times and surprise even him.  It wasn’t a way to raise kids.  Always looking at the messes they made and suddenly reflecting upon the values he learned in the Marines.  No scuffs on shoes. No wrinkles in uniforms.  Nothing out of place inside the footlocker or his barracks room that would cause the Staff NCO to hit him.

It was wrong to raise them that way, he thought to himself as he stared out at the yard.  It wasn’t all good.  Hell, I was in Vietnam.  I watched so many men around me die and leave that rotten jungle without arms and legs.   Join the Marines and watch your friends die all around you, but at least they died with clean footlockers.

Jack stepped down into the grass and began to hop up and down.  Once the grass under him was patted down, he stepped a little further and began to sweep his bare foot over the blades.  This isn’t good.  There is probably an ant down there watching the tips of this grass rip apart my skin.  Balancing on his left foot he looked at the bottom of his foot and ran his thumb across the white skin.  There were no cuts that he could see, but he knew they were there. Small, tiny cuts that stretched across his foot and were now becoming infected.

 

The cool water from the faucet felt so good on his foot.  He could feel the poisons pouring out of his skin and the healing power of the water doing its work.  Water can cure anything.  It keeps us alive.  It keeps the trees from dying.  You know they absorb it?  Yes they do.  They absorb the water all year long.  It keeps them alive during the winter.  There isn’t enough water to keep the leaves, but they come back. Why?  Water of course. Not all water is good though.  PFC Billy Corban can tell you that.  He was from California…or was it Iowa?  Everyone in the military is from California, Iowa, Ohio, or Florida, except me, I was from Colorado.  Billy used to think that Colorado was nothing but snow filled mountains and ski bunnies.  He just couldn’t believe I lived on a farm.  He had a hard time believing anything.  When Sergeant Morris told him not to drink the river water because it would kill him, good ole Billy filled his canteen with that buffalo dung and Vietcong piss filled water and drank it down.  Poor kid shit himself to death. Diego said that he saw Billy actually shit his intestines out.  I’ll tell you what, not all water is good.

Jack quickly pulled his foot out of the water.  He stood up cussing at himself for the mess he made.  Water prints were now soaking into the fluff pink bath mats his wife picked out at the local Wal-Mart.  He always hated those bath mats.  Every time he sat down to make a movement he would read the Readers Digest hoping that he could hide those mats from his thoughts.  It was even worse when Larry and his wife Marie would come over for their weekly bridge games.  During the breaks in hands, Jack and Larry would go out onto the deck to have a cigarette.

“I thought you were going to tell Diane to buy some new bath mats?” Larry would say as he sucked down on this non-filter Camels.

“She likes them,” Jack would say preparing for the same stupid jokes Larry would use.

“They remind me of the carpet in this whore house in Saigon.  Every time I go in there to take a piss I expect to have some Vietnamese whore come in and shake it off for a buck.”

Yeah you Army Staff bitches had the time for whorehouses.  Us Marines were in the jungle getting out legs blown off.  That is why I joined the Marines though.  It had nothing to do with that fight with my father like my mom used to say.  I joined to see action.  I’m sure my dad knew that.  Every time he got drunk he would tell me about his days as a Marine in the South Pacific.  All those damn Islands.  All those Jap’s that he killed in Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.  Oh yeah he knew.

            The Army is nothing but a bunch of kids that the government sends in to get killed.  Those poor bastards should just paint a damn target on themselves.  Oh Larry, he was one of those lucky ones.  He made staff for some damn General.  That’s the kind of luck guys with fathers that know Senators get.  Not that I ever complained.  My dad worked the farm.  He didn’t have time to kiss the ass of some Senator.  And it’s a damn good thing he didn’t!  I wouldn’t be the man I am if he did.

            Those Navy boys were all right; except for those damn mess cooks.  I still can’t believe any of them bastards could have any respect for themselves.  How can some dumb ass go home and be proud that he served his country when he did it as a cook?  The Navy has some hard workers though.  I give them sailors a lot of respect.  And those Seabee’s are a great bunch of guys.   I never met a bunch of guys that worked harder than them, and went on patrols with us on top of that.  Those are the types of guys that a Marine loves.  A guy that can set up a shower in the middle of nowhere in less than ten minutes and can handle a rifle almost as good as a Marine.  I say almost because that one Petty Officer shot his damn foot off on my patrol. Damn fool.  Shoots his damn foot off and exposed our position.  That was how Diego bought it.  Good ole Diego took a bullet in his head because of that idiot Petty Officer.

Then there are those How’s My Hair Force bastards.  Luck sons a bitches.  Sit around on a base while real men are out fighting a war.  They were good for one thing though.  It sure felt good to find a group of them in a bar.  Nothing in the world like getting in a bar fight with a group of Where’s My Chair Force girls.  Oh the feeling of breaking the nose of some pretty boy Air Force prick.  Nothing in the world like it, I’ll tell you.

