Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trial of the Century

I'm holding the Trial of the Century at Chestertown this Sunday morning, Dec 16th. Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Facebook Page, Resolution 786

To the kind stranger in cyber-space who created a FB page for "Resolution 786": Thank you! I got a hearty chuckle while clicking the "Like" button :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mass Infanticide [Chapter 36]

I'm continuing to post chapters of Resolution 786. Here's Chapter 36

“Mass infanticide,” said Martin in his high, chipper voice, eyebrows slightly raised, eyes open wide. “Let us move forward with the proceedings for Count One.”
Duly prompted, Hueghlomm stood and approached the Lord in the witness stand. He was utterly confident, supremely competent, closing the buttons of his freshly pressed suit jacket with preparatory determination, tucking his perfectly knotted tie in between crisp lapels. He spoke to the Lord with a sureness that was void of arrogance and built on a foundation of material, factual knowledge. “Sir, written records indicate that you stated a clear intent to commit mass infanticide. Those same records indicate that you then acted on that intent, committing the infraction in the land of Egypt on or about 1250 B.C.”

“Again with the B.C.,” the Lord huffed, sighing in grim resignation.

“How do you plead?” asked Hueghlomm.

“Not guilty,” the Lord muttered.

“Explain.” Hueghlomm was calm, contemplative.

“Babies died. I wasn’t part of it,” the Lord explained. “Am I responsible for every cold you catch? By the way, boys and girls died. But when two patriarchal societies record events, that’s what you get.”

“You didn’t perpetrate this atrocity to free slaves?” Hueghlomm was leading the Lord, wanting to establish intent.

“Slaves? Are you insane? Be careful how you judge and label. It takes only a turn of the wheel for the oppressed to become the oppressors. And who in their right mind goes on a killing spree to free slaves? Besides, those infants weren’t slaveholders. Why make them pay the price? What good would that do?” The Lord paused and smiled at Hueghlomm. “I was nowhere to be found that night.”

“Then why the written records?”

“Why not, you simple-minded fool? Everything can’t be reduced to the quadratic equation, my boy. I’d have created a boring universe if it could.”

“Then why the written records?” said Hueghlomm, insistent, slightly frustrated.

“Because it made for a good story and it served a purpose.”

Hueghlomm calmly mulled the Lord’s answer. He concluded that the answer didn’t advance the inquisition and decided to push further. “We are searching for Truth. Let us share Truth.”

“You wouldn’t know Truth if she sat in your lap and smiled.” The Lord became tense, agitated. “Truth!” he exclaimed loudly. “Here she is, smart guy: a bunch of folks were sore at another bunch of folks for keeping them down. A few of one group’s children got sick and died. The other group said, ‘See, see see. Bad, bad, bad,’” He wagged his finger mockingly. “Then the scribes got involved and put me in the middle of it all and the next thing you know, you’ve got a broiling good drama full of death and God and retribution and revenge and freedom and escape, all wrapped in a pita. You have to admit, that’s one heck of a story. Sure beats, ‘Sick kids died.’” The Lord threw his hands into the air, again miming the invisible quotation marks that he seemed so fond of.

“You didn’t kill those babies?” asked Hueghlomm, growing frustrated.

“Do you really think I like the scent of burning flesh?” answered the Lord.

“You riddler!” said Hueghlomm, angry.

“You create your own riddles,” said the Lord. “The only thing I had to tell Moses was to take off his shoes. You’re a different story. Take off your blinders!”

“Order! Order!” Martin shouted, an angry grandmother breaking up an argument between children at the dinner table.

“So you admit to conversations with Moses?” Hueghlomm spoke over Martin.

“Things happened,” said the Lord, no apology, no denial.

“And you told Moses and Aaron to ask Pharaoh to free the Israelites?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“And you hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he couldn’t comply?” Hueghlomm moved towards the Lord in a short, halting lurch.

The Lord sat steady, unflinching. He smirked. “Did I launch the Crusades? Did I commit the Holocaust? Did I fight two world wars?”

Hueghlomm peered at the Lord in mute blinks.

“Do you really think I can be jealous?” The Lord eased back into the witness chair, hands over his stomach, fingers gently interlocked.

“Please stay on topic,” said Hueghlomm.

The Lord had stopped looking at Hueghlomm, gazing aimlessly into the viewers’ gallery. “Do you really believe I can be angry?” he asked the East Room.

Hueghlomm turned to Martin for assistance. “Sir, witness refuses to stay on topic.”

“I am the topic,” said the Lord, not allowing Martin to answer. “I’m not jealous or angry. Those are your behaviors. You misinterpreted what you thought were my behaviors and applied your own mislabels to them.”

“Relevance?” asked Hueghlomm.

“I don’t get jealous. I don’t get angry. You do.”

“Relevance!” Hueghlomm shouted.

“When red, white and blue are the only colors in your palate, the grass in your paintings can never be green.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means that you’re a bunch of lousy painters!” The Lord was leaning forward, sitting at the front tip of the witness chair, his brown eyes sharpened into tight, dense points.

Hueghlomm stared at the Lord, taken aback, slightly fearful.

“The beginning of wisdom,” the Lord muttered, reining back his anger in a controlled and subtle retreat. He rested again into the witness chair, speaking more calmly. “Don’t paint a picture and then blame me because you don’t like the image.”

“You talk in circles,” said Hueghlomm.

“I talk in circles? You’re a comedian. You, who fashion a mirror, only to scold the reflection.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Facebook Writer's Page

I plan to start using my Facebook writer's page to post photos and other feedback from upcoming writing and speaking events. If you're on Facebook and interested, please considering joining/liking the page.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Speaking Engagement

I have an upcoming speaking engagement at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County on Sunday, 25 March. The title of my discussion is "The Basic Beliefs and Practices of Islam and the Notion of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys." You can find more details at the UU website.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seventy-Two Virgins [Chapter 35]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 35:

A line of soldiers moved briskly down the dusty sidewalk, mercilessly crunching gravel under their worn combat boots. Their equipment belts rattled gently in cadence with their windy stride, chimes on a lazy summer afternoon. The houses around the bright, sun-swept street were shaped like boxes and made of gray, dust covered cinder blocks and cement. Cryptic, beautifully spray painted Arabic graffiti marked many of the walls in the common areas between the homes. A rusted old car drove by on the road beside them, black as a hearse, headed in the opposite direction, its muffler bubbling lazily, the sun’s sharp glare casting its windows in impenetrable shadows.

Hueghlomm panted to keep pace. He and the soldiers of Platoon 110 were patrolling the shaded side of Mahmood Street. Half the platoon patrolled in front of him, the other half behind. Hueghomm wore the same uniform and boots as the soldiers, but his were crisp, new, poorly fitted. He breathed hard, sweat making slow, rolling trails down his forehead behind the heavy combat helmet. His discordant gait was out of place, sloppy, a dearth of fluidity when compared to the soldiers around him.

“Watch the retard!” Lee yelled, moving forward at the leading edge of the patrol. “You never know who’s doing what with these guys.”

A shirtless young man with a crooked face and a hunched back bounced by them. He looked to be in his early twenties. One side of his mouth drooped savagely, baring crooked yellow teeth. He had a heavy nose with a huge crook growing underneath thick, black, torturously curled eyebrows that stretched in one continuous arch across his enormous forehead. His misshapen shoulders held one arm lower than the other as he moved over the dusty ground in a jagged two-step hop that made his limp wrists and hands dangle like dead chickens.

A pack of children began shouting and yelling at him from one of the adjacent street shops. It was an almost daily ritual whenever school was out. He stopped and bounced up and down like a kangaroo in one spot outside the shop door, waving at the loud children in a grotesque flail. The mob of little boys and girls suddenly stormed out of the shop in a whirl of high-pitched shouting, surrounding him in a menacing ring, swinging small hands and fists all around his contorted form. The frightened man flailed furiously and spun around on one foot a few times, then broke away from the swarm of tiny, shouting bodies. He hopped down Mahmood Street, eyes bulging, the children following behind him with pumping little fists and a fading crescendo of gnashing taunts.