 

Jack turned around and saw his wife smiling at him.  She stood in her baby blue bathrobe and her fluffy baby blue slippers.  After forty years she still had a way of catching his eye.  She maintained her beauty in more ways than one.  She was constantly watching what she ate, she worked out with her videos every morning just after the Today Show; she just loved that cute little Katie Courik.  There were streaks of gray in her dark brown hair, but it seemed to enhance her beauty.  Though she was in early sixties she still looked so young.  On this day in particular the gray was missing from her hair and her skin seemed so smooth.  She looked so young and beautiful.

            “Well are you just going to stand around smiling, or are you going to get me a towel?” The frustration was evident in his voice.

I think I’m just going to smile.”

“Well, enjoy.”  He reached over and pulled a towel from the rack and sat down on the toilet seat.  As he dried his feet he couldn’t help but stare at his wife as she stood in the doorway.  Her breasts seemed so pert this morning.  At first he thought she was wearing a bra, but after forty years of marriage he knew he routine like the back of his hand.  She woke up and fixed breakfast.  Weekdays were scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee.  Saturday was pancakes and sausage, with coffee and orange juice.  Sunday was church and  breakfast at Denny’s; the Grand Slam was still his favorite.  After eating breakfast she would turn on the television and watch the Today Show as she folded laundry or vacuumed.  After television was her work out session, which was quickly followed by her bath and she would start her day taking care of the shopping and cleaning.  She lived the life of a housewife.  And in all those years she never wore a bra before eleven o’clock in the morning.

A body like hers was and still is the death of me.  How could any man ignore those breasts and that wonderful butt of hers?  I know I couldn’t.  No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t ignore her.  Of all those little high school girls that came to the country club on Saturday afternoons, Diane seemed so mature for her age.  I still don’t know what she saw in me?  I was twenty-two years old, working at the bar near the pool to help pay for junior college.  I guess it had a lot to do with my body. I was fresh out of the Corps and worked out every day.

            She just would not leave me alone.  She should have known better.  Seventeen-year-old girls should not talk to older men.  It was her parent’s fault.  Her Dad should have taught her better.  Her dad!  What an asshole that guy was!  Like I didn’t know he was nailing Mrs. Baxter?  His wife was playing bridge in the main house thinking he was down playing 18 holes by himself.  No man plays 18 holes of golf by himself at a country club.  No, Mr. Flooming was only playing one hole, and that belonged to Mrs. Baxter.

            Mrs. Baxter was one hell of a woman.  She was in her late forties and widowed after Mr. Baxter was hit by a bus while crossing the street to meet his mistress.  At least that’s what Mrs. Baxter told me.  She told me the oddest stories after we had sex in her private cabin at the club.  Her favorite stories always consisted of the male and female members of the club she had had sexual relations with.  She must have slept with every board member at least once and the wealthier members at least twice. She was a real woman, confidence in herself and in her appetite for men. She had long legs that extended to one of the greatest bodies I had ever seen on an older woman.  Her two packs of cigarettes a day caused her voice to be raspy and extremely lustful.  I hated the smell of those damn cigarettes, but I loved the way they felt after we finished having sex.  Nothing better than a cigarette after having sex with a rich, beautiful, older woman.

             I had a lot of fun with Mrs. Baxter, but there was something about our love affair that didn’t seem right.  Must have had a lot to do with knowing that I was one of ten other men that she was sleeping with.  That is the odd thing about men.  You have a great piece of ass, but the smell of four or five different aftershaves on the sheets just seems to dim the light of excitement.

            It wasn’t long after saying good-bye to Mrs. Baxter when I truly began to notice Diane.  She would sit on the lounge chair right across from the bar with her friends.  She just sat there in the sun in her pink bathing suit staring at me.  Before long her staring turned into polite conversations, and not long after that we started dating.  A year later she graduated from high school and we were married that summer.  I finished junior college and went into the police force.  And Diane became a housewife.

 

            “They should have been here by now,” Jack as he hung up the towel.

I’m sure traffic on I-80 is terrible.  It is Easter Weekend Jack.”

            “I raised them better than that.” He stared into the mirror and traced the lines on his face with his fore finger. “Leave earlier than scheduled.”

Kelly has the kids.  She can’t plan everything to the exact moment.”

“There you go again…giving them excuses.  For once I’d like to hear their excuses without you helping them.”

I was just saying…”

“I know what you are just saying,” Jack said and turned to Diane. “Kelly and that damn husband of hers are the most irresponsible people in the world.  She wasn’t always like that.  She was the one that got straight A’s in school.  She was the one that went to UCLA.  I should have put my foot down when she brought that damn Hippy home.”

Nathan is a good man.  He treats Kelly and the kids great.”

“He’s a horse’s ass.  I mean what kind of man passes up a full partnership in one of the biggest law firms in Los Angeles to work with that damn Hippy cult?”

Amnesty International is not a Hippy firm Jack.  It does a lot of great things for people all around this world.”

            “That’s the problem, Diane.  He’s off running around the world helping trash when he should be home with his wife and kids.  He ruined our daughter with all those fascist ideas of his.  I’ll tell you this.  If she married that boy that she was dating in high school she would be here on time.”

You only liked Patrick because he joined the Marines.”