The shopkeeper strolled out of the emptied doorway, smiling. He had slits for eyes. A skinny black line of mustache had drawn itself tightly along the top edge of his thin lips. “That man is Crazy Man,” he told Lamech and Hueghlomm in broken English. “He say he believe of a Loving God.” The shopkeeper laughed hard, his head tilted back, mouth pulled open to one side. He turned to go back inside his shop, reviling in the hilarity of the Crazy Man’s belief. “Loving God,” he chortled sarcastically, amused, and vanished into his shop.

Platoon 110 moved past the shops, past the women and men carrying bags of food and home supplies, away from the block of commerce and into a block of homes. They patrolled by an open doorway where a young girl, perhaps ten or eleven, stood, her face tilted down in virginal timidity. She was covered in a clean, newly ironed black burqa, only her face and hands showing. She was exceptionally attractive, almost beautiful, and her hands were soft, white. She stood expressionless as the unending line of soldiers slowly crossed her home’s entrance, arms stretched across the doorway in a protective, blocking stance, palms gently pressed against each side of the doorframe.

“I’d fuck that shit,” said Lee a few feet after passing her.

“You sick fuck,” said Webster, patrolling behind him.

“What’s the problem, Webster? Boyfriend trouble?” Lee provoked, staring forward.

“Can’t you just shut the fuck up?” Webster begged angrily from behind.

Lamech patrolled about twenty yards to the rear of Webster and Lee, immediately behind Hueghlomm. A twenty-yard separation in a combat patrol felt like a different world. The short distance could be the difference between combat and combat support. It could be the difference between living and dying.

Hueghlomm didn’t notice the girl when he reached the open doorway. He was single-mindedly scanning the adjacent road surface for signs of recent digging or other indications of buried devices. Lamech smiled at the girl as he passed. She saw his smile, didn’t return it and instead looked down until she was sure that he’d passed. Lamech frowned, put off. A few moments later Lamech spoke at Hueghlomm from behind, his voice high and curious. “Doc, one of the guys said that your mom’s one of them?” Even though the sentence wasn’t structured as a question, its tone and delivery carried a question mark.

Hueghlomm responded groggily, awakened from his singular focus on the road surface. “What’s that?”

“Your mom,” said Lamech.

“What about her?” Hueghlomm was disturbed by the distraction but curious about its focus.

“Was she…you know,” Lamech rotated his non-trigger palm towards the sky and shrugged his shoulders just a nudge as he finished his hesitating question, “…American?”

“Yes,” said Hueghlomm, but he knew that he hadn’t answered Lamech’s question. He waited to see if Lamech would pursue the query. He didn’t. Hueghlomm waited longer. Still no follow up. A few more steps down the street, Hueghlomm decided to answer. “She was an American, originally from Pakistan, from a place called Karachi. She grew up in Africa, was raised, lived and died a Muslim. She raised me a Muslim…and a Jew.”

“Oh,” Lamech responded.

The patrol had stopped at a sunny intersection ahead. First Sergeant Blake ordered his soldiers to halt. The soldiers towards the front of the patrol lifted their right hands in the air and made fists, a gesture that the soldiers behind them repeated until the message of a temporary stop made its way down and to the rear. They had stopped for a herd of goats. An old shepherd and two young boys were guiding the goats across the road. The herd was multicolored. White, black, brown and checkered goats moved about in the mix, bumping into each other, holding their sloped foreheads in the air, bah, bah, bah all the way across the dusty desert road. The old shepherd herded his flock into a snaking, lazy column with a thin tree branch, augmenting his gentle nudges with an occasional sharp whistle. The two boys seemed less efficient, yelling, “Ha, ha!” whenever they’d see a goat go astray.
The soldiers of Platoon 110 waited patiently for the shepherd and his flock to move along. They watched that sea of innocent goats, some soldiers smiling at them, others scowling. Standing there in place, watching the seemingly infinite herd, Lamech asked Hueghlomm, “Is it true that you guys get seventy-two virgins when you die?”

“I’ve heard about the virgins, but not the ‘seventy-two’ part,” replied Hueghlomm, gaze fixed on the herd.

Lamech, himself watching the goats, ruminated. “That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?”

More goats passed by as Hueghlomm collected his thoughts. “I don’t know,” he answered, thinking out loud, eyes squinted. “I really don’t understand this fascination with virgins. I mean, why seventy-two blushing virgins? You’d think that’d be a frustrating waste of time, especially after a lifetime of being good. Now if the Lord gave us seventy-two wild whores when we die, that’d be something. That’d be a party.”

And then they quietly watched the goats.

The herd continued to pass by, unabated.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night [Chapter 34]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I've been on travel, so this posting is a bit late. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 34:

Iraqi domestic policy had justified his father’s killing. American foreign policy had justified his mother’s killing. Little orphan Haroon Hadad, six years old, lay giggling in a bed of straw. He and the soldiers of Platoon 110 were packed into the middle of the shining hard floor of the aluminum airplane hangar used by American forces for recreation and regrouping. Haroon was proud and happy, luxuriating in the new clothes that the soldiers had gotten for him, crisp blue jeans and a bright red T-shirt. He held his pet goat, Akbar, adjacent to the straw bed with a loose, black dog-leash. Lamech sat cross-legged behind Haroon and Akbar, gazing at both of them with well-acted maternal affection. Haroon smiled broadly with his happy brown eyes, clumsily holding large chocolate bars, another gift from the soldiers, in each small hand. He was a good-looking boy, used to being treated special. Strangers often smiled at him when passing, especially women.

The soldiers of Platoon 110 stood behind Haroon, Akbar and Lamech in a loose semicircle. They were at rest, poised and gay on the expansive, clean hard floor, fans abuzz in each far corner of the airplane hangar, pushing dry air over and through the staggered cluster of bodies in soft pulses.

It was Easter Week and the young soldiers felt compelled to celebrate. First Sergeant Blake had cajoled a dozen eggs from the cook in the mess hall that morning. The soldiers hard-boiled the eggs and painted them with combat face paint, covering them in lovely swirls of black and green. They placed the eggs into Lamech’s overturned combat helmet, which sat at a relaxed angle on the floor in front of their makeshift manger.

They had no hymnals, so First Sergeant Blake settled on singing what he thought they might all know by heart — “Silent Night.” The soldiers talked through the lyrics that morning in excited anticipatory exchanges, agreeing with each other on the exact words and the relative order of the innocent, peaceful imagery of the stanzas. They practiced twice while showering and shaving. Stirred to action, they then went about creating a proper scene for the celebration, complete with manger, animal, mother and child. Although they had successfully constructed a manger and had found an internal volunteer for Mother Mary, they were missing a child and an animal. They found both by renting a nephew of the small, unobtrusive Iraqi man who cleaned their Recreation Room.

“Ready, soldiers,” said First Sergeant Blake, standing before his beloved platoon, holding his arms and hands high, like an orchestra conductor. It was not often that he allowed himself to smile around his troops, but when he did, his face glowed with a loving sense of paternal responsibility, tiny wrinkles forming and radiating in little lines from the outer corners of each of his bright, blue eyes. “Let’s sing!” shouted First Sergeant, gaily, dropping both arms in unison.

“Silent night! Holy night!” the teenagers sang. “All is calm, all is bright.” Their voices filled the hollow hangar, unexpectedly harmonious.

“Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

“Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing, Alleluia.
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!”

Their voices rang melodious, male, cradled in an overturned, hard aluminum bucket.

“Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Haroon Hadad laughed, sharp and high, and began an unmusical, discordant accompaniment to the soldiers’ singing. The young men of Platoon 110 all smiled behind Haroon, happy to have him there.

“Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Giggling, happy chirps waltzed out from Haroon Hadad’s small throat as Platoon 110 now softly hummed behind him, his eyes laughing merriment, wearing the only brand new clothes that he would ever have, for he would be killed in an American air bombing later this week. Behind the innocent one, Lee smiled down in friendship at Lamech. Lamech sat cross-legged on the floor, continuing to regard Haroon with maternal affection. Sanders was serene, contented, his hands folded over each other below his waist. Webster’s eyes were closed, his mouth formed in a smile, singing for his Beloved Savior in his own personal church. And First Sergeant Blake watched his soldiers with caring affection, brimming with pride, faithfully sure that each of them embodied the raw ingredients needed to one day become good fathers, good husbands, good men.

Standing in an echoing aluminum hangar that sat in stubborn discord to the unyielding sand and dunes around it, nestled in the cradle of civilization in an ancient and death-ravaged land, the soldiers of Platoon 110 celebrated a birth from millennia past, a birth that, at this moment, helped them bask in the comforting warmth of friendship, fellowship, peace, and the promise of a new and better tomorrow.

“Sleep in heavenly peace,” they sang softly now.

Haroon Hadad’s eyes smiled a happy succession of bright twinkles.

“Sleee-eep in heaaa-ven-ly peace….”

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy? [Chapter 33]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 33:

“Very well,” began Torquemada. “Let us proceed with the inquisition.” Torquemada gave Martin a quiet nod, anointing him to lead the proceedings for Count One. The Inquisitor General cleared his throat and instructed the prosecutor. “Dr. Hueghlomm, proceed with Count One.”

Hueghlomm stood, his crisp, pressed suit fitted perfectly. He held the indictment before him. “Your Honor, Count One is Mass Infanticide. The prosecution calls the defendant to the stand.”

The Lord rolled his eyes, remaining in place at the defendant’s table. The bailiff placed a large hand onto the Lord’s shoulder. The Lord refused to budge.

“Sir, it is essential that you take the stand and defend yourself,” said Martin. “The Fathers of the Inquisition have gone to great lengths to create a process that insures ample opportunities for a defendant to state his or her case.” Martin’s demeanor was gentle, effeminate, encouraging. “Please follow procedure,” he continued. “That is the only way for us to establish fairness, legitimacy, morality, and respect for the law.”

“Don’t mistake ritual for morality,” said the Lord.

“I don’t understand.” Martin held both hands in front of himself, fingers spread, palms facing each other. “I’m giving you a chance to state your case, but you answer in riddles and sarcasm.”

“Why are you surprised? You believe that I made requests for emancipation by hurling frogs and locusts at slave-masters. Now you’re surprised that I’m using riddles and sarcasm in your contrived court of law?”

“Sir, please take the stand,” said Martin, gentle, a high voice.

The Lord smirked, rolled his eyes again and walked to the witness stand. He plumped down angrily, like a child being sat in the corner for bad behavior.

“Happy?” he asked.

No one replied.

Hueghlomm hesitated a moment, confused, lost in a sense of deja vu. Something seemed wrong in the East Room, but he didn’t know what. He quickly composed himself and walked toward the Lord, brisk, determined, his immaculately shined, black dress shoes moving across the marble tiles in sharp, sure clicks. “Sir, what were you doing in 1250 B.C.?”

“B.C.? What’s that?” the Lord seemed genuinely confused.

“Before Christ.”

The Lord clucked with laughter, his torso tilting this way and that in the witness stand.

“Sir, please answer the question,” said Hueghlomm, his propriety solid.

“What do you mean, ‘Before Christ?’” the Lord chuckled.

Hueghlomm looked to Martin, asking for guidance with his eyes. Martin replied with his eyes — he had none. Torquemada noticed their quandary and interjected his authority. “The witness shall answer the question with an answer, not a question.”

“Sometimes the answer is a question.” The Lord darted a glance at Torquemada.

Hueghlomm wanted to put the proceedings on track. “Sir, we have to establish a timeline of events to determine culpability,” he told the Lord.

“Timeline!” blurted the Lord. “Another one of your grand fallacies.”

“Sir, please don’t be difficult,” said Hueghlomm. “We have to get to the core of the issues.”

“Core of the issues? You’re going to deduce the core of Truth by using a series of fallacious artificialities?”

“Sir, where were you in 1250 B.C.?”

“I don’t know,” the Lord insisted.

“Why not?” said Hueghlomm.

“Where were you?” said the Lord.

“I wasn’t born yet.”

“How do you know? Do you even remember being born this time?”

Hueghlomm fell quiet, thinking.

“You revere the ridiculous,” the Lord said. “You’re so busy B.C.ing me, you’ve lost the calm ability to seek and find Truth.”

Hueghlomm wanted to focus on his indictment. He began to read from it. “Written records indicate, in relevant part…”

“Records!” the Lord interrupted him, shouting. “Go back and apply your reverence for linear time and logic to your written records. You say I created the sun on the fourth day. How do you propose I measured the beginnings and ends of the first, second and third days?”

“What’s your point?” asked Hueghlomm.

“Logic and linear time have no basis in your ponderings of me.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Oh, Lord,” muttered the Lord. “He’s willing to die for free will, but he also wants to be told what to do.” The Lord laughed, clucking, eyes squinted. He moved his hands to his stomach, resting them gently over each other, enjoying his own humor.

Martin wanted the proceedings to progress. “Sir, please.” He lingered on “please” a little longer than before. “Answer the prosecution’s question.”

“Fine.” The Lord stopped laughing and straightened himself up in the witness stand, quickly adjusting the front tuck of his shirt. “You asked what I want you to do. This is it: don’t eat meat on Friday; use only your left hand when cleaning up after the bathroom; chop the front tip off of every baby boy’s genitals; and face in a specific direction when you pray, otherwise it doesn’t count.”

Torquemada, Martin, Morilla and Hueghlomm stared at the Lord in bowed silence.

“Happy?” the Lord asked them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don't Do It, Men. It's Not Worth It [Chapter 32]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 32:

Dawn’s crimson lips parted on the eastern horizon, lighting the feathered belly of a wispy sheet of high, thin clouds. Her tawny eyes fluttered open as she arched her back in a sensuous, golden stretch, long, thin arms ending in bright, white fists. She receded into momentary repose, a pallid gray smile moving across her peaceful face, then fell forward and sprawled her lithe legs across the distant sand dunes, her yellow anklets sprinkling tiny spears of gold here and there, spears that touched and extracted a brilliant potpourri of colors out of the world that they touched. She held no grudges, she had no favorites, and she always started and finished her dance on time. She kept every confidence to the very end, having freely given her tender graces to Babylon, to Ur, and to every fresh king, conqueror, caliph and president who might or might not be passing across this, her antique horizon.

This morning, Colonel Klick’s order to fall in for an impromptu muster was given at reveille, immediately before breakfast. The soldiers of Platoon 110 were back in a block of shade in the middle of the desert, sitting in the sand under the tired, sagging, sun-beaten tarp.

“Gentlemen, thank you for taking time out of your mission to be here this morning. Let’s make this short.” Klick rubbed his hard, dry palms together and paced back and forth a few feet, mulling over what he had to say. “Gentlemen, war funds have been slow coming out of Washington. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that some of our resupply is short. That’s bad.” He stopped speaking, rubbing his palms together again, choosing his words deliberately, slowly. “But what’s also bad is when we take matters into our own little hands…and go outside proper channels…with perfectly good intent, mind you.” He bobbed his head up and down in small, jagged jerks to emphasize his contention that it was, in fact, good intent that had created the current situation. The top edge of his short, stiff haircut sliced a sharp silhouette in the desert glare behind him as he now thrust a finger at the young men, speaking loudly. “Some of us have let good intent lead us into doing that which we ought not.”