            Oh yeah, that was his name, Patrick.  Damn good kid that Patrick was.  He reminded me a lot of myself when he was my age.  Respectful.  That’s how you make it in this world…Respect.  If you show people respect they return respect ten fold.  Patrick McCullay.  Damn good Irish name.  I never really trusted the Irish, but Patrick was a damn good kid.  He actually came here on his lonesome to ask me if he could take Kelly to the Prom.  Now a boy like that had his head on straight.  It was a damn shame him getting killed in that Gulf War.  Fresh out of boot camp and takes a bullet right off the plane. 

“No, I liked Patrick because he was a good kid.  Kelly should have stuck to those types of men.  How she ever married that idiot Nathan I will never know.  Giving up her career in education to become a housewife to that horse’s ass.

            “I gave up my career for you.”

“Career!” Jack said and began to laugh. “You lasted one semester in junior college before you quit.”

I quit because I got pregnant with Johnny.”

“You could have finished after you gave birth.”

            “How?  Take Johnny to classes with while you slept all day?”

“I slept all day because I was working the graveyard shift.”  Jack slammed his hands on the sink counter and closed his eyes. “So after forty years of marriage it comes out.”

What comes out? What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about your resentment about marrying me,” Jack opened his eyes and stared at the reflection looking back at him. “After forty years of marriage it all comes out like the water out of this damn faucet.  You regret ever marrying me.  I held you back from the life you wanted.”

This is the life I wanted, Jack.”

 

Jack sat in his bedroom and stared at the wall.  His mind seemed to race at a pace beyond recognition.  Faces, dates, times, events all seemed to be scrambled within his mind.  He wanted to scream, but fear seemed to grip his tongue like a lion with a gazelle between its jaws. He shook his head and lay back onto the soft bed and let his eyes slowly close.  Now the events became pictures. Gruesome pictures of death and destruction.  Where they came from though become the new mystery in his life?

Jack, I think I hear the door.”

            He opened his eyes to see nothing but a baron room filled with photos, old furniture, and dolls. “Why don’t you go get it then?”

With no answer from Diane, Jack pulled himself from the bed, found his slippers, and began the long journey downstairs.

I never use to feel like this.  I could run like a cheetah.  Sergeant Mills said I was the fastest damn recruit he had ever seen in his life.  I loved to run.  There was just something about the feeling of out pacing everyone else around you.  When the word came down to retreat out of an area, I was always the first one out.  Not that I was chicken! It was that damn Lieutenant of ours.  Every time things got a little to hairy he would always pull that damn picture of his family out of his pocket, stare at it for a minute, and then call for a retreat.  Thank god that bastard wasn’t leading our troops in Germany; otherwise we’d still be sitting in England waiting to cross the channel.

“Johnny, it’s so damn good to see you son,” Jack said.  His son stood in the middle of the living room wearing his letterman jacket and a pair of jeans.  “I knew you would be the first to show-up.  You were never one to be late for anything.”

Well, pop, I learned from the best.”

Diane came into the living room and hugged Johnny and began to straighten out the loose hairs on his blond head.  Johnny smiled at his father and allowed the grooming only a mother could give.

“Alright,” Jack said as he shook his head in disgust. “Leave the boy alone.”

Diane stepped back and looked Johnny over with a loving smile.  “My, you are the most handsome boy I have ever seen.  So are you seeing anyone? I know you have to have the ladies knocking down your door.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Jack said throwing up his hands. “Will you leave the boy alone? Why don’t you go into the kitchen and get us a couple of beers.”

Diane looked at Jack with a smile. “I’ll let my two men have their testosterone moment.”  She walked away and disappeared into the kitchen.

“Have a seat,” Jack said and pointed to his chair that sat in the middle of the living room.  It was an old faded, green, cloth chair with red yarn blanket covering the seat hiding a large rip.

Nah, pop, that’s your chair.  I’ll sit on the couch.”

            Jack looked his son over as the two sat across from each other.  “So, what is the female situation?”

You know how it is, pop.  Love them and leave them.  I have a couple of girls I date off and on here and there, but nothing serious.” 

“Well, keep your options open.” Jack reached down, pulled on the chipped wood handle of his chair, and slowly reclined. “The last thing you need is to get tied down with some girl.  You’re too damn young for that.” Women just hold you back from the better things in life.  That’s what my father always said. “Live your life boy and settle down when you have drained all the energy out of yourself.”  I should have listened to him.  I had way too much energy still left in me when I married Diane.  There I was living in Southern California with all them damn beach bunnies running around in those bathing suits.  They wouldn’t give me the time of day with that damn wedding ring on me.  I guess that’s why God created Prostitutes.  Whores only care about one thing…money.  The ring was nothing more than a piece of jewelry to them.

            I never slept with any Vietnamese whores though.  I saw too many guys wake up with puss pouring out of places on the male body it just shouldn’t be coming out of.  Plus you never knew which one was a whore or some Vietcong woman going to shove a blade in your gut.  That’s how PFC Kilmer got it. We came out of the field for three days of Rest and Relaxation.  We earned it.  We lost twelve men in our platoon on that patrol.  Poor Harry Kilmer decided he wanted to waste some of the pint up energy on a whore.  That woman carved him up like a pig.  Dumb bastard. Lives through one of the worst firefights we’d seen since being in the bush and he buys it in a whorehouse.

            Diane never knew about the Prostitutes.  There were only four.  I guess after the forth one I had spent all that energy I had left inside me just like my dad said.  It’s not like I really cheated on her.  I mean Garry Olson spent five years cheating on his wife with that secretary of his.  That’s cheating.  You’re sharing your life with a steady fling like that.  A pro is just an hour of fun.  You don’t talk to pros about your life, because they don’t want to hear it and you are there for sex not conversation.  I love Diane too much to really cheat on her.  Besides I only slept with pros when she was pregnant with Johnny.  What’s a man to do?  Women get pregnant and suddenly they just expect a man not to want to have sex for nine months?  It’s just not right.  Men are like machines.  Machines need fuel to run on.  Men need food, beer, and sex to run and maintain.

“Where is your mother with those damn beers?” Jack said then called out for Diane.  There was no answer and Jack could feel his mouth start to water as he thought about the taste of a cold Coors Light.

She’s probably out checking her flowers.  You know how mom is during the spring.  Always out in the yard checking the flowers.”

            “What are you talking about?” Jack said as he pulled himself out of his chair. “There haven’t been flowers in the yard for years.”

Jack stood in the kitchen and stared out into the backyard.  Diane was out there tending to her flowers beds.  She was wearing her gardening jeans and apron.  I haven’t seen her in that get-up in years.  Having the kids coming home for Easter must have her in one of those moods.  She drives me crazy sometimes with all that motherly crap of hers, but it is cute.  I guess women just have that gene in them that makes them more loving than men.  You’d never see me making sure that Johnny’s hair isn’t out of place.  I could care less.  Women!  I will never understand them.  Just when you think you have it all in place and in order they always throw a turn on you.  Like when Johnny had his accident.  She spent all those days in one of the strangest moods I had ever seen her in.  One minute she was looking at photos and laughing at pictures of Johnny in his sailor suit swinging on that tire swing I set up in the backyard.  Then before I knew it she was upstairs in the room crying.  Women.  They just make no sense to me.

Jack came into the living room holding just one beer, and then sat back down in his chair.  He struggled with the flip top, and then finally cracked it open.  The beer foamed out and Jack leaned up and allowed the froth to drip onto the carpet.  Leaning back in his chair, he brought the can to his lips and took a long drink.  When he finished he looked over at Johnny with a large smile.  “Nothing like a cold beer to start your day.”

I thought you were going to bring me one, Pop?”

            “Now, do you think that is a good idea,” Jack said as he took another long drink. “You know what happened the last time you drank beer.

That was a long time ago, Pop.  I learned my lesson.”

            “I just don’t get it.” Jack leaned forward in his chair and stared at his son.

Don’t look at me like that, Pop.  It was one mistake.”

            “I just don’t understand why you had to go out and drink like that.  I thought I taught you better than that?  I mean drinking like that when you know you had take Samantha home. And don’t tell me it was because you just graduated from high school. That is no excuse at all.  Graduation means you are a man.  Men don’t go out and do stupid things like that.  Men act like men and think about what they are doing.  Men know better than getting drunk like damn fools.  Have you ever seen me drunk like that? No, and why is that?” Jack noticed the confused look on Johnny’s face and a smile began to crack his lips.  Suddenly Johnny didn’t look like the forty something year old he should be.  No, Johnny looked like a young man.  He looked as if he just came home from high school rather than just coming home to Easter dinner.

Jack liked this look.  He always liked the way Johnny looked at him when he began his rants.  Jack felt as if he were some parental teacher and not just a feared father.  It was not often that he witnessed this look from either of his children, especially from Kelly.  Kelly was a free spirit that kept to her self and seemed to avoid Jack at all costs.  Whenever Jack came home and saw Kelly and Diane sitting at the kitchen table in silence he knew that they had stopped talking because he came in.  Kelly and Diane would flash that smile that Jack hated so dearly, and then Kelly would leave without ever saying a word to her father.

Their relationship was never close.  One time after drinking a little too much and burning himself on the Bar-B-Q grill, something he blamed on the fact that Kelly was trying to get his attention to show him the hair style she had performed on one of her Barbie dolls, Jack blurted out that he wished he had never be blessed with a daughter.  He tried to apologize for his comment, but he had waited two days too long.  Kelly was only six years old at the time, but she would spend her life holding that moment over Jack’s head.

My god, you make one mistake and they hold it against you forever.  Women!  They are blessed with a memory bank like Fort Knox, and they remember every goddamn sin a man commits.  Why can’t be more like men and forget?  I can’t remember the first time Diane pissed me off, but she can tell me the exact day, time, and reason I pissed her off.  I come home drunk and piss all over the bathroom and the next thing I know I’m apologizing for things I did twenty years ago. 

            “What do you have to say for yourself?” Jack leaned back in his chair took a long drink.

Pop, I seriously didn’t think I drank that much.  Bobby Armer drank just as much as I did. Actually I think he drank even more than me.  He made it home just fine, and he lived a lot further away.”

            “If Bobby jumped off a bridge onto dry land and lived would you do the same thing?”