Klick stopped and cleared his throat, twisting his mouth in a series of quick, circular contortions. He exhaled, bringing his shoulders slightly lower and forward. “Now, I sat through a long meeting with JAG staff last night, a meeting I attended on your behalf, soldiers. The lawyers tell me that there seems to be an issue.” The expressionless teenagers listened dutifully. Colonel Klick cleared his throat again and put his hands on his hips, angling his head up and to the right, staring absently at the bottom of the sagging, beaten, listless tarp. The brilliant sun behind him framed his silhouette in crisp, bold lines, turning him into a marble statue. The still statue suddenly spoke as the hot glare from behind and around it cast blanketing shadows around its face and mouth, hiding any movements that may have accompanied its words. “Gentlemen, when you are executing a federal mission, the Congress appropriates monies to support that mission. And regulations state that private monies may not be used to augment and or support a federal mission. I know that resupply is currently a bit short. But that’s no excuse for going out and using your own…spelled ‘private’…money to buy toilet paper. Effective immediately, the good soldiers of Platoon 110 will not violate federal regulations by using private funds for the purchase or procurement of contraband toilet paper to be used in support of this war effort. Don’t do it, men. It’s not worth it.”

The soldiers and the Colonel stared at each other, mute. The sun’s hot rays fell like needles outside the tarp, piercing through the still desert air in a noiseless rush.

“But there ain’t no toilet paper.” Sanders’ whimpering southern drawl sounded trumpet-loud in the hot, surrounding silence.

“It’s coming, boys.” Klick stood strong and confident. “We’re dealing with only a few dead-enders here. We’ve broken the back of their little insurgency. We can all go home soon. And our toilet paper’s on the way.”

“But that doesn’t make any sense.” Lamech’s high voice rang softly through the shade. “Isn’t that regulation meant to keep large, well-funded non-government entities from funding non-government activities under the guise of a government program?”

“Say again, Private?” Klick walked towards Lamech.

“I mean that’s the spirit of the law, sir,” Lamech replied, a flinching tone of apology. Lamech was thin, non-aggressive. He had a gentle, consoling way and a pretty face with soft lips, a small nose and clear, round hazel eyes. The short, cropped remnants of his golden, brown hair looked like summer cornstalks.

Klick had moved to where Lamech sat in the sand, glaring down at him. “What’s your name, son?”

“Lamech, sir,” eyes up at the colonel, a cowering puppy.

“Look, Lamech. You’re not here to discuss any kind of spirit.” He said “spirit” so scornfully. “You’re here to follow the letter of the law.” Klick stood, staring down at Lamech for a few extra seconds, emphasizing the point that he had just made. He snapped his face forward and addressed the entire platoon one last time, “Don’t do it, men. It is not worth it.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It Don't Mean Shit! [Chapter 31]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 31:

Private Sanders was in the Recreation Room, still in uniform, slumped around the wooden armrests and worn cushions of everyone’s favorite chair. No one remembered where Platoon 110 had found the chair. Was it from one of the captured facilities? Or out of an Air Force resupply carrier? First Sergeant Blake, who had lived roughly twice as long as most of the teenagers in the platoon, once said that the chair looked like the one that his father kept in their wood-paneled club basement in Naperville, Illinois back in the 1970s. He once even swore that that was the chair. Wherever it came from, the chair was profoundly comfortable.

Sander’s lanky frame spilled over the chair’s boundaries sensuously and easily, like a tall lover’s limbs after lovemaking. What remained of his short, cropped hair was thin, blond. He had thick, bushy, yellow eyebrows that floated above his lazy brown eyes like broad parentheses, creating the most noticeable feature on his otherwise pale, plain face. Sanders was watching cartoons on the Recreation Room TV. He watched cartoons every chance he got.

Hueghlomm sat adjacent to Sanders on an out-of-place white plastic lawn chair, recording his day’s observations in his government journal. His lime-green notebook rested on a slightly tilted circular presswood table. The table finish was beaten and chipped in many places. A network of sticky spots ran all over it in a haphazard, careless pattern, sugary remnants of soldiers in the rear carelessly enjoying soft drinks and prepackaged pastries.

“You like those, huh?” Hueghlomm had stopped writing for a moment and looked up at Sanders, asking about the cartoons.

“Not really, Doc,” replied Sanders lazily, eyes fixed on the TV screen. His words lilted under a faint southern drawl.

Hueghlomm looked at Sanders expecting more. Nothing.

“Then why do you watch?” Hueghlomm couldn’t resist.

Sanders stared at the screen, slowly drawing out his reasons in stretched, lingering words. “Back in Georgia, my girl used to love movies. She’d come down the machine shop and say, ‘Take me to the movies,’ she’d always say. And I liked her pretty good, so I did.” He smacked his lips. “This here I learned from the movies — whenever someone watches a cartoon, what’s going on in the cartoon has something important to do with what’s going on with them. So I figure if I watch enough cartoons, I juuuust might learn something about what I’m doin’ in this here war.”

“What’s going on in the cartoon?” asked Hueghlomm, piqued.

“Well, Doc…let me seeeeee…” Sanders’ words lingered longer. He stopped ever so shortly and pulled his lips straight ear to ear. His thick, bushy eyebrows moved up a notch as he began. “This here cheetah fuck is spending all his time and money buying all kinds of crazy gadgets to trap and kill this crazy ostrich fuck who runs around the desert all day long making sounds that no one can understand. No matter how hard he tries, the cheetah’s shit always seems to backfire on his own ass and the crazy desert ostrich goes on doing what you’d figure he’d be doing anyway.” Sanders stopped a moment, keeping an unbroken, vacuous gaze on the TV screen. He scooted forward a nudge in his chair, finishing, his accent more deeply Southern than when he’d started speaking. “Craziest shit is this — if the cheetah ever did kill the ostrich, what the fuck would he even get?”

“Were the movies right?” asked Hueghlomm.

“How do you mean, Doc?”

“Did you learn something about your own situation from the cartoon?”

“Not one damn thing!” Sanders was suddenly tense, loud. “Movies don’t mean shit!” he screamed. “Cartoons don’t mean shit!” he screamed again.

Sanders hushed, nestling easily into the arms of everyone’s favorite chair. A bomb exploded on TV and he and Hueghlomm watched a growing cloud of white, animated smoke slowly engulf the full screen.

Sanders suddenly erupted. “And I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here!”

Monday, January 30, 2012

La ilaha illallah [Chapter 30]

I'm posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 30:

Adam Hueghlomm had one brand new U.S. Army boot on the Baghdad road and the other one up on an ancient, broken curb. He wore the comfortable blue jeans and the loose gray T-shirt that he had on during the long flight over. He basked in the early morning desert sun, eating a spicy samosa — cooked potato cubes mixed with green peas wrapped together inside a triangular shaped, deep fried dough crust. He washed down the local snack with a small bottle of soda pop that was at room temperature. Even in early childhood, he had found that the two tastes complimented each other impeccably — spicy, fried eastern treats mixing together on his eager tongue with gulps of fizzing, sugary western soda pop. The label on the soda bottle admonished “Do Not Sell Individually.” He had bought it individually.

He knew that he shouldn’t be out here, but he wanted to see the city and the people. And he was hungry for spicy food, something that he couldn’t get in the troop mess hall.

The streets were beginning to wake up with hawkers, pedestrians and cars. Hueghlomm finished his samosa, wiped his hand gently on the side of his pant leg and downed the remaining swig of soda. He looked about for a trashcan for the empty bottle, gazing around the concrete office buildings across the street, the mosque down the way, by the tall palm trees, through the alleys and curbs and all around the shops. No trash can.

Someone suddenly grasped his earlobe from behind. Hueghlomm turned sharply. It was a small, wiry old Arab man. The sun had turned his brown skin to leather and he had a wispy, gray beard under a prominent nose with flared nostrils. He was smiling ear to ear. His stained teeth looked like Stonehenge, large rectangles spaced far apart. He was wearing a black and white Palestinian headscarf. He held steady to Hueghlomm’s earlobe, pinching it painfully between his weathered thumb and index finger.

“Say ‘La ilaha illallah,’” the old man instructed forcefully. Hueghlomm stared at him dumbfounded, mum. The old man repeated, louder, “Say ‘La ilaha illallah!’” It was an Arabic phrase, a basic article of faith in Islam that translated into “There is no god but God.”

Hueghlomm muttered the words, gazing wide-eyed and stunned at the old man grasping his earlobe. The old man insisted in heavily accented English. “More loud!” Hueghlomm repeated himself, louder. The old man laughed a hissing “ha, ha, ha” full of mischief and dirty jokes. His breath rasped with tumbleweed dryness, his sharp, pinpointed eyes were twinkling desert stars. He let go of Hueghlomm’s ear and handed him a small loop of prayer beads. The white string was flimsy, but it held the plastic, neon-green beads well enough.

Recovering, Hueghlomm thanked the old man in Arabic. “Shukran.”

“Journalist?” the old man asked in splintered syllables.

Even though Hueghlomm had gone out of his way to dress unobtrusively, something about his carriage or demeanor must have betrayed his foreign upbringing. “No, not a journalist…just hungry,” replied Hueghlomm.

“My name Mohammed,” said the old man.

“Adam,” said Hueghlomm, touching his own chest, pronouncing his name with the characteristic long “ah” sound at the beginning, the sound that his mother had always used when saying his name.

“Baba Adam,” the old man said, nodding approvingly, making reference to Adam, the Father of Mankind in the Quranic Garden of Eden.

“Why?” asked Hueghlomm, one palm facing up in the rising desert sun. Although he wasn’t explicit, the old man knew that Hueghlomm was asking why he walked about the streets of Baghdad grasping strangers’ ears, insisting that they profess allegiance to God.

“One day I die,” explained the old man. “I sick. I die and I come back. My wife, she hold my hand while it happening. I paining very hard, but then no pain, no any pain.” He moved his palms in front of himself, like a baseball umpire calling a player safe. “I see garden. My pretty mother,” he reminisced lovingly. “She sitting there. She make her hand to tell me, ‘Come, Mohammed.’” He moved his hands in front of himself, making inviting gestures. “My father, he also there.” The old man’s voice suddenly grew stern, “He tell me hard, ‘Go back! Your work still left to do. Not yet,’ my father say.” The old man raised his wrinkled finger and waved it side to side underneath Hueghlomm’s nose. “Not yet. I say ‘Baba, please, I stay with you.’ But he say, ‘Not yet.’” The old man stopped and swallowed. “Then he come and lift me and put me back to my wife.”

“Your father?” asked Hueghlomm.

“No, no!” The old man spoke like Hueghlomm hadn’t paid attention, like he had missed the entire point.

“The Prophet,” said Mohammed. “Prophet Jesus.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Icarus Should Have Known Better [Chapter 29]

I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 29:

World Court
Eastern District, World Capital
----------------------------------------------- x



------------------------------------------------ x

The Relevant Parties And Entities

1. At all times relevant to this indictment, a World Court Tribunal duly empanelled on or about July 4th, 2076, herein referred to as the “Tribunal,” was sitting in the Eastern District of World Capital.

2. At all times relevant to the development and issuance of this indictment, World Court, herein referred to as “the Court,” was the independent judicial branch of World Government. The Court was responsible for, among other things, the administration, enforcement, and adjudication of World Government’s regulations, laws and statutes.

3. At all times relevant to this indictment, the Lord (the Defendant) was the senior official of the Cosmos. In this position, the Lord oversaw the affairs of the Cosmos, including the making of all final decisions regarding rewards, punishments, circumstances and outcomes beset upon any and all life forms from Genesis to the Age of Aquarius.

Hear ye, the Tribunal hereby charges the Defendant, the Lord, as follows:


(Mass Infanticide)

On or about 1250 B.C., the Lord clearly stated intent to commit mass infanticide in or about the land of Egypt. Recorded conversations quote the Lord saying, in relevant part:

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…” [Exodus, Chapter 12, Verse 12]

The Tribunal finds that, having stated a clear intent to commit mass infanticide, the Lord carried out his intent as stated. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon…” [Exodus, Chapter 12, Verse 29]

The Tribunal further finds that the extent of the infanticide warrants designation as “mass” infanticide. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“…for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” [Exodus, Chapter 12, Verse 30]


(Homophobic Genocide)

On or about 1900 B.C., the Lord sent two angels to Lot to announce the Lord’s intention to commit genocide upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Written records indicate that said angels conveyed the Lord’s intent to Lot as, in relevant part:

“For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.” [Genesis, Chapter 19, Verse 13]

The Tribunal further finds that the Lord targeted Sodom and Gomorrah for genocide because of the large number of homosexual residents in said cities. Written records of the Lord’s conversations clearly corroborate the Court’s finding. These conversations include, in relevant part, the Lord stating his reason for destroying both cities as:

“…Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous,…” [Genesis, Chapter 18, Verse 20]

The Tribunal further finds that the Lord tangibly acted on his aforementioned intention to commit homophobic genocide. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“Then the LORD rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” [Genesis, Chapter 19, Verses 24 and 25]


(Felony Animal Cruelty)

On or about 2500 B.C., the Lord clearly stated his intent to perpetrate an indiscriminant mass extermination of all living creatures upon the Earth. The Tribunal considers the resulting extent of animal deaths sufficient evidence to support the charge of felony animal cruelty. Records of conversations quote the Lord stating, in relevant part:

“…I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.” [Genesis, Chapter 6, Verse 7]

Further, the Tribunal finds that the Lord’s weapon of mass destruction was intentional flooding with the intent to induce mass drowning. Records of conversations quote the Lord stating, in relevant part:

“…I shall cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” [Genesis, Chapter 7, Verse 4]

The Tribunal further finds that, having stated a clear intent to kill and having selected a weapon of mass destruction, the Lord acted on his intent. The act resulted in uncountable animal deaths. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth…” [Genesis, Chapter 7, Verses 21 and 22]


(Conspiracy to Violate Resolution 786 (** see note below for summary of Resolution 786))

The Tribunal finds that the Lord conspired to violate Resolution 786 in his interactions with Pharaoh Ramses. On multiple occasions, the Lord sent Moses and Aaron to the Pharaoh to make requests that, if denied, would result in negative consequences for the Pharaoh. On each of these occasions, the Lord himself caused the Pharaoh to deny the request. He then proceeded to punish the Pharaoh for the denial.
Records of conversations between the Lord, Moses and Aaron reveal the Lord’s conscious intent to conspire to violate Resolution 786. These records indicate, in relevant part, that the Lord said to Moses:

“Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiple my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.” [Exodus, Chapter 7, Verses 2 and 3]

Written records indicate that the Lord then executed his stated intent as he directed Aaron and Moses to, on multiple occasions, ask the Pharaoh to allow the Children of Israel to leave Egypt. Upon issuance of each request, the Lord himself caused the Pharaoh to be unable to grant the request. Records indicate, in relevant part:

“And he [the Lord] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened them [Aaron and Moses] not; as the Lord had said.” [Exodus, Chapter 7, Verse 13]

“And the Lord hardened the heart of the Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.” [Exodus, Chapter 9, Verse 12]

“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.” [Exodus, Chapter 10, Verse 27]

The Tribunal further finds that after the Lord ultimately allowed the Pharaoh to release the Children of Israel, he again violates Resolution 786 by causing the Pharaoh to follow after them, resulting in a measurable detriment to the Pharaoh’s personnel and material resources. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“And I will harden the Pharaoh’s heart, that he shall follow after them…” [Exodus, Chapter 14, Verse 4]

** Resolution 786 was unanimously passed by the 7th World Congress on May 7th, 2063. The resolution strictly forbids unsolicited extramortal interference in human affairs, especially that interference which does or may produce negative outcomes for the affected human or humans.