Of course not, pop.  We were just having a good time.” 

            “Having a good time!” Jack said then suddenly jumped out of his chair.  “You should have stayed at that party and just kept having a good time.  Instead you got a hair up your ass and drove a car.”

It was late and Samantha had to get home, Pop.”

“Well she never got home did she?  You made sure of that didn’t you?  Driving drunk and wrapping your car around that light post.  How stupid can a person get?  Tell me!  Tell me how dumb you can be to get behind the wheel of a car when you can barely walk?”

I could walk just fine, Pop.”

“That’s not what everyone at the party told the police.  They all said that you were stumbling all over the place.  They said they tried to take your car keys and you refused.  They said you snuck out of the house without anybody knowing it.”

“C’mon, you were young once.  You know how it is when you have a few beers in you and have a pretty girl on your shoulder.  You stop thinking with the right head and things take over.  Hell, Samantha and I had been dating for two years and I never got past second base with her in all that time.  Then there I was with a few beers in me with Samantha telling me her parent’s were out of town and we had the whole house to ourselves.  I know it was stupid.  I know I wasn’t acting like man.  I know all this, but its hard being young and horny, pop.”

            Jack’s temper rose when he saw the coy smile on Johnny’s face.  He threw his beer to the floor and only shook off the mess he had made. Diane can clean it up.  He felt the rage explode throughout his body.  It was a rage he had not felt in years.  He wanted to reach out, grab Johnny by the throat, and squeeze the life out of him.  He could not believe that the boy sitting before him was his son.

I raised you better than that.  You were my favorite.  I know it’s not right to have a favorite child, but damn it you were mine.  You were my boy.  You and I sat and watched the World Series and Super Bowls together.  We sat out on the porch, you with your Kool-Aid and me with my beer, and listened to the Giants games while we grilled burgers.  I could never do that with your damn sister.  She had those damn dolls and always talked about school and gloated about her grades.  You think I gave a rat’s ass about good grades.  I barely passed every year of high school and I made it just fine in life.  Good grades don’t mean nothing more than a kid getting accepted to a good college that cost parents every damn dime they have saved their whole lives.  What’s wrong with being average?  Why do people feel that they have to be better than the next guy?  That’s what’s wrong with the world.  Everyone is trying to top the next guy.  What’s that get you?  Nothing but war and pain.

            You were my boy.  I missed every one of your sister’s spelling B’s and choir shows, but I never missed one of your Little League games.  That’s what fathers do.  Mothers do all the daughter things.  Fathers do all the son things.  I’d get fired from my job before I missed a football or baseball game you played in.  Why?  Because you were my boy and I was your father.  The day that doctor came out and told me that I had a son was the proudest day of my life.  From that moment I had your life all played out in my head.  You would play sports and do your best.  You would graduate high school and join the Marines.  You would come home after your tour of duty and we would find you a good job close to home.  Instead you went and got drunk and drove.  You went out and killed yourself.

And Suddenly Jack’s world came crumbling all around him.  He found himself standing alone in his living room.  There was no Johnny.  There never had been.  Johnny had not come home for Easter Dinner.  They had not been sitting in the living room together.  He had not seen that confused and wanting looked in his son’s.  It had not been real.  It was all a mist of memory and things he wanted to say.  No, there was no Johnny.  Johnny Andrew Holloway had died twenty-two years ago in a drunken driving accident.

The memory of that night flooded Jack’s mind like a damn had just broken within his head.  It all started three in the morning with a knock at the front door.  Jack thought Johnny had forgotten his keys again.  It wasn’t so.  Instead there were two police officers standing before him.  One of the officers was Donny Young, a friend of the family for years.  Donny told Jack about the party.  Then he explained how Johnny had snuck out with Samantha and had crashed his car into a light post.  Johnny died on impact with Samantha dying in route to the hospital.

Jack looked down at the beer that was now seeping into his socks.  He clinched his fists and lowered himself back into the chair.  None of it was real, but there was one good thing about all this.  He still had Diane.

“Diane, come in here please.”

Jack waited for a few seconds, but there was no Diane.  She would not be walking into that living room or any other living room.  She had been dead for years.  The cancer had taken her life.

Jack leaned back and allowed the tears to flow out of his eyes.  He hated these moments.  The moments when his dreams succumbed to reality.  He felt stupid.  He felt as though he was losing his mind, but he wanted to lose his mind.  He hated his reality.  His reality was loneliness and dreadful memories.  His reality was an empty house that was nothing more than a transplant of his empty life.  Blades of grass that were his thoughts and memories were ripping apart the thin layer that protected what was left his mind.  He could imagine little ants within his head watching the blades cutting his thoughts into shreds.  There was no water that could wash this poison away.  There was no cure for the disease that was now eating away at him.  He was alone and water could not wash that away.