(Multiple and Varied Violations of Resolution 786)

On multiple and varied occasions throughout human history, the Lord knowingly and deliberately violated Resolution 786. The Tribunal finds that on or about 6000 B.C., the Lord placed a snake in Eden and allowed that snake to entice Eve into violating an agreement that she and Adam had entered into with the Lord. Upon learning of said violation, the Lord immediately initiated strong and permanent punitive action against both Eve and her mate. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” [Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 13]

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heal.
Unto the Woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou has hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shall thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” [Genesis, Chapter 3, Verses 15, 16 and 17]

The Tribunal further finds that on or about 5980 B.C., the Lord’s disrespect toward Cain’s offering precipitated the first murder in human history. Written documents indicate, in relevant part:

“But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” [Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 5]

The Tribunal further finds that as a result of the Lord’s lack of respect toward Cain’s offering, Cain was moved to commit the first murder in human history. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” [Genesis, Chapter 4, Verse 8]

The Tribunal further finds that on or about 1800 B.C. the Lord did consciously sow division and discord amongst the peoples of the earth, and did consciously thwart their desire for human unity, and, further, did consciously make more difficult humankind’s technological progress by scattering humankind about the earth and by purposefully confounding their language in an effort to make intergroup communication and collaborative research more difficult. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.” [Genesis, Chapter 11, Verse 1]

“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound the language of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” [Genesis, Chapter 11, Verses 4 through 9]

The Tribunal further finds that on or about 990 B.C. the Lord did consciously and intentionally induce David to number Israel. Written records indicate, in relevant part:

“And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” [II Samuel, Chapter 24, Verse 1]

Written records further indicate that when David completes the numbering of Israel, as he was moved to do by the Lord himself, the Lord then selects and imposes punitive action wholly non-commensurate with the alleged offense. Specifically, records indicate:

“So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people of Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men.” [II Samuel, Chapter 24, Verse 15]

Considering the totality and the gravity of the charges noted herein, the Tribunal provides the Lord a Period of Grace not to exceed ninety (90) days to answer said charges, after which time the Lord is to be summoned for a fair and speedy Inquisition.

Respectfully submitted:

Adam Hueghlomm
Special Prosecutor, World Court

Noted, Approved and Entered into Docket:

Thomas Torquemada
Inquisitor General, World Court

Saturday, January 21, 2012

If You Wanna Be Good, Make Someone Bad [Chapter 28]

I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 28:

Platoon 110 had just returned from patrol. The teenagers sat around on the cement floor of a large, empty aluminum airplane hangar. The sun glared outside. The air inside was parched. Large pedestal fans stood at each corner of the open hangar, pushing dry air across the soldiers as they sat here and there in their T-shirts and combat pants, cleaning their weapons, open water canteens standing next to each of them.

“Hey, you hear the one ‘bout the two gerbils walking by the fag bar?” Lee made sure that he spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. Baker looked up at Lee with a smirk on his face, anticipating a crude punch line. “Yeah, the one gerbil said to the other, ‘Hey, you wanna go in there and get shit-faced?’” Harrrrrr, har, har! The young men laughed raucously, rocking back and forth, looking at each other through tearing, squinted eyed. Lee turned, laughing, to see Lamech’s reaction. Lamech was peacefully cleaning his weapon, ignoring the jokes and the ruckus. The laughter slowly subsided in a rolling chorus of sighs and “Oh, shits.”

Lee waited a minute or so, wiping the barrel of his weapon with an oil-stained rag. “Yeah, Lamech, my man….” He didn’t complete the sentence, sounding as if he couldn’t think of how it should end. He ran a bore cleaner through the open end of the long gun barrel, then held the hollowed cylinder up toward the ceiling light, peering through it with one eye closed, inspecting the inside for dirt. “What I wouldn’t give for a whiff ‘a pussy,” he finally said in exaggerated wistfulness. He paused, put down his weapon and faced Lamech, straight-faced. “But then you wouldn’t know much ‘bout that, huh?” Lee and most of the other teenagers burst into a second round of schoolhouse laughter. The loud barks bounced off the stiff aluminum walls and back onto the hard, waxed floor, drowning the fans’ electric hum.

Lamech continued to avoid sight of his tormentor and focused on cleaning his weapon. “You’ve got major issues, Lee,” he said.

“Yeah, but sucking cock isn’t one of them,” replied Lee, eyes squinted, clucking in laughter.

“Man, leave him alone,” Webster protested.

“Fuck you, Webster,” said Lee. “Don’t be protectin’ no rump ranger, man.”

Webster stood and tensed threateningly, his eyes as hard as nails, staring at Lee, pores simmering in rising anger.

“What?” said Lee, hunching his shoulders and looking around wonderingly.

“You been fucking with everyone steady, the whole time. Let people be.” Webster’s bright white teeth stood in sharp contrast to his dark face. He was the largest soldier in the platoon. His muscles, heavily packed and bulging through his T-shirt, hunched about his neck, turning him into a snorting bull.

“He’s just joking, man,” Baker told Webster, trying to break the tension.

“Fuckin’ with people ain’t jokin’,” said Webster.

“Let it go, guys,” said Lamech, softly.

“Shut up, faggot!” yelled Lee, darting a speared glance at Lamech.

“You shut up, redneck!” Webster barked at Lee.

Lee stood abruptly, his weapon dropping off his lap and onto the hard, waxed floor in a rattled crash. His eyes narrowed and his lips fumed, ready to form caustic words as the rest of the young men joined in bellowing their respective thoughts and stances on the current situation. The hard aluminum shell over them caught the cacophony of vicious bellows and roars and bounced them back into the floors and walls, turning the airplane hangar into a busy neighborhood bowling alley on Friday night.

“At ease! At ease!” First Sergeant Blake’s adult voice shouted from the adjacent Recreation Room, a tone of fatherly sternness soaked into his words. “This is clean-your-weapon time, not smoke-and-joke time.”

Mumbles and murmur.

“I can’t hear you!” First Sergeant called to them in an exaggerated, singsong tone.

“Yes, First Sergeant!” the soldiers answered in unison.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Look at That, Man! [Chapter 27]

I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 27:

Platoon 110 had trudged through the ancient orchards, passing through the dark night, crunching fertile soil and fallen oranges under worn and able combat boots. The soldiers’ gloved palms moved before them, pushing aside thin branches of fruit trees. They grasped weapon handles with their other hands, index fingers held over solid, black triggers. Their equipment was the same as on day patrols except for the rigid night vision goggles clinging around their temples and in front of their eyes, bathing the darkness in a grainy, pond-green.

The night insects remained undisturbed by the trickling drops of faceless, anonymous male forms as they quietly dripped through to the outer edge of the orchard. The forms stopped in puddles of shadowed patches, staring out of the darkness like a pack of hiding wolves huddled along a snowy and black tree line at midnight. They gaped across a softly glowing white-dusted road, at the silent grouping of structures on the other side. A long, gray cinderblock warehouse stood before them in the hard, dark shadows of the starry desert night, two smaller huts adjacent. The soldiers quietly listened to a soft murmur of masculine voices under the black-tiled roof of the warehouse, unintelligible babble skipping along the surface of the resting, night air.

“Man, this would be easier if we all spoke the same language,” whispered First Sergeant Blake to no one in particular.

“I wouldn’t want to speak their shit, man,” hissed Lee. “Everything they say sounds so fucking dirty.”

“Shut up,” said Webster.