There was one bright spot in his life though.  He could make it all up once again.  He could create a new reality within his mind, and maybe, just maybe, he would not awake from this one.  Instead of Diane being his wife, he could choose Audrey Hepburn or Greta Garbo.  Maybe he could be married to both, Audrey living in Los Angeles and Greta living in New York, with his mistress Marilyn living in Chicago.   There would be no Johnny or Kelly.  In fact there would be no kids at all. Kids only hold a man down.  No, there would be no children in his new life.  He would spend his days and nights with Audrey sitting on the porch of their big mansion over looking the Pacific sipping on Bourbon.  He would enjoy the best that Broadway had to offer with Greta then spend his nights at the trendiest nightclubs in New York.  And with Marilyn he would visit smoke filled Jazz clubs in Chicago and drink expensive beer and smoke Cuban cigars.  The choices within his mind were limitless.  Diane and his life with her was nothing more than his first try to pass the endless time that he had.  The pain within him had invented the pain in his made up life.  There would be no more pain.

 

Jack Holloway stood on the porch of his mansion that over looked the Pacific Ocean far below.  He wore a white pair of slacks and a baby blue dress shirt.  In his right hand he held a glass of Bourbon, in his left, a fine Cuban cigar smoldered.  He breathed in the cleansing ocean breeze and a smile rose on his face.

Honey, should be get ready for the party?”

Jack turned around and saw the long, dark flowing hair of his wife Audrey Hepburn.  His eyes followed the curves of her petite body and a smile rose on his sun-tanned face.  “You know I was thinking that we could stay home tonight and just watch the sun set.”

Audrey stepped outside and wrapped her small arms around Jack’s waist.  She looked up at him with her large brown eyes, and with her light accented voice said, “What ever you want my lovely.”

 

 

A Navy doctor stood over the body of PFC Jack Holloway with a clipboard under his arm.  He looked at the young Navy nurse on the opposite side of the bed.  “Time is 0900, November 21st, 1970, Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland.  Patient number 114601, Private First Class Jack Nelson Holloway arrived here in a coma after injuries suffered during the current conflict taking place in Vietnam, three months ago.” The doctor looked at the nurse and smiled. “How is our patient doing today?”

“He’s the best patient here,” the nurse said with a smile. “He’s quiet, doesn’t complain, and doesn’t move a muscle.”

“I’m sure he would like it another way.”

The two walked to the foot of Jack’s hospital bed and just stared at the tubes that protruded from his mouth.  Plastic and rubber were the only things that were keeping him alive at this moment.

“How much longer?” the nurse asked.

“If we don’t hear from his family soon we are going to pull the plug on this poor Marine.”

“What do you think they think about when they are in a coma?”

“Nothing,” the doctor said.  He hung the clipboard on the hook at the foot of Jack Holloway’s bed and turned to the nurse with a blank look on his face. “They think about nothing at all.”

#10

RRRSHHH, the waves crashed against the rocky cliffs far below us.  We lay in a field of yellow daisies and listened to the music of the birds singing in the towering Redwoods behind us.   I watched as a bee sucked the sweet pollen out of a daisy then flew away to bow down before his queen with his bounty.  Her soft brown hair fluttered in the ocean breeze as her head lay comfortably on my chest.  Life is so beautiful.

“Corpsman,” Captain Branch called.  He stood high, too high for most men of his rank.  I had never seen him in this state…a smile.  Where did it come from?  How was his dirt covered face able to crack through the muck?

I looked down at my hands.  They were black with the dirt mixed with the blood.  My fatigues covered in crimson and black.  Kneeling down, low under the volcanic rock, I made my way over to him.  My knees cracked under my weight and I stumbled at his feet. I pulled myself to my knees and looked around making sure I was still under some sort of cover.

            “We got outfitted with two more corpsman this morning,” Branch said as he lit a cigarette and allowed the smoke to enter his lungs. “I’m giving one to 3rd Platoon.  They lost one of theirs last night to a sniper.  I’m giving the other to 1st Platoon.  That gives them three so I’m giving you a little R and R.”

“Shouldn’t I stick around and break the new guy in?” I asked.  I opened my canteen and took a long drink.  I allowed some of the warm water to filter through my mouth then spat it in my hands and cleaned some of the dirt and blood.

“Neely can do that,” Branch said and knelt down next to me.  “You’ve been bloody since we landed.  Take 36 hours at the beachhead.”

“Yes, sir,” I said with a brief experience of an uncommon word on Iwo Jima…Joy.

            Branch flicked his cigarette.  “Don’t let them Doc’s down there try to put you to work.  I need you fresh and ready when you get back.  Charlie and Easy Company’s are taking the airfield in two days.  I’ll need you top notch.”

 

I traveled to what us front line grunts called “Heaven” with a group of Marines from Easy Company’s 2nd and 3rd Platoons who were also given a reprieve from death.  I knew most of these men.  Actually I knew the names or faces of every man in Easy Company.  I trained with these men at Camp Pendleton.  Traveled on the same ship with them from San Diego to Hawaii, and from Hawaii to Iwo Jima. These men were covered in dirt and blood from friends and comrades, but somehow they allowed humor to hover above them.  They joked about food, cigarettes, and of course women, especially Rita Hayworth, as we traveled over the black jagged rock towards the Beachhead.  Just as one of the gaunt Marines named Breaker was about to dive into a story about his girl back home in Nebraska, he slumped over dead.

“Sniper!” The other Marines scrambled to the cool rock.  I lay on my stomach and watched these men; better trained in a situation like this, scan the area.  Their dirt covered fingers pressed against the triggers of their weapons ready to kill whatever moved.

 

Iwo Jima, or better known as “The Rock” to the Navy and Marines, was nothing more than a dormant volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Prior to 1945 the Japanese considered this island holy land for some ungodly reason.  For America in 1945 Iwo was a thorn in the backs of the military machine trying to win the war against Japan.  Long Range B-29 bombers leaving from the Island of Tinian with their pay-loads marked for Japan’s industrial centers, were being shot down by Japanese fighters leaving Iwo.  For every 5 B-29’s that left Tinian, only two would return, and most of those being held together with the dried blood of its crew.

In February 1945, America’s Island hoping campaign finally made it to this small Rock.  Prior to landing more than 20,000 men, the Navy and Army Air Force pounded this island into a smoldering crater filled rock.  It was assumed that the Japanese Army inhabiting this Island was nothing more than a few thousands troops and we would take it with little or no bloodshed.  We quickly learned that this island was nothing more than a hollowed out rock of tunnels, pillboxes, and around 40,000 Japanese troops sworn to defend it to their death.

The Marines had pushed the Japanese inland, but at a costly rate. Thousands of men were either killed or injured for every inch of this pebble of hell.  Even now, with our goal insight, we were still fighting Japanese snipers that still traveled through under ground caves behind our front lines.  It was said that every Japanese soldier swore to take ten American lives before he lost his own.  I have no idea what number Breaker had been, but deep down I was hoping he was number ten.

 

“Flash!” A hidden sentry called out.

“Thunder!”  A Marine next to me quickly screamed the counter password.

The sentry exposed himself holding his M-1 Gerand at his hip ready to fire.  Purple blotches protruded beneath his eyes telling me he had not had a good nights sleep in days.  “Jap’s been moving in and out of here since day one,” he said never lowering his weapon.  As we passed by him he asked a Marine about the front.  “Bloody,” was the only reply.

A sign hung over the camp entrance that read, “There is no Joy in Leadville.”  It said it all.  The Marines on the frontlines talked about the guys back here at camp.  They talked about how nice it must be to take showers everyday followed by a hot meal and a cup of Joe.  The sign though said it all.  There was no peace in this part of the island just as there was no peace on the rest of the island.  Death was everywhere.

When the beachhead was first formed and a camp was built the Japanese had started off with an extensive mortar barrage.  Once we started to push them back, the Japanese began to attack the camp with suicide patrols.  They would run through the sentries and act like human bombs killing everything insight.  Now that we were on the verge of victory, Japanese snipers were now the new enemy for this small piece of Heaven on an island of Hell.

 

I looked into her deep blue eyes and allowed my heart to flutter within my chest.  She was so beautiful.  The sun hung high above us with puffy white clouds floating by.  This was always our favorite spot.  When we were kids we used to meet here with our friends and search for buried Pirate treasure.  We never found buried gold, but Nancy and I found the buried emotion inside the two of us in here…love.  Just outside the small town of Crescent City along the California Pacific coastline a small boy and girl grew up to become young adults and would come here to lie in the daisy’s and talk about our future together.  Nancy dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, which was kind of funny to me since she hated almost every animal there was.  I dreamed of playing baseball for the New York Giants or Brooklyn Dodgers.  Lying here though, with her head on my chest, there was nothing more that I dreamed about than having this moment last forever.

“Hey, Graves,” A voice called out.  I pulled my face from beneath the cold stream of water.  It wasn’t the greatest shower.  Actually it was just a 55-gallon drum filled with ocean water that had a small spigot hanging from one side.  It helped clean the blood and dirt off my skin so I had complaints.  In the shower next to mine was a Corpsman from Charlie Company named Dutch.  I was surprised to see him.  At Pendleton a bunch of Corpsman and I sat down one night and bet on which one of us would not make it back to the States.  All of us agreed Dutch would be the first one to take a bullet.  He was a short dark haired kid from Brooklyn who had a big mouth that usually got him into more trouble than any man we had ever known.

“I heard the Navy brought in some beer,” Dutch said with a large smile. “Can you believe that?  A bunch of the hospital staff scored on four cases so they are having a little get together tonight?  I haven’t had beer since our last night in Pearl.  I’ll probably drink a whole case to myself.  You going?”

“Yeah,” I said.  The last beer I had was also in Pearl.  Bentley and I went out our last night in Hawaii with one mission in hand…get as stinking drunk as our military pay would allow us to get.  By three in the morning I was bent over the pier puking my guts out as Bentley kissed the girl he met that night good-bye.  The Second day on Iwo Bentley tried to pull a Marine out of the wake and had his head blown off.

“You here about that Corpsman from A Company?” Dutch asked and brought me back to the moment.

“No,” I said and turned on the water.

“A corpsman from A Company went missing about three days ago.  They actually sent Marine patrols out looking for his dumb ass.  They found him this morning.  A patrol came across one of those Jap caves and moved in to clear it out.  They found that corpsman inside.  The only way they could identify him was because the Jap’s left his dog tags on him.  They beat him beyond recognition, gutted him, then cut off his testicles and stuffed them in his mouth.  What a way to be found, huh?”