They became quiet, watching, stalking, silent underneath a canopy of moonlit night.
A thin man dressed in jeans and a short sleeve shirt walked out of the warehouse and casually sauntered to one of the huts. He vanished inside for a few minutes and then came back out, joined by another man, taller and stockier, also in jeans. One of them spoke in a youthful, clear voice. The other replied in deep-throated, single-syllable grunts. They spoke a while, the smaller man gesticulating with his hands, the larger one grunting short replies, his block-shaped head nudging back slightly each time he opened his mouth to talk. The smaller man lighted a cigarette and said something quickly. They both suddenly laughed wantonly, strolling together into the warehouse. The soldiers of Platoon 110 watched the lighted cigarette tip move across the inked shadows in jagged swirls that abruptly vanished into the warehouse’s waiting darkness.

“Weapon’s cache,” said the First Sergeant. “It’s in the warehouse.” He raised a small pair of black binoculars that were hanging at his sternum and brought them to his tight, intent face, rotating his gaze slightly to one side and then to the other. “Poorly defended,” he concluded, and continued to assess the tactical scenario. “Two men, lightly armed at best. Content of huts, unknown. Lamech and Webster, suppress both huts with small arms fire. Warehouse has one visible exit and entry point. Sanders, emplace your machine gun on that point. Kill any threats that come through it.” First Sergeant Blake turned and looked at Sanders to emphasize his next point. “I said threats, Sanders. Not a little girl or her mother.”

“Yes, First Sergeant,” said Sanders.

First Sergeant swallowed, gathering himself, then turned and peered back at the still warehouse, running tactical options and calculations through his disciplined mind. “Baker, Vonnegut, Mughal.” He pressed his top and bottom teeth hard against each other, the muscles in his temples bulging and resting in turns. “Put your grenade launchers on the warehouse. Baker – west end. Vonnegut – center. Mughal – east end. Take out the whole thing. Cache is in there somewhere.” He added in a slow, determined tone, almost to himself, “It will be neutralized.”

First Sergeant shifted to look at Lee. Lee looked back, asking what role he would play in the destruction, asking with eager, crazed eyes. “Lee, you stay with me,” said the First Sergeant. “And keep your fucking mouth shut until we’re done.”

The soldiers of Platoon 110 fanned out to their assigned positions and waited. And waited. A half hour passed, labored minutes during which nothing had moved between the warehouse and the two huts. The stage and all its players lay quietly immersed beneath a still sea of starry night.

First Sergeant finally motioned to Lamech and Webster, sweeping gray motions of hands and arms speaking across the darkened orchard. Lamech and Webster followed orders, both sending short, three-round bursts of small arms fire into each of the adjacent huts, whistling lead plunging through the cool, still air. The huts absorbed the bullets without a twitch. Seconds later the insides of the warehouse became alive with anxious, frenzied shouting. The two voices that they had listened to earlier were shouting over each other, each keeping its own characteristic identity, the one youthful and clear, the other grunting.

First Sergeant motioned to the rest of his soldiers, lying in wait. Sanders rattled a pulsing salvo of machine gun fire onto the warehouse doorway. Baker, Vonnegut and Mughal lobbed a burst of grenades onto the warehouse roof. Tiles leapt off the roof and vanished, swallowed down the throat of the shadowed night. Puffs of blue smoke formed above the warehouse, got caught in a snare of moonlight and floated away like a gang of retreating ghosts.

They stopped firing a moment. The shouting inside the warehouse had fallen to one desperate, high-pitched voice barking the same set of sounds over and over and over. The soldiers sent more bullets into the empty huts and put a second and a third volley of grenades onto the warehouse roof. The beaten, weary structure suddenly began to explode on its own in graduated increments. Its east end crackled with uncontrolled, unfocused small arms fire from inside. Singed moments later, the center of the warehouse erupted into a cascade of fireballs, the first and strongest sending the shattered remains of the roof tumbling up and into the night, raining down on the warehouse perimeter and into the adjoining orchards. The soldiers reflexively put their gloved hands on top of their combat helmets. Someone cheered like people do during the finale of a Fourth of July fireworks show. The warehouse belched two smaller fireballs from its bowels and then fell asleep under a blanket of soft, blue smoke.

The soldiers waited, watching for anything else that might need to be killed or destroyed. Nothing. Only the crisp night air, softly caressing and lifting the lilting blue smoke into the sky in gentle, swirling swaths of glowing gray cotton.

“We killed ‘em!” shouted Lee. “Let’s go get a beer.”

“You guys aren’t old enough for beer,” said First Sergeant Blake. “Grab your weapons and let’s go.”

They trudged back the way they came, through the orchards, fleeting through the swallowing desert shadows. Lee couldn’t help but look back. One small piece of vertical wall had survived the battering. It was taking a bath in long, undulating flames, throwing a lovely, peaceful campfire glow onto the adjacent huts. Lee followed the flames’ dancing fingers into the sky above. In between the stars and the earth, above the shattered corpse of the warehouse, the peaceful night winds had sculpted the glowing, blue-gray smoke into the shape of a large crucifix.

“Look at that, man!” Lee marveled. “Jesus would have loved this shit.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Better Than Truth? [Chapter 26]

I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 26:

Adam Hueghlomm hopped briskly up the white marble stairs of World Court, moving quickly underneath a plain gray sky. The wide, sweeping steps and all the streets outside were empty, not a soul in sight. Hueghlomm wore a conservative black suit, a deep blue shirt and a tan tie. He carried a black leather briefcase as he strode through the high, regal halls of World Court, moving quickly to where the Tribunal was to be held, in the East Room. Hueghlomm approached the room’s stately wooden doors.

The East Room’s heavy, noble doors were made from a deep, reddish brown wood that had dark, black veins running through it. The two doors stood erect, stuffed, and as ceremonial and proper as the personal guards of a Queen Mother. Each door had three wooden rectangular panels on it, panels of equal size placed in vertical stacks that together filled the full length of both doors. Bas relief scenes had been gouged deep into the panels, formed from darkly scarred patterns, like a tribesman’s facial markings. The scenes depicted moments of thunderous historical and spiritual significance, perpetual and eternal moments that marked important beginnings, pivotal epiphanies, seminal sacrifices, and Promethean discoveries.

The doors fell open before Hueghlomm, a slow, choreographed opening, falling back and away in practiced, mirrored movement. As the heavy curtain pulled aside, it uncovered in waxing phases the patrician grandeur that was the East Room. The doors made their long arch across the imperial entry, moving over a hard marble floor of deep gray tiles punctuated with a subtle, disperse network of soft, white clouds. The marble had been shined immaculately, and it caught and packed small bursts of light here and there, tossing them back into the belly of the room in soft, graceful twinkles.

The room had an open vastness to it, the ceiling so high that it was almost not visible. A long, narrow marble path sliced a sharp, straight walkway from the entry towards the high and imposing tribunal bench, cutting the viewers’ gallery into two equal parts along the way, leaving long wooden benches on either side. A wooden rail stood guard in front of the forward most viewers’ bench, separating the plebian gallery from the prosecutor, the defendant and the tribunal. Beyond the wooden rail and before and below the towering tribunal bench sat two small worktables, a simple chair behind each. The witness stand sat alone, abandoned, to the right of the bench, its empty chair circled by a waist-high rail. The tribunal bench itself was cut in tight, squared angles and had three high-backed black leather chairs behind it, the largest and highest sitting in the middle. Each chair had a gavel at its place. A plain clock hung from the wood-paneled wall behind, centered above the tall, middle chair. A large door hid within the paneling behind the bench. Its perimeter cut a subtle, black outline that was noticeable only if someone knew it was there and looked for it. Every piece of furniture and paneling in the East Room looked as though it had been cut from the same tree as the heavy, wooden entry doors.

Adam Hueghlomm entered the East Room with a determined gait, pacing quickly down the marble center aisle. He pushed aside the rail gate, turned sharply and quietly placed his black briefcase onto the prosecutor’s table, sitting down.