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine Nancy and I on that Cliffside back home, but the only image that crept into my mind was that poor corpsman.  I saw him in that cave with his wrists and ankles tied together so tight the rope actually cutting into his skin. I could see his swollen face and his naked body lying on that cold black ground.  I imagined his mother back home with her only thoughts filled with her boy fighting in this war.  I could see his girl back home lying in her bed with his picture clutched against her heart.  I could see his father at the factory or in the local bar talking about his boy and how he was fighting for his country.  I prayed that they would never hear how he had died.

 

We gathered outside the hospital tent with a fire burning in a 55-gallon drum.  Dutch was right about the beer, but he was wrong about the number of cases the staff had acquired.  Instead of the four Dutch had promised the number was eight.  We sat around talking about the front and how wonderful it was when those Marines raised that flag on Mount Sarabachi.  Of course the photo that had been printed on the cover of Life Magazine was not of the original flag.  The first one that was raised was small and could barely be seen.  The famous flag on the cover of all the newspapers back home was the second and larger flag raised that day.  I could have never been prouder than knowing one of those men, John Bradley, was a fellow corpsman.

A tall dark haired Captain came over and sat down with the enlisted men.  He looked more like a Doctor that you would see in a Hollywood picture than a man serving on Iwo Jima.  He had Clark Gable looks with a Humphrey Bogart grin on his thin lips.  Most of the Hospital staff called him “Doc”, he was known to the rest of us only as Captain Tyler.

He sat quietly and listened to our conversations about the end of the war and what we would do when it was over.  He just stared at each man that spoke with a hollow glare in his eyes.  I looked at his hands.  Blood was stained in the cracks and they shook uncontrolably.  Suddenly the conversation changed to what some us had been doing before the war.  I personally had been lying on that cliff, but I held those memories to myself.

“How about you Doc,” a corpsman asked.  “What did you do before the war?”

Captain Tyler looked up at the man and grinned.  He lit a cigarette and let it hang from his lips as he told his story.  “I was a biology teacher,” he started then leaned back against the rock. “The morning of December 7th, 1941 I was at church listening to Father O’Brien preach about the end of the world.  I got home after a picnic lunch with my wife, turned on the radio and heard about Pearl.  On the morning of December 8th I found myself standing before a classroom filled with 17 year old seniors.  I looked at those kids and began to ask myself how many of these kids will be shipped to Europe or to the Pacific?  How many of these kids are going to be alive in two years?

“Now? Now I ask myself how many of those kids are on this fucking island with me.  Here I am sitting here with you guys drinking cold beer and all I’m wondering is how many of those kids are out there on that front line lying in pools of their own blood and guts?  I’m waiting for that day when a kid comes into this hospital with his intestines hanging out of his abdomen dragging on this fucking black rock.  I’m waiting to look down into that kids eyes and recognize him from my Biology class.  I’m waiting for that one kid to come in, grab my arm, and say to me, ‘Mr. Tyler don’t let me die.’  You asked what I was doing before this war?  I was praying to god that my kids would not die in this war.”

He raised his beer to his lips and suddenly his brains exploded out the side of his head and his body peacefully slumped over.  A Japanese sniper made sure he would never see that student.

 

“What are you thinking?” Nancy asked.  She rolled over onto her stomach with her chin resting on her arm.

“Just how beautiful you are,” I said then leaned forward and kissed her.

I looked up into the sky and saw an elephant in the clouds.  Nancy rolled onto my stomach.  Her hair hung in my face and I could smell lilacs and roses.  I looked up into her eyes.  I could see my future.  I could see our wedding day.  Nancy’s long flowing white dress trailed behind her as she walked arm and arm with her father down the aisle.  I could see her holding our son’s hand walking through this field of daisy’s on a day as bright and beautiful as this.  I could see our home; yellow with white trim with a white picket fence keeping our Beagle safe from the passing cars.  I could see us in our old age sitting around a large table with our children and Grandchildren celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  I could see us sitting hand and hand on our porch swing.  Nancy’s head was lying gently on my shoulder and again the sweet smell of lilacs and rose filled me.

Nancy reached back, removed her St. Christopher necklace and placed it in my hand.  “Wear this where ever you go.”

I looked out across the cliffs and smiled at the sight of the blue ocean that seemed to flow into infinity.  I knew a war was raging across that beautiful expanse of blue, but here with Nancy I had never felt safer.

 

I awoke to the first bright day without rain in the three weeks since landing on Iwo and looked across out to the blue ocean that sparkled under the suns rays.  I could see the Navy Battleships sitting off shore with their big guns pointed towards me.  Those massive gray ships faded into the blue and I could see those cliffs outside of Crescent City not far off in the distance.  Nancy stood on those cliffs waving to me and I found myself waving back.

“Mitch.”  I turned and saw Dutch standing behind me.  “The Marines are moving out. They moved up the attack on the airfield.  They need us up there ASAP.”

I turned back to Nancy and blew her a kiss good-bye.  She caught it and brought it to her full red lips and smiled.  I didn’t even feel the bullet enter me.

I hope I was #10.