Moments later, the majestic, hidden door at the head of the East Room slowly fell open. The bailiff ordered, “All rise!” Thomas Torquemada, the Inquisitor General, entered the courtroom flanked by his partners, Morilla and Martin. Torquemada’s portly body stretched his black judge’s robe wide at the waist, his expression serious, stone. His face was full, authoritative, unforgiving. His jowls hung like heavy sacks, pulling at his eyes, dragging them towards the ground.

Martin and Morilla both wore long, black monk’s robes, topped with sharp, bright, white collars strapped around their necks. Morilla was a miniature replica of Torquemada. Although Torquemada’s sternness came easily and naturally, Morilla seemed to be working hard at his. He was short, with a spherical head. His nostrils stood out like tiny dark spots below a pug nose that sat at almost the exact center of his circular face. His eyes were two buttons of dark chocolate pressed into cinnamon dough, his mouth held tight, giving an air of general dissatisfaction, a warning of an explosive temper. He had short, black hair that stood in menacing spikes over his rounded scalp. The sides of his face, his chin and the strip of skin over his stiff mouth were always cloaked in a heavy shadow of beard no matter how recently he’d shaved.

Martin, slight and small-boned, wore a hat of iron gray hair over his gaunt eyes and thin lips. His face had a grandmotherly gentleness to it. His hair, combed back in a softly waved pompadour, formed a subtle widow’s peak centered above restive, gray and slightly bushy eyebrows. Martin had an emotional lightness about him, something that separated him from his colleagues, and he managed to give Hueghlomm a small smile as he entered the East Room.

The Tribunal took the bench, grave, expressionless.

Hueghlomm stood before them, behind the prosecutor’s table, his hands folded across each other below his waist. A stack of brimming manila folders sat on the table in front of him. His unlocked black leather briefcase rested next to the stack of beige. Hueghlomm’s face was neutral, waiting.

The defendant’s table sat obtrusively empty. Silent moments later, the stately wood doors of the East Room fell open and a large, gruff guard led the Lord into the courtroom, handcuffed and sullen. The Lord wore the same white-stripped shirt, gray slacks and scuffed black shoes that he had on at his arrest. His shirt was worn, pilled at the elbows. His clean-shaven middle-aged face had deep vertical creases on either side of his thin-lipped mouth. His eyes were brown, beady, shifting. Although he had a full head of dark brown hair, portions around the top and back betrayed a subtle thinning, giving the impression that he would soon bald. He was two or three inches taller than Hueghlomm and had a medium build. He carried himself more like a middle-income department store manager than the Creator of the Cosmos. His guard and he shuffled across the floor, the Lord pensive, looking this way and that around the empty viewers’ gallery. When he and the guard reached the defendant’s table, the Lord moved to sit in the adjacent chair. His guard stopped him.

Torquemada spoke. “You may be seated.” A mild swoosh of fabric and air sounded as everyone recessed into their seats. “Dr. Hueghlomm.” The Inquisitor General’s voice was gravelly and matter of fact. “Has the defendant been afforded an adequate Edict of Grace?”

“He has, Your Honor,” said Hueghlomm.

“During said period, did the defendant confess?”

“He did not, Your Honor.”

Turning to the Lord, Torquemada said, “Please confirm for the Court: you were provided an Edict of Grace during which time you did not confess. Do you confirm that for the record?”

The Lord chuckled a few times, saying nothing.

Exhaling dramatically, Torquemada explained. “Sir, we must reconcile the charges against you. We must follow due process and procedure. I ask your participation to insure a fair and speedy inquisition.”

“And how does my forced participation validate the fairness of your said proceedings?” asked the Lord, a mocking, sarcastic voice.

“Sir, the court is not the object of this inquisition. You are. Please help us treat you in a fair and just manner. That is our most fervent desire. That is the bedrock of the philosophy by which we live.” He exhaled in a long, winding sigh and continued. “You were given an Edict of Grace during which time you may have confessed to the charges in your indictment. Did you?”

“I did not,” said the Lord.

“Very well. Let the record show that the defendant did not confess during the Edict of Grace.” Torquemada looked up from the bench with a slanted smile. “Do you see the fairness with which this inquisition is proceeding?” He raised his index finger and shifted his eyes towards the Lord. Martin and Morilla smiled, nodding affirmations.

“Now, then,” continued the Inquisitor General. “In our unending efforts at fairness, we must confirm the prosecution’s report that you have declined counsel. For the record, have you declined counsel?”

“That’s lie number one,” said the Lord. “I expressly asked for the Fallen One.”

Hueghlomm spoke for the prosecution. “Your Honor, the defendant has been informed that the Fallen One does not exist. We’ve pointed tachyon beams to the north, we’ve pointed them to the south, we’ve pointed them to the east, we’ve pointed them to the west. He hasn’t materialized. He doesn’t exist.” Hueghlomm stopped, resting in Torquemada’s gaze. The Inquisitor General tilted his head down and peered at Hueghlomm over black bifocals, his jowls heavy on either side of his face, pulling down at the corners of his mouth, creating his signature permanent frown.
Hueghlomm realized that he had failed to follow procedure. He corrected himself by making an appropriate statement for the record. “The Fallen One does not exist. Defendant refuses to appoint alternate counsel.”

“He exists!” shouted the Lord. “Go through the written records that you yourself used to indict me. Selective inclusion and exclusion, the opening move of all corrupters!” The Lord’s body shivered as he spoke each angry word. “That’s the farce of this whole exercise. That, and this self-righteous know-it-all!” He pointed accusingly at Hueghlomm, his gesture and stare moving easily across the chasm between the prosecutor and himself.

“Defendant will address the prosecution respectfully,” Torquemada reminded the Lord. The Inquisitor General turned to Hueghlomm. “Dr. Hueghlomm, has the prosecution exercised due diligence in attempting to locate the Fallen One?”

“It has.”

“Has it located said ‘Fallen One’?”

“It has not.”

Their exchange was mechanical, for the record.

Torquemada turned to the Lord. “Defendant is instructed to choose alternate counsel.”
The Lord stared at Torquemada in disgust. He huffed sarcasm. “Alternate counsel — I’d like to tell you to go to hell, but that’d put you right back in that same chair at this same moment.”

“Please answer for the record, sir,” pressed Torquemada. The Inquisitor General followed his narrow and straight path as well as he understood it, with persistence and rigor. He insisted that others do the same.

The Lord was obstinate. “I don’t want counsel. Why waste another being’s time with your silly exercise?”

“Let the record show, defendant has refused counsel,” answered Torquemada, and rapped his gavel. He turned again to Hueghlomm. “Dr. Hueghlomm, please review the charges against the defendant.”

Hueghlomm looked down and read from the indictment that he had written, flipping the pages as he recounted each allegation. “Your Honor, the defendant, the Lord, is accused of the following: Count One, Mass Infanticide. Count Two, Homophobic Genocide. Count Three, Felony Animal Cruelty.” Hueghlomm paused a moment and glanced at the Lord. The Lord was struggling to suppress laughter, looking as if he’d just thought of a dirty joke while sitting in church. Hueghlomm continued, his voice louder. “Count Four, Conspiracy to Violate Resolution 786. And Count Five, Multiple and Varied Violations of Resolution 786.” Hueghlomm stopped and looked at Torquemada.
Torquemada turned to the Lord. “Sir, how do you plead to these charges?”

The Lord sighed, realizing that he would have to play along. “So that’s what you nailed to my door,” he said to Hueghlomm, pointing limply at the indictment papers. “I guess, ‘Not guilty.’” The Lord raised his hands and made mocking quotation marks in the air to underscore his plea.

“Please provide the basis for your plea,” said Torquemada.

“Your Honor,” said the Lord. “The charges are grounded in contextual misunderstandings and lingual misinterpretations.”

“Sir, you will have to do better than that,” said the Inquisitor General.

“Better than Truth?” said the Lord, suddenly serious.